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 Fragile Balance of Politics

 

Chapter 3

Casey settled into the seat beside Daniel. It wasn't often that she was able to sit beside the window. Teal'c's large frame made sitting in any seat other than on the aisle difficult, to say the least. Daniel wasn't exactly comfortable, given that he was sandwiched into the middle. She'd already raised the armrest between them, giving him a bit more room, scooting to the edge of her seat as much as possible. Still, it was going to be a long flight from Peterson to the Beale Air Force base in Northern California. Luckily for them, the two people whom Daniel wanted to 'interview' lived within a hundred miles of one another, and neither very far from Beale. It would be interesting, she thought, to learn whether the two abductees knew one another.

She probably shouldn't take so much pleasure knowing that this little 'fact-finding' jaunt would prevent her from being pressed into service to help prepare for the president's visit. It wasn't that she was opposed to helping. She just wasn't particularly interested in the upcoming 'dog and pony show', as the general usually referred to the tours given to visiting politicians. Which translated to her totally lackadaisical attitude. She wasn't alone. Most of the personnel of the SGC suffered the same malady. Very few were still 'starry-eyed' enough to view politicians as anything more than just an irritant; a necessary evil tolerated only as far as getting needed funding to keep the facility operating.

This get-away, while still 'work-related', was exactly what she needed, she thought, resting her head against the back of her seat. Even a few hours away might help her relax, just a bit. She could only hope that the nightmare that had been plaguing her wouldn't do so tonight. Wouldn't that be lovely - waking up half the hotel guests with her blood curdling scream? She could picture it now - trying to explain to the police that no, her Husband wasn't hurting her; that he was, in fact, doing his best to keep her from falling completely apart. That she was having nightmares that left her so damned shook up she could feel the emotions during the following day.

Closing her eyes, she firmly pushed away the remnants of those emotions, She was not going to deal with it. Not here. Not now. Later...when they'd returned to Colorado Springs, and the SGC...she'd face whatever it was that would happen. She'd do whatever she had to in order to protect Daniel. The thought that just leaving the SGC altogether would probably accomplish that task in short order flittered through her mind. Followed by the odd...and not yet completely recognized...thought that as long as she was away from the SGC, he would be safe.

The plane began to taxi down the runway. As was her habit when they flew, Casey slipped her hand into Daniel's. Felt his gentle squeeze of reassurance, even though his attention was on the conversation he was having with Teal'c, regarding the hope that this quest could be resolved before checking into the hotel. Always efficient, he'd already phoned both of the people he wished to speak with, telling them only that he was a representative of the United States Air Force. One man, an elderly Chinese professor, spoke little English. His daughter would be there...the old man had insisted Daniel could speak with her. Daniel expressed his concern that the professor might not understand that he was the one who had the answers to the questions they had, not the daughter. She couldn't sense any difficulties with what lay ahead for them. So she could only hope that the daughter, and the old man, could be convinced of the importance of the professor's presence during the 'visit'.

The other man, a farmer, had been suspicious at first. Until Daniel had assured him that he wasn't a reporter; that he worked for the Air Force, and that he was 're-investigating' the abduction stories. She wondered if they should be worried about the fact that the man had offered his condolences to Daniel.

As soon as they were in the air, she could feel her shoulders relax. Hadn't realized she'd been so tense. She eased the back of her seat down; just a bit - in deference to the person behind her. The drone of the engines provided background noise; Daniel's voice and the warmth of his hand around hers offered the comfort and security that allowed her to take a deep breath, and just drift...

Daniel glanced at her. Her eyes were closed; he didn't know if she was asleep, or merely thinking. Considering that her nights had been so restless, he wouldn't have been surprised if she were napping. He had an inkling that she remained awake after having one of those nightmares far longer than he did. He silently beseeched any and all true gods to give her a peaceful night. The dark circles beneath her eyes were beginning to concern him. Her lack of appetite had him worried. Whatever was going on, it was affecting her physically as well as emotionally and mentally.

When the plane dropped slightly as it hit a pocket of turbulence, the only reaction from his Wife was to reach for him. Well, that answered his question, didn't it? He aligned his seat back with hers, managed to get his arm around her. She snuggled close, murmured something, and her head found its way to his shoulder. She gave a little sigh, and seemed to slip deeper into slumber.

"Casey Jackson's nightmares have been severe," Teal'c said. One look at the young seer was enough to be able to discern that fact. Her exhaustion was obvious.

"This one is bad," Daniel admitted. "The strange thing about this particular nightmare is that once she's awake, she can't remember any details. Not one thing. But the emotions are overwhelming her."

