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Sam was awake with the breaking of dawn. She slipped from the warmth of the bed, stood beside the window and thought about what she was contemplating. What she was about to do...what she and Daniel and Casey and Janet were about to do, she amended silently...could have very negative results if they were to be caught. The risk was so high...did she have the right to even ask her friends for their help? Maybe she should find a way to do this on her own...
She turned slightly to look at the man who was still asleep in the bed, the shadow of his beard darkening his cheeks. Only when he was asleep did he look this peaceful. And only after they'd made love. A thought that sent a rush of warmth through her body. She'd risk everything for him. But the others...
They'd take the risk for him as well. Hearts entwined. She'd never forget the first time Casey had told them that the four of them were so close that their hearts were entwined. Couldn't say when, or how, that closeness had come to be. It just...had. With all that they'd faced together, it wasn't surprising that they were close. But there was something special, something...extra...about the relationships that had been formed between them.
She'd been in a fighter squadron. Had flown missions and been fired on. Had faced death with those men. She'd never felt as close to those pilots as she did her teammates. There was a magic to SG-1. Everyone commented on it. They, themselves, often depended on it. That magic came not from their skills. Nor their combined intelligence. It came from the love that bound their hearts together. That made them indispensable to one another. That entwined their hearts. Made them Family of the Heart.
She smiled. "Good morning."
"Jack, we need to talk."
Her smile widened. "I have a better chance of getting my way if it's before coffee." The slow grin that moved over his face made her heart flutter against her ribs.
"And just what is it that you want?"
"To break a few rules."
Jack propped himself up on one arm. His heart was still beating fast from her announcement. For a minute he'd thought she was going to tell him that things just weren't working out between them. A fear, he realized, that he struggled with quite often. No doubt a result of the fact that he'd screwed up his marriage. He concentrated on what she was saying...had said. What rules could she be talking about?
"I think I've figured out a way to help Rachel. Casey's already looked, she even spoke to Miss Eloise."
She nodded. "If we get caught, we're totally on our own...no help from Daniel's Protectors."
"Right. Sam, what in the hell are you talking about?"
She took a deep breath. "I'm going to check out the Goa'uld healing device. Casey is going to smuggle it out of the mountain in her purse."
He sat up, the sheet falling to his waist. "What? Smuggle it where?"
"To the base hospital. Janet already has all the necessary paperwork lined up. When we're finished, I'll hack in and delete it all, so there isn't any trace. We'll only need the x-ray room for about an hour...Janet came up with an idea on how to get Rachel to consider doing this, and even has a form for her to sign."
"Are you out of your mind? Sam, you could be stripped of your commission and go to prison for this! Janet could suffer the same fate! Daniel and Casey would be tossed in prison too...Casey would get the worst of it for carrying the damned thing!"
She knelt on the bed beside him. Circled his face with her hands. "We can do this, Jack. We've pulled off riskier missions. This is your sister. We can send her home cancer free."
"And when her doctor wants to know about this miracle cure?"
"She can't talk about it...only that it was an experimental military procedure."
He studied her for a minute. She'd planned this carefully. Well, she and Janet...that's why she took so long to pick up the pizzas! And that little 'meeting' in the hallway between her and the Jacksons...Radar hadn't been getting a download! His kids had been planning this...He moaned softly. "Babe, I can't put into words what this means to me...that you want to do this. But I can't let you."
"And I can't let you beat the hell out of yourself for not being able to do anything, while your sister dies," Sam replied softly. "I didn't want to tell you, so that you wouldn't be liable if we are caught. But Janet pointed out that we wouldn't be able to get Rachel to agree to this without your help."
He sat for a moment. Everything she'd said echoed in his head, spun around, got louder and louder. A chance to help Rachel...a chance to keep her from dying so damned young...
"It will work, Jack."
Aw, hell. She was looking at him with those beautiful sapphire blue eyes so full of hope...wanting to do this not so much for Rachel, but for him. For him. That's love, O'Neill. "I don't like this."
"I suppose you'd try to do it even without my approval."
