“Open the iris!”
Colonel Jack O’Neill was on his way to General
Hammond’s office when the klaxons blared and the strobe lights flashed
out their incessant alarm. As he raced up the steel stairwell he heard the
General’s order and his heart beat double-time.
was standing in front
of the massive windows that looked down into the gate room. Jack stopped
and 6 are returning ahead of schedule.”
“We don’t know anything yet, Colonel.”
stared down at the inner ring of the Stargate as it revolved smoothly back
and forth, and decided he couldn’t wait up here.
me, sir.” He raced down the stairwell, nearly running into a passing
Airman as he reached the corridor. Ducking around the startled young man
Jack darted into the gate room. Fists clenched at his side in an effort to
maintain control, he counted the seconds. If that damn gate didn’t open
soon he was going to lose it.
event horizon exploded open and seconds later several team members came
through, stumbling down the ramp one after the other. Jack’s eyes
skipped over them, his heart pounding harder when he didn’t see –
Daniel trudged out of the event horizon with Major Ferretti at his side.
Jack gave his fifteen-year-old the once over, two arms, two legs, no
limping, no blood... the kid looked fine except for being disheveled and
dirty, which was his normal look coming back from being off-world. Hold
on. Daniel didn’t usually look that pissed.
moved to the bottom of the ramp. “How’d it go?” he asked. His
relieved smile froze when Daniel glared at him. The kid was pissed at him?
What the hell?
Instead of answering, Daniel stomped out of the gate room and, from the
sound of it, stomped down the corridor toward the elevators. Jack stared
after him in confusion.
“Majors, why have SG-5 and SG-6 returned early?”
’s voice echoed over the intercom.
Ferretti exchanged looks with Major Steve Chisholm, team leader of SG-5.
It was difficult for Jack to read their expressions. Amusement?
Resignation? He was curious to know what had ticked Daniel off, and more
importantly, what it had to do with him.
“That’s kind of a long story, sir,” Ferretti answered.
“I see. Report to the infirmary. Debriefing in one hour.”
“Yes, sir,” they answered simultaneously before disappearing through
the huge door.
“Uh, sir,” Jack called, looking up at the General.
“Go on, Colonel. We’ll talk later.”
“Thank you, sir.” Whatever
was going on,
clearly thought Daniel was in the middle of it. Yeah, well, Jack thought
the same thing.
Jack reached the infirmary he found it in its usual post-mission,
organized chaos. He spotted his kid sitting at the end of the row,
separated from the soldiers by several beds. That made it official. Daniel
was mad at everyone. It was a rare thing for his level-headed kid to be
this upset so he figured it had to be one hell of a story.
He’d get to the bottom of it eventually. For now, he was relieved his
son, along with everyone else, appeared to be okay. Ferretti and Chisholm
were sitting on beds across from each other with nurses hovering over
them. Ferretti caught Jack’s eye and started to slide off the bed when
Fraiser walked up.
you were, Major,” she ordered and Lou wisely resumed his seat.
Jack smirked until the good doctor turned her attention to him.
“Were you part of this mission, Colonel?”
you don’t need to be taking up space in my infirmary.”
“I wanted to – ”
“As you can see,” she continued, ignoring his attempt to interrupt,
“we are very busy here and it would be better if you waited outside.”
knew an order when he heard one. He wanted to protest but when it came to
medical matters Janet Fraiser outranked everyone on the base, up to and
Hammond. There would be no winning an argument with her on her turf.
Ignoring Ferretti’s smug look, Jack surrendered. “Okay, Doc, just one
thing.” He gestured for her to follow as he backed toward the door. She
looked annoyed and curious; curiosity won out and she followed him.
“What’s so important, Colonel?” she asked when they stepped outside
“Yes," Her frown faded. "Though I haven’t had a chance to
examine him yet.”
“Could you take him first? I want to talk to him before the
“All right. As for you, sir – ”
“I need a minute with Ferretti and Chisholm.”
frowned again but nodded before stepping back inside.
She moved down to Daniel's bed. The kid didn’t look up and
Fraiser gestured at a male nurse who pulled the privacy curtain around the
bed, hiding them from view.
A couple of strides took Jack to his officers. “What happened? The short
version,” he added.
and Chisholm exchanged a glance before Ferretti answered. “Everything
was going good, sir. Daniel was making nice with the locals who seemed
like they were ready to adopt him. Then a new crowd of folks appeared.”
He scowled. “Daniel said they came from over the mountain and they
didn’t like people coming through the gate; it was obvious they wanted
us gone. Things began to heat up and when they started waving around
weapons, I decided it was time to leave.”
“I agreed, Colonel,” Chisholm put in. “We were outnumbered at least
thirty to one and even though their weapons were primitive, it would have
turned into a bloodbath if things had escalated.”
Jack nodded. He would get the details during the debriefing but listening
to this summary was enough for now. “It sounds like you made the right
decision. I’m guessing Daniel didn’t agree.”
sir.” Ferretti shook his head. “He was sure he could calm things down.
I didn’t think it was worth the gamble.”
said anything about unfriendlies the first time SG-6 came through the
gate,” Chisholm added. “We weren’t prepared to be caught in the
middle of a possible war.”
Jack nodded in agreement. With the nurses waiting, hovering just out of
earshot, Jack moved away to let them do their job. When he left the
infirmary he headed directly to Daniel’s office. The kid would most
likely retreat there to hide out and Jack wanted a chance to discuss the
mission before the debriefing.
He wasn’t looking forward to the conversation. Ferretti’s brief
explanation had been enough to give him a good idea of his kid’s frame
of mind. Since Daniel had returned from UCLA several months ago with his
PhD in linguistics completed, he periodically went through the Stargate,
usually with SG-1, and only after the planet had been checked out.
Although Jack wasn’t completely comfortable with his son going through
the gate, he couldn’t deny how big an asset the teenager was to the SGC.
As if his expertise in languages and ancient cultures wasn't enough,
Daniel was proving to be a gifted diplomat, able to reach out to alien
civilizations in ways unmatched by his peers.
Jack settled down on one of the stools in Daniel’s office and picked up
a small statue. He ran his fingers over the scratches on the back. Daniel
claimed it was writing that he was still trying to decipher. Jack stared
at the scratches. Only Daniel would think this was writing, and he was
probably the only one who'd eventually be able to translate it. That was
one of the many reasons why the fifteen-year-old was so valuable to the
sighed and absently tossed the statue from one hand to the other. Although
he would never challenge Daniel’s expertise in his field, the kid still
had a lot to learn about visiting other worlds. Daniel wasn’t a soldier,
he didn’t think or act like a soldier. His approach was often in
conflict with the military mentality of the SGC. It sounded as if that was
the root of the problem on this past mission.
The door opened and Daniel stopped at the sight of him. When he closed the
door Jack grimaced at his son’s expression. Clearly the kid was still
upset, which meant it was going to be one of those
“Daniel,” he greeted.
"Jack,” Daniel responded before sitting down behind his desk. He kept
his head down as he pulled a pad of paper out of one of the drawers and
Uh-huh, definitely one of those
“The debriefing is in a half-hour,” Jack reminded.
Time to dive in. “Ferretti and Chisholm told me what happened.”
Daniel slammed his pen down. “Did they happen to mention I was making
progress in getting both sides to communicate until they ordered us out of
Majors didn’t think things were calming down.”
“That’s because they didn’t understand what was going on. They
didn’t speak the language.” Daniel’s jaw worked. “They should have
asked me. But no, I was just excess baggage they had to grab on the way
“Daniel – ”
"Jack, I was making progress. If we had stayed – ”
“If you had stayed, SG-5 and 6 could have found themselves in the middle
of a firefight.”
“No!” Tears of frustration sparkled in the blue eyes. “Our presence
is what triggered the problem and our leaving made it worse. Because we
left prematurely, we may have started a civil war!”
Neither Ferretti nor Chisholm had mentioned that. Maybe Jack hadn’t
given them the time or maybe they hadn’t known. At least he had a better
understanding of why Daniel was so upset. Daniel felt responsible and Jack
felt like shit, both for his son and for the inhabitants of the planet.
This was one of the biggest downsides of going through the Stargate.
sorry, Daniel,” he said. “But there’s no way we can be aware of the
political dynamics on every planet we gate to.”
“I tried to tell them, the Majors. They wouldn’t listen to me. This is
all our fault and running away just made things worse. If we had stayed I
could’ve – ”
enough.” Jack rarely used that tone of voice with Daniel and the kid
stopped in mid-rant. “I wish things had gone differently, I do, but they
didn’t. The SGC has off-world protocols that teams are required to
follow and Major Ferretti and Major Chisholm acted according to those
“It was because of me...” Daniel paused and Jack saw his hands
clenching and unclenching.
Something else Daniel had taken on his shoulders, something else to feel
guilty about. At least Jack understood now why his son was angry with him.
protocols have nothing to do with you personally,” Jack corrected. If
looks could kill, Jack would be bleeding all over the floor.
“Your protocols have everything to do with me!” Daniel blazed.
Yeah, well... “I’m talking about military protocols,” he said
firmly. “But since you bring it up, you’re not only a civilian but a
minor, as well as my son. I’m not going to apologize for worrying or for
reminding SG teams of that fact, but,” Jack raised his hand before
Daniel could interrupt. “But, in this case it wouldn’t have mattered
who was on the mission, the same decision would have been made.”
“You make it impossible for them to think of me as
part of their team!”
aren’t a member of an SG team,” Jack reminded, trying to stifle his
“How am I supposed to do my job if – ”
“All right, Daniel.” Arguing with his gifted son wouldn’t get him
anywhere. It was time to remind him of the facts of life according to the
you remember agreeing to certain conditions before I would talk to
about letting you go through the Stargate?”
Daniel suddenly looked wary.
“Good. Do you also remember
okayed you going through the gate based on those conditions?”
but – ”
“I’m not finished.” Jack raised his voice. “You are not part of
the military personnel assigned to the SGC. You are an underage civilian
consultant. Going through the Stargate is not a right, it’s a privilege.
“Yes, but – ”
said I’m not finished. If you decide you no longer want to abide by the
conditions you previously agreed to, then you will no longer be allowed to
go through the gate. Period. End of story. Is that clear?”
He watched the kid wilt and though he regretted it, Jack was not about to
change his mind. The stakes were too high, not only for Daniel and the SGC,
but for the O’Neill family as well.
Daniel said, his head down.
The sight of the slumped shoulders tugged at Jack’s heart. He walked
around the desk and put a tentative hand Daniel’s shoulder. Relieved
when it wasn’t shrugged off, he spoke more quietly.
“I’m sorry the mission didn’t work out and I’m especially sorry if
we somehow aggravated an already existing problem on that planet. We’re
not omniscient. We do the best we can and, yeah, sometimes it’s not
enough. It’s part of life, the shitty part, I admit, but still part of
“I just wish...” Daniel’s voice trailed off and Jack tightened his
know,” he said gently. “Me too.”
He wanted to say more, offer some kind of pep talk, but that wouldn’t
work with Daniel. The kid was too smart, he felt things too deeply. All
Jack could do was be there for his son, support him as best as he could,
and occasionally rein him in when necessary. Not for the first time he
wondered about his decision to give in to Daniel’s pleas to go through
the Stargate. Then again, this was the first major bump Daniel had run
into with a team other than SG-1.
fell between them and Jack was in no hurry to break it. Eventually,
though, he had to.
debriefing’s going to start in less than ten minutes. We need to get
They were quiet during the walk down to the briefing room. The elevators
seemed unusually busy so it took a little longer than normal. They were
just walking into the room when
came out of his office and took his usual seat at the head of the table.
sat down at the General’s right, as was his habit. For a second he was
afraid Daniel would wander down to the far end of the table, separating
himself again, and was relieved when the kid finally pulled out the chair
gazed around the
table. "Major?" He looked directly at Lou Ferretti. Though he
and Chisholm held the same rank, Ferretti had seniority.
“Yes, sir.” Ferretti straightened. “As you know, SG-6 was originally
assigned to explore P17-J28.”
had already read the initial report so he was well versed with the facts
as he listened to the Major review the original mission to the planet. The
natives had proven to be humanoid and friendly. At first glance, there
didn’t appear to be anything of interest to the SGC. It was only when
the subject turned to agriculture that the team discovered the natives
grew several herbs that apparently had unique medicinal qualities.
No sooner had the subject come up when the aliens became uncomfortable
with the questions. Trying to settle them down, Ferretti deliberately
changed the subject and the team eventually learned there were some nearby
caves that the natives claimed were important in their social practices.
These they would be willing to share with the strangers who had come
through the Stargate.
That gave Ferretti an idea. Daniel would be the perfect person to talk to
the aliens. He was young, unthreatening, and had a gift for connecting
with all kinds of people, human and otherwise. Not only would the kid love
to explore the caves and learn about the social practices, but the
planet’s inhabitants might be more open with him about their herbs.
SG-6 returned to the SGC, Ferretti explained the situation during the
debriefing. Because his team had already checked out the area and found no
surprises or concerns, he was comfortable with requesting Daniel return to
the planet with the team. It was left to
to make the final decision. SG-1 had been off-world at the time and the
General had ordered Jack be contacted through the MALP. For his part, Jack
had reluctantly approved his son’s inclusion, his only request being
that another team accompany SG-6. Thus, SG-5, SG-6 and Daniel went through
the Stargate to P17-J28 three hours before SG‑1 returned from its
The check-in’s had been uneventful. Jack had been relieved, though he
wouldn’t be entirely at ease until his kid was back on planet Earth.
Then, unexpectedly, the teams had returned through the gate twelve hours
Ferretti finished his overview
jumped in. “So when SG-6 returned to the planet with SG-5 and Dr.
Jackson, everything appeared normal?”
Despite the seriousness of the moment, it was hard for Jack to suppress a
smile. Although Daniel wouldn’t go through the formal, cap-and-gown
graduation ceremony at UCLA for several months, when he returned to the
Mountain with his doctoral dissertation successfully defended,
began addressing him as “Dr. Jackson.”
“That’s right, sir,” Ferretti agreed. “We met with the leaders of
the village again and introduced Daniel who seemed to get along great with
them.” He tossed a look at Daniel but the kid kept his head down. Out of
the corner of his eye, Jack saw he was doodling on his pad of paper. Or
maybe he was writing something, if he was, it definitely wasn’t in
“They were still reluctant to explain about their special herbs,” the
Major continued, “but after they talked to Daniel they said we could go
out to the caves.” He threw a smile at the teenager that the kid
didn’t see because he was still doodling.
“We spent the rest of the day checking the caves and made camp out there
that night. The next morning Daniel went back into the caves with Sergeant
Rodriguez. A couple hours later a runner from the village arrived and said
we needed to come back with him.” He looked at Chisholm who took over
“Daniel was still working on something so Major Ferretti told me to take
SG-5 to the village to see what was going on and SG-6 would follow as soon
as they could.”
was all new to Jack so he listened closely.
“When we got there we found some new arrivals arguing with the people
Daniel had spoken with earlier.”
All eyes turned to Daniel who looked only at
Hammond. “The chief speaker of the Eleans is Gerant. He and his council were
the ones I talked to when we came through the Stargate.”
The General nodded. “Thank you for the clarification, Dr. Jackson.” He
looked back to Chisholm. “Go on, Major.”
sir. There were between fifty and a hundred newcomers, most of them spread
around the village but four in the – ” he glanced at Daniel.
“The Hall of Meeting,” the teenager supplied.
“Right. I didn’t know what they were talking about, sir. Lieutenant
Sampson is the closest thing we have to a linguist and he wasn’t able to
follow the conversation. They were arguing about something though and when
we showed up, the discussion grew louder and they became more agitated.”
noticed Daniel’s doodling growing more frantic and he could only guess
at the emotions the kid was hiding. Under the cover of the table he
reached out to pat the boy’s knee and after a few seconds Daniel took a
deep breath and laid his pen down.
“We arrived a half-hour after SG-5,” Ferretti took up the story. “It
was obvious the situation was escalating. Major Chisholm and I talked
about leaving but Daniel was...” he looked at the boy who refused to
meet his eyes. “He was sure he could calm down the situation. So I
agreed to let him try.”
Jack tried not to over-think that statement, wondering if he would have
allowed his son to even try to intervene. Being Daniel’s father was
difficult and emotional but if he was going to allow Daniel to go off
world without him, he needed to trust in the team leaders and remember
they were the best Earth had to offer. Besides, if he couldn’t trust
Daniel with Lou Ferretti then who could he trust?
Almost as if reading his mind, Ferretti’s gazed at
him. “I knew we were taking a chance, sir, but I thought it was an
looked up and Jack realized the kid hadn’t been aware that Ferretti and
Chisholm had actually pushed the protocol boundaries to give him a chance
to play peacemaker.
happened, Dr. Jackson?”
turned his attention to the teenager.
“It was complicated, sir.” The kid was obviously holding tightly to
his emotions and trying to behave professionally and Jack felt a touch of
we first spoke to Gerant and the council, they were excited to meet with
outworlders, as they called anyone who came through the Stargate. As far
as I could determine, the Goa'uld hadn’t bothered them because they were
under the protection of the Ancients.”
“The Ancients?” Jack repeated in surprise.
“The Ancients, Jack." Daniel's guilt was temporarily superseded by
excitement. "The same race whose language you had downloaded into
your brain, you remember?”
“How could I forget?”
Ignoring the sarcasm, the kid hurried on. “The caves are important to
them for several reasons but mostly because they’re used as part of
their social customs. According to Elean oral history, they were brought
to this world eons ago by the Ancients when their home planet suffered
some kind of catastrophe, maybe it was hit by a meteor but that wasn’t
clear. At any rate they lived in the caves for several generations before
spreading out across the planet.”
Eleans gave you this information?”
I was hoping to learn more details from the caves but then Major Ferretti
said we had to get back to the village.” Remembering his grievance,
Daniel darted a resentful look at Ferretti who smiled blandly.
ignored the brief
exchange. “Who were the newcomers, Dr. Jackson?”
Daniel’s emotions were plainly visible, the normally clear blue eyes,
now clouded with frustration. Jack decided Daniel should never try playing
Eleans split off from the rest of the population a little over a hundred
years ago due to a disagreement on their origins. The splinter group
believed their ancestors had gone through the Stargate on their old world
to escape from... from evil outworlders.” Daniel’s unhappy gaze
traveled around the table before settling on
of this belief they felt anyone who came through the Stargate was also
evil. Somehow the group learned that SG-6 had come to the planet and they
were very upset. When they were remonstrating with the council, SG-5
showed up and then SG-6, which upset them even more.”
Crap. The problem was clear to everyone now.
thought – ” Daniel threw an accusing look at Ferretti, then Chisholm.
“I was getting through to them. I explained that we were peaceful
explorers – ”
Jack rolled his eyes.
that we meant no harm to the Eleans. Weler, the leader of the splinter
group, was beginning to ask questions about us. The situation was
improving, I know it was.”
“You may be right, Daniel,” Ferretti broke in. “All I saw were a lot
of people waving bows and arrows and spears and clubs and getting louder
in the Hall of Meeting!” Daniel insisted.
“There was no way to know if those few could control that mob
outside.” Chisholm put in his two cents. “It wasn't just the
newcomers, the villagers were also getting worked up. I think we got out
just in time.”
“Instead of sitting down and talking things through with the Eleans, we
ran away." Daniel’s eyes shot blue sparks. "All we did was
give the splinter group ammunition for their arguments! The last thing I
heard Weler say before you dragged me out of there was that Gerant and the
council had proved to be faithless in protecting the Eleans. Do you know
what that could mean?”
“Better them than us,” Chisholm snapped back.
Daniel started to rise and Jack caught his arm and pulled him back down.
“That’s enough,” he ordered sharply. He forgot what else he was
going to say when Daniel turned anguished eyes on him.
“This is all our fault, Jack.”
’s calm voice was like a blanket, snuffing out the anger and leaving
calm behind. “While I regret the role the SGC may have unwittingly
played in possibly destabilizing their government, we do not have the gift
“Sir?” Sergeant Rodriguez from SG-6 spoke up.
non-com turned to Daniel. “I feel largely responsible for the problems
“Why would you feel responsible?” Daniel’s eyes widened.
supposed to be SG-6’s linguist. I’m afraid I allowed my excitement
about the possibilities of those herbs to interfere with communicating
with Gerant. I didn’t ask him about any political elements that might
turn into a problem - ” She stopped when Daniel shook his head.
“Gerant wouldn’t have understood those questions because they aren’t
familiar with our concept of politics. The questions that should have been
asked would have concerned differing philosophies among the Eleans,
especially toward anyone who might come through the Stargate. We
wouldn’t have known to ask those kinds of questions without an extended
dialogue with Gerant and his council.” He stopped to take a deep,
steadying breath. “There was no chance for that kind of dialogue, not
within the time constraints of the mission.”
Though the kid didn’t look at
Hammond, Jack had no trouble picking up the subtext. This was not the time or
place to remind his son of the military parameters of the SGC, though he
intended to do that as soon as they were alone again.
said as if he hadn’t also picked up on Daniel’s not so hidden meaning.
“It is regrettable and I truly hope that the departure of SG-5 and SG-6
defused the situation. Dr. Jackson, perhaps you could sit down with the
members of the Linguistics and Archeology Departments and consider ways
that might enable us to avoid a similar situation in the future.”
Daniel looked surprised and then, for the first time since returning from
the mission, he smiled. “Yes, sir, I’d like that very much.”
glanced around the table. “I expect your written reports to be on my
desk by tomorrow morning. Dismissed.”
Jack rose with everyone else when the General stood up to leave. Once
again, he was filled with admiration for his C.O. Hammond meant what he'd
said about wanting to avoid a repeat of what had happened on P17-J28. At
the same time, giving Daniel an avenue to vent his concerns and
frustrations was little short of genius. Jack still had a lot to learn
from the General. He turned to his son.
“You ready to get some lunch?”
“Later.” Daniel was scribbling on his pad. “I want to get a couple
ideas down on paper before I talk to Dr. Kerrigan and Dr. Drake about
setting up a meeting.”
Jack knew exactly where this was going. “You can get your ideas down
while we eat. Come on.”
the kid protested without looking up.
Jack said with a little more force.
“Fine,” Daniel snapped and stood up.
“Fine,” Jack agreed, taking a step back and gesturing toward the door.
“Fine,” Daniel muttered as he gathered up his pen and pad, gave Jack
an annoyed look, and walked out.
fine,” Jack said cheerfully as he followed his son out the door.
O’Neill closed her book, leaned back in the chair, and exhaled a deep
sigh of relief. She envied Daniel with his successfully defended
dissertation. All he had left to face was graduation. Then again, if he
followed through on his plan to obtain a second PhD in archeology, he was
only half-way through his educational program.
She shuddered at the thought. Although her coursework was complete, she
still had months of work ahead of her in completing and then defending her
dissertation before her own DrPH, Doctor of Public Health, became a
reality. The thought of one day receiving the degree and then moving on to
yet another doctoral program was too terrifying for words. She would leave
that to the family’s fifteen-year-old genius, thank you very much.
dropped the textbook she'd been reviewing on the top of her pile of books
and stood up to stretch her muscles, They were stiff from sitting for most
of the day. Enough studying for today. She climbed down the fold-down
stairs and out of the attic.
When she reached the first floor she checked her watch. Normally, she
loved cooking; it was one of her favorite forms of relaxation. But after
spending the morning at the main library of the
, and the afternoon hunched over her laptop working on her dissertation,
she really wanted to collapse on the sofa. If someone had told her a few
years ago that working toward her doctorate would be more exhausting than
working as a full-time nurse she would have laughed. True, being a nurse
was more tiring physically but mentally was another story.
Get moving, woman. A yawn made the hinges of her jaw creak. Otherwise
they’re going to want take-out, again.
Sara wasn’t up to any complicated recipes. A quick survey of the freezer
led her to the spaghetti sauce she'd made a few weeks ago. Perfect.
Dropping the frozen sauce into a pan, she adjusted the flame then went to
the pantry to get a box of spaghetti. She set it on the counter before
filling another large pot with water and placing it on the stove to boil.
She yawned again and went to the refrigerator to pull out the produce
she'd need to throw a salad together. The garlic bread would take the
least amount of time so she'd do that last.
She worked mostly on auto-pilot. Cooking was second nature so it didn’t
require much brainpower, not when she was making a meal as simple as this
one. She was tired of thinking and as far as she was concerned, she
didn’t intend to do anymore of it today.
She glanced at her watch again. Jack had said he shouldn’t be late
getting home and, best of all, Daniel would be back. He had gone out of
town on another one of the Air Force’s classified missions and wasn’t
due back until tomorrow. Jack had called a few hours ago to let her know
Daniel was back early and would be coming home with him tonight. It was
the best news she’d heard all week.
What on earth her fifteen-year-old son was doing for the United States Air
Force was still a mystery. One that had haunted her for the past five
years, since Daniel began going to the base with Jack, at ten years old.
She had no more clue now than she did then. Whatever he did, it had to be
important. That was evident by the secure phone/computer line the Air
Force had set up for Daniel to keep in touch with
during the year the two of them had spent at UCLA.
It was a mystery, and she assumed it would always be a mystery. It was
enough for her to know that whatever Daniel did for the Air Force, it was
something he was passionate about. It made her feel better knowing it was
something he loved to do.
“Honey, we’re home!”
The boisterous male greetings came almost simultaneously and were
immediately followed by the front door slamming shut. Sara laughed. Her
guys had made it home at the same time; miracles still happened.
She heard them bantering back and forth and counted under her breath.
“Five, four, three, two, one – ”
Jack reached the kitchen door first and the sight of his grin warmed her
heart. Charlie and Daniel appeared behind him. Charlie’s grin was so
much like his father’s it never failed to startle her, while Daniel’s
smile still held a shy quality even after all these years as a member of
For an instant, she saw the boys as they had looked when Daniel first came
to live with them, a withdrawn and traumatized ten-year-old orphan. That
first year hadn’t been easy, especially between Daniel and an
eleven-year-old Charlie. Somehow they had managed to survive, and had
grown into a family that made Sara proud.
guys.” She flashed a warm smile of her own. “Dinner will be ready in
about twenty minutes so go wash up.”
Mom, we’re not little kids. We know we need to wash up.”
“Then get moving.” Jack swatted his oldest son on the arm.
are you waiting for? Let’s go.” Charlie punched his brother’s arm
like he’d been doing since they were kids.
Daniel looked at Sara who laughed at his long-suffering expression. His
smile widened before he turned away, Charlie on his heels.
“Hey, I saw Karen today,” Charlie said to Daniel as they headed for
the stairs. “She said to say hi and to tell you Adam won some kind of
dunno. Some award.”
voices trailed off and Sara looked at Jack who raised his eyebrows.
“Don’t look at me,” he said. “You’re the one who wanted kids.”
“Do you really want to go there?” she challenged.
"No, not really," Jack admitted. He stepped forward and kissed
her on the cheek.
She pulled him in closer and kissed his lips. “It’s not fair, you
know,” she complained.
not fair?” He leaned back and gave her a perplexed look.
She tousled his silvering hair. “I swear you look even better now than
you did on our wedding day while I just look, older.”
don't need to fish for compliments.” Jack snorted and tightened his grip
on her. “You look great.”
think you need glasses but I’m not going to complain." She gave him
another kiss then pushed him away. "Why don't you go wash up while I
finish this.” She pointed at the garlic bread.
minutes later they were gathered around the dining room table. After
everyone’s plates were full, silence descended while the guys devoured
their meal. Sara ate quietly and watched them. This was what she had
missed the most the year she and Daniel had been at away at UCLA taking
courses toward their respective degrees. It had been an adventure for both
of them, and she had delighted in the chance to get to know Daniel better.
At the same time, if not for the fact UCLA required certain graduate-level
courses to be taken on campus, she never would have agreed to it. She had
missed Jack and Charlie terribly and, though he had never said so, she
knew Daniel had missed them, too.
“Yes? Do you need something?” She realized Jack was watching her.
garlic bread, or are you holding it hostage?”
wrinkled her nose at him and handed over the loaf of bread. UCLA had been
a great experience in many ways but she was glad it was over and her
family was back together.
is really good, honey.” Jack swallowed a mouthful and smiled
Charlie agreed. “You should never go away again, Mom.”
the table Daniel hid a grin behind a fork-full of spaghetti. Sara only
laughed. Apparently she wasn’t the only one who looked back on the whole
UCLA experience with mixed feelings.
“We’ll see,” she said.
you going away again?” Charlie stopped chewing and looked at her in
what?” Jack’s fork halted in mid-air.
shook her head. “I have no plans to go anywhere in the near future.”
scare a guy like that.” Charlie blew out a gusty breath.
nice to know you appreciate your mother,” she said sweetly. “Oh, that
anything in particular?” Jack looked at her with raised eyebrows.
ignored him with the skill of long practice. “Charlie, I think I may
have found you a job.”
“A job?” Charlie questioned.
still looking for a part-time job, aren’t you?”
ignored the sudden wariness in his voice. “I saw Ronnie Shepard this
morning when I was running errands,” she explained. “Her husband is
the manager of North Side Supermarket and they’re looking to hire some
stock boys and baggers.”
are baggers?” Daniel asked.
know,” Charlie said. “When you go through the check-out line they’re
the ones who put your groceries in bags.”
Sara frowned. He sounded less than enthusiastic. “It would be perfect
for you. They’re used to employing teenagers so they’re willing to
work around your schedule.”
yeah.” Charlie shot a look at his father. Something passed between the
pair though Sara wasn’t sure what. Jack focused on twirling more
spaghetti on his fork and Charlie turned back to her.
thanks, Mom, but I’m still waiting to hear back on some applications I
have out there.”
wrong with filling out another application? That’s one more opportunity
for a job, isn’t it?”
