Scars 'n Rosesby JoaG
"So SG-4 laid down cover fire, distracting your captors and allowing you three to get away."
Daniel considered Jack's statement while perusing his fingernails; despite the long, hot shower, there was still dirt embedded beneath them. His fingers, palm and back of his hands were abraded and scratched; now streaked orange with disinfectant on the deeper cuts.
"Sort of," Daniel said softly, raising his head and blinking tiredly in the harsh lights of the briefing room. Jack sat at the head of the table and it still felt strange seeing his lover there instead of General Hammond.
The room was warm with eight bodies crowded around the table and felt airless to Daniel. Still, it was better than the cell he'd been stuck inside for the past forty-eight hours where the stench of his own unwashed body had kept him company.
"Daniel was still being held prisoner when SG-4 made their rescue attempt." Sam made an apologetic face as she glanced at him.
The painkillers that Dr. Brightman had given him earlier were starting to wear off, and his headache was threatening to become a little more than a nuisance. His mouth was pasty and thick despite the several glasses of water he'd downed along with a bowl of soup and a sandwich. His stomach gurgled, telling him that 'thank you, it was happy to have finally been fed but could he send some more along, please'?
"So, what exactly were they trying to find out?"
Jack's gaze, for a split second, changed from that of Brigadier General, head of the SGC, to Jack O'Neill, Daniel's lover. Then his face hardened again as his gaze raked over the latest bruises that were starting to blossom over Daniel's cheek and jaw.
Daniel took a deep breath, then regretted the action as his mistreated ribs protested. He resisted placing a hand against them and took another more cautious inhalation.
"Despite the fact that the land's ruler was happy to meet and greet visitors from another world and saw the benefits of setting up an alliance and maybe trade with us, the bishop decided we were sacrilegious and a hazard to the people's religious beliefs." His voice came out hoarse and raspy and he licked his lips while eyeing the carafe of water sitting so far away across the room, on the table near the starmap.
"Goa'uld?" Jack made a motion to someone behind Daniel.
"Once upon a time, yes." He moved his attention back to Jack. "There's a blend in the language which is proof positive that they've been in contact with the Goa'uld, maybe even transplanted by them to that planet. I, um, didn't have enough time to question them about their history. They were too busy trying to question me."
Daniel looked up in surprise as an airman placed a tall glass of water in front of him. He smiled his thanks and took a sip, allowing the cool liquid to slide down his parched throat. The condensation on the glass felt good against his abraded palm.
"And this bishop wanted to know what, exactly?"
"What god I believed in. I tried to explain the various religions here on Earth and..."
"Didn't go over too well, huh?" Jack smiled softly at him.
"You could say that. Actually despite the bullshit about our being heretics and—"
"*Our* being? So he didn't just decide to pick on you?"
"Oh no, I was singled out only because I was the only one who knew the language. I mean, why bother beating up Sam when she can't understand the questions."
"Yeah, I hate when that happens," Sam said as she leaned back in her chair.
"Teal'c could speak Goa'uld but didn't have any knowledge of their basic language so..." Occasionally, since he got back late last night, little traces of the stench of the cell he'd been kept in flooded his nose; the mustiness of the straw, his own vomit and the little pail in the corner where he'd have to relieve himself; his sweat and blood. He got such a whiff just now, as if his sinuses had suddenly unblocked and let loose a pocket of air that had been stuck inside his head while being held prisoner for the past two days.
He could still feel the blows the Bishop himself had thrown at him whenever Daniel's answers hadn't been to his satisfaction. Daniel had alternated between spending hours alone in a dark, cramped cell, or blinded by bright lights while the Bishop demanded answers with a heavy fist. His only relief was a single priest who had shown up twice bearing water. He examined the half empty glass he held between his hands and realized he wasn't in the cell, but at the SGC. "Where was I?" Daniel asked after a moment of silence, feeling a little embarrassed at having lost his train of thought.
"Bullshit," Major Owens offered. "Bullshit and heresy."
Daniel nodded. "The bishop was afraid we were a precursor to an attack."
"How'd the bishop overrule the king and get his hands on you?"
"He's the head of the army. Actually with that large of a force behind him, he's the true ruler of the land. He acts as the king's adviser but he has a lot of clout behind his words."
"Why would he think we'd want to attack?"
"I don't know." He sighed, and again regretted the action as bruised muscles in his abdomen protested painfully. He really needed to take another painkiller soon but refused to let everyone here see how poorly he was feeling. "Well, yeah, I do know. Their history taught them that those who came through the Stargate were all powerful and oppressive. He wanted to know the size of our army, the strength of our weapons." Daniel laughed derisively, then winced at the pain that ensued. "They were just out of the Middle Ages, Jack. Their soldiers carried swords and bows and arrows, and as lethal their weapons could be in close range, they'd be no match for ours. I tried telling him that but he just wouldn't listen."
"That sounds familiar." Jack turned his attention to Sam and Teal'c. "And you two were held elsewhere during this time?"
"Indeed." As Teal'c took up the report, Daniel took his glasses off, placed them on the table and closed his eyes. "We were taken prisoner in the castle and held in secure chambers. We had ample opportunity to make our escape but we did not attempt to do so until we had discovered DanielJackson's whereabouts."
"One of the priests didn't agree with the bishop's judgement and came to question us several times. He finally told us Daniel was being held in the dungeons, underneath the cathedral."
"Where?" Jack's voice was incredulous and Daniel dragged his eyes open.
"That place was a warren of secret passages and hidden chambers." Daniel massaged the area above his right eyebrow where his pulse was beating painfully. "There was a section dedicated to interrogation. I only got a glimpse of it but from what I could make out, it was huge."
"So Carter and Teal'c found you just as SG-4 was coming in for a rescue?"
"Yes sir." Carter leaned forward, arms resting against the table, fingers folded together. "The priest gave us back our gear and we received a radio transmission from Colonel Stryke informing us he was approaching the city. While he and two of his men insured a clear path from the cathedral up to the Stargate, Teal'c, Major Owens and myself went in to free Daniel with the help of Father Godfrey. Thankfully we got Daniel out with very little use of force until we'd almost reached the 'gate."
"And so Medieval world meets Scifi world and panic ensues. Obviously this little coup scared the local populace and that's why we have to cross these folks off the guest list? I guess it's reason enough to not be welcomed back with open arms."
"The bishop's dead, Jack." God, would this briefing ever end? His head was pounding to a different beat than his ribs, and his shoulders and left ankle were threatening to cramp.
"That would do it, too."
"He left me no choice." Teal'c sounded almost pleased and what made Daniel feel even worse was that he had enjoyed the sight of seeing that man go down thanks to the staff blast Teal'c had hit him with. "He led the pursuit and refused to back down. His men were wary of our weapons but this man believed his god protected him from evil."
"Well there ya go. Proves we aren't evil." Jack tapped the open folder before him with the details of the mission, and looked at SGs-1 and 4. "Anything else?"
"No sir," Sam and Colonel Stryke replied.
"Good." Jack stood and everyone hurried up from their seats, except for Daniel. "Dismissed."
Jack didn't return to his office, but stood back as everyone filed out, then came to stand beside Daniel.
"How are you doing?" he asked softly. He raised his hand to pat Daniel's shoulder, but lowered it a moment later.
"Stiff and sore. And dying for a soft bed and sleeping for eighteen hours." Daniel took the bottle of painkillers from his pocket and tried to open the top. After fumbling a few times, Jack took it from him, popped the top and took Daniel's hand. As he tipped one of the capsules into Daniel's palm, he rubbed his thumb alongside one of the few areas of skin that wasn't scratched.
"Brightman give you the okay to leave?"
"Yeah. I'm to take it easy for a couple of days and do nothing but eat and sleep." Daniel tossed the pill into his mouth and swallowed it with the last of the water in the glass before him.
"Are you sure you should be out of the infirmary? She said you were dehydrated and—"
"No food and little water for forty-eight hours. I've passed all her tests and as long as I drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated, I get to stay home for the next four days."
"I'll get an airman to drive you to your place."
"Can't I wait for you?" Daniel put his glasses back on. "What time is it anyways?"
"It's just after noon; you need to eat something, go home and into bed, but if you can hold off a little longer, I'll have someone meet you at your house and bring you to mine."
"That sounds like a good—" Daniel pushed his chair back and then looked up at Jack, ignoring the way the lights were making halo's around everything. "What do you mean, someone will pick me up? Who?"
Jack swallowed and then grinned sheepishly. "Mom's here."
"Rose? Why? When?"
Jack leaned his hands onto the table, moving closer to him. "That little escapade really screwed up your sense of time, huh?" He smiled at him again. "Happy birthday, Daniel."
Birthday? For a moment Daniel stared at Jack, wondering what he was talking about when he suddenly remembered how they'd discussed plans for his birthday the night before he'd left on the mission. Four days ago.
One day spent talking with the king and his entourage, visiting the city, seeing the sites. One day in house arrest along with Sam and Teal'c while the bishop tried to convince the king what a danger they were because they'd used the Stargate. While the king had been welcoming and interested in the 'gate and even hinted he'd love to learn its secrets to visit other worlds, the bishop apparently got his way because the next two days were spent in a tiny, dark and dank dungeon visited only by the bishop and a small army of rats.
"I, um, forgot. Thanks, Jack."
"So I can call mom and have her drive your Thunderbird and pick you up since you left it at my place. That is, if you want."
"Yeah, I want. Although, she's not gonna be too thrilled when she gets a look at me."
"She already knows something bad's gone down. She'll be more relieved to see you than—"
"Unauthorized 'gate activation."
The announcement blared through the room, forcing Daniel to shut his eyes a moment as the voice pounded like a herd of elephants through his aching head. When he opened them again, Jack was already heading for the stairs. Daniel carefully stood and with a hand held to his side, followed a little more slowly.
By the time he limped down the stairs to the control room, Jack and Walter had already gone through the whole 'there's no IDC, who's offworld, close the iris scenario'. Sam and Teal'c appeared and both flanked Daniel.
"Wait, receiving IDC. The required numbers popped onto the screen. Daniel stood back and watched quietly. "General, these aren't... they're SG-14's, but they're old. At least eight months' old."
Then the numbers changed. Daniel moved closer and peered at the familiar set of numbers. "That was mine. Three years ago, at least."
Yet another set of numbers appeared. "General?" Walter sounded confused, and Daniel didn't blame him.
"Who could have gotten hold of our iris codes?" Sam asked as she sat down at a computer next to Walter and began keying in all the quickly shifting figures.
