General Jack O’Neill had only been in Colorado Springs for thirty minutes when Daniel had finally gotten a hold of him. It had taken everything in him to remain calm in the back of the shuttle on the way to his house. The last thing he needed was to scare the driver on a slick road. Once he was free of the shuttle, he let out a whoop of joy and then turned the conversation towards asking tough questions on how the pregnancy would affect Tara’s health. He could tell that these were questions Daniel didn’t want to think of at the moment, but already was. They didn’t have many answers for Jack, because they were waiting for the opinion of Dr. Keller. At the moment what they needed was for Jack to pick Malita up from school and then prepare the house for everyone coming over that evening.
Now, another thirty minutes later, Jack was sitting in front of Malita’s school, waiting to take her home. He watched as kids poured out of the school. As soon as he spotted her amongst the crowd, he got out of his truck and waved her over. Malita grinned at him and rushed over after saying good bye to her friends. Backpack thrown over her shoulder, she wrapped both arms around him, not caring what the other kids thought. “Uncle Jack, what a wonderful surprise.” She stepped away and then added, “I thought Dad was supposed to be picking me up today.”
“There was a delay at the mountain. It’s you and me now, kiddo. We’ve been directed to get the food ordered and make sure the house is ready to go.”
Once the two were back in the truck and pulling away, Malita stated, “The house shouldn’t be a problem. What type of food mission have we been assigned, General O’Neill?”
“I hear there is lasagna to warm up in the freezer, salad in the fridge and pizza on speed dial, Officer Jackson.”
“Soda is in the pantry. Beer?”
“Are you 21 yet, Officer?”
“Then I’ll have Major Burkhardt stop for that.”
“And Dawn and Buffy?”
“Miller and Faith should be heading out to retrieve them right now.”
“Sounds like all bases are covered. Sound plan of attack.”
The two shared a little laugh. Malita pushed around her backpack with her feet and then asked, “Is everything okay?” When Jack only frowned, Malita followed with, “Mom didn’t go through the gate today, did she?”
“Nope.” Jack wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about what was going on with her parents. “Look, kiddo, there is a lot I could talk to you about when it comes to what is going on, but your parents want to talk to you about it first. Both of them will be home this evening, it’ll only be a little later than planned.”
Malita nodded and then turned away, staring at the snow covered store fronts as they headed in the direction of where her family lived. Quietly, she stated, “I told Dad this morning there would be dark days ahead but that Mom would be okay in the end. We will be the family we’ve always wanted. I didn’t tell him that Mom was going to have a lot of problems, though. She’s going to be real sick off and on.”
“You’ve seen something,” Jack stated.
Malita leaned her forehead against the cool glass of the passenger side window. Her voice was so quiet that Jack could barely hear it. “There will be bad days here and there. During it all, the world will end for them but it won’t even be a second for us.
“What do you mean the world will end?”
All Malita did at first was shrug her shoulders. Then after a strained minute, she explained, “The world will change. You’ll be here, but it won’t be you. Mom will be two in one. Dad will be one of two. I won’t be at all.”
Jack had no idea what she was talking about, yet felt very unnerved by the description. “Does this vision scare you?”
“No. I know it won’t even register for us, but Mom will always remember it. Dad, he’ll experience and forget.” Malita turned back to Jack and smiled sadly. “I see happiness in the end. There is just so much pain until then.”
“Other than what you said to your Dad this morning, have you mentioned anymore of this to your parents?”
“No. They have enough to worry about.” Malita truly smiled as her whole mood suddenly shifted, “The thing you aren’t supposed to talk to me about, it will make them VERY happy in the end.”
“You know already?”
Malita tapped her head and stated, “I’ve been dreaming about a lot lately.”
“Why haven’t you said anything?”
“Knowing what is in the future is not always a good thing. Trust me, how they found out what is going on is much better than if I had said something.” Malita then added, “I probably shouldn’t have even told you what I just did. You can’t tell them what is coming. They would constantly be waiting for it to it happen, adding stress to an already stressful situation.”
“Where is that seven year old girl that showed up at the SGC not even four years ago? There is no way you are only eleven.”
“Same girl, just growing up faster than I should, I guess.”
