Willow and Xander walked side by side back into the house as Jack came downstairs, showered and changed into casual clothing. Willow was carrying the blanket they had taken out and Xander had the phone in his hand, smiling sheepishly.
“How’s everyone in Sunnydale. Has your friend turned up yet?” Jack asked as he entered the kitchen. He noticed the surprise that flickered across the faces of the pair, as if they hadn’t expected him to remember that their friend was missing, let alone care enough to ask.
“Things are okay, but Buffy hasn’t turned up yet. Everyone’s keeping busy searching for her,” Xander said.
“I hope she turns up soon and that she’s safe,” Jack said
“Me too,” Willow agreed before she hurried back upstairs to put the blanket away. Xander put the phone back on the charger, running his fingers through his hair, messing it up a little.
“How was your day?” Xander asked conversationally.
Jack shrugged. “It was fine, my work friends are coming over in half an hour, is that okay?”
Xander shrugged. “Yeah, we tidied up the house a bit, you know, since they were coming over.”
“I noticed. Thanks for doing that. How’s Willow been today?”
“Quiet, although I think hearing Giles helped her a little,” Xander replied vaguely.
“She’s lucky to have a friend like you.” Jack smiled at his son. “You’ve done a great job looking out for her, just like she’s been looking out for you. I’m glad that you’re both here for each other. How have you been today?” Xander shrugged in reply.
“Talking to Giles and Cordelia was good. I hadn’t realized that I was missing them already,” he admitted.
Xander nodded and hurried upstairs, wondering if he should get changed into something that was a little tidier than the clothes he was wearing. He heard Willow rummaging in her drawers and guessed that she was making the effort to get changed, so he would as well. He sighed before pulling his old t-shirt off over his head.
Willow and Xander were sitting in the living room chatting quietly between themselves when there was a knock on he door. They both turned around in the couch, squirming so they could see the front door. Jack, who had been in the kitchen (having refused the teenagers’ offers of assistance), hurried to the door, glancing through the peephole quickly before pulling the door open.
“Hi, Carter, glad you could make it. Come on in.” Jack smiled at the new arrival before stepping aside and letting a tall, blonde-haired woman into the room. Xander and Willow got up and approached the two adults, curious about the stranger, although Willow hung back a little shyly behind Xander.
“Carter, this is my son, Alexander Harris, and his best friend, Willow Rosenberg. Guys, this is Major Samantha Carter, my Second-in-Command on my team.” Jack introduced.
“Call me Sam.” Sam smiled as Xander shook her hand, followed by Willow.
“Xander.” Xander smiled. Willow shrugged.
“Um, just Willow is fine.”
Sam smiled as she studied the two teenagers. Xander looked little like Charlie from the pictures she had seen but he had the same eyes as his father and there were other features that they shared. They were unmistakably related, though.
Willow struck Sam as being incredibly shy and sweet. Jack had told her about how Willow had struggled with nightmares and that she seemed to be struggling to cope with Jack being so involved in her life. Sam wasn’t a psychologist but she was inclined to believe that Willow’s issues stemmed from her parents’ very recent and traumatic death and not from any other issue, but she had still been happy to help Jack and the teenaged girl as much as she could.
“Are any of the others here yet?”
“No, you’re the first to arrive. Cassie is probably still getting ready with Janet and Daniel called me just before. He’s on his way, one of the other teams found something that he needed to have a look at.”
“Anything interesting?” Sam asked, understanding that Jack couldn’t say much given that Xander and Willow were standing nearby.
“No, he said that it wasn’t really anything to do with us,” Jack replied casually. Sam nodded, relaxing a little. Now wouldn’t be a good time for some text of importance to show up. Not when Jack was only just getting used to the idea of his newly rediscovered fatherhood.
“Do you want a beer?” Jack asked. Sam nodded and Jack went into the kitchen to fetch two from the fridge. The four people went into the living room and walked out onto the deck.
“How are you finding Colorado Springs?” Sam asked the two teenagers as Jack passed her a beer.
“It’s alright. It’s a lot bigger than our old home town.” Xander shrugged.
“We haven’t seen that much of it yet though,” Willow added.
“You’re from California, aren’t you?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, in Sunnydale. It’s about two hours north of L.A. It’s not very big though,” Willow replied.
Sam smiled, glad that she’d been able to get the young redhead out of her shell a little.
“That sounds great. Did you go to school there? What were your favorite subjects?”
“Xander and I used to go to Sunnydale High School. I like math and science the best. What do you do at your work, other than be a Major?” Willow said. Xander and Jack had moved over to the barbeque and Xander was watching his father set up the apparatus, leaving the two girls to talk.
“I actually have my Doctorate in Astrophysics, so I do a lot of work with deep space telemetry. When I was at school, I liked math and science as well.”
Willow’s eyes seemed to light up a little, happy to find someone who she shared a common interest with.
“Astrophysics, that’s cool. Do you like computers?”
Jack looked over his shoulder at where Carter and Willow stood together. Sam was chattering away to Willow and even though Jack couldn’t hear what Carter was saying, he could see from the look in her eyes that she only got when she was talking about geeky things. His eyes usually glazed over at that point but Willow’s eyes were wide with excitement and Jack could tell that she was soaking everything Sam said up like a sponge. Sam look thrilled that she had such an enthused listener.
“Looks like Willow’s made a friend,” Jack observed quietly to Xander, who had a sad smile on his face. Willow had lost her role model in Jenny and would miss out on receiving guidance from Giles as well. It was good for her to have found someone new to be a role model for her.