"I suppose so."
"When is this...'mission'...scheduled to take place?"
"We'll meet Janet on the base at nine, explain it to Rachel then."
He looked past her shoulder at the clock. Not quite seven. "C'mere you. I have a lot of thanking to do."
"No thanks necessary," she said softly.
"I'll never be able to thank you enough," he replied. "There's always a chance that Rachel won't...cooperate."
"Then we don't risk anything. But she should as least have the chance to make that decision."
"God, I love you," he moaned, pulling her close.
"I love you," she whispered in reply.
Her body was soft and warm against his, and his physical need became every bit as strong as the emotional need that burned in his heart.
A A A A A A
Janet sipped from the mug of coffee she'd poured. It wasn't unusual for her to come in this early. Not so usual for her to do it on her day off. She was going to fall back on the tired old excuse of needing to get reports finished. So far none of the night staff seemed curious about her presence. If they hadn't seen the doctor's rotation schedule, they might assume she was on duty. She could only hope.
Turning on the computer, she began to enter the information she'd taken three hours to put together the night before. If Sam wasn't able to delete this, they were all going to be up Shit Creek without a paddle.
Name: Tyler, Rachel.
Branch: Air Force
Janet paused. Last night, she'd figured they could just use Rachel's social security number...which shouldn't be a problem. Or she could make one up. What the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound. Better to stay as totally fictitious as possible, right? Right. Might as well use the first three of Casey's. If Casey was going to carry the healing device out of the mountain, she was going to be in deeper than any of them!
Daniel wouldn't mind being tossed in there either...
And to end, the doctor in charge.
Okay, there. Hopefully that random combination of numbers won't send up alarms and flags somewhere! Heart hammering against her ribs, she continued...
Current Duty Status: NORAD Command.
Subdivision: Deep Space Telemetry.
Project: Code Name "Stargate Command".
Janet took a deep breath. Hoped like hell this wouldn't come back and bite her in the ass.
Commanding Officer: Gen. George Hammond.
Diagnosis: Bacterial pneumonia. Patient presents with typical symptoms. Course of OTC cough suppressant/expectorant prescribed. X-ray required to verify diagnosis. Further treatment pending results.
Another deep breath. Hopefully no one would decide to look for the 'original' diagnosis paperwork. A quick check of the room schedule...good, the 'appointment' had been entered. The room was signed to Dr. Janet Fraiser from ten until eleven. She hoped like hell Sam wouldn't need more time than that!
She stared at the form. What they were doing was... What they were doing was trying to save a life. If they could use Goa'uld technology to save one life, it was worth the risk. That the life just happened to belong to Jack's sister...well, that man had made so damned many sacrifices...not just for the Air Force, or even for the SGC, but for the entire freaking planet, that he deserved a break. He deserved a little payback!
If it worked, Rachel O'Neill Ward would be cancer free. She took a deep breath, hit the send key. By the time they were ready to head to the hospital, they would be expected. For a moment she wished that she could talk to Gary. Another face flashed in front of her eyes. She fought the urge for nearly fifteen minutes before giving in, and picking up the phone. "Hi! I didn't wake you, did I?...Good...I could use a cup of coffee - and someone to listen...Thanks. See you in a few minutes." It didn't mean anything just because the sound of his voice had managed calm her down.
A A A A A A
Feeling as if they were about to embark on a dangerous mission, Daniel and Casey showered together...taking the time to make love gently, holding one another tightly in the warm afterglow.
"You're sure this is going to work?" Daniel asked as he shaved.
"I only know that Sam's going to be successful," Casey replied.
He dragged the razor over his jaw. Rinsed the blade. "Any bad feelings?"
She smiled. "Not one. This is important, Daniel. A woman's life is at stake here."
"Possibly yours as well."
"We've snuck into Goa'uld strongholds to steal information. Crawled through access shafts on Goa'uld ships to plant explosives and computer viruses. This will be a cakewalk!"
