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Twenty-Four

Chapter 13

Day Twenty-three

"What I'm saying, Doctor Jackson," the senator from New York said, "is that I don't understand why you failed to negotiate for satellites that were already functional."

Daniel counted to twenty…in Sumerian…before answering. The senator had been harping on this subject for fifteen minutes now. "Senator, have you ever been a part of a negotiating team?"

"I fail to see what that has to do-"

"Have you?" the archaeologist pressed.

"No, I have not," the dark haired man admitted. He adjusted his tie, tugged at the sleeves of his shirt. He alone was still wearing his suit coat.

"Then I can assume you've never negotiated with alien societies, either?"

"Doctor Jackson, my skills and experiences have nothing to do with this!"

"Your experience, or lack thereof, in negotiating has everything to do with this," the young man said, the exasperation in his voice mirrored in his eyes. "If you'd ever negotiated, you'd understand that to get what you want, you often have to compromise. And you have to adjust what you want to match what the other party is willing to give you!"

"Doctor Jackson managed to get more than we'd hoped for in these negotiations," General Hammond pointed out. "And we do have the blueprints for the satellites."

"Which could take years to construct!" the senator sneered.

"Better than not having them at all," Jack replied.

"I still believe that we'd have benefited from having a skilled negotiator working with these people, rather than an…archaeologist," the senator spat.

"Daniel Jackson is a very skilled negotiator. He has obtained treaties for this world from many other civilizations," Teal'c said calmly. "He has also negotiated for our safety on numerous occasions."

The senator glared at the Jaffa. He'd protested that the briefing was classified; his opinion of the tall, dark-skinned man blatantly obvious to everyone attending the meeting. He'd bristled when Admiral Sheraton had pointed out that Teal'c held a higher security clearance than the politician did.

General Hammond noticed that Daniel had checked his watch yet again. With the exception of an hour break for lunch, they'd been in this room all day. The young man wasn't going to be able to take much more. If the Senator continued to press, Daniel was certain to blow. After eight hours, he was ready to blow! "Gentlemen, I believe we've covered everything that needs to be covered concerning this treaty. Doctor Jackson and the members of SG-9 were off world for three days. They've earned some rest."

"In the future, General Hammond," the senator said, "I suggest that you seek experienced negotiators for these matters."

Uh oh, Jack thought, glancing at his CO's face. The two Joint Chiefs looked at the politician as if he'd lost his mind.

Everyone in the room could see the anger flare in the General Hammond's blue eyes. "In the future, Senator Maxwelton," he said his voice icy, "I suggest that you remember that it's because of Doctor Jackson that we have the Stargate Program. I suggest that you remember that it was Doctor Jackson's discovery of the Abydonian Cartouche that has allowed us access to the galaxy! I suggest that you remember that it was the information that Doctor Jackson obtained that prevented Apophis from destroying this planet five years ago. I suggest that you remember that Doctor Jackson has been instrumental in protecting Earth no less than a dozen times. I suggest that you remember that Doctor Jackson is the most experienced negotiator we have at the SGC. And I suggest that you remember that of the thirty-five treaties with we have with other worlds, he negotiated for thirty of them!"

Daniel ducked his head, his heart pounding with surprise, and gratitude, his cheeks slightly pink.

Senator Maxwelton stared at the military man who sat at the head of the table. "Must I remind you to whom you are speaking?"

"No, sir, that won't be necessary. I recognize a jackass when I see one!" Gen. Hammond exploded.

Admiral Sheraton tried desperately not to laugh. "George, that's enough." He looked over at the stunned politician. "I'd like to remind you, sir, that you're here only as a courtesy. As you are a civilian, the president would be within his rights to deny you access to this area, and a good deal of the information that comes through here."

"I am Chairman of the Oversight Committee!"

"Yes, you are. But SGC is considered a military 'black op', and under Article 97 of the Code of Operations for the SGC, 'any civilian deemed a risk, no matter the political standing at the time, can and will be refused access to any, all, or any part of information deemed to be of a sensitive matter'. I believe that includes the Chairman of the Oversight Committee."

Jack bit back his grin. Had to love a sailor who hated politicians!

"I will most certainly be speaking to the president about this!" Maxwelton stormed.

"So will I, sir," the admiral replied calmly. "During our golf game tomorrow. General Hammond, I agree with your previous assessment. We have all of the information pertinent to this treaty. Doctor Jackson, you did a commendable job. I suggest we adjourn this meeting. I'd like to get back to D.C. in time for breakfast with my grandchildren." He stood, offered his hand to Daniel. "You did a good job, son. We're proud of you. Your country, your planet, owe you a debt of gratitude."

Daniel rose, took the offered hand. "Thank you, sir."

"Dismissed, people," General Hammond said, grinning broadly.

The admiral put his hand on Senator Maxwelton's shoulder. "Chuck, I'd suggest that you don't take it into your head to jump on Kinsey's bandwagon."