"Have there been any indications at all concerning the content of this nightmare?" Teal'c asked.

Daniel frowned. "Just before she's awake...I mean, coherently awake...she always seems surprised that I'm all right. And then she tells me she can't live without me, and that she'll do whatever she has to in order to protect me. She's concerned about you, Sam, and Jack as well."

Teal'c's frown matched his friend's. "Then whatever it is that she is 'seeing', images of danger must be involved."

"I agree," Daniel sighed. "But until she has more than just those feelings, there isn't anything we can do."

"Perhaps we should be more vigilant as we conduct our day-to-day affairs," Teal'c suggested.

"Always a good idea," Daniel agreed. "I'm hoping that a night away from Silver Springs will help. Maybe we just need a break."

"Indeed. There has been little time for her to fully recuperate from your assumed loss."

"Doesn't help that she's still beating herself up over the fact that she didn't 'interpret' those images soon enough. Her self-esteem isn't the best on a good day. That just hammered it all the more," Daniel said. Teal'c muttered beneath his breath. It sounded a bit like a Jaffa curse, if he'd heard correctly. Which brought a hint of a smile to his lips. He was learning that, like him, his teammates were angry over what had been done to the helpless child that Casey had been in the house of horrors where she'd grown up. Something that he knew completely baffled his Wife. She still struggled to comprehend the fact that there were people around her...in her life...who truly loved and cared for her.

When she shifted restlessly, Daniel feared the worst. Wondered just how to explain to a plane full of people and the flight attendants that his Wife suffered from nightmares, if her bloodcurdling scream were to split the air. He relaxed when she sighed softly, tightened her fingers around his slightly.

He wasn't even aware when he drifted off. Nor was he aware that Teal'c sat quietly, understanding that his need for rest was just as crucial as Casey's. Knowing that if Casey had awakened from the nightmare, her husband had as well.

 

A A A A A A

 

Teal'c had insisted on paying for a cab, rather than taking the bus from the airfield to the business-lined boulevard just outside the main gate of the base. Given that the Avis dealer was a full three miles away, neither Jackson was going to argue with him. Duffel bags in hand, Daniel led his Wife toward the counter of the car rental agency. 

It didn't take long to procure the vehicle, a 'luxury sedan', as that was all that was available; a compact for two men as large as Teal'c and Daniel was totally unsatisfactory. Daniel accepted the insurance, signed the paper and took the keys. "Thanks. You wouldn't happen to have a map of the area, would you?"

"Sure. Any place particular you're headed?" the young man asked.

"Um..." Daniel fished in his shirt pocket for the road address of the farm, the first of the two stops they would make. "We're looking for a farm just outside of Wheatland...west side of town, so the owner says."

With a nod, the young man opened the map, quickly located the small town. "You're in luck. You just follow South Beale Road, until you get to highway 65. Take a left, that will take you south," the young man clarified, "and you'll drive right into Wheatland."

Daniel nodded his understanding. "Thanks."

The young man frowned. Out-of-towners...obviously military...wanting a farm west of Wheatland? "You aren't going out to the Werner place, are you?"

He paused for a fraction of a second. "Why?"

"That guy is crazy. My grandpa says he never was the same after he got back from the war."

"Vietnam?" Daniel asked, thinking quickly. Arvil Werner had been abducted in February of 1978. According to his research, Werner had been returned to the US after the 'Battle for Hue'...a twenty-six day offensive that had begun in February of 1968. There was no way of knowing if the abduction had been timed to coincide with what was undoubtedly a time the man would never forget, or if it was merely coincidence.

"Yeah, that's the one," the clerk nodded. "Gramps said that Werner was quiet, rarely spoke at all after he got back. Then he just started going on about being abducted by aliens." The clerk paused, studied Daniel for a moment. "You're not going to talk to him about that are you?"

"That's none of your business," Daniel replied, his smile belying the firmness of his voice.

The young man shook his head. "Doubt his son will appreciate the trouble you'll cause if you stir all of that up again."

In what had to be the most disconcerting event she'd experienced, Casey found several images dancing through her mind. No 'flash' to herald what she was assuming was an information dump. They were terrifying images...of war...death...destruction. The smells - of gunpowder and sweat and blood and fear - enveloped her for a moment, and then were gone. She wrapped her hands around Daniel's arm.

Daniel swung around to face his Wife when he felt her hands tighten. "Angel?"

She sorted through the information, trembling slightly from the unexpected onslaught. The most disturbing images faded quickly. Left those of a man in his early sixties, convinced by all those around him that something had been done to him during the war, something so horrible that it had 'mutated' into his belief that he'd been abducted. Maybe, she thought hopefully, they'd be able to give at least one person a bit of peace over what had happened to him. "About time he knew the truth," she said softly.

