Title: The Jello Party
Pre/Sequel to: none
Category: Family, Humor, Fluff, Romance, AU
Season: post SGU
Summary: With Sam busy running the SGC it falls on retired stay-at-home dad Jack to organize their daughter's birthday party in true O'Neill fashion.
Disclaimer: see profile
A/N: I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are my own. I always appreciate feedback and/or constructive criticism or just a comment to let me know why you (don't) like it.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
It had been a long day and Sam was exhausted when she finally opened the front door of her house. To her surprise the clock in the hallway told her it wasn't even 1700 hours yet; today had to be the first time she'd left the base this early! But after being cooped up under the mountain for ten days she'd made a break for it mere hours after the quarantine was lifted and had been ensured everything would be fine once Siler and Dr Lee had arrived to take over the cleanup.
Thanks to Felger's mistake she had almost missed her own daughter's birthday party this weekend! It was bad enough that she'd been held on base meaning Jack had to organize the whole thing on his own, but it would have been hell if the SGC had remained under quarantine while Sage's party was taking place only a few miles away!
Sam closed the door behind her and, placing her briefcase on the floor, she shrugged out of her coat and kicked off her shoes, all the while listening for sounds coming from her husband and daughter elsewhere in the house. Perhaps she should have called ahead to let them know she was free to go just in case they weren't home and doing some last minute shopping or something?
The idea of taking a long hot bath without interruption was just forming in her brain when she heard the pitter-patter of little feet on wood and a high-pitched giggle coming from the living room. She hardly had the time to check it out when Sage "Whirlwind" O'Neill rounded the corner and nearly bumped into her.
"Mommy!" The six-year-old girl cried enthusiastically, before launching herself.
Wrapping her arms tightly around her daughter, Sam lifted her up and cuddled her. "Hey sweetie," she murmured, burying her nose in Sage's blond hair. "I missed you."
She chuckled in amusement; no doubt Jack had assigned their daughter the task of browsing through the crossword dictionary while he'd been attempting to fill out the paper's puzzle correctly. Sage had already learned a lot of new words like that and usually tried to use them as often as possible for a week or so until the next crossword puzzle was up. "Is your Dad doing his crossword again?"
"No, he's out back," Sage replied as she leaned back.
It was only then that Sam noticed some mud on the girl's cheek and hands, and her shorter locks. "Did you get your hair cut?"
"Yes, Daddy took me to the hairdresser yesterday," she bobbed her head and then smiled shyly. "Do you like it, Mommy?"
"I love it," she reassured her daughter as she brushed a lock behind her ear. Sage's hair had almost reached her lower back, always got tangled up and took forever to brush. During the quarantine they had chatted via their webcams and Jack had suggested taking their daughter for a haircut because she'd gotten some strands of hair stuck on a branch that day as she climbed down a tree in the backyard and he'd been forced to cut off two inches to get her free. Now the sandy blond locks were just resting on her shoulders and looked a bit curlier too, without all that extra weight pulling it down. "Do you like it?"
"It's cool!" Sage beamed and ran a hand through her hair. Leaning back in her arms, she used both hands to pull her hair back. "Look how short my pony tail is!"
Sam was about to comment when the phone rang. Since she was already going to the living room and had to pass the phone to reach the sliding doors on her way to greet Jack she reluctantly picked up the phone, silently wondering if her husband and the hairdresser had made sure Sage's hair could actually be tied back properly without half her hair hanging out of the pony tail. "Carter," she almost barked into the phone, still in base commander mode.
"Eh, hello, I'm looking for Sage O'Neill's parents?" A woman's voice inquired, sounding a bit startled at the brusque reply.
"I'm Sage's mom," she replied absentmindedly, one hand stroking her daughter's hair where her head rested on her shoulder.
A short pause followed before the woman on the other end spoke again, in what sounded like a disapproving one. "Ah, I see."
It wasn't the first time Sam had heard it and it probably wouldn't be the last, but for some reason a lot of the old fashioned and elitist parents took it to mean she hadn't gone down the traditional route and married her child's father simply because she was still using her maiden name. It was one of the major reasons she disliked having her daughter in a private school but risk assessments had shown that with her and Jack's positions, their relations to the Stargate Program, Homeworld Security, Atlantis and his ATA gene and the naquadah in her blood they were too high profile to have their kid in public school just in case the NID decided to switch sides again, or some rogue faction like the Trust would come after them or Sage.
Unfortunately it also meant dealing with parents and school officials that felt more elite than 'normal' people and were far more old-fashioned and sticklers for etiquette and whatnot. Their reactions to learning she was still working on her career while Jack was the stay-at-home parent in their family were very similar. So much for equality and living in the twenty-first century…
"How can I help you?" Sam asked politely, instead of snapping at the unsuspecting woman. After all, it wasn't her fault Felger had screwed up again and had caused a ten-day quarantine, keeping her on base. Besides, she couldn't afford to piss of any parents at Sage's school and Jack certainly wouldn't be pleased if all his efforts at playing nice were destroyed with one snappy comment from her.