Sara regretted the tone of her words as soon as they escaped her lips. She
had thought she was helping but his less than enthusiastic response was...
well, she was a little hurt, not that she'd admit it. She glanced at her
husband but he was looking at Charlie who seemed to find his salad
there a time deadline?” Jack’s eyes met hers.
then, Charlie has time to think about it, right, son?”
sure I'll think about it."
suppressed a frown at the relief in her son’s voice. She couldn't help
feeling irritated. It probably had more to do with being tired than
Charlie’s obvious rejection of her desire to help. She
made a conscious effort to relax.
“All right then.” She looked around the table.
smiled, Jack smiled, and then Daniel smiled. The three of them made Sara
want to giggle. Why not? She giggled and their smiles widened.
she ordered, glad for the change in atmosphere. She stuffed some salad in
her mouth and ignored the laughter around the table.
Dad, are you going to be home this weekend?” Charlie broke the brief
silence that had followed the laughter.
held a piece of garlic bread while he thought. “Not Saturday or Sunday
morning but maybe Sunday afternoon. Why?”
“I need to get in more hours behind the wheel.”
tried not to groan. The day Charlie would be able to apply for his license
was approaching with frightening speed and she had no doubt that on that
day he’d be camped outside the DMV waiting for the doors to open.
Charlie with a driver’s license... it was a terrifying thought.
she thought about Charlie and driving, her mind flashed back to the first,
and as it turned out, last time she had attempted to teach her son how to
drive. She could smile at the memory now, even if elements of it still
made her shiver. Charlie driving too close, braking at the last minute,
blinking too late, going through a yellow light, at least in her mind.
shook her head at the memory. If she lived to be a hundred, she’d never
forget how nervous she'd been sitting beside him in the passenger seat.
She hadn’t thought Charlie would follow through on his plan of getting
his father to teach him but he had and, much to her surprise, she had
never heard another word from him about wanting to drive her car.
What shocked her even more after her own experience was the ease with
which Jack had taken over the task. She vividly recalled her disbelief the
day he casually mentioned he might take Charlie up into the mountains so
he could get some driving in, and then they could do some hiking
At first, Sara had thought he was joking. “It doesn’t rattle you to
take our inexperienced, over-confident son driving in the mountains?”
she had asked. Even now the thought made her a little weak in the knees.
not really,” he had answered with a straight face.
was more confirmation of what Sara already knew. Her husband was a brave
man. Better him than her, she had decided.
was patting her head. She blinked, then frowned to see her husband
grinning at her.
you go, honey? I've asked you twice to pass the salad."
sorry, I was thinking about something else." She looked around the
dinner table, a little embarrassed.
we should know about?" Charlie's lopsided grin made him look like his
"You already know it." Sara couldn't help herself. She grinned
back. "I was remembering that first driving lesson I gave you."
"Yeah, I'll never forget it," Charlie laughed. If he was going
to say something else - and she suspected he was - he refrained when Jack
cleared his throat.
haven’t done much driving in the mountains since that first time, buddy.
Maybe we can go back up there Sunday afternoon.”
once, Sara was grateful for Jack’s line of work. Secret missions,
commanding a base, and making life and death decisions apparently made
teaching a teenager how to drive a piece of cake.
few hours later Sara sat on the edge of their bed. Jack came out of the
bathroom and sat down beside her.
“A nickel for your thoughts?” he offered, nudging her shoulder.
Sara studied him until he began to look a little nervous. “Whatever it
was, I didn’t mean it.” He raised his hands in surrender.
blanket denials are needed this time, honey.” She laughed and patted his
good.” He put his arm around her. “So what’s up?”
was thinking about Charlie. And Daniel.”
looking for a part-time job. No matter how good of a job he finds I doubt
it’s going to pay very much.”
So?" He shrugged.
getting his PhD and the Air Force is paying him like an adult with an
Jack drew out the word in a long breath of understanding.
“Yes, oh. I’m a little worried about Charlie finding out,” she
admitted. “I mean, a part-time job versus – ”
“Hey.” He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes.
“I know it’s a mom rule that you need to worry about your children but
I think we can leave this to Charlie and Daniel. They’re good kids; if
there’s anything to work out, they'll work it out. If it looks like
there’s a problem we can always step in later.”
suppose.” She smiled reluctantly. “I
keep forgetting they’re not little boys anymore.”
Jack put his arms around her again. “Which is not to say they’re not
gonna screw up occasionally and need some parental correction.”
“Parental correction?” Sara laughed.
“Oh, yeah.” He blew lightly against her ear. “But while we’re
waiting for them to screw up, maybe you’d like to think about something
else right now?”
“You have something in mind, Flyboy?”
“I do – ” A cell phone rang, interrupting him and Jack released his
wife with a grunt of protest.
“Mine or yours?” Sara asked.
The continued ringing made it easy to determine.
“Mine,” Jack muttered before swiping it open. “O’Neill.”
The sound of the General’s voice made Jack’s annoyance fade.
wouldn’t be calling him unless it was important.
“Approximately a half hour ago we received a message through the
Stargate from the Tollan advising us that Omac died earlier today.” The
General didn't mince words.
Jack stepped into the bathroom for some privacy. He vividly recalled the
bull-headed leader of the Tollan whom SG-1 had rescued from a dying planet
a few years earlier, and then rescued again from Mayborne and the NID. The
second rescue had been Daniel’s idea though Robert Rothman pretended it
was his to protect the boy. Jack hadn’t found out the full extent of his
son’s involvement until the next day.
their refusal to share their advanced technology with Earth, subsequent
encounters with the Tollan had given Jack a grudging respect for them.
They had good reason to be wary. He only hoped that eventually they'd
become more open to the idea of sharing. The fact that Omac had not cut
off all contact between the Tollan and the Tau’ri had been another
reason for hope. What would happen now was anyone’s guess.
sorry to hear that, sir. He was a pain in the butt but he had his good
There was a beat of silence before the General continued. “Narim has
requested that SG-1 and Daniel come to Tollana for the memorial
Jack pulled the cell phone away from his ear and stared at it before
answering. “My team and Daniel?”
right, Colonel. I've spoken with my superiors and they believe your
attendance would be a positive step in the relationship between Earth and
Jack hadn’t thought SG-1 was so high on Omac’s
Christmas list. Then again, without SG-1’s help, via Daniel, Omac’s
group would have ended up as forced intellectual labor courtesy of the NID.
Singling out Daniel made it clear the Tollan were well aware of who was
responsible for their salvation.
not sure that’s such a good idea,” he hedged.
understand your concern.”
read his mind. “I was particularly disturbed when Narim advised me that
SG-1 need not bring any weapons.”
“What?” Jack bristled. “With all due respect, General – ”
can take your weapons, Colonel, but apparently the Tollan have some sort
of device that will render them useless.”
weighed his words. He was tempted to finish the call in his study but knew
his avoidance would only stoke Sara's concern, especially when he told her
he was taking Daniel “out of town” right after he hung up.
Before he could respond
continued. “As far as the planet’s safety is concerned, Narim
explained that the Goa'uld sent a mother ship to attack Tollana over a
year ago and the Tollan destroyed it.”
Jack realized his mouth was hanging open and quickly snapped it shut.
Thank god he had retreated to the bathroom.
“Did they say how?”
“No, but Tollana has not been bothered by any Goa'uld since. Perhaps you
can ask a few questions after the memorial service.”
Jack understood what was going on. Making nice with the Tollan would be
good P.R. for Earth, but finding out how the Tollan destroyed a Goa'uld
mother ship was a much bigger deal.
sir, understood. When do we go?”
to Narim, there will be a forty-eight hour period of mourning followed by
the memorial service.”
felt a touch of relief. At least they had time to think things through and
come up with a plan. “So, day after tomorrow?”
“Correct. I’m scheduling a briefing with SG-1 for tomorrow at 1300
After he hung up, Jack walked out of the bathroom to find his wife waiting
“Where were we?” he tried.
“Did I hear something about your team and Daniel?”
much for distraction. He sat down on the bed beside her. “Someone we met
awhile back died and my team has been requested to attend the memorial
service as representatives of... the Air Force.” He’d almost said
“Daniel knew him, too.”
well?” Concern clouded her expression.
honey.” Jack understood her worry and tried to reassure her. “Daniel
only met him a couple of times. The reason we’re going has more to do
with diplomacy than anything else.” That was mostly true.
not going to tell him now, are you?” She looked at the clock.
it’s too late. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
Jack wasn’t looking forward to that conversation. Even though Daniel
hadn’t known the leader of the Tollan well, there had been some kind of
connection between the two. He knew his son would grieve.
you remember where we were?” He tried to set those thought aside.
“I think so.” She smiled gently and kissed his neck.
Jack had no intention of bringing up the subject of Omac's death until he
was alone with Daniel, which happened the next morning on the drive into
and if Robert's right, we should be able to translate that stele before
the end of the day, which could be very helpful when SG-7 goes back to the
Daniel was talking at his usual million-words-a-minute speed. Jack was
thinking of other things when the kid interrupted his thoughts.
are you listening to me?”
Busted. “Yeah, I am,” he lied. “You linguist-types are all jazzed
about being able to translate, uh, a rock.”
“Stele,” Daniel corrected with a touch of exasperation.
enough. “See I was listening.”
“They’re not the same thing.”
Jack ignored the imploring look that meant a lecture was coming on. He
wished he could indulge Daniel in his favorite subject, but not today. He
needed to do this before they arrived at the Mountain.
“Daniel, I have to talk to you about something.” This wasn’t going
to be as easy as he’d implied to Sara. To almost everyone at the SGC,
Omac was a snide, arrogant, unpleasant man, er, alien. The exception was
Daniel. Daniel seemed oblivious to Omac’s irritable temperament and
‘holier than thou’ attitude that grated on the nerves of everyone else
at the SGC. Jack wasn’t one who needed a pat on the back for doing his
job, but Omac had never expressed an ounce of gratitude to SG-1 for
pulling him and Narim and their companions from the ashes and saving their
technologically superior asses. A simple thank you would have sufficed but
what had the SGC gotten? Zero, zip, nada.
For reasons that escaped Jack, Daniel and Omac got along
swell. True, Daniel had accompanied the Tollan leader topside when they
had contacted the Nox but it had to be more than that. Jack had seen them
together and they had actually liked one another. He couldn’t say that
about anyone else on the base, including himself. He had come to respect
the Tollan leader but 'like'? Like would be stretching it. Then again,
Daniel saw things others didn’t.
“What is it?” Daniel's expression changed. His mild annoyances at
Jack’s lack of listening skills were forgotten, replaced by interest.
They worked at the SGC where things were rarely minor.
“General Hammond called last night. He received a message from the
Tollan. Omac is dead.” There was no easy way to say it, so Jack just
“Dead?” Daniel’s blue eyes widened with shock. "How can he be
kiddo." Jack winced at his words. Daniel didn't need reminding of
that bitter truth. He’d learned that when he was eight years old. It was
a relief the kid seemed preoccupied with his own thoughts and probably
hadn’t even heard the comment.
Omac wasn't that old, not for a Tollan."
knew what he was referring to. Carter had learned during one of her
conversations with Narim that the Tollan tended to live longer than the
people on Earth by an average of twenty to thirty years.
wasn't a youngster," Jack said as gently as he could. “
didn’t give any details but Omac died of natural causes as far as I
know.” He patted Daniel’s knee to try to comfort him.
“That can’t be right.” Daniel sat up straighter. “The Tollan have
far better medical technology than we do. They monitor themselves all the
time and if they have any problems they’re taken care of by Tollan
wasn’t sure where the kid was going with this but suspected his words
had more to do with not wanting to think about a friend dying. Jack
seriously doubted there was anything odd about Omac's death. At the same
time, he didn't want to belittle Daniel's concerns.
don’t know what happened," he admitted. "We don’t have all
the details. Let’s just wait and see.”
“He couldn’t have died of natural causes,” Daniel said with
death was never easy so Jack kept his mouth shut to let Daniel work
through it at his own pace. Jack had all night to accept the fact that a
major figure of one of Earth’s allies – semi-allies, anyway - was
"Right here." He saw the pain in the blue eyes as the shock
began to wear off and reached out to rest one hand on his son’s
didn't seem interested in comfort. "I know Omac was...”
the teenager paused Jack’s mind involuntarily filled in the blank.
Egotistical, supercilious, pompous, patronizing, condescending...
Daniel settled on. “But he had Earth’s best interests at heart.” He
leaned back in the seat and wrapped his arms around himself. “Are you
going to Tollana?"
“Yes, there's some kind of day of mourning period today, followed by a
memorial service. SG-1 has been invited - ”
“Could I - ”
“You’ve been invited to the memorial service, too.”
“And I can go?” He looked anxious and hopeful and suddenly ten years
Jack felt a pang in his throat. “Yes.” Tollana was a safe world and it
would be nearly impossible to keep Daniel away. As much as he wished he
could shield his son from the bad things in life, it had been too late for
that since the day Daniel had come to live with them five years ago.
“Good. I need to pay my respects.” The fifteen-year-old breathed a
heavy sigh, leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, but not before
Jack saw the tears.
He gave the teenager's shoulder another squeeze and hoped the memorial
service would give Daniel the closure he needed.
Thirty-six hours later, SG-1 stood in the gate room waiting for the
Stargate to finish dialing. Daniel tugged at his tie and Jack put his hand
on his son's arm.
“Leave it alone,” he said, “otherwise it’ll look like crap. Trust
me, I know.”
He smiled and Daniel tried to smile back. He must not have done a very
good job because Jack’s hand moved to his shoulder and gave a brief,
supportive squeeze before he was called away by General Hammond.
Daniel checked out the members of SG-1. Everyone looked very nice. Jack
and Sam were wearing their dress blues, although you couldn’t see a lot
of their uniforms because they were also wearing coats. Teal’c was in
his ceremonial robes and looked even more impressive than usual. Even Nyan,
who had taken over Robert Rothman's place on SG-1 after the archeologist
had decided to join the SGC's Archeology Department full-time, was dressed
in dark, somber clothes similar to a military uniform.
was pleased Robert was coming along even though he was no longer a member
of SG-1. He, too, was in a suit and tie and looked as uncomfortable as
It wasn’t the suit that depressed him, it was the thought of Omac. They
hadn’t had much chance to talk when SG-1 had rescued the Tollan a few
years ago. It was only when Daniel and Omac had snuck up to the top of the
Mountain to send the message to the Nox they'd been able to spend some
thing that had pleased Daniel most was that Omac had taken him seriously.
The Tollan leader didn’t care that he was a kid; he was suspicious
because Daniel was a member of the Tau’ri, a “primitive” species.
Even now the memory made Daniel smile. Jack and the General hadn’t liked
the label but it made sense. Translating alien artifacts brought back
through the Stargate had proved to all of them how young Earth was in
comparison to many other civilizations around the galaxy. When he added to
that the things Robert and Nyan, and Teal’c too, sometimes shared with
him, well, Daniel had no problem recognizing that the Tollan were right,
humans were a “primitive” species.
thought about Omac’s words, just before the Tollan had left with Lia, to
the Nox home world. Omac had looked him in the eye and said, “Narim was
right about you. Perhaps in time we will meet again.”
Daniel blinked rapidly to keep back the tears. Only in the privacy of his
own heart had he thought about that possible future meeting. Maybe someday
when he was grown up and going through the Stargate with an SG team, he
would have been able to visit the Tollan world and see Omac again and they
could talk, really talk...
that would never happen. His throat tightened and tears pressed harder
against his eyelids. He couldn’t let that happen or Jack might change
his mind about letting him go through the Stargate. He needed to attend
Omac’s memorial service. Narim had said it was Omac’s last wish and
Daniel was going to honor that wish no matter how difficult.
Jack and General Hammond finished whatever they were talking about and
Jack walked back to Daniel who tried to look calm and grown-up. He noticed
Jack didn’t look happy and bet it was because General Hammond’s
superiors had decided SG-1 wouldn’t be allowed to take their weapons to
Tollana. Jack had been upset all morning because of the order even though,
according to the few things Daniel had overheard, earth weapons wouldn’t
work on the alien world.
Secretly, Daniel thought it was a wonderful idea. How different would it
be here on Earth if there were no weapons? It was an idea he knew better
than to share with Jack or Major Kawalsky or his other military friends.
ready, kids?” Jack asked, still looking a little irritated.
sir,” Sam acknowledged, and Teal’c did his usual nod. So did Nyan and
Robert. Jack put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder for what seemed like the
tenth time that morning.
“Ready.” Daniel offered a week smile and tried to sound confident.
nodded as the Stargate began to revolve and they all turned to face it.
hours later Daniel felt tired and sad but still glad he’d been allowed
to say his goodbyes. The part of him that wasn’t thinking about Omac had
been amazed by this ultra-modern world that was so different and so far
from home. Everything was clean and sharp and efficient and Sam especially
regretted they didn’t have the time to roam the city and see what
Tollana had to offer.
Daniel would have liked to roam around too, though not in the hope of
learning about Tollan technology, like Sam. He would have enjoyed talking
to the Tollan people in an effort to learn more about their culture and
beliefs. He especially would have liked to talk to Roann, the Tollan
keeper of history, whom he’d originally met when the Tollan were first
rescued and brought to the SGC. He’d been delighted to discover that the
keeper of history was the Tollan version of a librarian, but Roann’s
responsibilities embraced all of the alien race’s history.
had also briefly met Roann’s lecutaan,
Terni, who was only a few years older than Daniel himself. The title was
intriguing because it contained two distinct meanings – follower and
heir. Which made sense after
– who wasn’t as close-mouthed as the rest of Omac’s little band –
explained that he would eventually take Roann’s place as keeper of
history, after the elder Tollan died. Roann himself had chosen
for the position and, as Daniel understood it, would teach his lecutaan
all that the future keeper would need to know to keep Tollan tradition and
loved this glimpse into Tollana’s culture and always hoped for a chance
to get to know both the current and future keepers better. Today, they’d
only had a chance for a brief greeting before the service began. The
reminder of why he was here brought an abrupt end to Daniel’s wandering
The memorial service had been simple but emotional. He was grateful Jack
stood beside him throughout the ceremony, though now that it had ended
Daniel moved closer to Robert and Nyan so they could share what they had
learned during their visit.
scientists were talking quietly but Daniel was distracted by the sight of
Jack and Sam and Teal’c with Chancellor Travell, who was a high-ranking
member of the Curia, the governing body of Tollana. Daniel hadn’t met
her; she hadn’t been part of the original group that SG-1 rescued. For
that matter, there were a lot more Tollan here than had been part of that
original group. Though the Tollan wouldn’t say so, that fact told Daniel
Omac’s group had somehow been able to communicate with the Tollan who
had left the dying world before SG-1 showed up. He would love to ask Narim
or Roann how that had come about but this didn’t seem to be the right
time for that conversation.
Daniel stopped his musings and focused in on Jack. He couldn’t hear what
was being said but he had lived with Jack long enough to know when the man
was surprised, especially since it didn’t happen all that often.
Whatever Chancellor Travell had said, Jack hadn’t expected it. Daniel
watched intently but saw nothing alarming. A moment later Jack turned
around and gestured him over. Daniel reached them in time to hear the
“Thank you all for coming today. I look forward to talking later. As
soon possible, Colonel. Narim, please show our guests to the Stargate.”
Jack would be returning to Tollana? Daniel peered inquisitively at his
father but Jack had no expression, which told Daniel something was going
on. He kept his mouth shut and his ears open while Narim walked with them
to the Stargate.
“Do you know what she wants to talk about?” Jack asked
The Tollan shook his head. “No. I was surprised by her invitation.”
Teal’c spoke up. “Chancellor Travell seemed to suggest Tollana may be
willing to share its technology with the Tau’ri.”
Daniel didn’t miss the irritated look Jack gave the Jaffa
before glancing his way. He pretended he was too interested in the scenery
to be paying attention to the conversation.
“That cannot be possible.” Narim frowned. “It would go against
everything my people believe.” His expression cleared. “As I recall,
all she actually said was that the Curia was willing to discuss the
and Sam exchanged looks. “Why invite us back if they want to keep things
status quo?” Sam asked.
“I...” Narim hesitated and Daniel could tell he was struggling with
something. “I am not a member of the Curia. I do not know what she
wishes to speak to you about.”
They reached the Stargate and he smiled. “I wish you a safe trip
Daniel joined in the garbled thanks and started toward the rippling event
horizon. Something made him look back and he saw Sam still standing with
Narim who took her hand in his.
Sam and Narim? Sam and... an alien? He hastily looked away.
As Charlie might say, cool!
was happy to be back at the SGC. His head was spinning, given his
unexpected conversation with Chancellor Travell. He needed to talk to
glanced at Daniel and was relieved the teen looked better now than he had
when they’d originally left for Tollana. Being able to attend the
memorial service had helped his son come to terms with Omac’s death.
“Sir?” When they reached the bottom of the ramp, Carter stopped him.
Jack turned and saw her lift her clenched hand. Something in her
expression warned him and he stopped her with a gesture.
“Daniel, why don’t you and Rothman head for the infirmary? We’ll be
along in a minute.”
The teenager studied him with suspicious blue eyes. The kid was too damn
smart for his own good. Jack kept his expression neutral until Daniel
is it?” Jack asked after the others had left the room.
just gave me this.” Carter opened her hand. A tiny round object rested
in her palm and then a small hologram of Narim suddenly appeared out of
he said, “I am sorry I was unable to tell you this in person. I do not
know who I can trust. Before his death, Omac gave me a warning, and I
believe it to be true. He said that Earth is in grave danger.”
The hologram vanished and she stared at him with wide eyes. Jack looked up
at the control room and saw
gazing down at them, clearly aware something was going on.
“Damn,” he muttered.
After their mandatory post-mission check-up, SG-1 reported for the
debriefing. Jack summarized the memorial service in a few succinct
sentences, followed by the Chancellor's surprising comments. Then Carter
pulled out the Tollan device and
heard Narim’s warning for himself. When it shut down the General frowned
at the wall for a minute before speaking.
“Other than Narim’s message, did you see or hear anything to indicate
there was a problem?”
Jack shook his head.
sir." Carter agreed. "Everything seemed fine.”
a funeral,” Jack put in.
was strange there were so few people present,” Nyan said with his usual
you met him." Jack shrugged. "What’s strange?”
Carter looked from her C.O. to the General. “I don’t understand
Narim’s message, sir, but I’d be willing to bet that Omac’s warning
is connected to whatever Travell wants to meet with us about.”
“That sounds about right,” Jack agreed.
“All right, we’ll see what they have to say.”
opened the file in front of him and flipped through a few pages. “The
next available opening to insert SG-1 without interrupting the regular
rotation would be in 36 hours, however,” he looked around the table,
“since we are talking about the security of Earth, I'd rather not wait.
I’d like you to return to Tollana as soon as possible.”
us a half-hour and we’ll be good to go,” Jack said immediately.
shook his head.
“First I want your reports on my desk. Plan to leave in two hours,
Jack grimaced but knew better than to argue. The General needed those
reports. He not only wanted to review them, but if it turned out Earth
really was in danger, he'd have to share them with his superiors sooner
rather than later. Once the Joint Chiefs were involved, then the
politicians would also get involved and only god knew how long they would
spend arguing and wrangling.
could return to Tollana ASAP. They'd wait to see what Travell and the
Curia had to say before involving any other branches of government.
studied the video with interest. It wasn’t all that clear and he
squinted in an effort to see it better. “Is there any way to enhance the
already been done. I’m afraid this is as good as it gets.”
Dr. Kerrigan sounded the way Daniel felt. On his other side, Dr. William
Drake, head of the Archeology Department, was frowning. Robert was still
stuck in the infirmary or he'd be here, too.
Drake rubbed his chin. “Considering the poor quality of the picture, can
you say with any assurance that this writing belongs to the Ancients?”
bit his tongue while Dr. Kerrigan looked annoyed. “This is what we do,
Will, every day, all day long. We work to translate and interpret the
different languages that come to us through the Stargate. We know the
difference between Ancient and Goa'uld.”
“I understand that,” the archeologist answered, sounding a little
rattled. “But you work with many more languages than just Ancient and
Goa'uld. Are you sure of what you’re seeing here?”
am,” Daniel said promptly. He didn’t want their discussion to
degenerate into an argument. Languages were his field and he was sure he
match Daniel’s expertise in alien languages against anyone else’s on
the planet.” Kerrigan gave him an approving smile.
“Apart from the SGC,” Drake snapped, “there are no experts in alien
languages on the planet.”
“Exactly,” Kerrigan snapped back and winked at Daniel.
Daniel appreciated Dr. Kerrigan’s support, although he would have been
fine without it. As his knowledge and proficiency in languages had grown
over the years, his self-doubts had diminished. Jack and Sara’s support
and encouragement had also helped tremendously. There were a lot of things
in this world and other worlds that he didn’t know but when it came to
his own area of expertise, he was confident.
He pointed at one of the characters on the screen. “That’s the Ancient
symbol for ‘protection’. At some point in this planet’s history, it
was inhabited by aliens who were under the protection of the Ancients.”
He thought back to the aborted mission to P17-J28. “Maybe the Ancients
brought the people to that planet, it wouldn’t be the first time that
“Yes, but the structures are in ruins now,” Drake said.
“Why?” Daniel demanded. “What happened? We can’t tell from this
picture. The writings are too worn for the video camera to pick up with
any degree of accuracy. Someone needs to go to P19-136 to study the
“Someone?” the archeologist repeated and Kerrigan chuckled. After a
minute Drake smiled a little sheepishly. “I admit,” he said, “I’d
love the chance to explore the ruins and see what we can find out. Who
knows what kind of clues we may uncover about the civilization that
originally lived there and built that incredible city?”
Daniel grinned happily. They were all talking the same language now.
“The General will never go for it.” Dr. Kerrigan's gloomy words
deflated the excitement in the room.
“But this is important!” Daniel protested.
“To us, yes. But to the military?” Dr. Drake’s smile faded.
Daniel frowned. Since returning from UCLA he had become increasingly aware
of the tension between the military and scientific mindsets of the SGC.
Sam and her people did a good job of keeping the “hard” science needs
at the forefront of the SGC’s focus. He understood the military
argument. The SGC’s primary focus had to be finding technology to aid
Earth in the battle against the Goa'uld. At the same time, he thought, as
did the other linguists and archeologists, that the SGC too often ignored
the cultural and historical elements of the alien civilizations they
encountered through the Stargate. The so-called “soft science”
concerns came much lower on SGC’s totem pole of interest and, too often,
were sacrificed in the name of military need.
An idea popped into Daniel’s head. “Maybe we just need to present it
Both scientists brightened. “What do you have in mind?” Dr. Kerrigan
“I’m not sure,” Daniel admitted. “We need to figure out how to
present visiting this planet in such a way that General Hammond will see
it as a possible military concern.”
might work.” Drake nodded thoughtfully. “Except for the fact we’re
looking at a planet that contains nothing but ancient ruins.”
“Why ruins?” Daniel demanded.
The scientists looked at him with identical expressions of confusion.
“We don’t know why,” Kerrigan finally answered.
“What caused the ruins?” Daniel clarified. “Maybe there was a battle
between the indigenous people and an invading army?”
“Such as the Goa'uld,” Drake put in.
nodded enthusiastically. “Maybe, or maybe another species. The point is,
maybe there’s some kind of evidence in the ruins about the battle and
who won, maybe even how they won. That would be of military interest,
although the fact that the civilization is in ruins seem to indicate the
winner was not the indigenous population,” Kerrigan said dryly.
“Maybe,” Daniel repeated, “or maybe they did win and something else
caused the civilization to decline. There’s no way to know unless we go
“So, we’ll present it in those military terms,” Kerrigan mused. The
senior linguist and the archeologist exchanged looks and smiles.
“The ruins may contain information that could be helpful to Earth in its
battle against the Goa'uld.” Drake pretended he was writing. “I
suppose it’s possible. You don’t think it’s too big a stretch?”
“If we present it correctly,” Daniel said, “the SGC will jump at the
chance to send a team through the Stargate to check it out.” He thought
of Jack, of his single-minded intensity when it came to looking for ways
to protect the planet against the Goa'uld.
“Daniel, I’m glad you’re on our side,” Kerrigan chuckled.
“So am I,” Drake grinned.
right then!” Kerrigan turned over a page in his notebook and waved his
pen. “Let’s start planning.”
Daniel happily agreed, thinking there was no place in the world he’d
rather be than right here, plotting a way around the military mentality.
General Hammond and Jack and the other soldiers were brave and dedicated
and meant well, but sometimes they needed a little nudging in the right
stifled a snicker. That was one thought he wouldn’t be sharing with
had turned out to be a long day. After a morning meeting, a memorial
service, and two trips through the Stargate to the same planet, Jack and
the rest of SG-1 were once again gathered around the conference table.
They were all silent, busy with their own thoughts. How in the hell they
were supposed to –
lost track of his thoughts when
came out of his office and sat down. “I trust your meeting with
Chancellor Travell was fruitful.”
“Well, sir, that’s a good question.” Jack looked around the table
before meeting the general’s eyes.
Carter said with a faintly reproving note.
“Yeah, I know.” He waved a hand at her.
“Colonel.” This time it came from
“Yes, sir. First off, Travell didn’t say much about the Goa'uld attack
last year. What she did talk about, well, long story short, General, the
Tollan may be willing to give us an ion cannon in exchange for a supply of
quite a turnaround from their previous position.”
