One of the worst parts of being famous in today's world is the constant scrutiny of every detail of your private life by the world at large. This is a major theme of this series of stories. I applaud the responsible reporters who are motivated by a desire to give the public the information it needs to make informed decisions and who avoid intrusive reporting on private lives. I do not intend to include ethical journalists in my portrayal of the damage done by the bottom feeding segment of the media that is less concerned about truth or impact on the subjects of stories than in how many readers/viewers a story will attract.
This story was written strictly for the purpose of entertainment. No attempt has been made to copyright any characters which may not have been originally created by the author, and no profit is made from this work of fiction. Any original characters and the stories themselves are the property of the author.
I appreciate all feedback, laudatory or critical, greatly but receive some from people who do not have e-mail addresses to which to respond. Please accept my thanks here if I am not able to e-mail it to you.
A man in flowing robes sat cross legged on brightly colored rugs covering a tent floor. The light, flat computer on the low table in front of him seemed completely out of place, the only high tech anywhere in sight. Outside one of the indigenous relatives of the camel brayed. His fellows picked it up and there was a terrific racket until their keeper quieted them. Dr. Daniel Jackson waited it out. He'd lost the earphones for the computer again and would have to have some quiet to be able to hear whatever Jack O'Neill had recorded for him on the DVD his oldest friend faithfully sent him every month.
He clicked the file with Jack's personal message. Jack had recorded himself sitting in the living room of the Minnesota cabin that was his personal fortress. Daniel studied his friend's face. Jack still looked to be in his late fifties just as Daniel appeared to be in his early forties. The older they got, the more obvious it became, no matter how the government tried to deny the "Gate effect," repeated gate travel definitely slowed down aging. Yet while Jack or Daniel's age might not show in their skin, physical frame, and amount of hair, their eyes betrayed the many and difficult miles they had traveled.
Daniel's smile at seeing his friend faded as Jack began to talk about the latest churlish behavior from the older two "Golden Brothers, the nickname that had stuck to Sam's three sons, one each from her failed marriages to Jack and Daniel and one more from the Titanic disaster of her brief marriage to a movie star. Daniel loved the oldest of the Golden Brothers as much as his own son, Jake. Even though Johnny was Jack's biologically and legally, Sam and Daniel had been married when Jake Jackson and Johnny O'Neill, slightly less than a year apart in age, were small. No matter how badly they stomped on Daniel's heart when they got older, it was still theirs.
When the Stargate went public, Jack, Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c quite naturally became its biggest celebrities and Daniel had hated almost everything about it. Now Sam's children were cursed with fame too and it wasn't making them happy as far as Daniel could tell. He had promised himself that he would keep his family here on Lisseth hidden as long as he could to protect them from a similar fate.
Daniel still loved Sam and it was important to him that things work out for her. The best news in Jack's message, besides the fact that the new Parkinson's medicine seemed to be helping Jack's wife Sara, was that Sam's fourth marriage, this time to Teal'c, was still apparently healthy.
The real blow to the gut in Jack's message came when Jack leaned forward and said. "I know you like it there on Lisseth. They can't even spell 'National Inquirer' and you have a relatively uncomplicated life in the midst of one of the biggest collections of Ancient artifacts we've ever found. You've got all the privacy you could want since the locals regard you as one of them and only agree to a handful of aliens on world at any time. But Daniel you've been living there most of the year for 17 years and hiding out there for the last six. You've got to come back for a while for the sake of our boys. I'm calling in any markers I might have with you and asking you as your oldest friend."
Daniel switched the computer off. He'd catch the rest later but he was in no hurry for the heartbreak of watching sons he could never really know. He also had a lot to mull over in Jack's request.
There was an outburst of musical laughter outside the tent. Still laughing, Chiona said goodbye to her friend, lifted the flag, and entered the tent. She stopped suddenly, surprised to see Daniel. "I thought you were at the far dig until tomorrow. I'm so glad you came back early!" She spoke in English, the family rule inside the tent. Daniel didn't want to take his family back to Earth but he knew that there was a real possibility that there might come a day and so he had seen to it that they were all fluent.
Chiona sank gracefully to sit next to him. He smiled at her, leaned over, and kissed her cheek. "Khalam was worried about the Green People. One of the sweepers saw signs they might be in the vicinity." Daniel chuckled. "You should have seen the little tirade that SG Colonel indulged in. 'If this was being managed properly, we would have a full complement of troops here and we wouldn't have to run away like little girls because some bunch of primitives have us in their sights.'"
Chiona asked, "But the Tauri went back to their base as requested?"
Daniel sobered. "They did but the attitude of the SG personnel sent here over the years has been shifting. I am beginning to worry that there may be a change in policy that will cause them to stop respecting local sovereignty."
Chiona was more troubled that he worried than she was by the problem itself. Like all the Blue People, she believed completely that as long as Daniel was with them, they would be safe. She proposed brightly, "Seline has been with Dema this afternoon processing berries. We have some thick soup. Since you're here, why don't I make a pie? We'll have a feast!"
