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SG-1 stood at the foot of the ramp.
"Seventh chevron locked and encoded." The gate opened with the customary sight and sound show.
"SG-1," Jack’s voice came over the speakers from the control room, "you have a go. Godspeed."
With those words, the four team members walked up the ramp and through the gate.
"Wouldn’t ya just know it," Casey said, looking at endless miles of tall grass. "As much as Jack hates trees, I hate this damned grass."
"I hear ya," Sam said. "Teal'c, you’re on point. Case, you’ve got our six."
They moved away from the gate, moving slowly, aware that the tall grass could hide many dangers. Casey was humming softly, her eyes never hesitating in one place very long.
She stopped, looked around. She hurried to catch up with Daniel. "What?"
He looked at her. "What what?"
"You just called me."
He shook his head. "No, I didn’t."
"Damn it! Don’t tell me you didn’t hear that!" she said, looking up at him.
Sam had signaled Teal'c and both had stopped walking. Sam had overheard the conversation behind her. "Case, what’s going on?"
"Somebody keeps calling my name." She shivered as realization flooded over her. "Or not. Maybe I’m finally going stark raving mad."
"There it was again." She turned pleading eyes to Teal'c. "Please tell me you heard something, T." She knew that the Jaffa had extraordinarily sensitive hearing.
He shook his head. "I did not, Casey Jackson."
Casey looked from face to face. "I’m imagining it, right? Okay, so I’m going crazy."
Daniel put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to him. "Nobody thinks you’re going crazy. Tell me what the voice sounds like."
She closed her eyes. "It’s like…well, it’s like a lot of voices together. Almost like-"
She spun around. "What already? What do you want?" She raised her P90, slowly circling. "Come out and show yourself! Quit messing with my brain!"
In an instant the team stood shoulder to shoulder, facing out, watching, listening, waiting. Bright, white light surrounded them. When it faded, they were standing in a large room. The walls…the floor…the ceiling…the furnishings…everything was white. Prints full of brilliant, vibrant color hung on each wall.
"I’ve been here before," Casey whispered, her voice, and her eyes, full of shock.
"When?" Daniel asked, his arm around her shoulders. After all that they had been through, there was no way he was letting her out of his grasp, let alone out of his sight.
"I’m not sure." She shook her head. "I…I…it was a dream. There were two people standing right over there," she said, pointing to a spot near one of the windows. "A man and a woman."
Sam looked around. "Okay, let’s check the room, then see where it leads."
The room was empty of anything other than furnishings. A large double door at one end opened easily, and led into a long, white corridor, the starkness broken by paintings so full of color they seemed to glow. There were several doors, each revealed another white, well furnished room. The last door they opened led them to a large, open garden. By now Casey was clinging to Daniel’s arm as tightly as she was to her P90.
"Welcome," a soft voice said. The voice belonged to a slender woman with long, honey-colored blonde hair, and deep green eyes. The soft, green gown that she wore flowed over her body, accenting her curves, the filmy material swayed like the grass in a breeze with every movement she made.
Casey spun around, her gun raised and ready to fire. The woman looked familiar to her. She heard Daniel and Sam both gasp beside her. "Who the hell are you and what do you want?"
"She is definitely your child, Aaron. She has your temper," the woman smiled.
A tall blonde man, his blue eyes dancing as he approached them, laughed out loud. "But fortunately for her, my love, she has your beauty."
"Holy Hannah!" Sam whispered.
Daniel put his hand on top of Casey’s gun and pushed it down. "Babe, I really don’t think you want to shoot your parents," he said softly. Except for the fact that the woman looked to be in her mid-to-late thirties, she looked almost identical to Casey. They could be sisters…or mother and daughter.
"My…my what?" Casey sputtered, looking at the faces of her teammates.
The woman approached her slowly, her arms held open. "Please, Casey, let me finally hold the child I have longed for, for so many years."
