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 The Simple Necessities of Life


Chapter 5

She opened her eyes, stared for a moment at the sloped, white ceiling. Okay, that's different. Oh, yeah. Jack's cabin. She'd expected a little log cabin. While the outside was what she had envisioned, the inside wasn't. Granted, the bedrooms were small, given the overall size of the structure. But every 'comfort of home' was available. Couldn't beat that! She stretched luxuriously, the prevailing peace wrapping around her, easing all the tension from her mind and muscles. It was in that moment that she realized she was alone in the bed. Listening closely, she could hear the water running in the bathroom. Ah. Shower. She was left to assume that he hadn't awakened her because he knew she liked sleeping in, and taking a shower together in that narrow tub would be a challenge in contortion-ism.

A smile tugging at her lips, she sorted through her duffel for clean clothes, grabbed her ditty bag, and hurried to the bathroom. The closed door to the room across the landing gave her pause. Was Teal'c still asleep, or was he the one in the bathroom? She knocked timidly on the bathroom door.

"Almost finished," Daniel's voice called out.

With a grin, she slipped into the steamy room. Stripped as quietly as she could, then stepped into the tub behind him, slid her arms around his waist.

"What the-!"

She giggled softly, planted a kiss on his shoulder. "Good morning, Stud Muffin."

"'Morning, Angel. You'll have to wait for me to get out, there's no room to maneuver here."

"So I noticed." She took the washcloth from his hand, moved it gently over his back and shoulders.

He closed his eyes and savored the simple touch. There wasn't anything that could happen to him that her gentle touch couldn't heal. Not that he needed that at the moment...and what a pleasant realization that was! He hadn't felt this relaxed in...geez, in months. When she'd finished, he turned around to rinse away the soap, dropped a kiss on her nose, grinned at her when she placed three warm kisses on his tattoo, then stepped onto the thick, fluffy rug beside the tub. He dried quickly, pulled on his clothes. "I'm heading downstairs."

"Okay." She grabbed the washcloth that had been on top of the stack of clean towels. Showering just wasn't as much fun alone. The soft sound of her giggles filled the steamy room at the thought that Daniel wouldn't make it for a week not showering with her. She tried to figure out just how Ferretti decided what the odds were on the various betting pools he ran. As far as she was concerned, it was a one-hundred percent, guaranteed bet. No way would her Stud Muffin make it a week.


A  A  A  A  A  A


The smell of fresh brewed coffee greeted him as he made his way down the stairs. Jack was in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, sipping from a mug that appeared to be 'homemade'. He wondered if it was one that had been made after all of the time loops that the colonel and Teal'c had experienced, thanks to an alien archaeologist determined to control time just to be with his dead wife for a few precious moments. He could remember understanding exactly how Malikai had felt...how many times had he wished for a way to go back, to spend just one day...just one hour...with Sha're?

Daniel didn't think Jack was aware that he knew about the pottery wheel, or at least his use of it. He wasn't certain who the thing actually belonged to, but he did know that Jack had spent his repeated day learning more than just Latin and Ancient. When the colonel might have slipped off to indulge in a bit of pottery work after that 'never-ending day', he had no idea. Nor would he say anything unless the older man brought it up first. Jack could be touchy about things he felt made him seem too 'soft'. Anything artistic would fall into that category. He shook his head mentally. The man listened to opera, he wasn't fooling anyone with his 'stupid, tough grunt' routine. Well, he wasn't fooling anyone who knew him. Jack was an expert at keeping people from getting too close, getting a chance to know him. Just, his brain pointed out, like you are. His reasons for keeping others at arms' length had nothing to do with wanting to hide his 'softer side', and everything to do with trying to avoid rejection and abandonment. Old habits died hard, he supposed, given the circumstances of his life at the moment.

"Sleep well?" Jack asked.

Daniel poured a liberal amount of coffee into one of the mugs sitting on the counter. "Very well, thanks."

"Room wasn't too cold?"

He couldn't help but smile. "I have a great bed-warmer."

Jack chuckled. "So you do. I thought if Radar didn't mind, we'd let her fix breakfast."

The smile broadened into a grin. There had been several times that the team had eaten breakfast at the Jackson home before embarking on a weekend trip, or even just a day of sight-seeing in Denver. "I doubt that she'll object. Sam still asleep?"

"She was. I assume she still is, I haven't heard the shower running down here, yet."

Daniel peeked out the window above the sink. A white mini-van was sitting just a few feet from the house. Damn! It was covered with at least six inches of snow! "Did it snow last night?"

"Looks like it. Storm must have rolled in sometime this morning. It was snowing when I got up to take a leak at about five."

