Disclaimer: See Prologue.
A/N: Apologies for the slow pace of my writing and posting - life is 'very' busy at the moment! :) I hope this chapter was worth waiting for. Enjoy, lya.
AUGUST 14 07:23
Buffy woke with a groan as her memories of the previous days’ events came flooding back to her, accompanied by a strong dose of mortification. Sighing wearily she opened her eyes, realising that refusing to admit she was awake wasn’t going to solve anything. The bed across from her was empty, the covers pulled across in a half-hearted attempted to be tidy, Buffy noticed, raising her arm to look at her watch.
Five hours of sleep.
Normally she would have been able to function on that amount without any detrimental effects but this morning she still felt exhausted. Leaden. And her back hurt like hell, she realised as she stiffly rolled onto her side and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the single bed. Leaning forward, she tried to loosen the stiffened muscles, massaging the base of her spine with her right hand; she hadn’t been this stiff after a fight in a long, long time. She was going to have to get Teal’c to show her the move he’d used to best her.
Of course, that would mean she’d have to actually talk to him some time this century, and that would involve dealing with her intense embarrassment over her behaviour towards both him and Colonel O’Neill, Buffy thought, flopping dejectedly backwards across the bed. She stared up at the nicotine stains on the ceiling and wondered why she had been such a fool? Wondered why she’d allowed herself to get so carried away with the whole Slayer thing once again. Would she ever learn? It had felt wonderful at the time, there was no denying that. She had felt so powerful, all knowing, in complete harmony with her body and the world around: better than everyone and everything. And Teal’c had shown her, rather bluntly, that that wasn’t the case.
It wasn’t the first time someone had tried to get that particular point across to Buffy. Anya, in her usual tactless manner had told her that the fact that she was the Slayer didn’t make her better than those she fought with, just luckier, or something to that effect. Buffy didn’t see where the luck part came into it – everyone else got to choose their battles – but Anya had been right about Buffy’s tendency to assume she was better than others. Though it was partly justified, Buffy thought defensively; being the Slayer did make her stronger, faster, more intuitive about certain things, but there were other areas in life where she was sorely lacking...
Buffy gritted her teeth and sat up, reaching out for her clothes. She had really hoped that her anger-driven patrol last night would have worked out, whatever Teal’c had done to her, but lying stationary in bed for several hours had put paid to that. It still hurt like hell. A constant reminder of... She dropped the clothes back onto the chair, standing instead and padding across to the en-suite bathroom to take a shower.
By the time she came out, wrapped in a complimentary white towelling robe that hadn’t see fluffiness in long time, Dawn had returned and was sitting silently on the end of her bed, staring down at a newspaper balanced on her knees.
“Dawnie?” Buffy said, one hand balancing the makeshift turban on her head.
Dawn looked up at Buffy, her face wooden. Mutely, she thrust the paper at Buffy and disappeared into the bathroom behind her, locking the door. Oh yeah, the other reason for feeling terrible that morning was that on top of behaving like a complete idiot in front of half of SG-1, she’d also upset Dawn by not allowing her to accompany her on last night’s patrol.
Buffy stared at the bathroom door and fervently wished Willow was there – Willow was great with Dawn when she got into a funk about something. Nearly as good as Tara had been, though neither of them had ever been able to placate the teenager as well as their mother. Or Spike.
For some incomprehensible reason, Spike had always been able to get through to Dawn when Buffy couldn’t. Little Bit, he had called her, sometimes ‘Platelet’. Buffy smiled at the memory.
“I’m sorry, Dawn” Buffy said through the door. There was no answer but Buffy knew Dawn could hear her. “It just wasn’t the right night.” She’d needed to be alone last night; burn all of the anger and frustration from her limbs; needed to run so fast and far that she was too exhausted to feel the jumble of emotions inside.
“It never is, is it?” came the grumpy reply. Buffy didn’t know what to say. Then: “look at the paper”.
Buffy laid the paper on the end of Dawn’s bed. The front page carried an article about falling share prices in some local entertainment company with a small section at the bottom devoted to an enthusiastic report on the local Girl Guides’ bi-yearly bake-sale. She started flicking through the pages, not knowing what she was looking for. It wasn’t until she was halfway through the paper that the relevant article leapt out at her, declaring: ‘Lawyer Found Dead Outside Family Residence’. On the page facing it, the words ‘Teenager Reported Missing’ sat above the portrait of a young student with sandy blonde hair and a nervous-looking smile.
