Sam sat alone in her office, thinking deeply while she worked on a small piece of equipment. Her thoughts were filled by Xander and Willow. Willow had, amusingly, been full of questions about the Stargate and Sam had answered them, relishing in the amount of interest the sixteen-year-old was taking in her work. Daniel too had been bombarded with questions about the Goa’uld language and about the symbols on the Stargate, which Daniel had happily explained. Xander had simply shaken his head, obviously used to Willow’s enthusiasm about anything academic. Jack had watched on in an awestruck silence before he managed to get the clarity of thought to speak.
“You know, you two,” he said, addressing Daniel and Sam, “it’s a good thing I know you’re too young to have a sixteen-year-old kid, because otherwise I would be seriously wondering if you two knew each other seventeen years or so ago.”
Sam blushed at the memory of the comment. Jack had a valid point. Willow seemed to have a balance of Sam’s own interest in science, computers, and technology and Daniel’s interest (and skill) in ancient languages.
Sam thought about Willow’s obvious interest in the program, a frown crossing her face. While it seemed much more likely now that, one day in a few years’ time, Willow and Xander would probably join the SGC in some capacity, either as soldiers or civilians, she had noticed that they hadn’t been overly surprised when they’d been told. She knew that Jack hadn’t noticed, as he’d been too worried about them actually being told to notice their reactions, but Sam had noticed that there had been lack of shock on the teenagers’ faces. While it was true that Sam didn’t know Xander and Willow that well, she thought that learning that they had been abducted by an alien race that had tried to destroy earth would have earned much more of a reaction than the one the bombshell received from the pair. She had kept her suspicions to herself, not wanting to raise an alarm. It could just be that the news hadn’t sunk in yet for them… it was rather a big deal after all but something in Sam’s gut told her that this wasn’t the case.
Something was up… and Sam knew that it would only be a matter of time before the truth came to the surface.
After having the bombshell regarding the true nature of Jack’s work revealed to them, things settled down once again for Willow and Xander. Jack took a week off following their release from the infirmary and Janet came by once every two days to check on them. On those occasions, she brought Cassie with her and both Xander and Willow had told the other teenager that they didn’t care about her being an alien before engulfing their friend in a hug. Teal’c, despite his worry about frightening Willow and Xander now that they had experienced Jaffa hospitality for themselves, was treated in the same way and Jack swore that he saw a smile flicker across the tall man’s face as he was tackled into a group hug by the two teenagers.
Once Jack was back at work, Xander and Willow returned to school. The first few days were a struggle, as they were both feeling tired and they had missed over a week’s worth of classes, so Xander had a bit of trouble catching up, but soon that settled down too.
Willow started her magic lessons the week after she started back at school. She explained to the coven members that she had been kidnapped and then had been in hospital, which they had accepted without question. (Willow figured that they knew that they were better off not knowing the whole truth.) Willow enjoyed the lessons greatly, learning more about control and white magic than she thought she would have ever done if she had stayed in Sunnydale with Giles. It wasn’t that Giles was a bad teacher, quite the contrary in fact, but Willow knew that Buffy and her duties as the Slayer and Giles’s duties as a Watcher on an active Hellmouth came first and everything else came after that, and there just wasn’t enough time in the day for Giles to teach Willow how to properly control and manage her powers, especially with Giles spending most of his time helping Joyce track down Buffy, who was still missing.
Xander, having learned of the other great threat to mankind on earth, had thrown himself into physical training. In combination with the running and fitness exercises Xander was doing daily, he had, with Jack’s permission, started self-defense classes. Willow had bowed to pressure from both Xander and Jack to go along too but Xander had flung himself into the work. By the time Willow’s seventeenth birthday arrived, it had begun to show on Xander’s body. He had become much leaner and had lost all traces of puppy fat from his body. Instead his muscles were taut and the distance he ran and his speed increased with each day that passed.
Despite their training, however, Xander and Willow had, after a short discussion, agreed that they’d made the right choice in not patrolling in Colorado Springs, for a number of reasons. Firstly was the fact that Colorado Springs was far from a hotbed of supernatural activity. They’d both kept an eye on the news and Willow had hacked to coroner’s website from her laptop but there hadn’t been any suspicious deaths that even hinted at vampires or the like. Secondly was the fact that neither of them knew how they could get away with going out to patrol every night with Jack being so observant and involved and that was even without them getting injured.
While it was true that Jack had disclosed the true nature of his work to them, Xander and Willow had, despite much debate between them, decided not to tell Jack about the supernatural, mainly because he had enough on his plate with alien threats to the human race without having the demonic ones to worry about as well and also, once again, to the fact that Colorado Springs, compared to Sunnydale, was a very peaceful town, as far as the supernatural was concerned.
As for Sunnydale, well, they still received calls from the other Scoobies. The new Slayer, Faith, had settled in well and had formed a friendship with Cordelia. Much as she had with Xander and Willow, Joyce had offered herself as a substitute mother for Faith, which the dark-haired Slayer seemed to appreciate. There had been no news regarding Buffy’s return but Giles promised, in practically every phone call, that if Buffy turned up or they got any news, that Xander and Willow would be told. True to their word and in accordance with the non-disclosure agreements they had both signed, Willow and Xander hadn’t told Giles the truth about their disappearance, instead telling the Watcher that they’d been kept busy with school things and their extracurricular activities. Neither of them had wanted to disappoint Jack by spilling the beans to their former mentor, although, Willow had reasoned one day, Giles probably already knew, since there was bound to be something written in a book about the former alien/demonic race that ruled the world thousands of years ago before being defeated and banished by a human rebellion. The Stargate probably would be mentioned in the same book Giles, however, had been too pleased with the amount of responsibility the two were showing through them taking initiative and organizing training for themselves in magic and self-defense that he hadn’t asked questions, though, letting Xander and Willow off the hook. Willow was just glad that they weren’t talking to him face to face, as she knew that Giles would be able to tell that she wasn’t being completely truthful.