“Yeah, she seems to be nice,” Xander settled himself with saying.
“Carter? Yeah, she’s good. She’s smart and she’s great to have on my team. I trust her with my life.”
Xander couldn’t help but think that Sam reminded him a lot of Buffy. He was drawn from his musings when they heard someone knocking at the door.
“That’ll be Daniel and Murray,” Jack said, heading inside so he could answer the door. Sam, Xander and Willow followed him into the house, watching as Jack let two men into the house. Xander and Willow watched the two strangers, studying them.
“Daniel, Murray, this is my son, Xander Harris, and his best friend, Willow Rosenberg. Xander, Willow, this is Daniel and Murray.” Jack introduced. Murray inclined his head.
“It is a pleasure to meet you both,” he said in a deep voice. Xander nodded in reply.
“Uh, yeah. Likewise,” he said.
“I’m sorry about your parents,” Daniel said and Willow knew he was being sincere.
“Thanks,” she said with a small smile.
“How are you settling in to your new home?” Murray asked as SG-1 and the teenagers made their way out to the deck and sat down in some chairs Jack had gotten out.
“It’s okay,” Xander said with a shrug. “We’re getting there.”
“Have Janet and Cassie gotten here yet?” Daniel asked Jack. Jack shook his head.
“No, Cassie’s probably still getting ready, or something.”
Daniel laughed. “I haven’t seen her in awhile.”
“She was busy with the end of the school year for the last month or so. We’ll probably see her a bit now that summer’s here,” Sam said.
“Cassandra Fraiser was very happy to learn about Xander and Willow Rosenberg.” Murray added. Willow quirked an eyebrow at the way Murray spoke but said nothing. She knew that the way she and Xander spoke was often difficult to understand, especially when she was babbling, so she wasn’t going to be picky. Maybe Murray was from somewhere far away, like Giles had been. (Although Willow was fairly certain that he wasn’t from England.)
The group all turned around when they heard a car pull up in the driveway.
“That’ll be them,” Daniel said needlessly. Jack nodded and went to answer the door. None of the others moved, so Willow and Xander decided that they could stay were they were too.
Willow and Xander sat in a comfortable silence once Jack had gone to let the next guests into the house, shooting curious glances at Sam, Daniel and Murray. They could tell that they weren’t the only ones sending curious glances. Daniel wasn’t quite as subtle about it as the others but Xander and Willow had trained themselves to be aware of their surroundings and others within those surroundings, so they knew that Sam and Murray were looking at them as well.
“Have you been working with my dad for long?” Xander asked.
“Seven years, give or take a little,” Sam replied. Xander nodded, his heart sinking a little. He had hoped that Jack’s friends would be able to tell him a little about his twin brother, but Charlie had been dead before they’d begun to work with Jack, so Xander didn’t have many expectations of them knowing much more than he did.
“Wow, that’s a long time,” Willow said softly, knowing what Xander had been hoping to find out. She discreetly squeezed his hand reassuringly.
“Hey, look who I found,” Jack called as he walked out onto the deck. He was followed by a woman and a girl that was about the same age as Willow and Xander. The girl looked at them curiously and smiled brightly.
“Hi, I’m Cassie,” she introduced herself.
“I’m Xander and this is Willow,” Xander replied, smiling to himself. Cassie reminded him a little of Buffy, but not in a way that was painful for him.
“It’s nice to meet you, Cassie,” Willow added.
“This is Doctor Janet Fraiser,” Jack introduced Janet to Xander and Willow, “Janet, this is Xander and Willow.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you both. The whole base has been talking about the Colonel’s children.” Janet smiled kindly at the pair.
“Thanks for the casserole you left in the freezer, it was really good.” Xander grinned. Willow mentally rolled her eyes. Why was it that the way to a growing boy’s heart was through his stomach? She didn’t get it.
“It’s my pleasure, Xander. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Thank you for bringing Cassie out to meet us, Doctor Fraiser,” Willow said shyly, her mother’s lectures on creating a good first impression ringing though her head.
“Oh, it was my pleasure, Willow. I was just as curious as she was. Like I said, you two have been the talk of the base.”
“We have?” Xander croaked, glancing at Willow. So much for staying low-key. If someone in the military knew something about the supernatural and made the connection, it wouldn’t be good.
“Don’t worry, Xander. It’s okay,” Jack said reassuringly, seeing the slight alarm on his son’s face. “It will be another day and they’ll all have something new to gasbag about, and you’ll be old news as far as they’re concerned. Who’s up for some food?”
There was unanimous consent and Jack put the meat he had bought on the barbeque, leaving everyone else to mingle together. Xander and Willow crept inside and stood close together.
“You okay?” Xander asked.
“Yeah, it’s better than I thought. Jack has lots of friends. Sam is nice.”
“At least you won’t have to worry about having to call Giles just so you can have intelligent conversations.” Xander smiled. Willow hit him on the arm.
“You and Jack would have been intelligent enough, but I get what you mean.”
The two stood in silence, listening to the conversations occurring out on the deck. They all sounded happy and, well...normal, Xander found himself thinking as he and Willow stood quietly.
Maybe normal was what he and Willow really needed after eighteen months of living through hell on the mouth of hell. A.N. I hope you've all liked the latest chapter. Thanks for all the feedback I've been given, it's been really good to hear from so many of you.