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.
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Samantha Carter looked ruefully at Jack O'Neill. "I'm afraid that was exactly the way I remembered it. I was sort of hoping that I had exaggerated how demeaning interviews could be in my memory over the last five years since I stopped giving them." She leaned back in the seat, her exhaustion more emotional than physical. The car was moving in fits and starts in heavy Manhattan traffic. Occasionally a passerby would glance over and see the pretty, 40ish appearing blond woman and her distinguished, silver haired companion, still extremely handsome and seeming to be in his late 50s. A few recognized one or the other or both of them but this was Manhattan. Only two tourists from Biloxi even bothered to comment to anyone about it. Since strangers saw only their bodies and not their minds, not even the closer scrutiny of the couple from Mississippi could divine just how tired they both were. It was as if the much envied Gate Effect, stemming from repeated trips through the Stargate's cold, altered reality, had accelerated the aging of their spirits at the same time it dramatically slowed their physical aging.
Jack shook his head. "They picked someone to interview us who doesn't have any interest in the issues. He just wanted the opportunity to get at us so he could slide in personal questions. 'Where's your husband? Where's your wife? How do they feel about the two of you spending time together?' We got to get back to the people setting things up and lay some better ground rules."
"I think they want us on those sorts of shows because they figure that the people who watch the lighter weight stuff are going to be the hardest to reach, the least likely to pay attention to what we say in a speech somewhere," She responded, sounding resigned to more such appearances if they were going to do their bit to fight a policy change toward taking what Earth needed by force from the people of low tech planets.
Jack punched the seat as hard as he could. "If I thought there was any chance Sara would hear or understand any of that idiot's innuendos…" He broke off and stared out the window, thinking about his sweet wife, ravaged by Parkinson's and other physical problems -- he was beginning to fear Alzheimer's although the doctors had yet to mention it -- who was no longer able to really take in all that went on in the world.
Sam said, soothingly, "We're each making appearances alone. As soon as Daniel and I do a couple of interviews together or the two of your make a joint appearance, that'll defuse rumors about you and me."
Jack snorted. "You think so? What about sly suggestions about you and Daniel rekindling old fires? Actually I think we'll start hearing about how all three of us have some sort of strange thing in play." He looked away from the window then and made direct eye contact with her. "Could you handle that?"
"What!" she gasped.
Jack realized how she had heard him immediately. "I DON'T mean if you could handle us actually doing, you know. Where is your head anyway, Sam? I meant, handling the gossip?"
"I knew that," Sam replied, wondering, indeed where her head had been to have even thought for a minute he would be asking a question like that. She had no intention of being unfaithful to Teal'c no matter where her husband was at the moment, Jack was a married man, and Daniel still seemed to be grieving for his late wife. Yet seeing Jack and Daniel in the flesh after years and years was causing her to have stray images flash into her mind, memories of two bodies she had known as well her own during her marriages to each of them. It was embarrassing. She thanked God that people really couldn't read each others' minds but she needed to be more careful about the inappropriate paths in which she allowed such memories to lead her thoughts. "I've heard worse. I can handle it. You're just anxious to get back to Sara. It must have been hard to leave her with Daniel and his kids."
"Not really. Those kids are so good for her. What surprises me is that the Golden Brothers came back to Minnesota again," he said, looking speculative as he considered the return of Sam's three sons to his isolated home -- their son, Johnny O'Neill, Sam and Daniel's son, Jake Jackson, and Sam's boy by her third-ex, Jonas Smith. By contrast, Daniel, his stepdaughter and her baby and his four children had been staying at Jack's ever since Daniel had brought them to earth from Lisseth.
"I've been trying to figure that out and I think it's Jake. I'm hoping, really hoping, that he's softening a little toward his father, not to mention the fact that Daniel's children are his half brothers and sisters. Jake wants to know them before they go back to Lisseth and he never sees them again. It also allows him to be around Daniel without admitting that he wants to be. Johnny's there because he's still defensive about Jake with respect to Daniel. Jonas really took a liking to all the Jacksons when we were together a few weeks ago. And, you know Jack; maybe the same is true for Johnny as for Jake. Maybe Johnny is starting to appreciate his father, you. He'd have even more trouble than Jake admitting he cared." Sam said, glad for the change in topic.
"Sam, Sam, Sam," Jack said, "Wake up and smell the pheromones. What you say may all be true but there's another major draw for Jake. Seline is Jake's stepsister, not a blood relation. I think he's really intrigued with her and taken with her baby. You know he went with Seline and Daniel when Danny's club foot was operated on. They've videoconned on the computer daily, probably more than once, but I know about at least one a day."
