The Pact

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, H/C of the mental kind, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel  .... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:   8
Spoilers:  Window of Opportunity, Birthright, Evolution (all minor)
Size:  79kb
Written:  December 9-11, 2003, January 20,31, March 3,9,13, 2004
Summary:  Jack and Daniel come face to face with their mortality, and considering their plans to have children, review their life pact.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This continues the human children arc, and follows my fics “Kayla” and “The Name Game” but it stands alone and doesn't reference those fics with any real detail.  It also slightly references “Being Ourselves,” Day 12 of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Friendship's Grace.”
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Drdjlover, Claudia, Jackette, Quingem, Heather, Karen C.!

The Pact
by Orrymain

Daniel was writing some notes down after reading an article in the current issue of Archaeology Today on new techniques for preserving relics.  He was in his den, the one Jack had designed for him several months earlier.  He had a CD on the stereo, the latest instrumental recording from John Tesh.

For the last hour, with few exceptions, Daniel felt the pair of eyes that had been on him, and finally, he couldn't stand the scrutiny any longer.

“Jack, I'm fine.  Really and truly fine, as in the classic definition of the word from Webster's, not my old, protective version,” Daniel turned the comfortable office chair around to face his lover.

Dressed in blue jeans and a gray, short-sleeved shirt, Jack leaned against the door frame with his arms and ankles crossed.  The back of his hair had strands sticking up.  To Daniel, he looked like chocolate -- “scrumptious and very edible!”

“Sorry, Angel, it's just ... I need to see you, that's all.”

Daniel got up and went to his husband.  “Do you know how much I love you?”

“I hope so.”

“We got out alive, Jack.  Everything's okay.”

“It was close, Danny.  Too close ... again.”

“Oh, Jack.  You're my forever.  I could never leave you.”

“You almost didn't have a choice, but then again, I wouldn't have come back without you.  We've come a long way from Apophis' ship.  Never leaving you behind again.  We both agreed on that a long, long time ago.”

Jack tenderly kissed his husband, a moist kiss of desire that had them both wanting more.

“How about we,” Daniel kissed his husband again, “go to the bedroom where it's more ... comfortable?”

“You have yourself a date,” Jack said before nibbling again on Daniel's lower lip for a moment.

After making sure their beagles were safe and secure in their doghouse for the night, Jack and Daniel adjourned to their bedroom to remind each other that their nation of two was alive and well.

====

After a very long, intense round of lovemaking, Daniel lay partially atop his lover. While his sweat-soaked body was still quieting, Daniel spoke softly, “Jack, we need to talk about something.”

As Jack was still getting his breathing under control, he was a bit surprised that Daniel seemed coherent. This was not his norm so soon after such a spectacular orgasmic session. “Sounds serious.   What's the topic?”

Daniel's fingers played with the damp gray chest hairs of his husband, and he turned to kiss the chest he treasured so much, “Our pact.”

“Daniel, we went through it years ago.  I'm not leaving you behind ... ever.  But if you've decided that you want to .... well, geez, Danny, I want you to ...”

“No, Jack, that's not what I mean.  I can't imagine life without you, and I don't ...” Daniel paused, remembering how difficult this conversation had been the first time, but he knew they had to get through it.  “I don't want to live without you.”

“So, what's to discuss?”

“Jack, we're about to start a family.  Don't you think we need to talk about it ... the pact?  Maybe we need to rethink it.  Gawd, I don't want to do this.”

Daniel's arm possessively went around Jack's torso, and he unconsciously held on tightly.  Jack felt the hold as he kissed the top of Daniel's head, the still-wet hair tasting good to his lips.  He nestled his cheek against Daniel's head an rubbed gently and massaged Daniel's back a bit more aggressively.

“I guess you're right, but I hate that you're right.”  Abruptly, Jack scooted out from under Daniel and got up, putting on his red robe, and pulling the sash tight.  He glanced at the clock -- “0308 - geez, horrible hour to be up,” he thought silently.  “I can't talk about this up here.  Not here.”

Jack walked downstairs, grabbed a couple of beers, and placed them on the coffee table.  He sat purposely in his favorite chair and waited.

A few minutes later, Daniel slowly made his way to the living room, sitting on the edge of the sofa furthest away from Jack's location.  He leaned over and took the beer he knew was for him, and quickly downed half the bottle.  It was going to be a long night.

Drinking their beers, the two sat silently.  Neither said a word as they both finished their drinks.  Jack rose and retrieved two more.  When he was seated again, he spoke.  “I can't live without you, Danny.  I really don't think I can.  I'm sorry.”

“Jack, don't you think that when we have the kids, that might change?  I mean, they're our children.  We have to be there for them.  Believe me, I know.”

Jack's eyes met Daniel's as the young man's abandoned childhood danced in front of their eyes.  Jack sat back.  “Have I mentioned that I hate it when you're right?”

“I'm not crazy about it myself because if something happens to you, I'll be dead inside.”

“Except for the kids, and they will need us.”

Jack stood and paced back and forth between the kitchen counter and the bookshelves.  His speed increased until finally he changed direction slightly, stopping in front of the photo of Charlie on the mantle.

“I hate it when you're right.”

“Me, too.”

“I guess there really isn't anything to talk about, is there?”

“I guess not.”

Jack moved towards the stairs, and said quietly, “Goodnight.”  He felt empty, the brief yet agonizing conversation having drained him of any spark.  Their dreams were going to come true, but just the notion of going on without Daniel was something Jack couldn't deal with.

He knew Daniel's words were right.  They made sense.  It was all logical and ethically correct.  Children needed their parents, and yet his heart still said that Daniel was his life, so how could Jack go on if Daniel wasn't there?

There was no answer or peace for Jack at this moment.  He was afraid of the future for the first time in his life. And all he wanted to do was go upstairs and hide under the covers.  In the past, Jack had known that the two of them would always be together because of their agreement.  Their separation would only be short term, should one die suddenly,... but now ... now that had changed.  Somehow, Jack felt restless and at odds with himself over what he knew to be right versus what he felt he could endure.

“Jack,” Daniel called out softly.

Jack didn’t move with his back turned towards the younger man.  Daniel walked to him, put his arms around him, and leaned forward kissing Jack's nape, while his arms squeezed Jack to him.

“We still need to talk.  We just both don't want to, but we do.  We have to be clear on what we want.”

“Why?”

“Because we can't start our family with this hanging over us.  It was different when it was just you and me; and to be honest, it was different once we got the girls.  I know.  They're dogs, but Jack, we've lived for those dogs.  They saved my life.  You know they have.”

With tears welling in his eyes and his voice cracking, Daniel remembered his battle with the alien drug.  At that time, Daniel thought Jack would be better off without him, but Jack had reminded Daniel of their four-legged children.  The image of Bijou and Katie had forced Daniel to realize that he couldn't bail out, that he had to fight and let Jack help him to beat the effects of the drug.

It hadn't been the only time that the couple had used their precious beagles to remind each other of how much they were needed, but this instance was the most poignant.

Jack turned and took Daniel into his arms, “Shh, Angel.  It's okay.  I know what you're saying.”

“We have to talk about this, Jack, no matter how much it hurts to do it.  We have to for our family.”

Jack kissed Daniel's temple, and together they returned to the sofa, this time, holding each other, each gaining strength from the other's presence.

“Danny, will you forgive me if I ... let the Colonel out for a minute?  I think I kinda need him to get through this.”

Daniel smiled and nodded as he spoke, “Yes, he can come out for a while.”

Over the years, Jack had learned to keep the hard-nosed Colonel away from his relationship with Daniel.  It hadn't always been easy.  There were times Jack couldn't do it, but then there were other times when it had been easy, times when Daniel needed Jack to let go, such as their wedding and on their honeymoon.  The Colonel had never once reared his boisterous head then, except on the night before the wedding when the women had kept Daniel separated from Jack.

Now though, Jack needed the distance, the space, and detachment to get through this difficult conversation, and truth be told, Daniel thought he needed it, too.

“All right, let's ... review first.  A long, long time ago, we both realized that we are so connected and love each other so much, that if something should happen to one of us, the other wouldn't ... no, couldn't ... stay behind.  It may sound poetic, but our hearts really do beat as one.  Our lungs breathe as one.  The blood that gives us life is bonded to the other's.  Each one of us individually made the choice, the decision, that we wouldn't be able to stay behind if the other was taken from us.  Does that pretty much cover it?” Jack swallowed hard, the Colonel fighting not to give in to the man.

“Yes,” Daniel practically whispered, his head buried into Jack's neck, and his arm holding tightly to Jack's waist.  “I need you so much.”  Daniel paused, struggling with his voice which had left him.  Finally, he was able to say, “I don't know how to live without you anymore.”

“Okay ...” Jack said, his voice cracking, needing to pause before continuing.  He knew if he let himself get swept up in Daniel's emotions, the two would do nothing but cry in each other's arms.  The Colonel had to remain at the forefront, at least for now.

