A Shock

to the

System

 

The

Anunnaki Unification

A Stargate SG-1 Fan Fiction Story

 

Book 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michele Briere

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fan fiction. The Stargate universe and characters belong to the people and agencies listed in the Acknowledgments. All other characters belong to the author, Michele Briere.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Michele Briere

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-1530146307 

ISBN-10: 1530146305


Acknowledgements

 

All characters except those of the Stargate SG-1 universe belong to me. The characters and universe of Stargate SG-1 do not belong to me. All rightful credits can be found here at the IMDB on the Stargate SG-1 page which reads: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118480/companycredits?ref_=tt_dt_co

 

Production Companies

·                     Double Secret Productions

·                     Gekko Film Corp.

·                     Kawoosh! Productions IX (season 9)

·                     Kawoosh! Productions VII

·                     MGM Worldwide Television Productions

·                     Sony Pictures Television (2005-2006)

·                     Stargate SG-1 Production (II) Inc.

Distributors

·                     MGM Worldwide Television (1997-2006) (World-wide) (all media) (sales)

·                     MGM Domestic Television Distribution (1997-2005) (USA) (TV)

·                     Sony Pictures Television (2005-2006) (USA) (TV)

·                     Showtime Networks (1997-2002) (USA) (TV) (original airing) (seasons 1-5)

·                     Sci-Fi Channel, The (2002-2006) (USA) (TV) (original airing) (seasons 6-10)

·                     MGM/UA Home Entertainment (2001-2006) (USA) (DVD)

·                     CanWest Global Television Network (1997-2004) (Canada) (TV) (original airing)

·                     Chum Television (2004-2006) (Canada) (TV) (original airing)

·                     CITY-TV (Canada) (TV) (repeats)

·                     Sky One (1998-2006) (UK) (TV) (original airing) (repeats)

·                     Channel 4 Television Corporation (1999-) (UK) (TV)

·                     AXN (2007-) (Hungary) (TV) (repeats)

·                     Audio Visual Enterprises (1998) (Greece) (VHS)

·                     Image Entertainment (USA) (DVD) (laserdisc)

·                     MGM Home Entertainment (2003-2005) (Germany) (DVD)

·                     OnTV / CH (all media)

·                     RTL2 (1999-) (Germany) (TV)

·                     Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2005-) (Germany) (DVD)

·                     TV6 (2008-) (Estonia) (TV) (re-release)

·                     TV6 (2011) (Hungary) (TV) (re-release)

·                     Veronica (2004-2008) (Netherlands) (TV)

Special Effects

·                     Atmosphere Visual Effects

·                     Enigma Animation Productions Inc. (digital effects)

·                     Gajdecki Visual Effects (GVFX) (digital effects)

·                     Image Engine Design (special effects)

·                     Northwest Imaging & FX (digital effects)

·                     Northwestern Effects Group Ltd. (prosthetic and animatronic effects)

·                     Pinnacle Post (digital effects)

·                     Rainmaker Animation & Visual Effects (visual effects)

·                     Rainmaker Digital Pictures (digital effects)

·                     SPIN West VFX

·                     Smoke and Mirrors

·                     Solstice Imaging

·                     Steve Johnson's XFX

Other Companies

·                     Act One Script Clearance (script research)

·                     David Cowan Enterprises Inc. (computer engineering)

·                     Department of Defense (we gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of)

·                     Department of the Air Force (we gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of)

·                     Energy Film (stock footage)

·                     Gastown Post and Transfer (post-production services)

·                     Rainmaker Digital Pictures (post-production services)

·                     Sharpe Sound Studios (re-recorded by)

·                     Stargate SG-1 Productions Limited Partnership (production services provided by)

·                     U.S. Space Command (we gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of)

 


 

Preface

 

These chapters were written during Seasons 7-10 of Stargate: SG-1. Because of this, some aspects of the story, such as same-sex marriage, are not yet legal. Please overlook these aspects; if I changed it now, a lot more would have to be changed.

This is fan-fiction. The characters of Stargate, and the alternate universe of Stargate do not belong to me, I’m only borrowing them. The Anunnaki belong to themselves, but I borrowed them, too; so far, they haven’t complained. The rest of the characters are mine. I also made up my own original First Flight astronauts, instead of using the real ones. This is not a slight against our heroes, only respect to not use them in a fictional situation.

This story follows our SG-1 team on continuing adventures of life, love, and their irritation of a certain Goa’uld. This story contains pairings of straight and gay partners, as well as our threesome of Jack/Sam/Daniel, so if you are easily offended, don’t read this. If you are under age, you’ve been warned: I don’t want to hear from your mama about this. The smut has been removed in this version, as well as a few other scenes changed and added. This was written when I was still making a lot of mistakes, so I’ve done my best to fix them.

There’s a lot of gay talk in this mainly because, at the time this was written, there was a lot of coverage in the news about gays in the military, as well as religion being forced onto military personnel, and problems at the Air Force Academy, so there’s a great deal of commentary on these subjects. I’m giving my own two-cents on those subjects.

No profit is intended on this story. I wanted to make it available to people in a portable format, and the prices of these books are the lowest I was allowed to set them with CreateSpace and Kindle.

Note: There are a few lyrics in this, so thanks to Shinedown and John Hiatt. Information was borrowed from the United Nations website. There are probably a few others I need to mention, but for the life of me, I can’t think of them.

Writers need love, too, so feel free to drop me an email at michele.briere@gmail.com!


 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

 

Anunnaki Unification. 1

Acknowledgements. 3

Preface. 6

Table of Contents. 8

Chapter 12. 1

Chapter 13. 27

Chapter 14. 48

Chapter 16. 72

Chapter 17. 102

Chapter 18. 132

Chapter 19. 155

Chapter 20. 178

Chapter 21. 186

Chapter 22. 199

Chapter 23. 220

Chapter 24. 246

Chapter 25. 273

 

 



Chapter 12

 

Thankfully the afternoon discussions turned toward the Stargate and Daniel was happy to hand the stage over to Sam. The physicists were baffled, arguing that wormholes shouldn’t be stable, much less work or even exist. Like a black hole, if one did exist it should instantly obliterate a person. Sam found the whiteboard marker and quickly drew all over the board. After a stunned silence, there was a flurry of notebooks being opened and the equations copied. Cameras flashed continually. She waited until they were done to tell them that they wouldn’t be able to duplicate it in a lab because they wouldn’t be able to round up enough energy to run it for even a second. They didn’t have the materials to make it work or the power supply, and the beings that created them are long dead. Someone suggested tapping into a sun or black hole for the energy.

“AAAH! Don’t do that!” Jack shouted, startling everyone, waving his arms. Sam agreed and told everyone about black holes sucking in the SGC and exploding suns.

“Col. Carter, over the past week we have heard wonders we never thought we’d hear,” someone said. “We have also heard over and over how the knowledge and use of this Stargate has almost destroyed us. Why is it still in use, if it’s so dangerous?”

“Fire is dangerous,” Sam said. “Electricity is dangerous, people drown in water every day. Should we bury our heads in the sand? We are as careful as we can be, and like children, we are learning from our mistakes.”

“What about colonization, Colonel? Will humans be heading to the stars any time soon?”

“Humans have already colonized the stars,” she said. “Just because they haven’t lived on this planet in a couple thousand years, doesn’t make them less human. If you mean will Tau’ri be heading out, the answer is not anytime soon.”

After the protests died down,

“We can’t get along on one planet, we won’t be wasting gate time by sending people out to other planets to bicker,” she told them.

“You’re playing God with this thing, you know,” someone said.

“Maybe,” she said. “But I can tell you that at the moment the gate isn’t working at all because the Asgard feel that the current political agenda isn’t conducive to being good neighbors. The complaint of playing God is always given by someone with a smaller gun.”

“It isn’t working?” someone asked after a silence. “How can it be fixed?”

“When the Asgard can once again trust our leadership to play nice in the sandbox, they’ll turn it back on,” she said.

“But others with Stargates aren’t playing nice. Take these Goolds, for example.”

Goo-ah-oold,” she corrected. “The Asgard don’t have as high hopes for others as they do for us,” she told them. “Most of the other worlds are in elementary school; we are about to enter college. We don’t get Dad’s car keys if we don’t bring up our grade point average.”

“Alright, ignoring this obvious case of discrimination, have these Asgard really been stealing people and returning them?”

“The alien abduction stories?” Sam asked. “Only a few. The Asgard look the way they do because of cloning. They’ve been using DNA from other species in trying to find a compatible match in which to splice their own DNA onto so that they can continue to live. If they don’t, their cloning will completely break down and they will die out as a race. And not all the Asgard have been taking people, only a couple of unethical scientists. They’ve been dealt with. We caught them and turned them over to Asgard authorities. If anyone has been claiming abduction lately, they’re lying.”

The afternoon went quickly and everyone was disappointed in not getting individual attention, mostly from Daniel. He didn’t particularly care, he was too worn out. There was another two hour break and then two hundred specially chosen would meet in the main dining hall for a private dinner. There was coffee waiting backstage and Daniel took a sip as he glanced out the curtains. He paused and looked at the cup in his hand. He took another sip.

“What is it?” Sam asked.

“I know this coffee,” Daniel said, pointing to the innocent cup. He took another sip. “Where is she? Mrs. Arthur! Where are you?” He looked around, his attention perking up.

“Here, boy.” An older woman stepped out from a back office, putting an armful of papers on a desk. Daniel put his cup down and threw his arms around her. She barely reached his shoulders. She was equally glad to see him and held his face, planting a loud smack on his cheek.

“Look at you,” she said with pride. “Dr. Jordan would have been so proud of you.”

“Where were you?” he asked. “I was looking for you all week.”

“Oh, Daniel, this was your time,” she shushed him, taping him on the chest. “You had more important things to do than spending time with an old woman.”

“Jack, Sam.” He turned, putting an arm around the woman’s shoulders. “This is Mrs. Arthur; she was Dr. Jordan’s admin assistant. She mothered me the entire time I was here.” He introduced Jack and Sam to her. “And she makes the best coffee in the world. Best fried chicken, best chocolate chip cookies, best fudge, best…”

“You stop,” she said, waving a hand at him. Jack and Sam shook hands with the slightly rounded lady.

“Come to the dinner tonight?” Daniel begged her. He peppered her apple cheeks with pecks.

“Alright,” she conceded with a laugh. “Just stop slobberin’ on me, boy.” She poked at his stomach and chest. “At least someone’s been feedin’ you. He was so skinny when he first came here, his pants kept slidin’ down those cute buns of his,” she informed Jack and Sam. They smiled, enjoying seeing Daniel squirm.

“He’s been playing with the military,” Sam said. “They shamed him into working out.”

“Uh huh,” the lady commented, giving Daniel’s biceps a squeeze. Her small hands barely fit over them. “Good thing I’m old, honey, or he’d be in trouble.”

Sam laughed out loud as Daniel flushed.

“And what’s your excuse, Mr. General, sir?” she questioned Jack, looking over his slim form critically. “Don’t the army feed the generals?”

“I’m Air Force, ma’am,” Jack said with a smirk. “And they feed me fine, but I’m kept busy so I tend to work it off.” He tilted his head toward Sam and waved his left hand. Mrs. Arthur laughed.

“Good for you, son,” she informed him. She looked all three of them up and down. “Daniel, did I hear right? It’s the three of you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Uh huh. Well, you always did like strange things. I don’t want to hear about it,” she said, covering her ears. “You are old enough to know better,” she said, pointing at Jack.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She brushed off a speck on Daniel’s chest. “You disappeared, boy,” she said a bit huskily. “We missed you. He missed you. We didn’t hear from you after that seminar. That’s when all this started isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Daniel acknowledged with a nod. “I was approached outside, by a private concern, and that was that. They didn’t exactly give me time to get my affairs in order. Things started getting a little dangerous and I didn’t want anyone coming and hurting you because of me.”

She nodded. “And this private concern proved your theories. As we all know, now.”

Daniel put his arms around her again, holding her tight. “There were so many times I wanted to call you,” he whispered. “Times when I really needed you.”

She held him for a few minutes as Jack and Sam turned and kept a few people from interrupting. Someone had spent time mothering Daniel or he would have turned into a complete ass, and now they knew who to thank for their sweet-natured boy.

“Okay, now,” she said, sniffling a bit. “I have to get back to the office. Dr. Bradley wanted those files.”

“Not Genghis Khan?!” Daniel pulled back to look at her in horror. “Come to Colorado,” he begged. “Work for me. I’m going to be writing, finally, maybe teaching a little, hopefully, and I’ll need help. You’re the best. And I wouldn’t trust anyone else.”

“Colorado?” she questioned with an incredulous look. “My kids are here, honey.”

“Your kids are all grown up, I’m not,” he said. “Please? At least think about it? I’ll take care of all your moving expenses. You can live in my house. It’s in a nice family neighborhood. I was going to rent it out because I’m moving in with Jack and Sam, but you can live in it.”

“Hmmm. I suppose it is chock full of relics,” she commented.

“Of course it is,” he said. “But they’ll be coming with me, so you won’t have to worry about them.”

She gave his face a tap. “I’ll think about it,” she said.

“Good. And Jack’s a Cubs fan, so you two can commiserate together.”

Only one more event and they could go home.

“Who’s Dr. Bradley?” Jack asked on their way to the hotel room to change. Daniel snorted.

“The Chair for Far Eastern Studies,” he said. “Victoria Bradley. Prima Dona. Thinks she’s God’s gift. I admit she’s good, but she could stand to lose the attitude. She couldn’t even bring herself to come to the seminar this week, and she even worked Mrs. A through it. I had left Mrs. A a seat. Pisses me off.”

“Your Mrs. A looks to be in her sixties,” Sam commented. “Is she up to the job of assisting you?”

“She’s the best,” Daniel said with a nod. “She was the only person who could keep Dr. Jordan not only on schedule, but organized. She knows how to catalog artifacts, how to read chicken scratch, knows her way around a computer well enough to format a three hundred page thesis, she knows which student needs a hand holding and which one needs a spanking, she can spot a cheater by looking into their face, and if I had had a say in who was adopting me, I would have chosen her. And she’s lived in tenement housing all her life, survived gang wars which two grandsons didn’t, and she’s managed to keep her integrity. I can guarantee she keeps secrets better than the Nox. God couldn’t pry information from her and she’d rap His hand for trying.”

“Okay, okay,” Jack chuckled. “I’m sold. If you want her, the base will pay for her relocation.”

Daniel threw his arms around Jack’s neck and smooched him loudly on the cheek.

“Jack, do you realize you’ve been talking as thought you’re in charge of the Mountain?” Sam asked, looking sideways at him. He paused and scowled, not answering.

“So,” Sam said after a moment. “Daniel, what’d she catch you cheating on?”

Daniel flushed and she laughed. “Latin,” he admitted. “I had finals in that and Ancient Hebrew on the same day and I had only studied for the Hebrew. I hated Latin. She boxed my ears, read me the riot act, and then dragged me to church with her. She made me confess in front of everyone. It was an African-American Baptist church, Sam, have you ever been to one? They whooped and hollered and rattled the windows with their singing and praising of Mrs. A for rescuing the poor white boy who didn’t know any better. I never cheated again.”

Sam and Jack were laughing as they got to their suite. “Maybe we should put her in a room with Baal for an hour,” Jack suggested.

“He’d leave the room weeping for his mother,” Daniel guaranteed him.

Once in their room, Jack handed out the rest of the jackets that had been given to him, and the SGC made their appearance at the hall all dressed in the colors of the evening, denim and the SGC logo. Jack had been counting on the guests wearing suits and ties, which he had been correct on. Jack mentioned the Enki thing in the break room and Daniel frowned.

“He did what?”

“Turned the chair red. With his mind.”

Daniel scratched his head. “Well, according to the myths, he’s considered the god of magic. As well as numerous other things. I guess there’s something to it. Let me think about it.”

Daniel walked around greeting people as they entered. He didn’t want to pull the old thing of making the grand entrance after everyone had been sitting around for a while, a proper host should be on hand to greet people as they came in.

“Daniel, why is there a bird in here?” a professor asked, looking over Daniel’s shoulder. Daniel turned and shook his head at the bird sitting on the back of a chair.

“That’s Zu, sir; he has a mind of his own.”

Zu? You named your macaw Zu? Only you, Daniel.” Several others around them laughed. He decided he wasn’t going to correct them as he motioned at Jack with his head. Jack turned to look and sighed. Trust Zu to make an appearance at a chicken dinner.

Daniel had invited all his favorite faculty, a few who he wanted to politely smile at, various fellow students, family, a few that Sam talked him into as politically correct, and friends that he felt should be sharing the accolades. As the wait staff began to set up dishes, people slowly moved toward their seats. A few salads were started before there was a clinking on a glass. Everyone quieted and looked up.

“There are people in this world who are not going to be fed on this day,” Mrs. Arthur announced when she had their attention. “I believe thanks are in order for what is before us. Daniel, you will say grace since it’s your party.” There were a few light snickers from those present who knew Mrs. A. “And no funny business, boy.”

“Yes, ma’am. I mean, no, ma’am.”

“Take hands, you buncha heathens,” she ordered, waving a hand around the large room

Daniel hid a smile and took Jack and Paul’s hands as he stood.

“Thank you for this bounty set before us, may we be grateful and remember our neighbors in their time of need. Amen.”

There was a quiet echo around the room as he sat and began to eat.

“What funny business?” Jack whispered, leaning over after a moment. Daniel smiled.

“I’ve said grace in almost every language I know, I’ve done the God is good God is great Yea God, I’ve used the name of almost every deity that enters my head at the moment, I’ve shouted Sun God Sun God RA RA RA, and I’ve switched pronouns.”

Davis choked on a piece of lettuce.

“It was in Hebrew, though, so it took her a while to figure it out.”

“How’d she find out?” Sam asked from Jack’s left.

“She got suspicious and asked a visiting professor from the University of Jerusalem. He was amused, I got dragged to church again.” Sam and Paul snickered at him.

Jack tore the chicken leg off and handed it back to Zu. The bird cracked the bone and greedily licked at the marrow, an insane gleam in his eyes.

“I don’t suppose you’d like to tell us where you’ve been?” Jack asked the bird.

Innnnaaaa.”

“Inna means No,” Daniel told them. They had already guessed that.

“Daniel, if I’m going to take the Homeworld Security position, I should probably know what the aliens are up to when they’re on-world,” Jack complained. Daniel half turned and spoke to the bird. Zu reluctantly answered.

“He’s been tracking snakes, he said,” Daniel informed Jack. “Zu, you need to report to Jack or you can’t play.” Zu sputtered something. “He doesn’t like it, but he’ll report in.”

Zu said something else and an image entered their heads. SG-1 choked on various foods.

“And you’re telling us now?” Jack asked the bird with a raised brow. “Sam.”

“I’m on it.” She looked across the room, caught Reynolds’ eye, and made a discrete hand gesture. He raised an eyebrow and acknowledged. “Zu, tell Col. Reynolds.” A moment later, Reynolds registered the information and slowly walked around the perimeter. He found his subject, bent and whispered into the man’s ear, and they walked out of the room with Harper and Bosco following. Sam calmly followed.

“Who was that?” Jack asked.

“One of the Egyptian envoys,” Daniel said, a sick feeling in his stomach. “Hanif El-Nabawy. Jack, either a few symbiotes are jumping bodies, or….”

“I know. Zu, what’s the story?”

After a lengthy croaking speech in Sumerian, Daniel told him: “He said El-Nabawy had met in private with General Cason at the State Department. Cason is dead, the symbiote jumped into El-Nabawy. No one has found Cason; he’s thought to be missing. The symbiote zatted him out. The other envoy, Kassir, is unaware of the switch. We need to tell him, Jack.”

“Okay, but you can’t leave here without arousing suspicion,” Jack said. “You can meet with him privately after and express your condolences. Davis, take Kasey out and have a talk with him. Show him the remains, if he needs to see for himself.”

Kassir; yes, sir.”

Zu, any more in here?”

Noooo.”

Jack scowled as he bit into a corn on the cob. “Daniel, we need to find a better way to monitor these snakeheads.”

“We could inject the security teams with naquadah,” Daniel suggested.

“Something a little more feasible,” Jack responded.

“Well, I still like my idea of a hand-held MRI.”

“So do I, actually,” Jack commented. “When the major gets back, let’s see if he’s got any plans on that. I saw wheels turning when you first mentioned it.”

SG teams around the room were on alert having seen the small altercation that none of the civilians noticed. Jack gestured and they reluctantly relaxed back into their guard positions.

Sam was back forty-five minutes later, none the worse for wear, as was SG-3.

“It’s done,” she said quietly. “Major Davis is on the phone with the Egyptian Embassy, the other envoy is a bit shaken. We showed him the dead symbiote. The snake bragged a little before Col. Reynolds ended it. It was from Enlil’s ship, declaring that its god would be back for us. It seems Major Harper has been watching too many X-Files reruns,” she commented with dark humor. “He used a small awl to shove into the back of the man’s skull. Killed the symbiote.”

Jack chuckled as Daniel paused.

“What’s X-Files?”

Everyone who heard him stopped and stared.

“What?” He raised his hands innocently. “I keep hearing the term, but no one has explained it to me.”

Sam shook her head sadly. “That’s it,” she declared. “We’re educating Daniel when we get home; he is woefully ignorant of important information. I’ll bet you don’t know Red Dwarf, either.”

Daniel shook his head.

“Doctor Who?”

“Who?”

“Are you pulling my leg?” she asked suspiciously.

“Honey, I’ve done a lot of things with your legs, but I haven’t pulled them,” he commented. There were laughs around the table and numerous heads shaking in pity.

“Jack, we need to stop at Best Buy and stock up on box sets,” Sam told him. He agreed.

“As long as I can get Wild Wild West,” he said. “Is Black Sheep Squadron out?”

“Yes,” someone nearby spoke up.

“And I want the Sid and Marty Krofft collection,” Sam said. “I had a major thing for the Bugaloos.”

“Who’s your favorite?” someone asked.

“IQ, of course,” she said.

“Do I even want to know?” Jack asked Daniel. He shook his head.

“I don’t think I do,” he commented.

“Why don’t we make the rounds?” Jack suggested. Daniel agreed and they left Sam and the rest of the table to their cartoon debate. Neither wanted to know what a Sigmund was, either.

Major Davis came back in after a while and whispered into Jack’s ear before heading back to their table. A few people at the Egyptian’s table wondered where they had gotten to, and Daniel told them that Mr. El-Nabawy had taken ill. Probably the change in weather and the water. The table agreed that Chicago water wasn’t the greatest in the world. One of the guards at the door caught Daniel’s attention and he went over.

“Sir, there is a gentleman outside who wishes a word. Says he’s an old colleague. Rayner.”

Daniel was startled. He nodded and stepped outside. The guards outside stood at attention. Daniel hoped there would be a time when the guards wouldn’t be necessary and he could go back to being just Daniel, SGC resident geek and Jack’s main irritation.

“Stephen,” Daniel greeted the waiting man. “How are you?” The last time Daniel saw Rayner, he had been overcome by Sarah/Osiris in Egypt after stealing a key to a tomb that appeared to be bare of artifacts, but in fact had a hidden panel of Goa’uld toys. Janet and Sam saved Rayner who had been on the verge of losing too much blood for a middle of the desert recovery. They gave Rayner an excuse for all the happenings and luckily Rayner had enough of a head injury that he didn’t clearly remember the events inside the small tomb. Apparently the recent events brought back a few memories or at least made the shadows clear.

“Good, Daniel, thanks.” The man hesitantly held out his hand. Daniel willingly took it. “Listen, Daniel….I just wanted to apologize. You were right, I was wrong. I was a prick. You were always so much smarter than I was and I was jealous. You think outside the box; I don’t know how to do that. I’m sorry for my behavior.”

“Stephen….”

“No, Daniel,” Stephen shook his head. “I’ve had a long time to think; I… you and your friends, you saved my life. You didn’t have to. I don’t think I would have, if things were reversed, and I’m ashamed of myself to admit that. Congratulations. I’m glad this has happened for you. Truly.”

“Stephen, come in,” Daniel said as the man turned to leave. “There’s room. Come in and eat. Socialize a little.”

“No, thanks, though,” Stephen said, seeming to be genuinely grateful. “I’m still a bit of a self-righteous prick, so allow me this moment of weakness.” He took Daniel’s hand once more and left.

The door opened and Reynolds poked his head out.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Daniel responded. He turned and went back in.

“You okay?” Reynolds asked. Daniel nodded.

“Ready for home,” Daniel said.

Reynolds agreed. “I hear that.”

Daniel slowly made his way around the tables, greeting people he hadn’t seen in years and welcoming the politically correct crowd. He could have filled those seats with friends, but the military convinced him to include a few who needed convincing. Some of the scientists whispered that they felt it was inappropriate for any military to be present; Daniel just smiled and let them know that the military personnel were his friends and fellow gate travelers. Talk to them; they could be asked questions, too. One of the archaeology professors asked about security at sites and Daniel took that opportunity to drag Col. Reynolds over. He left the colonel at the table to tell everyone about off-world security and exactly why military was present at sites.

Someone clinked their glass and the room quieted. Prof. O’Brien stood and waited a moment.

“Daniel, I double-checked your records here,” he said. “Actually, I didn’t have much of a choice; your general insisted upon it. You now speak fluent Sumerian? And you corrected our pronunciations via the Sumerians themselves? I think the term ‘over-achiever’ is an understatement.” There were knowing chuckles around the room. “And we want to meet the Sumerians, son. Have a little chat with them.

“You know, you were only six credits from your linguistics doctorate when you left us; the board agrees with me that you have more than demonstrated those six credits over this past week with the use of the ancient Egyptian, not including the alien language which we can’t substantiate at this point, so….” He took out a frame from beneath his table. “Your Linguistics Doctorate, Dr. Jackson.”

Daniel stood, shocked, before someone nudged him. He went to his old linguistics professor and looked in disbelief at the framed paper. It was indeed a signed Doctorate in Linguistics and it contained his name. The SGC were the loudest in their whistling and yelling, showing their pride in their boy. Daniel looked around and saw Jack nearby. He dipped Jack over a table and kissed him, much to the amusement of the room which got louder in its cheers and laughter. He couldn’t have done that in a room filled with military, but the college crowd was a different species and they found nothing unusual in it.

“Oh, my,” Daniel breathed after releasing Jack and looking at his new Doctorate. “Jack, this means I get a raise.”

“You keep kissing me like that, and SOMETHING will be raised,” Jack commented as he righted himself and straightened his clothes. There were wolf-whistles and laughter.

“Dr. O’Brien, thank you,” Daniel said when things quieted. “Jack pulls these rabbits out of hats once in a while, so this hadn’t even entered my thoughts. And I may be able to get you the Sumerian interview. Actually, they’ve been around you all week. Naaa,” he shushed the stunned staff. “Later. I don’t know what to say.”

“There’s a first,” an SGC person muttered out loud to laughter.

“Will you be teaching, Dr. Jackson?” someone asked.

Daniel nodded. “I’m going to try,” he said. “I do live in Colorado Springs, though, so it will probably be there or in Denver. I need work out a curriculum and make an offer at the university. Actually, there are a lot of variables which need to be worked out, so I can’t give you anything definitive, yet.”

“Can we get you to do a special seminar once or twice a year here?” someone asked.

“More than likely,” Daniel said with a smile. “How can we discuss the Orient and not include the Oriental University?”

“How about guest speakers?” came the question after the applause died down.

“What? You mean like Sumerians for the Sumerian studies? I don’t know,” he said when he received affirmatives. “Technically, they’re not even supposed to be here. The term ‘illegal alien’ is taking on a whole new meaning.” He waited for the chuckles and looked toward the back of the room. “Zu, you feel like teaching a class?” he called out. He received a squawk and a flurry of words at which Daniel chuckled.

“Language, Zu,” he said. “Bad bird. Everyone, this really is Zu. And he’s sentient. He’s a little mouthy, though; not even the Marines I work with swear like he does. He can be bribed with bananas and chicken, by the way.”

Everyone turned to look at the red-gold macaw who was currently taking apart another chicken bone.

“That isn’t a bird?” someone asked after a moment.

“Of course he’s a bird,” Daniel said. “Doesn’t mean he isn’t sentient. You’ve seen me dealing with a runaway cub all week, and she’s sentient. You saw adults of her species fight during the battle. Don’t let the fur and feathers fool you.” And he wasn’t ready to ask what Zu had been up to during his absences.

“I suddenly feel as though we should be avoiding meat,” someone near to him mentioned.

“Hey, I like a good steak as much as the next person,” Daniel said. “And Zu’s over there taking a chicken apart. I keep getting a ‘cannibal’ refrain running through my head when I see him to that. Don’t worry about it. We haven’t met a sentient plant, yet, not that that means there aren’t any.”

“We did meet those people who almost died when we accidentally harmed their plants,” Jack reminded him. Daniel nodded and told everyone the story of the plant people.

“I will never pull another weed,” a nearby professor swore.

“Daniel, I’m a little confused about how the Sumerians are still around.”

Daniel paced a little as he nodded. “When we found them, they were in a type of stasis. Whatever their method was, not even the Asgard knew about it because they couldn’t even find the ships. You’d have to ask Col. Carter for better details, I’m not a physicist. They were locked in battle with Enlil who had been overtaken by a Goa’uld. Remember, these are not gods. We have never met a being that would qualify as a true god. We’ve seen a type of spirit that is more on the lines of a higher, ascended order, but still, not gods. What we read in the myths are simply accounts written by humans who were trying to understand people and actions that were beyond their reasoning of the day. We must now take a step back and relearn to read the myths. The beings we know as Sumerians are a race of beings that happen to live a lot longer than the average human. They were making Earth their home for a while. When Enlil became infected with a symbiote, he tried to make them worship him. They refused and they took their battle off-world. That’s about all we know. It was pure chance that we found them.”

Someone snapped their fingers. “That man who walked onto the stage!”

Daniel smiled. “That was Enki,” he confessed. There were gasps around the room. “The ‘god of wisdom’ is actually a very smart scientist.”

“Come on, Daniel, who else is walking around?” someone begged and others echoed him. Daniel looked at Jack. After a moment, Jack gave a nod.

“Well, Ninurta is here,” Daniel said. “Shara, Gibil, Erra, we’ve met Ereshkigal, but as far as I’m aware, she is not here … Zu, is Ereshkigal on-world?”

Innnaaaa.”

“She was taken off-world for her own protection during the battle,” Daniel said. “She was a surprise; she’s blind.” There were more gasps and scrambles for pieces of paper. “She has this ability to read people’s hearts, though, like reading minds, and she is able to tell lies from facts on the basis of feelings and emotions. Oh, and their queen is here.”

There were muffled screeches from the Queen of Heaven fans and several people began to fan themselves. A few of the ‘Inanna is Ereshkigal’ proponents felt their tenures slipping away.

“Daniel, tell us! Is Inanna truly as beautiful as the myths say?”

“I think she’s even more beautiful, although I may be biased because I happen to like her.”

“What’s she like?”

“Very smart,” he said. “Direct. She’s a warrior.”

“What about the Goddess of Love?” someone called out.

“I’d say my old argument about love and passion being two different things still stands,” Daniel commented. “She’s passionate. Passion in everything she does. Ninurta is her consort, and I have no doubt that she loves him, but I wouldn’t qualify that as the sign of a love goddess. I don’t doubt that Jack loves me but I wouldn’t call him a love god, no matter how good he is in bed and believe me, the man is good.” Sam and SGC personnel howled as Jack flushed.

“That wasn’t what you were yelling the other night, Daniel,” Jack told him and headed back to his seat.

Daniel glared at him. “ “Oh, my God, Jack” doesn’t count,” he commented, much to the amusement of the room.

“Daniel, in the myths, is Dumuzi Ninurta?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t had time to sit down with any of them and take the myths apart. Zu, is Dumuzi and Ninurta the same person?” Everyone turned to look at the bird.

Innnnaaa.” The negative was followed by a stream of Sumerian. The Sumerologists and Assyriologists in the room tried to keep up, and quickly lost their way not only on the speed but on the change in pronunciations.

“He said the name Dumuzi was just a ritual name used during the king-making rites,” Daniel said. “The name was a reference to the king-land connection, not the name of an actual person. More of an honorific for the new husband. Notice in the Old Testament, Tammuz was only mentioned during the Akitu.” And he was off….

Sam leaned over and buzzed Jack’s cheek. He smiled at her and took her hand, bringing it to his mouth for a moment. She crooked a finger and he leaned down.

“Love you,” she whispered.

“Love you back.”

It was almost one a.m. by the time they got back to the hotel room. Daniel stood in the middle of the living room and felt his ears decompress. He took a deep breath. Sam took one look at him and put her arms around him. He was still as she held him. He shivered slightly and she took his hand and led him to the bedroom. She and Jack undressed him and put him to bed before getting themselves ready and into the bed, each taking a side of Daniel and cocooning him in.

They slept in, having forbidden the guards to allow anyone to disturb them. Daniel finally woke up long enough to sneak out of his warm and cozy situation. The three of them had become used to the middle person escaping for a nature call and usually slept through it. Daniel snuck back in as the others were waking up.

“You did it, Space Monkey,” Jack murmured sleepily, his cheeks raspy against Daniel’s shoulder.

“Don’t call me that.”

“I love you,” Jack told him, holding him tighter.

Daniel stilled and turned his head. “You….” He started to cry and pulled a pillow over his face.

“What are you doing?” Jack asked, leaning up and pulling at the pillow. Sam sat up, concerned.

“…can’t believe…. I’m being… a girl about this,” came a muffled noise.

“About what?” Jack asked, confused. Sam knew what was going on.

“Danny, you’re just over-cooked.”

He pulled the pillow off and looked at her, his eyes red. “What?”

“You’ve had no time to breathe over the past two weeks, you’ve fulfilled a life’s dream, a new phase of your life is starting, and Jack finally gets the guts to say the words and mean them,” she informed him. “I call it being over-cooked. Don’t think, just feel; it’s okay.”

“I’m getting a complex here, Daniel,” Jack told him. “If you’re going to blubber every time I say it, I won’t say it.”

“Asshole,” Daniel informed him. He sniffed, hooked an arm around Jack’s neck and pulled him down. Jack could see that Daniel was wiped out and remembered how Daniel perked up the last time he tried one of Enki’s tricks, so he made a conscious effort to pour himself into the kiss. Daniel turned more fully to him, put his other arm around Jack’s back, and held on.

Sam lay back and watched them, still fascinated at seeing these two men together. She dozed off as she watched them slowly kissing each other.

A couple hours later the shower was on when Davis knocked at the suite door and then went in. He heard Sam laughing and then the deeper voices of the men. He shook his head with a smile and put the paper on the table. It was so surreal, knowing that all three of them were ‘together’. Davis was still having a hard time with that one, despite the fact that he knew O’Neill was indeed having sex with the man. That was the part that wasn’t computing. Jack O’Neill. Naked. With another man. With Daniel. Davis had been in the locker room with O’Neill on several occasions after an off-world mission and knew the older man was fit and whip lean, the way Daniel usually liked the men he dated. Davis wondered if Daniel had met other Special Ops men; whip lean with a disliking of protocol was the usual MO for Special Ops, not the brawny he-men that the movies like to use. Special Ops needed to be wirey and flexible to get in and out of tight spaces. O’Neill was definitely wirey and flexible, Daniel was definitely a tight space, and there was certainly no protocol being followed.

Davis felt it would be best if he let them know of his presence so he knocked on their door and shouted out that he was there. A cell phone rang and Davis looked around. The lit-up phone was the general’s. He looked at the caller ID and recognized the White House extension. He answered it and announced himself to the caller. It was the president.

“Sir, he’s unavailable at the moment,” Davis apologized. “No, sir, he’s in the shower. I don’t know, sir, I just arrived. Yes, sir, it was an excellent seminar. I believe the people were happy with the presentation, if a little disappointed that there wasn’t more time for further discussions. Dr. Jackson was presented with his third PhD, sir; Linguistics. Yes, sir, he is. Sir, may I ask how the Egyptians are handling things? Yes, sir. Actually, I’m working on that, sir; Daniel suggested a hand-held MRI, like on Star Trek. There is one that I am aware of, but it’s on Atlantis, sir, made by the Ancients. Dr. Becket made it work, but he’s been unable to recreate it. I have something in mind; I need to speak with someone in tech-support about it. I was thinking that with all the miniature equipment that China and Japan come up with, they could probably do this. And it may make them happier about not being in more direct involvement with the SGC. Oh, sir, the shower just turned off, if you will hold a moment, I will try and get the general’s attention.”

Davis knocked on their door again.

“General? Phone call, sir!” he called out. After a moment, the door was opened and the general stood there with a towel around his waist.

“Sorry, sir, it’s the president,” Davis said, holding out the phone. Jack nodded and took the phone, going back into the bedroom.

Jack walked around the bedroom naked as he pulled clothing together and spoke to the president at the same time. His partners took pity on him and dressed him as he spoke into the phone. They teased and poked him in tender places, and he tapped Sam on the head for taking her time in 'tucking him in'. She grinned at him.

“No, sir,” he said into the phone, scowling at his unrepentant wife. “I have been thinking about it, sir, and here’s the deal; I will take the lead of HomeWorld Security but not the SGC. Both are full time jobs, and I’m one person. I would like the SGC to be under my purview, though, also Area 51. Both are vital to HomeWorld Security. Col. Carter is to remain under the direct command of General Vidrine, however, and Dr. Jackson will answer to whoever is placed at the helm of the SGC. I cannot have direct command over them, for obvious reasons. I’d like my new digs to be in Colorado, but I’ll need to take a look around to figure out where.”

“Jack.”

He looked at Daniel. “Sir, a moment, Daniel has something to say. What is it, Daniel?”

“There’s an abandoned school about twenty-five minutes outside of town,” Daniel said. Jack held the phone out. “It was closed due to asbestos; the district didn’t have the funds to clean it out so they moved to a new building. If the government will clean it up, it has ready-made offices and work rooms, including boys and girls shower rooms. And the yard is large enough to hold not only personnel vehicles, but also a squad of 302s and an al'kesh out in the back forty.”

Jack nodded and put the phone back to his ear. “Sir? Yes, sir. I think I know what he’s talking about and it is a good sized space. I can have an SGC engineer take a look. Sir, there’s one more thing and it may make General Vidrine a little pissy; I’m going to need a good assistant and I’d like Major Davis. He’s proven himself invaluable on several occasions, he has off-world experience, and he can be my liaison with the Pentagon. Thank you, sir; I will put in the transfer request. I do have someone in mind, but I’ll need to talk with him and see if I can get him out of retirement. Yes, sir.”

Jack hung up.

“You know they wanted HomeWorld Security to stay at the Pentagon,” Sam commented.

“Yes, well, DC is a little crowded for my tastes,” Jack said, planting a kiss on her. “I have no interest in DC politics nor do I want the Pentagon breathing down my throat every two minutes with every general assuming that they have a say in what I’m doing. Besides, I’d like to be in my own bed at night with one or both of you with me.”

“What are we going to do about the gate?” Daniel asked. “The SGC has no function if the gate isn’t working.”

Jack frowned. “I know,” he said. “I think I need to have a talk with Thor.”

They moved out into the main room and found that Davis had been joined by several Anunnaki.

“Inanna, I need to talk with Thor about getting our gate back on,” Jack asked her after giving a good morning to everyone.

“Have your people decided to play nice?” she asked with an arched brow.

“I have accepted the position to lead HomeWorld Security,” Jack told them. “The SGC will be under my helm and I will make sure people place nice.”

“Good,” she said with a smile. “Then I’ll turn it back on.”

The humans looked at her. “What?” Jack finally spoke. “I thought Thor….? Ninurta said Thor turned it off. You have the power to mess with our gate?”

“I lied,” Ninurta confessed as he bit into a piece of fruit.

“Yes, I turned it off,” Inanna said. “This planet was originally under my protection, so I was well within my rights to take your toy away. Since you are once more in charge, you may play again.”

“But…. I thought only one of the original four groups could do that,” Jack sputtered. “Are you…?”

“No,” Inanna said with a shake of her head. “We are not the Ancients. I believe Enki discussed mind over matter with you? You could have turned the gate back on, if you gave it a try. Really, Jack, if you can power an Ancient control chair, why not other Ancient devices? For that matter, Sam could have turned it on; she has the naquadah key. Daniel, also; he’s been ascended. Twice. And since Oma didn’t completely clear his mind, naughty girl, he has the ability to use Ancient devices. Anyone with naquadah in their blood or has the evolved mental capacity can do it; very few, though, have figured that out. It’s a secret; don’t say I never gave you any.” The humans were all startled as they looked at each other and then at Inanna.

She gave Jack a pat on his face. “If you call the SGC, you will find that the gate is now unlocked.”

Sam was confused. “I don't understand,” she said. “I can't run a control chair. Only Jack can.”

It took Jack a moment and then he scrambled to phone home. When the operator answered, he announced himself and insisted on being put through to the gate room.

“There are a few things that are triggered by other factors,” was all Inanna would say.

“Walter! Is the…..? YES!” Jack pumped a fist down. “I’m sending SG-3 home right now; Col. Reynolds will be in charge until the new general arrives.” He redialed his cell phone. “Reynolds! Get yourself and your men home. The gate is on. Yes. You’re in charge until your new CO gets in. Says me, that’s who, the head of HomeWorld Security. Thank you, Colonel.”

Jack put his cell back into his pocket and turned to the group, gleefully rubbing his hands. “We are going home, kids,” he announced. “Sam, check in with Vidrine, if you haven’t already done so. See if you can come home for a while. Davis… Erra, you’re a dog. Would you please let the man breathe for a second?” Erra sighed and stepped away from Davis who he had been attempting to paw. “Major, I’ve already cleared this with the president, but I’ll respect your wishes on it; would you like to stay in DC or would you like to come to Colorado and be my assistant?”

Davis was completely startled as his mouth fished open. “Sir? Your personal assistant? At HomeWorld Security??”

“Yes, Major,” Jack confirmed. “You would be my liaison to the Pentagon and you will keep me from killing our allies both on-world and off. I’ll even let you out to play with Carter once in a while, if you’re a good boy.”

“I….Yes, sir, thank you, sir!”

“Good,” Jack nodded. “I’ll send in the transfer request as soon as we get home. Get back to DC, get your affairs in order. So to speak.” He glared at Erra.

 


 

Chapter 13

 

The military transport had already left for the morning, so they went to the airport. Their uniforms and their names got them an immediate booking in First Class on the next flight out to Colorado. Daniel pillowed his head on Jack’s shoulder, asleep in minutes, and Sam was resting with her head against the window. There were two other military personnel on the plane, dressed in BDUs. A lot of military travel in BDUs or uniforms; they could often get better seating on public airplanes if they happened upon a reservations clerk with a patriotic bent. The two men paused and gave a startled salute which Jack returned. One of the men quickly hid a look of disapproval at Daniel’s sleeping head on Jack’s shoulder and the hand on Jack’s thigh.

“Get over it, Corporal,” Jack said. He settled in, also, and shut his eyes.

“Yes, sir,” the corporal responded. They moved on to their own seats.

Jack knew there was going to be a problem with the new rules concerning gay military. They’d had it easy up ‘til now, being surrounded by their own men who knew them well enough not to care. The rest of the military was going to be a rough ride. Jack knew he was making serious waves, the new head of HomeWorld Security sleeping with another man.

If there was an attack on Earth, it was now within Jack’s rights to declare martial law on the planet, making him the most powerful person on Earth. It didn’t help his digestion any when Gen. Hammond pointed it out earlier after Jack called him for a chat. Hammond was comfortably relaxing in his retirement; the only thing pending for the day was to take his granddaughters to their various activities. Hammond was still at a loss after hearing about his favorite team, but he knew them and he knew that it wouldn’t be happening if they didn’t truly care that deeply for each other. Hammond was one of the few higher ups that didn’t care what his team was doing; he let Jack know what others were thinking, and it wasn’t wine and roses. Jack had a few people on his side, namely a few generals and the president. Some of Jack’s ex-Special Ops buddies had also put their names in the pro-Jack/Daniel/Sam ring; they didn't understand what Jack was up to, but they trusted him.

Jack was surprised to hear that almost two thousand men and women had come out of the closet since the president’s orders, and a few of them had high ranking positions. It was still impolite to ask one’s sexual orientation but many were no longer hiding it to the point where one didn’t need to ask. As long as they did their jobs, the base CO’s weren’t going to worry about it. Most of the base CO’s. There were a few who were on the border of insubordination, transferring their gay personnel out to other bases, and a few hard-liners were taking it to the Pentagon and the voters. Jack knew he could still be court-martialed even though he was retired, but he didn’t particularly care. No longer retired, he reminded himself, and in command of HomeSec. It was his record with the SGC that kept the higher ups from court-martialing him. It would be like trying to court-martial General Patton after he won the war.

“Sam, are you able to sense the naquadah thing in me?” Jack leaned over to whisper. She gave a nod. “How come you never told me?”

“You never asked,” she said.

“Who else can you sense it in?”

“Cassie, of course, and Nate,” she said. “Any of the Goa’uld, Jaffa, and Tok’ra. Anyone who has carried a symbiote. The Nox, Tollan, Asgard.”

“What’s it like?” he asked. He hadn’t expected so many.

Sam frowned, thinking. “Mmmm. Sort of a metallic tingle in my mouth. Like a new silver filling, when they used to use silver, I mean.”

“And it doesn’t keep you wired?”

“I’m used to it,” she said. “I don’t even think about it anymore.”

Jack thought about it. “You can’t sense Daniel?”

“No,” she shook her head. “He’s never carried a symbiote, and I guess those Ascended have a different vibe.”

Jack was quiet for a while.

“What do you think about this whole HomeWorld Security thing?” he asked.

“I think that we need someone in the Chair who knows what’s going on and how to deal with it, and that’s you or Gen. Hammond,” she said. “I’m happy it’s you.”

“Do you want to stay at the Yard?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’d like to get off-world once in a while, but I’m happy tinkering.”

“I’ll make sure you have lab space in the new place,” Jack told her. “That way you can come home for small things, if you’d like. I wish you weren’t working so far away, it’s a seventeen hour car ride out.”

“Yes, but much shorter if I take a helicopter home,” she commented with a smile. “Even shorter if I take a 302.”

“Ah ha!” Jack pointed a finger. “That’s why you want to stay at the Yard, it’s all that joyriding.”

“And you’re not jealous?” She looked at him with a grin.

“That isn’t the point.”

They got home and immediately put Daniel back to bed. The neighbors showed up an hour later, carrying dishes.

“We thought you’d be too tired to cook,” was the common theme. Jack was touched; he had lived in the neighborhood for years and everyone knew him. They knew he’d come home after long absences, sometimes bruised almost beyond recognition, and now they knew why. Jack had expected to see his place vandalized upon returning home, but found it in the shape he left it. The neighbors had taken care to chase away anyone who invaded. A phone call to the sheriff assured Jack that Daniel’s house was also in good condition. They did remove a few unauthorized persons attempting to get in, though.

“Oh, Jack,” Armando turned back to him after handing over an enchilada casserole. “I don’t know if you’ve considered a larger house, now that there’s three of you, but the old Gilbert place is up for sale.”

Jack perked up. “Really? Thanks, Mandy.”

The Gilbert place was only up the road and it had five bedrooms. He rounded up Sam, left Daniel asleep, and they walked up the road, hand in hand as they breathed in the cool, fresh mountain air, a pleasant treat after breathing Chicago fumes for a couple of weeks. The Gilbert place sprawled with a wrap-around porch and two floors. Four, if one included the basement and attic.

“I want the attic,” Sam declared. “That way if I blow something up, the entire house doesn’t go with it. Daniel can take the basement; it would be easier to keep his treasures protected.”

“I take it you like the place?” Jack asked with humor. “Do you want to call the realtor and see inside or shall we start moving now?”

“Realtor,” she said with a grin. “But let’s do it when Daniel is awake.”

Jack took out his cell phone and dialed the number on the sign. He spoke to the realtor and made an appointment for the next morning. A nice strong cup of coffee would get Daniel out of bed and up in time for the meeting.

Later in the evening, Cassie came over long enough for hugs and kisses.

“How will you be dealing with us, Jack?” she asked.

“Who?”

“Aliens among you,” she said, making fake antennae on the top of her head with her fingers.

“Oh,” he smiled. “I don’t know. I don’t think this society will accept aliens living next door, yet, so I’m not going to worry about green cards. It’s the unauthorized ones I’m worried about, and with most of them looking human, it’s going to be hard to keep track of them.”

Cassie gave her love to them and left them for the evening. Jack and Sam dug into Armando’s wife’s casserole, woke Daniel up long enough for a few bites, and then crashed next to him.

In the morning, Jack dealt with a phone call informing him that the remaining three symbiotes had been killed during the night and the information had leaked to the press. Jack called his new assistant and issued a non-committal press release, and pulled the phones from the wall. HomeWorld Security was on the job. Davis suggested that Jack begin to write up SOP’s for HomeSec, because the standard US civil and military court policies were not going to cut it when it came to aliens. It may have been a suggestion, but Jack heard an underlying “Do it, sir.”

Sam practically dragged Daniel up the road to show him the house. The realtor was waiting for them, glowing from the coup of just being able to offer a house to these particular three people. Jack watched in amusement as the two scrambled through the house like a couple of exited kids. Daniel saw the large, empty library with built in shelves and nearly went catatonic in joy, Sam found that the master bedroom was twice the size of a regular bedroom and had a shower in the bathroom that was separate from the huge tub. Jack found a pond out back. With fish. They would all go see the mortgage guy first thing Monday morning and in the meantime, Jack told the lady realtor that she could start the paperwork on getting his house sold.

The three got breakfast downtown and then went to the Mountain. The dust was being shaken out and offices being reopened. Col. Reynolds greeted them and ushered them to the control room.

“Sir, who shall we call this morning?” Reynolds asked Jack.

“Who else?” Jack responded. “Get Teal’c’s Jaffa ass in here.”

“Yes, sir,” Reynolds smiled. “Sergeant, dial up Dakkara.”

“Yes, sir!” Walter was happy to respond. Everyone relaxed as the familiar sound of the gate dialing out began.

Within a short time, Jack was bounding into the gate room to greet Teal’c. Sam gave him a hug and kissed his cheek. Teal’c gave a surprisingly shy smile at her. Sam knew the women of his world didn’t touch men so, but she couldn’t help it; he was too much the brother and he needed a hug.

Seeing SG-1 walking the halls together made everyone happy and the cleaning went quicker as everything shone with pride. They caught up on things, telling Teal’c about Daniel’s seminar and that everything was now public, and Teal’c told them about the Jaffa council. He wasn’t happy with some guy named Garek. If Teal’c wasn’t happy, SG-1 wasn’t happy.

The Tok’ra had gone underground again; Teal’c was pretty sure there were a few operatives on Dakkara, so he would make sure to spread the word that the Tau’ri were back on-line.

The Goa’uld were quiet. Too quiet, Teal’c felt. He speculated that there was a lot of internal shuffling going on. Baal currently had the most toys, having inherited all of Anubis’ territory after the Tau’ri destroyed him. The destruction of the bugs had put a temporary hold on all Goa’uld activity, though. They were not sure how to take the fact that the Tau’ri had destroyed a plague that even the Goa’uld could not conquer.

Garek had many Jaffa convinced that they did not need the Tau’ri, and would be trading one master for another if they did side with the Tau’ri. Jack let out an impatient sigh which Teal’c gave a nod to.

“T, it took many wars and many lives for this country to free herself from England,” Jack said. “It wasn’t done in a day. Remind Garek who helped to free his sorry ass and we’ve asked for nothing in return except a little help in getting rid of Enlil.”

“I will, O’Neill,” Teal’c murmured.

“He thinks he can take on Baal, let him,” Jack continued. “Whoever wins, there will be one less asshole to deal with. We still haven’t seen Enlil’s head on a platter, so there may be more from him, too.”

They put Teal’c in civvies and left the Mountain. They showed him the house they were going to buy, Teal’c gave his approval, and then they drove outside of town to the abandoned school that Daniel had been talking about for the new HomeSec base. Teal’c walked around, giving the area a warrior’s eye. The buildings stood in the middle of a field with the tree line about a half mile away.

“It is very open,” he commented with a slight disapproving tone.

“Yes, but this is just administrative offices,” Jack told him. “The real work will still be done by the SGC, and the Nevada site will still be our hanger bay. Sam will be in Nevada during the week, Daniel will be at the SGC, and I have Major Davis coming in as my new assistant here. Bases are covered.”

Movement caught Daniel’s eye. He stepped up behind Sam and put his arms around her, pointing out in front of her.

“Look,” he whispered. They followed his finger.

“Deer!” Sam whispered back excitedly.

“Oh, for my gun,” Jack commented. He was smacked by his partners. “Just kidding,” he whined, swatting back.

“Do we have another naquadah generator to use on this building?” Daniel asked.

“Keep it clean?” Sam guessed. Daniel nodded. “I’ll see if one is available. We have two more ships that will need them soon, so this may not be a priority.”

“The Daedalus is about to go out, what’s next?” Jack asked, trying to remember the schedule.

“The Europa is almost ready for her first test drive,” Sam told him. “The next ship doesn’t have a name, yet; someone suggested the Icarus.” Daniel looked at her in horror. She waved a hand. “I know, I know,” she told him. “It would be like naming her the Titanic. I already handed out a summary of the Icarus story.”

Daedalus is going to Atlantis, Jack,” Daniel told him. “It’s a two-week trip out. I’d be gone for about two months altogether.”

“No.”

“Jack….”

“No, Daniel,” Jack insisted. “From the reports that are coming back about those wraith creatures, I’m going to be selfish and ask that you please stay home.”

Jack could see that this conversation wasn’t over and he had the feeling Daniel would be going with or without his blessings. Whoever he got to command the SGC was going to need a manual on the care and upkeep of Dr. Jackson. Jack sighed and turned to Daniel who was trying hard not to pout. “I know I’m being over-protective, and I can’t stop you from going, not if your new CO approves the trip,” Jack told him, holding the blue eyes with his own dark ones. “I’m asking you not to go. When we know Atlantis is going to be safe from the wraith for a while, then go out. I haven’t had enough time with you and I don’t want to lose you to those creatures. Please.”

Daniel gave a reluctant nod and accepted the peck on his mouth.

Teal’c was staring at them.

“What?” Jack asked. “You knew we were together.”

“Indeed,” Teal’c acknowledged. “You have told me, but I have not seen you kiss a man before.”

Jack rolled his eyes, hooked an around Daniel’s waist and pulled him close. He gave Daniel a proper kiss, putting his apology into it. Daniel accepted it and put his arms around Jack’s neck.

