A/N: Part 3. Yes, I know . . . there were only supposed to be two, but . . . there you go. In case you missed it, Part 1 took place in 1998, eight years ago, Part 2 in 2006, and this, the unexpected but asked-for follow-up, just last night. This is because Dubbers said I had to. And so did Tammy. And Starlover1990.
Oh, this part is way fluffy. Shippy-fluffy. Oh . . . way, way, fluffy. You've been warned. Diabetics in the room should probably recalculate their insulin for this one. What can I say? I like a happy ending. Thank you for all the great reviews for the first parts of this story, After Hours and After All. Remember, leave me an email address if you review so I can properly thank you.
Sam bit back a sigh as she entered her quarters. As ship's billets went, she knew she had done well with her ten-by-ten space. As Commander of the Hammond she rated not only a slightly larger bunk but a desk and terminal as well. The quarters felt positively roomy compared to the tents she'd lived in offworld for so many years. Her only additional perk, and she could have asked for and received many, had been a larger-than-spec monitor. The sixty-inch screen was actually mounted into the bulkhead for safety reasons and she hoped that her replacement would appreciate the luxury. She certainly had. When not using it to communicate with Earth, diagnose ship issues, or other official business, it allowed her to view the videos that Jack frequently included in her data packets.
This time the sigh escaped while she took a last good look around, checking to be sure she'd gathered every last personal item from the room. She keyed her password into the terminal to make a final log entry, then shut the system down . . . for the last time.
Last . . . nope, not really.
Lots of firsts coming up though, and she was damned happy to take tackle those.
She knelt down peered under the bed. Too many years of base reassignments and changing quarters, let alone finding the displaced odds and ends of those who had occupied the space prior to her own arrival, had taught her to check, check again, and . . . check one last time. This time she fished in the pocket of her comfortable BDUs and pulled out the miniature flashlight Jack had given her so many years before.
"Too bad I can't tell Maglite just how good their flashlight really is," she muttered as she stretched out onto her stomach. Sure enough, the narrow beam had highlighted a small jagged corner of a paper fragment. Inching forward, she snagged the errant piece with her fingers and jiggled it loose from where it had somehow become wedged between the steel bed frame and the bulkhead. As the paper eased free she recognized it immediately and was tickled that she'd taken one last look around. She would have hated to lose this. She read again the words that she'd memorized almost the minute she'd opened the card.
Happy Mother's Day, Sam. Love Jack and Finn.
Her first mother's day card.
First of her very own. Not as an "almost Mom," or "just like a mother to me" card, but an honest-to-goodness choppily made card . . . just for her.
Heedless of the utter lack of decorum she was displaying should anyone even consider bothering her, Sam pulled herself upright and sat cross-legged on the floor, her back braced against the bunk. She opened the card, grinning again at the picture still tucked inside. Absently, she traced a finger along the surface of the photo, her memory supplying the feel of Jack's face, imagining the slight stubble on his chin, then up and over the sun-enhanced creases around his eyes. He was leaning jauntily against the corner of their cabin, one arm up and above his head supporting his weight. The other hung down, the fingers of his fingers resting on the shoulders of a sturdy little boy. The boy was mimicking Jack's pose, though his arm was raised and resting against Jack's hip rather than the house. His grin shined brightly out of the picture, his red hair tousled, freckled face flushed, and green eyes sparkling with laughter that echoed the humor in the eyes of the man behind him.
Unable to help herself, Sam let out a small chuckle. The obvious joy and mischief on the faces of the two fella's she loved most in the world never failed to bring a smile to her face. Her gaze traveled down again to the little boy's face and she was pleased that the sadness that had so often lurked as a dark shadow behind his eyes was nowhere to be found. That was Jack's doing more than hers, she knew. She'd been gone so much over the last eighteen months. This card had been hand-delivered to her just weeks after he'd become a part of their family, and she wondered how Jack had explained the holiday to him. This year . . . this year would be different. She'd be home.
Finn had been . . . a surprise. Unexpected, unplanned, and a beautiful fit into their lives.
One of about a dozen survivors of an abandoned and drifting ship the Hammond had stumbled across nearly two years ago. Sam could still remember the utter shock on Major Marks' face when he'd scanned the "wreck" and discovered viable life-signs within the pods strewn almost haphazardly throughout the ship. The boy, one of the eldest recovered and safely revived, had no idea how he had come to be on a ship at all, let alone what had led them to be drifting, powerless and almost without life support, thousands of light years from any system that supported life. His last memory was of watching his parents and neighbors being slaughtered by the "fire rain" and trying to hide from the "shining men in masks."
He declared that he had "passed five turns" on his last birthing day, and the medics aboard ship declared that all of the children's official birthdays would be registered as the date they were recovered, with varying years as best as they could be determined. Sam smiled. The journey back to Earth had been a lively one. The children had quickly attached themselves to various crew members, and to her surprise and delight, the little redheaded boy had attached himself to her.
