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Heaven Called While You Slept


Chapter 7

The kitchen was just as he remembered it...yellow and blue and green floral wallpaper, gold-flecked white Formica countertops...the old wooden cabinets and cupboards painted a cheery yellow. Sitting in the middle of the large room was a round pine table, surrounded by pine ladder-back chairs; blue gingham cushions tied into place on each seat.

He hesitated in the doorway. Years of working with the team had made it difficult to simply accept a situation that didn't make sense. Experience was often a cruel teacher. "How is this possible?"

Melburn clamped a hand on his son's shoulder. "I'm not totally sure, son. I only know that this is...real. Or as real as it can be."

"Right...real," Daniel murmured, looking around the familiar room.

Claire smiled. "Sometimes, we just have to accept what we see, even if it doesn't make sense. We don't have the answers you're looking for, Danny. But I will be forever grateful for whatever, or whoever, is making this visit possible."

She turned quickly toward the counter, reaching for the old percolator that Melburn refused to give up. He claimed that it made a good cup of coffee, and he wasn't about to buy something that wouldn't measure up.

Daniel watched as his mother wiped away the tears she hadn't been completely successful in hiding. Walked up behind her, gently turned her to face him. "I'll be grateful, too, Mom," he said gently. Accepted her hug. "It's been a long time since I've even thought about this place," he admitted.

Claire filled the pot with water, measured out the coffee and dumped it into the metal basket, settled the basket into place, then plugged the cord into the outlet. "We should have come home more often," she said softly.

"Maybe so," Melburn agreed.

"Why? We'd have missed out on so much if you had," Daniel pointed out, settling onto a chair beside his father. "I'd have never learned as many languages, I know that. What you taught me on each of the digs we...well, you...went on, I use every time I'm working. I learned so much from you, more than I ever learned in any of my classes."

The two elder Jacksons smiled at one another. "You don't have any regrets?" Melburn asked. "You don't feel as if you missed out on anything?"

He ducked his head, contemplated his feelings for just a moment. He'd missed out on so many things! Not because of going on digs with his parents, but because of losing them when he'd been so very young. Life as a foster child had been difficult and lonely. "The only thing I regret is losing the two of you. I miss you so much," he said, his voice breaking slightly.

"What happened, happened for a reason," Claire said softly, running her hand over his hair.

Taking a deep breath, Daniel nodded slightly. Casey told him that often. And he'd seen enough during his years at the SGC to know there was more than just a bit of truth in the maxim. He was certain that his experiences as a child had made him more sensitive to the feelings and needs of others...enough that he was able to empathize with people who were alien to him. Gave him the ability to see beyond the obvious...gave him the capacity to find common ground, and form friendships and alliances with those alien people. Casey would insist that it was part of the reason that he had been chosen to be The One.

"We never wanted to leave you, Danny," Melburn said. "We never stopped loving you."

"I've never stopped loving you, either," Daniel replied. He smiled at his mother when she poured coffee into the mug sitting in front of him. "Thanks, Mom."

"You're welcome. Now, tell us what you've been doing. And about...Casey," Claire said, setting the pot on a trivet in the middle of the table.

He took a breath, blew it out. "I was...well...um...they called me 'Wunderkind'. I graduated high school at sixteen. Went to UCLA. Started their undergrad program at nineteen, had my doctorates in philology and archaeology by the time I was twenty-one. Transferred to the Oriental Institute and finished my course work in anthropology, managed to get that doctorate by the time I was twenty-two. Worked on a project for Doctor Jordan-"

"David Jordan? Doctor David Jordan?" Melburn asked.

Daniel nodded.

"Good man. He helped me with my dissertation."

"He never mentioned that," Daniel said, frowning.

Melburn smiled. "Probably because he spent a fair amount of time getting high. He must have completely forgotten about it. The only thing he could ever remember were dates, places, and people...if they were ancient enough."

It was just impossible to imagine his mentor as a young man, smoking pot, getting high...and helping his father work on the dissertation on the Sixth Egyptian Dynasty, and particularly the confusion of the final pharaoh of the dynasty...mistakenly called the first female pharaoh, when in fact the name Nitiqreti had been misspelled, or misidentified, and was actually Neitiqerty Siptah. Careful examination of the pieces of text in question had proven his father's theory correct not long after Daniel had entered the Institute.

"Have you discovered anything significant?" Claire asked.

Daniel frowned into his coffee. "I was laughed out of academia when I presented my findings on the true function of the pyramids...as landing pads for alien spacecraft."

The older couple exchanged a glance...their expressions full of concern and sympathy.

"I was broke, humiliated..." Daniel shook his head. "Doctor Catherine Langford gave me a chance to prove my theory true. I deciphered the cover stone that had been found with the 'gate...er...Stargate. A large circular monument that had been found in Giza in 1928, and hidden away in a military warehouse for years. There were tests run on it in the mid-40s, I think that had more to do with a desire to find a weapon to use against the Nazis than any real interest in the Stargate itself."

"Stargate?" Claire asked, a small frown wrinkling her forehead.

"Yeah. It was built by the Ancients. I don't understand the technology, that's Sam's area of expertise. But it establishes a wormhole between 'gates, and allows almost instantaneous travel between two planets," Daniel explained.

"And you figured out what it was." Melburn grinned.

"In two weeks," Daniel replied, grinning as well.

"You've discovered other things as well," Claire surmised.

Daniel shrugged, not any more comfortable with praise coming from his parents than he was from anyone else. "The Abydonian Cartouche. It was in a temple on Abydos, in the old city. There were over ten thousand Stargate addresses there."

"You've seen so much...done so much," his mother sighed.

"I guess I have," he allowed.

Claire patted his hand. "I always knew you'd be an incredibly successful archaeologist!"

The snort he gave was only slightly derisive. "Not really. Everything I've done is classified Top Secret by the US government. I mean, I understand the reason behind keeping the Stargate from becoming public knowledge, but..." he shrugged slightly. "I mean, I know that my theories were right, and I've made a few other significant finds on several of our missions...that's certainly a measure of success. But...I haven't done any verifiable work in years now."

"So you've been working with the Stargate ever since this Doctor Langford hired you?" Melburn asked, curiosity burning in his eyes.

He took a sip of his coffee, then nodded at his father. "Doctor Langford's father was the archaeologist who discovered the Stargate. She was basically pushed out of the program...it wasn't fair, but that's the way the military works sometimes. I managed to go on the very first mission, to Abydos."

"That must have been exciting!" Claire exclaimed.

