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What the Eye Beholds, the Heart Denies
It had been several hours since the Stargate had been locked down. When the klaxons began to wail, the red emergency lights flashing their warning that the 'gate had been activated, it was instinctive reaction for the members of SG-1 to race toward the control room. Jack ran into the room, just behind Casey and Teal'c. Sam darted in from the other side.
"Bring him home, Doctor," General Hammond was saying.
"Yes, sir. On our way," Janet's voice replied.
"Sir?" Jack said, raising his eyebrow inquiringly.
"Follow me," Hammond said. Trying to hide his excitement. Made a mental note to get a copy of the surveillance tapes of the next few minutes. It was certain to be memorable.
Matching frowns on their faces, exchanging glances of confusion and not a little worry, the members of SG-1 followed their CO into the 'gate room. Casey fought down a wave of trepidation. Who had been hurt...because of her? How badly? What had she failed to see this time? She wrapped her arms around her waist. Wondered how anyone could ever trust her again.
Janet walked down the ramp, her smile so wide that it seemed to split her face. Behind her, a bit shaggier than he had been when they had last seen him, his beard evidence of the time spent away from them, was Daniel; his smile not quite as wide, but it held every bit as much joy. His eyes revealed just a hint of uncertainty, as if he wasn't quite sure what sort of welcome to expect.
Every eye in the room swung to Casey...although in that moment her vision had narrowed; she saw only one person. She stood staring, dubious about whether or not she could believe what she was seeing. She felt rooted to the floor...afraid to move, afraid to breathe, terrified that she was dreaming again, and the slightest twitch would destroy it.
Daniel stopped in front of her, his eyes devouring her, taking in everything...her hair, her eyes, the shocked expression on her face, the fact that her cheeks were pale, and bespoke the weight she had lost...again, the slight trembling of her full lips. "Hi, Angel," he said softly.
Slowly, as if terrified that he would disappear in a puff of smoke, Casey reached up, stroked his bearded cheeks with her fingers. "You're real?" she asked her voice barely above a whisper.
"I'm real," he promised, just as softly.
Her eyes moved over his face, locked then with his. She could see everything there...his love, his joy, his amusement, his weariness. These were the eyes that held her world. These were the eyes that sent messages of love that spoke to her very soul. "Oh, Daniel," she sighed. Still moving a bit hesitantly, as if not completely convinced of his presence, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Pressed her face against the side of his neck. "Daniel," she whispered.
Oh, god, she feels so good! She smelled sweet and intoxicating and she was soft and warm...his arms crushed her against his body, held her as tightly as he could. His lips sought hers; drank thirstily, greedily. Sweet...she tasted so sweet!
It had been so long...twenty-two days since they'd walked through the 'gate to carry out the mission for the Tok'ra. His lips moved insistently against hers, she gave everything he asked for, demanded from her, her need as great as his; her hunger for him just as deep as his was for her.
Sweet Jesus! If the emotions he could feel her telegraphing through each pass of her tongue against his own was any indication, she had missed him every bit as much as he had missed her. He knew that he had to be debriefed. Standard operating procedure, as Janet had reminded him when he groused about the fact that it would be at least an hour before he could be alone with his Wife. To re-addict himself to that sweet, sweet honey, he thought anxiously. He just wanted to go home, and make love to her until he couldn't move. He was already aching for her. To kiss her more, especially with the way she was kissing him in return, was only going to exacerbate the problem. If he didn't pull back now, he was going to embarrass himself with the mother of all hard-ons, one that his BDU wouldn't be able to hide. He moved his lips slowly from her lips to her cheek, over her jaw.
No one observing the teammates was certain who moved first. Sam was suddenly on one side of Daniel, hugging both of her friends, Jack on the other, doing the same, Teal'c behind Casey, his arms around the shoulders of Jack and Sam, his head lowered, and near Daniel's. SG-1 was together once again.
Several minutes passed in absolute silence as the Marines on guard watched the team, several of the men swearing that they could actually see the bonds that connected the team glowing around them.
"Uh...could use a little oxygen here," a soft voice muttered.
Daniel smiled. Pushed his face against her hair. "Just a second, Angel, let me hold you for just a few more seconds."
Casey's heart was singing his name, she tightened her arms around him, felt his like steel bands around her. And not one of her teammates had budged an inch, either.
