A Beautiful Morning
The morning was fresh and the breeze blew the scent of sweet smelling grass through the air. Washing the truck and listening to the whoops and hollers of the playing children, Jack felt contented.
It had been a month since he had taken a temporary leave of absence from his Washington post, and subsequent custody of his little wards. Once the news of the general's arrival had reached the water coolers, the SGC personnel had practically strewn rose petals at his feet. During their short but busy stay, the active boys had driven Stargate Command crazy. When General Landry had seen Jack lope in, he seriously considered capturing his old friend in a bear hug, in case he tried to leave. Patting Jack on the back and knuckling his arm, Hank knew he was being overly tactile. Grimacing, he couldn't stop himself; he was just so thrilled to have the boys collected. Grinning and with his hand planted firmly on the other general's back, he gently maneuvered O'Neill towards the lifts. Pressing the button, Hank grinned pleasantly, his hands flying threw the air, "So, Jack how's it has been? Busy? That is marvelous! Really, I'm very pleased that it's working out for you. Did I say how good it is to see you? I did? Well, it is good to see you."
Jack laughed at his old friend's tactics, and batting his hand away, growled softly, "Hank, I said I would take the boys home and I will. Get any closer and you'll have to marry me." Rubbing at his eye, Hank took a step back and laughed self consciously, "Right, of course. Sorry, Jack. God, it's been a long week. They're great kids, you'll love em, but I have to warn you, they are extremely active. "With an apologetic shrug, General Landry shuddered.
Realizing his mistake and raising a bushy white eyebrow, he added quickly, "Not that it would be a problem for you, Jack. No, in fact pretend I didn't say anything. Ignore me. I've been a little tired lately, not been sleeping well." Seeing the look of disbelief cross his old friend's face, Hank lowered his eyes and mumbled, "It's playing all that chasey, my brains are scrambled."
"Ah-huh, I can see that."
"Fine, laugh while you can, Jack. I'll be sure to come over in a week's time and return the compliment."
While the initial phone call from a distraught Carter had thrown him, Jack had the luxury of several days to come to terms with the magnitude of the accident. Reassigning Captain Leonard and organizing special leave, the general felt an optimism he hadn't known for months. A career soldier, Jack was used to shuffling fates playing cards and rolled with the punches. He ordered furniture, small bikes, toys, and clothes by the truckload, and with a wide grin, handed the astronomical bill to Hank.
Scanning the bill, Hank turned it around and glancing up, looked at his old friend pointedly. Leaning his butt against the desk and folding his arms, he politely enquired if the amount included which small Kansas town. Ignoring the sarcasm and patting him on the back, Jack demanded to meet his new kids.
It was mutual love at first sight.
The little boys shone like new pennies. Scrubbed ruthlessly, the children's eyes were downcast and their bottom lips trembled. Shaggy blonde hair slicked down, button-up shirts cruelly pinching their necks, and their hideous brown shorts pulled up so high, they looked like a couple of Harry High pants. Pouting, the little boys looked uncomfortable and clearly out of sorts.
Raking his eyes over the upset children, Jack felt overwhelmed with a paternal love for them. Daniel's lashes were damp with tears and Cameron had his tiny hand plastered across his backside. Arching an eyebrow at the sergeant, it was clear to Jack, the boys hadn't enjoyed their day spa experience. The stern-looking sergeant introduced herself with a scowl, and then motioned the boys to come forward and shake the general's hand.
"Attention! Children, front and centre!"
Daniel and Cameron grabbed hands and instantly jumped. "Ma'am, yes, ma'am!"
"At ease, airman." Struggling not to burst out laughing, Jack dismissed the cranky sergeant with a wave of his hand. Rolling his eyes, he whispered to the wary little faces blinking up at him, "Oy, she was scary." Kneeling down to their eye level, he gently undid tight top buttons, wriggled the shorts down to their hips, and playfully mussed the boy's hair. Leaning back to appreciate his handiwork, Jack took Cameron's hand in his, and whispered kindly, "You probably deserved the whooped fanny, peanut." Smiling, and pulling him into hug, he ignored the frantic head shaking and added kindly, "Fair enough."
The little boys sensed a kindred spirit in Jack, and began clamoring all over him, telling him their tale of woe. Grabbing at the general's fingers, Daniel looked up, and studied his face, struggling to remember why he looked familiar.
Dismissing it for the moment, Danny tearfully explained how the horrible sergeant rubbed soap into his eyes. Not to be outdone in the misery stake, Cameron Mitchell tugged on the other hand and whispered behind his hand, cheeks turning pink with embarrassment, "Jake, that serge'nt smacked my butt, twice! Can we shoot her? Shove her frew the Stargate? Serge'nt Siler said I out rank her. Did I? Can ya'll court martial her?"
"That's Jack. Cameron, I cannot court martial the sergeant, so give it up. Giving his head a rueful shake, Jack lowered his voice discretely, "She's way too frightening!" Taking out two Hershey bars from his coat pocket, the general decided he'd leave the rest of the little colonel's suggestions alone. Whirling around and looking at the closed door, Jack wrinkled his brow in thought. "Where is the Lt. Colonel anyway? Shall I page Carter in my general's voice?"