It was at that moment that it occurred to him that he hadn't once thought about time since he had awakened. A glance at his watch informed him that the entire team had slept in, it was just after ten. "So will this put a crimp into going into town for supplies?"

The older man chuckled again. "Apparently Dotty heard the weather forecast. Plenty of food in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer. I doubt we'll use even half of it before we leave."

"That's good. I'm not so certain I want to spend a day trying to get to town and back." Images of being stuck in the snow, pushing the vehicle out of some ditch or other, or having to hike into town or back to the cabin played across his mind.

Jack was about to argue that Gonvick was only about twenty minutes' drive away, but refrained. Given the condition the roads were no doubt in at the moment, it probably wasn't much of an exaggeration.

Casey padded into the room; she was wearing faded jeans, a heavy white sweater, and thick, hot pink socks. Which meant, Daniel mused, that she was probably wearing that sexy little hot pink bra and the lacy, matching thong. He pushed away thoughts of taking those scraps of satin and lace off her. "Jack thought you might want to fix breakfast."

One meticulously arched blonde eyebrow went up slightly. "I take it that I'm the only one on the team who can cook?"

"Pretty much," Jack grinned.

"So, what do we have?"

"You name it, Dotty probably picked it up."

With a nod, the slender blonde began rummaging through the cupboards of the galley styled kitchen, which were the old fashioned metal type, she noted absently, taking note of what pans were available. Waving her hands in a shooing motion, she sent Jack and Daniel to stand near the doorway that led to the dining area of the main room as she continued her investigation. Satisfied that she had what she needed, she opened the refrigerator. Took stock of the contents. The tall, wooden pantry beside it was overflowing as well.

A frown flittered over her face when she could only locate one small package of bulk sausage. Not enough to make patties for all of them...well, not enough to make more than one patty for each of them. And she knew the men on the team. One sausage patty wouldn't be nearly enough to satisfy them. There weren't any tortillas, or she'd have offered egg and sausage burritos...however..."I could make up sausage gravy, biscuits, scrambled eggs, and a coffee cake."

Daniel's stomach rumbled loudly. "Sounds good."

Jack snickered. "Better make it in a hurry, Casey. Before his stomach eats his backbone."

"Right," she giggled. She'd located a dozen cans of fruit; but hadn't seen any fresh fruit, or she would have seen to it that a bowl of fruit was available as well. Well, the meal might be carb heavy, but if they were going to be outside playing around, they'd need the energy.

"Need any help?" Daniel asked.

"I might. Stick around," Casey replied with a warm smile. She turned on the oven to preheat. "I'll make the coffeecake first."

It was a simple enough recipe, one of the first things she had learned to bake under Grandma Rose's supervision. By the time the brown sugar and cinnamon topped pastry was ready to slide into the oven, Teal'c and Sam had joined the group. Sam offered to open the tins of ready-made biscuits - god love the person at Pillsbury who had invented the things. While the major carefully placed the sticky dough into the baking dish Daniel had quickly coated with cooking spray, the slender blonde set out to make the gravy. Jack was making a second pot of coffee, and Teal'c was waiting for more water to heat for his second cup of tea.

The enticing aroma of the cinnamon mingled with the spicy smell of the browning sausage, making noses twitch and stomachs rumble in anticipation. Daniel whipped a dozen eggs in a large mixing bowl, ready to pour into a second skillet as soon as the gravy was ready.

Casey pulled the pan of gravy off the hot unit. The skillet for the eggs took its place, and she poured the beaten mixture onto the quickly heating surface. "Better get the table ready,' Casey told Jack, "breakfast will be ready in just a few minutes."

His 'kids' exchanged grinning glances when Jack began to whistle softly, moving around the table to put plates, flatware and napkins into place. He tossed a couple of knitted trivets onto the center of the table. "Just bring the pans out, Radar. No need to dirty up more dishes."

In what seemed like a sudden flurry of activity, Casey was pulling the coffee cake and biscuits from the oven, Teal'c was carrying the heavy cast-iron skillet filled with creamy sausage gravy to the table, Daniel right behind him with the skillet full of scrambled eggs. Sam was pouring more coffee, and the orange juice she'd stirred up, having found a can of the fruit juice in the freezer, and Jack searched for the salt and pepper shakers. He put two small jars of jam, grape and raspberry, respectively, on the table as well.

The group settled around the table, spreading napkins over their laps, adjusting plates this way or that, pulling forks or knives or spoons closer...the simple, normal actions of people who were ready to eat. Jack watched for a minute, couldn't stop the grin that covered his face.

"What?" Sam asked, taking a biscuit and cutting it open.