Jack shook his head. When he had first met Malita, they had thought she was about five but after finally communicating with her and doing tests, realized she was seven. Now, not even four years later she looked old enough to be in her teenage years. Malita had grown up so fast, physically and mentally. The school system had put her in seventh grade this year because she was ahead in her studies. They had wanted to actually place her higher, but Daniel drew the line. He said as long as she wasn’t too bored, Malita needed to be among students she could feel comfortable with. Jack had a feeling this decision went back to Daniel feeling isolated from his peers when he was growing up.
“Dream of any lotto numbers lately?”
Malita laughed at the question. “If my dreams worked that way, then I’d make sure to also dream of all the answers for my tests at school.”
Daniel silently slipped the door to Tara’s office open. Inside, Tara sat at her desk, leaning over it as she cradled the receiver to her phone against her the ear. Her eyes, red rimmed, looked up at Daniel and then back to the grain of her desk. In almost a whisper, Tara answered whoever she was talking to on the phone. “Yes. I understand what you are saying. That doesn’t mean that I have to like it.” With a sigh, she added, “Look, can we talk about his later? Daniel is here.” Whoever was on the phone kept on talking for another minute. Tara covered her mouth towards the end, and Daniel could tell she was trying not to cry. He stepped forward, eyebrow raised in a questioning manner as she then remarked, “Of course, and we love you too, Giles. I promise to call you back tomorrow.”
“Everything okay?” Daniel asked as Tara hung up the phone.
“Giles is pulling me from being Faith’s head watcher.”
“What does that mean?”
“He says that he is fine with me sitting on the sidelines. I can direct training sessions, work on research and write up the reports for what she does with the SGC, since I’m used to editing those anyways. I’m not allowed to go on patrols though.”
“I can agree with Giles on that.”
Tara sighed. “He’s sending Xander to help.”
Daniel sat down across from her and reached out across all the papers she had strewn about. He took one of her hands into his. “You know there is no way that Faith would have let you actually go on patrol with her, especially with how sick you have been lately. What harm is there in letting Xander come and help out in that capacity?”
“None. I even told Giles he could stay with us until finding a place.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“I guess I don’t like feeling like I’m being replaced, even though I understand the reasoning behind it. Plus, well, Xander is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Am I going to like what is coming next?” There was something about the look that had taken over Tara’s face.
Tara shrugged. “Maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but he wants Willow to check on us also.”
“Willow?” Daniel straightened slightly where he was sitting. Even after being with Tara for some time, there was something about Willow that always placed him ill at ease. He knew that he was the one Tara had picked, but in the back of his mind, he couldn’t forget how much Willow meant – and still meant – to Tara.
“Giles asked me about how my magic was handling this. Apparently there are a few witches out there that have had problems with magic during their pregnancies. I went ahead and told him about what Dr. Lam found, and he said it would make him feel better if Willow came to check on me. He said that she has been working close enough with the Coven, that she might actually be able to come up with some way to help us after talking to them.”
“How do you feel about this?”
“I don’t know.” Tara sat back and sighed. “Being around Willow is hard sometimes. I like to put space between us.”
“I can understand that.”
Tara laughed at Daniel, knowing full well how much space he would like between her and Willow. She then frowned. “I have set up a new life here, and now the old is coming back.”
“They only mean the best.”
“I know.” Tara sighed and got up. She moved around the desk only to sit on Daniel’s lap. “Giles told me that… that even though I’m not an original Scooby, I am still a part of his Sunnydale kids. He… He said that just like them, he cares for me as one of his core family. I’m one of his kids, just like the rest. Then he told me he loved me, and hoped we would let him try to take care of us in his own way by accepting help. He said that he knows I have nothing to do with my father, and he would feel honored if I’d let him to be the father figure that most of the other Scoobies see him as.”
“Malita already calls him Grandpa Giles.”
“I know. It just… Giles means a lot to me, Daniel. When Willow was having problems, Giles was someone I talked to a lot, even if over the phone. He always was there for me and still is. To hear him ask to be something I already consider him.” Tara wiped a tear from her cheek. “I’m sorry. Here you came to get me, and I’m being emotional.
Daniel pulled her close and whispered, ignoring her comment about being emotional, “Dr. Keller is here. I can tell them it will be a few more minutes if you need time to calm down.”
Tara took in a deep breath. “No. I’m fine.”