She started to rise and Daniel laid a hand on her arm. "You take such good care of me. Let me help you and there'll be more time for me to work with the two of you and the children on your studies."
A few minutes later, Seline hurried into the tent carrying a huge covered clay pot. Her tiny baby was nestled in a shawl wrapped tightly around her chest. As soon as she set the pot down, Daniel hugged both of them. Seline unwrapped the baby and handed him to Daniel. "Why don't you play with Danny and let me help Chiona. I'm really hungry."
Daniel laughed at her. "I take it you think I'm a slow cook's helper."
She said so affectionately that there was no sting in it, "Hopelessly slow."
"Where are Jak, Tealk, and Trina?" Daniel asked, sitting back down, cradling the still sleeping child.
Seline nodded, "Good question. I need them to go back to Dema's and get the rest."
As if summoned up by magic, two little boys dashed into the tent, chased by a coltish young girl. They circled around Daniel to put him between themselves and their exasperated sister. "Dei," she appealed to him. "The boys have been dreadful. They wouldn't mind me and I haven't been able to get the translation done you assigned me because I've spent the whole afternoon chasing them."
"Jak and Tealk," Daniel said, sounding serious, "come around where I can see you." The boys reluctantly complied and Daniel leveled a look directly at them and said, "What do you have to say for yourselves?"
Jak, at 10 was the spokesman for his younger brother who was only 6. "We did our assignments and our chores and there was no weapons practice today for me but then Trina just wanted us to stay around the tent because she was still working." He slanted a calculating look at his father and added, "We have inquiring minds and needed intellectual challenge."
Trina rolled her eyes. "Which consisted of spooking Jaspar's mounts."
Daniel said, "Did you spook the mounts?"
Jak picked at a scab on his bare foot and said, "We didn't mean to, really."
"But you did?"
"Yes," the boy admitted, still hanging his head.
Daniel pronounced sentence. "You'll go back to Jaspar tomorrow and offer to help him for the afternoon. Understood?" The boys exchanged glances and Jak again said, "Yes."
Trina smiled smugly but Daniel put an end to that by saying, "Trina, I appreciate how much you love your studies but is it possible that you may have completely ignored the boys when a little effort might have found a way to keep them out of trouble?" His voice was gentle but Trina, like all his children, hated to disappoint their father.
"Maybe. I'm sorry Dei. I'll do better next time."
Now Daniel looked over at Chiona. "Chiona, why was Trina here alone all day with the boys?"
Chiona winced. "I asked her and she said she didn't mind."
Daniel repeated, "Why was Trina here alone all day with the boys?"
Chiona slowly admitted. "A couple of my friends wanted to walk over to the west camp for training instead of doing here and there didn't seem to be any reason not to go with them."
"Chiona," he looked around the room, "all of you. I know it's been hard since we lost your mother and that I have to ask you to take on more responsibility because of that. I've been very proud of how well you have all acted most of the time but when you are selfish and don't do your share, which includes obeying your sister," he said pointedly looking at the two little boys, "it makes it hard for all of us. Can I count on you all to remember that?"
They all signaled their agreement one way or another and things quieted down with the two chief noisemakers running off to Dema's for two more large pots. Everything peaceful for the moment, Daniel indulged himself with watching his stepdaughter Seline's boy baby starting to stir in his arms. Everything about the three-month old was so breathtakingly beautiful to his stepgrandfather, even his club foot. Daniel had been reasonably successful at blocking out thoughts of any life other than what he had here on Lisseth but his friend Jack's request had cracked a closed door in his mind. Now, holding Seline's baby, he suddenly was reminded strongly of Johnny's birth.
Jack had refused to be Sam's labor coach when Johnny was on the way. He had tried to fill that role for Sara when Charlie was born and it had almost been too much for him. Watching the woman he loved in pain he had caused, at least from one point of view, made him want to kick ass, not sit watching a doctor do his job, and offering basically touchy feely support as his only contribution. By the time Sam got ready for the actual class, she wasn't living with Jack any more and had filed for divorce. The ugly and unfounded rumors about Sam and Daniel that had circulated while Sam and Jack were married now caused the tabloids to want to believe Daniel was the baby's father. Nothing she said could quash the rumors so why not ask him to be her labor coach?
Daniel was holding Sam's hand when Johnny was born and he fell in love with the child from the moment the doctor pulled him out and laid him, all blood flecked, on Sam's belly to cut the cord. The nurses cleaned the baby up, wrapped him tightly in a receiving blanket, and gave him to Sam. The tiny boy focused on something just a few inches away, not really seeing his mother's face or the man who leaned over her, but they both felt as if this little being was seeing straight into their souls.
After her too brief, from Daniel's point of view, two days in the hospital, Daniel took Sam to a secluded house he had gone to great lengths to rent through third parties so that the public wouldn't find them for awhile and she could get used to being a mother in peace.
