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This story is No. 1 in the series "Lt. Buffy "Cali" Summers, USAF". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: After the events of graduation go horribly wrong, Buffy leaves Sunnydale for another future

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Buffy-Centered > Theme: ActionbecuzitswrongFR1831164,5184422117524,2212 Oct 076 Mar 14No
CoA Winner

Chapter 30—Secrets

Chapter 30—Secrets

AN: Wow! What a welcome back! I can't believe the reviews and the outright pouring of support for this story. Thanks so much! When I started this so long ago, I never thought it would be such a challenge to write. Or so popular once written. So color me surprised on many levels. Now, it's time for more Cali Summers, USAF.

The two men finished watching the tapes and sat in thoughtful silence. After a moment, one of them spoke.

The first speaker, his voice flat and inflectionless, asked, “Is all of the video safely transferred?”

The second, eager to please, but trying to match the poise of the first, answered, “Yes. It's all on ultra secure drives in the isolated server room.”

“And the cameras and drives in the Initiative?”

Faint nervousness colored the reply, “The thermite self-destruct charges worked just as advertised. There'll be nothing left viewable and nothing to trace it back to us.”

“And Maybourne?”

“It was decided not to move against him. His interference with the op was incidental and brought Summers to our attention.”

The first speaker asked, “Have the trucks been dispatched?”

“Yes, with more than enough concrete to fill in the base and make it impossible to recreate the events that happened there.”

The first speaker murmured, “Salt the earth so that nothing grows...”

The second speaking nervously questioned, “What?” He received no reply.

After a moment, the first speaker, sensing an issue, asked, “You have concerns?”

The second speaker spoke rapidly, as if trying to make a point, “We are being overconfident. SG-1 won't leave this alone. O'Neill won't leave this alone. We went after one of his.”

The first speaker was dismissive. “Only incidentally. She was not a primary mission target.”

The second speaker, now that he had finally made his point, calmly asked, “And now?”

The first speaker shrugged. His tone was thoughtful as he explained, “Now is a different matter. Unfortunately, her... abilities... exceed our current resources. However, there is no cause for concern. We have time to consider another, more effective, approach later. The future is ours.”

The second speaker, any hint of disagreement subsumed in the cause, agreed, “The future is ours.”

While O'Neill dealt with the ha'taaka as his duty dictated, Teal'c moved away both in an effort to continue the search for Buffy Summers and to expand their perimeter. Threats still existed, some in plain view. He used his staff to kill any of the remaining creatures he spotted, not desiring another incident like the first. Clearly, they were too dangerous to be allowed to live.

Teal'c skirted the half-eaten remains of both humans and aliens as he patrolled, but it did not touch him. After all, he'd seen far worse while under the servitude of the Goa'uld. Far worse. Still, on one level it worried him tremendously. O'Neill's child, Buffy Summers, was here, somewhere, alone and unprotected.

Teal'c, more than most, knew the young warrior could take care of herself. He'd experienced her skills first-hand and had tremendous respect for her physical abilities, all the more so since he still suspected that she had held back in their spar, allowing him victory. However, Teal'c could admit to himself that even he would not want to be down here alone and unarmed, facing these alien creatures.

The beast in the elevator shaft had elicited such a visceral sense of horror, of wrongness, that Teal'c had been unable not to attack it. Even in a laboratory setting he'd have launched himself at the beast in a bloody fight to the death. It was his enemy. As it was, he had just barely kept himself from firing a third time into the creature's body, just to make sure it was truly dead. His actions hinted of fear. This weakness disturbed him.

Ever since, Teal'c had been carefully examining his actions and motives. His team depended upon him and he could ill affford to let them down. But nothing else so deeply affected him, the remaining creatures encountered eliciting only small feelings of disgust and horror that Teal'c knew he could control.

Teal'c continued along the wall, using it to cover his flank after killing two creatures that had climbed high, apparently in an effort to ambush or hide. He passed a couple of doors, which were solidly locked when he tested them. Another doorway, this one wide open, beckoned from ahead.

