A/N: This story is the long promised sequel to Finding Faith. It's not exactly as I'd originally envisioned it, but I like the story my muse has brought to mind. It begins with Johnny, aged 24 and a graduation. Unlike the earlier installments of this series, it incorporates a significant piece of Stargate's science fiction canon. It should run four chapters, maybe five and is my tribute to Mother's Day, Father's Day and graduation season, all rolled into one.
I hope you like the story.
Chapter One: An Unlikely Event
"Hey, Dad, have you seen my suit jacket?"
The voice now floating up the stairs was strong and resonant. My son's voice, Jack thought, smiling to himself. It was a good commanding voice, the voice of a good man who by rights could be in command of an empire by now. But John had chosen a different path. And it suited him.
"Your jacket's in my closet," Jack called down the stairs. Within seconds, John Jr. was bounding up the stairs two at a time, meeting his father at the top.
"Thanks Dad," he said. Even now Jack noted the once frail boy wasn't winded. After all these years, John's robust health was still a source of joy and relief for his father.
Jack smirked and shook his head.
"Here you are," he said teasingly, "Doctor Jonathan Charles O'Neill and you're still misplacing your clothes."
"That's hardly fair," John protested halfheartedly. "I don't live here anymore and besides, Mom put my stuff away when I got in last night."
"There you go," Jack pounced. "Your mom's still hanging up your clothes."
John rolled his eyes. So much like his mother, Jack thought.
"I'm still hanging up your clothes," was the unexpected rejoinder from the third member of the family. Jack turned to see Sam coming out of the master bedroom. She was holding the offending suit jacket in her hand.
"Here you are Johnny," she said, giving the garment over to the twenty-four-year old. John had come home to Colorado Springs to attend graduation ceremonies today.
"It's a good choice, the jacket," Sam said. "You'll look very professional."
"Thanks, Mom," John said. Happily he returned his mother's smile. A tall, lanky man with sandy brown hair, John had long ago come to terms with the fact his mother would always call him Johnny. A few years back he'd protested how the name sounded too young and childish. Now it was the last thing on his mind. He supposed that meant he was growing up – finally.
"You're welcome," Sam said, reaching out to take him in her arms for a hug. "I'm so proud of you."
Now standing side by side in the upstairs hallway of his childhood home, John's parents both beamed their approval of him. And gratified beyond words, the younger man smiled back at them.
"Alright," John said, breaking the spell, "now you two are embarrassing me."
"What?" Jack demanded innocently. "It isn't every day my son's the commencement speaker at the Academy."
"No big deal, Dad," John protested. "If you keep up like this, I'll have to revoke your complimentary tickets. They're at a premium you know."
"Hey!" Jack exclaimed indignantly.
"Chip off the old block," Sam muttered. She'd always said John sounded like Jack whenever he started to talk back to them.
"Later," John said, grinning pleasantly and starting down the stairs. Then, back over his shoulders. "I have to meet the Dean of Students for breakfast. I'll see you at graduation."
Jack O'Neill waited impatiently as Sam dressed for the big occasion.
It was beyond his wildest dreams. At least it had been. Years ago, when Johnny was born, he'd wondered if his son would live to see his first birthday, let alone be the youngest commencement speaker in Air Force Academy history.
That first year had been hell. Baby John spent the first three and a half months of his life in the hospital, most of it in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, learning to breathe on his own. Either he or Sam were by the baby's side each and every day, often twenty-four hours a day. He'd taken a furlough from his duties at Homeworld Security back then. Within the year he'd retired for good. Looking back he wouldn't have done it any other way.
When John came home from the hospital, he still needed specialized care. Though able to breathe without the respirator, he needed suctioning to clear secretions and often developed respiratory infections. What's more, within his first few months home, both Jack and Sam began to notice worrisome delays in his motor development.
The doctors had done their best to prepare the O'Neills for the possibility of lasting chronic disabilities as a result of Johnny's extremely premature birth. But knowing it was possible and actually seeing the problem develop, well they were completely different things.
As it turned out, Johnny had spastic cerebral palsy. His left side was weak and both his left arm and leg were plagued by poorly controlled movements which further hampered the young child's developmental efforts. The days that followed were sometimes painful to watch. Johnny struggling to crawl, falling more than expected in his slow, troubled attempts to stand and failing over and over again to take his first steps, it was a tall order for new parents.
Talented physical therapists became frequent visitors to the O'Neill home in those early days. They worked with Johnny daily, doing their best to prevent contractures in his extremities, the tightening of muscle that would further restrict the child's ability to move freely. Jack and Sam learned exercises and strategies to help their son in those hours the therapists were not with them. And as so many parents of children with special needs, they devoted themselves to their child as much as physically possible.
By the age of two, Johnny started to seize. It was frightening, even to parents who'd seen the horrors of intergalactic war. Helpless, flailing, eyes rolling back in his head, all they could do was hold the tiny child as the seemingly endless involuntary movements passed. Thankfully, they always did and their child survived. With the proper medication, the seizures abated.
As the weeks passed, Jack could swear Sam was aging before his eyes. She'd cry herself to sleep many a night, often refusing the comfort he longed to give her. He knew Sam feared for Johnny's future. And as much as Jack hated to admit it, he felt much the same. It wasn't going to be easy. Any way they looked at it, life wouldn't be easy for their son. It didn't mean they loved him any less, but little by little hopes and dreams started to die.
He'd hoped to play ball with his son, much as he had with Charlie. That would never happen. Watching Johnny take his first, long delayed steps, with the aid of braces, Jack realized there were many things this little boy would never do. He remembered, as if it were yesterday the first time he admitted that to Sam. Johnny was three and a half.
"You know, we're going to need to get him a wheelchair for the trip next week," Jack said.
"I know," Sam replied. "I ordered it yesterday at the Center. Johnny's excited. He says the stroller's for babies."
"Good for him," he said. Then his face dropped and the sadness that always hovered close by came to the surface. "At least he's accepting this. I'm not sure I can say as much for me."
Sam stood up and made her way over to Jack. Slowly, she wrapped her arms around him. It was her turn to be strong.
"I know," she said. "Seems like everyday there's something else, something else to let go of, an expectation, something we'd dreamed of doing with Johnny. This time it's going to the park. He can't just run along with us. He'll probably never be able to do that."
Jack nodded silently against her shoulder.
"It's not easy," he whispered. "There's so much I wanted to teach him. Baseball, swimming, dancing, flying a plane…"
"You'll just have to teach him other things," Sam answered. Pulling back to see Jack's face, she fixed his eyes with her own.
"Look at me," she all but demanded. "Johnny's bright. He's three years old and he's reading already. There's a lot he can do and we have to focus on those things."
That's exactly what they'd done. For the next two years they'd focused on the positive, doing their best to minimize and alleviate the negative when possible. It was a long road, but they'd done their best.
And they loved the little boy they'd been given.
Then everything changed.
Please review! I'd love to hear what you think, good, bad, suggestions etc. The story is short and outlined, so should be posted soon.