I don’t own any character that you recognize.Author’s Note:
This is a sequel to Child Heroes and Chaos Kids. If you haven’t read those, this won’t make sense. Also, I started writing this before my computer ate Chaos Kids, then I came back to it and had no idea what I was supposed to have been doing with it. So. I ended up changing PoV and remaking up the story. I think it turned out well.
The Lab Brats
Cassie wasn’t sure how she got stuck with babysitter duty, but she was definitely bringing it up at the next family meeting: any day she had class, she could not
babysit. Even if it was just the four more science-minded. Even if the college had no rules against bring them to class and the professor didn’t mind. Especially
not if they wanted to go. Because her advanced quantum physics teacher looked ready to burst a blood vessel and her classmates were staring in a manner that definitely
wasn’t polite. Or particularly friendly. Like it was her fault Willow, Oz, Fred, and Andrew were smarter than 98% of the people in the room.
Cassie sighed. She knew, everybody knew, that when they got bored, the kids got antsy. It had only taken 30 minutes before the four decided her teacher was a ninny. It took her professor another ten minutes to figure out they were correcting his work. That’s when the show began. Watching four kids under the age of ten decimate a tenured professor’s work and argue clearly and concisely about what was wrong had been a thing of beauty. Cassie had just sat back and enjoyed the fireworks.
Now, however, her professor was talking about taking action against her for bringing such a disruption into his classroom. And of course Jack chose this as the perfect time to pick up the kids like he’d promised. She just knew this was going to end well.
“…And, Miss Fraiser, I’m going to see to it that this incident is placed in your file. I mean, really! If you couldn’t control them, you shouldn’t have brought them!” her professor bellowed.
Cassie interjected before Jack could open his mouth or the kids could do more than suck in air to shout. “I wouldn’t have brought them if it hadn’t been necessary and I did ask permission. As for controlling them, there are eight other adults in my house, three of which are retired Air Force officers, and none of them have managed to control them, either. Partly because that’s not how they think kids should be raised and partly because they find the kids’ intelligence and forthrightness wonderfully refreshing,” Cassie said.
Jack cut in before her teacher could resume his imitation of a foghorn. “They’re my kids and Cassie’s my niece. We’re having a bit of a crisis at home and Cassie’s help us out. What, exactly, did they do anyway?”
Willow burst out, “We just fixed what he messed up, daddy!” while pushing close to Cassie, almost in tears.
Fred was trying to burrow into Jack’s neck and Andrew was clutching his fingers hard enough to grind the bones together. Only Oz didn’t look ready to cry. He had a hold of Cassie and was glaring at the professor.
Jack sighed and said, “You guys spent too much time with McKay. Now apologize to the nice professor for making him feel stupid and let’s go.”
The kids shuffled but before they could say anything, the professor said menacingly, “Mister, your children are some of the worst it’s been my displeasure to have sit in my classroom. I’ve never had anybody treat me with such disrespect. And now that I’ve met you, I realize where they learned their behavior.”
The professor opened his mouth to continue but Jack cut him off. “That’s General O’Neill, not mister. Now listen close, buddy. Those are my kids you’re badmouthing and I know that they’d have been respectful of you if you’d been respectful of them. You can say whatever you want about me, but don’t talk trash about my kids. Something that would help your perception of them: they spend 80% of their awake time with people that have PhD’s that enjoy arguing and discussing with them their fields of study. They spend 100% of their time with people that care about their opinions. It doesn’t hurt that they’re bright, articulate kids who’re smart enough to keep up. Now, I think it’s time for us to be going.”
Jack hauled Andrew up onto his other hip and marched out the door, having no doubt that Cassie would be following with the other two kids. He wanted to hit something. Well, someone, anyway. He knew that the kids could get a little out of control sometimes, but that just made life more interesting.
“Well, I guess that’s one
class I’ll be dropping,” Cassie said as she drew even with him. She had her pack on her shoulder and the kids by the hands.
Jack sighed before he said, “I’m sorry, Cassie. We knew it may be a bad idea to send them with you, but, well, desperation tends to make even the worst ideas more appealing.”
“I understand. Trust me
, I understand. I’ve been thinking about dropping that class anyway. The professor was always more wrong than right and I’ve learned most of the things from Sam, anyway,” Cassie said. And she did understand.
Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c had left for Colorado just before the plague hit the house. Okay, technically it was the flu and the chicken pox, but in the end it all came down to the same thing: 15 irritable munchkins, 8 of which Janet and Vala had to try to avoid because they didn’t want the flu, being pregnant. Only six adults to look after 27 kids: three babies, 9 still healthy, 8 with the flu, and 7 with the chicken pox. Jack had sworn after the first couple started getting sick that the kids would never be forced to interact with other kids if they didn’t want to again. He’d have said they got sick just to spite him, but they were more miserable than he was. And he’d believed that the kids with preternatural healing abilities wouldn’t be susceptible to things like the chicken pox or the flu. Oh, how wrong he was.
Thankfully, the weekend was finally here, the other three were expected home and the kids were finally starting to get better. The spots on the Littles and Shifu were beginning to fade, for which everybody was grateful. And the 8 with the flu were more or less healthy again, but it had been scary the first couple days. Xander and Gunn had lost all control of their new powers and Faith and Buffy had been seriously out of it. Apparently, when a disease managed to get past a Slayer’s metabolism, it really worked them over. Doyle and Cordelia had had to be kept out of sight of anyone that didn’t know where the kids really came from: every time Doyle sneezed, his demon visage appeared and Cordelia had started to glow when she got a fever. Wes came out it the best. He’d gotten sick, but he hadn’t lost control of himself when he did.
A week after Cassie’s professor went Mt. Vesuvius, the four were still pouting. Thankfully, though, everything else was back to normal. As normal as it got at the Hyperion, anyway. Talks were once again happening about summoning a dragon. The three older women were three months pregnant and starting to show and, in Janet’s case, starting to swell in awkward places. Catlin and K’yar had settled in well and Catlin was learning what being a sister meant. Jack wasn’t altogether sure she was happy about it. The three babies still hadn’t lost their shine at a month and a half.
The PJ’s in the basement were the lab brats’ shining glories. Four flying machines built to the specifications of the Ancients. The only thing missing was a way to power them. They had so far been alternately using magic and Sam’s generator, but were determined to get a dragon. When someone mentioned that the puddle jumpers on Atlantis ran off of crystals charged by the ZPM, the lab brats pointed out that while they’d managed to create the crystals, they didn’t have
a ZPM and weren’t likely to get one any time soon.
At dinner, Wesley finally broke. There was a way to get the stones without summoning an actual dragon. All you had to do was summon a dragon shifter. The explosion that statement caused was quieted by Janet calling over the din, “We’ll talk about dragons at the weekly meeting. Now, eat your dinner before I decide that there’ll be no dessert tonight.”
Dessert was sacrosanct with these kids. If it was sweet they liked it, if it was chocolate they loved it. Of course, they were young and energetic, so sweets were limited else they drive their guardians insane from their hyper antics. So threatening their dessert was the easiest and fastest way to guarantee their cooperation.
Cassie disappeared to her room to make some calls and Jack shook his head as several of the kids gathered around the four that’d gone to class with her. If Jack didn’t watch them, the man might be mailed a flaming bag of poo or something.
The banging on the front door had everyone stilling.
Jack looked at the others, eyebrow raised. “Anybody expecting somebody else?”
All of their heads swung to and fro and worried looks started to creep up on the kids’ faces. Jack bit back a sigh as he went to answer the door. They had to know by now that he would protect them to the best of his abilities.
He yanked open the door, scowling. “Can I help you?”
The woman on his doorstep was dressed in a neat yet cheap suit and sturdy shoes. Jack made a silent promise to himself that he’d stop listening to Cordelia’s fashion critiques as the woman said, “We had someone call in that there were a number of children here who weren’t being cared for properly.”
Jack stilled. Son of a bitch. Forget watching them, he’d help them collect the poo. The bastard had set social services on them. He stepped back, motioning her into the hotel lobby as he said, “It’s a completely bogus report but I’ll just let you see that for yourself.”
That was, of course, when Cassie came down the stairs squealing, “Uncle Jack! I got into the internship program!” She was still bouncing when she hugged him and about pulled his head off of his shoulders. Then she noticed the staid yet slightly smiling woman standing beside him. She smiled brightly. “Hi, who’re you?”
The woman gave a tight-lipped smile and said, “I’m Marjorie Jones from Child Protective Services.”
“Oh my God,” Cassie said, eyes widening in fear. “Somebody called the CPS on us? Why?”
Jack coughed. “I’m pretty sure it was your professor.”
