"JJ, Mommy has explained this before now, remember?" Carter was patience personified. "With the new baby, everyone has to pitch in and help around the house, especially with your Dad gone so much these days, right?"

"JJ no like baby...baby smell." The little boy blithely played with the model of the plane General Hammond had so graciously given as a gift a while back.

Carter sought Jack O'Neill's eyes. The man had halted his typing on the lap top he had brought home to finish the reports Hammond expected be 'finished' by tomorrow morning.

Jack was actually playing a game on some site Daniel had steered him to recently.

"...What do you mean. Your sister doesn't...smell." Carter had received the 'go on..ask him' look from the Col.

"She smell and poopy alllllll time." JJ held his nose to illustrate his meaning and grimaced accordingly. "JJ think Mommy to take her back. B...we get a puppy?" The little boy brightened considerably at such an exchange.

Jack's mouth quirked with the need to smile but Carter's frown of disapproval stopped him in the act. That and years of dealing with lower ranks which helped the endeavor greatly.

"...We most certainly may not get a puppy." The woman was becoming a little upset. "JJ...don't you love your baby sister? She loves you. A lot!"

"She spit on JJ." JJ frowned up at the grownup as a reminder.

"She did not spit on you, honey..she had a little upset tummy and...well, she certainly did not do it on purpose."

"She get JJ alllllll dirty. Mommy make JJ take two baths." He held up two tiny fingers. "Mommy mean."

Carter sought Jack's advise and wisdom. But the man's face was carefully devoid of emotion. He was allowing the woman her first 'command' with JJ. Until now, Jack had been the disciplinarian, handling all the rough assignments.

He wanted to see how Major Carter would fare with a stubborn, unruly...little brat....troll monster on her own.

"Well, I'm sorry but, you are going to have to pick up your toys. You put them out, it is your job to put them back."

The little boy lifted his brows, continuing his...activities as though the woman had not spoken.

"JJ...did you hear me?"

"....JJ still play."

"No..it's time for bed so....they have to be put away now."

"JJ still PLAY."

Carter's mouth fell open.

And Jack waited patiently.

The blue eyes flew to him, demanding he 'do something'. Jack knew the look well.

But he calmly...like JJ...did...nothing.

Carter's temper flared, not so much for JJ's behavior, which in itself was bizarre. He was always a good little boy and never gave her too much trouble on the worst of days.

This mood he was in tonight was just...too much, however. Carter had had a confrontation with her father. He was bugging her about the marriage thing again and she had lost her prospective and said a few things she had not meant and should not have said.

The entire day had started wrong. She had overslept because she was tired and had gotten to work late..something Samantha Carter had never done before in her entire career.

Everything at work had gone awry. She made mistake after mistake in her calculations. Another first for the woman.

She had rushed to do the shopping, Jack had been off-world these past three days and on top of everything else...the baby required her attention and she had let the dinner burn.

And now...

"No..JJ is not going to play. You pick those things up this instant and march yourself into that bedroom and...no story tonight! You are being mean and disrespectful and I will not read you a story when you treat me badly."

"JJ not mean...Mommy mean!" The little boy yelled back at the woman. He stood, folding his arms, frowning as hard as he could.

Carter..gasped her shock.

Jack merely looked at the kid.

"Are you going to help here?" Carter demanded.

"You're doing fine."

"I have had these children...by myself for three days now..." She hated to have to remind him. "They are your children too."

"You're doing fine, Carter...trust me."

He went back to his typing...or...playing the game which she well knew he was doing.

Carter turned to the little boy. "You have two options, young man..." She remembered her dads infamous words to her when she was small and...not following orders. "Pick up those toys..or...get a spanking."

JJ immediately began to through a tantrum. He kicked and stomped and gave a rather pathetic imitation of crying. "Mommy no love JJ...Mommy only love baby."

For a moment Carter felt guilty...but, then...the baby...upset over the noise and commotion, started to wail..." Oh no...JJ...I just got her down!" She wailed.

"Mommy hate JJ...." The little boy squinted his eyes hard to make more tears.

Jack thought he should have won some kind of award for that performance.

"JJ..." Carter was not fooled. "Pick up those toys..." She pointed.

