<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>
Casey grabbed a hand basket, and nearly ran up and down the aisles of the grocery store, gathering the ingredients she would need to prepare dinner for all of the family who would be sitting at her table today. She hadn't actually considered just how she was going to feed so many people at a table which seated six comfortably, eight with the two folding chairs, stored in the closet of Daniel's den, squeezed in. Place settings were a problem she'd work out later.
Daniel followed after her, content to observe as she searched for what she needed. Stood back and admired her lithe body as she reached across the meat counter, pulling two packages of Italian sausage forward, dropping them into the basket. Watched her as she searched through the tomatoes for her incredible sauce. Watched as she tossed two bags of 'ready-to-eat' Caesar salad greens into the basket.
"Do we have garlic at home?"
He frowned. "I think so."
She shrugged, and grabbed a small head of garlic. "Just in case."
One of the things that made Casey's lasagna so damned delicious was the fact that she used the freshest ingredients. That meant freshly grated parmesan cheese, and lots of ricotta.
She stopped at the wine display. Gave a sigh.
"Which one, babe?" Daniel asked softly, realizing the basket, which he managed to take from her, was too full for bottles. In fact, not much more would fit into the plastic carry-all.
"A couple of bottles of Chianti. It goes well with lasagna."
"Before or after the lasagna is cooked?" he teased.
"During, today," she replied. She glanced at the basket. Which he was now holding. How had that happened? She grabbed two bottles of wine. "Okay, a loaf of French bread, a package of croutons for the salad, and we're in business."
"Would you rather go to O'Malley's or José Muldoon's? I know that no one would mind."
She shook her head. "I promised I'd make lasagna for dinner, and I'm going to do it."
"I don't want you stressed out."
She could feel his love wrap around her. "I'll be fine. As long as you're with me."
"Right by your side, Angel," he said softly. Having the rest of her 'Family of the Heart' nearby would help as well, he was certain. He wouldn't be surprised if his grandmother at least offered to help her. And regardless of how nervous she was about meeting this aunt, the few minutes she'd actually spoken to the older woman had convinced Casey that she wasn't as overbearing as she appeared.
"I think, now that Rachel is okay...I can relax now."
He smiled. "Good." He watched her put the bread and a box of croutons into the basket. "Ready to go?"
Casey juggled the wine bottles, checked her list. "Yep."
"I'm not trying to stress you out...but, will one pan of lasagna be enough?"
"I'm going to double the recipe. I'll just bake it in two pans. I'll have to use both ovens, or neither one will cook properly."
"Whatever works," he replied easily. When it came to cooking, Casey knew what she was doing.
Fifteen minutes later, they were on their way home.
A A A A A A
Rachel sat up. She'd been lying on the couch in Janet's very nicely decorated office for nearly twenty minutes. Jack continued to hover, even when she insisted that she felt fine. Janet had taken her vitals, pronounced them to be 'perfect', and declared that she was ready to leave.
"When you get back, tell your doctor about this procedure. Well, as much as you can," Janet smiled. "I'm sure he's going to want to do another CT scan."
"And when he does?"
"Ask him if he'd be willing to forward the results to me. For the...project."
"Of course," Rachel replied.
Teal'c walked into the room with Sam. Who was looking a bit pale. Jack noticed instantly that the blonde major was suffering as a result of what she had done. He knew that Daniel had helped, he'd seen the soft blue glow on his hand, watched as it seemed to flow down Sam's arm. What would have happened had Radar not 'intervened'? If she hadn't 'guided' Daniel to help? Would Rachel still have cancer? Would Sam have exhausted herself to the point where she'd have had to be hospitalized? The risks had been a hell of a lot higher than just sneaking the Goa'uld healing device out of the Mountain. If he'd realized just how much of a risk, he'd have put a stop to the plan from the very beginning.
"If you don't mind, I think I'm going to go home for a couple of hours," Sam said. "I have a few things I really need to get done."
Jack studied her for a minute. Hacking and deleting was probably what she intended to do. What it looked like she should do was take a nap. "Sure, Honey."
"Teal'c, do you need a ride back to the base? I have paperwork there to finish up," Janet offered.
"That would be appreciated, Janet Fraiser."
The colonel jerked. Janet Fraiser? Not Doctor Fraiser? Okay, when had the Big Guy started using the Doc's first name? What had he missed?
"Come on, Carter. I'll take you home," Jack said quietly. Watching Teal'c surreptitiously for a moment. Something was up with the Jaffa...he could feel it. But right now he had to get Sam home so she could erase any traces of the day's activities, and maybe get a nap in...long enough to put the color back in her cheeks. And he'd take Rachel for a drive to show her the city a bit. And then there was dinner at the Jackson's, with her aunt and father, and his grandmother...oy, what a freaking weird weekend this had turned out to be!
Rachel had been studying Sam...the woman looked utterly exhausted. Why? What had happened while she had been undergoing that...treatment. Images from several science fiction movies began to dance in her head. Devices that healed one person, by draining the life force from another... Oh holy shit! Surely the military hadn't actually created something like that...had they? No...no, she was just being foolish. Maybe she'd been tired earlier, and had just been able to hide it better. Maybe there had been a bit of stress in monitoring the equipment...the device...as Sam had called it.
Jack didn't miss the calculating look in Rachel's eyes. All he needed was for his sister to start asking questions he couldn't answer, demanding to know what he'd never tell her, what he'd never be able to tell her. He put his arm around Sam's shoulders, headed for the door of the office. "Daniel's place, four o'clock,"
"We'll be there," Janet's voice called after him.
Janet waited until the three were on the elevator before closing her office door, and dropping onto the sofa. She held her hands out...noted that they were shaking uncontrollably.
Teal'c knelt down on one knee in front of her, wrapped her hands in his own. "You need not fear, Janet. All will be well."
