'So the bomb didn't go off; that's always a bonus.' Jack O'Neill quipped, pausing to hook the phone under his chin while he delved into the refrigerator for another beer.
Samantha Carter's dry tone had Jack smiling like a proud idiot. He liked to think he'd taught her that particular mix of sass and wit except that she'd had it the day they'd met. 'Daniel OK?'
'He's upset about the girl sacrificing herself.' Sam replied and he knew that Daniel Jackson must have been somewhere else otherwise she would have lowered her voice. 'You know Daniel.'
'That I do.' Jack cursed under his breath because he did know Daniel. He knew how Daniel got personally entangled in things; took things personally when they didn't work out; felt for anyone up to and apparently including a Goa'uld-human hybrid who'd been tortured all her life. Daniel really didn't need another loss, not when Daniel when still recovering from seeing Janet Fraiser shot dead right in front of him.
'So, we're doing clean-up right now and we'll be taking a transport back out tonight.'
Jack didn't protest the immediate return despite the small voice in the back of his head which suggested that he could tell them to stay, rest, and come back in the morning. 'Call and let me know what time your flight gets in.'
'Yes, sir.' She said absently; the words this time nothing more than an acknowledgement drilled into them both as Air Force officers to a command. He heard her sigh. 'How's Cassie?'
'Should be back from her meeting with her tutor any minute.' Jack checked the time. Janet's grieving daughter had been the reason why Jack had stayed in Colorado Springs. He was mostly healed and Doctor Brightman had talked of clearing him for light duty, but for the first time ever Jack had requested more time to heal and she'd given him it. He suspected Brightman knew that he wanted to spend the downtime with Cassie. It was no secret at the SGC that SG1 had effectively moved into Janet's house to be with her. Cassie had unsurprisingly taken her Mom's death hard, although who took the death of any parent easy, thought Jack tiredly. When his own folks had died in a car accident, it had been his then wife Sara who'd gotten him through it. Cassie needed family around her; someone to hold onto.
Up until the week before all of SG1 along with their former team-mate Jonas Quinn had been around. But as the days passed, Bra'tac had requested Teal'c's presence for something, Jonas had gone back to Langara – and Jack was still fairly volatile over Jonas's reluctant admission before he'd gone back that it was unlikely he was going to be able to return any time soon because the Langarans wanted to keep Jonas off Earth – and both Sam and Daniel had been pulled into the SGC for referrals on half a dozen things that couldn't wait; Hammond had even sounded apologetic when he'd called. The mission to Los Angeles was just the latest thing; SG1's expertise requested by NID Agent Malcolm Barrett.
Jack flipped the cap off his beer and tossed it into the trash. It had been an easy decision to stay. Sam had been the one struggling with going – and hell, when has he started to think of her as Sam again?
No. One problem at a time.
He'd been thinking about the mission. Sam – Carter in charge although for a moment there when Hammond had called, Jack had thought she was going to refuse the order to go in. And God help him, he would have backed her up if she'd done it. Of course she hadn't done it; she wasn't him, or Daniel for that matter; rules were important to Sam – Carter.
'You still there, sir?' Sam's voice yanked him out of his thoughts.
Crap. He'd kind of forgotten he was on the phone to her.
'Yeah.' Jack sighed.
'Have you taken your painkillers?' Sam asked pointedly.
Jack rolled his eyes. 'Remember to call me with your flight time, Carter.' He said. 'Bye.' He thumbed the off button before she could comment on his evasion. Or get Teal'c to nag him because that would have been worse with the eyebrow which, OK, Jack wouldn't have seen but he would have known it was there anyway.
Jack rubbed the side of his fore head and headed back to the dining room table. He sat down and picked up the newspaper, looked over the crossword again. If he needed any further evidence of why he'd lost the ability to separate Sam and Carter in his head there it was right on the table: he'd bet her he'd have the crossword done before she got home. Home. Not back. But home.
Like the Fraiser house was theirs. Like Cassie was their kid. Like they were a couple who just happened to sleep apart and have a crazy archaeologist and a hundred year old Jaffa sleeping over in the den. So completely domestic with each other they could have been married for years. Hell, she'd told him to take the trash out the other night and he had! Without a word of protest. Or the knowledge that sex would be his reward. He was even more whipped than the Joe the Barber character he sometimes imagined in his head; so whipped it wasn't funny.
He was an idiot, Jack mused. He had a home. It was a very nice home, a home he had rebuilt for himself with his own two hands in the wake of his son dying and his marriage falling apart. He was not married to Carter. And besides, she had a boyfriend.
