She had pulled in a favor from an old academy classmate and gotten Buffy to join her on the remote, disused airstrip off in the wilderness near Patterson that the SGC used for their visitors -- at least those with a cloaking field. The rest, thankfully, either preferred gate travel or, like the Asgard, stayed in orbit. A slight hum and a feeling of air movement was all that denoted her dad's arrival, until there was a soft thump of the Tel'tak landing.
She considered what she would say about the blond girl standing next to her. She had driven home rather haphazardly and convinced a bored Buffy to change into something cute, telling her that they were going to see her dad. Buffy, who had been forced to actually read a book as her TV was broken and she naturally wasn't allowed out of the house, had jumped at the chance of going out.
“There is something there,” Buffy said and pointed exactly where she estimated her dad had landed. A moment later the ship uncloaked, surprising Buffy. She watched the airlock open, and then her dad stepped out looking fine, dressed as he was in his Tok'ra clothes. She hefted the bag at her side, which contained a uniform and some regular clothes.
He smiled widely and ran towards her, “Sam, it is great to see you.” She knew he had only heard of her return a few days ago and had probably gotten his leave immediately upon hearing it. She felt the presence of Selmak as he approached. She noticed Buffy picking up on the symbiont as well, but thankfully she had taken the time back during their sojourn in the tower to tell Buffy about the ability to feel a Goa'uld and a Tok'ra, as well as a few other things that went with being a former host.
“Dad,” she said, hugging him.
“Sam, who... what is...?” Her dad looked at the girl he didn't know, probably confused about her breaking protocol and allowing Buffy to see his ship, which was already in the process of cloaking again.
She turned and gestured Buffy over. “Dad, this is Buffy Summers. Buffy, this is my Dad,” she explained.
“Hi,” Buffy said and smiled. She knew that Buffy understood the power her cute face and innocent eyes had on people, especially older protective ones like her dad. She was sure that, just like the rest of SG-1, her dad would fold under the effect of the Buffy charm and start acting like an overly protective uncle, or in her dad's case, granddad. At least, that was what she hoped for.
Her dad, after shooting her a questioning look, bent down and held out his hand for the tiny girl with her still long and now gently curling golden blond hair. She mused for a moment on the fact that, thankfully, Buffy hadn't yet noticed the permanent change in hair coloring, but soon she'd notice the even whiter blond hair coming out at her roots. She watched as the pair shook hands. Her dad straightened back up and said, “So where is the car to take us to the base?”
“At the end of the runway, because the driver isn't cleared. We're going straight to my home, Dad; Hammond agreed to allow you as much time as you'd want off-base to visit family,” she explained as she started walking down the runway.
“Great, oh... Selmak says hello, too,” her dad said, obviously not wanting to let his symbiont out to speak around a little security risk like Buffy.
“It's okay, Dad; Buffy knows about the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld. That's why I brought her with me. She really wanted to see a functional space ship, and I wanted to introduce you two to her,” she said.
Her dad gave her a startled look. “Has George taken leave of his senses? How could he allow this?”
“Actually, he didn't have a say. If you focus on Buffy for a moment, you'll notice she had a Goa'uld in her, at one time, but it is gone now. She's one of the girls that got kidnapped from another reality by the Brotherhood of Thoth. They tried implanting her, but her biochemistry rejected the larva,” she explained.
“Sam... wait a minute, she has... Okay, we need to talk. We seriously need to talk.” He glanced down at Buffy and added, "But later.”
“Yeah,” she agreed.
Buffy shrugged and skipped along the runway for a while, then stopped. “Are there more invisible ships here? I don't want to run into one,” she asked.
“There aren't,” Sam assured her. They walked in silence along the long runway, the wind from the mountains hammering them.
“It's cold! Can I run back to the car and wait?” Buffy asked.
“Sure, the driver will let you in,” she agreed. Buffy nodded resolutely and set off. She saw her pick up speed, moving beyond the humanly possible. One day she'd have to ask Buffy and Janet back here with one of those police radar guns. She was curious about how fast Buffy could go if she went full out.
“Holy Hannah,” her dad said as he noticed the speed of Buffy, who was running at a pace usually reserved for winning the 100 meter dash, not running several thousand meters.
“Yeah, she's amazing, isn't she?” she agreed, unable to keep from wearing an impish smile on her face.
“You can say that again. How... Is she human?” he asked.
“Completely. Janet and a team of doctors have been over her three times now and have decided to quit. There is almost no difference between her and us, and what difference there is seems to be related only to changes made by the Goa'uld, not her original human DNA. We have no idea how she can be so fast, or as strong as she is, or have such endurance, or,or,or! Buffy is a marvel in what she can do and how advanced her mind is for her age. She is a raw natural talent. A born warrior, superior already to maybe two or three Jaffa, even at her age. Jack swears if she was properly trained, she'd be almost like a one-girl SG team, except in the scientific area, and that might still change,” she explained.
“Samantha Carter,” Selmak said, “how could she be alive? We have examined the experiments of the Brotherhood closely, and there is absolutely no way that the mental advancements they were trying to force into the girls through DNA manipulation would leave them as anything more than ticking, cancerous time-bombs beyond even the ability of a symbiont to heal.”
She found that she was still uncomfortable recounting that part of her story, even though she'd had practice explaining it all to Hammond and the guys. “I'll tell you the exact details tonight, but where I ended up there was a small supply of Ancient technology capable of the same type of genetic manipulation. It was able to repair the damage, all the damage according to Janet's opinion, from the experimentation. It did need a functional DNA sample to work from, aside from what it could synthesize on its own. I gave it mine,” she said.
