Area 52 HKH

The Kernel's Rise

by Orrymain

URL: http://area52hkh.net/aso/orrymain4/kernelsr.php
Summary: A marvelous breakthrough prompts a major change for the Jackson-O'Neills and their good friends, the Shanahans.

The Kernel's Rise
Author: Orrymain
Author Email: marciastudley1@comcast.net (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - May 3, 2017
Spoilers: None
Size: 52kb, short story
Written: March 4-5,7-12,15, 2015
Summary: A marvelous breakthrough prompts a major change for the Jackson-O'Neills and their good friends, the Shanahans.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their "silent" words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~

The Kernel's Rise
by Orrymain

It was a brisk but bright Wednesday morning in Colorado Springs. Jack and Daniel were busy, alternating between keeping the children busy, handling J-O Enterprises business, and cleaning the house.

"Dad, we're gonna go outside and play, okay?" Little Danny asked on behalf of his fellow triplets.

"Break a leg," Jack teased.

"Daddy wouldn't be happy if we did that," Jonny responded seriously.

"It was a joke," Jack replied defensively.

Jonny made a quick motion, going from standing still to an attack posture as he exclaimed, "Gotcha!" Straightening, he laughed, "I knew that."

"Sure, you did," Jack groaned. "Out with yas," he ordered playfully. He watched the children go outside and then walked over to the patio door. For a couple of minutes, he entertained himself by observing the trio as they began to play. ~Geez, I love those kids. How'd I get so lucky?~

**You met me,** Daniel teased from his den.

**Very funny, you eavesdropper you.**

**Very funny and ...** the younger man prodded.

**Very funny and ... very true. I love you.**

**I love you, too, Babe.**

====

"Lieutenant, try recalculating the position of the spray as it relates to the release of the gas," Samantha Carter-Shanahan suggested from the kitchen of her home. "Is that a teaspoon or a tablespoon?" she muttered. "No, sorry, I wasn't talking to you," the blonde sighed as she looked over at a recipe as it displayed on her tablet computer. She listened to the youthful newcomer to the science area of Stargate Command while at the same time adding a pinch of garlic powder to the bowl. ~A pinch? This is not scientific,~ she complained silently.

--

Meanwhile, upstairs eight-year-old Kevin Shanahan heard noises. Putting down the dog brush he'd been using, he stood up and walked to his window. From the new view of the second-story room, he could see and hear children playing. As he watched, Gili, his Bermese Mountain Dog who was now six-and-one-half months old, jumped up on her hind legs to look out the window, too.

Kevin laughed as he observed, "You're getting so big, Gili."

Her tail wagging, Gili woofed, "I like being big." She smiled and communicated with all her might, "Kevin, wouldn't it be fun to go play with the kids? I wanna see Bijou and Katie, too."

Suddenly, Kevin looked over at the large sixty-five pound puppy and urged, "Come on, Gili!"

~Yippee for Kevin. We're gonna go play,~ Gili thought to herself, letting out a happy yap as she followed her human.

--

"Your numbers are off," Sam told the SGC staffer as they continued to talk over the landline phone. "Try ... yes, try that." She looked over at the tablet and noted an instruction to remove liquid after a few hours of cooking. ~What liquid? I didn't put any liquid into this pan.~ She thought for a minute and groaned inwardly. ~No wonder Dad always had us order out all the time.~

As Sam put her ingredients into the slow cooker she lamented the lack of clarity in recipes. Had she not realized that her chicken, peppers, and corn would release moisture as it cooked, she'd be pondering what liquid to remove for hours.

~Remind me to *thank* Daniel for giving this to me last Christmas,~ Sam told herself mockingly as she recalled that Pete had been after her for months to start using the cooking device. She was drawn from her thoughts by the struggling lieutenant. "No, you're not taking into consideration planetary shift. If you don't do that, all of your readings will be incorrect."

At that moment, Susie Shanahan, now nine years of age, walked in with a doll in her hand. She pressed it to chest so she could talk to her mother.

"Mommy, what's this string for?" the deaf girl questioned.

Missing a breath, Sam walked over and kneeled down in front of her daughter where she asked with her hands, "Susie, where did you get that doll?"

Immediately, Susie's fingers went to work as she signed her reply: "Stephanie gave it to me. She said I should really love it, but I don't know what this string is for?"

Sam looked at the doll. It was old, obviously well played with by children over the years. Then she made a horrible realization as she recognized the type of doll her daughter was holding. Pulling the string would cause the doll to speak, only Susie wouldn't hear it. It was a spiteful gift.

As her ire rose, Sam thought about Stephanie. She was the daughter of neighbors who lived a few houses down. The girl's parents were very judgmental and Stephanie was being taught to be the same way. As angry as she was, the mother was also conflicted on what to tell her child.

"Maybe I can fix it," Sam suggested ~I just can't tell her. I can't.~

"Okay, Mommy," the girl signed, handing over the doll and leaving the room.

~Children can be so cruel,~ Sam told herself as she tossed the doll onto the kitchen table.

"Mommy!"

Sam turned, surprised to see such a big smile on her autistic son's face.

"Kevin!"

"I want to go play with the Munchkins and Gili wants to talk with Bijou and Katie. Can we go? Please?"

"Y...you want to play with the Munchkins?"

"They're outside, Mommy, having lots of fun. Please can we go?"

"Sure," Sam agreed, her heart beating much faster than normal. "Come on." She led her boy and his dog to the security gate that separated her yard from the Jackson-O'Neill's. "I'll go ask if ..."

"I can do it, Mommy," Kevin interrupted. "Let's go, Gili!"

Speechless, Sam watched Kevin and Gili sprint over to where Jonny, Little Danny, and Aislinn were playing a game of tag. Totally forgotten was the lieutenant, who kept calling out for his supervisor's assistance.