"Daniel, where have you been?" Sam asked finally, stepping back and wiping tears from her cheeks.
"I have no clue. Nice enough place, I suppose. I even managed to do a bit of fishing."
Jack pulled away. "Fishing? You? Oh, this I gotta hear!"
General Hammond stepped forward, offered his hand. "It's good to have you home, son."
Holding Casey against his side with one arm, Daniel accepted the handshake. "It's good to be home, sir."
"Sir, should the teams be recalled?" Jack asked, a glint in his eyes. This would be the best message ever sent out. Well, after he had his fun, that was. After all he'd been through...after all his kids had been through, he deserved this!
"Yes, Colonel, they should."
"I'd be glad to see to that, sir," Jack offered.
Hammond looked at the colonel. Knew that Jack was up to something. Figured that under the circumstances, he could overlook the almost insubordinate manner that the man was displaying; a cheeky grin on his face, his hands in the pockets of his pants. And for the time being, he could ignore whatever the colonel might have up his sleeve. He gave a nod of approval. "Doctor Jackson, shall we debrief?"
"I'd like the team to be there, sir, they can fill in the missing parts for me," Daniel said.
The group moved toward the door, Sam on one side of Daniel, Casey on the other, his arms around both women. Teal'c walked behind them, a suspicious glimmer in his dark eyes. Jack hurried to the control room as the team settled around the conference table.
"Walter, which team is due to report in first?"
"That would be Major Ferretti's team, sir," Walter replied, checking the log sheet.
"Dial 'em up." Jack grinned as he formulated his message.
The connection was made, the call sent out. They waited a few seconds for the reply. "This is Ferretti, what's up, General?"
"This is O'Neill, Lou. Pack it in. Back in the SGC ASAP."
"The search has been called off. Permanently."
"What? Why? Are you nuts? Unless somebody has found Doc, and nobody has sent word..." Ferretti's voice faded.
Jack chuckled quietly, made certain that the man on another planet wouldn't hear him. "Just get here, Major."
"Did someone find him?"
"O'Neill, are you out of your mind? We can't leave him out here!"
"Major, you and your team will report to me ASAP, and that's an order."
"Yes, sir." Anger dripped from the two words.
The same message was delivered to each of the teams still searching. With the same response each time. Hands in his pockets, whistling, Jack nodded at Walter, who sat grinning ear to ear, then joined his team in the briefing room.
A A A A A A
Daniel calmly told them about his time on the planet where he had awakened...reanimated to be precise. How the front of the escape pod was open just enough to allow plenty of fresh air into the confines of the interior...just enough space to get his fingers around the edge and slide it open. He told them of his theories concerning his location, and the 'placement' of the escape pod...his journey down the side of the mountain, his bitter disappointment at finding nothing in the valley. His days spent suffering withdrawal. The old man and the young, apprentice shaman who had saved his life. How the death of Maelu had led to the discovery of the stones, and ultimately the buried temple, and the Stargate. The entire time he spoke, he leaned against Casey, and she against him, their fingers tightly entwined. He was answering Jack's questions about the fish when the klaxons began to wail.
A few minutes later Lou Ferretti stormed into the room. "Sir! General, we can't-" He came to an abrupt halt when he saw Daniel sitting beside his wife. His eyes narrowed when he looked accusingly at Jack. "You said no one found him!"
"No one did," Jack replied, grinning from ear to ear. "The Space Monkey waltzed into the Alpha site about what...four, four and a half hours ago? Doc Fraiser made certain that he's our Daniel, then led him home."
Ferretti shook his head. "Glad to have you home, Doc," he said quietly.
"Good to be home, Ferretti."
"SG-1, you'll have the next forty-eight hours down. You'll assume your regular roster duties after that," General Hammond said, allowing himself to chuckle.
"Thank you, sir," Daniel said. Forty-eight hours. He wasn't getting out of bed. He wasn't letting Casey out of bed, either.
It seemed that the word had spread, and everyone in the mountain was converging on the conference room to welcome the archaeologist back into the bosom of the SGC family. Cam Balinsky and Jonas Quinn were enthusiastic about his return, teasing him about the work that had piled up during his absence. That Daniel and Casey managed to slip out thirty minutes later was studiously ignored. Nor did anyone notice when Jack disappeared from the impromptu festivities.
