Part 4: Daniel

Daniel had an unreasonable amount of trouble unlocking the front door. He just couldn't seem to get the key in the lock. Once inside, he just stood in the front hall, trying to find the right words. He wasn't doing any better than he had with the key.

At last, he went to the stairs and found he had to almost pull himself up with the banister. His feet felt like lead. Halfway up, he called, "Cassie, Alejandro, could you come downstairs?"

He turned and went back down to the kitchen. He heard them come bounding down the stairs and go into the family room. He reached up to the top shelf over the double ovens and took out a dusty bottle of Scotch. He poured it in a plastic Colorado Rockies cup, the first thing his hand encountered on the shelf. No need for ice. This drink was medicinal.

They had found him in the kitchen. "Dad, what's up? Where's Mom?"

"Sit down, please."

He sat himself, set the glass down, and then seemed to forget about it. He stared at his hands. He looked up finally to see that Alejandro had his eyes squeezed shut and seemed to be muttering something under his breath. He's a smart kid. I bet this feels a lot like when his natural mother died.

"Please look at me Alejandro."

He made eye contact with each of them and then he said, "Janet's gone. She's dead."

Cassie said, "She could have ascended right? She could come back to us just like you did."

Tears were running down Daniel's face now. "Oh Cassie. I wish that was true. I can't be 100 sure that it isn't but it seems very, very unlikely."

Alejandro said very firmly. "She is in heaven with God and I will see her when I see my real mother." Daniel bit his lip and Alejandro went on, "I know you don't believe but you can't take that away from me."

"I don't want to Alejandro and I wish I had your faith but I don't."

There was a strange sound and they both focused their attention on Cassie. She had slipped from her chair and was curled in a ball on the floor. She wouldn't talk to them or respond in any way. Daniel picked her up and carried her to the couch in the family room. He held her and Alejandro knelt next to her holding her hand. The only sign they had that she wasn't completely catatonic was that she became visibly distressed when they tried to leave her alone for a minute, one to call the doctor and the other to get a blanket.

Despite medication and patience Cassie improved little. They were very grateful that she seemed to be able to use the bathroom herself. Jaye's mother, Mindy, a nurse, was a real trooper, coming over and helping Cassie bathe and change to a fresh pair of pajamas in the evening. Daniel and Alejandro would have felt extremely uncomfortable helping her with either the bathroom or dressing but Daniel knew he couldn't continue imposing on Mindy indefinitely.

Cassie wouldn't talk. She just sat in a chair and stared into space. She resisted all efforts to interest her in any activity. She suffered Mindy's assistance with the bath but when Mindy, Jaye, or other friends tried to sit with her to relieve Daniel and Alejandro, she became very agitated. She seemed to need Daniel's presence or Alejandro's to be at peace.

Daniel had gone to the grocery store and left Cassie with Alejandro. When he pulled up, he saw Sam's car. He went in through the kitchen, just in time to hear his son almost shouting at Sam. "She's dead so you think your way is clear to go after my dad. Get out and at least have the decency to wait until Cassie's better before you make a move on him."

They heard us arguing. Oh Jan, if only you had never said those words.

He went on through to the front hall and found them. Sam was looking at Alejandro, completely confounded. "Alejandro, whatever you think you heard or know, Major Carter has never done anything she shouldn't have. You overheard your mother yelling at me one night, right?"

Alejandro looked mulish and didn't answer. "I asked you a question."

"Yeah, we both did," he said looking through the door at Cassie immobile on the couch.

"Your mother wasn't feeling well and was upset about other things at the time. Sometimes people just strike out blindly. She didn't even mean when she said it. She knew it wasn't true."

He made eye contact with his son, loving but stern blue eyes boring into stormy ones. "Apologize to Dr. Carter."

Something flickered in Alejandro's eyes but he finally dipped his head and muttered, "I'm sorry, Major Carter."

"Hopefully you will be able to give her a better, more sincere apology at some point in the future but that will have to do for now. Now, please keep Cassie company a little longer and I am going to walk Major Carter to her car."

They walked out to where Sam's car was parked on the street and leaned against it for a moment. "Daniel, I had no idea Janet," she ground to a halt.