"Nothing," he replied.

Daniel scooped a generous helping of scrambled eggs onto his plate, passed the pan to Casey. "You're up to something. Spill it."

"What makes you think that?" Jack demanded, trying to look offended, accepting the skillet of eggs from the slender blonde.

"We're sitting in your cabin, having breakfast, and you're grinning like the Cheshire cat," Sam retorted. "So what are you up to?"

"I'm not up to anything!"

Casey nodded her head. "Yes, you are."

No doubt she was picking up his excitement. He hadn't even thought about the ice fishing. Well, not really. He had to present it at the right time, in the right way, or all he'd get would be groans of disagreement when he insisted on how much fun it would be, and probably four outright refusals to even try.

"Boss, whatever it is, if you want to do it...we'll give it a try," the seer said softly. The skillet that held the gravy was much too heavy to pass around...Jack was sitting the closest to it, so everyone passed their plate to him, watching as he smothered the biscuits with the creamy mixture. "That's enough, thanks."

"Careful, Case, he'll have us out there fishing," Daniel teased.

"I do not believe that is possible, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "I observed from my window this morning that the water in the lake has frozen."

Jack's grin returned. "Ah, but it is possible!"

Sam stared wide-eyed at her lover. She hated the cold. He did too, and for the same reason. Had he lost his mind? "Ice fishing?"

"Oh, hell no!" Daniel declared. "I am not going to sit on a stool in the middle of a frozen lake to try and catch fish that don't even exist!"

"It's not about catching them," Jack argued. "It's about relaxing!"

"I can relax beside the fire with a good book," Daniel shot back.

"There are no fish in that lake?" Casey asked.

"Um...no, I don't think so," Jack replied. "Haven't caught anything in several years."

"That might be nothing more than a reflection on your fishing skills," Daniel said, keeping his eyes on his plate.

"You are so not funny," Jack groused.

Casey put her hand on the older man's arm. "I'll try it. I'll just bring a quilt or two along, to keep my skinny ass from freezing off."



Jack beamed at her. "That's great! As soon as the kitchen is cleaned up, we'll head out!"

"Shouldn't take me too long," Casey replied.

"You? Wrong, Radar. You cooked, we'll clean up. Right campers?"

"Right," Sam said, tossing a smile at Casey.

"But you all helped!"

"Angel, we stood and watched you for the majority of the time," Daniel said. "We'll clean up. And," he sighed, "we'll all go ice fishing, too."


She ducked her head to hide her smile. Sometimes, it was the simplest things that touched her the most...that reminded her just what an incredible group of people she had become a part of...something that still defied explanation, and something for which she would be eternally grateful.

Casey scrubbed the old stove. It was the only cleaning that she'd been allowed to do. As she wiped the still unmarred white surface, she thought about the stove that had sat in her grandmother's kitchen, and how this one could be its twin. Cooking on it had brought back so many memories of time spent with her beloved Grandma Rose. The chatter in the kitchen, her friends laughing and joking as they worked was much different than the quiet instructions or observations that had passed between her and her grandmother. She found she much preferred the chatter.

There had been absolutely nothing left by the time the group had finished eating, all of them comfortably full. Jack had organized the group into something that resembled an assembly line, and within a matter of twenty minutes or so, the last of the clean dishes had been put away. "Okay, front porch in five," he declared, rubbing his hands together in excited anticipation.


A  A  A  A  A  A


When Daniel had suggested packing their thermal underwear, insisting that they would no doubt be outside at least part of the time, Casey had been filled with eager anticipation about just what activities they would be engaging in, knowing that whatever it was, they would enjoy themselves immensely. Ice fishing, however, had never crossed her mind.

She tugged on the insulted leggings and shirt, pulled her jeans and cable-knit sweater back on. Pushed her pink clad feet into her boots. She contemplated the quilt for a moment, then grabbed it and her coat before heading back downstairs.

Daniel raced passed her to don his own thermals, taking time to drop a kiss on her cheek, Teal'c followed more sedately to go to his room for the same reason. Jack and Sam had disappeared into the downstairs bedroom to get ready for their outdoor adventure.

She wandered around the living room, taking note of the titles of the books on the shelves that lined one wall. A thick, leather bound volume caught her attention. She pulled it out, realized it was a photo album. She was about to put it back when Jack stepped into the room. "I'm sorry," she said immediately. "I wasn't going to look."

Jack eyed the album for a minute or two, then nodded tersely. It was the family 'vacation' album. A photographic record of each visit the family made to the cabin. Including the summers when he'd managed to spend time here with Sara and Charlie. Five of them, if he was remembering correctly.