“When our human kids join us, we'll have a responsibility to them.  We'll want to be with them.  Danny, I do know how a child effects your life and changes your priorities.  They'll ... help us to get through it, even when we think we can't.  We'll see each other in their eyes.”

“So if something happens to one of us, the other goes on, for the sake of the children.”

Jack nodded, his hold on Daniel suddenly tightening.  Daniel felt the pressure, but it was comforting.  He needed the strength to continue.

“For the children,” Jack repeated.

“It could be a long time, but ... we'll have the children.”

“Yeah ... Danny, realistically, we let the kids grow up, and when the time comes, if we still ... feel our pact is the way to go ... then we can join the other.”

“When the last child is grown and out of the house, firmly on their own.”

“Right,” Jack took a deep breath as he acknowledged Daniel's comment.  “Look, by then we'll probably have grandkids.  We'll ... want to stick around ... probably.”

“Yeah, we probably would.  What a notion,” Daniel tried to laugh, “grandkids.”

“If something happens to one of us, we'll survive ... for them,.  After all, it won't be forever.”

“No, not forever.”

Jack wondered if he was sincere or lying to himself.  As he sat holding Daniel, neither his mind nor his heart could visualize a life without the younger man, kids or no kids.  At the same time, Jack remembered all of the feelings he had experienced with Charlie, especially the need to watch him grow and learn.  He tried to balance the two concepts, to weigh the merit of each -- a life full of children but without his lover, and the unknown forever where he and Daniel would be together, but having to leave their children behind in the care of others.

“It's amazing, Love, how a child changes you.  The bond with a child is unequal to that of anything else.”

Jack had almost droned his words.  He knew the love of a parent was strong, but a part of Jack was having a difficult time reconciling that love with the love of the husband.  He spoke words he knew were truth; yet he wasn't sure which truth was greater -- that he'd have a desire to live for his children or a need to die to be with his husband.

“You will want to give anything and everything for your children, and you'll pray for them to stay healthy.  You'll want to see everything, not just the first time they stand up or even fall down, but their first day in school, first date, and to see them walk down the aisle.  You'll give anything to see that.  Anything.”

“We'll want to stay,” Daniel repeated, sounding a bit like a calming chant.  “We'll want to stay,” he said again.  Daniel didn't realize it, but some of his thoughts and feelings were the same as Jack had just processed in his mind.

“Danny ... you know you might find someone that you want to ...”

Daniel shot up fiercely.  “NO!  NEVER!  Don't ever think that.  Gawd, no, Jack.  No one but you, just you!”

Daniel, his head shaking and his breath quickening, had become visibly upset.  Quickly, Jack's hand went to gently stroke his husband's face, trying to calm the young man.

“No, Jack.  There was no one before you, not like this, and I can't ... don't ask me to even think about it, because I won't.”

Jack smiled.  “I just meant you might, but as usual, you're right, Angel. You're it for me, and you have been from the day we met.”

“You didn't like me much the day we met, Jack.”

“UST, remember?”

Daniel laughed, the first genuinely light moment of the night.  Jack cupped his lover's face, their eyes locked onto each other's with a fiery intensity.

“Okay,” Daniel said, beginning to calm down, “the pact is amended so that the one left behind stays until the children are grown and out of the house.  But if the survivor wants to stay for the grandkids or because they've found a way, that's okay, too.”

“That would even be good,” Jack said, wanting Daniel to have a long, fulfilling life. “So if the survivor chooses, he stays, and lives for both of us ... for a very long time.”

“A long, long time,” Daniel affirmed, desperately wanting Jack to see everything that he had missed with Charlie.

“And whichever one of us is ... has gone before ...”

“Lives in our heart until we can ...”

“Yeah, until we can ...”

“Promise, Jack.  Promise me.  For the children, the survivor stays as long as he can, but definitely, he has to make sure our children are happy and living their dreams, whatever those may be.  We can't leave them feeling like we don't love them or want them.  They'll need one of us.  Promise me, Jack ... at least until they're 18.  Okay?”

“Okay, I ... I promise, Danny,” Jack blinked as he leaned forward to kiss his heart tentatively.  “I promise,” he repeated, his kiss becoming more forceful.  “Danny, you have to promise, too.”

“I promise.”

“So, we got through it.  The pact is revised.”

“Once we have the children ... I mean, if something happens before ...”

“Right, but once we start our family, the pact is revised, and we'll both understand.”

“We'll want to live.  We do anyway.  It's just ...”

“Neither one of us wants to without the other,” Jack said, knowing both he and his lover were still trying to recover from the emotional drain of their discussion.

“But that was before the children.”

“Right.”  Daniel leaned back against Jack.  “Danny, Love?”

“What?”

“Are we done, talking about this?”

“Yes.”

“Do you mind if I put the Colonel away?  But I need to warn you that once I do, I'm going to hold on to you so tight that it might hurt, and I think I'm going to cry my eyes out like a baby.”

“Put the Colonel away, Jack.  He did his job, like he always does.”

“Geez, I love you,” Jack said, tucking the Colonel away as the tears began to fall.

“Love you so freakin' much,” Daniel said, losing his composure as well.

Neither tried to stop the tears.  Both knew they needed this night to cry for their potential future pain.  They'd made their decision.  Each knew it was the right one, but at the moment, all either could do was mourn a life that might mean surviving without the other someday.

“I love you, Danny.  Love you forever,” Jack said, needing to repeat the words over and over.  

“Always, my Silver Fox,” Daniel spoke tenderly, shifting his body to face his lover.

Jack's hands cupped Daniel's face.  The need in both was strong.  The tears were endless, and they needed to join their bodies together in a hungry desperation that would reinforce for both of them that their bond was eternal.

“Need you,” Jack gasped, pressing his lips against Daniel's.

Daniel moved forward, his entire upper body threatening to press Jack into the sofa cushions.  Jack's hands moved to Daniel's back, providing both support and pressing the young man to him.  Their lips were like suction cups, glued together.

“Want you, Love.  Gawd, want you,” Daniel panted, desire already making his breathing stutter and catch.

His hands were on Jack's face, rubbing and caressing as their kisses deepened and grew in power.

“Danny ... you're my heart.  My beautiful falling star.  Danny ...”  Tears again fell down Jack's cheeks.

“Caro Mio,” Daniel whispered, his head moving downward as he kissed Jack's neck, his hands lowering to Jack's waist, untying the robe's sash.

Their fusion was stronger than ever.  Tonight, each took the other, and for the first time, for reasons they couldn't explain, each needed the pain from their passion as much as the pleasure, though neither spoke of it.  By silent mutual consent, the lube that was stashed in the sofa seat, and under the furniture remained there.  

It was a union that demanded every ounce of their bodies to be committed.  Nothing was passive.  It was long and possessive, each staking their claim on the other; each giving their life to the other.  When it was over, their orgasms combined with the waterfalls that were their eyes until they gratefully fell into an unsteady slumber.

====

“Jack?”

Daniel opened his eyes, and looked around.  He was disoriented, and it took him a few seconds to realize that he was lying on the living room sofa.  It was still dark out, but he could see the blinds to the backyard patio were not drawn.

Slowly, he stood, grimacing at his body's soreness.  Then, a yawn escaped.  He rubbed his puffy eyes, eyes that were red from a multitude of tears shed hours earlier.

Seeing his soulmate sitting on the steps of the patio deck, saying nothing Daniel walked outside and, sat down beside him in their traditional pose, shoulders and arms rubbing together to show their unity.

Daniel looked over at the doghouse and saw that Bijou and Katie were blissfully sleeping just inside their home.

“You okay?” Jack finally asked.

“A little sore.  You?”

“Yeah, me, too.”

Silence fell as the two sat in stillness.  It wasn't awkward.  They shared the end of the night and the coming of the day as one, not needing words or conversation.  Their souls were united, each there for the other at all times.

“I thought I could do it, Danny,” Jack said several minutes later.  “I can't lie to you.  I can't do it.”

“You've never lied to me, Jack.”

“... and I don't want one of the most important promises I've ever made to you to turn out to be a lie either.”

“I don't understand.”

“I can try, but I can't promise.”

“Jack, you're not making any sense.”

Jack moved in front of Daniel and knelt down, grasping his lover's hands tightly.  Daniel saw Jack's eyes were full of tears; his weariness evident.  Jack looked up at the man he loved more than life, more than the universe, more than anything that was anywhere, and spoke as honestly as he could.

“I can't make that promise.  I can try.  I promise you to try, Danny, but I can't promise you that I can do it.  You're too much a part of me.  Oh geez, Daniel, you are in me in every way.  You keep my heart beating, my lungs breathing, my blood pumping, my brain ... thinking.  Everything I am and everything I have is because of you.”

