General Hammond sighed as he glanced around the Briefing Room. His favorite team--not that he would ever admit to it--rested in their accustomed seats. SG-1 still looked tired, but satisfied. P5X-712, a tropical planet with no hostile life forms and no sign of any civilization, had proved to be a quiet mission for his usually unlucky front-line team, and the debriefing had been held right after the medical examination.
The team sat in companionable silence, waiting to be dismissed. Teal'c peacefully surveyed his teammates. Captain Carter was smiling, her gaze resting on the photograph of a white sandy beach projected on the screen at the head of the table. Dr. Jackson was scribbling on the pad in front of him, muttering under his breath. Colonel O'Neill leaned back, tapping a pencil on the arm of his chair, his expression unfocused and insouciant.
Hammond didn't want to break this news, but it was his responsibility. Pursing his lips, he let a gust of air escape.
SG-1 looked back at him with expressions ranging from a slightly uplifted eyebrow indicating vague alarm on Teal'c's face to the worried frown on Dr. Jackson's. The General didn't sigh often, and when he did, it was not something simple.
"General?" Not surprisingly, it was O'Neill who put their thoughts into words. "Is there something you wanted to share with us, Sir?"
"Yes, there is," Hammond answered slowly, lying through his teeth. "This morning I met with Dr. Fraiser regarding the condition of the young survivor you rescued on P8X-987."
"Cassandra," Carter supplied, with a smile.
"Yes." This was the worst part. Giving bad news never got any easier; there was no way to prepare them, he just had to say it. "Dr. Fraiser has assured me that she is perfectly healthy and fully recovered from the device implanted in her." There were cautious smiles all around the table as everyone waited for the "but" implicit in the General's words.
"That's good, isn't it?" Sam asked cautiously.
"Yes, it is," the General hastened to assure her, his voice still heavy. "We're all pleased to see such a complete recovery." He hesitated, hating to bring up the next topic, knowing how the members of SG-1 would react. "However, Captain, this facility is not equipped for the daily care of a child." Looking across the table, he met Jack's wary stare. "Since Cassandra will be officially released from the infirmary this week, Dr. Fraiser and I are looking into placing her in a foster home."
"Sir, couldn't we..."
The General had expected the outbursts from O'Neill and Carter. Both of them had formed close bonds with the young survivor. But he was their commanding officer, and he expected them to let him finish before giving their input. As their voices got louder, he held up his hand, waiting expectantly for silence. They subsided just in time to hear the sharp crack of the pencil in Daniel's hand snapping. Everyone looked down the table at the archaeologist, who stared blankly at the broken item he still clutched.
O'Neill looked him over quickly, saw no blood and decided it was one of those unexplainable Daniel moments. He turned back to Hammond. "Do you have any prospect in mind, or are we just going to call in Social Services and say 'hey, we've got a kid from another planet here who needs a home.'?"
"Colonel! We are of course looking for a family with security clearance."
"General Hammond," Teal'c said. Everyone turned to look at him, surprised at the unlikely interruption. "Cassandra is very young. Even if it were possible to locate a family with such clearance and a connection to this facility, I believe that allowing her access to Tau'ri children would be a security risk to the Stargate Program. It would be best to keep her within our care."
"You see, General? Even Teal'c agrees with me. You gotta..."
"Colonel O'Neill, you are walking a very thin line."
"I'll adopt her." The quiet voice cut across all the raised voices as if they were whispers. "What?" Samantha Carter asked, as the men stared at her. She straightened her shoulders defensively. "It's a perfectly logical solution. I'll adopt Cassandra."
Teal'c nodded with satisfaction while O'Neill's gaze grew thoughtful. General Hammond shook his head. "No, Captain, it is not."
Hammond put up his hand again; sourly acknowledging to himself that Dr. Fraiser's prediction had been correct. "Yes, Captain, it would be a logical solution if you were not in a high-risk position at this base. Your job is extremely dangerous. If you adopt Cassandra, you would have to resign from SG-1."
"What? Sir." Sam added hastily.
"What? Why?" O'Neill yelped, jumping in to defend his second in command. "The SGC doesn't stop anyone else on this base from having kids. We all have dangerous jobs."
"Your team is just a little different from the normal SGC off-world team," Hammond said, his own anger rising. "Do you think a child who has lost everything once already can handle the uncertainty of not knowing when...or if...you're coming back?"