"Really?" Sam said surprised. "Where have I been?"
"You've done a lot more appearances than either Daniel or I and you've been worried about Teal'c."
She looked very somber and nodded her head. "Sometimes I can't think about anything else and other times I absolutely refuse to think about it at all because the thoughts aren't good. Imagine if Sara was halfway across the universe and you only got information about her, oh maybe, once a week." She hugged herself as if suddenly cold. "Something tells me Teal'c's only coming back as ashes." Jack gave her the sad, somehow knowing, look that she had caught him out with more than once. Sam kept feeling like he knew something she didn't but he wouldn't admit to a thing.
As they pulled up to the terminal at LaGuardia, Sam's cell rang. She fumbled with answering it while getting out of the car and making her way inside. Jack insisted on taking her carry-on to make it easier. It was a short conversation and she turned to Jack afterwards, very pale. "The Air Force is sending a car to pick us up. They say they'll provide transportation to Minneapolis and not to worry about our plane. They need to meet with me about something."
The government car, a minivan with tinted windows, was at the curb in less than two minutes. Clearly it had been lurking in the vicinity. Sam froze part way into the vehicle when she saw who was seated there, awaiting her. Jack urged her in the rest of the way and the door slid closed. "Hello SamanthaseTeal'c, GeneralO'Neill," he said, gravely.
"Rylac, it's been way too long," Jack said, filling the gap while Sam found her voice.
Neither of them had an illusions about why arguably the most powerful of all Jaffa leaders would have chosen to drop by New York for a visit. "It is good to see you," Sam managed to get out at last. "Do you…do you have news of Teal'c?"
The darkly handsome face in front of her looked so incredibly sad that his words were unnecessary, but he spoke them anyway. Some things have to be spoken out loud, even when they hurt deeply. Ryalc had little English but he would have chosen to speak in Jaffa, in any case, since Sam and Jack were the only ones who needed to understand. "My father and your husband fell in battle three of your planetary cycles ago. He died immediately but he took many of the enemy with him and he saved many of us. It is a measure of the man he was that he chose to die with heroic good effect than to wait for death to strike him down far from battle."
Sam had taken the seat next to Rylac and now she embraced him, beginning to cry but no yet to sob. "Thank you for coming to tell me yourself. I am greatly honored."
"As you know, when my father's second wife died, he left our people because the circumstances of her death played to some of our worst superstitions. Many believed that he was cursed. He knew that it was having a negative effect on my ability to lead. Because he believed in me, he exiled himself. I let him make this sacrifice but, at first, it was a cause of great pain. Then, because of you, I was able to be at peace. You made him happy and kept him from being alone and purposeless in a strange place. " He picked up a stoppered, dark glass bottle, about 6 inches high, from the floor at his feet and handed it to her. "Half of my father's ashes are within."
Sam took the bottle and held on to it for dear life.
Johnny O'Neill had been playing guitar on automatic pilot, his gaze fixed across the room on Seline and Jake whose heads were close together, bending over baby Danny. "Teach me how to play," Chiona wheedled, sitting down next to Johnny and interrupting his music by putting a hand on the frets below his grip. He removed it, rather like a piece of seaweed that had washed up against him. Johnny noticed how she jerked her hand away as soon as he touched her. She angled herself around so she was interposed in his line of sight. "Why not?" she asked, challengingly.
He considered Daniel's oldest, Chiona. The signals were so mixed. She hung around him all the time but didn't act like she was all that interested. He was pretty sure she was trying to keep him from horning in on Jake and her step-sister, Seline. He WAS going to have to do something about that situation soon. Seline was becoming too important to Jake no matter how much he tried to point out her shortcomings to his brother. How would Jake handle it when she inevitably went back to Lisseth where Jake couldn't follow? The sooner the budding whatever it was ended, the better.
Then there was how jumpy Chiona had gotten. The last time the two families had been together she had seemed very comfortable with him, taking his arm without a thought. Now she started like a rabbit at any chance contact. He thought back to Seline's reaction when his half-brother, Jake, had hugged her at the time of their introduction. Chiona's reaction now was like Seline's had been. Daniel had said Seline shied away because on Lisseth absolutely no physical contact was allowed between unmarried women and marriageable men. Had he all of a sudden become marriageable? Why not before?"
Chiona repeated her question, "Why not?"
