Disclaimer: I OWN NOTHING!!! (I mean, of course I own things... just not these characters... alas)

'Endgame's Endgame: The Epilogue

by Linda Bindner

The picture on the TV screen faded from Connie in the Omaha KMDZ newsroom to their personal reporter, James Harriman, in what appeared to be a room in an unidentified private house. The second the camera crew received the signal from the main newsroom in Omaha via satellite that the news feed had reverted to them, they focused the activated camera from the room in general to the two men standing out of the way of the room's bustling activity at the nearest kitchen counter. Several more men and one blonde woman moved around the kitchen, preparing some kind of meal, studiously ignoring the camera crew and all it entailed.

Which wasn't difficult. The camera crew also ignored the men and woman to concentrate solely on the men at the counter.

The instant the person operating the camera motioned that he'd zoomed in on them, one of the men spoke. “This is James Harriman, reporting live for KMDZ - the human interest exposé: a year later. We're in the home of the man who was formerly General Jack O'Neill before suffering the court-martial that summarily ended his distinguished military career last Spring.” Harriman turned toward the man standing beside him dressed in civilian clothes. “General,” he said in a tone that indicated he planned to continue.

But his interviewee interrupted him. “Stop right there,” Jack said, holding up his hand to cut James off. “I'm not the General anymore, and haven't been for quite a while now. You can call me 'Jack.'”

Harriman grinned at the man's affable tones, and repeated, “'Jack' Okay, Jack...” Then he paused as a large dark man carefully moved him aside for one moment, then reached into a drawer and pulled out two hot pads. “My apologies,” he said, bowed his head, then moved away.

“Sorry,” Jack instantly said. “You caught us at a team night - the guys are making supper so that you and I can talk.”

Harriman gave his best bland 'I understand, but don't really care' smile, then continued. “A year ago, you told our viewers the extraordinary story about your military team's inception, and how you were basically put on trial for saving the lives of those team members...”

“Yeah,” Jack again interrupted, pointing to the people hovering around the stove. “That's my team, making sure the food doesn't burn...”

The woman used the pot holders that the large man had procured in the drawer behind Harriman to carefully pull a roasted chicken out of the oven in its roasting pan, while the third man looked on.

“Wow!” this man expostulated in a loud enough voice to easily carry to the camera. “Sam! I don't believe it - that looks great! You really cooked that all by yourself?”

The woman named Sam snorted as she set the roasting pan onto the stovetop. “What did you think Jack and I were doing during all those cooking lessons he gave me, Daniel?” she rhetorically asked. “I learned how to cook.”

Her companion balked. “But I thought that, after those first few lessons, the word 'cooking' meant...” He hesitated. “... other things,” he eventually confessed in a much softer voice, but one that still carried to the camera.

The woman named Sam gave a throaty laugh. “Sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn't,” she gave her own quick confession, and blushed, the red of her face readily apparent as it was juxtaposed to the white skin of her neck. But she looked pleased as she changed colors.

The camera again focused on Harriman and his interview as the reporter spoke, drawing attention back to him rather than what was happening just across the room. “Jack, how has the court-martial's outcome affected you the most?”

Jack gave a chuckle, as if he was thinking just how much his discharge from the military truly had affected him. He didn't say anything about that, though, but crossed his arms and his feet to glibly reply, “Besides the fact that no one calls me 'General' anymore, and I no longer get a paycheck from the Air Force, I actually find all the free time because of my discharge to be not so bad at all. I finally have the chance to do all those things I'd been putting off because I was too busy chasing bad guys to do them.”

James Harriman smiled. “Such as..?” he prompted.

Jack said, “You may have noticed that my deck has increased in size, and I cleaned my garage, found that I have an attic, and weatherproofed all my outside doors.”

Harriman grinned in good humor. But this was obviously not the information he was looking for. “Besides basic home improvement, is there anything special that you're able to do now that you couldn't before?”

Jack gave an enigmatic grin of his own, and announced, “Yes, but that would be classified.”

The camera crew erupted into appreciative laughter, and when James calmed, was able to prod, “Really, what have you been doing?”

And just as quickly, Jack's demeanor changed to one much more serious. “I can tell you all about my home improvement. I can mention the fact that I volunteer now at the ice rink here in Colorado Springs as an assistant coach of the Beginners Hockey League. I do guest appearances at local grade schools, and still host team nights once a month for my old team - the main reason why I was discharged in the first place, if you'll recall. I was ordered to cease all relations with the members of my team, and you can see that I refused - and to great effect. We get together whenever the opportunity arises.” He shrugged. “Other than that... my team is still part of the Air Force, and does a job that's won them and me a lot of enemies over the years, enemies that have amazing communication technology.” He shrugged again. “I have to realize that anything I say right now can and probably will be used against them at a later date. I don't want to be the cause of something bad happening to any of my team members.” He gave something of a mischievous smile then. “So as the cliché goes: 'Mum's the word.'”