Sam wanted to breast feed but Johnny was slightly premature and didn't initially have a good sucking reflex. She was reduced to expressing milk and then feeding it to him with thin plastic tubing that she taped to the side of her breast. Sam was utterly exhausted and her exhaustion began to be problematic for her milk supply. They developed a routine where Daniel took two night time feedings, using expressed milk mixed with formula, if necessary. He fed little Johnny with the plastic tube taped to his finger. In the dark, quiet of the middle of the night, he would hold little Johnny in his arms and feed him and feel as if he had the whole world right there in that tiny child.
After awhile, modesty began to go by the board. Daniel was there and Sam was breast feeding. For both of them, there was nothing sexual about it. The focus was on taking care of Johnny. He would cry and, unless it was a night feeding, they would both be there like a shot. For two weeks, Sam gave up getting dressed and just lived to care for Johnny but, in the end, it paid off. Johnny was nursing vigorously, producing plenty of wet diapers, and the routine was beginning to regularize itself. Daniel had become as comfortable with taking care of him as his mother. Sam had become so used to Daniel being there, sharing the ups and the downs, that they both dreaded the fact that it was all coming to an end.
The plan was that after the first month, Sam would now go back to her condo and begin life as a single mom. Three days later, she called Daniel, asking him to come right away. Johnny was screaming non-stop and she was at the end of her resources. He threw a change of clothes and toiletries in a duffle bag and was there thirty minutes later.
Later that evening when Johnny was sleeping soundly in his bassinet, Daniel came into the bedroom, put his arms around Sam and led her back into the living room. He pulled her down on the couch next to him and began to rub her neck.
"It's so good to have you here. There are few things that can make you feel more alone than to have a tiny baby screaming for hours on end, no matter what you do, and know that you're the only one there to do anything about it," Sam confessed. She leaned back into his strong hands, luxuriating in the massage skills he had learned long before for Sha'ree's benefit.
Daniel knew he should bide his time. Two days before, Jack, Teal'c, and he had come up with a whole game plan when Jack had asked him to marry Sam. Jack worried about leaving Sam, coping with a baby, to face the difficult world their celebrity had created alone. The utterly bizarre nature of the entire request, a man asking his best friend to marry the man's ex-wife whom his best friend had always loved anyway. Nevertheless, it had been hard for Daniel to agree, hard to put himself in a place to be cut over and over as he was sure he would be, by the fact that Sam still loved Jack even though she had found it impossible to live with him.
The baby in the next room, Sam's smell, the feel of her skin under his hands dictated another time table than the one planned. "Sam, my timing is lousy but I can't help myself."
Sam looked back around at him. "Timing for what?" She obviously wasn't expecting this to be anything good. She tensed waiting to hear it.
"To ask you to let me stay around permanently. Let me be Johnny's, well, not his father. He has a father. One of his caregivers anyway. Let me care for you too. Let me be your husband, Sam." When Daniel finished, absolute silence reigned. Sam stopped breathing for a few seconds.
"You can't marry me because I'm so damn needy right now," Sam finally responded sadly.
Daniel pulled her back into his arms so she was lying across his lap. His blue eyes, with a maelstrom of emotions boiling in their depths, gazed into hers. He said hoarsely, "Let me show you need." He moved one hand up to tighten in her hair. With the other he ran his thumb across her lower lip and then he kissed her. It wasn't a gentleman's kiss or even particularly good from an objective stand point. Had it been an Olympic event, even the American judge would only have given it a 3 out of 10 for technique. But when it came to feeling and desire, all the judges would have been holding up a 10, including the French and the Russians.
When he let her go, her mouth throbbing from his, she gasped, "Daniel, do you know what you are doing?"
He chose to misinterpret her comment. "I can do better," he said. He was a man of his word. They were married within the month. Sam's tabloid queen crown had temporarily been displaced by the intern who reportedly had been inappropriately groped by Madam President but Sam won it back immediately. All other contenders had to slink away completely trounced when in another 6 months it came out that she was pregnant again.
By the time Jacob was born, Sam had retired from active duty, afraid to leave the boys with anyone else after two spectacular celebrity kidnappings in a row where the nannies were implicated. She made occasional public appearances in support of the Stargate Program but she mostly stayed home and went stir crazy.
In between public appearances, Daniel was an archeological consultant to whatever SG teams needed him. If he was gone for more than a day or two, he knew Sam found it intolerable. She had two active toddlers and was still hounded by the ugly underbelly of the third establishment. Getting out of the house was not trivial and making friends was extremely difficult. Unless the prospective friend was as well known as Sam was, there was always a suspicion as to why they wanted to be friends. Sam hadn't started out that way but more than one misjudgment of people's motives had left her with a bad taste in her mouth. Unfortunately the famous people she met bored her silly for the most part. This was America so few known to the general public were famous because they were brilliant. Most were famous because they were beautiful, athletically gifted, had abilities in the performing arts, or were really, really good at making money. Then there were the politicians. It was hard to find soul mates in this group. Daniel had become almost the only one she could have an adult conversation with. He tried to make they set time aside for it, knowing how she craved that after very many hours with Johnny and Jake, as they had started calling little Jacob.