"It was. A lot scary, too. Especially when I didn't really have a clue how to get us home. I found it, with Sha're's help," Daniel said. "Sha're was given to me...her father and the other leaders thought Jack and I were gods, because we'd come through the Stargate...well, they called it the 'Chappa'ai'...and I had the 'Eye of Ra', a pendant Catherine had given me for good luck. Sha're was beautiful, and I was totally overwhelmed. I fell in love with her immediately. I stayed on Abydos with her. Studied the old temples...I'm sort of getting ahead of myself here."

A bemused look was passed between Daniel's mother and father.

"We learned about the Goa'uld...parasitic creatures that need human hosts to survive. Being 'taken' by them is probably the most horrific thing that could happen to anyone." And I know that from experience. Not something that he figured his parents needed to hear about, however. "The first time we met a Goa'uld was when we met Ra. He'd arrived at Abydos, to pick up his supply of naquadah...that's a metal ore we don't have on Earth...slaves, and hosts for the symbiotes who needed them. We really didn't have a clue what we were up against, but Jack was as determined as I was to help those people. Well, eventually he was," Daniel smiled, as memories of those days on Abydos played through his mind.

"And you defeated Ra," Melburn surmised.

"Sheer damned luck," Daniel admitted. "Anyway, we had no clue that there were other Goa'uld, or other Stargates...we thought the 'problem' had been dealt with. There wasn't anything left for me on Earth, I mean, my academic career was over, I knew that. So when Jack and the others left, I stayed behind. Studied the Abydonians, who lived like the Ancient Egyptians had lived, or at least in a similar way. The old city was fascinating! But the temple..." He was unaware of the glazed look his eyes had taken, thinking about the majesty of the temple, and the secrets he'd deciphered there.

"You were happy there?" his father asked.

"Yes, I was. Very happy," Daniel said softly. "About a year after he'd left, Jack showed up again. Telling me that Ra had come through the 'gate at the SGC. Didn't take us long to figure out that it wasn't Ra...and that there were more Stargates out there. While we were in the temple - I was showing them the room I'd found, with all of those Stargate addresses - Apophis, the Goa'uld who'd come through the 'gate at the SGC, arrived on Abydos. Sha're was taken. Made host to Amaunet. I searched for her...for three years. Teal'c...he was First Prime to Apophis, it was his duty to select prisoners for the 'Taking'-" An involuntary shudder moved over his body. Knowing first hand what Sha're had suffered made the guilt he harbored over the fact that he'd not been there to protect her all the deeper. "He chose Sha're, thinking Amaunet wouldn't accept her, and he'd be able to sneak her back to her home. Didn't work out that way though. When we went to Chulak after Sha're, Teal'c freed us, denounced Apophis as a false god, and joined us."

"It had to be difficult, being near the man responsible for taking your wife," Melburn said, watching his son's face.

"It was, at first. Dad, Teal'c was as much a prisoner as Sha're was, or any of the other slaves. He's a good man, it didn't take me long to learn that. He blames himself for what happened to her. He holds himself responsible for her death."

"What happened?" Claire asked.

"We'd gotten word that Amaunet had gone to Abydos, and was looking for slaves, and for hosts...that's what the person infested with a Goa'uld symbiote is called. Anyway, we had gone to Abydos, to try to stop her, and if we were lucky, we'd capture Amaunet, take her to the Tok'ra, who are symbiotes like the Goa'uld, but live in a totally cooperative way with their hosts. The Tok'ra have a method for removing Goa'uld from hosts, and I was hoping that Sha're would be freed, and we could be together again. Amaunet tried to kill me. Teal'c had to kill her...he had to kill Sha're to stop Amaunet."

"Oh, Daniel! How horrible!"

"Yeah, Mom, it was," Daniel said softly. "I was heartbroken. But...Sha're and I were never destined to be together. She told me that. Right after I'd brought Casey to Colorado, two years after her death. Casey is my Destiny."

"If the light that fills your eyes when you say her name is any indication, she makes you very happy," Claire teased gently.

"She does. She's filled every empty place in my heart. I love her more than I knew it was possible to love," Daniel declared.

"So how did you meet her?"

"Now that's an interesting story," Daniel grinned. He told his parents about the trip to the alternate reality, and the SGC there...of meeting his Wife's counterpart. Admitted his hesitation for searching for the woman who was his Destiny, afraid that he'd be rejected, as he had been so often in his life. Wished he could show them a picture of the woman he loved more than life itself...

He leaned forward just a bit in his chair. Odd, it felt as if... He looked down at his legs, surprised to see he was wearing his favorite pair of jeans. He reached into the hip pocket, slowly withdrew his wallet. Opened it, and found one of the wedding pictures he carried with him. Peeked to see that his 'Fantasy Angel' was in place. She was, and the photo brought a smile to his face, and a surge of lust to his heart, just as it always did. He pulled out the wedding photo and laid it on the table, not bothering to question the fact that the wallet, and the photos, were there. "That's Casey."

Claire picked up the picture. "Daniel, she's beautiful!"

"Inside and out," Daniel proclaimed.

Melburn took a turn at looking at the photo. "I can see in her eyes that she loves you."

"Almost as much as I love her," Daniel replied.

"Does she work with you?" Melburn asked. Reached for his wife's hand...the woman who was his partner in all things.

"Right beside me. She's a seer, she has an incredible gift. Her 'sight' has saved everyone at the SGC at least once!" Daniel said proudly.

Once again Claire's eyes sought those of her husband. She squeezed Melburn's hand, then turned to her son. "We've heard...whispers. That you've been in danger."

"Going through the Stargate is always dangerous. But keeping the Goa'uld away from Earth is important. And we've learned so much...it offsets the dangers."

"That's not the danger I was talking about," Claire said softly.

He took another sip of coffee, trying to find the words to explain what had happened to him, and to his friends, in an underground cavern. How could he explain to his parents something he didn't understand himself? "I'm The One," he said simply.

Melburn nodded. "We know."

"Didn't ask for the job, but I'm doing my best."

"We know that too, son."

"They couldn't have found a finer man," Claire said, her pride shining in her eyes, and echoing in her voice.

He couldn't help but grin. "Yeah, Casey keeps saying the same thing. I'm not so sure, but like I said, I'll do my best," Daniel said.

Melburn refilled his coffee mug. "Tell us more about this Stargate, and these 'missions' you've been on."

"It's incredible, Dad. We're finding descendants of dozens of ancient civilizations. The Abydonians, for example, are the progeny of Egyptians taken from Earth by Ra...the Goa'uld, not the mythical god."

"Fascinating!" Melburn declared, his eyes lighting up with obvious interest. He crossed his arms on the table, leaned forward. "Were you able to confirm any of the archaeological theories about the Egyptians?"

"And disproved a couple," Daniel nodded. "Although that information is still classified. We've met descendants of the Minoans. Met a group of Native American Salish who lived just as their ancestors did. We've met Vikings, who were taken from Earth by the Asgard - they're a very advanced race of aliens - in an attempt to save them."

