Jack found himself in the infirmary six hours after their return from Ba’al’s ship, watching over Willow and Xander as they slept. They’d both been subjected to the usual post mission scans (made easier because they’d both collapsed after going through the Stargate but not before Willow had thrown up on the ramp). They’d both passed with flying colors. Neither of them had been exposed to Goa’uld larvae enough to be taken as a host. Janet had high hopes of them making a full recovery but it would take time. Neither of them had regained consciousness throughout the checks and now they were being monitored continuously by Janet and her staff.
Jack hadn’t left their side. Hammond had delayed their debriefing till the next morning to give Jack the chance spend the night in the infirmary with them. The nurses worked around them, checking monitors and making notes on their files. Jack had lost count of the number of times he’d sat in this very room watching over members of his team, usually Daniel, as they recovered from whatever injuries they had gained off-world. It was similar but at the same time, hugely different, now that it was Xander and Willow who he was watching over. It made Jack think of the hours he’d spent in the special care nursery at the hospital where Charlie and Alexander had been born. Being twins, they’d come a little early and as a precaution, they’d been put in the special care nursery. Jack had spent as much time in possible sitting in between the two boys’ cots, looking at them hoping that they’d pull through, marveling that the two boys were his and Jessica’s.
Now, of course, Alexander was much bigger and Charlie was gone, but Willow was there instead. The pair’s beds were side by side so that when they woke up, they’d be able to see each other and it meant that Jack could, once again, just sit in between the two beds. He watched them closely, watching the even rise and fall in their chests as they breathed, sleeping off the effects of the hand device. Jack had little doubt as to what Ba’al had used. There hadn’t been many marks on the kids at all, a couple of scratches from the pavement and a couple of Jaffa hand-shaped bruises on their arms but other than that, they were physically healthy. It was their minds that Jack was most worried about. On the ship, they’d been a little dazed and confused but had still been functioning and able to communicate. As the adrenaline coursing through their systems had worn off, it had become more apparent but Jack hoped that they would be okay. He really hoped that his occupation hadn’t been the reason behind the minds of his two charges being fried. They were so clever and intelligent and witty. Willow was soaking up languages like a sponge, according to Daniel, and Jack had a feeling that Xander was going to become a great strategist one day. He could see so much of his teenaged self in the teenager. It would be horrible for everyone involved if that promise had been swept away before it had a chance to shine through. Jack startled, realizing that someone had been calling his name. He shook his head a little, realizing that he’d halfway dozed off. It was the rest of SG:1.
“How are they doing, sir?” Sam asked. Jacked rubbed his face and got up, stretching.
“Okay. No change, as of yet. They’re pretty exhausted, so the doc reckons it will be awhile before they wake up,” he replied.
“Did anyone else see Willow squish the Goa’uld with a piece of pipe?” Daniel asked. Sam grinned.
“I did indeed. I thought it was most resourceful of her,” Teal’c commented
“I don’t know, I found Xander kicking Ba’al in the balls kind of amusing,” Sam admitted. Daniel and Jack snorted quietly.
“It was quite an effective maneuver,” Teal’c conceded. “Perhaps you should consider giving them some sort of hand-to-hand combat training, Jack O’Neill. It is apparent that they have some skill, for Tau’ri of their age.”
“Oh, they will be, so that next time someone tried to kidnap them, they can get the hell out of there,” Jack reassured his team. He too had seen the way Xander and Willow had escaped and he’d had a funny feeling that it wasn’t the first time they’d fought off someone hand-to-hand, even though they were still struggling with the aftereffects of the hand device. Teal’c was right; they were good for someone their age… a little bit too good considering that neither of them had mentioned ever having any training before. Jack was sure that he was going to question that.
“What happened with those NID guys that we captured?” Jack asked.
“General Hammond was able to use what we already knew about the Goa’uld’s involvement to make them talk. They all said that they’d been promised a new life where they would be treated like kings and they’d never have to struggle to make ends meet again. All they had to do was kidnap two teenagers… Xander and Willow, and take them to the Stargate in Area 51. They’ve been taken into custody of the NID and Hammond has been promised by the President that they will be punished for their crimes,” Carter reported. Jack nodded. He was glad that the men in question were off the base, as it now wouldn’t be so tempting to go and visit them.
“Um, Jack, could I talk to you for a bit?” Janet asked him, approaching the group. Jack hesitated before nodding.
“We’ll stay here sir,” Carter promised and she, Daniel and Teal’c took over his vigil. Jack followed Janet into her office, frowning suspiciously when she closed the door.
“What’s up, Doc?” he asked. Janet chewed on her lip.
“Have a seat, sir,” she told him. Jack sat in the indicated char and leaned forward.
