As always, thanks to my wonderful betas, Monica and Jess, and the encouragement I have received from so many of those who read my work.
SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS "Jackson's back," the young woman with sergeant's stripes excitedly told her companion. The other woman was directly in front of Sam in the cafeteria line and her friend had just cut in to join her. Whatever irritation Sam might have felt was overwhelmed by curiosity.
"Jackman? Hugh Jackman, the actor? Back from where? I didn't think he left. Didn't he just get an Academy Award?" her friend asked, not sounding very interested as she perused the desert choices.
"Read my lips," the first woman said. "I said JACKSON."
"There's no need to be belligerent about it. Okay, Jackson. I don't get it."
Her friend smacked her forehead with the heel of her hand. "I forgot. You didn't join the SGC until three months ago. You don't really know much about Daniel Jackson, do you?"
"DANIEL Jackson. I've heard of him. Who hasn't? But you have to admit that Jackson isn't that unusual of a last name. There's Sergeant Jackson up in Payroll, for instance."
"The cute guy with the blonde hair?"
"No," her friend said thoughtfully, finally selecting some chocolate pudding. "The blonde's name is Sorenson."
Sam wanted to scream or bean the woman with her tray. This is what happened to eavesdroppers. They had no control of the conversation they were listening to. Well, she outranked both of them. She'd just ask. There was no telling how long the two of them were going to natter on before they got to the point.
"Excuse me," she said.
The two women looked at her, their expresssions slightly startled and a little guarded. They were, after all, non-commissioned officers and she was an unknown colonel. "Yes, ma'am," one of them answered.
"I couldn't help but overhear you mentioning that Dr. Jackson has returned. Could you tell me what you have heard exactly?"
"Yes, ma'am. I was in the Infirmary right before I came here and I overheard Dr. Lam telling a nurse that she would be busy taking care of Dr. Jackson's physical."
Sam went ahead and took her food, but afterwards could not have told anyone what it was she ate. She was overwhelmed with emotion. Sam had really missed Daniel but she was still angry with him for what she considered near dereliction of duty as well as total abandonment of his friends. Now he was back and she for one wasn't at all sure she was going to welcome him with open arms. If he really was back... Desert girl's friend might not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer. They had both made her wonder about the standards for people being posted to the SGC. Maybe the whole thing had nothing to do with Daniel. Of course, she'd just come on base. There could have been a major buzz and she simply hadn't been here for it.
She should just go to General Landry and ask. Sam ran into the CO of her team, Colonel Cameron Mitchell outside Landry's office. "So, Sam, what do you think of the return of the prodigal?" he asked.
That seemed like confirmation. "So he is back?" she asked.
"He arrived a couple of days ago. I really think it will be good to have him back on SG-1. We've been a three man team for too long."
"He's rejoining SG-1, just like that?"
"Well, he wanted to meet me first, make sure we'd work well together."
"He wanted to meet you?" Sam asked, her voice rising incredulously.
"Carter, what has come over you?" Cam asked. "Do you have a major problem I should know about with Jonas rejoining SG-1? We talked about this two weeks ago before you went off to be incommunicado for a week and you didn't have a problem then."
"Jonas. Jonas is rejoining SG-1," Sam said.
"Sam, the only other two people who could conceivably rejoin SG-1 are General O'Neill and Daniel Jackson, on account of how you have to be a member in the first place who left. O'Neill is, frankly, a little old for the front lines and Daniel isn't here."
Drat that girl. If I ever find her again, I'll throttle her, she ranted to herself. Lord knows what she heard in the Infirmary. And you, Sam, are a stupid idiot. Do you want him to come back so badly that you are willing to believe any lame thing you hear? Wouldn't Jack just love it if he knew about your reaction? Ever since she'd accidentally called Jack by Daniel's name for reasons that were a mystery to her while they were cuddled up in each other's arms watching a DVD, he'd been giving her the third degree about their absent friend. "Right. I'm looking forward to seeing Jonas again. I guess when you discussed this with me earlier, I thought it was an extremely speculative conversation and I had more or less forgotten all about it. Where is he anyway?"
"I'm not sure. I haven't seen him this morning. Jonas has guest quarters for the moment. Maybe he went down there. I guess you haven't been in long enough to read your e-mail. You got to know with something like this, there has been a ton and a half of e-mail."
"Actually I was hungry and I went straight to the cafeteria."
"That's more like the definition of starving, if you're drawn to that place," Mitchell observed.
"You are just bitter because they can't figure out biscuits," Sam said affectionately. "You doing anything?" She had really come to appreciate the guy's sunny disposition, energy, and optimism about most things anyway. He took biscuits quite seriously.