Except for Sam. When she didn't see him, she checked the control room...he wasn't there. Nor was he in the 'gate room. He wasn't in the officer's lounge. Or the commissary. Or the gym. She even checked the Memorial Room. Daniel's photo had already been taken down...in its place a hand drawn poster that declared, in bright red magic marker:
She ran back to the elevator. Up to level eighteen. Daniel's office and lab were empty. Back down to level nineteen. Her office was empty as well. Worried, she called the level eleven checkpoint. He was still signed in.
Hands on her hips, worry in her eyes, she tried to think of anywhere else that he might be. Where would Jack O'Neill go if he wanted to hide from everyone? Where was the last place anyone would look for him? She smiled. His office, of course. Once again she ran down the corridor, heading for the elevator.
The door was closed. The lights were off. She opened the door slowly.
"Get the hell out," his voice growled.
Sam automatically started to back away. Until her eyes caught sight of him, the light from the corridor behind her shimmering on the silver in his hair. Sitting on the floor in the corner, his legs drawn up, his face pressed against his knees. She stepped inside, closed the door.
"That wasn't a request."
"I just thought you might want to talk," she said softly.
She walked over, tried to sit down beside him. He jumped to his feet, nearly shoving her away in his haste to get to the other side of the room. She couldn't miss the tears that glistened on his cheeks. "Jack-" she started softly. Her heart was aching...for him, for her, for what they had shared, for what seemed lost to them now.
"Leave, Carter. I don't want anyone here right now," Jack said, his voice strained...hard...cold.
Casey hadn't said much...only enough to let her know that Jack had...grieved...with the young seer. Equal measures of anger and hurt raced through her. "You can cry in front of Casey, and with Casey, but not with me? And I'm supposed to be the woman you love? Is it just me...am I not as good as she is, not as understanding as she is? Or is something else going on?" Sam demanded angrily. She watched Jack, waiting for him to say something...anything. He'd spent every moment with Casey for those first horrible days...leaving her to deal with her grief on her own, or with Teal'c. He still spent most of his time with Casey. He never left her side, it seemed.
Never left Casey's side...the words bounced around in her head, echoed louder with each passing moment....Jack had been the only person who'd never left Casey's side. When the young blonde had been so dangerously close to losing her grip on reality, Jack had been there. When she had slowly, step by step, made her way back to them, Jack had been there. When she had struggled to move forward, Jack had been there.
Other memories rushed forward. Jack never leaving Daniel's side when he had been injured. Staying with the archaeologist as his broken leg healed, driving the younger man to distraction when Jack had insisted on staying at his apartment, in order to make certain that Daniel wasn't doing anything that could aggravate his injury. Pacing worriedly in the corridor when Teal'c had been infected by that giant bug, spending as much time at the Jaffa's bedside as he could...sneaking in to do so twice. The nights she had awakened in the infirmary, Jack dozing in a chair beside her bed, closer than protocol should allow. Believing her about Orin when everyone else thought she was crazy...
In that moment she finally understood, finally could 'hear' what her heart had been trying to tell her all along. Jack hadn't left Casey's side, not because of some secret yearning for the young seer. Not just because he felt guilty about Daniel's death...supposed death, she corrected herself. But because Casey was SG-1. In a rush, everything that had happened shifted as she viewed the situation from the true perspective. If anyone should apologize, she should. For not being there as well...for allowing her hurt feelings to blind her to the fact that her teammates needed her...not just Casey, but Jack as well. They hadn't closed her out...she hadn't reached out to them.
"It wasn't like that. It was never like that," he replied testily.
"I know," she said softly. Another epiphany had her moving closer to him. Her determination, her love, spoke for her. "You pushed Sara away after Charlie's death. You're pushing me away, and there's not even a reason for it. Not now. Push all you want, Jack O'Neill. I'm not going anywhere."
Had he been pushing her away? It hadn't been intentional...had it? Her words echoed in his head. He'd heard almost the exact same thing from Daniel, during one of his 'bad days'. Which was probably when the two men had gone from being 'friends' to being 'best friends'. To hear the same thing from the woman he loved...every aching part of his heart, of his soul, stopped throbbing with pain. When he reached blindly for her, she was there...warm and soft and she held him tightly, never said a word as silent sobs shook him. "So damned close," he managed to whisper. "This time it was so damned close!"
