Summary: Family troubles, but not necessarily as it would at first appear. One of Daniel's new abilities knocks him off his feet.
Usual thanks to Joy for the fab beta :-))
"Jack? What is going on?"
O'Neill's mother seems most perturbed. Perhaps that is not surprising as she is switching her gaze from Jack O'Neill to John.
"Uh, Ma," John says, "I can explain."
"You'd better," she says most harshly.
Daniel puts his hand on O'Neill's arm.
"Why don't you guys go to Annwn?" he suggests. "DJ and I will stay here and debrief. The General needs to know what's happened and we need to catch up on what's been going on here since we were gone. I think that the house would be a better place for all, don't you agree?"
'All' includes O'Neill's mother, two people I recognise from his photograph album as his elder brother and sister, and Samantha's brother, Mark.
O'Neill does not look happy at the prospect of returning to Annwn without his mate.
"Jack, please. I'm sure you can explain it all. Go on."
O'Neill is staring at him, John is also staring at DJ in the same manner.
"O'Neill, I shall stay with them. We shall return to Annwn as soon as we have finished."
"Right. Don't be long," John replies, still staring at DJ.
"Did you bring things for an overnight stay?" O'Neill asks our potential guests.
"Yes, we were told to," his sister states.
"Good. Let's get them and you can come stay at our place if you want?" His voice is questioning as if he does not believe that they will wish to stay.
"Of course," his mother says. "Perhaps then we'll find out what's been going on?"
"We'll tell you everything we can," John promises.
"Fine. How far away do you live?" she asks.
Now O'Neill is smiling, as is John. In fact, all eight of us find it amusing.
"Oh, about two thousand light-years," he informs her.
"Typical," she snorts. "Ask a civil question..."
"Ma, just come with me," John states. "All of you."
He, O'Neill, Samantha and Frankie lead the way, taking the female relatives' cases for them. The Daniels, Kar Shel and myself escort them to the elevator. At our mates' requests, we accompany them inside it. It is a tight squeeze.
"Jack, we're going down, not up," Mrs. O'Neill observes.
"I know," John replies. I think I see what is happening. She thinks that John is the real Jack O'Neill. This is understandable. "Don't worry, it'll all become clear."
Moments later, the elevator stops, the door opens and we leave it and lead them to the gateroom. As we go, Samantha suggests that we stop off at 'her father's place' to pick him up. I feel she needs his moral support. The others agree.
General Hammond had already left us alone. He must have assumed that we would leave as he is in the control room. Daniel leaves us and runs up towards him to inform him of what is happening. The idea has been agreed because the gate is now dialling up.
"Jack? What's going on?" his brother asks.
"You up for a bit of a roller coaster ride?" John asks in return. His mother does not look too happy at that prospect.
"Jonathan?" she calls.
"Uh oh," he says, grinning as he does. "I'm already in trouble. When she gets to using my middle name too, then I take the cue and run for it."
"Get on with you," she scolds.
At that moment, the gate engages. John takes her hand, looking at DJ as he does. DJ nods back. Samantha looks to me and I do the same. O'Neill and Frankie do likewise.
"Come on, it's time to go home."
We watch as our nervous guests step up to the wormhole, urged on by our teammates. Eventually, they step through.
"I hope we're doing the right thing," DJ says.
"They need time to explain things to their families, without the added complications of having us there," I reply.
"Yeah, that's what we thought. Come on, let's go talk to Hammond. I think we're going to need to do this as quickly as we can."
"What on earth was that?" Ma asks as she emerges shivering from the wormhole. We're on the Tok'ra homeworld and we see Anise heading our way.
"Uh, Ma," John says, "we're not on Earth. Look."
He points up to the sky and she sees that it's actually a rather pretty shade of purple. That and the three moons are a bit of a giveaway.
"Freya," I call, hoping that Anise doesn't speak because I don't want to explain about aliens just yet. "Is Jacob around?"
"He is. What do you require of him?"
"Uh, this is Mark, his son. We were wondering if he wanted to come home with us."
She stops dead and then nods slowly as if she's suddenly understanding something.
"I shall go and see if he is free. One moment, please."
She turns and goes to the rings and our families look in shock as she operates them and disappears.
"What is going on?" Patrick asks.
"Pat, could you wait till we get home?" I ask back. "It'll be easier to explain everything in one go. Just accept that you're as safe as we can keep you."
The rings operate again and Jacob appears apparently out of thin air. I look at Mark and see his mouth is open.
"Sam? Want to dial up?"
Sam starts to move but Frankie's quicker off the mark. Probably just as well as things could blow up way too fast otherwise.
"Mark? What are you doing here?" Jake asks as he gets close enough.
"I'm not really sure," Mark replies. "I mean, some guy from the Air Force came, told me to pack my bag and the next thing I knew I was in some mountain. Then we ended up... here!" He waves his hand around. "Wherever the hell this is. And what are you doing here?"
"I live here," Jake says calmly.
I put my hand on Jacob's arm and pull him to one side.
"Look, Jake, we didn't know they'd be there. I mean, we wanted to see them, to tell them what was happening, but we weren't expecting it to happen so damned soon. We got back from a mission and there they were. They don't know about MIB, about us..."
He raises his hand.
"I get it. Where're we going?"
He raises an eyebrow this time.
"Annwn," I elaborate.
The gate engages and John has to urge Ma to step through. She's not keen on the idea.
"Welcome to Annwn," Sam says as we all emerge. "This is our home. And yes, this is another planet," she says, smiling. "Jack wasn't kidding when he said we lived light-years from Earth, although he wasn't exactly right about how many."
"I see," Ma mutters. "So... you live in a cave or something?" She's looking up at the side of the mountain and seeing some of the natural caves that seem to litter the wall of it.
"Uh, no, we have a house. Come on. It's not far."
We lead the way, John, Frankie and Jacob sticking closer to our families. It's starting to get dark, but fortunately, there's just enough light to make our way through the trees without needing more.
"There it is," I say, and point out our home.
"It's pretty," Ma says, looking at it and the garden. She likes flowers, too.
"Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
They all look at us a little suspiciously. "Do you have enough to share?" Bridie asks. She's always been pretty blunt.
"Plenty. Honest. Come on in. You can have coffee and chocolate from Mayans, bread from Minoans..." At their stunned expressions I add, "And explanations from us. Not to mention Daniel's homemade cheese."
For some reason, that makes Ma laugh, which sets everyone else off.
"So, are you going to explain now?" Mark asks as we sit around the table. Questions were raised as to why John and Frankie weren't eating but they said they weren't hungry. Hope that excuse works a bit longer.
"Okay, but it's a long story."
"I think we've got a lot of time," Ma says wryly.
John looks at me and I shake my head. She thinks he's me, so he's got to tell the story. At least to start with.
"It was just over eight years ago," he says quietly. At the look of recognition in our family's face, he nods. "Not long after Charlie died. I didn't want to live," he shrugs, then looks to me. I nod, urging him to keep going, no matter how much it hurts.
"Anyway, one day, a couple of guys from the Air Force came to the house, took me to Creek Mountain. It's like Cheyenne - where you were earlier. It turned out that some weird artefact had been dug up in Egypt in the 1920s and that there'd been scientists working on trying to figure out what it was for years. They'd then come across this nerdy science geek..."
"Daniel?" Ma asks. Well, she was always quick off the mark.
"Yes. Daniel. Anyway, he'd figured out in a couple of weeks what a whole load of scientists hadn't managed to work out in all that time. And that was that the thing was a gateway to the stars. Literally, a stargate."
He isn't mentioning the thing with Ernest for a number of reasons but mainly to avoid confusion.
"The thing we stepped through," Mark confirms.
"Yes. They worked out a way of powering it up and we dialled up the only address we had. My orders were to assess the threat to Earth and destroy the other end of the wormhole if there was a threat. It was a suicide mission," he admits.
Even though nobody else was saying anything before that, the place has gone even more silent.
"Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the planet was populated by humans. Daniel discovered that their ancestors had been taken from Egypt thousands of years before and that they'd been living in a state of slavery ever since. An alien had been masquerading as the old Egyptian god, Ra. He had an army and they kept the Abydonians from rebelling. To cut a very long story short, we fought them off, Daniel persuaded me to use the nuclear bomb - that I'd taken with me - on Ra's ship, which was in orbit... We blew him up." John laughs hollowly then.
"Daniel stayed behind. He'd been 'given' a wife by this elder guy who'd assumed he'd been sent by Ra as he was the only one of us that could communicate with them. He stayed with her, married her, and we went home. I told the powers that be that Abydos had been destroyed and that Daniel had been the one to set off the bomb."
"They believed you?"
"Sure. Daniel got the Abydonians to bury the gate, just as the ancient Egyptians had done on Earth to stop Ra coming through again. When they tried to dial up, they couldn't get a connection. The gate has to be free of obstruction to engage."
"What happened next?" Bridie asks.
"A year or so later, a small attack was launched on the Earth gate. A female sergeant was taken. We thought that someone had come from Abydos so I was recalled and sent there - after some subterfuge on Hammond's part," he adds, grinning at me. "Daniel was still there, as was his wife. They swore that no one had gone through the gate and that he hadn't long reopened it, thinking that Earth wouldn't be interested in contacting them again.
