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Devil's Brigade

 

"...Everything's good, I said, everything's fine.
You don't know, don't know it's the end of your time.
How does it feel to be turned away?
I've known it, baby, almost every day.
Sly, sly, like a demon's eye..."
"Demon's Eye"
(Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice)
From the Album "Fireball" by Deep Purple

Chapter 1

There had been few times during his tenure as Commanding Officer of the Stargate Command facility when George Hammond had been asked to meet any of his personnel in a briefing he hadn't called. He couldn't remember ever feeling the sense of anxiety that he felt now, as he finished signing several reports that had been awaiting his attention for nearly an hour. The...unexpected...call from Colonel O'Neill made him nervous.

He sighed heavily. The team had only just returned from another joint mission with the Tok'ra. Where things had gone to hell quickly. Again. Casey Jackson had been captured by Ba'al, for the second time, within three hours of leaving the SGC. And it seemed that the Goa'uld had taken up where he'd left off, injecting her with that drug immediately, determined to make the slender blonde his slave. Thank god there hadn't been time for Ba'al to hurt her physically. He'd slapped her around a bit, something that had happened before the first injection of...what was that drug called? He sorted through the mission reports. Ker'nish'ta.

The Texan shook his bald head slowly. He'd received a message from Jacob Carter, a mission report of sorts, apprising him of what had happened during the hours that SG-1 had been gone...had been working with the Tok'ra. How Dr. Jackson had been so angry...no, furious was the word used...that he'd nearly severed diplomatic relations with the Tok'ra. How the pain in the young man's eyes had caused Selmak to question the wisdom of calling on SG-1 in the future...a fear that could possibly cripple the Tok'ra resistance in their efforts against the Goa'uld. Because of all the teams in the SGC, no matter how much he might not want to admit it out loud, SG-1 was the best. There wasn't a team in existence that could pull off, and successfully, the stunts that those five people could pull. And the Tok'ra had learned to utilize them because of that fact.

Only determination, and a healthy dose of that SG-1 good luck, had brought Casey back safely. Without a doubt Dr. Jackson would refuse to work with the Tok'ra again. Not that the older man could blame him. Hammond leaned back in his chair. If he were the young archaeologist, he'd be hell-bent for leather to put as much distance between himself and the SGC as possible.

And if Dr. Jackson left, taking his very talented young wife with him, SG-1 would fall apart. He knew that for fact. Jack had already said as much. If Jack O'Neill retired, no doubt Major Carter would do the same; to be with the man she'd loved silently, from a distance, for five years. They'd only been together for about ten months now. He had no doubt that neither would be willing to be apart at this stage. And Teal'c would walk through that Stargate, and join the Jaffa Rebellion on the frontlines, rather than work with any other team.

Losing SG-1 would have a negative effect on the entire SGC program. Daniel Jackson was probably the one man whom he depended upon the most when it came to dealing with the alien cultures and diplomats that they met. The one man who could take fragments of Earth mythology and history, a few hastily gathered current 'facts', and paint an accurate picture of the Goa'uld they faced. And after having Casey and her 'gift' protecting each team, offering insight and warnings that no MALP or UAV images could ever provide, the men and women who were required to go through the Stargate would do so hesitantly. How many others involved with the program would choose to leave, rather than walk through the 'gate blindly? Chances were, if the Jackson's left the SGC, the entire Stargate Program would stumble, stagger, and perhaps fall apart completely. Considering the threats that planet Earth faced, that was an unacceptable situation.

He'd offer the team vacation time. God knew they'd earned it. Even though they'd been on twenty days of down time in October. They'd managed to find information about a Goa'uld right here on Earth during that time. And the missions they'd been on...endured...suffered through...when they'd returned from that much needed break, had been heart wrenching. Both of those off-world missions had seen Casey Jackson taken captive. It was a testimony to his determination to fight the Goa'uld that Daniel Jackson had remained at the SGC after the first time. Proof of the kind of man that the archaeologist was. In thirty-seven years in the military, George Hammond had met few men who could be considered true heroes. Daniel Jackson was one among that small number.

The president had authorized him to offer each of the Jacksons a higher salary as well. He was hard pressed to think of anything else that he could give them...other than making the promise that they'd never have to work with the Tok'ra again, and if it was necessary, that they'd never have to travel through the 'gate again. It would be difficult, not having the best going out and making those all important first contacts...but if that's what it took to keep SG-1 happy, so be it. If he could just keep the team on the base, he would be happy.

