Janet Fraiser carefully maneuvered the red Ford Bronco up into the small grassy parking area in front of the cabin. She was certain this was the place that she come to last year when she, Lieutentant Colonel Samantha Carter, and Teal'c had come up to visit their old friends and help with Daniel's recuperation from a lightening strike he'd taken while saving Rock Mountain from a forest fire.
She'd been driving for several days and Cassie, her eighteen-year-old d daughter, was understandably anctsy. The girl had not seen their old friends in several years; and she hadn't seen Daniel since Janet had had to tell her that her adopted younger Uncle was gone. Not dead exactly, but no longer of this Earth. That had been a hell of a thing to do to an orphan. Cassie had needed no more such losses.
"Is this it?" the girl demanded. "Is this the cabin?"
"Yes, baby. This is it." They parked the Bronco next to Jack's large dark green pickup truck.
"Wow. This is awesome!" the girl enthused. "How cool is this? This cabin must be at least two hundred years old."
"Well, Jack said that it was his Great grandfather's, so yes, two hundred years old at least." She smiled at Cassie's enthusiasm. She hoped that her daughter would still be as excited as this when their moving up here was final.
"Where are they?" The girl asked, looking out the window at the porch with its two empty rocking chairs.
"Probably inside, but remember, they have a dog, so go slow. I don't want you to get bitten."
"But dogs like me. I won't get hurt." Cassie slung the door open on her side of the small SUV and climbed out onto the gravel and grass driveway.
The door to the cabin swung open and the familiar figure of Jack O'Neill came out of the house in his normal long, easy stride. A white canine rocket burst out of the door behind him and started yammering her concern about strangers in her yard.
Cassie had burst into a run as soon as she recognized her favorite adopted uncle and the two met with shouted laughter and flying arms. Jack caught the teen up around her waist and spun her around in a flying windmill. "Cassie baby! Look at you!"
"Uncle Jack! I've missed you so much!"
"And I've missed you, kiddo,." Jack enthused back. "Look at you." He put her feet back on the ground. "You're taller than your mother!"
"That's not saying much.," Janet came up to him for her own hug. "She's been taller than me for two years now."
"Ah, yeah, but you're still scarier." He expanded his hug to include his old friend, Janet.
She slapped him playfully on the shoulder. "You always were afraid of me, you rat."
The door to the cabin opened again and Daniel stepped out on the porch, buttoning a flannel shirt. Janet and Jack turned to see the next reunion unfold.
Cassie stood looking at him as if she'd seen a vision but was afraid to approach it. Daniel had changed in the three years that he'd been here with Jack. He'd broadened in the chest, and narrowed in his hips. The mousy brown hair had lightened in the sun and lengthened to brush his shoulders. The fair skin had tanned to a correspondingly golden brown. Thanks to his time as an ascended, he no longer needed his glasses and his blue eyes seemed to reach out from his handsome face and catch her soul.
The girl had changed, too. She had been only fifteen when Daniel had left them, still a child in her perceptions and realities. She'd never looked at her youngest adopted uncle with the eyes of an adult before. Cassie remembered him as a sweet, but shy, young man, one who had helped her with her homework and had made her smile with his stories and fables of her adopted people, the Tau'r'i. She didn't remember him being so tall or so handsome. He looked more like one of the characters in his stories of ancient heroes and gods. "Mom?"
"Is that . . .Daniel?"
"What's wrong, Cassie?" Daniel smiled gently at her in her confusion. "Don't you remember me?"
Janet kept her hand on her daughter's shoulder, not quite understanding herself. "Yes, Cass. That's Daniel."
"You've changed,." The the girl said slowly as she walked toward him. "You're different, somehow."
Daniel stepped off the porch and approached his old friends. "I know,." He he said softly. "I am different, but so are you." He smiled at her then tilted his head at the watching adults. "You've grown up into a young woman."
"Yeah, but you . . . you've changed more. Mom didn't say you were . . . different now."
"She doesn't notice it because she knows me too well. You see it because it's been a long time." He tilted his head to the side and extended a hand to her. "It's okay. You don't have to do anything if you don't want too."
Jack and Janet exchanged worried glances but Cassie finally smiled back at him and stepped into his arms for a fierce hug. "You've changed, all right, but I think it's good."
Daniel enveloped her in strong arms with a relieved smile. "Thank you." He loosened his hug. "I know what's important now." Daniel nodded, speaking softly to her so the others couldn't hear him. "I had been without something for a long time. I denied what I was and who I was. Now I understand myself better." He squeezed her back firmly. "Some people will say that's wrong of me but I know now what I am and where I was meant to be."
She whispered into his ear. "I don't understand, but I can tell you're happy. You're glowing."
"Oops. Don't be afraid; it's `cause I'm excited to see you again." He smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Just don't tell anybody, okay?"
"Afraid? Why would I be afraid of you? "
"Well, I have changed a little."
She beamed her own form of luminosity at him and nodded. "Oh, from . . . when you were gone." She glanced over her shoulder at the other two people watching them. "Can't they see it?"
"Jack can, but I'm not sure your mom will." He kissed her on the forehead. "Our secret . . . .okay?"
"Okay," she whispered again. She glanced back at the pair of adults. "Jack's better than he was, too."
"I think so. This life agrees with him."
Cassie slipped her arms around her Uncle Daniel's waist and kissed him back on his cheek. "I'm so happy to see you again, Daniel."
He hugged her again and kissed the top of her head. "Thank you, Cassandra. I'm glad to be back, here, with the people that I love."
They had entered Jack and Daniel's cozy cabin and were now seated around the kitchen table. Cleopatra, the Siamese cat, and Lacy, the wire-coated terrier, were comfortably ensconced on the back of the old leather couch watching their humans with interest.
"So, what are your immediate plans now that you're finally here?" Jack asked Janet.
"Well, tomorrow I need to go to Somerton and talk to Doctor Mills and the hospital staff to apply for that position he offered me. Then we need to look for a house. I've been talking to a realtor by phone." She smiled. "I know you said we could build a cabin here on your mountain, but I don't want to crowd you."
"Are you kidding?" Jack smiled at their old friend. "Having you here close is always a blessing, especially with the accident kid here . . . . "
"Hey, I resent that remark,." Daniel teased back. "I am NOT the accident kid."
"Daniel, only you can get struck by lightening and live to need a doctor."
"What? You didn't want me to live? And I seem to remember you being confined to the clinic that with a staff weapon wound."
"Well, luckily there aren't normally many staff weapons in Elk Horn,." Jack agreed, "and that was no accident anyway."
"But still . . ."
Daniel looked at him in mock disgust and shook his head. "Never mind."
Janet could only laugh at the familiar repartee and she winked at Cassie. "Now, I know I'm home."
That evening, after a big meal of stew and some homemade bread that had been a gift to the men from one of the neighbors the they had helped last week, all four friends settled down in the living room to tell each other of their recent adventures.
"So, SG1 came running back through the 'gate with a whole tribe of pygmies riding goats chasing them. After the little guys got a look at the gateroom, General Wallace had to order Davis to close the gate to keep them from turning around and trying to run back through the wormhole the wrong way. Then Jonas tried to convince them to get down off the ramp so that they wouldn't get caught in the back wash when they opened the 'gate again for them to go back home. Finally, Teal'c had to take a chance and shoot the ramp with his staff weapon to clear them out. Then the Marines rounded them all up and held them in a bunch until we could reestablish a wormhole for them to leave." Janet was laughing so hard telling the story that she had to put her beer down on the floor. "It was hysterical!"
Jack was trying not to snort beer all over the place. "God. I can just see Jonas trying to talk to them,." he managed. "He never did quite get the 'we're peaceful explorers' spiel down right."
"At least he was trying, Jack." Daniel put in.
"Hey, he always tried," the older man managed. "Cause he could read really fast . . . "
"And remembered everything . . . " Janet giggled.
"And ate a lot . . . " Cassie added.
"He did . . . er, does?"
"Yes. Higher metabolism.," Janet volunteered. "My nurses pick on him whenever he's in the clinic."
"Why?" Daniel asked.