Who she'd seen exactly twice since Janet had died as far as Jack could tell: once when they'd picked Cassie up at the police station after an unfortunate incident involving underage drinking and Cassie hitting a cop, and once when Carter had gone to have coffee with the schmuck to thank him for getting the charges against Cassie dropped. Other than that…
He couldn't prevent the tiny hope that bubbled up that maybe, maybe, things between the cop and Sam weren't all that serious.
Jack took a long pull on the beer and picked up his pen. He squinted at the print. Damn it. He was getting old. He had a feeling he needed reading glasses. Two down; support, four letters. Well, that was too easy: team.
The sound of the front door slamming had him momentarily raising his gaze as he sketched in letters with the pen he had borrowed from Daniel. The dog which had been lying under the table in the hopeful wait for food scampered through the semi-open door to greet her.
'Jack?' Cassie yelled through the house.
'In here.' Jack yelled back. He took another sip of his beer and focused on the next clue. Brain, eight letters. Hmmm. Carter wouldn't fit but Samantha did.
'Hey.' Cassie sketched a wave at him, half bent over petting her dog. 'Everything OK?'
'They've checked in.' Jack confirmed, knowing she'd been worried before she'd left for her meeting. 'They'll be back by tomorrow.'
'Great.' Cassie headed straight for a cupboard and pulled out a non-descript jar. She dived into it and Jack looked at her accusingly.
'Are those cookies?' Jack demanded.
Cassie paused, one arm around the jar, the hand of the other pulling out a cookie. 'No?'
'Gimme.' Jack motioned her over to the table. He dipped into the jar and pulled out his own cookie. Chocolate chip. Excellent. 'How did I not know these were there?'
'Because Sam only made them yesterday when you were out getting stuff from your house and doing the grocery run with Daniel.' Cassie informed him. She sat down and pulled her feet up onto the chair.
Jack swallowed the cookie and the urge to tell her to take her feet down. The chair was hers; she wanted to put her feet up on it, she was entitled.
'Your thing go OK?'
'Yeah,' Cassie grimaced and tore her second cookie in half, 'he wants me to have counselling.'
'Everyone wants you to have counselling.' Jack pointed out briskly. 'The doc made you when you were younger, didn't she?' Janet had insisted on it since Cassie had been dealing with losing her entire biological family, not to mention her home world.
'Art therapy.' Cassie said. She bit her lip. 'That might work for me.' She mused out loud.
'There you go then.' Jack went back for another cookie. When Sam baked or cooked, she usually aimed for perfection treating the exercise like a science experiment. The cookies were gorgeous; just the right amount of sugar, butter and chocolate; crunchy on the edge, chewy in the middle. Perfect.
'I wish Jonas was here.' Cassie grumbled. 'It sucks that his planet's not going to let him visit again.'
He caught the hint of worry in her voice. Jonas had promised Cassie that she wouldn't be alone; that if something happened to the rest of SG1, Jonas would come back. Jack and the others had already worked out a plan B if Jonas couldn't get back through the Stargate; it involved Bra'tac co-opting a cargo ship to abduct Jonas from Langara but it was a good plan.
'Not least,' Cassie continued, 'because I have to do a make-up test after Christmas for the one I missed along with all my delayed assignments.'
'Daniel can help you with those.' Jack said, happily volunteering his friend without a qualm. It would help keep Daniel's mind occupied.
Cassie lowered her cookie and pushed her auburn bangs out of her eyes. 'Grandma Maggie's invited me for Christmas.'
Jack froze in the act of getting yet another cookie. 'Oh?' He didn't know why it was such a surprise to him. Cassie had always spent Christmas with Janet's Mom and family. They'd always exchanged presents with her and Janet a few days before. He was surprised, he told himself crisply, because Janet was dead and he had possibly, maybe, been already planning for the holidays in his head.
'Sam said it was up to me what I wanted to do.' Cassie continued.
'Sam's right.' Jack said, because she was no matter how much he wanted Cassie to stay for Christmas.
'I kind of think I should go.' Cassie admitted. She looked up at him suddenly. 'What do you think?'
'I think you should do whatever you feel is right for you.' Jack said, knowing without having spoken to Sam about it that it was what she would have said; backing her up just like always.
'Mom wanted me to stay in touch,' Cassie said logically, 'and it's not like we've ever spent Christmas with you guys so I don't want to intrude…'
'Hey.' Jack reached over and placed a hand on her arm, fingers closing over the wool of her sweater. 'You wouldn't be intruding on anything.'
She nodded, relief spilling over her eyes and smoothing her expression. 'Sam said the same thing.'
'See.' Jack squeezed her arm and let go. 'We can't both be wrong.'
Cassie stared at him for a long moment looking so much like her Mom it was surreal.