He glanced up from the last of the files, through the window that separated his office from the briefing room. The members of SG-1 were settling around the conference table. The expressions on each face sent his heart further into his stomach. He frowned when Dr. Fraiser entered the room, sat down, looked around expectantly. It seemed that her presence had been requested also. She appeared...puzzled. No more so than he was.

Another sigh, and he pushed himself to his feet. It was time to face the music. He'd sent the team on the mission. He'd shoulder the responsibility for what had happened. And he'd deal with the consequences. He only hoped he could learn to live with them as well.

 

 

 

Daniel poured coffee for himself and his wife. Slid the carafe toward Sam, who filled mugs for herself and Jack. Teal'c was dipping his teabag into the hot water in his mug. Daniel couldn't help but smile at the look of confusion on Janet's face. Casey had called her, asking her best friend to meet them in the briefing room, but giving no explanation as to why. He could tell that Casey was about to burst with excitement. He only hoped she wouldn't be too disappointed if...when...the offer was refused.

"I thought by now all of you'd be home sleeping," the general said as he entered the room. SG-1 had embarked on the latest Tok'ra mission more than twenty-three hours earlier. Even though it was only early evening now, he knew that the team was exhausted.

Jack glanced at Casey. "Yes, sir, so did I. Except Radar got a message from Miss Eloise."

General Hammond turned to Casey. This could be serious. What was the SGC...what was SG-1, about to face now? "I see."

The team members exchanged glances. "Go ahead, Radar. Give 'em the news," Jack said quietly.

He braced himself. Here it comes, he thought. The team no doubt believed hearing that they were all resigning, or at least not willing to go on missions any longer, would be easier to hear from the soft-spoken seer. Whatever Miss Eloise had shared, it's more than the team can deal with...or perhaps want to deal with, he thought worriedly.

"Well, sir; Janet," Casey said, her glance taking both of them in, "the two of you are very important to the SGC."

That was not what he'd expected to hear! Startled, Hammond forced himself to listen carefully to what the slender blonde was saying.

"You're even more important to us," she said softly. "You're the only two in the world who know about...us...the only people who can protect us from those who might ask too many questions."

"From the NID," Jack added quietly. "We know that you're taking some risks in...altering...some of your reports."

The general looked at each face. "Thank you, I think."

Janet nodded. "Like the general said, thank you."

"Don't thank me...us...yet," Casey warned gently. "Because of how important you are to us, to our...safety, you've been...well...if the two of you can continue to protect us, we can continue to do our job."

"Casey, I'm not following you," General Hammond said, a frown on his face.

"Sir, when are you due for your next set of orders?" Jack asked.

Again, this was not what he'd expected. His next set of orders would actually lead directly to his retirement. Something, he was loath to admit, he wasn't looking forward to doing. An admission that surprised him. His assignment to the Stargate Program had been intended as his last tour of duty. He'd been anxiously counting the days until he was General George Hammond, Retired. Now...now things were much different. "Two years."

Jack looked at the petite doctor. "And you?"

"Eighteen months," Janet replied.

"So what are we supposed to do when you're no longer here? We can't trust just anyone with our...secret," Casey said.

"Well, we have time to worry about that-" the general started.

Casey shook her head. "No, sir, we don't. What you need to do-" she broke off, looked at Daniel. Took comfort from the slight pressure of his fingers against hers. "What we'd like for you to do...well, the decision has to be made soon."

"What decision? Casey, you're not making any sense," Janet said frowning slightly.

"Because of your positions in the SGC, because you...protect us...Daniel can request...he can petition...you can be Immortal." The words came out in a rush.

Neither the doctor nor the general moved. The only reaction was the stunned expressions on their faces. General Hammond was the first to recover. "I don't...I don't think I heard...heard you...or understood clearly," he stammered.

"Yes, you did," Casey replied softly. "We know, we understand that this is a shock. We weren't exactly given a choice...well, we were, but we didn't realize that at the time. But you, both of you, are being offered the...blessing...of Immortality."

"This isn't a decision to rush into," Daniel said quietly. "But you need to understand that the offer isn't being made lightly. If the Beings involved didn't believe you to be...worthy...we wouldn't be having this discussion."

Janet was doing a very wide-eyed impression of a fish, her mouth in an 'o', obviously struggling to even make a sound.