One night Daniel came home beaming. He found Sam giving the boys a bath. "Hello beautiful," he said, patting Sam on the backside and kneeling immediately at the side of the tub to splash the two boys.
"Daddy," 20 month old Johnny said, "Look at me!" He took a mouth full of water and flew it out in a stream. Neither Sam not Daniel blinked at his calling Daniel 'Daddy.' He also called Jack, Daddy. At his age, two daddies were even better than one.
Almost one year old Jake contented himself with "Yaya," and came up sputtering trying to imitate the older brother he copied in everything.
"You're juiced about something," Sam commented, curious.
"Am I ever! I've got great news, Sam," Daniel said looking happily at his beautiful wife, looking incredibly sexy in a t-shirt, wet down the front from the exuberant bathing, and the two boys, both his sons as far as what his heart told him, cheerfully splashing in the tub. "It'll have to wait until after the boys are in bed."
"Dr. Daniel Jackson," his wife protested, "that's not fair." Even with a couple of moves that usually reduced him to putty in her hands, she still didn't get her answer until they were sitting together in front of a fire with the baby monitor turned on and a glass of wine each. "Okay, I'm going to have to hurt you if you wait any longer to tell me what this is about," Sam teased.
"They need my help on a major Ancient find but it would be six months or more off-world. I told them I wouldn't do it unless they let me take my family with me OR allowed me to come back every weekend. It's obviously cheaper for you to come. Johnny could come back for his monthly visits with Jack or Jack could come to the site."
Sam had been looking at him very puzzled. She clearly hadn't seen see why this was something to get excited about and became even less enthusiastic when Jack's name came up. "Sam, think about it. We can be somewhere where we don't have a public. We can free for the first time in years."
Sam's expression reflected dawning comprehension. "All right. I'm not doing any science at this point here either," she accepted with a notable lack of enthusiasm.
It stretched into the happiest year of Daniel's life. He had exciting work, the woman he had loved for years, and his two boys in a place where they were just ordinary people. The only cloud was that it clearly was not the happiest period in Sam's life. She had her children who, while adorable, drove her crazy. Daniel knew she still loved Jack and married him because she was overwhelmed by being alone, not because she loved him romantically. Every once in awhile, it was clear that she was comparing him unfavorably to Jack, although she never said anything. Finally, other than catching up on journal articles on her computer, she had nothing more intellectually stimulating to do than reading to toddlers.
Usually, they sent Johnny back for the monthly visits that the custody agreement gave Jack. One month, Jack came to them. Daniel was supposed to be the one to actually meet Jack with Johnny and get them set up in a temporary camp but there was miscommunication and Daniel wasn't around when Jack showed up. Sam had only seen Jack once since the divorce since Daniel had been willing to handle the visitation transfers. Johnny ran enthusiastically to his father who picked him up and tossed him in the air before hugging him. Two year old Jake clung to his mother's hand and stared owl eyed at this stranger. That was when Daniel caught sight of them all just as he started to come around a tent behind Jack. Something made him hang back and watch.
"Hi, Sam," Jack said, with no more emotion than if he had been greeting his next door neighbor.
"Jack," Sam returned, sounding husky. She leaned forward slightly toward him and Daniel imagined her wondering why she had ever left Jack as he stood there, still strong and vigorous and oh so handsome with their son in his arms.
She was just staring at Jack, looking lost, and then Jake pulled on her hand. "Mommy, I want Daddy." For just the briefest of moment, Daniel saw something in her eyes but then she looked down into Jake's anxious little face, already starting to look like a miniature of Daniel, and he saw the love well up for the little boy.
"Where's Daniel?" Jack asked, hoisting Johnny up on his shoulders.
"He's still out at the dig. We didn't think you were coming until tomorrow. I sent someone for him." After she delivered her explanation, she stood waiting for Jack to say or do something. Daniel was afraid to speculate what. Jack merely shrugged and said to Johnny, "So let's go check out our tent," and waved good bye to Sam.
Sam was extremely moody for weeks after Jack's visit and although Daniel never said anything, he knew what was behind it. She knew that he knew and he knew that she knew that he knew. It was extremely awkward and he spent less and less time with her. If he was in the camp, he was with the boys. He came to bed after she was asleep and never touched her sexually despite the fact that that was the one part of their lives she had always seemed completely with him. He felt like it was up her to mend things and she kept putting it off.
One night, he came to bed late. He was sure she was feigning sleep, but he considerately undressed silently, lifted the blanket and slid in next to her as if she was really sleeping. He immediately turned away from her and she shocked him when she fitted herself to his back and ran her hand over his side and up his chest. "Daniel," she said softly, "I love you."