The two waited for Tara to gather herself and then headed to the infirmary. They entered to hear a voice complaining from the floor behind one of the beds. “You would think being an infirmary there would be plenty of places to plug this.”
“First of all, there were outlets behind that panel I showed you when we first got here. But since you won’t listen to me, there is also an outlet right there.”
“Where, there? You know, pointing in a general direction doesn’t always help. If you’d be more precise…”
“Right there!” In front of them, Dr. Keller appeared from behind a bed. She grinned as soon as she saw them. “Tara! How are you feeling?”
Tara laughed as Dr. Jennifer Keller moved around the bed to give her a large hug. The two had become fast friends while Tara had been on Atlantis, especially when Tara had been in the infirmary there. Knowing that Jennifer already knew about the pregnancy, Tara answered, “Been a bit tired lately.”
Dr. Keller looked Tara over and was about to comment when suddenly the person she had been talking to before popped up from behind the bed. “Tara.” Dr. Rodney McKay sat a laptop on the bed along with a metal case.
“Dr. McKay,” Tara replied simply.
“I would ask if Dr. Jackson has been taking care of you, but from what I’ve heard, he has been taking care of you a little too much.”
“Rodney,” Dr. Keller exclaimed, her voice sounding threatening.
“Yes, well, what’s done is done. Can’t change that now, but I have something that may be helpful.”
Daniel’s gaze was shooting daggers at Dr. McKay while Tara only took a calming breath before moving around the bed. Slowly, she gave Dr. McKay a hug. At first, Dr. McKay didn’t seem to know what to do. Then, as Tara tightened her grip, he tentatively wrapped his arms around her as if giving hugs were something foreign to him. “I’ve missed you, Rodney.”
With a nod, Dr. Rodney McKay remarked, “I’ve missed you too, Tara.” His voice was soft and not one bit condescending as it had been seconds before. He stepped away and turned his attention back to the case he had placed on the bed. “I brought you something.” With two soft clicks of the latches, he opened the case and moved it to where she could see inside better.
Tara felt Daniel move to stand behind her to see what exactly Rodney had brought. Tara peered into the case and slowly smiled at what she saw there. “You brought me something shiny.”
“Something Ancient,” Daniel added as he eyed the blue object in the box that was slightly glowing just being in Tara’s presence. It looked almost like a computer mouse. Beside it was resting what also looked like a scanner gun that a price checker would use in a store. He had seen these in use several times before in their infirmary. The doctors and nurses used them to scan medication into the computer system. It was an easy way to keep track of what patients had been given.
From behind them came the sound of something rolling. They turned to see Dr. Lam approaching them with a cart to hold the computer and case. “Will this work?” she asked.
“Perfect,” Dr. Keller answered. As Rodney moved the case and then the lap top computer to the cart, she then directed Tara to the bed. “We’re going to need you to lie down.”
Daniel joined Dr. Keller in helping Tara get situated on the bed and then went to sit down in a chair beside her. “So, what is this exactly?” He motioned to the objects Rodney was now taking out of the case and setting beside the computer.
“This,” Dr. McKay answered, “is the ancient equivalent to our modern day ultra sound machines. I’ve incorporated its output to work with our medical database, which I’ve programed to translate the Ancient into English. We’ve used it several times on Atlantis but never for an actual pregnancy.”
“What about Teyla?” asked Tara, knowing that the Athosian was pregnant.
“She isn’t an Ancient. This device only works on people with the Ancient gene.”
“How exactly does it work?”
“It’s actually very simple,” Dr. Keller started to answer instead of Rodney. She lifted Tara’s shirt to expose her stomach, reached for the object that looked like a computer mouse, and gently dropped the object on to Tara’s stomach. It automatically went from slightly glowing to shining brightly. Slowly, it moved on its own, as if searching and then stopped. Tara gasped as she felt a bit of warmth spread through her and then suddenly, above the object, a hologram popped into place. The computer beside them whirled to life, information scrolling down its screen automatically. With a smile, Dr. Keller moved to better see the hologram above Tara. “You just place it on your stomach; it then finds the fetus and automatically links with the computer we’ve paired it with.”
Dr. Lam joined Dr. Keller. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
“What?” asked Daniel, worried about what the two doctors could be seeing in the hologram. What he was seeing looked like a very small circular object.