"General, with all due respect, that's crap!" The Colonel jumped to his feet, denial written all over his face. Pacing, he continued, ignoring his commanding officer's forbidding frown. "No one knows what tomorrow might bring. Any one of us could get…could get…" one hand waved wildly until he grabbed the standard warning out of midair, "Could get hit by a bus and killed tomorrow. Now, if you're worried about consistency or space, I have three bedrooms. I'll take Cassie and hire a housekeeper or something." He dropped back down into his seat. "Come on General, we're all she knows."
Hammond winced. "And that's the problem, Colonel. Eventually, Cassandra is going to have to live in THIS world...and she needs some grounding in our culture before we just set her loose in it."
"Did anyone think to ask Cassie?" Complete silence greeted Daniel's words. As if on a string, everyone turned in unison to look down the table. He stared at the broken pencil, refusing to meet anyone's eyes.
"Dr. Jackson, Cassandra is a child. She's also from another planet and knows nothing of our customs. She cannot be expected..."
Daniel looked up at the General with anger in his face. "So, because she's a child, you just waltz in and decide what's best for her? Cassie gets no say in the matter? What gives you that right?" His voice was shaking as he pushed away from the table and got to his feet, wrapping his arms around his body. "Before we take this any further, I think that someone needs to consult the person with the most to lose. Cassandra may have needs or concerns that outweigh anything we can even think of."
"Dr. Jackson!" Hammond's unspoken order went unacknowledged as Daniel picked up his papers and left the Briefing Room. He turned his annoyance to O'Neill, who was already rising to his feet. "Colonel..."
"I'll take care of it, Sir."
"You do that. Any concerns you have with the issue of Cassandra's placement can be discussed with Dr. Fraiser. We will meet here tomorrow to address the problem." He looked with irritability at the three remaining members of SG-1. "Dismissed."
Jack hastened down the corridor, wondering how Daniel managed to move so fast. By the time he left the Briefing Room, the archaeologist was out of sight. That was okay, he knew where he'd be headed.
Daniel's office door was firmly closed, but Jack knocked at walked in. It didn't pay to wait when Daniel was in a mood. "Daniel?"
"Jack." The quiet sigh was filled with resignation, but Daniel didn't look up from the computer he was bent over. "I should have known you'd follow me."
"Yeah, well you can't make an exit like that without expecting *someone* to notice."
Daniel's eyes slid sideways to look at Jack, but he kept his face firmly turned towards the computer screen. "I'm busy, Jack. Do you know how much work I have to do? I can't chat with you right now…"
Jack shook his head. It was pathetically apparent that Daniel didn't want to talk about what had just happened, with meant that it was something that he needed to talk about. "What just happened back there, Daniel?"
"The Briefing Room, Daniel…or were you making a scene somewhere else today?"
Daniel dropped his pretense of interest in the computer and rubbed his eyes with one hand. "I really don't want to talk about it, Jack."
"Maybe you have to, Daniel."
Daniel muttered something under his breath.
"I didn't quite catch that."
"You'd make me, wouldn't you?" Daniel repeated, glaring at his friend.
"Yep." Jack's voice was matter-of-fact; Daniel rolled his eyes.
"Did it ever occur to you that some things are private? Maybe I don't want to share?"
Jack grabbed a chair and straddled it. "Nope. I'm your commanding officer. I have a right to know everything." His voice softened, "But I'm also your friend, and I think that this may be something you need to talk about."
Daniel sighed. There was just no way he getting out of this.
"Can I talk to you?"
Dr. Janet Fraiser looked up from the computer she was working on. "Of course, Captain. Come in."
Sam stepped into the office and closed the door behind her. "This isn't really an official call, it's personal." Feeling awkward, she perched on the edge of the guest chair in front of Janet's desk. "It's about Cassandra."
Janet clicked off her computer screen and gave Sam all her attention. "Ah. General Hammond spoke to you."
"Yes, he did. Janet..." Samantha hesitated, then rushed ahead, completely forgetting all the carefully thought out points she wanted to make. "I want to adopt Cassie." She studied her hand, avoiding Janet's gaze. "She needs somebody to love her, and...and down in that bunker, I told her she'd never be alone again."