"I know," she whispered in reply. "But he's home, safe and sound. That SG-1 magic. Both of them are going to be just fine."
He held her tightly. She'd used that spicy shampoo that he loved. "I hurt you."
"I was feeling sorry for myself. I wasn't there for you and Casey when the two of you needed me, and I'm sorry for that. I promise I'll do better in the future."
"Sam..." He shook his head. He had screwed up, and she was apologizing? He'd be trying to make this up to her for a very long time. "I've missed you so damned much!"
"I've missed you, too."
He nuzzled her cheek. Found her lips with his own. His hands moved over her shoulders, pulled her closer, slid down and cupped her ass as he pressed against her. "We should go to your place."
"Yes, we should," she replied.
One pair of dark eyes were the only witness to the exit made by the colonel and the major. Watched approvingly as they walked to the elevator arm in arm. He would meditate, and thank the true gods for the miracle return of his best friend, and for putting his family back together again, as they were meant to be.
A A A A A A
He smiled. Her fingers moved over his jaw again and again. Which was making it a bit difficult to concentrate on his driving. "I'll shave as soon as we get home."
"Oh, no you won't!" The words were out before she could stop them. She blushed furiously when Daniel looked over at her, his smile widening to a grin.
"Have something else in mind, do you?" Like a little gentle whisker burn, eh Angel?
"A thing or two," she replied primly.
He caught her hand, pressed his cheek against her palm, then kissed her fingertips. "Janet said you had a pretty rough time," he said softly.
"You died, I died," she replied simply, with a shrug of her shoulders. "My body just never figured it out."
"Well, I'm glad it didn't. And that you stuck around, too."
"It wasn't easy."
She studied him. "You'd given up hope, too, hadn't you?"
It wasn't easy to even look at the memories of those days away from her...to remember the feeling of his desire to get home driving him, then the bitter disappointment of knowing that it wouldn't be possible. The despair of facing the fact that he was marooned. "I suppose I had," he admitted quietly.
"There's more, isn't there?"
Again he glanced over at her. "It was just me, Kiam and Maelu, until the old man died," he said.
"That's not what I mean."
Daniel sighed. She was a seer. Damned powerful one, too. "I told you that I think that...someone...put that escape pod where it was. It felt as if the clues were laid out for me to find. Or maybe..." He frowned slightly. "Or maybe the ideas were planted, I don't know."
"Three of them, I think. Two women and a man."
"You've seen them?"
"Sort of. Same night that I saw you and Jack in his bedroom, half naked...he unhooked your bra-" He cut off abruptly. Even though he knew the images were illusions, they still hurt.
"He never did that," Casey said carefully, her eyes wide. "I...I had walked into the room just as he threw a bottle of Jack Daniel's against the wall. It broke, and I was covered with whiskey and glass. He...he had already taken his shirt off, he was changing his clothes, I guess. I have no idea why I was there," she admitted, frowning slightly. "I don't remember anything until Jack was telling me that I could wear one of his tee shirts until mine was washed and dried. I'd been..." She took a deep breath. "I'd been pretty out of it. He was just so...happy...that I hadn't gone completely off the deep end. There wasn't anything...sexual...about it when he hugged me. Just two friends."
Stunned at the admission, realizing that his tormentors had used real images to haunt his dreams, he glanced sideways at her. "So, Teal'c never kissed you in the shadows in the 'gate room?"
"What? No! Of course not! When...why...? Daniel, I think you'd better start at the beginning!"
Daniel chuckled at the ire that had crept into her voice. "I think one of Dartal's buddies might have been responsible for what happened."
"Could be. I'll look later. Right now I want to know just exactly where you got the screwed up ideas that I would ever be unfaithful to you! With Jack and Teal'c no less!"
"Casey, you thought I was dead," he said gently.
"That doesn't mean shit! Dead or alive, you're the only man I'll ever love! I was looking at a very long, very lonely life without you," she retorted.
The warmth that wrapped around him at her declaration soothed the last of his fears, the last of his worries away, filled that aching place in his heart that had appeared when he was certain that he'd never make it home, never make it back to her arms again.
"You don't know how difficult it was for me to stay sober. To get up every morning. To just...function. I never lived, I could never have lived without you. I existed. Part of the reason Jack and Teal'c and Dad came by every day, was to make certain I hadn't tried to off myself. You know why I didn't?"