The senator shook his head. "I disagree with Kinsey. I believe this program is the single most important thing that the US is doing right now. I will continue to fight to keep that Stargate open. I just think that we need more experienced-"

"They don't come any more experienced than this group," the admiral said quietly. "You've read the reports. You know what these people have lived through, what they've accomplished. Yes, it would have been damned nice to have satellites that were already functional. It's damned hard to get any sort of military advances at all from societies more advanced than our own. What Doctor Jackson accomplished was nothing short of phenomenal."

"I will still make my recommendations to the president," Maxwelton sniffed. He had friends...good friends...who would make excellent diplomats. Friends who made substantial contributions to his campaigns.  He'd like to see those contributions continue. They were scratching his back. And were starting to complain about having their own scratched.

"So will I, Chuck. So will I."

Daniel shook his head. When the hell would the politicians get it into their heads that what was going on out there was nothing short of an all out war for survival? Any advance they could lay their hands on was a good thing, even if it didn't come pre-assembled! He looked at his watch. Just after five. His duffel was already in the jeep. He'd grab a burger on the way out of town… He knocked on the door to General Hammond's office.

"Come in," the general said.

He opened the door and poked his head into the room. He nodded at the Lieutenant General who stood talking to General Hammond. "Just wanted to let you know that I'm on my way, sir," he said.

"I understand, Doctor Jackson," the general said, giving him a nod. "Get some rest, son. You've earned it."

Daniel grinned. "Yes, sir. Might take a couple of days."

"That's fine, doctor."

With another nod, he backed out of the room and closed the door. And turned straight into Jack.

"Leaving?"

"Yep."

The gray haired man nodded. "Drive carefully. Stop when you get tired."

"Yes, dad," Daniel teased.

"Go on, get out of here, before something else happens!" Jack slapped the younger man on the back. "And get some sleep!" he called, as Daniel practically ran down the corridor.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

She opened her eyes, rubbed the heels of her hands over them. She'd started taking naps in the afternoon when the heat was too oppressive to do anything else. Now she understood why the Mexicans took siestas! What else was there to do when the temperatures were so high that simply moving took effort? She glanced at the clock. Five-thirty. She got up, made her way into the bathroom to shower.

The cool water felt wonderful as it flowed over her skin. She closed her eyes, began washing her hair. Soon, she thought. Daniel would be here soon. She could feel it. Her heart raced at the thought of being in his arms again. She glanced at the bottle of Nair, the tube of bikini-area hair removal cream. Decided that Tank wouldn't care if she was a little late tonight. She wanted to have her 'maintenance' done before Daniel arrived. It would mean another shower…she turned off the water, wrapped her hair in a towel and grabbed the bottle and the tube.

She slathered extra lotion on her skin after her second shower; the desert air required it. Dressed in jeans and a tank top, she stuffed the room key into her pocket, locked the door behind her, and walked down the street to the bar. She stopped, cocked her head to one side. Tonight was the last night. She smiled. She'd let Tank know before she left.

"Hey, I was beginning to think you weren't coming in tonight," Tank said in way of a greeting when she walked in.

"Just decided to take care of a few things," she replied. She greeted the regulars who called out to her. When she was close enough, she shyly reached out and touched Tank's arm. "I don't think I'll be working after tonight," she said softly.

He nodded his understanding. "He'll be here soon, huh?"

She nodded her head. "Tomorrow, I think," she replied.

"As long as you're happy, Case," Tank said quietly.

"I am. I love him."

"Yeah, I know."

"Hey, Case, we need a fourth over here!" Pete called, pointing at the pool table with his stick.

She shook her head and grinned. Tank had told her that keeping the customer satisfied was job one. She grabbed a pool cue. "Okay, rack 'em." She glanced around. "Where's Tilly?"

"On a date," Pete replied. Cigarette dangling from his mouth, he took the break. He motioned toward the two men who were playing against them. "These fellas are from Shiprock," he said.

Casey glanced at them, nodded briefly in acknowledgment.

The two men were looking the beautiful blonde over thoroughly. "Nice to meet you, Case," the tall one with the beard said.

"It's Casey," she said softly, but firmly.

"I’m Dwayne, this is my buddy Rob."

She nodded again.

"So," Pete said. "We gonna make this interesting?"

Dwayne looked at the man. "Feel like losing some money, huh?"

"Don't be so sure that I'm gonna be the one losing," Pete replied. He put a twenty-dollar bill on the table. Dwayne and Rob followed suit. Tank tossed a twenty on the pile for Casey, winked at her as he settled back on a stool behind the bar.

"Sharon, hold the money," Pete instructed.

The buxom blonde picked up the four twenties and stuffed them down inside her bra. "Got it."

Pete had failed to drop any balls on the break. The two men from Shiprock called for stripes, and Dwayne shot first. He sank two balls before missing.

Casey studied the table. Sank the four, five, and two before missing the one. She also missed the look of appreciation that passed between Dwayne and Rob.