As soon as it was nestled between the large books of maps once again, Casey looked over at her friend. A man who was like the older brother she had never had. The pain in his eyes made her ache for him. "Just the good times," she said softly.


"Remember the good times. Treasure them. Let the bad memories fall away," she said.

"Not so easy to do," Jack replied.

"Not as difficult as you think," she countered. "Daniel can remember his parents now, think about them, without reliving one horrible afternoon in a museum. When you focus on the good, the bad fades away."

"This 'bad' is worse than Daniel's parents being killed."

"Is it? He was eight years old, Jack. How terrified must he have been, seeing...watching...as that capstone dropped onto the others? Time must have slowed drastically in those few seconds, when the other stones broke and collapsed, and the entire exhibit fell down on the only two people in his life that he'd ever loved, the two people who were his entire world."

He couldn't help but wince slightly.

"You were spared that much. You didn't see what happened."

"I saw the aftermath! A nine millimeter slug can do a hell of a lot of damage, especially to a nine year old boy!"

Casey cringed, tears filled her eyes. "One moment, Jack. One moment out of nine years. Charlie needed to move on, his time here was finished. Grab the other moments, the nine years worth of them."

"I wasn't home a lot when he was little," Jack admitted quietly, his jaw working silently.

"But when you were, you spent as much time with him as possible," she replied, knowing intuitively that what she said was the truth.

"Yeah, I did."

"I'll bet he followed you around when you were home."

A small smile tugged at his lips. "Yeah, he was always right there. Asking why. Or how. Or when."

Casey smiled, but said nothing, allowing him to examine the memories at his own pace.

"There was one afternoon when Sara asked me to go to the store for her. Charlie insisted on coming along...he just wouldn't let go of me until I told him that I needed him as my second seat, to navigate for me." His eyes had taken on a distant look...he wasn't seeing Casey, or even the cabin around them, not in that moment. "It was hot, so we had the windows down. I had cranked up the radio, and Verdi's 'Oberto' was playing...I can't remember the precise aria...and Charlie asked me what it was. So I was explaining it to him. Explaining opera to a four year old." He shook his head slightly. "A couple of days later, I heard one of my records playing. I went into the house, because Charlie wasn't supposed to be messing with the albums or the turntable. He was standing on the ottoman, conducting. He had one of Sara's wooden spoons, waving his arms and hands like he knew what he was doing."

A single tear made its way down Casey's cheek as she listened.

"He looked over at me, grinned, and went right back to conducting. You know, to this day I have no idea when, or where, he ever saw a conductor. I had to leave a couple of days later. When I came back, six weeks had passed, and Charlie knew every opera on every album that I owned." His voice had taken on a hint of wonder. "Four years old and he could sing with Luciano Pavarotti."

"Did he still conduct?"

Jack chuckled. "Mike...that's Sara's dad, was a big fan of swing, loved all the old big bands from the thirties and forties. He'd introduced Charlie to some of those bands while I was gone. The kid even sat through a couple of movies about Glen Miller. So he played at conducting swing and opera."

"I don't think I've ever known of a four year old who was into opera and swing bands," Casey said, smiling.

"Charlie was like that...wanted to emulate us at every opportunity. I guess-" His voice broke, he turned his head to the side, fought back the tears. When he had regained control of the emotions that churned in his heart, the memories competing for his attention, he turned back to the young woman quietly standing beside the bookcase. "Ready to do some ice fishing?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," she replied.

He gave a sharp nod. "I'll go get the gear. It's all on the back porch."

Afraid that she had upset him, perhaps pushed too much, said too much, brought up things better left alone, she hurried across the room, put her hand on his arm. "Don't let go of those good memories," she whispered.

Jack awkwardly patted her hand, then moved away, disappeared into the kitchen. The creaking of the old back door was the only sound to break the silence that had fallen.

Sam stepped into the room. "I think that's the most he's ever talked about Charlie."

Casey shook her head slightly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up."

"All you did was to remind him of the good times, Angel," Daniel said as he walked down the stairs.

"Did everyone hear?" she asked, worried that Jack would be upset...furious...to know that there were witnesses to his...his what? All he had done was shared a couple of memories of his son with her.

"Indeed," Teal'c said, following behind Daniel.

"Well, don't say anything," Casey admonished. "If he wants to talk, that's fine. But I am going to do my best to keep my big mouth shut."

"You didn't do anything wrong, Casey," Daniel insisted quietly. Firmly.

"Then why do I feel like I just dragged Jack through the wringer?"

Daniel looped his arm around her neck, pulled her close, pressed a kiss to the side of her head. "Let it go, Angel."