“I can’t be everywhere at once,” Buffy said to herself, feeling a twinge of guilt.
The Airmen at the SGC could be though, Buffy thought as she folded the paper closed. The sooner she assessed their skins and got them into the field the safer the people of Colorado Springs would be. Of course that meant finding some humility and facing Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c...
AUGUST 14 09:40
Fortunately for Buffy, Doctor Jackson’s plans for both herself and Dawn that morning granted her a short reprieve from having to face the Colonel and Teal’c. Instead, she found herself standing in the ’Gateroom staring up at the Stargate, feeling... the only word she could find to describe it was uncomfortable – and not just because of the artillery that the Airmen on guard were toting.
They were standing several feet from the base of the ramp that led up to and through the Stargate, directly beneath the Control Room window; they being Buffy, Doctor Jackson, Major Carter, and of course, Dawn. It was the first time that Buffy had really got a sense of the scale of the Stargate. Physically being in the same room with it made Buffy’s skin crawl for some reason, yet at the same time she found herself utterly fascinated, and from the wide-eyed, thrilled look Dawn shone at her, her sister felt the same way.
It looked to Buffy as though it were made of metal, but without the shininess that metal often had, the surface instead looking dull and aged beyond years. It was totally unlike anything she’d seen before, and, having spent seven years living on a Hellmouth, that was saying a lot. Appearing to be constructed primarily of interlocking rings - the centre ring carved with strange symbols and the outer two ornamented in an unfamiliar style - there were large triangular shapes pointing in towards the centre of the circle which ran around the outside of the Stargate at seemingly regular intervals.
“Okay, maybe it looks a little bigger from down here,” Dawn grudgingly admitted to Doctor Jackson, who’d been watching her reaction closely.
“Change of perspective, huh?” Daniel gave her an amused smile.
Something that had been bothering Buffy since they’d entered the room finally formulated itself in her mind and she frowned as she ran her eye carefully over the entirety of the Stargate, then turned slowly, taking in the whole room before turning to Major Carter.
“How did you get it in here?” Buffy asked.
“This base used to be a missile silo back in the days of the Cold War,” said Major Carter, directing Buffy’s gaze up to the ceiling above the Stargate. “The floors retract above here right the way up through the mountain so we just lowered it down, otherwise it might have been more than a little tricky.”
“How old is it?” Dawn asked, moving forward to place a foot on the base of the ramp, staring up in undisguised wonder.
“We haven’t been able to date it precisely,” answered Carter, taking up the mantle of tour guide. “Our current techniques for dating materials can’t go back far enough with any accuracy.”
“But we do know that the race who created the Stargates existed over thirty million years ago,” said Doctor Jackson.
“So really old then?” Buffy said wryly.
Dawn glanced back at Buffy with a look that said ‘god, don’t you take anything seriously?’ Buffy shrugged back, but Dawn’s attention had already returned to the Stargate and she was moving slowly forwards onto the ramp, her fingertips trailing the railing as though she needed to check her balance. Dawn walked onwards for another few steps, her head tilted back, staring up at the Stargate that loomed ever greater above her.
Buffy suddenly felt a wave of nervousness.
“It’s safe, right?” she said quickly, turning to Major Carter.
She wasn’t sure whether the sudden twisting feeling in her stomach was a reaction to the cold and possible poisonous day-old pizza she’d eaten for breakfast that morning or... she didn’t know what it was. What she did know was that she really didn’t like the idea of Dawn getting as close as she was to the Stargate.
She sensed... danger.
Major Carter nodded confidently. “There isn’t any activity scheduled for today until this afternoon,” she told her.
“It’s hard to believe there are... Stargates like this all over the galaxy, let alone thousands, millions of humans out there,” Dawn said, looking back at Doctor Jackson.
“And not just humans,” Doctor Jackson added, joining Dawn on the ramp.
“What Daniel means,” said a voice from behind Buffy, ‘is people who used to be human, many, many generations ago – like Teal’c here.”
