samandjack.net



All the Way
Frank Sinatra
Writer(s): Cahn/van Heusen

When somebody loves you
It's no good unless he loves you - all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you - all the way

Taller than the tallest tree is
That's how it's got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue see is
That's how deep it goes - if its real

When somebody needs you
It's no good unless he needs you - all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all the in between years - come what may

Who know where the road will lead us
Only a fool would say
But if you'll let me love you
It's for sure I'm gonna love you - all the way, all the way

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'Through the good or lean years and for all those in between years, come what may'
******************************

The gravesite was a sea of dark uniforms. Lt. Colonel Sam Carter automatically stood with her back ramrod straight in her own dress blues as she glanced around at the hundred or so officers standing solemnly as the casket was lowered into the ground. She was barely conscious of the sympathetic glances from those that knew her. It wasn't until her eyes rested on his ex-wife flanked by friends that she forced her eyes downward to stare at the toes of her dress pumps.

She knew that the man standing protectively next to her was wrapped in his own grief, but still concerned for her. She felt like such a fraud. Not that she wasn't grieving, because she was. She had loved the man being buried here this day in her own way. She just hadn't been in love with him. She had decided several weeks ago that she wasn't being fair to him, and she had planned on telling him she thought it was time they moved on when 'the' phone call had come. Pete Shanahan had been killed in the line of duty. As the funeral came to a close her brother Mark placed a comforting hand on the small of her back.

"Sam, a bunch of Pete's friends are going to their favorite hangout near the precinct for a drink. We've been invited if you want to go," he suggested.

"Sure," she shrugged. She really had no desire to go, but she thought maybe Mark might want to share a few stories with some of Pete's buddy's to help relieve his grief at losing an old friend.

As they walked away she took one last look back at the final resting place of Pete Shanahan and said her own goodbye. Then she turned and gave her brother a small reassuring smile and said, "Let's go."

******************************

Sam wasn't surprised when she and Mark arrived back from Denver to find Daniel and Teal'c at her house. They had let themselves in with their key and they were watching movies when she and her brother walked in. Sam quickly introduced Mark to her team and then excused herself to go change. She desperately needed to get out of her dress blues. Five minutes later she emerged dressed in jeans and a sweater to find the three men deep in a discussion of their favorite classic movies. She smiled, glad they were getting along so well and told Mark the bathroom was free if he wanted to change out of his suit. Then she headed for the fridge to get a beer.

"Long day?" Daniel asked in sympathy.

Sam nodded. Despite her best intentions her eyes filled with tears and she was grateful when Daniel simply gathered her in for a hug. After a moment she pulled back, and turned to kiss Teal'c on the cheek.

"I'm so glad you two are here," she told them.

"Well, Jack wanted to come too, but he wasn't sure if it was a good idea," Daniel admitted.

"Probably not. At least not today. After my brother leaves tomorrow I'll give him a call," she sighed.

Mark returned at that point and they concentrated on warming up the Chinese take out that Daniel and Teal'c had brought over. The four of them chatted quietly until Daniel and Teal'c left.

"I like your friends," Mark commented.

"They are both pretty special people," Sam replied.

"Neither of them are married?" Mark asked.

Sam was sure he wasn't already trying to set her up with someone else, so she assumed he must just be curious.

"They were, both of them lost their wives. Daniel's wife died five years ago, Teal'c's just over two years ago," Sam told him. "They both have pretty special women in their lives at the moment though. The General and I have a bet as to which will be the first to take the plunge again. I have Teal'c."

"Were there bets on you and Pete?" Mark teased gently.

"Probably," Sam replied with a grimace.

Then she chose her next words carefully. She and Mark had become a lot closer in the time she had been dating one of his best friends. There had been a lot more frequent phone calls and he had even come to Colorado to visit. It was the closest the two had been since they were kids. She hoped what she was about to tell him didn't destroy that. But if they were to remain close she had to be able to confide in him.

"Of course there are also still a lot of bets out on the General and I getting together," she confessed.

Mark looked at her to see if she was kidding. She wasn't. "Isn't he a lot older than you?" he inquired now curious.

"Only twelve years, but that's not why nothing has ever happened between us," she sighed. "He's been my commanding officer since the day we met."

He was surprised to say the least. "And if he wasn't?"

"I'd probably be married with two or three kids by now," she admitted. She met his eyes cautiously. "Are you shocked?"

"What about you and Pete?" he questioned in return.

"We had a wonderful six months together, but I think we both knew it wasn't going any further. He was still hung up on his ex-wife. A part of me will always be in love with Jack O'Neill. But we made each other laugh, and we had a great time when we went out," she told him. Then with a mischievous look she added, "The sex wasn't bad either, especially after living like a nun since Jonas."

Mark actually blushed which caused his sister to chuckle. "You are really evil," he complained.

"Sorry. It's not as if I have a lot of people to discuss my sex life with. As much as I love Daniel and Teal'c, I am their commanding officer and need to maintain a little respect," she said. "Gosh, I miss Janet."

Mark nodded sympathetically. They had talked about Dr. Fraiser after she had died and Sam had explained how she was now going to be guardian to her best friend's daughter. Sam had been grieving deeply. He saw his sister sober instantly now and knew that she still was.

"I'm going to miss Pete, too. But I can't help but feel a little guilty that I didn't love him more," Sam confided.

Mark first instinct was to be angry at his sister for her treatment of his friend, but then he realized that the few times he had talked to Pete about his relationship with Sam he had never gotten the feeling that Pete thought it was anything more serious either. There had been no mention of long term plans together.

"Sam, your relationship was what it was. As long as you weren't lying to each other you have nothing to feel guilty about," he finally told her.

Sam gave him a grateful smile. Of course her brother wasn't about to let the subject drop.

"Now about this *other* guy? Should I be meeting him?" he quizzed, only partially teasing.

Now it was Sam's turn to blush. "It's complicated, but yeah eventually you probably should. He's still my CO, but that will probably change soon," she confessed.

And that was the crux of the matter. The knowledge that had sent her world spinning a few weeks ago and led to her decision to break up with Pete. In a private conversation in her lab, Jack O'Neill had quietly walked over to her calendar and circled a date. When she had asked what it was he had smiled and told her.

In five months, two weeks, and three days he would be officially retired, and the look in his eyes had left her in no doubt as to why he was letting her know that fact. Through it all, he still hadn't given up hope for the two of them starting a relationship. In an instant she had realized that despite her attempt to get a life outside of the SGC, she was still hanging onto that hope, too.
******************************

'Happy to be near you when you need someone to cheer you'

******************************

As soon as her brother left the next day she called Jack. It was something she had started to do a week after his startling revelation that he was retiring. At first Jack had mostly listened while she chatted away about Cassie's latest news from college or the bike trip she was planning for the weekend. It took a few phone calls for him to figure out that Sam had come up with a way for them to become best friends again. To keep up with what Sam and Jack were up to instead of just what the General and Lt. Colonel were doing. It had been something that had been lacking since their promotions and new assignments and he was happy to have a way to reconnect. If they were to have any chance of a relationship together when he 'retired' this was a necessary first step. It was made all the more special because Sam had admitted one day in her lab that it sort of felt like they were dating.