'What?' He asked, wondering exactly what he'd done to warrant the Fraiser 'you are so dumb you make my head hurt' look.
'Nothing.' Cassie shifted in her chair and wrapped her arms around her knees. 'Sam and I talked about the house.' She waved around the kitchen as though to indicate which house she meant. 'If I'm going back to the college dorm in the New Year then…' she frowned. 'I think I should sell?'
'That'd be one option.' Jack agreed. He picked up his beer and thumbed the label. 'You could rent it out. There're plenty of people transferring into the SGC who need a place.'
Cassie nodded. 'Yeah, Sam said that too.'
'Actually, Daniel needs a place.' Jack thought out loud. 'He's sacked out in my spare room right now.'
'Sam offered to let me move in with her.' Cassie said, resting her chin on her knees. 'But you know she's seeing Pete and I don't want to…'
'Intrude?' suggested Jack dryly. He could understand Cassie's point of view. His preferred MO for dealing with Carter having a boyfriend was to ignore it as much as it was humanly possible.
'She said it wasn't serious between the two of them. He's in Denver mostly and she said he doesn't stay at her place when he's here, but I don't know.' Cassie murmured.
Jack tried to hide his glee by looking down and staring hard at the crossword. Not serious. Pete wasn't in the habit of staying at Carter's. Not serious.
He felt the grin tugging at his lips and scowled so it didn't escape.
Cassie poked his arm. 'You still with me?'
'Hmmm.' Right. Cassie moving out of home. Jack gathered his thoughts. 'You have to do what you feel is right for you here, Cassie.' He waved a hand to stop her complaint before she made it. 'I know it would be easy for us to make the calls for you but you're eighteen and, as you like to keep reminding all of us, not a kid anymore.'
Only she was, and there was a part of Jack that wanted to tell her what to do especially when she sat across the table from him looking at him as though he held all the answers to all the questions she had just like his late son Charlie had done.
'Carter wouldn't have made her offer if she hadn't thought about it seriously,' he continued, because Sam thought about everything, 'now it's up to you. If you want to sell the house and move into Carter's, we'll help you. If you want to keep it and rent it out, we'll help you. If you just want to keep it and make a decision later, Daniel can move in and care-take the place. Whatever you want.'
Cassie nodded slowly again. 'I think…I don't want to live here without Mom.' She fidgeted with the edge of her sweater. 'Selling makes the most sense. I'm going back to college so I'll be in the dorm most of the time, and if I move into Sam's I'll really only be there for the holidays and the occasional weekend, I'm pretty sure we could make it work.'
'There you go.'
'I want to stay here for the holidays.' Cassie blurted out. 'I know Mom said to stay in touch with Grandma Maggie but…I can't bear the idea of going there without Mom.'
'That's OK,' Jack said kindly, 'I'm sure Maggie will understand.'
Cassie sighed heavily. 'I don't suppose I can have a sip of your beer.'
'I don't suppose you can.' Jack replied. Carter would kill him. 'How about some warm milk?'
Cassie's nose wrinkled in disgust. 'I'll make some tea.' She climbed off the chair and headed over to the kitchen counter. The dog followed in her wake.
'Hey, what are you going to do with Dog?' Jack asked. If she was selling the house, the dog would need a new home and they didn't allow pets in the dorm. He'd always wanted a dog. Not quite the type of dog Dog was because he had been chosen with Cassie in mind, but he could make do.
'Actually,' Cassie turned to him with a glint in her eye, 'I have an idea about Dog.'
Jack sighed. He'd heard that tone before too and wondered how much it was going to cost him. He steeled himself by grabbing another cookie. 'Come on then; hit me with it.'
Cassie smiled at him. And right there, Jack knew no matter what the cost, it was going to be worth it if it made her smile like that again.
Sam frowned at the phone, the dial tone sounding through the speakers and ended the call. She debated phoning Jack straight back to tell him to take his painkillers but decided instead to have Teal'c do it. He did the whole silent disapproval thing so much better than she did. She slid the cell into her jacket pocket and turned back to the chaotic scene behind her.
Clean-up. The term sounded so benign for what they were doing; clearing away bodies, evidence, hiding the truth that a naquadah bomb had almost taken out the entire West coast and caused a nuclear winter for the rest of the USA.
She shivered. She was pleased they'd covered it up; nobody needed to know how close they'd all been to destruction. She sighed.
A flash of movement by the ambulance caught her eye and had her walking over before she had processed making the decision to do so.
Malcolm Barrett sat on the stretcher inside the ambulance holding an ice-pack to the back of his neck. He'd lost his jacket and tie; his shirt was partially open at the throat. He had one leg stretched out; his exposed ankle being wrapped by a competent EMT. His gaze immediately narrowed on hers as soon as she got in his field of vision. He shooed the EMT away as soon as she finished up.