"We also understand exactly what we're asking of you," Casey said. "We've had a few months to come to terms with our Immortality."

"And none of us have family...close family...to consider," Sam added softly. She loved her brother, but over the years they'd drifted apart. The longer she stayed in the military, the higher her rank became, the more distance seemed to be between them. It didn't help the situation when she couldn't tell him what she was doing. Couldn't let him know that it hadn't been an 'experimental' drug that had cured their father's lymphoma. Couldn't explain their father's long absences; his seeming unwillingness to even call his son. Her father, well, being the host to a Tok'ra symbiote had extended his life span by at least a hundred years, possibly longer. No doubt Jacob Carter was relieved that his daughter would out-live him, rather than having to face watching her age, watching her health deteriorate, watching her die.

"I don't know what to say," Janet said, finally able to speak.

"We know this is a lot to take in. As far as we know, you'll have some time to think this over," Jack said.

"How much time?" General Hammond asked.

All eyes went to Casey. She shrugged. "A couple of months at the most."

The general nodded his understanding.

"If you agree, we have to tell the president," Casey said. "That's part of the deal. I have no idea why."

General Hammond gave a weak smile. "The Roswell File."

"The what?" Daniel asked, frowning slightly.

"There are certain things, the SGC for example, that are kept secret. Those secrets are kept in what is called the Roswell File. Every incoming president is given this file upon taking office. And if anything occurs during his time in office that is deemed important, but too controversial, or detrimental, to be released to the public, it goes into the Roswell File. Once it's in that file, it cannot be declassified," the general explained.

"Never?" Daniel's eyes were wide with disbelief.

"I suppose that there might be a few things that have managed to become common knowledge. Even so, there will never be an 'official' comment or stance on the issue. Once it goes into that file, it stays there."

"But what if the incoming president doesn't believe it should be kept a secret?" Daniel pressed. He'd always secreted the hope that one day the Stargate would become public knowledge. And that he, and his theories, would be proven right to the academic community. It was a hope that he rarely admitted to himself. It seemed too petty, too...childish. Wanting vindication from those who'd turned their backs on him was something that he shouldn't feel, he was certain.

"There are certain things that not even the President of the United States can change. And the contents of the Roswell File is one of them," General Hammond replied. "He can add to those contents. He can never taken anything out of it."

"So if the...knowledge...of our Immortality was in that file, it would have to be kept a secret," Jack nodded.

"Not only that, only the president knows what's in that file," the general told them.

"No one else knows?" Casey asked incredulously.

"Perhaps a Joint Chief or two. Even they wouldn't know the full contents of the file. But no one else knows about it. That file is the most top secret document that exists."

"How does anyone keep track of it?" Sam asked.

"The file contains a list of contents. Information pertaining to each...secret...is kept in a vault, one that only the president can access. The Stargate Program alone has generated dozens of boxes of reports. But that list of contents, memos, single page reports...that file is literally handed from president to president. During the transition of administrations, the outgoing president always has lunch with the incoming president. It's a closed door meeting in the Oval Office."

"I've never heard of that," Sam admitted.

"Because officially, it never happens," General Hammond smiled.

"That's why a new president seems to age overnight," Casey mused. "What they learn must be...staggering."

"I imagine so," the general agreed.

"So if the president puts a memo, or note, or whatever, into this file, stating that we're Immortal, and that our...positions...here in the SGC are permanent..." Jack started.

"No president could make any changes. He'd know why you're here. If..." he paused, frowned. Was he seriously considering this...offer? He'd think about it later. Much later. After a drink or two. He took a deep breath. "If the doctor and I accept this...gift... then any incoming president would be unable to remove us from our respective offices. No matter how he might want to."

Casey nodded again. "That's why Miss Eloise insisted that he be told!"

"Apparently," Daniel concurred.

"I know this is a shock, Sir, Doctor," Jack said quietly. "But we just found out about it ourselves."

The general looked over at Casey. "You say we have a few months in which to decide?"

"Not more than three," was the soft reply.

No doubt it would take every moment of those three months, he thought, still shocked at what he'd been told. The general nodded. "Go get some sleep. You've been up for over twenty-three hours now."

"Yes, sir," Jack said. "With your permission, sir."

"Dismissed."

Quietly, the team stood to their feet, filed out of the room. And left two very shaken people behind, staring at one another across the conference table.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey was quiet on the ride home. He glanced at her. Wondered if she was merely tired, or if something was bothering her. "Case?"