--

About the same time, inside the Jackson-O'Neill home, Jack happened to take a look outside as he varnished the fireplace set. He stood up, lured by what he saw. Taking a minute to ensure his cleaning supplies were out of the reach of younger brood and zoo, he walked out onto the patio deck and watched the children.

"Hi, Jonny! Hi, Little Danny! Hi, Ash! Can I play with you?"

"Sure, Kevin," Jonny responded happily. "We're playing Tag. Do you know how to play?"

"I think so. I've been watching you play from my room," Kevin told the kids as he turned back and pointed up at his room. "I like my new room. I can see the world from up there."

"Maybe we can play there sometime," Little Danny suggested.

"Sure!" Kevin agreed. "Gili wants to see the girls," he noted about the dog who was at his side.

"They're in the house, Gili," Little Danny advised. "It's okay."

"Woof!" Gili thanked the middle Munchkin.

--

Sam's attention went briefly to the patio where Jack was standing.

The general saw his trusted SG-1 teammate and nodded to Sam, an acknowledgement of Kevin's arrival and a permission for him to stay.

At the same moment, Gili woofed at Kevin and began to trot away from him.

Simultaneously, Jonny called out, "I'm gonna get you" to the newcomer.

The boy waved and said, "Have fun with the beagles, Gili," before running to avoid Jonny's outward hand in the game of tag. "Can't catch me, Jonny!"

The large dog bounded over to Jack, causing him to back slightly in anticipation of her greeting.

"Hello to you, too," the general welcomed, his body now pressured by the dog's paws. "They're in the house," he said after a few happy licks of affection, opening the door and giving the Shanahan dog free access. As Gili entered, Jack called out, "Giant Bermese in the alert. Hide the china!"

Jack laughed at his call, considering that he and Daniel didn't even own any china. Still, it was fun. Gili was a frequent visitor, pretty much coming and going whenever she wanted. It had been that way ever since Bijou and Katie rescued her from a beating after she was stolen from her mother. The dog had almost been added to his family's zoo, but on the first night, Gili had bonded with Kevin and it was clear she was to be his dog.

The general looked over at the boy and smiled. He didn't recall ever seeing Kevin so outgoing. He glanced over to the security gate, but couldn't see his second-in-command any longer, so he returned to the living room and his favorite chair. He had a date with a good book.

--

Beyond Jack's sight, behind the open security gate, Sam couldn't take her eyes off her son. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone.

"Shanahan."

"Shanahan, this is Shanahan."

"Hey, Gorgeous! What's up?"

"Pete, come home."

"I'd like to, Sweetheart, but I only got here two hours ago," Pete responded, though he was curious about the strange request.

"Pete, please. I really think you should come home. Hurry, okay?"

"Sam, you okay?"

"You need to see something, but you'll miss it if you don't come home right now."

"On my way," Pete replied, hanging up and grabbing his coat. ~What am I gonna tell the chief?~ he pondered as he headed for the office of his boss.

====

Ten minutes into his book, the sound of the children playing couldn't escape Jack's ears. It wasn't the loudness or the number of laughs he was hearing, but it was the uniqueness of Kevin's participation.

Jack stood and walked back out to the patio. This was different.

**Daniel, whatever you're doing, if it's not life and death, you may want to come see this.**

**Well, I am a little busy, Babe. There's a problem with the Arkansas site.**

**Danny, seriously, take a break.**

Upstairs, Daniel started to argue, but there was something gentle in the communication from his Love that piqued his curiosity. He decided the work problem could wait a while and went downstairs.

"Okay, I'm here, so what's the ..."

Daniel's mouth was agape as he stood by his husband and listened to the noise of children playing.

"Told ya," Jack stated, his eyes still centered on Kevin Shanahan.

"Jack, he's teasing them and ..."

The words trailed off as both men simply watched the children for a couple of minutes.

"Jack, does Sam know?"

"She was watching earlier. I don't know about now," Jack answered, looking over at the gate but not seeing Kevin's mother.

Daniel looked over. He thought he caught a glimpse of a woman's arm. Something inside told him Sam was watching, but from out of view. He assumed she didn't want to chance interrupting the play.

~Or she's crying and doesn't want us to see,~ the archaeologist thought before refocusing on the children. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for getting me down here to see this."

"Anytime, Angel. Anytime."

====

A half-hour after Sam's phone call, Pete entered his home and smiled. He held out his arms and took his beautiful daughter into his hold. Since he was holding Susie, he couldn't use his hands to sign, so he spoke slowly so she could read his lips.

"Peaches! Where is everyone?"

Secure in her father's arms, Susie signed, "Sammy Jo and Petey are taking a nap in their room and Kevin is at Uncle Jack's and Uncle Daniel's house."

"Where's Mommy?"

Susie answered promptly, her fingers saying, "She's watching Kevin, and I think she's crying."

"Crying?"

The girl nodded and added, "But she doesn't want me to know she's crying."

Pete gave Susie a hug, put her down, and requested, "Why don't you go upstairs and play in your room. Hey, draw me a picture!"

"Okay, Daddy," Susie signed, turning and hurrying up the stairs.

Concerned, Pete walked swiftly through the house to the backyard. Stepping onto the patio, he studied his wife. She looked unusually vulnerable to him, holding herself much as their friend Daniel was known to do regularly in the past.

"Sam," Pete called out quietly as he approached.

"Look at him, Pete."

Pete's eyes averted from his wife to their son. His concern turned to joy in an instant.

--

"Okay, I'll count to ten and you can hide," Kevin told several of the children.

