FOR ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE
DISCLAIMER: As always, not mine, no money made, no copyright infringement intended. This is a work of fiction, written solely as entertainment.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have always been surprised that nobody, as far as I know, has written a story that follows on from "100 Days." You know, one of the last scenes where Laira looks down and puts her hand on her belly the way a woman would do if she knows she's pregnant. So, anyway, I kept thinking about it and this is the result. Hope you enjoy reading it. And if somebody has done a "post - 100 Days" fic, I apologize for not knowing and ask that you tell me where I can find it. Special thanks to Tate for the alpha read and the excellent suggestion that I bring Garan and Naytha into the story, making it much better and to Tate for the beta and to Lyn for dragging me (kicking and screaming - not) into the wonderful world of fanfic.
DEDICATION: This story is for my 4-year-old granddaughter, Blayze, who is arguably the youngest SG:1 fanatic worldwide. This kid willingly passes over The Wiggles and Barney in favor of Stargate videos. Blayze loves Damyul (that archeologist guy) the best, but I think she'll forgive me for making this a Jack story. She just likes stories and episodes about SG: 1 and kids.
"Sir, what's going on?"
Jack O'Neill glanced behind him to see Major Samantha Carter scurrying to catch him up. "No idea, Carter. Unscheduled off world activation. That's all I know." He didn't slow his pace, knowing she'd keep up, just kept jogging down the stairs to the control room. He wasn't surprised to find Daniel and Teal'c there with General Hammond when he arrived. They'd all just come back from a standard meet and greet 2 hours before and had barely cleared the infirmary and the showers when the alarm had sounded. He looked over at Hammond inquiringly, but the older man simply shrugged his shoulders and waited for the airman in front of the Gate computer to identify the caller.
"It's Edora, sir," Jones said.
"Edora? I didn't think we were scheduled to hear anything from them for at least another few months. The treaty's been signed and the mining operation is running to schedule. Anybody have any idea what this could be about? Colonel?"
Jack shook his head. He knew why the General was singling him out for an answer. After all, he'd been the one stranded on the planet for over three months and he'd been the one who got up close and more than a little personal with the natives of Edora well with one particular native, at least. "No idea," he said finally, realizing that Hammond was still waiting for him to answer.
"Perhaps we should ask them to tell us themselves," Teal'c offered, as if surprised that the idea had not occurred to anyone else.
Hammond sighed. "I suppose we'll have to, though I'm not going to be happy if they're just calling to say hello or to look up old friends." He looked at Jack as he said it and Jack shrugged and then led the way down to the embarkation room.
They waited at the back of the room behind the armed men who kept their weapons trained on the Stargate as the event horizon whooshed into existence. Standard Operating Procedure. It could be a trap, a way to get the Taur'i to open the iris to invasion by the Goa'uld but nobody really thought that. The Goa'uld hadn't been the slightest bit interested in Edora before. There was no reason to think they'd changed their minds. It was simply SOP.
As the blue horizon settled into a placid lake, three figures emerged, one carrying a small bundle in her arms.
None of them were Laira, Jack saw, feeling relieved, then wondered why he'd feel that way. He'd liked Laira, more than liked her so why...
His thoughts were interrupted abruptly by one of the Edorans stepping forward and bowing deeply. "Greetings," the man began. "We apologize for the suddenness of our arrival but we have an urgent message for Colonel O'Neill. My name is Cale."
Hammond swung his head around to look at Jack, a look that clearly said, "Why am I not surprised?" then he turned back to the Edoran emissary. "You are welcome here, Cale. Stand down," he instructed the SF's who immediately safed their weapons and moved to the back of the room.
"Thank you." Cale moved down the ramp, his fellow travellers close behind him. "Colonel," he said, looking straight at Jack.
Jack stepped forward, his mind spinning as he tried to make sense of this unexpected visit. It had been over a year since he'd been on Edora. Although he'd told Laira he'd see her again, he never had. Too many other things had gotten in the way, not the least of which had been preventing Earth from falling into the hands of the Goa'uld.
"Cale," he said, inclining his head slightly. He sensed rather than saw the rest of his team move up so they were standing just a pace behind him, as if guarding his back.
"Perhaps you remember Laira's son, Garan and his wife, Naytha?" Cale asked.
"Of course I do," Jack replied. "Hey, Garan. You guys got hitched? Congratulations."
" Thank you. We have here a great gift, Colonel, one that was bequeathed to you by Laira," Garan replied.
"Sweet," Jack said, his nervousness making him flippant. "A present from Laira. She shouldn't have bothered but tell her thanks. So what is it? A sweater or something?"
"Um Jack..." Daniel had moved up so he was standing shoulder to shoulder with O'Neill. "He said bequeathed. That usually means that the person has... you know..." He wrapped his arms around his ribs, frowning down at his shoes.
"Laira's dead?" Jack asked, shocked, totally serious now.
"Yes," Cale bowed his head, his face sorrowful.
"What... how? How did she die?" Jack spluttered, trying to take in the fact that the beautiful woman was gone. She'd been so full of life and love... His thoughts tailed off abruptly as Naytha stepped forward and held out the cloth wrapped bundle she was carrying. Jack noticed the woman had tears in her eyes as he took the parcel from her.
