In the ensuing week, a tentative companionship established itself between the three of them, made possible by the fact that almost everything was out in the open. Rain knew all about The Kiss and Daniel had finally persuaded her that it was nothing to worry about although he was still waiting for an answer to his proposal. Rain also now believed that Sam was sincere about wanting to get to know her. Daniel had relaxed around Sam, now that it was clear she accepted his relationship with Rain. As for Sam, Daniel continued to be amazed that after so many years of self-delusion and denial, she was being painfully honest with herself about Jack and her feelings for him.

Daniel caught the little sideways looks Sam sometimes gave him and guessed that Sam was finally honest with herself about her feelings for him as well. He was grateful she wasn't sharing those insights. He valued the fragile trust Sam had established with Rain and, more importantly, he knew that if Sam really came after him, he would be severely tempted. The choice would be horrific and he would rather not have it to make.

Jack, the cipher at the middle of many conversations with Sam, was nowhere in evidence. Sam had talked to him a few times and he had been, for Jack, unusually sweet. She had tried to bring up The Kiss, but he wasn't having any of it. He had sent her flowers twice, which made a total of two times he had done so in their entire relationship, but he had discouraged her from coming to DC. They concluded that Jack was trying to work out how he felt about everything and had crawled off into an emotional cave somewhere until the process was complete.

Uncertainty over Jack was overlaid with the general tension that hung over the entire SGC. The media interest and public scrutiny continued and the whole base had intuited that the SGC might be about to become public knowledge. Endless speculation prevailed. Scientists were working hard on neglected draft papers, motivated by the possibility of publication ahead. Many were convinced that anyone who had actually been off-world should be able to parlay this into something marketable. One popular indoor sport was to speculate what it would be like to do the talk show rounds. The bands Event Horizon and Chevron Encoded, the latter with Walter on the drums, were formed and their members half seriously, half jokingly, talked about record deals.

The implications for them personally were significant. Sam, Daniel, and Rain were lunching with Teal'c and Cam when Rain looked at the others and said, "Why do I feel like Daniel and I dislodged a pebble that caused an avalanche?"

Cam laughed, "Because you did?"

Daniel said, "It wasn't on purpose, but I can't be sorry if it all comes out."

Teal'c surprised them by saying gravely, "This could cause many problems for you. Sudden celebrity can be a headache. I tasted some of that myself when I was made First Prime. Be prepared for all your relationships to take on new dimensions that you don't quite understand."

Sam bit her lip. "If it happens, I hope for limited disclosure. I can't help fretting about Cassie's friends discovering she is an alien or people considering Daniel to be some form of fallen angel."

"Fallen angel?" Daniel said incredulously.

"It's the closest analogy in any of our religions or myths that I can come up with to descending after ascending," she said.

"Fallen angels are devils, right?" Rain said. "That hardly applies to Daniel." She couldn't avoid a very sappy expression as she said his name. Cam sniggered and looked at Sam, rolling his eyes. The "Heroic Lovebirds" took a lot of ribbing.

Sam, Daniel, and Rain had found one way to cope with it all by plotting increasingly ridiculous ways to turn Jack's time at the cabin on its head. Daniel knew that Rain was really secure about him when she actually suggested that Daniel and Sam let Jack discover them making out. Daniel had reminded her of all the ways Jack knew how to kill a man without breaking a sweat and she had laughingly withdrew the plan.

With the cabin weekend almost upon them, a SG-1 meeting was hastily called for an emergency mission. Daniel walked into the briefing room and was shocked to see Jack wearing a BDU and seated at the table. If it had not been for Mitchell and Landry's presence, he would have been looking for a dog in glasses and the Way Back Machine. "Nice of you to join us, Dr. Jackson," Jack said, making a federal case out of Daniel's slight tardiness, as he had so many times in the past.

Daniel sat down without making any excuses between Sam and Teal'c, both of whom seemed a little bewildered. General Landry said, "There are two topics to discuss. The first–and this as classified as they come–is that the president has just about finalized the decision to reveal the Gate, but he doesn't want people to have to deal with the fact of sentient extraterrestrial life, access to and from the rest of the universe provided by the Gate, and the Ori threat and other such dangers all at once. He's considering starting out by revealing merely that we are in touch with life on other planets. Colson paved the way for us last year with that flap over Thor. Once that has died down, then we tell people about the Gate. We might never reveal the threats. Maybe we'll have licked the Ori by then."