She tried to nod. "I know it worked, I could see it in Casey's eyes. If Daniel hadn't been there..."
"If he had not used the powers bestowed upon him as The One, Major Carter would be in dire physical condition."
Another nod. "There wouldn't be a way to explain that...to anyone," she whispered.
"Do you have a need to return to the SGC?"
"Perhaps we could find a place for you to get a latte?"
Janet smiled. "That sounds like a perfect idea."
Teal'c rose to his feet, continued to hold one hand while Janet stood to hers. Heard her gasp when she put her hand into the pocket of her lab coat. "Janet?"
"The device! I forgot to give it to Sam!"
"Would it not be wise for us to return it to her laboratory?"
"We can't let anyone see us ," Janet fretted. "I do have a report that she had been interested in...dealing with the use of one of the Tegerian medical devices. She thought it might have dual capabilities...something to do with the power source. I could take that in."
The Jaffa nodded. "That is a legitimate reason to go to Major Carter's office. I believe it would suffice."
"Okay, we drop it off. And then a latte. Although I'm beginning to think I'd rather have a stiff drink! It's been one hell of a day!"
He allowed a small smile to tug at the corner's of his mouth. "Indeed. And the worst may yet be to come. If Gary Franklin's comments concerning his aunt are to be taken literally."
Janet began to chuckle. "If they are, Casey will have a thing or two to say to the woman."
"Which would prove most...humorous."
"To say the least," Janet laughed. "Come on, Big Guy. We have stolen property to return."
"It was not stolen. Merely...borrowed."
"Now I'm worried," Janet teased, looping her arm through his. "Jack has been a horrible influence on you."
"Casey Jackson more so," Teal'c intoned.
Shaking her head, her laughter bouncing off the walls, Janet moved just far enough away from the large man to open the door and lead the way to the elevator.
A A A A A A
The credits for an old Barbara Stanwyck movie were just beginning to roll when Casey and Daniel walked through the back door. She stopped suddenly, the sight of her father's aunt sitting on the sofa beside Daniel's grandmother enough to have her jaw dropping.
Her head whirled toward the sound of her dad's voice. "Dad?"
"Yeah...sorry about the surprise invasion. Janelle wouldn't wait." He'd tried to call, but Casey hadn't answered her phone. He'd left a voice message...apparently she hadn't checked it yet.
"Holding up the line here, babe," Daniel said quietly from the doorway, his hands full of the grocery bags that held their purchases.
Casey stepped into the room, her eyes back on the white haired woman who was rising to her feet. With a huff of impatience, she sat the bottles of wine on the island. "I'm sorry you were forced into playing hostess," she said to Muriel.
"Nonsense. Janelle and I have had a lovely visit. Watched a nice movie, too."
Janelle's chin went up a notch, waiting to be acknowledged.
Casey wrapped her arms around her slender waist, a defensive posture that both men in the room noticed, and recognized, immediately. "Hello."
"Hello," Janelle replied. She fumbled in her oversized handbag. Pulled out the carefully wrapped gift. "Just a token of my affection," she said, offering the box to the young seer.
Casey slowly crossed the room, accepted the present. "You didn't have to bring anything," she said softly.
"It's the proper thing to do," Janelle sniffed. "Well, don't just stand there," she said, when Casey continued to stare at the box. "Open it."
Daniel had moved until he was standing behind his wife. He slipped his arms around her waist. Felt her jerk slightly...she hadn't sensed his approach. Watched over her shoulder as she carefully pulled the tape from the shiny white paper. Usually she made quick work of a wrapped gift. A couple of seconds and nothing but scraps were left. He reached out to help her hold the box when she pulled the paper open.
With trembling fingers, she lifted the flap..."Oh," she said softly, gently taking the two votive candleholders from the protective cardboard holders. "They're beautiful! Thank you!"
Janelle smiled at the look of surprise...and joy...that filled those expressive green eyes. "Gary thought you'd like those."
"Oh, I do!" She tossed a smile at her father. "Thanks."
"Any time, honey."
"Thank you...Aunt Janelle."
"You're quite welcome," the elderly woman replied.
Casey glanced at the anniversary clock...which had been, amusingly enough, a first anniversary gift from Daniel. It was half past twelve. "I really have to get started on the lasagna. Everyone will be here around four. Well, actually, I won't be surprised if they start arriving before then. But I planned to have everything ready to eat then."
"Why so early?" Janelle asked.
"Because Jack's sister will be leaving tonight, and her flight leaves Colorado Springs at seven."
"Your flight leaves not much later," Gary pointed out.
"I could always get a later flight," she replied. Didn't hide her grin at the scowl the comment brought to her nephew's face. "Don't worry. I won't."
"Good. The sooner you're gone, the better."
"I'm serious about writing you out of my will."
"I'm serious about not giving a damn."
Casey smiled. There was love in her father's eyes, and those of his aunt. This was the way they were...she sensed that immediately. If she wasn't mistaken, this was exactly why her dad was Janelle's favorite. She sensed that as well. She put the two candleholders in the china cabinet, beside the tall silver taper holders that had been a wedding gift.
Janelle watched approvingly, obviously her gift had been well received.
Daniel had retreated to the kitchen, where Gary stood sipping from his mug of coffee, and began unloading the plastic bags. "Need help?" he asked, when Casey brushed past him.
"Always." Pulling one of her grandmother's old cookbooks from the shelf, Casey opened it to the much used page. "You can start grating the parmesan. You'll need double what this says."
"What about me, kiddo? Anything I can do to help?" Gary asked.
"I don't think so. Well, yes there is. Open this. I could use a glass," she replied, thrusting one of the bottles of wine at him.
Gary looked over Casey's blonde head at his aunt. Noted the chagrined look in her eyes. Good. Let the old battleaxe deal with the fact that she's stressed my daughter to the point of needing a drink!
