Jack watched as Willow and Xander slept on. Both of the teens had slept through the night, and it was now late in the morning. Sam and Daniel had gone to their respective offices and Teal’c was keeping his distance since, as Teal’c put it, ‘Alexander Harris and Willow Rosenberg had just been held captive by a Goa’uld and would no doubt be frightened if they regain conscious and saw him, having spent time recently with Jaffa who had been hostile towards them.’ Jack had been forced to concede that his friend was right and knew that Teal’c’s history with the SGC, and how he’d saved Jack’s life numerous times, would need to be discussed with the pair once they were both conscious and had been briefed on what had happened.
Jack was wondering what on earth he was going to say to Xander and Willow, how he was going to explain what had happened to them, when he noticed that Xander was beginning to show some signs of waking up.
“Guhhh,” Xander groaned and Jack took the teenager’s hand reassuringly.
“You’re okay, buddy, you’re safe now,” he reassured. He felt Xander’s fingers tighten around his hand and smiled when he saw Xander turn his head and half-open his eyes, blearily looking at him. It forcibly reminded Jack of Xander’s days as a newborn when Xander spent most of his time either asleep or sleepy-looking.
“Jack?” Xander groggily asked.
“Yeah, Xander, it’s me. You’re okay.”
“What… what the heck happened?” Xander asked. Jack held his breath before forcing himself to exhale.
“What do you remember?”
“Being in some kind of cell with Willow… WILLOW! Is she okay?”
Jack smiled and nodded. “Yeah, she’s fine, just sleeping it off still. Doc says it’s normal.”
Xander visibly relaxed. “We were in this cell and then we got taken to this big main room, where this guy, Ba’al was sitting and he was talking about gods and some other stuff that didn’t make sense to me. He said that he knew you but I got the feeling he doesn’t like you.”
Jack actually snorted in amusement at Xander’s comment. “We have a long standing hatred towards one another,” Jack admitted. Xander smiled.
“And then he raised his hand and the weird gem thing on his palm glowed… and everything hurt.” Xander shuddered and huddled down in his blankets a little.
“Hey, you’re okay, bud. He isn’t going to get you, Xander.”
Xander gulped and nodded before he recommenced the narrative. “And then he was hurting Willow and I couldn’t move, I was so tired, and then you were there and Ba’al was waving around this weird little snake… thing. Willow smashed it with a bit of pipe that fell from the ceiling and I kicked Ba’al and we hid… There were stars outside.” Xander’s brow furrowed and he looked at Jack in confusion.
“Why were there stars outside? Where were we? What was that weird circle thing that we went through? I can’t remember anything after that. Where are we now?”
“Look, some of your questions I can’t answer right now… It’s classified but you are back in Colorado Springs, at the base I work at, and I will tell you as much as I can once I get clearance from my commanding officer, General Hammond.”
“Oh, right,” Xander nodded, still too tired to really take in a long, in-depth explanation that he was pretty sure he would need Willow to translate for him. He was content, for the moment, to wait for Willow to be conscious as well and for the fogginess and dull ache in his head to have gone.
“Ah, I see Xander’s awake,” Janet said as she entered the room, having been preoccupied by a member of another team who had broken his arm during a mission.
“Yep.” Jack smiled.
“How do you feel?” Janet asked, approaching the bed.
“Tired, foggy, and my head is aching,” Xander admitted, knowing that there was no point in lying.
“That’s all normal, Xander. You’re doing really well. Feel free to have another nap. You should feel better when you wake up. It’ll take a couple of days for the effects to completely wear off but you’re doing great.”
“She’s fine. A little shaken but she’s relieved to know that you and Willow are okay. Once you and Willow get out of here, I’ll send her around to your house so you can catch up.”
“Great.” Xander smiled, pleased that his new friend hadn’t been hurt the day he and Willow had been grabbed.
“You just concentrate on getting lots of sleep, Xander. I’ll look after Cassie,” Janet ordered gently.
“Yes, ma’am.” Xander nodded, letting himself succumb to his weariness and drift off to sleep.