"What is it?" he asked. He could see the bundle was only wrapped not secured and he pulled back the free edge of the cloth to expose his gift. "Shit!" he exclaimed, his face going impossibly white. Lying in his arms was a baby, fast asleep. "What the hell..." He looked up again at Cale. "You're telling me..." Once again words failed him but the loudness of his voice woke the sleeping child and it began to wail. "Oh man," Jack said, rocking the infant feverishly in his arms. "Ssh, it's all right. Go to sleep. Ssh. That's it." He looked down to see the child had stopped crying and was gazing steadfastly into his face. "Holy crap. You're saying..."
"That this is your daughter, Colonel. We trust she will bring you many years of joy and comfort for the loss of her mother." With that the Edorans turned and began to walk back toward the gate.
"Whoa! No, you don't," Jack called after them. "You can't just turn up here, dump a kid in my arms, tell me it's mine and leave. I deserve some explanation here."
The emissaries turned as one and began to walk back. "By all means, Colonel. We would be happy to stay and tell you all we know," Cale said.
Jack turned toward Carter and held the baby out to her. "Um, Major , would you mind taking her to the infirmary. Get Janet to check her out, run some tests, you know?" 'Specifically DNA tests,' he thought, even while his brain whirled in uncomprehending circles and made him feel bad for even suggesting that he'd need to. After all, Laira hadn't been, to use the parlance of his generation, that kind of girl.
"I guess," Sam said as she took the infant gingerly, holding her awkwardly at arms-length as the baby began to cry again. "Ah, sir... I don't think she likes me," Carter said apologetically as the screams built to a crescendo.
"Allow me, MajorCarter," Teal'c offered, taking the child from the befuddled major's hands. The big Jaffa cradled the infant against his broad chest as if it were the most natural thing in the world and began to croon gently to her. The crying stopped and the baby reached an inquisitive hand up to Teal'c's face. Teal'c looked up, a rare wide grin on his face. "I believe, however, she *does* like me," he said, sounding delighted with the fact. "I shall deliver her safely to DoctorFraiser's care." He inclined his head at the stunned assembly then turned and headed for the doors, crooning nonsense once again. At the door, he stopped and turned around. "What is the little one's name?" he asked.
"She has no name," Cale replied. "That is a gift her father must bestow on her." He smiled at Jack.
"Peachy," Jack muttered.
"You wish to call the infant Peachy?" Cale asked. "So be..."
"No!" Jack shouted. "That was just a comment, all right? Jeez, Peachy? What sort of father would call his kid Peachy?" he went on.
"Bob Geldoff did," Daniel said. "Well, not exactly. Her name is actually Peaches but..."
"Thanks Daniel, I'm glad to know you find time in your busy schedule to read the gossip columns," Jack spat back. "You're not helping, Daniel."
"Right. Sorry," Daniel replied, clapping a hand on Jack's shoulder and looking suspiciously like he was grinning, deep down inside somewhere.
"May I say goodbye to her?" Naytha asked hesitantly.
Jack nodded and watched as the young woman took the baby from Teal'c.
Naytha bent her head and kissed the downy head gently, tears spilling down her cheeks. "Never forget that we will love you all the days of your life," she whispered into the tiny ear, then she turned and handed the child back to the big Jaffa.
"If you people would follow me," Hammond said, leading the way out of the embarkation room.
Once everyone was seated in the briefing room, General Hammond turned to Jack. "Colonel, I think the first round of questions should be yours, as you are the one mostly affected by this."
"What happened to Laira?" Jack asked, his demeanour sober now that some of the shock had worn off. He still had the feeling someone was going to pop up any second crowing "April Fool" till he realized the date was nowhere near April 1st and that there was no way in hell anyone would joke about something as serious as this.
"She died in childbirth," Cale replied solemnly. "In our culture we believe that if a parent dies, the other parent should raise the child. Is it not so in yours?"
"Well, yes, but the circumstances are a little different here, Cale," Daniel broke in. "Jack is not from your planet and you don't know how the child will react to being here on Earth."
"She will be with her father and he will protect her," Cale responded calmly. "Unless..."
"Unless what?" Jack asked.
"If you do not wish to raise your child we will welcome her back into our community, of course. You have already seen that Laira's family cares for her deeply. However, we feel it is necessary for parent and child to spend time together before making that decision. If you hand the child back, she will become the offspring of whoever takes her in. You would be permitted, even encouraged, to visit her but not to uproot her again. So, we suggest, Colonel that you take the time to get to know your daughter and then make your decision. It is not easy to regain a child once you have lost them."
"You think I don't know that?' Jack blurted out, images of Charlie rising to the forefront of his mind. "Do you think that I'd turn my back on that kid if she's really mine? I've already lost one child. I wouldn't risk losing another. But that's why I need time. I don't want to..." He stopped, swallowing hard.
"We understand, Colonel. Laira told us of your sad loss. This is why we ask that you keep the child with you a short while, at least. She is yours. We would not bring her to you unless we were sure. But you will want to be sure for yourself. Colonel, the best place for any child is with its family. We have done what is right for this infant. Naytha nursed her until she was old enough to be weaned, although she had given birth to her own son only a month before Laira died. This is why we did not bring her to you before. But should you not wish to keep her, we will take her and care for her. You need have no fear of that."
