Okay-so I guess this one wasn't quite finished, after all. I'm sorry if this is an annoyance to anyone, but I didn't want to upload a whole new story. I apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks so much for your patience with me.
And this time, I promise that the kid gets named.
Meeting the Bean
The Name of the Game
"How'd it go?"
The bathroom door had opened on a cloud of steam, and Glinda lifted her gaze to see the Colonel emerging—deliberately—perhaps even a little hesitantly—her careful progress surely due to the difficulty of the birth, which Glinda understood had been quite dramatic. But she did look better—with her damp hair combed back behind her ears, and a freshly scrubbed shine to her face. And the pair of striped men's pajama bottoms and over-sized Air Force tee-shirt shone as a vast improvement to the dull, thin hospital robes she'd worn earlier.
Glinda met the question with a smile. "As you can see, we're getting along all right." The baby squirmed in her arms, squawking a bit before opening his tiny mouth in a wide yawn.
"See?" Sam's face gleamed a bit triumphant. "I told you that you'd be fine."
But Glinda could only bite her lip to keep from grinning outright. Surely it was indecent to be so busy doing absolutely nothing—and surely she shouldn't be quite so gleeful doing it.
"Was there someone else here?" Sam peeked at the door and then at the bassinet, and finally back at Glinda. "I thought I heard another voice."
Struggling not to blush, Glinda summoned some decorum. "A very kind volunteer by the name of William. He brought the baby's bed back."
"William? I haven't met him yet."
"Tall. Older gentleman. Large, with graying hair. Balding."
Sam thought about it for a moment, and then shrugged. "Well, whoever he is, I'm glad we have the bassinet back. I forgot to take the diapers and wipes out before they took it to clean it out—some genius I am, right?"
"Well, no bother. We managed." Glinda indicated the baby, who started squirming again. "Although I think he's getting tired of me."
"He's probably hungry." Sam pushed a strand of damp hair back behind her ear. "It's been a couple of hours, and I'm supposed to feed him frequently or the milk won't come in."
"How peculiar." Glinda frowned. "Surely the milk doesn't just appear—it must be acquired from somewhere."
"No." A tiny wrinkle appeared over the Colonel's nose. "I'm breast-feeding him. In the beginning, there's not real milk—it's a different substance called colostrum—high in protein and other nutrients, but there isn't much of it. The real stuff doesn't come in for a few days." She stopped short and then crinkled her nose on frown. "And I'm probably well into the 'too much information' bracket, aren't I?"
A distant bit of knowledge tickled at the back of Glinda's mind. "Beestings. First milk. At least, that's what they call it for cattle. I had no idea that it was the same for people." Aware that she probably appeared unnaturally fascinated, she turned her expression apologetic. "I beg your pardon, ma'am. Of course I'm not equating you to a cow."
"Oh—you're not too far off." With a wry sound, Sam rounded the end of the bed and leaned over to peer at her baby. "I do feel a bit like livestock these days. Stupid livestock, at that. You think you know everything about life, the world, and the universe, and then one of these little critters pops out and turns you into a complete idiot."
Glinda juggled the bundle briefly before lifting her arms to proffer the child to his mother. "I'm sure that you will learn everything that you need to know in short time. You have always shown yourself to be proficient and capable when it came to learning new technologies and developing new aptitudes."
As she gathered her child close, Sam fanned her fingers under his head to support his neck as she balanced herself to sit on the bed. "Some things are easy. Molecular biology is cake. Figuring the decay rate of trinium alloys when exposed to cosmic gasses—no problem. Calculating possible neutron radiation transfer from a device to its target is like shooting fish in a bucket." She scooted back on the bed. "Babies? Wow. That's another story."
Glinda's playful side emerged. "Come now, are they more difficult than the disposal of a sun?"
"Pinky," Sam breathed a long sigh. "You've been hanging around Jack too much."
