A/N: Holy cow, I can't believe I've been working on this story for over a year and a half now and I'm so, so sorry that it's going so slow. I had planned on having this finished long ago, but life, laziness, and writer's block got in the way. Anyway, I want to send some special thanks to JAJJAJ for helping me to get off my butt and finally start up on this again. Hopefully, I should have this all wrapped up in the next couple of chapters ( and it won't take me two months to write them). I know it's not perfect and it's most likely riddled with mistakes, but thanks for reading it and reviews are always welcome! :D
To say that I was uncomfortable with the task that Catherine had convinced Daniel and I to perform was an understatement to say the least. Col. O'Neill was a man that had just had his family put in great peril and here I was going off to convince him to join up with the program that had placed them in harm's way in the first place. I didn't see much chance for success and given the temperament of the man that I had witnessed thus far, he wasn't going to be happy to see us.
In the passenger seat next to me, I saw that Daniel held much of the same trepidation. He fidgeted before sneezing repeatedly into a tissue then blew his nose.
"Sorry...allergies." He apologized. "Seems to be a lot worse here than they have ever been before."
"Must be the dry climate." I offered. "And all of the trees."
"Yeah, the altitude doesn't help much. I still get winded just climbing stairs."
"Takes a while to get used to it. I know I'm not completely adjusted to it yet." He nodded then yawned.
"Do you mind if we stop somewhere and get some coffee?"
Obviously the all-nighters Daniel had been pulling trying to figure out the meaning of the symbols of the cartouche was getting to him and any excuse at that moment to delay our trip out to see the colonel was enough for me.
"Sure." I agreed readily, thinking I could use a little coffee as well. I pulled the car into a coffee shop just outside of the gate and we both got out and went inside. Daniel ordered the largest, blackest cup of coffee I think I'd ever seen while I chose the soybean, half-caf, hazelnut latte. What can I say...I like fru-fru drinks sometimes.
We found a quiet corner and sat down, Daniel taking a deep sip before nearly spitting it out. "Damn, that's hot. I think I'm getting a little too used to cold, five-hour old coffee."
I grinned at him and we got into a little small talk, neither one of us apparently too anxious to get going and visit the colonel. It wasn't long before an animated discussion was struck up and we talked about subjects and ideas in depth for far longer than either of us had planned.
He went into his opinion of the military (which hadn't been too stellar until recently), While I found myself defending my choice of career (which he accepted, but was still astounded that someone with my scientific background had decided to join the air force). We disagreed on many things, but ultimately it had to be one of the most balanced conversations I had ever had with anyone. Where he pointed something out, I countered and vise versa. He listened to my theories on wormholes and actually seemed to understand and be facinated with it while I found his own theories on Egyptian society to be equally as engaging.
He was an interesting and complicated man. By all outward appearances he was your typical nerd, especially now with his hair growing back into unkempt mess and his new glasses (commonly referred to as BCG's or Birth Control Glasses) that the air force had so graciously bestowed upon him and he had yet to replace with a civilian pair. But he had a wit and intelligence to him that appealed to me. He wasn't the sort of man I was used to. I had been raised around military men my whole life, men that used every opportunity to prove to the world how strong and macho they were, much like Jonas had been.
But Daniel was different. He thought differently than them. He used his brain over his brawn, though he had proven himself to be just as strong and brave as any of the 'manly' men I had known. And by the time we had both realized that we had been talking for two hours straight and really should be going, I knew that I had found my new best friend.
Finally, we started out once again. Daniel still fidgeted in his seat and I figured it was from either nervousness or that his back injury still had to be giving him some trouble.
A few minutes later, we pulled up to the Col.'s house "You ready for this?" I asked.
"As I'll ever be, I suppose." He sighed and then gave me a sympathetic grin. "We might as well get this over with."
I took the initiative when we got to the door and rang the doorbell, silently hoping that we wouldn't be turned away out of hand like door-to-door salesmen. But to my surprise, when Col. O'Neill opened the door he actually looked like he wasn't too shocked to see us dropping in on him.
"Jackson, Carter. Fancy seeing you here. I figured it wouldn't be long before you two showed up."
"I'm sorry we came unannounced, Sir. But we wanted to have a word with you."
The colonel sighed and rolled his eyes. "Fine..." He opened the door a little wider and allowed us to enter then offered us some coffee, which both Daniel and I passed on. The coffee we had had at the coffee shop was still coursing through me, ratcheting my nerves up and I certainly didn't need any more caffeine Beside of me, Daniel fidgeted again after the Col. mentioned coffee and a moment later, I understood why as he excused himself to go use the restroom. I felt slightly abandoned with his departure, leaving me alone to talk to the colonel, who turned on me sharply.
"I know that Catherine sent you." He started off, his face an unreadable mask, but not completely hiding the irritation simmering just behind it. "She's been trying to talk me into coming into the program. I know she means well and after meeting that ass, Col. Maybourne for my debriefing, I can understand why she might want anyone else in his place, even me."
"I think she hoped that we might be able to convince you to come back to the Air Force since we all shared some of the same experiences with Ba'al. And you know the kind of dangers that we might be facing should we be able to open the stargate." I told him.
