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Daniel's Daughter

Author: Rude's Mom
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the characters. No money has changed hands. This is just for fun.
A/N: This is for immortalwizardpirateelf-fan, CapriceAnn Hedican-Kocur, Herald-Mage Brianna, Cero Mor Yuy, Kayla-Shay, Jeune lune, lotusblossom, tracey; Harry2, Kate, Hel, and griffindor lady.
This is post-Chosen for Buffy. SG-1 is canon through the beginning of season 8 and will go AU after that (possibly very AU if I don't like the rest of season 8). However, it is my sincere intention to focus on Buffy and Daniel so there probably won't be too many spoilers.
Rating:PG 13

Prologue

Sunnydale, March 2001

Dear Buffy,

If you are reading this, I guess I was never able to tell you the truth. I know how hurt you were when your father and I divorced. I know how confused you were when he stopped coming around. Please believe that it had nothing to do you as a person. You see, Hank wasn't your real father.

Years ago I was quite the wild child. You got a glimpse of that during the band candy incident. It's not something I'm proud of. I was already several months pregnant when I married Hank and, yes, he did know that you weren't his.

Anyhow, at the time of the divorce I promised not to tell you the truth and Hank promised to continue being your father. Even though he renegged on his promise, I kept mine until now. This fall has brought it home that I might not be here forever and you deserve to know the truth.

I met your real father when I was seventeen. He was a transfer student in my math class. He didn't mix much and usually had his nose in a book. He was the outsider, ignored if he was lucky but more often the butt of somebody's joke. I found out much later that he was a foster child, which explained those awful glasses that he wore and the state of his clothes. As you found out when we moved to Sunnydale, children can be very cruel to anyone that isn't part of the group. The best thing that I can say of my behavior is that I didn't pay much attention to him most of the time.

In May of my senior year, the farewell party season was in full swing. There were a number of small, private parties as well as a few really big parties. I still can't believe that he showed up for the luau beer bash. A couple of hours into the party, he lost his glasses. He had the most beautiful blue eyes. The best description I can think of is a young James Spader. He even stood up for me when one of the guys wouldn't leave me alone. We wandered off and I'll leave it at that.

After graduation I realized that there were unexpected consequences to my behavior that night. Your grandfather was furious and descended on Daniel's foster family. A bad situation got worse when he found out how young Daniel was. Although he was a senior, he had skipped a couple of grades. I swear I didn't know he was only fifteen. In the end, I was shipped off to your Aunt Grace and Daniel was placed with another foster family.

After Hank and I divorced, I hired a detective to try to find out what happened to him. Dr. Daniel Jackson is an archeaolgist with doctorates from UCLA and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. (You can thank him for your high SAT scores.) He had some rather radical ideas about the pyramids that destroyed his academic career and is currently working a civilian consultant for the Air Force in Colorado. The final report is in my safe deposit box, the key is in my jewelry box.

Daniel's a good person. I think you would like him.

Love,

Mom

-

“So, Willow, after we stop Glory what do you think about a Scooby road trip to Colorado?”

-

There was no road trip. Buffy died to save the world. The Scoobies stayed on the Hellmouth. Daniel Jackson didn't meet his daughter.

At least, not that year...

Chapter 1

Colorado Springs, July 2005

Two young women stepped out of the neat, two-story house and on to the small front porch.

“I still can't believe that you wanted to come here rather than Oxford.”

“After two years in Rome, I didn't think I could stand four years in the land of drizzle and tweed. And English food, yuck.”

“But Oxford...” It was almost a whine. “Mom would have been so excited.”

“Right up until she realized that Giles was grooming me to become a Watcher. Buffy, there's nothing wrong with UCCS. It's got a great anthropology curriculum and they've started offering classes in Arabic. We don't have too many researchers that can read Arabic anymore. I can focus on the ancient languages in grad school. Besides, you were accepted here and this way you can keep an eye on me.”

“And exactly how did that happen again? I don't seem to remember applying, or accepting for that matter.”

“Willow and I thought it was a good idea. If you ever decide to leave the Council, you'll need a degree to fall back on. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life flipping burgers at the Doublemeat Place? Besides, you liked your psych courses.”

“Yeah, when my professor wasn't trying to kill me.” She muttered before continuing in a normal voice. “But why Colorado? Why not some place warm and sunny?”

“Like LA?”

“Okay, not in California. But there are lots of other warm and sunny places. Florida, Georgia?”

“Skiing?”

“You don't ski.”

“I want to learn. Anyhow, there's not a lot of demonic activity here and it's nearly fifteen hundred miles from the nearest Hellmouth. We'll actually have a chance to study.”

“Joy.” Buffy looked appraisingly at her sister. “There's something else isn't there?”

Dawn sat down on the front steps. Her next words were hesitant. “Buffy, Willow told me about Mom's letter.”

“Wha... oh, that letter.”

“Yeah. She figured that, maybe, if you were in the same area, you know, you might...”

“Might what? Meet him? Have a 'and they lived happily ever after' ending to the sad tale of Buffy?” Buffy sighed and sat next to her sister. “I wrote to him almost two years ago. He never responded. I can't say that I blame him. I mean, he was just a kid when it happened.”

“But he's still your father.”

“Like 'Hank' is yours.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “I'm sorry, that wasn't called for. Dawnie, just because a guy gets a girl pregnant it doesn't automatically translate to him wanting to be a father. If it did, D'Hoffryn would have to fire half of his demons.”

Dawn smiled. “Probably way more than that according to Anya. But maybe the letter got lost?”

“Maybe. And maybe he doesn't want to be reminded of something stupid he did as a kid. His foster parents kicked him back into the system again. I doubt whether he remembers that fondly. Come on, lets get the rest our stuff into the house.” And with that, Buffy got up and walked over to their blue SUV. “So, what are you making for dinner?”

“Takeout?”

Buffy opened the side door and reached in to pull out the last three suitcases. She handed the smallest one to Dawn and closed and the locked the vehicle. As the pair walked back into the house, she replied “Nope. We're on a budget again. The income Angel left me was enough to pay for this house and our tuition. The Council will cover the rest of our expenses, but only to a point. There are a lot of Slayers to take care of these days.” She turned to her sister. “I'll put our stuff upstairs and wait for the furniture delivery. You can do the grocery shopping.”

Dawn grabbed her purse and the keys. “Okay but I'm only doing a quick run to tide us over until tomorrow. I am so not going take the blame for not picking the right stuff.”

“Fine. We'll be a little short of pots and pans for a while anyway since Faith didn't have much to spare. I guess its sandwich night. Just make sure that you grab some donuts for breakfast. Oh, and some decent coffee, too.”

“What, you didn't like the stuff at Faith's?”

“No, and as I recall neither did you. That stuff could have been used to clean a carburetor.”

“I thought that's what shebrewed it in.” Dawn giggled.

“Get going. I'm starving and you do not want to deal with a hungry slayer.”

“I'm going, I'm going. No need for threats.”

Meanwhile, in another part of town, a envelope with an Italian postmark continued to collect dust behind a bookcase.

Chapter 2

Colorado Springs, September 2005

“Teal'c, I'll be fine.” Daniel was beginning to get fustrated. Since when did his friend act like a mother hen? Wasn't that what he had Jack for? Of course, since Jack was in Washington... He should have known he wouldn't get off easy.

“Dr. Brightman said I was cleared to go home. No, you don't need to send somebody around to check up on me. Cassie said she stop by after classes while you're visiting Ryac. Teal'c, I've got to hang up. My lunch is ready to come out of the oven. I'll catch up with you later.”

It was only a broken foot. Okay, and a few cracked ribs and his third concussion this year but still, this was getting to be a bit ridiculous. First Sam, now Teal'c. Had Jack left instructions or did everyone think he was incapable of taking care of himself? Thank heaven he had had the foresight arrange for Cassie to check up on him. At least she wouldn't hover. Much.

He hobbled over to the oven and turned it off. He opened it and grabbed a potholder from the counter. Reaching in, he pulled out the now slightly charred chicken breast and baked potato. He placed them on the stove top and closed the oven. He fixed his plate and sat down at the counter to eat.

How was he supposed to fill the next two weeks? He been ordered to take some time off. Security had been warned not to let him back on the base. They didn't even let him bring any work home. So, two weeks watching the History Channel? No, the last time he tried that he'd filled three notebooks with corrections. Maybe the Discovery Channel this time, if they weren't doing a special promotion for Discovery Health. Talk about way too much information.

He was just finishing his lunch when he heard the door to his apartment open.

“Hi, Daniel.” Cassie walked though the living room and over to the kitchen. “I picked up your mail.”

“Just put it on the bookcase.”

“Which one?” A valid question.

He waved towards a short bookcase on the left. “So, how was your day? And aren't you a bit early?”

Cassie tossed the mail on top of a small stack of yesterday's junk mail. “Psych class was cancelled, so it has been a pretty good day so far.”

The top couple of pieces of mail slid off the pile and down behind the bookcase.

“Oops.” She took the remaining mail and put it on the counter next to Daniel. “I'll get the rest.”

She pulled the bookcase away from the wall just far enough to reach behind it. “Got 'em.”

She shoved the bookcase back and brought the rest of mail over. “Wow, one of these is real dusty. Guess this wasn't the first time that's happened.”

She placed the dusty letter on top. The postmark indicated that letter had been sent in 2003.

“Hope it wasn't anything important.”

Daniel glanced at it for a moment, noticing the foreign stamp. “I doubt it. I don't recognize the handwriting. So, class was cancelled?”

Cassie sat down on the extra stool at the counter. “Someone from the office said the professor's car broke down. She called in our assignment, extra reading for the next class. So, how are you doing? Did one of them call you?”

“I'm fine and they both did.”

“I guess they both read The Care and Feeding of Klutzy Archaeologists?”

“That book's just a vicious rumor.”

“Come on, you're talking to the daughter of the woman who wrote it.”

“I thought Jack was supposed to have written it?”

“Uncle Jack write a book? Get real.” She snickered. “He ordered mom to.”

“Of course. So would you like a soda?”

“No thanks. I really should get home and crack the books.” Cassie stood up. “I don't get out of class tomorrow until 4:30. See you then?”

“Not going anywhere. So, yeah, see you then.”

After Cassie left, Daniel cleaned up the kitchen, washing and drying his dishes. He scooped up the mail from the counter and moved in to the living room. He sat down on the couch and propped his right foot up on the coffee table. He quickly sorted through the mail, most of it was junk as usual. The bills he put aside before opening the old letter. “Let's see, do I know any one that was in Rome a couple of years ago?”

He tore open the envelope and began reading.

Five minutes later, an ashen faced man put the letter down.

The one thing he had always wanted was a family. How could they have lied to him? He had a daughter. He and Joyce had a daughter. A daughter who had tried to contact him. Oh God, a daughter that had been ignored, rejected. Like his grandfather Nick had rejected him. He began to laugh. It was a laughter tinged with a touch of hysteria.

“I have a daughter.” He looked at the letter again, quickly scanning it for the one crucial item that he needed.

He checked his watch. It was almost 1:30 which meant it should be what...9:30 in Rome? He picked up the telephone and prayed the number was still good.

Chapter 3

Colorado Springs, September 2005

“Dawn, don't forget to drop off my paper with Dr. Heche.” Buffy grabbed a few more items from her dresser and tossed them into an overnight bag. “And you'll need to pick up my drycleaning on Friday. I want to wear those pants on Saturday.”

“Paper, Heche. Drycleaning, Friday. Hot date, Saturday. Check.” Dawn dropped onto the bed. “So, who is it that you are going to see?”

“The head of Homeworld Security.”

“Homeworld Security? Pretentious much?”

“Oh yeah. I thought Giles meant Homeland Security but apparently those pesky little bureaucrats are having some serious delusions. Anyhow,Giles can't leave England right now so I get to rack up the frequent flier miles.”

“Not Faith? Wait, that would be a bad idea on so many levels. Why not Robin or Vi?”

“Tried that. Giles didn't want to send anybody that may not be on the goverment's 'keep an eye on list' so that leaves the you, me, Willow, and Xander. Since they are out of the country...”

“The semi-retired Slayer gets the job.”

“Hey, I'm on sabbatical, not semi-retired.”

Buffy closed the bag with more force than necessary and the two young women headed downstairs to wait for the taxi.

“So, travelling first class?”

“I doubt it. The Council booked me on the first available flight, I'll be lucky to in the plane.” Buffy snorted. “Apparently the general has a tight schedule and tomorrow afternoon is the only available time for the next couple of weeks.”

“So this couldn't wait 'til then?”

“This guy has some basic knowledge about us thanks to the Initiative. I need to set him straight before he gets any ideas. We don't need a repeat of Adam.”

A taxi pulled into the driveway. Buffy went out the door, followed by Dawn.

“So, back by Saturday?”

“I'd better be. If I have to break another date, Jay will not be a happy camper.”

“And I'll meet him when? Xander wants to know if he'll need to bring an extra stake when he visits.”

“Xander should mind his own business and so should you. Jay isn't sunlight challenged. You'll meet him when I think he's ready.”

“Have a good trip.” Dawn gave her sister a hug and went back into the house. As she closed the door, she heard the telephone ringing.

Rome

“Andrew, telephone! Somebody's looking for Buffy!”

Andrew winced as Anna's bellow pentetrated into the furthest reaches of the Council apartment that he shared with Anna and three other Slayers. It wasn't just Buffy and Dawn that were hard to live with. The last few months had made it painfully clear that he just wasn't cut out to live in the House of Hormones. He headed to the desk in the sitting room and took the phone from Anna.

“Hello, may I help you?” He glared at Anna as she made a prissy face at him.

“No, Miss Summer's doesn't live here anymore.”

Anna rolled her eyes and mouthed the word “Miss.”

“One moment please.” Andrew put the phone on mute. “Anna, don't you have a nice cemetery to patrol?”

Emily spoke up. “Anna and I are doing catacombs tonight.”

“Whatever. Just go already.” He watched as the pair grabbed their coats and headed out. He switched the phone off mute. “Sorry about that...No, I can't give you that information. If you give me your number and a message I'll pass it along.”

He wrote down the number on a pad of paper next to the phone. “Yes, I'll make sure she gets it as soon as possible Dr. Jackson. I'm sure she'll get in contact with you as soon as possible. Goodbye.”

Andrew pulled out the roladex and found Buffy's number. Dialing it, he waited for her to pick it up. He got the answering machine instead.

“Buffy, it's Andrew. A Dr. Daniel Jackson is trying to locate you. You can reach him at 719-.”

Colorado Springs

Dawn made it to the telephone in the kitchen after the answering machine picked up.

“Andrew? I just came back in... You just missed her but she'll be back on Saturday... Gile's has sent her to Washington... No, just a meeting... He did! What's the number again, oh wait, let me get a pen and paper.” Dawn fumbled in the junk drawer next to the telephone. “Okay, what's the number? Any message? Who is he, you mean Dr. Jackson? He's, uh, an old friend of the family. Buffy tried to contact him a couple of years ago to let him know about Mom and stuff. Yeah, it's kinda of strange that he's in the same area code. Andrew, I've got to go. My study group is meeting in half hour and I'm already late... Thanks for the message, talk to you later.”

Dawn was almost dancing as she hung up the phone. She picked up the phone again and hit2 on the speed dial. A telephone rang in the living room.

“She didn't.” Dawn

hung up the phone and the ringing stopped. “She did.”

She went into the other room and there, on the coffee table, was Buffy's cell phone.

Chapter 4

Colorado Springs, September 2005

“Of all the stupid... I can't believe she left her cell behind.” Dawn was not happy. She threw herself down on the couch. This was just dandy. How was she supposed to concentrate on her studies when all she wanted to do was tell her sister that her father wanted to speak with her? It wasn't fair.

Okay, maybe Buffy wrote down her flight information. She could try calling the airport. Dawn got up and went into the kitchen to search for it. After checking the counters and then the dining room table, she did a sweep of Buffy's bedroom. Nothing.

“Arrgh!” Dawn checked her watch and headed back downstairs. Despite what she told Andrew earlier, she still had about ten minutes to spare before heading to her study group.

She could call Giles for the information but he might ask questions. Not a good idea. Willow had told her that Buffy didn't want anyone to know about her mother's letter.

Did she dare? The suspense would kill her if she didn't. She dared.

Back in the living room she picked up Buffy's cellphone. Dialing the number that Andrew had given her, she waited.

On the sixth ring, someone answered.

“Hello, may speak with Dr. Jackson?”

It had only been about fifteen minutes after his call to Rome that his telephone rang. Naturally he had been in the other room. Although he knew it was unlikely to be the call he was waiting for, he hurried as best he could towards the phone. Caller ID confirmed it was a local call. Sighing, he answered it.

“Yes, this is Dr. Jackson.” There was a slight pause on the other end before the voice on the other end began to babble. “Wait, slow down. Yes, I called Rome looking for Buffy Summers... You're her sister?... She does... I did... She's where... Yes, if you can get a message to her... No, no, it doesn't matter how late... Thank you.”

He hung up the phone. He had found her. Well almost found her. If he had only opened the letter yesterday. Now he had to wait until she got back from Washington to meet her. If he was lucky, her sister would be able to get a message to her later today. If not, well he wasn't going anywhere for a while.

Washington, DC

The latest in an unending series of meetings was winding down. Jack was even more awed by his old CO than when he had taken command of the SGC. The politics under the mountain were nothing compared to the scheming at the Pentagon. He didn't understand how Hammond had lasted as long as he did.

As the meeting room began to clear out, he requested that Lt. Colonel Davis remain behind.

“Paul, why the hell am I meeting with a college sophomore tomorrow afternoon?”

“Sir?”

O'Neill pushed a file folder towards him. “The Council representative that our British allies insist that we begin negotiations with. She's a twenty-four year old student for crying out loud.”

Davis flipped through the pages to refresh his memory.

“Actually sir, the initial request came from the Council afterGeneral Hammond began making inquiries about a discontinued NID project called the Initiative. He found out about the project several months ago andtried to track down the survivors.”

“Survivors?”

“Apparently whatever they were doing blew up in their faces. The official response was to deny everything and I quote 'salt the earth.' Somehow, the Council caught wind ofthe investigation and in turn told the British. I understand that the Prime Minister had a few choice words with the President about meddling in things best left to the experts.”

Davis gave the file back.

“What things could a twenty-four year old possibly be an expert in? The latest fashion in shoes?” Jack opened the file again. “She's originally from LA, spent the last couple of years in Rome, came back to the States, and is now serving as liaison for some British outfit that's butted heads with the NID? This doesn't make a damn bit of sense. According to our friends at the IRS, she went from flipping burgers to high school peer councilor to financially independent in less four years. There's something screwy going on and I want to know what it is before tomorrow's meeting.” He got and began pacing. “We've apparently agreed to send someone out to the airport to pick her up. I want you to do it, my secretary has the flight info.”

“Sir?”

“I want you to report back to me after you collect her from the airport. Talk to her. I want to know why, beyond humoring the President, I have a meeting with a college student at the British embassy.”

Buffy was delighted to be off the plane. She allowed herself to swept up in the crowd surging towards baggage claim. Once there, she and several hundred other tired passengers waited for the buzzer to sound. Ten minutes later it did, and the baggage carousel began to move.

“Miss Summers?”

“Yes?”

“I'm Lt. Col. Davis. I have been ordered to escort you to your hotel.”

“Can I see some ID?”

Davis produced his identification which Buffy gave a quick once over before asking “Isn't this a job for the enlisted types?”

He smiled. “My job is whatever the general tells me it is.”

“So, who is the general? I wasn't told who the man with the fancy job title was.”

“That would be General O'Neill.”

“Wait a sec, I think that one's mine.” She edged in closer to the carousel and grabbed her overnight bag. She moved back towards her escort.

“May I take that for you?”

“No, I'm good. Lead on.”

The pair began to make their way out of the airport.

“So, is this assignment punishment?”

“Punishment?”

“You know, tick off 'the man,' get stuck with taxi duty?”

“Actually, Gen. O'Neill was curious about tomorrow's meeting. The information he was given raised more questions than it answered.”

“I'll bet. So, you're to gather some intel. Well I'm afraid there's not much I can tell you.” She slid a glance over her escort. “Classified and all that. Unless of course, you want to tell me about your info first?”

“That's classified.”

“So, every thing's classified. Kinda limits the topics of conversation.”

They came to a stop at a dark sedan.

“Nice parking space.”

Davis opened the trunk and Buffy put her bag in it.

“So, any good malls in the area?”

Chapter 5

Washington, DC

Buffy came out of the bathroom wearing her yummy sushi pajamas, wet hair wrapped in a towel. Her original yummy sushi jammies were somewhere at the bottom of Lake Sunnydale but Dawn had given her a replacement set the previous Christmas.

Better call Dawn, she thought.She still can't believeshe lefther cellphone back in Colorado Springs. She hopped onto the bed and picked up the telephone on the nightstand. According to the hotel clock it was nearly midnight which would make it almost ten back in Colorado Springs. Since Dawn tended to keep slayer hours, Buffy was certain that she would not be waking up her sister and dialed home.

Dawn picked up before the second ring.

“Gee Dawn, were you sitting on it or something?”

Her sister began to rant. Buffy gave her a minute to vent before she interrupted.

“Hey, I know it was stupid to leave my phone behind but I was in a hurry. Giles had booked the first available flight and I barely made it to the airport on time. Besides, it's not like you've never forgotten your cellphone.”

Dawn began to babble.

“Dawn, enough with the Willow imitation. What's up? And slowly, please.”

Dawn took a deep breath and began again. This time, Buffy didn't interrupt. She couldn't. Dawn stopped talking.

Silence.

“He called?” She asked quietly. “Daniel Jackson called looking for me?”

She hung up ten minutes later. She looked at the telephone number she had written down. Her father's telephone number. Her father, her real father, wanted to talk to her, to meet with her.

She had missed Andrew's call by a minute. If she had her cellphone, Dawn could have called her while she was in the taxi. She could have spoken to her father hours ago. If her meeting with General O'Neill had been scheduled for just one day later, she could have met her father by now. Now she was stuck in DC for who knew how long. Giles had not booked a return flight for her and she was pretty sure one of the Council bean counters was going make her fly back on standby. It was bad enough when she realized her date with Jay was pretty much screwed but this was several magnitudes worse. Somewhere, the Powers That Be were probably laughing their asses off right about now.

Her father had told Dawn she could call him at any time. It was 10:30 in Colorado. This could be a long call. What the hell, she could sleep in in the morning. Her meeting with the general wasn't until 2:30. She picked up the receiver and started to dial. She hung up before she finished dialing.

What if he asked what she was doing in Washington? Hey Dad, just telling a general to keep out his nose out of Slayer business 'cause the last time the military got involved they created a Frankenstein's monster. Okay, scratch the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

She sighed and picked up the receiver again.