JJ sensed his 'performance' was falling on deft ears. He checked to make sure Jack O'Neill wasn't paying too much attention and...played his ace card. He folded his arms again, adopting his...'digging in heels' look... "JJ play!"

Carter stepped...and smacked his pull-up diapered bottom one good whack...

Whereupon, the child fell to the floor, wailing like a banshee, the tears real this time.

Carter ignored him. "You have until I put the baby down to pick the mess up...anything left will be taken out and given to a little boy that will appreciate them and take better care of them." She left the room...her infant...wailing loudly...JJ...wailing loudly...and Carter damned close to...wailing...loudly.

Jack waited until the woman was out of ear shot. "JJ...pick em up...now."

JJ stopped crying instantly. And sought the man out.

"Get to it, Airman...that's an order."

JJ...sighed heavily and...went about putting his toys into the proper receptacles. "Mommy no like JJ."

"Why should she...JJ is a little brat today."

"JJ not brat."

"JJ is soooooo a 'brat'." Jack corrected.. "As JJ well knows...so...what's up? What's the problem?"

JJ halted his picking up and pouted for a beat, which Jack allowed. "...Sir gone allllll time."

Jack...had felt guilty about that as well. The kid didn't have to be made privy to the fact. "Sir will try to be home more often."

JJ looked at the man, his eyes hope-filled. "Sir play with JJ?"

"Sure...we'll play whatever you want."

JJ smiled and picked up the toys faster...

"Gonna go get Mommy in a better mood before she uses her P-90 on the both of us." Jack arose. "Don't stop until everything is picked up...got it?" He pointed a finger at the little boy.

"Sir read JJ bedtime story?"

"Shhhh." Jack put his finger to his lips then...nodded. "Don't tell Mommy."

"Shhhhhhhh." JJ mimicked the man's actions and went back to his 'job', happy again. He even started singing Sesame Street...he knew all the words, after all.

Jack moved quietly down the hall and into the dimly lit bedroom. The baby was nursing and Carter...was weeping. Great sobs of remorse and regret.

Jack held his smile and...went to sit beside her.

"I...I c-can't b-believe I d-did that!" She gulped as Jack reached, grabbing the tissue on the bedstead. "H-he is s-so l-little!"

"He's little alright...a little monster. You did good, Carter. The kid needed a whack."

"No!..n-no..he needed my understanding and m-my patience and m-my love."

"He needed a spat." Jack smiled down at her and dabbed her cheeks gently. "Let me take the munchkin..." He took his daughter, cuddling her close, examining her minutely. He was not aware he did it. He could not get enough of looking at the perfect little face. Touching the tiny little fingers...that curled about his forefinger so tightly as if asking for his protection.

"Mommy needs some time to herself." He spoke to the squirming bundle. "Don't fuss...I can feed the bottle...you know that...let's go heat one up, hum."

"It's ok...she has had enough." Carter dabbed at her eyes absently. She sniffed occasionally. "If you rock her a while she will go to sleep."

"We can do that..." Jack nodded to the baby. "But, first...have to run Mommy a nice, hot bath."

"No, Col...really. I just want to get to bed, if that's ok...I'm kinda wiped." She arose. "I will go tell JJ I am sorry I..."

"No...you won't." Jack headed her back to the bed. "Never apologize to a kid...are you nuts? They will hold it over you for life." He sat her on the bed. "Go in there...get that tee shirt and boxers on you love so much...get back in here and...go off to Neverland."

"I can't just go to sleep with JJ thinking I am angry with him."

"Sure you can...give him something to think about. I'll take this watch, Carter...I have it under control...just. Go...brush...shower...sleep."

"Sir..you have been off-world all day. You must be exhaus...."

"Nah...made Teal'c and Daniel do all the work...I sat on a rock and contemplated deep, profound things."

"...Such as?" She already felt better. Seeing him, standing there...bouncing the baby..who was already dropping off from the gentle administrations and her father's soothing voice, even if the man had no clue he possessed one.

"Mommy..." JJ had padded down the hall way and stuck his head around the door. "JJ b good now. JJ pick up alllllll toys."

"Oh, honey..."

"Carter." Jack warned lowly.

"...eh...well...that's wonderful, sweetie. Mommy is so proud of you. Thank you for helping me. I really appreciate it."