"I don't like to waste my time. I doubt very much if you have enough musical ability to take advantage of it," he answered, deliberately being insulting and hoping she would go away.
She chuckled slightly, not the response he was used to getting from people he shot down. Then she began to sing in a warm, rich, slightly husky alto. The song was in a minor key but seemed to use an 8 tone scale similar to Occidental music. Her brothers and sisters each began to sing along from where they were seated with complete unselfconsciousness. Pubescent Jak's voice occasionally cracked but the close harmony they sang on the chorus was beautiful. Then the others lowered their voices and provided a counterpoint to the verse Chiona sang, hitting the notes of the lovely melody perfectly and with nuanced expression in her caressing voice. After another chorus, it was Seline who sang a verse in a piercing, pure soprano. There was a final chorus and they all applauded and began to call out what must have been titles in their language because there was quick agreement on one and Trina began a lilting, lively number that each of them added to in turn with much laughter. The song obviously gave them opportunities to tease because mock fighting and gesturing was the consequence of some verses. Almost immediately after they started it, Jak grabbed a waste basket, turned it upside down, and added a drum beat.
Everyone was absolutely captivated. When they stopped after the second song, Sarah cried out, "More, more," and Jake asked for an explanation of the jokes involved.
Amid the chatter, Chiona gave Johnny a smug look, leaned toward him and said in a whisper, "You're right. Why waste music on unwashed savages?" She rose gracefully and went into the kitchen, chuckling to herself again, while the rest of the ensemble began another song.
Johnny couldn't stand it. He was a musician before everything and she appeared to be a rare talent. Music was the only thing that could compete with his focus on Jake. He followed her quickly into the kitchen where he found her cutting up an apple. "Okay, I apologize," he said impatiently. "That song you sang. That's a traditional folk tune, right?" while thinking to himself, "No copyright."
This didn't appear to have been a smart question. Chiona said, bitingly, "Simple folk can't come up with new music, right? Of course at some point there had to have been folk who could write music but they must have all died off."
Johnny plowed ahead through the hostility, tenaciously after his answer. "Well, is it or isn't it?"
Chiona sighed and said, "Actually, no. Seline and I wrote it. Our mother was very gifted musician. Seline and I got her musical ability. Jak, Tealk, and Trina got Danil's brilliance. Not that the others are tone deaf or Seline and I are stupid."
Johnny was stunned. This girl was amazing and he wanted to make music with her. "Do you still want to learn the guitar?"
She looked at him thoughtfully and he just knew she was plotting something. "Do you think it would make Jonas interested in me?" she asked, astounding him.
"You want me to teach you guitar to give you a chance to get in my little brother's pants," he asked annoyed by her continued lack of sexual interest in him although he asked himself why he would care. She was attractive but not beautiful and, as the lead guitarist of "We Die Free," he had the attention of top models and Hollywood starlets.
She looked a bit affronted. "He's too young for marriage. I was just thinking a harmless flirtation."
"Who brought up marriage?" he asked, confused.
Now she wasn't playing at being affronted. She was furious. "What kind of woman do you think I am that I would consider becoming physical with a man to whom I wasn't married?" She threw an apple section at him and he thought, "I'm lucky she didn't throw the knife."
Chiona huffed out of the kitchen brushing past Daniel coming in. Daniel walked over to Johnny and said, mildly, apparently having overheard their exchange, "On Lisseth, the taboos against premarital sex and adultery are extremely strong. You not only insult her but you threaten her future by implying that she would even consider going into marriage as anything but a virgin. Think 19th century small town, Johnny."
"They seem to think you're just wonderful. Makes me confident you haven't shared your checkered past with your daughters. And," he said, his tone sharpening, "If you're thinking of a reprise with my mother now that Teal'c is light years away, you're way off base."
Daniel burst out laughing and Johnny was taken aback again. The Jackson's just didn't ever respond the way he expected them to. "There was never any adultery between Sam and me. But in any case, believe this, Johnny; I wouldn't take your mother on a bet. You've got nothing to fear from me." Johnny was surprised to discover that there was a real ring of truth in Daniel's voice that was totally at odds with the expression he had observed in Daniel's eyes when he looked at Johnny's mother. Daniel had an iron will to resist the temptation Sam offered and Johnny was perversely irritated that he would back off from Sam, from HIS mother, as if she was somehow flawed.
Johnny shrugged and left the kitchen, deciding to find Chiona and apologize. She wasn't in the large living room with his brothers and the rest of Daniel's children. Sara was napping and Chiona was the only other person missing. Her 12 year old brother Jak caught his visual sweep of the room and said, smirking a little, "Chiona's gone outside."