"Alejandro will get over it when there's nothing happening to feed it."

Sam looked really upset. "Daniel I want to be here for you. We used to be so close, best friends really. And then you got involved with Janet and she became your best friend. Which is as it should be," she hastened to add. "We never stopped being really good teammates but it got more impersonal. But, well, I think I can help you through this if you want me to. Do you want me to be there? I mean can I help or will it just upset your kids too much?"

"Sam you never stopped being a dear friend. It means a lot to me that you want to help. But he's suffering as much as I am in his own way. This is the second mother he's lost. And Cassie is like his other half and he probably feels like he's lost her too. I appreciate your offer of support but we just don't want to do anything right now that would feed his anxieties."

She nodded and got in her car. He reached through the window and touched her hand lightly. "Thanks for coming Sam."

The next day, Daniel went to General Hammond and found Jack in the office with him. Too distressed to wait to talk with Hammond alone, he made his plea to both of them.

"This has gone on for two weeks. She has to have to help and we can't get it outside of Cheyenne Mountain. Any doctor outside this program wouldn't be able to deal appropriately with what she would be likely to talk about. He would think her sanity was insanity."

The general was listening sympathetically it seemed. He said, "I think we can arrange to bring her here"

"Thanks sir. That's great." Daniel said, grateful for his compassion. He had had pretty high hopes for that suggestion. Cassie had already spent extensive time here. What he had to ask next was harder.

"Alejandro needs to be here too. She absolutely needs him with her when I can't be."

Hammond looked unhappy but compelled to say, "Daniel, we can't share classified information with a 17 year old."

Okay, here goes, Daniel thought, mentally gritting his teeth.

"After I ascended, Janet told him everything. I mean everything."

Hammond was clearly appalled. "I don't mean to speak ill of the dead Dr. Jackson but that was completely off the reservation."

"I know. But it can't be undone. He's going to go nuts if you separate him from Cassie. You leave him out there alone, you'll have to have him under armed guard to be sure he wouldn't do something that would call unwanted attention to this facility."

General Hammond was shaking his head.

Jack O'Neill spoke up. "Sir, Janet Fraiser died for this program. She loved both of their kids with everything in her. Doesn't the Air Force owe her children this much?"

Daniel never knew what Jack did to change the general's mind or how the general managed to get it cleared but two days later both of his kids came to Cheyenne Mountain. All three of them moved into a large room together with an adjoining bath near the infirmary. There was a guard outside the door. Daniel was sure it felt like a prison to Alejandro since he could only leave the room when escorted by Daniel or the guard.

There was no access to a phone or any way for Alejandro to communicate with the outside world or vice versa. Daniel had thought this was would really annoy him. He had a host of friends and spent hours on the phone and on the computer talking with them but he seemed curiously almost happy about that aspect of their circumstances.

Sam was very careful not to approach Daniel if he was with his son. That was the only time she stayed away. He didn't know what to make of her interest. He didn't encourage her. He kept expecting Janet to come around the corner and be upset that he was with Sam. It felt wrong, unfaithful. And she wasn't his Jan. He noticed differences he had not really noticed before. She didn't laugh at quite the same things. She pushed and poked at things that Jan had learned to leave alone. She was really, if you thought about it, a little too tall. On some level, he was angry that she was alive when Jan was dead. Although he had cared about Alejandro's mother and his graduate school colleague, Sara, he had only really loved three women in his life. The two that loved him back were gone. He was left with the one who couldn't even tell he was a man.

In the evenings the atmosphere in their quarters was almost unbearable. Cassie didn't get worse but she didn't really get better. Alejandro had pulled within himself. He never initiated conversation and sometimes it was hard to get him to respond to even simple questions. Daniel began to think there was more going on than just Cassie's condition and grief over Jan, as if that wasn't enough.

Jan had taken up scrap booking when he ascended. She had told him that it felt like she was building some sort of memorial when she organized all the photos and mounted them with extensive journaling about their time together. He had brought the three scrapbooks she had completed with him to Cheyenne Mountain and sat looking through them evening after evening. Damn good thing each page is in a plastic sleeve," he thought at one point. They would all be water spotted by now. He was not the macho type but still the ease with which he found himself tearing up had started to be embarrassing.