Swinging out wider so as to reduce the possibility of ambush, Teal'c stopped and quickly eliminated another creature. He watched in satisfaction as it exploded messily as the plasma superheated its fluids. Moving forward, he was finally at the door.

A horrific sight greeted him as he peeked around the corner. Bits and pieces of the bodies of many of the creatures lay everywhere with at least two of the ones he'd killed first present. Refusing to acknowledge the atavistic chill, Teal'c moved forward. Then motion deeper in caught his eye and he saw Buffy Summers struggling in the grip of a large red-eyed beast!

For only a second, Teal'c studied the struggling pair. Then he acted. Another might have hesitated, his target so close to its hostage. But then another might have doubted their aim, if even for a second. Teal'c had no such reservations.

Teal'c's staff snapped to position, in perfect alignment with his arm. He flicked the arming switch with his thumb. Squeezing the triggering element, Teal'c's thick arm muscles easily rode out the recoil as he watched the bolt of plasma hammer into the creature's side, forcing it to fling aside its victim as it slumped to the ground.

Looking over his shoulder, Teal'c bellowed, “ O'NEILL! BUFFY SUMMERS IS HERE!”

Teal'c rapidly moved, not quite at a run as he could not be sure there weren't other survivors of whatever had occurred here, hidden among the bodies. He never doubted that he would be followed as O'Neill would have heard him and would respond quickly. Teal'c started to pass another creature like the one that he'd just shot and seeing it twitch, blew a hole a foot in diameter through its torso. Absently, he noted that it had still been alive despite a sword thrust completely through its skull.

Arriving at Buffy Summers, Teal'c fired a second shot into the creature that had attacked her, as he needed to eliminate any enemies first before becoming vulnerable while attending to the young warrior. One last glance around, then Teal'c focused his attention on Buffy Summers. Quickly squatting next to her, he checked the pulse in her neck. Despite her lack of consciousness, it was strong.

A warrior's eyes rapidly cataloged her injuries, none of which appeared life threatening, although there were many. The worst appeared to be a broken arm, although the healers would need to use their radiation emitters to be sure. Teal'c felt a sense of relief go through him. Even with the primitive healing devices of the Tauri, Buffy Summers should be fine.

Teal'c head snapped around. He'd seen something out of the corner of his eye. As he moved to investigate, O'Neill arrived.

Jack immediately spotted the slight figure on the ground as he entered the hallway at a run. Barely giving a glance to the alien gore that filled the space around him, he dropped to his knees next to Cali. Jack could feel foul liquid soaking the knees of his BDU's, but he ignored the disgusting sensation as he checked the girl's pulse.

Reassured by its strength that Cali wasn't going to expire immediately, Jack began a series of other checks. Her airways were clear and her breathing, while sounding slightly labored, was strong. He carefully pulled back Cali's eyelids to gauge her level of unconsciousness. Her pupils were completely nonreactive to the hallway lighting, indicating a deep level of unconsciousness and likely a concussion.

Jack unclipped his maglight and checked again using the narrow, powerful beam. Again, no response. He started to check Cali's scalp for signs of head trauma, but couldn't because of the sheer amount of shredded tissue present from the surrounding bodies. Clearly he needed to get her somewhere at least somewhat sanitary. She needed an MRI and a real hospital.

A hand on his shoulder brought him to a standstill, one hand already under Cali's knees. “Sir, you shouldn't move her. We don't know know what kind of internal injuries she might have.”

Jack met the calm eyes of his 2IC. It was all he could do not to shout at her. Taking a deep breath, he said, “We can't leave her here. She's got a concusion at a minimum. I can't even check her for a head injury with her covered in all of this filth.”

His head turned at the sound of another voice. It was 'Agent' Miller. “Sir, there's stretchers in the infirmary. I can show you the way if you'll give me a hand with our casualties as well.”

Jack met Carter's eyes and she nodded encouragingly. He rose to his feet and turned to Agent Miller, who seemed to only now have gotten a look at Cali. He whispered, “Summers...”

Jack felt a surge of redhot rage roaring through his veins. He covered the the distance between them in half a second, grabbing the younger man by the front of his fatigues and slamming him against the wall. “What did you say? How do you know who she is? Are you responsible for her being here?”