"Well, for instance, bananas. Every time they brought him food when he's in the clinic, they made sure he has bananas." She giggled as she put down her drink. "He's gotten so tired of bananas. I think that he believes that they are a staple of our diet because we're descended from primates. Finally, he complained. Now he's getting pears, lots and lots of pears."
"Well, he did look like a banana sometimes . . . except he could swim,." Jack allowed.
"And he can hold his breath a really long time." Cassie put in.
"How do you know that?"
"Jennifer told me," the teen said with a grin. "And no, I don't know why she knows that."
"Nor do I want too." Jack added. "That would be entirely TMI for sure."
After they had finished the evening meal, Jack looked to Janet. "Are you going to stay the night?"
She shook her head. "I've checked us into the local hotel down in Elk Horn until we find a place."
"Did Roy give you descent rates? You may be there for a while."
She laughed at his concern. "Yes, he said since I was moving here I could have the cabin in the back for a month for five hundred dollars."
Jack looked at her in surprise. "For that shack? That's highway robbery!" He shook his head.
"It's not so bad." Janet smiled at his comment. "It's got a kitchenette and twin beds. It'll be fine."
"And hot and cold running roaches, I'll bet." the older man groused. "He ought to pay you for living there." He glanced at Daniel who nodded, then looked back at the two women. "You could stay here."
"No, Colonel, er, Jack." Janet shook her head. "We'll do fine. It will give me some incentive to get a place of our own quicker." She glanced at her daughter. "Though in a few weeks, Cassie should be leaving me to go to the academy if her appointment comes through. General Hammond put in a recommendation for her."
"Really? The Academy? That's cool." Jack smiled and nodded at the teenager. "What field of study?"
"Well," Cassie responded,. "I'm not really sure yet. I'm thinking of Astrophysics. I seem to have a knack for math." At her his nod, she continued. "But I'd also like to minor in Sociology."
"Those are certainly two disparate fields of study." Daniel commented to her. "Why sociology?"
"Studying people is so cool," Sshe enthused. "The various backgrounds, ethnicities, and social mores of the different groups. Earth people are so different. I mean they're all different colors and have different physical builds and histories. You all are just so interesting."
Jack smiled fondly at her enthusiasm, then glanced over at his partner. "Daniel, have you been corrupting this child when no one was looking?"
"Nope," the younger man returned with an arched eyebrow. "She's right. People are just generally a fascinating study."
"And what's this stuff about Earth people anyway?" Jack winked at the girl. "Aren't you from Toronto or somewhere?"
"Caaasie." He came back at her, glancing at Janet. "So, another scientist for the SGC." At her shrug, he laughed. "Well, it had to be, I guess."
Janet nodded. "I'm afraid so, no help for it." She looked at her daughter. "Come on, young lady, it's time for us to go. It's been a long day and we're going to have another one tomorrow." She looked at their hosts. "I've got to go to Somerton in the morning and talk to the staff there, then we have an appointment with a realtor at noon."
"You know the offer to build here on Rock Mountain is still good, if you want." Jack pushed up out of his chair. "There's plenty of room."
"Well, that may be something to look at in the future." Janet smiled as she hugged him and then Daniel. "But right now I need a roof and walls to call my own."
"I understand completely, and that offer stands until oh, say, next doomsday." Jack grinned down at her.
The two women left the cabin and got into the Bronco. As they drove down the rocky mountain trail, Cassie turned and waved at the two men silhouetted against the lit doorway. She turned and settled back against the bucket seat with a thoughtful look on her face. "Mom?"
Janet was watching the road carefully as the small SUV's headlights delineated the rough terrain. "What?"
"It's really good to see Uncle Jack and Daniel . . . especially Daniel."
"Yes, it is, isn't it; and they both look so good,." She nodded. "Healthy and happy."
"Yeah," the girl echoed. She sat silently for a while, and then started again. "Mom?"
"When I went to the bathroom earlier . . . well, there's only one bed in the bedroom."
"And, so, such, so what?" Janet mimicked O'Neill's inflections.
Cassie looked at her sideways. "Mom, I'm eighteen. I'm not stupid."
"Okay, eighteen. So what?"
"They're both sleeping in the same bed."
Cassie turned in the seat with a serious expression on her pretty face, "Mom . . . they're gay!"
Janet looked across at her daughter, trying to judge her facial expression in the dim light of the car. "And if they are, would it make them any different thaen the two men who rescued you six years ago?" Janet answered slowly, glancing at the young woman next to her.
Cassie sat back in the seat and studied the felt ceiling. "I don't know." she replied honestly. "I've never thought about it." She looked at her mother. "Were they always gay?"
Janet shook her head. "I don't think so, at least not actively so. Jack said not and I would have probably known as their doctor." She glanced over at her daughter then back to the road. "Cassie, do you remember how bad the Colonel got after Daniel left us?"
The girl nodded. "I was afraid he was gonna die."
"So was I, honey. He was very depressed and way too quiet. I had heard about some things he was doing, too. He wasn't actively suicidal but, well, he was doing odd things."
"Sam saw him in the armory one evening. She said he was sitting on some boxes and he was cleaning his weapon. She started to speak to him, but he looked up at her for a moment, real still, then just started cleaning it again, never saying a word."
"But don't you have to do that . . . clean guns, I mean?"
"Yes, honey, but it was the way he looked at her. All quiet like, as if he was thinking about something really sad."
Cassie nodded. "He started smoking, too. I could tell when I saw him."
Janet sighed. "Yes, and drinking way too much. He was becoming self- destructive. He wouldn't eat right, I don't think he could sleep, and he began taking unnecessary risks at his job."
"Jonas said Jack hated him." The girl said thoughtfully.
"Oh, I don't think so; not really. He just hated what Jonas represented."
Her mother nodded. "The place that killed Daniel, even though we knew that he wasn't really dead. It, and Jonas, represented the loss of his best friend, someone he loved dearly."
"He really missed Daniel, didn't he?"
They had pulled up into the parking lot of the small motel cabin where they were staying. Janet turned off the SUV's engine and turned to face her daughter. "Yes, Cassie. He really missed Daniel. We all did, but Jack was worst of all. They had been the very best of friends for years but they had been fighting a lot just before it happened." She looked out the vehicle's window. "I don't think they ever really had a chance to make up properly. So, when Daniel left to go with Oma Desala, it was really hard on him, not having time to heal their rift."
"So, Jack felt guilty?"
"I would say so, yes." Her mother nodded. "I'd say that he was carrying a big load of guilt and pain when Daniel ascended. Not that he had a choice, mind you. Daniel was dying of radiation poisoning and that's a terribly painful way to die." Janet sat a moment, then seemed to make a decision. "I'm going to tell you something that Sam told me in confidence, okay."
Cassie nodded at her Mom. "I won't say anything."
"The year before Jack moved up here, that Thanksgiving . . . ."
"The one that he wouldn't come over?"
Her mother nodded., "Yes, that one. Well, that night he called Sam and asked her to come to his house. He told her that Daniel had appeared to him at Charlie's grave, took care of him and told him that he would come back to be with him." She looked at the girl. "Quite honestly, we both thought that the Colonel was hallucinating."
The girl looked at her mother. "You thought that he was drunk, but he wasn't?"
"Evidently not." Janet nodded. "It appears that Daniel really had come back to talk to him. Well, the following spring, Jack moved up here and we all thought that he'd left us to commit suicide where we wouldn't find him." She turned to watch her daughter's shocked reaction, then continued. " The next spring when she and General Hammond .came up here to see Jack, Daniel was here with him. He'd had returned so they could be together. The Ascended Ones had allowed him to come back to take care of Jack and be sure that he stayed safe and sane. Jack had dried out and quit smoking, was gaining his weight back and generally beginning to look healthy again." Janet smiled. "Sam said it was entirely due to Daniel's return."
"So he came back to, what? Save Uncle Jack from himself?"
"I'd say so, yes." She smiled at her adopted daughter and opened the car door. Janet sat there a moment, fishing out the key to their cabin door in the subdued glow of their car's dome light.
Cassie got out and ran around to her Mom's side. "So what happened next?"