Muriel settled herself into one of the chairs at the breakfast bar. "If there's anything I can do, just let me know."
Flashing a smile at the woman, Casey pulled a bundle of flowers from the paper bag she had carried in. Handed the miniature daisies to Muriel. Sprigs of lavender were wrapped around the daisies. "These are for you."
"Oh, how lovely!" Muriel cradled the blossoms gently.
A bouquet of brightly colored mums came out of the bag next. "I thought you might like these," Casey said shyly, handing the flowers to Janelle.
Gary looked at the two bunches of flowers. How like Casey to have picked arrangements that so reflected the personalities of the recipients.
"They're lovely, dear, thank you," Janelle replied. She too, cradled her flowers.
The third bunch was a colorful assortment of spring blossoms. They went into the crystal vase that sat in the center of the table. Casey added water, and figured it would have to do as a centerpiece for the meal...she didn't have the time to worry about finding anything else. Her eyes went to the china cabinet. There were those new votive holders...and the four other crystal holders...they would look nice surrounding the vase, she thought.
In a typical burst of movement, Casey was back into the kitchen, grabbing the cutting board to chop the tomatoes needed for the sauce.
Janelle had been watching Daniel. The way he'd physically held Casey when she had so awkwardly accepted her gift. His eyes shooting a warning to her. Damned protective of his wife. The old woman heartily approved of that. The way the two moved around one another with such ease in the kitchen was proof that working together as Casey cooked was a common thing. Not something done 'for show'. "Gary tells me you're an archaeologist."
Daniel looked up from the block of cheese he was grating. "Yes, I am."
"Just what does the Air Force need with an archaeologist?"
He couldn't help but grin. "Nothing. However, my talents with languages has proven useful a time or two."
Casey snorted quietly. "At least a time or two," she murmured.
"What about you, Casey? Gary says you're Daniel's secretary."
Gary cringed. Figured he'd be getting the look that was rumored to cause frostbite from his daughter.
"Pretty much. I keep track of all the things he loses track of," Casey replied.
He lowered his head and snickered. His son-in-law's reputation regarding his cluttered office and workroom were well known within the concrete walls of the SGC.
"Yeah, yuk it up," Daniel muttered. "I can find things just fine...if other people leave them alone!"
"You couldn't find a bull elephant in heat in that office," Casey countered. "I know. Cam, Jonas, and I tried!"
Gary nearly choked on his coffee. "You were looking for a bull elephant in heat?"
"I'm not even going to ask," Gary said, shaking his head.
"Good. I couldn't tell you anyway."
"And just when did this fruitless search of yours take place?" Daniel demanded to know.
"For your information, we were looking for a report that should have been very simple and easy to locate. You know...as easy as finding a bull elephant in heat. However, it took us three days to find it. Three days!"
"I can't remember now," Casey mumbled. She remembered all too well what they had been searching for. The desperation she had felt in trying to locate the folder that Cam was certain held the list of information they needed.
"Right," Daniel grinned.
She sighed. "It had something to do with Ancients. And their hangouts. While you were...gone."
While I was dead. Or presumed dead, he thought. Cam had told him about the frantic search...Casey's nearly hysterical need to find what she hoped would offer a clue to his whereabouts. "Well, at least you found it."
She shot a look at him. "Would have helped to have found it sooner."
"Maybe. Maybe not," he replied.
Gary wondered if he was the only one to realize there was a subtext to the discussion. He knew what they were talking about, at least he was fairly sure he did. The two elderly women, however, had no idea that Daniel had been declared dead. And that Casey had damned near suffered a complete breakdown as a result. And, he suspected, they'd never know.
Janelle smiled. "Well, dear, maybe you should help Daniel create a new system."
Casey glanced over at the woman. "I've been trying for two years. He just grumbles and complains whenever I try to move anything."
"I do not!"
"You do so!"
Daniel grinned at his wife. "I know where everything is, until you move it."
"No one else does. And if it's filed alphabetically, how difficult can it be to find?"
"Depends on the alphabet used."
Casey rolled her eyes. "Considering that you're the only one in the mountain who speaks in excess of twenty-six languages, not counting individual dialects, I'm thinking the good old American English alphabet would work just fine."
"You speak more than twenty-six languages?" Janelle gasped.
"Twenty-seven," Casey said proudly. "Fluently."
"That's very impressive," the elderly woman said, as wide-eyed.
"How do you do it?" Muriel asked.
"I dunno," Daniel murmured, shrugging slightly, his cheeks turning red.
"He has a beautiful, amazing mind," Casey said.
Gary smiled. The compliment was practically sighed, and said with such love that it seemed to shimmer in the air for a moment.
"Casey's no slouch. She speaks two ancient languages, reads three."
"Sort of," she interjected, blushing brightly. "I only speak one well enough to make sense."
"Well, ancient languages aren't important," Janelle sniffed.
"I disagree," Daniel said immediately, noting that the comment had curved those slender shoulders forward slightly. "Most ancient languages have a common base, and since what we know as English is based on at least twelve languages, knowing the ancient forms, the pure language, gives us a basis to work with when deciphering similar dialects. And, most of the languages I know and speak are 'ancient'."
Janelle nodded slightly. Jumped right in to defend her. Although the girl hadn't uttered a word in her own defense. No doubt she'd be just as defensive of him, and if she didn't miss her guess, he'd be just as silent if the situation were reversed.
Gary sat back. Janelle had more than met her match. Daniel and Casey came as a pair...a team. They'd defend one another vehemently. Daniel didn't care who he pissed off when it came to protecting Casey. A fact that his aunt would learn the hard way, if she pushed too hard.
A A A A A A
Sam sat down at her computer. Plugged in the adapter she'd built, that would allow her access to the SGC computers without risking detection from any 'outsiders' who might be watching her home connection. There wasn't any real effort needed in deleting all of the forms that Janet had filled out for Major Rachel Tyler.
