“Unscheduled Off-world activation,” Harriman said over the speakers. He almost said "thanks" aloud. They had just returned from P5-something, their latest mission, which had pretty much meant a few days dealing with two entire races, trying to determine who had the right to colonize a planet. It hadn't been fun, and he was sure it'd have gone better, like so much else, had Carter been there. They had just spent their time in debriefing on the latest developments.
“I hope that is SG-2; they've been missing for a few days now,” George said. They had disappeared on some sort of diplomatic mission, and now everyone on the planet where they had been claimed to have no idea where they went. The general wasn't buying it, and neither was he. It should have been an SG-1 mission, but with them breaking in lieutenant Yang -- a former cadet, whom Carter had sponsored in the Academy -- they hadn't been able to go.
The general hurried off, while he walked over to see the iris remain closed. It took a moment, then Narim stepped through its surface like it wasn't there. A lot of guns were immediately trained on him. “Greetings, SGC. I come in peace and with good tidings. We have Samantha Carter safely on Tollana,” he declared. Jack nearly sagged from his stance with relief. Daniel gaped, and Teal'c allowed himself a little temporary smile.
“SG-1, I am sure you're all glad to see Narim again,” George said as he guided the Tollan into the briefing room.
“Hi, buddy,” he said, unable to stop smiling. He felt almost giddy. The friendly greetings came from everyone except former Cadet Yang.
“I am glad to see you all again. As I said on my arrival, Samantha Carter arrived by Stargate to Tollana not long ago and has been staying with us until we could ascertain that she was in full control of herself and her faculties. I can with happiness report that she is free of any Goa'uld symbiont, as is her companion. She now waits on the other side of the gate, most anxious to return here immediately,” Narim explained.
“Well then, by all means, let's get her home,” he said and looked towards George, who nodded.
“I shall go back and send her through,” Narim said.
He remembered something and reached into his pocket, withdrawing a GDO. “Give her this and tell her it's the same code as always,” he explained. Narim took the device and nodded.
They waited anxiously -- soldiers, personnel, and all -- for the gate to reactivate. He, Daniel and Teal'c stood awaiting her at the foot of the ramp. He noticed a misty-eyed Janet standing at the door. The gate started dialing. He watched impatiently as the gate locked chevron after chevron, then opened with a whoosh. He felt as though it took an extraordinarily long time before, suddenly, Sam and a little, long-haired blond kid stepped through the event horizon. They were both exceptionally pale.
He noticed how comfortable Sam seemed with the girl's hand in hers as she walked down the ramp with a smile. She looked thin but otherwise fine. “Sir, Major Samantha Carter reporting back. Sorry it took so long,” she said addressing the general behind the glass shielding the control center.
“Welcome back, Major,” his voice said over the speakers.
“Colonel,” she said with a warmth in her eyes he felt she reserved for him. She let go of the girl's hand. The child seemed less intimidated by the room and the gate than any kid he had seen here before. Maybe she was from a world used to gate travel, he mused.
Sam embraced Daniel and Teal'c. The big guy looked quite surprised but not displeased by that. A hand yanked his pants; he looked down at the girl staring back at him with her almost hypnotically green eyes. “Hi, old guy. I am Buffy.”
“Old guy? Say, Sam, where did you get this rugrat?” he replied at the mischief apparent in the girl's eyes.
“Ah, I'm sorry. Everyone, this is Buffy Anne Summers, late of Sunnydale, California, Another Earth, Another Universe. Now, just Buffy Anne Summers of this Earth,” Sam said, which made the girl grin.
“Carter, you didn't have to say she was from California, I knew that from the name. Honestly,” he said.
The girl looked up at Sam and said, “You were right, he is...”
“I am what?” he asked Sam; she just grinned.
“Come on, Buffy. I want you to meet Janet. Besides, I am sure she wants to look us over before we get to go anywhere. Now remember what I told you, she is not evil, so...” Sam said and guided the girl towards the smiling doctor.
He leaned towards Daniel and asked, “I am what?”
Daniel looked at him and grinned. “Oh that would be spoiling it, Jack,” Daniel said, and seemed to decide that he was needed as an escort for Sam and the girl.
“Do you know what they're talking about?" he said to Teal'c, deciding to let everyone get their punches in before he had his sweet revenge.
“Yes, O'Neill,” Teal'c replied, then headed after Daniel.
“Colonel, tell the Major I want her up to the briefing room as soon as she is able,” George reminded him before he set out to follow the procession.
He stood at a distance, looking at Sam interacting with the girl. They were apparently chatting in low voices. He noticed Sam was unusually physical with the girl, often touching, caressing or tickling her, which it seemed the girl didn't mind at all. “They look happy,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, apparently Carter has had quite the vacation,” he replied, realizing too late that it came out nastier than he had wanted it to. To his surprise, the girl looked up and stared straight into his eyes for a few moments before chattering on with Carter. It was strange, but the warning in those eyes wasn't something he had ever seen in the eyes of a kid.
“I'd rather she has been happy than having been tortured by a Goa'uld for over four months,” Daniel replied.
“Agreed,” Teal'c said. He looked from one to the other, then straightened, as Frasier walked over while looking at what could only be Carter's preliminary medical report.
“Well?” he asked.
“She is who she says she is. She's got the proteins from Jolinar, all the right scars and the dental work. She is also malnourished, but in very good physical shape. She has been out of the sun for a bit too long, but otherwise she is fine,” Janet said.