Jack bowed his head, leaning it on their clasped hands as he cried for a minute.  Daniel placed a kiss on Jack's head and whispered, “I love you.”

Jack looked back up at Daniel.  “And that keeps me alive, too.”  After another brief pause, the older man continued, “Danny, remember right after we were married, when we came home, and I had to go on that trip?  We didn't have time to plan.  We were torn apart without warning.  Do you remember how that felt?”

“It ached,” Daniel whispered, almost wincing from the memory.   “Everything hurt.”

“Every time since then when we've been apart for something unscheduled, or when your life has been on the line, that's how I've felt. The more severe the scenario, the deeper the hurt.  It's not just mental, it's physical.  My muscles constrict.  My heart works at least three times as hard.  My blood pressure goes through the roof.  Crap, Danny, my head pounds and everything stays that way until I can hold you again in my arms.  I can't explain it; I only know that's what happens when you're taken from me.”

Jack shook his head to try and remain focused.  He released Daniel's hand, stood and turned, walking a few feet away.  Trying to hold back tears, Jack looked up at the sky, and spoke softly, “I can't, Danny.  I'm so sorry.”

“Jack?” Daniel wasn't certain what exactly his lover was trying to say. He thought for a moment maybe Jack didn't want to have children now.

Jack turned and walked back over to Daniel, kneeling down again and reclaiming the young man's hands.  “Angel, I want our kids.  I'll love them to the ends of the Earth, but please don't ask me to live without you, because I don't know that I can.”

Jack lowered his head again, the tears streaming from his eyes.  Daniel freed his hands from Jack's grasp, and placed them on his husband's head, running his fingers through the silver-gray strands.   Daniel leaned his head against Jack's, his left cheek warming the top of Jack's head.  His hands moved to caress from his shoulders and back to his strong arms and hold as much of Jack as was possible.

“Shh, My Love.  Shh now, it's okay.  I understand now.  It's okay.  I love you so much.”

Daniel placed another kiss on top of Jack's head as the older man continued to sob, the freedom to do so coming from the love and trust that Jack had in Daniel.  He could be like this with no one else, only with Daniel.

“Jack,” Daniel sniffed, “Remember Honduras?  Gawd, Jack I knew you'd come for me.  Poor Dr. Lee.  He was so scared.  He thought I was nuts to be so confident and self-assured in the hands of our captors.  But I knew, Love, that you were coming for me, that somehow you'd save me, and you did.  But even knowing that, the distance killed me.  Their torture was nothing compared to what was happening inside of me because we were apart.  The pain was overwhelming.  The hurt from not being with you was far worse than anything they did to me.”

Daniel was crying, too, as he spoke.  “We try, okay, but if we can't, then we'll watch over our children together,” Daniel said as he caressed his lover with his hands, trying to reassure Jack of his love.

Jack raised his head to look into Daniel's eyes, “Don't be mad at me, Danny.  Please, don't be mad.  It's just ... don't be mad, Danny.”

“I'm not, My Love.  It's okay,” Daniel pulled Jack into the safety of his embrace again, understanding that Jack needed to feel Daniel's love more than ever.

“I don't want my promise to be a lie.”

“It's not, Jack.  I don't think I could do it either.”

“You're stronger than me, Danny.”

Daniel shook his head against Jack's silver-gray hair.  “We were fools, Jack, to try to promise something so absolute.”  Another few sniffles, “So we revise the revised pact, okay?”

“To what, Danny?  What exactly?” Jack asked, as he shifted to sit on the lower step, his legs outstretched in front of him, and his head moving to lean against Daniel's shoulder.

Still holding Jack securely, Daniel answered, “If something happens to one of us, then the other tries really hard to get through it, to stay for the children.  We promise to try everything we can.  Everything, Jack. Neither one of us is good at asking for help, but we have to promise, that for this one thing, each of us will try to get help.”

“Help?  From where, Angel?”

“We have a good group of friends.  I know at the SGC everything is ... distant, but the Ferrettis, General Hammond, Sam and Teal'c, Mrs. Valissi, Catherine ... Jack, we have a lot of friends who love us, and would help us.  We have to promise to use them, without reservation.   Can you promise me that?  To try?”

“I can promise to try.  I can do that.  Danny, I love our kids already.  I swear it.  I love them.  It's not like I really would want to leave them, but I just ... I'm not sure I could get through even one day of that pain if I knew you were really gone.”

“Me, either,” Daniel admitted reluctantly, “But we have to try.”

“I agree, so the new pact is that we try to survive, and we take advantage of our family to accomplish that.  No pride, no false witticisms.  We do as much as we can.  Danny, I wouldn't just leave them.  I'd make sure they were taken care of, that someone was in place to love them.  You know that, don't you?”

Daniel nodded.  “Jack, we should talk about that,” Daniel said a bit more securely now, his tears ebbing as their promises took root within him.

“You're right.  We should agree, make a list even, who we trust.  Small list, Angel, but we should do it.  Who would we trust?  I mean, to raise our children if we couldn't?”

Jack and Daniel looked at each other, and in unison, both said the same name:  “Sam!”

Both smiled as Daniel added, “She'd kill us!”

“She'd do it.”

“She'd be a good mother.”

“But she'd kill us,” Jack agreed.

“We trust her.”

“Completely.  Angel, I think Sam might be the only one we could trust like that.  She'd love them, and raise them like we would want.  She'd be there for them, always.  She's a good person; a great friend.”

“Jack?”

“Hmm?”

“You're calling her Sam.  I mean, gawd, you know what I mean ... her given name.”

Jack chuckled, enjoying the feel of even the small laugh.  “We're talking about a potential ... mother for our children.  Somehow, I don't think calling her Carter would cut it right now.  She's family ... if we're talking this kind of trust, we have to treat her accordingly.”

“I can just see you calling her Sam on a mission.”

“Let's not go overboard.  Just ... right now, it seems the right thing to do.”

“Can you see her changing diapers?”

Jack laughed.   “Or rocking them to sleep ...”

“... with Evel Knievel on ESPN?” Jack and Daniel spoke in unison, both then laughing loudly that they had spoken the same crazy thought at the same time.

Jack leaned into Daniel's shoulder again as Daniel rested his cheek against his lover's tired head, his fingers gently massaging Jack's temple.  They sat quietly for a long time, their bodies weary from the emotional tug-of-war of the long night.

Daylight began to dawn, the sun appearing slowly, and still, they sat on the steps of the patio.  Daniel continued holding his spouse tightly.  Jack needed it, badly, guilt filling him, knowing that he might have to live with the guilt for an eternity.

Jack was as at peace as he could be with the new revised pact, but somehow, he felt he was letting his husband down.  He wasn't strong enough to live without the man who was embracing him.  Inwardly, Jack marveled at the irony of their relationship.

People always assumed he was the strong one, that Daniel was the weaker of the two.  But Jack knew the truth, that Daniel had an inner character, an inner being that had saved him from pain after tragic pain, and that deep resolve within the younger man had gotten him to where he was today.  His Daniel was strong, very strong.  Daniel could have done it, kept the revised pact ... for the kids, but Jack couldn't.  Daniel was the strong one, and Jack felt a weight of guilt for being so weak and disappointing his lover.

Jack laid even more guilt upon himself because he knew that he had to keep his guilt a secret.  He couldn't burden Daniel with it because there was no solution, no magic wand that could take it away.  The most Jack could do now was be grateful that his soulmate had understood and that together, they were able to move on and discover the new revised pact.

“Danny, we should think about one more thing.”

“What's that?”

“We've been talking about something happening to one of us, and the consequences of that, but what if something happens that takes both of us at the same time?”

“There's still Sam.”

“Yes, but maybe we should have a backup.  Angel, what if something happens off-world, or what if something changes Sam's life.  We should be prepared, have a backup.”

“But who?  Who can we trust with our children?  I won't leave them with just anyone, and you couldn't either.”

“I know that.  Look, I've been thinking,” Jack straightened up, twisting his body, his knees sore, but that didn't matter to the older man at the moment.  “There are people we trust, but it wouldn't be realistic.  The General would do it, and he'd be a great granddad, but he's a bit too old to take on our brood.”

“Brood.”  Daniel smiled as he contemplated the thought of children.

“Well, we're talking four, right?”

“Yes, that's what we decided.   It's what I want.  You, too?”

“Exactly, so it wouldn't be fair to ask Hammond.  Cass would do it, but she's just starting out, Danny.  I don't know that it's fair to ask her to take on that kind of responsibility when her life is just beginning.”

“She'll make a wonderful mother, though, but I agree.  She needs a chance to discover herself as an adult.”

“A lot of our other trusted friends are older, too, or living lives that I would hate to interfere with.”

“Then who, Jack?  I mean, Teal'c would do it, but it wouldn't be fair to him or ... our brood,” he laughed as he spoke.

Jack chuckled, and he breathed deeply realizing it had felt good to laugh again.