Alejandro's appetite waned and sometimes he resisted going to the commissary for dinner with his father.

"Just bring me back something Dad," he said one night. Cassie had just fallen asleep after eating her supper and it was safe to leave her alone long enough for them to go and get some food.

"Alejandro, you have to eat," Daniel said but his heart wasn't in it. Food tasted like sawdust to him. It seemed unreasonable to make an issue about his son going to dinner when he didn't really want to either.

"I will Dad, really, I just don't feel like going down there and being stared at."

Daniel could relate to that. He doubted he would ever get over Jan but it was impossible to go even five minutes without thinking about her when everyone else treated him like he was made of glass.

"What do you want?"

"I don't care Dad just, I don't know, see if they don't have something that isn't slimy."

"That leaves desiccated," he said. "Dried out and mushy are the only two ways they know to prepare food."

"Then I pick dried out," he said. Trying to show a little enthusiasm for his father's sake he suggested, with feigned interest, "How about a banana. That sounds good."

When Daniel arrived at the commissary, he was at least able to score a banana. He also got Alejandro a hamburger to go nestled in a Styrofoam box. As to his own food, he didn't pay attention to what it was, just accepted a couple of things he waved his hands at absently.

A few moments after he started to eat, Jack sat down across from him. Jack looked at Daniel's tray and said disbelieving, "Lima beans, asparagus, a banana, and a to go box? Is this some sort of special power diet?"

Daniel looked down at what was on his fork, mildly surprised to see a lima bean. He carefully returned it his plate and pushed it all away from him. "I hate to run off and let you eat alone, Jack, but I have to get Alejandro's food back to him."

"Not so fast," Jack said, clamping down on Daniel's tray. "We need to have a pow wow."

"Can't it wait until the briefing tomorrow morning?"

"This isn't about a mission. It's about the way you're treating Sam."

Daniel looked at Jack perplexed. "I am being completely professional in my relationship with her. I don't know what she could find to complain about."

"She hasn't said a thing but, Danny, you need a good slap upside the head."

"Pardon?"

"I lost my son. It was horrible but it was an accident." Daniel was clearly tuning him out and he rapped him on the head with his knuckles. "Focus on me because I don't have the patience of a toddler and I don't really want to have to go through this more than once." He paused until Daniel made eye contact with him. "I also lost my wife, a woman I loved since the time I was old enough to be able love anybody. That wasn't an accident. That was my doing. I pushed her away because it was easier to be mad, to draw into myself, than to go on."

Daniel looked at Jack and felt the tears prickling at the back of his eyes. Damn I'm going to cry again and I really don't want to do this with Jack. It makes him so blasted uncomfortable.

"I'm really sorry Jack for what happened to you. But if there is some lesson in this for me, I don't see the parallel."

"One loss is one loss too many. Letting it cause a second, completely unnecessary, loss is criminal. You have no idea how that woman cares for you. In my humble opinion, she is in love with you and losing you to Janet made her realize it."

Three months ago, this amazing pronouncement would have earned some sort of dramatic reaction from Daniel. Now he was just too empty, too tired, to do more than stare at Jack. Jack decided that a staring contest was exactly what they needed. He won, of course. Daniel knew he would never master the art of the glare like Jack.

"Look Daniel, I know that it is all very raw for you but I think if you were honest with yourself, you would admit that you were in love with Sam before you noticed Janet. Janet would want you to be happy and I think one of the things that helped her die as peacefully as she did was knowing that Sam was there and you wouldn't be alone."

With that, Jack stood, picked up his try, and went to sit with two men from SG-12. They looked less than thrilled to have someone so senior sit down to interrupt their free flowing gripe session but what choice did they have?

Daniel somehow got out of the commissary without dropping his tray or his dirty dishes. He found his way back to his quarters on automatic pilot and spent the night looking at the ceiling. There weren't any answers written there. He didn't even know where to look to find them.