"Look, Carter...As much as the Air Force was a part of my life that I loved. I have my son and my wife to consider. For the first time in a long time, we're all together as a family and I'm not going to let them go again. Understand?"
"I'm glad you get it at least, Captain. So, go tell Catherine she can stop calling, because the answer is going to be 'no' every time." Suddenly he grinned and rubbed his hands together, his previous irritation melting away into hospitality. "Well, Now that we've got that out of the way - it's Saturday, it's a nice day, I'm retired and you can't possibly be on duty any more. So, how 'bout a beer?"
Thank goodness the drive from the coffee shop to Colonel O'Neill's house was short. After two hours of talking with Sam and three cups of coffee, I was in desperate need of a restroom and given the lack of lack of attention given to the one at the coffee shop, I decided that I could hold it.
That is until we started driving.
By the time we made it to Col. O'Neill's door, I was about ready to burst.
After greeting us at the door, he reluctantly let us in. "Can I get you two some coffee?" He asked. Oh God, NO I thought to myself. The thought of anything liquid, even my favorite beverage, just made my need more pronounced.
"Actually...Could I use you restroom?" I had to ask before we could go any further. I felt bad for abandoning Sam with the Colonel, but the call of nature had become more than just a little distracting.
"Sure...It's down the hall." He pointed.
"Thank you." I couldn't have sounded more grateful as I hurried down the hallway. That's when I realized that he hadn't told me which door to go into and of course they were all closed. Flipping a mental coin in my head as to whether go to the door on the right or the left, I ultimately chose to go to the left.
I really should have gone to the right first for when I opened the door, I was greeted not with a bathroom, but with a brightly painted bedroom. At one end, opposite the bed, a young boy sat on the floor coloring and looked up as soon as I opened the door. I knew this had to be the colonel's son, Charlie and I began to make my apologies for bursting in on him.
"Oh...sorry. I guess I got the wrong door."
"Hi!" He grinned. "You're one of my Dad's friends, aren't you?"
"Uh, yeah. Kinda."
"Hey ya wanna come in and see my pictures?" He asked with a grin that was missing a few teeth.
"Uh, well actually, I was looking for the bathroom."
Seeing his face fall a little, I immediately felt a wave of regret. "But...how bout I come right back and look at them when I'm done?"
"Sure!" He smiled brightly once again. I excused myself and quickly made for the bathroom and took care of my business. No sooner had I stepped out of the room, that Charlie was by my side and taking me by the hand, leading him to his room.
"Look! I almost finished them all." He pointed to the various drawings he had up on his walls. All of them black with tiny, white points. "They're the constellations. I only have three more to do...Draco, which is really hard because it's so long, Ursa minor and cassi...cassiop...oh shoot that's hard to say."
"Cassiopeia?" I finished for him.
"Yeah. That one has a funny name."
"Well, Cassiopeia means 'She whose words excel' in Greek." I began to explain to him. "She was a beautiful queen married to Cepheus, the king of Ethiopia. They had a daughter whose name was Andromeda and one day the queen boasted that she and her daughter where more beautiful than the sea nymphs. This made Poseidon, the God of the sea angry, so he sent Cetus, a sea monster to destroy their country. However, the king and queen learned from an oracle that the sea monster could be pacified and their country saved if they sacrificed their daughter to the monster. So, Andromeda was chained to a rock by the sea for the monster to eat her. Instead, a young man named Perseus swoops in at the last minute and saves her by showing Cetus the head of Medusa, a Gorgon, or a type of monster that was so hideous that just looking at her turned people into stone. After the sea monster was into a statue, the king and queen were so grateful that they offered their daughter to Perseus in marriage. After Andromeda and Perseus were married, Poseidon still wasn't pleased with Cassiopeia's vanity, so her took her and threw her up into the heavens where she was to remain as a constellation for all eternity, sitting on her throne and looking into her mirror."
"Wow!..." Charlie looked up at me with wide eyes. "You sure do talk a lot."
Even though I was a little abashed to be brought down by a nine year old, I couldn't help but laugh a little. "Yeah... you're not the first person to tell me that."
"Do you know all the stories about the constellations?"
"Yeah..pretty much. It's sort of my job."
"Do you know the story of this one?" He picked up another drawing and showed it to me. I recognized it as Orion. "There's supposed to be a meteor shower tonight near this one and my Dad said he'd let me stay up to watch it. He doesn't really know all of the stories, so he just makes them up. He thinks this one looks like Bart Simpson riding his skateboard."
"Yeah it kinda does." I agreed with a grin "But this one is Orion, right?. The great hunter. He's depicted carrying his club in one hand and the head of a lion in the other..." I started to stare at the picture, something clicking and jarring my memory loose. "Hey... could I see that a little closer?" I asked Charlie.
"Sure." He handed me the drawing and I studied it for a moment, then turned it on its side. I felt my stomach hit my feet as a sudden dawning sparked and exploded in my mind.
"Oh... My... God." I muttered to myself.
"You okay?" Charlie asked. I could have hugged the boy just at that moment. It was all starting to make sense, the pieces of the puzzle I had been handed were finally coming together and taking shape. I just couldn't believe it had all been so simple and the answers that I had been looking for had been there all along- no further away than looking up into the stars.