Sam said, "Sir, I don't understand why we are privy to this information."

Landry nodded. "Our president understands media manipulation. You can't be a president any more if you don't, right? He wants photogenic, real faces attached to all this that people will like and trust. Jack and Daniel are both out there already as is Captain Rain Carter. Sam, unfortunately, you're not probably going to be viewed as too trustworthy since you were the official face on our lie about Thor. General O'Neill, Dr. Jackson, and Captain Carter are photogenic and have had sympathetic media coverage lately." Listening to Landry, Daniel wasn't sure that the gradual progression from the hue and cry about him as a kook to the majority of the press portraying him as a misunderstood and persecuted scientist with a storybook romance was totally a good thing. "When you get back from this next mission, the public relations people want to start working with you to prepare you to help carry the message and reassure people during this first wave."

Daniel felt badly for Sam. Her situation was similar to what had happened to him recently; following orders had forced her to be untrue to herself.

General Landry said, "Moving on to topic two, we've had a crisis come up on P4H789 during the night. General O'Neill just got here from DC and is going to command the mission."

Daniel looked at Cam who didn't really seem upset. Landry caught the look. "Colonel Mitchell suggested that General O'Neill command since General O'Neill needs to accompany you in any case." He paused, looking a bit embarrassed. "Colonel Carter, we'd like you to sit this one out." Sam blushed and Jack looked uncomfortable. Everyone in the room knew that it was their status as lovers that had her off the mission, but no one was about to say anything. Daniel felt even worse for her.

Landry cleared his throat and continued, "P4H789 has a bloody insurrection going on. The government, with whom we have had a very nice trade agreement, and the rebels will only agree to talk to us about a truce and the extraction of our 32 personnel on the planet if Dr. Jackson and General O'Neill, who brokered the original trade agreement, negotiate for us. We're prepared to send units to apply force if required, but we hope to avoid it."

Landry nodded to Mitchell to continue and he said, "There are a couple hundred locals who have been working directly with us, supporting us. Things look really dicey for them if the rebels win. Actually, not so hot if they don't. The rebellion is part of a general xenophobic reaction to the Gate. The only difference between the legal government and the rebels is the degree of isolationism they seek to impose. The rebels want to bury the Gate and kill everyone who's had contact with us. We are hoping we can negotiate the support personnel's extraction too."

They all sat feeling sickened at the thought. Like everyone alive in the 70's, the images of the last plane out of Saigon were burned in their minds. Whatever you thought about the correctness of American presence on foreign soil, the US owed something to those who had taken the risk of working with the Americans.

Sam said, "Sir, Daniel's arm is still not fully healed. Surely sending him into a combat situation is problematic."

Daniel said, torn between exasperation that she was speaking for him once again and being touched that she cared, said, "It doesn't sound like I'll be in combat. The government still controls the gate, right?"

"Correct. Colonel Carter, we did consider that factor but after consulting with Dr. Lam and considering the cost if there are no negotiations, it seemed to make sense."

"When do we leave, GeneralO'Neill?" Teal'c asked.

"I hope your ponies are already saddled, because we are riding out in forty-five minutes," came the answer.

Daniel filed out of the room with the others and thought, this should be interesting. You've got a negotiating team where one man knows the other has been making out with his girl friend. He rapidly went to find Rain to say goodbye. She shut the door to the office, mercifully empty except for them, and said, "Come back to me. I don't want to get a reputation as a black widow."

He was puzzling that one out when she kissed him with so much love that he felt blessed by angels. "Okay. I'm pretty sure you have the engagement ring on you. Let's have it," she demanded next.

He pulled her questing fingers out of his pocket. "I'll get it myself, thank you." He tugged a chain out of the neck of his BDU, slipped it off his head, and removed the beautiful sapphire and diamond ring. "This was my mother's. She'd be so pleased to see you wearing it."