“What?” This time it was her father who spoke.
“Yeah, Dad, genetically at least you're looking at my first-born, so to speak. I just can't seem to do things the normal way these days,” she replied, unable to keep from smirking over the realization that she could still shock her dad, even after he had become one of the usually unflappable Tok'ra.
“But...” His brow wrinkled, probably in conversation with Selmak. “Okay, I understand. So you've taken on the responsibility for her?”
“Yeah. Listen, Dad, she's stranded here. She has no relatives here, nor does she remember the ones she may've had in her home universe. It seems the Goa'uld worked hard to erase some of her memories, we don't know why. Anyway, I had mostly decided to care for her even before I used my DNA to cure her, and now I can't even imagine not doing it. Buffy is like a little, bright light in my life. A piece of a puzzle that I was missing but didn't know it, until she fell into my lap. I hope you'll get along with her,” she said.
Her dad looked at the blond girl, now firmly seated in the Air Force car and waving at them through the window as they approached. “I think I can manage that,” he agreed.
“Good. Oh and Dad, she doesn't know yet. About the DNA or my taking care of her permanently. I want to get the paper work out of the way first. When the adoption papers come through to the General, then I'll ask her before signing them,” she explained.
“I understand, kiddo. So my youngest is going to be a mom! I didn't think I could feel any prouder of you than I did before, but I was wrong. You're doing a good thing,” he said, and went to sit in the backseat behind Buffy, who had adventurously chosen to ride shotgun on the ride home. Sam got in and only hoped that the rest of her Dad's visit would be as good as its beginning.
She was watching Buffy explain to her dad how they had made the bridge, in between mouthfuls of spaghetti. Thankfully, her dad had taken fine to Buffy, who it seemed was also going out of her way to be on her best behavior. “It was totally wild. The thing was huge and fast, almost like it was propelled, not flying like a bird. It was like a dive bomber. I swear. It was like it had an engine. And it was huge. I said to Sam when we first saw it that we should behead it. If we had, we could've gone back. I think Sam's boss would've liked that,” Buffy explained.
Her dad looked towards her, and she nodded. “Really? How would you have beheaded it?” he asked, a bit bemused.
Buffy continued without blinking, “I would have sharpened the entrance door. Lured it with heat... maybe a fire, and then dropped the door on it when it came to snack on us. Bang! Dead dino-bird.”
“I see,” he replied.
“So Jacob, is it fun to live out there amongst the stars?” Buffy asked.
Her dad smiled and said, “Yes, there are really great things, wonderful people and true miracles, out there. I have already seen more during the last few years than I would ever had dreamed possible.”
“Sam said that Selmak cured you of cancer. That is really nice of him. Cancer is a horrible disease,” Buffy explained.
“Yeah, thankfully the Tok'ra can deal with it. Selmak is very nice and wise. Would you mind talking to him? He'll use my mouth, but it is really him talking,” her dad offered.
“I guess. It would be impolite not to. I mean, he is a guest, too,” Buffy said, albeit sounding a bit dubious.
“Be calm, dear girl. Hello, I am Selmak. I am happy to welcome you into our lives. I hope I am not scaring you with my strange voice,” the symbiont said through her father's lips.
“It's strange, but I'm ok. Selmak, I'm wondering, how is it for you inside a body? Do you feel like a part of the body, or is it like sitting inside a shell? I think that could be scary” Buffy asked, clearly surprising Selmak.
“It depends. Usually, when all is well between me and my host, it is like sharing. It feels like a body that two minds share. Other times, it is a bit like being in a shell, but only when I have to focus my attention on other things, instead of sharing, such as when I'm healing my host,” Selmak explained.
“That's nice, I guess the Goa'uld just take over. You must really be very moral to be a Tok'ra, I think. You could take over, but you wouldn't,” Buffy mused, once again showing her uncommon maturity for a few moments.
“You are a very perceptive girl, I must say. However, if you'd excuse me for a while, I am rather tired. I have been piloting our vessel all the way to Earth to allow Jacob's mind sleep, and so I am most tired myself. I will speak with you again soon, Buffy,” Selmak said.
Her dad leaned his head forward and it was his voice that replied, “You are a really sweet person, Buffy. Most people don't try to understand the Tok'ra. Selmak was touched. Now, enough with the heavy talk -- how about you and I see if we can't fix the television?”
“I'm sure a few slaps will help. Shouldn't Sam be doing this?” Buffy asked.
“I am her dad, I can do it,” Jacob explained.
He watched as his girl, his brilliant genius of a daughter, slowly slipped back from tucking in her daughter. He had wondered about the terms earlier. In principle and on paper, Buffy would show up as adopted, but really she was now Sam's girl -- through an accident of technology, more than anything else, but still, it mattered to Sam. And to be honest, the kid had a feel to her, a 'resonance' Selmak had called it; a resonance of being family. So she was his grandkid. Of course, that was all still intellectual, for now. He could only hope his heart would catch up, in time, but somehow he wasn't worried. It was already way past half-way there.
“She is down, finally,” Sam said and plumped into the couch across from him.
“She reminds me of you: you always had a lot more energy than Marc. I understand, though, from our talk earlier that youth and your genes is not the entire reason. She really is something, though. She really shocked Selmak earlier. He was truly charmed, but a bit astounded. I think you're gonna like having her around. And I'll be proud to have another granddaughter,” he explained.