“And the girl?” Teal'c asked.
“I am still processing her, but she is healthy. She has an entry wound in her back and Goa'uld proteins in her blood, but no parasite. There is one thing, though. Her blood-work is a little scary. We were unable to detect a single disease, dormant or otherwise. In fact, it looks like she has never been successfully infected by anything,” Janet explained.
“You're kidding,” Daniel replied.
“No,” Janet assured him. He nodded. It was a mystery to be solved later.
“Is Sam cleared for debriefing?” he asked.
“Yeah, I see no trouble with that,” Janet replied, and headed off to deal with SG-14's latest wounded airman. He swore they were down here almost as often as his own team.
“Hey, Sam, the general wants you up in the briefing room immediately,” he said while walking over.
“All of you guys going?” Sam asked.
“Yeah,” he said, knowing that neither Daniel nor Teal'c would want to be left out of this debrief.
“Alright, Buffy, remember the rules I taught you?” Sam asked. Buffy nodded. “Good, now please wait in my lab,” Sam said, and offered Buffy the strange backpack she had left on the bed.
“Airman, take her to my lab,” Sam commanded as she headed out. He was part way to the briefing room with her when he remembered that McKay had taken over Sam's lab. “Ah, well, it couldn't happen to a better man,” he mused at the thought of the girl driving the arrogant scientist up the walls.
She shook George's hand. She could see it in his eyes. He was very happy to have her back. It was the same look she had seen in everyone's eyes. It gave her a feeling of warmth to come home to such a greeting. “First of all, sir... sirs, allow me to apologize for my prolonged absence, but it couldn't be helped,” she said before sitting down.
“You seem alright,” Daniel said.
“Now, yeah, but it hasn't all been easy,” she explained, wondering how much she could or should tell about Buffy and her abilities. She wasn't afraid of what the SGC would do, but rather what the NID might think up. To call them cold-hearted ass-holes with the morality of snakes was to insult snakes. Still, she trusted everyone in the room, and she decided she didn't want to start betraying that trust now.
“It started, I guess, on that Ha'tak a while back. The last of the Goa'uld was trying to implant a girl he had stolen from another reality, but he had initially failed. I couldn't accept him getting away with her to try again or maybe kill her, so I followed him. I made it onto his ship and we fought. I wonder about the model, though. I don't know its name,” she mused.
“Al'kesh. It is a Goa'uld medium-distance attack vessel used to bomb targets, or even attack Ha'tak motherships,” Teal'c said.
“Ah, yeah, well, we fought, and I managed to overpower and kill the Goa'uld right there, just as we entered hyperspace on autopilot. Unfortunately, our fight destroyed the controls and I couldn't turn us around. So I spent the next five or six days with a really sick girl. Well, she got better along the way, and we got the introductions out of the way. She also turned out to be a very remarkable kid. Sensible, smart and a bit jumpy. We had barely gotten comfortable with our rather minimal living situation before we came out of hyperspace over a planet, whose location I still have no idea of. It was in the middle of a rather intense ice age,” she thought back. With the DHD destroyed and their bridge gone, there was no real point in looking for a way back, except for all that interesting Ancient technology.
“Go on,” Jack said.
“Sorry,” she replied, “Well, lucky for us, the ship could land on autopilot. We set down in a tower built long ago by the Ancients rather than the Goa'uld. It sat maybe a few hundred kilometers from one of the massive polar glaciers. You wouldn't believe the weather. That was where the Goa'uld got the Quantum Mirror, as well as some of the other stuff they traded with the System Lords. I found traces of them. Anyway, I was lucky to discover a still functional hydroponic facility maintained by the Ancient technology even after this long. With that and the hydroponics' spring, we were mostly supplied. The only problem was that the Tower stood atop a mountain that I knew I couldn't scale up or down, and especially not with Buffy. Meanwhile, the Stargate was atop a neighboring peak with the bridge to it gone. So we hunkered down, and I came up with a plan to construct a bridge made of the metal doors of the Tower, welded together with low-quality thermite that I improvised. It was heavy and slow going which is why we didn't get to the gate before this morning.”
“Whoa, why do I feel like you just jumped over a lot there?” Jack asked. She felt a knot in her stomach form at the thought of that horrible day with the cancer and what she had changed in Buffy. This was the moment: if she told them that Buffy now was physically partly Carter, then she'd have lost her last defense. Then she'd have to admit that... That she didn't want Buffy to go away, to go stay with some security-cleared foster family, or worse.
“Carter?” Daniel asked. She figured her expression was giving something away.
“Sorry. No, everything wasn't hunky-dory the entire time there. We had barely enough food. We had no one to talk to but each other. Did you know you can actually compose songs, if you're starved enough for entertainment? No, that is why I have this expression,” she admitted, and took a deep breath.
“You all remember that Daniel said they had experimented genetically on people. They had done it to her, as well. It didn't take, or rather it didn't do much more than damage,” she said, feeling cold suddenly.
“One day Buffy keeled over. She had been weak for a few days, but I had written it off as maybe a cold. I was wrong. She had cancer unlike anything I've ever heard off. I could almost literally feel the tumors growing under her skin. Still, I managed to get one of the machines there running, with a bit of help from the Ancients' medical procedures, which were apparently very important to them. The entire place was practically falling apart and its power resources drained, but still a mere tourist-welcoming computer was allowed to pull in all the power to use on another one of those DNA resequencers. This one worked well -- apparently they do when not operated by idiots. The machine was able to reverse the cancer and repair Buffy's DNA... Well, that is not entirely true,” she confessed, and looked up at the gathered group.