Daniel felt a frisson of anxiety run down his back. Someone wanted to drop in and was telling them they were friendly. "Jack, I think you should open the iris."
"General, that's SG-14's again, Major Santini's, but it's three years old." Sam looked at the closed iris, then back at Jack.
"SG-9, this one's two years old." Walter's declaration came on the heels of Sam's.
"This appears to be my code, also one that is no longer in use." Teal'c moved aside to watch one of the monitors so as not to crowd Sam and the others.
"Jack, open the iris." Daniel ignored Jack's glower and pointed to the list of people whose Iris Deactivation Codes had been sent through.
"Daniel we don't know—"
"General, now it's your code. It's also three years old." Walter had the same screen open as Sam, the twin information giving Daniel an idea.
"Yes we do. Sam, can you pinpoint all the codes using the timeframe they were deactivated and see if we all went to the same 'gate designation?"
Sam cleared the screen and began typing.
"And Sam, hurry."
"P3U 330," she answered a moment later.
"Jack, open the iris!" Daniel yelled, frantic that he'd hear the telltale thud of a body hitting the protective covering.
Jack looked at Daniel once before nodding at Walter. As the technician placed his hand to the palm reader, Daniel quickly turned to look at the 'gate through the safety glass, relieved to see the center of the iris fan into itself as it began to slide open.
"Who the hell is trying to—"
Then a grey blur flew through the narrow gap, barely clearing the edges of the opening iris. It flew around the contingent of guards and Daniel reached for the mic, yelling for them not to shoot at the same time as Jack. The guns followed the erratic motions of the flying alien, but thankfully the men obeyed.
Daniel rushed down the stairs, wincing in pain but anxious to get into the room before someone panicked and accidentally hurt the little alien. He ran through the hallway and hurried inside and with a happy squawk, Scarlett rushed down to greet him.
"Hey sweetheart," Daniel said as her long, slim body circled around him, chirping excitedly before moving to greet Jack, Sam and Teal'c, who had entered the room right behind Daniel. "How're the kids? Is Squiggle still getting into trouble? Squirt must be all grown up now, huh?"
"How'd it manage to dial the 'gate?" Jack demanded as he turned to look at the still flickering blue puddle.
"We know they're very intelligent," Daniel said as Scarlett continued to twine around him. "They learned how to use Asgard technology and—"
Scarlett's scolding drowned him out as she darted from side to side, as if she were examining him carefully. She moved quickly and butted him in the stomach with her head.
"Ow. Don't." Daniel immediately put a hand to his bruised abdomen in protection.
"You tell him," Jack said with a grin when she began scolding again.
Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack, then held still as Scarlett flitted closer to his bruised face. She stopped her complaining just long enough to flick out her tongue and lick a bruise. Even that soft stroke was painful and Daniel pulled back.
The chittering started up again, only to stop suddenly as her attention veered towards the 'gate.
"Oh my God."
Sam's shocked utterance had Daniel twisting to see what had happened. Two other aliens had come through, low to the ground, both of them supporting a third which looked to be ill, or injured. The latter, Daniel decided as Scarlett's brethren allowed it to sink onto the ramp.
Sam ran towards the injured alien, her boots clanging noisily on the metal. One of the aliens shot into the air, uttering a startled squeak. Sam slowed when she realized she'd frightened it off, then knelt beside the injured creature.
"Sir, it's hurt pretty bad."
"You think they dialled the 'gate so they could bring it to us for help?" Daniel could think of no other reason why they'd attempted to come here three years after SG-1 had encountered the flying, snake-like creatures.
Jack's incredulous look turned to one of annoyance when two more aliens zoomed through the still-open Stargate and nearly collided with him. They began aerial acrobatics around the large room.
"Shut the doors before they get out of this room," Jack ordered. Immediately airmen pulled their key cards through the security readers and the two doors on either side of the Gateroom drew closed.
Two more aliens came through, stopped in mid-air, cheeped happily and joined their other two friends. The two who had escorted the injured one seemed to take their duties more seriously, not moving more than a foot or two from Sam's side. Scarlett had left Daniel to go hover close by, overseeing Sam's examination and ignoring the excited cries from overhead.
"Are they all gonna come and visit and wish you a Happy Birthday?" Jack frowned up at the happily flying creatures, then turned to Daniel as if it was all his fault when three more came through the 'gate.
"Hey, don't look at me. They probably watched us dial the 'gate often enough to figure out how it worked. And unless you lured them here under false pretences, they are not smart enough to know it's my birthday."
"And what about the GDO?"
"You know they're packrats at heart. They must have sneaked one away from one of our teams." Daniel grinned as one of the aliens zoomed around him, chirping happily. Scarlett answered it with a squeak of her own.
"Walter, check the records to see if anyone who visited P3U 330 reported a missing GDO."
"Yes sir," the tinny voice echoed in the crowded room.
"Why isn't the 'gate shutting down?" Jack turned first to Walter, then to Daniel, a pleading look on his face. "Please don't tell me more of them are coming through."
"They might be playing with the puddle on the other side, sir." Daniel looked up at Sam who was still in the control room. "I'm still getting readings indicating that the Stargate is in use."
"It is quite interesting that these creatures apparently memorized the personal codes of those SG personnel who have visited their planet over the years." Teal'c moved closer to the injured creature and leaned over to take a look. "I believe we should take this one to the infirmary. Perhaps DoctorBrightman may be of assistance to it."
"Yeah, sure." Jack gave his permission with a wave of his hand. Sam took her jacket off and gently picked up the small creature, then cradled it in the jacket. It mewled in pain, but allowed itself to be handled.
Then one last alien came through the Stargate before it deactivated. It was tiny, just a baby, and it stopped in front of the massive 'gate, crying pitifully. The alien in Sam's arms lifted its head and gave a weak call and immediately the baby flew to it and tried to land on its head.
"Oh no," Daniel said softly as the baby finally squeezed in beside its mother. He gave Jack a helpless look and Jack placed a comforting hand on the back of Daniel's neck.
"The doc'll take care of it," Jack assured him as Sam and Teal'c made their way towards the exit. The two aliens who had escorted the injured one followed behind, anxiously calling reassurances to the two in Sam's arms. They all squeezed through the partly open door and the airmen quickly shut it before the others could follow.
"Walter." Jack turned and looked up into the control room. "Dial up that planet and let's get those... aliens out of here."
"Shouldn't we check and see if there's anything back on the planet that might be a danger to them? We don't know how it got hurt and maybe they're trying to escape some sort of predator."
Jack eyed first Daniel, then Scarlett as she flew past him and wrapped herself around Daniel's neck. She reached up and carefully nudged his uninjured cheek, her fur soft and warm, then gave off another round of admonishment before chirruping softly.
"Fine. Walter," Jack raised his voice to get the technician's attention. "What teams are available for immediate deployment?" Even before Walter had begun answering that SGs-5 and 12 were available, Jack rattled off his orders. "Get SG-5 geared and ready to go in ten."
The adrenaline that had surged through Daniel earlier suddenly evaporated, leaving him even more tired than before. The painkiller had kicked in; his headache and muscular pains were fading, but the strain of the past days was catching up to him.
"We'll need some food for the guys," Daniel said as he leaned against the ramp's cool metal and slowly rubbed Scarlett's soft fur on the top of her head. The heat of her body felt good against his sore muscles.
"Litter boxes," Jack added.
"Julie will need to keep them isolated in one room so they don't start exploring." The frenetic search for baby Squiggle hadn't been one of the highlights of that long-ago visit by Scarlett.
"I'm sure Carter will warn her." Jack took a step back as one of the aliens zoomed by, brushing against his head. "Maybe I'll just make sure and remind her myself."
Daniel watched the security contingent as they interacted with the aliens, reaching out to pet them when they approached. Scarlett's blue tongue flicked out again to lick Daniel's chin, then she cheeped softly and buried her face against his throat.
"I missed you too," Daniel told her softly. He turned to Jack. "How long since we sent a team to her world?"
"I don't know. Eight months, maybe? Not since we got the last of the technology out of the cave and moved it to Area 51."
"We should have visited."
"We've been kinda busy, if you remember, what with your ascension, Anubis, Baal, just to name a few."
"Yeah, but…" He sighed, then straightened as the door to his left opened.
SG-5 stepped through and Jack left Daniel to go and brief them. As the Stargate began to dial out, he stepped away from the ramp and lifted Scarlett from his shoulders and into his arms.
"Think you can convince your friends to go home?" He pointed at the now-activated Stargate." She yawned, wriggled in his arms a moment, then set off and with loud squawks, persuaded most of her fellow aliens to go home. Two she ended up chasing around the room several times until they dove through the wormhole. When the last one disappeared, she languidly returned to Daniel, twittering softly to herself, obviously pleased.
One of the airmen stopped Daniel as he walked past him. "Hey, can I borrow it when I need to get the in-laws out of my house after my wife throws a party?"
"Sure, but chances are she'll probably end up chasing you out first," Daniel replied with a wink. He stood beside Jack and watched SG-5 go through the Stargate.
"Daniel, go home," Jack said softly as the room spun in a slow circle. Daniel blinked and the walls stopped moving.
"No, I think I'll..." He cleared his throat. "I'll wait for word from the infirmary about how Scarlett's friend is doing."
"Then maybe you can go wait on one of the beds there and lie down. You know you were released with orders to go rest."
The idea of lying down was tempting but he was afraid that if he did go to sleep now, he'd only wake up sometime tomorrow. "I'll go wait in my office. Anyways I need to pack a few things to bring home and—"
"You're not bringing work home." Jack took a step towards the door and Daniel followed.
"No, I'm not." He honestly didn't think he'd be able to concentrate enough to work, in any case. Not if he felt this lousy tomorrow. "Just a few books I might want to read."
"You sure you don't want to lie down? I can get someone to fetch those books for you."
"I'm sure." Actually the peace and quiet of his office was appealing more and more after all this excitement.
"I'll have some food sent to your office, then." They stopped outside the stairs leading up to the control room, and further up, to Jack's office.
Daniel nodded. "Thanks."
Jack put a hand to Scarlett's head and petted her. "It's good to see you, girl," he said. She licked his fingers, gave a soft chirp and laid her head on Daniel's shoulder again. He could feel her hot breath against his throat; comforting and familiar.
When Jack jogged up the stairs, Daniel made his slow way to the elevators, finding that he was leaning more and more towards the wall. It was with relief that he entered the car and quickly ascended to level 18. His fatigue combined with the pill's effects was making him woozy.
