The next morning found Jack on his way into Hammond’s office yet again, although this time it wasn’t because he was in trouble.
Or, at least he hoped not.
He hadn’t seen any of his other team members, having gotten to the SGC and been directed immediately to the General’s office. He hoped it wasn’t about his team. He didn’t want to hear that Carter or Teal’c or Daniel had gotten hurt.
Jack knocked on the door before opening it, deciding it would be best if he was a little cautious.
“Ah, Colonel O’Neill. How was the trip back?” Hammond asked from his desk as Jack cracked the door open.
“Long, sir,” Jack replied honestly.
“Ah, and how are the children settling in. I was quite surprised when you rang me to inform me of the situation.”
“They’re coping. They’ve both lost their parents though, so they’re very quiet.”
“What are your plans for them?”
“Well, since it’s summer vacation now, I was just going to let them entertain themselves, you know, unpack and get settled into the new house, start to learn their way around town. I’m taking them up to the cabin next down time the team has.”
“Good, and after that?”
“Sending them to finish off high school with Cassie. After that, it’s up to them but I think they could be good candidates for the Air Force Academy. I checked their grades the day I went and pulled them from their old school and Willow could get in now if she wanted do. She has the grades to do it. She reminds me of what Carter must have been like when she was sixteen. Xander, well, he’s more like me than I expected he would be, since I haven’t seen him since he was little.”
Hammond chuckled at the idea. “Jack, they aren’t going to be like Cassie. Cassie knows a fair bit about what we do here. Your kids don’t have clearance.”
“I know that, sir,” Jack replied.
“They know that you might not be home every night?”
“Yes, and they know that sometimes they might have to go and stay with Janet if I get busy.”
“I’m going to introduce them to the team some time during the week. Barbeque at my house.”
“Good idea. All right, Colonel. Have SG-1 report to the debriefing room at 1100 for your next mission.”
“Yes, sir.” Jack got up and left the office, heading down to his own office and scowling when he opened the door to discover that someone had seen fit to decorate his office with pale blue and pink balloons and streamers. A banner with ‘Congratulations on the new arrivals’ written on it had been hung on the wall and a basket had been placed on his desk. Jack cautiously approached his desk, peeking into the basket. Inside was a bottle of scotch with a tag reading ‘We thought you might need this after dealing with two teenagers’ written on it. He chuckled softly. Also inside was a book entitled ‘Parenting Teenagers for Dummies’ and two photo frames, one titled ‘Daddy’s little boy’ and the other ‘Daddy’s little girl’.
“Jack O’Neill, I see you like the gifts we brought you,” Teal’c commented form the doorway. Jack glared.
“Yes, I’m glad you’re all having a laugh at my expense.”
“You’re welcome,” Teal’c replied.
“Where are Carter and Daniel?”
“In their offices, I believe.”
“Right, we’ve got a briefing at 1100 in the briefing room about our next mission. I’m going to go and see Sam and Danny.”
“I shall go with you,” Teal’c intoned as Jack walked out of his office, closing the door behind him.
The pair walked down the corridors of the SGC, stopping off at Sam’s lab.
“Hey, Carter, you busy?” Jack called as he entered his second-in-command’s domain. Sam’s head bobbed up from where she’d been studying some form of technology.
“Colonel, you’re back.” She grinned happily, getting up to greet him.
“Nice touch to decorate the office, Carter.” Jack grinned. Sam had the decency to look sheepish
“Well, sir, I just thought it might be nice to, well… celebrate their arrival.”
Jack snorted in amusement.
“Sir, I’m sorry for your loss though.”
“Losing Jess? We were never going to make it as a couple. We were kidding ourselves when we tried. I still loved her though. Still do, in fact, but not in the same way. She was Charlie’s mom, after all, and even though she didn’t come to the funeral, I know she still cared about him.”
“She didn’t go to her own son’s funeral? Is that not usual?” Teal’c asked, his eyebrow raised. Jack knew this was how his friend conveyed his surprise. He shrugged in reply.
“I figured she was trying to forget about me and our past together and that she was focusing on Xander and her new husband, Tony. She hadn’t seen Charlie since he was about six months old.”
“Did your son know about Charlie?”
“He eavesdropped on Jessica telling Tony but didn’t know how. I told him when I got there. I’m not going to go keeping secrets from him. I think he told Willow about it because they both accepted rule one last night.”
“What is rule one?” Teal’c asked.
“I introduced house rules. They’re pretty basic, though. Don’t touch my gun, that’s rule one, no being together in a room with a closed door, no alcohol until you’re 21, stuff like that.”
