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Family Reunion

 

Chapter 5

Daniel read the message, frowned slightly. He leaned against the table that filled the center of the lab, studying the slip of paper. What could be so important that Gary would leave a message...and why was the message for him, and not Casey?

"What's up?"

He glanced up at his Wife. Who just happened to be carrying two mugs of coffee...from his office. Which meant it was the 'good stuff'. God, he loved her! He accepted one of the mugs, blew slightly across the top of the steaming liquid, and took a sip. "Message from your Dad. He wants us to stay here until he's had a chance to talk to us. Well, me actually, or so the note says."

"Why?"

He had to smile. "No clue, babe."

She glanced over at him, caught his expression...the slightly raised eyebrows, the question in his eyes. "Don't look at me, I don't know, either."

"No poking?"

"Not even a nudge."

"I suppose that's a good thing."

"I suppose so." She shuffled through a stack of folders. With luck, she could finish up another database entry today. There wasn't much left to do for the god Sebek. She'd dubbed him 'Crocodile Snake', as he was known as the Egyptian god of crocodiles. Or was a crocodile god. Or some such thing. She sighed. At least there was no indication that he was still around. It seemed that a majority of the so-called 'minor' gods had disappeared shortly after Ra had been kicked off of the First World. A temper tantrum perhaps? Had he struck out in anger, killing those around him with little regard for who they were, or how they had or hadn't been connected to the rebellion? She'd never have the answers to those questions, she supposed. Hadn't decided whether or not she actually cared one way or another.

"So, what did you think of your first archaeological seminar?" Daniel asked, as he leafed through his own notes.

"I enjoyed Mike's lecture. It was nice of him to invite us to that after dinner party. But I have to tell you, I've never been so bored in my life."

He couldn't help but chuckle. Mike had been invited to that party as a courtesy, as he'd been a guest speaker. While there hadn't been anyone who had seemed eager to talk to him, no one had blatantly turned their backs and walked away, either. He suspected that it was possible rumors were already circling that several other well known and respected archaeologists and anthropologists were working with him...for the Air Force. He'd love to hear the speculative rumors about that! "When I was assistant professor at the Oriental Institute, there were at least a dozen of those gatherings a year."

"I think I'd be conveniently on my death bed each time," she replied drolly.

"I managed to work through all but three of them," he admitted. Two he had attended with Sarah. Who had been the consummate scholar and perfect date, filling in the awkward pauses that occurred when he ran out of small talk. The perfect companion, Dr. Jordan had whispered to him, a smile on his face. He hadn't taken time at that point to realize that while he cared for Sarah, he didn't love her. Apparently his absent-minded professor reputation had been endearing to her...for awhile. His mentor had seen what Sarah had hoped for, and not the reality of the situation. Neither he nor Dr. Jordan had ever had a clue about Sarah's...mental problems. She'd hidden them well.

"You know, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of debate going on about several new theories. The old guard won't last forever, and there are those among the up-and-coming who are a more open-minded about theories that take a...unique...perspective on things," Casey mused.

"Your point?"

"Don't be surprised if someone calls you and wants to discuss your 'crazy' theory about the pyramids."

He smiled. "Don't hold your breath, Angel. I did the unforgivable. I brought aliens into the mix. I dared to say that the Egyptians hadn't built the pyramids, and that they were landing sites for space craft. No one would even look at what I had found, at the glyphs I'd located. I was just branded as a fool...and an idiot...and everyone moved on."

And that had hurt him more deeply than he'd ever admit, she thought sadly. It was especially painful that those who knew him the best had turned away from him. She sighed. He'd been proven right. He was so damned right it was scary. Someday, everyone of those nay-sayers would know that, too. And she'd be there at his side, when he was able to stand up and say, 'I told you so'. Not, she thought, with another silent sigh, that he actually would. But she would! "Don't expect me to be as gracious as I know you'll be when the truth comes out," she grumbled.

"That won't be for a very long time," he replied. Grinning again at her fierce love and protective loyalty.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

She settled into her seat. Two hours and three minutes. The length of her flight from St. Paul to Denver. Another twenty-two minutes from Denver to Colorado Springs. She tried to calm her quaking nerves. It had been so long...fifteen years. The girls had been eight and nine the last time he'd seen them. The last time he'd been home.