“Oh, dad, thank you,” Sam said and hugged him. It felt good, having his daughter close without world-ending danger bearing down on them, so he allowed himself to enjoy the moment. Somewhere inside, Selmak breathed a contented sigh in his sleep, feeling the peace as much as Jacob did.
"You know I was almost afraid of her at first. I had no idea, how to do things, and now... well... you know," Sam admitted.
He smiled and nodded, "We're all unsure at first. It passes sooner or later for any good parent."
A little over a week later, they drove back to her place from the SGC. They had to pick up her Dad's stuff, and she had to pack a few things before heading over to Patterson. But first, she had leave Buffy. This was her first time really going off Earth to work since getting home. She still hadn't talked it all through with Buffy, and she wanted to before taking her over to Janet. She had made a more or less permanent agreement with Janet that the doctor would take care of Buffy when she was away. In fact, they had discussed having a list drawn up of people in line to take care of Buffy, in case something happened. She also liked the idea of Cassie and Buffy getting to know each other, even if Cassie was almost 4 years older than Buffy.
They walked up to the house. She barely got the door open before she became aware of the loud music blaring in her house. Her dad lifted his eyebrows and smiled. It seemed he had really gotten to like Buffy these last few days.
They entered the living room to find Buffy dancing in a skirt, while mimicking to the song pounding out from the TV. She had her back turned to the TV, but she was perfectly mimicking the dancers' movements. She guessed Buffy had seen the video a few times and decided to act it out.
“Honey!” she yelled over the noise. Buffy froze and looked stricken for a moment.
“Oh, don't be like that, you were dancing wonderfully,” her dad added.
“Hi, Sam. Hi, Jacob. Hi, Selmak,” Buffy said and sat down, while turning down the volume.
“Buffy, I have to go on a trip for a few days and I have to take you to Janet to stay for a while. Is that okay?” she asked. Buffy blinked, then nodded.
“I'll be back before you know it,” she said. She felt strangely split inside. She wanted Buffy to take it well. But another part of her, the part that knew that Buffy had a mother and a life before her, a part that wanted her feelings for the blond girl reciprocated, also wanted Buffy to want her to stay, to need her. But she soon quelled that part of her with thoughts of Buffy feeling lonely.
Buffy rushed over and hugged her, then her dad.
They were standing on Janet's porch. Cassie and Janet were in the kitchen inside, and her dad waited in their car. She crouched down in front of Buffy, who was watching her with big, wet eyes. “Sam, I don't really want you to go,” Buffy said.
“I don't really want to go either, but I have to. It's my job. And my dad needs me,” she replied.
“It is silly, I know, you have a duty. Duties that only you can fulfill. I wouldn't be... your friend if I didn't encourage you to do them. I love you, Sam, and I know you have to do these things, and I know doing them makes you both proud and happy,” Buffy said.
She smiled at the insight of the little girl. “Buffy, before I left, the general gave me some papers today that I wanted to talk to you about, but with everything else I forgot to mention it before now,” she explained.
“Is it about school? I don't have to go, you know. I'd be fine at home. Just let me go out to the mall or for sports to meet other kids,” Buffy suggested.
“I think not. We have something special planned for you, Buffy; you won't get bored, I promise. No, it's about you staying with me,” she said and took a deep breath. She felt almost as nervous as she had in the moments before launching into her first missions over Iraq.
“We've looked, and we can't find your family here. I know you can't really remember them well, but we still looked with all we've got. That, and some really boring science stuff, tells us that you have no family here... well, except me and my family. There is no way back to your world. And so, I wanted to offer you, if you want to stay with me and let me care for you permanently, just like Janet cares for Cassie,” she said.
“You want to a-adopt me. Me. But I'm not even that nice,” Buffy replied. Sam nearly went bug-eyed at that comment, unable to comprehend that Buffy felt she wasn't nice.
“Of course you're nice. You're one of the most loyal and pure-hearted persons I have ever known. You're brave and sweet. You've got a temper, but it is no worse than mine. Listen, I really want you to stay with me, Buffy. There is no other sleepyhead I'd rather wake up every morning. I see you, and I am looking at my daughter, because that is what I feel in my heart,” she said.
Buffy looked at her with those big, wet eyes, and then launched herself into a hearty, nearly bone-crunching hug. “I love you too, Sam, and I'd love to be your daughter,” Buffy replied.
“Good, thank you. I'll fix the paperwork when we get home,” she said as the car honked.
As she walked away a small voice said, “Hey, Mom. Come back alright.”
“So, I made a deal with Sam that when she is off-world Buffy can come over and stay. I'm gonna make the guest room into a sort of room for her. I'm sorry I didn't get to discuss it with you earlier, but there was trouble and Sam had to leave today already,” she explained to Cassie who was listening.
“So, it's something that's gonna happen a lot,” Cassie replied, not sounding angry but rather surprised.
“You seemed okay with Buffy when we went shopping with her, so I hope you don't mind too much. I know it'll be a change, but honestly I think we can make it. That way, Buffy won't have to stay couped up on base every time Sam is away,” she explained.
“Why would Buffy have to go to the base? Couldn't she go to someone else from the SGC?” Cassie asked.
“Well, not really. Remember I told you that Buffy was a special girl? Well, she is really very special. On the Earth she came from it was possible for certain people to become superstrong, and she was one of them. She is all human, but she can do certain things. Because of that we're afraid some unscrupulous people would try to kidnap her if she was left unwatched, which is why we will be taking care her. Finally, Buffy is a real sweetheart, and if Sam hadn't been able to take her I might have given you a little sister,” she said.
