"Homecoming, Part Three"
By Torquelith and Mara-DragonMaster
Jack looked over the trailer, hooked to the back of the ATV, going over all of the crates and luggage one last time. Clothes, belongings, medical kits, and some dry goods. All gathered in record time. Janet was huddled with Teal'c and Sam, going over instructions on how to care for Teal'c's wound. Sharé was in Daniel's arms, draped over his shoulder with a tiny trickle of drool next to her slightly open mouth. "Jacob, Charlie!" Daniel said sternly. "Get down off of that! Right now!"
The boys froze, partially on the ATV, and looked at him with big eyes. "But Dad…" Charlie complained.
Daniel leveled them with a stern look that would tolerate no disobedience. "Now."
With a sigh they crawled down and plopped onto the floor next to Daniel's feet, a jacket over their pajamas. Guards surrounded them on all sides, guns at the ready.
The side door opened, and General Hammond entered, his face grim. "Alright, we're completely locked down." He told Jack. "Nobody is going through that gate until this guy is caught, so you should be safe."
Jack nodded, then stepped close. "Anybody know where we're going?" he whispered.
Hammond shook his head. "I'll enter the coordinates myself, Jack. No one else will have any clue where you are. Samantha set it to clear the instant the Gate closes, so there won't even be a record."
"Good." Glancing around, Jack took stock of his team. Sara was standing close to Daniel and the kids, a pullover wrapped tightly around her, quietly playing I-spy with the boys to keep them occupied. Her eyes kept flickering up at the Gate nervously. She had actually taken the truth about Jack's job rather well, but he supposed that the life-threatening situation had something to do with that. He felt a slight glow of pride in how she was handling the situation, and when she caught his eye he offered a small, reassuring smile.
"Don't come back." General Hammond said. "I'll contact you when it's safe."
Jack nodded. "Yes, sir."
General Hammond left the Gate room, and a moment later they saw him up in the control room, the only person there, and then the chevrons started to light up. Daniel and Sam held their kids back until the blue wave was over, and then they beckoned them forward and into the horizon, holding their hands. Teal'c followed. Jack saluted Hammond, then turned and helped Sara onto the back of the ATV, before climbing on in front of her. "Ready to go, kiddo?" he asked.
Her arms wrapped around his waist, and he felt her lean against him. "Ready as I'll ever be." she said in his ear.
He grinned, and put a hand over hers. "Just hold on." he said. "It's quite a ride." Then he drove into the event horizon.
Sam, Daniel, Teal'c, and the kids were waiting for them on the other side. Jack and Sara rumbled out of the Gate and into the wide, open courtyard in the middle of the tall buildings. Sara looked around with wide eyes. They were really, truly, on another world. The buildings looked vaguely familiar to her, reminiscent of the Pueblo Indians she had learned about in school. Haunting, alien bird calls echoed in the green forests beyond, a breeze blowing warm air around them with the smell of sea salt and a honey-like scent that she assumed came from the plant life and flowers.
Sam and Daniel were smiling, the lines around their eyes seeming to relax. Holding the hands of her boys, Sam tipped her head. "Come on," she said. "We'll show you our old place."
As they led the way, she and Daniel took turns talking. "Some mining teams have set up camp here since Daniel and I left," she continued. "They've been repairing more of the buildings to make them livable."
"So you guys can pick where you want to stay." Daniel said, readjusting his hold on his sleeping daughter.
"Yeah," Sam agreed. Then she smiled. "Just not our place."
Jack rumbled along behind them as the family walked, Sara still holding his waist, Teal'c now sitting on the end of the trailer. When they reached the 'apartment' building he brought the ATV to a stop and turned it off. Together with Daniel he unloaded everything into the building, depositing his things and Teal'c's packs into the small living quarters next door. Sara set up her things in Sam and Daniel's place. Once everything was as squared away as they could make them in the middle of the night, everyone retired to their separate rooms and cots and fell into an exhausted sleep.
The next morning dawned bright and peaceful, with nothing but the slight hum of insects and the occasional call of a bird. After dressing, Jack and Teal'c headed next door, drawn by the smell of brewing coffee. Daniel was sitting in the kitchen with a large mug, his eyes closed as he inhaled the soothing aroma, but he looked up when he heard them enter. "Morning." He mumbled.
"Morning." Jack said, making his way to the stove. Searching a cupboard he found two more mugs, and filled them both with the strong dark brew still steaming in its pot. Returning to the table he handed one to Teal'c, who had seated himself across from Daniel.
"Thank you." Teal'c said appreciatively, accepting the mug.
"Don't mention it." Jack lifted his own mug and took a deep drink, feeling the welcome warmth spread from his middle out. "So, what's the plan for the day?"
"Uncle Jack!" Two blond boys suddenly burst from the now-open bedroom door and dashed across the kitchen to him. Both were still in their pajamas. "Can we go fishing now?" Charlie looked up at him hopefully.
"Dad said we could go fishing with you, but we had to wait until you got here." Jacob said.
"Well I appreciate you waiting till I got up." Jack answered, the corner of his mouth pulling to one side as he looked down at them. "Why don't you get dressed and we'll snag some breakfast first."
"Okay!" Turning they ran back to the bedroom, closing the door behind them with a slam.
Daniel flinched at the sharp sound, and took a large drink of coffee. His long hair was rumpled with sleep, and he pushed it back, sighing as he swallowed.
"Chipper little things." Jack commented.
Daniel took another large drink of coffee. "I ended up with a family of morning people." he muttered.
"Is that a bad thing, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked, blinking as he tipped his head. "I myself enjoy the early morning hours."
At Daniel's upward glance at the Jaffa, Jack chuckled. "Looks like you're out of luck, Daniel." he said.
Daniel looked at him from the corner of his eye, yet behind the exasperation Jack saw a faint glimmer of humor. "Tomorrow I'm only making enough coffee for me." Daniel threatened.
Before Jack could come up with a retort there was a step in the kitchen from the direction of the bathroom facilities. "Is Sam around?" Sara asked, leaning on her crutches. Her fully open eyes and relaxed expression marked her as another morning person, and Daniel heaved a sigh and tipped his head in the direction of the bedroom.
"She's getting dressed with Sharé."