Feelings of anger, of disappointment, of hurt rushed forward. Familiar in their intensity. Even after all this time, she still didn't know if she could forgive him. What she was doing, she knew, was for her own peace of mind. She'd offer him one last chance to explain. To help her understand why he'd just deserted his family.

Trembling fingers pulled the piece of notepaper from her purse. It held the information she would need, including the confirmation number, for the rental car that would take her from the Colorado Springs airport to the military complex on Cheyenne Mountain. Funny, she'd thought by now he'd be retired. Maybe he was a general or something. Maybe he was running the place. Like that really mattered. Not that she didn't want him to have done well. She gave a mental shake of her head. There was no way he hadn't done well. He'd moved up through the ranks quickly enough, or at least, that's what she'd been told. She had no reason to doubt what Father Shanahan had said. Who was the only one of the family who followed his career.

She watched the clouds that lingered around the wings of the plane. Nothing more than mist. From here, they looked so different. That thought prodded her. From where she stood, she saw the situation from one point of view. But...what did he see?

Rachel closed her eyes, leaned her head back against the seat. She could remember the fights between him and their father. About his grades. His lack of interest in anything but hockey, girls, and his motorcycle. It had been years since she'd thought about one of the last fights that had echoed through the house...

 

"Why can't you be more like your sister? You're a smart kid, there's no excuse for these grades! Look at Rach! Straight 'A' student. She's on the honor roll. She's involved in school activities. What do you do? Waste your time with that damned bike, prowling around at night doing who knows what-"

"I am not Rachel! I'm me! Why can't you accept that? Why can't you just accept me for who I am? I'm not a brain, Dad! But I'm not stupid, either. You treat me like I'm an idiot!"

"Because you're acting like an idiot!"

 ...

"...Why can't you be more like your sister...more like your sister...more like your sister...why can't you..."

 

Her eyes flew open. "Oh, Dad, what did you do?" she whispered.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

She patted the short white hair that lay in precise layers. Hazel had done an excellent job. The cut and style were exactly what she'd wanted. At least she wouldn't have to worry about her hair while she was gone. The sound of a car horn had her hurrying toward the window. Good, the cab was right on time. She picked up her overnight bag, and her small suitcase.

It wasn't as if she hadn't given him ample time to do this himself, for heaven's sake. She'd tried to talk to him about it no less than a dozen times. He'd simply told her that the girl was too busy, wasn't able to just 'drop everything' and come for a visit. Balderdash.

The invitation she'd sent, directly to the girl, had resulted in a very polite, but brief, letter, explaining that her schedule was hectic, and that at the moment, it wasn't possible to get away. It sounded like an excuse. And it wasn't as if they lived on opposite sides of the country, for heaven's sake! A flight into Kansas City was only an hour and a half! What in the world had he told the girl anyway? Probably that she was something akin to a fire-breathing dragon. Hmmph!

Florence had insisted that it might be best to wait until he brought her around. Rubbish. If she waited for that to happen, she'd never meet the girl!

No, this was the only way to find out just exactly what was going on. Oh, she knew what he had told her. But she wanted the facts of the matter. And to do that, she had to go there. If he was upset, well, it was his own darned fault.

And he'd better have room for her! She wasn't staying in a motel. Lord knew that she was liable to get her throat slit, an old woman like her, alone in a city like that.

His own fault, that's what it was. She shouldn't have to make this trip. It wasn't going to be easy on her arthritis, sitting in a plane like that. Lordy, she hadn't flown since Tori had graduated from college. That was, goodness, almost ten years ago now.

She settled into the cab. "Bus station please."

The driver nodded.

She checked the schedule she'd picked up when she'd done her grocery shopping. She could take the bus right into Kansas City. She'd have to change there, and take a second bus to the airport. What a horrible time for John to have decided to go fishing. The old goat. No consideration for others. She'd told him to wait until next week. But no, he had to go this week. Well, he'd just have to fend for himself over the weekend. And if he made a mess in her kitchen, she'd tell him a thing or two!

 

 

 

She was just about to walk into the bus terminal, which was across the alley from Digby's Feed and Grain, one of the few places in town that had a parking lot big enough to accommodate a bus, when she heard her name called.

"Janelle! Janelle Franklin!" Gerty Powell waved furiously at her. "Where in the world are you going?" She paused, took in the new dress, freshly 'done' hair, and the bags. "Are you leaving John?"