His heart clenched knowing how badly she had been hurting, understanding the depth of that pain...he'd dealt with it when she had been taken from him, and when he had worried that he would never find her. "Why, Angel?"
"Because you would have been disappointed in me. You've never taken the easy road. Never. No matter how badly you were hurt, you stayed true to yourself. It was hard enough without you, but to know that you'd be watching me, and be so disappointed in me...I couldn't do that. Not to you, not to myself."
He turned onto Baldwin Street. Pulled into the driveway. Sat staring at the house, his home, the place he thought he'd never see again. He turned his head, focused his gaze on her. "I could never be disappointed in you. I'm too in awe of you, too amazed by what an incredible, beautiful woman you are."
"In awe? Of me?" she squeaked.
"Yes, of you! Casey, you survived hell on earth growing up, became a kind, gentle woman with the most generous heart I've ever met! In spite of everything, you took the difficult path...you chose to rise above all of the crap in your life. You have a gift that I could never hope to understand. You save lives on a daily basis, and that totally blows me away." He held his hand up to forestall the objections he could see forming on her lips. "I know how much you suffer when you think it's not enough. I know how seriously you take your position at the SGC, I know how much it means to you when you're able to help. How much it hurts you when you can't. So you see, Angel, there's no way you could ever disappoint me."
Tears filled her eyes. "You say the sweetest things," she said softly. Like a lightbulb above her head, for the first time she fully understood what Miss Eloise's prophecy had meant.
"One day a man will find you, and the two of you will begin your journey together. His strength will flow into you, and make your powers that much stronger. The more he gives of his strength, the stronger you will become."
"The strength of your love," she whispered.
"That's what Miss Eloise meant! Not your-" She blushed slightly. "She told me that one day a man would find me, and that we'd begin our journey together. That his strength would flow into me, and make my...powers...stronger. That the more of his strength he gave me, the stronger I'd become."
He remembered the prophecy.
"It has nothing to do with," she waved her hand in the air, her eyes dipping to his groin, before moving back up to lock with his. "You found me, and our journey together started. You filled me with your love, I felt so warm and safe...and I could feel the strength of that love the first time you held me in your arms. She wasn't talking about my gift, she was talking about my own spirit...you love me, and have so much faith in me, that it makes me strong enough to keep reaching out, to keep trying, to keep striving to be the best person that I can be," she said softly. "You give me the confidence, you provide the...safety...for me to continue using my gift, to learn about it. And it grows with me, because of the strength of your love, your belief in me."
Her eyes were filled with awe...and love. He shivered slightly. She had a way of making him feel important...invincible...indispensable. Feelings that were still as new to him, in spite of his years at the SGC, as the feelings of love and acceptance were to her. "Two halves of the whole," he murmured.
"Apart, we're only one half of the whole. Together, we fill the empty places, soothe the hurts. Together, we're whole."
"Together," she whispered. "I love you."
"I love you, Case."
She smiled at him. Ran her finger over his jaw once again. "You've lost weight."
"So have you."
"For food, Stud Muffin."
He grinned. "I could eat."
She reached for the door handle. "Welcome home, Daniel."
"Thanks, babe. It's sure good to be home." The sun peeked from behind the clouds as they walked toward the house. He looked up, could feel the difference in this sun, from the one he had seen, or felt, for nearly a month. This was home, his brain informed him.
He immediately noticed the dragons perched on top of the oak entertainment units. "Nice additions," he said quietly.
"I'd almost forgotten about them," Casey admitted, glancing at them on her way to the refrigerator, stopping long enough to hang her coat and purse on the rack beside the door. "I was looking at my menagerie when I remembered them."
"Menagerie?" He hung his coat up. Soaked in the fact that he was home. Almost missed the blush on her cheeks. She was about to share something...private. Something she probably thought he'd find trivial, or silly, or stupid, or any other derogatory term she could come up with.