Hammond’s eyebrows rose.
sir,” Jack nodded. “A complete one hundred percent turnaround.”
this is one of those ion cannons that can destroy a Goa'uld mother
ship?” The General steepled his fingers.
sir. She showed us footage of the attack.” Jack looked at Carter who
took up the story.
“I don’t know anything about their equivalent of video technique, but
it was very clear. A Goa'uld mother ship appeared over the city and the
Tollan tried to warn it away. Instead of leaving, it fired a warning blast
and began to broadcast... well, basically it was a warning to surrender or
be destroyed.” Carter shook her head. “The Tollan Curia ordered one of
its ion cannons to fire and it blew the ship into pieces.”
ion cannon destroyed a mother ship?”
Jack couldn’t fault Hammond
for his disbelief. He’d felt the same way when Travell made the claim,
but like the old saying goes, seeing was believing.
sir,” he put in. “We watched the entire footage of the attack three
times. Blew it to smithereens.”
the footage be faked?” The General looked from Jack to Carter.
appeared to be genuine, sir. However," she frowned, "as you
know, Tollan technology is far more sophisticated than ours. If they
wanted to fake it, I doubt we’d be able to identify how.”
why, General,” Jack added. “Carter said it, their technology’s a lot
more advanced than ours. Why show us something that isn’t true?”
“The Tollan wish to obtain trinium from Earth,” Teal’c put in.
“Yeah, so?" Jack shrugged. "Granted, we have it and if we’re
willing to trade it to them, then the Tollan don’t have to go looking
for it on their own. But I have a hard time believing we're the only
people in the galaxy with access to trinium." He saw
open his mouth and hurried to make what he thought was the most important
point. "And how does any of this fit in with Narim’s message about
Earth being in danger? Travell didn’t say anything about any danger.”
looked around the table. Everyone looked as blank as he felt, not to
mention confused. Even more than the confusion was his feeling that there
was something else going on, that Travell and the Curia were hiding
something. There was nothing he could point at to support that belief; it
was a combination of experience and gut instinct.
the idea of having an ion cannon for Earth was very appealing. It was
enough to make a soldier drool.
you have a chance to follow up with Narim about the warning?”
“No, sir.” That was another sore point for Jack. “Travell said he
was busy elsewhere. We didn’t see him.”
could have been telling the truth,” Nyan put in.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed grudgingly. "Maybe."
"I have heard a Tau'ri saying that may be appropriate to this
situation," Teal’c offered.
looked at the
who responded with his habitual raised eyebrow.
"What's that, Teal'c?" the General asked.
something sounds too good to be true, it usually is." The Jaffa
spoke the old cliché with his usual unflappable expression.
it exactly, sir." Jack pointed his finger at his alien teammate.
"That's what's wrong with the Tollan offer."
took a minute before
answering. "I understand your concern, Colonel, and I share it.
However, we have to consider the importance of having a weapon that can
destroy a Goa'uld mother ship. Is an ion cannon actually on the table?”
“Not yet." Jack exchanged another look with Carter. "The fact
that Travell is willing to discuss the possibility makes it something we
have to consider.”
General thought about that before nodding. “This could be a significant
advance in protecting the planet. I have no choice but to take this matter
to my superiors."
leaned forward in her seat. "Chancellor Travell said the Tollan Curia
is anxious to move forward with this plan as quickly as possible."
afraid they’ll have to wait until I receive authority to pursue
it," the General said matter-of-factly.
they all knew that more than the Joint Chiefs would be involved in the
decision. No doubt the President, his advisors and who knew how many
politicians would want to add their two cents. No way was this going to
happen in a hurry, regardless of how eager the Tollan were to reach an
When all was said and done, Jack was pretty sure
would be ordered to move forward with this plan. He knew the General would
be careful. He wished that knowledge would put his mind at ease and make
his gut feel better.
you after sixth period,” Charlie yelled as he walked off the basketball
court. He felt good about the practice session he and Spencer and Terry
had spent most of lunch working through.
Teammates. He’d miss this. Team sports had been a big part of his life
since he’d been a little kid. In a couple years, he’d graduate and
head off to the Air Force Academy and that would no longer be true. As
much as he’d love to be a Falcon, the Academy had an impressive sports
program so playing on their varsity probably wasn’t realistic,
especially not if he wanted to reach his ultimate goal of working at
. He wouldn’t have time to put in the hours and hours of practice
necessary to make the team. Charlie’s best sport was baseball and
although he was recognized as a star athlete around
, he knew here he was a big fish in a little pond. At the Academy, he’d
be a little fish in a big pond. Since participating in athletics was a
requirement there, he’d probably play intramural sports. That would
allow him to satisfy his love of team sports and keep his competitive
edge. That would probably be his best bet.
course, first he needed to graduate from high school and be accepted into
the Air Force Academy. It wouldn’t be easy but he’d been making plans
since he was twelve years old. That should give him a jump on other
prospective candidates. He’d been surfing the Academy’s website for
their requirements and had been following their recommendations since
middle school. No wonder his friends thought he was a bit obsessive, and
they didn’t know the half of it.
Charlie, wait up!” Brian came up beside him.
not going to believe it. My brother just scored tickets for the Maroon 5
concert. Spencer’s going. Its ninety bucks a ticket. You in?”
“When do you need to know by?” Maroon 5? That sounded like it’d be a
“Right now.” Brian held up his cell phone. “If we don’t take them
he has other friends who will.”
“Yeah, sure, I’m in.” Why not? He loved Maroon 5 and he’d never
been to a concert.
“Great! And I’ll need the money for the tickets by tomorrow night.”
“No problem. I’ll bring the money to school tomorrow,” Charlie
promised. He’d stop at an ATM and take it out of his savings. He’d
need to talk to his parents, too. Hmm, maybe he’d mention it to Dad. Mom
still seemed to think he was a little kid most of the time.
Brian said with a wave of his hand.
“Later,” Charlie agreed, and picked up his pace.
The Academy. His thoughts returned to what he’d been thinking about
earlier and his heart beat a little faster as he considered his rapidly
The importance of referrals in being accepted into the Air
had surprised him but his dad insisted they were critical. Dad had even
helped him come up with some good possibilities including, much to
Charlie’s surprise, General Hammond, who had assured him he would be
happy to write him a referral. As for the requirement of an appointment
letter from a Senator or Congressman, Charlie couldn’t help smiling at
his good fortune. He hadn’t known he was going to meet
’s senior Senator, Richard Vane, at General Hammond’s Christmas party
last year. It turned out the Senator was a buddy of the General. Senator
Vane had been very interested to hear Charlie wanted to attend the Air
and they had a long conversation on the topic. At the end of the evening,
the Senator had agreed to give Charlie an appointment letter when the time
Dad had never mentioned it but Charlie was aware he could circumvent a lot
of the requirements because he also qualified for a nomination slot as the
son of a career military officer. And as the child of a Medal of Honor
Charlie would never forget watching his father receive the military’s
highest honor last year, from the President of the
States. The only thing he regretted was that the details of the mission were
classified. That fact hadn’t lessened the impressiveness of the occasion
or Charlie’s pride in his father.
Medal would give him a guaranteed nomination slot into the Academy, as
long as he satisfied the academic and entry requirements. It was tempting
but he didn’t intend to take that route. He was going to get into the
Air Force Academy on his own strengths and abilities, just like everyone
else. Just like his dad.
He sighed happily at the thought of how things were falling into place.
Granted, he still had to get through the last two years of high school
without any major screw-ups but that was doable. All he had to do was keep
his eye on the prize, as Uncle Charlie liked to say.
looked up and saw Karen Lindsey standing in front of him, glaring. Several
of her books were on the floor and he realized he had bumped into her.
He bent down and picked up the books, then brushed them off and handed
them over with his most charming grin.
lucky you didn’t damage any of them.” Karen snatched them back and
looked the books over one by one before giving him a grudging smile.
“Lucky is my middle name.” Charlie’s grin widened.
“Uh-huh.” Karen favored him with an extremely skeptical look.
started walking and he fell into place beside her. “Those look like
Daniel’s kind of books,” he noted.
“He loaned me the one on top, the others are from the library.” Karen
held the books a little more tightly.
Charlie craned his neck to read the title. “The
Rise and Fall of the Incan Civilization.” He made a face. “Oh,
yeah, that sounds like a real page-turner.”
people who like history, it is,” she snapped and he laughed. Her eyes
narrowed and Charlie decided to tamp it down a bit. He didn’t need her
to go ranting to Daniel, who then might decide to give him a long-winded
lecture on the importance of ancient civilizations in the development of
the modern world or something equally boring.
“Daniel does like history,” he admitted. “I didn’t know you were
interested in that stuff.”
She studied him suspiciously, as if suspecting he might be planning on
making more jokes. Charlie smiled innocently and after a minute she
“Yeah, I am, because of Daniel.”
“Really?” It was a battle but Charlie managed to refrain from rolling
Karen answered with growing enthusiasm. “I’ve always loved history but
I pretty much stuck to American history until I met Daniel. He introduced
me to the ancient civilizations that our world grew out of, Egyptian,
Mayan, Incan, Greek –
those moldy old dead guys, huh?”
Her eyes narrowed again and Charlie continued quickly before she could hit
him or, worse, continue with her list. “Daniel said you wanted to be a
Meaning you don’t anymore?”
“I do, I mean...” Karen licked her lips. “Daniel has his PhD in
linguistics, and he said he wants to get another PhD in archeology.”
he does,” Charlie agreed. He didn’t usually spend much time thinking
about his little brother's brain power. It was kind of... scary, not that
he’d ever say that to Daniel. Or to anyone else.
“He’s talked about that stuff ever since I’ve known him,” Karen
said. “It got me interested so I started looking at it in a new light
and now when I read, it becomes more exciting and real.”
“Ancient civilizations?” Charlie asked, just to clarify. It was hard
to believe he was having this conversation with someone who wasn’t
Daniel. Then again, it sounded like Daniel had infected Karen with his
weird interests. Luckily, he himself, remained immune.
she said. “Especially in how archeology deals with ancient
really had infected her.
“Sooo, now you’re thinking of being an archeologist?”
“Maybe, or maybe an historian in ancient civilizations. Something like
that.” Karen shrugged. “It’s not like I have to make up my mind any
“So how’s he doing?”
“How’s who?” Charlie was still marveling at how anyone could
actually be interested in people who’d been dead for thousands of years.
of course.” She gave him a look of exasperation that Charlie felt was
totally undeserved. Karen jumped around like... like other girls when
he’d tried to have a reasonable conversation. How the heck was he
supposed to keep up?
“Daniel?” he repeated. “He’s fine. I thought you two kept in
“We haven’t seen much of each other since he came back from
UCLA." She shrugged and hugged her books. "We e-mail back and
forth once in a while but I guess he’s pretty busy.”
“Yeah, he’s working full-time now.”
“For the Air Force,” Karen nodded. “You know, I still don’t get
“Me neither,” Charlie agreed. “I think the only one who does is
Daniel, oh, and my dad, I guess.”
the Air Force.”
hope so.” Charlie chuckled. “It’s funny, when I was a kid I thought
he might be translating intercepted transmissions between terrorists. You
know, because he’s so good in languages.”
“Yeah.” He grinned at the memory. “That was just a guess, probably
way off base. Whatever he’s working on is classified.” He stopped,
wondering if he should have said that.
“I know,” she said easily, relieving his worry. “Daniel told me the
same thing years ago when I asked what he was doing working for the Air
Force. He’s never said anything more about it.”
Charlie agreed. “He’s really good at keeping secrets.”
you know if he’s going to be around next Friday?”
Friday? Umm...” Charlie
blinked, trying to keep up with her. Again. When he thought about it, he
realized he actually did know. “Daniel’s going to be out of town next
weekend... so Friday too?”
“He’s leaving on Friday.”
“Why?” Charlie asked, curious.
there’s a dance on Friday night and I thought I’d ask him to go with
“Go with you?” Charlie repeated in surprise. “Like on a date?”
Even as he said the words, he struggled not to laugh. Daniel on a date?
His serious, obsessed-with-languages, little brother probably didn’t
even notice Karen was a girl. What Charlie wouldn’t give to be a fly on
the wall when she asked him to a dance. No, rats, she wouldn’t because
Daniel would be out of town.
a date!” Karen snapped, glaring at him again. He had to hand it to her,
she had a good glare. Not up to his dad’s standard, of course, but not
bad for someone still in high school.
“But you said – ”
“Daniel’s my friend,” she said hotly. “If we went together I
wouldn’t have to worry about him acting like a jerk.”
“Not all guys are jerks.” Charlie felt mildly insulted.
know that,” she retorted. “Daniel’s not.”
he just been insulted again? Charlie was pretty sure he had been.
“He’s not the only non-jerk guy around.”
O’Neill, are you putting yourself in the non-jerk category?” Karen
He hesitated. Was this some kind of trap? “Well... yeah.” Seeing her
smirk he added hastily, “At least some of the time.”
I’ll grant you partial non-jerk status.” She snickered.
thanks,” he said dryly.
welcome. Hey.” Her eyes brightened. “Are you doing anything Friday
She kept confusing him with her twists and turns.
“How about you go with me?”
the dance?” Charlie asked in astonishment. Was she actually asking him
out on a –
as a date,” she said firmly. “I missed the last dance because I had
the flu. Some of my friends are going and I don’t want to miss out
again. I don't know if they’ll have dates and I don’t want to go by
as a date. Charlie felt a little insulted again. Didn’t she think he was
date material? Or maybe she equated date-guys with the jerk-guys?
“Come on,” Karen wheedled. “You’re not so bad. I wouldn’t mind
going to the dance with you.”
“You really know how to make a guy feel special, don’t you?” Charlie
“Is that a yes?” She laughed.
couldn’t believe this conversation, but when he looked into her
sparkling green eyes he found himself considering it. He had never thought
of Karen as anything but a friend of Daniel’s, but now, in light of her
invitation, he realized she was kind of pretty. Plus she had plenty of
attitude and didn’t take crap from anyone. He liked that. She wouldn’t
be boring to hang with for a couple hours, as long as she stayed off her
ancient civilizations hobby-horse.
dance. Hell, why not?
“Okay,” Charlie heard himself say.
We can – ”
When the bell rang and cut her off Karen turned to walk away. “I’ll
call you later about the details,” she said over her shoulder. “And
tell Daniel I said hi!”
headed for his next class. He wasn’t sure exactly what had just
happened, except he’d agreed to go to a dance with his kid brother’s
friend. Not as her date but as a... as a what? As a replacement for
Daniel? As a partial non-jerk?
Why had he said yes? He didn’t know, but he was stuck now. He was taking
Karen to a dance.
he didn’t know how to dance.
hours later Charlie was eating dinner, still trying to figure out what to
do about his non-date with Karen.
“Is something wrong with the food?”
He looked up to meet his mom’s enquiring gaze and realized he was
stirring food around his plate rather than eating it.
“No, it’s fine.”
“Okay,” she said, sounding an awful lot like Dad. “So what has you
thinking so hard that you’re not hungry?”
“I’m hungry.” He stuffed a fork-full of chicken into his mouth to
Mom sighed and he knew he was going to have a hard time getting out of
this without confessing, and he didn’t want to do that. It just sounded
too stupid, agreeing to take a girl, who was really just his brother’s
friend, to a dance. Especially when he didn’t know how to dance. To his
relief he heard the front door open and looked over his shoulder.
“Dad? Is that you?”
Dad said cheerfully. “It’s Daniel.”
Charlie heard Daniel’s voice.
“Daniel,” Dad said and it was Charlie’s turn to sigh at the familiar
routine. He looked at his mom who was trying not to smile.
two are in time to sit down with us for dinner,” she called.
Dad appeared with Daniel at his side. “Great,” he said, sniffing the
air happily. He reached for his chair.
“After you wash up,” Mom said.
There was no arguing with that tone. Mom was a stickler about germs and
hand-washing and Charlie guessed it stemmed from being a nurse all these
years. A few minutes later
Daniel and Dad joined them at the table.
a good thing we left the Mountain when we did.” Dad picked up the bowl
of dumplings. “Isn’t it, Daniel?”
Charlie studied them. There was an unusual note in Dad’s voice and
Daniel looked a little red.
“Uh-huh,” Daniel agreed then busied himself with his meal.
“So,” Dad heaped his plate with food, “what happened with you two,
new on my part.” Mom smiled at Charlie. “How about you, Charlie?”
practice, same old, same old." He
shrugged. "Oh, Karen said to say hi.”
“You saw her?” Daniel looked up.
“Sorry, Mom,” Charlie said quickly. He’d forgotten how much she
disliked that word, despite Dad’s love of all things Homer Simpson.
“Yeah, I saw her today, just before – " he
stopped a couple of words too late. He'd almost said, “before she
invited me to the dance.” What was wrong with him? A few seconds later
he realized everyone was looking at him.
“Just before what?” Daniel asked.
“Nothing.” Even he wouldn’t believe that weak denial.
eyes narrowed. “Just before what?” he repeated.
Crap. Daniel could give a mule lessons in stubbornness; there was no way
he was going to let this go now. Think fast, O’Neill. Wait, he had it.
before she said she was thinking about going into archeology.”
“What?” Daniel asked, astonished.
“Yeah.” Charlie hoped he looked properly confused. “She didn’t
“No.” Daniel’s surprise only lasted a few seconds before guilt set
in. “I guess she hasn’t had a chance to tell me. We haven’t talked
in a long time. I don’t think I’ve even answered her last e-mail and
that was - ” he grimaced. “A couple weeks ago.”
“Don't beat yourself up over it. I'm sure she understands.” Dad put
in. “You’ve been busy at the Mountain. No need to feel bad about
“I could’ve taken a few minutes to call her.” Daniel set his fork
down. "Talking is a lot more personal than e-mails."
“It’s no big deal.” Charlie hadn’t meant for this to happen.
“Karen wasn’t mad or anything. Dad's right, she knows you’re
nodded but didn’t look convinced. Charlie went back to eating when he
realized his mother was staring at him. Uh-oh, he didn’t like that
expression, like she was trying to get inside his head.
“I have a hard time believing it's Karen’s news that took away your
crap. Charlie scrambled for an explanation while everyone focused on him.
not hungry?” Dad leaned over to touch his forehead.
“Dad!” Charlie jerked his head back and glared. He would’ve expected
Mom to pull something like that but Dad surprised him.
“You don’t have a fever,” Dad smirked. “So what’s going on?”
“I told you – ” Charlie suddenly felt like a bug under a microscope.
“Is Karen okay?” Daniel asked.
“Karen? Sure, she’s fine.”
“I’m going to call her, just to say hi and apologize.” Daniel looked
at his watch.
“After you eat.” Mom stopped him when he started to rise. “And I
suspect she’ll tell you there’s no reason to apologize.”
“Maybe.” Daniel reached for his glass of milk and took a gulp.
“I’ll still feel better after I talk to her.”
damn. Charlie mentally threw in the towel. There was no way he could keep
them from finding out now. Karen was sure to mention the dance when she
talked to Daniel.
family knew him too well.
he said with forced nonchalance. “Really.” Would it be better to keep
quiet and let Karen be the one to break the news? Nah, that seemed too
chicken. “When you’re done talking to her, I need to talk to her,
eyebrows rose. So did Mom’s. So did... Charlie stifled a sigh. Yep, it
“Why?” Daniel demanded.
need to get the logistics figured out for next Friday.”
yeah, he had everyone’s attention now.
Friday?” Daniel voiced the question on everyone’s mind.
“Yeah, for the dance.”
Daniel’s mouth fell open. So did Mom’s. So did... Charlie sighed.
What, did they practice this stuff when he wasn’t around?
“A dance?” No surprise, Dad recovered first, and Charlie didn’t like
the sudden glint in his father’s eyes. “Charlie, my boy, have you been
“A dance?” Daniel's eyes narrowed again. “Why would you need to talk
to Karen about a dance?”
the first time Charlie felt a spark of amusement. This could be fun. He
could mess with his little brother’s head.
“Because she and I are going to the dance,” he said casually.
Dad grinned, Mom’s eyebrows rose even higher, and Daniel’s eyes shot
“Who said anything about funny?” Charlie demanded innocently.
“We’re just going to a dance.”
“You and –” Something suspiciously like horror filled Daniel’s
expression. “You and Karen? No way!”
“Me and Karen,” Charlie said. “Why not?”
“But, but...” Daniel sputtered and Charlie couldn’t hold back a
Dad tossed his napkin at Daniel who turned toward him. “Come on, Daniel,
it’s no biggie. Just a couple kids going to a high school dance,
The last was said in Charlie’s direction who felt a twinge of annoyance.
For crying out loud, it wasn’t like they were a couple of ten-year-olds.
don’t know,” he admitted. “That’s what I need to talk to Karen
about. After she asked me the bell rang and – ”
“She what?” Daniel interrupted, eyes wide.
Charlie fought back more laughter. Daniel was acting like... like some
kind of Victorian father.
“Karen asked me to go to a dance.” He spoke with exaggerated slowness.
“I said yes, the bell rang and she said we’d talk about the details
“You already said that,” Charlie reminded.
shock gave way to annoyance. Hmm, maybe Charlie had pushed it a bit too
my friend,” Daniel growled.
Charlie was tempted to push his chair back a little but he knew better
than to show fear in the face of the enemy, even when the enemy was his
little brother. Maybe it was time to throw out a bone.
“I know. She wanted to go with you but when I told her you’d be out of
town, she asked me.”
“You and Karen are only friends, right, Daniel?” Jack looked to
Charlie to Daniel and then back again.
“Yes!” Maybe Daniel realized he’d been a little loud because he took
a deep breath and went on more quietly. “She is my friend and I don’t
want her to... well...”
“Go out with a jerk?” Charlie offered helpfully. “It’s okay, she
thinks I’m only a partial non-jerk.”
“Say what?” Dad snorted.
“A partial non-jerk?” Daniel began to smile.
since she knows you so well...”
Charlie glared at his little brother who was now relaxed enough to grin
It was the first time Mom had spoken since Charlie dropped his bombshell.
“When did you learn to dance?” she asked.
“Uh...” Charlie wanted to say something to distract her but his mind
was blank. His heart sank when he saw identical expressions of amusement
on his father’s and brother’s faces.
don’t know how to dance?” Daniel looked on the verge of laughter and
Charlie was sorely tempted to toss his dumplings in his little brother’s
face, but he wasn’t prepared to suffer the consequences.
almost a week away,” he defended himself. “I have time.”
“To learn to dance?” Daniel asked for clarification.
“Yes,” Charlie snapped, hoping Daniel recognized the 'you’re-so-gonna-get-it'
look in his eyes.
Daniel recognized the look, he was ignoring it. Throwing the dumplings was
sounding better, consequences be damned.
“Hey,” Dad beamed, “I’ve got an idea.”
Charlie knew that tone of voice. Dad had something in mind that he was
sure he wasn't going to like.
could teach him, honey.” Dad smiled at Mom.
Mom? Teach him to dance? “Uh...”
Charlie’s mouth fell open in horror.
“I’d be happy to teach you, honey,” Mom said warmly.
“Uh...” Charlie had seen people dance. They held each other close
and... his mind boggled.
Dad clapped his hands together. “It’s settled. Daniel, you and I can
watch. Maybe we’ll pick up a few pointers.”
Daniel snickered and Charlie swallowed a groan. This was shaping up to be
one of the worst ideas in the history of the planet. How in the hell was
he going to get out of this?
looked from Mom to Dad to Daniel, all of whom were smiling like they’d
just won the lottery. There wasn't an ounce of sympathy to be found. Maybe
if he stuffed an entire dumpling down his throat he’d have the good
fortune of choking to death and escape that way.
was a nurse, Dad was Special Ops. They’d save him.
Charlie wanted to put his head down on the table and surrender, wave the
white flag and beg for mercy. No way. He was an O’Neill. He’d get
through the dance; whether he’d survive the embarrassment was still up
morning started with two back-to-back meetings between the archeologists
and linguists at the SGC. When the last one ended, the scientists lingered
over coffee and donuts while Daniel reluctantly slipped away and returned
to his office. He’d discovered an interesting new problem in some
pictures of a ruined temple that SG-5 had brought back from their
exploration of P39-J28, and he hoped to spend what was left of the morning
working on it.
Two hours later, Daniel closed yet another book and stared at the wall.
He’d made some progress in translating, but he was going to need more
than linguistic skills to figure out some of the symbols. There was no
doubt about it, he definitely needed to get another doctorate in
archeology. Meanwhile, he'd seek out the best archeologist on the base.
walked into the archeology lab and waved at a couple of scientists
examining what appeared to be an ancient vase. They weren’t who he was
looking for – ah, there he was. At a desk near the back of the room,
Robert Rothman was studying a piece of papyrus.
looked up, blinked, then his eyes came into focus and he smiled. “Hello,
Daniel. What brings you here?”
have something to run by you.” He raised the digital photographs he was
“Pull up a chair, let’s take a look.” Robert set aside what he was
Daniel sat down beside the scientist and laid the pictures on the desk.
Rothman pushed up his glasses and looked with interest.
see, what do we have here?”
“That’s what I want to know.” Daniel pointed at the pictographs in
one picture. “I’ve translated the first half but I’m not sure about
the second half. I think they’re tied in with these.” He shuffled the
pictures until he came to the one that showed a small altar containing
three vessels of various sizes.
“Have you seen anything like this before?”
Rothman pulled the photographs closer and studied them. Daniel watched,
his attention divided between the scientist and the pictures. He was
pleased at how good Robert looked. No one would know by looking at him the
horror that had nearly taken his life.
Robert Rothman, his friend and colleague, had been taken over by a Goa'uld
while off-world. If not for the zat Sam had brought along, Robert would
have died. As it was, the scientist was zatted and then taken to Cimmeria
where, again, Thor’s Hammer did its job and removed the Goa'uld without
killing the human.
Afterwards, Daniel had convinced Jack that Robert needed more help than
the SGC could provide. Going to
proved to be the ticket. Daniel wasn't privy to what Robert and Skaara had
discussed during the hours they'd spent alone, but he had been relieved to
see that a modicum of peace had returned to his friend’s eyes by the
time he returned to Earth.
It was by unanimous, if unspoken, agreement that Robert no longer go
through the Stargate as a member of SG-1. The SGC needed experienced
people working in the Archeology Department and Robert was a perfect fit
for that job.
Daniel had lobbied hard to fill the vacancy on SG-1 caused by Rothman’s
departure. He might only be fifteen years old and fresh out of UCLA with
his brand-new, shiny PhD, but he did have gate experience. No one could
deny he had a knack for communicating with alien races, not to mention his
rapidly developing negotiating skills. Neither Jack nor General Hammond
had been particularly impressed by his arguments. He hadn’t really
expected them to be, especially Jack.
Daniel sighed at the memory. Where he saw opportunity and potential
allies, Jack saw danger and possible enemies.
In the end, Daniel had endorsed the leading candidate for the job, Nyan,
the refugee from Bedrosia who worked so well with the SGC scientists. The
Bedrosian government required all of its citizens to periodically serve in
its military so despite Nyan’s soft-spoken, mild nature, he had no
problem with the military aspects of the SGC or with carrying a weapon.
According to Jack, Nyan was doing ‘okay’ since joining the team.
Fluent in Jack-speak, Daniel interpreted that to mean that Nyan was doing
extremely well. He felt a small measure of pride in how it had all worked
out, despite his disappointment in not being chosen. Daniel comforted
himself with the knowledge that his time would eventually come.
In the meantime, he’d try to be patient and work hard for the SGC and
for Earth. One day he would get his doctorate in archeology, and sometime
after that he’d walk through the Stargate as an official member of an SG
think I have seen something like this.”
Daniel started. He had been so lost in his memories that he’d
momentarily forgotten what they were working on. Robert was looking at him
with a quizzical expression and he smiled sheepishly.
sorry. I missed the beginning of what you said.”
The scientist tapped the picture. “Les Abrams showed me some very
similar pictographs on a stele a couple of weeks ago. I think he may have
the answer you’re looking for.”
“Great!” Daniel rose to his feet. “I’ll go find him right now.
Charlie had gotten an A on his history project. Not only had he gotten an
A but he’d chosen military history and worked on something that actually
interested him. That was a first. He’d have to show the paper to Dad and
see what he thought of it.
walked along the hall still thinking about his project, until he heard a
commotion coming from the alcove to the right of the lockers. Shit, it was
Justin Scott and his sidekick, Mark Donnelly, picking on an obvious
freshman. They had him backed up against the wall and the skinny little
kid looked scared to death.
Charlie slowed down. Maybe they’d let the kid go before he had to pass.
Life would easier if he didn’t get involved.
have to get to class,” the kid said desperately, and Charlie heard the
tremble in his voice.
knew Scott and Donnelly, though he’d never been impressed with them.
They both played football and if he stepped into this mess, he could have
the entire team pissed at him. Those football players stuck together.
kid looked past Donnelly’s shoulder and spotted him. Charlie stopped
when he saw the fearful look. Even though the eyes were brown, not blue,
they were pleading for help from behind a pair of glasses that reminded
him of his little brother. Daniel had once been a scrawny, geeky little
nerd, easy prey for the Scotts and Donnellys of the world.
don’t you leave the kid alone? You had your fun.”
words spilled out of Charlie before he had time to think about it. Maybe
he should’ve worded it differently. He sounded more like a teacher or,
gasp, his dad. Must be the Daniel connection.
“O’Neill.” Scott turned toward him but his hand
maintained its firm grasp on the collar of the kid’s shirt.
your own business.” Donnelly took a few steps forward to run
interference. "This has nothing to do with you. Do yourself a favor
and keep walking.”