Cassie flipped some of her hair out of her face just as Buffy wandered in, while Sam's car pulled away outside. She had a look of confusion on her face. “Honey, what's wrong,” Janet asked.
“Sam wants to adopt me,” Buffy whispered.
Janet felt a twinge: maybe Buffy didn't want to get adopted? After all, she had pretty clear memories of her mother. “Don't you want her to?” she asked after bending down to hug Buffy.
“I do, but why me?” Buffy asked.
“Because she loves you,” she answered simply, and leaned back to watch Buffy's reaction. Buffy looked surprised, then thoughtful, before smiling.
“So, Buffy, you like movies, right? Mom is going in for a bit of work for a few hours, so I thought you and I could watch a movie,” Cassie offered. Buffy nodded and followed her daughter into the living room.
The boredom was biting into her as she waited next to the portly but kind general Hammond. SG-1, her soon-to-be adoptive mom's squad -- no, make that, her other family -- would be returning from their trip amongst the star through the Stargate, and the general had brought her to the base to see them return. She watched as the military men around her followed their set procedure as the gate was dialed into from the outside.
She had enjoyed her stay with Janet and Cassie. Cassie was really cool and a castaway from another world, like her. In fact, Cassie had it a bit harder than her. She, at least, came from an Earth, albeit a parallel one, while Cassie's homeworld had been completely different. They had talked about it and compared life stories for a bit before really becoming friends. That had happened when they had gone to the mall to shop for some new clothes for Cassie, and they had found that she had mad shopping skills and endurance. Cassie and her friend Vanessa had been really impressed, it seemed. Janet had been really cool too, but she had been really busy and only home in the mornings and evenings. Cassie said that was normal for people like Janet and her mom. She guessed she just had to accept that as a fact of life and move on.
In front of her the wormhole, as her new adoptive mother called it, became a stable, watery surface. After a few moments which she found strangely tense, the forms of SG-1 and especially Sam emerged, talking and joking like they had not just stepped over thousands of light years. She marveled for a moment, then turned and dashed for the gateroom.
She jumped down the stairs, not minding that she practically flew over the heads of several technicians, and ran over to edge herself inside the gateroom, just as the General said, “Debriefing in one hour. Get yourselves checked out and refreshed, then come to the conference room.” She barreled on, sidestepping several guards before taking a flying leap into the arms of Sam.
“Umph,” Sam said, as Buffy knocked the air out of her and made Sam stagger back, before the athletic woman regained her balance and closed her arms around her in a hug full of pleasant warmth.
She smiled up at the amazed looking woman. “I missed you, so the general let me wait for you here,” she said.
Sam leaned her head down against her, and for a moment Buffy was stunned. Sam smelled like her mom. There was no denying it. Sam smelled just right... pleasant... like home. She blinked away a tear. She might not be able to remember everything or ever be able to go home again, but in that moment it didn't really matter, because she had found a new home, a place where she belonged.
“Hi, honey,” Sam whispered.
“Hi, mom,” she whispered back. She smiled to herself as she felt Sam's heart skip a beat when she said it. Janet had helped her make sure all Sam's paperwork for her was finished. Back home, a nice little plaque was waiting, declaring Sam and her to be mother and daughter. She was put down again and proudly walked next to Sam.
“Teal'c, Danny, Just Jack,” she turned her head and said to the chatting men that were such a huge part of her mom's life.
“Hi, halfpint,” Jack said.
“Hi, Buffy,” Daniel said and smiled.
“Buffy Summers, I am glad to see you well,” Teal'c said and inclined his head slightly.
“So, to the Doc, then a quick talk with Hammond, and then how about I treat us to a nice steak dinner, including this little greedy one?” Jack said, while they left the gateroom.
“Awww, Jack, you're such a sweety,” she said. The older man smiled and gave his workmates a triumphant look.
“Don't think that lets you show off to Danny and Teal'c. I already knew they were sweethearts before this,” she said. Daniel and Teal'c smirked for a moment, while Jack gave her his 'who, me?' look, to which she could only laugh.
A half hour later she was in the women's locker room while her mom showered, happy at least that their visit to the infirmary had been routine. Janet had reminded her repeatedly that if Sam acted and felt like not-Sam, she should immediately tell someone at the SGC, because that was a sure sign of danger. “Buffy, your granddad said he promises he'll swing by again as soon as possible,” her new mom called out.
She didn't remember ever having a granddad and found the thought appealingly pleasant. “Cool,” she replied. “I had a good time at Janet's,” she said, remembering that mothers liked to know about what you did all the time. It occurred to her that she somehow knew exactly how to inflect a lie to a mother, though. That was strange. She didn't remember being all that dishonest, nor did she like the thought of being a liar.
“That's nice, did you get along with Cassie?” Sam asked.
“Sure, we have a lot in common. She isn't that good at shopping yet, but then again, she hasn't been on Earth that long... Mom, is it okay that she told me all that stuff about Hanka?” she asked.
“Yeah, we have a couple of people resettled here on Earth, and if they couldn't talk to each other at least, I think they'd go a little mad. Besides, you've been security-cleared so that you can visit me here and be here to see me come back every once in a while. General Hammond thought I'd like that, and you already know about the gate, so it's not really a security problem on that front, either. It's the same with Cassie. In the long term it saves me and Janet a ton of paperwork every time you'd want to visit us,” Sam explained as she emerged from the showers.