He wasn't really going to be retiring, and that was the first topic he managed to talk about during their calls. Oh it would be official as far as the USAF was concerned, but the President had elicited a promise that Jack would stay on as a consultant. He'd be doing some training and special projects, mostly related to the alpha and beta sites, and he'd be available if Thor wanted to 'chat'. Other than that, he and Sam stayed clear of work related topics. Both were conscious of the fact that there were a lot of their enemies out there that would love to discredit them and wouldn't be above tapping phones, so there was never any mention of feelings for each other.

Instead Jack gradually had found himself loosening up and telling her of plans he had to upgrade his cabin in Minnesota. This led to his recounting some stories of spending summers there as a kid, to which she reciprocated with stories of wild Carter family outings back when her mother was alive. Today Sam told him all about the funeral and Mark's visit. She allowed herself a few tears, safe in the knowledge that Jack would understand.

"I'm so sorry, Sam. He was a good guy," Jack sympathized.

"Yeah, he was. He didn't deserve to die," Sam replied. Suddenly her mind was filled with images of several other good men who had died doing the right thing. "None of them did. So are the Black Widow rumors flying again?"

He hadn't realized she was aware of those. "Oh yeah. I think you've officially been labeled a lethal weapon," he teased. He only realized that his attempt at humor had fallen flat when he heard a sniffle at the other end of the phone. Crap. "Carter, no one who knows you thinks it's true."

"Yes, Sir," she whispered hoarsely.

Double Crap. "I'm coming over."

******************************

She'd pulled herself together by the time he arrived. Somehow tears on the phone were a lot more acceptable then crying in his arms over other men. Still, she was relieved to have him there. Sensing her need to take her mind off of things, he suggested they pack a lunch and head for Garden of the Gods. The smile she gave him assured him he had made a good choice. Before she knew it she was laughing over the story of the first time Jack had taken Teal'c out to see the Garden. The Jaffa had been relieved to find that no false gods resided there. By the time they had eaten and walked off their meal Sam was feeling much better.

"I'm sorry I flipped out on you," she apologized.

"Sam you just lost someone you loved. You are allowed to 'flip out'," he told her, only to see her frown as if she was working on a complex problem. "What?"

"I wasn't in love with him you know," she confessed.

"No I didn't know, but I hoped," he admitted. "Still, he was someone you cared for. And he died. It's ok to grieve."

She stopped on the trail and turned to him. "You are a good man too, Jack O'Neill. Don't you ever die on me," she pleaded.

Suddenly her very un-Carter-like breakdown was making more sense. "Is that what you're worried about? Sam I'm not the one going through the gate to fight the Goa'uld anymore, you are. I should be begging you to stay safe," he argued.

She let that sink in. He was right, she was more at risk than he was. "There are no guarantees," she acknowledged.

"That's not true," he replied. He paused for only a second. He'd almost lost her due to his inability to handle talking to her in the past. This time he was determined there would be no doubts. Sneaking a glance at her he continued. "As long as I'm breathing I will be here for you and I will always care for you more than I'm supposed to."

He saw a small smile flit across her features. "A sure thing?" she asked.

"You can count on it," he assured her.

When the Jack of her imagination had told her that, she had seen it as something that was holding her back from finding love. Now she knew it for what it really was, something to be treasured and nurtured.

"Well then, that makes me just about the luckiest women in the universe," she said and her smile grew.

Jack's heart nearly jumped out of his chest at her words. Still, he wanted her to be sure. "Well I wouldn't go that far. It's not like I'm that much of a bargain," he commented. "You deserve a lot better."

Sam was once again struck by how much this conversation reminded her of her hallucination. The only difference was this time she wasn't hampered by a head injury, so she was thinking a lot more clearly.

"I deserve to be happy," she stated firmly. Then she looked up at him and she was bowled over by the love she saw in his eyes. It gave her the courage to respond to his honesty with her own. "And for the record, I will always want you right here by my side, because I'm always going to feel only half alive without you there."

He gathered her in for a quick hug, before letting her go with a sigh. "It's going to be a long five months."
******************************

A month later his words were proving true. With Cassie off at college and Pete gone, she had no real reason to go home anymore, and she fell into old habits of living in her lab. As the weather got colder and even bike trips became rare, only helping Teal'c set up his new apartment lured her away. After seven and a half years the man was finally moving out of the mountain. Sam took it as a sign that she was closer to winning her bet with Jack. After Molock was defeated Ishta had begun visiting Earth more often. It hadn't been long after that that Teal'c had lobbied to be allowed to live off-base. Since neither Jaffa carried primtas anymore, the request had been granted. Now SG1 were enjoying seeing Teal'c spread his wings and helping him to show Ishta a bit of Earth.

Jack pointed out one night when he was trying to kick her out of her lab that Daniel was seeing more of Sarah now too. Not that Sam had needed it pointed out. The other reason that she spent so much time in her lab now was that even on team night's she was beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. The only thing that kept her spirits up were the phone calls. At the sound of Jack's voice on the other end of the line the tension would ease and she would find herself smiling, sometimes for the first time in days.

When the announcement came it really wasn't much of a surprise. Teal'c and Ishta were to be wed in a traditional Jaffa ceremony to be held at the new base that the rebel Jaffa had established the year before. Jack handed over Sam's winnings with a sigh.

"I really thought Daniel would go first. Ishta isn't even going to live on Earth full time," he complained.

"They are both very independent people with a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. That doesn't mean that they can't be committed to one another," she pointed out.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that Jack realized Sam might not have been referring to just Teal'c and Ishta.

******************************

'Taller than the tallest tree is'
******************************

The weather on P6C-445 was perfect, as if the universe was blessing the union of these two souls personally. Most of the women from Hak'tyl were present. It hadn't taken long for the younger of the rebel Jaffa to gather the courage to strike up conversations with the female warriors. Jack couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. This could be interesting. He was surprised to see several little girls also wandering around. Sam saw his confusion and explained.

"When Moloc was defeated Ishta and the others tried to find the parents of the youngest girls to see if they could reunite them with their families. There were several that could not be placed with blood relatives. They are still trying to find homes for these girls," she told him sadly.

"Too bad we can't just take them all back to Earth to be adopted," Jack mused.

Sam nodded her agreement. Some small part of her wished that she was able to adopt one of them herself. But she was currently in no better position to do so then when Cassie had come into her life. Still, it was seven years later, and while at that time she had not felt any big rush to start a family now her biological clock was most definitely ticking. She shot a glance over at Jack. It wasn't something they had discussed, and she couldn't help but wonder if he ever thought about having another child.

She would have been surprised to find that Jack's thoughts were running along a similar path. One of the reasons he had finally decided that it was time to retire was to open up the possibility of starting another family before he was too old to even consider it. Not that he wasn't reaching that stage rapidly. He wondered if Sam ever thought of having children. He knew having to take almost a year out from her career to have a child was asking a lot. It would have to be something she really wanted. Maybe adoption would be an alternative. Then he kicked himself mentally. He was getting *so* far ahead of himself here.