He understood her meaning immediately. "At least one good thing will come out of all of this," he murmured. He turned back to the clerk. "Thanks."

The clerk nodded, and watched as the three strangers walked out to the parking lot. There were three cars in the marked spaces. Only one 'luxury' car. A silver Cadillac DTS. The sandy-blonde guy with the glasses settled into the driver's seat. The giant black guy sat down in the passenger seat. The gorgeous blonde climbed into the back. For a few minutes he contemplated what the local gossip would be, if those out-of-towners stirred up all of that alien talk over in Wheatland again. Shook his head mentally. Whatever was going on wasn't any of his business. He finished entering the transaction that had just taken place. Then went back to the small office, where he'd watch television until his services were needed again.

 

 

 

"Did you have an info dump?" Daniel asked casually. He turned onto the highway, waiting patiently for her response.

Casey glanced at him, then settled her sunglasses on her face. Understood that the question was his way of confirming that he'd not 'helped' her. "It was over before I had my hands on your arm," she responded. Which, now that she thought about it, was exactly what had happened just before the last mission the team had been on. Knowing Daniel's propensity to blame himself if he felt she had suffered, she would refrain from telling him all that she had seen. The most important part of the 'message' was this man's shaken faith in his own memories. "Just a few images. Whoever this man is, he's haunted by the war, because he's been convinced that what happened to him is just his way of 'dealing' with what he saw in Vietnam."

"Nice," Daniel muttered sarcastically. "Nothing like using one traumatic experience to explain another."

"Do you believe this son might interfere with your interview of this man?" Teal'c asked.

Daniel shook his head. "From what I understand, Mr. Werner lives alone. His son might help him farm the land, but they have their own homes."

"If those homes are within close proximity to one another, we may still encounter resistance," Teal'c pointed out.

"Guess we'll just have to wait and see, and hope for the best," Daniel replied.

 

A A A A A A

 

Jack paused at the door of Sam's lab. She was working on some gizmo. He knew her well enough to understand that when she was...poking around...like she was, it was a result of being upset. Or pissed off. She certainly had every right to be pissed off! It hadn't been until after the briefing had concluded that he'd realized what he'd done...the way he had walked in and taken control...walked over her, figuratively. As if...as if she didn't count. As if she weren't capable of doing the job.

In spite of his less than stellar entrance, and behavior, she'd stood there, watching and listening. Her eyes full of pride. In him. How damned amazing was that? After he'd acted like a...jerk...she could still love him. There were times he really couldn't wrap his mind around that fact. That his love for her never wavered, that it only grew stronger with each passing day in spite of her 'moods', never filtered through to him when he was contemplating her love. How strong it was. How precious it was.

In that moment, he realized that he needed to apologize. In a big way. Maybe a little time alone would help him make up to her for being such an ass. He cleared his throat, gave her a crooked smile when she glanced up at him. "I've been giving some thought to what you and Teal'c said, and you're right, I should embrace this experience. Come on, Carter, let's go home. I recall that I had much more stamina when I was this age."

"Well, sir, that's not something I'm going to put to the test. It's just you and your hand tonight." She was still more than a little miffed at him for his behavior during the briefing. Her attention returned to the schematic in front of her. It was one Jack had drawn while he'd had the data from the Ancient archive downloaded into his brain. It was the closest thing to the 'platform' of the weapon that she could find. Hopefully there would be at least a hint on how the weapon functioned.

He walked into the room, stood beside her. "Oh, come on, Sam, I've always wanted to go with an older woman." His tone was teasing.

"I've never had the desire to be with jailbait," Sam shot back, not looking up.

"Carter, you're just no fun."

"Well, being an adult isn't always fun." She paused. Considered just who she was talking about, and talking to. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips. "Although I'm sure you wouldn't know anything about that. Sir."

"Oh hardee har har. That's insubordination, Major."

Sam reached out and patted his cheek; smiled sweetly. "Bite me, sir."

"You won't let me."

"Not until you've grown up."

"You're enjoying this way too much, Carter! I'm a teenager, I've got all these raging hormones. What am I supposed to do with them?" he demanded to know.

"Same thing you did when you were really that age."

"Know any cute cheerleaders by any chance?" he taunted. He wasn't above using a bit of jealousy on her part to get his way. Especially when getting his way would get him back into her good graces.

Blue eyes blazed for just a second, before she put his comment down to being nothing more than a way to irritate her enough to give in to him. "I'm sure Ferretti can rustle up a suitable magazine or two."