For his part, Jack had kept a respectful distance, being there if he thought he was needed but at the same time understanding that with Xander and Willow being the age they were they needed to have their space and deal with things on their own. Jack hadn’t yet gotten around to talking to Xander about what Janet had told him about the evidence of prior broken bones. At first, Jack hadn’t wanted to bring it up because he thought the two teenagers were still getting over the revelation that aliens were real and then Willow’s birthday had drawn near and Jack didn’t want to put a dampener on the event by having suggestions about child abuse in the air. It was going to be a hard enough birthday for Willow given that it hadn’t been that long ago that her parents (and Xander’s mother and stepfather) had been killed.
Willow awoke early the morning of her birthday, breathing heavily. She’d had a nightmare about Sunnydale but for some reason Ba’al had been in it too. Shaking her head she brushed her hair back from her face and sat up, blinking at the light from the rising sun that came through her curtains.
Today she would be seventeen years old, she thought sleepily. There had been times in the last year that she had been convinced that she wouldn’t live to see another birthday… but here she was… a different home with a different family and different friends in a different state, but still alive. Her parents were gone and she had left Sunnydale… Buffy, Giles, Joyce, Cordelia, Oz… Everyone behind… except for Xander. Xander was her constant, the thing she lived for. Her brother, her best friend, her partner in every way save for romantic. Jack had even teasingly said that maybe Charlie, Xander and Willow had been triplets since Xander and Willow were so close.
Willow sat quietly on her bed. There was a part of her that had dreaded this birthday. Even though they were rarely there for her birthday, her parents almost always made sure that they called or emailed at some point during the week her birthday was in. This year there would be no email or phone call, no deposit into her bank account, and no parcel turning up in the mailbox with a postmark from some exotic location. There would be no party in the library at Sunnydale High, like Buffy had organized for Willow’s last birthday, and no trip to the movies with Xander and Jesse, like the year before. This year everything would be different and Willow wished from the bottom of her heart that everything was back the way it was. Sure, Jack was nice enough, and Daniel, Sam and Teal’c were excellent to talk to. Cassie was a great friend and Janet had been so kind while Willow and Xander had been stuck in the infirmary but Willow missed Sunnydale. She missed Buffy and Giles… She missed Oz and Cordelia… She missed Angel and her old high school with its well-stocked library and its computer lab… She missed Jenny and she missed her parents. Willow looked sideways at her bedside table, which was littered with photo frames. One of them featured her parents and Willow when she was small, before they spent so much time away. Willow looked at the photo, smiling sadly. She was about one in that photo, sitting on her dad’s lap, his arms tight around her as he held her close. Her mother sat beside her father, her arm around his shoulders, the other resting protectively on Willow. They were all smiling, beaming up at the camera. Willow felt a tear roll down her cheek. The little toddler in that photo would never realize how hard… how complicated her life would become. Leaning back against her pillows, Willow lay on her side, looking up at the photo, and let out a long sigh.
In the lower level of the house, Willow could hear Jack moving around in the kitchen and could smell the gentle smell of blueberry pancakes wafting through the house. It would only be a matter of time that Xander appeared, having been awoken by the scent of food, so Willow got up and headed out of her room, intent on getting first dibs on the bathroom.
Feeling rather refreshed, Willow headed out of the bathroom, having had a quick shower. She ducked into her room and got dressed before she headed downstairs. The kitchen had gone quiet and Willow frowned, entering the room cautiously.
“Surprise,” greeted Xander cheerfully before going up to hug Willow. Willow pulled away slightly, because the apron that Xander was wearing was streaked with flour. There was a smudge of the white powder on his cheek. Jack was grinning from the table, where the table was set, with three plates laid out with large stacks of pancakes on them.
“Thanks, Xander.” Willow beamed before turning and approaching her guardian. “Thanks Jack,” she said before giving him a hug. Jack was surprised but hugged Willow back, instinctively understanding that Willow had taken steps towards accepting him as a parental figure. While Jack knew that he and Willow would never be as close as he and Xander were, simply because Willow wasn’t related to him, Jack had always hoped that Willow would feel comfortable around him and would go to him if she had a problem.
“No problem, Willow,” Jack replied as he let his arms drop back to his sides, the hug finished. Xander hurried over and pulled Willow’s chair back invitingly. Willow sat down, grinning happily. Perhaps her birthday wouldn’t be so bad after all. A.N. Here we are. Sam is suspicious that something is going on...and Willow's taking steps towards getting closer to Jack. For those of you curious about Buffy the fate of our favourite slayer (and Angel, if anyone is interested) will be revealed in the next chapter.
Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing. It's wonderful that everyone has been so supportive and has been enjoying the story. I am really happy about the feedback i';ve been getting. thank you very much.
Big thank you also to Darkened Shadows for her awesome beta reading and fixing up of my mistakes.
More will be up soon...hopefully before Easter (but maybe after)