He couldn't help but grin. If she wasn't picking up any bad vibes, then chances were high that they would indeed pull this 'mission' off as well. He understood why Sam wanted to do this. It had little to do with Rachel. And everything to do with the amount of guilt that Jack O'Neill already dealt with.
Casey dashed into the kitchen, poured coffee into the travel mugs, tossed a hurried smile at Muriel. "There's a chance my Dad might call before we get back. It's totally up to you...if you want to let Dad and Aunt Janelle come over, then that's fine by me. If you'd rather they wait until we're home, that's okay, too."
Muriel smiled. "Thank you, dear. Do you have a preference?"
The slender blonde shrugged. "We'll have to stop by the grocery store on our way home, since we managed to blow that off yesterday," she smiled. "I'd prefer to at least get the sauce done before they show up..."
The older woman nodded. There was nothing more stressful than trying to prepare a meal with strangers underfoot. The fleeting thought that she didn't seem to be considered a 'stranger' brought a smile to her face. "Then I'll tell your father that you'll call him as soon as you're home."
"Ready?" Daniel asked, walking into the kitchen.
"As I'll ever be," Casey replied. She was suddenly feeling very nervous. There was no poking. No sense of dread. Just...nerves. If they were caught...they were on their own. The trick, she decided, is to not get caught! She knew without a doubt that Sam would have thought of every possible glitch, every angle. The major was thorough above all else.
Daniel frowned. "Case?"
"Let's go. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we'll be home so I can get the lasagna made."
"Right." He dropped a kiss on his grandmother's cheek. "We'll try not to be too long."
"Don't you worry about me," Muriel replied, her heart hammering in her chest at her grandson's embrace. He acted as if it were the most natural thing in the world to him. "I'll be just fine."
With a hug and a kiss for his grandmother, Casey followed Daniel out the door.
A A A A A A
Janet was pacing the visitor's lounge nervously. Teal'c sat on the couch, quietly watching. He hadn't said anything, other than insisting that he would be there with her, and his teammates. That they were, he had declared, together in their desire to see Rachel Ward cancer free, if only to prevent Jack...O'Neill, as the Jaffa always referred to the colonel...from harboring guilt over her illness and death, when a cure was so readily available. At least for them.
She'd called Sam, and the two had agreed that meeting here was the safest place to start. Sam would make an excuse about wanting to get a piece of equipment sent to her office for tests the next day, Daniel and Casey would make similar excuses. She would leave...head over to the hospital. No doubt Teal'c would ride with her. Something that offered more comfort than she cared to admit. Jack would have to convince his sister to undergo the treatment, and sign the forms. Part of her hoped the woman would refuse. The colonel would then be relieved of any responsibility, any guilt that her death might bring. If the offer was made, and then refused, well...there wasn't anything they could do about that, was there? And then it wouldn't be necessary for them to risk everything. As petty as the thought seemed, given the circumstances, Janet hoped that Rachel's distaste for the military, something Sam had told her about, would prevent her from accepting their offer of help. She just as quickly chastised herself for the uncharitable thought.
Sam led Jack and Rachel into the room. "Thanks for meeting us here, Janet," she said, hoping she didn't sound as nervous as she felt. "We wanted you to meet Jack's sister before she has to leave tonight."
Janet nodded. Offered a fleeting smile, and a handshake. One glance at the colonel and she knew that he was in on the plan.
"I need to run down to my office. I have some experiments to set up for, and if I take a few minutes now to do it, then I can get started right away tomorrow," Sam continued.
"We'll be here, honey," Jack replied calmly.
Had to be his Special Ops training, Janet thought. Jack looked completely relaxed.
Casey and Daniel poked their heads into the room, supposedly just 'hearing voices' as they went to Daniel's office to finish off a bit of paperwork that was due. The excuse was given, invitations for an early dinner issued and accepted, and the couple hurried away.
Janet made her own excuse, Teal'c exchanged pleasantries with Rachel, and they left the room.
Jack sat down at the table.
"Why do I get the feeling that something is going on?" Rachel asked, a soft smile on her face.
"Because it is," Jack replied bluntly. "Those people...my friends...are risking everything to make you an offer."
