Riley stopped inside the observation room door. When he and Sam had agreed to come back to the States, this wasn't what he thought he'd signed up for. A cover like Deep Space Telemetry had left him hoping that occasionally he'd actually get to be bored. Somehow he'd traded in demon hunting for an old teammate, and an ex-Scobby back from the dead. Oh and the aliens, one couldn't forget the snake-like steal your body aliens.
Instead of spells gone wonky he got to deal with unknown alien devices. One distress call from Tara and Graham had left him and Lt. Hailey trying to get into the room they'd last gone into. Five minutes with no radio contact and the two of them had walked out with dazed, glassy looks and unable to recall that they'd radioed for assistance. They also had a device attached to their inner wrists. It had ten lights on it and the first one was lite. After bringing them back Major Carter had managed to turn off the transmitting part of the device, but had yet to figure out how to turn them off, hence the observation room.
Now seeing them slumped against the wall, a tangle of limbs, singing boisterously, while surrounded by small flashing lights Riley found himself wishing for the jungle. At least there he'd known what to expect.
"But we still got a lot to learn," Tara and Graham sang together, "We made it nearly twenty centuries. A bunch of monkey's with PhD's."
"I think it's Jimmy Buffet," Jack offered from the observation area. Riley looked up past the glass to where General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill were. General Hammond looked worried. Jack just had this odd maniac grin on his face, probably happy that for once it wasn't his team in trouble but Miller's.
Riley gave him a look that clearly stated, 'Oh really?'
"Riley!" Graham greeted, "Come sing with us."
Riley rubbed the back of his head and mentally wished for a way out, "Ah no. What do you two think you're doing?"
"It's our new theme song," Graham explained with a wide trying to be helpful smile.
"Yeah," Tara piped in, "it's how we feel most of the time."
"Except it's a love song and I'm not in love with you."
"Good," Tara giggled, "cause I don't love you either."
"Good, cause I'm not a woman and don't want to be one."
"You sure?" Tara pouted, "I could so make that temporarily happen."
"Nope, sorry, not interested," Graham laughed.
Worried he knelt down and grabbed Tara. Since dropping into the SGC she hadn't revealed herself to be a witch, but if she kept up this line of talking and if she didn't turn off the lights someone was going to figure it out. Hopefully for now they thought the lights were a bi-product of the devices, they wouldn't if they separated her and Graham. That would ground their team a whole lot longer than the devices would. He grabbed her by her shoulders and hissed as quietly as he could, "Turn off the flashing lights."
"Can't, always happens when I'm drunk," she giggled, "except I'm not drunk."
"Hey, what she talking about?" Jack asked.
Riley resisted the urge to glare at him. Thankfully Dr. Fraiser came in and indicated for him to meet her in the observation area. However when he was about to walk away Graham hopped up and latched onto him, fear in his voice as he begged, "Don't let her turn me into a monster."
"Dr. Fraiser isn't Dr. Walsh," he reminded Graham as quietly as possible as he pulled away and glared at him, hoping he'd keep his mouth shut.
"I know how it worked," Graham told him worried, "they sneak stuff in your food and then they put the demon in."
"Graham you don't eat the food here." Neither did he, after Sunnydale he tried to always cook his own.
"Might be in the MRE's," Graham told him, eyes wide and shaking.
"Stop Graham, just stop."
"You told me what happened to Forrest. I don't want to be a monster!"
"Agent Miller," Riley tried hoping that the old designation would get his commander's attention, "You've said enough. Dr. Fraiser isn't going to hurt you so please just do what she tells you."
"I don't want to!"
"Stop being mean Riley," Tara yelled at him.
"Look I'm your friend right?" he tried.
"Then trust me and do what the doctor says."
"A friend in need is a friend indeed," Graham laughed at him.
"A friend with weed is better," Tara giggled.
Once again they burst into song, "A friend with breasts and all the rest, a friend who's dressed in leather!"
He was not even going to try and comment.
As he joined the others in the observation area Jack asked, "So what was that?"
Automatically he answered, "Classified sir."
Riley was worried. If Graham kept up this line of talking he was going to be in trouble, if they got the devices off safely. They would get the devices off, Riley told himself, he had to believe that.
"No wonder he refused to be put in a separate room," Dr. Fraiser commented, "Is the affect permanent?"
Of course Janet had already gone and figured it out from a few well place comments, "No Ma'am."
"Well see," she told him.
"Doctor?" Hammond asked.
"The devices are introducing a narcotic into their system. It seems to go up to ten levels, this is level three. I'm worried that a few more levels and we'll see permanent brain damage. We also need to see if we can reduce it slowly instead of just cutting them off, it'll make the effect of coming off the drug less profound. It also seems to be affecting Tara differently."
"Yeah hard to miss the twinkling lights," Jack commented.
Riley frowned as he caught Teal'c with a serious look on his face approaching. He had a sinking feeling the situation had just gone from bad to worse.