He finally made it to his office and carefully sat in his chair, the dimness easing his dizziness and faint nausea. Scarlett disentangled herself from around him and flew around the room, investigating the nooks and crannies. He leaned back and closed his eyes, listening to her occasional snuffles and chirrups, the clink of pottery against pottery, the scuff of something heavy being shifted on a wooden shelf. He knew from experience that she wasn't clumsy and that his artifacts were safe from her exploration.
Daniel opened his eyes to see a young airman standing in his doorway with a tray. "General O'Neill asked me to bring you this."
"Thank you. You can put it over here." Daniel pushed a few books aside and made room for the food. He glanced at the bowl of stew and bread, which no longer appealed to him. He flashed the young man a smile anyways, and he smiled in return before leaving Daniel to his meal.
He forced himself to eat a few bites, ending up eating most of the bread after dipping it in the gravy. Scarlett came to investigate and sniffed at the bowl, deigning instead to accept a bite of bread rather than the heavily-spiced vegetables.
As Daniel sat there, his eyelids began to droop, and he realized he needed to keep busy if he was to stay awake. He found his backpack where he'd thrown it into a corner and began searching for the texts he'd wanted to bring with him, then placed them in the bag, and the bag by the door, ready to go.
Maybe he could do some work; something that didn't require much brainwork. He looked at the tagged artifacts waiting for him and took the top one out of the box. It was encrusted with so much mud and dirt he could barely make it out, so he took it to the sink and with a soft brush, began cleaning the soil from it.
Several minutes later, he was sitting at his desk, looking it over with a magnifying glass. It was Mayan, definitely Ixchel, goddess of fertility. There were no signs of writing or identifying marks. He put it down, and closed his eyes for a moment, frustrated that he couldn't even remember anything about that particular mission report and why anyone had deemed this artifact important enough to send to him.
A sound that had been at the back of his mind caught his attention and for a moment he thought it was Scarlett. He opened his eyes and searched out the noise. Then he saw a drop of water form at the edge of the faucet, and fall into the metal sink.
He looked around and saw Scarlett was on the top of one of the bookcases, her long, snake-like body twined between two large decorative bowls. He closed his eyes, secure in the knowledge she was okay.
He relaxed; he could fall asleep any second, he knew it, and he was tempted to let himself go.
He sat there, just on the cusp of sleep, waiting for the next drip.
He jumped, not sure if he'd fallen asleep or if Sam had come in at that exact moment. He turned in his chair and saw her looking at him apologetically. His head felt even fuzzier than before.
"The General just called. He said that according to Julie, the alien's got a pretty badly infected cut, but she thinks she'll respond well to antibiotics. And I've been delegated to drive you home."
"What time is it?"
"Isn't it early?"
She smiled and came around the table to lean down close to him. "Rough mission, early dismissal. I'm off duty for the next two days." She raised a hand towards his injured cheek, stopping her fingers just a touch away. "The general said you might be a little groggy from the meds you took so he asked me to make sure you got home safe."
Daniel stood, taking a moment to make sure synapses connecting his upper body and his lower body were communicating. "If there's any word about the alien, you'll let me... oh, you won't be here so you wouldn't be able to tell me anything."
She laughed softly as they stepped out of the door and began walking down the hall. She leaned close to him and whispered in his ear. "Daniel, General O'Neill will be the first one to get any information on Scarlett's friends. I'm sure he'll let you know."
"Oh yeah. Right." He would have smacked his palm against his forehead but he knew that would hurt.
"Wait." He stopped in the middle of the hallway, realizing he'd forgotten something. "My books. I forgot them."
"I'll get them. Which ones?"
"In a bag, by the door."
"Wait for me by the elevators." She jogged back the way they had come and Daniel continued on slowly, reaching the elevators just moments before Sam returned with his backpack.
The trip to Jack's was a blur. Sam talked to him but he kept fading in and out of a doze, the sound of her voice comforting as she hummed or commented on things. When the car stopped, he poked his fingers beneath his glasses and rubbed his eyes. They felt full of sand.
He opened the car door and was surprised when Sam put a hand on his arm. "Daniel, you should know, the general's got a visitor."
Daniel blinked at her, wondering what she was talking about, but when she said 'Rose', his earlier conversation with Jack came back to him.
"I know." Suddenly he was a little nervous about stepping inside the house. He almost asked Sam to drive him to his own home when he saw the curtains twitch. Too late.
"Want me to go in with you?"
"Nah, I'm a big boy. Anyways, she'll take one look at me and steer me straight to bed."
"She'll take one look at your face and give you a scolding that'll make your ears ring, and then put you to bed."
Daniel folded himself out of the car slowly; his muscles had stiffened despite the meds. "Nah, Scarlett got the prize for that one."
"Speaking of which," Sam said as she handed Daniel his backpack. "Where is she?"
"Oh shit." Daniel felt his stomach drop. "I left her in my office. She'd curled up in my bookcase and... I'll call Jack as soon as I get inside."
"That's okay, I'll call him. You go." She smiled and looked past his shoulder. "Someone's looking anxious to say hi."
Daniel turned, waved at Rose who was standing in the doorway, and leaned over to kiss Sam's cheek. "Thanks."
"No problem." She waved to Rose then got back into the car. "Bye," she said, then put the car in reverse and drove off.
"Hi Rose," Daniel said as he struggled up the steps. He stopped near the last two and smiled a little nervously. He noted the apprehension in her face, watched her eyes as they grazed along his cheek, then over his body, looking for the marks hidden by his clothes. Then her eyes met his, and he saw some of the worry leave her face.
"Mhuirnin." She said nothing more except open her arms, and Daniel stepped into them more than willingly.
She hugged him gently, obviously warned by Jack that he was arriving battered and bruised. He lowered his head and laid his forehead against her shoulder, allowing himself the luxury of not having to be strong, for just a moment. Her faint perfume was familiar, her body warm and comforting. Then he pulled back and she let him go.
Rose stepped back inside and he entered the house. Daniel shut the door behind him and dropped his bag beside it. He followed her into the kitchen and walked to the fridge. As he rummaged for a bottle of water, he glanced behind him at Rose, unnerved by her silence.
"I didn't know you were coming," he began inanely as he took a sip of water.
"Of course you didn't. It was supposed to be a surprise."
"I guess I sort of threw a wrench into your plans, huh?"
"You're home safe, now. That's all that matters." She raised a hand to caress his unmarked cheek. "Happy Birthday, Daniel."
Daniel grinned at her, then quickly tried to straighten his jaw muscles, the action pulling painfully at the bruised muscles around his mouth. "Ow." He attempted to roll the cold plastic against his cheek, but pulled it away as the pressure was equally as painful.
"Can I get you something? Run you a hot bath? Are you hungry? Do you need to take any medicine?"
Daniel shook his head, then gulped down half the water in the bottle. He came up for air and wiped the back of his hand against his wet lips. "I just need to sleep. I didn't get much of it over the past two days and the pills I took are making me groggy."
"Go ahead. There's fresh sheets on the bed." She stepped away again, allowing him to move, and he gratefully headed down the hall towards the bedroom, glad she wasn't going to fuss about his condition. He was halfway there when he heard Rose scream.
He turned, all thoughts of fatigue, pain and stiffness gone. Instinctively he fumbled for his handgun, confused for a second as to why he came up with brushed cotton instead of his leather holster. Still he rushed into the foyer only to see his bag lying open on the floor, books spilling from it, and Rose staring up towards the ceiling, a look of terror on her face.
She screamed again, and Daniel moved to put himself in front of whatever danger was presenting itself. Rose wasn't the type of person to shriek at the sight of a spider so the only thing he could think of was that the ceiling was caving in.
It was when he heard the second high-pitched squeal coming from his right that Daniel realized what was happening. Scarlett's body zoomed by him in a blur, circling around the tight quarters of the hallway only to zip into the kitchen.
He followed the terrified alien into the dining area, shaking off Rose's hands as she yelled at him.
"Don't! Get out of there. We need to call for help."
"Rose, it's okay." He stopped a moment to put a finger to her lips as she opened her mouth to yell again. "She won't hurt you. Stay here."
"She?" Rose's voice was still too loud and Daniel heard Scarlett's answering screech. "What the hell is it?"
Daniel ignored Rose and stepped into Jack's dining room, hoping to calm the little alien.
"Come here, sweetheart," he crooned softly, trying to follow Scarlett's quick zips around the room. As Rose followed him in, with another loud squawk, Scarlett flew through the half wall, into the living room.
"Stay. Here," Daniel ordered tersely, beginning to lose his patience with both Rose and Scarlett. He hurried out into the hall and stumbled down the stairs, his ankle twinging painfully. He was halfway down when he heard a loud thud and yelp. His heart hammering painfully in his chest, Daniel entered the living room with no sign of Scarlett anywhere.
"She hit the window," Rose cried out through the half wall. Daniel glanced at the large picture windows, curtains pulled back to allow the full glory of Jack's garden into the living room.
"Oh God." Daniel ran towards the windows only to see Scarlett scamper from behind the large easy chairs on the small protuberances her kind sometimes used for legs. Daniel ran towards her and she turned and scurried back in the other direction. He cornered her between the chair and the fireplace and he knelt there, his bruised knees sending spikes of pain up his thighs. He ignored his discomfort and held out a hand.
"Come here, Scarlett," he said softly. "It's all right. Nobody wants to hurt you."
She cheeped pitifully and then dashed towards him, flying up the last few feet to land against his chest. She was shivering and she butted her head up beneath his chin.
"Did you hurt yourself when you hit the window?" He tried to get a look at her but she wiggled in his arms, trying to stay in contact with his chest.
"Is she all right?" Scarlett twisted in Daniel's arms and he tightened his grip so she wouldn't fly off. He turned his head as Rose came down the stairs.
"Please, Rose, stay there. Just give her a minute, okay?"
Scarlett raised her head and peered over Daniel's shoulder and hissed at Rose. Suddenly Daniel burst out laughing.
"What? What's so funny?"
"You have to believe me when I say she's one of the gentlest creatures I've ever seen, but you're the second person she's hissed at."
"Don't tell me. Jack was the other?"
Daniel nodded and snorted again with laughter. "Well, him and a nurse, so I've heard." Scarlett bumped her head against his chin again and gave him a confused meep.
"Well, why am I not surprised?"
"She's used to hum... people. You just startled her when you screamed." Daniel couldn't take the kneeling position and longer and shifted so he was sitting, his back against the hearth.
"*I* startled her? How was I supposed to react when this weird... thing, came flying out of your packsack?" Rose took a couple of steps closer and Scarlett kept her eyes glued on Rose. "What is she? Part bird or something?"