"I can find my own damned magazine," he muttered. Noted her smile. "Wait, that's not what I meant...not what I want! Not when I've got a perfectly good fiancée!"

The reference to their relationship status went unnoticed...by both of them. Sam was too amused by his reaction to her suggestion of a magazine; Jack too frustrated at her refusal to cooperate in his attempts to make up for his insensitive behavior. "Until you're back to normal, you're on your own. Sir."

"You can't abandon me! I'm a minor!"

"Exactly my point. So, do you want me to talk to Ferretti about a magazine?"

"Talk to Daniel. His collection is better," Jack grumped. "This is the last time I listen to your advice."

She broke out into a grin. The thought that Daniel...quiet, studious Daniel Jackson...would have a collection of erotic magazines was just proof that she hadn't known her friend as well as she had always thought. Somehow, she'd assumed that the time they'd spent together had given her a good look into his life, and how the archaeologist thought. Apparently, she had been mistaken...she'd only known what Daniel had been willing to share. "Want me to call Daniel?"

"No." He turned around, started to walk out of the room. Paused, looked over his shoulder. "You can be a cruel woman, Major Doctor Samantha Carter."

"Don't you forget it," she responded easily. "And...you're forgiven."

Jack frowned. "Huh?"

Sam's smile softened. "I can't even begin to understand how frustrating it must be for you right now. But you're not letting it stop you from doing your job...from being Colonel Jack O'Neill. I've always admired that trait in you."

The frown turned to a smile. "Really? Sweet. How 'bout we go to your place? A little wine, a little music-"

"Not until you've grown up," she grinned. Thrilled that her 'hunch' had been correct, that Jack's 'offer' had been a means to make up for what he had done during the briefing. That she knew her lover well enough now to be able to read between the lines of his banter, and hear what he was trying to say. It was enough to know that he realized...understood...what he had done. Without a doubt he'd do something stupid to piss her off again. But then, she wasn't always such a prize to live with, either. For the moment, however, no matter how much she wanted to be in Jack's arms, the young teenager standing in front of her wasn't going to suffice. Both of them were aware of that fact.

Jack heaved a sigh. "I hate this."

"I know."

"I have needs."

"Go take a cold shower."

"Cruel, Carter; very, very cruel." He waited until he was near the elevator before letting a grin spread across his face. At least he wasn't in the doghouse with her. And when...this...was over, he'd get that bottle of wine, make certain soft music was playing in the background...maybe something from La Bohème...she seemed to like that particular Luciano Pavarotti opera. There was the duet from the first act, 'O soave fanciulla' that would set the mood nicely. Yeah, that would be great. A nice fire on the hearth, Sam in his arms... Crap. His hormones were really raging now!

 

A A A A A A

 

Daniel checked the directions he had written down. Located the mile marker, then turned onto the gravel road that led past the freshly plowed fields. Just as the old farmer had told him, they passed a manufactured home - white with dark blue trim and lots of flower pots lining the wooden deck that served as the front porch. Further down the road, just over a quarter of a mile, was a run-down farm house. It was rather small...if it had two bedrooms he'd be surprised. If the son had seen them drive by, it wouldn't take him but a few minutes to arrive. He could only hope the farmer would be willing to talk to him...in spite of any possible familial interference.

Pulling into the driveway, he did his best to avoid running over any of the chickens that clucked and flapped around the car, or the two large dogs that bounded off the porch to greet them, tails wagging furiously.

"Not great guard dogs, are they?" Casey asked, smiling at the antics of the yellow lab who jumped and twisted in eager delight.

"Doesn't seem like it. Which is lucky for us," Daniel replied, his smile matching hers.

The screen that covered the front door was pushed open, and a tall man - his shoulders bent from years of hard work, his long gray hair covered with a grimy red 'Co-op' ball cap - stepped onto the small concrete porch.

Daniel opened the car door, stood up, and was nearly knocked down by the brown and white dog that seemed to be the size of a small pony. "Hey, fella," he said, giving the dog a two-handed rub behind the ears. He looked over at the farmer. "I'm Doctor Daniel Jackson. I called you this morning."

"I remember," the old man growled. "I didn't expect you today."

"This is...important," Daniel replied quietly.

"Uh huh," the farmer said, the wariness in his eyes echoed in his voice. For a moment he simply stared at the three people who waited patiently. He cleared his throat, spat into the weeds that struggled to grow beside the porch. "You might as well come in."

