Play Baal

 

 

The

Anunnaki Unification

A Stargate SG-1 Fan Fiction Story

 

Book 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: 9781530146642

ISBN-10: 153014664X 


 

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.

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: this is fan fiction. Please read the Preface before buying this book so that you understand what you are getting into. Contains LGBT characters.

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!

There is more to be found at my website, www.michelebriere.com including The Gatekeepers, an original, on-going story, a fun, light-hearted space opera.

 


 

 

Table of Contents

 

Anunnaki Unification. 1

Acknowledgements. 3

Preface. 6

Table of Contents. 8

Chapter 26. 1

Chapter 27. 38

Chapter 28. 59

Chapter 29. 66

Chapter 30. 93

Chapter 31. 100

Chapter 32. 110

Chapter 33. 126

Chapter 34. 159

Chapter 35. 213

Chapter 36. 229

Chapter 37. 247

Chapter 38. 280

 

 

 

 


 


 

Chapter 26

 

The month went by quickly, and the addition to the house was finished none too soon as the children began getting on each other's nerves. The paint in the new master bedroom had just barely dried when the adults started moving their stuff in. The teens spread out and now only had to share a bathroom instead of a bedroom with the younger children. Jack didn't know what they were complaining about; he had to share his room with two other people, and one baby off to the side in a nursery.

If anything surprised them, it was the news from Cassie that not only was Nate on board the Heaven’s Bow, he was now sharing space with Shara. All three adults in the house stopped to look at her. Sharing space? Yes, she told them. Nate got it into his mind to give Shara a try. He liked it. And since one Jonathan O’Neill on Earth was more than enough, and he didn’t know what to do with himself, he decided to join the Anunnaki warriors, starting with Shara and his bed.

“Well, that’s certainly not a Jack thing,” Sam said after a moment. She asked Cass if she was alright. Cassie was fine.

They were currently without a nanny again; the first nanny was unable to deal with aliens popping in and out at all hours, and the second nanny was caught with her hands in the drawer. Specifically, Jack's desk in his den. He had woken up with a sudden sense of wrongness and went to investigate. He followed the light into his office and found the nanny going through his desk files. He zatted her, had his night guard take her to the base for questioning, and went back to bed.

Major Davis was beside himself when Jack got to the office, but Jack wasn't blaming him; the woman got through the security check of two countries. She was screaming for her consulate representative. Jack informed her that since her government had agreed to the HomeWorld Security contract, and she was caught pawing through the desk of the Chief of HomeSec, he had jurisdiction over her, not her home country

Jack had made it clear from the start that his office was not to be entered unless he was in there and he gave permission. No one was to enter even to clean the room. Daniel and Sam's dens were off-limits, too; even the children knew that. So, they were nanny-less again with Jack and Daniel taking turns walking around with a baby attached to their chest. Olivia wasn't minding it, she had begun to coo and seemed to be enjoying the sound of her own voice; it didn't hurt that the big people carrying her seemed to find it cute, too, and were rewarding her with additional snuggling.

Jack's other headache revolved around Matthew. The boy had been sullen and mouthy lately; Jack knew the boy was angry and had done his best to be available for Matt. He sent the boy to the gym to work it out constructively, if he didn't want to talk it out, and Jack had been getting reports from Major Bryce that Matthew had a lot of anger inside. Katie had let it all out in the beginning, as did Davy, but Matthew had been relatively steady about it. Too steady. Even Daniel warned Jack to expect an explosion. When Bryce called him and said that Matthew was about to blow, Jack decided to show up at the gym. When he got there, Matthew was light-years away as he pounded on the bag hanging from the ceiling. Jack gave Major Bryce babysitting duty and signaled the men to continue as he kicked his shoes off and walked onto the floor. Jack picked up two training staves and gave Matthew a gentle knock on the shoulder with one. The boy whipped around and paused, not expecting to see his uncle. Jack handed him a staff and took a stance. After a moment, Matthew raised his staff.

Jack didn't hold back. Matthew was clearly surprised when Jack didn't take it easy on him, and he flushed with growing anger. The angrier he got, the clumsier he got, humiliating himself in front of the military. After tripping once more, Matthew gave a low screech in frustration, threw the staff down, and ran at his uncle, pounding him with his fists and crying incoherently. Everyone around stopped and gave them room as Jack stood still and took the blows. When Matthew finally collapsed to the floor, Jack sat and pulled the boy into his arms, letting Matty howl into his chest as Jack gently stroked his hair.

When the howling subsided into hiccups and sniffles, someone placed a tissue box on the floor next to them. Jack took a handful and wiped at Matthew's face. He held the tissues and told him to blow. Jack tossed the tissues and wiped his arm across his own face.

"It's okay to hurt, Matty," he said softly. "I know how much it hurts. You will always miss your mother, but remember the good stuff. Your mom loved you so much. I remember when you were born; she couldn't take her eyes off you. She even yelled at the nurses because they wouldn't let you sleep in her room. She threatened to get out of bed and go get you herself, if they didn't bring your crib in. When the doctor came in to check up on you, you peed all over him and your mother told him it was his own fault for keeping you from her."

"But I must have done something wrong," Matthew whispered huskily. "Even my dad left."

"Oh, God, no, Matty," Jack assured him. He took Matthew's face and lifted it. "Your dad has something called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That means he isn't capable of loving anyone, not even his kids. That is not your fault," he stressed. "It isn't anyone's fault. It's a mental disorder. And you don't need to worry about having it; you love very deeply."

"Will I get it?" Matthew asked, worried.

"No," Jack shook his head. "Daniel said it's something that develops during childhood under certain circumstances, and if you were going to develop it, you would have already. It isn't hereditary, it's environmental."

Matthew became aware of the presence of others and leaned in. "Will they think I'm a big baby?" he whispered.

"No," Jack said. "Matt, every one of these men has experienced loss, and a man who is unable to cry, is a man I don't want on my team. They know what's happened, and they understand."

To Matthew's further embarrassment, Jack planted a kiss on his cheek before sending him to get changed. Jack winced as he stood, and held a hand at his ribs. He shook his head, telling himself to rethink his decision the next time he agreed to play punching bag.

"Thanks, guys," Jack said to the others in the room, giving them a nod. They murmured their responses as Jack went to find his baby. It took Dr. Edmonds to tell Jack that Matthew's behavior was normal for a teenager; with the triple loss, mother, father, and great-grandfather, he would have been surprised if the kids went through the motions without acting out, especially Matthew, who was at the age where boys needed their father around. Edmonds also told Jack to expect the kids to take blame onto themselves; they didn't completely understand death and loss, so they refocused onto themselves. The Parents had been doing their best to be supportive and assure the kids that no one was at fault. Except the drunk driver. Sam and Daniel were taking care of Jack through his own grief.

"Sir?" Jack looked at Bryce as he slid his shoes on and took his jacket from the hanger. Bryce was cradling the baby like an experienced father. "May I make a personal comment?" Jack nodded. "When my mother died a couple years ago, my kids had a problem with it, too. Their school councilor suggested a private memorial service just for the kids. Each of the kids was to bring pictures and stories and share them with the rest of the family. They could light candles, say prayers, and sing something, whatever they wanted. It helped, sir, they were able to express what they needed to."

"We've had a family counseling session," Jack said.

"Pardon, sir, but that's on an adult level no matter how much the counselor dumbs it down," Bryce said. "The kids aren't up to that level of thinking. They’re only just learning to associate the proper emotion to go along with the thoughts.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully. "Thank you, Major," he said. "I will bring it up."

Daniel was hurriedly packing when they got home. Stacy and Davy were laying on the bed, watching and talking with him. The two were very close in age, only ten months apart, and had taken to playing together. Davy had already confided to Jack in a heated whisper that Stacy was very pretty. Jack agreed and held back his amusement as he reminded Davy that Stacy was now his sister.

“Where are you going?” Jack asked, laying the baby in the middle of the kids. Matthew came in and lay next to them, giving his baby sister his finger to hold.

“Ethiopia,” Daniel said. “Something was found at a dig. Where’ve you been?”

“In town. They can’t do this dig without you?” Jack asked.

Daniel dug through his pile of books and opened one.

“Listen, Jack, and tell me what this reminds you of,” Daniel told him. He absently paced as he read,

The spies were told that most of them lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, while some even went beyond that age….. Also, last of all, they were allowed to behold the coffins of the Ethiopians, which are made (according to report) of crystal, yadda yadda…. Then they place the body in a crystal pillar which has been hollowed out to receive it, crystal being dug up in great abundance in their country, and of a kind very easy to work. You may see the corpse through the pillar within which it lies; and it neither gives out any unpleasant odor, nor is it in any respect unseemly; yet there is no part that is not as plainly visible as if the body were bare….”

“That was written around 430BCE by Herodotus, Jack,” Daniel said, looking up. “Over two thousand years ago. What does it sound like to you?”

Jack stared at him.

“Don’t give me that,” Daniel warned him, shaking a finger. “Think about it. Crystal pillar, Jack, able to see a body through a crystal pillar and the body doesn’t decay. If you don’t get this, I will personally smack you on the head with this book.”

“One of those Ancient preservation thingies?” Jack asked, wiggling his fingers. Daniel held up his arms in Touch Down and howled. Although they had no idea why they were clapping, the children cheered, too. “And the dig team thinks they found a site with one of these suspension chambers?”

“Yup!” Daniel nodded eagerly. “The site is on the list that Inanna supplied after the Heaven’s Bow was done charting the planet.” There were actually a few spots on the planet that indicated naquadah. Most of what had been found, so far, wasn’t much more than bits and pieces of blown up ships. A few spots were extremely far into the crust of the planet, taken down during earthquakes, or covered in lava flows, and something odd was in the Alps. That one didn’t quite match, so it wasn’t urgent.

Daniel rounded up an archaeological team from the SGC and flew out on the red eye. Per the HomeWorld Security protocols, anything that followed the criteria set down by Daniel was automatically put on hold until he could examine it. Jack called the Yard and told them to prepare for a gift from Daniel.

Jack was working out of the house the next day when he answered the front door. He found a young woman standing there.

“I have an appointment with Dr. Jackson,” she explained, seeing the blank look on his face.

“Oh. I’m sorry, he left the country early this morning,” Jack told her. “Something came up at the last minute. Is it something I can help you with?”

The young woman seemed a little impatient. “Well, we were going to discuss the Anunnaki,” she said. “I represent a group of woman who have questions before filling out the on-line application.”

“I’ll do what I can, if you’d like to come in,” he invited her. She agreed and he stepped aside for her to enter. He introduced himself.

Ateret Levy,” she said, taking his hand. “Are you sure about this, General O’Neill? You must be busy.”

“Only diaper duty,” he told her, nodding toward the piled pillows on the couch. She went over and stroked a chubby cheek with a finger. “And please call me Jack. That’s Olivia, and at the moment, she’s responding to princess, baby-cakes, or goddess.”

Ateret smiled, slightly more relaxed, and sat.

“I’m sorry Daniel skipped out on you,” Jack said. “He had an unexpected call this morning. He’s usually more attentive.”

“Well, then, General… Jack, I don’t want to take up too much of your time so,” she reached into her bag, taking out a piece of paper. “There is a group of us, mixed Middle Eastern and North African and, quite frankly, we are tired of all the crap. We want out. The main thing that is attracting us to the Anunnaki is that they are refusing to consider religious peoples for their society. My group is made up of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and we are tired of religion destroying our lives and our families. We are spiritual, each in our own way, but not religious. We come from hard working families; farming is no secret to any of us. We would like to know more about the Anunnaki, though.”

Jack held up a hand, feeling out of his depth. “How about I make this easier?” he asked. He touched the pendent on his shoulder. “Inanna, could you or someone come down and speak with this young lady in front of me? She has some questions about this whole colonizing thing.”

Inanna and Ninurta beamed in, quite happy to get into details with the enterprising lady and her list of questions. Jack played host, amused at the big warrior making faces at the tiny baby, and worked in his office when he wasn’t needed. Inanna and Ninurta knew their way around the house, if they needed anything.

Much to the disappointment of the warriors, the cotillion didn’t go so well. The warriors didn’t know how to do the modern dances, and the young ladies were, for the most part, intimidated by the large men. About twenty men had been hooked up, but there were about sixty or so waiting. Jack thought it was interesting that the twenty that were fixed up, had ladies that were a little older than most of the wanna-bes. Thirty to thirty-five was the average age of the women. At first, the men were concerned; children were the point of the mission. Sam had to assure them that women were having children much later in life, up until almost fifty. The men were surprised and agreed to widen their search; they did prefer a more mature partner, and had better luck once they looked at slightly older, more settled women.

“Jack,” Inanna poked her head in. “We would like to take Ateret for a tour of the ship, but she is concerned about an escort.”

“I’ll come with,” he said, shutting his computer down. He gathered up baby stuff, and beamed up with them. Ateret was amazed at the sudden shift in perspective. She patted herself down. She walked with Inanna, listening and asking questions with a quick mind. Ninurta hung back, took Olivia, and played with her. Jack quietly told him about the latest nanny.

“I don’t understand how I did that,” Jack confessed. “I must have heard her. Subconsciously. In my sleep.”

“Possibly,” Ninurta nodded. “Jack, reach out toward that woman,” he said, gesturing with his chin. “Tell me what you sense.”

“Don’t I need to be touching her?” Jack asked.

“No,” Ninurta shook his head. “That’s for baby-steps. Clear your mind, blank out any expectations. Use any imagery that you’d like; opening a window, casting a fishing line, a silver cord, whatever works for you. This is a new flower, bend down and smell it, experience it. Smell her. What does she smell like?”

Jack paused and leaned back against the wall. He shut his eyes.

“Frustration,” Jack said after a moment. “Impatient. Superior.” He opened his eyes. “Superior about what?”

“You’ll learn how to read more clearly, the more you practice,” the warrior told him. “Her frustration and anger is directed toward the men of your world,” he said. “She feels superior in that most woman would not have made the same decisions the men did, and so feels that life in general would have been better, if the women were in charge. I will agree that women do tend to make different choices than men. Women tend to think in terms of ‘us’, and men think in terms of ‘I’ or ‘me.’ That is a general standard, not the rule. There are always exceptions to the rule. Part of what is attracting her to us, is that we are ruled by a woman, and we tend to place women in a higher category than most Tau’ri men do.”

Jack frowned. “I don’t place women….”

“No, you don’t,” Ninurta said with a nod. “I said this is in general, not you, General. Have you had a female president, yet? Or a vice-president? How many Joint Chiefs have been female? How many corporate heads are female? Did you know it’s only been about forty years since your medical establishment discovered that different drugs and medical techniques work differently depending on gender? Everything was based on male response, and didn’t take the female response into consideration. Forty years, Jack. Then there’s nuclear energy, pollution, petroleum instead of alternative energy sources, lower pay for the same job, to say nothing of the physical atrocities against women. And that’s just in your country. Ms. Levy has the right to be a little angry. We will accept her and her group. There may be fallout, though; a few of the women have children they will be bringing to their new home. These women are from countries where the child belongs to the father, not the mother.”

Jack held a hand up. “This ship is sovereign territory; if the queen wants to grant them immunity, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Naturally, T’Keet found Jack almost immediately and he made her hoot as he bit playfully at her furry belly. To Jack’s surprise, Nate wasn’t far behind. Jonathan, he reminded himself, remembering that Cass told them he had taken the name.

“My sweetheart,” Jonathan declared, holding his arms out. Ninurta puckered up and was swatted at. “Not you, nig.” He took Olivia from Ninurta and strolled back down the corridor as he kissed her and spoke softly to her.

“What’s a nig?” Jack asked. Ninurta chuckled.

“To put it politely, a female dog. Jonathan is learning our language from the bottom up.”

Ateret looked from Jack to the long haired young man next to him, and back again, confusion on her face as she spoke with others across the room.

“How are you doing?” Jack asked him, leaning back on Sua pillows.

“I’m good,” Jonathan said with a smile as he placed Olivia between them on the pillows.

“How did this all happen?” Jack asked, honestly confounded by the situation. One Jack knew what the other Jack meant.

He had been playing with some of the warriors who had come down for fresh air, swimming in an out of the way stream, and decided to try kissing Shara after talking with him for a while about Jack’s memories. Kissing went further. Nate –Jonathan- found himself turned on, and then worn out by the end of the day.

“And you’re really doing okay with it?” Jack asked, watching his young clone closely. “Being part of Inanna’s household?”

“Actually, I am,” he was assured. “And I have a place here. I’ve been not only teaching the kids, but also updating their database and helping to plan their new city. I drew schematics for the initial build, and after a few minor adjustments, it will happen. I’ve been to the planet, Jack, and it’s amazing! Enki has completely transformed Abydos, you will never recognize it. I would have sworn I felt the presence of the Abydonians, and they were pleased. He grew forests, Jack! There are even misty mornings, which Enki says will eventually become rain. The closest equivalent would be Seattle before the city was built.”

“That’s a lot of water,” Jack commented thoughtfully. “Where’s it all coming from?”

“Underground,” Jonathan said. “There were deep aquifers, so Enki brought them up. The new ozone is keeping the moisture in, instead of it evaporating, and it’s creating mist and streams. He planted a lot of Northwest American plants, there are deer, elk, turkey, wild boar, various kinds of fowl, birds, squirrels, rabbits, insects… oh, and horses, cows, sheep, and goats. I wasn’t wild about the inclusion of wolves and large cats, but he said a predator was needed for the ecosystem.

“And this is the entire planet?” Jack asked. All he could see was the planet as he saw it the last time; a barren desert wasteland.

“Pretty much,” Jonathan nodded. “The plants are pretty well established, which was the main part of the project, so he’ll let the planet take over from there.”

“Is he using a time device?” Jack asked. He got another nod. Enki’s time dilation device was carefully calibrated and watched over to make sure nothing got out of hand. It was slowing down, and when it was at normal time, they would be moving onto their new planet.

“I spent some time with Mom yesterday,” he was told. “She knows I’m leaving but I will be visiting. I told her once I was settled, I’d bring her over for a vacation. Jack, I convinced her to move down here. With Michael off on his sulk, Mom has no one. She can’t be alone, Jack, and she is alone, no matter how much the cousins try and help.”

“I know,” Jack told him, his ire rising at his brother’s behavior. Leaving their grieving mother alone just because his feelings were hurt! Michael needed a serious reality check. Apparently the past year’s reality wasn’t real enough for him. “We’ll take care of her. I’ve been worried about her, so thank you. There’s a senior’s condo a mile away, I’ll check into it.”

Jack still wasn’t sure about the changes in his clone; he was being so NOT Jack. Daniel told him that was the point and it was healthy. What Daniel was finding interesting was seeing parts of Jack that had been long buried, and they were coming out in his clone.

He called Daniel when he returned home. Daniel was upset that he had forgotten about his appointment in his excitement over the find. He would call Ms. Levy and apologize. He was glad, though, that Inanna accepted the women, and thanked Jack for stepping in. Jack called his mother and found himself having to identify himself because of his sound-alike clone. She was still unsure of leaving her home, and Jack told her that her home was with him and the kids.

Major Bryce called Jack the next day. Jack immediately thought that Matthew was having problems, but Bryce started talking about his twin sister, Jerrie.

“She’s been a nanny for a couple of families,” Bryce said. “Our family is military, has been for generations, so she knows her way around a military household. The only reason she didn’t join up is because of a knee injury. High school soccer. She’s smart, sir, and she’s really great with kids. I haven’t promised her anything, just that I’d drop her name.”

“Why don’t you have her come by my office, Major?” It wouldn’t hurt to give the woman a hearing, and knowing her way around a military household would certainly be in her favor.

Jerrie Bryce had that straight spine, shoulders thrown back stand that military kids seemed to pick up, especially when standing in front of an officer. She didn’t appear nervous, just quietly sure of herself, which Jack immediately liked. She looked a little like her brother, short brown hair and eyes, a British rose in her cheeks.

“Have a seat, Ms. Bryce,” he invited. He shook her hand and experimented with a quick reach. He found it to be sort of like listening to instincts, which he had to admit to being bad at. This was more like instincts combined with a memory, though, as he immediately had the sense of ‘knowing’ the person he reached into. He’d have to remember to try it during his next big shot meeting.

Jerrie, please, sir,” she said, sitting.

“Okay, Jerrie, Jack.”

She handed Jack her credentials and told him about her time as a nanny. It was unexpected, just something that happened, starting with a neighbor, a single mom who had three boys. Jerrie was pediatric CPR certified, she knew how to use a gun, although she didn’t currently own one, and she had an NRA card to prove her firearms certification. She had a black belt in judo, and her father and grandfather were both colonels when they retired, so she knew about protocol with the higher ranks.

“Only Stacy is biologically Dr. Jackson’s,” he told her. “She just turned eleven. The others are all my nieces and nephews. Their mother died recently, and I adopted them. It’s been a little rough, a major life upheaval for them. The teens especially have been moody, shifting from one end of the spectrum to the other within minutes. They are Katie, sixteen, and Matthew fourteen. David is ten, he’ll be eleven just after Christmas, and Olivia is only two-months-old. I do need to tell you that Davy is a little slow; are you able to handle cognitive problems?”

“I’m very patient, sir,” she assured him. “I will tell you honestly that I don’t have experience with a developmentally disabled child, but if you will teach me, I can do it.”

Jack nodded, appreciating her candor. “He isn’t really that bad,” he said. “Just slightly slow. He’s in his regular grade, it just takes him a little more time to understand things. He feels things deeply; if he’s quiet and the thumb is in, there’s a problem. He’s usually running all over the place. A chatterbox.

“I think there are two main things, other than the children, that need to be stated up front; first, we have aliens popping in and out all the time, and second, the rumors of our lifestyle are true; I share my bed with my wife and Daniel, who is our consort, and we did recently all get handfasted together. Will that be a problem for you?”

“No, sir,” she said with a smile. “I think my brother didn’t tell you; I’m a lesbian. Alternative lifestyles are not a problem for me. And I’m looking forward to meeting aliens; from what I’ve read, and from what Duncan has told us, they sound fascinating.”

“Oh, I don’t know that fascinating is the word,” Jack said wryly. “Arrogant and pigheaded would be better places to start.” He called Davis’ office and asked Cassandra to bring the baby in. Cass was pulling double-duty. She came in and Jack introduced her as a close friend of the family. Cass placed Olivia in Jerrie’s arms.

Ohhh, she’s beautiful,” Jerrie breathed. “Hi, sweetie.” Jack was satisfied with the comfort Jerrie had for the baby and the baby for her. Cass gave him a small nod.

“We can’t pay you what I’m sure you’re worth,” Jack said, watching them. “We may be a three-income household, but there’s a lot of out-going bills.” Jack named a price including health bennies. She nodded and told him it was a very generous price, more than she had gotten anywhere else.

“I can work with that, sir,” she said. “It’s a live-in situation, so I’m not paying rent or utilities. And if I may suggest? I’m not positive, but I would think that governments could quietly come up with nanny money for their top heads of state, if they want certain people happy in their jobs.”

Jack liked her. She would have to talk with Sam and Daniel, but he liked her. As soon as she left, Jack called the president. “Henry, I have a deal for you.”

Sam had no problem with Jerrie and Daniel gave a quick greeting as he ran through the house. The crystal coffin had been delivered safely to Area 51 and into a gleeful Sam’s hands. She had found someone on base that was able to power-up the chair, much to Jack’s relief; at least he wouldn’t have to drop everything to play guinea pig. He added Corporal Danner’s name to the Gene list and tagged his file.

Jerrie moved in and didn’t bring much with her; a laptop, cell phone, MP3, a library card, and a duffel bag of clothing. She said she was a minimalist, and usually didn’t have much. She was pleased with the room, and said it was generous compared to other houses she had worked in. Major Brice confirmed with Jack that his sister had never been much into material things; it wasn’t reticence of bringing more into the house, she really didn’t have more. They moved from base to base as children, and moving stuff was a pain, so they never collected things.

Daniel’s academy seminar was the following week, so Jack sent Jerrie to observe and learn, get an idea of what will be happening in their lives. The recording of Daniel’s elementary seminar in Chicago was almost ready to be sent out to the public. The Pentagon was adding a few images and doing some general editing before making copies for the schools and a special airing on the PBS stations. Daniel himself was going to do the voice-overs for different languages. The Pentagon had done its usual balking at the release of the show, and Jack had to remind them several times that it was nothing that wasn’t already public knowledge.

With everyone else somewhere else, Jack took the baby for her check-up. The seminar at the academy was over by the time he and Olivia came out of the exam room, and Daniel and Jerrie were waiting for him.

“So, do we have a well-baby?” Daniel asked, stroking Olivia’s head. She had been poked and prodded and wasn’t very happy.

“We have a very well-baby,” Jack said while the receptionist made the next appointment. “In fact, she’s absolutely perfect. Perfect, I say!” he declared to the waiting room. Parents smiled at him.

When they got home, Jack’s day got even better when he found an email giving him permission (finally!) to distribute his emergency protocols to law enforcement and medical personnel. The main portions of the protocol were actually written years earlier as a precaution. They were written by Dr. Janet Frasier. It made Jack very happy to see her name heading the documents and he sent a note to Cassandra. It was time the world knew of the sacrifice Janet had made for them all, and having her name heading the protocols would place her in the history books.

Hammond called Jack as soon as he received the email note about the protocols, and they chatted for an hour, catching up. Hammond was glad to see the peace in Jack since his family had come together. Sam also called, excited about the protocols and Janet making medical history. She suggested a remembrance dinner for Janet. The kids never knew Janet, so Jack and Daniel spent the evening telling the kids about Cassie’s foster mother, showing them pictures, and a few videos that featured her.

Jack lay on the couch later in the evening, watching the news. Jerrie was in a chair, giving a bottle to Olivia before putting her to bed. A scuffing came down the stairs, and Davy and his footed pajamas and an old piece of quilt shuffled to the couch and shoved Jack over to make room for him. Davy was back to sleep within minutes. Daniel came up from his den a while later, kissed his men, and went to bed. Jack was startled awake when the TV was turned off. He didn’t remember closing his eyes.

“Did you want it on?” Jerrie whispered. There was no baby in her arms, telling him that he must be comfortable enough with her that his guard was down.

“No.” Jack eased himself up and lifted Davy into his arms.

“Would you like me to put him to bed?” Jerrie asked.

“No, he’s my little man, I’ll do it,” Jack said, putting his mouth to the boy’s hair. He heard a “love you, Daddy” murmured into his chest. Jerrie smiled and wished him good night. A check on the rest of the kids showed everyone asleep except Katie who was still studying.

“Bed, honey, it’s midnight,” Jack whispered. She nodded, glancing at the clock. Jack went in and sat on her bed.

“How are you, baby?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“Are you?” he asked. He took her book gently from her and closed it. “Your brain won’t retain anything, if you’re tired. Honey, you know I miss your mom, right? I’d give anything to have her back.”

“I know,” Katie said. She sat up and put her arms around Jack, leaning on his shoulder. “I think in all this, we forgot that you lost your father, too.”

Jack hugged her. “Thank you, honey.”

After tucking her in, he went into his room and collapsed onto their bed.

“God, Danny, I don’t deserve those kids,” he groaned into the bed.

Daniel curled over to him, draped an arm across Jack’s back, and kissed his neck.

“No, you don’t,” he was unexpectedly told. “But Megan did, and since she isn’t here, you can take second place and make her proud. You are wonderful with those kids, Jack; I hope I can be half the father you are.”

He slid a hand under Jack’s t-shirt, caressing the warm skin.

“Did you lock the door?” he asked, sucking on Jack’s earlobe. Jack moaned an affirmative.

In the morning, the children kept looking at each other and then at Jack. He had been quiet, studying them. Katie had a hollow feel to her, but hope still burned a small light as she put her trust in him and clung to him. The glimmer was extending toward Daniel, too. Jack wished Sam was around more often, and made a mental note to see what could be done about that. Stacy was next to Katie as they ate breakfast; she had a small case of hero-worship toward her new big sister and was aching for more contact. Davy was confused but knew that Jack would make things alright. Jerrie was next to Davy, talking with him as she fed Olivia. Jerrie had a case of hero-worship, too, but it was directed at the household in general. Olivia –just contentment. Matthew was…. alone. That got Jack’s attention.

It was Daniel’s turn to play school bus, so hugs were passed out to Jack as children scrambled for back-packs and lunches.

“Hey,” Jack grabbed Matthew who darted past him after a quick hug. “I love you.”

“I know,” Matty said. Jack still clung to him. Matthew had yet to call Jack by a name. Uncle Jack, Jack, or Dad; it didn’t matter to him, he just wanted to hear something.

“I don’t think you do, Matty,” Jack said. He took Matthew’s face between his hands, staring into those brown eyes. O'Neill brown, to the good-natured complaining of the other side of the tree. “I love you. I want you to know that. Know it in your heart. I can’t give you back what’s been lost, I wish I could, but I will do my damnedest to replace it with whatever I can. How about we play hooky today? You and me. Let’s go.”

“Play hooky?” Matthew questioned, his face scrunched up in confused disbelief. “I thought adults didn’t play hooky?”

“This one does,” Jack informed him. “I feel like getting some fresh air. Head up into the mountains for a hike. Would you like to come with me? Just the two of us?”

The mountains were starting to turn white at the top, so Jack broke out the sub-zero gear. He had no plans on going up that high, but the mountains were still a little chilly at the lower altitudes. He left instructions for Jerrie, called Daniel and Sam, checked Matty out of school, and informed Paul that he was taking a couple days. The Prime Minister of Somewhere wasn’t going to be happy, but Jack was declaring it a family emergency. Sam reminded him to take his comm with him, just in case.

He found himself in training mode, teaching the cadet about survival and dependence upon a partner. He made Matty leave the Walkman home, and packed light, sealed matches, and a radio that recharged by turning a crank handle. Fishing gear was packed, just a spool and hooks, two guns and ammo, knives, change of heavy sub-zero socks and thermal underwear, maps, compass, and a first-aid kit. Jack went through the list in his head and mentally checked off his military cold weather survival list as he packed their bags. He talked as he packed, telling Matthew why each item was needed and why others were not. Jack discovered that his nephew had never been camping before. Oh, he had been to camps, like his church Bible camp, but Jack felt that it didn’t count. It was a set of buildings out in a field, comfy dorms and a full kitchen. It seemed Andrew wasn’t about to sleep on the ground and refused to live a day without indoor plumbing, so Bible camp was the closest the kids had come to camping.

Jack had Jerrie drive them to the base of their starting point, gave her a return time, his itinerary, and emergency instructions, and they were off. He wasn’t all that concerned, since the Heaven’s Bow could find them with the tags.

Matty tired easily, not used to the heavy workout combined with a large backpack; his JROTC wasn’t doing survival training. Jack took it easy on him but wouldn’t let him gulp the water. Just sips, for the moment. When they settled into a spot for a while and relaxed, then Matty could get a mouthful without risking stomach cramps.

Jack showed him how to find berries, how to know if they were edible, which plants could be eaten, which roots, and where to find seeds. Matthew had no idea he could break open a pinecone and eat the seeds from it. When they decided to make camp for the night, Jack did something to a rope on the ground a hundred yards away and went to put up the tent. He zipped their sleeping bags together. Matthew thought they were sleeping in separate bags.

“It’s cold,” Jack informed him. The temperature had been steadily dropping. “You sleep with your partner and use each other for heat.”

By the time he was done with the tent and getting set up, he looked at his rope. A creature was wiggling in it.

“A rabbit!” Matthew exclaimed.

“Dinner,” Jack said. He got a fire going, quickly dispatched the rabbit, skinned and gutted it, and slid it onto a spit for the fire. He explained each step of the process as he went.

“Yes, he’s cute and fuzzy,” Jack said. “But I’m hungry. Some people thank the animal for its sacrifice, so you can do that, if it will help. Daniel says that’s how prayers at mealtime started.”

Matthew was sure he wasn’t going to eat it, but the smell of cooking rabbit overcame him and he found himself accepting the hot flesh.

Jack made him take care of toilet needs before getting into the sleeping bags, because he didn’t want to be woken up by cold gusts when the bags were opened. Matthew was freezing when Jack made him take off his outer wear, and he quickly got into the bags, his teeth chattering. Jack got in, pulled Matthew into his chest and zipped them up. With the two of them, the bags heated up and Matthew was no longer cold.

After a breakfast of cold rabbit, nuts, and berries, Jack showed him how to take apart a gun, the names of the different pieces, put it back together, and then how to shoot it. They talked more about girls and sex, about school, and about a few of the missions Jack had been on. He made sure to include all the messy parts, so that Matthew didn’t glamorize it in his mind. He unexpectedly found himself telling Matthew about his time in Iraq. Matty was shocked, but Jack sat him down and told him to never be afraid to tell him if something bad happens to him. Matthew thought only girls could get raped, certainly not his uncle who saved the world on a regular basis. He wanted to know how he could do things with another man, after what happened.

“It’s about intent,” Jack told him, casting out the fishing line into the stream. “Daniel loves me, I love him. I know that when he touches me, he does so out of love for me. If I don’t want to do anything, I tell him and he respects that. Same for him; if he doesn’t want to, we don’t. The first time was very difficult for me to get through; I’ve had nightmares for years, but Daniel helped me through them. I haven’t had any bad dreams about it since.”

“Does Sam know about it?” Matthew asked.

“Sure, she does,” Jack said. “She’s my wife and I’m honest with her.”

“Why do men to things like that?” Matty asked, frowning as he played with his fishing line. “It’s so… I don’t know. Makes me feel sick.”

“Makes me sick, too. And I don’t know why men do it,” Jack said. “Lots of reasons, I guess; I think a lot of them were abused as children. Maybe had a bad mother or they saw their father hitting their mother and so they think it’s normal. I don’t know. I’ve never even considered raping a woman; I don’t comprehend anyone who does. I was raised that no means no. I love women, Matty, I love how they look, how they smell, how they taste, even how they sound. And after working with some of the smartest women in the world, if not the universe, and after watching your mother and Aunt Sara giving birth, I respect the hell out of them.”

“Did you see me born?”

“Yes, I did,” Jack nodded, smiling sideways at him. “Your dad didn’t want to be in the delivery room so I coached your mom with all three of you. You were easy, you just came right out and you were not happy until your mom held you; it was Katie that gave your mom grief. Twenty-three hours of labor with your big sister. Davy was hard because he was very early. We almost lost him a couple of times. Olivia is a miracle, Matty; she could have died, too, yet she didn’t even have a bruise.”

Matty was quiet for a while, and Jack reached.

Matty, when Charlie died, I cried for more than a year,” he said. “I retired from the air force, I was feeling so lost. I even let my hair grow almost as long as Nate’s. Jonathan’s. Damn. We have all lost someone, Matt; I’ve lost grandpa and Charlie, Sam lost her father and her mother, Daniel lost both of his parents, too, as well as his wife. Your sister and your brother are also hurting, your mom was their mom, too, so give them hugs and let them know you love them. We all understand how you are feeling, so keep telling yourself that you’re not alone. You cry for as long as you need to; it’s okay.”

Matty was quiet and thoughtful as Jack showed him how to clean a fish for roasting after showing him how to tell a sick fish from a healthy one. They discussed religion and Jack was as clear as he could be on his own views. He had seen too much, knew too much, to believe in a god, but at the same time, he did believe in life after death and did the best he could to explain Ascension. He didn’t tell Matthew about Daniel, only explained his own version of his understanding of it.

Matthew frowned. “Is it okay if I believe in God?” he asked tentatively.

“Of course, it is,” Jack told him. “You need to make your heart happy; if believing in God makes your heart happy, then I will support you one hundred percent.”

“Will you come to my Confirmation?”

“I will even wear a tie,” Jack promised.

Jack did his best to fit a childhood’s time of father-son conversations into a three-day weekend. He needed Matthew to know he was okay, that he was normal, that all his hopes, fears, and dreams were normal. Jack was a little pissed that Matthew seemed to be out of touch with the fact that he was a normal, healthy teenage boy. He was also a little pissed that Matthew didn’t seem to have anyone in his life, previously, to teach him how to be a man. Except his great-grandfather, who was an old man when Matty was born, and didn’t have the energy to keep up with a kid.

“Vinnie, Col. Bosco’s son, thinks I’m cute,” Matthew unexpectedly told him, slightly pink faced. “I told him thank you, like you said, but I can only be his friend. He thought I was only saying that to be polite. I really do think he’s nice; he’s funny and he’s smart.”

“Good,” Jack said with a nod. “You just be there as a friend, and he’ll learn to go with it. He’s a good kid. Matthew, I want you to know that I’m proud of you; you have a kind heart. You might get picked on for it now by the other kids but believe me, when you become an adult, the girls will love you for it, and you will go further in life because of it. The greatest leaders in the world have had kind hearts. And besides; you know what?” Matthew shook his head. “You ARE cute.”

Matthew laughed and shoved him.

They were both filthy and tired by the time they got home early Sunday evening. Daniel picked them up, and he and Sam unloaded the truck when they got home as Jack steered the half comatose boy up the stairs and into his bedroom. He set Matthew on the bed, took his boots off, and pushed the boy under the covers. He smoothed a lock of hair from his forehead and kissed the skin.

“Good night, love you,” Jack whispered. Matthew turned over and sank into his pillow.

“….love you, too, Dad.”

Jack almost fell to his knees.

He took a long, hot shower, ignoring the occasional taste of salt that slid into his mouth. After putting his pajamas and robe on, he checked in with the rest of the brood, discussed with Olivia her beauty and grace, was updated by the adults, and then went to bed. Sam and Daniel came in and looked at him as he stared at the ceiling, hands resting on his chest.

“He called me Dad.”

His partners held him.

Just before the first alarm went off for Sam, Jack checked in on the baby. He went back to the bedroom, woke Sam up, and dragged her into the bathroom for mutual appreciation in the shower.

“Did you two use all the hot water?” Daniel asked groggily as they reentered the bedroom.

“Yes; you’ll have to wait for a tank refill,” she told him. “It’s been emptied twice already this morning.” Jack swatted at her butt.

It wasn’t until just before lunch that Jack was informed that the American ambassador to Rome was possessed by a demon. The old fashioned kind, not the snake kind. He wasn’t quite sure the situation fell under HomeWorld jurisdiction, but no one else seemed to be able to deal with it.

“Is his head spinning?” he asked the aide standing in his office.

“No, sir, but he is snarling in an unknown language in many different voices,” he was told. “Even a voice analyzer has determined that they are all different people speaking.”

Jack stared at the aide.

“My birthday has already passed, you know; no surprises this year, it was nice and quiet.”

“Happy birthday, sir.” A disk was set in front of him and the aide excused himself.

Jack watched the disk twice, called Paul in, watched it again, and then called Daniel after emailing it to him. Daniel watched it and told Jack it looked like an unknown alien presence.

Ya think?” Jack asked. Daniel was going to Rome. Jack insisted on going with him. Actually, President Hayes insisted that he go, considering that it was the American ambassador they were talking about. All the 303s were out of the area, as well as the Heaven’s Bow, which was dropping off a few things on Kalam, so Jack took an al'kesh. Davis had recommended that he use a little of his considerable power to get himself a private vessel of his own to get around in. Jack said he would feel like Mussolini riding around in something big and ostentatious. Davis told him that he could continue to take regular jets, if he wanted to sit for hours on end. Jack sent a requisition order to Area 51 and soon had an al'kesh sitting in the field behind the HomeWorld Security offices.

Alvin, Jack’s al'kesh, arrived in Italy only minutes after take-off. They found several exhausted priests attempting to exorcise the demon from an even more exhausted man who was tied down to the bed. It was the American Ambassador to Italy, Charles Pierce. The priests objected to the presence of HomeWorld Security, and Daniel stepped in with rapid-fire Italian while Sam waved an MRI over the man on the bed. She shook her head at Jack; no snake. She picked up several more instruments as Daniel argued. The ‘demon’ snarled something and spat at Sam.

“Oh, shut up,” Jack told it. “We’re working here. And mind your manners.” Sam scooped up some spittle and put it into one of her gadgets which was held and then examined by Dr. Caballo, an Area 51 doctor who had accompanied them.

Daniel turned toward the writhing man on the bed. “Look, I don’t know why you still bother,” he said reasonably. “Never in our history have any of your kind been able to inhabit our bodies and live in a co-existent symbiosis. We are not compatible. The symbiotes are compatible with us, you are not. Whatever you are. So give it up and go find another life form to irritate.”

The creature remained unimpressed while the exorcists stared at him. Sam told him she could find no physical presence in the ambassador’s body of something alien to the host. The medic agreed. The priests were satisfied that they were justified to continue with their exorcism. Sam said whatever it was had the ability to mould the host body, attempting to change it into what the creature seemed to need.

“Jack, reach,” Daniel said quietly to him. “If you get a feel on it, try pushing really hard.”

Jack stood near the man, wrinkling his nose at the horrible smells. People dead a week in the hot sun smelled better. He held a hand close, trying not to actually touch the body. Jack kept reminding himself that Ninurta said he didn’t need to touch. The creature roared at him and spat yellow goo which ran down Jack’s chest. It was trying to distract him. Jack grabbed hold of his anti-interrogation training and centered himself to ignore what was going on around him. He reached and found himself in a black cloud. The creature howled and attempted to leap up and bite Jack, incredulous that for the first time in the planet’s history, a human had discovered it.

“Gotcha,” Jack whispered with a nasty smile. He PUSHED. The room shook as the creature howled, roared, screeched, and gibbered. The priests backed up to the far wall, shocked as they watched. Lights flickered and Sam calmly raised another toy to them. Daniel was listening to the languages pouring out of the ambassador’s mouth, recording them for later analysis. Jack pushed again, using his entire will to send the black cloud out of the body. Enki had told him to ignore the sense of air or non-physical whatevers, and to convince himself that everything he sensed in a person had a physical form and could be manipulated like any other physical object. Jack pushed at the dark cloud, which had turned into a heavy wall. It slowly slid inward and then fell open and out of the way completely. Pierce’s body shook, arched to an impossible angle, and then slumped back to the bed. Dr. Caballo quickly put two fingers to his neck.

“Defibrillator!” he called out. Sam immediately handed the portable machine to him. Small paddles were charged, everyone ordered to clear, and Pierce was given a jolt. On the third jolt, the ambassador took a deep, gasping breath.

“You’ll be alright,” Caballo told him.

The pope was white-faced after Daniel was done telling him exactly what had transpired, and that it was an unknown alien entity that was involved, not a demon. One could call it a demon, but it was still alien. He told the pope about other non-corporeal entities that they had encountered, and that this one was nasty but not unsolvable. The pope wanted to know how Jack did it.

“I meditate a lot,” Jack told him.

“Jack,” Daniel scolded. “Teach. Evolve.”

Jack sighed and pouted. “It’s inside,” he said, touching his chest and his head. “Not out there. I’m just learning how to do this, myself, so I’m really not in a position to teach anyone.”

“Maybe not,” Daniel acknowledged. “But describe to the Holy Father how you do it.”

Jack scratched his head and ruffled his hair as he turned to pace.

“I just…. feel inside of a person,” he said. “I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s like closing my eyes and knowing what kind of pie my mom is making just by smelling it.”

“Using another sense,” Sam put in. Jack whirled, pointed, and snapped his fingers.

“Yes! Another sense. When someone goes blind, the other senses take over. I’ve been learning to use another sense. That intuition thing. I never really believed in it before, but after all the stuff we’ve seen and done, I started listening to it. When I follow it, I can sense other things. The more I do it, the more another world opens up for me.”

The pope leaned forward, frowning as he listened. “And you could see this… creature… inside Mr. Pierce?” he asked. Jack nodded.

“Like a black, smoky cloud,” he said. “We’ve seen something like it before, so that’s the best I can do to describe it. Daniel told me to push, so I pushed at it and it was gone.”

“Your Holiness, I was listening to the languages the thing was speaking,” Daniel said. “It said nothing that isn’t already in a human language. Most of it was a mixture of various ancient languages, a lot of obscure dialects, mostly ancient middle eastern. It could have picked them all up from Mr. Pierce’s brain. We retain certain racial memories, which means the creature would have to be able to pick us apart at the cellular level, which it was certainly doing as it tried to change Mr. Pierce’s physical shape. Now, what Jack was doing is part of this whole evolutionary leaping process; some people are getting a little more than others.”

Daniel hoped he’d be forgiven for lying to the pope. He found himself giving the pope his private email so that they could talk. Alvin left for home and they were back at HomeSec in minutes.

“Jack, look at this list,” Sam said, handing him the PDA as they walked from the field to the HomeSec buildings. An updated Gene list had been sent to her. Daniel looked over his shoulder.

“What are we looking for?” he asked.

“Almost all those names are European,” Sam said. “Specifically, they’re….”

“Celtic,” Daniel said, taking the PDA from her and scrolling through the slowly growing list. “A few non-Europeans but they could easily have Celtic ancestry, considering the pre-Celts used to be nomads who originated in the Indus Valley. Some South American, which would also make sense, since the Ancients used South America as one of their hidey-holes.”

“Okay, so I’m thinking this is a dominant gene among the Celts,” Daniel said. He scratched his jaw, his eyes quickly moving from side to side as he thought. “It would put the Celtic myths into a whole new perspective. As is, they’re a little psychotic, which isn’t surprising since it was Christian monks who wrote them down from Celtic oral traditions, but if we translate them so that…. Never mind… The Celts tended to take mates from whatever tribe they ran across, so the gene could have spread into other tribes very easily.”

“Probably need two people with the gene to pass it on, or it doesn’t get passed on,” Sam commented.

“Right,” Daniel was saying. “And like a lot of religions, the modern Celts, unlike their pre-Celtic ancestors, tend to stay within their ancestral origins. Celts marry Celts. Irish to Irish, Scots to Scots. Easy to pass on the gene. Also explains a lot of the Celtic mysticism about third sight and all. South America is even more inbred, unfortunately, and they have a lot of other worldly stuff happening, too.”

“Sir, all taken care of?” Davis asked when Jack returned to his section of the complex.

“Demon go bye-bye, Major,” Jack assured him.

Daniel and Sam headed for her office, along with Dr. Caballo, to bring up the records of Gene-positive people and try to find the common denominator.

“Very good, sir,” Davis said. “You have a visitor waiting, sir.”

“Oh?”

Jack went into his office and found a familiar figure looking out his window.

“Bre’tac!” Jack greeted the rebel with a wide smile as he held out an arm. Bre’tac clasped it, an equally welcoming smile on his weathered face.

“It is good to see you well, old friend,” Bre’tac said.

“You, too,” Jack returned and gestured toward a chair. “How’s tricks?”

“Tricks are well,” Bre’tac said with a nod. “Gerek is dead. He attempted to force free Jaffa into worshipping new gods. He was killed.”

“Wonderful!” Jack declared. “So who’s in charge?”

Bre’tac smiled and Jack let out a “Whoo-hoo!” while raising his arms in victory. He broke out the whisky and glasses and handed one to the old man. “To freedom,” Jack said. Bre’tac agreed and they drank.

Everyone was doing well, Bre’tac assured Jack; Rya’c was to be a father, soon, and Teal’c was seeing a warrior woman from a Jaffa tribe that Thanatos had introduced them to. That explained to Jack why his friend hadn’t been around in a while.

“You’re presence is missed,” Bre’tac told him with a sincere smile. “Many leaders would like to gather to discuss the Baal issue. There is to be a council of the leaders from many different tribes and worlds. Many tribes have watched Jaffa come together and be greater as a whole. There is talk about forming a union and defeating Baal once and for all. Your presence is requested to represent the Tau’ri.”

Jack sat back, stunned. “Is there a plan in the works?”

“There was,” Bre’tac said. “Malek had a good idea, but Baal has altered his tactics enough so that Malek’s plan is no longer a viable option.”

As Jack listened, he grew more and more concerned; Baal had been learning alternative strategies.