Charlie bristled. He had never liked bullies. He’d always been a huge
fan of the underdog, the Chicago Cubs, the old Boston Red Sox, the 1980
Olympic gold medal hockey team. He hadn’t been born when that hockey
game was played but his dad had showed him endless footage. No way could
he keep on walking.
“Come on, leave the kid alone.” He felt his anger rising and forced it
back down. This wasn’t the time to lose his temper. He cleared his
throat and tried again. “Let him go. Now.” This time his voice was
clear and strong. He’d learned a long time ago that showing weakness to
bullies never helped. In fact, it usually just exacerbated the situation
by empowering them.
mouth fell open, then his eyes narrowed. He released the terrified
freshman before turning around to give Charlie his full attention.
“Get out of here.” Charlie nodded to the boy. The kid didn’t need to
be told twice. He exited the alcove and even though he disappeared from
sight, Charlie heard his footsteps pounding on the floor down the corridor
as if he was jogging. Smart kid.
“You want to go, O’Neill? We’ll go.” Scott gestured for him to
he want to go? They had to be kidding. “Go? Right here in school? No, I
don’t want to go. Why the hell don’t you pick on kids your own size?
And two against one. Really?”
should stop right there while he was in one piece but they had made him
mad. Two bulky football players picking on a skinny little freshman just
because they could.
next? Maybe a little blind girl with a limp?” Charlie knew he’d pushed
too hard even before he saw fury flare in Scott’s eyes. He wasn’t
about to apologize so he shifted his weight and prepared for the
bastard!” Scott snarled and charged him, knocking him back on his ass.
Charlie should have seen that coming but he hadn’t. He jumped back to
his feet and saw Donnelly hesitating. Good, maybe he could end this before
it turned into a brawl.
Scott’s fist caught him in the cheek and Charlie’s head snapped back.
Damn, that hurt! He got in one good punch to the bully’s stomach that
doubled him over, but he grabbed Charlie’s shirt as he fell, taking them
They rolled around the floor, each one trying to get the upper hand. Scott
was bigger and heavier but Charlie was strong and agile. He sensed
Donnelly behind him but so far the other teen was staying out of it. Thank
fist struck out again and Charlie jerked his head out of range. The blow
caught him in the shoulder and his arm was suddenly numb. Furious, he got
in two hard punches to the body, knocking the wind out of his opponent.
“Break it up!”
Mr. Richmond was not only the strictest math teacher in the school but he
was also the Vice Principal. Charlie immediately released his opponent but
before he could move Scott delivered another quick, well-placed blow to
his ribs that made him gasp. The unfairness of it infuriated Charlie but
when he tried to retaliate
grabbed him and yanked him back.
said enough,” he bellowed. “In my office, all three of you.”
I wasn’t doing anything,” Donnelly whined.
anger faded as the reality of his situation swept over him. Wasn’t this
just swell? Now he was in trouble. His school had a zero-tolerance policy
about students fighting. Would he be suspended?
The thought sent a chill through him. Would this affect his chances of
getting into the Air Force Academy? He realized he was breathing too fast
and deliberately slowed it down. No way, he assured himself. He had an
excellent record, at least as of fifteen minutes ago, and no one was
One thing was certain. They’d definitely call his parents, that was a
And everything had been going so well, his new job at the rec center, that
was not bagging groceries, the A on his history project, yep, things had
been humming along. So why couldn’t he have just kept walking? Dumb
question. There’s no way he could’ve walked away from that ugly scene.
Minding his own business was great in theory but reality was never so neat
made a conscious effort not to rub his sore ribs or his arm where feeling
was slowly, painfully, returning. The football players were glaring at him
and he didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they’d
surprise, Mom came to pick him up.
He’d been sitting on one of the hard chairs outside the principal’s
office while he waited. Scott and Donnelly were sitting on a bench a few
feet away and the principal had warned all of them to keep quiet and stay
put. They all obeyed, though the order didn’t stop Scott and Donnelly
from giving him threatening looks. Charlie ignored them, and gradually
realized he couldn’t have found a better way to annoy them. It was hard
not to smile after that, though a reminder of his situation was enough to
chase away his amusement.
Mrs. Scott came on behalf of her son and Mr. Donnelly for his. The three
parents all paused just long enough outside the principal’s office to
look over their respective sons. Charlie tried a weak smile but Mom
didn’t smile back. Then the adults went into the office and closed the
door behind them.
Ten minutes later the teenagers were brought in. After a run-of-the-mill
lecture by the principal, it came down to a few points. Since none of them
had ever been in trouble in high school before and, more importantly,
because no one had actually been hurt, and because there was an
all-important football game on Saturday, they’d all be given a two-day
in-school suspension starting tomorrow.
The principal said he didn’t care what had caused the fight, which was
fortunate because none of the boys offered an explanation. Charlie figured
the other two would never admit the truth; as for himself, he decided to
keep his mouth shut. If he blamed the two morons he’d have the entire
football team on his ass for sure, and if he dragged the poor little
freshman into it they’d be all over him, too. Charlie was sure he could
handle whatever happened but he wasn’t sure the kid could. After the
suspension it would all blow over and high school life would get back to
problem remained. Mom. As soon as they were in the car she turned on him.
She kept her voice low but they’d lived in the same house for his entire
life and he could tell she was angry.
“What was that all about?”
“Nothing, Mom, really.” That probably wouldn’t satisfy her but life
would be so much easier if she would drop it. He’d serve the suspension
and that would be that.
surprising, Mom had other ideas. She peppered him with question after
question. She wanted answers. He couldn’t give her any and take the
chance she’d feel compelled to do something about it. Mom was like that.
She didn’t always understand how things worked at school, especially guy
stuff. He wished Dad had been home to pick him up. Dad would have been
annoyed but he’d understand that sometimes fights broke out despite your
It was a relief when they were finally home. Maybe now she’d let up and
he could escape to his room. Five steps inside the front door, he realized
the folly of that hope.
“I don’t understand why you’d want to get in a fight with those two
boys.” She stopped squarely in front of him, her eyes fixed unwaveringly
tried to maintain his composure. “I didn’t want
to get in a fight with them. It just happened.”
Before she had a chance to respond he moved quickly around her and went
into the kitchen to make a sandwich. And escape. Big surprise, that only
lasted long enough for her to follow him.
“What does that mean, it just happened?” She stood in the doorway, her
hands on her hips, her eyes still flashing. Damn, he hated when she stood
like that. She wasn’t about to let this go. “Things like that don’t
just happen. Have they bothered you before?”
They hadn’t. They’d known each other to say hi and that was about it.
Neither of them played baseball or basketball, so Charlie didn’t know
them all that well. He’d certainly never had any kind of problem with
“Did they say something to you? Did you say something to them?”
Charlie finished putting the mayonnaise on his sandwich and put the knife
down. “Mom, look, it’s really no big deal.”
Oops. From the look on her face he gathered that was the wrong thing to
“You were suspended for fighting, Charlie. Don’t you dare tell me
it’s no big deal.”
“Sorry,” he offered in effort to make peace while he reconsidered his
sandwich. He’d somehow lost his appetite. “It’s an in-school
suspension, Mom. It’s not that bad.”
took a deep breath and he was relieved to see her hands drop to her sides.
“I don’t understand what this is all about but we’re going to talk
about it more when your father gets home.”
Charlie had no doubt about that. He only hoped Dad would be in a good
She glanced up, as if she was looking into the attic, and took another
deep breath. “I need to get back to work.” She said it in a way that
made him feel guilty for dragging her away from her dissertation.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I really am. I’ll clean up the kitchen. Do you want
me to start dinner later?” He tried a tentative smile. “That way you
can make up the time you lost and keep working on your project.”
Her blue eyes stared into his until he wanted to squirm. “Thank you,”
she said finally. She patted his arm as she passed by. “But don’t
think we’re done with this.”
hadn’t thought that for a second. He didn’t say anything. There
wasn’t really anything to say and he definitely wasn’t looking forward
walked into the house, relieved he was only an hour later than usual.
Considering the problem they were having with the Stargate, he could have
been stuck there all night. Then again, the ins-and-outs of the Stargate
were Carter’s territory so she and her team would be spending whatever
time was needed in order to dig out the gremlin that had apparently gotten
into the system.
who had, as usual, been dragged out of the Mountain against his will, made
a beeline for the kitchen and Jack followed him.
“What's this?” he asked in surprise.
Jack had expected to find Sara. Instead Charlie was standing over the
stove with a jar of Ragu and a package of spaghetti. It reminded him of
last year when Sara had been away at UCLA, but she was home now and she
didn’t normally care for store-bought sauces.
“I’m helping Mom.” Charlie grinned. “I decided on spaghetti
because you can’t wreck it. There were even meatballs in the freezer so
I nuked them in the microwave and threw them in, too. It should be
Daniel leaned over his shoulder. “Smells good,” he acknowledged.
“Yeah, me, too,” Jack agreed. “Does your mother know you’re using
“Uh – ”
mind.” He chuckled. “Is it ready?”
“Ten minutes.” Charlie threw the pasta into the boiling water.
go get your mother.” Jack headed upstairs. Behind him he heard Charlie
explaining the fine art of spaghetti-making to Daniel.
Sara was just where he expected, in the attic, on her laptop, typing away.
Jack paused for a minute, appreciating the sight. She was totally focused
on her work, which, based on how tousled her hair was, wasn’t going
well. Secretly, he loved to see her hair all over her face. It reminded
him of what she must have looked like as a little girl.
how goes it?” He leaned over to kiss her cheek.
so good, but at least it’s going,” she murmured as she typed. “Give
me a minute.”
Jack waited as she finished her thought and typed out a few notes. When
she closed the laptop he moved in and hugged her from behind, pleased when
she leaned into his embrace. Then he put his hands on her shoulders and
began massaging away some of the day’s tension.
“Dinner’s almost ready. It was nice of Charlie to take care of
that.” He rubbed out a knot at the base of her neck. “He’s good at
turned around, bringing the impromptu massage to an abrupt end. One look
at her stormy expression made his sense of well-being fade.
“He’s not doing it to be nice. He’s doing it to make up to me for
the time I lost when I was called in to his school today.”
Jack blinked. This was new. “Called in because of Charlie?” The kid
was no saint but he’d never been in trouble bad enough to require the
presence of his parents at school.
of Charlie,” she said in clipped tones. She glared at him, which he
thought was unfair.
Jack waited for her to finish, hoping it wasn’t anything too horrible.
He was tired and hungry and was hoping for a relaxing, stress-free evening
got into a fight.”
“A fight?” he repeated in surprise. Charlie? His son? That didn’t
sound like his Charlie at all. Wait a minute. A fight? “Is he okay?”
fine. A fight with two really big boys.” She stood up without warning
and he took a step back. “Why?” she demanded, the fire fading from her
eyes, leaving her looking somehow forlorn. “Why would he do that?”
Jack couldn’t help himself. He put his arms around her and was relieved
when she accepted the hug.
“I don’t know,” he said honestly, still trying to wrap his mind
around the fact that Charlie had gotten into a fight at school. “What
did he say?"
“He wouldn’t say what started it. I thought maybe he’d talk to you.
hesitated, not wanting to stir her up again, but he was hungry. “Is
after dinner okay? Daniel and I are starving and it looks like Charlie’s
making a nice meal.” He was hoping she’d agree. The fight didn’t
sound too bad and he wanted to eat.
“I suppose.” She pushed away and took a good look at him. “You’re
not upset about Charlie fighting in school?”
had no idea if she wanted him to be upset or not. He’d tread cautiously.
“Let’s wait and see what he has to say.” He prided himself on what
he thought was an excellent answer.
“He doesn’t have anything to say. That’s the problem,” Sara
snapped as he followed her down the stairs.
The boys had the table set. When Charlie saw them he brought in the
spaghetti and extra sauce and motioned Daniel to bring out the garlic
bread that had been warming in the oven. There was no salad or vegetable
but that wasn’t surprising considering a teenaged boy had made the meal.
Hopefully, Sara wouldn’t mind this one time.
looked at the two boys as they arranged things on the table. No, he
wasn’t happy to hear Charlie had been fighting and, yes, he wanted to
get to the bottom of it, but he still marveled at how grown up and
independent his boys had become in the past year. They were almost men.
“So, Dad, how was work?” Charlie asked as he sat down and passed
around the spaghetti.
Well, let’s see, son, the trade agreement with the Sephardans fell
through. SG-5 ran into a Jaffa patrol on a protected planet which makes
you wonder where the Asgard have been for the past few months, and two
members of the team were injured in the ensuing firefight on the race back
to the gate. Dr. Lee discovered that alien plants aren’t always what
they appear to be and no one, not even Daniel, has had much success
translating the Ancient writings found on P2X-753. Oh, and the Stargate
has suddenly stopped working. All and all, not a great week for the good
“Fine. Just peachy.” Jack said. “This is very good, Charlie.” He
hoisted up a forkful of spaghetti in an effort to change the subject.
“It is good,” Daniel agreed. “How was school?”
Silence fell over the table.
how’s the weather?” Daniel amended, realizing he’d accidentally hit
on a sore subject.
Jack nearly burst out laughing at the boy’s quickness but the annoyed
look on his wife’s face kept him in check.
“Your brother was in a fight today at school.” Sara enunciated each
word carefully so no one could miss the fact that she was angry again.
“I had to go pick him up."
A fight?” That caught Daniel’s attention. He stopped eating to look at
“It wasn’t really a fight, Mom. More of scuffle,” Charlie clarified.
“No one was hurt."
“Well, that’s good.” Jack went back to eating after a scathing look
from Sara. He really wanted to wait to get into this until they were
finished with dinner.
“What were you fighting about?” Daniel asked.
there’s a good question.” Sara dropped her fork to stare at her son.
“Yes, Charlie, what were you fighting about?”
“Nothing, I just...” he trailed off. “It was nothing.”
Jack was beginning to feel Sara’s frustration. It annoyed him when
Charlie, or Daniel for that matter, withheld information with evasive
answers like ‘nothing, and ‘I don’t know’ when they knew damn
well. He would prefer them to be honest and say they didn’t want to talk
about it rather than toss around vague statements and lies. As his hunger
lessened, irritation with his son grew. Not the least of which was that
Sara had to leave her own work and traipse off to school to deal with it
all. He suppressed a sigh of annoyance. It looked like they were going to
have to deal with the problem right now.
“Charlie...” The name was barely out of his mouth when the doorbell
rang. Now what? Jack put his napkin aside and stood up.
“I’ll get it.” He gave Charlie a look to let him know the
conversation wasn’t over.
he opened the door he was expecting to find a neighbor or a kid selling
something. Instead, there stood a stranger, a short, slim woman in her
late thirties or early forties, with brown hair almost as short as
Sara’s and wearing an anxious expression.
I help you?” He checked his irritation and made nice.
you... is this where Charlie O’Neill lives?”
She seemed nervous. Maybe she was one of his son’s teachers. Or worse,
the mom of one of the kids involved in the fight this afternoon. Either
way, Jack sadly relinquished his last hope that he could finish his dinner
“Yes, Charlie lives here," he admitted, bracing himself for who
Ann Warner.” She was hesitant. If she was one of the other boy’s moms
she wasn’t looking for a fight. That would make things easier. “Are
you Charlie’s father?”
He had half a mind to deny it. “Guilty as charged.” He smiled, hoping
to ease her tension.
came over to thank Charlie for what he did this afternoon.
he’d been expecting the worst, it took a few seconds for her words to
penetrate. Say what? Jack opened the door wider, hoping he was hiding his
"Come on inside.” He might as well invite her in. He had a feeling
he wouldn’t be getting back to his spaghetti and meatballs any time
soon. "Would you like to sit down?" Sara would insist on the
no, thank you." She seemed even more flustered though he couldn't
understand why. Better to let it slide. It didn’t seem right to stand in
the hall and talk but Jack didn’t know what else to do.
you came over to thank Charlie for...?” For what? Fighting with her son?
helping Josh.” Her smile was apologetic. “I’m so sorry your son
ended up in trouble for helping.”
assumed the blank look on his face prompted her further explanation.
“He didn’t tell you?” She flushed. “I’m sorry. Josh begged me
not to come over but I thought a thank you was the least we could do.”
She brushed her hair to the side in a nervous gesture before going on.
“Apparently two football players were picking on Josh. He’s smart but
small. He doesn’t usually have problems but something must have set them
off.” She looked momentarily angry on behalf of her son. “Josh was
really scared, he’s not much of a fighter. But your son came along and
told them to leave him alone, then he told Josh to leave. Josh didn’t
hear until later that Charlie had been suspended for fighting. I hope
he’s not in too much trouble.”
Jack stared in disbelief. If Mrs. Warner’s story was true, why had
Charlie been so reluctant to share it?
he yelled. “Could you come out here a minute, please? Sara!” His wife
needed to hear this, too.
“Oh I’ve interrupted your dinner.” She actually took a step back
toward the door.
it’s fine,” Jack assured her. In the long run, her news might make the
entire evening more pleasant.
Dad?” Charlie appeared. Sara was right behind Charlie and Daniel brought
up the rear.
Jack turned around to face his son. “This is Mrs. Warner. She wants to
thank you for helping Josh today.” He refrained from laughing at the
different expressions sliding across Charlie’s face, first confusion,
then embarrassment, then discomfort.
it’s so nice to meet you.” A red tint stained Charlie’s tanned
cheeks when the woman grabbed his hand and shook it. “I’m Josh’s
mother. Thank you for helping him.”
“Oh, no problem.” Charlie’s blush deepened as Mrs. Warner didn’t
seem to want to let go of his hand.
“I’m so sorry you got in trouble for helping, for doing the right
thing. I was about to tell your father that I’m going to be meeting with
the principal tomorrow about Josh being bullied. I’ll be happy to
explain that you were only trying to help him.”
no, it's fine, Mrs. Warner,” Charlie said immediately. “Really. It
would probably be best to just forget about it."
“That’s just what Josh said.” She shook her head in the same way
Sara did when she didn’t understand guy things. “He doesn’t even
want me to talk to the principal but I can’t let this go. If you change
your mind, here’s our number.” She handed him a piece of paper.
had been awfully quiet. Jack noticed Charlie cringe when she finally spoke
“Would you like to sit down and have some coffee?" It had taken a
few minutes for her to gather her thoughts and process the story but now
that she had, she’d want to talk about it.
“Oh no, I have to get going. I just wanted to thank Charlie in person.
You two must be very proud.”
“Yes,” Jack smiled at Sara, “very proud."
“He certainly saved the day for Josh. Most kids would have kept walking.
Thank you again, Charlie. Josh was too embarrassed to come himself but he
thanks you, too.”
“It’s okay,” Charlie murmured, looking even more embarrassed.
“Always the hero,” Daniel whispered in low voice as Sara walked Mrs.
up.” Charlie punched his brother’s arm.
"Come on," Jack ordered, "back to the table before the
spaghetti gets too cold to eat." It took an effort to keep his mouth
shut. He knew this wasn't over. If Charlie thought he was embarrassed now,
just wait till Sara came back.
minute later she returned. She pulled out her chair and stared at her
oldest son. “Okay, Charlie, why would you not tell us what really
He shrugged and made it impossible to respond by taking a huge bite of his
sighed, gazing absently at her plate. “I’m glad Mrs. Warner’s going
to talk to the principal but I think I should call him, too. If that boy
is being bullied, someone needs to do something about it. And why should
you be suspended for helping out?”
That got Charlie’s attention. “Okay, Mom, that right there is why I
didn’t tell you.”
“That’s ridiculous. That’s why people think they can get away with
things they shouldn’t get away with. Because people don’t speak up.”
Charlie pleaded in horror. Even though he’d said ‘Mom’ he looked
directly at his father.
“All right,” Jack jumped in. “If Charlie doesn’t want to go to the
principal maybe we should respect his wishes.”
Sara shot him an ‘are you insane?’ look before she turned her
attention back to her son. “You’re both forgetting something here,”
she said. “Don’t you remember what happened to that young girl at
a few years ago?”
Oh, shit. He had forgotten, which was surprising because the media had
been all over the tragedy. A thirteen-year-old girl had taken an entire
bottle of her mother’s sleeping pills and not been discovered until the
following morning. In a note she left behind, she said she had been
harassed by her fellow students all year and she could no longer endure
the bullying and the ridicule.
A glance at his son’s guilty expression told Jack that Charlie had
forgotten as well. Sara had been the nurse on duty that day. She’d never
“You’re right, honey,” Jack admitted before looking at his oldest
son. “The more pressure the principal gets about what happened, the more
likely he’s going to work on fixing the problem.”
guess,” Charlie reluctantly agreed. He leaned back in his chair, and
played with his fork.
eyed him thoughtfully. “Bullying isn’t usually an isolated incident.
Those boys who were harassing Josh most likely have done the same to other
students.” She leaned toward her son. “If we see a wrong and don’t
speak against it, we become part of the problem.” Her eyes took on a
sad, misty look. “I wish someone had spoken up on behalf of that
thirteen-year-old child before it was too late.”
Charlie nodded but when he looked up Jack was glad to see the resolve in
his expression. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ll talk to the
know it won’t be easy. Would you like me to come with you?” His
mother’s smile was gentle.
thanks.” Charlie tried to smile. “If he doesn’t believe me – ”
“He will,” Jack cut in. “Remember, Josh’s mom is going to talk to
Charlie repeated. “I’ll see him during my study period. That’ll give
me almost an hour and he’ll probably have some questions.”
didn’t look happy about the idea but he did look determined and Jack
felt his heart swell with pride. His son was a long way from perfect but
when push came to shove, he usually came down on the right side.
eyes softened as she gazed at Charlie. “I’m proud of you, honey. For
standing up to those boys and helping Josh, and for being willing to talk
to the principal. I just wish you’d tell me these things so I didn’t
have to be mad before I could be proud.”
held back a smirk. Charlie’s cheeks were darker than usual again.
be too proud," he said and cleared his throat. "I almost
didn’t help him. I really wanted to just walk by. I knew I’d end up
getting in trouble.” He gulped down some milk.
“But you didn’t walk by,” Daniel said. It was the first time he’d
spoken since Mrs. Warner left. His expression as he gazed at his brother
was distinctly admiring. “You helped.”
and it’s all your fault,” Charlie accused.
fault?” Daniel repeated in astonishment. “How could any of this
possibly be my fault? I wasn’t even there.”
Jack and Sara exchanged confused looks. They both put down their forks to
listen to their oldest son expound on his theory. Charlie always told a
about it,” Charlie explained. “A skinny, little, geeky kid in glasses.
Gee, I wonder who he reminded me of?”
The table rocked with laughter and it was Daniel's turn to be embarrassed.
Unlike his brother, his fair skin easily showed his blush which made them
funny,” Daniel said after the laughter died down.
they finished eating Charlie and Daniel cleared the table and loaded the
dishwasher so Sara could get back to her computer. Jack watched from the
recliner in the living room, absently turning pages of his new Sports
Illustrated while he waited until Daniel grabbed his laptop and headed
upstairs. He really was proud and wanted Charlie to understand that,
despite the joking. He wished he could hug his son without embarrassing
him but those days were long gone.
“Homework?” Jack asked when Charlie came into the room.
loads. I better get started.”
“Yeah?” Charlie stopped at the staircase and turned around.
“That was a good thing you did today.”
“I really am proud of you,” Jack added.
“Thanks, Dad.” Charlie shuffled his feet, looking uncomfortable again.
“School isn’t going to be
fun for a while.”
know, but you’re doing the right thing.”
“I wish the right thing wasn’t such a pain in the butt sometimes,”
the teenager admitted.
“Ain’t that the truth?” Jack grinned.
Charlie agreed before heading upstairs.
Daniel was in his bedroom when he heard Charlie come upstairs and go into
his room. He wanted to talk to his brother and tell him what an amazing
thing he'd done today. He was sure Charlie had no idea how his bravery
could change a life, had changed a life. Without
giving himself any more time to think about it, Daniel went down the hall
and knocked lightly on his brother’s door.
“Yeah,” he heard and pushed it open.
Charlie was sitting at his desk, a large book open in front of him and a
pad of paper filled with numbers beside it. His computer wasn’t turned
on and Daniel thought it’d be good to begin the conversation with that.
thought you were doing homework?”
am doing homework.” Charlie grinned over his shoulder.
“Without your computer?”
gestured at the book. “I need to work this stuff out by hand. Once
I’ve got it figured out, then I’ll turn on the computer and make it
pretty for the teacher.”
Daniel walked over to stand beside the desk so he could face his brother.
From this position he saw the book laying open.
“Advanced algebra.” Daniel faked a shiver and Charlie’s grin
widened. “What d’ya expect, little bro? I’ve got to get this under
my belt because next year I’m looking at pre-calculus and then
had barely survived the minimum requirements to pass high school math, and
that only because of a lot of help from Sam. Neither Jack nor Sara had any
idea how much she had helped him and Daniel would never tell.
really like it?”
“It’s interesting,” Charlie admitted. “Besides, I want to be a
pilot, and planes and flying are all about math and physics. If I can’t
handle them in high school there’s no way I’ll make it through the
Academy. Hey.” He straightened suddenly and his eyes took on an all-too
what?” Daniel asked, immediately wary.
been meaning to ask if you’ll give a talk to my civics class.”
“Talk?” Daniel tried not to let his confusion show but it was
difficult. Once again he found himself in Charlie-land and that was always
a mystifying place to be.
“Talk,” Charlie repeated before taking pity on his bewildered brother.
“Mr. Hayes invites different people in the community to talk to the
class about careers and I thought you’d be good for that.”
What do they talk about?” Daniel's first impulse was to refuse but that
seemed unfair. The least he could do was listen to Charlie’s spiel.
their jobs, mostly. Like last time we had a firefighter come in. He told
us what life was like for firefighters, the things they did besides put
out actual fires, that kind of stuff. It was interesting.”
It sounded like it would be interesting. But... “I’m not a
firefighter, Charlie. I don’t have any exciting stories to tell.” At
least not to anyone who didn’t hold a top secret clearance.
fifteen years old, you have a PhD in languages – ” Charlie gave him
his patented “duh” look.
Daniel couldn’t help correcting.
you work for the United States Air Force,” Charlie barreled on, “doing
who knows what. I think that’s very interesting.”
I can’t talk about what I do.”
“You can talk about what it was like getting your PhD, how grown-ups
treat you, especially at the base, and I’m sure you’ve have some
funny, not classified, stories you could share with us about life as a
Daniel almost smiled but he didn’t want to encourage him. Charlie had
obviously been thinking about this but the thought of talking to a
room-full of 16- and 17-year-olds about his life and work was more than
“I don’t know,” he said evasively, trying to think of a good excuse
to say no.
come on,” Charlie coaxed. “I talked to Mr. Hayes about it and he
thinks it’s a great idea. I didn’t tell him how old you are or that
you’re my brother.”
a little extra surprise. And,” he added with a grin, “if anyone gives
you any grief I’ll take care of them. I promise.” Charlie flexed his
was turning on the charm and looking at Daniel with pleading eyes which
was totally unfair. Daniel found himself wavering.
I’m not sure. I mean, I’m really busy.”
okay, it wouldn’t happen right away.” Obviously Charlie suspected he
was weakening and now he moved in for the kill. “I could tell Mr. Hayes
to schedule you toward the end of next semester. That’ll give you months
“All right,” he sighed. It wasn't easy to say no to Charlie.
“Great!” Charlie offered a high five but lowered his hand when Daniel
only looked at him. “You seem tired,” he noted sympathetically.
“Maybe you should take a nap or something?”
“When I’m going to bed in a few hours?” Daniel shook his head.
“Thanks, but I’ve got work to do.”
Charlie nodded, then frowned. “Wait a minute. You came in here to see
me, didn’t you? About what?”
it to Charlie to totally distract him. “Actually,” he cleared his
throat, “I just wanted to tell you that I was really impressed by what
you did today.”
– ” Charlie looked ill at ease again.
“Wait, just let me say it, okay?” Daniel barely waited for his brother
to nod before hurrying on. “At
, I hear a lot of things, and one of the things that really bothers me is
how often people try to duck the tough issues in favor of simplistic
answers. Today you stood up for something big. You stood up for someone
who needed help, and tomorrow you’re going to stand up for kids you
don’t even know when you talk to the principal.”
“Not a lot of people would do what you did,” Daniel went on quickly,
ignoring his brother’s attempt to interrupt. He needed to finish this
before they both died of embarrassment. “It takes... it takes a lot of
courage. Not that long ago I was that kid," Daniel paused to remember
the name, "I was that kid, Josh. I was the kid getting picked
on." He lowered his voice. "I went to a lot of different schools
when I was growing up and no one ever stood up for me, not until I met
you. I’m glad we ended up brothers.” Not giving Charlie a chance to
respond, Daniel retreated to the door and paused.
“And I know you're going to do great at the Academy, Charlie. I think
the Air Force should be grateful to have you.” He slipped out of the
room and closed the door behind him.
Back in the safety of his room, he breathed a sigh of relief, then smiled.
Charlie was probably still staring at the door. In shock. Hopefully he’d
recover by morning.
for the first time Daniel thanked the fates for a drunken foster parent
who’d put him in the hospital over five years ago, just in time to meet
a nurse named Sara O’Neill.
The monthly Mission Planning meeting was perhaps the most important of all
the regularly scheduled meetings at the SGC. All SG team leaders were
required to attend, as were the heads of all of the departments,
scientific, linguistic and archeological. It was at these meetings that
any and all issues, both positive and negative, that could impact the SG
teams were brought up for discussion, argument, and, usually, some type of
Daniel had attended a number of the Mission Planning meetings, but always
in a supporting role. Usually, it was Dr. Kerrigan who spoke on behalf of
the Linguistics Department, whether in response to questions raised by SG
team members or to provide new information discovered through analysis of
the writings from various alien objects. Daniel normally provided back-up.