“I gave it my DNA so it had something to work from,” she whispered.
Jack and Teal'c looked unimpressed; maybe they didn't consider the consequences. George looked proud, as if he applauded her actions but hadn't considered what it meant, either. He would get it when he had the time. She knew he would. Daniel's eyes widened. He understood, always so smart and in tune with people. “You think you're practically her mother now,” he said.
She looked back down at the table. “Maybe... At the very least, I am something. She used to have dark blond hair, not white-blond. She does now, though. Almost matching my color.”
“Oh,” Jack said, the penny apparently dropping, but with him it could just be a play to make her say something more.
“Congratulations,” Teal'c said, in his formal manner. Some would consider him simple for thinking it was that easy, but she knew the warrior saw right to the heart of matters and had probably drawn the same conclusion as Daniel.
“I don't know if you could call it that. I am not her mother. I don't even know if it actually used my DNA... And frankly, I haven't told Buffy anything. Her mother died with her, alone in their house. She had to call the ambulance all by herself. Buffy's life before coming to this universe wasn't a happy one, but she is unclear about the details,” she explained.
“Amnesia. You sure she isn't a plant?” Jack immediately asked.
“Yes, very sure, Jack,” she said. It was just that simple. Buffy was not really that capable at subterfuge. Her directness got in the way.
“Okay,” he said, believing her from her inflection alone.
“I expect a full report within the month. Now, Major, you have to stay on base, while we clear the paper work, get you reinstated and reissue you a home,” the general said. She winced; she hoped some of her possessions were still recoverable.
“I'll call my guy and get Carter's stuff out of storage,” Jack replied. She looked at him, as did everyone else in the room.
“What? I never believed she was gone for good. A little snake-head like that Thoth brother? Bah!” Jack said. They all laughed.
George got up and went over to pat her on the shoulder, while smiling. “Really good to have you back, Samantha.” Then he turned and left.
“So, what are you going to do about Buffy?” Daniel asked.
She stared at them, feeling the war that had raged in her mind for months start anew. “I don't know. I really don't know,” she replied.
Suddenly an alarm blared. It was an internal alarm, indicating that there was a security problem. They dashed down the stairs to the control room. “Ah, finally back home,” she said, as she watched the chaos around them. She ran over to the computer and looked at the source code of the security report. She blinked, then ran. It was the security designation for her lab.
“Damn it, Carter, go slowly,” Jack said as she was about to just run in. He had a zat ready, as did Teal'c. She fell back, remembering that she didn't carry a weapon at the moment.
“Just be careful. Buffy startles easily, and well... There... uhm,” she said, realizing for the first time that it could very well be that Buffy was the reason for the alarm, although it seemed unlikely.
They moved up to the door. Jack took hold of the handle and opened it. Inside, everything looked normal except, when she considered that her entire lab, her things, and all her experiments were gone. Also, there was a man on the floor next to the alarm. She looked around, trying to see through the gap between Teal'c and Jack.
Jack, then Teal'c, walked inside, with Teal'c covering Jack. She saw that the slightly balding civilian (from the lack of rank on his uniform) was still breathing. He also had a bloody nose and an impression of the alarm on his forehead. She looked around, then sensing something, she looked up. Buffy was clinging to the ceiling by pressing her arms and legs out against two slightly buckling pipes. “You can come down,” she said, and held out her arms.
Buffy looked relieved and dropped heavily into her embrace. “Shh,” she said, as the girl started sniffling. “Are you okay?” she whispered.
“I came, and he got very angry. I said you told me to go here, and then he cursed at me and called me and you names. I told him what he could do with his... words, and he... he grabbed me. Really hard. I shook him off, but he charged me. I reacted, and...” Buffy silently cried into her shoulder.
“...And I broke his nose, then threw him against the wall. He pressed that thing before I could stop him, but he was unconscious just after. There were men out there with guns, so I hid,” Buffy explained. She noticed Teal'c and Jack looking at her with eyes full of questions.
The alarm had been called off. The civilian -- some scientist, probably her replacement -- had woken up in the infirmary, and Buffy had been given another check-up by Janet. She could tell that another one would not be in the books, if Buffy had anything to say about it. Janet had taken another blood sample.
“Care to explain, Major Carter?” General Hammond asked.
She winced and turned. “Yes, sir, although I'd rather do it in private... The rest of SG-1 can hear this,” she explained.
“Come with me,” he said abruptly, and took them to Janet's office across the hall.
“Well?” Jack asked, clearly curious.
“Buffy's from another reality. We all knew this, right? Apparently, in her universe it is not unknown for certain people to develop superhuman strength, speed and endurance. She is much stronger than a human. I've seen her lift nearly a ton and work for an entire day moving heavy objects. She gets really hyper if she doesn't do anything. She also eats nearly double what I do, and as you have seen, it is not because she's fat,” she explained.
“And you didn't say anything,” Jack stated.
“Because we've all seen what the NID has done in the past. I am afraid they won't stop at taking Buffy away to see how she ticks,” she explained.
“Is she dangerous?” George asked.