"I really don't know," the petite woman replied to her daughter's earnest question. "The next time I saw them was when they came back through the Stargate after they rescued the Tollans. Daniel was with him then and never left his side while he was hurt."
"Well, that's the truth." She smiled. "So when you find out what happened, you tell me. Okay?"
Cassie looked at her suspiciously. "How do you know I'll find out?"
"Oh, just know you will." She smiled at her daughter. "I know you'll ask and someone will tell you."
"Because Cassandra, they love you."
The following day came fast and furious for Janet and Cassandra. Going by Somerton's small hospital, Janet saw Doctor Jake Mills, the ER physician that she had met the year before when Daniel had been hurt. Doctor Mills had greeted her with enthusiasm and welcome for her working at the small hospital. Jake helped her fill out the application and certification paperwork and promised to get it to the Hospital Board of Directors the following Monday when they met..
After a quick lunch at the Maple Leaf Café, Janet and Cassie went to the realty office and introduced themselves. The gregarious middle- aged woman with bleached blonde hair and too much makeup guided them around the small town and showed them several houses of varying sizes and styles for rent. Some were too large, some too small and some just ewwwh, as Cassie expressed.
Janet was looking for a cabin type similar to that of their friends, one with a great room, one or two bedrooms, an interior bath but with a modern kitchen. She could handle a wood stove for cooking but didn't relish the idea like Jack and Daniel seemed to.
As Janet and the realtor talked, Cassie looked at the different offerings listed on a brochure. She noticed one that seemed to fit her Mom's requirements but had been left off their tour of the area.
She called the ad to the attention of the other two women. "Mrs. Ball, why isn't this cabin listed here available?"
Mrs. Ball looked at the identified paragraph and shook her head. "Oh, it's available hon, but it's in the wrong part of town."
Janet looked at her in surprise. "The wrong part of town? How can a town this small have a wrong part?" Cassie looked at the woman with interest also.
"Well, Ms. Fraiser. That's across the river and in the Indian part of town. You and your daughter don't want to live there."
The teenager leaned forward., "What's an Indianpart?"
Janet looked at the older woman, who was blushing a furious red. "It means, dear, that Indians live in that area."
"Cool! Really? Like real Indians?" Cassie enthused. "What kind of Indians?"
The woman looked askance at the teenager. "I'm sure I don't know, my dear. But it's not a desirable location for a young lady like yourself."
Cassie looked from her to her mom. "Why not?"
"Well, uh, I'm sure your mother can explain it to you, my dear,." the woman answered in a pompous tone.
The teenager glanced at her mother; Janet coughed and shook her head. After a few more minutes they turned into the driveway of a small bungalow. The realtor started her spiel. "This is a nice little place."
After several hours and two more houses, the realtor finally dropped them off at the office. "I have several more places to show you tomorrow if you didn't see anything today."
"Well, we have some social plans this evening and tomorrow. Let me give you a call and set up another appointment."
The woman smiled at the two., "Okay, Ms. Fraiser. I'll be expecting your call."
Janet and Cassie said their goodbyes and got back into the Bronco. As they drove out of the parking lot, the youngster looked at her mom. "I don't think I like her very much."
"Well, she's not going to be one of my favorite people, I can tell that myself." Janet shook her head. "I think we get spoiled in the military. We just don't see the racial bigots that are out in the civilian world."
"What's wrong with being Indian?"
"Nothing. Just like there's nothing wrong with being a Cajun from Louisiana or a Hankan from Colorado." Janet grinned at her. "It's part of that Sociology thing you were talking about last night. Different history, different cultures, different social groups, but interesting in and of themselves."
"Why are people like that?"
"Cassie, I don't know. It's the way she was raised. There are people from where I come that dislike black people and in the southwest, Hispanics. Prejudice is all around us. Some of it is good; it's our preferences. Sam likes blue Jell-O, Jack likes pie, you like chocolate cake. Those are okay because they don't hurt anyone. But when you use your prejudices against other people by not liking them because of their skin color or their background, well, then you're hurting them, and yourself.
Later that afternoon in their rented cabin, the phone rang, and Janet picked it up. "Oh, hi. Yeah. Bar-B-Que? Just a minute." She cradled the phone in her hands, covering the mouthpiece. "Cassie, it's Jack. They're grilling steaks tonight. Jack wants to know how many to put on for us?"
Cassie looked at her and chewed on her lip. "I don't know."
"What's up, honey?" She looked at her daughter thoughtfully then put the phone back up to her ear. "Let me call you back. Sure. In a few minutes." Janet hung up the phone. "Cassie? What's wrong?"
"I don't know, Mom. I just feel kinda funny about going over there."
"Why? Cause you figured out their not-so-secret lifestyle?"
The teen shrugged. "I guess. I just don't understand it. It's . . . weird."
"Not to them, honey. They love each other." She grasped her daughter by her shoulders and turned her around to face her. "Listen to me, Cassandra Frasier. Those two guys love you very much. They saved your life. Then they made it possible for you to come and live here when they gave you to me to raise." She arched an eyebrow. "Just 'cause they're different doesn't make it bad. They need each other, but they need you to at least accept what they have. You owe them that, not your approval, just your acceptance. Can you do this for them . . . for me?"
Cassie looked at her mom. "I love them, too. It's just . . . weird."
"I know, baby, but . . . it's an okay weird." She hugged her daughter. "You with me in this?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Okay." She nodded. "So, are we going for dinner?"
Cassie looked at her and shrugged. "Okay."
"I'll go call Jack. You get ready."
After their evening meal, Daniel and Cassie went down to the lake on for a walk. Janet figured that the two of them would talk about stuff, as her daughter had dubbed most everything now a daynowadays.
As she sat watching Jack putting the dishes in the sink, she remembered something and started digging into her omnipresent briefcase. She finally located the realtor's brochure that Cassie had been looking at earlier.
Jack came over and sat down next to her on the couch. The Siamese cat followed and climbed up onto her accustomed perch on his shoulder. "Whatcha looking at?" He leaned over slightly to peer at the paper.
Janet looked at him, "Can you still see that far?"
"What? Do you think I need glasses or something?"
"Oh, okay. Well, no, I can't quite read all the small print but I can see that you're looking at house listings in Somerton."
She laughed at his uncomfortable candor. "Well, you're right there anyway. How does this sound to you?" She folded the pamphlet in half and read the words aloud. "For Sale or Rent. Older hillside home on north side of Spirit River. Recently remodeled. Modern kitchen and bath. Central heat, and fireplace. Two bedrooms, one bath, great room with an attached kitchen. Wooden floors with area rugs provided. Separate garage. On wooded one- acre lot.
Jack nodded. "Sounds like what you're looking for. Have you seen it yet?"
"No, as a matter of fact, the realtor, Mrs. Ball, didn't want to show it to us." Janet looked at him closely. "She said it wasn't suitable."
O'Neill looked at her in confused amazement. "Not suitable? Why?"
"That's what Cassie asked." She shook her head. "It's in the Indian part of town."
"That's just stupid,." Jack commented coldly. "I can't believe she actually said that."
"I couldn't either, but those are her exact words." Janet looked at him. "Will you go with us tomorrow to look at it on our own?"
"Sure, we can go in the afternoon when Daniel's working on his new book and it'll get me out of his hair." He shook his head again. "Indian part? For crying out loud!"
"That's what I thought but . . ." She put the brochure back in her purse. "I was afraid I was missing something and when Cassie leaves, I'll be alone there a good part of the time."
"We can get you a big ugly dog." Jack laughed at her expression. "A Rottie or a pit bull, something that looks dangerous but isn't, unlike the owner."
Janet scrunched her nose at him. "Thanks, I think."
"Or maybe just a Siamese twin to Cleo here," Jack laughed., "then you can both look harmless and not be."
"Hum, now that has possibilities. I could get a tom and we could let them have kittens."
Jack looked at her. "Great, thanks a bunch. Just what I need, more monkey cats."
Janet smiled up at him. "You like monkeys."
Jack smiled back. "Yeah, but I''ve got three already . . . a monkey cat, a monkey dog and a space monkey."
