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 The Return of the Gray-haired Avengers

 

Chapter 8

Daniel walked beside the gurney, Casey's hand firmly in his. She'd faded in and out of consciousness during the ride to the base. She'd mumbled something about coffeecake when she'd been transferred from the public ambulance to the base vehicle. He'd caught sight of Jack and Sam in a Military Police van. No sign of Gary, but no doubt he'd be on the base soon.

"Daniel?"

"Right here, Angel," he said softly.

"My shoulder hurts."

"I know."

"I'm gonna kick somebody's ass over this," she continued.

"I know."

"We were having such a lovely time," she sighed. "I was about to hear what Emma and Henry did on their honeymoon."

He chuckled. "I'm sure she'll be willing to tell you when we get home."

One of the corpsmen slid his pass to call the elevator. It opened immediately, and she was wheeled into the lift. "Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"I had to do something you might not be happy about."

His heart lurched in his chest. "You did, huh?"

"Uh huh. I had to flirt with that big goon. I thought he looked like Raft Boy…well, he wasn't Chinese, but you know what I mean," she said.

He grinned. "Okay."

"He tried to cop a feel, but he didn't manage to get it," she said.

That's good, because then I'd have to break his freaking arms off, Daniel thought. "I take it the flirting worked?"

"Just like Johnny said it would," she sighed. "I really didn't want to. And we need to get that kid's eyes examined. He called me a 'blonde bombshell'."

Daniel chortled. "Sounds to me as if his eyesight is just fine."

Casey moved her head slightly from side to side. "You see me through eyes of love."

One of the corpsmen snorted in disbelief, tried to hide the sound by faking a cough. Daniel looked up and caught the man's eye, and grinned broadly.

"I hope Emma and Grandma and Aunt Janelle aren't too worried about us. Emma tried to get the car close enough…but then there was another car, and I didn't have time to see what happened after that."

"They're fine, Angel."

"Good." She raised her head slightly when they arrived in the infirmary. "Where's Janet?" she asked immediately.

"Right here," Janet said, hurrying to her side.

"You still haven't painted in here. Bet you haven't got any colorful quilts or pretty wall hangings, either."

"What…and take away your only reasons for complaining?" Janet teased. She carefully probed Casey's shoulder. Winced at the cry of pain she elicited. "I want an x-ray of this shoulder. Anything else I should know about?"

"Cracked my head on the door when we went over the side of the ditch," Casey mumbled. "Glass broke."

"Did it shatter?" Janet asked, carefully examining the cut on Casey's temple.

"No, just cracked."

"Okay, let's see how badly you've messed yourself up this time," Janet smiled.

Daniel waited in Janet's office while the x-ray was taken. When Sam and Jack ran into the infirmary, he went out to greet them.

"How bad?" Jack asked.

"She's getting an x-ray," Daniel said. "So far, it just seems to be her shoulder. She has a cut on her head, I think that happened when the truck went to its side." For the first time, he noticed that both of his friends were bloodied. "How badly were you two hurt?"

"Not bad. Just a-"

"Let me take a look," a voice said from the doorway. Janet was already snapping clean gloves over her hands. "Jill, get two antisept trays ready. Sam, come here, I'll look at you first. General, plant your butt right there," she pointed to the nearest bed, "and don't you move."

"Yes, ma'am, Napoleon," Jack grumbled.

"I heard that."

"I was talking about Neapolitan ice cream," Jack replied.

"Sure you were." Janet glanced around. "Where's Teal'c?"

Sam began chuckling. "I'd almost forgotten! He's keeping an eye on Emma, Janelle, and Muriel. Jack didn't trust them not to try to 'help'."

Janet began to chuckle as well. "Well, their hearts are in the right place."

"I can call him. Let him know it's safe to leave them…" Daniel paused. "I'll tell Teal'c we have Casey, and Johnny's at home by now. He can pass the word, and hopefully Grandma, Janelle, and Emma will have the good sense to stay put."

"Good idea." Jack said.