“No, well not really sir. Buffy has next to no flight response. She'll fight to defend herself or protect others every time, if threatened. At least, that is what I can understand from her stories. She is also very respectful of her own power. She does at times have a bit of trouble controlling her strength when she gets emotional, but that isn't uncommon for kids,” she explained.
“I see,” George said.
“Please, sir, Buffy is a great kid. She is really special. She is good-hearted and caring. Yes, she can be a little abrupt, but that is the extent of her flaws,” she said, knowing that she saw Buffy with more than a hint of a pair of rose-colored glasses.
“I want her examined closely by Doctor Frasier and some psychologists, Major,” he said.
“Alright, but not today... sir,” she said resolutely.
“What? You can't be serious, Sam. She could be dangerous. You wouldn't know, you're too close,” Jack said.
She had never felt a pang of hatred like she did for a moment after Jack had said that. Of course, then her logic got through to her and told her he was right. She wasn't exactly seeing straight when it came to Buffy. “Still. Sir. She has been through too much today. She's been chased by a dinosaur-like bird, seen two entirely new worlds, been attacked by Tollans, hit a scientist, and been examined by Janet... twice. She has earned her rest,” she said, barely managing not to clench her teeth and glare.
Jack had the decency to look apologetic. “Alright, but soon,” George reminded her.
“Yes sir,” she agreed.
“Is he going to be alright?” Buffy asked for the third time.
“Yes, Buffy, he'll be fine. You only broke his nose and gave him a concussion,” she replied.
“I don't know what came over me. I was really nervous, and he was so angry... I guess I was a little afraid,” Buffy admitted and snuggled closer to her.
“It's alright. Goodnight, kiddo,” she said as Buffy's eyes closed.
“Night, mom,” Buffy whispered, clearly almost gone.
She sat staring out into the room. She stared at the wall. She had imagined a battle in her mind. A war between her instincts and care for Buffy, on the one hand, and her career. It had been a long one, but it had been nearly over, her career losing for months now. Today, after so long, she realized it was so simple. It was like she had just crashed through every wall and conquered every rampart. Only moments ago those innocent words, a mistake more than intent from Buffy, had picked up the career Carter and launched her into the night on a rocket. She leaned her head down on Buffy's and fell asleep soon after.
“Aww, look at those two,” Jack thought, as he studied the security monitor before hefting up the food tray in one hand and knocking softly on the door.
He slipped inside and put the tray on the table. Sam looked up at him and winced. “What?” he asked curious. The girl Buffy opened her eyes and looked around in confusion.
“What is that smell? It smells good,” she said before seeing him and the tray.
“Food! See, Sam, real food!” Buffy was nearly jumping up and down.
“Then let's eat,” Sam replied with smile. The girl rushed over, then stopped and looked up at him.
“Thank you,” she said before turning back towards the food.
“You're welcome,” he replied, and blinked. He had felt almost frozen in place by those eyes. Sam just smiled mysteriously and sat down to grab a few bites as well. They ate their breakfast before he dared to comment on the bed-hair and was promptly asked to go out and procure new clothes for the pair, as well as get access for them in the baths.
The last three days had passed quickly for her. Buffy was examined -- under protest, this time -- by Janet, before an NDA-bound psychologist was allowed to question Buffy for a couple of days. She insisted on sitting in on it all, because as she said, she was not yet officially reinstated so there was nothing else that she had to do. Now, Buffy was off being entertained by Teal'c, who had offered to show her the beautiful countryside around the mountain, while they talked.
“So, doctor, we'll start with your assessment,” George prompted the psychologist, who was clearly unused to their world of secret bases, closed doors, and very long-termed NDAs.
The specialist, a glasses-wearing man of maybe 50, cleared his throat, then said, “Well I must say I've never come across a more unusual child in my time. I can't give you much more than my impressions, but to answer the question you asked me this morning, 'Is that girl dangerous?' That, I must say, depends.”
He gave the general his report and tapes. “She is, as I have written, clearly suffering from a rather serious and possibly permanent form of retrograde amnesia. She remembers fragments of her life, mostly made up of large sections of her childhood and segments that seem to be either dreams or maybe the source of the trauma causing the amnesia condition. The girl has clearly experienced long periods of psychological abuse, maybe even physical abuse, in the past. She is able to compartmentalize in a way usually only seen in adults trained to resist torture or veterans of war. She has nearly no conscious fear; however, this probably covers for a much more complex subconscious mental system. She is quick to anger and probably prone to violence; however these are not -- thankfully -- in her case indicative of sociopathic tendencies, but rather just a fiery temper. In fact, if you wanted to put a psychological archetype on Buffy Summers, she is a martyr, or a protector. She barely recognizes that she needs care herself, having completely projected these needs onto others. However, this can lead to subconscious tendencies to isolation, feelings of distance from others, and in gifted individuals this could lead to a complete break with society's norms. I must also give you a warning, though: Buffy Summers takes her protectiveness so far that, were she older, I wouldn't be surprised if she'd be able to kill or allow herself to be killed for the sake of others. She has, as I said, little or no fear for herself. I have written my exact findings down in a summary, and you'll receive a full report within the week. I will recommend that the girl gets therapy,” he said, and looked around.
“Thank you, Doctor. Now please, if you'd wait outside,” the general said. As the doctor left, Teal'c entered.
“Doctor Frasier,” Hammond said to the brown-haired woman who had listened in silence.
