This chapter was surprisingly difficult to write. I kept getting bogged down in details and my attempt at setting up a plot (I know, I know). Thank you for reading- your reviews, as always, mean the world to us fanfic writers. Also, the last chapter was tweaked a bit to reflect the fact that Buffy is under 21 and drinking. I kept the drinking, I just explained it in-world. Disclaimer:
Buffy and Stargate are not mine in any way, shape, or form. I'd certainly be less broke if they were. :)Chapter Seven“It's "go to hell", actually. Which, by the way, is a very rude thing to say to a person offering you a sandwich.” –Jack O’Neill
“He doesn’t have to pay the bar. I mean, the people I took the beer from paid for the beers. It’s like paying twice.”
Jack’s lips twitched as they watched Daniel earnestly try to explain to the bartender why he was paying for beer he hadn’t consumed. “Well, if there’s something Danny is good at its paying twice for something he shouldn’t be paying for to begin with.”
Buffy shifted and looked slightly guilty. “I had a long couple of days.”
He snorted. “Yeah, well I have a feeling we’ve witnessed a tip of the iceberg of your last few days and it was enough to stress me out, so I think we can give you a pass. Although given the look the bartender is sending our way, I’m not sure The Bronze employees agree. Let’s head outside and let Daniel catch up.”
After a moment and another long glance to Daniel, Buffy nodded and followed him out into the dark streets outside the club. Jack fished for some conversation topic to touch on, but everything seemed too heavy or complicated. He had to remind himself that the young woman at his side had buried her mother less than a week before. That she had had unknown relatives descend upon her life. That someone she apparently knew had managed to make a… Buffybot.
It was a relief then when the oppressive silence was broken.
“What does Daniel do for a living?”
Jack hid an internal wince. Or not. Silence may be better. This was not going to go well. Stargate had never quite polished off their cover story to the point where all the elements made, well, sense. Especially Daniel’s role in the whole mess. “He’s an archaeologist.”
“An archaeologist? Like Tomb Raider?”
Yup, not well at all.
“Well, without the boobs, or the guns.” Okay, there were guns, but Buffy didn’t need to know that. “More like The Mummy
“What kind of field work does he do? Egypt? South America?”
“He used to specialize in Ancient Egypt.” Buffy stared at him expectantly, and Jack felt the words start to fumble under her direct gaze. “He’s a civilian contractor now. With, the uhh military. He’s part of a project on deep-space radar telemetry.”
The younger woman whistled, and while she sounded impressed there was a hardness to her eyes. “Deep-space radar telemetry. That sounds important. In Colorado Springs?”
Jack nodded warily.
“I didn’t know archaeologists knew anything about space.”
“Well, I think you’ll find your uncle is a very smart man. He has all sorts of knowledge that may not fit with what would make, well, sense.”
The hardness to her eyes was still there and she hummed assent in a patently false agreement as Jack resisted the urge to fidget. Fidgeting. He was standing outside a club
getting questioned by Daniel Jackson’s long-lost niece and he wanted to fidget. Half his god-damned service record was blacked out for confidentiality and a twenty year old was making him want to fidget.
Daniel needed to hurry the hell up with his made up bar tab.
“Daniel and I work together, but… I’m guessing you knew that I was military already.”
Buffy sniffed, and managed to look both like a Valley girl and a disdainful woman much older than her twenty years. Until she spoke of course- then it was all Valley girl. “Pu-lease. Your boots give you away. And the haircut. And the sunglasses. At night. You might as well be wearing a neon camo sign. Which by the way you should never do. Ever.” She considered him slyly out of the corner of her eye, the hardness replaced by humor. “The smart ass thing works though. You should keep that.”
Jack smirked, irrationally pleased, but sobered as he considered the tilt of their conversation. “So… I take it we’re not exactly the first official types to come waltzing in to Sunnydale.”
It was the wrong thing to ask, and the bantering levity he had managed to establish vanished. Buffy shrugged in response to his statement, the moment swift and hard, and hunched her shoulders slightly inward. “Let’s just say that people don’t come to Sunnydale for the beaches. And hey, speaking of, why are you here, with Daniel, again?”
Damn. He didn’t miss the careful sidestep of his own questioning, but that could wait for now.
Jack sighed and ran a hand through his close-cropped hair as he carefully considered his answer. It sure as hell wasn’t his place to fill in all of Daniel’s secrets, but outright lies certainly wouldn’t go over well with the sharp eyed woman at his side. Buffy might be playing at stupidity, but she was as stupid as he was. “Danny is a friend.”
She arched a brow at him. “A friend? An archaeologist friend? Who does deep-space radar telemetry while you do some sort of Army thing with deep-space telemetry?” Buffy pursed her mouth in obvious disbelief before she brightened. “Are we talking… “friend” friend?” she asked, making air quotes in the appropriate places.
Jack spluttered, surprised despite himself, and then laughed. “No… We’d kill each other within a week. And facial hair, not my thing. I’m Air Force by the way.”
The younger woman shrugged again, and the vulnerability was gone too, leaving behind her public mask of cheerful indifference. “Big guns, big secrets, big diff, right? Too bad on the Buffy having two-uncles thing, that would be cool.”
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
She bared her teeth in a grin. “Totally joking. I already have a gay best friend. I’m set on the hipster scale of Sunny D.”