"Somebody wanna help me out here? I only have two hands, for crying out loud!"

Four matching grins lit up four faces. "Coming, Jack," Daniel called in response.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Five fishing poles, three tackle boxes, a large, old-fashioned canvas tent, and four camp stools waited to be carted to the frozen lake. Inside the lean-to at the back of the cabin was the bottom eight inches of what had once been a thirty-three gallon barrel. The top edges had been rounded with time, and the inside was completely black from decades' accumulation of soot. It was, Jack informed them, a 'fire bowl', one that his Pappy had made to use during their ice fishing expeditions. Filled with firewood, and placed on top of carefully arranged chunks of wood, which were inside the bowl at the moment, it would provide enough heat to keep the tent tolerable, without melting the ice around them.

Daniel and Teal'c hammered the tent stakes into the ice, the archaeologist grumbling the entire time about the dangers of cracking the ice and causing a catastrophe, predicting that he and the tent would no doubt be dumped into the freezing water. Luckily, nothing unfortunate happened, the sharp stakes sank easily into the thick, white ice.

Jack carefully arranged the support for the 'fire bowl', and started a fire, using the firewood that Sam and Casey had carried from the woodpile at the side of the cabin. The 'fire bowl' was on the opposite side of the tent from the opening, just beneath a flap of canvas that Jack tossed open. It was a small opening, but would allow the smoke from the fire to drift upwards, rather than fill the tent.. The collapsible camping stools, and one old, wooden, three-legged stool were placed on either side of the tent.

With a long carpenter's hand saw, Jack began to cut through the ice. "Thick this year," he said, as he worked the sharp-toothed metal in a rough circle about three feet in diameter. When he'd completed the cut, he took two large ice hooks, placed one on each side of the cut, and pulled the chuck of ice free. He tossed it out the front of the tent, panting slightly from the exertion of the work. When he turned around, he was grinning from ear to ear. "Okay, campers, let the fun begin!"

"Won't the fish know that it's not possible for there to be worms floating in the water when it's this cold?" Sam asked, as she settled warily onto one of the creaking camp stools.

"They're fish," Jack replied. "They don't think. They swim, they eat. That's their life."

Huddled around the hole, the five watched as the weighted lines sank into the frigid water. "Five hooks, five worms, all within five inches of each other," Casey mused. "Does anyone else see a problem with this?"

"Don't worry, Radar, if there are fish down there, they're bound to be hungry by now."

"Actually, I think fish hibernate during the winter," Daniel said, gently bobbing his line up and down.

"Nah, they move around. They're just a lot slower," Jack said. "Makes 'em easier to catch."

"Sure, if you're fishing with a net," Daniel countered.

Casey pulled the quilt tighter around her shivering frame. "So how long do we do this?"

Jack frowned. "What do you mean, how long? Relax, Radar, enjoy. It's all about relaxing."

"I'd be more relaxed in front of a fire," Daniel muttered under his breath. Jumped slightly when Casey poked at him with one glove covered hand. "What?"

She said nothing, but her eyes begged him not to say anything more regarding his feelings on the matter.

With a sigh, Daniel capitulated. Although he tossed one last pained look in Jack's direction. Making certain that the man took note of his 'sacrifice'.

"Your Pappy fished with you a lot, didn't he?" Casey asked Jack.

A slow grin spread over the man's face, his eyes softening slightly. "Yeah, he did."

"So, tell us about him...about your Pappy," the young seer encouraged.

"Technically, you're supposed to be quiet when you're fishing," Jack said. "Noise can scare the fish away."

"Jack, I'm sitting over ice, freezing my ass off, fishing in a lake that has no fish. Humor me," Casey replied.

Sam giggled, and ducked her head. Daniel grinned from ear to ear. Teal'c shifted slightly on the stool where he sat, as if settling in for an extended period of time, watching Jack expectantly.

"Fine," Jack said, heaving a sigh, secretly delighted. Sharing his memories with these people always made him feel warm and safe and happy. For no other reason than to make Casey smile, he'd tell them everything he could remember. He was silent for a moment, sorting through his memories, deciding which he would share and which were too precious, too private to be spoken about. "I think the first time I actually remember coming out to the cabin was when I was about four, right after Pappy bought the place..."




Jack regaled them with tales of his Pappy, and his times spent at the cabin as a child...as a youth...as a young man, making his listeners laugh again and again, all of them well able to imagine Jack at the various stages of his life, and to 'see' the escapades he described. In spite of the fire, it was still cold, proof of which filled the air after almost two hours, when both Casey and Sam, who were sitting beside the fire bowl, struggled to keep their teeth from chattering. He began to reel in his line. "Okay. Let's pack it in. We need to see about getting the tree cut anyway."