They each stood quietly wrapped in their own thoughts as they witnessed Teal'c and Ishta take their vows. The wedding ceremony was not that different from an Earth celebration, but then Teal'c had admitted that they had changed some of the more traditional vows that referenced the woman as belonging to her husband and obeying him in all things. They had also removed all references to any god. Instead they pledged their love and support to each other, and vowed to treat each other with respect and compassion. It was everything a ceremony bonding two souls together for life should be, and Sam couldn't help the few tears of happiness for her friend that fell.

Afterwards, the food and something similar to ale flowed freely. Jack was amused to see that as the evening wore on a little girl of about three had attached herself to Carter. Currently the two were sitting off to one side of the tent and the child had crawled up into Sam's lap to better reach the table where she was making a mess of a fruit filled pastry. Jack looked around to see that Daniel was busy talking to Sarah and no one else seemed to being paying much attention so he wandered over to where Sam sat.

"You've made a new fiend," he commented with a grin.

She looked up and flashed him one of her blinding smiles in return. "Yes, Sir. This is An'ya"

The child looked up at him warily. "It's very nice to meet you An'ya. I'm Jack," he said softly.

Those innocent brown eyes stared at him as if she could see into his very soul. She obviously saw no threat lurking there, as she suddenly raised her arms in the universal signal for 'up'. Jack obliged with a grin, happily ignoring the sticky fingers and face to pick her up. Unable to resist the sudden urge he swung her around until she was giggling helplessly. Sam drank in the sight and filed it away with her other favorite Jack moments. He caught her gaze and the sadness and longing in it surprised him. Maybe his previous line of thinking hadn't been that far off base after all.

One of the female warriors came to take An'ya off to bed and Jack watched as Sam looked after the two quietly.

"What are you thinking about, Carter," he asked.

She shook her head. "Things that can't be, Sir," she acknowledged sadly.

"They could. In another three months they could," he suggested looking down at where the toe of his boot was scuffing a line in the dirt.

When he finally looked up she was staring at him with eyes that looked slightly hopeful, and yet he could still see sadness lurking there.

"I don't know if I can have children," she finally admitted. "But I'd like to try."

He hadn't even thought of that. He'd always just figured she wasn't one of those women that needed to have a child to be complete. The thought that she might not be able to have kids had never occurred to him, but recalling everything she had been through in the last eight years he wasn't surprised that there were doubts.

"Hey there are plenty of An'yas out there if you can't," he encouraged her. "Or even if you can," he added.

She hesitated but then figured she'd never get as good an opening again. "What about you, Sir. Can you see yourself being a father again?" she asked.

"That's the game plan," he replied. When he saw her look of confusion he continued, raising a finger for each point. "It's a five point plan. Retire, take Carter fishing, seduce Carter, convince Carter to marry me, have a dozen kids with Carter. Although that last point is negotiable. Two is my minimum though."

As he had ticked off the items that made up his plan he had nervously watched as her eyes had widened until the light form a nearby torch had made them positively glow. Then he was relieved to see a smile start to tug at the corners of her mouth.

"As usual, a well thought out plan, Sir. Is there a plan B?" she teased.

"Do I need one?" he asked suddenly worried again.

"No, I think that plan should work. Although we definitely need to talk over point five. Also, it might be beneficial for the overall success of the plan if you work on point four ahead of time. Then once point one is accomplished you can move rapidly through the other steps. Oh. And you should move point three up so that it is second on the list," she suggested.

Jack had been desperately trying to keep up. "So, convince Carter to marry me, retire, seduce Carter, take Carter fishing, have two or more kids with Carter?" he inquired. "Or am I supposed to seduce you before I retire. That might be risky."

"Immediately after will be fine. Of course somewhere in there you actually have to marry Carter," she insisted.

"Whenever and wherever Carter wants," he assured her.

Now her smile was full blown. "That's good, then Carter's father won't have to hurt you," she pointed out with a chuckle.

Jack groaned. "Believe me, he will want to anyway," he assured her.

The two fell into a comfortable silence. Finally Jack realized that the reception was starting to break up.

"So, should we go wish the newlyweds a happy honeymoon and then I can walk you to the Stargate?" he asked.

"That sounds good, Sir," Sam agreed.

They waited patiently for Ishta and Teal'c to be free and then walked over to say goodnight. The couple would be honeymooning for a week on a lovely planet named Cerona that SG1 had discovered several years before and then they would return to Earth where they would spend another week getting Ishta more accustomed to life there before both returned to their responsibilities.

After Sam had hugged each of them and Jack had kissed Ishta on the cheek and slapped Teal'c on the back, the two officers headed for the Stargate. Daniel and Sarah had left already, so they had the peaceful moonlit path all to themselves. Just before they stepped out of the shadows of the trees to cross over to the DHD Jack put a hand on Sam's arm to stop her.

"Carter, can I ask you something?" he inquired.

"Sure," she nodded.

"Are we engaged?" he asked anxiously.

Sam couldn't help the small chuckle that escaped before she decided to put him out of his misery. She leaned in and placed a brief soft kiss on the lips that she had coveted for so very long, a kiss that was full of promise, but lasted nowhere near long enough for Jack's liking.

As she leaned back she set his heart humming with one simple phrase. "You betcha."

******************************

'Deeper than the deep blue sea is'

******************************
Sam caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror as she ran a comb through her hair and shook her head in amusement. She really needed to wipe that happy grin off her face. It had taken up permanent residence in the days since Teal'c and Ishta's wedding. That wouldn't be such a bad thing except she had noticed that Jack was sporting a matching one the other day and people would start to talk. She just needed to keep it together for a bit longer. And she especially needed to be on her best behavior today.

The newlyweds had returned two days ago, and today they were all getting together at the General's for dinner. Jack had decided to tell Daniel and Teal'c he was retiring, even though it wouldn't be announced to the SGC until a replacement had been named. If they were both grinning like fools today their friends would know something was up. Sam sighed. Knowing her teammates as she did they would speculate anyway and be pretty close to the truth. Although she doubted they would guess that their two friends were secretly engaged.

Engaged.

Damn, there went the smile again. Oh, well, she'd be darned if she was going to try to hide her happiness from her best friends, she thought as she grabbed her hat and gloves and headed out the door. An hour later they were all sitting in front of a roaring fire in Jack's living room, toasting the newlyweds and laughing. Three couples, all with unique relationships, Sam thought. Daniel and Sarah were still working their way through her time as Osiris, but were well on their way to recapturing the love they had shared so many years ago. Teal'c and Ishta, had both seen their share of heartache in other relationships, and had now found in each other a kindred soul.

Then there was the General and the Lt. Colonel. She looked over at him now, relaxed and happy amongst his friends. She loved seeing him like this, and it seemed that as the time for his retirement drew nearer he was letting her see more and more of the real Jack O'Neill. Or maybe like her it was just that for the first time in a long time he was happy, and that was the difference. Either way it was nice, and she could definitely get used to it.

Almost as if he could read her mind he stood up and signaled his friends for silence. "I have an announcement to make," he told them. "When I first agreed to head up the SGC I told the President I would give him a year. He agreed. Probably thought once I had settled into the role I would change my mind. I didn't. The year is up on May 7th and I have already informed President Hayes that I intend to retire," he informed them.

There was a moment of stunned silence that Jack used to look over to see Carter beaming back at him. Then the voices around him broke into the silent connection.