"Grandma Rose bought me a crystal elephant...it's holding a red rose with its trunk. It's tiny, something I could hide from...her. She gave it to me to celebrate my first day of school," Casey explained. She turned on the oven, set the temperature, then opened the freezer. Searched among the casseroles, found the one she wanted, slid it into the microwave. "For my birthday, for Christmas, when I got a good grade on a test, when I-" She shuddered, took a deep breath. "When I survived whatever 'punishment' I was going through at the time, she'd get me another little animal. Or dragons. She called it my menagerie. She said we couldn't call it my 'glass menagerie', because they weren't all glass. I'm not certain any of them are actually glass. Quartz crystal, or porcelain. But not glass."
"Ah, after Tennessee Williams' play...'Glass Menagerie'," he nodded.
"I guess so, although I didn't figure that part out until high school," Casey replied.
He'd never seen this 'menagerie'. Hadn't even known it existed. Couldn't help but wonder about that fact. "So, you went through your boxes?"
"I was trying to avoid thinking about a curious encounter with a very annoying priest," she replied.
"Now, that piques my curiosity." Her eyes told him it was not a conversation that they'd be having any time soon.
She smiled. "Sit down. I'll be right back."
He lowered himself into the bar chair. Took a deep breath, savored the familiar, comforting aromas. The underlying scent of Casey...spring flowers and vanilla. A hint of the candles she burned, smelled like the sandalwood. And the lasagna as it defrosted. His stomach rumbled approvingly.
Home. He was home, and Casey was here and safe and loved him...would he ever know the depths of that love? He pulled it tighter around his heart. Felt that warmth, the comfort of knowing that she needed him as much as he needed her. Two parts of the whole. That was what they were. No wonder he'd felt like a man adrift for so much of his adult life...he'd been existing with only half of his heart, half of his soul.
Casey pulled the battered shoebox into her arms. Never questioned the fact that she could so easily share what had been so...private; a secret between her and Grandma Rose for so many years. She had no secrets from Daniel...because he was such a part of her.
Daniel watched her walk back into the kitchen, drinking in the sight of her...smiled when he realized she was already barefooted. She must have taken her boots off before she went for the box she cradled in her arms. Which was more silver duct tape than box, from the look of it.
She didn't say anything when she put the box on the breakfast bar. She transferred the casserole to the oven, set the timer, then settled onto the chair beside him. Lifted the lid, and began to take the pieces of newspaper out of the box, gently placing the animals on the granite surface in front of him.
He examined them carefully. "They're exquisite," he said, smiling at her. "Rather like the beautiful woman who owns them."
The heat in her cheeks alerted her to the fact that she was blushing. Daniel had always thought she was beautiful, something she didn't understand, but that she cherished with all of her heart.
One by one he picked them up, noted the intricate details. "How did you manage to keep that bitch from finding out about them?"
Casey shrugged. "There were a couple of floorboards that were loose in my room. Under my bed. I'd crawl under there, and hide them in the floor. I found the shoebox in the trash at one of the neighbors, and I snuck it into my room. Grandma told me that I needed to keep them wrapped up if they were going to be in a box."
He nodded his understanding, his interest in what she was saying.
"When I was locked into my room, I'd get them out. Line them up, and just look at them. They're so beautiful, and delicate...and they helped me to remember that there's beauty in the world around us, no matter what we're going through. My favorites are the dragons. Those," she pointed with a thumb over her shoulder toward the oak shelving units, "were in a curio cabinet at the end of the hallway at Grandma's house. I never knew where she found them, how she came to have them. But I always knew that Grandma loved them. She was always so meticulous in keeping that cabinet sparkling clean, and the dragons dust free." She frowned.
"I was just thinking. Maybe I should have those in a curio cabinet."
"We'll look for one this week," he promised.
She shook herself slightly. "I should put these away, I need to get a salad made. I think there are cookies in the pantry we can have for dessert."
"Sounds good to me," he smiled. He helped her to rewrap the tiny animals. "Would you like something so that you can have these on display?"
How typical of him, she thought. "Maybe someday. You're the only other person in the world who knows about them."
"I'm honored," he said softly, truthfully. That she'd share something that was obviously so important to her, so precious to her, spoke of her love, and her trust.
The box was put onto the dining table for the time being. And once again they stood side by side and prepared the vegetables for their meal. A simple act that neither had thought to ever be able to share again.
A A A A A A
"I dreamed about your lasagna," Daniel said, taking the last piece from the serving dish.
She lifted one eyebrow. "Lasagna? You were convinced you'd never get home, and you were dreaming about lasagna?"