He slipped it on her finger and kissed her. His arm was stiff and sore but no longer in the sling and he could pull her satisfyingly close. He started to leave and she pulled him back. "Wait a minute. We're very modern here. I have one for you too." She produced a carved gold ring for him. He had to run to the gateroom to not be late, once again.

They stepped out on a planet where there was no birdsong and the distant thump of bombardment could be heard. White faced men and women, their expressions taut with worry, conducted Daniel and Jack to the neutral site selected for the meeting. Cam and Teal'c accompanied them as bodyguards. One SG team came through with them and stayed at the Gate to relay messages back. Another remained on ready, waiting for orders that they might have to use their far superior weaponry to fight themselves clear and solve the problem through force.

The negotiations were tedious and went in circles. After two hours, Daniel and Jack took advantage of a recess to walk out on the roof with Cam and Teal'c, staying in a sheltered area this close to the ground currently disputed between the two forces where they could hear the shots, shouts, and screams of active fighting. "I don't like this," Jack said. "I don't sense any interest in coming to terms with us. I think they're stalling."

"The curious part is that both sides are doing it," Daniel said. The men exchanged thoughtful looks. "What if they've come to some sort of truce, some way to carve things up, and murdering us is part of the package?" Daniel asked.

Jack said, "I really hate it when you're right, Daniel."

"We know where our guys are through the personal tracking devices," Cam stated, "and we definitely have superior weaponry. You guys are the ones in the room. If you think things are dubious, I think we should trust your instincts."

"What about the native support personnel?" Teal'c asked.

"We know where they are too. When things started to get so unfriendly, most of them moved into a sort of ghetto not far from the Gate."

Daniel said, "Maybe it's time to consider this a lost cause. I don't want to keep stubbornly pursuing negotiations if it's likely that our people are going to die because we didn't take action."

Jack looked at Daniel. "You've grown up, Danny Boy. You're able to see now that not everybody can be saved and sometimes you have to take care of your own."

Daniel looked at him, his clear blue eyes troubled. "I hate it, but it's true. I say we walk away from these negotiations. Maybe that will surprise them and buy us a little time."

They informed the SG personnel waiting at the Gate and returned to the negotiation room. Cam and Teal'c positioned themselves outside so they could take out the local guards standing around if need be. Jack rose and said, "My colleague and I would like to return to our home world to seek additional direction from our government. We have not been able to offer terms that are satisfactory to you and require the approval of our superiors to offer anything else."

The rebel leader and the president of the legitimate government exchanged looks. "Do you believe that you may be able to persuade your government to give us the technology we have requested?" The president asked.

Jack looked concerned. "I think it will take some in-person persuasion."

There was begrudging agreement that the Tauri could leave temporarily. Daniel felt the hair stand up on his neck as he walked out of the room. They joined Teal'c and Cam and got in an armored car for transport back to the gate. Teal'c immediately noticed and signaled to the others that their route did not appear to be back to the Gate. They all reached down in their packs to ready small portable gas masks so they could extract them quickly. Cam and Teal'c each surreptitiously took a small capsule from a pocket and broke it. They all held their breath as Cam let his roll onto the floor and Teal'c slipped one into the driver's compartment and the colorless and odorless gas seeped out. After a minute the personnel in the car with them were affected enough that Jack's team could clap their masks on and breathe and then deal with the groggy enemy. The car was weaving as the driver struggled to fight off the gas and Teal'c thrust his arm through the opening from the back of the van, knocked him out, and then thrust his upper body through to quickly grab the wheel. He reached down and knocked the driver's leg so that his foot came off the accelerator and the car shuddered to a halt, inches from the wall of a building.

They contacted the Gate and discovered that there was a fight between local troops and SG personnel at the Gate. The first priority of the other SG teams was to go to the hostage SGC staff, the second, to the local supporters. SG-1 was on their own for awhile. No one would be able to come to their aid in their position about two miles from the Gate and, according to the intelligence they received, in the midst of the old part of the city where their native supporters were lying low.

There was heavy bombardment coming down between them and the Gate now. Things got even worse when they saw a company of soldiers approaching several blocks away on the broad main street where their car had ended up. Jack led them through the rat's warren of narrow streets and alleys. Twice they came around corners to encounter enemy parties. Teal'c got a flesh wound in one calf and was limping. They were pressed against the wall of an alley and could hear a really large party of soldiers approaching. Suddenly, a lean man appeared seemingly from nowhere and said, "You Tauri. Come with me. I have a place for you to hide."