 

Chapter 27

 

Jack brought Bre’tac home for dinner, much to the delight of the children. He was introduced to Jerrie and he bowed politely to her.

“Major Bryce’s sister,” Jack told him.

Bre’tac’s eyes lit up. “Ah, yes,” he said. “I have fought beside your brother. He is a most skilled warrior.”

After dinner, Bre’tac told the children stories. The older ones were beyond bedtime stories, but they listened avidly while pretending to do homework. After a while, Jack stole Bre’tac, amidst protests, and he and Sam left for the SGC, picked up Davis on their way out, and had an impromptu meeting with Landry and Reynolds once they settled into the Mountain. They brought up the star charts and Bre’tac pinpointed where Baal was last known to be holding fort. Reynolds nodded in agreement, confirming the rumors he and SG-1 had been hearing on their own excursions. Jack had Sam highlight the worlds they knew in the area that would need added protection. He frowned; there were a lot and Baal had been busy stealing more slaves from unprotected worlds. And from the positioning of Baal’s fleet, he was preparing to reclaim territory that had been freed by Jaffa and Tau’ri.

“Do you know where the Tok’ra are at the moment?” he asked Bre’tac. The old warrior gave the last known coordinates and Sam marked it off. “Where is Thanatos’ fleet?” Again, Sam marked it on the chart. She highlighted each world they knew had space flight, and each world with a friendly military. Once the star chart was lit up with all of Jack’s requests, the universe didn’t look so daunting. Even Bre’tac’s face was lit up as he looked at the star chart. They were not as alone as they thought they were; Baal could be taken.

Jack called Maynard and requested a special meeting with the Joint Chiefs, and asked that they come to him for the meeting. It was highly irregular, but Maynard agreed after Jack promised to send his al'kesh to pick them up. Jack made a list and sent Davis to start dialing numbers.

The next day, HomeSec was under heavy guard as military leaders from around the world were brought in. To their even greater surprise, they were joined by military leaders from off-world, including Jaffa, Tok’ra, Masharu, Langaran, Serakkin, Sua, and Anunnaki. Some wanted to know where the Asgard were, so Jack had to explain the Asgard non-involvement. The Tau’ri were amazed, not comprehending the extent of their galactic allies until they saw all the different representatives in one place.

That the sky was filled with various types of alien ships was quickly reported and the press descended upon HomeWorld Security for explanations. Demands fell on deaf ears.

The star chart was brought out and broken down for those unfamiliar with space coordinates. A few of the military leaders who prided themselves on astrophysics were having a difficult time with the fact that they could get across the galaxy in a week, instead of hundreds of years. More information was highlighted after input from Masharu, Anunnaki, and Serakkin. They brain-stormed for six days straight, with Thanatos and Camulus giving inside information on Goa’uld techniques and Baal’s possible current thinking patterns, and finally came to an agreement. The HomeSec council informed their governments, blessings were received. All 303s were recalled home and all 302 pilots were recalled from vacations.

The press took note and were still left in the dark.

Jack sent word to Thor of their plans, putting the Asgard on alert. Word got out and non-flight friendlies sent their pledges of support for anything the Alliance needed; O’Neill had saved their butts, so they would make good on that favor. All the non-Tau’ri allies were looking to Jack as the leader, and Tau’ri generals and admirals quickly swallowed their pride and fell in line.

The 303s came home and were immediately restocked and loaded for battle. Almost all civilians on board were replaced with troops. By the time all the allied ships arrived, there were over thousand ships in orbit and waiting around the solar system. No explanation had yet been given to the people of Earth, except that they were friendly and not to worry.

Jack insisted on taking a day off in the middle of the war plans. He gathered his family together and explained to the children why he had to leave, and promised that he would be back as soon as he could. Jack set out pictures of Megan and his father, and he talked with the children about their mother and how much he missed her and Papa. He got Katie, Matthew, and Davy to talk and to tell stories, and even Stacy helped by telling a story about time spent with Megan and Grandpa Tom. Jack made the children all hold hands and promise to help each other and listen to whatever Sam and Daniel told them.

While storming through his office at HomeSec, Mrs. Clark was a little weepy as she worried for Jack and Davis. She and Mrs. Arthur got together and informed Jack that he had better come back or ELSE.

“Or else what?” Jack asked. The women nodded sagely.

“Exactly,” Mrs. Arthur informed him. Neither of the men understood, but Sam seemed to as she agreed with the older women. When Daniel asked around the SGC, personnel all agreed that Jack had better return; none of them wanted to answer to Mrs. A if he didn’t. Even General Landry quickly agreed. What worried Daniel more was that the female personnel all seemed to understand the vague threat. He was beginning to think that the female language was never going to be deciphered.

Jack sent Jerrie and the kids all shopping and told her to take a few hours. She didn’t ask as she loaded the kids into her SUV. Jack, Sam, and Daniel took their time making love to each other.

Inanna and her crew transferred and split up between the 303s, and left a rudimentary crew on the Heaven’s Bow. At least the planet would have a certain amount of protection. Just in case.

Jack put Earth at DefCon 2.

Those who knew Jack were not surprised when he put his ‘son’ on his war council. Nate had shown up at the war council meeting, surprising everyone in his Anunnaki leathers, centered and at peace. And he was now ‘Jonathan’.

Jonathan pulled his hair back into a ponytail and got to work. Only a few Tau’ri considered questioning it, and being military they knew when to not ask questions; especially when long-time SGC personnel gave them looks that told them to keep it shut. Jonathan could often be found without a shirt or vest on, wearing only leather boots and the kilt. The deep, grooved scars on his chest, still reddish-pink from healing, had earned him respect in the eyes of the Jaffa. Jack wasn’t sure he wanted to know how his clone got the scars. The tattoos of Tau’ri and Anunnaki on each upper arm proclaimed his dual allegiance, and several Anunnaki also had new ink. There was a little commentary about Goa’uld tattoos, but it was quickly canceled out as more and more people showed up with new ink on their arms. Humans had been inking themselves since time immemorial, so there wasn’t anything new about their need to proclaim themselves.

The main question of the day was, “Where exactly is Baal?”

Jack and the war council stared at the star chart, discussing various locations where Baal had supposedly been sighted. Going on a hunch, “There.” Everyone looked as both Jack and Jonathan pointed at the same spot at the same time.

“How do you know?” Malek asked, looking from one to the other.

“We have to start someplace,” Jack said mildly, not looking at his younger self.

Battle plans were created and discussed with the troop leaders. Inanna tore the plans down. “They are common,” she told the surrounding military leaders. “Baal will know these strategies. We need something that will surprise him. Take him unawares.” She and Ninurta, working side by side, quickly drew up plans from ancient battles. The plans were sneaky and underhanded. They were approved.

Jack put Hammond in temporary charge of HomeSec, and made the Prometheus his flag ship. Many tried to convince Jack to remain on Earth, but he had waited too long for this day; he needed to be on the field, and he wanted Baal. Several squads remained on Earth to guard home base. Jack left Col. Chekhov in charge of them, much to the vocal disapproval of the Joint Chiefs.

“General Hammond,” Jack called over the open radio. “Let’s hear it, sir.”

Standing next to Landry who lifted a quizzed, hairy eyebrow, Hammond smiled and everyone in the control room turned to look at him. “God’s speed, people.”

News from behind the lines was that Baal was on the defense when he became aware of the size of the amassed fleet headed his way from three different directions, with a Tau’ri battle cruiser leading each of the three fronts.

The first month was a hard, bloody battle. Allies were picked up along the way, hundreds of lives were lost, mostly locals on various planets. Troops put down on allied planets for rest and refilling of the food stocks. A hundred or so non-flight worlds honored their debts to the Tau’ri, proud to step in where they could to help even if was just for a hot meal. They had been scared; Baal had been gathering the remaining Goa’uld to him and had begun taking slaves once more.

Jack refused to be a desk jockey, and took turns in the cockpit of 302s along with everyone else. He took Teal’c as his partner. Jack’s personal guards were not happy about him going into battle along with everyone else, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. Generals were supposed to remain behind and direct. If Inanna was going into battle, so was Jack; she wasn’t going to get all the fun.

Ship by ship, Baal’s fleet was picked off. Col. Reynolds came in at one point, carrying a silver platter with a domed hood. He entered the bridge of the Prometheus with a shit-eating grin.

“How much do you love me, Jack?” he cooed. Jack’s ears would have twitched if they could. Bridge crew turned to look. Even Col. Markham slowly turned his center seat around, an eyebrow raised at Reynolds’ tone. Markham was still getting used to Jack’s form of command.

“That depends,” Jack said cautiously as he straightened up from behind the battle board. “Is that a steak?”

“Even better,” Reynolds said. He lifted the lid. A bloody head sat on the platter with a dead symbiote next to it. A rebel yell rocked the bridge. Jack was happy to report to the troops that Enlil was officially dead. Moral was lifted high and a renewed effort was made on the battle front. Goa’uld heads began to be delivered to Jack as they became available. It was a little gruesome, but it was making the troops happy. A few sticklers for propriety made commentary about the rules of warfare.

“What rules?” Jack snapped. “This is war, not a football game.”

Inanna requested a private viewing of the head for a memorial. Enlil wasn’t at fault for the actions of the symbiote, and they wanted to remember their older brother as he used to be. Their grief quickly cooled the celebrations of everyone else.

Like a tidal wave, Alliance ships swept across the galaxy. They found a few inhabited worlds that were under siege by Goa’uld slavers, and a couple squads took the time to quickly dispatch the mothership hovering over each world. Alien worlds that had yet to be met by SG teams, but had heard of the Tau’ri named O’Neill, joined in the fight, introducing themselves with gunfire as they flew side by side with Alliance ships.

After several ‘hunches’ had proved correct, and after talking with a few SG troops who had worked with Jack and witnessed his ‘hunches’ in action, Enki took Jack AND Jonathan aside for a chat. Since many correct hunches happened prior to the first time Jack had an Ancient repository downloaded into his brain, forcing open most of his brain’s pathways and forming new ones, he must have inherited the Celtic ‘spooky’ gene from his parents. The old man helped them find the correct area of their brain to use it at will. Jack’s reputation had grown when word got out that he was interrogating prisoners by reading their minds.

Anunnaki interrogators spread themselves out to other ships. Captives began killing themselves rather than being taken before one of these interrogators. Only Jack had the horrifying snake stick, though. Tok’ra had taken to being completely honest with him after the first time they witnessed what the pukku could do. Malek had tried telling them.

Jack’s reputation was also growing about the time he spent walking through the infirmaries. There was a hushed whisper that people touched by him tended to heal faster than others with the same wounds who were not touched. Jack thought it was nonsense when he heard about it, scoffing with a wave of his hand. Bre’tac and Teal’c didn’t comment; Jack didn’t remember healing Bre’tac of a deadly knife wound. It had happened when the second repository download completely took over Jack’s brain years earlier.

There was only so much kel’no’reeming a man could do, so Jack was running on caffeine most of the time. When he did agree to get a little rest, he rarely made it to his quarters and usually ended up in one of the make-shift group rooms. With all the extra people on board the ships, a few of the larger rec-rooms were cleared of furniture and the floors were covered in pillows, blankets, and anything else people could sleep on. He would crash in a group room and more than once woke up in a tangle of arms and legs. After spending almost a year getting used to multiple people in his own bed, he slept better when surrounded by people. Most of the groups were non-Tau’ri; Jack’s own people were still a little self-conscious about groups, and were rarely out of the male-female pairing. Jack was usually in the Anunnaki’s room where anything goes. Col. Reynolds and SG-1 weren’t questioning it, so neither did anyone else. The crew was discovering that if they took their cues from SG-1, they worked easier with their unpredictable general.

After the first month, the no sex policy went quickly out the door once people learned that Jack didn’t care as long as jobs were done to the best of their abilities and no jealous duels were started over assumed territory. He saw the example on alien ships; the connection made them closer and more likely to fight harder for each other, as well as releasing tension. Let people be people, he decided.

Jack insisted that the crew spend off-duty time in as much recreation as possible, to off-set their on-duty time. Being confined in such tight quarters 24/7, play-time was important or people would blow up. Read, watch movies, play; he didn’t care, just do something to work out the tension. Too many soldiers returned home, only to commit suicide.

Most intelligent beings were cooperative, Enki told him; cooperative beings had brains that told them to cooperate, not kill each other. When soldiers were abruptly dropped from the battlefield and back into peaceful territory, their brain was unable to adjust to the atrocities committed in the line of duty, and they imploded. Jack didn’t want any ‘implosions’ from his command. Play, people, get it out of your system.

Col. Markham gave him looks and made small comments under his breath about protocol, but Jack told him to chill and think of it as an experiment. Major Davis was keeping a quiet watch on statistics, letting Jack know that performance stats were up while stress related issues were down. There had been a few blow-ups over women, but Jack didn’t need to step in; the women themselves dealt with it. They were not property, they would spend time with whomever they pleased, and if the men didn’t like it, they were put on the social no-contact list. The Anunnaki women were all supportive of their baby sisters.

Much to Jack’s embarrassment, Jonathan had taken to being the entertainment during what little down-time they had. More often than not, he could be found with his guitar, fronting a home-made band and getting people to dance. Once or twice Jonathan had goaded Jack into a song, much to the good-natured enthusiasm of the troops. During one of their 303 commander meetings, Jack was surprised when Col. Caldwell also jumped up onto the stage and helped Jonathan rock the house down. The man was a pretty good, slightly raspy baritone. Caldwell blamed it on the cigarettes he had smoked for years. Until he was put on the 303. Smokers didn’t stay smokers, once they were put into space. Even Col. Markham had to admit that the crew was more together after such events. The Sua had to wait for landfall until they could build bonfires for their drums. They tried to build a bonfire on a cargo deck after bringing in wood from one of the planets they visited, and were startled when the ship’s fire system took over.

Such events were few and far between on some stretches of the battle. There were many weeks when all they did was fight enemy ships without let-up. Entire motherships had been taken, and smaller vessels took them over as home ports. The cramped spaces on the other ships were relieved as personnel transferred to the ha’taks. The closer they got to Baal’s position, the more desperate Baal’s fleet fought.

Baal sent a message that he wanted to talk truce, but Jack refused; he knew better than to believe a Goa’uld would keep the truce. His council agreed with him. Other calls came in, requests for asylum. After questioning, Thanatos confirmed that many were hidden Masharu. Jack reminded him of free-will and not to trust someone just because they say one thing. Interrogators took over and a few of the asylum seekers had been executed. Most Jaffa willingly surrendered to Bre’tac, and slaves were offered the chance to fight or sit it out in a ha’tak until they could be returned to their home worlds. Many chose to fight.

A few battles were fought on the ground of one planet or another. Jack more than once found himself on the back of a race called Ras that served on Thanatos’ ship. They reminded Jack of centaurs; half horse and half human. Pony sized, not full horse sized. And they didn’t mind carrying riders. Jack got to know one called Mitraka and they became regular partners when they were on ground. Teal’c’s Ras was called Pashly. The troops were startled, at first, when the Ras were brought out of hiding, but quickly got used to them, as they did with any other alien race. The Goa’uld Jaffa seemed outraged that the Tau’ri would resort to ground fighting on something other than their feet.

Reports were sent back to Earth, and Jack was relieved to hear that Earth was still safe. A world-wide party was being had after he sent news back that Enlil was dead. News of the space battle with the Goa’uld was smuggled into the general population, and everyone was avidly eating up the images being sent back from the 303 cameras. The Pentagon tried to stop the public from viewing it, but Hammond convinced them that the public deserved to know. The public found it strange to watch the space battle; after years of movies, they automatically expected sound effects. All they got was dead silence. Sound didn’t travel in space. Not much more than a few inches, anyway. Neither did fire. Ships that blew up or were hit were simply whole one minute and drifting with debris the next. Any fires were confined to the internal portion of ships, anyplace with oxygen present.

All the kids sent messages and Jack kept pictures of them plastered all over his quarters. Olivia had discovered her toes. Jack recorded stories for her to watch, so that she would know his voice and his face. Many mommies and daddies sent recorded story-time messages, and story books were circulated throughout the ships so that they had new stories to share.

More Goa’uld surrendered to the Alliance. Jack used the pukku on them and found that Camulus had been right; when the Goa’uld was dead, the host quickly died, too, having been host too long. Sometimes there was a brief moment of horrifying clarity for the host, and death was the blessing. Jack sent many of the images to Baal. Over an open channel, of course.

The ground battles were the worst. All too often they left a planet flowing with rivers of blood. Mostly red, a few dashes of orange, purple, green, and blue. Jack found it hard to believe that the natives were thanking them for freeing them from the Goa’uld, when they were hip deep in the dead and dying. In the middle of the second month, Jack had found himself no longer able to feel after burying one child after another. It seemed that not a day went by when he wasn’t burying someone or pulling a sheet over someone’s head.

Only seven weeks had gone by, and it seemed like an eternity. All Jack could smell was blood and the dead. He was a ghost when he walked through the Prometheus to his quarters. Someone must have whispered a word to his private council because he didn’t even hear his door chime until Ninurta sat on the side of his bed.

“You’re a mess, ahu,” the warrior told him gently. He touched the soot on Jack’s face and looked over the blood and bruises. A section of hair was matted down with blood and dirt, but the wound had been minor and was encrusted over. “Come on,” he stood and took Jack’s hand, giving it a gentle tug. Jack stood without a word. Ninurta herded him into the shower. Jack was gently scrubbed from head to foot, taken out, dried and put to bed. Jack lay back on his bunk, an arm over his face. Seven weeks; they had been at it for only seven weeks and he had seen more blood and death than he had seen in his lifetime. Were they doing the right thing?

Dead bodies rose up to greet him. They gibbered at him, threw blood on him, hit him with torn off limbs and entrails. Children looked up at him with dead, hollow eyes. Daniel, Sam, and all their children spoke to him in the dual voice of a host. Snake after snake lunged at him until his body was splitting at the seams with all the snakes in him. Charlie stood in front of him, a symbiote head weaving in and out of his belly. Jack yelled and clawed at the bed.

“Jack!”

He refused to hear the voice, shaking his head. He was roughly shaken and he sat up quickly, fists raised. “It’s me, Jack!” Ninurta said loudly, grasping his wrists, struggling with him. Taking a deep, shocked breath, Jack yanked himself free and turned away, his whole body shaking. “You’re alright,” the warrior said quietly. “Let it go.” Whether it was the calm acceptance in the warrior’s voice or his partners, somewhere in the back of his mind, Jack found the strength to wail into the thin mattress.

When he was worn out, Ninurta handed him his t-shirt. Jack wiped his face and blew his nose before tossing it to the floor and putting an arm over his eyes.

“Do you believe in a soul?” Ninurta asked as he sat on the floor, his back against the bed frame where he had been watching over his friend.

“Yes.”

“Then believe that those souls are not lost,” Ninurta said. “They will return. Let them know of your sorrow for them, ask their forgiveness, and beg them to return in a new body. It is also time to forgive yourself, ahu. You are the only one holding you responsible for Charlie.”

Jack was silent for a while, contemplating his inner eyelids. “You’ve done this for thousands of years?” he asked after a while.

“It was hard, at first; there was a time when our feelings were shut off,” Ninurta confessed. “All that death and quite a bit of it unnecessary. The innocents are the hardest. When we discovered that we were faced with becoming like the Goa’uld or destroying the remainder of our race through our own internal fighting, the Nox smacked us upside the head. They were still interfering way back then; this holier than thou thing they have going on is relatively new. They told us to cut the crap, love each other, don’t fight each other, and open our hearts to even the most horrific of things. Say YES to everything. Even when we must say NO, stop and say YES. That is the acceptance of life. Death is part of life. When we say NO to death and destruction, we deny life Her due. By saying YES, we stand in a place of beauty. Do you know why death, destruction, carnage is beautiful?”

Jack shook his head, staring at the dark, black hair of the man on the floor. “Because it is a direct reminder of the miracle of life. Feel, Jack. Always. One hundred percent of the time. Feel. Never stop. Scream, laugh, cry, but feel it. For every drop of blood spilt, say YES to life. This is why we love so fiercely; we cling to each other, insisting that we feel and celebrate life to its fullest.

“We are not immortal, Jack, we age and we die. We simply age much slower than you. After the first thousand years, we have seen all and we’ve done all. There is no more discovery. Many choose to die, instead of waiting for death to choose them. Those of us who remain do so either listening to the seconds tick by or we shut off all feeling. I have learned to listen to the seconds. We love each other. We touch, we hit, we caress, we scream and yell, we laugh, cry, speak our minds, our hearts, we kiss, we sing, dance, we look into each other’s eyes and praise each other. We do this as a reminder that we are alive.”

Jack was staring at him. “Do you always talk so much?” he asked.

Ninurta chuckled. “Yes,” he admitted.

“What does your name mean?” Jack asked. “Daniel said ‘Nin’ means Lady.”

Ninurta smiled. “It does,” he said. “It also means Lord. My language doesn’t really break down into gender specific categories, unlike the Semitic languages such as Arabic or Hebrew. ‘Nin’ is just a polite, general honorific for male OR female. Like Ma’am or Sir. ‘Urta’ is an earth reference. Lord of the Earth. Aba’s name actually means the same thing. ‘En’ is also an honorific which means Lord. More of a leadership honorific, than a general one.Ki’ means earth. Lord of the Earth. Different kinds of earth, though. Ki refers to the living earth, the earth that grows. Urta is the plants and growing things. Apparently, I grew like a weed.”

Jack burst out laughing. Ninurta smiled, pleased.

“Jonathan means Gift of God,” Ninurta continued. “You think of yourself as Jack, though, and Jack means the Lord is Gracious. You are gracious, Jack; you have a tremendous heart. You have opened your home, your life, to five children. You see injustice and you’re the first person to stand up and point it out. The galaxy comes calling for help, and you rally the troops. It’s been too long since we met anyone with a heart such as yours, Jack, and we honor you for it.”

Jack leaned up on his elbows, looking at him.

“I don’t know what to say,” he quietly admitted.

Ninurta shook his head. “You don’t need to say anything. I proudly call you brother as well as friend. Aba has declared Daniel his own, a rare thing, by the way, so that makes you my brother, too. Know we are your family, Jack, and as family, you have the right of family. All of our people know this.”

He turned to look at Jack, his black eyes glowing with an inner light. “You should also make peace with Jonathan, Jack. He is very courageous; he could have taken the easy path and ended his life. It was an exceedingly cruel thing Loki did, creating him without a thought for the person. I don’t think anyone can even contemplate the true horror of Loki’s work.

“Jonathan is a living person, he has his own soul, and yet Loki treated him as a thing. Your body and mind may have been duplicated, but his soul is his own. Jonathan has chosen to explore his soul, the only thing he has that is NOT yours. That is why he has found himself happy with our family. You could not be happy in his place because that is not who you are. He is a consort, you are a lord. Those aspects come from the heart and the soul. He is at peace now. He can now grow and become his own person to the full extent of his soul.”

He had to admit that Jonathan had begun to grow on him; sometimes even forgetting that Jonathan was his clone. The young man had deliberately taken paths not chosen by Jack, therefore sending himself into new territory and a new life. It took courage, Jack could see that. He would consider Ninurta’s words.

Before Ninurta left, he told Jack to join them in their room once in a while; he would be among peers who understood him more than he knew.

The ship alarms then went off, sending Jack leaping from his bed to get dressed. The two men ran out the door, rushed through the halls and onto the bridge when they saw they had come to another planet that was surrounded by Goa’uld al'kesh. The Goa’uld were keeping with their M.O; they were terrorizing villagers who were not yet industrialized.

302s exited the ships like angry bees from a hive, and dove at the planet. The villagers were terrified when the new ships buzzed angrily into their skies. Their terror began to turn into hope when they noticed that the new ships were firing upon the others, instead of the village.

The 302s landed and Jack and Teal’c jumped out, chasing Jaffa into the forest. Jack winced and slapped a hand to the side of his face as something whizzed past him, and went down with an even greater pain in his leg; close calls from a staff. His face ached and he bled a bit, but it wasn’t anything he knew wouldn’t heal. Several men stopped and checked on him. The leg wound would also heal. Teal’c growled and blasted the Jaffa who aimed at Jack. They ran down Jaffa for half the day and then returned to the main village, weary and sore. Crying and sniffling punctuated the air as the locals gathered up their dead and wounded.

“General!” Jack looked around. Harper was waving him down. Jack went over, limping. A man was cradling his wife, his eyes terrified.

“A snake just shot into her,” Harper said, his zat pointed at the woman. “It came out of one of the dead.”

Jack pulled his MRI from his pocket and looked at the woman through it. He took the pukku from his utility belt and aimed it, watching through the MRI. Harper watched over his shoulder as Teal’c kept a zat on her.

“It’s gone,” Jack told the husband. “She’ll be alright.” He went around and MRI’d others, disintegrating any living snakes. Once more, he wished the thing could be reverse engineered so that others could have one, too. He helped to gather up the children, cradling them and singing silly nursery songs to them as their adults scurried around them. These children were still alive; he could deal with a few nursery songs.

The villagers were nowhere near equipped to head out into space with them; farming was their primary concern. Col. Reynolds was having a pow-wow with the village elders, every once in a while looking toward Jack as they spoke. The fields were mostly destroyed. The villagers were going to starve until the next crops could be harvested. Jack looked around, taking note of various animal hides, and motioned to a few pilots.

“Each of you take a local,” he told them. “Find out how much food will be needed until the next harvest, and get some game in here.” They acknowledged him and went out for a little hunting with 302s.

By nightfall, there was a pile of dead animals ready to be skinned and their meat dried. Experienced hands were brought down from the ships to help with the skinning and smoking so that the meat wouldn’t go bad. It took two days to make sure the village was set up; the meat was hanging, the grateful locals could take it from there.

Back on the Prometheus, triage helpers insisted on escorting him to sickbay for his own repairs. Once his face was fixed, Jack touched his cheek and worked his jaw. The side of his face was still a little numb from the anesthetic and surgical glue, but the doctor told him he would be fine. When he got his BDU’s off, Jack whitened. The doctor pushed him back down.

“Two more inches, and my wife AND our husband would have been without their favorite play toy,” he told the doctor. The nurse reddened and handed the doctor a syringe filled with more surgical glue.

 


 

Chapter 28

 

With the ships conducting repairs, time off being taken planet-side in rotating shifts, and getting fresh food brought in from the planet below, there were reports to be read and written. Jack’s head buzzed from the decompression.

“Sir? Do you have a minute?”

He looked up from his desk.

“Come in, Major,” Jack invited Harper, leaning back from the computer. The major stood a little nervously in front of Jack.

“Sir, I…. when we get home… I’m going to ask Cassandra to marry me.”

Jack was glad he was sitting. What? He must have said it out loud.

“We’ve been dating for a few months,” Harper told him, cocking his head to one side. “I take it no one told you.”

Nooo,” Jack confirmed, lacing his fingers across his belly. “No one seems to be telling me much, lately. Does Nate… Jonathan know about this?”

“Yes, sir; he’s the one who introduced us.”

Jack groaned and breathed into his hands for a moment.

 “I wasn’t sure how your relationship with her worked, sir, so I wanted to let you know that I’m in love with her. If she’ll have me, I want to spend my life with her.”

Lowering his hands, Jack studied him over the top of his reading glasses. “Are you asking my permission?” he asked. He took his glasses off; he was getting a headache again.

Harper shook his head and grinned. “No, sir, just giving you warning so that you’ll have time to get used to the idea. Dad.”

“Out,” Jack ordered, pointing to the door. He found a couple of Tylenol, put a cold pack to his face, and called Jonathan in.

“Go beat up Harper,” he told his clone. Jonathan shrugged, nodded, and left.

During the third month, a ha’tak exploded close to the ground and decimated a largely populated planet. Slave labor was mining naquadah, and the ore magnified the explosion. A chunk of the planet was literally blown away. The planet dying, as many as possible of the inhabitants were brought up to the ships and transported to another habitable planet in the same system. Since nearby planets were in the habitable zone, which experience had shown was a good indication that transplanting life from one planet to another should be sustainable, animals and plants were also transported and abruptly put down, left to quickly adapt, or not.

While engineers from the ships helped locals to quickly build temporary housing, rumor had it that Baal was nearby, sending the rest of the ships on a snake hunt. Jack, Jonathan, and Ninurta were on the bridge, studying the star charts of the area. They were nose to nose with a suspicious spot in an asteroid belt just beyond the tenth planet in the large, twelve-planet system. Their spidey-senses told them something was in there, but the ship’s sensors weren’t picking it up.

“Sirs! He’s on the run!” Heads popped up and focused on the main screen. A ha’tak was making a break for it, up and over, instead of across the lines.

“Get after him!” Markham shouted, belatedly looking back at Jack.

“And double-time it!” Jack added, giving the colonel a nod.

Ships came to screeching halts and flipped around in space to chase after the mothership. The ha’tak suddenly disappeared into a slipstream and loud curses echoed through the bridge of the Prometheus.

An image hit Jack in the center of his chest. “Home,” he whispered, staring in horror at the screen. “About face!” he yelled. “Get us home, NOW! Move it, move it!”

Markham stood ramrod straight in the center of the bridge, barking orders the second he heard Jack’s “Home”. The word was sent to the entire fleet and everyone set their coordinates.

“General, there’s a gate here!” Davis shouted, pointing at the chart.

Jack stalked off the bridge and ran to the hanger bay. He and Teal’c jumped into a 302 and flew the second the Prometheus slowed enough to let them out. Ignoring the startled natives, Jack ran to the gate while Teal’c dialed.

“Open the door NOW!” Jack shouted the moment the gate was established. He heard a startled squeak from Walter and they ran in the second the event horizon was established, coming out in the gate room.

DefCon One! Get everything we have into the air!” Jack shouted as he ran through the door and down the hall.

Bells and whistles started to blow and people ran to their posts. Jack ran up to the command room and yanked on the phone while Walter sent out the signal to rally the 302s. Jack called Hammond and confirmed the codes. Hammond put the world on alert. Baal was a few hours away.

Jack called the Heaven’s Bow and had them put him and Teal’c down at HomeSec. The bells and whistles were going off at his office, too, as they ran through the corridors, startling everyone who thought he was off-world.

Hammond met Jack while Teal’c went to take command of the small fighter squadron that was kept on base. “The Joint Chiefs are putting the military on alert and letting our allies know what’s going on,” he reported. “What is going on?”

“Baal slipped us the finger,” Jack said as they hurried down the hall. “He got into subspace before we could fire a shot. He’s headed here. T and I jumped in through a gate, the rest of the fleet is on the way.”

All the Yards had been busy while they were away, and many new 302s began to buzz angrily in the air all over the planet. Jack’s only fear was that the pilots were untried. He met Teal’c outside and hurried to a waiting 302. They had to meet Baal long before he got to the planet.

Jack rounded up the troops the moment he hit air. Sam and Col. Jeffries showed up on his wing.

Baal came out of subspace near Saturn. Much to his shock, Tau’ri were there to meet him. The weapons of the 302s were hardly a match for a ha’tak, but the 303s were only minutes behind Baal so they kept him busy, stalling him while they waited for the rest of the fleet. Death gliders were picked off as they were targeted. 303s appeared and gliders immediately exited the hanger bays to join the games. The alien ally ships had stayed behind to deal with the remainder of Baal’s fleet.

The shields around Baal’s ship had been strengthened; the 303s were unable to get a shot through them.

“Playing with Anubis’ toys?” Sam called out over the radio.

“Looks like it,” Jack responded. His pleasure in her voice would have to wait.

They dodged in and out of death glider fire, Jack at the wheel while Teal’c took care of firepower. He could sense Baal on the ha’tak; Baal was angry, shocked, and yet worried. Never had so many non-Goa’uld taken out Goa’uld ships before. Their 302 shuddered.

“O’Neill!” Teal’c yelled.

“Yeah, T, sorry,” Jack responded. No mental multi-tasking in the middle of a space battle…

“T, there has to be some place on that ship that is vulnerable,” Jack said, thinking out loud. “Nothing is perfect.” They dodged another blast from the ship. “Sam!” Jack called out. “How are those weapons able to get out if the shields let nothing in? Wouldn’t they phase out along the inside of the shields like ours do on the outside?”

“Good question,” she responded. “Give me a minute.”

They each took out several more death gliders as Sam thought about Jack’s ruminations.

“So, the way our weapons work is that the ship’s computer automatically tracks the weapon,” Sam said, doing her own thinking out loud. “When we lock onto a target, the computer makes note of it and fluctuates the field which allows…. target their gun muzzles!”

Jack immediately changed course direction and placed them in direct line with one of the ha’tak’s weapons. He took weapons control and fired the moment he saw a spark of energy. He spun them away. When he turned them around, that section of shield was down and the surrounding ship’s surface was crackling with angry energy. The comm channels were loud with shouts from the other pilots. All the sharp-shooters took center stage and targeted the gun muzzles on the enemy. The mothership tried to escape the moment Baal realized what the insane Tau’ri were doing. While 303s kept him corralled, several more sections of shield went down and the remaining 302s began targeting the ship itself until an entire corner began to glow. The Heaven’s Bow got in close and tossed some kind of beam at the ship, latching on to it. Very slowly, the Anunnaki ship pulled away. Baal’s ship followed.

“It’s going to blow!” Markham called out over the pilot channel. “Everyone get out of the way. Far out of the way!”

302s scattered like startled mice, heading out into space in all 360 degree directions from Baal’s ship. The Prometheus gave the ha’tak one more blast through a downed shield section and the 303s also scattered.

Just beyond Pluto and the giant Oort Cloud, Heaven’s Bow released their tow beam, put their engines into over-drive, and disappeared. The mothership blew up with a star-sized explosion, sending a burst of shock waves in all directions. Asteroids were disintegrated, larger rocks turned into rubble that would rain down on planets and moons for quite some time to come.

Screams of joy were heard on the headsets.

“Drinks are on me!” Jack announced.

Someone started singing We Are the Champions, and by the time they returned to Earth, even Teal’c was rumbling badly into the radio.

302s landed in the now legendary field where it all started. Pilots jumped out and fell on their faces as they kissed the snow covered ground. It wasn’t too long until local families showed up to find their heroes. Jack caught Sam in his arms and swung her around. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he held her as they kissed long and hard.

Helicopters showed up, cameramen hanging out.

“Someone get those peeping toms out of my airspace!” Jack ordered over his radio. He went back to kissing his wife. A short time later, the rest of his family was beamed in front of him. Jack caught the children, squeezing them hard. He could not believe how big Olivia had grown. He kissed the crying, scared baby and handed her to Sam. He yanked Daniel into his arms and kissed him. They slipped on the snow and Jack fell on top of him. The children laughed as they continued kissing.

 


 

Chapter 29

 

There was an impromptu party in a large, open space in the warehouse district. Many pilots had chosen to return immediately to their homes; those that remained got the party started. Restaurants opened their kitchens and catered to the event. Jack winced at hearing a familiar voice in the microphone. Sam and Daniel looked at him, as did the children.

“Don’t even,” he warned.

“Too late, Jack,” Reynolds said, clasping him on the shoulder as he walked by. “We have ship’s footage of you, him, and Col. Caldwell rocking your asses off. More than once.”

“Really?” Sam and Daniel each took an arm and steered Kevin away for gossip.

“Dead meat, Adda,” Stacy informed Jack, giving him a pat. He looked at her.

“What did you call me?”

Adda,” she repeated. “Daddy said it means Daddy.” The other children nodded.

“Uncle Danny is Uncle Danny for us, but you’re Adda for Stacy,” Katie told him. “And Aunt Sam is Aunt Sam for us, and Mom for Stacy.”

“Oh. Okay. Do you know how much I missed you guys?” he asked, whining. “My quarters are covered in pictures of all of you. Ask anyone; they think it’s a funky wall-paper. I am in serious need of kisses. Lots and lots of kisses.” They laughed and toppled him, covering his face with the begged smooches. They did take care with the boo-boos, though. He was glad to know they had bonded with his partners.

Although the children wanted to stay with him, it was getting very late and the alcohol was beginning to flow. The baby wasn’t at all happy about the ruckus, so Katie offered to take the kids home.

“Since when?” Jack asked.

“Since Uncle Danny taught me to drive,” she told him, taking Olivia from him. “Don’t worry, Dad, I’m a good driver.”

“But I wanted to teach you how to drive,” Jack whined.

“You get to teach me, Dad,” Matty informed him, patting him on a shoulder. Jack didn’t care; he got a ‘Dad’ out of both of them.

He got good night kisses and the kids sent him out to play. Jack went into the main party just in time to see Harper go down on one knee.

“Is that what it looks like?” Sam asked in his ear. She and Daniel stood side by side, watching.

“Yes, it is,” Jack nodded, not too sure about how he was feeling. “He told me on board that he was going to do it. I didn’t expect it so soon, though.”

Cassie threw her arms around Harper’s neck.

“Looks like we have a wedding to plan,” Daniel said. He smacked Jack on the arm. “You didn’t go down on one knee to me,” he complained.

“Me, neither,” Sam said, glaring at Jack.

“So I’m a barbarian,” he told them. “And I’ve been on my knees before both of you, so shut up. Guys, Harper is going to be our son-in-law. Dean Harper, guys. How do we feel about this?”

“Well, technically, Cassie was Janet’s daughter, not ours,” Daniel reminded him. “We’re more like uncles and aunt-in-law. I think the bigger question is how does Jonathan feel about it?”

They all looked toward the end of the room where said Jonathan had momentarily paused in his stage romping. He saw them watching him and he gave an okay.

The Press showed up at the door and they were stared down by some of the larger Jaffa. General O’Neill will hold a press conference in two days; they could wait. In the meantime, they could report that Tau’ri hind ends were saved once more by the general and his kids. Grrrrr…. The reporters shot back to a safer distance. Actually, Davis had already had a press kit ready for release. It should be arriving via fax in all the main press offices. The Jaffa snickered to themselves.

Jack got his owies kissed by his partners before they insisted on dancing with him. They plied him with a beer and pulled him into the crowd. They steered him closer to the front until he was pulled up onto the stage, much to the delight of everyone. Caldwell was also pushed up, as was Ninurta who had been learning songs from Jonathan. The four men shook the building. Ninurta’s growling baritone adapted well to the hard rock he had picked up from Jonathan’s boom-box.

It was almost dawn by the time everyone worked out their energy. A few words in Jack’s ear sent him up to the stage. “Quiet!” he called out. The crowd calmed and waited for a moment. “It is appropriate that we celebrate life,” he said. “A lot of good people were lost, though, and we should also remember them.” There were shouts from the crowd and clapping. “Since the start of the Stargate Program and through the recent events, the count is at 2,237 lives lost. That’s just immediate military personnel, not including civilians, and we’re not done counting those lost during this action. Before we go home and take comfort with our families, I’d like to ask Daniel to come up here and sing that lament he sang for us a while back.”

Daniel hopped up onto the stage. “Which one?” he asked, not showing any discomfort at being in front of a microphone with a few hundred people.

“The Egyptian one,” Jack reminded him. “The one you sang when you were comparing notes with Inanna.”

Daniel nodded. He gripped the microphone between both hands, thinking and centering. He then piped out a clear tenor. The haunting keening echoed across the warehouse, sending shivers through the spines of everyone. Many had their heads bowed and were silently weeping by the time he was finished. The words were not in English, but their intent came through the language barrier.

Jack, Markham, Caldwell, and Galanakis gathered and stood at the entrance of the door, making sure everyone headed out was touched and thanked by them.

He collapsed into bed when he got home, was undressed by his partners who frowned at the stitches on his inner thigh, and slept for over fifteen hours. All the phones were shut off and the guards were doubled around the house. The children were kept home from school. Sam made sure to call Jack’s mother to let her know Jack was fine and would call her when he woke up. The television was filled with images of the return of the pilots and the battle near Saturn. Over and over, Baal’s exploding ship was shown. Someone had recorded Daniel’s lament, which was also broadcast over and over. No list of dead had yet been released but when sons and daughters, husbands and wives didn’t return home, families knew.

Sam had nestled into Daniel as they watched the morning programs; she then went into her office and began writing up her report while Daniel and Jerrie saw to the children. Jerrie had already welcomed her brother back the night before; today was time for him to spend his with wife and children.

The younger children were anxious to see Jack, but Katie and Matthew understood that he needed time to sleep and get himself together. Olivia had been a little cranky, picking up on the tension. Sam brought out a partial, yet growing, list of the declared dead and showed it to Daniel.

“God,” he groaned. “Almost half the teams are gone.”

Sam nodded. “Col. Reynolds is the only one left of SG-1, and Bosco and Harper from SG-3,” she said.

“Would it be callous of me if I said I was glad Nyan had been left here?” Daniel asked, flipping through the pages.

“I wouldn’t say so,” she commented. “He never picked up on the weapons like you did; it wouldn’t have been appropriate for him to be out there in that.”

“Did lots of people die, Uncle Danny?” Davy asked, leaning against his arm.

“Yes, they did,” Daniel nodded, giving the brown hair a tousle.

“But Daddy and Nate are here,” Davy said, looking for confirmation.

“Yes, they are,” Daniel confirmed. “And he’s Jonathan now, remember? Just like Uncle Jack became Daddy, Nate wants to be called Jonathan.”

David nodded. “But you’re still Uncle Danny.”

Daniel smiled. “Yes, I’m still Uncle Danny and Aunt Sam is still Aunt Sam.”

“Do I hafta change my name, too?” David asked with a sigh.

“No, you’re still Davy,” Daniel assured him.

Several times during the day, they heard helicopters fly over the house. Jets quickly came in and chased them away. The home of the Chief of HomeWorld Security was a no-fly zone.

Sam needed to leave after writing up her report; she had a seminar on the new forensics protocols to oversee. The seminar was a two-week meeting and they were only halfway through.

Daniel checked emails periodically, which was the only way anyone was going to get in touch with them until they turned the phones back on. Daniel logged into his private account which held considerably less new emails. Not too many people had his private account. He responded to many with short, brief sentences before he made lunch for the troops and checked on Jack who was still sound asleep. At least he was home. Daniel smoothed Jack’s hair and kissed his brow. Adults helped with homework and more than once shushed the kids. They could play outside in the yard, as long as the guards were present.

Daniel caught his daughter on her way out the door and kissed her loudly on the side of her head.

“Love you,” he informed her and released her.

“Love you, too!” she called out from across the room.

“Say it in…. French,” Daniel instructed.

“Sans tu je ne suis qu’un ver de terre,” she said impudently and ducked at the hand towel that was thrown at her. She laughed and ran out of the house.

“What did she say?” Jerrie asked, sipping on her tea. “I know that wasn’t ‘I love you.’”

Daniel chuckled. “She said, ‘I am an earthworm without you.’ Too smart for her own good, I think.”

It was dark again when Jack woke up for a longer period of time than to stagger to the bathroom and pee.

“What did you do to your leg and where is the bastard who did it?” Sam demanded as he walked back into the bedroom. Daniel looked up from his book to the bruise on the upper-inner section of Jack’s right thigh. “That looks like a staff blast.”

“It is,” Jack croaked as he collapsed back into bed. “Don’t worry; Teal’c reprimanded the bastard.”

There were a lot of bruises, cuts, and scrapes on Jack’s body. His partners picked him over, discussing each mark in heated whispers. Sam was taking pictures of each with her digital.

“Will you two knock it off?” Jack requested after being rolled over for the hundredth time. They sat back, frowning. “I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’m hungry.” They jumped up, not believing that they hadn’t considered food.

By the time Jack was done with both sandwiches, he was ready for sleep again.

The children knew better than to barge into their bedroom, so when the Parents didn’t appear in the morning, Jerrie got them ready and an SF drove them to school. A long talk with the principals assured them that the kids would be closely watched. Guards were posted at each school, anyway, much to the embarrassment of all the SGC kids who complained about babysitters.

When Jack woke up again, long enough to be semi-coherent, he briefed the president and Joint Chiefs, and world leaders via his council, and then begged leave for the next forty-eight hours; he and all his boys and girls needed time to get themselves together. Whether the world leaders liked it or not, Jack was taking time. This wasn’t a routine mission where a few hours of rest would cut it; they had just saved the galaxy AND the planet, for pity’s sake! Jack was cut a little slack.

When it finally registered on Jack that his mother was living a mile away in the senior’s condo, he scrambled to shower, dress, and high-tail it out the door. Daniel and Sam and the kids had all told him that they moved Maggie in during his absence, but Jack had been too far out of it to hear the information.

“Mom, I’m sorry!” he declared the moment the door was opened. “I’ve been sleeping. Jet lagged doesn’t cut it, more like an entire galactic shift….”

“Jonathan Charles, shut up and kiss me,” she ordered. Jack immediately placed several kisses on her cheeks and hugged her hard, lifting her off the ground and carrying her back inside.

“Put me down,” she said, smiling at him. He set her on her feet. “Nut. Have you been working out?” She gave his biceps a curious squeeze.

“Daniel makes me carry him,” he informed her. She waved a hand at him.

“Come on, I made a coffee cake.”

Jack followed his nose into the kitchen where his mother cut off a large slice of cinnamon topped cake and then poured a large glass of orange juice. Jack dug in like a starving man.

“Are you okay here, Mom?” he asked after inhaling half the cake. “Do you like it?”

She shrugged. “I miss our home, but it’ll do,” she said, her eyes sad and melancholy. “At least I see the children regularly, and Sam and Daniel have been very attentive. One of them comes with me to do my shopping, when I need something. They gave me an emergency button; they said a guard will come running, if I need help. Jerrie’s been over here a few times with the baby, too. I like Sam and Danny, Jack, you have good taste. Sara’s been over a couple times; I hope you don’t mind.”

Jack put his fork down. “No, I don’t mind. Mom, I really am sorry,” he said. “I really have been asleep most of the time I’ve been back. I’ve barely gotten in a couple of kisses with Sam and Daniel, much less the kids.”

She patted his hand. “I know, honey,” she said. “I do watch the news; I know what you’ve been up to. I cannot tell you how proud I am of you; I don’t have the words to express it. At times, I can’t believe you’re mine. I just wish your father could have been here to see all this happening.”

“Me, too,” he said softly, leaning over and kissing her cheek.

He told her what he could of the battle, and several times she reached over and took his hand as she listened intently. He kept the worst parts from her, but she knew when he was hedging around something and just let him talk of what he could. Jack needed his mommy, not the president, the Joint Chiefs, Dr. Edmonds, or his partners. He got his mommy as he settled his head onto her lap and she stroked his hair. She didn’t ask about the slight tremor or why he was gripping the fabric of her sweat pants.

He took her to lunch a while later, stared blankly at a couple of people who asked for autographs, and swapped handshakes with Sheriff Richardson who stopped by the diner when he heard Jack was in. Andy handed Jack a pin.

“Governor?” Jack read. “It’s about freakin’ time! Sorry, Ma.” He shook Andy’s hand again.

You steppin up for me, Jack?” Andy asked.

“Are you kidding? Hell, yes!” He stood up and let out a piercing whistle, getting everyone’s attention. Not that they hadn’t noticed their local celebrity already. “Sheriff Andy for Governor!” he called out, raising a solidarity fist. Everyone stomped, clapped, whistled, or banged silverware on the tables.

Jack took a bag of pins and bumper stickers and promised to hand them out. He put a sticker on his truck the moment they left the diner. He argued, but the owner of the diner refused to accept payment for their meal. Jack left a big tip for their waitress.

“What?” he asked, looking at his mother in the passenger seat. She kept looking at him with a quiet smile on her face.

“Nothing,” she said with a shrug. “It’s just nice to see you have so many friends here. People who like you, Jack, and aren’t just kissing your tush.”

Jack hadn’t thought about it before; he did have friends. He had made a home in their small town outside of Colorado Springs, in the rural communities around Cheyenne Mountain, and he couldn’t see himself living anyplace else.