"We've got a meeting with the delegation from P5L903 in about an hour. I've been preparing for that. You haven't read that e-mail either? Of course not," he said, answering his own question. "I'm ready for it, but you need to read the background stuff for the meeting."
"Want to take a walk with me first to the infirmary? I just heard something really crazy and I know I'm a fool for even checking it out but…"
He fell in beside her. "You'll get back to your office and read that e-mail on the delegation after okay?" She nodded. "So what did you hear?"
"Is the delegation the only non-SGC to come through the gate this morning?" she asked.
"Yes. What did you hear? You're starting to make me crazy, Carter."
"Some woman in the cafeteria line said that Daniel Jackson, OUR Daniel Jackson, was in the Infirmary. I can tell from your face you don't know anything about it."
"I found an empty conference room to take care of the prebriefing reading and some other stuff. I get too many interruptions in my office." He looked at her thoughtfully. "You thought I meant him when I was talking about Jonas."
They entered the infirmary to find it with several filled beds, but no Daniel Jackson. Cam shrugged and said, "Off to the salt mines with you, Colonel. Meeting with the delegation in less than an hour."
Carolyn Lam emerged from her office before they left and said, "I thought I heard your voices. Quite a shock, isn't it?"
"Daniel?" Sam took a guess. What else could Carolyn be talking about?
"Yeah. I had no idea he was expected or anything and boom there he is with his son, wanting me to do the necessary tests so he and the boy can be cleared to leave the Mountain."
"His son?" Sam said.
Carolyn laughed. "Daniel's changed, I mean, really changed."
"Where did he go?" Sam asked. "I thought he was here."
"They just left. He said they had been given guest quarters."
"Tell us more. How has he changed?" Sam asked. Before she could answer, they suddenly heard rushing feet coming down the hall and two emergency techs rushed in with an injured man on a gurney and his entire SG team trailing along in concern. The two regrouped in the hall. "Cameron, I know you want me to go read that memo, but can I please have just a little more time to pursue this? Maybe you can fill me in from what you read for the meeting."
"I'm curious too," he admitted, and you're just in the meeting as an observer anyway." He started to walk rapidly with her toward the elevators. "Okay, here it is. This planet has a stargate and was contacted by the Atlantis team initially right after Daniel got there. They're one of the nexus planets whose stargates provide ready access without exceptional power needs both to our ring of stargates and those in the Pegasus galaxy."
Sam interjected impatiently, "No offense, but I'm the astrophysicist who worked all of that out three years ago."
"Right. Daniel was part of that first contact team, interestingly enough. Anyway, the first contact went rather badly. Daniel went back there with a team several months later to try to patch things up. That was when he requested the leave of absence. We really want a relationship with them because they have some extremely advanced biotech."
Sam raised her eyebrows. "I was so pissed at Daniel for the leave of absence, heck for even going to Atlantis--despite whatever appropriate noises I might have made at the time--I never bothered to find out any of the details. This couldn't be a coincidence. Maybe Daniel's here with the delegation."
Cam shook his head. "The delegation is the King, the Regent, two members of their ruling council, and two bodyguards. Hard to fit him into any of those roles, but it is a huge coincidence otherwise, isn't it?"
"He could be on the ruling council," she said.
"They are both quite elderly," Cam said. "The Linteri made specific requests for amenities for them that were related to their age."
"Bodyguard?" Cam suggested. They looked at each other dubiously.
When they reached the hall where the guest quarters were situated, they were greeted by the uncharacteristic wail of a small child. A man's voice was muttering soothing things in a foreign tongue. They didn't know the language, but they did know the voice. The door to the second suite was open and they found Sgt. Walter Harriman, a squalling tiny boy, and Daniel. Daniel had just switched to English. "I can not blame him for being upset. This place is very," he hesitated, "lacking in color and texture compared to what he used to." Sam had the distinct feeling he was thinking something like this place is butt ugly compared to what he's used to. "Everything is strange for him."
The little boy noticed them before Daniel. His big blue eyes, just like Daniel's, fixed on the newcomers and he stopped crying abruptly. "Da?" he said questioningly.
Daniel looked up and met their eyes, his face, not unfriendly, but almost as if he were looking at strangers. Sam certainly felt that she was looking at a stranger. His hair was long and in a braid hanging down his back. There was a gold earring in each ear and a scar slashed through his right eyebrow and stood out dramatically against his pale skin. He's not a pretty boy any more, Jack, Sam thought, remembering one of Jack's pithier comments just the previous weekend. Daniel dropped his eyes for a moment to the child and smiled at him. It was a beautiful smile and the little boy smiled back and reached up his arms. Daniel scooped him up and came toward them at last.
"It's been a long time," Mitchell said.