Sitting back in her chair, Glinda folded her hands in her lap, watching as the Colonel scooted back on to the hospital bed and arranged herself. She knew she should leave—knew she should allow the new mother some privacy and perhaps some rest, but she felt it might be awkward to simply rise and exit. And she hadn't yet presented her gift. Gauging the reaction she'd gotten for the gigantic log cabin quilt she'd given them a few months ago, she felt sure that the gift she'd made for the baby would also be well-received.
In fact, on her way out the door this morning, she'd tucked a fabric marker into her purse so that she could properly pen an inscription on the label she'd sewn to the quilt's reverse side.
Once she learned his name.
Sam had laid a pillow in the nest of her crossed legs, onto which she deposited her son. She loosened the wrapped blanket and checked his diaper, appeared to be satisfied, and then lifted him into her arms. Where she paused—looking intensely uncomfortable.
"Do you need something?" Glinda straightened. "Could I get you another pillow, perhaps?"
"No. Thank you." Sam's eyes narrowed in contemplation. "It's just that I need to feed him—and I'm nursing—and—" The Colonel's voice trailed off.
Understanding whooshed down into Glinda's somewhat muddled mind. With a rapidity that she wasn't sure she still possessed, she stood. "Of course you'd want your privacy. I'll leave. My goodness—my stay was run out anyway. I'm so sorry. I'm such a ninny, sometimes."
But Sam's words went unheeded as Glinda whirled in search of her purse, in search of escape.
Sam had used her Colonel voice—and Glinda found herself coming to attention. Slowly, she turned, facing the bed and its occupants. For some reason, she felt like she should apologize for her previous apology, but that seemed silly. The Colonel didn't seem to be upset—but rather her expression appeared more determined than anything else. Glinda frowned. In desperation, she said the only thing that came to mind. "Unless there is something else that you needed, ma'am?"
Sam shook her head slowly. "Well, for one thing—please call me Sam."
"I already call you 'Sam'."
"No, you don't." The Colonel frowned. "You call me 'ma'am', and 'Colonel', but not by my name."
"I mean you no disrespect."
"Glinda—you don't need to worry about showing me respect." Sam's brows rose. "You know that Jack and I think of you as family."
"I'm not sure you do." The pause seemed apprehensive, somehow—but the Colonel continued, anyway. "Glinda—neither Jack nor I have much other family. The closest I have is my brother, and he's—kind of difficult. Jack's parents are both gone, and he was an only child, and my parents died long ago."
"I know. I'm so sorry."
"And you've been exactly what we've needed." Sam caught Glinda's eye in an expression of frank honesty. "You've been great for Jack—I know he's hard to deal with—I speak from absolute experience." She looked down at the baby. "And without you—well—I'm not sure that either of us would be here."
But Glinda had nothing to say to that—at least nothing that wouldn't turn her into a blubbering loon. She lowered her face to focus on her feet, and their simple heels, trying not to wonder how she'd allowed all of this to matter as much as it did.
"I owe you, Glinda. More than I can ever repay. And we need you. Even if all our parents were still around, and we were flush with relatives, we'd still need you." Sam tilted her head—peering at Glinda from beneath her lashes. "And I think that you just might need us, too."
Glinda couldn't help but look up, then, and was astonished at the sincerity she saw in the younger woman's eyes.
And, oh! But the doubts that burgeoned up within her—wasn't it every older woman's fear that she was making a nuisance of herself? That her presence was tolerated more than desired? With a little shake of her gray curls, Glinda frowned. "I just don't want to be a bother."
"Never." Sam's voice came across the room gently—softly—and so very sincere. "You'll never be a bother. You're filling a place in our lives that's been empty for a very long time. Too long, to tell you the truth. But I sometimes forget to ask you what you're okay with. I suppose it's the military officer in me—I order people around too often."
"No, you don't."
"Oh, yes I do." The Colonel grinned. "And I'm all right with who I am, but I didn't want to make you uncomfortable—what with whipping out boobs and all."