Cassie’s eyes went from fearful to pissed. “That rat bastard. He’s just ticked off because he got showed up by four 8-year-olds.”
“But you did have to take them to class with you,” Ms. Jones from the CPS said questioningly.
“Well, yeah,” Cassie said. “Several of our kids got the chicken pox and the flu after going to another kid’s birthday party. I took four kids with me to class every day that week and the only professor to have any trouble was my advanced quantum physics professor, Professor Kimble.”
Ms. Jones’s eyebrow went up. “And where were the adults?”
Cassie stiffened up and Jack squeezed her shoulder and said, “Three had gone to Colorado on business before it all hit. Two are pregnant, so they had to stay away from the ones with the flu. There were six of us trying to take care of 3 infants, 9 healthy kids, and 15 sick ones. We were run ragged and Cassie was doing her part by keeping some
of the healthy kids occupied. And, honestly, she called each of her professors and asked if it was alright to bring them and they all said yes.”
Ms. Jones rocked back a little and said, “I’d like to see the children, if I may?”
“Sure,” Jack said and started to herd her upstairs. Lorne would have hustled the kids up to the media room as soon as the letters CPS hit the air. Angel, surely, would have been listening in.
And there they were. Jack’s little chaos makers. It sometimes shocked him how much he loved them. Right now, Oz was strumming quietly on his guitar, resting back against Angel’s legs where the older boy was sitting on the couch, rocking Merry. Angel turned and frowned at the unknown woman.
Xander ran over and grinned happily up at them, taking Jack’s hand and squeezing. And it began, the distraction attractions had started their act. “Hi!” Xander chirped.
It took a harder woman than Ms. Jones to withstand that smile and for the first time since entering the hotel, the social worker melted a little bit. “Hello. What’s your name?”
Xander, still smiling, leaned against Jack’s leg. “Xander. What’s yours?”
“Marjorie Jones. Why don’t you call me Marjie?” she said, squatting a little and holding out her hand.
Xander took it and pumped it enthusiastically. “Okay!” Then he took off across the room bellowing, “Hey, Wills! She says I can call her Marjie!”
Cordelia stomped up and lifted her arms imperiously and Jack automatically picked her up. “Papa, I need you to braid my hair again. Gunn stole my hair band and it fell down.”
“Cassie,” Jack said, even as he sat and started twisting Cordy’s thick hair into a simple braid. He was watching Ms. Jones watch Cassie make her way across the room to speak to Gunn out of the corner of his eye.
Ms. Jones raised an eyebrow when Cassie came back and handed the liberated hair band to him.
Cordelia blinked beguilingly up at Ms. Jones. “Can I call you Marjie, too?”
Jack bit back a smile. His kids were so frickin’ cute
sometimes. He was just glad he knew better than to fall for that sugar and syrup tone. Ms. Jones, however, had no chance.
“Of course,” she said kindly. “What’s your name?”
Cordy beamed at her. “Cordelia April Summers O’Neill.”
Ms. Jones smiled at her. “That’s very pretty. Were you sick this past week?”
“Yeah,” Cordy said mournfully. “We had to go to Jason’s birthday party.”
Ms. Jones frowned. “Didn’t you want to go to the party?”
Cordy rapidly shook her head no. She leaned in and said, “He thinks armpit farting is funny.”
Xander stilled from half a room away and shouted back at her, “Armpit farting is
funny. He just wasn’t doing it right.”
Cordy folded her arms, stuck her nose in the air and said haughtily, “If he couldn’t do it right, he shouldn’t have forced us to listen to him do it two dozen times.”
Xander nodded, frowning. “That’s the truth. Even I
think armpit farting should be selectively used.”
“Looses the element of surprise,” Spike nodded.
Jack was watching Ms. Jones watch the kids devolve into their usual confounding chaos and had to wonder if this was a first for her. Not just there being nearly 30 kids in the room, but listening to most of them compare the merits of armpit farting verses actual bodily functions. For her sake, he hoped it was. It wasn’t a conversation someone who dealt with as many kids as she did should have to listen to more than once.
Cordelia jumped off of Jack’s lap, marching off to tell Wesley off for some thing or another and Dana walked over, arms raised. He picked her up and she automatically drooped into his chest, eyes sliding shut. She’d been having nightmares most of this week along with having the chicken pox and it had left one very tired little girl. Jack pushed against the floor softly and started to rock her slowly.