He was content with his mostly behind-the-scenes role.
Today was different and Daniel was hard-pressed not to give in to his
fight-or-flight instinct that was screaming loudly in his head -
seemed like years, not weeks, ago when SG-2 briefly visited P19-136 and
found the remains of a civilization destroyed millennia ago. Nothing of
interest to the SGC had been discovered so the planet was relegated to the
bottom of the list of those worlds deemed worthy of a follow-up visit.
The military thinking notwithstanding, Daniel and his fellow linguists and
archeologists had found something of interest in SG-2’s mission, because
someone on the team had thought to videotape one of the few walls still
standing outside an ancient city of ruins. The wall contained writing
almost impossible to read, but it was enough to excite the linguists and
archeologists. Daniel was certain that some of the language belonged to
the mysterious race known as the Ancients. He was anxious to visit the
planet for an up close and in person look at the writings. He and Dr.
Kerrigan and Dr. Drake, had fleshed out a plan on how to get the military
to come around to their point of view.
had taken some time to come up with what they thought was the right
approach. Once it had been put on the master log for future discussion at
a Mission Planning meeting, it had taken a few more weeks to work through
other matters with higher priority.
was the day. Ordinarily, Daniel would be filled with excitement. Instead,
he was filled with fear and dread and a growing sense of inadequacy for
the task at hand.
Kerrigan should have been here to make the presentation, but he was under
orders from Dr. Fraiser to stay home because he was sick with an
As sympathetic as Daniel felt for his mentor’s distress, he was even
more sympathetic for his own distress. This had *not* been part of his
plan but there was no alternative. If he didn’t raise the possibility of
a mission to P19-136, today, it would be tabled for some future time, and
who knew when that would be? Besides, it had been his idea.
helped that Dr. Drake was sitting across from him, sending him silent
looks of support. It helped but only a little. Daniel hoped he wasn’t
going to throw up.
“Very well.” General Hammond brought an end to the current discussion
and Daniel was chagrined to realize he had no idea what they’d been
talking about. He was only grateful no one had asked for input from the
"Next up..." the General shuffled through his papers and then
looked directly at him. "P19-136."
swallowed hard, took a breath, then coughed and tried to clear his throat.
“A minute, sir.” Jack rose and turned toward the table that held the
large coffee urn and several pitchers of ice water. He poured two glasses
of water and set one down in front of his son before retaking his seat
beside the General and sipping from his own glass.
you.” Daniel barely managed to keep his voice from squeaking.
“Dr. Jackson is going to brief us on the benefits of a mission to
P19-136. Let’s give him our full attention.” General Hammond gave him
a slightly paternal smile.
looked down at the neat sheaf of papers in front of him, fighting back his
stage fright. He reminded himself how great his plan had sounded and how
easy it had been to explain to the other scientists. Now that he was here,
he realized those scientists were friends who thought the same way he
thought. It was going to be a lot tougher to sell this idea to the
military. Especially to Jack. He picked up the water and took a drink,
grateful Jack had thought to get it for him.
took a deep breath to settle his nerves. He knew everyone in the room. If
he saw them in the commissary he wouldn’t hesitate to share a meal and
have a conversation. He wasn’t sure why it was so different sitting
around the conference table, being in the spotlight. No, he knew why. This
was the first pitch he’d be giving on his own; maybe that was why his
hands shook slightly and his mouth was dry despite the water. The other,
more important reason was because he wanted this mission to happen. It
would happen. He just needed to stick to the plan.
After clearing his throat a few more times he proceeded to give a little
background on the planet and then passed around copies of the blurry photo
they’d captured off the video camera of the Ancient writings.
the symbol at the upper right corner of the picture?" He spoke with
as much confidence as he could manage. "That’s the Ancient symbol
can you tell?” Major Reynolds asked, frowning at the symbol.
rushed in to explain how he, along with Dr. Kerrigan and Dr. Drake, had
cleaned up the image and used the computer to enhance the writings to make
out the text, which was how Daniel had been able to determine it was most
By his tone, it was obvious the Major wasn’t questioning Daniel’s
skill as a translator as much as he was the fuzzy picture. Daniel noted
that Major Kawalsky and Jack both wore puzzled looks as well, and Major
Ferretti was actually holding the photo upside down. This might be more
difficult than he’d envisioned.
we see the enhanced photo?” Major Kawalsky asked.
“That is the enhanced photo.” Stay calm, Daniel ordered himself.
“That’s why we need to go back. There’s obviously a lot more writing
like this on the planet. There's other writing, and pictographs, as well.
A mission to the planet would enable us to find out about the people who
once lived on this world, their culture and history... ” Oops. Time to
change gears and go with the angle he and the other scientists agreed had
the best chance of succeeding.
from all that,” he continued before any of the Majors, or the General,
or a certain Colonel, had time to interrupt and mention the obvious, “we
need to try to find out who or what destroyed that world and caused the
ruins. Perhaps there was a battle between the native people and the
Goa'uld?” Major Ferretti looked up from the photo he was still studying
was tempted to point out the error but refrained. He only nodded and
checked his notes. This was the part he needed to get right.
“The ruins clearly point to a great battle, more likely a war that
lasted many years. It’s important to figure out, if possible, what
happened, who won and how.” That was something that would pique the
military’s interest and that’s the point he wanted to impress upon
see a problem with that, Daniel.” It was Major Reynolds again. “The
winners weren’t the inhabitants of the planet, since it doesn’t look
like they stuck around afterwards. The planet’s inhabitants were wiped
out. Hence the ruins.”
He spoke matter-of-factly, as if to a peer. Daniel appreciated that but he
wasn’t about to let the soldier’s observation stand unchallenged.
“Not necessarily,” he pointed out. “We don’t know how this
civilization was destroyed. They could have won the battle and something
else could have led to their demise. An interplanetary battle, disease, we
won’t know until we go there and decipher the writings. If I could see
the writings up close, I might be able to figure out what connection the
Ancients had to this world, and maybe then we could know for sure what
couldn’t tell by Major Reynolds’ shrug whether he agreed, but at least
he didn’t seem to have a follow-up question. Daniel finished delivering
the rest of his points, keeping as close as possible to the original
outline he and Dr. Kerrigan and Dr. Drake had drawn up. Whenever he felt
uncertain he looked across the table and Dr. Drake would give him a small
nod or a smile, or some other sign of encouragement to keep him going.
finished with his presentation, Daniel looked at the smart, tough,
experienced soldiers and brilliant scientists and academics sitting around
the table. He had tried hard to keep the expertise of his audience out of
his thoughts but he felt more than a little daunted by the men and women
in this room.
there any more questions?” In an effort to hide his doubts, Daniel
picked up the glass Jack had given him and took another sip.
He had to ask, but he really hoped there weren’t any. The presentation
had sounded so good, so logical in his office. In front of this group of
skeptics, his arguments had sounded a little thin.
“Why the Goa'uld?” Leave it to Jack to ask the question Daniel had
been hoping to avoid.
“What?” He sought to buy a little time while he gathered his thoughts.
evidence do you have that it may have been the Goa'uld that wiped out the
inhabitants?” Jack looked at him with raised eyebrows. There was nothing
challenging in his tone. On the other hand, there was no give in it,
either. This wasn’t Jack O’Neill, his dad, talking. It was Colonel
O’Neill, 2IC of the SGC and savior of the world, more than once,
wished he had a little more water in his glass because his throat had gone
dry again. For years he had asked Jack to treat him as he would any other
scientist, but now – this one time - he wished his father would cut him
some slack and give him a break.
The truth was, there wasn’t any actual evidence that the Goa'uld were
involved in the destruction. That was the part Daniel had been hoping to
slip in unnoticed. This was it. He had to word this just right.
“There’s no evidence one way or the other,” he offered calmly.
“However, the Goa'uld have been the dominant force in our galaxy for
centuries and it’s more likely than not they did this damage. Even if it
wasn’t the Goa'uld, it was someone of great power and ruthlessness
similar to the Goa'uld. The civilization was destroyed, remember?” He
picked up the blurry reproduction.
“Someone or something caused these ruins. It seems to me that the SGC
would want to know as much as possible about whoever did this.”
Forgetting his nerves, he spoke with a passion that belied his fifteen
years. “And this photo,” he shook it for emphasis, “shows the
Ancient symbol for protection that I mentioned earlier. If the planet was
under the Ancients’ protection, then, from what we know of the Ancients,
it would have taken an incredibly powerful race to defeat them.”
Providing, of course, the Ancients had lived on the planet at the time. It
was just as likely they’d brought the people there to live and develop
on their own – like the Asgard had done with the Cimmerians. After which
they’d have left behind a sign that the world was under their
protection. But in that case, wouldn’t the Ancients have stepped in if
the planet was attacked? There was no way to know. There were too many
‘ifs,’ and that was one of the main reasons Daniel wanted to visit the
planet. To find answers to his questions.
was nothing more to say. He’d done the best he could. The rest was up to
the people sitting around the table. Daniel couldn’t tell from their
expressions whether they bought into his reasons of why the planet would
be worth revisiting. He’d have to wait and see.
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson,” General Hammond said. “You’ve given us a
lot to think about. We’ll take it under careful consideration.”
“Thank you, sir,” Daniel answered. He leaned back in his seat, trying
not to show his relief while the General wrapped things up. When the C.O.
of the SGC stood, so did everyone else. Daniel stopped himself from making
a last desperate plea; he knew that wouldn’t be very mature of him.
Instead, he picked up his notes and put them back into his folder, gave
Jack his most professional nod, and left the conference room.
of the SG team leaders trailed out but Kawalsky came up behind Jack, in
need of one last cup of coffee.
briefing,” he said as he nudged Jack at the coffee machine.
filled his cup and took a sip; he couldn’t help smiling. “Clever
little bugger, isn’t he? And I wonder who he thinks should go on that
all important mission. Hmm, who do we know that can translate Ancient?”
Kawalsky laughed. “Technically, he is the best choice to check out those
ruins, isn’t he?”
knew you were going to say that.”
worry, old buddy. I was there,” Kawalsky patted his shoulder.
“There’s nothing but a bunch of rocks with squiggly writing on
may have been written by the Ancients.” Jack had to give his boy credit.
He’d made a good case for the SGC to go back to the planet, although
Jack had no doubt about Daniel’s motives, which had nothing to do with
military concerns. “I guess we'll have to wait and see what the General
decides.” He decided not to jump the gun.
“You know it’ll be a go. The kid made a hell of a case.” Kawalsky
drained his coffee cup.
what I’m afraid of.” Jack smiled in spite of himself. “Yep, that’s
the rest of the day went smoothly and Jack and Daniel left the Mountain in
time to eat dinner with Sara and Charlie. It was an all too rare, week-day
family meal around the dining room table, and Jack relished it. It felt so
warm and normal. Some days, he needed warm and normal to counteract what
went on 24/7 at the SGC, where things were never warm and fuzzy, and
rarely normal. He suspected, whether the kid admitted it or not, that
Daniel needed the normalcy, too.
Jack glanced across the table at Daniel and the excitement that shone on
the boy’s face snapped him back to reality. Daniel was joining SG-1 on
an off-world mission tomorrow. It was nothing special, just the
semi-annual checking in with the residents of P3X-797. SG-1 would also be
taking some medicine with a name far too long for Jack to remember. Tuplo
had sent a message through the MALP that a few of their youngsters were
showing signs of “the curse of the Touched.”
they knew from experience, the medication would make quick work of the
problem. Then there would be good food and good conversation with good
people. Off-world. That thought never got old; there was nothing simple or
normal about it.
passed the bowl of gravy across the table. “Are you going to get Karen
flowers for the dance tomorrow night?”
eyes turned to her, then to Charlie, and Jack nearly laughed at the look
of shock on his son’s face.
Charlie swallowed hard to avoid choking on his baked potato.
might know what she’d like.” Sara smiled.
Daniel’s blank expression it was clear he had no idea what she’d like.
The teenager was probably too busy puzzling out what books to include for
tomorrow’s mission to be of much help, even if he did know. Jack decided
to sit back and enjoy the show.
not getting her flowers.” Charlie kept it short and sweet, and followed
up his words with a large bite of meatloaf, temporarily rendering himself
grinned while Daniel looked relieved his brother had answered before
he’d been forced into the conversation.
“Why not?” Sara asked. “You have to get her something. It’s
expected.” She snared a small piece of meatloaf with her fork. “Girls
appreciate that,” she added before putting it into her mouth.
“No offense, Mom, but it’s been a long time since you were a girl.”
Charlie guzzled down some milk, clearly not convinced.
yourself, son.” Jack chimed in, keeping his amusement at bay.
still like gifts.” Sara was undaunted. “I’m sure that hasn’t
changed.” His wife’s stubborn streak was in full sway, another reason
Jack intended to stay out of it.
“No gifts,” Charlie said with finality. He could be just as stubborn.
“Well, what are you going to wear?” Sara kept the pressure on.
“Wear?” Charlie looked at his father who quickly looked down at his
potato. Uh-uh. The kid was on his own.
wear. Do I need to wash anything? This is your first date. Or at least
your first official date.”
“Okay, first of all this is not a date." Charlie’s cheeks
darkened. "I’m going with Karen. You know Karen. Daniel’s friend,
Karen.” Charlie looked at Daniel who had returned to eating quietly,
apparently lost in his own thoughts. Hearing his name caught his
Karen’s my friend.” he confirmed when Charlie kept staring.
His eldest was barking up the wrong tree, Jack knew. Daniel would be no
help at all this evening.
I’m wearing jeans,” Charlie continued. “Jeans and a t-shirt, just
like I always wear. It’s a dance, not the senior prom. The school has
them all the time. I went to one last spring, Mom. You remember? It’s no
“Yes, I remember but you didn’t take a date to that dance.” When
Charlie glared she hastily added, “Or a friend.”
“I’ve got it covered,” he said flatly.
I give up.” Sara threw her hands up as Charlie breathed an audible sigh
of relief. “But,” she added, “I still think it would be nice if you
gave her something.”
“This meatloaf is really good.” Charlie kept his eyes on his plate and
attacked the food like a starving man.
next day Charlie was surprised at how many of the conversations around
school focused on tonight’s dance. It seemed like everyone he talked to
wanted to discuss who was going with who, and, especially among the girls,
what everyone would be wearing. He’d never noticed this before he’d
actually had a date. Or an almost date.
All the talk made Charlie re-think his mother’s words at dinner last
night. Was Mom right? Did girls expect something from the guy they were
going to a dance with? Even girls like Karen who were just friends?
had no idea. There was no one at school to ask. Most of his friends dated
far more than he did. Then again, none of his friends were hoping to be
accepted into the Air Force Academy, which required a lot of work to keep
his grades up. He’d had casual dates, movies with girls and friends, and
he’d made out with a few girls at parties. But when he thought about it,
he’d never been out on what he thought of as an official date. Like a
dance. He was sixteen years old. How pathetic was that? He was the only
guy he knew without real dating experience. Even Spencer was seeing Angela
Parker. She was nice but demanding of his friend’s time.
For most of his life, Charlie’s interests and activities had focused on
sports and, since middle school, the Academy. Only in the last year had he
begun to really notice girls. Girls liked him. They didn’t hide the fact
but even though he was growing increasingly interested, he wasn’t quite
sure what to do about it. All he knew for certain is that he didn’t want
to be tied down. Spencer and Brian were more taken with the idea of having
a girlfriend than they were with the actual girls, though they enjoyed
ragging their buddy, Charlie, whenever the topic came up.
didn’t care what any of them thought. He had goals and wasn’t going to
let anything or anyone stand in his way. That comforting thought was
always uppermost in his mind.
Today, as he sat through his classes, he wondered for the first time if he
was missing out on some of the experiences of being a teenager. He
didn’t drink, or smoke weed, or cigarettes for that matter. None of that
interested him. Girls were becoming increasingly interesting but he’d
never had full-blown sex with a girl. He had no intention of giving up on
his dreams. He was too close. He just hoped in the end it would all be
bell rang, dismissing Charlie from algebra class. He realized he'd thought
more about girls than he had about math today. What he really wanted to
know was if Mom was right. Did Karen expect something from him, and if so,
what? What did girls like? Spencer or Brian or his other friends would
laugh themselves silly at his dilemma.
He checked his watch. It was 1500 hours. Dad and Daniel were leaving for
their secret mission in the afternoon. Maybe they hadn’t left yet.
Daniel knew Karen better than anyone. He might be able to help with his
pulled out his phone and started to hit the speed dial for Daniel's cell
phone before catching himself. After all these years, he knew personal
cell phones couldn’t be used in top-secret military bases. He punched in
the number he was supposed to call for
and took a second to remember the code he needed to provide to get through
with a minimum amount of frustration. It was difficult to remember because
the security codes changed every few weeks. It was maddening when a guy
was in a hurry. After all that, he finally heard what he hoped was the
right number ringing.
Jackson,” said a familiar voice, sounding rushed.
“Hey, it’s me. I have a question for you.”
is this, please?”
Charlie chuckled at his brother’s confusion. He must be in one of his
super-focused moods, not recognizing his own brother's voice. Then again,
when Daniel was in one of those moods, he didn’t recognize anyone’s
me, Charlie, your brother. I’m glad you’re still around.”
“Oh, Charlie.” Daniel’s voice trailed off for a second. “Sorry,
it’s really not a good time.”
“Are you at the airport?"
“The airport?” His brother sounded bewildered.
“Yeah, aren’t you and Dad going away for a couple of days?” Now
Charlie was confused. Maybe the trip was canceled and Daniel could join
them at the dance. That would be a relief. “Did your mission get
“Oh, no, I have to leave in a few minutes. I really can’t talk right
now. I’m in the middle of packing up what I need.”
worry, this won’t take long.” They must be flying out of Peterson,
Charlie decided. “I have that thing with Karen tonight and I was
wondering if you think I should bring her something. Will she expect
Daniel must have covered the phone but Charlie still heard his muffled
voice yell, “I’m coming, Sam.”
“I know you have to go but any suggestions at all would help. What about
candy? Does she like candy?”
There was a brief pause. “She loves peanut butter M&Ms. I hate to
cut you off, Charlie, but I really have to go.”
“Yeah, yeah, keep your shorts on.” Geesh, what was the rush? Daniel
wasn’t even at the airport. “Peanut M&M’s, that could work.”
“Can you call me when you’re on the plane?” Charlie chuckled at
Daniel’s pleading. His brother was too polite to just hang up.
For a genius his brother could be incredibly slow on the uptake.
"Yeah, the plane. Maybe you could call me. You’re taking your cell
phone with you, aren’t you? Or is the Air Force afraid someone will
track your GPS signal?”
“Is that true?” Charlie was incredulous. Could what Daniel was doing
be that important? He’d just made that up.
"Goodbye, Charlie.” There was a slightly desperate note in Daniel's
I’ll let you go but can I call you tonight if I need you?”
I won’t get a signal.”
“Really? Not even with Verizon?”
“Probably not.” Daniel chuckled.
“What about the internet?”
Now Daniel laughed out loud. “No, no internet either.”
“Oh come on. You’re kidding, right? They have the internet in
for crying out loud.”
not going to Afghanistan.” Daniel laughed again.
Charlie heard someone calling his brother’s name.
“That’s Sam. They’re looking for me. I have to go. Bye, Charlie.
“Yeah, you, too,” Charlie said right before the phone clicked. No
internet? Wherever Daniel was going, he was happy not to be going with
hours later, Charlie checked himself in the mirror and felt for the bag of
Peanut M&M’s in his jacket pocket. Not bad, he decided, before
trotting down the stairs. He heard pots clanking from the kitchen.
“I’m going, Mom.” he yelled. Now if only he could escape before she
showed up to give him the third degree and some last minute advice.
Charlie couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment but at some point since
returning from UCLA his mom had begun to... hover. He supposed she was
just being a mom but it wore on his nerves. He had his hand on the front
doorknob when she came out of the kitchen.
soon?” She checked her watch. “Oh, sorry. I lost track of time. I’ll
get my coat.”
“Your coat?” What was she talking about?
“Don’t you need a ride? I was going to pick up Karen and drop the two
of you off.”
Charlie stepped in front of her to stop her from opening the closet door
for her jacket.
mom is driving us. Karen’s going with a bunch of her friends. We’re
going to meet up there.” He was glad he’d called his best bud for a
ride. It would be a relief when he finally had his license and could drive
so it’s not a real date.” She sounded disappointed.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
“All right.” She took a step backward and smiled at him and Charlie
was surprised to realize they were nearly the same height. When had that
“Have fun,” she said, patting his arm. “Do you have a ride home?”
“Yeah. Don’t worry.”
“I won’t, but call me if you need a ride, or anything else.”
don’t forget the dance moves I taught you.”
opened his mouth, then closed it when he saw the twinkle in her eyes. She
was teasing. “Ha, ha."
the open door he saw Spencer's car pull up in front of the house. Just in
“Gotta go,” he said quickly.
waved at him as he made his escape. Moms, they were unpredictable and they
worried about the silliest things.
drive to school only took a few minutes, barely long enough for Charlie
and Spencer to catch up. After Spencer’s mom dropped them off in the
school parking lot, they took a short cut through the middle of the campus
to the gym.
Spencer said, grinning as he patted his shirt.
Charlie felt a slight quiver in his stomach. He couldn’t be nervous, it
was only Karen.
go.” He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt.
Walking into the gym, Charlie’s first thought was that they were in the
wrong place. Someone, probably several someones, had really done up the
place. There were tables around the perimeter with white paper tablecloths
and big, fake tropical flowers hanging everyone. He assumed they were
going for an island paradise look. Actually, it didn't look half bad.
“Wow, looks different,” he muttered and Spencer laughed.
"Hey, there’s Brian and Terry.”
Spencer pointed toward the bleachers where the guys were sitting and
talking. Charlie was relieved to see they were all pretty much dressed
like him. So much for his mom’s advice. Good thing he’d had the sense
to follow his gut.
He followed Spencer over, scanning the gym but not seeing Karen. They sat
down with their friends while he did a last check of the dance floor.
she’s not coming,” he mused. He probably should have called before
“You might be smart, O’Neill, but you know nothing about women.”
Brian shook his head in mock disgust.
That was the truth. “Sure I do.” Charlie might be pretty clueless
about the opposite sex but he wasn’t about to admit it. “Hey,
where’s Angela?” He didn’t see the pretty brunette Spencer had been
that’s what we’re talking about.” Spencer patted Charlie’s
shoulder. “The girls aren’t going to risk getting here first.
They’ll all come in a little late because they want us to be sitting
here, waiting for them. Like we are.”
“Karen wouldn’t care.” Charlie was confident of that. Why would she?
She was Daniel’s friend, not his girlfriend.
“They all care,” Spencer insisted.
“Why are you meeting up with her, anyway?” Brian asked. “You got a
secret thing for her?”
“No,” Charlie said a little louder than he intended. Brian had come a
long way from the jerk he used to be, but he still had his jerky moments.
Hmm, maybe Karen had Brian in mind when she talked about teenage guys
back a smile at the thought, he added, “I told you, she wanted to go
with Daniel but he’s busy, so we just decided to go together. That’s
all there is to it. There’s no secret thing.” Charlie led with bravado
to cover any potential embarrassment. A trick he’d learned from his dad.
“Rachel Hoffman likes you,” Brian returned unexpectedly. “Whoa, look
what she’s wearing.” They all looked while he kept talking. “She
broke up with Tyler Marshall last week and she’s really hot. You should
ask her to dance.” Brian’s eyes were bugging out of his head at
Rachel’s tight pants and low cut blouse.
“How do you know she likes me?" As much as Charlie appreciated the
view, he wasn’t about to risk embarrassment.
“She told me. She asked me if you were seeing anyone. You should ask her
out. She is smoking hot,” Brian repeated, waggling his eyebrows.
don’t know. She’s too...”
“What?” Spencer and Terry asked simultaneously.
hot?” Brian mocked.
Charlie couldn’t explain it to his friends. He had no interest in Rachel
Hoffman. She came from a rich family and was very demanding, needing
constant gifts and attention. He knew because Tyler
had confided in him one day after practice.
had broken up with her but he’d let everyone think it was the other way
around. He’d told Charlie he felt like a man who’d just been released
“I heard she’s pretty high maintenance. She’s not my type.”
Charlie would leave it at that.
“Not your type? Are you nuts? She’s gorgeous!” Brian let out a low
whistle. “If she wanted to go out with me I wouldn’t care how high
maintenance she was. If she said jump, I’d ask how high, and I’d like
They all laughed at Brian’s assessment.
who would you like to go out with?” Spencer nudged his shoulder. “Who
would meet Charlie O’Neill’s incredibly high standards?”
Charlie kept his mouth shut to hold back the name that immediately leaped
to mind. Kim Hanlon. She was cute and she seemed like fun. They had sat
together on the bus when the girls’ volleyball team had hitched a ride
with his basketball team for an away game with a rival school. She shared
his love of sports and she didn’t talk all girly and act silly around
If he was going to ask a girl out on an official date, it’d be Kim.
He’d almost summoned the courage last month but then found out she was
dating Dave Astor. That hadn’t lasted long, just a couple of weeks. As
far as Charlie knew, she was free again. Maybe he would ask her out.
He’d just have to keep it a secret from his nosy friends until she said
yes. And more importantly, keep it a secret from his mom.
settled for a shrug in answer to Spencer’s question. He wasn’t about
to give up his interest in Kim. It’d be all over Facebook within the
hour. If he was going to ask her, he’d ask her himself, not through all
of his and her friends.
you’re weird,” Spencer said good-naturedly and they all laughed.
there’s your date.” Brian pointed out Karen walking in between two
girls. One was her friend, Sheila. Charlie didn’t recognize the other
looks okay.” Spencer gave him a nod of approval. “But Brian’s right.
Since the two of you are just friends, ask Rachel to dance if you get the
“Karen does look okay,” Brian agreed, “but her two friends are dogs.
I know the dark-haired one is Sheila Sheridan but I don’t know the
“Hey, knock it off. Whoever they are, they’re Karen’s friends. Be
nice.” Charlie didn’t care if his friends thought he was overreacting.
He didn’t like kids being picked on just because they were a little
different. It made him think of his recent fight, defending Josh, the
freshman who reminded him of Daniel. Brian’s harsh words made him wonder
what they’d being saying about Karen if she wasn’t his date for the
“Don’t be so touchy,” Brian said defensively. “I’m just pointing
out the obvious.”
Charlie gave him a stern look. “I’ll see you guys later.” He jumped
down off the bleachers and met Karen and her friends by the refreshment
“Hello, ladies.” He stepped in front of the trio and flashed his most
Sheila’s cheeks blushed pink. The thin blonde girl looked down at her
shoes and mumbled a faint “hi” while Karen rolled her eyes.
“Hi, Charlie. I see you brought your entourage.” She nodded up to the
Charlie looked up and saw that Wallace, McDermott and Ron Oliver had
joined Spencer, Terry and Brian. They did look kind of... something,
sitting there, especially when they were doing what all guys did –
watching the girls and passing judgment.
They weren’t his entourage and Charlie didn’t want to start the
evening off on the wrong foot, so he decided it was best to ignore the
statement. “So, here we are.” He rubbed his hands together to cover a
sudden attack of nerves.
here we are,” Karen agreed. “You know Sheila.”
“Yep, hey, Sheila.”
this is my cousin, Lily.” Karen gave an affectionate pat to the blonde
girl’s shoulder. “She’s staying for the weekend. I wanted her to
meet Daniel, and of course he has to be out of town this weekend.”
“Charlie, did Brian bring a date?” Sheila interrupted.
that wasn’t going to work. He’d have to head that off before something
bad happened. Brian and Spencer weren’t very diplomatic when it came to
women. Brian even less so than Spencer.
I think he’s seeing Rene Majors.” That was partially true. Brian liked
Rene Majors and they had been out a few times. The problem was that Rene
liked lots of guys.
Sheila’s face fell for a second. “Hey, there’s Scott from math
class. He said he’d be here. I should go over and say hi.” She smiled
at Karen. “Maybe he’ll want to dance.”
was impressed and realized he shouldn’t have worried. Sheila had guts.
He should have remembered that from the few times she’d been over to the
house with Karen, visiting Daniel. Sheila could take care of herself.
going to go sit down.” Lily’s soft voice was barely a whisper. Charlie
couldn’t help giving her a quick, assessing look. She was thin and pale
with plain features and too much make-up, probably in an effort to cover
the acne scars on her cheeks and chin. He suddenly felt sorry for her.
don’t be afraid to talk to people,” Karen encouraged. “Be
headed straight for a seat at one of the empty tables. She didn’t look
like she’d be talking to anyone any time soon.
“She looks scared,” he observed.
shy,” Karen explained. “She doesn’t normally come to these things
but I talked her into it since you and I were already meeting up. I think
one of the reasons she’s shy is because of her skin problems. You know
how the morons will treat her.” She threw a look of disgust at the
bleachers. “I told her they were the same way with me because of my
stutter and I don’t let them dictate what I feel or do and she
shouldn’t either.” She stopped and exhaled. “Sorry, I guess I get
carried away on the subject."
sounded a lot like Daniel. Charlie nodded in understanding. “We can go
sit with her and hang out if you want to. I’d be okay with that.”
Karen looked him up and down and snorted. “If you think you’re getting
out of dancing with me that easy, you’re crazy. You do know how to
dance, don’t you?”
Daniel was right, she was smart. She saw right through him. His heart beat
a little faster at what was about to happen.