While Daniel had been growing cooler to Sam, Alejandro had been warming to her. The psychiatrist treating Cassie had suggested that since Sam had had a strong bond with Cassie when she was younger, it might help for Sam to spend time with her. Alejandro had initially resented her presence but could not deny that the turnaround for Cassie seemed to have come when Sam started to come and sit with her, whether Sam was the actual cause or not.

A few days after his conversation with Jack, Daniel was returning to his quarters and ran into Sam who was just leaving after visiting Cassie. He looked at her, really looked at her, for the first time since they had come to the Mountain. He saw hurt and something else in her eyes and her whole body was tense.

"Oh Sam, I've been really rude haven't I?" he asked her contritely.

"You haven't been yourself," she said in a tight voice.

"An explanation isn't an excuse, Sam. I took my grief out on you. I had no right." She wasn't looking at him and he thought she was about to cry. He read her completely wrong though.

Suddenly she raised her head, looked him straight in the eye, and brought her hand back as if to slap him but then let it drop. "You're damn right, Daniel Jackson," she rapped out. "you had no right. You lostan awful lotbut I lost a friend in Janet and now it seems like I've lost you. Just," and she turned away and started to leave, "get over yourself."

Daniel saw with clarity that this one of those huge turning points in life. It was as if everything stopped for a moment and he had a great epiphany. He could not let her walk away from him like this or something precious would be lost. "Sam, please, stop. Please Sam."

She stopped but she didn't turn around. She stood frozen, waiting for what he had to say. "Look. I hurt. All the time. But I've been here before with Sha're. I know in my mind, if not in my heart, that after awhile it won't hurt as much. After awhile, I'll go hours without thinking of her and then a day here and there. And when I come out the other side, I hope you are still there, still my friend. That's very precious to me and I promise you that I will try hard to get over myself if you will give me a second chance." He paused and then asked his heart in his mouth, "Do we have a deal?"

She nodded, looked back and him and smiled. He was enormously relieved and, he realized later, that was when he finally began to let himself begin to heal.

He stopped avoiding her. Over the next three months, they began to fall more and more often into the companionable conversations and silences that had once been routine between them. He started telling her the things he had saved for Jan at the end of the day. Sometimes she was able to make him laugh.

He realized that Jack had been completely right about Janet's wishes for him. Unfortunately Jack was wrong about Sam being in love with Daniel instead of just loving him the way they all loved each other. Once the barrier of feeling like he was betraying his wife was lifted, he remembered what he loved about Sam and knew without a doubt that those feelings were still there, just pushed down deep by his commitment to his beloved wife. It was a bittersweet discovery since it also meant reawakening the pain of years of wanting to be loved when all Sam wanted was friendship.

While Cassie now improved steadily, it was almost like she was healing by passing her pain to Alejandro. To his listlessness and lack of appetite, he now added serious problems sleeping and woke Daniel more than once with anguished cries in the middle of nightmares.

They had packed in a hurry and Daniel was preparing to run by the house and pick up some of the things they had forgotten as well as more things to occupy Alejandro's time when Alejandro startled him by saying, ""Dad, could you get my rosary for me?"

Daniel didn't even know Alejandro had one. When he thought about it, he realized that although neither he nor Janet had opposed Alejandro's practice of his faith, it had been something very private that they had had very little to do with. "Sure. Where is it exactly?"

"In the drawer in that little chest next to my bed."

"Anything else? I thought I'd pick up some more video games for your computer."

"I just need the rosary Dad." Daniel suddenly realized he hadn't really seen Alejandro on the computer very much in the past few days.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

Two days later when Daniel returned to their room in the evening, Alejandro was a different kid. He greeted his father before his father had a chance to greet him. His posture was relaxed and Daniel realized that he was looking at someone who was totally at peace. There was more to it though, a sort of disconnectedness, and for just a moment Daniel thought of a Christian martyr about to go before the lions and already halfway to another world. It must be the rosary that had him thinking in such images.

"Dad, I need to talk to you and it shouldn't probably be in here." He looked overat Cassie who was at least turning the pages of a book although perhaps not really reading it. "Do you think Major Carter could come and sit with Cassie so we could go somewhere, your office maybe?"