He forced himself to stay awake for the children and went to pick them up himself from their schools. Katie and Matthew made him come in and meet their JROTC commander. Jack returned the salute and then shook hands. He sat on the edge of a table and looked out at the young, shining faces of the cadets. All of them just babies.

Jack answered questions, taking note of a couple of kids he knew to be SGC brats. Vinnie Bosco was among the kids, much to Jack’s surprise. When they were questioned out, and Jack was talking quietly with their commander, he over-heard a few of the boys joke about getting more muscles built and how some of the others would never do it. A few surreptitious looks were shot at Vinnie, who was skinny and small, like Matthew.

“Why?” Jack broke in. The class quieted and turned back to look at him. “Do I look buffed to you? Have you seen the size of a cockpit? It’s a cramped space. I’m six foot two and I barely fit. If you’re over a certain weight, height, or width, you’re not getting into a fighter seat. Smaller guys are pilots. The big guys get the ground work. Everyone has a place and a job, and they are all important.”

Katie raised her hand and Jack nodded.

“D… Sir, what about women?” she asked. “Most of the talk revolves around men.”

“You’re right,” he nodded. “Unfortunately, our language doesn’t take into account for a general gender designation. I sound like Daniel. God. So, all talk of any position, despite the use of the masculine, is to be heard as both masculine and feminine. We have a lot of women in the armed services, and more coming on board. Women make great pilots because they are quick and agile. Mentally and physically.”

“Sir, what happens when a woman is off-world and her period starts?” one of the girls asked. The class laughed and Jack smiled. He knew she thought to fluster him, but he lived in a house with four females and a baby girl; he had heard conversations he never wanted to hear again.

“Not a problem,” he said with an easy wave of a hand when they settled. “Most of the women are on pills or some other kind of female thingy.” There were more laughs. “If she starts before leaving the planet, either someone takes her place, or her entire team goes on standby for the five days. My team had one woman on it, and we got used to the once a month standby. Cost us guys a ton in chocolate, I can tell you.” The cadets laughed again. He couldn’t tell them about the insert, it was still in trial phase and he didn’t have permission to spill that one. Publicly, anyway.

Settled back home with Katie and Matthew, Jack decided it was time for another nap. His brain was in a no-fly zone. The baby needed a bottle, so he took a pre-made bottle from the fridge, and brought her into bed with him. Olivia wasn’t sure about him; she had become used to Daniel and Sam. He pillowed her in and cuddled next to her. Daniel came in, sat in the crook of Jack’s bent knees, and kissed his hip.

“Are you alright?” Daniel asked quietly. Jack glanced up at him.

“I’m fine, why?”

“I’m getting the feeling that you’re still light-years away. You’ve been on rough missions before, but you’re still sleeping a lot and we’re worried about you.”

“Daniel, I’ve been home for only a few days,” Jack said in exasperation. “I have every country in the world hounding me for a report, please don’t you start on me, too.”

Daniel slid up along Jack’s back and leaned over.

“I’m not asking for a report, I’m telling you that we are worried about you,” he said. “If you need to talk, we’re here. If you need to be held, we’re here. If you need to scream, we’re here. If you need space, take your space. We’re still here. You’ve been in the center of chaos for three months straight and you come home to a full house going about daily life. You haven’t had breathing room. We understand this. Take time off, if you need it. Go find a deserted island. Whatever.”

Jack half turned to look at him.

“I need the daily life,” he said huskily.

Daniel nodded and smoothed Jack’s hair. He kissed Jack and moved to leave him to his nap. Jack wrapped an arm around Daniel’s neck and brought him back down, kissing him again, opening Daniel’s mouth. They stayed locked for a minute before Jack pulled away, touched Daniel’s face, and turned back into the pillow and stared at the baby before shutting his eyes. Daniel brushed Jack’s ear with his mouth and left them to their nap.

“He has a week, and then we call Dr. Edmonds,” he told Sam. She agreed.

Jack was fairly sure he was alright, just wiped out. He had no energy and his brain felt like a blank slate that was buzzing slightly. Everything was bright. Even light had smell. He wondered if he should mention to someone that he was reading just fine without his glasses.

He woke up a few hours later. It was dark out. Olivia was still sound asleep next to him; someone had covered them both in a blanket. Jack leaned over and kissed her soft, round cheek. He wiped her cheek and neck; she had four front teeth and was on continuous drool. He put pajamas on, carried her into the nursery and set her into her crib. She made a sound, a soft coo, made sucking motions, although the bottle wasn’t in her mouth, and went back to sleep. The house was quiet and he looked at a clock. Almost eleven. He checked on the rest of the brood. Covers needed to be pulled up onto Stacy, Katie was tucked in after taking a social studies book off her lap, Davy was bunched up on his belly with his butt in the air, and Matthew was asleep with the headphones still attached to his head. Jack removed them, shut the stereo off, and tucked him in; the big boy wasn’t too big, yet.

He stayed up, reviewing reports and putting together his own. Davy stumbled into Jack’s office at dawn, scrubbing his eyes as he climbed up onto Jack’s lap, straddled his legs and buried his face in Jack’s chest, dozing off. Jack continued to write around him and returned a few phone calls from the other side of the planet where the sun had been up for a while. A couple of the calls had been internet calls where he could see the person he was speaking with via the small camera ball at the top of his computer. The sleeping child had been given amused glances from heads of state, including the PM of England. Jack was taken aback when a couple people asked him if he would be running for US President in a couple years.

“Are you kidding?” he asked. “I’ve seen Henry’s job, I don’t want it. I want to teach my daughter how to walk and tie her shoe laces, not hold the hand of an entire country. Besides; I don’t think I’d pass the purity test. Wife, boyfriend, agnostic, getting beamed up when I least expect it…. Won’t work.”

Asia in general was pissed at Jack. Still. Once more, Jack informed the state department that when various countries clean up their human rights issues, and showed that they could be trusted with information and technology, then he would consider them for his sand box.

A message from General Landry told Jack that several alien nations had contacted them and wanted in on whatever unification the Tau’ri were planning.

“What unification?” Jack asked himself. He responded to Landry with the same question.

The sound of people beginning to stir was in the house, so Jack shut down his computer. Hank didn’t know what unification, either, he was just reporting on the messages. Jack carried Davy into the living room where he laid the boy on the couch. Since he was up, he started breakfast for the troops.

“Good morning,” Jerrie said softly, coming into the kitchen with the baby.

“Morning,” he responded. “We barely talked before I had to leave, Jerrie; how have things been?”

She set Olivia in the door swing, poured a cup of coffee, and sat at the bar dividing the kitchen from the dining area. “It’s been good, I think,” she told him. “I feel as though I was abruptly pushed into the deep end, but I float pretty well.” He smiled and put a dish of bacon on the bar. She took a piece and munched. “I love the children, Jack, they’re wonderful. That little guy out there is a handful and he has a beautiful heart. He very rarely says anything negative, have you noticed? Even for a bully down the street; he wanted to know why the boy was so unhappy that he had to make everyone else unhappy. That’s an extreme level of sophistication for someone like Davy. Most adults aren’t that intuitive.”

Jack jerked his head up and then looked back at the pile of pancakes that were building up. He set a couple in front of her. “And the other kids?” he asked.

“Let’s see…. The girls are arguing a little, but that’s to be expected. They’ll find their place with each other. They sound like sisters arguing, so I’m not worried about them. Matthew seems to have latched onto Daniel; I think he assumed Daniel wouldn’t like doing guy stuff, for whatever reason, but Daniel took him out a few times, weekends away, took him to a dig that Daniel needed to visit, and has also been doing a little sparring with Daniel. Matty’s looking at Daniel differently now; I think he’s seeing the man instead of the geek. Stacy got into a little argument with her English teacher. Seems the assignment was to pick a word, add a suffix, and use it in a sentence. Stacy was marked wrong on several words and she called her teacher onto the carpet for it. The teacher insisted that the words didn’t exist. Daniel was called in. He opened a dictionary and showed the teacher and the principal the words. The teacher accused Daniel of helping Stacy with her homework and Daniel informed her that Stacy was smart enough to open a dictionary for herself. Wasn’t that the assignment? Teacher isn’t happy with father OR daughter.”

Jack laughed, nodding as he pictured it.

“Everyone missed you,” she added. “There was a little angst when you left, but the visual messages between you and them helped a great deal; they knew you were alive and thinking of them. Oh, and I’m dating Dr. Lam. Hope you don’t mind.”

Startled, Jack almost dropped a pancake. “Wow, I pegged her for kinky, not lesbian,” he commented, shaking his head.

Jerrie laughed. “Daniel and Sam don’t have an issue with it,” she said. “They said my private life isn’t their business unless it affects the household. Carolyn’s been here for dinner, but she doesn’t stay over.”

Jack shrugged. “Okay by me.”

The rest of the brood came straggling in and helped themselves to breakfast.

“I checked out report cards,” he told them. “Good job, everyone. Matty, you’re having a little problem with math?”

“Yes, sir,” Matthew said, looking depressed. “Aunt Sam’s been helping me. I got a B on my test last week.”

“Good,” Jack nodded. Katie’s problem was in history, much to Daniel’s dismay, Stacy also had math issues, and Davy had understandably low scores in all his subjects. He did do better in English, though, and liked to write. He showed Jack his notebook which was filled with daily events over the past couple of months. Jerrie had recommended that Davy keep a journal which would help him with comprehension and English. Jack was looking forward to reading it.

“Special report at noon,” Jack told everyone as they left for their daily schedules.

The main summary of Jack’s official report on recent events was sent out to his HomeSec council, and from there to other heads of state. By noon, Jack was in full dress uniform and standing in front of a podium in the largest meeting room at HomeSec. His war council stood behind him; Markham, Caldwell, Galanakis, Inanna, Ninurta, Jonathan, Bre’tac, Teal’c, Malek, Alleria, Thanatos, and Athena. Everyone wore their own version of dress uniforms. Jonathan was in leathers. Jack told the reporters to keep their questions and then gave a brief report of events after introducing his council and their race. The inclusion of eight aliens, even if they are human, gave the reporters pause. After the summary of events, Jack informed the reporters that the families of those that died were still being located and informed. When that was complete, there would be a public disclosure of Earth’s heroes. Allies also lost good men and women, and they would also be remembered. Billions had died since the Goa’uld began taking slaves and destroying worlds, and Jack would like someone to come up with a proper memorial so that history would remember them.

Inanna, Bre’tac, Malek, and Thanatos each took a turn, thanking Jack and his Tau’ri for their assistance in the war, especially Jack for his leadership and guidance in their battle to conquer the Goa’uld once and for all.

The reporters yelled for more information as Jack and the others left the room. Davis had already handed out press kits; when the reporters could think up decent questions, Jack would consider responding. Inanna, Bre’tac, and Malek requested Jack’s presence in private. Inanna handed him a piece of paper listing names and planets.

“Jack, everyone one of those worlds is asking for a united federation,” she told him. “Each wants autonomy of their world, but has agreed to work out a general protocol for federation membership. Most of them want you to lead this federation. The only planet that has not been heard from is Tau’ri herself. If this planet does not agree to membership, the other planets still want you specifically. You can relocate off world, if it comes to that.”

Jack needed a drink. Inanna reached out and touched his hand.

“I have agreed to you as the council leader,” she informed him. “Never once have you allowed your position to interfere with common sense. You are cool in stressful situations, you have no issues about asking for advice before making hard decisions, and you know when to push and when not to. All I ask is that you keep a personal council and that the unification protocol includes a clause that allows for the leader to be removed, if there is a no-confidence vote from the membership.”

Jack groaned and stood to pace as he cranked a hand over the back of his neck. His spine cracked. “Alright, start from the beginning,” he requested.

“We had a meeting after we took care of the remaining Goa’uld,” she told him. “Several allied representatives called everyone together and made the proposal. The worlds want the freedom to develop as they will, while recognizing that this sudden free-fall, as it were, could be detrimental if there is no one for them to call for help. It is a coalition asking for a neighborhood watch, and they would like you to be the president of the neighborhood watch.”

“The Tok’ra argued about this,” Malek admitted.

“As did the Jaffa,” Bre’tac said.

Malek nodded. “Yes. Many stood up and insisted that THEY were the best suited for such an endeavor. The Tok’ra high council is actually arguing host and symbiote. My own host is usually… laid back, you would say, but he and I argued over this. We are much older than you, General, as a race, and it stands to reason that elder heads should prevail. My host has convinced me that maybe we are too old for leadership. We have become lost. Our focus is lost. We have prevailed over the Goa’uld, where do we go from here? We need time to find a new way of life.”

“And my people feel the same,” Bre’tac said gravely. “We have been slaves and hosts for the Goa’uld for so long, that we have no vision for ourselves. Nothing beyond our immediate reformation. Our own people are scattered across the galaxy. We are in no position to lead a unification. We would still like to have a voice, if we are to agree to this.”

“And the Tau’ri have been left alone to grow,” Inanna said. “You are able to watch from the outside, see the bigger picture. I cannot lead this, my people number under one hundred and we have a new world to establish. We are dying, as a race, and we would like to pass on what we can to the future. My duties lie at home, not in the galaxy at large. You are learning to see, Jack; you see clearer now than you ever have in your entire life.”

Jack turned back to them, his arms folded. “Yeah about that,” he said. “I can suddenly read without my glasses, my knees are NOT bothering me, I lifted my mother and my back didn’t protest, I’m anticipating problems with the children and I’m fixing it before it’s a problem, and I exorcized a demon from the American ambassador to Rome and said demon turned out to be a weird alien entity made up of smoke or something. And you want me to lead this thing? What the hell is going on?”

Inanna gave an inscrutable smile. “That’s exactly why you are the only person to lead this thing.”

Jack tossed his head back and groaned. “Do you know how irritating you can be at times?” he asked. “There is no way this planet will unite and agree to this.”

“Over half of this planet has already united under the HomeWorld Security banner,” Inanna reminded him. “Your issue will be with the leaders of the various governments, not the people. From what I have seen of newscasts, the people are sick and tired of the lies and deceptions their governments are handing them.”

“Yeah, well, I’m no messiah and I’m not leading the children of Israel out of Egypt,” Jack informed her, a thumb jabbing at the center of his chest. She twitched her mouth. The men didn’t understand the reference.

“Moshe, you are not,” she agreed. “But like the rabbis, we are asking you to guide the flock, not beat them into submission. We know what we need to do; sometimes, though, we may need an outside voice to settle a difference when we become blind.”

“And what exactly would I be doing?” Jack asked.

“Taking care of Tau’ri,” she said, spreading her hands to encompass the whole of the world. “Just as you have been. If one planet decides to invade another, you step in to reprimand them after receiving permission from the council. If one planet goes to war with itself, they’re on their own. It is their business unless it affects another world. Planets must develop on their own; no sharing of technology that is beyond their knowledge. The governments of Tau’ri cannot take you out of office; only a no-confidence vote of the unified worlds can make that decision. You would be under no obligation to any one government of Tau’ri. You are under no obligation to Tau’ri at all. Your loyalty would belong to the unified worlds. Those are the basics that we have so far discussed; the specifics would need to be hammered out by councils.”

Jack continued to pace. “And why isn’t Thanatos in here?” he asked.

Inanna shrugged. “He considers himself to be part of another galaxy, not this one,” she said. “He is willing to be an ally, not a member.”

“Fair enough,” Jack admitted. “Have the Asgard put in their two-cents?”

“If they know of this, we haven’t heard,” she said.

“This is insane, you know that, right?” he asked, eying each of them. “I’m not agreeing to anything. I need to talk with a hell of a lot of people, starting with my family.”

Inanna shrugged. “Seek your truth.”

After dinner, Sam and Daniel were taken into Jack’s office. They stared at him once Jack was done running over the conversation.

“Okay,” Daniel said.

“Okay, what?!”

“Okay, I think I understand what they want to try and do, and I can see why they’re asking you to lead,” Daniel told him.

“Can I still play with my toys?” Sam asked. “I really don’t think I can be a queen or anything like that.”

Jack looked at his partners. “Did you two understand what I said?” he asked. “They want me to be Senator Palpatine.”

Sam put a hand to her mouth, her eyes twinkling. “Honey, I don’t think you’ll become a Sith lord,” she told him. “We wouldn’t let you. I think it’s a good idea; different worlds getting together for their own growth and protection. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, but I still think they have the right idea.”

“I agree,” Daniel said. “It’s a step forward, coming out of their darkness. They have realized that they’re no longer alone; they have friends. If they want you to help unify their voices, I think you should at least consider some sort of role, if not the lead role.”

Jack still stared at them. He picked up the phone and dialed. “Major, come over here, please.” He hung up. “This is insane,” he told his partners and then hit his comm. “Jonathan!”

His clone showed up, looking slightly rumpled and well-kissed. Jack was afraid to ask.

“You rang, o wise one?”

“Shut up. What the hell are Inanna and those two talking about? No, wait for the major.”

Which was five minutes later.

“Okay, talk,” Jack told Jonathan. Paul had to sit down within minutes of hearing what the topic was. Jack’s phone rang several times and he finally silenced the ringer.

“So, basically, they’re looking for a chairman of the board,” Jonathan concluded. “It’s a majority rule, you chair the council. You go along with the majority, unless it goes against the contract of the group. If, for some reason the military is needed, you would lead the military.”

“How Sumerian of them,” Daniel commented. “I hear Inanna’s input in that one.”

“Why me?” Jack whined.

A short while later, Jack went into the bedroom. Sam was reading in bed with the baby on her chest. He kept looking at her as he changed into his pajamas. Every once in a while, Sam would absently press her mouth to the top of Olivia’s head, mouthing the soft fuzz. Sam seemed to curl around the baby, their energy becoming one. Jack softly smiled.

“When did you fall in love with her?” he asked quietly. Sam glanced up.

“Hmm?”

He climbed into bed and put an arm across both females.

“You’re in love with her,” he informed Sam. “You’ve become her mother. I was just curious as to when it happened.”

Sam put her book down and carefully turned onto her side, nestling the baby between them.

“I think it was during a bath time,” she said, caressing a small hand. Little fingers curled trustingly around her index finger. “I’m not sure what happened. One minute I was washing her, and the next I was crying. It felt like my heart was breaking, and I knew she was mine.”

Jack leaned in and slowly kissed her. “When Megan was learning to talk, she immediately identified me with Da,” he said. “It nearly killed me to correct her. She already had a father; I couldn’t rightfully take the title even though I was performing that role. When Charlie was born, I held him, covered in blood and white stuff, and I snipped his cord. He opened his eyes and looked straight into mine. I had never been in love like that in my life. When he identified me as Da, I cried; I had waited so long, an eternity, to hear that word. An eternity since the day we knew Sara was pregnant. She had lost a few before, and the doctor had warned her against becoming pregnant again, but when she was still carrying at five months, we knew he was going to be in our lives. Honey, I have loved one of my own and one that wasn’t mine. Both were appropriate for me to love. It is appropriate for you to love her as your own. If you can, allow yourself to love the other kids. If you can’t, don’t fake it; be their friend, their sister, their aunt, whatever you can be to them. And don’t punish yourself.”

Sam put an arm across his hips and leaned into his shoulder as she nodded. Olivia was happily snug between them, drooling over a fist in her mouth.

“I thought I could only fall in love with a child I carried,” she said after a minute. “I watched you and Daniel, both of you so natural with kids, and I guess I was a little jealous. I want to love Stacy like this, but how much would I be taking away from Daniel? She calls me Mom. I haven’t earned it.”

The bed on the other side of her dipped slightly. The scent of Daniel washed over her as he leaned his freshly showered body against her back.

“Do you think I’ve earned the right to be called Dad?” he asked, sliding an arm under hers. “Just because we share DNA doesn’t make me Dad. I’m doing my damnedest to earn it. Sam, have you considered that your fear of parenting stems from the fact that you didn’t have the best of father-daughter relationships with your own? Sure, Jacob came around, but you also had to do a little forgiving. Of yourself. My adoptive parents may not have been the greatest, but they are what I had. I was old enough to remember my parents and, yet, I loved Mom Dora and Dad Howard in my own way. I resented them for a long time; I wanted my own parents. They kept me, though, weird as I was, and after a while I no longer had a problem accepting them. Just keep steady with Stacy, make sure she knows you’re available for her and that you hear her. Hug her and kiss her. She needs cuddling so bad, as much as she can get. You do that, and you’ll earn the Mommy’s. I’m still earning the Daddys.”

Jack reached over and touched Daniel’s damp hair.

“All that earning never stops,” he told them. “I’m in love with both of you. If we didn’t work at it, together, every day, we would fall apart. It’s the same with kids; we work at it. Stacy calls you Mom because she knows she can trust you. It’s the trust we are earning; the love is a side-effect.”

He took Olivia into the nursery, off to the side of the bedroom, and tucked her into her crib. When he returned, he kissed them both and started to burrow into Sam’s t-shirt. He had yet to make love with them since his return, and the familiar scent and taste of them both made him ache inside.

 


 

Chapter 30

 

Jack was still sound asleep in the morning. They straightened his covers and tucked him in. Sam checked his pulse, slightly worried at all his sleeping, but she shook her head at Daniel’s look. He was fine, as far as she could tell.

The kids clamored for breakfast, including one hungry baby, so Daniel and Sam got them settled. A neighbor stopped and picked up Matty for church. They had dealt with Father Joe when Matthew started becoming a regular at St. Peter’s. The Father was a little concerned that Matthew might be getting negative messages from the family, and so was more than once welcomed to meals at the house. He left bemused, enjoying his lively conversations with Daniel, convinced that the family supported Matthew’s decision to continue with the Church, and respectful of those who did not wish to join him. Now that Jack’s mother was in town, she, too, began joining her great-grandson at St. Peter’s. Sometimes a few of Daniel’s SGC geeks would come over to the house and Matthew enjoyed some of the conversations he would get from Khalid. Although two different religions, Khalid respected the boy and was teaching him that it was okay to Believe and still live in the modern world.

Stacy enjoyed language day in their house when SGC translators and Daniel’s class all came over. Everyone took turns trying out words and phrases on her, but she picked up whatever she heard. It wasn’t unusual for students to drop in at odd hours, if something was bugging them. Sam had visitors, too, when something technical came up, but Jack had misgivings about blowing the house up so Sam usually did her consulting on-line. Everyone was told that if they were going to bother the family at home, they’d better be prepared to pitch in. The traffic had lessened since the baby came to the house, but a few brave souls still managed.

The university wasn’t sure about Daniel’s teaching methods. He used testing only because the board insisted, rarely used a text book, and rarely used the classroom. Daniel had taken the text books, edited them, returned them to the board, and told them that when the authors got it right, he’d use them.

While Jack was still sleeping, alright maybe unconscious would be a better word, Maggie and Fr. Joe came in with Matthew just in time for lunch. There was a screech of laughter from the front yard and Daniel stuck his head out the door. Davy, Stacy, and, surprisingly T’Keet were pelting snowballs at several warriors and children that had popped in to play in the snow. One snowball hit a neighbor.

“Manners!” Daniel shouted. Ooof!” A cold, white blob had hit him square in the chest. He shouted a challenge and jumped down, rolling and ducking for cover as he put together some ammo of his own.

Paul had come up the sidewalk, took in the scene, and decided that the kids needed help more, so he joined their ranks.

“Traitor!” Daniel shouted.

Something red flew past.

Zu!” the children shouted in delight. “Erra and Zu are back!”

Zu landed close to Daniel, turned, and scratched at the snow, sending a flurry of snow flying at Daniel. Zu snickered at the sputtering and flew back into the house. A warrior stuck his head out.

“Erra! Be on our side!” the kids shouted. Erra dove at them and started shooting balls across the yard.

“Hey! No fair!” Daniel shouted.

“And three men against a couple of kids is fair?” Erra asked. “I’d say things are evened out, now.” He shot a snowball and it landed on a neighbor. “I’m Erra! Nothing personal!”

“Where have you been?” Daniel called out.

“Destroying archaeological evidence!”

Several snowballs were volleyed at him. Matty and Katie came out. Katie went to Paul and Matty went to Daniel.

More people appeared in the yard and chose their teams. The children had discovered that they could sneak around the grownups and shove snow down sweaters and pants. The ship’s kids came down and joined up. Neighborhood kids heard the commotion and came out for the fun, too. A couple of people from Daniel’s class came up and also joined in.

Jack stuck his head out the door, watched blurrily for a moment, grunted, and went back to bed. Maggie tucked him back in, worriedly kissed his head, and went back into the living room. Zu came in and was pecking hungrily at a bowl of fruit Sam quickly put out for him.

“What have you been doing?” she asked him.

Wooorkkking,” he croaked and spit out a piece of orange rind. Fr. Joe glanced up from his coffee and looked at the bird.

“I gathered that,” Sam said. “Working at what?”

Ppppressent forrrr youuuu,” he said.

“For me? Where is it?” she asked, surprised.

Commmming,” he assured her. He looked over at Olivia in Maggie’s arms. “Haapppyyy cubbbb,” he commented. Sam looked at the baby and smiled.

“Yes, she is,” she agreed.

Nexxxt gennnerrrationnnn,” Zu said. Trraaaain herrrr welllll.”

“Next generation? What do you mean, Zu?” Sam asked, frowning.

Daaaltuuu. Ezzzibbbb shhhhaaaa.”

“What? Zu, I don’t speak Sumerian,” Sam reminded him. He flew to the back of the chair Maggie was in, rubbed his beak against Olivia’s cheek and preened the fuzz on her head before disappearing. She gurgled and waved a hand at him.

“You, uh, have interesting guests,” Fr. Joe said, a little pale.

“Who, Zu? Exasperating is a better word, I think,” Sam commented. She made a note to ask Daniel the meaning of the words. There was a squawk from outside. Zu popped back in, shook snow off his back, looked out the window as he planned his strategy, and popped back out again.

Inanna beamed in. She looked out the window and shook her head.

“I had wondered where our children had gotten to,” she said. “A few big kids, too, I see. Ah, well.” She touched her comm and informed the ship. Moments later, Ninurta, Shara, Gibil, and Jonathan beamed in and were out the door. Enki and cigar sat on the porch, which was declared neutral territory.

It wasn’t exactly what Daniel and Sam had in mind for the day, but everyone needed the break. Daniel came in after a while and was conned into playing his piano after his fingers thawed, and told Enki about all the sleep Jack had been doing.

Enki checked on Jack and assured his partners that he was fine. He had several experiences with new, open sections of his brain while on the Prometheus, and all of Jack’s energy was being sapped by the open circuits so the sleep was good; it was replenishing his energy which had been growing dangerously low.

It was dark when Jack woke up. He listened. The house was quiet. He was quiet on the inside, too, feeling like he had been muffled with cotton. He looked over and saw Sam and Daniel asleep next to him. He got up, peed, and made the rounds. Everyone was asleep. He found food and sat in his office to work for a while. When it was light, he took a long, hot shower, shaved off the three-day beard, and made breakfast for the kids. Everyone was glad to see him up and he assured them he was fine. Sam headed out for the final week of the forensic seminar and Daniel took the kids to school while Jerrie got Olivia up and fed. Jack needed to go to DC for a meeting.

It was unusual for Jack to be a willing participant in a government meeting, so when he actually initiated one, Hayes and Maynard made time in their schedules. Jack sat down and told them about the proposal of unified worlds.

“My God, Jack, we can’t get our own world to cooperate,” Hayes said, stunned.

“I know and I told them that,” Jack said. “Look, I’m saying that I don’t know what to do about this. I’m flattered that they want me to lead this thing, but at the same time, I have a family to raise. I’ve been away from them too much as it is. I missed Davy’s eleventh birthday and Christmas. If there is someone you feel should be offered the position of Tau’ri representative, that’s fine. I’m willing to be standby, in case a decision breaker needs to be made. They want me whether or not Earth is involved. The Heaven’s Bow will be leaving tomorrow for their new home world. Inanna doesn’t want to lead this thing, she wants to rebuild a world. I’d suggest Hammond for the post but I’m also thinking he’d be great as the new Air Force Academy Commander.”

“We’re already considering him for that post,” Maynard said from the window. “How do we get Earth together to do this?”

“They said it doesn’t matter what a single planet does within its own borders,” Jack told him. “There will be a compact for the union, and there will be a sentient rights statement which the planet will need to follow, but other than that…..”

“I’m rackin’ my brain here, Jack, and the only person that comes to mind for this is you,” Hayes said. “You’re already known, your record speaks for itself. There isn’t another person on this planet that can even match you, as much as it pains my own ego to say it.”

“Since the next governing body is the UN, I suggest calling an emergency meeting and letting the other nations in on this,” Jack said. “We need to find out the general mood of the planet. I can call a meeting with the HomeSec council. We can’t force everyone into this; there would be calls of dictatorship. We need to move fast, though, the galaxy is looking to this tiny, xenophobic planet to head up this thing.”

“If they want Earth to do this, shouldn’t we be the ones to write the compact?” Hurley asked.

“There are still planets chiming in with their preliminary vote for inclusion,” Jack said. “The protocols haven’t even been written, yet; Bre’tac is collecting lists of wants and needs. We need to wait and see what everyone has to say; we cannot walk in and take over, imposing our Western standards on the galaxy. If we step in and abolish the things we don’t like, we would be acting like the settlers did with the Native Americans. No matter what I personally feel about those acts, I’m not willing to turn a society upside down and force them to follow an alien protocol. They want Earth to participate and me to lead the council. I would be the voice of the council, the tie-breaker, not the king. The union will be run by council, not by Earth.”

Jack stood and walked to the bar, poured himself a glass of water.

“Look, guys, this is a major step they’re taking out there,” he said, gesturing toward the sky with his glass. “They have been living in fear for thousands of years and they suddenly have their freedom. Sure, a few planets are going a little wild, and a few don’t know what to do without someone telling them, but all in all, the fact that they are looking to each other for support is a positive step. Some of them are just as xenophobic as Earth, but we’re getting past it. We need to be looking at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is out there.”

 

Chapter 31

 

Jack came out of the shower in the morning and looked at his partners as he dried off and began to dress. “I need to know what you are thinking about this whole unification thing,” he said to them. “Truthfully. Positives and negatives, I want to hear it.”

Daniel pushed pillows against the headboard and leaned back, fingers laced behind his head. “Well, seems to me, if you’re going to lead this unification thing, you can’t be the Tau’ri representative, too. Conflict of interest. You should step back and let Earth pick their own council rep. Since the Jaffa accept you as a brother, and Enki accepts you as an in-law, through me AND Jonathan, you could legitimately claim at least three races you are loyal to. You stand between the worlds, as it were. If Earth is going to participate, there needs to be a Tau’ri representative that is NOT you. I’ve been making notes on this subject, actually, just a little doodling I’ve been doing for a couple of years. I’ll show you my notes, if you want to see them. It’s been pure fantasy and speculation up ‘til now; this is do-able, Jack, and it isn’t as scary as you think it will be.”

“I agree,” Sam said from the small table where she was putting on a light touch of make-up. “You can get a little tunnel-visioned, once in a while, which having a personal council will help you with, but you can’t lead the council as a whole and be the Earth representative. In fact, I think it would be a bad move for you to be the local rep.”

Startled, Jack looked at her. “Why?”

“Because you would need to be subservient to all of Earth’s leader’s, and you don’t do subservient well.”

“Oh. This is true.” He’d concede that one to her. “Wouldn’t that also make it difficult for us to remain here?”

“Not necessarily,” Daniel said, absently scratching at his chest. “Unless you want to get a planet all your own, we would be living on a world that is, supposedly, a member of this unification. May as well stay here. You’ll just need to set firm boundaries to not play favorites.”

So far, it sounded to Jack as though he wouldn’t be much more than a referee. He could do that. He’d need to make sure there were plenty of cells with locks on them, just in case squabbles got out of hand.

That morning the kids were allowed to stay home from school so that they could see the Heaven’s Bow off to her new home. Sam begged off from the seminar, leaving Dr. Lam in charge for the day. Enki made sure Landry understood that their gate address was NOT to be public knowledge. As far as the rest of the gate holders were concerned, the Abydos address was still history. Bre’tac and Teal’c knew it was open, though, as did the Asgard. Landry and Jack both promised to keep the gate’s existence a secret. M’Net playfully offered Jack and Daniel one last try at his sleeping pillows. They both playfully refused. M’Net had been having fun with quite a few people; he and the other Sua were being dropped off at their own planet on the way to Kalam, so they were getting their licks in. T’Keet and Zu were currently raiding the kitchen for fruit to take with them on the trip home. It was only about an hour ride at top speed, and Enki did plant fruit trees, but it was the principle of the thing.

“You can do it, Jack, trust in yourself,” Enki told him, gripping him by the shoulders for a shake. “Be judicious. Remember, sometimes we must choose between two evils, and live with our choice. Cut off the arm if it will save the body. When the time comes for those types of decisions, harden yourself and do the right thing.

“You are a good man, Jack; you are welcome to join us at any time. We’re not far away, a walk through the gate, an hour or so by ship. All our people know that I have claimed Daniel as my child; as his mate, you also have the right of family. Samantha,” he turned to her and took her hands. “You are the queen of your family. Never forget that. Just as Jack is the strength and Daniel the truth, you are the heart. Only you can balance strength and truth. You not only saved our lives, you are my son’s queen; call upon us.” She hugged him hard and kissed his cheek.

Enki turned to Daniel. “I had many sons, many who have died. Daughters, too. Only Ninurta survives and I bless Life Herself for him. You remind me of Ba’eru. He was a curious little fellow, always poking his nose into places just to see what was there. He was lost to me long before we came to this planet. I wish he had lived to see this world; he would have fallen in love with it. Ninurta was born on this world, just after we came here. I love him for who he is, not for those that I am missing. I cannot replace your own father, I have no desire to, no one should, but as you have taken in children not of your body, and have loved them with all your heart, I hope that you can understand my heart. It may not be logical, but I don’t know when love is ever logical. Know that I don’t speak lightly, Dan’el; my family is yours, just as fully as Ninurta makes that claim.”

Daniel hugged him and kissed both cheeks.

“I think my father would have approved,” he whispered huskily.

Ninurta stepped in, took him by the ears, and gave him a shake. “Little brother,” he said. “Come and play with me, once in a while. I will keep a horse just for you. I will teach you to hunt with falcons.”

Daniel hugged him, too. “Thank you… for keeping Jack safe,” he said.

“I could do no less,” Ninurta said and gave Daniel’s cheek a pat.

“What did Zu mean by calling Olivia daltu?” he asked with a frown.

Ninurta lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t know, ahu,” he said. “Zu sometimes knows things we don’t. He doesn’t explain to us, either. That’s an interesting epithet for a baby, though. Powerful connotations. Perhaps we should call her Ammartu. Come here, babu,” he cooed, taking the baby from Katie. Olivia gurgled happily, drool pouring over the fist in her mouth. Ninurta kissed her anyway and looked thoughtfully into her eyes which had begun turning from newborn blue to O’Neill brown. Daltu, eh? Well, little one, we shall see, hm?”

Inanna hugged Sam nearby and kissed her cheeks. “Dadu, you have a present waiting for you in your Yard,” she told Sam. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out yourself. Come for tea. Soon.”

Shara handed Jack a piece of leather. Jack looked at it. It was a short scabbard with delicate patterns tooled into it.

“Very nice,” Jack said. “What’s it for?”

“The pukku,” Shara said. “You can’t go around with it poking out the back of your pants. This attaches to your belt.” Jack nodded, impressed at the work that went into the leather, and took Shara’s forearm.

“Cassie isn’t here,” Daniel mentioned as he turned to Jonathan.

“I saw her yesterday. I spent time with Mom, too. They’re both fine. Cassie’s fine,” Jonathan assured him. “She’s happy, Daniel; I think Dean is good for her. Be happy for her.”

“I am,” Daniel assured him with a nod.

“And be happy for me,” Jonathan said gently. “I’m happy, too. I don’t know where this is going to take me, but I’m finally free of Jack’s memories. I’m me.” The younger man seemed at peace; possibly for the first time in his dual life. Daniel believed him.

The children got in hugs and kisses from all around, and clamored to know when they could come and visit. Enki declared himself Grandpa and told them that grandpas always got frequent visits from the grandchildren.

“Lady Inanna,” Jack said, standing straight with his hands resting behind his back. “As an official representative of Tau’ri, our world thanks you and your people for your assistance over this past year. And unknown to the rest of the world, I thank you for your assistance in our past. We literally wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for you and your people. Especially that old goat. If you ever need help, just call.”

“Thank you, General,” she said with a royal incline of her head.

“And I’ll be by sometime soon,” he said, “to talk about this unification thing. I think I need a meeting with my council.”

She laughed easily. “Anytime, Jack. Our home has a wing set aside for your family. And the Anunnaki are grateful for your assistance; we would still be lost, if not for you and your people. You have done a tremendous thing, and I don’t believe you are fully aware of the gravity of this.”

Jack cocked his head and looked at her. “Are you going to tell me who you guys really are?” he asked. She laughed again and brushed his mouth with hers.

Salimu, mersiya,” she said. Gade.”

They all beamed up.

“Damn,” he muttered, snapping his fingers.

“Why didn’t you just flip your On switch?” Paul asked. Jack glared. Paul wasn’t buying it. Jack then glared at Daniel.

“Peace, sweetie, I’m off,” Daniel translated.

Laughter broke out and Jack slapped a hand to his face. “I really need to learn that friggin’ language,” he muttered to himself.

Once the crowd was gone and the house was quiet again, Daniel slouched on the couch with Olivia on his legs, bouncing her. “Jonathan’s becoming an interesting person,” he said. “I can still see you in him, but this new thing he’s doing is bringing out a lot of unknowns. Do you have any of that in you?”

Jack pursed his lips and sat at the dining room table. “I’m not sure what I would do in his place, but think I can understand him. Maybe Ninurta is right; it comes from the soul, and the heart and mind only fill in the blanks.”

“Do you believe in a soul?” Daniel asked him, curious.

“Actually, Ninurta asked me that same thing,” Jack said. “You came to me several times when you were dead. I can only believe that it was your own willpower that kept your soul together and conscious. I can’t believe the soul can be duplicated, so if I have a clone, he must have his own soul. I’m not sure I believe in soulless creatures, and he’s definitely alive.”

“Maybe Jonathan was a little more borderline than he let on,” Daniel said. “He had all those memories and knowledge in him and he couldn’t do anything about them. So he surrendered. He seems to have found peace where he is. I think it’s good for him. Healthy. He just may be becoming a new person.”

The phone rang and Jack picked up the kitchen extension.

“O’Neill.” He listened as the other person spoke for a while. “Henry, slow down,” he said, holding up a hand to thin air. “It’s a good idea, I don’t mind, really. It isn’t a chore, I’d be honored. Just be sure to include Russia; they were, technically, the first. Have the outline sent to Major Davis, and I’ll take a look. The timeline sounds do-able. A bit soon for this kind of thing, but do-able. Sure, Henry. You’re welcome.”

“What was that?” Sam asked, coming down the stairs. She looked excited about something.

Jack went back into the living room. “Hayes wants to do some kind of memorial, honors, and site-seeing tour for retired astronauts,” he said. “Take them for a spin around the solar system.”

Sam’s eyes lit up. “That’s actually nice of him,” she said with a nod. “The current pilots are being reshuffled, it would be nice to honor those retired.”

“Yeah, and it’s fast,” Jack said. “Apparently Major Erikson has a nasty tumor growing into his spine, inoperable. Hayes would like something to happen before Erikson dies.”

Sam caught her breath, her eyes wide. “He’s the last of the original First Flight crew,” she said. Jack nodded. “Yes, we need to do something. What’s the plan?”

“Is the Europa ready, yet?” he asked thoughtfully. Sam thought about it.

“Almost,” she said. “Those bugs were hell to find, but she’s almost ready for another test flight. Col. Powers was scheduled for her.”

“He died,” Jack commented. “We need to replace him.”

“303-5 is in the final stages, too,” she said.

“That one is research, though, isn’t it?” Jack asked.

Sam shook her head. “It was going to be, but the committee decided to make the Europa research,” she said. “That was part of the de-bugging process; a few systems needed to be changed out for medical equipment.”

“I’ve been picking out the linguists and dirt specialists, too,” Daniel commented. “It was one of those things that happened while you were gone,” he told Jack.

“Can we afford a ship like that?” Jack asked, dubious. “I think we need security patrols, not exploration.”

Both Sam and Daniel bristled. “You just got rid of the main problem, Jack,” Daniel said. “The allies are talking unification for the first time in, well, the history of the galaxy. I’d say it’s time to start exploring, say hi to new neighbors, do a meet and greet…. You have three ships already on patrol, a fourth is about to launch, and a fifth is being built with two more on the drawing board. I think we can afford ONE ship for patching and digging.”

Jack held up a hand. “I was just asking,” he said in defense. “Daniel, we don’t know what’s going to come out of the woodwork, now that the Goa’uld are no longer terrorizing everyone. We’ve been to a few planets that I’d rather not visit again.”

“Granted, but that’s what allies are for,” Daniel said. “We no longer need to take the entire weight on our shoulders; you don’t have to call on our ships to chase down some asshole, you can send others. How many ships, altogether, came back from this war? Come on, Jack. Several hundred? Over a thousand? Give me one ship to go digging with, please.”

“Alright, I see your point,” Jack conceded. “I wasn’t thinking of allies. I guess we need to start doing that. Sam, does this new ship have a name?”

“No, not yet,” she said, still a little miffed. “A few suggested the Columbus, but the Native Americans are objecting.”

“How about Lincoln?” Daniel suggested. “Washington?”

“Something a little more universal,” Sam said. “Multi-national crew, remember?”

Daniel nodded and thought about it. He got up and took Olivia into the nursery to change her.

“Who’s the commander?” Jack asked.

“Down to three candidates,” she said. “The Russians are politely asking for a Russian to be recognized.”

Jack nodded. “Well, Col. Belarus did an outstanding job,” he commented. “He led one of the teams on Daedalus. He’s calm, quick thinker, delegates well, personable, and willing to make command decisions. He was also in their cosmonaut program until the Stargate business.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Jack, you suggesting a Russian for this position? I’ll toss his name into the bucket.”

“Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I can’t learn new tricks,” he told her.

 


 

Chapter 32

 

Jack took a look through Hayes’ proposal, made a few suggestions, and sent word to his 303s and told them to scour their ships from head to foot, inside and out. He told the commanders privately what was happening, and they rousted all their personnel from comfortable homes and families. The crews went into overtime when they found out the reason. Jack had a talk with Col. Chekhov and things were readied from there, too. Chekhov was surprised, but honored to be included.

Sam flew out to the base. It seemed that someone (feathers and leather) had dumped some sort of arch made of rocks on their doorstep. Sam had recognized it as the arch that sent Jack and Maybourn to a moon. Daniel had already translated the writing on it, but still didn’t know how it worked. Sam was almost salivating to get her hands on it.

While posts were buzzing with the upcoming ceremonies, Jack read through Daniel’s fictional peace treaty that he had been working on –just for a mental exercise, he said. Jack read it again. He sent it to Davis. The major made a few minor revisions and sent it back. Jack sent it to Hayes and Maynard. He received awed phone calls from both men. He then sent it to a few other people around the world; a few of his HomeSec council members that he had been learning to trust. They reported excitement from their leaders. Jack drove over to the university, ignored the startled looks from students and staff, and made his way to Daniel’s classroom. He watched quietly from the back of the room as Daniel and his students poured over a tablet. One of the students argued with Daniel over a translation and then pointed out Daniel’s mistake in the translation. Daniel paused, cocked his head, and pushed his glasses up.

“I think that’s an A for the semester,” Daniel finally said.

“Semester?” the young lady squeaked. “I just passed the entire year.”

“You translate the side panel, and I’ll consider it.”

All the students stopped.

“What side panel?” the young lady asked.

“Those chicken scratches on the side,” Jack said. The students jumped, not having heard him come in.

“General!” Several went over to him and offered hands.

“Don’t let him fool you,” Jack said, pointing a thumb at Daniel. “That tablet had him stumped for months until he realized that those weren’t scratches.”

“That’s cheating, Jack,” Daniel said with a smile.

Jack came into the room. He put the printout of Daniel’s treaty on the table.

“This game is on, hasduk,” Jack said to him. He kissed Daniel soundly, much to the amusement of the class.

Nonplussed, Daniel pushed his glasses up, licked his lips, and cleared his throat. “Pronunciation and usage was right,” he commented. “To what do I owe this visit, though?”

“Sheer amazement,” Jack said, patting Daniel’s cheek. “So brilliant. I’m taking this to the allies; just thought I’d let you know.”

“Jack, I was doodling,” Daniel protested.

“It’s brilliant, Danny-boy,” Jack informed him. “Works for me, Hayes, Maynard, and several other people. Paul tweaked a few things; he sent you the revised version. You never cease to amaze me. I’ll see you at home, I need to drop in on the Mountain.”

It took only two very fast-paced weeks to get the ceremonies in order. While the allies were looking over the proposed treaty, Jack put on his dress uniform and took his al'kesh to pick up Major Erikson. The major was in surprised shock as his eldest son pushed his wheelchair onto the vessel. Erikson tried to lift his arm to salute. Jack offered honors instead and then took the major’s hand.

“Major, this honor is mine,” Jack told him. “I hope you enjoy the ride; it’ll only be a few minutes.”

“We’re in Seattle, General O’Neill,” Mrs. Erikson reminded him. She was a little pale, weepy, tired. Jack hoped the elderly lady wasn’t as weak as she looked. “Isn’t DC longer than a couple of minutes?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “And we’re going to Nevada, not DC. Either way, it’s only a couple minutes.”

“Nevada?” the youngest daughter, Betty, who was about Jack’s age, asked with a frown. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, General, but what’s in Nevada?”

“Area 51,” Jack said with a smile. He got the family seated, set Erikson close to the screens, and pressed the controls. Major Erikson was almost seventy-five; the rest of his team had already died. The first US astronauts to leave the atmosphere and return alive. Erikson came aboard the al'kesh with his wife, Lily, and three adult children, Frank, John, and Elizabeth. Most of the general public remembered a little of the astronauts who landed on the moon, but a few took note of the ones who pioneered the space program by orbiting the Earth. Air Force pilots remembered.

“It really exists?” Frank asked.

“Thought the major would like to see the newest 303 being born,” Jack said. “If anyone has earned the right, Major Erikson has. I just wish we could have done this before Hagan, Brandt, and Newton passed away.”

“We thought the ships were from Nellis,” John said, his eyes a little wide. “We thought the Area 51 stuff was nonsense.”

Their questions were put on hold as they were abruptly crossing desert just moments after leaving the ground.

“I didn’t even feel that,” Betty said faintly.

“Inertial dampeners,” Jack commented.

As they came up to the base, the family gasped. Prometheus, Daedalus, and Argos sat proudly across two miles of sand. Behind them sat rows upon rows of gliders, all gleaming black in the sun, bright Tau’ri sigils decorating their wings. Hundreds of people in their dress uniforms all stood and came to attention as Jack landed. Wooden runways had been built across the two miles in front of the 303s with gangways leading up to the ships themselves. Shuttles were standing by to take people back and forth along those two miles.

A group of eighteen retired men in dress blues stood together, unable to keep their eyes off the ships. Two honor guards came forward to take charge of Erikson but one of the retired astronauts insisted upon taking Erikson’s chair himself.

President Hayes and the Joint Chiefs stepped forward and shook Erikson’s hand, murmuring soft words to him and then to his family. Hayes offered Mrs. Erikson his arm and they walked behind Erikson. The other retired astronauts fell in line. Markham, Caldwell, and Galanakis each greeted Erikson. He was then further surprised to be greeted by his Russian brothers. Colonel Chekhov took Erikson’s hand and inclined his head as he spoke. When they reached the end of the line, at the main entrance to the underground work shop, President Hayes stepped up to the podium. The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs took seats behind him. Sam and Daniel were both there; Sam in her dress blues and Daniel in a formal suit and tie. The children were dressed in their best and seated in the audience. All the current SGC and HomeSec personnel lined the podium on either side. The retired pilots all sat in sectioned seating in the front.