Harriman's stunned expression filled the camera. “Uh...” he stuttered, clearly unsure how to respond to the information that Jack had just imparted. “Your enemies are that resourceful?” he disbelievingly asked. He continued to stare at Jack with a blank look on his face when the ex-military man nodded in spite of the rhetoricalness of the question. At last, James mumbled, “Uh... you must be exaggerating, surely?”

Jack considered. “Uh... no, I'm not.”

Harriman had gathered himself again by the time Jack had made his response, and was able to intelligently ask, “Just what group are your team currently fighting, General?”

“It's 'Jack,' and the more I say, the more I'll wish I hadn't,” Jack said. Then he gave a relaxed grunt, and admitted, “Things are good for all of us right now, and I want to keep it that way. Nothing's really changed, but we all have more time now to do the things that we've always wanted to do.” He shrugged for a third time. “We hang out, we watch stupid shows on TV, we cook supper for team night...” His shrug was beginning to become his one reaction to everything. “I'm sorry to admit that we just do the same 'ole, same 'ole. I'm sure that your viewers don't want to hear about such a boring existence, but hey... it's what we do.” And he laughed, as if to an inside joke.

James laughed as well, though he clearly didn't understand the joke, but chose to gamely face the camera head on. “Well, there you have it, from the man himself, Mr. O'Neill, boring civilian.” And he laughed again. “And that brings us to a close for what has to be the most interesting boring segment of the catch-up exposé. Back to you, Connie.”

A beep sounded from the camera, and two red lights were now shining where only one had been before. “We're off the air,” the cameraman announced, and lowered his camera from his shoulder into a case and began to put his instruments away, joined quickly by a woman with a second camera that no one on SG-1 had even noticed.

Jack was instantly apologetic, one of the best ways that Sam had influenced him over the past year. “Hey, I'm sorry for the classified thing... I'd just hate to be the reason for spilling touchy info on something like a simple TV wave... thingy... and causing problems for the team in case that information that I said becomes too well known, and...” He stopped talking to watch the camera crew load up their arms with the supplies they had used for the broadcast. “I'd just hate to be the cause of problems down the road, you know what I mean?” he said to James.

The sound of a wailing child filtered through the noisy house as the crew headed for the door, practiced at the job they were doing. “We'll wait for ya, James,” the last woman called.

But James shook his head. “You and Alan take the equipment in the second car, and I'll meet you at the airport.” The woman nodded that she had heard, then disappeared.

“Ah,” Jack said. “Baby-sitting hath it's virtues,” he remarked about the noise.

The wailing picked up in volume, and the sound shortly filled the entire house. “I will go,” one of the men proclaimed, and turned to the door.

But before the man could do more than take a step, Jack stopped him with a hand to his chest. “No, T. you stay here and help Sam with supper - I'll go.” Then he paused to instruct, “But no cooking!” A slight smirk curled his lips as he threw a glance in Daniel's direction. “Sam already has her hands full.”

“I am aware, O'Neill,” the man answered agreeably. “ColonelCarter's 'cooking' has indeed improved.”

Jack shot a glance at Teal'c, wondering just what he meant by the word 'improved,' but Teal'c had already turned away to assist Sam. As Jack too turned away without further explanation, James obligingly tasted the mashed potatoes heaped on the spoon that Sam held out to him. “Settle this debate I'm having with Daniel, will you please?” she requested. “He says they need more salt, but I say enough is enough. What do you think?”

James thoughtfully squinched his face. “Ummmm...” Both Sam and Daniel waited expectantly for his decision. “Um...” James eyed Daniel and Sam. “Um... I think I'd better stay out of this,” he wisely replied.

Daniel's aggravated sigh came from across the room, but he pushed the salt shaker to the back of the counter. “I'll add more to my own later,” he grumbled in defeat.

“Maybe you have time to stay for a quick supper?” Sam then invited James, though the reporter shook his head.

“My crew is waiting for me,” he replied. “We have a plane back to Omaha to catch... but thanks so much for...”

Just then, Jack's voice cut through the chatter. “And here's the real reason why I don't want anyone to know about what's changed since the discharge.” He carefully cradled a baby boy in his arms. He turned his tiny charge for James to better see him.

James's eyes lit up. “You're baby-sitting?” he asked as if to ascertain that fact. “Wow, you should have said. I wouldn't have...”

Daniel's splutter of laughter cut him off. “Uh,” he said and chuckled. “It's a little more permanent than just baby-sitting.”

Jack grinned, and looked at Sam. “Can we cook or what?” he commented teasingly with another glance in Daniel's direction.

It was clear that James didn't quite understand. “What? I thought you were...” His voice trailed away as Jack presented the baby to James.

He said, “I'd like you to meet James Walter O'Neill, born six weeks ago.” He cocked his head. “He was a little early, I admit, but 'early is as...'”

“Jack,” Sam said in exasperation, cutting off his cliché. “Doesn't James... the baby... want his own dinner?” And she shot a glance in the direction of the cupboard by the sink.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack said, and crossed the room. “Hold him a minute while I make a bottle?” he said to the reporter standing too stunned to move in his kitchen.