Jack glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. The alleyway wasn’t completely dark, streetlights bathed them both in a weak fluorescent light that made the shadows of her face starker, longer. Daniel’s niece would be beautiful if she didn’t look quite so sad, all stark cheekbones and grief tinged lips. If she smiled with her eyes.
Despite being small in stature she moved with the innate grace of a predator. She didn’t mind walking around graveyards or alleyways in the most dangerous town in America not because she didn’t know better. No, she walked with the confidence of someone who had taken care of herself for far too long.
Much longer than Joyce’s death would indicate.
There were a lot of things that didn’t quite add up to puzzle of Buffy Summers, and while it made him suspicious, on instinct Jack liked the younger woman, and he was used to trusting his instincts. He had a feeling they were seeing her at her worst, in the aftermath of her mother’s death. Although she was clearly grieving she was just a clearly stronger than many others would be in her place.
It gave him hope, for Daniel. That Buffy and maybe Dawn could handle what it meant to have family in the SGC.
The door of The Bronze opened and shut down the way and Daniel came out. He paused and sighted them a hundred yards away and hurried after them, a smile on his face that was visible even from that distance in the dark.
Buffy and Jack paused, shoulder to shoulder, to wait up for him. Her voice was conversational when she asked, “What’s Colorado Springs like?”
Jack kept his own voice carefully neutral as he responded in an attempt to keep the surprise from his expression. She hadn’t even introduced Daniel to Dawn, but it was more than they could have hoped, that she would be this accepting this early. “Good steak, nice views… the fishing is crap but you can get to skiing pretty easy.”
She hummed in agreement for a moment. “Lots of ice skating?” Buffy paused and grinned completely unself-consciously as Jack’s silence begged the question. “I was a huge Dorothy Hamill fan when I was little.”
Jack grinned back, amused despite himself. “Seriously? How are you even old enough to remember her? You weren’t even BORN when she won the gold.”
A fluid shrug greeted his incredulous question. “I think, in retrospect, that Mom may have been living vicariously through me. She had her Olympics skates recorded on VHS and I used to watch it all
the time. Also, just so you know, wedge haircuts? Definite no no with my facial structure.”
He was chuckling when Daniel caught up to them. Jack’s teammate gave him a stern look and a cautious smile again for Buffy. “Are you two behaving?”
“Absolutely not. Buffy was just cautioning me about wedge haircuts.”
Daniel rocked back on his heels and studied the two blankly innocent faces before him. “I don’t even want to know, do I?”
She smiled cautiously back at her uncle. “Probably not.”
Jack, never one to resist meddling when it came to Daniel’s happiness chose to interject again. “While we walk Buffy home, why don’t you tell her about the many ice skating opportunities in Colorado Springs.”
“Also,” she piped in, “shopping. Shopping is very important.”
Daniel stared at the front door of the Summer’s house. They had dropped Buffy off minutes earlier after making cautious plans to meet up in the next day or so. Apparently Dawn wasn’t taking things quite as well, although the phrase had limited meaning in this context.
How did you take the death of a loved one? Was it good to take that well? Was Buffy, with her brief smiles and biting humor more broken than her younger sister, who apparently grieved more openly?
Daniel’s grief for his parents, for Sha’re, had dulled over the years. Left a void of yearning where those ties used to be. When he had been young that void had been filled with rage-filled grief. Despite being smaller than most of the others in his foster homes he had spoken with his fists and feet. Lashed out at those who rubbed the raw wound of his orphan status. When he had lost Sha’re he had been driven. Driven by the secrets of the Stargate. Driven to explore new worlds on the hope of one day, some day, finding the answers to free his wife from the Goa’uld.
But the rage and that drive and even the grief were so very far away from this… hopeful feeling. That suddenly he might have people who he belonged to. That belonged to him, here on Earth. That the whole of his world wasn’t
encapsulated under the mountain at Cheyenne Mountain.
“She’s not what I expected.”
Daniel felt a sharp burst of dry mirth bubble past his lips as he glanced sideways at his teammate. Jack had become less of an enigma over the years, but although Daniel counted him among his closet friends, he still couldn’t really say he understood the older man.
“She’s not what I expected either.”
“Did you think she would be… taller?”
This time the laughter was less surprising. He wheezed with it, and it felt good, to laugh after the strain of the last few days. “Yes, I definitely thought she’d be taller. More, me maybe? I don’t know. That sounds conceited.”
Jack snorted and shifted his weight from one foot to the other in an unconscious mimicry of parade rest as he joined Daniel in his perusal of the enigmatic front door. “I don’t know Danny… She’s, more and less what I expected, especially the height thing. She seems to like you, or at least be receptive to the idea of an uncle arriving on her porch without shouting stranger danger. But, honestly, I don’t know if I entirely trust her.”
Daniel wasn’t blind. He knew what Jack meant. Sunnydale itself was less of an enigma than his blonde haired niece, who wandered around graveyards, had robotic twins, and moved with assured destructive grace. She seemed to have secrets enough of her own and that wasn’t even considering the secrets he
had. Her house looked surprisingly normal, though. Joyce’s house. And it startled him, the longing he felt in that moment to be welcome there, to see the family photos on the wall and feel like he might be the guest of a sister who had died too soon.
Daniel considered Jack’s words for a long moment. They weren’t given lightly and, damn him, he was right, that there was something implicitly off in the enigma that was Buffy Summers. “You like her though.”
The older man shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Well, she seems okay for a girl.”
Daniel smiled, softly, even as their shared misgiving rung in his ears. “I like her too.”