Daniel closed his eyes and buried his face Scarlett's soft fur a moment. She wriggled happily and when he raised his head, she eased out of his arms to wrap herself around his neck to lie against his shoulders. She continued staring at Rose, and Daniel sat there trying to think of a way to explain the alien's odd abilities.
"She's an experiment in cloning, Rose. You know we work for deep space telemetry—" He ignored Rose's snort and continued as she took two steps closer and sat down on the couch. "Someone at NASA decided it might be more productive to have creatures in manned spaceflight that already have an advantage over gravity, and she's the result of the research."
"I'm betting you're not supposed to be telling me any of this," Rose said as she leaned forward to get a better look at Scarlett.
"To be honest, I could shoot you for what you just saw today."
She rolled her eyes and grinned lopsidedly, reminding Daniel of Jack. "It's pretty incredible, you have to admit that. A flying... what is she, a snake?"
"No, she's warm blooded. I'm not sure exactly..."
"How does she fly?"
"I don't know. I don't think anyone knows how she does that."
"It's kind of like science fiction, isn't it? Sort of like your work?"
Daniel looked at Rose dumbfounded. "What do you mean?"
"I may be an old woman, but I still notice things. You and Jack and Sam, coming home with sunburns or deep tans in the middle of winter. Or suddenly arriving home after missing for two days. It's more than obvious you were out of the country and—" she raised a hand when Daniel went to remind her of Jack's rule that he couldn't answer any of her questions— "just hear me out. You come back so suddenly that it's like you were transported home like on that Star Trek show. Science Fiction. Right?"
Daniel laughed, trying to keep the nervousness out of it. He could lie outright to a Goa'uld, but faced with Jack's mother, he hated what his job forced him to do. And he knew how much it pulled at Jack to do so also. "Are you saying I work for Starfleet Command?"
"Of course not. And I don't expect you're running around with ray guns and flying over the galaxy in space ships to save the planet. But some things, like her, are just a touch too close to being 'out there' to be explained."
"Rose, you have no idea of the things scientists are working on. We just don't get to hear about them until they're successful or—"
"Their experiments escape?"
"Yeah," he said softly.
"I guess you know more about these things than I do. And thank you for explaining about Scarlett. I'm pretty sure Jack would have just told me it's one of those things he can't talk about."
"Shit." Daniel winced as Rose glared at him. "Sorry. But I have to tell Jack that Scarlett's here." He shifted painfully and pulled his legs underneath him. His muscles complained and he pulled himself up slowly, using the chair for leverage. He shuffled on stiff legs and reached for the cordless that was sitting on the ledge of the half wall.
He dialled Jack's number then sat down beside Rose as he waited for Jack's office to put him through. While on hold, he watched with pride as Rose overcame her nervousness and extended her hand to Scarlett. The little creature sniffed her fingers, then licked them.
"Jack," Daniel said when Jack finally answered the phone. "You can call off the search for Scarlett—"
// How'd you know we were— //
"I told Sam I'd left her sleeping in my office—"
// Yeah, well she's not there. //
// How do you know that? //
"Because she's here, with me."
// You have an alien creature with you in *my* house? //
"She sneaked into my backpack, Jack. She must have curled up and fallen asleep and I—"
// Well I hope you stuck her back into that pack before my mother sees— //
"Rose and Scarlett have hit it off pretty well—" Daniel smiled as Scarlett closed her eyes in bliss as Rose found the area just below her chin that she loved having scratched.
// My mother's seen that flying balloon? //
"Kinda hard to miss when said balloon is bouncing off the walls and windows."
// Daniel... // Jack sighed long and loud and Daniel felt pity for his lover. // I can't imagine what Mom thought. I'll have someone drive over and get her— //
"Your mom's fine, Jack. I think she's over the shock." Daniel smiled at Rose, who was surely hearing Jack's side of the conversation in her mind.
// I was talking about Scarlett. //
"In that case, I think she's better off here for the moment."
// Daniel, you of all people know what a security risk a flying alien— //
"She almost knocked herself silly flying into your picture window."
// Did she break the window? //
"Scarlett's fine," Daniel answered quickly. "I think she's shaken up, though. It might not be a good idea to get her out into a car right about now."
// We can put her in a box. She won't have to see anything. No windows. //
"Come on, Jack. Let's just give her a chance to catch her breath. You can take her back to the mountain tomorrow." And give Daniel a little more time to enjoy her company.
// I don't like this, // Jack grumbled and Daniel smiled, knowing Scarlett was going to be staying at least the night.
"Oh, you better stop off at the supermarket and get a litterbox."
// Great, // Jack said testily.
"And don't forget to bring her some food. She's probably hungry."
// Anything else? //
"I miss you?"
// Yeah well... so do I. //
"I'll see you later?"
// Shouldn't you be in bed? I'm pretty sure you're not lying down. //
"I'm sitting, if that counts for anything."
Daniel heard the sound of knocking and realized Jack had a visitor. "Jack, how's... is there any news?"
// No better, no worse. Doctor Brightman says it might take a day or so to see any results. //
"Okay. You'll let me know?"
// I will. Get some sleep. //
"Yasureyabetcha." Daniel thumbed the phone off and dropped it onto the couch beside him.
"Not too happy, huh?"
Daniel shook his head. "She shouldn't have been at the mountain, either. It's my fault she's here, she was with me in my office before I left and I lost track of her."
He felt Rose's hand on his arm and he tried not to wince as she squeezed a tender and bruised spot. "It's understandable. Now, shouldn't you be getting some rest?"
"With all the commotion around here?" Daniel teased. He stood and took a quick step forward before catching his balance. He tried to pass it off as nothing but felt Rose's hand at his elbow. Scarlett slid off of him and began exploring the room, moving slowly and cautiously. She went for the picture window and Daniel hurried forward but she stopped a few inches away. She moved forward slowly until her nose bumped against the clear glass. She bumped the glass a few more times then turned to look at Daniel, cheeping in confusion.
"I know it's weird," Daniel told her as he put his hand to the glass, showing Scarlett that it extended from floor to ceiling. "You just be careful where you fly." He saw his handprints and the smudges from Scarlett's nose on the otherwise clean glass and quickly drew the curtains to both hide the marks and to hopefully prevent Scarlett from accidentally flying into the glass again.
"I'm going to try this again," Daniel said, pointing towards the hall and bedroom. He made it up the steps, not remembering them to be so steep or so numerous, and walked by the spilled books, thinking that if he bent down to pick them up, this time he not make it back up.
Rose followed and stopped in the bedroom doorway. "Is there anything you need?"
Daniel sat on the bed and began unbuttoning his shirt. "Water?"
"You got it." He hurried and stripped his shirt and pants off, having trouble getting his shoes off first, then leaving everything in a pile beside the bed. He slid beneath the covers just as Rose re-entered the room.
He pulled the blankets up but not in time and Rose ended up getting a good look at the bruises and scratches marring his chest and arms. As he turned onto his side, she sat on the bed beside him, put the water bottle on the bedside table and pulled the blankets up the rest of the way.
"I'll turn the air conditioning up. It's warm in here." She bent down and kissed his forehead, then got up and pulled the curtains closed and pressed the controls. Scarlett took that moment to enter the room, cheeping when she spotted Daniel. Two seconds later she was burrowing beneath the covers and curling up against his chest, her head nestled on his shoulder.
"Does she need anything?" Rose asked from the doorway.
"Could you put out a plate with a mix of vegetables and fruits?" Daniel yawned. Now that he was horizontal and the adrenaline rush was going away, he felt drained. "She might eat something if she's hungry. Jack's gonna bring her regular food."
"No problem. One small salad coming up."
- - - - - -
Rose finished cutting up bits of vegetables, added a few grapes, chopped up a quarter of an apple and spread everything out onto a plate. She took a bite of the remaining apple and chewing slowly, walked softly back to the bedroom.
Daniel was snoring loudly, the noise masking any sounds Rose made as she cleared a spot on top of Jack's bureau. Still, the small grey head popped out from beneath the covers and the being's beady little eyes followed her as she worked. It seemed friendly... *she* seemed friendly, Rose corrected herself, but it was an animal and seeing it lying there with her head so close to Daniel's throat made her a little nervous.
She debated feeding the creature and then hurrying to call Jack and demand he come take it away, but then realized that Daniel, and Jack, probably wouldn't allow anything dangerous in the house. She had heard Daniel's side of the conversation where she was pretty certain Jack had wanted to come and get Scarlett, but Daniel had won out and they were stuck with it, at least for today and the coming night.
She slowly walked to the bed and moving with exaggerated care, picked up Daniel's discarded pants and shirt, and folded them neatly onto a chair, the creature watching her every move. Then she left the room, pulling the door nearly shut and watching through the crack. The creature pulled away from Daniel and hovered just beside the bed for a moment, then moved slowly towards the bureau. As she settled beside the plate, she looked up and met Rose's gaze.
Rose debated backing up out of sight, but then the creature already knew it was being watched. It sniffed at the plate, then daintily picked up a grape and began chewing on it. It reminded her of a ferret; she'd seen some in pet shops and on TV and the small, sharp teeth quickly tore the piece of fruit apart. It helped itself to a piece of broccoli and a slice of carrot before returning to the bed. This time it curled up on the pillow around Daniel's head, moving so softly that Daniel didn't stir. Then it rested its chin on top of Daniel's head and stared at Rose.
"Okay, you're playing guard dog. I getcha," Rose said softly. "I'll leave you two to some peace and quiet."
Rose made a tour of the house and drew all the blinds and curtains; not only to safeguard against another accident, but from the very slight possibility that someone might catch a glimpse of something floating in the air which couldn't be explained as a helium-filled balloon.
She picked up Daniel's books and the backpack, placing them on a small table in the living room. There were a couple of pill bottles in a side pocket with a prescription dated today so those she placed on the kitchen counter, in plain view.
She kept being pulled in the direction of the bedroom and she fought off the urge to check to see if Scarlett wasn't slowly suffocating Daniel or drinking his blood or doing any number of bad things to him.
"I'm gonna have to lay off the late night movies," Rose finally said to herself. She decided one peek, and then if all was okay, she'd get busy icing the birthday cake she'd baked earlier this morning.
She tip-toed down the hallway and could hear Daniel's loud snores even from there. She opened the door slightly and looked inside.
Daniel hadn't moved, but Scarlett heard her and raised her head, this time cheeping softly. If she didn't know better, Rose would have sworn there had been an inquisitive quality to the sound.
"Don't look at me, I'm a worrywart at heart," Rose told Scarlett. Satisfied that Daniel was okay, she went into the kitchen, humming softly.