Checking her notes, she typed the valid commands, and connected to the hospital computer network. Dennis Ballard hadn't blinked an eye when she had requested the information. He'd never asked what she wanted it for, either. And she knew that he would never mention her request to anyone. Especially when she'd asked him to keep her...unusual...inquiry between the two of them. The paths were relatively simple. There weren't any 'carbon copies' or 'blind carbon copies' to worry about. She checked each folder that she found carefully however, just to make certain. There was only one copy in a single folder in the billing department. Had that office been open...she shivered slightly. She had no idea how many copies of the documents would have been created there!
Another check...she didn't dare leave even the tiniest scrap of evidence of the mythical major behind. Moving slowly, methodically, she was satisfied after an hour that all traces of their hurried 'mission' had been totally obliterated.
The beginnings of a headache were throbbing in her temples. She took two Ibuprofen, habit more than actual necessity, and settled on her bed. She'd take a short nap before Jack picked her up to go over to Daniel and Casey's...
A A A A A A
Rachel looked around as Jack drove her to the most interesting places in the city. He had offered to take her into several of the museums they had passed, but she had declined. She hadn't come to Colorado Springs to play tourist. Not this time, anyway. She could only wonder if there would be a 'next time'.
"You're quiet," Jack remarked as he drove toward one of the shopping centers that seemed to be popular with the women he knew. Which consisted of Sam, Casey, and Janet, mostly.
"I'm just thinking about how differently this weekend has been, compared to what I had expected."
He snorted softly. "Yeah, there hasn't been any screaming at all."
"You never screamed. Or yelled. Or shouted," she mused.
He grinned. "You'll never convince my kids of that."
"They really are that, aren't they? Your 'kids'."
"To me. I know, I'm not really that much older than they are. Oh, sometimes I feel like I've lived a couple of lifetimes. I'm their CO. I'm responsible for them. Just like a parent."
"And you love them as much," she said softly.
"I guess I do," he admitted after a few moments.
"I'm glad that you have people in your life that you're close to...people who fill your life...your heart."
"Does that surprise you?"
"What, that I have people in my life who care about me, who I care about?"
"No...that I'm glad about it."
"Never thought about it, to be honest."
She took a deep breath. She should probably leave well enough alone. She'd never been able to do that..."When you left that day, you walked away forever, didn't you? Left behind anything that might have been a part of your past, and you never thought about it...me...again."
"It wasn't that easy," Jack replied.
"But you did that."
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
"No. Yes. I'm not sure. I think...I think maybe I did. I was so angry at you," she sighed.
"I know that." He pulled into the parking lot of the mall. "Rach, to be perfectly honest, I could go the rest of my life without rehashing all of this. We've talked. The past is the past. There's nothing we can do to change what happened, or what was said, or what wasn't said. Let's just...leave it alone."
And that, she thought, speaks volumes. Her anger - her tirade - had hurt him more than he would admit even to himself. He had pushed the entire incident out of his mind, had buried his past along with his dead parents. And had dealt with his own anger, and his hurt feelings, by simply pretending they didn't exist. She didn't have to be a trained psychologist to figure that out. "Okay. We can do that."
"So, you wanna shop or something?"
"I wouldn't mind getting a bite to eat."
"Hell, it is passed noon. You should have said something sooner."
"Well, I'm saying something now."
"Let's go find a chilidog."
"Are you nuts? Those things will kill you! Nitrates in the hot dog, not to mention the cholesterol. And the chili is just a heart attack waiting to happen-"
"If I'm gonna die, I'm going out happy, thank you very much. With a chilidog in one hand, and a beer in the other."
The mental image had her laughing. "I have no doubt that's just the way you'll go, too."
Not exactly, he thought. But that was yet another secret that his sister would never know about. Funny, he didn't feel that overwhelming need to try to make her understand, without revealing details, like he had the last time they had spoken. Different circumstances, he supposed. He'd been in the cemetery to say goodbye to his father. Had missed the opportunity to do so while his dad had still been alive. Who had he been trying to convince that blustery day...her...or himself? That, O'Neill, is a thought best left unexamined. Just let sleeping dogs lie.
"Let's go have chilidogs. I'm feeling particularly healthy today. I don't think just one will kill me."
He gave a crooked smile. "Nope. One won't. Two probably won't either. That third one, however, will probably make you wish you were dead."
She laughed again. "Right. Two's the limit."
Arm in arm the O'Neill siblings walked into the mall. The past was the past. How had Radar put that? Present and future. Concentrate on the present and the future. And now, thanks to his kids and their brilliance...their daring...their courage...that future would be a long and healthy one.
A A A A A A
Janet tried to keep her hand steady as she signed the log book. Thankfully her signature was indecipherable on a good day. A result of having to write it so often during the course of her medical training that it had become a loop and a line...more or less.
Teal'c had learned to write his name in the language of the Tau'ri. It had been necessary in order for him to leave the mountain. His handwriting was surprisingly neat. Not that anyone ever made mention of that fact.
Signed in legally and according to all of the SGC protocols, the two made their way to level twenty-one. Janet would find the folder of information, and take it to Sam's work room. Teal'c would be there, hopefully his large frame would hide what she was doing from the camera when she took the Goa'uld healing device from her pocket.
How in the world had Casey managed to walk out without falling apart? she wondered idly. Her nerves were nearly shot, and she was bringing the damned thing back inside, and had less security to worry about!
As soon as she entered her office one of the on-duty doctors, Ted Carmichael, poked his head through the open doorway. "Hey, Janet. There was a call from the base hospital for you about ten minutes ago."
Her heart nearly stopped beating. She hoped she didn't look as terrified as she suddenly felt. Willed her legs not to give out on her. "Really? Who was it, and did they leave a message?"