Buffy started, turning quickly, already half in a fighting stance before she realised it was Colonel O’Neill, accompanied by the large, stoic Jaffa. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t sensed their approach.
Teal’c shifted his mass, drawing Buffy’s attention away from the cold look Colonel O’Neill was giving Doctor Jackson. “My people call the Stargate the Chappa’ai,” he volunteered in a calm tone, almost completely devoid of emotion.
Buffy froze, every muscle throughout her body tensing. Her mouth opened before her brain had a chance to slip back out of neutral and into gear and she heard herself blurting out the words “the Doorway to Heaven,” before she could stop herself.
Doctor Jackson’s head shot up from where he’d been fixedly studying the ramp beneath his feet.
“No. The direct translation is actually Staaaar – how did you know that?” he practically spluttered, his professional propensity to correct her linguistic error quickly giving way to incredulity.
“Yeah, Buffy,” frowned Dawn, “how did...”
“I... I heard it... umm,” Buffy stalled, not meeting the Doctor’s probing stare.
“Where? Exactly?” Major Carter asked, her head tilted in an expression of curiosity.
Buffy almost breathed a sigh of relief as a voice flooded out of the speakers positioned behind her, delaying, if only temporarily, the necessity for her to come up with a plausible answer.
UNSCHEDULED OFF WORL...
The announcer, a grey-haired man in the control room above sitting behind a microphone and staring open-mouthed at something Buffy couldn’t see on the screen before him, hesitated, glancing briefly down into the ’Gateroom in confusion.
Buffy whirled around at a sudden grinding noise coming from the Stargate, shocked to see the central section of the huge ring spinning slowly, wisps of smoke rising where it was held upright by the support structure, metal arms snaking up and around to grasp it at its sides. Without warning there came a clank, and a strange whooshing sound as one of the triangles unexpectedly glowed a deep orange and shot inwards about half a foot, encasing one of the odd symbols on the central ring.
Uggh... UNAUTHORISED GATE ACTIVATION; UNAUTHORISED GATE ACTIVATION.
There was a short pause, then the spinning, slowly at first but gradually picking up speed, began once again.
“Right:” said O’Neill, his voice worried as he put a hand on Buffy’s left shoulder and attempted to push her in the direction of the nearest exit, “everybody out, now!” Major Carter was already running from the ’Gateroom, Buffy assumed headed for the control room. “And that includes you, Daniel,” O’Neill added, glaring at the Doctor, who, like Buffy and Dawn was captivated by the spinning Stargate. More smoke was rising now, and the ramp was beginning to shake, it’s rattling joining the grinding of the Stargate.
“Jack, that’s an outgoing wormhole,” Doctor Jackson said, stepping forwards to take hold of Dawn arm. He jerked back as though he’d been stung.
“What’s going on up there?” O’Neill shouted up at the control room, Carter’s head appearing above a terminal which had been immediately vacated in deference of her expertise. The Stargate stopped spinning for the second time and another triangle glowed bright orange and shot inwards with a loud clank that seemed to resonate through Buffy’s body. “Today would be good,” O’Neill shouted at Carter, his voice almost swamped by the pounding of feet as several dozen, heavily armed Airmen entered and took up positions covering the Stargate.
“Sir, it’s not us,” Carter said, sharing a perplexed look with the technician. “The ’Gate is dialling out independently.”
A third triangle glowed and shot inwards. Buffy could feel her skin tingling with the energy that was filling the room. She shivered involuntarily, glancing around to see if anyone else could feel it.
“Teal’c,” O’Neill barked, turning towards the imposing Jaffa, even more imposing now that he’d commandeered a weapon from one of the Airmen. It looked like a child’s toy in his hands. “Get her out of here,” he ordered, nodding towards Buffy, his attention already back on the Stargate before he’d finished the sentence. Daniel, what the hell is wrong with you?”
Doctor Jackson, still standing halfway up the ramp, didn’t react to the shouting Colonel.
Buffy pulled away from Teal’c’s gentle insistence that they leave; she wasn’t going anywhere with Dawn still standing on the ramp, despite the fact that there didn’t appear to be any pressing danger to either of them. Admittedly she didn’t have a clue as to what was going on – but from everyone else’s reactions it didn’t seem she was the only one in the dark. The expression on the faces of the Airmen were tense and wary, their fingers twitching on the triggers of their guns.