Kevin's active presence in the Jackson-O'Neill yard had garnered a lot of attention. In the space of thirty minutes, all of the younger kids who were home joined in the outdoor games. Tired of Tag, the group was now playing Hide and Seek and as it happened, Kevin was currently the person tasked with finding one of the hiding children.

As the designated "it," Kevin leaned his body into a tree, his hands covering his eyes, and began to count: "One. Two. Three."

--

"Sam, what happened?" Pete asked with wonder in his voice.

"I was cooking and he came downstairs and asked if he could play with the Munchkins while Gili visited with Bijou and Katie."

"He said the Munchkins?"

Nodding, the blonde affirmed her response.

"Pete, he didn't need me to go ask or anything. He ... ran to the Munchkins and asked if he could play with them." Sam finally looked at her husband as she added, "He's never done that before, not any of it."

Pete put his arm around Sam and pulled her close. She responded to the closeness, leaning her head in and raising her right hand to touch Pete's chest. The parents' eyes were glued on their boy whose autism had kept him from ever being so actively engaged until this morning.

--

"Ten!" Kevin announced. "Okay, here I come!" The boy made a circle, looking to see if anything stood out, but nothing did. He decided to check out the Pod where the older children often sat and gossiped with friends, but as he headed that way, he heard a sound and turned around. Carefully, his feet took him towards the gazebo. Laughing, he shouted, "Jenny, I see you!"

"Oh shoot!" Jenny yelled as she sprinted toward the tree that served as the game's home base.

Kevin ran to the tree, put his hand on it, and giggled, "Jenny's it!"

"You run fast, Kevin."

The boy was smiling, but just shrugged in response.

"You go hide," Jenny told the boy. "Everyone better find better spots to hide. I'm gonna find all of you really fast," she declared as she buried her head in the tree. "One. Two. Three."

Pete and Sam watched as some of the hidden children shifted their location, while others chose to remain as they were.

"Strategy," Sam spoke a bit emotionally.

"He's found a good spot," Pete opined about Kevin's movement that took him near the cabana. He tugged on Sam's arm as he held her and urged, "Come on, Sam. Let's go inside."

"I want to watch."

"He's being a normal kid. He's playing. He doesn't need his parents watching everything he does."

"He doesn't know we're watching."

"Kids always know," Pete refuted with a tender smile. He gave Sam a kiss and led her, albeit reluctantly, toward the home's interior. "Besides, we have a little girl who needs our attention, too."

"Oh, Pete, I was so angry earlier," Sam admitted as she turned and let Pete guide her back inside their home.

"At Peaches?"

"No," Sam sighed, telling her husband about the talking doll.

As the couple sat down at the kitchen table, they discussed the events of the day further.

After a while, Sam glanced back at the backyard and admitted, "I still can't believe it, Pete, but ..."

Pete reached over and took his wife's hand as he completed her thought, saying, "Sam, it's okay to be scared." Seeing her sigh, he asserted, "Sweetheart, being in the military and blowing up bad guys on other planets does not mean you can't be scared."

"I'm not to used to that, Pete. SG-1 ... well, we faced a lot of those bad guys. Sometimes it felt like every week there was a crisis that put our lives at risk, but this is different." Sam emitted a small smile and took an affirmative breath that helped her push her fears aside. "Kevin's been improving every day. We know that."

With a nod, Pete agreed, "He's more responsive. Hey, did I tell you he played house with Susie the other day?"

"No, really?"

"Yeah. He didn't put a lot of movement into it, but she was directing him and he let her lead him around."

"Today ... Pete, I wish you could have been here."

"Gili's brought him out of himself," Pete opined.

Sam smiled and looked off, this time towards the living room.

"What's floating around your brain?" the man inquired knowingly.

"Pete, have we ignored Susie?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am."

"I'm not," Sam lamented. "Pete, a couple of years ago, Kevin started to make a lot of progress. We were so happy about that, and then there was that situation with the general."

"Jack still feels guilty about that," Pete noted. "I'm not thrilled about it myself, but no man knows how he'll react when he thinks his life has been gutted and he's going to be bound to a wheelchair until he dies."

"I know you understand. A lot of fathers wouldn't forgive the general."

"Like I had a choice?" Pete teased, well aware of the special bond that existed between his wife and the rest of SG-1. "Go on, Sam," he encouraged, wanting to understand her feelings.

"After the general lashed out and Kevin had his setback, we gave Kevin extra time, time that was taken away from Susie. When we saw the spark in him after the trip to Egypt, that intensified our activities with him and our choices," Sam elaborated. She stood up and walked to the doorway, her eyes observing the stairs. "When we bought this place, Pete, we wanted to add on, and you wanted to do it yourself," she reminded, turning back to look at her still-seated lover. "But we knew Kevin needed more space, and we needed a place to work with him."

Standing, Pete approached his wife and stated, "I still have some building and remodeling in mind, Sam."

"My point, Pete, is that we took out a mortgage, something we swore we wouldn't do, and we had a second story built. Doing that ..."

Sam hung her head low, feeling somewhat guilty about their choices.

"You're thinking about Susie's surgery."

Bobbing her head up and down several times, Sam noted, "Pete, she deserves a chance to hear, to really hear. She doesn't qualify for the cochlear implant, and our insurance won't cover anything experimental. We spent the bulk of our resources on the second floor."

"We made a choice to help our son, so now we help our daughter," Pete declared steadily. He saw Sam's tentative look of hope. "I know what you're thinking."

"They'd help, Pete. We both know that."

"Time to set aside personal pride," the father stated as he took Sam's hands in his.

"Pete, I've read about something that might help Susie, but it's not approved in the U.S. and it's very expensive. It's still early. If you agree, I could make some phones right now."

Pete looked over at the slow cooker and asked, "Is there enough in there for two more?"