Casey stepped away from the woman, slipping partway behind Daniel, her hands clutching at his arm. He reached back and put his hand on her hip, the touch reassuring.
"Maybe it would be better if you told us who you are, and where we are," Daniel said calmly.
The man, Aaron looked around. "This is…our home. Since we chose to leave the others."
"What others?" Sam asked. Like Teal'c and Daniel, she hadn’t fully lowered her weapon, but she wasn't aiming it directly at the newcomers, as Casey had been.
"You know them…us…as the Ancients." The woman said.
"Bullshit," Casey said. "They’re long gone."
"Oh, no, my child. We never left. Not really. We simply moved on to another plane of existence. Your father and I chose to come back after what Oma and Methos have told us," the woman said.
"Methos? Where is he? He better be okay or I’ll-" Casey started.
"You’ll what, Brat?" Methos said, walking nonchalantly through the door they had just come through. He was wearing the same style of clothes as the other man, loose fitting trousers and a loose fitting shirt.
"Methos?" Casey’s green eyes were wide with disbelief.
Casey raised her gun and aimed it at him. "You’d better be able to tell me what we did on Framone’s ship!"
"You mean, let’s see, how did you put that? When we ‘changed that rooster to a hen’?"
"Right. Either shoot me or put that damned thing away."
Casey grinned. "Now that is the Methos I know." No one in the room failed to notice that she still had a death grip on Daniel’s arm.
The woman stepped closer. "Casey, I’m Erin. Your mother."
Sam smiled. "Aaron and Erin, huh?"
Aaron rolled his eyes. "What are the chances of falling in love with a woman who bears the feminine version of your name, eh? But look at her! What man could resist?" He looked hard at Daniel. "I assume you are my son-in-law?"
"I am," Daniel replied, his eyes calmly meeting the hard glare. He shifted slightly, putting himself further in front of Casey.
"Oh, stop it Aaron. You can look in his eyes and tell that he loves her. Oma has already told us that they have completed the Ceremony of Fire."
"Speaking of Oma," Sam said, "can we expect her to join this…gathering?"
Erin shook her head. "She is busy at the moment. She will however be joining us for dinner later this evening."
"Dinner?" Daniel asked. "Uh…Ascended beings don’t eat."
Casey’s mother smiled. "Oma has chosen to return, just as we have. She will rebuild the Immortal Council that this madman Framone has destroyed."
Daniel could feel Casey trembling. He lowered his weapon and turned around, pulled her into his embrace. "Babe, are you okay?"
Casey looked up into his eyes. "Are they really…?" she asked, nodding in the direction of the two Ancients.
He smiled. "You're the spitting image of your mother. Look at her, babe." He continued to hold her while she looked over at the two people who stood watching her, love shining in their eyes.
She had seen her face in a mirror often enough to know that this woman did indeed look like her. The older woman wasn’t quite as tall, and definitely more curvaceous. But she couldn’t deny the resemblance.
Sam and Teal'c moved to stand behind Casey. "It’s okay, Case, Daniel’s right. And I recognize the way your father smiles. It’s the same way you do."
Methos approached the huddled group and held out his hand. "Trust me?"
Casey glanced up at Daniel. She took Daniel’s hand, but didn’t take the outstretched one that the oldest Immortal offered. She looked over at her…parents. "No offense, but after what I’ve been through, there are only three people in this room I trust completely. You’ve been missing for awhile, Old Man, and anything could have happened to you."
Aaron laughed. "She’s smart like me, too!"
Erin smiled. "Let’s just hope she’s a bit more modest about her qualities than you are, my love."
Casey studied the two people. Neither seemed to mind her scrutiny. One question repeated itself in her mind. One simple word. "Why?"
For the first time, the smiles disappeared. Erin moved to stand by her husband, he put his arms protectively around her shoulders.
"Why were you…abandoned?" Aaron asked.
The man lowered his head, but not before she caught the glitter of tears in his eyes.