'Hey.' Barrett gestured her forward. 'Thanks for your help with this.'
Sam shrugged. 'We owed you one.' He had come through for her with the information on Richard Woolsey. The investigation into Janet's death still smarted weeks after the fact.
'Just one?' Barrett joked.
Sam arched an eyebrow in his direction. 'The authorities are moving people back into the evacuation zone. I'm going to finish going over the artefacts with Daniel before we head out.'
'You don't trust me to let you know if there's something good?' Barrett questioned, amused.
'Well, if you want to risk finding another bomb all on your own…' Sam trailed off pointedly.
Barrett raised his free hand. 'Right. Feel free to examine all the artefacts.' He slumped back against the wall and winced. 'God, I really need this day to be over.'
'You should head to the hospital; get checked out properly.' Sam said. He'd taken quite a tumble down the stairs. He was lucky he hadn't broken anything. As it was he was very bruised and no doubt suffering a mild concussion; he'd been unconscious when she'd found him.
'I'm fine.' Barrett said dismissively.
Sam folded her arms over her jacket and shot him a look of pure disbelief.
'Banged up.' Barrett revised with a sigh. 'But it could have been worse so…'
'Daniel doesn't think she intended to hurt you, just that she wanted your gun and you out of the way.' Sam informed him briskly.
Barrett grimaced. 'That makes me feel so much better.' He refocused on her. 'You OK?'
Sam nodded. 'I wasn't the one who fell down a flight of stairs.' Or who had gotten stuck in a room with a fire; or seen a girl kill her tormentor and then herself. She really needed to go check on Daniel. She gestured back toward the building. 'I should go and…'
'Hey, this guy you're seeing…' Barrett cut her off impatiently.
Her eyebrows flew up at the subject. 'Yeah?'
'He wouldn't be a Pete Shanahan, would he?' Barrett asked bluntly.
It was the background check Pete had ran, Sam realised with a sinking heart. The alert that someone had ran the background check would have gone to Barrett at the NID.
Sam squared her shoulders. 'Yeah,' she stopped him from talking with a gesture, 'and I know about the background check he did.'
Barrett's gaze burned into hers. 'Hammond told you, I guess.'
She glared back at him. 'Pete told me.' Barrett didn't need to know he'd only told her because General Hammond had insisted. 'And this conversation is over.'
'Sam, wait!' Barrett attempted to get off the stretcher as she turned away and she stopped, looking back at him over her shoulder.
'Look, we're…friends, right?' Barrett said quickly. 'I'm just…concerned. OK, so he told you and you know so…'
'It's none of your business and I'm guessing that there was nothing in the background check you've probably already ran on him because you would have contacted me already.' Sam said bluntly. She registered his pale face, the new outbreak of sweat that spoke of bone-deep pain and sighed. 'But thanks for the concern.' She tapped the side of the ambulance door. 'Go to hospital, Malcolm.'
'Call me if you find another bomb.' Barrett called after her.
She waved an acknowledgement at him and headed inside the building. It was as creepy as she remembered. She shuddered delicately under her clothing and made for the storage rooms with the artefacts. She almost knocked over Bill Lee turning a dark corner. Sam reached out and steadied him as he apologised.
'You'd think with the lights working again there would actually be you know light.' Bill said plaintively, smoothing a hand over his balding head. 'I think these guys have been watching too many episodes of the X-Files.'
'I know what you mean.' Sam said with a sympathetic grimace. 'Hey, good work today with the bomb.'
Bill looked at her blankly. 'I didn't do anything except make it count down faster.'
'You tried.' Sam pointed out. 'You sat right next to a ticking bomb for hours trying to get it defused. Not everyone can do that, Bill.'
Bill accepted the praise with a harrumph. 'You think anyone but you and I know exactly who bad this would have been if it blew?'
And of course Bill would have worked the true size of the explosion out. He was a good scientist. Sam shook her head but paused considering. 'Maybe Teal'c.'
'I'm going to need more therapy.' Bill grumbled and she remembered belatedly that he'd only been placed back on field duty after being kidnapped and tortured when he'd accompanied Daniel to South America. He mopped at his brow. 'If you're looking for Daniel and Teal'c, they're in the main storage room going through the rest of the artefacts. I'm going to get some air.'
'Take your time.' Sam advised. She watched him stumble down the corridor before she turned around and continued. Someone had set-up portable lights in the storage room and the brightness had her eyes smarting almost painfully.