Sam grinned. The decision had been made and yet, that was the easy part. What the couple was about to do was difficult for them.

"I'd better make sure they don't have plans," Pete suggested. "You go make those calls."

"I love you, Pete."

"Love you more, Gorgeous," Pete countered before kissing the woman he loved and then heading over to give Jack and Daniel a last minute dinner invitation.

--

Still hiding, Kevin saw his father walking across the grass and grinned. He felt happy. With a big smile, he risked being seen and extended his arm, waving enthusiastically.

Pete's smile was huge as he waved back. He caught a glimpse of Ricky on the other side of the yard, so he chanced another wave to his son.

"Oh, I don't care," Kevin suddenly stated. He stood and ran over to his father for a hug. "I love you, Dad."

"I love you, Kev! Are you having fun?"

"Lots of fun. I like to play."

Pete looked over and saw the Jackson-O'Neill children all standing together and watching. He knew they understood the miraculous breakthrough that had occurred during their playtime.

Smiling at the boy, Pete urged, "Hey, go play with the brood some more."

"Is it okay?"

"Yeah. I need to talk with Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel for a few minutes."

"Daddy, I love you," Kevin declared, hugging Pete one more time and then running over to the brood for a restart of their game. ~Wow.~ Slowly, he walked over to the patio deck. "Am I dreaming?" he asked his friends.

"If you are, then we all are," Jack answered.

"A few minutes ago, I told Sam it was okay to be scared, but this is a type of scared I'm not sure I know how to deal with. Our Kevin is a normal little boy right this second. I don't want that to go away."

Jack patted Pete's back, understanding the fear though he had no words to combat it. Instead, he and Daniel both simply flanked the police detective on both sides and quietly watched the children at play.

====

That night, Mrs. Valissi was called upon to help Jennifer with the younger children that included twins Sammy Jo and Petey Shanahan. The toddlers were making most of their terrible two's so Jennifer appreciated the extra hand.

"Hello, Susie," Mrs. Valissi greeted. "Oh, my hands are so fumbled. I'm sorry, Dear," she said with a smile to the little girl.

As Susie moved her hands to form a reply, Sam translated, "It's okay, Mrs. Valissi. I'm a lot better now at reading lips."

"Mommy," Kevin interjected, something that surprised the astrophysicist.

"Yes, Kevin."

"Will you teach me how to do sign language so I can talk to Susie, too? I only know a few signs."

Feeling herself swell with emotion, Sam simply nodded and bit her lip. She'd totally lost her voice and feared if she even tried to speak, she'd break down. It was a feeling that was foreign to her, to be so overcome that she was afraid to speak.

"Gang, take the Shanahan moppets inside," Jack instructed. "Daddy and I will make the rounds when we get back later tonight."

"Susie, come see our new dolls," Aislinn both stated and signed as she led the smiling deaf girl up to her room.

"Sam, are you okay?" Daniel asked, though he was certain his friend was dealing with a lot of emotion.

"I don't know," Sam admitted. "I won't be if we don't eat in the next half-hour."

"Let's go," Jack replied. Patting his stomach, he put forth, "I'm starved."

====

The Shanahans and the Jackson-O'Neills were in the living room, enjoying an after-dinner drink. Jack and Pete were drinking beer, Daniel wine, and Sam was trying out Ramazzotti, the bottle a gift from an Academy instructor for whom she'd recently done a favor.

"How is it?" Daniel inquired.

"Bitter-sweet," Sam responded about the Italian herbal liqueur. "Syrupy, too, a bit too much for my taste."

With a smirk, Jack grabbed one of the cans on the coffee table and, while extending out his hand, offered, "Beer?"

Sam nodded as she accepted the brew and replied, "Thank you, Sir."

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look during the silence that followed.

"Sam," Daniel called out calmly. "Is there something you want to discuss?"

"It's not that we didn't appreciate the cooking attempt ..." Jack mused.

"Jack, considering your steaks, I wouldn't say anything," Daniel mocked.

"At least it wasn't burnt," Sam teased about her own cooking result.

"As I was saying, thanks for the dinner, but I'm getting a vibe here," Jack advised his hosts.

"It's amazing how Kevin has progressed, isn't it?" Sam inquired.

"Amazing," Jack reiterated, exaggerating the word as he spoke.

"You know, I was researching how we might get some help for Susie," the blonde continued, unfazed by her commander's repetitive mark.

"What about the cochlear implant?" Daniel asked. "It's, uh, very successful from what I've read."

"That's what we were thinking originally," Pete responded.

"We even checked with the doctors, but because of Susie's specific situation, it wouldn't work," Sam explained.

Jack and Daniel looked at each other again. They'd both assumed that one day soon Susie would have the popular procedure done. Neither had any idea that the implant wasn't available for many in the deaf community.

"I can't believe Kevin's growth lately," Sam stated, backpedaling a bit in the conversation. "He's been improving, but to ask to play with the Munchkins and then actually play a whole game of Hide and Seek is beyond wonderful."

"Carter, we've covered this. Kevin's a champ. He's kicked that autistic crap right where it hurts. From now on, he's only going forward."

"Pete and I have spent uncountable hours working with him upstairs in the playroom, something we couldn't have done if we hadn't added the upper level last year."

"The special games and toys we bought helped out a lot, too," Pete added.

Sam was holding her hands, fidgeting with them in rapid movements as she sat next to her husband on the sofa. She reached for her drink and took two steady swigs.

**Babe.**

**I know, Danny.**

A phone call interrupted the conversation. Pete answered it and realized he needed to talk to his detective partner.

"Sam, it's Bill. They've had a development in a case. Ten minutes, okay?"