"You see, he'd found a room inside the pyramid where the Abydos gate was and on the walls was a huge list of hundreds of gate addresses. When he was showing us the room, an attack was launched on the gateroom, many were killed and injured, and Daniel's wife and brother-in-law were taken."
He continues the story, telling them about how the SGC started, how we worked as a team and so on. Then he tells them about the Goa'uld, how they work, how we'd been fighting them. Not much in the way of mission details, just enough to help them understand. He's jumping about in time, trying to keep one strand of the story together before changing track. The place is silent when he mentions Shau're's death and pleads with them not to mention it to either Daniel or Teal'c.
When he gets to the bit about meeting the Tok'ra, he nudges Frankie. Their faces take on a sick look as she talks about how she, or rather Sam but they don't know that yet, was taken over by Jolinar. Eventually, she tells them about us meeting the High Council.
"They had an old and faithful member whose host was dying. The Tok'ra never take an unwilling host," she adds. "Jolinar's possession of me was temporary, an emergency. She explained it to me and eventually, I grew to understand that it had hurt her to do it. The fact that she killed herself to save my life underlined it to me.
"Anyway, just before we'd met them, Dad had told me he was very sick with cancer. One thing led to another, I suggested that Dad be brought in on the SGC's secret and he was offered the chance of a cure. The one downside, if you can call it that, was that he became host to Selmac."
Mark's face has lost all its colour. He's been listening to Frankie intently, probably guessing where this was going.
Dad's head dips and when it raises again, his eyes flash.
"I am Selmac. Your father wishes me to introduce myself so that you know that I am not some sort of monster. Although, according to him, I can be a bit of a dragon from time to time."
Mark's not sure whether to laugh or not.
"Mark, it's okay," Frankie says. "Selmac saved Dad's life. He went into it with his eyes open. They wouldn't be parted now. Would you?" she turns to them.
"I am most at home with Jacob," Selmac confirms. "He is in some ways the most difficult host I have ever had, and in others, the easiest. We agree on many things, but argue about the rest. He sometimes gives me what you would describe as a headache."
We're laughing. Well, we know Selmac well enough to know she teases Dad a lot. His head dips again and soon it's him speaking.
"Selmac's right. The advantage to me is that when she gives me the headache, she also cures it. I'm happy, Mark. Honestly. Back home, even before I got sick, I was tied to a desk. You have no idea how frustrating that was. But now, I'm out there, doing something. Not only to protect my country but the entire galaxy. The only regret I have is that I don't see you and your family as much as I would like."
Mark's thinking about it. Finally, he says, "When you came to see me, was it Selmac that was behind it?"
"In a way. I'd wanted to come, but to be honest, I couldn't face the possibility of rejection. Selmac pushed me to try. If you're happy that we're in contact again, you can thank her."
"I see," he says slowly. Then he nods. "Thank you, Selmac. I appreciate what you've done for him. For us."
"It is my pleasure," Selmac replies. "Your father is very proud of you, of both of you. However, he is not very good at saying it."
Mark chuckles at that and then finally offers her a smile. That's good.
John starts up again and gives a quick rundown on how and why we ended up leaving Earth. I see Jack's family wince when John says, "So you see, my relationship with Daniel gave Hammond the perfect excuse, and us the perfect excuse to leave. If we hadn't done that, we wouldn't have been able to bring down the NID."
"I remember the fuss on the TV about that," Jack's mother says, her voice sounding quite bitter all of a sudden. "But could you please explain why there are two Jacks and so on?"
Something's not right there, I can feel it. I know that Jack's family have known about - and have accepted - Daniel for years, so why didn't they look happy when John was talking about him? I wish Daniel was here. He'd know what it was.
"We're just getting to that, Ma," John replies, probably unaware of what I just felt. "Back in the first year as a team, we were visiting various planets as was our brief. One place was pretty strange. Industrialised, but it seemed to be underground. Anyway, as soon as we walked through the gate, we found out later, we were knocked out. We didn't come round until much later.
"In the meantime, another team that looked like us in every way, in fact they thought they were us, went back to the SGC. But after some time, they got sick and it was only then did they realise what was going on.
"You see, the guy who ran this complex, Harlan, wasn't human. He looked it, he sounded it, but it turned out that he was a copy of the original Harlan. An android. Only he had all of the human Harlan's memories inside him. To him, he really was Harlan, even if he knew he was an android. Anyway, the team went back to him, they needed to be there otherwise their power supply would run out, and then they discovered the human 'us'.
"We went back to Earth, they stayed there to help Harlan keep the place running, but it was a bit of a lost cause. We think he wanted company more than actual help. He didn't mean any harm, so in the end, he was pretty much forgiven.
"But he'd made one mistake in choosing us. We're explorers. We're also fighting the worst enemy Earth has ever known. They, the ones he made, had to go out there. Their Sam made a new power supply and even though they used his place as a base, they went out there, discovering things, fighting Goa'uld..." He notices the look on the faces of our guests and shakes his head. "They're not here," he says bluntly.
"What happened to them?" asks his, er, Jack's mother.
"They died," Jack says, starting to explain for the first time. "We were with them when it happened. I didn't get on with my copy to begin with, but when he died... Let's just say it wasn't easy for any of us."
"What has this to do with you?" his mother asks, staring at Jack in particular.
"Well, you see, we had to go back to Harlan's planet, about a year ago. Again, we were knocked out, but we were on the ramp near the gate. He swore he hadn't copied us, that it had been a security measure, but, we discovered later, he'd done it again.
"We got a message that another MIA, that's our team designation by the way, was out there, going over old ground, finishing off tasks we hadn't been able to do. Harlan's place had been destroyed and we guessed where they'd be staying, a planet we were using as a safe house, so to speak. We met up, got together, and then we started to work together."
"Wait a minute," Patrick interrupts. "You're saying that one of you is an android?"
"Yeah. But, that fact doesn't matter," Jack insists. "The fact is..." He drops his head in his hands and runs his fingers through his hair. "They're real to us."
"They? You mean..."
"I mean that I am biologically your brother, Pat. I know I look younger than when you last saw me but that's another kind of alien intervention. It's really not very important. The only important thing to me is that John," he puts his hand on John's shoulder, "is a part of me. I love him like I love you guys. Like a brother.
"Every single thing that happened to me up to the point where he was created, happened to him. It's in his mind as real as any memories you have of what's happened to you. MIB, as they became known, took on different names to reduce confusion. But they're all names that mean something to us, too.
"Jack's just a nickname for John or Jonathan after all. Sam's 'sister' is Frankie, a school nickname. Daniel's twin is DJ and Teal'c's is Kar Shel. We don't think of them as different from us, they're a part of us."
"Ok-ay," his mother drawls. "So... Were you the one who came to see us?" she asks John.
He nods. "Jack had already had his age reduced by the time we met up. He couldn't go and see you as he is. We figured it would be better if I went. It's not like you could say anything about our, er, his childhood that I wouldn't know."
"Did you have any clue as to them not being human?" Jack asks.
"I did think that their not eating anything was a little strange, but then they were staying at a motel and they kept saying they'd eaten there. Thinking about it, you managed to avoid all mealtimes with us, didn't you?"
"We had to. We don't need to eat. We can't, at least not in the way you can. It could be messy," he adds with a grin.
"Messy. Right." She can't take her eyes off of John, as if she's looking for a clue, but she won't find one. "So, alien intervention?" she asks, her head turning to Jack but her eyes lingering on John.
"Fountain of youth," Jack replies with a shrug. "On our last planet."
"Yeah, well, we originally moved to another planet in this system. A tropical island in fact. It was great there. Daniel and I went for a short break on another island, found what we thought was a hot spring, went for a soak in it and came out looking about a third younger than we were. The grey had gone, the lines had gone... We looked and felt great."
"Side effects?" Mark asks, looking at me now instead of Frankie.
"No ill effects."
"Can we use it?" Jack's mother asks, offering a grin for the first time.
"I'm afraid not. When we returned from seeing you, the whole planet had gone up in a massive volcanic explosion. We were able to retrieve a few things from the tunnels, the gate and the dialling device we need to operate it, but that was it. Fortunately, this planet is even better for us."
"Are there any other things we should know about?" she demands.
What do you think? Jack asks me.
No more secrets, I sigh. I think we've had enough of those.
He takes a deep breath and tells them.
Okay, it's time to go home. To be honest, I'm so nervous that I'd rather stick my head in a pit full of angry rattlesnakes. I mean, they met DJ, not me. If Jack hasn't explained things well enough...
Stop it, Daniel. You're overanalysing again. Take a deep breath and step through the wormhole.
There, see? It wasn't that difficult, was it?
Jack? We're home.
About time too!
Hey, it was a long meeting. I'll tell you all about it when we get a chance.
Okay, just get your ass here, will you?
I'm on my way.
He sounds fed up. I hope it hasn't been too difficult for him.
"After you," I say to the others. Something is making my stomach knot.
I watch as they enter the house then step into it myself. Oh, fuck!
I'm on my knees, the pain is dreadful. It's in my stomach, worse than my appendix bursting. I feel sick. I need to get out of here.
"Out!" I say. It's all I can say.