Dr. Keller stood with a smile on her face. She reached out and turned the hologram slightly with her hand. Daniel stood up and leaned in to get a closer look as his view changed. Suddenly there were two objects rather than just one. “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”
“Twins,” Dr. Lam quietly confirmed. “This is quite fascinating. A different view than what we would normally see on screen.”
“From what we have read in the Ancient database, once the fetuses are formed enough, heartbeats should be heard.” Dr. Keller moved to the computer and started reading through everything on the screen. “Have you given her any prenatal vitamins yet?”
“I didn’t want to give her anything until you got here,” Dr. Lam answered.
With a nod, Dr. Keller started pointing out several items on the screen. “All of Tara’s levels that need to be monitored are here. The device scans her and pulls them without taking blood. Here is a list of everything you need to give Tara so that her levels balance out correctly.” She then pursed her lips and pointed to another part of the screen. “This shows any information about the babies that might be pertinent. The older the fetus, the more information will be listed, such as weight, length, heart rate, etc. It will also show anything that may be wrong.” Her finger tapped an area and Dr. Lam leaned in to read it as Dr. Keller added, “Why don’t you get her a prenatal vitamin and we will see what we need to give her after that.”
Dr. Keller watched as Dr. Lam finished the readings, met her gaze and then walked off to get a prenatal vitamin for Tara. With a frown, Dr. Keller turned to Tara and Daniel. “We need to talk about what all this is going to mean for you.”
Daniel nodded as he settled back in his chair and grasped Tara’s hand. “Is everything okay?”
Tara shook her head as she stared at Dr. Keller. “It isn’t. I… I can tell. You need to be straight with us, Jennifer.”
“Your amino acid levels are very low. One baby is fine, but the other… From what we are reading, the neural tube has not closed. This is something that normally takes place in the first month, and we can’t change this, even if we get those levels back up. There is a possibility because of this that one of the babies may be born with a neural defect, most likely Spina Bifida. We will have to keep an eye on it, and will let you know once we know for sure.”
“So there isn’t anything we can do at this point?” This came from Daniel.
“No. We can’t change how the baby is already starting to develop. Most parents don’t find out about these problems until they are at least four to five months along. With this, we should know within the next few weeks if there will be a problem for sure. If there is a defect such as Spina Bifida, we can go in and fix the defect in utero further in your pregnancy. This procedure would only close the opening on the spine. It won’t correct any paralysis or other problems associated with Spina Bifida that are already in place.”
Dr. Keller reached out and took Tara’s free hand. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but if one of the babies does have Spina Bifida, we could be looking at normal movement to full paralysis depending on the placement and severity of the defect. This child could take a lot of care and may not be able to function easily. There are some parents that don’t feel they can take on this responsibility or don’t want to have a baby with birth defects like this.”
“Are you… are you suggesting some parents abort the pregnancy?”
“But we won’t know how severe this could be until further along, correct?” This came from Daniel.
“Right. This isn’t a decision that you would make today, but I want you to know that it is a possibility you will be faced with.”
Tara closed her eyes and shook her head. “No. I don’t care what I’m told later on. Babies are a gift, and I’m not going to consider aborting just because one of them may not be perfect.”
Dr. Keller looked over at Daniel studying Tara, who had opened her eyes again only to stare at the hologram still floating above her, tears trailing down her cheeks. He moved his gaze from Tara to Dr. Keller and nodded. “Thank you for the warning.”
“I thought you’d want to hear it from me.”
Tara continued to stare ahead at her babies, right now only circular embryos. Her hand, however, tightened in Dr. Keller’s grip. By now tears were starting to fall more freely, and Daniel was reaching over, brushing them away as they fell. A throat cleared behind them, and Dr. Lam stood there. She held out a packet of prenatal vitamins and a cup of water. Dr. Keller scanned them and suddenly the list of what Tara needed changed on the lap top, reflecting that she was getting the vitamin. She separated one vitamin, took the water, and held them out to Tara. “Here. You need to take this.”
Sitting up, the device strangely stayed on her as she took the vitamin. When she was done, she laid back down. “Every week day you will need to come in and be scanned with this. It will tell Dr. Lam what to give you on a daily basis along with the vitamin. It also shows your level that pertains to magic, which is low.” Looking now at Daniel, she continued, “When this is low, Daniel, you need to open yourself up and channel for her. Can you do that?”