"Okay, Pete," Sam agreed, watching as Pete took the cordless phone with him and headed for the family room to take the call in private. "He doesn't like to talk about the gory specifics in front of me."

"You've seen gore," Jack responded.

"I know and so does Pete, but ..." Sam shrugged.

"He still wants to protect you," Daniel opined.

Seeing Sam nod with acceptance and yet confusion, Jack rationalized, "It's a guy thing, Carter."

"I know," Sam replied with a smile.

**Jack, why don't you ...**

**Great idea, Angel,** Jack praised without even hearing the rest of the mental communication. "Carter, I need to check on something at home. Be back in a jiffy."

There was silence between Sam and Daniel once Jack left until the archaeologist broke the quietness by simply calling out his friend's name.

"Sam."

"Daniel, when did you know? I mean, how did it happen?"

"How did what happen?"

"Look at me. Today I was talking with someone on my staff at SGC and all I could think about was that darn recipe. I couldn't wait to get off the phone. In fact, I forgot he was on the phone. Daniel, I literally left him hanging," Sam spoke in disbelief. "Then Susie came in." Sam's eyes widened. "Did I tell you what one of her so-called friend gave her?"

"The talking doll."

"Sorry, it's been on my mind all day. When did this happen?"

"Um, when did what happen?"

"I trained for years to get ahead, to be as good, no, better than any man in the scientific community *and* in the military. I fought my way up through the chain of command, survived your husband for years of day-in and day-out torture ..." Sam sighed, "You know what I mean." She stood and walked around the room, fidgeting even more with her hands as she did so. "When did this happen? How did it happen?"

Daniel started to speak, the first hint of a sound coming out when Sam turned sharply towards him.

"And don't ask when what happened. You know what."

The archaeologist laughed as he stood up and walked over to his friend.

"I love it, Daniel, but I don't understand how it happened," Sam confided. "How?"

With a chuckle, Daniel pulled out his wallet.

"It's a little old fashioned, but this is how, for me, anyway," the male scientist stated as he removed a picture of his family. He pointed at one of the children and said, "I remember when Ash was just a tiny little baby. I was giving her a bath and she wiggled her fingers and her toes. I thought that was the most incredible event in the world, Sam. She was mine, a beautiful little life, and I'd help to create her. I always wanted to make a difference. Ash: she's why, for me, and Jonny and Little Danny and ..."

"Daniel, if you list the entire family, we'll be here all night," Sam joked. "It's true, though, isn't it, but it was so fast. I was a colonel with no thoughts of anything but a career until Pete came along. So, okay, I'll be a wife, too, I thought, and then in one fell swoop, in a day, I'm a mother, not of one, not of two, but of four ... Daniel, four kids. The really funny part is that I never thought I could do it."

"And now you can't imagine life before them," Daniel put forth knowingly.

"I'm not even working a half schedule at SGC anymore. Pete and I have put so much into Kevin's care, but every time he looked up and acknowledged us, we had to work harder. When he started to speak, it felt like I'd just won top honors. Today, Daniel, I don't have words for what today felt like, watching my son playing like any normal little boy." Sam smiled as she confided, "Sammy Jo and Petey: wow, I gave birth to them, in spite of the craziness of the general's presence."

Daniel laughed as he recalled the day his friend gave birth to her twins.

"Saving the world was such a rush," Sam opined enthusiastically. "The Goa'uld, The Replicators, The Ori: a cringe-worthy group of villains to satisfy comic book makers for a lifetime. We made them all go away and then we walked away."

"Part of that is just life, Sam. As Jack says, we did our bit, and then it was our turn to experience something else."

"Is it really that simple, Daniel?"

"No, but it sounds good," the archaeologist teased.

"Back!" Jack called out as he returned to the Shanahan living room. "Carter ..."

"That's Shanahan," Pete argued as he, too, joined the discussion after his call ended.

"Carter-Shanahan," Daniel pointed out in amusement.

"Whoever you are," Jack teased, "you'll be happy to know your son is telling our son a story."

"You're kidding?" Pete replied.

"He and Jonny were telling JD a whopper of a tail about a giant fish that ate all the broccoli in the world," Jack laughed. "Jonny hates broccoli."

As the four adults ambled back to their seats, Jack clarified, "Jonny was telling a lot of the story, but Kevin told JD the broccoli had expanded to ten times its normal size and was eating kids as it grew."

"Ew," Sam responded. "My son said that?"

"Maybe he doesn't like broccoli, either," Daniel proposed humorously.

Sam refreshed Daniel's wine and brought out cold beers for her and the others as they all sat down, resuming their spots around the living room.

"Sir, Daniel," Sam spoke hesitantly, trying to get back to the much-needed point and the reason for the dinner get-together. "Last year, Pete and I made the decision to add the second story. Obviously, it gave us more space and it allowed us to take time with Kevin in a place where we could focus on him exclusively. I honestly believe that had we not done that, what we saw today wouldn't have happened."

"Yet," Pete corrected. "I wanted to do all the remodeling myself, but if I had, the upstairs would be nothing but slats."

"We'd planned on having the cochlear implant given to Susie, but then we found out it wouldn't work for her."

"Why didn't you tell us?" Daniel questioned curiously.

"You've had a lot on your plate the last couple of years," Sam answered with a shrug.

"Carter, when *don't* we have a lot on our plate?" Jack mused.

"I ... I guess we just kept it to ourselves, hoping for some kind of miracle," Sam admitted.

"And we put all we had into Kevin," Pete admitted.

"And the twins. They grow so fast," Sam noted lightly, a twinkle in her eyes. "And they get into everything." She looked at her husband and sighed, "I'm evading the real issue here."

"Want me to handle it?" Pete asked gently.

"No, Pete, it's my place."