“I’ve been to dances before.” Evasion tactics might work.
not what I asked you. Do you know how to dance?” Her eyes sparkled like
she was laughing at him.
“Not really.” There was no point lying.
Karen laughed out loud. “There, was that so hard to admit? Men,” she
huffed. “Come on, I’ll show you. It’s easy, just feel the music and
followed her out into the middle of the gym where others were already
dancing, hoping he’d be able to hear the music over the pounding of his
heart. What the heck, he had to learn some time. This was actually
perfect. It wasn’t quite as nerve-wracking dancing with a friend as it
would be with a girl he was trying to impress.
this.” Karen showed him a few moves. “Good. Now just move your arms to
the music.” She snapped her fingers to the beat.
The song sped up and Charlie sped up with it, pleased that it seemed to be
working. It turned out, dancing was actually fun. He had no idea how he
looked to the scrutinizing eyes in the bleachers but he didn’t care.
Besides, they’d be looking at the girls, not at him.
He relaxed into the beat of the music and Karen kept up with him, her eyes
bright with enjoyment. He had to admit, he could get used to this.
stopped when the music stopped and Karen shook her head as if in disgust.
Charlie felt of touch of discomfort.
Maybe he didn’t do as well as he thought he had.
“O’Neill, is there anything you’re not good at?”
She grinned and Charlie chuckled at the left-handed compliment. Another
fast song started up and they stopped talking and went back to dancing. As
he became more comfortable he occasionally mimicked her moves and the
other kids dancing.
a few more songs, Karen stopped, a little breathless. “I need a break,
and something to drink.”
“Okay,” Charlie agreed and walked off the floor with her. “
hieroglyphics,” he said. He tried not to laugh when Karen stared at him
in confusion. Finally he’d confused her.
“Something I’m not good at,” he clarified and they both laughed.
“Me neither,” she admitted and looked around the gym. “It’d be fun
if Daniel was here.”
was obvious Karen missed his little brother. It made Charlie wonder if she
and Daniel would ever be more than friends. No, probably not. He was
pretty sure Daniel carried a torch for someone else. It wasn’t anything
Charlie could put his finger on, just a feeling in his gut because of
Daniel’s evasive attitude the few times they’d talked about girls.
Charlie was biding his time. He’d figure it out sooner or later. It was
probably a crush on someone at the Mountain, since that was where Daniel
spent most of his time. Maybe Major Carter. Hmm...
you know where Daniel is?”
shook his head. “You know as much as I do. They don’t tell me
anything.” It had been like that for years but it still annoyed him.
“It’s so weird, that the Air Force has a kid working for them.” She
thought for a minute and smiled. “Have you ever seen ‘No Ordinary
brother does not have super powers,” Charlie said firmly. He better not.
If anyone on Earth was going to have super powers it should be him,
Charlie O’Neill. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise. No one had played
Superman and Spiderman and Batman more than he had when he’d been a
probably right.” Karen conceded. “It must be his brain they covet.”
certainly not his technological savvy.” Charlie thought about Daniel
answering his phone this afternoon.
laughed again. “You’ve got that right. Hey, you guys doing anything
special for the holidays?”
“I don’t know about special. We’re not going anywhere. My mom and
dad are throwing an open house for the soldiers working at the base, but
they do that almost every year. And of course there’ll be lots of great
food.” Charlie rubbed his stomach at the thought and grinned. “I
can’t believe it’s almost Christmas.”
“I know. My new stepdad wants to take us all on a ski trip. That’ll be
something new. I can’t wait.”
grin widened and Karen eyed him suspiciously. “Something funny about
“No,” he said quickly. “You just reminded me of what I’m giving
Daniel for Christmas.”
“Oh?” Her eyes gleamed with interest and he laughed.
“Nope, not telling.”
“You’re no fun.” She frowned in mock disgust.
“Maybe, maybe not.” Charlie felt around in his pocket for the
M&M’s. “Hey, I’ve got something for you.”
She looked a little nervous, then relieved when he pulled out the peanut
mom thought I should get you something,” he confessed. “She doesn’t
get that we were going as friends.”
my god, my mom, too! She was driving me crazy.” Karen was animated,
talking with her hands. “She couldn’t understand why you weren’t
picking me up at the house. I told her you didn’t have your license yet
but that didn’t slow her down.”
“They just don’t get it." Charlie nodded in sympathy. "They
think we’re going to some 1950’s sock hop or whatever they had in
moms should get together so they can talk about how it used to be and how
much better it was in the old days,” Karen said with a snicker.
long as we wouldn’t have to listen to them.” Charlie shivered at the
“Let’s get something to drink and I’ll crack these open.” She
shook the bag of candy. “Do you mind if we go sit with Lily for a
“No, of course not.” Charlie glanced over to see Lily still sitting
alone at a table.
He bought three bottles of water from the refreshment table. When he
turned back to Karen she was tearing open the bag.
“Oh yum, these are heavenly. “Here.” She held out the bag and he
gestured with the bottles.
me put these down first.”
“Okay.” They headed toward her cousin, Karen still popping M&M’s
in her mouth. “I love these. What made you buy them?”
“My mom kept saying I needed to bring something, that girls expect
that.” He shrugged. “I have no idea what girls expect so I thought,
better safe than sorry.”
“Thank god you didn’t bring flowers or something. That would have been
“Yeah,” Charlie agreed, relieved he’d followed his own idea and not
“Peanut butter M&M’s are my favorite,” she continued happily.
“Well, who wouldn’t like those, right?” He put on a cocky grin.
Karen paused in mid-chew to give him an assessing eye. “Daniel told
Charlie paused before confessing. “Yeah, he did.”
She laughed. “It’s okay, I’m impressed you asked him. You’re
slowly moving from the ‘partial non-jerk’ category and into the
‘boyfriend material’ territory."
was a few seconds of dead silence before she started laughing. “Geesh,
Charlie, don’t look so terrified. Not as my boyfriend, just as
here he thought he’d covered up his momentary panic. He joined her
laughter, marveling at the moment. He was having fun. Go figure.
they drew closer to the table, Charlie pulled on Karen’s arm to slow her
down. “Do you want me to ask Lily to dance?”
She stared at him with wide eyes and he tried not to squirm. “What? I
know I’m not that good of a dancer yet but I did okay.” He hesitated.
“It’s not that. It’s...” Karen groped for the right words. “All
your friends will see you. They’ll rag you about it.”
know me." Charlie made a face. "Have I ever cared about that?”
She paused, thinking about it. “No, I guess not.”
When they reached the table, he handed Lily one of the bottles of water.
The three of them talked for a while about school and lame classes and
lame teachers. Gradually Lily seemed to relax until Charlie decided the
time was right.
“Lily, do you want to dance?”
Her eyes, heavy with mascara, stared at him, then Karen, then back to him.
“You... you want to dance? With – ” she gulped audibly. “With
“Yeah, sure. Let's do it.”
Lily looked at Karen again who smiled in support. “One thing I’ve
learned about guys. They don’t do things they don’t want to do, at
least not without a lot of complaining.”
“Thanks a lot,” Charlie joked. “You ready, Lily?”
To be honest, she looked ready to bolt. Karen must have noticed too
because she put her arm around her cousin and gave her a quick hug.
not give it a try? I think you’ll have a good time.”
“Come on,” Charlie encouraged. “I can use the practice. Karen just
taught me how to dance tonight. Uh, don’t tell anyone that,” he added
with a smile.
finally smiled, too, and agreed. It turned out she was actually a very
good dancer, better than Karen, he decided. They
stayed out on the floor for the next song, too. When that song ended they
headed back to Karen.
“Thanks, Charlie,” Lily said softly. “I had fun.” She looked at
him with a genuine smile.
I should be thanking you," he answered. "You’re good. I
learned a few new moves out there.”
Sheila came back to join them and the four of them hung out, ate some
pizza, and laughed together. Charlie hadn’t expected to have such a good
time and he was pleasantly surprised. At one point, he checked the
bleachers and saw that Brian and Spencer and Wallace were still sitting up
there. He’d noticed Spencer on the floor dancing with Angela a little
while ago, but she’d apparently returned to her friends and Spencer went
back with the guys. He was pretty sure he was having more fun. He waved up
at them and they waved back.
let’s dance again.” Karen jumped up and took his arm, pulling him to
his feet and steering him away from Sheila and Lily. Surprised and a
little confused by her abruptness, he followed without protest. She
stopped before they made it to the dance floor.
“Is something wrong?” He hoped he hadn’t done anything to upset her.
He didn’t have the dance protocol rules down, especially not the ones on
how to act with your brother’s female friends.
“Thank you for dancing with Lily." Karen faced him squarely,
looking serious. "She looked like she had fun. That was the first
time she really smiled all night.”
“Oh, it was no problem.” Charlie was relieved everything was okay.
“It was fun for me, too. She really is a good dancer.”
“Okay, it’s official.” Karen was suddenly beaming. “You’re out
of the partial non-jerk category for good.”
Charlie smiled back. For the first time he felt like maybe she wasn’t
just Daniel’s friend but his friend, too. He didn’t say that out loud
because he wanted to keep things light.
“That’s a relief,” he said easily. “My high school goal has now
“Very funny.” She punched him lightly. “We all know what your high
school goals are.”
told you I’m going to the Air Force Academy?”
“Daniel?" Karen laughed at him. "Charlie, everyone at school
knows you want to go to the Air Force Academy. I don’t need Daniel to
tell me that."
“It’s practically all you ever talk about.”
felt his face heating up and was horrified by the idea he might be
blushing. He was thankful her next words made no mention of it.
“It’s not a bad thing,” she went on. “It’s good to know what you
want and to be so focused." Her eyes widened and she tugged on his
arm. "Hey, if you join the Air Force and you find out what Daniel’s
been doing, especially when he was a little kid, be sure to tell me,
“Only if you have clearance.” It was hard not to smile.
You, too, with the clearance." She let out a sigh of resignation.
Charlie turned at the sound of his name to see Spencer waving him over.
For once, he didn’t want to hang with his buddies; he was having a good
time with Karen and her friends. Besides, he suspected what was going on.
Spencer had probably talked to Angela and Angela had been hanging out with
ahead,” Karen said. “Lily, Sheila and I need some girl talk anyway.
But come back when you ready to dance some more.”
do," he promised and headed off.
“Hey, Charlie.” She waited until he turned back to face her.
“Dancing with Lily, hanging out with me and my friends, being a good
guy... that’s what girls really want.”
“Okay.” He grinned. “Good to know. I’ll be back in a few.”
When Jack was a little boy, his mother told him that, as he grew older,
time would seem to go by faster. He hadn’t believed her then, but he did
now. His three-day Christmas pass was a blur of memories and it was back
to business as usual. Well, as usual as business could be at the SGC.
The locker room was quiet and Jack fully expected to be alone. He was
looking forward to gathering his thoughts with a little quiet time before
their first mission since the three-day recess. It hadn’t been a long
vacation but long enough to feel refreshed.
Tollan were hiding something, he was sure of it. The fact that there’d
been no sign of Narim during their last two visits only added to Jack’s
suspicions. Travell’s explanation of Narim being “occupied with other
matters” didn’t wash, especially not with Carter.
there was the whole “trinium-for-an-ion-cannon” deal suddenly on the
table. Jack suspected Omac was turning over – hell, spinning - in his
grave at the idea. Maybe with a clear head and rested body he’d figure
out what had caused the Tollan sudden change of heart about sharing one of
their precious cannons.
was scheduled to go on a follow-up mission to Tollana at 0900 hours to
discuss certain issues raised by Pentagon officials. As eager as they were
to get their hands on a piece of high-tech alien hardware, someone with at
least an ounce of sense had realized they needed to get clarification on
the parameters. Like, for example, did the weapon contain security
protocols to prevent a worse-case scenario such as an ion cannon falling
into the wrong hands and destroying Earth? An equally important question
– could an ion cannon destroy Earth? Minor questions, right.
Secretly, Jack was pleased by the delay, mostly because it was sure to
annoy Travell and her crew who were pushing for fast action. Thinking
about their annoyance pleased him more. Maybe it wasn’t very
professional of him, but something about this deal bothered him and he was
glad for any delays. The more time they had, the better the chance they
could figure out if there was more going on than met the eye.
Jack hadn’t seen his 2IC since the Christmas break and hadn’t expected
to find her in the locker room yet. Because
he was early, he figured he’d be first in, but she was already geared
up, except for her boots placed neatly beside her stocking feet. She was
sitting on the bench reading from a thick binder, which he found
encouraging. She must be concerned about this Tollana thing, too. Maybe
she was studying up on the intel they had accumulated on Tollana. That
would be helpful.
“Colonel.” She looked up, not sounding all that thrilled to see him.
It occurred to him she had probably come in early to read in peace. Too
“Whatchya reading?” Jack peered down at the notebook. Now that he was
closer he realized it didn’t look like something put together by the SGC.
Carter perked up. “This is a paper written by an astrophysicist in Switzerland. Some of his wormhole theories are amazing and remarkably close to
what’s happening here. I’m trying to decide if it would be worth
approaching General Hammond to try to get him onboard.” She ran a hand
over the pages in a gesture that reminded him of Daniel.
“Interesting,” he said, trying to hold back his sarcasm. Carter had
such a broad range of interests that sometimes it was difficult to get her
focused in on his concerns. He was team leader of SG-1 and he was looking
for some input from his 2IC.
it’s very interesting, sir,” she returned eagerly. “His theory is
that just as there are two separate interior regions of the maximally
extended space-time, there are also two separate exterior regions, called
two different ‘universes.’”
"Really?" Jack thought the sarcasm might slow her down but she
didn't seem to notice.
second universe,” she continued blithely, “allows us to extrapolate
some possible particle trajectories in the two interior regions. This
means that the interior black hole region can contain a mix of particles
that fell in from either universe and likewise particles from the interior
region can escape into either universe. Isn’t that fascinating?” She
was so enthused she had obviously forgotten who she was talking to.
that,” Jack said weakly. To his amusement she nodded vigorously.
“And that’s not all, sir...”
Jack let her words wash over him while he retreated to the changing area
to get into his BDUs. He returned to the bench in time to hear her
concluding, at least he hoped they were concluding, words.
“So you can see why I’m interested in exploring the possibility of
bringing him into the program.”
“Oh, yeah. His theories sound... interesting,” he said again. Jack was
sure it was interesting to a vast group of people, like scientists who
actually had a clue what the hell she was talking about. Tollana is what
how was your Christmas?” Time to change the subject, but he’d ease
into his main concern.
“Fine, sir.” She reluctantly pushed the notebook aside, smiled
cooperatively, and began to pull on a boot.
you visit your brother?” Jack picked up his own boots and sat down
“Not exactly.” She focused on her boot, lacing it up quickly and
“What exactly did you do?” He frowned when she didn’t immediately
She glanced at the notebook beside her and made a face.
“Tell me you didn’t spend your time off reading those papers.”
Hadn’t he ordered her to get a life?
She shrugged and Jack knew that was exactly what she’d done. “Carter,
you’re a smart cookie, you do understand the concept and importance of
down time, right?”
“It’s relaxing for me,” she insisted, pulling on her other boot.
Jack didn't bother to argue. He’d never understand it but he knew it was
true. Daniel was the same way. “So, no tree? No presents? No overeating
a big turkey dinner?” He patted his stomach at the memory or his own
this year,” she admitted, sounding surprisingly happy about it.
“You could have come over to our house.” Even though Jack hadn’t
known about her plans, or lack of them, Sara would kill him if she found
out Carter had spent the holidays alone. “Didn’t you tell me you had
“I did, sir.” She tapped the notebook with her index finger. “He’s
written much more than this. I have all his work printed out and filed by
date and content.”
Of course she did. Jack shook his head, amused in spite of himself.
Whether it was Carter or Daniel, he’d never understand it.
“What about you, sir? Any cool toys to play with?”
She was deliberately changing the subject but he played along. “Video
games, iPods, iPads, updated the cell phones, lots of new i-stuff and
other new gadgets. I was hoping Sara would get me this remote-controlled
helicopter but no luck there. I think she thought I meant it would be a
nice gift for Charlie.”
“What did Sara get you?” She finished lacing her other boot and turned
to face him.
“An electric razor.” Jack was being truthful, but only partly. Sara
had given him another present, a very private one just between the two of
them that made him grin every time he thought about it.
She bit her lip to keep from smiling. It didn’t work.
“Are you laughing at me, Carter?”
“No, sir. The helicopter would have been very cool,” she smartly
agreed. “What did you get Charlie?”
“The iPad. Sara insisted that’s what he wanted and by his reaction,
she was right.” He couldn’t deny Charlie had been excited when he had
opened the box. “At least if Charlie had gotten the helicopter I could
have played with it.”
sir. And Daniel?”
“We got him the new Kindle Fire.” Jack chuckled at the memory of the
boy’s reaction. He’d been politely appreciative but... “He’s been
resisting the idea but it should lighten his load, at least for some of
the more modern books he needs.”
“He does seem to prefer turning pages,” Carter laughed.
got that right. It took some convincing but Sara pointed out he could have
hundreds of books at his disposal rather than just the few he can carry.
He’d said he’d try it.”
like a techy Christmas.” Carter looked approving of the idea. No
was mostly. There were a few exceptions. My razor isn’t very techy,”
sir,” Sam giggled.
Charlie’s gift to Daniel wasn’t techy at all.”
eyebrows rose. “Uh-oh, this ought to be interesting.” She knew Charlie
gave Daniel a ski trip to Keystone
Mountain. For next weekend.” Jack smirked, thinking about having an entire,
uninterrupted day with his wife with no sons around.
skis?” Sam’s eyes widened in surprise.
Daniel going to go?” she asked.
didn’t leave him much of a choice. Actually, it’ll be more about
snowboarding than skiing. He included snowboarding lessons and everything.
Pretty sneaky actually.” Sweet, too. That had been Sara’s word and
Jack knew what she meant. Charlie’s gift was a transparent effort to
spend time with his brother. How cool was that? It was something he knew
better than to bring up with either of the boys.
maybe Daniel will have fun,” Sam said hopefully.
if the snow was sand and the temperature was at least fifty degrees
warmer.” Their eyes met and he knew they were both thinking of
. They broke into laughter.
least it’ll get him out of the Mountain for a while and that can’t be
all bad.” Jack always thought Daniel could use more natural sunlight.
have to let me know how that goes, sir.” She stood up.
do. For now, why don’t you put that fun notebook away and concentrate on
the mission.” Jack turned serious. He needed her focused. “You think
you’re going to be able to track down Narim this time?”
my intention.” Her expression was suddenly grim and he immediately felt
No messing around, we need facts. You know Narim better than anyone so
I’m counting on you to get those facts. I’m going to need you to be
alert. I’m depending on your instincts and impressions to help us figure
out what’s going on with the Tollan's sudden change of heart.”
really think something’s off, Colonel?”
shrugged. Something was off, he was certain of it. He just had no idea
what it was or what it meant.
the Tollan really do just need the trinium and are willing to part with an
ion cannon to get it.” Spoken like the true optimist she was.
but I’m old school, Carter. Like Teal’c said, when something sounds
too good to be true, it usually is.” Some clichés were clichés for a
sir,” she sighed, picking up the notebook. “I think I’ll go back to
my lab and look over some of our recent contacts with the Tollan.”
that’d be good.” She was focused and alert, just where Jack needed her
to be. Sam Carter was brilliant, and she always took the hint. “See you
in the gate room.”
sir.” She stuck the notebook under her arm and headed out the door.
of the issues raised by the Pentagon were dealt with when they met with
Travell, others were not. Jack was more interested in and frustrated by
the Tollan stonewalling. Carter had finally tracked down Narim but only
received a few guarded answers to her questions before other Tollan showed
up, asking for Narim’s help in another matter, and off he went.
was more than strange how he was so urgently needed as soon as SG-1 showed
up on the planet. If it had only happened once, Jack might have been able
to buy it, twice would have been a big coincidence. Three times was just
out and out suspicious. Besides, Jack didn’t believe in coincidences. He
hadn’t risen to the rank of Colonel, and second in command of the SGC,
by accepting what was set before him. He questioned, he suspected, he took
the long view, and most importantly, he trusted his gut. Right now his gut
was screaming at him to beware.
the time they returned to the SGC, Jack was able to assure
the negotiations were proceeding. The fact that the General recognized his
frustration and shared his concerns helped, but only a little.
the new info they’d learned was sent off through the usual channels, and
SG-1 was forced to wait to hear back, yet again, before returning to
Tollana to continue the negotiations. The rest of the week was accompanied
by the usual, reports, P.T., and meetings. Jack worked harder than usual
to clear his desk of the most important matters because he wanted to
ensure that his teen-free Saturday with Sara was uninterrupted.
Friday evening finally arrived, he breathed a sigh of relief. There had
been no drama all week at the SGC and, God willing, there would be no
emergencies or crises for the next 24 hours. He had enjoyed the three-day
holiday break but that had been a hectic time. Maybe some down time with
Sara would help clear his mind and give him a fresh perspective on the
Tollan situation. A weekend alone with his wife should be just the ticket.
wasn’t until he was home and headed upstairs after dinner that Jack was
reminded not everyone was looking forward to the weekend.
had just reached the top of the stairs when he heard his name and turned
around to find Daniel staring up at him.
you going into work tomorrow?” Daniel sounded hopeful.
I’m spending a quiet Saturday alone with my wife for the first time
in... too long.” It had been a while since he and Sara had been alone
for longer than an hour or two. The boys would be off on their day of
playing in the snow at Keystone and he and Sara would have some play time
of their own. She had promised to take a break from her dissertation and
Jack was holding her to it.
there's nothing important going on? No teams coming in with artifacts that
need translating?” Daniel sounded a little desperate. “You could call
for a car to pick me up so you and Sara would still have your time alone.
We’re behind in the translations and I’m sure Dr. Kerrigan could use
was hard not to laugh. Daniel was practically begging to spend the weekend
working at the SGC. In all fairness, the teenager loved to work but this
had nothing to do with his passion for linguistics or archeology. Jack
knew exactly what this was about.
would be disappointed. The trip is your Christmas present and he paid for
paid for it and gave it to me for Christmas so I couldn’t say no,”
doubt that was true. Jack tried again. “Still, the bus tickets, the
all-day passes, the snowboarding lessons, it wasn’t cheap. He wanted to
spend some time with you.”
couldn't hold back a smirk as he envisioned Charlie whizzing down the
slopes while Daniel floundered on the beginner’s hill. He was sure
Daniel was imagining the same scenario.
be fun,” Jack encouraged, keeping his visions to himself. “You guys
will have a great time. And it’s only one day.”
couldn’t there be an attack this weekend?" Daniel mumbled.
"The Goa'uld have no sense of timing.”
kidding,” the teen said hastily, but the big sigh that followed made
pulled into the parking lot of the plaza where the bus was picking up the
people who had signed up for a day trip to Keystone Ski Resort. A crowd
was already massed around the open bus door and Jack grinned at all the
gray heads. Charlie and Daniel were far and away the youngest passengers.
Good, it would be harder for them to get into trouble with a group of
adults and seniors.
popped the trunk so the boys could unload their gear. Well, so Charlie
could unload his gear. His son had his snowboard and boots and bindings
and gloves. Daniel had a backpack survival kit that consisted of extra
socks, four candy bars, his Kindle, and a book on the ancient Aztecs. Jack
had nearly laughed out loud at the look on Daniel’s face when Charlie
told him not to worry, the snowboard lessons included the equipment.
Charlie hadn’t noticed or just ignored the lack of enthusiasm in
Daniel’s muttered, “Great.”
they unloaded, Jack got back in his truck. “Have fun, boys. And...
don’t talk to strangers.”
really?" Charlie shook his head.
leaned out the window to offer his parting words of wisdom. “Don’t run
with scissors.” The way Charlie flushed and rolled his eyes spurred him
on. “And don’t spend all your money in one place."
right already, I’m going.” Jack turned serious. “You both have your
cell phones so one of you call this afternoon to let us know you’re
will.” Charlie waved him off.
miss the bus home.”
won’t,” Charlie moaned.
call me if anything important comes up at work and you need me,” Daniel
a chance, Dannyboy. “Have fun.” Jack waved and put the truck in drive.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he yelled as he pulled away. He
couldn’t help himself.
watched the truck head down the road. When it disappeared around a curve
he shook his head in relief. “He is so weird sometimes.”
Daniel agreed, he didn't bother responding. He waited for the last of the
passengers to board the bus before he followed them inside and made his
way down the aisle to an empty seat. Only then did he realize Charlie
hadn’t followed him. When he looked out the window he saw his brother
helping the driver load up the passenger’s heavy ski gear and couldn't
help smiling. Charlie always surprised him.
few minutes later everything was loaded and Charlie settled in beside him.
“Nice bus, huh? There’s even a bathroom.”
had never thought much about buses but he had to admit this one was nicer
than the downtown buses he occasionally used. The seats were large and
well-cushioned and the center aisle was broader than usual. There were a
few empty seats but most were filled with gray- or white-headed senior
citizens who all chattered happily about the trip. He couldn’t help
smiling. At least the older folks were going to have a good time.
he agreed. He didn't want to be here but he also didn't want to rain on
his brother's excitement, so he tried to sound upbeat.
was hard to get into the spirit of the trip. Although he’d lived in
for five years, Daniel still disliked the snow and the cold. Despite his
family’s periodic efforts to teach him, he didn’t ski or snowboard, so
he was pretty sure this was going to be a
grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-it kind of day. Charlie had spent a lot of
his hard-earned money to drag him out here, but Charlie was well aware of
Daniel’s preferences. It wasn't the first time his big brother had
manipulated him into doing something he really didn’t want to do and,
knowing Charlie, it probably wouldn’t be the last.
on our way,” Charlie announced as the bus pulled out of the parking lot.
checked the time on his cell, it was seven a.m., right on schedule. He
forced a smile and decided to make the best of it. “That was nice of you
to help with the luggage and equipment.”
shrugged. “There’s a lot of old, uh, older people here. I don’t see
any other teens.”
lowered his voice. “Maybe this is a senior trip.”
think? That could be why I got such a good deal. Do seniors ski?”
not that old,” Daniel protested. He was used to working with adults and
viewed age differently than his brother.
maybe that’s why we’re eating dinner at four o'clock. It doesn’t
matter.” Charlie brushed it off. “Don’t worry, the snowboard lessons
I signed you up for were for teens. Besides,” he whispered, “even if
they ski I doubt they snowboard. I didn’t load anything but skies into
the cargo bay.”
not worried and FYI, I don’t snowboard either.”
ignored the sarcasm. “You can take your lesson from ten to noon and then
we’ll meet back up and do some runs together.”
think after two hours of lessons I’ll be able to fly down a hill with
you?” Daniel was incredulous.
why not? Isn’t this great? A whole day away. No parents, no teachers, no
homework... hey, what are you doing?”
Just checking to make sure my cell phone is on.” Daniel returned the
device to his pocket, hoping he looked more casual than he felt.
should turn that thing off so no one bothers us."
he crazy? “I better not.” There were three teams off-world this
weekend. With any luck, one of them would be in dire need of his
drive was uneventful. Almost three hours after they started, the bus
pulled into a large parking lot. Just above the parking lot he saw... wow.
cow!" Charlie beamed. "It looks even better than the
stared, frankly impressed. The Keystone Ski Resort was huge and the
building immediately in front of them reminded him of a giant European
chalet, made up of wood and stone and glass. Just behind and above the
main group of buildings he could see a ski run, broad and steep; it went
up and up, disappearing over the summit. Covered in snow. In fact,
everywhere he looked was covered in snow. To the north he noticed some ski
lifts, just as Charlie pointed at them.
worry, there're more lifts than those two."
worried?" Daniel tried for a casual tone which won him a quick,
will let us get to the top of the really big runs," Charlie said
wanting to think about that possibility, Daniel looked in the opposite
direction. In the distance he could make out another building, it looked
like a giant log cabin. Correction, it looked like many large log cabins
are some of the other places available to rent here," Charlie said,
after following his brother's gaze.
they were only here for the day, Daniel's interest in the buildings
disappeared as he looked back at the snow-covered mountains. His stomach
did a back flip. The idea of sliding down those towering forms at
breakneck speeds was making him nervous.
bus jerked to a halt and Charlie clapped his hands together. "All
right! You ready?"
Daniel agreed. He hoped his lying skills were improving with age, even
though Jack always seemed to catch him. At least his brother was too
distracted to notice.
started to stand when Daniel grabbed his arm. "Let’s wait.” He
nodded at the seniors slowly getting up and stretching their stiff legs.
Just then an elderly lady in an oversized parka walked by their seats.
you see that?" Charlie whispered.
thick her glasses were. You don't think she's actually going to go skiing,
because she wears glasses doesn’t mean she can’t ski." His
brother’s apprehensive look made Daniel take it a step further.
"Maybe she's a snowboarder."
almost laughed at the horror in Charlie’s voice. While he wasn't
thrilled to be here, it was always fun to mess with his brother's head.
agonizingly slow minutes later, the last of the senior citizens exited the
bus and Charlie bounded to his feet.
on, time’s a’ wasting."
they stepped down onto the parking lot, they could hear the middle-aged
woman who was acting as the trip organizer going over the itinerary again,
reiterating where to go for the free dinner included in the cost of the
trip, and where to meet the bus at seven p.m. sharp for departure back to
. After half-listening to the instructions Charlie and Daniel were finally
on their own.
on," Charlie demanded with fresh enthusiasm, "let’s find your
snowboard lessons. They start at ten.”
followed Charlie around for five minutes before insisting on asking one of
the resort's employees for directions, who pointed them the right way.