Jack grabs me by the shoulders and hauls me upright. The next thing I know I'm face down in the grass, puking my guts up.
DJ's right behind me, Jack's next to me, stroking my back.
"Go get him some water, will ya?" he asks.
"On my way."
Don't let anyone come near, Jack. Telepathy's the only way I can talk.
I know. You hate anyone seeing you sick.
So? What brought this on?
Do I tell him? I think I've figured it out. But that will upset him.
Daniel? Tell me!
I know you hate being sick.
No, hatred. For me. Punched me in the stomach, took my breath away.
What!? Why!? Who!?
Don't know why. Your family. I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't think they felt this way about me. I'll go back to Earth until they leave. Don't want to get between you.
You're not going to get between us, he soothes. You must have misread it.
He wants to believe that so I let him. No way am I going back in the house.
DJ gives me some water. I've stopped throwing up at least. It takes all my strength to just sit on my ass and sip the water slowly.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
Jack looks at me, his eyes are pained.
"Jack, it's fine. Go talk to them. It's been a long time since you saw them last. Make the most of it."
"But nothing. Go on."
"I'll stay here," DJ tells him. "It's probably for the best anyway."
Daniel, I'm not going to leave you.
You're not leaving me, hun. We've got our link, haven't we? Go on, please. I won't take umbrage you know.
He offers me a small smile and a tight nod, his eyes staring into mine. This is costing him, I know. But I also know that he doesn't want to leave me, so it's easier to watch him go.
"Are you going to tell me what happened?" DJ asks when Jack closes in on the house.
"I'm not really sure. I walked into the room, got hit with what felt like a sledgehammer in my stomach. It dawned on me when I was throwing up that it had been pure hatred for me, a whole block of emotion sucker-punching me. I wasn't expecting that."
"No, I'm sure you weren't. Come on, let's go to Mia. It's late, it's dark and it's getting cold. You're shivering."
I am? Oh, I am.
Jack, we're going to Mia to get warm.
I can feel his fury from here.
Jack, don't get angry with them! I'll be on Mia, I'm not going anywhere else. Why don't you sort out where everyone is staying for the night? Your mother can have our bed if she wants. Um... MIB might want to go back to the palace to pick up some spare mattresses for the tunnel bedrooms, too. Come on, you can organise that, can't you?
Sure. But I'm gonna get to the bottom of this.
O'Neill's face was like thunder when he entered the house.
"What happened?" Samantha asks.
"Daniel got smacked in the stomach," he replies.
"What? How? Where? When?"
"Here. Now. By a lot of negative emotion," he states, staring into his mother's eyes. "You see," he continues, "Daniel's not just telepathic. He's empathic, too. He can feel what you guys are feeling. Back at the SGC, he felt hostility towards us, but nothing that made him more than a bit twitchy. But here, with my family, he feels like he just got punched so hard it made him puke his guts up."
O'Neill is too calm. I am afraid that he will explode.
His family look shocked and guilty. He is looking to them for an explanation but they do not seem to have one for him. Eventually, something registers on his sister's face.
"He took you away from us," she says. "You said it yourself, or rather John said it..."
"Don't you get that yet? If he's talking about the past, he is saying it for me," O'Neill growls.
"Whatever. If you two hadn't been together, there wouldn't have been the excuse to send you to the other side of the galaxy. You wouldn't have been copied. You wouldn't have been changed!"
He shakes his head.
"You really don't get it, do you? If it hadn't been for that, it would have been for another reason. We would have found a reasonable excuse because this matters. Doing this protects you. And you obviously weren't listening because if it hadn't been for Daniel, I wouldn't be alive today. What, would you rather me dead?"
"No! Of course not! I want you home! We want you home!"
"If it hadn't been for him, I would be. If not on that first mission, then by my own hand. Because I'm telling you now, I had that same fucking gun in my hand that took Charlie's life. If those guys hadn't knocked on my door and taken me to the mountain, I would have been dead a few minutes later. That's how close it was.
"So instead of you hating a guy who's probably the nicest guy I have ever met in my life and is certainly the best damned thing that ever happened to me, you should be getting on your knees and thanking him for keeping me alive. He indirectly saved my life by opening the gate. He directly saved my life by stopping me blowing myself up as well as everyone else on the planet. And, to cap it all, he stepped in front of a staff weapon and got his stomach blown apart.
"You want to see the damage a staff weapon can do? Teal'c! Where's yours?"
"It is where it always is, O'Neill."
"Great. Come here."
His family follow him as if they are in a trance. O'Neill has picked up the staff and has taken them outside. In his fury, he has blasted a large, thick tree. Even in the darkness, it is possible to see the damage.
"And he knew that would happen to him. He knew I wanted to die. Yet he still took the blast meant for me. And that was only on the first mission. I couldn't begin to count the amount of times he's either saved my life or my sanity."
He hands me my weapon without another word and then marches to Mia. I assume that he does not wish company.
"You should come back into the house," I say, getting their attention. "I feel O'Neill needs to control his anger before he returns. Daniel will assist him in that."
Silently, they accompany me back into the house.
"We'll go to the palace and get some bedding for the new bedrooms," John states. "If you guys want to stay here, that is?"
"Will he forgive us?" O'Neill's brother, Patrick, asks.
"If you forgive Daniel. If you don't, then you may as well go home," he sighs. "You picked the wrong time to react like this."
"What do you mean?"
He shakes his head. "Let's just say that recently, things have been a little difficult emotionally. What with them getting the telepathy, we nearly lost DJ... It hasn't been easy. All the difficulties blew up into a big fight from which they're only just recovering. Nothing and no one will be able to part them at the moment, and only an idiot would try."
With that, he stands up, beckons to Kar Shel and Frankie and says that they will return soon. Samantha and I are left with Jacob to deal with the aftermath.
"How is he still alive?" asks Patrick O'Neill.
"There is alien technology called a sarcophagus which can heal many injuries and illnesses," I inform him, "including death if the body is more or less intact and is put inside it soon enough.
"As I understand it, Ra had one of the sarcophaguses on his ship and was sufficiently curious about Daniel to put him inside it. Since then, he has died or nearly died on numerous occasions. Each time hurts O'Neill more and has in the past caused them to split up. Now, however, it draws them closer together.
"Recently, as John said, DJ was nearly lost in space. It took much work by Samantha and Frankie to save his life. Daniel has no real family, he considers DJ to be his twin brother. Losing him would have hurt him very much, as you could imagine. But losing DJ would have hurt us, too. We have lost Daniel far too often. As far as we are concerned, it would have been as bad to lose DJ."
"Could you extend an initial apology on our behalf to Daniel, please?" Mrs. O'Neill requests. "We'll speak to him personally when he's recovered. We didn't really understand. I wasn't even aware of how angry I was with him."
"Are you still angry?"
She shakes her head, as do her children.
"No. Of course not. We are all very, very sorry."
"Consider it done."
Teal'c's broadcast an apology to Daniel - and me - from my family. In his opinion, they're genuinely contrite. Daniel's still reluctant to return to the house, though, and I can't blame him. DJ's gone with the others to the palace, leaving us alone.
"Are you going to forgive them?" he asks me.
"It's you that got hurt."
"Physically," he agrees. "You're the one that hurt most emotionally."
I look at him in shock and shake my head in disbelief. Then I realise that he never expected them to like him in the first place. Not that he had reason to think otherwise, but that he never expects anyone to like him.
"If you think you're okay, then I'm okay," I say.
He raises an eyebrow at me and gives me a wry grin.
"Okay, okay, if going in there is the only way to get you in there," he mutters, stalking off. After a few steps he stops, looks over his shoulder and says, "Well? Coming?"
I guess I am.
I'm still furious with my family. Bridget's explanation has helped me understand why they felt like that, but I guess that I can't believe they reacted so nastily to him. It's not like them. They're usually much more easy-going than that. I mean, they've known about us for ages. They've known about me longer - I mean how I am rather than who I am, of course.
When we get to the door of the house, I wrap my arm around Daniel's shoulder. I can feel his nervousness radiating from him and I don't need his empathy to do that.
"Daniel, we are so very sorry," Ma says as we enter the kitchen.
"That's okay," he says quietly. "I understand."
An awkward silence falls and frankly I don't know what to say. Mercifully Daniel's stomach growls and it gives me an out.
"Didn't you eat at the SGC?" I scold, but I know my voice isn't harsh.
"I wanted to get back as soon as possible," he replies, yawning.
"Sit. Eat something, even if it's only a sandwich."
"Is there any coffee on?"
"Oh no. You're not having any caffeine. You're going straight to bed after you've eaten."
I guess I must sound like his dad or something as he ducks his head, trying not to laugh at me. In exasperation I put my hand on his shoulder and push him to sit at the table. He surrenders and grabs some bread that's already been cut, spreading the butter thickly and then putting some of his cheese between the slices.
"There, I'm eating," he taunts. "Happy now?"
"When you swallow," I reply, then rewind that phrase and try not to both blush and laugh.
Daniel's head has now hit the table. What's making it worse is that my mother and my sister are laughing. My brother hasn't quite caught up with it yet, but then he's got an excuse. Father O'Neill's mind just doesn't go there, ya know?