Brown eyes went wide. "Why? What kind of an offer?"
Jack thought about what Sam had told him after they had made love...Janet's idea for 'explaining' what they wanted to do. He, Sam had informed him, would be breaking the news to his sister. He glanced at the camera. Noted that the red light that indicated the monitoring system was activated was missing. He'd bet money that Teal'c had something to do with that. Took a deep breath. Wondered if his sister would actually believe what he was about to tell her. "Janet...er...Doctor Fraiser...knows about some of the...um...medical stuff-" He broke off, shook his head. "There's a chance that a bit of...secret...technology could cure your cancer. Those five people are willing to risk prison to help you," he said quietly.
"Because you're my sister."
She frowned. No one had needed to say it out loud. But she could sense that she wasn't exactly a favorite of his friends. "There's more to it than that," she replied.
He took a deep breath. Blew it out. "According to Sam, they don't want me feeling guilty...beating myself up...because we have access to technology that can help you. Not taking advantage-"
"Would make you feel guilty," she finished. "You didn't ask them to do this, did you?"
Jack shook his head. "I didn't even know about it until this morning."
"What is 'it'?"
He gave a crooked smile. "Do I look like I know all that technical mumbo jumbo?"
She couldn't help but smile in return.
"Janet...er...Doctor Fraiser can fill you in when we get to the hospital. You'll have to sign a form, a confidentiality form. You can't tell anyone about this."
"What do I tell my doctor, when he wants to know what happened?" Rachel asked, her voice tinged with anger.
"That you submitted to a secret military experiment," Jack replied easily. "This isn't negotiable, Rachel. You sign, and you keep quiet, or we nix the whole thing right here and now. I won't risk them. Not even for you."
And now you know exactly where you stand, she thought bitterly. Right where you put yourself, years ago, her brain pointed out. She silently acknowledged that painful fact. "I'll sign. And I won't whisper a word of the truth. Not even to Bob."
He nodded solemnly. "As soon as Sam gets back, we can get going."
A A A A A A
As per their arrangement via telephone earlier in the morning, Casey stopped by Sam's office. She dropped her purse on to Sam's workbench. Right beside the waiting healing device.
Sam managed to maneuver Casey to the end of the table. Carefully...slowly...keeping her part of the conversation as normal...as rational...as she was able, the major slipped the device into the purse, pushed it to the bottom. Now, she thought, if anything shows up on the security tapes, I can prove that Casey had no idea I put this in her bag.
"I need to get going," Sam smiled. "Jack and his sister are waiting. We're going out for breakfast."
Casey gave a slight frown. She hadn't been able to get the device..."Yeah, we need to get back to the house, Daniel's grandmother is waiting. I still think Jack might have had a good idea about finding out what caused long-lost family to suddenly show up this weekend!"
Sam gave a nervous laugh, handed Casey's purse to her, grabbed her own. Led the way out of the lab, turning off the light as she did so. "I just have no idea how to do that."
"Sam?" Casey whispered fiercely.
"See you later, for dinner."
"Fine. About four," Casey replied. She could only assume that Sam had managed to get the device into her purse. Damn it! She'd been hoping to make the move when Sam had been busy elsewhere in her lab. Then she could have insisted that it was her idea if the 'mission' went south, and they were caught.
Daniel met them at the elevator. He raised his eyebrows, both women smiled. Okay, that tells me nothing, he grumped silently. Listened as they chattered about whether or not Sam and Jack should bring a bottle of wine for dinner, or a dessert. As they decided to let Janet choose what she wanted to bring. He sighed. And assumed that his wife was carrying the healing device. An alien device that would heal Jack's sister, in the hands of Sam. And could get his Wife arrested for treason, and theft, and any other charges the politicians in DC could dream up. His heart began to hammer against his ribs. God, the risk they were taking! If they were caught...
