Jack was quiet as he let himself into the house. The mission that day had been routine, going to a new planet to explore. Daniel had been happy because he’d found some type of rock that was particularly exciting and Carter had been happy because she’d found some sort of device that she could play with and Jack was happy because none of his team had been injured.
Jack was pretty sure Teal’c was happy too but it was kind of hard to tell.
But once they’d come back and gone through the usual process of going to the infirmary and then debriefing with Hammond and then writing up reports and paperwork, Jack was a bit later home than he had been the previous night. In the note he’d left out for Xander and Willow, Jack had said that he was going to be late but time had had the cheek to get away from him, and now Jack wasn’t sure where he stood with the two recently relocated teenagers.
Jack knew that, given a bit of time, he would be in over his head. Cassie had him wrapped around her little finger and once Xander and Willow got over what they’d gone through and started to come out of their shells a little, Jack would be helpless against them.
Heck, they were already changing him. Six months ago, Jack O’Neill wouldn’t have burst into Sam’s lab first thing in the morning just to show her a photo on his phone of two sleeping teenagers.
Jack checked the living room and found it deserted, although he could tell that Xander and Willow had been in there today, judging by the two bottles of water left on the coffee table, sitting on top of the TV guide.
Guessing that they were upstairs, Jack headed up, planning on getting changed into a pair of jeans and a sweater. Sure enough, he could hear voices coming from the bedrooms at the other end of the hallway from his, so Jack quickly changed, having already had a shower at the base, before heading down to see what his two charges were up to.
Following the sound of their voices into Xander’s room, Jack was pleased to find them unpacking Xander’s boxes of things into the cupboards and drawers that were in the room.
“Hi,” Xander greeted. “Rough day at the office?”
“Wasn’t too rough, but it was long. I swear I was drowning in paperwork.”
Xander laughed and Willow smiled.
“Have you guys eaten?” Jack asked.
“No, we were kind of waiting for you and we got caught up in unpacking stuff,” Willow explained.
“Wow, is that what time it is?” Xander said, obviously not having realized what time it was and having just looked at the clock.
“Janet and Sam made up some meals for us and froze them. I’ll heat one of those up.”
“Good idea. All of a sudden I’m kind of hungry.” Xander grinned. Willow slid off Xander’s bed, where she had been sitting, and followed Jack from the room and Xander followed after her.
As Jack opened up the freezer, he chose a meal, smiling when he saw the label.
“How does casserole sound?” He asked over his shoulder. Xander and Willow nodded enthusiastically and Jack put it in the microwave to thaw it out and heat it up. While he did that, Xander got out plates and Willow set the table with cutlery.
Before long, the casserole was hot and Jack served it up onto the plates Xander had gotten out while Willow poured her and Xander glasses of soda to drink. Jack grabbed a beer from the fridge and they carried their own plates over to the table. Ravenously, they all dove in.
There wasn’t much conversation going on, the three too hungry to pause eating. Once the casserole was gone, Jack leaned back in his chair.
“Remind me to thank Janet for that,” he told Willow, who nodded.
“Don’t know who that is, but okay,” she said. Jack slapped his forehead with his palm.
“Damn, I forgot to tell you guys. Tomorrow night I’ve invited some of my friends from work around to meet you. It’s just going to be my team and Janet and her daughter Cassie. We’re going to have a barbeque. Does that sound okay?”
Xander and Willow nodded, both of them highly curious about Jack’s friends. They sounded like an interesting bunch. In the living room that day, Willow had been looking at some pictures, it hadn’t been forbidden, so she figured it was okay. She’d found a photograph of a group of people that she guessed must have been Jack’s team. Jack stood in the middle, laughing about something. He had his arm thrown around a tall, blonde woman, who was also laughing. There was also another man with glasses, who reminded Willow forcibly of a much younger Giles and stood on Jack’s other side, and a very tall dark-skinned man, who was wearing a beanie and had a very neutral expression on his face, but Willow could see the amusement twinkling in his eyes.
Then there was another photo of the same group of people with another pair, another woman, who had auburn hair and a kindly expression on her face, and a girl who looked to be about 15 in the picture. Willow had assumed that this was Janet and Cassie.
They all looked so happy together, like they were a family, and not for the first time, Willow felt doubt well up with in her. It was obvious that Jack had only taken her in out of pity and as a companion for Xander when Jack was away with work. She could feel that his team, once they met them, were going to accept Xander immediately as Jack’s son and she would be the little orphan with no one left who gave a rat’s arse, so Jack, being the great noble man he was, took her in under his roof to save her from foster care.