"Jack, are you sure? What are you going to do? Who's going to take your place?" Daniel demanded.

Sarah and Ishta had both simply expressed their congratulations, while Teal'c stated "You will be missed, O'Neill."

Jack forestalled any other comments by continuing. "The president has offered me a consultant position, which I've accepted, so you won't be completely getting rid of me," he explained. "As for my replacement, it hasn't been decided, but I'm sure that the Joint Chiefs will be very careful in their selection. And until they have decided and we can announce the new base commander this is not to be spread around at the SGC," he warned. "I just wanted to tell you guys ahead of time so you weren't surprised by it."

After Daniel and Teal'c had both congratulated Jack they all suddenly turned to Sam to see her reaction. She couldn't help but laugh at the speculative look that the four had.

"What?" she asked.

"Aren't you going to congratulate Jack?" Daniel asked curiously.

"I've know for a long time, Daniel. But congratulations, Sir. I'm sure you will enjoy all of the extra time you will have to go fishing," she said with a gleam in her eyes just for Jack.

"Oh, I'm sure I will, Carter," he assured her.

"So is that what you plan to do with your retirement? Fish?" Daniel asked looking at Sam who had gone over to add wood to the fire.

"Oh, I have plans. Big plans, Daniel," Jack told his friend, and Sam was very grateful that she had her back to all of them as her smile grew so large her cheeks hurt.

Although Daniel was obviously curious, Jack refused to elaborate, except to explain that he would be taking on special projects for the SGC as needed. They spent the rest of the evening teaching Ishta to play poker and laughing as they compared games of chance in the various parts of the universe. As Sam headed off home for the evening she couldn't help but look forward to a lot more evenings like that in her future. While she and Jack hadn't done anything to overtly declare themselves as a couple, they had still felt like one, and been quietly accepted as one by their friends.

Another month passed before the Joint Chiefs decided on a replacement for O'Neill. Finally it was decided that General Joseph Walters, currently commander of Norad would be transferred downstairs, and his current 2IC would be promoted to run Norad. It was a decision everyone was happy with. Over the years with the number of times the SGC had caused the entire mountain to go into lockdown, General Walters had eventually gained security clearance to learn what was going on in the bowels of the mountain below him. He had even on one occasion when Jack was off world with SG1 stepped in and taken charge of the SGC when Hammond was required in Washington. Hammond and O'Neill had both had dealings with him and got along well with the man. Having been at the helm of Norad for several years he had enough of a science background to understand the basics of what was going on as far as wormholes were concerned.

When the announcement was made to the SGC staff the reaction was mixed. While many people were sorry to see Jack O'Neill leave, those that knew him best were happy that he was finally getting to take his well-earned retirement. And the entire base threw themselves enthusiastically into two tasks, planning the General's retirement party, and betting on how long it would be before he and Lt. Colonel Carter got together. The smart money was on the night of the retirement party itself.

Sam pretended to be oblivious to the betting pools and neither Daniel or Teal'c wanted to bring them to her attention, so she was able to largely ignore the gossip. Jack did too, just keeping an ear to the ground to make sure things didn't get out of control. Besides both he and Carter were very busy that last month bringing General Walters up to speed. He was included in a lot of the meetings and received copies of all of the mission reports as well as the reports out of the research labs. As a result he often met with the two to go over any questions he had. On one such occasion as he gathered his notes together he noticed O'Neill staring after the Lt. Colonel as she left the room. He'd heard the rumors but had just put it down to gossip. Now he couldn't help but wonder.

"Lt. Colonel Carter is an amazing woman," he commented, and saw a small smile flit across O'Neill's face before he faced him.

"Yes, she certainly is. I'm leaving you in excellent hands. Make sure you listen to her even when you don't understand half of what she's saying. She'll save your butt every time," Jack recommended.

"And Dr. Jackson?" General Walters asked.

"Oh, you only need to listen to Daniel when he gets real intense. The rest of the time he's mostly just talking out loud," Jack told him with a grin. "As for Teal'c, he hardly ever says a word. When he does you'll listen, if only out of surprise. And I'll be around, so when in doubt you can ask me to interpret."

"I thought you were going fishing?" Joe Walters quipped.

"Not full time. There are things around here that I need to take care of," Jack said and his gaze involuntarily slid to the doorway that Carter had recently exited.

As General Walters headed back to his office at Norad he couldn't help but think that at least one of those things was a blond Lt. Colonel, and that she was a pretty good incentive for retirement.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Despite being busy the days leading up to Jack's last crawled by so slowly Sam would have sworn they were in the grips of a time dilation device. By the time Friday rolled around she was ready to storm his office and take him right there on top of his desk. Besides ending the incredible sexual frustration that was building out of control she would have the satisfaction of making the betting pool scramble to figure out who had won. She was guessing no one had money on that scenario.

Daniel and Teal'c had decided to take Jack out for dinner that night for a private celebration, but Sam had begged off saying she had plans for the evening. In truth she was going to spend the evening relaxing in a nice hot bath before she got ready for her own private retirement celebration. Jack knew to expect her on his doorstep at exactly one minute past midnight when his retirement would be official.

Of course the best laid plans always had to have a few glitches. A late night phone call from Cassie letting Sam know what time she would be getting in from college for the retirement party the next day and a run in one of her stockings had put Sam a few minutes behind schedule. It was 00.05 when she finally pulled into Jack's driveway. She smiled as she saw the doorway open at her approach.

"You're late," he complained.

Even as he spoke Sam moved past him into the house, and as he turned from closing the front door she turned back to him and took off the coat she'd been wearing letting it pool at her feet. He felt his jaw drop. Sam stood before him wearing nothing but a couple of scraps of black lace, one of which was hold up black stockings. Thin, strappy high heels completed the outfit.

"You are so forgiven," he groaned.

Sam gave him no time to recover, stepping forward and backing him up against the door.

"I believe you promised to seduce me," she whispered in his ear before moving so that her lips were almost touching his.

Already he could feel his body responding to the feel of her pressed up against him and he had just enough time to wonder just who was seducing whom before their lips met and with a moan he lifted her into his arms and carried her off to his bed.

******************************

In the morning Sam awoke to the feel of lips gently nibbling her neck. Jack was spooned behind her with one arm holding her firmly against him, their legs were tangled and she could feel his heart beating behind her head. His other hand was starting to wander and she could tell that he had been awake long enough that he was very aroused. She couldn't think of a better way to wake up.

Echoing her thoughts, Jack who had heard her breathing change calmly admitted, "You know this is the third time I've retired and I can say without a doubt that I have never enjoyed it anywhere near this much before."

He felt her chuckle at that, and he turned her to face him so he could greet her properly. "Good morning," he whispered leaning in for a kiss.

"Good morning," she murmured against his lips. Then she stretched provocatively and smiled when Jack groaned in response. "Welcome to the rest of your life Jack O'Neill."

He let his eyes roam over the long lean body pressed against his and replied, "One can only hope. Life would be just about perfect if I could wake up like this everyday."

They made love again, a lot more leisurely than they had the night before and then spent another pleasant interlude in the shower. When they finally emerged they were both starving.

"Do you need to borrow some clothes?" Jack asked.