Casey opened her door, and stepped out. Teal'c had followed suit. When the seer's green eyes turned toward the white house up the road, his dark ones did the same. They exchanged a look. Both were expecting that interference to arrive at any moment.

Leading the way, Daniel took Casey's hand, quietly introduced his Wife and friend to the waiting farmer. Both were greeted civilly, if not completely amiably. "Thank you for agreeing to talk to me, Mr. Werner."

"It's been a long time since I thought about it," the old man admitted. His frown was indicative of the fact that he wasn't particularly happy about doing so now.

Casey caught Daniel's eye, shook her head slightly. When he nodded at her, she took a breath. "That's not exactly true," she said softly.

The old man jerked, looked at her. "Are you calling me a liar?"

"No, sir. I'm just saying that you're haunted by what happened. It fills your dreams at night."

"Nightmares," he grumped. His eyes narrowed. "How the hell do you know that?"

Daniel smiled. "My Wife is a seer," he said simply.

Werner regarded the young woman, noted that her green eyes met his fully. Took in the slight movement that raised her chin just a fraction. A movement which indicated to him that she was expecting an argument...daring him to challenge her. He found himself admiring her, while amused at her response at the same time. "Never did believe in them."

"Not many people do," Casey replied easily. "Mostly because of the number of frauds running around. Claiming to talk to the dead, and able to give you the winning lottery numbers. The best they can hope for is a statistical hit."

The old man frowned.

"Given statistics, even the fakes are right occasionally," Daniel explained.

"You have her...what do you need me for?" Werner demanded to know, after a moment's silence.

"I need to know what you saw...what you heard...what you experienced, when you were abducted," Daniel said quietly.

"Allegedly abducted, you mean?" the old man said, an edge of bitterness in his voice.

"No, sir. I have no doubt that what happened to you was as real as the four of us sitting here," Daniel insisted.

The old man sat back, the features of his face softening. "You believe me."

It wasn't a question. It was a statement of the obvious fact. "Yes, sir," Daniel replied.

"Let me start a pot of coffee. Unless you young folks don't drink coffee," Werner said, rising from the worn recliner where he had settled.

"My Wife and I drink coffee," Daniel smiled.

"Your big friend there?"

"Drinks tea. Or water, whichever is the easiest."

"I do not require refreshments at this time, thank you," Teal'c said politely.

Werner stared at Teal'c for a moment, then chuckled. "I like a man who knows what he wants." He ambled into the kitchen, which was separated from the small living room by a wide, arched doorway. He opened the curved top refrigerator that had once been white, but was now yellowed with age, pulled a bottle of water from inside. He tossed it in Teal'c's direction, chuckled again when Teal'c easily caught it. "Just in case you require it later."

Teal'c smiled, and inclined his head.

Puttering around the kitchen, Werner started a pot of coffee. His guests waited quietly. No polite chatter to fill the silence while they waited. No reassurances that they didn't mean to 'intrude' or 'be a bother'. Interesting. And, he thought, rather refreshing. "Sure as hell was surprised to get your call," he admitted, sitting back down in his recliner.

"I imagine so."

"For a few months, I was getting calls every day about it. Then-" He broke off, stared out of the window beside him. "They told me it was all in my head. That it was how my mind dealt with...it." He glanced at his guests. Had they even been born yet, when he had been slogging through the jungles of Vietnam? What did they know about 'his' war? Did they have any idea that he had been a part of what historians called the 'Battle for Hue', and what he called marching through hell? "How my mind dealt with what I saw...what I did...during those...brutal...days."

"Do you believe that?" Daniel asked gently.

Werner studied the young man. "Nope. Never did," he replied honestly, his voice subdued. "But I stopped talking about it. Which was the only thing that kept them from locking me up in the crazy house."

"Can you tell me what happened?" Daniel prodded, still speaking softly.

The screen door squeaked open, then slammed shut behind a stocky man. His facial features resembled those of the old man. "Don't you say a word, Dad," the newcomer hissed. He looked at Daniel. "I don't know who the hell you are, but I won't allow you to come here and stir all of that up again."

Werner stood to his feet. "You're standing in my house. I'd be obliged if you'd keep that in mind. You either leave now, or sit down and keep your mouth shut."

The man, obviously the son, looked at the old man, his jaw dropping. "How dare you talk to me like that!"

"What...the same way you spoke to him, and us?" Casey asked indignantly. She had seen the way the old man had seemed to shrink, reacting as if he were a child caught misbehaving.

"You just stay out of this, missy," the man said, shaking a finger in her direction.

"David, you apologize right now!" Werner exploded. "Your mother and I raised you with better manners than that! Just because I'm an old man doesn't give you the right to ride rough-shod over me!"