“Happy now?” Jack asked Teal’c as he drew back from Daniel.

“Ecstatic,” Teal’c said tonelessly.

“You’d better be,” Jack told him as they turned and walked back to the car. “Because you’re not getting to watch anything else.”

“Is that a promise, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked.

“Yes, it is.”

“Thank you.”

“Teal’c, you should watch,” Sam told him, grinning evilly. “It’s a really good show and they both have terrific….”

“AHHHH!” Jack covered his ears as did Teal’c who walked ahead of them.

“La la la la la la….” came a low drone back to them.

“Butts, I was going to say butts,” Sam told the men. “You both have great asses.”

“Actually, I think the proper sentence would be we both have A great ass,” Daniel informed her. “Asses, plural, would imply that we each have more than one.”

Sam thought about it and nodded. “You may be right,” she said. “Thanks, Daniel.”

Jack covered his eyes and walked ahead with Teal’c.

“You know who else has a great ass?” Sam asked Daniel, hooking her arm with his.

“Who? Teal’c?”

The big guy stumbled slightly as he kept walking.

“Besides T,” Sam said. “The new CO of the Daedalus, Col. Caldwell.”

“Really? I haven’t met him, yet.”

“I have; he’s been out at the Yard getting to know his new baby. Ohhh my, Danny,” she breathed, fanning her face with a hand. “He’s got these incredibly long legs and wonderful chocolate brown eyes just like Jack’s.”

“You two stop it!” Jack shouted. “Samantha Carter, that man is fifty-four years old, he’s too old …. Never mind.”

Sam snickered and snuck up behind Jack. She took hold of his belt and wrapped her arms around his waist.

“But I like my men older,” she playfully whined.

“It’s a Daddy complex, is what it is,” Jack told her over his shoulder.

“Why, Jack, are you saying you want me to call you Daddy? What’s that?” He was mumbling under his breath.

“I said I should turn you over my knee!” he informed the world.

“Kinky, Jack,” Daniel responded. “What else would you like to do?”

“Get drunk,” Jack said.

“Really?” Daniel asked. “’Cause I’d kinda like to tie her to the bed and drip candle wax on her….”

“La la la la la la….” came a low droning again.

“Danny, I think we may need to talk when we get home,” Sam told him with a grin. He laughed and kissed her.

“Jack, you better be nice to me because Col. Caldwell asked me out,” Sam informed him. Jack stopped dead in his tracks and turned to look at her.

“What?”

“He asked me to dinner,” Sam told him. “I, of course, excused myself unless my men were also invited.”

“And?” Jack stared at her intently.

“And he was very gracious and apologized for the intrusion. I like him, Jack, and I think you would, too, if he were going to be spending more time on soil.”

Jack grumped and got into the Jeep. Teal'c took shotgun.

“At least the man has good taste,” he muttered.

“Forget Caldwell,” Daniel told her. “Go on a date with me tonight?”

Sam smiled at him and snuggled in under his arm. “Sure, what did you feel like doing?”

“I need to get out some restless energy,” he said. “How about we hit that discotheque?”

“Great. Is Jack coming with?”

“Jack doesn’t disco,” Jack informed them. “You kids go have fun while Teal’c and I catch up.”

They picked up lunch on the way home and sat out on the deck to eat. Teal’c glared at the mosquitoes while Daniel dozed in the hammock under the trees. Sam joined him and dozed against his chest for a while. Daniel’s cell phone rang and he reluctantly looked at the ID before deciding to answer it.

“Hi, Paul,” he said sleepily. “No, just napping. He did? Good. He spent the entire week snarling at Erra,” Daniel said with a chuckle. “You think it’ll work out? Really? I’m actually surprised. Just go easy on the poor man, okay? You will? I’ll see you then. Bye.”

“What was that?” Sam asked into his chest.

“Nick finally asked Paul out,” Daniel said with a chuckle. “Apparently Erra was hitting on Paul again and Nick had had enough. So he told Paul to choose. Paul made him ask nicely and Nick hemmed and hawed about it until he worked up the nerve to ask him out. Nick hasn’t been with a man before, which I think is justice because Paul was giving me hell about Jack and the trouble bi-curious het men can be. He’ll be coming out here later in the week, so I’ll get more info then.”

“Tell me about how you and Davis got together?” Sam asked, leaning up to look at him.

“Well, he was at the Mountain and he was obviously preoccupied, so I asked him what the problem was,” Daniel said. “He told me that he had just broken up with his boyfriend of many years. He didn’t even realize he had said the B word until it registered and he was completely in shock that I would tell on him. I told him not to worry about it, I’m bi, and I asked him if he’d like to go out to dinner and talk about it. I actually hadn’t planned on doing anything, but we ended up in my bed. After that, we talked and agreed that neither of us had strong feelings for the other, but it was a pleasant evening so we started spending time together whenever he was in town. It was good relaxation for both of us and we were honest with each other about other partners.”

“I thought you guys didn’t get together until the wedding reception?” Sam asked in confusion.

Daniel chuckled. “It had been a couple of years by then,” he admitted. “We went for a walk during the reception and took a path up into the woods. Paul’s a little self-conscious, but we fooled around while we were in the woods. So, I guess we did get together during your reception, just not the way you think.”

Sam stared at him, slightly flushed, fascinated. She went quiet as she lay in Daniel’s arms. She played with his fingers, her bare feet intertwined with his.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, seeing that look of deep thought on her face.

Sam snuggled into his chest. “Sort of a fantasy.”

“Why, Col. Carter, you used the F word,” Daniel gently teased. She turned red. “Tell me the fantasy.”

She cleared her throat a couple of times. “Well, I see the both of you loving me. Just touching me, real easy, and then Jack… making love to me. At the same time, I mean. Both of you in me.”

Daniel nodded. “It’s possible. Tricky, but possible.”

Birds and insects chattered and buzzed, commenting on the beautiful day. The temperature was pleasant, perfect for napping, which Sam and Daniel did for a while.

“You know you have this celibate image, don’t you?” she murmured into his chest.

“At the base?” he asked. She nodded. “I know,” he said. “I’ve been sleeping with a male air force major these past few years, I wasn’t going to announce it and get him into trouble.”

Sam frowned. “Danny, we’re having fun now, playing house, but sooner or later, someone is going to make a really big stink and I don’t mean you guys and your fume fests. We need to come up with an argument for this situation that will turn the anti-everything crowd on their collective head.”

“I know,” he said, giving her shoulders a squeeze. “I’m already working on a statement, in case we get taken to court. The last thing I want is to see either of you court-marshaled. And retired or not, I am fully aware that Jack can still be court-marshaled. You can, too, especially since you’re on active duty. I will leave before that happens, though. We need numbers on our side, just like we’re getting with the public on the alien situation. I think the ball has started rolling; everyday there are more and more people in the military coming out. We need them to make it loud and clear, and we don’t need any of this Gay Pride stuff. We need the public to see that people in alternative lifestyles are just as normal and everyday as the so-called straights are, and the flamboyant ‘in your face’ stuff isn’t going to cut it. Even Paul gets impatient with the June parades; he keeps getting this image of parades to celebrate Straight Pride Day and Black Pride Day and White Pride Day and Hispanic Pride Day and Jewish Pride Day and… you get the picture.”

Sam chuckled and nodded. “Why don’t we keep Earth Day and celebrate who we are every day?” she guessed.

“Exactly,” Daniel said.

They snoozed a little longer, resting up for an evening out. Neither of them were the greatest of dancers, but they could jump around and get their ya-ya’s out to the beat of the techno music at a local dance club. Most of the dancers were much younger, but they didn’t care. They were having fun!

Sam had to leave in the morning by 5 a.m. for the Yard, so they weren’t out too late. They weren’t teenagers anymore, able to stay out until three in the morning and be ready for the day a few hours later.  By the time Daniel woke up after their late night of dancing, she had gone. He had a vague memory of soft lips on his cheek. He gave a blurry glance at the clock. 10:23 a.m. He groaned and turned over just as the phone rang. He didn’t hear Jack in the house so he reluctantly answered it.

“’lo?” he grunted.

“Rise and shine!” Jack caroled.

Daniel groaned again and hid his head under the covers. “Fuck, Jack, go ‘way.”

“Language, language, Dr. Linguist,” Jack teased. “And here I was going to tell you to get showered and meet me for lunch.”

Hmmmmwhere are you?”

“Out at our potential new offices with Sgt. Silar and an accountant from the Pentagon who is scowling like a prune-addicted old lady as he makes his little notes. Daniel, I need to be rescued.”

“Have you even asked Silar how he’s been?” Daniel questioned as he debated getting out of bed and dragging himself into the kitchen for coffee.

“No, why?”

“Well, last I heard, he had started dating Silvia Milligan.”

“Who?”

“One of my geeks?”

“Oh. Silar is straight?”

“Jack.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll ask how he’s doing. Just meet me for lunch?”

Daniel rolled his eyes at the begging.

“Fine,” Daniel conceded. “Is Teal’c with you?”

“No, he needed to head back to Dakkara.”

“Did you guys have a nice time?” Daniel asked as he staggered to the bathroom.

“Yes, we did, thank you for asking. Sam said you two danced your hinnies off.”

“Yes, we did, thank you for asking. Sam got three hits, I got six.”

“Hits?”

“Phone numbers. Hit on.” Daniel flushed the toilet and rummaged for clothes before turning the shower on.

“I’m feeling like I should be handing out curfews,” Jack grumped.

“Don’t bother, Pop,” Daniel told him. “We’d only sneak out when you fell asleep. Where am I meeting you?”

“Fred’s.”

“I’ll be there.”

Lunch was quick; Jack was swamped with planning stages and getting his office personnel together. Davis shortened the list considerably before passing it on to Jack for the final cut.

Daniel was on his own for most of the day, so he scheduled a meeting at the university to discuss a new class. The Board would be pleased to meet with him. He then headed down to the Mountain and made the rounds, making sure his own team was back to work. Daniel pulled Nyan aside and offered him the spot of understudy for his new classes. The young man may be from another planet, but no one needed to know that and he understood Daniel better than anyone else in the labs. Daniel wished Jonas was living on Earth, but with their first baby on the way, he understood Jonas wanting to stay home.

He thought about his schedule for the upcoming weeks; a meeting with the university to go over proposed curriculum, reviewing the mountain of applications for service on his staff of -ologists at Cheyenne, and he needed to fly out to Egypt and have a private chat with the Egyptian president. The State Department would make noises about it, and Jack wouldn’t be happy with it once Daniel informed him, but he was going anyway. The Egyptians were already miffed at having the original gate removed from their soil without their permission and had demanded it back. Fortunately, they could be honestly told that the gate was no longer in existence, having been destroyed off-world during an accident and NO they could not have the current gate. Daniel held back a grimace as he took his cell phone out and dialed.

“Can I invite the Egyptian president over for dinner and a tour of the SGC?” he asked when Jack answered. There was silence for a moment.

“Why?”

“Well, it’s either that or I go to Egypt for the funeral,” Daniel countered.

“I’ll get back to you.”

Daniel was already beginning to feel choked by the reins around his neck. If it were a year earlier, he wouldn’t have needed permission to leave the country, now he’s the most valuable person on the planet and he couldn’t breathe. Daniel briefly contemplated excavating their back yard to see how long it would take before Jack handed him his dig equipment and sent him to the nearest thousand-year-old site. It was ridiculous; they’d let him go off-world but not to the other side of his own planet.

He shut his eyes for a while but was too restless to sleep so he went into the office and turned the computer on. He found several emails from researchers around the world who had sent him images of various artifacts, convinced that the unusual markings on them were significant. All but one Daniel had to turn away. He turned everything off, found his keys, and left the house.

When the phone rang again, he noted that it was several hours later.

“Where are you?” he heard.

“Home.”

“Daniel, I’m home and unless you’re hiding, you aren’t here.”

“I’m at MY home, Jack, surrounded by MY things, working at MY computer in MY office and I’m about to take a shower in MY shower and then go to MY bed.”

Jack was silent.

“Okay. Good night.”

“’Night.”

Jack looked at his phone for a moment, his lips pursed in thought. He redialed.

“Do you know what’s bugging Daniel?” he asked.

“No, why?” Sam responded. Jack told her. “He was fine last night, as far as I could tell,” she said. “Jack, don’t let him clam up.”

“I’m going to give him some space,” Jack said. “He’ll talk when he’s ready, he always does.”

“Alright, but don’t let it go on for too long,” she told him, clearly not happy about it. “Remember, he’s never had to be answerable to a family before.”

It was three days before Jack decided to take the bull by the horns. He showed up on Daniel’s doorstep and knocked instead of using his key. When the door was opened, it was obvious that Daniel hadn’t shaved in those three days. Jack held up a large cup of Starbucks. Daniel looked from the cup to Jack and silently held the door open.

“No strings attached,” Jack said quietly as he placed the cup on the counter. “If you’re not ready to talk, I’ll go away.”

He wasn’t immediately kicked out, so he perched on the edge of a chair, sipping his own coffee. The house, although always slightly cluttered, was currently in a state of open warfare. Papers were scattered everywhere, dishes were in the sink, dust settled onto everything, and it was unknown as to whether or not the pile of clothes on the floor were dirty or clean.

“I can’t breathe,” he finally heard.

Jack felt his heart begin to race. “With me?”

“In general. I want to go where I want, when I want, and at the moment, I can’t even go to the country I was born in without asking permission. I feel like I should be asking permission to take a piss.”

“Ninurta made a request; he's in no position to order you around,” Jack promised. “And unless you're on duty, you're certainly not answerable to me or anyone else. It would be nice to know where to start looking for your body, or at least the general vicinity.”

Daniel paced in agitation. “I’m a free, legal age, American citizen, and I want to get on a plane and GO somewhere. I want to crawl around something ancient and dusty, I want to learn something new, I want to… I want to… be ME again!”

“I thought you wanted to write?”

Daniel almost sobbed in frustration as he pulled at his hair with both fists. The hair remained standing up. “I want that, too.”

Jack put his cup down. “Daniel, you are one person,” he said quietly. “We all have to give up something in our lives, to sacrifice one important thing in order to promote another important thing. I don’t care what you choose; I will do my best to support your decision. But you can’t hide from us, Daniel; we need to know what’s going on. Inside. I know you’re under a lot of stress, probably more than anyone else, but how can I be your partner if you don’t let me in? I’m not the greatest one to talk about ...emoting..., I realize that, but this is part of what being in a relationship is about. Take some time for yourself, not a problem, but don’t blow up at me for not realizing that something’s going on if you haven’t bothered to open up and tell me. Or tell Sam. I know you’re sometimes more comfortable talking with her about things, and that’s fine; you are part of us, Daniel. Or do you want that to change, too?”

Daniel swiped a hand across his face, not answering. He picked up the pile of clothes and a moment later, Jack heard the washer start. Daniel came back into the living room, paused, and sat, staring at the ceiling.

“No,” he whispered. “I don’t want that to change. I need room, Jack, something to call mine. I need to bury myself in something interesting and I don’t want to be made to answer for it. I want to take a walk without having to think about the weird looks people are giving me. And I want to go to Cairo.”

“Okay,” Jack nodded. “But if you go to Cairo now, you’ll be on your own because the State Department has already issued an invitation to the president and he has accepted. Can you wait on Cairo until later and stick around to escort him through the SGC?” Daniel nodded. “Good. Make your schedule whatever you want it to be. You don’t need to ask permission, just tell me what it is. I’m going to be picky about you telling me where you are, not to be a control freak, but for your safety. There are plenty of people who would find you to be a prize worth the risk of taking you. Sam and I tell each other where we are, it’s only fair. Can I make a suggestion for the near future? Go find the nearest Jaffa and spend some time sparing. At the moment, I’m not going to trust that you wouldn’t wipe out all the Marines on base.”

“As for space of your own, the realtor said we could start moving in anytime,” Jack said. “We thought you’d like the basement to yourself, for your artifacts and your workspace. Pick another room, if you don’t want the basement, doesn’t matter to me. You’ve got the library, too. Do you still want to do this with us?”

“I don’t know how to do this, Jack,” Daniel whispered. Jack stood and went over to him, scrunching down next to him.

“Yes, you do,” he told Daniel. “We told you. Just talk to us. This is how communication works, Danny. If you need space, just say that. Jack, I need space. It’s easy. And it isn’t being answerable to anyone; it’s being considerate of your partners’ feelings. God, Daniel, do you think it was easy for me to admit how I feel about you? It nearly killed me when you didn’t come home the other night. To our home. I need you, Danny, so if you’re going to split up with us, tell me now because this hurts.”

Daniel slid to the floor and buried his head in Jack’s lap. Daniel was usually one of the most easy-going people Jack knew; crap slid off Daniel like water off a duck. But sometimes he would hold stuff inside until he exploded. Like now. Jack gently stroked his hair, letting Daniel cry out the frustrations of the recent events and life’s twisted turns.

 


 

Chapter 14

 

Neither Teal’c nor Bre’tac were available, so Rak’nor answered Jack’s request and came through the gate. He spent most of the day putting Daniel through his paces, using the forest outside the Mountain for their sparing ground. They startled a couple of hikers and Daniel stopped to assure them that they were only playing. Daniel could feel that he was out of shape; he was breathing hard barely fifteen minutes into their training. By the time Daniel had bruises from head to foot, he was ready for his mental exercises. They closed themselves off in Teal’c’s quarters, lit candles, and kel’no’reemed themselves into a positive, centered tranquility.

Jack was in engineering looking over the schematics for his new offices. The government was dicking around with the entire asbestos issue but Jack, with a little help from Davis, convinced them that building an entire new building would not only take longer but it would be a waste of money. Daniel finally presented himself to Jack who looked over the bruised man and gave a nod.

“Had fun, did we?”

“Cake,” Daniel grunted, pointing back out the door. “Ice cream.” Jack waved a hand at him and Daniel headed back out and to the commissary. Before Jack could say anything, he was taken in a beam of light. The engineers tossed their pencils down in irritation as the two SF at the door, both new to the SGC, almost dropped their guns.

After taking a pause with the slight disorientation, Jack realized he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

“This isn’t Thor’s ship,” he commented as he looked around.

“No, it’s the Heaven’s Bow,” Inanna replied. “I wanted to show you something. The timing was not inconvenient, was it?”

“Nope, nothing that can’t wait,” Jack said. The ship was smaller than Thor’s and not as pretty; Jack would have termed it a battle cruiser next to Thor’s Queen Mary. He looked out the window and saw that they were in orbit.

“I thought you were parked planet-side?” he asked.

“No, we’ve been in orbit,” she said with a smile as she led him through the hallways. A furry mound ran toward him and he braced himself. Before he could resist the temptation, he gave an affectionate nuzzle to a soft, velvet ear.

“Cloaked and transporters?” he asked. She nodded. “You people seem to skim around the facts on a fairly frequent basis,” he commented, slightly irritated at all the little things that have been kept from him. How can he keep watch on the planet if aliens insisted on keeping secrets to themselves?

“No, you just don’t ask the right questions,” she replied. “Assumptions are not good.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

They walked through the halls and Jack took note of the easy familiarity of the crew. It seemed more like a family outing than a military vessel. Most of the crew were on stand-down, not being in any situations. Most were playing, reading, or talking. Inanna seemed to be the only female.

“You need women, if you’re going to continue,” he quietly commented.

“Yes.” She said something in Goa’uld and T’Keet scrambled down and ran back through the hall.

She took Jack down a few decks and he found himself standing in front of the brig. The guards stood and gave her a polite bow.

“We intercepted a ship entering this solar system,” she said to Jack. “The ship was badly disabled from battle. The ship was a glider so we took the pilot into custody. He’s asking for you.” She nodded to the guards and one of them opened the cell. Jack stared for a moment.

Camy! Baby!” he said in surprise. “What a surprise. That you’re still alive, I mean. How’s Baal? So sorry he missed my wedding; the lack of his presence was keenly felt. Let him know, will you?”

Camulus, who usually had an arrogant System Lord sneer on his face, was in a corner, seated on the bare floor.

“O’Neill,” came a dead voice. “My symbiote is still healing me, so forgive me if I don’t stand.” He held up his hands. The palms were blistered from what looked to be fire. Jack noticed that the bared legs under the leather kilt were also blistered and he winced.

“Ouch, Cam, what’d you do?” Jack lounged against the door frame.

“Not I. Baal,” Camulus said. “Shall we say he isn’t happy with me?”

“Well, hey, we tried keeping you away from him but you didn’t play nice in our sandbox,” Jack said reasonably and shook a finger at the ex-System Lord. “Liar, liar, kilt on fire.”

“Indeed. And what would it earn me if I told you where he is?”

Jack stilled. “I’m listening,” he said.

“He and most of the other System Lords are battling to keep their Jaffa from leaving,” Camulus told him. “Most are down to less than twenty percent of their previous slaves. All Jaffa are escaping at their first opportunity to join the rebels on Dakkara. Several System Lords have formed uneasy alliances just to keep one partial crew. Baal still has the majority, having taken over Anubis’ properties, but I can tell you that he has currently put Tau’ri second on his list. He will be going after Dakkara once he decides whether or not the device used on those creatures can be used on Goa’uld. If he gets hold of the Jaffa rebels and once more enslaves them…”

“He’ll have all the Goa’uld at his feet and come to Earth with the full force,” Jack finished. Camulus gave a nod. “What do you want?”

Camulus was quiet for a moment, studying his hands. “I am going to say something to you that no Goa’uld would ever consider thinking much less saying. You are correct in that the… dysfunction…. of the Goa’uld personality is primarily from the sarcophagus. The symbiotes, like the Asgard, are the victims of our own genetic manipulations; we made the mistake of duplicating ourselves too many times which is where the personality traits diverged and began to encroach upon our original intent, which was simply to continue our species.”

Jack folded his arms and stared at Camulus. “And I’m supposed to believe you? Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?”

“I need no one’s pity,” he snarled, his eyes flashing with an angry, bright white light. “As for truth, ask your queen.”

“She isn’t our queen,” Jack immediately responded. “Nothing personal.” Inanna gave a small smile and a shrug.

“The Tau’ri are under their own rule, Camulus,” she said. “Even the Asgard considers them allies and not subjects. I am simply completing my task. Camulus came after our time, Jack, so I cannot vouch for him personally. He has, so far, spoken the truth, though. Ereshkigal is on board, would you like for me to send for her?”

Jack found Camulus’ whitening face to be interesting and he agreed.

“How come you aren’t dead?” Jack asked him, curious. “I expected Baal to gut you for trying to deceive him.”

“I told him it was I who was deceived by you,” Camulus reluctantly told him. “He believed me because he knows you.”

“My, my, a compliment from Baal,” Jack chuckled. “What made you escape him this time?”

Camulus refused to answer. Jack suspected the burns had something to do with it. Ereshkigal entered shortly after, led by Erra.

Zu said you weren’t on board,” Jack commented.

“I wasn’t until recently,” Ereshkigal told him. Jack was getting a little tired of all the double-talk but couldn’t think of how to ask her anything further without it sounding like an interrogation.

“I think I’d like to repeat my last question to Camulus,” Jack said. “What are you doing here and why did you escape from Baal?”

The Goa’uld was having a hard time, his eyes flickering back and forth from Jack to Ereshkigal. Erra quietly took out a two-pronged blade, the kind that beheaded snakes, and Camulus tried to disappear into the wall.

“Alright!” He quickly held up a hand. “I helped Baal’s personal slave escape. He set me on fire after torturing me. I escaped and made it to a glider.”

Jack looked at Ereshkigal who reluctantly nodded.

“Those gliders don’t have long-distance capabilities,” Jack said. He knew all too well what happens to someone who helps Baal’s personal slave escape. At least Jack had Daniel's ghost to keep him sane, or not, during his imprisonment in Baal's palace. Ascended or not, Daniel's spectral presence still kept him from killing himself. With a sarcophagus nearby, though, it was probable that Baal would have brought him back to life just to kill him again on general principle.

“I planet-hopped part of the way, caught rides on freighters from worlds who did not know of us, and sometimes hid in the wake of large vessels.”

“And if I wanted to talk to the host?” Jack asked. “And don’t tell me about the host not surviving; we’ve already proved you wrong. The host of Apophis spoke before he died.”

“The host is over one thousand of your years old,” Camulus said, clearly not believing Jack. “His personality is long gone. The longer the merge, the less of the host survives. I cannot be removed or both of us would die. There is nothing of the host to keep this body alive.”

Jack had to admit that he had never heard a Goa’uld speaking this way before. The few times he had heard Apophis speak of a host, he had done so with extreme contempt; Camulus actually sounded slightly sympathetic.

“Why are you telling me these things?” Jack asked.

“I have not used a sarcophagus in years,” Camulus said after a moment. “The healing of my burns has taken many weeks, done completely on my own. I only ever used it when the need became extreme. I am not of the same genetic line as most of the other System Lords. I am not as damaged as they are. I wish to align myself with the Tau’ri.”

“Bullshit, Cam,” Jack pronounced. “Every single one of you people are so damaged that the humane thing to do would be to kill you.”

“With the freedom of movement, O’Neill, not locked in a cage as you to me did before,” Camulus continued, ignoring Jack.

“You double-crossed us once, you think I’m giving you free reign of my planet?” Jack asked incredulously.

“I brought battle information of Baal’s fleet, as well as information on twenty System Lords,” Camulus boasted. “I have the most current codes; current at the time of my departure. I know troop specifics, I know which planets, outside the gate system, that are under Goa’uld leadership. I have gate coordinates that you do not. There are six strains of Goa’uld; all but three strains are dead.”

Jack walked away from the room. “Inanna, I have work to do, would you mind beaming me back?”

“Jack, as much as I’d like to tear his spirit from him, he’s telling you facts,” Ereshkigal spoke.

“And what am I supposed to do with him?” Jack demanded, pointing a hand back into the cell. “Walking him around the planet on a leash for a while could be amusing, but it would get old. I’d consider a probation tag, but I wouldn’t put it past him to gnaw his own foot off to remove the anklet, and I am certainly not going to let him loose on the women of my world. Maybe I could hand him over to a few pathologists I know and let them dissect him. Attach electrodes to his brain and make him dance. I don’t care how repentant he is, shoot him out an airlock!”

Jack stalked out of the holding area and got onto the lift. He pushed the buttons opposite of what got him to his present location, and was whisked away. Shara was waiting for him in the transporter area, a Sua standing next to him.

“Don’t,” Jack warned darkly.

“Inanna requested that I send you home, if that is your wish,” Shara said gently. “M’Net wishes to speak with Daniel; may he join you for a short time?”

“Fine.”

He was returned to engineering, the spot where he was taken. The guards were once more startled, not only at Jack’s reappearance but also by the tall Sua that appeared with him.

Kree,” Jack snapped, waving a hand for M’Net to follow him. He took the Sua through the halls, startling more new personnel. Daniel was exactly where Jack figured he’d be –pouring over something old in his office.

“M’Net!” Daniel greeted the Sua. T’Keet immediately transferred herself from under M’Net’s mane to Daniel’s shoulders. Daniel noticed she was starting to get a little big for hiding in manes. He knocked paws and then frowned at Jack. “What’s wrong with you?”

“The Heaven’s Bow is hosting Camulus,” Jack snarled. “Ol’ Camy seems to feel I’d forgive him and be his forever buddy. Your right eye is turning colors.”

Daniel gave it a delicate touch. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Rak’nor jumped me from a rock and we both went down a hill. It’s fine. How did they get Camulus?” Jack gave him a condensed version of the story. M’Net watched one to the other, arching his whiskers once in a while, understanding a few of the words he had begun to learn. When Jack strode from the room, M’Net turned to Daniel.

“He is very angry,” he told Daniel in Goa’uld. Daniel nodded and told M’Net of their first meeting with Camulus, of a small group of Goa'uld who wanted to talk a truce, supposedly, and were allowed into the SGC, where they attempted to double-cross Jack. “The prisoner has much to say,” he told Daniel. “Much information. Would it not be prudent to hear the information?”

“When Jack calms down, I’ll talk to him,” Daniel said. “He won’t hear anything while he’s this upset. Camulus lied to us once before and almost got us killed, so we don’t trust him very much. Tell me about you, how are you doing? I’m very sorry to hear about your clan.”

“I am well,” M’Net said, whiskers flicking forward. “I have bonded with many new brothers on the ship; it is a small comfort, and I have the affections of T’Keet, as well. She looks like her mother. I did not have the opportunity to speak with you before leaving after my healing; I wished to thank you for rescuing us. Would you tell J’ck? I am learning a little of your language but I know only a few words. I know more of the Queen’s language.”

“I’ll tell him,” Daniel promised.

“But you, D’nl, your scent is… not happy.” Furred ears tweaked in a concerned tilt. Daniel sighed.

“I’m just tired, M’Net, I’ll be alright,” he said. He went around the table and put a hand on M’Net’s back, steering him from the room. He went on in Goa’uld as they walked through the hall; several new personnel jumped out of their way, startled at the sight of a being clearly not human. Those more experienced snickered at the newbies. Without a tail of his own, Daniel found his wrist taken by M’Net’s tail in a friendly companionable grasp. They went to the commissary where Daniel got another cup of coffee and a juice for M’Net; the Sua had taken a liking to Tau’ri fruits. There were a few SG personnel who knew M’Net and greeted him with a pleased paw knocking. T’Keet was quite happy with all the petting and ear scratching as she scampered from person to person, being fed treats. After Daniel and M’Net made the rounds, they headed back to Daniel’s office.

D’nl, may we speak of females?” M’Net politely asked as they reached the office. Daniel lifted an eyebrow.

“Of course,” he said.

“Not for myself, I will place myself in the hands of extended clan family once we go back to my home, but I am concerned about others on the ship.” M’Net’s tail flicked as he crouched on the floor in conversation mode. Daniel sat on the floor in front of him. “My hosts are too polite to ask and have accepted that they will die. Are there no females on your world that would join the males of the ship? They are good, honorable warriors and my heart feels for them. Could you ask some females to join them?”

Daniel was flabbergasted. Of all the things M’Net could have talked about, he was asking Daniel to play matchmaker.

“Uh, well, it isn’t that easy,” he said, trying to delicately find his way around the subject. “The women here are very strong and would resent being asked to mother a race, and the women of the country where the men on your ship are from, their ancestors, I mean, are of another spiritual belief and would not accept a man who did not believe the way they did.”

M’Net was clearly disappointed as his whiskers drooped. “I see,” he said.

Daniel felt bad. “Let me think about it,” he told M’Net. “Let me talk to a few people, maybe we can think of something. How many men are on board?”

M’Net said something which didn’t translate. Daniel showed him a simple tally by using lines, four lines and a fifth crossing to represent five. M’Net understood and held a whiteboard marker between his fingers like a cigarette to mark lines on the board. Daniel counted them up. Seventy-five.

“Is this an accurate count?” Daniel asked. M’Net shifted.

“I am not positive that I am using your counting system correctly, but I believe it is an approximate count. I am not including Aba and Inanna's household.”

Daniel frowned. “As it is, their bloodline won’t survive even if we do find them dates.” He scratched his cheek and paced slightly. “Let me think about it,” he said once more.

Yes, the Royal Four would be too proud to ask for help in this area, Daniel mused after M’Net went back to the ship.

Zu?” he called out in an experiment. “If you can hear me, I’d like to see Enki.”

A few hours later, the guards once more panicked when someone appeared.

“Boys,” they were cheerfully greeted. He first stopped in Jack’s office. Jack glanced up from his paperwork.

“I apologize for my rudeness but I’m still not dealing with Camulus,” he stated. Enki sat in the chair.

“No one took your emotions personally, Jack,” he said. “We aren’t quite sure what to do with Camulus, but we’ll figure it out. We may give him to the Asgard, if you don’t want him. I wanted to give this to you, though.” He held out a small broach and Jack took it.

“Very nice, thank you,” he said politely.

“It’s for communications,” Enki told him, amused. “Just tap it and speak the name of the person you want. The range is further than your radios. I wish I had thought of it during the battle, but we were a little busy at the time. This is yours to keep. I brought three; I’m giving another to Daniel and the third is for Sam.” He handed Sam’s over to Jack who promised to give it to her. “I will give you the frequency of our communication system so that you can adjust your own to it, if you wish this base to have use of it.”

“That would be helpful, thank you,” Jack said.

“I also wanted to tell you that all the symbiotes have been accounted for. At least, I hope so. Zu can usually smell them, and he hasn't found anymore.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “That’s good, thank you,” he said. “Does this mean you’re leaving? Honestly, I’m getting used to having you guys around.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Enki said with a smile. “I am not sure what is planned, Inanna is still considering options. I know that we will check in on the Sua, if any of ours wish to leave us, we will send them planet-side.”

“We can contact a couple of friends and see if they’d like to negotiate with you, let you colonize some property,” Jack offered. “They’re human, so you’re people could certainly mingle.”

“I will suggest it to my queen,” Enki told him. “She isn’t happy about leaving, she takes her responsibilities seriously and this planet is her responsibility. This world is crowded enough, though, I don’t believe it could handle all our people and I’ve told her that. Is one of these other planets you mention close by?”

“Not really,” Jack said after thinking about it. “The closest is Abydos; it was the original outpost of Ra after leaving Earth. Anubis destroyed the civilization that was there. Wiped it from the face of the planet, including their gate.”

“Yes, Daniel told us of it,” Enki said with a nod, stroking his black beard in thought. “Very painful memories. Would it offend if I took a look at it? I’d like to check the ecosystem; I may be able to terraform it and make it livable.”

“Won’t offend me,” Jack said with a shrug. “A beautiful people lived there, and I think they would have liked you. I don’t suppose you could terraform one of our planets here in this solar system?”

“I’m sorry,” Enki shook his head. “I need active genetic material to work with; Earth is the only planet in this system that has the conditions that meet my criteria. I can’t work with the volcanic activity on the other planets and moons, not in their current state, because there isn’t enough land mass to terraform. Mars has possibilities, it does have water, land, and microbes, but it would take about six hundred years for me to adjust it properly for humanoid life. I can start the process, if you’d like, but don’t expect results before those six hundred years and no one will be able to step foot on it before it is ready; the delicate balance would be disrupted.” He stood.

“I’ll leave you to your work, Jack; I need to check in on Daniel for a moment. Just one thing, though; do you know why the Goa’uld chose gods of the underworld and gods of war for their persona, instead of the gods of peace and tranquility?” Jack shook his head. “Because those were the gods of transformation and change. No one liked what they stood for but change needs to happen, action needs to occur, or all life stagnates and dies.”

Enki left the room leaving Jack with another of his puzzling riddles. Jack made a note of it, this time, to remind himself to talk it over with Daniel. Jack hoped that playing with Rak’nor got out of Daniel’s system whatever was making him feel suffocated because damned if he wanted to spend another night without him.

Daniel was pouring over a tablet; he hadn’t made heads or tails of it in several hours.

“I can tell you what it says.”

He jumped at the voice in his ear.

“Enki, give me a heart attack, why don’t you?” He held out a hand. “No, don’t take that seriously, please.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, my dear boy,” Enki said dryly. Daniel paused.

“You know what this says?” he tapped the stone. Enki touched one line.

“This part says, “Add two parts moon, three parts sun, a fingernail of colofinaze, and four parts ground senentonil. Bake at edge of low flame for one and one half lengths. Let stand….””

“It’s a recipe?” Daniel asked in disgust.

“Mmmm, for bread, it looks like,” Enki told him. “Man doesn’t live by sacred texts alone, Daniel; we need a snack now and again.”

Daniel looked from the stone to the old man and back again. “Are you pulling one on me?” he asked suspiciously.

“Daniel, would I do that to you?”

“Yes, Coyote, you would.”

Enki chuckled. “Yes, I would, but not this time,” he assured Daniel. “It really is a recipe.” He pulled a broach from his pocket and handed it to Daniel, telling him what it was.

“So I don’t go calling out for Zu?” he guessed.

Zu said he isn’t a messenger,” Enki dryly commented. “The communicator is just a small, personal one; it does nothing more than make a two way communication between you and whoever you are trying to reach. Mine not only communicates but also controls the ship, if I need it to.” He pulled a necklace out of his jersey. “I have a main control, as do Inanna and Ninurta. Enlil used to have one, but we had his deactivated long ago when he was taken by the Goa’uld. That is secure information, Daniel.”

Daniel nodded, understanding; if anyone unsavory discovered the true function of the necklace, the Heaven’s Bow could be taken over…. Daniel paled in shock.

“Is that… the Me?” he whispered, pointing. The controls of civilization, the laws that Enki and Inanna used to teach humans to fend for themselves, the laws of the universe itself. Daniel needed to think about the meaning behind that one; the scribes and philosophers of four thousand BC were bright for their time, very bright, but they still tended to wax… well…. philosophical. “It isn’t that the Me controlled the laws of the universe, but that the Me was grounded in the laws of the universe. And the ‘gifts’ given to humans were actually instructions from your ship’s archives,” he guessed.

“Yes. Very quick, Daniel, very good. Between Zu and M’Net, I was afraid you were on the verge of a complete mental collapse.”

Daniel let out a puff of breath. He looked around, glancing at his SF outside the door, and switched to Sumerian, telling Enki all that had occurred that week.

“Daniel, why did you allow yourself to get that far?” Enki asked when he was done. He held a hand over Daniel’s colorful eye for a few minutes. “Prioritize. What is more important; continuing to do the work yourself or teaching others how to do for themselves? When we came to this planet, all those centuries ago, we could have sat loftily on high and allowed the primitive people to worship us and serve our lazy asses, but we didn’t. Most of us didn’t. We walked among them, Daniel, among you. We taught your ancestors how to think for themselves, how to reason, how to govern themselves. Call me arrogant, but that was our greatest gift to you. Now it is your turn. Teach them how to think and reason for themselves, Daniel, and allow someone in your future to continue your work just as you are continuing mine.”

Enki thought for a moment. “There is much I cannot say now,” he confessed. “There are things you need to learn on your own or your mental capacity won’t make the leap that it needs to make. Some things need to happen, Daniel, and you will need to stand back and allow them to happen no matter how painful it is to watch. I am speaking in general, not of you personally. This planet is over-burdened and she is struggling to right this wrong. For every disease that crops up, and a cure is found, ten more will take its place. More and more people are becoming infertile for a reason. More and more people are turning to alternative family units for a reason. In order for this planet to survive, a percentage of the population must be sacrificed. The most fit must survive, and that means genetically fit for the future’s needs, not necessarily the most physically fit. Now, I know that sounds cold, I don’t mean it to be; I am fertility itself and it pains me to see such misery. Life is trying to right the wrong done on this planet by her own people and the people are fighting the medicine instead of taking it and healing.”

He watched Daniel for a moment, seeing the pain in him, and touched his hair. “Daniel…. expect the unexpected. And celebrate it.” He patted Daniel on the cheek. “Call upon us, Daniel; you have the right of family.”

“Thank you, Aba. Oh, I wanted to ask you about your people. On the ship,” Daniel said, remembering why he had called for Enki. He told Enki about M’Net’s visit. “I think he’s feeling the need to do a little match-making. Each man should have a queen of their own to serve. I don’t mind trying to set up a couple of dates but I need some sort of parameter to look for.”

Enki chuckled. “Our men are as varied as yours are,” he said. “We need strong women, though, if they are going to help set up a new colony. Jack said I can take a look at Abydos as a possible terra-forming project; would you mind if we set up there?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “No, I don’t mind,” he said. “Just please make sure that there are no inhabitants at all on the planet before you set anything in motion; the Tok’ra said there was no one left, but we didn’t do a planet-wide study ourselves.”

Enki agreed and tapped his necklace for a transport out. Daniel hadn’t noticed the necklaces before; the warriors were always so discrete about touching them, that they took themselves off to someplace private before transporting. It certainly explained how T’Keet kept showing up. Daniel sat back down; if he wasn’t mistaken, he had just been adopted again. His wrist beeped at him. Daniel was blank for a moment and then realized that his watch alarm went off so he checked his appointments.

“Ooops,” he muttered to himself and quickly saved and closed all his work. People tried to stop him several times on his way out and he covered his ears. “Ask Nyan!” he called out. He popped his head into Jack’s office. “I’m going out. Appointment. What do you want for dinner?”

Jack looked up and although he didn’t say anything, Daniel could see the relief on his face. “Jack, come on; food. Specify. Or eat whatever I make without complaints.”

“Just make something,” Jack told him. “Want to go out instead?”

“Na,” Daniel shook his head. “I wanna veg.”

“Pick up a movie.”

Daniel nodded and turned.

“Daniel.” He turned back. “By movie, I mean something completely unredeeming in any semblance of social value or higher consciousness.”

“Something shoot’um up and stupid?”

Jack smiled at him. “Good boy.”

“Daniel.”

“Yes, Jack?”

“What happened to your eye?”

“I told you…..”

“No, not that,” Jack said, gesturing at Daniel’s face. “The colors are gone.”

Daniel looked around for something shiny and looked at himself. He touched his eye. It was back to normal. “Enki,” he said. Jack nodded.

Jack was interrupted again a half hour later. Someone stood in the doorway. The engineers were waiting for the SF to do more than stand at their stations as the man in the leather jacket stood looking at Jack.

“Do you have clearance to be down here?” Jack asked curiously.

“I can’t think of anyplace I don’t have clearance,” came the low rumble. He handed a large envelope to him. “Your project is good to go, do as you will.”

Jack nodded in understanding. “Thanks, Nick, I appreciate this.”

Nick glanced at the plans on the table and poked at a couple of spots.

“If I were looking for a way in, those are the first places I’d consider,” he warned. Jack looked down at the table and immediately made notations. Nick gave him a nod and left as silently as he arrived.

The engineers were once more looking at him.

“Yes?” Jack enunciated with extreme care.

“Does Dr. Jackson really know how to cook, sir?” one of the men asked.

“I’ve gained ten pounds since he started cooking regularly at our home,” Jack informed them, patting his stomach. “My delivery places called to make sure I was still alive.”

Dinner was bubbling nicely in the oven when Jack got home. Smelled Italian, whatever it was. A hand ran down his back and he turned, putting his arms around Daniel.

“Please don’t do that again,” Jack whispered.

“I’m sorry.”

After a dinner of Veal Parmesan and red wine, they went into the living room for a naked truth session. Daniel relaxed back against Jack.

[Daniel] “One of my first memories with a foster family was my coloring book. I was coloring and one of the younger kids came in and took my crayons. I bitched about it and was told to share. A few days later when he was coloring, I took a crayon. Just one. And was told to be more considerate of others. I saved up my allowance and bought a new box of crayons. He took them and broke them. I was punished for not watching him properly. The next time I bought crayons, I wouldn’t let him play with them. I was punished for being selfish. I think I was upset over feeling as though I had nothing to call mine.”

[Jack] “I thought your fosters treated you well?”

[Daniel] “They did; all kids have a few shitty memories of growing up. I didn’t realize until recently that those memories were bothering me so deeply.”

[Jack] “Sounds to me like you didn’t get individual attention and were relegated to second place.”

[Daniel] “I guess so. Up until then, my parents were mine and everything I had was mine. Only child. No one I had to share with. Suddenly I had nothing to call mine and everything was shared. I think I had some rejection issues from that kind of thing.”

[Jack] “And suddenly being thrust into a group relationship, where everything is shared, you once more had nothing to call yours and were feeling rejected when asked to share?”

[Daniel] “I sound like a self-centered child, and I don’t want to sound that way. I don’t want to be that way.”

[Jack] “No, you don’t sound self-centered, you sound frustrated. I hope that when we get moved, and you can set up your own rooms, you won’t feel that way anymore. I even want you to set up the kitchen, since you’re the main cook here. If you want to. Daniel, you have just as much right to your own space as anyone else does. This isn’t a commune, it is a house and three people are sharing it. Put a barrier around what you need to, won’t hurt my feelings, and once your computer is set up in OUR home, the barrier around my office goes back up. That’s what our offices are for –private space. I respect private space and so does Sam. Can you live with that?”

[Daniel] “Yes, I can. Enki and I talked about prioritizing, and he said the same thing you did: I’m only one person. I talked with Nyan, too, and he’s agreed to teach any classes I have to miss. Be my assistant. I want to teach and I don’t want to stop gating. I talked with the board today and we agreed on a curriculum. My classes would be part-time and only for PhD candidates, unless I authorize someone I feel may be worth the time and effort. Students have to apply to get into my class and I get full veto power. I’m not going to waste my time with anyone who isn’t serious. I can have twenty students, I can have one student. The university also agreed to allow SGC personnel into my class, if you get with them for the contract. The military will pay for it, of course.”

[Jack] Squeezes from behind…. “And what’s your class called?”

[Daniel] “Non-linear Thinking.”

[Jack] “That’s it? What’s the curriculum?”

[Daniel] “Whatever I want it to be. Linguistics, ancient history, how to make nice with aliens, how to read between the lines. The board wasn’t quite sure of such an unspecified curriculum, but I asked them how they would deal with a hissing, volatile reptile that spoke a non-Tau’ri language and lived in a primitive hunter society. They asked how likely it would be for us to meet one, assuming such a creature existed, and I told them I could have one standing in front of them within the hour. They believed me.”

[Jack] Laughing…. “I suppose we could send an invitation out to Chaka.”

Daniel took his hands from Jack’s knees and turned. He kissed Jack, slowly, delicately, tasting Jack’s lips and touching his face, looking into the eyes so dark that the pupils were difficult to see.

“I get moody sometimes, Jack,” he said after a moment. “After I left home, I always made sure I had my own space. Abydos was easy; I just went for long walks and eventually spent a lot of time translating hieroglyphics. Just being friends with you and Sam was easy; we all had our own homes. Going on digs with groups was easy; the rule was no one touches someone else’s stuff, just like a chef never touches someone else's knives. If I spend a lot of time in my new office at the new house, I don’t want you to get upset with me.”

“Daniel, I know you’re moody, we’ve been a team for nine years, remember? Do you know how many times I’ve left the Mountain after a long week or two? Or three. Or four. Knowing that you were still in your office working on something?” Jack asked. “Most of the time you didn’t even hear me saying good night, much less good morning. I would bring you coffee and you never noticed me, only the coffee. I didn’t take it personally; you were just being you, in your own world, doing whatever it was you needed to do. Sam builds motorcycles, you learn new languages. Daniel, you astound me; you just got your third PhD, you speak more languages than anyone I have ever heard of, you CAN find that needle in the haystack, and you’re worried about being moody? I’m worried you and Sam will get bored with me and wake up one morning wondering why you’re here. Three-fourths of what you two talk about goes right over my head. Way over. Yeah, I know some stuff, but none of it’s in the same category you two are in. I feel like a complete idiot next to you guys, and you’re concerned about being moody.”

Daniel tilted his head to look at Jack. “We tease you, but we don’t think you’re an idiot. I couldn’t have directed a battle, it would never have occurred to me to toss diplomats into a locked room, I certainly wouldn’t have told the President of the United States to take a hike, and I would have sacrificed myself to a lost cause a dozen times over if you hadn’t forced me out; you’re the bravest, most honorable person I know, Jack, and I can only hope and pray that I can live up to at least a quarter of the man you are.”

Jack didn’t know what to say as he touched Daniel’s face. “Are we done with this?” he asked quietly. Daniel nodded. “Good, because we have another topic to discuss.” He pushed Daniel forward and stood, going to his office and bringing back an envelope. He sat down again behind Daniel, wrapping a leg over Daniel’s and locking him in.

“While we were in Chicago, a man approached me and asked me to give this to you. He said you do have blood family and this is the proof.” He handed the envelope to Daniel. “I didn’t want to see you hurt with one more disappointment, so I had Nick check out the information. He came back today with a green light. If you want this, you have cousins to meet.”

The envelope was trembling as Daniel hung his head for a moment.

“He seemed a nice guy, Danny,” Jack said softly. “Respectful, courteous. Said he’d understand if you didn’t want to stop in and say Hi, said his contact information is inside, and that the decision would be yours and he won’t bother you. Sam was there, she liked his vibes.”

Daniel stared at the closed manila envelope.

“Take your time and think about it,” Jack told him, giving his back a rub. “From what I understand, the relationship is a little convoluted, which was why state services didn’t find them when you were little.”

“No,” Daniel said, releasing a deep breath. “I’ll meet them, I’d just a like a little time for it to sink in.”

“Good,” Jack said. “See if there’s an email, and spend some time chatting first. You can claim your busy schedule. His name is Martin; he looked a little older than you, younger than me.”

Daniel nodded and leaned in to kiss Jack. After slowly licking and sucking on tongues for a while, Jack leaned back, a funny look on his face, and looked at Daniel.

“What?” Daniel asked.

Jack shook his head. “I’m sitting on my floor, in my house, with you, Daniel, naked between my legs, and we’re making out. Sometimes I still get that surreal sensation.”

Daniel stopped a smile, and put on a serious, knowing frown instead. “Sooo… need to hit the firing range for a while? Get it out of your system? Man up?”

“No,” Jack smiled. “But I think a little payback is in order.”

In the morning, Daniel was ragged on by most of the guys no matter where he went. No one dared say anything to Jack but he was aware of it. Reynolds snickered under his breath a couple times and Jack popped him in the arm once.

Daniel received a phone call from Mrs. Arthur, which thankfully wasn't about the hickey that was just above his collar and which the entire planet seemed to know about, and spent almost a half hour talking with her. She agreed to come out and take a look around, see how she felt about the place before deciding on his offer. Daniel eagerly grabbed at the straw. The phone rang again.

“Dr. Jackson, this is Dr. Cornwall.”

“Yes, Dr. Cornwall, how are you?” From the Oriental University in Chicago, he remembered.

“Fine, thank you. I was calling regarding the email I sent you requesting assistance on a translation. There is a man outside my office claiming to be Ninurta and that you asked him to assist me on this.”

“About five-eleven, long black hair, trimmed beard, superior expression?” Actually, that described most of the Sumerian men….

“Yes?”

“That’s him. Don’t let him bullshit you, Doctor, he has a wicked sense of humor; takes after his father. And he can be bribed with double fudge brownies.”

Dr. Cornwall was speechless as Daniel rang off.

 


 

Chapter 16

 

The weekend was busy with moving. Twenty off-duty SGC personnel showed up to help, but Daniel refused to allow anyone except his geeks assist with his own stuff. He didn’t trust the fingers of the military with his artifacts. He orchestrated everything, right down to categorizing and coding the various boxes of books and artifacts. Jack and Sam just boxed things up and labeled them by room so while they were sitting around with pizza and beer, Daniel had his crew marching carefully between moving truck and new house and down the stairs into the basement. The walls had paper signs stuck to them indicating, by code, which boxes went where. Jack could snicker but at least Daniel wouldn’t be yelling to find out where something is before opening all the boxes.

A few days later, while they were settling in, Daniel passed the time getting his library together and talking on the speaker with his new cousin, Martin. He had been nervous on the initial call, but Jack had been right; Martin sounded like a nice guy. He was in Oregon, a landscaper, and he and his wife, Joy, had two children, Stewart, thirteen, and Dennis, nine.

Sam took a few days and they all went to her family, having set up a family meeting to tell them about Jacob. To say they were shocked after watching the mini-documentary Major Davis had put together would have been an understatement. Jacob had recorded much of it himself, having done so in case of this very thing happening. Mark and Susan were in tears by the end, as were Jacob’s siblings. Mark held Sam and apologized for being a jerk. He was still upset that he couldn’t have been let in on it all earlier, and possibly had more time with his father, but he understood, now, the reasons for Jacob’s absence. Sam’s aunt and uncle were not happy about her relationships, but they were grateful for the information on Jacob.

Mrs. Arthur flew in later in the week, bringing her son, Lawrence, with her. If Momma was going to be living halfway across the country, Lawrence wanted to check the place out, too, and make sure she was going to be safe.

She approved of the house, not believing that such nice, clean neighborhood existed outside magazines, and not a gang sign in sight. Daniel introduced her to a couple of neighbors, and she was impressed by how friendly they were. He then took them to the Mountain to show them his office. Mrs. A took one look and wanted to know why it took him so long to decide he needed help. She met Daniel’s assistant, Nyan, and declared him in need of a mother. Daniel told her how much she would be getting paid, with full bennies, and she immediately agreed to come on board.

Daniel warned Nyan that he was about to be mothered to near death. He decided to wait a while before telling Mrs. A that Nyan wasn’t from around there. Mrs. Arthur returned to Chicago to give two weeks’ notice and get what she wanted from her house before her daughter and grandchildren moved in. Grandma’s house was much better than the projects.

Daniel began setting up his classes and looking over applications while Jack was overseeing the construction process on his new office. He had found them a new CO for the Mountain, a General Henry (Hank) Landry, apparently an old friend of Jack’s that he had talked out of retirement. Landry was amazed that Jack would ask him to be his second hand. Jack sat him down for a long talk, telling him stuff that was NOT public; he then took Landry through the gate for a test drive. Landry was hooked.

Jack was grilling chicken when the phone rang. Daniel tossed an application down, a young man who wanted to learn alien languages because that was going to be the future, and answered the phone.

“Jackson.”

“Daniel, this is Mike. O’Neill.”

“Oh, hey, Mike, how’s it going? Hang on, I’ll get Jack.” He started to head out the door.

“No, that’s alright, actually it’s you I need to speak with,” Michael stopped him. Daniel lifted an eyebrow.

“Okay, sure. What’s up?”

“Listen, Daniel, I don’t know how to even start this conversation, so….. I had a call from a priest in Chicago, Father John Stevens. There is a situation that they are trying to keep out of public consumption and since they’ve had a problem reaching you directly, they called me. I… I don’t know how to put this delicately so I’ll just say it: Daniel, there’s a possibility you are a father.”

Daniel felt the blood drain from his face and raced out of the library.

“Jack!” He held the phone out. Jack looked at him and immediately took the phone. He listened to his brother, nodding from time to time.

“Have them fax the documents, and go ahead and give them our home number. Thanks, Mike.” He gave Michael their home fax number and hung up. Jack put the phone down and set his hands on Daniel’s shaking shoulders. Daniel was bent over, hands on his knees as he tried to breathe.

“Okay, just breathe,” he said calmly. He squatted down to look into Daniel's red and white blotchy face. “Do you know this Andrea Brooks?”

Daniel stood straight, hands cupping his mouth for a moment, and nodded. “Yeah,” he said hoarsely. “I saw her for a little while about twelve years ago. She was a junior at the University. She was getting into drugs, so I stopped seeing her. Oh, God, Jack, if the kid is mine, I was on Abydos when she was born,” he groaned.

“Which is why Andrea couldn’t find you,” Jack guessed. “Okay, let’s see what the paperwork says. A paternity test is simple enough, and if she’s yours, we’ll deal with it. We certainly have enough room for her. We need to watch out, Daniel; this won’t be the first paternity claim coming our way.”