'Daniel?' She called when she couldn't spot him. She raised a hand in front of her arm, trying to shield her eyes from the lights.
'Over here.' Daniel yelled back.
She ducked around another shelving unit and spotted them at the far end. Daniel was perusing a statue; Teal'c was at the desk next to him, making notes on a laptop.
'How's it going?' Sam asked.
'We've got another couple of hours here.' Daniel made a sweeping gesture around the storage unit without looking up. 'Most of it is stuff we've already got or come across before which is pretty much the conclusion we came to earlier, but there are one or two interesting pieces that I think we should take back.'
'Any more bombs?' Sam asked lightly.
'We have yet to find another explosive device, Major Carter.' Teal'c informed seriously.
'But it still could happen.' Daniel replied dryly. He finally put the statue back down and looked at her. 'How are Jack and Cassie?'
'She's made the meeting to see her tutor so that's good. He's not taking his painkillers.' Sam handed Teal'c the phone.
The Jaffa got up and left to make the call without any further prompting.
Daniel waggled his eyebrows at Sam. 'I'd feel sorry for Jack except it means that I'm saved from the Eyebrow of Doom every time I touch my head.'
She gestured toward him. 'Speaking of which, how are you feeling?'
'Like someone knocked me out.' Daniel rejoined. He dodged her chiding look. 'I'm OK.' He sighed as Sam raised her eyebrow meaningfully. 'Well, not OK exactly. Headache. Nothing serious.'
He slumped into the chair that Teal'c had vacated.
'There was nothing you could have done, Daniel.' Sam leaned back against the desk and gripped the edge of it. 'Even if she had survived…'
'I know, I know.' Daniel's jaw tightened as he looked away from her, tightly folding his arms over his chest. 'I just feel like I should have done something.'
'You did everything you could.' Sam said softly. She reached out and rubbed his shoulder. 'You managed to get through to her, Daniel. You found the code to switch off the bomb. That's something.'
Daniel nodded jerkily. 'I should get back to this,' he motioned at the stacks of artefacts, 'otherwise we could be here for days.'
Sam hesitated. On one hand, she knew Daniel wouldn't say anything else about what had happened; for someone who advocated talking, Daniel could be exceedingly close-mouthed at times about his own issues. She also knew that the rest of her team was as determined as she was not to let Daniel get to the point where his issues got so bad he Ascended on them again. On the other hand, they had a job to do and she wanted to get back to Cassie as soon as she could.
She pushed off the desk and patted his shoulder. 'I'm going to go check the computer again and see if I can find an inventory list.'
Daniel wrinkled his nose and waved her off.
Sam navigated her way back to the lab with the computer and sat down, grateful that the NID clean-up crew had already removed most of the lab contents. It didn't take long for her to bring up the inventory logs and she quickly built some search code to start eliminating artefacts. She wasn't certain how long she'd been working when Teal'c appeared by her elbow with a mug of coffee.
'Is that for me?'
'Indeed.' Teal'c handed the hot ceramic to her carefully. 'Daniel Jackson is also still immersed in his study of the artefacts with Doctor Lee.' He paused. 'They are bickering.'
Sam hid her smile at Teal'c's disgruntlement by taking a gulp. 'Did you talk to the Colonel?'
Teal'c carefully presented her cell phone to her with a tilted head. 'He has taken his medication and Cassandra has agreed to make certain that he rests.'
Sam let out a small breath of relief. She focused on Teal'c's tired face. Not many people would have noticed that he was tired; he wore his mask of impassivity and strength so well. But she could see the faint signs of weariness in the set of his features; the way his lips pressed together, his eyes were shadowed. 'We should be done soon. I don't think we're going to find another bomb.'
'I am relieved to hear that, Major Carter.' Teal'c said dryly.
'I just want to get home.' Sam murmured. She rolled her head, trying to ease out the knots of tension set into her shoulders. She took another sip of her coffee. 'Has Daniel talked to you about what happened?'
'He has not.' Teal'c said sadly. 'Perhaps he requires some time to come to terms with the death of the girl.'
Sam checked her search results and inputted another set of commands. 'I don't think there was anything that we could have done to stop her.'
'She obtained revenge for her creation and torture.' Teal'c said almost admiringly. 'She died well.'
'Keffler was a monster.' Sam agreed. 'I don't think anyone is going to mourn his passing.' She couldn't believe that he'd thought he'd get away with creating a Goa'uld-human hybrid or letting the Goa'uld part free to murder for him. She shivered. Every time they thought they'd managed to get rid of the rogue NID element and the Trust, the damn things would do something to show them that they hadn't gotten rid of them at all.
'What of you Major Carter?' Teal'c asked suddenly.
'I'm fine.' Sam said automatically.