“Well sir, I have examined Buffy as well. She is a sweet girl, if seriously afraid of one thing at least, no matter what Doctor Reynolds told you,” Janet explained, “She is afraid of hospitals.”
“I examined her several times, and the findings are conclusive. Buffy Summers is fully human, with less than 0.03 % DNA difference between her and the norm. There is absolutely no evidence of any source of her strength, her endurance, or her uncommonly aggressive immune system. Her sensory acuity is astounding, but again I found no physiological reason for it. Like Sam, she could probably control Goa'uld devices with training, due to the leftovers in her body. Oh, and one more thing: from a maternity point of view, Buffy does share DNA with Sam -- although not in the way parents normally do, with chromosome splits, but more like mixed in with all the rest. Any court would consider Buffy and Sam related enough to be mother and daughter,” Janet said.
Sam didn't feel the shock she had feared. She had known in some way since that day.
Jack, Daniel and Teal'c took it with a bit more astonishment. Hammond asked what he felt was the more important question: "You're absolutely sure about not finding any source of her strength?”
Janet leaned forward and said, “I've checked both physically and through the rather difficult-to-get biopsy.” Sam remembered Buffy squealing and nearly hitting Janet. “Buffy's muscles are entirely normal. She is in exceptionally good shape, trained like an athlete, which is rather amazing in a girl her age, but that is about all. I can find no physical explanation,” Janet concluded, revealing her irritation with that mystery in the tone of her voice.
“Alright,” General Hammond turned towards her. “Major Carter, what are your impressions of the child? Will she be able to keep our secret?”
“Well, to be honest, Buffy by her own admission can't keep a secret if it'd endanger people. She'd be willing to divulge it if I or another person she considers important is threatened, but honestly, sir, if we explained how many it would hurt to know about us, she'd never reveal a word to anyone, even under duress,” she said, convinced of the truth of her words.
“I see. And what are your intentions with her? No one is demanding that you take care of her. Your saving of her life using your own DNA doesn't indebt you to her in any way. Your life here at the SGC is rather unstable; it might not be conducive to bringing up a child,” he explained.
“Frankly, sir, I want to raise Buffy myself. It is just that simple. As soon as possible I'll apply for her citizenship and for my adoption of her on grounds of her being my daughter. Any test will verify that fact,” she said. She knew those were huge steps, but she saw no reason why she should beat around the bush, either. She'd take it slow with Buffy, but she was sure Buffy would accept her sooner or later.
George looked into her eyes for a split second, then nodded, “I'll help arrange everything. I am sure it won't be a problem.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said.
“Fine, for now I consider the matter closed. Now, I have a few calls to make, so you'll excuse me,” the General said and rose.
They all followed his example. He was just out of earshot when Jack turned towards her. She was heading for the stairs, not really expecting much more than a few comments from Jack and Daniel.
“Carter, are you crazy? Your job here is unsteady, you work insane hours, and you could get killed every time you go through the gate,” he said.
She looked at him, trying her best to understand rather than get angry or defensive. “Sir, if it comes down to a choice between bringing up Buffy or gate-travel, then have a nice time without me,” she said, and realized that although she'd miss it a bit, the challenges of just figuring out alien technology would probably be enough to keep her busy for the rest of her days, anyway.
“Carter, I didn't mean it like that. It's just... I've seen it happen to men under my command over the years. You've never shown any interest in anything but the SGC until now,” he said. Daniel and Teal'c looked interested in their conversation, but stayed silent as they walked down the corridor. The evening shift was coming up and the base was slowly emptying.
“Maybe it was time,” she replied.
“O'Neill, do not several members of the SG teams have children and families? In fact, do I not travel into danger while my son lives?” Teal'c said, more as a statement than a question.
“Teal'c, your son is a Jaffa warrior in training. He'll follow in your footsteps as soon as he is ready. And those other people all have husbands and wives who help with it all. Carter would be alone,” Jack said, then paused, clearly feeling as if he had overstepped a bit, which she felt he had.
“Jack,” Daniel said, “She wouldn't be alone. That kid is going to have the world's best soldier, the only Jaffa ex-First Prime on the planet, as well as an archaeologist as uncles. She has us, and I bet Jacob will want to say something about this, as well.”
“What, like 'hell, no!' or some snakehead word for drooling-over-potential-host?” Jack said.
“Alright, I give. I just wanted to make sure Carter can't come begging me to take that cutie off her hands. Because you know I'd do it,” Jack continued with a smile. “I am sorry, Carter. I just want to make sure you and Buffy don't both become dreadfully unhappy,” he explained.
“I understand, but I promise we won't,” she said.
“Just you wait. I have one word for you: teenager,” he explained.
“I can handle it,” she said, although the thought did make strange thoughts and images spring up in her mind.
“Yeah, but only because I am good at sniping, and Teal'c could probably beat all the boys in town with just one stick. Seriously, Sam, that one is going to make boys' knees turn to water with a look. She already has next to everyone wrapped around her finger. Or she would've, if we hadn't been so distracted,” he warned.
She just nodded. “Teal'c, where is Buffy, by the way?” she asked as they came to the main sub-level intersection.
“I sent her with Airman Waters to the infirmary. She expressed regret over hitting Rodney McKay and wanted to go apologize. I told Airman Waters to await us there,” Teal'c explained.
She set out for the infirmary.