“It’s a girl, oh God….” He bent over again, sticking his head between his knees.

Jack stroked the back of his neck.

“You’ve been incommunicado for eleven years, Danny; some strange things were bound to come up once you hit daylight,” Jack told him. He got Daniel calmed down and sent him for a run while he called Sam and waited for the fax.

The fax came with a current picture. Jack didn’t think they’d need a test. Daniel took one look and put his head between his knees again.

“What do you want to do, Danny?” Jack asked him. “Sam and I will accept whatever you decide.”

“Mine,” came a croak. Jack nodded and called his lawyer.

Daniel lifted his head and looked at the ceiling. “Enki! I am not amused!”

Sam was unable to get away from the base so they set the phone on speaker for a conference call. Stacy Jackson was ten, almost eleven, and currently with a foster family. Her mother died several years earlier from a drug overdose and no family came forward to claim her. Daniel vaguely remembered that she didn’t have a good relationship with her family. He did the math and knew he was Ascended at the time Andrea died. Stacy’s life was troubled from day one, and foster care wasn’t helping her. Daniel had no problem seeing that by looking at the picture of her; she was a little over-weight, glasses, and a face filled with acne. Her eyes reflected the pain no child should feel. He also saw his own eyes, mouth, and hair.

“You’re getting out of diaper duty way too easy,” Jack told him. “When Megan has her baby, you are getting a little hands-on experience.”

“Guys, a pre-teen wasn’t part of our deal,” Daniel said, worried.

“I think the far bedroom would be good for her,” Sam said from the speaker. “It has a nice large window, plenty of room, big closet, and her own bathroom.”

“Guys…..”

“It’ll need to be repainted,” Jack said. “She’s wearing a dark green shirt in that picture, so maybe she likes those autumn-y kinda colors. I’ll pick up a few cans of paint in the morning. I’d rather not cover that hardwood floor, but an area rug would be a good idea. Bed, dresser, desk for school work, and a bookshelf if she thinks like Daniel as well as looks like him. We’ll wait until we have her before getting clothes and stuff. She’s old enough to have her own idea of what she wants to wear.”

“Guys…”

“Looks like she needs a female in her life, so I’ll take her shopping once she’s home,” Sam said. “Do some girl things. Maybe take Cassie with us.”

“Good thing Mrs. Arthur is starting, I’ll bet Stacy could use a grandma,” Jack commented.

“Playing big brother will give Nate something to do, too,” Sam said. “According to the paperwork, he will be her step-brother.”

“Ouch,” Jack muttered.

“Not unless someone marries me,” Daniel told them, giving up on getting their attention.

“Daniel, the moment they make all this legal, we will put a ring on your finger,” Jack told him. “So until then….” Daniel looked at him for a moment and then jumped him, smothering him in kisses. “Sam, did I just….?” Jack managed to get out as monkey arms tore his shirt off.

Sam was laughing. “Yes, I think you did. Have fun, boys, and save a little for me, please.”

While military attorneys quietly arranged the custody transfer, Jack and Daniel fixed up the bedroom.

Daniel met with a couple of his applicants and decided that they didn’t sound too bad, and if they were, he’d know better next time. He had to start somewhere. And another applicant was transferring in from Chicago, so he was a little happier about that. Jack told him he should have let Davis deal with the applicants, since interviews fell under Davis’ realm, anyway. Daniel handed the rest of the applications over to Paul to weed out the space cadets.

Daniel was given a reprieve when an off-world scientist disappeared. No one could figure out the key to the stone gateway where he disappeared from, so Daniel was allowed to go in, much to Jack’s displeasure. It took him two days to figure out the key to the gateway, and he came back with the missing scientist and a sprained wrist.

“Do I want to know?” Jack asked, looking at the heavy bandage on the wrist.

“A little Goa’uld, a little Ancient, a little this and that. The rest I guessed at by filling in the blanks,” Daniel told him. “Strange combination of various types of semi-precious gems with some sort of solar alignment that resonates on the smaller of the two suns…”

“I was talking about the wrist, Daniel.”

“Oh. I tried to catch a falling rock.”

“Why?”

“Because it was about to land on several of those gems.”

Jack shook his head and sent Daniel to Chicago with Davis to assist with the legal paperwork during the final phase of signing his name to everything. Davis would then head off to DC and let Daniel get acquainted with the young lady on their way home to Colorado.

“Daniel, it’ll be fine,” Davis said, giving Daniel’s hand a pat. “You’re great with kids. Give her time, and she’ll love you.”

“What if she doesn’t like me?” Daniel asked. He was absent-minded, negligent about schedules, knew absolutely nothing about ten-year-old girls, almost eleven, he reminded himself, and… oh, God, puberty was about to hit and ALL teenagers hated their parents….!

“Why wouldn’t she like you? You’re having an anxiety attack. Why don’t you take a few deep breaths and center yourself?”

Once they were in the private chambers of a judge, along with Father John and a representative from the state, Daniel grew impatient with all the red-tape. He didn’t know what the papers were that he was signing, but he trusted Paul when he said, “Sign here, initial there.” The state representative said they had tried to contact Daniel several times both when the girl was born and when her mother died. Paul told them they didn’t try very hard because Daniel’s annual taxes were on file which had his contact information. The state said they weren’t even sure which Daniel Jackson was the right one; did the men know how many Daniel Jacksons there were in the country? Paul wanted to know how many Daniel Jacksons went to college with the mother of the girl.

“Alright,” Father John interrupted the bickering. Michael’s colleague had met them at the lawyer’s office, himself representing the girl since she was taken to a private halfway house as soon as Daniel announced himself. “Dr. Jackson, I’m sorry for the confusion,” he said. “We did try to contact you as soon as we knew where you were, but we kept getting the runaround by military watch dogs. When I heard about you and…. the general, and his brother being a priest, I tried the inside road to you.”

“I understand, Father, thank you,” Daniel said. He really did understand; the military wouldn't admit to the sun being yellow, if they were told not to comment on it. “We’ve had a lot of claims being made since all this has happened, and the military has been trying to protect us. I appreciate your initiative in finding a way through and calling Mike in to help. What I’d like to know, though, is there going to be a problem with my taking custody of Stacy and my living situation?” After all the papers had been signed, the judge excused herself for a court date. Her court was too over-booked with more immediate concerns, and she was satisfied with the reputations of the people who were taking the child.

Father John steepled his fingers, thinking. “Thank you for being open to this conversation, Dr. Jackson, I was trying to find a delicate way into it. Obviously, I cannot condone your situation, as you call it, but you have friends in high places who want to see you happy. I have questioned the wisdom of this custody and I’ve been assured that no matter what your living arrangements are, you, Gen. O’Neill, and Col. Carter are good, upstanding citizens. You are in a fairly public eye, surrounded by military and their high protocols, and Father Mike assured me he’s taking a greater interest in gaining his brother’s friendship. You have a lot of eyes on you.” And a world filled with media, if he had put up a fuss about it.

“Dr. Jackson is a good man, Father,” Davis put in. “I’ve known him a long time, and if I have any input in this, I don’t think you’ll find a better parent for Stacy. Gen. O’Neill had a son, he died in an accident many years ago, so there is parenting experience in the house, and Col. Carter will provide an excellent female influence. She has been a secondary foster mother to a young lady since the young lady’s own foster mother died. The then Col. O’Neill, Major Carter, and Dr. Jackson rescued the young lady when her parents were killed. Dr. Jackson just hired an administrative assistant, an older woman, who knew him in college, so Stacy will also have a grandmother figure around. Gen. O’Neill has an older son who is ready to be a big brother. She’s coming home to a built-in family all anxious to meet her.”

“We just bought a large house,” Daniel said. “We’re almost all moved in. There’s plenty of room, she’ll have her own bedroom and her own bathroom. There are several kids her age in our neighborhood; it’s a safe, family neighborhood. We can’t let her take the school bus for security reasons, but one of us will always take her to school and pick her up.”

Father John had to reluctantly agree that their situation was certainly better than the foster situations she had been in.

“What about her health, Father?” Daniel asked. “From the report, her mother died of a drug overdose. I stopped seeing Andrea because she was using drugs. Was Stacy’s birth alright? Is she currently alright?”

The priest nodded. “I understand your concerns,” he said. “She was a couple weeks premature, which isn’t unusual for a first time pregnancy, but there hasn’t been any indication of problems. In fact, she’s very bright. She doesn’t do well in school, but I’ve spent time with her and she’s quick. It may be that she’s bored in school. She also gets picked on quite a bit from the other children; she’s a little heavy, and a little acne and wearing glasses doesn’t help the situation. Children can be vicious, especially little girls. She reads unusual books, history books and mythology, and watches unusual TV shows; she enjoys the science shows, all of which doesn’t help her to make friends.”

“Sounds like you, Daniel,” Paul commented with a soft smile. Daniel smiled. While still nervous, he was starting to get anxious about meeting his new daughter.

“She’ll fit in with us,” Daniel told Father John. “We’ll teach her to be proud of herself. And I’m afraid eye problems are in the family,” he pushed up his glasses. Both his parents wore glasses; his mother was continually taking his father's glasses off to wipe the dust from them. His father could be a little absent-minded.  “So is a nerdy interest in dead cultures, so I think she’ll enjoy my library.”

Father John smiled and pushed up his own glasses. “Well, I appreciate your honesty, Dr. Jackson. If you are ready, I have set up an appointment with Stacy’s teacher at her school. I thought you’d like to get a little input from her and get her school records to take back with you. Stacy’s foster family has done the best they can, but they have a full house, so I had Stacy moved into a children's home that my parish runs. It’s a halfway house for teens about to move into the adult world, but she’s been alright there for a couple days. The children at the foster home haven’t been kind to her, and knowing that a biological parent was coming for her would have made it worse. Stacy is in school, so you can meet her there, if that’s alright.”

Daniel took a deep breath and nodded. Paul gave him a pat on the back. Daniel hugged him and thanked him for coming along and helping with the paperwork. Davis was going to head out for DC now that Daniel was set up. He’d meet Stacy back home.

“Doctor, may I ask how you hurt your wrist?” Father John mentioned as they walked out to his car.

“I tried to play volleyball with a rock,” Daniel said. “It’s just a sprain.”

The priest found humor in that and chuckled. “And the major? He seems a nice young man; you’ve known him a while?”

“About eight years,” Daniel said. “He’s been our liaison with the Pentagon; he’s even been on a few missions with us. He’s just been transferred to Colorado and will be starting as Gen. O’Neill’s assistant at HomeWorld Security.”

Father John lifted an eyebrow. “That’s a serious assignment,” he commented, impressed. “Sounds like Stacy is going to be surrounded by people in very high military positions; will there be too much stress for her? She is, after all, just a young girl, and the heavy rule structure may be a little more than she can deal with.”

“You’re right, she will be acquainted with people who happen to wield a lot of power,” Daniel admitted. “We do our best not to bring work home with us. Jack may be a General, but he really doesn’t like all the protocol. For him, it’s just a job. We do our best to play and have fun. Sam puts motorcycles together as a hobby, when she’s not trying to smash particles, and Jack likes to fish and he doesn’t care if there are actually fish in the pond, and I like to cook and dig in the dirt. And we only keep people around us who also like to have fun. I think she’ll be fine, Father.”

“And your… housemates… how do they feel about Stacy joining the house?”

Daniel chuckled. “While I was hyperventilating at discovering It’s a Girl, they began planning what colors to paint her bedroom, who was going to take her shopping, and setting up new house protocols that included Stacy. Jack was recently commenting that he wanted grandchildren, and since Nate has no plans on accommodating him, he’s looking forward to movie and ice cream dates, and Sam isn’t sure how she’ll be at motherhood, but she’d like to be a big sister and talk about boys and make-up and dresses.”

“And how do you feel about fatherhood?”

Daniel groaned and put his head back for a moment. “I’m terrified, to tell you the truth,” he said. “My partners keep telling me I’ll be great because I do love kids; I just don’t want to make a mistake. I want to be her friend, I want her to like me, but I know I’ll have to find a balance and be a parent, too.”

“If it helps you any, that’s exactly how you should be feeling,” Father John said gently. “Now what about other children? Is Col. Carter planning on having children of her own?”

“Everyone keeps asking that question,” Daniel commented, the corner of his mouth lifting. “She doesn’t know. We’re not going to push her about it, it’s her body. If she does have a baby, we will love it and welcome it with open arms and open hearts. We’ve talked about adopting later on, so that’s a possibility, also.”

“But there are other children in the neighborhood? Stacy will have peers?”

“Oh, yes,” Daniel assured him. “It’s a family neighborhood, and our base families often get together for picnics, and everyone’s kids play together. Jack’s niece and nephews will be visiting more often, their mother is pregnant with number four, and Sam’s niece and nephew will be visiting. I just discovered blood relatives, cousins, and I’ve begun talking with them, so I’m hoping for a closer connection there, and Stacy will have cousins.”

Father John smiled. “Sounds to me like you are about to make a lonely little girl’s dreams come true,” he said. “She’s nervous about meeting you, she knows who you are, and she’s been an avid watcher of everything alien ever since the battle in Colorado. When I told her who her father was, she told a few children in school, and I’m afraid she’s been ridiculed as a liar.”

Daniel sighed with impatience and shook his head as his protective instincts came on line. He took his cell phone out.

“Jack, I need to put on a show,” he said. “Can you get an official car to meet me at Glenridge Elementary? Yeah, the works. Thanks.”

The father chuckled. “That’s actually devious,” he commented with admiration when Daniel put the cell away.

“Thanks, Jack taught me well. These are just kids; you should see how he deals with bickering diplomats.”

Daniel took a few more deep breaths as he walked into the school with Father John. They stopped at the office first and met with the principal who expressed his pleasure at meeting Dr. Jackson. He also expressed his displeasure at having to toss out all their history books and start over. Daniel found himself promising a show and tell for the children, bringing things down to their level of understanding. As they talked, Daniel signed all the paperwork to withdraw Stacy from the school after Father John turned over copies of the court papers.

Principal Woodard brought Stacy’s teacher in, Mrs. Gonzalez, and they spent time discussing Stacy’s schoolwork. Mrs. Gonzalez said with disapproval that the girl spent a lot of time drawing and reading books outside the curriculum. Daniel held his tongue. There was a knock at the door and the secretary opened it.

“Sir, there’s a military person here,” she told Woodard, eyes wide. He motioned for her to let him in. An officer in uniform presented himself, hat under an arm.

“Doctor, your car is here,” he said politely to Daniel.

“Thank you, Lieutenant, we’ll be done shortly. There are two suitcases in the outer office, please take them to the car and wait for us there,” Daniel instructed. He handed the copy of Stacy’s school and medical records to the lieutenant.

“Yes, sir.”

Before Woodard escorted Daniel out to find his daughter, Daniel having requested to go to her instead of having her brought to the office, Woodard took out a flyer from Daniel’s seminar at the university and asked Daniel to sign it. Flustered, Daniel signed it, glad that Jack wasn’t around to see it and rag on him.

Stacy’s class was currently on the playground, so Daniel waited at the fence, shifting nervously from foot to foot. Father John gave him a pat on a shoulder.

“There she is,” he said, pointing out across the yard. Daniel followed the finger to a girl sitting on a swing, drawing. Mrs. Gonzalez walked to her, spoke to the girl, and tilted her head. Daniel saw the girl look toward him and hesitantly get to her feet. Another deep breath as she came toward him. When she was standing in front of him, looking up at him with his own blue eyes, Daniel fell in love. He squatted down and took her hand.

“Hi, sweetheart,” he greeted her gently. “Would you like to come home?”

She gulped, nodded and threw her arms around his neck. Daniel stood, holding on to her, ignoring his wrist. Children nearby stopped their playing, seeing the unusual behavior from the spaz girl and recognizing Daniel from TV. His new SGC jacket also made him stand out. He carried her out to the waiting air force escort. The uniforms were being ogled from the fence by more children as they answered questions the children called out.

“Lieutenant, please take us to the air field,” Daniel requested as they approached the car.

“Yes, sir.”

Daniel got Stacy tucked into the back seat and sat next to her. He touched her cheek.

“Can I see what you’re drawing?” he asked. She nodded and handed him the drawing pad. He looked through the various cartoons and landscapes, some of which were a little dark, not unexpected if she were getting picked on.

“These are pretty good,” he said. “I think you have talent.” She was staring at him. He didn’t mind. “We’ll talk personal stuff when we get to the air field,” he told her. “That way we can sit privately somewhere until the plane is ready for us. We’re going to take an army plane home, instead of a regular airplane. Have you ever been on a plane?”

“Uh huh,” she shook her head.

“I’m not too fond of them, but they get me where I need to be,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who are pilots and they LOVE flying. I think pilots are just crazy.” The air force men in front glanced in the rear view mirror and smiled. “An army transport plane is loud and noisy but it’ll get us home quicker. Not everyone is allowed to fly in them, so this is an experience you can tell your new friends.”

“How come the army has planes?” she asked. “I thought they were only on the ground.”

Daniel ignored the quickly suppressed snicker from up front. “Because the army has to get their men and women places quickly, so they have their own planes. We live with military people, so you’ll get used to it.”

“Who do we live with?” she asked.

“We live with Gen. O’Neill, remember seeing him on TV? And his wife, Col. Samantha Carter. They’re both in the air force and they’re both crazy pilots. They like to take jets up and make them go up and around and do crazy spirals.” He got a giggle out of her as he demonstrated with hand gestures.

“Is General O’Neill nice?” she asked. “He was yelling on TV. He got bleeped.”

“He’s very nice,” Daniel said. “He doesn’t yell much, it takes a lot to make him yell. He’s looking forward to meeting you; Sam is, too. And you can call them Jack and Sam. They’ll be your parents, too.”

“What do I call you?” she asked shyly.

“Well, I think you’re a big girl, so you decide; what would you like to call me?”

“Daddy?”

Daniel let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding and put an arm around her shoulders. He pressed his mouth to the top of her head.

“I think that would be perfect,” he whispered, breathing in the smell of her.

It didn’t take long to get to the air field. Stacy’s bags were taken to the loading dock while Daniel got them checked in.

“Airman, how long till we need to board?” Daniel asked. The lieutenant blinked at him.

“Sir? Anytime you’d like, sir, there’s a jet waiting.”

Daniel paused. “Who ordered a jet?” he asked. “I thought it was a transport….who signed that order?” he asked, knowing the answer.

“General O’Neill, sir.”

Daniel sighed. “Thank you, airman. We’re here, let’s do it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And please stop calling me sir, I’m just Daniel.”

“Yes, sir. Sir?”

“Yes, Lieutenant?”

The officer held his hand out which Daniel took.

“Congratulations, sir,” he said with a nod toward the girl.

“Thank you,” Daniel smiled at him.

“How do you know he’s a lieutenant?” Stacy asked, looking at all the uniformed people around her with all their pins and badges. The man in front of them had only his last name in his jacket. Daniel nodded to the officer and the man squatted down and showed her his insignia.

“Lieutenant is my rank. See this silver bar?” he asked, tapping his shoulder. “This identifies my rank to others. This means I am a First Lieutenant. A gold bar is a Second Lieutenant. Everyone has bars, stripes, or stars, gold or silver, and different numbers of each. This is how people can tell what our ranks are. I’m sure you’ll learn all about this when you live with General O’Neill and Col. Carter.”

Their pilot was called onto deck and Daniel and Stacy escorted out to the waiting jet. They got buckled in, met the pilot and his co, and were off after air clearance was given. Stacy was nervous so Daniel held her hand during take-off.

“Stacy, I wanted to talk with you about how we live,” he began, distracting her from the lift. “You know how men and women get married and live together? Well, I live with Jack and Sam like we were all married to each other. We all sleep in the same bed, and we all kiss each other and we all love each other. I just don’t want you to be surprised if you see me kiss or hug Sam AND Jack. Do you understand?”

She frowned, thinking. “Sam is his wife and he doesn’t mind if you kiss her?” she asked.

“Right,” Daniel nodded. “But I kiss him, too, and she doesn’t mind. I just need to be sure you understand.”

“I guess so,” she said with a shrug.

“Good,” he said. “I know it’s a little unusual. They’ll be like your step-Mom and step-Dad, so you listen to them. And, honey, I’ve never been a Dad before, so I’ll need your help; I want to be a really good Dad, so you need to talk to me and tell me when you need something. If you need me to listen or if you need a hug, anything, just tell me, okay?”

“Okay. Are there other kids in the house?” she asked.

“Nope,” he said. “Except Jack; sometimes he’s a big kid. He even likes to rake leaves and then jump in them. And he watches the Simpson’s. He and Sam both have nieces and nephews, though, and they come for visits, and there are lots of kids in the neighborhood. Everyone is very nice, so I think you’ll be happy.”

She nodded, and it nearly killed him to see she didn’t quite believe him. What kind of places had she been placed? “Who do I share my room with?” she asked.

“No one,” he said. “It’s all yours. Even your own bathroom. But you have to clean up after yourself. We all help with chores, so we’ll need you to help, too.”

“I have my own room?” she questioned with wide eyes that flickered quickly in thought. “Can I have toys, too?”

“Of course you can have toys,” Daniel responded. “Don’t you have any toys?”

She shrugged. “I have a couple, but my foster parents didn’t have money to buy toys, so I had to play with other people’s toys. It was okay.”

“Sharing is a good thing, but I insist you have your own toys,” he told her. “We’ll go toy shopping when we get home. I know Sam wants to take you shopping for clothes and stuff for your room, so you can get some toys then. Father John said you like to read; I like to read, too, so we got you a bookshelf for your room.”

While they sat through the smooth flight to Colorado, he got her to talk about things she liked to read and was pleased to hear the excitement in her voice when she talked about Greek mythology, the usual starting point for archaeology and ancient history buffs. Unless one happened to be born in Egypt. He told her about digs and things that he found while digging in the dirt. She wanted a Lego set and a painting kit. Daniel groaned and warned her to keep the Legos away from Jack. She wanted to know if there was a library so she could get books for her bookshelf.

“Of course there’s a library, but we can buy you books, too,” he told her.

“My own books? To keep?”

Daniel was becoming angry with not only her dead mother, but also her foster parents. Fifty cents at a second hand book store shouldn’t have been that big a deal.

“Yes, your very own books to keep,” he told her. “I have lots of books, so you can have books, too. What else would you like?”

“Can I have a bike?” she turned in her seat to look at him, trying to see if he was kidding with her.

“We will get you a bike this weekend,” he promised. She quickly began to wear down after the day’s events and fell asleep an hour into the flight. When she was out, Daniel called home and asked Jack to pick up a few things before they got there. Jack became a little pissy, too, when he found out what the child did NOT have.

Daniel found himself dozing when the co-pilot tapped his shoulder.

“Sir, I’m sorry to wake you,” the man whispered. “There’s a small problem, so we’re diverting to Nellis.”

Daniel was awake. In unspoken words, the main Yard at Area 51. “What’s wrong?”

“Bogie over Iraq, sir; 302s are being scrambled.”

Daniel hit the pin on his jacket. “Guys, what’s going on?” he called up. The co-pilot looked at what he thought was an ornament.

“It just came in, Daniel,” Inanna informed him. “We’re going to take a look now. Your tag isn’t where we left you; where are you?”

“On a jet heading home,” he told her. “I just became a father. My daughter is with me. Tell Aba I’m not amused. How did that ship get into the solar system?”

Mazel tov. Cloaked, more than likely,” she said. “How about we get you out of the air and someplace safe?”

“My pilots have orders to take me to the Yard.”

“The Yard is a little busy with scrambling the 302s, Daniel, I don’t think that’s a wise order.”

Daniel looked at the pilot in front of him listening to the conversation.

“Orders from Gen. O’Neill, sir. Ma’am.”

“Who is that?” she asked.

“Our co-pilot, Major Duran. He’s standing in front of me. I don’t see another choice, Inanna; we can’t beam up to you. If you are about to go into battle, your ship will be even less safe than the Yard.”

“True, but I can bring you up and put you down at SGC. I’m sure your pilots would appreciate being sent back to their base at a time like this.”

Duran didn’t say anything, but Daniel could see the agreement on his face. All pilots should be on standby, Daniel knew that.

“Call Jack, Inanna, he may want me at the Yard for another reason.”

“I’ll get right back to you.” There was silence and then she was back. “Change of plan confirmed,” she said. “He’s calling the SGC to let them know you are on your way.”

“Okay, let’s do it,” he told Inanna. Duran checked in with the Yard for new orders. “Give me a ten count.” He shook Stacy awake. “Honey, we’re going to do something a little different. I’ve done this before, so you don’t need to be afraid. Take my hand.”

A moment later, they were gone. The pilot went back to the cockpit and the plane made a quick about-face as they radioed in and sent an emergency message to the general to let him know his package was away.

Daniel and Stacy were on the Heaven’s Bow for only a moment before being sent out again. They reappeared in the gate room amidst ordered chaos as troops ran to assigned posts. The gate room SF were startled by his appearance but Gen. Landry barked at them to stand-down.

“Come on, honey, we’re okay here, this is where I work,” Daniel told the frightened girl. He took her hand and hurried them down the corridor.

Jack was currently snarling his way to the Mountain, his only command post until his new offices were ready. All the 302s were being scrambled and on their way to the Middle East where a Ha’tak-class ship had pulled into orbit. The Goa’uld still hadn’t figured out Tau’ri chain of command, and Jack had no idea why they would have picked the middle of the desert. No demands had been heard, yet, so he didn’t know who the godling was in charge of the ship. His cell phone rang.

“O’Neill!” he yelled into the handless microphone.

“Col. Markham just radioed in,” Landry reported. “The Prometheus is coming in hot; he says we have Enlil illegally parked.”

Fuck! “Is Daniel there?”

“Just came in, along with a young girl.”

“His new daughter,” Jack said. “I want them close to the gate room and off-world at the first sign of a foothold in the Mountain. You and I haven’t gone over this particular protocol, Hank, so we’re wingin’ it. Air Force One will be on its way, the pilot will call when they are within sight and you need to have an armed escort already at the field. The president has no command decision rights over the SGC, he is to be given all respects but don’t let him push you. The SGC is now under the authority of HomeWorld Security, and by the president’s own authorization, HomeWorld Security has the final word. Get him set up on the VIP deck, his own men know what to do, they’ve been there before.

“I need you to make sure the Alpha site is updated with all current information, and bring home all off-world personnel immediately, except Alpha. Off-world personnel have a thirty minute warning as of now or they will be locked out until this situation has been dealt with. If the base needs to be evacuated, I want you off-world with the rest; if anything happens to me, I need you ready to take over. Col. Reynolds is the best right hand there, let him help you, and Walter knows what you’ll want before you do. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

The front guards saw Jack speeding toward them and pulled the gate open, jumping out of the way. He screeched to a halt and jumped out. He ran past all the check-in points while talking on his cell phone with Maynard.

“Make a hole!” he yelled at the crowded elevator. Several airmen jumped out, letting him on.

“302s are on their way, and the Prometheus is in the solar system,” Landry told him as Jack keyed the elevator to go straight to the twenty-seventh floor without stopping. “Daedalus happens to be home, Col. Caldwell is preparing for debarkation; the Argos is not ready for deep space, but her weapons are on-line and she can skirt around the planet. We already have ground troops there, and communication with the CO out there is being linked in now.”

Jack jumped off the elevator and bound up the half-flight of stairs to the control room.

“All teams are in except the Alpha site and SG-9,” Landry reported as Jack rushed in. “We haven’t been able to reach them and they’re an hour overdue for check-in.”

“I’d swear that team number is jinxed,” Jack commented. “Alright, keep trying them. Send a message to Dakkara, let Teal’c know what’s going on and to check on SG-9. Have a report sent to Alpha site so that they can follow-up. Do we have satellite from our target?”

“Set up in the conference room,” Landry said. He motioned for Walter to send the message to Teal’c. “The Iraqis are firing on the ship; their ordinance is bouncing off a shield. The Heaven’s Bow is giving it a good try, but none of their weapons are working, either.”

Jack quickly took in the scene from the monitor. The mothership held its ground as it deflected fire from above and below. “Enlil got himself an updated ship,” he said. He tapped his comm. “Inanna, you’re going to get yourself killed.”

“If you have a better idea, now’s the time,” she came back.

Prometheus, Daedalus, and Argos are all on their way,” he said. “Their weapons are more updated than yours, just hang on; try and protect the ground forces until the ships get there.”

“Those ground forces are even crazier now than they were when we were the ruling class,” she commented. “Jack!”

“I see them.” Several squads of death gliders came out of the mothership and headed toward ground. Jack pounded on the intercom. “Sergeant, get an ETA from our ships!” he ordered.

Daedalus is two minutes out, sir, Prometheus is six minutes, and Argos is ten,” Walter called back.

Daedalus is coming now, Inanna,” Jack reported. “The 302s should be…. you got ‘em.” Like angry hornets from a disturbed nest, 302s from America and Russia attacked the mothership and the gliders. Ground troops ran for cover as material fell from the sky.

“Sir, ground command is on line for you!” Walter yelled to him. “General Buchard, sir!”

“General Buchard, this is O’Neill.”

“I’d appreciate a little direction, General!” the man shouted over the sounds of gunfire and blasts that could be heard in the background.

“Your men are wasting ordinance, General,” Jack told him. “You don’t have the necessary weapons to penetrate those shields; not even a nuke will do it. Let our ships take care of the sky. If any of those death gliders land, your weapons will penetrate their personal body armor. Follow through with a knife to the belly; if not, that symbiote can heal the host and you’ll be starting all over again. A belly blast or a blast to the back of the neck will also do it. The symbiote is usually housed in the belly of the Jaffa; check the back of the neck, if nothing is in the belly. The adult symbiote is a Goa'uld, and will be felt in the back of the neck, infiltrating the brain. Get that information to ALL troops, not just ours. This isn’t the time for political bullshit.”

“Roger, General,” Buchard said. “This new ship coming in is ours?”

“That’s the Daedalus, commanded by Col. Caldwell,” Jack said. “We have two more coming, the Prometheus, with Col. Markham, and the Argos, with Col. Galanakis. Argos is brand new; she’s armed, but not fully functional. That other ship up there is the Heaven’s Bow, with allies, the Anunnaki, commanded by Queen Inanna. The Pentagon should have emailed you all relevant material, if you have access. Let our ships take care of the enemy ships, their weapons are made for it.

“We haven’t been contacted by the enemy ship, yet. We don’t know what they want; they are very low on slaves, at the moment, so they could be head-hunting. We leave no man behind, General, I want a head-count when this is over, and if one person is missing, I want to know about it.”

“Copy that,” Buchard immediately agreed. He wanted to know, too!

The Daedalus came in and began firing on the Goa’uld, the naquadah enhanced energy beams slicing through the Goa’uld shields. The ha’tak pounded the Daedalus in response. The Prometheus roared in and the Goa’uld blasted out of the atmosphere, both 303s chasing after it.

“I’m feeling a little useless here, Jack,” he heard.

“Why haven’t you asked us to help you update?” Jack asked her.

“I’ll get back to you when I have an answer.”

Jack smiled. “Pride goeth before the fall, your Queenship. When we’re done with this asshole, why don’t you and your boys come down for a beer?” he invited. Landry lifted an eyebrow. “We have a new house, Daniel has a new daughter, we’ll make a party of it and find time to talk weapons.”

302s chased death gliders through the air almost too fast for the ground troops to see. The Iraqi rebel forces were too stunned by events to notice that American soldiers were standing next to them, both sides aiming weapons at the same target in the sky.

“Col. Carter, see if we can capture a Jaffa,” he called over the radio. “I think an interrogation is in order.”

“Roger!” she called back.

“General Buchard, our 302s are going to attempt to land a glider,” Jack called out to the ground forces. “There may be two pilots in the glider. Let your men know I want them alive and to hold them for interrogation. Get the staff weapons and zats away from the Jaffa, and they can be taken down hand to hand just like anyone else. Cuff ‘em and my people will pick them up. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow your men to be alone with these people; the symbiote can jump bodies.”

“Inanna, can I ask you to keep watch on the 302s? When the ground troops have the Jaffa in custody, please beam them up and secure them. I want to chat with them. Would you mind?”

“We can do that,” she responded.

All the 302s now had a bright, pretty Tau’ri on their wings, along with an identification number. Much to the irritation of the home countries, none of the 302s identified their origin other than Tau’ri. Russia had tried putting Cyrillic lettering on the ships, but the pilots themselves brought the ships to the Yard where the lettering was painted over. From the pilot meetings held at the Yard, the pilots were bonding with each other in Tau’ri pride, not nationality. Even Sam was walking around with a slightly cockier swagger. Jack was half expecting her to show up at home with a Tau’ri glyph tattooed on an arm. He had listened to her talking on the phone with other pilots and their language was becoming a verbal short-hand that only other SGC pilots seemed able to understand. Sam wasn’t usually in the air, she was supposed to be overseeing the research and development department, but her excuse was that she wouldn’t ask anyone to test new ships if she wasn’t prepared to do it herself, and besides, at a time like this, all hands were needed in the air. Jack was a little jealous.

England had been given permission to start a Western Europe yard for approved countries, with Germany as a secondary site, and Australia for the Pacific site. Russia already had the Eastern Europe yard and was quite smug about being in on the whole project in concert with the US. Jack rolled his eyes and didn’t bother to correct anyone. China, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East were angry at being denied the materials; Jack gave an all-out NO to the Joint Chiefs and the UN, saying when those countries learned to play nice, they could join the rest of the boys and girls. Every ounce of material was being accounted for; Jack told the other countries that the naquadah could be traced and anyone selling an unauthorized item would be charged with world treason. He didn’t tell them how it could be traced.

One of the more onerous projects Jack had given Davis was to pick primary candidates for his oversight council for HomeSec, the other countries all clamoring for a say in the daily happenings of a situation they didn’t understand. Jack was trusting Davis to pick people with more brains than ego.

Greece had a national celebration when a son of theirs, Col. Peter Galanakis, was given the third 303, the Argos. He was actually a grandson, but they were ignoring that part; the Greeks picked any excuse for a party.

The command room was waiting breathlessly as they watched the 302s bring down a glider. They watched the satellite screen as four 302s corralled the glider which began to fly erratically as it was carefully forced away from the others and down.

The moment it touched ground, troops pounced on it, climbing over it until it was covered in army desert fatigues. Jack gestured impatiently and the satellite image closed in on the action. Three 302s landed while the fourth remained in the air above the downed glider. The ground troops held a multitude of guns on the Jaffa while the 302 pilots scrambled over to the glider. Troops stepped back as SGC uniforms ran up and held zats on the Jaffa. Jack knew a few of the pilots, Spurlock, Lopez, and Sam. The Jaffa hesitated and then came out of the glider, staffs tossed to the side. Spurlock quickly picked them up while Sam and Lopez gestured for the Jaffa to exit their ship. The Jaffa were tossed to the ground by gung-ho troops and quickly disarmed. Sam shouted something and a space was cleared around her and the two Jaffa. A moment later, they disappeared.

“Got ‘em!” Inanna shouted.

“If you will put them in a cell, I’ll be up as soon as I can,” Jack said. Sam reappeared on the sand and they quickly headed back to their 302s. The ground troops on both sides were clearly astonished by the now-you-see-her-now-you-don’t magic act. One of the co-pilots commandeered the glider and took it up and out of the atmosphere for a quick hop to the Argos which was guarding the air space over the desert like a big brother, along with big sister, Heaven’s Bow, to be settled in the landing bay.

“Hank, with that mothership out of our space, for the moment, the 302s should do a patrol run around the planet and immediate vicinity of the solar system,” Jack instructed. “Col. Carter and Col. Jeffries know the drill. When the all-clear comes in, the Argos can go back to the Yard, as will the 302s. A watch needs to be kept for the mothership and our 303s. If the mothership comes back, call me. Let Air Force One know there’s no rush, they can come for a visit, if they want to. I’m going to check in on Daniel and then get beamed up. I’ll be in touch; I have my radio, if you need me for anything.”

Gen. Landry acknowledged him. Technically, Landry outranked Jack via years, but Jack had the experience, and the new position, and Landry had confidence in Jack to take the lead.

Jack found Daniel in his quarters, lying across the bed with a little girl and a chess board between them. Jack began to shut the door and was blocked by the SF standing outside.

“Sorry, sir,” the airman said. It took Jack a moment.

“No, you’re right, Sergeant,” he said. “I forgot, thank you.”

The SF took a discrete couple steps away while leaving the door open, and Jack squatted next to the bed and put a hand on the girl’s back.

“Hi, honey, I’m Jack; were you scared?” Daniel’s own bright blue eyes stared back at him.

She gave a nod. “A little,” she said. Generals were supposed to be big and mean and yelled a lot, and she wasn’t too sure what to make of a general who was friendly.

“Well, I’m sorry we had to move so fast,” he said. “The bad guys came in and I didn’t want you or Daniel hurt. The bad guys are gone now. I need to go ask some people some questions, but I wanted to stop in and see you before I left. So tell me, are you happy about finding your Dad and coming to live with him?”

“I like him,” she said a little shyly. “He’s funny.”

“Yeah, he’s a riot,” Jack said dryly. Daniel stuck his tongue out at him. “Did he at least feed you?”

“Uh huh, he asked the guards to bring us hamburgers from the cafeteria.”

“Good. What’s this, is he teaching you to play?” Jack indicated the board.

“Yeah, I never played before,” she said.

“This is good you’re learning because we all play and you’ll be able to play with us,” he told her. “I have to go; you sleep here tonight, and we’ll get you home in the morning. It’s just a short drive from here. And move your knight to this spot,” he indicated a square on the board. She moved the horse. “Now say, Checkmate!”

“Checkmate!” she giggled.

“This is a two-person game, Jack,” Daniel complained with a smile. He tossed a rook at Jack. “Go interrogate something.”

“Actually, that’s exactly where I’m going,” Jack said cheerfully. “Sam and her pilots brought down a glider, and Inanna is now hosting two Jaffa in her brig.”

“Two Jaffa and Camulus? That should be interesting,” Daniel commented with a raised brow.

“I forgot about him,” Jack scowled. “Daniel, if the Goa’uld are from different symbiote family trees, is it possible that one limb is less psychotic than the others?”

“Sure,” Daniel said with a shrug. “Look at the Tok’ra. They don’t live to piss you off, Jack, they just have lousy judgment. And we’ve had experiences with queens who have deliberately refused to pass on certain information. I know we don’t have much of a reason to trust Camulus, but seems to me he’s caught between a rock and a hard place; you and Baal. You have to admit he’s never gone Darth Vader on us.”

Jack ruminated on that. “I’ll consider it,” he grumbled. He stood as he gave Stacy’s hair a stroke. “I kid-proofed the house already, so take her home when you get up in the morning.”

“I haven’t done the weapons talk, I assumed you’d want to do that,” Daniel commented.

“Yes, thank you.” Jack took a couple steps toward the door and turned back. “Did you….?” he waved a finger between himself and Daniel and gave a confused look.

“I told her,” Daniel said.

“Oh, okay, good. Good night, kids.”

Daniel looked at Stacy after Jack left.

“I love him very much, but sometimes he makes me crazy,” he told her. She giggled.

 


 

Chapter 17

 

Jack went up to the Heaven’s Bow and discovered Camulus out of his cell and messing with the ship’s defense systems. He was under the supervision of four armed guards, so Jack couldn’t complain too much except to warn Inanna about the man’s nature.

“The Jaffa haven’t said anything beyond the usual rhetoric,” she said as they walked to the holding cells. “There are still factions amongst the Jaffa who are holding out on the entire rebellion. It seems they don’t care whether or not the gods are gods, it’s the power they’re after. They feel that if they can be good enough at their jobs, a god will choose them for renewal and they will, themselves, become a god.”

“Tell me again why I’m wasting my time on freeing their sorry asses?” Jack grouched.

“Because you are a good man, Jack, and you can do nothing except help to free their sorry asses,” she told him.

“Maybe I should get my brother to call the pope and nominate me for sainthood,” he suggested.

“And your partners would say…?”

“Before or after they picked themselves up from rolling around on the floor and peeing themselves from laughing so hard?”

Inanna chuckled and slid an arm through his.

“I am feeling useless, Jack,” she confided with a sigh. “Your people have done so well since we’ve been gone, and I can’t even take the credit because I wasn’t around to hold your hands as you learned to walk.”

“Just out of curiosity, what exactly did you do all those years ago?”

“Actually, it was Enki, not me,” she said. “I governed, he played. Your people were barely out of the Stone Age when we arrived; our role was to assist in the development of a species with potential. The Ancients would place a gate on a world with potential and assign one of our races to watch over that world. Babysit, you could say. I was assigned your world. When we left during the fight with Enlil, and then disappeared, the Asgard were assigned watch duty.”

Jack thought about it. “And what was Enki doing?” he asked.

“Tinkering,” she said with a slight smile.

“Do I have to get dirty and pull those pretty black strands of hair out one at a time?” he warned.

Ooooh, Jack, is that in invitation to play?”

He playfully pretended to choke her. “Come on, out with it,” he mock-growled. “What was that old man up to?”

“Okay, okay,” she conceded with a laugh. “The Ancients misjudged this planet. The dominant species on this planet, proto-humans, were going to die out, so Enki fixed them.”

Jack stopped and looked at her.

“What do you mean?”

“Their brains had reached capacity,” she said. “There were other primate species that were becoming sapient, three others, really, including the Neanderthals. The proto-humans, shall we call them? That made it out of Africa and into Europe, began to mate with Neanderthals, which is why Europeans have some of the DNA. That was going nicely until the Toba volcano erupted. A small handful of the sapient ones survived, their brains having grown enough that they knew to stay hidden during the fall-out. They could have died out, there were barely twenty-thousand breeding pairs left. Your research says about ten thousand, but it was closer to twenty. But Enki took a look at what was left, tinkered a bit, and the next generations grew stronger and smarter. It was Enki that allowed you to evolve. Technically, he broke the rules; you were supposed to evolve, or not, on your own. Enki has always had a problem with rules. He feels they were meant to be broken.”

Jack stood still, staring at her in shock. The Toba eruption was about seventy-five thousand years ago! “Who the hell are you people?”

She slid her arm through his again and pulled him along. “Not yet, Jack,” she requested. “I promise, you will know, but you need to do as much as you can on your own. Evolutionary leaps don’t happen overnight, you know, but it is happening, during your lifetime.”

Jack’s mind was whirling as he walked blindly next to her. “I’m going to be fifty-five soon,” he said. “My lifetime is about forty more years, and at this age, that is NOT a long time.”

Inanna smiled and said nothing.

The sight of two Jaffa snapped Jack back into the here and now. He looked at them, giving them a long look up and down, noting the new sigil on their foreheads. The sigil looked like an upside-down pointy basket.

“Submit to your god, human!” one of the snarled.

Jack laughed. “You people need new writers,” he commented. “Don’t worry, we’ll get your god and I guarantee you he won’t be a god. I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what you boys were doing down there?”

“This planet belongs to Enlil,” one snarled arrogantly. “He does not need to explain his actions to you.”

“I see,” Jack nodded. “So I guessed right, you were here to collect more slaves.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small vial of green liquid.

“What’s that?” Inanna asked.

“Oh, just something the Tok’ra cooked up,” Jack said. “A special cocktail. Our Jaffa rebel buddies didn’t want to be enslaved to their symbiotes, anymore, but they’d die without them, so they take shots of this stuff and it allows them to live without their symbiotes. I was wondering what would happen if we gave a shot of this to someone with a symbiote.”

“You lie, human,” a Jaffa informed him. The Jaffa swallowed hard.

“Sometimes,” Jack agreed, “but not this time. Why? Are you afraid of what your ‘god’ might do?”

The Jaffa sneered at him.

“It’s a bargain deal, boys,” Jack cheerfully informed them. “Answer one question, and answer honestly, and I’ll keep the symbiote poison to myself. I’ll repeat the question, in case you’ve forgotten it already –where is Enlil?”

He shook the vial of liquid, looking into the glass as he held it up to a light. He chatted with Inanna about the stuff, telling her how they acquired it and how the Tok’ra queen sacrificed herself for them. Inanna was impressed and took the vial, giving it a close inspection. She requested a sample for her labs. Jack handed her a second bottle he had stashed in his pocket.

“I just don’t understand the Tok’ra,” he said, frowning. “They have this stuff, but they keep whining about needing hosts to continue their cause in freeing themselves. Why don’t they take their own medicine and dump the symbiotes? Wouldn’t that be more effective in freeing themselves?”

“Hmmm, I don’t know,” Inanna admitted. “Seems a good puzzle to me. If they get rid of the symbiotes, and take this serum, which I am assuming replicates their…what’s wrong?”

“Please don’t use that word,” Jack begged with a pained look. “That R word. Not good. Ask Thor.” Memories of skittering pieces of living metal transforming themselves into various shapes and sizes including an evil-Sam... he shuddered.

Inanna shrugged. “As you wish. So this assists their bodies in taking the place of their destroyed immune system. If they continue to take this, and procreate, the assumption would be that their children will be born with an intact immune system.”

“Yes,” Jack nodded. “Jaffa children are born with an immune system, and then put through a ceremony paring them with a symbiote as they reach adolescence.”

Inanna continued to think as she looked at the liquid. “It is difficult to actually get rid of a DNA sequence all together,” she said. “It can be made dormant, it can be altered, but this particular one is a necessary component for the body to survive, therefore nature would not allow it to be completely wiped out, not unless race extinction was planned, which the Mother will have, if She feels it is in the best interest of said race. May I keep this for Aba to play with when he returns?”

“Sure,” Jack said. “Where is he?”

“Checking on his project,” she said. “I think I’d like to see this serum in action,” she said thoughtfully. “Let me get an asu down here and we will do a little experimenting.”

One of the Jaffa shouted out coordinates. Jack gave him a wave and walked out toward the door.

“You promised we would live, O’Neill!” a Jaffa called out.

“I am letting you live,” he said. “This isn’t my ship, though, so you’ll need to do the rest of your bargaining with Inanna.”

Daniel was fairly certain the world’s press corps were plotting to kill Jack. After the second surprise visit from a mothership, and the second win by the SGC, the press was once again clamoring for interviews. Jack was refusing to take them seriously and making a show of not understanding what the fuss was about. Bad guy in, bad guy gone. What time did the Simpson’s start?

Jack spent most of the day at the SGC writing and reading reports and discussing HomeSec protocols with General Landry. This little altercation with Enlil, who was seriously out of touch with events, was minor compared to what could be happening. Landry had spent a great deal of his time reading mission reports from the past eight years, and knew Jack was deliberately downplaying events for the public so that the planet wouldn’t go into a complete mass hysteria breakdown. Enlil was laughable, if they knew what was waiting for them.

The Daedalus and the Prometheus came back empty handed and heads hung in shame.

“Sir, we need to be able to track cloaked ships,” Jack was told. He sent the request to R&D as a priority and received a curt, “We’re working on it!” from the head of R&D, Col. Carter.

Finally done with paperwork, Jack headed home. He had a long conference call along the way with the president and the Joint Chiefs. He was sorry the SGC and HomeSec couldn’t be a little more patriotic, hell, he considered himself an all-American boy, but if HomeWORLD Security was going to be guarding the entire planet, he wasn’t going to plaster the red, white, and blue all over everything. The entire point was to bring the globe together in this joint mission. And no, he wasn’t going to ask anyone’s permission before sending his guard dogs after a stray entering his yard. He was given a job to do, and damned if he was going to apologize for doing it. Davis called after and told him that the Middle Eastern bloc was requesting a meeting, and they were being very polite about it. Jack understood –the president wanted him to go into the meeting waving their flag and lording it over the Middle East. Jack wasn’t going to play that game. He told Davis to set up the meeting and include Sgt. Gaafar in case there was a language barrier. Davis would pepper Jack’s entire counsel with Middle Eastern Americans, if he needed to.

The president called Jack personally after the conference call and asked him to please, please, please, play nice.

“Sir, as long as it is in the best interest of the world, I will play very nice,” Jack said. “I don’t care what kind of politics you and the rest of the world leaders make for yourselves, so unless you want to replace me with someone who kisses ass better than I do, you need to let me do my job.”

“Jack, please, the American citizens need to know that their president is in charge of their security,” Hayes told him. “What am I supposed to tell them when you go around thumbing your nose at me?”

“Tell them whatever you’d like, sir, but I’m not thumbing my nose at anyone,” Jack stated. “You placed me in charge of the security of this planet, sir, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m not attempting to overthrow anyone, I’m not telling people how to live; I’m out there chasing assholes who are trying to make you, and all your American citizens, their slaves. You and all the other countries involved signed the orders that make HomeWorld Security answerable only to the international watchdog council that is being put together, not to any one country or person. The implication itself is that I and my office must stay neutral when it comes to world politics. If you are going to change that order, let me know, because I’ll pack up my toys and go home now. We have a new daughter in the house, and I’d like to be a father again.”

Hayes sighed noisily into the phone. “Alright, Jack, alright,” he said. “You never were one to get on the political bandwagon. I’m going to run again next year; can I at least get you to sing my praises, huh? A couple of photo ops? Make it LOOK like you’re playing nice? Please? I’ll even kiss the baby.”

“Well, she’s ten, you can kiss her, if you’d like,” Jack said. “Ask Daniel, first, though, she’s his.”

“What?”

“A Jackson oops showed up. Her name is Stacy. Daniel brought her home yesterday just when all the current nonsense started. Major Davis has the report, if you’re curious.”

“My congratulations to Dr. Jackson,” Hayes said, resigned. “May I inquire as to the well-being of the SG-1 house as a whole?”

“We are well, thank you for asking, Henry,” Jack said pleasantly and irreverently. “We’re a little irritated with the overly conservative nature of this particular town, but I’m hoping that the addition of a few open-minded people to the SGC and HomeSec will bring our neighbors into the fold. I’m considering a case of Ex-Lax for our more up-tight brothers and sisters out here. I can’t seem to go anywhere without getting an invitation to a revival, and while the fliers on my windshield are a little annoying they make for great kindling in the grill. My shrink tells me I’m dealing well with it.”

Hayes gave a reluctant chuckle. “Yes, I’m sure aliens and same-gender, polyamorous households are making waves with the politics of Colorado Springs. Any threats of burnings, yet?”

“No, thankfully our immediate neighbors are good people and are being entertained with our silliness. They even went out of their way to protect my home during the initial battle, and after the public outing of the SGC, we returned home to find neighbors waiting with home-cooked meals and lots of thank you cards. And if it were in my power to put in a commendation for Sheriff Andy Richardson, I would; the man has been a godsend out here. He’s made himself invaluable to the SGC by protecting our privacy, no questions asked, except for a little gossip over poker and beers, and I’ve never heard anything I’ve said to him privately come back to haunt me. He even held this town together during the battle; very few riots, only a couple of deaths from heart-attacks. If the man ever decides to run for governor, I’d back him, and so would the rest of my people.”

“I will mention his name in a few places, Jack,” Hayes promised.

“Thank you, sir, and I’ll ask Major Davis to check my schedule for a lunch opening some time soon. We had lunch at this little hole in the wall place while we were there recently, and they had these little balls for desert, called sesame balls. Mmm mmm, addictive.”

“Oh, Jack? Getting back to the same-gender issue? I’m having a little problem with my own conservatives. Can I get Dr. Jackson to come and talk to a panel?”

“I’m not his keeper, Mr. President,” Jack said with a shrug. “Call the house and ask him. He’ll be the first to tell you he isn’t an expert in this field, though, anymore than you are an expert in straight sex. Daniel is a wonderful lover, but he’s MY lover; we’re just folks being folks and enjoying ourselves. I’m sure he could give you a few ideas on where to start looking for a guest speaker. Personally, I think you should just tell your conservatives that my bedroom isn’t any of their damned business because if it is, then they can start reporting their private lives to me because I get a say in what they are doing in THEIR bedrooms. Where I stick my dick or what Daniel does to my ass has absolutely nothing to do with how I do my job, so your conservatives can to get a grip and concentrate on their own backyards.”

“Message heard, Jack.”

It's the twenty-first century and the fall-out from the Reagan-Bush years was still being felt through all the conservative evangelicals in office. Jack had never cared who did what with whom, but also had never been in a position to have those judgmental fingers pointing in his direction. He was getting an education in what minorities might be going through, and it wasn't a pleasant lesson.

Jack made a concerted effort to dump the crappy emotions before going into the house. He took the packages from the backseat and let himself in.

“Hello!” he called out, shutting the door behind him.

“Up here!” he heard. He put the packages on the floor and went upstairs. He found Daniel on a ladder, stapling dark blue squares of paper to the ceiling of Stacy’s room. She was on the bed, laying on her back and watching Daniel. Jack sprawled next to her and looked up, too.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“It’s a star chart,” Daniel said. “I had someone at the SGC print it out after I measured the ceiling. All the stars are in day-glo, so they’ll glow after the lights go out.” He continued to staple each square of paper after double-checking the corners for their corresponding matches.

“That’s pretty cool, Daniel,” Jack said with an impressed nod. “Did you make some for our room, too?”

“And listen to you lecture me on the different constellations all night? No, I didn’t. I will, if you will let me put an Egyptian mural on the walls.”

“I have my telescope, I’ll be fine with that if I want to look at stars,” Jack commented. “What did you two do all day?” he asked, turning to look at Stacy.

“We went shopping,” she said. “Daddy bought me a bike, some books, and a stereo and CDs, a TV and DVD player and some movies, and a computer.”

Jack’s eyes grew wide and he lifted his head to look around the room. There were indeed lots of electronics, and the bookcase looked as though it held mythologies from all around the world. None of the electronics were hooked up except the stereo and TV which were just plugged into the wall; Daniel was probably waiting for Sam to get home. He looked up at Daniel.

“Did you leave anything for us to buy her, Santa?” he questioned.

“Yeah, she wants a puppy,” Daniel said with a smile. “I told her she’d have to deal with you, on that one.”

Jack turned onto his side, frowning in contemplation. “What kind of puppy?” he asked suspiciously.

“One that barks and has a tail?” she suggested. Daniel burst out laughing as Jack groaned and fell onto his back. Stacy giggled next to him. Jack opened his eyes and lifted his head.

“Did you just call him Daddy?” he asked. She nodded. “Say it again.”

“Daddy.”

“Who is Daddy?”

“Daniel is Daddy.”

Jack smiled and looked up at Daniel who was a little flushed.

“That is so nice to hear, Danny,” he said softly. “If anyone deserves it, you do.”

“Thanks, Jack. Of everything that’s happened, she’s the only reward I want. Having Stacy makes this all worthwhile.”