--

A somewhat frazzled Colonel Davis knocked on General O'Neill's office door.

“Come in Paul. Have a seat.” O'Neill looked up from a diminishing pile of paperwork. “So, how did it go?”

“She arrived on time and I delivered her to her hotel.” Davis sat down before continuing. “The girl is walking advertisement for southern California. Are you sure this isn't someone's idea of a practical joke? How could she possibly have any information about a top secret project?”

Jack put down his pen and leaned back into his chair. “She's over eighteen. I think that in this enlightened age, she would probably prefer to called a woman.”

“Sir, she's barely over five feet tall and dresses like a teenager. She also wanted to know where the mall was.”

He grinned. “I take it she wasn't referring to the Washington Mall?”

“No sir, she said she was looking for some shoes to go with a dress she bought last week.” He rubbed the back of his neck in an attempt to bring some relief to the headache he had recently developed.

“I received some additional information on Miss Summers while you were out.” Jack picked up a lone file folder from the corner of his desk and passed it to the colonel. “Check out her SAT scores and compare her high school and college transcripts.”

Davis studied the file for a couple of minutes. “Are you sure these belong to the same person sir? I can believe that the girl, sorry, the young woman I met is the one in the high school transcripts but she didn't appear to be nearly as bright as the one in the college transcripts.”

“I think that we may have someone who knows how to play the dumb blonde card and to play it very well.”

“In that case, I think your meeting will be...interesting.”

Jack raised an eyebrow.

Colorado Springs

It had been over eight hours since he had spoken to Dawn. Buffy's half-sister. His daughter's half-sister. His daughter.

He wondered what she was like. Did she talk nonstop like her sister? With a name like Buffy, she might but somehow, he didn't think so. The letter was written two years after she had found her mother's letter. The tone had been tentative, not asking for anything, not even contact. Buffy must be cautious, maybe even a bit shy. He could understand that. Despite the numerous

'meet and greet' assignments, he was more reserved on a personal level where rejection could hurt. No, he didn't think that she would babble.

The telephone rang.

Chapter 6

Colorado Springs

“Oh, hi Jack.” Daniel couldn't help but let a hint of disappointment color his voice. “No, no. I'm fine really. Hold on just a second.”

He fumbled for the television remote which had slipped between the cushions on the couch. Retrieving it, he pressed the mute button then placed the remote on the coffee table.

“Sorry about that. Couldn't find the remote. So, how's Washington?”

He shifted on the couch, trying to find a more comfortable position, as Jack gave a rather brief rundown of his week.

“At least you've refrained from actually shooting somebody.” Daniel snorted with ill disguised humor. “I mean, come on Jack, you knew what kind of snake pit you were getting into when you accepted this assignment.”

Back in Washington, a general growled.

“Seriously, is it really that bad?”

Jack griped about annoying politicians. Daniel passed on information about Teal'c and Sam. Jack asked about Cassie. The conversation continued for a few minutes before winding down.

“Well, Jack, I'll catch up with you this weekend... I'll tell her you said hello. Bye.”

Daniel hung up the telephone. He turned up the sound on the television and settled in for a long night.

Washington, DC

She had made arrangements the previous night to meet with the DC slayer for a little shop talk to be followed by some shopping. Connie's watcher was not thrilled but, as Buffy pointed out, rank did have its priveleges and as the senior slayer, she had the rank. Unfortunately, brunch had gone into overtime as Connie filled her in on the local demon hotspots and they had to forgo the shopping. Even so, she arrived at the British embassy almost ten minutes late.

She recognized the aide waiting for her in the lobby. “Sorry Mr. Pryce, my morning meeting ran a little late.”

James Pryce sniffed before replying. “Miss Summers, General O'Neill is waiting and he does not appear to be a patient man.”

Buffy followed him into a small conference room. A tall, distinguished man stood near the window and if she wasn't mistaken, he had just put a yo-yo in his pocket. Interesting.

“Miss Summers, General John O'Neill, United States Air Force. General O'Neill, Miss Buffy Anne Summers of the Travers Foundation. If you need anything, I will be at extension 239.”

“Thank you.” Buffy acknowledge. “Mr. Pryce, can you arrange for a car and driver for later this afternoon?”

“Certainly Miss.”

And with that, Pryce withdrew from the room, shutting the door behind him.

O'Neill made note that the little California blonde that Davis had met was not in evidence this afternoon. She was still short and blonde but now looked like a lawyer. He hated lawyers almost as much as he hated politicians.

“So Miss Summers of the Travers Foundation, would you like to tell me why we are here?”

“Because somebody at the Pentagon is looking into things that should remain buried? General, we might as well sit down this may take a while.”

He waited for her to sit before picking out a chair a third of the way down the table from her.

“Before we begin, I'd like to apologize for being late. I had meeting this morning that lasted longer than expected.” Buffy looked straight at him. “General, what I'm about to tell needs to remain in this room. The Intiative was a dangerous mistake. Try to restart it, and we will shut it down, hard.”

“No one's trying to restart anything. I don't even know what the Initiative was and I've had no luck in finding anyone who did. And I don't like threats.”

“It's a warning, not a threat. And the reason you are having trouble finding people to tell you about the Initiative is that almost everybody directly involved with the project is dead.”

“Dead?”

“A lot of them died five years ago, most of the survivors were killed last year.”

“Convenient.”

“It was for certain people, like the ones that gave a green light to the project in the first place. It's so much tidier when the evidence is literally buried.”

“What kind of evidence?”

“How about expiriments on your own soldiers for starters?”

“What kind of expiriments?”

“The type of expiriments that ethical scientists won't do. The Initiative had roots that can be traced back to Nazi Germany. The Germans became aware of individuals that possessed certain...attributes. These individuals were abnormally strong, healed quickly and were in general very hard to kill. They thought would be desirable to incorporate these traits into their soldiers. They captured some these individuals and tried to find out what made them tick. Some of their test subjects eventually freed themselves and killed the researchers. Unfortunately, the data from their research survived and found its way into hands of the U.S. military after the war.”

Aw crap, he didn't like where this was heading. O'Neill sat up straighter.

She paused a moment before continuing. “As far as the Foundation knows, nothing was done with that research until the early 1980s when the Initiative was formed. Most of the new research was gathered by surveillance rather expirimentation and nothing much came of it until Dr. Margaret Walsh joined the project. Eventually, she was able to convince some Army bigwigs that she could create a supersoldier. By the late 1990s, she was in charge and had moved the Initiative's main base of operations to Sunnydale, California.”

“Was there any particular reason for moving to Sunnydale?”

“It had the one of the highest concentration of these 'special' individuals in the country. It also had one of the most clueless civilian populations on the planet.”

“Clueless?”

“Anything and everything out of the ordinary was either ignored or rationalized away. People died or disappeared all of the time. The local high school had a regular obituary column. No one, and I mean no one, even noticed the soldiers in black that were running around town gathering specimens.”

“Surely they noticed people disappearing?”

“Like I said, people disappeared in Sunnydale all the time. Anyway, most of the Initiative abductees were not the sort that anyone would miss.”

“Street people?”

“More like sewer dwellers and I never said they were people.” Buffy took a deep breath before continuing. “Most of 'special individuals' weren't human, at least not fully.”

“Not human? Then what, dogs?” Aliens? He kept that last thought to himself.

“Vampires, werewolves, demons.”

That did it. He rose to his feet. “Miss Summers, I do not appreciate being dragged to a meeting just to hear fairy tales. If you will excuse me, I have real business to attend to.”

“Sit down General. I'm not any happier to be here than you are. We are both under orders so let's just get this over with.”

O'Neill nodded stiffly and sat back down.

“The world is older than you know. Before humans, demons walked the earth. Forget the biblical tales of paradise, earth was their hell. In time, they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges...”

“Vampires, werewolves, demons. Right.”

“Okay, I admit it sounds nuts.The storysounds a lot more reasonable delivered in a tweedy British accent.”

“Then why send an American college student?”

“The man in tweed has better things to do than to jet over to Washington just to convince a desk jockey to back off. In addition, I had more contact with the Initiative than anyone else in the Foundation.” This time, Buffy stood. “Damn it, I told Giles this wasn't going to work. You want proof? Fine, cancel the rest of your appointments for the day and clear tonight's calendar. I'll show you what the Initiative was messing with.”

Buffy stalked over to the telephone. “Mr. Parker, can you have that car brought around? The General and I have a few places to visit.”

O'Neill stood up. “You've got to be kidding.”

“Right, it's all a big practical joke on the man with all the pretty ribbons on his jacket. That's why the Prime Minister called the President. It's no joke General. There are things in this world that you can't even begin to imagine, so I'll show you.”

“Isn't it a little early to be hunting vampires.” He made a big show of checking his watch.

“We have a few stops to make first. I need to change and pick up some supplies at my hotel and you might want to change into something a little less military.”

Chapter 7

Arlington, VA

“Arlington?”

“I want to visit some old friends and we've got the time.” Buffy got out of the car. “Besides, you wanted to find out about the Initiative. I'll introduce you some of its members.”

“They like to hang out in cemeteries?” Jack asked as they left the parking lot.

“It's part of the job description,” she replied. “Vampires in particular like to hang out in them so if you're hunting vamps it pays to check out the local cemeteries.”

At least it was a nice day to play hooky Jack thought, even if he was stuck with a lunatic for a companion. After all, he was under orders to be cooperative so he couldn't be blamed for missing his 5, 6 and 7 o'clock meetings today.

For the next twenty minutes they walked through grounds in silence before stopping in front of a cross bearing the name of Riley Finn.

Buffy spoke quietly. “Riley was from Iowa. He believed in mom, apple pie, and the American flag. Dr. Walsh recruited him right out of ranger school. He had no idea what he was getting into.”

“If he made it through ranger school he was hardly a naïve kid.”

“By most standards he wasn't. But he was a good soldier, taught to follow orders and not ask too many questions, perfect for the Initiative. He believed in the stated mission to eliminate the subterrestrial threat. When the Initiative set up shop at UCSunnydale, Riley and the rest of his unit posed as grad students. Dr. Walsh was my pysch professor, Riley was her teaching assistant. I eventually crossed paths with 'commando' Riley and wound up being recruited into the program.”

“Why would they recruit, what a college freshman, into a top secret program?”

“Supposedly because of my background in things weird and/or demonic but mostly Walsh was looking for another lab rat. It didn't work out. I'm not one for blindly following orders so she sent me into an ambush with a defective weapon. I think she was looking for body parts to play with. I disappointed her by surviving. Anyway, I quit the program and Riley started to question the mission. He went AWOL after watching the 'scientists' experiment someone he knew. They used a cattle prod.”

Now that brought back unpleasant memories. Jack's mind drifted back to Iraq for a moment before he processed the first part of Buffy's explanation. “Wait a sec. Body parts to play with?”

“She wanted to build a better soldier, literally. To do that, she needed parts. She started with cadavers and worked her way up to special orders. Anyway, her creation killed her and eventally took out most of the Sunnydale complex. Her project was deemed a failure. A few months later, Riley rejoined the Initiative which had gone back to its old mission statement.”

Buffy walked a few feet further and stopped in front a cross for Samantha Finn. Jack followed and commented on the surnames.

“Related?”

“Married. He met Sam on a mission in South or Central America, I forget which. They were killed last year while trying to clear out a nest of S'vagara demons.”

Buffy began walking again. Fifteen minutes later, they stopped at yet another grave.

“Meet Colonel Kibble, not that there is much of him here.”

The cross was for a Colonel M. McNamara, US Army.

“He was in charge of the Sunnydale complex when things went to hell. He had the proof that I'm going to show you but he didn't believe. I hope you're smarter.”

Buffy checked the progress of the sun in the sky. “It's time to head back. Do you keep any casual type clothes at your office or do you need to go home to change?

Washington, DC

The trip back to Washington was mostly silent as Buffy declined to answer most of the general's questions. When they arrived at the Pentagon, Buffy had stayed with the car while he went to change since there was no way was she going to voluntarily enter a military facility again. She was pleasantly surprised when the general returned. She wasn't quite sure what she had expected but this wasn't it. The uniform had given way to a blck t-shirt, a pair of slightly baggy jeans, and denim jacket. Non-conformity and self-confidence, maybe this general would “get it.”

O'Neill didn't bother talking to Buffy on the way to her hotel. He headed into the hotel restaurant with the driver for a quick cup of coffee while she went to her room to change. Buffy stopped him.

“You're coming up with me. I'm not taking you out on patrol unarmed. And no, the gun you're carrying doesn't count. Bullets just piss off vamps.”

He trailed after her as she crossed the lobby to the elevator. “So what type of weapons?”

“Stakes, crosses, some holy water. Clichéd, but the stuff works. Just a warning though, crosses and holy water won't kill them. They will slow most of the minions down but if we meet a master vampire they don't do much.”

They arrived at her room and Buffy grabbed some clothes out of the closet. She kicked off her shoes and went into the bathroom to change.

A couple of minutes later, California Buffy exited the bathroom wearing a pair of tight black jeans and a green blouse. She grabbed her overnight bag and put it on the bed. After removing the top layers of clothes from the bag, she pulled out a cloth sack. She emptied the sack, a jumble of wooden stakes, crosses, small bottles, a couple of knives and a small crossbow fell out onto the bedspread.

“How the hell did you get all of that past airport security?”

“They only examine carry on closely so I checked it at the baggage counter.” She refrained from mentioning the masking spell on the weapons bag.

She put on a cross and handed a second one to him. “Humor me.”

He reluctantly put it on.

She pulled her hair back and twisted itinto a knot. She took two of the thinnest stakes and used them to secure the knot. Two substantially thicker stakes disappeared under her shirt, as did the daggers. She passed a stake and one of the bottles to O'Neill. He placed them in his jacket.

She put the rest of the weapons, except for the crossbow, back into the bag.

“You know how to use one of these?”

When he shook his head, she placed it back in the bag.

She sat down on the bed and put her shoes on. He couldn't believe that she was going to wear a pair of high heeled pumps.

“Okay, let's head out.”

“Where are we going?”

“First stop, an abandoned warehouse that is suspected of housing a small nest of vampires.” She turned out the lights and they left the room.

Buffy dismissed the embassy car once they reached the back of the warehouse. A look of relief crossed the driver's face as he pulled away.

“Just getting the civilian out of line of fire,” Buffy said at O'Neill's questioning look. “It's not that far a walk back to the hotel and you like you're in pretty good shape.”

At the back entrance, Buffy closed her eyes and reached out with her senses. Yep, Connie was right, this was a vamp nest. She opened her eyes and grabbed the door knob. It turned easily.

“Follow me and have your stake ready. Remember, if you use the holy water it will only slow them down.”

“Right.”

The pair entered the building. At first, it seemed deserted. As they moved further in, they began to smell something decaying.

“Guess they don't take out the trash to often,” O'Neill quipped.

“Maybe we'll make an exception with you two,” a figure detached itself from the shadows. Four others followed.

“I don't know, do you boys think you're up to it?”

“You think you're a challenge little girl? You and the old man?”

“Actually, I don't think you're up to taking us both on.” Her hand slid into her blouse and pulled out a stake.

“Ooh, I'm scared. We know what the slayer looks like and you ain't her.”

“Then this should be easy. So, do we talk or dance?”

He put on his game face and lunged towards her. She twisted out of the way and shoved the stake into his heart. He burst into dust.

O'Neill watched as the other four charged Buffy. She staked one as she kicked another in the chest, sending it sprawling towards him. O'Neill took one look at its distorted face and staked it. The dust cloud had him sneezing as if there was no tomorrow.

“Guess I forgot to tell you not to lean in when you stake them.” Buffy was surrounded by dust piles. “So, do you believe in vampires yet?”

“Very fun...” O'Neill let loose with another violent sneeze.

Buffy snickered.

“No giggling, miss. That's an...” He sneezed again.

“Come on, let's get out of here before you sneeze the building down.”

A couple of minutes later, O'Neill finally stopped sneezing.

“Okay, vampires are real. How does this tie into the Iniative? Since they go poof when you kill them, I'm guessing that they aren't of much use as body parts.”

“No, but they did make good test subjects for behavior modification chips.Walsh put an anti-violence chip into one vampire.”

“Well, that actually sounds like a good idea.”

“Just because you can't physically hurt people doesn't mean that you still can't do a lot of damage. Besides, it's one thing to stake a vamp, but to starve it to death, that's just cruel.”

“So, if they weren't using vampires for body parts...”

“Demons and human cadavers. You ready for the next lesson?”

“Another warehouse?”

“Nope, a demon bar over on the next block.” She started walking.

“Demon bar. Of course,” he muttered as he hurried to catch up with her. She walked pretty fast for somebody with such short legs.

The establishment was fairly noisy when they entered it. Most of the patrons looked human but a few were most definitely not. The orange one with horns looked like an escapee from the cantina scene in Star Wars.

Buffy was walking over to the bar when the bartender looked up. O'Neill watched as the man's face went dead white.

“Listen, I don't want any trouble.”

“Not here to cause trouble Willie. Just doing a little sightseeing with my friend.” She indicated O'Neill with a shrug.

“Didn't know you were back in the states.”

“Moved back a couple of months ago.” She took a seat. “We have coffee. I'll have mine black. O'Neill, how do you like yours?”

“Black will be fine.”

Willie poured to cups and placed them on the bar.

“Have you been in Washington long?”

“Moved here a couple of months after Sunnydale. I thought about going to LA but decided it was better for my health out here. Sorry to hear about Angel and Spike though.”

“They made their choices.”

“Yeah, guess they did.”

The conversation ended as a disturbance erupted in the background.

“Slayer.”

Buffy turned to O'Neill. “Duty calls. Stay here. Willie, if anything happens to him...”

“I'll get him out of here if it goes bad.”

Buffy got off her chair and moved towards a mountain of a man. O'Neill got up to follow her.

“There's no need. The Slayer can take Ornag.”

O'Neill turned towards Willie. “The Slayer?”

The bar started to clear out.

“Guess you're not the new watcher then. She's a vampire slayer. Until a few years ago, she was The Slayer, the Chosen One. The witch activated all of the others at the battle of Sunnydale. Now she's one of many. But she's the oldest and the best.”

They heard a loud crash from the back. O'Neill turned towards the sound and saw Buffy pummelling the mountain.

“The oldest? She's twenty-four.”

“Most slayers die before they turn twenty. Of course, Buffy's died twice time that I know of. She just doesn't stay dead. So, you two dating?”

Thenon-sequitor caused him to look at the bartender.

“Don't you think I'm a bit old to be dating her?”

“Other than Riley, Buffy goes for older guys. Shoot, Spike was a least twice your age and as for Angel...” Willie stuttered to a halt.

“I've given up dating older men.” Buffy's voice came from behind O'Neill. “Willie, you've got a mess to clean up.”

“Is he dead?”

“No, just really, really bloody. Might attract vampires.”

Willie grabbed a towel and a mop. “No trouble she says.”

“Ready to go?”

“Sure, Slayer. So, you do this often?”

Chapter 8

“Do what often? Stake vampires? Hang out in demon bars? Get into bar fights?” Buffy asked as she and the general headed back toward her hotel.

“How about all of the above?”

“Occasionally. Used to. Not so much anymore. I've moved to a nice, quiet town.”

“Colorado Springs.”

“Someone's been busy,” she acknowledged. “The main attraction was UCCS but the lack of 'night life' was a definite plus.”

“If you were rating towns by 'night life,' how would you rate Colorado Springs?”

“On a scale of one to ten? It would probably rate a two. I've staked a couple of out-of-town vamps but haven't come across a nest yet. The local demon population is pretty harmless. The live and let live type. Now my old hometown, that was a solid ten.”

“Vampires in every cemetery?”

“And in the abandoned mansions, the warehouses, the sewer system.”

“Sewer system?”

“Between the sewers and the other tunnels under Sunnydale, a vamp could get just about anywhere in town without catching any rays.”

“Aren't they supposed to be asleep during the day?”

“Do you go to bed as soon as the sun goes down? Anyhow, they weren't the only things down there. Some of the more conspicuous demons prefer to stay out of sight so they tend to stay underground in populated areas.”

“How many other places are that bad?”

“Luckily very few, most places are pretty quiet, like Colorado Springs. Sunnydale was built on top of a hellmouth. It acted as a magnet for all things bad.”

“Past tense?”

The pair came to a stop at an intersection. Since several other people were already there waiting for the signal to change, Buffy didn't answer right away. When the “WALK” signal flashed, she and the general quickly crossed the street, putting some distance between themselves and the others.

“We closed down the hellmouth permanently a couple of years ago.”

“So, not an earthquake?”

“Not really, more of a mystic-quake.”

“And who would 'we' be? The Traverse Foundation or the Council?”

As they neared a particularly well-lit area, O'Neill caught a glimpse of smile on her face.

“At the time I wasn't part of the Travers Foundation. Quinton Travers and I had long history of not playing well together. And the Council, let's just say that they were pretty much out of commission at that point.”

“Not going tell me.”

She recognized that it was a statement and not a question but she answered anyway. “Nope. It's a need to know kinda thing and you don't need to know.”

O'Neill tried another tack. “Okay, how did you get involved with this? And what are you?”

“Willie told you, I'm a slayer or more precisely, a vampire slayer. How did I get involved?” The slight smile vanished as if had never been there. “Destiny, fate, genetics, really bad luck, take your pick. Thousands of years ago, some wizards used magic to create the first slayer. She was given the power to fight the vampires and the demons that roamed the earth. When she fell, another girl was chosen. I was fifteen when I was chosen.”

“For crying out loud,” O'Neill sputtered. “Fifteen?”

“Slayers are always called young, usually around fourteen or fifteen. There are records of some being called even younger, the youngest that I'm aware of was almost eleven. The only qualifiers seem to be that they've at least hit puberty but are under eighteen.”

O'Neill mulled this over. When added to Willie's comments about a witch activating the slayers at Sunnydale, a very unpleasant picture began to emerge.

“Willie said something about most slayers dying before they turn twenty.”

“Most only lasted a year or two, so if you were called at fifteen, chances were pretty good that you would long dead by twenty.”

“You're over twenty.”

“And I didn't make it to seventeen.”

“Huh?”

“I drowned when I was sixteen. A master vamp did a major nibble and while I was in shock he pushed me into a pool of water face down. Some friends found me and did the CPR thing. We thought it was just another near miss until a new slayer arrived in town.”

“You have a lot of near misses?”

“Occupational hazard. The other team plays for keeps. In addition the the run of the mill beat downs, I've been drugged and left for demon chow, stabbed with my own stake, nearly drained by another master vamp, and shot.”

Despite the warm September night, Jack saw her shiver.

“The new slayers, the ones the witch activated?”