James was so busy grinning at his namesake that Jack could have asked anything of the man, and he would have gladly agreed. “'James Walter' huh?”

Jack measured out a prearranged scoop of formula and dumped it into the bottle he'd also pulled out of the cupboard. “Just don't tell anybody,” he suggested as he added water.

“Not even Walter?” James stopped cooing at the hungry baby to inquire.

“He already knows,” Sam said from her place by the stove where she was helping Daniel spoon the mashed potatoes into a bowl. “We thought we'd let you know too.” And she smiled, which softened her additional comment, “But please don't tell anyone else.”

Jack affably added, “When I think about what those bad guys could do with the information that he even exists...” To illustrate his point, he gave a dramatic shiver.

“They're that bad?” James asked in surprise.

“You have no idea,” Jack quipped, shooting a look towards Sam, as if he and she knew something that they couldn't talk about. “We just don't want the wrong kind of people learning about him, and using him to get to us,” he added, taking his son back from James and holding the bottle so the baby could suck down his supper. Baby James attacked it as if it were filled with manna from the Gods.

“It would be bad, wouldn't it?” James asked in a deadpan voice.

Jack gave a grunt, but it was Daniel who answered, “Jack practically went nuts those times we lost Sam. I'd hate to see what he's like if we lose James!” His look at Teal'c indicated that he didn't want to be around if that ever happened. The look Teal'c shot back to him said that he wholeheartedly agreed.

Jack half glared at Daniel, and half smiled at his son in his arms. “It's not that the base isn't the most secure place on the planet, and it's not that we can't protect our own, it's just that... well...”

Daniel rolled his eyes in amusement. “We would go nuts, too, and we don't want to do that!”

The adult version of James grinned at Daniel, while the baby James version ate with so much enthusiasm that formula dribbled down his chin. He gave a contented gurgle as James the reporter took everyone in with a wave of his hand. “I won't say a word about baby James, I promise,” he immediately said, smiling in a besotted way at the oblivious baby.

Daniel nodded. “Wise man,” he declared.

Sam paused beside Jack on her way to carrying the potatoes to the dining room table. She rubbed her nose into the baby's hair. “Say hi to Mommy,” she said, and grinned when the boy smeared formula-covered hands all over her face. Sam laughed and kissed his fingers. “Too busy eating to say anything - this O'Neill knows where his bread is buttered!”

“And so does this one,” Jack smilingly insisted as Sam paused a second time to kiss him on his cheek, too.

James stared in fascination at the couple's unexpected openness as Sam set the bowl she was carrying on the table, followed by Daniel carrying the chicken and Teal'c carrying a bowl of vegetables. They didn't act like this type of behavior from their friends was anything new, which encouraged him to ask in curiosity, “Are you two married then?”

Jack gave a grin back. “Sam and I both agree - we're not really the marrying kind.” As if this information wasn't remotely controversial, he blew a raspberry onto the baby's tummy instead of argumentatively regarding James. He suddenly grinned and announced, “But we certainly are the baby boy kind!”

Sam watched as her son spit up all over his father in reward. “We're the throwing up kind, too,” she observed in amusement as Jack wiped his shirt.

“You guys go ahead - I'll just go and change my shirt.” He passed the baby to Sam, and was about to disappear when James stopped him.

“I should go - the guys are probably at the airport... field... thing you guys have.” His grin again wormed it's way onto his face. “I won't tell anyone about the baby - I promise.” His grin turned into a smile. “Good-bye, little namesake!” he sang to James in Sam's arms. “Be great for your parents - they're pretty great themselves.” He straightened. “Thank you, General... Jack... for this follow-up interview. The viewers will love it,” he announced.

“No problem,” Jack said, still rubbing at the stain on his shirt. “I'll see ya to the door.”

“Let's wave goodbye,” Sam said to baby James. “We may never see him again.” She smiled, rubbed at the baby, who grabbed at the short hairs on her forehead and pulled.

She forced the baby to release her hair. “Nothing wrong with your grip, is there?” she asked ruefully, passing a hand through her hair as she followed Jack to the door.

“It was great to see you again!” Jack called as James jogged down the walk. “Stop by when ever you're in town!” he suggested. In front of him, Sam waved one of baby James's hands at the adult James.

“Bye!” she called out to James. “Stay in touch!”

James opened the door of a rental car sitting in the driveway, turned and waved back at the trio in the door, then got in and drove away.

Sam and Jack waved until the car disappeared around the corner. Then Sam kissed baby James on his formula-covered cheek, then kissed Jack on his formula-covered cheek. They were both laughing as they headed back inside.

The minute they disappeared into the house, a nondescript brown sedan parked across the street suddenly ground to life, and a thoroughly dejected Detective Shanahan pulled away from the house he was staking out. The rumors were true, he realized. Sam and O'Neill... a couple... a baby... There was no hope at all anymore of him maybe convincing Sam to give him another try.

As his car pulled away, Sam and Jack vanished, and the front door of the Carter-O'Neill house firmly closed behind them.

The End (for real this time)

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