"You don't, Sam," Daniel answered so low she could barely make him out, "God forgive me that I don't have enough self-respect to care." He turned and he made love to her then, slowly and masterfully. After it was over, he fell asleep holding her in his arms.
Suddenly, there was a high-pitched keening coming from outside the camp. Daniel woke up immediately and laid fingers on Sam's lips. He whispered barely audibly in her ear, "Get the boys and be ready to get to the gate. NOW."
Sam put Jake in a carrier on her front and tied Johnny to her back. Daniel gave her the only gun in the tent and, knowing that she had the little boys, she didn't argue. Afterwards, she couldn't tell him clearly how she got the boys to the gate through the onslaught of horrific reptilian bipeds that were barely sentient. She had a gun and they only had their fangs and their claws, but there were seemly endless waves of the creatures and she was trying to shoot and carry two boys. There is a world of difference between being in battle as a soldier and being in battle as a mother.
Sam and her sons waited in the gateroom for what she later described in her autobiography as the longest 40 minutes of her life. Daniel came through supporting a wounded soldier with the last people off the planet alive. He had a long gash on his leg that was oozing blood and smaller wounds all over. As he lurched toward them, Jake tore loose from his mother and ran to him. "Daddy, daddy, it was scary, daddy," he said holding on to his father's unwounded leg.
Sam looked at Daniel and said, "Never again, Daniel."
At first the return to life among the Tauri wasn't bad. They weren't the current center of tabloid attention, even with respect to the gate. Recent exploits of a young SG team had captured the public attention. All that changed when the records were declassified that told the story of Daniel Ascending. The world immediately divided, it seemed, into two camps: those who wanted to treat Daniel as a former angel and those who thought he had to be satanic. Daniel literally couldn't leave the house without being assaulted by devotees who wanted to touch him or get a scrap of his clothing, and those who wanted to spit on him. Daniel begged Sam to leave Earth with him but she refused to take the boys off world again. When Sam found out she was pregnant, there was little rejoicing because it sparked a continuous round of fights over how they were going to live their lives and raise their children.
In her fourth month, they left the boys with the wife of a SG sergeant to go to the obstetrician. Daniel drove like a maniac to get away from those lurking outside the gates and thought he had lost them. They parked and were walking from the parking lot when a car screeched to a halt a few feet away from them. Three teens leapt out and rushed toward them. One pushed Sam out of the way and she fell hard against a railing. Eighteen hours later she lost the baby, the only girl she ever conceived.
Daniel went wild. He went after several reporters outside the hospital and knocked one down. It was only the knowledge of the way public sympathy was running that kept him from being sued.
When they came back from the hospital, tension escalated. They had shouting arguments for the first time and the little boys, already seeing a counselor to help them through their last night on the embattled planet, became more fearful and were particularly upset at Daniel being out of their sight.
Their last night together started out with the same stale argument. "We can't stay here. They will never leave us alone," Daniel pleaded.
"There is danger everywhere but at least we have law and order here and not a single scaly monster," Sam responded, more or less as she had done over and over again.
This time Daniel didn't back down. "People are camped out, as close to our house as they can get. People in wheelchairs. Blind people. People with horrible scars. They just want to touch me. I'm not a god. I'm not even close and I'm getting in the way of these people looking for help where it really is available, of them finding the true God."
She turned her back on him and he left the room. Daniel walked slowly down the hall and into the boy's room. There enough rooms in their house for each child to have his own but since they had returned, the boys seemed to have an easier time of it together than alone in the dark. He sat on each of their beds for an hour or more, ran his hand gently over their silky hair, and softly kissed their downy cheeks and then he walked out of the house for the last time.
Daniel avoided looking deep enough in himself to know what he expected to happen or even what he hoped for. He just knew that to survive he had to leave Earth. He had been approached about an extended mission to P4X999, called Lisseth by its people, the day before. After the first mission, the native leaders steadfastly refused to allow SG teams to leave the vicinity of the gate. The first SG mission had, through an extremely unlikely set of accidents, found the hidden ruins of an Ancient city, rich in artifacts. Someone was desperately needed to make headway with the native leaders and win permission to allow them to study the city. Daniel now gratefully accepted the challenge.
When Sam despaired of persuading him to return, she filed for divorce. The summons for the divorce action was the first Tauri legal paper ever delivered through a gate. The process server appeared on talk shows for 6 months afterwards. Rather than feed the media circus that would have followed, Daniel did not contest. He was devastated when he discovered that this meant that he had no right to see Johnny, only Jake.
He hadn't seen Jake for four months when he returned for the first visitation. Jake turned his face against his mother when Daniel reached out to take his hand.
Daniel squatted down to Jake's level and said gently, "Jake, it's me, your dad."
Sam, to give her credit, did try to help. "Jake, you remember your daddy. He's going to take you to the zoo. Won't that be fun?"
The child peered cautiously at the bearded man. Daniel suddenly realized what part of the problem was. "This is a beard," he explained. "Do you want to touch it."
