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Casey checked the lasagna, which was bubbling nicely. The salad was waiting in the refrigerator, as was her homemade salad dressing. The cake was baked and decorated. The table was set, and ready. She pulled the loaf of French bread from the pantry and slit it open; whipped butter with a bit of fresh mashed garlic, and spread the mixture on the bread. Thank goodness for two ovens, she thought with a smile, putting the bread under the broiler.
"Is he back yet?"
She looked up to see Sam, Cassie, and Janet walking through the open French doors in the dining room, all of them carrying gifts. "Not yet. If Jack brings him home late I'll kill him!"
Sam grinned. "Don't worry. All I said was lasagna and Casey, and he wanted to know if he could be here early!"
Teal'c chose that moment to walk into the dining room. "I did as Samantha Carter suggested and parked my vehicle in the next block. Do you believe that Daniel Jackson will notice it?"
"I doubt it, T, he won't be looking for it," Casey responded. She smiled when the last guest invited to the dinner part of Daniel's surprise party stepped into the house, a bottle of wine in one hand, a wrapped gift in the other. "General Hammond!"
"Hello, Casey. Something smells wonderful."
Sam and Janet immediately launched into a description of Daniel's favorite dish.
The front door opened and closed. Daniel walked into the Great Room, looked around. "Hey, what's going on?"
Casey walked over to where he stood, wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. "Happy birthday, Stud Muffin," she said softly.
Jack clapped him on the shoulder as he walked by. "You didn't honestly think I needed your help fixing that one little pipe, did you?"
Daniel rolled his eyes. "It's a good thing I was there or you'd have flooded your basement."
"That is so not true," Jack denied.
"It is so true!"
"Most definitely is so!"
"So not true!"
"Oh, lord," Casey grumbled, rolling her eyes. "Don't make me sit you two in corners. Again."
General Hammond's eyebrows went up. "Again?"
Sam burst into giggles. "They did this on the 4th. Casey'd had enough, so she tied their hands behind their backs, shoved them into chairs in two opposite corners of the bedroom, and left them there. She gagged them when the complaining got to be too much."
"They'd both had a few beers," Casey explained, grinning at her husband.
The general guffawed, shook his head when he noted the looks that the men tossed at the young blonde. "Perhaps we should talk, Casey. You might be able to give me some hints on how better to deal with these two."
"General I don't think that's necessary," Daniel objected.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Jack said at the same time.
Giggling, Casey took the bubbling lasagna from the oven and carried it to the table. Teal'c, Jack, and Daniel were already grabbing chairs to sit in. Sam had taken the garlic bread out of the lower oven, and Janet, knowing that the salad would be ready, took it from the refrigerator and carried it and the dressing to the table.
"Please, General, have a seat," Casey said. She opened the wine that the older man had brought, and filled each of the glasses. She'd already set a bottle of soda on the table for Cassie. "Daniel, leave it alone!"
"Hey, it's here!"
"And it needs to set for a few minutes. Eat your salad."
General Hammond chuckled. "Do they behave like this on missions?"
Everyone laughed at Teal'c's immediate and emphatic response. The general shook his head. "How do you ever get anything done?"
"It's a thing of beauty," Jack grinned. "Like a well oiled machine."
"We really do work well together," Sam admitted with a wide grin.
"When those two aren't doing their Beavis and Butthead impressions," Casey mumbled.
The general laughed. "Which one is which?"
"Usually depends on the day, the mission, and the circumstances," Casey replied. She giggled when Daniel eyed the casserole again. "Would you like to serve?" she asked quietly.
"Sure," he responded. Daniel carefully cut the lasagna, then began to dish up the rich, steaming, cheesy casserole, filling each plate as it was handed to him.
"Oh, Casey, this is wonderful," General Hammond said, after taking his first bite.
"Thank you, sir," she replied.