"My name is Eleanor Vogel, I'm Billy's mother," she replied, referring to one of Sage's classmates and friends. "My husband only showed me the invitation to Sage's party today after I returned from a spa retreat and he had already given our son permission to accept the invitation, but I still have some questions myself."
Sam's eyes darted guiltily to the little girl in her arms. Due to the situation on base she had barely had time to check in at home and had only managed two video chats with Jack and Sage during the quarantine, so he had been saddled with not only planning the party but also doing all the preparations. Sadly, it wasn't anything new and Sam wasn't sure if it was a good or a bad thing that their daughter was used to it by now. At least it meant Jack knew how to handle everything but with him and Sage being thick as thieves they often banded together to keep it a secret, so in the end things like parties were usually a surprise to Sam.
She much preferred it over them sulking about her being too busy at work but at times like these it was unfortunate because she had no idea what Jack had planned for Saturday and doubted she could be of help to Billy's mother. "Of course, I'll do my best to answer them." As the woman started talking Sam lowered Sage to the ground and put her hand over the phone. "Go find your Dad; Billy's mom has some questions," she whispered to her daughter, who to her surprise rolled her eyes in exasperation at learning who was on the other end of the phone before she scurried off.
"… he didn't bother to ask any questions, you know how men can be sometimes," Mrs Vogel continued.
Sam didn't really know what she was referring to but started to understand Sage's reaction when it became clear how overprotective and cautious the woman was when it came to her son. Not that she or Jack weren't concerned about their daughter's safety but this woman was taking concern to a whole different level as she rattled on about the boy's various allergies – animals, certain plants and medication – his asthma, what kind of sunscreen he needed to use and when, what his diet was and how many calories he was allowed to have…
At a loss for what to say Sam just made some appropriate noises as she went over to Jack's laptop on the coffee table to check out the actual invitation. She doubted he would have asked for all the information Mrs Vogel was sharing and felt like she was being prepped to adopt the child instead of just having him over for a few hours. Especially since Billy had spent quite a few afternoons at their house already since they had moved back to Colorado Springs from DC and if she wasn't mistaken Jack had actually met the child's mother once or twice when dropping Sage off at their house for a play date and even once at a fundraiser for the kids' school.
"A pool?" Sam interrupted the other woman as she searched the laptop. "No, we don't have a pool…" She and Jack had both sold their houses in Colorado a few years ago when they'd been reassigned and while it had seemed foolish at first when she'd been informed of her new command position, in retrospect it was probably better because now they had bought one together upon moving back here.
She had always loved the layout and location of his old place, more so than her own house so they had tried looking for something similar. It had been tricky to find something within their budget and pleasing to both so in the end they had settled on this house with double garages for her and had built themselves a stargazing platform atop of them. A pool hadn't been that important to either of them, although Jack had hinted it would give him something to do with all his free time but she thought it was more likely he ended up fishing in it than actually swimming.
"That is what I and our nanny thought too and when I told my husband he said he hadn't seen one either when he brought Billy over to your house."
Her husband, William Vogel of course, had dropped the red-headed boy off a handful of times on Saturdays on his way to the office according to his son or after the kid's baseball practice. Sam refrained from informing Mrs Vogel that her beloved husband never even bothered to get out of the car whenever he brought Billy over because from what she'd heard so far she was pretty sure that wasn't SOP for the Vogels and she didn't want to cause any problems for the child's parents. The Vogel's nanny, a shy and mousy young woman in her twenties, usually took care of the child and had been over plenty of times.
"I was just alarmed by the mention of bringing swimwear since our Billy doesn't know how to swim yet," Mrs Vogel said, "nor was there a mention of lifeguards and which parents would do the supervising."
Swimsuits? That was definitely something Jack had neglected to tell her, Sam mused silently. "If you have a moment, I'll get my husband; he's the one who has organized and planned Sage's party."
"Your husband? He will be the one supervising the children… on his own?"
"Jack retired from the Air Force a few years ago for Sage's sake." The woman's tone made her defensive, not liking what she seemed to be implying. "He is our daughter's primary caretaker since I am still on active duty." Those words always sounded so impersonal and almost clinical, one of the reasons she hated the term but it seemed to be one the schools and parents understood.
It was then that she noticed Jack had entered the room, with Sage on his back and her muddy arms loosely wrapped around his neck. By the look on his face Sam realized he had overheard her or at least got the gist of the conversation and didn't like it anymore than she did. He was a great father and despite still having a few years left he had chosen to retire to spend more time with their daughter something not many men, especially his age, would do.