“This day is long overdue,” Hayes began. “When word reached us of Major Erikson’s battle, we knew this needed to happen. Yes, the space program received an unexpected leap forward just a short time ago, but we would never have left the ground to begin with, if it weren’t for people like Major William Erikson and all these men before us. Our world is changing daily due to our new circumstances, and no matter where life goes from here, we must not forget the sacrifices made by those men and women who have gone on before us.” He looked down at his papers and smiled softly.

“I was just thinking of our Founding Fathers and wondering what they would have thought about all this,” he commented. “It’s been a little over two hundred years since this great country began from humble beginnings. I don’t believe our Fathers would recognize us. To even contemplate traveling off the ground would have brought charges of insanity. To say we have been off the ground, even to the stars, would have brought charges of blasphemy. Those men who made the first attempts at travel stared death in the face just as those colonials did when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Progress is a scary thing; these men pushed the envelope of progress and forced us to take those steps toward maturity. Mr. Henry George said, “Progressive societies outgrow institutions as children outgrow clothes”.” There was a smattering of laughter and head nodding. Hayes smiled. “And Goethe said, “He who moves not forward, moves backward”. Yes, recent happenings are scary to many of us. Remember that it was also scary to those of us old enough to remember those first trips off the ground, made by men who deliberately placed themselves in seats sitting on top of bombs. Progress was scary then, and it’s scary now. General O’Neill?”

Jack stepped forward to the podium.

“ “Human salvation demands the divine disclosure of truths surpassing reason”. Thomas Aquinas, if anyone is interested. During this past year, we have seen truths that surpass reason. I can only apologize that the space programs from various countries were not involved in this from the beginning. A few knew what was going on, but most didn’t. It was need to know. They are involved now. Astronauts and cosmonauts are being retrained, at their own choice, for space missions. They are participating on these ships, the X-303s. A few are taking their turns walking through the Stargate. Their reasoning has had to take drastic steps to keep up with truth. I’m still rushing to catch up.” He paused, considering his notes.

“Today is a birthday. Our newest 303, the Europa, is ready for launch.” There was an excited rustling in the crowd as people craned their heads to look for the ship. “Although there’s still a little tinkering to be done on her, she’s ready to stretch her wings. Unfortunately, the commander we had planned for her was one of those who died during the recent battle. Colonel Anthony Powers will be remembered by all. It is my privilege and honor to announce the new commander of the Europa, Colonel Alexander Belarus.”

It was unsure who was more surprised, the US contingent or the Russians as people stood and clapped. Belarus jumped to his feet and proudly saluted Jack and then Chekhov. The other 303 commanders shook hands and welcomed him to their small brotherhood. Jack pinned the new wings to Belarus’ uniform, only the fourth set of newly minted wings, the Tau'ri sigil with outstretched silver wings to either side, to be given out. Jack handed him a remote control.

“Colonel Belarus, would you care to deliver your new baby?” he asked. Belarus took a deep breath as he looked at the control box. Just before he touched the button, he stopped. He then stepped off the stage and walked the few steps to the seated astronauts.

“Major, would you do the honors?” he asked Erikson. He held the box out and placed it under the pilot’s hand. After fighting with a hard trembling of his hand, Erikson pressed the button.

Everyone looked as the ground rumbled. A large hole began to appear behind the group. Eyes were shielded as sand was swept up. The Europa appeared, slowly, majestically. She turned in the air, giving everyone a good look at her, and then took her place a few hundred yards away from the group. The ship opened and the crew walked out, all in dress uniforms, and stood proudly at the side of their ship. The air was filled with applause, shouting, and whistling. Belarus took his seat next to Galanakis. The Russians were all sitting a little straighter.

“Alright, pipe down,” Jack told the crowd. There were some chuckles as they settled. “Welcome aboard, Colonel. All of our crews and ships have been taking a long deserved vacation; it’s time to get back to work. Colonel Markham, you wanted to say something?”

Markham stepped up to the podium. “Yes, sir. It would be the honor of the Prometheus and her crew to escort the esteemed ladies and gentlemen for a flight around the galaxy, sir.” There were more excited rumblings as the retired astronauts looked at each other and then at the Tau’ri flagship and her commander.

After spending time shaking hands and greeting people, the astronauts and their immediate families were taken on board the Prometheus, as well as various heads of state that were present. A few argued with advisers who were against their leaders heading off-world. Davis smoothed a few ruffled feathers; not everyone could go on the trip but there would be other trips.

“Colonel,” Jack said quietly. Belarus looked over to him. Jack held out his hand. “Well done, Colonel.”

“Sir. I wasn’t sure of the protocol, but it seemed the right thing to do.” Jack assured him it was.

The children were allowed to attend after they promised to mind their manners and not run off. Markham wheeled Erikson to the controls, pointed to a panel, and placed Erikson’s weak hand on it. A moment later, the ship came alive. Everyone watched the large screen and saw the ground slowly fall away. The people below became small as they waved excitedly.

“My God, she’s beautiful,” Hayes murmured in awe as they watched the Earth becoming smaller below them until it was just a blue-white spec in the darkness of space.

Sam was talking to people, explaining equipment and the science behind it all as she conducted a tour around the observation deck.

“General O’Neill, will we be meeting any aliens?” someone’s teenage grandson asked.

“I don’t know,” Jack said, not bothering to tell the boy about the Asgard behind the weapons console in engineering. “I don’t know what Colonel Markham has planned; this is his party.”

“I’m not sure I want to meet them,” someone else said with a shudder. “All those abduction stories.”

“That’s been taken care of,” Sam said. She went on to explain the problems with the Asgard genetics and the reasons behind the abductions.

“So cloning really is a bad thing?” someone asked.

Sam shrugged. “Point of view, I guess,” she said. “I understand that people are afraid of dying and want to live longer, even if they need to put their brains into a new body, but think about it –the world is over-crowded. All the people and the pollution those people create are causing the planet to fail. Is longer life worth the price of our planet? And if so, who gets to chose who lives longer and who doesn’t?”

“I’d like my father a little longer,” Betty Erikson said bitterly.

Nnnnooo.”

Everyone stopped and looked. Major Erikson puffed into the tube near his face. John Erikson leaned over his shoulder and read the words on the screen.

“Love you. Don’t want to live longer than God planned. Good life. Blessed.”

Betty wiped tears from her face as her mother put an arm around her.

“He once told me that he’d like to be cremated and scattered through the Crab Nebula,” Frank Erikson commented. “It was a fantasy. Those colored images of the Crab are beautiful.”

“No longer a fantasy,” Markham said. “Would you like to see it up close?” He ordered up the Crab Nebula. Prometheus was there within minutes. Everyone expected the bright colors they were used to seeing in magazines, not realizing that the colors were computer generated to show the different elements that the marvels of the universe were made of. “Major Erikson, when the time comes, and if it is your wish, the Prometheus would be honored to escort your family back here for the ceremony.” Jack gave him a small nod.

They went to several inhabited worlds, some of them disappointingly human, others completely alien. Daniel lectured on the history of humans and how they got into space. They stopped at Chulak and were joined by Teal’c and Bre’tac. Jack took the new grandbaby from Rya’c and presented him to Olivia. She stared at the baby, not quite sure what to make of the thing in Daddy’s arms.

“SG-1. Our original first contact team,” Hayes said, looking at Jack, Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c standing together. Stacy clamored for the story so Daniel told everyone a summarized version of their story. It kept everyone occupied and they didn’t notice that they were being taken the long way around areas of the galaxy that were still in semi-hostile hands. Or pirate guns. Or claws.

They had lunch and many got over their hesitancy and began asking questions of Teal’c. The heads of state on board cornered Bre’tac into an impromptu private discussion as everyone wandered around. The crew was more than happy to discuss their jobs and equipment. The recent battle was still fresh and many veered away from the topic. Those with war experience understood and respected the space.

To the surprise of their guests, many alien ships stopped to greet Jack when word got out that he was off-world. Daniel had a long, careful talk with Chaka, the Unas, who were the first beings to be the forced hosts to the Goa'uld which shared their home world. They weren’t evolved enough for space flight; the Goa'uld held back their evolution, but when Chaka radioed through a gate, the Prometheus swung by to pick him up. The Unas were curious about the Goa’uld situation and were reassured by Daniel that there was nothing more to fear from them. It wasn’t necessarily the Goa’uld that the Unas feared but the humans on a few planets. Jack gave the leadership a quick over-view of the Unas problems with human slavers. The leaders were shocked that humans could do such things.

“You’d be surprised what humans are capable of,” Jack informed them. “And seems to me we had slave issues of our own, not too long ago. There are still slaves on Earth.” Jack promised Chaka once more that if they needed help, the Tau’ri would help them.

“And if the Unas join the unification?” Daniel translated for Chaka.

“The Union will help the Unas in freeing themselves from their slavery,” Jack responded. “But we will not give them weapons. They can be placed as a protectorate until they are ready to join as full members, if they want.”

Daniel translated and Chaka’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Stacy was watching carefully from behind Daniel and Jack. Chaka looked her over and sniffed. He said something to Daniel.

“Yes, my cub,” Daniel nodded. “Mates,” he said, indicating Jack and Sam. Chaka said something else. “Jack, he wants assurance that human slavers would not be allowed to join the Union,” Daniel said.

“Give it to him,” Jack said.

A few family members dared to watch the incredible meeting from yards beyond the floor where Daniel and Chaka sat face to face. Hayes, Maynard, and other Earth leaders watched as Daniel negotiated with the rough, primitive alien.

“Why not teach it… him… to use a table and chair?” Ambassador Piccoli from Italy asked after Chaka left.

“Because he wouldn’t understand,” Daniel said. “If we talk with them at their level, we show respect for their culture and they will be more open to negotiations. To them, having a table between us would indicate that we have something to hide. I’ve had to negotiate naked with some cultures because even clothing would indicate something to hide.”

“This is how Daniel makes new friends, so we go with the flow,” Jack told Piccoli.

“He’s very primitive,” Lansky, an astronaut, said. “Why negotiate at all? What can his people offer?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Do you need a reason to make someone your friend?” he asked. “Primitive doesn’t mean stupid. The Unas may not have technology, but they were among those who taught us how to talk with aliens. They are also the first victims of the Goa’uld. The snakes are from the Unas home world. The Unas are far older than us and they’re dying out. Their last days should be peaceful ones.”

Jonas was next to visit. Sam took Danna from him, since Jack’s arms were filled with a slightly jealous Olivia who continued to glare at baby Dor’nar. All the SG-1 children were put together for pictures. As the children played, Jonas quietly let Jack know that Langara as a whole was behind the unification. They had a few requests for the treaty, but in general, they approved.

As the word continued to spread that O’Neill was in space, more and more messages came through from worlds that were behind the unification. Many other worlds had been scared into retreating behind a cloak of xenophobia and refused all further contact. Note was taken of those worlds, putting them on a no-contact list. They would still be watched, however, silently observed from time to time. If the culture showed signs that it would welcome contact, the Union would be ready to step in.

Other worlds, although not technologically advanced enough for space travel, also sent word of their support. Jack warned them that no advanced technology would be given out, but they would help with whatever else they could. Jack had never lied to them, so they would accept Jack’s word.

One by one, visitors either came to the Prometheus or contacted them in some fashion. When the most recent visitor left, Hayes sat next to Jack.

“This has been quite the experience,” he told Jack. “Humbling, actually. Not one of these people give a crap who I am, they ignore me completely. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I think I’m starting to see the bigger picture, Jack, and it really has nothing to do with us.”

“No, it has nothing to do with individual countries,” Jack corrected. “It has everything to do with us as a whole. This is it, Henry, the big step. Earth must become united. It must. No more political games, no more egos, no more my gun is bigger than your gun, because you know what? My gun IS bigger. You want to kill yourselves, go right ahead; I have better things to be concentrating on and I don’t need to be on Earth to do it. There are three other planets out here who have already issued an invitation to me and my family to make our home elsewhere.”

Hayes nodded. “Up til now, I’d put all that down to hyperbole,” he said. “Seeing all these people coming out of nowhere, just to talk with you for a few minutes…. I believe you, Jack. And seeing this crew, all these people from different countries, all working toward a common goal, ignoring borders…”

“They have another flag to follow,” Jack said. He touched the sigil on his shoulder. “This one unites them as a planet. That’s why I’ve refused to put national flags on ships and uniforms. The only competition they have is between teams, not countries, and that’s a good, healthy competition.”

“We must do this, Henry,” Jack said, looking out at the children. “It’s time to grow up. I know you’re scared, wondering what your place will be, the upheavals countries will go through. I’m fully aware that religion will be taking the largest hit and it’s scaring them shitless. It’s religion that controls the masses, Henry, not governments, and it needs to stop. No more bowing down to the will of the Religious Right. Let them rant and rave, let them threaten their doom. I don’t give a shit. The Crusades were wrong way back then, and they’re wrong now. The Witch Hunts were wrong. The Burnings were wrong. Don’t let them continue, Henry, don’t continue to feed their flames. Keep your spirituality, dump the religion.

“In case you haven’t noticed, the changes have begun. It’s time, Henry.” Jack reached over and put his hand over a scratch on Hayes’ forearm, a gift from the First Lady's cat. A moment later, he took his hand away. The scratch was gone. Hayes whitened as he touched his arm.

“I’m scared, too, Henry, but my will is for life, not death.”

 


 

Chapter 33

 

Katie rushed down the stairs, swinging her book bag onto her back. Her friend Lydia was right behind her, having spent the night after a serious session of math cramming. Jerrie was waiting in the van for them.

“Bye, Dad!” she yelled as she grabbed her coat. “Hi, Malek!” Lydia looked curiously at the strange, and cute, man in the strange clothing.

“Thank you, General!” Lydia called out.

Malek gave a polite bow as he watched them, curious at the morning routine. The door slammed shut and he turned back to Jack. And took a step back from the pukku that was resting on Jack’s shoulder.

“She’s a child,” Jack informed him. “Hands, and eyes, to yourself.”

Malek raised an eyebrow and inclined his head. He cleared his throat.

“The council’s main concern is that the voice of the Tok’ra will be lost in the vastness of this endeavor,” Malek continued. It had been a month since the gathering on the Prometheus, and more than one planet was talking about the new unification contract. The SGC had called Jack earlier in the morning to let him know that the Tok’ra wanted a word with him; Jack had been expecting their call. He put a pot of coffee on and had Malek brought over by SF.

“One group, one voice,” Jack said, tossing the pukku negligently onto the couch. He lifted Olivia from her playpen and kissed her noisily. She laughed and blew bubbles at him. “I don’t understand the problem.” He put her into the highchair and gave her a bottle.

“The problem is our numbers,” Malek said. “We are fewer than ever and we need hosts.”

“Yes, I know that,” Jack said. He dished up scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and juice, and set them on the table. Malek looked curiously at it and took cautious bites of each item. He decided they were good and ate. “Malek, we’ve sent five hosts to you. I can’t help it if Tau’ri have an objection to sharing their body with a snake. You’re trying to fight a cultural issue; snakes have been bad things since forever. Why don’t you join forces with the Masharu?”

“Thanatos has offered; some of us are considering it,” he admitted. “Most don’t wish to leave this galaxy.”

Jack shook his head. “You people are so stubborn,” he commented. “You’ll cut off your nose to spite your face. Look, the System Lords are gone. Those with power, anyway, and even the Anunnaki have offered to let you share their world as long as your snakes don’t lay eggs. You can live above ground, stop playing trolls.” Malek was still puzzling over the nose and face comment. “The Tok’ra have a place on the inner council, what more do they want?”

Malek sipped at the juice and made a face. “Too acidic, I’m sorry.” He put it down and Jack got him a glass of water. “You need to understand, Jack, the Tok’ra have known nothing except fighting and hiding for thousands of years. We don’t know how to colonize.”

“Okay, fine,” Jack waved a hand. “How about being on the main scout ships? We’ll need forces to help put down problems on planets. Just because the System Lords are gone, doesn’t mean all the bad guys are gone. There are others. The Aschen are still out there, and they will find a way out of their little corner of the galaxy sooner or later. Let those who want to relax go live on Kalam, fighters can be part of the Prometheus crew. The Europa is getting ready for her first tour, she needs scientists. There are lots of things the Tok’ra can be doing.”

Malek nodded thoughtfully. “I can take that back to the high council,” he acknowledged. He thanked Jack for the meal and headed back to the SGC. Jack had been receiving many callers lately, all of them having issues over the unification. They each wanted a say in what was happening, if they were going to be involved. Jack gave everyone translated copies of the treaty, making sure they understood that it was still in a planning stage, and if they wanted something changed, make the changes and send it back for review.

Jack disappeared.

“Thor, don’t leave the baby alone,” Jack said once he recognized where he was. “Put me back and come down yourself.”

They both beamed back to Jack’s living room. Thor looked around curiously. Olivia looked at him, not quite sure what to make of him.

“The Asgard are pleased with your progress,” he informed Jack.

“Great,” Jack said dryly. “Do the Asgard want to comment on the new plans, too? You guys joining the fun?”

“No, we must remain neutral,” Thor said, not unexpectedly. “There are a few worlds that can now be lifted from protection, since the System Lords are no longer a threat. All the Goa’uld who agreed to the treaty are dead. The treaty is null and void.”

“Does that mean you can give us more toys?” Jack asked hopefully.

“No,” Thor looked at him. “I believe Erra delivered a package to Col. Carter. We are not sure that the timing is right, but it’s already done. If she is able to understand the workings of it, you will have no need for our toys. I have no doubt in Col. Carter’s abilities.” Thor walked around, looking at the family pictures that decorated table tops and walls. Most were Jack and Sam’s families, a few were of Daniel’s parents and him as a child. The children decorated the wall next to the staircase with current pictures, including drawings by Stacy and Davy done directly on the wall with washable markers. Jack needed to wash the wall down.

“You have gained access to your memories,” Thor commented.

“Sort of,” Jack said. “I don’t actually remember anything, but new things keep popping up and I seem to just do them. The kids are being weird, too, little buddy, and not just ours. I had a talk with their teachers and other parents. Kids everywhere are starting to be weird. Daniel’s learned another language; I think he’s up to twenty-seven. He says sounds whisper to him; it’s sensuous, he says. There doesn’t seem to be anything Sam can’t figure out, Major Davis has a gift for arbitration, the list of people with ancient genes is growing by leaps and bounds, and if it gets out that I’m healing people just by touching them, someone is going to kidnap me and lock me up to study me.”

“You are tagged, we will find you and rescue you,” Thor assured him.

“Thanks, but that isn’t the point,” Jack said. “Humans were scared enough at the thought of aliens; once they realize something is happening to everyone, especially the kids, they are going to freak out. I’m kinda hoping that all the excitement over this unification will take their attention from the changes long enough to just allow them to happen.”

Thor took a moment to consider Jack’s statement and then nodded. Jack sat, leaning forward with his hands clasped thoughtfully between his knees.

“Is it just our planet that these things are happening?” he asked. “Is it happening to humans everywhere?”

“A few others,” Thor acknowledged. “Mostly just here. Humans elsewhere have been held back in their development.”

Jack nodded. “What’s happening with Langara?” he asked. “Niriti said something about the Langaran brain when she tried to mess with Jonas.”

Thor hopped up onto a chair.  “Because of the concentration of naquadah and naquadria, the Langarans have been affected,” he admitted. “They will be leaping, also.”

“So it’s a good thing to keep them close to us during all this,” Jack commented.

“Yes. Their cultural development is not up to where it needs to be for their abilities, though,” Thor warned. “They are very behind where they need to be. You cannot help them in their development, they need to make the same decisions you are making; make a conscious change, or implode.”

Jack nodded. “Double indemnity,” he said. “They helped in the war and they’ve already asked to be part of the unification. That alone will alter their culture.”

Thor looked thoughtful as his fingers tapped against the arm of the chair. “Then there is nothing we can do, it is done,” he finally said. “I can only hope that they have learned from their past mistakes and be judicious with their new toys.

“Jonas will be on the unification council to represent Langara,” Jack said. “We can do our best to guide them from there.”

Jerrie came back from the school run and stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of the little gray alien sitting in the living room. Jack introduced them.

“Uh, hi,” she stumbled, a little white around the gills.

“Greetings.” He jumped down. “I will leave you now,” he said to Jack. “What is the Earth expression? Don’t be a visitor?” He beamed out and Jack chuckled.

“Stranger,” Jack said to the air. “Don’t be a stranger.”

He got up and took Olivia from her chair. He stuck his nose close to her diapered butt and decided she needed a change.

“Okay, I think that put a LOT of things into perspective,” Jerrie said.

Davis stopped in soon after and Jack left for the office.

Time to meet the press. Jack didn’t exactly put his dress blues on, but he did make sure he was well-groomed and had his shirt tucked in. He and Paul spent the day walking around HomeSec and then the SGC, talking with a local reporter (Jack was irritated with the national and international reporters) and making an episode for a weekly TV news segment. Several leaders, from the president on down, asked Jack to do an interview to help the public understand what was happening. Jack wanted to pawn it off on someone else (Daniel), but said someone (Daniel) refused. Jack talked about the Goa’uld history with Earth, the recent battle, and the unification he was asked to help put together.

“Earth is putting a galactic union together?” Alejandro Ramirez stopped and asked in amazement.

Jack shook his head. “No,” he said emphatically. “The other worlds asked for me personally to assist, not Earth. One of the treaty stipulations is that the world asking to join the union must demonstrate that the countries are united and that citizen rights are a priority. There are minor prerequisites about weapons, drugs, and terrorist activities. At the moment, Earth would be denied membership.”

The reporter was speechless for a moment. “How do other worlds handle their issues?” he asked.

Jack shrugged. “Of all the worlds and cultures I have seen, only a few have been divided. Governments take a strong stand against all weapons except the hand to hand, personal safety weapons. Knives and small pistols, or their equivalent, are fine, larger weapons, those made for mass destruction, are mostly outlawed except for extreme cases of country-wide protection. The governments appropriate funds more reasonably; the needs of the citizens comes first, not the pockets of the leaders. Most worlds take care of their environment by using anything other than fossil fuels. You should see some of the planets we’ve been to where the use of fossil fuels has completely destroyed the planet. Literally. The people of those worlds either colonized off-world, or they are dead.”

The reporter asked about the energy output of the Yards and the fuel use of the ships.

“No fuel,” Jack said. “We use alien generators and crystal technology. Completely waste-free and completely safe.”

“Will Earth be getting these generators for public use?” he was asked.

“Not yet,” Jack said. “The problem is the mineral used to make them. Naquadah. Earth doesn’t have the mineral and it’s pretty rare on most planets. We already have alternate forms of energy available; stop putting the money into the oil companies, and start backing alternatives. My family uses electric for local driving. With all the water on this planet, I’d really like to see the hydro take off. There should be a way to use hydro-electric and clean the water at the same time.”

They stopped at the main infirmary for the long-term care patients, and Jack ignored the reporter and camera to talk with the men and women laying in beds or sitting in wheelchairs. They brightened at Jack’s entrance and took his hand, if they could. If not, Jack made sure to touch them. A shoulder, a leg, anywhere. They had sacrificed greatly, and they needed to know they were not alone.

Jack’s next interview was two days later in DC with another news show, this one live. He knew his words about religion and fuels were going to add to the fire, and he was ready for it when a senator and a religious leader were brought on to counter him. Thanks to Daniel and Paul, he was able to fight them with their own words. He threatened to go out and find a Goa’uld named Jehovah, and the religious leader walked off the set. Back in the White House, Hayes groaned into his hands.

The next interview was a week away and was conducted at their home and the SGC. Jack was actually a little scared of that one; the woman had a reputation for turning even the hardest of men into little boys blubbering for their mommies. Jack, Sam, and Daniel were all interviewed. Sam told her about Jacob and his role in everything, and Daniel stood in front of the Stargate and told her about its birth. Walter turned the gate on and the woman and her camera crew almost fainted. She wanted to know about the children and how they deal with it all, so Jack let her ask them. It irritated them, sometimes, that the parents were always occupied with alien stuff, but someone was always home and they got lots of attention. Especially after report cards came out.

Two weeks later came the last interview Jack agreed to do only because Teal’c begged him with large, silent, dark eyes. It was on TV, in front of a live audience. Teal’c came out onto the stage with the others, and handed Oprah a large bouquet of flowers along with a deep bow. Jack had to explain that she and Dr. Phil were Teal’c most favorite Earth people.

Aliens and the Jack/Sam/Daniel relationship were the main topics. Oprah looked at their rings as Daniel discoursed on spirituality, love, and the concept of togetherness. She asked Teal’c about the alien thought on marriage and partners.

“Humans are stubborn,” he rumbled disapprovingly. “They have a short life which they waste arguing about someone else’s life. I do not understand.” He also didn’t understand the applause he received, but after a look from Jack, he graciously accepted it.

Parts of their hand-fasting ceremony were played, much to the delight of the audience. Jack covered his face at the recording of him singing to Daniel.

“You’re dead,” Jack told him after all the laughter and applause.

“What? I like it when you sing to me,” Daniel said innocently.

There were many ooohs and aaahs at the kissing and ring presentations, gasps at the sight of obvious aliens, and more gasps at the sight of double moons in the sky.

“Now, your kids were there,” Oprah commented. “Do they visit alien worlds often?”

“They’ve been out a few times,” Jack nodded. “And that was before the baby was born; her mother was my niece. Megan and my father died in a car accident on her way to her final check-up before delivery. I adopted my great-nieces and nephews.”

A hand went to her throat. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. “Was this long ago?”

“During the summer,” Jack said. “Olivia is almost six months, now. I’m Dad, Sam is Mom, and Daniel is Uncle Danny, except Olivia’s been identifying him as da da, also, which is fine with me. Daniel’s daughter, Stacy, calls me Dad, too. Actually, she uses the word Adda. One of Daniel’s languages is Sumerian, and it means Daddy. Sam is Mom to Stacy, too.”

Soooo, they basically see all of you as their parents,” she said, glancing out at the front of the audience.

“Yes,” Jack nodded. “I know I’m in trouble when someone calls me Uncle Jack instead of Dad.”

Everyone laughed.

“Now, don’t you have another son?” she asked, frowning in thought. “Our research said you have an older teenager.”

“My oldest was Charlie,” Jack said. “He died in an accident about twelve years ago. Jonathan is new to me; he was a surprise that showed up on my doorstep a few years ago.”

More condolences were expressed. “And Jonathan didn’t come with you today?” she asked. “Just the younger kids?”

“He’s actually on another planet,” Jack said. “He’s eighteen, out of school, so I wasn’t going to argue. Hey, playback the ceremony?” he asked, looking around in the shadows of the production crew. “The long-haired irritation playing guitar.” The image was quickly found and played for the audience. “Yeah, that’s him,” he told Oprah.

The audience laughed as they watched Jonathan scamper around with his guitar, Shara always watching him. Jack looked at Daniel and Sam; they had completely missed the looks of affection coming from the warrior. Jack had a feeling he needed to talk with his clone.

“He’s a cutie, Jack,” Oprah said.

Before anyone could say anything, someone in the audience stood up and came down the isle.

“Cut!” the director yelled. “Hey, buddy, you can’t….” There were screams as the man pulled a gun from the back of his jacket. Jack jumped, shoved Oprah down behind the couch, and stood at the front of the stage.

Nooo, nooo..,” he could hear the man whispering in terror to himself. Jack looked into the man’s face; it was contorted as he struggled with himself. Jack made a slight hand signal and the man was abruptly on the floor. The audience continued to scream and scramble away.

“Quiet!” Jack yelled. No one was paying attention. He put two fingers into his mouth and whistled. “Pipe down and sit down!” he ordered. Shocked, the audience slowly returned to their seats. He jumped off the stage and went to the downed man to check his pulse. He took the gun and looked at it. “Lieutenant,” he called over an SF who had been in the wings and gave the man orders. The SF holstered the zat and several other SF came out to help haul the man off. Teal’c went with them.

“Oh, dear Lord, what was that?” Oprah asked, her eyes wide, body trembling. The stage manager, director, and producer were all on the stage seeing to her. Daniel handed her back into her seat and poured a glass of water for her while Sam went to the children; she took the screaming baby and walked off, holding Olivia close and murmuring to her.

“Is he dead?” Oprah asked in shock.

“No, he isn’t,” Jack assured her. He turned to the audience. “He isn’t dead. My men only stunned him. From the look on his face, he was probably brain-washed into doing this. We’ll get him fixed and he will be sent back home.”

“He tried to kill you!” she protested.

“Well, you can press charges if you want, but I won’t,” Jack told her. He gave her shoulder a pat and sat back down. “Alright, calm down, it’s okay,” he once more assured the audience. “We’ve seen it before; someone gets captured at some point and gets brainwashed. They don’t even remember it happening. When the trigger is pulled, the person is aware of their actions, but they have no control over their actions. They are being forced into doing whatever it is they are doing. I saw his face; he didn’t want to be doing that, he was terrified. We will do our best to repair the damage to his brain, and he will be returned home. The bad guy in this is the person who did the brainwashing; this man was only a victim.”

Sam returned. Olivia was down to sniffles and a little whimpering.

“She’s okay, just scared,” Sam said. She sat and held the baby close. “Katie, bring me a bottle?” she asked. Katie dug one out of the bag and brought it up onto the stage. “Thank you.”

“Are the rest of you kids alright?” Oprah asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Katie said politely. She returned to her seat with her brothers and sister.

“Look, can I suggest a break?” Jack asked. “Get things calmed down, order reestablished, and we can continue.”

Oprah thought that was a great idea and called for a break. The police were soon on the scene and Jack pulled them aside. The police soon left.

“How long do you think he’s been in waiting?” Daniel asked quietly.

“Hard to say,” Jack said. “It would take months to check the rest of the audience for zatargs, so we’ll just have to wing it. Should have thought of scanners, though; that gun was a Glock.”

“Ceramic,” Sam commented. “Got through the metal detectors.” Jack nodded.

“It did look like you were the target,” Daniel said. “He was looking directly at you.”

“Wonder what the trigger was?” Jack asked thoughtfully. “Sam, do you have an MRI on you? Give it to an SF and have him scan the rest of the audience. Won’t spot a zatarg, but it’ll pick up weapons. If anyone protests, it’s HomeWorld Security. If they still protest, they’re welcome to leave.”

Jack had a talk with the director and producer; if any cameras were rolling, the footage needed to be cut and sent to his office. If any footage escaped, Jack would take it personally and none of the production staff would never work again. Oprah ordered it done and production reluctantly agreed. Jack tried his own brand of scanning, but came up with only frightened people; if any more zatargs were in the audience, they were not yet triggered and the information was buried deep enough that Jack couldn’t read it.

Most of the audience returned and the show went on. Jack had given their hostess a few topics to pursue, so the subject of medicine was taken up which Sam readily jumped into. She talked about the recent distribution of protocols to health officials and then mentioned some of the more interesting medicines that they had been privately working on, such as diabetic and heart related medicines. The audience perked up.

Jack mentioned that Sam was the mother of Earth’s ships, and attention was permanently turned away from him.

When the taping was finally complete, Jack assured their hostess that she did a great job at keeping it together.

“Do you deal with this all the time?” she asked, fanning herself with a magazine.

“Actually, this was a fairly good day,” he said.

The main topic of discussion was General Jack’s attitude toward everything from weapons to religion to child rearing to sexuality. A private phone call with Hayes told him that there was a quiet buzz happening in DC over the public’s attitude; the country seemed to be fairly divided as to whether or not Jack needed to be strung up or crowned king. The oil industry was on a warpath as, overnight, people began demanding that research into alternative fuels be made completely public. They didn’t believe the industry had been honest with them about the value of alternative fuels.

“Duh,” Jack informed Hayes.

“Jack,” Hayes hesitated. “I’ve been rereading the SG-1 reports, listening to your speeches and interviews. You’re really sincere, aren’t you? Although we are technologically more advanced than a lot of other worlds, we’re behind socially, aren’t we? In my position, there really isn’t much I can do to make changes happen globally, and because of how our government is set up, I can’t take a leak without getting someone’s permission. Listen, Jack…. If I don’t run for the next term, is there something I can do from your end? I loved being out on the Prometheus and meeting representatives from other worlds. My God, Jack, listening to them talk about galactic issues was incredible. I felt like a child learning something from my grandpa’s knee. Earth could be learning so much from other worlds. I’d really like to be in on all that, but I don’t know where or what I could do to help.”

Jack looked at the phone. “That’s an interesting offer, Henry,” he said. “I honestly don’t know what you could do, they’re pretty much putting this together out there; they only come here when they need an issue straightened out. Let me think about it, see if there’s a specific format all this is headed toward, and I’ll let you know.”

Jack knew Hayes himself was sincere when, two days later, the papers and news channels were exploding with the news that President Hayes had fired all his religious advisors and replaced them with a couple of comparative religions professors, both of whom practiced no specific denomination themselves.

The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,” Hayes was quoted. “As per the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, and many other documents stating the intent of the Founding Fathers, this administration will stand in support of the separation of church and state. Jesus himself said not to pray in public, as the hypocrites do. We are the first country in the world to establish a secular government, and that is our strength and that was the official intent our Founding Fathers had for this country.”

Daniel chuckled to himself as he turned the TV stations.

Jack continued to deal with visiting aliens. This time it was Thanatos that was requesting permission to ring in to HomeSec.

“Sure!” Jack said, tossing a hand in the air. He went down to the ring room to meet him. His technicians were staring when Jack got there. Thanatos had a horse with him. A horse with a human, sorta, upper half. Jack took Thanatos’ forearm in a friendly clasp.

“Jack, may I introduce Frayn, the Ras representative to the Milky Way galaxy?”

Jack put his hands behind his back and gave a formal bow. The Ras echoed the movement, a pleased shiver to his withers.

“Welcome to Earth,” Jack said. “I trust your journey was uneventful?”

“The journey was peaceful,” Frayn said with an incline of his head. “I am told you took the time to care for my people during the recent unpleasantness. My government wishes to give thanks. Although we are strangers to you, you made no distinction.”

Jack ushered them out of the ring room. “Hey, listen, your people didn’t have to help us, this was our problem not yours, so it’s us who should be expressing gratitude.”

People jumped out of the way of the centaur walking the halls and talking pleasantries with their general. Paul came out and greeted Thanatos and was introduced to Frayn. He ordered up refreshments to the main meeting room.

“Our people monitor our galaxy just as you do here,” Frayn said. “Or should I say, as your people are preparing to. Although we do not interfere with other galaxies, we are aware of our neighbors and we have outposts along the galactic borders. Our galaxy borders yours here.” He traced the side of a spiral galaxy that sat near the Milky Way on the galactic map that was hanging on the wall. “I can tell you that these two galaxies hold several presences that are not friendly, this old galaxy is fairly empty, and the far galaxy, although old, still contains a few friendly races.” Frayne touched each galaxy on the map as he spoke.

“I do not wish to presume, only suggest; if you are to patrol your galaxy, border outposts are wise.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully and glanced at Paul who was taking notes. “I appreciate the information and advice,” Jack said. “I don’t believe we have been to the borders, yet. Major?”

“No, sir, we haven’t,” Paul told him. “We’ve been concentrating on gate worlds.”

Jack tapped the map. “This galaxy is what we call the Pegasus galaxy,” he said. “We do have an outpost there and we are aware of the threat from that galaxy. Our people accidentally woke up the hives so we have begun working to fix that problem.”

“Indeed,” Frayn gave an interested incline of his head. “May I inquire as to how they fair?”

“They are fairing well,” Jack said. “It’s been a little hard, but we are learning to use ancient technology and the creatures we call wraith are being fought off with a degree of success.”

“Thanatos mentioned that Tau’ri are gaining knowledge of the ancient devices. Impressive,” Frayn commented. “We have discovered a few items in our galaxy, but have had no success with any of them.”

Jack lifted an eyebrow. “Really. Feel like sharing?”

The Ras wanted coffee beans for planting. Jack had no idea how Earth coffee beans got off-world, much less into another galaxy, but he rounded up a ton of plantable beans and someone to give instruction on the care of coffee bean plants, as well as the multitude of uses humans have for the beans. Jack sent the new toys to Sam.

When he got home, Jack cornered Daniel and they fell onto the couch, lips locked. Stacy and Davy giggled from the kitchen table where Jerrie was helping with homework.

“I have students downstairs,” Daniel got out. Jack took advantage and slid his tongue in. Daniel dropped his notepad and slid his arms around Jack’s back. “There are children in the room,” Daniel managed around the active mouth.

“Alright, alright,” Jack grumped. He took a nibble from Daniel’s neck and then got up. “The children will be going to bed early tonight, right?” he asked the room.

“No,” the children informed him with more giggles.

“What kind of bribe do I need to make?” he asked.

The kids looked at each other. “Hot fudge sundaes?”

Jack scowled. “A little steep, but I might be able to manage it.”

The report from the man in the studio was in Jack’s email. John Glandon was in counseling and rehabilitation. A simple janitor, he had been completely unaware of what had happened to him. He didn’t know where the urge to be at the studio came from, he only knew he had to be there. There was no way to tell who had set the implant. The technicians were sure they had wiped Mr. Glandon’s mind clean of all commands, including the self-destruct command. The man had been horrified at what he had tried to do. HomeSec councilors took time with him and made sure he was aware that it wasn’t his fault and that General O’Neill would not be holding him responsible. They’d keep him for a week or so, making sure he was well on his way to normal before sending him home. Jack signed off on the report and forwarded it to the Oprah legal offices out of courtesy.

“Jack.” He looked up. Daniel was standing in the doorway to his office, quiet and sober. He looked behind and pulled someone forward. He shut the door and left them.

“Michael. Are you alright?” Jack asked, standing up and moving to his brother. Michael’s hair had grown out an inch, clothes weren’t as neat and tidy as they usually were, and he was in civilian clothing instead of clerical.

“Jack, I….” He collapsed to the couch and buried his face in his hands, sobbing. Jack went to him and took him into his arms. Michael put his face into Jack’s chest.

“Aw, Mikey.”

It was a while before Michael stopped howling into Jack’s chest. Jack knew Michael would show up sooner or later; Michael had always been the one to run away in denial until he figured out that life wasn’t going to take pity on him.

When Michael was reduced to sniffling, he pushed away and wiped quickly at his face. Jack got up and found a tissue box.

“I’m not as strong as you, Jack,” Michael said, tossing a tissue away. “I never have been. I can’t do this.”

“You can,” Jack told him. “Stop fighting it. You’re trying to make the universe conform to your needs. Stop fighting it and swim with the tide. I’ve learned that surrender is not always a bad thing. Listen, why don’t you go wash your face and get ready for dinner? Spend time with the kids, they miss you. Does Mom know you’re here?”

Michael shook his head.

“Alright, I’ll call her and have her over for dinner, too.”

The kids were excited to see their grandfather and clamored over him with stories and wanting to know where he was. He needed quiet time, he told them, so he had been at the family cabin. He held Olivia and almost started crying again as he saw Megan on her face. It startled him to hear the children referring to Jack as Dad.

“They asked,” Jack told him quietly. Michael nodded.

“I saw Andrew a couple times. He was pleasant and didn’t once ask about them,” Michael told him.

“My lawyer has to fight every month to get child support out of him,” Jack said. “We don’t really need it, but it’s the principle of the thing. I split it up between the kids when it comes in. Make sure they take responsibility for a bank account. Davy doesn’t understand the concept of money; Katie and Matty are doing well. Not sure of Livie’s take on it, yet, but she’s doing well, barely spends a cent.”

Michael reluctantly smiled. Maggie came out from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel.

“Michael, will you be staying with me tonight?” she asked.

“Sure, Mom, thanks,” he said.

It was late when Jack got to bed. As he stripped and pulled out fresh pajamas, Daniel watched him from the bed.

“Have you been working out?” he asked.

“No, why?”

Daniel got up and held Jack’s hand from putting the shirt on. He poked at Jack’s chest and arms.

“Your skin seems to have a new-found elasticity,” he said. “I haven’t seen your muscles stand out like that in a long time. Look, your skin even seems smoother.”

Jack looked down at himself. He had been resigned to the middle-aged droops and hadn’t really looked at himself in a while. Daniel touched his face, studying his jaw and eyes.

“Okay, this is weird,” he concluded. “You suddenly have 20/20 vision, your knees don’t bother you, you carried Katie to bed last week and your back didn’t go out, and now your skin is flexible again. I think I’d like you to go for a physical. At the SGC.”

“She’s only one hundred and five,” Jack said. “She’s a little thing.”

“Jack, she’s one hundred and twenty,” Daniel told him. “I went with her to her physical a couple months ago. She’s filling out those gangly limbs. And she’s five foot six, not exactly a little thing.”

“Danny, I had a physical when I got back,” Jack told him, continuing to dress. “I’m fine.”

“Did you actually sit and talk with the doctors, or did you take it for granted that you were fine because no one said otherwise?” Daniel asked.

“Are you complaining?” Jack asked.

“No, I’m not,” Daniel shook his head. “I’m a little concerned. Jack, the Ancients lived a couple hundred years. Enki did insinuate that you’d be living longer than you’re expecting.”

Jack paused, not yet ready to discuss that side of things. “I don’t want to live a couple hundred years, what would I do?” he said. “I’m fine, come to bed.”

Actually, Dr. Warner had called him a couple times requesting his presence, but Jack didn’t want to hear it, whatever it was. Maybe he should. Katie weighted one hundred twenty? Granted she was a little taller, but she was so slender.

In the morning, Jack looked at her as she hurried to gather her school stuff. She seemed to have a few more feminine curves than he remembered. “What’s wrong?” she asked, seeing his stare. “Did I spill?”

“No,” he shook his head. “I was just thinking that I’m not sure I’m happy about you growing up. When did you become such a beautiful young lady?”

She flushed and kissed his cheek before hurrying out the door.

“You do remember that her birthday is coming up,” Jerrie said as she cleared the table.

“What?” Jack jerked his head around. “It can’t be April already.”

“April 23rd is in two weeks,” she told him.

Jack groaned. “Have I missed anything else?”

“Well, let’s see –Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, David’s birthday….no, I think that’s it; Katie is next, then Daniel, Sam, and Matthew,” he was told. “You and Stacy are in the fall, right?”

He nodded. “We went to dinner together, I didn’t miss that one. Any idea what I should get her?”

It took Jerrie a moment….. “She said something about a concert, but the ticket prices were ridiculous. I don’t remember the band, but I can find out.”

Jack felt really bad about not being home for the holidays and David’s first birthday with them, but he had planned ahead and had presents stashed on the chance he wasn’t going to be home. Daniel and Sam had recorded all the events and had sent them to him while he was on the Prometheus. When they got home, Jack had them all burned onto disks, along with all the family messages and then made sure to take Davy out for a special day all their own.

He made a few phone calls and stopped by his mother’s on his way to work. He handed Michael a list of names and numbers.

“The SGC and HomeSec has a group that meets a couple times a month,” he told Michael. “It’s made up of various religions and they all sit around and talk about redefining their religions. These people still have their faith, Michael. Rabbi Aviram Melnik is the coordinator, he’s a nice guy. He says to come on by and you two can talk. I highly recommend you do this.”

When Jack got to his office, he discovered General Hammond talking with Mrs. Clark.

“George!” Jack took his hand.

“Jack,” Hammond greeted him. “Interesting interviews, Jack. The Oprah thing was fun; Teal’c must have been in heaven. Did something happen? There seemed to be a lot of tension at one point and Teal’c disappeared.”

Jack ushered Hammond into his office.

“A zatarg showed up,” Jack said. He poured coffee for them and sat, telling Hammond about the taping. Hammond shook his head.

“And there’s no way to find the author of that plot,” he concluded. Jack agreed. They talked for a while, catching up on kid activities. Tressa was joining the air force. Jack sat back, floored.

“She’s a baby, George,” he protested.

Hammond nodded ruefully. “She’s a nineteen-year-old baby; can you believe that, Jack? She’ll be at the Academy the same time I’ll be commandant.”

Jack smiled. “You took the position.”

“Yes, I did,” he sighed. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. Did you have a hand in it?”

“Nope,” Jack shook his head. “By the time I got around to mentioning it, I was told you were already under consideration. I think it’s a wise decision, though. And Cassie is engaged, did she tell you?”

“No, when? Who?” Hammond asked, as floored as Jack.

“Major Harper.”

Hammond picked his chin up from the floor. “What? He’s what, thirty-five? What does Sam have to say about it?”

“She says their age difference is the same as hers and mine,” Jack informed him. “I couldn’t argue that one. Nate approves, so…. Jonathan.”

“He does? What’s been going on out here, Jack, invasion of the pod people?”

Hammond left a while later and Jack heard giggling outside his door. He got up and poked his head out. Hammond was sitting on the edge of Mrs. Clark’s desk and she was giggling like a girl.

“Is there something I should know about?” Jack asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“I think I can make a date without your help, Jack, thank you,” Hammond told him.

Jack shook his head and went back into his office. He thought for a moment and then walked out the other door and down the hall.

“Is there something going on between my admin and George?” he asked Cassandra.

“They’ve been making goo-goo eyes at each other since soon after he started temping for you,” she told him.

“I thought Mrs. Clark was married,” he said. Cass reached out a hand and absently drew a coffee mug to her from across the room. Jack looked. The door was closed.

“She’s widowed, he’s widowed,” Cass told him. “I think they’re cute together.”

“Wow.” Jack shook his head and went back to his office.

Sam called and insisted that Jack come out to Nevada. She was excited about something, so he left Paul in charge and went out. She was practically dancing off the ground when he walked out of his al'kesh, and completely forgot protocol as she grabbed his arm and pulled him forward. She led him to her underground work room which was the size of a football field. There was a stone arch standing in the middle, with wires attached to it.

“Isn’t that the thing from the moon… thingy…,” Jack asked, looking at it.

“Yeah,” Sam said breathlessly. “Erra gave it to me. Jack, I figured it out.”

“Of course, you did. Figured what out?”

“How it works!” she said excitedly. “Watch!” She fiddled with her computer and then stepped through the arch. And disappeared.

“Hey!” Jack protested.

“Over here!” He turned and saw her standing across the room beneath another arch. She ran back to him.

“I think I can build more,” she told him. “It’s on the same lines as a DHD and gate. Dial in coordinates and step through. It isn’t quite a wormhole, more like a TV station sending signals through to a local receiver. If I can program it to accept longitude and latitude, and build more, they can be placed anywhere on the planet and people will have instant distance travel!”

“Please tell me you used a MALP before stepping into it yourself,” Jack begged.

“Of course, I did,” she assured him. “And I’ve taken the second arch all over the base and it works each time. They are programmed to each other, but I know they can be reprogrammed. I want to take the second arch to the SGC and see if there’s still a good connection.”

“Well, it did send me from a planet to a moon,” Jack reminded her.

“Oh, yeah, right,” she nodded.

She dragged him to another area of the work room and jumped up onto a small platform. She pressed a button on the computer and the platform suddenly rose off the floor. Jack took a step back. Sam jumped on it. Not even a wiggle.

“It’s the same technology that keeps the Goa’uld ships in hover mode,” she said. She pressed buttons and the platform went higher into the air. She took it for a test drive across the room. Several technicians ducked their heads and ignored her. “I haven’t been able to find a height limit,” she said, bringing it back down. “Just think; we can get rid of those clunky satellites and install a few of these around the planet. We can make a base on the moon, install an arch to get there, and set up a monitoring post for the solar system. With one of the platforms, we can set up the mikku. I’ve had a few technicians with the gene playing with the chair, and they’ve got the mikku down pat! Come on!”

She pulled him again. “Burkett!”

“Ma’am?” A sergeant stepped out from behind a panel. He was startled to see Jack and immediately saluted.