"Some guy named Brandt. Something about a resignation. And that he hoped you wouldn't think too badly of him for just quitting like he was. He seemed to think that you were the base CMO or something."
She sat back in her chair. "Well, that's interesting."
"Know the guy?"
"We've met. Good thing he's leaving. I was going to work on a report for Colonel Watkins. Brandt is a civilian doctor with a piss poor attitude."
"I believe he also had gooey fingers," Teal'c said.
Janet looked at Teal'c. "Gooey fingers?"
The Jaffa's head moved up and down once. "He was stealing from the hospital pharmacy, according to Casey Jackson."
She couldn't help but giggle. "Oh! Sticky fingers. Casey said that?"
Janet picked up the telephone, dialed for the hospital switchboard. "This is Doctor Fraiser. Give me security, right away." She put her hand over the receiver. "Ted, do you have a copy of the report on that Tollan regenerating device? Major Carter believes it might be a piece of dual function technology, and asked to see what we have on it."
"I think it's in the file cabinet. Want me to get it?"
"Would you please? I can take it down to her office. I'm going to have to take a copy of the report and her request, and my approval of her request to the general's office."
The man nodded. "I'll bring it in."
She nodded and waved. "Yes, this is Doctor Fraiser, CMO at NORAD, classified department codename SGC. I need for you to examine the locker of a Doctor Brandt. If he's still in the hospital, detain him. I have it on good authority that he's been stealing from the pharmacy. I'm betting he's selling the drugs on the street. Yes...thank you. Yes, that will be fine. I think the colonel would appreciate that...Yes...Yes. Thank you." She replaced the handset. "There. Let the shitass get out of that!"
"It won't take me long to type this up. Meet you in about twenty minutes?"
"I will be there," the Jaffa promised.
Janet sat down at her keyboard. She often wondered if the general actually read all of the reports generated by each department of the SGC...and the reports generated when one department was interested in using, studying, fixing, or cannibalizing any of the equipment or artifacts or devices from a different department. She sighed. It didn't matter if he did or didn't read them. It did matter if they weren't properly filed. Because if said equipment, artifacts, or devices turned up missing, the person to have last handled the item was held responsible. The general held copies of all the requests...so that if something did happen, there was at least a starting place to look for the lost item.
How the Air Force loved their paperwork. She couldn't help but giggle out loud when she thought about Casey's common complaint that, since they were living in the computer age, 'paperwork' should have been phased out. Wasn't that a lovely thought.
Dr. Carmichael brought the folder in, sat it on the desk beside her. Didn't even bother wondering why Janet was in her office on a Sunday. Like many of those who worked within the SGC had learned, there was always something that needed attention.
Teal'c sat down on his bed, wiped a hand over his face. Major Carter...Samantha Carter, his mind preferred to call her...had been quite weak after using the device. There was no doubt in his mind that had Daniel Jackson not been able to help her, drawing on his power as The One, the major would have been unable to cure O'Neill's sister. It seemed that there had been far more cancer in her body than they had realized. And Daniel Jackson would not have known that Samantha Carter needed his help had it not been for Casey Jackson. And the slender seer might not have realized there was a problem soon enough had Janet not requested her presence. If Samantha Carter had continued on her own...he shook his dark head. Once again, it seemed, that SG-1 magic had been in play. This time, it had included Janet.
Now that the operation had been completed, he allowed himself to examine just how much of a risk had been taken. He shuddered mentally as he thought of the danger that Casey Jackson had placed herself in. She, Samantha Carter, and Janet had been the ones to plan the entire...mission. They had, for the most part, been the ones to carry it out. His respect for the women grew exponentially. He hoped that O'Neill's sister would understand that the three women had risked much for her. They had, in fact, risked everything to save a woman who had determined that she did not approve of her brother's choice to make the military his life. They had not taken those risks for Rachel O'Neill Ward. They had taken them for O'Neill.
He had, Teal'c realized, insisted on being a part of the scheme in order to be with his teammates, should the worst happen. If they were to be punished, he would stand in punishment beside them.
No doubt Daniel Jackson was just as relieved that the 'mission' had been completed as well. Although, given the fact that his grandmother, of whom he had known nothing, and the aunt of his father-in-law, had arrived on the same day, the archaeologist might not yet have had time to think about what had been done. He had no doubt that if Daniel Jackson said anything regarding what had happened, Casey Jackson would tell him about it.
He glanced at the clock beside his table. He would change his shirt, and meet Janet in Samantha Carter's lab. They would 'return' the Goa'uld healing device. And this part of the day would truly be over.
Janet took the copies from the printer, stuck them into two separate folders, and headed for the elevator. She'd go to level twenty-seven first. Drop of the report for the general. And then...then she was going to get that damned thing out of her pocket. And hoped she'd never see it again.
Teal'c was on the elevator when she stepped on. "Hey, Teal'c."
"I need to drop this off first," she said holding up a folder with a note on which General Hammond's name was written. "Then I need to drop this by Sam's lab. Then we can head over to Daniel and Casey's."
She glanced up at the camera. And that little bit of conversation has perfectly covered our asses, she thought smugly.
It was nothing to walk into the general's office and put the report on his desk. Her hand went into her pocket, her fingers moving over and over the device that was hidden there. The damned thing still felt warm.
Trying to look as casual as possible, she followed Teal'c down the corridor on level nineteen to the lab occupied by Sam Carter. The work table was cluttered with the pieces of some device or other. On one corner, however, was the tag for the healing device.
"I don't know whether to leave this on her desk, or the worktable," Janet said, holding up the folder.
"It seems that there are several folders already present on her desk. Perhaps she would notice it more quickly if it were placed on the worktable," Teal'c replied. He had also seen the tag.