He followed silently as they walked to the first check point. Listened to his wife teasing one of the guards...something about being engaged now. How in the hell did she find out things like that? He couldn't help but smile. It seemed that everyone she knew was willing to share bits and pieces of their lives with her. She just had the ability to draw a person out of his...or her...protective shell. His breath stuck in his throat when the other guard began to look through her purse. When the hell had they started doing that...like that? Normally he just looked inside, he didn't paw through it! He glanced at Sam. Who was talking to the newly engaged guard. Looking as if she wasn't about to help steal a priceless alien artifact.
The SF's on duty continued to joke with the three...well, the major and Mrs. J anyway. Doctor Jackson was quiet...which wasn't unusual. Often the man signed in or out without seeming to realize he was even doing so. Neither guard would ever dream in a million years that the gorgeous seer and the beautiful blonde major were stealing an artifact. That the beautiful Mrs. Jackson was sneaking a Goa'uld device out in her purse. The thought simply would not have occurred to them.
The guard had handed Casey's purse to her. Was looking through Sam's now. Daniel didn't dare let out the sigh of relief he felt.
Sam wanted to close her eyes for a moment, just to gather her wits. Casey was already breezing toward the elevator, tossing smiles over her shoulder. How in the world did she do that? She had to know that damned device was in her purse! Didn't she? It was all she could do to put one foot in front of the other. Expecting to hear the wail of the klaxons at any moment, the alarm raised that she and her best friends were trying to sneak a Goa'uld device out of the mountain. She was shaking when she got off of the elevator on the second level, promising to 'catch up' with her friends 'later'.
Casey leaned back against the wall of the elevator. Her hands were trembling. She shoved one into the pocket of her jeans. The other she wrapped around Daniel's hand, clinging to him as if he alone could protect her from what she was doing...what the consequences would be if they were caught. She was afraid she was going to pass out by the time they arrived at the first check point, just inside the cavern where huge blast door sat open. It seemed that the bus had just arrived. Tossed a smile at him when he whispered in her ear, reminding her gently to 'breathe, babe'.
Daniel could feel the tremors. Was in awe of the fact that looking at her, no one would be able to tell that Casey was terrified. He was able to see it in her eyes...when she looked at him once they were settled in the jeep. That look of fear hadn't been there during the entire nerve-racking trip to the surface. "Casey?"
"I'm okay," she whispered.
Yeah, so okay you don't have a clue what you just said! "We can take it back right now. No one would know."
"I would," she replied. She forced a smile. "Let's go, Stud Muffin. Janet's waiting. Sam won't be far behind us."
"How are we going to make the hand-off?"
"We're showing up because Sam and Jack told us that Janet is going to use an experimental laser machine on Rachel. We're there for moral support. I'll slip into the x-ray room and say hello to Janet, and give it to her then. She'll hide it until Sam comes in. With the 'excuse' that having Sam there will fulfill legalities about having two people present during any procedure, and with Sam being the gizmo expert, if anything needs tweaked on the machine, she can do it."
The women had taken care of every detail, it seemed. He could only hope that no one had forgotten anything. "Then what?"
"Then Sam stuffs the device into her purse, and takes it back in tomorrow morning. And hopefully no one will look for it between now and then."
"Here's hoping," he said, starting the engine. Wondered just what General Hammond would say if he knew what SG-1 was up to. Would he lock the team into holding cells until they were arrested by Federal agents? Or would the general listen to their reasons for doing what they were doing? He sent up a prayer that he'd never find out.
A A A A A A
Janelle paused in front of the display of crystal. "Does she have a good crystal salad bowl?"
"I have no idea," Gary replied.
The elderly woman frowned slightly. "One can never have too many nice bowls..." She examined several of the bowls on display. Found two that met her approval. Very nice. Beautifully cut. Surely the girl would appreciate something as lovely as this.
Gary watched his aunt. "This isn't necessary, you know."
The frown deepened as she cast a glance at her nephew. "I'm going to be a guest in her home for the first time. I can't go empty handed!"
"Take a bottle of wine. She can drink it to help her deal with your surly attitude."
She nearly sputtered in her surprise, setting the bowl down with an unintended 'whump'. Gave the hovering sales clerk 'the look', which had the young woman scurrying in the other direction, although she did look over her shoulder twice, her eyes trying to ascertain from the distance that the merchandise hadn't been damaged. "Gary Franklin!"