If the others seemed a little too eager as they hurriedly reeled in their own lines, he wouldn't say anything. The fact that they had spent the time that they had with him was proof that they were at least making the attempt to placate him. He had no idea why. But he would cherish the memory of ice fishing with his 'kids'.

The tent was taken down in much less time that it took to go up, and the gear carefully stowed away. The men carried the fire bowl, with the remains of the still burning logs, to the pier, placed it on the wood blocks that Sam and Casey had hurriedly arranged.

"It won't take long for it to burn down," Jack said. "I'll check on it in a bit."

"How about we go in and warm up before we go tree hunting," Sam suggested, her teeth chattering.

"Great idea," Casey replied. She didn't even wait for a response from her teammates, she was already running toward the cabin.

When she started a fresh pot of coffee, she noted that the can of coffee was half empty. Enough for a couple more days, she thought absently. There was still that small box of groceries they'd brought with them, waiting in the corner, no doubt a new can was buried in it somewhere. In minutes the old battered coffee pot was percolating, filling the room with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. It wasn't specialty coffee, but it was hot, it was fresh, and it was caffeine. And when had she become a coffee snob? She couldn't help but smile. Living with Daniel had changed her in more ways than she could count. And all for the good. Well, with the exception of becoming a coffee snob.




Comfortably seated in the living room, a fire crackling merrily in the fireplace, the team sipped coffee and munched on the cookies that Casey had baked. Conversation drifted easily from one topic to another. Soon they were reminiscing about their first missions, the early days of the SGC. Admissions and confessions which brought both tears and laughter were made, bringing the five individuals even closer together mentally and emotionally. Fears and worries were expressed, acknowledged, and discussed in a way that they hadn't done before. It was possible that their physical distance from Colorado, and Cheyenne Mountain, offered them more objectivity. That, and they were certainly more relaxed than any of them recalled being for a very long time.

"So any ideas on what we're going to be facing next?" Jack asked Casey from his place at one end of the sofa. Sam was leaning against his side, her feet on Teal'c's lap. Daniel and Casey were snuggled together in the large, overstuffed chair beside the fire, her legs dangling over the arm of the chair, her toes stretching toward the warmth of the cheery flames that danced on the hearth.

"Nope. Sorry, boss," Casey replied.

"That's a good thing. If something were up, you'd know about it."

She blushed slightly, smiled at the comment. "Well, I hope I would, anyway."

"Do you think Daniel will ever have to face those other renegade Ascended?" Sam wiggled slightly, pulled the afghan from the back of the sofa and tugged it around her shoulders. The question came on the heels of the discussion about Dartal, and the battle Casey had fought with the being.

"Probably. I just don't know when," Casey replied.

Daniel frowned slightly. "I suppose if it happens, the bastards will attack you."

"Goddess, I hope not," Casey shuddered. Even as she admitted to herself that more than likely he was right.

"I still don't understand why Oma hid you...well...hid your body...while you were being held prisoner by Dartal," Daniel said quietly.

"She didn't," Casey replied immediately. This she knew because she'd asked Miss Eloise the 'why' of the matter, only to be told the Ascended had not 'interfered' in any way.

"Then who did?" Sam asked, her eyes wide. They had all assumed that the Ascended Being had, for whatever reason, prevented them from locating Casey during the period of time she'd been missing.

He was certain he knew before she replied. He and Jack had discussed the possibility that the Beings, the ones she had mentioned briefly to him, had been protecting her, although he could barely recall that conversation. Probably, he thought dryly, because he'd been drinking that night.

"The Beings who protect Daniel."

"Okay, just who are these guys?" Jack wanted to know.

"What? Who?" Four faces grinned at her. "I hate it when that happens!"

"Who are the Beings who protect Daniel?" Sam wondered.

"I don't know," Casey said truthfully. "I only know that they're...higher...well, from a higher plane, than the Ascended."

"These Beings are the reason that we have escaped death, when it should not have been possible," Teal'c said, his comment a statement of fact, not a question.

"I suppose so," Casey said.

"I wonder if they...influence...some of our ideas," Daniel mused quietly. "It seems that one of us always comes up with the answer or plan that we need, right when we need it."

Casey smiled. "That's your own magic...the intelligence and training and experience that you have."

"You're sure about that?"

The smile widened. "Pretty sure. The four of you were brought together by Fate. Maybe there were...or are...Higher Powers who were involved in that. But if any one of you weren't a part of the SGC, and working together, that SG-1 'magic' wouldn't be there."

