Jack walked through the front door of his house, smirking as he heard the TV running in the background. He poked his head into the living room, relieved to find Xander and Willow on the couch together, looking up at him. Xander beamed.
“Hey, you’re home. How was work?’
“I did paperwork and I had a meeting with my commanding officer,” Jack replied. Xander cringed.
“Sounds kind of boring.”
Jack snorted. “It was. What did you two do today?”
“Unpacked, went for a walk, you know, to look around the local area, and just watched some TV. You know, relaxed.”
Jack nodded. “How’s the unpacking going?”
“I think there’s a couple of boxes that we might need some help moving, because they’re really heavy, but other than that it’s mostly done,” Xander replied. Willow nodded in agreement.
“Sure. Do you want to do that now before we have dinner?” Jack asked.
“If you want.” Willow shrugged and glanced at Xander, who nodded.
The three headed out to the truck and together moved the last few boxes into Xander’s and Willow’s new rooms. The job done, Jack and Xander went outside to lock up the truck. When he came back in, Xander and Willow were sitting on the couch together. Jack studied them for a moment and sighed before approaching the pair cautiously and crouching down in front of them.
“How are you two going, really? I know I kind of just ditched you two here but I want you to know that I’m here for you, both of you, if you need me, okay?”
Xander nodded, touched by the older man’s thoughtfulness. “Thanks. We’re okay, I guess.”
“As well as can be expected,” Willow added. Jack nodded before he moved away, giving the teens their space. He wasn’t sure why but he wasn’t getting much reaction from Willow. He didn’t know if she was still in shock from her parent’s murder, which was completely understandable if she was, or if she was naturally a shy, withdrawn type of person or if she wasn’t sure how to deal with him, considering his role as Xander’s biological father and her adoptive/foster father. Maybe it was because he was a guy. He hoped Sam or maybe even Janet could break through, if that was the case. Maybe it was a combination of all of those factors or maybe Jack was just missing something.
He hoped that, soon, he’d figure out what the hell it was.
It was approaching two in the morning when Jack was abruptly woken by screaming. It took a moment for his sleep-muddled brain to realize what was creating the noise before he was up, pulling a sweater on over his bare chest and, glad that he was wearing his boxers, racing from his room and down the hallway towards Xander and Willow’s rooms. He saw Xander whip out of his room, opening Willow’s bedroom door and racing in, and Jack followed his son into the room.
Willow was sprawled out in her bed, the blankets tangled around her legs as she tossed and turned, crying out, obviously in some form of nightmare. Xander was at her side almost instantly, running his fingers through her long, sweaty hair and muttering comfort. Willow struggled, moving her head away from Xander’s hand. Xander moved his arms to encircle her and pulled her close. Willow moaned and clung onto him
“Mom, Dad!” she cried. “Please, no. Not them. Please not them.”
“Shh, Willow, it’s okay. Wake up, it’s a nightmare.”
“Buffy. It hurts. It hurts so bad. Angel!”
“Willow, wake up.”
“No, Ms. Calendar. Not Ms Calendar. Please.”
“Willow,” Xander said. Willow groaned, going limp in Xander’s arms. Then her head moved, her eyes opening groggily.
“Xan?” she croaked out, her voice hoarse from yelling.
“Yeah, it’s me. You okay?”
“Yeah. That one was bad.” Willow rested her head on Xander’s shoulder and sobbed, tears leaking from her eyes.
Jack watched from the doorway, ready to step in if he was needed, however he was pretty sure that all Willow needed at that moment was for Xander to be her rock. At that moment, Jack was certain that he’d done the right thing by not letting Xander and Willow be separated.
“You okay, Willow?” Jack asked quietly. Willow looked up at him, nodding shakily.
“Yeah, I think so. I’m sorry for waking you.”
Jack shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. You can’t help it. Do you want anything?”
“Um, maybe a glass of water. Is that okay? I can get it.” Willow moved to get out of bed but Jack grinned and shook his head.
“Nope, it’s okay. I’ve got it.”
Jack hurried out, trusting Xander to look after Willow while he was getting her some water. He’d seen how shaken she was by the nightmare, how pale she had been, how she had seemed to shake in Xander’s arms. He got a glass and filled it from the tap before carrying it back upstairs to Willow. She hadn’t moved from her place in Xander’s arms. She accepted the glass from him carefully, sipping from it slowly.
“Do you get nightmares much?” Jack asked, perching on the edge of the bed, but still a respectable distance from Willow and Xander. He didn’t want to scare or crowd them.
“Yeah, just this one was worse than most,” Willow said softly, avoiding his eyes. Jack cursed under his breath when he saw the flush of Willow’s cheeks. She was embarrassed about having nightmares.
“Trust me, nightmares are commonplace here.”
“You have nightmares?” Xander asked, both curious and surprised. Jack smiled and nodded.
“Yeah, trust me, being in the Air Force, you see a lot of bad things you wish you can forget but you can’t. I sometimes have my teammates over when they’re hurt because they all live by themselves, and I think waking up to them screaming or crying over something is kind of common. And, well, yeah, I scream a bit too in my sleep. Don’t try and wake me, though, because I’m a bit like Wolverine. I lash out when I wake up from a nightmare.”
Willow blushed. “I kind of lashed out once too. Took a few days for the bruise to fade on Xander’s face.”
“It took longer for your bruise where I hit you the first night to go away,” Xander replied, smirking slightly. Willow giggled.
“Well, yes, that’s true.”