"Oh, good lord, no! I'm going to Silver Springs. Where Gary's living now. I have a niece that I have yet to meet, and if I wait for him to bring her here, I'll never get a chance to take a look at her!"

"You're taking the bus?"

"Only to Kansas City. I'll fly from there."

"Well, I can take you! I've driven to the city several times. Did some shopping at the big malls there," Gerty offered smugly.

The woman wasn't her closest friend. In fact, Gerty most often annoyed the hell out of her. But a ride directly to the airport would be faster than taking the bus. Probably less wear and tear on her nerves. She'd drive herself if that blasted doctor hadn't recommended to John that her license to drive be revoked. Claimed she couldn't see. She could see just fine. It wasn't her fault they made all of those signs so damned small! And that rake never should have been so close to the driveway. She could still hear the sound the tire had made when she'd run over it. "Gerty, that's mighty neighborly of you. Are you sure you can get me there in time? My flight leaves at three thirty."

Gerty glanced at her watch. "That's a full two hours away. Let's go!"

Janelle settled into the seat of the old Buick. "You know, I feel a little like those gals in that television show."

"Oh, I know which one...you're talking about Lucy and Ethel?"

"That's right. Just don't you take it into your head to try to outrun any cops."

"Well, I just might. If one gives me a reason," Gerty huffed.

"I suppose if there's a reason, it would be all right," Janelle allowed.

"I can't stop if I have to get you to the airport," Gerty pointed out.

"You're right about that," she conceded. "Well, drive, woman!" It wasn't long before Janelle was worried that they really might be stopped. Apparently Gerty believed the speed limit was only a suggestion. Lord, just get me to the airport in one piece, she prayed silently, hanging on to the dashboard as Gerty passed another truck.

 

 

 

The signs had been confusing. They'd circled the airport three times before Gerty finally managed to get onto the right street. She'd cut off three lanes of traffic to do so, but time was running short, Janelle had a flight to catch.

Thank heavens she'd printed her ticket out at home on her own printer. She was able to go directly to the gate. Well, after she stopped at security. Why in the world anyone would think an old woman had a bomb in her shoes, she didn't know, but they'd sure acted as if she did.

The plane was already being boarded when she made it to the gate. The flight attendant had smiled at her, offered to help her with her luggage. Which had been gratefully accepted. Lifting her bags into that tiny overhead compartment was just more than her old joints would take.

Janelle sat back in the seat. She'd left a message for Gary, instructing him to pick her up at five-fifteen. She never considered the idea that he might not have gotten that message.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The plane landed in Denver without incident. Gary offered to buy Muriel dinner, but she insisted she was too nervous to eat. She wanted, she said, to meet Daniel, and to say to him, face to face, the words she'd practiced for over a year.

"What Daniel does is classified. I can get you as far as the visitor's lounge," Gary told her, as he drove toward Cheyenne Mountain.

"Do you work with Daniel?" Muriel asked nervously. Her fingers were wrapped around the strap of her Sunday purse, squeezing tightly.

"I work in the same area," Gary replied truthfully. "But I only do a bit of security work. It's a consultant position."

"I see. I just don't understand why the Air Force needs an archaeologist."

Gary smiled. "Daniel has multiple degrees. Archaeology is just one of them. He's also degreed in Philology."

The word sounded familiar...she was certain Melburn had studied philology as well. He'd always loved words, and their meanings..."Oh, that's about languages, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Muriel watched as they passed through the city. She could only catch glimpses of the quiet neighborhoods as they went by. When she saw the signs for Cheyenne Mountain, where, Mr. Franklin had informed her, the military complex in which Daniel worked was located, her already rapidly beating heart sped up. Now isn't the time to get yourself worked up into a heart attack, she chided herself. Trying not to gasp for breath.

"Mrs. Jackson, are you all right?" Gary asked worriedly.

"I'm just so nervous, and excited, all at the same time," Muriel admitted, placing a hand over her racing heart.

"Would you like for me to stop? Maybe get a glass of iced tea, or a cup of coffee?"

She forced a smile. "I think we'd better just go on. Delaying will only make it worse."

He smiled, reached over and patted her hand. "We'll be there in just a few minutes. I predict that Daniel is going to be thrilled to have you in his life."

"And if he's not?" Muriel asked softly.