"Hmm?"

"You okay?"

"Do you think they'll accept?"

"I don't know. It's a lot to take in. General Hammond has his daughter and granddaughters to consider. Janet has Cassie. Their families need them."

"We need them, too," she said softly, wistfully.

"If...if they don't accept, and they're replaced, could those people be offered Immortality?" Daniel asked.

"I don't know. I don't think so. General Hammond and Janet have earned this...blessing, this gift. And their time at the SGC has been a large influence on that decision," Casey replied. Miss Eloise had been quite specific. This gift was for General George Hammond and Dr. Janet Fraiser. Not whoever happened to be the Commanding Officer and the Chief Medical Officer of the SGC.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel watched her undress. Even as tired as he was, and he was utterly exhausted, he could feel the surge of desire. And he knew, that as tired as she was, if he reached for her, she'd do her best to drive him insane, and then send him spinning among the stars.

She looked up, saw the raw lust in his eyes. She wanted nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep for three or four days. But she wouldn't deny him...couldn't deny him, ever. Especially since he no doubt needed a 'fix'. It was her fault he was addicted...to her. She had no choice but to make certain he never suffered because of that addiction.

He stretched out on the bed. God, it felt good to lay down! He jerked slightly when he felt her hands begin to move over his chest.

"Whatever you want, whatever you need," she whispered.

He smiled. "Sleep, Angel. You need to sleep."

"You need..." she blushed, watched her fingers moving over the firm muscles of his abdomen. Watched as his body stirred to life.

"Sleep."

"It's been almost thirty six hours..."

"And I'll be fine. We'll get a few hours of sleep. Then I'll have the energy and strength to ravish you properly."

She giggled softly. "I don't want you to suffer."

"I'm not going to suffer, Casey. We'll get some rest. Then we'll make love. I promise." With a smile that threatened to melt his brain, she settled against his side, her head on his shoulder. "Sleep, Angel."

"Love you."

"Love you, too."

Within seconds she was totally oblivious to the world, as Morpheus wrapped her in his gentle embrace.

He closed his eyes. Could see the blue light that came straight out of his fingers. Could see it holding back the yellowish light that Anubis had thrown at him. He could feel the heat; the burning...scorching...heat. For several long minutes that heat had seemed to envelop him. He had felt as if he was looking at the Goa'uld through a haze of blue. In those moments, when he fought against the being who was not quite human...or Goa'uld, and not quite Ascended, he knew only that Anubis was the enemy...a dangerous enemy. His one thought had been to protect Casey. Not destroying that...creature...would have put her in danger. No choice. He'd had no choice. The flashes of light that had filled the corridor around him...around them, when Anubis had tried to flee their plane of existence had been blinding. But he was certain he'd seen faces in the brightness, if only for a fraction of a second. And one had looked eerily like the face of the woman who was protecting Sha're's son.

The One. He'd suspected that whatever was expected of him would be difficult...costly. What had happened on that ship had certainly taken a physical toll, he couldn't remember ever feeling so totally drained...as if every ounce of energy in his body had been sapped from him. The power that was within him wasn't new. It had been given to him when he'd passed the tests that those Beings had put him through. It wasn't something he was even aware of, unless he thought about it. He concentrated on the power that he could sense...could feel...running through his body, flowing with his blood. Could feel the heat. Shouldn't he be freaking out about this? Shouldn't he be worried about the fact that he could send blue energy shooting from his fingers? Shouldn't it totally scare the bejeezus out of him? He examined the sense of calm that surrounded him. Was it because of Casey? Did her faith in him, her quiet acceptance of what he could do ease his own fears? Or was it a side effect of that power? Had those Beings altered him in other ways, making him more...complaisant? He frowned. Somehow that didn't...feel...right. If he could accept this...power, it was because of Casey.

His thoughts took a darker turn...as he imagined holding Ba'al in the blue stream of fire...burning him...killing him...slowly. Watching the Goa'uld's face as his life force evaporated. For Casey, he thought. Sleep took him before he was forced to examine those most dangerous desires any closer.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack ran his hand over Sam's shoulder. He could still see the surprise...no, the shock in Daniel's eyes when Casey had begged the archaeologist to stop the Goa'uld. Or whatever the hell he'd been. He'd watched that shock change to determination. His eyelids began to droop...drifted shut. He immediately opened them again. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Daniel...standing in that corridor, blue...light...coming from his fingertips, holding back the yellowish light that Anubis, that freaky looking bastard, was trying to destroy his best friend with. Knew without a doubt that there was one thought, and one thought only, on the younger man's mind...protect Casey. Oh, he knew for certain that Daniel would have done the same thing had she not been there. But she had been. And she'd been his only concern.