"I think we're going to need another pot of coffee!" Claire smiled. "We want all of the details!"

Tucking the picture of Casey back into his wallet, Daniel began to tell his parents about the missions he'd been on, about his teammates, omitting any details of capture or torture. This wasn't the time or place to dwell on such dark memories.




They were sipping on coffee from the second pot Claire had made when Daniel turned to his father. "Grandma Jackson found me," he said quietly.

"Mom?" Melburn asked, his eyes wide behind his glasses. "My mother?"

"Yep. She actually hired Casey's dad to find me, although when she hired him, she had no idea who he was, or the connection to me. She hired him a few days after your dad died," Daniel said.

"Ah, yes. Dad."

The way Melburn wrapped his arms around his chest was familiar. Daniel knew it was a subconscious way of trying to protect himself from unpleasant thoughts or memories. Daniel recognized the action because it was one Casey had pointed out to him on several occasions. "She was nearly frantic for me to understand that she loved you. And she was absolutely furious when she found out that Marvin had been hiding the letters you wrote to her. She said she'd stopped writing to you because she didn't know where you were...that your letters had stopped coming to her."

"I wrote to her as often as I could...I was going to stop in Missouri on our way back to Chicago, after the exhibit opened," Melburn said softly. "I wanted her to meet her daughter-in-law and grandson."

"She's a wonderful woman, Dad," Daniel said quietly.

"Yes, she is. I'm glad she found you. I just wish she would have searched sooner."

"Dad, she had no idea that I existed...not until a couple of years ago. When Marvin started getting really sick, she had the daughter of one of her friends do a search for you. She found a newspaper article about the-" His voice caught in his throat. "About the accident."

"She hadn't known?"

"Not until then...like I said, that was a couple of years ago."

"Dad forbid her to look, probably," Melburn said, frowning slightly. "You know, I could never prove it, but I always suspected that Dad abused Mom."

"He abused her emotionally," Daniel said. "He was a bully."

"Yes, he was. There were times when I actually hated him," Melburn admitted.

"No doubt. And, to be honest, it's probably a good thing he and Grandma didn't know about me."

Melburn studied his son for a moment. "Probably," he agreed softly.




Jack chewed on his sandwich, doing his best not to stare at the young man...at his son...as he ate. He could see Sara in him: the way he pushed the lemon all the way to the bottom of his glass before sipping his iced tea...the way he tore off any lettuce that was sticking out from between the slices of bread...his eyes...the way he held his head. He could see himself in Charlie as well...the cocky attitude, the quick smile.

"Come up to the old place very often?" the elder Charles O'Neill asked.

"Whenever I can, Pappy. Managed to get my team to spend a week there...here...with me at Christmas. We cut a tree...had a nice time," Jack replied. And staunchly pushed away the memories of the download Radar had experienced there, and the heart-wrenching results.

"Good. This place will keep you going," Pappy said.

"It has. I hid here for awhile...right after I got back from that first mission..." Jack's voice trailed off. He'd still been mourning the death of his son, as well as the collapse of his marriage. "Being off the beaten track kept me from having to talk to people. I wasn't in a talking mood at that time."

"This is a good place when you need to work things out," the old man nodded.

"I had a lot to work out," Jack admitted. Glanced at Charlie yet again. "Sara and I were going through a divorce. I just..." He turned his head, blinked back the tears. "I couldn't forgive myself, how could I expect her to be able to forgive me?"

Pappy cleared his throat. "Don't see that there was any forgiveness needed."

"It was my fault," Jack said bluntly.

"Bullshit," Charlie retorted. Sounding so much like his great-grandfather that Jack couldn't help but give a small smile. "I was the one who disobeyed you. I knew the rules. But I was so pissed off...you wouldn't let me have that toy gun...and I thought that I'd just play with yours..."

Jack grimaced. "There was a reason I didn't want you playing with guns, Charlie. They're not toys. They're weapons. And the only thing they're used for is to cause fear. Or death."

"I know," Charlie replied softly.

"I did a bit of hiding in a bottle," Jack admitted, the shame he felt for that 'weakness' visible in his brown eyes. "When I was reactivated to head a team for a secret mission, in a secret program, I dried out enough to do the job." Knowing instinctively that the conversation concerning Charlie's death was something he and his son needed to do privately. "Met this annoying, know-it-all geek who proved to be the finest man I've ever met. He's my best friend now."

Pappy chuckled. "Funny how we find our best friends in the damnedest places...and people."

Jack grinned. "Danny and I couldn't be more different if we tried. He's a scientist, for crying out loud. I detest scientists. Well, most of them," he said, thinking of Sam and Daniel. The smile faded. "He died for me...as in dead. If Ra hadn't had that sarcophagus, he'd...he'd have stayed dead. Although Daniel Jackson has proven to be the toughest man to kill that the Goa'uld have ever met!"

Charlie snorted. "We've heard a few things about him...about you, too."

"If it was good, every word was true. If it was bad, it's something totally taken out of context or completely misunderstood," Jack declared immediately.

It was Pappy who snorted then. "That covers your ass nicely."

"I thought so," Jack said, grinning once again. He pushed away his empty plate.

"Why don't you two head on out. I can clean up," Pappy said quietly.

The three men stood to their feet. Jack reached out, put his hand on his grandfather's shoulder. "I miss you, old man."

"I miss you, too, boy," Pappy replied. He straightened his shoulders, gave a quiet 'harrumph'. "Best get out there before it gets much later."

Time was limited, Jack thought. And he had so much to say to Charlie, so much to explain...so much to work out.




The boat was already in the water...which was damned convenient, Jack thought. Saved the time and hassle of dragging it from its customary place beside the shed to the water. Charlie crawled in, scooting toward the bow. Jack lowered himself into the stern of the old rowboat, and grabbed the oars. It took a few minutes for him to get a good rhythm going...had it really been that long since he'd been on the lake? "Like riding a bicycle," he grinned, once the boat was moving across the water.

For a few minutes, peaceful silence surrounded the two, the only sound that of the water splashing each time the oars entered, pushing the boat closer to the center of the lake.

"So you left Mom," Charlie said softly.

"Actually, she left me," Jack replied, his voice low. "I'm not blaming her, son. She had every right to leave me. I was pretty much a bastard to be around. Didn't help that I was drinking so much."

The younger O'Neill nodded his understanding. His gaze scanned the horizon, before lighting on brown eyes just like his own. "It was supposed to happen."

Jack cleared his throat, trying to hold back the tears that he could feel threatening to form. "Yeah, a skinny little seer told me that."

"Believe her," Charlie said.