“Probably a good idea. They are teenagers after all.” Carter admitted, remembering her own teenaged years.
“Yeah, I can’t picture it being too much of a problem though,” Jack said. “They’re good kids.”
“Who are good kids?” Daniel asked as he wandered into the room.
“Colonel O’Neill’s recently acquired children,” Teal’c answered.
“Oh, right. When are we going to meet them?” Daniel smiled. He wondered if Jack’s son would be much like him and about the girl that Jack was saving from the foster system. Who knew what she was like?
“I don’t know, I was thinking of holding a barbeque one night this week. Just us, the kids, Janet, and Cassie. I don’t want to overwhelm them and Hammond’s already reminded me that they don’t have clearance.”
The others nodded.
“Right, we have a briefing at 1100 up with Hammond. Don’t be late. I’ll be in my office if you need me.”
“Yes, sir,” Sam said, turning back to her little project, and Daniel wandered back out. Teal’c followed the archaeologist out and they headed off together while Jack walked back to his office. He looked at the decorations, a wry smile spreading across his face, before he sat down at his desk and sighed heavily, deciding that he probably start trying to get through the paperwork that had built up on his desk during his absence.
Little was Jack aware that SG-1 was running a pool, along with other people from the base that knew about the colonel’s children, on how long it would take for him to call up home and check in on them.
Sam won when Jack called home just after the briefing.
Xander and Willow had apparently continued their unpacking and making themselves at home at Jack’s house and were almost finished. In the afternoon, they were planning on going for a walk around the local area to have a look around.
Jack had told them to be careful and to take a map while Daniel and Sam struggled to hide the smirks on their faces.
Jack called his house again at about three in the afternoon, much to the amusement of Sam and Daniel. Xander and Willow had just gotten back from their walk and were just chilling out in the living room on the couch, watching some TV. Jack had relaxed marginally and sent his team out of his office, getting them to go back to their own labs so he could attempt to get back to his dreaded paperwork.
Xander stretched his hands above his head and yawned widely as he woke up. It took him a moment to recall where exactly he was as he gazed up at the unfamiliar roof from the unfamiliar bed. Then he remembered Angelus’ rampage and the consequent deaths of so many. Jenny Calendar, Willow’s parents, his parents, Kendra (although admittedly Angelus hadn’t laid a hand on the second Slayer, it had been Drusilla), and finally Buffy and the resulting move of both him and Willow to his biological father’s home in Colorado Springs.
Groaning, Xander got up and staggered out of his bedroom, going into the bathroom to do his morning ritual.
Once he had finished, Xander poked his head into Willow’s room but she was already up, so he threw on a pair of jeans and a shirt and hurried downstairs.
Willow was sitting at the table in the dining room, quietly drinking a glass of orange juice. Xander smiled at her.
“So, did you sleep well?”
Willow knew what Xander meant. Did she have nightmares about finding her parents’ bodies? Xander had had a few since his own grizzly discovery but Willow had it worse. Xander wasn’t sure why, maybe because Willow had tried to keep a good relationship with her parents despite their neglect, while Xander had long since given up on feeling anything positive about his parents after everything they had put him through during his life, especially his father’s drunken physical abuse and his mother’s apathy.
While they’d been staying with Joyce most nights, they’d stayed in Buffy’s room together and Xander had held onto Willow as she trembled and cried in her sleep while trying to fight off his own demons.
“Okay, I only woke up twice. How did you go?” Willow asked, sipping her orange juice.
“Only once, but I was awake for a bit afterwards. It wasn’t too bad though.” Xander shrugged.
“You should have woken me.” Willow said, frowning in concern.
“No, you heard what my dad said. I don’t really want to blow one of the rules on the first night. Where is he anyway?”
“At work, he left a note; it says that he should be home at about six. What do you want to do today?”
“Unpack, I guess.”
“Yeah, I suppose we should. Try and make ourselves more at home.”
Xander nodded and began to glance in the cupboards looking for something to eat. He found a loaf of bread and a toaster, so he made toast for himself and Willow for breakfast.
Once they had finished their breakfast and washed up their dishes, Xander found the key for the truck and they went outside. Xander rolled the back of the truck up and lowered the ramp before Willow climbed up and they both collected a large box each.
“I guess this gives a chance to unload those boxes Giles gave us as well,” Xander said as they carted the boxes down the ramp and into the house. Willow nodded.
When hearing that they were going to be departing together and fearing that the two teenagers had earned a reputation amongst demons that would result in them being targeted, Giles had packed up two heavy wooden chests with assorted basic research books, some weaponry and a few basic spell ingredients, just in case Willow and Xander had the need to defend themselves.