He raised his eyebrow.
She laughed and clasped her hands around the mug. 'You don't need to give me the eyebrow, Teal'c. I'm honestly fine. I mean, I won't deny Keffler made my skin crawl and the whole thing's kind of reminded me a little of Conrad abducting me for research but…' she gestured at him, 'mostly I want this to be over so we can get back to Cassie.'
Teal'c inclined his head. 'Then I will return to Doctor Lee and Daniel Jackson and impress upon them the need for a speedy departure.'
Sam smiled. 'Thanks, Teal'c.'
He moved away with an innate grace that Sam took a moment to envy before returning to her work. Her cell phone buzzed and she picked it up, smiling when she saw Cassie's name on the display.
'Hey you.' Sam said. 'How did it go with your tutor?'
'Cool,' Cassie replied, 'make-up test and assignments due after Christmas but cool.' There was a hint of impatience in her voice and Sam realised she mustn't have called to update her. 'I talked with Jack about the house.'
Sam shifted position. She'd expected Cassie would talk it over with him. 'And what did he say?'
'That I need to do what feels right for me.' Cassie sighed dramatically. 'I swear the two of you practice saying the same thing.'
'We really don't.' Sam said with a laugh. But it felt good to know how in synch she and Jack were sometimes. Sometimes.
'Well, if you still think it's OK, I'd like to, you know, move in with you.' Cassie rushed out.
Sam's heart leapt in her chest; part fear and part relief. 'Of course it's OK.'
'You sure I'm not going to cramp your style?' Cassie pressed.
'Pete and I aren't serious.' Sam answered without hesitation. 'You're not cramping anything.' It was the truth. She had only just forgiven Pete for the background check and the subsequent stalking her to the shoot-out with Osiris. They were taking things slowly and so far they'd only managed a brief coffee date.
She ignored the voice in her head that pointed out Sam was also in love with a certain brown-eyed, grey-haired Colonel. She bit her lip. Jack had made it clear he was only interested in friendship; in the status quo of their working relationship. Sam had come to the conclusion that she deserved more and, since she wasn't going risk her mission or her friendship with Jack and force the issue with him, it meant that if she was to have a relationship, it was going to be with someone else; someone like Pete. But it was early days.
'OK then.' Cassie continued, dragging Sam back to the conversation. 'So, I was thinking we'd do the holidays here and then put it on the market?'
'Sounds good.' Sam said evenly. 'Are you sure this is what you want?'
'Yeah.' Cassie confirmed briskly. 'Are you coming home now?'
Sam looked at the data streaming across her screen. 'Soon, I promise.'
'Text me when you're leaving?' Cassie asked tentatively.
'I will.' Sam promised. 'Go, get some rest. It's late.'
Sam placed her cell back on the desk. She picked up her coffee and took another gulp, grateful for the hit of caffeine. She blinked back fresh tears that blurred her vision. Her grief for Janet could hit her at the oddest moments. She shook herself. What was important was Cassie and getting her through it; on being there for Janet's daughter so that she would be safe and happy as Janet had wanted. It scared her having the responsibility that she'd once eschewed; having the responsibility that Janet had bequeathed to her as a last request. But she accepted it.
Her fingers tapped in a final command.
It was time to finish up and go home.
Daniel stepped out of the wormhole on Langara and pinned his best diplomatic 'we're all here to be friends' smile on his face as he glanced over the waiting delegation. Beside him Teal'c glowered menacingly.
Dreylock's expression went from polite to shock in a heartbeat when she realised what Teal'c was carrying.
'Dog?' Jonas's face lit up with happy surprise and Teal'c set the dog down as it attempted to wiggle free of his hold.
Dog bounded across the Langaran gate room heedless of the weapons pointed in its direction. Jonas crouched and buried his face in Dog's fur as he petted him.
'Remind me again why Jack isn't with us?' Daniel said under his breath to Teal'c as he took in that the shock on Dreylock's face was rapidly turning to anger. Ambassador Leron was more diplomatic; he simply looked blankly pensive.
Teal'c barely moved his lips. 'Because his presence would not have been conducive to our convincing the Langarans to accept that we have brought Jonas a gift from Cassandra.' He waited a beat. 'And he is still barred from gate travel.'
'Hey there, boy!' Jonas said ruffling Dog's head. He looked up at his fellow Langarans and Daniel could see the moment Jonas's easy pleasure and open delight gave way to caution and wariness. He stood up slowly. 'Sit, boy.'
Dog obediently sat.
'This is a…surprise.' Dreylock said frostily.
'Yes.' Daniel said, adjusting his glasses and keeping his smile firmly in place. 'I imagine it is.'
