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The cab driver had been quite helpful, Janelle thought. When Gary hadn't answered the phone in his apartment, she'd felt a moment of panic. Quickly calmed herself. She knew where he worked. Some sort of classified job, he'd told her. On a mountain. Cheyenne Mountain.
She'd hailed a cab, told the man where she needed to go, and was immediately informed that he could only get her as far as the main gate. But that if she had the name of someone working inside, she'd be able to get a visitor's pass.
The man at that office...what had it been called?...hadn't wanted to let her in. But she had insisted that her nephew was inside, and that she wasn't leaving until she'd spoken to him, and if that meant she had to sit in that dreary little building all night, she'd do so! The man had sighed, called someone, and had then filled out a pass for her. She'd had to walk a bit, to catch a bus. The pass she had been issued had seen her all the way to...here.
She stared at the massive door. My goodness! Just what in the world did they need a door that size for? Probably didn't want to know, she decided.
Another young man, sitting at a security station just inside that door had told her she could get to the visitor's lounge on level two, and that he'd call Mr. Franklin's office, and leave a message that she was waiting for him.
Entering the lounge, Janelle looked around, wrinkling her nose in distaste. What a perfectly dreadful room! The colors, such as they were, were absolutely horrible. Didn't the military have any idea how to decorate one room?
She put her suitcase and overnight bag on the floor beside the sofa. Sat down. To wait. Janelle Franklin was not a woman who liked to wait.
A A A A A A
Sam knocked on the door to Jack's office. Surprisingly enough, he was actually there, hard at work on what looked to be the last of a stack of folders. She debated for a moment...the thought of letting him finish before she hit him with what she'd just learned flashed through her mind. No...the woman would be waiting in the lounge on level two by now; she'd already spent at least ten minutes pacing the control room, trying to decide how best to handle the situation.
"Carter, what's up?" he asked, barely sparing her a glance
She entered the room, closed the door. "Jack, we need to talk."
His head flew up. 'Jack'? Now why did he not like the sound of that? He pushed the folder aside, leaned back in his chair. "Okay, let's talk."
She'd faced down Goa'uld. This was definitely much more nerve-wracking. Looking into his warm brown eyes, knowing that if he'd never mentioned anyone in his family other than his Pappy and Grandma, there was a reason. It might not be a logical reason from anyone else's viewpoint, but there was a reason nonetheless. In all the years she'd known him, he'd never mentioned a sister. She rolled her eyes mentally. She'd worked with him for almost six months, and never known he'd been married, and he'd never once mentioned Charlie. Probably wouldn't have, if that crystal entity hadn't stirred things up. Even after that, he never actually said much of anything about his son, or his ex-wife.
The thought that Sam was here to break up with him crossed his mind. Nah, she'd never do that here...not at work...would she? Or would she find it easier to break up with 'Colonel O'Neill', rather than 'Jack'? "Carter?"
"Sir...Jack...um...a woman named Rachel Ward just came through security. To see you. She told the guard in the pass shack that she's your sister."
If she had broken up with him, he could have handled that. Would have been hurt, and pissed, but he would have handled it. This...this was totally out of left field, and so not what he wanted to hear. "Say what?"
"Rachel Ward is in the visitor's lounge, waiting to talk to you."
"And the security guard just happened to call you?"
"No, sir. I was in the control room when the call came through. I was the only officer present at the time," Sam replied. "Since she doesn't have a pass or clearance, I had to give the okay."
"And you gave it?"
"Yes, I did."
"I see." He pulled the folder closer. Leaned over it. "I'm busy, Carter."
"Send her away. Send her home."
"Carter, me and my sister in the same room is not a pretty picture."
"I didn't even know you had a sister," Sam said accusingly.
"Well, now you know."
"She must be here for a reason," Sam pressed.
"Carter, send her away."
"Jack, you should at least find out what she wants," Sam said, her voice soft...cajoling. "She's your sister. It could be important."
Jack snorted. "I doubt it. She said everything she needed to say the last time we saw each other."
"When was that?"
"About fifteen years ago."
Sam took a physical step back. Even with all of the bickering that had gone on between her and Mark, they had never let more than a few months pass between phone calls. Sometimes the calls were stilted, and uncomfortable...but at least they talked. "Jack, this could be about your parents," she said gently.
"Nope. They're both dead. My father's passing was the last time she had anything to say to me. None of it pleasant."
She sat down in the chair in front of his desk. "Tell me about her," she said.
Jack sighed. Wiped a hand over his face. "Not much to say. She's two years older than I am. She was the favorite child. I heard about her accomplishments, chorus and verse, every day."