Jack snorted in amusement. “Well, I wouldn’t brag about bruises, guys. You try and wake me up and you’re liable to end up with broken bones. Heed the warning.”
“Right, don’t wake you up from a nightmare. Got it,” Xander quickly said, looking a little alarmed. Willow giggled.
“Just do it from out of arm’s reach,” she told him and they both laughed.
“End of a broom, maybe?” Xander suggested and Jack snorted. He sought out Xander’s eye and gave him an approving nod. Jack could tell what Xander was doing, trying to make Willow forget about her nightmare.
Jack sat with Willow and Xander until Willow yawned. He took it as his cue to leave. He got up, smiling and dramatically yawning.
“Well, some of us old people have to go to sleep. I’ll try to be quiet in the morning so I won’t wake you.”
“Thank you for the drink, Jack.”
“You’re welcome, Willow.”
“Can I stay in here for the night?” Xander quietly asked. Jack looked at his son and saw the same puppy dog eyes that Charlie had used. It was amazing how much Xander looked like an overgrown Charlie at that exact moment.
“As long as you keep the door open.”
“All right,” Xander said happily, nudging Willow over so he could lay down beside her on top of the covers.
Jack rolled his eyes and headed back to his room but not before he detoured briefly into Xander’s room and grabbed a spare blanket off the bed, returning to Willow’s room and throwing it over Xander, who grinned sheepishly up at him before snuggling back down beside Willow, who had looked like she was pretty close to being asleep again already.
“Night,” two voices mumbled from beneath the blankets. Jack chuckled before walking from the room. He went back to his room, collapsing back onto his bed. He was asleep within minutes.
Jack dressed quickly the next morning before heading down to the kitchen. He cooked up some toast and made some coffee. Once he had finished getting ready for work and had eaten his breakfast, Jack smiled wryly, picking up his phone from where he had left it on the bench top, and crept back upstairs and headed down the passageway towards Willow and Xander’s room.
He walked through Willow’s open bedroom door quietly, smirking when he beheld the pair that lay on the bed together. Willow’s head rested against Xander’s shoulder and their heads were touching. Even though Xander wasn’t lying under the covers with her but just under his blanket, it looked like they were lying as close as possible. Jack smiled and opened up the camera function on his phone, glad that Sam had talked him into buying a model with a decent camera built in. Aiming the camera at the bed, Jack hit the shoot button. The phone clicked quietly as it took the photo and Jack nodded happily before he hit the save button on his phone and ducked out of the room quietly. He collected his things and left the house, driving off to the base.
Upon arriving at the SGC, Jack headed down to Carter’s office. Sure enough, she was there, going over pre-checks for their mission that day. He smiled as he entered the office.
“Hey, Carter,” he greeted.
“Good morning, sir. How are you today?”
“Fine. I’ve got something to show you.”
“Oh, what?” Sam smiled and walked up to him. Jack pulled out his phone and opened up the photo he had taken that very morning before passing the device over to Sam. Sam looked at it, a wide grin breaking out on her face.
“Yeah, Alexander and Willow. It’s just Xander though. She had a nightmare last night and we were up for awhile together. He wanted to stay with her and, well, she was still a little freaked out, so I let him. He isn’t under the covers though. I just chucked the blanket on top of him before I went back to bed.”
Sam quirked an eyebrow. “You tucked him in?”
“No, I just put the blanket over him. I don’t want a sick, whiny teenager moping around the house,” Jack defended.
“You should go and show it to Janet. It’s very sweet, she’ll like it.”
“I will after the mission. I’ll distract her with the photo, she’ll forget to jab me with the big needles.”
Sam snorted and handed Jack his phone back.
“You almost finished in here?”
“Good, I’m going to go and check on Daniel and make sure that he’s ready to go.”
“See you later.” Jack hurried out of Sam’s office, leaving the Major to her preparations. He headed off to Daniel’s office, poking his head into the room curiously and checking if his friend was there. Predictably, Daniel was pouring over his books.
“Hey, you ready for today’s mission?”
“Yeah. How were the kids last night?”
“Good, still freaked out by their parents dying though. Willow woke up screaming through the night after a nightmare, poor kid.”
Daniel nodded understandingly, remembering how long nightmares about his parents’ death had plagued him after it had happened. From time to time, he still had them.
“Xander was looking after her when I left,” Jack said, showing Daniel the picture on his phone. Daniel pushed his glasses further up his nose before peering at the screen. He smiled.
“Cute. I’m guessing they don’t know that you took that.”
“Nope, they sleep like the dead.”
“Of course they do, they are teenagers.”
Jack chuckled before taking the phone back.
“Have you told them much about us, or you know…” Daniel gestured vaguely towards the direction of the Stargate.
“Nope. They know I’m military but they don’t know what I do for the military or which base I’m at. They’ve got emergency numbers to call; mine, yours, Carter’s, Janet’s, and if none of us respond, General Hammond. I’ll explain part of what we do at the barbeque. You up for it if I have it tomorrow night?”
Daniel nodded, shrugging. “I’d never say no to one of your barbeques, Jack. Besides, I want to meet the kids.”
Jack pouted. “Why do I get the feeling that the kids are popular than me?”
“Probably because they don’t have your bad habits.” Daniel laughed and Jack chuckled good-humoredly before he waved goodbye and headed off to his office to undertake his final preparations. A.N. Yay, another chapter finished. Thanks to everyone who has been giving me feedback, it’s been really great. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this chapter. Thanks also to my Beta reader. I own all mistakes (but nothing else.)
The next chapter should be up next weekend, with a little luck.