Four Months After Shattering Occam's Razor
As she spread calming salve across the little girl's wounded chest, Janet felt an entirely rational jolt of rage. She was going to kick Ferrovax's teeth in if she ever got half a chance. Immortal Dragon god be damned, she was going to make that prick pay. What kind of asshole does what he did to Emily? To his own freaking family?
He was as bad as the Goa'uld.
The angry wound running down from Emily's neck to her pelvis looked like a ragged zipper, swollen and crisscrossed along her front. It was a miracle that the Tok'ra had been able to heal her at all, judging by the blood soaking the Colonel's uniform when he'd entered the ruins of Janet's surgery.
While time and Emily's natural propensity for quick healing seemed to have mended the physical wounds, she didn't seem as bright or excited by things going on around her.
The period of quarantine for the child had been and gone, leaving the SGC in something of a pickle when it came to deciding what to do with Emily. The majority of Heka's peasants had been relocated to the Land of the Light in short order, but there remained two as of yet unresolved asylum cases for Emily and the Priestess of Heka, Aisha.
It had come as something of a surprise when the NID actually backed Emily's bid for asylum, given their history of demanding Teal'c be turned over to them for interrogation and study, but Colonel Mayborne had been quite emphatic in demanding that the little girl be given asylum through the SGC. Jack was convinced that it was a political move on the other Colonel's part, an attempt to play nice given the fact that Kinsey was inserting a permanent structure for the NID to have both presence and power in the structure of the Stargate Program.
Janet didn't like that they were dependent on the good will of the NID, but the SGC's political capitol had taken a hit due to the publicity of the invasion and it was only with the NID's help that the program was able to maintain its secrecy.
The civilian oversight agency actually had more power in denying outside inquiry than the SGC had by itself, as the ostensible policing agency for determining how and when "national security" was being abused as a reason to deny access they were effectively able to end requests for information before they even finished being filed through the proper channels. For now, the cover story of a Tetrazine gas leak seemed to be holding but only time would tell.
Mayborne had stayed good to his word thus far. Emily's provisional asylum had been granted and she was due to be given permanent asylum within the month. The NID had even blocked several inquiries from other agencies about the circumstances of the Dragon, to the SGC's combined gratitude and chagrin. Mayborne was, in Jack's words, "an asshole but not complete scum."
The NID had insisted on having security present to monitor the girl and ensure that the "asset" was not lost. In practice this meant a pair of armed SFs always protecting Janet's house in plainclothes, usually on her porch or patroling round her property. It was more invasive than Janet might have cared for before the invasion but after seeing the horrors the crustacean-like aliens had unleashed upon the SGC, she found herself sleeping easier with an armed guard on-call.
Moving the child to Janet's house seemed to have helped somewhat. Cassandra was uniquely equipped to help Emily cope with both the loss of her people and the nuances of dealing with the day to day issues of living on earth. It was good that the two girls didn't have to live in the same room though.
Emily's possessive hoarding would have made a shared living space effectively unmanageable. The little girl's fondness for reverting into her draconic form within the confines of room meant that amenities like furniture proved impractical.
General Hammond was ultimately going to have to soothe some ruffled feathers with base housing when Janet moved out of the property. Dragon claws scratched the heck out of wall to wall carpet, and the little girl had a tendency to stretch out like a cat and paw the ground before she rolled into a ball at night to sleep on the mattress that had become her bed.
Emily didn't like staying in one form for too long. While she consented to staying in human form while they traveled between the SGC and Janet's house, as soon as she was able to return to her room or the halls of the SGC Emily would almost immediately revert to her serpentine form.
She'd become something of a mascot at the SGC. Given the number of Airmen and Marines who genuinely believed that their lives had been saved by the young dragon's actions, she was universally welcome wherever she went. This was especially useful in the dining hall, given the additional labor she'd introduced into their daily routine.
Emily's nutritional needs were not insubstantial, and several times a day it was necessary for the base culinary staff to prepare a sizable serving of protein for Emily to consume.
Unsurprisingly, watching a dragon consume seven to ten percent of her body weight in raw meat had become an unofficial team building and spectator sport for the base staff. Given that Emily preferred to roast her own meat, it really was a sight to see. It seemed highly unlikely that the enlisted would tire of it at any point.
Janet still insisted on having one family meal a day, but Emily seemed to eat her portion mostly out of politeness rather than any real fondness for Janet's cooking. Well, that and her love of dessert. Emily was willing to consume any amount of vegetables provided that there was chocolate at the end of that rainbow.
"Are you still feeling sore?" Janet asked, pulling the sterile gloves from her hands and tossing them into the trash bin next to the door. "Any more pain or dizziness recently?"
Emily shook her head, sitting upright on the mattress and pulling a USAF shirt over her head. She poked her head out the garment and snorted in irritation at the feeling of the shirt sticking to the medicine, puffing smoke out her nostrils reflexively. She picked at the shirt, trying to find a comfortable way to have the cotton touch the salve before just deciding to ignore it. "No. No pain. I'm fine."