“Are they okay? Is something wrong?” he asked urgently. Janet shook her head.
“No, Colonel, they’re both fine… it was just something that I noticed of Xander’s x-rays, that’s all She pulled the x-rays in question out of an envelope and put them on her light board, which she used for the viewing of x-rays. She flicked on the switch and Jack frowned. They looked normal, to him, but then, he wasn’t exactly a doctor like Janet was.
“See these lines here and here?” She pointed at a couple of spots on the x-ray. One looked to be Xander’s forearm and the other was of Xander’s ribcage. Jack nodded.
“That’s remodeling. Xander’s broken those bones before.”
Jack frowned at that. While it was normal for little kids to have a few broken bones, now that he knew what he was looking for, there seemed to be a few more spots than was normal.
“How old are they?” he asked.
“Well, I’d say that this remodeling was on a cracked rib between 6 and 12 months ago but all of the others are between five to ten years old. They’re all different ages, and I’m really guessing at being more precise than that, but generally they’re all within that ten-year period.”
“Do you know what would have caused these kinds of injuries?” Jack asked, really hoping that the conversation wasn’t going were he suspected it might be going. If it went there, then Tony Harris better be glad that he was already dead. Hell, where his son’s stepfather was no doubt going to burn for eternity would seem to be a cakewalk compared to what Jack would have put the man through.
“It’s difficult to say. Xander might just have been clumsy back then and they could all have been sports- or play-related. All the injuries I’ve found are actually common childhood injuries but I just thought that I should make you aware. I looked at Xander’s previous medical file from Sunnydale and he was admitted to hospital for the treatment of broken bones various times over the years. No investigation into… anything abusive was conducted at the time and the hospitalizations stopped when he was thirteen.
Jack leaned back in his chair. Xander had potentially been abused. There was no damning evidence that proved or denied that. Janet was right, it could have been just ordinary kid injuries but at the same time, it could have been something far more sinister.
It had made Jack realize how little he knew of Xander’s upbringing. He hadn’t seen or heard anything about the kid from when he wasn’t even one year old up until Xander was seventeen. Xander could have gone through the most hellish childhood possible (although personally, Jack thought Daniel’s was kind of hard to beat and he knew that Xander hadn’t experienced that.) The same, Jack realized, was true for Willow. Other than the fact that her parents, like Xander’s, had died a horrible death, he knew very little about her.
“Did Willow have anything like that?” he asked Janet, who smiled and shook her head.
“I only found evidence of the slight crack to her skull that happened just before she came and lived with you and evidence of a broken arm when she was about six,” Janet replied. “I made sure I had a good look at hers after what I found on Xander’s scans but she looks like she got through her childhood injury-free.”
Jack exhaled, letting out a sigh of relief. It would be bad enough talking to Xander without having to ask Willow about her parents, especially since Jack had never known them.
“Jack,” Janet said softly, rubbing his arm. “They’re good kids. You should be proud of them. They’re okay now. You got them back before they could be hurt badly.”
“They still got taken, though,” Jack said, shaking his head. Who knew what Ba’al had told them? Xander and Willow had seen the Stargate and gone through it. They’d met a Goa’uld System Lord, perhaps one of the most infamous, and they’d lived to tell the tale. That in itself said something about their character. Not every seventeen-year-old could say that they’d been off Earth before and actually interacted with aliens. Their lives, however, would never be the same again. They all knew it, Jack, Sam, Daniel, Teal’c, Janet, Hammond, and Cassie. Willow and Xander would have to live with the knowledge they now carried about what was out there in the stars and they wouldn’t be able to talk about it. They would both need to sign nondisclosure statements and be sworn to secrecy for the rest of their lives.
Although it did make it slightly more likely that at least one of them would get involved in the SGC once they graduated. Willow was soaking up language like a sponge and Xander had potential to be a great soldier, given a little training. Jack had noticed how much attention Xander paid to his fitness, the amount of time the teen spent running and stretching and working out in the park. It was like some form of military training, strict and hard work, designed to maintain peak physical condition and to develop muscle growth, but Jack had no idea as to why Xander had felt the need to do that.
Jack knew, however, that if either Willow or Xander or, God forbid, both of them joined the SGC in some capacity once they graduated from high school (and probably after they went to college as well) it was going to give Jack more gray hairs than Daniel ever gave him and that was saying something.
He was never going to tease Jacob Carter about looking old again.A.N. I'm sorry this chapter is a little shorter than normal, but i kind of struggled a little with it, and this seemed like an appropriate spot to finish up.
Thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing this story. I really appreciate it, and i find you feedback and encouragement really inspiring.
More will be up soon.