The only reason Willow was staying was because of Xander. She didn’t need someone caring about her like this. She wanted to go back to Sunnydale before the whole Angelus saga ever started. Back before she and Xander were driven form Sunnydale, back before Buffy had been sucked into hell or killed or had disappeared to God knows where, back before Jenny died and Giles’ heart was broken. Hell, why didn’t she just bring Jesse back while she was at it?
Xander had found Willow in hysterics in the living room as she looked over the photos. He had carefully put the objects away, not taking notice of them, and focused instead on his best friend. He’d sat on the couch with her for a while before he decided that they should watch a movie. He’d found Jack’s copy of the Wizard of Oz and had put it on and they’d watched it, Willow tucked up in his arms safely as her tears slid down her cheeks and onto his t-shirt, thoroughly wetting it by the end.
Satisfied that Willow had calmed down by the end of the movie, Xander went and put on a clean t-shirt while Willow packed away the movie. They’d drunk some water before they’d gone upstairs to finish unpacking Xander’s things. That had been where Jack had found them.
Jack looked from one of the teens to another, sensing that they were both caught up in memories. He felt worry flare up within them. Maybe it was too soon for them to be thrown into a social situation. They’d lost everything they’d ever known in the space of a week. Jack knew that he didn’t count for Xander. Before the call saying that Jess was dead, Jack hadn’t seen Xander since he was about six months old, barely old enough to sit up by himself, let alone remember anything.
Eventually Xander nudged Willow and she shook her head, dragging herself back into the present. “Um, yeah, sure, a barbeque sounds fun. Do you want me to do anything?”
“Nope, I’ve got it organized, don’t worry.” Jack reassured, “All you two have to worry about is being here.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” Xander said, smiling, glancing across at Willow, who nodded.
“So, what did you two do today, other than unpacking? Anything fun?”
“We watched the Wizard of Oz.” Xander shrugged. Jack smiled.
“It’s a classic. Obviously you’ve inherited my taste in good films.”
Willow giggled at that, thinking of Xander’s taste in films, which had become very similar to hers over the years. Over time they’d just melded their favorite types of movies, because usually they went together to go and see them or watched them on TV together.
Willow thought about how they used to quote movies back and forth. It had been their thing, Buffy hadn’t been involved. Jesse had been a little, but Willow and Xander had been the main ones who had done it, like the Snoopy Dance at Christmas time while they watched the Charlie Brown Christmas episode. Willow smiled privately to herself as she thought of how she’d unpacked the much-loved video from one of Xander’s boxes and he’d taken it from her and put it up on his bookshelf, ready for Christmas to roll around again. She wondered what Jack would think if he came home to find her and Xander watching a children’s cartoon, dancing around the living room. Hopefully, he wouldn’t think they’d gone insane and have them committed.
Xander snorted. “Yeah, I must have, because you like the Simpsons as well.”
“A lot of people like the Simpsons though,” Willow pointed out.
“Touché,” Xander conceded.
“You guys done?” Jack asked, eyeing their empty plates.
“Oh, yeah. I couldn’t eat a bite, which is saying something. Willow used to say my stomach was a bottomless pit.”
“That was until I met Buffy though.” Willow laughed as he began to stack up plates. Xander snorted.
“True, very true.”
Willow picked up the dirty dishes and carried them into the kitchen before she started to fill the sink with water so she could start washing. Jack moved to help her.
“It’s fine. You cooked, or well, heated up. I’m fine to do the dishes and Xander can dry.”
“Must I?” Xander asked from the doorway. Willow shot a resolve face in his direction.
“I’m drying.” Xander sighed, locating a tea towel. Willow quickly got the washing done and Xander dried while Jack watched on in surprise. Janet said these days getting Cassie to help with chores was challenging but maybe it was still because Willow and Xander were trying to make a good impression upon him and the novelty of living in a new house hadn’t kicked in yet.
Either way, the dishes were soon finished and the three of them headed into the living room.
“Do you two mind watching some sports? My favorite hockey team is playing tonight.”
“It’s your TV,” Xander said, plopping down onto the couch. Willow sat down beside him and Jack sat in his favorite char and switched the TV on with the remote, channel surfing until he found the right channel, and the three settled down to watch the game.
“I must admit, I’ve never watched hockey on TV before,” Xander commented to Willow at one point in the game.
“All I know about it is what I learned when we watched the Mighty Ducks Movie,” Willow replied. Jack’s jaw dropped at their comments. How could they not know much about hockey? It was one of the best sports out.
“Well, let me educate you, then,” he said with a smile. A.N. Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing, I really appreciate it. Thanks also to my Beta reader. Your editing really makes a difference to my work.