“Yes, he'd be good.  He'd protect our kids, and do his best, but like you've said before ...”

“Different cultures.  He might want to go back to Chulak.  I don't want our children raised on Chulak.  Teal'c can only do so much here, which isn't fair to him, but ...”

“Yeah ... but.”

“So, who?  Jack, there isn't anyone besides Sam.  I mean, no one who doesn't already have a lot of obligations.  I'd say Janet, but ...”

“But Janet has plans.  I thought of that.”

“Maybe we should ask her anyway.  It's not like Sam isn't changing her life for us.”

Jack took a breath as he thought, “But it's different with the Doc.  She's raised a child, and I just can't forget how she looked when she was talking about her future.”

Daniel smiled as he recalled a conversation in the infirmary a few months previously.  He replayed Janet's words in his mind:

//Flashback//

“I've loved having Cassie in my life, and I wouldn't have changed a thing, but for so many years of my life, I was a wife first, and then I threw everything I had into the Air Force and ultimately the SGC, and finally into being Cassie's mom.  It's been a marvelous time, but once Cassie graduates, I'm taking some 'me' time.”

“What do you mean, Doc?” Jack asked.

“Traveling for one, and for relaxation, not on some quickie Air Force mission.  I finally talked General Hammond into requesting more manpower for the medical and research staffs so I could take some time off.  If all goes well, we'll have two more full-time doctors on staff to aid Doctor Warner and myself.  The research project is going full steam ahead also and I do want to keep working on it, so I may give up being so hands on in the infirmary.”

“Are you going to stop practicing medicine, Janet?” Daniel asked with a bit of sadness in his voice at the prospect of losing his favorite doctor.

“Oh, no.  Medicine is my career.  I love it.  There's nothing else I would want to do, but do you guys have any idea how many hours I've put in? Oh, yes, of course, you do,” Janet laughed before continuing.  “I don't want to stop by any means, but Daniel, you know what it's like around this place when it comes to trying to get more personnel for anything that isn't actually military.”

“Like pulling teeth,” Daniel answered with frustration.

“Exactly.  I've finally bulldozed more help for the department, so I'm going to take advantage and use some of that time I have stored up.  And ...”

“Okay, Doc, what's that smile about?”

Janet chuckled.  “I'm thinking about dating again.  It's funny.  I didn't intentionally stop dating, but when you're working at a zoo like this place with the crazy hours and trying to raise a daughter, dating is tough.  Let's just say it slowed to a crawl.  The snails had more luck than me.”

“Is there someone special, Janet?” Daniel inquired, somewhat surprising himself at having been so inquisitive.

“There are a couple of 'hot' prospects I'd like to ... examine more fully.  We'll see!”

//End of Flashback//

“You're right, Jack,” Daniel said.  “Janet is really looking forward to her plans, both in doing more research and getting a personal life.  It wouldn't be right to ask her to give up another 20 years to raise our family for us.”

“No, it wouldn't,” Jack paused, and moved on with his idea.  “Danny, we'd have to ask, but besides Sam, who else do we know that could and would give our kids all the love and care that we would?  Who do we know who's already proven they have an enormous amount of love and are great at parenting?”

Daniel moved his head a bit more in front of Jack, and looked intently at his husband, trying to read his mind, and then Daniel sat up a bit straighter as he realized who Jack had in mind.

“Sara.”

“Sara,” Jack repeated.  “Danny, what would you think about that?”

Daniel stood up for the first time in a while, and walked a few steps on the grass, his arms folded.  He turned and smiled.  “She'd be great.  She'd do it, too.”

“Yes, I think she would.”

“But what about Mark?”

“That's why we'd have to ask, but ... he's a good guy, Danny.  He treats Sara the way she's meant to be treated.  He's wonderful with the baby.  They're talking about having more.  He accepts us.  Heck, Danny, they're part of our family, aren't they?”

Daniel nodded immediately.

“Geez, how'd that happen?” Jack asked, staring at the ground. “How the heck did my ex-wife become such a part of our life?  I don't get it.”

“I do.  It's called love.  But, Jack, just like you said, she might have more children of her own.  We’d be saddling them with four more.  That's a lot to ask of anyone.”

“I know.  Heck, Sam will kill us.”

“But she'll do it, and she'll love it.”

“So will Sara ... and somehow, Angel, I think Mark would say yes.”

“I think he would, too.”

“We need to invite them to dinner, and get it on paper.”

“What about Sam?”

Jack laughed, standing to embrace Daniel.  “It'll be motivation for her to keep us alive.”  Daniel began to laugh loudly.  “What?”

“Jack, can you see her giving orders?  'I told you to cover their sixes, and you had better do it.  They die and I inherit their kids.  Move it!”

Jack laughed, too.  “Yeah, but in this case, Love, I'm all for her being motivated.”

Daniel sighed.  “But she won't ever have to do that because we can't have our family until we leave the SGC.”

“Yeah, you're right, but it was a funny thought.”  Jack chuckled lightly.

“Okay,” Daniel sighed, a big loud sigh of relief, finally feeling the stress draining away.

Jack held his husband in his arms, rubbing his back.  “I guess we don't have to ask until we are closer to getting the kids.”

“I kind of want to know, so we can figure out what to do if they say no.”

“They won't.”

“I know, but I guess I ... I just need to know.”

“Okay, we start with Sam.”

“She's going to know something is up when you call her Sam,” Daniel said with a smile on his face.

“Probably.  We'll keep her guessing all through dinner.”

“It's cold out here,” Daniel finally said.

For the first time, Jack registered being outdoors, and agreed, leading Daniel into the house and upstairs to take a warm shower.

====

“Evening, Sir.  I hope I'm not too late.  Had some problems with my bike.”

“No ... Sam, not too late at all.  Come on in.”  Jack moved to allow his 2IC to enter.  “Daniel will be right down.  He was checking the sauce and somehow, and I won't say how exactly, he ended up with sauce all over his shirt.”

Sam noticed a big grin on her CO's face, and figured he must have had something to do with the offending sauce, but she decided it would be best not to pursue it.

“I thought Teal'c was coming, too?”

“Uh, no, just you ... Sam.  Would you like a drink?”

Sam became acutely aware of the unusual use of her first name.  That made two “Sam's” from her CO, and it was causing her to become very nervous.

“Yes, Sir.  That would be great.”

“Whiskey? Scotch?”

“Scotch, thanks,” Sam said, walking towards the sofa to sit.

“And Sam, it's Jack.  I really want you to call me Jack tonight.”

“Yes ... Jack.  And could you make that drink a double, Sss...Jack?”

Jack smiled, and prepared Sam's drink, handing it to her a minute later. He immediately noticed Sam's expression at the size of the glass and the liquid inside.

“I made it a quadruple.  Trust me, Sam, you're going to want it.”  Jack smiled.  He looked very charming in Sam's opinion.  Her intuition told her that he was after something, something she had, but she couldn't imagine what it could be.

“Hey, Sam,” Daniel beamed as he came down the stairs.

“Gawd, he's beautiful, isn't he?”  Jack went to Daniel and kissed him long and hard as Sam watched.  She was getting used it.  They had decided a few months ago that in their home, they'd be free to show their love, and if anyone accepted an invitation to their home, he or she had better be prepared to witness their love.

She saw, too, that they were wearing their wedding rings.  They wore them frequently on prolonged downtimes, but even with their new rules, they didn't usually wear them when they were working a regular schedule as they were now.

“Jack, we have company.”

“It's only Sam.”

“And you need to make the salad.”

Seeing Daniel's glare, Jack backed away after stealing one more kiss from his lover.  He turned to Sam and spoke jovially, “My husband is such a slave driver.  Be back in a jiffy.”  Jack walked to the kitchen.

Sam smiled shyly.

“Still aren't quite used to us, are you ... not even after that big fight we had a while back?”

Sam shuddered at the memory of the brief conflict.  She and Daniel had never been so angry with the other as when Sam had revealed that she had used Jack as an emotional crutch to keep herself from getting romantically involved with men.  He had been “safe“ in her mind.  That realization, and her admission of it, had come close to severing the warm friendship between Sam and Daniel.

“Oh, Daniel, it's fine.  But you know, at the SGC everything is so ... normal, and then I come here, and it's almost like you’re two different people.  But I like seeing you both so happy.”

“We are happy, Sam.  We get sillier and ... gawd, we're sappy.  We're ridiculously happy, and it grows the longer we're together.”

“Daniel,” Sam asked leadingly, “this isn't just an innocent little dinner invitation, is it?”

“Why wouldn't it be?” he asked a bit nervously.

“Well, for one thing, the Colonel told me to call him Jack, and he's calling me Sam, and even when he wants me to call him by his name, he seldom manages to call me by mine.”  Sam held up her drink. “Then there's this.  He said I'd need it.”