"Then I don't know him as well as I thought," Gary replied. No doubt Daniel would be shocked. And, granted, he really wasn't giving the young man much notice...not that he hadn't actually tried. But the archaeologist had already been Chicago bound, according to their friends, when he'd stopped at the base the day prior. He'd wanted to tell Daniel then...or at least get the younger man thinking about the possibility that his grandmother might be out there, looking for him; giving himself time to make certain that the woman who had contacted his office was the real deal. Then, telling Daniel that she'd called wouldn't have been as much of a shock. He shook his head mentally. He wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't certain that Daniel would be determined to meet her as soon as he learned that his grandmother had hired Franklin Enterprises to find him.

The tall, chain-link fence that surrounded the acreage owned by the government came into view. He took the curve slowly, allowing Muriel a chance to take a few deep breaths.

The black Cadillac Seville was waved through the main gate. Gary parked in the lot reserved for those who worked within the secret SGC facility. "I'll have someone bring you a cup of coffee as soon as we get to the visitor's lounge," he said, offering his arm to the elderly woman as she climbed out of the car.

"That's a good idea. I haven't had a cup of coffee since lunch," Muriel replied.

"Daniel shares your love of coffee," he said kindly. "It's also something that he shares with my daughter."

Muriel smiled. Walked beside the tall, blonde haired man, her eyes going wide as she looked around. She'd never in her life even been near a military base, let alone on one. She looked around with interest as they boarded a bus, and were taken further onto the base, and into a tunnel. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head at the sight of the huge blast door that they passed. She signed the log book when Mr. Franklin informed her that it was required, accepted the Visitor's Pass...a plastic badge that she was instructed to clip to the front of her dress.

Through a rough, rock cavern into a white tiled hallway that led in one direction, onto an elevator that took them down two floors. Levels, Mr. Franklin had called them.

The visitor's lounge was directly in front of the elevator, doors on the other side of the hallway were locked and required proper access codes to open them.

"I'm not certain how long this will take," Gary admitted. "I'll see to that coffee, and then go find Daniel."

Her fingers trembled slightly. He was here. Somewhere in this...place...was her grandson. Her knees buckled and she dropped onto the gray sofa. "Oh, my."

Gary was across the room in two strides. "Mrs. Jackson?"

"He's here," Muriel whispered.

He could well understand what she was feeling. He'd had the same feelings, dealt with the same emotions when he'd realized that Casey was in the same hotel, before she knew who he was, knew that he was her father. "I'll send someone to sit with you,"

She shook her head. "Just a cup of coffee, that's all I need."

"Coming right up," Gary promised. He patted her hands again, then hurried from the room. The sooner he told Daniel, the sooner his grandmother could breathe again.

He stopped in the small commissary that was open to everyone in NORAD. Requested the cup of coffee, and that it be delivered to the woman waiting in the visitor's lounge. Asked that an airman stay with her until he returned. The color of his badge, along with the number that indicated the level of his clearance, assured that his requests would be honored immediately.

Within minutes, Muriel Jackson was sipping on coffee, making small talk with a young man she was certain was far too young to be wearing the uniform he was in. Trying not to think about the fact that Daniel could refuse to meet with her. Knowing in her heart that he had every right to do so.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Gary wiped a hand over his face. Stepped off the elevator on level eighteen...stood in the corridor for a moment, trying to figure out exactly how he was going to tell Daniel that his grandmother was waiting sixteen levels above them, hoping to meet him.

He walked toward the door that had a sign with Daniel's name above it. Mentally trying one line after another, discarding each one, growing more desperate with every step. If he were very lucky, he thought, Casey would have picked something up...would have given her husband a clue of what was about to happen. He tapped lightly on the door, stuck his head into the room. Empty. Shit! Had Daniel not received the message to remain here?

He heard Casey's voice in the lab next door. Gave a silent sigh of relief. Stepped into that room, aware that two pairs of eyes focused on him...curiosity shining in each. "Hey," he said, his voice sounded a bit weak even to himself.

"Dad, what's wrong?" Casey was on her feet, moving toward her father.

"I'm fine, honey. I just need to talk to Daniel."

Daniel had risen as well. "Okay."

"Uh...you might want to sit down," Gary said, steeling himself for whatever response the archaeologist might have.

Daniel frowned, but lowered himself into the chair he had just vacated. "Okay?"

"Daniel...I don't know exactly how to tell you this...so I'm just going to give you the straight facts."

Casey exchanged worried looks with her husband. "Dad, you're starting to scare me."