Janet nodded. She had guessed how Sam would react to the announcement. "Did the General happen to mention that he didn't believe you could care for Cassandra and..."
"Be on SG-1? Yes, he did." Sam looked up at her friend, her eyes full of memories. "Janet, do you know that Cassie knew she was going to die? She woke up in that bare, concrete room, and looked at me, and I knew that she knew. And she didn't say anything. She thought she was going to die and let me go anyway."
"So this is a way to ease your guilt?"
"No!" The denial was immediate and sincere. "God, no. It's just... She's gone through so much already, how can we just throw her out in the world alone?"
Janet got up and walked around her desk. Leaning back on it, she looked at Sam. "You know, we're not suggesting that you break off all ties with Cassie. You could still visit her. It's just that both the General and I feel she needs the stability of a family."
"We already are her family," Sam protested. "Look, Janet. The way it looks right now, I'll never have any biological children of my own, and I do want to be a mother. Cassie needs someone to care for her, and...I love her. I can be that mother. I can provide stability."
"And leave SG-1?"
Sam looked up and met her eyes. "I won't tell you that I'd be happy about that. But there's plenty for me to do on the base. So yes, if that's what it takes." Blinking, she got up off the chair. "Uh, Janet...I think... I have to go now."
Janet put a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Thank you for telling me this Sam. The General and I will take it into consideration."
"Thanks." Blinking rapidly, Sam almost ran into Teal'c on the other side of the door. He steadied her before she lost her balance.
"Captain Carter, are you well?"
"I'm fine, Teal'c. I've just...got to go." Pulling away from his grasp, she practically ran down the corridor. Teal'c watched her go with one eyebrow raised. He turned to see Janet Fraiser looking at him with a worried frown.
"Dr. Fraiser, may I speak with you?"
"So? Shoot, Daniel."
"I need a drink," Daniel muttered, crossing the room to his coffeepot. "Do you want one?"
"Don't try to distract me, Daniel."
"I wasn't!" the archaeologist protested unconvincingly. He met Jack's eyes with a grimace. "Okay, so maybe I was." Filling two cups, he carried them over to the desk and set one down in front of O'Neill with a thump that sloshed the liquid over the side. Daniel didn't seem to notice as he took a deep gulp from his own mug.
"How much do you know about my past?" he asked, seemingly at random.
Jack knew that there was nothing random about it. "How far back?" he asked cautiously.
Daniel laughed, but the sound was brittle. "Oh, about as far back as you can get."
Jack tried to remember what he had read in Daniel's file. "Your parents were archeologists…you were born in Egypt when they were on a dig…they were…" he stopped, the impersonal words he had read printed on paper suddenly taking on new implications.
Daniel finished the sentence, his voice stiff. "…killed when I was young."
"Yeah." They sat in silence for a few minutes, Jack waiting for Daniel to start sharing something that was obviously traumatic.
"They were good people, you know?" Daniel said, his voice steady. "But they were young, and not expecting to die. It happened in New York. There was no will or anything. Social Services picked me up that evening. I was in a foster home before the funeral." He shrugged. "They were nice people."
Jack was appalled. "Didn't you have relatives?"
"Not… Uh... No." Daniel bit off his answer. He looked at Jack, his eyes wounded. "We were there to set up the exhibit. There were professional colleagues, but none were prepared to take in a small boy." He shrugged. "I'm not sure the state agencies would have let them, anyway."
"I'm sorry," Jack said, knowing it was inadequate.
"Yeah, so was I." They sat in pensive silence for a few minutes. Daniel took a sip of coffee. Jack picked up his mug and stared into the depths.
"So…this situation with Cassie…"
Daniel started talking again. "My parents had a good friend…I called him Uncle Ahmed." he said, fiddling with his mug. "He came to New York to make the arrangements. At the funeral, he said he would take care of me…he would bring me home to Egypt with him." Daniel stopped.
"He was Egyptian?" Jack prompted.
"You were American."
"Let me guess, the authorities wouldn't allow it."
Jack pictured the child Daniel must have been. Small, blond, alone in the world. Egypt would have been what he knew, but it was a given that the authorities wouldn't understand that.
"Ahmed tried, but he would have had to move to the U.S. He had a job and a family…he finally had to get back to them. I discovered when I turned eighteen that he had tried for years before they told him it just wouldn't happen."