The meal was eaten with a side of lively conversation, the bottle of wine emptied and another opened. Candles were put into the cake, Casey carefully counting out thirty-two and placing them along the edges. It was the first time since his early childhood that Daniel'd had a cake with candles, something that he was sure Casey was aware of, and his heart swelled with love, and gratitude, that she'd go to the trouble she had. He closed his eyes and made his wish while his friends, his family, sang 'Happy Birthday' to him. A very simple wish.
Daniel opened his gifts, once again touched at that his friends would go to so much effort. Each gift was a reflection of the giver, making each one all the more special. Around nine p.m. Cassie announced that she needed to go home, so she and Janet said their goodbyes. Not more than five minutes later General Hammond's cell phone rang. It seemed that he and SG-1 were required on base.
When she suggested riding with Teal'c, he should have become suspicious he thought, watching as the Jaffa drove through the gate and past the main entrance into the mountain. When they stopped in front of the first of the warehouses, which was surrounded by cars, he knew that he'd been set up.
"What's all this?" he asked quietly.
"I have no idea," she replied, her eyes dancing. She pushed against him until he got out of the pickup. Her fingers wrapped around his, she tugged him into the building.
It had been decorated to resemble a beach. He looked at his Wife. He had told her that he'd always wanted to go to a beach party, but never had. Even though he'd lived in California, had attended UCLA, he'd never been to one. Had been to the beach, most certainly. But never to a beach party. He'd been sixteen at the time, and definitely too young, and too much the geek to be invited to any of the parties that his classmates attended.
"Happy birthday, Daniel," Casey said softly.
"You did all of this…for me?"
"I fixed dinner. I just suggested that we should have a party for you. Sergeant Siler asked what kind of party. I said a beach party. Your friends in the SGC came up with this," she replied.
He was stunned, was barely able to respond when people, both SG team members and support staff, began to greet him and call out birthday wishes to him. He'd had no idea that the people he worked with every day, fought beside, would do something like this.
Jack shoved a bottle of beer in his hand, threw his arm around the young man's shoulders, and grinned. "Surprised?"
"Uh, yeah," Daniel replied.
Jacob Carter/Selmak, Freya/Anise, and Sarah Gardner, now the host to a Tok'ra by the name of Karinda, approached him slowly. "Happy birthday, Daniel," Jacob said.
"Thanks, Jacob," Daniel said. The smile he gave the man was genuine and full of warmth.
"I'd like to apologize for what happened to you, Doctor Jackson," Selmak said.
Daniel shook his head. "General Hammond told me that Yu and Bastet formed an alliance as soon as they found out that Osiris had taken me."
"Yes, one that includes Olokun as well. It seems that Osiris double-crossed him not too long ago. Sarah and Karinda are pretending to be Osiris, and are still working for Anubis," Selmak said.
He turned his attention to her, noticed that even though she held back slightly, standing behind Jacob and Freya, there was hope in her eyes. "Hello, Sarah."
Casey was standing beside him. He put his arm around her shoulders. Could feel her trembling slightly. "Casey, I'd like for you to meet Sarah. She and I worked together in Chicago. We were…close…for awhile. Her symbiote is Karinda."
"How do you do?" Casey asked, her fingers shaking slightly as she shook hands with the woman who had once loved him. Still loved him. The woman that he'd cared for. Had loved, even if he hadn't been in love with her.
"I do well now, thank you," Sarah replied softly. "May I call you Casey?"
She glanced at Daniel. His eyes were guarded. He didn't know what to expect. She could play the part of the clingy, bitchy wife, or she could try to be an adult. "Of course," she said.
"I just wanted you to know, when…Osiris…had Daniel on Troebona, at night he only gave Daniel a light sedative. He didn't want too much of the mind-molding drug in him. Every night Daniel called out your name, reached for you." Her gray eyes flickered toward Daniel, then returned to the slender blonde woman in front of her. "Even when he was drugged, deep in his heart, he loved you."
Tears filled her eyes. "Thank you," she said softly.