There it was—and for some reason, Glinda's heart broke a little—knowing that it was concern for her rather than any kind of need for privacy that had caused the new mother such consternation. She supposed that it was partly the newness of the relationship—and of the situation—that were at fault. But, with a sinking in her soul, she recognized that own failings had also led to this discomfort. Glinda knew that she exuded the character traits of a fussbudget. It was no wonder that others viewed her as cold, and prudish.
Understanding drifted between the two women—a full silence broken only when the baby suddenly began to cry in staccato bursts. Sam picked him up and situated herself on the bed, then took a moment to adjust her clothing and raise her child to nurse. He latched on heavily, with a frantic spate of exaggerated slurping noises. Once he quieted a bit, Sam continued. "I just don't want you to feel obligated to us. I don't want you doing anything out of a sense of duty, or because you feel that you owe us."
Glinda couldn't answer past the emotion that constricted her throat.
"I want you to be comfortable around us—" Here Sam paused, a self-effacing smile tickling at her lips. "And here I go again—telling you what I want. When I should be asking you what you want."
Her voice tight, the secretary gathered herself to answer. "I only desire to be of some use. To be here when you need me."
"Well, be prepared. Because we're going to need you a lot." Sam eyes brightened. "And this baby here needs a grandma."
And that slow warmth came flooding back over her—that simple joy that had overcome her earlier, when Mr. McBean had knelt before her while she'd held the newest O'Neill. For a moment, she fought against the feeling—tried to hide the rush of heat that flowed through her. But then, in a burst of absolute clarity, she let it come—let herself feel it—all the happy, confusing, frightening, blessed excitement that she'd been squishing deep down within her for ever so long.
Because what Mr. McBean had said was true on so very many levels.
You can't mess up love.
And—Stars and Garters!—she found that she believed it. Such terror had coursed through her when she'd realized it at first—as she'd sat on that ship after her adventure with Sam and pondered as to why she'd been allowed to return to them—why she'd chosen to come back.
But the truth was, she loved these people. As she'd never loved anyone since her father had passed on. As she'd never allowed herself to feel about anyone else, brief romances notwithstanding.
Because in all honesty, she'd probably had some chances, along the way—opportunities to allow people past the proud exterior she'd so ruthlessly brandished. Maybe that was why it had been so easy for Bruce to leave—he must have found her defenses exhausting to deal with.
And even though her regrets were few, she had to acknowledge that it had, in a large way, been her decision to remain alone. Her solitude had been a conscious act—a choice she'd made to build all those barriers, to erect all those walls—to keep anyone from breaching them through promises or emotion.
Just as she was now making a conscious choice to tear them all down.
With a start, she wondered that it was even possible for her to make this change—to open a sealed-off heart. But the vision before her—of mother and child—daughter and grandchild?—beckoned to her like nothing else ever had. And as Sam stroked her baby's cheek with one long, exquisite finger, Glinda felt the first of the bricks fall.
"Well, since he needs one, then I would be honored to fill the bill." She blinked back the tears that had gathered behind her lids, squaring her shoulders. Deliberately, she stepped backwards and sat into the chair that she'd recently vacated. "Provided that, eventually, I am allowed to learn his name."
Glinda peeked at the Colonel, only to find the younger woman gazing back at her. And her smile—well, Glinda couldn't help but answer it in kind.
Just then, the baby disengaged himself and began working himself into a fuss. Sam adjusted her clothing again, then raised the baby to her shoulder and began pounding methodically on his back.
"So, we're okay?"
"Of course." Glinda nodded, blinking rapidly. "Of course we are. And I'm so pleased, Samantha."
"Me too." She said, between thumps. "And eventually, we will name this little guy. Jack and I are still trying to figure that out."
"Is my name being used in vain?" The General's voice came from the door way, where he stood, poking his head around the curtain. "I mean—a guy has a whole planet to save, and he comes through the door to hear his two favorite women maligning him."
"Not maligning." Sam didn't let up on the thumping. "Discussing."