"Mommy...JJ love." The little boy ran to the woman and put his head in her lap. She stroked the silken strands lovingly, tears threatening again.

"I love JJ too. Very..very...much."

"Ok, kid...hit the sack...pick out a story and get scooting." Jack halted that emotional display before it could begin. "....You like the ladder Teal'c made you for your bed?"

"Dnl say JJ too big for baby bed...Dnl say...JJ need bigger boy bed now."

"May have a point there. We'll talk..." Jack helped the boy along with a hand on his head. "We'll run it up the flag pole and see who salutes, eat and be merry for tomorrow we...kick off...let sleeping dogs lie..."

"We get puppy?" JJ asked excitedly. Jack put the baby in her crib.

"Eh...no." Jack wasn't going to fall for the cow eyes. "Where was I..." He motioned JJ to pick out a book with a wave of his hand. "It's water under the bridge, boy...it's always darkest before the dawn..."

"JJ no afraid of dark."

"Yes...well..you scream, I scream...we all scream for ice-cream." Jack finished his train of thought. "And no...no ice cream."

JJ sighed heavily. And climbed into bed.

"Get those covers up there, scout." Jack tucked him in good and sound.

Carter watched, her eyes full of love.

Jack felt her gaze, turning to catch the blueness. "Hey, boy...what say we ask Mommy a question...a real important one?" He spoke to JJ but held Carter's eyes.

She smiled and frowned slightly, wondering at the sudden turn of the conversation. The quirks of Jack O'Neill's mind always fascinated her.

"Do you think Mommy might want Sir to go out and buy her a ring?"

Carter's mouth fell open for the second time that night.

"Mommy have rings."

"This is a special one." Jack still refused release the woman's attention, his eyes looking into her soul. That creamy chocolate melting her heart.

"Have...did you...did Dad put you up to ..."

"Tell Mommy, Sir has not seen grandpa Jacob all week." Jack stopped that line of talk instantly. "Tell her...Sir is ever so glad he has not, by the way."

"Sir...Mommy hear sir."

"Yes...yes, son..you are right. She can hear, can't she...so, what do you think? Should Sir buy Mommy that special ring?"

"Is magic?"

"Indeed...it is magic...it transforms a woman into a beautiful bride." Jack glanced at JJ. "And a man into a heap of blubbering nothingness...."

He cut Carter a shit-eating glance.

"JJ no want ring."

"Neither does 'Mommy'." Carter was angry with her father. "Col...I know Dad has..."

"Jacob has nothing to do with this. I...am asking." Jack let her know in no uncertain terms. Then...his eyes softened to liquid creme. "So...what does the beautiful woman say?"

Carter looked at JJ who's brown eyes mirrored his father's except they were filled with subdued excitement, sensing something from the grown-ups but not sure what it was.

"....Why...now?" She had to ask or die...a greater part of her wanting to run to the man and through her arms around him and kiss him all over his face. Especially that sensual mouth.

"It's about time, don't you think?"

"Not what I asked." She reminded, her nerves wound tightly now.

"I wanted to."

"...But...why?"

"Geesh, Carter." Jack rolled his eyes. He looked at JJ. "Do you believe this? I ask her to marry me and she wants egg rolls."

"JJ like egg rolls."

"I know you do, boy...tell Mommy, Sir wants to marry her because Sir likes her...a lot."

"Mommy, Sir say..."

"I heard, JJ. Tell Sir that...Mommy likes Sir a lot too."

"Sir..."

"Yes, son?"

"Mommy likes sir allllllll much."

"That much?"

JJ nodded enthusiastically.

"Well..can't disappoint Mommy then..can we."

JJ shook his head.

"You want to go with me tomorrow to pick out the special ring for Mommy?"

"JJ go..JJ have toy?"

"No, but nice try."

JJ folded his arms. And...frowned.

Jack checked with Carter who was looking at him in a way she had never looked at him before. It made his dick hard...even in front of the kid. Jack cleared his throat and...looked away...shifting to hide his condition if JJ noted.

"Can Mommy go with JJ and Sir tomorrow?"

Jack wasn't ready to look at her again just yet. He still did not have his condition quite under control.

"JJ...tell Mommy she can go but she doesn't get a toy either."

"Mommy bad?"

"She can be...but, Sir can handle her."