Daniel looked down for a second and laughed.  “You will.  You're right.  We have something very important to talk about, but wait until after dinner, okay?”

“Sure.”

====

“I think he might just marry her one day.”

“She's a beautiful woman,” Jack admitted.

“I still can't believe Teal'c kissed her that day, right in front of the General.”

“Oh, I thought I'd die,” Sam laughed, “I can't imagine kissing someone in the Gate Room with everyone watching.”

Jack laughed, “I can,” his eyes connecting with Daniel.

“Don't even think about it, Jack.”

“Well, Ishta is a good woman, very strong, and she and the big guy seem to have a good thing going.  I'm for anything that brings happiness, speaking of which ...”

Jack looked at Daniel who nodded back.

“Sam,” Daniel spoke firmly, “you already know that we invited you here for a reason tonight.  I mean, it's more than just that you're a friend and part of our family and ... well, it's been too long since we've done this, but ... we would like to ask you something very important.”

“Do I need a refill?”

“Probably.”  Daniel laughed, getting up to refresh Sam's drink.

“Sam,” Jack spoke, “Daniel and I have made some decisions.  They aren't new, but we've kept them quiet because it's not really anything we can talk about openly until I retire.”

“Actually, we can't even do what it is we want to do until Jack retires next year, but ... well, we sort of need to figure out something, or try to come up with another alternative so that we can have peace of mind.”

“Peace of mind?  Okay, you have my attention, and I'm totally clueless.”

Sam nodded her thanks for the refill to Daniel, who went to stand behind the chair his husband was sitting in.  As Jack prepared to move the conversation forward, he felt the calm and supportive hands of his lover on his shoulders, Daniel's fingers working a magical massage against Jack's tense nerves.

Jack blew a breath of air into the room to release his internal tension, and then he clapped his hands together, as if willing himself to have the courage to continue.  “Daniel and I are going to start a family.”

“A ... a family, Sir?”

“Jack.  Definitely, Jack,” the older man corrected her.

“Jack.  A family ... Jack?”

“The way we have it planned, we want to adopt or have two babies to start, and then later on, we want to adopt two other kids.  The details are still being discussed.  We have a lot of choices and alternatives.”

Sam began to panic.  “Al...alternatives?”

“Sam, breathe.  We aren't going to ask you to have our babies!”

“Oh, thank gawd.”  Both Jack and Daniel laughed.  “Oh, geez, I'm sorry.  I didn't mean ...”

“No, Sam, it's okay,” Daniel smiled, “We may use a surrogate; but, we haven't decided for sure yet. We wouldn't dream of imposing on you in that way.”

Sam took a couple of drinks and tried to relax.  “Thank goodness!  But I'd probably do it.”  She jumped, physically jumped, her eyes widening. “Oh, gawd, please forget I said that.”

Jack and Daniel both laughed again and Jack spoke up, “Don't worry, Sam, we'll forget it, not that we wouldn't appreciate it, but ... we have our own reasons for doing whatever it is we finally do and ...” Jack looked at Daniel. “Danny, get my foot out of my mouth before I swallow my ankle, please.”

Daniel leaned over and kissed his husband, and then he looked back over at their guest.  “Sam, whatever we do, it will be right for everyone.  Thank you.  It means a lot that you'd say that, but we couldn't.”

Sam smiled, relaxing a bit more.  “Okay, so you're going to have kids.  That's ... great.  Why am I here?  I mean, ... oh, you know what I mean.”

“Back up.”

“Back up?”

“We need you to cover our six, Sam, with our kids.”

Sam looked at her CO, and then at Daniel ... and back at Jack.

“Cover your six?”

“With our kids,” Daniel said, “just in case something happens to us.”

“You aren't asking me to ...” Sam paused, the question becoming clearer to her.  She gulped, almost afraid to speak.  “Cover your six? You mean you want me to ... if something happens ... four ... four kids?”

Jack and Daniel nodded, neither being able to remember a time when their friend had looked so pale and stunned.

“Sam,” Daniel said, moving from where he had been sitting on the arm of Jack's chair, to sit next to their guest on the sofa.  “We need someone we can trust.  Someone who we know will love our children like we do.  Someone who will protect them, and make sure they grow up safe.  That's you, Sam.  You're our first choice to raise our precious babies if something awful happens to us.”

Sam stared at Daniel, and again at Jack.  “I don't know what to say.”

“Yes would be good, Sam,” Jack said.

“I don't know anything about raising children.”

“You know about love, Sam, and in the end, that's all you really need,” Daniel responded.

“You really want me to raise your kids, your four kids?”

“Well, only if something happens to us.”

“Cover our six, Sam, and you won't ever have to worry about it,” Jack smiled.

“Oh yes, I'll cover your six all right!  Wait, I meant ...”

“We know,” Daniel said softly, beginning to wonder if he and Jack had assumed too much.

Sam looked at her friend, and she could feel his disappointment.  “You really trust me that much?”

“Sam,” Jack interjected, “there's no one in the universe that Daniel and I trust more.  I would think you'd know that by now.  Then again, I guess we don't always show it like we should, but you can bank money on the fact that I am not entrusting our children to just anyone.  If we didn't believe in you, and your capacity to raise our little brood, you wouldn't be here right now.  Yes, we trust you ... that much.”

“Wow!”  Sam sipped her scotch some more as she processed the totally unexpected request.  “Four, huh?”

“Four,” both Jack and Daniel said together.

Sam shook her head, standing and walking towards the fireplace.  She stood next to Bijou and Katie as they slept in their beanbags.  She knelt down and watched them rest contentedly.

Finally, Daniel said, “Sam, we're sorry.  It was an unreasonable request.  Please don't give it another thought.  We'll think of something else.”

Sam was silent for a bit.  Finally, Jack felt he should say something, so he spoke softly, “Daniel's right, Sam.  Don't worry about it.  We get carried away sometimes.  We have other choices.”

Bijou awoke and gazed up at Sam who reached down to pet her a few times.  Bijou went back to sleep to the touch of the female's hand.

“I suppose the girls come with the kids,” Sam asked as she stood up again.

“I ... well,” Daniel didn't know what to say.  

The two had hoped that whomever took their kids would also take their girls.  They were all a family.  Suddenly, they realized they were asking almost too much of one person, but before either could speak, Sam smiled.

“Good thing I have that big house.  It's way too big just for me.”

Jack and Daniel both stood near the sofa, exchanging a look, but afraid to speak.  Sam approached them, stopping just a couple of feet away, her hands in her pockets.

She smiled, nodding her head.  “I would be honored to cover your sixes, guys.  I hope I never have to, though.  You're ... the two of you are as much a part of my family as Dad and Mark.  But if the worst happens, I would consider it not just an honor, but a privilege to love and raise your kids.”

“And the girls?” Jack asked tentatively.

“Can't separate a family, Sir.  They are a part of this family, aren't they?”

“Yes, they are.  Excuse me a minute.”  Jack turned hurriedly and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

“Is he okay?”

Daniel smiled and nodded.  “Sam, the man who just walked out of here is the real Jack O'Neill.  He's the man I fell in love with.  He feels deeply, Sam.  You just gave us a wonderful gift, one more precious than almost anything.  You touched our hearts.  He just needs a minute.  He's not used to ... others seeing him as himself.”

“So that's Jack O'Neill ... an old softie, huh?”

“Marshmallow,” Daniel said, swallowing hard.  “Sam, would you mind? He needs me.”

“Sure.”

“I'll be right back.”  Daniel turned and quickly went upstairs.

Sam exhaled and took a few more sips of her scotch.  She then went and sat down Indian style in front of the beagles.

“They're both softies.  Well, girls, we'll just have to do a bang up job of making sure your dads stay in one piece.  I'm not sure I'd be so good at this motherhood thing, but, if I have to, I'll willingly do my best!”

“Woof! Woof!” both Bijou and Katie barked with a smile.

“Thanks.  I may need your help.”

“Woof!” Bijou stood and jumped up on Sam, licking her face.

“I guess that's a sign of approval?”

“Woof!” the mama beagle responded, rolling over to try and convince Sam to pet her belly. Of course, the Air Force Major did this willingly.

Meanwhile, upstairs Daniel found Jack sitting on the edge of the bed with his hands clasped together as if holding on for dear life.  Daniel sat down next to him, put his right arm around Jack's waist and hugged him closely.

“Sorry, I just lost it for a minute,” Jack said softly.  “I thought she was going to say no.”

“Me, too, but she just needed a couple of minutes to process it all.  We're asking a lot, Jack.  Think about it.  Four kids and two beagles who think they're human.  It's a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone whose life experiences haven't included much of a family life.”

“You don't think she said yes because she's afraid I'll ... I don't know, assign her to Elmendorf or something?”