"Hey, I was hungry! One meal a day of some small animal, or a few roasted potatoes, and no sour cream or butter or chives, mind you, or a couple of fish...not much to live on, ya know."
"I'm beside myself with grief, thinking you were dead, and you're dreaming about lasagna!"
The light in her eyes told him she was teasing him. "Not just lasagna. Your lasagna."
"I'm flattered," she retorted dryly.
"The dreams I had about you left me in bad shape," he said flippantly, finishing off his coffee. God, he'd missed coffee almost as much as he'd missed Casey!
"Good," she said, trying to hold back her smile.
"I don't suppose you did any dreaming of me," he said, knowing how pathetic the comment made him sound.
"Every time I closed my eyes," she said softly. "Until the nightmares started. Seeing your escape pod destroyed, knowing you were dead..." She shook her head. "I relived those last few minutes again and again, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't change it, I couldn't save you. I didn't get the message in time!"
He reached over and wiped away the tear that had escaped from the corner of her eye. "It's all over, Casey. I'm home now."
She wrapped her hands around his wrist, held his hand firmly, pressed her cheek against his palm. "How many more times? How many more times are those daemons going to attack us-"
He knew something was up by the way she cocked her head to the side, and her eyes had filled with absolute fury. "Casey?"
"Hang on, Stud Muffin. We have a little discussion to get to."
"Yep." She closed her eyes. Opened them again, stood up and tugged at the back of his chair until he had scooted far enough from the bar for her snuggle onto his lap. "Much better."
He grinned, held her tightly. "I agree."
She closed her eyes. Concentrated, and found the 'waiting room' where she had first met Arlinda.
"Miss Eloise!...Miss Eloise!"
"You don't have to shout, I'm right here."
She whirled around. "I'm so not in the mood, old woman. Get them here. Now."
"Whoever the hell is in charge around here! I have a question for them. And I have a thing or two to say to them! I'm madder than hell about what Daniel went through because of their arrogant asses, and I'm not leaving until I've had my say!"
Miss Eloise snorted. "Anything else?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact! Get Daniel here. I know it can be done."
Blue eyes went wide. "Whatever for?"
"Because the sons-of-bitches who are responsible for what we just went through are going to get a piece of my mind, and The One should be here for that!"
As that skinny blonde major liked to say...Holy Hannah! Casey was livid, and that did not bode well for the Ascended plane at the moment. As the Guide for The One, she did have a bit of leverage with the Committee, the group of Beings who were the 'overseers' of the Ascended plane. Eloise didn't think the young seer knew about that little fact. She'd not told Casey that for a very good reason. But once she found out...hooboy!
"You're still here," Casey snarled.
"Have you had your coffee today?"
"Go back to Daniel. You need a nice romp between the sheets to mellow you out."
"Miss Eloise, do not make me look for myself. You know I'll do it!"
The old seer sighed. "Yes, you will, and you'll raise nine kinds of hell doing it."
"The problem with that would be...?"
"I'll make a deal with you. I'll bring Oma Desala. And I'll see to it that Daniel can participate in this little get together."
"No deal. Oma is welcome to join us. But I want someone who's in charge."
"That won't happen, Casey," Miss Eloise replied. "You're not Ascended. They don't...converse...with anyone who isn't Ascended. And damned few of them."
"Well, I know that they listen. So you just let them know to pay attention," Casey snapped.
Miss Eloise grinned. "I'll pass along that message. You might as well sit down. I'll get Daniel here, you two can chat while I find Oma."
In a flash of white light, Daniel was standing in the room, blinking slowly as he looked around uncertainly. When he saw Casey near the center of the room, he pushed his hands into his pockets, and moved to stand beside her. "Okay, I give up. Where are we?"
"Some waiting room," Casey replied.
"You are such a smartass. I can see that," Daniel huffed. "Where is this waiting room?"
"Right. I knew that, too."
"Then why ask?"
Her eyes were filled with honest confusion. He couldn't help but smile. "I suppose I just needed to hear it," he admitted.
When the man walked into the room, Casey's jaw dropped. Snapped closed. "I knew you were no ordinary priest!"
William smiled. "You've always been a very bright young woman."
Casey crossed her arms over her breasts, snorted softly.
"You are Daniel Jackson," William said, stepping closer, offering his hand.