“Willie talks too much. Most of them are still alive but there are always casualties.” She sighed as an image of Dawn's friend Amanda crossed her mind's eye. “Slayers are the front line in an unending war. Right now, the odds are better than they've ever been but we still lose people.”

“You lose children.” Children who were not that much older than his dead son.

“We inherited the system, we didn't create it.”

“But you changed it didn't you? You found a way to activate all of them,” he charged.

“Yes. We, I, found a way.

“Why?”

“That unending war? We were losing big time. Something happened a couple of years earlier that upset the balance between good and evil. Potential slayers were being hunted down and killed in an attempt to destroy the slayer line. Once the last slayer was dead, the big bad was going to open the hellmouth wide and there wouldn't have been a damn thing anyone could done about it. Humanity would have been wiped out. Activating the potentials was our best chance to save the world and it was the only way to save any of them. As Potentials, they weren't any stronger or faster than any other teenager. As Slayers, they had a fighting chance.”

“You couldn't undo it afterwards?”

She shook her head. “Once a Slayer, always a Slayer.”

“They're just children, little girls.”

“Not anymore. They are Slayers.” Buffy turned her head towards the general. “Don't stop, we've got company.”

“Wondering when you would notice. They've been tailing us since the intersection back there.”

“They aren't vamps or demons.”

“So, just muggers?”

“Yeah, or gangbangers unfortunately. Vamps I can kill, these I have to take down without causing major damage.”

“Make that we have to take down,” he corrected. “And I think moderate damage is probably in order.”

Colorado Springs

The waiting had been killing him. He had a brief respite when he finally drifted to sleep around three in the afternoon. He was still sleeping when Cassie let herself into his apartment.

Cassie shook her head in exasperation when she found him, still in yesterday's clothes, asleep on the couch. Her mom and Uncle Jack were right. He really did need a keeper.

“Daniel, rise and shine.”

“What,” he slurred.

“Rise and shine. How late did you stay up this time?”

“Um, what time is it?” he asked as he sat up.

“What difference does that make? You pulled an all-nighter again. You're supposed to take it easy. Brightman's going to be pissed.”

“Only if she finds out. You're not going to tell her, are you?”

Cassie giggled at the poor lost puppy look on his face.

“I will if it happens again.”

“It won't. I promise.”

“Right.” She plopped down on other end of the couch. “So, why were you up so late? History Channel tick you off again?”

“No. I was waiting for a phone call.”

“Uncle Jack?”

“No. The letter you found was from the daughter of an old friend. I was trying to get in contact with her but she had just left on a business trip. Her sister said she would pass a message on for me if she could.”

“And that was so important that you stayed up all night hoping to she'd call you? You do have a telephone in your bedroom you know.” She leaned forwarded. “What's the real story?”

The telephone rang.

Chapter 9

Colorado Springs

Daniel answered the phone before the second ring. “Dr. Jackson...”

Cassie slouched back on her end of the couch and waited. Was this the mysterious phone call? Daniel's next words dispelled that hope.

“Can't Satterfield handle the translation?”

Daniel ditching work? Damn, she had to find out what was going on with that letter.

“Fine Sam. When will the car be here?” He hung up the phone.

“Daniel?”

“SG-9 just brought back some scrolls that the General wants translated ASAP. Satterfield is unavailable so he got Brightman to okay my coming in.” He stood up and headed into his bedroom for some clean clothes.

“I can wait for the call if you'd like.”

“No that's okay. I'll call Dawn before I leave and let her know that I'll be out for a while.”

Cassie smiled as the bedroom door closed. So, the sister's name is Dawn. It wasn't much but at least it was a start.

Washington, DC

“Well, that was fun.” He surveyed the crumpled bodies surrounding them. The altercation was short, lasting only a minute or so before the five muggers kissed the pavement.

She looked at her companion with more than a little approval. She had deliberately hung back in the brief fight to see what her companion was made of. For an old guy of the human variety, his skills were more than impressive. He had to have close to thirty years on Riley but Buffy thought that the general could have taken her former boyfriend in a fair, or not so fair, fight. “Guessing you weren't always a desk jockey.”

“Just for the last two years. And you know, you could have been a bit more helpful here.”

“True,” Buffy agreed, unrepentant. “So, kicked upstairs?”

“For my sins.”

“And still missing the action?”

“Yeah. It used to be a whole lot simpler. See the bad guys, kill the bad guys. I'm not allowed to shoot the paperwork and shooting the bean counters and politicians would only create more paperwork.”

“I feel your pain.” At his incredulous look, she elaborated. “For almost eight years I was just a Slayer and then the old Council went buh-bye. The last two years we've been picking up the pieces. I got stuck with rebuilding the European branch.”

“Miss the action too?”

“Not really, well sometimes. By the time Sunnydale was destroyed, action girl was just about actioned out. I went from active slaying to approving purchase orders and playing nursemaid to a bunch of newbie watchers and baby-slayers. What I really missed was the lack of responsibility. Before, it was just save the world and keep my family and friends safe. I had my sister with me but my friends were spread out over the globe. I couldn't even try to keep them safe. It's not that they aren't capable, they are. It's just,” she shrugged.

The general nodded.

One of the muggers began to moan as he regained consciousness.

O'Neill reached into his pocket for his cell phone. As he started to punch in some numbers, Buffy asked “911?”

He nodded.

“Do you have to?”

“You have a problem with the police?”

“Not exactly, I just don't need the attention.”

“Well we can't leave them here.”

“Why not?” She pouted. “It's not like they're going to freeze out here or something.”

He didn't budge.

She gave in. “Fine, make the call, just as long as I get to play the damsel in distress saved by the big, strong man.”

“Cute Summers.”

Colorado Springs

Dawn was sprawled on the couch watching CNN when the telephone rang.

“Summer residence...hold on just a sec, let me turn down the volume.” She fiddled with the control and jumped as the volume spiked before she found the mute button. “So, how's Washington? When are you coming home? Why haven't you called Dr. Jackson yet?”

She adjusted the pillow behind her head as Buffy filled her in.

“You should have called him earlier. He got called back to work for some project that his boss said wouldn't wait...No, he didn't know he'd get home but he said he'd call when he did...So, what's the general like?...No way, seriously? A hottie? You have so got to get over this older man phase...Yeah, yeah, I know, just admiring the workmanship, yada yada. Guess it's a good thing Giles didn't send Faith.”

Washington, DC

Buffy smirked. “I don't know. Somehow, I think she might have met her match...Not that way, at least I don't think so. I'm mean he's fit and all, but...She'd have mussed up Col. Davis though...That's the guy O'Neill sent to airport to pick me up...Watch it, brat. Anyhow, you should have seen his face when I asked him about where the mall was... Yep, blond California ditz.”

She rolled onto her stomach and waited for her sister to stop laughing before changing the subject.

“So, he got called back to work?...Well, its probably for the best. This is going to be awkward enough without doing it by telephone...I've got an early morning meeting with the general and then an 11 a.m. flight home...Yeah, my date's still on, good thing I don't need much sleep...Okay, maybe I do need some sleep but get your mind out of the gutter little sis...And you wonder why I haven't introduced you to Jay yet. Ever think that I might be protecting him from you?”

Colorado Springs

“So, how's the translation going?” Sam stood in the doorway to Daniel's office.

“What?” The startled archaeologist looked up. “Oh, hi Sam.”

“The translation?”

“Almost done. I think the general's going to be disappointed though.” He sat up and stretched. “Apparently the locals had been using the Stargate as a trade route. So unless General Landry is looking for a supplier of hak'ni or blith stone, and I don't have any idea what either of those things are, the information is pretty useless other that providing some new gate addresses.”

“New addresses?”

“I think so. Here, take a look.”

“I'll take your word for it.” She cleared off a chair and sat down. “I really wanted to speak to you about something else.”

“It's gone through then?”

“As of 0800 tomorrow, SG-1 is officially disbanded. Teal'c will be staying on Dakara for now and I've been transfered to Area 51. You've been assigned to the Daedalus. It will be departing for Atlantis in ten days.”

Chapter 10

The Daedalus. Atlantis.

He had denied a place on the expedition to the Pegasus galaxy the previous year. He was still annoyed with Jack about that, even if he never found conclusive proof that Jack had engineered it. His friend had been just too damned happy that his favorite archaeologist would being staying in the Milky Way galaxy. He would have given almost anything to go last year and had spent the last few months trying to wrangle a spot on the Daedalus.

Why hadn't Jack given him the heads-up that he being reassigned? As Head of Homeworld Security, Jack would have been notified even if he weren't actively involved in personnel assignments. Could it be that Jack was still trying to ground him?

Of course, he had to beg off. He couldn't go even if it meant a kind of professional suicide. The cost had just become too great. He wasn't Nick. Dr. Nicholas Ballard had abandoned his grandson. His grandfather's choice would not be his.

“Daniel?” Sam was concerned as she watched as series of emotions played over her friend's face. “Earth to Dr. Jackson.”

“Sorry Sam. Just thinking.” He brought himself to the present. “So, you'll be heading to Area 51?”

“I'm replacing their current head of off-world research.”

“I guess congratulations are in order.”

“Why thank you Dr. Jackson. Now, what's up? I expected you to a least a little bit excited with your new assignment.”

“Actually, I've been having second thoughts.”

“Since when? You've been trying to get to Atlantis ever since we discovered the coordinates.”

“I know. It's just that maybe it's not where I need to be right now.”

“Well, that would make a certain general happy.”

“It would, wouldn't it?”

Washington, DC

It was five minute to seven the next morning when General O'Neill arrived at the British embassy for his second meeting with the representative from the Travers Foundation and the mysterious Council. Mr. Pryce escorted him to the same conference room that had been used the previous day. This time, he was not the first to arrive.

Buffy greeted him with a chipper “Morning General sir.”

“Good morning Miss Summers. If you will excuse us Mr. Pryce?”

“Yes, of course. A car is waiting to take Miss Summers to the airport when you are finished.” He closed the door on his way out.

“A bit stuffy isn't he?”

“I think it's genetic. Want a scone? Tea? I got them to include coffee,” she gestured to refreshments set at the far end of the table. “Not sure if it's the British genes or the Watcher ones though.”

“Watcher ones?” He poured himself a cup and sat down.

Buffy took a sip of her coffee before continuing. “Watchers tend to be a bit pompous, all about 'sacred duty,' even the ones not born into a Watcher family. His cousin was my third Watcher. Took himself and his position way too seriously.”

“How many Watchers have you had?”

“Three. A vamp killed my first one, my second was fired by the Council for disobeying orders. Wes lasted until graduation day.”

“That would be the one at the exploding high school.”

“What can I say? Mayor turned into a giant snake and tried to eat the class of '99. On a positive note, he did eat our troll of a principal.”

“Your principal was a troll?”

“Sort of. You know the type, never got a date in high school and spent the rest of his life making everybody else miserable. Anyway, after Wes got out of the hospital, he quit the Council and did the 'rogue demon hunter' thing for a few months.”

“There's such a thing as a rogue demon hunter?”

“Freelancers, mercenaries. Apparently there's good money it, not that Wes was doing for the cash.”

“Do I even want to know?”

“Probably not. Ignorance is bliss.”

“Until the demons show up for the party.”

“True.”

“So tell me more about this party.”

“It's your classic good vs. evil thing. This world may not be a paradise but if the other side wins we get hell on earth and that's assuming there's an earth left. Luckily, most vamps and demons aren't actually interested in destroying the world. A vampire once described humans as Happy Meals with legs and the way things stand now there's a lot food out there. End of the world means Mickey D's closes up shop for good, so only the Big Bads are into ending the world. The average vamp or demon is interested inkilling, mayhem, torture, but not world endage. Some have even been known to join the good guys to take down the baddie of the day.”

“Then why not have the military involved?”

“I think you know the answer to that. Remember the Initiative? They almost managed to engineer their own very special apocalypse by trying to literally combine soldiers and demons. And if they had actually succeeded in creating a supersoldier, how long do you think it would have been before they for they unleashed their new weapon on a more conventional enemy? Second, do you really think you can keep the supernatural a secret if you join the party? You'll have mass hysteria and witch hunts once people are forced to acknowledge the monsters under the bed. Ever been to a witch burning? I don't recommend them. And finally, the most important reason is that you'll eventually need to use magic.”

“And I suppose we can't,” he asked.

“With time and aptitude it's possible, it's more like you shouldn't. Think of it as playing with a cross between heroin and a nuke. It's addictive and dangerous.”

“But not for the Travers Foundation or Council,” he glared at her. They were beginning to sound a lot like the Tollan and the Tok'ra.

“Even for us, maybe even especially for us. It's very easy to go over to the other side. Almost every magic user I have ever known has at least dabbled in black magic. My best friend went from being a shy, sweet girl to something way scarier than a nest of vamps. She was self-taught and had lots of aptitude. You know about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? She started with protection charms and location spells before moving on to animal sacrifice and raising the dead. She was eventually placed in the mystical equivalent of a rehab center but not before she nearly 'nuked' the planet.”

“You're not reassuring me.”

Buffy ran her fingers through her hair in frustration, wrecking her hairstyle in the process.“Okay, how many nations have nukes and how many more nations want to get them? The UN keeps an eye on them and tries to stop them. Now imagine a nuclear arms race that doesn't need an industrial complex to build the bomb.”

“If its that easy, why hasn't it happened already?”

“We try not to leave the instruction manuals where people can find them” she saidwith minimal sarcasm.“The scrolls and books needed are usually written in dead or demon languages and most of them are accounted for. And as I said earlier, you need to have an aptitude for it which most people fortunately do not have.”

“So, no military involvement.”

“No direct involvement,” she corrected. “The Council has had arrangements with various governments over the millenia.”

“The British.”

“For the last few centuries, others before that. Empires haver their uses. Members of Council families are scattered through the bureaucracy and provide occasional support, usually transportation anddocumentation.But other than that, knowledge of the Council is highly restricted. The Royal Family, the Prime Minister, a few others, it's pretty much need to know.”

“Are you proposing the same thing here?”

“No. We did some research into the backers of the Initiative. One of them was former Vice President Kinsey so you'll understand that we have no reason to trust this administration.”

“I'll have to tell President Hayes something.”

“I know but no one else. Make sure all the recording devices are turned off.”

“What do we get in return?”

“Fewer American casualties if we can operate without interference.”

“Is that a threat or a statement of fact?”

“If we don't have to worry about the government getting in the way we stand a better chance of doing our job.”

P5X-249

SG-9 took cover about half a click from the local stargate. Once again, a supposedly deserted planet was less than unoccupied.

“Tell me again why we trust To'kra intel?”

“What's wrong Grogan? 'Fraid your going to miss your hot date this weekend?” Lt. Astor picked off the first Jaffa to enter the clearing.

“Just because you can't get a date,” he paused to fire at the next two Jaffa, “doesn't mean the rest of the world doesn't.”

“Will you two idiots just keep shooting the Jaffa instead of worrying about your social lives?”

A small chorus of “yes, sirs” were followed by yet more gunfire. A few minutes later, Major Carmichael gave the all clear and his team headed back towards the stargate.

Chapter 11

Washington, DC

The General and the President sat across from each other in the Oval Office. A small jammer sat on the desk masquerading as paperweight. The National Archives would eventually discover more than a hour of blank tape for that autumn day. The archivist would not be happy. The conspiracy theorists would be.

“They don't trust us?”

“No, Sir. Kinsey was one of the backers of the Initiative.”

“That's just great.” President Hayes once again wished that Kinsey's financial backers had not been necessary to his campaign. He'd probably being paying dearly for that help for the rest of his presidency and beyond. “What's the bottom line Jack?”

“We stay out of the Council's way and our British allies won't pull their support from our joint endeavors. From my conversation with the British Ambassador after Miss Summers left, those endeavors include the SGC and the Middle East.”

“Did they leave any room for negotiation?”

“No. The Council passed on the information about the Initiative's little experiment to British. The creation of a human/demon cyborg has raised questions about our intentions.” The general didn't blame them, supersoldiers under the control of the NID just didn't bear thinking about. “When added to the fact that we hid the existence of the Stargate program, they are well and truly annoyed.”

“You mean royally pissed off.”

Hayes' ears were still smarting days after the call from the British Prime Minister. It had been a conference call. The Prince of Wales had informed him that Her Majesty was not amused. Frankly, neither was the President. He should have shot Kinsey when he had the chance.

“Yes, Sir. Actually, the British are more upset with us than Miss Summers. She indicated that there was a chance, given time, the Council would seek to form an informal relationship with our government.”

“And until then? We just ignore the undead roaming Washington and the rest of the country?”

“Something like that, Sir. According to Miss Summers, the Council has people in place in all of the hot spots with additional resources available as needed.”

Colorado Springs

Buffy paid the cab driver. Luckily, he took MasterCard and she put the bill on her Council credit card. The taxi fare to and from Denver would have put a major dent in the month's budget otherwise. She knew from experience that getting a reimbursement check cut by the Council was an exercise in patience.

She grabbed her overnight bag and strode up the walkway towards the front porch. She fumbled in her purse looking for her keys, finding them just as she reached the first step. Unlocking the door, she entered and walked into the kitchen, leaving her things in the hallway.

She snagged a cold Tab from the refrigerator before checking for any messages that Dawn may have left her. She figured that there should be at least one and was unsurprised find several on the counter.

Call Dr. Jackson.

Gave your paper to Dr. Heche, she said to remind you that there is major test next Wednesday.

Your leather pants are in your closet. Must be a really hot date. I'll be at the library until 6. Going to a movie with a friend. Will be home by midnight. CALL DR. J!

Six hours to see a movie a friend, I don't think so. Buffy smirked. Dawnie's got a date and she's being sneaky about it. Hmm, finally, a little leverage on the boyfriend front.

Okay, quick trip the to bathroom to freshen up and then place the call.

Washington, DC

Jack was tired. His night on the town with Buffy hadn't helped. His aide had managed to rearrange his schedule to accommodate his meetings with Miss Summers and the President by moving most of his missed meetings to the afternoon and into the evening. There were probably more than a couple of spouses, hell, who was he kidding, a couple of wives and girlfriends that were due some apologies when Friday night plans had to be canceled. He was just about ready to call it a day when his telephone rang.

“O'Neill,” he barked. “Sorry, Hank, long day...Too many meetings. Really don't know how Hammond coped. So, what's up in Colorado?”

He couldn't believe it. It was the best news he had all week.

“He's not going?”

Colorado Springs

The new general had taken the news well, a little too well, even without much of an explanation as to why. Landry must be aware that Jack wanted to keep him in this galaxy. He wondered how long it would take before Jack found out and called. He reached for his rapidly cooling coffee as the phone rang.

“Jackson.”

A female voice responded.

“Yes, this Daniel Jackson...Buffy, I'm so glad that you called...I understand. Your sister said you forgot your cellphone...I can leave here in about thirty minutes. Oh wait, I don't have my car. I'll need to get arrange for a driver...I had little accident a few days ago, nothing too serious but the doctor won't let me drive just yet. I was supposed to be on leave for a few days but got called back in...No, I'd really like to meet you tonight...Yes, I'm at Cheyenne Mountain, NORAD...I'll meet you at the gate at 7:00. Is dinner at Solo's okay?”

He hung up a few minutes later, a smile on his face. He wondered what she looked like. Did she resemble her mother? He barely remembered Joyce. She had been about average height he thought, with blond hair, or had it been reddish? His smile faded, he really didn't remember what she looked like. He wished he had even a yearbook photo to refresh his memory but foster children didn't get those pricy items. Maybe Buffy looked like his side of the family, tall with brown hair. In just a couple of hours he was going to meet his daughter and then he'd know.

Chapter 12

Colorado Springs
Buffy hung up the phone and headed upstairs to shower and change. Two thirds of the way up the stairs she realized she had forgotten something important. She spun around and practically ran back down the stairs. Once in the kitchen she reread Dawn's third note.

I'll be at the library until 6. Going to a movie with a friend. Will be home by midnight.

Buffy looked at the note in disbelief.

“No, please, please don't let her have taken the car,” she muttered as she headed to the garage.

Opening the door, she flicked on the light switch. There it was, in all it's glory—an empty space where the SUV was supposed to be. She was going to have to kill Dawn. The only transportation was Dawn's motorcycle. She closed the door and returned to the kitchen.

Okay, think Summers. What are the choices? Take cab? Too expensive. Cancel? Not going to happen. That leaves the motorcycle. Daniel said he wasn't supposed to drive because of an injury so he probably wasn't cleared to be a passenger on the bike. She checked her watch and picked up the telephone.

Dawn picked up on the third ring.

“Hey Dawn...Yes I'm home...I need the car tonight...No, I'm supposed to pick up Daniel...Yes I called him...Why didn't you take your bike instead of my car?...No, I don't think that picking him up on the bike is an option.I need you to get the car back here by 5:30...What do you mean you can't...Fine, I'll meet you outside the library at 5:30 and make the swap. And so help me, if you are even a minute late...” she left the threat unfinished as her sister swore that she'd be on time. “Okay, then, I'll bring the extra helmet. I've got to hurry.”

Buffy replaced the receiver in its cradle and headed back upstairs for a very quick shower. So much for wearing a nice dress. Jeans or leather pants. What a choice. She'd probably end up with smooshed bugs on them too. Not to mention what the helmet would do to her hair. She was definitely going to kill Dawn.

- - -

Dawn waited in the library lounge for her study buddy to turn up. Fifteen minutes later Cara showed up somewhat out of breath.

“Sorry I was late.”

“No problem. Do you mind studying here for now? My sister's stopping by at 5:30.”

“That's okay. Why is she coming here?”

“Buffy just got back from DC and needs the car so we're swapping. Ever ride a motorcycle?”

“Oh God, my parents would freak.”

“I'll take that as a no.” Dawn smiled. “It's a lot of fun. I've been riding for years.”

“Seriously?”

“Had my first ride at fourteen. One of my sister's boyfriends took me for a wild ride through the streets of Sunnydale. Buffy would have killed him if she'd ever found out. He gave me a few lessons later but she still thinks that I learned to ride in Rome.”

- - -

It was just after 7 when Buffy pulled up at the guard post outside of Cheyenne Mountain. Her jeans had only the slightest evidence of roadkill on them. She had fortunately been able to repair the damage to her hair.

She gave her name and her driver's license to the guard. After confirming that her name was on his list, he passed the license back then directed her to a parking space just off to the left along with instructions to remain in her vehicle. She pulled into her designated spot and turned off the engine. She scanned the well-lit area and suppressed a mild feeling of unease. Luckily, she didn't have long to wait as a few minutes later a figure approached her car. She recognized him from the photograph she had found in her mother's safe deposit box. His hair was shorter, a lot shorter actually, and he had the start of a beard but there was no doubt in her mind that this was Dr. Daniel Jackson, her father. He had bulked up a bit too. She rolled down the window as he reached the car.