"And you know this, how?" Jack asked.

"Miss Eloise can't tell me everything, well, she can't tell me anything, but she can give enough...hints...when I ask questions that I can piece together the truth," Casey explained. "That magic is the reason that you...we...are Immortal. It's part of the reason that Daniel is The One. From what I understand, it's very rare. So rare that when it happens, even the Big Boys sit up and take notice."

"It makes me wonder about all of the events that brought us together...were they random events, or was someone manipulating them, hoping to bring us together?" Daniel murmured, his tone of voice an indication that he was asking from more than just idle curiosity.

"Everything that happens to us is the result of a choice made, and results in another choice to be made," Casey said. "Each of you took the path that you did, arrived at the same place at the same time, because of the choices you made."

"How far back? I mean, is something I decided to do in say, high school, responsible for me sitting right here, right now?" Sam frowned. "We already know that there are an infinite number of realities, each one different because of choices made somewhere along that timeline path. How important are individual choices in causing those deviations?"

"Wow, if even individual choices can lead to a different reality..." Daniel's voice faded as he pulled his thoughts together. "I think to make the timeline change...or cause a deviation, there has to be a key event...it can't be just as simple, or as random, as say, me deciding to go to a movie or not going."

Jack nodded. "I agree. I think that the events have to be something that affects everyone...the entire planet." Curious glances were tossed in his direction. "What? Okay, so sometimes I pay attention to the briefings," he grinned.

"Like every time," Daniel retorted, grinning in return. He chuckled when Jack rolled his eyes.

"The Abydos mission was one of those key events, wasn't it?" Sam asked softly.

Casey nodded. "Probably one of the most important events. Had it not happened, our reality would be different."

Jack snorted. "We'd be Apophis' slaves right now."

"Had you not killed Ra, things would be different," the seer continued.

"We would be the slaves of Ra," Teal'c surmised.

"Probably. Wait a minute," Jack said, frowning slightly. "If we hadn't killed Ra, you'd still be Apophis' First Prime."

"Perhaps not, O'Neill. It is possible that Apophis would have moved against Ra. If he had done so, he would have been defeated. I would have been killed."

She'd noticed the frown, the way he kept looking at Casey, knew that something was bothering the archaeologist. "Daniel, what's wrong?"

He glanced over at Sam, gave her a weak smile. "It's just something that I've been thinking about, off and on, since our experience with that other reality."

"Which one?" the blonde major teased.

"The one where my counterpart is married to a woman named Annika." No one missed the fact that he didn't mention any of the Abydonians.

"And what have you been thinking about?" Jack asked. He had the feeling he just might regret asking that question. Daniel thought too damned much. This was a vacation, they weren't supposed to be doing any 'heavy thinking'!

"We know of one other reality where I'm...well...my counterpart, is with Casey. That Daniel knew of at least one other reality where I...we...that Daniel, is also with Casey...with a Casey. In how many realities was she killed? And..." He took a deep breath, blew it out. "Knowing how I think, what I feel, I know that the Daniel in that reality with Annika can't imagine life without her...couldn't conceive of a reality where he wasn't with her. So just how did that work out? Is it only because Casey was killed there? Or is it because in that reality...or those realities, I'm assuming there's more than one where there's a Daniel Jackson who is happily married to an Annika, is it because for that...or those...realities, that it's supposed to be that way? Is Annika the Destiny of Daniel Jackson in some realities, and in others, Casey is his Destiny?"

"Daniel, that is probably the most complex question I've heard," Sam mused. "It's interesting as well."

"We know that there are realities where every conceivable deviation has occurred," Daniel said. "So, in how many realities are you and I together? Or for that matter, Jack and I, or Teal'c and I?"

"Oh, hell, I don't think so!" Jack sputtered.

"Come on, Jack, we know it's a possibility," Daniel argued.

"Like hell it is! I know me. I know you. Wouldn't happen," the colonel said firmly. He knew that there was no way that any Jack O'Neill would be...well...it just wouldn't happen. No matter what anyone said, or thought; regardless of that brilliance, and the fact that he could lose himself in his work for days at a time, Daniel was just as much an alpha male as he was. That was the reason they argued so often. And alpha males just weren't like...that. Not in his world, anyway!

"Unless there were other differences, extreme differences," Casey said.

"Nope. Wouldn't happen."

She didn't say anything. It would cause no end of heartburn for her friend...and her Husband...if they were to learn that yes, there was at least one reality where the two were an item. She couldn't remember Annika actually saying anything other than how quickly she had moved past that reality...but she did remember the feeling that it was only that one reality where something so...different...occurred, and that the fact that the two men were 'together' wasn't the only unusual thing there.