“No, I think she said yes because we're family.”  Daniel rubbed Jack's back and placed a kiss on his cheek before leaning his head on Jack's shoulder.  “She's just really getting to know us, Jack.  She's used to that tough-as-nails CO.  She doesn't know Jack very well, any more than you have let yourself know Sam.  We talked about this at the wedding, remember?”

“We're going to change that, Danny, just as soon as those retirement papers are in.”

“In the meantime, Love, we have a very special guest waiting for us downstairs.  You okay now?”

“Yeah, I love you.”

“I love you, too, so very much.”

“Danny, you sure we aren't pushing her?  I mean, I do have a reputation.  We need to make sure she really wants to do this.”

“Oh, I do ... Jack. Don’t worry.”

Jack and Daniel looked up, both standing as soon as they realized Sam that had come upstairs.

“Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt, but I thought maybe ... actually, I'm not sure what I thought, but here I am,” she smiled nervously.  “Jack, I wouldn't say yes to something like this unless I thought I could find a way to make it work.  Daniel said I don't really know you, and while he's correct in many ways, I do know your values and, well, some of the things that really matter.  Your ... reputation may scare the recruits, but truthfully, it hasn't deterred me for years ... Jack.”

“That's good to know,” Jack smiled, “... I think.”

“So, you're sure?”

“Yes, if you want to place your trust in me, then I will do my best not to let either of you down.”

Daniel went to Sam and hugged her.  “Thank you, Sam, from both of us.”

====

“Danny, we need another pact.”

Jack buttoned his shirt, and prepared to slip on his shoes.  It was the day after the dinner with Sam.  The two lovers had rested peacefully in each other's arms after the dinner.  It had been their first real rest since their emotional night of a week before when they had discussed their pact.

“No.  No.  Oh gawd, please no.  My heart can't take another night like that night last week.”

“Diapers!”

“Haven't we talked about this before?”

“Diapers require in depth discussion.”

“Okay, Jack, you can change the diapers.”

“Oh, no, you don’t. You're the expert on excavations and dirt.  It's right up your alley.”  Jack smirked.

“That's funny, Jack.”

“Besides,” Daniel continued, “I think you are the perfect choice to be in charge of diapers.”

“Why me?” Jack bellowed in question.

“Because you are older, wiser, and more experienced,” Daniel cackled as he spoke.

“I'll teach you,” the older man retorted.

“My brain is full up,” Daniel laughed, adding, “and I'll be busy preparing the formula.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes.  I'll be in charge of the intake and you can handle the output!”

“I bet you think you're so cute,” Jack retaliated.  Daniel laughed but said nothing.  “I am NOT doing diapers.  It's your job,” Jack continued to insist.

Daniel walked to Jack, and as he had done during their last diaper discussion, he gave his husband one of his special kisses, the one that fried Jack's brain, turning him into silly putty.

“Nice try, Angel, but we're talking nasty, yucky, smelly, dirty, really distasteful diapers, for not one, but two babies.  I've been there, Daniel.  You haven't.  It'll take much more than one little kissssssmmmmph.”

Daniel's Special was eclipsed by this kiss, a powerful, masterful exploration of Jack's mouth that left the older man gasping for air.

“Diapers?  Sure, I'll do the diapers.”  Jack pulled Daniel in for another of those kisses.

Daniel laughed.  “We'll share, like we share everything.”

“Love you, Danny.”

“I count on that, every day.  Love you, too, My Silver Fox.”

Then Daniel laughed.

“What?”

“Jacob changing diapers.”

Jack laughed next.  “He'd probably make Selmak do it!”

“You're right.  We'd better get going, or we'll be late.”

“Time to walk that yellow brick road,” Jack agreed. He kissed his love and headed downstairs to leave for the SGC.

====

“Sam, how are the doo-dads and doohickeys this morning?” Jack queried.

His 2IC gulped, dropping her pencil to the floor, stumbling to pick it up, but kicking it forward instead.  

Jack closed the door, then bent over and retrieved the writing instrument, handing it back to Sam.

“You okay, Sam?”

“Um, yes, Sir.  Just fine.  Did you need something ...?”  Sam dropped her notes on a table, accidentally knocking over her coffee.  “Oh ...” she exclaimed in a panic, grabbing some papers to blotch up the spilled liquid.

Jack rushed forward, pulling out a handkerchief to help.  “A bit clumsy today, are we, Sam?”

“Sir, just say it.”

“It?”

“What is it you want me to do?  Instead of four, it's six? Cats?  You want me to move?  Just ... say it, Sir ... Jack, I can take it!”

Jack laughed.  “It's the first name thing, right?”

“Definitely,” Sam nodded, still nervous.

“Relax, Sam.  I just need to ask you something.”

“Here ... Sir?”

“Daniel's with SG-11 today.  It was a last minute substitution.  We were both going to talk to you today, at lunch, but since he's gone, I thought I'd just come out with it.”

“How many, Sir?”

Jack laughed.  “Nothing's changed in that respect.   But ... I ... we ... need to make sure you're okay with something.”

Sam stood, braced for the worst.

“Relax, Sam ...”

“Call me Carter, Sir ... please!”

Jack chuckled.  “Okay, Carter.  Listen, you're our first choice.  No question, but just in case, we'd like backup, someone maybe you could ... work with ... or call upon.”

“Or someone to take over if I can't handle it.”

“Carter, you can handle it.  If we didn't believe that, we'd never have asked, but worst case scenario, if something happens to you ...”

“I understand.  Who?”

“We haven't asked yet, and before we do, we need your opinion.”

“Who?” Sam repeated.

“Sara and Mark.”

Sam's eyes widened in surprise.  “Do you think they'd do it?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Are you sure you wouldn't prefer ...”

“No, not unless you've changed your mind.  We want you, as long as you're really okay with doing it.”

“I am, and I don't have any problems with Sara and Mark.   We got along great at the ... you know.”

“Good.  That's settled then.”  Jack turned and started to walk out, but stopped and turned to face Sam again.  “You know, Sam, we didn't talk about the sacrifices you'd have to make.  We'd be turning your life upside down, completely.”

Sam looked around her office, took a few steps towards the blackboard and had a small smile on her face.  “Yes, I realize I'd have to give up the Stargate, at least being in the field.  It's not something I would do lightly, but it would be the right thing to do.”

“You're career military, Carter.  That's a lot to give up.”

“I agree, but I'd also be gaining an awful lot, too.  Um,” Sam felt a bit nervous.  She just didn't talk to Jack O'Neill about things like this, but she decided he might feel better about it if she did.  “The thing is, Sir, I'm not getting any younger either, and with my career choice, the odds that I'll have children of my own is ... slim.  I never really planned it this way, but it's how it's worked out, so in the end, I think I'd come out ahead.  I fully realize that it wouldn't be easy, but I've been thinking a lot about this and the commitment I've made.  I sincerely hope that my services are never needed, but if they are, I'm prepared to do everything necessary to ... well, you don't have to worry, Sir.  I promise you that.”

Jack nodded and expressed his thanks and then walked out, feeling a bit more at ease about his 2IC's decision.

Sam took a breath and walked back to the chalkboard she was using to prepare some calculations.

“Whew, I was sure they'd go for at least six!”

====

“Jack, your cooking has definitely improved.”  Daniel coughed.  

“Subtle, Danny, real subtle,” Jack said, an admission that it was Daniel, not Jack, who had been the chef of the evening.

Daniel shrugged.

“Oh, sorry, Daniel.  Marvelous meal.  Thank you.”

“You're welcome, Sara, and in all fairness, Jack took the lettuce out of the refrigerator.”

“Hey, I did more than that.”

“That's true.  You poured the sauce over the meat.”

“He's so cocky, sometimes,” Jack teased, sitting in his chair.

Sara and Mark were on the sofa, and Daniel was in the chair opposite Jack's at the other end of the couch.

“Cocky,” Sara stated, suppressing a laugh, looking shyly at the other end of the sofa towards Mark who let out a big laugh.

“Sara!  Stop that,” Jack said in surprise.

“I apologize,” Sara said, again trying to suppress a laugh,.

“Gawd,” Daniel tried to hide in the chair, and then groaning, “You're as bad as he is.”

“That's why we were happy ... most of the time,” Sara said sadly, bringing reality back into the otherwise festive evening.

“So, Jack, Daniel, my intuition tells me you didn't ask us over for our review of Daniel's fine cooking.  What's up?”

“You know me too well,” Jack admitted softly.

“Sara ... Mark ... Daniel and I have made a decision, and it's a big one.  We,” Jack looked across at his husband, wishing he had Daniel's linguistic skills, “...we ... we're going to start a family.”

“A family?”

“When I retire next year.”

“A family, as in ... children?”

“That's the idea,” Jack said quietly.

Sara looked at him, trying to assess her ex-husband's mental state.  Then she looked at Daniel, and couldn't help but smile.  The younger man's sincerity and innocence always got to her.  She had liked Daniel almost from the first moment she had met him which had surprised her.  She had wanted to hate the man that turned her ex-husband’s life upside down, but she couldn't.  Her hatred had lasted mere minutes, if that.