“Buffy Summers?”

“Yes. I'd get out of the car but the guy with the gun said not to.” A dull click sounded as she unlocked the car doors. “So Dr. Jackson, want a ride?”

“I thought you'd never ask,” he replied. He moved to the other side of the SUV and got in.

Buffy started the car and carefully pulled out of the parking lot. Daniel nodded to the airman on duty as they passed the guard post. Airman Rogers nodded in response and watched as the vehicle disappeared down the road.

“So, uh...” Daniel found himself at a loss for words. If Jack could only see him now. He found himself giving silent thanks for Jack's current assignment. He fumbled internally for a conversation starter.

Buffy kept her eyes on the road. Two cars passed them heading towards the mountain before she finally spoke. “So, awkward much?”

It took a moment for him to translate her comment into standard English.

“A bit,” he smiled.

“Let's start with basic introductions. I'm Buffy Summers, daughter of Joyce Summers and Daniel Jackson. I have one, somewhat annoying, little sister and we are both students at UCCS.”

“Daniel Jackson, son of Claire and Melbourne Jackson. No siblings. I'm an archaeologist with degrees from UCLA and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. I'm currently a civilian contractor for the Air Force.”

“See, that wasn't so hard.” Buffy slowed the car as they came to a particularly twisty stretch of road.

“It's a start.” Daniel looked at his daughter as her face was illuminated by the lights of an oncoming car. “So, what's your major?”

“Psychology."

“Oh?”

“I kind of fell into it.”

“A good professor?”

She laughed. “A cute T.A. The professor was a real killer but the class itself was fascinating. Since then I've done some peer counseling at my old high school and spent the last couple of years working with teenagers.”

“So how long before you get your degree?”

“Three years. I'm still a sophomore. I did my freshman year right after graduating from high school, then Mom died. I dropped out to take care of Dawn.”

“Didn't her father help?”

“Hank? He dropped out of sight by then. He only maintained contact for a couple of years after the divorce. I notified him but he didn't even send flowers.” The car accelerated as they reached a straight stretch. “I guess that acknowledging that he'd ever been married would haveinterfered with his mid-life crisis.”

Her letter said that her mother had died early in 2001. That would have left a twenty year old left to raise sister. “How old was Dawn?”

“Fourteen.”

“I'm surprised that social services didn't step in.”

“There were some problems early on. Dawn was acting out and I was trying to get my act together. Luckily I had some friends that were able to lend a hand.”

“Your letter said that your mom told you about me in some papers she left behind. Why didn't you try contacting me sooner?”

“As I said, I was trying to get my act together. Finding out that Hank wasn't my father was a shock. Between that, mom's dying, and some other stuff, I was pretty much out of it for a few months. After that, I was too busy trying to keep the household going. Besides, I really didn't know if you would want to know. I don't think I could have dealt with rejection at that point.”

Daniel was a bit hurt by that but not too surprised. Being abandoned by the man she thought was her father had to do some serious emotional damage. Being dropped into foster care limbo by his grandfather hadn't done him any good. In retrospect, it probably was better that she hadn't contacted him at the time. Would he have made the choice to Ascend if he had known about her? Either way, he would have died, leaving Buffy alone again.

He braced himself as the car turned on the highway.

“My turn. So, what does an archaeologist do in the Air Force?”

“It's kind of hard to believe but Deep Space Radar Telemetry.”

- - -

As Rogers entered the base cafeteria he wasn't surprised to find it nearly empty. After getting a plate of chipped beef, a favorite of the new general, he joined his friends at one of the back tables.

“So, Rogers, did you hear the latest about Dr. Jackson?”

“Yeah, isn't he supposed to ship out on the Daedalus?”

“Not anymore. He told the General that he had reconsidered.”

“No way.” Lt. Stone was stunned. Everybody on the base knew that the doctor been angling for that assignment for months. “Why?”

“Nobody knows.”

Rogers smirked. “Oh, I think I've got a good idea.”

Lt. Carstairs had trouble believing that. “Oh?”

“Dr. Jackson just left the base,” he left the rest of the sentence hang.

“So, he left the base. It has been known to happen.”

“I was at the gate when he left. Transportation was provided by a very hot blonde.”

“You think he gave up his slot for a girl?” Carstairs was ambitious. “No way.”

“I don't know, but Buffy Summers was hot.”

Both of his friends erupted in laughter.

Stone managed to choke out “Buffy?”

“Hey, that's the name on the license.”

Chapter 13

Colorado Springs
“Deep Space Radar Telemetry? You're kidding, right?” Please let him be joking she thought. Deep Space Radar Telemetry sounded like a lame ass cover story.

“No. The Air Force has radar arrays scattered around the world and its useful to have a team member that can speak a lot of different languages.”

“I guess that means you travel a lot.”

“For the last few years but I'm not sure about the future. My team was officially disbanded this week. I'll probably end up behind a desk for a while.” Daniel caught a quick glimpse of a highway sign. “The exit is coming up.”

“Thanks.”

- - -

A motorcycle with two riders pulled into a parking slot at the Cinemark movie theater. Two tall young women dismounted to the appreciative eyes of a group male college students.

“Now that was a rush.”

“So, you like?”

“Yeah, but my parents will still kill me if they find out, especially my mom.” Cara removed her helmet and shook out her hair. “Your parents are okay with this?”

“Mom died a few years ago. Hank?” Dawn shrugged as she unfastened her helmet. “I really don't think he'd care one way or the other.”

“Hank?”

“My alleged father. He and Mom divorced years ago. The first year or so he kept in contact. Buffy and I spent part of the first summer after the divorce with him. Then, we met the other woman and it didn't go so well. After that, I guess being a weekend dad wasn't in his plans. ”

“What about when your mom died?”

“I guess he figured that Buffy was old enough to take care of me.” There was a touch of bitterness in her voice. “He never bothered check up on us.”

The pair joined the line at the box office.

Washington, DC

Jack pondered his conversation with Hank Landry as looked out of his office window. So, Daniel had passed up his chance to finally get to Atlantis. Hank hadn't been able to get much information from the archaeologist, at least not any that he was willing to pass on.

He had tried calling Carter for more information but she had not been able to shed any more light on the matter. In fact, she had gone so far as to tell him not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Damn, she was probably right. He probably would jinx things if he kept asking questions. He just wondered how much longer he last before he broke down and called Daniel for some answers.

It would have to wait until later though, his next series of meetings was about to begin.

Colorado Springs

The two girls settled into the darkened theater with an extra large bucket of popcorn and a couple of sodas.

“So, have you told your sister about him yet?”

Dawn scarfed down a handful of popcorn before answering.

“Nope. ”

“Think she'll give you a hard time?

“Oh yeah. First she'll go into overprotective parental mode wanting to know everything about him.Next she'll spaz on the age thing. Then she'll freak about the fact that Will's in the military.” Dawn paused to sip her soda. “I'm waiting to get the dirt on her new beau before I say anything. I'll need the ammunition.”

“How much older is Will?”

“Not that much older, at least compared to her ex-boyfriends, but that won't stop her from going nuts. She's real big on do as I say not as I do.”

“Wait, your sister's okay with you riding a motorcycle but she'll get upset aboutyou dating somebody whose a couple of years older than you?”

“She's not still thrilled with the bike and Will's more like eight years older than I am.”

The girls abandoned their conversation as the lights in the theater dimmed as the screen displayed the obligatory “no talking during the feature presentation” message.

- - -

Buffy was still trying to get her mind around the whole Deep Space Radar Telemetry concept while she looked at the menu.

“Anything particularly good here?”

“The steaks are good.”

“So speaks Man.”

Daniel grinned. “Sam swears by the Mandarin and Almond Salad.”

“An advanced man?”

“You could say that. Sam is Samantha, she was the leader of my team.”

“Okay, I asked for that one. Actually, I think I will have the steak.”

“That hungry?”

“A bag of airline peanuts is not a meal unless you are Mary Kate or Ashley.”

“Who?”

“Michelle on Full House, grew up to be poster children for anorexia.” She could see that Daniel still didn't have a clue. “Nevermind, pop culture reference. I just haven't had a chance to eat since breakfast.”

The waitress came back to their table and took their order. Daniel included an order of Air Tower Nachos telling Buffy that he hadn't had much to eat either.

“So, how was Washington?” he asked once the waitress had left.

Buffy kept her answer vague. “It was okay. Met a cute guy, well two actually, saw some of the local nightlife, did some sightseeing.”

“Dawn said you were there on business.”

“I was briefly involved in a research project at the University of Sunnydale but the project head and I didn't see eye to eye and I quit. Most of the records and most of the personnel were lost a couple of months later in a lab accident.” She shrugged. “One of the funders tracked me down and had me fly out to tell them what I knew about the project.”

“Didn't they have the interim reports?”

“I don't know, I guess so. I mean they must have had some paperwork to find me.” Buffy paused for a moment. “Maybe they just wanted another viewpoint.”

The waitress came back to the table with the nachos.

“Oh, if only Xander could see this.”

“Xander?”

“King of the munchies—donuts, twinkies, nachos. I literally ran in to him my first day at Sunnydale High. We were part of a group that hung out in the library. He'd bring the donuts.”

“Your librarian didn't object?” The researcher in Daniel was appalled.

“He'd supply the tea.” Buffy grinned. “Besides, it was a high school library, not the British Library.”

“So no rare books?”

“Not unless you consider the odd annotated copy of Atlas Shrugged rare,” Buffy quipped.

Like she was going to admit the library hid a collection of rare books on the occult. What daddy doesn't know couldn't hurt him. Right?

Chapter 14

Colorado Springs
Just after 10 a.m. Cara stumbled downstairs and into the kitchen following the smell of fresh coffee. She grabbed the mug sitting next to the coffee pot and poured a generous amount into it before adding some milk from the refrigerator.

“Morning Cara.”

She turned around to find her father at the kitchen table with the morning paper. “Hi, Dad.”

He carefully folded the paper and placed it on the table. “I heard you come in around one last night.”

“I told Mom I was going to be late. It was a double feature.”

“They still have those?”

“Sometimes,” she said as she sat down and took a sip of her coffee.

“So, who were you with?”

“Dawn.”

Her father gave her the 'look.'

“She's in one of my classes. I've told Mom about her. She lives in town with her older sister.”

“And Dawn rides a motorcycle?” There was an underlying tone of disapproval in his voice.

“How did you know?”

“Your mother sleeps like the dead, I don't.”

“Where is Mom?”

“Doing some shopping. Now, back to the motorcycle. You know how we feel about them.”

“I know. We were going to go by car. Dawn had borrowed her sister's car since she was out of town. Then her sister came home earlier than expected and she needed the car to meet someone. They swapped rides.”

The telephone rang and Cara picked it up.

“Hello.”

She handed it to her father, “it's for you Dad.”

“Siler here.”

Washington, DC

Jack was rather pleased with himself. It was early afternoon before his curiosity had finally gotten the better of him. Now, the only question was who was he going to try pumping for information. Teal'c was out of the question as he was currently off world. Hank claimed he didn't know why Daniel had turned down the assignment on the Daedalus. Given that Daniel could play things pretty close to the vest, he'd give Hank the benefit of the doubt for now.

He decided not to call Carter. He knew her transfer papers had just gone through and that she was due at Area 51 at 0700 local time on Monday. As efficient as he knew her to be, she'd still need to organize her move. And she'd need time to break the news to Cassie. If all of his other sources came up empty he'd call her Monday night.

He'd start with Siler.

Colorado Springs

Dawn's patience, never legendary, was exhausted. It was almost 11 a.m. and Buffy still hadn't gotten up. She decided to wake up the sleeping beauty. She knocked twice and threw open the door, not waiting for an invitation. She walked over to the main window and opened the curtains before rounding on her sister who actually was awake.

“You so totally did that on purpose.”

“Wha?” Buffy yawned.

“Sleeping in.”

“I was tired.”

“Oh please, Miss I-can-live-on-three-hours-of-sleep-a-night.” Dawn bounced on the bed. “Come on, spill. What was he like? When can I meet him?”

Buffy propped herself up on her elbows and asked “didn't Willow show you a picture?”

“Uh huh. Didn't think he looked like James Spader though.”

“Well he doesn't look much like the picture Mom had and he definitely doesn't look like Spader. He's bulked up and has the start of a beard.”

Dawn wrinkled her nose in disappointment. “So, fat and scruffy?”

“Not fat, just...nicely filled out. I'd say that he'd been working out in the past couple of years. And the beard was scruffy in an Indiana Jones kinda way.” Buffy giggled. “And I can't believe I'm critiquing Dad like this.”

“So, you're calling him dad already. Does that mean you're keeping him?”

“Yep. He seems to be really nice.”

“So, when do I get to meet him? I mean its not as if you can hide me since I've already spoken with him.”

“Well, I could lock you in the cage in the cellar and tell him that you decided to transfer to Oxford,” Buffy said as she flopped back on the bed and snuggled into the covers.

Dawn grabbed the pillow out from under her sister's head and hit her with it.

“Oh all right.” Buffy snatched the pillow back. “He's coming over on Sunday.”

“Sunday?”

“I have a date with Jay this afternoon. If I cancel, it will be another week before I see him, if he still wants to see me.”

“What's with the Saturday thing? Please, please, tell me he's not in prison. You promised no more bad boys.”

“He's not in prison. God, what kind of glutton for punishment do you think I am?”

“Hmm, Angel, Spike, the Immortal, and what who was that jerk from college?”

“Riley was not a jerk.”

“No, the other one.” Dawn thought for a moment. “Parker!”

“Parker wasn't a 'bad boy.' He was just a loser that got his jollies by scoring with the freshmen.” She sat back up and placed the pillow behind her.

“So, why can you only see him on Saturdays?”

“He's an Air Force cadet. He has very limited free time and is pretty much restricted to the campus.”

“Which means I'll never get to meet him,” Dawn glared. “You did this on purpose.”

“Yes Dawn. I arranged everything so my social life would suck just to drive you crazy.”

“So, not much with the horizontal action these days?”

“Brat.”

“Bitch.”

Dawn stuck her tongue out.

“Ooh, so mature. I'm impressed.”

“Fine. So, you're seeing Jay this afternoon. Why can't Daniel come over tonight?” As a concession she added, “I'll cook.”

“Let's not poison him first thing. Besides, a friend of his just got transferred out of state and they're having dinner together.” She threw back the covers. “Now, if the Spanish Inquisition is over, I'd like to shower and get ready for my date.”

Chapter 15

Air Force Academy Grounds

A stocky young man of medium height made a beeline towards two of his fellow cadets in one of the lounges in Arnold Hall or Arnie's as it was more commonly called. The lounge, as well as the Arnie's in general, was rather empty for a Saturday afternoon. For the lower ranking cadets, like himself, it was the place to be since going off campus was still off limits. Arnie's was also the place where they were allowed to entertain visitors.

“Hey Simpson, word's out that he's gunning for you again.”

A tall, reed-thin cadet looked up from the chessboard.

“Who's gunning for me, Roberts?”

“Cadet 1st Class Neidermeyer, who else?” Cadet 4th Class Roberts replied as he grabbed a nearby chair and dragged it towards his friends.

“Any particular reason?”

“Rumor has it you blew away his old record at target practice yesterday making you the best shot in the Academy's history.”

“Actually, that was last week. Checkmate.” Simpson leaned back from the table and ran his hand over the stubble that was his hair. “And that record was only in his dreams. The Academy record was set back in the 70s by Frank Cromwell.”

“And you just happened to point it out to him,” Cadet 4th Class Eddings snickered.

“I might have mentioned it,” he paused for a moment, focusing his attention back on the table as he began preparing the chessboard for round two. As he place the last pawn on the board he continued, “his face did turn kind of red. That guy's going to have a stroke before he's thirty.”

“And you, my dear roomie, have a death wish. So, if that was last week, what did you do this week?”

“No clue. Guess I'll find out sooner or later.”

“So, you think your girl going to show?”

“Maybe. She had an out-of-town business trip. She wasn't sure how long it would take.”

“A business trip? I thought she was a student?” Roberts asked.

“She's a sophomore at UCCS but she does some work for a research group.”

Eddings whistled. “An older woman? You lucky dog.”

“He said she's a sophomore, lame brain,” Roberts scoffed. “Nineteen or twenty is hardly 'older' woman material.”

Simpson smirked as he did a quick check of the room and saw a familiar blond figure heading in their direction. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a less welcome sight. Neidermeyer. The poster child for friendly fire was heading to intercept Buffy. Crap.

Daniel's Apartment

Sam brought two beers from kitchen and passed one to Daniel before joining him on the couch.

“I got a call from the General today.” Sam took a sip of her beer. “He was curious as to why you turned down the assignment.”

He didn't really need to ask which General but he decided to as just for the hell of it. “Jack?”

She nodded.

“He's not your CO any more. Can't you drop the rank?”

“He's is still in my chain of command Daniel. The Joint Chiefs haven't officially removed Area 51 from under Homeworld Security. Until they do, it's better this way.”

“You mean safer.”

“Just because Kinsey's out of the picture doesn't mean that we're in the clear. The program doesn't need a scandal. We've all made too many enemies here and elsewhere. Trust me, given half a chance there is a faction that would gladly have both of us up on charges of conduct unbecoming. As the junior officer, I might not be discharged but the general would be.”

“So why doesn't he just retire?”

“Remember General Bauer?” Daniel nodded. “He was on the short list to replace Hammond.”

“You're joking.”

“The Joint Chiefs don't joke. Threaten, but not joke.” Sam took another sip of her beer before continuing. “He agreed to the promotion if I could be removed from his chain of command. Placing Area 51 directly under the control of the Joint Chiefs will fix that problem but they aren't happy about it.”

“Hence the foot dragging.”

“Exactly. So, are you going to tell him why you turned it down?”

“No. I've got some things to settle first.”

“You're not in trouble are you?”

“No. It's just for the first time in years I've decided that my personal life will take precedence over the professional.”

Sam raised her bottle and toasted “here's to having a personal life.”

Daniel tilted his bottle towards her in response. “To personal lives. Speaking of which, how did Cassie react to your transfer?”

“Not well. On the one hand she's guessed part of the reason for the transfer but I think she may be feeling abandoned.”

“First Janet, then Jack, now you.”

“Hell of a time to learn the truth about military life. Sooner or later, everybody gets transferred.”

“Will she be moving on to campus?”

“No. I plan on eventually coming back here so I'm keeping the house. We'll need a place to stay since the general is selling his. Cassie may decide to move onto campus next semester but for now she'll be staying at my place.”

Chapter 16

Air Force Academy Grounds

Buffy was in a good mood as she entered Arnie's even if she was a running a little bit late. Due to the unseasonably warm weather, she had to make a last minute adjustment to the day's outfit, forgoing her favorite leather pants which, wonder of wonders, Dawn had actually remembered to pick up from the dry cleaners. But weather had been the only negative element of the week. The trip to Washington had gone better than expected. She had finally met her real father and although the first meeting had started out a bit awkwardly, that too had gone better that expected. Buffy's eyes lit up as she spotted Jay sitting with a couple of other cadets. Yep, her week was ending on a high note. Distracted, she didn't notice one of the older cadets heading towards her.

Neidermeyer entered Arnie's with only one thing on his mind and that was putting a particularly obnoxious Fourth Class Cadet in his place. That the cadet lounge was mostly empty was unfortunate, he would have preferred a larger audience for Simpson's overdue comeuppance. No one, let alone a lowly Fourth Class Cadet, was going to show up a Neidermeyer. Thoughts of revenge were put on hold for the moment as he caught sight of rather cute blonde. With that long, untamed hair she certainly wasn't a cadet which was meant she was fair game. He postponed his mission in favor of the new target.

Jay watched the looming disaster in dismay. He quickly excused himself from his friends and headed towards Buffy. If he was lucky, he'd reach her before Neidermeyer did. Neidermeyer thought of himself as quite the ladies' man, most women's opinions notwithstanding. Even in though they were still in the “getting to know” you phase of their relationship, Jay knew that Buffy would not be happy if Neidermeyer ran true to form. He just hoped he arrived before his first foray into an adult relationship since being shrunk went up in flames.

Luck was with Jay as he reached Buffy moments ahead of Neidermeyer.

“Hello Miss Summers,” he greeted her and held her hand.

“Cadet Simpson,” she said before she leaned in to give him a peck on the cheek. “So, what's the plan Jay?”

Jay snaked his arm around her waist and tried to maneuver her out of the older cadet's path. “First, I thought I'd introduce you to Roberts and Eddings before they die of curiosity.”

He knew he failed as the staccato sounds of the Neidermeyer's shoes got louder but it had been worth a try.

Eddings and Roberts watched as Simpson made it to the blonde's side just moments ahead the older cadet.

“You don't think...”

“That that's Jay's girl?” Eddings groaned. “Come on Roberts, time to play the cavalry unless you want to lose your roommate.”

The pair stood up and headed for the trio.

Jay's eyes narrowed as Niedermeyer began his less than subtle moves on Buffy.

She glanced at Jay as if to ask if this guy was for real. As mere Fourth Class cadet, she knew that Jay was at a disadvantage and the older cadet was working it for all he was worth, as if trying to goad Jay into doing something stupid.

“Really, not interested,” she said somewhat exasperated.

Neidermeyer didn't take it gracefully and put his hand on Buffy's left arm as the other two cadets joined them. Jay tensed and removed his arm from her waist.

“Jay, is the Academy infirmary open today?”

The non-sequitor threw him for a moment. “Yes.”

“Good.”

She quickly grabbed Neidermeyer's wrist with her free hand. With a quick twist to the left she threw the cadet off balance and onto the floor.

“Used to date an Army guy,” she said by way of explanation.

The cadet cradled his injured wrist and glared Buffy, Jay and the two newcomers. He was, however, smart enough to keep his mouth shut.

“An Army guy?” Jay didn't keep his mouth shut. Nor did he keep a grin off his face.

“Army Ranger actually. So, I'm guessing these two are friends of yours?”

The four walked away from Neidermeyer as he picked himself up.

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Cassie knew she was being brat but she didn't really care. She made a quick call to Sam saying that she was going to spend some extra time in the library rather than head over to Daniel's. It wasn't a lie, exactly. She didn't actually say that she was going to study and if Sam was going to add herself to the list of people that had left her behind, she'd just have to find someone else to hang with. She plastered a smile on as a handsome teaching assistant joined her at the table.

“Hi Parker.”

Colorado Springs

“You okay with this?” Dawn asked Will as they entered the apartment building and headed up to the second floor where the party was already underway.

“I should be asking you that. I know it's not how we planned to spend the evening but her transfer came through at the last minute. There wasn't much time to plan a farewell party before she shipped out.”

“And your friend that's being transferred?”