"I agree." She fumbled with the device, nearly dropped the damned thing as she tried to maneuver it beneath the folder. She managed to set both down almost on top of the tag. "There. I'll call her about it when I get a chance tomorrow, just to make certain she's seen it."
Teal'c nodded. "I believe we are expected at Daniel Jackson's residence."
Janet chuckled. "Yes, we are. I think you're just anxious to get to Casey's lasagna."
"Casey Jackson makes excellent lasagna."
"Don't I know it," Janet sighed. "Let's go. I should stop and pick up something nice for dessert. Any suggestions?"
"I believe Casey Jackson would be pleased with a chocolate cake."
Janet looked up at him. "I think you're becoming as much of a chocoholic as Daniel, Casey and Sam."
"I do not feel a need to consume large quantities of chocolate. I am, however, fond of chocolate cake."
She giggled. "Okay, Big Guy. Chocolate cake it is."
A A A A A A
As Casey had predicted, it wasn't long past two when Janet and Teal'c arrived, the petite doctor carrying a bakery box with a beautifully decorated chocolate cake inside. Jack and Sam were only moments behind, Rachel shyly accepting and returning the welcoming smiles of Jack's 'kids'.
Daniel made introductions all around, and saw to it that everyone had the beverage of his or her choice in hand. Thankful that Sam had brought another bottle of wine.
The sauce for the lasagna was simmering, sending up a rich spicy aroma to fill the house. Everyone sniffed appreciatively as Casey began to layer the lasagna noodles, the cheese filling, and the sauce in the deep pans.
When the casseroles were in the ovens, layers of mozzarella melting on top, Casey turned and looked at the table. Then frowned. How in the world was she going to 'seat' ten people?
Noting the look of distress on his Wife's face, Daniel smiled at something Janelle had said, then quickly excused himself from the conversation. He was reaching for her as soon as he was close enough. "What's wrong?"
"We can seat eight people at the table...not comfortably, but it works. That leaves us two seats short."
"We have two bar chairs. I suggest we put the folding chairs here at the breakfast bar, there's more room. Four people here, six at the table."
Casey tugged her lower lip between her teeth. "The problem comes with who sits where."
"I have an idea. We'll put Sam, Jack, Rachel and Teal'c at the bar. Your dad and Janet, Grandma, Aunt Janelle and us at the table."
"I never knew extended family could be so...inconvenient."
He couldn't hold back the chuckle that filled his throat. "I've heard other people make the same complaints. Never dreamed we'd have that problem."
When she had fallen in love with Daniel, there had been no need for anyone else in her life...he had filled every lonely corner of her heart. She'd considered herself blessed when she'd found her 'family' in Jack, Sam, and Teal'c. Had never dreamed that there might be 'more'. Neither she nor Daniel had ever thought about 'real' family...or the fact that there might be relatives 'out there' somewhere. In that moment the miracle...miracles...of having family, of Daniel's grandmother finding him, the fact that she had found her father...or had he found her?...and by default, her great aunt, impacted on her. It was a blessing to be accepted, and grateful for. Even if it did mean the occasional seating problems for family meals.
Another blessing, minor though it might have seemed, was the fact that her grandmother's china had twelve place settings. She had searched the mall, and found the perfect table linens at Macy's soon after she and Daniel had moved into the house. She was once again grateful...this time that she'd listened to Sam and Janet when they had insisted that she should have enough to 'match' the number of china settings.
While conversations and laughter flowed around her, warming the Great Room as surely as the fire from the fireplace, and the ovens where the lasagna baked, Casey sat about making the table...and the breakfast bar...as special as the gathering itself.
"The table looks lovely, dear," Janelle said, appearing at her elbow, a glass of wine in hand. She pointed with the glass toward the breakfast bar. "Very fortunate to have this eating area."
"Very," Casey agreed. Here it comes. Let's get it over with, she thought, somewhat peevishly. Say what you have to say. Instantly regretted her feelings of frustration. She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry we weren't able to make it for your family gathering-"
"John's birthday. My husband," Janelle clarified.
"Yes. He did get the card I sent?"
Janelle smiled. "Yes, he did. It was lovely."
"Good. I can't promise that we'll be able to come to every family event. I can't even promise we'll be around for the holidays. I can promise that when we do get an invitation, and we're able, we will be there."
She studied the young woman. Noted that her chin had gone up just the tiniest bit. Proud, just a bit defiant. From what Gary had told her, that stubborn, independent pride was about all that...monster...had left in the girl. It was that moment that it clicked in her mind. Where she had heard Daniel's voice before. She hadn't been looking at the television when there had been a report on CNN about a kidnapped woman and teenaged girl. The woman's mother had made a tearful appeal. And an accusation. Shortly after that had been an interview with that husband, his anger at being accused of being complicit in his wife's disappearance, his pleas for information to see her safely returned. Well, wasn't that interesting? John had commented that there was much more to the story than was being told. She'd heard the term 'terrorist' mentioned in connection with what this group did. Well, well, well. Perhaps this deep space telemetry was just a cover...and if that was the case, then no doubt their schedule really was...chaotic. "That's acceptable. Phone call or letter once in awhile would be appreciated."
Casey smiled. "That's very doable."
"Gary was thrilled when he found out about you. He was also furious."
"Because he hadn't been told about me," Casey replied. It was a conversation she and her father had had almost as soon as they had found one another.
"I just can't imagine what that poor little thing...your mother...what she was going through," Janelle said, shaking her head sadly.
She started slightly. Casey had already surmised that this aunt could be extremely judgmental. That she was looking at the entire situation, rather than just the choices made in haste...in panic and fear...surprised her. "Dad says that putting me on the church steps saved my life...and broke her heart. He said she never recovered from that. I-" She looked down at the counter, where her fingers were twisting a tea towel. "I only had glimpses of what she went through...the things she suffered. It was...bad."