She nodded. The only things Jack had told her about his childhood had centered around his Pappy. There had been one or two comments...something about the fact that he had surprised a lot of people when he'd gone to college. And graduated. Shocked several when he'd entered the Air Force.
"I wasn't so into high school. You name it, Rachel was in it. Glee club. Debate team...she practiced on us at home. Pep Squad. She was Prom Queen for crying out loud. I didn't even go to my prom!"
"She sounds as if she was very...focused."
"She was a damned over-achiever. Made it difficult for any mere mortals who happened to live nearby," Jack muttered.
"Your parents loved you, Jack, I know they did," Sam said.
"I know. Or rather, I know that now. Then..." he paused, shook his head. "Ya know, going into Black Ops wasn't a big deal for me. Ya know why?"
Sam shook her head.
"Because I'd already learned how to survive family dinners. Holidays were a war zone unto themselves. I never measured up, and my father made certain to point that out to anyone and everyone who would commiserate."
"Maybe she's here to make peace, Jack," Sam suggested.
He sighed. "I doubt it. Rachel isn't the most forgiving person in the world."
"You don't know...a lot can happen in fifteen years," Sam replied.
A A A A A A
Casey sipped at her coffee...determined to let the woman sitting across from her start the conversation. She didn't have long to wait.
"I haven't spoken to Jack since Dad died. Well, actually, it was several months after Dad passed away. He...I was going to the cemetery to put out fresh flowers, and he was just...there. No call that he was in town...nothing. I'm sure he was just there to ease his guilty conscience...to be able to say he'd been to his father's grave," Rachel said, her voice full of bitterness. "If I hadn't run into him, I'd have never known he'd even been there. I'd have never known that he'd finally cleared a bit of time from his busy schedule to acknowledge that he had a family."
"When your dad died, Jack was wishing he was dead because he was being tortured day in and day out!" Casey hissed, her green eyes flashing with indignant, righteous anger.
The woman whose eyes were so like her brother's blanched; physically pulled away from the slender blonde by sitting back in her chair.
"I know he can't...he won't tell you. There's the security issue for one thing. Even if there wasn't the top secret thing to contend with, Jack just wouldn't tell you. Because that's not his way. He wouldn't want you...upset...by the facts of the matter. I don't know the details, but I do know that Jack barely survived. He did, and because he, and my father, and a half dozen other men were willing to risk their lives, thousands of lives were saved." Casey leaned closer to the woman. "And between Jack O'Neill and my husband, they made the...this place happen. Your brother risks his life on a daily basis to keep you and your family, and every other family on this...in this country safe!" She barely caught herself in time. Her anger was moving faster than her mind...she took a deep breath mentally, fighting to calm down. If she slipped up, Jack would have her ass for lunch!
"I didn't know-" Rachel started.
"Did you ever ask?" Casey held up a hand to forestall the woman's excuses. "I know that Jack doesn't talk about what he does. But you're his sister! You as well as anyone, better than anyone, should understand the type of man that Jack O'Neill is! He's a protector, he does what has to be done to protect those he loves. And he never brags about it. Never complains about it. He does his job, and that's just the way it is for him."
Rachel studied the young blonde. "You certainly think a lot of Jack."
"He's one of my best friends. He's the big brother I never had." Casey smiled. "A very annoying big brother at times. But I know that no matter what, he'll be there for me. When Daniel had been declared dead, he never left my side. He was there for me, every step of the way."
"He...he was never like that at home. He was never home," Rachel sighed.
"Maybe because when he was home, he was always being compared to you, and found wanting? Maybe he was never appreciated for who and what he was...and is," Casey said softly, interpreting the images that had been dumped into her mind. "Daniel and I have been blessed to have family of the heart. Jack and Sam and Teal'c; they're our family in every way...except genetically. I can't imagine my life without them, without Jack. I'd rather have Jack in my life on his terms, and accept what he can give me, than to not have him in it at all."
Tears filled the dark haired woman's eyes. "Do you think he'll talk to me?"
Casey gave a small smile, knowing that her point had been made. "I'll go find him. Just...just be gentle. Your father's death tore him up...not being able to be there with him, with you, to be unable...physically unable to be at the funeral...he's never forgiven himself for that. Even though his absence wasn't his fault."
"When you say 'physically unable', do you mean...was he ill?"
"He was barely alive when-" Casey broke off. She knew a few of the facts. Some things Daniel had told her. Others she had surmised by what Jack had said, or didn't say. A peek into his military record had filled in several of the blanks. Not that she would ever admit to anyone, even Daniel, of having done such a thing. It was only because of one of his stories involving her father...she'd wanted to make certain that the renowned jokester wasn't simply pulling her leg. He hadn't been. She refocused her train of thought. "He was barely alive. He spent almost four months in the hospital in Germany before he was transferred to Bethesda, in Maryland."