"It's not fair," Jack said, voicing his opinion of the matter for what had to be the zillionth time. Losing his son, his nine-year-old son, wasn't fair!

"Nobody ever said life was fair," the young man countered. "You told me that every time I complained about you going away. I hated it when you left."

"I know," Jack said softly. "I never wanted to leave. But I had my duty. One that I carried out willingly."

"I know that," Charlie replied. "I knew that even then, I think. I also understood that what you did was important. Mom always said that you were one of the good guys, doing what had to be done to keep all of us safe."

"I don't know how 'good' we were. But we managed to keep a few bad things from happening."

"Then I'd say you were pretty good."

"I've done some damned distasteful things, Charlie. Things I'm not so proud of," Jack said.

"But what you did, was done for love of country, and your family," Charlie responded softly. "You never took pleasure from what you did."

Now it was Jack's turn to let his gaze wander across the lake, to the cabin that sat so peacefully near the shore. The little piece of heaven on earth where he'd always gone when he needed to heal...when the wounds on his soul, the result of his actions under orders, had become too much to bear.

"We've heard bits and pieces about you and your friends," Charlie said. "I'm so proud of you, Dad. You're really a hero now."

It wasn't often that Jack O'Neill blushed. But the praise from his son, so unexpected, so precious, brought a flush of red to his cheeks. "That's because of Sam and Danny and Radar and Teal'c. Has nothing to do with me," he muttered.

"You're part of a very special group, Dad. You're there because you've earned that place. No matter what you might think about yourself, you're a damned good man."

He sat for a moment, basking in the love and praise of his son. Before the anger that had been as much a part of his grief and guilt began to stir. "You'll never get the chance to be that," Jack rasped out, tears in his eyes. "If I'd just taken the few minutes to put that damned gun in the lockbox, and back in the closet..." He paused, shook his head. "I was always so proud of you. Had such big dreams and hopes for you."

Charlie maneuvered himself to the center of the old boat. Reached for his father's hand. "Dad, you have to stop beating yourself up over what happened. And you have to stop being so angry...so bitter about it."

"I lost my son! How in the hell am I supposed to get over that?" Jack demanded, the tears that had been in his eyes rolling down taut cheeks. "Is the Tooth Fairy gonna wave her magic wand and make it all better for me?"

"You'll get over it by accepting the fact that it was my time. It doesn't matter how old a person is...or isn't. When it's their time to cross over..." Charlie shrugged.

Jack sighed heavily. "Yeah, so Radar says."

"She's right, Dad. Listen to her."

"Letting go isn't easy."

"I know."

The two sat in companionable silence for several moments, Jack digesting what his son had said...deciding that the truth was often the most unpleasant set of facts that existed. His grandfather had died just before he and Sara had been married. He'd always regretted the fact that the man he'd adored had never been able to meet his wife. Which was a thought that spurred another... "You've been with Pappy the whole time?"

"He met me," Charlie confirmed. "Grandma and Grandpa O'Neill are here, too." The young man looked around. "Well, not here. But...you know."

"Yeah," Jack said softly. "I wish I could tell Dad why I couldn't get to the hospital before he died."

"Grandpa knows, Dad," Charlie assured his father. "He's damned proud of you, too. Grandma worries a lot about you, though."

Jack couldn't hold back his smile. "That's your Grandma. She was always worried about me. And everyone else."

"Dad, I want you to promise me something," Charlie said slowly, watching his father's face.

"You got it, son," Jack replied immediately. "Long as it isn't illegal. Immoral I don't have a problem with."

Charlie's grin matched his father's. Then faded, his face becoming serious once again. "When you get back...let go of the guilt, and the anger."

"Not so easy to do."

"Easier than you think."

He nodded slowly. "I'll do my best."

"Good. And...can you tell Mom that I love her?"

Jack ducked his head. "Yeah, I can do that."

"I love you, too, Dad."

"Oh, god, Charlie, I love you so much!" Jack slid off the wooden seat, knelt in the middle of the boat in front of his son. And pulled the younger man into an embrace. "I love you, son," he repeated, clinging to Charlie.

"Love you, Dad," Charlie whispered against his father's neck.




When Rose returned, a petite woman with wide green eyes and short blonde hair followed shyly. She stared at Casey for a moment, her eyes moving over the young seer's face almost hungrily.

Casey rose to her feet. In her pictures, Brenda's hair had been as long as her own. The short, curly style was attractive on the older woman. She could see the lines on her mother's face...put there by a life far more harsh than most people ever saw; a life filled with more pain than one person should have to bear. "Mom?"

Brenda gave a small hiccupped gasp. "You're my baby!"

She couldn't help but smile. "I guess I am."

It was impossible for Brenda to keep from reaching out for the daughter she'd been forced to abandon. She touched the smooth cheek gently. "You're so beautiful!"

"Dad says I get my looks from you," Casey replied softly.

"Your dad? You've met Gary?"

"We found each other," Casey confirmed. "I was looking for him at the same time he was looking for me. Your roommate in college told him about me, when he went to a class reunion."

"I'm so glad," Brenda sighed. "You have his smile."

Casey grinned. "Yeah, several people have pointed that out."

"Why don't you two sit and enjoy the coffee and cookies. I have a bit of work that needs tending," Rose said gently.

"Can't you stay?" Casey asked, reaching for her grandmother's hand.

"I thought you'd prefer to visit with your mother," the older woman replied.

"I'm thrilled to get to meet her," Casey confirmed. "But I'd like to spend time with you as well."

Brenda smiled at her hostess. "I'd be honored if you'd stay with us."

Rose studied the older version of her granddaughter for a moment. Could sense the insecurity...the hesitancy. She nodded, patted Casey's hand. "Well, then, why don't we just sit down here, and catch up on all the latest gossip."

Casey dropped onto the chair she'd been sitting in. "The best news is, Helen Webster is serving prison time for what she let that doctor do to me...and half a dozen other girls. I didn't even realize I'd been molested until Daniel took me to meet Janet...um...Doctor Janet Fraiser. She's the Chief Medical Officer for the SGC."

"A doctor molested you?" Brenda said, her voice shaking slightly.

Reaching over to take her mother's hand, Casey offered a reassuring smile. "I have it on good authority that nothing ever happens unless it's for a reason."

"Well, I'm glad to know that woman is paying for at least part of what she did to you," Rose huffed. "Most hateful piece of work I've ever met in my life. I don't know why Frank ever married her!"

"She threatened him, Grandma," Casey said quietly. "I remember hearing Dad scream sometimes, when I was locked in my room. I can't prove it, but I'm certain Helen was...hurting him."

Tears filled Rose's eyes. "I know she was. But he wouldn't say anything...he wouldn't do anything. He was terrified that if he tried to leave, she'd get sole custody of you. And he couldn't let that happen."