Fortunately, it was only a five-minute hike to the beginner's hill - or as
Charlie called it, the kiddie hill. Adults as well as little kids dotted
the slope but Daniel was pleased it wasn't as crowded as he had feared.
though it's the weekend there’s not many kids our age here today,”
Charlie observed. It was true, the crowd appeared to be more adults and
the teens came over winter break,” Daniel offered.
you could be right. That’s probably why I got such a good deal on
everything. Doesn’t matter, maybe the lift lines will be shorter.”
smiled to himself. Charlie always found the silver lining.
resort employee guided them to the beginner's class that would start in a
few minutes. As soon as Daniel was checked in Charlie began moving away.
going to get out on the mountain and do a few runs. I’ll meet you back
here at noon. Then we can go out together.”
seriously think I’m going to be able to zoom down the mountain with you
after two hours of lessons?”
shrugged. It wasn’t worth explaining.
fun!” Charlie yelled, before disappearing into the crowd of people
heading for the lifts.
sighed. There was nothing to do but make the best of it. He saw another
teen approaching and was glad to see he wouldn't be the only one in the
They shook hands.
guy looked about Charlie's age, maybe a year or two older. His black,
windblown hair reminded Daniel of a leftover fright wig from Halloween.
be teaching this class," Zach continued. “Have you ever snowboarded
Never.” Zach was the instructor? Maybe he was older than he looked. Or
maybe Daniel was even more out of step with what teenagers liked to do
than he’d realized.
you ever skied before?” Zach asked hopefully.
No problem." The way-too-young instructor sounded like he'd been
taking enthusiasm lessons from Charlie. "We’ll work on some basics.
We just need to wait for the other kids who signed up. In the meantime,
why don’t you get into your boots and bindings.”
fingers were already getting numb and he fumbled for his gloves. They were
easy to slide on but the rented boots and bindings were another story.
Eventually, Zach had to help him and when Daniel was finally ready, he
hoped the teen instructor would think his face was red because of the
other kids showed up a few minutes later. Daniel couldn't help staring at
the new arrivals before turning to Zach and lowering his voice. “I
thought this class was for teenagers."
was originally, but we didn’t get enough teens signed up for today so we
combined with the ‘nine-years-and-up’ class.”
Daniel managed. This was going to be a disaster, he just knew it.
about you guys?” Zach turned to the kid crowd. “Have any of you
snowboarded or skied before?”
Daniel’s dismay all four of them raised their hands. It turned out they
were taking lessons to improve their skills.
disaster, for sure.
hours later Daniel was ready to pack it in and call it a day. No way could
it only be noon. He felt like he’d been on the beginner’s hill for the
entire day. Zach had been patient and helpful; even his temporary nine-
and ten-year-old classmates were encouraging. It didn't matter. If Daniel
had needed confirmation of what he already knew, he had it now.
Snowboarding was never going to be part of his future.
small part of him regretted it. He could see the potential. It was easy to
understand Charlie’s love for it, the outdoors, the wind in your face,
the high speeds; it was right up his alley. It would be fun once you
became proficient at it. Of course, that would take time and practice and
Daniel had better things to do. Almost anything would be better. For him,
it was more about the falling, the snow and the freezing temperatures.
it go?” Charlie snuck up behind him with red cheeks and happy grin, a
snow-encrusted board under one arm.
good.” Maybe the blunt truth would convince his big brother that winter
sports would never be part of their brotherly bond.
just need practice," Charlie said easily. "I thought we'd take
the lift up to
and snowboard down Cat Dancer. What d'ya say?”
Peak?” Daniel mentally pictured the map of the resort he had studied at home
and his eyes widened. “Isn't that one of the highest peaks around the
Charlie bobbed his head enthusiastically.
Dancer... Cat Dancer... Why did that name sound so familiar?
"Is that the run that goes all the way down the mountain? It's
practically a suicide run."
no. Not if you know what you're doing."
have no clue what I'm doing!" Charlie could be exasperating. "I
haven't made it down this hill once without falling half a dozen
help you. We’ll go down together. Slow,” Charlie promised.
The Cat Dancer run was an almost vertical, several-mile-long death trap.
An accident waiting to happen.
studied his brother with growing dismay. Charlie’s ‘need for speed’
attitude had definitely taken over his brother, replacing any kind of
reasonable, rationale thinking.
was about to call him on it when he had an idea. He had to get off this
hill before he could go anywhere else. Let Charlie see for himself how
ridiculous an idea it was to try an advanced run after two hours of
lessons. The kid members of his snowboarding class had gone off and, at
the moment, he and Charlie were pretty much alone on this part of the
on." Charlie slid into his board and glided down a few feet.
"Time’s a’ wasting, remember?"
if Daniel could forget. "Okay, watch." Charlie had asked for it.
turned his board down the hill and immediately lost control, almost
sliding into his brother before Charlie was able to get out of the way.
he was picking up speed, Daniel leaned back until gravity dropped him on
his rear. He plowed through the snow a few more feet before stopping. From
his semi-reclining position, he looked up at his brother.
what were you saying about Cat Dancer?” he asked sarcastically.
wasn't so bad.” Charlie looked skyward. “You looked good for a minute
a second,” Daniel corrected. "Maybe for a second." He was
tempted to stay where he was until Charlie finally admitted the truth of
his ineptitude on a snowboard, but it was cold and he wanted off this hill
so he resignedly climbed back up.
was impressed that Charlie was able to stand still and wait for him, and
to adjust his speed to match. After two more falls - Daniel's, of course -
they reached the bottom of the hill, which Daniel celebrated by falling
over his feet. Again.
you go. It’s just a matter of getting the right balance.” Charlie
helped him up one last time. “Are you ready to try out a real run?”
couldn’t be serious. Daniel checked his brother’s face; he was
serious. “Are you trying to kill me?” What other explanation could
there be? Maybe the SGC had a foothold situation and nobody noticed and
now Charlie had been taken over by a hostile alien. It was the only
explanation he could think of, unlikely as it was. Though not impossible.
actually easier when you’re going faster. Less time to think. You’ll
Confident, easy-going, and optimistic, that was Charlie, but enough was
enough. “No, I won’t see. Why don’t you go and I’ll keep
practicing here for a while." Daniel smiled and tried to keep the
edge out of his voice.
A puzzled looked crossed Charlie’s face before he conceded. "It’s
only 12:30. We have all afternoon to get you down a real run.”
going to happen. “Sure, all afternoon.” Daniel waved as Charlie headed
toward the lifts. “Hey, Charlie! If I’m not here practicing I’ll be
in the lodge taking a break.”
Charlie waved back.
soon as his brother was out of sight Daniel turned in his snowboard and
bindings and retrieved his backpack from the locker he and Charlie had
rented. He felt better as he considered his immediate future. A roaring
fire, hot chocolate and the ancient Aztec civilization. As long as Charlie
stayed out on the slopes, the day could turn out fine after all.
shuttle dropped Daniel off right in front of the main lodge. He didn't
know much about architecture but someone had done an amazing job,
combining the old with the new, stone with massive log walls and huge
he walked inside, he sighed in relief at the immediate increase in
temperature. A welcome sign pointed out that the large common area also
served as the lobby for the rental units upstairs. Like everything else
about the resort, the common area was large. The raftered ceiling looked
to be twenty feet high and gave the room a spacious feeling. There were
two huge stone fireplaces at each end with a multitude of leather couches
and chairs strewn about for maximum comfort. Even though the place served
as a four-star hotel, the common area was available to anyone with a
Keystone ski pass.
was thankful he had checked it all out online ahead of time. Charlie could
meet him here, preferably around 6:30, just in time to get back to the
parking lot to catch their ride home.
ordered a double hot chocolate with extra whip cream and a cinnamon pastry
at the coffee bar, then settled into the chair closest to the roaring
fireplace. He took a moment to appreciate the stone and wood-clad
structure; it looked like something out of the wild west and was big
enough for someone to stand in, providing there was no fire.
cupped the large mug to warm his hands and inhaled, relishing the rich
chocolate aroma. Finally he took a sip, held it in his mouth to enjoy the
taste, then swallowed and smacked his lips.
glanced at his watch and decided to call home. If he called now, he
wouldn't have to worry about forgetting. Since he had both cell phones in
his backpack it was up to him to keep Jack and Sara from worrying.
phone rang five times before he heard Sara’s voice. “Hello.”
sounded a little rushed, not quite her usual self, and Daniel wondered if
he’d disturbed her studying. He’d keep it short.
here, we’re fine. You said to call, so I’m calling.” He waited for
her response. Nothing. “Sara?” He tried again.
I'm here, Daniel. Are you guys having fun?” She sounded more like
I’m in the lodge and Charlie’s out on the slopes. The lessons didn’t
really help me much.”
okay, honey. You’ll have to tell us all about it when you get home.”
will. See you tonight.” Daniel was a little confused. Sara sounded like
the one who wanted to make this short and sweet.
was odd. Then again, who knew what adults did when kids weren’t around?
it off, Daniel took a large bite of his pastry and washed it down with
some hot chocolate, then picked up his book. He finished another chapter
before he realized he was down to his last gulp of cocoa. Closing his
eyes, he savored the last delicious mouthful.
good, isn’t it?”
jolted upright and opened his eyes to see two smiling girls about his age
standing in front of him. They both had sparkling brown eyes and brown
hair; one wore it long down her back while the other’s was shorter,
falling to her shoulders.
me?” Heat rose up his neck and flooded his face under the double
hot chocolate here, it’s really good," the girl with long hair
said. "You look like you really enjoyed it."
um, I did,” he agreed. Did they want something? They just stood there
staring at him while he blushed and stammered. He might have a PhD in
linguistics but he had no clue when it came to teenage girls. What was he
supposed to say?
Lauren Avocet," the girl continued. "This is my cousin, Leah.”
were still smiling and waiting for something. Duh. “Hi, I’m Daniel,
Daniel Jackson.” The pressure eased a bit with the introductions.
a nice name," Lauren beamed and Leah nodded enthusiastically.
"Do you mind if we join you?”
It didn’t feel like he had much of a choice. He stared longingly at the
book in his lap but gave that up when the girls snagged unoccupied chairs
and pulled them closer to the fire. And to him.
been here since Thursday. There’s hardly any kids here,” Leah
complained. “There’s usually a lot more young people.”
picked up the conversation. “But we usually stay over Christmas break
when there’s tons of action and fun and people our age. We had to go to
Grandma’s this year.” She sighed as if it had been a death sentence.
“So we came this weekend instead. It’s kind of boring. The skiing is
okay but that’s about it.”
nodded, though he was not positive he understood their complaint. The
skiing was good and the place was, after all, a ski resort.
you staying here?” Leah asked.
hesitated. Was she flirting with him? No, he must be imagining it.
Imagination or not, he felt even more flustered.
no, I just came in for the hot chocolate and to warm up by the fire.” It
felt more like an interrogation than a conversation.
She looked disappointed. “Do you want to hang out together
tonight?" She exchanged looks with her cousin. "We could do the
skating under the stars. Or maybe tubing. Tubing at night is a blast.”
willed himself to stay calm. If he could be polite and friendly to aliens
on other planets, surely he could manage a reasonable conversation with
two teens his own age. Maybe it would help if he thought of these girls as
but I can’t. We’re leaving at seven.” He didn’t ice skate very
well but there was no need to admit that since he’d be long gone long by
their faces fell. Could they really be disappointed? They’d just met.
He’d probably never understand girls but thinking of them as aliens did
you could ask your parents if you could stay a little longer." Lauren
and Leah exchanged looks again. "It's way more fun here at night,”
not here with my parents. I’m here with my brother.” The change in the
air was electric. Daniel was a little alarmed, especially when he saw the
glint in their eyes.
parents aren’t here?” Lauren seemed delighted.
have a brother?” Leah asked eagerly. “How old is he?"
they’re not here, and my brother's sixteen.” Daniel was tempted to
lean away from the double dose of enthusiasm but he didn't want his body
language to betray his nervousness.
They spoke in unison and Lauren twirled her hair. Did that mean something?
He had no idea.
out snowboarding right now.” Daniel felt the need to fill in the
suddenly awkward silence.
he have a car? Did he drive you here?” Leah questioned.
dark eyes gleamed with excitement and Daniel felt a sudden desire to
laugh. Girls loved Charlie, even when he wasn’t around. Heck, these two
hadn’t met him yet but that didn't seem to slow them down.
took a bus up here,” he explained. “That’s why we can’t stay
overnight. The bus leaves at 7:00.”
held up a finger in a ‘wait a minute’ gesture and the girls walked
away so they could whisper outside of his hearing. Maybe they were done
talking to him? It was possible. He wasn’t that exciting. Just when he
decided it was safe to pick up his book, he saw them nod to each other
before walking back over. He set the book down and smiled politely.
do you live?” Lauren asked. Neither of them had any problem asking
“Colorado Springs.” Daniel wished they would find something else to do but meanwhile he
would be polite.
not very far,” Leah said with an air of excitement.
three hours by bus.” He felt the need to point that out. It may not be
on the other side of the state but it was too far to walk so he didn’t
see their point.
you could ask your brother if you guys can stay later when he gets
back.” Lauren looked hopeful.
hated to disappoint them but he didn’t need to ask Charlie. They had
their bus tickets and the bus left precisely at seven p.m. There wasn’t
anything they could do to change that. There didn’t seem to be any point
in arguing so he shrugged his agreement.
asked about the book he was reading and Daniel had to stop himself from
launching into a long, and probably boring, explanation on how the ancient
world helped shape the world they lived in today. It had taken a few
painful rejections before he realized how few people shared his interest
in ancient cultures. It was a very small group. He was grateful for the
SGC scientists who shared his insights and discoveries. For Leah and
Lauren he kept it short and finished with his usual qualifier.
interesting to me.” He regretted the words as soon as they were out of
his mouth. They sounded defensive, especially since they hadn’t
commented on his choice of reading material.
girls nodded before taking over the conversation as only girls could do.
There was no need for Daniel to ask any questions. He sat dumbly, trying
to keep an interested expression on his face while they covered
everything. They were cousins, born three months apart and had been best
friends for as long as they could remember. They’d turned fifteen this
past spring and summer and were now sophomores in high school. Lauren was
interested in sports while Leah loved music.
were still chatting happily when Daniel saw Charlie enter the room and he
waved to get his attention. The girls' chatter stopped abruptly and the
cousins turned around to get their first glimpse of Charlie. Daniel could
tell they liked what they saw. It was hard to keep from laughing.
Daniel.” Charlie came over, eyes wide with surprise. He turned and
offered a warm smile. “Ladies.” They both giggled and Charlie looked
at his little brother. “What’ve you been up to?”
much.” Daniel held up his book and noted Charlie’s sigh. He wasn’t
sure if it was amusement or disapproval. "Charlie, this is Lauren
Avocet and her cousin Leah Avocet. They're up here with Lauren's parents
for the weekend. This is my brother, Charlie."
beamed and Lauren spoke right up. “Hi, Charlie. We were talking to your
brother about the two of you sticking around tonight. They have ice
skating under the lights and night tubing. Why don't you stay? It’s
decided he’d leave it to Charlie to deflate their excitement.
Charlie grinned. “Sounds like fun.”
opened his mouth but wasn't sure what to say. Before he could overcome his
momentary silence Charlie winked at him.
had a huge grin on his face and the girls, who had seemed nice and fairly
normal a minute ago, were suddenly animated and glowy.
leaned over and whispered something in her cousin’s ear before saying,
“We have to go and meet my parents in a few minutes. We’re all going
out to dinner and we have to get ready.”
rolled her eyes and Charlie nodded in sympathy. “Parents,” he said, as
if that explained everything. “How about if we meet back here at seven
and then we can go tubing or ice skating or whatever else looks like
watched dumbfounded as Charlie made the plans and exchanged phone numbers
with Lauren. That was a good idea. It would be mean to leave the girls
sitting here waiting when the bus pulled out of the parking lot. What was
his brother thinking?
Leah gave a little wave at Charlie. Charlie waved back.
Daniel,” Lauren called out as they both disappeared out the door.
you dog!” Charlie punched him in the shoulder. “I thought you were in
here reading about some old, dead guys and here you were picking us up
some cute girls to hang out with. You’re the man.” He grinned
approvingly. “I’m starving. Crap, we better haul ass if we’re going
to make that free lunch or dinner or whatever it is.”
stared in amazement. Charlie O’Neill was one of the few people in the
known universe who could leave him groping for words.
on. I’m hungry,” Charlie repeated when Daniel didn’t move.
worry about the free lunch. There are plenty of places to eat." He
shook his head. "We need to talk.”
wasn’t about to deliberately miss the bus and have to face the wrath of
Jack and Sara. They were probably having a nice, relaxing day alone and it
wasn’t fair for him and Charlie to ruin it. Sara needed a break from the
demands of her PhD work but he was mostly worried about Jack. The man
needed time away from all the stress at work. No one else in the family
understood the constant pressure Jack was under.
everything else, Daniel had no desire to stay. He’d never tell Charlie
but showing them all how inept he was on ice skates wasn’t his idea of a
good time. He’d no doubt spend most of the night picking himself up and
brushing himself off while Charlie glided effortlessly around the rink. He
had no idea what tubing was; the only thing he knew for sure was that he
probably wouldn’t be very good at it.
restaurants around here cost a fortune. I have exactly eighteen dollars
with me. We have to make that free meal.” Charlie sounded like he was
starving. No surprise there.
buy.” Daniel wasn’t going anywhere until Charlie explained his plan
for the evening.
you bring money?" That got his big brother's attention.
I did.” Sort of. At Jack’s suggestion he’d brought his credit card,
the one he hardly ever used. They could eat after they talked.
Daniel pressed, “I’ll buy you all the burgers and fries you can eat
after you tell me why you told those girls we’d meet them at seven. That
wasn’t very nice. You know the bus leaves at seven.”
but – ”
cut him off; he wasn’t finished. “I don’t plan to stay here and let
Jack and Sara spend the night worrying about us while we’re out here
having fun. It’s not right.” He folded his arms in a determined poise.
you done?” Charlie had lost his normal grin and was glaring. “Who said
I wasn't going to call home? Geez, you don’t have much faith in me, do
his eagerness to get home Daniel hadn't given Charlie a chance to explain.
He could see the hurt behind his brother's anger.
your plan?” he asked weakly.
mind.” The light in Charlie’s eyes faded. “I know you’re not
having fun. I should have bought you the book Dad suggested for
Christmas." He looked away and cleared his throat. "We don’t
get to hang out much anymore and I thought you might like to try something
different, but I can see it’s not your thing. I’ll call Lauren and
tell her we have to go.”
felt horrible. He’d been so concerned about getting out of here while
still hanging on to a few last shreds of pride, he'd forgotten Charlie had
bought and paid for this trip in an effort to share his passions. Maybe he
could still fix this.
should try to stay,” he announced.
mind. It’s okay.” Charlie wasn’t buying it.
on," Daniel wheedled, with hopeful eyes. "I never do anything
spontaneous unless I’m with you. Tell me your plan and let’s see what
sure?” The older teen studied him doubtfully.
Let’s go for it.”
suddenly grinned and Daniel was reminded of another thing he loved about
his brother. Charlie never brooded over a wrong. He was quick to forgive
and forget, which was particularly important when Daniel had one of his
patented open-mouth-insert-foot moments.
my plan is to call home and ask.”
it? That’s your big plan?”
It could work.” Charlie punched his shoulder like he always did. “You
got a better idea?”
really.” It was a relief to see his brother back to normal. “What are
you going to say?”
don’t know. Give me my phone. I’ll think of something.”
rifled through his backpack and produced Charlie’s cell phone. “If
we're going to stay that late, we'll need to get a room to spend the
night. Let me check with the desk clerk to make sure they have one
available before you call.”
you nuts? We can’t stay here." Charlie huffed. "Dad’s not
going to spring for a room here. They cost a fortune. I’ll tell him
we’ll find a motel somewhere close by.”
waved him off and headed for the desk. The woman clerk was helping an
elderly couple but the man was free so Daniel stopped in front of him.
sir?" the clerk greeted him and Daniel stifled a snicker. Sir?
I'm wondering if you happen to have a room available for tonight. I know
it's short notice but..." he stopped when the clerk nodded.
we're not fully booked this weekend. Let me see what's available. Are you
looking for a single?"
I'm here with my brother." Daniel glanced over his shoulder to see
Charlie talking animatedly on the phone. He hoped this wouldn't be a
have a two-bedroom vacancy in our condominium complex across the street.
Would that work for you?"
be great." He debated briefly whether he should wait to hear for sure
that they were spending the night before making an actual reservation.
Then again, they were dealing with his charming, persistent brother. What
the heck; he could always cancel the reservation if necessary.
took out his wallet and handed over his credit card. The clerk's eyebrows
rose but he didn't say anything before he ran it through the scanner. It
went through without a problem and the clerk handed it back with another
uh, not eighteen are you?"
recognized the problem. "No, but if you need an adult's approval I
can get my father on the phone."
clerk hesitated before nodding. "Yes, that should be okay."
I think my brother's talking to him now. I'll be right back."
hustled over to Charlie and from this end of the conversation it was
immediately obvious he was talking to Jack, not Sara. That was probably
for the best. Daniel whispered that he’d secured a room but needed to
talk to Jack.
frowned. “What, Dad? I didn’t hear you... Oh, well, we’re hoping you
could come and pick us up tomorrow morning. It’s only an hour drive.”
all knew he was great at exaggeration but Daniel had no doubt Jack was
aware of exactly how far it was from Keystone to
. Of course Jack would have to drive it round-trip.
hold on.” Charlie covered the phone and whispered, “He wants to talk
to you. It’s up to you. No pressure.” He winked then held up his hands
and crossed his fingers. “Try to be enthusiastic,” he pleaded.
can be enthusiastic,” Daniel insisted as he grabbed the phone out of his
Jack!” How was that for enthusiasm?
kiddo.” Jack’s amused voice came through loud and clear. “Charlie
says you’re having such a good time you want to stay overnight?”
yeah, it’s great here!” Daniel enthused.
slashed his hand across his throat. “Don’t overdo it,” he whispered.
Jack sounded surprised.
who knew how great it would be?” Daniel saw Charlie rolling his eyes and
decided to dial it down. “We met these two girls – ”
Jack cut in, sounding much more interested.
two nice girls who want us to go ice skating with them tonight.”
hate ice skating.”
don’t hate it. I just need more practice. And there are rooms available
here. The clerk said we could rent one as long as you gave him the okay
for me to use my credit card.”
was a few seconds of silence as Jack thought it over. Daniel checked
Charlie’s hopeful expression and made a last-ditch effort to put things
think we’re having such a great time because Charlie and I don’t see
much of each other anymore. It’s fun hanging out together like we did
when we were kids.”
beamed, giving him two thumbs up.
accept your credit card even though you’re a minor?”
providing you tell them it’s okay.” Hadn’t he just said that?
“Look, we’re fine, Jack. Really. We’ll hang out with the girls
tonight, I doubt their parents will let them stay out too late. And then
we’ll go back to our room and that’ll be it.”
right. Just promise to call when you’re in your room for the night. No
matter what time it is.”
gave his brother a thumbs-up and tried not to laugh when Charlie punched
the air in jubilation.
will, I promise. Hang on a second. You have to talk to the clerk.” As he
spoke he walked back to the front desk. “My father’s on the line.”
He handed over the cell phone. After a few minutes of conversation the
clerk handed the phone back and began typing on his computer again.
put the cell phone back to his ear. “Jack? Are you still there?”
you’re all set. Have fun and don’t forget to call when you get back to
your room tonight. I’ll let you know then what time I’ll pick you up
tomorrow. And stay out of trouble.”
course. Thanks, Jack.”
hung up, accepted the key card and walked back toward Charlie who was
sporting a huge grin. “All set,” Daniel promised and handed him back
the cell phone. Then, because he couldn’t resist, he waved the room card
in front of his brother’s wide eyes.
actually staying here?” Charlie demanded.
his brother been listening to his conversation with Jack? “That’s
right, well, actually across the street. Let’s go get something to
Charlie was immediately distracted. "Let's go, I'm starving.”
do you mean you told them they could stay overnight?”
sighed. Sara had been upstairs changing her clothes. When she returned she
snuggled next to him and asked who had been on the phone. After he
finished explaining she was no longer snuggling. Instead she was sitting
upright and looking at him with a lot less affection than a couple of
teenagers,” she continued, her voice rising slightly. “Are you
be fine. They met some girls, they wanted to stay. I’ll pick them up in
reached out to her but she pulled away. They’d been having a great day,
enjoying each other’s company with no distractions. The great day looked
like it was starting to go downhill. Maybe a little reassurance would
be okay, honey. They have a room. I okayed it with the desk clerk. And
they promised they’d call later when they’re in for the night.”
kids! You should have asked me first.”
should have asked her? Jack suppressed a little anger of his own. He was
their father, he didn’t need to ask. And they weren’t kids, not in the
‘typical teen’ sense of the word. Daniel went off-world practically
every month and made adult decisions daily. The hardest part of raising
Daniel was encouraging him to loosen up and occasionally act his age.
Charlie... in all fairness Sara had been away at UCLA for most of last
year. She hadn’t been around to see how the teenager had matured and how
responsibly he had handled his independence.
had been twelve years old when he’d first announced his intention to
attend the Air Force Academy. Jack had been amused and skeptical. The boy
had no clue of the work and commitment it took just to get accepted into
might not have understood initially, but as he grew up he came to
understand, and he remained committed. Jack was proud of Charlie’s
determination. As much as the thought of his son facing down enemies of
United States, or of Earth, scared him, he admired his son’s single minded focus.
and Daniel were both growing up. Surely Sara had noticed. Gazing at her,
Jack noted the worry beneath her anger and his annoyance faded. She was a
mom, it must be a lot harder for her to let go.
fine.” He lowered his voice. “Really, I promise.”
time, when he ran his fingers down her arm she didn’t pull away but she
wasn’t looking at him. He lifted her chin for a kiss and was shocked to
see tears glistening in her eyes.
the matter? If you’re that upset I’ll go get them right now.” It
wasn’t worth tears.
didn’t answer and she didn’t meet his eyes. Jack slid closer. He had
no idea what she was thinking. Maybe this wasn’t about him giving the
boys permission to stay overnight at the lodge.
going on?” he asked softly. “Talk to me.”
not little boys any more, are they?” She sniffed back a sob.
they’re not.” Jack had been right. It was a mom thing that had her so
emotional. He wished he was better with words. “Daniel is, well, you
know, Daniel. He’s always been more responsible and mature than his
years. And Charlie...” He paused to gather his thoughts. Maybe he could
ease her worry by telling her how much their son had matured over the past
was amazing while you were gone. He never complained about going to
Spencer’s after school or after games, and staying there until I got
home from the base. He stayed there overnight, too, when I couldn't get
home, and he never gave me any grief about it. He didn’t take advantage
of the situation by skipping school, and his grades didn’t dip even
though we weren’t around to stay on him about studying or turning in his
homework.” He smiled and gave her a little squeeze. “Charlie’s grown
up. He has goals. He’s a responsible kid. We did good, honey.”
thought his assessment would help but instead she seemed to droop. He
waited her out, trusting she’d talk when she was ready.
shouldn’t have gone away to UCLA.” The words tumbled out in a rush.
“I missed most of last year with him and in another year or two he’ll
be gone for good.” The last words were almost too soft to hear, and she
fell against his chest in tears.
held her tightly, wishing he could take away the pain and guilt she was
carrying. After a few minutes her tears lessened and he decided it was
time to ease her worries as best he could.
did what you needed to do. Besides, you were with Daniel.”
pressed against him, she shook her head. “I could have put off school
for a few more years. Charlie should have been coming home to a warm house
and hot meals. I’m his mother, I should have been here for him.”
swallowed. He needed to put an end to this guilt trip before Sara was
consumed by it. Waiting until he heard her take a deep, shaky breath, he
held her away from him so their eyes met.
the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and I’m sure Charlie would
agree.” He spoke quietly but firmly and it was a relief to see a flash
of annoyance in her eyes. “Let me finish.”
hesitated before nodding.
was away from home for a lot of years and I missed a lot.” Jack wasn’t
telling her anything she didn’t already know, but putting his feelings
into words was surprisingly hard. “The games, the birthdays, the first
day of the school year, the Christmases,” he shushed her when she looked
like she was going to try to interrupt. “I was gone, Sara, but you were
always here. For Charlie, for everyone. You held our family together.
You’re our rock.”
struggled to control the emotions his words had released. This was
something he’d been meaning to say for a long time. Why had it taken him
smiled at him through shimmering eyes. He smiled back and continued.
“Last year was my turn, finally, and even though I was working a lot I
was able to spend time with Charlie, and I wouldn’t trade that time for
anything. We ate a lot of meals together and we did a lot of talking.
Charlie confided in me about teachers and kids and school and girls, all
kinds of stuff. It didn’t make up for all the things I missed out on
with him but – ” the words caught in his throat and he coughed,
waiting until the pressure eased before going on.
it helped. I think it helped both of us." He raised his hand to her
face, caressing her cheek. "So don’t ever be sorry that you had to
be gone for most of the year. It turned out to be a good thing for me and
for Charlie, for all of us.”
She wiped her face with her sleeve, as if she was a little girl. Her eyes
were still moist but now warm with understanding
hard – ” her voice caught. “It’s hard letting go. I still picture
the boys as mischievous ten-year-olds.”
were a handful,” Jack laughed.
miss it. I think I miss being so needed.” Her expression seemed far away
and Jack suspected she was remembering some of the boys’ past antics.
you’re their mom. They’ll always need you." He pulled her into
his arms again. "And
you’ve got me, too. What am I? Chopped liver?”
was good to hear her laugh. “No, not chopped liver, exactly. So you
really think they’ll be okay overnight?”
be fine,” he assured her for what felt like the hundredth time.
guess I’ll defer to your judgment.”