Nodding, Sara made her way through the kitchen to the stove, and soon had a cup of coffee all her own. Jack quickly stepped to her side and held out his hand for the mug. "I'll hold that for you." he said quietly.
She glanced at him in surprise. "Thank you."
With an odd pinch in his chest, Jack held the mug and watched her make her way to the table, wondering why she was surprised at such a small gesture– had he been that inconsiderate the last year of their marriage?
Once she had sat down he placed her coffee before her and softly asked, "Cream and sugar?"
Her eyes flickered up to his. "Yes." she said, watching him.
Turning Jack went to the stone cooler Daniel had showed him the night before, and pulled out the container of milk. Then he picked up the box of sugar from the counter, and a spoon, and returned to the table, carefully placing the items before her.
Glancing up she smiled. "Thank you, Jack."
Aware, now, of Daniel and Teal'c watching the interaction, he quickly straightened. "No problem." Grabbing his own empty mug he deposited it in the sink and continued to talk, his back turned. "We're here until the guy is caught, so we might as well take advantage of the forced vacation. I'm going fishing with Jacob and Charlie," he turned and leaned back against the counter, arms crossed. "You coming, Teal'c?"
"Indeed." Teal'c assured with a pleased smile. "I look forward to catching my very first fish."
Jack deliberately looked taken aback. "Hey now! There are fish in my lake!"
Teal'c tipped his chin. "Perhaps there are, O'Neill. It is possible I have simply been unsuccessful thus far in my attempts."
"Darn right." Jack looked at Daniel warningly, and the archaeologist surreptitiously glanced away, raising his mug as a smile tugged at his mouth.
"You haven't changed a bit." Sara sighed humorously, shaking her head.
Glaring at the traitors, Jack turned when the bedroom door opened and Sam arrived, herding her two boys and Sharé out into the kitchen. The little girl started towards Jack, then paused and glanced up at Sam, who smiled. "Sir, Sharé was wondering if she could go along to build sandcastles?" she asked.
"Sure." Jack looked down at the little girl and smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Daniel? You want to come along too?"
"Why not." Moving sluggishly, Daniel pushed his chair back and stood up.
"Daniel," Sam called as he went to leave with Jack. "If you get tired of fishing you could collect those clam-things for supper tonight."
Turning, Daniel's eyes twinkled as he pulled his hair back into a ponytail. "You do remember what happened last time, don't you?"
She smiled sweetly. "Don't worry. You have Jack and Teal'c to protect you this time."
Eyes narrowed he glanced at her, then turned and left, ignoring Jack's guffaw and Teal'c's raised eyebrow. After the men and children left, the boys rushing excitedly forth holding their fishing poles, Sara turned. "So, what did happen the last time?"
Sam fished around in the cooler, shaking her head at the disorganized way the men had shoved the food in the night before. "Actually, it was the first time he went to collect the clams." She grunted, finally pulling free a bag of bagels and container of cream cheese. She stood and grabbed a knife. "Years ago, before we got married, Daniel and I were here on a routine trip when an enemy of ours attacked and damaged the Stargate." At Sara's nervous glance Sam shook her hand, setting the food on the table and sitting down. "Don't worry. They're not a threat anymore."
Sara let out a breath of relief, her mouth curving slightly in a smile.
"Anyway," Sam started spreading cream cheese on two bagel halves. "While we were stuck here he discovered the clams in the lagoon and went to gather some, and was attacked by a large shark-like fish. It tore up his leg, and succeeded in drowning him before I got there." A distant look entered her eyes for a moment, but then she shook her head and handed Sara a bagel half. She smiled. "The steaks were tasty."
Sara's eyes had grown large, but at Sam's final comment she chuckled, accepting the food. "I can't imagine. How in the world did you save him?"
"I shot it with a zat." Sam said, her voice and expression betraying the satisfaction she still felt over that fact. "And when it floated to the surface, stunned, I shot it again."
"Pulled him out," Sam swallowed a bite of bagel. "Did CPR. We somehow made it back here and got his leg taken care of. He doesn't even have a limp."
"No, he doesn't." Then a look of concern crossed Sara's face. "Aren't you worried about your kids down there?"
Sam shook her head. "No. We think it got washed over the reef into the lagoon in a storm, because we never saw one again, not in three years."
"You were here for three years?"
"Yes. Sharé was born here." Sam took a bite of her bagel. "Being alone here gave Daniel and me the time we needed to realize we loved each other."
Shaking her head Sara rested her cheek in her hand, staring.
"So," Sam finished her bagel and then briskly brushed off her hands, standing. "I thought that today we could inventory what we have and get things organized. We might be here for a while." She put a hand to her small belly and absently rubbed it, her thoughts still going a mile a minute. "Then– maybe I could show you some of the things we have available on the island itself, some of the food I used to make?"
Sara's eyes lit up. "I'd love that!"
As the first fish bit, Jack's eyes lit with sheer delight as he started to reel it in. "Now that's what I'm talking about!" he crowed, stringing the fish and re-baiting his line. The rest of the morning was spent happily reeling in the occasional fish, and soon Teal'c and Daniel had also landed their own. Sharé sat a little ways down the beach, out of range of the flying fishing lines, contentedly building a sand city. Jacob and Charlie, undaunted by the fact that they themselves had yet to catch anything, continued to wildly cast out their lines– happily noting that there were no branches to catch– and then pull them back in, chattering nonstop to each other, alternating between English and their twin language, which never failed to make Jack look at them sideways.
"What does gr'ulki mean?" he finally asked in puzzlement.
Both boys froze and turned large blue eyes on him. "Um–" Jacob glanced at his brother.
"Nothing important." Charlie piped innocently. Jacob fiddled with his fishing pole.
Daniel glanced over and eyed them both knowingly. "Jacob, Charlie…"
Glancing at one another they sighed and scuffled their feet, looking embarrassed. "It means… really tall, old man." Jacob finally said.
There was a snort of laughter that was quickly, if with difficulty, cut off. Jack glanced sideways at his long-haired friend, who to his credit was doing a marvelous job of hiding his mirth and focusing instead on his fishing pole. Then he glanced back at the boys who were still shuffling, watching him with wide eyes and expressions that were torn between a desire to laugh and fear of his reaction.
"Oh." He blinked at them. "Sweet."