Buffy was in fact not apologizing to McKay, mostly because he didn't want to say a single word to her. He was a bit annoying, but then again she had hit him, and she really felt bad about that.
“Buffy.” She turned and smiled as Sam returned. She hated when Sam was away for long -- mostly, because she still wasn't used to so many people. They were making her all jumpy. Maybe it was because they were so loud and smelly. SG-1 were nice, but people in general made her a little nervous.
“Hey,” she walked over to Sam and said, smiling winningly. She was a bit nervous. Sam was back home, and she probably wanted to go home. Buffy wanted to know what was going to happen to her. But every time she tried to ask, she teared up like a baby. She didn't want to do that.
“So, Sam, how would you like to go home?” the guy Jack said. He was exactly like Sam had described him. He was funny and old, but he really protected his people. She was glad Sam had him. He hadn't liked her at first, but she was new. She didn't much like new, either, but when almost everything was new, there really wasn't much more she could do than accept it. She liked that better than being grumpy anyway.
“Home? I thought you had MIA-boxed my stuff, like we did with Daniel a while back,” Sam answered. Buffy wondered what that meant but decided not to be annoying and ask. She noticed a really small knife that looked really sharp -- in fact, there was an entire row of them. She realized they were probably for the sick, and so resisted touching them. She wondered if they could be thrown precisely and decided they probably could. She then wondered why she thought so much sometimes and knew so much about weapons, but she had to admit she really liked them.
Sam didn't know it, but Buffy thought she could even use, assemble and disassemble her rifle, after having seen it done several times. She wondered if she'd fly back if she fired it, though. She realized she had lost track of the conversation while looking all over the infirmary and still not managing to like it. “Buffy,” Sam called out, snapping her instantly out of her thoughts.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“I just got the key to my home. How would you like to come home with me tonight?” Sam asked. Buffy instantly felt elated. She felt safe enough in the mountain, but she had known when Teal'c, the big guy with his strange thing in the stomach, took her outside that she belonged under a sky, not under a stone.
“Uh, I'd love to,” she admitted, then felt a chill. If Sam let her stay, was it only for a night or a week, and then it was off to somewhere else? She knew that, although it didn't seem so, there was real danger and darkness on Earth. Of course, from Sam's stories there were a lot darker things out there on other planets. Still, she'd rather stay with Sam. She felt safer with her than with anyone she could remember, except her old mom. And she knew that her old mom was no longer around.
“Come on, then,” Sam said. She was at Sam's side, her hand firmly clasped in Sam's, before the woman had even moved towards the door.
“There'll be a lot of boxes, but we'll deal with them tomorrow,” Sam explained as they headed for the elevator that would take them up.
“Remember, Carter, I'll call when you're reinstated and cleared for travel again,” Jack called out as the elevator doors closed in front of them.
“Aren't they going home too?” she asked.
“No, Daniel was busy, Teal'c lives here on base, and Jack had a few things to do before he could go home,” Sam explained.
“So this is home,” Sam said and let then into the empty-feeling house. She looked around. Buffy remembered images of her homes in the past. One had been a lot bigger, cold, filled with art and her parents fighting. One was where her mom had died, but it had been a nice place. Then there was one where she had lived with some sort of tall teenager, who wasn't nice to her most of the time. This looked like a good place, if smaller than some of the others.
Sam carried the pizzas inside and set them on a large wooden table. Buffy followed the wafting smell of the cheese with unconcealed joy. She was feeling a bit hungry again. Sam went through a few boxes with 'kitchen' written on them before coming back with plates, forks and knives. She had already grabbed a slice and was eating when Sam put the plate under her. She smiled apologetically, but Sam didn't look angry. Sam was cool that way.
Sam ate as well. Then after a while she asked, “Buffy, how would you like to stay here... with me?”
Buffy felt a tingle down her spine, and it was as if a dark cloud on the horizon went away. “I'd love to,” she replied, realizing too late that she had used the English accent. She didn't know where she had it from, but occasionally she slipped into it. Sam just smiled and went on eating, like it had been just a little thing she had asked.
She watched Buffy play around in her rather small garden, performing what could only be termed as extreme gymnastics. She was sure that if she didn't have to keep the secrecy clauses, then she could get Buffy onto the Olympic team in nearly every discipline, and she'd have a decent chance of winning. Of course, she would never cheat like that, and neither would Buffy, but it was thought-provoking.
She turned back and put the last few paintings up in what could only be termed as her ex-office. She had converted her office to Buffy's room. They only had a bed, closet, and dresser for her so far, but she was planning on taking her girl shopping later in the day. Her door bell rang.
She went out and opened the door. Outside, the entire gang was waiting. “Hi, guys,” she said.
“I told you, O'Neill, that we should have warned Major Carter of our imminent arrival. This is unkind of us,” Teal'c berated Jack.
“Oh, she doesn't mind. Now, do we have to stay outside, or will you let us in? We bring gifts and stuff,” Jack said and indicated the heavy-looking bags they were carrying.
“Hey, Teal'c!” Buffy called out as she arrived in the hall.
“Greetings, Buffy Anne Summers,” Teal'c replied.
“Bother that, my name is Buffy so like, just call me that: Buffy,” Buffy argued. Sam smiled; it was a pointless exercise. Teal'c considered calling people by their nicknames to be demeaning to them and their ancestry.
“I cannot. Forgive me,” Teal'c replied as they moved into the living room.