Jack nodded. "I appreciate that. If she's mine, then of course she's staying here with me... if Garan and Naytha are sure that's what Laira wanted."
"We're sure, Jack. It was all she spoke of before the child was born, that if anything went wrong, we should bring her to you," Garan replied.
Jack shot a look over his shoulder at Hammond. "Sorry, sir, I know this is complicating matters but I can't turn my back on my own kid."
"Nobody's asking you to, Jack. But let's just wait and make sure that she is actually yours, first," Hammond responded.
"Laira would not have said so, if it were not true," Cale protested.
"Nobody's suggesting that, Cale," Daniel intervened. "But surely you understand, we have to be completely sure."
Cale bowed his head in acquiescence. "Do your tests. How long will this take?"
"About 24 hours," Hammond replied. "You're welcome to stay here until the Colonel has decided what he wants to do."
"Thank you, General. We would be honored to partake of your hospitality," Cale replied.
"Good, if you would follow these men," Hammond indicated the SF's standing at the ready, "they will take you to your quarters and make sure you are given a meal." He waited till the Edorans had left the room then swung around to face his 2IC. "Colonel?"
*Shit* Jack thought as he slumped back down into his chair. "What do you want to know, General?"
"Is it possible?" Hammond asked.
Jack sighed. "Yes, it's possible, sir. You have to remember I didn't know if I was going to be there forever..."
"It's all right, Jack." Hammond walked around to stand by O'Neill's shoulder and planted a firm hand upon it. "I know that. I'm just wondering what the hell you're going to do if she is yours." He moved back to the head of the table and waited for Jack's answer.
"I guess I'm going to do what I never had the chance to do with Charlie, sir," Jack said quietly. "Raise her." Hearing an indrawn breath, he looked across at Carter. "Take it easy, Major. Don't go trying on the team leader's hat just yet. There's no reason I can't raise a kid and stay on SG:1. I mean, that's what daycare's for, right?"
Sam looked back at him, her face unreadable. "Of course, sir," she said.
*Damn, she's humoring me. Now I know I'm in deep shit. * He knew what she was thinking. There'd always been that bond between them, that sense that if it weren't for the regs, he and Sam would be together. But here was the ultimate proof that he'd loved someone else enough to create a new life with them. And he had loved Laira then. But as much as he hated to admit it, it had been because he'd thought he'd never go home again, never get to see Sam again. Even Laira had understood that and accepted it. "It's not that part of you I want," she'd said when he warned her that part of him would always long for his home and his friends.
As if she'd read his mind, Sam walked up till she was standing behind him. "I understand," she said so softly that he doubted anybody else had heard.
He turned his head and flashed a quick smile borne of gratitude, then stood. "I think I'll go check on the kid."
"You do that, Colonel," Hammond replied. "Stand down, people. We'll debrief once Doctor Fraiser has the test results." He caught Jack up at the door. "I'll come with you," he said, a hand reaching out to pat O'Neill's back.
"Thank you, sir. I'd like the company," Jack replied, ushering his commanding officer out of the room.
Daniel moved up to stand next to Jack. "Um, I thought I'd tag along, too," he said. "Sam, how about you? Wanna come along?"
Sam stood flat-footed for a moment then recovered. "Sure," she said, taking up a position on Jack's other side. "I'd like to see how she's doing."
Jack gave a quick grin then led his entourage out of the briefing room and down to the infirmary.
It took just under 24 hours for Doctor Fraiser to complete the blood tests and other investigations she ordered for Laira's child. She'd also managed to get a crib and a rocking chair brought in and she spent as much time as she could cuddling the little girl, letting her know she was safe. The SGC was a forbidding place to adults. God only knew how it was affecting a six-month-old baby who'd been pulled away from all that was familiar. Janet had tried to get Naytha to visit but she'd been gently rebuffed, Garan explaining that he and his wife thought it best if the infant forgot them as soon as possible. Janet looked at Naytha, her face pale and her eyes red-rimmed from crying and didn't push. Giving up the baby was obviously extremely difficult for Naytha and Janet had no wish to prolong her distress.
A day and a half after the Edorans had arrived, Janet had called General Hammond and asked for a private meeting between herself, Hammond and Colonel O'Neill.
"Okay, Doc, spit it out," Jack said, looking her squarely in the eyes. "Just give me the bad news first, all right?"
"I'm not sure what you'd consider bad news, Colonel. The fact that the child is yours or that she isn't," Janet responded.
"Fair enough," Jack said quietly, sitting down with a sigh. "Just tell me, please."
"She's your daughter, Colonel."
"Are you sure, Doctor?" Hammond asked.
"Within the constraints of an infinitesimal possibility, yes," she replied, her eyes still on Jack, whose face had paled considerably.
"Um, English, please, Janet," Jack said softly.
"There is a 99.8% chance that the child is yours."
Jack nodded, then stood up. "Well, that settles it then. When can she be released from the infirmary, Doc? I'd like to take my daughter home."
"You don't need to rush things, Jack. She's fine where she is. You need to get some things... a crib, high chair, toys, diapers..." She almost laughed as the last item caused Jack to blanch even more. "She also needs a name, Jack. We can't just keep calling her 'little one'."
Jack grinned, regaining some of his color. "Teal'c, right?"
Janet grinned back. "He even tried to teach the medical staff how to say it in his own language but none of us could quite get our tongues around the pronunciation. So we settled for 'little one', in English. Do you have a name, Jack?"