Jack and Daniel waited patiently. Each considered jumping in, but neither wanted to make their friends feel uncomfortable, so they remained silent.

"Today, when I saw that talking doll, I was so angry. My," Sam paused as a tear fell and she wiped it dry before continuing, "little girl deserves a chance to hear that doll talk. It's her turn. I've been doing some research and I made some calls this afternoon." Sam glanced at Pete and then expounded, "There's a procedure not available in the US, but it's been available in Europe for several years on a limited basis."

"How does it work?" Daniel inquired.

"It's a little controversial, but an implant stimulates the brainstem."

"Not the ear?" Jack questioned.

"No, it bypasses the ear entirely," Sam answered. "They've had some success with it. Thirty to fifty percent do hear afterward. They can even talk on the phone, but it's not a guarantee, and that may sound like a low percentage." The mother's speech became faster and more impassioned as she spoke. "But the success rate is increasing. They've done studies and a lot of the success and degree of success depends on how and why the deafness exists. I really believe Susie has a chance, but it is just a chance. I have to be honest with you about that." After a nervous break, she asked, "Do you want more pie?"

"We're fine," Daniel responded.

"I love pie." As Sam stood to get Jack another piece, he called out, "From that bakery on North Academy?"

"Jack!" Daniel chastised.

"I had a coupon," the astrophysicist teased.

The three men sat quietly, exchanging occasional glances until Pete finally said, "You know what's coming?"

"We have an idea," Jack admitted.

"It's not easy," Pete confided. "But I'll do anything for my little girl, and that's why I'm going along with this. You both know what that means, that need to do anything you can for your kid. It's not about me, or Sam; it's about Susie."

"We understand," Daniel responded.

"Any parent would understand," Jack added.

"Sir," Sam said as she presented her commanding officer with another piece of pie.

"Thank you," Jack responded as he took possession of the plate and quickly ate a bite.

"Sam, why don't you finish what you were saying," Daniel encouraged.

Nodding as she sat back down, Sam confessed, "Insurance won't pay for the procedure or any of the therapy Susie will need afterward. We exhausted most of our savings on the addition to the house and Kevin's therapy. We don't have enough, especially since I've cut back so much at SGC. It's a lot of money," she stated while looking back and forth at her teammates. "We'll pay you back."

"With interest," Pete interjected.

"I know it might take a while," Sam began, "but I'm going to put more hours back into SGC once Susie is confident enough in her hearing."

Sam's pay was on a special system, not unlike that of Jack's and Daniel's post-retirement salary when they returned to duty. While still active, Sam's hours had progressively lessened since having children. With her teammate's assistance, a special waiver was attached to her government service so that her pay was more of a reflection of the time she spent working, as it did for Jack and Daniel. Teal'c was now the only full-time SGC member and even he had special compensation for his time spent on Jaffa business on Chulak.

Nervously but with determination, Sam finally uttered the words as she stated, "We'd like to borrow some money. It would be a loan. I know we've already said it, but we will pay you back, every penny, with interest."

The Jackson-O'Neills took a moment to look at each other. When Daniel gave a slight nod towards his lover, Jack reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a card. He tossed it onto the coffee table.

"What's that?" Pete asked.

"It's the debit card for your account," Jack announced.

"Account?" Sam questioned.

"Sam, Pete," Daniel began as he leaned forward in his chair. "A couple of years ago, Jack and I put some money into a special account. Look, we've been lucky, very lucky. It started out by chance, those rather crazy stock market challenges and bets we made all the time. They paid off and J-O has been way more successful than we ever thought it would." He smiled as he continued his remarks. "We know how much it costs to raise a family and when there are special needs involved, that amount skyrockets. We wanted to help."

"But we knew we had to wait until you were ready," Jack pointed out.

"Actually, what's in there tonight is about a fourth of the actual size of the account," Daniel advised the Shanahans.

"Tomorrow, we'll rollover the funds," Jack advised the couple.

"We wanted to maximize the size of the account," Daniel noted.

"But if it costs a penalty ..." Sam began.

"We have it covered," Jack interrupted. "In forty-eight hours, the account will be at its maximum."

"We'll pay you back," Pete stated once again. Quickly, he repeated, "With interest."

"No way," Jack argued sternly. He stood up and surprised everyone by walking around the room before he finally stopped in front of the coffee table. He looked at Sam as he expressed his emotions. "You know as well as I do that I'm not known for my good manners, ability to get along, or understanding of others."

"You're kidding?" Daniel teased.

"Quiet over there, you geek," Jack retorted without looking at his husband. "Any time Daniel and I have needed you, you've been there," he told Sam, his eyes connecting directly with hers. "No matter what was going on, you've dropped whatever was happening in your life, to help us." He looked at Pete, "And you've supported that." He looked away for a moment and then back at his friends. "This account is for you to use for Susie or Kevin or the twins or however you see fit."

"We're not looking at the balance," Daniel interjected. "Oh!" he expressed, pulling out a piece of paper. "This is the pin number. It's okay to change it."

"You might as well," Jack agreed. "We aren't using it."

"We won't be monitoring it," Daniel pointed out. "We won't know if you take money out or put money back in. This account is for your use."

"But ..." Sam began to counter.

"Carter, the only payback I want is to one day walk in here, see your daughter playing, and be able to call out 'Hey, Susie Q' and have her turn around and smile because she heard me. That's all I," Jack looked at Daniel and corrected, "*we* want. What you've done for us is worth far more than what's in that account."

Pete took Sam's hand in his as he spoke, "Thank you."

Sam couldn't speak again. She simply looked down and tried not to cry.

"Tell us more about this procedure," Daniel requested, wanting Sam to be able to regain her composure and feel more comfortable.