Perking up, thrilled the short-tempered sergeant wouldn't be allowed to terrorize them anymore, the little boys grinned with delight. Jumping up and down on the spot, enthusiastically nodding, they demanded Jack page her instantly. Standing up and watching the instant transformation, getting a clear picture of how active the boys were, the general grinned, and thought, "Why not? I'm still technically her boss."
Talking over each other excitedly, the little boys slowly faded, overcome with the emotions of the day. As they leaned into Jack's chest, the general closed his eyes, inhaling their childish sweetness. Predictably, the rat faced little sergeant had packed the suitcases perfectly, and sensing Daniel Jackson and Cameron Mitchell had outstayed their welcome, Jack paged Carter, telling her to meet him at his truck. "Okay, airman, let's grab out stuff and make like the wind."
"Huh-huh." Cam nodded sleepily.
""K'ay." Daniel yawned like an anaconda.
Signing out and chuckling at the look of relief on everyone's faces, Jack threw a sloppy salute in General Landry's direction.
"Be seeing ya, Hank!" Jack smiled his crooked smile.
"Oh, but if I see you first, Jack!" Exchanging pleasantries, Hank waggled his bushy eyebrows at the boys, and whistling happily, wandered off to the commissary. Coffee and chocolate cake suddenly sounded very appealing to the exhausted general.
The moment the boys felt fresh air on their faces, and to the general's amazement, Dan and Cam perked up, blinking with wide-eyed excitement. Clutching hands tightly, Jack walked them into the car park, his eyes darting left to right checking for oncoming vehicles. "Okay, let's keep an eye out for the traffic." He hustled them to the parked truck and pushed them gently against its back door. "Keep still, and do not move." Waving a finger at Carter to get in, he picked the boy's up, shocked at how little they weighed.
Dumping the chattering children into newly installed booster seats, ignoring their squeals of outrage at such indignity, Jack backed out with a backseat full of kids. Checking the rear vision mirror occasionally, he struggled with the reality of it. He'd privately conceded that his life in Washington had been miserable, and while indulging in the odd liaison, he had been lonely. Alone at night in his large bed, Jack wondered if all the sacrifices he'd made had been worth it. Now, by a twist of fate, and an alien malfunction, he found himself a father again. Glancing occasionally at Dan and Cam's young faces, he felt tears spring into his eyes, grieving for what they had lost.
"It'll be okay, Carter will fix this." Sighing softly, Jack flinched as Sam bumped his shoulder.
"Oops, sorry, sir!"
"Carter, its okay. Glad to have you on board."
Colonel Carter wriggled comfortably in the front seat, juggling the overstuffed files of her little teammates on her lap. "What will I fix sir?" she asked brightly, "if I can, I will!" Relieved to share the responsibility, and genuinely thrilled to have O'Neill back where he belonged, Sam's face lit up with a breath-taking smile. "It's good to serve with you again, General."
Arching an eyebrow and agreeing, Jack patted her arm and said, "Oh, you have no idea how good it feels, Carter."
Nodding her head agreeably, Sam took a candy bar from her pocket and broke it in half. Turning around to face the excited boys and wagging her finger, she warned, "Now you hooligans do not get this candy all over those new shirts." With one eye on the road and one on her, Jack snorted, complaining loudly, "Hey, don't worry about the Howdy Doody shirts, don't get that damn chocolate on the seats."
Sam tactfully ignored him, and continued to chatter cheerfully, filling the general in with all the must know gossip at the SGC. Patting her shirt and finding the second treat, she snapped it roughly and handed O'Neill the smaller portion. Looking at her and arching an eyebrow, Jack muttered, "That your idea of a mathematical equation, Colonel?"
Hearing the boys' infectious giggles and smiling sweetly, she played along with the game. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught the boys glances and said, "Eyes on the road, sir; we have precious cargo."
If the general had any concerns that the boys would struggle to accept him in their new lives, he was happily mistaken. Pulling into the driveway, the small boys squealed with delight and strained at their seat belts, demanding to be let out. Jumping out of the truck, they bolted to the front door, bouncing like excitable puppies. Running in circles, they called for Jack to hurry up and come open the door.
The constraints of living at the SGC had been very hard for the small boys, and seeing the large house with its trees and play equipment over awed them. "O-okayy, let's not make the neighbors lose the will to live just yet." Grinning at Carter's strangled cough, he led the children inside. Throwing the keys on the hall table, he clapped his hands together and said, "Bedrooms first, I think, airmen." Taking Dan and Cam by their hands, Jack showed them their newly decorated rooms. Listening to the inevitable argument of who had the better quarters, Jack firmly closed any forthcoming discussion. "Did I say this was up for debate?" Directing one boy to the sailboat room and the other to the train room, the general warned them to behave. "This is a done deal, stash your gear."