Ms. Jones did a double take when Illyria carefully pulled herself up to perch next to Angel and held out her arms for the sleeping baby. It probably wasn’t often that she saw someone with the ‘genetic condition’ that Lyrie had. Jack even had the paperwork to prove that it was a ‘genetic condition’.
Even after a year and a half of sharing a home with them, of learning to love them for who they were, most of his kids were still a mystery. Lyrie was amongst the biggest. From what little he’d heard, most demons wouldn’t have spit on his kids if they were on fire. Actually, most demons would have set
them on fire. Illyria, though, was completely devoted to them, especially Angel, Wesley, Gunn, and Spike. She’d ascended to be with them, gotten a soul so that she could come with them to this new life. And she was fascinated by the babies, even more so than the other kids.
Ms. Jones sent him a questioning look and he gave her a tight-lipped smile. “Genetic condition.”
She nodded slowly, obviously thinking that was the biggest bunch bull she’d heard all day. Like he’d let his eight year old put blue stripes in her hair and wear blue lipstick.
Vala came in just as Dawn tripped over a toy and fell to the ground, wailing. She scooped up the little girl after checking for anything broken, crooning softly to her as she gently danced her around the room. Jack was proud of her for doing what she’d have normally down despite their uninvited guest.
Ms. Jones clasped her hands on her briefcase in front of her and said quietly, “I’ll need to see their medical files to prove that they were treated.”
Jack stood, easily shifting the still sleeping Dana. “Right this way. You can talk to their doctor, too.”
Jack led her downstairs to the well-stocked infirmary where Janet was puttering around messing with the inventory and humming aimlessly to herself.
“Janet Fraiser, this is Ms. Jones from Child Protective Services. She needs the kids’ medical records,” Jack said as the two women shook hands.
Ms. Jones frowned. “You didn’t take them to a doctor?”
Janet laughed. “That’s because I’m
a doctor. I might have retired from the Air Force but I still have my license to practice medicine, although I rarely fix anything more complicated than a skinned knee, anymore.”
Ms. Jones’s eyebrow went up. “I see. And what made you give up your career to take care of several children? Actually, Mr. O’Neill, I’m still confused as to whose exactly these children are.”
“They’re mine,” Jack shrugged. “My sister, Joyce, her husband Rupert, and his ex-wife Jenny adopted most of them, then up and died, willing them to me. So I left the Air Force to raise them, dragging several of my friends along with me. I didn’t think I could do it by myself. I know now that that was the right decision.”
Ms. Jones nodded, looking mildly appeased. “If I can get their records, I’ll get out of your hair. From what I’ve seen, for everything they’ve been through, they’re remarkably well adjusted kids. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
Janet handed over several files saying, “Those are copies. You can keep them.”
Ms. Jones tucked them into her brief case and nodded. Jack walked her back to the door and saw her out. He waited until she’d gotten to her car before turning and cursing a blue streak quietly so that he wouldn’t wake Dana. He glanced up and rolled his eyes. “She said she’s sure we don’t have anything to worry about so stop worrying,” he told the kids standing at the top of the stairs.
Most of them bled back into the media room silently, faces relaxed although not quite happy. Except for Angel and Spike, each of which were holding an infant.
“How sure are we that the paperwork for the chits will hold up, Da?” Spike asked. It’d taken 3 days of nagging from Buffy and Willow both to get him to unbend enough to call the adults of the house something besides their names or some crazy nickname he’d cooked up. Jack had told them to leave it but his kids didn’t quit once they’d set their minds to something.
“It’s not as good as yours,” Jack said, walking up the stairs so that he could take Dana to her room. “But then, you guys had Higher Beings doing yours and they just had the United States military doing theirs.” Spike frowned, worried. Jack reached out and squeezed a shoulder. “Trust me, Spike. The United States government doesn’t want our little girls being in anyone’s hands that don’t have clearance as high as ours and we’ve got some of the highest in the country. They’re ours and nobody’s going to take them from us.”
Spike relaxed incrementally and nodded, rocking Joey were he stood. “Good. Wouldn’t do for us to have gotten attached only for them to go away, now would it?”
“No,” Jack said, running his hand over Dana’s head. “No, it wouldn’t have.”
… … …
Jack’s kids weren’t the forgive or the forget type. They were the burn it down, beat it up type and they were possibly more upset by the social worker’s visit than Jack had given them credit for. It took him a week to notice that they hadn’t said a word about their dragon shifter since that night at dinner. It took him two more days of watching and careful prodding at the other adults to find out that they’d been on their best behavior. They weren’t even planning revenge from what he could see. Not that their plans usually turned out the way they meant for them to.