The little boy bravely touched his father's face and then snatched his hand back. "Daddy's face is like a doggie," he said solemnly.
Daniel smiled. "Daddy's in the doghouse. It makes sense," he said more for Sam's ears than Jake's.
Jake came closer, the active curiosity programmed into his genes taking over. He stroked his father's face and pronounced, "I like it. I go to the zoo."
Daniel picked him up and stood, looking at Sam who was fighting tears. He carried Jake to the car and strapped him into the car seat in the back. Sam had turned to leave but he walked quickly back to her. "Please Sam," he asked in such a low voice she could barely hear him, "don't keep Johnny from me."
Sam answered, her voice breaking but her resolve firm. "If you are not going to be here, then Johnny is best off forgetting you. I wish I could do the same for Jake."
"I think you mean you would like to forget me," Daniel said bitterly. "I'm in your bones and someday you'll realize it." Then he grabbed her and kissed her breathless and left. All future transfers were handled by others on Sam's behalf and he didn't see her in person again for more than 18 years.
He contacted Jack and arranged to see Johnny when Johnny visited Jack. Since Sam had no idea that Jack and Daniel had remained close, she thought Jack allowed this out of spite. Her lawyer advised her that she had little grounds for trying to prohibit Daniel from seeing Johnny when Johnny was with his father but she took it to the judge anyway. The failure to get support from the court added one more brick to the wall she was building against her ex-husbands. Daniel could see how Sam was wandering farther and farther away from herself. The way she was handling custody along with dozens of other uncharacteristic actions seemed like a cry for help but he knew it couldn't come from him.
At the end of a year on Lisseth, the lack of progress was enormously frustrating. Daniel would be so close to an agreement he could taste it and then yet another political undercurrent within the tribes, whose name in their language for themselves was the Blue People, would undo it. The locals insisted that all other SG personnel spend no more than a month on the planet but they had made an exception for Daniel. Initially, it was because he had saved a boy from a wild animal. Then he had gone with them, at their request, to negotiate with the Green People and settled the dispute without blood shed. Years later he learned that he had inadvertently, time after time, fulfilled parts of an ancient prophecy and the Blue People began to regard him as a messenger of the gods. Unlike the reaction to his ascension on Earth, this only led to quiet awe and never to unwelcome celebrity. Three times they had taken him, and only him, to the hidden Ancient site and allowed him to work for several hours. That had been so rich in information that it was worth it to the Stargate Program for him to keep trying.
Personally, Daniel was almost as interested in the unique culture that had evolved on Lisseth, one bore no close resemblance to any one Tauri people past or present. On planets where the Goa'uld had maintained a presence, cultures had remained very close to their status when imported from Earth. On Lisseth, the people had come from three different disparate groups and the Goa'uld, for whatever reason, had left hundreds of years before. Lisseth may have felt like Abydos at first, one reason for Daniel's determination to make something work out, but its people were completely different.
One evening, he left the SG camp immediately next to the Stargate and, accompanied by two young men in long, hooded, brightly striped robes, hiked two miles over the sand to the oasis where the nearest Blue People camp was located. They ushered him into Jikso's tent and left silently. The uberheadman of all the Blue People's headmen was a powerfully built, middle-aged man with his long graying hair in thin braids caught together at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather. He was sitting on a pile of red cushions and gestured toward a similar cluster of pillows next to him. Daniel knew that they might sit in silence for as long as an hour but, no matter how long it took, he had to wait, without speaking for Jikso to initiate the conversation. In the meantime, he was free to pour himself a drink from the brass pitcher on the low table in front of them and to eat from the tray heaped with sweets.
"You have come to understand us Dr. Jackson and live beside us without offense unlike the others of your people," Jikso said at last.
Daniel dipped his head in appreciation of the compliment. Jikso continued, "I believe that although you observe our customs, you do not believe in the reasons behind them as we do. Is this true?"
Daniel wasn't sure how to answer this without giving offense but in the end opted for the truth. He spoke for the first time saying, "I see the reasons for some of them but, yes, there are others that I observe only out of respect for you."
Jikso nodded and Daniel saw that he had pleased him with his answer. "You know that among us blindness is regarded as a sign of displeasure from the gods? Is this a belief that you share?"
Daniel sighed and said quietly, "No, I do not. I believe that the blind deserve to be evaluated by the same scale as everyone else."
Jikso lapsed into silence again for several minutes. Then he leaned toward Daniel and said slowly, "My dearest friend since I was a boy died five years ago, saving my life. He had a daughter, Iona, whom he loved very much. Iona has, in turn, a daughter, Seline, who is but 5. Iona's husband was killed by the Greens and she was struck in the head and blinded. Things are very difficult for her and her daughter. I can offer a dowry but no man will marry a blind woman."