They looked at him with some suspicion. Exasperation and fear crossed his face as the boots of the enemy sounded closer. "I work for the Tauri. My family and I are hiding close by. Come with me and quickly."

Their options being limited, they followed him down the alley. Just as they reached a narrow flight of stairs leading down to a cellar, a small patrol came around the building and began to fire. They returned the fire and took the enemy down but there was a sharp cry and they saw that their Good Samaritan had been shot. Daniel quickly improvised something to bind his wound and help with staunch the blood flow. Cam picked their wounded friend up and said, "Where?"

The man was able to direct them into the cellar and through a hidden door. In the little windowless room beyond, a girl around 6 was trying to calm a crying toddler. A boy of 8 or 9 sat next to a very pregnant woman who was moaning in pain. All but the little boy cowered in fright when they burst into the room. The boy was clearly also afraid, but he was so plainly trying to be the man, to be brave.

Cam laid the man on a pallet of rags and Jack pulled a med kit out of his backpack. The man said, "I'm Robert De Lonas." He indicated the woman and said, "My sister, Mina. Her husband is dead but a few weeks from the flu. We had a terrible plague of it. Many blame the Tauri even though they tried to help us with medicines. This is her son, Donny." The little girl had come to his side with the crying child. He said, with great pride, "This is my daughter Astrid, and my little boy, Jon. Their mother also died in the flu."

The woman gritted out, "The baby. I think it's coming."

Teal'c had sagged to the floor, his face contorted with pain. Daniel realized that perhaps his wound was worse than they had suspected. He would be no help. Cam said with slightly misplaced levity, "I don't know nothing about birthing no babies." He immediately sobered and said, "Honestly, I've never even seen a movie of it."

Jack said, "I've never done it but I've seen it done."

Daniel said, "I helped with one once in a village in the Yucatan but I'm still fundamentally one-handed. I guess it's you and me, Jack."

For hours that went on until it was dark outside, the woman struggled to have her baby. It was a breech birth and Jack at last clumsily turned the child and it emerged screaming. They cleaned it up and handed it to the mother but just as quickly had to take it back when she hemorrhaged. She grabbed Jack's hand and said, "Promise me you'll save my children. Promise me you'll see to it that my children are taken care of."

Jack looked at the tiny girl in his arms and the desperation on the face of the mother and said, "I will take care of them if you can't. Hold on. Our people are coming. They will be able to help you."

Daniel became worried about the fate of the other SG teams and those they were supposed to rescue. It was the middle of the night and he didn't think the woman would last much longer. The bombardment outside had moved closer and hits were coming close to the building. He had not been able to raise anyone on the com for at least an hour. Jack had carried Robert to his sister's side and he sat leaning against the wall, her hand in his. Cam had taken charge of the baby for awhile from Jack and it slept in his arms. Robert's children had fallen asleep, leaning against Daniel, but Mina's little boy sat at alert, a knife in his hand, on the other side of his dying mother. Daniel watched as Jack went to the boy's side and began to talk to him quietly. He couldn't hear the words, but he watched the child relax and then lay the knife down. The boy and the man sat in conversation as pieces of masonry began to fall off the walls, the shelling becoming very close. Mina cried out and then was still. Daniel checked her pulse and confirmed that she was gone. The man looked at him in anguish, his face barely visible in the light of the one flashlight they had lit. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Another shell hit the floor above them and the far corner of the room fell in. Daniel went back to Robert's children and pulled them close. The little boy clutched Jack's arm. Cam shielded the newborn in his arms with his body. Robert said to Daniel, "I heard the promise made to my sister. I ask you sir, should anything happens to me, will you see that my children are taken care of? I beg you."

As Jack had, Daniel did the only thing he could. "I promise to take care of them." Another shell landed directly above them and the roof caved in. A heavy beam fell across the man and his sister and narrowly missed Jack and Donny. Cam and Teal'c and the baby were on the other side of a pile of rubble. Daniel and his two charges were unhurt, shielded by a large wooden panel that protected him but also trapped him in place. They called to each other and everyone answered except for Robert. Jack and Donny worked steadily moving rubble away to free Daniel. Then they tackled the much bigger problem of getting to Cam, Teal'c, and the baby.