“Buffy, what are you doing?” Sam asked looking at her hands. She hadn't really considered what her mom's opinion would be when she had started casually flipping her mom's unsheathed knife in the air and catching it without looking. She caught the knife and looked to Sam to see what she'd say.
“You should at least always be looking. Confidence is good, but never just believe things will work; be sure,” Sam said. She nodded and decided to put the knife back down into its sheath, not feeling like juggling now she was aware of doing it.
“So, you think we look good enough for a dinner?” her mom said, dressed in pants and a jacket.
“Mom, sometimes you're such a guy,” she commented. Sam looked stricken for a moment. “That is not a bad thing. I think that things being either girly or boyish is just a matter of cultural bias. I like you the way you are, remember,” she quickly explained. “Even though a dress every once in a while might not be totally out of place,” she said.
“Scamp,” Sam said with a grin, and caressed her chin, knowing she hated when people messed with her hair. Touching was okay; messing with the 'do was asking for trouble.
“Let's go,” Sam said, and they headed off.
She looked out over the busy area around the Air Force Academy. These last months had been tough. First, Hammond had been forced to quit and she had been turned into a modern day Oppenheimer against her will -- and she swore, if it ever happened again, she'd just resign her commission and go into the private sector as a supplier of high tech for the Air Force. Thankfully, George had been restored to his position quickly. Then there had been the entire suicide light thing, which had kept her off-world for weeks, making Buffy incredibly worried just as she was starting in her new school. And now, after she had just tried to introduce Cadet Hailey to a great life in the Air Force by mentoring her, she had been thrown into yet another life-threatening situation. She had given the General her report on the entire matter a few hours ago.
“Major Carter, Major Carter,” Jennifer Hailey called out as she headed towards the other school building that she needed to visit today. She had decided to walk, rather than pick up her car.
“Cadet, it's good to see you. Can I help you with something?” she asked.
“No, ma'am, I just wanted to talk to you a little. You seemed to be off-duty, ma'am, so I hoped you wouldn't mind a bit of chat. I'd really like to hear about wormhole physics,” the cadet asked, and gave her a shy smile so unlike the cold arrogance she had shown when Sam had first met her.
“Ah, okay, no problem, but we'll have to walk and talk. I am off-duty but I am visiting a VIP in that building,” she replied and smiled at her allusion to Buffy.
“Sure, no problem, I am on stand-down until tomorrow anyway,” Hailey replied.
A few minutes later, while animatedly talking they arrived at their destination. She thought about how lucky she had been in getting a special education plan approved for Buffy. In terms of physical education, they were mostly maintaining her combat skills and encouraging her in track and most other athletics, including gymnastics. It had been a chore to get all those teachers locked under a NDA, but in the end it had worked. On the academic front, Buffy was attending a plethora of different classes, most of them using direct mentoring or other methods of more direct subject interaction, rather than regular class learning. In fact, altogether Buffy had only three regular classes every week: French at the Academy High School, and Art and Social Studies in the Junior High close by. Most of her schooling went on at the Air Force Academy, and all of it within its security perimeter. Buffy didn't have an actual bodyguard around, but rather there was constant security monitoring, and she guessed Jack had arranged for the SGC civilian intervention people based out of Patterson to be ready to scramble to help Buffy, in addition to the campus security.
She pushed open the door as Hailey proposed a theory much like one she herself had come up with years back, about how wormholes worked. It was wrong, but before she could diplomatically explain that, Buffy called out, “Mom!”
“Major Carter,” Buffy's mathematics tutor greeted her, while Buffy dashed around the table and into her arms.
“Hi, honey, you having fun?” she asked.
“Yeah, Chris was just proving to me why equations are really neat to know,” Buffy said. She looked up at the hands-on experiment the young teaching specialist had set up for Buffy. Math, Chemistry and Physics were Buffy's weakest points, educationally. However, using her plans for Buffy, the girl would reach her full potential in those areas and could maybe, one day a few years from now, even take courses in it at the Academy at full-on college level. Buffy was so far ahead in many ways that she took to new things easily. But for stuff like science she needed a reason -- something tangible -- before she was even remotely interested in it.
“Then you'd better listen. There is nothing in this universe that is not somehow describable by mathematics, and equations are really important there,” she intoned. Buffy gave her a look, but as a proof of progress she didn't sigh in defeat this time.
“Who is this?” Buffy asked and look at Hailey.
“Ah, Buffy Summers Carter, this is Cadet Jennifer Hailey,” she explained.
“Hi, oh you're Cadet Hailey. How are you?” Buffy asked. They had talked about a censored version of her experiences with Cadet Hailey this morning.
“I'm fine,” Hailey replied, making the effort to smile although clearly still confused about something.
“So, mom, why are you here?” Buffy asked.
“I heard from Captain Randolph that you had bet her you could complete the Obstacle Course in record time. She told me that I needed to give you permission first. Now, Buffy, next time you do this I'd like to know about it further ahead of time, so I can arrange for profitable side bets,” she said.
“I promise.... So I can do it?” Buffy looked excited.
“Of course. Just be nice about it, and set up a time you'll have to really try to break next time, so you'll have a goal ahead for the future,” she suggested.
“I can do that. But you're early, I don't have PE for another ten minutes, and I really want to make another try on those equations,” Buffy said.
“I'll be outside waiting,” she said and with a nod to a friendly, smiling Chris, she and Jennifer slipped back outside.
“That's your kid?” Hailey asked, a bit confused.