Daniel pulled his phone from his pocket. Made the call that would 'rescue' Teal'c. He was assured that the 'ladies' were relieved to know that Casey and Johnny were all right, and that Teal'c would be on the base soon.

Casey was brought back into the infirmary ward. Transferred to the bed next to the one where Jack sat waiting his turn to be examined. "Hey, boss."

"Hey, Radar."

She took note of the cut above his eye, the blood on his face, and on his sleeve. His nose was slightly swollen. "You look like shit."

"You don't look much better," Jack countered.

"Thanks," she said softly.

"Any time," he smiled.

Daniel bit back the bile that made its way into his throat. Once again his Wife had been in danger. Had been abducted. And once again, someone else had been responsible for bringing her to safety. Danny, you are so fucking incompetent it's scary!

"I appreciate you not letting Daniel near those guys," Casey carried on. Both men started, exchanged a look, and then focused on her. "If he'd been close enough, he'd have beaten the shit out of them, or even worse, killed them. I can't live without him, and he'd wind up in jail, and I wouldn't be able to handle that."

Jack smiled. "Just keepin' my team together."

"Well, thanks."

Daniel moved closer to her side; lifted her fingers to his lips. She'd managed to make his failure to save her seem like a blessing in disguise. Her green eyes told him she believed every word. "What you do to me, woman," he whispered, kissing her palm when she turned her hand to caress his cheek.

Janet finished cleaning Sam's cuts, then started on Jack's. The technician who had taken the x-ray hurried in with the film, and put it on the film reader. "Jill, can you finish for me?"

"Sure," Jill replied. She took the washcloth from Janet, and gently finished cleaning Jack's face. "Sorry," she murmured, when he jerked slightly.

She studied the image for a few moments, pleased with what she saw. "No breaks, no dislocations. You said you landed on your shoulder, almost completely on the shoulder blade, right?" Janet asked, referring to the conversation she and Casey had had during the actual taking of the x-ray.

"Yep. Full weight," Casey replied.

"You haven't torn anything, which is actually nothing short of a miracle. You did put a lot of stress on the Subscapularis, which is the largest shoulder muscle. The Teres Major was probably stressed as well."

"Which means?" Daniel asked.

"The muscle will be quite sore…until it heals," Janet replied. She looked at Casey. "Considering the cause of the injury, I'm surprised there don't seem to be any tears in the muscle."

"It happened a couple of hours ago," Casey said.

Janet smiled. "Well, other than telling you take Tylenol for the pain, there's not much I can do for you."

"I don't have to stay? No numb butt?" Casey asked, wide-eyed.

"No numb butt," Janet grinned.

She laid her head back on the pillow. "I could sure go for something to eat. I didn't get lunch," Casey grumbled.

"We'll stop and pick up something on the way home," Daniel promised.

Gary walked into the infirmary at that moment, Teal'c just a step behind him. "Home? That's promising," he grinned.

"Hey, Daddy," Casey smiled.

"I am pleased to see you, Casey Jackson," Teal'c said. He nodded and gave a warm smile to Janet, but remained near the door, out of the way of the activity within the room.

Gary walked across the room, dropped a kiss on his daughter's forehead. "Hey, baby." He nodded at Jack. "Got Johnny home. Hastings says thanks. He also said that his friends had called. Seems that Marshall has no idea that his minions have been defeated. He's expecting word from them tonight. Well, actually, he's expecting to take custody of Casey and Johnny tonight."

"Won't he be surprised," Jack replied drolly.

"And, the best news," Gary added, his blue eyes glittering icily, "is that the scum we have…they are here, right?"

"In the brig holding cell," Jack confirmed.

"Good. Because they're on the FBI's most wanted list. Rumor has it, according to Hastings' friends, the FBI isn't particular about their condition when they get them."

"Good," Daniel said, his voice as cold as his father-in-law's eyes.

"Daniel-" Casey started, putting a hand on his arm.

"They kidnapped you, Casey. And Johnny. Who the hell knows what they'd have done to him? You probably would have disappeared somewhere in Area 51, while Marshall had his people try to find out just what makes you psychic…how it works…how strong you are psychically."