Sharing a look the two boys finally let themselves start to giggle, and giggle, and giggle. Suddenly Charlie's line zipped out, and he grabbed his pole and held on tightly. "Dad! I got one!"
After a few minutes struggle, with advice both from Daniel and Jack and encouragement from Jacob and Teal'c, he managed to land his first fish. Jack watched his excitement as he held up the line and admired the fish on the end of it, its scales glinting in the sunlight, and the sight brought back memories of his own Charlie with his first catch. Then, just like all those years ago, Jack found himself crouching down in front of the boy and saying, "Let's get it on the stringer, okay? Then you can keep fishing."
Thirty minutes later Charlie had caught his second fish, and Jacob had sat down in the sand with a scowl, still casting his line and reeling it in to no avail. "It's not fair." he muttered, blinking hard. He picked up a pebble and threw it as hard as he could into the water.
"You'll catch one, Jacob." Charlie reassured him, throwing out his line. "It'll happen just like that– zzzzzzz!" he copied the sound of a whirring line.
"Yeah right." Jacob retorted. At that moment his line suddenly whirred, just like Charlie had said. Clambering to his feet he gripped his pole tightly. "I got one! I got one!"
As the men surround him to guide and cheer him on, Jacob manfully fought his opponent, and slowly reeled in a very large fish. Its size was exclaimed over, its color studied and praised, and he happily and proudly carried the struggling fish to the stringer, trying to avoid tripping over the flapping tail.
When they all went back to fishing Sharé walked up, scuffing her bare feet in the sand, her sandals held by her fingertips. "Daddy," she called. "I'm hungry."
Checking their watches, Jack and Daniel both squinted at the time. "I guess it is time for lunch." Daniel said. "You want to go back up and ask Mom to make something for us?"
"Okay." Blond pigtails bouncing, she skipped away, humming to herself.
Bouncing in through the kitchen door, Sharé dropped her sandals to the floor and went to the table, laying her arms on its surface. "Mommy, we're all getting hungry. Daddy told me to come and tell you."
Sam smiled and stood up. "I thought it was about that time." She said, going to the cooler. Pulling out a plastic bag of sandwiches she carefully slid it into a small knapsack and handed it to the little girl. "Don't run, okay?"
"Okay!" Taking the knapsack, Sharé headed out the door, leaving her sandals behind, forgotten.
Daniel looked up when the sound of humming reached his ears, and turning he saw his little girl skipping down to them, a small knapsack held tightly in her hand. "Hey, honey!"
"Hi Daddy!" Reaching him she held the sack up. "Here."
"Thank you." Taking the knapsack he unzipped the top and peered in. "Looks like we've got sandwiches. Ham." he said to Jack.
"Mm. My favorite." Jack replied, leaning back in his folding chair with his hat over his face.
Pulling out the bag Daniel opened it and handed a sandwich to Sharé. "Sit down here and eat it, okay?" he said, and she nodded, already chewing a rather large mouthful. "Boys, time for lunch!" he called.
Jacob and Charlie reeled in their lines and very, very carefully set their fishing poles down, as Jack had instructed them. Then they came running. Daniel looked at their dirt and sand covered hands and raised his eyebrows. "I don't think so," he said. "Go wash those hands off! Over there, in the water."
Heaving suffering sighs the boys made their way down to the water's edge, standing for a moment and watching the surf swirl around their feet before they leaned down and splashed their hands, rubbing them hard together. When they returned they held their hands out for Daniel to scrutinize, which he did with a heavy marked frown, turning their hands over and around so that he could study between every finger while they watched him with worried expressions. Then he smiled at them and pulled out two sandwiches. "Well done. Here you go, just keep them out of the sand."
With the three kids taken care of Daniel then distributed the remaining sandwiches amongst Jack, Teal'c, and himself. After they finished eating they set the empty plastic bag in the knapsack and returned to fishing. Sharé, still keeping clear of her brothers lines, splashed happily in the surf and squished her toes in the wet sand.
For a good part of the afternoon they continued to fish, until Daniel looked at his watch and set down his pole. "Alright. Time for clamming." he announced, snagging the bucket he had brought. Rolling up the bottom of his pants he headed for the water's edge. As he walked in up to his knees and started to search the sand with his toes Jacob and Charlie suddenly joined him, heedless of their now entirely soaked pants.
"What you doing, Daddy?" Jacob asked while Charlie bent over to peer into the water.
"Looking for clams." Daniel said.
"With your toes?" Charlie wrinkled his nose as he watched Daniel's feet.
"Because these clams live in the sand, so you have to feel with your toes and pop them out– like that!" A clam suddenly popped into view under the ministrations of Daniel's toe. The boys exclaimed in delight.
"Coooool!" Charlie's little hand splashed into the water to grab the clam, and as he bent low to reach it he was successfully soaked the rest of the way. Standing he held the tightly closed shell in his hands, and Jacob leaned close to see.
"Gross." he said, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "Can we help?"
"Sure." Daniel grinned. "Just feel in the sand with your toes like this, okay? And then scooch them out when you feel one."
Peering intently into the water Jacob and Charlie dug their feet into the sand and then began to slowly walk forward, their toes occasionally poking above the ever-shifting sand.
An hour later the bucket held enough clams for a large pot of chowder, and Daniel called it good, much to his sons' disappointment. "We have to take the fish up to Mom so that we can have them for supper." Daniel said, then he leaned down and beckoned the boys close with his finger. "Of course first we need to cut them open and clean out their guts!"
"Ew, Daddy! Gross!" Sharé's voice reached them from the shore. Jacob and Charlie giggled.
"Can we help gut them?" Charlie asked.
"We even have our own knives!" Jacob pointed out.
Daniel chuckled, and started to wade back to shore. "Maybe."
Jack lifted his hat from his face as they approached, and fitted it onto his head. "Time to go?"
With a deep breath Jack stood up and then stretched, long and hard. "Alright," he sighed, and picked up his folding chair. Teal'c did the same, and Jack looked at him. "How you doing, big guy?" he asked.
"I am doing well, O'Neill." Teal'c replied, his dark face smooth and relaxed. "The sun and salt air has been most conducive to healing. My shoulder is not as stiff as it was."
"Sweet." Jack's mouth quirked. "See, fishing is the intergalactic cure!"