Daniel extended his own hand. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."
"I'm Father William."
"Nice to meet you," Daniel replied, glancing at his wife. "So, the two of you have met?"
William chuckled. "We have. Sit down with me, and I'll tell you about it."
Casey listened with half an ear as William described her arrival at the old, sandstone church, and the discussion that the two of them had had...her ire, and that while his intentions had been to offer her comfort, and a bit of hope, her anger had spurred her into action...which had ultimately led to Miss Eloise being able to 'call' her.
She began to pace. Where was that old woman?
Miss Eloise returned, Oma Desala walking beside her. "I told her you were a bit grumpy."
William stood to his feet, looked slightly abashed. "Hello, Oma."
The dark haired woman smiled. "Hello, William." She glanced at Casey, then returned her attention to the man who was dressed like a priest. "You took a great risk."
"The situation is one of our making. It's only right that we do what we can to help remedy the problem," he said quietly.
"Indiscriminate interference could cause chaos among the mortals, no matter how well intentioned the efforts. Which is the reason for the non-interference rules," Oma said softly. "However, not all Ascended believe that all rules are written in stone...and unyielding. But I cannot protect you if you continue to take such chances."
"I understand," William replied.
She studied him. Silently accepted what he left unspoken. She turned to Daniel. "Your path was difficult, yet you prevailed."
"No thanks to the Ascended," he said, returning her gaze unflinchingly. Wondered why she wasn't speaking in her usual riddles.
"We knew that Casey had been given the information needed," Oma replied easily.
"You mean she figured out I was alive. So you knew that everything would end all hunky dory," he said cynically.
"We hoped that all would end well," Oma smiled. "Now, Casey, I believe you wished to speak to me?"
Casey pulled herself to her full height. "Not really. But you'll do. Because the Ascended are too stubborn...or too arrogant...or too damned cowardly, to deal with a problem they created - or at least allowed to happen - we just went through hell on earth. Dartal's buddies are responsible for what happened, right?"
"Yes," Oma a responded. Everyone in the room was more than a little surprised at her immediate and straightforward response.
"I know that Daniel has to face Dartal's minions...he has to destroy them, since the Ascended can't, or won't do it themselves. I know it will be soon. But know this...If we ever suffer, not just Daniel and I, but our family and friends, because of the Ascended and your damned 'non-interference' bullshit, especially when the problem is one created by the Ascended, I'll figure out how to reach the Big Boys. And I'll do a little complaining to them about your inability to clean up your own damned messes." Casey lifted her chin slightly, waiting for the Ascended Being to argue with her.
Oma smiled. "What makes you believe that the 'Big Boys' would interfere, or even care, for that matter?"
"Because they've seen to it that Daniel is protected," Casey retorted. She had her suspicions. Watched the Ascended Being's reaction carefully. Smiled when she saw the surprise that Oma tried to hide. "That's right. They helped him, guided him, made certain that he'd find the Stargate, since the Ascended couldn't 'interfere' by giving me the damned coordinates to the planet he was on!"
Oma said nothing. But the fact that Casey, and Daniel it seemed, knew about the Triad, and the fact that the Triad had interfered, even if they had done so in an unobtrusive manner was very...interesting. And not a little worrisome.
"And tell whoever sends the info dumps that if he or she ever waits so long again, and then doesn't bother to make certain I'm not being blocked by renegade Ascended, I'll be mentioning that as well."
"I'll pass that along," Oma said. She wasn't smiling.
"Good." Casey turned to Miss Eloise. "Thanks for the help."
Daniel moved to stand in front of Oma. "I never asked for any of this. I never asked to be The One. Don't particularly want the job. But it seems I'm stuck with it. So I intend to do my best. I will not stand by and let Casey go through anything like she just did, because of rebels."
"You'd damn well better."
Oma was slightly taken aback at the cool determination of his voice. Gone was the awe he'd held her in during their prior meetings. Something else of which those of the Committee would do well to take notice.
A flash of white light, and the Tau'ri were returned to their home.
Miss Eloise turned to Oma. "She meant every word. So did he."
Oma smiled, although it was guarded. "Yes, they did. I suppose I should pass on the messages, shouldn't I?"
The old seer studied her mentor for a moment. Was surprised at what she saw in the dark eyes that watched her just as carefully. "I suppose so."
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