She shivered. Any such captivity, and that's certainly what it would be, would no doubt be unbearable. As for what they planned to do to an innocent teenager… "You don't get to see them without me."

"Why?" Daniel asked, fearing that she wanted to prevent him from doing exactly what he was going to do.

"I get to smack that bastard first. You hit harder than I do," she replied.

Jack and Gary chuckled.

Daniel grinned. "You got it." He looked up at Jack. "You should probably turn the security cameras off."

"Can't do that, Daniel," Jack replied calmly. "However, if there's a sudden malfunction in the camera in the holding cell, not much we can do about that until it's fixed."

He relaxed, giving his friend a tight smile. "Thanks." He looked down at his Wife. "Do you want to wait?"

"Nope. I'm hungry, I'm hurting, and I'm pissed. This is the best time to face that asshole," Casey insisted. She sat up on the bed, grimacing slightly.

"Let me put a sling on you," Janet said. "Your shoulder won't hurt as much if your arm is less mobile."

"Damned goons," Casey muttered.

"What's wrong?" Daniel asked softly.

"It's my right shoulder! I hit best with my right fist."

He bit back his chuckle. "I'll hit him twice as hard for you."

"Deal," Casey smiled.

Janet tied the sling tightly. Looked from Daniel to Gary, and back again. "I need to finish examining the general. It won't take more than about fifteen minutes."

"That's long enough," Gary replied.

"I'll check the surveillance room. I've heard rumors that some of the cameras are acting up on the detention level," Sam said calmly. She slid from the bed where she'd been sitting, and disappeared into the corridor.

"Doc, could you have General Hammond paged? I can catch him up on what's going on while you finish with me," Jack said.

"Sure thing," Janet nodded. She looked at Jill, then motioned toward the phone that hung on the wall with her chin. Jill nodded, and hurried to call Hammond's office.

"Let's take a walk, Angel," Daniel said.

"Good idea. If I don't move, I’m gonna get stiff," she sighed.

"I'll just tag along," Gary said. He was surprised, and yet not surprised, that the very unauthorized 'interrogation' was going to be allowed. Not only allowed, but those who knew about it would deny all knowledge. And insist that any physical damage done to the men had been the result of their accident on the freeway off-ramp. What they were about to do wasn't 'right'. At least, by society's conventions. However, there were times when what had been done by one person against another required a response of more than just polite talk. When it came to dealing with the bad guys, there were times that lessons had to be taught. The hard way.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

If anyone had a clue where the three were really heading as they made their way down the corridor, not one word was said. In fact, it seemed as if everyone they passed was doing a good job of pretending to not see them at all. Fastest rumor mill in the west, Casey thought with amusement.

Ferretti was standing outside the brig when Daniel, Casey, and Gary stepped off the elevator. "Just got word from General O'Neill that I need to move one of the prisoners to the interrogation room."

"The guy with the scarred face," Gary replied easily.

"Yep, that's what he said," Ferretti nodded. "Now, Doc, I know you and Mrs. J aren't going to get in the way, right?"

"Not a chance," Daniel promised.

"And I’m betting that you aren't going to be making any trouble either," Ferretti said to Gary.

"Nope."

"Good. I'm gonna get this asshole into the interrogation room, and then I'm gonna get myself a cup of coffee." Ferretti disappeared into the brig. Came out five minutes later, his hand around Michelson's arm like a vice.

Michelson…who was cuffed…turned pale when he saw Gary standing in the hallway. "Keep him away from me!" he demanded.

"Oh, shut up," Ferretti growled. "Nobody's gonna kill you."

Daniel couldn't help but smile when Ferretti caught his eye. It seemed that those around him had learned the value of saying exactly what was meant, while leaving open any other options available. No, not one person would try to kill the bastard. But three people would sure as hell knock him on his ass!

Casey and Daniel leaned against the wall, Gary stood, hands in the pockets of his trousers, while Ferretti took Michelson into the room used for interrogating prisoners. Not that there had been many such events at the SGC. Daniel was actually hard pressed to remember the last time the room had been used. Woolsey's face flashed through his mind. For a legitimate interrogation, he thought.