“Let’s show off, Sergeant,” Sam told him.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Burkett slid into the chair and quickly fiddled with the controls. A few yards away, a ball rose into the air. Sam opened a hatch in the roof and the ball went whizzing through it and disappeared. Another touch on the chair and there was a star field hovering in mid-air before them.

“Now, as the mikku turns, the star field will change to show what it’s seeing,” Sam said. Jack watched and the field changed. Jupiter came into view. “That asteroid,” she told Burkett. A moment later, a beam shot out of the mikku and obliterated the small asteroid.

“Platform,” she said excitedly. “Chair on platform, platform orbiting planet, solar system guarded!”

Jack looked around and noticed that several ancient devices were being played with by technicians with the Gene. A pile of heavy equipment being moved across the room was on a platform suspended in mid-air. There didn’t seem to be any problem with the weight of the equipment, and it all remained steady.

“Officially impressed, here,” he said, looking around in amazement. “I… wow. Pizza and beers are on me.”

Sam kept a small apartment near by, so Jack spent the night with her instead of heading straight home. It was quiet and it took Jack a while to realize that nothing was wrong, there simply weren’t any children running around. Their presence was still in the room, though, in the form of photos and drawings.

“Are you behind the latest from Hayes?” Sam asked as she unpacked their take-out. Jack got out the dishes.

“Not completely,” he said, and told her about the unexpected phone conversation with the president. “I don’t know where he pulled that Tripoli thing from, I hadn’t heard of it before. It was a good one, though.” He went up behind her and put his arms around her, nuzzling the back of her neck.

“I am so proud of you,” he said. “I cannot believe what you’ve accomplished out here. It’s incredible.” He turned her around and held her. “Baby, the applications for all your toys are too numerous to count and that’s just in the public sector. You have more than paid for the existence of this project. When you figure out how to build a generator from scratch, the oil industry will collapse, electricity will be a thing of the past…”

She looked up at him, slightly guilty.

“I’m pretty close to it,” she admitted. He pulled back to look at her.

“Are you serious?”

She took a few steps away and rubbed her arms. “Jack….. When I look at this stuff, I can almost see the building instructions and the mathematical equations. My crew doesn’t understand it, they just follow my directions. I don’t have the gene, so I can’t work the ancient stuff myself, but I understand it and I can work the stuff I’ve been able to duplicate. I’m actually a little scared.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” he asked, putting his hands on her shoulders. “Honey, there’s a hell of a lot of changes happening, did you think it was just me and the kids?”

“No,” she shook her head and then leaned into his chest. “Mark and Susan called me. Mary and Raymond are both doing odd things. I told them to just let the kids develop as they will and not to try and force them into anything.”

“What are they doing?” Jack asked.

“Ray is playing piano and hearing music in his head, and Mary is drawing buildings complete with architectural notations. God, Jack, children are starting to do things at the genius level.”

“And that’s going to be average, by the time nature is done with us,” he responded.

“Want to know what’s scaring me?” he asked. She looked up and nodded. He took her to the couch and sat down. She curled up in his lap and snuggled into his arm.

“All this…. Wait.” He lifted her up and stood, quickly removing his clothes until he was naked. He then stripped her and sat down, pulling her back onto his lap.

“Much better,” he said. He pulled a nearby blanket over and enfolded them in it. “I don’t know how far this healing thing will go,” he said. “Cuts and scrapes are one thing, but what if I can heal something life-threatening? What if I can heal cancer? Sam, I can’t let it out that I’m doing this. Sure, there are rumors among the soldiers about what I’m doing, but I don’t want to walk down the street and suddenly be buried beneath a pile of people all crying out to be healed. It terrifies me. And if I can heal something serious, should I? At what point do I step back and let nature take its course? When should I step in? Should I step in at all? Just because we can do something, does that mean we should do it? I understand your fear at being able to read the devices, I really do.”

“Daniel hears little whispers behind languages he hasn’t learned yet, and the whispers are telling him the rules of the language,” she said. “When he hears someone speak it, he also hears the intent. He says it’s the whispers and the intent that’s teaching him the language. Cassie hears the same thing. She’s up to five languages. And I think she has a little of the empathy thing, too, because she handled a lot of the minor delegation issues when you were gone. Ambassadors have begun asking for her.”

Jack nodded. “I’ve noticed that,” he said. “She also seems to be settling into some kind of contentment mode, and I don’t think it has anything to do with Harper.”

She snuggled in deeper and absently stroked his hard chest, letting the hair slide through her fingers. “I’m still scared,” she said. “Evolution says that there will be people who will be left out. They’ll put up a fight. There may be a witch hunt before this hits a turning point, and the new humans will suffer before they succeed.”

“I know,” he nodded. “I had a talk with Hayes about all this. The only thing we could come up with was reorganizing the public education system and gear it toward the support of the children and their abilities. Start with a few quiet changes and work on it, one at a time. If we can make it seem like the education system is responsible for the heightened awareness of the children, the general public may be more accepting of it.”

“The public school system needs an overhaul, anyway,” she said. “It’s a medieval mess. Have you been working out?” She poked at his chest, noting the smooth skin and more prominent muscles.

“Daniel asked me that, too,” he said. “No, I haven’t. He did make his own close inspection, if you’d like to offer a second opinion.”

“Flip that switch and tell me what I’d like,” she said with a smile as she wiggled sensuously across his lap. Jack gave a small push and she seemed to light up and radiate toward him. His smile faltered as he looked at her, naked and perfect, sensing that she found him to be...

“I’m not beautiful,” he whispered huskily.

“You are,” she told him. “You turn me on, Jack, can’t you feel it? Inside and outside, I can’t get enough of you. You look at me, and I see you standing at the center of the universe, strong and steady, lighting my way to you.”

He bent down and kissed her, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tight to him. She sat up and straddled his lap. Her breasts were wonderful and heavy in his hands, fitting perfectly.

“I married up,” he whispered, stroking the sensitive globes. “So far up, it makes me high just thinking about it.”

She took his face between her hands and stared into his dark eyes.

“Together,” she whispered. “We can do this together.”

 


 

Chapter 34

Everyone assumed it would be Daniel who had the first book published. To everyone’s surprise, it was CMSgt. Harriman’s face they saw on display. Jack looked from the book to Walter and back to the book. Stargate.

“I did get prior permission, sir,” Walter assured him. “And the Pentagon examined the script before allowing the publication.”

“I’m sure they did, Sergeant,” Jack said. He had skimmed through it and saw his name over and over again. Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c, too, as well as General Hammond’s. “My, my, Walter, what a cleaver little bee you are. Well, don’t just stand there, son, sign it.” He thrust the book out to the airman. “These, too, for Sam and Daniel. Don’t forget the big guy.”

Walter flushed, pleased, and signed the books.

No one doubted the book would be Number 1, but it went there in a day. The entire English speaking world stopped to read. As soon as it was translated into other languages, they, too, stopped to read. Jack’s office was bombarded with phone calls. Yes, every word was true, Staff Sergeant Harriman had been accurate.

Most of the public hadn’t understood why Jack’s attitude had been put up with by the leadership, but they now understood. Stargate Command had saved Earth’s collective ass more times than they had known, and Jack O’Neill was usually at the head of the game. All the internet information had been sketchy at best, the sergeant filled in the missing pieces. Most of them, anyway. While Daniel did have a book in the works, his was more intellectual; Walter had a gift for breaking down difficult concepts and making them digestible.

The second bomb came out of Sam’s arena; not only was the legendary Area 51 being run by an alien generator that used no carbon fuels and released no pollution, Nellis and Las Vegas and everything within a two hundred mile radius were also connected to the generator. The generators were in short supply due to the materials not being available on Earth, but Area 51 was doing it’s best to recreate them. Since the public had read Walter’s book, they understood about naquadah and its importance, and were starting to piece together the entire bowl of alphabet soup and the potential benefit for the public. The average energy bill dropped from $200-$300 a month to $50, and that was just to help Area 51 with a few of their own bills and the expense of personnel to monitor the generator. Of course, the casinos still had a larger slice of the pie and had the nerve to complain about paying more than the average home owner.

Sam’s name had been quietly thrown into the public on several occasions as the head of the team that created the ships, as well as being on O’Neill’s team and as his wife, but between the generator and Walter’s book, the public jumped into overtime. Sam’s name was attached to almost all the gadgets, including the home-made dialing device for the Stargate itself. Luckily, the reporters couldn’t get to her while she stayed in the bowels of Area 51. The recent interviewers were beside themselves; they had Sam for days and didn’t realize what they had outside someone who helped to create the ships. Sam grumbled that if she had been a man, they would have been all over her for details. Jack had to admit she was right. He made a few phone calls and got permission to release a couple of private films of her teaching pilots the ins and outs of the 303s and the 302s, and an academy film of her teaching cadets the physics, what she knew of them, behind the wormholes. Jack wouldn’t put it past her to figure out how to create the wormholes themselves.

Jack’s phone rang in the middle of his lunch.

“Now, Jack, don’t get upset,” he was immediately warned. Jack paused.

“What happened?” he asked, resigned. Landry’s angst was almost palpable through the phone.

“The locals tried to sacrifice him.”

Daniel had been asked to go on a mission with SG-9. Jack knew it was a bad idea, everyone knew it was a bad idea; he was convinced that unit was jinxed. SG-9 had reported Mayan temples.

“Daniel, didn’t the Mayan’s make blood sacrifices?” Jack asked. “Tear out beating hearts, that kinda thing?” He had been to the Mayan pyramids; while the architecture was incredible, knowing what those high altars were used for made him cringe.

“That was here,” Daniel said, frowning with irritation. “That doesn’t mean these Mayans developed along the same lines. Come on, Jack, how often have we come across people from this side of the world? Almost never. I need to go.”

Jack actually didn’t have much of a say in the matter, he wasn’t Daniel’s supervisor.

He went to the Mountain and found Daniel sleeping off a minor surgery. His chest was bandaged.

“Alright, someone tell me what happened,” he said, sitting next to Daniel’s bed. Captain Wallace stood nearby, not looking forward to the general’s visit.

“Sir, when we arrived the locals were getting ready to sacrifice a woman,” Wallace said. “They were waiting for a sign from the gods telling them to stop the ceremony. When the Stargate opened and Dr. Jackson walked through…..”

“They saw it as a sign,” Jack finished.

“Yes, sir.”

“The cut was superficial,” Dr. Lam told him. “Abrasions on his wrists and ankles from restraints. They got him out in time. Someone dialed in and requested a UAV be sent through. It scared the locals enough to let him go. A chemical was poured into the wound on his chest; we had to dig it out a bit to get it all. He’ll have a scar.”

Jack gave a stroke to the brown hair, and leaned back for a long wait. “I don’t care about a scar,” he said. “He’ll be alright?”

“Yes, sir,” she nodded.

Jack called Sam and then home to let Jerrie know he would be late. Throughout the day, people stopped by to chat, check in on Daniel, or to bring Jack coffee. Davis stopped in long enough to drop off Jack's laptop, and then returned to his office.

“Sorry, Jack,” Landry said when he came for a visit later in the afternoon.

“Not much anyone can do, when he gets something in his head,” Jack said, looking at Daniel’s sleeping form.

It was several hours later when Daniel began to wake up through pain meds.

“Crap,” he muttered.

“Is that commentary on your physical state or your summary of events?” Jack asked, relieved.

“Summary,” Daniel croaked. Jack got up and found a water cup and straw. “No pain,” Daniel said with a frown. “What happened?”

Jack gave him a rundown of the surgery. Dr. Lam came in, a tech having notified her that Daniel was awake. She checked his vitals and then looked under the bandage on his chest. She frowned, looked at the men, and then pulled the bandage up further.

“Is this your doing?” she asked Jack.

“What?”

She carefully lifted the bandage away. Except for a little bruising, Daniel’s chest was whole.

“Keep it up, General, and you’ll put me out of business,” Lam commented, tossing the bandage aside. She poked gently at Daniel’s chest. He winced slightly, and said he felt fine.

“I want an x-ray, CT, MRI, the works,” she ordered.

Jack was a little stunned himself as he looked down at his hand. He didn't feel any different. He scrubbed at the palm. It felt normal.

“General, I’d like to hook you up to a biofeedback,” she told him.

“I’m not playing guinea pig,” Jack immediately informed her. “Not now, not ever.”

“I could pull medical rank,” she warned.

“Try it,” he dared her. “There are thousands of people on this planet who are evolving, you want to hook them up, too? Whatever is happening, it’s part of who I am, whether I like it or not.” But was it? Nothing like this had ever happened prior to getting a double dose of Ancient downloaded into his head. He wasn't going to tell her that, though.

“All the more reason to get current normals on you,” she said.

“You have current normals as of three months ago,” he told her.

It took several hours to put Daniel through all the equipment. Dr. Lam continued to argue with Jack.

“What are you two going on about?” Daniel asked, coming back from the latest imaging. Jack told him. “Jack, I’d like you to do it.”

“Why?” he frowned stubbornly.

“Because. What if something happens to you that turns out to be related to whatever this is?” Daniel asked. “How will anyone know what’s normal and what isn’t, if you don’t get tests done now? Jack, she isn’t the NID or the Trust, she isn’t trying to exploit you. You healed me, Jack; we need the normals, as many as we can get.”

Jack growled and muttered as he submitted to Dr. Lam’s tests. “You don’t even know what you’re looking for,” he accused her as she stuck electrodes on his hands, chest, and head. She paused and frowned thoughtfully as she looked at his chest. She shook her head and continued.

“Probably not,” she admitted. “But I do know what’s normal, and if something stands out, I’ll know it’s specific to you.”

Did he notice any odd disturbances in his vision when the healing thing happened? Did his hands get warm? Did they get cold? Any odd sensations in his hands? Did he think any specific thoughts? No, no, no.

When all her tests came back normal, Lam looked around. Col. Reynolds was keeping Jack company while the tests were being done. She grabbed his wrist.

“Colonel, thank you for volunteering,” she said to the started man. She looked at Jack. “He has an owie, General, heal him.” Jack saw a small scrape on Reynolds’ cheek. She attached electrodes to Reynolds. “What do you do from here?” she asked Jack.

“Well, I’ve only done it deliberately once,” he confessed. “I just…. touch.” He put his hand over Kevin’s face.

“Just don’t think you can touch my face any ol’ time,” Reynolds informed him.

“But, Kevin, you know I’ve always had a deep, secret thing for you,” Jack told him.

“Well, I sorta guessed that, Jack,” Kevin told him. “But how could I hope to compete with Daniel and Sam? I feel so worthless beside them.”

“You are worthless, Kevin, but that doesn’t make my feelings for you any less….. ow.” Jack rubbed the side of his head where a roll of bandages had been thrown at him.

“Would you like Dr. Lam to get normals for something else?” Daniel asked, leaning forward, an inch from Jack’s face.

Ooooh, baby, with video?” Jack crooned, touching his nose to Daniel’s. “Is Kevin joining us?” Reynolds jerked his face away.

“Boys,” Lam threatened. She looked at Reynolds’ face and then back at her equipment. “The scrape is gone and nothing special showed up on the readout,” she said. “General, you felt nothing? Not even something minor? A little whisper of anything?”

Jack thought about it. “A little of that tingly feeling,” he said. “You know, that special feeling….”

Dr. Lam kicked them out of her infirmary.

“You’re a menace, do you know that?” Daniel inquired as they strode down the hall.

“I’m cute and she likes me,” Jack told him.

“Uh huh.”

“Besides, I’m not the one who keeps getting hurt when off-world,” Jack said. “So who’s the menace, Dennis?”

“Good night?” Landry said as they walked by his office.

“Thank you for a wonderful, if unproductive, day,” Jack said, taking Landry’s hand.

“Yeah, I got a small pain, Jack, would you mind?” Landry asked, tapping his butt.

“Sorry, my ass is the only male ass he kisses,” Daniel said, dragging Jack out of the office.

“Sorry, General, you can see I’m a kept man,” Jack called out. “Another time! Another place…!”

Once they were in the elevator, Jack turned to Daniel. “Will you please stop letting the natives kill you?” he begged. A couple of Marines leaving for home looked at them.

“They didn’t kill me, they only cut me open a little,” Daniel said peevishly, peering down the front of his shirt. The cold of the outside air began to reach them and they zipped their coats. Daniel crossed his arms tightly over his chest. “Hey, did you really not sense anything during Lam’s experiment?”

“A small whoosh,” Jack said, wiggling his fingers. Something was bothering Daniel, Jack decided; Daniel's eyes were flickering all over the place, a usual sign that he was upset about something. So far, none of Jack's irritating pokes and prods has snapped the younger man out of whatever was eating him. Or tried to eat him.

“A whoosh?”

“Yeah, like an exhale or the sound of the tide, and my attention seemed to be focused completely on the problem for just a brief second. Davy has a scraped knee; I’ll try it again when we get home.” They checked out with the desk and continued their ride to the top.

“I don’t think I was consciously doing anything when you were down,” Jack said. “I was thinking to myself that you had better damned well not get any weird alien infection, but that was about it. I napped for a little while. That’s it.”

“Jack, you have a natural sense of goodwill,” Daniel told him, rubbing at his temple. “You want people to be well. Unless they’re holding a gun to you. But all in all, you reach out to anyone in need. Since we are bonded in other ways, maybe something inside didn’t need permission; it healed me because you wanted me whole and healthy.”

They walked to the cars which were in a nearby lot with a few reserved spaces. Everyone else parked down the hill and either walked up or took the shuttle. One of the perks that Jack liked was that he had a reserved spot right up front.

“Sirs?” one of the Marines called out. The men stopped. “May I ask a question, General?”

“Sure…” Jack looked for the name tag, but it was hidden beneath the coat.

“Corporal Avila, sir,” the marine said.

“Go for it, Corporal,” Jack said.

“Yes, sir. I’ve been hearing about this evolution thing,” Avila said. “Is it true, sir?”

“Yes, it is,” Jack nodded. Daniel nodded silently beside him. “You got kids, Corporal?”

“Yes, sir, I do,” Avila nodded. “Three. And they’re all doing things that should be beyond their age and understanding. My wife is afraid, sir. She’s from South America. A lot of people are afraid, whispers of the children being possessed by the devil. I’ve started hearing rumors of very bad things happening to children, and I have to tell you, sir, I’m scared.”

Jack gave the Corporal his full attention after glancing at Daniel who didn't seem surprised.

“What’s happening is normal,” Daniel quietly stressed. “It’s happening to some adults, too, but it isn’t as noticeable. There are no devils, we killed the worst of them just a short time ago. Let your kids develop as they will and don’t punish them for doing what is coming naturally to them. The changes must happen for the greater good of our species.”

“Tell your wife this,” Daniel continued after a thought. “These things are coming from their brains. God gave them their brains, so God must want this to happen. It comes from God, so don’t be afraid.”

Avila nodded, a little relieved.

“Thank you, sirs,” the Corporal said.

“You’re welcome,” they said. “And I’ll have a talk with the Brazilian ambassador and see what she has to say,” Jack added.

“Corporal, someone should have told you about the Kid Tree,” Daniel said. “It’s not only for the safety of the kids, but also for the parents to talk with each other. Captain Bogner’s wife, Gina, recently took over the calendar and phone list, why don’t you give them a call? I believe the next parent-kid outing is next weekend. This thing with the kids is a hot topic.”

Avila thanked him, and he and his partner continued to the shuttle as Jack and Daniel got into Jack’s truck. “Daniel, I want you to write up a release,” Jack said. “Make it honest and simple, something the common person would understand. Send it to me and I will forward it. I’ll have Paul translate them for a public press release.”

“I can do that.”

Since he was still rubbing at his head and shifting around, Jack left him alone; he probably had a headache. Let him sleep it off when he gets home, he told himself. But they were going to discuss Daniel going off-world whether he wanted to or not.

The children were relieved that Daniel was alright. They insisted on seeing his chest for themselves, so he pulled his shirt up to show them. All that was left was a small line that would soon disappear. They weren’t told the entire story of his healing; Katie had guessed, and she was proving to be very good about keeping quiet. It was Davy they were concerned about; it didn’t seem to occur to him that some things were better left unsaid. Davy was still concerned, though, and occupied Daniel’s lap during their evening TV watching. He kept touching Daniel’s chest, running a finger along the center line. Stacy occupied Daniel’s side, huddled up under his arm.

“I’m fine, guys,” he insisted. He kissed heads.

“I don’t like you going off-world,” Stacy informed him.

“I know you don’t,” Daniel acknowledged. “But sometimes I need to go. This was an important cultural find. We will watch them, and if there is a time in the future when they seem a little more receptive to visitors, we will try and introduce ourselves again. We scared them, so I don’t blame them for trying to hurt me.”

When Jack went into the bedroom, he was careful not to slam the door. It would wake up the baby. He showered, taking his time under the hot water, not doing much more than leaning against the wall. Not even an attempted sacrificing was going to keep him from going back through that gate. One day, Daniel won't come back, or if he does, he won't be alive. Again.

“Are you going to prune yourself or are you going to come out here and yell at me?”

Jack shut the water off and got out, pushing past Daniel as he dried off and found his pj’s.

“Jack, I don’t do it on purpose,” Daniel told him. Jack got under the covers and pulled them up, turning his back to the center of the bed, and turned the light off. He could feel himself being watched in the dark.

“I have a vested interest in you,” he said quietly.

“I know.”

“Every time you go out, you get hurt.”

“Not on purpose.”

Jack turned his head. “I know that, but you attract attention like a magnet,” he said. “Since you won’t stay on-world for us, I’m pulling the kid-card.”

Daniel fell forward and put his face in a pillow.

“That isn’t fair,” he said, lifting his face.  “You just spent three months fighting Goa’uld, you could have been killed. Would you have stayed home, if I had asked you? Would you have stayed if the kids had asked you?”

“I’m replaceable, you’re not.”

Daniel sat up quickly and pushed at Jack’s shoulder. “Bullshit!” he yelled. “Don’t you pull that fucking crap with me, O’Neill! I need you, goddammit, you are irreplaceable to ME and yet you don’t even ask our opinion, you just find the nearest spaceship and high-ho silver, you’re off!” He punched Jack on the chest. “I had the decency to ask your blessing before I went off-world, you DIDN’T! This is supposed to be a partnership, you ASSHOLE, I put a fucking RING on your finger! You promised we would discuss things and you LEFT! You left your FAMILY!”

Daniel stormed off the bed and out the room. Stunned, Jack laid there for a moment. What the hell was that? He heard another door slam and he got up, scrubbing at his face before rubbing his chest and wincing. He leaned his head between his knees, running his fingers through his hair. Two rings stroked his damp scalp and he brought his hands down and looked at them. Two rings gleamed in the darkness of the room.

He checked in on the baby who was fussing and found Jerrie tending to her. “I have her,” she said quietly. Jack nodded and shut the door.

The door to the den was unlocked, which he was grateful for; he wouldn’t have to bust down the door. Daniel was sitting on the floor in front of the small couch, his knees drawn up. Jack locked the door and quietly came down into the room. He undressed and knelt next to Daniel, reaching for the pajama tops. Daniel knocked him away.

“You can call me every name in the book, but we are doing this,” Jack quietly informed him.

“My body,” Daniel spat out hoarsely.

“You wanted to talk, we’re going to talk,” Jack said. “Get your clothes off, or I’ll tear them off.”

Daniel tore his clothes off, angrily throwing them across the room. He pulled a pillow to his chest and buried his face in it as he rocked. Jack slid down beside him.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. He put an arm across Daniel’s shoulders and pulled him over. Daniel released the pillow and put his face in Jack’s chest. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Daniel continued to cry, his hot tears sliding down Jack’s chest and stomach as Jack held him. He opened up enough to get a hard smack in the face of the pain Daniel had been hiding. He had no idea the amount of fear Daniel had been trying to deal with, and it wasn't about the entire 'sacrifice' thing.

“I want you safe,” Jack whispered when Daniel had begun to quiet. “It would kill me if you died.”

Daniel lifted his head and glared angrily, his face wet, eyes red. “And you think I feel any less for you? You’re a self-centered asshole!”

“Danny, you are a blessing on this world,” Jack told him. “I wish I could have met your parents, because they created a miracle. If my running out onto a battle field will make you safe, I’m going to do it.”

Daniel leaned back and stared in disbelief at him. “You don’t get it, do you?” he asked. “I don’t have a language for this, so you are just going to have to try and comprehend –I love you. As much as you love me, I love you. It doesn’t seem to occur to you that when your life is in danger, we can only stand by and watch. If Sam is out with you, I’m here alone, Jack. I have no one to understand my fear of seeing one or even two caskets. You have no right to get angry with me about going off-world. I need you here, not scattered across the galaxy, so don’t you fucking read me the riot act about off-world. You said we were a team and you haven’t once consulted with me, except to TELL me what you were going to do. You are no longer my commanding officer, GENERAL, so quit giving me fucking orders and start communicating! I LOVE you, you fucking son of a bitch, so keep your castle towers and let me IN! You fucking trained me as a soldier, I’m not delicate! I don’t need a white knight, you don’t go onto a battlefield without me! Asshole!” He punched Jack in the stomach and jumped to his feet. He angrily wrapped a blanket around himself and stormed across the room. Jack took a breath and rubbed his stomach. okay, maybe it was about a sacrifice thing...

Daniel continued to rage, stomping back and forth, arms waving through the air. “I am your partner, goddammit, not some screeching female on the railroad tracks! I don’t need my head patted, or my ass, for that matter! I’m tired of feeling as though I’m a blond with not much more than two brain cells! I have three PhD’s, Mister Master’s degree, and you haven’t once asked me my opinion on an Earth matter! I’m your resident anthropology expert! Today’s issue of the children is the first time something has come up that you actually asked me to help with and all you wanted from me is a letter! I have to go off-world just to get an anthro fix! You are stifling me!” He threw something across the room and it shattered against a wall. Daniel slid to the floor against a bookcase, sobbing incoherently.

Shocked, Jack sat for a moment. He stood, wincing slightly, and walked to Daniel.

“Danny, I’m sorry,” he said. He squatted down. “I didn’t know you were feeling so hemmed in. It’s a poor excuse, but I didn’t know I had to ask before you would offer an opinion on anything. Danny, you have always been welcome to join in on council meetings, I’m sorry if I didn’t say it. I thought you wanted to be at the SGC and teaching; if I had known otherwise, I would have asked you right away to come to HomeSec. My God, Daniel, anything you have to say will always be the primary opinion, it always has, don’t you know that? I always look to you first; when you don’t offer anything, I look elsewhere. Just tell me what you want. Do you want to be at HomeSec? You can start tomorrow. Just tell me.”

He hesitated before touching the brown head. Daniel sobbed louder. Jack leaned down and put his head against Daniel’s back.

“I love you,” he whispered. “I’m sorry if I’ve been going overboard on the protection. You’re mine and I want the entire universe to know it, even if that means putting my stamp of protection on you. Yes, I can get a little white knight about things. You’re not a wuss, Danny, I know that, and I’d have you at my side in a battle any day. If it wasn’t for the children, I would have considered bringing you and Sam with me. I trust you so much, I place the lives of my children in your hands. Yes, I didn’t want you to die in battle, but if something had happened to the children…. I can’t go through that again, Danny; once was once too many times and losing Megan was almost as hard as losing Charlie. I thought you understood that. I should have said it. I may be on the front line, but you are my defense line. If it gets through me, I know you’ll stop it. You carried my ass off the field, I know you’ll save my children. I will do my best to stop with the over-protection, if you will try and understand why I need you here. Please, Danny.”

Daniel finally turned over and knocked Jack back. Jack held him hard, a fist in his hair, continuing to whisper apologies into Daniel’s ear. Daniel finally began to quiet as he stayed plastered to Jack.

“I didn’t know you had been so scared,” Jack whispered, looking at the ceiling. “You never let on.”

“I… didn’t want you to… lose confidence,” Daniel whispered hoarsely. “I hated… you being out there. I buried myself in work and the kids so I didn’t have to think of you probably dead. I have firsthand knowledge of being the spouse of a soldier and I don’t like it. I had Sam, but we didn’t have you.”

Jack stroked his hair and pressed his mouth to Daniel’s neck. “I’m here, Danny.”

Eventually, Daniel used his torn pajama top to wipe his face and blow his nose. Jack pulled on a nearby blanket and covered them.

“Things have been happening here, too, but you haven’t asked about them,” Daniel said. “I’ve had a few studios contact me, asking for information that they can adapt for their shows. Use facts in a fictional environment. I had someone contact me with the idea of public service announcements. They were talking about aliens in general, but the announcements could easily be educational for other things. Col. Chekhov has asked me to come to Russia, the Queen of England wants tea, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, basically all the European nations, Australia, New Zealand… I’ve heard from almost every nation in the world, Jack. They all want education. The countries that have tribes are very concerned. Chekhov says he’s had reports of exorcisms and sacrifices coming from the outback, and the Chinese border is horrific.”

Jack frowned as he looked at Daniel. “What the hell has been happening while I was gone?”

“Exactly,” Daniel nodded, swiping his arm over his face and sniffling. “Hell. It’s been breaking loose. Jack, haven’t you read the reports sitting on your desk? Everyone is screaming for information. I started training my students for service here, not off-world.”

Jack stroked Daniel’s hair and pressed his mouth to his forehead. He did have a stack of reports on his desk, as well as an inbox with a thousand messages. And those were the urgent ones. He turned them over and leaned over Daniel.

“I will read them tomorrow, I promise,” he said. “I’m sorry if I do things that make you feel… less-than. I’m a grunt, Danny; I don’t think you realize how much power you and Sam have over me. I do what I need to do, and I just assume that if you guys want something else, you’d tell me.”

Daniel looked up and touched Jack’s ribs. “Sometimes that’s hard,” he said. “We want you to be happy, too.”

Jack leaned down and gently kissed him. “Tell me something recent that I fucked up,” he said, looking into the red-rimmed blue eyes. “I must have done something that brought on this blow-up, the pressure has obviously been building, so tell me what it is.”

Daniel was silent for a moment. “You countermanded me after I issued a punishment to Katie,” Daniel finally said. Jack thought about it and then nodded.

“Yes, I did, and I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re right, I’m wrong. WE are her parents, not just me. Punishment is on, we will tell her at breakfast.”

Daniel nodded and slowly slid his arms around Jack’s waist. “I know this is wimpy, but just hold me,” he quietly asked.

“It isn’t wimpy,” Jack assured him. He settled down, pulled the blanket tight around them, and held Daniel close.

Early in the morning, they woke up and quietly made love, nothing more than gently touching each other. Jack did his best to pour his entire self into Daniel as he touched and kissed the man. There was something extremely intimate about looking into each other’s eyes as they touched, something more intimate than one being inside the other.

They wiped themselves off with Daniel’s torn shirt and put on their pj bottoms before heading upstairs. The children were quietly eating breakfast, not sure what was happening, having heard the yelling in the night.

“It’s alright, kids,” Jack said, their quiet extremely loud in the morning air. “We had an argument, that’s all. We’re okay now.” He went around and touched heads and cheeks before getting his robe. He brought out Daniel’s robe and found coffee waiting for him.

“Katherine, I believe Daniel gave you a punishment,” Jack said. “I was wrong to take it away. You were an hour late for curfew and Daniel caught you. His punishment stands.”

Shocked, Katie stared at him for a moment.

“But…. that isn’t fair,” she said in disbelief, looking from one to the other. “It was only an hour.”

Jack nodded. “It was an hour in which you could have been dead in a ditch somewhere,” he said. “You didn’t even call to let us know you would be late; we might have extended the deadline, if we had known. No driving for two weeks and you stay home Friday after school until school Monday morning. Without guests.”

Katie slammed her spoon down and ran from the room. A second later, her bedroom door slammed.

“And Matthew, yes, you may have a sleep-over Saturday night,” Jack continued. “Five guests only and you may pick three movies from the video store.”

While the kids got ready for school, Jack held Olivia and got in some Daddy time before he needed to go to the office.

“Thank you,” Daniel said softly. He leaned over and pecked at Jack’s mouth before heading to a shower.

“Were there discipline problems while I was gone?” Jack quietly asked Jerrie who was clearing the table.

“A little, at first,” she said with a shrug. “Daniel may appear a little soft-serve, but the kids quickly discovered that he stands his ground. They settled. Sam was a little unsure of her place but she found her rhythm. I think she had a few parental talks with General Hammond. She’s known him a while, I take it?”

“Yes, she has. He served with Sam’s father, Jacob, for years. He knew Sam and her brother Mark when they were toddlers.”

Jerrie nodded.

“He’s moving back here,” Jack said. “He’s taking the commandant position at the Academy. Sam misses her father, and she really didn’t have time to get to know mine, so I’m glad George will be here for her.”

Jerrie started the dishwasher and Jack handed her the baby.

“Thank you,” he said.

He stopped by his mother’s house on his way to work.

“How did you discipline us without feeling like crap for doing it?” he asked her.

“I didn’t,” she said. “Made me feel like crap every time.”

He kissed her cheek and continued to work. He knew he wouldn’t like it, and he didn’t when Davis handed him a quick over-view of world events.

“Oh, my fucking Christ,” Jack moaned, tossing the paper down. Paul nodded gravely.

“It’s bad enough some of those countries are still killing female babies, but this? Entire generations are gone,” Paul said.

Jack scrubbed at his face and tuned out for a moment. World statistics were horrifying. He knew the stats for murder and suicides were up, but he had no idea the death numbers for infanticide were also through the roof. There were entire populations in Asia that were in their death knells from the lack of children.

“Send that report to Dr. Wagner,” he said. “And get me… who’s the worst?... Get me… no, I’m going to pay them a personal visit.”

“Sir…,” Paul hesitated.

“Well?”

“Jurisdiction, sir,” he said. He knew the general wasn’t going to like it. “Our job is to protect Earth from invasion and, through the SGC, explore the galaxy. Anything else is outside our jurisdiction. We should inform the World Health Organization and let them deal with it. That would be proper procedure. Sir.”

“Out.”

Davis inclined his head and left the room.

Almost one million children worldwide had been killed in the past three months. Jack felt sick to his stomach. He went into his private bathroom and got rid of his breakfast. He brushed and rinsed his face before going back into his office. He sat at his desk and leaned back in his chair, his eyes closed. His phone rang. He pressed the intercom.

“No calls, Abigail,” he quietly requested. It would never have occurred to him that sitting behind a desk could be as hard, if not harder, than being in the action. At least when he was in the field he was doing something. What can he do sitting behind a desk? One million children.

“Yes, sir,” Mrs. Clark responded after a moment.

An unknown time later, the door quietly opened. A tissue touched his face, gently stroking his cheeks and eyes.

“A few times while I was growing up, I resented and hated humans,” Cassie said softly. “I was angry. I didn’t understand why you couldn’t have come just an hour sooner. One hour, that was all I wanted, and maybe I wouldn’t have been alone. If there are gods, I think they wanted me to be here, for whatever purpose. I needed Janet in my life, I needed all of you. I wouldn’t have needed rescuing, if Niriti hadn’t destroyed my world. One life, Jack, just one. It’s a blessing. You can do this, Jack; one person at a time.”

Jack took a shuddering breath and pulled her close, burying his face in her belly.

“I can’t tell you how to fix this, I don’t know,” she said softly, arms around his shoulders. “But I know you, and I know that when the time comes, you will do the right thing.”

He nodded shakily and tugged her blouse back into place.

“Generals aren’t supposed to break down in front of little girls,” he said huskily.

“That’s okay because I love the ones that do,” she informed him. She kissed his head and turned.

“Honey, I need Daniel, Sam, Dr. Lam, Dr. Warner, Dr. Wagner, the Surgeon General, and reps from the NIH and WHO,” he told her. “Our people need to prepare a presentation for the others; I need everyone here for an urgent meeting at 8am local time tomorrow and keep it to themselves.” Cassie nodded and left the room.

Jack decided to close shop and work at home for the rest of the day. His main excuse was that he needed baby time. The world always seemed a better place when it smelled like a baby. He staggered into the house and found her in a swing watching Jerrie clean the living room. Olivia saw Jack enter and squealed, holding out her arms.

Da!”

Jack picked her up and held her close, breathing in her scent.

“Did you just say that?” he asked her. He experimented with the sounds as she watched his face closely.

Da!” she decided, and squealed in delight.

“Oh, baby, I needed to hear that,” he told her. He collapsed onto the couch and sat her up on his stomach. She bounced enthusiastically and patted his chest as she babbled.

“You left a couple hours ago, bad day already?” Jerrie asked.

“You have no idea,” he said. The house phone rang and he answered it. “O’Neill. Just write up something from the cultural perspective,” he said. “Everyone from their own specialty. Did Paul send you the quick report he gathered? It’s killing me, Danny, I tossed my breakfast when I read that report. No, I’m fine. Olivia called me Da. I felt a lot better after that.”

Once Daniel and Sam were home, Jack demonstrated his new status as Da! and Sam took Olivia, coaching her with, “ma ma ma ma….”

After attention was given to all and the kids were in bed, Sam and Daniel worked on their reports for the morning meeting.

“Are you as pissed with me as Daniel is?” Jack asked Sam as he watched her type.

“Why is Daniel pissed at you?” she asked, not looking away from the screen. Jack told her. “Oh. A little,” she said. “But my point of view is different; I was raised in a military family and I’m military. Remember that Daniel isn’t military, no matter what he’s been doing over the past ten or so years. He doesn’t think military. As your wife, I would have liked a little discussion before you headed out, my opinion taken into consideration; as an officer, it didn’t occur to me to question it, although I would have liked to have gone with you and gotten my shots in.”

Jack was standing behind her chair and he leaned his head on her shoulder for a moment. “Okay,” he said. “I can’t stop and discuss every move I make, Sam. I have a job to do.”

She paused and turned her chair.

“Jack, you certainly don't need to explain that to me; I get it. But he’s lost the people he’s loved most in his life,” she stressed. “His parents, Sha’re, his grandfather, Kasuf, everyone. I honestly don’t think he’d recover if we lost you. The next time you go gunning for a snake, just try and find a few minutes to talk with him. Give him a little reassurance. He’s strong, except where you’re concerned, and he hides his insecurities very well. You’re his lover, father, brother, best friend; if he loses you, he loses everything. He might stick around for Stacy, but it wouldn’t be with a full heart. I’ll pay more attention, if something like this happens again, and do what I can, but you need to stop and consider others, too. You have a family, now, not a team trained not to question, and unless you want to find yourself with children and lovers who resent you, you need to do a better job at communicating. Use Dad as your example.”

He stretched his back and shoulders, wincing, and nodded. “Okay.”

He went down into the grotto. Daniel’s face was plastered to the computer screen, a pen lodged between his teeth. Jack leaned against the desk and watched him. He reached out and stroked a stray lock of hair.

“You’re getting shaggy again,” he commented. The hairline had gone up a little, but Jack didn’t mention it.

“I like it shaggy,” Daniel murmured. He made a notation on the pad next to him. Jack was amused to see Daniel’s notes were being taken in some sort of Arabic script; probably Egyptian.

“So do I, actually,” Jack said. He touched Daniel’s chin. “Hey.” Daniel paused and looked at him. “Enki told me that my life span has reached that of the Ancient’s themselves.” Daniel sat back, his eyes widening. “I didn’t want anyone to know because I’m kinda creeped out by it. I guess my body is starting to react to the regeneration. I also didn’t want to be confined to a cell while doctors took me apart. Danny, if I do die before you, I am giving you this guarantee here and now –I will Ascend and I will spend as much time with you as I can until you join me. I’ll come back, if I can figure out how. I promise you, I’m here and you’re not getting rid of me. No matter what happens.”

Daniel took a shuddering breath and accepted the arms around him. Jack pressed his mouth to the top of Daniel’s head.

“Get back to work,” he said. “We’ll take time together as soon as someone gets the ball rolling with this mess. Our major informed me that I’m not that person. He’s a little irritating, sometimes.”

Neither Daniel nor Sam got any sleep as they hustled to put together as much information as they could. They already had reams of notes; it was simply a matter of putting them into context for their meeting with the heads of various health organizations. Daniel wrote from a cultural view, how different cultures would probably react and suggestions of ways to counter-act, along with a proposed public statement that was written at an eighth grade level for the Western countries, and a third grade level for the third-world countries. Sam wrote from a physics view, Dr. Lam from a medical view, and Dr. Warner was putting together examples from various imaging techniques along with footage of children and adults working on a level that they had previously been unable to attain. Jack knew some of the footage of brain activity, neurons lighting up, were his own. All identification would be removed from the images.

Jack watched Davy sleeping and felt a heavy heart. Other than growing out of his allergies, Davy had shown no signs of advancement.

In the morning, they rushed to Jack's office. Enki was waiting for them, dressed in his Tau’ri best, which looked odd on him, causing the others to stop and stare. “Are you sure I'm needed for this?” he asked. He tugged at the neck of his shirt, trying to loosen the tie.

“No,” Jack admitted. “But you know more about this than we do, so I need you here.”

Their guests from the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Surgeon General’s office were all having a hard time with the information they were receiving. They agreed that there was a sudden surge of infanticide worldwide, but they had been putting it down to shock from the knowledge of aliens present in their lives.

Jack’s side of the table was becoming irritated with the titanium wall they were hitting from the other side of the table. The visitors refuted every single piece of evidence Jack’s people came up with. Daniel finally stood so hard and fast that his chair teetered before righting itself as he went to pace the side of the room.

Dr Thorn, from the WHO, held up a hand. “I understand your frustration, I really do,” he said. “Think about it this way: it’s been almost three decades since we began educating Africa about HIV and AIDS. The numbers are still increasing despite the education. Men, women, and children are dying from a preventable disease all because they refuse to accept the education and adjust their culture. How do you propose we stop an entire country in the throws of hysteria? We can’t even get the Middle East to behave, and they’ve been at each other’s throats since the beginning of time.” Enki cocked an eyebrow and gave a silent, reluctant nod. “Give us the magic word, Dr. Jackson, please,” Thorn said.

Daniel looked out the window for a moment and then stormed out of the room. There was silence.

“The problem with the hysteria of those indigenous peoples isn't just their lack of understanding.” The doctors looked at the odd older man. “And you know it, gentlemen. The problem comes in the form of orthodox religions coming in behind you and telling these highly superstitious people that God is punishing them, and will continue to do so unless they obey.”

“We cannot stop countries from allowing spiritual groups inside their borders, if that's what they want,” Warner said. “We have no say in the matter. Health organizations pass out truck loads of condoms, women -girls as young as twelve, mind you- are given birth control. For free. And these groups convince them that it's poison. Africa is littered with unused condoms and birth control pills, sir. What would you like us to do about it? These people understand divine punishment, not science, and if educational groups go in and tell them that the religious groups are wrong, there will be fall-out. And now you want us to convince them that their children are perfectly fine?”

“Actually, that's exactly what you should tell them,” Enki said, pointing his finger in emphasis. “You tell them the truth. Because I can tell you  now, gentlemen, and ladies, anyone who doesn't get with the program will be left behind. You have allowed organized religions to run ramshod over this world for thousands of years, and it's time to grow the hell up.”

In shock at the cold words, Wagner gaped. “You are talking about war, Mr Enki! We cannot and will not force anyone to accept science OR religion! Just what are your qualifications for this meeting, anyway? Who are you, sir?”

Enki sat back, gave his beard a stroke. “I could say I'm God, but that might make things worse.”

“Alright,” Jack jumped in. If Wagner's face became any redder, he might gave an aneurism. “Dr Enki is more than qualified to be here, so let's leave it at that. Can we return to this education thing, please?”

Thorn sat back, pursing his lips in thought as he looked at the old man in speculation. Jack decided to not take Thorn for granted; the man was seeing too much that wasn't said. “I’d like to look at the developmental reports that you have shown us,” he said. “I can see something physical in the imaging you have shown us, I don’t deny that, exactly what we are seeing remains to be seen. Test scores have certainly taken a dramatic leap across the board; my own grand-daughters, five and seven, are working on subjects beyond their years. A few of these reports, though, contain instances of what we would term ‘the paranormal.’ How do we justify someone claiming to see inside a body without equipment, or someone reading the thoughts of others? Those things cannot be proven in a scientific manner; they are a matter of belief, not science. If those are the kinds of things that are happening in these countries, I can understand why indigenous peoples are suddenly afraid of their own children.”

“Are you saying you don’t believe the reports?” Sam asked him.

“No, Dr. Carter, I’m saying prove it.”

Jack looked at his note pad which was covered in geometric patterns commonly called scribbles. “Cassandra? Dr. Thorn is sounding a little parched; would you mind?” He gestured toward a water pitcher at the end of the table. He gave her a nod. The pitcher moved on its own accord down the table, poured neatly into the glass before the man, who was now as white as a sheet, and settled back onto the table without a drop being spilled.

Their guests were pale in the silence of the room.

“There are no cameras on, doctors,” Jack said quietly. “And as Daniel would say, denial is more than a river in Egypt. I need a volunteer.” He leaned forward, staring intently at Thorn. “Dr. Thorn, will you trust me?”

Thorn considered him for a moment, and then gave a nod. Jack stood and opened the door. He spoke softly to the SF outside and came back in, shutting the door. He had a pocket knife in his hand.

“May I see your hand?” Jack asked, standing over the man. Thorn looked from the knife to Jack and then held out his hand. Jack sliced the skin in the palm. The other doctors gasped and jumped to their feet.

“Down!” Jack barked. They sat. “Dr. Thorn, please verify that your skin is indeed open and that the red stuff isn’t fake.” Slightly shaky, Dr Thorn examined his hand and then nodded. Jack offered the other doctors the chance to examine the hand. They all confirmed a clean cut, a centimeter deep. Dr. Copeland grabbed a towel and made for Thorn’s hand. Jack snatched the towel away and put his hand directly on top of the bleeding gash. A moment later, he removed his hand. He poured water onto the towel and handed it to Thorn.

“Go ahead,” he said. Dr Thorn carefully cleaned the blood away and stared at his palm. Not a line remained. His colleagues examined him also and then sat to stare in disbelief at Jack. “There are still no cameras working in here,” he reminded them as he cleaned his hand of the sticky blood.

“You are insane, General O’Neill,” Dr. Wagner hoarsely informed him.

“Probably,” he said. “If you will excuse me for a moment.” He walked out of the room.

Jack slammed his office door and went to stand at the window, scowling at the peaceful open field covered in a late snow fall. Daniel was sitting on the window sill next to him, quietly contemplating his coffee cup.

The door quietly opened as Sam came in. Paul came in with Dr Thorn behind her. The doctor went to them and leaned with his back to the wall next to Jack.

He took a deep, thoughtful breath. “General, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t spend a small amount of it angry at the way this world has been managed,” Thorn said in a low, assuring voice. “I cannot help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. If someone is standing on a ledge with a gun pointed at their own face, I cannot help them without their permission. They have got to WANT it. Look at this another way –you went out to fight bad guys only after the victims asked for help, didn’t you? How many lives would have been saved if you had taken it upon yourself to go out and hunt them down before you were asked for help?” Jack looked at him. “It wasn’t your place to force your personal morals and ethics upon others, was it? You know as well as I do that help has got to be wanted, not forced. If you force it, that makes you the dictator, doesn’t it?”

“Where’s the line?” Jack asked.

Thorn shrugged. “Sometimes we need to stand back, far back, before we can see the line. Once it is visible, then we can work with it. The line isn’t visible, yet, Jack. If you cannot bear witness, turn away until you can find the strength to help pick up the pieces.”

“I believe you, everything you and your people have presented, I really do; my faith lies deeper than the shallow ground. I will present as best I can to the Director-General, and I will advise that educators be sent into the worst of the affected areas. That’s the best we can do. If the countries, or even a single person, asks for help, we will give help. No questions asked. I give you my promise. But we cannot force them.”

Jack saw deer far out at the timber line and watched them.