Rachel gasped. "What happened?"
Casey studied the woman...the sister of her best friend. Shook her head slowly. Knowing the truth would only upset the woman. It was possible that she would hold Jack guilty for accepting the assignment in the first place; her anger...her grief...was far too deep for her to fully grasp what Jack had endured. She also knew that what she was about to say would probably frustrate Rachel further. "I'm sorry, it's all classified. National security. Literally."
"Secrets! More secrets! I hate secrets!" Rachel exploded.
"How do you think we feel?" Casey demanded, her voice barely above a whisper. "It's not easy going through the...doing what we do everyday. Knowing that we're literally on our own if anything bad happens. I work with two hundred people who share the same secret. Their families live with that secret...or rather, live with not knowing the secret. It's just always...there. The worst part is, when something...bad...does happen, we can't even tell the grieving widow, or widower, that their loved one was a true hero."
"Why? Why do you do it?" Rachel asked, genuine confusion on her face, in her voice.
"Because as difficult as it is to live with the secret, it would be worse to sit and do nothing. Much worse. The results of inaction on our part would be intolerable to live with, if we lived at all," Casey replied.
Rachel looked down at her now cold cup of coffee. Took a deep breath. "You say that Jack has been working...undercover...all this time?"
"Black ops," Casey corrected with a gentle smile. "Yep, as far as I know. Well, he retired for a year or so...when Charlie-" Her eyes filled with tears. "When Charlie died, Jack almost died as well. I know exactly how he felt; I went through it when Daniel had been declared dead."
Casey was taken aback. Jack had told her, during one of their long 'heart to heart' talks after Daniel had been declared dead, that it had been years since he had spoken with his sister, since he had seen her. "When was the last time you spoke to Jack?"
"About fifteen years ago."
"Oh...then you didn't know he'd gotten married?"
Rachel started, shook her head slowly. "No, I didn't know."
"He was married to a woman named Sara. They had a son named Charlie."
"He named his son after Pappy," Rachel murmured softly.
"Charlie...Charlie found Jack's revolver...he was looking at it...and it went off..."
"Oh, my god," Rachel hissed.
"That happened a year before he started working here. He was reactivated to take the job," Casey said. "When he came back from that...mission...he was still so broken by Charlie's loss...he just...he just shut down emotionally. He and Sara split up. He doesn't talk about it. From what I understand, Sara has met a nice man. And Jack has Sam in his life. Who won't let him push her away."
"I...I...I had no idea."
"Jack lost everything...gave up everything...for what he believes in. It's not fair of you to judge him when you don't have all of the details."
"If he'd just tell me-"
"Jack also understands the necessity of the secrecy." The statement left no doubt that keeping the secret was just as important as the job itself. "Trust me when I tell you that what we do is more important than you could ever understand. And someday, what we do will be made public. When the time is right, and in the right way. Until then, these people, these heroes, will continue to live with the secrets. Do the job that they do. Because they understand just how important it is."
"I'd like to talk to Jack."
Casey nodded. Rose to her feet, started for the door. She paused, turned to look at the woman who was frowning at her coffee cup. There was no warmth in her green eyes now. "Jack's been hurt deeply. If you reopen those wounds, I'll kick your ass all the way back to wherever it is you came from."
Rachel looked up, had no doubt that the blonde meant every word. She gave a small smile. "I think I'd like to start with an apology. I think...I think I owe him that. After...after the way I spoke to him the last time."
She could sense the regret that the woman was feeling. Nodded slightly. She headed for the elevator. Now, knowing her friend, and the fact that he probably wasn't going to be too happy at having his sister just suddenly 'appear' like this, how in the hell was she going to convince Jack to talk to Rachel?
Casey darted into Jack's office, barely noting that Sam was sitting there as well. "Guess what? Daniel's grandmother on his father's side was looking for him and called Dad's office in Kansas City and Dad flew out there and met her to make sure she's the real deal and then brought her back here and she and Daniel just went to dinner and your sister is in the commissary waiting to talk to you," Casey said in that 'get-it-all-out-at-once' manner.
Jack's eyes went wide. "Daniel's grandmother?"
"And your sister." Casey's head went to the side. Heard the soft whisper. "I think someone is here for Dad," she murmured.
"Oy, today is just turning into friggin' Family Reunion Day!" he huffed, barely believing that what was happening could be real. "Carter, is there something in the water that we should know about that has our long lost...and in my case, best forgotten...family crawling out of the woodwork?"