Another glance at Daniel. "When he awoke on Ravanna, the drug finally out of his system, his first request was to see you." Sarah took a deep breath. "I just wanted to let you know. I thought it might…help."
"It does, thank you," Casey said softly. She glanced at Daniel as well. Could see the worry that he tried to hide. It was time to let go of the petty hurts, the fears…time to grow up. She linked her arm though Sarah's. "So you knew him in Chicago?"
Eyes wide, Sarah nodded, walked along with the young blonde. "Yes. I was so thrilled to meet him. I'd read everything he'd ever written."
"I'm still working on that." She looked at Daniel, then leaned closer to Sarah, whispered conspiratorially. "You're an archaeologist, aren't you?"
"Yes. Karinda is also."
"Okay, tell me…are all archaeologists so long winded?"
For several seconds Sarah could only stare into dancing green eyes. Karinda was already laughing. She began to giggle. "I do think that Daniel tends to ramble on a bit," she admitted.
"Oh, hey, that's not fair! I do not ramble on!" Daniel argued.
Casey turned to face him. "Yes, you do. Ask Jack. Or Teal'c. Come on, I want to know all of the things he did in Chicago."
Now Sarah's eyes were dancing with laughter. "You mean all of the silly, ridiculous, totally stupid things?"
"Every last detail."
Daniel looked at Jacob. "I'll get you for this!"
Jacob roared with laughter. "Don't blame me! You're the one who was hell bent on saving her."
He stopped, looked at the man. Realized that Osiris had known that he'd do whatever he could to try and save Sarah, and had taken advantage of that fact. "Yeah, I guess I was," he admitted softly. He watched his Wife and former girlfriend talking and laughing together. "Is she all right?"
"She still suffers nightmares. Karinda has been a big help to her. They talk…a lot. Karinda has told me that Sarah has opened herself completely to her. Which is fairly unusual, at least so soon after the blending. She's sure it's so that Sarah doesn't have to explain things. She can just…feel…and draw comfort from her symbiote," Jacob replied. "When we leave here tonight, Sarah and Karinda will be going out as Osiris again. I doubt that you'll see her again. At least, not for some time."
Daniel nodded. Then he should make his peace with her as well, he thought. "Excuse me."
"He actually said that?" Casey was asking.
"Word for word exactly," Sarah confirmed.
Casey sighed. "That is so sweet."
"You can't tell me he hasn't said things like that to you," the Tok'ra host said softly.
"He has the heart and soul of a poet," she sighed. "He's said some of the most beautiful things I've ever heard."
Daniel hung back, just listening for a moment. Realized that he wasn't going to have to defend his honor.
"He loves you deeply. I always knew that when he fell in love, it would be a forever thing for him," Sarah said. "I'd hoped that I'd be the one to win his heart…" she shook her head. "I met Amaunet," she said.
He felt his breath catch in his throat. Leaned closer to hear what she'd say about his late wife's captor.
"Amaunet laughed at Sha're; called her a simple country bumpkin, loosely translated. I suppose in a way she was. But something that she told me…well, told Osiris...surprised me. She said that Sha're loved Daniel deeply. But knew that even though he loved her, he wasn't in love with her. Sha're hadn't known the difference until she understood that Apophis loved Amaunet, but was also in love with her."
I'm so sorry, Sha're, Daniel thought. I did love you very much. The memory of his late wife's visit soothed his guilty conscience.
Casey frowned, unaware that her husband was nearby. "I never thought about Goa'uld being able to love like that. I suppose it's true, we know that the Tok'ra love deeply. Sam has proof of that."
"Jolinar/Rosha and Lantesh/Martouf," Sarah said, nodding.
"Four…entities. Two bodies. That had to be…weird. I mean…how could Rosha and Martouf make love, knowing that Jolinar and Lantesh were right there, experiencing everything?" Casey unknowingly shuddered.
Sarah smiled softly. "Believe it or not, the host does have…privacy."
"Okay, I'll bite…how?"