'I'm afraid we can't allow any animals from Earth on Langara.'
Daniel gestured at Dreylock. 'Yeah, I thought you might say that.' He glanced at Jonas and found the Langaran looking back at him with amusement. Daniel lifted his eyebrows pointedly.
'Well, we do have dogs already on Langara.' Jonas chimed in belatedly. 'It's not like Dog represents a different species.'
'And he's been, ah, you know, a long time ago,' Daniel motioned at Dog, 'so you wouldn't have to worry about him breeding.'
'I'm sorry?' Leron said confused.
'Castration.' Jonas jumped in helpfully. 'They regularly castrate the animal population on Earth to prevent breeding and over-population. Actually, they have an operation called a vasectomy that is really…'
'And he's been vaccinated. No diseases.' Daniel added hurriedly before Jonas side-tracked them into a discussion on birth control.
Teal'c clasped his hands behind his back and stared them down. 'We have also brought supplies for the animal.' He indicated his backpack.
Dreylock brushed down her green suit and darted a look at Dog who looked back at her.
'Is this…animal a personal gift to Professor Quinn?' Leron asked bluntly, rubbing his chin.
'Indeed.' Teal'c said firmly.
'Then I'm sorry but given the state of negotiations between our two worlds, there is no way…' Leron began in a smooth insincere tone that made Daniel want to hit him.
'We have to insist, First Minister,' Daniel said forcefully, ignoring Leron and focusing on Dreylock. 'It has just come to light that Dog was left to Jonas by our late CMO Janet Fraiser. Earth would be very displeased if the last request of one of our fallen heroes was rejected by an ally.'
'Most displeased.' Teal'c added.
Dreylock looked from the Jaffa to the dog and Jonas before returning back to Daniel. 'Very well.' She shot Leron a look before he could say anything. 'However, this must be the last personal gift that Jonas receives from your people. I hope you understand that it's for his sake that we wouldn't want any suggestion of bribes or collusion.'
Daniel nodded. 'That's fair.' He reached into his inner jacket pocket and brought out the envelope from Earth's negotiators. 'Major Davis requested that I give this to you. It's the latest draft of the agreement.
'Thank you.' Dreylock's expression softened. 'Jonas, perhaps you can escort our guests and your new acquisition to a suitable room until I can compose a letter of reply?'
'Of course.' Jonas motioned at them to follow him as he stooped and picked Dog up.
Daniel acknowledged Leron with a single nod on his way past. Teal'c swept by him as though he didn't matter.
They followed Jonas into a well-appointed sitting room overlooking the inner gardens of the Langaran government building. Jonas sent an aide to get refreshments and in a short time, they were enjoying cups of a Langaran beverage and sweet honey-like cakes.
Jonas waited until they were alone until he spoke. 'Doctor Fraiser didn't leave me Dog.' He said it with absolute certainty.
'Nope.' Daniel agreed brightly. 'It was Cassie's idea.'
'Cassie?' Jonas inquired, gesturing at them to continue to explain.
Teal'c lowered his cake. 'Cassandra wished for you to have Dog until such time when you can return him to her personally.'
'She's selling the house so…' Daniel waved a hand in lieu of an explanation, 'and I think she's worried about you being here and not allowed to come to Earth. Dog is her way of making sure you have company.'
Teal'c handed over his backpack. 'These are your supplies, Jonas Quinn.'
'There's, um, a laptop in there.' Daniel said hurriedly. 'Sam's already loaded it up. It's got some kind of thing in there that will be compatible with your power supply. Sam said you'd understand the program because it's based on work you both did when she was here for the drilling thing. Your old email address will work; our contact addresses are all there. You can link up with the Earth network when the Stargate is active between our two worlds.'
They all suspected it was only a matter of time before the Langarans stopped them from visiting Jonas.
'That's…wow.' Jonas shook his head. 'I wasn't expecting this.' His eyes shone brightly for a moment before he lowered his gaze. 'I don't know what to say.' He didn't speak for a long moment and Daniel saw his throat working hard as though choking back a sob. 'I appreciate it.' He said finally. 'How is Cassie?'
'She has consented to go into therapy.' Teal'c said approvingly, reaching for the last cake at the same time as Daniel.
Daniel motioned at him to take the cake. It wasn't that good that Daniel was going to fight him for it. 'She's back doing art therapy.'
'And I take it the Colonel's on leave. Where's Sam?' Jonas's expression gave away that he knew the answer.
'At home with Cassie.' Daniel confirmed. 'She's not keen on leaving Earth at the moment. Or Colorado really.' He smiled suddenly. 'You should have seen her when we were in LA a few days ago. The Captain in charge of the night flight control wasn't going to give us an unscheduled flight back to Petersen and Sam, well, I think she may have channelled Jack which is worrying.'