Sam never did find out who "appropriated" one of her own BDU shirts and adjusted it to fit him, but the boy had proudly worn it everywhere, oblivious to the fact that a good portion of it dragged along behind him. He'd delighted in their similar last names, adamantly stating that "Onnall" was close enough to "O'Neill" to count. Within a day of his release from sickbay, he'd begun to follow her everywhere, even once sneaking onto the Bridge. For her part, Sam found herself making more and more excuses to leave the Bridge to check various areas of the Hammond, just to be with the bright, engaging little guy.
Once back on Earth it became clear that the bonds formed aboard ship could not, nor should they, be broken easily. Landry, Jack, and Sam herself had made repeated calls to various officials and finally word had been given; the children were to be adopted by approved SGC or SGC Fleet personnel. As she studied the picture before her, Sam remembered again that first meeting between the Jack and the boy. How nervous the three of them had been!
- - -
"So . . ." Jack squatted low, bringing himself as close to eye level with the boy as he was able. "You must be . . ." He waited, his expression open, his brown eyes warm and welcoming.
Sam stood behind the five-year-old, feeling him tremble slightly against her legs. She knew Jack knew the boy's name, they'd been exchanging messages the entire journey back, data packets were sent and received each time the ship dropped from hyperspace. She felt the small body tucked against her suck in a deep breath, obviously gathering himself. He glanced up at her once and she gave him an encouraging nod, squeezing his shoulder for good measure.
The soft stutter betrayed his nervousness and Sam's heart clenched for him.
Jack glanced up at her a shot her the barest of winks.
"Hello, Finn'al. I'm Jack." He held out a hand to the child and, when it was clear the youngster was confused by the gesture, he reached forward with his other hand and showed the boy how to respond to the greeting. "Now you say, 'Hello, Jack.'"
Sam had a sudden flash of memory, more than twelve years old, of another engaging little redhead, Jack's young neighbor Miles, demonstrating the handshake that "Colonel Jack" had taught him. How far they had come since that day.
His voice slightly stronger now, Finn mimicked Jack's motion and parroted the words back. He glanced again up at Sam and this time there was less apprehension in his green eyes. Still the pain and shadow of memory, but . . . not as much fear.
Jack nodded, then stood and ruffled the curling red hair. He leaned over Finn's head and gave Sam a quick, loving, peck on the lips. "Welcome home, Carter."
She flashed him a smile as Finn tugged at Jack's arm, drawing their attention downward. "She's not 'Carter,' she's 'Sam.' My Sam," he finished, somewhat challengingly.
"Ah." Jack glanced between Sam and the child. "Hmm." He rubbed his nose slightly. "Well now. We might have a teeny problem, young Mr. Onnall." Again Jack squatted to be at the boy's eye level. "Here's the thing, Finn. Can I call you Finn? Great. Ah, 'Carter,' here," he waved toward Sam. "She's my wife. Do you know what that means?"
Finn cocked his head and thought for a minute before nodding. "She's your . . . um . . . 'ah hash-keh.'"
Jack's eyebrows rose and he looked to Sam for an explanation. Sam shrugged and waved over Lieutenant Baker. A linguist, Baker had served as translator during the journey home when the children occasionally used colloquialisms nobody could decipher. When Sam repeated the unfamiliar word to Baker, the young officer coughed and blushed, then, glancing at Jack, leaned in to whisper the answer in Sam's ear. Sam knew from the look on Jack's face that her own color had risen and she waved Baker away, turning to the two before her.
"Ah, yes. That's right, Finn. I am Jack's ah hash-keh and he is mine. Only here on Earth we say that I am Jack's wife and he is my husband."
"Carter? 'Ah hashbrowns'?"
Sam grinned back at him and then down at the boy who was watching them in confusion. "'Ah hash-keh,' Jack. It means 'treasure.'"
Jack scooped the boy up in his arms so they were both eye to eye with Sam. He leaned in and said softly, "You know, kid, you're gonna fit in just fine around here."
- - -
"Colonel O'Neill to the Bridge."
The announcement jarred Sam out of her reflection and she winced as she rose. She'd been on the floor longer than was probably sensible for a forty-something woman. Pocketing the card she grabbed her small carryall and strode from her quarters for the last time.
It was time to go home.
Sam checked her watch as the Sergeant who'd driven her home sped off into the night. Just after eight in the evening, home a day earlier than expected. Being Colonel O'Neill, formerly Commander of the Hammond,still had its privileges, she mused. She walked slowly up the front porch steps, breathing in a deep cleansing breath and giving herself time to readjust to Earth time and Earth seasons. As she reached the top step she paused and glanced to the left, noting the flickering blue light playing along the edges of the drawn curtains. She grinned to herself, knowing what she'd find inside. Just as she raised her hand to open the door, her mental calendar reset completely and she remembered just what she really was likely to find inside and her grin turned to a full-fledged smile.
It was February.
Stepping inside as quietly as she could, Sam set her bag down and toed off her sneakers. She was glad she'd taken time to change before leaving the mountain. Padding down the stairs, she peeked around the corner to find herself facing two pairs of eyes, one set warm, brown, and flecked with gold, the other a bright and sparkling green. Both bright with anticipation and welcome.