Daniel and Cassie walked down the trail to the boat dock. He'd asked her what was wrong earlier and had gotten the standard teenager reply of `nothing'. Being a linguist by training he knew that fell in the fine department of non-speak. So, he'd let the girl shove her hands in her jeans' pockets and aimlessly lead the way down the steep and narrow tree-lined path.
As they reached the dock, it was just getting dark. The night sky was clear but moonless, causing the stars to be reflected off the surface of the black waters of the lake. She paused at the edge of the water but he continued to walk out onto the old wooden pier. When he reached the end, Daniel sat down cross-legged on the slip-proof rubber matting he and Jack had recently installed.
Cassie looked out at him. From her viewpoint, the sky stars seemed to merge with their watery reflections, the black rubber matting blending into the darkness. If she allowed her eyes to unfocus, Daniel looked as if he were sitting, floating in a dark void, surrounded by a galaxy of stars. She paused a moment, considering the image. She slowly went out to join him.
When she reached his side, she lowered herself next to him on the rubber matting. He turned and smiled softly at her. "What's wrong, Cassie?"
She indicated the doubled star fields that were spread out in front of them. "Is this what it was like?" She looked at him closely. "To be ascended, to be surrounded by the stars?"
Daniel turned his full attention on her. She blushed and turned away, taking her shoes off and dipping her feet into the still warm water. "No," he replied honestly. "They were farther away and a lot colder than they look from here." He looked over at her. "They're like diamonds, very beautiful, but they give no warmth."
She nodded. "I guess I understand." Glancing at her friend, she took a deep breath. "You love Uncle Jack."
Daniel nodded at her, watching her expression. It was one of curiosity.
"You two are . . . together."
He nodded again.
"I don't understand."
"Why I love him, or why we're a couple?"
She blushed in the darkness. "Well, he's easy to love. I understand that part. I just don't understand why you love him like that."
"I can't explain why someone loves someone else, Cassie. You either do or don't. You don't wake up one day and say, gee, I think I'll fall in love with Jack O'Neill." He shook his head. "It's not that easy or even that sensible." He reached up and touched her forearm tentatively. She leaned into him so he slid his arm around her shoulders in a loose hug. "You never met my wife. You would have liked her a lot. Everyone did. She was smart and funny, silly and wise, and sweet and tough and a whole lot of everything all rolled into one. We were married before we really ever fell in love. But I grew to respect her and then love her more than my own life." He sighed. "She was stolen by the Goa'uld, Apophis, to be his queen. I tried to get her back. Cassie, I tried so hard, but I only had her again for a few seconds as she died. It nearly killed me to lose her like that."
The girl felt him sigh and she nodded into his shoulder.
"But Jack was there for me. He was always there. He took me into his home, gave me clothes to wear, a place to belong. He let me be on his team and helped me look for my Sha'uri. And when she died, he was still there." He looked from her out to the water again. "That's not why I fell in love with him, but its part of what I love about him. He's extremely smart, cool under fire, very wise, a little silly and a pain in the butt. But he also instinctively knows what to do to get the job done. He's the greatest hero this world has. When the Ascended Ones realized that he was alone and hurting and that we might lose him, they decided that he needed someone to take care of him. I already had some experience in that area, so they let me come back to be with him. When I found him so alone and lonely, I realized that I needed him just as much as he needed me. That's when I realized that we belonged together, maybe more than Sha' uri and I did. She never needed me. I think . . . I know that he does."
"So you're here because you want to be." Cassie looked at him knowingly. "You gave up all that," she waved her hand at the night sky, "so that you could be with him."
Daniel smiled and nodded. "It's not that much, compared to what I have now." He smiled at her disbelief. "I have everything now. That . . . " He indicated the stars. ". . .That's just a place."
She leaned into him and put her arm around his waist. "Wow. That's love."
A voice came from behind them. "Nope, that's just Daniel." Jack came over and laid his hands on Daniel's shoulders. "He never had any sense."
"Oh, I don't know.," The younger man looked up and into his lover's eyes. "I've got you, don't I?."
"Yeah, that you do." He patted Daniel on the shoulder then looked over at Cassie. "Janet's ready to go and was wondering where you'd kidnapped her daughter too."
"Just to the night sky." Cassie smiled knowingly at him.
"Oh, is that all. Been there, done that." Then he looked at Daniel. "Oh, and by the way, I'm going to go look at a cabin with the girls tomorrow. It seems the agent won't take them 'cause it's on the wrong side of the river."
"Really? I didn't know there was a wrong side."
"I didn't either, but I know the area so I said I'd take them in the afternoon when you're working."
"You know the rules, Jack. Where you go. . . . "
". . . You go." He shrugged. "Okay, with me. Now, come on, let's get Cassie back before Janet comes looking for us."
The next afternoon, Jack and Daniel arrived at the motel to pick up the girls. Daniel gave up his front seat to Janet and slid in the back seat of the big pick-up as Cassie climbed in the other door.
She smiled warmly at the younger man, evidently all her misgivings had been squashed the evening before. Janet climbed up into the front seat next to Jack.
"I think you need a bigger truck, Jack . . . or I need pitons and rope."
"Hey, hey, no pitons on the upholstery,." t The driver responded quickly. "I can't help it if you're vertically challenged."
She slapped him playfully on the arm as she finally got settled on the leather seat cushions. "You're just too tall." Jack pulled out onto the road.
"Mom," a voice came from the back seat. "Mom, he's touching me!"
"Daniel, don't make me stop the truck!" Jack called out. "You kids behave yourselves back there or there'll be no ice cream."
"She touched me first." Daniel replied.
"I'm littler." Then a squeal of laughter. "He's tickling me! Stop! Stop!"
"You're on your own, kiddo." Janet looked at Jack with an evil grin.
He glanced over at her. "No! Not while I'm driving. No tickling the driver." He leaned back.
"Daniel, no ice cream!" A finger stealthily made its way over the back of the seat and popped itself into his ear. "ARRRGH!" Jack yelped. "No wet willies for the driver." He shivered. "You'll make me kill us all."
Janet had grabbed the steering wheel and kept them steady on the road. "Ack, okay, both of you, stop it!" She released the wheel back to Jack, then turned and slapped ineffectually at the two younger members of the party. "I want to work in the hospital, not be admitted."
Two pouting faces looked back at her. "Yes, ma'am." they chorused.
Jack sighed. "Whose idea was this?"
She laughed at him. "Yours."
He only shook his head.
A short time later, the large green pickup truck crossed the bridge over Spirit River. It segued onto a gravel road and into a quiet rural housing development. Most of the structures were of the older cabin design and some showed the wear and tear of many years of existence.
Finally, they pulled up to an unprepossessing looking log house. The yard was overgrown and the rail fence was coming down in some places. There was an old primer gray pickup truck pulled around the back.
Jack and Janet looked at each other. "Are you sure this is it?" sShe asked.
"This is the address you gave me." Jack looked at the faded number on the mailbox by the road. "Are you sure it's the right one?"
She glanced at the numbers on the page of her pamphlet and nodded. "That's what it says in the catalogue."
As they got out of the truck, a man came around the side of the building. "Hello, can I help you?"
Jack looked at him curiously. There was something familiar about him, but he couldn't call a name to mind. "Hello. We've come to inquire about the cabin for rent. Is this it?"
"Yep, it is, but I've still got some work to do on it before it's ready." He looked at the yard. "Grass needs cutting, fence fixing, you know." Jack nodded.
Janet was not put off. "How about the interior?"
"It's clean inside, I can show you that if you're interested."
She nodded and stepped forward. "I am."
The man stepped forward and extended his hand to her in greeting. He was obviously of Indian descent with his dark complexion, long, straight black hair lying loose on his shoulders and a pleasant broad face. "It was my uncle's house. He's passed on now and no one in the family needs it so I thought we could fix it up and rent it out to the right person."
"Oh, I'm sorry for your loss."
"Thanks. It was his time, ma'am. He went peaceably and we've already done the cleansing ritual. That's why it can be rented." At her odd look, he continued. "Uncle Ray was a shaman, a healer." He looked at her searchingly. "Oh, I'm sorry, my name is Charlie Martin."