The son, David, stepped back. "Dad, I never-" He paused. Shook his head. Looked over at Casey. "I apologize." His attention turned to Daniel. "After you've dug all this up, and you leave here, go on your merry way, I'll be left picking up the pieces. Dealing with his rambling about something that happened in a war damned near forty years ago."

Casey shook her head. "His...experience...as an abductee has nothing to do with the hell he survived during the war."

"You really believe all of this alien crap?" David asked incredulously.

She opened her mouth, prepared to respond to the question, when she caught the subtle shake of Daniel's head. They couldn't say a thing...not one blessed word to let Werner - or his son - know that what had happened to the old man was real, that there were honest-to-god aliens. She would not, however, let this obnoxious man continue to belittle what his father had survived...had experienced. "I do," she replied.

Daniel been about to object, to jump to his Wife's defense when the man had turned on Casey. Werner had responded immediately, so hotly, that it had only taken a few seconds for him to realize that the farmer needed to...and had probably wanted to do so for years...assert his authority in his own home. Which allowed him to sit back and watch how the scene would unfold. He hadn't missed the flash in those green eyes. Temper...this David fellow had certainly pissed her off! But that anger was quickly replaced by a look of stubborn determination. She wanted to stand up, declare to Werner's son that not only had his father been abducted, but that she personally knew one of the beings from the race his abductor had come from...if what Werner had described in his first interview was correct. He cleared his throat. "Me, too," he said quietly.

Teal'c had not been unaware of what Casey's intentions had been, either. "As do I."

David Werner was left gaping. He closed his mouth, opened it again...but whatever he had been about to say, he thought better of it. He shook his head, obviously upset at what was happening.

Werner sighed. "David, coffee's done. Go pour four cups, will you?"

The younger Werner glanced around. "Four?"

"Yep."

After looking at each of his father's...guests...David gave a nod, then walked into the kitchen. No one left in the living room believed he wouldn't be paying close attention to what was said.

"Can I ask why the United States Air Force is taking a renewed interest in my story after twenty-six years?" Werner asked.

"All I can tell you is that we have some new information," Daniel replied.

"Will it prove my story true?"

The hope that filled the man's voice, and his eyes, had Daniel as eager to tell all as he knew his Wife was. He also understood that for the moment, the secret musts be kept. The truth would come out. Some day. "Eventually, maybe."

"Please, tell us what happened to you," Teal'c said.

"I was asleep in my bed, and a light appeared in my room and took me," was Werner's simple reply.

The response was automatic. Just a bit sullen. Daniel could only hope that the man would be willing to give them more of the details...even if it wouldn't result in immediate validation. "Took you where? Do you remember any...details?"

Werner sat silently for a few moments, gathering his thoughts. "I didn't sleep well right after I got home," he said. "Some nights were better than others. Eventually, I settled back in. Except, every year at that time-" He broke off. Took a deep breath. "There was a flash of light...at first I thought it was lightening. Then there was this...fog. All white and smoky-like...but wet, too. Just like mist. I...I was floating...then there was another flash of white light, and I was on a spaceship."

Okay, white mist. That matched, Daniel thought. He accepted the mug of coffee from David with a slightly distracted smile. The flash of white light was certainly typical of an Asgard beaming device.

"Then there were...other...lights."

"How many? What color?" the archaeologist asked.

The old man frowned. "Oddest damned green I've ever seen. All glowy like. Um...four of them, if I'm remembering correctly. They just kept moving around me...sort of like...well, like mosquitoes or something. Just buzzing around me."

Daniel nodded. Two for two.

"Did you see your abductor?" Teal'c asked.

Werner looked at the dark skinned man. His eyes became haunted. "Yeah, I did," he murmured after several minutes of silence. He pulled himself from his chair, shuffled to a small sideboard. Opened one of the drawers, and withdrew a sketch pad. With shaking hands, he offered it to Teal'c, who sat closest to where he stood.

Teal'c flipped up the cover. Showed the first image to Daniel, Casey leaning over his shoulder to see the drawing as well.

Well, no denying that. The sketched face of a being, one that three people in the room recognized as Asgard, stared at them from page.

"Keep it," Werner said, when Teal'c offered the pad back to him. He dropped back into the battered recliner, and gave a sigh. "I have more."

Casey's heart ached for the man. Each time he had drawn the face that haunted him, he had hoped it and the nightmares surrounding his abduction would leave him alone. She so wanted to do something...to say something...that would help him. She rose to her feet, set her mug on the coffee table, then moved to kneel in front of Werner. She took one of his work callused hands between both of her own. "Listen to your heart. It will never lie to you. You know the truth."