'She was most formidable.' Teal'c agreed. 'I do believe that if he had not done as she requested he would indeed have been found himself posted to Siberia as she threatened.'
'I'm sorry I missed it.' Jonas said.
Daniel ached for him because he could tell that Jonas really did. Without thinking about it he began to tell Jonas about their recent mission; the call from the NID, the Goa'uld-human hybrid of Anna-Sekmet, the bomb, the awful denouement.
Jonas listened compassionately. He asked questions at the right time; sympathetic but not pitying; understanding.
Daniel found himself relaxing; his own unhappiness at the senseless death of a being – a human girl who'd had no say in existing easing with every minute. Maybe, he mused, it was so easy to talk to Jonas because he knew if he hadn't returned from Ascension, if Jonas hadn't returned to Langara, then it would have been Jonas in his place.
'I never thought I'd ever say anything like this but I think it's good that Keffler's dead.' Jonas commented. 'He sounds like a monster.' He sighed. 'It's scary what some people will try in the name of science.'
'I'm not sure it would ever work combining the DNA of the symbiote with a human.' Daniel mused out loud. 'At least I hope not.'
'In some ways it must be similar to a host who's survived having a Goa'uld symbiote.' Jonas said. 'After all there are memories left behind by all accounts and if the host were to suffer a mental trauma or psychotic break…' He pushed a hand through his long hair and focused on Dog.
Daniel exchanged a knowing look with Teal'c.
'How are things with Kianna?' Daniel asked gently. Jonas's girlfriend had been revealed as a Goa'uld spy when SG1 had helped Langara divert a naquadria seam from blowing up the planet. The symbiote had unexpectedly given her life to save her host, Kianna, who had then revealed to Jonas that it had been the symbiote that he had been involved with all along.
Jonas jerked as though he'd been hit. 'She's avoiding me.' He glanced up and lifted one shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. 'I can't blame her.'
'I haven't spoken to Sarah either since we left her on Cimmeria.' Daniel sighed. 'I think she's doing OK.'
They both looked at each other for a moment before breaking into reluctant laughter.
'Maybe we should put them in touch with each other.' Jonas commented.
'Maybe.' Daniel sighed.
Jonas shifted in his seat and reached for the teapot. He poured them all another drink and leaned back with his own. 'Has Cassie decided what's she's doing with the house?'
'Indeed.' Teal'c confirmed. 'She has accepted Major Carter's offer to join her in her abode.'
'Won't that be awkward now Sam has what's-his-name?' Jonas asked, sipping his drink.
Daniel swallowed his mouthful of what tasted like hot lemonade. 'Pete. And according to Cassie, Sam's said it's not serious and won't be a problem.'
'I guess that makes sense.' Jonas said, gesturing with his cup. 'He wasn't around the week I was there. I was hoping to meet him.'
'Detective Shanahan resides in Denver.' Teal'c said with an air of someone who thought that was where the good detective should remain.
'He hasn't been around a whole lot.' Daniel thought out loud. 'If it wasn't for the fact that we've met him and we know they are dating, I would suspect that Sam made him up.'
'So you've done the whole Sam is family and if you hurt her we'll break you into many different pieces thing?' Jonas asked with a grin.
'We have not yet had the opportunity.' Teal'c growled.
Jonas cast an amused look Teal'c's way. 'You could always get the Colonel to invite him to a barbeque.'
A door opened and an aide entered hurriedly. 'First Minister Dreylock sends her apologies but she has been called away on urgent business. She asked me to give this to you.'
Daniel accepted the envelope.
Jonas placed his cup down and waved the aide away. 'I'll escort them back to the Stargate.' They made their way slowly, Dog walking beside Jonas who had slung the backpack over his own shoulder.
Teal'c hugged Jonas goodbye and Daniel stepped up to do the same. He should remember Jonas, Daniel thought with compassion; he should remember Jonas every time he had a bad day. It wasn't Daniel's fault that Jonas had gone back to Langara or that the Langarans were restricting Jonas's contact with Earth, but…Jonas had nothing but a dog; Daniel had his team; his family. So he would remember that Jonas would appreciate what Daniel had; would have loved to have been on SG1 no matter how hard the mission.
Daniel took one last look at Jonas with Dog sat at his feet and followed Teal'c into the waiting wormhole. It was time to go home and help Cassie with her homework; talk Jack into taking his medication; plan how to ambush Sam's boyfriend with Teal'c, and write Jonas a long email telling him about all those things because Daniel would remember Jonas and remember that Daniel was the lucky one.