He forced a smile. "It's nothing to worry about, trust me."

"Why don't you tell me what 'it' is," Daniel said quietly.

Gary took a deep breath. "Thursday morning, Charley received a call from a woman...from an elderly woman. She wanted to hire Franklin Enterprises to locate her grandson."

Daniel's frown deepened. What in the hell did a business call have to do with him?

Casey's eyes widened. Elderly woman...looking for her grandson?

He could tell that Casey was already putting the pieces together. Gary nodded. "It seems that her husband passed away just a couple of weeks ago. He'd...forbidden...her to look for her son, or her grandson."

"That's rather harsh," Daniel allowed. Still trying to figure out what this had to do with him. And then it hit him. "Oh, hell," he muttered.

"She started looking for you almost as soon as her husband was buried," Gary confirmed. "It seems that she's known about you for about a year...a friend of hers looked for information about your father. Found the article from the New York Times about the...um...accident."

Daniel was thankful that Gary had told him to sit down. He wasn't certain that his legs would have held him up. "She's looking for me?"

"Daniel, she's beside herself wanting to know that you're all right. If I don't miss my guess, she's wanted to find you, to know you, as soon as she read that article, and discovered she was a grandmother."

"She didn't know?" Daniel's voice was raspy. He cleared his throat.

Gary shook his head. "She'll have to give you the particulars, but from what she told me, her husband...your grandfather...was a stern man. He more or less disowned your father. And he didn't allow your grandmother to contact him, either."

"Where is she?" Daniel asked. Grandmother. His grandmother. His father's mother, to be exact. It only in that moment dawned on him that he couldn't recall his father ever speaking about his family.

Gary wiped a hand over the back of his neck, his cheeks flushing slightly. "Visitor's lounge on level two."

"She's here?" Daniel asked, his voice nearly squeaking with surprise.

"I know I should have talked to you first...but she's so damned anxious to meet you...and just as convinced that you won't want to meet her," Gary replied apologetically.

"Why on earth would she think that?" Daniel demanded to know.

"I suppose that would be because it's been so long...that she didn't try harder to find your father, didn't try harder to be a part of your life when you needed her the most," Gary said quietly.

Blue eyes locked with emerald green ones. "My grandmother..."

Casey walked across the room, knelt down in front of him, wrapped her hands around his. "However you want to do this, I'm behind you all the way."

"She's here," Daniel mumbled, obviously in a state of shock.

"Yes, she is," Casey replied. She glanced at her father. "It would have been nice to have had a little warning about this."

"I stopped by on my way to the airport yesterday, you were already gone. It wasn't something I could have told him on the phone," Gary replied.

"Yes it is," Casey argued. "You should have at least let him know that you'd received that call."

"I had to make sure it was for real, before I said anything," Gary objected.

"For real?" Daniel asked.

Gary nodded. "It wouldn't be the first time an agency like the NID used a sweet little old lady to lure a target into the open," he explained.

"But this woman...she's for real?" Casey asked. Shook her head. "Of course she is, or you wouldn't have brought her here."

He gave a weak smile. "I can take her to a hotel if you need some time," Gary offered.

Daniel shook his head. "She wanted to find me?"

"Very much," Gary replied quietly.

Casey cupped Daniel's cheek. Smiled encouragingly at him. "Would you like to go meet your grandmother?"

"I suppose I should, shouldn't I?"

"It's totally up to you, Daniel," she told him.

"I think I'd like to meet her...no, I know I'd like to meet her," he said quietly.

"Do you want me to wait here?"

"No way, I want you right there with me," he replied.

"You're sure?"

"I'm positive."

"Then, I guess we should go meet your grandmother."

Daniel smiled. "Yeah, I think we should." Frowned slightly when Casey didn't move. "Babe?"

"Just let me look at you for a minute. Remember you as you are," she said, her green eyes dancing.

"Huh?"

"Before your grandmother heaps all of that love and grandmotherly attention on you, and spoils you rotten, and makes you totally obnoxious," Casey teased.

Daniel chuckled. He leaned forward and hugged his Wife, held her tightly, drawing the strength he needed from her embrace. Felt her love wrap around him like a warm blanket. No matter the outcome of this very...surprising...meeting, that love would never waiver. He knew that as well as he knew his own name. And that was all that really mattered.

"If you'd like a couple of minutes, I can go up and tell her you'll be up shortly."