"So I've heard. I feel so guilty," Janelle admitted.
She smiled at the wide-eyed looked that Casey gave her. "Yes, me. If I hadn't been such an idiot, I would have offered to pay for Gary's college tuition. Or at least helped him with it. He might have proposed sooner to Brenda. Maybe married her before that father of hers could object."
"If he had proposed sooner. If she had stayed in Tacoma that summer like she had wanted to, rather than giving in to the demands of her parents. If you had helped. There are a lot of 'ifs' there. And not one shred of proof that any of those things would have made a difference. We'll never know what personal demons drove Brenda...Mom," Casey corrected herself, "to make the choices that she did. We just have to concentrate on the present and future. We can't change the past."
"Very true." Janelle took a sip of wine, looked over at where Daniel stood, talking with the tall black man...Teal'c, along with Gary, and Muriel. "You've got a good man there."
Casey's smile lit up the room. "Yes, I do. And I thank every god and goddess I can think of daily for bringing him into my life."
"I think he's just as lucky to have you. You've made this house a warm, inviting home. A place where a man can relax. That's important, you know. That a man has a place where he feels he can come and relax."
"I don't know what kind of stories your father has told you about me. Probably made me out to be a tyrant of some sort. But if you or Daniel ever need anything...anything at all, I'm as close as the telephone."
The offer went straight to her heart. She smiled, and hugged the elderly woman. Not at all surprised in the strength of the hug she received in return.
Gary glanced over just as his daughter embraced his aunt. Couldn't help but grin. Casey had managed to charm even that old battleaxe. There was no doubt in his mind that at some point the two would clash. With Janelle, it was inevitable. But he had the feeling that neither woman would be emotionally scarred when it happened.
The timers on the ovens indicated that the casseroles that the group had been so appreciatively sniffing were ready. Casey put them on trivets, and then explained the seating arrangements. She didn't miss the look exchanged between Janet and her father. Who had, oddly enough, spent their time on opposite sides of the room. Something was up with that, she thought...just a tad absently.
When everyone was seated, Daniel made certain all wine glasses were filled. He rose to his feet. "This might seem a bit...strange...but I'd like to share something that I've been thinking about today. First of all, I'd like to make note that this is the first family gathering to include 'extended' family. Grandma, I can't put into words how thrilled I am that you found me. Thanks for taking that step. I'm delighted to welcome you to our home."
Muriel beamed, even as a tear stole down her cheek.
"Janelle, I'm glad we finally got a chance to meet you. Welcome to our home."
The elderly Franklin smiled and nodded.
He turned toward the breakfast bar. "Rachel, it's been a pleasure meeting you. I'd like to welcome you as well."
Rachel inclined her head, smiled shyly.
"Gary, finding you was the one of best things that could have happened for Casey, and I'm glad she has you in her life."
He winked at his daughter, then smiled up at his son-in-law.
"At the risk of sounding ungrateful for our family members, I want to say thanks to the people who mean the most to me. For being a part of my life. First, and most importantly, my beautiful Wife. Casey, you're all I'll ever want, ever need. As long as you're in my life, I'm complete. I didn't know it was possible to love as deeply as I love you."
She smiled, mouthed her words of love to him. Blushed prettily when he winked at her.
"Jack...I don't think two more different men exist than you and I. In spite of those differences, you're the first 'best friend' I've ever had. The brother I never had. I can't imagine my life without you. Wouldn't want to."
Jack cleared his throat, nodded slightly.
"Teal'c, the chances of us even knowing one another, let alone being such close friends...as close as brothers...were slim to none. But circumstances intervened, and I can't imagine my life without you, either."
The Jaffa gave a regal nod of his head. Only his friends could see the warmth in his eyes, could see how much Daniel's words meant to him.
"Sam, you've been a bright spot in my life from the moment we met. We connected in a way that I'd never experienced before...became close friends in a very short amount of time. I'm honored, and delighted, that you're a part of my life."
Sam wiped a tear from her cheek. Smiled at her teammate and best friend.
"Janet...you've become a dear friend. Someone I can turn to, someone I can depend on. My life is richer for having you in it."
Janet smiled as well...knowing that to be counted as a part of this special group was indeed a privilege.
"To the 'new' family in our lives, welcome. To my Family of the Heart, I offer my love and gratitude."
"Beautiful," Muriel murmured.
"Very," Janelle agreed, wiping her eyes.
"That's our Daniel. Talking nonstop when we should be eating lasagna," Jack teased. The look he exchanged with Daniel held a full conversation.
I feel the same way, Space Monkey.
Good to say it, though.
I thought so.
Jack nodded. Daniel nodded. "Okay, let's eat," Daniel said with a grin.
These were the people that filled Jack's life, Rachel thought, not a little awed. She'd never seen such a diverse group; her brother and his 'kids' were about as different as five individuals could be. But she'd never seen blood relatives as close as they were. In spite of their love...in spite of the fact that they had welcomed their 'extended family'...it was obvious that those family members would always be 'outsiders'. It wasn't done with malice. She didn't even think it was done intentionally. But Jack, Sam, Teal'c, Daniel and Casey had one another. They needed no one else. They were indeed 'Family of the Heart'.
The meal had been delicious, everyone eating their fill, then good-naturedly complaining about having done so. Laughter was as abundant as the good food and wine. Jack glanced at his watch. "Rach, we'd better get you to the airport."
Understanding now the reason her brother had insisted she pack her bag so that he could put it into the truck before they arrived, Rachel stood to her feet. She nodded. Slipped to Janet's side, where the petite woman stood talking to Teal'c and Casey. "Thank you...all of you, for what you did," she said softly.
Three faces smiled at her. "Just remember to have your doctor send a copy of your next CT scan," Janet reminded her.
"I will, I promise."
Jack gave Casey a hug. "Dinner was great as usual, Radar."