There had been 'interviews' conducted with the members of the rogue SG team that had been found guilty of running an illegal 'artifact gathering' operation. The memory of his visit to Jack's house, the resulting conversation that had left him wounded to his very soul, didn't sting now. Daniel couldn't help but smile. Jack had been nearly frantic to make him understand that the house had been bugged, and that he had to remain 'in character' in order to pull off the secret mission he'd been given by General Hammond and the president. German beer, and half a dozen expensive coffees had been gifts from his best friend. So, the room had been used then.

Sam had been 'interviewed' as well, after her experience with the Ascended being she'd met…What had the guy's name been? Started with an 'O'. Had an 'r' in it as well…Or…Or…Orlin! It had been difficult not to worry about her sanity when she'd first told him about her 'visitor'. Jack had confided his own concerns about her mental health. Although, truth be told, Jack was the first to believe her…to accept what she was saying as fact. The 'interview' she'd undergone after the incident had been with Jack and the general, in Hammond's office. The interrogation room hadn't even been considered.

There had been 'interviews' individually and as a team after the mission to rescue a Russian team. Who had already been killed by some freaky creature…some freaky Goa'uld controlled creature. All but one of the Russians from the 'rescue' team, tasked to accompany SG-1, had been killed. But not before using one of the Russians as a host. That had been a close damned call. Had Teal'c and he not figured out that a ring transport was in the room…Daniel shook his head mentally. So damned many close calls! However, he thought, the interviews after the mission had taken place in the briefing room, not the interrogation room.

For the most part, any time discussions needed to be held, questions asked after a mission, it was done in the briefing room, General Hammond's office, or Janet's office. Sometimes MacKenzie sat in on the 'meetings', in his role of SGC psychiatrist. The good doctor rarely said anything. There had been the required 'meeting' with MacKenzie after what the team had endured on that planet, where they'd been witness to the brutal murders of children…Daniel quickly pushed that memory away. If he was remembering correctly, that 'meeting' had taken place in one of the rooms set aside for negotiating with alien leaders.

Nope, the interrogation room wasn't used often for interrogations. He glanced at his father-in-law. Wondered just what he'd do with the information this weasel…Michelson, he'd heard was the man's name…would no doubt offer in return for - in return for what? Not getting the crap knocked out of him? Casey had already told him the scarred man was the same who had been in charge of those who had kidnapped her and Cassie. The man who had planned to rape his Wife and god-daughter. For that alone, Daniel wanted to strangle the bastard.

Ferretti stepped back into the corridor. Locked the door. He conveniently left the key in the lock. "I'm gonna get me a much needed cup of coffee," he announced. "Shouldn't take more than about twenty minutes."

Daniel nodded.

"Want I should save a place for you in the commissary, Mrs. J?" the Marine asked amiably.

"That would be great, Ferretti," Casey smiled. "I need to make a visit to the ladies room. Might be about fifteen minutes or so."

"I'll keep the coffee hot," Ferretti promised. He turned on his heel and walked to the elevator. Stood ramrod straight, facing the closed doors. When the doors finally opened, and he stepped into the car, he gave a solemn nod. If questioned, he could honestly say that the Jacksons and Franklin were standing in the corridor, talking quietly. About what, he had no idea.

Daniel glanced at Casey, then looked at Gary. In spite of how badly he wanted to walk into that room, and pound the living daylights out of the bastard responsible for so much pain…for his Wife, for him…his conscience held him in check. "This is wrong."

"I know," Gary replied quietly.

"I want to kill the bastard," Daniel admitted.

"You and me both."

"I just want to smack the shit out of him," Casey said.

He ran his hand over his face. "This is wrong," Daniel repeated.

Gary frowned, then looked down at his shoes. "I don't think anyone is going to object to us talking to this bastard. Hell, I know for a fact that General Hammond is going to want to have a word or two with him."

Daniel nodded. He wanted a few answers, himself. He wanted to know just how many more times his Wife would be in danger from the NID…or some other corrupt politician in Washington, D.C. "I suppose it won't hurt to talk to him."