“Satterfield.”

“And does Satterfield have a first name?”

“Of course she does,” he stalled.

“And it's...”

“Ell.., er ah Elizabeth. I think.” A flush crept across Will's face. “It's just that the military tends to use titles and surnames.”

“And you forgot,” Dawn finished for him. “So, not a close friend.”

“We went to the Academy together but we didn't have much contact there since our majors were different. I really didn't get to know her until just before my current assignment. We went through orientation together.”

“You mean we survived orientation together,” an attractive woman of Asian descent joined them. “Or rather I did. You were 'killed' how many times?”

“Just twice.”

“And just what kind of orientation gets you 'killed' in a mountain,” Dawn asked. Inwardly she chanted the Initiative was Army, Will's in the Air Force, the Initiative was Army. Her high school near miss with a fledgling vampire notwithstanding, she had no intention of following in her older sister's footsteps.

"An orientation run by a Colonel who used to be Special Forces. He took base security very seriously. So Grogan, are you going to introduce us?"

"Satterfield, may I introduce Dawn Summers. Dawn, Captain Satterfield, United States Air Force."

Dawn raised her eyebrow. She was not letting him off that easy but for now she'd be good.

“So Captain, care to tell me about how the control freak Colonel “killed” Will?”

Well, sort of good.

Chapter 17

Sunday Morning

Dawn rolled over and snuggled down under the covers. She supposed that she should get up but she was way too comfortable to give that more that a fleeting consideration. A smile graced her face as she thought back to last night's date. They hadn't stayed too long at Satterfield's send-off party. She still hadn't found out the poor woman's name, not that it really mattered. It had been fun razzing Will about it later at dinner.

A few minutes later, her nose told her that it had to be later than she thought. The hints of oregano and garlic, plus the sweet smell of tomato told her that Buffy was already up and cooking. The mad cook was at it again and the scullery maid hadn't reported in yet. With a sigh, Dawn threw back the covers and made her way to the bathroom.

Five minutes later she followed the sound of clanging of pots and pans to the kitchen. As she entered the kitchen she could hear the sizzle of something frying.

“Morning.”

“Coffee's ready.”

Dawn filled her mug with the hot brew. She sniffed it before taking a sip.

“Hey, this is the good stuff.”

“I picked it up last night when I went shopping.” Buffy opened a near the stove and pulled out a large pan and the largest stock pot they owned.

“Lasagna?”

“Daniel said he liked Italian and the leftovers will make cooking duties easy this week.”

Buffy began to fill the stock pot at the sink.

“So, do you want to spill about Jay?”

“Wouldn't you rather know about Daniel?”

“Daniel I'll meet tonight. Besides, I already know a few thing about him. He likes Italian food and he rates the good coffee. Mom thought he looked a bit like James Spader but you said he's bulked up a bit and is kind of scruffy . Heaven only knows when I'll meet Jay and let's face it, most of your boyfriends are, shall we say, ah, interesting.”

“Fine, what do you want to know?”

“How about how did you meet? What does he look like? Is he evil?”

“Dawn!”

“What?”

“Is he evil?”

“Well, is he? Look at your track record. Angel, Riley, Spike, the Immortal. And lets not forget Jason and Parker. Seriously, except for Willow, all the Scoobies are drawn to a certain type. Xander's girls try to kill him. Giles falls for women in denial. Your boyfriends usually turn out to be evil.”

“First, you left out Pike. Second, Angel was not evil. Angelus doesn't count. Riley, not evil. Spike was only sort of evil. Jason and Parker were just losers. That only leaves one truly evil boyfriend.” Buffy place the stock pot on the stove and turned on the burner. “You on the other, your very first date was with a vamp. Just because you staked him doesn't give you a pass.”

“Hello, Sunnydale. Now what were the odds of that happening?”

“Well, this isn't Sunnydale. And no, Jay isn't evil. Can you grab the ricotta and mozzarella from the 'fridge? They're on the bottom shelf.”

“Did you meet him patrolling?” Dawn grabbed the cheese and placed the containers on the counter. “Eggs too?”

“No. Eggs yes.”

“So, where? How? When?”

“Just after we moved in. I met him at Borders while I was shopping for a present for Giles. He may be young but he knows a lot about classic rock, and I don't mean the eighties' stuff. Gave me a couple of suggestions. We had coffee.”

“You've been dating him since this summer?” Dawn squeaked. How did that escape her notice?

“Not exactly. Cadets don't get out much, especially their first year.”

“First year? I figured he was younger since he was a cadet but exactly how much younger is he?”

“Six years.”

“Six ye..., wait a sec. You're dating an eighteen year old?” Dawn started giggling. “You really meant it when you gave up older men didn't you? Eighteen, that's priceless.”

“It's not that funny.”

“Are you kidding? You've gone from dating guys who've had bicentennials to one who's just barely shaving. He does shave doesn't he? Oh my god, does he even have chest hair?”

“And you wonder why I've haven't told you anything about him.” Buffy scowled. “Didn't ya think I might be protecting him from you?”

Dawn tried, but failed, to pull off the “who me” innocent look. She was too busy trying to stifle her giggles.

“I seem to recall you had a date yesterday. And I'm betting it wasn't a first date either. Now why have you been hiding him? What's wrong with him? Could it be that he's evil? A vamp? Maybe a demon?”

Dawn stopped giggling.

“Dawnie?” Buffy drained the frying pan and put the sausage into the sauce. “Is there something you'd like tell me?”

“He's a few years older than I am and look at the time, I've got to wash my hair.” Dawn darted out of the kitchen.

“Dawn Summers, get back in here.”

It was the no nonsense voice and Dawn crept back into the kitchen. After all, she was the smarter sister.

“Alright. Will's in the Air Force.”

“Enlisted or officer?”

“Officer.”

“Rank?

“Captain. But he was just promoted.”

“And just how old is he?”

“Twenty seven.” Dawn tried to reassure her sister. “He's the same age as Riley was.”

“And that worked out so well.”

“What I am supposed to do? Follow your example and date thirteen year old?”

“Don't be a smart ass.” Buffy began mixing the eggs and cheese together. “Have you considered dating someone your age?”

“Will's a nice guy and we don't have a problem with the age difference. If he weren't dating me you'd probably like him. He's a lot like Xander.”

“As long its goofy Xander rather than sex machine Xander.”

“And with that lovely image, I'm going back upstairs to wash my hair.” She put her mug next to the sink and left the room.

Chapter 18

An exhausted Dawn plopped down in her favorite arm chair. The scullery maid had been reassigned as the maid of all work as Buffy had refused to put her newly found father's health at risk by having Dawn involved in the food preparation. She looked around the living room. Would it pass her sister's inspection?

Magazines sorted, stored, and in some cases tossed? Check.

Tables dusted and polished? Check.

Carpet vacuumed? Check.

Cushions plumped? Check.

Weapons out of sight but still easily accessible? Check.

Mystical texts moved upstairs to her room? Check.

Room aired? She sniffed and realized that there was still a hint of something that might just be mistaken for the smell of stale pot smoke. She didn't think it was too noticeable as the smells from the kitchen continued to strengthen through the house. What was noticeable was the smell coming from her. Oh well, she still had time to shower again as long she kept her hair dry.

She headed back upstairs.

---

Buffy smirked as she heard Dawn go up the stairs. She had intended to help clean the house but Dawn's response to finding out more about Jay put an end to that.

Does he have chest hair? Brat. Besides, she actually didn't know the answer to that. Yeah, her sex life sucked and Dawn had to pay for laughing about it like a hyena. Sticking her with the housework was only the start. Maybe she could arrange to run into her sister and Will. With a shovel. Or a sword.

She put the finishing touches on the salad and covered the bowl with plastic wrap. After placing the salad in the refrigerator, she finished cleaning up the kitchen. She should just have time for quick shower, unless Dawn used up all the hot water. She wouldn't. What was she thinking, of course she would.

---

Less than two miles away, Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell began unpacking. The apartment wasn't particularly large or even attractive but he didn't care. He didn't plan on spending much time at home. His new assignment promised plenty of travel. He would have been happy with being on any SG team but he wanted to be on the best, the flagship team. And he had gotten it. Starting on Monday, he was the newest member of SG-1.

---

Daniel double checked the address before pulling his car into Buffy's driveway. Technically, he wasn't supposed to be driving until Monday but what Doctor Brightman didn't know wouldn't hurt her, or him. The one good thing about being recalled to the SGC the previous Friday had been that he had managed to convince the good doctor that he was fit enough to go back to work a week early. He'd rather spend time with his new-found daughter but he didn't want to push for more contact that she might want. Since he was no longer part of SG-1 a half-healed foot wasn't much an impediment and it would give him something to do while she was in class. And now, his work wouldn't mean disappearing for days at a time. Sometimes, things did work out.

He parked the car as unknown young woman came out the front door to greet him. The first thing he noticed was she was quite a bit taller than Buffy and certainly more animated. The girl was practically bouncing as she made her way to his car.

“Dr. Jackson? I'm Dawn, Buffy's sister. Let me help you,” she opened the car door for him. “Buffy said you had a broken foot. Oh, god, I'm babbling aren't I.”

“Ah, yeah. Just a bit. And while I'm not ready to run a marathon, I think that I can probably make it to the house on my own.”

“Oh, sorry Dr. Jackson. I didn't think. It's just that I've been dying to meet you and I really haven't had time to quiz Buffy about you so...” Dawn groaned. “I've spent way to much time with Willow. She kinda rubs off on you and that probably makes no sense to you so please just forget my babbling.”

“Don't worry about. I've been told that I babble from time to time.” He got out of the car and headed towards the house. “And please, call me Daniel.”

Buffy exited the kitchen as the pair entered the house.

“Daniel, weren't you going to take a taxi?”

“I'm cleared to drive as of tomorrow but I won't tell the doctor if you don't.”

“Deal. I see you've met Dawn.”

“Yes.”

“We're still trying to find the right dose of Ritalin.”

“Buffy!”

“Dawn, you practically ran out of the house when you heard his car pull in. And Daniel's looks a bit shell shocked so you've probably been doing your Willow impersonation again.”

Dawn's face flushed.

“Daniel, why don't you have seat while Dawn and I get the drinks. We've got iced tea, diet coke, and coffee.”

“Coffee, please.”

Daniel took a seat on the sofa as the two sisters headed into the kitchen.

The room was bright and cheery but he realized that while the room held several art objects, there were only a couple of pictures in the room. He got up to take a closer look at a picture on the end table near the window. He picked it up and he while couldn't be sure but he thought it might be a picture of Joyce.

Buffy came back in to the room and saw what had drawn his attention.

“It's the only good picture that we have of Mom.”

Daniel carefully placed the picture back on the table and went back to the sofa.

“I wasn't sure,” he began.

“It's been nearly twenty-five years and according to Mom's letter you were both kind of sloshed at the time.”

“I guess I was cheap date back then.”

Buffy giggled. “The shocker would have been if you weren't. At fifteen you're not supposed be drinking.”

“As if that's ever stopped a teen.”

“It stopped me. I waited until I was freshman in college before I got drunk.”

“Which still made you underage.”

Dawn returned carrying a tray with three oversized mugs of coffee, a creamer and a bowl of sugar.

“What's this about being underage?”

“Underage drinking. Something that you better not have any history with.”

“Please, after you went all cave girl? I've take the pledge.”

“Oh?”

Daniel knew there had to be a good story there. He did feel just a bit guilty about egging Dawn on but he couldn't quite stop himself.

It was Buffy's turn to flush as Dawn elaborated.

“She used lipstick for wall paintings. And she sniffed Xander.”

“How?” Buffy asked.

“Xander told Anya. Anya told me.”

“Anya knew?” Left unspoken was the follow up, and I'm still breathing?

“She forgave you since you weren't really you at the time. She felt quite magnanimous about it too. And Xander got a big happy out of it for being a good boy.”

“I really should have vetted your sitters better.”

“William?”

“Tara.”

Daniel looked confused as the sisters retreated into shorthand. Not being able to follow the conversation, let alone contribute to it, he took a generous sip of his coffee. It was quite good.

The sisters suddenly stopped talking, realizing that they were ignoring their guest.

“I think that's enough about the mistakes I made raising Dawn.”

“Please, I was a teenage when you took over.”

“You're still a teenager.”

“About that...”

“So, Daniel. Can you tell us about the places you've traveled to?”

“Most of the traveling I've done for the Air Force is classified but I can tell you about some of the digs I went on as a student...”

Chapter 19

SGC, Monday morning

General Landry strode into his office.

“Cocky sons of bitches. Marines. I've never liked them.” He picked up a file from his desk and looked at the waiting officer. “You must be Colonel Mitchell.”

“Yes sir,” he stood at attention. “It's good to be here sir.”

“Well your service record is impeccable Mitchell. What's wrong with you?”

“Sir?”

“Nobody's perfect. Everyone has some kind of character flaw. What's yours?”

“Sometimes I can be impatient, Sir.”

“All pilots have type A personalities,” he thumbed through the file. “I'm talking about your kryptonite. Don't worry I'll figure it out. Walter!”

A voice over the intercom responded. “The file's on your desk along with the personnel folders you're about to request sir.”

“About to request? Walter I'd appreciate it—”

The voice continued, “push the button to talk sir.”

“Thank you Walter! The thing that's hardest to get used to around here,” Landry paused as he poured some coffee, “is how good everybody is at their job. Fact is…I like yelling at people. Never get the damn chance.”

“I'll try not to lower the average sir.”

“Oooh. Self deprecating sense of humor. You think it'll make people like you despite your outward perfection.”

“No.”

The general lifted the pile of folders from the desk and held them out. “Here you go son. Get started.”

“Sir?”

“You heard the disconnected voice of the little sergeant with psychic powers. Those are personnel files. Start picking your team.”

“General, I'm here to join SG-1.”

General Landry corrected him. “Colonel, you're here to lead SG-1.”

Caught off guard Mitchell asked “ah…what about Lt. Colonel Carter?”

“Well…she's taken command of Stargate's R&D out of area 51.”

“Since when?” This wasn't good.

“0700 this morning.”

“And Daniel Jackson?

“Dr Jackson put in for re-assignment. Teal'c left the program over a month ago. I'm surprised General O'Neill didn't tell you.”

“No,” Mitchel said slowly. What the hell was going on? This was not what he had signed on for.

“Well…that's Jack for you. You know I looked for the key to that desk for weeks until I finally got him to admit he never had one. The man never opened a draw the whole time he was here.”

“I'm sorry sir…the reason that I requested this post...why I worked so hard…”

“Expresses himself poorly when faced with unexpected challenges. Your sheet says you have outstanding leadership skills. Take the files, Colonel. Choose your team before I start to question the accuracy of that claim.”

“Yes sir.” Mitchell took the files and exited the room.

Sgt. Harriman watched as Lt. Colonel Mitchell left the general's office. The officer's gait had lost its bounce sometime during the closed door meeting.

“Sir?”

“Sergeant?” Mitchell looked up from the personnel folders he was carrying.

“Dr. Jackson is still on the base, sir. He turned down the transfer to the Daedalus.”

“Yes!” Okay, he was still missing Sam and Teal'c but at least Daniel wasn't scampering off to another galaxy.

- - -

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Dawn was just easing her motorcycle into her preferred parking spot when she saw Cara heading her way. She dismounted and started to unfasten her helmet as Cara met up with her.

“I come bearing gifts,” Cara raised two large cups with the Starbucks logo.

“You are a goddess,” Dawn handed over a five dollar bill and took one. “Thanks for picking this up for me. We ran out of coffee last night and I just don't function too well without at least one cup in the morning.”

“You know it's a good thing you don't smoke. Combined with your daily intake of caffeine you'd shake yourself off that bike.”

Dawn snorted, “Buffy would kill me if I ever tried a cigarette. Then she'd find a way to raise me from the dead so she could kill me again. Now caffeine...that's our family vice.”

“Then how did you and sister run out of coffee? Shouldn't you always have extra on hand just so you don't run out?”

After a sip Dawn elaborated, “we had company over last night and let's just say our guest was as addicted to the stuff as Buffy is. If you think I'm bad, you should see how much she can drink. I think that Daniel just might be able to drink her under the table.”

“Is he your sister's boyfriend?”

“No,” Dawn hesitated then fudged the truth a bit. “Actually, he was one of my mother's old high school boyfriends. ”

The pair started walking towards their first class.

“Is he, like you know, visiting?”

“No, he's lived here on and off for about ten years.”

“Oh,” Cara said, losing interest in the subject. “So, how was your date with Will?”

“Good. We stopped in at a farewell party for someone who had a last minute transfer before officially starting the date. His friends seemed pretty cool.”

“No comments about the age thing?”

“No,” Dawn finished inhaling the last of her coffee. “At least, not in my hearing.”

“Well, you know, you could, like pass for mid-twenties.”

“Cara!”

“Not that you look old or anything. I just mean that you act mature and stuff. That counts for a lot. Plus you're tall. Sad to say but it helps.”

“Yeah, I think you're right about that. Buffy's so short that she can still pass as a teenager if she dresses like one. Of course it helps if she pulls her ditz routine.”

“What's that?”

“Blonde and clueless. It's amazing how many people fall for the airhead cliché.”

“So, back to Will. Are you still hiding him from your sister?”

“Yeah, but not for too much longer. I finally have some dirt on her guy and it's super good dirt.”

“Do tell.”

“She was serious about giving up dating older guys. And I mean really serious. He's attending the Air Force Academy.”

“Okay, so your boyfriend outranks hers. That could be interesting.” Cara tried to remember how old Dawn said her sister was. “And, what, that makes him her age, maybe a year younger?”

“Oh he's a year younger alright. It's just that Jay's a year younger than I am.”

Cara burst out laughing.

- - -

SGC

At the knock on his door, Daniel looked up from his current translation.

“Dr. Jackson,” Mitchell said as he entered the office.

“Colonel.

“My friends call me Cameron.”

“Daniel…uh…how are you?”

“I'm good thanks.”

“Yeah I heard you were coming.”

“Sgt. Harriman told me you turned down your transfer to the Daedalus.”

“Yes.”

“Does that mean you are staying on SG-1,” he asked hopefully.

“No,” Daniel turned and picked up a small volume from a nearby table.

“I've been given command of SG-1.”

“Wow. Well…good for you. You deserve it.”

“Can I talk you into staying?

“You're kidding,” he asked as he began searching through the book.

“Listen. General O'Neill gave me the choice of any posting I wanted. I chose SG-1. That meant Colonel Carter, Teal'c and yourself. Not two letters a dash and a number.”

“Uh…that's nice.”

“I wanted to be on the front line working with the best. I wanted to learn from you.”

“Look this is all very flattering but uh…”

“That's not the point.”

“I'm sorry. I know why I owe you one. We all do, but I've reached a point in my life where going through the gate on a regular basis isn't something that I want to be doing. It's not that it hasn't been exciting and challenging, it was. But for now, I've had enough.”

“But...”

Daniel looked at him and said firmly, “no.”

Chapter 20

Air Force Academy, Tuesday

Jay sat outside the commandant's office while the rest of the fourth-class cadets attended the afternoon's lecture. It was just too bad that the incident with Buffy and Neidermeyer hadn't occurred the previous week. This week's guest speaker was General George Hammond and he would loved to see his, no Jack's, old CO.

Last week the cadets had been treated to the wisdom of General Bauer. That had been a lecture he would have loved to skip. The irony of listening to Bauer lecture on proportionate warfare and responsibility had been tough to take. The man had never met a bomb he didn't like. As far as Jay knew, Carter still had occasional nightmares about the naquadah-enhanced nuke Bauer ordered her to develop and then test. Teal'c had filled in the rest of the gaps, including the virtual suicide mission to a Goa'uld stronghold to acquire the naquadah for the bomb. No, having Bauer talking to cadets was like having a closet drunk talk about the joys of sobriety. Unfortunately, none of the other cadets knew the great general's true record and it was unlikely that they'd ever find out.

Jay turned his thoughts to what brought him to his current status. Neidermeyer had been riding his ass for weeks and he still hadn't figured out just what set the other cadet off in the first place. When Jay hadn't cracked under the pressure, Neidermeyer had just gotten worse. It was just too bad for Neidermeyer that even his best efforts were nothing compared to those of a System Lord. Heck they didn't even come close to some of the crap pulled by some of the officers Jack had served under. The incident with Buffy, though, had been a close one until she took charge of the situation.

Jay realized in his heart of hearts he wouldn't have had the weekend turn out any different. The look on the older cadet's face when he hit the floor was what his former generation would have called a Kodak moment. He had known that Buffy wasn't a pushover but he hadn't expected to find woman with Carter's combat skills this time around. Okay, she didn't really have Carter's skills but she sure had the aptitude and attitude. Maybe on their next date he'd see if she liked to arm wrestle since getting a room was out of the question.

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Buffy let her mind wander as the professor droned on. The previous weekend had been a good one, better in fact, than any in recent memory. Sunday had gone really well except for running out of coffee after dinner. Note to self, don't go with Daniel and Dawn to Starbucks without robbing the bank first. Daniel turned out to be a great conversationalist once he was on caffeine high. The tales of his years in grad school and on various digs had been entertaining. It was too bad that he was involved in classified stuff for the Air Force these day but she doubted that what he'd been doing for the last decade was all that interesting.

Thoughts of the Air Force led her back to thinking of Saturday. Other than that jerk of a cadet, it had been a lovely day. Jay got extra points for letting her handle Neidermeyer herself. She finally found a guy with a pulse that wasn't threatened by the idea that she could take care of herself. Once they ditched his awestruck friends, the rest of the afternoon had been pleasantly frustrating. She had caught herself scanning Arnie's for some out of the way corner that they could try making out before firmly placing her libido under lock and key. Yeah, her love life sucked but there was hope. All she had to do was to wait for Christmas break. Three months from now.

Focus Summers, she thought, as she checked her watch. Only fifteen more minutes, she sighed and turned her attention back to Professor Clemens.

Air Force Academy

Jay stood at attention in front of the commandant's desk as Brigadier General Leonard Stowe flipped through a file. Okay, so maybe he was regretting Neidermeyer being tossed on his ass. Nah.

“So Jack, how's cadet life?”

Jay's eyes narrowed.

“At ease, Jack. Take a seat.”

“The name's Jason Simpson, sir.”

“And when we were off-duty at that bar twenty years ago it was Jack,” Len Stowe replied. “It took some finagling to get you admitted to the Academy since your school transcripts are mostly non-existent. I was briefed about your situation, but don't worry, no one else in the office has any clue that a mini Major General is hiding out in the cadet wing.”

Jay's eyes widened. “They promoted him again?”

“And transferred him the Pentagon. Homeworld Security.” Stowe grinned. “Sit down, Jac...Jason.”