“Of course. How much?” Since they realized he could channel on Kelowna, Tara had worked with him on actually being able to channel the power to a magic user. He was able to pass it on through touch without her pulling it from him.
“The device should beep when she has enough.”
With a nod, Daniel stood and then bent over Tara. Dr. Lam gasped, never seeing this before, while Dr. Keller simply smiled at the act she had once witnessed in the Atlantis infirmary after Tara’s bout with the Wraith. As Daniel’s lips touched Tara’s, a glow shined between them. They stayed in this position until the computer beeped. When he pulled away, Dr. Keller looked at the screen and then pointed to the level. It was now showing an amount on par with where it should be. “Perfect.”
Dr. Lam glanced at the screen and then pointed to the area that noted what Tara still needed. “Will this be the same every day?”
“No. According to the Ancient database, many Ancient pregnancies were problematic depending on the strength and powers of the baby. Many women had their levels checked every day, which is why Tara will need to come in Monday through Friday to be scanned. For now, we hopefully will be able to get away with not scanning her on the weekends.”
“Okay. I will go look into gathering all the medications for this.”
When Dr. Lam once again left, Tara finally turned towards Dr. Keller. Her stare went past the doctor to meet the gaze of Dr. Rodney McKay, who had moved a polite distance away while everything had been taking place. Barely a whisper, she called out, “Rodney?”
Slowly, Rodney stepped up to the group next to Dr. Keller. He stared at the hologram for a second and then reached out to lay his hand on her arm. The touch was gentle compared to his rough exterior. “Everything will be fine.”
“I wish I could make you promise that.”
Rodney smiled sadly. “I’m Dr. McKay, the smartest person at your disposal. I know what I’m talking about.”
Dawn shouldered her bag as she stepped off the Council’s private plane with Buffy. The two traveled through the throng of holiday travelers to make their way to the area where they had agreed to meet Daniel. Beside Dawn, Buffy kept on looking over at her sister, as if she wanted to talk but couldn’t find the words. “Is there something you want to say?” Dawn asked.
“No.” The muscles in Buffy’s cheek flexed as she clenched her teeth. She really wanted to talk to Dawn, but she wasn’t for sure how to talk to her sister anymore. After their short discussion in the plane, the two hadn’t talked at all. Buffy knew that at some point the two were going to have to talk about Dawn’s future. The only problem is that every time she tried, they ended up arguing. In the plane, that had been the sanest conversation that they had taken part in for over six months.
“Are you sure, because you’re doing this little twitching thing with…”
“B and Little-D. Over here,” interrupted a voice.
Dawn and Buffy turned to see Faith standing next to a very uncomfortable looking Graham Miller, who was on his phone at the moment. Faith moved over to them and nodded, “Dr. J is a bit busy at the moment, so he asked for Miller and me to pick up the two of you.”
“Is everything okay?” asked Dawn.
Faith looked at Graham who frowned and then turned his back on the group to continue with his quiet conversation. He lowered his voice so they couldn’t easily hear what he was saying. “Sure. Everything is five by five.”
“No, it isn’t.” Buffy’s eyes were planted on Graham. She tapped her ears and added, “Great hearing comes with the Slayer package. You know that.”
Graham hung up the phone and turned to the group. He had heard Buffy comment that she could hear something was going on from his conversation. His gaze bore into her, conveying that she wasn’t to push it, as he stated, “Dr. Jackson says they are heading home. They’ll let all of us know the whole story when we get there.”
“What are the two of you not telling us?” asked Dawn. She was growing more worried as Faith and Graham shared a quick look.
Graham stepped forward and gave her a quick hug. “Nice to see you again, Dawn.” He took her bag from her and added, “Don’t worry about anything. Once everyone arrives at the Jacksons’ house, you’ll know. For now, they just want to talk to everyone at once.”
“Do we have an ETA on when the gang and Jonas get back?” Faith asked Graham as she took Buffy’s second bag.
“Dr. Jackson said that they made it back through the right before he headed up to the surface with Tara. He hasn’t talked to them yet either.”
“Jonas went through with a different team?”
Faith grinned at Dawn. “He was filling in for Dr. J today. Wish he was here instead of Miller, Mr. Doom-and-Gloom Expression Guy?"
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Graham remarked with a deadpan expression.