JJ nodded trustingly and scooted down into his blankets. He put his hands behind his head as Jack often did and yawned. "JJ tired..."

"Hard day at the sand box, buddy?"

"JJ play alllllll day. Then to pick up alllll toys."

"Yeah...you have had it rough." Jack could seek Carter out now and noticed the beautiful mouth pulled into a smile for JJ's words.

"So...it's the Cat In The Hat tonight, hum?" Jack checked the book.

"Cat soooooo fun."

"Yeah, and I kinda like that hat too...you?"

"Sir look fun in hat." JJ giggled at such a thought.

"Hey...I can wear anything and make it work...chicks love that hat on me."

"Really? Which 'chicks' exactly are we talking, sir?" Carter was interested.

"Carter...I have em lined up. Too many to count and you surely don't expect me to remember all their names, right?"

"Well...this...'chick'..is going to take a shower and then...she will be back in to tuck Sir up...how does that sound?"

"Sir too old, Mommy.." JJ giggled again, covering his mouth with both hands and hunching his shoulders.

"Watch it." Jack warned the kid. Who only giggled even more so.

"Sir old."

Jack looked suspiciously at Carter who lifted her brows innocently and...went off to take her shower. With but one meaningful look at the man. That look that...made his dick hard again.

Damn!

He drew in an even breath, exhaling slowly. "So...JJ who told you, Sir was old? Daniel?"

"Letti." JJ propped himself up on one elbow. "Sir read now?"

"Coletti, hum..." Jack mused. "Yeah..that boy must be taught a lesson...." Jack was even more sure of that fact suddenly. "See what I can come up with...but, that is neither here nor there...let me see...page one...The Cat In The Hat." He turned his attention to more important matters. But, his mind kept wandering. He could hear the shower in the bathroom.

He remembered the 'look' Carter had gave him...he read automatically, knowing the book by heart, even were his mind elsewhere.

He had sat today...Daniel had found some ruins and it was pretty much all he and Teal'c had to do....Teal'c had fallen asleep and Jack...spent the time thinking.

Thinking about how he missed Carter and the kids...how..it wasn't as much fun anymore off-world as it used to be.

How...he really needed to be home more...to help out. Those kids were just as much his responsibility as Carter's..if not more so.

He had not come to any specific conclusions but...tonight...it had all just...jelled.

Jacob had nothing to do with it. Nothing.

If Jack did not want to do something...nothing or no one...could force the issue.

After Sara...Jack thought...never again would he allow someone get that close to him....Never again would he feel the pain he felt with Charlie and then...losing Sara on top of it, as well.

He no longer felt those emotions.

He only knew...Carter was where he wanted to be. His kids meant more to him than his own life and if by risking that life...he somehow managed to keep them safe...it made it all worth it.

He would fight as long as he had to fight...

But, in the mean time...Jack O'Neill planned to live his life to the fullest. That meant...having Samantha Carter as his wife...as the mother of his children.

Coming home now meant something.

Coming home now meant...everything.

Jack O'Neill was where he wanted to be. He was where he planned to remain.

And..tomorrow. He would allow everyone to see his intent...least of all..the incredibly beautiful woman that had just entered the room....her hair all mussed and towel dried, her skin glowing with fragrant scents and she did not have the tee and boxers on...

She wore the black lace number...the one with the slit up the thigh.

Jack shifted his eyes and was ever so glad to see JJ's eyes droop sleepily. He continued to read dutifully, however...casting looks to the woman who waited patiently...

Head propped on a pillow, her eyes soft and holding a promise for him and him alone.

JJ turned over and...soon...was snoring peacefully.

Jack...closed the book and...lay it aside.

He sought out Samantha Carter.

She patted the covers beside her.

He had already showered and...was shedding his clothes as he made his way forward.

Her eyes followed his movements and when they lifted...

This time...he allowed his cock free reign.

He was nude by the time he crawled in beside her....she grasped his rigidness, sliding downward....taking him into her mouth and sucking gently.

Jack stifled a moan and ...closed his eyes.

Oh yeah...this was where he fucking wanted to be...for the rest of his fucking life.

The future looked just fine...

No more darkness...no more shadowy doubts to plague the man. No more guilt...not more regrets.

He felt whole and nurtured and loved and...blessed.

Jack O'Neill had finally....come home.