She took the hand firmly. "I'm Janet Frasier."
He turned and looked at Jack, who also took his hand easily. "Jack O'Neill."
Charlie nodded. "I know you. You're Jack O'Neill from Rock Mountain. We used to play together as boys. You've got the spirit cave on your place."
"Yeah, and I know you." Jack smiled at him. Once the man had started talking, he recognized him from his youth. "You played Quarterback for the Somerton Eagles in high school. We used to square off in games during the summer."
The man grinned with pleasure and embarrassment. "Yep, that was me, all right. Your family is of my tribe. We're kinda cousins some generations back."
Jack nodded. "I think you're right." He indicated Janet. "Janet here is just retiring from the Air Force and got hired down at the hospital. She's looking for a place to call home."
Charlie looked at her with interest, "Are you a healer?"
Janet nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I'm a doctor."
Jack smiled down at her. "And a very good one, too."
"Well, come on in, then. You're welcome here." Daniel and Cassie had gotten out of the truck and joined the group for some quick introductions. Charlie looked at Daniel piercingly for a moment, then turned and led the four into the small structure. "We remodeled it two years ago. Put in a butane stove, hot water heater and a new fridge. It doesn't have a dishwasher or microwave, but there is a washer and dryer in the back room." He pushed open the front door and ushered them in.
The front door opened up into a nice sized great room naturally lit by large bay windows. The kitchen faced the front door, displaying the described appliances. A turn to the right revealed a deep stone hearth with all the proper fittings and accessories to allow for cooking over the open flame, or could be pushed back out of the way. A large well-preserved bear rug covered most of the wood floors. Some blankets and dried herbs still decorated the walls. A few pieces of furniture filled in the corners.
"He didn't use much modern conveniences. Him being a healer, he kept mostly to the old ways." Charlie explained. "We can take everything out for you if you want, or you can keep what you need."
Janet nodded. "I have my own furniture, but it won't be here for a while yet, so there's no hurry."
"There's two bedrooms back here, but you have to go through one to get to the other." The man led them into the back area. The first bedroom was roomier, the second much smaller. Together, they equaled the one large bedroom of the O'Neill cabin. "The bathroom is over there." He indicated a door blocked by a colorful blanket. Upon investigation, it revealed a large footed bathtub, a new looking hot water heater and quite usable plumbing and fixtures. Everything was neat and clean, with only a light coating of dust that bespoke of its recent emptiness.
"There's what's left of an herb garden out back.," Charlie continued., "Uncle Ray would grow his own medicine plants and a few for cooking and such. I don't know them all but maybe you could find out . . . if you're interested."
"Oh, I'm interested," Janet murmured, "definitely interested." She turned and looked at Daniel. "How's your botany?"
"Er, pretty good . . . for the middle east." Daniel looked over at her with a grin. "But here I always ask Jack-in-the-Green." He lifted an eyebrow at Jack, who smiled back at him and shook his head.
"There is a library in town," Jack replied archly. "And I'm sure some of the women here could tell you what the plants are."
"Aunt Sadie can probably help you out, Doctor Fraiser." Charlie grinned at the interplay between the two men. "She would help Uncle Ray out sometimes with his poultices. She's almost a healer herself, but she married and had a family so she didn't have the time to really study it like he did."
Daniel and Cassie found the back door and wandered out into the yard. It was more of a meadowland with no domestic plants, just the native grasses and some of the mountain trees. They went out the rear of the cabin to explore the area.
"So, Uncle Ray was a bachelor?" Janet asked, running her hand along the wooden kitchen counter.
"Yep, a berdache, a shaman. Really knew his stuff." Then he continued on in another vein. "I should tell you about the wildlife here, though."
"Big party goers, are you?" Jack asked jokingly.
Charlie shook his head at the levity. "No, just the opposite. Uncle Ray often healed the local wild animals. Some he'd raise from cubs and release; so they come to visit now and again. They weren't dangerous to him, but you might want to be careful until they figure out he's gone from here and the place has a new resident."
At this, Janet said hesitantly. "Well, I am thinking about getting a cat. "
"Well, you might want to wait a little. There's a fox vixen that hangs around. She's young and not dangerous to people, but she might eat a kitten."
Janet nodded. "How long should I wait?"
Charlie looked at her. "Well, if you don't feed her or anything, by this winter should be long enough. You wouldn't want to leave a cat outside then, anyway." He tooked back and forth between Jack and Janet. "I tell you what, I'm gonna go and get back to work. That way you can talk about the place without me, and when you get ready to go, just let yourselves out."
Jack nodded and smiled at the man. "Thanks Charlie, I appreciate you showing the cabin to us."
"Hey, no problem, Jack." The Indian smiled back at him. "You should come over to the house sometime. You can meet my boy, Ray. He's leaving for college this fall, going to the University of Minnesota on a grant and a football scholarship. He's gonna be real important around here some day."
Jack smiled and shook his old friend's hand. "I don't doubt that in the least. I'll give you a call first."
Martin left them alone inside the cozy kitchen. "Well?" Jack prompted Janet.
"I really like it." She glanced around the great room. "It's close to the hospital and more modern than I had hoped for. Not too big, and Mister Martin seems very nice."
Jack nodded. "I remember him now; he's level headed and a good man to have on your side." He walked over and turned the tap on. Clear, cold water ran out and he cupped his hand under it for a drink. "It's creek or well water . . . not from the river."
She nodded. "I'll ask him on the way out. I don't want river water."
"Yeah, fish function in it.," O''Neill said with a grin. "You might want to get the water tested anyway, even if it is well water."
She nodded. "I could always buy my drinking water and use this just for washing."
"Oh, I think its safe enough. Well water here is from deep in the rocks, as is spring water. We have that at our cabin, though we're pretty far up and no one else uses it."
She nodded and ran her hand along the polished wood of the kitchen's small island. "I really like this place, Jack. It feels good, like home already."
He smiled at her. "Charlie said it had been blessed and cleared; and if Uncle Ray is the man I remember, he was a good person. I think he set my arm the time I broke it up here one summer. There wasn't a hospital in Somerton yet back then."
Cassie and Daniel came back in and the teenager came up to her mom and hugged her. "I like it here,." she said simply. "It feels good."
Janet hugged her back. "I do, too. I'm going to rent it for us."
Daniel smiled at Jack over the women's heads. "Even if it's on the wrong side of the river?"
"No," Janet replied archly, "because it's on the right side of the river."
As they left the cabin, Jack caught Charlie's eye and the man came over to the group wiping his hands on his jeans. Janet smiled at him and nodded. "I would like to rent the cabin."
"I figured you would; I knew you right. I could see you in the cabin already." He nodded happily. "Uncle Ray would be pleased that it's going to be a place of healing again."
After the deal was settled, and the move- in date planned, the foursome climbed back into the truck. Jack turned and looked in the back seat. "So, what's next? Any requests?"
Daniel gave him a mischievous grin. "Did I hear someone say ice cream earlier?"
"Yeah, but then I got a wet Willie and . . . ."
"Aw, Jack, don't be a stick in the mud." Daniel leaned forward and ran his fingers under Jack's flannel collar. "I'll buy., You know I'm rich, well, today anyways"
"That's right, moneybags. You got your check from the publisher yesterday, didn't you, Jonathan." Jack nodded. "Okay, we'll stop at the café and you can buy the pie and ice cream."
Cassie immediately looked at her friend. "Rich? Why are you rich? And who's Jonathan?"
"Well, not richly rich, just sorta rich. I was paid some money from my last book."
Jack glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, didn't you know? You're in the back seat with the best selling author, Jonathan O'Neill."
"You're Jonathan O'Neill who wrote Desert Stars? Buuutttt . . . I don't get it?" She stared at him in confusion.
Janet turned and looked at him too. "YOU wrote that book? The one Sam gave me?"
"Well, I had to earn money somehow, you know,." he said defensively. "I couldn't live off of Jack forever, and since Daniel Jackson was dead, ah, gone and declared dead anyway, I had to use a name of a living person. Jack said I could use his real name . . . you know, so I could get paid."