He grabbed the acoustic guitar up in one hand from where he had left it and went out to the porch. Chiona was rocking, her eyes closed, but somehow she knew who had joined her without opening them. "More insults?" she asked.
"Look, Chiona, your customs are different. What I said probably would have been offensive to an American woman but not to the extent it was offensive to you and not for exactly the same reasons. I'm sorry, really. And I would like to teach you the guitar, if you're still interested."
He waited and she kept rocking. Finally she stopped moving and looked up at him and nodded. "I'd like that. Thank you."
He sat down in a wicker chair next to her and decided he had to know what was going on first. "What happened between the first time we were here and this time that changed the way you react to me?"
Chiona sunk down a little in the chair but all she said was, "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Come on, Chiona. Daniel said that there's no contact between girls like you and marriageable men but you were all over me at first. I thought he was lying. Now you won't let me near you, which by the way is going to make it a lot more difficult for me to show you how to hold your hand on the frets. Tell me."
"This is going to be embarrassing," she paused, "for both of us actually. You sure you want to hear it?"
Really intrigued now, he prodded, "Yeah."
"Well, on Lisseth the only men who wear beards ever, I mean ever, are men who choose … not to love women. After you all left the last time, Danil explained to me that it was different here."
Daniel was sitting on the living room floor with the three youngest and Jack's black lab who just loved the visitors. In Mayborne's doggy brain, they were apparently were part dog since they seem to not be allowed on the furniture either. Tealk was doing math problems using the coffee table as his desk. Jak was sharing it with him, writing up a plan for a physics experiment his father had assigned. Trina was working with Daniel in a mutual study they were doing of geology. There was a wonderful smell of a savory stew in the air and laughter coming from the kitchen where Seline and Jake were making dinner.
When the door swung open and Johnny and Chiona came in laughing, she stopped cold when she took in her father and siblings at their studies. Daniel leveled a displeased look at her and she winced. "You do know what I'm going to ask you, don't you," he said in the language of their people on Lisseth. There was no need to embarrass her in front of Johnny.
"Dei," she answered in kind, "Johnny's been teaching me to play the guitar. That's a kind of study, right?"
"It is that. But is it more important than the things that you weren't studying? More important than practicing your fighting skills?" Daniel hated to be a wet blanket when it seemed that Johnny was finally acting human but the boys took their cue from Chiona, not Trina. There was also the persistent malaise he felt over Teal'c, almost mourning but a kernel of hope keeping him from giving in to full grief. Still it had sapped his patience with his children of late.
Johnny was watching the exchange, puzzled but not happy. You didn't have to speak their language to know that Chiona was getting mildly, but distinctly, chewed out. They'd been working on the music all afternoon and he must be thinking it had something to do with that. Suddenly, Johnny spoke up. "Hey, I don't know what you are all talking about. A little rude perhaps, Daniel?" he said in an aside directly specifically at his ex-stepfather. "You should know, Chiona and I have been working on a song about freedom. And there's more." He raised his voice and called out, "Hey Jake, come out here for a moment, huh?" He turned his attention back to Daniel. "This effort you're all supporting to keep places like Lisseth from being taken over, I think you've been calling it Manifest Destiny, well, Jake and I were talking about building our next "We Die Free" album around it. Not quite a rock opera like 'Tommy,' but maybe getting close."
Jake, coming in from the kitchen trailed by Seline, looked amazed. "What's this we? I believe I brought it up and you didn't have anything good to say about it."
Johnny said, curtly, "You remember it anyway you want to. Point is, that's what we're thinking about doing, right?"
Jake shrugged, "Sure. I really don't like the idea of them all going back to live in an occupied country." Seline gave him a brilliant smile and, if he was going to say anything else, he seemed to have lost the thread. Daniel and Johnny both noticed. Johnny scowled and Daniel felt better than he had all day.
Daniel had stood up and was facing Johnny, his hands on his hips, braced for something more. This was Johnny and he had begun to believe the man was just one hidden agenda inside another. "The thing is," Johnny said, "This could really fall flat. It isn't exactly what our fans expect. We need something to put it over. So, I'm thinking, we use Chiona and Seline to each do a cut and we use the kids for some harmony. And you, Daniel and the kids, with the robes and the whole bit, you guys are in the videos."