"Shut up," I mouth at him and he winks back. I know that he's grasping at straws here, but if it takes his mind off what happened, then I'll play along.
"I'll be going," Jake says. "I'll come back in the morning, okay?"
"That's great. Come for breakfast."
He shakes hands with those he's just met, pats Daniel on the back and looks at me disapprovingly, shaking his head. You know, I'm real glad I didn't end up with Sam. Not that I don't love her, not that at all. But having Jacob as a father-in-law? Nuh huh. Just wouldn't work out.
The alarm goes off and I check out the VCD receiver. It's MIB, back with mattresses and so on from the palace. Fortunately, there's a good supply of things like that there.
"Ma, would you prefer sleeping in our room or in the Tok'ra tunnels?" I ask.
"Tok'ra tunnels? What are they?"
"Uncomfortable," Daniel mutters.
"Come on, the guys are back and they're going to make up the new beds we've gotten down there. You might as well come see."
My family, Sam and Mark follow me down, Teal'c's staying with Daniel. Probably to make sure he's eating. If I'm the mother hen to end all mother hens, then God only knows what Teal'c is, when it comes to Daniel, that is. The grandmother, I guess.
"Wow," Bridie says. "It's very blue."
"Yeah. The Tok'ra aren't really very original when it comes to colour schemes. They're all like this."
"How do they make them?" Mark asks.
"Well, even though we know how they make them, we don't know how they make them," Sam sighs. "They use crystals which they press against the earth that they want to tunnel in, and depending on the type of crystal they use, a tunnel or room or whatever they want appears. When they leave a place, they put a different sort of crystal in the wall and it collapses the tunnels, basically turning the clock back as if they were never here. It took all of five minutes total to make this set of corridors and rooms."
"Wow," Ma says. "That's impressive."
"Yeah," Sam replies, still sighing. "I wish I understood how they make them, but even Selmac doesn't know how. It's the Tok'ra engineers that do it. What's really neat is that if you want a specific sort of room, like a bedroom, you ask them for it and they build in the characteristics. So here, for example, there's shelves in the walls, a desk..." She points inside her study and our families are suitably impressed.
"There are four bedrooms down here, but none have doors on them," I say apologetically. "I'm afraid the Tok'ra haven't discovered the human desire for privacy. Or rather they have, but they don't understand it. At least none of the bedrooms look directly into another. There's a bathroom down the way here."
I show them a fully equipped, if strange bathroom and how to use it.
"The tunnels are for us to use as studies, but also for emergencies. We don't know what the weather is going to be like during the winter, so we've got kitchen facilities and so on. We're going to store a lot of our food down here over winter as we think it's going to get pretty snowed in. There are rings at the end of the tunnel direct to our little ship and when the big one is back in orbit, we can transport pretty much anywhere from anywhere, which is going to help out."
I say this because I can see that Ma's eyes are filled with worry about me. And the others, probably.
We show them the bedrooms and Mark and Patrick volunteer to sleep down here. MIB have now joined us and the mattresses they've brought are pretty thick, so they'll be okay. Neither Bridie nor Ma look too keen on the idea, so I tell them they can have our room. Sam volunteers her room for one of them instead, saying that she and Teal'c will use their room down here.
I guess Daniel and I will go to Mia. Just in case we need the privacy.
I am so tired. It's been a very long day. This morning I woke up on Gimli, transported to the SGC, then back to the ship, went off to another part of the galaxy, fought the Replicators, went back to the SGC only to find my brother and Jack's family there, and have had to deal with the fallout from them finding out the truth. It's eleven o'clock, our time, and if I don't get some sleep soon I'm going on strike.
Daniel had already tidied up the guys' room thinking that Jack's mother wouldn't want to sleep in the tunnels when there's a sinfully comfortable (and sinned in) four-poster bed in their room. I guess he's hidden what he doesn't want her to see.
I've been tidying our room like crazy, too. Not that it was a mess before, but the sheets needed changing and so on. Bridget seems to be very impressed with our house, especially the bath.
"Use it," I say. "It'll have to be in the morning, though, as there's no hot water here today. We'll light the fire tonight in the burner and there'll be plenty then. It's very decadent," I add, grinning as I think of how decadent I've been in it.
She's looking at the mosaic.
"Your design?" she asks with a smile.
"No, the people that built the house. They must have realised that Teal'c and I were together, so they did that picture. You should see the picture in the guys' room," I add with a grin.
"I'll look tomorrow." Then her face turns serious. "We didn't mean to hurt Daniel," she says quietly. "I mean, we know what he means to Jack, and we can't say how glad we are that Jack has someone who loves him as much as we know Daniel loves him. It wasn't a conscious thing on our part."
"He knows that," I soothe. "Don't worry, he's very forgiving."
"Why is he so forgiving?"
"I don't know. He just is."
I sit on the bed and look at her as I try to think about that.
"Don't get me wrong, Daniel is not a saint. He can hold a grudge as well as anyone. And he's not someone you want to cross as you will come off the worst. But he just forgives anyone that is truly sorry for doing something to him. I mean, look at Teal'c," I add in a whisper.
She sits next to me so I can keep my voice low.
"He, when he was First Prime of Apophis, basically his man in charge of everything, kidnapped Daniel's wife, was responsible for her being turned into a Goa'uld, and a few years later, he killed her to save Daniel's life. I know Daniel. He didn't want to forgive him for that initially. But, over those years, he'd grown to respect him, like him and, I guess, love him as a brother.
"The first thing he said when he realised that Shau're was dead was that Teal'c had done the right thing. I don't know about you, but if that had been me, I'd probably have wanted to kill him. Even though the Goa'uld who was inhabiting Shau're was trying to kill Daniel at the time, which is why Teal'c did it. Since then they've grown extremely close."
"That's some level of forgiveness," she admits. "I think even Patrick would have a hard time following that. I wonder what made him that way?"
I shrug. "Believe me, you don't want to know Daniel's life history. Apart from the fact that it's very sad, it would confuse you even more as to how he became so good. All I can say is that Jack wasn't wrong when he said that Daniel was the best thing that ever happened to him.
"But then again, Jack was the best thing that ever happened to Daniel, for so many reasons. They're not just 'in love', Bridie, they need each other."
"I'm beginning to get that. We didn't see so much of it when John and DJ were with us."
"They're just the same, but then they were constantly looking over their shoulders. They couldn't indulge in what they wanted to do, which was to be connected all the time. But don't think that they're any different from Jack and Daniel, they're not."
"Again, that's something that's beginning to become clear to me," she sighs.
"I'd better get down to the tunnels," I say. "Otherwise Mark and Patrick might have a hard time coming out of them. I've got the controls!"
She bids me goodnight and I go.
"Is everything okay?"
I hear Daniel's voice as I step outside the house to go to the rings.
"Yeah. They do like you, Daniel. They were just overwhelmed and confused, that's all."
He says nothing about that but just nods.
"Night, Sam," he says, then turns and heads towards Mia.
"Yeah. Night, Daniel," I call to his back.
I guess it's time for bed.
"So, we're on our own again," Jack says as we curl up in bed.
"It would appear so," I agree.
He looks at me curiously, grinning a little but really softly.
"You okay now?" he asks.
"Yeah. I believe they meant what they said when they apologised. I could feel it."
"Good." His face crumples up a little and then he says, "You're really going to have to learn to control this empathy thing. If you get hit by strong emotion when we're on a mission, it could get you hurt."
He deliberately doesn't add 'or killed'. He doesn't have to.
"I think I'll be able to," I assure him. "I just wasn't expecting it. Besides, it's been a long day and I was pretty tired when I got home."
"Now I'm exhausted."
He laughs out loud and pulls me into his arms. I think it's going to take me about two seconds to go to sle...
"Fuck off, Jack."
"I've got coffee."
I hate mornings. I really, really hate mornings. Especially mornings after really long days. At least the coffee helps me open my eyes.
When they do open, I see Jack sitting by my side, watching me as I drink. He's got that look in his eyes. The one that says that he's going to fuck me raw. Which would really be a pain as I'm still recovering from being fucked totally raw yesterday. Or was that the day before? I don't know, I'm so tired I've completely lost track. Anyway, timeline to one side, that's not extracted me from a potentially painful predicament. Maybe I can distract him.
I finish the coffee quickly and pull him to lie with me. He doesn't exactly fight me. We start by kissing; not really a surprise, we like it. Love it. We're on our sides and his hand automatically reaches for my ass. I don't stop him but I really hope he isn't thinking of...
Hell, he is. His fingers are working their way into the crack of my ass. I break off from kissing him.
"No," I whisper. "Not today. Want this."
I roll him onto his back and pull down the shorts he'd put on before going to the galley to make me coffee. I start to kiss him again and this time, he puts both his hands on my ass, but now it's to urge me on. I'm going to take it slow to start with, pushing against him firmly. We have to break off the kissing, though, it's not really easy to concentrate on the two things at once.
He's as hard as I am; was before I even got his shorts off. Just one smouldering look between us has both our cocks up and begging in seconds.
"Yeah," he growls, pulling hard on my ass. "Just like that. Come on."
"Not yet," I reply. "Not coming yet."
He chuckles as I say that but continues to urge me on, thrusting his hips up to meet mine coming down.