Twenty minutes later, she licked a dab of icing from the side of her hand and looked at her handiwork. Not bad, if she did say so herself. She put the cake aside and then turned to load her dirty bowls into the dishwasher when she spotted something moving from the corner of her eye.
She turned quickly and saw Scarlett hovering in the kitchen, watching her.
"Got tired to listening to Daniel's symphony?" she asked in sympathy as she rinsed the icing residue from the beaters and bowl. "He's not usually that loud, only when he's exhausted."
Going about her business as if it were normal to be talking to a long furry snake floating three feet off the floor, Rose quickly cleaned the countertop and loaded the last of the dishes into the dishwasher. Then she pulled out the ingredients she'd need for making supper.
Humming to herself, she began peeling and slicing onions and garlic. A moment later, Scarlett came to investigate what Rose was doing. She sniffed at the half-sliced onion, took a length of onion in her mouth, then sneezed. Then sneezed again, the momentum pushing her away from the countertop. She shook her head and licked her nose and lips, staring at Rose mournfully.
"I know," Rose sniffed, wiping a hand to her own tearing eyes. "They smell awful but taste wonderful cooked. Just you wait, I'll give you a taste when this is done." She deftly finished chopping and dumped everything into a heated pan. As the sizzling aroma of onions and garlic permeated the kitchen, Scarlett approached Rose and peered over her shoulder, still chewing on the piece of onion she'd helped herself to.
"Not too close," Rose warned, putting out a warning hand as Scarlett snaked over Rose and approached the stove. The little creature cheeped and as she moved away, Rose was certain she'd understood her.
She took out three types of cheese, spinach, tomato sauce and began preparing her lasagne sauce. When Scarlett approached again and sniffed inquisitively at the cheese, Rose shooed her away. The disappointed squawk was unmistakeable.
- - - - - -
It was just after five and Jack decided to call it a day. He'd been working late all week and there was really nothing that important that required him to spend any more time in his office.
He picked up the bag of litter and the litter box he'd appropriated from the infirmary, which some poor grunt had been sent out to buy, and which would probably require another trip to replace. But he'd availed himself of his rank, thereby saving the trouble of stopping off for one on his way home.
Anyways, it wasn't like he'd left the other aliens without a potty; two of these had been purchased in the first place.
He stopped by the infirmary on his way out to pay a visit to the ailing creature in the isolation room. Brightman had the alien comfortably set up in a box, swaddled in towels. She'd even set up an IV into the creature. More amazing than the fact that she'd managed to find a vein was that the alien, and its entourage, had permitted her to stick a needle into it.
The sick little thing raised its eyes towards Jack as he peered into the box, then closed them. Its baby, however, squirmed out from beneath a fold of towel and flew towards Jack. He caught it in mid-air and stroked it and it chattered happily for a moment, wriggling in his hands before taking off to find one of the other two aliens who was watching Jack from atop a piece of medical equipment.
"How's it doing?" Jack asked the nurse assigned to the creature's care.
"There's no change but she's as comfortable as we can make her."
"Thanks." He took one last look at the alien and left the mountain.
- - - - - -
Jack hefted the bag of litter under one arm and the small plastic box in the other as he made his way up the stairs and to his front door. He'd noted all the curtains were drawn; probably Daniel's idea, and a pretty good one at that.
"Mom?" Jack kept his voice pitched low in deference to the snoring sounds echoing down the hallway through the half-open bedroom door. The smell of lasagne permeated the house, making his mouth water as he followed his nose into the kitchen.
"Hi Jack. You're early tonight."
He put the bag and litter box down on the kitchen counter and tilted his chin towards his mother, who looked like she was wearing a grey stole. "Something you want to tell me, mom?"
"Daniel's in the bedroom, sleeping. He looks like shit, by the way."
"Yeah, I know. Happy birthday to him." Jack sighed. Still, they'd gotten Daniel back alive, which was still something to celebrate. It was just all lousy timing for his mom, and for that he felt bad. "But I was referring to... you do know there's something sitting on your neck?" He picked up a knife and cut a hole in the litter bag.
"Johnny, it's bad enough when you play dumb, it's even worse when you pretend *I'm* the stupid one."
"Sorry." The apology was quick and heartfelt. She was right, he was trying to cover his nervousness with sarcasm and it never worked with his mom. He poured the litter into the litter box and debated where to put it. After a moment he decided on a corner down the hallway near the stairs leading to the den.
"Daniel already explained about Scarlett."
"He did?" Jack stopped right outside his bedroom door, unable to sneak a peek at the slumbering man, then kept on walking, speaking low so as not to disturb Daniel. "What did he say?"
His mom didn't answer; instead she turned around and returned to the kitchen. Which made Jack very nervous.
Rose pulled out the lasagne from the oven and began draping layers of cheese over the bubbling pasta and sauce. She sang softly to herself and to Jack's surprise, Scarlett cheeped or crooned at the end of each line of song. In perfect pitch.
"Yes, Jack?" Rose tore a piece of cheese from the slice she had in her hand and held it up to Scarlett, who gobbled it down greedily.
"What did Daniel tell you about Scarlett?"
Rose continued singing and finished spreading the cheese, ignoring him. She popped the dish back into the oven and fed another tidbit to Scarlett.
"Maybe you shouldn't give her any more, I don't think she's used to people food."
"I didn't give her that much."
"Fine, if she makes a mess, you can clean it up."
"Daniel told me she was an experiment. Something to do with space flight."
Jack nodded, saying nothing to disprove Daniel's explanation.
"That boy doesn't lie very well, d'ya know that?"
"Mom." This was the one thing Jack hated; having to keep a huge portion of his and Daniel's life from his mother. It had been bad enough not being able to talk to Sara about his work but the Stargate program was so much more.
"Johnny." His mom sighed heavily and turned to face him. She put a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him towards her, then planted a kiss on the top of his head. "I'm not accusing, and I'm not asking. You're tired and stressed, go have a beer, put your feet up and relax. Dinner'll be on in about twenty minutes."
Jack kissed Rose's cheek and felt Scarlett stretch and rub her cheek against his. He pulled away and smiled at the two of them.
"Then I better wake Daniel up. He's gonna need some of Doctor Brightman's good stuff if he's to join us at the table."
"Supper will keep for a while if you want to draw him a bath and let him soak," Rose said as she handed Jack the pill bottles.
"Good idea." He shook out the correct dosage of blood thinner and muscle relaxant then, armed with a fresh bottle of chilled water, Jack entered his bedroom. As he sat down on the bed, Scarlett flew in and scampered across the bed to lie on Daniel's chest.
Jack sat there a moment, watching Daniel sleep. He reached over and turned the small bedside light on, its dim illumination just enough to highlight the bruises on Daniel's face. Jack reached out and took hold of Daniel's shoulder, and shook him gently.
"Daniel, you wanna wake up?"
Daniel woke up with a jerk, his eyes popping open as he raised his head. He looked at Jack and fell back against the pillow with a groan.
"Yeah, I know." He held out his hand with the pills. "Here, these will help."
Daniel reached out wordlessly and took them, popped them into his mouth, then reached for the bottle of water. Raising his head only a few inches from the pillow, he aimed the bottle at his mouth. Before he'd finished, he'd dribbled water down the side of his face and onto the pillow.
"A nice hot bath will probably help." Jack stood and entered the bathroom, started the bath, and then returned to the bed. Daniel was watching him while petting Scarlett.
"That might be a problem," Daniel said when Jack began rummaging in the drawer for clean underwear. "Unless you can bring the tub here to me..."
"You know, that's not a bad idea – roll out of bed and fall into the tub in the mornings?"
"Ugh." Daniel made a face and rolled onto his side, then sat up slowly. "Is it me or does Scarlett have onion breath?"
"I didn't notice."
Daniel pushed Scarlett's face away from his as she settled onto his shoulder. "Definitely onion breath."
Daniel stood and tried to pull his muscle shirt over his head. Jack immediately grabbed it and pulled it up, easing it over his arms. Daniel's chest and back were mottled blue and brown and he stood, hunched over slightly, as if he couldn't straighten. Having experienced the pain of such a beating first hand on more than one occasion, Jack knew that was exactly the problem.
Daniel dropped his boxers and shuffled towards the bath. Jack took Scarlett from his shoulders, put her down in the sink, and helped Daniel get into the tub. Daniel hissed as the hot water hit the abrasions on his body, then relaxed as the stings faded.
To their surprise, even before Daniel was able to lie back properly and get comfortable, Scarlett dove into the water near Daniel's feet. She swam up and around his legs, staying away from the flow from the faucet.
"Hey, get out of there," Jack yelled, waving frantically at the alien who dodged his hands easily. All he could picture was Daniel's wrinkled manhood and an alien who, although friendly, had more than its normal share of curiosity.
"Leave her be, Jack."
"Daniel, she could drown in there." Jack fumbled for an excuse, not wanting to alarm him.
Then with a rush of spilled water, Scarlett came out of the tub and floated just above the steaming bath. She shook herself off, splashing Jack and Daniel both, cheeped happily, and flew into the bedroom.
Jack simply shook his head at the alien's antics while Daniel laughed softly, then groaned as he put a hand to his stomach. When the tub was close to overflowing, Jack turned the water off and stood.
"I'll come get you in about fifteen minutes."
Daniel waved a hand, his eyes already closing as he sighed blissfully.
In the kitchen his mom was setting the table. As he passed her, intending to get himself a beer, she handed Jack an already-opened bottle. He took several long swallows and felt the tension of the past several days finally begin to ease from his shoulders.
"Thanks," he finally said before taking another swig.
"Is Daniel up?"
"He's in the bath."
"Good. Best thing for sore muscles is a nice, long soak."
Scarlett glided into the room, still dripping water. "Ack. What have you gotten yourself into?" Rose exclaimed, grabbing a dish towel and wiping down the sopping fur.
"She decided a bath was a good idea." Jack hid his indignation in the beer.
Rose stopped and stared at Jack, then she began to giggle. "With Daniel?"
Jack simply put the bottle of beer to his lips and swallowed some more. Rose's giggle turned into full-blown laughter. By the time she finished wiping down Scarlett, Jack had finished his beer and Rose was laughing so hard she had tears running down her face.
"I'm sorry," she finally managed, wiping her eyes with the damp dish towel. "If you could have seen your face..."
"Right." He stood and put the empty in the recycle bin. "I have her food in the truck. I better go get it before I forget." Head tall, shoulders back, Jack exited the kitchen through the back door with dignity and went around the side of the house to the Avalanche. He grabbed the bag that contained the twigs and leaves Scarlett's kind ate for food. He also grabbed the toy he thought she might enjoy playing with; an impulsive stop after all as he drove by a strip mall, which he was beginning to regret.