But that they weren’t planning anything told him everything he needed to know. They weren’t just afraid that the babies were going to be taken away. They were afraid that they
would be taken away, split up.
Jack finally couldn’t take it any more and called Ms. Jones. “If you’re not taking my kids, could you please come tell them that? They’re behaving
themselves, for cryin’ out loud. And I love my kids, they’re good kids. But they excel at chaos and I’ve gone a week and a half without somebody saying oops and manically laughing in my house.”
Ms. Jones laughed slightly. “I’ll be by once I get off work,” she assured. “And I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever
heard a parent complaining because their kids aren’t misbehaving.”
Jack snorted. “That’s because nobody else has my kids. If they’re not laughing manically, they tend not to be laughing at all. I want my kids happy, Ms. Jones. So, we’ll be expecting you after you get off of work.”
He didn’t tell his kids. Hell, he didn’t tell the other adults. He just. He waited to see if she actually showed, didn’t want to upset them more than they already were.
So, when there was a knocking at the door that night, they tensed up, fell silent. Jack went to open the door and gratefully led Ms. Jones back into the media room, where he said, “Everybody listen up. The lady’s got something to say.”
Ms. Jones clasped her hands in front of her as she said, “I’m sorry we scared you but you’re not being taken away from your father. The gentleman that called has been spoken to for making false reports and your case has been closed. I just thought you should know.”
Even though they were still quiet, there was some shift in the air and the kids seemed lighter, happier. Jack murmured his thanks before showing her back out.
Of course, when he got back to the media room, he was immediately cornered by the four that’d started the trouble and Fred blinked wide, innocent eyes at him as she said, “Papa, we still need our dragon shifter to make our PJ’s go.”
Yeah, that was his kid. Jack smiled down at her. “We still have to talk about it at the family meeting.”
… … …
Jack wasn’t afraid to admit that sometimes? His kids scared him. They were, by and large, stronger than him, more powerful. That didn’t frighten him. It was that they were always so fearless in the face of things they really should be afraid of. And he was pretty sure they’d always be that way because more often than not, they took on adult personas and habits. It had to be something they’d carried with them from their other life.
He’d managed to talk them into holding off for a little while on the whole dragon thing. He was just hesitant to bring something else
Other into his home. Plus, you know, dragon
. How was he supposed to baby proof a dragon? Well, dragon shifter but either way. Jack knew his kids; fire was likely to be involved.
But as 3 months passed and the women of the house grew rounder with pregnancy, the kids got antsy and that would usually mean trouble if he didn’t know exactly what they wanted. It all sort of boiled over the day Willow had a knock down, drag out screaming fight with Xander. Those two, normally, were thick as thieves so it was shocking to watch them yell at the top of their lungs about injustices, both from this life and their former one. Jack was so stunned he barely registered what they were screaming about.
It ended with Willow folding up in the middle of the playroom floor sobbing and Xander running full tilt to his room and slamming the door. Jack didn’t even know what had started the argument. One minute, they’d been fine and the next, all hell broke loose.
After a stunned moment, Vala had gone for Xander so Jack scooped Willow up and was quietly trying to get her to calm down. Her magic was eating across his skin, something that always had his teeth gritting but he knew she couldn’t help it. Her emotions were tied to her control.
Vala came back empty-handed looking pale. “Jack, can I speak to you for a moment?”
Jack frowned, since they had a pretty open household for the kids’ sake, but handed Willow to Angel and followed her down the hall to Xander’s room. Xander’s empty
room. Jack spun, yanking open the closet door, then bending to look under the bed.
“Where is he?” He demanded, spinning to look at her.
Tears were flooding down her face. “I don’t know. I came in and he was gone. But I saw
him come into this room. He’s gone, Jack.”
“He wouldn’t have run,” Jack murmured, feeling the blood drain from his face. “He wouldn’t do that to the others. And if he’d gone for a walk, he’d have taken Snoopy.” Jack frowned at the large black dog that was sleeping in the corner. He walked over and nudged Xander’s dog with his boot. He didn’t wake and a chill shot down Jack’s spine. “He didn’t run. He was taken. Somebody doped his dog and took him.”
Vala started to weep. “Jack. What if the NID or some other group noticed them? While they were sick? They’d know what an Ascended’s power would be like, look like.”