I speed up, push harder. The heat from his cock scorches my stomach, the hardness bruises me, but I don't care. I grind against him, he's pushing up harder and harder. I feel him start to twitch, the sign that he's about to come. It excites me more, knowing that I can do this to him, I can make him come so damned easily. He starts to pulse and I feel my stomach get wet. It makes me slip easier, and I slide against him, hot, smooth... Oh fuck...
I can't help it, I laugh at his pronouncement. There was a time when I'd get things like 'God, Daniel, that was amazing'. Now I get 'Ew'. Hey ho.
"I think we need to clean up," I suggest.
"And I thought that extra brainpower wasn't being put to good use," he teases.
"Ooh, you're bitchy this morning."
I don't bother answering but roll off him and stand up, putting my hand out to haul him up too. When we're upright, he wraps his arms around my waist and we spend the next couple of minutes kissing again. Finally, we break off and he's smirking from ear to ear. He kicks off his shorts and leads me to the bathroom, which has a small, but functional shower in it.
"Your ass still sore from the other day?" he asks as we get under the water.
"Just a little. I just didn't want to exacerbate it. Besides, even if that is messy, I like doing that."
"True. I won't argue with you."
With that, he rolls his eyes, puts his hands on my shoulders and pushes me up against the wall of the shower and kisses me hard. Oh boy, here we go again!
Samantha's brother and O'Neill's family are sitting around the table and eating breakfast. Samantha prepared it and is also partaking. We are awaiting Daniel and O'Neill's arrival.
"So, what do you want to do today?" Samantha asks of them.
"I'm not really sure," Mrs. O'Neill replies. "After all, we weren't exactly expecting to meet up with you in the first place, so we didn't make plans."
"Of course. We can show you around the planet if you like?"
"Sure. The guys slept in the ship last night. It doesn't take long to orbit Annwn, you could see the whole planet and then some."
I fear that our guests have been surprised. Fortunately, we are joined by our teammates.
"Morning," O'Neill cries. "Did you sleep well?"
His mother and sister confirm that they did, however, both brothers look less rested.
"I guess the tunnels take some getting used to, eh?" Mark asks.
"Yeah. Sorry about that. You can sleep on the ship... Nah, strike that. We sleep on the floor of the ship. Just a mattress on it. You're better off underground."
"Are we staying tonight?" his mother asks.
"Your choice. I mean, unless something happens that spoils the plan, you're welcome to stay as long as you like."
His mother looks pointedly at Daniel.
"Are you sure?"
Daniel nods. "Of course. You need to catch up with Jack and Sam. It's been too long since you saw them. The others will be back soon, as will Jacob."
At the mention of MIB, his mother goes quiet.
"Ma? What's up?"
She shakes her head. "I'm not sure," she says. "It's just taking some time getting used to the idea of having a robot for a son."
Daniel shakes his head, but more vigorously.
"Don't think of them like that," he insists. "Your image of a robot is something you've garnered from years of TV and pop fiction. That or you see them as mindless automatons, working in factories. These guys are androids, sure, but they have emotions. They're not mindless and they're certainly not automatons."
"Emotions? Aren't you just anthropomorphising?"
"No," he asserts. "They have real emotions; they feel, they hurt, they love. I know that for a fact." He sips some coffee which O'Neill has provided and looks suspiciously at the cooked food on the table before putting some on a plate.
"So they really feel," she murmurs. "But how can they think that they are you?"
"How am I going to explain it?" he mutters to himself. "I know. Imagine this. You're you, you know who and what you are, remember everything you've ever done. But then you end up in a coma because of a head injury. What the doctors don't know is that you've got total amnesia, or rather you will have when you come out of it.
"A friend is told that reading to you is a good idea, so she gets an incredibly detailed biography of a woman your age. Before you come out of the coma, she's read every word. The descriptions in it are amazing, including emotions, scents, sights..."
He sips some more coffee and then continues.
"When you wake up, you have absolutely no memory of your real life, but everything that was in the biography is there. You can see the memories like video in your head. You can 'smell' the roses that were described, you can 'taste' your mother's pie. You know all the people, what they look like, how they sound, you'd recognise them if you passed them in the street. You remember visiting places.
"But in reality, you were never there, you never met the people or smelt the roses and so on. However, it is so damned real to you that nothing and no one can convince you that you are not this other woman and that those memories aren't yours."
The others nod slowly, as if beginning to understand.
"MIB know they're not human. They know that the memories are ours. But, they remember them. Their minds were blank when they were created. Somehow, we don't know how, Harlan copied every single thing in our minds and transferred them to the others. DJ remembers seeing my parents die. Frankie remembers Jake coming home and telling her that her mother had died," he looks apologetically at Samantha and Mark as he says that.
"It hurts them as much as it hurts us. What hurts them more is that they didn't get the good things. They remember them, but they know that it's a lie. Unfortunately, because human emotions are the way they are, they find it impossible to ignore the bad things that happened to us and write them off as being 'not their history'. DJ remembers going through the various colleges I went to. Remembers everything I learned - until recently, he had better recall of it, too.
"What we want you to realise is that if you dismiss them, Frankie and John especially, you will hurt them badly. It would be just as if you rejected Jack and Sam. They remember you. They know you. Most of all, they're a part of us.
"We couldn't really accept the first group of androids, but that was because we didn't understand them very well and they were extremely resentful at having what they saw as their lives being taken away from them. Because MIB knew from the start that they were androids, they were able to accept that a little easier. By developing their own personalities, their own identities, they were more comfortable with the idea. But they still regretted knowing that they weren't us, if you know what I mean.
"We're glad they're with us. We want them to move here to be with us all the time. It's like having a twin you never knew you had. All we hope is that you guys don't reject them out of hand and give them a chance. John has Jack's personality," he says to O'Neill's mother specifically. "As the others have ours. They're exactly the same as us. Yes, in the last year we've all built up different memories, but only in the last year. Jack and John share forty-seven years of memories. Teal'c and Kar Shel share over a hundred! We can't and don't dismiss that. We only hope you can do the same."
His impassioned speech over, Daniel finally starts to eat.
At first, the room is quiet, but soon conversations strike up. O'Neill catches Daniel's eye and nods silently, letting him know that we approve of what he said.
If Daniel's passion doesn't sway them, nothing will. He gets so involved in what he's pleading for that I sometimes think he's going to have a stroke. Never mind, I can see that he's definitely affected them. Hopefully it will be for the better, especially as the alarm's just gone off and the VCD says that it's MIB.
"Uh, Jack, we'll have to go back to Earth today," Daniel says as he finishes up his breakfast.
"What? Didn't you debrief yesterday?"
"Of course. Look, we'll let you know what was discussed a little later on."
He switches to telepathy.
Sorry about this Jack, but there are some classified things that need talking about. To be honest, I don't think our guests even want to know about them.
Fine. We'll talk when the guys get here.
Okay. Why don't you and the others take your families up in Mia? DJ and I can head back to Earth as you're doing that.
I don't answer that as MIB have entered the house. They're being greeted more warmly by our families than I expected. There's hope yet.
Once the initial chatter has died down and the breakfast things have been cleaned away, I try to get us organised.
"I'm sorry to say that we need to chat," I start, pointing at my team and MIB. "It's related to something we did yesterday and I'm afraid it's classified. Why don't you guys make the most of the warm weather and look around the garden?"
"Jack, don't you think we can deal with classified material now?" Bridie asks, sounding more than a bit miffed.
"Uh, Bridie, you've been let into a tiny part of what's going on. Trust me on this one, you don't want to hear what we're going to discuss. We wouldn't be doing this unless it was necessary, I promise. We won't be long, then we'll take you for a ride in a spaceship. Whatd'ya say?"
I think she's thinking some seriously mutinous things, but then she's my big sister and used to bossing me about, not the other way around.
The gate opens again and we see that it's Jacob. Good, we need him here too.
Ma takes over and ushers everyone out of the house, saying that she wants to see what alien plant-life is like. I could point her in the direction of a few Goa'uld we've met...
"Jake, glad you made it. Why don't you sit down."
He joins us at the table and asks, "What's up?"
"We're just going to go over what happened yesterday, that's all," Daniel replies.
"So?" I push, wanting to get this over and done with.
"Hammond said that the organisation is well underway," DJ reports. "International co-operation is at an all-time high, there isn't a great deal of inter-force bitching..."
"Yet," Daniel interrupts.
"Yet," DJ confirms. "Basically, the brass in each country are all scared of an all-out attack by Hades and they're working flat out to prepare."
"Miracles do happen," I say. I don't think I've ever heard of that much co-operation before.
"In the meantime, they're allocating every single pilot that can be spared from all the forces to the gliders. Oh, Jacob," Daniel says, "will the Tok'ra need all of the gliders on the ships you're getting?"
"Need? No. We'd like to keep some, of course, because you never know when they'll be useful. Especially those with the Asgard engines. Why?"
"Well, rather than have them sitting on ships and doing nothing, perhaps you can donate them to Earth? We think that there's going to be an initial attack of 2,000 gliders, if Hades' plan goes the way we think it's going to go. Much as Earth will have a lot of gliders, they're not going to have that many. Even if you were to give them three hundred, they'd only have fifteen hundred, or thereabouts, but it would go some way to evening up the odds against them.