Though one eyebrow raised, Teal'c tipped his chin in acknowledgement. Still, there was a look of unbelief as he retrieved the string of fish they had caught that day, that it was the fishing that helped and not the fresh air and sun.
Sara and Sam looked up when the two boys and their father came squelching into the kitchen, followed by an exasperated looking Sharé and a relaxed Jack and Teal'c.
"Mommm! Jacob and Charlie keep talking to me about fish guts!" Sharé complained.
"And I bet the biggest fish guts smell the worst!" Jacob announced, causing Charlie to laugh and Sharé to wrinkle her nose.
"Momm!" she wailed.
Sara chuckled, and Sam raised an eyebrow. "Alright, boys. Go help your dad with the fish, and Sharé, you can stay here with me and Sara, okay?"
Rolling her eyes with a sigh of relief, the little girl clambered up onto one of the kitchen chairs and sat down. Jack chuckled and followed Daniel and the boys, and Teal'c, with a smile and the string of fish, nodded at Sam and Sara and then left as well. A minute later echoing cries of "Gross!" and "Cool!" came from the courtyard.
After the fish had been cleaned and filleted, Sam set it over a fire in the courtyard to grill, and then returned to the kitchen. Sara sat at the table, cutting up the fruit Sam had collected when she had taken a nap. It had barely been five days since her accident, and she still felt terribly tired and sore. Even now her leg ached, and she paused a moment in the cutting of the fruit to reach down and rub the cast. Sam noticed, and checked her watch. "Time for your evening meds," she surmised, and Sara breathed a sigh of relief.
Sam looked at her sympathetically, and went to retrieve the medicine from Sara's room. When she came back she got a glass of water and set the bottle and the glass beside the fruit.
After the fruit was done Sara put it all into a bowl and mixed it. Sam, meanwhile, had rummaged through the supplies sent with them and pulled out a box of rice and a can of beets. Opening the box she measured the rice into a pot with some water and set that on the stove to cook, and opened the can of beets and put that in another pot on the stove to heat up.
Late that evening, the kids were sleeping, Teal'c had retired, and Daniel, Sam, Jack, and Sara sat around the campfire in the courtyard. Sam yawned and stood.
"I've got to give up, goodnight."
Daniel stood. "Goodnight all." He followed her into the house.
It was silent except for the crackling of the fire and occasional unidentified rustlings in the jungle.
Jack poked the coals with a stick. "So, how's the leg?"
"Doing okay, aches a lot, but I'm told that means it's healing."
"Good. That's good."
Sara shifted on the bench. "Ummm, thanks for the flowers, by the way."
Jack poked the fire harder. "You're welcome."
"So, this is what you've been doing all these years." Sara gestured at their surroundings in an all-encompassing way. "The Gate is pretty unbelievable."
He nodded. "Yeah." Moving coals around with the tip of his stick, he paused. "I should have told you."
"I would have thought you were nuts." She laughed. "At least, I would have before your clone showed up. You know…" she traced a pattern on the bench seat. "We never finished that conversation."
"Well, he had to get back home, and then …"
They sat in silence for a while.
Sara suddenly chuckled. "You still think there are actually fish in that lake of yours?"
"Yes!" Jack stood. "I better get some rest and you should too. Especially since we're morning people."
Jack chuckled as they went in.
The next morning Daniel walked out to find everyone already in the kitchen, chatting good-naturedly and drinking coffee. Some had already had breakfast; remains of his children's food sat on plates on the table, and he could hear their laughter and shouts as they played outside. Sam smiled at him, and went to the stove and poured him a cup of hot coffee.
"Good morning." She said, holding out the cup. "Here."
Daniel accepted the cup, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. Then he sat down at the table and became completely absorbed with his coffee. Jack paced behind him, his brows dark and pulled together.
"I don't like this." he muttered. "Hammond should have contacted us by now. How hard is it to find one guy in a locked down base?"
"It is possible he has a thorough knowledge of the base and is able to escape detection, O'Neill." Teal'c pointed out.
"Well how long do we wait?!" Jack snarled. He was a man of action; one day of relaxation was enough. Now he wanted to do something.
Teal'c looked thoughtful. "I believe a full forty-eight hours would be acceptable to General Hammond."
Jack heaved a great sigh. "Fine. Tomorrow it is. Now when tomorrow arrives, what's the plan?"
It was Daniel's turn to sigh. "Could we maybe plan later today? It's only eight o'clock."
Giving his friend a glare, Jack admitted defeat. "I'm going fishing." he groused, and left.
Teal'c rose from his seat. "I believe I will also fish." he said.
As he left, Sara also rose and left to get dressed. Daniel finished his coffee, then stood, and turned around to find Sam close by, watching him. He smiled. Reaching out he pulled her close, and she hugged him, then gave a little giggle as he nibbled on her neck. Then her cheeks turned bright red at his whispered words, and he lifted his mouth from her ear and grinned, his eyes twinkling.
"Go get dressed!" she scolded, pushing him playfully.
After lunch, Sharé went outside to the courtyard, and began digging in the dirt to plant a flower. The boys were running around inside, playing a game of hide and seek. Sam, Daniel, and Sara decided to go down to the beach and see how the fishing was going, and to take down a lunch for the two fishermen.
Jack looked up at them from under his fishing hat, and pulled his sunglasses off. "I was wondering if I was going to have to eat raw fish!" he called, setting his pole down and standing up.
Teal'c also stood, smiling, and indicated the line of two decently-sized fish. "The morning has been good, Daniel Jackson." he said. "There are more fish here than in O'Neill's lake.
Daniel nodded in admiration. "I can see that."
"Hey!" Jack exclaimed. "That's cause they're all still small! No dissing the lake!"
Sara shook her head.
Suddenly, the air was shattered by an echoing gunshot, followed by the screams of the children.
Without a word Daniel and Sam took off running, with Jack and Teal'c following. Sara followed as quickly as she could on her crutch, her eyes wide with horror as she cursed the handicap of a casted leg.
Their hearts pounding with terror, Daniel and Sam burst into the building and followed the screams of their children into the bedroom.
Sharé was standing in the doorway, her hands to her face, screaming. Charlie was sitting on the floor, sobbing, his hands on his brother. They were stained with blood.