"Have they found anything?" General Hammond asked. Major Carter and Lt. Hailey were working on a way to turn the devices off.
"Indeed they have not."
"They will," Riley said as much for himself as the others.
"General Hammond," Teal'c began, "I believe this presents us with a unique opportunity."
"To what?" Riley broke in, "Watch Miller and McClay sing?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and stood there patiently as if to see if he'd continue.
"You mean find out how she got here?" Jack filled in.
Jack threw Teal'c one of his 'proud of himself for figuring it out' grins and went back to watching as Riley protested. He as much as anyone wanted to know why Tara had been brought back to life and then dropped into the SGC, but he also knew why she refused to contact any of her old friends. Tara had come back knowing what had happened after her death and didn't feel she should be around Willow. She had once told him that she didn't trust herself not to just forgive Willow and want to be with her again and that she feared what would happen if she were to die again. Even though he kept up with the Scobbys, hell he and Sam had protected some very young potentials during the battle with The First, he understood her concern and hadn't encouraged her either way. Whatever reason she had for being back, it was mystical and Riley wasn't sure this was how she'd want to come out as a witch.
"All Tara McClay has told us is that there was a loophole," Teal'c pointed out.
"Oh and find out what's with the singing," Jack piped in, "It's the singing that concerns me."
Riley paused, he'd been about to protest again, instead he explained, "Graham always sings when he's drunk. Not that he gets drunk often sir, it just that he sings when he does."
Great, he was babbling. Maybe he needed to cut down on the all the Scobby phone calls.
"Ah, okay," Jack told him, "So what are they talking about?"
"Huh, and I thought Fyarl's were all just 'crush, kill, destroy', but they actually have their own language?"
Tara nodded her head before she commented, "The Gentlemen were the worst though. The whole no not being able to talk…"
"Stop!" Riley told them before telling the others, "It's nothing."
There wasn't a snowballs chance in hell they were going to believe him, but if Graham and Tara would just shut up maybe he could fix the…Graham of course ruined it, "Hey Ri, there you are. Which do you think is worse, Fyarl, The Gentlemen or hey Vamp, yeah Vamps? You must have been attacked by a whole nest with your scars?"
"Someone was naughty," Tara commented with a grin. How the hell had she found out? Spike, he was so going to stake Spike.
"Naughty with birds," Jack commented, "I don't think I want to know."
If he could survive Sunnydale he could survive anything, Riley reminded himself, even Jack in a Xander- esque mood.
"A group of birds is called a flock, not a nest," he commented dryly.
"But they do build them."
Sometimes like with Xander, you just had to go with it or lose your mind, "Yes sir."
"Geez lighten up Finn. See there's Carter and Hailey now. Got the answer?"
"Yes sir," Carter started, "We think if we…"
Jack cut her off with a well placed sound and hand motion, "Don't really care how you did it, just fix them. And oh Teal'c's going to take a crack at finding out why Tara was dropped into our debriefing. You sure you want to do this buddy? Anyone who makes sure you get a home-cooked meal once a week can't be evil and she might not keep it up after you go get her to talk."
"It is a risk I am willing to take."
"You're a braver man than I," Jack told him gravely.
Riley cringed, between Teal'c and Jack's attitude and Tara and Graham bursting into song again he'd had enough. Someone give him some equipment and an HST to track, please. Either that or he was going to mess up Jack's hair just to hear the Buffy-esque 'Not the hair! Never the hair!"
"Sir," Carter protested, "didn't we decide she must have Ascended?'
"I believe that assumption was incorrect," Teal'c told her.
"Assumptions usually are," Janet commented.
"She might not remember," Carter tried again.
"Oh she remembers," Jack told her as he looked through the glass, "you can see it in her eyes. She misses it, this where ever she was."
Riley was tempted to spat out that she'd been in heaven, but resisted. Dr. Fraiser asked him to join them as it might help calm Graham if he became agitated.
"What's wrong with Graham?" Hailey asked.
"Bad experience," Riley answered trying to ignore the look of 'you'd better tell me' coming from the doctor. She'd have to figure it out on her own, he wasn't going to reveal anything more.
Graham hopped up and backed away as soon as they walked in the room. Tara put herself between him and them.
"Graham they've found a way to deactivate the devices. Why not come over here and let them try?"
"Not her," Graham told him as he pointed at Janet.
Janet raised her hands and took a step back, "I'm just going to stand over here."
"She's okay," Tara told him.
Graham nodded and sat back down and let Sam pick up his wrist and turn back the device. Teal'c took a step forward, Tara tilted her head to the side and gave him a frown. Parts of Riley were screaming at him to stop this, the other parts of him wanted answers and hoped Teal'c would succeed.
"I'm not crazy," she told them with a tense lilt to her voice.