“Yeah,” she replied, feeling rather proud.
“Why does she need special education? She seems normal,” Hailey said. She felt a sting of realization about how Buffy's life might look to outsiders, but decided against dressing down the Cadet about her notion.
“She has led a rather special life and needs a more practical kind of education, better fitting her personality. She would have trouble learning much more than boredom -- and maybe bad habits -- if she went to regular school. We try to give her as much normalcy as possible. But her situation doesn't allow for it to be much better than this,” she explained.
“What is her situation?” Hailey asked, full of curiosity.
“I'm sorry, Buffy's situation is classified 'Need-to-Know'. You don't,” she said. It was the truth, really. She had found out about that security classification a few weeks after getting back with Buffy, but much like her career and inventions, Buffy was little more than a paper ghost to the world. Like Cassie, Buffy's real capacities and all reports on her were classified: top secret, need to know. Any inquiries about her would trigger several alarms. She guessed it was yet another one of the defenses Jack and George had set up to guard her and Buffy.
Hailey gave her a wondering look but didn't say anything. They waited in silence for a few moments before she decided to break the silence by talking about the early, flawed theory Hailey had brought up. She decided to let the younger woman down easy by slowly pointing out a few flaws in the theory and offering the cadet the opportunity to rethink her theory. Thankfully, Hailey recognized the flaw in her theory and they moved on in their discussion.
A few minutes passed, and then Captain Tawny Randolph -- an Air Force officer with ties to the SGC, a personal friend of Jack, and an excellent gym instructor -- arrived. “Hi, Sam,” Randolph said, after snapping off a quick salute.
“Hi, Tawny. So, I hear you're betting with my kid, now,” she said with a smile. Tawny was one of those over-protective people that Jack had selected to be around Buffy, and she suspected that of all Buffy's teachers Tawny was the one that was actually just as much a bodyguard as she was a teacher.
“Yeah, well, I am sorry. I didn't want to start her on gambling, but you have to admit, Sam, your kid is incredibly cocky. I guessed that a turn through the 'torture chamber', as the cadets call it, might get her down on the ground,” Tawny explained.
“I thought you had read the reports?” she asked.
“Read, yeah. Believed? Not until I've actually seen it. I know Buffy's amazingly athletic, but I am sure most of those reports were overstated,” Tawny replied as Buffy exited the classroom behind her and came up to them.
“I guess I'll just have to convince ya,” Buffy said.
“Fine, let's go,” Tawny said and led the way.
“I guess this is my stop,” Cadet Hailey intoned.
“Listen, Jennifer, I'll contact you soon and hear how things are going. And I gave you my contact numbers, so if there is anything you need to talk about, just call me. I think you could have a great future in the Air Force, and I want you to have it, if it's also what you want,” she said. Hailey smiled, thanked her, and headed off. Sam jogged after Tawny and Buffy, who were waiting at the end of the corridor.
She was looking forward to seeing Buffy trounce her teacher's misconceptions.
“What do we tell her?” Daniel asked a few weeks later, as they walked towards the waiting Buffy, standing at the curb of her school. She had just spent a day in the care of her PE teacher, after the electrical entity's invasion of the SGC had locked them in quarantine and nearly cost Sam her life. Due to the quarantine, more than anything else, they had been unable to bring Buffy in to see Sam during the hours when they had thought her brain-dead. But now, as she lay recovering in the infirmary, they had to figure out what to say.
He was at something of a loss. He felt good that his choice to actually shoot Carter's body had paid off, but he had been willing to kill that kid's mom for the good of the world -- and no small measure of vengeance, if he was honest. But looking at Buffy now and knowing he had almost deprived her of her mother for the second time in her short life, he felt a bit of guilt over his willingness to shoot Carter surface. “We tell her that there was an invasion by some alien, and that her mom got hurt, but will be fine soon,” he said.
“No details, I agree,” Teal'c commented. The big guy had become really protective of Buffy for no apparent reason, but Jack guessed it had to do with his near-adoption of the entire SG-1 team into his family, making them all people whom he protected with his life. It was somehow reassuring. He stopped the car next to Buffy, and Daniel opened the door to the back seat of his sedan so she could sit next to him. The tiny girl crawled inside and immediately buckled up.
“What's up? Is my mom alright?” Buffy immediately asked.
“Major Carter is fine, Buffy Summers. She sustained minor wounds during a crisis at the SGC. She is awaiting your arrival eagerly,” Teal'c said in his rumbling voice.
“She'll be fine, right?” Buffy asked. They all nodded. She leaned back and stared out the window, suddenly lost in thought -- something he had never seen her do before. He took the hint, though, and headed straight for the SGC.
“Jack, if you don't start taking better care of her, I'll have to do it,” Buffy said, but the voice sounded older, somehow, like that of a young woman, not a kid nearing eleven.
“I am sorry, Buffy,” he said, giving Teal'c a confused look. Had Buffy been any other kid he would have ignored the sentiment, but when you came right down to it, it wasn't altogether impossible for Buffy to protect Sam physically. However, Sam's job, personality -- everything, in fact, that made Sam who she was -- would never allow her daughter to do so. It was a tough situation for Buffy, though; she was more mature than her age, yet still a kid. She could put down a linebacker with her thumb and index finger, but couldn't stop an alien from shooting her mom from hundreds of feet away. And worst of all for the kid, he imagined, Buffy was exactly that: a kid, locked away by both age and their sentiment from any danger, just as they all liked it. Her being safe was a focal point in Sam's life, and at least a priority for everyone else who was around her for a while. There was just something about her that made you wish that you could keep the evils of the world away from her. Maybe because you somehow knew that if she was confronted with them, she wouldn't back down; she would face them, fight them and fight to win, no matter the cost to herself.