O'Neill thought back to what Daniel had said in the briefing. "And no one consulted you."
"No. I would have wanted to go back to Egypt. It was what I knew. Instead, I ended up in foster care." He took another gulp and grimaced at the now-cold coffee. "The families I lived with were nice, but they weren't mine. I knew that they cared for me, but they would have treated any other kid off the street the same way. There was nothing special just for me. Uncle Ahmed came to see me whenever he could…he was planning to take me home with him when I got old enough to have a say in the matter. But he died in a car accident just before my sixteenth birthday."
Jack felt cold. The paperwork didn't cover this. "Daniel…"
"And Cassie…she's lost so much already," Daniel interrupted him, shaking his head. "She deserves to be with someone who cares that she's Cassie…not just some kid who needs a home until she's eighteen." He cleared his throat. "I really have work to do, Jack."
And that, Jack thought, explained a lot about Daniel Jackson. He got to his feet, awkwardly resting one hand on Daniel's shoulder. "I'll talk to the General, Daniel. I don't know if it will make a difference, but I'll try."
Janet Fraiser looked up at her newest arrival. "Have a seat," she said politely, though her mind was screaming 'why me?'
"What's on your mind, Teal'c?" As if she didn't know.
The big Jaffa raised one eyebrow, but Janet knew he must have heard the expression before. So it was… "Cassandra is on my mind, Dr. Fraiser."
Right. If Janet were a betting woman, she would have got it in one. "What about Cassandra?"
"I do not understand why she must be placed in another facility when she is comfortable here."
Okay, that was direct and to the point. Not that she had expected anything less. Janet sighed. "Yes, she is comfortable here…but she is a child."
"I am aware of that fact. Yet you cannot dismiss the fact that everyone she knows, everything that connects her to her past resides within the SGC."
"Yes, but… Teal'c, this is a military operation, not suitable for children. And Cassandra, despite her special circumstances, is a child. And children need to be with other children."
"I am aware of that as well. I do not understand why she cannot live with Captain Carter as was suggested."
"Teal'c, Captain…" Fraiser sighed and reconsidered her words. "…Sam is your teammate. You of all people know how often she's away on missions. To ask a child to deal with that…especially when she's lost so much in her life already. What happens if you don't come back?"
Frowning, Teal'c replied. "A child who has dealt with such a loss knows how to cherish what she has. Cassandra will appreciate being with people who care for her far more than those not in her circumstances would appreciate."
Janet shifted uncomfortably. "We all care about Cassie, but we will find a suitable family for her."
Teal'c rose. Janet's eyes followed him up. "Dr. Fraiser, Cassandra is as much an alien in this society as I am. She does not understand the customs. She will not understand these other children without much work. Any family you might find would have to be aware of that fact…or would you ask Cassandra to keep this a secret?"
"We are looking among SGC personnel…"
Teal'c interrupted her…a first. "So it is only Captain Carter who is inappropriate?"
One hand of the doorknob, Teal'c paused. "Cassandra is a child in great need. I only ask that you think on what you are doing, Dr. Fraiser."
Her next visitor didn't bother to knock.
Janet sighed. Her head hurt, and this paperwork was never going to be completed. "Colonel," she acknowledged, watching as he plopped down in a chair. "Won't you have a seat?" she said, hoping she sounded as impatient as she felt.
"Don't mind if I do," he answered, leaning forward. "We need to talk."
"Yep. Cassie. What's the deal, Doc?"
Janet massaged the bridge of her nose, wishing she had taken more aspirin after Teal'c's visit. "This facility is unsuitable…"
"…for a child. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, I heard that. What I want to know is…who's considering what's best for the kid. You? General Hammond?"
"The medical and psych staff made a decision based on Cassie's needs," the doctor said, meeting O'Neill's eyes.
"Bullshit," Jack said flatly. "Did you look into any other options, Doctor?"
Pulling herself up to her full height, Janet Fraiser glared at the man sitting in her office. "Yes, Colonel," she said, her voice frosty. "We did. There are two basic choices. We can send Cassie back to her planet; a planet where the entire population is dead…or we could keep her here. I suppose we could ask our allies if they would take in one small refuge, but we were trying to find something to keep her on Earth.
"If we keep her here," she continued raising her voice and glaring as Jack's mouth opened, "she has to learn to live here. That means going to school, joining girl scouts, making friends…things which children need to be socialized in *this* world, and that means going off base."