"I'd like to get an MRI of him," Sam said softly, proof that her own thoughts were echoing his own.

"What would that show?"

The shoulder beneath his hand moved up and then back down. "I'm assuming that there would be more...activity...somewhere."

"And if there's not?"

"I don't know, Jack," she replied. "I guess I never really thought about it. Daniel being The One, I mean. We don't..." she paused. "We didn't know what it meant. We all came back from that temple changed. But Daniel-"

"I know," Jack whispered, when she'd broken off, became silent. Daniel wasn't like any other human being on Earth. Not now. For the first time since waking up in that subterranean cavern, he understood exactly why he, Sam, and Teal'c had been granted Immortality. To protect Daniel. Not that he'd need much, not with his ability to toss around those cool blue fireballs. But there were dangers that they could protect him from. Had to protect him from. Suddenly, General Hammond's decision took on even more importance. The general had to accept. So that he could help them safeguard Daniel...mostly from the NID. If those bastards ever found out, they'd experiment on Daniel in a heartbeat, make him perform like a monkey in a side show, he thought bitterly. And then they'd dissect him to find out what he'd become.

"He's more important that anyone realized," Sam said, snuggling closer to the man beside her.

"I know." Another thought that weighed heavily on his mind. Casey had told them that they were the first line of defense for the humans in danger from the Goa'uld. Daniel was...he was a weapon of sorts. No doubt his moral compass, that goodness that was just...Daniel; the generous, giving heart that insisted on seeing the good rather than only the bad in people, but was able to recognize bad people; his penchant for doing the right thing, even when it was the most difficult thing to do - those were the reasons that Daniel Jackson was The One. Whoever had bestowed the title...the task...on the archaeologist couldn't have picked a better, finer man. That was the last conscious thought as Jack finally succumbed to sleep.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Teal'c sat silently, his eyes closed. Daniel Jackson was more powerful than any Goa'uld. As powerful as the mystical Beings known as The Ascended. The archaeologist was The One. No doubt there would be many battles in which he would be forced to draw upon the power that now dwelt within him. And Casey Jackson would continue to be his guide.

Daniel Jackson had a heart full of goodness. Of curiosity. Of kindness. Those qualities were most certainly the reason he'd been chosen to become The One. He also had the heart of a warrior, a transition that Teal'c had witnessed over the years of working with the young man on SG-1. The wide-eyed, excited youth of those first days of the team had grown, matured, witnessed far too much, survived far too much. Had been forced to kill far too many times. It saddened him to see the guarded look that had replaced the wonder in those blue eyes. Just as the pain, the haunted look that could fill the depths of Casey's green eyes when she believed she was unobserved also saddened him. Angered him. Added to the list of sins committed by the false gods who continued to threaten every human being in the galaxy...the universe.

He understood that Daniel had a deep, dark hatred of the Goa'uld. And it was a hatred that had been born the day his wife, Sha're, had been stolen from him. It had become dark and deep, and dangerous, when he learned that she had become a host to Amaunet. Few people understood that the unassuming scientist could become a cold-blooded killer in the blink of an eye when facing Goa'uld. Daniel would always mourn the loss of any Jaffa, understanding that they were nothing more than slaves to the parasites that took innocent hosts. The young man would mourn the loss of any of those hosts. But he would kill Goa'uld with dark, unbridled enthusiasm.

Together, Daniel and Casey were strong. They would accomplish much together. But they weren't invincible. There wasn't a doubt in the Jaffa's mind that it was imperative that he and his teammates protected Daniel Jackson at all costs. There was no doubt that the archaeologist was not only the Champion of the Innocent, but the greatest Hope that mankind had in defeating the Goa'uld. And the greatest threat came not from the Goa'uld, but from forces on the planet of the Tau'ri. The mik'ta-ha's of the organization known as the NID. A group of dishonorable men and women, who exploited those around them for their own gain, all in the name of protecting their 'country'. Colonel Simmons was a far greater enemy to Daniel and Casey Jackson than Ba'al. It was against this threat that he, and O'Neill, and Major Carter must be ever vigilant.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

George Hammond opened the door quietly. The girls were long since in bed. The only light on downstairs was the lamp on the hall table, beside the door. He dropped his keys into the wooden bowl where he kept them. Headed for his den.