"After all, we can't stay there all the time, and neither can Gimli. It might be months before Hades turns up. We'll come as soon as we're called, of course, but what if we're exploring somewhere, or elsewhere in the galaxy looking for Hades?"
"Whatd'ya mean, looking for Hades?"
He's doing it again, isn't he?
"I told you, Jack. Hecate spoke to him using a vo'cuum. He wasn't on the planet."
"Or he was elsewhere on the planet?" I suggest, more in hope than in conviction.
"Do you want to take that chance?" DJ answers for him.
I hate it when they double-team me like this. Dammit.
"Okay, so we need to go back there, do some more checking out and so on," I agree. I look at the others and they're also in agreement.
"If we have one of the next al'keshes to arrive," Sam says thoughtfully, "then we can use that to find Hades."
She shakes her head. "Sorry, just thinking out loud. Uh... Well, obviously, if Gimli's going to be here, and I agree we should bring her back home, we'll need someone to remain here and ready to run back to Earth at a moment's notice. It takes us seven minutes to fly there at full speed. Um... Dad? Can the Tok'ra supply an early-warning device for the solar system, so that if the gliders are the first things in, we can be called and probably will arrive in time for Hades' arrival."
We stop, think about those sentences, figure it out and then agree with her request.
"I don't see why not," he replies. "But we're short of naquada at the moment."
"Earth isn't," I shrug. "We can get some from there. How many bars would you need?"
"Just the one."
"In which case, haven't we got enough?" I ask the others.
"Probably, but they've got more than us," Sam mutters, obviously reluctant to give away her prized possession.
"If we give you two, would you make one for us, too?" I ask Jacob.
"Don't see why not. It might take some time, though, as we'll have to give priority to the Earth system and the tunnel crystals."
"Of course. There's no rush."
Daniel's thinking again. I can tell.
"Daniel? What's up?"
"Just rewinding something Sam said," he replies. "If we do bring Gimli home and go out in the al'kesh to find Hades, it will mean that one team will have to wait here by the gate."
"So we'll take it in turns to go out. You have a problem with that?" I ask MIB. I see shaking heads all round. "Cool. Problem solved."
"Fine. The other thing is, I think we should have eight fully-Asgard gliders on board her, just in case we ever need to escape and we're nowhere near a gate..."
"Eight?" I interrupt. "They're two-seaters."
"And if we have Thor or Jacob or anyone else on board?" he continues. Then he says as if I haven't interrupted, "And four semi-Asgard gliders on Annwn."
"Yeah. Instead of taking Mia everywhere for day trips and so on," he says with a blink.
"Why not eight?"
"As you say, they're two-seaters. We tend to go everywhere in pairs," he shrugs. "Besides, until Hades is gone, we can't leave the gate unattended."
"So we really do have to live here," John sighs.
"Or we move to the palace," Daniel offers. "But if you think about it, you guys coming here is probably going to be the safest thing in the long run."
MIB nod slowly, finally accepting that this is really going to happen, whether they want it or not.
"Which brings me back to bringing Gimli home," Daniel says. "The masons will have your house ready soon. We'll need her to go get the things or else we're going to have to take Mia, and that will take four days in total."
Daniel has a good point. Jack knows this. Unfortunately for Jack, he also knows what it implies.
"DJ, Teal'c, Kar Shel and I should return to Earth this morning," he continues. "Paul said that the vast majority of what we requested will be there by midday today. Anything left is small enough to be sent through the gate. We can pick everything up and then, assuming George doesn't need us for anything else, we'll fly home. We'll be back in time for dinner, if not long before that."
"What are we going to do with them?" I ask quietly, pointing outside.
"They're your families!" DJ squeaks. "What the hell do we know about what to do with them?"
"We'll take them up in Mia," John sighs, sounding defeated.
"Great idea. Okay. We'll get going and we'll be back before you know it," DJ states, standing up and patting John on the back.
Before any of us can argue, the Daniels and Teal'cs are heading out into the garden. We follow them quickly.
"Daniel, wait up!" Jack hollers.
"We're just saying 'goodbye', Jack," Daniel replies, stopping and turning back to face us.
"Goodbye?" Mark asks.
"Just for a few hours. Some work needing finishing back on Earth. Don't worry, we won't be too long. Have fun," DJ says, smiling at him.
I look to Teal'c for some sort of argument or support but only get the blank face. It's the one that says he'd feel more comfortable sticking his penis in a meat grinder than being sociable.
Mark's not that bad, I offer.
He is not bad at all, Samantha. However, would you like Daniel to go to Earth unaccompanied?
He won't be. He'll have DJ.
As I say that, I see that DJ's just tripped over one of the logs that Teal'c chopped.
Indeed. I shall return soon, my love.
Jack's making sure that Daniel will come back sooner rather than later as he's just grabbed him and is now kissing him like crazy. When they break apart, Daniel's grinning like the proverbial village idiot.
"See ya," he says with a wink.
DJ and John are no different. Sometimes I wonder if it's better to be with Teal'c or not. He doesn't embarrass me with very public displays of affection, but then again...
I think that he's picked up on my confusion. Before he leaves, he bends over and kisses my cheek. He says nothing but his eyes catch mine for a moment and I see such love in them that I want to cry with happiness. Not that I will. I'm not that sappy. Or romantic. Much.
We watch as they head into the trees and then Jack says, "Who's up for a trip?"
Our families are standing open-mouthed, looking at the view screen and watching the scenery below us as Jack flies us over our world. We're not too high up and they get to see all the details of the land, the alpine area we live in, the desert near the equator, the tropical regions, the jungles... Annwn is very much like Earth only with less water, only about 50% of the planet is covered.
"It's beautiful," Bridie says as we go over one of the rainforests.
"You want to see it from space?" Jack asks.
"Space? You mean..."
"Keep watching," he says, grinning as he does.
They stare intently as we raise up and out of Annwn's atmosphere and soon they see darkness surround our green and blue jewel.
"We're in space," his mother mutters. "But..."
"But what?" I ask.
"But we aren't floating."
"Artificial gravity. We can turn it off if you want."
She raises her eyebrows. "Maybe later."
I can't help it, I want to laugh. I forget how exciting this must be for people who have never been in space before.
I hope Jack's enjoying himself. I think he's going to relax more today. It's not that he didn't want to see his family, he did. Just on his terms, that's all. When he was expecting them, where he was expecting them. I think he and John had Minnesota on their minds.
Anyway, what's done is done, and other trite sayings.
In the meantime, Hammond's heard what we have planned and understands it. We've swapped four of our gliders for eight with Asgard engines. When he heard that Jacob agreed to the Tok'ra building an early warning system for Earth and I said we'd pay for it, the eight gliders were readily available. Not that I'm going to tell Jack that, I'll just give the Tok'ra the naquada from our stores. We have about fifty bars of it, anyway. I doubt that even Sam would be able to use that.
Paul's come up trumps in more ways than one. Every large item - and many of the smaller ones - we asked for is in a hangar at Peterson. Including the huge fishing boat Jack and John wanted. They're even supplying a trailer, which is a great idea, even if we have no truck or roads. The boat will need something to sit on when it's on land, after all.
Luckily for the guys, Paul likes fishing, too, and he knew exactly what they were after and he's gotten them one of the best he could get at short notice, plus things like anti-fouling paint for the hull and the brushes with which to apply it.
Even Paul wondered what the hell was going on in our heads when we created our lists, especially when he saw things like sheets of galvanised steel there. Don't ask, I have no idea. It's for Sam. 'Nuff said. But he's managed to get them without question, so I've spent the morning thanking him profusely. Even Teal'c did that when he first got here, something which unnerved Paul no end.
They've come to an arrangement, er, that's Paul and Anthony. During panic times like this, one of them will be in Colorado, the other in DC. Not good for them for seeing each other, but at least there'll always be an understanding voice on the other end of the phone. Paul's relieved, in fact. Phoning his bosses at the Pentagon with requests from the SGC wasn't always easy. It was much simpler for him to see them in person. So he'll call Ant, tell him what they want and it's up to him to go get it.
Somehow, instead of being the Navy's liaison, Anthony's been seconded to the SGC's staff and will act as a second liaison to the JCS, along with Paul. I think that's Hammond's doing. He wanted to give them a chance to spend as much time together 'legally' as possible.
We're still on base, DJ and me. Teal'c and Kar Shel have gone to Peterson to see the Jaffa, who are still there until the glider base is set up. Then they'll go up there when it is and train them in the actual craft instead of the classroom. Bratac has gone back to the rebellion, afraid to leave it for too long, I think. He trusts the Jaffa that are here. They'll train up the first bunch of pilots and hopefully, they'll be able to train the next wave.
Bratac promised to come as soon as he was called if we get word that Hades is on his way. He'll bring every spare Jaffa pilot he can. We'll need their experience, I think.
DJ has been talking to my old friends at the anthropology department, and I'm on my way to join him. I'm still sensing a certain amount of hostility, but there's a lot of pleasure at seeing me, too. That's almost as unnerving. I'd always had the feeling that outside of my department, excepting a few of the military, I was tolerated at best. But it seems like I was more popular than I imagined.