Jay slid into a nearby seat. For a moment he kept his back straight before easing into the trademark O'Neill slouch.

“Actually, I'm going by Jay these days, well when I'm not going by Simpson.”

“Hmm, so now how about explaining the incident at Arnie's this weekend.”

“I didn't lay a hand on Niedermeyer.”

“So how did he land on the floor?”

“He tried hitting on Buffy and didn't take no for answer,” Jay explained. “When we tried to walk away, he grabbed her arm, and she took him down.”

“And Buffy would be?” Stowe inquired.

“A friend,” he said.

Girlfriend?”

“Yeah.” Jack replied. “But don't look at me like that. I'm not exactly cradle robbing. She's twenty-four.”

“A twenty-four year old civilian, named Buffy of all things, knocked a male cadet, a first-class cadet, on his ass.”

“Actually, it was more of toss,” Jay smirked.

“Was it something that you taught her?”

“Nope.”

“Hmm,” Len leaned back in his chair. “Neidermeyer claims that you were the one that assaulted him.”

Jay just looked at Stowe without commenting.

“Normally, I'd have to take his word for it even knowing he was lying through his teeth. Unfortunately for him, there were several witnesses that came forward on your behalf,” Stowe's smile was reminiscent of a shark's, “so if anyone is entitled to press charges it would your Buffy.”

“I doubt she would.”

“Pity. Still, I do need to find a suitable punishment for him.” Stowe leaned forward, “any ideas?”

SGC

General Landry and Sgt. Harriman watched as Lt. Colonel Mitchell went through the 'gate to Dakara.

“So, Walter,” he said. “What kind of odds is Siler giving on Mitchell getting Teal'c to come back?”

Chapter 21

SGC, Tuesday

“Unscheduled off-world activation,” echoed through the base but when no other alarms went off, the junior members of SG-12 and SG-9 turned their attention back to their lunches and a little bit of gossip.

“So, I heard that Col. Mitchell tried to get the old SG-1 team back together,” Lt. Astor said as he examined the mystery meat on his tray.

Grogan nodded. “The general let him go off to Dakara to see if he could convince Teal'c to come back.”

“Which didn't work,” SG-12's Lt. Morgan added.

“Nope. Teal'c is too busy trying to build a Jaffa nation.”

“And Col. Carter turned him down as well,” Grogan said.

“That still leaves Dr. Jackson. Since he's not heading off to Atlantis, won't he rejoin SG-1?” Astor asked.

“He turned down the colonel's offer too,” Morgan stated. “And I think I know why.”

“Care to enlighten us?” Grogan asked.

“Well, last week he got called in to do some translating even though he was supposed to on medical leave. According the guards on duty at the time, when he left the base he was picked up by a really hot blonde.”

“She's probably going to be trouble,” Capt. Conover finally spoke up. When his tablemates stared at him he continued. “Let's do a refresher course in the many loves of Daniel Jackson: his wife, snaked; ex-girlfriend, snaked; Hathor, a snake; the princess that got him hooked on sarcophagus; and the latest, you know the one that hijacked the Prometheus?”

“Mala Val Doran. But she beat him up, hardly girlfriend material,” Morgan said. “Besides, the blonde's name was Buffy Summers. How much trouble could a 'Buffy' be?”

Grogan started choking.

After a couple of blows to the back, courtesy of Conover, he finally got his breath back. “Did you say Buffy Summers?”

“Yeah. Why do you know her,” Morgan asked.

“I know of her,” Grogan started to say when Astor interrupted him.

“Grogan, didn't you say that Dawn has a sister named Buffy?”

Before he could answer, Major Arroyo stepped in the cafeteria and told his team that they had ten minutes to get to the gateroom. SG-12 quickly exited the room leaving SG-9 to finish the conversation.

“So, you think that Dr. Jackson is seeing your girlfriend's sister?”

Grogan shook his head. “Dawn said her sister was dating someone at the Academy. I think she said his name was Jay.”

“Dr. Jackson teaches the occasional seminar at the Academy. Jay could be a pet name, you know, J for Jackson.”

Grogan looked at his companions in horror.

- - -

Air Force Academy Grounds

Eddings and Roberts were speculating just how much trouble Simpson was in when the cadet in question joined them in the library.

“So, how bad?”

“Not bad at all,” Jay smirked.

His friends were startled. Since their arrival at the Academy they had seen Neidermeyer get away with just about everything short of murder. The faculty generally thought of him as a model cadet, if something of a suck up. Some of his fellow cadets had a less positive view of him, especially those had been on the receiving end of Niedermeyer's harassment.

“You're kidding right?”

“Well Roberts, this time Neidermeyer finally screwed up. Too many witnesses against him.” Satisfaction coated his words as Jay continued, “seems that by claiming that I assaulted him, he was charged with lying in addition to sexually harassing a female civilian.”

“The lying I get but isn't a charge of sexual harassment a bit strong?”

“He didn't listen when she said no. He grabbed her,” Jay said simply.

“But it wasn't like he actually did anything,” Roberts wondered.

Inwardly Jay sighed. Sometimes he could almost forget how young his fellow cadets were.

“One, this time there were witnesses that came forward, several of which testified to pattern of similar misconduct. Two, General Stowe took it seriously because Neidermeyer's behavior was way out of line and potentially dangerous. Okay, so Buffy tossed him on his ass and walked away but imagine that you are in some other country” or on some other world “and someone on your team grabs one of the local girls. Maybe nothing happens. Maybe he gets lucky. Maybe, just maybe, he pisses off her and/or the rest of the locals and you're caught in the crossfire.”

Roberts and Eddings mulled over what Jay had said. They had never really thought of implications of Neidermeyer's behavior in terms like that. They were quiet for a minute or two before Eddings asked the question on both of their minds.

“So, what's going to happen to him?”

“The general said something about reminding Neidermeyer about the concept of being an officer and a gentleman.”

“And that would be?” Roberts prompted.

“I'm not sure,” Jay admitted truthfully. Of course, he had given the general several suggestions. After discarding a fantasy of turning Neidermeyer over to a snake, Anise would do since Hathor was long dead, he had mentioned making Neidermeyer transcribe an assortment of chick flicks, starting with An Officer and a Gentleman as a kind of sensitivity training. The idea he was really rooting for was inspired by a conversation he had with Buffy shortly after they met. He wasn't sure Buffy would have approved of his co-opting her high school principal's game plan but it had so many possibilities. “I was told that the privileges that he has enjoyed as a First Class Cadet are going to be suspended until further notice.”

“Harsh,” Eddings commented.

“The salt in that wound is that as one of the offended parties, I get a weekend pass,”Jay said with a toothy grin that would have done a shark proud. “It's the general's way of making it up to Buffy.”

His fellow cadets burst out laughing.

- - -

SGC, Thursday

Air Force officers do not whimper. They do not cower when confronting enemy fire let alone when they are faced with stacks of personnel records. Above all, Air Force officers do not whimper. Ever.

Cameron Mitchell's dream assignment was rapidly turning into a very bad joke. SG-1, as he had admitted to Teal'c on his visit Dakara, had become SG-Me. The former First Prime of Apophis had chosen to stay on Dakara to help forge the new Jaffa nation. Sam Carter was now heading up research and development at Area 51 and turned down his request to come back to Cheyenne Mountain. And Daniel Jackson, while not heading off to the Pegasus Galaxy to join up with the Atlantis Expedition, had still declined to rejoin SG-1. Now, instead of joining them as a part of the legendary SG-1, he was left to pick a new team from the most unheroic batch of candidates imaginable. He had seen babbling geeks, overachieving geeks, and gung ho Air Force captains and various combinations the same. A knock on the office door signaled the start of yet another interview.

A near silent whimper escaped Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell.

- - -

P39-5X2

Major Arroyo stood stood next to the DHD.

“That's correct General,” he spoke into his radio. “She says she will only let Dr. Jackson take a look at the tablet.”

A woman, dressed as either a System Lord or a dominatrix, stood off to the side guarded by the remaining three members of SG-12. She was getting bored listening to only one side of the conversation. She took a deep breath and removed her jacket. One of her guards was looking more uncomfortable than the rest so she gave him a wink then readjusted her leather bodice, just for fun.

“Understood,” the major said as he turned away from the Stargate as it closed down. “Miss Mal Doran, the General will allow through the 'gate. But first, we need to make sure that you aren't carrying any weapons.”

“Ooh, a strip search,” Vala said. “Can I search you too?”

Dr. Jackson was so going to pay for this Arroyo thought.

- - -

SGC, Daniel's Office

Daniel's office was something of disaster at the moment. He had finally finished unpacking all of his reference books that he had planned to take to Atlantis. He also had retrieved most of the books that he had loaned to other members of the SGC's anthropology department. What he hadn't done was put them back on the shelves. Books were strewn across every flat, and semi-flat, surface. Only the chair that he was currently occupying had escaped the book explosion.

“I can't believe that you didn't tell him that he was going to be leading a new team,” Daniel said into the telephone handset that he had wedged between his shoulder and his head. He continued to skim the book in front of him.

“No, I'm not planning to,” he reached for another volume and flipped through its pages. “There's plenty to keep me busy for years Jack... No I'm not saying that I'm never going through the 'gate again...”

- - -

SGC, Gateroom

The gate opened and three figures passed through it—two members of SG-12 and the infamous Vala Mal Doran.

“So, where's my Daniel?” the latter asked.

- - -

Air Force Academy Grounds

Inwardly seething, Neidermeyer stood at attention in General Stowe's office. He couldn't believe that little shit and his psycho girlfriend were getting off scot-free while his privileges had been revoked.

The general silently thanked Jay for the inspiration. He signed the final form, then rested his forearms on his desk.

“Now cadet, since I believe that idle hands are the devil's workshop, I have arranged for some of your newly available spare time to be spent in a constructive manner. Beginning this Saturday, you are to report to the main entrance by 0900. You will be met by the leader of scout troop 17. You are to assist in whatever manner is required. I would also like to add that the troop leader will be making a report each week detailing your attitude. I suggest that you make sure that every report is favorable.”

“Sir, yes sir.”

“Dismissed.”

After Niedermeyer left, Stowe began to chuckle. Scout troop 17 was a Girl Scout troop and their leader was none other than Mrs. General Stowe.

Chapter 22

SGC, Thursday

Daniel headed towards the briefing room following his telephone conversation with Jack. Against his better judgment, he had told General Landry that it was possible that Vala Mal Doran was telling the truth. He also told the general that it was unlikely. Indeed, he had emphasized the latter to no avail, the general had allowed Vala to accompany two of the members of SG- back to the SGC.

General Landry and Cameron Mitchell were already in the briefing room with Vala when he arrived. A large metal case sat on the table.

“Okay, where is it?” Daniel asked.

Vala stood up. “Nice to see you too. How have you been?”

“Tablet. The one that leads to incredible buried ancient treasure,” Daniel said rudely.

She smirked. “There is no tablet.”

Why wasn't he surprised? “What?”

“I lied. I had to tell you in…person.” Vala lowered her voice. “I'm pregnant. Pretty sure it's yours anyway…there's at least a one in …ten chance.”

She followed up with a wink at Mitchell.

Daniel turned to leave the room only to be stopped by the general.

“Doctor Jackson! You're the reason we let her through the gate.”

Daniel stopped and turned back around. “Sir I really have to finish unpacking. I told you that she was probably lying.”

“Your unpacking can wait. Since she is here, you might as well take a take a look.” And with that comment, the general left the room.

Mitchell opened the box as Jackson walked back over. Vala removed the tablet and held it out to Daniel who took the tablet and gave it a quick look.

“Don't know where you can get this but uh…you got ripped off.” Daniel placed the tablet on the conference table. “It's complete gibberish.”

“Its written in code.”

“Right,” Daniel drawled.

“I know the cipher,” she said.

“Then why do you need me?”

“Well reading it is one thing. Understanding it is another. The individual I got this from assured me that the treasure it describes is here on earth. Now I could have come by ship and looked for it myself but I know nothing about your fair planet. Other that it seems to have an interesting if somewhat limited gene pool.”

University of Colorado Springs Library

“So, any plans for this weekend?” Cara asked Dawn.

“Mmm, maybe,” was the answer that came from behind the neighboring study carrel.

“Mmm, maybe?”

“Well, I asked Will if he would be willing stop in and meet my sister this Saturday before we go out,” Dawn leaned back in her chair to look at her friend.

“And?” Cara prompted.

“He got all stuttery.”

“Scared to meet her?”

Dawn paused a moment and pushed a lock of her behind her ear. “Not really, more nervous than scared, I think.”

“Well, she is sort of your parental unit.” Cara said. “Maybe he's afraid that she won't approve.”

“Parental unit?”

The Coneheads was on last night. Dad gets a kick out of aliens on earth movies so I watched it with him,” she explained. “Dad always tries to intimidate my boyfriends. You know, hurt my little girl and no one will find the body stuff. He doesn't pull it off too well.”

“Buffy doesn't do parental well and we've reached a truce on each other boyfriends.”

“But does he know that? And, is he willing to meet her?”

“Yeah, but he wants to keep it real short.” Dawn said. “And so do I. I figure all I owe her is ten, maybe fifteen minutes. At least until I meet her boyfriend.”

“You mean the kid?”

“Hey, he's eighteen!”

The pair looked at each other and giggled.

“Besides, her parental unit is supposed to be coming over for dinner. I figure I can get Will in and out before he shows up.”

SGC

Back in his office, Daniel took a closer look at the tablet while Vala looked on. Outside the office, two security officers stood guard.

“So…where'd you get this?”

“The Jaffa may have won their freedom but there are still more than a few Goa'uld out there. Most of them have lost their dynasties though and are either on the run or in hiding.”

“Yes or plotting some means of regaining their power,” he said distractedly as he continued to examine the tablet.

“Yes and in the meantime, they are having a lot of trouble maintaining the lifestyles to which they had grown accustomed to the last 5000 years or so. As such there are a number of rather interesting artifacts currently on the market. Anyway that isn't the issue the question is…what's it worth?”

Daniel looked at the rest of the contents of the case. “Well”, he said, “the Ancients aren't really known for secret stashes of Goa'uld like these for example.” Daniel said. He picked up one of the gold artifacts. “Wait a minute, these markings are Goa'uld. If the treasure is suppose to be Ancient what do they have to do with this?”

“These are actually only loosely related to the tablet.” Vala picked up a matching artifact.

“Yeah how?”

“You ever heard of the Goa'uld Nut?”

“As in…cashew? Pea? Oh you mean the Egyptian sky goddess.”

“Yes.”

“No. Never heard of her.”

“These were her ceremonial marriage bracelets. She wore one and her husband of the moment wore one.”

“Of the moment?”

“Yes, she had many. That's one of the few admirable things about her.”

Vala slapped the gold band around Jackson's wrists where it formed a bracelet. Startled by her action, he was taken off guard as she grabbed the other band from his hand.

“Ow! What are you doing? Security!” He tried to pull the band off as the security officers entered the office with weapons drawn.

“Okay, that was fun. Now take it off.” Daniel said.

“Not until we find the treasure.”

“What?” He could quite believe what the nutcase was saying.

“These bracelets,” she said as she slapped the other one on to her wrist, “ link us together. The tablet is mine and I want my fair share of what it leads to.”

After a quick consultation with Daniel, the security officers escorted Vala to one of the VIP rooms. Daniel headed off towards Dr. Lee's lab silently wishing that Sam was still at the SGC.

- - -

Two hours later, Dr. Lee gave up in frustration.

“That was the third blade I've gone through. I'm not gonna be able to cut it off…the hand. If we remove the hand…I know that on first blush that doesn't sound like a viable option but in understand that Dr. Bennet is becoming quite proficient at attaching..”

“I thought SG-12 checked everything she had on her,” Daniel said.

“They did…and and in their defense at that time the bracelet wasn't giving off any kind of energy signature. I mean even now it's barely measurable.” He looked at the reading on the laptop screen.

“So what's it doing…I mean how does it work?”

Dr. Lee admitted he didn't know.

Daniel sighed and removed the wires that connected the bracelet to the computer.

“No, no,” Lee protested. “I just need a little more time.”

Realizing that his only hope of removing the bracelet while retaining his hand was Vala, Daniel started to leave the lab only to collapse.

Colorado Springs, Friday

Buffy pulled her SUV into the parking lot of the local Whole Foods. She checked her grocery list before getting out of the vehicle and heading into the store. The food budget was going to be strained but she had learned the hard way that the meat counter at the one of the more price friendly stores was not to be trusted. The slimy roast that Dawn had picked up last month had been the last straw. What was the point in saving a few dollars at the store if you ended up having to take it back?

SGC

Daniel woke up in the infirmary. This, he thought, was really getting old. Even without going through the gate, he was still winding up flat on his back. He caught sight of his old teammate.

“Teal'c?”

“Daniel Jackson,” the former First Prime of Apophis acknowledged.

Lt. Col. Mitchell came into view. “How ya doing?”

“Uh…fine…I think. What happened I was…”

“It's the bracelet,” Mitchell stated.

“They are called KorMac,” Teal'c said.

“Figured he might know,.” Mitchell said with a nod of his towards Teal'c.

“Yeah she said they were some sort of weird Goa'uld Nut marriage thing.”

“I do not believe that to be the case,” the Jaffa disagreed.

“No?”

“No.”

“Should of known,” Daniel sighed.

“I have only heard of them in passing a very long time ago. I believe it was Cronus who used this technology when a prisoner of value needed to be transported by his Jaffa. He would affix a bracelet such as this to both the prisoner and the Jaffa responsible for him. If they became separated for more than a short period of time they would both become ill and die.”

“Both?”

A feminine voice from across the room spoke up. “That's just about the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”

Daniel sat up. “You didn't know?”

“Well I knew it would make you sick. I didn't know it would have the same effect on me too.”

“How could you not know?” Daniel's voice rose in disbelief.

“Because the person that I stole them from didn't tell me that part!”

Daniel grabbed his pillow and threw it at her.

Vala kicked the pillow away.

Mitchell was curious. “Question...why would the Goa'uld design these things that way?”

“To punish the Jaffa for his incompetence.”

“Right of course.”

“Can you take it off?” Daniel asked Teal'c.

“I am sorry Daniel Jackson as I have said. I've only heard of this in passing.”

Daniel sat up and asked his tormentor the same thing.

“Yes of course I do. I mean…that's assuming that the person I stole them from was honest about that part.”

“Just do it.”

“Alright,” she said. “Soon as we find the treasure and I get my fair share.”

“Okay, just to clarify…when I kill her…I die?

Teal'c replied, “just as if you left her proximity.”

“Look the tablet is written in ancient code right? I know its not the lost city of Atlantis we're looking for here but what ever it is could be worth finding. Or you're just gonna have to marry that chick,” Mitchell said.

“Yeah,” Vala grinned. “Let's make babies.”

Daniel groaned. It looked like his weekend plans, at the very least, were shot to hell.

Colorado Springs

Buffy was bringing the last of the groceries in when the telephone rang.

She grabbed the receiver as she closed the door to the garage.

“Hello,” as she placed the last bag on the counter.

“Hi Dad...Oh. No, that's not a problem. I didn't do my shopping yet...No really, it's okay. I understand how things can come up at work. Okay, I'll talk to you later.”

Buffy hung up the telephone. She surveyed the bags and sighed before she started putting the groceries away. She placed two packages of steak in the freezer.

The telephone rang again.

Chapter 23

SGC, Late Friday

“Are you sure you have the cipher right?” Daniel asked for the third time.

“Yes, why?” Vala replied.

“I can't believe that I'm giving up my weekend for this.”

“Get over it,” was all that a equally peeved Vala said.

From a safe corner in Daniel's lab, Mitchell and Teal'c observed the bickering pair.

“So, you don't have to get back to Dakara?” Mitchell asked.

“The council is in recess until tomorrow.”

“Curious.”

“Indeed.”

“See, this is good. Being part of a team again, working together to unravel some cool ancient mystery,” Mitchell said as Teal'c raised an eyebrow. Mitchell decided to backtrack. “Right so… we're not working together…but any minute now I bet Dr. Jackson's gonna discover some key pieces of information's that sets us off on a great adventure.”

Daniel's next words were less than encouraging. “This can't be right.”

“What is it?” Vala encroached further into his personal space.

Daniel stared at the computer screen. “Uh…well this is a portion of the database the Atlantis expedition brought back with them a few weeks ago… specifically it's the log of the names of the Ancients who left the planet when it was under siege from the Wraith and returned to earth.”

“Thousands of years ago,” Teal'c intoned.

“Yes.”

“And what does this have to do with my tablet?”

“Uh…see the tablet talks about a treasure but it doesn't make any specific reference to where it is.”

“Well it is supposed to be here,” Vala hopped up onto the desk and made herself comfortable. “At least that's what the person who I stole it from told me before I stole it from him.”

“Well I think it is here and I think I know where it is to.”

“Right time out,” Mitchell interjected. “If the tablet doesn't say…”

“It doesn't say specifically but it…it is signed, by a guy named Myrddin.” Daniel grinned while his companions stared at him.

Mitchell shook his head. “Never heard of him.”

“I think you have and the amazing part is his name also appears in the database.”

“The Ancient who carved this tablet is one of the ancients who returned to earth from Atlantis?” Teal'c asked.

“Yes.”

“I have an Uncle Marvin. I'm pretty sure I don't have know any Myrddins.”

“That's because in English his name sounds a little different. Have you heard of…Merlin?”

“Merlin,” Mitchell said in disbelief. “As in King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table Merlin?”

“Yes.”

“Was an Ancient?”

“I think so.”

Mitchell turned to Teal'c. “See, now that's what I'm talking about.”

Air Force Academy Grounds, Saturday morning

“Simpson, you're starting to creep me out,” Cadet Eddings said as he watched his roommate pack a small overnight bag.

Jay looked up from his task. “Huh?”

“You're way too happy.”

“What's not to be happy about? Weekend pass remember?”

“Going to see Buffy?”

“What do you think?”

“So, going to take her somewhere nice?”

“Actually, she has a couple of steaks waiting at her place.”

“Steak?” Eddings practically drooled.

SGC

General Landry was not amused to find himself in the briefing room on a Saturday morning. While Dr. Jackson had many things to recommend him, the archealogist was well known for excessively long-winded reports. According to Jack O'Niell, the SGC's previous CO, it was geek thing. Landry was beginning to believe it. He forced himself to concentrate on what the man was saying.

“...Arthur was then carried off in a barge by Merlin, saying he was headed for the veil of Avalon which according to legend was a magical place where the dead would meet. Now at the time some said Arthur never actually died but would in fact one day return. From what we know about the Ancients it is possible that Avalon helped Arthur a mortal ascend.”

“Are not the Ancients prevented from interfering with the existence of mortals?” Teal'c inquired.