“Good,” Buffy replied, after yet another long while as they drove towards the guards.
A half hour of security checks and elevator rides later, they ushered Buffy in to see her adoptive mother. Buffy ran over to Sam at the sight of her and immediately grabbed her hands. Sam had her eyes closed, but immediately opened them and gave her daughter a tired smile. That was when he knew Sam, at least, was alright. He wondered about Buffy, though. The expression she wore told him that Buffy was not altogether happy with the current situation.
The mood at the SGC was happy and upbeat. In orbit above a world far away Cronus' personal Ha'tak was now the property of the SGC, and it represented one of the biggest windfalls of technology the SGC had ever had. She was back at the SGC with Daniel to arrange things before heading back to help move it to Earth. They were having a great many problems actually piloting it. Thanks to Teal'c, they did have some marginal control over it in space, but he was having big problems handling the hyperdrive of the mothership, something which, during his tenure as Apophis' first prime, he had never been allowed to control.
“Major, I just came from a phone conference with the Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs. They want me to tell you -- and do pass this on to Colonel O'Neil -- 'Great work,'” General Hammond said, coming out of his office in a mood that could best be described as jolly.
“Thank you, sir,” she said.
“Now, I have gone over your recommendations and conferred with segments of our science staff, and they all agree with you: we need flying lessons. I have decided to ask the Tok'ra for help in moving the mothership. Do you think they might agree to this?” he asked.
She thought it over. Her dad would probably like the idea; however, the Tok'ra were generally conservative and rather cautious when letting them near new technology. They might not like helping the SGC bring home their prize. “I think we could talk them into it, but I also think they'll ask something in return, sir,” she replied.
“Fine, why don't you take the rest of the day off to be with your daughter, and then return tomorrow,” he suggested.
“Yes, sir, thank you, sir,” she said and headed off to Janet's, where Cassie was babysitting Buffy.
An hour later she knocked on the door of Janet's wooden house. “Coming,” Cassie called out from inside.
“Oh, hi, Sam,” Cassie said as she opened the door.
“Hi, Cassie, Buffy, you in?” she called out.
“Sam,” she heard Buffy call out in joy, upstairs somewhere. There was a series of thumps and the sound of bare feet slapping across wood. A kid with long, gently curling hair practically dashed down the stairs and jumped the remaining 2 meters into her arms. She staggered back a little, but practice and her training kept her vertical.
“Hey, darling,” she whispered into Buffy's hair.
“You are back soon,” Buffy replied.
“Yeah, just a short layover, though. I am going back out tomorrow and might be gone a few more days, but after that I should be able to stay Earth-side for a long time. We picked up a nice, new toy, and there is one less Goa'uld threatening us,” she explained.
“That's so cool,” Buffy agreed.
“So, Cassie, I'll kidnap this little angel and bring her back tomorrow. Could you tell Janet that?” she said. Buffy practically lived just as much at Janet's place as she did at home. Sam knew that said something about her and her workload, but Buffy insisted she didn't mind, and neither did Janet and Cassie. Buffy had two rooms, now. One at her place and one at Janet's. She and Cassie were practically sisters, and Janet was starting to become just as much a mom to Buffy as Sam was -- at least if you counted time spent at home. What amazed her was that Buffy never said, hinted at, or even suggested by a single gesture or expression that she minded the whole situation. Sam thought all this over as they drove home in her car, while occasionally talking about school, a cute boy Buffy had noticed, and the fact that Buffy was incredibly proud of her first ever 'A' in Math.
They wandered inside, and she immediately set about cooking dinner, while Buffy sat at the kitchen table reading a bit of home work, quietly reciting French words.
“Oh, Sam, I realized something new today,” Buffy said.
“What?” she asked, curious as always.
“Well, I realize that I am a kid and I am supposed to grow taller and stuff, but I feel like I have grown more than an inch in the last few months. That somehow feels like a lot. And my hair isn't growing out in the color it used to. It is really stark blond now, just like yours. Can hair change color that much?” Buffy asked.
She felt a lump in her throat and fear filled her mind. She had put all thoughts about that out of her mind. To her, Buffy was her daughter, physically as much as by choice. But to Buffy she was only her adoptive mother. Buffy had another mother, one she loved and remembered fondly. They had discovered that donating her DNA for repairs to save Buffy's life had affected more than Buffy's hair color. Buffy's IQ scores had gone up when they had recently retested her. She was also growing much faster than before. Genetically and medically, there had been signs according to Janet that Buffy had been destined to be tiny; not so any more. Given the addition of her DNA, those changes were likely, but she and Janet had put off telling Buffy about it. They didn't want Buffy to feel even more strange about herself. Maybe it was time to let Buffy know about some of it, though.
“Buffy, I have to explain something to you,” she said, after turning down the temperature on the burner, letting the stew simmer.
“You remember when you got sick and I had to use that medical device at Winterhome?” she asked. Buffy nodded.
“Well, I never told you all of what happened. Listen, Buffy, this is really shocking stuff; you have to be ready. It will take a bit of getting used to, I know.” She fell quiet until Buffy, with big eyes, nodded. “You know that how your hair is and things like that come from something in your body called DNA. Buffy, when you were sick, your DNA was falling apart because of what the Goa'uld did to you. The machine could repair most of it, but it needed fresh DNA -- human DNA -- to do it. I could only give it mine,” she explained and paused.