Casey laid a hand on his arm. "He'll push your buttons, Daniel."

He sighed. "I know."

"I have every intention of slapping him," she continued.

"Won't stop you," Daniel smiled. "You deserve that much."

Jack had told him that Daniel was the 'moral compass' for the team. Often it was his conscience that guided them when it would be so easy to react brutally, in anger. Gary could see how much Daniel wanted to inflict pain. He could also see the battle in cerulean blue eyes…the need, the desire…to be the better man. How Daniel had been able to see the things he'd seen, suffer the things he'd suffered, and remain so damned…decent…was a mystery, Gary thought. He'd seen good men give in to the anger, to the hate. "This is your show, Daniel," he said quietly. Letting his son-in-law know that he'd control his own raging emotions, in spite of what his baser self wanted.

With another nod, Daniel pushed away from the wall. He hesitated, just before his fingers touched the key. Took a deep breath. I will not hit him, he swore silently. Unless he says something to Casey. He took a moment to come to terms with what might be his possible reaction should Michelson push him. And admitted to himself that if he did hit the bastard, he'd not feel guilty about it, and that was perfectly all right.

Michelson was on his feet when the door opened. His hands had been cuffed behind him, making it impossible for him to use his hands to defend himself.

"Sit down," Daniel said firmly. Quietly.

The scarred man stared at him.

"I said sit down!"

The tone of voice, the anger that burned in those blue eyes had Michelson dropping into the chair.

Casey studied the man for a moment. She could feel the fear that emanated from him. He was a coward. A bully. He enjoyed inflicting pain, but would do anything to avoid suffering it himself. "I heard what you said on that plane," she hissed. "Just to let you know, I'd have castrated you with my bare hands before I'd have let you touch Cassie!"

Michelson frowned. When he realized what she was talking about, his eyes went wide. "You were still unconscious!"

She turned to Daniel. "I should take up acting," she said, a slight smile tugging at her lips. "Of course, I have to remember I was dealing with idiots."

Gary smiled.

Her attention returned to the prisoner. "I'll never forgive you. What you put an innocent teenage girl through…" She paused, turned her head slightly as her eyes filled with tears. Cassie had suffered so much! This bastard was the reason the teen had been forced to kill in order to protect herself. It didn't matter that Kinsey had been the mastermind, had hired this scumbag. Michelson had accepted the job. He was responsible for what she and Cassie had endured. She wasn't even aware of raising her hand until the sting of the blow radiated through her hand, the echo of the slap loud and sharp.

Michelson said nothing. Licking the blood from this lip, he raised fear-filled eyes to Daniel.

"Yeah, I want to hit you," Daniel said coldly. "Actually, I want to wrap my hands around your throat and squeeze the life out of you."

"I was just doin' my job," Michelson muttered petulantly.

Daniel shook his head. "Kidnapping and raping. That's some job you have there."

The prisoner remained silent.

"Both things are against the law. Both are also morally reprehensible. But that never bothered you, did it?"

Michelson turned his head slightly.

Daniel reached out and grabbed him by the hair, forced him to look up, to meet his gaze. "Look at me, you son-of-a-bitch!"

"What, you gonna slap me, too? Hell, I wouldn't have had a chance at your wife or that girl until Kinsey had finished with them. That guy knew how to get his freak on. He'd have probably made your wife do the girl first. Get her all worked up and ready for him. He liked to watch shit like that. Turned him on. And when he was done, he'd have sat there and watched all of us take our turn. He was a twisted-"

Anything more Michelson would have said was silenced when Daniel's fist crashed into his mouth.

Shaking his fist, the knuckles swelling, blood from the man's mouth and his own split skin covering them, Daniel stepped back. He fought against the images the man's words had conjured…trying to force his mind to move away from the idea of his Wife being raped.

Spitting blood on the floor, Michelson looked at Gary. He began to shake at what he saw. The icy look was almost inhuman…worse than it had been when they'd been standing on the road…

Gary was fighting a similar internal battle. He lunged forward, grabbed the man by the front of his shirt and dragged him to his feet. "You sorry asshole!" he ground out. As he had earlier, he buried his fist in the man's stomach.