Jack was peripherally aware of Carter ineffectually trying to rein him in, but he was having none of it. He was sick and tired of being controlled and responsible when others around him paid the price. Now Cali was the victim and he'd be damned if whoever was responsible walked. If it was this piece of shit, Jack would deal with him as he deserved and pay the price himself for it later. He would-

A voice finally broke through the red haze in Jack's head. He turned his head to meet Carter's eyes and registered her voice, '-give them a chance to explain, Colonel! I-”

Jack waved her off with one hand while continuing to grip Miller's shirt collar with the other. He was aware of Miller's fellow agent, who'd identified himself as Gates, being held under gunpoint by Captain Seaborn. By his face, he clearly wanted to go to the rescue of his comrade. Taking a deep breath and meeting the half-angry, half-frightened eyes of Miller, Jack spoke, in a cold tone that revealed nothing of the anger still raging within him, “So speak. Tell me how my cadet ended up here; in this base; in this hallway; beaten to a pulp.”

It wasn't Miller who spoke, as he appeared to still be trying to gather his breath, but rather Gates, “She shouldn't be here, sir. We left her-”

Jack turned to the other agent and almost shouted, ramping up the tension level in the hallway, “You left her where?

This time it was Miler who spoke, “Sir, Agent Gates and I retrieved Cadet Summers from the airport per our orders. We-”

Jack's voice was glacial as he interrupted, “Whose orders, Agent Miller?”

Miller gulped and massaged his throat. “Colonel McNamara's, sir.”

Jack finally had dual confirmation on a target. First Maybourne and now Miller. Whether McNamara was the penultimate source or not, he'd find out later. For now, he needed more information he could use. “Go on.”

Again Gates interjected, “Sir, we knew something wasn't right. A Cha... err... Air Force cadet being assigned here? And us with orders to put her in the cells with the HST's, well, it stunk of interagency games.”

Jack's head spun. HST's? What the hell? That was that thing with fairy tale monsters that Maybourne had mentioned. Certainly the things they'd encountered hadn't come from any fairy tale Jack had ever heard of. The interagency part he could understand. Jack glanced at Cali's pale face and knew he needed to hurry. Time was running out and he was feeling the pressure. Thoughts of Cali coloring his mind, Jack barked, “Condense it down, soldier!”

“Sir, we put her in an isolated cell well away from the others and near an exit.” At Jack's expression, Gates hastily added, “Unlocked. And with the code to open the exit door. Sir, we tried to take every precaution for her safety. She seemed like a good kid. I don't know how or why she ended up here, so deep in the base. She should have been safe.”

Jack sagged, his anger subsiding to a slow burn. He had a sneaking suspicion of the how. And even the why, not absolutely, but certainly a suspicion. Damn. Okay, he needed to get this mess cleaned up. In his command voice, Jack ordered, “Gates, Miller, get those stretchers. Seaborn, provide cover. Carter, Daniel, get back up top and get us some support. We still have a potential Foothold. Teal'c provide cover locally.”

As the others scrambled off to take care of their orders, Jack knelt down next to Cali and checked her again. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Teal'c bend down and pick something up. The big man examined it a moment, then wordlessly handed it to Jack.

It was a military combat knife, blade battered and scuffed, stained with dark green gore and bits of flesh, but still intact. Still lethal. It was also the exact type of knife you could buy from the Academy gift shop, along with a wide assortment of fine timepieces. It figured that Cali wouldn't have bought something as sedentary as a watch. At least she'd had a knife, although the thought of her so armed terrified Jack. He couldn't imagine even Teal'c surviving down here armed only with a single knife, remembering the thing in the elevator shaft.

“The young warrior fought well, O'Neill.”

Startled, he looked up, meeting Teal'c's fierce gaze. Jack's eyes followed Teal'c's glance to the nearby figure of the creature he'd killed with his staff weapon. Green blood and the same flesh as stained Cali's blade oozed from its wounds. Yes. She'd defintely had used her blade well.

Jack looked back over at Teal'c. The big man had been unusually quiet and intense since their fight with the thing that had killed Sergeant Webb. Still as dependable as always, but with an 'edge' that Jack hadn't seen before. After a moment, he answered, “It didn't do her any good.”