Jack thought about it for a moment, then smiled. "Mary," he said. "I'd like to call her Mary." He laughed as Hammond and Fraiser looked at him uncomprehendingly. "You know, like Mary Steenbergen. She's an actress," he explained, when they still didn't respond.
"Oh, of course," Janet said. "She was married to that English guy... Malcolm McDowell, that's right." She blushed a little as Jack looked inquiringly at her. "He killed Captain Kirk in the movie," she muttered. "For a minute there, I thought you were going to say Marge or Dorothy," she said, laughing at the expression on his face.
"Janet, you never cease to surprise me," Jack said, smiling back at her.
"Mary O'Neill," Hammond said, as if trying the name on for size. "Jack, are you sure about this... keeping the child, I mean? It'll mean a lot of changes, you realize?"
"I'm positive, sir, but thank you. Everyone will help out, especially Teal'c. The big guy and the kid have taken quite a shine to each other. I'm sorry, sir, but I just can't turn my back on her, send her away. It's a second chance." Jack looked at his superior, his need for Hammond's understanding plain on his face.
The General thought about his own granddaughters, growing up happily with their own parents. Reaching out, he clasped Jack's hand in his own and gave it a firm shake. "I do understand, Jack. Congratulations. You just became a father again. Now what about those cigars you're supposed to hand out?"
"Thank you, sir. I'll see what I can do," Jack replied. "Janet, I think I'd like to go see Mary for a while, then I thought, if you have time, maybe you could come shopping with me, help me pick up what I'll need. General, I'm going to need some time off. I have about 6 weeks leave accrued..."
"Take it, Colonel. Get the child... I mean Mary, settled then we'll talk about adjusting your duty hours for a while to make things as easy for you as we can," Hammond answered.
"Um, the rest of SG:1 will need to know what's going on..." Janet began.
"I'll take care of it, Doctor. Why don't you escort the proud father down to meet his daughter properly. I'll also speak to the Edorans."
Jack nodded and headed out the door behind Janet, his chest tight at the thought of what he'd just taken on.
Jack groaned and rolled over in bed, hoping against hope the crying would stop and Mary would go back to sleep on her own. After a few minutes, he shook his head and rolled out of bed, pulling on his robe and stumbling more or less blindly out of his bedroom and into the room next door that he'd converted into a nursery. He looked at the clock above the crib and sighed as he realized they'd only done this 2 hours before. He put the side of the crib down and bent forward to take the little girl into his arms. "What's up, kiddo? Can't sleep, huh? Well, if you can't sleep I guess it's only fair you'd want your old man's company, right?" He looked tiredly down at the child then found a huge grin spreading across his face as the infant smiled at him.
"Hey, there ya go. Guess you're finally recognizing me, hey Mary?" He sat down in the rocking chair and began to soothe the baby back to sleep. It was her first smile... well, not really the first one. She smiled at Teal'c all the time. But it was the first one she'd directed totally at Jack, the first time she'd looked happy to see him. She'd allowed him to care for her more and more over the past 2 weeks since he'd brought her home without distress, but there was something missing. Mary seemed sad, in a way that made no sense for a six-month-old child, brightening only when Teal'c picked her up and played games with her.
The whole team had been staying with them on and off for the first week, Janet and Cassie as well. Sam had finally told him that they'd drawn up a roster so at least one of them was there to help at all times. He'd appreciated it. It had been a long time since he'd cared for a baby, since Charlie, and back then Jack was still so wrapped up in his Air Force career that he hadn't exactly been a hands-on father. He'd regretted that more than he could say, when Charlie died. It was why he was so determined to do things differently with Mary. He had a second chance and he wasn't going to screw it up.
After the first week though, Janet had called a meeting of sorts in Jack's living room and explained that, while they'd all be there to help if he needed it, it was time for them all to get back to their own lives and give Jack and Mary a chance to get to know each other. Everyone had agreed, though Jack smiled now as he remembered the look of disappointment on Teal'c's face. He'd mollified the big guy somewhat by promising him that he could call in to see the baby whenever he wanted and that Jack would bring her to the SGC for a visit once she was more settled.
That had been four days ago and at first Mary had seemed to want nothing to do with him, accepting the bottles and food he gave her but not even wanting to play the way she had with Teal'c. She'd also cried on and off most of the succeeding nights, including this one. Janet had checked her out and said she was just teething and Jack was just going to have to ride the sleepless nights out, the way all parents did. He'd been beginning to wonder if he'd done the right thing keeping Mary here with him, instead of sending her back to Edora but then tonight she'd smiled at him, at her father, and Jack knew without a doubt that she was right where she was supposed to be. Looking down, he saw she was asleep and he put her back in the crib and covered her carefully. Then he headed back to his own bed, hoping for at least 3 hours uninterrupted sleep this time.
When he woke again it was to bright sunlight streaming in through the bedroom windows. He lay there for a moment, allowing his body to catch up with his waking mind. Turning to his side he glanced at the digital clock. 9AM! 'Shit!' Galvanised into action, he pushed himself to his feet and ran to the nursery, his heart in his throat. It had been over 5 hours since Mary had woken last. His heart in his throat, unwanted memories of news reports of babies dying of SIDS flashing to the forefront of his mind, Jack gingerly pushed open the nursery door.