Walking into the kitchen making fresh coffee, Sam rolled her eyes as she listened to the general end the conversation. Banging down a cup, she wondered why the little boys wouldn't listen to her like that. Dumping in an extra sugar and brooding over the unfairness, she knew she would have put up with another hour of tantrums. Asking Jack later, he had looked at her with a crooked smile on his face and said." I never just threaten Carter. You know it and so do the boys."
The bedrooms had been decorated with the sole purpose of being kid friendly. Jack had ordered them to be stuffed full of toys and colorful cupboards. Posters adorned the walls, and brightly colored handles were on every cupboard. Instructing them to unpack their gear and put everything away tidily, Jack had wandered back to a grade-one disaster. Tidying and neatness were not the boys' strong points. Leaning against the doorjamb, arms crossed and directing traffic, Jack taught his little boys how to place their things inside drawers and not all over the furnishings.
Bedtime and eating were also challenges for the new family. Tolerating several days of tears and tantrums, they sat down to a family discussion and came up with a workable truce. Jack favored the reward system, and on the fridge in bold writing, the children could read their daily chores and see how many stars they accumulated for their weekly treat. If they didn't straighten up and fly straight, they wouldn't get the weekend treat. Simple and very effective.
As an older father, Jack was very easy going in many things. Mostly amused by their antics, he didn't sweat the little stuff. That didn't mean he didn't expect good manners and polite children. He demanded they show due respect to their elders, and told them that cheeky children would be swiftly dealt with. Watching their faces cloud with confusion, Jack firmly explained that there would be no negotiation with this. Standing the boys in front of his knees, he stressed that in this house, poor behavior would always result in negative consequences. Every action had a consequence, and it was up to them if it would be good or not so good.
Herding them even closer, their hands held gently, Jack explained he'd only ever count to three. Raising an eyebrow at the dramatic huff and eye roll he received from Cam, he added if they didn't stop the poor behavior, then trouble would find them quickly. Poking Cammie in the tummy, he warned, "Understand me, kids?"
Wriggling away from their new parent and looking at each other warily, the little boys scowled. They weren't happy with any of this. They had done as they pleased at the SGC and had gotten used to having things go their way. Folding their arms and tapping their feet, the boys shook their heads firmly. "Nuh-huh, that's icky!" Standing side by side, brothers in solidarity, and inconveniently in front of Jack's hockey game, Daniel and Cameron proceeded to explain their ideas of discipline.
Daniel played his negotiators card first. "Can't you just discuss things with us man-to-man? We promise not to talk over you. Write us a letter and we'll read it real careful." Daniel was determined to have the counting to three idea canned.
Cam was more forthcoming in his opinions. A born leader, he tapped Jack on the shoulder, explaining his ideas sucked. "How 'bout we decide if we're naughty? That way, you won' haf to worry!"
Jack had to admire their optimism. Turning them around and directing them towards the door, Jack shook his head and told them he didn't think that would work. Patting their jean clad bottoms; he informed them they had their first and last warning for the day.
Cameron had taken Daniel by the hand and marched him into his bedroom for a war meeting. "Tactics, Daniel, we need tactics! You spell and s'plain betta, so I'm the gen'ral and you're the pres'd'nt." Crossing his eyes at the ridiculous analogy, and grabbing his box of crayons, Daniel said, "I have a bad feeling about this, Cam. Jack doesn't like being told what to do."
Lying on Daniel's bed, surrounded by their toys, the little boys laboriously went over their long list of complaints and demands. Cameron strutted around the room, hands clasped behind his back, dictating terms of daddy surrender. Using the scattered memories of leadership, Cam's terms were absolute. There could be no prisoners in this particular war of words.
Daniel wrote down every demand Cam made, and with a great sigh, shook his head. A smarter little boy, Danny knew this day's work could only end poorly. On the top of the crumpled page, Danny wrote in bold red crayon,"Skyalegabble toenails." Marching hand in hand into the lounge room, General Cameron and his reluctant president eyed their new daddy carefully.
General Cameron edged forward, and snapping his fingers, demanded Jack grant them an immediate audience. Jumping back into the cagier Daniel, Cameron felt his bravado melt a little. Astonished how smartly the big general had smacked his bottom, he bit back a little cry and added politely, "Please, Jack, can we tell you 'bout the treaty?"
Sighing, and trying to see the game around his mutineers, Jack rolled his eyes, and took the offered piece of paper. Crossing his long legs and flicking the paper several times, Jack cleared his throat. Reading the list several times, and trying to decipher any of it, the general shook his head. Pointing to the top and obviously most important word, he asked with mock sternness, "Do you boy's mean psychological torture?"
Nodding their heads in unison, Dan and Cam demanded to know if the general would acquiesce to their demands. Pushing the little bodies clear of the screen, Jack looked at them carefully. Grinning, making a whirling sign in the air with his finger and pointing to the door, he mouthed, "One."
The general and the reluctant president took the offered list and scampered out the door. Looking at each other and sighing with regret, Daniel and Cameron were wiser and worldlier than before.