Werner stared at her for a moment. Then offered a weak smile. "Does that mean I'm not crazy?"

"Most certainly it means you're not crazy," Casey smiled.

Daniel put his mug beside Casey's, and stood to his feet. Their host had told them everything he could...had confirmed that Jack's abduction was the same as what had occurred before. And if he didn't get Casey out of here, her tender heart would just suffer all the more, because of the secret that had to be kept. In spite of the pain it might cause to an innocent California farmer. "Mr. Werner, thank you for talking to us."

Werner nodded. Watched Casey rise gracefully to her feet and move to the young blonde man's side. No doubt about the love between them, he thought wistfully, as their fingers laced together. Just like he'd had with Sandy.

"Your cooperation has been most useful," Teal'c said diplomatically.

The relieved smile that broke out on the farmer's face had them all smiling in return. "Your visit has been most...appreciated."

Daniel offered his hand. "Thank you again for your help, Mr. Werner."

The farmer shook hands with the young man. "Don't know what the Air Force is up to, but I hope that you can get all of this out in the open."

"Someday," Daniel replied sincerely. "I hope someday soon."

"Don't be too disappointed if it don't happen," Werner said, a bit sadly.

"I won't."

Werner followed the three to the rental car. He smiled at Casey. "Thanks, miss."

She smiled in return. "You're welcome."

David moved to stand beside his father as the car backed out of the driveway. "I suppose you'll have that nightmare tonight," he grumbled.

"Maybe. Maybe not. But knowing that I'm not crazy will sure as hell make a big difference in how I deal with it."

The younger man flinched. "I never thought you were crazy, Dad."

"Yes, you did."

He shook his head stubbornly. "Hurt...wounded from the war. Misguided, even. But never crazy."

Werner cleared his throat. Wiped the back of his hand across one eye. "Thank you, son."

"Let's go finish off that coffee," David suggested gently. For the first time in years, he was looking at his father with...respect. Giving back the dignity that he'd not realized he had taken from the older man. If nothing else, the surprise visit from those people sent out by the Air Force had offered him the opportunity to make the relationship with his father 'right' again...in spite of the fact he'd never recognized there was anything 'wrong' with it.

 

A A A A A A

 

President Hayes scowled at his secretary. "What does he mean, he can't make it?"

The woman shrugged. "Apparently Senator Sheppard has several meetings, and interviews with CNN and FOX. He said there isn't enough time to reschedule. That if you'd let him know further in advance, he would have done so."

"No doubt he would have," Hayes sighed. There went his carefully laid plans to smooth the way for his visit to the SGC. Without a politician that those people respected, and liked, there was no doubt in his mind that he was in for a worse time than he'd had with the town hall meetings during his election campaign, when members of the 'other side' would attend only to harass him with their panic-driven questions, trying to stir up a bit of controversy for him to deal with. "Call General Maynard. He's not weaseling out of this trip."

The secretary smiled. "Yes, sir. I'll call him right away."

"He'd better be on Air Force One before I am!" Hayes called after her disappearing figure. "Like rats deserting a sinking ship," he muttered. And wondered if he should be more alarmed by that thought.

Stan appeared at his elbow. "Sir, we have a slight problem. The ambassador from Chile is demanding to meet with you. I told him you wouldn't be available until Friday, but he won't take no for an answer. If you see him for breakfast at eight a.m., and keep the meeting to no longer than thirty minutes, you'll be in Colorado Springs just after lunch."

"Won't take no for an answer, eh?"

"No, sir. This might have something to do with the missing and presumed kidnapped copper mine consultants."

"Then I suppose I should meet with him. But make sure he knows he's got thirty minutes, and not one second more."

"Yes, sir."

"And tell George he has a couple of extra hours to get the floors waxed for me," Hayes grinned.

"Yes, sir."

No doubt the commander of the SGC would be relieved to have the visit shortened by an hour or so. And, Hayes thought, it would give him time to come up with a brilliant strategy to impress the personnel of that secret facility. He snorted silently. And pigs could start flying, too.

 

A A A A A A

 

Sam finally found Jack, hanging out in the VIP lounge. The Playstation was on, but he wasn't playing. He was, in fact, scowling at the wall. "Um...sir?"

The youth started, looked over at the door. "What?"

"It's almost six. Why don't you come to my place. I'll make dinner."

"Carter, the day was bad enough without a threat like that," Jack drawled sullenly.