His daughter sat in her crib, jabbering away quietly in her own form of baby language. She held up the rag doll Jack had left in her crib the night before and looked intently at it, still talking. Apparently not happy with the doll's response, she flung it over the side of the crib to the floor, then pulled herself up against the bars. She gave a wide smile on seeing Jack and he smiled back then went over and picked her up. "Oh, great. Smells like you're gonna need another bath this morning, kiddo." Mary laughed and patted his cheek. "Yeah, yeah, it's okay for you to laugh. Daddy's the one doing all the work here."
Jack placed a quick kiss on the dark hair then carried Mary through to the bathroom. Morning coffee and a shower would have to wait. Thinking back over the past week and a half, he realized he couldn't remember the last time he'd drank a cup of coffee while it was still hot, and he'd got showers down to 10 minutes maximum as well. Shrugging, he put the baby on the change table and got her ready for her bath.
The next few days passed in a rush with Jack feeling as if he'd never been busier in his life. He was beginning to think that fighting the Goa'uld wasn't half as hard as getting a baby to eat pureed vegetables or take a nap, or sleep all night.
He'd finally managed to get the house pretty much childproofed, essential now that Mary was there, crawling around. He'd never realized just how many of the things he left lying around without a second thought could cause harm to a child, until Mary almost pulled the CD player down from the shelf. She'd caught sight of the dangling cord and tugged on it while Jack was in the kitchen making lunch. He'd walked back into the living room just in time to prevent it landing on her head.
He'd called Janet and they'd gone around the house together, with Janet looking at things from a baby's and doctor's perspective and advising him on what he needed to do to make the house Mary-proof.
Jack had felt more relaxed once that was done and now was beginning to give more thought to what he'd do once his six weeks leave was up. He figured he could work something out. After all, Janet had Cassie to care for but she still managed to put in her scheduled number of hours on the base and then some. Admittedly, Janet was rarely in the front lines like Jack would be, but he knew everyone at the SGC would help out any way they could. The kid already had more aunts and uncles than possibly any other child on Earth besides Cassie. There had to be a way to reconcile being the leader of SG:1 with being Mary's father.
Sunday was sunny and clear and Jack decided he'd take a trip to the cemetery where Charlie was buried, tell Mary about her big brother. Part of him felt it was foolish but a deeper part of him felt the need to make the connection between his children, so he fed Mary breakfast and dressed her, then packed some essentials. He shook his head as he hefted the bag. Why the heck did kids need so much crap just for a couple of hours? He'd been on missions to other planets with less poundage than what he'd just packed into the carryall. Shouldering the bag, he picked up the baby in his other arm and walked to the door, just in time to hear someone knock.
"Daniel!" he exclaimed, surprised, as he opened the door. Last he'd heard Daniel was away off world on loan to SG:5.
"Hi Jack. Hey Mary, how you doing?" Daniel reached out and tickled the little girl under the chin, gaining a broad smile and a giggle for his efforts. "Wow, Jack, she looks great. She's really settled in, huh?"
"Yeah, she seems to be. What's up, Daniel? I was just going out."
"Nothing. Just thought I'd call in, see how you were both doing. I know Janet's been round a few times but I got sorta sidetracked by SG:5 needing me to do a translation study on 342 and this is the first chance I've had to come by for a while. You know, wondered if you needed anything..." Daniel looked into Jack's eyes. "I can leave, if you're going out. I've just... well, I guess I've sort've missed seeing you, shooting the breeze, you know..."
Jack grinned and reached out to pat Daniel's shoulder. "I'm glad you came, Daniel. I've missed you guys too."
"Yeah, well, Janet made it pretty plain we should leave you two alone to work things out," Daniel replied, nodding his head at Mary. "So, you doing okay?"
"We're getting there, aren't we?" Jack asked his daughter. "Hey, Daniel, why don't you come in, have a coffee? Even better how 'bout you keep an eye on Mary while I have a *hot* cup of coffee? Then, if you're not in a hurry to get back, you could come with us. I was going to take Mary to introduce her to her big brother."
"You sure you want me along for that, Jack?" Daniel asked, his voice hesitant.
"You're my best friend, Daniel. Of course I want you to come."
Daniel nodded, a pleased smile on his face. He walked inside, noticing the toys scattered around the living room floor. "So, guess you've been sorta busy..." he said, turning to take Mary from Jack. "Go on, make yourself some coffee. Take the load off for a while. Mary and I'll be fine."
Jack grinned back then headed for the kitchen, already tasting the almost forgotten delight of coffee that hadn't gone cold.
"Hi, Charlie," Jack whispered, reaching down one handed to stroke the brass headstone with his fingers. Then he sat down, holding Mary on his lap. "I brought someone to meet you," he went on. "This is Mary. She's your sister. You're probably too young for me to explain exactly how she ended up being part of our family, but she is. Remember you always wanted a baby sister? Well, here she is, son. I'm sorry that she won't get to know you properly, won't find out what a terrific big brother you are." He stopped, swallowing hard, gritting his teeth against the swell of emotion. He felt Daniel's hand on his shoulder and looked around to find him crouched next to him.