"Of course," Daniel said and stepped to the door to ask the guard to get Sam.

"What's this about?" he asked.

"Let's just wait," Alejandro requested softly.

When Sam arrived, Alejandro looked at her in an unexpectedly friendly manner and said, "Thanks so much for coming and for everything you've done for Cassie. I'm sorry I've been so hard on you." He started to follow his father to the door and then turned back, "I think it would be a great thing if you and my dad did end up together. People who've had really great love miss it more than people who've never known it. My dad shouldn't be alone."

Daniel almost wondered if Alejandro and Jack had talked. He looked at Sam and saw that she seemed really affected. He didn't really understand the play of emotions that flickered across her face but now was not the time.

They walked to his office. Daniel sat in his desk chair but Alejandro remained standing. "When we first came here I thought I was going to go mad cooped up in there. All the things I can usually push away except when I'm alone at night were dogging me all day. I hadn't thought about my real mom in a long time. It was less painfully to sort of pretend that Dr. Jan really was my mom and I was just a normal guy living in the suburbs, studying for the SATs and playing soccer. I started thinking about my real mom a lot and remembered how she used to pray when things were tough" He looked at his father. "I know that seems crazy and maybe weak to you."

Daniel said, "I don't know if I would put it that way. But her religion was the reason it didn't work out between us. When we started to get serious, we had some deep conversations about God. We were poles apart. She broke up with me in the end because it was so important to her to share that part of our lives."

"I believe what she believed Dad."

"It shouldn't make any difference between us."

Alejandro sighed, "I'm about to tell you some stuff that will change things between us forever. You may not want me around when you know the truth. I really want you to believe that I am proud to be your son. I love you and I hope you can forgive me for what I've done."

Daniel couldn't understand any of this. "What are you talking about? You are my son and I love you more than my life." He stood and walked to Alejandro and hugged him. "There is nothing you could say that would change that."

Alejandro said sadly, "I hope so." It was clear he didn't believe it.

He finally sat down and looking off into space, he began, "My uncle is involved in a lot of really unpleasant stuff with a lot of really unpleasant people." He looked at Daniel for a moment, "Notice I said 'is.' Tio Arturo isn't really dead."

Daniel said, "What!"

"I'll explain that in a moment. He sells arms and he sells secrets. He supports terrorists. He hates the United States and he'll work with anybody else who does. It's not a matter of being from any particular country. He doesn't reflect the Guatemalan people, that's for sure and some of the people he deals with are Americans. The country they all belong to is called Hate."

Daniel interrupted. "You aren't your uncle."

Alejandro shook his head, "I hope not but he tried very hard to make me over in his image. I was 10 when I went to live with him. I probably missed more days of public school than I showed up for but I was in school every day with him. He took me everywhere with him. I know as much about explosives as your average military demolition expert. I am a really good shot, you know like you'd need to be to be a sniper."

Alejandro looked into his father's face for a moment, searching to understand his reaction. "Maybe you are wondering why I cooperated with him? I was afraid of him. He hit me a lot. He kept me isolated. I was in a strange country with no one else. I was really afraid to disobey him. I wanted to run away but I didn't know where I could go that he wouldn't find me."

'And then," he said, picking up a little stone figure from Daniel's desk and rolling it from one hand to the next, "he told me he had used one of the bombs I made for him, a bomb I thought was practice, to blow up a mission run by American evangelicals, Baptists I think. One lady was hurt really badly. She's crippled now I guess."

Daniel had an aha moment. "You were twelve weren't you?" Alejandro nodded. "I remember you talking to me once about a boy in a similar situation."

"Yes, Dad, I was 12. And he told me that there was evidence tying the bomb back to me. That the Americans would find a way to make me pay for daring to hurt an American citizen. My age wouldn't matter. He couldn't make me feel much worse than I felt myself. I was desperate to figure out a way he couldn't use me to hurt anyone else."

"What did you do?"

"Actually it was what you did. That was when Tio Arturo came up with his plan to put me in a position to spy on you. If I never came up with anything, well he still got rid of the responsibility of taking care of me. But he was sure I could."