“Shit,” Jack muttered, gently shifting her out of the in front of the door and yanking it open. Spike was standing in the hall, blue eyes wide. “We’ll find him,” he told him before sprinting to the gym, where he knew Teal’c and Daniel were having a spar. Daniel might not get dragged offworld anymore but Teal’c wasn’t about to let him slack, not with their kids being as active as they were.
He skidded to a halt just inside the door and said, “Xander’s missing. All fingers point to the NID.”
Daniel took a hit and went down hard, he was so startled. Teal’c’s hands started wringing his staff and his jaw clenched. That was definitely murder written across his face. Oh, yeah, Jack was going to have to watch the outgoing mail because they couldn’t have anyone else being sent a head. Best to bury those things, not send them Air Express.
Vala had apparently managed to tell the other ladies and Spike had gotten the other kids. Jack, for once in his life, had absolutely no idea what to do. If they were a normal family, dealing with a normal kidnapping, he’d be calling the police. But they weren’t normal and his back up was in freaking Colorado
. Son of a bitch, why had he let himself get talked into moving so far from the Mountain?
He looked at his kids, from Willow’s devastated little face to the others’ worried ones and he knew. He’d let himself because if they’d been close, they’d have been dragged into it sooner.
And then an idea hit him. It was a bad idea, reckless and would definitely have ramifications but. He needed someone with the right ties. And she would have them. But how did he get a Social Worker read into the most secret peacekeeping organization on Earth? Why, by calling a General who would call the President.
He was on his cell phone arranging for her to be brought up to speed when the house phone rang. Jack stilled, looking at it warily. Sam picked it up, hand shaking a little bit. Phone calls in the middle of kidnappings were usually very bad.
When she covered her face and said, “Okay, Xander, just tell me what you see,” Jack’s knees almost went out from under him. He hung up on the President and General Hammond mid plan and zeroed in on what Sam was saying.
Daniel was yanking out several maps and covering the front desk with them, trying to narrow in on what she was reporting back to them. Teal’c had disappeared and when he came back, Jack was unsurprised to see him with enough weaponry to take on a herd of Jaffa. His face was still rather stony and Jack almost felt sorry for the poor person that got in his way. Almost.
Cordelia started to glow, jerking a little which had everyone tensing up. “They’re going to find him. And they’re not going to be happy.” She started to cry as she said, “They hurt him.” She gasped. “Fifth and Vine.”
Daniel found it on the map and said, “Ten blocks from here.”
Sam stayed on the phone, saying as Jack, Teal’c, and Daniel ran out, “They’re coming, Xander, just stay still, okay?”
Jack hated L.A. traffic but with Teal’c looking like a walking armory, driving was the best option. That, and they didn’t know what condition Xander would be in. He was pretty sure he broke several laws, both traffic and of physics, getting there but he didn’t care. He had a kid to find and bad guys to make rue the damned day.
Jack wrenched the van onto the side of the road amid blaring honks and squealing tires as he saw a couple of guys in black suits trying to wrestle Xander into a van. He’d just slammed the van into park and jumped out when it happened. What he saw would haunt him to the day he died.
Xander didn’t seem to realize that the cavalry was there. He screamed as though he were dying and one of the guys holding him jerked back, his arms below the elbow melting into a puddle of goo. The goon stared down at what were his hands, uncomprehending, before he started shrieking. The other goon gritted his teeth and kept trying to force a struggling Xander into the van. At least until he stilled and fell to his knees, hand clenching on Xander’s arm. Blood started to drip from his eyes, nose, and he choked, a crimson river flowing from his mouth.
Xander managed to jerk away and he started to back up, watching horrified at what he’d done. Jack grabbed him and Xander screamed, twisting to start to fight when he noticed who it was. Then he threw himself at him, shaking and crying.
They’d attracted enough attention that someone had actually called the police and Jack had just gotten Xander settled in the back seat with Teal’c when the cops pulled up. It was fortunate that they couldn’t exactly find a way to blame Jack for anything because his cover story sound sketchy, even to him. Finally, though, after taking their statement, they let them go, not even seeming to notice the kid in the backseat.
Jack started to slowly, carefully maneuver their way back to the Hyperion and glanced in the rearview mirror to see Xander staring out the window, face blank except for the livid bruises that were starting to come to the surface.
Jack’s hands started to clench on the steering wheel. “Did they hurt you?”