Everything was happening so fast.
“Buffy Summers,” Teal’c said, his voice deep and surprisingly calm. He took hold of her arm, the pressure of his hand adamant.
The scream made Buffy jerk free of his grip, and push her way back through the crowd of nervous airmen. Dawn, her eyes wide and filled with fear, her mouth still open from screaming her sister’s name. The spinning Stargate faltered. Buffy felt her heart in her mouth as Dawn’s eyes rolled upwards into the back of her head and her legs gave out from under her, sinking down.
Doctor Jackson caught her just before she hit the ramp, dropping to his knees beside her as Buffy dived forwards, desperate to get to her unconscious sister.
AUGUST 14 14:42
Walking into Carter’s laboratory, something hard and brittle crunched under Jack’s boot. Taking care not to put all his weight on his bad knee, he bent down and picked the object up, rolling it between forefinger and thumb.
“Did she come round before or after Fraiser kicked you out of the infirmary?” asked Carter, not looking up from her computer.
Jack peered at the thing in his hand. It was a small lump of partially formed charcoal, and it was turning his skin black. On the corner of Carter’s work bench there was a small collection of similar looking objects, all in various states of charcoalyness. Jack shared a look with Daniel and Teal’c, who’d entered the laboratory behind him.
“She woke up... and then went back to sleep again,” he told Carter, dropping the charcoal on the pile and scattering them with a quiet clatter.
“She say anything about what happened?” Carter asked, looking exasperated at the disorder Jack was creating.
“Not to us,” said Jack, his tone somewhat bitter. “Fraiser wouldn’t let us in to see her.”
Yup, old Doc Fraiser had backed Buffy Summers up to the hilt the moment she’d expressed a wish to be alone with her sister, who’d woken up almost as scared as she’d been when she’d passed out. Jack could still see the look on Dawn’s face: the kid had been terrified.
Jack didn’t miss the ‘what did he do?’ look that Carter cast towards Daniel and Teal’c, before asking, “Well, what did ‘she’ say then?”
“Couldn’t find a thing wrong with her,” said Daniel. “All her stats were back to normal by the time we got her to the infirmary, apart from her being unconscious of course.”
“Fraiser didn’t find anything, not even with the scans?” frowned Carter.
“Buffy Summers would not allow Doctor Fraiser to carry out further tests to discover the source of her sister’s illness,” said Teal’c, disapprovingly.
“But that’s nuts,” protested Carter, “she’d want to know that her sister was okay, wouldn’t she?”
Jack shrugged; he was past predicting anything about Buffy Summers these days. Although Jack shared Teal’c’s disapproval of Buffy’s actions, he couldn’t help but admire the way the Slayer had stood up to Doctor Fraiser. He didn’t think he’d seen anyone other than General Hammond stand their ground against her and succeed.
“Either,” Daniel said thoughtfully, “either Buffy doesn’t care what’s wrong with her sister, or she already knows. Given how close they appear to be, I’d be inclined to think the latter.”
“Or she’s scared of what else we might find,” Carter said meaningfully.
Daniel looked confused. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“The Colonel didn’t tell you?” Carter said, surprised.
Daniel looked questioningly at the Colonel. “Jack?” he prompted.
“Carter and Teal’c think that there’s something funny about Dawn Summers,” said Jack.
Daniel raised his eyebrows. “Funny as in…?”
“They sensed something, we think it’s to do with the Naquadah in their systems,” said Jack.
Daniel glared at Jack. “And you didn’t tell me this because…?”
“It didn’t come up,” Jack defended himself.
“It didn’t come up?” Daniel snapped. “I’ve been working with her solidly for over a day now, and ‘it didn’t come up?’ When were you going to tell me? When she sprouted horns, or when she tried to kill me?”
Jack couldn’t help the grin that escaped. Daniel saw, looked angry, then an embarrassed smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“Okay,” he grinned, “even I think that sounded overly melodramatic, but my point is I’m working with her: I needed to know.”
“Message received and understood,” nodded Jack.