Jack nodded and smiled his thanks for the support, then looked back at his son's grave. "I promise I'll tell her all about you. I have to go now, Charlie, but I'll be back to speak to you soon." Turning slightly, he handed Mary to Daniel and accepted a helping hand to stand up. Then he walked back to the car, wiping away the evidence of his tears as he went.
Looking around his living room, Jack shrugged. Baby paraphernalia seemed to take up every space. Toys on the floor, the playpen in the middle of the room, the folded laundry on the couch. Sighing, he grabbed the clean clothes and headed for his room where he dumped them on the bed. At least they were out of the way, there. He turned to make his way back to the kitchen to pull out the dips and snacks he'd readied for tonight. He'd just made it into the kitchen when he heard Mary start to wail. "Dammit!" he muttered. He'd been hoping she'd sleep a little longer so he could get everything ready before his team and the General and Doc Fraiser arrived.
He opened the nursery door and gave his daughter a wave. "Hang on, kiddo, your old man's coming, all right?"
Mary grinned gummily at him and he felt his heart lighten at the sight. Going back to his room he pulled on his combat jacket and then grabbed the necessary supplies before going back to lift the baby from the crib. "We've got company coming, Mary. You gonna make your dad proud?" he asked rhetorically, smiling as a sticky finger found its way into his mouth.
Just at that moment the doorbell chimed and Jack swore, then he glanced down at the baby. "Promise you won't tell Uncle George that Daddy said a bad word and I'll buy you three Barbie's for Christmas," he whispered. Mary just giggled and tangled her fingers in his dogtags.
Jack opened the door and grinned at the stunned look on Sam's face. "What's up,
Major?" he asked.
"Nothing, sir," she answered, looking pointedly at his outfit.
All the pockets of Jack's combat jacket were filled, just not necessarily with what they'd been made for. A bottle of formula was in one, a disposable diaper in another and a small packet of baby wipes protruded from the harness for his weapon.
"Come on in," Jack said, turning around to lead the way back into the house. Daniel leaned forward and pulled a rattle from the back pocket of Jack's jeans. "Thanks," Jack said, taking it from him with a smile. "I'm practicing preparedness," he replied to General Hammond's inquiring look. "Basically, it means that whatever I don't take with me, she'll need. Preparedness means carrying every possible option with you. Believe me, it saves wear and tear on the feet."
"Jack, you could market that jacket and a million mothers worldwide would worship you for it," Janet said, moving up next to him and holding her arms out to Mary, who buried her face in her father's neck and refused to be moved.
"Little one," came a deep voice from Jack's other side. "I am glad to see you looking so well."
Mary's head jerked up and she looked for the source of the voice. Spotting Teal'c, she crowed with delight and held out her arms for him to take her.
"Well, I guess that puts me firmly in my place," Janet said ruefully.
"Ah, don't worry about it, Doc. Mary's been the flag bearer for the Teal'c fan club since the day she first saw him," Jack laughed. "It'll wear off eventually."
"Indeed it will, O'Neill," Teal'c rumbled. "I foresee a day when she will worship the boy bands as Cassie does and I will be forgotten." He pulled a mock sad face before kissing Mary's head softly.
"Geez, I hadn't thought about that," Jack replied with a grimace. "We'll just have to make sure she never watches MTV."
The six weeks leave Jack had requested seemed to pass far too quickly and he had to go back to work. He'd found a wonderful caregiver for Mary, a comfortable middle-aged woman who just happened to be a friend of Janet's and who had cared for Cassie when she was younger. Mary loved Jen, and Jack felt reasonably happy about leaving his daughter in Jen's capable hands. Jen also knew that there would be times when Jack would be away for days at a time, though she didn't know what he did for a living. But she had no family of her own and was happy to be Mary's surrogate parent whenever it was necessary.
The one thing he wasn't happy about was the overwhelming worry he had about what would happen to Mary if he was injured or killed on a mission. It wasn't as if he had the average father's typical 9 - 5 job, after all. He knew his team and Janet and the General would watch out for her but their care and concern was still a step away from being cared for by a member of her family. He'd kept thinking about Garan and Naytha, especially the way Naytha had been so upset at having to leave Mary behind. The more he thought about it the more he knew that there was only one other place for Mary besides being with him. If anything happened...if God forbid, he could no longer look after her, he'd make sure she was sent back to Edora, back to the other half of her family. The correct wording in his will took some thought, considering he couldn't mention Edora or anything to do with the fact that Mary wasn't exactly your ordinary American kid. With Hammond's help he managed to draft something he was happy with and so by the time he was due to go back to work he was feeling considerably relieved. That had been the reason for the get together today, a celebration of Mary's place in their lives as well as a welcoming of Jack back to his duties as the commander of SG:1.
The day had gone well, everybody had a good time, ate too much, probably drank more than they should've which had resulted in General Hammond ordering all Jack's guests to leave their vehicles behind while he called in cars and drivers from the SGC to ferry them home. Jen had turned up in time for dinner and agreed to stay the night, managing to get Mary to sleep an hour after dinner. Mary had slept through the night, a fact Jack was grateful for, considering the Mach 10 strength of his hangover, this morning. He'd woken to Jen's alarm clock going off at 7-30 and knowing she had to get home to go to her college course, he'd stumbled out of bed to thank her for her help and pay her weekly wages.