He shook his head. "She's waited a long time. Let's not keep her waiting any longer."

Casey beamed a smile at him. Had known the instant that she realized who...and what...her father had been talking about, Daniel wouldn't rest until he'd met this woman. She stood up, noted with satisfaction that he kept his fingers locked around her hand.

"Daniel...I'm sorry for shocking you like this," Gary said.

"No matter how you told me, it would have been a shock. Knowing she's here...saves me a few restless nights of wondering," Daniel admitted.

"True." Gary led the way to the elevator. "We haven't had a chance to have dinner yet. I brought her here as soon as we landed."

Daniel nodded.

"She loves coffee, too," Gary said, punching the number eleven when they stepped onto the elevator.

He couldn't help but smile. "Must run in the family. Dad was a big coffee drinker."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The plane touched ground. She took a deep breath. She'd never done anything so...impulsive before. Bob had been shocked...and then furious...that she'd made the arrangements to go without even talking to him about it. Then he'd offered to come with her. Neither one of them had discussed her...condition. But it loomed between them. And they both understood it was because of the cancer that she needed to make this trip...and to make it now. She didn't, Rachel thought glumly, have time to wait around. What needed to be done...to be said...had to be done and said now. While she was still able.

She wasn't planning to stay long. Overnight was the longest, actually. If he wasn't here...if he didn't want to see her...she shook her head. She'd deal with that later. She'd already dealt with the momentary panic that he wouldn't be 'available' when she arrived. If that happened...Rachel sighed. If that happened, it would be the same as every other time she'd tried to reach him. Tried to let him know what was happening...to remind him that he was still part of the family.

Rachel pushed away the memories of their last meeting. She'd been taking flowers to the cemetery. Almost hadn't recognized the uniformed man standing in front of the headstone that marked the graves of her parents...his head hanging down, tears on his cheeks.

She'd yelled at him. Shouted her anger and her frustration at him. And he'd stood there. The only thing he'd said was that he'd done his best. And then he'd turned around, walked away from her. She'd shouted after him then that she never wanted to see him again, that she didn't want him coming back to the graves of the parents he'd abandoned when he'd joined the Air Force.

What she'd wanted was for him to explain to her why he hadn't called. Why he hadn't responded to her pleas for him to come home. Why he hadn't been there when their father had died. Couldn't understand why he'd been unable to take 'emergency leave' just as he had when their mother had fallen suddenly ill and passed away. He'd made it to her bedside just before she'd breathed her last. Had left immediately after the funeral.

And that, she thought, was what she wanted now. An explanation. For him to help her to understand why he hadn't been there.

 

 

 

The rental car was small. But she didn't need anything large. The lady at the Avis counter had given her a map, helped her find the most direct route to where she was going. Cheyenne Mountain Military Complex.

Traffic was heavy, she hadn't realized that Colorado Springs was so large. Funny, that. He'd never cared for living near the city. Or had that changed?

She hadn't expected there to be so many signs for the base...signs she followed carefully. Her first glimpse of the compound had her frowning. It was on the side of a mountain. Where were the air fields that were necessary for the planes and jets that the Air Force owned and operated?

When she stopped at the main gate, she felt another moment of panic. She was instructed to pull to the side, and then go into the small building near the road. It was, she was informed by the security guard, the pass office. There she would be able to get a temporary pass onto the base.

Which wasn't difficult to procure, much to her relief. When she told the uniformed man behind the desk who she was, and that she was there to speak to Colonel Jonathan O'Neill, he'd picked up the phone and called to make certain the colonel was available. He spoke to someone named 'Major Carter'...gave this unseen military person the her name, and the fact that she was claiming to be the colonel's sister. And when he finished the call, he handed her two passes...one to place on the dashboard of her car, the other to use to ride a bus to the 'main entrance'. There, she was told, she would have to sign in, and would be directed to the visitor's lounge.

And hopefully, she thought, she'd get a chance to talk to her brother before the night was over. To find out...why?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Muriel found herself pacing the room. She'd told that nice young man that he didn't have to stay with her, that she actually needed a few minutes alone before speaking with her grandson. He'd given her a smile, and told her that if she needed anything to ask for Airman Thompson. Such a nice young man, she thought.

She began to worry that Daniel would be angry. That he wouldn't be able to forgive her for waiting so long...so very long. His entire lifetime. He was thirty-four years old, if that newspaper article had been correct. He'd been turned over to foster care when Melburn had been killed. Could he forgive her for that? For not being there for him?