Jack knew he’d be receiving a phone call sometime before bed. It came thirty minutes after the doctors left HomeSec. Whatever Enki had said to them in private, they went away thinking instead of ridiculing.

“Henry, I don’t know what Dr. Wagner was talking about, he seemed a little reluctant to do a dammed thing to help with this situation,” Jack told Hayes. “We showed them all the facts we had, that’s it. I don’t know, Dr. Thorn said he’d help. Hell, Henry, what’s more concrete than x-rays and his own granddaughters? Two. What about your grandkids, aren’t they doing weird things? Well, then, see? Whatever happened to seeing is believing?”

Declaring it Happy Hour, they poured into his Jeep and headed home. “Was that really an argument that needed to be started?” he asked as they left HomeSec grounds.

Enki pursed his lips. “This is a battlefield, Jack; choose the battle, don’t let it choose you.”

Jack knew that lesson only too well and it was one he hated. He was only one person, he understood that. How the hell was he supposed to stop entire countries from committing genocide? Jack found himself staring down at the Earth as a whole, seeing only the beautiful blue orb, greens and browns, white clouds; the most beautiful planet he had ever seen, if he wasn’t being too biased. A few spots darkened the ozone, damaging the picture, bringing memories of other worlds he had been to, people who destroyed themselves with pollution and weapons. When push came to shove, nature shoved hard.

The children were happy to see Enki and they kept him occupied until dinner. When the doorbell rang, Sam answered it, surprised to see Dr Thorn on the other side. She invited him in and introduced everyone. Olivia regarded the stranger, decided he was okay, and permitted him to hold her hand.

“Beer?” Jack asked, sipping a beer as he leaned against the kitchen counter.

“No, thank you,” Thorn said with a soft smile for the baby, his experience showing.  “Water would be good, though.” Jerrie went to fetch a glass for him. “I don't mean to intrude; I was wondering if I could speak privately with you about medicine on other worlds. How they have handled their epidemics. Would that be alright?”

“Sure,” Jack said. “But it's Sam and Daniel, you'd want to speak with on that, Doctor; I know what band-aids are for.”

“Gabriel, please,” Thorn invited.

Davy came in, munching on a carrot. He leaned into Jack’s side and shyly pushed his head into Jack’s waist. Jack gave his soft cheek a stroke.

“This is my little man,” he said affectionately. “He used to be a very sick little man.” Jack told Gabriel about Davy’s past with allergies. Gabriel nodded thoughtfully as he looked at the boy.

“I’ve seen a few cases,” he commented. “The body’s wiring gone wild. But you can eat everything now?” he asked Davy. The boy nodded.

“Daddy fixed me,” Davy informed him. Gabriel looked at Jack just as Jack was looking at Davy. He hadn’t realized Davy knew about the odd things that had been going on.

“I was considering whether or not I should ask,” Gabriel said to Jack.

Jack leaned down and pecked Davy’s head. “Go,” he said, scooting the boy. Davy left the room and went to find Aba.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it, or even if I'm doing it,” Jack quietly admitted. “I don't think so, not his allergies. Cuts and scrapes, yes, but not that. This whole thing is recent, though, and I certainly don’t have a history of these kinds of things.”

“There must have been an event that precipitated this,” Gabriel said, frowning. “I can’t believe you woke up one morning and started healing people.”

“No, there was an event,” Jack said. “It’s one of those things still under very tight security. I healed someone of a serious wound once, unconsciously, and it stopped for a couple of years. It started up again this past year. I honestly have no idea how I’m doing it. Dr. Lam found activity in parts of my brain that….”

Gabriel snapped his fingers. “The CT that was lit up like a Christmas tree,” he said. “Subject A. That’s yours, isn’t it?”

“I will never testify to it,” Jack warned.

Gabriel held up a hand. “Patient confidentiality, Jack,” he promised. “I don’t suppose you would consider….”

“No, I wouldn’t. I don’t foresee martyrdom in my future, only grandchildren.”

Gabriel heard the conviction and didn’t push it. “Why aren’t more adults doing these new things? Any ideas?”

“None of my own,” Jack said. “Sam feels that not everyone is changing, nor will they. Enki is of the same opinion. Davy has a cognitive problem, and I haven't noticed anything happening with his brain.”

“Sorry, Jack, but I think you’re wrong,” Jerrie said, surprisingly, from the table she was setting. The men looked at her. “He may not be upping his IQ points, but I think he’s developing those other senses just like some of the other kids. I think he’s doing that empathy thing that you can do. Remember the discussion about him seeming to read people’s heart? He’s pure, Jack; he sees the truth.”

“Empathy, too?” Gabriel asked. Jack reluctantly nodded.

“I’m sorry, I thought he knew!” Jerrie said, horrified that she had let loose a house secret. Jack waved her off

“It's a recent thing,” Jack said, not ready to bring the man into the fold. But he had a feeling Gabriel would be joining them.

There was a knock at the front door and someone in the living room answered it. A moment later, “Dad!” Matthew yelled. “It’s for you! Malek and M’Net!”

Jack raised his eyebrows and went into the living room. The two were exchanging greetings with Enki.

“Don’t yell, Matt, just come get me,” Jack said. “Mal, phone not working?” Malek thought about it and decided to put it aside. “M’Net, how’s it hangin’?” He knocked paws with the big cat.

The Sua glanced back at his tail. “Close to the floor?”

Children snickered.

“Scram,” Jack told them. The children scrammed. “So, boys, what’s up?” Jack sat next to Sam who had been coloring with Stacy. “Hey, no one called me, how did you get here?”

Al'kesh,” Malek said. “We were only a few light-years away.”

Jack nodded. Malek sat as M’Net took the baby from a very startled Gabriel. Olivia screeched happily and took fistfuls of fur as he nuzzled her cheek with his nose.

“Where’s T’Keet?” Daniel asked.

“With her family,” M’Net said. “K’Nm, sister to N’Sa, has taken T’Keet. K’Nm is young; she is considering taking me as her consort. T’Keet has expressed a wish to keep us together. It pleases me.”

“You don’t have a say in it?” Daniel asked. “You are her parent, she can’t stay with you?”

M’Net considered it. “Cubs belong to the mother and her family. There is precedent for a consort raising the cub on his own,” he admitted. “And I would welcome it, but she needs a whole family, her clan. The destruction of our village was… T’Keet misses a mother and consorts. I miss N’Sa and my brothers, too.”

Daniel reached over and squeezed a paw. “I hope K’Nm does choose you,” he said. “She will be gaining a wonderful gift.”

M’Net flicked his ears. “Thank you.”

“M’Net is also the Sua representative to the unification council,” Malek said. “They will be requesting protectorate status as soon as the peace treaty is ratified. There was a lot of talk over the choice of him, but it was decided that since he already spoke both Tau’ri and Goa’uld, and his extensive experience with you, that he would be the appropriate choice. He will be reporting directly to the high queen.”

“Great!” Jack exclaimed. “How many worlds does that make?” He knew most of the worlds were going to be protectorates; until they were able to adequately protect themselves, they were going to need help. A few had decent ground troops which gave them the pride to sign on as full members. The main council of the unification was Chulak, the Tok’ra, Langara, Kalam, Serrakis, Mulakma, and Taklede. The last two Jack hadn’t met, but he was told that they both had air vessels and managed to stave off many attacks from the Goa’uld in their section of the galaxy. The two groups were neighbors who discovered that they needed each other’s help, when they weren’t fighting with each other. These seven were making the main decisions on the treaty before it was signed.

“Thirty-two,” Malek said. “There are six more currently considering the proposal. We are very close to the final negotiations over the treaty; it was written with great skill, so there hasn’t been very much to alter. Well done, Daniel, we are all in your debt for such a masterful document.”

“You’re welcome,” Daniel said, slightly embarrassed.

“We would like to know if Col. Carter can,… what is your expression… come out to play?” Malek said. “During the clean-up of remaining Goa’uld, Anubis’ storehouse was discovered.”

There was a squeak from Jack’s side. “Can it wait?” he said, amused. “Katie’s birthday is next week.”

“Since Col. Carter is the only one who seems to understand these things, they can wait,” Malek said. “What is ‘birth day?’ Is Katie not already born?”

Daniel explained the celebration. Malek and M’Net thought about it. “Tau’ri have strange customs,” Malek finally said. The Sua agreed.

“We brought tokens,” Malek said. He reached into the pouch at his waist and brought out several small devices and handed them to Sam. “These are always useful. We kept a few for ourselves.”

Sam was thrilled as she slipped the small healing device over her fingers. She concentrated and a small blue beam sparked from it. “Thank you, Malek,” she said with a delighted grin.

“What is it?” Gabriel asked.

“A healing ribbon,” she said, making it spark again.

Gabriel leaned forward with interest. “Will it heal anything?”

“I don’t know,” Sam admitted. “Malek, does it work on diseases or just physical injuries?”

He thought about it. “Just physical injuries, I believe,” he said. “No, let me clarify; it can heal a physical injury caused by a disease, but not the disease itself. It mends tissue.”

“Can anyone use it?” Gabriel asked.

Sam shook her head. “No, only someone with a specific DNA marker,” she said. Gabriel was clearly disappointed.

Malek and M’Net stayed long enough for dinner and then took their leave. Daniel put several pieces of fruit into a bag and handed it to M’Net to take home to T’Keet.

Enki had been relatively silent during the evening except for attending to the children. Once in a while, Gabriel would look at him, curious. Sometimes even Jack forgot the old man was present.

After dinner, the adults retired to Daniel’s den. Gabriel was amused at the picture of the lion on the front of the door; he got the joke. Olivia was the only non-adult present and she was happy to play on the rug, attempting to scoot herself from one place to another. She hadn’t quite gotten the hang of knees, but she did belly-scoots just fine.

“I don’t know where to start with the big feline,” Gabriel said. “So, what’s with Malek’s voice? Dual vocal cords?”

“Only when the symbiote is talking,” Sam said. “We very rarely hear from the host; he has a regular voice.”

“And the symbiote?” Gabriel asked. “I thought those things were the bad guys?”

Daniel did his best to explain the different queens and parentage. Gabriel leaned back in the chair, absently watching the baby. Daniel leaned down and took a piece of fuzz away from her; it was on its way to her mouth. She scowled at him.

“Jack, the more open you are with me, the more I can help you,” Gabriel finally said. “I understand about secrecy, I know where more skeletons are buried than you would guess. I know that a lot was not said today. And why do I have the feeling that Mr. Enki here is more than a kindly grandpa?”

“Just Enki,” the old man said easily. He stared at Gabriel for a moment. “Jack, reach in to him. Not just his surface emotions, deeper; sense the river they are flowing from.”

Jack rubbed his face noisily and blew out a puff of air. He stood and went the couple steps to Gabriel’s side. “Would you mind?” he asked, holding out a hand. Gabriel gave him a hand. Jack immediately sensed a great curiosity followed by a slight shiver of dread. He saw a cord and followed it. An attraction to him, knowledge that he was unobtainable, amused acceptance, a longing for the healing device, a brief image of a small, emaciated child, lifeless, frustration, anger, a brilliant love, laughter of children.

Jack stepped back. “Gabriel, it will be considered treason if you disclose this information. Daniel, would you please start?” he quietly asked. Sam and Daniel looked at each other.

Several hours later, Gabriel was leaning back in his chair, white faced, wide-eyed, and wrung out from the debriefing.

“Dear Lord,” he whispered. Jack handed him a glass of something amber and Gabriel downed it in one gulp. “This is more than cops and robbers with space ships,” he said. Jack nodded. “You were right to keep this from the public. The data will be disseminated; I think Daniel’s summary will do nicely. I think I’d like to change a few things in it, though, just down-play the language a little more. I cannot do anything overt with countries, Jack, you know I can’t; it would constitute my invading someone else's property. I will do what I can around it. I, also, have information that isn’t public knowledge; the Director-General is stepping down and I’m taking over. Shortly. I promise you; to the best of my ability, I will do all I can to help. You will have one hundred percent of the World Health Organization at your service.” He kept staring from Jack’s head to Enki.

After Gabriel left for his hotel, they bedded Enki down for the night in the den and went up to bed.

“Was that the right thing to do?” Daniel quietly asked.

“I hope so,” Jack said, striping off his clothes. “When I went inside, I felt nothing except a great need for well-being. There was a vastness inside of him. The only thing I can think of is an unending cargo bay filled with information and he has the only key. We could use a medical director for HomeSec and SGC; I’d ask him on board, if I thought he’d take it, but I think he can be of more use where he’s going.”

Daniel slid his arms around Jack’s waist and held him. Jack paused in his dressing.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said against his shoulder. “I’ve been selfish, thinking of my needs when you’ve been thinking of the entire world.”

Jack held tight to him. “No, you haven’t been selfish,” he said. “I blinded myself. My first thought should always be for home. I will help guide the unification; the world will evolve as it will. The information is where it needs to be, let the experts take care of it.”

He took Daniel’s face and kissed him, sucking gently and licking at his lips. He laid Daniel on the bed and moved over him. When Sam came out of the shower, they pulled her in.

In the morning, Jack stopped Katie on her way out the door.

“I’ll be late,” she said.

“I’ll take you,” he said. “I want to ask you something. Just how much can you read off people?”

Katie thought about it, looking at the ceiling. “It’s like, when I look at someone, sometimes I see a dark spot in them. I can’t actually see bones and organs and stuff, I can only see if something is off. Like, last week I looked at Mrs. Lewis, my math teacher, and I saw a dark spot over her jaw and the other day she had to leave school early because she had a dentist appointment.”

Jack frowned. “So, you just look at someone and you see it?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s more like I look just past them, not directly at them, and if something is wrong, I see a dark spot out of the corner of my eye.”

He nodded. He felt a hesitation in her. “What is it?”

“I talked with my guidance councilor,” she said. “He’s going to get me a tutor.”

Jack frowned. “A tutor? For what?” She had no need for tutoring, not with her grades.

“Pre-med courses; I’m going to take the M-SATs.”

Jack looked at her. He put his mug down and lifted her high with a yell. She laughed and he peppered her face with kisses. He pulled back and lifted his head.

“Don’t think this is getting you out of a grounding, Miss Thing,” he informed her.

“That’s Dr. Thing, to you,” she said impudently. “And when I graduate as the best doctor in the country, you are going to hire me.”

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am!”

Sam drove her to school with excited chatter while Jack informed Olivia that her big sister was getting too big too fast. Olivia offered him her bottle.

Daniel took Enki to school with him as a treat for his class, so Jack relaxed until Jerrie got back and could take over with the baby. Maggie came over and Jack told her Katie’s news.

“Her mother and your father would be so proud,” she said. Jack agreed. He knelt on the floor and laid his head in her lap. She stroked his hair. “Jack, I don’t know what’s going on with you, and I’m not sure I want to know,” she said. “I will say this, though; one day at a time, sweetheart.”

Even big, bad generals needed their mommy. Jack felt better by the time he got to work. He called Hayes and let him know that Dr. Thorn was completely in; Maynard wasn’t happy about it. He then told Paul that they were handing over the evolution reigns to Gabriel while they concentrated on the unification.

Several more alien representatives called on Jack, each with the assumption that their need was important enough to come calling on him instead of dealing with the main council. He turned them over to Paul and Cassie.

“Can I change my address?” Jack asked the ceiling.

He left the building to go and visit the Academy. They had a new general. Students and staff snapped to attention when Jack walked in. He returned salutes and waved them down.

“As you were, kids,” he offered. A helpful cadet escorted him to Hammond’s new home.

“Jack!”

“Nice place, George,” Jack said, taking his hand and looking around. The office furniture was dark and warm, the walls a rich umber. Hammond was decorating with medals and photographs. A picture of his girls was prominently displayed on his desk, and Jack spotted one of himself and SG-1. The cadet was wide-eyed when he left the generals. Jack held out a small box. Hammond looked at it and chuckled.

“I need candy like I need a hole in the head,” Hammond informed him. He took the box anyway. “I cannot believe I’m doing this, Jack, I must be out of my mind.”

Jack sighed and updated him on current events. When he was done, Hammond was staring at him.

“What would Jacob have said? Holy buckets?” Hammond asked. Jack chuckled and nodded. “Wow, Jack, you’ve been a busy boy. Just do me a favor? Don’t over-work Abigail; we have a date tomorrow night.”

“You’re a dog, George.”

Jack did a little shopping, picking up things for Matthew’s sleep-over, food that would be absolutely bad for growing boys and the videos Matthew had requested. He picked the kids up from school and noted a slightly absent look on Katie’s face. When they got home, he directed Matty and Stacy to put groceries away, and took Katie by the hand and led her into his office. He shut the door.

“Who is he?”

“Who?”

“The boy who put that look on your face,” he said, waving a finger. She flushed.

“Isn’t there some sort of rule about rummaging inside of people?” she asked him.

“Yes, there is,” he said. “It isn’t my rule, but I agree with it, usually, and I didn’t rummage, I guessed and you just confirmed it. Spill.”

She stamped a foot and turned to look at his books. “Esteban, okay?” she demanded.

“Okay,” Jack shrugged. “Are we meeting him? No, I’ll rephrase –when are we meeting him?”

She opened her eyes wide. “Oh, God, please don’t zat him,” she begged.

“No zatting,” Jack promised. “Are you sleeping with him?”

Katie flushed. “No,” she said. “We haven’t even been on an official date, yet.”

“Okay,” he said again. “Honey, I can’t control your body, it’s yours and you’re a big girl. Seventeen next week. All I can say is to ask you to rethink any decision to sleep with anyone until you are a little older. Put your future first. You want to be a doctor? You’ll never get near it, if you don’t set priorities. Boys are not a priority, no matter what your hormones are telling you. I can’t stop you, though, so if you do decide to sleep with him, make sure you’re up to date with your pills and make sure he wears a condom. No party hat, no party. And if you’re going to spend the night with him, don’t lie to me; just tell me you’re spending the night with him. Promise?”

“I promise,” she nodded.

He kissed her forehead. “Good girl. And if he hurts you, I will zat his ass.”

Matthew was clearly excited in the morning, waiting for his friends to show up for their sleep-over. Two boys were military, the other three were not. He was not happy about having to include his little brother, but Jack insisted; Davy loved his big brother and wanted to be part of his circle. Two of the boys lived nearby, so they were over before cartoons ended. Jack greeted parents at the door and sent the boys upstairs. Jerry Bosco showed up with Vinnie and Corp. Standard’s son, Dylan. The corporal was a single parent and on duty, so Bosco offered to drive Dylan over. Jack patted heads and sent the boys up with the others. Jack unconsciously clasped forearms with Bosco instead of taking his hand. They went into the kitchen and sat at the bar stools, pouring mugs of coffee.

“How’s the new team working?” Jack asked.

Bosco gave a nod. “It’s coming together,” he said. “I think Zane will be alright with a little more field training, and Lukas seems to be as eggy as Daniel. A little more attitude, though.”

Jack understood; Harold Lukas tended to rub Jack the wrong way whenever he was over consulting with Daniel about something.

“Has Reynolds settled on a 2IC, yet?” Jack asked.

“Not sure,” Jerry admitted. “His latest, Capt. Brogan, seems to be doing alright; the colonel hasn’t said anything different to me. Molina is a quiet guy, keeps to himself, but he’s proving to be a decent guard and he can be counted on.”

SG-1 had lost three people in the Baal battle, and SG-3 had lost two. Nyan had been beside himself when Reynolds came home alone, and after the funerals they had gone out and gotten drunk together in a bonding moment. To Jack’s surprise, the seemingly delicate Nyan had taken well to team duties, although he was still a little slow with weapons. Reynolds had insisted on leaving Nyan home, instead of bringing him out to the battle, a choice even Daniel had been grateful of.

“Jack, who’s this person Daniel’s been bringing in to the base?” Bosco asked.

“Which one?”

Jerry was a little flustered. “I am ninety-nine percent sure this person used to be a man,” he said. “Ronnie Johnson.”

Jack nodded, slightly amused. “Ah, yes, Ronnie,” he mused. “Daniel’s current pet student. Interesting, isn’t she?”

She?” Bosco stressed. Jack gave a warning shake of his head.

“Don’t, or you will get an earful from our Dr. Jackson on the subject of respect and self-determination.” He dug at his own ears with a finger and Bosco chuckled in understanding. “According to Daniel, she’s a heaven-sent gift and we should be thankful to have her. Besides, Olivia likes her.”

Jerry went to the swing hanging from the door frame and took the baby out. She gave a pleased gurgle and patted his face.

“Yeah, I’ve been learning all about self-determination,” Jerry sighed. “I promised Vinnie I’d go with him to parent days at the Rainbow Center. Connie and I split turns; I go one week, she goes another. It’s twice a month. Jack, I had no idea kids today had so many issues to deal with,” he said, a look of confusion on his face. “They are actually more aware of their own bodies and their own emotions than I certainly was at that age.”

“Kids are scary today,” Jack agreed.

“There are over thirty kids at that center,” Bosco said. “I didn’t think there were that many gay adults in this town, much less kids, and a couple of them are already talking about gender reassignment. What the… heck is going on?” Olivia was making a mess on his lap with a banana.

“Shoot if I know,” Jack responded. “I’ve discovered that going with the flow eases my headaches, though.”

Bosco nodded sympathetically.

“Vinnie has a boyfriend,” he said. He winced. “I can’t believe I said that. Anyway. I had to convince him not to bring his boyfriend to the sleep-over tonight. I thought it might make the other boys uncomfortable. I’m feeling like I need to monitor them as though they were boy-girl, instead of boy-boy.”

Jack snorted. “I gave Matthew the low-down on sex and responsibility, gave him a box of condoms, and told him I trusted him to make the right decisions. I figured, if he was going to do anything, nothing I could say, no amount of locks on his door, was going to keep a fourteen-year old, almost fifteen, from doing it. So far, so good. As far as I’m aware.”

“We have teenagers in the house, Jack.”

Jack lifted his coffee mug and clinked it with Bosco’s.

The fifth boy came in a while later, brought by his mother. Jack didn’t know this boy, but he must be the missing Tommy.

“Follow the noise,” he said, pointing up the stairs. The boy gave a shy glance at his mother and then took the stairs politely, one at a time. Jack took the bedding and pillow from the mother and dropped it onto the couch.

“Don’t worry, he’ll be fine,” he assured the nervous woman, Ms. Cummings.

“Thank you, General,” she said. “I have to work tonight; Tommy has the phone number, if I’m needed.” She worked at a local 24-hour department store. Jack knew they barely paid minimum wage and over-time was outrageous.

After she left, Jack looked at the boy’s bedding: a few blankets and a flat pillow. The other boys had brought sleeping bags. When the boys came down due to abject starvation, they were obviously emaciated, Jack took a good look at Tommy; clothes were worn to the threads, sneakers had holes in them, the soles were bare. He did a little rummaging and found that the boy was also thread-bare in the inside, although very loved by his hard-working mother. There was a longing inside for acceptance, something to feel proud about, a sense of shame over something... his home, Jack guessed, seeing how the boy tried not to look around, afraid to touch anything.

“Boys!” Jack called. They took their faces out of the refrigerator. “Let’s talk.” There were groans. “None-a that,” he scowled fiercely. Those who knew him snickered. “I’m the general here, remember?”

“You’re not going to talk about sex, are you?” Matthew moaned.

“Why, do I need to?” Jack asked.

“No!” the boys all shouted.

“Okay, then,” he said. “I just want to get a little acquainted with everyone.”

They got their snacks and sat on the living room floor. Jack sat in the command chair.

“Alright,” he started. “We can skip Matty because I know him only too well, I changed his diapers.” The boys shoved at Matthew, completely red, and laughed. “Let’s see, I know Vinnie, an SG-3 brat, don’t deny it, son, I’ve known you since you were seven years old. A whiny seven, I might add.” The boys howled as Vinnie also turned red. “You’ve turned into a nice young man, son.

“Dylan, I don’t know you but I’ve met your father; he’s a good man, proud to have him on our team. You look like him. Frankie and Carlos, you both live in the neighborhood, total terrors from the day I moved in nine years ago.” They proudly admitted it. “Let’s see if I remember correctly; Frankie, your dad is a plumber and your mom is a teacher, right? Good. And Carlos, with seven brothers and sisters, God bless your mother, you are lost in the crowd, right? No, that can’t be, not with that red hair.” As incongruous as it was, Carlos Gutierrez had bright red hair thanks to his maternal grandfather. The hair and freckles always managed to startle new teachers who were expecting a child of Hispanic descent to be dark.

“Tommy is new to me,” Jack said. “Let’s see, Tommy, I believe your mother said her name is Trisha. How old are you?”

“Fourteen, sir,” came the quiet response. Jack nodded.

“And what classes do you share with Matt?”

“Home room and social studies,” Tommy said. Jack was getting a sense of hero-worship and awe from him.

“And what does your mother do?”

“She works at Fylinda's and sometimes she does accounting, but there isn’t too much of that needed except during tax season.”

“Good!” Jack declared. “Now. I have a question for everyone. Has anyone noticed and been talking about any changes that are happening?” he asked. “Like really weird things happening?”

“Other than you and my dad blowing up aliens?” Vinnie asked.

“I have a zat, boy, and I know how to use it,” Jack warned.

The boys laughed, although the civilians didn’t know what a zat was.

“I think he’s asking about all that geek stuff,” Matthew said to his friends. They all expressed their understanding. “Yeah, almost all the kids in school are passing tests with A’s, even people who never got A’s in their entire lives. It’s wigging the teachers out.” The boys agreed with him.

“Anything else weird?” he asked.

“A few kids are doing those weirder things,” Matty reported. “Really wigged out Mr. Mulroney when a girl handed in a homework assignment before he gave it. She had all the answers right, too.”

According to the boys, few girls kept bursting into tears because other people were thinking bad thoughts or feeling bad, a boy kept laughing at the jokes a prankster had yet to play, another boy swears he sees ghosts and then helps them to ‘move along.’ Jack would have to ask Daniel about that one. Over all, though, it was mostly a jump into the cognitive area that the kids were doing. Jack was a little relieved; he wasn’t ready to deal with Jedi wars. He released the boys.

“Sir?” Frankie stopped. “Is it… okay… what’s happening?”

Jack looked at him. “What do you think is happening?” he asked.

Frankie frowned as he thought. “I think…. we’re changing. Somehow. I get laughed at when I say that, but I think it’s true.”

Jack gave a nod. “You are changing, son, and it’s okay,” he assured the boy. “It’s normal, it’s natural, you don’t need to be afraid. All that’s happening is that your brain is understanding more than it used to. This is a good thing.”

Gabriel had called to tell him that the first of the public notices would be going out the following week. It was none too soon, as far as Jack was concerned.

 


 

Chapter 35

 

“Oh, Ms. Cummings,” Jack stopped Tommy’s mother as they left the house the next day. “Tommy mentioned that you do accounting. We need another bean counter at HomeSec, if you’d like to apply.” He told her the salary and full bennies.

She seemed a little startled and thanked him. Jack wondered if their car would even make it to their home. He went back inside and called the manager of personnel.

“But there isn’t an opening,” Lupe told him, confused.

“There is if she applies,” Jack informed her. She understood.

Michael stopped in to pick up Matthew and Vinnie for church after Frankie, Carlos, and Dylan went home. Michael had been spending a lot of time with the chat group and had come away with more and more to think about. At least he was thinking, instead of agonizing, for which Jack was grateful. He had also taken a part-time job at Matty’s church as a counselor. Jack found that interesting and wondered how many shrinks took their job as a way to counsel themselves.

“Are you working out?” Michael asked, looking at Jack’s chest through the open robe. Jack yanked the robe shut.

“Have I really changed so noticeably?” he asked Daniel in the den.

“Your body looks about twenty years younger,” Daniel told him, glancing up from the computer. “You lost that middle-aged love handle you were acquiring, and I do like the six-pack that’s rebuilding itself.”

“Hair is still gray,” Jack grumbled and gave his stomach a pat. The muscles did feel harder….

“The world community won’t respect a dark blond general,” Daniel said. “Look at the problems your clone had.” Jack conceded that one. “And I don’t want to hear about your hair issues, not while mine is receding.”

Jack went over and pushed Daniel’s hair off his forehead. “Only a little,” he said. A centimeter, at least.

“I’m not a happy camper, Jack.”

He went around and buzzed the back of Daniel’s neck.

“Come upstairs and let me make you a happy camper,” he murmured into Daniel’s ear. Daniel smiled as hands felt up his chest and a mouth nuzzled across the back of his shoulders.

“I’m a little busy,” he said.

“We can kick the rest of the kids out and do it in the living room,” Jack suggested. His hands began to wander down Daniel’s front.

Daniel chuckled. “We cannot kick the kids out,” he said. He sighed, relaxing.

“Come on, Danny. You work and I’ll get under the desk.”

“My, my, General O’Neill, where’d my skittish virgin go?” Daniel cooed, teasing him.

“Completely debauched,” Jack informed him. “Do you want to play or not? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya, Danny-boy, I’m addicted.” Jack told him exactly what was addicting, and feeling his body beginning to betray him, Daniel agreed. Jack quickly pushed him aside and got under the desk.

Most of Jack’s day was consumed by the main unification council taking over his living room. They descended on him with an issue they were finding hard to resolve.

“A few worlds are having problems with the no slavery clause,” Inanna told him. “Slavery is part of their culture. Even the slaves agree to it. Coming from one of these cultures here on Earth, I have to say that I see their point. I had many slaves in Mesopotamia, Jack, and I enjoyed them greatly. I have a problem with owners abusing their slaves, but is that any different than this modern society having laws against abusing spouses and children? As long as there are laws to protect them, I don't really have a problem with it.”

The Taklede representative, Karoly, stood up. The Taklede were human, while the Mulakma were feathered. And scaled and furred. They tended to walk on fours, instead of hind feet, and they could fly. Daniel thought they looked like griffins. Whatever they were, Jack had to admit that he found them formidable in appearance and could understand how they managed to fend off Goa’uld attacks. The claws clicking on the floor and snagging the rug were enough to make any attacker think twice.

“We must disagree with Queen Inanna’s proposal,” Karoly said. “The Goa’uld took slaves. We must not align ourselves with them. Also, how can we be sure these slaves agree to their place? How do we know they are not simply too afraid to speak otherwise?”

“Because their societies have in place a means for them to climb out of their servitude, should they desire it,” Inanna said. “Some place themselves in service as a means of payment of debt, others are born into it, but in all four societies, they do earn wages and they are able to buy their way out of service. And all four societies have laws forbidding abuse, all four societies allow slaves to sue anyone they feel has done wrong by them, even their owners. There isn't much of a difference between that and hiring someone to work under a contract. Everyone who takes a job, also signs a contract. I don’t understand the issue, Honorable Karoly.”

The others were ambiguous about the entire issue. Only Langara had no history with slavery in their culture, so Jonas stayed quiet as he listened to the various sides.

“Okay, how about this?” Jack said. “Daniel, what was your intent for that section?”

Daniel nodded and stood. “My concern was for the unwilling subject,” he said, frowning in thought, arms crossed. “I have a little personal knowledge of modern slavery here on Earth. Slavery is not legal on this planet, we have a united nations that has forbidden it of all members, but there are some countries, still extremely behind the times, who have lower classes who are, basically, a slave-type class. There are private people who buy and sell other people on the black market. An illegal trade. And there are people who participate willingly and openly in voluntary slavery, but that has more to do with sexuality, than true slavery. I would say allow it but only under extreme conditions; Inanna, Hammurabi had extensive laws regarding the buying, selling, and treatment of slaves. I would say find the laws, make adaptations for modern times, and use them as an amendment. If the slaves of these worlds do indeed agree with the practice, who are we, or anyone else, to tell them differently? How different would that make us from the Goa’uld to go in and force them to change their society? Also make sure they have a means of contacting this council for a hearing, if anything goes so wrong that they cannot get justice on their planet.”

“That brings up another point, Daniel,” Jonas said. “What about the worlds where a gender is enslaved instead of an individual? There are a few worlds where women are forced to abide the men.”

Daniel was brought up short.

“All for one,” Jack said. “We cannot force anyone to change their society, not if they don’t want to. The main agreement is that their nations are aligned. One planet, one vote. We have a nasty history on this planet of subjugating women, and I for one despise the idea. I have to say that if another planet with this issue wants to join, and they have all their ducks in a row, let them join. They need to understand that the rest of the compact does not treat their women in that manner and they will need to abide by the rules of others when they are off-world. Daniel, I just thought of something that isn’t in this compact.”

Daniel looked at him.

“I cannot stand this idiot American idea of diplomatic immunity,” Jack said. He looked at the aliens. “My country has this rule that says diplomats are immune to prosecution for any crime, including murder. That has got to be one of the stupidest rules ever made, and it’s hurt us big time. I’d like to see it added to the compact that no ambassador is immune to the laws of the compact or the world he/she/it is visiting.”

The others agreed and Ninurta, as scribe for this meeting, made notations.

“With that added, and in addition to the abuse laws, no ambassador may use the rules of their own world when they are in session with the union,” Inanna interpreted. Jack agreed. “Slavery and the such is permitted providing it is legal on the home planet and that they have laws protecting their subjects, along with the care and well-being of the subjects. Except for eccentricities, all the compact worlds should be following, mainly, their contract with the union.”

The others agreed to the interpretation.

“Sir Karoly, are you able to agree with this?” Inanna asked the Taklede.

He frowned, pursing his lips. “I will take this back to my government for review,” he conceded. “I would like to see an initial over-view of the abuse laws beforehand, though.”

Inanna agreed.

“We cannot impede any world their own progress,” Jack said. “Look, there are a lot of things I hate, a lot of things I will fight for; I made the mistake once of looking at only one side of the coin without stopping to think about the other side, and I regretted it. It isn’t our business to tell people how to live their lives, it is our business to keep the terms of this contract. If people have agreed to the contract, then it becomes our right to step in.”

“And the rights of children?” Karoly asked.

“What about them?” Jack asked.

“One world has children who are sexually active.”

Jack thought about it. “How old are the children?”

“As young as five years,” Karoly said. “They claim it is with the consent of the child, but how can a child consent?”

Jack could feel that this Karoly was indignant about a great many things, all of which he felt it was his right to instruct others on. Jack had a few opinions of his own, but he rarely stepped on someone else’s toes. Not on purpose, anyway. He had learned the hard way, from Daniel, that people deserved the right to live as they will and Jack didn’t have the right to tell them otherwise. He could make his opinions known, but he couldn’t force anyone to his side.

“In my opinion, the child must be of legal age in their society before participating in sexual relations, especially with an adult” Inanna said. “A child may be able to understand, intellectually, what they are doing, but I don’t believe their body is ready for it. I don’t believe their heart is ready for it. From a broader, social standpoint, if the child is old enough to participate in sexual relations, that child is old enough to participate in the community at large, complete with adult standings in that community. Teenagers having sex with each other, I can see, I was a teenager once myself, and although my first experience was with an adult woman, I was at least old enough to understand what I was doing and I later appreciated her teaching me about sex. Children younger than puberty…. no, I don’t think so. We are a sexual creature, I know that, but if the switch isn’t on, the light won’t shine. Legal age.”

They could all agree to that.

Jack had to put his foot down on the sexual union with animals issue.

“An animal cannot consent, I don’t care how many teeth and claws it has,” he said. “Unless there is full, conscious knowledge and consent, it shouldn’t be done. People are actually doing that? I cannot believe we are even discussing these things.”

Inanna nodded, wrinkling her nose. Jack shuddered.

“There are quite a few worlds who are arguing that individual countries shouldn’t be barred from joining just because their world is not united,” Inanna reported.

“Including mine,” Jack responded. She inclined her head. “The point of all this is to unify the worlds. How can they decide to join, if the world itself isn’t unified? I don’t see the problem with this one; if they can’t get together to unify their world, how are they going to play in the big sand box with the rest of us? Get their own world unified, first.”

“Or,” Daniel held up a finger, “at least have a voting process or something that allows their governments to make decisions for the whole.”

“Some are attempting that,” Bre’tac said. “By force.”

Jack shook a finger. “Doesn’t count,” he said. He knew of several planets attempting to do just that, and one which had already destroyed itself through a war they refused to stop. “If they blow themselves up, what use will they be to the overall galactic community? Should we bring in the concept of sanctions?” Not now, the others decided. Ninurta scribbled it down for future discussions.

“And my world?” Atis, the Mulakma asked. His beak caused his words to be clipped. “Our governments are kingdoms run by kings.”

“A feudal society,” Daniel said to Jack. “I read the report. Duels at dawn and everything.”

“As you say,” Atis nodded to Daniel. “It is our way to conquer neighboring kingdoms and rule them. If one king must conquer all in order to join your union, this is what will be done. Will you deny us membership for our ways? We find it abhorrent that you humans use your females and children in such manners and, yet, you look down upon us?”

Jack grabbed his hair and pulled. “Point taken,” he said. “But can we draw a line at using weapons of mass destruction?”

They all agreed.

“Besides,” Atis said. “It is honorable to take one’s enemy face to face, not stand like a coward behind a great machine.”

“Yeah, it’s those great machines that saved your feathered ass from the Goa’uld,” Jack reminded him. Fur-tufted ears twitched.

“Point taken,” Atis said. Jack got a sense of humor from him.

The front door opened and Stacy and Davy ran in, slamming the door behind them as they tossed jackets and boots into the corner. They stopped short, wide-eyed.

Ooooohhhh,” they breathed. They were staring at Atis.

“Hey, manners,” Jack reminded them.

“I’m sorry,” Stacy said, shaking herself. She walked over to the alien. “I’m Stacy and this is my brother David. I belong to Daniel, he belongs to Jack. We were staring because you have pretty feathers and fur.”

Atis inclined his head. “You are kind, youngling,” he said. “No offense is taken for none is given.”

The children greeted the other new guest with polite hand shakes and the rest of their guests with effusive hugs before going on their way. Bre’tac was chuckling.

“Like father, like child?” he asked.

“Tell me,” Jack snorted. Daniel knocked him on the arm.

“Put Stacy in charge of all this, instead of you,” he warned Jack.

“I’ll second the nomination,” Jack said.

Katie had been pouting in her room for most of the weekend, but she came out long enough to meet and greet people after Jack snapped quietly in her ear. Matthew had long since left to play with friends after changing out of his church clothes. Atis watched curiously as Olivia played on the rug.

“They are unable to walk so young?” he asked.

“Give her another few months,” Jack said. “She’ll be into everything by then.”

Jonas gave Atis a basic lesson on human baby development, and he chittered his beak thoughtfully. Jack took it as an acknowledgment.

“Ours are hatched and they are up and about immediately,” he commented. Jack started to comment on the hatching part, but didn’t know how to begin without sounding offensive.

“Hatched?” Trust Jonas….. “May I ask how many in a clutch?”

“Two to four,” Atis said easily. “Many don’t survive their first year. They go through ravenous hunger pains at various intervals, and if they are not quickly fed, they will fall to each other.”

“They eat each other?” Jack couldn’t help it.

“No, not exactly,” Atis said. “In olden times they would, but not anymore. The taste of blood seems to satisfy them. It doesn’t happen at all, if attendants are being attentive.”

And he’s questioning our cultures? Jack couldn’t help shooting the thought toward Inanna. She raised an eyebrow and Jack was almost positive she had heard him. What did he just do?

“Lord Atis, you do understand that there is a clause about cannibalism?” Jonas asked as delicately as he could.

“Indeed,” he inclined his head. “As I said, the younglings do not eat, they merely fight for life. We are a hard, but fair society; it is our way.”

After they beamed back to Heaven’s Bow, Jack went to his computer and signed into the SGC files to check out the Mulakma and Taklede. Discovered by SG-3 on a routine mission during Reynolds’ command, SG-3 settled a few disputes, helped to find a lost royal tayr, their word for a small child, and both groups worked with the Argos during the battle. Col. Galanakis put in a good word for them. Jack called Reynolds over for a talk.

“Yeah, there are some oddities about them,” Reynolds said. “Both are a little on the formal side. The Taklede are more puritanical about their formalities, the Mulakma prefer to settle things face to face and are more open in their passions. I think they’re good guys, though; the Taklede have a tendency to preach, but they aren’t rabid about things. Most of the ones I met, at least, aren’t. The birds are a little more accepting and more prone to ask questions before judging.”

“Do they have something to offer, being on the main unification council?” Jack asked.

Reynolds thought about it and shrugged. “Maybe,” he conceded. “The birds can fly which gives them incredible knowledge about aerial combat, and the Taklede are exacting in their maneuvers. They hit their targets with one shot, usually. Outside of combat, they both have strong social backgrounds and an open-door policy for anyone in need. And they didn’t surrender to the Goa’uld. I like ‘em.”

Daniel came in and handed the baby to Jack.

“Hey, Kevin. Jack, I need to run to the store. I’m out of ink for my printer. Do you need anything?” Jack thought about it and shook his head. He gave Daniel an absent pat on the back of a thigh before Daniel went to find his jacket. He called upstairs to Stacy. She ran down and quickly put her jacket and boots on, and left with him, skipping happily while holding his hand.

Reynolds watched him leave and then turned to Jack.

“I still can’t quite get over all this,” he said.

“Believe me, I'm still learning.”

Later in the evening, as Jack and Daniel played in the shower, Sam was reading a report in bed. The men came out, finally, drying off and getting ready for bed. Jack crawled up the bed, burrowed under the paper, and came up to see her looking at him in amusement. She plucked at his wet hair and he rested his chin between her breasts.

“I refuse to believe you are ready for another round, not after all that yelling in there,” she informed him.

“Nope, not ready,” he admitted. “Doesn’t mean I can’t make nice with your boobies.” He nuzzled the soft mounds and she giggled. “Honey, I miss you here every day,” he informed her, whining slightly. “Danny can’t keep his hands off me, I feel like his sex slave, and I need you here to protect me.”

Daniel smacked his rear end.

“Ow. See? He abuses me,” Jack informed her. She stroked the bridge of his nose.

“Yes, I can see you’re so abused,” she told him. “I have some time saved up; how about a vacation? Just the three of us? A few days off?”

“How about just the two of you?” Daniel countered. They looked at him. “When was the last time the two of you spent any decent time together? Go, get out for a while, I can take care of the kids for a few days, Jerrie is here, Maggie is up the street, and I can even get Michael in here for an hour or two, if I have to.”

Jack scooted up a few inches and nipped at her lips. “Where would you like to go?” he asked her. She touched his face, gently stroking his cheeks. She glowed as she gazed at him, and Jack couldn’t believe how lucky he was and wondered how in the hell he had earned a right to her love.

“I think I’d like to find a cabin somewhere and disappear under a lot of heavy blankets,” she said. Jack slowly smiled.

“That can be arranged,” he said. He kissed her, brushing her lips with his as she took her long legs out from under him and wrapped them across the backs of his thighs.

“You know the secondary arch?” she asked. “The transporter thing? How about we set it up at HomeSec? Maybe in the ring room? I can come home everyday.”

Jack picked his head up from inspecting her breasts close-up. “You could do that with ships,” he commented.

“Yes, but it’s kind of silly to hop and skip with ships,” she said. “With the arch, home is just a few steps away. And everyone who commutes from here can use it.”

He considered it. “We can give it a try,” he agreed. “Have you worked out the mechanics of it?”

“Almost,” she said. “It’s almost a combination of the gate and a transporter. It needs to be dialed, but since it is for close proximity, not jumping through stars, it takes less effort. Not as many dialing sequences. And it’s a transporter, not a gate, so there isn’t a wormhole to contend with.”

Jack looked at her. “Uh huh. Are you telling me that you can build another one?”

“Eventually,” she said. “Bye-bye airplanes, trains, and automobiles, hello clean air.”

“Detroit is going to take out a contract on you,” he warned her.

“Oh, well,” she responded dryly. She was suddenly serious as she looked at him. “Jack, somewhere in that tin can of yours, you have the schematics for all this, you do know that, right? I mean, I can figure things out, eventually, but I’m only copying. You have the ability to create these things. Somewhere buried in there.” She tapped on his forehead.

Jack groaned and rolled off her. He stared at the ceiling, his hands locked behind his neck.

“I try not to think about it,” he said. “I haven’t had any urge to draw or even pick up a ruler and pencil, and as far as I know, I haven’t been speaking any strange words.”

She rolled over onto him. “You are always drawing, Jack; try sketching out something other than doodles. Will you try?” she asked. “For me? The next time you kel’no’reem and you’re all relaxed, will you just try to draw something? Don’t think about it, just pick up a pencil and try.”

“We could try hypnosis,” Daniel suggested from the opposite side of the bed. His partners looked at him. “No, I don’t believe it can make people act like chickens or anything like that, but it does relax the mind to a point where hidden things can come to the surface. Ask Dr. Edmonds.”

“I think I like the kel’no’reem idea better,” Jack said. A babbling was heard from the baby box and they looked at it.

“I’ll see what she wants,” Daniel offered.

“No, let me,” Sam said, sliding off Jack. “I don’t get enough time with her, as it is.”

“She’s just happy,” Jack said, giving a small reach. “Amusing herself.”

“Still. I want cuddle time,” Sam said. She straightened her t-shirt and went to the nursery. The men smiled as they heard her pleasure in Olivia’s presence.

Daniel rolled over and put an arm across Jack’s stomach, resting against his chest. “I’m glad she’s discovered the mother within,” he commented. Jack nodded. “While you were gone, Sam was dropped head first into the motherhood deep end. She was ready to scream after the first month. I don’t think she realized how sheltered she had been, being away most of the week while you and I took care of the kids. I had a problem at the base which took up almost an entire week, so she was left with the kids. Jerrie was good about helping her, and she was firm about it, too. Sam was their mother, so BE their mother. Sam almost fired Jerrie for insubordination. Then Jerrie pulled the sick relative act and left for a week. I couldn’t leave the base, so Sam was alone with the kids. She finally had a long talk with several base mothers and she settled down to the job at hand.”

Jack chuckled. “Remind me to give Jerrie a raise. Or at least a good vacation.”

 


 

Chapter 36

 

The next day, the Kid Tree families all met at the Air Force Academy. The new commander was in agreement that a major talk needed to happen. Gabriel’s announcement was coming out on Wednesday so they had an impromptu gathering of kids and cadets on Tuesday. As usual, Daniel had it recorded. What people did not know was that it was close-circuited to President Hayes who wanted to listen in after Jack mentioned the meeting to him.

Unfortunately, the Academy had a bad record of intolerance. The new commander wasn't going to allow it to continue, however; he had already informed several of the more evangelical instructors and chaplains that they needed to get with the new program or find another position.

The kids and adults were all very interested in the leap process, and were excited about it. A lot of the kids, parents, and teachers were relieved that what was happening to the kids was a good thing and they weren’t imaging the weirdness. Hammond had given the instructors leave to reorganize their classes and start teaching the cadets at a higher level than their current grades.

When Daniel got around to sexuality and gender preferences, the wiggling started. Jack sent out a general feeler and found that many of the students had been concerned over changes in feelings. Old school instructors were not happy about either subject, especially the one about gender and sex.

“There will be zero-tolerance for intolerance,” Hammond told the cadets. “Respect will be shown for individual choices. This is a new world, ladies and gentlemen, and this new world needs to play nice with the galaxy. That means respect of all spiritualities, all gender preferences, and all individual choices.”

With three legends standing on the stage behind Hammond, looking out at the sea of children and adults, they knew Hammond was serious.

Much to Daniel’s surprise, his previously recorded seminars were making money. The camera loved him and he spoke well. Someone was sending him profits in the form of checks. The best selling seminar was the children’s seminar recorded at Stacy’s old school. It had been aired on public TV several times, all with high ratings, and schools around the world had requested permission to show it in class. The current seminar was handed over to Paul for whatever it was he did with them.