He'd checked on the baby as soon as Jen had left and seeing she was still sleeping decided to grab a hot coffee and a hot shower while the going was good. Standing in the kitchen, he tried to decide which took the highest priority. Finally deciding on the shower, he moved toward the bathroom, then groaned as the doorbell rang. Looking at the clock on the microwave, he saw it was only 8 A.M. and wondered which member of his team had recovered swiftly enough to come pick up their car that early. Shrugging mentally, he went to the front door and unlocked it.
"Kinsey. What the hell do you want?"
"I'm glad to see you too, Colonel," Kinsey said, as two men holding pistols aimed at Jack stepped in front of him. "I suggest you move back inside very slowly. I don't want anyone to get hurt, especially your little half-alien love child. Where is she, by the way? I thought she'd be awake. Most children seem to wake up bright and early, don't they, Colonel?"
Jack backed away from the door, his arms held out to his sides. He wanted nothing more than to throw himself at Kinsey and beat the man to a bloody pulp right now, but he couldn't take the chance that they'd shoot him and hurt Mary. "What do you want?" he repeated, coming to a stop.
"Good, Colonel, very good. I received a report that you have a half-alien child. I want to study her, that's all. She'll be well taken care of, no harm will come to her," Kinsey replied.
"Are you fucking nuts?" Jack yelled. "What possible interest could you have in my kid? She's just a baby, for cryin' out loud. There's no way you or your slimy NID cronies are getting your hands on her."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that, Colonel. Now just back up and keep your hands where we can see them. I simply have a proposition to make to you. "
Jack moved back into the house, eying the armed men warily. He'd like nothing better than to take the goons out and then wrap his hands around Kinsey's scrawny neck and squeeze the man's last breath out of him, but if he tried anything and was disabled, there'd be nothing to stop them taking Mary.
"Colonel, all I want to do is to take the child for a while, get some samples of her blood and a few other tests. Then, she'll be returned to you, no harm done," Kinsey said, smiling.
"She's not a fucking lab rat, Kinsey. There's no way I'm handing my kid over to you. Why do you need to study her anyway? She's just a normal baby," Jack shouted.
"She's not exactly normal, Colonel. She's half-alien. Her mother was from another planet and she was born on that planet. Just think, Mary could give us the answers to what might happen to humans if the Goa'uld ever do take over Earth and we have to evacuate the planet. She will give us some idea of how humans would adjust to living somewhere other than Earth. Your little half-human child could help save the planet, Colonel," Kinsey replied, his eyes cold.
"Half-human?" Jack spat. "She's just as human as you or me. No, no, I take that back. She's just as human as I am because you, Kinsey, are a cold-blooded snake. You're no different to the Goa'uld. You're a fucking parasite and there's no way I'm gonna let a bloodsucker like you anywhere near my kid."
Jack heard the car pulling up a second or so before the armed goons did. As their heads swivelled around to check for the source of the noise, Jack sprung. He was on Kinsey in a heartbeat, his momentum carrying the man to the floor, the sharp crack of his skull providing some satisfaction before Jack leapt to his feet and turned to take out the gunmen.
"Hold it, Colonel," one of the men warned, his weapon aimed at Jack's head. The other man bent next to Kinsey's body and began to help the stunned man to his feet.
"What the hell's going on, Jack?"
*Thank God! Daniel!*
"O'Neill?" queried a baritone voice.
*And Teal'c. Yes!*
As the man holding the gun on him turned his head at the sound of the voices, Jack fell to his knees, one leg coming out to sweep his captor's feet from under him. The man turned back and tried to aim his weapon as he overbalanced, his finger tightening on the trigger. There was a blast of sound and Jack felt himself thrown back, white-hot pain flaring through his shoulder. In the sudden silence he could hear Mary wailing, then the sound of scuffling footsteps. He looked up to see Teal'c holding the man who had shot him in a neck-lock up against the wall. Daniel had picked up the fallen weapon and was training it on Kinsey and the other man, who'd placed his weapon at his feet. Then, there were more footsteps and through the haze that threatened to cut off his vision, Jack saw Carter and Hammond running through the door.
He gasped for air, needing to stay conscious, pushing back the red-hot pain that threatened to steal his senses, fumbling for coherence as Carter reached his side. "Mary," he managed to puff out past lips that were suddenly desperately dry. "Get Mary. Keep her safe." He stared into Carter's eyes, desperation keeping him awake then she nodded and took off running and he felt his body begin to relax, the pain finally overwhelming him. The crying came nearer and he looked up to see his daughter held close to Sam's breast, Sam's hand stroking soothingly over the dark hair. "Thanks," he huffed out. Then the world simply went away.
"Jack, you with us yet?"
The voice was soft and feminine and Jack felt drawn to at least try to respond to it. But he felt so weak and tired and wanted nothing more than to stay in this fuzzy cotton wool world he was in right now.
"Come on, Jack. Try to open your eyes for me."
Damn, the voice was insistent and he knew who it was, so he focused all his attention on doing what it asked him to. Opening his eyes at last he looked into the concerned face of Dr. Janet Fraiser.
"There you are," she said brightly. "I know you're in a lot of pain right now, Jack, but we're gonna give you something to put you out in a minute, all right?"
Jack groaned in response. Truth be told, he hadn't really felt the pain till she mentioned it but it was there now, seemingly burning a fiery hole right through his shoulder and chest.