The tall woman shook her strawberry blonde locks. "I'm not sure that I can explain it. When I want to be…alone, Karinda…withdraws…into herself I guess. I have no doubt that I'm alone with my thoughts, yet, I can sense her presence. It is…weird."
Casey stopped walking, turned to face the woman. "Are you all right?"
Sarah smiled. "Yes, I'm fine. For the first few hours after Osiris was taken out of me, and killed, all I could do was cry. I was finally free of that monster, I hadn't thought it would ever happen. Then…it was so quiet…I was so…alone. I didn't know how to be…alone, any longer. I mean, I always had to hide from Osiris. He'd torture me…" she closed her eyes. "What he did to Daniel on that ship wasn't done to humiliate him, it was to torture me."
Daniel blanched. He hadn't stopped to think that Sarah was…experiencing…everything that Osiris was.
"Osiris…" Sarah looked down at the ground. "If Daniel hadn't taken me from the infirmary when he had, Osiris would have taken him as host. He wanted to be in a male body again. That damned Goa'uld was so pleased with himself when Daniel took us into the SGC, that he was too busy gloating to notice that I was…moving around. In three years I had learned a lot. I knew that if I could keep Osiris busy while Daniel took us…me…to the Tok'ra, then there really was a chance that I could be saved."
"Then it really was you crying out for Daniel in the infirmary," Casey said.
"Yes. I knew that the drug was still working. I…I took advantage of that," Sarah admitted.
"Under the circumstances, you were doing the only thing you could do. You were trying to survive," Casey replied.
"I saw him shove you, saw the pain in your eyes. I'm so sorry."
"It's over now. Daniel and I are just fine," Casey assured the woman.
"Thank you for allowing me to come tonight. I wanted a chance to speak to you…to…explain."
"Thank you for coming. Talking to you has helped," Casey admitted.
"Yes, it has," Sarah smiled. "We must take our leave now."
"Please, tell Karinda to take good care of you."
Sarah's eyes closed, then opened, flashed briefly. "I promise to protect her," the Tok'ra said softly. "Speaking to you, receiving your forgiveness, will go far in helping to heal the scars that mar her heart and soul."
"She helped to heal a few of mine," Casey said.
Karinda nodded. She looked over Casey's shoulder. She'd been aware that Dr. Jackson had been following the two women, listening to their conversation. She'd prevented Sarah from realizing that fact. "Doctor Jackson, Sarah wishes to become your friend. She understands that this will take…time."
Casey turned, found Daniel standing behind her. She reached out and took his hand, her eyes telling him that she wasn't upset that he'd been eavesdropping.
"In time, perhaps we can be friends...again," he said. When he was certain that his friendship with Sarah wouldn't hurt Casey, then he could consider renewing the platonic relationship he'd had with her, before she'd seduced him the first time. But only when he was certain that his Wife wouldn't be threatened or frightened in any way.
Another nod, and Karinda excused herself to find Selmak and Anise. The Tok'ra had to leave immediately so that Sarah and her new symbiote could resume the role of Osiris.
"Are you okay?" she asked softly.
"Yeah, I think so," he replied.
"We don't have to stay. Everyone will understand if you want to leave."
He smiled. "Leave the first beach party I've ever been to? I don't think so!" He put his arm around her shoulders, led her toward the sand-covered floor. "Wanna dance?"
"I'd love to dance!"
Second sighed happily. "All is as it should be."
First smiled. "Yes. Saving his former lover from the Goa'uld has done much to heal the hurt that he carries in his heart. His Beloved will continue to be a balm for his soul."
"I have never seen him so happy," Third said quietly, watching The One carefully.
"Nor have I. Not since he was but a child have I seen his eyes shine with such pleasure," First said. "Come. There are other tasks that require our attention. They will be leaving on another mission soon enough."
"They will face danger?" Second asked worriedly.
First smiled. "As he often says, that is their job."
"And ours is to protect him," Third said firmly.
"Yes. Come. We must be ready," First said. She led the way.
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