Beside him lay Daniel's gun.
"Jacob!" Sam shrieked as she fell to the floor beside her son.
"Mommy–" Jacob cried, tears rolling down his cheeks as he held his side. "I'm sorry– we were just looking–" Sam pulled his hands away to reveal a graze just over an inch long. Sam pressed her hand to it to stop the bleeding, and gently brushed his hair back, trying to sooth him.
"Jacob! Charlie, what happened?" Daniel grabbed the bag next to the bed and pulled out a first aid kit.
Charlie sat back, hugging himself, his little body heaving with sobs. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, Daddy! We just wanted to look, and it went off! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!"
Daniel opened the first aid kit. "How is he?" he asked Sam.
"It's just a graze." she said with forced calm, though tears were standing out in her eyes. "I think it just needs a few stitches. Shh, it's okay, sweetie. You're going to be okay. It's just a little cut."
Daniel pulled out a small pack with a prepped syringe of local anesthesia, and opened the pack. "It's okay," he reassured his son, swabbing an area by the cut and giving him the shot. "We'll give you a bandaid, and you'll be just fine."
Jack and Teal'c stood in the doorway, breathing heavily, the cords standing out in the big Jaffa's neck. Jack stared at the scene before him, his face white.
Then Sara arrived. She limped in through the doorway, gasping for breath, sweat beaded on her forehead, pale with worry. She looked in and saw the gun on the floor, and the little boy lying on the ground, blood on his clothes.
Jack managed to catch her before she hit the floor, his arms going around her and holding her close to him. He looked up, and his eyes met Daniel's. "You okay?" he asked, his voice rasping.
Lifting Sara in his arms, Jack carried her away from the room.
Teal'c remained in the doorway. "Can I be of assistance?" he asked.
Sam looked up, and nodded. Her eyes shifted to her daughter, who was staring at her brother with huge frightened eyes and tears running down her white cheeks. Without needing any other indication Teal'c immediately went to the little girl and bent down, extending his arms and wrapping her in them. "Come, Sharé." he said in a low, calming tone. "Your brother Jacob is in no danger."
Sharé sniffed and wrapped her little arms around his neck, burying her head in his shoulder. "Is he going to be okay?" she asked in a trembling voice.
"Indeed." Teal'c reassured her, standing with her in his arms. "Your mother and father will bandage his cut, and he will be fine." Continuing to talk to her in a soothing tone, Teal'c left the room, suggesting that they retrieve the fish from the beach.
As Sam pulled out a needle and thread, Daniel turned to Charlie, who still sat huddled on the floor, crying. He reached out and pulled him into his lap, gathering him into his arms. "Shh." he said, stroking Charlie's hair. "It's okay. Jacob's okay. See?" he moved to sit by Jacob's head, and he reached down with one hand and took Jacob's hand, smiling down at him. "It's just a cut. It's okay."
"I'm sorry, Daddy!" Charlie's voice was muffled by Daniel's shirt.
"I know; it's okay. I forgive you." Daniel rocked slightly. Soon he was rewarded with a lessening in the boy's tears, and Charlie shifted, turning to look down at his brother. Jacob looked up, lines of dried salt on his cheeks, as Charlie put a little hand on his shoulder. "See?" Daniel said. "He's okay."
"Almost done." Sam said. "There!" Taking some antiseptic she swabbed the injury and then taped some gauze over it.
Jacob squeezed Daniel's hand, and his eyes filled with tears afresh. "I'm sorry too, Daddy!" he whimpered.
"I forgive you," Daniel said, and gave him a small smile.
In Sara's room, Jack laid her on her bed, and brushed her hair back from her damp forehead. His own was creased with concern. "Sara?"
There was a small moan, and then her eyes fluttered open. For a second she just blinked up at him. Then her eyes widened with horror and raw grief, and she surged up with a cry, her hands clutching his arms. "Oh my God! Jack!" she cried, her eyes welling up. "It's happening again! It's Charlie– it's– Oh God!"
"No– no," Jack held her face, brushing her hair back, his eyes burning into hers even as his own began to fill. "It's Jacob, and he's okay. He's okay. He was just grazed."
She began to sob. "Not again, Jack–"
He closed his eyes as tears began to run down his lined, weathered face, and he pulled her close, pressing his mouth to her hair. "I'm so sorry." he rasped; images of their Charlie flashed through his mind, over and over again. "I'm so sorry. I should have been there– I should have been there for you."
She shook her head against his chest, her shoulders shaking. Her hair tickled his nose. "It wasn't your fault!" she gulped. "It wasn't– it was not your fault! Not your fault!"
She felt his arms tighten around her, till they shook with tension and she could hardly breathe, and she heard the sharp jerks in his breath, her forehead growing wet with his tears. The grief rose up within her afresh, and she wept into his chest, saying again and again "not your fault!" even as he whispered in her ear "I shouldn't have left you."
For a long time they simply sat, holding each other.
Later that afternoon, after sitting and reading storybooks together, both boys were asleep taking a nap in their bed, exhausted by the ordeal. Teal'c and Sharé were still down on the beach, building castles, finding shells, and otherwise passing the time. Jack and Sara had not emerged from her room.
Daniel and Sam went to the kitchen, both drained and exhausted. Going to the stove Daniel made a very strong pot of coffee, and poured a cup for himself. Sam pulled out a Hershey bar and started eating it. As she sat at the table, her face became more and more grim, her eyes flattening with anger. Suddenly she turned on him, her eyes narrowed. "Daniel, where did you have your gun? Why didn't you have it in a safe place?"
"I did!" Daniel snapped. "I had it in its locked case, unloaded, up on the closet shelf, out of their reach!"
"Well it obviously wasn't out of their reach, was it? How'd they get the key?" she shrilled.
Daniel spread his hands. "I don't know! Maybe they took it out of our pack– I don't know!"
"Do you know what could have happened?"
"You think I don't?!"
"He could have died! What kind of father are you?!" Sam burst into hard tears, pressing her hand to her face.
Daniel stepped towards her. "Sam…"
As he reached for her she slapped his hands away, and then her palm connected with his face. The moment the resounding crack filled the room his face changed, his eyes burning. "It wasn't my fault!" he shouted.
"It was your gun!" she yelled back. "Your gun, Daniel, not mine!"