“He remembered everything,” Jack said softly. “I thought he would have forgotten some of it, he was so out of it, but he remembers it all.”
“It’s a good sign, Jack,” Janet reminded him, checking Xander’s vitals before moving across to Willow’s.
“I know that, but still…”
“You hoped they’d think it was just a nightmare or forget entirely so that they wouldn’t know about what we do here?” Janet offered.
“Yeah, something like that,” Jack admitted.
Janet sighed and finished writing on Willow’s file before putting her pen back in her pocket and the file back in its holder at the foot of Willow’s bed.
“Colonel, knowing you and your team as well as I do, it was pretty much inevitable that Willow and Xander would find out at some point. Think about it. With the amount of time you spend in here, let alone when you stay here with one of the others, it would become pretty obvious pretty soon that you weren’t telling the whole truth about what you do up here. They’re smart kids. They would have figured it out at one point,” Janet said slowly.
Jack sighed and pouted slightly, knowing that Janet was correct. Willow and Xander were too old and too clever to have gone about ignoring it and they weren’t used to their parents keeping their work a secret. Kids like Carter had grown up in houses where the type of work military parents did was taboo and they understood why that was, but neither Xander nor Willow had been brought up in military households, so they didn’t have the level of acceptance that Charlie, for example, would have.
“Yeah, I know,” he grumbled, resigning himself to the fact that by the end of the week Willow and Xander would know at least the basics of what Jack’s job entailed. They would now know that when he went to work and didn’t come home in the evening that he was most probably off-planet, potentially trying to save the earth from destruction. They would now know that Daniel specialized in artifacts that were from other planets. They would now know that Janet spent a lot of her time scanning through the teams, just making sure that they didn’t have a snake inside them, controlling them. They’d know that Sam wasn’t just a US Air Force Major. Depending on how far Hammond went, Xander and Willow could even know about the fact that both Teal’c and Cassie weren’t strictly speaking from Earth.
The part that worried Jack the most was how the pair would react to the news. He’d seen how new recruits had reacted (some had thrown up, others had gone into shock, they’d even had one poor recruit who had fainted) when they’d been told the truth and Willow and Xander weren’t like the new recruits. They were younger and were untrained. They hadn’t even finished high school yet. Jack didn’t know if their youth and innocence would help them be more accepting of the bombshell that was racing towards them or if it would actually make the news harder for them to deal with.
Jack, however, knew that there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Xander, and probably Willow, knew too much to cover up with some story and Jack personally didn’t really like the idea of lying to Willow and Xander. They would learn the truth.
And only time would tell how they dealt with it.
Given that Xander had woken up and shown that he was lucid, Jack was rather apprehensively anticipating Willow waking up not long after her friend and he grew frustrated as an hour passed since Xander had gone back to sleep and yet Willow showed no sign of waking up.
“It’s normal, Jack. She probably experienced more exposure that Xander did,” Janet reassured him as she saw the worry written across Jack’s face as he sat beside Willow’s bed, holding her hand in his, rubbing her hand soothingly with his thumb.
Jack had simply grunted in response, focused on Willow. It was unfortunate that he didn’t have much time to spend with them. Xander was the son Jack had never had the opportunity to meet and get to know and Willow was an orphan, with nothing and no one left in the world that cared enough about her to take her in following her parent’s death.
Jack focused his thoughts on Willow. She was sixteen and orphaned. Jack shook his head. Who knew what on earth was going through the kid’s head? He had gathered from watching the pair interact with one another, that Xander and Willow were as close to family as the other had. Given what he suspected about Xander’s upbringing, Jack had expected it to go one way but Willow interacted with Xander like he was her only family and had been for far longer than the few short months since her parents’ deaths.