Michelson gasped, then retched slightly.

"You really should do a little investigating before you go after someone," Gary said coldly. "Just to make certain that nothing is going to bite you in the ass."

"Like the fact that my Wife's father is former Special Ops," Daniel said, his voice just as cold.

"You shouldn't work for men like Colonel Marshall," Casey added. "They don't give a rat's ass if you live or die, just as long as you get the job done. Of course, if you die, then they don't have to pay you."

A knock on the door startled everyone in the room. Ferretti stepped back in. His eyes were blazing with anger. "Just had a little chat with General O'Neill," he explained. His focus was the man who sat, bleeding, in the chair where he'd left him. "Interesting story, about this scumbag and his plans for Mini-Me and Mrs. J."

"Yeah, he had a few ideas," Daniel said.

Ferretti crossed the room. "You folks mind turning around for a second?"

"Ferretti-" Casey started.

"It's 'cause of him you're hurt, Mrs. J," Ferretti said, nodding at the sling on Casey's arm. He looked at Michelson. "Here's something you should remember, and tell all your scumbag friends. You mess with someone at-" he broke off, took a breath - grateful he'd stopped himself before saying more, "You mess with someone here, you mess with all of us!" His fist impacted on the man's face.

Daniel stared at Ferretti. The anger in the Marine's expression, in his voice, in his words, was palpable. In that moment he totally understood the anger, the frustration, that had filled the men of the SG teams in the mountain when Casey had been taken by Ba'al. Their desperation to get her back. Not only that, the determination of every team sent to rescue SG-1 made sense now. The same reason that SG-1 raced into the fire to save any team in trouble. The men and women of the SGC were family. In spite of the occasional personality conflicts that were apt to arise when dealing with two hundred individuals, the unofficial motto of the SGC was 'leave no man behind'. The battle cry of the SGC was 'all for one, and one for all'. Outsiders harmed members of that family at their own risk. Retaliation would be swift, and painful. He slid his arm around Casey's waist. "Let's go, Angel."

Gary gave Ferretti's shoulder a friendly slap. "Might wanna keep an eye on this guy. He's accident prone."

"Yeah," Ferretti said, flexing the fingers of his hand, "I noticed that."

He knew he was on a military base. All of the security had clued him to the fact that he was in a very sensitive area. He'd not been read his rights, and hadn't been told what charges he would face. He didn't doubt that was going to happen at some point in the next few hours. For his part, Michelson feared he'd not survive to be arrested.

Gary turned to look over his shoulder. Ferretti's words echoed in his mind. An idea began to form. His smile was cold. Sometimes, messages were best heeded when visual confirmation accompanied them.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

By the time General Hammond made it to the interrogation room to speak to the prisoner, Michelson's face was so battered it was hard to recognize him. The Air Force officer in him recoiled from what had happened…and under his command, no less. It was brutal; it was unnecessary violence. It was against every law, rule, and regulation he had spent his career to protect and uphold. It was against every moral and ethical fiber in his being. The part of him that was the commander of the SGC understood the anger that the scarred man had raised. It wasn't just what he had done, although his part in kidnapping Casey Jackson and Cassie Fraiser, and then the attempted kidnapping of Casey and 'Mini-me' was infuriating in and of itself. It was who…and what…Michelson represented. The NID…the rogue section of the NID that had been dogged in their determination to control the SGC…for their own twisted agenda. The ties to former Senator Robert Kinsey, and that man's hatred of the military in general, and the SGC in particular.

Michelson could barely sit up. He'd never suffered a beating like he'd received. Yet, no one had hit him more than once. Men and women with so much anger in their eyes. All declaring that he'd made a very stupid mistake in targeting Casey Jackson, and that girl, and the teenage boy…

"I want to know who hired you," Hammond said, without preamble.

"Colonel Marshall," he replied immediately. Hell, he already knew that these people knew who was behind the order he'd been following.