"What?" He was grinning from ear to ear. It wasn't often he could shock Janelle into speechlessness. Lord knew he tried often enough.
"You aren't so old that I can't take a switch to you!"
He barked with laughter. "Oh, I don't think so." He reached out, put his arm around her shoulders, tugged her close. "If you could have seen the look on your face!"
Her cheek twitched. She found it impossible not to smile. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"
"Trying. Am I getting close?"
She gave a sharp rap to his arm. "I'm writing you out of my will."
"Suits me fine. I don't want that musty old house and that decrepit old furniture anyway."
"Won't leave you any money, either."
"Yeah, I'm sure that couple hundred dollars could buy me a pair of nice shoes," he teased. He planted a kiss on the side of her face. "Honestly, Janelle, Casey won't expect anything from you."
"It doesn't matter whether she expects it or not. It's the way things are done," Janelle sniffed, examining the bowls again.
The way things are done in your world, he thought, smiling at the back of her head. His aunt was a faithful follower of Emily Post, and if Emily Post insisted that you arrive at your host's home with a gift, then nothing in hell or on Earth would prevent Janelle Franklin from doing so. She was one of a dying breed, he thought sadly. That class of grand dames who decorated their homes with understated taste; and cooked meals that rivaled five star restaurants; raised families and made it look easy; held bazaars to raise money for charity and entertained as if they were the Rockefellers. There was a bit of Aunt Janelle in his daughter, he thought, picturing her home in his mind. "Casey loves candles. Maybe something to hold those smaller candles?"
Janelle looked up at him. Nodded slowly. Moved to another display. There were nearly a dozen different styles of crystal and sterling silver candle holders. Most were for tall taper candles. There was one pair, however...lead crystal...delicately designed, that looked like lotus flowers.
"She'd love those," Gary affirmed softly.
"Help me find a pair in a box," Janelle replied. After searching for several minutes, the correct box was located. She checked the contents, making certain there were no chips or defects. Satisfied, she moved toward the customer service counter. Asked for the box to be gift wrapped as she carefully counted out the money for the purchase.
Gary stood beside his aunt as they waited for the clerk to return, hands in his pockets. Rather pleased that he knew something 'personal' about his daughter. He figured the candle holders would be more appreciated than a bowl...crystal or not.
Once the purchase had been made, Janelle insisted on going directly to the small house on Baldwin street where Gary had informed her that his daughter and son-in-law resided. She refused to listen when he told her that chances were high that the couple was on the base.
"And they work on Sundays. At least they do when they're on the duty roster for the weekend."
"Are they what?"
Janelle rolled her eyes. "On the duty roster for this weekend."
"How should I know?"
"You work there!"
"I take care of certain aspects of security, that's all. I have nothing to do with the...section...where Casey and Daniel work."
She huffed a sigh, crossed her arms over her ample bosom. "We are going to that house. I am going to meet this Daniel, and I am going to have a chance to visit with Casey, no matter how you might try to keep me from doing that!"
"I'm not trying to keep you away from Casey," Gary replied honestly. "You have to understand that their schedule is...chaotic...at best."
"Just how chaotic can this 'deep space telemetry' be?" the old woman demanded to know.
"You'd be surprised," Gary muttered under his breath.
"Well, they won't be gone all day, will they?"
"I don't think so."
"Then we'll wait."
"You plan on sitting in the car all afternoon?"
"Isn't Daniel's grandmother there?" Janelle sniffed.
"Last I heard."
"Then we'll wait inside. With her."
Gary shook his head. Wondered what kind of fireworks might ensue when Casey came home to find his aunt firmly entrenched in her living room. Decided that it might be rather entertaining to find out. He knew his daughter well enough to know that when she was pissed off, she could 'take the starch' out of the toughest Marine. Janelle wouldn't stand a chance! Yep, that could be damned entertaining.