In fact, he barely heard Ira and Sheila Rosenberg get mentioned at all by either teenager. Initially, he had put it down to the very real and fresh pain Xander and Willow shared over the deaths of their parents but as time had passed and the pain had become less fresh and the nightmares had become less frequent (that Jack was aware of), Xander and Willow began to tell him little, amusing stories about growing up in Sunnydale, like about the time that they and their friend Jesse had gone ice skating or the many times they would go over to Willow’s house and watch movies and quote lines to one another or the long-held Christmas tradition of watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special together at Xander’s house and doing the Snoopy Dance. In none of those stories, neither Tony Harris nor the Rosenberg’s appeared, although Jess Harris did get mentioned in one and their friend Jesse’s mother appeared in a couple.
Something was odd but Jack forced his suspicions to the back of his mind. The main, important thing he was focused on at that moment was helping Xander and Willow to get over their ordeal at the hands of Ba’al and learning to deal with their knowledge about the Stargate and the truth about what Jack did for his work. For that process to begin, Jack needed Willow to wake up so she and Xander could be briefed together. Sam had been to see Hammond and the General had asked her to tell Jack that he was going to tell them both at the same time. Jack was grateful that Hammond was being so considerate about it. In the past, he’d had commanding officers that were a lot less caring about the civilians that caught up accidentally in black ops.
Jack jumped slightly when he felt Willow’s fingers move against his large hands.
“Doc, she’s waking up,” he called to Janet, who hurried to his side.
“Wills, come on kid, wake up,” Jack coaxed as Janet checked Willow’s respiration and heart rate.
“Her vitals indicate she’s waking up,” Janet agreed, taking some notes. “Keep talking to her.”
“Hey, Willow, come on. kid. Wake up. It’s okay, it’s all over, you’re safe now,” Jack said softly, running Willow’s hand and arm comfortingly. Willow let out a soft groan and shifted slightly on her bed.
“Willow, can you hear me, kid? Wake up. We need to know that you’re okay. They’re all gone now, they’re not going to get you. You’re all safe now, trust me, it’s okay.”
“Jack?” Willow croaked as she opened her eyes blearily, focusing on Jack’s face.
“Hey, Willow. You okay?”
“My head hurts. Is Xander okay?”
“Yeah, Xander’s fine. He woke up a while ago. He’s having another nap now though.”
“Where are we?’ Willow asked after she’d relaxed upon hearing that Xander was fine. Jack couldn’t help but grin at how quickly each of the teens had asked about the other.
“You’re at my work. How much do you remember, Willow?” Jack asked.
“Hmm,” Willow went quiet, her expression thoughtful before she began to babble, retelling what she recalled.
“We were in a room, like a prison cell, and we were tied up but then we were taken to the main guy, like the boss… Ba’al… his name was Ba’al and he had this glowy hand glove thing and it hurt, a lot. And there were heaps of guards with this weird symbol on the top of their heads and you guys were fighting them and then there was that weird little snake thing and then we couldn’t get up, so we crawled to a corner and I’m sorry we couldn’t help you guys fight or anything and there was stars.” Willow frowned at that point.
“Why were there stars? All we could see was blackness and stars and then you took us to the circle thing… and it was all blue, like water… and we went through it and that all I can remember,” she finished. Jack just looked over his shoulder at Janet. Willow remembered just as much as Xander did. It had been what Jack expected and while it was a good indication that the teens had not sustained a brain injury or something similar during their ordeal, he would have preferred it if they hadn’t remembered what had happened to them.
He’d wanted to protect them from the truth for as long as possible but they both knew now and there was nothing he could do about it.A.N. Wow, okay, first of, I'm SO sorry about the delay. The story is that I went on a short holiday to surprise my Aunt for her 60th Birthday with my mum, and when i came back the motherboard on my computer had died while i was away (much to my horror, as i had a major assignment due in the next weekend...luckily i had it on USB and could borrow my sister's laptop to finish it and submit)). Thankfully all my files were able to be saved, but i couldn't access them for a week and a half, so i couldn't send them off for beta reading. As a compromise, i will be super speedy with the next chapter...I promise.
Thanks to everyone for reviewing, i am so thrilled with the amount of feedback i have gotten for this story, and for my other stories on this website.
The next update will be up REALLY soon, i promise.