“Of course... But why?” Buffy asked as they sat down. She went to the kitchen to grab some drinks.
“Why what, Buffy Anne Summers?” Teal'c replied.
“That is too long. You don't call Sam 'Major Samantha Carter' all the time, do you?” Buffy asked.
“I do not,” Teal'c agreed.
“So you can just call me Buffy, then?” Buffy asked with hope.
“I cannot. I can, however, offer you a compromise, Buffy Summers,” Teal'c said.
Buffy stared at Teal'c for a few moment, then shrugged, “If that is all I'm gonna get, then it's all I'm gonna get.” She looked around the room.
“Good choice,” Jack agreed, and pulled something out of his bag. “Now, look and learn, Carter. This, Buffy, is a present, but you're only going to get it if you never -- and I do mean never -- call me 'old guy' again. It's just 'Jack', to you,” he explained, holding the gift away until she nodded.
“Thanks,” Buffy said as she tore into the gift, “Just Jack.”
They all laughed. Daniel leaned forward and watched as Buffy unwrapped a small set of dolls and clothes for them. Sam guessed that it was really expensive. Buffy squealed and quickly tore the wrapping apart. It was the first really kid-like thing she had seen Buffy with for a while. Buffy sat down on the floor and immediately started dressing and undressing the dolls. Sam suddenly realized how the entire shopping mall fixation of teenagers got started.
With Buffy distracted, both Daniel and Teal'c put their gifts on the table for later giving. Jack threw something to her. “You got a medal for the Replicator thing and a few other things, that were approved while you were away,” Jack explained as she opened the medal box.
“Holy Hannah, if I ever have to carry more than my ribbons, I'll be almost bent double,” she joked, while inwardly rejoicing over her success.
“Yeah, I was just wondering if the medals were the reason for Jack's back pains,” Daniel said.
“Nah, that would be old age,” Buffy commented from the floor.
“Hey, I remember something about a promise,” Jack said, and gave Buffy a look.
“Well, I didn't call you.... that combination of words you didn't want... Uh, are those for me, too?” Buffy said, and looked at Daniel and Teal'c's gifts.
“Yes,” Teal'c replied.
“Cool!” Buffy went for them, then stopped and looked stricken. Buffy turned, headed around the table, jumped up, and hugged Jack. “Thanks, Jack,” Buffy said.
Sam smiled at Jack's almost shocked smile as he patted Buffy on the back uncomfortably, then said, “you're welcome.” Buffy let go, turned and reached across the table for the topmost gift. It was an amorphous shape wrapped in paper.
Buffy shredded the paper with impunity, then lifted the stuffed pink toy pig up with big eyes. “What is it?” Sam asked, immediately noticing the emotion in Buffy's eyes.
“He's like... His name will be Mr. Gordo, and I'll take good care of him,” Buffy declared, and tucked the pig under her arm with practiced ease. Buffy reached for the last gift, which Sam fully expected to be a book of some sort, knowing Daniel.
Buffy unwrapped the heaviest of her gifts with a bit more care than the other two, revealing what was essentially a very small book-like laptop. Buffy released another ear-splitting squeal, then set off to her previous position on the floor with all her presents. She put them down, then went over and hugged both Teal'c and Daniel, ignoring any protests they had.
Sam smiled. Buffy was a very physically affectionate girl. Jack, Daniel and Teal'c would just have to get used to that. Buffy took her stuff away to her room and stayed in there playing, while they spoke.
“So, how are things living as a twosome?” Jack asked.
“Well, sir, honestly for us it is almost normal at this point. I have to remind myself each morning that I don't have to do bone-achingly hard work or ration the food, but otherwise it is fine,” she explained. The return hadn't yet changed the tone between Buffy and herself. She was anticipating that it would change once she got back to work. She had to get Buffy enrolled in school first, though. Which meant she had to have a lot more paperwork faked through the SGC. She had found the first documents in her mail this morning, identifying Buffy as a U.S. citizen.
“Ah, well, it'll come to ya eventually. Raising a kid is hard,” Jack said.
“No doubt, O'Neill,” Teal'c agreed.
“Well, what's the verdict?” Janet asked, as Sam sat nearly a week later, staring at the papers that had accumulated this week. They had just gotten back from helping Daniel with his problem in Egypt, and already her work seemed to consume the time she'd rather spend with Buffy. She had been busy getting resurrected, paperwork-wise, too, and while the SGC did have experience with things like that happening over the years it was a bit difficult. It hadn't been helped by the veritable horde of educators, assessors and child psychologists that had tried, as subtly as possible, to assess Buffy all week. It had left Buffy a bit distrustful of people in uniform and maybe a bit annoyed even at her.
The stack of papers she was looking at was the result. “Well, according to all this, Buffy is even less of a typical child than anyone expected,” she said.
Janet sat down with empathy in her eyes and asked, “Care to explain?”
“Well, they all... Heck, I even agree with it... They all think Buffy is a lot more mature than her physical age lets on. She has almost the emotional maturity of a late teenager. She must also have had some pretty serious teachers. She speaks English with the vocabulary of an adult and is even clever enough to imitate several dialects of it. She is also fluent, if accented, in Italian and -- get this! -- she can read Latin, Greek, and even snippets of other long-dead languages, such as ancient Sumerian, and understands single words in even more of them. She reads and does math at early high school level, but her understanding of geography and all other scientific courses is at an early junior high level. She has a logical IQ of maybe 130, her linguistic intelligence is only slightly above average or so, but other things they've tested were off the charts, such as her interpersonal, spatial, and kinesthetic intelligence,” she explained.