Casey shuddered at the thought of being left alone with her adoptive mother. Without Frank to drive her to this little house, where Grandma Rose and safety resided, she never would have survived. She was well aware of the fact that only Frank's intervention had prevented Helen from beating her to death a time or two.

"I'm so sorry, Casey," Brenda whispered. "I did what I thought was best...I had to get you away from Vinnie. He...he..." She turned her head, pressed her cheek against her shoulder, fought down her tears. "I couldn't let him hurt you!"

"Mom, you saved my life," Casey said softly.

Brenda started, a trembling smile lifting the corners of her lips. "Thank you," she said softly.

"For what?" Casey asked, genuinely confused.

"For calling me 'Mom'. I know I don't deserve it," Brenda explained.

"Of course you do!" Casey declared. "You made a huge sacrifice to protect me! That's what mothers do for their children!"

"That's right," Rose said gently. "You did what you could, the best that you could, in the situation you were in."

"If I'd just told Gary about the baby...about you," Brenda sighed, wrapping her fingers tightly around Casey's hand.

"Present and future," Casey said firmly. "Dad and I focus on the present and future. We can't change the past. So...present and future."

"Does he...does he hate me?" Brenda asked timidly.

"No, not at all. I think he was more hurt because you didn't feel you could tell him about me," Casey replied. "He also understands that your father is the reason for that fear. I won't say he isn't angry about the situation, but he doesn't hate you. He never will."

"He has every right to. I was such an idiot!" Brenda said, covering her face with both hands. "I hurt Gary, you were put into such a horrible situation...I screwed up so badly!"

"Mom, you're looking at the situation from the wrong perspective," Casey said, reaching for her mother's hand once again, holding it tightly. "Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. We can see everything we should have done with hindsight. When you're in the middle of that moment, you have only what you can see around you, and sometimes not even that much. What Vinnie did to you was contemptible. He put you into a lose-lose situation out of greed and anger and hatred. He used you because he could."

"I was so ashamed," Brenda admitted, watching Casey's face for the reproach she was certain her daughter felt. "Not because of making love with Gary...that was the most incredible thing I'd ever experienced...the most beautiful thing in my life, ever. But because I'd been stupid enough to get pregnant."

"That wasn't your fault," Casey pointed out. "Dad could have used a condom, ya know. Birth control shouldn't always be on the woman's shoulders. I started getting Depo shots so Daniel and I won't face a surprise pregnancy. I want kids...someday. But not getting pregnant is as much his responsibility as it is mine."

"Not that he has to worry about it, if you're on those shots," Rose quipped.

"The point is, I'm not doing the sheet shimmy alone, so I shouldn't bear the responsibility alone," Casey replied.

"I hear that just before your shot is due, you get rather bitchy. Seems that's his cue to take you in for your next one."

Casey looked at her grandmother, noted the twitch of the older woman's lips. "So quit listening to everything Miss Eloise tells you. And tell that old bat to stop being such a damned voyeur!"

Rose laughed softly. "I'll pass on the message."

Brenda smiled. "I've heard whispers about you and Daniel...how amazing your love is. I'm so happy for you, Baby. To know that you have a good man in your life, someone who loves you, and cherishes you..."

"Just like Dad loved and cherished you," Casey finished for her mother, when Brenda's voice faded.

"Gary was the finest man I'd ever met. He was so different from the other guys on campus...he wasn't there just to party and have a good time. He wasn't opposed to those things," Brenda said, her smile widening, "but that wasn't his focus. And he wasn't so into the 'free love' thing, either. That always scared me to death...so many guys, and a lot of the women there too, treated sex as if it were the same as...as...as riding a bicycle. They did it whenever, wherever, and with whomever...not concerned about the emotions attached to the act. I always knew that for me, sex would be about love. Gary felt the same way. And, he was so darned cute!"

Casey giggled. "I'll pass that on."

Brenda giggled as well, the sound eerily like that of her daughter's laughter. "We could always talk about anything...but when I realized I was pregnant, I just...I panicked. I couldn't let my parents know, Dad would have probably beaten me half to death if he'd known. Mom would have carried on as if it were the end of the world; they would have been 'shamed' in the eyes of their friends. I suppose knowing how my parents would react cemented in my mind the idea that Gary would react in a similar way, and I couldn't risk that. I was going to get an abortion-" She broke off, looked down at the table.

"It's okay," Casey said softly.

"I thought that it was the perfect solution...Gary would never know how stupid I'd been, and he'd still love me," Brenda said, her voice quavering. "When I went to the doctor on campus, he told me I was too far along for the procedure to be done in his office...I'd have to go to the hospital. Which meant my parents would have been notified, but worst of all, Gary would have found out. I...I was so scared, and so damned confused..." She took a deep breath. "My best friend and roommate, Natalie, told me that Gary would marry me on the spot if he knew. I suppose, in my state of mind, I thought that would be tantamount to trapping him in a relationship he wouldn't want. I swore her to secrecy."

"Is that why you ran away?"

Brenda shook her head. "I'd skipped class one day, and went to a bar near the campus. That's where I met Vinnie. He was cute, in a 'bad-boy' sort of way. And very charming."

"I can relate," Casey said. Noticed her mother's curious look. "I had the misfortune of meeting his son."

Rose knew her granddaughter well enough to know the firm set of her lips was an indication she had no intention of saying any more on the matter, and that Brenda wanted to know if the son had been as cruel and vindictive as his father. Time to move the conversation along... "Vinnie talked you into running away with him," she speculated.

Brenda nodded. "We started meeting whenever I could get away...I was ditching most of my classes by then. I told him I was in trouble...and that my boyfriend wouldn't understand," she said slowly. "He had this way of making me see Gary in a different light...cold, judgmental...all the things that Gary really wasn't. But..."

"Your emotions were all over the place," Casey said gently. "You were scared, your hormones were going crazy...it was all just too much, wasn't it?"

Another nod. "Vinnie told me that I could stay with him while I looked for work. I suppose I should be grateful that he never let me have drugs or alcohol while I was pregnant."

"Just how did he force you into prostitution? Why didn't you just call Dad?" Casey asked. The questions had nagged at her time and again, whenever she allowed herself to think about the dark turn her mother's life had take.

"I'd just disappeared from Gary's life, I couldn't go back," Brenda replied. "Or so I thought. As for the other...I'd been with Vinnie for about a month when he started complaining about supporting me...that I wasn't doing anything to help pay my way. I was looking for work, but by that time it was obvious that I was pregnant; not too many people are willing to hire someone who's just going to leave in a few months.