He dropped the bag of greens onto a chair and still holding onto the string attached to the helium-filled balloon – metallic grey with a large, yellow happy face plastered over it – he waited for Scarlett to come and investigate. She circled the floating balloon, not quite sure what to do with it. She bumped it with her nose, backing up quickly as the balloon moved easily. When she approached again with intentions to bump it, Jack let it go.
Scarlett squawked and pounced, wrapping her lithe body around the balloon and zipping around the room with it. She trilled, a sound that Jack associated with pleasure and amusement.
"Hopefully that'll keep her busy for a while. I'll go get Daniel."
Daniel, as Jack had expected, was dozing and lazily opened an eye as he entered the bathroom. Jack waggled his fingers, motioning him to get up and with a deep, exaggerated sigh, Daniel sat up. Jack helped him out of the tub and wrapped him in a towel.
"What was so funny out there?" Daniel sat on the toilet seat and began towelling himself dry.
"Just Mom laughing over Scarlett's antics." Jack bent over and pulled the plug in the bath. He eyed Daniel critically and was relieved to see he was moving more easily. He handed him boxers, then a pair of old sweats.
"How's the one who came though the… you know. How's she doing?"
"Holding her own."
"Good. Any idea what happened to her?" Daniel pulled up his boxers, then shook out the sweatpants.
"Nope. SG-5 didn't find anything out of the ordinary. They think she might have cut herself on some rocks. They found some blood near the cave and a sharp piece of rock jutting out. Probably just an accident and the cut got infected."
"Well it's good to know they're not prey for any other creatures over there." Standing, he pulled the soft material over his hips, then reached for the tee shirt. After getting one arm through the sleeve, he looked at Jack for help, which Jack obliged by easing the material over Daniel's head.
"Hungry?" Jack asked as they made their way to the kitchen.
"Actually, yeah, I am." He sniffed the air appreciatively. "Something sure smells good, Rose." He sat down with only a slight wince and then looked around the room, obviously searching for Scarlett. Jack grinned when, through the half wall, they were all privy to the sight of Scarlett flying across the room, the balloon string held in her mouth and the balloon itself streaming behind her.
"Was that a—"
"Balloon. Thought it might keep her out of our hair for a little while."
Scarlett zipped through the half wall, stopped above the dinner table, chittered happily at Daniel, then zipped back into the living room. They ate their supper to the sound of happy squawks, occasional thuds and the odd sound of rubber rasping on cloth.
"She's going to bust that balloon," Daniel warned as both the filled rubber and alien bounced off the walls. Scarlett cavorted into the kitchen, the now bedraggled ribbon in her mouth and continued on into the living room, causing everyone at the table to duck or dodge the trailing balloon.
Daniel ate with appetite. So did Jack. His mom's lasagne was one of his favourites and together, they managed to devour a large portion of what Rose had cooked.
Jack watched Daniel chase the last piece of pasta around his plate, collecting the last of the sauce before putting the forkful into his mouth. Daniel closed his eyes in satisfaction, burped loudly, excused himself, and sighed happily.
"Thanks, Rose. That was wonderful."
"Well I hope you left room for dessert," she said as she picked up his empty plate and walked it to the sink.
"Dessert?" Daniel's eyes popped open and he looked up eagerly. When Rose brought out the chocolate cake, he leaned forward expectantly.
"Happy Birthday, Daniel," Rose said as she put the cake down before him with a flourish. A childish grin appeared on Daniel's face and he glanced up at Jack's mom in embarrassment.
"Carter and Teal'c would have been joining us but we decided to put it off a couple of days until you're more fit company."
"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" Daniel flicked his finger in the frosting while Rose cut him a piece, and ended up getting his finger smacked for his trouble. Still, he stuck the frosting-covered finger into his mouth and looked at Jack defiantly.
"Meaning when you can sit up with the company for more than an hour without nodding off."
"I've been up for almost an hour and I haven't fallen asleep yet."
"What about those twenty minutes in the tub."
"Just resting my eyes."
Jack winked at his mom as she handed him a piece of cake. "Betcha he won't last fifteen minutes once he eats that cake."
"You're right. Hot bath, full stomach, it's enough to put even the worst insomnia sufferer to sleep."
"Not to mention the muscle relaxants."
"If you guys are trying to be funny, it's not working." Daniel stifled a yawn, then shovelled a forkful of cake into his mouth, glaring at them both. "Anyways, it's not a good idea to lie down after eating this much," he said after swallowing.
A loud bang came from the living room, followed by an equally loud shriek. Then Scarlett came flying through into the kitchen, a grey blur covered with deflated balloon pieces. She nearly crashed against Daniel and wrapped herself around him while trying to bury her face against his neck, visibly shivering.
"Aw, sweetheart," Rose crooned as she and Daniel plucked the pieces of balloon off her fur.
"I told you," Daniel told Jack as he tried to calm the little alien.
"Hey, she had a great time for all of thirty minutes. She'll get over a little bang."
"And she might be traumatized for the rest of her life," Daniel shot back.
"I'll get her another balloon tomorrow. Now that she knows what to expect, the noise won't startle her as much."
Rose petted Scarlett and after a moment she cheeped softly and unburied her face to look around cautiously. "It's all right. Nothing's going to hurt you here."
Jack got up and took a handful of twigs and leaves from the bag still on the countertop. He offered them to Scarlett who, nose twitching and eyes widening at the sight of food, left Daniel in a flash and came to rest on Jack's lap to begin chomping on her meal.
"See?" Jack grinned at Daniel, who almost looked disappointed at her quick recovery.
- - - - - -
Jack looked at the TV and sighed. This was supposed to be a good movie. He'd been looking forward to watching it but had been too busy or too worried about Daniel to be able to sit and relax for two hours at a time.
Tonight should have been a good night to relax and watch, but he was too damn distracted by Daniel, who was sitting next to him and fighting off sleep with all his might. He saw Daniel's head begin to droop again as he lost the battle one more time, dropping lower and lower until it rolled to the right, causing Daniel discomfort each and every time and forcing him awake.
Finally Jack couldn't take it. "Daniel, come here." He shuffled his butt towards the end of the couch until he was half lying against the bolster and the back of it. He patted his chest, inviting Daniel to share the couch with him. Daniel blinked at Jack sleepily, but alert enough to glance towards Rose first. Then finally his exhaustion won out and he joined Jack, lying between his legs and resting against Jack's chest.
Rose got up and without a word, spread a knitted afghan over them both before dropping a kiss on their foreheads. She retook her seat in the lazy boy, and as Daniel relaxed against him, Jack finally was able to concentrate on the movie.
Scarlett had been exploring the room, scurrying in and about the bric-a-brac lining his entertainment unit. But the moment the covering was spread over them, she made a beeline for the couch and insinuated herself underneath. She squirmed around for a minute, climbing first on Jack, then around Daniel, finally stretching out along Jack's hip and coming to rest with her snout along Daniel's throat.
Jack rolled his eyes at his mom as she sat there watching them with a maternal look on her face. She winked at him before returning her attention to the television.
A sudden fetid odor caught Jack's attention. Before he could chastise Daniel, the man himself stirred.
"Geez, Jack. What the hell did you eat today?" He flapped the edge of the blanket, making the smell worse.
"Hey, it wasn't me."
"Oh my, that's horrible." Rose stood, a hand held over her nose as she hurried away from the couch, stopping just short of the stairs leading up from the basement.
Both Jack and Daniel stared down at Scarlett, who lay there watching them. She yawned mightily, licked her lips, and closed her eyes.
"Mom, I told you not to feed her cheese."
Daniel raised his head and looked at Rose. "You gave her cheese?"
"How was I supposed to know something that small would—" She waved her hand in front of her face.
"For heaven's sake, Mom, open a window."
Rose took a deep breath and with lips pressed together tightly, hurried over to where Jack lay with Daniel and opened the window behind them. She rushed away, her face red with the effort of holding her breath.
Fresh warm air flowed over them, dissipating the stench. Scarlett cheeped softly and then rose from the couch, investigating the gently flapping curtain.
"Is it safe to go back?" Rose took a cautious step forward as Daniel sat up slowly, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Yeah. Safe now." Jack sat also, putting the movie on hold as Daniel leaned against him.
"I'm gonna go to bed." Daniel yawned.
"You need a hand?"
"I'm fine. Just too sleepy." He stood and waved towards the window, where Scarlett was trying to find a way beneath the curtain. "Just do me a favour and keep her here."
Jack watched Daniel go up the stairs, using the wall for support, then listened to his footsteps as he made his way to the bedroom. He sighed, then sprawled back onto the couch, taking the movie off pause. He waved a hand in the air behind him as Scarlett tugged at the curtain.
"Leave it alone." She ignored him a moment longer, then flew over to Rose and curled up on the back of her chair, head raised and watching the fluttering material. Jack smiled as his mom's eyes widened and she stiffened.
"You did say she was house-trained, right?" Rose slowly moved her butt forward on her chair until she was sitting on the edge of it.
"Barring any accidents, yep," Jack replied.
"Have there been... accidents?"
"I dunno. Nobody ever gave her cheese before." Jack smiled sweetly at his mom and turned his attention back to the movie.
- - - - - -
Rose picked up the dirty towels from the bathroom, including the ones Jack had used earlier this morning and tossed into a corner. Arms full, she headed for the basement, and the washing machine.
Halfway down the stairs, Scarlett decided that playing tug-o-war with the towels was a fun thing. With a resigned sigh, Rose clasped the damp towels more tightly to her chest, thankful that at least Scarlett rarely flew around her legs, thereby being a danger.
"Go on, get away." Rose tried to shoo Scarlett when she got a good hold of one of the towels, tugging it up towards the ceiling. Rose finally reached the small bathroom, dragging towels and a flying whatsit behind her.
After a few futile attempts to get Scarlett to drop the towel, she let go of it.
Scarlett rocketed backwards, nearly hitting the ceiling. She dropped the towel with a surprised meep, gave Rose a dirty look, then dive-bombed, missing the dropped towel by a hair as Rose yanked it out of the way. Hurrying to the washer, Rose dumped the towel into it while Scarlett complained about the disappearance of her new toy.
"Shhhh. You'll wake up Daniel." She poured the liquid soap into the running water, followed by liquid fabric softener, then turned to gather more hand towels in the small downstairs bathroom.