Sam smiled at Daniel, wiped away the tears she couldn't stop from falling, and began, "Well ..."

====

The friends had been talking for quite a while when Jack and Daniel stood up to leave. They all hugged and walked outside toward the security gate that was open at the moment. As they walked, Daniel and Pete moved ahead while Jack lagged behind, his 2IC next to him.

Finally, Jack reached out and tugged on Sam's arm, causing her to step to the side as she faced him.

"Sir?"

"Carter, don't be afraid to let go."

"What do you mean?"

"You proved your point and it has nothing to do with hormones," Jack stated, his expression dead serious. "We were both career military. To tell you the truth, if I hadn't met Sara so early, I doubt I ever would have gotten married. What I wanted back then was to make my brother proud, to do the job I thought he'd died trying to do. I didn't need anyone, except for Sara. I got lucky big time in the second part of my life. I found Daniel and then he was all I needed. Let Davis, Ferretti, Burton, and all the others at SGC do the battles. It's okay to let go."

"It's all I know," Sam responded wondering why everything was so emotional to her on this day.

"Is it? Seems to me you have a husband and a passel of kids to take care of these days."

"Be a homemaker?" Sam mumbled.

"What do you think Danny and I are?"

"You work, Sir."

"Yeah, part-time," Jack acknowledged. He laughed, "Danny and I thought J-O was gonna be the center of our lives. We were wrong: our kids are. We love J-O and we have no plans to let it go, but we've cut back. We have a heck of a team who make it easy for us. You know how we're operating. We rarely go into the office on the same day, and we do a big chunk of work at home. These days, we even run meetings from the house."

"What would do? I ... I don't know how."

Jack laughed loudly in response and challenged, "Carter, you are a wife and a mother. You were a mother to my kids for years before you bit the bullet and married the cop. You *are* a mother to my kids, still. You do what you need to do, but don't hang on because you think you're not doing anything worthwhile if you aren't barking at cadets or figuring out new ways of technospeak. You want a new challenge, Carter? Come work for J-O."

"Work for J-O? Sir, I don't know anything about archaeology."

"Sure you do. You know more than I did when we started J-O. Great hours; great pay! Think about it."

"You two coming?" Daniel shouted as he and Pete continued to wait for the spouses from the patio deck.

Jack waved and began to walk forward again with a distracted Sam alongside.

"Carter, the military is great, but you've done your bit. You've saved the world more than once. You've created doohickeys to fascinate today's geeks for decades. Stand down; collect your pension. Give the other side a try, full-time or do it how Danny and I did it."

"J-O?"

"Or something else," Jack returned. "I'm making the offer because I trust you, you have a great work ethic, and you take orders better than Daniel."

Sam laughed, lowering her head and shaking it as she continued to walk slowly towards Daniel and Pete.

"You can do what you want." Once again, Jack stopped moving, latching on to the blonde and turning her to face him. "Sam, if you want to keep going through that Gate, then go, but if you're looking for a way out, that's what I'm offering. Whatever you do, *don't* up your hours because you think you need to pay us back. I repeat, we're not monitoring that card and we won't."

"Thank you ... Jack."

"The military's a great gig," Jack opined as the two began walking again. "But the greatest gig in the world is doing your own thing on your time and in your own way. The greatest gig, Carter, is up there, Daniel for me, Pete for you, and the kids in our worlds because of them. And I've used up all the words I'm gonna say on the subject for the next ten years."

"Yes, Sir."

Smiling, the couples reunited and went inside the Jackson-O'Neill home so that Sam and Pete could collect their children and go home.

====

"Danny," Jack called out as he entered the bathroom of the master bedroom.

"Mmm?" Daniel mumbled, his face immersed in cold water that filled the vanity sink.

"What are you doing?"

"Waking up," Daniel explained.

"We're going to bed," Jack countered.

"Babe, I didn't get anything done today. I really need to dig into the situation in Arkansas."

"In the morning," Jack insisted.

"It's almost morning," the younger man argued with a smile.

"Danny ..."

"Jack, the sooner I get it done, the sooner I *can* get some sleep. I'm hoping I can straighten it out in a hour, maybe less."

Jack growled, unhappy but also seeing and hearing that part of his husband that meant any arguing was pointless.

"What did you need?" Daniel questioned as he grabbed a towel and dried his face.

"You!"

"Jack!"

With a sigh, the general leaned against the wall as he commented, "Carter said they might have to go to Europe for tests to determine if Susie qualifies for the implant. In fact, they might have to go a few times."

"Right."

"She said after the surgery, the doctors would want Susie available to them for a while, so they could follow up."

"Well, it's two-fold. They need to monitor the results of the surgery closely and they just want to make sure nothing goes wrong." Daniel released the plug in the sink so that the water would drain out. "Susie would be the youngest person to receive the implant."

"Only by a few years."

"Yes, but she's a child and her physical development may have some relation to the procedure's success."

"We don't know that."

"No, we don't, but any good scientist regardless of field is going to be aware of the possibilities, good and bad, and therefore, monitor the subject, Susie, very closely."

"All of that means Carter's doing a lot of back and forth."

"It'll be hard on Pete."

"What about Kevin and the twins?"

"Yeah." Daniel sighed, "It might not be good for Kevin to be separated from her for more than a few days, if that; I mean, not right now."

"Daniel, they need to be together, the whole family, Gili included."

The archaeologist walked to within a foot of his lover and asked, "Do you think Pete would go?"

"In a heartbeat, as long as his job was secure here. He couldn't afford to lose it."

"And does Andy still have, uh ..."

"Power and connections?" Jack queried for his husband in reference to the former Colorado Springs sheriff who was known to have cordial connections with several high-powered figureheads in the department as well as in the city. "Yes and yes."