"Remember, keep your CO happy. Bring any leftovers to my office."
She giggled. "Leftovers? In this house? With this group? Please!"
"Just sayin'," he grinned.
"I'll see what I can do," Casey replied.
"I'll see the three of you tomorrow."
"We'll be there," Janet grinned.
Rachel said her goodbyes to Daniel and his grandmother, who were sitting at the table talking, along with Gary and Janelle. Wondered if this group would ever be together in this way again. Somehow, she figured they would. The same something told her that the chances of her ever attending such a gathering were slim. Oh, she wasn't going to die, not now. She knew that. She had absolutely no doubt that the treatment had worked. But she was returning to St. Paul. And the distance that had been between her and Jack, while no longer filled with anger, was still there. And probably always would be. She didn't think family Christmases and swapped visits were in the future for them. Too many years had passed. Too much had happened...too much life had happened. As much as she hated to admit it, she had less in common with her brother than the four people whom he considered his family. The only thing that connected him and her were a few memories and genetics. Not enough to bind them together.
Later, on the plane, she realized that she had found what she had been searching for. The answers to her questions. Not the details. No, she'd never have those. And she could honestly say that she could live without them. She'd gone to Colorado Springs to find...closure. And, she'd found it. Oh, she was certain that she and Jack would make a token effort to keep in touch. They'd exchanged phone numbers and email addresses for that very reason. If it lasted a month she'd be surprised. She'd send the things that had been in her attic for years. Boxes that her mother had been certain Jack would want.
She was returning to St. Paul a much different woman than she had left. Cancer free. Because of her brother and his amazing friends. She'd lost the bitterness as well. She stared into the darkness of the night sky. "Have a good life, little brother. I do love you."
A A A A A A
Gary hugged Janelle tightly. "Next time, don't just leave a message on the machine. Either call my cellphone, or leave a message with Charley."
"I will," Janelle replied.
"Now you can go tell all those gossips you play canasta with that you finally met my daughter."
"Yes, I can," she sniffed, adjusting the collar of her coat. Then smiled. "She's a keeper, Gary. She and that husband of hers."
"Told you so."
"I don't remember that."
"You've just conveniently forgotten."
"I'll try to stop by in a couple of weeks."
"I won't hold you to that."
"The door is always open. Guest bedroom is always made up for you, Gary."
"Bring Charley the next time you come to visit."
Gary smiled. "I will."
She turned and made her way through security. It had been a very successful trip. She just might have come for another visit. Colorado Springs was actually a very nice city. Yes, that's what she'd do. She had time in July...
A A A A A A
They hadn't been asleep very long, drifting off after making love as quietly as possible, in deference to his grandmother, who was sleeping on the sofa. He opened his eyes. What in the world had...
"No!" Casey bolted upright, her eyes wide with fear. "No!"
Daniel sat up, pulled her trembling body close. "Shh...easy, Angel, it was just a bad dream." He reached over and turned the light on. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, the look of agony in her expressive green eyes making his heart ache.
The emotions were nearly overwhelming. Such sadness...such heartbreak. A sense of urgency. Of anger. Frustration. Running...she had to run...it was so important. She could sense that she had to run...to save Daniel. There had been no images, at least not that she could actually remember. Just the jumble of emotions...so strong, so powerful that it had felt as if they were taking over her very soul. She knew one thing for certain. It was a premonition. She had absolutely no clue what it was a premonition of, however.
She was clinging so tightly to him that she was nearly choking him. The last time this happened...hooboy. "Case?"
Casey shook her head. "I'm not sure. I didn't 'see' anything. But goddess what I felt! So much..."
"What did you feel?"
"Heartbreak," she replied. That had been the overriding emotion. "Absolute heartbreak."
If she hadn't seen anything..."Sounds like a bad dream."
Soft tapping on the door startled them. Casey grabbed the sheet and pulled it over her naked breasts. "Come in," Daniel called quietly.
Muriel peeked her head around the door. "I heard Casey cry out, is everything all right?"
Daniel smiled. "Bad dream."
The elderly woman nodded. "Today was rather stressful. That can certainly cause a bad dream or two."
"I'm fine," Casey smiled. "I'm sorry to have woken you."
"Don't you worry about it. If you have trouble falling back asleep, a little warm milk might help."
"If I have trouble falling back asleep, I'll make some," Casey assured her.
"All right then. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Daniel said softly.
Casey snuggled down beside him. "It felt...odd."
"Yeah. So many emotions...almost as if...as if I was feeling the emotions of more than one person. But the strongest was absolute heartbreak. And running...running to protect you." She paused, frowning slightly. "More than that...to protect you and Jack, Sam, and Teal'c as well."
His frown matched hers. "Until you get more specifics, there isn't anything we can do."
He could sense her frustration. "We'll meditate with Teal'c this afternoon. You can take a look and see what you can find out," he suggested.
He smiled again when she snuggled closer. He pressed a kiss to the side of her face. "Sleep, Angel."
She closed her eyes. Daniel was safe and he was holding her tightly...There was no sense of urgency...yet. She'd look for the answers...just as soon as she managed to get a bit of sleep...
A A A A A A
Daniel and Casey took Muriel to the airport. Hugs and kisses were exchanged, promises to keep in touch given. He watched as one of the airline porters escorted his grandmother through security. Waved and smiled when she turned around to wave goodbye.
"So, how soon will we be going to see her?" Casey asked.
"I dunno. But we will."
"We have to. She wants to show you off to her friends."
He grinned. "Yeah, how about that."
It had been a very strange weekend. One that had been filled with surprises...both good and bad. But it had ended on a high note for all involved. Casey wondered if Jack really would try to find a way to make Sam run tests to find out what had caused the unbelievable arrival of three family members. Just to make certain such an unexpected...and unusual...'family reunion' didn't happen again.
<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>