It was loud in the silent van and Xander jerked before looking at him, eyes deep and fathomless. “I’ve been hit harder.”
“That was when you were an adult, though,” Jack said, frowning. “It’s got to be worse as a kid.”
Xander shrugged and resumed staring out the window. “I was hit harder, then, too.”
Jack almost rear-ended someone. He’d known that they’d had it rough, but he hadn’t thought, not when they were that small. But if it wasn’t their calling or duty or whatever, maybe…maybe it had been a parent. It would explain a lot.
Teal’c, still looking enraged, unbuckled Xander’s seatbelt and pulled the boy into his lap. Xander curled up, pressing his face into Teal’c chest and shook. Just shook, no tears. Damn, now they were going to need a shrink. Jack hated shrinks.
Back at the Hyperion, Jack expected to be rushed but most of the kids sort of shifted closer and stopped, especially when Xander didn’t really respond beyond a despondent wave. Cordelia, though, stomped forward and lifted her arms for Teal’c to pick her up, too. When he did, she just curled into Xander. No words, just her little body curled around his. His kids, they had a true knack for breaking his heart.
Teal’c carried the two into the infirmary and the other kids sort of wandered aimlessly, not sure what to do with themselves. Lorne finally stepped up and herded them up the stairs, out of the lobby.
Vala fell to pieces just after the door closed behind them. Jack wrapped her up in his arms and she clutched at him, sobbing. Sam moved into them, too, and despite not normally being given to tears, even with her pregnancy, wept.
Jack had been sure he’d been through the worst fear of a parent, the loss of a child, but he was learning that there were other, just as terrifying, factors to parenthood. Any way that a child could be taken from him was something to fear. He sort of wanted to wrap them in bubble wrap and lock them in a secure room just to keep them safe but he knew that he couldn’t. Their joy came from living, experiencing the world, and they couldn’t do that in total safety.
Vala and Sam pulled themselves together just in time. Xander came out being led by the hand by Janet, Cordelia still curled up in Teal’c’s arms. They squatted, careful of their bellies, and he let them fuss.
He sighed mournfully. “Is Wills upset?”
Sam shook her head. “She’s upset you were taken but she’s not mad at you.”
Xander nodded. He peeked up at Jack. “You know what would make her feel better.”
Jack raised an eyebrow, knowing he was about to be played. “Having you home safe?”
Xander shrugged. “A dragon.”
Jack sighed and folded like he’d known he was going to. If Xander wanted to cash in his pity points to get the other kids a dragon, Jack was going to let him. Honestly, if Xander said he wanted to sleep on top of the Eiffel Tower for a year with an Asguard as a teddy bear, Jack was pretty damned sure he’d have found a way to make that happen. “Fine. They can have their dragon. Now, it’s been a long day. We need to start getting everybody ready for bed.”
Xander went still and Cordelia, who’d sort of started to drowse against Teal’c’s shoulder, made a mew of unhappiness.
“I’ll have Lorne make up the playroom floor,” Vala said, running her hand over his head and Jack could just bet that sleeping in his own room was going to be a recurring issue by the way he went noodle loose and slumped into her in relief.
The nest of blankets and pillows was pretty easy to create and the kids hadn’t really been expecting to sleep in their own beds that night, anyway, so it took little to no time before kids were sprawled in disturbed sleep. Xander’d refused to sleep towards the middle, instead was towards the edge of the tangle. Cordelia and Willow had both managed to find parts of him to cling to and fallen deeply asleep. Xander was mostly just blinking up at Jack where he was sitting next to the window, gun in his lap.
“Are you gonna stay there all night?” Xander asked, his voice starting to slur in his exhaustion.
“Yep,” Jack said. “And tomorrow, I’m betting General Hammond’s going to call and say that the people that took you aren’t going to be a problem anymore.”
Xander nodded, his lids drooping. “And Willow can erase the paper trail.”
“Exactly,” Jack said softly as Xander finally sank into a fitful sleep.
Cassie came in, arms wrapped around herself and sank down onto the floor next to the blankets. “As long as I live on Earth, there are some things I will just never understand.”
Jack nodded. “I was born here and I don’t understand things like this.”
She reached out and twirled a lock of Fred’s hair around her finger, letting it gently slide off. “Once they get their thing built, the SGC’s going to sit up and take notice. They won’t have a quiet minute of time.”
Jack sighed. “They know that, Cassie. They knew that when they started to build it.”