Jikso got to the heart of his pitch then. "If you will marry Iona and live among us as one of the Blue People, you may study the ruins to your heart's content and you may bring small numbers of Tauri there as long as you supervise them and remain responsible for them. If you do not marry her, then you must all leave and we will bury the gate. We have already contravened our faith and our laws allowing you to remain as long as we have."
Daniel was stunned. The logical first place to investigate was Iona. "How does Iona feel about this?" he asked.
"She is willing but you will want to hear this for yourself." He called out for one of Daniel's escorts and the young man immediately stepped into the tent. Jikso instructed him to bring Iona and less than a minute later, a woman in her early thirties followed him into the tent, led by a little girl. It was enough to make a man believe in a cosmic sense of humor. The woman looked like Sha'ree's sister except that her hair, hanging in a fat braid down her back, was straight, and shiny. The little girl, Seline, echoed her mother's looks. She brought her mother to the men and Iona sat gracefully next to Daniel. The little girl crawled into her mother's lap to look at Daniel solemnly.
"Hello," Daniel said softly.
Iona immediately turned toward his voice and Daniel felt as if she was looking right at him even though he knew better. "Hello," she responded in kind and her voice was husky and unconsciously seductive. It reached some place deep in Daniel and something stirred.
"Jikso has suggested that we consider marriage to each other. What do you think about this?" Daniel asked, slightly uncomfortable that they were having this conversation in front of her daughter but there seemed to be no help for it.
"I loved my husband very much and I do not know that I will ever love another. You also had a wife that you lost." Daniel realized that the Blues were far more observant of what was going on in the SG camp than the Tauri suspected. "I do not expect that you would love me and would hope that you would not expect me to fall in love with you. Yet, it is not good to be alone and it will be hard for you to be one of us unless you have a wife. I believe that if we respect each other's privacy, we can have a good life."
Daniel nodded and looked at the little girl. "What of you, Seline? Would it be all right with you if I married your mother?" Iona and Jikso were clearly shocked that he would consult a child but the little girl beamed at him, very proud that he spoke to her like an adult.
Seline scrambled from her mother's lap, stood, and walked to Daniel. She looked at him very closely and then nodded decisively. "I would be all right," she announced and returned to her mother.
Daniel deliberated for only a short time and then said, "I would like to take a few days to get to know Iona better. We can make a final decision together at the end of a week if this is all right with Iona and you, Jikso."
As a result, within two weeks, he had moved from the SG camp to the Blue's camp, into a tent that was part of Iona's dowry. Daniel told SG command nothing about his marriage, only that he had reached an agreement with the Blues and the terms of that agreement as it applied to SG personnel. Daniel began to wear the striped robes of the Blue men and quit cutting his hair. He shaved off the beard at Iona's request. She explained to him that it signified a preference for other men. It had confused the Blues about Daniel and had caused the delay of their offer to him by several months until they had figured out that its meaning was not the same with the Tauri.
He was well aware that the SG personnel thought him extremely eccentric for going native and that many of them ridiculed him behind his back. As he settled into the rhythm of the Blues and his work in the ruins began in earnest, he found that this lack of acceptance from the Tauri was a matter of complete indifference to him. When he went back to Earth to see Jake, to report to command or attend a meeting, he changed to Tauri clothes but they felt increasingly strange and uncomfortable. In his head, he was becoming someone else, Danil, as the Blues pronounced his name. When he no longer had visits with Jake or Johnny, he quit going back to Earth at all if he could help it. He continued to produce the results Cheyenne Mountain wanted and they didn't pressure him. Occasionally he traveled through the gate to other SG sites for short consultations, remaining in his accustomed Lisseth clothing. As he sat, remembering, holding little Danny, it had been three years since he had been to Earth.
Daniel and Iona spent the first year in a sort of slow mating dance, coming closer to each other through small gestures and daily rituals, and then one or the other pulling back a little ways when something became uncomfortable. They slept in the same bed because to do otherwise would be to say to the tribesmen that they were estranged, but at first they slept without touching. Over the nights the distance between them decreased and they began sleep touching each other, sharing their warmth. Daniel gradually began to act more and more like Seline's father until one day Seline, unconscious that she had even done it, called him Dei, the word for Daddy.
The Blues did not celebrate anniversaries but Daniel kept track of when the wedding had been and when the end of the first year approached, Daniel decided to do something about it. He paid for a set of wedding rings from Earth and a diamond solitaire, making up a fiction about why he needed them that apparently was convincing enough that it wasn't deemed newsworthy. On the night of their anniversary, he walked to the edge of camp with Iona in the thick darkness that put them on equal footing.
"On my planet we have a custom that is important to me," he said. "I don't believe it is against your customs, only different."
"And you wish that we should follow this custom, Danil?" she asked.
"If you wish to after I explain it, I would be honored," Daniel responded. He pressed the solitaire in her hand first.
She investigated the ring with her clever fingers. "This is a ring but it is small," she told him.
"This is because we do not only wear them on the thumb and index finger. This is worn on the heart finger."