"So he faked his death?"

"Right. Actually he's been in this country ever since I came. I have to call him once a month and give him information. One time I didn't. He sent me a letter at the house. It had a picture in it of an embassy that had been bombed. I got the point."

Daniel felt ill. He was scared to death for what could happen to his son. What kind of a future could he have. His mind was chasing itself around in circles trying to figure out how to protect him from the consequences of his own actions. He said, very softly, "What exactly did you tell him?"

"I never really told him anything that mattered. I certainly never told him about the stargate. I was so low after you ascended that I almost did but you appeared to me twice and sort of warned me not to."

"You promise me that's the truth?"

"I promise Dad. The guilt has been eating me alive. I'm here in the mountain and this is exactly where Tio Arturo has wanted me to be all along. When I come out, he'll be waiting for me."

"But you don't seem to be overwhelmed with guilt now."

"No, Dad, I'm not. I've found forgiveness but forgiveness doesn't eliminate the consequences of what you do. I have to do the right thing to make up for what I've done. We need to go and see General Hammond."

Daniel felt an abyss opening beneath his feet. "Son, if you didn't really tell him anything, there's no damage. There is no need to wreck havoc on your life. I can't have anyone else I love hurt any more."

Alejandro shook his head. "It isn't going to get any easier."

"Think about Cassie. You have to wait awhile. If they decide you have to leave the mountain because of this, it can't be until she gets better."

Alejandro nodded. "Okay."

The next morning he was in his office staring at some tablets wishing that the words would translate into a way out of this mess when Sam knocked on the partially opened door and then came in. She studied his face and then asked, "Something really bad happened didn't it?"

"Sam, close the door and lock it, will you?" She looked surprised but complied.

"Sam, can I trust you with a secret? Will you promise me that even if it contravenes your oath as an officer you will not repeat it? I can honestly say that no one is being hurt by it staying a secret for now."

She searched his eyes. "I trust you Daniel. If what you say about nobody being hurt is true, I won't repeat it."

"Thank you Sam. I have to talk to someone and there is no one I would rather talk to than you." He stood and starting pacing the room and laid it out for her. She listened to him without comment until he finished.

"Oh, Daniel. That poor kid. And you. I can't imagine the agony you are feeling." She walked up close to him and framed his face in her hands. There were tears swimming in her eyes. "You are the most caring, lovely man I have ever known."

She hugged him fiercely and he felt better and worse at the same time. That's what it was always like with her, forbidden fruit just out of reach. So close to love but never there.

It was surprising how quickly Cassie, once she began to improve, became a relatively normal, if extremely subdued, teen. As he promised Alejandro, a week after their conversation, Daniel arranged a meeting for the two of them with General Hammond and Colonel Jack O'Neill.

Alejandro told them everything calmly and dispassionately. When he was finished, he looked at both of these seasoned military officers and said, "I am not an American patriot. Guatemala still feels like my country in many ways. I just don't believe any country or any people is entitled to use terrorism and hate as a weapon. Terrorists and their enablers do as much if not more harm to the countries to which they claim allegiance as they do to their enemies."

Daniel was so proud of him and so scared about what was going to happen next.

General Hammond said, "I believe that you are a good man who was put in an untenable situation as a child. But you still took actions that contravened American security. I have to report this to the appropriate authorities." He looked at Daniel for a moment, and then back at Alejandro. "I am going to have to put you in a holding area alone under guard until I receive some direction."

Jack started to protest but Hammond held up his hand silencing him. "Let me finish Colonel O'Neill." He gave Jack a glare and turned his focus back to Alejandro. "I promise you and your father this. I will do everything I can to make sure that the mitigating factors and your coming forward, totally voluntarily, are taken into account."

General Hammond was as good as his word. There was, it turned out, another factor in Alejandro's favor. A week later, Daniel and Alejandro were ushered separately into a conference room where General Hammond, Jack, an unfamiliar Air Force officer, and a middle aged woman in a charcoal grey suit waited. It was the first time Daniel and Alejandro had seen each other and Daniel immediately went to sit down next to his son. He squeezed his shoulder hard for just a moment and Alejandro looked him, remarkably calmly. I guess prayer is still holding him together, Daniel thought. I wish something was holding me together.