Of course, there are exceptions, but the hostility is now limited to certain people, the sorts of people I was wary about when I worked here. I think that Hammond has briefed the team leaders about what's going on, so that's probably helping. In my experience, military folk can face any danger, as long as they know what that danger is. If you let their imaginations run riot, you're more likely to get a hostile reaction from them than from a civilian who doesn't expect to know what's going on.
Having said that the hostility is limited, I can't say it's not evident. For example, how about now?
"Well, well, if it isn't Doctor Jackson. On your own? Lover boy not with you?"
Do I walk past him and ignore him? That's exactly how I used to react. Oh fuck it. Since I've been living off-world, let's just say that I'm at more of an advantage than he could possibly know.
"I'm not on my own, and if you had the balls you think you have, you'd call Jack that to his face. But then I can't see you doing that somehow."
His friends snigger at his disposition and that makes him angry and more embarrassed. I can sense that he's one of those that is frightened by what might be happening out there, rather than him being a 'phobe. He's using that as a cover for his nervousness, something that I've encountered a lot in the past. I have to end this before it starts and that means going on the offensive. I can be very offensive when I need to be.
"Have you finished?" I push. "I've got much better things to be doing with my time than standing here talking to a moron."
That's really pushed one of his buttons. He automatically raises his hand as if to hit me; which is a stupid thing to do in a corridor of a top secret military base with security cameras all around, but is obviously a gut reaction from him.
Big mistake. I'm a lot stronger than I look. My hand is up and holding his forearm in a tight grip. I squeeze harder and harder, twisting his arm until his knees buckle and he ends up on his knees in front of me. I look down at him and feel a sneer crossing my face. Then I bend down and whisper in his ear.
"Ya know," I drawl, "there would have been a time and place when any guy I had on his knees in front of me like this would be begging to be allowed to suck me off. There would have been a time and place when I might have let you. When I was in the mood. But you really aren't my type. I'm not desperate."
I let him go, throwing his arm to the floor, then I push past his friends and enter my old lab. Sanctuary.
"Nice job," DJ says with a grin, high-fiving me as he does. "I was going to step in but you seemed to be handling him nicely."
"Thanks. There comes a time when you just have to do it."
"I hear you, brother," he chuckles. "Look who's here."
I look and see Nyan, Daisy and many other old friends. They greet me warmly, the door shuts behind me and I feel welcome and only pleasure for the first time since I got here.
It has been good to see the Jaffa. They feel like they are making a difference in training the Tauri pilots. I was afraid that they would not be treated well by the more experienced pilots, who have a tendency to be very sure of their abilities, but my fear was misplaced. A high-ranking officer has been with them at all times. Perhaps that has helped.
I am sure that as time has gone on, with my comrades explaining the demands of the gliders and the tactics of the Goa'uld, a respect for their abilities has grown and they are being listened to because the pilots want to, not because they must.
However, it is time for us to go. Kar Shel and I are in the large hangar and it seems to be full of things for us.
"Daniel," I call on my communicator. "It would appear that everything is ready to be transported. Where are you?"
"Hey, Teal'c. We're in the archaeology lab. We'll just beam up and pick you up."
"I do not wish to tear you away from your friends," I say. "We can wait."
"No, no, it's okay. We want to get home, too."
"Then we shall await your word."
"Fine. We'll just go say goodbye to the General. We'll call as soon as we're ready."
As we wait for Daniel's word, Kar Shel and I look at the things in the hangar. There are many different items, most we can recognise, but some, undoubtedly for the ladies, we cannot. I am curious as to why there are large metal sheets of different colours, and also a, possibly copper, container which looks like it has a spout at the top. There are also boxes of glass containers of varying types.
"The Daniels," Kar Shel says as he sees them.
"Undoubtedly. Did you ask for anything?"
"A few items," he replies. "Mainly clothes and shoes, but I have little need for things. What of you?"
"Some tools and extra candles for kel'no'reem," I say. "Do you ever feel the need for kel'no'reem?"
"Occasionally. Obviously I do not need it for my health, but I find that it helps order my thoughts."
"I agree. If ever I am debating a problem, I also use it to aid such clarity."
We say little more as we wander around. I am concerned by the presence of such things as skis and what are, if I remember correctly, 'skidoos'. Why we should need those, I do not know. Similarly, there are other means of cross country transport. These are powered by fuel found on Earth, so I am confused as to how they will work.
"Hey guys, are you ready?"
Moments later, we find ourselves on the peltac.
"Scans say the hangar is empty," DJ reports, then he looks up and smiles. "Hi. Did you two have fun?"
"We are most satisfied by what we found," I reply.
"Great. Shall we go home?" Daniel asks.
"That would seem to be a good idea," Kar Shel answers.
"Annwn here we come, then," he states, smiling broadly.
I fear that something happened at the SGC which has amused him greatly. I have seen that smile before. It is one that tells me that he will keep a secret from O'Neill, but one which will give him great satisfaction. I pity his victim.
We are only a few minutes into our journey, but I think that boredom has already settled in the minds of my friends. Daniel is pacing up and down the peltac and DJ is obviously thinking about something. Finally, we discover what is on his mind.
"Would you guys mind if I transport the jewel boxes up to the peltac?"
None of us raise an objection and are all curious as to why he should wish to do so.
Ten large wooden cases appear at the far end of the peltac. Each one is very beautifully carved, a point noted by the others. In fact, they are quickly next to them, looking at the details carved into the thick, heavy wood.
"Look. That's got to be the Furies," DJ states, pointing out one area.
"Yes. And if that's not Hecate, I don't know what is," Daniel adds, not sounding quite so enthusiastic about her image.
For a few minutes, Kar Shel and I allow them to identify the various characters, including other Greek gods, most of whom have not been identified as Goa'uld, such as Zeus, Aphrodite and Apollo.
"I wonder if they're snakes," DJ asks aloud.
"Hera was one," Daniel shrugs. "If she was, perhaps we'll meet up with Zeus?"
"I'd think he'd either be long dead or enslaved," comes the reply.
"Why do you say that?"
"King of the gods?" DJ shrugs. "He's got to have been a System Lord at the very least, if he existed. If that's the case, why haven't we heard of him? Has to be one of the two things."
"Probably," Daniel sighs. "But then Hades was still powerful even if no one knew him."
He has a point.
"Daniel, DJ," I call. "May I make a suggestion?"
"Of course, Teal'c. What is it?"
"You should make a list of all of the important, and less important, gods from all cultures known to have Goa'uld connections. Then you should cross off all known to be dead, highlight all known to live, and then enter into discussions with Athene about those left."
"Good idea. We'll get onto it as soon as we get a chance," he says. "Thanks, Teal'c. Okay, in the meantime, why did you bring these boxes up here, DJ?"
"Ah, yes, of course. Okay, firstly I was wondering what was inside them exactly. We only looked inside each one briefly and I was thinking that perhaps scanning them or something would help us know if they are what they appear to be."
He opens the first box and inside it are the blue jewels, which I presumed to be sapphires.
"They're not glass," he states. "Or paste."
"How can you tell?" I ask.
"Uh... Good eyesight," he shrugs. "There are some jewelled decorations at the palace but if you look closely at them, you can see that something isn't genuine. As far as I can tell, these are the real thing. Not that I really know what I'm talking about," he sighs, "but you can call it a gut feeling."
"These resemble the gems we use in place of currency," Kar Shel states.
"Yeah. Maybe we can use them for that purpose?"
"If that's the case, we're multi-billionaires," Daniel says as he opens another case, this time of emeralds - we assume.
"Sam must have raided Hades' treasury," DJ announces. "I've got the feeling that she's bankrupted him."
"Which could be both a good thing and a bad," I remind them. "Good, because it may slow up the production of ships. Bad, because it may push him into war to acquire more."
"He'd go for minor Goa'uld initially, wouldn't he?" DJ asks, looking at Kar Shel and myself.
We do not answer, as we do not know. His shoulders drop. Then he shrugs.
"I doubt we're any worse off than we were before. If he goes for Earth now, we stand a better chance of fighting him off because he won't have such a large fleet. If he goes for the non-aligned planets, or unclaimed territories, we have time to build early warning systems and train the glider pilots. If he goes for the minor Goa'uld, he'll build up his Jaffa and so on, but I doubt he'll have many extra large ships, as they tend to be the preserve of the System Lords."
Then he sits back on his feet and grins madly at us.
"But tell me this. Doesn't it give you great satisfaction? I mean, wouldn't you have wanted to be a fly on the wall when Hades and his henchwomen found out it had all gone?"
Daniel starts to laugh at the image. I look at Kar Shel and see that he is smiling. I, too, am most amused by the thought. It does not take long before I join in the laughter.
Ma went white as a sheet when we took them over to see Remoc - at their request. John flew us into the atmosphere and we showed them where we used to live. I think that a sense of the very real dangers we face, whether natural or otherwise, has hit her. I've spent the last few minutes trying to reassure her, telling her of all the safety measures we have in place on Annwn and so on.
"Ma, take it from me, we are probably safer than you guys."
Okay, perhaps that wasn't very reassuring.