“She survived. When so many others here died, Buffy Summers survived. She was still fighting and surviving against a terrifying foe when I arrived and killed it. Master Bratac says that, sometimes, all you can do is to survive and live to fight another day. That says a great deal about her. You should be proud of your child.”

She's not my child. The words wouldn't come out of Jack's mouth. Sometimes the truth was deeper than words. The truth was that he did consider Cali his. His daughter. Somehow, in a short time, she had wormed her way into Jack's heart, into that deep place that he reserved for only a very few people. Carter, Daniel, Teal'c, Hammond, Joyce. Charlie. Cali joined them there He would do anything to protect her, until the day came when she didn't need anyone's protection. Then he'd be damned proud to greet her as a fellow officer.

“You're right, Tea'c, I am proud of her.” Remembering his thoughts, Jack finished, “Damned proud.” He slipped the knife into a pocket of his BDU's and placed a hand over it. He'd keep it safe until Cali needed it again.

Dr Derek Evans stared at the chart, his thoughts preoccupied by the patient in room 206. Buffy Summers. The last time he had seen her was when she'd been brought in desperately needing a transfusion just before the disaster at the high school. Half an hour after the transfusion, she'd been gone, recovering in minutes from something that would put anyone else down for at least a week or two. He hadn't seen her after the explosion and assumed she'd died in the blast that had claimed so many lives that days. Despite her injuries, it had been a pleasure to see her, to know that she was alive.

It wasn't the first time he'd seen Buffy hurt. So many mysterious injuries. At first, Derek had wanted to solve the mystery that was Buffy Summers, but after a while, he'd learned to accept it, to cover for her, to hide the extent of her injuries from anyone who might come looking. Like someone from the Mayor's office. Or the police department where neck rupture was a valid cause of death. In Sunnydale, you learned to protect the ones who protected you. As she'd done for him one dark night in the parking structure from someone 'high on PCP.' Derek knew just enough to be grateful for his life.

He'd met the new girl, of course. Brash and a little overconfident, he hadn't really liked her. Especially if her presence meant that Buffy was dead. Now that he knew better, Derek decided he had to cut her some slack. After all, her injuries clearly showed she was doing the same thing that Buffy Summers had. Protecting people. Derek respected what she did, even if the older man she hung around with gave him the creeps. His eyes...

It was time to check on Buffy again. Walking into her room past the MP's at the door had initially worried him until he found out they were there for her protection, not to hold her. Now Derek merely nodded politely and ignored them. All his attention was on his patient as he approached her bed.

Derek gently touched Buffy's face, checking for fever and swelling, careful to handle her no more than necessary. He also spoke softly, explaining what he was doing even though she was still unconscious. It may have looked odd, but Derek thought it helped for her to hear a kind voice. The nurse he'd assigned to her was an old hand, 'in the know,' because the last they needed was someone to be injured. The first time the girl woke up hurting with strange hands on her, there had been a broken arm. And a lot of apologies. You moved slow and careful around her or you accepted the consequences.

As always, Derek marveled at how quickly Buffy healed. All of the more superficial cuts and bruises were more or less gone. It had been a terrible beating, if not the worst he'd seen her looking. Her ribs were still all the colors of the rainbow, though, but he knew from experience that she would be fine in two or three days. There was still visible bruising on her legs, and her knee, which had concerned him so much initially, no longer showed any signs of swelling. Absently, Derek wondered how a damaged joint could actually heal without surgery. The greenstick fracture in her arm already looked three weeks old on the x-rays, and it likely had happened within the past twelve hours.

Derek carefully maintained the fiction of her chart. It did not resemble her actual injuries at all. But in day or two it would, as even the ribs he'd listed as bruised would be at that stage. On his way out, he checked her saline and glucose drips. He'd stop by the nurses' station on the way by and let them know to give her another two bags within the next hour. Buffy tended to burn through a lot of calories when she was healing. The more glucose they pumped into her while she was unconscious, the faster she'd heal. With approval, Derek noted the much healthier weight of his patient now versus how thin and stressed she'd grown over that last year he'd seen her. Even hurt, she appeared healthier than the upset, stressed out girl he'd given a transfusion to.