“A family,” she said softly this time.

Sara reached for Mark's hand, “Family is a wonderful thing.  We were a good family, Jack.  You and I ... and Charlie.  And now, Mark and I have started our own family.  For the life of me, I don't know why you shouldn't, too, especially with someone as wonderful as Daniel.”

Jack swallowed hard, exchanging a look of love with Daniel, who would have blushed if he wasn't still scared about the remainder of the conversation.

“Jack, don't look so surprised.  I'm glad you are sharing this with us, but I'm not sure why you seem to be making this out to be so ... well, I don't know, but it just seems like you're escalating this somehow.  I think it's great.  I don't ... mind.  Certainly, it's not even my place to object, which I don't.”

Sara looked back and forth.  She knew there must be something else on their minds.  “Jack, what on Earth is wrong?”

Jack exhaled, and looked up towards the mantle at the photo of Charlie, that now sat by the one of Daniel's parents.  Still looking at the photo, Jack seemed to ask his son, “Help me out here, Sport.”

Sara looked at him with a questioning expression.

“Sara, how are Grant and Nicole?”

“They're fine.  We had dinner with them last week.  Why?”

“They were good friends to us.”

“Yes, they were.  Still are.”

“We've sort of lost touch.”

“That's not their fault, Jack.”

“No, I know that.  That's also not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“Grant and Nicki were really good friends,” Jack's brown eyes stared into Sara's soul.  “They were our best friends.  We trusted them in a way we didn't trust anyone else.  Remember?”

Suddenly, Sara sat back.  Again she looked over her shoulder at the photo of Charlie, and then back at Jack.  Her mind was working fast.  She turned to look at Daniel and saw her answer in his eyes.

“Are you serious?  Jack, are you and Daniel asking what I think you are?”

Daniel spoke with a quiet reverence “We ... probably shouldn't.”

“Sara, if something happens to us, Sam's going to take them, all of them.  But we'd like her to have someone she can talk to and rely on for help if needed.  And, if something happens to her, we need someone else to be there for them.  We want someone who we know will love our children more than anything in else.  We need someone we can count on to raise them right.   We need people who will accept them as theirs, but who will still let them remember us.”

“We know a lot of people,” Daniel added, “... a lot of important people ... but there are only a handful that we really trust.  Our children mean more than anything to us, and we want to know that they'll be loved and nurtured if something happens ...”  He hesitated.  “There are just a few people we can rely on for that.”

“Look,” Jack said, “we're not asking you to make a decision tonight.  But if you're willing to think about it, consider it, we'd appreciate it.”

Jack looked at Mark, making eye contact.  “I know this is strange.  A few years ago, I'd never have imagined that Sara and I could have this friendship, this connection, but we do.  I think that's, in part, because both you and Daniel let it exist.  In fact, Daniel has bent over backwards to make sure I know how he feels about Sara, and I'm guessing that you've done the same.  I can say that because I know how truly special she is, and she won’t fall for some idiot.  That distinction was reserved for me.”

“JACK!”

Daniel and Sara at stared each other, and then both burst out in a laugh, shocked they had both responded at the same time, speaking in unison.

“I'm doomed,” Jack sighed.  “You know what I mean.  We're lucky men, Mark.  We both have incredible spouses, and now things are how they are supposed to be.  At least, that's how I feel about it.  What do you think?”

Daniel winced.

“Danny, are you okay?”

“Yeah, just something about that last statement and question.  It seemed very ... deja vu-ish!  Sorry.  Go on.”

“You'll have to forgive him.  I fried his brain cells this morning, and I'm not sure they've regrouped yet.”

“Jaaaaack!” Daniel chided, turning bright red, sinking low into the chair as both Sara and Mark laughed.

“In the morning?  Jack, you were never a morning man.”

“With Danny, I'm a morning, noon, and night man.  Actually, it's pretty much 24/7.  In fact ...”

“JACK ... STOP!” Daniel shouted, mortified.

“Geez, isn't he beautiful?  Red is definitely his color.”

“You're so bad, Jack,” Sara stated with fondness.

“Gawd, I think I'm going to die,” Daniel groaned as he put a pillow in front of his face.

“I thought you had.  You passed out.”

“JACK!  STOP!  Pleeeeeease just stop,” Daniel cried practically falling on the floor with embarrassment.

“Sara's pretty awesome herself,” Mark stated.  “Just yesterday, she ...”

“Mark Stanford Wilson, you say one more word, and you'll join the Colonel over there as one of my EX-husbands!”

“Yes, Dear,” Mark winked at Jack, who laughed, and exchanged another smile with Sara.

“Danny, you can get up now,” Jack said to his lover, who had slithered down to the floor with the pillow on top of drawn up his knees, and his head buried in the soft blue chair cushions.

Daniel shook his head.  “I could be climbing a pyramid or studying rocks.”

“Actually, you ...”

“Jack,” Daniel looked up, and threw the pillow at him. “Not another word or so help me, you'll ...” Daniel stopped, looking at Sara and Mark, and then he saw Jack's grin that seemed to say, “You'll never say it out loud.” Daniel sat up straight, gathered all his courage and said, “You'll be sleeping OUTSIDE in the doghouse for a month! By the way, the girls will be ON YOUR SIDE OF THE BED, all nice and warm, cuddling with me!  You'll be cuddling with their beanbag!”

Sara tried to contain herself, as Jack started to retaliate with some line. But Daniel, now standing, pointed his finger at Jack, waving it in warning as he shook his head, “Not ... one ... more ... word.  I mean it, Jack.  NOT ... ONE ... MORE ... WORD!”

Jack saw the glare and the look behind the blue eyes.  He gulped, and looking at Sara said apologetically, “I have to behave now.  He's serious.”

Sara couldn't hold in the laughter.  “Oh my word, you two are lovely.  Oh my!”

They all laughed for a minute or two, making final little barbs, and then Daniel reminded his husband, “You didn't tell them what they'd be getting into, Jack.”

“Oh, Daniel, yes he did.  Grant and Nicki were our designated  guardians for Charlie.”

“I know, but that's not really what I meant.”

“Then ... what?” Sara asked as she looked back and forth between the two.

“You're planning on more kids, aren't you?” Jack asked his ex-wife and her husband.

Mark answered, “We'd like to.  We love our daughter, and we would like her to have a sibling or two to play with.”

Sara nodded.  “It may be too late, but Sylvia thinks it's still possible, so we're putting our faith where it should be, and we will accept whatever happens.”

“I hope it happens for you,” Jack said honestly.

“Thank you.  But what is Daniel talking about?”

“Four,” Jack said quickly.

“Plus the girls,” Daniel added, just as quickly.

“Maybe she's forgotten how to count,” Jack tried to tease.

“Four what?”

“Kids,” Jack and Daniel said at the same time, both adding, “Plus the girls.”

“You're going to adopt ... four?”

“That's the plan.”

“Four babies?” Mark asked, staring for a moment at Sara who herself seemed stunned into silence.

Jack coughed.  “The plan is to start with two babies.  We are still working out the details, but originally, we were thinking about adopting a little boy and a little girl.  Now, we're thinking of using a surrogate.”

Jack stared at Sara.  “Sara, I want Danny to feel what I did for Charlie.  You know what I mean.”

She nodded.  “You'd make a wonderful father, Daniel.”

“I hope so.”

“So, we're researching and investigating everything that goes along with that.  Of course, we can only do so much until I retire.  As a matter of fact, you and Mark are the only people who know besides Sam and Janet Fraiser ... and one other person.”

“Sam?  You're calling your second by her first name.”

“Not usually, but I've found that when talking about something so important, her friendship comes to mind more than her military command skills. She deserves the respect that goes with what she's agreed to do for us.”

“You've changed, Jack.  I can't get over how much Daniel has changed you,” Sara said quietly.

“He's the best part of me.   It's all him.”

“No, it's not, and don't you dare say that, Jack.  I won't let you,” Daniel spoke firmly.

“See.”  Jack chuckled.

“Yes, I do see,” Sara said, “I see belief, trust, and a life full of love.”

“So anyway,” Jack continued, “two babies at first, and then when they get a little older, we want to adopt two older children, ones who might not have a chance to have a family if we didn't find them.”

Sara smiled, glancing at Daniel, saying nothing but understanding everything.

“I know it's a lot, Sara, and if you don't want to, that's okay.  We'll still be friends and all of that.  It's just ... I trust you to do what's best for our children, I mean, Daniel's and mine.  But it's a lot to ask, as Daniel said earlier. So, would you just think about for a while?  That's all we can really ask.”

“We'll think of something else if you can't do it.  I mean, we know you have your own family to think of.   Like Jack said, we ... believe in both of you.”  Daniel smiled, adding, “We're just trying to make sure we do all we can for our children in case something unforeseen happens.   We need to know they'll be in the best hands possible.”