"No, if you could run out to my car there is a bag in there with extra's," she told him.

One he had retrieved more appropriate attire for her, he left her to change while he went to start breakfast. He had mixed up some pancake batter and was just pouring some into the pan when she emerged in jeans and a snug sweater looking radiant. He turned down the heat and pulled her into a kiss.

"I know I told you last night, but I love you Sam," he told her when he came up for air.

"I love you too, Jack," she replied with a sigh.

"So can we make it official?" he inquired.

"What? Loving each other?" she teased.

"No the being engaged thing," he told her as he pulled a jewelry box from behind him on the counter. "I didn't really propose properly the first time. Will you marry me?" he asked.

"Yes, I will," she answered with big smile. Then Jack opened the box and her eyes grew wide. Inside was one of the most stunning diamonds she had ever seen. It wasn't overly large, probably around three quarters of a carat, but it sparkled even in the unnatural light of the overhead kitchen fixture like it was lit from within.

"Oh my god, Jack! It's gorgeous. It must have cost a small fortune," she exclaimed even as he slid it onto her finger. She couldn't resist turning it a bit so that it caught the sunlight from the window, which really caused it to twinkle brightly.

"Well, an old friend from my special ops days bought a jewelry store when he retired. He specializes in high-end diamonds, not like the stuff you see in most stores. I told him to be on the look out for a perfect stone for me and he called a month ago to say he had found it. He gave me a good deal, and set it for me for free" Jack shrugged.

"Well you can call him and tell him I love it," she grinned. Then a wicked thought crossed her mind. "Can I wear it tonight?"

"Well I had an idea about that," he said with a gleam in his eyes.

Ten minutes later Sam had approved his plan and they put together the final details over their delayed breakfast.

******************************

'It's for sure I'm going to love you, all the way'

******************************

Sam insisted that she and Cassie take a taxi to the Broadmoor Hotel where the retirement party was taking place. Sam had never actually been inside the place before as it was the priciest place in town, but since several of the Joint Chiefs and the President would be attending and staying overnight, it had been picked to accommodate their needs. She had to admit the place took her breath away.

While Sam was in her dress blues as required by the occasion, Cassie had been thrilled at the opportunity to buy a new dress and Sam had to admit that her taste had matured beautifully in her year away at college. The dress she had chosen was simple and sophisticated at the same time. A two piece in midnight blue, the long skirt was a straight satin design while the velvet top with thin straps was set with hundreds of tiny platinum-set crystals that sparkled like the stars. The color fit in wonderfully with all of the dress blues that filled the room.

Both Sam and Jack were surprised to find Jacob Carter standing amongst the General's talking at one end of the ballroom. Sam was thrilled. It had been four months since her Dad had last checked in, but evidently someone, probably Hammond had clued him in about Jack's retirement and he had snuck in that morning through the gate to attend the party. She immediately dashed over to him and wrapped him in a hug.

"Dad, what a great surprise!" she exclaimed.

"Sam, what a nice welcome," he grinned, returning her hug. "I've missed you kiddo."

"I've missed you too. Have you seen the guest of honor?" she asked.

"I said a quick hello a few minutes ago, he's over by the bar," he told her.

"I'll just go say 'hi' and then we can catch up," she said kissing his cheek.

She found Jack surrounded by a group of the team leaders, with a beer in his hand. He looked relieved to see her.

"Carter, glad you could make it," he teased, knowing he had kept her at his house until the last possible minute and that she'd had to rush to pick up Cassie and go home and change.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, Sir," she assured him with a grin. After all, she was really looking forward to staking her claim on him tonight.

"Sam, our ex-CO refuses to tell us his plans for retirement. Tell him fishing is not classified," Colonel Reynolds ordered.

"Oh. No I'm not getting in the middle of this one," she protested. "I just came by to give the General my congratulations and to get a glass of champagne. Then I will leave him to you all. Just don't get him too drunk before he has to give his speech," she warned. "Congratulations, Sir."

"Carter, you can stop calling me 'Sir' now," Jack pointed out.

Sam gave a snort. "Sure, as soon as you stop calling me Carter."

"Yeah, come on Jack, loosen up and call her Sam," Griff entreated. "And Sam, it wouldn't kill you to call him Jack."

The two started at each other for a moment, lost in the memories of this morning when they had called out each other's names in the heat of passion.

"Ok," Sam said not breaking eye contact. "I can do that. Congratulations, Jack," she practically purred. "I hope you enjoy every minute of your retirement."

"Thank you, Sam," he replied emphasizing her name and giving her a sexy grin. "I plan on it."

The bartender handed over Sam's glass just then, and she broke eye contact to take it.

"Well I'll see you later. I'm going to go catch up with my father," she said and walked away.

Jack watched her walk away. Damn witch was swaying those hips on purpose. He could feel the eyes of the other team leaders on him.

"Hey, Griff, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Jack and Sam just propositioned each other," Reynolds said in disbelief.

"That's what it sounded like to me," Griff agreed.

Jack snapped his attention back to them. "I think you guys are hearing things," he told them, but he knew that the rumor mill would be in full swing any minute now.

Sam spent the better part of the next hour catching up with her dad. Jack was happy for Sam's sake, but could only hope that when they made their little announcement later there would be enough people around to protect him. He held out no hope of Jacob taking this news well. Sam on the other hand was sure that her father would be happy for her. She tried to set the groundwork a bit during their conversation.

"So, I talked to Mark last week. You need to call him tomorrow. He'll be thrilled to know you are ok. I didn't do a good job of reassuring him when we talked last week because I was worried myself," she explained.

"I'm glad the two of you are talking more often," Jacob commented.

"Yeah, it's been good," she admitted.

"So how is everything with you? I'm sure that SG1 and your lab work are keeping you busy, but have you been seeing anyone?" her dad asked.

"Yeah, there is somebody. I'll make sure you meet him this weekend," Sam assured him.

"It's serious?" Jacob inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"It's serious," Sam confessed, and knowing that once her father's curiosity was aroused he would not give up she raised a hand to ward of questions. "He's retired Air Force, and he used to work at the SGC so he knows all about what I do for a living, and that is all you are getting out of me for now. I promise to tell you more later. Now I have to go mingle."

Jack wanted to spring their engagement later in the evening so her beautiful ring was tucked safely in his uniform pocket. She seen him check twice during the cocktails to be sure that it was still there. Other than the brief greeting when she had arrived they were doing their best to ignore each other. Each of them set out to mingle and chat with the other guests and not do anything that would draw attention to the two of them, but still there was a buzz going around the room as people watched for any little sign that they were together. By the time Sam got up to give her speech after dinner the rumors were flying and everyone was waiting to see if she would give anything away.

She'd kept her speech fairly light hearted. It mostly consisted of a list of things she had learned over the years about her CO, including how it was best not to startle him awake unless you wanted to risk being taken down before you could even blink. And how despite all of her extensive research proving that blue was the best flavor of Jello, he insisted on eating red. A couple of the anecdotes were more serious, about how he taught her to never give up when stuck in an ice cave with him in Antarctica, and how he'd inspired an entire command of twenty-four SG teams to adopt the philosophy of never leaving a man behind. She concluded by saying that she felt confident in commanding her team because she had learned from the very best. It was the perfect speech from the perfect junior officer, and gave nothing away about how she had grown to love him as the years went on, or how she saved his butt because she couldn't imagine her life without him.