"One night, Vinnie brought this guy to the apartment. Told me to be 'extra nice' to him, because he was willing to give me some money, just to help out, he told me. Then he left. This man...he was an older man...told me that Vinnie had promised him that I'd sleep with him. I didn't want to...he slapped me a few times when I tried to get away from him. I was afraid he'd hurt you, so I let him..." Brenda turned her head. "I just laid there, and when he finished, he dropped a twenty dollar bill on me."

"Oh, goddess," Casey said, sucking in a ragged breath.

"When Vinnie came back, he slapped me a couple of times, told me the next time I had to make the guy happy. I asked him just how I was supposed to do that." Brenda shook her head. "My 'lessons' in how to be 'good' in bed started that night. After that, there was a steady stream of men. Men who liked doing it with pregnant women."

"You poor thing," Rose whispered, taking Brenda's free hand, the other still wrapped tightly by Casey's fingers.

"I couldn't call Gary after that...not after all the things I'd done. I thought about him every day, missed him every day. Every time-" Her voice broke, she cleared her throat softly. "I'd think about how wonderful it had been in his arms."

"When you started taking drugs, and drinking, it was to hide from the pain, wasn't it?" Casey asked softly. She really didn't need to hear the answer, it was just that obvious. The only thing left to speculation, that could be answered, were the details of that pain.

Brenda nodded, her eyes full of tears. "I just wanted to forget that I'd thrown away the greatest thing in my life...that I'd walked away from Gary, and abandoned my baby. Vinnie would tell me that what I was doing was all I was good for, because I couldn't be with a good man...I'd proven that when I ran away."

"Rat bastard," Casey hissed.

"I know I have no right to ask, but...could you tell Gary I never stopped loving him?" Brenda asked.

"As soon as I get home," Casey promised.

"Is he...is he happy?"

"He married a woman named Cookie...she died from cancer. He'd been a widower for ten years when I met him. He and the woman who works for his company are together now...I think they've loved each other for a long time," Casey said.

"Good, I'm glad to know he's happy," Brenda sighed. "What about you, Baby, are you happy?"

She couldn't help but smile. "I didn't know it was possible to be so happy, or so in love," Casey replied. "Daniel is beautiful and brilliant and generous and sweet...I love him with everything I am...and he loves me."

"I'm so glad," Brenda said.




"It's amazing, Mom," Sam said, sipping on her coffee. "I can't imagine not doing what I do. We've helped so many people...Daniel claims that's the most important thing. But being out there, getting to be in space..." She couldn't help but sigh contentedly.

"You always wanted to be an astronaut," Carrie Carter smiled. "I'm sure Mark is proud of you."

Sam lowered her eyes.


"Mark isn't so crazy about the military - in any way, shape, or form. He hates it even more because I'm in it. He says I'd do more, and be paid better, if I went to JPL, or someplace like that. He was upset that I went to the Air Force Academy...he wanted me to apply for MIT."

"I see," Carrie said softly.

"After you were..." Sam looked away, blinked back the tears. "Mark withdrew...he was sullen and angry. Dad was lost without you...he buried himself in his work. I...I missed you so much...needed you so much. I just buried myself in my studies..."

"I'm so sorry, Sam," Carrie said, reaching for her daughter's hand. "It was my time, sweetie."

"Doesn't make losing you any easier," Sam countered.

"I know."

"Dad and I...we still have a few bumps to work out, but we're closer now than we've ever been. He and Mark have talked...but I don't know how much good it did. Dad never says anything about that visit," Sam said.

"Tell them they both need to just grow up and realize the world doesn't revolve around them and what they want," Carrie said, her blue eyes glinting with the anger. It was from her mother that Sam had inherited her own hot-tempered streak.

She couldn't help but smile. "I can tell Dad. I can't tell Mark. Everything I do is classified, Mom. I think that's part of the problem. Mark knows I do classified work as an Air Force officer. He might even have put enough together to know that Dad and I occasionally work together. When Dad was dying...we had to tell Mark that it was an experimental treatment developed by the military that cured his cancer." Just like we had to lie to Rachel, when I used an alien device to eradicate her cancer. "I don't know if he actually believes it...or if he suspects there's more going on. I really don't talk to him often, just once a month or so. We can always have a pleasant phone conversation, or at least a civil one. I don't go to his house for holidays...I missed so many because of being on SG-1 that he told me not to bother." She shrugged, although the pain of that rejection was visible in her eyes. "I have my teammates...my 'Family of the Heart'. That's what Casey calls us."

"Don't let him shut you out, Sam. The two of you need each other, whether you realize that now or not."

"I promise. I'll call him when I get home," Sam vowed.

"Try to convince your father to talk to Mark again. They need to make peace, for both their sakes'."

Sam sighed. "I'll try. Probably have better luck talking to the wall, though."

Carrie chuckled. "Probably. Now...tell me about this colonel...the one who makes your eyes light up."

"Colonel Jonathan J. O'Neill," Sam grinned. "He's wonderful, Mom."

"He must be, if you love him. So, when are you going to marry him?"

She started, nearly choked on the coffee she'd just taken a sip of...wondered briefly if it was possible to choke to death in a dream, or if she'd wake up first. Decided that she wasn't ready to wake up...not yet! "I don't know," she replied honestly. "He's actually mentioned it a couple of times, usually when we're on a mission."

"Then he's thinking about it."

"Seems to be," Sam agreed. "He's a lot like Dad. He's smart...although he loves to play dumb. He said it messes with peoples heads, and he has to get his laughs where he can."

Carrie laughed out loud. "I like him already!"

Her mother had always had a very wicked sense of humor...something Sam was only now recalling. Why did it seem that death caused a person to forget so much about their departed loved one? Her own zest for life, her need to know the answers to every question that crossed her mind, her temper, her sense of humor, all came from her mother. Her drive and discipline she readily acknowledged came from her father. Still...so much of her was like Caroline Carter...

"Does he make you happy, Sam?"

"Happier than I've ever been. It hasn't been easy for us...we've only been together...as a couple...for a little over two years now. That's thanks to Casey. Before...there was the whole 'non-fraternization' thing. He was my CO...and unless one of us resigned our commission, we weren't going to be together. We loved each other, but we couldn't admit that, not even to ourselves."

"Sounds stressful."

"It was. But, Mom, I couldn't give up going through the Stargate, being part of SG-1. Neither could Jack. And to be honest, without Jack ,well, it wouldn't be SG-1. So...we had to deal with our feelings, and be satisfied to be friends."

"How did you manage to get together without risking censure from the Air Force brass?"