Daniel took a breath.  The worst was over.  They had said all they could, and now they'd have to give Sara and Mark a chance to think about it.

“Remember, we do know what we're asking is unusual, and the demands of four children ...”

“And the girls,” Jack reminded.

“We can't separate them, Sara.  The girls ... they're our children, too, even though I'm sure that sounds ... gawd,” Daniel sighed.

“Daniel, has anyone ever told you how adorable you are?” Sara asked.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said, about to turn 100 different shades of red again.

“I do, all the time.”  Jack smiled at his lover.

Sara and Mark were holding hands.  Sara looked at her husband, who nodded at her.  “It's a lot to ask, Jack.  Mark and I need to discuss it in some detail.  You have to admit, this is unusual, even for us.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Mark looked at his wife.  “If something did happen, which of course we hope it doesn't, we'd be adding four children and two dogs to our, hopefully, three children, two cats, and fish.”

“Oh, gawd.  Jack, we forgot about our fish,” Daniel said, panic-stricken by Mark's accidental reminder.

Everyone burst into laughter.

Mark looked over his shoulder at the fish tank.  “Nice tank!  I'm sure both of our fish families would integrate nicely.”

“Don't worry, Daniel.  Somehow, I think the fish will be loved by whomever ends up with your kids ... yes, I know, all six of them,” Sara teased.

“We'd have to get a new house,” Mark continued on as the laughter settled, “and figure out how to mix two families into one.  There would be a lot of adjustments and a lot of demands on all of us.  Financially, there would be an impact and ...”

Mark saw Jack and Daniel both starting to react, and he spoke quickly to keep them both silent, “No, wait.  I didn't mean what I'm sure that sounded like.  Colonel, Daniel, you may recall, I'm not exactly financially challenged. I would never ask for money in exchange for raising your children.  Is that understood?”

“We are setting up a trust fund for them, for each of them,” Jack mentioned with pride.

“That's good.”  Sara smiled, pleased with the planning her ex-husband was doing for his new family.

“And they'll get everything we have, and ... we're not ...,” Daniel looked at Jack, as if asking permission and seeing a nod from Jack continued, “we're not really financially challenged, either, Mark.  It's not that we're ... rich or anything, but we are comfortable, and at this point anyway, able to do pretty much what we need to in order to raise our family as we want to.”

Mark returned his focus to Sara.  “So we're talking big changes, Sweetheart.  You'd probably have to forget about teaching, except maybe substituting, and I'd have to forego that administrative promotion.  I couldn't take it, Sara, and leave you alone with all those kids, not with all the traveling the position entails.”

Jack and Daniel looked at each other, both starting to speak at the same time, but it was Jack who forged ahead.

“Listen, honestly, we can make other arrangements.  Sara, you love teaching.  I wouldn't want to deprive you of that.  I didn't know you wanted to go back to it again.   Certainly, we can think of something else.”

“Jack's right,” Daniel said.  He looked at Mark, “We definitely don't want you turning down job offers because of something we hope never happens.”

“We've been debating it anyway, Daniel.  We want our family to grow, too.”

Sara said nothing as she looked at Mark, who smiled and spoke very softly, “You want to do this, don't you?”

“We can talk about it at home.”

“But you want to do this?”

“They're Charlie's brothers and sisters, Mark.  How on Earth can we walk away from our extended family?  They're ... part of Charlie.”

Daniel stared at the carpet, and Jack looked at the picture of his deceased son, and then both men gazed into each other's eyes.

“We're in,” Mark said suddenly.

“You can think about it,” Daniel choked out.

“No need,” Mark squeezed Sara's hand.  “This one has made up her mind, and I'm sure the Colonel can tell you that once Sara's mind is made up, she's like stone.”

“Mark.”

“Yes?  Have I said anything that's wrong here?”

“No, but still.”

“Besides, she's right,” looking at Jack with an intense stare, “these children, whether adopted, or however you do it, from the moment you make them yours, become a part of Charlie.  I hope you don't mind, but I consider Charlie a part of Sara and I, too.  I wish I had known him beyond what I see in her heart and in the home movies.  I can't turn my back on his family, Colonel.”  Mark kissed Sara briefly and then said to her, “Okay?”

“Okay,” she affirmed with a nod and confident, though emotional, voice.

Jack rose and reached down for Sara's hand, a look to Mark for permission which was granted by his release of Sara's hand.  Sara stood and the two embraced.  No words were spoken except for Jack's whispered, “Thank you, Sara.”

“I need another hug,” Sara said, moving around the coffee table towards Daniel.

He smiled and stood, and Sara warmly wrapped her arms around him.

“You two stay alive.  You have so much to offer,” Sara said softly.  “But I promise you, Daniel, if fate steps in, Mark and I will raise your children with love, and they will know you and Jack.  I guarantee it.”

Daniel wanted to say thank you, but nothing came out.  For the first time that he could remember, he hugged someone he didn't know all that well without reservation. Surprisingly, he didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable holding Jack's ex-wife in his arms in front of her current husband.  Smiling at Sara, all Daniel felt was love for this woman who had seemingly come out of nowhere to become an important part of his life.

The couples talked more about Jack's and Daniel's plans, and then the conversation went to less pressing topics -- current news events, Mark's recent promotion, Sara's and Mark's daughter's first steps.  

After a final drink of cider, Sara and Mark put on their coats, preparing to leave.  Mark had shaken both of Jack's and Daniel's hands, and then he and Jack hugged quickly.

“It's about time,” Sara chuckled as she watched the hug.

“It's a man thing.  We needed time,” Jack teased as Mark nodded his agreement.

“Come here, Colonel,” Sara chuckled as she took Jack into her arms, “I think we've done it -- full circle.  Charlie would be proud of us.”

“Charlie's watching.  You know that, don't you?”

“Yes, I do.  Jack, I think he was there that day, at Pike's Peak.  Remember?”

Sara still held on to Jack, and his hands were still on her waist.  She looked at Jack, her expression asking if he remembered or agreed.

“I wouldn't be surprised.  He's been here.  I know that.”

Jack glanced at the mantle, softly repeating, “He's been here.”

“I love you, Jack O'Neill.  You be good to yourself, and this ... crazy family you're about to start.”

“I will, and it's your turn to invite us to dinner.”

“Babysitting.  We need a babysitter for Saturday.  You guys up for a bit of baby education?”

“Danny?”

“Sure, why not?  Yes, we'd love to.”

“Sara can call with the specifics.  Be afraid, guys, be very afraid.   Our daughter is a handful.”

“Goodbye, Daniel,” Sara leaned in to Daniel's tender hold and couldn't help but notice that, for the first time, he had reached out to her, not just accepting the hug, but offering one as well.

“He loves you.  I know I keep saying that, but honestly, I can't help myself.  He's different, Daniel.  He's ... whole, and you did that.  I tried, but I wasn't what he needed, but you are.”

Sara pulled back as Daniel spoke.  “Thank you, Sara.  I ... I try, but he pretty much takes care of me.”

“Why do I think you take care of him just as much, if not more?”

“Because it's the truth,” Jack interjected from behind his ex-wife.

Daniel shrugged.

“Daniel, I hope you don't mind, but I love you for loving him as you do, for accepting me, and just for being the person you are.  You're a good soul, Daniel Jackson, and it's an honor to know you.”

“Gawd, you're as bad as he is.”

“That's why he married me!”  Sara smiled.

“I thought it was because you made the best Lasagna this side of Italy,” Daniel teased.

“Well, that, too.”

“Goodnight.”

A few minutes later, Sara and Mark drove away in their car and Jack and Daniel tidied up the living room in silence.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“You're changing the baby's diapers!”

“Me?  What about you?  You're the excavation expert!” Jack reiterated his previous argument.

“What does excavation have to do with diapers?”

“Dirt, grime, yuck ... decay.”

“You're warped, Jack, and you're changing the diapers.”  Daniel knew they'd replay the little diaper wars for a long time.  It had become one of their games, a harmless way of sharing their excitement about the prospect of having a family together.  It made them both feel warm and happy.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!”

“And we love you both, too!” Jack and Daniel laughed as Bijou and Katie barked their love to the couple.

As they closed their eyes in rest that night, Jack and Daniel smiled.  There were still many issues to be addressed as the Jackson-O'Neill's moved forward with the plans for their family, but Jack and Daniel now felt a peace they hadn't felt for days.

Each knew they'd fight for the other to stay alive, and they'd fight for their family to be healthy and protected.  Now they also took comfort in knowing that should a nightmare happen, their children, both human and animal, would be safe and secure, and well loved, by people they loved.

Sam, Sara and Mark had given Jack and Daniel a peace of mind that no one else could ever have given them.  Just as the couple went to sleep, each silently thanked that power in the Heavens who had brought those special people into their lives.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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