"Good things?" He pushed past the curtain, debonair in his monkey suit, hat in hand. Throwing a faux salute at Glinda, he stopped at Sam's bed side and reached for the baby even as he dropped his hat on the rumpled sheets. "Let me. It takes a professional."
He reached into the bassinet and grabbed a receiving blanket, which he draped over his shoulder, and then balanced the baby against it and continued the thwacking. Within seconds, the child had erupted forth with a belch that would have registered on the Richter scale.
Jack beamed as he wiped something off of the infant's face. "That's my boy. Damn, that makes a dad proud."
Glinda tried not to harrumph. "A boy still without a name."
His smile faded into a churlish grin. "That's Sam's fault."
"My fault?" Stretching her legs out on the bed, the Colonel had reclined against her pillows. "Why do you say that?"
"You won't let me name him after your dad."
Glinda couldn't help asking. "Why not, Samantha?"
Her sigh was evidence that this conversation had been had several times over. "My brother Mark and his wife named their last son Jacob—she was pregnant with their third child when my father died. He turned out to be a boy. I just don't think that first cousins should have the same first name. It's confusing."
The General had started to sway from side to side, cradling the baby to his chest. "Then what?"
"'Carter'." Sam's brows rose. "Name him 'Carter'. Then we wouldn't have to hyphenate."
"But I don't want to name him that."
"Why not, sir?" Glinda's brows flew upwards. "That sounds like a perfectly amenable solution."
For a brief moment, the hospital room hung heavy with silence, and then Jack moved over towards the bed and looked down at his wife. "Is he done eating?"
She answered him with a shake of her head and her arms raised towards the bundle he held. "You know, you still haven't answered that question to me, either."
He glanced at his secretary before returning his attention to his wife. "I've told you."
"No, you haven't." With a few surreptitious moves, she readied herself, and the dedicated slurping continued. Looking up at her husband, she cocked a brow. "So spill it, dad."
The General looked down at his hands, and then began fiddling with his cuffs. Some of the stitching had come loose on the edges, and Glinda made a mental note to get that attended to even as she glanced up to see his countenance. Humorous—pensive—wry—how did he manage to pack so many conflicting emotions into one expression?
But the face he raised to his wife was completely honest, and just a little bit embarrassed. He took a deep fortifying breath before starting. "I don't want to name our son 'Carter', because that's what I called you. During all that time—when I wasn't allowed to call you anything else."
Glinda had heard about those years—nearly a decade of living with a want that could not be assuaged. She'd seen the pain that had flashed through the other woman's eyes when she'd spoken of that period. And she'd seen how much the General had missed his wife as she'd fulfilled her obligations off-world. So much love—so much time apart, either through duty or distance. And consequently, how much sense it made—that he would want to keep something of his wife to himself.
Sam must have understood, because her voice was gentle when she responded. "But you can call me whatever you want now."
"I can. But 'Carter'—it's still you. My name for you." He shrugged, then shoved his hands deep into his trouser pockets. "It's how I thought of you—how I still think of you sometimes. And back then, I did a lot of thinking."
Sam's lovely eyes grew wide as she gazed at her spouse. "You sure?"
"Well,then, we're back to square one."
Jack snagged a rolling stool with his foot and wheeled it over to where he stood. Lowering himself onto it, he scooted forward and folded his hands on the sheets. "Well, square two, actually. We've at least discussed it."
Sam sighed. "We have." By way of explanation, she glanced over at Glinda. "We've gone over all the options. We want the name to mean something, and yet nothing seems right. If we name him after one of our team, then someone else gets left out. It's a conundrum."
"And then Sam bought this book." Jack's eyes widened. "It was the size of the Hindenberg."
"It was not."
"It was, too." He raised a hand and scrubbed it over his face. "There were roughly three gazillion names in it, all of them unisex and trendy."
"You're such a liar." Sam shook her head on a small laugh. "Don't believe him, Glinda. The names were perfectly fine."
"Shelby? Adrian? Lyle?" His brows crept upwards. "Can you imagine naming a poor defenseless child any of those names?"