Daniel continued with the ceiling as Jack and Stacy became acquainted. Jack went round and round on lots of different topics, with no seeming continuity, in typical Jack-speak, but Daniel knew from long experience that Jack had his own way of reasoning and he was reasoning out who Stacy was. The doorbell rang a while later, and Jack went down to answer it. He was back a minute later, holding flowers and a stuffed bear.

“The card says they’re for Miss Jackson,” he said and held them out to her. Surprised, Stacy looked up at Daniel.

“I don’t know, honey,” he said. Jack shook his head; they weren’t from him, either. “Go ahead.”

She curiously opened the card.

“Welcome home, Stacy, from…the President?” she read with a confused look. “What President?”

“Our President,” Jack said. “I was talking with him on my way home, and I mentioned you. I didn’t know he was going to do this, though.”

“That was very nice of him,” Daniel commented with a raised eyebrow. He’d get more out of Jack later.

“The United States President?” Stacy asked in disbelief, delicately touching the daisies and yellow roses.

“Yes, the US President,” Jack said with a nod. “President Hayes. Because of what we do, we know him. You’ll probably meet him, at some point. Maybe we can call him tomorrow and you can thank him. It’s getting a little late tonight.”

“You know President Hayes’ phone number?” she asked, blue eyes wide in disbelief.

“Sure,” Jack said. “I have to know his phone number, because I’m a general and sometimes I need to talk about security things with him.”

“Oh.” She carefully put the vase on her dresser and kept the bear. She sniffed and the men looked at her.

“What’s wrong?” Daniel asked in concern. Did she have his allergies, too?

Nnnnnothing,” she whispered. Daniel got off the ladder and went to her. She was crying into her bear. He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her onto his lap. Jack left them alone.

“Tell me what’s wrong, honey,” Daniel asked her after a couple of minutes. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what might be upsetting her.

“Are…. are you…. going to…. send me away?” she hiccupped into his chest.

“What? No, of course, not,” he promised, horrified that she would think that. “What makes you think that?”

“Because…. no one has ever….. been so nice to me before.”

Daniel held her tight, seeing the insecurity in her that Jack had gone through with him. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry I haven’t been here for you,” he said. “I really didn’t know you were born, or I would have been with you since then. I’m sorry if we did too much today, I just want you to be happy. I missed ten birthdays, ten of everything, and I’m a little angry about it. Not at you, at life for making me miss you. Maybe we should have gone a little slower, so you could get used to us. And I didn’t think about how all the stuff from yesterday might upset you…. I’m used to it, you’re not. I guess you’re a little overwhelmed. Or am I wrong in thinking how you’re feeling?”

“I…. I feel like… hiding,” she whispered.

“That’s what overwhelmed feels like,” Daniel told her. “It’s okay, we’ll go slower tomorrow and we can talk and maybe go for a walk in the woods. It’s very nice and peaceful. Does that sound good? Or we can do whatever you’d like.”

“A walk… sounds good,” she said. “Linda, my foster mother, didn’t like me to cry. I try not to.”

“Crying is normal,” Daniel immediately said. “You cry whenever you feel like it. And when you’re ready, I’d like it if you told me what made you cry. You don’t have to because sometimes things are just too private, but I’d like to help you, if you’ll let me. When my parents died, and I was adopted, I cried all the time, at first. And we don’t mind crying in this house because emotions are part of who we are.”

She sniffed and nodded. “Does Jack cry?”

“Sure, he does,” Daniel said. “I’ve seen him cry quite a few times. And I cry and so does Sam. When we need to. Even adults need to cry sometimes. I was crying just a little while ago, pretty much for the same reason you are; I was feeling overwhelmed. Lots of things happened all at once, and I was having a hard time communicating to Jack and Sam what I was feeling, so I yelled a little. Sam was at work so Jack came and talked to me when I was calmer, and I cried. I didn’t want to, I didn’t know I was going to, but I did. Jack didn’t mind, he just put his arms around me and let me get it out. We love each other, so it’s okay.”

She was quiet for a while as she calmed down. Daniel felt no need to put her down as he learned the feel of her and the scent of her, imprinting her into his mind and heart. During the past few months his entire life had changed, culminating in the present moment of holding a daughter he didn’t know he had. Her grip on his arm loosened and her breathing was evening out. Daniel turned and slid her onto the bed. He took her sneakers off and pulled the covers over her. He smoothed her hair back, took her glasses off, and looked at her. He kissed her brow.

“I love you,” he whispered. She gave a sleepy nod. “If you need me, come and get me, but knock and wait for one of us to answer before coming in, okay?” She nodded again.

Daniel took the ladder down and laid it against a far wall, out of harm’s way. He went to his room and collapsed face down on the bed. His glasses smooshed against his eyes so he lifted his head, took the glasses off, and buried his face again.

“Is she alright?” Jack was reading, new reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. Sam had gotten tired of watching him hold a book at arm’s length to read and made him go to an eye doctor.

“Overwhelmed,” Daniel pronounced from the mattress. He moved over and put his face in Jack’s side. “I’m a dad, Jack. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

A hand touched his hair. “No parent knows what they’re doing,” Jack said. “It’s hit and miss the entire way. We do the best we can, make the best decisions we can, and if we fuck up, all we can do is apologize and try not do make the same mistake a second time. You’ll be fine. You’re doing fine.”

Daniel slid an arm around Jack’s stomach and kicked his sneakers off.

“I need to fly out to Iraq in the morning, I’ll only be a couple days,” Jack told him. “Sam will be home tomorrow night. I was thinking of having a party. Combination of things –house warming, a welcome for Stacy, and a get together for our immediate SGC family and friends. Does that work for you?”

“Sure.”

“Good, start making an invite list of people you’d like to come. I’ve got mine; Sam can do one, too. We’ll make it a pot-luck; I’ll do dogs and burgers. Let me do the shopping, I want to invite Megan and the kids.”

“Okay.”

Soft snores were soon heard. Jack looked down. He gave the brown hair a stroke and went back to his book.

When Jack got up in the morning, Daniel was still fast asleep. At some point in the night, he had woken up long enough to get undressed and into pajama bottoms. No more walking around naked. Part of Jack was bummed about it, Daniel had a great ass, but he enjoyed unwrapping presents, so it was alright. He went to take his shower and pack a bag. Stacy actually had what was meant as the master bedroom, but the adults decided that they couldn’t fit three sets of dressers into their bedroom nor could three adults use the one closet, so they took a bedroom with a bathroom that connected to a second bedroom, and made the second room a dressing room. It also made for easier changing when others were still asleep.

When Daniel woke up, Jack had already left. Stacy was watching cartoons. She handed Daniel a note.

“Remember to go down to Peterson Elementary and get her registered for school,” the note said. “You’ll need her custody papers, birth cert/SS ID card, medical records, and former school records. Go into town and introduce Andy to her. SGC has an email account set up for her, show her how to use it. Take her into the SGC and get her an ID card. Call if ?”

He tweaked her chin. “Did he feed you? Good. Well, let’s get the day started. Get your shower and find something to wear, and we’ll get you registered before we do anything else. Am I supposed to help you with your hair or anything?”

“No,” she shook her head in amusement. “I can do that.”

“Oh. Good. Okay, because I am in desperate need of coffee.”

He did help a little with her hair, getting a snarl out. They got her registered quicker than he thought. The principal was surprised to see him and fluttered over him, one of their home town heroes. Daniel had a private word with Principal Herbert and told her that if one person harassed Stacy because of him, he would take her out of their school that very day. No one was to make a big issue out of things. Principal Herbert assured him that other SGC kids went to their school, and the staff knew better than to allow reporters or anyone else access to the kids. The school also had standing orders to allow SF to take them out of class, if there was an emergency. Daniel requested to see the paperwork on that one, and after reading it through, and seeing that it was signed by General Hammond several years earlier, he approved it. He also added Jack, Sam, Paul, Nate, and Cassandra on the list of personnel authorized to take Stacy out of school. If he wasn’t on-world, someone had to look after her. He was given a list of names and told to contact one of them about a Kid Tree that SGC parents used. Daniel recognized most of the names, including Reynolds and Bosco. Stacy was given a school ID card which had SGC in small letters in a bottom corner. One of the parents would explain to Daniel what it was about.

He asked to meet with Stacy’s teacher and was told that fifth grade began the multiple teachers and classes rotation to get the kids ready for high school. He met with her home room teacher and gave Mrs. Sandberg private cell phones and emails to be used specifically for parent-teacher communications. Gen. O’Neill and Col. Carter were step-parents, and she could speak to either of them, also. Mrs. Sandberg let Daniel know that Jessica Bosco was also in her class and did he know Major Bosco? He did, and Daniel felt better.

He then took Stacy into town and got her a cell phone. He programmed in emergency phone numbers and showed her how to use the phone and when to call which number. Daniel numbered them, so she would remember the order. She could call any of her parents at any time. She was to give her phone number to no one without permission from him, Jack, or Sam. She was introduced to the sheriff and then taken into the Mountain. Things were much calmer than the day before. Daniel introduced her around, to the extreme surprise of all, and had an ID card made for her. Stacy didn’t know it, but she just made the list of Protect At All Costs.

The new doctor, Dr. Lam, took finger prints, a retina scan, and a blood sample and sent it for a DNA workup for security purposes. He took Stacy to his office and showed her how to access the email. She would be able to access it from home as soon as Sam set the computer up. Nyan had set up the email and was thoughtful enough to plug in the emails for her new parents. Daniel let Stacy know that sometimes it was easier for them to send emails if they were really busy and their waking hours didn’t overlap. It was also easier, sometimes, to talk about private things on the email because it could be written out, thought about, and then talked about when they could get together and talk.

He introduced her to Col. Reynolds and Major Bosco, letting Bosco know that she was in Jessie’s class and what was this about a Kid Tree? Bosco told Daniel that the SGC parents had their own internal communications system; in case of emergencies, their SGC Kid Tree would come alive and a couple of parents with vans and SUVs would pick up all the kids. Daniel immediately agreed to put them on the Tree. With Stacy’s status as the only child of Dr. Jackson, she would be a prime target so Bosco would let the rest of the Tree know to make sure Stacy was accounted for. Daniel had no idea that the SGC parents had such a protocol for themselves. Up until the recent past, the significant others didn’t understand why their soldiers insisted on such extreme measures. The SGC took care of its own, and as the daughter of SG-1, Stacy was SGC royalty.

“Do you really know aliens?” she asked as they sat and ate ice cream in town.

“Sure,” Daniel nodded. “In fact, you met one today.”

The spoon clattered against the dish. “I did?” she asked in surprise.

“Yup. Nyan is an alien,” he told her. “We met him a couple years ago on another planet and he came back with us.”

“But he doesn’t look like an alien,” she said, not quite believing him.

A hand reached over Daniel’s shoulder and took his cone.

“Hey!”

“Who doesn’t look like an alien?”

Nate plopped himself down and handed the cone back after taking a large bite.

Nyan,” Daniel told him. “Stacy, this is Nate. He’s Jack’s son. Remember we told you about him?”

“Hi, Stace,” Nate greeted her. “I always wanted a little sister. You look like your dad.”

“So do you,” she said, unconsciously fluttering her eyes at him. Daniel gave an internal groan; he had forgotten the typical reaction of females toward certain O’Neills and Stacy was definitely a female. A pre-teen female.

“Tell Jack,” Nate encouraged her with a grin. “It’s fun to watch him get riled up.”

“Don’t tell her things like that,” Daniel admonished him.

“It isn’t fun to watch him?” Nate asked.

“That isn’t the point,” Daniel said.

“Don’t you call him daddy?” Stacy asked Nate. He shook his head.

“Na,” he said. “I only just met him a couple years ago, so I call him Jack.”

“Oh. Where’s your mom?”

Nate shrugged. “I don’t know where she is. That’s okay, know why? Because Jack’s parents are great, and his mom makes excellent cookies. I know for a fact that she likes Daniel, so I’ll bet she’ll be your grandma, too.” Daniel saw a glimmer of need on her face. She needed grandparents.

“Daniel, do they know about Stacy?”

Daniel didn’t know. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “If Jack told them, he didn’t mention it to me. I’ll call them later.”

“President Hayes sent me flowers and a teddy bear,” Stacy informed Nate. He leaned forward.

“Really? That’s cool,” he declared. Daniel gave him a nod. “Jack knows a lot of people in high places.” He took Daniel’s cone again, taking a bite out of the wafer.

“Honey, one of those phone numbers I put in your cell phone belongs to Nate,” Daniel told her. “He’s your big brother, now, so you can call him. I’ll give you his email as soon as your computer is set up. His girlfriend, Cassandra, is also a very close friend of ours, and her number is in the cell phone, too. You’ll meet her soon; Sam is coming home tonight, and I know she wants to take you shopping for clothes and she said something about taking Cassie, too, for a girl’s only trip.”

Nate groaned. “Clothes?” he whined in a familiar tone. “Do you know how many clothes Cassie has already? We’ll need another closet, if she keeps buying clothes. And shoes! Oh, my God….!”

Stacy smiled shyly at him and finished her sundae.

“Did you get her set up with an ID?” Nate asked quietly in Goa’uld. Daniel nodded and told him about the Kid Tree and that he and Cass were on the emergency list for her school.

“Things seem pretty calm around here after yesterday,” Daniel commented. “I was expecting a little more panic in the public.” For the most part, people were having a normal day: they walked up and down the streets, smiled and laughed with friends, talked on their cell phones, and shopped. Once in a while someone would stop a soldier in uniform, shake hands, and move on. The TV news and the written word were all talking about the battle over Iraq the previous day, but there was none of the panic and hysteria that the first battle generated.

“They’re taking their cues from you guys,” Nate told him. “From what my friends are saying, if the SGC isn’t panicking, neither will they. Jack is kicking ass, and a lot of guys, and a few girls, are talking about signing up. They know the new HomeSec office will be here, and they all want a piece of the space action. Forget the Marines; the new hot spot is the air force. Jack is about to see a significant increase in new recruits, and it’s all due to him and the SGC.”

“Jack said if we ignored the hype and treated this like an everyday routine, the public wouldn’t wig out,” Daniel commented. Nate agreed.

“Mmmm…The Egyptian president is coming for a tour of the SGC next week,” Daniel told him. “We’re keeping it quiet. Can you take care of Stacy?”

“Yeah, sure,” Nate said. He stood, ruffled Stacy's hair, and skipped off to cross the street.

“What language was that?” Stacy asked.

“That was Goa’uld,” Daniel told her. The ice cream was gone, so they cleaned up and went on their way down the street to his jeep. “It’s an alien language that a lot of us at the SGC learned. Sometimes we speak it when we need to say private things in public. I didn’t mean to exclude you; we just didn’t want everyone else listening. We were talking about the battle yesterday. Also, Jack, Sam, and I need to do something next week; the president of Egypt is coming to see the SGC. All week is going to be a little crazy, so Nate and Cassie will be watching you most of the time. We’ll call you and check in, but don’t be upset if we don’t see you too often for a few days, okay? This is something we have to do for our jobs.”

Stacy was quiet for a while as she watched the passing scenery out the window. “Do all aliens look like us?” she asked, sounding a little disappointed.

“No,” Daniel shook his head. “A lot do, but not all. I have a few friends who don’t look like us at all, and Sam has a good friend who looks like a big lizard. She likes to go flying in space ships with him. He’s really nice.”

They pulled up to Daniel’s old house where a moving van was parked outside. Mrs. Arthur almost cried at meeting Daniel’s daughter. It must be a grandmother thing, because Stacy was immediately given a cookie and a glass of milk. Daniel talked with Mrs. A about the upcoming presidential visit and she began to make a list of things to do at his office before the Secret Service came in to sweep the place.

“Daniel,” Mrs. A stopped him on their way out. She took his hand and patted it. “I want to apologize. I had heard the rumor that Andrea had had your baby, but when you didn’t mention her, I honestly thought you didn’t want to talk about her. If I had known otherwise, I would have told you about your child myself.”

Daniel was slightly shocked. “Do others on campus know?” he asked, hyperventilating slightly.

“I don’t know,” she said. “If they do, they probably put your silence down to the usual college boy denying his paternity. It happens too often for people to take notice, and it’s become no one’s business except the parents of the child.”

Daniel understood and buzzed her cheek. Everyone knew Andrea had gotten into drugs, completely ruining her scholarship, and after Daniel left her, she had begun sleeping around more and more often; even if Daniel had known about her pregnancy at the time, he wouldn’t have believed that the child was his, even if his name was on her birth certificate. He didn’t need a paternity test, though; Stacy looked too much like him for him to think she wasn’t his.

It was four weeks of settling in for Stacy and her new parents, a new school for her and her father, and Stacy making friends with the neighborhood kids. Daniel hovered for a while, anxious about her being out of his sight, and nearly had a panic attack when Jack convinced him to allow her to have a sleep-over at the Bradley home up the street. Daniel made her promise to keep her cell phone next to her and to call him at ANY hour, if she wanted to come home. Jack and Sam found other ways to distract Daniel while the kid was out of the house for the night.  She came home in the morning happy and not well-rested, having been up most of the night with kid games. Daniel was also not well-rested, having been up all night for adult games. Both took naps after lunch.

Maggie O’Neill took one look at Stacy and promptly swept her under her wing. Within minutes, Stacy had a grandma and grandpa. Jack’s parents were put into the fourth bedroom, Megan and David into the small, fifth room, a room they were all guessing used to be a nursery, Katie shared with Stacy, Michael set up in Daniel’s grotto, and Matthew was left to his own devices to find a spot to squat. Sam’s brother and sister-in-law insisted on a hotel room for themselves and the kids, as did Daniel’s cousin Martin and his family. Daniel was overjoyed that they accepted his invitation to the party. He had spent quite a bit of time on the email and phone with Martin and Joy, and was looking forward to actually meeting them. Stacy was thrilled at learning she had blood-cousins.

A few days before the party, just before Jack’s family arrived, they attended a special announcement at the SGC. With Jack’s blessings, Col. Reynolds was given command of the new SG-1 unit, and Major Bosco became Colonel Bosco and given command of SG-3 with the blessings of Col. Reynolds. Both men were then given a stack of personnel files and told to complete their teams. Reynolds took Daniel’s advice and moved Nyan in as SG-1’s resident geek. Reynolds understood that Nyan was also Daniel’s assistant and that Daniel might need him from time to time to assist with classes and other sticky activities such as stubborn translations and newbie training.

Gen. Hammond came in for the party; he beamed like a proud grandfather over his flock while his granddaughters gave hugs to Jack and Sam before running off to find the other teenagers.

Major Davis brought his new main squeeze who glowered from inside a black leather jacket, silently daring anyone to make a comment. Daniel quietly told his amused partners that this was Nick’s first time with a man and that he was more nervous than a tomcat on a visit to the vet. Paul had to whisper more than once into Nick’s ear to knock it off and HAVE FUN, DAMMIT! Jack snickered and promised to take Nick aside at some point and have a little chat with him.

As part of SG-1’s plan to indoctrinate the public to the presence of aliens, not only were the Anunnaki invited, and to remain in their own clothing if they wished, the Sua were also encouraged to attend. Jack was a little worried about David and a possible allergy to alien fur, so he had M’Net gently rub his tail against the astonished boy’s arm. When the skin was still clear a half hour later, Jack sent T’Keet and the other Sua cubs into the fray of children. Jack had a special t-shirt made for Davy; the shirt said, “Extreme allergies, please don’t feed the kid. Ask Mommy or Uncle Jack first.” Jack had Daniel write it in Goa’uld on the back. He then gave EpiPens to Daniel, Sam, and the rest of the family just in case.

Enki gave Stacy’s cheek a grandfatherly pat and Daniel thought he saw something silvery slide from Enki’s hand and disappear into Stacy’s skin. He guessed she was being tagged, something both the Anunnaki and Asgard had been doing with individuals they wished to keep personal track of. Enki privately informed Jack and Daniel that the Abydos transformation was proceeding on schedule and grasses were beginning to form over the sand dunes. Please don’t use the chaapa'i, yet; give the re-birthing process some time.

Jonas and Kiana came, carrying a very new baby. The SGC personnel who knew Jonas were quite vocal in their congratulations as the baby was passed around. Jack, Sam, Daniel, Teal’c, and Gen. Hammond were invited to Kelona for a special celebration to bless the baby, their own version of a baptism.

Teal’c gave Stacy a bow and presented her with a necklace. A carved stone hung from a leather cord.

“This is for our daughters,” he told her in a quiet rumble. “It helps them to gain strength and courage.” He hadn’t known about Jonas’ new baby, but would make one for baby Danna for her blessing ceremony.

Sgt. Gaafar also had a necklace for Stacy, a gold chain, and a bracelet, both of which he properly presented to Daniel to place on her.

“In my culture, a daughter is most precious,” Khalid told her. “She is the light of joy in Allah’s eyes and the fire of love in His heart, so when a daughter is born, we give her gold to remind her of how precious she truly is.”

Daniel gave her a nudge and she shyly thanked him.

Shukran jazelan, sadiq,” Daniel murmured, clasping Gaafar’s hand. Thank you very much, friend. Daniel needed to remember to point Khalid out to Michael; Khalid was one of the few who managed to keep his spirituality amidst all the alien chaos. Khalid was a happy Muslim who managed to find all the ‘glad’ passages in the Koran, and knew that Allah was patient and loving and had a sense of humor as evidenced by Michael who was definitely in his own alien chaos as he watched Sua milling about with the humans. Jack did have to warn the Sua that Tau’ri did not approve of sex on the grass in public.

“Jack,” Nate went up to Jack who was grilling. Nate had a young man behind him. “This is a friend of mine, Grant Kendrick; he’s in the Academy and really wants to get on an SG team. I promised him an intro, nothing more.”

The young man almost squeaked as he gave a nervous salute. Jack returned the salute with two fingers; the others were holding a beer.

“Relax, son, it’s a picnic,” Jack drawled. “It’s Gen. Landry you should be talking to about SG teams, but that’s okay; tell me why we should be paying attention to you.” Jack already knew he’d be telling Landry about Kendrick; if Nate was bringing an Air Force Academy student to Jack’s attention, the young man deserved it. Jack spoke with him for a while and then sent him to play with the rest of the boys and girls. The young man made his way to a touch football game that was being set up. Jack put the pile of dogs and burgers on a table and got out of the way when the kids noticed.

A loud roar of laughter brought Jack’s attention to a circle that was forming. Bre’tac had declared Daniel fat and lazy and was grinning with a feral intensity. Daniel handed his glasses to someone and answered the feral grin. Jack chuckled as the titans clashed.

He went into the house, looking around on his way. It made him happy to see David running and playing with a pack of SGC kids. Katie immediately took Stacy in hand, while Matthew went with the teenage boys for whatever rough-housing teenage boys got into. Megan followed Jack into the house and asked for a private moment. He took her into his den and she told him, amidst tears, that she was divorcing Andrew and begged Jack to forgive her for her behavior; she thought she had been doing the right thing in following her husband’s lead. Jack held out his arms and let her cry on his shoulder.

“Megs, I love you,” he reminded her. “At times I feel more like your father than your uncle, so how could I not forgive you?” She sniffed and nodded. After being still for a moment, she took his hand and placed it on her stomach which had begun to grow. Jack felt a flutter beneath his hand and kissed her cheek.

“It’s a girl,” she told him. “I’ve been thinking of her as Olivia.”

“After your mother,” he finished. “Baby, I know things are going to be tight, so promise me you’ll let me know if you need anything.”

“We’re fine, Uncle Jack, really,” she told him.

“Yeah? I’d be happier if you moved down here.”

“And what about gram and grandpa?” she asked. “Or do you want the entire O’Neill clan down here and into your business?”

Jack snapped his jaw shut and scowled. “Missy.”

She smiled and followed him back out to the yard. They bumped into Hammond on his way into the house.

“George!” Jack greeted him. “This is my niece, Megan. And Olivia.” He patted Megan’s stomach. “Megs, General Hammond.”

Just then, startled screams of several women brought Jack and Hammond running back into the yard. A familiar figure stood arrogantly over the group. Military personnel shoved children and civilians behind them and toward the house. It was pointless to draw the weapons they all felt the need to carry; the figure was a hologram.

“Baal!” Jack yelled. “Who invited you? Party crashing is rude, you know.”

Baal smiled condescendingly. “O’Neill. I had to see this for myself,” he said with great amusement. “I was told you had mated with not only Col. Carter, but also with Dr. Jackson. How enterprising of you.”

“Jealous much?” Sam asked, stepping to Jack’s side. Daniel stepped up to the other side.

Baal chuckled. “My dear Samantha….”

“Yeah, yeah, wadda ya want?” Jack interrupted.

“I have a proposition for you, Jack,” Baal said.

“I’m not taking.”

“Now, now, don’t be hasty; I haven’t told you want it is.”

“You’ve got nothing I want,” Jack said.

“I have Enlil in my sights.”

Jack paused. “I’m listening.”

“I want Camulus.”

Jack pulled out a chair from the table behind him and sat, stretching out his legs in the grass. “I don’t have him,” he admitted.

“Don’t play games with me, O’Neill,” Baal said silkily. “Everyone knows the coward came here.”

“Yeah? Let’s talk cowards, Baal,” Jack snapped. “You and me, baby, right here. No weapons, no armies, no cute toys. Mano-a-snake, here and now; bring it on, ‘cause I owe you a big one.”

Baal chuckled again. “Ah, Jack, let us not stoop to kicking sand; just give me the sholva and I’ll give you Enlil.”

Jack sipped his beer. “Told you. I don’t have him. You’ll have to deal with someone else.”

A figure came from the crowd behind Jack and took a step in front of him. Baal’s eyes glowed for a moment. “Well, well, so that rumor is true.” Baal gave a mocking bow. “Lady Inanna has returned.”

“To quote someone I’ve learned to respect –bring it on,” she taunted him. Baal laughed.

“You always were overly fond of these pets of yours,” he said. “And what can I trade you for Camulus?”

“Oh, I want you, bishru,” she responded, silk for silk.

Baal’s eyebrows went up. “Bishru, is it?” he grinned. He paced in his small window as he chuckled. “Obviously, that is an unrealistic demand,” he commented reasonably. “Even you are subject to age, Ninmah, and you are getting on, so I’ll put that request down to senility. The original offer is, I believe, Camulus for Enlil.”

Jack stood and stepped up to Inanna, putting a hand to her back.

“Assuming we believe you even have him, we need to discuss this,” Jack told him. “Go. We’ll send a message when we’re ready.” He waved a hand at Baal who gave another mocking bow and vanished. Inanna turned to Jack.

“He’s up to something,” they said together.

Jack turned to their families. “Party on!” he called out. “Ignore that man behind the curtain. Teal’c! Oh, there you are.”

“Camulus has something Baal wants,” Teal’c stated.

“And is pretty desperate to get it. Think you can get it out of him?” Jack asked. Teal’c narrowed his eyes.

“Gibil!” Inanna called out.

“Wait,” Jack said, changing his mind. “Let’s let Baal stew for a while. It can wait a few hours; can’t the boys have fun?”

Inanna conceded and waved her warrior away.

“Good!” Jack happily declared. “Now. Ninurta was telling a story about Zu stealing Enki’s necklace, I believe.” Jack looked at the crowd still huddled together. “What? He wasn’t actually here, so…continue, mingle. I want to a meeting with my personal cabinet, if you wouldn’t mind.” He grabbed Daniel on their way to the house.

“Did she call him a bitch?” he asked.

Bishru,” Daniel enunciated. “A small child.”

Jack nodded. “Uh huh. Nin…”

Ninmah. Lady Mother.”

Jack looked at him.

“Not literally,” Daniel clarified. “It’s a polite honorific, although he was being sarcastic. Nin means lady. Except in Ninurta’s case, and you’ll need to ask him why, I don’t know.”

 


 

Chapter 18

 

When their guests began to calm down and once more relax back into party mode, Inanna, Teal’c, and Gibil quietly disappeared. A call to the base told them that no vessels other than the Heaven’s Bow were nearby. If a vessel was cloaked, they wouldn’t know, anyway. When Martin and Joy Applegate arrived, Daniel was excused from the pow-wow. He greeted their sons, Stewart and Dennis, introduced Stacy, and the boys went to find the other boys. Daniel took Martin and Joy into the house for a little initial private time. The two were actually disappointed that they just missed the ghoul of Christmas Past. They were tickled to meet T’Keet, however, and were amused when she fell into a nap across Daniel’s shoulders which he assured them was typical behavior. He had a feeling she was about to hit a growth spurt, hence her napping more than she was awake. A few people had been subject to the cub falling into a nap while she was being loved.

Nate was once more entertaining cubs and small children. He had gathered the littles into a group for games and nursery songs. After the first song, Jack found himself the center of attention as SGC personnel looked speculatively at him.

“Don’t even think it!” he ordered them.

The children were becoming cranky, so Nate and Sam took them all into the library, spread sheets out on the floor, and helped parents settle the children in for a nap. Sam had discovered that Nate exhibited more of Jack’s playful, gentle side than Jack did. She admitted to liking the young man and could see the positive effect he had on Cassie.

Jack stuck a carrot in his mouth like a cigar while he was looking for another case of soda he was sure he had bought when,

“Jonathan Charles!”

Everyone within hearing range winced and made to escape. Maggie reached out and grabbed an ear.

“Ow!”

“Not you,” she ordered.

“Mom?” Jack questioned. He wondered what Nate did to piss off Mom.

His parents stood in the kitchen doorway, his mother glaring at him and his father resigned.

“Jonathan, is there something you haven’t told me?” Maggie demanded. Jack waved a carrot in confusion. “I gave birth to you, Jonathan, don’t think for one minute I don’t remember what you looked like, and SOUNDED like, at nineteen.” She grabbed Nate’s hair and tilted his face up. Jack put the carrot down and gently removed her hand from Nate’s locks.

“Mom, I told you, he’s my son,” Jack said carefully. “I love you and that’s all I’m telling you. Please accept him as presented and don’t ask questions.” He kissed her cheek. “Because this is the only answer you will get. Dad?”

His father came forward and took Maggie by the elbow. “Come on, dear, why don’t we take a cue from the children, and go for a nap? I’m a little tired, myself.”

There was silence for a moment after they left the kitchen.

“Sorry,” Nate said.

“She was bound to notice at some point,” Jack said, one eyebrow lifted as he shook his head. “I’m surprised it wasn’t sooner. Let her sleep it off, she’ll be calmer in a while. I think Dad already guessed something was up, but he knows enough not to say anything.”

“They’re getting on, Jack,” Nate warned.

“I know.”

Daniel stuck his head into the room. “Is everything alright?” he asked, looking around.

“Yeah,” Jack said.

Martin and Joy were behind Daniel, looking worried.

“Mom knows something’s up with Nate,” Jack murmured in Goa’uld. He pretends well, but Daniel knows Jack understands more than he lets on. As a Special Ops agent, Jack needed to speak at least simple sentences in various languages, for whichever country he happened to be working in. Daniel had heard him speak a little Spanish, Italian, and French. His German was horrendous, so Daniel begged him not to even try. Jack couldn’t break the languages down, but he could memorize a few words and phrases. “Dad took her for a nap. I told her she isn’t getting any information other than what I’ve already told her.”

Jack introduced Nate to Daniel’s family.

“Mom sometimes has a hard time separating the general from her son,” Jack explained. They smiled in understanding.

Martin said, “I was in the Gulf, and my folks had a hard time when I couldn’t talk about certain things.”

“You were in the Gulf?” Jack perked up. “Me, too, whereabouts?” Jack wasn’t going to tell Martin exactly what he had been doing or where he ended up, and Martin sensed evasions and knew better than to ask, but they bonded over shared war stories as Daniel took Joy outside and introduced her around.

“I take it you weren’t in any wars?” Joy asked him in amusement.

Daniel shook his head. “Only if you want to call the recent stuff war,” he said. “I was a teenager during the Gulf. Jack doesn’t like to hear how old I was then, it gives him a headache to be reminded of our age difference.”

She looked at him with a raised brow.

“Seventeen years,” he told her in a stage whisper. She laughed.

“Uncle Danny!” David ran up to him. “Can I have the cake?” He pointed toward the table laden treats.

“Not that one,” Daniel told him. “You can have those cookies and pastries,” he said, pointing toward trays that were labeled Davy-safe. David picked a black and white frosted kosher cookie that was almost as big as his face, and happily sank his teeth into it. Daniel gave Joy a quick explanation of David’s allergies. He could have the little bit of wheat and almonds that were in the cookies and pastries, made special just for Davy at a kosher bakery, but the cake would send him to the hospital.

“I’ve heard you called Danny a couple of times,” Joy mentioned. “Which do you prefer?”

“Daniel,” he said with a smile. He gave her a rundown of who gets to call him Danny, basically his partners and the kids. He did appreciate her asking, though, instead of assuming, and he shuddered at being called Dan.

Inanna, Teal’c, and Gibil appeared in a stream of light. Daniel pointed toward the house and they marched in. He directed Joy’s attention elsewhere. She took the sudden appearance rather well, considering she had never seen anyone beam in before.

Jack excused himself from Martin and locked himself in his study with the three.

“Camulus isn’t sure what Baal is after,” Inanna told him. “He seemed honestly surprised, Jack; I believe him.”

“He is currently writing a report of his activities from the time he left the SGC to the time we picked him up,” Gibil reported. “If he is lying, his report should show the discrepancies.”

Jack frowned. “T, you agree?”

“I do,” Teal’c inclined his head. “He did not believe some of us no longer carried a symbiote; I showed him my empty pouch, long since dried up. He showed fear and swore he was telling the truth. I have not seen such emotion on a Goa’uld, not since Apophis died. Camulus said he would put in his report all he knew about the dwindling Jaffa slave numbers, and which of the System Lords he knew to be still alive.”

“Alright,” Jack conceded. “Make sure he writes everything he discussed with Baal, word for word, and everything he may have overheard, including rumors. I suppose it’s possible he’s unaware of whatever knowledge Baal seems to think he has.”

Inanna gave a nod to Gibil and he beamed himself back to the ship.

“Inanna, what kind of relationship do Enlil and Baal have?” Jack asked. “Or did have.”

“Not much of one,” she said, thinking. “We were in Kalam much longer than the Goa’uld were on the planet, but they were, for the most part, in and around the Red Sea area. Kalam was what your people called Sumer. Egypt and Sumer were quite distant from each other. If Enlil had knowledge of Baal, we didn’t know about it. We started hearing reports of strange gods from the slaves that were coming into our city from the west, so my father sent Enlil to investigate. Enlil returned a changed person. He had always been arrogant, but now he was impossible, demanding that we worship him and be his slaves. Us. His peers. We refused and Enlil began a war. Father was one of the first killed, and then my brother and our mother.”

“Wait,” Jack stopped her with a raised hand, his mind racing. “Enlil just tried to take Iraq. Was he looking for something other than new slaves?”

Inanna looked at him, blank. “Not that I’m aware of,” she said. “I can ask my sister and Enki, but if anything was left behind, I cannot think of what it could be.”

Jack picked at his lower lip as he slowly paced. He nodded.

“Alright,” he said. “We need to talk with Daniel, too, have him go over the myths and see if he can spot anything. We’re in no rush, so how about we enjoy the rest of the day and we’ll pick this up on Monday?”

They exited the house and Jack gave a subtle All Clear hand sign. The military relaxed. Jack motioned to Davis.

“Clear my appointments for Monday,” he told Paul. “I don’t want to disrupt Gen. Landry’s day, so we will be meeting here. I want you, Daniel, Inanna and whomever she wishes to join us. Make sure we have plenty of coffee ready for a brainstorming session.”

“Yes, sir. Daniel has a class on Monday, 0900 until 1100.”

“Fine, he’s excused until noon, I’ll let him know what I need from him and we’ll work around him until he gets back. Oh, you should probably check with Gen. Landry and make sure he can spare Daniel.” Jack kept forgetting he was no longer in charge of Daniel’s schedule. Davis acknowledged and was excused.

“Sir?” Davis turned back to him. “Would my presence be too close for comfort if I bought your old house?”

Jack looked at him. “I’ve lived a few places, Major, specify.”

“Down the street, sir. I was considering an apartment, but if you don’t mind my saying so, it really is a nice house.”

“Oh. No, I don’t mind,” Jack shrugged. “But the closer you are, the more convenient it will be to toss you an order,” he warned.

“And the more convenient it will be to get it done faster. Sir.”

Jack chuckled and waved at him. “Go for it, Major. It is a nice house. No fish in the pond, though.”

By early evening, things began to wind down. Most of the party-goers had gone home and the few left sat around talking. Jack, Landry, and Hammond talked with Reynolds about possible SG-1 personnel, David was asleep on Jack’s lap, and Daniel and Sam were in a circle with Bosco and a few other Kid Tree parents finding out about kid play-dates, once a month get-togethers, and their own parent support group. They knew Daniel was a new parent, so they were all open about offering him an ear and advice, if he needed it. Daniel was amazed; an entire world had just opened up, a world he had no idea had existed the entire time he was at Cheyenne. He was still eccentric Dr. Jackson, but now he had something in common with a few others --he was a parent. Daniel was becoming more and more wide-eyed as he listened to the others talk about their pre-teen and teenagers, and the needs of such, especially the girls. Sam patted Daniel’s hand and told him she’d deal with the girl issues, if he wanted her to. Daniel immediately took her up on the offer. Bosco told him that Becky Sorenson, wife of Lieutenant Ken Sorenson, an SF, was the keeper of the calendar, so she would add their house to the mailing list.

Bugs began chirping and the rest of the stragglers bid them good night. Jack carried Davy toward the house and noticed Michael standing at the edge of the yard, looking at the darkening sky.

Mikey? You alright?” Jack asked, walking over to him. He shifted the boy to his shoulder. Davy instinctively wrapped his legs and arms around him, and settled into Jack's shoulder.

“Fine, Jack,” Michael acknowledged. He lifted his face to the sky, breathing deeply. “Do you know that young man, Sgt. Gaafar? Khalid?”

“Yeah, one of Daniel’s,” Jack told him. “What about him?”

“I spent time talking with him today,” Michael said. “He’s a practicing Muslim, did you know that? I rambled on and on, and then he put me to shame with just a few words. He quoted Rumi. Not the Koran, but Rumi. Have you ever read Rumi? He said:

Solomon was busy judging others,
when it was his personal thoughts
that were disrupting the community. 

His crown slid crooked on his head, 
he put it straight, but the crown went
awry again. Eight times this happened. 

Finally he began to talk to his headpiece. 
“Why do you keep tilting over my eyes?” 

“I have to. When your power loses compassion
, I have to show what such a condition looks like.” 

Immediately Solomon recognized the truth. 
He knelt and asked forgiveness. 
The crown centered itself on his crown. 

When something goes wrong, accuse yourself first. 
Even the wisdom of Plato or Solomon
can wobble and go blind. 

Listen when your crown reminds you
of what makes you cold toward others, 
as you pamper the greedy energy inside. 

 

Michael turned to Jack. He gave a light caress to Davy’s back, and stroked his grandson’s hair.

“My crown covered my eyes, Jack. Will you forgive me?”

“Sure, Mike, just don’t kneel, okay?” Jack wasn't being flippant; he was touched by his brother's surprising admission. He never knew what to do with a heartfelt apology, so he just accepted it and moved on.

Michael took Megan and the kids and folks to church in the morning, the home-owners politely declined the invitation and went out for brunch with Martin and Joy, and Mark and Susan. And kids. The O’Neills rejoined them later and they all took over Josh and John’s Ice Cream Parlor where the kids couldn’t decide which wonderful flavor to choose. Jack’s family had to leave first, needing to catch a plane, Sam and Daniel’s family left a little later, both having driven from their homes.

When the house was quiet and only one kid running around, the adults found a corner to collapse for a nap.

All in all, it had been a productive weekend. Families had been taken care of, in-law bonding had occurred, kidlings given attention to, and SG units were well on their way to new growth. Jack felt as though his kids were all ready to leave the nest.

Sam came into the bedroom and poked Daniel in the shoulder as she lay down.

“You didn’t initialize the parental controls on her computer,” Sam muttered.

“Don’t believe in them,” Daniel croaked from behind his eyelids. “Shouldn’t shield kids from life; it makes them unprepared for life.”

“Yeah, well, YOUR kid surfed her way into Human Sexuality 101 and discovered exactly how men have sex. With each other.”

It took Daniel a moment but he groaned and covered his face with his pillow. Jack chuckled and turned over.

Ahhh…. as though one Jackson in the house wasn’t enough,” he snickered.

“She’s ten, how did she know what subject to Google?” Daniel whined.

“She’s almost eleven, there are several stations on the satellite that are gay oriented, and have you taken a good look at the books she reads?” Sam asked. “She’s at least two years ahead of the average fifth grade reading level. Danny, and she’s been reading through Jack’s National Geographic collection. You should get her IQ tested; it will at least tell us what directions we can push and where she needs more help.”

“If she has your brains, it would explain why she doesn’t like school,” Jack murmured, his eyes closed. “She’s bored.”

“Alright, I’ll get with her councilor,” Daniel said. “Am I supposed to go and talk to her about sex?”

“If you want to, but it isn’t necessary,” Sam chuckled. “If she’s at least surfing the correct information, let her think about it for a while, and then bring up the subject in a few days. She should have questions by then and you can explain the difference between love and sex and which sites are not good to look at and which ones are.”

“Sam?”

“Uh huh, chicken little,” Sam snickered. “I’ve already told her about menstrual cycles, you can take care of this.”

Daniel lifted his head. “Isn’t she a little young for Period information?”

“No,” Sam said. “Some girls start as young as nine. I started at eleven, Cass at thirteen.”

Daniel groaned and buried his head again. “Why couldn’t it have been a boy?” came the muffled question. He eventually got up and went to check on her, getting a thrill out of tucking her in and kissing her good night.

“Daddy?”

He turned back toward her.

“Who was that man at the picnic?” she asked.

“Which one, sweetie?”

“The one who just appeared and talked with Jack and Inanna.”

“Ah. That was Baal,” he told her, going back and sitting on the edge of her bed. “He’s a Goa’uld System Lord. We go back a long ways. He’s a very bad person.”

“Can’t Jack arrest him or something?”

Daniel held back the laugh. “I wish he could, but it doesn’t work like that. Baal wasn’t really here, that was a holograph of him. You know on Star Wars how they can appear on the little tables and talk to each other? Like that.”

“I know what a hologram is, Dad. Is he going to come back?”

“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “He might, but he only comes to talk to Jack, and not very often. In fact, I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

“He was creepy.”

“Yes, he was; you don’t need to worry about him, though, because he doesn’t live around here.”

She was satisfied and he leaned down to kiss her cheek again. She put her arms around his neck and hugged him hard.

“I love you,” he told her. “Go to sleep.”

“I love you, too, Daddy.”

Daniel went back into his bedroom and stood at the foot of the bed, looking from Jack to Sam. “Jack, our daughter wants you to arrest Baal.”

“Oh, if it were only that easy,” Jack commented.

Sam laughed softly as Daniel grabbed her wrists and pulled her toward him. “You’re a bully in bed, do you know that?” she asked him. He ignored her as he pulled her top off and flung it across the room.

 

***

 

In the morning, Daniel dropped Stacy off at school and stopped in to see her councilor. When Daniel told her what Stacy’s reading materials were and what his own IQ was, she gulped and immediately agreed to have Stacy tested.

Jack spent the morning with Inanna and Ninurta, reading the translation of Camulus’ report and had to admit he couldn’t spot any discrepancies. Living with Baal was hell, though, from what Jack was reading. Davis didn’t comment when he saw the new reading glasses.

When Daniel came home, he had a pile of books all tagged. He helped himself to pizza, something the Anunnaki had discovered, along with chocolate, and paused before opening one of the books.

“I spent my class time looking through the myths,” he said. “Hi, guys. My students tagged everything they felt was questionable, and since they know nothing about Middle Eastern mythology, a lot was questionable. I like one question, in particular, though.” He paced before them as he read from the book, lecturing to his class as he waved pizza around like a pointer.

From the trunk of the tree he carved a throne for his holy sister.
From the trunk of the tree Gilgamesh carved a bed for Inanna. 
From the roots of the tree she fashioned a pukku for her brother. 
From the crown of the tree Inanna fashioned a mikku for Gilgamesh, 
the hero of Uruk.

 

Daniel, Jack, and Davis looked at Inanna and Ninurta.

“Actually, the translation is slightly off,” she commented. “B not G. Bilbamesh. The beginning G-translation is Babylonian; he was Sumerian.”

“We know that, but the G-translation has stuck. We’ve never been able to figure out what pukku and mikku were,” Daniel told her. “The current guess is that they are a ceremonial drum and drumstick.” They were unsure of what he was translating so he wrote out the cuneiform of the words in question. His pronunciation was a little off.

“They were weapons,” Inanna told him. “A pukku was almost like a Jaffa staff, only smaller, about arm’s length, and a mikku was an orbital satellite. Both were destroyed during the war with Enlil. And your scribes did a little of their own editorializing because it wasn’t Bilbamesh who received these, it was my brother, Utu.”

Daniel considered that as he finished the pizza and sipped long at Jack’s soda. “And he is….?”

“He died in the war, along with our parents,” she told him. Daniel murmured his condolences.

“It does make more sense for the god of the sun to be in control of an orbital satellite…..” Daniel muttered to himself as he paced. “What if the scribes were almost correct but were a little mixed up on the timeline?” he thought out loud. “What if the weapons were not originally destroyed, they were found by Gilgamesh and HE then lost them? According to the myths, he lost them to the underworld. They fell in after what sounds to me like a strong earthquake that tore a hole in the Earth's crust, Enkidu tried to rescue them, and Enkidu was also lost.”

Inanna looked at Ninurta and they both shrugged. “It’s possible, I suppose,” she conceded. “Bilbamesh was incredibly power-hungry, and Enkidu was smitten enough with his king that he would have done anything for him,.” Daniel frowned, thinking. Something sounded off, but he wasn’t placing it.

Jack leaned forward. “Are these weapons powerful enough that Baal would come after them?” he asked.

“Yes,” Ninurta acknowledged. “If they still existed. The mikku was able to identify cloaked vessels and the pukku…..” He turned to look at Inanna who also sat up straighter.

“What?” Jack and Daniel said. Davis paused in his note taking.

“No,” Inanna murmured to Ninurta. “It couldn’t still be there….”

“What!” Jack was on the edge of his seat.

“The pukku was able to kill symbiotes without damaging the host,” Ninurta said. “It worked on a harmonic frequency. But that isn’t what we’re thinking of.”

“The chair,” Daniel guessed, snapping the book shut. “It isn’t just any chair.”

“No,” Inanna said. “It’s a control chair. And the bed was a sarcophagus, which I never used.”

“Wait a minute,” Jack held up a hand as he followed the thinking in the room. Or tried to. Mythological images were never something he could figure out. “There’s a control chair and sarcophagus unaccounted for on this planet?”

“It is possible,” Inanna told him with a nod.

“No,” Jack shook his head. “Are they made with naquadah? We’ve scanned the planet for naquadah.”

“No, sir, I’m sorry, but we haven’t,” Davis spoke up. “The only areas we’ve scanned were those you and General Hammond asked us to. A planetary scan has never been done. There was too much danger that unfriendly governments would notice and start asking questions.”

Inanna hit her comm. “I want a planet wide sweep for naquadah done immediately,” she ordered. “Start with the Kalam area.”

“What did the chair control do?” Jack asked.

“It was part of the planetary defense system,” Inanna told him. “The solar system could be watched from it and the mikku deployed, if needed. The mikku allowed cloaked ships to become visible to scans and also kept beaming technology from working unless the person’s individual code was programmed in. Like your hand and retinal scanners.”

“Does it also stop ring transporters?” Jack asked feeling flushed from excitement. Davis gave up on taking notes by hand and turned on his laptop, typing faster than he could take short-hand. The conversation was being recorded, but he kept track of his own notes and thoughts, also.

“It does,” Ninurta said with a nod. “But, Jack, you need to understand –these things came to us toward the end. We didn’t actually get to use them.”

“And we didn’t know about this before because….?” Jack growled.

“It never occurred to us that they still existed,” Inanna told him. She seemed surprised at the thought of the ancient tools possibly still on the planet somewhere. “We didn’t build them; the pukku, mikku, and chair were tools given to us by the Ancients. The Goa’uld came up with the sarcophagus, we think, adapting it from a status chamber that another ancient race had used for healing. We’re a little confused on that. We couldn’t have helped you build more because we didn’t know how they were built.”

“And that’s what Enlil is after,” Daniel assumed.

“What the hell does Camulus have to do with all this?” Jack asked. He picked up the printed stack of Camulus’ report.

“He is able to do something most other Goa’uld cannot,” Ninurta told him. “He thinks for himself. He is making great progress with updating our ship, did you know that? Most Goa’uld are able to fix things, but Camulus is able to go a step further; he is able to invent. He conceptualizes. Baal cannot, and neither can Enlil. If Baal has Camulus, and the weapons, it is possible that Camulus would be able to duplicate them.”

“And he can use them,” Jack finished. “And if we keep Camulus, and he duplicates them, we can set the shields up on other planets, protecting them from Goa’uld air attacks.”

“If Camulus duplicates a pukku…” Inanna started.

“Bye-bye snakes,” Jack breathed, his brain going into warp speed. “What about the weapon on Dakkara?”

“Col. Carter has been working on the permutations of it, but she has not been able to find the frequency for the symbiotes,” Davis reported. “She’s managed to wipe out all living organisms in the universe, but not one in particular.” Jack looked at him. “Uh, in simulation, sir.”

“My wife, with the power of God at her motorcycle-greased fingertips,” Jack muttered. “Major, remind me to get her flowers and chocolate.”

“Uh huh. Yeah, I have a question,” Daniel said, raising a hand. “I thought only someone with that special gene could use those chairs.”

Jack squinted at Inanna and pointed at her. “Right. So how could you use the chair? Daniel, she’s been hiding information from us. You’re not an Ancient, are you?”

“I’m ancient, I’m not AN ancient,” she said dryly. “The Ancients aren’t the only ones with that gene, Jack; people who have been touched by the Ancients have it. As you are well aware.”

“But Baal can’t use the chair and neither can Camulus, so why would he want it?” Davis asked.

“Enlil can use it,” Daniel guessed. “Because he’s of your race, whatever that is, and your race has the gene.”

“And Baal has no plans on turning Enlil over to us,” Jack concluded. That one was a foregone conclusion: Baal played by no one’s code of honor or rules, except his own.

“Correct,” Inanna said. “But one only needs the gene to use the chair and the pukku, not the others. One needs naquadah in their body for the others.”

Jack was confused. “Then how…..?”

A voice came from Inanna’s necklace, speaking in Sumerian.

“They found something,” Daniel leaned toward Jack to translate.

“Let General Landry know we’re out of range, we’re in Iraq with Inanna,” Jack told Davis. “Update him on the conversation, call the Yard and have them on standby, just in case.” Inanna and Ninurta beamed out, taking Jack and Daniel with them. They were in Iraq a moment later, in the middle of the night.

“I could get used to that,” Jack muttered. Daniel hopped up a small dune and looked around.

“That’s the Euphrates, isn’t it?” he asked, pointing at the river beyond the tangle of reeds.

“Yes,” Ninurta said. “The water table has gone down considerably since we lived here.” It saddened him; they had fun playing in the rivers when the water table was much higher. The water had been cool, runoff from ancient glaciers further north, and was a welcome respite during the hot summers.

Inanna was listening to the voice on her comm. She looked around, following the directions. They were standing over the spot that had naquadah buried beneath it, and there was nothing except sand and marsh in the area.

“Take us up,” she ordered. They were back on the ship. Jack and Daniel followed her and found themselves on the bridge. As they entered, the front screen changed and showed a map.

“This is a fault line,” Ninurta said, trailing the line with a finger. A spot far below it was blinking. “Naquadah,” he said. “We were standing on it, but it’s too far down to dig with hand tools. There used to be a wharf there, where barges brought merchant goods.”

“Can’t you beam the stuff up?” Jack asked. An entire settlement was beamed up on the Sua home world.

“No,” Inanna shook her head. “The transporter has a range, and that depth is out of range. We can get to it, but it will take a while and we will need the cooperation of the locals.”

“Can you bring Sam up so she can see this?” Jack asked. Inanna nodded and called Sam first to make sure it was convenient. Inanna learned her lesson when she beamed Jack up without first checking in with him. He had been in the middle of peeing. He wished Thor would get the same message. Sam was on the bridge a few minutes later, looking at the map.

“That’s about three miles down,” she commented. “Deep fault line. So we need to get three miles of sand out of the way before we can bring whatever it is up. I take it an oil drill won’t work?”

“No, the hole would be too small for our systems to focus on,” Ninurta said.

“What about scooping it out?”

They all turned. Camulus had been sitting quietly at a far console.

“Some of the crew were telling me about the Sua home world,” he said. Jack almost agreed with him, but didn’t want to set a precedent. “How something had scooped out a large crater from the ground and then it refilled when you were brought out of phase.”

“We haven’t figured out what that was,” Sam said, thinking. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas?”

“No,” he shrugged. “But I haven’t seen all the data on the situation.”

It took some convincing, but Jack finally agreed to allow Camulus planet-side. He was to remain at the Yard, under heavy security and tagged to the transporter, while he assisted Sam in attempting to figure out how the Heaven’s Bow got themselves into their original predicament and what had scooped out the round valley on Sua. Enki would be in and out of the Yard, helping them with ship’s specifications.

Jack and Daniel were put back home and they swung by the HomeSec site, found construction proceeding fairly well, and went home for the evening. Stacy decided that she needed new jeans; for some reason, hers weren’t fitting right. She held the waist out. They were a little loose on her. Daniel told her they’d go shopping the next day after school. The adults of the house didn’t comment, but without the junk food in the house, and having only kiddie-sized treats when out of the house, and all the running around they did, Stacy was bound to lose the extra weight she had been carrying. She was toning up nicely, and her face was also clearing up, thanks to a more healthy diet. She had been only about twenty pounds over, something that would have straightened out as she grew taller, but on a child who was around other children all day, it had been enough to cause the other children to torture her over it. Children could be meaner than a System Lord.

The following day, Jack had to leave for DC, proclaiming the joys of international conferences. HomeWorld Security was still going round and round the table on whether or not the Middle East was currently capable of playing nice in the sandbox. The latest crap on the Gaza Strip told him no. Daniel told Jack he’d go if Jack wanted him to, but he didn’t need to. They dressed Enki in a suit and tie and sent him in Daniel’s place, declaring Enki Jack’s personal adviser on all things Middle Eastern. Davis even had official ID made for the old man. Enki had to remind Jack that, technically, he was the father of all those ill-tempered children, and he was the one who could rap wrists and box ears, if need be. When Israel tore through another Palestinian camp, Jack was almost tempted to tell him to go box a few ears.