She nodded and lay down beside them, shifting until she was under a couple of blankets, too. Gunn rolled until he was sprawled out mostly on top of her and gave a sharp snore. “I didn’t know having kids was supposed to be scary,” she whispered, running a hand over his bald head.
“Not much is scarier,” Jack said and truly believed it.
She drifted off to sleep and Jack sat guard over his kids. When Xander jerked away without a sound and crawled out of the nest and into his lap, Jack set his chair to gently rocking. He rocked to put Xander to sleep and to comfort himself.
… … …
Xander’s shrink, pretty Miss Anne Steele, got sent a letter from the PTB, so she knew what was going on before she ever walked into the Hyperion and met Xander. They’d decided to have his sessions in the hotel because, in truth, none of the kids ever felt as safe as they did when they were in their domain. It made Jack all the angrier that the NID had dared to violate that. He’d been right, though, Hammond had called and calmly said that everybody in charge had been taken care of.
Miss Steele also ran a teen shelter in a bad part of town and it became pretty normal to see her being followed around by at least one of the Hyperion kids while their parents were working with the teens. Jack and Teal’c ran programs while Daniel helped with things like GEDs and college applications. Janet’s infirmary got a work out when she insisted that she could handle Anne’s teens besides their own kids. The kids, well, they paid off the building and gave monstrous donations so that fundraising wasn’t something Anne had to worry about.
And with all of that, several of the kids’ in therapy and finding a way to both broaden their kids’ horizons and help the community, the kids were still making plans for a dragon.
When the night came and Willow cast using one of their demon markers as payment, Jack wasn’t sure what he was expecting. An elderly man with dark skin and blue eyes wasn’t it. But then he shifted and there were black scales and the same blue eyes and, alright, they had themselves a dragon. Dragon shifter, whatever.
The kids were tickled, both because they got their stones and the man, Eb Drake, had decided that, sure, he’d stay. It’d apparently been awhile since he’d been around mortal children and didn’t mind hanging around until they shuffled off their mortal coil. There was only one tense moment and that was when Ky’ar met the dragon shifter. She was stilted in her greeting instead of her usual staid and the two had to own up to there being a long running feud between the Shamal and dragon shifters because both had a habit of attaching themselves to families.
So, Sam, Vala, and Janet just kept getting bigger, the four science-minded kids kept to their labs, and Xander kept away from his bedroom. Jack would put him in his bed at bedtime and by morning, he was crawling out of someone else’s. None of the kids complained and Anne said that, eventually, he’d be ready to sleep through the night in his own bed again.
The morning that the kids got their PJ’s to fly was also the morning that each of the ladies went into labor. It might have been excitement on Sam’s part but it was definitely nerves on Janet and Vala’s because Jack might have been in the pilot’s seat but the four kids were in the machine, too. Eb seemed tickled, both that the stones he’d gifted to them had allowed them to take flight and at the prospect of more kids.
Jack was mostly just freaking out because Ky’ar would be delivering them and she only had one set of hands. He would have offered to help but he remembered Sarah giving birth. He might have been a soldier and watched men die on the field of battle but watching a woman give birth was a little more than his stomach could handle.
They did fine, though, and by midnight, there were three baby boys resting in the basinets in the infirmary near their three weary mommies. Jack was a little too wired to sleep so he just sat in the infirmary and watched everyone else sleep. Xander joined him a little while later, eyes red rimmed and puffy. He fell asleep almost as soon as Jack picked him up.
… … …
Ky’ar had informed them that each of the babies had their mother’s X-chromosome but the Y was a combination of all three men’s. Janet had confirmed that, looking shocked. And so, Jackson Fraiser O’Neill, Jacob Carter O’Neill, and Jesse Mal O’Neill were bundled up along with the rest of the family and taken to the SGC so that the kids and Carter could show off their creations. The PJ’s, not the babies, although there was plenty of cooing going on.
McKay and his second-in-command, Zalenka, came in from Atlantis to see them and, while they were at the Mountain, anyway, Bra’tac and Ry’ac were brought around to meet the kids. Apparently, all Jaffa were going to be taken with Teal’c’s little warriors if Bra’tac and Ry’ac were anything to go by.
The PJ’s performed as expected, much to the shock and delight of anyone that hadn’t been around to watch the things be built. Oh, the Hyperion crowd was pleased but the shock that their kids were smart enough to reverse engineer Ancient tech had fled over a year ago. Their kids were smart and that was all that could be said about it.