"It has special meaning, more than adornment?" Iona asked, continuing to trace over the smooth metal and the square cut stone.
"It is an engagement ring. A man gives it to a woman when he asks her to marry him and she wears it always, even after they marry," he said drawing her close with one arm.
"I will wear it with pride," she answered him with strong emotion just under the surface of her calm voice.
"There is more," he continued after gently kissing her hair. He pressed the wedding band in her hand.
"Another ring for the same finger?" she asked.
"Yes. This one is a wedding ring. I would put it on your finger in the marriage ceremony. And you would put one just like it on my finger. It says to everyone that we belong to each other." Daniel drew her hands to him now and put them on either side of his left hand to feel his ring already in place.
"I will wear this ring too, my Danil," she said definitely on the edge of tears now.
"Iona will you be my wife?" he asked and at her assent, he continued, "With this ring, I thee wed." He slipped first the wedding ring and then the engagement ring on her finger.
Daniel was a little worried at how the other women would react to Iona's rings. He remained concerned until he learned that it had raised her status, redeemed from the curse of blindness in part by being his wife, even higher.
A few evenings later, he went to bed to find a crunchy sweet on his pillow. If this was a custom, he didn't know what it meant but it looked delicious and he ate it. Iona appeared immediately, exuding a subtle perfume he hadn't noticed before, her long hair freed of braids and hanging down to her waist. She slipped off her robe and he saw her beautiful body gleaming palely in the dim light in the tent. She laid down next to him and twined her arms around his neck. "I heard you chewing my candy," she whispered and she kissed him. And so, that night, so many years ago, Daniel learned of the custom of leaving a candy to signal an interest in love making.
As Daniel held Danny now and looked over at his children, among whom he counted Seline with all his heart, he was grateful for the bittersweet pain of seeing Iona's face reflected in Seline's and Trina's. Chiona looked less like Iona than the other two but her voice was exactly like her mother's. Daniel had had 12 years with Iona, 11 of them as truly man and wife, and she had borne him four children that were still his. It was much more than either Sha'ree or Sam had ever given him.
Danny stirred and he kicked out his misshapen little foot. Daniel thought about the Blue's superstitions that put the baby's clubfoot in the same category as Iona's blindness. There was no way to correct it on Lisseth and the boy could only expect a difficult life as almost an outcast. He thought about Seline, Chiona, and especially Trina. He had delighted in their quick minds and had taught them everything they had time to learn. In doing so, he had made it hard for any of them to find someone to marry. There had been a young man whom Daniel had befriended in boyhood and who had also been a student of his. This young man had married Seline and died, just like Iona's first husband, at the hands of the Greens. Daniel doubted that there would be another young man for Seline. Jack had a right to ask for his help and, in any case, it was time to take his family to Earth long enough for surgery on Danny's foot and perhaps to find a better life for his daughters. Jak and Tealk had the best shot at a normal life on Lisseth but Daniel would not leave them behind. Daniel refused to consider the possibility that he might not return but he wanted all those he loved where he could see them and know they were safe.
The decision was a relatively quick one but the implementation was painfully slow. He had to work it through politically with the Blues. He had to get his children reasonably ready for the experience. He had to tell Stargate Command about his children and grandchild and arrange identification and legal status for them on Earth. Finally, almost three months after Jack's request, the seven of them stood ready to go through the gate.
Now that the Gate effect's anti-aging properties were known, the pressure from the rich and the powerful wanting to make trips through the gate was huge despite the fact that the Gate effect appeared to only kick in after dozens of trips. When the president made two trips through on some flimsy diplomatic pretext several years before, a whistle blower had leaked the information and she had come in for some deservedly bad press. Legislation had required the set up of a "Gate cam" that monitored people coming through the gate for all the world to see although the gate address wasn't displayed. Only when a military alert was present did the law permit the feed to be interrupted.
In response to the Gate cam, they all had the hoods of their robes pulled down over their faces and wore scarves wound around their necks beneath the hoods, partially covering their faces. Daniel wanted to keep their faces as unknown as possible, as long as possible. The SG team currently on world stood with them, loaded with gear and smoldering with resentment. The military personnel showed little emotion but the two civilian scientists weren't even trying conceal their irritation. They didn't believe that Daniel had tried at all to dissuade the headmen from the decision that all Tauri personnel had to leave until Daniel returned. In truth, Daniel hadn't tried very hard. He no longer thought of himself as Tauri and his distrust of Tauri motives and honor was almost as deep as the rest of the Blue People.
The baby was securely wrapped in a shawl across his mother's chest but she held one arm around him just to be sure and clung to Jak with the other. Chiona had Jak's other hand. Daniel held Tealk in one arm, Tealk's two small arms locked around Daniel's neck and his legs around his waist, and Trina had his other hand. The SG commander finished dialing up Earth and his personnel filed through first. Then Daniel looked at each of his family in turn and said, "Are you all ready?" thinking to himself, "There is no way anyone can ever get ready for being famous."