Muriel hurried to the door, patting her hair as she went. "Keep your britches on," she mumbled when the doorbell echoed a second time. She opened the door to find Gary Franklin standing on the porch, looking apologetic, a woman close to her own age beside him, looking as defiant and stubborn as a mule. "Mr. Franklin!"
"Hello, Mrs. Jackson. I apologize for not calling, but my aunt insisted-"
"I'm Janelle Franklin," the older woman interjected. Without waiting for an invitation, she grabbed the door, shoved it open enough to move past, and marched into the house.
Stepping back instinctively, an attempt to keep from being trampled, Muriel stared after the woman who was busy snooping into the rooms on either side of the entry hall. "Well!"
"Yeah, she's a piece of work," Gary admitted. "She's a tough old bird. But her heart's in the right place. Most of the time. She's a bit put out because Casey hasn't been to Kansas to meet her yet."
Muriel smiled. "I get the feeling that not many people dare to mess with her plans."
He chuckled. "Not many, no."
"She hasn't met Casey yet."
Gary laughed out loud. "Well, technically she did. For about three minutes. But you're right. Once Janelle gets to know Casey, she'll figure out that making her usual 'demands' for appearances at family functions will most probably fall on defiant ears."
"But Casey will do her best to be at those functions if she's invited," Muriel said.
"You've gotten to know my daughter pretty well," he smiled.
"She's beautiful, inside and out, Mr. Franklin. My Daniel is lucky to have such a wonderful woman in his life."
"I agree. And please, call me Gary. Especially since it seems we're related by marriage."
Her smile widened. "I just made coffee. Casey showed me how to work that contraption of theirs."
"Ah, yes. Daniel is something of a coffee snob, or so Casey tells me."
Muriel led the way to the kitchen. "I suppose he is. But if that's the worst fault he has, I'd say Casey is a lucky woman."
"Spoken like a true grandmother," Gary grinned.
Janelle was standing in the living room. "Very nice," she said, nodding her white head as she looked around. "Very nice indeed."
"Casey has exquisite taste," Muriel replied, recalling what Daniel had said the day before.
"Yes, she does. You're Daniel's grandmother?"
"I am. Muriel Jackson."
"So they have you sleeping on the couch?" Janelle asked, nodding at the pile of bedding that occupied one of the armchairs.
"It's a very comfortable couch, and as I arrived unannounced, there is no way I would put those youngsters out of their bed!"
Janelle's eyes widened slightly.
"I'm just thrilled that they wanted me to stay here. Took me nearly an hour to convince them that the couch is a perfectly acceptable bed," Muriel continued. "Casey said she was going to insist that they either buy a sofa/sleeper, or get folding bed. She told me I'd be a frequent guest." Take that, you old biddy.
"I see." Couldn't wait to toss that out there, could you?
Gary's cheek was twitching. He opted to move to the double French doors and take in the view of the yard. Less chance of his aunt realizing he was laughing at her.
"Daniel and Casey have been just wonderful. They took me with them yesterday...we were going to walk around in the park, I forget the name-"
"Grant Park?" Gary offered.
Muriel nodded. "That's the one. It's a lovely park, but it was so cold. So we went over to Jack's and had pizza."
"Jack?" Janelle asked, frowning.
"Let's see, I think Daniel said he was their CA."
Gary snickered. "CO," he correct gently. "Commanding Officer."
"Yes, that's right," Muriel said, nodding again. "They work together, you see. Daniel, Casey, Jack, Sam...well, Samantha, and Teal'c. Teal'c is from Mozambique. Lovely young people, just lovely." She took three mugs from the cabinet, poured coffee into them. "Cream or sugar?"
"Just black for me," Gary said, accepting the mug with a smile.
"A bit of cream for me, dear," Janelle said, settling into the empty armchair. It seemed that this grandmother had been included in their activities of the day before. And they couldn't have spared time for a simple phone call?
Muriel bristled slightly at the condescending tone of voice, but nodded, poured a bit of the half-and-half that Casey had into one of the mugs. Stirred a spoon of sugar into hers.
"So, you spent all afternoon with them?"