“Anything else about Buffy and Dawn I missed out on, seeing that we’re on the topic?” asked Daniel, pulling a stool out from under then bench and perching on its edge.
“Nothing concrete as yet,” said Carter, “but I’m digging up all I can find on her in the mean time.”
Carter quickly explained the statistical anomalies she’d discovered in Dawn’s school records to Daniel, who first looked confused, then unconvinced.
“Anyway, T said he didn’t reckon she’s dangerous, so we were just going to sit on it until… well, until something like ‘this’ happened,” finished Jack.
“She passed out,” said Daniel. “What’s suspicious about that? There could be hundreds of explanations as to why that happened. Scared, for example?”
“Bit of a coincidence, though, that the moment she passed out the ’Gate quit malfunctioning,” said Jack.
Daniel looked unconvinced.
“Daniel,” said Carter, angling her computer screen so all four of them could now see what she was working on, “for the Stargate to dial out it either needs to be linked up to a DHD or our computer system. We don’t have a DHD, and what happened this morning didn’t go through our computer systems; there is no record of any ’Gate activity since yesterday evening when SG-6 came back from P3X-299. I’ve checked the whole thing. What happened this morning was impossible.”
“Dialling out manually doesn’t require a computer or a DHD,” argued Daniel. “We’ve done that enough times to know it works.”
“Yes,” agreed Carter, “but then there’s either enough residual energy left in the Stargate, or it’s been hooked up to an external power source.” Carter ran a hand through her hair and gave Daniel an exhausted smile. “I’ve run simulations of the incident this morning, using the parameters set by what our computers were reading both before, during and after the ’Gate started dialling out, and there’s simply no way it should have happened. There was no power outage from the generators and no instruction from us. Nothing. The only time we’ve seen something like this is…”
“…from the Nox,” finished Daniel, his eye widening in comprehension. “So we’re back at the alien theory again?”
“Doh!” Jack said quietly.
AUGUST 14 16:23
Buffy slowly brushed a few stray strands of hair away from Dawn’s face, her touch light and feathery, careful not to disturb her sister’s sleep. She looked so peaceful, curled up like that on her side, her hands clutching at the pillow under her chin. The bruise on her face had almost faded away over the past couple of days, now appearing as a yellowy green patch below her left eye. Buffy’s hand hesitated fretfully over the blemish and then moved upwards to pass her fingers tenderly through the dark brown hair for the hundredth time since Dawn had gone back to sleep.
She sighed, wishing she could escape into sleep too, but when she forced herself to relax and close her eyes all she saw was Dawn’s face when she’d screamed for Buffy in the ’Gateroom, and her stomach would tie itself in fearful knots; anxiety clawing at her insides.
Looking back at what had happened Buffy had known something was going on well before Dawn had panicked. She had felt it. A raw, unrefined swell of power that had started to seep into the ’Gateroom the moment they’d stepped through the doorway. Nothing about any of it had felt evil or malicious; Buffy would have recognised it immediately for what it was if it had, it had just been unfamiliar. Uncomfortable. A feeling she had unthinkingly attributed to her embarrassment towards Colonel O’Neil and Teal’c, who kindly had yet to mention her behaviour. Sometimes Buffy wished she could kick herself. Preferably in the head.
One of the only things Buffy was thankful about was that everyone at the SGC seemed not to have a clue what had actually occurred that morning. When General Hammond had called by earlier to check personally on Dawn’s condition Buffy hadn’t seen suspicion in the Texan’s eyes, only concern. Buffy herself hadn’t figured it out until Dawn had finally woken up nearly a fully forty minutes after being rushed to the infirmary, and that was only because after Dawn had calmed down from her fright she had pretty much spelt it out for her sister.
Dawn had been dialling the Stargate.
From what Dawn had told her, before slipping into an exhausted sleep, it had been totally unintentional, uncontrolled, and, while not exactly painful, like she was being pulled somewhere against her will. Buffy had absolutely no clue as to how Dawn had done it, but breaking things down into simple, logical steps, and having had most of the day to dwell on the problem at Dawn’s bedside, Buffy had come to a conclusion.