Buffy sat with wide eyes and stared at her, then whispered, “but what does that mean?”
She felt cold; she feared Buffy's reaction. She didn't want to tarnish the other woman's memory in her child's mind, but the fact was that physically, if not mentally, Buffy was her child now. “It makes me your mother, if you look at it genetically. I know, Buffy, you had another mother, your real mother, and I will not take her away from you. What we have was made by technology, not love, and I can understand if...,” but before she could finish, Buffy leaned forward and silenced her by putting a finger to her lips.
“It was love, too. You loved me enough to save my life. My other mom is dead. I love her in my heart, but I love you just as much,” Buffy said with sincerity in her eyes. Sam felt like a huge stone had lifted from her heart.
“So your D-N-A is the reason my hair changed?” Buffy replied in a much lighter tone.
She quirked a smile, “yeah, and you also stand a good chance of growing up to look any man straight in the eye. I am quite tall, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Buffy replied and smiled.
The rest of the evening went pleasantly, and a bit past nine o'clock she carried a conked-out Buffy up to bed, before turning in herself. She had to get an early start in the morning.
The doorbell woke her up at dawn. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes, while she heard her mom.. her really, truly, second mom... run to the front door. She got up and saw that it was barely light outside. Given that it was early summer, that meant it was probably really early in the morning. She walked to her door and edged it open. The doorbell at this early hour probably meant that her mom had to be at work early and would probably be off-world within a few hours. She hoped Janet wouldn't mind getting an early visitor, because her classes today didn't start before nine.
It was a bit weird having such disjointed living arrangements, but it did keep her from getting bored -- and so, amazingly, did her schooling. It was astounding that someone actually cared enough to have a special program put together for her. Through the crack of bedroom door, she heard someone speaking to her mom: “Ma'am, General Hammond requests that you and your daughter present yourself at the Cheyenne mountain base at the earliest possible moment. I will drive you there,” the voice of a young man said.
“My daughter, really. I have to see some orders, Airman,” her mom insisted, sounding commanding. Buffy walked across the hall and into the bathroom. She felt it would probably be a good idea to start getting ready, if she was going somewhere.
A few moments later her mom knocked on the door. “Buffy, are you in there?” Sam asked.
“Yeah,” she replied over the sound of the shower.
“Good, you're coming with me to the SGC. I don't know why,” her mom said.
“I heard,” she replied. She heard her mom wander off, probably to pack something, or something like that.
They arrived at the SGC and she routinely let the security sensors scan her. She liked that the guards looked so astounded when her hand-print came up as having more than guest access. She couldn't get into the SGC on her own, but she was allowed nearly everywhere non-essential in the complex in the company of an officer. Her mom was looking thoughtful, usually a hint that what was going on wasn't planned. Well, that wasn't really a surprise.
She nodded to Sergeant Siler as they headed for the offices of the general. “Good morning, Major Carter, Buffy,” George Hammond said, breaking off his conversation with Major Daniels as they entered.
“Good morning Sir, Major Daniels,” her mom said.
“Hi,” she replied, not really feeling formal when it was barely 6.30 in the morning.
“Sir, may I ask why my daughter was asked here so early in the morning? As far as I know she is not a part of the SGC nor any other U.S. military agency,” her mom's voice seemed to have a note of warning in it that she had heard before. It was protectiveness.
“Ah, Major Carter, I have to admit, she was not asked to join us due to any need of the U.S. military. We've negotiated with the Tok'ra tonight through several clandestine gate radio connections. They've agreed to help us with our ship, albeit reluctantly, in return for us providing cover for their evacuation of Vorash. They've finished repairs on the ship captured from the Brotherhood of Thoth, and they also want to end their use of Tanith. However, just in case, they want to have our ship provide cover and help move resources and their gate to a secure location. As an additional request, they added that they want Buffy to join you on Vorash,” Major Daniels explained.
“Not happening. Buffy is not a certified gate traveler or an asset under the command of the SGC to be sent out on missions. She is a kid of ten, almost eleven, who has school and a life to lead here on Earth... In safety,” her mom said, now positively bristling. She was unsure, herself. She'd rather like a trip through the gate. Gate travel was exciting and interesting. She didn't mind that part. The danger was secretly exhilarating too. Some part of her wanted -- no, craved -- that, and it occasionally reared its head and made her do strange things if she didn't have enough exercise every day. But she understood her mom, too. She didn't want to be some pawn in someone's games and she wasn't a military officer who had to obey orders.
“She and you are free to turn down what is just a request, Major. However your father and Selmak assured me that they will make sure the trip is safe and that all they want is to have Buffy identify and maybe take home certain objects found in the mothership of the Brotherhood,” the general said.
“No, Buffy isn't going. I think dad and I have to have a little talk when he gets to us,” her mom said. She felt a bit dejected: she had loved the idea of actually gate traveling again, but she had to bow to her mom's will. She was, after all, a good girl -- and besides, she was still very little, and that meant no one would think of giving her weapons so she could defend herself, and she liked weapons. It would've been cool to see another world again, but she did have a French test coming up and she had to study to make her mom proud. Her mom was a genius, so making her proud academically was hard, but when she had brought home her 'A' in Math yesterday her mom had gushed and made a fuss over her. She had liked that a lot.
“It is your right. I will arrange for Buffy to get to school and then over to Doctor Frasier's later,” the general promised.