She dumped two towels into the washer and was just about to shut the lid when something grey amongst the whites caught her eye. She bent over the washing machine, trying to make it out, but the streaming water made it difficult to identify. Just as she was about to dip her hand into the water, Scarlett shot out, splashing water, suds and towels everywhere.
Rose screamed, then cursed when she remembered Daniel still sleeping upstairs.
"Scarlett!" Face dripping with sudsy water and still gasping with the shock, Rose stomped out of the bathroom, following the trail of water into the den. "That's enough. Either you settle down, or I'll lock you up somewhere."
The sound of running feet overhead caused her to sigh. She heard Daniel call her name.
"I'm fine. I'm downstairs." She started heading for the stairs but saw Scarlett huddled in a corner, between the wall and the ceiling. The creature coughed and a bubble formed in its mouth. She squawked in fright and zoomed down to drape herself around Rose's shoulders just as Daniel came stumbling down the stairs, hand wrapped around his abdomen.
"What happened? I heard you scream." He stopped halfway down the stairs, bent over and in obvious discomfort, panting for breath. His hair stuck up on one side, and half of his face had pillow creases. The other half had blossomed overnight, the bruises on his cheek now spectacular shades of blue.
His gaze raked over Rose, then settled on Scarlett, who was still squirming around Rose, seeking comfort, or possibly warmth. Her fur was sodden and cold, and Rose could feel her shivering against her.
"She dove into the washing machine. Scared ten years out of me, and I think out of her, too."
"Is she okay?"
"I think so. She's just chilled. Ack, you poor thing," Rose said as she finally managed to get a grip on her writhing length. "That was a cold water wash."
Rose hurried back into the room, shutting the lid on the washer with one hand to prevent another accident and grabbed a clean towel from the cupboard. Daniel followed more slowly, walking so stiffly that Rose wondered how he'd managed to get down here so fast. She felt awful for having scared him awake. She lowered the toilet seat and wrapped the trembling creature in the towel, crooning to her as she coughed again.
"That soap had to taste awful. Trust Jack to let you into the bathtub yesterday and give you ideas." She waved at the sink. "Could you get her some fresh water?" As Daniel stoppered the sink and ran a bit of water into it, Rose held Scarlett close so she could drink. She lapped a bit of the water, dry heaved once, and drank a bit more.
When Scarlett buried her face in the towel, Rose moved into the den. "Sit," she ordered Daniel, and when he obeyed she handed him Scarlett, towel and all. "I'll be right back." She hurried upstairs and got Daniel his pills, having to take a moment to wipe her glasses free of soap and water before reading the proper dosage on the container.
"Here." She handed him the pills and water bottle, waiting while Daniel gulped half the water and then finishing the rest herself. Daniel had been talking softly to Scarlett and Rose was relieved to see her begin to wriggle in his arms. A moment later, her head popped out and she rose, shook herself, and began flying slow circles around the room.
She took the damp towel from Daniel's hands and went back into the bathroom to dump the soiled towel into the washing machine.
"What am I going to do with you?" she sighed as she sat down heavily on the couch beside Daniel. Scarlett came down to curl up on the back of the couch, resting her head on Rose's shoulder. She cheeped softly.
"I know you're sorry, but it's not me you should be apologizing to. You made me wake Daniel up." She smiled apologetically to Daniel. "She's been looking for trouble the moment she got up."
Daniel smiled, then yawned. "What time is it anyways? I probably should have been up long before this." He squinted at the VCR's small green numbers.
"It's nearly eleven. You slept over twelve hours." She petted the small head, her fingers instinctively finding the small scar close to Scarlett's face.
"I didn't hear Jack leave this morning."
"He left early. And you were dead to the world."
"Why didn't he take her back?" Daniel raised his arm, his jaw tightening at the discomfort the movement must have caused him, then reached over to pet Scarlett. She slithered over to him and brushed her cheek against his chin.
Now that was a good question. Jack had wanted to take Scarlett back to the mountain, but Rose had argued that Daniel would have wanted to say goodbye. Jack hadn't said anything but she had the feeling that Scarlett would most likely be sent back to whichever lab she'd come from before Daniel made it back to work. She thought Jack had felt the same because he hadn't argued much over it and had given it too easily.
"I asked Jack not to. I thought you might have enjoyed a little more time with her today." Daniel flashed Rose a grin and she realized she'd been right. "He said tomorrow was soon enough, but now I'm not so sure."
"She'll end up sleeping a good portion of the afternoon away. They're always more active in the mornings; probably because that's the time they feed."
Daniel stared at Rose a moment, face blank. Then she saw the small flush spread from the back of his neck and cover his ears and face. "Well, um," he began. "From what I understand, they like to eat in the—"
"Daniel, it's okay." She patted his thigh and stood. "I know her origin is one of those things we can't talk about. I'll just enjoy her for what she is, for the short time she's with us."
"Thanks." He closed his eyes as she leaned down to kiss his forehead, then rubbed his mussed hair, trying to get some semblance of order into it.
"Don't bother," he mumbled, raising a hand and feeling the cowlicks for himself. "I'm going to take a shower – the heat will help loosen my muscles."
"Can you make it back upstairs?"
Daniel glanced at the steps and sighed. "Yeah, slowly but surely." He eased himself to the edge of the couch and stood with a loud groan.
"I'll have breakfast waiting when you get out."
"Thanks." He began walking towards the stairs, bent over like an old man.
- - - - - -
"It's for you. It's Jack."
Daniel looked at the phone Rose was holding out to him and squinted up at her. He wondered when it had rung then realized he wouldn't have heard it since he was outside on the deck. He could have sworn he hadn't been sleeping but as he glanced at the book lying face down on his chest, he supposed he had dozed off. He pushed the book aside and sat up from his sprawled position on the lawn chair.
"Hi, Jack." He watched Rose continue down the stairs and on into the yard, gardening shears in one hand.
// Feel like some company for supper tonight? //
"Sure. Sam and Teal'c?" There was a strange knocking sound coming from behind him. He turned, his body protesting despite the heat of the sun warming his bones and muscles. He realized belatedly he'd been hearing those sounds for a time while he'd dozed in the sun.
// Yeah. They're heading out to P9H 333 tomorrow and they'll be gone for about a week so... //
"I thought SG-1 was on stand down." Daniel grinned at the sight of Scarlett who was staring at him from the other side of the window. She'd made her way behind the curtains and was bumping against the glass, making the soft thudding sounds he'd heard.
// They were. But SG-8 needed some extra backup and both were willing and available. Tell Mom not to cook anything; I'll pick something up on the way home. //
"Okay." Daniel put the phone against his shoulder and yelled, "Rose, Jack says he's bringing home supper and guests so if you're planning on cooking, throw it back into the refrigerator."
"It would have been leftovers so it's fine by me," she called back, looking up at him with a hand cupped over her eyes.
"Your mom says okay. Oh, how's Julie's latest patient?"
// Major Crosby? //
"No Jack. The one who showed up unexpectedly the other day. You know..." Daniel glanced quickly at Rose but she had her head down, busy cutting flowers and putting them into a small pile beside her.
// Ah. Doing better, actually. Brightman says the antibiotics have kicked in and the infection is dwindling. The critter even ate a bit this morning. //
"That's great." Daniel smiled over at Scarlett, who continued to butt against the window. He put a hand out and she stopped, her tongue licking desperately at the glass separating them.
// And Daniel? Take a nap. //
// So you'll be able to stay up with the big people, that's why. //
"I'm not tired."
// Liar. I bet you were sleeping when I phoned. //
// Then go read some more. I'll see you guys later. //
Daniel put the phone down and stretched carefully. The pills were doing a good job in keeping his muscles from stiffening up too much but Jack was right; they were making him groggy and if he had nothing to hold his interest, he found himself dozing. Maybe if he cut back on them by suppertime, he wouldn't embarrass himself by falling asleep in the midst of a conversation.
"You should try and take a nap before they get here." Rose stood near the railing, blooms erupting from her arms.
"I'm not sleepy," Daniel argued as he curled back up on the chair, watching Rose go up the stairs and move towards the patio doors. He saw a blur at the window where Scarlett had been watching him, and he wasn't surprised to see her waiting for Rose at the door.
"You go around the front. I'll distract her." He stood and walked to the glass doors, talking to Scarlett and making sure she kept her attention on him while Rose hurried around the house. The wooden deck was hot on his bare feet and he shifted his weight from foot to foot, curling his toes at the heat.
Rose finally shifted the curtain aside from inside and waved at Daniel and he decided he'd go in. The sun felt too hot and the last thing he needed was sunburn on top of his other discomforts. He grabbed his book and motioned he wanted to enter so Rose caught Scarlett and held her while he hurried in.
"Honestly, you should try and sleep." Rose continued the conversation as she began trimming the flowers in the sink.
Daniel padded through the kitchen and down the stairs, the coolness of the house a little too uncomfortable after the heat of the sun.
"I'll just lie down here and read a little."
"Good. If you just rest, it'll be almost as good as a nap."
"I don't need a nap." Daniel snagged the blanket from the back of the couch. He pulled it over his shoulders and lay back, snuggling in its warmth. He tucked his bare feet into the cushions and felt the lassitude of impending sleep envelop him.
The doorbell woke him and he looked around, wondering where he was. It took him a moment to recognize Jack's living room, and that he was lying on the couch, face smashed up against the cushions, arm hanging over the edge to lie against the carpeted floor.
Something moved along his upper back and a quiet, inquisitive chirp in his ear at the sound of voices reminded him that they were expecting guests. He rolled over and sat up while Scarlett moved sleepily onto the couch beside him.
"Hi Daniel." Sam came down the stairs and smiled at him. "Oh, did I wake you?"
He contemplated lying but figured he probably looked too rumpled to pull it off. "Just napping." He smiled as Scarlett threw herself into the air when she recognized Sam and began flying around her excitedly. "Jack's orders."
Sam sat next to him with Scarlett firmly wrapped around her neck, licking her fingers as Sam tried to pet her.
"He's picking up dessert. He should be here soon."
Rose joined them in the living room, carrying a bottle of beer for Sam and a cup of coffee for Daniel. He accepted the mug and took a sip of the hot brew. "Thanks."
Sam leaned forward and Daniel saw her gaze go to his bruised cheek. "Wow," she said in sympathy.
"It looks worse than it feels," he said, opening his mouth and moving his jaw from side to side, testing the stiffness and ache. It still hurt to put pressure on his face, which was why he hadn't shaved yet. But he thought maybe by tomorrow he'd be able to clean up properly.