"A woman came to the Quilt Guild meeting the other night complaining that her daughter had named her newborn 'Tuesday'." Glinda pursed her lips, remembering. "I wasn't impressed."
But bless her, Sam actually sounded intrigued. "Boy or girl?"
"Exactly." Jack pointed at his wife in triumph. "You can't tell, can you?"
"And what's worse is when they name a child 'Taylor' or 'Windsor' or 'Brook', and then dress them in yellow." Glinda held up both hands, palms out. "And then they have the gall to be offended when you inquire as to their child's gender."
"See?" The General smirked. "She's so on my side."
"I never said that the baby shouldn't have a good name." Sam looked down at the child she held, her expression just a tidge sad. "I just really want him to have the right name."
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a wad of paper. "Yes, well. The Social Security Administration wants us to do it sooner rather than later."
"I know that, too."
"So, just in case you shot down 'Jacob' for good—I had an idea."
"Okay." Sam raised the baby to her shoulder and began the burping process anew. "Go for it."
Jack looked over at Glinda with a smug smile as he unfolded the page and held it up to show her. "This is why I'm the General."
Sam snorted. Indelicately.
Which O'Neill blithely ignored. "At my meeting this morning, they were discussing some kind of scientific mumbo-jumbo, and it hit me."
"What hit you?"
"The perfect name." He held up the paper. "There was this physicist there—and he blathering on about new weapons advances in friction and charges and stuff, but he had this cool book there with the rest of his crap."
"Jack." With an immense amount of longsuffering in her voice, Sam raised a hand to rub at her forehead. "Please tell me that you didn't steal this man's book."
"Of course not." He held up his hand. "Just the one page."
"Oh, good grief." Sam rolled her eyes again.
"Do you want to hear this, or not?"
Her sigh spoke volumes. "Go ahead."
He glanced from Sam to Glinda and back to Sam again before holding the paper up. "'Although William Watson, an English scientist discovered the same thing independently, Franklin was credited with identifying and improving upon the understanding of these forces, declaring, in 1747, that this 'electric charge exists of two types of electric forces, an attractive force and a repulsive force'. He would later name them positive and negative forces, and label them with their commonly recognized symbols, the plus and minus signs. This was a significant moment in the understanding of both electrical and magnetic sciences'."
Perfect silence descended around them, and Glinda looked nervously from the General to his wife. His dark eyes were careful, expectant, his expression carrying a hint of exultation, a hint of a question. Nodding her head deliberately, Sam's lips curved in a slow, private smile.
Apparently, she had understood whatever it was that her husband had said.
And it was equally apparent that the pair had completely forgotten that Glinda existed.
"So, you see? Magnets. Like us." His voice subdued, O'Neill waggled his finger between the two of them. "You're attractive, I'm repulsive. Positive. Negative. Opposites. But nothing could keep us apart, right? We're magnets."
Glinda watched as the Colonel's face softened, as her smile turned deeper—more intimate—her expression more than a simple reflection of the present, but rather a moment's view into the prism of their collected past.
"So, I think that we should name him 'Benjamin'." Jack lowered his chin, his dark eyes unreadable, his voice low. "Benjamin Carter O'Neill. Because, you know, it's a magnet thing."
And Sam looked down at where her son nestled against her shoulder. Gently, she ran a finger along his ear, across the nub of his nose, and through his dark, shiny curls. "Benjamin. Ben O'Neill."
She shrugged, simply—without fanfare—as these two people seemed to do everything. "Yeah. I do."
The General rounded the bed to where his wife sat, holding his child. He sat next to her, hip to hip, one knee hiked up on the mattress next to Sam. "So it's settled?"
Her nod sent her hair tumbling over her shoulder. "I think so."
O'Neill lifted a hand to frame his wife's face, and then leaned in to kiss her—thoroughly, however how briefly. Grinning as he raised his head, he ran his thumb along the curve of his wife's cheek before patting it with an impish smirk. "And that's why I'm the General."