After she finished Hammond spoke and got the crown chuckling about his stories of trying to get Jack to do paperwork, or follow orders. While he was speaking and everyone's attention was on him, Jack slipped Sam's ring out of his pocket and handed it to her. She slid it onto her finger with a smile. This was going to be fun.

When Hammond was done, the President stood and said a few brief words about Jack's incredible years of service to his country and to his planet. Then he introduced Jack, and the General rose to a round of thunderous applause.

Once the crowd had quieted down, Jack began to speak. "As you know, speeches are not my strong suit. So let me keep this brief. I have had a long and varied career in the United States Air Force. But the last eight years, serving with the SGC have been an honor. The people I've served alongside of have been the best and the brightest, and it has been my pleasure to know each and every one of you. I can only say that the President did not have to twist my arm to get me to agree to continue in a more part time consulting role. I would miss you all too much if I couldn't stop by and bug you once in a while. Which brings me to a question that a lot of you have been asking me tonight, what my plans are now that I'm retired. Am I going to move to my cabin in Minnesota? No, although I do plan on getting there a lot more often than I have been able to in the past years, I am planning on living here in Colorado Springs most of the time. You see, now that I'm retired, I really only gave one thing left I want to do. And I plan on getting started on that new venture immediately. So Lt. Colonel Carter, Sam, would you do me the honor of the first dance?"

With that Jack signaled to the DJ who had special instructions for the song he was supposed to play. It was an old Frank Sinatra song 'All the Way' that he had once caught Carter playing in her lab late at night. She had blushingly admitted that her mother and father had once danced to it at a wedding when she was about ten and that it was moment of love between the two that had always stuck in her mind. She played it when she was missing them. It was one of her favorite romantic songs.

He'd picked a more recent recording of it, one that was a duet between Sinatra and Celine Dion. As the first strains of the song began and he held out his hand to Sam, he saw recognition widen her eyes and a huge smile light her face. Then he had Sam Carter in his arms and they were twirling around the dance floor. He was vaguely aware of Daniel and Teal'c smiling their approval, and of Jacob questioning Hammond with a raised eyebrow. What he couldn't see was that Sam had turned the ring to the inside of her hand so she could enjoy dancing to this song with him without interruption.

She couldn't believe he had remembered. It had to have been at least three years ago that he had walked into her lab and caught her getting all sappy over this song. It had been around the anniversary of her mom's death, and she hadn't seen her dad in months. They had just lost the Tollans and she was feeling pretty low. She'd put the CD on to try to escape to a happier time. It hadn't worked, but Jack had stayed and talked to her for hours, and that *had* helped.

Now as she was led around the dance floor she couldn't think of any time in her life when she had felt so loved, or loved anyone so deeply in return. Even as she thought it Frank Sinatra crooned out the line about love being 'deeper than the deep blue sea is' and she smiled. She nuzzled Jack's neck and then raised her lips until they were next to his ear.

"That's how much I love you Jack O'Neill," she whispered.

She felt his arms tighten momentarily and then he was kissing a spot behind her ear making her whole body tingle.

"All the way, Sam, forever" he promised.

As the last lines of the song were playing she twisted her ring so that it sparkled under the ballroom lights and everyone in the room could see it. And as the last notes of the ballad faded, Jack leaned down to kiss Sam just as all hell broke loose.

There was shriek of joy from Cassandra who had been amongst the first to spot the ring. Whoops and hollers from various SG team members and a particularly loud call 'to get a room' from a couple of the marines. Above it all, one voice was loud and clear and very pissed.

"O'Neill what the hell do you think you are doing with my daughter?"

******************************

'If you let me love you'

******************************

He was momentarily worried when he felt Sam tremble in his arms until he realized she had buried her face in his shoulder to hide her laughter.

"Carter, it's not funny," he admonished.

"No, but I was just thinking that it's a good thing he doesn't know what you were doing to me this morning," she chuckled before raising her head to look at her father.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Jack pale a bit at the thought and heard him mumble, "I'm a dead man."

Then he too straightened and faced down Jacob Carter. "Sir, your daughter has done me the honor of agreeing to marry me. I hope we have your blessing," he informed the irate man.

Jacob opened his mouth as if to say something, but no sound came out. Blessing? They wanted his blessing? The man hadn't even had the decency to ask for his permission and now he wanted his blessing.

'To be fair Jacob, you have not exactly been around to ask, and Samantha is old enough to not need your permission to proceed with her life,' Selmac quietly pointed out.

Still, Jacob wanted to know how come he hadn't known about this?

'Because you did not want to see. It has been obvious to anyone who looked closely for many years Jacob,' the amused voice in his head told him. 'Take a look at your daughter and see how happy she is.'

Jacob looked over at Sam and saw that sure enough she was glowing. His anger deflated as quickly as it had blossomed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her looking like that, and if Jack O'Neill had done this then he could only approve. Still, he wasn't about to let Jack off scot-free.

"You want my blessing?" he bellowed, satisfied by the look on Jack's face that he had shaken the younger man up a bit. Then seeing the look of concern on Sam's face he relented quickly. "Of course you have my blessing," he suddenly agreed causing Jack to blink in surprise and Sam to move into his arms for a hug. "Sorry, Jack. I just couldn't resist, and you did kind of surprise me," Jacob admitted. "But if this makes Sam happy, then that's good enough for me. Congratulations," Jacob said kissing Sam's cheek and giving Jack a nod.

"Thanks, Dad," Sam smiled.

Now that the drama of the moment was over Cassie could no longer contain her excitement. "When did this happen? Let me see that ring! When is the wedding? Do I get to be a bridesmaid?" all came rushing out in a torrent.

"Whoa!" Jack cautioned. "Your head is going to fly off there missy! We got engaged this morning, and I told Sam that the wedding could be whenever and wherever she wants, but we haven't really had time to discuss it yet," Jack told her.

"And of course you can be a bridesmaid. But I have to warn you, I don't want a lot of fuss. I'm thinking quick trip to Vegas," Sam confessed.

Several voices protested at that, and to Sam's surprise one of them was Jack's. She looked at him to see if he was serious.

Jack shrugged. "A small wedding sounds great, but Vegas just doesn't seem like a real wedding," he confided.

Sam smiled her consent. She wasn't really surprised. Deep down Jack was a bit of an old fashioned guy. It was one of the things she loved about him. She had certainly been touched by his song selection for their first real dance together.

"Ok, a small family gathering then. We'll let you know when. It's not going to be a long engagement but I do want a chance to actually date the man before I marry him," Sam quipped.

"Fair enough," Jacob agreed with a chuckle. "Just so you know, I'm paying for the entire thing, so money is no object."

"Dad, you don't need to," Sam protested.

"But I want to kiddo. The only other thing I insist on is that your brother and his family be invited," Jacob requested.

"Of course. Actually, Mark knows all about Jack," Sam revealed.

"He does?" Jack asked in surprise.

Sam nodded. "He's dying to meet you, and make sure you're good enough for his little sister," she teased.