"Yes, one of the many disadvantages of being dead," Jack said dryly. "People don't want to cash your checks any more."
"But . . .you wrote Desert Stars?" Cassie frankly stared at him until he turned a bright pink under her scrutiny. "That's awesome! Wait till I tell everybody!"
"Whoa, whoa, young lady,." Janet called back warningly. "I don't think so. This is not for public consumption. Capiche?"
"Yeah, okay. But it's so cool!"
"And what are you doing reading books like that anyway, young lady?" Jack commented disapprovingly.
"Jack, I'm eighteen, you know! And besides, what's wrong with it?"
"Yes, Jack?" Daniel asked. "It's not pornography, you know. In fact, they made me rewrite it once."
"I know, I know, I benefitted from that rewrite greatly . . . monetarily, of course." He frowned into the rear view mirror at the giggling teenager. "Cassie!" He shook his finger warningly at her.
She tried to quit, but instead her mother joined in with her laughter.
"What's so funny, anyway?" Daniel asked, flushing a deeper red.
"Nothing, nothing at all!" Janet said merrily. "But when I think of all the nurses . . . women, who chased you. . . . ."
"Hey! I was married." He shrugged. "Blame Jack!"
O'Neill had navigated the big vehicle into the parking lot of the restaurant. "Me? What did I do? Not a damned thing. I'm innocent, totally not at fault here."
Cassie looked at them doubtfully. "Riiigghht. Didn't do a thing."
"I didn't! Honest! One day I was just trying to drown my sorrow . . . . "
" . . .Literally,." Daniel put in dryly.
Jack shot him a look. ".Then, whammo, I'm in my bed again. Can't even get drunk in peace. Nosy archaeologist."
"I found him dead drunk in a leaky row boat in the middle of the damned lake." Daniel glared at him. "What was I supposed to do, leave you there to fall in the lake and pollute the water?"
"Well, that was the general idea. How was I supposed to know you were coming back?"
Daniel looked at him with a frown. "I told you I was."
"No, Daniel. An alcohol induced hallucination told me you would . . .at least as far as I could tell."
"But you told Sam . . . " Cassie started, then at her mother's look she put her hand across her mouth. "Oops."
Jack nodded. "I did, but I had to ask her about, whatshisname . . . Orlin . . . to be sure I wasn't ready for the old Colonel's funny farm. She did help a little, but it took you so long."
Daniel reached up and put his hands on Jack's shoulders. "I had to take enough time for me to heal, to learn what I needed to know. Otherwise, I couldn't have helped you, couldn't have helped the Tollan, or handled Kinsey, Simmons and the Goa'uld at the SGC. I had to be prepared."
"Or called down the rain or survived a lightening strike,." Jack finished for him. "I know, but it was a long time, Danny. A very long time."
"I know, Jack. I really, truly know."
"So you did do something to those men." Janet nodded. "I knew it."
"No, not to them, I only protected Jack . . . like I'm supposed to." He leaned forward and touched his forehead to the nape of the other man's neck.
"Well, I don't know about you, but that pie is calling my name." Jack changed the subject and reached back to ruffle the short golden brown hair with his hand. "Not getting any younger here, ya know."
"Yes," Janet added. "I can see you just wasting away to nothing."
"Well, okay." Daniel looked at Jack then he glanced at the teenager. "Sooo . . . ice cream anyone?"
She nodded. "With hot fudge sauce. Race ya?"
Cassie slid out of the truck and looked back at the others, than ran into the café with Daniel in hot pursuit.
Janet looked over doubtfully at Jack. "Rowboat?"
O'Neill had the good grace to look embarrassed. "Yeah. It was a little closer than I like to think about."
"He found you in the boat?"
"Yep, that's when he took human form again." Jack sighed. "Right after I woke up, well, that's when IT happened."
"Yeah, the big it. Our first time together." He looked down at the steering wheel, his cheeks darkening slightly. "Janet, I know Cassie has been a little leery of our relationship. Daniel said they had a long talk about it last night."
Janet put her hand on his where it rested on the steering wheel. "Cassie loves the two of you. I do, too. It'll work out, don't worry, you'll see."
He managed a shy smile. "I'm glad you're here, Doc."
She smiled back and squeezed his hand. "So am I, and thanks for coming with us today."
"No problem," He nodded. "I think the house will fit just fine."
"Fox and all?"
"I think the fox fits you."
"And if the fox fits?" She looked at him mischievously.
The large rented moving van was sitting empty on the narrow gravel road outside the small cabin on the far side of Spirit River. The household furnishings and personal possessions of Lieutenant Colonel Janet Fraiser, retired, and her daughter had been unloaded into the house she would call home. Jack and Daniel had come in from Elk Horn and then driven the van into the Somerton Airport to meet the cargo plane from Colorado Springs. They had then volunteered to help them unload the heavy household items.
Janet and Cassie were already at the cabin, giving it the final once over. Most of the old furniture had been removed, leaving only a few odds and ends. Uncle Ray may have been a wonderful person and a great Shaman, but his idea of ambiance was more Dances with Wolves than twenty first century. The unwanted furniture had been left outside at the side of the house. Charlie Martin had assured them it would be distributed to anyone in the neighborhood who needed it.
The small group of helpful people had grown throughout the day. Charlie Martin, his eighteen-year-old son Ray, Charlie's Aunt Sadie and several other neighbors had come to assist the newcomers with their moving chores. Janet had immediately hit it off with the elderly Indian woman and the two were soon chatting about herbs and other indigenous plants that could be found out in the backyard's garden. After an initial period of shyness, Ray and Cassie were comparing notes about their schools and what both teens expected from college.
Soon more of the locals had appeared, pitching in to help, bringing food and generally welcoming the Fraisers to the neighborhood. Janet had been touched by their friendliness. Evidently, Martin had been telling everyone about the new lady doctor who was moving into his uncle's house and the neighborhood had welcomed her into their midst eagerly. She and Cassie were both made to feel welcomed and soon felt right at home.
After a pot luck supper, the teens had started a game of Frisbee to work off their meal. The adults were sitting on the porch, watching their antics. Daniel had been tempted into the game when the teams were in danger of becoming uneven as other neighborhood kids showed up to play. The younger women with small children were sitting in the yard on blankets, watching the littlest ones play in the grassy meadow that was bordered on one side by the River, and the lightly traveled gravel road by the other. Several of the younger kids were involved in a game of chase, not needing the impetus of a Frisbee to run and play.
Suddenly the quiet of the scene was broken by the distant roar of a high-powered engine. They could hear the sound of a motorcycle revving its motor and approaching the bridge at Spirit River heading in their direction. Much to everyone's surprise, it crossed the bridge at a high rate of speed and headed up their peaceful unpaved road.
As the tires hit the loose gravel coming off the bridge, the motorbike lost its grip on the road and it slid off into the meadow- like yard where the children were playing. The cycle hit the rocky shoulder, skidded out of control, and threw a rain of loose stones on the fleeing children. Several of the kids whose game of tag had taken them close to the road were caught by surprise. They turned to run farther into the grassy area bordering the river where they had been playing. One of the girls, about seven years old, was struck in the back of the head by a fist sized rock. Reeling from the impact, she stumbled and fell headlong down the steep bank to land in the cold waters of Spirit River. The swift running water picked up her unconscious form and moved her out further into the main current.
Daniel was the closest adult to the scene and when he saw the approaching bike, he had started running toward the area where the little ones were playing. He was only a few feet away from her when the unconscious child tumbled down the embankment into the cold water.
When he reached the steep riverbank, Daniel saw the limp form being washed down amongst the rocks in the water's rushing current. Seeing her immediate danger, he launched himself from the embankment in a shallow dive into the river. He surfaced quickly and started to swim toward the girl. Reaching her side, he pulled her limp form up against his body and started swimming one armed, kicking for the shore.
When the rider of the motorcycle regained control of his vehicle, he gunned the engine on the high-powered machine and tried to escape the scene of the accident by continuing up the gravel road and heading up into the mountains. Jack responded immediately to the man's escape attempt, leaping down from the porch and running toward the split rail fence's opening that led out into the street. Charlie was following, hot on his heels. His path intersected with that of the cyclist just as the bike was passing the gap in the fence. Seeing the man was about to flee the scene of his crime, Jack picked up an unused fence rail and flung it out into the road, directly in front of the cycle's front wheel.