Hammond nodded slowly. "That's what I thought." He turned, calling out to the guards waiting in the hall, who had been placed there to stop the 'visits' that had been occurring for nearly two hours. He obstinately refused to consider the fact that he should have placed such a guard on the man the minute he'd been put in the brig. "Get this man ready to go."

"Go?" Michelson asked, not just a bit frightened.

"We're having you flown back to Washington," Hammond replied.

Michelson didn't know whether to be relieved or terrified. No doubt Marshall wouldn't be any more understanding about his failures as Kinsey or Simmons had ever been.

When Gary Franklin had approached him, Hammond had at first rejected the idea. After discussing the day's events with SG-1, the team most affected by Marshall and his antics, he saw the possibility of preventing any further such incidents. He'd spoken with the president as well, a conference call during which Casey had given details of what she and Johnny O'Neill had experienced. No doubt the resignation required would arrive on President Hayes' desk within hours after the 'delivery'. "Tell General O'Neill to have his team standing by."

"Yes, sir," the guard replied.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel led Casey into the commissary. Their teammates were already seated, eating the daily menu special. Spaghetti and meatballs. It was, Daniel thought, one of the few meals that couldn't be totally screwed up. He was relieved when Casey accepted a plate piled with the pasta and sauce. The cook grinned at her, and ladled extra meatballs onto the side. A side salad, which he knew she'd finish, a couple of slices of garlic bread…if she ate one, he'd be surprised, and a cup of coffee. His tray was loaded with the same thing, although he hadn't been given extra meatballs, a thought that had him chuckling quietly.

Casey dug into her meal with gusto. "I'm starving!"

"Yeah, so I see," Jack replied, before twirling another fork of spaghetti, and shoveling it into his mouth.

He hadn't realized how hungry he was until the first bite. Daniel tucked into his own dinner with fervor.

Sam looked over at Teal'c. "You're not eating," she said, obviously curious. No one on the team had had lunch, and it was well into the dinner hour.

"I ate sandwiches and cookies with Emma Hanks, Janelle Franklin, and Muriel Jackson," Teal'c replied easily. "Emma Hanks also insisted on warming soup for me, as well. She had prepared it yesterday. It was quite good."

"Should'a stayed there myself," Jack grumbled, eyeing his spaghetti with blatant dissatisfaction.

Teal'c smiled. "Indeed."

"Were they difficult to keep an eye on?" Sam asked, her grin as bright as her eyes as she watched her husband.

"They were not. I merely pointed out that while their hearts would hasten them to interfere, to do so could cause further harm to Casey Jackson and Johnny O'Neill."

"They'd never want to do that," Daniel said, around a mouthful of garlic bread.

"They would not," Teal'c agreed. "The ladies then regaled me with stories of their youth."

Jack dropped his fork against his plate with a clatter. "That's it. The next time somebody else gets to do the chasing, and I'll baby-sit the gray-haired avengers."

Casey burst into giggles. "I'm so gonna remember that!"

Daniel rolled his eyes. "You probably should. Whenever those three get together, trouble seems to find them."

"You can't blame what happened today on them," Casey argued. "I was the one to get the download. I was the one to head to the mall to get Johnny."

"Why didn't you call me?" Daniel demanded, a question that had been pecking at the back of his mind all day.

She gave a casual shrug. "I was just going to pick Johnny up from the mall, and take him home. I didn't think it would take longer than half an hour. I…I didn't realize that the guy I saw…" She frowned. "What happened to the tall guy? Lanky, brown hair?"

Jack looked around the room. Took a sip of coffee.

"Jack?" Casey asked.

"Dead," he said quietly. "Shot between the eyes."

She processed the information. Felt a slight poke, then a flash of light. "He got greedy," she said softly, staring beyond Teal'c's shoulder. "He was going to hold us until Marshall paid him. Then he'd have handed us over to Michelson. When we escaped, we screwed everything up."

"Yeah, my heart bleeds," Daniel grumbled. "And you haven't answered my question."

"I didn't know that guy-"

"Keller," Jack offered.

"That was his name?"

The older man nodded.