Sam grinned ear to ear. "General Hammond was talking on the phone to the president, and Casey just happened to be in his office. She'd gone there to specifically talk to the general about the situation...mine and Jack's. Walter...um, he's a Master Staff Sergeant, and the general's assistant...anyway, he said that Casey walked over to where the general was sitting, said, "Excuse me, sir", took the phone from the general's hand, and proceeded to tell the president that the rules sucked, her words exactly according to Walter, and that he, as the president, had the power to change them, and that if he didn't realize that the SGC was different than every other military installation in the world, and that the rules for the other bases just didn't 'fit', he needed to come spend a few days with the teams."

"I take it the president listened?"

"He did," Sam chortled. "General Hammond got word from one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who showed up for Daniel and Casey's wedding. It seems the president wanted the message delivered personally. All rules concerning relationships between the personnel of the SGC are completely ignored. So...Jack and I can be together without fear of reprimands or losing our commissions."

"Good for Casey!"

"I'll say. We didn't rush right into a relationship," Sam continued. "We'd loved each other...silently as it were...for so long, just admitting to each other what we felt took time. The first time we made love..." Her voice faded as memories of that special, beautiful night filled her mind. "He was so tender...so sweet. It was perfect," she sighed.

"I'm glad to know you're happy," Carrie said softly. "I take it that it's not a matter of 'if' you get married, just 'when'?"

"Pretty much," Sam replied.

"Have you thought about what kind of wedding you'd like to have?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure I want a wedding. Casey and Daniel went to a wedding planner, but still, there was so much to do. And with our schedule..." She shrugged slightly. "I've never been crazy about formal dresses."

Carrie took a sip of her coffee. "Any particular reason why?"

Another shrug. The memory was as embarrassing as it was painful. "Dad wanted me to go to my junior prom. No one had asked me to go, but Dad thought I should attend it anyway. He gave me his credit card, and told me to go to the mall and find a nice dress. I was tall, and geeky...the only dress I could find that fit me was something the mother of the bride, or groom, would wear. It was pretty, at least I thought it was, it fit, without looking like I was wearing something I'd outgrown, and I figured it would be okay."

"I take it that it wasn't?"

"They laughed at me...all the girls in my class, they pointed and laughed," Sam said, tears filling her eyes.

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry!"

She'd run to the school office, outside of which was a bank of pay phones, and had called her father, sobbing out the story of what had happened. Jacob Carter had picked his daughter up, and taken her to dinner at the finest restaurant he could find. "If I'd have gone to another shop, I know I'd probably have found something...I just didn't think about that at the time. I always had my nose in a book...I was determined to make it into NASA one way or another. So I didn't know much about shopping...or how to dress."

Carrie's eyes filled with tears as well.

"In college, my roommate was a regular clothes horse," Sam said. "She was also a very sweet person. She took me shopping, helped me find several places that cater to tall women. Her mom-" She broke off, a guilty expression on her face.

"It's okay, Sam. What about this roommate's mother?"

"Lori's mother treated me like her daughter when I'd visit for the holidays. We talked a lot whenever I was there...it helped so much. I learned how to do my hair and makeup from them."

"I'm glad there was someone to help you," Carrie said quietly.

"I wish it could have been you," Sam sighed.

"That wasn't meant to be."

"I know. Casey says that everything happens for a reason. I'm pretty sure she's right about that."

"I'm pretty sure she is, too," Carrie smiled. "Now, what about a wedding?"

Sam laughed. "Well, I'd be happy just going to the Justice of the Peace. Jack went to the JP with Sara...his first wife. I don't think he'd mind skipping a formal wedding the second time around."

"First wife?"

Sam nodded. Launched into the story of Jack's life prior to his arrival at the SGC, or what she knew of it, anyway.




Teal'c settled his large frame beside the tree, leaned back against the massive trunk. "The Tau'ri have much honor. There are many among the leaders who are mik'ta-ha's. They are much like the priests of the Goa'uld. There are also Tau'ri who prey on those weaker than themselves. They are, however, small in number. I have found most Tau'ri to be worthy of respect. The men and women of the SGC are the finest of the Tau'ri, and are most honorable allies."

"It is with these people you are allied?" Ronac asked, sitting down beside his son.

"It is." Teal'c studied the horizon. "Apophis conducted a raid on a planet known as Abydos. Slaves are always needed, but this particular raid was to locate a host for his queen, Amaunet. He noted a woman he favored, and ordered me to grab her. I obeyed. I did not believe that Amaunet would choose the woman; she was beautiful, but not the type of beauty the queen preferred.

"We returned to Chulak, and I selected the woman as one to take to Apophis. I was certain she would be rejected, and I would be able to send her back to her home."

Ronac sucked in a breath. "You would dare to do such a thing?"

"I had done so many times. There was no need to kill innocent people simply because the slave pens were full," Teal'c replied. "I committed many atrocities in the name of Apophis. If I were able to make amends, even if it were only to save one or two lives at a time, then I did do so...to find peace for my own soul."

"To obey your god should have brought peace enough," Ronac replied.

"Tell me, did you never regret the death that came from your hands, in the name of your god, when that death was not necessary? Did you never weary of the cruelty that was demanded of you? Did you not find torture to be an unnecessary means for garnering information?"

It was Ronac's eyes that studied the horizon, his troubled thoughts reflected in the dark depths. "Many times," he admitted softly, after a moment of silence.

"Sha're was chosen by Amaunet. There was nothing I could do for her. Not many days later, a Taking ceremony was to be held, so that the Goa'uld ready for implantation could find suitable hosts. I was unaware that three Tau'ri had arrived on Chulak, until their presence was revealed at the feast...when Daniel Jackson, the husband of Sha're, attempted to approach his wife. They were put into the cell with the rest of the prisoners."

"This is when you met the one named O'Neill?"

"It is," Teal'c confirmed. "When I learned that I was responsible for taking Daniel Jackson's wife from his side, I vowed to assist him in his search for her, to find her and take her to the Tok'ra."

"His hatred must have burned against you," Ronac mused quietly.

"Perhaps it did...although Daniel Jackson never treated me with anything other than kindness. Over time...a short amount of time," Teal'c said, his voice echoing with the wonder he still felt, "Daniel Jackson became my friend. I am honored to call him my best friend."

"Truly a remarkable man," Ronac agreed.

"During one of the first missions I undertook as part of a group known as SG-1, we visited a planet Apophis had used for harvesting many times. I was recognized, and one of the men was determined to exact retribution for my actions. O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and Major Carter were just as determined to save me. In spite of the fact that I was willing to accept my fate, they would not allow me to be killed. It was the words of Daniel Jackson that swayed their hearts; his words that exposed the actions I had taken in order to protect as many of those people as I could. When Jaffa attacked the village during our time there, SG-1 fought against them...I fought against those Jaffa. When the man who demanded Cor-ai, my death for the death of his father, saw this, he told me that the Jaffa who had killed his father was dead. When we returned to the SGC, Daniel Jackson came to my quarters. He told me that he agreed with that man. That the Jaffa who had taken his wife from him was dead, and had died in the prison of Apophis the day the Tau'ri broke free. It was then that he first declared his friendship for me."