“I don’t even know why they are fighting over that piece of sand,” Enki said in confusion. “It isn’t the Hebrew children’s homeland.”

Jack wasn’t the only one to stop and stare at him. The president, several generals, and a couple of heads of state, the only people in the private meeting room for an SGC meeting before the international conference began, also looked up from their notes. “What do you mean, sir?” Hayes asked. He had a hard time believing that this old man was the progenitor of the human race. Stranger things have come about from the SGC, though, such as Atlantis being a spaceship in another galaxy, so he’d be polite to the gentleman.

Enki shrugged. “Look at the map,” he said. “Not one of those old names in the Israeli-Palestine area matches the place names in your Old Testament. Even Moses crossing the Jordan doesn’t match the place. That river hasn’t been deep enough to be a problem since the last ice age. People were walking across it during his time, as well as now. The Jordan that Moses crossed was the escarpment, not the river. And if you look further south, you will find the old place names; they are in what is now Saudi Arabia.”

“Wait,” Jack said, holding up a hand. “You weren’t even here at that time. How do you know?”

“I can read, Jack,” Enki said. Actually, sitting under a downloader and having Earth’s history downloaded into one’s brain was a lot faster than reading. “Open the Old Testament, find a place name, and try to find it on a map of Israel and Palestine. Very few of the old names have changed over there. You are all so conditioned to being told what to believe, that you don’t question obvious discrepancies.

“The entire Middle East was once polytheistic, remember? And they do have a common root language, which means they were once one tribe. Then an old man from Ur has this inspiration and declares there is only one god, a radical concept in a polytheistic world. He starts to talk about this new concept, monotheism, the ball gets rolling. There is in-fighting over more new concepts. The tribe splits. Eventually the Jews reject the divinity of Jesus and go one way, new Christians go another. Land is fought over, the polytheistic Babylonians win, the Hebrews lose on both ends and are kicked out of the Middle East. Meanwhile, the still polytheistic Persian Babylonians get insight when Mohammad appears some time later, and they decide that Mohammad has a better grasp of things than the older tribal elders who have become despots. Lots of Persian and Egyptian beliefs about duality have since gotten into the mix, so the tribes are no longer so eager to grasp the hands of the gods.

“They also know their own history and how the land was originally divided, whereas the Christians and the Hebrews have only legends to go by. The Sumerians and Babylonians were notorious note-takers. The original scribes of history. Why else would the Arabs defend that peninsula so desperately if not for the knowledge that the Jews were originally from there, also? Can you imagine what would have happened if the UN and England had tried to push the Saudis out of Mecca to install the modern Jews? World War III would have happened. It was much easier to kick out the Palestinians, and let the Jews have their Red Sea and the Gaza. Fair? No. Easier? Yes. And very political.”

General Tolleson, from England, was scowling. Unfortunately, he was one of the few who took an instant disliking to the alien. No matter which way it was painted, Tolleson had a bias about Arabs; he had a brother who had been killed in a bombing in the Gulf war. It didn’t matter that Enki wasn’t really of Arabian descent; all that mattered was his dusky skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. “Now see here, sir! You cannot presume to judge a world you do not know! You are not a Christian, you are an alien to this world, and you have no right to diminish the most holy book in the world! Those people were homeless! It was a Diaspora! We put them back into their home, as was the right of any civilized country to do!”

“The Roma are homeless,” Jack murmured as he doodled on a note pad. “Who will be kicked out for them?” While Enki’s historical summary was very interesting, he had also heard the old man get wound up before. There was usually a reason behind it. He’d wait it out.

“You do not have the right to displace people who have worked a land for a thousand years,” Enki snapped at Tolleson. “They earned that land. A couple of tribes want to fight over a piece of property, let them, but you gave one side the weapons to defeat the other, they didn’t make the weapons themselves, nor had they organized themselves into a militia to take the land by their own hands. So you are responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths, the terror that the homeless feel when they have been invaded, and you did it on the wrong land! Your so-called civilized countries seem to have a habit of invading weaker countries and taking what they want.”

Tolleson jumped to his feet, his face red with anger.

“Alright, alright,” Hayes said, holding up both hands in a calming gesture. “This isn’t the proper forum to debate history, gentleman, one side or the other. General Tolleson, please remember that Mr Enki and his people have also been without a home for quite some time, so he may have a different point of view. How about we get back to the subject of Yards and getting personnel trained, shall we? But first, a break? I think we need a little fresh air and maybe a bite to eat.”

People gratefully stood, stretched, and silently made their way out the door. Tolleson pushed his way through, ahead of the others. Once in the hall, the murmuring began.

Hayes leaned his forearms on the table, hands clasped as he looked at Enki. Jack made a correction on the schematics of the dock he was drawing out on paper. “What was that about?” he asked the old man.

Enki slowly stroked his dark beard. “Let’s just say you need to find a way to dig deeper into backgrounds before bringing people on board,” he said. Jack looked up in surprise.

“He was vetted down to the day of his birth,” Jack told him in defense.

“Go deeper.”

The president was frowning. “Mr Enki, if you have something to say, please say it. You haven’t hesitated, yet.” He looked at Jack who shrugged his denial of knowledge.

Fingers were tapped on the table as the old man thought. “Have an independent, surprise audit done of the London site,” he finally advised. “Specifically the naquadah supply.”

Jack swore.

 

 


 

Chapter 19

 

News of the disappearance of a British General made the headlines. The British upper-class was usually too up-tight to allow such a disturbance to be made public, but since this particular general was involved with HomeWorld Security, it was news. There had been a surprise inspection of the HomeSec Yard London, and discrepancies came up in the audit. Small amounts of naquadah had come up missing. Following the bread crumb trail, the sniffing hounds were led to General Ian Tolleson. Accomplices admitted that the naquadah was to be sent to the Middle East, but were unsure of how to get around the tracking devices which would trace the substance. General Tolleson was awaiting trial in Colchester at the Military Corrective Training Centre.

A small body came into Jack’s den, and he put the report aside.

 “Hi, baby,” Jack greeted her as he pulled a different report from the pile.

“Hi, Jack.” He pushed his chair back a few inches and groaned in mock pain as Stacy slid onto his lap.

His new offices were almost ready; they were currently going through a final inspection before the furniture arrived. The back air field was complete and in use, and in the meantime, he had been using their home as his office. Stacy had begun getting used to strange military people going in and out, and a couple of regulars were getting friendly and would talk with her, if they weren’t in a rush to get somewhere; she was even recognizing the various ranks. People beaming in and out no longer fazed her, either, and more than once she had been on the Heaven’s Bow to play with cubs and the few Anunnaki children that were left. Jack had begun inviting the children down for a Saturday or Sunday, and letting them play in a nearby creek during the warm summer weather. It was no chore to find a couple of SGC personnel to babysit for a day. If the adults were coming down for fun and games, Jack was closing his ears to the information.

Daniel had been gone for a week; he was in Chicago giving a private lecture at the university. His presence was begged for when Ninurta’s retranslated transliterations hit the faculty. The new translations were slightly more feminist than the original translations, and the more conservative staff members were having a problem with the social power Ninurta had given the ancient females of Sumer.

“For some reason, they seem to think Inanna was an exception to the rule,” Ninurta grunted. “If they had bothered to read the entire list of leaders, instead of picking out only the male names, maybe they would have gotten a much clearer picture. Did they think the priestesses were sitting around picking their noses? It was the Babylonians and Persians that pushed them around, not us.” He grumbled for a while until Daniel put a copy of a story called Inanna’s Descent in front of him and told him it was VERY incomplete and no one had discovered a complete copy. Ninurta rolled his eyes at what had been translated and went to work. “I’m a warrior, not a scribe,” he grumbled.

So Daniel fell under the weight of mothballed old men and hopped on a plane; he didn’t want to be beamed over, he wanted to take his time and make the old fogies wait. Jack was enjoying being Dad during the week; it gave him one on one time with the little girl he had begun thinking of as his step-daughter. Up till then, it had been Daniel most of the time with her, and Sam spending time with her on the weekends when she was home. With Sam currently bogged down at Area 51 with Camulus, it was Jack and Stacy time. Jack would be taking Stacy to Chicago at the end of the week; Daniel had set up a lecture for the kids at her old school, and they would be taping it for distribution. Stacy was excited and asked Cassandra to take her shopping for a new dress. Jack thought Stacy’s dress was a little older than she should be wearing, but Cass assured him that she was in style and would knock ‘em dead. Jack wasn’t sure a ten year old should be knocking anyone dead.

“Did you pick your secretary, yet?” she asked.

“Not yet,” he said. “And I’m told they don’t like to be called secretaries anymore, they are Administrative Assistants. I’m considering one of these three.” He pulled three files from the stack. Davis had tossed out almost a hundred applicants before handing in a final twenty for Jack’s consideration. Stacy looked at the files.

“I didn’t like her,” she commented, poking at one of the files. Jack looked at it.

“You didn’t? Why?”

“She smelled funny.” Stacy wrinkled her nose. “And she kept looking around like she was going to buy something, and she wiggled her butt when Daddy came in.”

“Oh, she did, did she? Good eye, kiddo, she’s outta here,” Jack declared and tossed the file in the can. Stacy was right; the woman wore entirely too much perfume and seemed more interested in the price of things rather than the heart of the matter, which was keeping the general happy and being of actual use to him.

“I liked this one,” Stacy continued, pulling out one of the remaining files.

“How come?” The woman in the picture was in her late fifties, a few curves, hair cut in a cute, neat bob, and she had a pleasant smile.

“She reminds me of Mrs. Arthur,” Stacy said, sounding more studious than her age. “When you were done talking to her, she stopped and helped me with my homework and then she straightened the window ledge books before she left.”

“She did? Well, then, how about we bring her in for a second interview?” Jack suggested. Stacy nodded. She spotted a piece of paper and pulled it out.

“This is Goa’uld,” she said, looking at it after pushing her glasses up. “Daddy’s been teaching me a little, and Teal’c teaches me a couple of words when he comes to visit, and I hear it all the time on Heaven’s Bow.” She absently touched her necklaces, one gold chain permanently entwined around a leather thong. She refused to take them off, even at bath time.

“Really? Can you read any of this?” He poked at the paper. He was startled when she hesitantly verbalized a couple of sentences, touching the characters as she sounded them out. She had skipped words that were beyond her current understanding, but she hit the rest.

“Wow, you’re doing really well,” he congratulated her. “That’s better than I can do, actually.”

“I’m learning Sumerian, too,” she said. “Inanna talks to me in it all the time. I like how it sounds. Lots of SH sounds. It’s pretty. I don’t like the Spanish teacher in school; she sounds like she’s from New York or New Jersey, and it makes her Spanish sound funny, not like Mr. and Mrs. Gutierrez down the street. Do I have to learn Spanish, Jack?” She said ‘Gutierrez’ with the proper accent and pronunciation, he noticed.

“I’ll ask your Dad about it,” he promised. He was happy that she had opened up to him; he knew her first impression of him wasn’t the best, an emergency beam-in during a battle and with him in General Jack mode. With Daniel’s recent schedule, Jack had been spending more alone time with her and she had begun to know him for himself, instead of the General.

Jack hugged her tight and pressed his face in long brown hair. She giggled as his fingers dug into her side. A light throat clearing came from the doorway.

“Paul! Help!” she screeched in laughter as Jack growled and bit her shoulder.

“Major Davis, did you know this child is learning not only Sumerian and Goa’uld, and is complaining about a North Eastern accent that her Spanish teacher has?” Jack informed his assistant. “Who could she possibly remind us of?”

“I’m not sure, sir, but maybe we should hire her for our international conferences,” Davis suggested.

“I knew I kept you around for a reason,” Jack told him. “And she doesn’t like Ms. Brown, apparently the lady smells funny and wiggles her butt at Daddy, but she does like Mrs. Clark. Mrs. Clark helps with homework. Let’s bring Mrs. Clark back for another interview.” Actually, Jack liked Mrs. Clark, too; she had worked at the Pentagon and knew protocols and procedures better than the other applicants, some of whom had worked only on bases.

“Yes, sir.”

“Paul, how come you always call Jack sir?” Stacy asked. Jack and Sam had been discovering that Stacy’s favorite words were What, Why, and How. It kept them on their toes and quickly made them show her how to Google and Ask Jeeves.

“Because he’s a general and I’m a major and it’s polite,” he said. “Sometimes I call him Jack when we aren’t working or if we are talking in private.”

“And we are working, so how about you pretend to be Zu and vanish?” Jack said to her, pecking loudly at her cheek.

“Can I call Zu to come and play?” she asked.

“Sure, but make sure he uses the toilet, and not the hood of my truck,” Jack told her.

Stacy hopped off his lap and ran out of the study, calling out loud for Zu to come to her. A minute later, the men heard a squawk. The adults had discovered that Zu was actually a pretty decent babysitter; he could communicate with the kid and let them know immediately if there was a problem. Jack did have to intercede once when a couple of parents from down the street complained that the bird was teaching their kids not so nice words.

“What’s up?” Jack asked when the door was closed. At his nod, Davis sat in the chair in front of the desk

“General Tolleson…. the former General Tolleson… has ties to an underground terrorist group.” Jack’s chair was slowly righted. “Their focus is the destruction of all Muslims. They were traced to another group headquartered in France, and a third group here in the US. The cells are still small, but we know the damage one person can do. None of the other Yards have been infiltrated, though, and all the audits have come up clean. It looks as though they were only just getting started. France is dealing with their situation; is there anything you’d like to do here?”

Jack rubbed his forehead, bringing his lips into a silent snarl. “Since they haven’t gotten into HomeWorld, send the information on to HomeLand to deal with. Middle Eastern groups are riled over this; any suggestions on easing the way?”

The major pulled out a file and handed it over. “Well, sir, I started looking into pilots. Not all Muslims are radical, as we have seen from the few in our own ranks. All religions have their ultra orthodox. There are several pilots who have submitted applications who I think would be good additions to our growing family, and their acceptance might help in easing the tensions. One Jordanian, two Iraqi, two Iranian, one Syrian, and two Israeli. They have all passed the background checks, including the new protocols that we set up from this fiasco with General Tolleson. Also, there are three others who I believe would work out at the SGC, if General Landry approves.” Jack took that file, too, and gave it a quick look. One from Jordan, and two from Egypt.

“Aisha Gaafar?”

“Sister, sir. Very talented with geology. I think the science teams would be happy with her.”

Jack had reluctantly agreed to let a few Middle Eastern pilots into the mix, and sent the rest of the files to Gen. Landry for a final decision. Jack was not going to give the Middle East building materials, yet, but he would take a few new personnel from the Middle East.

The State Department was pressuring Jack to give Israel more responsibility, considering they were an important ally of the US, but Jack refused, citing the continual problems between Israel and Palestine. Once more, an Israeli had opened fire on a Palestinian settlement. Israel pointed a retaliatory finger at Palestinians and Jack declared that they had made his point for him. He wasn’t going to take sides; his job was to protect the planet from alien attacks, not play favorites with the children. Grow up or get off his playground. Jack received another whining phone call from the president. Stacy said the Israeli and Palestinian leaders needed to be locked in a bathroom together for a time out, and Jack told the president he couldn’t have thought up a more appropriate punishment himself.

Jack glanced at an email that popped in, and burst out laughing. Davis looked at him.

“A small Baptist group cornered Ninurta this morning while he was in Chicago with Daniel,” Jack told him.

Davis smiled and winced. “Ouch. Did it go as well as the exorcism of Zu?”

“Yeah, just about.”

A paranormalist with a large cross attempted to exorcise Zu during a half-day seminar that Daniel held in Atlanta. Zu deliberately swore in various languages, pooped, hung upside down, twisted his head around, and popped in and out around the room, including under someone’s dress. Daniel stood at the podium and shut his eyes. When the exorcist ran screaming from the room, Zu stood on the back of Daniel’s chair and chuckled evilly.

“I suppose it’s pointless telling you to go to your room?” Daniel had asked him.

Yesssss,” Zu responded.

Daniel did his best to convince his audience that Zu was a sentient life form, not a demon, and then discussed the history of exorcism starting with the stupid little war between the temples and the local wise-women in Mesopotamia, which was repeated centuries later in Europe between the Church and local wise-women. It all boiled down to gender politics.

Sam and Camulus are arguing over a translation,” Jack read from Daniel’s email. He’s telling her the translation and she’s insisting that it won’t work. They beamed over this morning and I had to remind them that boundary lines around countries have changed over the centuries, rivers have changed courses, lakes dried up, and so they’ll need to take into account geographical and political changes in their information. They interrupted the meeting I was already in, and when they left, someone asked me who the man in the kilt and leather armor was. I told them and one of the Romano-Celt historians almost fainted.”

“Sounds like Daniel is having fun,” Paul commented.

Jack snorted. “Have you seen his emails and letters? Mrs. A spends the entire morning opening mail and categorizing it before giving him anything interesting. Most of it is pompous requests for a translation of something someone is positive means something other than what it says. He’s learning to ignore stupid stuff and respond only to legitimate requests or things pertaining to our work.”

The house phone rang and Jack picked it up.

“O’Neill. Hi, honey.” Jack listened to Megan for a while, making noises as she talked. “Alright. I’ll be in Chicago this weekend, so why don’t I swing by at some point and I will talk with him, okay? Love you. Bye.”

Jack groaned and rubbed his face. “Major, get me a temporary child custody packet for Minnesota, will you? It seems my older nephew is acting out and is making his mother crazy. She thinks he’s on drugs or something. I may need to bring him here for a while.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What is it with kids and pot these days?” Jack asked. “I had an excuse, it was the sixties.”

“You, sir?” Davis looked up over his laptop. Trying to image Jack O’Neill with a joint in his hand wasn’t working.

“Well, I tried it,” Jack said. “And yes, I inhaled. Didn’t like it. Gave me a headache. And a blistered ass when my father was done with me. But still….”

“Same reason as always, sir,” Davis commented on the original question. “The escape factor. And if I may be so bold, your nephew is a teenage boy, his father was court ordered to stay away from the kids on psych reasons which may or may not be hereditary, and his uncle is Han Solo, savior of the universe. Sir.”

Jack scowled. “I’m Luke, dammit.”

First thing in the morning, Jack and Stacy beamed over to Chicago. Inanna put them down a few feet from Daniel who happened to be directing the set-up in a larger classroom of Stacy’s old school. There were thirty kids sitting in a half-circle of three rows, kids specially chosen after a school-wide contest of who had the best questions for Dr. Jackson. Several screeches were halted in mid-throat when Jack and Stacy appeared.

“Hi, Daddy!” Stacy jumped into Daniel’s arms for her hug and kisses.

“Hi, sweetie, did you terrorize Jack pretty good this week?” he asked. She was plastered against his chest, her legs dangling at his hips as he held her.

“Yup,” she nodded with a grin. “And I helped him pick people for HomeSec, and I told President Hayes that Israel and Palestine needed a time-out.”

Daniel laughed. “That’s my girl,” he declared. He put a loud smack on her cheek and dropped her to the floor.

Jack snorted. “Your girl is picking up languages faster than a dog gets fleas,” he commented as he put a fully loaded laptop on the table next to an LCD projector. It was easier for Davis to load a laptop with the necessary information, than to have Daniel pick up the files from a server and arrange the show himself.

“Nice analogy, Jack,” Daniel told him and introduced him to the school principal who was out of breath at meeting galactically famous people.

“Father John!” Stacy yelled. She ran across the room to the priest that was coming in. He gave her a delighted hug and held her out, looking at her and declaring how pretty she had grown. Daniel introduced Jack to the priest.

The children bit back another startled screech again when Sam appeared. They had been sitting almost silent, wide-eyed at the famous people popping in not a few feet in front of them, and the girl they used to tease who was among them. She had lost weight, her face was clear, and her glasses were cool instead of cheap. And even they could see the resemblance between her and Dr. Jackson, now that Daniel had let his hair grow out a little. Stacy had the same brown hair and blue eyes, her dimples showed more regularly than they had when she lived with fosters. After listening to what she ate regularly back in her foster home, Daniel did an experiment; when her face was looking clear, he gave her things she used to eat all the time. By trial and error, he discovered she had a slight allergy to peanut butter. No peanut butter, clear skin; peanut butter, outbreak.

“No Camy?” Jack asked.

“No, he’s deep in the bowels of theoretical desert engineering,” she told him.

“Theoretical desert engineering?” Jack questioned.

“Do you really want an explanation?” she asked. Jack quickly shook his head.

“This is why delegating authority is a good thing,” he declared.

One of the girls found the courage to go up to Sam and ask a timid question. Sam’s smile and willing answer encouraged more kids, and soon questions were shooting from all over the room. Daniel assured the principal that it was fine and to allow the kids to get it out of their system; they’d pay more attention during the lecture. Once he saw that the kids were being more obnoxious than curious, he called them together and got them seated. When they were ready, Daniel sat on the edge of the desk and talked with the kids about what they were going to do. Jack and Sam sat out of the way next to Father John, the principal and a few teachers, and watched the kid-wizard take over. Stacy took a seat with the kids after Daniel made her promise not to show off. A cameraman from the military recorded the day; Daniel told him to just keep it going, they could edit later. Kids were a tricky bunch, and he didn’t want them getting antsy with stopping and starting and retakes.

Special guests were planned. At various intervals, he brought in Teal’c and Rya’c, Enki and Inanna, M’Net and T’Keet, and then Jack and Sam. The children had fun playing with the cub, and M’Net was patient about letting the kids come up and touch him, just please don’t pull on tails. Father John held a napping T’Keet and murmured about the wonder of God’s will. Stacy did show off a little, calling Enki Grandfather and trying out her Sumerian at his encouragement. Sam told the students and guests about the various types of ships and a few of the weapons, appealing to their imaginations. She showed footage of a mothership landing on a pyramid, and how big both the pyramid and the ship were by pointing out the people on the ground. The kids were properly impressed.

The kids wanted to know how they could fight alien bad guys when they grew up, and Jack pushed for good grades, good manners, and good health, while stressing how bad drugs and alcohol were. Teal’c growled that none of HIS warriors put bad things in their bodies and ALL his warriors exercised and ate only GOOD foods. He was flexing muscles as he spoke. He was a little scary to the kids, but Stacy crooked a finger at him and he bent down. She planted a sweet kiss on his cheek and he beamed at her.

“Big softy,” Jack whispered to him. T’Keet was hanging upside down from Jack’s arm, so his poke at Teal’c didn’t go very far.

J’c, ap’l,” she demanded, climbing up and putting her nose to his. Her whiskers tickled his cheeks.

“I don’t have an apple,” he told her. Daniel was prepared, and tossed an apple to Jack. T’Keet lay back in the crook of Jack’s arm, happily munching. Apples had become her favorite food. She wasn’t too keen on meats, but she loved vegetables and fruits. The humans suspected it was the crunch and sweetness. She liked her foods raw.

The kids weren’t convinced she wasn’t an animal until she tried talking to them. Sua had a hard time with certain sounds because of the shape of their jaw and tongue, but she was making herself understood.

After the taping and the kids had gotten their fill of clamoring around the alien people, Principal Woodard and Stacy’s teacher, Mrs. Gonzalez, commented privately to Daniel that they couldn’t believe the changes in Stacy. Overlooking the physical changes, she had never displayed such intellectual knowledge and confidence when she was with them.

“She was mentally bored and emotionally abused,” Daniel told them. “We keep her mind busy and love her. All kids have this potential, but most won’t reach it if you insist on treating them like cattle. Treat them as individuals, show them the respect you want them to show you. ‘Do unto others’ includes the children.”

“The schools are over-crowded and we don’t have enough teachers for individual attention,” Woodard told him, scowling in reprimand.

“Bullshit,” Daniel informed him. “Change your curriculum and teaching methods. I know what Stacy’s being taught in her new school, and most of it’s crap. How is the history of tariffs and the Boston Tea Party going to teach her to run a business or whatever else she wants to do? We’ve been teaching her real life lessons. She sits with us when we do monthly bills and budgets. I teach part-time at college, sometimes she meets me there after school and she participates in class. Jack is working out of the house at the moment, and she’s been learning about politics and world affairs by listening to real life situations and giving her opinion. Do your kids sit and watch the news with you? Do you discuss world affairs and respect the opinions of your kids without forcing yours down their throats? Tariffs and Tea Parties can wait; teach them something that is going to hold meaning for them now, and they can expound on the information later.”

Stacy walked past them, skipping from Sumerian to Goa’uld to English as she spoke with Inanna and Rya’c. She managed a few words in Sua to the cub in her arms.

“She’s been with us, what? Almost three months? They have flexible minds, if you listen,” Daniel commented to the two with him. They weren’t happy with the private lecture.

While the classroom was put back in order and the children plied Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c with questions, Jack beamed over to Megan’s. The kids were out and about when Jack came in, so he sat, listening to her.

“You know you need to calm down,” he told her when she was talked out. “If you don’t, you’ll hurt the baby. The folks are not up to raising another son, so do you want me to take Matthew with me for a while?”

Megan was shredding the tissue she held. “I don’t know,” she said with a sniffle. “What if the change makes him worse? I don’t want him to think I’m giving up on him.”

“Of course you’re not giving up on him, he’s your son and you love him. Let me talk with him first; maybe it’s an easy fix.”

Megan called Matthew home and Jack took the boy out for a guy’s night. Matthew insisted nothing was wrong.

Matty, I’m not stupid,” Jack told him. “I can smell the pot on your jacket and your eyes are dilated. I smoked it when I was a teenager, I won’t lie to you, ask your grandparents. The pot made me feel worse, though, not better, and it did nothing to make the problems go away. Talking about the problems and working on them made them go away. Tell me what’s been on your mind, maybe I can help.”

After a while, Matthew said he didn’t know what was wrong, he just felt like he was going to explode sometimes. He couldn’t do anything right, Mom yelled at him, his teachers yelled at him, he was failing classes one month into the school year, and whenever he found the guts to ask a girl out, his face broke out. He wanted to get a job but Mom wouldn’t let him, Mom cleaned his room and found a magazine he wasn’t supposed to have and he got grounded for it, Katie was getting perfect grades, David was a momma’s boy, and someone beat him up for lying about Jack being his uncle.

Jack owed Major Davis an ice cream cone.

When Matthew fell silent, Jack said, “We have house rules, including no drugs, and I will have you tested whenever I feel like it. You will go to school, you will ask for help with homework, you will do chores, you may go out with new friends but you will be home at curfew, nine on a school night, ten on weekends; I don’t hit for punishment, but there will be consequences for disobedience. You will offer the same respect to Sam and Daniel that you will to me, and we are all available for talking and hugs. Do you want to come home with me for a while?” Jack asked.

Matthew nodded unhappily and they went back to the house. He sent Matthew up to pack and sat down with Megan.

“He’s trying to figure out how to be a man,” he told her as he handed her the temporary custody papers to read. “Don’t sign it, yet, it needs to be witnessed. He can’t do that if his mother is continually treating him like a boy. That isn’t a slap, Megs, you’re being a mother, that’s all. Stop cleaning his room for him, don’t punish him for magazines. He’s a normal, healthy kid; it’s his business, let him do whatever he needs to do. His bedroom is his sanctuary, stop invading it. He isn’t Katie, and as Sam has told me over and over, boys are a little behind girls in development. Let go on David a little, he needs to get into a few scrapes or he won’t be prepared for life. Matty is stressed. I’ll take him home with us for a while, get him straightened out. He needs some space, that’s all, he’s had one hell of a year he’s trying to deal with and mutant hormones aren’t helping his situation.”

Katie and David came home from the movie they had gone to and were surprised to see Uncle Jack in the living room. Katie excitedly told him that she had joined ROTC and Jack lifted her for a hard hug. Davy proudly informed him that he hadn’t had an outbreak from anything for a month and he ate a regular cracker in school.

“See? It’ll be fine,” Jack told Megan, giving her cheek a pat. In the morning they’d get the papers signed and witnessed before heading to the airport. Meanwhile, he called his parents and invited them for a dinner out.

 

***

 

Once home in Colorado, Jack got Matthew settled in, enrolled in school, and took him in for a pee-test. Of course the pot showed up, but at least Jack had a starting point with which to monitor his nephew. He took Matthew to a practice room in town that off-duty personnel used for training and work-outs. The men and women who were currently training all came to a sudden stop when Jack unexpectedly walked in. He waved them down and got Matthew signed up for training. He wasn’t military, but the general was requesting it and it wasn’t the first time someone’s troubled kid was signed up.

While Matthew watched the people practice a strange hand-to-hand technique he had never seen before, Jack privately ordered that he be contacted if his nephew showed any signs of drug use or anything else he should be notified about. Give Matthew the works; don’t hold back on Jack’s account. Major Bryce, a Jaffa-approved Marine, acknowledged the order.

“Jack!” he heard as he exited the office. He turned to the floor.

“Dean, getting your ass beat?” Harper was dripping with sweat from his workout.

The others all laughed. SG-3 could do a little personal teasing with SG-1, but the others didn’t dare attempt it, especially not with the general.

“Well, maybe, sir, but if you’ll pardon my sayin’ so, you’re looking a little in need of a beating, yourself.” He pointed to the floor in front of him as the others took a step out of firing range.

“I’m old, Dean,” Jack complained with a pained look and rubbed his belly. “Stomach acid acting up, a little constipated….”

Waaa, sir.”

Jack chuckled, handed Matthew his jacket, and kicked his shoes off. No shoes on the dojo floor. Someone tossed him a practice staff and he met Harper in the middle of the room as the others formed a circle around them and called out taunts and cheers.

Jack was thrown to the floor; he was definitely out of practice. He hopped up and danced with Harper, a few quick turns and staff slaps. The men took each other from one end of the room to the other, staffs flying, neither of them pulling hits. Jack was thrown to the floor again and he stayed there, laughing through the pain.

“Okay, okay,” he called out amidst laughter and cheers. “I admit I’m out of practice. I will throw myself on Teal’c’s mercy, happy now?”

“Thrilled, sir,” Harper told him, taking a few deep breathes of his own. He pulled Jack to his feet. Jack lifted his shirt to dab at the blood on his mouth as he chuckled wearily.

“Uncle Jack, they’ll kill me in there,” Matthew said as they left the parking lot. He was looking a little white around the gills.

“No, they won’t,” he said. “That’s Jaffa-style fighting, and the Jaffa kids start a lot younger than you. They’ll start you at the beginning, you’ll be fine. It’ll be a good way to dump those explosions you’re feeling, and it’ll teach you how to focus. You’ll go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after school. If you feel the need to come in other times, that’s fine, just let us know where you are.”

“I feel like I’m being punished,” Matthew complained, slouching in the seat of the Jeep.

“This isn’t punishment, Matty,” Jack said, giving the boy’s knee a pat. “Your body is freaking out and you need to learn how to control it instead of it controlling you.”

Matthew got settled into the household routines and quickly learned that the adults weren’t going to play kid games: if one adult told him something, the others would back it up. He discovered that it wasn’t Jack who made most of the rules in the house, it was Sam, and Daniel may be a little more even tempered than Jack or Sam, but he stood his ground and couldn’t be pushed around. Matthew was a little iffy about seeing Uncle Jack kissing a man; the women of the house didn’t care, neither did Major Davis or the SF who always seemed to be nearby, so it became a normal event that no longer fazed him after a couple days. He also became used to seeing people pop in and out of nowhere, a talking bird which made Uncle Jack crazy, and an alien cub that was fun to play with. He wasn’t sure how to deal with Teal’c; the warrior didn’t seem to have a sense of humor and didn’t talk much. Matthew did get snapped at a couple times by both Uncle Jack and Sam when he went into the study without permission; everyone had private space, and he had to respect it.

The next day, Jack had a call from Landry. Malek wanted to talk with Jack. Great, he thought, another fire needed to be put out. “Sure, send them over. I’ll make lunch. You’re invited, too, Hank.”

General Landry arrived with Col. Reynolds, Malek and a female Tok’ra Jack didn’t know. Sora hosting Akava. The Tok’ra looked around curiously at the Tau’ri home, taking note of the large library and all the family pictures adorning the walls and fireplace mantle.

“We are told your planet is now aware of our existence,” Malek commented.

“Yes, thanks to Enlil,” Jack said. “Probably did us a favor, in the long run; no more tiptoeing around. We’re getting things done much faster. What brings you kids to our fair planet?”

Jack set a large bowl of Chicken Caesar on the table, plates and silverware, drinks, and invited people to help themselves. The Tok’ra waited and watched; Davis was careful in his movements, showing them by example.

“Our operatives inform us that you have Camulus on your planet,” Akava said. “We are also told that Baal is quite upset that you won’t turn him over.”

“Actually, he’s in orbit, not on the planet,” Jack told her. “And we’re aware of Baal’s attitude. Let’s not talk about unpleasant things during lunch, shall we?” They agreed to eat first and discuss only trivial events and the state of affairs.

“We are curious to know why you are keeping Camulus,” Malek asked immediately after lunch as they adjourned to the living room. Jack was curious about polite Tok’ra.

“We’re not, the Anunnaki are,” Jack said. “Seems they find him interesting. Tell me something; you guys have spent thousands of years trying to free yourselves from Goa’uld enslavement. It isn’t the hosts that are enslaving you, it’s the symbiotes, so why not kill the symbiotes? And why is it okay to be host to one kind of symbiote and not another?”

“Because we deserve the right to live, too,” Akava said. “We are Tok’ra, not Goa’uld. We are not forcing anyone to host us; we would die before allowing that to happen. My host volunteered, she wasn’t forced, and if she decides she wishes to be alone again, I will respect her wishes and, preferably, transfer to another host.”

“Why can’t you go back to your ponds?” Jack asked. Frowning at Jack’s impudence, Landry opened his mouth. Reynolds shook his head, signaling for the general to wait. It was a typical Jack-speak question; no insult was actually intended. The two men stayed relatively quiet, knowing that Jack’s unorthodox methods usually got results.

“That would be like asking you to return to your trees,” Malek said.

“Hey, they’re your trees, too, buddy,” Jack reminded him, wiggling a finger in the general direction of the Tok’ra. “You’re human, too, your ancestors started here.”

“Are you inviting us home, General?” Malek asked with a small smile.

“You are welcome to lunch,” Jack said magnanimously.

“And you are avoiding the question,” Malek responded. “Camulus?”

“I’m not avoiding you,” Jack said. “I thought I answered you; the Anunnaki have him, not us. Why are you asking?”

“He is a Goa’uld, shouldn’t that be enough?” Malek asked.

“No,” Jack said. “According to him, his symbiote is not of the same line as, say, Baal’s. If it’s okay for you to be hosted, why not Camulus, providing he plays nice? You guys don’t always play nice, but we let you live.”

Malek and Akava looked at each other. “Are you sure he is of a separate line?” Malek asked.

“Ereshkigal says he’s telling the truth.”

Jack saw something flicker across their faces. He glanced at Reynolds; he saw it, too.

“What?” Jack asked them. They were silent. “Malek...”

“Whether or not Camulus is of a different queen, you still trust him,” Malek commented.

“I wouldn’t trust him if he told me the sun was yellow. I’m questioning his information right now. You are of a different queen, why should we trust you?” Jack questioned. “That isn’t your problem, so what is?”

“We have heard rumors,” Sora came out to respond, the odd dual voice of the symbiote gone. “A few other System Lords are claiming they, also, are of a different queen. Zimrah. She is long dead, but a few of her children are said to survive. She was like our queen, Aegiria, not like Mirin, the queen of Baal and most of the other System Lords. They say the children of Zimrah are setting Jaffa free and are behind a few of the assassinations of System Lords. I know that Tok’ra, nor Jaffa rebels are behind them.”

“Wait a minute,” Jack said, frowning intently as he leaned forward, holding up a hand. “Are you saying there’s a Fifth Column among the System Lords?” At the confused look on their faces, Landry explained ‘Fifth Column’.

“Maybe,” Malek admitted upon understanding.

Jack hit his comm, staring in disbelief at his guests. “Inanna, can I see Camulus front and center, please? If you can spare him?”

The Goa’uld was standing in front of Jack a few minutes later. He took a step back at the sight of the Tok’ra.

“Calm down, Camy,” Jack told him. “I need information. What’s the name of your queen?”

Camulus was blank for a moment. “My queen? Why?”

“Because I want to send a Mother’s Day card. Come on, just answer.”

“Zimrah,” he said after a moment, confused over the entire situation. “The information, though, is….”

“How many siblings do you have still around?”

Camulus shrugged. “I’m not sure,” he said.

“Who is rumored to be from Zimrah?” Jack asked the Tok’ra.

“Athena, Orion, Bastet, Kali, Mananon, Morrigan, Apollo….” Malek looked at Akava as he thought. “And…. Taranus. That we’ve heard of.”

“Cam?” Jack looked at him.

“It is possible,” he admitted after thinking about it.

“Alright, I need to think about this,” Jack said, sitting back and tapping the arm of his chair with the tips of his fingers. “It would be really nice if the Tok’ra sat on this information,” he told them. “I’m feeling a song coming on, and I’d like to work on it.”

Jack sent everyone back home and called Daniel who was at the base with his head stuck in some ancient book found on P3X-747, which was running out of steam on airplane jokes.

“Really?” Daniel asked after Jack recited the list of names.

Jack could hear wheels turning. “Yeah, why?”

“Well, if we include Camulus, almost all of them are European,” Daniel said. His voice faded in and out. Jack assumed he was moving around, looking over his book shelf for something. “Only Bastet and Kali are not, and when I saw them at the summit meeting a few years ago, they looked pretty chummy, unlike the other System Lords. Bastet is Egyptian, Kali is Hindu.”

“Daniel, how can we find out if they can be turned from the dark side, and how can we trust them, if they say they can?”

Daniel had to translate. “I don’t know, Jack, let me think about it. If we are going to get different races involved with this whole togetherness, we need to start trusting someone.”

“Yeah, yeah. Are you leaving there soon?” He was. “Would you pick up Matthew from the gym?” Sure.

When Daniel stopped to get the boy, he was soaked with sweat from his workout. Major Bryce said he was doing well.

“Dean,” Daniel greeted Harper. They shook hands. “Dean, you beat up my boyfriend.” The troops laughed and moved off the mats, circling the two men.

“And?” Harper taunted him with a grin. Daniel kicked his sneakers off.

When they got home, Jack looked at the cut on Daniel’s lip.

“What’d you do?” he asked, handing Daniel a damp cloth.

“He pounded the crap out of Major Harper,” Matthew gleefully informed him.

“He did?” Jack smiled and ruffled Daniel’s hair. “What a good boy.”

 


 

Chapter 20

 

In the morning, Daniel’s lip was a little swollen and he had a little bit of a black eye. Stacy was upset over it, but the adults assured her that he earned it in honorable combat. Since no one else was upset, she tried to relax. The kids were piled into the Jeep and taken to school by Daniel.

Jack looked at the IM that popped onto his screen an hour later.

“Are the kids in school?”

“Yes,” he typed back.

“Is Davis here?”

“Yes.”

“Anyone else or anyone expected?”

“No.”

“Major, you’ve been working hard, why don’t you take a long lunch?” Jack suggested.

“Sir?”

“A very long lunch.”

Paul wasn’t sure he wanted to know what was behind the expression on Jack’s face, but he turned his computer off.

“Yes, sir. Can I bring you back anything?”

“No, thank you, Major, I’m sure I’ll be well satisfied by the time you get back.”

Davis considered that and nodded. “Yes, sir. I’ll return in…. two hours?”

“That should be fine.”

Davis escaped and Jack typed. “He’s gone.”

A few minutes later, Sam sauntered into his study holding a uniform. She was wearing her dress blues and high heels.

“Why, Colonel Carter, what ARE you suggesting?” Jack purred.

She draped his uniform across his desk. “Flyboy.”

Jack flew out of his chair at the speed of light and began to quickly change clothes while she cleared his desk of papers and laptop.

It wasn’t the first time Davis had been asked to excuse himself while one of Jack’s partners were home during the day. He hadn’t figured out which of the three were more insatiable and he never expected the general to be so…. gung-ho about it; the general had more stamina than a prime bull.

Matthew’s month with them went by fast. When Mathew went three weeks without a problem, and a clean pee-test, Jack took him out to the new offices which were being filled in with furniture and personnel under the supervision of Major Davis who tossed orders around like a pro. Jack had a treat for the boy. Jack took Matthew to the locker room, handed him a flight suit and put his own on. Matthew didn’t know why because there weren’t any planes nearby. They went out to the back field, the size of ten football fields, and were met by Sam who was also in a flight suit.

“Keys are in the ignition, General,” she said snappily, tossing him a small device.

“Even your wife has to call you by your rank?” Matthew asked, leaning in.

“It’s protocol,” Jack told him. “When on the job, yes, she does. Believe me, she makes me pay for it later.” Sam grinned at him and her co-pilot, Col. Jeffries, hid a smile. He had taken to being her flying partner when she was at Area 51. He was quick, had a talent for accurately second-guessing his partner, and had an excellent flight record in the Bosnian-Serb war prior to taking out a few death gliders. Jack approved of the man.

Matthew still didn’t see where they were going other than walking into a field. Jack pressed a button on the device Sam gave him and from one blink to another, two ships sitting in the field.

“Whoa,” Matthew breathed, wide-eyed, coming to a sudden stop. “Are those….?”

“302s,” Jack said, giving Sam a proud papa pat on the shoulder. “Come on, Matty, we’re going to play.”

The boy was practically hyperventilating as Jack got him buckled into the back seat. The space in the cockpit was so small that Matthew began to understand the differences he was seeing between pilots and ground troops; pilots tended to be thinner, less bulky muscles and more sinewy muscles. Jack got himself buckled in, checked in with Sam and Jeffries, warned Matthew not to touch anything except the JC bars, and cleared them for flight.

They were in space faster than Matthew expected and he couldn’t believe it. Earth was below them, blue and green and beautiful. Jack and Sam played tag around the planet, taking pot-shots at each other with Sam’s version of paint balls; energy beams which registered only on the computer. Jack told Matthew it was one of the training tools they used for the 302s and 303s. Matthew then gasped when a large ship de-cloaked just ahead of them.

Daedalus, this is O’Neill. Permission to board?”

“This is Col. Caldwell, General; welcome, sir,” the deep, baritone voice of Caldwell responded.

To Matthew’s amazement, they approached the large ship and Jack expertly docked, with Sam and Jeffries just behind them. The waiting bay crew watched the boy carefully make his way down the side of the craft. Matthew was a little shaky on his feet when he stood on the deck. There were 302s docked in rows deep into the bay, some of them with pieces sitting on the deck where technicians were working on them.

“Take a minute, get your sea legs,” Jack told him. “You get used to it.”

They were met by a bald man standing tall and proud, hands comfortably behind his back.

“Colonel, thank you for indulging us,” Jack said. He returned the salute and introduced Matthew to Col. Caldwell, commanding the Daedalus. Caldwell didn’t ask why Jack had brought his teenage nephew up, and in a 302, at that. He shook the young man’s hand.

Caldwell showed them around the ship, taking pride in her. Sam resisted tweaking a few things as they walked, but made mental notes to ask the engineer about them, just in case there was a good reason for the changes. She asked Caldwell a few specifics, which went right over not only Matthew’s head but also Jack’s. When they got to the engine room, Matthew had another shock. There was a little gray alien standing behind a console.

Hermiod, having fun?” Jack asked. The Asgard muttered. “Language, little buddy,” Jack chuckled. “Maybe next time you’ll think twice before telling Thor he’s a little overweight. You know how sensitive he is.”

“I called him a fat-head, O’Neill, not fat,” Hermiod informed him.

“Not what he said, but that’s between you guys,” Jack said. He assumed Hermiod was a guy….

“Is that why he got babysitting detail?” Caldwell asked, amused.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack nodded. “You should have heard Thor. He was so angry I thought I heard his voice raise.”

The chief engineer was a tall, thin woman, seemingly scattered. She looked at Jack and hiccupped. Hermiod sighed and shook his head, saying something to her in another language. She snapped something back at him.

“Relax, Novak,” Caldwell told her.

“Yes, hic, sir.”

“Nervous – hiccups,” he quietly told Jack.

“Ah,” Jack nodded. “Dr. Novak, this is my nephew, Matthew. Matty, tell her I’m a pussycat.”

Matthew looked at him and then at the lady. And back to Jack. Silent. Jack swatted his arm.

“Even Sua cubs can push him around,” Matthew finally smiled and told her. Startled, Novak gave a small laugh. And hiccupped.

“Not,” Jack said indignantly.

“Uncle Jack, you haven’t once said no to T’Keet and made it stick,” Matthew told him.

“Have, too,” Jack insisted. He ignored Sam’s snort.

“Name one thing,” Matthew dared him.

Jack tried a few times. “She’s a baby,” he finally said. Sam gave a gentle push at his shoulder and he swatted at her.

At least Novak had stopped hiccupping.

“Dr. Jackson has asthma problems,” Sam commented to her. “He used to sneeze every time he changed climates. Try avoiding THAT on gate travel. He’s on meds for it, now, but sometimes it still happens.”

Novak laughed, more relaxed, and went back to her tinkering. As the men walked on, Sam paused to ask her about the settings she had observed.

Caldwell quietly updated Jack on recent Jaffa activity, particularly the issues on Dakkara where a small uprising was happening over leadership among the rebel Jaffa. There was also a drug trade being run by non-Earth humans in another sector that had been cleansed of Goa’uld. Without the overseers, laws were nonexistent. There were people out there who were wondering what role Earth would be playing, since most of the System Lords had been killed by Earth forces. It’s being assumed that Earth would be taking over as new leaders.

“That isn’t our role,” Jack said quietly, not wanting to be overheard by the crew.

“Yes, sir, but most of those inhabited planets have no leadership, now,” Caldwell told him. “Very few have managed to develop well enough to be self-sufficient and direct their own destinies, and most of those don’t have space travel simply because it was safer to stay out of sight of the Goa’uld. The others don’t know what to do without leadership. Whenever they see an Earth ship, or an SG team, they seek council with Earth. The Jaffa are having their own problems, at the moment, and don’t have the resources to patrol freed space. What are we supposed to do except offer what advice we can?”

Jack wrinkled his nose in frustration. “What does Landry say?”

“He says to do what we can, short of giving out technology,” Caldwell told him. “And we are, of course, following those orders. There are diplomatic requests piling up at the SGC, sir, and, pardon my presumption, General, the pile-up is coming from the Pentagon.”

Jack promised to look into it. He knew better than most how much red tape the government had, especially when someone couldn’t seem to make a decision.

The tour of the ship ended on the bridge where they watched the solar system fly by on the main screen, inspecting Saturn’s rings from within them, looking down the eye of Jupiter’s hurricane, watched solar flares, and blasted a few rocks before returning to Earth. Matthew almost didn’t recognize it.

“It’s upside down!” he exclaimed.

“No, we are,” Sam said with a smile. She nodded and the pilot, who was playing with the kid, righted the ship.

“Wow, how come it doesn’t feel like we’re upside down?” Matthew asked as the planet spun in front of them.

Sam explained inertial dampeners and the fact that gravity didn’t have the same immediate effect on them when they were in space. The North Pole was only at the top of the planet because of customs, not because it was actually the top of the world. It was northern Europeans who were the first navigators to make maps to track their voyages, compasses pointed up, so Europe was placed at the top half of the planet, putting the North Pole at the very top. For people south of the equator, the South Pole was ‘up’.

Matthew was completely in love by the time they left the Daedalus. Jack and Sam both told him what it took to become a 302 pilot, confirmed by Col. Jeffries and Col. Caldwell. Katie had already joined junior ROTC, which would do just as well as junior AFROTC. Both were leadership training programs, not an automatic entrance into the military, so Matthew qualified on that part. He’d have to pass the rest of the exam, which was mostly physical, and Jack was sure he’d have no problem providing the drugs were in the past. He had to keep a grade point average of 2.0, but Jack wanted him, and his sister, to be at 3.0 or above. They had it in them to be 4.0. He’d have to make it on his own; Uncle Jack wasn’t going to play favorites. In fact, Matthew and Katie both would have to do better than average BECAUSE of their uncle, and if he passed ninth grade with a 3.5 or above, Jack would take him up in the 302 again. Matthew promised. Katie’s interest lay more on the technical side of things. She wanted to either play with Sam’s toys or do something with the aliens; she wasn’t sure, yet. Jack told Matthew if he and his sister kept their grades up, he’d pay their scholarship.

On their way home, Jack gave him careful instructions and let Matthew take the controls. After a few tricky starts, Matthew guided the 302 around the planet. Jack took the controls back to take them through the atmosphere and landed them back home. Matthew was breathless when he climbed out of the ship. He threw his arms around Jack and hugged him hard. When they got to the house, the boy was immediately on the phone and online telling all about his adventure. After getting permission to talk about it, of course.

Jack went into his study and called Maynard.

“Honestly, Jack, the main problem is the lack of protocols,” Maynard told him after a moment of silence. “The UN is arguing that just because the United States has the gate and is running the program, doesn’t mean we can make blanket decisions. Those other worlds see Earth as a whole, not individual countries, and when the SGC tells an alien something, those aliens see it as coming from Earth, not the US. Since HomeWorld Security has been authorized to deal with all things alien, the UN feels that the protocols should come from you.”

Jack scowled. “I deal with aliens and Earth, not aliens on their own turf,” he reminded the general. “I don’t make the rules for what happens off-world.”

“Well, Jack, the SGC is winging it out there,” Maynard said. “This is no longer a top-secret project, and a non-military auditing panel clearly didn’t work, so something else needs to be put into place for off-world protocols. We have some notes, a rough draft of notes based on, God help us, Star Trek directives. I was going to rough it out a little more before getting your input. Since the SGC looks to you, I am happy to put the problem in your lap. Let me know when you have something worth the Pentagon’s –AND- the UN’s attention.”

Maynard hung up and Jack’s email chimed. “Fuck.”

“DANIEL!”

 


 

Chapter 21

 

The issue of the off-world protocols was being argued over the breakfast table when Matthew dragged himself from bed. Not only were the regular household adults in the kitchen, but also Major Davis, Col. Reynolds, Gen. Landry, and Col. Bosco.

Matthew got cereal makings together and ate from the counter, since the table was covered in paper. They were arguing over rules for something, the boy decided. He wondered why they were doing it here, instead of at the SGC or Uncle Jack’s office.

“And how are you planning on forcing people to hand over Goa’uld weapons that have been left behind?” Daniel challenged the military. “You can’t bulldoze through a native population. We have no right to go onto a populated planet and demand that they turn over crap!”

Matthew tuned out and went into the living room to watch TV while he ate his breakfast.

“You think they wouldn’t want to get rid of Goa’uld crap?” Jack snapped.

“They probably will,” Daniel snapped back. “We can ASK for it, we cannot DEMAND it! If the planet is deserted, grab what you want, but our protocols need to stay OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS!

“Time out,” Landry called out, raising his hands into a T. The two men crossed arms over chests and sat back in their chairs, huffing at each other. Sam was contemplating sleeping in her lab that night. “Look, the protocols we’ve been using at the SGC seem to be working fine,” Landry said. “A few tweaks can be inserted to take into account the 303 explorations. Things can and do happen between ships in space, such as with those drug runners the Prometheus has been running into; I don’t put it past any of our human colonists, when there are some, to begin their own experimentation on local habitats, but for now, I think we can agree to keep those people away from worlds that are under protection.”

“Only,” Daniel spoke up, raising a finger in point, “if they want us to. Just because we have a bias against the drugs, doesn’t mean we can tell others how to live.”

Jack sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “So whenever these drug runners are around, the 303s are supposed to stop, question the planet’s population as to their wishes, and then resume either kicking out these pirates or allowing them through?”

“Jack…”

“No, Daniel.” Jack leaned forward, his eyes darkening. “These pirates will be left alone, providing they leave us alone. We will protect those worlds that have requested protection. Period.”

“Can’t we make a few additions to the treaties we sign with new allies?” Reynolds asked. “Make it known that we will not support any planet that has dealings with these pirates. If the inhabitants want to come up with their own recreations, that’s their business, but no importing. Can’t it be that simple?”

Both Daniel and Jack opened their mouths to argue, found no argument, and snapped their mouths shut. Davis scribbled on one of the sheets of paper.

“Are we done with this for now?” Gen. Landry asked, making eye contact with each person. “Good. The SGC will get the updated treaties drafted and sent to General Maynard for approval, and the 303 protocols drafted and sent to you, General O’Neill.” Jack looked at him and reluctantly relaxed. A little.

The men in uniforms left, with Sam close behind. There was quiet from the kitchen.

“Uncle Jack, can I ask you something?” Matthew called out. It probably wasn’t a good time, but since the subject had been in the air… He heard nothing. He was pretty sure Uncle Jack and Daniel were still here. He went into the kitchen and immediately averted his eyes. The two were in a serious lip-lock.

“Ugh, guys, kid in the room,” Matthew groaned. Grown-ups kissing was so gross, and these two were way too old to be still wanting to kiss someone.

“Quiet, boy, I like kissing,” Jack said, stepping away from Daniel. “Ask,” Jack said. He sat and poured a bowl of cereal. Deciding it needed more of something, he reached back, opened the fridge, and took out a bowl of berries to pour on top.

“The other day someone at the gym offered me pot,” came the surprising statement. “Are you testing me?”

Jack and Daniel both turned to look at the boy.

“No, I’m not, Matty,” Jack told him, the spoon in his hand hovering over the bowl. “Who was it?”

Matthew considered it; he had gone this far in tattling and one just didn’t lie to Uncle Jack…. “An airman, Hatcher.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Jack said, the spoon sinking into the cereal and milk.

“Uncle Jack, he’ll know I told,” Matthew whined, slumping back in his chair. “None of the guys will talk to me.”

Jack leaned over and took Matthew’s jaw, lifting his chin. “Leadership is standing up and taking responsibility for the actions of not only oneself, but also the actions of those you lead,” he told the boy. “That airman did something wrong. There’s a time for everything, and this is a time to suck it up and stand up.”

He told the boy exactly what to say to someone who attempted to punish him for speaking the truth. Daniel thought Jack was being a little hard on the kid, but also understood that Matthew needed strong direction considering his life until that moment was filled with conflicting signals. He had heard about the 302 expedition and listened to Matthew talk nonstop about it the night before. If he wanted to fly, he needed a few life lessons now, not just before he stepped into the cockpit of his own ship.

Sara showed up a while later to take Matthew for the weekend. Jack had called her and asked if she would mind talking with the boy about her experience with divorce, tell him the emotional hell she went through and give him an idea of what his mother is going through. Jack had already talked with Matthew about his side, was honest and took the blame for the pain he caused his wife. Sara thought about it and agreed.