"Keller was already there. He and Raft Boy Two were watching Johnny. I just…I didn't think there would be a problem, and then we were too busy trying to avoid them for me to think about calling. Well, I did remember just before they caught us…but I could only get one bar, and then Raft Boy took my phone and stomped on it. I hadn't even finished getting my phonebook caught up!"

Sam chuckled. "I'll get a program set up for you. Then all you'll have to do is plug it into the computer and download the information."

"That's a good idea," Casey said. Then she frowned. "Wait a minute. Is that a way of saying I go through a lot of phones?"

Neither Daniel nor Jack could stop the laughter that bubbled up. "Angel, you've had five phones in two years."

"It's not my fault! I swear it's not! It wasn't like I intended to drop the first phone into the dishwater-"

Jack chortled loudly.

"I didn't know that leaving the other phone in Sam's lab during that experiment would fry it," she continued, glaring at Jack.

"What about the three you lost?" Daniel asked.

"I have no idea how I lost them."

"You should check your purse. I'll bet that at least one of them is in there."

"I'll take a piece of that," Jack grinned.

"Oh, ha ha!"

Daniel reached out, wrapped his fingers around hers. "We'll get a new phone tomorrow."

"And we'll all be getting new credit card accounts," Jack added.

Casey looked from Daniel to Jack to Sam to Teal'c, and back again. "Okay, why?"

"NID has our accounts flagged. They're aware of every purchase we make."

Her cheeks went crimson. "Those rat bastards!"

He thought about some of the purchases made on her card, and understood the reason she was blushing. While nothing she'd bought could be used to blackmail her…or him…they were still personal enough to be embarrassing. "Don't worry, Angel. They won't be telling anyone anything."

While the thought of teasing her, given her blush and Daniel's comment, was strong, Jack wondered briefly how long he could do so before she hauled off and decked him. He decided that the events of the day were still too fresh in her mind. There were some subjects one just didn't joke about. "New accounts will be given Top Security status," he said. "Which means no one can access information about those accounts without our prior knowledge and express approval."

"No one?" Casey asked.

"Not even the president," Jack promised.

One of the base MPs approached the table. "Excuse me, General O'Neill," he said apologetically. "General Hammond ordered me to have your team standing by. He's ready for the prisoners to be airlifted out."

Jack nodded, took one final sip of coffee. Each of his kids took at least one more bite before pushing away from the table. "Tell him we're on our way. Gary Franklin and his men should be waiting in Dennis Ballard's office. Have them join us on the tarmac."

"Yes, sir," the MP replied, saluting smartly.

"Daddy is going…why?"

Jack gave a cold smile. "Gary had a great idea. He and his crew are going to deliver Michelson directly to Marshall. Sorta. That will let that bastard know that the SGC has friends in places other than the Pentagon. I believe the suggestion of retirement will be made as well."

"Suggestion?" Daniel asked, eyebrows raised slightly.

"More or less," Jack replied, breaking into a crooked smile. "He's even going to suggest a replacement."

"Who?" Sam asked.

"General Bauer."

Daniel nearly spit his mouthful of coffee. "Are you serious?"

"You have to be kidding!" Sam protested simultaneously.

"I believe this to be most unwise," Teal'c added.

"That damned ass nearly destroyed the SGC, and possibly half of Colorado!" Daniel protested.

"Seems that General Bauer has become an ally of the SGC," Jack explained. "He's been here. He knows what we face. And he's still ashamed of what he did…what he allowed the NID to convince him was a good idea. If anyone will keep the NID on the straight and narrow, it will be him."

"What about the agents who are after the profit they can make using the Stargate?" Daniel insisted.

"Chances are, they won't remain in the NID very long," Jack shrugged.

"Life would be easier if we didn't have the NID to worry about," Casey sighed.

"Unfortunately, there are other groups out there who want the same thing," Jack told her.

"Peachy," she grumbled.

"Let's go, campers. We have a long flight ahead of us."

Daniel fished his phone from his pocket. "Let me call Grandma, and let her know we won't be home until sometime in the morning."

Jack nodded, then led the way out of the commissary.


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