"Well, sir, nothing in the water...but there could be some sort of airborne contaminate," Sam replied, grinning cheekily.
"Well, un-contaminate it." He caught sight of her grin. "I'm serious, Carter. I want to know if there's something going on that's causing people to search out long lost relatives."
"And just how am I supposed to do that?" Sam asked, eyes wide.
"Take water samples...air samples," he shot back.
"I dunno...wherever these people are coming from!"
Casey shook her head. "I agree it's a wild coincidence that your sister and Daniel's grandmother showed up today, but that's all it is. And would you please get your butt up and go talk to your sister?"
"Hey! A little respect for the rank here!" Jack snapped.
"I respect your rank," Casey said softly. "And I respect you more than you'll ever realize. But you need to do this, Jack. Trust me. It's important. You'll regret losing this chance if you don't."
"You've 'seen' something?" Jack asked, eyes narrowed slightly. Hoping that the answer was negative, so he could order her to go home and leave him alone.
"Just enough to know that there's something going on...something that drove your sister to find you," Casey replied honestly. "She came here wanting to demand answers from you."
"Oh, crap," Jack mumbled. He so didn't want to deal with this. There was no reason to make any changes in the status quo. He'd made peace with his past years ago. He eyed Casey suspiciously. She'd never push him to do something unless she was certain it was important. Sometimes, that damned radar thing of hers was a royal pain-in-the-ass!
"She and I had a little talk," Casey continued. "I think now she'd just like to talk to you."
He looked up at the seer. He'd seen how...protective...Casey could be when it came to those people she cared about. She was no slouch in taking a swing, metaphorically for the most part, at anyone who was threatening those she cared for. Almost wished he could have witnessed that confrontation. As he recalled, Rachel didn't like it when someone tried to explain the facts of life to her. She was too certain that she knew it all. That hadn't changed the last time they'd spoken.
Gary poked his head into the office, frustration written on his face and reiterated in his movements. "Casey, you'd better come with me or we'll never get that old bat out of here."
"I just got a call from security. My Aunt Janelle is in the lounge."
Casey burst into laughter. "Maybe you should do an air and water test, Sam!"
Gary took the time to study Jack. It was obvious that he'd been told his sister was also waiting.
"I'll go up with you," Jack sighed, looking at Casey again. If he tried to ignore her, just ignore the fact that his sister was waiting to speak with him, that annoying little seer wouldn't give him a moment's peace. Better to just deal with the situation and get it over with. He gave a mental chuckle. That slender blonde had a way of getting exactly what she wanted...from whomever she wanted it. He stopped at the door. Held his hand toward Sam. "Come on. I might need a referee."
Sam smiled, laced her fingers with his. "I don't know how objective I can be. I'm already on your side," she replied.
His heart gave a thump of delight, and he gave his customary, crooked smile. "Sweet."
A A A A A A
Janelle stood to her feet. Stomped to the door of the room. There wasn't much to see in the wide hallway...the elevator that she'd stepped out of, another elevator several yards away with the word 'Freight' painted in large black letters, and two doors, both of them closed, with some sort of device on the wall next to each one. No one in sight.
She huffed a sigh of frustration. How rude to leave her waiting like this! She'd called and left a message. Gary knew she was arriving. She'd even given her flight details, expecting him to be at the airport to pick him up. Which he hadn't been. She'd certainly have a thing or two to say-
She whirled around. And took a step back at the look of anger on his face. "I expected you at the airport."
"I had no idea you were coming," Gary replied coldly.
"I left a message."
"I was in Kansas City dealing with business. I haven't been in the apartment for a couple of days. What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to meet that daughter of yours. The one you claim to be so proud of. She sent a letter back to me after I invited her to the family get together for John's birthday. Some balderdash about being too busy-"
Casey stepped into the room. "I'm sorry if my letter offended you. I tried to express how touched and happy I was that you invited me, but at the time, I...we...were in the middle of a rather...we were really busy," she said softly.
"Casey, you have no need to apologize," Gary said, putting his arm around his daughter's shoulders. "Honey, this is Janelle Franklin. My father's sister-in-law. Janelle, this is my beautiful, talented daughter, Casey Jackson."
Janelle glared at Gary for a moment, then turned her attention to the slender blonde at his side. She could see that the girl resembled him. Her eyes were like his, except for being so green. However, the curve of her face, that slender build...must be from her mother. "It's nice to finally meet you."
"Likewise," Casey murmured. Wishing that Daniel were with her. She could use a bit of that quiet, calm, steady reserve of his. Leaning on him physically right now would be nice, too.
"Well, shall we have dinner? I'm famished," Janelle announced.