Pausing at the door, Derek said a silent prayer for her and followed it with a promise. Don't worry, Buffy, we'll protect you like we always do. Hurry up and get better. With that, he turned away.

Jack stalked down the hospital corridor, muttering under his breath, his face carved from stone. He was barely aware of doctors, nurses, and orderlies scurrying to get out of his way. Jack wasn't sure if he had ever been this angry before. Even the thing with Maybourne, as explosive as it had been at the time, didn't compare to this. Worse, he had no target for his anger.

It turned out that Colonel McNamara was dead, had been dead for more than two weeks. Killed by something that Gates had let slip, called CAIN. Jack knew an acronym when he heard one. Something down there had gotten loose and robbed Jack of his vengeance. An old-fashioned thought, but since currently his feelings were positively Old Testament, quite fitting.

The 2IC of the base, a civilian named dr Maggie Walsh, was also dead, having died in the skirmish right before SG-1's arrival. Three other civilians had testified to seeing something tear her apart. There had been no one else to question as Riley Finn, rumored to be next in command, was missing.

It had only gotten worse from there. Carter and Daniel had gotten back soon after they'd left, having only barely spoken with General Hammond before being ordered to facillitate an evacuation. Upon questioning, they had revealed that Hammond told them the orders came directly from the President.

Jack had also received his orders. Take command of the evacuation. Get everyone who needed medical attention the care they needed. Quash any investigation by the local authorities using the excuse of an underground radium gas leak. Leave the site undisturbed and uninvestigated.

It had been right after that that there had been an absolute outpouring of white-coated cilivian scientists and personnel out into the atrium. They had come out of various locked doors, scurrying like cockroaches, once the threat was gone. To Jack it had been just another nail in the coffin of this op. Another time that men, brave if not necessarily good, had died so that others less worthy could survive. Jack remembered the lead cockroach, a Dr Angleman, protesting at not being allowed time to gather his notes.

Jack had been about to viciously cut him off, when Gates had taken care of it for him, leading the protesting scientist away. Instead, he'd done his duty, while staying as close to Cali as possible. Shortly after, Jack had sent her off in an ambulance to the same local hospital where they had shipped the other casualties. Teal'c had gone along with the ambulance to keep an eye on her. Jack hadn't even had to ask.

There had been dead ends. Jack had dispatched Carter and Hilliard to check for any AV records available. Carter had returned after ten minute looking irritated and had tersely explained every hard drive with any data on it had been destroyed by incendaries. Apparently whoever was behind this hadn't been content with just wiping the information, but had made sure to physically destroy the drives, possibly aware of the SGC's access to advanced technology. Technology that might be used to recovered data from even a 'wiped' drive.

The rest of the evacuation had taken precious time, time that Jack would much rather have spent checking on Cali. Instead, he had continued following orders, doing his duty. Once everyone was out, Jack had bundled his two teams back into their vehicles, bitter eyes watching their rearview as ranks of concrete mixers had driven up behind them and started to fill the underground complex in. Soon, it would be as if it had never existed. They would cover up this disaster, both literally and figuratively, and no one who really held responsibilty would be made to pay. Even the bodies of those who had died would remain, nameless, buried under hundreds of tons of mix.

It left him spinning his wheels. Jack was filled with the ashes of the fires that had burned within him earlier. Except, they felt hotter than ashes. Call them embers instead. He suspected that they would be ready to burst into flame when next he needed them.

Jack stopped. He was here. Absently he noted with approval the two MP's stationed on either side of the door, who snapped to attention at his approach, while still carefully checking him out. After showing his military ID, Jack opened the door. Stepping inside, Jack exchanged a nod with Teal'c, who like Jack, was still covered with the remnants of their underground battle. Tiredly, he said, “Thanks for looking after her, Teal'c. I owe you one. I can't thank you enough for what you did down there.”

Teal'c stood and nodded sharply. “You owe me more than one, O'Neill. But not for saving the young warrior. It was my duty and my honor to aid you in your quest to bring home Buffy Summers. For that, you 'owe' me nothing.”