"He is more than capable of taking care of several young children," she added, holding his gaze. During their time on SG-1 she had seen him interact with all kinds of children and it soon became clear he just had a way with kids. Even now, she felt he was better with Sage than she was and had been from day one. It took her more effort to relate to their daughter while he was just a natural and didn't even have to try. Besides, if he could keep a bunch of cadets alive in the field how difficult would it be for him to keep everyone safe at a children's party?
Jack put Sage down and ruffled the girl's hairs, eliciting a soft giggle, before gesturing Sam to hand over the phone. "Jack O'Neill speaking," he said into the appliance, rolling his eyes at the woman's reply. "You and your husband are more than welcome to join us at the party, Mrs Vogel. To supervise, of course," he added dryly.
"Billy's mom is stupid," Sage said as she climbed on the sofa.
"You shouldn't call other people stupid, it's not very polite," Sam gently admonished her daughter as she snuggled up to her, wrapping an arm around her.
The girl's eyebrows shot up, reminiscent of Daniel's puppy dog look. "But she is! She never lets us play in their yard and always sends us to the playroom with the nanny."
"Still, I don't want you calling other people stupid. How would you feel if someone called you that?" Sam was satisfied when Sage gnawed her lip, looking chastised and hugged her a bit tighter and pressed a kiss on her crown before focusing her attention on Jack's phone conversation.
"… might want to wear a swimsuit, Ma'am, if you want to join in the fun," he said, winking at them with a roguish smile on his face.
Sam grinned as Sage buried her face into her side, her daughter's small frame shaking with laughter at Jack's antics. She herself had never met Mrs Vogel as far as she could recall but by the muffled giggles it was clear the image of the woman in a bathing suit was hilarious to the six-year-old girl and Jack knew it.
"Okay, bye now. Yes, we'll see you then," he replied to the woman, before hanging up.
"She'll be joining us?" Sam inquired politely, already forming a picture of the woman to match the voice and attitude in her head.
Sage made a face when Jack nodded and walked towards them. "Eww, in her swimsuit?"
"What?" He put on the innocent expression their daughter had started copying as of late and jumped forward to start tickling her. "I couldn't have her getting her fancy clothes all dirty, could I?"
"Ieeeh, Daddy!" She squealed, wriggling on the couch. "Mommy help," she gasped in between laughter as Jack continued his attack.
Taking a moment to watch her family joke around Sam smiled before launching herself at her husband and thereby freeing their daughter. "Sage-"
"Don't worry, Mommy, I've got your six!" The girl replied, repeating a familiar phrase in their household as she jumped atop her father.
Jack chuckled softly as Sam held him and Sage tried to tickle him as best she could with her tiny hands. "I surrender," he cried out dramatically.
"Now, go wash up, munchkin and then set the table for dinner," he said after they both climbed off him.
Sam helped him up as Sage ran off and then tried her best General Carter glare on him. "Pizza? What have you been feeding our daughter while I was away?"
Smirking, he wrapped his arms around her and gave her the first kiss in ten long days. "It's the kid's birthday," he shrugged afterwards.
"Her birthday isn't until next week, Jack."
Despite spoiling their little girl rotten Sam smiled at him and snuggled closer, resting her head on his shoulder and nuzzling his neck. "What did Mrs Vogel say?"
"She checked her schedule and said she was willing to offer up some of her precious free time to help us supervise Sage's party and that she'll ask her husband to attend too, once he's back from his golf match. Oh and she mentioned that Billy was allergic to red dye but they weren't vegans or vegetarians and the kid was looking forward to the party."
She snorted and rolled her eyes even if he couldn't see it. "You're lucky; I had to listen to his entire medical history. You'd think she was handing him over to us for the rest of his life instead of one afternoon."
"I bet he'd be happier here than with that woman," Jack muttered in her hair. "He's a great kid though, comes by here all the time to play with our whirlwind. It would mean I'm no longer outnumbered."
"Oh please, you love doting on Sage."
He pulled back a bit and smirked at her. "That I do. On both of you, actually. Maybe we should get a dog to even the score…"
"A puppy!" Their daughter yelped as she came into the living room with a big grin.
"We'll see," Sam replied, feeling bad when not just Sage's face fell but Jack's too. "Did you finish setting the table?"
When she nodded they all went into the living room and Jack got out the pizza leftovers – almost a pizza and a half, which made her wonder if they'd eaten anything other than pizza these past few days – while she poured them all some water in the glasses present.
"So, is everything ready for the party tomorrow?"
"Yeah sure you betcha," Jack grinned, exchanging conspiratorial glances with their daughter. "Well, almost everything… but I have to do the rest in the morning. You just make sure to wear your bikini, Sam."