Once again she was filled with anger...furious that she had allowed Marvin to control her so completely. She'd been Melburn's mother. She'd had every right to contact him. Oh, how she wished she had!

She glanced at the large clock that hung on the wall...one that marked the day into twenty-four hour increments. Military time. She understood the concept. Had learned about it listening to and watching movies and television shows. It was just after eighteen hundred. A glance at her watch had her frowning. Just after seven. That couldn't be right. Then the comment that Mr. Franklin had made...about adjusting his watch back to mountain time...so it was just after six here.

A snort of impatience passed her lips. That little mental exercise had helped her pass a whole twenty seconds. She began to pace again.

"Mrs. Jackson?"

She whirled around when Mr. Franklin walked into the room. Alone. "He doesn't want to see me," she said flatly.

"Yes, he does," another voice said quietly.

Muriel watched as the handsome young man entered the room. He had Melburn's jaw. Melburn's chin. His eyes. Although this man's eyes were a lighter blue, they were just as intense as his father's had been; she could see that in spite of the glasses he wore. Melburn had worn glasses. Too much reading, Marvin had insisted. Another odd thing, coming from a teacher. The shape of his mouth, the color of his hair...must come from his mother, she thought. For several minutes all she did was stand and look at him, drinking in the sight of her grandson...her only grandchild. Her attention moved to the slender blonde woman at his side. A glance at Mr. Franklin and she could see the man in the young woman.

"I'm Daniel Jackson," Daniel said, stepping forward, offering his hand.

"I'm Muriel Jackson," the elderly woman replied. She accepted his handshake. Reached up to caress his cheek. "I'm so sorry," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears.

"There's nothing for you to apologize for," Daniel replied gently.

"Oh, yes. Yes, there is."

"Well, now I know where he got his stubborn streak," Casey smiled.

Muriel smiled through her tears. "You must be Daniel's wife."

"Casey Jackson," she confirmed, stepping closer. Taking the woman's hand in hers. Receiving the same caress on her cheek.

Muriel looked back at Daniel. "There's so much to explain," she sighed.

"I have so many questions," Daniel admitted. "Would you join us for dinner?"

"I don't want to bother you-" Muriel broke off, gave a sheepish smile. "A bit late for that concern, isn't it?"

Daniel smiled. "It wouldn't be a bother at all. Do you like the Olive Garden?"

"I've never eaten there," Muriel confessed. "Seen 'em advertised though."

"It's one of Casey's favorite restaurants, and I'd just promised her we'd eat there tonight," Daniel replied.

"Well, I wouldn't want you to break a promise to your wife," Muriel said.

Gary kissed Casey's cheek. "I'll see you later. Mrs. Jackson, the return date on your ticket is Monday."

"We'll take care of her," Daniel promised.

Muriel walked over to Gary. Hugged the tall man tightly. "Thank you, Mr. Franklin, for making an old woman's dream come true."

Gary's eyes filled with tears. He hugged the frail woman in return. "You're welcome."

"What do I owe you?" Muriel asked.

"Seven dollars and eighty cents. And a peach pie."

"Are you serious?" Muriel asked, her eyes going wide.

"Yes, ma'am. I could smell the peach pies in your kitchen."

She couldn't help but chuckle. "They're for the church bazaar. But I promise to bake one for you as soon as I get home." She paused, a frown crossing her face. "How will I get it to you?"

Gary grinned. "Mrs. Jackson, for you and one of those pies, I'll pick it up personally."

Muriel beamed. "Well, you just do that. And I'll have a check for you."

"Seven dollars and eighty cents. And not one penny more," Gary added, a warning tone in his voice.

"But the ticket-"

"I'll reimburse him for that," Daniel promised.

"Which means I'll just owe you for it," Muriel insisted.

"No, you won't," Daniel replied firmly. "It's the least I can do. For my...for my grandmother."

The tears that had been in her eyes returned, and spilled down on still pale cheeks. She gave a watery smile, but didn't trust herself to speak. When Daniel reached for her hand she gripped his tightly, wrapping both of her hands around his strong, callused one.

 

 

 

When the dark haired woman peeked into the room, she hadn't expected to find anyone there. A tall blonde man; a bespectacled man who was just as tall, with broad shoulders and sandy blonde hair...and the bluest eyes she'd ever seen; a slender blonde who looked like she belonged on the runway of a fashion show; and an elderly woman all turned to look at her.