Having put the first box of things they had brought up in their rooms, Xander and Willow returned to the truck, approaching the two wooden chests cautiously. Xander tried to pick it up and groaned.
“What the hell did Giles put in there?” he asked. “And how did he get them in here?”
“I think I saw him levitate them or something,” Willow said as Xander knelt on the ground in front of the chest that was labeled with masking tape as his and carefully spun the combination lock. The lock clicked open and Xander removed it, opening the chest and wincing as it creaked.
There was a stack of books at one end, all of them some of the more basic editions that were written in English from Giles’ extensive collection of demon and occult-based texts. The rest of the trunk was occupied by assorted weaponry, including an axe, a couple of knives, a large amount of stakes, a collection of crosses and a pair of crossbows with arrows. Xander let out a low whistle.
“The G-man’s thought of everything,” he told Willow, who was at her own trunk, having opened up the combination lock on it. Xander got up and looked over Willow’s shoulder. There seemed to be more books in hers, as well as a tranquilizer gun and some darts that went with it, in addition to the stakes, holy water and crossbow that Willow used on patrol. There was also a pair of knives and a light sword.
“I think he’s a bit worried about us being attacked. I thought Colorado Springs was supposed to be a demon free area, or, you know, at least fewer numbers than on the hellmouth. We could take on the hellmouth with all this, or well, at least put a good effort into trying.” Xander observed dryly at the small arsenal Giles had given them. Willow could only nod in agreement.
“No rocket launcher though,” she commented, and she and Xander just looked at one another before they started laughing. The idea of hiding a stolen Rocket Launcher in the house of a Air Force Colonel was a bit far fetched, even for them.
Xander and Willow worked throughout the morning, bringing in boxes and rearranging their new bedrooms. Some of the things they left in the truck because they knew they would need Jack’s help getting it out, but other than that everything was inside. Together, they managed to get the two wooden chests up into their rooms and had safely hidden them in their wardrobes, just in case they were ever needed.
They began unpacking their boxes of ordinary items for a little while before having a break for an early lunch, during which they were called by Jack. Once they’d reassured him that they were okay and they hadn’t somehow burned the house down, they finished eating and decided to go on their walk.
It was a quiet, peaceful suburb and it reminded them a little of Sunnydale. There was a park near Jack’s house and Xander felt a pang in his chest as he wondered what it would have been like if he’d been allowed to grow up with Jack. He imagined he’d have spent a lot of time on the play equipment and playing catch with his father.
Willow too was caught up in her thoughts. She watched as a couple played with their little girl on the playground, wondering if her parents had ever played with her like that. She couldn’t remember her parents actually going to the playground with her. The few memories she had of going to the playground with her parents involved Willow playing with Xander while her mother or father sat in a chair, reading a book or a newspaper and not paying any attention, despite how much Willow had looked wistfully back at them.
Eventually the two teenagers dragged themselves from their turbulent thoughts and headed towards their new home. It was strange, however, that on their entire walk they passed no churches and no cemeteries.
“I have a feeling we’re not on the Hellmouth anymore, Willow,” Xander said. Willow nodded as they drew level with their new house and let themselves in with the key that Jack had left them that morning.
Just in time for them to answer Jack’s phone call. Willow let out a sigh of relief as she hung up the phone after talking to her new guardian.
“Good thing we made it back in time to answer that,” she told Xander, who had turned on the TV. She sat down beside her best friend.
“Why do you say that?” Xander asked.
“I think he would have panicked a little. He sounded very relieved that we were home safe. He said he was going to be back home at about five-thirty, or, um, 1730.” Willow mentally counted hours in her head. She was pretty sure that it was right. Xander nodded, automatically knowing, thanks to the soldier-by-possession, how 24-hour time worked. The one aspect of math he knew more about than Willow.
“Great. Look, the Simpsons are on.”
The two teenagers settled down on the couch, letting themselves relax and unwind and trying to move on from the traumatic week and a half that they’d experienced. A.N. Finally an update. YAY. I’m on holidays now, so we’ll be back to one update a week (with a bit of luck, anyway.) Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing, your support and encouragement been wonderful and I really appreciate it. Thank-you to my Beta reader, for fixing up any mistakes she spots, and generally making me sound better than I do (Which is good, because have a cold at the moment and generally sound not too well.).
Anyway, hopefully there will be a new update next week some time. Your reviews give me the much needed feedback that help me know when I’m getting things right (or wrong)