Cool.” Jack grinned.
started to kiss her but she hadn’t finished her thoughts. “It’s
funny. They used to come to me for everything, it was non-stop. For a
while I thought it might drive me crazy. I thought it’d be a relief when
they were older and more independent. So why don’t I feel relieved?”
a mom thing. “Yeah, funny how that works.” He hugged her.
seems like they go to you more now.”
okay. You don’t have to say anything.” She put her finger on his lips.
“They’re teenagers, soon they'll be young men. They need their father.
I’m glad you're their father,” she whispered. “You’re a good man,
replaced her finger with her lips and Jack knew they were done talking for
handled that great,” Charlie said around a mouthful of burger. “I knew
you could sell it to Dad. He’s always worried that you’re not having
is?” That was a surprise. Maybe that had been true when he was a kid but
not now. At least Daniel didn’t think so.
that’s why I wanted you to talk to him. You never picked up on that?”
you call yourself a genius."
I don’t.” Daniel didn't care if he sounded annoyed. He'd never called
himself a genius. The label was irritating. Other people might call him
that but it wasn’t how he thought of himself.
it." Charlie laughed good-naturedly and took a gulp from his second
Coke. "We have more important things to discuss.” He whipped out a
map of the resort and opened it on the table. “Here’s our options for
tonight. Skiing is out. There’s snowboarding...” He gave his brother a
the dark? I can’t even do the beginner’s hill in daylight.”
is out.” Charlie hurried on. “Relax, I was going to say snowboarding
he was. Daniel decided not to call him on it. He could only hope there was
an option he could live with.
leaves ice skating, snow biking and tubing. The problem is the cheapest
option is ice skating. We’d have to rent skates but it wouldn’t be too
not ice skating or snow biking.” Now that he had time to think about it,
Daniel knew what he didn’t want to do.
wasn’t going to budge from his decision. If those were the choices he
would just watch. He’d seen the snow bikes flying down the mountain
earlier in the day and there was no way he was going to try that for the
first time at night in front of two girls. As for ice skating, he’d gone
more than once with Jack and Sara and Charlie and had only limited
success. Very limited. Walking around the rink on his ankles while trying
not to fall over was not his idea of a good time. Despite his family’s
best efforts, winter sports were never going to be his thing.
Charlie said with a hint of sarcasm. “That leaves tubing. It looks like
fun but there’s a problem.”
rubbed his thumb and forefinger together.
wrinkled his brow. Was that supposed to mean something?
Charlie exclaimed. “That’s the universal symbol for money.”
really need to get out more, or at least watch more TV or something.”
Charlie shook his head.
out now,” Daniel reminded his oh-so-superior big brother.
I dragged you out.” Charlie smirked at him. “I don’t mind paying but
I spent a big chunk of cash for a ticket to the Maroon 5 concert so I’m
a little short.”
going to a concert?” Daniel asked, happy for the change in subject.
Charlie beamed, before his expression faded slightly. “Well, after I
convince Dad. I brought it up a couple weeks ago but he kind of said no.
Then I remembered the last time we talked about how I spent my money, Dad
said I needed to – ” he made quotation marks in the air – “first
think through what I wanted to do, logically and maturely, so I could make
an informed decision.” He rolled his eyes. “So now I’m working on my
logical and mature list so he’ll say yes.”
luck with that.” Daniel laughed.
sweat, I think I’ve got it figured out. Anyway, that’s why I’m a
little short at the moment, cash-wise. See, the problem is that the tubing
costs $29 per person for a night pass. That’s $60 just for the two of us
and I’ve got less than twenty bucks on me. You said you’re paying for
much for changing the subject. He should have known Charlie wouldn’t be
distracted for long. Besides, late lunch though it was, Daniel had agreed
to pay and he was quick to reassure his brother. “Yes, it’s my treat
and don’t worry about the money. I’ll pay for tonight, too.”
you already sprung for the trip.”
much money did you bring?” Charlie straightened, his eyes bright with
Daniel realized it was time for evasion.
would probably be best not to get into this with Charlie. They’d never
discussed paychecks but he knew what Charlie made at his part-time job at
the rec center. Since Daniel had come back from UCLA, he’d begun
receiving a salary from the SGC for what he considered to be an
astronomical amount of money. It always made him a little uncomfortable so
he tried not to think about it.
from his extremely generous salary, Daniel also had the money from his
parents’ estate that Jack and Sara had put into a trust account for him.
He preferred not to think about that either. Money wasn't an issue.
Finding something to do tonight that wouldn't cause him complete and total
humiliation was the issue.
worry about it,” he said again. “I have us covered.”
you say so.” Charlie closed the brochure. “Tubing it is.”
shrugged his agreement. It was his only option. Whatever it was, he’d
have to make the best of it.
waitress appeared as if on cue. “I’ll take that when you’re
ready.” She left the bill on the table after she refilled Charlie’s
coke for the third time.
grabbed the bill and turned it over. “Look at this. Twenty-eight bucks
for hamburgers, fries and cokes. I knew this place would be expensive. It
was good but come on. Plus a five or six dollar tip. If you had hurried we
could have made the free meal with the seniors. It was included.”
struggled not to laugh as he took the bill and tried to discreetly stick
his credit card inside the leather holder.
you have Dad’s credit card?” Charlie’s eyes went wide with surprise.
I have my own credit card. What time are we meeting Lauren and Leah
again?” Daniel hoped his attempted distraction worked.
paused a few beats before answering. “Seven.”
only five thirty. Why don’t we go check out where we’re staying
tonight?” He really wanted to avoid a discussion on credit cards and
hesitated again. “Yeah, okay,” he finally agreed.
was still raving about their lodging when Lauren and Leah showed up at
seven o’clock, right on time. Daniel agreed with him. The two-bedroom
condo had a sitting room decorated in earth tones of brown, tan and sage,
a nice bath for each of the bedrooms, even a small kitchen.
were just walking into the common area when they spotted the girls coming
out of an elevator, accompanied by an older man and woman. All of them
were dressed in bright ski garb and Daniel felt self-conscious again. He
hoped he didn't make a fool of himself tonight.
I’m Tim Avocet, Lauren’s father and Leah’s uncle." The man was
tall and slender with brown hair just going gray. He screamed 'banker' to
Daniel. "And this is my wife Barbara.” The petite blonde woman
looked a lot younger than her husband and her smile was distracting.
Lauren blushed a cute shade of pink while Leah wrinkled her nose at her
understood the girls' embarrassment but didn't blame the parents. They
wouldn’t want Lauren and Leah hanging out with two guys they’d never
met. He was sure Jack would have done the same thing. Charlie was laying
on the charm by the time Daniel was introduced.
nice to meet you, sir.” Daniel shook hands with both parents and Charlie
followed his example. After a few more parent questions Mrs. Avocet fixed
her daughter and niece with a stern look.
you're to check in every hour and you need to be back up to the room by
eleven." She looked from Charlie to Daniel when she said it and they
both nodded. The girls were blushing again as they mumbled their
the Avocets were finally satisfied they left to pick up their gear for a
little night skiing of their own. Lauren watched them leave before
offering Charlie a brilliant smile.
don’t have to go skiing.” She was probably afraid of running into her
parents on one of the runs. “What about ice skating?”
was thinking we could go tubing. You guys said it was fun and we’ve
never been.” Charlie to the rescue.
is," Leah exclaimed.
a blast!” Lauren confirmed. “It’s especially fun at night when you
go super fast and can’t see where you’re going.”
fast? Daniel thought Lauren sounded like a female version of Charlie.
can all go down together, too.” Leah didn’t sound as into the
high-speed night deal.
they reached the lobby Daniel went over to the reception counter. He had
noticed the sign earlier that tickets for the events could be purchased
here and he was pleased to find the sign was correct. After purchasing
four tickets, he rejoined the others by the front entry. He pretended not
to notice Charlie's raised eyebrows when he passed around the tickets.
set?” he asked.
sure are!” Lauren exclaimed. “Thanks, guys, for taking care of the
– ” Charlie started and Daniel cut in. “You’re welcome. Come
on,” he added before his nosy brother could ask any questions. “We
don’t want to waste any time.”
the girls’ backs, Charlie gave Daniel an inquiring look, who responded
with an innocent smile as they followed the girls outside. On the shuttle
ride to the hill, Lauren and Leah and Charlie talked about school and
classes and teachers. Daniel tried not to feel left out but he honestly
couldn’t think of anything to add to the conversation. His life was so
different from theirs.
your favorite class, Daniel?” Leah surprised him with the question. The
girls were nice, there was no doubt about that. They were trying not to
um...” He blushed. He didn’t want to get into a long, fun-killing,
boring talk about home schooling or UCLA.
and languages.” Charlie answered for him. “Those are Daniel’s
winked at him and he understood. There was no need to share the details.
The basics would work just fine.
we are, folks," the shuttle driver called out as he pulled to a stop.
"Adventure Point. And over there," he pointed out the window,
"you'll be able to get a lift up the hill."
scrambled out with a few other passengers. Daniel noted that here, at
least, there were no senior citizens. Tubing seemed to be designed for
kids, at least most of the people he saw were either teens or
twenty-something’s, along with a few younger visitors with their
looks great," Charlie enthused.
nodded as he looked around. The sky was dark and clouds hid most of the
stars but overhead lights lit up the hill.
and hollers from the youngest members of the crowd caught his attention
and reminded him how cold it was out here. Every time he exhaled he could
see his breath and even though he was warmly dressed, the chilly air
slapped his exposed face.
great." Daniel agreed when he realized Charlie was waiting for him to
respond. He was here, and he was determined to make the best of it.
they handed over their tickets they were each given a round inner tube
before stepping into a futuristic-looking glass tunnel that encased a
movable walkway, like an escalator without the steps that would shuttle
them up to the top of the mountain.
and Lauren were in front of Daniel and Leah, and Daniel couldn't help
noticing how closely she was standing beside Charlie.
never been here before?” Lauren’s face was flushed and Daniel wasn’t
sure if it was from the cold or from standing so close to his brother.
been skiing and snowboarding here but never tubing. Should be fun.”
Charlie rarely appeared rattled. It was a quality Daniel often envied.
all go down together,” Leah exclaimed as she slipped her mittened hand
under Daniel's arm.
do we do that?” Daniel tried to ignore her touch and maintain his
see.” The cousins looked at each other and giggled. Giggling was
definitely a girl thing.
the top of the mountain they stepped out of the way of those coming after
them. Daniel saw there were at least a half a dozen runs going down the
hill and Charlie led them to the one with the shortest line.
they waited their turn Daniel watched as each person settled in a tube and
then the workers pushed the tube down the mountain. The speeds varied from
a gentle push to get going, all the way up to a high-speed spinning
frenzy. The single riders went the fastest and he knew it wouldn’t be
long before Charlie would have to zoom down alone. It looked like fun but
Daniel wasn’t a fan of all the spinning.
they were next. Daniel barely had time to wonder how that had happened
when one of the employees, a young guy who didn't look much older than
Charlie, wearing a name tag that said "Joe," grinned at them.
guys. You going one at a time or all together."
together!" Lauren exclaimed before Charlie or Daniel could answer.
it is." Joe helped them get into position, facing each other.
"Okay, everyone lock their feet together," he added. It took a
minute to get that right. Joe studied them carefully before nodding.
all set. Now, I’ll give you a good push but if you really want to go
fast, go down separately, or at least in twos, then see me. I can push you
into killer spins.”
we’ll be back,” Charlie promised.
shook his head again. His brother loved words like “killer” and
“suicide,” especially when the descriptions were attached to rides and
mountains and river rapids.
gave them a push to get them started and the slope of the mountain did the
rest. Leah grabbed Daniel’s hand and screamed as they picked up speed.
He laughed when Charlie let out an excited yell and raised his hands in
the air, just like he did when he rode on roller coasters to prove he was
fearless. That was Charlie.
didn’t feel the need to scream but he didn’t feel the need to raise
his hands in the air either. He hung on to the tube and Leah’s hand,
trying not to tense at the slip-sliding, occasionally jolting motion that
carried them down the mountain at blazing speed. The wind slapped him in
the face, colder than ever, and tugged at his cap. He freed one hand to
clap it down on his head, trying not to be overwhelmed by the screaming
around him, from his own group and the others tubing down the mountain.
outside of their own tube was a blur and Daniel's frozen nose began to
run. He swiped at it then clutched his cap again. How long was this run?
He'd forgotten to ask. Then again, maybe he didn't want to know.
fast, blur - it all ran together. Daniel lost his grip on the tube just as
it hit a rough spot that made the whole contraption jump up slightly. His
heart leaped into his throat; he was sure he was about to be thrown out.
Abandoning his cap, he clutched the tube with both hands.
they began to slow down and he realized the mountain was leveling out. He
sighed in relief and a minute later they slid to a stop.
bounded out of the tube and whipped around, grinning widely. "That
was a blast! Let's go again!"
lets!" the girls agreed in chorus as they clambered out.
followed more slowly, making sure no one was watching when he swiped
furtively at his nose. He thought it was okay but his face was so frozen
he couldn't be sure.
felt guilty when Charlie's smile began to fade. "Right here," he
said, trying to sound chipper. "All parts intact."
that fun?" Leah said, rubbing her mittened hands together.
Daniel hadn't had time on the ride down to think through what was
happening. He’d been frozen, yes, fearing for his life, for sure. But
fun? He looked back up the slope to see other tubers coming down and in
the crisp cold air he heard lots of laughing and happy screaming and he
began to smile.
was fun," he agreed.
smile returned. "Totally! Hey, we should go down two at a time so we
can go faster and spin around more.”
a shock, Daniel thought in amusement. Not
that’d be awesome,” Lauren agreed, which didn't surprise Daniel
went back up the special lift and stood in Joe's line again. This time
Charlie and Lauren paired up and spun down the mountain at maximum speed.
Daniel watched them disappear down the hill, Charlie yelling like a maniac
while Lauren screamed in his ear.
my brother," Daniel offered, grinning.
my cousin," Leah said with a laugh. "I think I'd like to go down
a little slower."
"Sounds like a plan," he agreed cheerfully.
were happy to glide down the mountain, going fast but not as fast as
Charlie and Lauren. Leah even showed Daniel how to do a few basic
maneuvers, for which he was grateful. An hour ago he wouldn't have
believed it could be possible, but the truth was he was having a great
time. In fact, he couldn’t remember having this much fun in the last few
months, at least fun that didn’t involve work or the Stargate.
would've thought? The tubing reminded him of sliding down the sand dunes
with Skaara... or it would have reminded him if the weather was 60 degrees
made several runs, as a group and in pairs. Charlie and Lauren eventually
went down alone, each on their own, spinning and racing and yelling in
jubilation. Daniel and Leah were content to let the other two be
daredevils and went their own way a little more tamely while still
managing to have a fantastic time.
being tired and feeling like a human popsicle, Daniel was actually a
little disappointed when the runs closed down at ten p.m. The four of them
reluctantly turned in their tubes and took the last shuttle back to the
lodge for a round of hot chocolate.
Charlie chatted and the girls giggled, Daniel caught a glimpse of
Lauren’s dad standing near the front desk when the foursome entered. The
others were too engrossed in conversation to notice. Charlie was
explaining how great it would be to make the tubing runs steeper and maybe
ice them down for maximum speed. Lauren agreed wholeheartedly. Leah
didn’t seem quite as enthused. Apparently satisfied his girls were safe,
Mr. Avocet headed back toward the elevators with his daughter and niece
none the wiser.
they had their drinks in hand, they returned to the same spot where Daniel
first met the girls earlier in the day. Happily, the fire was still going
strong and he settled down in front of it, shivering in relief as the heat
washed over him. Despite Charlie's earlier bravado about not being
bothered by the cold, Daniel noted that even he chose to move his chair
close to the fire.
was content to listen to the conversation around him with his nose buried
in his mug of hot chocolate. Mmm, the smell was almost as good as the
taste, and despite the insulated sides of the mug he could feel the warmth
of his drink begin to unfreeze his fingers. Wonderful.
waned, becoming more sporadic as the last of their adrenalin faded and
tiredness set in. Finally, a few minutes before eleven, Lauren stood up
and her cousin followed her lead.
had a great time," she smiled happily, "but if we don't get up
to our room ASAP my dad might come down and embarrass us."
totally get that,” Charlie agreed. "We had a great time, too. It'd
be fun to do it again some time."
time Daniel had no doubt. Lauren was definitely flirting with Charlie. He
kept his mouth shut and pretended he didn't notice. He was good at keeping
secrets. They exchanged phone numbers and e-mails and said their goodbyes.
was fun.” Charlie grinned at his brother after the girls were out of
sight. “Lucky you hate outdoor sports so much or we never would have met
don’t hate outdoor sports.” Daniel felt the need to defend himself.
it. You kind of do.”
liked the tubing.” Daniel wasn’t going to admit anything.
not exactly a sport. There were eight-year-olds doing it."
had him there.
of whom were spinning a lot faster than you were.” Charlie added a final
only smiled. When his brother rose so did he and they walked to the
elevator. At this time of the night they were alone and as the elevator
began to rise, he leaned against the back wall, looking forward to a hot
shower and a comfortable bed.
kind of liked Lauren. She was fun.” Charlie paused, deep in thought.
there any girls you’d like to.... you know, do it with?”
it with?" Daniel blushed
and stalled for time.
know what I mean. Don’t make me spell it out.”
he didn’t immediately answer Charlie’s eyes widened. “There is
someone! Who is she?”
much as he wanted to, Daniel couldn’t tell Charlie that his heart burned
for a girl who lived on a desert planet light-years away. A girl from
another place, another culture, another time. Except Sha’re was more
than a girl, she was the perfect woman. Beautiful, intelligent, brave, yet
playful and fun. She was everything Daniel could ever want or need. Just
the thought of her made him feel things no one on Earth had ever made him
was waiting, staring at him.
Cyrus.” It was the only teenage idol Daniel could think of to throw his
big brother off the track. “You know, someone like her. What about
made out with a few girls at parties but no one I really, you know...
loved. It’s complicated, isn’t?”
is.” Charlie had no idea.
minutes later Daniel stood under the piping hot water and let the
rainforest shower pound down his back and warm his chilled bones. The fun
of tubing hadn’t made it any less cold outside.
he realized he was about to fall asleep standing up, he got out of the
shower, toweled himself dry and walked out of the bathroom. He was
surprised to see Charlie in what Daniel had thought was his room, sprawled
on the queen-sized bed. Daniel looked at him in confusion.
we switching rooms?”
Charlie rolled over onto his back and stretched. "I just wanted to
ask you a few questions.”
radar went on high alert. His brother was wearing his determined look, the
one he wore when he was serious, when he wouldn’t be denied.
you call home yet?” He didn’t know what Charlie wanted to talk about,
but he thought a distraction was in order.
Dad’s picking us up at eleven tomorrow morning in front of the Starlite
We’ll have time to get breakfast.”
as long as you don’t mind charging it.” Charlie stared at him. “And
that brings me to my questions."
about what?” Striving to look casual, Daniel pulled his dirty t-shirt
back on and flopped down in the comfortable chair beside the nightstand.
credit card. Hello!”
about it?” Laid back with a confused look was Daniel’s best defense.
He had the card, it worked, end of story.
on, get it out. Let me see it.” Charlie rubbed his hands together in
about because you’re fifteen years old and you have a gold credit card.
You think I didn’t notice when you paid for lunch? Or is it platinum? I
think that’s pretty interesting, don’t you?” Charlie was nothing if
already saw it. It’s plastic and...” Maybe one minor admission would
shut Charlie up. “It’s platinum.”
knew it! I knew it was platinum.” Charlie sat up, eyes gleaming. “How
much money do you make a year?”
do you want to know?” He was relieved his easygoing big brother didn’t
seem upset about his little brother having a credit card, but why the
interrogation? Daniel didn’t want to ruin what had turned out to be a
salary’s not classified, is it?” Charlie was like a starving dog after
a fresh steak bone.
couldn’t resist laughing. “No, of course not.” Uh-oh, he shouldn’t
have answered so quickly. Charlie had given him an easy out. He should
have taken it and said he’d have to check into it or something and ended
the conversation. Too late now.
least tell me this. Do you make more money than Dad?”
don’t know.” Daniel had no idea how much money Jack made.
think he makes about ninety grand a year.” Charlie smoothly filled in
Daniel blinked at his smirking brother. “How do you know that?” He
doubted Jack shared the details of his salary with his nosy son.
googled it,” Charlie said smugly. “That’s what a Colonel makes with
roughly the same amount of years in the military as Dad. He could make
more or less but let’s just say that’s what he makes.”
and resourceful. And annoying, Daniel decided. Very annoying.
tired. Can you get off of my bed so I can get some sleep?”
make ten dollars an hour at the rec center. You know that, right?”
Charlie paused expectantly. When Daniel didn’t react he continued.
“We’re brothers. We shouldn’t have any secrets between us. You can
tell me. I won’t tell anyone.”
secrets? It was all Daniel could do to keep a straight face. There were
secrets like “How much money do you make?” and then there were the
“Did you know I spent last weekend on another planet?” -type secrets.
If Charlie only knew.
choked down his amusement. “I’m not going to tell you. Do you want me
to sleep in your room?”
it over fifty grand a year?” Charlie cocked his head.
Daniel stood up and headed toward the door.
right, all right.” Charlie jumped off the bed and punched him in the
shoulder as he passed. “Thanks for today, bro. Sorry it was your
Christmas present and you ended up paying for a lot of it.”
what was bothering him? Daniel wished he could tell Charlie that the money
meant nothing. The day and the fun they’d had together was something
he’d never forget. He wasn’t about to word it that way. It might set
Charlie on the money hunt again.
you hadn’t given me the trip for Christmas I wouldn’t have come and
I’d have missed out on all the fun. So I should be the one thanking
I knew that.” Charlie winked and hit the door frame on his way out a la
snuggled down under the covers of the luxurious bed, feeling warm and
relaxed from the shower. The events of the day kept replaying in his
thoughts. It had been fun hanging out with Charlie and spending time with
people his own age. He wouldn’t have believed it was possible had it not
assumed today would be a day where he’d suck it up and get through it
with a smile plastered on his face for Charlie’s sake. That was how the
early part of the day had gone. Daniel wasn’t sure exactly when things
had changed but they had and he’d had fun. It must be Charlie, he
decided. It was hard not to have fun when his brother was around. It made
him rethink the idea of hanging out with other teenagers.
the death of his parents, Daniel had been in a hurry to grow up. Being a
kid made him vulnerable. He’d learned how vulnerable in the foster homes
he’d landed in before he met a nurse named Sara O’Neill. Being a kid
had been scary and painful, emotionally and, sometimes, physically.
Stargate program had allowed him to grow up sooner rather than later and
Daniel would always be grateful. He had never understood Jack and Sara’s
worry about him not being a “regular” kid. He understood it better
tonight. Charlie had once again showed him the fun side of being a kid,
the good times without the burden of adult responsibilities or worries
hanging over your head. Ice skating or tubing? Nice and simple. The fate
of the planet didn’t hang in the balance.
have to try this again sometime. Maybe he’d treat Charlie to a trip
somewhere with his platinum credit card. The thought made him smile as he
drifted off to sleep.
was 10:55 when Jack pulled up at the rendezvous point in front of the
Starlite Café. Hah, he'd timed this perfectly. If the boys were still
eating he’d go inside, order a cup of coffee and join them.
he turned off the engine he spotted Daniel waving from the front door of
the café. A few seconds later Charlie followed him out; the boys were
laughing and lugging their gear. Charlie had his snowboard and a duffel
bag stuffed with his boots and bindings and whatever else he had crammed
in there. Daniel had his trusty backpack jammed with his Kindle and books
and gloves and extra layers of clothing and, knowing Daniel, probably a
few candy bars
had taken Sara’s car this time and he popped the trunk so they could
Dad, you made it!” Charlie yelled out a greeting.
Jack retorted, grinning as they approached.
looked young and fresh and enthusiastic and he was glad they’d been able
to spend some time together. He was especially glad it had gone off
without a hitch and the boys hadn’t done anything to make him regret
giving them permission for the overnighter. He was looking forward to
Charlie’s exaggerated stories he was sure to hear on the ride home.
waited until they'd dumped their gear in the trunk and slammed it shut
before starting the car again. Charlie dove into the backseat, leaving the
front for Daniel. That worked out well. Sometimes it was difficult to hear
Daniel when he was in the backseat. If Charlie was in the trunk he’d
still come through loud and clear.
Dad,” Charlie leaned forward, pulling against his seatbelt so he could
rest his arms on the front seat, "for letting us stay. And for coming
to pick us up."
thanks, Jack,” Daniel chimed in as he snapped his seat belt in place.
problem.” Usually he was the guy who said no and nixed the fun things.
It was nice being the hero for a change. “So who were these girls?
How’d it go? I want details.”
I was out snowboarding, having fun, minding my own business." No
surprise, Charlie jumped in first. "Imagine my surprise when I met up
with Daniel in the lodge and found out he'd picked up two girls for us.
didn’t pick them up."
laughed, not missing Daniel’s blush.
they were nice girls,” Daniel added.
didn’t say they weren’t nice.” Charlie raised his hands as if Daniel
was pointing a gun at him. “All I meant was when I got back you were
hanging out with two girls. And you were.”
enjoyed listening to the boys banter back and forth about who liked who
first and whose idea it was to stay overnight and all the rest of it. It
was a welcome break from the heavy stress of life at the SGC. Not to
mention he and Sara had had a great time, just the two of them in the
house. Hearing Daniel’s laughter made the long round-trip drive here and
back worth every minute.
learned a lot on this trip.” Charlie finally wrapped it up and leaned
back in the seat.
Jack smirked. "I’ll
bite. What did you learn?” This ought to be entertaining.
learned that Daniel is totally inept at winter sports.” He grinned
cheekily at his brother. “And I learned those snowboard lessons I paid
for were a total waste of good money.”
a total waste,” Daniel argued. He turned around to face Charlie. “You
think someone should be able to take one lesson and be an expert. It takes
a lot of practice to get good at something.”
didn’t expect you to be an expert. I thought maybe we’d be able to do
a few runs together.”
not true.” Daniel gave Charlie a withering look before turning back to
Jack. “You know Charlie. He doesn’t do moderate runs. I made it
halfway down the beginner’s hill and he wanted to drag me off to Cat
Dancer ‘proceed at your own risk’ Run."
my boy.” Jack didn’t doubt that much was true. It made him wonder if
Daniel had actually had fun or if he had put on an act for Charlie. He
snuck a sideways glance at his youngest son and had his answer. The
boy’s smile was the rare, genuine one.
wasn’t finished. “The other thing I learned is that my little brother
is rich, which goes directly to the picking-up-girls part."
not rich. Besides, they didn’t even know I had a credit card.” Daniel
shifted in his seat, obviously uncomfortable with the subject.
not but it’ll come in handy for picking up women in the future.”
Charlie was rarely uncomfortable with any subject.
had known this would come up sooner or later. Now he wondered how in-depth
they’d discussed the money issue and how Charlie really felt about it.
He was joking now but Jack couldn’t help wondering if it bothered him.
He would love to have seen the look on Charlie’s face the first time
Daniel pulled out the card. Charlie wasn’t known for being subtle.
assume you know Daniel has a platinum credit card.” Charlie tapped
works for the Air Force, Charlie. After he and your mom got back from UCLA
the Air Force gave him a full-time job and he got a credit card.” He
decided to ask outright. “Does that bother you?”
should it bother me? Now if you and Mom say no when I ask for money, I can
ask Daniel.” His grin was mischievous.
That thought hadn’t occurred to Jack.
Dad. I’m kidding.”
better be.” Jack would have to remember to tell Daniel not to lend money
to Charlie for any harebrained scheme that had already been nixed by his
as you can see, I learned a lot this weekend.”
checked the rearview mirror to see his oldest son leaning back with his
hands behind his head. He was officially done. Time to check in with his
about you, Daniel?”
had fun and I learned a few things, too.” Daniel spoke slowly and gave
the question far more thought than Charlie had. Still, Jack knew his
answer would be equally as entertaining.
learned I can’t snowboard, I like tubing, and teenage girls giggle a
lot, especially around Charlie.”
do not." Charlie jumped back into the conversation, sounding
indignant. "You were there, too. They could have been giggling over
spent the rest of the ride home arguing the point. Jack didn't bother to
intervene because they were laughing and joking around as much as they
were disagreeing. He enjoyed listening to them being so light-hearted.
had been weeks since he'd been able to spend time talking with Charlie for
any length of time, or with Daniel for that matter. On any given day he
saw Daniel more than Charlie, but their paths didn’t always cross at the
Mountain. When they did, they were usually discussing work-related issues,
which wasn’t the same as talking about girls and snowboarding and other
subjects teenage boys tended to discuss.
he finally turned onto their street, the boys began gathering their
things. Jack glanced at them one last time, realizing he had learned some
things, too. Charlie and Daniel were close. They’d come a long way since
the day Sara had brought Daniel into their home. Now they were brothers in
the truest sense of the word. It made Jack content to know they’d always
have each other.
also learned that Daniel could still have fun being a kid. That was a
relief and something he’d be sure to share with Sara since it was
something they both worried about.
importantly, Jack had learned that he needed to be wary of Charlie around
Daniel’s credit card. A successful trip all around.
On to Part 2
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