The motorcyclist had no choice but to lay the bike down and skid to a halt throwing up more gravel and dust to lie stunned in the roadway. Jack and Charlie both descended on him at the same time, grabbing the driver by both arms and jerking him upright off the prone vehicle. They held the struggling driver firmly, not allowing him to escape.
Ray and Cassie had followed Daniel's descent into the water, realizing what had happened. They both waded out into the water to help the rescuer. They could see him holding the small limp body next to his chest, a rivulet of blood from her head wound dripping down his wet tee shirt, staining his chest a bright red.
"MOM! MOM, come quick!" Cassie started screaming for her mother. "MOM, one of the kids is hurt bad."
Janet and Aunt Sadie had seen the children running and then witnessed Daniel's dive into the river. They could only think of one reason for his actions. Janet was immediately on her feet and already bolting toward the riverbank when her daughter started calling for her. One of the other mothers had run to her car to dial 911 on her cell phone. Janet, Sadie and another younger woman were running toward the location where Daniel way laying his precious burden down on the soft grass.
"Is she breathing?" Janet asked quickly as she dropped to her knees beside Daniel and the child. At his negative head shake, she quickly checked the girl for a pulse then, finding one, started mouth to mouth resuscitation on the unconscious child. Daniel could only kneel next to them and watch, panting from his exertions and shivering from his precipitous plunge into the cold water. Happily, after Janet had administered only a few breaths to the child, the little girl began to move weakly, coughed, and then began throwing up river water.
Within minutes, sirens could be heard as ambulance, fire and police all pulled up at the scene of the near fatal accident. Janet gave her report to the medics and surrendered the care of the now conscious child to the paramedics. She then went to where Sadie was holding the upset mother out of the way of the professionals.
Constable Jolly, a law officer in Somerton, had arrived by squad car at the same time as the ambulance. The policeman pushed his way through the crowd to find out what had happened and what the status of the victim was. Jolly recognized Daniel, standing there in his bloody tee shirt next to the women, as an obvious participant in the disturbance. Sadie Martin and another, familiar looking woman was apparently checking the man for injuries. The officer approached the younger man. He pulled out his notebook as he stepped up. "Hello, Doctor Jackson."
Daniel looked at him blankly without recognition. Jolly realized that the man was probably still stunned from whatever had happened. The smaller of the women glanced up briefly at his arrival and waved him away. He then recognized her as Jack and Daniel's doctor friend and he backed off and glanced around looking for O'Neill. He knew that Jack wouldn't be far from his friend. He then saw Jack and Charlie approaching the knot of people coming from the road, dragging their recalcitrant captive with them. "How ya doing, Jack? Charlie? Whatcha got there?"
Charlie released the prisoner into Jack and the law officer's charge. "The Yeahoo that tried to kill that little girl, Sid." He replied tersely as he released his hold on the man . The Indian man then glowered at their captive for a moment then went over to the medical group, to watch the paramedics work on the girl.
"We've got your work already done, Sid," Jack answered tersely. "This character ran that little girl off into the river with his motorcycle." He shoved the man up against the squad car.
Jolly nodded, and indicated to Jack to stand back for a moment while he searched the driver. After finding a boot knife and assuring himself that there were no other weapons and that the man wasn't injured, the constable slipped a pair of handcuffs on his prisoner's wrists. Sid looked back at Jack. "So tell me what happened here."
"Hey, he threw a board at me!" the man protested, trying to turn around. "He tried to kill me!"
Jolly looked at the man and shook his head. "Believe me, buddy. If this guy wanted to kill you, I wouldn't have to be dragging you to the jail for stupidity, reckless driving and criminal endangerment of a child. I'd a just called the morgue." Jolly nodded to his old friend. "Go on, Jack."
"I didn't see it all. This guy came riding his motorcycle at a high rate of speed just screaming across the bridge. The kids were playing when he lost control of his bike and ran it up into the yard. I guess his tires slung some gravel at them when he almost ran a couple of them down and she must have been knocked down the bank into the water." he motioned toward the ambulance, "Next thing I saw was Danny going in the river after somebody." He motioned to the prisoner. "This guy didn't even slow down. I didn't want him to get away so I threw a board out in the road in front of him. He slid his bike into it and Charlie and I grabbed him."
Charlie came back over to them as O'Neill gave the lawman an account of his actions. He nodded at Jack. "She's going to be all right, just got a belly full of river water and a gash on the back of her head."
Sid looked at the motorcycle lying on its side in the middle of the gravel road. He shook his head, turned around and then secured the prisoner in the back seat of his car. "Let's go talk to the paramedics and Doctor Jackson."
The three men approached the ambulance just as they were loading the small child, now on a stretcher, into the back of the vehicle. A woman, obviously the child's mom, was getting into the back with her. "Frank," Sid called out, "how bad is the girl hurt?"
The EMT flashed him a quick smile. "She's got a nasty cut and a knot on her head where it looks like a rock hit her. She's swallowed some water but thanks to these good folks, I think she'll make it all right. Doc Mills will probably want to keep her overnight." He pointed at Daniel, who was now standing next to Janet and Sadie. "If that guy hadn't been johnny-on-the-spot, though, she would have drowned for sure though. He's today's hero, all right."
Constable Jolly glanced over at the soaking wet man and nodded. "He seems to make a habit of it. Thanks, Frank. I'll be in tomorrow to pick up the Doctor's report."
The paramedic waved and ran around to get into the ambulance. As soon as he was in, they pulled away, lights and sirens going.
"Thanks, Jack, for making my job easier again." Sid looked over at Daniel. Jack nodded and the three men headed over to where his partner was standing next to the women and Ray.
"You gonna be all right?" Sid asked, looking at the younger man with concern.
"Yes, I'm just a little cold, is all." Daniel tried to smile at him.
Janet was watching her friend critically while holding Daniel's wrist, unobtrusively taking a pulse at the same time. "We'll take good care of him, Constable. Don't you worry." Fraiser assured him, and began to guide the now-shivering hero toward her cabin.
Jolly nodded as they watched them head into the house. He turned to Jack, noting the concerned expression on the other man's face. "So, can you and Jackson have some statements for me by tomorrow? I'll come by your cabin and pick them up."
"Sure, Sid." Jack assured his old friend. "Come by anytime."
"Great, for now I'm gonna go book this guy for reckless driving, child endangerment and whatever else I can think up based on your verbal statement today. I'll call a wrecker for that junk in the road."
Jack nodded absently, watching Janet take Daniel into the cabin. "I'll see you tomorrow, then." Jack then headed for the house himself, following them in.
Charlie spoke up, "Daniel saved that little girl's life, Sid, sure as the world."
"Yep, I'd say that's so." Jolly nodded. "He seems to be a good man to have around, all right."
Charlie said agreeably. "Seems to be, Sid." He glanced the now closed door. "Both of them."
Later that evening, the two old friends were sitting out on the porch in the late afternoon sunshine. The ambulance, fire truck and Constable had left and the crowd had all gone home. Only Charlie, Jack and Daniel. The landlord had stayed to help Cassie and Jack finish the final touches of moving the Fraisers into their house. Janet had been preoccupied with caring for Daniel. She had pronounced him slightly shocky and suffering from some cuts and bruises from bouncing off some boulders in the river during his rescue of the little girl.
Jack had noticed the other man watching him and Daniel as they interacted throughout the day. Finally, after they'd quit for the evening and he brought out another round of beer for the tired man, he turned to Ray with a quizzical expression. "Okay, what's going on here?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've got something on your mind Charlie. Spill."
Charlie took a long drink of the beer and a deep breath. "Okay, it's about your friend."
"What about him?" Jack prompted.
"He's the one, isn't he? The one on the mountain?"
"Charlie, what do you mean?" Jack was mystified. "What mountain?"
"The guy I saw on Rock Mountain's face, during the fire. The one that got struck by lightening."
"Yeah, so what?" Jack looked at him suspiciously.