"Sure, " Jack agreed, although deep inside he wasn't too thrilled about having to face another Carter male. Then he looked around the room and realized it wasn't just the Carter's he needed to worry about. There were at least a dozen men in this room who would lay down their lives for Sam Carter. Each would also make his life a living hell if he ever hurt her. Of course he'd be the first in line to kick his ass if he ever did anything so stupid.

He watched her now accepting the congratulations of her friends and co-workers. Daniel and Teal'c had both wrapped her in hugs and were now turning their attention to him.

"Well, you sure didn't wait long," Daniel complained. "I had two weeks in the pool. I figured it would take that long for you to work up your courage to just ask her out."

"Are you kidding, Daniel? I wasn't about to risk letting her get away after eight years," Jack declared.

"You are a wise man, O'Neill," Teal'c approved with a nod.

Both Sam and Jack spent the rest of evening accepting the best wishes of those present, including the Joint Chiefs and the President. After a bit Jacob finally managed to get Sam alone for a few minutes.

"So. How about telling your old man just how long this had been going on," he urged her with a raised eyebrow.

"That's a complicated answer, Dad. How long have I been attracted to Jack? Since I walked into that briefing room eight years ago. How long have I loved him? It kind of snuck up on me but at least five years. I've known he had feelings for me for at least four, probably more. When he decided for sure to retire about six months ago he told me and we started to talk," she admitted. Jacob looked skeptical. "Don't give me that look, that's all we did. When Teal'c got married a few months ago the talking got more serious and we started discussing marriage and kids," she confessed.

Jacob looked surprised. "Kids?"

"Yeah, if I can have them. If not we might adopt," Sam said.

Jacob shook his head. "We never do talk anymore do we. I didn't know you wanted kids," he said sadly.

"Not just for the sake of having kids, no. But a family with Jack? That I really want," Sam told him.

Jacob studied his daughter for a moment. There was something so different about her but it was hard to put his finger on what it was. It wasn't just that she was happy. It was Selmac that whispered the answer to him.

'She's complete. She has found her soul mate. Look at Jack O'Neill. You can see the same change in him. Neither of them has a part of their very being that is lost anymore,' she told him.

Jacob snorted internally. 'That's pretty sappy Selmac.'

Even as he thought this he saw Jack catch Sam's eyes across the room, and was amazed at the feelings that passed between them. Damn it, Selmac was right. He'd never hear the end of this one. Already he could feel the Tok'ra radiating an air of smugness.

'Ok, it's true. It's still sappy,' he complained even as he gave his full attention back to his daughter.

"I'm happy for you kiddo. Jack's a good man," he told her reaching out to pull her into a hug.

Sam was a bit surprised at his reaction, but she wasn't going to question it. Instead she hugged back a bit more tightly than usual and just said, "Thank you. That means the world to me."

"Selmac agrees," he whispered.

Sam leaned back to kiss his cheek. "That's for him."

"Now I'll let you go back and mingle. I don't suppose you will be coming home with me to your place tonight, will you?" he asked hopefully.

Sam blushed, and shook her head no. She loved her father dearly, but there was no way she was not going home with Jack tonight.

"Actually you can help me out there. Cassie and I rode here together. I was wondering if you could share a ride back to my place with her to make sure she gets home safely," Sam requested.

"Sure. Will I see you tomorrow?" he asked.

Jack walked up just then and answered for her. "Of course you will. Why don't we bring over a late breakfast in the morning? We'll stop and get bagels and all of the fixings and then the four of us can spend some time together," he suggested.

Sam threw him a grateful look, and agreed. "That's a great idea."

"Sounds good," Jacob approved. "Now scoot you two, there are a lot of people still waiting to congratulate you."

******************************

By the time they got back home to Jack's it was the wee hours of the morning and both of them were too exhausted to do anything more than undress, crawl into bed together and fall asleep spooned together. Still, waking up in each other's arms the next morning was wonderful, and the hour spent after that incredible. By the time they reached Sam's house at 10:00 with breakfast they both were looking extremely relaxed and content, which they took some ribbing for.

"I can't believe you didn't tell me you two were engaged," Cassie complained.

"We never would have gotten to the party last night if I had," Sam pointed out.

"True. So when is the wedding going to be?" the teen wanted to know. "My summer internship came through, so I will only be home for a week at the end of school and two weeks before we start back up again," she informed them.

"Ah, well, as long as it fits into your schedule," Jack said with a twinkle in his eye. "Cass, Sam said she wanted a chance to date first. Give her some breathing space," Jack instructed.

Sam was actually thrilled to hear about the summer internship. She knew Cass was really excited about the opportunity. Besides, as much as she wanted to move in immediately with Jack she hadn't wanted Cassie to be on her own all summer. Now she wouldn't be feeling like she was neglecting her as she and Jack spent more time together. And an end of the summer wedding sounded about right. She walked over to the calendar and flipped it to August.

"How about August 18th?" she asked.

"Are you sure Sam? That's only three months away," Jack pointed out.

"Getting cold feet?" she teased.

"Not a chance," he assured her. "I just don't want to rush you," he explained.

"I really do want a small wedding. Something with just our close friends and family, maybe in your backyard," Sam told them. "I won't need much time to plan."

"No I meant I don't want to rush you into marriage," Jack clarified.

Sam turned and looked at him with her hands on her hips. "Eight years isn't exactly rushing," she reminded him.

Jacob watched in amusement as Jack's smiled at the scolding. "I stand corrected," the newly retired General quipped. "August 18th sounds great. The weather in Minnesota should be perfect for a honeymoon that time of year."

Sam's eyes widened in disbelief. "Jack O'Neill we are *not* going fishing on our honeymoon," she protested, causing her fiancÚ's grin to grow bigger.

As she realized he had been winding her up she gave him a small punch in the arm. "That was cruel," she complained. But her eyes were laughing.

"We can go wherever you want, Sam, as long as you promise not to bring any work along," Jack assured her.

At that moment Jacob quietly admitted to Selmac that the two were perfect for each other.

'I told you so,' the Tok'Ra gloated.

******************************

'Who knows where the road will lead us'

******************************

Epilogue – two years later



Jack O'Neill navigated his way through all of the various healthy food items, bottles of expressed breast milk, and juice boxes in his fridge to find his elusive target. 'Finally,' he thought as his hand closed around the two bottles of beer he had been hunting for and headed back to the family room to hand one to Daniel. The archeologist was looking at a half-dressed Barbie doll he had just pulled out of the couch with equal parts of interest and dismay.

"Here you go Daniel. Trade ya," Jack smirked, taking the doll from his friend and tossing it in the toy box in the corner next to the baby swing.

Daniel looked around the room and shook his head. Things sure had changed in the last two years he thought with a grin. Who would have guessed all those years ago that Jack would now be happily living in a house with four females. Amazingly, Jack seemed to thrive on it.

Sam and Jack had gotten married as planned in the backyard of Jack's house on a sunny day in August. Sam's entire family had been there, along with Cassie, Teal'c, Ishta. Daniel, Sarah, and General Hammond. The newlyweds had opted for an on-world honeymoon, renting a private home on a private beach on Maui. They had come back tanned, relaxed, and with permanent grins on their faces. A week later they settled Cassie into her dorm room for the year, and returned home to settle themselves into married life. They'd had all of two months before a chance visit had tossed their lives into chaos.

