December 2007 (part 1 of 2)
Jack O'Neill was watching out the glass windows as a lone Gulfstream G650 slid smoothly onto the runway at Colorado Springs airport at 3 a.m. Its exterior was painted a cream color with a coffee brouwn SWC in Helvetica near the tail. Sam gave him a supportive smile as she walked back over towards Teal'c, who stood conversing quietly with General Hammond in the empty airport.
“Nice plane.” Cameron commented. “This Faith must be rich.” O'Neill's face had been as expressionless as Teal'c's since Frasier had brought the news of Daniel's demise. After calling Faith to inform her of Danny's passing, O'Neill had gone uncharacteristically silent. Hammond had brought word that Faith and her family would be arriving early to the airport on a private flight. Cameron caught the barest shoulder shrug from O'Neill and an eye twitch in response. Looking over his shoulder Cameron saw three more people approaching. A neatly-dressed older lady with graying blond hair in a bun held a smallish girl with cornrows bearing blue and white beads. The little girl was wearing purple Dora footie pajamas under a heavy pink coat. Cameron saw teary tracks on the girl's face which alternated between rubbing itself of the lady's shoulder and catching the eye of the third member of the group. A few paces behind the pair, a man who was at least three inches shorter than the tall woman shuffled anxiously behind. His hair was spiky and natural red and he wore ragged jeans, a faded gray Grateful Dead sweatshirt, and Birkenstocks. Cameron observed the strange man as his eyes slid over the military members of their group, taking in the dress uniforms and insignia, and then studying Teal'c closely. Whatever thoughts the man had were his own, because his expression was unreadable. The elder woman set the little girl on her feet, and whispered quietly to her. The child wiped her eyes and straightened ramrod tall, a nearly perfect imitation of a military 'attention' stance. Cameron caught Hammond's startled glance as the child stood still between the two adults. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought the child was meditating. Despite the erect posture, her body was loose and relaxed and her face had the serene look of a Buddhist monk.
Ten minutes later, five strangers walked up through the security ramp. Cameron choked. “You didn't tell me he was dating a cadet.” The only female in the group was a slim second-class cadet in the blue skirt and jacket of the Academy. Decorations on the uniform marked her as highly ranked in her class. Her auburn hair was cut in a striking pixie cut that set off high cheekbones and large green eyes. A duffel was slung over one shoulder. She was flanked by a broad shouldered black master sergeant in desert camouflage, two army officers in green dress uniforms, and an elderly man who held his suit coat over one arm, while using a slender cane in the other. “Is that?”
O'Neill looked over his shoulder. “Must be.”
The girl broke away from her two adult companions and launched herself at the cadet, sobbing. The cadet picked up the girl, shifting her pack slightly. “Heya, Tammy.”
“Danny's gone!” the little girl gave voice the emotional full-blast wail that the grim-faced adults were suppressing.
“I know, darling.” The cadet wiped at her eyes while trying to hide her face from the Air Force strangers. “We need to be big girls for Danny's friends. O.K.? Remember what Oz taught you?” The little girl gulped in great gasps of air, and then, magically, the serene meditative face returned as her body relaxed in the cadet's arms. “Let's go meet Danny's buddies. Danny would want us to be nice.” Tammy nodded.
“He feels funny.” Tammy pointed at Teal'c. “What's he?”
“Danny's friend Murray, I think.” The cadet answered. “We'll ask him. Danny said he was quite the fighter. Studied styles all over Africa. He was going to arrange a meet up... Oh well.” The cadet glanced over at the strangers, her face losing its good humor. Samantha Carter caught her gaze, and swallowed heavily.
“Not as good as you, or me, or Maes,” the little girl jutted her chin out. “We're the best.”
The cadet tweaked the child's nose. “No. Teacher's the best.”
“We're the best. Teacher's the bestest.” The girl argued, hands on her hips.
“Of course, you're right.” The three army men behind the cadet chuckled. The master sergeant was a second too slow to snag the little girl who bolted across to the crowd of air force personnel and tugged on Teal'c's pant leg. “You Danny's Murray?”
“Yes. I am Danny's friend Murray.”
“Danny said you'd teach me new tricks.” Tamika gave Teal'c a brilliant smile. “He said you know lots a obscure martial arts.” Tamika screwed up her face when she said the word 'obscure'. “Maes, what 'scure mean?”
“It means unusual and interesting,” Mae answered, stepping forward her hand. “Mae Fishburne, I'm Tamika's mom.”
“She's my second mommy. My first mommy is with Danny.” Tamika piped up.
“Murray.” Teal'c nodded. “My colleagues, General Hammond and Major Carter.” The two officers shook hands with the elder woman. They chuckled at Tamika who had gone a bit pale and was standing ramrod straight saluting the two officers.
“Be at ease, little soldier.” Tamika stood quietly with her arms behind her. The cadet came and whispered in her ear. Tamika blushed and burrowed her face into the cadet's skirts, “Sorry.”
“It was a perfect salute, don't apologize.” Hammond told her.
“I'm indoors,” he heard her mumble miserably. “Forgot.”
“You must be Faith Giles, then.” Hammond addressed the cadet.
“Cadet second-class Elizabeth Gillingham, sir. Faith is...” The redhead looked behind her.
“Faith Giles is recovering her composure.” the elderly man answered. “Lee Gillingham, Lizzie's grandfather. Please forgive us, this is an awkward situation. Lizzie's instructors, Colonel Riley Finn and Major Graham Miller. Master Sergeant Perez.”
“You are taking instruction from Army, cadet?” Hammond looked puzzled. “Unusual.”
“They invited me to join in on a week of joint service training maneuvers at Bragg. Finished yesterday. I believe that the activity will be noted in my file.”
“Perez.” Jack O'Neill shook hands with the Master Sergeant. Perez had saved his bacon on more than one black ops operation. “Good to see you. You know Faith Giles, then?”
“Fine lady. Such a shame.” The sergeant cleared his throat. “Danny...” He shook his head and wiped his eye. “I've known Faith six years. Ain't nobody quite like her. Tough as nails b...” Jack was pretty sure the sergeant was going to say, 'bitch', but stopped himself. “But. Danny put a light in her. Made her a new person. She glowed. Now, she's broke. Danny must have been good people.”
“Danny was the best.” O'Neill confirmed. He watched as the cadet hugged Mae and the man that had arrived with them. The cadet and the shorter man put their foreheads together, their eyes locked as if they could talk without words. A moment later the man nodded and took the cadet's duffel bag, and came over and put his hand out to take bags from the others. Finally, he loped off, carrying six bags as if they were nothing.
“Oz?” Perez motioned at the disappearing man.
“Oz.” Riley, Graham, and Lizzie answered in unison.