"Come on, Jack. Who is he really?"
"That's just Daniel. He's my partner." Jack shrugged and took a sip of beer. "Why? Who do you think he is?"
"I think he's our new Shaman." There was no doubt in the man's voice.
Jack smiled at the man and shook his head. "Wait, a minute, you've got the wrong guy. Daniel is a lot of things, but he's no holy man."
Charlie looked at him knowingly. "But he is special."
"Oh yeah, he is that," Jack nodded in agreement. "Very special."
"Before Uncle Ray passed last summer, he told me of a vision he'd had. He said that our people would not be without a holy man. He said that he already here, we just needed to see him for what he was. Then last year, during the forest fire, several of us saw a man up on Rock Mountain's face close by the Spirit Cave."
O'Neill looked at him skeptically. "You saw this man?"
Charlie nodded emphatically. "Me and some of the other firefighters saw a white man standing on the rock shelf. I saw him call the rain. I saw it and still couldn't believe it. Then the rain came with the thunder and lightening. Then I lost sight of him. He just disappeared." The man looked over to the door leading into the cabin. "Then I heard your friend was hurt . . . struck by lightening." He looked at Jack knowingly. "He's more than your business partner, I can tell. He is a person that has two spirits. He has much power. I can see how he gathers people around him."
Jack could only nod. The two men sat quietly for a while and Jack took another drink of his beer. "He's always been that."
"It's his gift."
"But he's not Indian, Charlie, not even as much as I am, which isn't much."
"That doesn't make him any less than he is." The man smiled at Jack. "That's why he has you . . . that's why he came up here."
Jack only shook his head. "Charlie, I think you're mistaken."
"Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell."
Jack shrugged. "You can believe what you want. But Daniel, even though he is special, is not your shaman."
"Then what is he, Jack?"
"He's, well, there's no denying he's a very special person," O'Neill said slowly. "He's a linguist, an archaeologist, and Egyptologist, an author. He's been to places that you can't even imagine."
"Yes," the other man nodded encouragingly. "He's been struck by lightening, he can read the wisdom of the old ones, he understands the old ways and he's been welcomed in the Spirit Cave by one of our tribe."
"You, Jack. You carry our blood through your great-grandmother." Charlie nodded, "You are a great warrior by anyone's measure and you have joined with him. Your spirits are drawn together in the old ways."
"Charlie, come on. You know me. I'm just plain, old Jack here. I'm nobody special."
His old acquaintance looked at him appraisingly. "Yeah, sure Jack, tell another one. I know you all right. We spent the summers together here. After you left, I only saw you occasionally, but I did hear of your accomplishments. College graduate, Master's degree, U. S. Air Force pilot, Special Forces, in and out of trouble. I remember the summer you came back from the dead. You brought your family up here. Your Grandpa was so proud. He probably said more that you knew. He was so proud of you and your boy. Then, when you went away we heard about your Charlie. We didn't see you again for a long time, not until after your Grandpa went under. Finally, three years ago, you come back here, to your true home. But you were changed, Jack. You were all quiet. I know a man that's hiding from himself. I watched you, Jack O'Neill. You've seen things that no man should have to look upon. It was in your eyes." Charlie leaned forward and looked piercingly at his old friend. "I've seen eyes like yours before. Just look at a picture of old Sitting Bull. He had the same look that you did back then. You'd seen the monster at land's end. We didn't expect you to last the winter up here all alone in that cabin." He nodded knowingly at Jack as he continued. "Then Daniel showed up. No one saw him come. He didn't have any car, he didn't come on the bus and we don't have a train any more."
"He hitch-hiked in," Jack said calmly. "Caught a ride with a trucker."
"No, Jack. No one saw him come in. No one saw him in town or on the roads. It was like he flew in with the owl. But then, you started to change. You started to live again."
"How do you know all this?" Jack demanded.
"We watched you. We saw. Some of us would go to tend the Spirit Cave and as we left we would see you on your porch, turning into something not quite a human being any more. I knew it was only a matter of time. Then, one day Tommy Redfox came to me and said, `The O'Neill is no longer alone.' So, I came to see for myself, and then I saw him." Charlie upended the bottle and finished his beer. "At first, I thought he was just an old friend of yours, but Tommy was right. I could see that he'd come to stay, that he had changed you." The man smiled at Jack. "I was happy that you were whole again. Then, when I saw that you'd begun tending the Spirit Cave, we quit going on your property because you were starting to take care of business. We didn't need to worry about you anymore."
"So, you'd been watching me."
"You needed us to then," he shrugged. "We don't have to any more." Charlie tilted his head back towards the door into the house. "You've got him now." The Indian put his empty bottle on the porch floor, got to his feet and extended his hand to his host. "I'd best be going home now, Jack. It's a pleasure seeing you again and your friend Janet is very welcome here."
"Thanks, Charlie. I'm glad it's working out so well for her here." Jack took this friend's hand in a firm handshake.
"Me, too, Jack. Me too."
Janet and Cassie were inside, the teen helping her mother tending some bad scrapes on Daniel's ribs. The man was making faces at the girl, causing her to giggle. Janet poured some hydrogen peroxide on a particularly deep abrasion on his ribs.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed. "That stings!"
Janet only looked at him. "Could be worse . . . could need stitches."
"Jack's right, you are scary."
Cassie only rolled her eyes. "You don't know the half of it."
Janet turned to look squarely at her daughter. "You'd better pick your side carefully here, young lady, or I'll feed you to the fox."
Jack entered the cabin by the front door and came over to supervise. "Well, I can hear Daniel is feeling better."
"He's complaining, so it's not too serious." The woman doctor began to put up her first aide kit. "But you should get him home and in bed with some aspirin. He's going to be sore from those bruises tomorrow for sure."
Jack nodded at her instructions. "Hear that, Danny. Doctor's orders."
"I'm fine. Just a little tired is all." The younger man protested weakly.
Jack, Janet and Cassie all looked at him. "Fine, huh?" Janet groused. "Things haven't changed much in three years, has it?"
"Nope." Jack reached down to help the younger man to his feet. "If he's not bleeding, or unconscious, he's fine."
Daniel took his arm gratefully. "But I am," he protested. "Just a little cold and bumped around."
"Well, the cold part I can cure, the other part will need the aspirin." Jack smiled at him sappily. "Come on, let's get you home to a hot shower and bed so Lacy and Cleo can act all concerned for you." He pulled Daniel up from his position on the couch. "If you play your cards right, there could be a massage in your immediate future."
Daniel got to his feet with Jack's help then limped toward the door. "I could handle that."
Jack turned to smile at Janet, then hugged her and gave her a kiss. "Thanks, doc."
"Thank you, for all your help and for . . . " she waved her hands in the air. "For everything else."
"Any time, just give us a shout." Jack reached to hug Cassie, who squeezed him back. "Glad you're here, honey."
"I am too, Uncle Jack. This is the best place I've ever been."
They watched as Jack hurried to help his partner up into the pick up truck's cab. After Daniel was settled in the front seat, he reached over and fastened the seatbelt across the younger man's lap. Daniel stroked Jack's head and shoulder with his hand and smiled down at him, possibly to an unheard softly spoken comment. Jack turned his face upwards and Daniel bent down to kiss him gently on the lips. The two men looked at each other for a moment, then Jack stepped back with a smile. He closed the door carefully and walked around to the driver's side. As they pulled away from the cabin, they waved as the big truck swung around to drive off to their home on Rock Mountain.
"Mom?" Cassie slipped her arm around the smaller woman's waist.
"I meant what I said, this is the best place I've ever been."
"Yes, honey. It's a little bit of heaven, all right." Janet nodded to her daughter then waved at their friends as they drove down the gravel road toward the bridge that crossed Spirit River. "And there go our two guardian angels."
The end (for now)
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt/Comfort, Meridian Fix, Romance|
|Summary:||SLASH This is the fifth story in the Forever Love series. Jack is retired, Daniel has de-ascended and they're living in the legendary cabin in Minnesota. This is also a Janet Fixit.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Welcome back to Elkhorn Minnesota where the men are handsome, the women strong and the children all above average.