Janet grunted, only half believing her. Emily would insist that nothing was wrong while she had a knife through her back, her own draconic sense of what meritied mentioning did not match Janet's own parental instincts. "Ok, but you mention it the second that something bothers you."
"Yes, Janet." Emily replied, biting her lip as she continued to clearly be irritated by the shirt.
"It's Mom - you can call me Mom." Janet rolled her eyes. The choice to even wear clothing was an affectation on the part of Emily. She was more than capable of just creating a garment in the same way that she'd created the human body she was using rather than her draconic form, but the shirt had been given to her. It was "hers" and she wasn't about to miss out on a chance to use her gift, especially a gift from Sam Carter. She opened the door to the hall and was all by bowled over by fuzzy shape of Stuart, Cassandra's Shiba Inu.
The furry terror rocketed into the room and propelled itself at Emily, yapping excitedly as Emily squealed in delight grabbing the tri-colored terror into her arms and cuddling it while making a rumbling noise reminiscent of a cat's purr. Jack O'Neill's pervasive insistence that human children were required to care for a dog had been taken as the word of GOD by the young dragon, who took every opportunity to meet her familial obligations to the canine. She'd taken to feeding, cleaning up after, and playing with the dog with near religious dedication.
Emily looked up from nuzzling her face into Stuart's belly, seemingly realizing that she'd been ignoring Janet. "Uh … sorry…. Mom…"
The last word came out awkwardly, as though she were not accustomed to using maternal terms even conceptually. Janet smiled back at the little girl. "Its ok honey. Did you get your homework done yet? Sam's going to be checking your work today."
"Yes." Emily replied firmly enough that Janet knew there was no way in hell that she'd actually done the work properly. She arched a brow at the child, giving her a firm look till the dragonling flinched and corrected herself. "I mean - I will get it done before."
"That's what I thought." Janet rolled her eyes. Given Emily's proclivity for shifting shape and her nutritional requirements, enrolling her in a local school like they'd done with Cassandra would be impractical. Given the concentration of PhDs at the SGC, it had been decided by Daniel and Sam that it made more sense to just homeschool the child on base. Given that teaching Emily guaranteed one on one time with a literal dragon, willing teachers weren't in short supply.
But some facts remained universal about kids, even of the dragon variety. Nobody likes math homework.
"Mooooooom." Cassie shouted from downstairs, bellowing at the top of her lungs. "Phooonnne!"
Having long ago consigned herself to the fact that Cassandra had no intention of walking upstairs and just telling her that she had a phone call, Janet elected not to correct her eldest child but rather to just exit Emily's room and pull the handset from the wall.
"I've got it Cassie." Janet spoke into the phone and was almost immediately greeted by the loud click of her eldest hanging up. She counted to three, reminding herself that the teenager meant well, before taking into the phone. "Janet Fraiser speaking, who is this?"
"Janet! How are you?" Replied the convivial voice of Jack O'Neill.
"Jack, good to hear from you. Is this about Tuesday?" Replied Janet, pleased to hear the man's voice. "We are still on for movie night?"
"Oh, yeah! Of course. I wouldn't want to disappoint the girls." Jack replied firmly. "Have they picked a movie."
"Cassandra wants to watch something scary." Janet replied, her uncertainty worming into her voice. "But I'm worried about actually showing them Harvest."
"The Darby Crane flick where guy breaks into the convent and eats nuns?" Jack replied in confusion. "She wants to watch that? Cassie, our Cassie?"
"I know, but she's a little old for the Disney thing now." It was sad, but true. Cassandra was growing up.
"But Darby Crane? The guy is a hack - he doesn't seem to actually understand pacing enough to be really scary." The Colonel replied in disappointment. "Can we just watch Braveheart again?"
Janet gagged. "Jack, I've had to watch that damn movie once a week for four months. If I have to watch it again I'm going to start rooting for the prince."
"Fair enough, Darby Crane it is." Jack replied.
"You don't think that it's too graphic?" Janet inquired.
"Not really. Cassandra is about the right age and … well… not to put too fine of a point on it but Emily... Emily isn't exactly delicate. I'm not overly worried about offending her sensibilities." The Colonel snorted.
"Ok Jack, I'm ok with it if you think it's a good idea." Janet conceded. "If you're not asking about what movie to rent, why are you calling?"
She could practically hear Jack's smug grin over the phone. "Actually, I was wondering if you guys had any plans for today."
"Nothing in particular, why?" Janet inquired.
"Well, I had a thought about our little "F-word" issue." Jack replied emphatically.
"Jack, we talked about this." Janet replied sadly. "She can't even bear to hear about flying. If we take her skydiving it's just going to make things worse."
"No - no, I had another idea. Well… Sam did, and I'm the one who knew a guy." Jack replied before elaborating on what he had in mind. Janet's lips quirked up into a smile as the man laid out what he had in mind, actually laughing at the simple elegance of it.