"Yes, I did. Daniel and Casey had work to do today, so we didn't stay late. I watched a wonderful old John Wayne movie last night. It was so sweet of them to let me do that. I tried to keep the volume down, so I wouldn't disturb them...they had to get up early, you see."
Gary bit back his smile. He didn't figure his daughter and her husband had gone directly to sleep. Not if what he'd overheard Janet saying was true. From what he understood, there was a lot of passion between Daniel and Casey. Probably a bit of good old-fashioned lust as well. He'd seen how Daniel watched her, when he thought no one was looking.
Janelle shot a dark look at Gary. "Why didn't we go to this 'Jack's' house?"
"We weren't invited," Gary said pointedly. "And Jack's sister just happens to be here as well."
"You don't say," Janelle muttered. "Regular family reunion going on this weekend, isn't there?"
"And every bit of it a complete surprise," Gary added. Smirked at the look of frustration that Janelle gave him.
"Casey said that she had to stop at the grocery store on the way home. She's making lasagna for dinner this evening. Daniel says it's the best he's ever tasted."
"I'll second that," Gary said. "Casey is an amazing cook."
"Casey is an amazing young woman." Muriel took note of the firm set of the other woman's mouth. She took peevish delight in the knowledge that she was better acquainted with her grand-daughter-in-law than this pushy old busybody.
"I wouldn't know. I've yet to actually meet her," Janelle replied coolly.
Gary sighed. "I've explained to you that their schedule is hectic. They can't be expected to drop and run for command appearances when you decide to have a family get-together."
"Their work is very important. Top secret. National security," Muriel said quietly.
"Gary tells me you've just found Daniel," Janelle said, abruptly...and quite obviously...changing the subject, much to the amusement of the others.
"That's true. My late husband had disowned Daniel's father," Muriel replied softly.
It didn't take a psychic to see the hurt and the guilt in the woman's eyes, Janelle thought sympathetically. "I'm not one to speak ill of the dead, but maybe it's a blessing that he's gone, so that you have time with your grandson."
"I won't argue that."
"Tell me about Daniel's father," Janelle said. For all of her blustering and demands, she was an astute judge of character...and a compassionate woman. Gary approved of Daniel. Which meant that he came from good stock. There was more to the story, and she was also nosy enough to want to know what it was.
"Melburn. That was his name...Melburn James," Muriel said. "My oldest son."
"You have other children?"
Muriel shook her head sadly. "Ralph was killed in Vietnam. He was eighteen years old."
Janelle blanched. She'd lost two nephews to that damned war. "I'm so sorry," she said quietly. "Was Melburn in the Army as well?"
"No, he was studying in Chicago, at the Oriental Institute. He was working on his doctorate. My Melburn was an archaeologist."
Sipping her coffee, Janelle smiled and nodded, encouraging the other woman to continue.
Gary sat quietly on the other end of the sofa, listened as Muriel lovingly spoke of her sons. Her anger and frustration when her husband refused to see reason regarding their oldest. Her guilt for not searching for Melburn before the tragic accident in New York City. How she had learned of his death, and subsequently the wife and child she'd never known about.
Janelle shook her head at the end of the narrative. "I'll say again, I'm not one to speak ill of the dead...but good riddance! You're a courageous woman, Muriel. To have put up with so much for so many years."
Muriel's face registered her surprise. "Oh...well...I suppose I was just doing what I thought was right. I don't think I really thought about what was going on." She frowned slightly. "Or maybe I didn't allow myself to think about what was going on."
"Sometimes, we just have to do what we can to get by," Janelle said sagely.
"It seems that way."
She looked at her watch. "I don't suppose you know when the girl and her husband will be home?"
"I'm afraid not," Muriel replied.
"Do you think there might be another John Wayne movie playing this afternoon?"
Muriel grabbed the remote. "Let's find out!"
Gary grinned. In spite of herself, Janelle had just made a friend in Muriel Jackson. A woman who wouldn't think twice about knocking his aunt off her high horse when it became necessary. Yep, this could be highly entertaining.
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