"No." Sam's dimples appeared in gusto. "That's why it's your turn to change him."
She jostled around a little, handing the newly-named Benjamin to his father, before turning to Glinda. "What do you think, Grandma?"
"About the name?" The secretary straightened in the chair, refolding her hands, fighting back the surge of emotion that threatened to overflow again. Gazing momentarily at Sam, she turned her focus to the bassinet, where the General had deposited little Benjamin and started unwrapping him. "I think it's wonderful."
"And timely, at that."
The new voice came from the curtain, where a remarkably shiny head had poked around the panel. In the jovial manner he'd previously sported, Bean pushed his way through the curtain. "So—the gang's all here? I think I've only met the lovely Miss Glinda and Baby O'Neill."
Jack glanced up from his chore. Hands stilling on his task, his eyes narrowed. "And you are?"
"William McBean." Touching a finger to his identification badge at his waist, Bean moved further inward, stopping a few feet from Glinda's chair. He met her eye with a familiar wink before turning his attention back towards the General. Lifting a solid hand, he displayed what he held there. "I come offering paperwork."
Glinda tried to ignore the flush she felt in her cheeks. Old ladies didn't blush—and yet here she sat, her face as red as a baboon, smiling like a simpleton. With a herculean effort, she pulled herself together and stood. "Mr. McBean is a volunteer here. He came in with the bassinet while Samantha was in the shower. And I must say that he was rather helpful in the events that followed a rather foul diaper malfunction."
"Diaper malfunction?" O'Neill flicked open the wipes and withdrew several before lifting a sarcastic eyebrow in her direction. "Who are you, Janet Jackson?"
"Jack, be nice." Sam scooted to the edge of the bed and sat with her legs hanging off the edge. Her gaze dancing between Glinda and Bean, she nodded towards the papers. "Are those the forms we need for discharge?"
"Yes, ma'am." Bean handed them to her, then stood back, rocking slightly on his feet. "Is there anything else that I can get for you?"
"Nope." Jack swapped diapers and rapidly fastened the clean one on. Pausing, he raised a speculative eye to the volunteer. "We're good."
"Okay." Bean's gray eyes raked over towards the woman next to him with a jaunty gleam. "Although, Miss Glinda here has asked me to help her learn a few baby care techniques. If you wouldn't mind, I could show her a few things while you work on filling those out."
O'Neill scowled. "We can teach her—"
"Jack." Her intelligent blue eyes frankly assessing, Sam stopped her husband. "Come help me with this stuff. Let Bean show her what she wants to know."
"What could Bean, here, show her that I couldn't?"
"He has seven children of his own, General O'Neill." Oh heavens, she was blurting information. And yet, Glinda couldn't seem to stop her tongue. "And eighteen grandchildren."
O'Neill seemed to be trying to ascertain exactly how high his eyebrow could go. "Eighteen, you say?"
"And he's a chaplain." Glinda raised her hand to her lips, but her nerves compelled her onward. "Retired, of course."
"Of course he is." Sarcasm oozed over O'Neill's words like honey on toast.
"Shut up, Jack." Sam stood and crossed the room to the bassinet. Grasping it, she wheeled it over to where Glinda stood next to Bean. With a gracious nod, she set it in front of them. "Mr. McBean, I would be grateful if you would teach Glinda whatever she wants to know about caring for Ben."
Tilting a look at Glinda, Bean's expression grew curious. "So, who will I be teaching? Aunt Glinda? Or just plain Glinda?"
"'Miss Baldrich'." Jack looked at them from beneath his lowered brows. "You can call her 'Miss Baldrich'."
With a slight clearing of her throat, Glinda steeled her spine and drew herself up to her full height. Pride and gratitude flowed through her as she cast a determined look around the room. Angling a glance to the man at her side, she then faced her boss without hesitancy, without discomfiture, without any reservation whatsoever. "Actually, General. It's 'Grandma', now."