Since Jack couldn’t take off for unification meetings, he had one of the meeting rooms at HomeSec turned into private space. Word was sent that if anyone needed him, to see him there during office hours. Nyan had sent Jack more information on the Mulakma, and the more Jack read, the more he realized that the big four-legged birds lived in a society that hadn’t existed on Earth for hundreds of years. Most definitely a feudal society, they had a strict code of honor that Jack could appreciate. Their females weren’t part of the ruling class, but they didn’t seem to want to be. Jack found the culture to be almost a complete opposite of the Sua. Unlike Europe’s feudal years, though, the Mulakma had advanced technologically almost to Earth’s modern standards. Jack couldn’t figure out how the hell they did that, walking on all fours and having claws instead of fingers, but they certainly had their own space ships and were certainly experts at flying them. It seemed that there was a faction of the populace that felt using the ships in their atmosphere was not honorable and that any fighting should be done the old-fashioned way; flight with their own wings in hand to hand combat. The ships should be used for off-world only. So far, the ruling party was in agreement on that score.

Jack wondered how the cats and birds would get along.

After the announcement from WHO, scientists all over the world had something new to yell about. A flurry of debates raged across the globe faster than light speed, which Jack ignored and went about his daily business. His current business was a strange request from a community representative in the Bahamas. Another boat had gone missing and they were a little tired of it; did HomeSec have any nifty toys that could scan their waters for whatever had been taking boats and planes? Jack called Sam.

“The Bermuda Triangle? Seriously?” she asked, incredulous. “Sure, we can turn the mikku toward the planet and see if anything is cloaked.”

On the video conference link, Jack watched the image as the mikku scanned the waters off the Bahamas Grand Island.

“What the hell is that?” Jack asked, leaning forward, staring at a black spot. Paul leaned over Jack’s shoulder, squinting at it.

“Have no idea.” Sam was clearly as surprised as they were to actually find an anomaly. Jack looked at his wizard, and Paul called an admiral. Jack had yet to figure out how his major kept all the names, ranks, phone numbers, and current locations in his head.

“Think you can dislodge whatever that is?” Jack asked Sam.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I need to know what it is, first. I’d like to take some equipment out there.”

“I knew you would,” Jack said. He looked at the screen Davis pulled up on his computer. “Contact Admiral Williams in Fort Lauderdale, a ship will be waiting for you. And I’d like to see you back for dinner this week, not in a hundred or so years, please.”

“I’ll be careful,” she promised with a smile.

She called him two days later. “Need you out here,” she said.

“Why?”

“Because we’re getting life signs from it,” she said. “And I don’t mean people screaming for help. I think that thing is alive.”

Jack packed up his SF and hopped over to Florida in the al'kesh. Before leaving, Paul rapped his knuckles and reminded him to inform Daniel.

“The Bermuda Triangle?” Daniel questioned. “It’s bad enough you let Sam go, and now you’re going?”

“Daniel, she thinks whatever that black spot is, is alive,” Jack told him.

“Doesn’t that make it my territory?” Daniel asked.

“I think she wants me to give it the heave-ho. Okay, okay, I can feel you thinking bad thoughts about me from across town,” Jack sighed. “Come with.”

Jack notified the SF that were set up around the neighborhood that they were all out of town; the SF would make sure Jerrie and the kids were well guarded. Jack refused to live in a house that was surrounded by guards, so he compromised; the SF could set up posts, discretely, throughout the neighborhood and the surrounding woods. The neighbors weren’t wild about it, and then began to appreciate the guards when other neighborhoods had a rash of vandalism. Women and children could walk around at night without having to worry about abductions or attacks. Daniel pouted that he couldn’t get in any attacks of his own while walking through the woods with Jack or Sam.

Jack and Daniel, and SF entourage, were in Florida an hour later. The personnel at the Navy base watched in awe as the al'kesh settled and dislodged people. One man in Navy khaki stepped forward and offered a salute.

“General O’Neill, Commander Dattner, sir.” Jack returned the salute and shook his hand. He introduced Daniel and they walked quickly to the nearby buildings. Sam was waiting for them in a conference room, along with Adm. Williams and other staff.

“Do you remember that black cloud you dislodged in Rome?” Sam asked him. Navy people were blank. Jack nodded. “I think this is the same thing. Or same type of thing.”

“It’s one of those clouds?” he asked.

Sam wrinkled her face. “No, more like a collection of them,” she said. “It’s very dense… Do you remember watching 2001: Space Odyssey? With that black monolith? At the end, that guy went into it and ended up in another dimension? I think this black spot is like that. All our equipment signals disappear into it just as if it were a black hole.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully.

“And there’s nothing indicating a life form?” Daniel asked. “That black cloud was pretty angry.” The admiral and commander stared back and forth at them, and then at each other. They were talking about clouds. Angry clouds.

“If it’s noticed us at all, it isn’t reacting,” she said. “We tried all the settings we could find on the mikku; I even called Inanna and she confirmed that, as far as she was aware, there wasn’t anything else we could do with it. She doesn't even know what it could be. No one wants to risk sending in divers or even a full vessel.”

“How about something unmanned?” Jack suggested.

“We tried that,” Williams said. “It disappeared and none of the readings that were sent back were of any use.”

“I checked them,” Sam nodded. “The submersible readings were as ineffective as ours were.”

“Do animals disappear in there?” Daniel suddenly asked. Navy people thought about it.

“Like fish?” Dattner asked.

Daniel shrugged. “Fish, dolphins, whales….”

“We’d have to check stats, but I don’t recall hearing about schools or pods disappearing,” Dattner said. Others around him agreed.

Jack took a deep breath. “I haven’t tried this from this distance, before,” he warned. Sam understood, although the Navy people didn’t. Jack sat down and closed his eyes. A moment later he was gasping for breath. Sam quickly shoved his head between his knees and gave the back of his neck calming strokes. The navel officers nearby blinked in confusion.

“Breathe,” she told him. “Slow and deep, in through your nose, out through your mouth.” A medic stepped in and took Jack’s wrist, counting his pulse. Jack shook them off and leaned his head back, shooting puffs at the ceiling and scrunching his eyes.

“Okay, I’m okay,” he finally told them. Williams and his people watched with concern. Neither the colonel nor Dr. Jackson were stressing, though…..

“Admiral Williams, may I suggest you prepare your people for an emergency,” Jack told the man. “If I’m right, you’re going to need a hell of a lot of space for evacuees.” He took out his cell phone and dialed. He stepped outside and briefed Maynard on the situation. Maynard opened a conference call with Hayes, the Florida governor, and the head of FEMA. Jack repeated the problem. Two out of four people reacted with disbelief. Jack expected it.

“Carl, if General O’Neill says it’s going to happen, believe it,” Hayes told the governor. “I’m authorizing it, Jack, do what you need to do. Florida and FEMA will give you their complete cooperation. Ms Rosario, please make sure FEMA is ready at all points of the triangle for any possibility. Jack, how long do they have to prepare?”

Jack shrugged. “It’s been sitting out there for how long? How about dawn, does that work for everyone?” Everyone agreed. Both the governor and FEMA needed time to get their ends situated. Jack went back into the building.

“We do this at dawn,” he told them. “Admiral, we will return at 0500 and get the show on the road at 0600. If that’s alright with you?” It was alright with the slightly puzzled admiral. “Great. You should be receiving a brief from General Maynard on your email shortly.”

Jack, Sam, and Daniel took their SF and jumped back home. They packed clothes, just in case, and rounded up Dr. Lam and her team, along with equipment. Landry was kind enough to authorize several SG teams to accompany them. By 0500, the SGC and HomeWorld Security descended upon the Florida east coast. Naval personnel stood back and watched their base swarm with men and women with the Tau’ri sigil on their jackets. The Joint Chiefs had asked pretty please if Adm. Williams would mind too terribly if their general took over for a few hours. Williams had squinted in confusion and agreed. Jack knew he was on touchy ground so he made sure to defer to the admiral and show due respect when they got to the base. Salutes were offered to the admiral and then went about the business of getting Dr. Lam and her team set up in the emergency area Williams had arranged.

“We may need more than that,” Jack commented quietly to Lam as they looked at the emptied warehouse.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked him.

“No,” he admitted. “Just a hunch. And since I don’t do hunches, I’d say that says something.”

He called Gov. Montblank and then Ms Rosario at FEMA, double-checking; both had their parties prepared for the moment Jack said the word. The Prometheus was standing by, monitoring the ocean for signs of people. Williams had ships standing by at all three corners of the Triangle. Jack took a seat overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Sam was behind him with her equipment and a computer with an open line to the Yard and Captain Boggs who was her best assistant with the more advanced toys.

“Go easy, Jack,” Daniel asked quietly. “We don’t know if by blowing that thing away, anyone else that may be caught in it will also be blown away. Try and feel your way around before you do anything.”

“I know, Daniel,” Jack said, annoyed. “If anyone is alive in there, I want them out, too.”

“Ready, Captain?” Sam asked quietly into a microphone. The video feed from inside the sphere of the chair was visible, along with a clear image of the black spot.

“Ready, Colonel,” a voice said. She nodded to Jack and he settled himself in.

The dense, suffocating quality of the mass had almost choked him the day before, but he was almost sure he had sensed multiple people in it. Almost what he felt when he opened up to a room full of people. The multitude of emotions that bombarded him, almost too loud for him to handle. Jack reached out, forcing himself to skirt around the edges, trying to find a way in. Something blasted him out and he was thrown from his chair, startling the military. The general didn't fall from the chair, he was clearly pushed! Hands quickly reached for him.

“I’m fine!” he shouted, dusting himself off. He snarled and swore under his breath. “Get Kalam on the horn!”

Reynolds quickly called Prometheus, and Markham patched Enki through several minutes later. Jack updated him on the situation.

“Fucking thing blasted me right out of my seat!” he told the old man angrily as he paced. His own people waited while Navy personnel stood back and watched wide-eyed. The Navy was a little miffed at not having a reason for being in on any of the previous battles and so had no idea what was going on.

“I have never heard of this entity before,” Enki admitted. “Can you wait for me to arrive? I will come through the gate.”

“Sure.” Jack slammed the radio down. “I need two aspirin and a couple hours,” he told the room. Dr Lam handed him the aspirin.

“I'm waiting for backup,” he told Adm. Williams after he took a couple of minutes to calm down. “One of those things I could handle. However many that is, is too many for me. My backup is on another planet; he’ll come through the Stargate.”

“May I ask exactly what it is you’re trying to do?” Williams asked. “I don’t understand.”

Jack leaned forward, hanging his head as he waited for the aspirin to kick in. “You know all that leap stuff?” he asked. “Some people are starting to do weird things?” The admiral nodded. “I can do weird things.” The admiral wasn't any clearer on the subject.

Enki and Ninurta both arrived two hours later in the al'kesh Jack had an SF take back to the SGC. They looked at the spot in the ocean from the view off Sam’s computer. Enki talked with the captain and had him rotate the mikku to different views, and nodded thoughtfully as Sam reported on the various ways they had attempted to make way into the black spot. He then listened to Daniel’s recital of the events in Rome.

“Yes, yes, I agree,” he finally said. “This does seem to be the base for these entities, whatever they are. I spoke with Thor on our way here, and he also has not heard of these things. He’s here, Jack, just in case.” Enki gestured up.

“Welcome to the party, Thor,” Jack spoke to the ceiling. “Okay, let’s coordinate,” he said to Enki and Ninurta. Most of their coordinating was incomprehensible to the Navy. Jack’s own people were used to it and waited.

“You can do this, Jack,” Enki told him. “Just stay with us.”

Jack, Enki, and Ninurta planted themselves firmly on the deck, hands clasped tightly together. Jack knew when he was out of his league, so he let Enki lead the way. Once more, Jack skirted the edges of the thing. When the blast came, they flinched and stood their ground. As the blast radiated out, Enki took them in. Unknown to them, they collapsed onto the floor. Concerned medics rushed forward and Reynolds ordered everyone back. The medics knelt over the trio and checked pulses as they straightened the men out.

“Leave them for now,” Dr Lam ordered. “They don’t seem to be in any distress, so give them time.”

Jack found himself standing under a dome. Hundreds upon hundreds of coffin sized canisters were lined up, each containing a person. Some of them were clearly dead, desiccated and crumbling to bone. Others were in various states of decay. Jack pushed his senses out until he found a section that seemed to be emanating with emotions. The three flew through the dome until they came to another section of coffins.

“These people are alive,” Ninurta commented. “I wonder if these canisters are waterproof and will float? Let’s find the main hub.”

Jack sensed an angry presence the further they went.

“I feel it, too, Jack,” Enki said. They made their way through the dome until the presence was close. A black cloud tried to lunge at them and missed; their bodies weren’t actually present. It snarled in frustration. Jack felt a great hunger from it and knew that it had been feeding off the life energy of the people it had taken.

Enki felt around and they flew across the dome again. Jack saw a huge graveyard filled with ships and planes.

“Oh, my God,” Jack breathed. “They’re all here.” Vessels from current to ages past all lay together in as varying stages of decay as their previous owners. They had obviously been dumped on top of each other in a junk pile; something had consciously pulled the ships in from various parts of the ocean and dumped them. Dark specks flew around them; more of the individual entities, he saw.

“Concentrate, Jack,” Enki warned him. “Stay with us, worry about that later.”

“Over here, Aba,” Ninurta said. He pulled them to another section. He had found control panels.

“Can we do physical work in this state?” Jack asked.

“No,” Enki admitted. “But we can take a good look.”

Before even being aware that he thought about it, Jack found himself inside the equipment. It had a partial crystal structure, much like the Ancient technology, but quite a bit of it seemed to be made up of gases which he guessed made sense, if the entities were clouds.

“Wait, let me see….” Enki muttered under his breath as he poked around. “Yes, yes, I think I see…… Let’s get back.”

The three were abruptly conscious and sprawled out on the floor. Jack groaned and rolled over as Enki jumped to his feet and shouted. No one seemed to understand the strange language but Daniel thrust his notebook at him. Enki started scribbling.

“No, stay down,” Dr. Lam ordered Jack as he tried to sit up. He was glad to stay down when his stomach threatened to rebel. Vomiting on the admiral’s boat would not be conducive to relations.

“You want what?!” Sam was looking at Enki as though he had grown a second head. “Do I look like Mr. Wizard? Okay, okay, I’ll…. how the hell….. we don’t have… Col. Markham, I need to see Thor.” Sam was beamed out. Navy personnel took another step back.

“Reestablish your central line,” Ninurta told Jack. “Kel’no’reem, Jack; force yourself to begin, it’ll center you and calm the storm.”

Jack floundered and rolled onto his back. Ninurta put his hand on the center of Jack’s chest.

“Feel it,” he told Jack. “Breathe, yes.”

Jack felt the line Ninurta sent and grabbed at it. He steadied and felt his awareness sitting in the center of his chest. His storm inside began to settle. As Ninurta slowly withdrew, Jack was able to follow the familiar path. Soon, he was able to slowly sit up without the entire world threatening to evacuate through his stomach. He found Daniel kneeling next to him, waiting anxiously.

“I’m okay,” Jack whispered hoarsely. “Got a craving for chocolate.” A candy bar appeared from out of the crowd. Dr Lam shoved a needle into his arm. He didn’t care.

“Where’s Sam?” he asked. The candy did indeed seem to ground him. Daniel told him. “Oh. Enki, what’re we doing?”

The old man turned to him. “As soon as Sam finds me the necessary materials, we’re blowing that thing back to whatever hell it came from,” he told Jack. “It's clearly from an alternate reality, which is why neither my people or the Asgard know what it is. That’s also why your people have never spotted it before. I think I can get rid of the entities and leave the underlying dome intact. The dome itself is just a structure. Most of the compounds are gases, and like everything else, every gas has a poison. I think those creatures are gas, and I think I know their poison.”

Jack took him at his word. No, he didn’t want to look at Enki’s scribbling. When he felt ready to stand, he took the hands held out by Daniel and Ninurta and heaved himself up. The world spun for a moment and then righted itself.

“Admiral Williams, how about we have a conference?” Jack suggested. The admiral gave a white-faced nod and they went to his office. Jack dialed out and Maynard got on the line with Hayes. Jack updated all of them on the situation.

“I’m not quite sure what Enki has in mind, but he seems to think he can poison these things,” he told the group. “Listen, whatever he’s up to, that black spot is covering a dome. Inside that dome are the bodies of everyone who has ever gone missing in the Triangle, including all the ships and planes. There are a lot of dead bodies, but there are living ones, too. We’re going to do our best to get those people out. If we can get rid of the entities and leave the dome intact, we can get salvage in there, document the ships, and recover the bodies. The people still living, we will try and get out right away. As soon after Enki does his thing right away.”

“How many people are we looking at, Jack?” Hayes asked.

“Not sure,” Jack said. “I didn’t count ‘em, but I’m guessing a couple hundred.”

Dear Lord... Are your people ready, Admiral?” Hayes asked.

“Yes, sir, they are,” Williams assured him.

Enki beamed up to Thor’s ship for a collaboration of minds. Several hours later, he and Sam were back. “Thor is going to bring his ship down,” Enki told Jack. “We came up with a gas I think will work, but he needs to be directly over the entity. He’s going to beam the gas down into it.”

Jack called the troops to order and had them standby while Williams called out to his ships waiting on the water.

“How serious of a water displacement are we talking about?” Williams asked Enki and Jack.

“No way to tell,” Enki said.

“And if there is an explosion or a serious displacement, we could be talking about a tidal wave,” Williams told them. “Is the area under there that big?” Since Enki didn't know if any of the area under the dome extended into an alternate reality line, or even deeper under the ocean floor, he had no idea how big a bang they were talking about. Jack called the FEMA director, Ms Rosario, while Enki had Thor put on hold.

The public warning was given, without explanation, and Florida’s east coast, along with the Bermuda Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, and Puerto Rico scrambled to sandbag their coasts. Georgia and South Carolina were given a warning, just in case, but they didn’t need to do anything yet. FEMA gave the others twelve hours. The base was emptied of all personnel to assist with the shoring up of their part of the coast line. From the janitors and grounds keepers all the way up to Jack and Admiral Williams, all hands worked. With hurricanes an annual occurrence, the east coast knew how to prepare quickly.

At the end of the twelve hours, everyone stood outside and watched the ocean. Jack called Thor and gave the go-ahead. Sam was watching her computer as Capt. Boggs monitored with the mikku. A low, throbbing hum filled the air as Thor’s ship came slowly into the atmosphere. Naval personnel dropped their jaws as the huge alien ship stopped to hover over the water. A few personnel unobtrusively slapped hands and turned over bet money to others.

“Now,” Thor calmly told Jack through the radio at his shoulder. Jack watched the water but nothing seemed to be happening. It’s gas, he told himself, not a bomb.

“Look!” Sam shouted. Jack and Enki quickly looked over her shoulder. The black spot seemed to be fading. Enki tuned out and Jack seemed to sense Enki’s presence heading out into the water. He followed. Another kind of roar filled his ears, this time it was of the entities dying from the poisonous gas that was beamed into their protective dome.

“The dome can be collapsed with no displacement,” Thor reported over the speaker. People relaxed with sighs of relief.

“Clear!” Sam shouted again.

“The dome will not hold for long,” Thor warned. “It is already beginning to show signs of stress. I will beam up all bodies and set them down in the prepared locations.”

Military and medical personnel hurried to positions as living bodies began to appear any place that had room for them. By the following morning, over three hundred people were being attended to by medical personnel evac’d in to handle the emergency. Thousands of dead bodies had begun to pile up, some of them hundreds of years old. The entities had removed any ID tags from military personnel, so the only way ID’s could be guessed at was through the identification of the ships which were, at that moment, being scoured by SCUBA-suited divers.

Sam assisted with medical, while Jack made his way slowly through those who were conscious, and took information from them while getting ID tags around their wrists. Daniel sat and talked with people, helping them to begin coping with the situation.

Jack wasn’t sure what stunned him more: eliminating the entities or the fact that some of the people living were well over a hundred years old, and looked no older than the day they were originally taken. A couple of people claimed to be born in the eighteen hundreds, and from their speech and their outlook, he believed them. He wondered what his world would look like when he was another hundred years old.

 


 

Chapter 37

 

Jack spent a couple of days debriefing the people they had found trapped beneath the Bermuda Triangle until Davis reminded him that he had people to do that for him. The rescuees from the latter half of the twentieth century were in shock, but they had no problem believing that they had not only awakened in the twenty-first century, they had awakened with the assistance of aliens. People prior to that were having a harder time with the time shift. Only a few wanted their families traced. FEMA came in and took over, for which Jack had been grateful; his job was over, the bad guys were gone. He was exhausted and didn’t care to think about his role in this particular exercise. The public was sitting back, waiting to see what Jack was going to do next, having solved the Bermuda Triangle issue. Big Foot? Loch Ness? Enki patted cheeks and twinkled at Sam, and Ninurta gave out cheerful rough hugs before they hitched a ride with Thor.

A man who looked about Jack’s age looked him over from one of the make-shift cots that had been set up in the warehouse.

“Excuse me,” the man asked politely. Jack squatted down next to the cot. “I don’t recognize your uniform; may I ask its nature?” It took Jack a moment before he realized that the man was one of the really old ones.

“I’m Jack O’Neill,” he said. “My uniform is of the United States Air Force. I’m a General.” He tapped his stars.

“Air Force?” the man repeated, looking over the various strange insignia. His salute seemed more automatic than any real sense of recognition. Jack shook his hand.

“Yes, sir,” Jack nodded. “It came out of the Army Signal Corps in 1907 with the use of balloons. Lots of history happened, and in 1947 the air force was officially born.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” the man said with a confused frown. “What do you do with the air?”

“In the early nineteen hundreds, two brothers invented a machine that flies in the air,” Jack told him. He considered a smart-ass answer, and realized that the man was honestly confused. “It’s called an airplane. As it developed, it came to be used not only for transporting people and objects, but some of the designs had guns put on them and they were used in battle.”

The man was astounded. Jack thought for a moment as he looked around. “Be right back,” he told the man. He went to a far wall and took down a photograph, bringing it back to the man. “This is the USS Montgomery,” he said, pointing to the ship. “See those things with wings on her deck? Those are fighter planes. They’re Navy fighters, because this is a Navy base, but a plane is a plane.”

“And they fly in the air?” the man asked, taking the photo from him for a closer look.

“Yes, sir, they certainly do,” Jack nodded. He sat with the man, Charles Brooks, for a while and talked with him about the history of the US military. Seems Mr. Brooks was a veteran from 1864. Jack made sure Mr. Brooks had his chart notated appropriately. Hayes was currently in a very tight huddle with quite a few people over the issue of not only the people in general, but also any military personnel that were found. Jack was fascinated by some of the stories the man had to tell, once Jack got him over his shock. Mr. Brooks still couldn’t get himself to allow a female doctor to examine him, though, much to Dr. Lam’s impatient huff.

Daniel was having a quiet war with social services over the children. Social services had no imagination and was insisting on placing the children into immediate foster care. Daniel was throwing a fit and insisting that the children were in enough shock, there was no way they should be placed in the incompetent hands of social services. In a fit of pique, Daniel had himself beamed up to Prometheus and from there, who knows where. Jack didn’t know what he was up to, but when Daniel got into that mood, he knew enough to stand back. He hoped social services picked up on that hint.

Jack finally rounded up his main people and left support staff to fix the mess. He was sorry but he had a birthday to attend.

Back home, Katie was claiming tummy illness so Jack let her stay home from school. At lunch, he brought her up a mug of soup and sat it on her bedside table. He sat on the edge of her bed and straightened her covers. Getting back to something so normal took away the stress from the past week.

“You’re stomach is upset because you are upset,” he told her. She did look nauseous, but he knew otherwise. “Your mother isn’t here.”

Katie started to cry and she turned over. Jack turned her toward him and took her into his arms, holding her against his shoulder. He stroked her hair and let her cry. He knew the kids had bouts of mommy-withdrawals, but there wasn’t much he could do about it except let them work it out. Katie and Matthew had the worst of it; Jack wasn’t sure if Davy completely understood what had happened or if it was more a case of seeing the best in the worst of situations. Davy had what Jack once heard of as a Pollyanna attitude; but was it part of Davy’s mental outlook or was it part of his growing ‘otherness’ that a lot of other kids were acquiring? Once Jack sat back and thought about it, he felt that Jerrie may be right in the way Davy was changing. Katie, though, missed her mother in a way only a daughter could miss her mother. Katie was becoming a young woman and she needed her mother. He wished Sam was around more. Jack considered calling his mother.

“Honey, if you don’t want a party, we don’t have to have one,” he told Katie when she began to calm down.

“Could we just have a quiet dinner?” she asked huskily.

“Yes, we can,” he assured her. “How about a birthday breakfast, and then I take you out for a dinner date? Just the two of us. Would you like that?”

Yes, Katie would like that.

So, in the morning, the family gathered for breakfast and to give out their gifts. Michael put a delicate necklace around her neck. He opened the little cameo that was attached and showed her that it was hollow. She looked and saw a small picture of her mother’s face pasted inside. Katie threw her arms around her grandfather and hugged him tight. Jack was impressed; no one had to coach his brother on that one.

Daniel made waffles for breakfast and smothered them with whipped cream and berries. A candle was put on Katie’s and everyone sang to her.

“Can’t we have cake for breakfast?” Davy asked plaintively. He didn’t know why everyone laughed, but he smiled in response.

Jack let Katie stay home from school again, and she spent the day with Maggie. Jack’s next headache came from Reynolds.

“They’re gone,” he reported.

“Who’s gone?” Jack asked.

“The kids,” Reynolds said. “From the Triangle. All those kids disappeared overnight.”

Jack looked at the phone. “Just the kids?” he asked. “None of the adults?”

“Just the kids,” Kevin said. “No one claims to have seen or heard a thing, and guards were on the doors 24/7. The dogs aren’t getting a scent, either.”

Jack talked with Maynard and Hayes and wondered how to put out an Amber Alert on children who weren’t supposed to exist. Jack was stumped. Not even Major Davis had a suggestion.

“Daniel, did you do something I’m not supposed to know about?” Jack called Daniel and asked him.

“No, I didn’t,” Daniel said. Jack heard the sincerity and left it alone.

A few of the rescuees, those from recent times, were reunited with family after a long and arduous debriefing. No one knew anything, they had been unconscious the entire time. The older people were given an option; be reeducated to modern society or go the Alpha site and work their own piece of land. A few who were farmers were daring enough to head out to the site with the promise of free land to call their own. The Alpha site had oceans, too, so sailors also went. The SGC sent along building materials and supplies for ships and houses. The rest would be up to the colonists. Several enterprising social workers and anthropologists went with them, to help them adjust. Mr. Brooks went along, extremely uncomfortable with what he had been learning about modern society.

“It may be easier to adjust to an entire unoccupied planet, than to the modern language, music, tv, pollution, noise, and everything,” Daniel commented.

“Yes, there are times I’d like to find an unoccupied planet,” Jack said. “Are you sure you didn’t do anything with those kids?”

“I swear,” Daniel said, holding up a hand. “I went and had a hissy in Hayes’ face and then I came back to the base. That’s it. If it’s any consolation, I got him to agree to foster the kids out to SGC personnel and others with security clearance who are in the know. I don’t know what happened to them, although evidence points to a beam-out.”

Jack had to agree, but damned if he knew who beamed the kids out. Markham certainly didn’t…. Jack was getting a sneaking suspicion, it smelled faintly of leather, but he wasn’t ready to acknowledge it.

He dressed up and took Katie to a quiet, adult-oriented restaurant. Candles flickered on tables, soft music was played by a pianist in a far corner, and the napkins were cloth, not paper. Katie looked around with interest.

“Did you ever take real dates here?” she asked him after they were seated.

“A couple of times,” he said with a nod. “And you are a real date.”

“No, I’m not,” she protested. “You know what I mean. This is a fancy restaurant where men take women out for dates, not where dads and uncles take their daughters and nieces.”

He looked at her with her pretty dress and her hair pinned up, make-up nicely done by Cassie. He was glad the girls were making friends; Katie needed a friend, and Cassie had one more person she could talk to without having to be careful of what she said.

“What I know is that you are turning into a very lovely young woman,” he told her. “I had always thought that if I had a daughter of my own, I’d be proud to take her on dates. Daughters and nieces deserve dates. Even after I walk you down an aisle and hand you over to another man, I still want dates with my favorite little girl.”

Katie flushed and sniffled. “Can you do that?” she asked after a moment, gesturing to the dance floor.

“Yes, I can,” he nodded. He stood up, buttoned his jacket, and held out a hand to her. He led her to the floor and patiently taught her how to dance to something other than that ear-splitting stuff she was always listening to. The pianist smiled at them and played something easy.

Their first course was waiting for them when they got back to the table. Jack allowed her to take one sip of his wine.

“Grape juice with a kick,” she said, her eyes watering slightly from the alcohol. She looked around and then leaned in. “Women are staring at you,” she whispered.

“My face has been all over the news and internet,” he said. She cocked her head and considered him.

“No,” she shook her head. “You’ve always been just Uncle Jack, but…. You’re handsome. I hadn’t noticed before. I have a cute Uncle Dad.”

It was Jack’s turn to flush.

“My dad never did things like this with me,” she said, picking at her salad. “I tried so hard to make him happy, and he always told me what I did wrong. I sent him a couple of emails. He never answered. I didn’t get a Christmas card from him or a birthday card. I don’t need a present, but a card would have been nice. Even a phone call.”

A tear ran down her face and she hastily wiped it away, not looking at the other diners. Jack took her hand from across the table. “Baby, no one will ever be able to do anything right for him,” he told her softly. “It’s part of his illness. I know you want him to love you, it’s normal and natural to want the love and approval of your father, but he isn't able to love anyone except himself. I couldn’t love you more if you were my real daughter. I always wanted a daughter; your mother woke up that hunger in me when she was born. I even changed my Will, declaring you and your bothers and sister my children, so as far as I’m concerned, you are my daughter. That’s how much I love you.”

“And as for cards,” he said, patting her. He reached into his pocket and handed her an envelope. She opened it and looked inside the card. Her eyes opened wide and she screeched. Diners looked at them, a few smiling indulgently, others frowning with high-brow disapproval.

“That is the band you wanted to see, right?” he asked. Her excitement told him it was. “You may take three friends and I expect you home after the end of the concert. You will have an SF escort, four teenagers are not driving to Denver and back. It’s an hour drive, you get an extra hour for playtime. No ditching the guard.”

She jumped up and hugged him. “I couldn’t love you more if you were my real Dad,” she told him.

On the way home, she had a question.

“I heard you the other night,” she confessed. It was dark, but Jack could feel the heat from her face. “You were yelling pretty loud. You sounded like you were in pain. Were you?”

“Knew I should have paid the extra for the sound-proofing,” he commented, feeling his own face burning. “No, I wasn’t in pain. Daniel is an excellent lover, honey, he knows how to hit all the right spots. He had me extremely turned on, that’s all.”

Alright.…… It doesn’t hurt? What you guys do?”

He reached over and took her hand. “No, it doesn’t hurt.”

“Okay. Do you watch x-rated stuff?”

Jack laughed and shook his head. “No, honey. I used to, but not anymore. I’d say about ninety-nine percent of that stuff is so ridiculous, it’s funny. Real life is much more interesting.”

“Okay. When I… I mean, last year…. it was alright, but I didn’t understand what the fuss was about,” she said after a minute.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“My first time… first couple of times…. it was nice, but I didn’t get it.”

Jack wasn’t getting it, either, so he tried reading her. He nodded, enlightened.

“The sex was pleasant, just nothing to write home about?” he asked. She nodded, looking out the window. “The first time is almost never good, baby. First of all, at your age, your body isn’t really ready for it. The hormones are there, the will is there, but all the connections haven’t been made yet. And then there’s the lack of training. People don’t become adults with a built in knowledge of how to make love, they have to learn. Honey, you know Daniel is the first guy I was ever with, right? So, I was honest with him. We talked about it and he was gentle and easy with me. He taught me what to do. It’s okay to say ‘teach me.’

“That’s why I keep asking you to wait. When you’re older, you’ll probably find a partner who is more experienced or one who isn’t afraid to admit his own inexperience, and you can take it slow and easy and learn with each other. Sex is fun, baby, you don’t need to be afraid of it or hesitant to jump in, not if it’s what you want. Listen to your body; if you’re body isn’t comfortable, don’t do it.”

She nodded and leaned against his shoulder.

“You know, most of my friends say they can’t talk to their parents about sex,” she said. Jack slid an arm around her shoulder. “They say they’d die before asking their parents anything, and their parents insist that they wait until they’re married. I’m glad you guys are so cool. It’s a little embarrassing, but at least we can talk.”

“Any time, baby.”

“How come you know all this stuff?” she asked.

Jack chuckled. “Years of listening to Daniel. He goes off on any subject at the drop of a hat.”

“Cassie said her first time was with Jonathan and it was really nice even though she was scared,” Katie mentioned. “How come he knows more than she does, and he’s younger than her?”

“He spent a lot of time without a parent, so he learned a lot of things early,” Jack said carefully. “He was on the streets for a few years until he found me. I got him set up in an apartment because he didn’t want to live with me, so he lived as an adult before he was an adult. Cassie was a little shy about letting people get close to her, so she waited until she was an adult before she had sex. She knew Jonathan because she’s part of our family. She got to know him through us, and they became friends.”

Katie frowned in thought. “How come you didn’t make him live with you?” she asked. “He was fifteen when he found you, right?”

“Yes,” Jack nodded. “I wasn’t ready for a kid in my life, so part of that was my fault. Also, I didn’t want to scare him away by pressuring him into something he wasn’t ready for. He didn’t have a normal childhood, he wasn’t raised in a house with parents. It would have been like bringing a wild cougar cub into the house and expecting it to become a house cat.” Remember what you’re telling her because you’ll have to clue in your partners, Jonathan, and Cassie…..

“Do you love him?” she asked.

Jack watched the street lights go by, hoping she wasn't able to see the wrinkle of his indecision on his face. “That’s a hard one,” he finally said. “I’ve only known him for a couple of years, and I really didn’t spend much time with him. I like him, I’ll say that. And I think that his recent choices in his life have been courageous choices, ones I don’t think I would have made for myself. I can respect him for that. I think I see him as more of a friend, than a son. Maybe I can grow to love him, in time. And since he doesn’t look to me to be his father, I don’t think I’m hurting him. He knows he can come to me, if he needs anything, and he has come to me a couple of times. It’s okay if you love him, I know you like spending time with him; he’s your cousin, you’re allowed to love him, and you’ve gotten to know him, probably better than I do.” Jack knew his clone had spent time getting to know the kids as a peer, rather than an uncle, and Jonathan probably knew things about the kids that Jack didn’t. He did know that if Jonathan had discovered anything important, he would have told Jack. He hoped his clone knew enough to tell him. She made noncommittal noises and he knew she didn’t quite understand. By the time they got home and ready for bed, she was asleep, and happy, as soon as her head hit the pillow.

The next day Jack took down a globe from Daniel’s library, closed his eyes, spun the globe, and stopped it with a finger. He opened his eyes and looked.

“How does Iceland sound?” he asked Sam.

“I’ve never been to Reykjavik,” she said.

They flew the long way into the Naval Air station at Keflavik, Iceland and then took a jeep to Reykjavik where they rented a cabin and sent the bill to General Maynard (who rolled his eyes and sighed when he saw it). The station would have been more than honored to host them, but Jack wanted a cabin for him and his wife and much needed alone time. The station commander understood. They found a restaurant with lobsters, and then settled in for the night.

“How do you feel about anniversaries?” Sam asked, trying not to wake up. Jack cranked open an eye.

“Did I miss something?”

“No,” she shook her head. “Our wedding anniversary is next month. We also have the day we met, the day we told each other how we felt, our first date, our first together with Daniel, our hand-fasting…. which one should we celebrate?”

Jack thought about it. “That is a little confusing, isn’t it?” he acknowledged. “I wasn’t aware women kept track of all those ‘firsts.’

“How about our wedding anniversary and our hand-fasting anniversary?” she suggested, ignoring his commentary. “Just private dinner dates, not parties. With all the birthdays, we have plenty of parties.”

“That sounds doable,” Jack said. “We’ll check with Daniel, but I think he’ll agree.”

Snow was falling outside, making a soft shushing-tinkling sound on the roof as they fell back to sleep.

“My insert needs to be changed in a couple of months,” she told him later as she slid back into bed. It took him a moment. Both his eyes opened.

“And what would you like to do about it?” he asked carefully.

She sighed into his chest. “I would have considered a baby, but we have a full house,” she said.

“Yes, we do, but don’t let that stop you, if that’s what you want,” he said.

She was silent for a few minutes. “If I do decide to have a baby, I think I’d like both you and Daniel to try. Let those little swimmers decide who gets the egg.”

“Sounds fair to me,” he said.

“Cassie said the same thing,” Sam commented.

“Said what?”

Sam tilted her head back and looked at him. “This is private, but apparently Harper is infertile. Childhood illness. Trip to Africa with his family left him with some infection. She’s depressed; first Jonathan gets himself clipped because he doesn't want to subject the world to cloning errors in the genetics, and then her new fiancé is infertile. She was talking with me and was considering asking you and Daniel for donations when she’s ready for motherhood.”

Cassandra?” Jack squeaked as he quickly sat up. Cassandra Frasier??”

“Yes, Cassandra Frasier,” Sam confirmed, amused at his shock. “She doesn’t want to sleep with you, she just wants your DNA. I think it’s a good idea, Jack; she knows you and Daniel already, knows your history, and she knows she’ll be able to count on you, if there’s a problem with the child.”

Jack was speechless. He fell back to the bed, blinking rapidly at the ceiling.

“It’ll be a while before she’s going to want this,” Sam assured him, amused at his shock. “They aren’t even married, yet. She said she’ll consider a baby in about three years. They’re talking about a Fall wedding.”

“First my clone gets neutered, then he turns down a pretty girl and goes for orgies with Conan the Barbarian and his brothers, Huey, Dewy, and Louie, and then a little alien girl that I helped raise wants me and my male partner to inseminate her with a baby who will call a third man Daddy. God, I wish I still smoked.”

They eventually went out and found breakfast and then walked around the town, holding hands, and meeting the friendly natives. Jack didn’t shave and a beard soon covered his cheeks, helping to keep his familiar face from the public’s view.

Much to Jack’s surprise, Sam didn’t know how to ski. They found a lodge, rented skis, and hit the bunny slopes. He was a lousy teacher, unable to put to words the mechanics of the process, so after Sam yelled at Jack for the hundredth time, an instructor took pity on them and took over. Once more she fell in the snow, laughing as she looked up at him and tossing a handful of snow at him. Her cheeks were red from the cold and her eyes were sparkling. Jack fell in love again. He hiked her up into his arms and kissed her.

“What’s that for?” she asked, smiling at him.

“Just because,” he said with a shrug.

They went out to dinner, having made reservations under Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill, and found themselves in a quiet dining room overlooking a fiord.

“Does it bother you that I didn’t change my name?” Sam asked after dinner, over dessert. Jack looked up from his pear with raspberry mousse and shook his head.

“It would have at one time, but not now,” he confessed.

“Why?” she asked. “I mean, why doesn’t it bother you now?”

“I appreciate you for who you are,” he said. “Whether or not you change your name, doesn’t change who you are, but you earned all your credentials under Carter, not O’Neill. I married you, I didn’t buy you, so your name is your decision.”

“Why did Sara change her name?” she asked.

Jack thought for a moment. “Probably because it was expected; she’s a good Protestant girl, and we were both a little on the conservative side. She’s engaged, so she’ll probably change it again.”

Sam smiled. “How did your Catholic family take to a Protestant wife?” she asked.

“Not well,” he admitted. “At first. After they got to know her, they accepted her. She and my parents got along fine. She had only her father, and he and I became friends. Mike, her father, not my brother, was almost a father to me, a big brother.”

“Do you still see him?” she asked.

“Around town, once in a while,” he said. “I think divorcing a family is harder than divorcing a spouse.”

“Jack, I don’t mind if you remain friends with him,” she said gently.

“Honey, I can’t do that,” he said. “It would be too painful for both of us. Him and me. It’s better to have made the clean break.” He picked up her hand and brought her knuckles to his mouth. “You are too generous,” he told her. “I’d feel better if you got jealous a little more often.”

Something flickered across her face. “I’ll see what I can do to accommodate you,” she told him. “Why don’t you hire what’s her face from the CIA? I can make your life hell over her.” He poked at her nose with a spoonful of raspberry mousse.

“You and Carrie on opposite coasts is a good thing,” he said. While they were a team at the SGC, and unable to do anything about their attraction, he had begun seeing a CIA agent for mutual satisfaction with no ties. “If for no other reason than for her continued well-being. I’ll leave the status quo.”

Sam smiled softly at him. “Did you love her?”

Jack carefully licked his spoon. “I wasn’t IN love with her,” he finally said. “We started as a convenience, we liked each other. I think I could have lived with her. She knew I was in love with someone else, though, someone I couldn’t have. She’s the one who told me not to let opportunities slip through my fingers, and if I had to go into the private sector to do it, then I should do it.”

“Maybe I should send her a thank you card,” Sam suggested.

“She’s still chasing down NID and Trust, so just be nice,” he suggested back at her. She stuck her tongue out at him. Jack’s eyes darkened.

“I have plans for that tongue, so don’t dry it out, hanging out there,” he said.

“Promise?”

When they got back to their lodge, Jack pressed Sam against the door and plastered his mouth to hers, groaning at how beautiful she was.

“You…. really think I’m… beautiful?” she asked. Jack picked his head up.

“Sam, didn’t you know that?” he asked. “You are the sexiest, most beautiful woman I have ever met. Next to you, I feel like something Daniel dug up on one of those digs of his. What’s wrong?!” he grew alarmed as she began to cry. She buried her face in his shoulder, crying. Jack didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know what made her cry. What the hell did he say?? Damn, he wished they came with care instructions….

“Sam, talk to me, honey,” he begged. “Did I say something wrong? Tell me.”

He held her while she cried. He tried reaching, but didn’t understand the onslaught of emotions that hit him. When she was reduced to hiccups and sniffles, she slid further onto the hard wood floor.

“I know… I’m fairly attractive…. men have made that clear,” she whispered huskily. “But I never felt beautiful before. I never felt… sexy. You’re sexy. Daniel’s sexy. I’m not sexy. My shoulders are too wide, I put on weight just looking at candy, I’m too tall, it took me so long to stop falling over my own feet…..”

Jack picked up her face, unable to believe what he was hearing. He had never heard her express uncertainty about herself before. He undressed both of them and took her into his arms as they sat on the floor, leaning against the couch. “Now. I don’t know who sold you that bullshit, but get a refund,” he told her. “Maybe I spent a little too much time admiring your brain, but don’t for one minute think that I don’t find you physically beautiful. You are perfect, beautiful, and the sexiest woman I have ever met. If you want to go off-world for a romp, we can do that. I’d like to go back to that waterfall and make love under it. I always wondered what you would have done, if I had come out of hiding and seduced you in the water. Honey, I don’t have these fantasies about just anyone, so in case it has escaped your attention, you are my fantasy.”

Sam turned and buried her face in his chest. He pressed his mouth to the top of her head and stroked her back.

“Want to tell me where this is coming from?” he quietly asked.

“Sometimes…. I get a little jealous… of Daniel.”

Shocked, Jack paused. “What? Why?”

She sniffled and rubbed her face. “Because. He’s with you every day. You’ve become so close to him. When you were gone, he and I spent a lot of time together, and I can understand why you’re close to him; he’s an even better partner than he was when he was just a friend. I had his complete attention and it was incredible. He’s so understanding; he makes a great girlfriend. I just… I can’t compete.”

“Oh, my God, Sam,” Jack groaned. He held her tight. “No, baby, don’t think like that, please, there’s no competition. Honey, come home every day. You’ll see. I don’t want you to compete, there’s nothing to compete against. I spend time with him because we’re guys, that’s all, you’ve always been welcome to hang with us. He doesn’t irritate me any less, I’ve just gotten used to him. Baby, you need to tell me… Do you want to change our agreement? You are first, honey, always.”

“No,” she said quickly lifting her head to look at him. She shook her head. “No, Jack, I don’t want to change the agreement. I love him, I love being with him. I just…. the two of you are so beautiful together… I…..”

“Sam, wait,” he said. He threaded his fingers through her hair. “I think you’re feeling insecure, and honestly, I don't understand why. You’re feeling left out because you’re gone so much. You get all the family information second hand, instead of being part of it. Listen, how about this? Why don’t we divide Area 51? Leave Nevada for building ships, and bring the toy factory to Colorado. We have a large underground room that’s only being used for storage; it used to be a pool and gymnasium. I can have it cleared out and you can take it for your space. I can talk with Vidrine, you’ll still be under his command, and you’ll just be borrowing HomeSec space. With all those toys of Anubis’ that Teal’c is rounding up, you’re going to need space. Would that help you feel more part of things? You’ll be home every day, the kids can visit with you when they visit with me, and sometimes I bring Olivia in, instead of leaving her home; you can bring her in, too. We can have lunch together every day… Does that sound good?”

She nodded jerkily against his shoulder. He kissed her head again.

“And you need to talk with Daniel about your feelings,” he said. He sent out a tentative reach…. she was feeling better. Calmer.

“Now tell me what I can do to help you feel sexy,” he said. She smiled and hid her face.

“Just keep loving me,” she said. “My mother was beautiful. Tall, thin, pretty. I got her height and Dad’s structure.”

“Hey, don’t knock your old man, he was do-able in his own right. Damned pretty eyes, sexy smile….”

Sam turned red and punched him on the arm. He smiled and leaned over pressed his mouth to her shoulder. “I love you,” he told her. She snuggled against him and was quiet for a while. He tightened his arms. “Honey, I don’t perceive a distance between us. I think it has escaped your notice that you’re the one I go to when I need an emotional adjustment. I need you just as much as I need him. He fixes one half, you fix the other. The two of you make me a complete person. I will try harder to be part of you.”

She shook her head and sniffled. “No,” she said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I really don’t feel all that left out. This insecurity is a recent thing. I’m usually fine, and then all of a sudden I’m feeling emotional. I know I’m not pregnant, so I don’t know what’s going on.”

Jack put his hands on her lower belly. “When was your last physical?” he asked. “Full physical.”

She thought about it. “It’s been a while,” she admitted. “I’ll stop in and see Dr. Lam.”

It was an hour later that she turned onto her side, crying. Jack quickly sat up.

“What’s wrong?” he insisted, trying to see over her shaking shoulders. He got an incredible wave from her, a deep sense of depression which almost over-powered him. He knew that kind of depression, it had almost gotten him many years before.

“H…. hold me,” he heard her beg. He pressed up against her back put his arms around her, holding her tight. He needed to get to the phone, but he didn’t dare let her go as his mind raced back and forth, trying to figure out what was wrong.

“Can you tell me what’s wrong?” he asked, pressing his mouth to her ear.

“I… don’t know,” she got out between breaths.

“Honey, let me call the doctor,” he said, worried.

“No, just hold me,” she cried, grabbing his arms tighter.

“I’m here, baby,” he said. He pressed his body closer to hers and cocooned her in his arms. She cried for almost two hours as he sensed her fighting the incredible depression. Damned if he knew what brought it on; nothing in their earlier conversations hinted that this was below the surface, not even her confession of being jealous of Daniel or her own physical insecurities. When the crying began to subside, and Jack felt her depression release, he breathed a sigh of relief. She turned and he held her tightly to his chest, her sobs lessening. About a half hour later, she suddenly cried out in real physical pain, bending herself into a fetal position. Jack released her and reached for his cell phone.