Casey looked up at her father. As much as she really would like a chance to visit with his aunt, adding her to the mix of a newly discovered grandmother was just too much for one night.
"I'll take you to dinner," Gary sighed. "Casey has other plans for tonight."
"Cancel them!" Janelle said, as if the idea of anyone not doing so surprised her.
"I'm sorry, I can't," Casey replied. "My husband's grandmother is here, and I'd like time to spend with her."
Janelle's eyes narrowed. "I thought he was an orphan."
"He is. Well, his parents were killed when he was a boy. His grandmother contacted Dad's office. He brought her here to meet Daniel," Casey explained. "I really do want to get a chance to know you...but tonight just isn't...tonight isn't a good night. I don't want anything to...intrude...on this evening for Daniel."
There was a threat in that statement, Janelle decided. Love and determination filled those expressive green eyes. She couldn't help but smile. "Then I'll expect to see you...both of you...for dinner tomorrow night."
Casey smiled. "You will, I promise. I'll even cook."
"Do you need a ride home?" Gary asked his daughter.
"Nope. I'll catch a ride with Sam or Janet." She frowned slightly. Sam was with Jack. No telling how long that conversation would last! "Probably Janet."
"Okay. I'll talk to you tomorrow." He dropped a kiss on her forehead.
"Yes, you will. It was nice meeting you." With a flutter of her fingers, Casey dashed out of the room, and raced toward the far elevator.
Janelle watched, mouth agape. "She just couldn't wait to get away from me! Gary Franklin, what have you told that girl about me?"
Gary grinned. "The truth. And that's just Casey. They call her the 'whirlwind' around here."
With a sigh, Gary grabbed the handles of the suitcase and overnight bag. "My apartment is small, I'll get you a room nearby."
"In a hotel?"
"I could be killed!"
Gary snorted. "I doubt it. There are locks on the doors, Janelle. And a phone in case you need to dial 9-1-1."
Janelle hid her smile. Of all of her nieces and nephews, only Gary would stand up to her. Talk back at her. It made her love him all the more. "Well, I do hope you plan on eating somewhere...pleasant."
"I suppose that means getting you a burger from McDonald's is out of the question."
She lost her battle, began to chuckle. "I'd really like a good steak."
"I know just the place," Gary grinned. "Come on, you old bat."
She put her arm around his waist when his went around her shoulders. "She's a beauty, Gary."
"And just as beautiful on the inside," he replied.
"She must look like her mother."
"She's the spitting image of Brenda. In fact, when I saw a picture of her the first time, I thought I was looking at Brenda," Gary said. He could still remember sitting in front of his laptop in that hotel room...staring at the face of his daughter. Seeing Brenda.
"There's a lot of you in her, as well. She's a spitfire. That she gets from you."
"Has that Franklin stubbornness, too."
"Oh, good lord!"
Gary chuckled. "Thought you'd like hearing that."
"I'll give my condolences to her husband."
His chuckles turned into laughter. "You'll like Daniel."
"If you do, then I'm certain I will."
He couldn't resist kissing the side of her head. Janelle was annoying as hell. Pissed him off on a regular basis. There were times he actually wanted to belt her a good one. But he loved his aunt almost as much as he'd loved his mother.
A A A A A A
Teal'c sat down at the table, sliding a mug of coffee to the only other occupant. "You are deep in thought."
Janet smiled. "Thanks," she said, sipping the coffee. Watched as he dipped his teabag into his mug of hot water. "I guess I was."
"Do you wish to discuss what troubles you?"
Her smile widened. Teal'c could scare the bejeezus out of anyone with one simple look. His snarl could have cadets running for the hills. But he was one of the most gentle, caring men she'd ever met. My gentle giant. The thought nearly knocked her out of her chair. She could only hope that her face hadn't betrayed her shock.
Another smile. He was just now beginning to call her by her name...as she'd asked him to do months ago...when they'd began having coffee together. For some reason, and there was no way in hell she'd even consider the reasons she hadn't objected, he only did so when they were alone. She knew enough about him to understand that Teal'c was an honorable man...he'd do nothing that he believed would cause speculation, or rumors...not about himself, but about her.
In the time they'd been taking breaks together...usually just once a day, as he continued to spend lunch with Casey, and most afternoon breaks with his teammates, and she always met Gary in the visitor's lounge in the afternoon for coffee and cookies...she'd come to appreciate what a good listener Teal'c was. He'd known about her romance with Gary before any of her other friends had. He'd listened, never judging, never offering unsolicited advice. His opinions always worthy of her examination whenever she did ask for suggestions. They'd spent time together worrying about Daniel or Casey...or Daniel and Casey. Finding comfort from one another's company. Two friends...two very close friends. "I'm not sure I can even put it into words."