Riley shook, he wasn't prepared to face a fear he'd only heard of. He took two steps over and pulled her into his arms, "No you're not, but you're not in your right mind either. Stupid alien device right? So just have a seat and they can make you all better."
As he guided her to sit Teal'c addressed her, asked her how she was alive when she had been dead, after she'd been shot.
Tara's smile faltered, "Willow requested it, but she was refused because my death had been a natural one. Then a friend found a loophole."
The missing piece of the puzzle suddenly hit Riley, "Who was influencing Warren?"
Riley drew in a harsh breath and Graham who'd been babbling to Carter just stopped. Everyone looked at the three of them confused.
"So you what just get kicked out of Heaven cause that bastard was being influenced by…The First?" Riley finally managed to ask. He could feel Teal'c glowering behind him. So what if he'd taken over the line of questioning? He'd known where she'd been.
"Shhh, it's okay," Tara told Riley looking up at him with concerned eyes as Lt. Hailey took the arm with the device and began to fix it, "I was given a choice."
No. No. No! Why the hell would she chose to come back? After everything she'd been through and he'd never gotten the full story until after her death and before she was brought back, after everything how could she chose to come back? "Why?"
"Yes," Teal'c added joining in, "Why chose to be brought to the SGC if you…"
"Ow," Tara whimpered as she pulled her away from Lt. Hailey. She giggled then, "What? Oh."
Teal'c stood there looking at her expectantly. Hailey's eyes had widened. Sam had paused mid-move on Graham's device. Janet stepped in closer.
Tara scratched at where the device was attached to her skin, "H-he was just a kid. Young soul. Asked me to keep his Dad out of trouble."
She nodded, "Yep, try and keep his Dad out of trouble."
She offered them an uncertain smile.
Riley was only confused for a brief moment, then Jack's voice filled the room, "Hey I protest that! I don't cause that much trouble. Do I?"
Fraiser quickly took over. She ordered Teal'c up to Jack, him from the room and Carter and Hailey to finish up. Riley stood in the hallway as he tried to process. Jack had a kid, a kid who was dead? That complicated things. It was complicated enough when he'd suspected that Willow might have done something, but didn't want to bel…He was suddenly being pushed into a wall by a very furious Jack. He let his body go slack, if Jack was going to take anger out on anyone it was going to be him, not Tara.
"That she'd likely been in Heaven, yeah. That she actually chose to come back because…because…I didn't know. I asked, but she wasn't going to tell. She's good at keeping secrets when she wants to."
So good that he never knew she'd once believed herself to be a demon. If he'd just know he'd have been able to give her a simple scan and proved it, no she had to get hit in the nose by a vampire.
Jack took a deep breath and stepped back, "Fine."
They waited in the hallway. When his wife came down to tell them that Dr. Jackson was waking up, Carter left. It took an hour for the devices to turn off fully, and another hour before Dr. Fraiser let them in. Riley had expected Jack to get bored, but the only indication was a rocking back and forth on his heels. Finally they were let in.
Graham was lying on a bed looking tired, Tara was huddled under covers hiding. Jack and Teal'c round around him and headed straight towards her. Graham was watching as he apologized once again to Dr. Fraiser. She waved him off and told him that at least he'd been worried about his health.
"I should have trusted you though."
"I'm not insulted, now stop apologizing and talk with your friends."
He and Lt. Hailey greeted Graham who talked quietly, was obviously a bit embarrassed, but doing his best not to show it.
"Come on Tara," Jack wasn't quiet, "You can look George, Teal'c, Danny, Sam and me in the eye after landing naked in the middle of our debriefing…I refuse to let this make you hide."
Riley frowned and started over when Graham grabbed him, "Give them a few moments. If anyone can push her out of the hiding behind her hair and under the covers thing it'll be him."
He nodded and decided to get Sam, her and Tara had developed a friendship, perhaps she could help.
He gave his wife a kiss on the cheek and she smiled at him, hooking her fingers around his. He started to explain what had happened, what Tara had revealed, but she shushed him, "I overheard Carter tell Daniel. They're worried about her, Graham and Jack now, but what I want to know is how you're doing?"
She smacked his chest playfully, "Don't give me that shit. You have that full on panic give me something to track and kill cause I can't deal with this face on."
He gave her a smile, "Can't deny I was thinking about it earlier."
She grabbed his hand and placed it on her stomach, grinning as she said, "He's been kicking all day. He not happy unless you're happy. Stubborn brat that he is."
He pulled her close, rested his head on her shoulder. There were reasons for doing this, for coming back and building a home, a family. He missed the traveling some days, but they didn't need to be hunting demons anymore, not with so many Slayers running around, and who was he kidding if he was bored he'd annoy everyone around him without meaning too. After everything they'd been through, and to end up here, he was certain they'd find a way to help Tara, and Graham too, if he needed it.
He smiled and kissed Sam's cheek.
"I'm okay," he told her, "This is good. Today sucked, but it'll get better."