Matthew packed an overnight bag and had to be reminded to take Sunday clothes. After noticing that none of the adults in the house were going to take him to church when he first got there, he had a talk with his uncle. Jack said the nearest Catholic church was five blocks away and if he wanted to go, that was up to him. Daniel sat down with Matthew and explained that none of them were religious. They each had their own spirituality, but there was a difference between religion and spirituality. They didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but did believe in a higher power; they just weren’t going to put a name on It. Daniel didn’t consider the higher power to be a god; it was just something on a higher order of life. So Matthew considered it and decided that, since his grandfather, great grands, and Mom were expecting him to complete Catechism and Confirmation, he would go to church. After that, he’d think about it.

Jack had no issues with that; the boy made an informed decision.

Late Monday afternoon, midway through Matthew’s workout, Jack showed up at the gym. He had two SF with him as he strode into the main workout room. “Hatcher!” he barked. The startled airman hopped front and center as the others all came to a sudden stop and stood at attention at the tone in Jack’s voice.

“Sir!”

Jack held out a cup.

“Pee, airman. Now. No, here.” Jack pointed to the floor in front of him when the airman looked toward the locker rooms. With no time to fake a sample, the still warm urine tested positive for drugs. The SF placed him under arrest and took him away.

“As you were!” Jack left with the SF. There was quiet in the room for a moment.

“Carmichael!” Bryce came into the room and looked around.

“Sir?” Matthew came forward from the back of the towering crowd of men. He was pale, knowing he was about to be taken down for tattling. Major Bryce backed him up until he bumped into someone’s mile wide, hard as a rock chest. Matthew gulped.

“Only one person could have told the general,” the Marine informed him with a quiet, deadly snarl. “Anything to say?”

Matthew considered his options and took a deep breath.

SIR! THAT AIRMAN IS A FUCKING BASTARD WHO DISGRACED HIS UNIFORM BY OFFERING DRUGS TO A MINOR! SIR!”

Well, that’s what Uncle Jack told him to say….

There was silence for a moment. A loud “Hoo-rah!” rattled the walls and almost broke his ear drums as he was lifted high, shaken, and passed around.

“Good boy,” Bryce said, smiling and ruffling Matthew’s hair. He went back into his office and returned the general’s earlier call.

Matthew went home a week later with a new attitude and a goal to focus on.

Jack was depressed.

“You’re missing Charlie,” Daniel guessed.

“I could have helped him through things like this,” Jack said.

“Did you ever think maybe Charlie had a hand in this?” Daniel asked. “Maybe he helped to bring those kids back into your life?”

Sam was back at the base, so Jack was lying on the couch with Daniel wrapped around him, watching TV. Stacy was lying on her stomach on the floor, legs swinging in the air as she watched TV. She knew what was going on; they didn’t hide things from her. Daddy had a long talk with her about drugs. Dad talks a lot. She also knew who Charlie was and what happened to him.

“Don’t worry, Jack,” Stacy said, not taking her eyes from the TV. “Give me a few more years and you can zat my boyfriends.” Daniel stifled a chuckle. Jack knew Daniel wouldn’t be so amused the moment Stacy noticed her first heart-throb.

Jack’s new offices were pretty much set to use, so he forced himself to get dressed in the morning and go to work. Jack had a suite to himself for his admin and assistant, along with a private conference room. His assistant declared that he also needed an admin, so a second admin was attached to their offices. Davis was playing ferocious guard dog and not allowing anyone through him to the general without a damned good reason. Jack hated being behind closed doors, and desks, so he could often be found strolling through the center. The new personnel would have to get used to the various aliens their general called his friends and it became part of the new personnel orientation to be told not to worry about people disappearing and reappearing before their eyes. If the general disappeared, and the major was flipping out about it, THEN people could worry.

Several generals showed up during the week to see the new digs for themselves. They were surprised to find a ring platform had been not only installed, it also had a lock which wouldn’t allow it to activate without permissions, just like the Stargate. Ships with beaming capabilities were instructed to use the ring room for beaming in and out. An alien bad guy brig was installed in the basement and set with a self-destruct in case of a major problem.

The field had its own air tower and flight control center which included monitoring of the solar system; can’t have ships speeding out of the atmosphere only to have them crash into another space ship. The infirmary had all up to date equipment that was programmed for off-world problems. Just in case. Although the SGC was still the main site for such needs.

Jack had Nick come in and make a run through the security system. He found bugs in the system and fixed it. Jack was also amused to watch Nick around Paul. The big bad assassin had it bad for the major and even managed small smiles, revealing deep dimples which made his green eyes sparkle even more. Jack had mentioned to Daniel that for a supposedly submissive man, Davis sure bossed Nick around. And Nick took it.

“Gee, I wonder why?” Daniel asked. He had come in to take a walk around. Davis’ admin, Heidi Sands, was flustered to meet Daniel. Davis whispered to Daniel that she was a fan of his royal cuteness. Jack laughed out loud as Daniel flushed. Daniel shoved Paul and handed him something wrapped. Paul tore the paper off and took out a framed print.

“Daniel, thank you,” he said, surprised, and hugged Daniel. Jack looked at it. He vaguely recognized Hebrew letters and a menorah.

“What’s it say?” Jack asked.

“Shalom ayhem,” Daniel said. Jack waited. They blinked at each other.

“Daniel!”

Daniel chuckled. “It means Peace Be With You.”

“You couldn’t have just said that?” Jack whined as Davis looked around for a good place to hang it as he patted at his left bicep. “Major, are you Jewish?”

“Yes, sir,” Davis nodded. He’ll hang it next to the door, a reminder every time someone leaves.

Jack was stumped and Davis smiled at him.

“Just because I sleep with heathens, doesn’t mean I am one. Sir.”

Daniel grinned.

“No star necklace, I haven’t noticed you doing anything…. Jewish,” Jack said with a general wave of his hand. Daniel laughed and shook his head.

“Jack….”

“It’s alright, Daniel,” Paul said good-naturedly. “I’ve added Jack-speak to my language collection. I do my own thing, sir, I’m not orthodox or anything like that. I’m more spiritual than religious.” He turned back to them and perched on the edge of his desk, giving his arm another rub.

"Paul, why are you rubbing your arm? Did you hurt it?” Daniel asked in concern.

“Sort of,” Paul said with a small smile. “I got a tattoo. It’s itches.” He patted his arm again, careful not to scratch.

“Really? Can I see?” Daniel asked, lighting up. Tattoos had such an interesting history, starting with tribal markings. Many people tended to ink something cute and pointless, which they later regretted, but he couldn’t imagine Paul getting something superficial. Davis lifted the short sleeve of his warm weather dress shirt.

“It’s a Tau’ri sigil,” Daniel noted, gently twisting Paul’s arm around to get a good look. Jack peered at it. It was well done, the black lines crisp and clear, and was starting to peel slightly. It needed another coat of A&D ointment.

 Paul glanced at Jack, and felt the need to explain himself. “I realize that I’m in the US Air Force, but I’ve pledged myself to Earth. Tau’ri. A few people have been getting them.”

“No, Daniel,” Jack immediately said.

“I didn’t….”

“I know, but I happen to like your skin the way it is,” Jack said. “Preventive measures.”

“Do you like the sun freckles across his shoulders?” Paul asked him.

Jack nodded. “Yeah, I do,” he said. “Sometimes I make pictures with them. Connecting the dots.”

“And then he claims he has to be the one to scrub the marker off because he’s the one who made the mess,” Daniel told Paul. “At least he uses the washable markers.”

Paul laughed. “I never thought about using a marker, that’s good.”

“You know, maybe the two of you working together isn’t such a good idea,” Daniel suggested.

“Nonsense,” Jack stated with another royal wave of his royal hand. “I still have a lot to learn about this guy stuff, and Paul will be an excellent source of information. What else is a good assistant for?”

Daniel looked at them, eyes widening in fear. “Uh huh. Paul, we need to have dinner. Soon.” Jack ordered him out.

“Paul, any particular reason you want to beg off the California trip?” he asked. “We need to check on that new monitoring center. I really need you with me.” He was looking at the email Davis sent him. With both of them running around, it was easier to communicate by email. Jack really didn’t need to do this himself, but he was asked nicely by Gen. Maynard to personally visit the new monitoring stations as a good will gesture to the various cities. There were twenty going up all over the world; they couldn’t count on the Heaven’s Bow staying in orbit indefinitely as their fly-swatter. The first station to be completed was in Northern California near the Nevada border. The station gave jobs to about ten locals and six military personnel. How hard was it to sit on one’s ass and watch a monitor 24/7? Jack was told to get civilians involved, make ‘em feel useful, so he was.

“Sir…. Emerson is my home town,” Davis reluctantly told him. “My parents haven’t spoken to me since I came out, and my father and I in the same town is not a good thing.”

“Well, I appreciate that, Major, but we’re not visiting with your parents,” Jack told him.

“Actually, we are, sir,” Davis said. “You’ve been invited to dinner with Mayor Davis and please bring your party with you.”

It took Jack a moment. Davis was such a common surname, it didn’t occur to Jack to question it. “I see. Yes, that could be a problem. Alright, you’re excused, I’ll take someone else.”

Jack took Daniel. And was overly solicitous as they met the mayor. He sometimes held a hand at Daniel’s back, touched his hand a few times, brushed a crumb from Daniel’s shirt, and ‘accidentally’ called him ‘honey’ once as he slid an absent arm around the back of Daniel’s chair. Silar, Jack’s choice to check the new West Coast Solar System Monitor, paid them no mind, having years of experience with these two and their shenanigans. Jack had warned him not to mention the major.

The guys noticed that Paul looked like his mother, Rita. Thankfully, he didn’t have her annoying, nasal voice, which she used to bombard the men as she extolled the virtues of their town. They had two synagogues, and although they had only one rabbi to share between them, they had a rabbi. Rabbis were in short supply and had to be shared between multiple temples, unlike Christian houses of worship who couldn’t get on without a man of the cloth in each and every one.

She said something in Yiddish and Daniel winced, automatically correcting her pronunciation. She wasn’t happy with the correction, but she went on, telling them about the high family values of their town and that their local school board was about to approve the Intelligent Design class for all their schools. They were an open-minded town and felt that it was inappropriate to include the discussion in science class, but it should be part of the Earth History courses. Daniel gave her the title of a series of books that did a good job at breaking down as many creation stories as could be found by the printing of the books, and it was on a junior high to high school level, so….. Mrs. Davis told him they’d be using the Old Testament, but thank you for your suggestion; the children didn’t need to know about other religions halfway around the world, just the ones here. Daniel said the Old Testament came from halfway around the world. Mrs. Davis wasn’t happy with Daniel.

“General O’Neill….,” Mayor Ed Davis started.

“Jack, please,” Jack invited, waving a hand. Daniel was amused by Jack the butch queen.

The mayor cleared his throat. “Jack… may I express a concern?”

“Certainly, Ed.”

“My concern is the new rules for military personnel. We’re a strong nation, and I’m afraid these new protocols will weaken our boys and girls, and through them, our country.”

Jack nodded, frowning in hard thought. “Yes, I understand, Ed, I’ve had a lot of folk come up to me with concerns. All I can say is I’m doing my best to bring us up to, or surpass, the strength of our enemies. I’ll be honest with you, Ed, it’s sheer luck we’ve held our own all this time. With minds like Dr. Jackson’s,” patting Daniel’s hand and giving it a squeeze. “We are jumping ahead at astonishing rates. I have to give large credit to my assistant, Major Paul Davis; he’s been invaluable. He negotiates with world leaders and alien allies and we come out on top every time. He held the fort during the Colorado battle, took my place at the SGC while I was on the field. He’s gone on off-world missions with us and saved my ass more than once. Pardon, ma’am. He’s even had a hand in the creation of our space ships. That boy is brilliant. Our allies are very happy with our progress, actually they’re amazed at the speed we’ve become a galactic power. Nine years, and we’re kickin’ alien butt. Ma’am. This isn’t public knowledge, Ed, but one of the gods recently dropped in for a visit, and when I told him I wasn’t giving up what he wanted, BOY was he pissed. Ma’am.” Jack crossed his legs primly and examined his nails.

“….if the major can keep that boyfriend of his in line, relatively, I certainly trust him with MY office…”

“….Oh, Daniel and I have known each other a long time. We’ve only recently gotten together, though; he was dating Major Davis for a few years…”

“….kids these days, I tell ya; I don’t know WHAT my son is doing. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. Teenagers. Is it Cassie or the major, Cassie or the major, on and on... I grant you Major Davis is cute, but really!...”

“…thank you, Ed, the new offices are perfect, and they went up so fast! Davis orchestrated the entire thing, from building and remodel, to getting all the personnel hired. There isn’t one other person I would rather have as my right hand; in fact, the general I stole him from is pretty upset with me. He kept our Pentagon offices running, too….”

“…I’m not worried about China; the major will whip them into submission. So to speak….”

Their SF escorted them to the waiting car after dinner.

“Do you know how completely evil you are?” Daniel asked him. “I give you an eight on the evil purity scale.”

“Daniel, what a nice thing to say,” Jack cooed and patted Daniel’s butt as he handed Daniel into the car.

 


 

Chapter 22

 

Jack took a call in his office the next day. It was Maynard.

“Jack, Senator Ashman from California cornered me in a hall. Have you been terrorizing one of his mayors?”

“I was only yankin’ on the guy, Francis,” Jack said with a touch of exasperation. “The man was a boob. And his wife was worse. And after hearing how they treated my major, they got off easy.”

“Your major? What does he have to do with this? I was told it was you, Dr. Jackson, and Sgt. Silar.”

“Francis. Mayor DAVIS.”

Silence.

“The picture is much clearer,” Maynard finally said, clearing his throat. “Alright, but could you go a little easier on the civilians? Please?”

“Sure, Francis. Just for you.”

Jack had another angry parent when he got home. He hadn’t even changed out of his uniform when the doorbell rang. He found an affronted mother on his doorstep. He was sure he had seen her around their small, rural section of Cheyenne Mountain, but couldn’t place her.

“Ma’am?”

“General, there is a strange man with long hair and a leather skirt coming around our house wanting to know what the bride price is for our daughter,” she told him, fire spitting from her eyes. “He says he needs a wife to help with the rebuilding of their race.”

Jack sighed and tapped his comm. “Inanna.”

“Yes, Jack?” The Mom glared at the comm.

“Has one of your boys been down here courting?”

“I believe several have,” she told him. Jack was beginning to understand why they were still in orbit, even though there really wasn’t anything for them to do.

“Yeah, well, the mother of a young lady is a little upset. Ma’am, what’s your daughter’s name? Elizabeth. How old is she? Twenty-three. Ring a bell?” He was halfway relieved –if he remembered correctly, the ancient Middle East married their daughters off at around thirteen.

“Mmmm… I believe Kibri mentioned that name. I will get back to you. Has he dishonored the young lady?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

Jack invited the mother inside, and several minutes later Inanna and one of her warriors stood in front of Jack.

“That’s him!” the lady declared, pointing at the warrior. Jack held out a hand to calm her as the warrior took a startled step back; thick, muscular arms were raised in defense over his broad, muscled chest.

Kibri, is it? Want to tell me what’s going on?” he asked.

“I have seen Nin-Elizabeth several times, General,” the man said, his accent thick. “All very proper. Never alone. I have been open with her, told her that she is beautiful and strong, and talked about our new home that Aba is building. I told her she would be a mother to our race, if she would join us. As is proper, I went to her home and made my intentions known and wished to speak of payment.”

“Ah. You see, that’s a big part of the problem here,” Jack said dryly. “We don’t do the payment thing anymore. Not for a VERY long time. And we don’t ask the parents for permission anymore. Our women are pretty independent and can speak for themselves, no one owns them once they are legal age. Ladies like flowers, candy, dinner, a movie or two, some hand holding, and walks in the park. And if you want to marry one, you date her for a while, get to know her, and then you offer her a ring. They like diamonds, usually. And you ask her to marry you. If she says no, respect her wishes and don’t push. Wish her the best and move on. If she says yes, you discuss wedding plans, invite a few friends and family to the wedding, say vows with a priest or a justice of the peace, and you exchange gold rings. Bands. Like mine. One for her, one for you. Then you are considered married. That’s how we do it here. Did you ask the lady to marry you?”

Kirbi frowned in thought. “Not in that manner,” he admitted. “I asked her if she would like to come with me to our new home and be mother to my children. She would be the queen of our home, a nice home, by a stream, if Aba can make us one. She told me she would like that very much.”

Jack nodded. “Okay, but we should probably sit down with the young lady and make sure she knows exactly what she is getting into. She’s legal age; if she truly wants to go, no one can make her stay here.”

Although Mom was extremely horrified by it all, Jack put them into his truck and followed Mom home. Nin-Elizabeth was home and a little scared at all the attention. Jack sat down on their couch. After meticulous questioning, he was convinced she understood what Kirbi had been saying to her. She understood that if she went to another planet, there would be no running home to Mommy and Daddy. No Circle K on the corner, no movies, no stores, no nothing except what they make themselves. Her main job would be to have children and help repopulate Kibri’s race. And did she understand that the men of this particular race enjoyed the comforts of their brothers and she might be asked to take more than one husband? She would have a queen, not a president or anything else, and the queen was sitting there next to Kirbi. Laws were different, and yes, women had all the rights of men, but still, the laws were different. She would NOT be living in America. Nin-Elizabeth understood.

Inanna proposed bringing the young lady up to the ship, showing her around, and discussing cultural differences. Mom refused, the lady accepted. Kibri glowed with pride and held out a hand to her. They beamed out. Mom screamed about her baby being kidnapped and Jack had to calm her down and tell her that the girl was legal age, and willing, therefore no kidnapping had occurred.

A short time later, Jack had to explain it to the sheriff. Andy agreed; no one was kidnapped. The press knocked on his door. Jack had to give a statement that the aliens were being good boys and were properly courting a few women; they didn’t have much of a choice, if they were going to keep their race going. Jack had personally checked up on the boys, and assured the people that their daughters were in safe hands. He informed Ninurta that the girls had BETTER be in safe hands. Jack then had about a dozen young ladies show up on his doorstep all declaring that they were ready to be pioneer women. The fact that they were all wearing crosses and holding Bibles made Jack politely thank them, but they were no longer needed. He considered sending them up to the boys just to see who would last longer, the warriors or the women.

Daniel was making quick exits during it all. Jack’s nose was twitching.

“Daniel? Something you’d like to tell me?” Jack asked, cornering him in his study.

“Well, they needed dates,” Daniel said defensively. “I told them how to find dates.”

Jack waited, his arms crossed.

“I told them a few at a time wouldn’t hurt and to spend time at libraries, movies, diners, that kind of thing. I told them to be nice, no stealing, and to be respectful of the girls’ wishes. They had to woo a woman, not commandeer a baby factory. Find a woman they could love and who could love them. And be honest with her about who they were and where they’d like to take the girls.”

“You’ve been playing yenta to a bunch of hairy alien men?” Jack asked in disbelief. “And what made you think of this?”

“M’Net asked me to.”

Jack had to sit down. “The big fur ball asked you to find dates for his ship-mates?”

“Yes. He didn’t want them to die out as a race, and so far we haven’t run across any male aliens who could carry babies. A few with marsupial pouches, but no wombs.”

Jack rubbed his head. “Oy.”

“We’ve had a couple of people also ask about being Tok’ra.”

Jack needed a drink.

“Why?”

“One is military; ex-military. Retired. He has cancer and is willing to trade healing for work. The other has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, willing for the same reasons. He isn’t military, but he says he’s always worked hard and can follow directions.”

“And you met them how?” Did he want to know….?

“Through the university. They seem like good people, but I didn’t promise anything. It was recent, so I haven’t had time to talk with you about them.”

“Alright, get me their information, I’ll check them out. If they pan out, I’ll call Malek in to interview them.”

Jack was afraid to ask…. “Anything else I should know about?”

Daniel thought about it. “Love you?”

“Okay, I can deal with that.”

Once word got out that the aliens were looking for colonizers, and specifically strong women willing to help replenish their race, they were bombarded with letters from women all over the world offering themselves to the warriors. Davis put his foot down at being a marriage broker, but he did set up a one hundred page application on a website. A preference would be shown toward women who were handy with the land and a hammer. No nail salons existed out there and no malls for their shopping pleasure. No one with the intent of ‘reforming’ the aliens would be accepted. The women needed to pass a fertility test, since that was the main reason the boys needed women. A few small groups of feminists protested their sisters were being used as breeding cattle. When someone said something to Jack about it, he told them that if they didn’t like the idea of the men marrying the women for the purpose of babies, then they shouldn’t apply; get out of the way and let others make their own decisions. But these were warriors; how did Earth women know the men would be kind to them? Jack pointed out Inanna, their Queen, and told people exactly what Inanna’s laws concerning rape and abuse were. Women paled and men crossed their legs, cringing.

There were a surprising number of women who had indicated that they would be agreeable to more than one husband. Davis had put a history of the boys on the website, and was specific in indicating their bisexual preferences among their ‘shield’ brothers. Not all of them were, but enough so that it did need to be mentioned. After checking with Ninurta, Paul added to the site that the women could marry more than one man without any problems. In fact, since their genetic population wasn’t truly large enough to get a healthy society started, multiple partners would be preferable for one female. Spread the genetic pool a little wider.

While talking about it over dinner, Daniel commented on several Earth societies that didn’t have any problem at all with multiple partner households, although they were usually one man several women, not the polyandry pairings of the warriors on the ship. Inanna muttered a few complaints about the idiot king who decided that polyandry should be illegal.

“Sam, does that mean you can marry Dad, too?” Stacy asked during a dinner meeting at the house. Everyone stopped, not considering that the child was actually following the conversation.

“Uh, no, honey,” Daniel answered, his eyes flickering to his partners. “It’s illegal here. Only two people can marry.”

“It isn’t illegal on my ship,” Inanna said with an arched eyebrow. “If all three of you want to be married, come up. Ninurta is the ship’s spiritual leader, he will bless the union.” Ninurta nodded in agreement.

“We haven’t discussed anything like that, Ningal,” Daniel said in Sumerian. She nodded, understanding, and changed the subject.

Someone needed to look at the internet results of the marital questionnaires, so Cassie volunteered. She tossed out anything with bad vibes, anyone who rang the psycho bell, anyone who showed religious tendencies, and kept the women who told of skills with their hands, showed themselves to be able to think for themselves (the warriors didn’t want weak-minded women). Women who had a spiritual connection with land in general were fine to continue with the screening. From there, Cass sent the applications up to the ship.

Davis was impressed with Cassandra’s mental leaps over several hundred, hundred page applications, so he invited her to be his admin assistant. His previous one was unable to deal with the whole gender preferences issue. Cassie accepted. She wanted something from him, though; she wanted to learn how to be a negotiator and a diplomat. Davis promised that she could accompany him to various locations and meetings, and after, they would talk about the process of each. He did want her to take a few specialized classes; human relations, cultural studies, tactical negotiations, and languages. The more languages, the better; he had five, which was average for someone in his position. Jack, Daniel, and Nate all found the pairing to be … odd. Sam thought it was appropriate, considering the position they found Cassandra in later years. A few years earlier. Temporal verbs were so confusing.

After the guests had gone back to their ship, showers were taken in preparation for bed. Daniel got out of his shower and found Jack and Sam lying on their sides in the bed, lightly kissing. He got in on the other side of Sam and shut his eyes. Running back and forth between jobs was exhausting. He must be getting old because a long day like that never bothered him before. And now he not only ran between jobs, he also had a child to care for, and after a day of all that, he then kel’no’reemed before bed which was usually around midnight. And he was up at around six a.m.

“Danny, do you want to talk about this?” he heard Jack ask.

“About what?” he muttered into his arm which was over his face. He winced and arched his shoulders, giving a soft groan when they popped.

“Daniel, I was serious,” Jack said from somewhere off to his right. “If I could put a ring on your finger, I would. Do you want a ring? Do you want to marry us?”

“Jack, we’re having problems with acceptance the way we are, you want to add a polygamous marriage to the pile?” he asked.

“I’m talking about something meaningful for us, not the US government,” Jack said. People had Living Wills written all the time, so why not a simple, private contract between consenting adults?

Sam turned over and put an arm across his chest as she leaned up to look at him.

“If you don’t want to, it’s okay,” she told him. “Whether we do or not won’t change anything.”

Daniel put his arm down and blinked the blurry, tired vision from his eyes. His hand landed on her back.

“Sam, I love you and I would marry you in a heartbeat,” he told her. “I’d even marry that old goat, over there. I’m sorry, I’m just very tired and I’m not thinking straight at the moment. Can I think about this and get back to you when my brain is more focused? I want to say yes, but I need to be sure my reasoning is clear and I want us to talk details. Later.”

She kissed the skin of his hard bicep. “I’m sorry, this was sprung on us, wasn’t it?” she said. “We’ve had a little time to talk about it, you haven’t. We’ll table it.”

Daniel was asleep almost by the time she pecked his mouth and turned over again.

While Jack was in Switzerland the next day, and Sam was going through simulations of some sort with Camulus at the SGC, Daniel was called by Nate. Cassie wasn’t feeling well.

“Why don’t you take her to the base?” Daniel told him.

“She doesn’t want to go,” Nate told him, exasperated. “And if a cup flying across the counter top is any indication, I don’t think the base can help her.”

Daniel called Sam as he flew through a few stop signs. Since Daniel didn’t normally speed, the deputies at a speed trap didn’t stop him. Although a word sent to the general later would tell them if they should send Daniel a ticket. Across town, Cassandra was lying in bed. Her temperature was up to 101.

“Cass,” Daniel began, slightly panicked as he looked at the thermometer.

“No,” she insisted, shaking her head. She was pale and sweating. Nate was pacing, biting a thumb nail as he watched.

Sam came in minutes behind Daniel, and she had Dr. Lam with her.

“I’ve read Dr. Frasier’s report and watched the tape from the last time something happened,” the doctor said, sticking a thermometer into Cass’s ear. “Does this feel the same?” It beeped seconds later.

“Not really,” Cass said. Her temperature was still up. “The other time it was like fire. Uncontrolled fire. This time it’s more like… bees buzzing. I wish they’d shut up; I can’t think.”

“What started it, Cass?” Sam asked, sitting on the bed and taking the girl’s sweaty left hand.

“I was taking a bath,” she said. “I left my coffee on the counter and I tried reaching for it. It flew into my hand.” She showed them her right hand; it was a little red from the hot coffee. “After that, I just started to not feel well.” Dr Lam opened her kit and began to treat the burn with an antibiotic ointment, telling Cass and Nate to leave it open to the air.

Daniel looked around. “Cassie, reach for that bottle of nail polish,” he said, pointing to her dresser. She held out her hand. Nothing happened. “Will it,” he said. “Just like you really wanted that coffee, you really want that bottle.”

The bottle wiggled. Eyebrows shot up.

“Interesting,” Dr. Lam commented. “I wonder if you can do it when your fever is down. Let’s try, shall we?” She gave Cassie a shot of something and closed up her bag.

“Keep her on acetaminophen,” she told the others. “Juice and cool liquids. Lots of water. Sit in a cool bath, if you can, Miss Frasier. If her temp goes up, bring her in. Kicking and screaming, if you have to.”

They sat around the house, waiting, getting her cranky every thirty minutes with the taking of her temperature. They talked with Jack on the phone; if Cassie gets worse, let him know and he’d come home. Sam told him there wasn’t anything he could do except to pace the halls with Nate and Daniel. Her temp went up another point but she convinced them not to do anything. Six hours later, it started to come down. She was back to normal by dinner. Sam and the men were happy, Dr Lam began to schedule tests.

Jack’s fourth parental call for the week, he was counting Sam (with Cassie) as the third, was from Megan.

“Megan, he needed someone to tell him,” Jack said, lounging on a private military jet somewhere over the Atlantic. Davis glanced up from his reports. “No, those cute little films in health class don’t cut it. Maybe for a six year old, but not a teenage boy. What? Megan, wait for what future? He’s fourteen! I seem to recall a certain fourteen year old girl who was in tears over her daily crush who was absolutely THE man of her dreams. He isn’t a baby, Megs, he’s becoming a young man. No, I didn’t TELL him to watch it, I told him if he wanted to, he could watch it. Megan, it’s his body, he should know how it works. He was asking questions, of course I told him. Would you rather he learned how to use a condom AFTER he came down with an STD or a baby? Megan, telling a teenager about birth control is not going to make them want to use it NOW, it tells them that when they are able to make a decision, it’s available to them. Well, did you expect him to wait until moments before sex for him to jump out of the young lady’s bed, come to you, ask if you had any condoms and oh, by the way, Mom, how do I use it? He needed to know his options and the consequences, so I told him. Yes, I told him about sex with a man; I told you, he was asking questions. No, I don’t think he’s going that way, but that doesn’t make him any less curious. He likes girls, Meg, take my word for it. No, unless he was lying to me and I don’t think he was, he is not sexually active. Because his questions were those of a virgin, that’s why, and from the color red his face was, I don’t think he was faking it. ……. So, get her the pills. Megan, did you even listen when her pediatrician talked with you about them? They will make her periods easier, she can time them, and it’ll help with her skin. Because I’ve been married twice and both women insisted that I participate in their events. I don’t know why, they seem to feel it’s a husband and wife bonding thing. Even before I married Sam, I was aware of her yearly physicals. She made damned sure me, Daniel, and Teal’c got her plenty of chocolate. Baby, just get her the pills; if it’s a money thing, I’ll give you the money. At least she’s taking responsibility for her own body. You think I don’t know what it’s like having a teenager in the house? Should we discuss Tommy Finkleman? How about Grady Finnigan? Zach Haimer? What do you mean, who’s Zach? The kid you went out with in eleventh grade. He used to put pom-poms down his shirt and pretend to be …. Yes, him. And now there’s a ten year old in the house who will be turning eleven soon, and although she hasn’t come home crying over the new love of her life. yet, she has her daddy’s brains which means she will come up with all sorts of really good reasons why we should let her get married at thirteen, so don’t try and tell me about girls in the house. You want to know about teenage boys? Ask Gloria to tell you about me and what she and I did when I was fifteen and she was twenty-two. Honey, she wasn’t always old and those 42D’s didn’t always sag, believe me. Matthew is no longer five, honey; he has one thing on his mind and it isn’t his mommy. At least I hope it isn’t his mommy.”

Jack hung up, gave a muffled screech from behind his hands, and went to find something to drink.

“And people wonder why I’m gay,” Paul muttered to himself.

Parental call number five didn’t actually go to Jack, it went to Daniel, and it wasn’t actually a call, it was Bosco cornering Daniel in his office.

“Jerry, what’s up?” Daniel greeted him, glancing up from the tablet on his desk.

“Hey, Daniel. Listen, can I ask something? Personal?”

“Sure,” Daniel said, writing notes in his notebook.

“I…. my son…. if he was straight, I’d know what to say, but with this….…”

Daniel looked up, finger poised over a key on the keyboard. “Vinnie isn’t straight?”

Bosco paused. “Jack and Sam know, we discussed it a little in Chicago. I thought they’d have told you.”

“We don’t gossip,” Daniel told him, taking his glasses off and tossed them onto the desk. “They probably think I already know. The gay grapevine or something. Go on; what’s on your mind?” He rubbed his eyes and gestured for the man to sit.

“Vinnie tried to kiss a boy and got beat up,” Bosco stated. He pulled up a stool and sat. “I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what to say to him.”

Daniel nodded, picked up the phone, and held up a wait finger.

“Hey, during all that Pride stuff at your school, did anyone happen to start some sort of support group for the kids?” he asked when the phone was answered. He nodded and wrote something down, listening and making noises of acknowledgment. “Thanks.”

He hung up and handed the paper to Bosco. “That is the name of a contact for a gay/lesbian/bisexual teenage support group,” he said. “It’s like a hang-out, a club, but it’s for the gay kids. Families are welcome and encouraged to participate, to show support for their kid. It’s run by gay adults who are successful in their lives, shop owners, business people, and athletes, people who can be role models for the kids and who are open to questions and talks with both the kids and their parents. Check it out. Also,” he wrote something else down. “That’s a really good DVD about homosexuality. I have a copy of it, if you’d like to drop by and borrow it. You can watch it, we can talk, if you’d like, and you can decide whether or not Vinnie is mature enough to see it. Jack’s nephew watched it, he’s fourteen, not gay just curious about his uncle’s new habits, and he was fine with it. I don’t mind talking with Vinnie, if you want me to.”

“Thanks, Daniel,” Bosco said, standing and tucking the paper into his pocket. “I’ll come by tonight?”

“Sure. And Jerry? You’re a good dad for doing this.”

“Thanks, Daniel. I love him, what else am I supposed to do?”

Bosco didn’t make it over in the evening, he had to take his team off-world, but Daniel knew he’d be by for it when he got home.

The next parent problem of the week was supposed to be for Daniel but Jack took it. He didn’t have much of a choice, considering that five parents were on his doorstep and all glaring daggers at him.

“We want to see Dr. Jackson,” they demanded.

“Well, you could try his cell phone, but I don’t think the signal will reach the other side of the galaxy,” he told them. “He’s checking out a pyramid on one of the moons of Endor. What can I help you with?”

“His daughter held a seminar,” Jack was told. “She charged a dollar a person and showed them this video.” Jack was handed a DVD. It was the human sexuality DVD from their library.

“It’s a well done video made for kids,” he said, not understanding the issue. “What’s the problem? Other than charging a dollar, which I will speak to her about.”

“She had no right showing our children this movie,” he was told. “They will learn what they need to know in health class in seventh grade.”

Jack leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms. “You are objecting to your children learning the facts of life from a highly reputed documentary? How old are your kids?” Nines, tens, and an eleven. “Is it the fact that they watched this movie the problem or is it the fact that you didn’t get to tell them yourselves that’s the problem?”

The parents were put on hold for a moment. “Health class….”

“No, that isn’t what I asked,” Jack interrupted with a 'general' snap, holding up a hand to stop them. There were wide-eyes and gulps. “It is not the job of the public school system to raise your children, it’s your job. If your kids were willing to pay a dollar each to watch this movie, I’d say there’s a communication problem. Stacy is her father’s child, she enjoys discovery and teaching, and I won’t punish her for it. I will give you back your money and I suggest you spend a little more honest time with your kids.” All these issues with sexuality were beginning to irritate him; he could handle kids getting smarter, and with a smarter brain came a more developed need to understand their own body as well as understanding the world around them. He only wished the parents would get smarter, too.

Stacy no longer had the money from her seminar; she gave it to a boy in school for lunch money. A couple of bullies kept taking his lunch, and she wanted to help. Jack went down to the school and had a talk with the principal. With five hundred children in the school, they didn’t have the staff to take care of two specific children, and the last time they suspended a student, the school was sued. No, they wouldn’t tell Jack who the boys were. Stacy told him, though, and he went to their homes. Neither boy had an excuse to steal from another child, considering the well-kept homes in a higher end of town. Neither set of parents were home, and nannies told him they’d pass on the message. Jack told Stacy to bring the picked on boy home for dinner. Make sure to ask his parents first.

Jack then explained to Stacy about the copyright laws on movies. “No charging people to see a movie unless you have a contract with the production and distribution company.” She blinked at him. “Why?” He didn’t know, ask her father.

When Daniel got home for dinner, no he wasn’t actually on an Endorian moon, he explained to Stacy that not all parents wanted their kids to know about the facts of life. No, he didn’t know why. On their way to Col. Boscos' home for a sleep-over (Stacy, not Daniel), he found himself explaining more about the 'facts' than he thought he actually knew. The girl had more questions than a television quiz show. He would have to get back to her on the whys and wherefores of production and distribution of copyrighted materials.

By the time he got home, Daniel was mentally wiped, so he slept through the night. In the morning, they all headed out to the Reynolds’ house where the Kid Tree was having a swim party. Sam dropped off sodas and cupcakes in the kitchen while Daniel headed off to find his daughter who was brought over by Jerry and Connie Bosco after her sleep-over.

“Daddy!” A wet body ran toward him. He pretended to be skittish and ran around the tables away from her. She giggled and caught him, making sure she got him wet. Jack came out of the house carrying a baby. Daniel knew he didn’t like the innocent smile on Jack’s face. There were snickers from the adults sitting around in lawn chairs.

“Daniel, this is a baby,” Jack said. “Hi, honey. Daniel, this is a smelly baby. He was a very good boy.” Jack held the baby out in mid-air and jiggled him. The baby giggled and kicked his legs, pleased with himself. “Harley, Uncle Danny is going to learn about smelly babies; you don’t mind, do you?” He turned the baby and the baby grinned at him and made a happy screech. “No, I didn’t think you’d mind, you’re a good sport.”

Mary Reynolds laughed at him. “Jack, I can change him,” she said, holding out her arms for her son. Kevin Reynolds came out of the house with the same self-satisfied grin as his youngest child.

“Mary, Mary, we mustn’t deprive Dr. Jackson of this experience,” Jack told her. “How can a man be a father if he’s never been near a diaper? In the name of science and discovery, Mary….”

The laughter and encouragement from the other parents wasn’t helping.

“I’m busy,” Daniel said, indicating the little girl in his arms. Kevin came up, lifted Stacy away, and tossed her into the pool.

“Come along, Daniel,” Jack said, heading back to the house.

Jaaaack…..”

“Harley, Uncle Danny is afraid of baby poopies….”

Daniel dragged his feet and followed him into the nursery.

“Jack….. no…. Hey! Couldn’t he have done that while the diaper was on?... God! Is that normal? It’s like cement! Jack, this can’t be normal…. What are they feeding this kid? Septic tanks smell better... Now, how the…. hold still…. no, crawl later, …. What? Again? We didn’t even have this one on… okay, start over…. Jack, shut up….”

Another round of laughter started when Daniel went back outside with a wet spot in the middle of his chest.

“Christened!” someone shouted, the laughter getting louder.

Kevin clapped him on the shoulder and steered him back inside for a shirt change.

Daniel soon found himself in a meeting with several parents who had questions about how to deal with the new, more open atmosphere of teens and sexual identity. The older kids running around heard the topic and tried to disappear. Between music, TV, and movies, kids were no longer shielded from ‘alternative’ lifestyles, much to the panic of parents. Daniel did his best, answering questions as openly and honestly as he could. He felt like he was teaching a class as they took notes.

After a request from Jerry Bosco, Daniel took Vinnie for a walk and answered questions from the other side. The boy had a shiner from the beating he had taken. He and his father were going to visit the Rainbow Center in a few days, though, and check out the local gay teen facility. Jerry had already been there and spent time talking with the volunteers who ran the center and watching teens interacting, and talking with other parents. What amazed him was the high level of tolerance and acceptance that the kids showed to each other. They were actually polite and giving with each other, putting a lot of adults he knew to shame. With permission from the Boscos, Daniel gave Vinnie his contact information.

“Jack, I’ve been thinking about this whole group marriage thing,” Daniel said, soaking in a hot bath later in the evening.

“What about it?” Jack said from the sink. He rinsed the toothpaste away.

“If we have some kind of ceremony, I’d like it to be more of a hand-fasting.”

“A what?” He glanced at Daniel in the mirror. He was pretty sure Daniel wasn’t talking about handcuffs, but one never knew what Daniel had in mind for play time.

“Sort of a civil union. I’d like a contract binding me as your consort. I would like a ring, but on my right hand. My preference, don’t look for precedence.”

“What does this contract entail?” Jack asked, turning to face him as he leaned back against the sink.

“Whatever we want it to entail,” Daniel said. “We would all sit down and write it together. Once we agree on terms, we have a ceremony and invite a few friends and family to witness a public statement of the terms, which are our promises to each other. Most contracts are timed and have the option of renewing the contract at the end of that period. Each renewal has a longer interval between renewal dates. Most start at one year, and then go to five or seven, then to fifteen or more. We all state what we are bringing to the union, what we are offering to each other. A clause is written into the contract in case there are any children from the union. Household funds, ownership of various things, any specific responsibilities, and a clause for death. A Will is part of the contract.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully. “Sounds do-able,” he said. “Sam will probably go for it, but call her and talk with her about it. She should be home in a couple days, so why don’t we each think about it, write out some thoughts, and we’ll compare notes.”

Daniel nodded and blew at a handful of bubbles. Jack was amused that Daniel liked bubbles on the occasions he decided to take a bath instead of a shower.

“Jack, I want to ask you something,” Daniel said. “Before I put my two-cents into this contract. If anything happens to me, I’d like you and Sam to be Stacy’s guardians.”

Jack paused, eyes darkening at a memory of the son he lost; he could still smell the cordite from the gun he had left within the boy’s reach. It was his fault Charlie had been angry enough with him to play with the gun, knowing he wasn’t supposed to. “You’d trust me with your daughter?”

“Jack, you made one mistake,” Daniel said. “It’s because of Charlie that I’d trust you with my daughter. I want you in her life, no matter what happens to me or to us.”

Jack swallowed hard and accepted. Sam’s acceptance via the internet video, was a little more emotional as she also accepted.

In the morning, Jack received a call from Gen. Landry.

“Jack, there’s a Goa’uld holo standing in the gate room and he’s insisting on speaking only to you.”

“Who is it?” Jack asked, curious. He didn’t remember inviting anyone for breakfast.

“I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. Not even Camulus knows him.”

“Alright, put him on ice, I’ll be there in half an hour.” Camulus doesn’t know him? Jack found that interesting.

It was closer to forty-five minutes when he arrived. Jack walked into the gateroom where the holo was still waiting. Patiently waiting.

“You rang?” Jack said, stopping in front of the holo. He had no idea who the male Goa’uld was with the brown hair and trimmed beard; he was sure the SGC hadn’t run into this one before. There was no supercilious sneer on his face, either, to taunt the humans, no fancy robes other than the prerequisite black robe, and no visible weapons. He appeared about an inch shorter than Jack’s 6’2”.

“General O’Neill. Thank you for seeing me,” the holo said. Jack raised an eyebrow. A polite Goa’uld. “May I have permission to gate in so that we may speak privately?”

“I don’t even know you,” Jack said. “How do I know you’re a nice houseguest?”

“Invite whomever you’d like to attend, I will be alone,” the holo said. “I will come unarmed. It is important that we speak.”

“You haven’t even told me who you are,” Jack said.

“I would like to keep that information to myself, for the moment,” the holo said, brown eyes flickering around the room. “My situation is precarious. I will introduce myself when we are in private. If this meeting does not work out, I would prefer my identity was not made public.”

Jack thought about it and had to admit he was intrigued. He looked up at the control booth.

“Hank, you mind if we used your place for an hour or two?”

“As long as he behaves himself,” Landry said.

“No weapons, no toys, no armies,” Jack told the holo.

Jack called in Reynolds, Bosco, Inanna, and Ninurta, along with a squad of SF. He then opened the gate. The stranger stepped through and the SF immediately stepped forward to search him. When they were done, Jack led the way to the main conference room and everyone took seats.

“Okay, who are you?” Jack asked as the stranger took the seat at the opposite end of the table.

“I am Thanatos, eldest child of Zimrah.”

 

 

 

Chapter 23

 

“Thanatos, the Greek god of death,” Daniel told him over the phone. “Natural death, not the disease and destruction kind. His sisters took care of that part. He was ruthless but never savage about it, he was a gentleman doing a job. Everyone has to die at some point, and when the Fates cut a life cord off the web of life, Thanatos was there to take the person away from their mortal pain and deliver them to the afterlife in Hades. He’s actually there?”

“Well, a Goa’uld claiming to be him is here,” Jack said. “Says he’s the eldest son of Zimrah. Whatever that means.”

“Wow, Jack, if he is, it means he’s probably older than Anubis. Where’s he been?”

“Don’t know where. I wanted to check in with you before proceeding. Get a rundown of his persona. I’ll fill you in later.”

When Jack called up to the Heaven’s Bow and told Camulus who was calling on them, Camulus was speechless.

“I cannot vouch for him,” Camulus said after considering the new information. “I never knew him, and I don’t know where he’s been or what he’s been doing. But if he has come alone, unarmed, I would take that to mean he’s interested in negotiating.”

Jack had requested that Ereshkigal be brought in on the proceedings, but she wasn’t on the ship; she was on Abydos with Enki, doing something Inanna didn’t want to discuss. Daniel posited that if Enki was setting the life cycle of the planet, Ereshkigal was setting the death cycle. Jack didn’t get it, but it made sense to Daniel. He set himself a mental reminder to ask Daniel exactly what Enki was doing with the barren planet.

Soooo… how’ve you been?” Jack asked when he returned to the room. “Where’ve you been? What’s new?”

The side of his mouth twitched. “I have been in a neighboring galaxy,” Thanatos said. “Several of us live there. We have intelligence within this galaxy, and when we heard that you were looking for us, and after learning what has been happening here, we decided to contact you. We have no interest in ruling here; we have plenty of worlds at home.”

“No sibling rivalries?” Jack asked. “No ‘he who dies with the most slaves wins’?”

“No,” Thanatos chuckled. “We argue once in a while, but we are not as hot headed as Mirin’s children. We did bring a few Tau’ri with us when we left, but most of our people are non-human. Maybe five billion in our galaxy are human. Less than the current population of your planet. As for slaves, we do have slaves and they serve us willingly. An unwilling slave is not much fun. My control issue is not all-consuming.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. The god of death had a sense of humor.

“Camulus is on Inanna’s ship,” he told the Goa’uld. “Says he’s also a child of Zimrah.”

“I never met him, but I have heard of him; he is many generations after mine,” Thanatos said with a nod. “I would be happy to meet him when we are done. O’Neill, we are impressed with how you have dealt with Mirin’s children. They have been a burden to your galaxy, to be sure. It was my decision to leave this galaxy; if any of us had thought your people would come so far, we would have stayed and fought for you. On behalf of my brothers and sisters, I offer you my sincerest apologies for the pain you have endured.”

Jack looked around the table. All his people were as nonplussed as he was. The Goa’uld actually sounded sincere. Inanna and Ninurta were reserving their opinions. They weren’t searching for weapons, though, so Jack stayed relatively relaxed.

“I will send word out to our brethren here, and tell them it is time to come forward and….”

Aaah!” Jack shuddered. Reynolds and Bosco shuddered, too. “Use another phrase, please.”

“Ask Thor,” Inanna spoke with him. She smirked at him, and then got to the big question out of the way. “Thanatos, are you going to help get rid of Baal?” They could handle the remaining System Lords, but this one required special handling.

“Do you need help, Ningal?” he asked, cocking his head. “The Tau’ri have come so far on their own, defeated Anubis and Ra, among others. Baal is the cleverest of those remaining, which is the only reason he has lived so long, but he was never the strongest.”

“Well, he’s strong now,” Jack said. “He has Anubis’ toy-box and he’s up to something.”

“Yes, rumor has it he’s after Enlil,” Thanatos commented, stroking his trimmed mustache thoughtfully. He wore a couple of rings, and, like his robes, they were nothing ostentatious. “I’m not sure why, however. No offense, Ningal, but Enlil was never the brightest of your line.” Jack raised an eyebrow at the strange phrase.

“Are you aware of our own recent history?” Ninurta asked. He gave Thanatos a brief summary. “We’ve been trying to figure out an anomaly; how did our two ships get stuck out of phase and how did a quarter mile of land get caught with us? I don’t suppose you’d have a clue? Not even the Asgard have figured it out.”

Thanatos shook his head after thinking about it, eyes searching inward for information. “It almost sounds like a power surge back-lashed and then looped in on itself.”

Ninurta looked at Inanna and hit a crystal on his controls. He beamed out.

Sooo… why exactly are you paying us a visit if you’re not here to help with the Baal problem?” Jack asked, leaning forward to play with a pen.

“I didn’t say we weren’t going to help,” Thanatos said. “I asked if you needed help. After seeing what you have accomplished for yourselves, I don’t think you need anyone’s help. You have ships, you have Asgard technology, and you have strong allies. I understand why the Asgard have been nurturing the Tau’ri, I know you are targeted as the possible Fifth Race, and upon learning of the devastation you have brought upon the Goa’uld over the past few years, I agree with the Asgard. I will not assist you in your growth, but I offer myself as an ally. I have brought naquadah as an offering of good will. Enough to build three more ships.”

Tau’ri looked at each other. A certain blond colonel was going to go into raptures. Jack and Daniel would never see her. Maybe he shouldn’t accept the gift.

“And what do you want in return?” Jack asked.

“Nothing,” Thanatos said. “We have established our own lives and we are content. We do have a plague happening on one of our planets, perhaps one of your scientists can look at the data. Millions of lives have been lost over the past year, and we are most saddened by it; I admit that the people of that world are among my favorites, the Ras. They are of equine descent with a few differences from Tau’ri horses. My personal steward at home is a Ras, they are most pleasant company. I miss the seafood here, Jack; maybe we can harvest some specimens and get them established on one of our water worlds.”

Jack called the commissary, ordered lobster for lunch and to send a 302 to Alaska if they needed to. He then pressed the intercom to the control booth and asked Walter to call Thor. And Malek. This had to be the strangest meeting he had ever had with a snake.

“Tell me something,” Jack said. “Why are the children of Mirin so different from you and Aegiria’s kids?”

“Aegiria? Is she still around?” Thanatos asked, startled. Both dark eyebrows almost disappeared into the widow-peak hairline.

“No, she’s dead, but a few of her off-spring are around.”

“What do you know about our queens?” Thanatos asked, leaning forward, tips of his fingers tapping against each other.

“Not much.”

Thanatos nodded. “Our race name is… was… unpronounceable in most spoken languages, but it translates as ‘ripple in the water.’ ‘Asura’ is about as close as you’ll get. The name ‘Goa’uld’ is Mirin’s chosen family name. Aegiria didn’t have much of an imagination; she changed her house name to Tok’ra after Mirin established herself in Egypt. She really hated Ra. Zimrah called us Masharu.

“From the beginning: On our home world, between disease and warfare, barely a fraction of the race was still alive. Hosts were sometimes taken from the land inhabitants who were barely sentient, and when the chaapa’i was used by an unknown race coming in to explore, the six main houses gathered escorts and each sent one queen off-world using the unknown race as hosts. When the race discovered the ‘infestation,’ there was a battle for possession. Aegiria and Zimrah reasoned with their hosts, gave their hosts control of the body, if only they could come along and find a new home. Two queens, Eiley and Neysa, died at the hands of the host race.

“One of the worlds that the Asura explored through their new hosts contained an ancient outpost from an unknown race obviously technologically advanced. Of course, we now know of them as the Ancients. A hidden compound was discovered under the outpost, containing ships. Vigdiss learned to use the ships while Mirin gated to a world that contained a few million inhabitants. This world. Inanna’s people weren’t noticed until Vigdiss arrived with the ships. I don’t know how the ships got in under Inanna’s attention, but they apparently did.”

“I think that was when we were busy with nomadic invasions from the East and North,” Inanna commented. “I refused to allow the locals to use our technology, so we were doing things the hard way. We weren’t expecting ships, so we weren’t watching for them. My bad.”

Thanatos puzzled that one for a moment and then gave a nod. Jack was pretty sure the lady had been watching too many Earth movies.

“Once the landing sites began to go up, Mirin and Vigdiss’ troops took slaves back through the chaapa’i to Dakkara, where the spawning vats were, and made hosts of chosen slaves. The First Primes were born. They came back to Tau’ri, and the new hosts were put in charge of the populous.

“One of the toys found on Dakkara was a device that was probably meant for healing. I think it was meant to be an experimental device that was abandoned because the side-effects of the thing were very bad. The inventors should have destroyed it. Telchak took it, though, and played around with it. He managed to rig it to a sarcophagus and Asura began using it. He was a healer; he did have the good of the person in mind, he didn’t know this thing was going to have a negative effect. Anubis was greedy, though, and tried to take the original device. Telchak hid it somewhere.

“The physical renewals of Asura convinced the slaves that the Asura were indeed gods. Neither Zimrah nor Aegiria liked what they saw happening, however, and used it sparingly. When they could, they each took a compliment of slaves and went to find another home on the Northern continent, where Asura had not yet gone. There were a few tribes there, very primitive, so Zimrah and Aegiria were seen as gods. We stayed on that continent almost a thousand years before Ra went overboard and his slaves began their rebellion. We left and Zimrah headed up and out of this galaxy. I’m not sure where Aegiria ended up. I only know what Zimrah told us, I don’t know any further history from here except what comes to us. I have learned that a few of Ra’s siblings stayed on this world, hidden.”

Jack was glad there were cameras recording all over the base, because he knew he’d want to hear that monologue again.

“Hathor, Isis, Osiris, Set, and Horus were around for a while,” Jack said. “They’re all dead, now. Set was the only one actually up and about, the others were canned. Hathor and Osiris were freed a few years ago, since killed, the others died in stasis.”

Thanatos sat forward, frowning as he thought. “Really. Two queens, two kings, and the chief watchdog were left here in hiding. Interesting. Hathor was Mirin and Isis was Vigdiss. I must be missing something in the history.”

“Don’t know about that, but Hathor tried to take over this base,” Jack said. “Tried to make a friend of mine her new king, and then took me. I’m not too happy with snakes.”

“I am sorry,” Thanatos said, sounding truly apologetic. “I was wondering why you were so phobic about us. Other than the raiding, killing, and the taking of slaves part. Well, you’ve certainly done your part in the 'snake' extermination process.”

Thor came in almost the same time Malek did. Thor confirmed the identity of Thanatos and what little he knew of the Goa’uld history. He was astonished that there were Masharu still alive. Malek was almost in tears after he listened to the tape of Thanatos’ story. He requested a copy so that he could spread it to all Tok’ra. Jack nodded and Landry ordered a copy ready by the time Malek left. A copy was also sent to Teal’c on Dakkara.

“The children of Aegiria need not stay here, little brother,” Thanatos told Malek. “You would be welcome in our home.”

Malek told him he would make the offer to his people, but could not make the decision for them.

“Hold it.” Jack scrubbed at his eyes. “I am having a hard time understanding that you guys and Baal and Anubis and Ra are all from the same race.”

“Jack, you and Jack the Ripper are from the same race,” Inanna told him. “You and Hitler are from the same race. You and John Lennon are from the same race.”

“Maybe I should send a copy of Brother John’s greatest hits to Baal?” Jack suggested. “Look, you guys need to give us a little time to digest all this. This may be ancient history for you, but it’s all new to us. At the moment, my insides are telling me that a conspiracy is in the works and it all comes down to snakes. Because of you guys, I have a problem when I see a snake on my lawn, and now there’s a family reunion happening on a galactic scale. Try looking at this from my point of view. Try the Jaffa point of view.”