"Okay, you thought it out," Jack admitted grudgingly. "Did you take into consideration that Cassie may know what's best for her?"
"Yeah, the kid this is all about."
Fraiser scowled. "I know who Cassie is, Colonel."
Jack sighed. "Yeah. Listen, Doc…I just had a little chat with Daniel. He thinks you should talk to her. I think…" He dropped his head, acting almost embarrassed. "Well, maybe Daniel has a point. You need to talk to Cassie."
"But she has no idea what her options are!"
"Explain them to her, Doc. She deserves to know."
Janet clicked as she walked down the corridor; she winced at the noise, wishing that she didn't feel that she had to wear heels. Unfortunately, when the average airman in the SGC towered over her, she needed every extra inch she could get. It was difficult to wield authority with your eyes pointed at someone's chest.
Following her series of visitors' advice, she was off to see Cassie. If she could find her. Apparently, Cassie was making rounds. One of Janet's nurses had escorted her to Sam's lab. When Janet got there, however, Sam was gone, and the airman on guard on that level reported that Cassie had left with Dr. Jackson. Janet was hoping that Cassie was still with Daniel.
As she approached his office, she could hear the high lilt of Cassandra's voice, followed by the deeper tones of Daniel Jackson's. Curious about their conversation, she slowed, telling herself that she didn't want to startle them.
"…and this?" Cassie asked.
Daniel uttered a low chuckle. "That's called 'the jackal and the hound'. It's a replica of an ancient Egyptian game."
"Yeah? Is it really old? Did you make it?"
Janet leaned against the wall and listened unabashedly. Cassie seemed to be more comfortable with Daniel than she'd ever seen her in the infirmary, and she'd never heard that gentle, teasing note in Daniel's voice before. She reminded herself she wasn't eavesdropping, only learning more about her patients.
"No, it's not that old, but you're right, it is handmade. A friend of mine carved it when we were in college."
"Will you teach me to play it? It looks a lot like a game I used to play with my friend Lu…" Cassie stuttered to a halt, her voice running down.
Janet bit her lip, wondering if it was time for her to make an entrance, but she was curious to see how Daniel would handle the direction the conversation had taken. There was a short pause before Daniel started talking. "You know, you can talk about your friends and your family. I'd like to hear what they were like."
"I don't think I'm supposed to," Cassie said doubtfully. "Isn't it secret or something?"
Janet winced, and waited to hear Daniel's response. It wasn't long in coming.
"Cassie," Daniel said softly. "Come over here." Janet listened as reluctant footsteps sounded in the room, then a slight sniff and the sound of weight settling into a chair. "Yes, the Stargate is a secret…but *you* are not. Eventually, you'll be able to meet kids here, on Earth. You may not be able to tell them details…"
"Like that I'm from another planet," Cassie interrupted.
"Like that you're from another planet," Daniel agreed. "But you can tell them that you and your friend Lu…"
"Luriel," Cassie supplied.
Daniel repeated the name without missing a beat. "Luriel…played games like 'the jackal and the hound'. If you want to. And I know I'd like to hear more about your friends, about your world, about...your parents, whenever you want to remember."
"That would be good. I'm afraid I'll forget them," Cassie admitted. "And I don't want to." Her voice was tiny, hardly louder than a whisper. In the hallway, Janet frowned. Cassie sounded so lost. She almost missed Daniel's reply; it was scarcely louder than the little girl's.
"It may be difficult," Daniel agreed. "And some of the details might get blurry as you get older. But I don't think they would mind, as long as you're happy."
"It's hard," Cassie said plaintively. "I don't have anything that belonged to them. I don't even have a picture."
"Oh, Cassie," Daniel said, his breath coming out in a deep sigh. Janet risked a glance through the crack in the door. Cassie was leaning against the archeologist; his arms were wrapped around her. "I lost my parents in an accident when I was young too. I didn't have much to remember them by. But they loved me, and I'll always remember that feeling. Remember how your parents loved you, and you'll never lose them."
"Okay," Cassie sniffed. "Do you still miss your parents?"
"Yes," Daniel answered simply. "But it gets easier."
"Okay," Cassie said, trustingly. "And you really think they'd want me to be happy?"