The first smile for what felt like days stretched the corners of Jack's mouth. “I always knew you were an old softie.”

“If by 'softie', you mean warrior enough to kill those who would harm your child, then 'softie' I remain.” The raised brow made the words even more ironic, and Jack could practically hear the quotes, but the emotion was belied by the humor that sparkled in Teal'c's eyes.

Jack wondered what it said that an alien was so much more human that many of the people he knew. Honor and duty. It was what Teal'c had mentioned earlier and what bound them together. The two of them were so alike that it was eerie. Strange that he had found his 'brother' hundreds of light years from Earth.

Jack suggested, “Why don't you head over to the motel that Carter got us rooms in and get cleaned up. I'll be over in a bit.” With that, he clasped Teal'c's forearm, and was clasped in return. Then Jack was alone except for the pale, still figure lying in the bed.

Jack sat down in the chair Teal'c had vacated after moving it closer to the bed. Silently, he took Cali's hand in his, marveling at it's small size and delicacy. Despite that, calluses ran down the sides and across the knuckles, hallmarks of an experienced martial artist. Of a ridiculously strong and courageous young woman. Jack held Cali's hand in both of his and studied it like a benediction.

The only bright spot that had come out of this was that Cali hadn't been significantly injured. Jack had spoken to her physician, a Dr Evans, an experienced local doctor, who had apparently treated her before back when she lived in Sunnydale. Initially wary, he'd seemed to warm up to Jack during their conversation. He'd been positively effusive in his praise of Cali, calling her a special girl.

Dr Evans had given Jack an outline of her injuries and even let him read her chart. Cali had bruised ribs and a minor concussion, to go along with a ton of other bruises. He'd even been assured that she had received an MRI which showed virtually no swelling of the brain from her concussion. Jack could barely believe that the girl who slept before him with her mostly unblemished skin was the same one who had looked like hell just six hours before. The bruises that were visible didn't look at all bad. Then again, she was clean now, where before it was hard to tell where the gore left off and the girl began.

Lying there, Cali looked so damn ridiculously young. So damn young and so damn brave. It hadn't been hard to figure out what must have happened. Cali had deliberately been left out of the damned hell that the Initiative was to become. Those two agents had done the right thing. She'd even been given access to a sure exit. Instead, brave like a lion, she'd heard the emergency sirens and gone to help. God knows how she'd survived as long as she had. Somehow she'd taken refuge, eventually flushed out as that terrible battle between those things had wound down, with the victor stalking her. She had fought it with her combat knife, but likely would have lost but for the timely arrival of Teal'c.

The hand in his stirred. Soft lashes fluttered against pale cheeks, then opened, revealing tired green eyes. They roamed around the room somewhat absently, then stopped on Jack. There was confusion in those eyes, but then after a moment, recognition dawned. Cali breathed, “Colonel.”

Jack smiled reassuringly, conscious that she'd just experienced a traumatic event. He slowly and carefully reached up and brushed soft blonde hair away from Cali's face. In a soft voice, he reassured, “You are in a safe place, Cali. There is nothing to worry about. How do you feel?”

Cali's hand gripped Jack's tightly for a moment, the relaxed. “Where am I? The last thing I remember-”

“It's okay. You're safe. You're in Sunnydale General.”

Buffy's gaze sharpened. “The hospital? What am I doing in the hospital? I... Oh.”

That sounded a lot like comprehension to Jack. Which made the next thing he had to do that much more distasteful to him. “Cali, I need to talk to you about something. Something important.”

Green eyes stared into his. Cali blinked, then stated, “I was going to say the same thing to you, Colonel. There's something I need to tell you-”


Both of them froze at the vehemence in Jack's tone. He tried to lighten it slightly. “I know you have a lot of questions about what you saw down there. I understand. But I can't talk to you about it.”

“Colonel, please. I-”

“Cali, no. This is classified above TOP SECRET as Need To Know. Turns out neither of us has a need to know. I literally can't talk to you about this. Doing so would be to violate my oaths and the nondisclosure agreements I've signed. I can't even ask you what happened to you. I can only ask you if you're all right. I'll even need you to sign an NAD tomorrow, before you leave the hospital.”