So it was that three women and a dog found themselves in a car heading out to an empty field in rural Colorado. It was Cassandra's turn to pick the music, which effectively meant they were in for two hours of Ricky Martin - Cassandra's most recent pop-crush. Emily seemed mostly confused by her adoptive sister's musical preferences, electing to listen to classical music from the radio whenever she was given control of their in-car entertainment.
Janet was careful not to drive too fast along the highway, the SF's in the following car would get in trouble if they lost track of Emily. There was also the chance that they might be replaced with NID mercenaries, which Janet was hoping to avoid.
They reached the address Jack had given Janet after about two hours, pulling past several different checkpoints where Janet had to show them her ID to pass. She followed the long road away from the highway, driving past a thick tree-line that obscured property from prying eyes before entering a private airfield. It was the sort of place that was mostly used for rich people to store their jets and for the military to move people when discretion was required. It was currently closed for repairs due to an issue with the radar tower, but Jack was friends with the owner so he'd gotten permission to use the empty building for his plan.
Cassandra's mouth opened in shock when she saw the multicolored fabric of the massive balloon. "Are we going to fly?"
"Yes, honey, we are." Janet replied as she parked the car, unbuckling her seatbelt as she looked into the back of the car at Emily's conflicted expression. "You ok, Emily?"
"Yes," The girl replied reflexively, her arms clasped tight around her chest in a way Janet knew would cover the scars on the girl's back where her wings had been. "I'm fine."
Janet nodded, allowing the girl to lie to her. The three women got out of the car, following Stuart as he barreled across the runway to "Uncle Jack." The Colonel snorted, picking up the little dog and holding the pampered pooch like a baby. "Well hello there Mr. Fuzzy. You are getting fat."
"That dog gets no attention." Janet jibed sarcastically as Jack opened the door to the balloon's wide basket, stepping in and placing the dog on the ground. It was a massive compartment, big enough for a much larger group of people to enter comfortably, and a cooler full of sandwiches and drinks was already cracked open in the center of it beneath the hanging mechanism for spouting flames. A mechanism that was already being tinkered with by Sam Carter. The bonde Astrophysicist pulled at the machine, sending a spurt of flame into the cloth balloon as she greeted the group. "Everybody ready to fly?"
Janet and her daughters entered the balloon as Jack walked over to the SFs, presumably relieving them of duty and telling them where the balloon was headed so they could meet them with Janet's car at the landing point.
"Hi Sam." Cassie hugged her adoptive Aunt. "How's work?"
"Busy as usual Cassie." Sam replied, ruffling the girl's hair.
"Stop it," The teenager protested half-heartedly as she kneeled down to scratch Stuart behind the ears.
"Alright, let's see about getting this tub in the air." The Colonel Walked into the basket and started untethering it from the ground. "Sam, you mind introducing our star player to her job?"
"Of course." Sam beamed at Emily. "You, little miss, are going to make us fly."
"I can't." Emily replied, tears welling in her eyes. "Can't fly."
"Actually, yes we all can." Sam pointed up at the machine that was burning above them. "You see this basket is actually lifted up by the hot air captured in that balloon. The more hot air, the greater the lift. And while I can use a machine to make that heat, I figured that you might do a better job of it than the machine."
"Fire?" Emily replied, an eager wistfulness to her as she pulled her hands from her scars and pointed at the mechanism. "Just… like that? Breathe up?"
"Just breathe up." Sam agreed. "That's all you need."
Emily pursed her lips as though she were whistling and exhaled a long torrent of flame as Jack released the last tether. The basket shot skyward, uplifted by the sudden rush of hot air. Emily continued to exhale, breathing in deeply and buffeting out streams of flame. Sam checked a number of arcane looking instruments on the side of the basket before placing her hand on the little girl's shoulder, "That's high enough Emily, any higher and we'll start going in the wrong direction."
The little girl's eyes were clouded with tears of joy as she hugged sam hard, burying her face in the astrophysicist chest to hide her open weeping. Sam patted the child's back softly letting her regain her composure before asking. "You ok there Sparky?"
"Good Sam. I am well." Emily wiped the tears from her eyes. "The sky is mine Sam. I am flying. I am not broken, not worthless."
"You are never worthless." Janet snarled, furious at the very idea of it.
"Dang right you aren't, and don't let any jerk tell you anything different." Jack replied firmly. "Now, who wants a sandwich?"
"Me." Emily took the wrapped foodstuff from Jack, holding it to her chest and looking to the people around her as she embraced her meal. "Thank you sister, thank you mother, thank you other mother, thank you father. Thank you for flying with me."
"We love you too kiddo." Jack snorted as the dog started barking emphatically, trying to get Emily's sandwich. "Now eat that sandwich or give it to Stuart but don't just taunt the poor dog with ham."
Janet laughed out loud as Emily proceeded to feed her entire sandwich to the pampered pup.