“That is a lot for a kid that is, well, almost ten,” Janet admitted.
“Gets better. This, we knew by Wednesday. Then Jack suggested I have her checked out by some other people -- military people. Get this, Janet. Buffy is a savant in the truest sense of the term. They luckily made their tests like games, so she wouldn't feel any more out of place. They wanted to test Buffy about those martial arts moves I had seen. Jack brought a few Air Force Academy and Special Forces trainers to see her. She knows at least three martial arts that they could recognize, although she uses and mixes them freely, as if they're natural to her. I mean, who teaches a kid Karate, Taekwondo and Muay Thai?” she sighed.
“Jack tried showing her a few judo moves. She learned them on her second try. Jack tried a few other things, then discovered something really scary. Buffy is trained in the use of knives, swords, staffs, bows, crossbows, maces and even axes. And I don't mean just swinging them. She knows how to use them so that she'll inflict real damage. She also admitted that she was fairly sure she could disassemble and reassemble a P-90 from her memory of having seen me do it. Jack, of course, won't let kids near real weapons, which is a good thing, but still!” she said and shoved more of the paper out of her way.
“We knew she was special and different; why else would the Goa'uld kidnap her from her reality?” Janet admitted.
“That isn't why I am... frustrated. Don't you get it, Janet, what all those things add up to? Buffy's life has been hell, before coming here. She still had nightmares occasionally back at the Tower. But all those things she knows and things she can do. I think that someone back on her Earth found out she was a genius at physical expression, and maybe naturally superhuman -- maybe not naturally. Anyway, they took her in and trained her. They were making her into a soldier, a killer; the signs are so clear. Someone who would kill and be willing to sacrifice herself for others, all in the name of a cause or some person she was attached to,” she explained.
Janet sat staring at her for a little while, then nodded. “Alright, but what about the rest of this?” her favorite doctor asked.
“Oh, this,” she lifted another report, “is Jack's people telling me they found out Buffy has an astounding talent for planning military strategy, as well as intelligence and tactical operations. And this,” she lifted the second-to-last report, ”is the faked paperwork identifying Buffy as a gifted student and suggesting I enroll her in the school district of the Academy, both for safety and because they think they have the teachers that could help her there. They leave it up to me to decide how bored out of her skull I want Buffy to be.”
“What do you mean?” Janet asked.
“She knows all the stuff they'll teach her -- at least, until they get to sciences or move her to full time high school advanced placement. But really, it is because of who and how she is. Buffy is not like me; I knew that from the beginning. She is a physical learner, not really a self-directed academic. I won't give up on having her learn things, but I am sure she won't learn much more than slacking off in a regular classroom. She needs to learn by seeing and doing. Now, I know she can and has to learn more discipline and self-direction; she is only ten, and her personality will change a lot as she grows up, but I just know in my bones that sitting on a chair in a classroom will only frustrate her,” she explained, finally airing the last of her irritations.
“I see, but what can you do?” Janet asked.
“Hence, my being a little frustrated. I have no idea,” she admitted.
“Unscheduled Off-world activation,” Walter said over the speakers. They looked at each other and went up to the Gate control room.
As they entered, she heard General Hammond say, “Record the message, Sergeant.”
“Ah, Major, we're receiving a message from the Tok'ra. It is addressed to you,” he commented as they approached.
“I'll examine it right away,” she said, and went to turn on the playback.
“SGC, be advised Tok'ra vessel inbound to Patterson AFB, ETA approximately 8 hours from receipt of this message,” the voice of a Tok'ra symbiont reported. “Jacob Carter is asking for permission to visit Earth and his family for a short while after returning from an assignment,” the voice went on to explain. She felt both elated and a little scared. She had no idea how her father would react to the news of Buffy, and she had no idea how Selmak would take the more exotic parts of Buffy's nature, either.
“Sir,” she turned towards her commanding officer, expecting his orders.
“Go, but bring Jacob back here for a visit. I know he is looking forward to seeing you home and safe. You're still off duty, pending a last review. I guess, due to circumstances, the review board will be willing to wait a few days... Major, have you decided upon a school for your daughter?” he asked as she was about to leave.
“No, sir, I believe that Buffy might have great difficulty with regular school. I am considering how I can make sure her education becomes more rounded but also play to her strengths and encourage them,” she said.
“I have several recommendations and a few letters from the Air Force Academy High School, practically begging me to try and convince you to let them take care of her at one of the elementary or middle schools on their premises. The security department has also said they'd like that environment better than most other options in the area,” the General reported, as they went down the stairs. Janet waved goodbye and headed off.
“The security department, sir? I had no idea that they were involved in any way with this,” she said, feeling a bit anxious at the thought of weaving Buffy in too tightly with the military, without her say-so.
“Orders, Major. After careful review at the highest level, it has been decided that Buffy Summers will be accorded some protection, due to the risk that she could be kidnapped or threatened in order to extort you, Major,” he said. She smiled, guessing that the General and Jack were colluding to make her more at ease with letting Buffy out of her sight. Still, she had a bigger worry. Her dad was coming to visit, and now -- much earlier than she had expected to have to explain what was essentially a new member of their family to him.