Daniel went cold. He had known his family being part of the PR campaign would come up again but this was the first time it had been mentioned to them. He was surrounded by eager faces. No one had any qualms about it. In fact, there seemed to be universal excitement and he was going to have to burst their bubble. "The sooner the better," he thought. "The more they think about it the more disappointed they are going to be." He put a hand up. "I can understand why the idea appeals to you, Johnny, but it's out of the question."
That was when Seline gut kicked him but, out of respect, she did it in their language. "Dei, I honor you but I am of age and a widow and no longer under your authority. I am going to do this because I think it is the right thing to do. Please forgive me."
Daniel felt dozens of arguments flood his mind but he saw the set of her jaw, her expression identical to her mother's when Iona had her mind made up. Arguing with her would be pointless. Chiona spoke next, "Dei, I am old enough to marry. I am an adult on our world. I would also do this."
Chiona's right to make this sort of a decision was definitely in the grey area according to the customs of the Blue of Lisseth. The more conservative would have said not but he had never lined up with their point of view. It would be hypocritical if he did now, just because his daughter was threatened. "So be it. But you three," he said to Trina, Tealk, and Jak, "Will not do this. My reasons are sound and involve protecting you from the public of this world who, at this point, haven't had a chance to eat you alive yet and to protect you from those backing Manifest Destiny. Does anyone want to discuss it with me further?"
The three younger children looked very unhappy but only Trina spoke. "Please think about it, Dei. Perhaps you will find a reason to change your mind."
Johnny and Jake had been watching the exchange, in the Blue tongue, rather like spectators at a tennis match, spectators who had no idea what the rules were. Daniel took pity on them and said in English, "Chiona and Seline can work with you. I will do what you need from me, but the younger three will not take part."
Seline and Chiona hugged each other and Jake and Johnny grinned. Johnny said, "It's going to be an intense effort to get this out there in time to make a difference so this needs to be a priority, all right, Daniel?"
Daniel had no choice but to agree but he wasn't going to let it go without a few conditions. Seline and Jake, that was perfect, but, although he still loved Johnny, he wanted something better than what he had become for Chiona "I'm there when they leave here. They don't go on the road without me."
"Sure, sure," Johnny said dismissively. Everyone began to move away, talking excitedly. Daniel caught Johnny's arm and hissed in his ear, "Just in case, you might have noticed that Chiona's a pretty girl, keep your hands off her, Johnny. She's a little flirt but she doesn't know your rules and the consequences for her are immense."
When the chopper brought Jack and Sam a short time later and Sam got out carrying the jar, Daniel knew immediately. He had seen Jaffa funeral jars before. Jack had it together, with only small signs that he was hurting, while Sam was a mess. Unlike Jack and Daniel, she hadn't known that Teal'c's trip was a suicide mission, motivated by the fact that he was dying anyway. Teal'c planned to fight until he died and to take chances that were too risky for men who had reasons to try to live. Daniel fervently hoped, for the sake of the friendship that seemed to have reestablished itself between Sam and Jack, that she never found out they had kept that information from her.
He was less concerned for himself since he didn't have a future with her, not even a future friendship. He could hardly stand to be around her because of the memories and the longings that he couldn't suppress. He was determined to keep himself from showing so little self-respect as to live in another man's shadow within his own marriage again. Now that the barrier to that presented by her marriage to Teal'c was gone, he needed to avoid her and get off planet as rapidly as he could before he succumbed to the temptation she offered.
Her sons went to her quickly, all aware that something had happened but, not possessing his knowledge of Jaffa artifacts, less certain what it was. Sam focused on her baby, Jonas, the one who truly loved Teal'c as a father, and said, brokenly, "He died a hero's death Jonas. Rylac told me that he talked about you to him with great pride. Rylac gave me this for you as from one son of Teal'c to another." She took a medallion Teal'c had worn from her pocket and pressed it into Jonas' hand.
"No, Mom, no, please no," Jonas said and his mother enfolded him in her arms and his brothers put their arms around both of them.
Jack crossed the field to Daniel, said, "Oh shit, Daniel, somehow I hoped" and then he and Daniel embraced hard. When they broke apart, they looked down to see little Tealk looking very serious. "My namegiver is dead, Dei?" Daniel nodded, not trusting himself to words. The little boy began to cry, Daniel picked him up and held him close, while his family gathered around to hold him, Tealk, and Jack. Daniel knew then, in the middle of all his grief, that despite the mutual mess they had made of things, he and Sam, surrounded as they were by the love of their children when they needed support, had still done some things right.