Cali sat there gravely considering what he'd said. After a moment, she nodded. “I understand, sir. Military ethics. Our oaths take precedence over our individual needs. I'll sign it.” She paused. After a moment, Cali softly said, “I am, you know. All right that is.” There was an unknown emotion in her eyes as she said, “I'm just glad you're back. That you're here.”

Jack teased, “I barely understood that. More Cali-speak? Well, I'm glad to be back. I've missed some people here, you know.”

Cali smiled back, looking nothing like the traumatized girl that he'd expected. If she had been really badly shaken up, Jack didn't know if he could have held to his oaths. Both were important to him, but truthfully, he never wanted to be put in a situation where he had to choose. It wasn't likely even his military career could survive that choice.


Jack's reverie was broken by Cali's soft voice. “What is it?”

Cali seemed to be weighing her words carefully as she spoke, “Colonel, I was just wondering what you and Murray were doing here in California. I mean, you must have just got back. If that is something you can talk about.”

Jack spoke carefully and precisely, “Someone for whom I was responsible for went missing. You didn't think I wasn't going to move Heaven and Earth, or in this case, make a quick trip out to California, to get her back?”

Pleased surprise bloomed across Cali's face as she steadily met his gaze. Understanding. Her shy smile was the most precious thing that Jack had ever seen. “Thank you, Colonel.”

Jack squeezed her hand gently. “You are very welcome, Cali.”

They sat there in silence for a few moments, content not to speak. Finally, though, Jack's yawn told him he needed to leave. “Sorry about that, Cali, but I think my bunk is calling my name. I'll be back first thing tomorrow morning with clothes and we'll see if I can't spring you from this den of iniquity.”

Cali nodded vigorously. “Sounds good, sir.”

Jack got up and started to leave, then stopped. He reached down and touched the pocket of his BDU's, feeling the shape within. jack had carefully cleaned and sharpened it. Reaching in and grasping it, he briefly considered the matter before bringing it out in the open. Speaking to the girl on the bed, Jack said, “I have something of yours.”

Cali stared up at him. “What is it, sir?”

Wordlessly, Jack handed the combat knife to Cali, who took it from him, staring at it in seeming fascination as she slowly spun it over and over between her hands. When she raised her eyes to him after a moment, there was a fierceness there that brought a rush of pride through him so much so that he almost burst from it. Just as he'd thought. Aloud, Jack said, “Use it well, little lion.” With that he turned and left.

Buffy stared at the retreating figure of Colonel O'Neill. She'd only understood parts of the talk that they'd just had. At times, Buffy had been certain that he knew. About her. About the Slayer. Then that certainty would pass. In the end, she was only certain of two things. One, that the colonel had come for her.

Buffy had always had a feeling that Colonel O'Neill was someone she could depend upon. From the first time she'd met him, he shown her what being an officer really meant. Still, she hadn't been nearly as certain how important she was to him. With a casual comment backed by far less casual actions, the colonel had show her exactly how important she was to him. Buffy was one of his people. She could help the silly smile that graced her face at the thought.

The other certainty was that the colonel knew she could take care of herself and was proud of her because of it. He'd called her 'little lion', but it was him handing her back her knife, clean aand sharp, that had filled Buffy with such a sense of pride that she could burst. She couldn't stop playing with it and finally tucked it beneath her pillow to keep it out of sight.

Sighing, Buffy picked up the TV remote and put on Oprah and let her mind veg. Her lids felt heavy, but she knew she'd never sleep. And Buffy definitely didn't want to think about what had happened. She'd think about it later. She'd...

Buffy woke up with a start, aware that something was wrong. Then she knew. The TV and lights were off. It could have been the nurse. However, Slayer here. No nurse could come in quietly enough to keep from waking her. Buffy reached out with her Slayer sense and felt it. Sensing a non-human presence sitting in the chair by the bed, Buffy grabbed the knife from under the pillow and launched herself from the bed!

AN: I know. Evil cliffie. But I never said I was good, did I?
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