“Jack.” He looked at the new voice coming from Thanatos. The dual tones had disappeared and everyone looked at each other, surprised; was a System Lord allowing the host to speak?? “I am Etan, host to Thanatos. I am his host of my own free will, just as Malek and his host share compatibly. I was in service to him during the last days with Reda, his Ras host before me. I know from the mind of Thanatos of the horrors you have had at the hands of the Goa’uld, but we have not had those experiences. The Masharu have been welcome among us. They have helped us to evolve, to grow, they have encouraged us to gain wisdom just as a good parent would. If there is a process you use to establish trust and relations with a potential ally, please see past the ugliness and face that which you fear. Shedding light upon the shadows will banish the shadows.”

“We’ve had Goa’uld try and fool us with the voice before,” Jack stated.

“Then I don’t know how to convince you except with time, experience, and patience,” Etan said. “I am not Goa’uld any more than Malek is. We have different queens. You are blaming an entire species for the crimes of a few. The naquadah is yours, whatever you choose. Since you have discovered a way to lock your gate, we will transfer the naquadah to Inanna’s ship with her permission.”

“Wait,” Inanna said, holding up a hand. She looked at Jack. “There may be a translation problem. I think you may be using the word ‘queen’ in two different ways. Jack, you know the word to mean a female leader of a country. The Queen of England. She has no real power, however, she is a figurehead; it is her people who rule and act. I am a queen only because my people allow me to rule. If I were doing a bad job, they could rebel and take me down. When Thanatos and Malek use the word, they are referring to a physical matriarch. Their genetic mothers. Symbiotes… Asura… pardon me, are born with the genetic memories that their queen wishes them to have. Neither Thanatos nor Malek have the genetic memories of each other’s queen or Baal’s queen. Except times their queens spent together.

“Mirin gave certain behaviors to Baal, and Zimrah and Aegiria gave certain behaviors to Malek and Thanatos. Baal, because his queen was already feeling the effects of the sarcophagus by the time he was spawned, has a few loose wires. Is Zimrah or Aegiria responsible for Baal’s behavior?”

Jack laughed and slapped the table, startling everyone. “I’m sorry,” he got out, wiping his eyes. “Baal. Spawned. Okay, I understand what you’re saying, but you’ll need to give us time to get beyond the whole good snake bad snake concept. Our relationship with the Tok’ra hasn’t exactly been stellar and now the Jaffa are wigging out on a power trip. My xenophobia is acting up a little. Malek, I have a couple of applicants requesting to be hosts. Don’t ask me why, but Daniel promised them a hearing with you. Or someone. Thanatos, I’m assuming you have a ship nearby? Hang for a while, and I’ll get back to you. If you can remember more details of your past, we’d be interested. And thank you for the naquadah. Hank, can we talk? Everyone else is dismissed.”

Jack and Landry went to Landry’s office. “You’re new to all this, Hank, you don’t have my bias. What’s your take?” Jack asked, falling into the chair in front of the desk as Landry sat behind the desk and relaxed back in his chair.

“Well, I’ve watched the tapes of Goa’uld and Tok’ra interactions, and I honestly cannot tell when one of them is lying,” he said thoughtfully. “This guy sounds like he’s telling the truth. He even stated instances when he was unsure of his facts. And how many other Goa’ulds have been so forthcoming with their history? Thor already confirmed this guy’s identity. Of course, I’m not ready to hand him the keys to my truck or let him date my daughter, but I think he deserves a fair hearing, just as any other potential ally.”

Jack pursed his lips as he considered the point “Alright. I’d like a copy of the entire meeting emailed to Daniel. Let him nit-pick it. Oh, and Hank? Sam and I are ‘handfasting’ Daniel officially as our consort. Soon, hopefully. Just so you are aware that there may be fallout when it hits the fan.”

Landry shook his head in disbelief. “How long have we known each other? Almost thirty years? I still don’t quite believe you are sleeping with a man, much less marrying one. Polygamy is illegal, Jack.”

“I know,” Jack said. “That’s why it’s a handfasting. The government has nothing to do with this union. It was Daniel’s idea. It was OUR idea to marry him; his part of the idea was the handfasting.”

“Jack.” He looked around and then down at his comm.

“Sam? We can talk directly to each other on these things?”

“Yeah, I didn’t know, either,” she said, sounding a little exasperated. “Ninurta just told me. Hey, we have new toys. And the Iraqis may be complaining about a big hole in their sandbox. We refilled it as best we could. We did have a little problem with the river, though.”

Jack and Landry hustled to the control room and brought up the satellite imaging. The Euphrates had a new, slightly deviated course. A one mile deviation.

“Sam, what happened to the Euphrates?” Jack asked.

“We hit the water table,” she said. “Think they’ll notice?”

“I’ll tell ‘em it was an oops,” he said with a shrug. “Practicing with a new toy. They signed the HomeSec contract, we don’t need their permission to practice out in the middle of nowhere. I take it you figured out how the Sua scoop was formed?”

“Actually, that new Goa’uld did it,” she said, sounding puzzled. “When Ninurta said to check on a backlash AND a loop, we worked it out. You remember that red glass from the mountain? The dirt on that mountain has properties which when combined with….”

“Sam.”

“I know, later. Jack, you do know that you are the only one around who can test the chair.”

“Where are you, on Heaven’s Bow? Beam me up, Scottie.”

The new toys were sitting in a cargo bay drying out. They were none the worse for wear, having been stuck in a fault line for thousands of years; a little dinged up from earthquakes, but still workable.

“Jack!” Sam came over to him, holding something. “Look at my new toy.” She held out the small box.

“What is it?” he asked, taking it. There was a knob sticking out, so he pulled it. It extended about five inches. It didn’t look as though it belonged in the same category as the rest of the stuff lying around.

“It’s a hand-held MRI,” she said. "Major Davis came up with it." She hit a button on it and the screen lit up. Jack waved it around and Sam’s ribs came into view.

“Cool,” he said. “And you are snake-free.”

“I tested it on Camulus AND those two in the brig,” she said. “Snakes were clear to see. Now. How do we test THIS baby?” She pulled a cylindrical object from her belt.

“Is that the snake-eraser? Just try it on one of the prisoners,” he said as he continued to MRI people’s insides. He held it down and MRI’d his foot. He wiggled his toes.

“Not our prisoners,” she reminded him.

Oh, right. Jack hit his comm. “Inanna, can we use one of your prisoners to try out this snake wand thing?”

“I’ll be right there,” she said.

They met her in the brig. Jack was still pointing and shooting the MRI. The insides of the Sua were interesting. M’Net pointed to his tail and told Jack to inspect THAT. Jack laughed and congratulated him on picking up Earth humor. He showed the box to Inanna when she came in and pointed it at Camulus. Inanna was impressed.

“Aba will be jealous he missed out on that invention,” she warned Sam.

“Does this thing hurt?” Jack asked, gesturing toward the wand. The Jaffa in the cell were growing more and more concerned as they listened to the conversation.

“No,” Inanna shook her head. “We used it several times, and none of the hosts exhibited pain. It disintegrates the symbiote and the remains are absorbed by the host body.”

Sam looked at Jack. “When Jolinar disintegrated inside of me, I didn’t feel it,” she assured him. “And I’m sure the only pain Dad had when Selmak died was the pain from his own body.”

Jack nodded. “Okay, let’s give this a try,” he said.

Both Jaffa backed up as far as they could, protesting vehemently. Sam held the MRI and watched as Jack pointed the wand and pressed in the spot Inanna showed them. The symbiote inside the Jaffa slowly began to disappear. When Jack lowered the wand at Sam’s nod, the Jaffa cried out and thrust his hand inside the belly pouch. He felt around, a look of horror on his face when he realized his symbiote was gone.

“YES!” Jack pumped a fist.

Camulus looked at the wand and then at Jack. Apophis was the only Goa’uld Jack had ever seen scared. Until now.

“I beg of you, O’Neill, I am worth more to you as I am,” Camulus told him after swallowing hard. “I have held this host for too long, he would never survive if you took me from him.”

“Can we duplicate this thing?” Jack asked the ladies. They both shook their heads.

“Not without taking it apart and seeing how it’s made,” Sam said. “If we do that, we won’t have even one, if we can’t put it back together.”

Jack got a gleam in his eyes. “I need to talk with little buddy,” he said. “In a minute.” He pointed the wand at the other Jaffa and fired. Within a minute, they were snake-free except for Camulus. He glared at the ex-System Lord.

“Behave,” Jack warned. He then looked at the two despondent Jaffa in the cells. “You two have a choice –die from the lack of an immune system, take the tretonin and live, or negotiate with Inanna to drop you off at the nearest snake pit. Or whatever else she feels like doing with you.”

They trooped back to the cargo hold where a team was dismantling a sarcophagus. Jack looked at the chair before sitting in it. Nothing happened.

“Power gone?” he asked. He reached down, waved his hand over a tile, and sat back as it opened. Sam took the ZPM generator out and looked at it. The crystals were dark, completely devoid of power.

“Looks like it,” she said. “Hey, guys? Is there a power unit in that?” she called over to the sarcophagus team.

“Yes, ma’am,” one of them said. He held up a ZPM. “There’s a little energy left in it.” He brought it over and Sam exchanged it for the dead battery in the chair. The chair lit up. Jack concentrated and the ball that was nearby began to hover in the air. He set it back down. It was strange; sort of like imagining it happening and then watching it happen, rather than the other way around.

“Okay, let’s get all this stuff sent down to Sam’s lab,” he said. He remembered where he was when Sam cocked her head at the queen. Sovereign territory.

“If that’s alright with you?” he asked her.

“Yes, of course,” she said with an arched eyebrow and a quirk of her mouth.

Jack looked at the MRI and the wand.

“Can I have these?” he asked Sam. Jack really wasn’t the only person who could use it; there were others who had the touch, but Jack wasn’t ready to let that one out of his sight. They seemed to be coming up with a few Ancient toys that only Jack could use, while other people, those with the touch, could use more of the toys. Those devices that were for general usage could be used by anyone. There seemed to be a security level programmed into the devices.

When he returned to the SGC, Daniel was in deep conversation with Thanatos, Malek and Teal’c.

“Hey, T,” Jack greeted him. He held up the MRI and wand. “I have toys, wanna play?”

He showed them off and Malek took a step back from the wand, looking apprehensively at Jack. Thanatos stiffed slightly.

“Oh, chill, Mal,” Jack said.

“Any more MRI’s in the works?” Daniel asked, looking it over.

“More than likely,” Jack said. “Why, you want one?”

“No, I’m thinking about mass production. For medical personnel,” Daniel said. “A lot of time and lives could be saved, if these things were standard equipment on emergency vehicles and in the pockets of doctors.”

Jack stared at him. “I’m thinking military applications, and you’re thinking civilian. That’s okay, that’s why I’m a little bit fond of you.”

“Couch, Jack, pillow and couch.”

“What? I already kissed you in the gate room, what more do you want? Never mind, you’re getting that, too.”

Teal’c’s eyes began to glaze shut as they rolled back. “TMI,” he declared.

“Hey, T, Daniel’s going to marry us!” Jack told him. “You’ll be there, right?”

Teal’c looked from one to the other. He held his hand out, took the MRI, and aimed it at Daniel, scouring him from head to foot.

“This is normal,” Malek told puzzled Thanatos.

Malek stayed on base for a couple of days while Jack had his applicants brought in. With Jack’s permission, and Landry’s, Malek called in a couple of Tok’ra from the high council to talk with Thanatos. Pretty soon, there were several more. Jack walked around muttering about a snake convention. He was also despondent that Thor didn’t know how to make more wands. It was an Ancient’s device, not Asgard technology. Jack called Atlantis. No, they hadn’t found anything like it there. Jack had been looking forward to attaching them to the hulls of ships and sending them through the galaxy zapping symbiotes by the thousands. At the moment, he’d settle for one snake in particular. He called Baal.

“Too late!” Jack declared when Baal’s holo appeared. He waved the wand. “My toy, you can’t have it. If you’d like to touch it, I’ll let you come through.”

Baal’s eyes narrowed and he gave a low chuckle. “Oh, I think I can see it fine from here,” he said. “Thank you for the invitation, though.” He inclined his head. “What is the Tau’ri expression? Ah, yes…. Check.” He disappeared.

“Ass-wipe,” Jack muttered. “Check-mate.”

The control room crew whistled and applauded. Jack curtsied.

He went to find Daniel. He was in his office going over some documents.

“Jack, what do you think the Ancients made that thing for?” he asked, pushing his glasses up.

“For the snakes,” Jack said as he leaned his elbows on the desk and played with a stick that had small bells attached to it. He gave it a shake. The bells tinkled. He then shook it around Daniel.

“The snakes weren’t a problem when the Ancients were around,” Daniel told him. He took the medicine wand away.

Jack frowned. “Don’t tell me things like that,” he said. “What do YOU think it was made for?”

“I don’t know,” Daniel admitted. “But if not for symbiotes, originally –what? And why a control chair and satellite? We have no evidence that they were precognitive, so –why?”

“Maybe for a race that is no longer in existence,” Jack suggested.

“Let’s hope,” Daniel said.

Jack headed east to show off the new toys to the Joint Chiefs and the president, while Malek took his new Tok’ra to their base to be blended. Thanatos went with Malek to speak with the entire high council. General Vidrine was reluctantly pleased with the new MRI, semi-forgiving Jack for stealing Davis. Jack got a call from his mom telling him that everything is okay, but Megan was on bed rest. Jack flew to Minnesota. He was pretty sure he’d collapse for a week, once his body caught up with all the time zone jumping.

“I’m fine,” Megan insisted from her bed. “I’ve been having contractions, so I’m on medicine and bed rest.”

Jack sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to press his mouth to her belly.

“She’s as stubborn as you are, Jonathan,” Mom informed him from the doorway.

“Grammy, no one is as stubborn as he is,” Megan said.

“I’m not stubborn,” Jack said, smoothing the covers. “I’m dedicated.”

Maggie snorted.

“I am,” Jack insisted. “Oh, hey, want to see my new toy? Major Davis invented it and Sam made it.” He took the MRI out of his jacket pocket and told them what it was. He turned it on and held it over Megan’s belly. His mother leaned over his shoulder to look. Tiny bones came into view.

“She’s sucking her thumb!” Maggie said, entranced. Jack moved up and positioned the MRI so that Megan could see her baby. She stared for a while and then hugged Jack hard.

“Thank you,” she said huskily, wiping at her face.

Jack stayed for the night, played with the kids, was amazed that David was suddenly able to eat a few foods he had been allergic to all his life, and, unknown to Megan, he paid a few overdue bills he found sitting on the kitchen table. He called Michael, wanting to know the terms of the divorce, because it didn’t look to him as though Andrew was sending any money for the support of his children. In fact, it didn’t look like there was much money at all coming in. A straight talk with Katie told him that they ate with the grandparents quite often. She was a little embarrassed, but she needed a few girl things from the store. Jack and Katie went to the store, stocked up the cupboards and whatever else was needed, and he made sure the kids had lunch money for the month. Michael had no idea things were so bad, and promised to do what he could to help. He was an ass about his own daughter while in a fog of grief, but he refused to allow his grandchildren to suffer. Jack collected all the bills and split them with Michael, keeping the larger share, the rent, to deal with, knowing Michael’s stipend wasn’t much; whatever Jack needed to do, Megan and the kids would not be on welfare.

Daniel and Sam were incredulous that Andrew hadn’t even sent child support. A few phone calls told Jack that Andrew couldn’t be found. Daniel told him that it was typical NPD behavior; narcissists didn’t like kids, could hide it well, fake it well, but didn’t like kids. They felt kids were the narcissists and hated them for it. They also couldn’t deal with females because of the higher emotional quotient. NPDs couldn’t deal with emotions. Andrew probably felt he was not responsible for the kids. Both Sam and Daniel insisted on taking a greater share of their own household bills so that Jack could concentrate on Megan and the kids. Jack called Cousin Joey and had him find a couple of female cousins to play house-helper at Megan’s. Joey would make sure Megan and the kids were taken care of. He complained that Megan took after Jack; she never lets anyone know when she needs help.

Things were quiet and back to normal for a couple of weeks until Daniel was called to school.

“Dr. Jackson, thank you for coming in.”

Principal Herbert greeted him as he entered the office.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“Stacy is fine,” she assured him, ushering him into her office. “A sixth grade boy… well… exposed himself to Stacy. We’ve called his mother, he’s been suspended, but you do need to know about it.”

“And Stacy is alright?” he asked, ready to run out and find her.

“She’s fine, in fact…. she gave the boy a pretty good slug,” he was told. “Technically, I’m supposed to suspend her, too, for fighting.”

“For defending herself?!” Daniel questioned in disbelief, hands on his hips. “Where is she?”

Principal Herbert had Stacy brought into her office. She glared defiantly at the principal as she took her father’s hand.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she insisted.

“I know, baby, just tell me what happened,” Daniel said, sitting down.

“We were all playing outside for recess, and he pulled the front of his shorts down,” she told him. “I punched him.”

Daniel wanted to applaud.

“Yes, but what did you say first?” Herbert prompted her. “You said something to him, he responded, and then you punched him. Fill in the blanks, Stacy.”

“Oh. I told him not to worry, it’ll get bigger some day, and then he tried to hit me so I hit him first.”

Daniel fought hard to hold back his laughter. Playing with Teal’c and the Anunnaki children was beginning to show; those kids didn’t hold back when it came to expressing themselves, and the warriors only egged them on. Daniel had been concerned that the children weren’t being socialized properly, so he had long since suggested sending them down for play dates with SGC children. The children were a bit wild and, in many ways, emotionally stunted, not from any negligence or abuse on the part of the warriors, but the mere fact that they were stuck on a ship without a proper social growth outlet, to say nothing of the shock of finding themselves a thousand or so years ahead in time from where they were and their families all dead.

“Mrs. Herbert, if you suspend my daughter, I will bring it to the board,” he warned her. “If she is still suspended, I’ll be calling my lawyer. The appropriate punishment goes to that boy, along with counseling. Seems to me, Stacy was defending herself and she shouldn’t be punished for that. That boy has a few issues, if he’s exposing himself to ten-year-old girls, and if I were you, I’d be wanting to know where it’s coming from.”

“Honey, if anything like that happens again, just walk away and tell an adult,” he told Stacy. “Hitting is a very last resort.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

When he reported in, both Jack and Sam wanted to know if she broke the boy’s nose.

In the morning, Daniel had to go off-world for a couple of days. Jack scowled, Stacy pouted, and Sam kept burying her face in his pillow. Enki showed up at Jack’s office a few hours later and didn’t say anything as he poked at Jack’s head, looking intently into his eyes. Enki gave an approving nod of satisfaction, patted Jack’s cheek, and beamed out. Mrs. Clark looked at Jack.

“Don’t ask,” he said wearily. She nodded.

Shara was in Cassie’s office picking through the applicants with her to choose fifty to invite to the cotillion. Once the warriors understood that it was a party, they were all for it. It seemed that the Anunnaki loved a good party. Cassie had to explain to them that it was for socializing and getting to know the young ladies and for them to get to know the warriors. No romping on the lawn, no getting shit-faced. The children would be at a children’s party with several Kid Tree parents, so the warriors didn’t need to worry about the kids. The warriors felt that the humans were a little uptight about the ‘no romping on the lawn’ rule.

Jack and Sam thought they had their contract idea down when Shara found Jack writing his at his desk. The English language took a moment to filter through his brain, “That isn’t what Daniel was talking about,” he told Jack. “These are more like modern vows, not a consort contract.”

“I’m marrying him, not buying him,” Jack said.

“It’s a contract. You need to state physical things,” Shara insisted. “You are bringing to the union all of yourself, whatever properties you grant him, like your house and your land, if you grant him access to your monies, his position if there are children with Sam, inheritance, you promise to take care of his health and well-being. Things like that.”

“That’s a little cold,” Jack told him, tilting his chair back.

“Warm him up later.” He sat with Jack and helped him write the contract. When they were done, Jack emailed it to Sam. She called, surprised that it wasn’t what she thought, which was writing vows, but she’d make hers along the same lines.

“Rings,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I don’t think Daniel would like something modern, so where do I get ancient or old looking rings?”

“Here,” Shara said. He pulled a small pouch from his waist band. “Daniel was admiring these.” He spilled several rings, jewels, and other decorations onto the blotter on Jack’s desk. He picked out several rings. “These especially he was admiring. He kept putting this one on his own finger.” He handed Jack a ring he pulled from the small pile. “If you’d like, I offer freely three rings. Or one, if that’s all you are using.”

“Shara, these look expensive,” Jack protested. How many thousands of years old could they be? And where did they originally come from?

“Maybe to you; to me, they are merely trinkets,” Shara assured him. Jack called Sam, turned on the video feed on his monitor, and showed her the various rings. They’ll take the one Daniel liked. Did they want to wear a second ring? Sam said she did, they could use their right hand, too, and so Jack and Sam looked through the bands until they each found one they liked. Jack hung up and looked at Shara.

“I can’t just take these,” he said. “What can I offer for them?”

“Jack, you are helping us to find mothers for our race; there is no greater thing you can offer us.”

Daniel approved of their contracts when he returned to the planet. Jack was hoping the green spots would leave Daniel’s body by the time the ceremony came around. Dr. Lam assured him Daniel was not contagious when Jack and Sam went to the infirmary to visit him. Daniel had an allergic reaction to a bug bite, they were told. No eggs had been laid, she was only keeping him because of unknowns but so far, Daniel was doing well and the spots were fading.

When he was off the video conference, he heard his admin giggling like no grandmother type woman should be giggling. He stuck his head out the door.

“What are you doing?” he asked. Nate was leaning across Mrs. Clark’s desk, holding a rose out to her.

“Trying to bribe my way into God’s office,” he told Jack.

Mrs. Clark took the rose. “And I was just about to accept his bribe,” she impudently informed her boss.

“Get in here,” Jack told him, holding the door open. “What’s up?” Jack asked when he shut the door. “Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” His younger self was sliding his way through school with a 4.0, so it was the socializing and learning how to be a modern teenager that was keeping him in school.

Nate reached into his pocket and took something out, tossing it onto the desk. Jack picked it up. It was a small, two-inch dart enclosed in a sealed zip-lock bag.

“Someone shot that at me,” Nate told him, the teenager gone, and the inner adult coming out. Jack looked quickly at him and touched his intercom.

“Major, would you come in here?” Jack sat down, looking at the bag. “One time is coincidence, twice is not,” he told Nate. His younger self nodded, not happy with the situation. Davis came in and paused, seeing Nate. Jack gestured toward the bag and told him what was going on. Davis took the bag and would carry it himself down to the labs.

“Any other unusual happenings I should know about?” Jack asked.

“That was my first thought, so I tried to remember everything over the past two weeks,” he told Jack. “There’s a report waiting for you in your inbox. That’s as complete a report as I can get right down to pee breaks. If I remember anything else, I’ll update it. I’m not remembering anything out of the ordinary, though.”

“Is your jeep here?” Jack asked. Nate told him the parking space number. Jack called security and told them to take the jeep to the garage and have forensics go over it with a fine-toothed comb. He called Cassie in. She, too, was surprised to see Nate.

“Honey, where’s your car?” Jack asked her as she kissed Nate’s cheek. She told him and he had security take her car, also. Nate told her what happened. Jack questioned her but she didn’t feel as though there had been anything unusual happening around her lately, either. Jack called Nick. Yes, he was in town and would go over to Nate and Cassie’s house. Davis had recently complained that Jack was turning his boyfriend into an honest citizen. Nate puffed and slumped into a chair.

“Don’t get comfy,” Jack told him. “I want you both to the infirmary for a complete work-up and I want your clothing checked.” He called security again and had someone come up to his office as an escort. More forensics would meet them in the infirmary. Both Cassie and Nate’s ID warranted the ‘special’ forensics team which was cleared for a Level 8 ID. No one wanted to know what warranted a Level 8 ID, considering the general was the only person who issued a Level 8.

Four hours later, Jack was told they were clean. Cassie’s car was cleared, but Nate’s jeep had several locators attached. If one dropped off or was found, whoever put them there was hoping that the others would still be in place. The assumption was that Nate was the target, since nothing was found with Cassandra. Nate refused to be sent off-world; if someone was after him, they should draw the person out, not hide. Jack reluctantly agreed.

Daniel was home a week later, all cleared of spots. He kissed his daughter, took a long, hot shower, thankful for the hot pounding water on his sore muscles, and shuffled tiredly into the bedroom. He hated lying around in the infirmary. He fluffed his hair with the towel, dried off, made one more bodily inspection for stray spots, and dragged his pajamas on before collapsing into bed. Jack was staring at him.

“What?” Daniel grunted into the pillow.

“Nothing,” Jack shrugged. “I just can’t get over the fact that I find a man beautiful.”

Daniel opened one eye and peered at him for a moment. “Not,” he muttered.

“Are,” Jack said.

“Jack, you need your glasses checked.”

Jack took his glasses off, put the book down, and turned toward Daniel, pressing his mouth to the back of the damp neck as he ran a hand across the strong, tanned back and over Daniel’s ass.

“Daniel, you turn me on,” Jack told him. “I can’t get enough of watching you. All you have to do is walk and I stop and stare. You taste good, you look good, and you smell good. You make my mouth water.” He pulled the sheet up. “Look, I get a hard-on just looking at you.”

Daniel peered into the sheet, amused. “How many times did you and Sam have sex while I was gone?”

“That isn’t the point,” Jack said primly, folding the sheet into place.

Daniel chuckled and leaned over, brushing Jack’s mouth with his.

In the morning, Jack had green polka-dots from head to toe.

 


 

Chapter 24

 

“You just spent a week in here with an alien virus and it didn’t occur to you to use a condom on your first night home?”

Daniel and Jack stood in front of Dr. Lam with their heads hung. Two men from SG-7 were snickering from their beds across the room where they were recovering from staff blasts.

“He started it,” Daniel accused, pointing at Jack.

“Did not!”

“Did!”

“Not!”

“He told me I was beautiful,” Daniel informed Dr. Lam. She looked from one to the other, one inscrutable eyebrow raised.

“He came out of the shower and paraded in front of me,” Jack defended himself. “You’ve seen his naked ass; I mean, come on!”

“I did not parade!”

“Boys!” Dr. Lam silenced them and pointed to the beds.

“Please tell me Col. Carter was NOT at home,” Lam asked, pulling the curtain across for some semblance of privacy.

“No, ma’am,” they said, starting to undress and get into scrubs.

“She’s in Nevada,” Jack said. When they called Sam, she howled in laughter. Daniel sent her an image via the cell phone and she howled even louder.

Stacy was being examined by a nurse across the room. She was spot-free, but they weren’t taking chances.

“Am I going to find anything inside of you other than the obvious?” Lam asked Jack. He sighed, hating the whole finger in the ass part of it. Daniel took a swab, ran it around the inside of his mouth, and handed it to her, slightly pink-faced. She didn’t say anything as she bottled it for analysis.

“Oh, and maybe some lube,” Daniel muttered. He told her the brand. She nodded and wrote it down.

Gen. Landry came by to see for himself. He also laughed at seeing Jack’s spots.

“I thought you cleared Dr. Jackson?” he asked his daughter.

“I did,” she said. “I didn’t check seminal fluid, though. My mistake.” She handed Jack and Daniel each a sterile cup.

“Those are not for urine,” she informed them. Both men dragged pillows over their faces as Landry left, plugging his ears with his fingers. “And you may NOT help each other.”

The alien virus did show up in the seminal fluid, so both men were confined to the infirmary until Dr. Lam decided what to do with them. Sam came home and took over Stacy-watch. Some wise-ass kept leaving the men pamphlets on STD’s and childish drawings about cooties. Various personnel visited often and felt it their sworn duty to tell all the STD stories they could think of. At least Daniel had a little respite when the commander of Atlantis, Dr. Weir, stopped in for a visit. She stood at the bed, looking at him and then over at Jack.

“Don’t say it,” Jack begged her. “We’ve heard all the jokes.”

“I wouldn’t dream of teasing you, General,” she assured him, a twinkle in her eyes. “I only came to offer candy to Daniel.” She picked up a box that she had set on the floor. It was filled with various alien artifacts from the Pegasus galaxy.

“Marry me,” Daniel said, almost salivating as he pawed through the box.

“Too late,” Jack said. “Did you come all this way just to entertain Daniel?” he asked her.

“No, actually I have a few personal things I needed to take care of, and I have a shopping list from my people,” she said. “You would not believe how our library and DVD collection has grown. Even our alien allies are enjoying the movies, once we got them to understand what a movie was. At first, they were convinced those were images of real life on Earth and wondered how we survived for so long.”

Daniel glanced up. “I’m still wondering about that, too.”

Since the virus was only present in Daniel’s seminal fluid and not his blood or saliva, Dr. Lam allowed him to go home three days later. When Jack’s blood was cleared a week later, and the virus only in his seminal fluid, he was also sent home. They were forbidden to engage in sexual activity until she cleared them, however, and they were to present themselves three times a week for testing until she DID clear them. Jack needed clearer instructions: were they forbidden to have sex with each other? Yes. What about with a condom? No sex. No S.E.X, no nookie, no hankie-pankie, no hiding the salami, no pigs in a blanket, no rolling in the hay. Jack carefully considered her. How about watching each other? Alright, but use a condom. Can he kiss them? Yes, the virus was gone from their saliva. Jack could live with Dr. Lam’s response. For a short, SHORT, time.

If nothing else, it gave them time to plan their handfasting. Davis listened to the men as they sat in the living room discussing the contract. Sam watched from the kitchen doorway and kept looking back at Davis.

“Okay, you guys are definitely not gay,” Davis finally said, interrupting them.

“Not female, either,” Sam put in.

“What’s the problem?” Daniel asked.

“This has all the romance of a wet noodle,” Davis told him. “That piece of paper is only a minor part of all this; what about the rest of the ceremony?”

“What about it?” Daniel asked.

Paul shook his head in pity. “Turn in your toaster oven, Martha,” he huffed at Daniel. He took the pad and pen from Daniel’s hands.

“Do we have a location?” Davis began making a list, adding tiny boxes next to each item to be check-marked when completed.

“Off-world,” they said together.

“I was assuming that,” Paul said prissily. “Can we be a little more specific?”

“Well, since we’re taking family with us, how about Kelona? It’s civilized, it has hotels.” Daniel suggested after they looked at each other. Jack and Sam nodded.

“It even has indoor plumbing,” Jack said. Davis scribbled notes as Daniel swatted at Jack.

“We’ll need to double-check with Dr. Quinn to be sure we won’t be breaking any local ordinances,” Paul told them, ignoring his general as he made a notation. “Do you have a secondary location, in case this one falls through?” No, they didn’t. Paul nodded and told them they could work on that later.

“Do you have a guest list?” He was handed a piece of paper with three columns containing names. It was a short list; Paul approved.

“How about a choice of attire?” he asked. They were undecided. “If I may suggest, uniforms would NOT be good; it’s going to piss off our government enough when you guys do this, you don’t want a charge of disgracing the uniform. May I suggest a suit and tie for the men, and something pretty and feminine for Sam?” They could live with that.

“Atmosphere?” Davis asked. “Light and upbeat? Formal?”

They went round and round with questions and answers, stuff that neither Jack nor Daniel had thought about, like a cake and what flavor, did they want a priest or spiritual leader? Did they want music? A formal walk down an aisle? Inside or outside? After several hours of Q&A, Sam and Paul were satisfied with the first round.

“Did you go through all this before marrying her?” Daniel asked Jack.

“Believe me, a honeymoon is for sleep, not sex,” Jack told him.

Paul spun around as he was about to walk out the door. “Honeymoon!” He snapped his fingers. “Is there going to be one? If so, where?”

“We haven’t decided where,” Jack told him, scowling in annoyance. Davis nodded and continued his leaving. As soon as the door was closed, “Are we having a honeymoon?” Jack asked Daniel.

“I better damned well be getting a honeymoon,” he was told.

“How about Disney World?”

Jack looked at Stacy, doing homework at the table, and then back at Daniel.

“I don’t think so, guys,” Sam called out from upstairs.

Jack was stuck at home until Dr. Lam cleared him. Once more, Davis politely ignored whatever couple-huddle was going on whenever he walked in. Jack and Sam, Daniel and Sam, Jack and Daniel, and once, a three-way with a giggling Sam between the men. Samantha Carter never giggled.

“Okay, tell me something,” Davis finally said, coming to an exhausted halt in the middle of the living room. Jack took his hand off Daniel’s butt and both men turned to look at him. Davis refused to focus on the bulges in their pants. “Are you three on some sort of alien Spanish fly or something?”

“Why, does Nick need some?” Daniel asked innocently.

“You’re a turd, Daniel.”

When Jack was finally cleared for ‘duty’, Davis made it a point to stay away from the house altogether.

Having the ceremony on Kelona was fine with Jonas. He was so honored that they thought of his fair city that he convinced his prime minister to set aside a wing at their most prominent hotel, and with the permission of the intended, he offered a week at a mountain lodge for their honeymoon as his gift to them. Davis was happy to finally cross that one off his list. Jonas and his wife came out to the house with additional gifts for them; formal suits for the men and a dress for Sam. He wouldn’t be offended if they’d rather wear Earth clothes. Jack took one look at Daniel in the dark high-necked dress shirt and over-coat, and accepted the gifts. Jack didn’t want to try on his, yet, he was busy playing with baby Danna, blowing bubbles on her belly and making her laugh outrageously. He, Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c were her godparents, so Jack felt it was his sworn duty to at least make an attempt at eating tiny toes and fingers.

“Uncle Danny,” Jack crooned. Daniel jerked his head up, his eyes widening.

“No.”

“Danna, your namesake is going to change your diaper,” Jack informed her. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ve changed hundreds of diapers on two beautiful baby girls, so why don’t we take this opportunity to share this wealth of knowledge?” Sam and Jonas were no help, snickering and laughing as Jack instructed him on the cleaning of a baby girl.

“Hey, at least there’s no fountain shooting up,” Jack tried to assure him.

“Just make sure the diaper is on before picking her up, or there will be a waterfall,” Jonas offered. Jack shushed him; he was scaring Daniel.

During the month leading up to their ceremony, Jack tried but couldn’t get permission for the civilians of their families to use the Gate for such a personal purpose. If, say, some alien came along and scooped them up, making them disappear for a while during an ‘alien abduction’, what could Jack do?

They talked to their families about the plan and all except Megan were agreeable. She was hesitant to risk the baby who was already on shaky ground. Jack asked Enki to take a look at her.

“I have to agree with her, Jack,” Enki said after listening to Megan’s body. She had a hard time believing the old man wasn’t human. His presence made her miss her grandfather even more. “The baby isn’t quite ready to be born; her lungs are still a little immature.”

“You can’t do anything?” Jack asked, wiggling his fingers in a ‘magic’ demonstration.

“No, I’m sorry,” Enki shook his head. “Growing a baby is woman’s work, not mine. At this stage, if I were to interfere in Olivia’s development she would become, basically, immortal, like us. Believe me, Jack, you don’t want that for her; it’s been difficult enough on those of us whom I tampered with once we were adults. I can fix something minor after she’s born, if I need to, but not this.”

Jack was disappointed, but he understood.

A call from the Tok’ra brought Jack to the SGC a week before they were due to take off to Kelona. Jack and SG-1 stepped into the gate and came out at the Tok’ra’s latest encampment. Two escorts were waiting for them and led them quickly to the entrance to the underground caverns. Malek was waiting for the team. He took the group to the main meeting room where a tall form was waiting for them.

“Thanatos,” Jack greeted him. “How’s the Gathering?”

The Masharu didn’t understand the reference but gave it a shot. “My brothers and sisters know I am here in this galaxy,” he said. “Baal is quickly losing not only people but also ships.”

Several more people came into the meeting room. Jack and SG-1 stiffened, knowing Goa’uld when they smelled them, even when they tried to hide in Tok’ra clothes.

“They are with me,” Thanatos told Jack. “My siblings. Apollo, Athena, Taranus, Morrigan, Hecate, and Lugh. So far. I believe there are a few more but we have not been able to get them through. Baal has tightened his borders.” This explained to Jack why Baal had been quiet lately.

“What happened to Bastet and Kali?” Nyan asked.

“Unfortunately, they have been lost to us,” Thanatos said.

“Baal had them killed some time ago,” Taranus said bluntly. “He knew they were conspiring, so he made an example of them. Didn’t work.” The large, broad shouldered man with flaming red hair seemed to fill the room all by himself.

Malek leaned forward and laced his fingers as he looked at Jack.

“A battle is coming,” he warned Jack. “We are approximately five thousand strong, Tok’ra and Masharu, these war lords, plus Jaffa loyal to them. We have not been able to get an agreement from Dakkara. They seem to be having a little problem of their own.”

Gerek and Bre’tac are not happy with each other,” Jack told him after a thoughtful moment.

“Civil war?” Malek guessed. Jack was non-committal, although Malek was right. Teal’c had filled him in the last time he was on-world. Bre’tac was taking those loyal to him back to Chulak while Gerek and party remained on Dakkara. Gerek did not have the field experience Bre’tac had and was going wild with the sudden, false sense of power that freedom brought to those newly freed. Gerek was out of control, from what Jack understood; he seemed to believe he could take Baal on all by himself.

“Let’s just say I’m grateful that Carter managed to shut down that ancient device on Dakkara before anyone got it into their head to start pressing buttons,” Jack said.

“Will Tau’ri be able to join us when the time comes?” Malek asked straight forward.

Jack leaned forward, meeting him on equal ground. “I can’t answer you,” he said honestly. The new protocols would not allow it, not unless the 303s became involved by accident. If they came across allies asking for help during a battle, then the 303s could assist; they could not fight someone else’s battle, however. “My job is to protect my planet, not send ships out to defend others. I would need to bring this before other committees. You get me a battle plan, and if it’s good, I will set up a meeting for you with those who ARE in the position to okay our participation, and I will recommend we start putting our money where our mouths have been. I’m not happy with the Tok’ra in general, but you personally have always done your best by us, so I will do what I can.

“The problem that I foresee is that my planet is new to the idea that we are not alone in the universe. Our people are still pretty scared of what’s out here. Those in charge of making this decision may refuse it on the grounds that the battle may bring Baal’s wrath down on us, and Earth is not prepared to defend herself against an entire armada. I can remind my people that the Tok’ra did assist us with the Enlil problem. We have three battle cruisers, Malek, and a handful of gliders. That’s it. The fourth cruiser won’t be ready for another year. I can let Inanna and Thor know what’s going on and ask them to contact you.”

There was no set battle plan, yet; sides were still being determined. Malek would get back to Jack when they were better prepared. Jack had a long talk with the Joint Chiefs when he returned. They were willing to hear what the Tok’ra had to say, but would make no promises. A few of the more enterprising ‘chiefs’ felt that they needed to see the ‘scene of the crime’ before making a decision.

When it was finally time to leave for Kelona, Jack, Sam, and Daniel each went in three different directions to be with their families and help them with the preparation for beaming up. All the adults were nervous about the experience, the children were excited. Daniel and Stacy stayed a few days with Martin and Joy, meeting more family before leaving for Kelona. The cousins were distant on the Tree, but Daniel was just happy that they shared a few common genes. If they were expecting a stuck-up, stuffy scientist who wanted only to talk about himself, they were mistaken; Daniel wanted to know about everyone else and made everyone tell him their life story. He even wanted to hear about school from the children.

Daniel gathered Martin, Joy, and the boys together when he was notified that it was time. He once more assured them that it wouldn’t hurt. They wouldn’t even notice it other than they would be in one place one minute and in another place a second later. It was a little disorienting, that’s all.

It wasn’t so much the ship and the beaming that stopped families speechless, it was the site of the little gray alien with the big black eyes.

“Hi, Thor!” Stacy gave the little alien a hug and ran off to find the rest of her parental units. Hugging wasn’t an Asgard thing, so Thor stood still during the quick skin pressing. The child didn’t seem to notice.

“The Roswell aliens are real?” Martin breathed, wide-eyed.

“Yep,” Daniel said, giving his shoulder a light pat. “This is Thor, the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. Thor, this is Martin, Joy, Dennis, and Stewart Applegate. My cousins.” It thrilled him no end to say that word –cousins. Family.

O’Neills, Carmichaels, Carters, and one Frasier were all on the bridge looking at the Earth through the main window. Nate had Davy balanced on a hip, pointing out the window at different land marks far below. Jack was keeping particular watch on his parents, but they seemed to be taking it well. Michael was looking a little green around the gills. The rest of the guests were all SGC personnel, so they would be gating in. Daniel couldn’t convince Mrs. Arthur to join them; she said she loved her boy but she wasn’t going to participate, and she was too old to be gallivanting around the galaxy. Daniel understood and left Mrs. A at the Mountain where she was making sure everything was ship-shape. She had even given Gen. Landry the ‘clean your room or else’ eye when she walked into his office and saw the state of his desk.

“How long will the trip take?” Joy asked, concerned. “We brought only a couple days worth of clothing changes.”

Before anyone could answer, they were over another planet.

“We’re here,” Sam announced, and gathered up her niece and nephew for the short walk back to the beaming room.

“God, I love this ship!” Jack declared, giving the console a pat.

“Yes, the Daniel Jackson is our best ship,” Thor proudly said. The others all looked at Daniel. He reddened.

“I had nothing to do with it,” he insisted, holding his hands up in protest.

They were met by Jonas and Kianna in the courtyard of the hotel. The families stopped, startled at the sight of the large moon in the daytime sky.

“That’s Ramara,” Jonas told them, his usual congenial smile plastered on his face. “She’s almost always in the sky during the day. If you will follow me? I will take you to your rooms while Kianna gets you registered.”

“Thank you for doing this, Jonas,” Daniel said as they walked into the building.

“Daniel, I owe you so much, this is the least I can do,” Jonas told him. It was his fault that Daniel had died, the first time, and no matter how many times Daniel forgave him, Jonas wouldn’t hear of it.

SG-1 and 3 were waiting in the hotel lobby. All the teams had insisted on being honor guard for these three while off-world, but Landry sent 1, 3, and 15. There were also several scruffy-looking types all in leather kilts hanging around the lobby. Stacy ran over to one and jumped at him. He swung her around, trying to get the clinging weed off of him while she giggled and hung on.

“Just how many aliens does your daughter know?” Martin asked, leaning over to Daniel.

“Quite a few, actually,” he said, smiling at his daughter. “That’s Erra, one of the Anunnaki. The Heaven’s Bow must be in orbit.”

“Oh, right, the ones from the picnic,” Martin remembered.

“They’ve been sweeping the place,” Jonas told them with a wry grin. “They’re just a little over-protective of you guys. SG-15 is sweeping the ceremony site, Jaffa are sweeping the mountain lodge, and General Hammond is overseeing the food prep. Col. Reynolds and Col. Bosco have already been through your suites with a fine toothed comb, Major Davis has been storming through red tape getting everything together; and with Nick glaring at people from over Davis’ shoulder, the tape is being burned away rather quickly. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, over there, have been sitting around scaring the natives.” Shara, Gibil, and Ninurta were lounging while Erra played with Stacy and David. He was pretending to be down for the count on the floor as children piled onto him.

The families got situated in their rooms and spent a lot of time on the balconies looking at the strange moon, and flocks of night birds that would zip by as the sun set over the industrialized city. Fragrance filled the air from flowered bushes and trees in the courtyard. Some kind of animal yowled in the night, but they couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

Dinner was unusual, none of the foods at all familiar. Jonas assured them that the foods were all safe for them; he was as human as they were, and, having lived on Earth for a year, he could attest to their safety. If he could eat it, so could they. Medical aid was prepared for the odd allergy, though, just in case.

Jack was disappointed that Megan was unable to make it, but the children were having fun. His parents had begun to relax; he wished Michael would. There were a few non-humanoid aliens wandering around, visitors on vacation or business; Michael lost more blood from his face at the sight of each alien.

“Michael, you’re over-analyzing,” Jack told him. “Pretend you’re in a different country, instead of on another world.”

Michael was hesitantly trying various foods on his plate as he contemplated life. “This is the world where Daniel was hurt?” he asked.

“Yes.” Jack had taken Michael aside during the summer and showed him the footage of Daniel’s first ascension. Michael didn’t take it well. Watching a body die and then disappear, leaving a collapsed sheet, was unsettling the Catholic priest.

“Why did you choose this world for this… ceremony?”

“We’re a little pissed with the former government, not the current one,” Jack told him. “This is an ally planet and they’ve bent over backwards to apologize for the past. Besides, Daniel returning to life sorta spooked them.”

“It’s spooking me, Jack,” Michael said.

“Did you talk with him about it?” Jack asked. Michael shook his head. “Well, you should. He knows you’ve seen the tape, he’s probably waiting for you.”

Michael was silent for a few minutes as he nibbled thoughtfully at his food. The meat roll was pleasantly spiced, nothing too unusual for his palate. It reminded him of a favorite Greek restaurant in Chicago.

“I suppose it’s too late to talk you out of this ceremony?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” Jack said good-naturedly. “Did you read anything at all I sent you? Daniel went to a lot of trouble to dig up information on these kinds of marriages.” He didn’t understand much of it, but as long as Daniel understood it, he was happy.

“Jack, I’m well aware of the history of polygyny and polyandry unions,” Michael told him. “Contrary to popular opinion, priests need to learn comparative religions, which includes anthropology. They are just not part of my faith.”

“It isn’t like he’s making this stuff up,” Jack said. “They’re still going on.”

“Yes, in places like Tibet, Nepal, and Southern India,” Michael told him. “And they have nothing to do with the men sleeping together.”

Ahhh,” Jack nodded sagely. “That’s the problem. Well, Michael, he’s sleeping with me, not you, so stop taking it personally; I happen to enjoy what he does to my body. Crowns, Michael.”

Michael’s mouth closed and he went back to his food.

After dinner, Sam noticed that Daniel was missing. The last time he was seen, he had been with Teal’c, walking outside the main door of the hotel. When confronted, Teal’c absolutely insisted on separating Daniel from them for the night. All they could get out of the big guy was “traditions must be upheld.” For some reason, the Jaffa were on a traditions kick lately. Jack’s eyes narrowed when he spotted SG-1 snickering.

“What did you tell Teal’c?” he demanded, cornering Reynolds.

“Nothing!” Reynolds swore, his hands held up in defense. “He wanted to know about Tau’ri marriage traditions, that’s all.”

“That isn’t all,” Jack informed him. “What exactly did you say?”

“Just that the groom usually didn’t see the bride before the wedding.”

“Teal’c!” Jack turned on his heels to hunt down his Daniel. Sam grabbed a zat and followed him. They didn’t find Daniel, but he called in on the comm and informed them he was on Heaven’s Bow. Inanna was playing the game and refusing to send him back down. They didn’t see him again until just before the ceremony the next day.

“A little anticipation is good for you,” Inanna told Jack when she saw him in the morning after breakfast. She reached out and straightened his coat. “This style looks good on you,” she said. “The dark fabric brings out your coloring. You should wear dark colors more often. You are quite handsome.”

Jack did have to admit that he was a little surprised at how well the outfit suited him when he looked in a mirror. The coat seemed to broaden his shoulders, and the dark color and the same high collar that Daniel had on his suit, seemed to make his iron gray hair glow.

“Thank you,” he reluctantly responded.

Enki brought Ereshkigal in to them, her right hand resting lightly on his left forearm. The blind woman touched the men and gave a satisfied nod.

“What do you sense when you do that?” Jack asked curiously.

Ereshkigal gave a quiet smile. “Put your hand on Enki’s chest,” she told him. Jack sighed and put his hand flat against the old man’s chest. “Close your eyes. Relax. No expectations. Listen to the universe breathing. Reach out with your awareness, just let it float as though you were floating on a calm ocean. Tell me what you feel. Just put words to it, don’t try and reason it out, and don’t pre-judge your words. Speak them.”

Jack knew how to listen to the darkness, it was one of the kel’no’reem exercises.

“Gravity,” he said. “No –not, quite, I don’t know the words. Strength. Here and now. A rush of breeze. Beauty. Destruction. Construction. A cliff. No –the hand pushing someone off the cliff. A dark cavern with no end. Danger.” Startled, Jack opened his eyes and looked at the man. Enki smiled at him, no sign of danger in him. The old man was also capable of creating sentience in an animal, and life from a lifeless planet. Jack didn’t like where the thoughts were leading; his instincts still said to trust the human-looking alien.

“Change is a scary thing,” Enki told him. “Sometimes people need to confront their fears in order to be cleansed of them. Sometimes people need to be pushed into that confrontation so that the phoenix can burst into flames and be reborn into a thing of glorious beauty.”

“What if some people find the change to be too scary to confront?” Jack asked.

“Then they will stagnate and die,” came the blunt answer. “I can hold out a hand, but I can’t force anyone to take it, no matter how loud, long, and hard they scream about it.”

Sam came into the men’s room when she was done dressing. Enki passed out paternal kisses. Sam seemed taller in the long, dark red dress that hugged her trim waist before falling easily to the floor. Stacy was in an identical dress, her brown hair tied back with a red ribbon, her father’s face easy to see on hers. Daniel kissed her cheek and told her how pretty she was.

“Not white?” Jack asked when he saw his girls.

Kianna said that their wedding colors are dark because we start in darkness and we end in darkness. Finding the light is the journey in between,” Sam said.

The private courtyard of the hotel was lightly decorated with flower petals strewn across the lawn. A water fountain sat in the middle of the yard, tinkling softly in the mild air. SG teams were in their finest as they stood honor guard along the sides of the space. The three waited with Ninurta in front of the fountain as guests came out and took their seats. They almost didn’t recognize Ninurta; he had left the black leather behind and was in a white robe. His black hair was combed out, blue tints gleaming in the sunlight as it lay flowing over his shoulders. He had even trimmed his beard.

“Welcome,” Ninurta said after everyone had been seated. “Almost all of you are from Earth, Tau’ri, therefore familiar with your own customs. This ceremony will be unfamiliar to you, and not just because of the participants.” There were a few chuckles. “This is a hand-fasting, not a traditional wedding as you know it. The two, technically, mean the same thing, but have undergone semantic changes over the centuries. This ceremony is to bind Daniel to Jack and Sam, who are married to each other. I am Inanna’s priest; my function is to oversee this ceremony, to bless it, and to be the official spiritual witness. I facilitate gatherings and I council those who wish it. You are their social and familial witnesses; it is your duty to witness their contract to each other. It will continue to be your duty, during their life together, to bring them to task should they become negligent of their contract with each other. This contract has two parts: the first part is dry legalities. Who brings what to the union, and the duration of the union. The second part is their personal statements to each other. That part was not necessary, but they wished to include it.”

Paul stepped forward at Ninurta’s nod and read the contract to the witnesses. It was for a year, at which time they may or may not renew the contract to five years. Should they wish to dissolve the contract, the party wishing to depart will take with him or her that which he or she brought to the union. Each will keep their money and contribute equally to a household fund. If anything untoward happens to one of them, the others will inherit equally. If Sam has a baby, the child will have her name and both men will be fathers to the child. Should anything happen to Daniel, Jack will assume responsibility for Stacy as her legal guardian with Sam secondary, should anything happen to Jack. All will contribute equally to the education of any children. All will have an equal voice in any household decisions.

Jack, Sam, and Daniel all signed it and Paul held it up for everyone to see. Sam then stepped up next to Ninurta. The men weren’t expecting it and looked at her.

“Jack was scared to death when he first told me how he felt about Daniel,” she began, smiling softly at Jack. “He hadn’t planned on telling me, but he called out Daniel’s name a couple times when we made love; that kinda gave it away. Maybe he was expecting me to kick him out. I didn’t. Obviously.” There were chuckles. “I’m not sure what surprised me more; the fact that my straight husband had feelings for another man or that Daniel was actually receptive to those feelings. I love them both, though, and I have for many years, so neither revelation threatened me.

“We talk a lot in our house, a lot about feelings. This type of relationship was new for all of us and we felt it was important to keep dialogue as open as we could so that there were as few misunderstandings and hurt feelings as possible. During one of those discussions, and several since, Daniel introduced us to the concept of consorts. He told us he considers himself to be Jack’s consort first, mine second. He feels that Jack is my consort first. It took us a while to understand that concept. I do understand it, as much as I think I ever will, and I respect and accept his position. This ceremony is less about me and Daniel, and more about Jack and Daniel. After discussing this with Ninurta and Inanna, I have made a few changes to this ceremony, so carefully planned by our good friend, Paul, whom I am sure is hyperventilating at this very moment. Breathe, Paul. Daniel has said more than once that he considers me to be the queen of our little family, so that’s what he’s getting.”

Sam straightened, squaring her shoulders. “Jack.” She looked at him. “You have requested that Daniel be made your consort through this ceremony. As I love you and as I love him, I am agreeing to this request and everyone here is a witness to that agreement. Daniel is your consort. The vows we took in our ceremony and the contract that we wrote together for this ceremony are equally binding. At Daniel’s insistence, your relationship with me takes priority. At my insistence, your relationship with Daniel is to be equally as meaningful. So here is what I want: Nate tattled on you, Jack.” He was blank as he glanced over at Nate. Nate stood and grinned as he reached down behind the fountain and came up with a guitar. Jack paled. Sam took Jack by the chin and turned him back to face her.

“Do this for me,” she said softly, staring into his eyes and gently stroking his cheek. “Do it for Daniel.”

After a moment, Jack took Sam’s place in front as she and Ninurta stepped aside. He was silent and then cleared his throat.

“I uh… Sam didn’t tell us she was changing anything, so everything I wanted to say has blanked out. It was probably a good thing that I was sitting when I found out Daniel was bisexual,” he began. “I won’t say how I found out. I was also sitting when, after I confessed my feelings for him and waited for him to run screaming into the hills, he told me he wouldn’t mind kissing me. It was a good thing I was sitting when he did kiss me, or I would have fallen. Only two people have ever made my lips tingle from being kissed, and they’re both standing here. Only two people have ever been witness to my Truth, and they’re still standing here. Since my wife…. my queen…. has requested a command performance, I will apologize to the rest of you beforehand. I haven’t done this in about forty years, and Nate has only recently goaded me into even trying and I now know why. I will exact revenge when we get home, Jonathan.” The young man grinned, unrepentant.

He paused and then looked at Daniel. “As most people know, I have been a true bastard to you over the past years. Because of you, I have been pushed, pulled, turned upside down and inside out, shot, had the crap beaten out of me, and I’ve been killed several times. I have never been more alive in my life. You are my inspiration, my savior, my consort.”

He nodded at Nate who began to play a soft cord.