Dawn had been... was the Key. The Key had been designed, created to open a portal. In a sense, the Stargate was a portal – in a round-about kind of way – a portal through time and space rather than between dimensions. What she’d seen in the ’Gateroom pointed fairly conclusively to the fact that the key, in some bizarre fashion, was active. But if that was the case, wouldn’t Dawn have been accidentally opening potential portals ‘willy-nilly’ for the past four years? The way Giles had explained, it the Key opened a specific portal at a specific time, and that time had passed three years ago. Dawn was now a normal, human, teenage girl. She had to be. Didn’t she? When Buffy closed her eyes, reaching out with her Slayer senses she found nothing unusual about Dawn. She felt... like her sister had always done... which, Buffy realised, told her absolutely zip.
Even at her lowest there had been something that scared Buffy. Dawn in danger. Dawn getting hurt. More than scared her in fact: terrified her. The sort of terror that was only compounded by the reality that they were both sitting in a secret military base, deep underground, alone, and without backup. Only one thing worried Buffy more than what had happened to Dawn in the ’Gateroom and that was the SGC figuring out what had really happened. The SGC finding out that Dawn was the Key. Buffy hadn’t forgotten the state Oz had been in when he’d finally gotten away from the Initiative and the thought of that happening to Dawn made Buffy’s blood run cold. She’d seen nothing so far to indicate that General Hammond or Doctor Frasier were like Maggie Walsh, and Buffy had been looking very hard, but that didn’t mean letting hers or Dawn’s guard down.
Buffy sighed tiredly and leant back in her chair, staring up at the white ceiling tiles. One good thing had happened as a result of the chaos in the ’Gateroom this morning: everyone seemed to have forgotten her blunder regarding her apparent ability to translate or rather, miss-translate Teal’c’s native language. She felt strangely let down by Giles over that.
If the word Chapp’ai didn’t mean ‘the Doorway to Heaven’ and was in fact the name for an actual object did that mean her interpretation of the dream that had plagued her every night for two months solid was wrong? Did that mean she wasn’t going to die? Buffy closed her eyes. Somehow that didn’t feel right, however much she’d like to believe it. The word brought such dread in her heart – something was going to take her away from Dawn.
She pushed that thought to the back of her mind. Here and now. That was what mattered. How to extricate Dawn and herself out of the tricky questions that were going to be coming their way the moment Dawn was out of bed and out of Doctor Frasier’s domain. Tell them Dawn was feeling light-headed with excitement and was panicked by the Stargate’s firing up? Buffy snorted to herself. Like they’d believe that!
One thing was for sure; Dawn was going nowhere near the ’Gateroom anytime this century.
God. Dawn was the Key.
“They can never know. Never,” Buffy said, hating the shakiness that crept into her voice. She looked down at Dawn. “Should I call Giles?” Buffy asked her sleeping sister. There was no reply, and Buffy hadn’t expected one. Buffy reached over again to stroke Dawn’s hair, touch again the fading bruise and swear… swear…
The sound of the infirmary door swinging open brought Buffy out of her thoughts and she looked up warily. Doctor Jackson hovered in the doorway, a cup of coffee in each hand and a cautious smile on his face.
“I thought you could probably do with something,” he said, gesturing with the coffee. “I er, didn’t know if you took milk or sugar.”
Buffy smiled and nodded. “I like my sugar with coffee sometimes,” she quipped, taking the proffered cup, “but right now I’d drink anything. Thanks.” She held it up before her, turning it to inspect it carefully, then looked back up at Doctor Jackson, eyebrows raised. “Funny, you can’t see the strings…”
“None attached, promise,” Doctor Jackson shook his head. “Jack been giving you a hard time?”
“What gave it away?” Buffy replied, sipping lightly at the coffee and grimacing at the stale taste.
“The relief on your face when you saw who it wasn’t,” he replied. “And I bumped into Frasier on my way in here; said she’d had to play bouncer a few times.”
“Yet she lets you in,” Buffy pointed out.
“Ah, but I’m bringing you coffee,” explained Doctor Jackson, “plus, I’m on good terms with the nurses here – something which Jack definitely isn’t.”
Buffy shook her head. “He acts like he’s convinced we’re both going to sprout horns and start killing people,” she complained.
Doctor Jackson looked uncomfortable.