Before she could answer, Daniel heard the sound of a car pull up in the driveway. He didn't recognize it as being the Avalanche so he supposed it was Teal'c. Having already learned that people entered the house through the door in the hallway, usually preceded by the sound of a car door slamming, Scarlett abandoned Sam and flew to the window. Her body shook in excitement and she rushed to the door, bumping her head expectantly as she waited for Teal'c to come inside.
"Okay, this could be a problem," Daniel said, standing up just as the doorbell rang.
"I'll try and catch her," Sam offered, and ran up the stairs, leaving Daniel to struggle with his stiff and aching body as he and Rose both followed.
Scarlett's excitement was more than obvious as she flitted just out of Sam's reach.
"Teal'c, hold on," he finally yelled through the door. Sam and Rose both finally got hold of Scarlett, and Daniel opened the door. "Quick, hurry inside."
Teal'c squeezed through the small opening Daniel allowed for him, and he slammed the door shut behind.
The moment the women let go of Scarlett, she was all over Teal'c. Rose took the white cake box from Teal'c as the man tried to greet the over-enthusiastic alien.
"I think it's time for a distraction," Rose said as she entered the kitchen with the dessert. She came out a moment later holding a helium-filled balloon with the words "Happy Birthday" written on it.
With a happy chirp, Scarlett abandoned Teal'c and dove for the toy. Daniel laughed at Sam's expression as balloon and alien went careening down the hallway. "Now I know why the general suggested I bring you one of those."
"Speaking of which, what's he getting us for supper?"
They all ducked as balloon and alien came back fast as a missile.
"O'Neill stated he would provide food fit for warriors and amazons."
"Greek, huh?" Daniel winked at Rose, who entered the kitchen and began setting the table, a bouquet of freshly-cut roses a soft splash of colour in the center. Daniel went to help her and got a glare for his trouble. Sam, though, got a smile and second bottle of beer when she offered to make more coffee, so Daniel and Teal'c leaned against the door jamb, watching and staying out of Rose's way.
When Jack arrived, Teal'c quickly ushered Jack inside while Daniel made sure Scarlett was occupied. She dive-bombed Jack, balloon in tow, then disappeared down the hall, down the stairs, and into the basement.
"Wish I had half her energy." Jack shook his head at her antics and brought supper into the kitchen.
The meal was delicious, the dessert even better. Daniel ate his ice cream cake slowly, savouring each bite of ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate. He looked up, using his tongue to wipe a dribble of ice cream as it ran down his chin, only to see Jack staring at him with a look on his face promising that one day soon, he'd be the one licking away the melting treat.
Daniel ducked his head as his body responded to Jack's sultry look. He coughed, cleared his throat and hoped nobody had noticed their exchange.
"Will you bringing Scarlett back with you tomorrow?" Rose asked.
Jack looked relieved at the question and nodded. "I think so. She's a security risk; if she should happen to escape we'd have a hell of a time explaining her. I've already pushed the limits by letting her stay here this long."
"Being general has a few perks..." Daniel switched from fork to spoon to gather the last of the melted dessert in his plate.
"Being general is the one who has to make up reasons and excuses."
"You could always have Teal'c bring her back tonight and use the excuse of her circadian rhythm being why you left her here during the day." Daniel blinked at Sam and realized everyone else was staring at her in question. "Well, she is very active in the mornings, and then again just before sunset. She'd struggle to escape in the car if you attempted to bring her outside while she's so alert; but if you waited till, say after dark, when her instincts tell her it's time to sleep, then you'd have the perfect excuse."
"Carter, you're a peach. I ever tell you that?" As Jack beamed at Sam, Daniel felt a spot in his heart immediately grow hollow and lonely. He knew he'd have to say goodbye to Scarlett again and he didn't realize how much he enjoyed her antics and energy, and comfort. He saw Rose look down into her empty plate and he realized she'd miss Scarlett, too.
"Do you think we can arrange for visitation rights a little more often?" Daniel asked Jack.
"Maybe if we're in the area, we can make a side trip once in a while. I'll see."
Daniel nodded, feeling suddenly very tired.
"You guys go on and have you coffee in the living room. You too, Mom. I'm just gonna clean up here."
As everyone pushed away from the table, Jack refilled their coffee mugs and shooed them out. Daniel remained where he was, head bent. He felt Jack's hand on his nape and he raised his head, meeting Jack's equally sad gaze. "She has to go back."
"I know." He heard her squawk and he thought the balloon must have escaped her clutches, and he smiled. "That balloon's gonna bust any—"
"There she blows."
Daniel only had time to roll his eyes at Jack's comment before he braced himself, and two seconds later had his arms full of frightened Scarlett. She cheeped once, raised her head and sneezed. She recovered quickly, rising slowly away from him a moment later and flew back into the living room. Daniel glanced at Jack, then suddenly he burst out laughing. "God, I'm gonna miss this."
He could hear the laughter from his friends and family and pushed his chair back. He picked up his coffee and leaving Jack to clean up, went to join them.
- - - - - -
Jack watched the fading taillights as Teal'c drove away, Daniel's firmly sealed packsack on the seat beside him with an exhausted Scarlett inside. Daniel stood beside Jack, one arm wrapped around his abdomen as if he were on the verge of puking. Sam and his mom stood on Daniel's other side and Sam put a hand to Daniel's shoulder and spoke softly to him. Daniel nodded, and they both turned and went inside.
The light from the open door illuminated the walkway and Jack followed behind them, walking beside his mom, her slippers making scuffing sounds on the cement walkway. They entered the house and Rose went down into the living room to begin gathering the discarded wrapping paper.
"Mom, leave it." He bent down to pick it up himself but she shook her head. As she gathered the multi-coloured ribbons and bows, Jack supposed she was still envisaging Scarlett happily rummaging through the paper, a bow caught in her mouth, ribbons dangling around her slim body as she dared anyone to take it away from her.
Daniel sat and picked up the DVD Teal'c had given him – last season's boxed set of Wormhole Extreme. He sighed loudly, then looked at Jack. "It's gonna be quiet around here."
"Thank goodness," Rose said as she straightened. "You know, Jonathon, it was bad enough with you as a kid bringing all those stray dogs and cats into the house, but at least you never brought home something that could fly."
Jack reached over and cupped his mom's cheek. "I know. I miss her, too."
"You will be able to check up on her, right?"
He gazed into his mom's worried eyes and smiled. He looked to Daniel first, then Carter, before answering. "You betcha. I'm The Man over there. I can make sure Carter, Daniel and Teal'c get visitation rights."
"Jack, don't say something just because—"
"Daniel, we can work it out. Go through the back door if we have to, but we can make the time."
"Okay." Daniel smiled at Jack and put down the DVDs he'd been fiddling with. "Sam and I are gonna hold you to that. Because Rose is probably going to want updates on how she's doing."
- - - - - -
Daniel was early for his check up so he went directly to the isolation room. He tied his gifts to a chair, out of sight, before peering through the observation window, watching the five aliens float around leisurely in the room.
The injured mom was up and about, interacting with the others. The baby was off on its own, typical behaviour if Squiggle and Squirt had been anything to go by. The baby was the first to spot him, coming over to the window to stare at him. Scarlett noticed its interest and she began flying excitedly around the room when she saw him.
Daniel grabbed the balloons and hurried down the stairs as quickly as he could, unable to hold back his grin. He was still stiff and sore and was a veritable kaleidoscope of colour, but he really looked a whole lot worse than he actually felt. He opened the door with his keycard, slipped inside and was greeted by Scarlett's enthusiastic acrobats interspersed with head butts and scolds.
"I know, it's been four days, but Jack and Rose wouldn't let me out of the house." He held out his free hand and Scarlett licked his fingers. The other aliens came to investigate, sniffing him then closing in for their share of attention. Daniel obliged them a moment, then pulled one balloon from the bunch he held, and let it go.
Scarlett screeched happily and pounced as it floated towards the ceiling. When the others realized what fun she was having, the balloon became a moving blur of grey.
"Hey, I've got more." He drew three more from the bunch and let them fly. Soon the room was alive with aliens and balloons zipping from end to end.
Daniel looked up at the sound of Jack's voice on the intercom. He was standing inside the observation room, along with Sam, Teal'c and Julie. All of them were laughing at the aliens' antics. He waved at them, then laughed at the sight of the poor baby tagging behind the adults, trying to catch one of the balloons for itself but unable to keep up.
Finally, exhausted, it flew to the table where a couple of towel-filled boxes served as their beds. It had the saddest expression on its face as it watched the others, including its mother, play with their new toys.
"Here, kiddo." Daniel took one more balloon and tied it to the table leg. The baby immediately took off, landed on top of the balloon, and slid off. It squealed in surprise, righted itself in mid-air, and tried again. This time it bumped the balloon with its body and began batting it to and fro.
"Julie, can I put these somewhere for safekeeping? Those won't last them very long." Daniel held out the remaining toys and the doctor leaned over the mic.
"There's an empty cabinet behind you."
Daniel found the cabinet and locked the extra balloons up.
"Whenever you're ready for your physical, Daniel. I'll be in the infirmary."
He turned to look up at Julie and nodded. "I'll be there in a minute." He watched the happy aliens for a long moment, then glanced at Jack and his friends who were still watching from the observation room.
Jack keyed the mic. "Doc says they're ready to go. If she gives me the word you're fit, you've got a window in three hours."
"Then I better get moving."
He left the room and headed for the infirmary, whistling. If he was lucky, he might get to see Scarlett's babies, possibly with babies of their own. He wondered if they'd remember him, or if he'd recognize them.
The only thing missing from his fully enjoying the upcoming mission would be Jack's presence. And Rose's. She'd come to care for the little creature as much as he had. Still, he had his notebook with him and he was pretty sure Jack wouldn't object to his sending her some silly sketches he drew up depicting furry flying snakes.
Maybe he'd send her the sketches for her birthday. It was still a few months away; hopefully she'd get as much enjoyment from them as he'd gotten from her surprise visit, despite the fact that the surprise had been on her.
Flying aliens and mothers in law. Birthday's couldn't get any better than that.
For those who haven't yet been acquainted with Scar/Scarlett, you might wish to check out my genfic "Scar"
Author's Comments: First off, I can't thank devra enough for allowing me to play with Rose. Under her guidance, I wrote Rose as I trust devra herself sees the wonderful lady. And of course devra's usual keen-eyed alpha hopefully helped fill in most of the plot holes I missed.
Secondly I want to thank Sallye, who in an email mentioned both Rose and Scar in one sentence and got the plot bunnies hopping. This is a thank you, Sallye, for having sent a little *Blue* my way.
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