There was sufficient light that filtered through the window from the street lamp outside, he was able to see well enough to pour a drink, and sit down behind his desk. He'd been prepared to fight to keep SG-1 on the base, and on active duty. He hadn't been prepared to be offered...to become...he couldn't even think the word! He watched, in an almost detached manner, as his hand began to shake.

He tossed back the bourbon that he'd poured. Immortality. To live forever. Free from pain. He absently flexed his aching shoulder. Wondered what it would be like to wake up every morning without the aches of an old warrior. Pain free. Disease free. Forever.

Part of him wanted to grab the opportunity with both hands. Part of him wanted to run as far as possible in the other direction. He reached out, turned on the desk lamp, the green glass shade deflecting the light to the desktop. Two crayon drawings were waiting there, proudly signed with large, crooked letters by the respective artists. He smiled, ran his fingers over each one. His gaze moved to the framed photographs that sat on the corner of the desk. Two little faces smiled at him.

It had been a blessing when Abby had moved in with him. He'd been lost after Betty's death. When Abby's husband had been killed during a mission in Iraq, it had just seemed the natural thing for her to do; to bring Kayla and Tessa and live with him. They'd filled the house with laughter again...the sounds of little feet racing through the rooms, up and down the stairs. Greeting him with squeals of delight, so like their mother had done when she'd been their age. They'd brought the house...and him...back to life.

Unlike her mother, Abby understood when he couldn't talk about his work. Her own six year enlistment in the Air Force had given her an insight that her mother didn't have. Oh, he knew that there were times she was just about beside herself wanting to ask him questions, especially when he was absent for days at a time, came home exhausted, and sometimes with wounds he could never explain. But she never did. Part of him wanted desperately to tell her. To have one person outside of the SGC in whom he could confide. But to do so not only broke the rules, it would put her in danger. Those who knew General George Hammond well knew that he'd never disclose any information to any person not cleared for said information. It was a fact as indisputable as the color of the sky. And was the one thing that had always kept his family safe.

Forever. That was a very long time. It would guarantee that he'd always be there for Abby...for Kayla...for Tessa. He wouldn't have to worry about missing first proms. Graduations. Weddings. Births. He frowned. It also meant watching them age. Dealing with their mortality.

He leaned back in the chair. He'd buried his wife. It had devastated him. To have to bury his daughter, his granddaughters...no, he couldn't deal with that kind of pain, that deep loss.

But what about SG-1? What about the war against the Goa'uld? Surely at some point the war would be over. That didn't change the fact that those five young people, well, Jack was closer to his age than he was those of his team, except for Teal'c, of course...he shook his head as his thoughts wandered. Even if one day the Goa'uld were completely defeated, there were other threats that existed. Other discoveries waiting to be made. And the members of SG-1 were already Immortal. They'd be the focus of much unwanted attention if that should ever become public knowledge. Without a doubt the five would disappear into the bowels of Area 51. Where they'd be experimented on...until they were eventually dissected, or went mad.

He wiped his hands wearily over his face. He was close to each of those team members, closer than he was to any of the other people who worked at the SGC. He wasn't even as close to Walter as he was to Jack, and Sam, Teal'c and Daniel and Casey. They were like family to him.

But they weren't his family. He had family. A daughter. Two beautiful granddaughters. Any decision he made had to be made with them in mind. Always.

It took little effort to push the entire matter to the back of his mind. It was just too large a problem to contemplate at the moment. Three months. He had three months to wrestle with this decision. For now, he'd get some much needed rest. Have breakfast with his family. He'd think about this...later.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Janet drove home in a stupor. Immortal! She was being offered the same...blessing...that had been bestowed upon the members of SG-1! Like them, if something happened, she'd heal within hours. Or just...come back to life.