Daniel nodded in acknowledgement. "I hope you are well. You too Samantha." His words were oddly formal as if he was translating into English from another language. A slow, appreciative smile graced his face as he looked at Sam, looked at all of her. Sam had had men look at her like this before, but never Daniel. "I had forgotten how truly beautiful you are," he said, completely taking her aback.
"It's good to see you," Sam said. She thought it best to ignore the complement. Her manner was a little stiff, but she couldn't help it. She wanted her Daniel back. Instead of glasses and a BDU, this one had on a cloak made from some fabulous blue fabric, tight leather pants and high boots out of soft as butter looking brown leather. His hands sported several magnificent rings and a pendant with an outrageously large sapphire, if that's what it was, hung around his neck on a heavy gold chain.
"I would like you to meet my son, Davi," Daniel said. He looked down at the little boy and said their names in the midst of several unfamiliar words. The little boy blessed them with his beatific smile. "I know I need to start teaching him English," he said more to himself than to them.
"You're with the delegation that's here from P5L903?" Mitchell asked for confirmation. When Daniel nodded, he asked, "So after they finish the negotiations, will you be staying?"
"I have gone ahead and gotten the necessary tests done so that I can show my son the planet where I was born before we go home. It is most likely that he will never have another opportunity."
"Jonas has taken your slot on SG-1," Sam said, baldly. She was appalled at the words as soon as they were out. It was as if there was an evil Sam inside who wanted to hurt Daniel, to show him that he couldn't hurt people and just waltz back.
"So I hear," Daniel said. His tone was mild. He looks, God help me, Sam thought, amused, as if he can read my mind. "I am glad that you have such an able team member."
He turned and looked at Walter. "I am most appreciative for everything you have done to help us become comfortable." He bowed slightly.
Sam thought, He is reminding me rather forcefully of Teal'c.
He turned back to Mitchell and Sam. "I am about to take Davi to the cafeteria and introduce him to Jell-O. I believe we have about 30 minutes before the meeting. Not that it matters--they can't very well start without us. If you will be so kind as to excuse us?" It came out with a very compelling note of command, the way a man speaks who is used to his word being law.
He hadn't seen her for more than three years and he was making polite excuses. She wasn't going to be brushed off so easily. "Why don't we come with you? I have a million questions." First off, she wanted to know where he fit in the delegation since it was hard to see a bodyguard functioning with his son in tow and he clearly wasn't elderly.
Again she caught the amused expression. "I can imagine that you do."
As they walked to the cafeteria, the little boy watched everything with great interest, but Sam noticed that he never let go of his father. Daniel murmured something to him occasionally in his language. Sam asked, "So, Daniel. We're trying to fit you into a delegation that is supposed to be the Regent, the King, two elderly councilors, and two bodyguards. Are you ex officio members of the delegation that just didn't rate a mention?"
"We do not look like bodyguards?" Daniel asked, sounding amused. They waited but he said nothing else.
Sam thought about pushing that question, but knew they'd have the answer soon enough anyway. "If I might ask," she said, going for a more difficult to determine answer, "where's his mother?"
"She is lost," he said. Daniel's face was shuttered and there was nothing to read there, not grief or bitterness or fond regret.
"Oh," was all Sam could come up with. She cast around for something to say.
Mitchell took care of the lull first. "I have a question of my own. Just what have you been doing all this time?"
"Taking care of my people," was the unhelpful answer.
"Is everything we want to know about the past three years going to be like pulling teeth with you?" Mitchell asked with a touch of asperity.
"Yes," Daniel said, but softened it with another of those brilliant smiles.
The little boy clapped his hands when he saw the Jell-O. "Jell-O, Da," he said. Apparently his father had been telling him stories about Tauri Jell-O. There was a lot of deliberation in that melodic foreign tongue and eventually the child selected red.
Daniel put the little boy on a chair and was still standing, having just put down the tray, when a soldier hurrying to get past, brushed him from behind. So rapidly that Sam couldn't have exactly said how it happened, Daniel had pivoted and had the soldier in an arm lock with a knife at his throat. All noise in the big room stopped. Mitchell said, "Daniel!" sharply just as Daniel himself realized how inappropriately he had reacted.
Rather than apologizing, Daniel said to the soldier, "Don't ever come up behind me like that again."
The man, a very young soldier, looked at him wide-eyed and then consciously straightened up, put on a cocky attitude, and walked off broadcasting the attitude, "I'm a tough guy and that didn't phase me."
"An apology would have been nice and what the hell were you thinking?" Sam snapped.
"It has been inappropriate to my position to apologize for three years. I am afraid I am out of practice. He should not have come up behind me like that." Daniel looked back at her with unblinking arrogance, so unlike her Daniel that it hurt her heart.
The little boy had barely paid attention when his father had held a knife at a man's throat. Sam asked herself, What has this child seen?