She couldn't help but smile. Her cooking skills, or lack thereof, were legendary among her coworkers of the SGC. Exaggerated somewhat by the man...or the man the teenager should be...sitting in front of her. "Okay, I'll order pizzas."

"Why haven't they called?"

"Who?" By now Daniel, Casey, and Teal'c had probably talked to at least one of those people from the Blue Book list of 'alleged alien abductees', Sam thought. No doubt Jack was anxious to have his 'story' verified...to know that Daniel's hunch had once again been right.

"Those scientists that Doc has working on my problem," Jack replied. "It's been hours...hell, they've had seven hours to come up with something!"

"Sir, I'm sure they're working as quickly as they can. It doesn't help that we can't give them the full...story...of what's going on."

The teenager studied her for a moment. "Do you think that would make a difference?"

"I don't know," Sam replied honestly. "It might. At least, it might give them a direction to focus on. Maybe even more incentive to find some way to reverse your...um...condition."

Brown eyes brightened for a moment, before dulling again in defeat. "No way the general would go for it."

"For what, sir?"

"Bringing them here, inside the mountain. Telling all," Jack explained.

"Probably not, sir."

"You don't have to do that," he groused.

"What?"

"Keep calling me 'sir'."

She bit the inside of her lip to keep from smiling. "I thought that was what you wanted."

"Yeah. So did I." He tossed the control for the game system aside, stood to his feet. "Let's go. I need to get out of here."

She stepped back as he brushed past her. For not less than the hundredth time that day, she hoped fervently that a 'cure' to whatever had caused Jack's...regression...would be found soon. Because Jack needed a hug as much as she did. And hugging the teenaged version of him just wouldn't be the same...for either of them.

 

 

 

Discussion on the drive to her house resulted in a stop at the nearby Sonic, for an order of burgers and fries to go. As he had been most of the day, Jack remained quiet. Petulant. Downright irritating, Sam thought, as she parked in front of her house.

Leading the way inside, she stopped when she realized that Jack was staring at the mountains, watching the sun as it dipped lower against the rugged terrain.

"Think they're having any luck?" he asked quietly.

"I hope so," she replied. Even when Daniel had admitted that he had no idea how much help interviewing those abductees would actually be, she had grabbed on to the hope that some tiny detail would give them the clue that would lead to the answer; held that hope as tightly as she knew her teammates were.

His gaze moved from the mountains to the sky above him. Was the ship still up there? Was the Asgard who had done this to him nearby? For a moment he thought about calling General Hammond, requesting that the Prometheus do a full scan for any possible cloaked ships. His shoulders sagged when he realized that even if the ship was there, if the Asgard didn't want to respond, he - or she, the culprit could be a female Asgard, he supposed - wouldn't do so. No amount of begging or threatening would make a difference. Because he knew as well as the Asgard did that the Tau'ri of the First World weren't capable of backing up any threats.

Observing him from the top step of her front porch, Sam acknowledged that she had spent the day vacillating between absolute terror and heartache - with occasional bouts of anger, which had ranged from irritation to fury, thrown in for good measure. She was probably as worn out emotionally as Jack, for she had no doubt he'd been experiencing the same thing. A result of dealing with his 'mini-Jack syndrome', as Casey had so colorfully, and aptly, called his condition. She hadn't spent the day trying to get people to recognize her and accept her appearance, she thought. Something that had certainly intensified the other emotions that were flooding Jack's mind. "Come on, Jack, before the burgers get cold," she said softly.

"Yeah, right." He walked up the steps and into the house. And felt like a complete stranger. He knew that he'd be spending the night on the couch, rather than in her bed. Not that he could blame her. A skinny kid certainly wasn't going to excite a passionate woman like Sam Carter!

"Would you like to watch some television?" Sam asked, suddenly uncomfortable with the fact that she had a fifteen year old boy in her home. Who in reality is the man you love, she chided herself silently.

"Sure, why not." He dropped onto the couch. Ran his hand over the cushion. He and Sam had made love here...

Sam put the bag of food on the coffee table. "We'll find the answer."

Jack gave her a weak smile. "Right."

"We're SG-1. We always find that rabbit."

The smile grew wider, stronger. "Very true. If the snakes can't keep us down, the Asgard aren't going to have any better luck."

"That's right. Besides, when Thor find out about this, whoever is breaking the rules gets to face him and us!" Sam declared brightly.

He contemplated for a moment. "Carter, do you think Thor will look any different pissed off than he normally does?"

She chuckled. "I don't know. But I do know I want a ring-side seat to find out!"

"Me too, honey," he said. The comment, made so automatically, reminded both of them that regardless of his current appearance, he was still Colonel Jack O'Neill.


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