“This is O’Neill, put me through to the infirmary NOW!” he yelled into it when the line was answered. Warner was on duty and Jack quickly updated him. Almost ten minutes later, Jack and Sam were beamed out, up, and put down in the infirmary by the Argos which had been on patrol in their own solar system with a group of NASA xeno-geologists. Jack jumped up from the floor, his bare feet cold against the concrete. He lifted Sam in his arms and set her on a bed. The medical personnel crowded him out and took over as he hovered anxiously a few feet away. Someone brought him a blanket and wrapped it around him. He had forgotten that he had been wearing nothing except his pajama bottoms. No wonder he was chilled. …. He was in the Mountain. He grabbed a phone and called home.

Twenty minutes later, Daniel was hurrying through the door just as an SF brought Jack a set of BDU’s to change into.

“She’ll be alright,” Warner came over and told them, slinging a stethoscope around his neck. “Her hormones are off the chart. She had a cyst burst on an ovary. I put her on an IV and gave her pain meds; she’ll sleep for a while.”

“I don’t understand,” Jack said, sitting on a bed to pull on socks and boots.

“The hormones were sent skyrocketing by the growing cyst on an ovary,” Warner told them both. “Ovaries handle a lot of the necessary hormones for women. The depression you described could very well have been caused by the hormonal increase. Same reason women become emotional during their cycles, also during and after pregnancy. The cyst came to a head and burst, which caused all the pain. There’s nothing to do except wait and let her body heal itself. Women get cysts all the time; try to relax, General. Dr. Jackson. She can go home in the morning.”

Landry came in, having been notified that Jack and Sam had an emergency beam-out and were in the infirmary. Jack and Daniel were sitting close by Sam’s bed. “How is she?” Landry asked. Jack calmly updated him. Both men knew him well enough to hear the stress in his voice. “I know this is probably a useless suggestion, but why don’t you two go to your quarters and get some rest?”

“In a while,” Jack said. Landry nodded and left them. Jack leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Sam’s still hand.

“It was so sudden,” he whispered, sitting back. Daniel slid a hand onto Jack’s thigh. “She was a little upset. She’s been feeling left out. I told her I’d talk to Vidrine about relocating her section at the Yard. Let her have my warehouse for her toys and experiments. She could be home with us everyday. The kids could visit her at work. She and I could have lunch together everyday. Next thing I know she’s crying and thinking about her gun. Then she’s in pain. There was nothing I could do.”

“The doctor will fix this, Jack,” Daniel told him. “And I’d like her home everyday, too.”

Dr. Lam came in a few hours later when the next shift started. She was irritated that no one called her when Sam was brought in, and glared at her father as though it were his fault. She went into a huddle with Warner and they argued under their breaths.

“What’s going on?” Jack finally asked. They avoided looking at him. “Now, Doctors. Spill it.”

“Dr. Lam feels that there is a problem with the inserts, I disagree,” Warner finally said.

“What’s the problem?” Jack asked, folding his arms across his chest and waiting. Lam put her clip board down and huffed.

“A few other women have had problems with cysts after a few years of wearing the insert,” she said.

“And I’m telling you that cysts are normal,” Warner insisted.

“Any documentation?” Jack asked.

“Yes.”

“No.”

The doctors glared at each other.

“When you grow ovaries, you can tell me what’s normal,” Lam informed Warner.

Jack picked up the phone and dialed. “Would you come down to SGC, please?” he asked when the line was answered. “No, I just want the good doctors to take a look at your ovaries. No, Cass, I’m not drunk, just please, come down? Thank you.”

“Cassandra Fraiser has been on this insert since she was sixteen,” Jack told the doctors. “That’s six years, now, almost seven. As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t had any problems.”

“An ultrasound will show any cysts,” Lam said. “She would have had a physical when the first insert was changed out; I’ll look at her chart.”

When Cassandra came in, she saw Sam lying in the bed and immediately went to her.

“She’s fine,” Daniel told her. He updated her on happenings.

While Cass was having her ovaries invaded by ultrasound, Mrs. Arthur brought breakfast in for them. She pet Daniel’s head and patted Jack’s shoulders. Whatever they were doing to Cassandra, the men were shut out of the room. Jack didn’t know the exact details, but all the women in his life tended to snarl about their annuals.

“Why can’t we watch?” he asked. “All they’re doing is squirting lube on her stomach and using that roller thing. I watched when Sara and Megan were pregnant. Not a big deal.”

“More to it than that, for this kind of exam,” Mrs. A said. “Annuals are about the cervix and looking for cancers and stuff in the mucus lining. For this kind of exam, they need a closer look at the ovaries and uterus so they have to use a dildo thing to look deeper inside.”

What?!” Both Jack and Daniel looked at her. She wrinkled her nose.

“Something only a man could have invented,” she commented. She went back toward Daniel’s offices to see which of her lambs were absent and which needed TLC.

“I have no idea,” Daniel said when Jack looked at him.

It didn’t take long, and Dr. Lam ushered the men back in when she was done.

“She has a few small cysts, but nothing we need to be concerned about,” Lam told them. She seemed almost disappointed that Cassie wasn’t going to prove her point for her. “Women do get them all the time, and we usually don’t notice them. I will monitor her for a few months and see if there are any changes.”

The men nodded, relieved. “I’d like you to send a copy of all the trial documentation to Dr. Gabriel Thorn at WHO,” Jack told her. “I’ll let him know to expect it. I want an outside opinion from fresh eyes. He has clearance.”

“Did you really use a dildo on her?” Daniel asked, leaning in.

Sam was feeling better later in the morning. The pain meds in the IV had been a blessing.

“The majority of the pain should be gone,” Lam said. “You can go home, if you’d like. I’ll give you a prescription for pain meds. Colonel, I need to tell you that other women have had these types of cysts. Dr. Warner feels that they are normal to the woman’s body, I feel there have been too many instances of women with the insert having exploding cysts; too many for my comfort. General O’Neill had me send all the information to Dr. Thorn at the World Health Organization for a second opinion. You’re due for a change-out in a couple of months, I can take it out now, if you’d like, and you can either replace it or not.”

“How many women?” Sam asked.

“Twenty-three out of one fifty,” Lam said.

“Take it out,” Sam . “Guys, we’re now on contraceptives. Carolyn, how long until my periods restart?”

“Probably one to two months,” Lam shrugged. “It’s been different with each woman. Some have gone four months. We’ve been trying to get the rules changed so that women can be off-world during their periods. I talked with several women of the Tok’ra and the Jaffa, and they all seem to think we’re being completely ridiculous with this rule. I think it’s ridiculous, too. The men seem to think aliens will be able to sniff blood and attack, to say nothing of what alien animals will do. Do women who live in tribes on this planet go out of their way to avoid animals when they’re on their periods? Please.”

A simple general anesthetic, twenty minutes and some surgical glue, and Sam was free of the insert. Dr. Lam bagged it for study. Sam was released into the care of her men. She fell asleep in the car on their way home. The pain meds were still stock-piled in her body and kept her on a slightly higher plane of existence. The kids were in school, so Sam was able to walk carefully to the bedroom. Jack offered to carry her but she insisted, walking hunched over, holding one arm across her lower abdomen and Jack’s strong arm under the other hand.

“I walked like that after my appendix was taken out,” Daniel commented in sympathy as he turned down the covers and searched for her pajamas.

“Sam, can I bring you anything?” Jerrie asked worriedly.

“No, thank you,” Sam said. “Yes. A glass of water.” Jerrie nodded and went to the kitchen. Jack and Daniel were allowed to help her undress and get into bed.

“Did you bring our stuff home?” she asked, her face white from the effort of walking and undressing.

“I sent Paul to fetch it and take care of our bills,” Jack told her. She held out a hand and he took it, sitting on the side of the bed.

“I’m sorry our vacation ended this way,” she said.

“Baby, this isn’t your fault,” he told her, kissing her cheek. “There will be other vacations. Besides; we had only a day left, so we didn’t miss much of it.”

She was fading fast, now that she was in her own bed, so the guys left her to sleep. Daniel took the baby monitor from the nursery, touched the cheek of the sleeping baby, and set it next to Sam, keeping the receiver with him.

“Love you,” he whispered, kissing her cheek.

Jack fell back onto the couch, rubbed his face and scratched his head. Jerrie handed them beers. Jack thanked her and then shooed her away.

“Yes, sir,” she said with an understanding smile.

“Danny, when Sam was raving from those hormones, she said a few things,” Jack told him. “I don’t know how much of it was real and how much wasn’t, but she said them. We need to start including her in our lives.”

Daniel sat, frowning. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either, actually, but she seems to be feeling a little left out and I think it’s because she isn’t here everyday,” Jack said. “I’m working on that part. She’s a little jealous of our relationship. She’s been insecure about it. I told her it’s just guy stuff, but she needs more inclusion. I don’t know how else to make her feel included. She’s my wife, dammit, how can she be feeling excluded?”

Daniel sat back and half turned to face him. “Does she want me to leave?”

“No,” Jack said emphatically. “She most definitely loves you and wants you here. I asked her that, too. I felt around inside her, and she does love you. Okay, it may have been the hormones talking, but I don’t think they would have been saying that if the seed wasn’t already planted.”

“Well, she sees herself as one of the guys,” Daniel said. “We do tend to talk about things when she isn’t around. I don’t think we intended to exclude her, but I guess she sees it that way.”

“But it’s guy stuff,” Jack said, spreading his arms toward the ceiling. “Doesn’t she talk girl stuff with the girls? So what’s the difference?”

“The difference is that she isn’t here everyday and she doesn’t know what’s going on unless someone tells her,” Daniel said.

Jack frowned. “That’s what I told her.”

“So we wait until she’s feeling better and we talk with her about it,” Daniel said. He picked up Jack’s hand. “And yes, a lot of what she said may have been the hormones talking, so let’s try not to worry. Yet. I’ll try not to worry.”

Sam slept straight through until the next morning. The kids took peeks in at her, making an effort to be quiet during the evening. Jack talked with Vidrine and got permission to move Sam’s sector back to Colorado. Her base CO, Colonel Taylor, would be sorry to see her and the team leave, but he understood. It would be more convenient to have the toys closer to the people who would be using them, anyway, and the hanger bay she had been using would be one more place for ships to be built.

She could get up and about the next day, but she was still a little sore and slow to walk. By the third day, she was feeling back to normal except for a little odd ache here and there. Olivia was a frequent visitor, keeping her company, and Sam was happy to have her.

“She’s trying to crawl,” Sam informed Jack when he came in to check on her. Olivia was making serious attempts to stay on her hands and knees for more than a second at a time. Her little body would wiggle and then fall back to the bed.

“We need to start baby-proofing the house,” Jack commented, sitting on the side of the bed. “She’ll be all over the place in a very short time. Get plugs for the unused outlets, tape down cords, lock lower cabinets, put poisons up to higher cabinets, just in case, and get guards for furniture corners. And a gate for the stairs.”

He paused for a moment, looking at her. “Honey, we need to talk about what you were saying,” he gently told her.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t want to talk about it, I didn’t mean any of it.”

“Maybe not as seriously as it was said, but I think the seeds were there,” he told her. “Baby, talk with Danny. We need to clear the air on this one.”

Sam wiped a tear away and reluctantly nodded. Jack took Olivia out to Jerrie and called Daniel in.

“Do we need to go downstairs?” Daniel asked after taking one look at Sam’s face.

“I think we do,” she whispered.

They locked themselves in Daniel’s den. Sam took her clothes off and sat on the floor. Daniel sat behind her. While they could, and did, talk outside this strange 'ritual', there was something about it that acted as a truth serum; there didn't seem to be a way to lie or to withhold anything from each other. There was a sacred space aspect to it, and they all respected the space.

[Daniel] “What's been upsetting you?”

[Sam] “Not being here. Having to hear about everything second-hand.”

[Daniel] “Yes, well, Jack is fixing that. Your people are packing up everything and bringing it all here.”

[Sam] “I know; I spoke with General Vidrine this morning.”

[Daniel] “Since you will be home every day, what would you like to see happening here?”

[Sam] “I’m not asking to be the center of attention; I just want to be involved. I want life to happen and I want to be a part of it.”

[Daniel] “We wake up, make breakfast, get the kids ready for school, sometimes we take the baby to work, sometimes we have lunch together, Jerrie picks up the kids from school, sometimes one of us picks them up from various after school activities, we feed kids dinner, we help with homework, get them into baths and then bed. We check in on their day and we listen before passing out kisses for the night.”

[Sam] “That’s what we did when I was home while Jack was away.”

[Daniel] “Yes, it is. Nothing extraordinary happens, usually, when you are away. You know what happens because you’ve already been part of it. Shall I tell you what I think is really itching at you deep inside? You are doing your very best not to become your father.”

[Sam] “No, I...”

[Daniel] “Wasn't that your complaint about him? That he missed out on your life?”

Sam shook her head, clenching her hands on his knees, fighting the argument within. She then turned and buried her face in his chest, sobbing. “I loved him! I was just getting to know him and he left me again! I want to be their mother, not a parent they hardly know! Olivia knows Jerrie better than she knows me!”

Jack moved to them at Daniel’s nod. He put his arms around them and held Sam between them.

“We’ll change that, baby, I promise.”

 


 

Chapter 38

Daniel turned over and debated waking up. A soft body also turned over and snuggled into his chest. He put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.

“Danny, I didn’t mean any of those things I said to Jack,” she said softly.

“I know,” he told her.

“Little things were blown out of proportion from the hormone imbalance.”

Daniel stroked her hair. “I know.” Sam had put herself onto a self-induced guilt trip for all the insecurities she had expressed during her hormonal crisis. He had to admit that his heart was hurting over some of them, but he also understood that she wasn’t in a sane frame of mind when she said them.

“Sam, we are all new to this,” he said after a moment. “It’s reasonable that we will all feel, at some time or another, insecure, claustrophobic, resentful……”

Sam leaned up and looked at him. “Could you please stop with the psycho-babble for once?” she requested. “Could you yell or throw something across the room? Could you call me a bitch?”

“Sam, I….” Daniel sighed and rubbed one hand over his head as he stared at the ceiling. “You’re not a bitch. You spent three months being a full-time Mom and you were suddenly pushed out. No, that’s wrong. You pushed you out, we didn’t push you out. As far as I am aware. You have never, in the time I have known you, been what I would call a bitch, so no, I won’t call you one. I wish you’d be a little more selfish. I get a little insecure, too, Sam; I know he loves me, but he looks at you with a light in his eyes that I honestly don’t think I will ever see directed at me. Honey, it isn’t that Jack and I are closer, it’s just…. we’ve always spent time together, that’s all. As friends. We hang out. I don’t know what to do to make you comfortable about that.”

“I’m comfortable with it,” she said, leaning back onto his chest. Jack came out of the bathroom, wet from the shower. “I guess there’s a little jealously in me about it, but I don’t think it would be there if I had been home more often. I didn’t expect the two of you to remain platonic while I was gone; I wanted you guys to be close. To be there for each other. I’m more angry with myself, than you or Jack, and I’m really not taking it out on you, I’m taking it out on me.”

Daniel held her tight and breathed deeply. “You’ll be home now, so what would you like changed?” he asked. Jack was listening from across the room, a towel around his waist, rubbing his hair with a second towel.

“I don’t know,” she admitted and leaned up again. “What do you guys do when I’m not home?”

“The same things you and I did when Jack was gone,” he said. “We fly each day by the seat of our pants.”

“Then include me in the flight plan,” she told him. “I want the PTA meetings, the Kid Tree meetings, the temper tantrums, the phone calls from teachers, and dodging crazy people looking to ‘phone home.’ I loved it, Danny, and I want it again.”

“What’s that old saying?” Jack asked, pulling socks on. “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it?”

“Honey, just promise me you will tell me when you need time with Jack,” Daniel told her, ignoring their partner. “Okay, maybe I’ve been hogging him, I don’t know; if I was, it wasn’t deliberate and I’m sorry.”

Sam quickly sat up, shaking her head. “No, you haven’t been hogging him….”

“Sam,” Jack stopped her. “Your feelings are wide open and I’m being blasted with them; stop being correct, and be honest.”

She drew her knees up, hugging them to her chest, frowning in irritation. “I’m trying not to….” She took a breath and let it out in a noisy gust. “Alright, there is a part of me that thinks you’ve been hogging him. The other part understands that I’ve been unavailable, and I’m trying to listen to that part.”

“Does Jack get a say in this conversation?” Jack asked. “Because if he does, he would like set dates each month.”

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked. He sat up and pulled Sam back against him.

“I mean, I would like date night,” Jack said. He stood in front of them, his brow creased in irritation. “Now that Sam will be home every day, usually, I would like for us to set up dates. Two people at a time. We can mark the date days on the family calendar in the kitchen. And we should have an evening to ourselves, all three of us, at least once a month. We make an appointment, a commitment, and we don’t break it. Unless the world needs saving, again.” It was a surprising suggestion, considering its source, so Daniel gave his approval, as did Sam.

“Good,” Jack said with a satisfied nod. “Now. You two kiss and make up; I have work to do. And I’d like you both in my office at three pm for a short meeting. Formal, please.”

Sam leaned up on an elbow again. “Danny, I’m being honest,” she said. A tear slid down her cheek and he wiped it away. “I was feeling a little unneeded and I know a lot of it was my own fault. I should have asked that my section be moved here to begin with. It isn’t your fault, or Jack’s, that you turned to each other in my absence. I think it would hurt more if you guys decided to hate each other. Please don’t leave or anything; this is my issue, and I need to work it out.”

He nodded, flicking at her hair. “Is there anything I can do to make things easier?”

“No,” she shook her head. “I think I was hiding in my work. Jeffries said I need to learn to delegate instead of trying to do everything myself. I guess he’s right.”

“That was something hard for me,” Daniel said, rubbing a hand over her back. “Delegating. Until I found people that I could trust to translate properly, I had to do it all myself. Now that we’re no longer hidden, I have people coming out of the woodwork. Look at Ronnie; do you know how many people tossed her aside just because of her lifestyle? Jack’s going to offer her up as a sacrifice to the unification council. And how do you know there isn’t someone on this planet that is able to decipher technology just like you can? Divide the toys up –weapons and others. Let someone deal with the weapons and another person deal with the rest of it. You oversee both, dealing with reports and problem children.”

Sam nodded and laid her head on his chest.

“I wish Jack could remember the Ancient information,” she said. “I can work with puzzles but somewhere in his head, he has the means of creating the puzzles.” She sighed and wiggled a hand under his t-shirt, pushing the fabric up and nestling into his warm skin.

When they got to HomeSec a while later, there was a small group of people already in the auditorium. Jack was happy to see them walk into the room hand in hand. Reynolds, Bosco, and Harper were present as were Generals Landry, Hammond, and Vidrine. Eyebrows were raised at all the stars in attendance. What was going on that warranted the presence of three visiting generals?

“I thought this meeting was twenty minutes ago?” Jack asked with a scowl as Daniel and Sam entered with Cassie and Davis just behind them. Daniel scowled back at him as Cassie went to Harper’s side. “Just kidding,” Jack said. “My bad. Got stuck on the phone.” He waved them down. Everyone looked expectantly at him. “I hate speeches, so to get on with it…. We have a lot of unsung heroes among us. There is one I would like to recognize today, one who has gone above and beyond the call of duty time after time, one who saved not only my butt on more than one occasion, but also lots of other butts, both military and civilian.” There were many faces that held back smirks at Jack’s attempt to be formal.

“Major Davis, step forward.”

Startled, it took Paul a moment to respond and walk to Jack’s side.

“The President of the United States has placed great trust in Major Davis’ patriotism and integrity to not only the United States Air Force and the United States of America, but also to Earth itself. It is with great honor and privilege that I announce the promotion of Major Paul Davis to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel.”

He replaced Paul’s gold leafs with silver leafs, and saluted. Paul returned the salute, remembered to breathe, and everyone gave loud applause. Jack held up his right hand and began to take Paul’s oath.

He had been trying to get this promotion through since they got back from the war with Baal, but things kept coming up. Jack wasn’t happy with the delay, but they finally accepted the request for Davis’ promotion. The look on Davis’ face was worth the wait.

Paul was proud to the point of bursting as he accepted handshakes. Nick stood a step behind him. Jack schmoozed, with Daniel not far behind him. General Landry went up to Daniel.

“Dr. Jackson, I’m not supposed to tell you this, so I’m not telling you,” Landry warned, leaning in slightly. “Your students came to see me this morning.”

“They what?” Daniel wrinkled his nose.

“They were apparently instructed to translate something from Lord Atis, so they got it into their heads that the best way to translate it would be to get it from the horse’s mouth. So to speak.”

Daniel burst out laughing. Jack glanced at him and smiled.

“Did you….?”

Landry nodded. “Yes, I did,” he confessed. “I thought it was ingenious of them, so I let them talk with Lord Atis.”

Several people looked over and smiled at Daniel’s laughter. Jack could guess who came up with that idea, and she was six foot two with a square jaw and a tenor voice.

“I know who my top recommendation will be,” Daniel said, wiping his eyes. “I just hope the military is ready for another culture shock.”

It had been hard on the local military, dealing with all the gays, lesbians, and others, who were coming out of their various closets, and all the blame was being placed squarely on Jack’s shoulders. As he told people in higher places many times, the SGC and HomeSec needed to play by slightly different rules since they were playing with aliens. Everyone else would just have to deal with it, if they couldn’t accept it. Jack had to admit that he wasn’t sure their military was ready to deal with transsexuals; the military boys were putting up with his household because they knew him. Ronnie might be a little too over the top for them.

“Are you going to give them a passing grade?” Jack said later on their way to the underground. “They did, technically, cheat.”

Daniel nodded. “Yes, but the language is a living language, so they used the resources on hand to get the job done. I never said they couldn’t ask for help from someone who spoke the language, and they went directly to the person who was speaking it. Only Ronnie could have thought that fast.”

“Danny, you do understand that Ronnie might be a little too much for a lot of people to take,” Jack said as delicately as he could.

“I’m not blind to that, Jack,” Daniel told him. “I think she’d be good as a liaison to the unification council. I know Earth technically isn’t in discussions, but she’s very good at languages and she’s more tactful than you are. She could be your eyes and ears. Just think about it, Jack, and don’t accept just because it’s me asking.”

They decided to check in on Sam who had quickly escaped the festivities to check on her incoming packages. With the beaming capabilities of the 303s, it didn’t take long to gather up all of the toys and experiments from Area 52 and transfer them to HomeSec. Teal’c and company were on their way from deep space with Anubis’ toys, which would take up the remaining two-thirds space underneath HomeSec and a smaller building which was being quickly built in the field behind the main building.

Daniel and Jack watched for a while as Sam directed traffic.

“Colonel Carter,” Jack intoned. She turned to look at them. “There is a party at my place tonight, a private dinner for Colonel Davis. Daniel is cooking. Would you care to be my date?”

“Well, now, I don’t know, General,” she said. “I heard rumors about you. They say you’re a little on the kinky side and that you share with other men.”

“Just a little playful, not what I would call kinky,” Jack responded. “As for sharing, I share only with Daniel.”

Sam’s name was called from across the room.

“I accept, General,” she said and wiggled her fingers cheerfully at her partners before heading to whatever mess was made.

“Do you think she’s alright?” Daniel asked.

“I think so,” Jack said. “I’m getting guilt from her, but she does love you. I’d say let her work it out.”

The intercom requested General O’Neill pick up.

“O’Neill. Put him through. This is O’Neill, what can I do for you, Sergeant?” Jack listened for a moment. His face lit up. “Really? Put him on my list and send him in.”

“You will not believe who’s at the front door,” he said turning to Daniel. “Sam!” He waved for her to follow.

He waited impatiently at the front door and lit up when he saw a man with an eye-patch and walking cane approach the door.

Ferretti!” Jack yelled to their old friend and comrade. Ferretti had been one of their team members who was injured during their second mission to Abydos, the one to rescue Daniel who had stayed behind to be with Sha're, his wife. Apophis and his Jaffa had killed many people during that battle, and almost killed Ferretti. The man smiled tentatively, unsure of his welcome. Jack clasped his forearm. Ferretti wasn’t used to the greeting, and he quickly adjusted his grip. “How the hell have you been?” People in the foyer watched curiously, wondering who this man was that their general would meet him out front instead of in his office.

“Fine, sir, thank you.” Ferretti belatedly saluted Jack and then Sam before shaking her hand. “Colonel. Dr. Jackson, good to see you again.”

“Same here, Lou, how are you?” Daniel asked, taking the hand. “And make it Daniel.”

“Let’s go up to my office,” Jack suggested. He kept his strides shorter than usual to allow Ferretti to keep up.

“May I ask what everyone is doing in formals, sir?” Ferretti asked, glancing at Jack and Sam’s uniforms.

“Major Davis became Lt. Col. Davis a few hours ago,” Jack told him. “I don’t think you met him.”

“I have, sir; he came out from DC to debrief me while I was in rehab. He assisted Col. Carter with the ships, used to be with the office of Joint Chiefs, and he’s now your assistant, right?”

Jack nodded in confirmation. He wondered why Ferretti didn’t go for a prosthetic eye after losing it in a fight with Jaffa while attempting to drag Daniel back from Abydos. The eye was alright for a while, but it couldn’t keep up with the internal injuries. They lost Sha’re during that fight; she had been taken by Apophis, made into a host, and then SG-1 had to chase them to get her back. Unfortunately, she had been killed. Jack glanced at Daniel. He seemed alright with the physical reminder of all he had lost. Jack wondered about the leg; Ferretti wasn’t injured on the leg during that fight. They paused at security and got Ferretti a visitor’s pass.

“Mrs. Clark, could you bring in coffee, please?” Jack asked as they passed through his outer office.

“Yes, sir.”

Jack fell into his seat and gestured. Ferretti sat carefully on the couch as Daniel and Sam took seats.

“So. Lou. How’ve you been? Really,” Jack asked, leaning back, hands behind his neck.

“Things were rough, at first, but I’ve been getting my act together,” Ferretti admitted.

“And Carol?” Jack asked. He already knew the answer, looking at Ferretti’s empty left hand.

Ferretti glanced at his own finger. “I messed up, sir,” he said. “Can’t say as I blame her. I made friends with a little worm for a while, but I dumped that a few years ago. Four years sober, sir.”

“Good for you, Lou,” Jack said gently, sincerely. “What have you been doing?”

The man gave a slight chuckle. “Nothing as spectacular as you, sir,” he said. “I’ve been working as an aid at the VA.”

“I’d say that’s pretty important, Lou,” Jack commented. “I’ve held a few hands; I know how much those people need someone. I’ll probably be there one day, myself.”

Ferretti nodded. Jack wasn’t sure he liked seeing the spit and fire knocked out of the man, and reached. Jack picked up a pen, playing with it, twirling it between his fingers.

“Lou, did you happen to get any certificates for this aid stuff?” he asked. Ferretti raised an eyebrow.

“I have a nurse’s aid certificate,” he admitted. “I’ve been considering a full RN.” He looked directly at Jack, daring him to comment.

“From what I’ve heard, male nurses are in high demand,” Sam said unexpectedly. “Most of them can write their own tickets, the demand is so great in some places.”

Ferretti nodded, his one eye lighting up. “True,” he said.

“Well, if you ever want another position, I can offer you one,” Jack told him.

“Sir?”

“You’re not enlisted anymore, Lou, drop the 'sir',” Jack said. “One of our ships is for the sciences. I promised these two a science ship, so I gave them the Europa. A lot of civilians on board. I’m told they need a few nurses. Once in a while, they run across people who have issues with female medical workers. They’re low on male medical workers. If you want the position, I’ll put in a requisition for your RN training. You can do your training on board. At least we won’t have to indoctrinate you, and you have a security clearance that most of the others don’t. You’re needed, if you want it, Lou.”

The man was speechless as he looked at each of them.

“Sir… Jack, I… I’m not here with my hand out,” Ferretti protested.

“I know that,” Jack nodded, feeling the truth of it, “but I have a good feeling about this. If you need time to think, that’s fine, but I’m serious. We could use you.”

“Once in a while he makes these leaps, Lou,” Daniel commented. “We just go with it; it’s easier than arguing with him.”

Ferretti looked at them and Jack could hear it coming….

“Are you guys really…?”

They laughed. Jack held up both hands and waved his rings, one on each hand.

“His and hers,” he confirmed. He took one of the picture frames on his desk and turned it around. The three of them were entangled together and looking into the camera with smoke shooting from their impassioned eyes.

“Wow,” Ferretti said calmly. “How’d you get this to fly?”

“I held a trump card,” was all Jack would say.

Ferretti nodded and looked at his hands, twisting his cane. Jack could sense him fighting the old military, good ‘ol boy attitudes. “Daniel, I’m really sorry about Sha’re, I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time.”

“Thank you,” Daniel accepted, surprised at the topic.

“I…. was there anything different I could have done?” Ferretti asked, worried. “Was I at fault in any way? Just tell me, let me make amends. It’s really why I’m here.”

Shocked, Daniel leaned forward and touched Ferretti’s arm. “God, no, Lou, don’t think that! The only blame lies with Apophis, and we dealt with him. Let it go. I have, and if anyone needs to beat himself up over it, it’s me.”

Ferretti nodded and swallowed hard. “Okay, Daniel, thanks. Listen, I should be going,” he said, standing up.

“Lou, why don’t you come by our place tonight?” Jack said. “We’re having a dinner party for Col. Davis. Come by, meet him, meet our kids. We have Daniel’s daughter, Stacy, and I adopted my nieces and nephews when their mother died last summer. General Hammond will be there. He’s in charge of the Academy, now; he was here a while ago, he should be back on campus by now. I’m sure he’d like to see you, so stop in and say hi. But come over tonight. 1900. Daniel’s cooking, so bring an appetite.”

“Daniel cooks?” Ferretti asked.

“Daniel cooks,” Jack confirmed. Ferretti hesitated. “Do I need to make it an order?”

“No, sir,” Ferretti said, smiling and shaking his head. “Are you sure Col. Davis won’t mind?”

“He won’t mind,” Jack assured him. “He knows all about you; he has access to files I don’t have access to. He’s read every SGC report there is from day one. And you’re welcome here anytime, Lou, I had you put on my private admittance list at the front gate.”

Jack had SF escort Ferretti to the front door. The man seemed to be holding himself a little straighter when he left Jack’s office.

Sam and Daniel looked at Jack who scrubbed his jaw. “I know,” he said. “He fell a long way to climb up to this point.”

“He used to be a cocky devil,” Daniel commented. “Tortured the crap out of me when we first met. I remember he gave you and Kowalski a run for your money.”

“Let’s get him back to that point,” Jack said.

“I barely remember him,” Sam admitted. “We were only acquainted for a few days before his accident.”

Jack nodded. “He and Kowalski had my back before you, Daniel, and Teal’c. He’s family, Sam; I wish he had kept in touch. I’ll forward Lou’s file to Col. Belarus.”

He called Hammond and warned him to be on the lookout for a visitor. And bring a white for dinner, per Daniel. Jack and Sam were both kissed as Daniel left to hit the grocery store before heading for home and food prep.

“Are you sure about Ferretti and having him on the Europa?” Sam asked.

Jack shrugged. “No,” he admitted. “But I’d like to give him the chance. He has a lot of skills that are being wasted. He can comfort the wounded on board, just as well as he can on ground, and since it’s a science vessel, he doesn’t have the strict military guidelines for physical fitness. And another thing -Daniel is considering asking me to offer Ronnie a place to the unification council. He thinks she’d be good eyes and ears for me.”

Sam raised a brow. “That should be interesting,” she commented. “I’m not sure how the Jaffa and Tok’ra will take to her, but I think the Anunnaki and Langarans will be alright.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully. “I should probably talk with Inanna. I think she and Ronnie have met. Does Ronnie have family that security will need to consider?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Sam said. “I think Daniel said they didn’t accept her change.”

“Alright, I’ll have Nick start a background check. If she’s going to be my eyes and ears, she’s going to need clearance.”

Sam smiled and walked around his desk to peck his cheek.

“What’s that for?” he asked.

“For accepting her. You’re not the man we met all those years ago. I like this Jack.”

Jack waved her away and she left his office with a grin. He picked up the phone and dialed, puffing his cheeks.

“Francis. We need to talk.”

It was difficult to persuade Maynard into accepting Jack’s latest recommendation. At least this one wouldn’t be on Earth, irritating the conservative masses with her unusual presence.

“Look, Jack, I’ll be honest,” Maynard said. “I question the stability of people who do this to themselves.”

“I understand,” Jack said. “Which is why I’m siccing Nick on her and then putting her into Inanna’s hands. She has the brains for the job. Besides; from what I understand, she wouldn’t have gotten the operation without serious psych tests. If there’s a hidden instability, it will out soon enough.”

“Is… she… fully female?” Maynard asked carefully.

“According to Daniel, yes she is. I’m not asking how he knows; knowing him, he’d have asked to see it all.”

Maynard puffed out the equivalent of Jack’s puff. “Alright, I don’t like it, but I’ll back you. I need information on this type of person.”

“I’ll have it sent to you,” Jack promised. “Thanks, Francis.”

He sent Paul a note to send Maynard all the information he could find on transsexuals. He got a return email almost a second later. “Transgendered. Sir.”

A new country had been accepted to HomeWorld Security. Switzerland. Jack was tickled to net the one country that never joined in with the rest of the boys and girls. Geneve Menetrey was waiting for him in the conference room, along with Jack’s current chief minister, Keir Ravenscroft, from Scotland, and Paul.

“Ms. Menetrey,” he held out his hand. “Jack O’Neill. I hope your trip went well.”

“It was fine, thank you, General.” She took his hand gracefully. Her accent was barely noticeable.

“Jack, please. Colonel, are there refreshments on the way?”

“Yes, sir,” Paul nodded, standing proud with his new rank. “It should be here shortly.”

Jack knew Paul would be irritated with himself over not having the coffee ready by the time their guests were present.

“I believe Colonel Davis was Major Davis the last time we spoke?” the lady asked.

“Yes, he was,” Jack nodded. “Today is his first day as Lt. Colonel.”

“Congratulations,” she said to Paul. He accepted.

“My superiors are impressed with your peace document,” she said, diving right into business. Jack could appreciate that, and sat forward, listening. “We are not sure of our place in the scheme of things, but Switzerland will stand on the side of peace. There is nothing in your document, that we can find, that hides another agenda. Can you confirm that the United States is indeed not guiding from behind the scenes?”

“Yes, I can,” Jack said. “Although I am a General in the United States Air Force, and that aspect is under command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President, HomeWorld Security is an international endeavor. By its treaty, the United States does not have control, and I can tell you that I won’t allow any one country to control this office.

“The peace document you are referring to, I believe, is an example of what we are aiming for with the unification of allied planets. It is not the HomeWorld Security Treaty. The unification peace treaty is what we are working toward. Earth is not yet qualified to join the unification. When certain countries put down their weapons and start concentrating on their people, then we will be in a position to recommend Earth’s inclusion. Not before. And that document was written by Dr. Jackson.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “And what would my place be?” she asked.

“Your place is to be the voice of Switzerland. The representatives will be kept informed with weekly reports delivered by the house leader,” Paul said, taking over the conversation. “The council will vote in the house leader, Gen. O’Neill has no say in the matter. Mr. Ravenscroft, here, is the house leader. His job is to hear the council and report to Gen. O’Neill. If Switzerland has a concern about something that HomeSec can deal with, you discuss it with Mr. Ravenscroft. It goes to committee, and if the committee feels it is appropriate for HomeSec to deal with, he will bring it to Gen. O’Neill’s attention. If he needs more information, he will call you in. So far, most of the concerns have been scientific. Diggers finding odds and ends of possible alien things. He sends that information to either Colonel Carter or Dr. Jackson, and one of their teams will deal with it.”

She was frowning as she followed him, but noted that the general had taken himself out of the center of attention.

“Unless we are under attack, this office is basically overseeing the production of ships which the SGC is currently using,” Paul said. “If and when the time comes that Earth can join the unification, then this council will have work. The rest of the world will need to acknowledge that this office will be the world leadership. City, state, country, the UN, and then HomeWorld Security. General O’Neill’s involvement with the unification council is separate from Earth’s involvement. At the request of the allies. This office has no part in the running of any other government body, it is extra-terrestrial only.”

“So, it is in our best interest to push harder for peace,” she said. She had been making notes on a pad in French. “How is the unification process going for the allies?”

“It’s going well,” Jack said, leaning back. “Last count had sixty-seven worlds lined up, with the council being led by nine. Three more joined recently.”

“Why the difference in numbers?” she asked.

“Most worlds have barely entered their industrial era,” he said. “They had been held back by the Goa’uld. Very few have space travel. Those advanced enough for space travel are the ones leading the council. An inner council and a general council. Most of the others are considered protected worlds. They need to meet certain requirements before joining the inner council.”

“Are you saying everyone with space travel are good guys?” she asked with a delicately raised eyebrow.

Jack shook his head. “No,” he said emphatically. “The inner council makes a judgment call on that. If there is a split that they are unable to reconcile, they come and visit me. Several worlds have already been denied for one reason or another. A couple I know personally. They nearly decimated their worlds after racial and religious wars. They still haven’t gotten their act together, so they have been denied entrance until they do. Earth is in that category.”

“So, what is it Switzerland will be doing?” she asked, slightly confused.

“Switzerland will have access to the naquadah in order to get ships built,” Paul said. “Switzerland will also be able to offer pilots for the gliders and personnel for the 303s, our motherships. Take part in the exploration of other worlds. Our pilots fly for Earth, not their country. The pilots are under the command of this office, and they fly in the protection of Earth, not in the defense of a particular country. Our pilots don’t wear country identification, they wear planetary identification. At the moment, our pilots are not needed, so they are on regular rotation with the military of their home countries. If we need them, Gen. O’Neill’s orders countermand anything their country tells them. Each of the countries have their own Yards from which our pilots will fly out of and rendezvous wherever orders take them. One of your military leaders will be accepted as the local commander in the Swiss Yard. The general will make that decision.

“Switzerland may offer scientists and military personnel to be considered for SGC teams. There are five teams in the process of being formed at this moment, and most teams have one technical person on board, a scientist of some kind, usually an anthropologist with an excellent background in linguistics. Dr. Jackson is in charge of the archaeologists, anthropologists, and linguists, Col. Carter has charge of the physicists, and General Landry will make the final decisions on anyone joining the SGC, not this office.”

Jack leaned forward again, steepling his fingers. “Ms. Menetrey, you will be working for Earth, not Switzerland,” he said. “You will be Switzerland’s representative, but Earth comes first. It’s a part-time job; you can keep another job to make the rent.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “I understand. Not to offend, but why is Scotland represented?” she asked, looking at Keir. “Scotland isn’t an official country, it is a state of the UK.”

“Correct,” Paul nodded. “Mr. Ravenscroft represents the United Kingdom of Great Britain as a whole, not Scotland. He just happens to be of Scottish descent. Scotland is not an independent country, but neither is England, for that matter. The United Kingdom as a whole is where their orders come from. From the United Kingdom Parliament. The PM volunteered him with the approval of parliament.”

She understood the point about the countries, but Paul was reiterating it for Jack’s benefit. Jack tended to forget who was an official country and who wasn’t. He couldn’t keep track of all the changes in official country status across the world.

Ms. Menetrey was looking at the copy of the unification peace treaty again. “We are impressed with this document,” she commented, tapping the paper. “There is nothing like it in history. Even the United Nations treaty falls short. It seems that with a few alterations to conform to individual countries, there is no reason why this treaty cannot be put to use on this planet.”

“Try telling that to the China or North Korea,” Jack snorted.

When Jack got home he yelled, “Stacy!” She came running down the stairs. “Give Switzerland a green pin, baby!”

“Woo-hoo!” she shouted and ran into his office.

“Switzerland? Are you kidding?” Daniel asked, poking his head out of the kitchen. Daniel was making dinner for the kids first. “They never pick sides.”

“We met with Ms. Menetrey this afternoon. Switzerland will give it a go on a trial basis. And they are quite taken with your treaty, by the way.”

Stacy came out and jumped at Jack. He caught her.

Adda, did you know there are only seven purple pins on the board?” she asked. He thought about it.

“Only seven? Are you sure?” he asked.

“What’s purple for?” Daniel asked.

“Our major problem children,” Jack said. Stacy stayed glued to his torso as he walked into his office to look at the map. He counted. “She’s right. Only seven.”

“Lots of little countries without pins,” Daniel commented as he scanned the map.

“Little problem children,” Jack said. “These seven, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Japan, Iran, China, and Afghanistan. Japan and China may not be fighting at the moment, but I don’t like China’s human right’s history, and Japan I just don’t trust not to sell whatever we give them. The others are all fighting with some major weapons. Those little ones all have human rights issues, continual civil wars, among other things. None of them are major players, though. I think if it comes down to hard facts, we can get their continents to crack down on them. In fact, I’ll talk with the Arab delegates. Most of those countries are Islamic; maybe the larger countries can help. So, it looks like seven countries are our main concerns. Good job!” he declared, shaking Stacy. She giggled and hugged him. “We may get Earth in on the fun and games yet!”

Jack paused. “I’ll have Paul talk to the Arabs,” he said, changing his mind.

“I have a phone conference with the Egyptian President in a few days, why don’t I talk with him?” Daniel suggested. “Most of those little countries are African; he may be more effective than someone on the other side of the desert.”

“Baba, ana ga’ana,” Stacy spouted at Daniel. He smiled at her.

“Stinker,” he commented, pleased, and pecked her head.

“What was that?” Jack asked. He hung Stacy backward and upside down.

“It’s Egyptian. She said she’s hungry,” Daniel told him. “Dinner will be done shortly.”

“What’s the baba part?” Jack asked him.

“Dad,” Daniel said.

Jack thought about it. “Aba…. babaCoincidence?”

“That’s very good, Jack,” Daniel said, patting his head. “No, it isn’t a coincidence; they have the same root word.”

“Sounds like the Goa’uld version,” Jack commented. “An gi’na.”

Daniel turned back to him and then looked at the ceiling, raising his arms high. “Yes! There is a god!”

Jack rolled his eyes.

Sam got the baby washed and changed for her greeting of the guests’ appearance, while the rest of the kids hustled through their own dinner. Daniel was making tilapia for the adults’ dinner. He had offered to make it for the kids, too, but they turned their noses up at the unknown fish with the weird name. He made them hamburgers with mac and cheese and they were happy.

Jack was sitting at his desk, rubbing his eyes.

“If all the rest will concede to the treaty, I think I can talk the council into allowing Earth in,” he told Hayes over the phone. “We can annex China and North Korea. That means cutting off all import and export with them, Henry. No people in or out. It would be a complete, old fashioned, shunning. To hell with the economy, people can buy American. Let them try it; the Europa is currently touring the solar system with a bunch of geologists, she can be here in minutes. Soon enough to stop any retaliatory strikes that they send up. If we take steps with China and North Korea now, Pakistan, India, Japan, Iran, and Afghanistan may decide to behave themselves.”

He stood and paced as he listened.

“No, this office cannot actually do anything overt,” he acknowledged. “But I can send our Muslim personnel on a tour of the Middle East and I can send the Asians to Asia. Call it a good-will tour. Henry, I know that; look, Daniel has a conference with Egypt in a couple of days. Do you know what they’ve been talking about? How to use natural means to relieve the stress on the country. Getting the Nile cleaned up. Getting people fed. Getting people educated to the new century while keeping the respect of the religions that exist in that country. Look, one of Daniel’s kids, Sgt. Gaafar, is a quick study and he speaks a lot of languages. I think he’d be appropriate to put in charge of this tour thing. I’ll have a talk with the good doctor and let you know.”

“JACK!”

“Gotta go,” he said quickly into the phone before slamming it down. He ran into the living room.

“What!”

He slid to a stop. Sam and Daniel were both staring in shock at the person standing in the middle of the room. The children were watching curiously, not at all disturbed; they were used to people beaming in and out. Jerrie stood by, ready to take cues from the parents.

“How…. what….?”

“Hello, Colonel. Oh, I’m sorry, it’s General, now, isn’t it?”

Narim?!

Jack stepped up next to Sam, staring at the man.

“I thought you were dead?” Jack said.

“You were meant to,” Narim said with that quiet smile he always had. “The Nox kept us hidden. Those few who survived the Goa’uld attack on Tollana, anyway. Is it alright to speak here?” he glanced at the children.

“Uh, yeah,” Jack nodded. “But let’s go into my office.” He reached out and felt the shock that was rippling through Sam; not surprised, considering she almost left the SGC and Earth for this particular alien. They took seats.

“So. Narim. Looking well,” Jack commented. “A little grayer.”

Narim smiled. “You as well, Jack.” He looked toward Jack’s own grays.

“We are leaving,” Narim said suddenly. “I had a need to say a proper goodbye to Samantha. If that is permitted? I understand you and she are married. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Jack nodded. “Actually, the three of us are married.” He jutted his chin toward Daniel. Narim gave a nod, not surprised.

“I amend my congratulations to include Dr. Jackson,” he said. Daniel nodded.

“You’re leaving?” Sam asked, slightly breathless from the sight of him alive. After the Goa’uld destroyed his planet, they didn’t expect to see him standing in front of them. “I don’t understand.”

He turned to face her, reaching out to take her hand. He paused and glanced at Jack and Daniel. Jack shrugged.

“It’s her hand,” he said. Narim took Sam’s hand.

“When the Goa’uld attacked, the Nox opened the gate,” he told her. “They have hidden us these past years. The Nox have decided to Ascend, though, and we are going with them. The Tau’ri are on the correct path; this galaxy is in safe hands. We have outlived our own time, so we will Ascend. You showed us how to live. We allowed technology to lead us, thinking ourselves superior, and then you irritating humans came along. You taught us that the heart is more important than the technology. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Nox backed it up. Our weapons were the first things they took from us.”

“But you don’t have to leave,” Sam protested. “There are worlds that can offer you protection. The Anunnaki terraformed Abydos, they need people to fill it. The Masharu are taking in Tok’ra who want to leave this galaxy, you could go with them. We can find you a place here.”

Narim raised an eyebrow. “The Masharu?” he questioned incredulously. “The Tau’ri have been busy. Who’s in charge of the Masharu?”

“Thanatos,” Jack put in.

“I’ve heard of him,” he said. “Obviously I never met any of the Masharu, but we know a little of them. Legends, mostly. Who are the Anunnaki?”

Sam gave him a summary of recent events.

“Well, if the.. Anunnaki.. are around to oversee your progress, you certainly don’t need any of the other…. anyone else,” Narim said. Jack pursed his lips and reached. He got a blank wall. How the hell did the Tollan know about Masharu?? And why was he hesitant about the Anunnaki?

“Do you know who the Anunnaki are?” he asked. He was sure Narim recognized the names.

Narim shook his head. “I cannot tell you, if they haven’t. If you can do that, though, you can answer the question for yourself.”

He sensed that little push? Jack tossed his pencil down in irritation. “I am so tired of all this crap,” he said. “What is the big, friggin’ deal?”

“Not a big deal at all,” Narim said. “Think of it as a game: guess who is behind the door, and you get the grand prize.”

“What’s the prize?” Jack asked skeptically.

“That’s part of the prize,” Narim said. “It’s an exercise in logic, Jack.”

“Oh, well, there goes the planet,” Daniel commented. Jack shot the pencil at him. Sam took a breath, her eyes wide.

“What?” Jack asked her, seeing the shock on her face.

“The arch,” she breathed in awe. “It didn’t occur to me. The stone arch that Erra and Zu brought in. It was in perfect condition. Jack, when you take the entertainment center apart, you end up with tangled wires and no idea which cord goes where. I won’t even comment on Daniel and computers. But if I do it, I know which cords go where.”

Jack stared at her. “Erra knew how to take the arch apart and put it back together,” he guessed.

“Yes!” she said excitedly. “Only someone familiar with its components could have taken it apart and transported it without harming it. It’s in perfect working order and I didn’t have to do anything.”

Erra’s a Furling!” Daniel breathed as he slowly sat forward, equally wide-eyed. "Oh, my God, the Anunnaki are the Furlings!"

 

 

 

End Part 3