"Does this problem lie within your personal life, or has something happened in the infirmary?" Teal'c asked.
"It's personal," Janet replied.
"I think...I'm not sure...but I think Gary might be on the verge of breaking up with me," Janet confessed.
Teal'c bristled slightly. Was the man a fool? Did he not realize what a
special woman Janet Fraiser was? How dare the man hurt such a beautiful, gentle,
caring woman! "Do you wish for me to speak to him on your behalf concerning
There was no way to hide her shock. "What? No! Of course not!"
He was instantly relieved at her adamant refusal. His...offer...had been spoken out loud before he'd even realized such a thought had formed. He would fight for her safety, or her honor, without hesitation. But to do so in such a manner as he had proposed would reveal far more than he was comfortable with...and that, he decided, was something on which he needed to meditate. His friendship with Dr. Fraiser...Janet, his mind corrected him...had been growing steadily over the past months. A result, no doubt, of the shared 'secret' of their Immortality, a common bond held with only five other people. And those people had relationships of their own with which to deal with that fact. He and Janet had...one another. Yes, he needed to meditate...seek out the answer to the dilemma that had suddenly...abruptly...surprisingly, so it seemed...developed.
"I guess I'm just trying to figure out how I feel about it." Janet frowned. She shook her head slightly. "Or maybe...maybe I'm trying to understand why I don't feel the way I think I should."
"You are not upset?"
"Part of me is," she admitted. "I mean, breaking up with someone is never easy, no matter how...amicable...that break up might be. I do love Gary. But...I'm not sure I'm in love with him. And he certainly deserves someone who's in love with him." She took another sip of coffee. "I'm not sure he's in love with me, either. I know he loves me, I can see it in his eyes when-" She blushed, shook her head. "I guess I'm just a bit confused."
"I have found that romantic relationships are often confusing. The emotions that accompany those...romantic...feelings are often chaotic. Love can be very unsettling," Teal'c said, a slight frown on his face. Which was exactly the reason he avoided the situation. Why he sought out...relationships...that required nothing more of him than his physical presence. Never any type of commitment on his part. Never, ever his heart. He'd suffered through love more than enough times to be wary of the 'condition'.
Janet sighed. "It can also be one of the most amazing things you can experience. Look at Daniel and Casey."
"Indeed, their love is strong, and most...amazing."
"I suppose the fact that they were destined to be together makes their lives a little...easier."
"It is Daniel Jackson's position as The One that has caused them untold grief and anguish, as well," Teal'c reminded the petite woman.
"If their love wasn't as strong as it is, I don't think it could have survived all that they've gone through."
"I agree. They have endured much in a relatively short span of time."
"And Sam and Jack...they've loved each other from afar for so long, to finally be able to be together without fear of risking reprisals...they're so happy they glow," Janet sighed. "Just don't tell Jack I said that."
Teal'c smiled. "I will refrain. I, too, have noticed that they are more comfortable with one another. No doubt the fact that it is unnecessary for them to suppress their feelings for one another has much to do with that. For far too long they were required to hide their true feelings not only from those around them, but from one another."
"As if it wasn't obvious," Janet said. "Even a blind man could see that when they looked at each other, the sparks were there."
The conversation was heading in a very uncomfortable direction. At least, as far as she was concerned. "So, tell me about the cadets. How many more teams is General Hammond going to put together?"
"I do not believe there will be more teams than what have now been listed," Teal'c replied. So far, the number had risen from twenty-two to twenty-five.
"Then you don't think there will be more cadets coming through after this group?"
"I do not."
"That will almost be a blessing," Janet said softly. "We have over two hundred people here, the idea of putting more in harm's way..." she shrugged.
"Are they not 'in harm's way' no matter what assignment they are given in their military careers?" Teal'c asked.
"Yes, I suppose they are. But the dangers here are more...immediate."
Casey had told her that asking the Jaffa about his life as a young man could result in very funny stories. So far he'd been hesitant to say too much about his personal life, past or present, to her. Casey, it seemed, had a very close, special bond with Teal'c. Janet had learned, however, if she began telling him about her own life, he would often offer tidbits about his own. And what she had learned made her eager to know more. "Have I ever told you about the time I drove alone from Washington D.C. to Miami Beach, Florida?"
"You have not."
"Well, sit back and get comfortable, this is going to take awhile," Janet grinned.