"Yes," Daniel said, his voice thick. "I know they would. I'm sorry I never met your parents, but anyone who raised such a brave and resourceful daughter would want what's best for her. For you."
Janet listened as Daniel and Cassie sat in silence for a few moments. Finally, Cassandra took a deep breath and exhaled tremulously. "So I can come and talk to you whenever I want to remember how my mother braided my hair, or how my father made the best berry pie, or how Luriel and I used to play?"
Janet could hear the smile in Daniel's voice. "Not just me, you can talk to Sam, or Jack, or Teal'c. We'll always be here for you."
"Janet too? I really like Janet a lot."
Daniel paused for a moment. "Janet too," he said. Outside the door, Janet blinked her suddenly burning eyes.
Cassie said something Janet didn't quite catch, then Daniel's voice regained its teasing tone. "Well, you can talk my ears off anytime."
"That's what my mother used to say," Cassie said with delight. Janet listened, recognized the next sound and smiled, picturing Daniel's reaction to the girl's version of a bear hug.
"What was that for?" Daniel asked, his voice rising.
Cassie sounded happy. "It was a thank you, Daniel. Thank you for listening, and for being part of my new family."
"Oh." Daniel cleared his throat. "Cassie," he started, his voice uncertain.
Oh, no. Dr. Janet Fraiser recognized a cue when she heard one. She pushed off the wall, her heels clicking as she entered the office. "Cassandra!" she said, stopping just inside the doorway and putting her hands on her hips. "I have been looking all over for you, young lady!"
Two pairs of blue eyes looked at her from the couch in the corner. "Janet!" Cassie exclaimed with surprise. She bounced across the room to throw her arms around the petite doctor. "I was just talking about you."
"So I heard," Janet said. Over Cassie's head, she met Daniel's wary gaze and nodded. "Cassie, Sweetie…I need to talk to Daniel for a minute. Could you…"
Daniel rose to his feet fluidly. "Why don't I just walk you both to the Infirmary?"
A few minutes later, Cassandra was happily occupied with a new easel, paints, and one of the younger nurses on the staff; Janet led Daniel to her office and motioned for him to sit. He did, with a resentful glare in her direction from under the bangs hanging over his eyes.
"How much did you hear?" he demanded.
"All of it, I think," Janet answered, her tone apologetic. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop; at first I just didn't want to interrupt your conversation, then I wanted…I needed to hear what Cassie said."
"And?" Those blue eyes weren't giving her any leeway. Daniel Jackson was angry, and now she had a little insight as to why. How many parallels was he seeing between Cassandra's situation and his own? Had anyone intervened on his behalf when he was in the same situation? Given his reaction, probably not.
Janet pulled herself together, answering the challenge in his eyes. "You're right, I should listen to Cassie. She's a child, but she obviously knows who is important to her. But Daniel, she also needs continuity within her life." Disturbed by the unwavering scrutiny, she picked up a pencil just to have something to fiddle with in her hands. "And all the love in the world doesn't change the fact that you have a very dangerous job. All of you. Cassie needs some stability she can count on."
Daniel sighed, most of the tension leaving his body. He closed his eyes and sank back into the chair, one hand reaching up under his glasses to massage the bridge of his nose. His voice was weary as he responded. "I know. There are no easy answers. But there has to be some kind of compromise we can figure out. Couldn't we put a house on the base or...or... something? There has to be something that will work for everyone." He sighed again. "Cassie's counting on us, Doctor."
Us. Janet smiled, half-formed thoughts becoming clearer. "Thank you, Daniel," she said warmly, rising to her feet. "I'll see you later. I need to go talk to the General."
"SG-1, I'm glad you're all here." General Hammond looked around the Briefing Room table with satisfaction. His favorite team looked back at him, curiosity shining in all their eyes.
"I called you here today to follow up on our conversation about young Cassandra." There was a slight straightening of the figures sitting around the table, a tension that hummed between the teammates. "It's good news, people."
"Yeah?" Jack drawled. "The question is, will Cassie see it as good news?"
A flash of impatience crossed the General's face, but he just shook his head. "I'll let that pass, Colonel, because I know you've been worried."
"We have all been worried, General Hammond," Teal'c rumbled.
"Yes." Hammond folded his hands and looked at each member of SG1 in turn. "I understand that you have all expressed your…displeasure with the arrangements with Dr. Fraiser."