"Framone," Methos said softly.
"Now why doesn’t that surprise me," Casey said just as softly.
"We were…created…in a laboratory, it’s true. But we were to be raised by the First Race of Immortals."
Casey nodded. "He killed them all, didn’t he?"
Aaron nodded. "All but Oma. She had already Ascended."
"Okay, here’s where I have a problem with all of this," Sam said, sounding more like Jack than herself. "If Oma is Ascended, and you are all on this ‘higher plane of existence’, why didn’t you know about all of this?"
"We are not omnipotent. Oma watched, and tried for centuries to stop Framone. Within the boundaries of the Ascended, that was not easy to do," Erin said. She looked at Daniel. "I believe you learned that for yourself, did you not, Daniel? Oma cares a great deal about you, she called you her brightest student. Also the most passionate. That is why she would not totally erase your memory, as she was required to do. She took great risk in not doing so."
Daniel nodded. "She’s been breaking a lot of rules lately, helping us," he said.
"And why would she not help my daughter, her cousin?" Aaron asked.
Casey gave a little yelp. "Oma is my…cousin?" She felt her knees getting weak, grabbed at Daniel’s arms. In a flash he had swung her into his arms, held her closely to his chest.
"Here, let her lie down here," Erin said, rushing to plump white pillows on a white sofa.
Daniel carried her to the sofa, tried to lay her on it. She refused to turn loose of him.
"No way in hell," Casey growled against his neck. "I’ll sit there if you do, but you will not put me on that damned thing alone."
Erin’s eyes filled with tears. "Framone has indeed terrified you. Oh, my poor darling child." She reached out and smoothed the long blonde silk from her daughter’s face.
Daniel sat down, Casey still wrapped in his arms. Sam and Teal'c followed, and sat down beside them. Better that the team stay together, was the thought in four minds.
Aaron sat down on a shiny white table just in front of Casey and Daniel. He reached out slowly, took her hand. "Your mother and I fought to keep you for ourselves, raise you, and then allow you to go and do the that for which you were…created. There are others who felt as we did…and still do. But we were too few, and the rules had been already established. Never has a day gone by that we haven’t thought about you, wondered about you. Worried about you. Loved you."
Casey felt tears well up in her eyes. "Really?"
She looked up at Daniel, a tiny grin on her face. She pinched his arm.
"Ouch! What was that for?" He asked her, a slight frown on his face.
"Trying to find out if I’m dreaming," she replied.
"You’re supposed to pinch yourself," he said, unable to hide his grin.
"Nah, that would hurt."
Daniel pinched her leg.
"So, are you dreaming?" he asked, smiling.
"Guess not." She leaned up to whisper in his ear. "Do not let go of me. I still don’t believe this."
Daniel hugged her. She was still trembling. "Babe, it’s okay. Nobody expects you to take all of this on face value." He looked at Aaron.
The older man sighed. "She is just as stubborn as you are, my love. Casey, I don’t know how to convince you that this is all real, that Erin and I are your mother and father."
Methos, who was still standing, his hands in his trouser pockets, spoke up. "Casey, how many times have I held a sword to you neck?"
Casey rolled her eyes. "Too many."
"You trusted me then. Trust me now."
Casey looked at him. "Why did Oma send me to that planet, where I was nearly lunch for some giant cat, by the way, thank you very much, and whisk you here? I’m the one who should have been brought here."
"Two reasons, Brat. First off, Oma could see what your disappearance was doing to Daniel. And to you. Second, I’m the oldest of the Second Race of Immortals. I’m going to be sitting on the Council of Immortals with Oma. I have five thousand years of history to give to the others."
"Okay. One more thing," Casey said.
"Call me Brat one more time, and I’ll knock you from here to eternity."
Methos laughed, and rubbed his jaw. "Yes, I remember our first meeting very well."
"Second actually," Casey retorted, "if you want to be technical about it." She looked over at the people who were claiming…who were…her parents. "Methos shot me."