"Look, we do do a dangerous job. We know that. But, we do everything we can to minimise the risk. And doing what we do, we're protecting you guys. It's what we want, what we need to do. We accept the risks."
"But how many times have you lost Daniel?" she asks. "How can you place him in danger like that? How can he place you in danger?"
She really knows how to hit below the belt. I long ago learned never to box with my mother.
"Ma, believe me, it's not easy for any of us. But we have to do it. We think that in the great, grand scheme of things, it's worth it."
"Worth losing someone you love so much?" she asks, staring into my eyes.
I'm silent for a moment and know that everyone's eyes are on me.
"Yes. Worth even that. Because if we don't do it, many millions, if not billions of people will be enslaved or killed. The Goa'uld make the Nazis look like a bunch of rank amateurs when it comes to the evil they do. And you know how sick those guys were."
I give her the example of Marduk, the snake put in a sarcophagus with a flesh-eating monster.
"So he was eaten alive?"
"Again and again and again, until even the sarc couldn't revive him. But the chances are that he was eaten hundreds, if not thousands of times."
"Dear God in Heaven," she mutters. The others have gone pale.
"You see why we need to do this now?"
"Yes. Of course." She looks at me guiltily. "I just worry."
"You wouldn't be a good mother if you didn't. Just know that if we don't come back, we chose to do this. No one made us."
I look at my brother and sister, and see out of the corner of my eye, Sam and Frankie staring at Mark in the same way. We all get slow nods of understanding back. No blame. Not to anyone.
They've seen the whole system, standing open-mouthed in front of the screen as they watch the various planets pass by us. This is the sort of 'trip' that people can only dream about, and yet they're doing it. We do it frequently and it's easy to forget how fantastic it really is. I'm glad we're doing this, it's giving me a new appreciation for my job.
But it's time to go home. I'm hoping that Daniel and the others will be back soon. There's one more 'treat' for the family, though.
"Would you like to try floating in zero gravity?" I ask.
We're closing in on Annwn and it's going to be their last chance. We get nervous, but enthusiastic 'yesses' from them.
"Okay, we'll just secure the ship and then do it. When I give the word, hold onto something which is bolted to the floor to begin with. Then just let go. Do not push away from it or you could end up slamming into a wall."
We rush around and make sure that there's nothing loose, that all small things are away in the cupboards, and then go back to the bridge. I give the word, we hold on, and Sam presses the control.
To begin with, nothing seems to happen, then I see their hands slacken their grips and they start to float away. Those of us that are used to it show them how it's done, how to move carefully. We hear laughter and squeals from my sister, who's definitely enjoying herself.
At least until she calls out, "Oh boy, I feel sick."
"Hold onto something and put your feet back on the floor, everyone," Frankie calls. "I forgot about space sickness. They reckon one in three astronauts gets it until they're used to floating."
As soon as everyone is safe, Sam reinstates the artificial gravity. I catch Bridie and take her to a chair.
"Just as well you didn't throw up," I tease. "It would be real difficult to clean up."
"Jeez, Jack, you know how to cheer a gal up, don't you?" she asks, thumping my arm. Ouch.
"You better now?"
"I will be. I was having fun, too."
"Yeah, well, it's just one of those things. I got sick the first time I went up in a fighter. The pilot was doing things to make me feel ill and it worked. Trust me, loads of pilots get ill first time they do rolls and things. It's different when it's you that's piloting, but as a passenger... Let's just say I know how you feel, eh? Come on, it's time to get home."
John starts to fly us into the atmosphere and soon we find ourselves heading directly for home. Just as we come into land, the comms light up.
I hear Daniel's voice and can't help but smile.
"Hey, how'd it go?"
"We got everything. We'll be with you in a couple of minutes."
"Great. See you then."
"Put the kettle on, Jack. I need a coffee."
Some things never change.
We're all in the kitchen again, the guys have transported down from the ship, surprising our families as they hadn't seen Asgard transporters in use before. Once they were over the shock, we settled around the table and we're eating a late lunch.
"Where's Jacob?" Daniel asks.
"He didn't want to go on a sightseeing trip of the solar system," I reply. "He went home to put your request to the High Council and said he'll be back this afternoon."
"Good. We need his advice on something."
He hands out some bundles of cloth, which seem to have been ripped from some of the soft furnishings on Gimli. Each member of our family gets at least one. Unsure of what's in them, they open them, and are left open-mouthed by what they see.
It looks like the guys have picked out one stone from each case as there are ten different coloured stones. None are too big or too small, but are just the right size to turn into a pretty flashy ring or something similar.
"We figured you should have a souvenir of your time here," DJ says quietly. "We have no idea if there is any intrinsic value to them on Earth, but we think they're the sort of stone you'd find there. Some definitely look like stones found on Earth, that's for sure.
"We could have given you more, but if you want to sell them, taking bigger ones or lots of them might raise too many questions as to their provenance. This way, you can say that they were a collection passed onto you or something. We knew that these guys would want your kids to have some, too, so there's a bundle for each of them, and your granddaughter, Bridie.
"When you go back to the SGC, ask the General to get one of the geologists to look them over and advise you on what they are and what they're worth. I know that one of the guys there is into gemstones so he'll know all about them."
"Wow. Thank you," Bridie says, a phrase echoed by everyone.
"You can keep them or sell them if they're worth what we think they could be worth. Whatever you need to do with them."
"What can I do with them?" Patrick asks, looking a little overwhelmed.
"You're going to retire at some point, aren't you?" Jack shrugs. "Call it a nest egg. Or if you can't face doing that, a little white lie saying one of your parishioners donated them to the church for the restoration fund or charitable works you do could be a reasonable cover story. Whatever. There's no need to feel guilty about a gift, Pat."
"No, of course," he sighs. "They're very beautiful. Thank you so much."
"If you need more," Daniel states, "just holler. We've got extras."
"Why do you need Dad's advice?" I ask.
"We need to check to see if they're the same as the gems we were given as currency," he says.
"Ah, yes. Of course." Then I think, "We're not going to keep them all are we?"
"No, of course not," John answers for them. "There's too much. If they're the currency, we'll take what we need and then give the rest to the Tok'ra."
"We could buy things with them from the Tok'ra," Daniel suddenly says. "I mean, we're asking a lot of things like tunnelling crystals and so on. If we give them the gems, it might give us the bargaining tool we need."
It's been a weird day. To make sure Gimli's ready for action, we had to transport everything that didn't need to be on the ship down here. I had no idea we'd asked for so much. Our families helped us move things to where we needed them to be. It's taken some reorganisation but we're finally getting there.
In the end, all of the food and the fridge and freezer had to be moved (using the transporter, natch) into the new storerooms in the tunnels. Jack and John put their foot down about Frankie and me using the tunnels as a place to experiment and so on. After our small amount of welding a few days ago created a lot of heat and smoke in the lab, Jack decided that the large shed which stored the food would be a safer place to do it in future. And now that we have the kiln here, too, I guess it makes sense. It could get very uncomfortable underground.
Jack had a lot of explaining to do about the various cold-weather items, such as skis - but mainly to the heat-loving Daniels. Neither of them is keen on the idea of skiing.
Large items are being stored in one of the bigger caves, along with the sheet metal I wanted. I will never know when it will be useful, and if I ever need to replace more of the androids' frame, I'll need the supplies. I've also got a whole load of equipment to build a few more transformers and to run electric cabling throughout our various buildings. We get electricity! Jack had asked for a plasma screen TV and a DVD player and as soon as the cabling is laid, he's promising a 'film night'.
Our families are stunned. They had images of our life being tough. In some ways it is. In others, we're in the lap of luxury.
Dad's back, it's dinner time, Daniel's prepared it and we're making the most of what looks like the last remnants of the summer heat by eating outdoors. Even our huge table won't fit thirteen around it.
According to Selmac, DJ's idea that we've bankrupted Hades is a distinct possibility. She's never seen so many gems and they are most definitely the gems we use.
Daniel's happily propped up against Jack as he eats, his mind looking like it doesn't have a care in the world. Which makes a nice change.
"I'll bet you didn't picnic like this on Abydos," I say. "Too much sand in the sandwiches."
He laughs, then his face falls and a look of horror appears over his entire body. Oh hell, what did I say now?
"Daniel? What's wrong?"
"Abydos," he says. "Hades will go there."
"What?!" yells Jack. "I mean, how would you make that leap of logic?"
"It was probably the first world populated by Tauri slaves," he says, his body rigid as if he needs to hold it steady or he's going to shake to pieces.
"We were talking earlier about the king of the gods," he says quietly. "Wondering if there was a Goa'uld called 'Zeus'. But, Ra was the System Lord until we killed him. If Hades wants prestige, and if he no longer has the fleet he wanted before attacking Earth, where's the next best place?"
Our spirits fall and all of a sudden, the delicious food we were eating tastes like cardboard.
"Ra's territory. Especially territory freed by us," DJ moans. "Of course."
"Can you be sure?" Dad asks.
"Jake, we can't be sure of anything, but when did you know Daniel to make a wrong guess?"
Dad shakes his head. When Daniel makes these leaps of logic, they're invariably right.
"So, what do we do now?" I ask, looking at everyone around us.
They all shake their heads slowly until Daniel answers.
"I just don't know."