"Damn right we did," O'Neill said promptly. "Little girls shouldn't have their fate decided by committee."
Hammond frowned, but ignored the criticism. "After weighing all our options, Dr. Fraiser and I have decided that our first decision will stand. However," he raised both a hand and his voice at the outraged expressions focused on him. "We will arrange things slightly differently, to allow Cassandra close contact with all of you." Smiling, he finished. "I think you will all be pleased with our final resolution. Dr. Fraiser herself will be adopting Cassandra."
Everyone turned to look at the petite figure of the doctor as she entered the room. "I had an emergency down at the infirmary," she explained; then noticed the attention she was getting. "You told them?" she asked. It wasn't really a question.
Janet took a deep breath, her expression wary.
Crossing the room to sit beside Hammond, Janet Fraiser looked around the table at the members of SG-1. Colonel O'Neill met her eyes, raising one inquiring eyebrow; Daniel smiled; Teal'c bowed his head in approval. Janet's gaze stopped at Sam, who had her head down, staring at her hands. Sam Carter was the one who she knew she had to convince.
"I don't want to take your place with Cassandra," Fraiser said, her voice gentle, "but General Hammond and I thought it would be the best thing for her." And for Sam. Janet knew what the Captain would be giving up. In theory, becoming Cassandra's mother could outweigh the lure of adventure. But the military doctor in her knew that Samantha Carter still needed to prove herself; remaining on Earth would not allow that. Janet smiled as her friend looked up at her, obviously listening. "I have regular hours, I don't leave Earth very often, and the most danger I run into is germs."
The General cleared his throat, and Janet shrugged. "Okay, so they're unpredictable germs, but no one is shooting at me. Usually." Reflecting on the events of the past few months, Janet moved on swiftly. "I even have a bedroom to spare, and I'm in an excellent school district."
She was searching for something else to say when Sam interrupted. "Janet, it's okay. No, even better, it's perfect." A broad smile made further words unnecessary. Reflections of that smile were on every face around the briefing table.
Janet sighed with relief and smiled back. Perfect was perhaps a bit optimistic, but she knew that Cassie would have the love and support she needed from all the members of her new extended family. It was too bad she couldn't bottle the happy feelings floating in the air right now…she had a feeling that Cassie's adjustment to this planet would require lots of patience and love. Speaking of which…
"I expect you all to help me out, you know… Cassie's going to need advice, someone to talk to who doesn't live with her, clothes, furniture--"
"A dog," Jack supplied.
Janet grimaced and continued as if she hadn't heard him. "--transportation, more clothes, CDs, more advice..." Taking a breath, she looked at Sam, whose raised her eyebrows and looked sideways at Colonel O'Neill expectantly. Janet grinned and continued with a devilish sense of glee, "And of course, she'll be a teenager in just a couple years, which means boys…"
"If you think that Cassie's going to start dating in a couple years, you're wrong!"
George Hammond leaned back in his chair, chuckling as Jack O'Neill let out a sound suspiciously like a growl. Amused, he watched Captain Carter pat Dr. Fraiser's hand and join in. They were obviously conspiring against the good Colonel, who more than deserved it.
"Teal'c…buddy…give me a hand here. When do girls on Chulak start dating?" Jack demanded, begging for support.
Teal'c looked on, his face impassive. "Girls do not date on Chulak."
"See? Even on other planets…"
"They are given to their husbands as early as birth."
Jack's mouth dropped open in mid-word, then his head fell onto his crossed arms. "Why do I bother?" he asked plaintively. "Daniel? Help?"
Hammond didn't hear Daniel's reply as chuckles turned to full-fledged laughter. Maybe it was their diverse backgrounds, maybe it was the sense of family that kept them together…whatever it was, this team kept him on his toes. Noticing the smirk on Jack O'Neill's face, he suspected that their leader knew it as well. Shaking his head, he pulled himself together. "SG-1, Dr. Fraiser. I think there's a very happy little girl out there, waiting to talk to you. You are dismissed."
He watched as they left the room, still bickering under their breaths. Dr. Jackson was the last one out. Pausing on the threshold, he looked back.
He opened his mouth hesitantly a couple times, paused, stopped. Finally, he just shrugged. "Thank you, General."
Hammond smiled gently. "You're welcome, son."