During the weeks that had ensued after their miraculous return from the dead, their bodies changed permanently in a way that she never could have imagined, she'd seen...had watched...each of them as wounds did indeed heal within hours. When Teal'c had stumbled through the Stargate, Casey in his arms, the slender blonde had been beaten so badly that the flesh on her back was hanging in strips. Yet, by the time Daniel had arrived on the base, only a few red welts had remained. She'd managed to convince her staff, and Jill, her most trusted assistant, that the welts had been bleeding, and had looked worse than they really were. Those who worked in the SGC were accustomed to the unusual. The strange. The absolutely mind-bending things that often happened. They were trained military officers and non-coms. Had signed the non-disclosure forms. Knew that everything that happened around them was top secret. Yet, allowing any of them to know, to really know, about SG-1 put that team at risk. The NID was always lurking. How easy would it be for one person to slip, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and tip off that group of scavengers? If that happened, Colonel Simmons would sweep into action, and the members of SG-1 would simply vanish. Taken to one of his secret laboratories, possibly even Area 51. She didn't even want to contemplate the horrors they'd be subjected to...would suffer. Physical horrors that would eventually take their minds.

Immortal. As long as she lived she'd never forget the day she'd walked into Sam's house, where three of the team members lay dead. As in not alive. No pulse. No heartbeat. Their bodies had been cold, heavy...dead. Looking like every corpse she'd ever seen in the morgue. Like the bodies upon which she'd performed autopsies.

Daniel had been the first to revive. His back had arched off of the sofa as he gasped for air. At first his blue eyes had been filled with panic. Then pain - emotional pain. Then he'd blinked a few times, and had looked at her, the way he'd done a hundred times before. As if he'd awakened in the infirmary from yet another wound. His color returned as his body once again began to register a temperature. Within minutes the gray-blue tinge of death had left his skin. Half an hour later he was drinking coffee, complaining about the fact that he was being kept from going after his wife. As if nothing had ever been wrong. As if the burned hole in his uniform, the blood that covered it, had never happened.

She hadn't witnessed Sam and Jack reanimating, although she was certain that the process had been the same. At that moment she hadn't had time to think about it, to deal with the fact that her three friends had been dead, but then...weren't. For some reason, whether it was subconscious, or just a result of the hectic pace of life in the Mountain, she'd never really stopped to think about it. Or how she felt about it. She paused slightly. How do I feel about it?

Oh, she was grateful, thrilled that her three friends were alive and well. Considering Casey's condition when she'd been returned from Ba'al's clutches, she would've been in no shape mentally or emotionally to have regained her memories, only to learn she was a widow. In fact, Janet theorized, it was quite possible that such an event would have pushed the slender blonde over the edge once and for all. She was thankful that she hadn't lost good friends, that the SGC hadn't lost the most talented, luckiest team in the mountain. As a doctor, she merely accepted what was. She couldn't explain it, because she didn't understand it. It just...was. Sam and Casey and Jack and Daniel and Teal'c were Immortal. And she was being offered the same...blessing.

She pulled into the driveway. Sat staring at the old, two story house that she and Cassie had turned into their home. The painters had finally finished with the outside. Colors that they'd agonized over for weeks...creamy yellow with deep, hunter green trim. Cassie had been right about the combination. It made the house look warm...inviting.

Cassie. She'd given up hope of finding the right man, of having a family. Then Cassie had entered her life. The child had attached herself to Sam almost immediately. But Sam was in no position to take care of a child. Truth be told, her own schedule was hectic enough. But she was home every night...or nearly every night. It was easier now that Cassie was a teenager. There was no need for a babysitter. Mrs. Jenkins, their neighbor, was more than happy to check on the young woman when her mother's presence was required on base for longer than her ten-hour shift. And she managed to get at least one day a week off to spend with her daughter.

Janet's lips curved into a smile. Her daughter. After everything that had happened, she and Cassie had managed to move to a new level in their relationship. They were friends now, as well as mother and daughter. Gone were the days of arguing and fighting, the tension so thick in the air between them that it was nearly tangible.

Janet could recall every moment of the night that the FBI had returned Cassie and Casey to Denver. She and Cassie had clung to each other during the entire ride to the base. Not talking, just holding each other. Hearing what her daughter had gone through had been one of the most difficult things Janet had ever experienced. When they'd finally walked through the kitchen door, still too keyed up to sleep, she'd made hot chocolate, and they'd sat on her bed and talked for the remainder of the night. The next morning, Cassie had made breakfast for her, served it to her in bed. They talked more...about their hopes and dreams and fears and worries. And how much they loved each other.

She shook herself from her reverie, hurried inside. Wondered just exactly how she was going to tell her daughter about this.


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