A door suddenly slammed open, and Jack stood there, his shirt unbuttoned, his face livid with fury. Behind him stood Sara, an equal expression of shock and anger on her face.
"Enough! Both of you!" Jack barked. Then he strode into the kitchen. "Outside. Now." he hissed at Daniel.
Daniel gave him a withering glare, then he stalked away and out into the courtyard, followed closely by Jack.
Sara limped in on her walking cast and grabbed Sam's arm. "Into my room. Do you want to wake up the boys and have them hear you two fight? Shame on you!"
Sam allowed herself to be ushered into the bedroom, where she turned and faced Sara in defiance. Sara closed the door, and pointed.
At the tone of her voice, Sam sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Now what on earth was that all about?"
"Jacob could have died because of Daniel's carelessness!" Sam exclaimed, her eyes welling again even as her lip quivered with fury. "How can I forgive that?"
Sara stepped forward, her eyes snapping. "You selfish little brat!" she hissed, grabbing Sam's shoulders. "Don't you ever, ever say that again. Ever. It could have just as easily been your gun! And your boy is alive! Jack and I– we'd give anything, ANYTHING for our little boy to be as lucky! You were both careful, but kids are just kids. They get into everything. You can only protect them so much, Sam." Sara paused, and took a deep breath. Her eyes misted, but she rallied and went on. "And if you and Daniel can't forgive each other, how will your little boys ever believe that you forgive them?"
Sam pressed a hand to her mouth, tears spilling from her eyes. Sara shook her slightly. "You still have your little boy, Sam. You still have your little boy." Sam began to cry, and Sara put her arms around her as her own eyes filled again and she began to weep.
Daniel stalked out into the courtyard, shaking, his mind a red haze. When a hand suddenly touched his shoulder he rounded about, his eyes blazing. "What?!" he shouted. "What, Jack? This is none of your business, okay!"
"Anything that happens under my command is my business. So grow up!" Jack retorted.
"Oh," Daniel shot back. "So my family business is under your command?"
Jack snorted. "Don't be ridiculous."
"I suppose you think this is my fault, too." Daniel yelled, shaking his fist and pacing furiously. "What more was I supposed to do, huh?"
"Nothing!" Jack exclaimed.
"I suppose I should have had the ammo in another room, or I could have carried the key in my pocket, or…"
"Daniel, there was nothing you could have done."
Daniel swung around on Jack. "They're only seven! What was I doing leaving them alone? What was I thinking?"
"Daniel! It's okay!"
"No it's not! Shut up, Jack! It's not okay! Sam's right– I'm crap for a father–" Daniel grabbed one of the rock's that ringed the fire pit and threw it at the wall fountain.
"Hey! What is the matter with you?" Jack snapped. "Nobody can control what their kids do– nobody! Doesn't matter how careful you are! Accidents happen."
Daniel grabbed another rock as Jack was talking, and at Jack's words he whirled around, holding the rock back as though to throw. Jack's eyes narrowed at the threat. "Oh, what you going to do now, hit me? 'Cause your kid got hurt?"
Daniel yelled and swung, missing Jack by inches as the older man sidestepped and swung himself, his fist smashing into Daniel's face. As Daniel spun about and fell to one knee, holding his nose, Jack dropped down behind him and grappled him into a bear hug, refusing to let go when Daniel tried to shrug him off.
"Daniel, your kid's alive." Jack said into his friend's ear. "He's alive. And it wasn't your fault; just like it wasn't mine." He paused and took a deep breath. "Just like it wasn't mine."
That evening was a quiet one. Though the children and Teal'c looked frequently and questioningly at Sam's puffy and bloodshot eyes, and Daniel's bloody and bruised nose, they did not ask any questions, but let the matter lie. The Jackson family went early to bed, and Teal'c excused himself to do his Kel No Reem in his room. Jack and Sara shared a glance, and then stood and cleared away the dishes from supper. After the kitchen was clean, Sara gently reached out, taking Jack's hand, and led the way to her room. The door clicked shut behind them.
The next morning broke slowly, torrential rains darkening the sky, making it impossible to tell the time. The children arrived, and Teal'c showed up in the kitchen for his morning coffee, and then Daniel, who stood at the back window with his cup and stared into the courtyard. Sam walked over to the window and they stared into the rain together, holding hands. When Sara's door opened, they swung around to see Jack and Sara emerge, rumpled and sleepy, his arm supporting her to the table. She sat down, he kissed the top of her head, and looked up at Daniel whose eyebrow was raised.
Daniel shrugged. "Nothing."
Jack poured a cup of coffee, and took a careful sip. "Okay," he announced. "Hammond's forty-eight hours are up. What are we going to do?"
"Yes, Daniel, do!"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow in thought. "O'Neill, it would seem the perpetrator is a master at hiding and evasion, thus making it difficult for Hammond to apprehend him. Perhaps a lure?"
Jack leaned forward. "Go on."
"This man wishes you harm. Would he not take the opportunity to injure you if you were available?"
Jack stared at Teal'c. "Brilliant! Let's go." He turned on his heel, gesturing to Teal'c and Daniel.
"What– we can't all leave." Daniel frowned. "Besides, Hammond would kill us!"
Jack paused and lifted his chin to look around the room at the anxious faces of the women and children. "You're right." he said, his expression solemn. "I'll go alone. I'm the one the guy wants."
Daniel's face grew grim, and he stood. "I'm going with you." he raised a hand when Jack began to protest. "He threatened my wife and kids, Jack."
Teal'c nodded solemnly. "I will stay."
Jack looked ready to argue, then studying Daniel's face, he changed his mind. "Okay," he agreed. "Let's go. We'll decide how we're going to lure this guy out once we get there and talk to Hammond."
As they gathered their packs, Teal'c watched calmly from his place at the table with Sharé on his lap. Sam quietly handed Daniel his gun and his holster.
She swallowed. "Be careful."
He looked at her, and then pulled her into a crushing hug, his face buried in her neck. His eyes shut tightly. "I love you." he whispered.
Jack stood at the door holding his pack, awkwardly turning to look into the kitchen at Sara. Her eyes glittered with unshed tears.