Ishta had come through the gate with young An'ya in tow, having receiving permission from General Walters to bring her for a visit. The lttle girl was the last of the children that needed to be placed and Teal'c had suggested that maybe a home could be found for her on Earth. Of course the crafty Jaffa had the perfect parents in mind for the girl, and it had only taken one visit to the O'Neill's with the three and a half year old for the prospective parents to come up with the same thought.

An'ya never returned to Hak'tyl, and Jack and Sam had formally adopted her as fast as the paperwork could be put through. Their lives were instantly turned upside-down, but they had loved every minute of introducing the child to life on Earth. From television to macaroni and cheese, An'ya had absorbed it all like a little sponge. Now at just over five, you would never know that she had ever lived anywhere else. To Jack's dismay and Sam's amusement, as the child's tastes developed, she turned out to be all girl. She loved dolls, pretty dresses, and anything pink. Jack's attempts at teaching her to play baseball hadn't met with much success. She did however think that the Simpsons were hysterical and had proved to be a natural on skates when Jack had strapped a pair on her over the winter. She might prefer figure skating, but Jack was still pleased as punch.

When a couple of months after their first anniversary Sam had given him the joyous news that after fifteen months of no birth control they were finally pregnant, he'd naturally been rooting for a boy. However any disappointment he felt flew right out the window the instant that he held his newborn daughter Grace in his arms the first time. It really didn't matter to him if she never laced up a pair of skates or held a baseball bat in her hands. As far as he was concerned she was darn near perfect.

Daniel and Teal'c had watched the couples progression from fierce warriors to weary parents with amusement. Sam had left field duty when she got pregnant and had decided to stay in the lab now that she had her hands full at home. Not that Jack didn't do his share, he was a great dad, and only worked at the SGC about two days a week on average. But the care and feeding of Jack O'Neill was pretty much a full time job in it's own right. (One she enjoyed immensely) Add in two small children and a twenty-year old that popped in occasionally for a home-cooked meal and free use of the washer and dryer and she didn't really feel any desire to risk her life on a daily basis anymore.

Today Sam, Sarah, Cassie and An'ya were out shopping. Daniel and Sarah's wedding was a week away and there were final fittings and last minute accessories to organize. Jack was home watching Grace and Daniel had come over to keep him company.

"I can't believe that you are the last hold out of SG1, Danny boy," Jack teased, taking a long sip of his beer.

"Yeah, well, it wasn't for lack of trying," Daniel answered with a grimace.

"What finally made Sarah change her mind and say yes?" Jack asked.

"Grace. She held that baby in her arms, and just stopped being scared. Said if Sam could do it, she could too," Daniel admitted.

"Way to go Gracie," Jack smiled proudly. "She is a pretty convincing argument."

"Yes she is," Daniel agreed. "Sam told me you two are already trying for another one. Isn't it a bit soon? Grace is only three and a half months old," Daniel pointed out.

"Sam's worried it will take a year for her to get pregnant again," Jack shrugged.

"And if it doesn't?" Daniel quizzed.

"That's fine too. They'll just be Irish twins," Jack grinned.

"Well that would be appropriate," Daniel agreed with a smile.

They were interrupted at that point by a soft wail coming from the monitor. Jack was instantly up and off to get Grace from her nap. He emerged a few minutes later and Daniel watching in amazement as Jack efficiently heated a bottle and settled in to feed his daughter.

"You really are a pro at that, Jack," he commented.

"Not the first time I've done this Daniel," Jack reminded him softly.

"Sorry," Daniel apologized with a frown.

"It's ok. You know I was worried that having Grace would dredge up all these painful memories, but instead it's let me remember all the good times with Charlie. And it's so great to be here every day with her. I missed so much of Charlie growing up," Jack told him.

Daniel nodded in understanding. In the eleven years he had known Jack he had never seen him as happy as he was now. Coming out of retirement to take on the job at the SGC had started Jack back on the road to living all those years ago, but marrying Sam had made a huge difference in the man. Grace's birth had completed the transformation. The desperate, grief-stricken, lonely man that Daniel had met all those years ago was nowhere to be found. In his place was a man that had everything, and knew it.

The serious moment was broken when the front door opened and the four other females in their lives entered amid a burst of laughter and piles of shopping bags. Daniel jumped up to help them and as soon as Sam's arms were free she headed over to where her husband was feeding her daughter. An'ya raced past her to give Grace a kiss on her head and start in on an excited recounting of her afternoon.

"An'ya, why don't you go try on your new shoes to show Daddy," Sam suggested, which caused An'ya's eyes to light up and gave Jack a breather. Sam leaned down and gave both father and daughter each a kiss. "You owe me," she sighed.

"I'll take her to the park later and wear her out," he offered. "I'll take Grace too and you can have a nice long bath."

"Whatever you are after Jack O'Neill, it's yours," she agreed gratefully. Shopping with a five year old was more exhausting than running from a squadron of Jaffa.

"I'm going to make you keep that promise later," Jack said with a wink, then looked up to find an amused Cassie shaking her head.

"Please, you two, behave. You are worse than you were when you were newlyweds," she protested. "My friends all want to know what vitamins you take."

"They're just jealous," Jack smirked, causing Cassie to roll her eyes.

In the end Cassie went with him to the park, and then helped make dinner so that Sam and Jack could relax. The evening was spent playing 'Go Fish' with An'ya until it was time for Cassie to meet up with her friends for a movie.

While Sam fed Grace and rocked her to sleep, Jack gave An'ya a bath, read her a story, and then went back and cleaned up the mess they had made in the bathroom. By the time he joined Sam in bed he thought she had already dozed off. Instead he was pleasantly surprised to climb into bed and to find her awake, and very naked. It only took her a minute to remove his t-shirt and boxers too.

It was another half-hour before he finally could think straight enough to comment.

"I was kidding before, but I'm not complaining," Jack chuckled.

"Better enjoy it while you can, flyboy. Another eight months and we won't have even a minute of peace," she warned.

Jack looked at her in shock. "Sam?" he questioned.

"Irish twins, Jack," she confirmed with a moan. "What was I thinking?"

Jack wanted to laugh, but he was afraid Sam would hurt him. "Are you ok with this?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," she said snuggling into his side. "I just hope this baby is as good as Grace."

"Grace is an angel, Sam. There is no way this baby could be that good. Especially since it's going to be a boy," Jack announced.

"Dream on O'Neill," she chuckled, although some maternal instinct was telling her he was right. "By the way, do you know what tomorrow is?" she asked.

He racked his brain. In two years he hadn't forgotten a birthday, anniversary or other important occasion, but this one eluded him.

"Uh, no," he admitted feeling guilty.

"Ten years ago tomorrow I walked into the briefing room at the SGC to meet my new CO," she informed him. "Who would have guessed at everything that would happen in those ten years," she added.

It was amazing. He thought back to where he'd been at in his life ten years ago compared to where he was now. There had been a lot of adventures and misadventures in between. Still there was one thing that hadn't changed in that whole time.

"You still owe me an arm wrestle," he told her.

********************

The end




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