Aaron’s eyes blazed. "You did what?"
"I did it to make her fully Immortal," Methos explained, no trace of remorse in his voice.
Erin had been sitting quietly, her eyes never leaving her daughter’s face.
Daniel watched the Ancient woman for a few minutes, their eyes meeting, then he whispered quietly into Casey’s ear.
When the young woman’s eyes filled with tears, Erin felt her own eyes grow moist.
Slowly, Casey stood up, and moved toward her. Erin was on her feet before Casey reached her. Erin held open her arms once again, and this time Casey stepped into her mother’s embrace. The two women stood, embracing, for several minutes. Erin’s face was wet with her tears.
Aaron stood behind Casey, his hand on her back. Casey pulled from her mother’s embrace, and turned to face him. "So, you’re my dad, huh?"
Aaron’s face broke into a delighted grin. "That would indeed be me."
Casey smiled, gave a little nod. "Cool."
"What, no hug for your father?" Aaron held his arms open wide
Casey’s smile widened, and she stepped into his warm, loving embrace. When she stepped back, she looked up, and saw the tears in his blue eyes. She turned and took Erin’s hand, then looked up at Aaron and took his hand. "So, Mom, Dad, come meet Daniel. He’s the cute guy on the sofa. Has the matching wedding band." Aaron laughed, Erin giggled.
Daniel stood up and approached the newly united family. He smiled, and held out his hand to Erin. She shook her head, and pulled him into an embrace. When she released him, he turned to Aaron. The two men took measure of one another, and then Aaron offered his hand.
Casey caught site of Sam checking her watch, then did the same. "Whoa, we’re thirty minutes late checking in, Jack’s gonna be steamed," she said. "Don’t suppose you have Stargate handy, do you?"
Aaron, Erin and Methos exchanged grins. "As a matter of fact, yes," Aaron said. "Follow me."
The group followed him through the garden, into an open field. In the middle of it was a Stargate.
"Jack is never going to believe this," Sam said, shaking her head as she dialed the DHD.
"So invite him to dinner," Aaron said. "It would be good to meet the man with whom we shall be working."
Casey looked up at him. "Excuse me?"
"Framone must be stopped. The Goa’uld are still a threat. Methos has told us of the Replicators, and we have knowledge of another race that could prove to be yet another problem. We have chosen to leave the others in order to work with you against these evils. As Oma and the other Ascended learned, there are times when one must do more than merely observe. The others are a bit slower to come around, but I believe in time that they will. Now, invite General O’Neill for dinner," Aaron said, smiling.
Sam nodded, and connected the camera. "Sir, you are not going to believe this," she said. By the time she was finished, and had relayed to Jack the 'gate address that Aaron had given her, the others had drifted back to the garden.
Casey stood looking out over the garden, leaning back against Daniel, his arms around her waist. "Some day, huh?"
"Yeah, it has been. Are you okay?"
She turned in his arms, and wreathed his face with her hands. "Just like you to be worried about me," she said softly. She pulled him closer, her hands in his hair, and kissed his lips. She sighed when his tongue pushed into her mouth, the taste, the feel of him reassuring as much as it was arousing. They stood kissing, unaware that Aaron and Erin were watching them, indulgent smiles on their faces.
Methos walked through the garden, cleared his throat loudly.
Daniel slowly lifted his head, looked over at the young/old man. "Got a problem, Methos?"
The Immortal nodded to where Casey’s parents stood.
Casey looked at him. "I doubt that my parents mind if I kiss my Husband," she said, then stuck her tongue out at him.
Aaron burst into laughter. "She is indeed my daughter. Come, let’s give them time alone. Methos, join us."
When Sam and Teal'c finally arrived, Daniel’s kisses had been able to comfort and reassure Casey. The four of them went into the house, and followed the sound of laughter to the room where her parents and Methos waited.
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