General Hammond said, "Major Ibanez, Ms. Frost, let me introduce you to Dr. Daniel Jackson and his son, Alejandro Jackson. Daniel, Alejandro, this is Major Diego Ibanez and Inspector Lucy Frost of the FBI."

The two strangers initiated handshakes. Daniel thought This is encouraging, isn't it?

Major Ibanez stood and took over the meeting. "Arturo Chavez was known to the CIA for his activities procuring arms for known terrorists. When he died and his nephew went to live with a civilian employee on a top secret military project, the CIA notified us. We worked with the FBI to put you," he nodded at Alejandro, "under surveillance. Tracing your phone calls from pay phones led us to Arturo Chavez who we discovered was alive and well in the Los Angeles area. We have been watching him ever since and he has proved an incredibly rich source for leads to terrorists and other elements in this country that threaten our security."

Daniel had his patented deer in the headlights look. He couldn't process this. In contrast, Alejandro looked relieved.

"We tapped Chavez's phone and monitored his conversations with Alejandro. We know that you never told him anything of any real use. Now that we know that you knew about the stargate program, we are particularly impressed by how you managed to lead him on without revealing anything."

He opened a manila folder in front of him and took out a Xerox of an official looking document. "This is a copy of a report on the mission bombing in Guatemala that your uncle told you was executed with a bomb you unknowingly made. The bomb did not use plastique. Your uncle probably lied to you in order to keep you under his thumb."

Ibanez sat back down. "The Air Force and the FBI have no interest in prosecuting you."

There was a brief silence. Ibanez and Frost tidied up their folders and put them in their briefcases. Then Alejandro said, "What about my uncle? He's still out there and when I leave the mountain, I don't know what he'll do."

Ibanez and General Hammond exchanged glances. General Hammond said, "We would like you to remain in the Cheyenne Mountain complex for a little longer while a resolution to that situation is worked out." He pulled a badge out of a folder in front of him and handed it to Alejandro. "Now that Cassie's better, it's time for you to be doing something useful. You are assigned to work with your father as an intern."

Alejandro said "All right!" loudly and hi-fived his dad, acting like a normal teen for the first time in weeks. Daniel was so happy, he lacked words to express it. He put his arm around his son's shoulders and they left the conference room together, following the other participants.

Sam and Teal'c were waiting outside, attempting to loiter casually but it was obvious that they had heard through the almighty grapevine that something was up. The happy expressions on Daniel, Alejandro, and Jack's faces made it obvious things would work out.

They went back to Daniel's family's quarters and found Cassie. Together they went to the commissary where a celebratory dinner of mystery meat, runny mash potatoes, overcooked green beans, and Jell-O seemed like something served up by a 4-star restaurant. Daniel looked around the table at his good friends and his beloved children and imagined Sha're sitting next to Alejandro and Janet with Cassie. For the first time, he was able to feel more gratitude than anger. He'd done pretty well. He'd lost both of them but they had given him so much that no one could ever take away. Sam smiled fondly at him and he thought, Maybe that's enough. I've loved three women and had it all with two of them. That's got to a pretty good track record on the average.

Out of the blue, or so it must have seemed to everyone else, he asked, "Jack, in baseball, how good is it if you get a hit 2 out of 3 times at bat."

"Cheez, Daniel. It's questions like that that make people wonder about you sometimes."

Alejandro was muffling a chuckle but Daniel persisted, "I'm asking because I don't know. How good is it?"

"Well, Daniel, the last time anyone even hit over 400 was Ted Williams in 1941. That's not getting a hit half the time."

"Now you're being condescending Jack. I could figure that part out. 400 just seems low to me."

"Well listen up kiddies," Jack said to the group in general, "that's not all. Ted Williams was a Marine fighter pilot in both WWII and the Korean War. A military hero, Daniel, who kicked ass on and off the ball field. You should hope to match a record like that."

Jack leaned back satisfied with himself but Daniel thought, I have. Two out of three ain't bad.