A A A A A A
Daniel was still operating in a state of shock. His thoughts were chaotic; incredibly tumultuous as a matter of fact...he wasn't sure in that moment just how he felt about the situation. The random thought that people from his past were showing up with regularity since he'd met Casey brought a fleeting smile to his lips. Was she the catalyst, or was it just pure coincidence? His grandmother wasn't exactly from his past, he thought...as he'd never known about her. But she was connected to his past...to his parents - more specifically his father...so that counted as being from his past, didn't it?
The hostess led the two towards a corner table, where they would be offered a modicum of privacy. Just another coincidence, Daniel thought. He smiled at the young woman, requested two cups of coffee when asked if they wanted drinks. Both cups and a carafe appeared on the table almost immediately.
He made certain his grandmother was seated comfortably before sitting down across from her. He studied her surreptitiously, could see a resemblance to his father. Her smile almost the same as what he remembered his father's being. When she smiled at him, it was returned automatically.
Muriel sighed. "First of all, I want you to know that I wanted to look for you, as soon as I'd found out about-" She closed her eyes.
He was instantly taken back in time to that horrible moment. It had been awhile...two years, he thought with a smile, since that particular afternoon had haunted him. Every sound, the expressions on his parent's faces, the cries of the workmen...everything he'd witnessed in that museum room...flashed in front of him. The pain was just a great as it had always been...but the sharp edges had been smoothed a bit, because of Casey's love. He could push those memories away, pull the good memories forward with ease now.
"Your grandfather...Marvin...was a good man, Daniel. But he wasn't a sentimental man. He didn't know how to love. I suppose because his parents didn't know how to love...or rather, they didn't know how to show their love. I accepted his ways. I suppose I thought at first I could change him. Then...well, he was easy enough to live with if I didn't demand anything from him. It was even easier to just...to just give in...and do things his way. He was very...particular...about how things were done. He had specific ideas on how everything should be done, and he...told me...how he expected me to...well, he dictated pretty much every move I made. Of course I was convinced that because he had finished high school and had a teaching certificate that he was far smarter than I was, you see. So I listened. I...obeyed, as it were. When he was required to take college courses to renew his teaching certificate, he never let me forget that he was a 'college graduate', and I wasn't."
Something told him that it hadn't taken long for his grandmother to realize that a college degree did not a wise man make. How difficult had life been for her as the wife of such a stern, emotionless...controlling...man?
"We hadn't been married but a few months when I became pregnant with your father. Melburn was barely a year old when Ralph was born."
"Your uncle. Melburn's younger brother. He was killed in Vietnam," Muriel replied.
Daniel nodded his understanding. He didn't remember his father ever mentioning a brother, either. Although, if this brother had died, it would have been typical of Melburn to avoid speaking of a painful subject. Another thing inherited from Dad...the need to shove the bad things to the back of my mind, rather than talk about them, or dwell on them, he thought.
"When Helen...she's the daughter of my best friend in the world, Susan Hamilton...anyway, Helen found that article when she was doing a search for Melburn. Susan, you see, had convinced me that I had every right to search for my son. By that time, your grandfather was ill...he never seemed to notice what was happening around him. He didn't seem to care enough to stop me."
"You didn't let him know you were looking," Daniel said intuitively.
Muriel blushed. But held his gaze. "No, I didn't. Had I found Melburn, I'd have called him, no matter what your grandfather might have said."
"I'm sorry you didn't find him," Daniel replied.
"So am I." She took a deep breath. Tried to dispel just a part of her guilt when she blew it out. "I'm sorry that I hadn't the courage to do that search years ago...when it would have made a difference."
He frowned slightly. Thought about the foster homes he'd been in. And then about the stern, cold man his grandfather had apparently been. "Don't know that it would have made a difference."
She understood exactly what he was saying. "I wouldn't have let them take you. I'd have seen that you were cared for...loved. Even if I'd have had to leave Marvin to do so. He'd cost me my son. He wouldn't have cost me my grandson."
And that, Daniel thought, spoke volumes. To know that she cared, this woman who was an honest-to-God blood relative, touched his heart. It was, he decided, enough to know that she cared, even if that knowledge was coming so 'late' in his life. He reached across the table and took her hand.
"I don't have any right to ask...but why didn't your mother's family take you in?"
It struck him that neither of his parents had spoken about their families, at least, not that he could remember. Perhaps there had been conversations that a child simply hadn't understood. It seemed that his parents had been every bit as 'alone' as he and Casey were...had been, his mind pointed out. What he remembered about his parents was their love...for him, for each other. The laughter that had filled whatever house, or hovel, or tent had been their home at the time. Daniel sighed. "I don't know very much about Mom's family. Nick...my Grandpa Ballard, was...is...an archaeologist. He was in the middle of an important dig when...when it happened. He didn't have the time to take care of a child. I suppose that his family had disowned him when he was young. I think I remember hearing about that." He frowned slightly, then shook his head. "Nick...Grandpa...was always a bit...eccentric. I don't know anything about his wife...er...Mom's mother."