"It will be interesting if the Pentagon approves the general's request to maintain communication with that reality, and continue exchanging intel," Sam said. No doubt having an 'address' of sorts, a way to contact that reality specifically, would factor heavily in that decision. "Their reality seems to have veered off from ours when their Daniel was killed as a result of preventing that explosion on Kelowna."

"There has to be another, more significant reason," Daniel objected. He...no matter what reality...was not that important! No way! He was an archaeologist, nothing more. Casey's gift had prevented them from becoming involved with that planet, had prevented his death.

"Why?" Casey asked. "It was a major event, for two planets." 

He shook his head. "The explosion wasn't that...devastating. Jonas said that thirty people were killed. Granted, that's thirty innocent people who shouldn't have died, but the accident had less impact than it could have had."

"But that was in our reality," Casey argued. "It might have been much more devastating in another reality. Or, like Annika's, Daniel sacrificed himself to stop it altogether."

"And they were there because they didn't have a seer to warn them," Jack offered, again proving that he listened more, and understood far more than he ever let on.

"I wonder why that Daniel chose Ascension," Sam mused.

"It's better than dead," Daniel shrugged. "Maybe he thought he could fight the Goa'uld better from a higher plane of existence."

"He had to have known about the non-interference rules," Sam argued.

"But maybe he thought he could help in ways that wouldn't...interfere," Daniel insisted.

Jack studied his friend. "Nope. Can't see it."

"Can't see what?"

"You as some glowy jellyfish thing. You can't follow orders here, I don't think you'd be any different on the astro turf."

"Um...'glowy jellyfish thing'?" Casey frowned.

"That's how the other Colonel O'Neill described what the Ascended look like...in their...um...natural form. What he saw when their Daniel ascended," Sam explained. "We saw that the first time we met Oma, on Kheb. When we met another Ascended Being...Orrin...he did sort of look like a glowy jellyfish. Well, not at first. He was actually very cute."

"Hmmph!" Jack snorted.

"Well, he was. And very sweet," she grinned. Then patted Jack's leg reassuringly. And wondered just what had become of the huge emerald that had been confiscated when the NID had scoured her house for everything and anything they could find about her 'visitor'.

"Maybe that Daniel returned for a reason," Daniel said, drawing lazy circles on Casey's cheek with his thumb. "Maybe that universe had renegade Ascended as well, and he returned so he could warn them."

Casey shook her head. "If he had met them, he'd have had  more...power...to defeat them as an Ascended than he would as a mortal."

"But the Ascended haven't done anything to stop them here, and if the same problem exists there, I can't see that group taking action," Sam pointed out.

"Which is exactly the problem," Casey replied.

"Maybe we could ask, when we have the next intel swap," Daniel suggested. Frowned again. Knew just how little he could be expected to talk about 'bad times'. Much better for his peace of mind to just tuck the incident away, and try to forget about it. "Of course, that's assuming that he's willing to talk about that time."

Jack heaved a sigh. "As interesting as this is, and really it is, what say we move on to a more festive subject?"

"Like what?"

"Like where we're going to put the Christmas tree."

Casey looked around the room. "Why not over there, by the bookshelves?"

"You must be channeling my grandma," Jack chuckled. "That's where she always wanted to put it."

"Where would you put it?" Sam asked, although she wasn't sure she really wanted to know. Sometimes her lover could be just downright strange.

"In the corner of the dining room."

"That would work as well," Casey nodded. "Either place is good."

"I suppose it will depend on how big the tree is," Jack allowed.

"Well, we could limit it in size. No taller than Teal'c, and no wider than his outstretched arms," Casey suggested.

The older man nodded. "Pretty good idea, Radar. Now I have a great idea."


"Let's have lunch!"

The five friends moved from the living room to the kitchen, searched the refrigerator and the pantry, and settled for deli meat sandwiches and soup. There were protests when Jack dumped three different types of soup into one large sauce pan after declaring that at least three cans would be needed for all of them, and there were only single cans of each flavor; but the final consensus was that that the result was actually good...although that agreement had been given grudgingly. After all, the team didn't want to encourage Jack's odd ideas any more than necessary.

By four in the afternoon, the group was sound asleep. Jack was once again sitting on one end of the sofa, Teal'c on the other, Sam between them, her head against Jack's shoulder, her feet back in the Jaffa's lap. Daniel and Casey had taken two quilts and were stretched out on the floor in front of the hearth.

It had been months since the team had been able to relax so completely. As always, they were aware that the moments of peace and rest would most likely be needed for the days and weeks ahead.

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