Dawn stirred restlessly in the bed beside them, pulling the pillow further under her head, eyes tightly shut against the muted light. Buffy rose and nodded for Doctor Jackson to precede her out into the corridor so that their conversation didn’t disturb Dawn’s rest.
“Yunno,” Buffy continued once the door had swung to behind them, “I get the distinct impression he doesn’t much like me.” She stared through the metal mesh within the doors’ glass windows back into the infirmary.
“Oh, he’ll get used to you,” Doctor Jackson reassured her. “The thing about Jack is that he doesn’t like anyone at first. Well, except for Teal’c, which was odd…” He frowned, licking his lips. “The thing is,” he hesitated, “the thing is, you have to earn Jack’s respect before he’ll trust you. I’m not saying that’s an easy thing to do, just that how he’s being isn’t personal, it’s just his way of figuring out exactly who you are and what your agenda is.”
Buffy shrugged her shoulders. “I’m a Vampire Slayer: how much clearer about my agenda can I be?”
“Well… he probably doesn’t like the fact that you can whoop his ass without breaking a sweat,” he said, his grin tentative at most.
“So, it might be just personal then,” she said dryly.
“Maybe just a little,” Daniel admitted into his cup. Swallowing a mouthful of coffee, he made a sour face. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Buffy asked.
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Buffy replied. It tasted like it’d been brewing for twenty-four hours solid. Buffy frowned and sipped at hers again. She felt like she deserved the punishment.
Where was the question she knew all of them were dying to ask – what had happened to Dawn that morning? She frowned at Doctor Jackson. What was this mentoring session / friendly banter for? Good cop, bad cop? No prizes for guessing who the bad cop was, that at least was clear…
“Is she feeling any better?” Doctor Jackson asked, nodding towards the sleeping form just visible through the small square window.
“I think so.” Again with the concern, thought Buffy. It sounded like he genuinely cared; what was it with these people? “God,” she said, the shakiness returning to her voice, “if anything happened to Dawnie I’d…” She turned away from him just in time to hide the tears that sprung into her eyes.
She was going to have to leave her: the thought returned with a vengeance, tearing at Buffy’s insides.
‘I want to see you grow up, the woman you’re going to become, because she’s going to be…’
Buffy started and jerked away at the feel of Doctor Jackson’s hand on her arm. Warm coffee slopped over the back of her right hand and dripped on the floor. She wanted be alone. Be alone with just Dawn, if that made sense. Just her Dawn, no one else. No SGC, no vampires, no demons, no Powers That Be. If she didn’t pull herself together right now…
“I’m sorry, I’m just not comfortable with this,” she excused herself, glancing back down the corridor. “It sets me on edge. Too military,” she added by way of explanation.
“You get used to it,” Doctor Jackson said knowingly.
Buffy fixed the Doctor with an open, honest stare, no longer caring if he could see her wretchedness. “I don’t want to.” She turned back to the infirmary and pushed against the door, only to have Doctor Jackson lay a light hand on her shoulder.
“Buffy?” he said quietly. “Buffy, I understand Dawn is a huge priority to you, but if there was something about either yourself or your sister that would harm anyone here you’d tell me, right?”
Ah, thought Buffy, the point this whole conversation had been building up to. The tone of his voice told her all she needed to know about whether or not the SGC were aware Dawn was involved in that morning’s incident other than just being an innocent bystander. Yep, they definitely weren’t going to believe the whole ‘excited teenager’ line she’d been half-heartedly preparing. She frowned, thinking hard about her response – if she got it right, maybe they’d let it drop? Buffy laughed inwardly at herself; she didn’t have to be a pessimist to know that ‘that’ wasn’t going to happen… but if she could delay things long enough to complete the mission?
Buffy took a deep breath. “What happened this morning was unintentional,” she replied, still facing away from him, staring at her sister, “and it won’t happen again, you have my word. The cause is of no concern to the SGC.” Buffy closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the edge of the door. “The privacy clause in mine and Dawn’s contracts are there for a reason, Doctor Jackson, and all I ask is that they are respected. If there is anything you need to know you will be told, as we agreed.”
Without looking to see how her words had been received Buffy pushed through the door leaving it to swing shut behind her, between herself and Doctor Jackson, and returned to Dawn, trying to control the fear that was threatening to tear her apart.