She eyed him over the table as she grabbed a slice of pizza. "We'll see…" It was clear to her that neither he nor Sage was going to let her in on they had planned. Luckily, she didn't mind surprises so much, at least not this kind.
"I'm gonna wear my green swimsuit," Sage piped in.
"The peridot one with black dots," Jack corrected, referring to the one he'd bought her at the start of the summer vacation.
Their daughter was munching on a slice of pizza that was way too big for her, a pensive look on her face. "Mommy, do you have to go back to base tomorrow?"
"No, sweetie, Uncle Cam is keeping an eye on things while I'm on leave for the next two weeks. That's why he couldn't make it to your party, remember?"
"Oh… does that mean I'm not getting a present from him?"
Jack almost choked on the sip of water he'd just taken and coughed loudly to clear his windpipe. "Um… remember what we told you about getting presents?"
She dropped the pizza on her plate and frowned. "But I've been a good girl all year!"
"We know," Sam hastily said. "But sometimes people can't make it to someone's birthday and are incapable of getting them a present, even if they've been good."
"But PJ sent me something and he's in Washington! And Uncle Daniel and Teal'c and Aunt Vala aren't even in the country…"
She knew their little girl was right; PJ, Paul Davis' son, was one of the few friends from Washington she still kept in touch with via Skype and they'd visit sometimes when Colonel Davis had to be at the SGC or she was needed in DC and the others were all off-world but had made sure to leave a gift. But she had no idea if Cam had remembered to get something or if he would have time to visit with everything that had been going on at the SGC. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see."
"Speaking of the SGC…" Jack said after a tense moment of silence and turned towards her, ignoring the sulking six-year old across from him. "Did everything work out all right? I forgot to ask," he made a vague gesture towards the living room, "and I didn't expect you to be home so soon. I checked in after lunch and heard the quarantine was being reevaluated."
"After conferring with Carolyn we decided to lift the quarantine around fifteen hundred thirty hours and as soon as Siler and Bill got access to the mountain again I left after they promised to tie up the loose ends," Sam explained in between bites.
He nodded and took another sip of water to wash away the last of his pizza. "What about Folger?"
"Felger," she corrected him automatically. "I fired him."
Sam looked unfazed and continued to nibble on a slice. "We were out of commission for almost two weeks because of him."
"But when Hammond wanted to fire his sorry ass a few years ago you said he deserved another chance and that he was brilliant or whatever," he replied.
When she sent him a warning look and jerked her head towards a softly giggling Sage he just shrugged, not even bothering to apologize for using such language. Probably because he couldn't stand Felger and felt justified in his phrasing. "Well, he did come up with Avenger back then."
"Yeah, but only because you helped him. He was a pain in the mikta when I was base commander but when I threatened to send him to the Russians you defended him again," Jack whined.
"I admit you were both right, he's a complete screw-up and jumps to conclusions based on zero evidence," Sam admitted. "I took a look at his records and he's basically just a waste of money and delivers nothing but failure. Now, after blowing up one of his creations in an unsuitable lab without authorization and thereby destroying the MRI in the room on the level below, damaging the botany labs next door as well as the CO2 scrubbers and part of the mountain's life support system he's gone too far!"
"Mommy, you said screw-up!"
Jack chuckled softly and winked at their daughter as he snagged the leftover slice off her plate. "It's okay, munchkin. Mommy wasn't calling him names or being mean. In this case it's just a fact of life that Folger will always screw something up." Then he turned back to Sam and gestured with Sage's half-eaten slice of pizza. "And the damage in the botany labs caused the outbreak of eh… those evil spores that required a lockdown of the mountain?"
"Something like that, yes," she said with a soft smile, knowing he hadn't really been paying all that much attention after she mentioned quarantine when she'd called to let him know about the incident ten days ago. "Do we have dessert?"
"I'm not hungry anymore," Sage replied with a small shake of her head.
After swallowing the last bit of pizza Jack shrugged. "Me neither and we don't have any jello left."
"That's okay, the pizza was fine," Sam said. Taking a last sip of water she handed her empty glass over to their daughter, who was waiting to take them back to the kitchen.
"I'll clean up the rest, you go relax on the sofa," Jack told her and started clearing the table.
Doing as he suggested Sam got comfortable on the couch and it wasn't long until Sage joined her, climbing onto her lap to snuggle close. "I missed you," Sam told her, wrapping her arms tight around the little girl and burying her face into her sandy blond hair.
"Me too. I'm glad you're back, Mommy," Sage replied, smiling up at her. "Even if it means I'm not getting a present from Uncle Cam."
A/N: This is just a little fic that popped into my head a few weeks ago and is not related to any of my other stories. In the meantime I'll also be working on my next (long) fic.