For a moment Jack hesitated. Then he strode over to her side, and lifting her chin with his finger, he bent and kissed her, his lips tender against hers. Her eyes slid shut, releasing a breath. Then he lifted his head and looked down at her, before giving her an impish grin. "I'll be back soon." he promised.
Sara's eyes clung to Jack as he and Daniel left the room, watching as they ran through the pouring rain in the direction of the Stargate. Then she turned and sat down heavily at the table.
"I forgot what it's like, wondering if they'll come home." she quavered.
"I try not to think about it." Sam said with determined calm. Then she chuckled. "Why don't we make a treat for the kids?"
Sara sat up straighter. "Okay. Good idea." She nodded in resolution, and stood and went to the supply box to look at her choice of ingredients.
Meanwhile, soaked to the bone and shivering, Jack and Daniel dialed out, sending their signal so they could come through. Hammond's voice suddenly crackled over the radio.
"O'Neill! What in blue blazes are you doing?"
"We're coming through, General. We'd appreciate an open door when we arrive. Be a bit messy if it's shut."
"Very well!" Hammond sounded grim.
Jack and Daniel stepped into the blue and moments later stepped out into the gate room, and into the gaze of a very irate General.
Hammond stepped up to them and spoke in a low tone. "Follow me." He turned and strode off down the halls to a non-descript section of the base, where he entered a heavily guarded room. He sat down at a small table and gestured for them to do the same. Guards ringed the room.
"Why here?" Jack looked around curiously.
"It's a fallout section, solid metal ceiling and walls. Figured it was more secure. Now, Jack, why on earth are you back?"
"After forty-eight hours, I'm thinking that this guy is too smart to get caught, so I thought we should lure him out. I'm going to be the bait."
General Hammond studied Jack. "I don't like it, but– we haven't had much success looking for him. What did you have in mind?"
"Detention level, something with good access to a ventilation shaft. Make it look like you're detaining me for 'my own good'." Jack said, and snorted.
"And me." said Daniel.
"Yeah, and Tonto here." Jack gestured.
Daniel's gaze swung to Jack. "And I suppose that makes you the Lone Ranger?"
"Well," Daniel frowned. "What if I don't want to be Tonto?"
"Huh, well–" Jack looked thoughtful. "You could be the horse– 'Hey ho Silver! Away!!!'" He raised his eyebrows.
Daniel stared. "I– never mind. Me Tonto."
A rueful, disbelieving chuckle escaping him, General Hammond shook his head.
Jack growled at the guard who pushed him on down the hall. Daniel was beside him, being jostled by two guards, and he finally spun and looked over his shoulder, giving the men a withering glare. "Hey!"
"General Hammond!" Jack shouted.
"I'm sorry, Jack, but it's for your own good. If you didn't want to be detained, then you shouldn't have come back before my say-so." Hammond replied, following along behind the group of guards.
"He's after me! I should be doing something– I should be going after the guy and stopping him! Not hiding!"
"Well, when you're in charge of Stargate Command, then you can do what you want. Until then, it's not your call." Hammond said. He stopped at the door to the isolation room and hooked Jack with his stare, waiting.
Jack shook his head. "No, General, I'm not…" One of the guards shoved him into the room, cutting off his protest. Daniel followed, stumbling through the door.
"What about my wife and kids?" Daniel demanded, his jaw clenched in frustration.
"We'll send for them and Sara and Teal'c when the situation is under control." Hammond said calmly. "Until then, you're to stay here."
Daniel lunged for the door. "General…!"
The door slammed shut and locked. The two men's muffled shouts and the sound of thumping could be heard. Hammond turned to one of the guards. His face was grim.
"Under no circumstances are you to let anyone in or out of that room." He ordered. "Understand?"
The guard saluted him. "Yes, sir!"
Nodding, Hammond shot a final look at the door, and then left with the rest of the guards.
The night was quiet, and very dark. There had already been two shift changes with the guard, and eventually Hammond himself had come down to inquire after his 'prisoners.' The guard informed him that the two men had been quiet for the past few hours, and that there had been no other disturbances. Hammond nodded, his mouth a thin line as he left. He felt uneasy.
Within the room Jack and Daniel lay on their cots. Jack lay on his back, his hands folded, his face relaxed in apparent sleep. Daniel was on his side, his arm tucked under his head.
Outside the door, there was a slight muffled grunt, and then silence. A faint rasping sound in the lock alerted them; but their breathing never changed. The door swung silently open. Jack jerked away as he sensed the blow, miscalculating by a hair's-breadth– and the knife slithered under and across his jaw line, leaving a streak of numbness that began to burn with fire a moment later. The momentum of his movement threw Jack from the bed to the floor, and he slapped a hand to the underside of his jaw. He felt warmth and wetness on the palm of his hand, and between his fingers. A fist suddenly grabbed his jacket, and Jack struck out, catching the man's other hand as he tried to strike again with the combat knife. They both struggled for leverage, straining silently, sweat beading on their foreheads as the knife glinted in the faint light that peeked in from under the door.
Managing to get his knee up Jack flexed his foot so his toe was against the guy, and then he kicked, letting go of the man's arm so that he went flying back. In the momentary reprieve Jack leapt to his feet, only to hear a hissed growl, and then he was barreled into.
Daniel threw on the light, and froze. Before him was their elusive attacker. He was holding Jack before him. He had a knife at Jack's throat. Jack was holding the man's arm with obvious tension, trying to keep the knife at bay.
Every muscle tense and thrumming with adrenaline, Daniel stared at the face of their attacker. "Colonel Newman?"
Newman grinned. "Ah, so you do remember me."
"Newman! What on earth…?" Jack gritted.
"Shut up, O'Neill!" Newman spat. "You ruined my life! After your betrayal, not only did the NID deny that we were working for them, but I got court-martialed! Jailed! I lost my wife and kids, and any hope I had of working in the Air Force ever again. I lost everything!"
"Then maybe you shouldn't have been stealing from our allies!" Daniel retorted.
"We were saving Earth!"
Daniel scoffed. "No you weren't. You were mercenaries, looking for justification for your actions."
Newman's eyes narrowed and grew dark. Looking down at Jack, his gaze grew mocking. "Aw, look. He's already bleeding."
Daniel bared his teeth, refusing to look at Jack's bloody jaw and neck.
"That's 'cause you missed, you wash-out!" Jack gasped.