The bombardment had let up temporarily as they worked. Suddenly they froze at the sound of footsteps above them. A blinding light shone down in their faces. Daniel began groping for his weapon. "Daniel, Jack, thank God," a voice behind the light said. "Where are Teal'c and Cam?"

"It's you Sam! Am I ever glad to see you," Daniel exclaimed.

"We need help to get to Cam and Teal'c," Jack said, not wasting time on greetings.

As they worked Sam explained that two more SG teams had been sent through as reinforcements. Things were going very badly. They had rescued most of the SG staff, but had been able to save very few of the native support personnel. They needed to fall back to the gate as quickly as possible.

"These kids are coming with us," Jack said.

"Of course," Sam said. "We can hardly leave them here."

The little boy said, "You promised my mother. I heard you. You promised her you'd take care of me and my baby sister."

Jack smiled at him. "Yes I did and I will."

The child pointed at Daniel. He promised my uncle to take care of my cousins."

Daniel squatted down, "And I will. Now let's finish getting the others free."

With the additional help, it only took a few more minutes to get to the others. Cam was unconscious, the baby still in his arms. "One of the stones fell on his head," Teal'c said.

Jack took the baby and turned to Sam. He placed it tenderly in her arms and said, "Don't say I never gave you anything."

Donny said, "Is she your wife?" The rest of the squad within earshot stopped moving to hear the answer.

Jack looked anxiously at Sam. "I hope she will be soon."

"How soon," he continued to quiz Jack.

"That's up to her," Jack said.

Daniel didn't even try to hide his smile when Sam said, "How about as soon as you can get an annulment?"

"Already working on it," Jack said, stunning everyone within hearing.

"So," Donny said, "am I in the wedding?"

"Talk to her about the wedding arrangements," Jack stage whispered.

The improvised litter for Cam was ready and they moved out. Daniel carried both his charges and two men supported Cam. They made their way to a small square where other parties of survivors found in the quarter rendezvoused. The trip back to the Gate was harrowing. Daniel had never been this scared for himself. The toddler screamed but the little girl was incredibly brave. She's Rain's kid already, Daniel thought.

Then they were through the Gate and coming down to the ramp to immediately meet the medical team. One of them tried to take the baby from Sam. She said, "I'll take her to the infirmary. Daniel and Jack also refused to part with their charges. Rain came running along the corridor to Daniel's side. "Who is this?" she asked.

Daniel replied, "I just adopted two children I guess. Their father lost his life but before he did, he may well have saved ours. He asked me to promise to take care of them. I hope that means we just adopted two children."

Rain looked at him with such love, her face shone. "You're the primary caregiver, right?" she asked softly.

"Check," Daniel said.

They had just reached the Infirmary and Donny turned to look at Daniel. "Is this lady your wife?"

"Soon," Daniel said. The kid was a regular matchmaker. "And, I imagine you can be in the wedding."

Rain arched an eyebrow. Daniel explained. "Jack adopted a couple of kids too. That one was already campaigning to be in Jack and Sam's wedding so I thought he was kind of on a roll."

Rain asked, "Can I hold the little one?"

"He's wet," Daniel said, "and quite filthy."

"Is this a test?" she asked.

"No, honey, but it's going to be our life for awhile."

Jack, Daniel, Sam, and Rain stayed with the children as they were examined and cleaned up. Jack said, "I guess this is really going to change the nature of our weekend at the cabin." Daniel, Sam, and Rain looked at each other and exploded in laughter. Jack failed to get any explanation from them for their hilarity.

Just before they left the infirmary to take the children to get food, Donny stood before the adults and asked, very seriously, "Do any of you have any idea how to make a wedding?"

Jack was the only one who could avoid laughing. "I did it once before so I guess they'll all just have to listen to me, won't they?"

The child looked them all over, clearly considering that idea quite seriously. At last he leaned on Jack's knee and said in a loud whisper, "They don't look like they ever listen to anyone."

The end