“Ascended Ancients? Yes, for the most part. But it's possible Merlin was not actually ascended himself but was in fact just a human far along the evolutionary path.”

“What does this have to do with where this alleged treasure is buried?” Landry asked.

“Well there are a number of inflicting interpretations but certain threads point to the Knights of the Round Table. Gathering great treasures from the far corners of Arthur's domain and hiding them in a magical strong hold in Avalon.”

“Including the Holy Grail,” Mitchell contributed.

“According to some,” Daniel agreed.

“This grail…what's that worth?” Vala asked only to the recipient of Mitchell's pointed stare. “What?”

Daniel continued, ignoring Vala.“In 1191 the monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have found the grave of King Arthur, on the stone burial was an inlay lead cross with the inscription 'Hic iacet sepvltvs inclytvs rex artvrivs in insvla avaloni'" here lies the famous king Arthur buried on the isle of Avalon. The claim was not taken seriously until 1278 when Henry II ordered the grave to be exhumed. Glastonbury, a small town about 125 miles west of London, has been a pilgrimage for believers since.”

“Yes, yes and the point is?” Landry stood up in frustration. Mitchell made to stand as well before Landry indicated that he could stay seated.

“Certain Celtic legends says that Glastonbury Tor, the hill overlooking the town is actually hollow and that contained within it is the underworld Avalon.”

“Has no one ever done any sort of geological survey?”

“There have been several scientific studies apparent...”

“Jackson,” the general said.

“We're talking about the Ancients here sir. It's very possible that the underground entrance was concealed by some technology.”

“Sir, we're hoping to use the Asguard sensors aboard the Prometheus to find something we haven't been able to see before.”

“Thank you,” Landry said in relief as Mitchell cut to the heart of the matter. “Well two years ago I wouldn't have believed we'd find an Ancient outpost under a mile of ice in Antarctica. I'll call the President. I'm sure he'll want to inform the British Prime Minister.”

Washington, DC

Jack O'Neill was not happy to be spending Saturday at the Pentagon. Hank Landry had no idea that his request was going to cause trouble, trouble that Jack was going to have to sort out. The British were not being cooperative but unfortunately, some of the Joint Chiefs were inclined to ignore their ally's wishes on the hope that there was some sort of Ancient weapon hiding near Glastonbury.

He pressed the intercom button. “Barbara, I need you to get a hold of Col. Davis.”

Rio de Janeiro

Kennedy sulked as Willow got dressed.

“I don't see why the coven can't handle it themselves. You said it yourself, they've been protecting the Tor for centuries.”

Willow hugged her girlfriend. “But they've relied on using glamours to hide the truth. Now they think that someone has found a way around them so they're calling in a favor.”

“You didn't have to agree.”

“I owe them sweetie. I've got to go, I can feel them calling me.”

And with that, the redheaded witch teleported from the room.

Colorado Springs, late Saturday afternoon

Dawn sighed in relief as Buffy headed out the door. Will was supposed to pick her up in less than five minutes. While she had readied herself for Buffy to meet Will, she was more than happy to put it off as long as possible. She wanted to meet the mysterious Jay first. She started to head upstairs to grab her jacket when the telephone rang. She went back into the kitchen and picked up the handset.

“Hello...this is her sister Dawn...oh, Col. Davis...no she's not here but she should be back within the hour... Sure, I'll leave a note for her to call you... Bye.”

Dawn quickly scribbled a note, stuck it under a magnet on the refrigerator, and went upstairs to grab her jacket.

Chapter 24

Colorado Springs

“Thanks, Matt,” Jay said before taking a slow sip of beer in the Reynolds' kitchen.

“Just don't let on to Mary that I let you have one,” Col. Matthew Reynolds, CO of SG-3, grinned. “I'd hate to be accused of corrupting a minor. Besides, if it became known I was supplying beer to a fourth-class cadet, the Academy would never let my family host a cadet again.”

“I lived through the Sixties, not to mention the disco era. I think it's safe to say I'm already corrupted.” Jay took another sip. “So, how are Mary and Becky doing these days?”

“They're doing well. Luckily for you and your drink, not to mention your other plans, they're out of town this weekend visiting family,” Reynolds replied as the pair headed out to the back deck. “So, how is it, reliving your youth?”

“Even less fun than it was the first time around. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been able to convince Hammond that my new identity should at least be sixteen. Two years of high school were more than enough. I'm not sure which were worse, the administrators or the students.”

“Finding the Academy any better?”

“Somewhat. General Stowe figured out who I am, was, which helps. Anyway, I can't wait to finish and get back to the SGC.” Jay took another, longer sip before continuing. “I've been promised my old rank back, although outside of the mountain I'll be a lowly 2nd Lieutenant.”

“With that baby face you'll have a bad enough getting people believe that.”

“Thank you so much.”

“No problem,” Matt snickered. “So, where are you planning to disappear to this weekend?”

“A friend's.”

“And that friend would would be?” Matt prompted.

“That friend would be Buffy.”

“Buffy?”

“She's from California. The way she tells it, no one in California has a normal name.”

“She's probably right. I was stationed in southern California about fifteen years ago. Strange place. And speaking of names, why aren't you going by Jason?”

“Ah, that would because of a certain evil astrophysist. I agreed to her suggestion of Jason before discovering that during her mispent youth she was hooked on a television show called Jason of Star Command.

Reynolds started laughing. “I remember that show. Hell, it made Wormhole Extreme look like a Emmy material.”

“Unfortunately, I never heard of it until it was too late. I discovered it by accident about a year later. Best I could do was shorten my name to Jay.” Jay finished off his beer and sadly looked at the empty bottle. “Buffy should be here soon so I guess there isn't time for another.”

- - -

SGC

Teal'c and Mitchell found Daniel and Vala having an early dinner in the the base cafeteria. After filling their own trays, they joined the pair at a small table.

“So, what do you think the hold up is?” Mitchell asked.

“Apparently there's been a problem with the British,” Daniel explained. “Jack and Paul Davis are trying to straighten it out.”

“What I don't understand is why we just don't sneak in,” Vala said. “Given the state of your planet's technology, it can't be too difficult.”

“Ah, words of wisdom from our visiting thief,” Daniel sniped.

- - -

Colorado Springs

Jay pulled his overnight bag from Buffy's SUV. When he tried to grab the bag of charcol briquettes as well, he discovered that Buffy had beaten him to it.

“Buffy, let me carry that.”

“I've already got it. You can get the grill.”

Jay shrugged and picked up the light-weight grill. Since he was only a lowly fourth-class cadet (even if he did have an overnight pass), he was not allowed to wear civilian clothes just yet. And while easier to maintain than a cadet's formal uniform, he preferred not to put his regulation blue shirt and pants to the charcoal test.

He followed her from the garage into the house. They each left their non-cooking supplies in the kitchen and took the charcoal and the grill out to the back porch.

“You're sure about this Jay?”

“Absolutely. You cannot cook a decent steak in the oven.”

“Well I hope it's worth it, because as I recall, it takes a while for the coals to get to the proper temperature,” Buffy said. “Dinner is definitely going to be later than I planned.”

“Trust me. It will be worth it,” Jay reassured her. “I'll get the fire started and you can work on the salad that you promised.”

Buffy went back into the kitchen and took off her jacket. As she turned towards the refrigerator, she saw Dawn's note. Once she read it, she was not a happy camper and, postponing her culinary duties, she picked up the telephone and dialed Washington.

Col. Davis answered on the second ring.

- - -

Washington, DC

Paul was beginning to worry that Miss Summer's sister had not passed along his message. Nearly two hours had passed since he had left it. He mentally crossed his fingers as his telephone rang.

Luck was with him, or so he thought.

- - -

Colorado Springs

Buffy tapped her foot while Davis tried to explain why, without actually explaining why, the Air Force needed to go looking for something on British soil.

“I really don't see where I can help you, Colonel... Hey, I was just messenger girl.”

She looked out of the kitchen window and watched as Jay set up the grill.

“No, I am not going to call London to try to find out why they won't play nice with you. You can't even tell me what or why so I am not going spend the next I don't know how many hours playing telephone tag... I'll try to find out on Monday. No, I'm busy now... Fine, I've got a hot date... No, I can't postpone it while I take care of your problem... Listen, I'm going to turn off the ringer and turn off my cellphone so don't bother trying call back.”

Jay walked back into the house as Buffy hung up the telephone with an excess of force.

“Is there a problem?”

“No, not unless you count a guy that has trouble understanding the word no,” she said.

“If he calls back, I can answer it,” he offered.

“That's sweet but I've already told him I'm turning off the ringer.”

“Any chance he might show up and cause trouble?”

Once she realized what he was implying, Buffy giggled. “Wait, you think that he's like hitting on me or something? It's nothing like that, although it would be funny to see his face if you asked. No, it's related to my trip last weekend.”

“That research project you were involved in back in Sunnydale?”

“Sort of. He thinks that I might be able to help with some of the cleanup. Unfortunately, he wanted me to drop everything and start right away.”

“Right away, right away?”

“Yep. Told him it would have to wait for Monday.” Buffy put her hands on Jay's shoulder and planted a kiss on his lips. “I told him I had a hot date that I was not going to miss.”

“I like the way you think Summers,” Jay said before returning her kiss, his hands around her waist.

“Hmm. So, how's the fire?”

- - -

SGC, Saturday night

Daniel and Vala were busy tossing a combination of insults and innuendoes back and forth in his office when Mitchell poked his head in the doorway.

“General Landry just got the word from the Pentagon. The mission's a go. The Prometheus will beam us up in an hour.”

Daniel gave a silent sigh of relief. The sooner they found Merlin's treasure, the sooner he could get rid of Vala.

Chapter 25

Near Glastonbury Tor

“You're kidding,” Willow said.

She looked at the pale gray robes in Nelly's arms. Nelly was the one of the younger members of the Devon coven. Unfortunately, she was not the type to joke, being far tweedier than Giles ever was.

“Willow, this is the traditional clothing of the Guardian of the Treasure,” Nelly replied.

The choice of the American witch as Guardian was a decidedly dubious one to Nelly's mind. Willow, being mostly self-taught, had little appreciation of tradition. That Willow had been named as the Guardian spoke volumes about her raw power but Nelly knew where that power had taken the redhead in the past. She hoped that the leaders of the Coven knew what they were doing.

“Of course it is,” Willow echoed. She sighed and started to strip down. “Let's hear it for tradition.”

- - -

Colorado Springs

Buffy and Jay piled the last of the dishes into the dishwasher. The dinner for two had been a success. Jay was right, the steak was just perfect. The chocolate cake with almond frosting that she had made earlier in the day was almost gone. Buffy's Slayer metabolism guaranteed that she wouldn't gain an ounce but she couldn't figure out why Jay was such a beanpole.

“How about a movie,” she asked as they left the kitchen.

“Sounds good,” Jay replied and began to walk towards the living room.

“You know, Jay,” Buffy gave him the 'look,' hoping that she hadn't misread his signals. “I've got a DVD player in my room.”

“Sounds even better.” He shoots, he scores.

The pair headed upstairs.

- - -

Earth Orbit over England

“So what do you think the range of these things is?” Mitchell asked Daniel as he passed him a vest from a storage locker in the Prometheus' armory.

“Well, Dr. Lee seems to think we need to stay within 100 feet or so of each other…more than half an hour outside that boundary we'll begin to feel the effects.”

“You know if we do find something I'm thinking…maybe just Teal'c and I should check it out.”

“If we find a secret ancient base I'm going.”

“It means we have to take her with us,” Mitchell commented.

“Good point.”

“Look,” the sole member of SG-1 said. “I want you there. You know that. I'm just thinking we could stay in radio contact.”

A voice came of the ship's intercom system. “Lt. Colonel Mitchell please report to auxiliary control room two.”

- - -

Mitchell and Daniel entered the control room to find that Teal'c and Vala were already in residence.

“Ah, now this brings back memories,” Vala said with a leer.

“How's that?” Daniel responded.

“Isn't this where I beat you up?”

“No.”

“No?” Vala drawled. “I'm pretty sure that right there is where I crushed your...”

“Alright, excuse me kids.” Mitchell walked between the pair on his way to the computer where the captain was working. “Marks, what have you got?”

“Well thanks to the Asgard sensors,” he gestured to the other computer, “we were able to map around the energy distortion that would have normally fooled deep ground sonar. I was able to define a large main cavern, a network of tunnels, and some smaller caves.”

“Well done,” Mitchell complimented.

Vala leaned in towards Marks. “Can you see what's in there….say large piles of precious metals?”

Daniel pulled her away from Marks. His hand lingered on her shoulder for a moment before he realized where it was and quickly yanked it away.

Marks shook his head. “Like I said, we could only map the exterior of the structure.”

“Can you get us in there,” Mitchell asked.

“Well it's almost a half mile underground and there's no visible access on the surface...” Marks paused in thought.

“Asgard beams,” Daniel suggested.

“Tried that. Doesn't seem to penetrate whatever sort of energy field is disguising the caves.”

“Ring,” Vala said. When the others looked at her she elaborated. “The Ancients were the gate builders right? And they invented the rings too. Look, they had to get in there some how and I know this ship has rings, it's how I…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, good times.” It killed him to admit it but Daniel added, “she's right though.”

“If there are rings down there, we should be able to lock on. But your radios won't work,” Marks warned.

“Looks like we're all going,” Mitchell said as he patted Daniel's shoulder. He then gestured to Vala, “ladies first.”

Not one to turn down such an obvious opening, Vala turned to Daniel. “Well then, after you.”

Refusing to acknowledge the dig, Daniel left the room followed by Vala.

As Mitchell headed out the door with Teal'c, he turned to the Jaffa and said, “Come on. This is fun. Right?”

- - -

Washington, DC

Most of his staff had gone home hours ago but O'Neill was still at his desk when he heard a knock at the door. He looked up to see Lt. Col. Davis standing in the doorway.

“Paul, any word from Summers?” Jack asked as he motioned his subordinate to enter and take a seat.

“Yes, sir. She finally returned my call.” Davis eased himself into the chair opposite the general's desk.

“Will she try to talk to her contacts?”

“No, sir.”

“No, sir?” Jack raised an eyebrow. “Care to explain?”

“Since I couldn't tell her why we needed access to the site, she wasn't going to cancel her plans for tonight. She did say she would try to make inquiries on our behalf. On Monday.”

“Monday? That's the best you could get from her?” He shook his head. “I think you are losing your touch, Paul. Call her back and try again.”

“She told me that she was turning off her phone before she hung up.”

“What do you mean she hung up?” O'Neill leaned back in his chair and ran his hand over his hair.

“She said she had a hot date.”

Jack wondered if it would be beneath the dignity of a two-star general to bang his head on his desk. Deciding that it would be, especially if done in front of a witness, he picked up the telephone and placed a call to General Landry.

- - -

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

The room had been undisturbed for centuries. The last intrusion had occurred in the mid-seventeenth century. The Guardian sent by the Coven to stop the Royalist treasure hunters in 1647 had ensured that there no survivors. The Coven, fearing for its own long-term survival in Cromwell's Commonwealth, had expended much of their resources in strengthening Myrddin's wards. That none had gained entry since then was a testament to their sacrifice. The room remained silent, waiting.

A flash of light accompanied the sight of series of rings. The rings disappeared, leaving behind four individuals.

“Wicked,” Mitchell looked around the room. “…and empty.”

Vala sighed. “I haven't been this disappointed since Daniel and I had sex.”

Teal'c stopped and looked at Jackson. Daniel rolled his eyes.

The quartet walked towards a pedestal. As they neared it, a light illuminated it and a sword embedded in a stone appeared.

“The sword in the stone,” Mitchell murmured.

“What's that suppose to mean,” Vala asked in annoyance.

“Well…King Arthur once pulled a sword from the stone as proof of his righteousness and royalty.”

Feeling the need to expand upon Daniel's explanation, Mitchell added “Excalibur.”

Daniel disagreed. “Actually, that's a common misconception. See 'Excalibur' was forged by the Lady of the Lake at Avalon but it wasn't given to King Arthur until after the sword he pulled from the stone was broken in battle.”

Laughing, Mitchell stepped forward and after rubbing his hands together, gripped the sword and tried to pull it out of the stone.

“Give a try, Muscles,” Vala whispered to Teal'c. “I'll give you half.”

After struggling for a minute or two, Mitchell gave up. “It's in there pretty good.”

Daniel moved closer and read the inscription on the side of stone. “Welcome, Knights of the Round Table. Men of honor. Followers of the path of righteousness. Only those with wealth of knowledge and truth of spirit shall be given access to the underworld, the storehouse of riches of Ambrosias Coriolanus. Prove ye worthy and all shall be revealed.”

“So, how do we prove 'ye worthy' and get all to be revealed?” Vala asked.

“I have no idea but something tells me truth of spirit might be a problem for you,” Daniel snarked.

She pulled gingerly on the sword. “You know nothing about me.”

“That's because everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie.”

“Don't make me separate you two.” Mitchell said trying to put an end to their sniping.

In an effort to distract Daniel and Vala, Teal'c added “perhaps there is something in these tunnels.”

- - -

Washington, DC

“What do you mean they've left, Hank?” O'Neill barked. “The British are still refusing to let us look for it.”

Paul watched as O'Neill listened to his counterpart at the SGC. From the storm clouds gathering on the general's face, he figured that the shit was probably about to hit the fan. Five minutes later, he was certain it was.

Chapter 26

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

Deep within the shadows of Myrddin's cave, the guardian arrived as the armed intruders attempted to remove the sword from the stone. Cloaking herself in darkness, Willow quietly listened as one of the men translated “Myrddin's” message. Prove themselves worthy, yeah right. The tests were only a delaying tactic put in place by the coven ages ago ensuring that the guardian would have more time to arrange a defense. Of course, if the guardian was lucky, the treasure hunters would fail the tests and no longer pose a threat.

She watched as they split into two groups and left the cavern.

Now alone, Willow cast an illumination spell, dispelling the darkness and allowing her to investigate her surroundings. The coven sealed off and hid all the known entrances centuries earlier and had periodically checked to the area to confirm that no entrance had been missed.

“Now, how did they manage to get in,” she wondered out loud. She strolled around the room before seeing a circular impression near where the intruders had stood earlier. She stooped down and ran her fingers over the area.

“Hmm, what's this?”

Willow closed her eyes and mentally probed the circle. She opened her eyes and took a deep breath, gathering her strength. She stood and stretched out her hands. Lightening flew downwards into the impression, then upwards towards and through the cave's ceiling.

“One doorway, closed.”

There would be no escape, no reinforcements.

Willow walked over to stone with the embedded sword. She ran her hand over it, reveling in its latent power before retreating to the far end of the cavern. She sat down next to the wall and drew her knees up to her chest. It wasn't the most dignified of positions and Nelly would probably be horrified, as would most of the other members of the coven. She returned the cavern to darkness and settled down for what would probably be a long wait. She hoped that she would be one of the lucky guardians. She hated the thought that she would be required to kill. She rather just reset the traps.

- - -

Colorado Springs

“So how did I manage not to meet the big bad sister?” Will asked his girlfriend as they sat through the previews of the next six months of releases.

Dawn tried angling her body closer to his, which turned out not to be possible, and giggled. “Her boyfriend suddenly became 'available'.”

“Didn't you say he was at the Academy?”

“Yep.”

“Sounds kind of weird. They usually don't get off campus and certainly not 'suddenly,'” Will said.

“Well that's what she said. She was really excited since she didn't think there was any chance of him getting off of the grounds until the holidays so when this came up..” Dawn paused for a breath, “she wasn't going to waste a minute.”

“Still, it doesn't seem right.”

“Let's not a gift horse in the mouth. If we are lucky, she won't even notice when you take me home.”

Dawn went silent as the “featured presentation” notice flashed on the screen. Will put his arm around her shoulders and Dawn leaned in to his side. As they settled in to watch the movie, Will played back their conversation. If Jay had suddenly become available, he couldn't be Dr. Jackson as the archaeologist was currently attached to the alien pirate. Will smiled in relief. Dating the sister of Dr. Jackson's girlfriend would have been too awkward for words.

- - -

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

Mitchell and Teal'c came to a small chamber off of one of the tunnels. As Mitchell entered, flames erupted from small rings around the outer edges of the room providing much needed light. In the center of the room was a pedestal, an irresistible temptation to the leader and sole member of SG-1.

“Hey, check this out,” he said to Teal'c.

Teal'c walked in and barrier came down over the door, sealing off the room.

“Okay, that can't be good.” Mitchell tapped his radio. “Jackson, come in...Jackson. Can you hear me?”

Giving up on the radio, he walked over to the pedestal. On its top was a row of stones.

“Alright,” he said. “I'm assuming...this is some kind of puzzle. Can you read this writing?”

Teal'c drew closer and took a look at the stones. “No,” he said curtly.

“Well, I think we're supposed to arrange the stone is some sort of order.” Mitchell said as he started picking up and moving the small stones.

Teal'c raised his P-90 and fired at the barrier only to have the bullets ricochet.

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Man. Bullets. Bounce!” Mitchell shouted as he turned to see what the Jaffa was doing. “Let's just try finding the right combination.”

Mitchell studied the stones and began to place them in what he hoped was the proper order. As he laid the last one in place, the room began to vibrate as the ceiling began to descend.

“Okay, that didn't work,” he said.

“Indeed,” Teal'c acknowledged.

“Oh come on,” Mitchell said as he began to reorder the stones with Teal'c's assistance.

In the main cavern, Willow felt the vibrations as first one and then another trap sprung. It looked like she might not have to act executioner she thought in relief. Still, she stayed where she was, just in case.

- - -

Washington, DC

It was fortunate that generals at the Pentagon were not issued Goa'uld weapons or pain sticks Paul Davis thought as he watched General O'Neill's face take on a deadly mien. The blame for the current situation looked as though it could be laid at the feet of one General Bauer. The orders sending the Prometheus to Glastonbury had come from his desk, chain of command be damned. And just minutes ago they had received word that the transport rings on the Prometheus were fried, leaving Daniel Jackson, Teal'c, and the new guy stranded beneath half a mile of rock.

“Paul, I need you in Colorado Springs now,” O'Neill snarled. “Park yourself in front of her house if you have to but talk to her. Monday is not going to cut it. In the meantime, I'll do my best to make nice with the British ambassador.”

Paul made a mental note to grab his antacids and aspirin from his office before leaving the building. He also thought that it was fortunate that he didn't have access to a pain stick because the urge to use one on Bauer was almost uncontrollable.

- - -

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

The ceiling continued its descent as Mitchell continued moving the stones into yet another pattern. Teal'c abandoned Mitchell to that task and began to search for ways to slow the ceiling's descent. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the room that would serve that purpose. Teal'c realized that he would have to use his body as brace, something that would ultimately fail but might gain Mitchell precious time to find the correct combination.