At that moment Jack surged backwards, throwing him and Newman onto the floor. Daniel dove, aiming for the knife that glinted in the light. Together the three men rolled and grappled on the floor, crashing into a cot and then into the wall. Finally Jack managed to score the needed blow, and the knife went clattering several feet away.
Daniel fisted Newman's shirt in his one hand, and then punched him in the face. "You threatened my wife and kids!"
Newman sneered with bloodied lips. "Wouldn't you like to know what I would do to that pretty wife and girl of yours before they died?"
Daniel roared and drew back his fist, and hit him again. Newman fell back to the floor. Then Daniel stood and began to kick him, over and over, shouting at him in a different language– causing Jack to raise his eyebrows. Crawling slowly to a cot, Jack used it as leverage to help lift himself to his feet, and then he sat down heavily on the cot's edge. Pulling the case off of the pillow he bunched it up and pressed it under his chin, hissing as the contact set off the painful burning again. Then he glanced at his left arm, and at the decent sized cut on the forearm and across the palm of his hand. With a sigh he lifted his arm above shoulder level, and then returned his attention to Daniel's assault upon Newman.
There was a loud commotion in the hall, and Jack looked up to see Hammond and several guards arrive at the door, armed and ready. On the hall floor he saw the body of the guard that had been posted. His heart grew heavy. They had finally caught their man, but at a price.
Hammond looked at Jack, and then his gaze swung to Daniel, who had finally stepped back, breathing hard, his fiery blue eyes still furious. The unconscious body of Newman lay crumpled at his feet.
Looking up, Daniel noticed the company for the first time. "Hi, General." he said.
Hammond stared at him, and blinked.
Sam and Sara stepped out of the shimmering blue and into the Gate room, followed by Sharé, Charlie, and Jacob, all herded by Teal'c. General Hammond met them, his demeanor calm and pleased, a small smile on his face. "Welcome home." he said warmly.
Sam smiled with relief. "Thank you, General."
He nodded. "After you have settled the children in your quarters, you may go visit Jack and Daniel in the infirmary."
Sara's eyes grew wide. "Is Jack…?"
"He's fine." Hammond reassured her. "They're both fine; they just needed a few stitches." The twinkle in his eye made Sam raise an eyebrow.
The sleepy children were tucked into bed, and then the two women made their way to the infirmary, where Teal'c had already arrived. They found him standing beside the bed where Jack was laying on top of the covers, his chin swathed in large gauze pads and his left arm bandaged and in a sling. Daniel sat in a chair on the other side of the bed, his arm sporting a large square of gauze taped into place, while the knuckles of both hands were scabbing over. He held a large cup of steaming, rich coffee. Both men's faces were purpling and swelling in different places. Their appearance told of a hard-won fight.
Jack's eyes lit up when he saw Sara walking towards him with her crutch, her pale eyes wide with worry and tenderness. "Hey." he said, holding out his right hand.
Sara took it and carefully sat down on the edge of the bed. "Hey," she returned. Her eyes flickered to the bandages under his chin.
"I'm alright." he reassured her. "Just some stitches. For a killer he had remarkably bad aim."
Sighing with relief, Sara smiled, and then she leaned forward and planted her mouth upon his in a kiss. With much enthusiasm, Jack returned it.
Daniel watched with a grin, and then he looked up at his own wife. His blue eyes were soft. "How's Jacob?"
Sam crossed her arms as she turned her eyes from the bed to her husband. "He's fine." she said. Then she tipped her head and squinted one eye, surveying her husband's damage. "In fact, I think he's in much better shape than you are."
"Thank heavens." Daniel said.
Just then Hammond entered the room with Janet. They were talking quietly together, but then Hammond addressed the small group. "He's out of surgery, and being taken to a high-security location."
"I still can't believe that this Colonel Newman held a grudge against you for so long." Sara said.
"Yeah, well." Jack shrugged. "We worked pretty close together during that mission, and when he found out I was working as a double agent–" he trailed off. "Enough said."
"Well, you won't have to worry about him anymore. Not ever." Hammond said. "The trial will be fast, and justice swift."
Jack nodded with grim satisfaction. "Good."
Daniel stood up slowly, stretching sore muscles. "I'm off to bed."
"Me too." Jack announced, sitting up.
"Ah, ah, ah." Janet held up her hand. "I would like to keep you overnight, Colonel, and make sure everything's okay." She gestured to his chin.
"Ah, come on." Jack groused. "I've had worse. Look– it's just some little cuts–"
Janet shook her head, wearing an expression of fond patience and exasperation. "I'm sorry, Colonel. But it's just for tonight."
Seeing Jack's frown, Sara looked up. "Could I stay with him?"
Jack looked up at her, a mixture of surprise and pleasure in his gaze.
Janet nodded. "I'll get an extra blanket and pillow." Then she left.
Hammond also bade farewell. "We'll have a briefing tomorrow at nine a.m." he said. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, General." Sam said.
Teal'c nodded at Jack and Daniel. "I too shall take my leave. I will see you tomorrow."
"'Night, Teal'c." Jack said.
Bowing his head, Teal'c departed.
Sam slipped her arm around Daniel's waist. "Come on," she said. "Let's get you to bed. Goodnight, Colonel."
Daniel turned. "Yeah, goodnight, Jack."
Jack raised his hand.
As they left, Sam asked Daniel in a quiet voice: "So, how are you feeling?"
"Well, you know, there is this spot on my lip that could use some kissing…"
Sam's chuckles faded away down the hall.
Janet returned with the blanket and pillow, and set them up on a reclining chair. "There." she said. "If you need anything else, let me know." With a final smile, and a warning finger at Jack, she left.
Left alone at last, Jack glanced at the chair. Sara also glanced at it, then she looked back at him, her eyebrows raised. With a small smile, Jack held open his right arm. "Come here."
Sara smiled, her gaze affectionate. Crawling into bed she laid down next to him, snuggling against his side as he wrapped his arm around her. He gently kissed her hair, then her forehead, and then the tip of her nose. Sara sighed happily, gently touching the un-bandaged front of his chin with the tip of her finger. Then his mouth found hers, and she was lost for a moment, her eyes sliding closed. When he finally pulled back to look at her, her cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkling.
"You get more beautiful every year." he whispered.