"I know it hurts, Jack. You've got a bullet in your right shoulder and you've lost quite a bit of blood, but luckily there doesn't appear to be any bones broken or any damage to your lung. But, we do need to get the bullet out." Janet smiled gently at him and smoothed a soft hand across his forehead.
Jack felt himself relaxing under her touch but something was nagging at him, something he needed to know before they put him under. Much as he longed for the surcease from pain oblivion would bring him, something still tugged at the edges of his consciousness and he tried desperately to bring his thoughts under control so he could remember what it was.
"I'm just going to get Dr. Warner to inject something into your IV now and in a few moments you'll be asleep. You're gonna be fine, Jack. Don't worry about Mary..."
Oh God! Mary! How could he have forgotten? He pushed himself violently upright, screaming at the pain the movement caused, feeling Janet's small hands holding his arms, trying to push him back down.
"I need some help here," he heard her call over her shoulder and then someone else was there, pushing him back to the bed, his weak struggles easily overcome.
"Mary," he managed to gasp out. "Kinsey was taking her... God, where is she? Please, tell me..."
"Easy, Jack," Janet said quickly, nodding to someone next to her. "Mary's fine. She's with Teal'c and the others..." Jack could feel warmth snaking into his vein through the IV and everything began to fade. He fought to keep his eyes open as long as possible, his eyes fixed on Janet's face, trying to read the truth there. Through the dimness beginning to take over his vision, he could see her nodding reassuringly, the words coming from her mouth slowing and blurring. But he let himself be carried away by the drug as he made out what she was telling him. Mary was okay. He closed his eyes and drifted into the darkness.
"You sure about this, Jack?" George Hammond looked at the man sitting in front of his desk. Jack O'Neill looked pale and tired. Not surprising considering that less than three weeks ago he'd been shot by a gung-ho marine. The President himself had promised Kinsey would be severely reprimanded for his actions, but Hammond doubted that was much comfort to O'Neill.
"Yes sir. And before you ask, no, it's not really what I want to do but it is what I have to do. It's the best thing I can do for Mary. Garan and Naytha love her and she'll have a normal life with them. A hell of a lot more normal life than she'd have here with me. I can visit her whenever I have some downtime, maybe even bring her back here and take her up to the lake from time to time. But, if I keep her here, she's always going to be at risk, she'll always be Jack O'Neill's half-alien bastard and I won't do that to her, sir."
Jack finally looked up into Hammond's eyes and the General almost gasped at the pain he saw there. O'Neill had already lost one child, now he was being forced to relinquish another. Hammond could barely imagine how much this had to be hurting his 2IC.
Jack continued with his explanation. "There's also the fact that I don't think I should quit just now, sir. I know I could've taken Mary and disappeared somewhere with her, but we've all worked too long and lost too much to the Goa'uld to give up fighting them now. I finally feel as if we're making headway here, making the entire galaxy safer for all the other Mary's out there, and the Cassie's and Ryac's. I can't turn my back on that." His voice trailed away. "Well, I'd better go pick up the kid, sir. She's with Teal'c and the big guy spoils her rotten when I'm not there."
"We'll all miss the little one, Jack. I can't imagine how hard this must be..."
Jack snapped a salute. "I know, sir. Thank you. I'd like to take Mary back to Edora on Wednesday if that's okay."
"Of course. Take a couple of weeks, Jack. Make sure she's settled, all right?"
Jack nodded then spun on his heel and left the room.
By the time they were ready to go through the Stargate, Mary had been handed around to everyone waiting to see them off. It reminded him of pass the parcel, Jack thought with a subdued grin. Sam and Janet had tears in their eyes, Daniel looked glum and Teal'c had taken Mary into the far corner of the gate room and crooned quietly to her in his native tongue. It was a blessing on a traveller, he told Jack as he'd handed Mary over to her father. A hope that she would travel safely through the stars and return to them one day.
Finally they were through the gate and within seconds walking out onto Edora's dry earth. Naytha and Garan were there to meet them, both exclaiming how much Mary had grown in her time away. Naytha had shyly kissed his cheek and thanked him for keeping the child safe. He was glad she didn't know just how close he'd come to not doing that.
The two weeks passed much too fast for him and suddenly the last day and then the last hour was on him and it took all he had not to change his mind. He stood with Mary in his arms in front of the gate once more and it was all he could do not to take her and jump through the event horizon and carry her far away where nobody would ever find them, never know that she was different.
The baby patted his face with small soft hands and he swallowed hard over and over to keep from crying but the tears came anyway, wetting the child's silky hair, hair that felt and looked just like he remembered Charlie's had. Suddenly he just wanted it over, wanted to be gone as much as he'd wanted to stay. He lifted Mary so he could look into her face, and he put his forehead against hers and inhaled the sweet baby scent. Then he kissed her softly and murmured his goodbye to her, and his promise to come back soon.
He turned to hand her over to Naytha, then hesitated and turned back to the gate again keeping his daughter close to his chest. Bending his head so his lips were next to the tiny ear he whispered, "Mary, I will love you all the days of your life." Then he turned and gave her to Naytha and grinned at them. "Take care of my kid, okay. She's pretty special." He raised a hand in a wave and stepped into the gate, the tears turning to drops of ice on his face.
May 17th, 2004