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free. 
Like a worm on a hook, 
Like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee. 
If I, if I have been unkind, 
I hope that you can just let it go by. 
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you. 
Like a baby, stillborn, 
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me. 
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee. 
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch, 
He said to me, you must not ask for so much. 
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door, 
She cried to me, hey, why not ask for more? 
Oh like a bird on the wire, 
Like a drunk in a midnight choir I have tried in my way to be free. 

Jack’s head was bowed as the final cord fell silent in the air. He swiped a hand across his face and fell to his knees. With a trembling hand, he took Daniel’s right hand and slid a ring onto the third finger. He fell forward, his face against Daniel’s thigh. Daniel waited, one hand caressing Jack’s hair. When he stood, Sam took him in hand as the men changed places.

“Every once in a while, he does something that surprises me,” Daniel told their families after a moment. They chuckled. “Shocked the hell out of me when I found out he was ‘interested,’ shocked me even more when I discovered exactly how good a kisser he is. The first time he told me he loved me, I actually cried I was so surprised to hear it. He’s the one who proposed, by the way, three times before I settled down to actually discuss it. And he isn’t the only one who has had Truths witnessed. When I needed to be held, he didn’t hesitate to open his arms. I think I have to credit his parents for that; they raised a son who isn’t afraid to express himself. You have stood at my side when I was in the right, and you have stood at my side and yelled at me when I was wrong. You always seem to know what to say and when to say it. You have been my world, Jack; I have never loved anyone as much as I love you.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out two rings. He showed them to everyone. “These, and the one Jack put on my finger, are extremely old. Shara gave them to Jack and Sam after telling him and Sam that I had been playing with them. Everyone knows I’m a freak for ancient things. Take my interest in Jack, for example.” Everyone laughed.

“We won’t need these, Ninurta, thank you.” He handed them to the warrior. He reached into his pocket again. A gold band dangled from the tip of a finger. He took Jack’s right hand. “Jack, this was my father’s wedding ring. Please wear this for me; the two men I have loved most in life deserve to be together.” He slid the ring onto Jack’s finger. Jack clenched his hand into a fist, holding tight to the unexpected band. He hadn’t known Daniel had his parents’ rings. Daniel held Jack’s face between his hands. “I love you,” he whispered, staring into the dark eyes. He kissed Jack. Jack slid his arms around Daniel’s waist and held him close. After a moment, Daniel stepped back. He pulled Jack to his side.

“Sam.” Daniel paused and smiled. “Samantha. I know you think this is about me and Jack, and to an extent you’re right, but don’t ever feel that you are second place with me. Or with him. I stand in awe of you, Samantha Carter. I worship the ground you walk on. You think I’m joking when I call you my queen? I’m yours to command; command me. My God, Sam, your heart is so big, you were willing to open your home, your marriage bed, and share your husband with me. Your capacity to love is truly incredible. My memories of my parents fade more and more as I get older, but I think they would have loved you. This is my mother’s wedding ring.” He reached into his pocket a third time and pulled out another gold band. Sam’s hand was trembling as she held it out to him. Her face was wet as Daniel slid the ring on. “You stood by my side as, time and again, I watched them die,” he whispered. “Continue to stand at my side as I live.” He kissed her, took her breath away, and she buried her face in his shoulder. Jack stood behind Sam and wrapped his arms around them both, burying his face in her hair for a moment before taking another kiss from Daniel over Sam’s shoulder.

“I know that some of you are simply indulging us,” Jack said to their families. Daniel and Sam stepped to either side of Jack and each slid an arm around his waist. “We do appreciate your indulgence. Others have accepted us with open arms and we appreciate that, too. However you feel, know that we love each other and this is the way we have chosen to express it. We may catch some fire for it when we get home, I don’t know. As far as our superiors are concerned, nothing has changed and they’ve put up with us, so far.

“Our thought for taking this party to a different planet stems from a precedent which Daniel set when he married Sha’re on the planet Abydos. Actually, her father ‘gave’ her to him, and they were considered married by the laws of her tribe. When Sha’re died, our government gave Daniel the status of widower. By that precedent, we can argue for the legality of this union. If it comes down to that. We don’t care about taxes and we have excellent benefits all on our own. We don’t need the government’s approval. If, and this is a big IF, someone decides to make a stink about us, there will be a fight. Sam and I could be court-marshaled for this. We don’t give a crap. I’m not going to force any of you to get involved in that fight. If you are willing to be involved, if that time comes, we would like you to sign our contract as witnesses. There is a page provided for signatures. Please don’t sign it if you are not willing to testify in court. All of you are here today because you are our family and we love you. We will not think less of you, feel less for you, if you don’t wish to sign; you don’t need to justify your decision to us.

Daniel held his hand out. “Come here, sweetie.” Stacy jumped up and rushed to him, taking his hand. He positioned her in front of them.

“This is our family,” Daniel told everyone. “This is what matters most to us. There have been days when I have wanted nothing more than to kick Jack’s ass across the galaxy, but I would cross the boundary of death itself to be at his side. He told me I did, several times; I wish I remembered it. If we can over-come death to be with each other, there is nothing on that beautiful planet we call home that will keep us apart.”

Ninurta came to the front once more to look over the crowd. He smiled faintly.

“When it concerns the will of two or more people, no law should stand in the way of love,” he said. “With all the pain and death on not only your world, but in the galaxy, who claims the right to keep them apart? Jack, Sam, and Daniel have shown a true, powerful love and devotion to each other, and I declare them united and their union blessed.”

Their honor guard gave a shout, startling the civilians, and fired zats into the air. The party was on.

While food was being set up, a reception line was formed, and formal thanks and best wishes were given. The SG teams were actually on their best behavior as they shook hands with Jack, Sam, and Daniel. Hammond looked at the trio, smiled, and gave a shake of his head.

“I don’t know what Jacob would have thought about this, but if anyone deserves this happiness, it’s the three of you,” he told them. Sam put her arms around his neck and hugged him.

“Did Reynolds give you that refund?” Jack asked him, shaking his hand.

“Yes, he did,” Hammond assured him with a chuckle. “You could have blown me over with dead air when he showed me the tape of you two men in the gateroom. I was joking when I made that bet.”

He held his hand out to Daniel. “Son, you deserve this most of all. I hope you know you can count me in as part of your family. Your parents would have been proud of you; I couldn’t be prouder if you were my own.”

Daniel hugged the general. “I would have been proud to have had you as my father, sir.”

During lunch, Jonas had local musicians play for them. It wasn’t too different from Earth, human ears and vocal cords being the same throughout most of the galaxy. For the sake of politics and good neighbors, Jack made nice with the Prime Minister and several cabinet members who stopped by to congratulate them. Sam handed a new MRI to Jonas along with the schematics. The PM was tickled to play with it, aiming it at people and peering at their insides, comparing human and Sua skeletal structures.

They were surprised to see T’Keet, almost didn’t recognize her; she had sprouted several inches and could no longer lounge on shoulders. A lot of her kitten playfulness had been replaced with that of an older child as she played with the other kids out on the lawn. One of the Sua cubs had recently undergone HIS changes and joined the ranks of adult Sua while his new mane had begun to grow in. M’Net said he hoped they were still around when it T’Keet’s turn came, because she wanted Daniel to be at her initiation rites. M’Net told him that only very close family and friends were witness to an initiation rite, and T’Keet still looked to Daniel as one of her fathers, although she now understood that he was not.

Jack danced with Sam and then his mom, Katie, and Stacy. Daniel danced with his daughter and found himself upset that there would be a day when he’d be dancing with someone’s new wife.

“Are you guys okay?” Jack asked, sitting next to his parents. He kissed his mom’s cheek. She was behaving and not asking questions about her ‘grandson,’ although she kept looking at him with a strange longing in her eyes. Jack was only sorry he couldn’t satisfy that longing.

“This…. has made it all so real,” she said, indicating the alien landscape. “I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe purple skies and pink grass or something, but this is all so normal.”

“The aliens are just as human as we are,” he told her. “When they were taken off Earth all those centuries ago, they needed someplace there they could live, which meant an Earth-type planet.” He put an arm around her and gave her a squeeze and put his mouth to the side of her head.

J’ck!” T’Keet bounded over, jumped onto his lap, and spouted at him. “Me kiss!”

“You?” Jack questioned. “Why would I want to kiss your furry face? I’ll get a hairball.”

“Cute face,” she told him, serious as she teetered on his lap and put her paws on his shoulders. “D’nl say so.”

“Oh, well, if Daniel says so, it must be true,” Jack told her, looking into the dual colored eyes. She had sprouted several inches to about two and a half feet tall and could look Jack in the eye as she stood on his legs. He put noisy kisses all over her face as she hooted and wiggled. He put his nose to hers and rubbed the side of his face against hers in a Sua caress.

“Love J’ck,” she said. “Love D’nl, love S’m.”

“We love you, too,” Jack told her, stroking her back. Michael had a strange expression on his face as he watched and listened.

The peaceful background music was replaced with drums. The Anunnaki had decided they wanted to dance, particularly since a couple of them had been making goo-goo eyes at a couple of local women. There was absolutely no way Jack was going to shake his booty to drums, so Daniel made Jack pay for it; he kicked off his shoes, tossed his coat and shirt down, and made sure Jack was paying attention, much to Jack’s eternal embarrassment as his family and military people laughed and whistled at Daniel’s half-strip tease in Jack’s face.

Jack took his revenge later that evening.

 


 

Chapter 25

 

The mountain lodge turned out to be a cabin on government property and not much else. Jack was happy with it. After much romping and hikes through the forests of Kelona, they had to admit it was time to go home. Daniel had introduced Sam to the joys of out-door sex. None of the local animals seemed to mind the screaming. Even Jack had enjoyed getting bent over a large rock. The stream had been a really good excuse for them to get naked; they hoped they didn’t scare the fish too badly.

“I can’t believe you sang to me,” he whispered. Jack flushed and banged his face into Daniel’s shoulder. “No, Jack, you were good; you don’t give yourself enough credit. You have a pleasant voice and that was a beautiful song.”

“I croaked,” Jack informed him.

“No, your voice is a little raspy, but good. Some people can pull off that smoky sound, and you do. And I officially have a family of my own; God, Jack….”

Jack stroked the brown hair. “I’m a little stunned, myself,” he said. “It’s been less than a year and, yet, it’s been years. A few years ago, Reynolds told me we argue like an old married couple. I feel like an old married couple. I’m glad we did this, Danny; the three of us have made a family with each other, and this is how it should be.”

He slid off Daniel and curled up next to him, wrapping an around across Daniel’s stomach.

“Jack, Stacy has been wondering about what to call you and Sam now that we are married. I know, the word doesn’t quite work for what the three of us are doing but… Anyway. She referred to us as the Dads last week. Momma Bear and the Dads. Jack, I’d like to hear her call you Dad, if you want it.”

Jack leaned up on an elbow, frowning. “Danny, she’s your daughter. For her to call me Dad would take away from you.”

“I don’t think so,” Daniel said with a shrug. “I love hearing it; it’s the most beautiful word I have ever heard. Jack, as you wouldn’t share your wife with anyone else, I wouldn’t share my daughter with anyone else. We are a family and she’s your daughter, too. Pick something else, if not Dad, but she wants to recognize you as part of us. You’re not Uncle; she wants to call Sam Mom, and to call you Uncle would be slightly exclusionary.”

Jack sighed and put his head down, thinking. “Let me think on this,” he said. “I do love her, and I would like to hear it from her, but I need to work it out.”

Sam turned weepy when she woke up and learned that she was a mommy.

“Her own mother was a drug addict, Sam,” Daniel told her. “It’s only been a few months, and I do find that incredible, but you’ve been a constant in her life and she’s needed that. She was starving for a mother. I know you’re afraid of it, that you’ll be a bad mother, but you helped to raise Cassie, and now Stacy already loves you. You’re a wonderful mother, Sam, and I can’t think of anyone in the world I’d entrust my daughter to other than you.”

Sam gave a shaky nod and wiped her face. “It didn’t even occur to me,” she said. “I know you’ve been referring to us as step-parents, but this is real. We ARE parents. I’ll mess it up.”

“I’ve made a discovery,” Daniel told her. “I’ve discovered that the words I’m Sorry I Messed Up work very well. I think the parents who mess up are the ones who can’t say the words and mean them. Stacy and I talk, honey, I’m open with her just as I’m open with you. I’m no expert, but I think it’s working. You don’t need to change anything; you’ve been doing a great job.”

It had been quite a while since they could all be together without the crisis of the day happening, so they took advantage of the time, had a Naked Truth session for a check-in with each other, and promised to make more time for each other. It was especially difficult since Sam was out of town so much, but they would work on it even if they had to take turns going up to Nevada for a few days to spend time with her there. Sam lived in base housing, but they would get a small apartment in town. There was no reason Jack couldn’t do some of his work there, and no reason Daniel couldn’t write and do research while Sam was at work. Jack would have Paul call the CO of Area 51 and see about setting up a small office for HomeWorld Security.

“Jack, I think Michael’s crisis of faith is worse,” Daniel commented as they cleaned up and waited for Jonas to come and take them to the gate.

“He was a little spooked,” Jack said in agreement. Much to his surprise, though, his brother wasn’t spooked enough to insist on going home early.

“He was talking a sabbatical leave,” Daniel said. “And monks.”

Jack paused. “Yes, that sounds worse. I don’t know what to do about it; he has always run away from whatever he couldn’t deal with. I thought he was dealing with this alright.”

“You ran away, too,” Sam said to Jack. She put a hand on his leg. “You tried to run away when Charlie died. The ultimate escape.” Jack leaned back and shut his eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean for this to hurt you,” she said. “Yes, Michael ran away when his wife died, but his sanctuary has been violated again by a force he has no control over. The force of facts. He’s what? Sixty-two? You’ve been doing this for eleven years; he needs time to sort out his heart.”

Jack reluctantly acknowledged her as Jonas came up to the cabin. In his sweet, sincere disposition, it didn’t occur to Jonas to tease the threesome. He made sure everything in the cabin had been to their liking, and then ushered them into his vehicle for the trip back to town where they could say their good-byes to a few people before walking through the gate and into the SGC.

Stacy was happy to see them back home. She had stayed with the Boscos; she thought it was an extended sleep-over with Jessica, but for her parents, it was security measures. Nick had yet to spot Nate’s shadow and he was becoming cranky about it, so all the kids were being closely guarded.

Davis had taken over negotiations with Poland for a Yard, and had ten pilot candidates for Jack for final interviews. And the president wanted to talk with Jack.

“Jack, I have about half the senate and congress jumping at my throat for this latest stunt of yours,” the president told him.

“What stunt?”

“This marriage thing.”

“Oh, that stunt. We taped it, I’ll send you a copy,” Jack offered. “Fast forward through me singing, though. And it wasn’t a wedding, it was a hand-fasting. Nothing has changed, Henry, so I don’t know what their problem is. We aren’t filing any papers with you, we made a contract with each other, exchanged rings, our families are happy, and our stunt was blessed by a spiritual leader. Four, actually. The senate and congress can get over themselves.”

The president sighed. “Jack, we really need to get this settled,” he said. “I have a US Air Force general sleeping with not only his wife but also another man, and they are open about it. Now the three of them have gone and gotten married together. My general is not only bisexual, he’s polygamous….”

“I’m not bisexual and I’m not polygamous,” Jack interrupted. “We handfasted, we didn’t marry, therefore no polygamous marriage has occurred. And bisexuality implies that I am attracted to both sexes, which I am not. Only one man.”

“Jack, they’re calling for your head again,” Hayes told him, ignoring the minute details.

“Let them,” Jack declared in frustration, tossing his arm in the air. “I’ve had offers from Chulak, the Anunnaki, the Tok’ra, and Langara to be in on their armed forces and all I need to do to leave this planet is press a button for a beam out. My wife and my partner have already agreed to leave with me, if it comes down to that. Col. Samantha Carter and Dr. Daniel Jackson, in case you’ve forgotten who they are. If the senate and congress want to continue to play nice with aliens, they’re going to have to get used to the fact that your Bible is not running the show. I’ll tell them myself, sign me up for a hearing. And while you’re at it, remind them exactly who is responsible for the forty percent increase in armed forces recruits.”

Jack told Davis to call Larry and Barbara and set them up for interviews. He had been refusing all interviews, but it was time to get in faces. At the pleading look on Teal’c’s face when he was asked to make himself available, they also called Oprah.

Sam almost burst into tears the first time Stacy called her Mom. The girls went out for a girl’s day: shopping, ice cream, and a movie. Daniel met with his students and caught up on their work. His students enjoyed his class; the schedule was so open, they got more work done outside the classroom than in, and checked in with Daniel when he called them, often using the computers for video chats. At times, he brought them out to the house and they sequestered themselves in his den for the afternoon. They informed him that he was to give them mid-term tests, so he made one up on the spot. Daniel also had a request for a second semester transfer. The student was unable to get into any special permission classes, and really wanted to be in his class. Daniel looked at the transcripts and didn’t understand why she wasn’t able to get into classes; her GPA was at 3.8 and she had all the necessary background classes. When she came in for an interview, he understood the problem. She was transsexual. Daniel didn’t particularly care; she understood the difference between modern Egyptian and ancient Egyptian, and spoke well in both, so he welcomed her to the class. The old fogies in his field could be so conservative. She became slightly teary when Daniel told her she was welcome.

Three weeks after the handfasting, Jack was rousted from his office by a phone call.

“Jack, you need to come home,” Michael told him in a subdued, husky voice.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, immediately suspicious.

“It’s bad, just come home right away.”

Jack called Inanna and asked her to beam him to Michael. His older brother was startled to see him. Jack found himself in a hospital waiting room. Several other people waiting bit off a screech at his ‘entrance.’ Only his uniform saved him from being rushed by the security guards. They did consider asking him for the sidearm attached to his thigh, but decided against it.

“Well?” Jack demanded. He was in a hospital.

“I forget that ‘right away’ has taken on a whole new meaning for you,” Michael said. He took Jack by the arm and steered him into a private consult room.

“There’s been an accident,” Michael told him. His eyes were red, his face pale. “Dad was taking Megan to the doctor for a last minute check-up. They were hit by a drunk driver.”

Jack sat down, his heart trying to beat its way through his chest as his mouth went dry.

“Olivia is fine, she’s here. Megan and Dad…. They didn’t make it, Jack. Mom collapsed, she’s in ICU.”

Jack tried to catch his breath. “I want to see them,” he whispered. Michael nodded.

“I knew you would.”

Jack wasn’t paying attention to where Michael led him; he only knew when he saw Megan lying on a bed. Her belly wasn’t as full as it had been just weeks before. He stepped up to her and took her hand. It was cold. He stroked her hair, pushing it from her face.

“Where are the kids?” he asked, barely able to speak the words.

“With Joey and Rita.”

“Where’s Dad?”

Michael shook his head. “Driver’s side was hit, Jack. He was gone in an instant. Remember him as he was. Megan died from hemorrhage. The baby was an emergency C-section on scene. She’s fine.”

Jack hit his comm. “I need Enki.”

Moments later, the old man took his hand from Megan’s chest and head and sadly shook his head.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” he said. “She is beyond my reach.”

“No!” Jack yelled hoarsely. “You can bring an entire planet to life, bring me Megan!”

“Give me your hand.” Enki held his out. He took Jack’s hand and placed it on Megan’s still chest. “Reach for her, Jack; tell me what you sense.”

“This isn’t the time..!” Jack yelled, swiping at his eyes and jerking his hand back.

“This is exactly the time,” Enki said calmly. “That’s why you called me here, now DO IT!” he roared.

Angry at the old man, Jack reached out from the inside. He found only silent, empty darkness. He fell forward, his face against her as he cried. A baby girl crawled on the kitchen floor, banging on pots and pans, resting against his chest in a warm bath during a difficult night, toddling toward him, arms outstretched, Da! a face covered in strawberries as she generously offered to share, dancing a happy dance around the potty chair in the middle of the living room, crawling into bed with him, watching her marry, feeling a baby playing inside of her, holding her first born, minutes old.

“I hate you,” Jack said from Megan’s chest.

“Good, at least you can feel,” Enki said softly. He put a light hand on Jack’s head, gave a short bow of apology to Megan’s grieving father, and beamed out.

Jack had a headache by the time he was cried out. He hit his comm and quietly requested three people be brought to him. Sam, Daniel, and Nate were with him moments later. They looked startled, and then looked at the bed.

“Oh, my God,” Daniel breathed. Nate went up to the bed, hesitant, his eyes streaming over. Jack pulled him into his arms.

“Dad’s gone, too,” he whispered into Nate’s ear. Nate held on.

Sam and Daniel went to Michael as Jack and Nate clung to each other. When the men were ready, Jack put his arms around Sam and Daniel. They needed to go and see Mom. The nurse at the front desk attempted to tell them two visitors only, but one look at Jack’s face and the guns on their thighs kept her quiet. Jack ordered her to find his mother’s doctor; he wanted an update. They found Maggie attached to an IV and monitors, resting. Jack sat on the bed and took her hand, thankful to find it warm.

“Jonathan?” she whispered.

“I’m here, Mom.” He bent and kissed her. He put his face against her chest for a moment, and then sat up and took his cell phone out.

“This is O’Neill,” he said when the line was answered. “I want two security details at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Minneapolis. The first to ICU, room 308, Margaret O’Neill, my mother. The second is to go to the neonatal unit, Olivia Carmichael, my niece. Yes, the NICU.”

“Reporters,” Jack said, seeing the question on Michael’s face. “Danny, would you please call Davis and let him know what’s going on? I left without telling him I was leaving.” Daniel stepped out just as the doctor came in.

“I’m sorry for your loss, General O’Neill,” the doctor said. He looked at the guns strapped to both Jack and Sam, and, as the others, didn’t say anything.

“Will my mother be alright?” Jack asked.

“She collapsed from the shock,” the doctor said. “The IV is for her blood pressure and fluids; she’s a little shaky. She’s weak. That’s about it. Her willpower to continue will be up to her.” Daniel came back in, quietly standing in the back.

Jack nodded, swallowing hard. He looked around. “Close this room off,” he told the doctor. “I don’t want anyone in that second bed, make it a private room. Two Special Forces units are on their way, they will stay here in shifts until my mother is ready to leave. No unauthorized personnel is to enter this room, and if I find one word of information has been leaked to the press, I will track that person down myself even if I have to track them across the galaxy. Are we clear?”

The doctor acknowledged him and left to make the arrangements.

“I thought it was the first born that was supposed to have control issues?” his mother said faintly.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to stick around for a while longer and try to rehabilitate me,” Jack told her. “Mom, don’t you dare die on me, I need you. We need you.”

She lifted her hand and touched his cheek. “I’m tired, Jonathan,” she told him. “I love you so much, I’m so proud of you.”

Jack held out his hand and Nate came forward. He went to the other side of the bed and sat, taking Maggie’s other hand.

“I’m going to tell you the truth, Mom,” Jack told her, unable to continue without her hearing it. “Sam, would you watch the door? Michael, if you feel you won’t be able to keep this to yourself, you need to step outside. This is the most top-secret information in the world. Literally. If you stay, I’m holding you to confessional rules.” Michael nodded and stayed. “Mom…. Nate is my clone. He’s me, Mom, memories, feelings, everything. A rebel Asgard scientist did it a few years ago without my knowledge. You have three sons, Mom, and as selfish as this is, we all need you here.”

She looked from one to the other.

“I need you,” Nate said in her son’s voice. “I know you as my mother, I have all Jack’s memories of you as our mother. I need to remain your grandson, for all intents and purposes, but you are my mother and I love you. Please stay with me for a little while longer.”

She raised a hand and hesitantly touched him, pushing the long hair away from his face.

“A miracle,” she whispered, gazing at him.

“No, just a renegade scientist,” Jack said. “Mom, I miss Dad. I love him. Megan gone has left a hole in me. We have babies to raise, though, and you should stick around to see them married off.”

Maggie gave him a shaky nod and pulled herself together. Nate leaned down and kissed her cheek as Michael took the final blow to his spiritual heart.

After dinner that evening, most of the family forcing themselves to eat something, Jack left and came back twenty minutes later, walking slowly down the hall with a baby in his arms. He cooed softly to her. The kids were sitting with their grandmother, all of them white and teary. Jack put Olivia into Katie’s arms.

“She looks exactly like your mother when she was born,” Jack told the kids. They had run to him when Joey and Rita brought them to the hospital earlier in the evening. Jack and Michael took turns, the two brothers comforting each other as they held all three kids, crying with them. When they were calm enough to see their grandmother, Sam and Daniel stayed with them while Michael took Jack outside and handed him an envelope.

“Jack, Megan wrote this last month,” he said. “She wanted you to have it in case…. something happened. I hesitate to use the word premonition. I know what it says, she discussed it with me, and I have agreed to it.”

Jack opened the envelope and read the letter. He sat down and read it again. He nodded, sniffling and wiping his eyes.

“Okay,” he said in finality. “Would you please send Sam and Daniel out here?”

Michael went back in. When his partners came out, Jack handed them the letter.

“Do the children know?” Sam asked, handing the letter back.

“I don’t know,” Jack said. “I need to do this.”

“Of course, you do,” Daniel said as Sam put her arms around Jack. “We’ll do this together.”

They went back into Maggie’s room. Davy was carefully holding the baby with Michael and Nate both watching over him. Michael was trying to be calm, but the knowledge of Nate’s existence was still screaming inside his head. Sometimes Nate slipped, speaking to Michael as though he were Jack.

“Can I hold her?” Sam asked the boy, giving his hair a stroke. Davy nodded and Sam took Olivia from him, cradling the tiny baby against her heart. Jack sat next to the kids and Katie took over his lap, huddling against him, sniffling. He held her close as Davy went to Daniel’s lap. The thumb went into the mouth.

“Kids, we need to talk about something,” Jack said. “You’re mom gave me custody of you. Do you understand what that means?”

“That she wants us to live with you,” Katie said against his chest.

“Right. If you have objections, I want to hear them. I would like to take you home with me, with us, but only if you want it, too. You’re old enough to be part of this decision. It’ll be a little crowded, you’ll need to share rooms. I know you want your mom, I know you miss her and Papa and you’re scared of being without them. It’s okay to feel those things. It’s okay to cry and feel angry and sad. We all feel these things in different ways, so life may be rough for a while, but I promise it’ll get better. You will always miss her but you won’t stop loving her, and you will feel better after a while. You are going to feel alone but I promise you’re not alone. You have me and your grandfather, Sam, Daniel, Nanna, and everyone else, and now you have a new baby sister. You are not alone.” The kids agreed after Michael assured them it was alright.

The funeral would be in five days. At Daniel’s suggestion, Jack and Michael took Katie and Matthew to help pick out coffins. Daniel told Jack that it was important to make the kids part of the death process, as well as the life process. They picked out clothes for their mother and grandfather, and went to the cemetery to see where their mom would be buried. A World War II vet, Tom would be taken to Arlington after Megan was buried.

Davy was in the worst of the shock, so the men left the boy with Sam and Daniel. Nate took Maggie home and helped her to begin getting affairs settled. She began going through Tom’s clothes and screamed, burying her face in a shirt.

Jack needed to call Paul and have him come up to deal with the press once wind reached them of the tragedy hitting General O’Neill’s family. Paul brought Jack’s new personal guard with him, six ex-Special Ops men and SGC SF that had been cleared by Nick, Jack’s new head of security who had come with them to secure the scene.

Olivia slept through most of the events, waking up long enough for a bottle and to be changed and cuddled before sleeping again. Thankfully, she was completely healthy. Although two weeks premature, her lungs were fully developed and she was spared any injury from the crash. The hospital reluctantly allowed her to go home, once Jack had the custody issue resolved. It was a temporary resolution; despite the letter from Megan and her Will, the courts needed to track down Andrew and get paternal permission. Jack was frustrated on that end, arguing that Andrew had court orders to stay away from the children. Nick listened to the bitching, snapped his gum, and disappeared.

Sam and Daniel kept Davy occupied with his baby sister, teaching him how to care for her. They had a lot of help from Nate and great-grandma, since neither Sam nor Daniel had much experience with newborns. Daniel may have helped to bring a couple of babies into the world, but he didn’t have to take care of them. They fell into their off-world routine of shifts, and shared feeding duty through the night. Davy climbed into bed with Daniel and curled up at his side. Daniel got him to talk and tell him stories about mommy. Davy finally cried. Jack found them and was relieved to hear that Davy was verbalizing.

After discussing it with his partners, Jack called Sara and told her she’d be welcome, if she wanted to attend the funerals. She was thankful and he could hear it in her voice. Sara had loved his father and Megan, adored the children, and missed everyone. She was looking forward to holding Olivia. Jack made sure Sam understood that she was primary in the lives of the children, now, not Sara. Sam admitted to being a little unsure of her place.

“Your place is at my side,” Jack told her. “Sara may or may not stay in touch with the kids, I don’t know and I won’t argue with the kids if they want to visit with her. David probably won’t, he doesn’t really remember her, but Katie and Matthew may want to.”

Stacy came up with Paul, but wasn’t sure of what to do. Daniel told her to just be sensitive to everyone and don’t get upset if someone seems angry or starts crying; it was normal and it was okay. He caught her drawing one afternoon after Olivia had her bottle. Daniel was walking around with a sling across his chest, Olivia snug next to his heart.

“What’s that?” Daniel asked Stacy, looking over her shoulder at the boxes she drew on the paper.

“Our bedrooms,” she said. “You guys have one bedroom and use the second for your dressing room, I have one bedroom, and Jack uses a bedroom for his office. That leaves one bedroom left. Matthew and Davy can have that bedroom and Katie can share with me.”

Daniel was feeling guilty, having promised her a bedroom of her own. There was no way they could all have their clothes and dressers in their bedroom, and Jack really did need an office at home.

“Are you sure, honey?” he asked. “I know I said you didn’t have to share….”

“Daddy, it’s okay,” she assured him. “I’ve never had my own room before, I always share. It’s weird being alone.”

Daniel wasn’t sure which god he pleased, but someone sent him a true gift when he received Stacy.

After dinner, they sat the kids down and went over plans. Girls and boys would each share a room. The older kids weren’t happy about it, but there wasn’t much the adults could do. Jack was giving them a choice, though; how did they want to divide the bedrooms? A wall panel down the middle, bookcases, no divider at all? Stacy and Katie decided on bookcases. Matthew wanted a bookcase; Davy begged him not to, he wanted to be able to see his brother.

Daniel found a sketch of their house that Jack had been absently doodling into an engineering format. He and Sam looked it over and added their own two-cents.

Jack sat on the porch after feeding Olivia and rocking her to sleep. He put her back into her crib and sat outside with the baby monitor, listening to the nighttime. He could almost smell the tobacco his father used. He had suggested taking the kids home where they would have their own rooms, but they didn’t want to go there without their mother. Davy came out, scrubbing the sleep from his eyes, and climbed up onto Jack’s lap. He snuggled into Jack’s chest, the thumb going in.

“How are you, buddy?” Jack asked him, pressing his mouth to the top of the boy’s head. He got a shrug. “Davy, do you understand what’s going on?”

“Mommy and Papa died,” David said. “Are they in Heaven, Uncle Jack?”

“Yes, they are,” he told the boy, sure this wasn’t the time to go into a discussion on the afterlife. “They’re safe and they love you very much.”

“Does it hurt to die? When people die in movies, they look like it hurts.”

“No,” Jack told him. “Those are just movies, they aren’t real. If someone gets shot, it hurts, I know it does because I’ve been shot, but your mom and your grandpa didn’t hurt.”

“How come they had to die? I want mommy.”

Jack held him close. “Mommy will always be with you,” he said. “She’ll be in your heart. You can talk to her and she’ll always listen. She loves you very much and she was very proud of you. Everyone dies, son, it’s part of life, but we don’t have to be afraid of it. There is another life after this one, I know it for a fact, so you don’t need to be afraid.”

“Heaven is after this life?” Davy asked, looking up at his uncle.

“Some people call it Heaven,” Jack said. “Other people call it the afterlife, others call it by other names. You call it whatever you want to call it.”

Between custody and burial issues, Jack had more than he could handle on his plate, so Davis called in a lawyer to deal with the paperwork. With his general in capable hands, Davis went home and dealt with the daily happenings at HomeSec. Daniel and Sam went with Michael to help with Megan’s house; Michael said he had a couple of families in his parish who were in extreme need so he would have the families come over after the funeral and take what they needed. They packed up photos, jewelry, personal mementos, and the children’s rooms. Michael sat abruptly in the middle of the living room floor, a family picture in his hands. Daniel sat next to him.

“Full circle, Daniel,” Michael said, dusting the photo with a finger. He sniffed. “Her mother died in a car accident, too, bringing Megan prematurely. Makes me wonder if Megan was truly meant to be here at all.”

“Of course, she was,” Daniel said, touching Michael’s shoulder. “If she gave anyone one moment of joy, she was meant to be here.”

“I don’t think I can verbalize just how much it destroyed me when Olivia died. My wife. I loved her so much. I was so blinded by my grief that I couldn’t look at my daughter. I know my parents and Jack didn’t understand and I had no way of making them understand. By the time the clouds parted, Megan was already looking to Jack as her father. I was jealous but he earned the rights, not me. Jack walked her down the aisle when she was married, he held Katie when she was born, and the boys went to him before me. I was jealous. I made a few bitter comments about divorce, brought up some old doctrine that I was considering. I was speaking as an angry brother and father but my family heard the priest and Jack paid the price. I have made so many mistakes, Daniel; my pride will be my fall. When Megan talked with me about custody of the children, I didn’t argue with her; Jack has earned the right to them. I can only hope that their presence won’t be too much of a burden to you and Sam.”

Daniel shook his head. “We will stand by his side and love Megan’s children. A little remodeling on the house is in order, I think, but we’ll manage.”

Michael held the picture to his chest, silent for a moment. “Daniel, this ascension thing….”

Daniel shook his head again. “It has more to do with the frame of mind and the person’s will, than anything else,” he said. “I was assisted by one of the Ascended, I was given a choice; ascending or crossing over. I chose ascension. That Being actually broke the laws of the Ascended to help me, for reasons of her own. I returned through the making of another choice. If Megan ascended, we won’t know about it unless we ascend ourselves. My own memory of it is sketchy at best, and a lot of what I know I was told by others. Mostly Jack. It seems I visited him a few times.” He didn’t tell Michael that her physical form was still present, therefore she didn’t Ascend.

“Do you think…. Jesus was one of these Ascended?” Michael asked, looking at the picture.

“Don’t see why not,” Daniel said with a shrug. “I’ll be honest, Michael, I’m not sure I believe he even existed, but if he did, everything he did can be attributed to things we’ve already seen in ourselves and in other races. I don’t mean to try and test your faith; I think, though, I’d prefer to believe in his message, rather than trying to believe in his miracles.”

Michael nodded slowly. “For the first time since I put this collar on, I’m considering taking it off,” he admitted. “Something happened recently that sent me a more powerful message than anything else that has happened. Do you know what that was?” Daniel shook his head. “That little one –T’Keet. A soulless creature doesn’t understand love, Daniel. T’Keet loves. There is an entire universe filled with beings that understand the concept of love and yet know nothing of God. I feel like a hypocrite with an entire life wasted.”

“Don’t, Michael,” Daniel said, putting a hand on the man’s arm. “Alter your beliefs, if you need to, but don’t give them up. The message Jesus gives is a beautiful one; it’s the apostles that started the crap, and pardon me for saying so, but the Church didn’t do anyone much good when it came down to forcing people to believe their way or die. It’s the individual who makes it happen, Michael. The New Testament is almost two thousand years old, it was written for a completely different culture and time; it needs to be reinterpreted for modern times, not kept in the past. If the Church is unable to change, you need to make a choice: do you want to stagnate with it, or step forward and listen for God’s voice within yourself?”

A couple more boxes were packed, and Sam brought down more from upstairs, placing them with the others.

“When Jack came in to see Megan, he called Enki,” Michael said. “Enki forced Jack to ‘reach’ for Megan. What was that about?”

“Did he put his hand on Megan and concentrate?” Daniel asked, glancing at Sam. Michael nodded. “You’ll need to ask Jack, I’m sorry; it’s one of those top-secret things and I don’t have permission to discuss it.”

“Can I ask one more thing?” Michael asked, feeling devoid of anything. Everything seemed to be top-secret lately.

“Sure.”

“I’d like to christen my new granddaughter. Do you think Jack will argue about it?”

“Jack has a very large heart,” Daniel said. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

Michael put the photo into a box. “Jack isn’t the only one with a large heart, Daniel.”

That Sunday, the entire family stood in church for Olivia’s christening. The service for her mother and great-grandfather would take place in the afternoon with the memorial in the evening. They would be buried on Monday. Jack wasn’t sure how to help Nate who was also in deep mourning, so he handed Olivia to him and sent him and Cassandra to the front of the chapel. Michael said the prayers and blessings and poured water on the baby’s head. Olivia wasn’t happy about the shock of the cold water and made her feelings known. After services, Nate put his arms around Jack and hugged him hard, whispering a thank you in his ear.

They waited in chambers while the church was cleared of the morning christening service and prepared for funeral services. Jack’s SF had the neighborhood surrounded on the assumption that if Andrew was going to show up, it would be for the funeral. A few men stood politely at the back of the church during services, guns hidden inside jackets. Adults were spread out, keeping the children between them. Jack and Michael both spoke and Katie read a poem that her mom had written. The church was filled with parishioners from both Michael’s and Megan’s congregations. Megan’s priest, Father Andrew, conducted most of the service. When it came time to go up to the coffins, none of the children were forced to go. Davy was on Jack’s hip, thumb in his mouth, as they walked slowly up. Tom’s coffin was closed, but Megan’s was open.

“You don’t need to be afraid,” Jack whispered to Davy. He reached out and touched Megan’s hair. “Do you want to kiss mommy and say good-bye?”

Davy shook his head and turned away. Jack patted him and handed him off to Michael before putting his mouth to Megan’s forehead. He took Olivia from Sam.

“She’s here, Megs,” Jack said, holding the baby for her mother to see. She had stayed in the NICU for another few days, but her lungs were fine, and the doctors reluctantly decreed it was safe to take her home. “She’s safe and healthy. You do good work, honey, she looks just like you. She will be loved, Megs, and so will Katie, Matthew, and Davy. I love you, honey.” He lowered Olivia, touching the tiny bow mouth to the cold lips. Katie and Matthew were both white-faced and brave in their silent tears as they bent and kissed Megan’s cheek.

As they were walking back down the aisle, Davy turned and ran back to the front of the church. Michael lifted him up and Davy put his mouth to his mother’s cheek.

“I love you, Mommy.”

A combination police and military escort led the way back to Maggie’s house. The press were on the job, but were kept away by chilly military SF. The children were exhausted so they were put to bed when they got home. Olivia was content in her sling across anyone’s chest, but she seemed to be more relaxed on Jack’s chest. He hated funerals. He hated family funerals most of all, and this was one funeral he wished he wasn’t participating in. Sam was close by, keeping watch on him as she took over as lady of the house and kept things moving. Maggie certainly wasn’t up to the job and was grateful to let Sam take the lead.

Nick snuck in and made his way to Sam. He bent and whispered. She nodded and he left.

Jack was running on fumes by the time everyone left in the evening. His mother had long since gone to bed, and Sam and Daniel were feeding the kids, so Jack and Michael cleaned up. At one point, Jack dropped the bag he was carrying and put his arms around his brother.

The burial and the next several days went by in a blur. Jack was on automatic as he took care of the details while Michael dealt with Megan’s house. Nick had cornered Andrew and delivered him to cousin Joey at the station. Andrew didn’t care that Megan was dead, it was her own fault; if she had obeyed him, he would have been the one driving and this wouldn’t have happened. Jack’s lawyers got together with Andrew’s lawyers and papers were signed handing over guardianship of the older children and the adoption of Olivia to Jack. Jack was once more a father.

Jack, Michael, Nate, and Maggie flew to Arlington and buried Tom. Jack asked Sam and Daniel to stay and take care of the kids for a couple of days. It didn’t seem to occur to Maggie that she was surrounded by some of the most powerful men in the world, nor that it was the Secretary General of the United States that handed her the folded flag from her husband’s coffin. Jack was surprised to see Maynard and Vidrine at the funeral; he knew that the heavy-duty guard was more for his safety, than for paying honor to an old war veteran.

Once they were back in Minnesota, Daniel and Stacy drove a van filled with the kids’ stuff to Colorado, and Jack and Sam got school and medical records together. Jack tried to convince his mother to move to Colorado, but she wasn’t ready to leave the house she and Tom had raised their sons in. Michael promised to stay with her for a while and keep an eye on her. Jack was still worried about her; she was over eighty and her husband of sixty-three years was suddenly gone. O’Neills and McCallisters tended to be long in the tooth, though, so she had a few more years in her.

By the time Jack and Sam got home with the children, Daniel, Paul, and Nate had the bedrooms fixed up. They had a door cut into the boys’ room to make the bathroom a dual access. Although Davy didn’t want to be cut off from Matthew in their bedroom, the guys understood the needs of a fourteen year old, so they compromised; they got four -four foot bookshelves and semi-separated the room, two shelves back to back, giving the boys a sense of privacy and a place to store things, while still being able to see each other. Daniel had found a couple of magazines while boxing up Matthew’s room; he didn’t say anything, just boxed them up with the rest of Matthew’s stuff. He did add a small box of condoms to the boy’s bedside table, along with a note about proper disposal and a reminder about small children. Katie was low on her own supplies, so Daniel added those to her dresser, along with a box of condoms. He didn’t think either of them was currently active, but they were teenagers and no matter what the adults said, the teens would be following their hormones.

A section of their dressing room was cleared and made into a temporary nursery. They had found a crib and baby supplies while clearing out Megan’s house, and brought everything down. Paul looked at the sketches Jack had been doing on the house and began calling contractors. A house suddenly filled with four children and one baby was going to explode if they couldn’t spread out.

“This is more than you bargained for,” Paul said quietly.

“I love him, Paul,” Daniel said. “We will adapt.”

Nate went around and checked locks on doors and windows, and had Nick install better security on the gun cabinet in Jack’s office. Once Nick understood Nate’s place in the world, he didn’t question the orders from the teenager. Nate puttered, doing anything to keep himself occupied. Daniel didn’t try and stop him.

The children were subdued when everyone arrived. It was expected that Katie and Matthew would be angry and Davy confused. The baby was fussy over all the action and she was put into her crib right away for quiet time. The older kids were told they could re-arrange their rooms, if they wanted to. Paul left the family to get themselves together. Nate followed him out even though he knew he could stay.

When all the kids settled into their rooms, Jack collapsed onto the couch. He was cried out, his face pale, exhausted.

“Are you able to eat something?” Daniel asked Jack. “There’s chicken salad in the fridge.”

Jack shook his head. “Do we need to renegotiate anything?” he asked after a moment. Daniel sat on the couch, pushing Jack’s hip over.

“No, we don’t,” he said. “We didn’t use the words, but this is for better or worse. It WILL get better. I promise.” Jack pulled him down.

More than once their bed was crowded with children by the time the adults woke up in the mornings that week. At Daniel’s suggestion, Jack called Dr. Edmonds and convinced the good doctor to come over for a house-call for the whole family. Since the children knew nothing of Nate’s peculiar place in all of it, he went to Edmonds’ office with Jack for a private meeting. It came out that although the children were certainly upset about the deaths of the mother and great-grandfather, they were equally disturbed that their father didn’t want them, which accounted for a death in and of itself, as well as a major personal rejection. What would make them feel better about that, the doctor asked?

“I wish Uncle Jack was our Daddy,” Davy said around the thumb.

“But you’ll be living with Uncle Jack and he’ll be taking care of you,” Dr. Edmonds reminded him.

“Can’t he adopt me, too?” Davy asked. It took a while for Davy to understand that Uncle Jack was adopting Olivia because she was a baby and their mother asked him to, and that Uncle Jack would be her Daddy.

“I don’t want to be a Carmichael,” Katie said, sticking her chin out in a familiar, stubborn gesture. “Dad doesn’t want us, he doesn’t love us, so I don’t want his name.” Matthew agreed. Edmonds looked at Jack who was nonplussed.

“All three of you want me to adopt you?” Jack asked. Katie was snuggled under his arm and nodded against his chest. The boys agreed. After looking at Sam and Daniel, Jack agreed to call his lawyer in the morning.

By dinner, Davy was calling Jack Daddy. He felt as though he should be arguing about it but couldn’t come up with a good reason, and even if he did come up with a reason, Davy wouldn’t understand it. Andrew ran out on the kids and had no problem with Jack taking them. He didn’t want his children. Jack was afraid that not allowing the “Daddy” would give Davy the same message of rejection.

After the paperwork was on its way through the court system, Jack relaxed in a warm bath with a naked baby against his chest. Sam came in to brush her teeth. She would be going back to work in the morning, much to her own irritation, but Jack agreed with Dr. Edmonds that they all needed to get settled back into their routines and give the children structure. “She alright?” Sam asked.

Jack nodded. “Sometimes it’s easier than filling the sink and trying not to get wet while the baby is getting wet.” He used his hand to gently wash her down with the baby soap, and massaged the tiny feet and toes. He pressed his mouth to the top of the fuzzy, bald head as she gripped his finger in a tiny fist.

“In a matter of months, you’ve gone from lover and husband, to the father of four,” she commented. “Five, if you count step-father. How are you dealing?”

“I feel like the Brady Bunch,” he said. “It’s no wonder that man was gay.”

She tapped her tooth brush on his head.

“I think the more important question is, how are you dealing?” Jack asked, trickling water over Olivia’s head and rinsing the baby soap off her head. His mind was numb, random thoughts and images popping in and out.

“I’m scared, to be honest,” Sam said, sitting on the side of the tub and touching Olivia’s head with a finger. “I’m not sure I can be a mother; I was just getting used to Stacy. And I’m not trying to put off any responsibility, but I really think we need a nanny. It’s one thing to send Stacy to Nate or someone else for a few hours, it’s another thing to find someone to take four kids and a newborn if all three of us happen to be out for a few days.”

“I hadn’t considered that; you’re right,” Jack said with a nod. “Where do we find a nanny to pass THIS security clearance?”

“England,” Davis said the next day when Jack asked him. He made a few phone calls and got the name of an agency that provided nannies to the Royals. Jack considered giving Paul a raise.

The kids were settled into school along with the prerequisite IDs and emergency contact numbers. M’Net showed up and said he would be honored if they would allow him to assist in Olivia’s care until they found a proper caretaker. Jack and Daniel looked at each other, shrugged, and showed M’Net how to care for a human baby. T’Keet was awed by the tiny thing and had to be instructed on claws and playtime. Much to her disappointment, human babies weren’t up to running around with Sua cubs until almost two-years-old. A ten-year-old boy was, though, and Jack was glad to hear Davy running and laughing in the yard with T’Keet. A visiting, well-intentioned neighbor almost dropped the brownie pan when M’Net answered the door.

They found a contractor who seemed capable of creating an addition to the house and keeping it in the style of the rest of the house. Jack added to the plans by putting in a porch and hot-tub. Sam decided she wanted a fireplace, and Daniel added a nanny’s room on the other side of the house along the library wall. He didn’t want anything for himself, the hot-tub and fireplace were plenty to keep him happy.

“There are little people running around calling me Daddy again,” Jack told him. Stacy had surprised him with a “Dad” earlier in the evening.

“Jack, you were born to be a father,” Daniel told him, glancing at him from over his glasses. “I don’t think you realize how much you light up when you’re around kids. Go kill all the Goa’uld you want, it’s the kids who have taken you prisoner.”

The big bad general highly doubted that, and went into his office to deal with some of the email Davis had sent through to him. It seemed that every leader in the world had sent condolences. His staff responded politely to most of them, with the remainder, some for the sake of politics, others for their sincerity, sent on to Jack to handle as he saw fit. Flowers by the truck load were sent to his home, the SGC, and HomeSec. After the staff had their pick of whatever came, the rest were sent to hospitals, rest homes, and local cemeteries. None made their way into their home, considering Daniel’s allergies. Candy and food baskets were sent to soup kitchens. Jack finally had Davis call the news stations, local and national, and ask that all gifts, while sentiment appreciated, be stopped. They had no more room. If people would like, they can send donations to the organizations of their choice. Campaigns against drunk driving were hit with windfalls.

Stacy’s birthday was a week after Jack’s. It would be a bitter-sweet fifty-five for him, not having his father or Megan present. He wanted a quiet day, not big party; he didn’t think he could handle a party. He didn’t want a party at all, but Dr Edmonds said to get routines back to normal. They had a small dinner with just the household and Nate and Cassie. Nate had changed his official birthday to the day Loki sent him to take Jack’s place. A few days before Stacy’s birthday, Jack took her out for a date, just the two of them. Daniel took her out for her actual birthday, their first together, and returned home for cake and ice cream and presents. A few of the neighborhood children were surprised by the presence of alien children for a kids’ party, but the SGC kids were not. Katie and Matthew were a little moody, which the adults over-looked and told them that they could go to a movie or something, if they didn’t want to participate in the party. It was understandable that they weren’t in a party mood. Jack had to party, they did not.

They had the nanny’s room built first, needing to get a nanny in place before too much longer; none of the adults could remember the last full night’s sleep, and this time it wasn’t caused by one of them trying to jump the other. Hardly a night went by when one of them wasn’t up tending to a weepy child.

Once word got out that there was building going on at the house, there were a lot of people who seemed to have extra lumber and bricks lying around and brought it all over in an offering. There were also quite a few SGC personnel who apparently didn’t have anything better to do on their days off than to stop by, claim boredom, and offer to lend a hand by picking up a hammer or whatever else needed to be done. The big, bad, military men also took turns on bottle and diaper duty for a tiny baby girl who only had to blink and the men would melt. Anunnaki showed up, telling Jack that if they could build an entire civilization, they could certainly build an extension onto a house. The contractor Jack hired wasn’t sure how to handle alien workers, and the union was up in arms, but Jack declared the building onto his house to be a military issue, so keep their unions to themselves. The contractor was impressed at how hard the alien and military crew actually worked and listened to direction.

Jack was feeling guilty. “I told him I hated him, Danny,” he confessed, lying across the bed, listening to industry downstairs. It was eating him up inside, the way he spoke to the old man when they had gone to the hospital. He didn’t normally allow himself to feel guilt over actions he deemed necessary, but he wasn’t sure being mean to an old man had been necessary.

“Jack, he knows you were lashing out in grief,” Daniel told him. “Just go talk with him.”

Just to get out of the noise and chaos, Jack requested to be beamed up. He was escorted to Enki’s lab where something industrious was going on in large, clear tanks. Some were filled with fog, some rained, some snowed, and others had what looked like embryos of something growing in them.

Enki wouldn’t hear about apologies, having dismissed Jack’s lashing out.

“I’ve lost children, Jack, I understand,” Enki told him. “Ninurta isn’t the only child I fathered.

“What I don’t understand is what you’re trying to do with this sensing thing,” Jack said.

“Jack, you have had the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into your brain twice. The Asgard did what they could by shutting off all those new connections, but the human brain is a tricky thing. I should know, I’m the one who set your neural net. The brain has many back-up systems; even someone with amnesia doesn’t truly forget anything, the information is simply shut off. You wouldn’t be sitting here talking, if the Asgard removed the entire physical repository in your brain. With an amnesiac or someone with certain kinds of brain damage, access can be had by building a new path around the pot-hole. The Asgard gave you amnesia. All that information from the Ancients is still in there, the door is only closed for safety. Like your gun cabinet. With the correct key, it can be unlocked. This particular gun cabinet is bursting at the seams, though, and you need to expand it.”

“But I thought the Asgard zapped it out,” Jack said, trying to understand.

Enki shook his head. “Remember the back-up systems. Your computer was abruptly unplugged, but the information was saved onto a back-up drive. You didn’t need to be worrying about information you weren’t ready for, so it was temporarily turned off. As you become ready for it, more and more will be made available to you.”

Jack blinked, looking around inside his head. “I’m turning into an Ancient?”

“You have the genetic code of the Ancients,” Enki said. “Many people do, they just don’t realize it. You were the only one who was available to download the information. Anyone with the gene could have done it, you happened to be there.”

“So my ancestors were Ancients?”

“Yes,” Enki nodded. “When they left Atlantis and returned here for the remainder of their lives, they mated with the locals. Their genes were spread into your pool.”

“Can we identify those with the gene?” Jack asked. The last thing he needed was some warlord with the gene to start stealing Ancient toys and using them to dominate countries. They had plenty of Goa’uld to deal with, they didn’t need Ancient warlords.

“Sure, but do you want to?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, why is Nate a secret?”

Jack leaned back in a chair, looking at him. “Because he’d be taken apart by scientists and the technology duplicated.”

“Do you really think this planet can sustain any more of a population if clones, or even an extended life, became the norm?” Enki asked.

“No. We are barely sustaining as it is.

“And what would happen if everyone with the gene had access to the information contained in your brain?”

“We’d destroy ourselves.”

Enki slowly nodded. “Children with guns, Jack.” Jack winced at the memory.

“And you’ve been trying to force me to grow up.”

“Yes. You must, Jack, you are the key to the next evolutionary leap. The few times you have attempted to make a unilateral decision, it backfired, didn’t it? But when you made decisions based on council from those close to you, you have gained ground. The two most important people in your life are already with you. With their help, you will learn to use that information in a positive, judicious manner. Sometimes the decisions you will need to make won’t be pleasant ones, they may even feel as though they are destroying you, they may make you feel as though you are the cruelest person on the face of the earth, but you need to make them.”

“Enki, I just turned fifty-five,” Jack reminded him. “What kind of decisions will I be making when I have maybe forty-five years left? I’d like to retire for good in about ten years.”

“Jack, what was the lifespan of an Ancient?” Enki asked.

Jack shrugged. “I don’t know, that’s a Daniel question. A couple hundred years?”

“Close enough. Have you ever wondered why some families live longer than others? Along with this gene, you have information. Your brain has more neuron connections than anyone else on this planet. You are actually the smartest person alive, smarter than anyone in your history, you just don’t have access to the information. Yet. Nor would you understand the information; you’d only be able to follow the instructions. One of those people with you DOES have the brains to understand the information, and the other person is your wise council to help you to learn HOW to use the information. I’ve been trying to get you to learn how to access that information at your own will and your own speed, but you are fighting me on it. You have a few more than forty-five years left, Jack; if you want to make them count, stop fighting. Everything you have been asking me to do, you can do.”

“Like you curing David of his allergies?” Jack asked. “Don’t think we haven’t noticed him starting to eat everything in sight, and not one skin rash.”

“Not my doing, didila.”

Jack swallowed hard.

 

 

 

End Part 2