Daniel nodded and stated, "Do it."

With a smile, Jack returned, "Are you sure you know what I'm suggesting?"

"What I know is that tonight when I told Sam and Pete that what was in the account was a fourth of the total amount, I was wrong. We all know math is not my strong suit. You should have corrected me, Babe."

"Shame on me," Jack jested with a "tick tick tick" afterward. "By the way, I offered Carter a position at J-O tonight."

"You did?"

"Her heart's not there anymore," Jack explained about the military. "She needs a new challenge. I don't know if we're the right fit, but ..."

"... you planted the seed."

"That was the goal," Jack affirmed with a big smile. "A little kernel for the colonel," he laughed.

"You and your puns," Daniel laughed. Seriously, he noted, "She could work from home, like we're doing."

"That's what I told her," the general replied. "I figured she might need a leg up to make the move. You okay with that?"

"Of course."

"Better figure out how we'd use her in case she asks."

"Easy. We take on more anthropological work. We've actually been asked in the past to do more research for museums and even corporations, but we've been too busy to take that on. You know, Sam's great at writing papers. She could turn out some great pieces to educate and advise."

"This may come as a shock to you, but I have no idea what you're talking about." Jack raised his hand to block his Love's response and added, "But that's okay. You put it on paper for me and I'll learn all about it and if Carter asks, we'll go with it." Putting his hand down, he smiled. "Have I told you lately how sexy you are?"

"Not in at least sixteen hours."

"Way too long," Daniel's Silver Fox concluded, leaning in for a kiss. "Danny, about Arkansas ..."

"Ark what?"

Jack grinned as he and his soulmate kissed. The two headed for the comfort of their large bed.

"Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Make sure my math was way off," Daniel stated. "They'll need a place to stay in Europe, probably for six months, maybe longer."

"Done."

"One more thing."

"Just one?"

"For now," Daniel laughed.

"What's the one thing?"

"We may need to be available at SGC while Sam is gone, unless she cuts the cord."

"We can handle it," Jack asserted.

"Do you really think she'll retire from the Air Force?"

"I think she has her hands full with her family and as shocking as that sounds to her, she likes it."

With a chuckle, Daniel responded, "She struggles with that, with the notion that she can be happy and fulfilled as a wife and mother." He paused and then wondered, "What about the Academy?"

"What about it?"

"She could teach, discover more Hailey's for the program." Daniel raised his eyebrows and voice a tad when he ordered, "Don't scoff at it, Jack. She made a good addition to the Mountain."

"She aged well," Jack admitted about Jennifer Hailey who herself was a wife and mother now as well as serving in the military. "Yeah, she learned."

"I guess when it comes right down to it, Sam does have choices. As long as we're around to support her, that's what matters."

"Maybe we shouldn't have encouraged her," Jack groaned, a bit of a repressed smile on his face.

"What do you mean?"

"The Shanahans could be gone for months, Danny."

Daniel smiled as he walked over and gave his Love a kiss, after which he said, "I'm proud of you, by the way. Did I tell you that?"

"Proud?" Jack questioned curiously as his hands gently caressed Daniel's lower back. "Thank you, but why this time?"

"Well, it's the admission you just made and what you told Sam and Pete earlier, about how they've put aside their own lives for us."

"Well, it was time to say it," Jack conceded. "She's never said no, Danny, not once."

"If we really need her, she'll find a way to be here, Jack, but I think we can get by for a few months without imposing on her."

Nodding in acceptance, Jack took a cleansing breath and spoke, "You know what, Angel. Go figure out Arkansas. While you're doing that, I'll make us a nice warm bubble bath, add a little wine; set the mood."

"I love you."

"I love you and always will," Jack vowed.

The lovers shared another kiss and then Daniel put on his pajama top before going to his den. Jack lingered for a moment, lost in thought.

~Dang it, Carter. It's not just the need. I'm used to having you around. You're the best second-in-command the Air Force ever saw, even if I don't understand half of what you say.~

**Just say it, Babe.**

**Are you eavesdropping in my mind again?**

**Want me to pretend I don't know what you're thinking?** Daniel questioned as he opened a file on his desk.

**Don't you hate being right all the time?**

**Hey, it's your realization, Jack. I'm just facilitating,** the younger man teased. **You'll feel better if you just admit it.**

**Fine. I'll miss her, the whole family. Satisfied?**

**Are you?**

Jack sat down on the bed, thinking for a minute. He laid back and stared up at the ceiling. Life kept changing. The truth was, he was changing, too. That was life: change.

**Danny?**

**What?**

**Do you know if I hadn't met you, that I'd be some crotchety old man, wallowing in my misery, feeling sorry for myself? That's assuming I hadn't committed suicide somewhere along the way.**

**That's a ... a dim view of things.**

**Abydos would be gone and me with it, but even if that didn't happen, I'd just be one bitter, angry, lonely excuse for a human being.**

**You would have found your way,** Daniel insisted as he reviewed the file in front of him.

**Danny, what would you say to a trip to Europe, maybe halfway through the Shanahan's time there with Susie?**

**It's a thought, but whether we go or not ...**

**I know, Angel. We're going to miss her, them.**

**I love you.**

**And that's the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.**

**Aren't you supposed to be doing something?**

**On it!** Jack replied, getting off the bed and heading to the bathroom. **Angel?**

**Jack, I'll never finish this if you keep interrupting me.**

**Hey, you eavesdropped, remember?**

**Oh, yeah, well, what?**

**I love you, too.**

Both men could feel the warmth and see the smiles the other held. Soon, they'd enjoy a romantic start to the next day. Life could never be any better for Jack and Daniel than it was at this moment in Colorado Springs.

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

Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com

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