Sam's heart swelled. Finn was wearing a bright red jersey that was far too big for his little body. The white-edged red maple leaf covered his entire body and the word "Canada" was lost in the fabric tangled around his little legs. Jack, too, was sporting his own jersey, this one the dark blue of the United States. Popcorn spilled over from the large bowl resting on the coffee table, though the floor was remarkably clean. A half-filled glass of juice sat beside a slowly warming pint of Guinness, both leaving condensation rings on the battered wood of the table's surface.
She was home.
"You didn't think you'd sneak up on me, didja Carter?" Jack's smile was welcoming and loving as his eyes caressed her face, promising a more tactile welcome later.
"Yeah . . . mom."
Sam felt here eyebrows. This was new.
"Uh . . ." Slightly off-balance by the new title, Sam looked from Jack to Finn. Both gazed back at her expectantly. "Um . . . no, of course not. I just wanted to see what you guys were watching."
Jack lifted Finn from his lap and unceremoniously dumped him back onto the couch. The boy's giggles were infectious and both adults grinned. He placed a quick kiss on Sam's lips as he passed, welcoming her home and promising her a beer when he returned. As Sam stepped further into the room she noticed a plaid rectangular pillow resting on the broad stone hearth. Atop it rested a rather well-chewed dog bone.
Before she could form a question, Finn's bright voice piped up, "We're watchin' the 'lympics!" He tugged proudly at his oversized jersey. "Look, I'm wearin' my 'lympic jersey! I'm for . . ." he looked down again and hastily lifted his shirt to display the words embroidered below the maple leaf. "Canada. I'm for Canada."
Without waiting for her to reply, he jumped up off of the couch and raced up the stairs and down the hall. He was back almost instantly, carrying a lumpy package. "Here! This is your welcome home." Finn wrapped his arms around her legs, the package squished between them. He gazed up at her, his expression so open and trusting that Sam was overwhelmed with love.
She bent low and kissed him, taking a moment to savor his little-boy smell. "Thank you, honey."
"I love you." Finn tightened his grip. "Mom."
"Love you, too." Sam blinked back tears and savored the moment. God, she loved being home. She straightened and, seating herself on the couch, set the package on her lap. Finn eagerly helped her open it, tearing at the paper wildly and tossing it aside. Together they lifted the twin to Finn's own jersey out and, at his insistence, she pulled it on over her polo shirt. Sam ran her hand down the embroidered maple leaf and then tapped Finn's matching jersey. "Did you pick this out?"
"Yeah. We got it the same day we got–" He cut himself off and glanced guiltily toward the hallway where Jack disappeared. "We have to keep her. She's orphalaned, just like I was orphalaned."
"'Orphaned,' honey," Sam absently corrected as she looked around for more evidence of what she was certain was going to be the fourth member of their little family.
"And, um, well . . . anyway. It's also–"
"An Earth rule, I know." Sam grinned over Finn's bright hair as Jack reentered followed closely by a golden flash of fur. The little dog ran inside and headed straight for her. She settled herself happily at Sam's feet and leaned her head backward to rest her muzzle on Sam's knee, her wide eyes staring unblinkingly up at her. She bit back a chuckle as she looked from the pleading eyes of the boy to the pleading eyes of the dog. She was damned if the dog didn't have bright blue eyes to go with the silky blonde hair. She lifted her gaze to Jack's and raised a single eyebrow. "Jack?"
"What can I say? She reminded me of, ah . . ."
"Yee-ess?" She teased him slightly, sending a quick wink over to Finn.
"Okay, so sue me. I missed you."
Finn nestled himself happily between them, the DVR remote clutched in his little hands. He carefully hit "play" and settled in to enjoy his interrupted game. He shushed his parents as they talked, a tiny frown playing across his freckled features. When they lowered their voices and continued speaking, he turned up the volume on the television, clearly hoping to send them a message. Sam grinned again at Jack and leaned over their son's head to whisper something in Jack's ear. He chuckled and answered her in kind.
That, for Finn, was the last straw. He paused the playback and imperiously waved the remote toward the television, demanding loudly, "Mo-om." He drew out the word as only an impatient child can. "Are ya gonna watch or are ya gonna talk!"
Effortlessly flipping Finn up from his position between them and suspending him upside down, Jack held the giggling boy by the waist and they watched as his freckled face quickly grew as red as his hair and jersey. Sam reached up and supported the little body with one hand while tickling his tummy with her other. She glanced at the television screen and then back to her laughing boy.
"Both," she answered firmly, pulling the boy onto her lap and cuddling him close. She snatched the remote from his hands and hit "play" again. After all, it was the "'lympics," as Finn had declared. No reason she couldn't do both. And if she got a little extra lovin' in at the same time, well . . .
Afterword: Wow, this took a turn I simply did not expect at the beginning. I wanted them to have an older child than a newborn and then Finn walked in and . . . well . . .
I know, "ah hash-keh" is just the pronunciation. But did you really want me to make you all sound out the Irish Gaelic "A Thaisce" instead?