"Did you go with Melburn...um...your dad...on his adventures?"
He smiled. "I was born in Egypt. Mom and Dad were working on a dig in Lisht at the time. It's an area rich with artifacts, and there have been digs going on there, sporadically, for years. The reason for the interest are the numerous tombs and mastabas in the area, and some of them continue to be examined even today-" He broke off, gave her a sheepish smile. "Sorry. I was starting to sound like a professor."
Muriel smiled. How like Melburn he sounded! "Is that what you are, a professor?"
"No...not now. Once, though...for a couple of semesters. I taught a couple of classes on archaeology at the Oriental Institute."
"Your father went there," Muriel said softly.
"I know. I read some of his first papers." He'd read those papers, however, when he'd been ten years old and had found copies printed in several archaeological journals. He remembered thinking his father was on the right track with his thesis, but hadn't gone far enough. Something he'd never been given the chance to discuss with his dad.
"So you lived there, with them, when they were working on that dig?"
"Yes, I did. No matter where they went, they took me...we lived in El Salvador for awhile. Mom and Dad lived with one of the indigenous tribes for almost six months, just to get permission to do a dig."
"Yes, they did. As far as I know, they're the only 'outsiders', people not indigenous to the area, who have ever been allowed into what those Indians view as sacred ground."
"Melburn was always so concerned with doing the right thing...he wanted to know about the past, he wanted to find answers to his questions, but he wanted to do it the 'right way' as he called it. With permission and the blessing of the people nearby, not just going in and...well, doing whatever it is that archaeologists do. He respected all cultures. Had no quarrel with anyone's beliefs. I suppose that was just one more thing that your grandfather could never understand."
Daniel nodded. "He taught me that respect. He and Mom both."
"Do you have a photo of your mother?" The only photo she had seen was the from that newspaper article. She knew that it was far from a good picture.
"At home. I'll show you the photo album I have."
"I brought a few photos. Some of your father he when he was young. A couple of Ralph."
He waited, wondering if she'd brought a picture of his grandfather.
"I have a few pictures that were taken there in Butler."
"Missouri. Lived there for fifty-six years." She toyed with the napkin wrapped flatware beside her hand. "Were you happy Daniel? Were you treated well?"
He paused. He could see she was harboring a great deal of guilt over what had happened. "I was moved around a lot. I was geeky...always too smart for my age, or so I was told. I started my freshman year at UCLA when I was sixteen. I was in grad school by the time I was twenty. Did my first post graduate dissertation when I was twenty-two."
He'd been bright...so smart, it seemed. Like Melburn. She noticed that he wasn't answering the question. Which had her heart sinking with guilt and anguish. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.
"There's no need to be," he replied.
"I loved your father, with all my heart. God forgive me, I loved him more than Ralph. I suppose because Ralph was so much like Marvin. Melburn was a dreamer. Not in a bad way. He saw so much more than your grandfather or your uncle ever did." Muriel frowned as a thought, new and unexamined, filled her mind. "Maybe that's why Marvin was so determined to keep Melburn away," she murmured. "Because he'd lost Ralph, he didn't want me to have Melburn."
"That's pretty selfish. Didn't he love Dad?"
"Oh, yes, he loved his sons. Both of them. In his own way. But Ralph was his clear favorite. I suppose that was because Ralph never questioned him. Always did exactly as he was told. Did exactly what was expected of him. Melburn...so many questions! That always irritated Marvin. I think," Muriel whispered conspiratorially, "it was because he didn't know even half the answers to the questions Melburn could ask. And he didn't want to let anyone think that he didn't know it all."
Daniel smiled. "I remember asking a lot of questions. Mom said my curiosity was my 'gift'."
When he reached for his cup, holding it while he poured more coffee, the soft light from the fixture above the table caught and flashed from the diamond in the ring he wore on his left hand. Muriel tapped it gently. "Tell me about your wife."
His smile became a grin. Casey just happened to be one of his favorite...no...she was his favorite subject. He began to tell his grandmother how he'd gone to Tacoma, glossing over the details of just how he'd managed to learn about the beautiful blonde. About falling in love with her the minute he'd laid eyes on her. How they had been able to heal the heartache that each of them carried so deeply. That he couldn't imagine his life without her.
Muriel listened. He sounded so much like Melburn. Had the same excited look when he was talking about something that interested him. The love on his face, in his eyes...that's how her son would have looked, had he had the chance to tell her about Claire...and Daniel. So much like Melburn...
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