Rob scratched on his shot. Probably because Casey was standing across from him. It wasn't intentional on her part, it was just where she happened to be. His attention had been on the apex of those slender, denim covered thighs, and not on the pool table.

Pete took his shot, managed to sink the seven before scratching. His problem was the number of beers he'd had.

Dwayne cleared all but one of the striped balls from the table.

She took a deep breath, tossed her hair over her shoulder, and ended the game. The regulars clapped and whistled their approval. Sharon handed two of the twenty-dollar bills to her. "Thanks," she said softly.

Sharon winked. "You won it, sugar. I was just holdin' it."

Casey made her way back behind the bar, turned to find that Dwayne had followed her. "What can I get for you?" she asked.

"Your number," he replied, flopping onto a barstool.

She shook her head. "Sorry. It's unlisted. Private. Not available."

Tank grinned. She was good at handling unwanted attention. She probably had years of experience, he thought.

"Come on, you just took me for twenty bucks. The least you can do is be nice."

She shivered when she looked at the man. Could see the lust in the his eyes. Had seen that look many times before. Usually she was in the company of her friends when she saw it. Could simply get up and walk out the door and return to the safety of her home. That option wasn't available to her here, and now. She glanced over at Tank.

He could see the fear in her eyes. He walked over to stand just in front of her. "Doctor Jackson wouldn't be any too happy to know that you've been hitting on his wife," Tank said, his voice low.

It was all she could do to keep from staring at the man standing in front of her.

Dwayne studied Tank for a few seconds. "Just trying to be friendly. Don't see no ring on her finger."

"Because she had to take it in to be fixed," Mary said, settling at the bar. "Good thing you noticed that diamond was loose before it fell out and you lost it," she said.

"Yeah, good thing," Casey murmured.

Rob put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Let's head on home, Dwayne. I'm beat. And broke."

With a glance a Casey, the man nodded, stood to his feet. He glanced around the room. Knew without being told that if he bothered the woman, he wouldn't be facing just her husband. The door slammed behind the two. Pete and Carl followed, making sure that the car headed all the way out of town before coming back inside.

She wasn't sure when it had happened, hadn't actually been aware that it had happened. But at some point in the past few days the people in this room had become friends. Good friends. "Thanks," Casey said softly. "All of you."

"No thanks necessary, Casey," Tank replied, his own voice soft.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

Daniel had taken the time to stop in his office and check online for the mileage from Silver Springs to Los Noche. Seven hours, fifteen minutes. He looked at his watch. It was five forty-five. With luck, and only one stop for gas, he'd be there by one.

He stopped at McDonald's and grabbed a burger, ate it as he drove. His heart was pounding. He was on his way to get her! In just a few hours she'd be in his arms again. He'd take her home. They'd finish painting the house…together. Move in, get settled…together. Live in a home of their own…together.

It was a battle to keep from speeding…okay, speeding excessively…as he followed the lonely highway across New Mexico. Each mile he traveled brought him closer to her. He began to think about the letter he'd written to her. Mr. Kottler had sent him a bill for the delivery of that letter. Two hundred dollars was probably a hundred more than it had actually cost, but at least he knew that it had been put in her hand by the courier. Had his words soothed her pain enough that she'd listen to him? Did she understand that he'd never, ever hurt her intentionally? That he loved her more than life itself?

His mind began to work through what he wanted to say to her, the first words he wanted her to hear. Searched for the phrases that would let her know how damned sorry he was that he'd hurt her, that her pain hurt him as deeply as it did her. He wanted to promise that he'd never hurt her again, but knew that he'd only be setting himself up for failure if he did so.

The sun had set, night settled across the desert. He felt as if he were alone in the world, alone in the universe as he sped along, his headlights piercing the darkness, leading him to her, and the comfort of her soft arms.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

Tank insisted on driving her to the motel, even if it was only two blocks away. He didn't trust those jerks from Shiprock to not be around somewhere. "I'll see you later," he said as she crawled out of the cab.

"I don't know what time," she replied.

"Doesn't matter. I'm always around."

She smiled. "Thanks, Tank."

"You're welcome, Casey." He waited until she was safe in her room before leaving. He drove around behind Jimmy's place, parked the truck and got out. He walked around the block, his baseball bat in his hand. There was a bench beside the front door of Ruby's place. He settled there. He'd stay until he was certain that she was safe.

 

"He will arrive soon," Second said, excitement in her voice.

Third chuckled. "I believe you are as anxious as he is."

"I am only observing," Second replied, a tad defensively.

First smiled. "We are all relieved that this…situation…is coming to a satisfactory end."

"I am glad that her new friends stood up for her. They prevented that man from returning," Second said, her voice serious.

"Yes, it was most fortuitous," First agreed. "Especially since we would have been unable to come to her aid."

"Have those who caused this…problem…been dealt with?" Third asked.

First shook her head. "No. It will be some time before those guilty of interfering can be brought to justice. The One will deal with them, when the time comes," she replied. She settled more comfortably to watch. Until The One and his Beloved were once again in one another's arms, they would not be leaving.


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