Rachel took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone would be here."

Casey's eyes went wide. "Holy Hannah," she breathed. There was no doubt in her mind about who she was looking at. The woman looked just like her CO and best friend. Her features were soft and feminine...but that was Jack O'Neill's sister...possibly a twin, as closely as she resembled him.

Daniel frowned slightly. "Case?"

The slender blonde was already moving toward the door. "Hi. I'm Casey Jackson. You're here to see Jack O'Neill, right?"

"Jack?" So he still went by the nickname that Pappy had given him when he'd started high school, telling everyone in the family that 'Johnny' was a little boy's name, and that Jack was no longer a little boy.

"Jonathan," Daniel replied. Jack had never mentioned a twin sister!

Gary paused. So this was Rachel. Something told him that things were about to get very interesting. How good it was, remained to be seen.

Casey looked over at her husband. "Stud Muffin, why don't you take your grandmother to dinner. We can have dessert at the house."

"But-" He stopped at the look in her eyes. She'd 'seen' something, or at the very least, sensed something. "I'll call you when we're finished."

Casey nodded. Turned to Muriel. "It is such an honor to meet you, and I know you and Daniel have so many things to talk about. I think the two of you deserve a little time alone."

Muriel looked from green eyes, to blue eyes, and back again. "If you're sure," she said a bit uncertainly.

She leaned over and kissed the soft, smooth cheek. "I'm positive. We'll have some ice cream and chocolate chip cookies for dessert."

Daniel's ears and eyes perked up. "There're still cookies?"

She couldn't help but giggle. "I managed to save a few from your feeding frenzy."

"One day I'm going to find your cookie hiding place," he threatened playfully.

"Dream on. Now, go...before someone eats all of the Chicken Giardino."

Daniel took the time to kiss her...not as 'properly' as he would have liked...but having his grandmother and her father standing there was enough to keep the fire from raging out of control.

"I'm going to go talk to Janet," Gary said, edging toward the door. The look in her eyes told him that Casey had sensed something. As much as he'd love to be around when it happened, he also knew that if she'd wanted him there, Casey would have asked him to stay.

"Okay."

Rachel watched the three people leave. "Guess I know how to clear a room, don't I?"

"I think we should talk."

"I don't even know you," Rachel objected.

"No, you don't. But I know your brother. And I know that you're here to ask...no..." she cocked her head sideways. "You're here to make some demands of him. I don't think you'll be happy with the results if you do."

Rachel frowned. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Do you drink coffee?"

"Yes, I do. Why?"

"Come with me. We'll have a cup of coffee. And a bit of a chat," Casey said. She motioned toward the door.

Rachel studied the young woman for a moment. There was a hint of protectiveness in her eyes. Just who was this woman? Was she someone...special...in Jack's life? A close friend, since the sandy-blonde haired man had just given the pushy blonde a kiss that had curled her toes just watching it. In that moment it hit her that she knew nothing about her brother. Nothing about the man he'd become. Nothing about the people in his life. That thought stung more than she thought it should.

Casey slid her ID badge through the reader, opened the door to the commissary. Pointed to an empty table, and hurried to the coffee urn. Filled two mugs and then went to sit down with Jack's sister. Took a deep breath. She could feel the anger...the frustration...that seemed to radiate from the woman. She had no doubt that the majority of it was aimed at Jack. She also knew that if this woman...hell, she didn't even know her name!...if she started breathing fire in Jack's direction, his response would be to turn and walk away. She took a deep breath. Offered her hand. "I'm Casey."

"Jackson," Rachel said, offering a small smile. Accepting the slender hand. "Rachel Ward."

"Like the Australian actress?" Casey blurted, then blushed brightly.

"She's much prettier," Rachel replied.

"Debatable," Casey countered.

"Thank you."

"I'm not sure why you're here. But I do know that you're after...you need answers."

Rachel's eyes went wide.

"I'm the resident seer," Casey explained. "Jack calls me 'Radar'. I pick up...well, whatever the powers that be decide to dump into my head."

"And they've dumped into your head that I'm here to confront Jack?" Rachel scoffed.

"Pretty much," Casey replied easily.

Rachel frowned. Studied her coffee. "I just need to know why," she said softly.


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