“Colonel Mitchell!” Teal'c called as the full weight of the ceiling began to press down on his back.

“Two down and only a billion more combinations to go.”

“Are you still having fun Colonel Mitchell?” Teal'c said with a layer of sarcasm that O'Neill would have appreciated.

“You ever get that bad feeling about something?”

- - -

Colorado Springs

A smile graced Buffy's face as the arm around her waist drew her back against a warm body. Jay definitely had what Faith called “mad skills.” How and where an eighteen year old managed to pick up those skills were questions she decided weren't worth asking. Damn but that boy, scratch that, that MAN was something special. She hummed in contentment.

“Humming Buffy?” the man holding her asked.

“Um, hmm. That was totally humworthy.”

For the first time in a long time, Jay gave thanks for his teenage body as he realized that he was ready to go again. There wasn't much of a chance that he would be getting a another pass off the Academy ground until the holidays and he was going to make the most of this pass.

“Want to see if it was a fluke?” he asked hopefully.

Buffy's smile grew as she twisted in his embrace. “I don't think it was but I guess we should try again. Just to be sure that it wasn't.”

“Yeah,” he smiled in return, “just to be sure.”

- - -

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

Daniel and Vala after escaping their room ran in the direction that Teal'c and Mitchell had headed down. When they reached what looked like a blocked doorway, they stopped.

“Teal'c!” Daniel yelled.

From behind the wall they heard first Teal'c, then Mitchell.

“Hey! We've got a little problem in here.”

“Mitchell, what's the puzzle?” Daniel yelled in response.

“There are eight stones with symbols on them and some ancient writing.”

“Describe the writing.”

From the other side Mitchell's voice answered Daniel. “Uh…U with a square over it. Chair with a square. Upside- down backwards L call that 7. Squares unevenly stacked. That chair thingy again. Big N and sad face?”

Daniel thought for a moment then responded. “Uh reflect…it means reflect.”

“Reflect??”

“Uh…reflect, reflect, reflect…reflect a meaningful path. Put those pieces in order to reflect a path to enlightenment.” Daniel said quickly.

“Yeah. That tells me exactly nothing!!” Mitchell's voice reflected his frustration and desperation.

“I'm sorry I can't help if I can't see the symbols on the stones you're suppose to put in order.”

Vala and Daniel could hear Mitchell's voice as he said “reflect. Double 8, 4 reflect 8…” and then the voice stopped. The sounding moving stopped seconds later.

“Teal'c!!” Daniel called out.

“Look I didn't hear any screaming or squishing sounds. So…” Vala shrugged as her reassurances fell on deaf ears.

Moments later, the barrier lifted revealing Teal'c and Mitchell lying on the floor. As the ceiling began to retract, they stood and exited the room.

“You did it,” Daniel congratulated Mitchell.

“Yeah. Thanks. The symbols are actually the numbers 1 through 8 and their mirror image.” Mitchel said. “Let's head back to the sword.”

Chapter 27

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

Willow, the most recent guardian of Myrddin's legacy, waited in darkness. The vibrations that she had felt earlier had ended. The only question now was whether or not the intruders had perished or escaped. If they had survived, it was only a matter of time before they would return to her location to retrieve the treasure. She activated the sword's protective ward, just in case.

- - -

Washington, DC

General O'Neill strode through the corridors of the Pentagon, four MPs following in his wake. Given the late hour, they encountered only a few personnel as they headed towards their target, the office of one soon to be retired general. They met General Bauer only a few yards away from his office.

“Going somewhere,” Jack growled.

- - -

Beneath Glastonbury Tor

Willow quietly moved further back into the shadows as she heard the intruders returning to the main cavern.

“So, who gets to play King Arthur,” a voice asked.

“I do,” a feminine and decidedly perky voice declared as the voices drew nearer.

A resounding no, in multiple masculine voices, echoed as the intruders entered the cave.

“Guess I'll do it then,” the first voice said.

Flashlights panned across the area, stopping at the embedded sword. Willow watched as the four figures surrounded the stone. One, presumably the owner of the first voice, stepped closer and grasped the sword's hilt.

“Yeouch!” Mitchell quickly released the sword and stepped back, blowing on his fingers.

“Problem?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah, you could say that. It damn near electrocuted me.”

“Daniel, you said that the treasure would be ours if we solved the puzzle,” Vala pouted.

“Quiet,” Teal'c said.

“What,” Vala asked.

“There is another in this place.” Teal'c swung his P-90 in a wide arc. “Show yourself.”

The cavern filled with light. Willow stepped forward.

“Okay, I'm guessing she's not Merlin,” Mitchell quipped. “Who are you?”

“The Guardian,” Willow responded.

“The Guardian of the treasure?” Vala asked eagerly.

“Myrddin's legacy.”

“So, what is it?”

“What do you think it is?” Willow stalled as she tried to think of a way that she could avoid killing the intruders.

“Gold? Jewels?” Vala turned to Daniel. “What was that holy thing you mentioned earlier?”

“The Holy Grail,” the man with glasses, presumably Daniel, replied.

“The Holy Grail,” Willow almost giggled. “Okay, which one of you is Indiana Jones?”

“That would be Dr. Jackson. I'm Lt. Colonel Mitchell, the treasurer obsessed one is Vala Mal Doran,” the owner of the first voice said.

“And your gun pointing friend with good ears would be,” Willow prompted.

“I am Teal'c,” the fourth intruder stated as he lowered his weapon.

“Fine, now that we've introduced ourselves,” Vala said, “where's my treasure?”

“It's not your treasure.”

“Hey, we passed the tests. The treasure is ours,” the leather clad woman said.

“Myrddin's legacy is not meant for you.”

“But the tests...” Mitchell began.

“Were merely a delaying tactic,” Willow said sadly. “There things that you don't understand and aren't ready to face.”

Daniel was getting a bad vibe from the redhead. He was probably not going to like the answer but he asked the question anyway. “So, why use a delaying tactic that might prove fatal?”

“To spare the Guardian from having to do the deed.”

“Kill the intruders? So, I guess that you're not an Ancient as they generally don't interfere let alone kill people,” Daniel said.

“Have you forgotten DanielJackson, what OmaDesala did to Heru'ur's Jaffa on Keb?”

“No, but...” Daniel began.

Daniel Jackson. Dr. Daniel Jackson. Willow's heart lightened. Maybe there was a reason not kill them.

“Dr. Daniel Jackson? Two doctorates Daniel Jackson? Graduated high school at fifteen?”

“Yes,” he said slowly.

Willow smiled and began to draw power from the earth. Her eyes turned black as her hair turned white. Sparks began to dance on her fingertips of her right hand as she slowly raised her left arm towards Daniel and the others.

“What the hell,” Mitchell sputtered.

The sparks became small lightening bolts just before a large bolt exploded from her left hand.

Mitchell dove to the left as did Vala. Teal'c dove right. Daniel was a split second slower. It didn't matter.

Willow collapsed in exhaustion, her eyes and hair returning to normal.

“Oh boy, that does take a lot out of a girl,” she said as she stretched out on the floor and rolled on to her back. The position was undignified but there was no one left in the cavern to observe her. She hoped that Buffy would appreciate her gift as the coven was not going to be pleased.

Washington, DC

General Bauer was not having a good night.

O'Neill, along with the four MPs, had escorted him back to his office and dismissed the aide who had not yet left for the evening. Three of the MPs remained outside of his office but were likely aware of exactly what was transpiring just a few feet away from their position. A phone call had been placed from his office to the White House and President Hayes proceeded to verbally rip him to shreds before announcing that he expected Bauer's resignation on his desk within the hour. Once the call was over, O'Neill stood over his shoulder as Bauer typed out his letter of resignation.

“You've been wanting to do this for years,” he spat at O'Neill as he composed the letter.

“Whatever makes you say that? Oh, wait. Maybe it's because you were one of Kinsey's stooges,” O'Neill ground out. “This time not only have you risked the lives of SG-1, you have also pissed off one of our oldest allies. The British are threatening to pull out of all of our joint operations. All of them, Bauer. And don't think that the Free Jaffa aren't going to exact revenge if we lose Teal'c over this.”

“I hardly think...”

“No, you didn't think. You bypassed the chain of command and made decisions without knowing what the hell you were screwing with. We were preparing to negotiate through a third party to get access to the site. Now, we have the mother of all diplomatic incidents. Keep typing, you've got less than thirty minutes left.”

- - -

Colorado Springs

Buffy woke with a start. The bedroom was only dimly lit from a nearby street light and the LED display of her clock radio. The hallway beyond the closed door was dark, with no light peeking in from the bottom of the doorway. She concentrated on the faint sounds coming from below. Something, or someone, was in the house that wasn't supposed to be. She identified two distinct voices, one male and one female, but the latter was definitely not her sister's. A change in Jay's breathing signaled that he, too, had awakened.

Jay turned to Buffy, who raised a finger to his lips. He made to get up and she shook her head. He frowned as she quietly slid out of bed. She stooped to grab what he realized was his undershirt and slipped it on over her head before moving to the cedar chest at the foot of the bed. She opened the chest and removed several objects that he couldn't make out. The last item she pulled out was a sword. Okay, that's it, he thought. He should of known she was too good to be true. His new girlfriend was a few fries short of a happy meal. He sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed and grabbed at his boxers off the floor. Buffy looked at Jay in dismay and motioned for him to stay where he was. He ignored her and stood up and put his underwear on. She stepped towards him with her sword lowered, much to his relief.

“Stay here while I check downstairs,” she whispered.

“Buffy, are you nuts? If that's a burglar downstairs you do not want to face him with a sword,” he replied.

“Don't worry, I know how to handle myself, Jay.”

“Just because you dropped Neidermeyer doesn't mean you're Wonder Woman,” Jay said in a low tone of voice. “That was just a fluke.”

At her look of death he relented. “Okay, maybe not a fluke, but you have no idea who is down there, how many there are, or what they might be armed with.”

“That's why I want you to stay here, ” she replied.

“Not going to happen.”

“I'll explain later but I know what I'm doing.”

“No.”

“Fine, see what you can use then,” she gestured towards the chest. “But not the crossbow, it's got a hair trigger.”

Jay went over to the chest and selected a ka-bar knife (he would have preferred a P-90 but her collection of bladed weapons was nothing to sneeze at) before following Buffy to the door and out into the hallway. Going to meet an unknown danger in the company of a hot blonde he thought with a small grin. As crazy as it undoubtedly made him, it seemed just like old times. All that was missing was one Jaffa and an archaeologist.

Chapter 28

Colorado Springs

“What was that all about?” Mitchell asked no one in particular. He didn't recognize the location so he continued, “and where the hell are we?”

“It appears we are in a private domicile ColonelMitchell,” Teal'c rumbled quietly.

“Daniel, Daniel,” Vala said, less quietly, before beginning to search the room. “It's too dark in here. Muscles, find a light.”

“Shh, I'm over here.”

Daniel stood up in the far side of the room. Although he was found himself next to a table with a lamp on it, he opted to use his flashlight. Panning the light around the room, he silently swore as he recognized their location.

“Okay, guys, we need to be very, very quiet and leave as quickly as possible.”

“Jackson?”

“We're back in Colorado Springs. I'll explain exactly where later but we have got to...” Daniel paused as he heard a noise overhead, “get out of here now. Follow me, the door's this way.”

- -

Stupid teenage hormones Jay thought as he followed Buffy down the hall and to the top of the staircase. I should be watching her six, not admiring the view. Focus, airman, focus.

Jay stopped short as Buffy raised her non-sword holding hand. She silently began her descent down the stairs towards the muffled sounds on the first floor. Once she reached the half-way point, she motioned for him to follow, or at least he thought she did. It was too dim to be sure but he started down the stairs anyway. Just before she reached the foot of the stairs, Buffy charged down the last two steps before almost leaping into the living room. Jay heard a heavy thud and crack of wood followed by a crash as something breakable hit the floor. A round of weapons fire began before it was abruptly silenced.

“Stop! Teal'c, Mitchell, don't shoot!”

Jay groped alongside the wall for a light switch. Flipping it on, he blinked once, then again as he tried to make sense of the scene in front of him. Teal'c (and what the hell was he doing in Buffy's house) was pointing a P-90 at Buffy. Buffy, Jay's t-shirt riding up just a bit too high on her thigh, was sitting on the torso of a man lying on remains of the coffee table, her sword to his throat. A woman straight from the pages of an old motorcycle magazine was surrounded by the remains of something breakable, a vase maybe. He turned towards the front door where he had heard the voice come from.

“Daniel?” Jay said in disbelief. Could his life get any weirder?

Daniel looked on in horror as his daughter sat on Mitchell wearing a t-shirt and nothing else. The sword at Mitchell's throat barely registered before he moved his eyes away from that sight towards the figure at the foot of the stairs. Okay, now he knew this had to be a dream because he was seeing a boxer-clad mini-Jack. Meanwhile, his daughter was sitting on Mitchell and hold a sword. Dr. MacKenzie would have field day with this one if Daniel were in the mind to share, which was never going to happen.

“Dad?”

Jay froze. Dad? Okay, obviously not Teal'c and Daniel was too young, not to mention that he knew Daniel didn't have any kids, so that left the guy she was sitting on. The guy didn't look any older than Daniel but Jay figured the guy must just have good genes. Considering he was in his half of his skivvies, and Buffy was wearing the other half, this was not the ideal way to meet her father. This made his older self's first meeting with Carter's dad look positively congenial. Then he realized that Buffy wasn't paying any attention to floor guy, she was looking at Daniel who was now staring at her. He was so dead.

“Buffy?” Daniel said, still hoping for a dream, nightmare, or hallucination.

“Oh boy,” she sighed.

“Yeah, ya' know how about let's just put all weapons down, or up as the case may be, and we'll try to explain what's going on,” Mitchell said with a heavy southern drawl.

“Tank first,” Buffy requested.

“Teal'c, please,” Daniel said.

Buffy watched as Tank aka Teal'c lowered his weapon. She pulled the sword back and away from her prisoner before slowly and carefully rising.

“So, what's up that you felt the need to do a little breaking and entering?” she asked.

Mitchell stood up and answered. “Well it's kinda hard to explain...”

“Try anyway and do us all a favor and drop the drawl.”

Daniel decided to step it. “It's classified.”

“You show up it the middle of the night with GI Joe, Tank, and the Mistress of Pain over there and its classified. Of course it's classified. But you know, you really need to come up with a better cover than Deep Space Rader Teleme-whatever 'cause you know, just not buying it.”

Jay snorted. His girl might be blonde but she wasn't stupid.

“And you, what are you doing here,” Daniel glared at Jay.

Aw hell, in for a penny Jay thought. “Doing laundry?”

“Watch it kid,” Mitchell said.

“Stay out of this, soldier boy,” Buffy shot back. “What do you think we were doing?”

“I am trying very, very hard not to think about what you were doing because if I did I'd have to kill him.”

“You are not going to touch him.”

“He's too old for you.”

Buffy blinked at the non-sequitor. “Uh, if I dated anyone younger I'd be looking at statutory. Did you hit your head or something?”

Daniel groaned. “Buffy, can we talk in private?”

“Will the kitchen do?”

Daniel nodded.

“Can Jay come to?”

- --

Will's car turned off the main road as he went to drop Dawn off at her home.

“She's not going to be waiting up is she?” Will was just the slightest bit worried about the prospect of meeting Dawn's older sister. He was, he belatedly realized, rather happy that Buffy not been home earlier. From the bits and pieces Dawn had said since they had first started seeing each other, he was fairly certain that he was probably not going to enjoy meeting her.

Dawn inwardly shuddered at the thought. “I doubt it. If she's awake, I pretty sure she'll be occupied.”

“Well, you have made her sound more than a bit overprotective.”

“She's getting better about it. All I have to reminder her is that she's the sister with the bad track record.”

“I'm almost afraid to ask.”

“Let's just say that if you presented her with two equally good looking and charming guys, the one she'd pick would end up being the one that would give any sane person nightmares.”

“Oh?”

“TA on steriods, poet with serial killer tendencies, future head of an evil law firm,” Dawn explained. “I get a bit nervous every time she starts dating.”

“So, what about her latest?” he joked.

“Probably an alien,” she giggled as his car approached the Summers' residence. “Oh joy, the lights are on. Maybe we'll find out together.”

Chapter 29

Colorado Springs

Jay followed Buffy and Daniel into the kitchen, kicking the doorstop on his way in, allowing the door to swing shut behind him. He didn't want an audience for this any more that Buffy did and while he could trust Teal'c not to intrude, he was not about the trust southern boy and leather girl. If they represented the latest incarnation of SG-1, the world was probably doomed.

Buffy placed her sword on the counter and turned to her boyfriend and her father.

After several moments of very uncomfortable silence, Buffy decided they would all grow old waiting for one of the two men in her life to start talking.

“So, I take it you two know each other,” she asked.

“No.”

“Yes,” Daniel ground out.

“Dad?” Buffy drawled but her father was having none of it. “Jay, you spill.”

“We knew each other, a long time ago. Haven't seen or spoken to him in years, not since I entered high school” Jay supplied. Internally he winced when he realized what he had just said. Only a kid would consider something that supposedly happened only four years ago as a long time ago.

“Okay,” Buffy drawled before turning to her father as Jay failed to volunteer additional information. “Dad, anything you care to add?”

“No.”

“Talkative much?”

Jay hid a smirk. Daniel at a loss for words was a humorous sight. The vein pulsing over the archeologist's left eye was the icing on the cake, a sort of cosmic, if belated payback, for all the times the good doctor had driven Jack O'Neill to distraction. On a more serious note, Daniel being Buffy's father did complicate things. Jay had previously stayed at arms length of the local females. Not only would he have felt like a pervert for dating a teenager, he had nightmares about finding out that a pretty girl might be the daughter of someone at the SGC or someone Jack had served with in the Air Force. Buffy had seemed perfect, mid-twenties, from out-of-state, and not from a military family. If Daniel was really Buffy's father, he wasn't sure what he would do. He never would have gotten involved with her if he had known but the horse was out of that barn. He really did like her.

“It's classified,” Daniel said.

“Right,” his daughter replied. “'Cause, Jay just screams classified. He's an Air Force cadet, not a national secret.”

“He's just not right for you,” her father said.

“Why?”

“He just isn't.”

“Is he a psycho stalker?”

“No.”

“Planning on world domination before his 21st birthday? Eats kittens? Babies? Future Wife Beater of America?”

“He's older than he looks,” Daniel finally said as Jay finally lost the battle of the smirk.

“Duh, I made him show some ID before we started seeing each other.”

“Hey,” Jay interrupted.

“Well I did.”

- - -

Vala decided to make herself comfortable and sat down on an overstuffed chair. She shifted around a bit before finding the perfect position, one that involved slinging a leg over the chair arm.

“Dad?” Mitchell said. “As in Daniel Jackson is a daddy?”

“It would appear so, ColonelMitchell.”

“You didn't know?” Mitchell asked as he sat down on the couch.

“I did not.”

“She's obviously lying,” Vala sniffed. “She's much too old to be my Daniel's daughter.”

“Well, I'm sure your Daniel will be back shortly and clear it up,” Mitchell said as he sat down on the sofa.

Moments later, the trio heard a car pull into the driveway.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Mitchell groaned as he grabbed a throw pillow and placed it over his face.

“ColonelMitchell?”

Mitchell tossed the pillow back onto the couch. “My first mission and we've already involved two civilians and at least one more is probably going to come in through the front door. Can you say potential security breach? Landry is going to have my ass.”

“Well, it is a rather cute ass,” Vala replied.

“Just shoot me,” he moaned.

“I would but you wouldn't let me have any weapons.”

- - -

“Any last words of wisdom before we enter the dragon's lair,” Will asked half jokingly.

“Yeah, don't call her a dragon within earshot,” Dawn said as she put her key in the front door lock. “And she's got really, really good hearing.”

She unlocked the door and opened the door. She started into the house, coming to an abrupt halt when she saw three strangers in the living room. Will bumped into her, propelling her the rest of the way in.

“Uh, hi,” Dawn squeaked. Just her luck, she brings Will home and something odd is going on.

“Yeah, hi,” a tall, brown haired man said as he stood up. “Guess you're wondering who we are?”

Dawn nodded.

“I'm Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, the lady is Vala, and the big guy is Teal'c,” the man said as Will came up behind Dawn.

“I'm Dawn, this is Will.” She looked around, taking in the broken coffee table, the remains of a piece of pottery, and the distinct lack of Buffy. “Where's my sister? Where's Buffy?”

“She's in the kitchen.”

“With my Daniel,” Vala pouted from her chair.

“Buffy,” Dawn called out. “Is everything alright?”

A muffled “yes” was the only response followed moments later by a very unhappy Daniel exiting the kitchen.

“Daniel?” Dawn said in disbelief.

“Hi Dawn.” He stopped dead in his tracks as he recognized her companion. “Grogan?”

“Dr. Jackson,” Will acknowledged.

“You know each other?” Dawn questioned.

“We work together sometimes,” Daniel acknowledged. “What are you doing with here?”

“I was bringing Dawn home, sir,” the younger man said.

“From,” Daniel prompted.

“A date Daniel. We're dating.” Dawn stated in responded to the tone in Daniel's voice. “Don't get all disapproving. It's not like we went out drinking or anything.”

“Dawn, he has to be ten years older than you are!”

“Actually sir, it's only eight.”

Daniel saw red. “Only eight. Well, that makes everything alright. Not. Dawn, he could be your babysitter.”

“Hardly. I'm nineteen, not nine. And eight years isn't a big difference. Just ask Buf...” Dawn's voice trailed off as she saw her sister dart out of the kitchen and up the stairs closely followed by a skinny, boxer-clad figure. “Oh my goddess...” snort “she has so out done herself this time.” Dawn couldn't continue as she burst into laughter.

- - -

Jay shut the door to Buffy's bedroom as Dawn's laughter rang through the house.

“We're never going to live this down are we?” he asked as Buffy sat at the foot of the bed.

“Not if Dawn has anything to say about it. She'll be sending out global emails any minute now,” she groaned. “So, why was Dad so upset?”

Jay sat down next to her. “It really is classified but I understand why he is so upset.”

“No plans of world domination though, right?”

“No. And kittens are not part of the menu.”

“Good.”

“I think we should get dressed before Daniel decides to come upstairs.”

“Probably.”

Buffy stood up and got a pair of panties out of the dresser. She put them on before pulling Jay's t-shirt over her head. She tossed it to him. He put it on as she retrieved her jeans and top from the floor, hurriedly putting them on. He dressed quickly as well, finishing just as Buffy pulled her hair back into a ponytail.

“Ready to head back downstairs?” he asked.

“Not really,” she replied, heading towards the door.

TBC

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