"I am not sure I could be as forgiving," Ronac admitted.

"I have found the Tau'ri capable of many things. Forgiveness is just one of their most admirable traits. Their determination to rid the universe of the Goa'uld, to see not only those subjugated by the Goa'uld freed from their bonds of slavery, but the Jaffa as well, to live as we did millennia ago, is another such trait."

"Are there free Jaffa?"

"There are many free Jaffa. There are those who remain among the ranks of those still loyal to the false gods, offering freedom to those brethren, as well as gathering information about the Goa'uld. Others who have escaped have settled in villages, and are relearning the ways of our ancestors."

"I cannot even conceive such freedom," Ronac admitted, somewhat sadly. He turned his head, studied the profile of the man beside him. "I am proud to know that my son has helped lead the Jaffa back toward the freedom we lost at the hands of the Goa'uld."

"The battle for which Cronus took your life, was it truly a futile attempt?"

Ronac lowered his eyes. "Had I engaged all of the Jaffa, eventually our numbers would have overridden those of our enemy."

"Why did you not engage all of the Jaffa?" Teal'c asked.

"To have done so would have destroyed five villages. Three were burned to the ground, the villagers killed, or taken as slaves."

"So you chose to save two villages, even knowing it would mean defeat?"

"Too much death," Ronac said softly. "I was weary of death. I was weary of being responsible for so many deaths."

"You did not expect Cronus to kill you."

"No. His advisors had warned him against the battle. I was certain that the defeat would be nothing more than the fulfillment of those dire predictions."

"Did he learn of your deception?"

"My second-in-command betrayed me," Ronac said.

"Perhaps my desire to free as many slaves as possible was one fostered by your actions," Teal'c mused.

"You were but a child," Ronac pointed out.

"Children often overhear conversations that sit in their minds, even if understanding is beyond their ability," Teal'c replied.

"Then perhaps your lack of faith is my fault," the older man sighed.

"It was not lack of faith that turned me against the Goa'uld. It was knowing of their true nature. If my doubts were a result of your own, then you are as responsible for the rise of a free Jaffa nation as I," Teal'c insisted.

"An interesting thought," Ronac conceded. He shifted slightly, his shoulder touching Teal'c's. "Did you find a worthy wife among the people of Chulak?"

"I did. Drey'auc of the Cor'dai Plains agreed to be my betrothed while I was still under Master Bra'tac's tutelage. Our son was conceived shortly before I became First Prime."

"What did she think of your actions?"

Teal'c's mouth turned downward. "Her life became difficult after I left Apophis."

"As the wife of a shol'va, I'm certain her life was most difficult."

"She had our marriage removed, and became the wife of my childhood friend, a man named Fro'tak. When Apophis kidnapped Rya'c, my son, in an attempt to capture me, Fro'tak would have betrayed us all, had not O'Neill been with me. I saved my son, and took him and my wife to the rebel camps. If not for O'Neill, I would have died that day. No doubt my wife and son would have suffered the same fate."

"Your wife and your son live with free Jaffa now?"

Tears gathered in Teal'c's lashes as he nodded. "Drey'auc took my cause as her own. When her prim'ta matured, she refused to allow a Jaffa to die in order to gain a new symbiote. She had forbidden Bra'tac from contacting me. His desire to honor her wishes made him hesitate, and by the time I learned of the situation, it was too late. She was dead by the time I arrived in the camp."

"I trust she was given a proper Jaffa funeral."

"She was."

"I grieve with you."

"Thank you."

"You son is free?"

"He is. I was unable to stop the Prim'ta ceremony in time, he carries a symbiote. But he is being trained by Bra'tac, and fights at the side of my Jaffa teacher."

"Why do you not fight with your brethren?"

"I am able to accomplish more fighting at the side of the Tau'ri."

"You are treated well by these humans?"

Teal'c smiled. "I am. I have found a beautiful woman of great honor among the Tau'ri. She is a talented healer. Such healers are called 'doctors'."

Ronac noted the way Teal'c's eyes had begun to shine. "I can see the love you feel for this woman."

"She is filled with much fire."

"Does this doctor warm your bed?"

"I have spent several nights with her in her home." Teal'c shifted a bit nervously. He hadn't discussed the matter with anyone, not even Daniel Jackson, with whom he was most comfortable sharing his more personal concerns. "Janet Fraiser is a small woman. The top of her head barely reaches my shoulders. I harbored fears that as petite as she is, she would be unable to accommodate my size."

"An understandable worry."

"I believe I was more afraid for her than she was," Teal'c confessed softly. "However, she assured me that all would be fine. The first time we came together, I held back, in an effort not to hurt her."

"Did she appreciate your selflessness?"

The smile that had tugged at his lips broke free, a chuckle filled his throat. "She was angry at me."

Ronac's eyes grew wide with disbelief. "Angry? Because you took care not to harm her?"

"Angry because she feared I had found no pleasure in her arms. Which I did, and I attempted to assure her of that fact. The second time I went to her bed, she insisted on being on top of me. I assumed this was to allow her to take as much of me as she wished."

"Was that her reason?"

"Oh, it was. Just not in the manner I believed," Teal'c grinned.

It was impossible not to react to the sheer delighted glee that filled Teal'c's dark eyes. "She took all of you."

"I was surprised, but very pleasantly so. Janet Fraiser has informed me that a woman's stature doesn't always dictate the size of a man she can, or cannot, take into her body."

"You love her," Ronac said gently.

"Very much."

"That she pleases you in bed is important," Ronac said, his voice teasing.

"It is important, but it is not the most important thing. And there are many ways to find pleasure together," Teal'c replied. His eyes twinkled mischievously. "Janet Fraiser is most determined to discover all of those ways. She is a most passionate woman."

Ronac laughed out loud. "Your Janet Fraiser sounds much like your mother. Oh, the fire that woman possessed," he sighed.

"I have spoken of this to no one," Teal'c confessed.

"Then I am honored that you felt free to speak of your love for this woman with me," Ronac replied.

Teal'c said nothing, merely nodded his acknowledgement.

"You are happy with the life you have found with the Tau'ri."


"Then as your father, I can ask no more," Ronac said.

"I strive to honor your memory, each time I enter battle against the false gods," Teal'c said, his voice low.

"That you fight for the freedom of all Jaffa honors me greatly, Teal'c," Ronac said. He reached out, put his hand on his son's muscular arm. "I am proud of you, my son."

Once again tears caught in his lashes. He'd never dreamed he'd hear those words, nor that they would sound so sweet to his ears.

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