Daniel sat at his desk and gazed at the pile of boxes stacked on the floor. The boxes held the personal possessions of Nicholas Ballard, Daniel's grandfather. They'd come from the facility that had been Nick's home for twenty years, a home he would not be returning to. Nick was gone, now living in an alternate dimension with the "giant aliens" that he had spent so many years trying to find again.
A part of Daniel didn't want to go through the boxes, feeling that he should just store them away somewhere until Nick's return . . . if he ever returned. But curiosity finally got the better of the archeologist, and he began looking through the things. He was on the third box when he found a book that had the word "Diary" inscribed on the cover in gold lettering. The pale pink color of the diary meant that it couldn't possibly have been Nick's. Could it have belonged to Nick's wife, the grandmother Daniel never knew? Figuring that it wouldn't do any harm to find out, he took a peek inside the front cover. He drew in a sharp breath upon seeing the name written there: Claire Ballard. The diary had belonged to Daniel's mother. It was apparently an old diary, started sometime before Claire married Daniel's father.
Daniel stared at the book, his conscience grappling with his desire to know what was inside. There were so many things he didn't know about his mother, things about her life before Daniel was born, things about her hopes, fears, and dreams. He had been so young when his parents died that they'd never really talked to him about such things. And he wanted to know, wanted a bigger picture of the woman who had been at the center of his existence for the first eight years of his life.
At last deciding that his mom wouldn't mind if he looked at the diary, Daniel turned the page and began to read. The diary had been started just a couple of months before Claire met Melburn. Once it reached that point, most of the entries featured him in a starring role. Daniel smiled at some of his mother's comments about the man that she would one day marry.
Daniel soon discovered something he never knew. Nick had not approved of the relationship between Claire and Melburn, believing that the man wasn't good enough for his daughter. Claire said in her diary that she thought the real reason was that, instead of the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica, Melburn's passions lie in Egyptology, and he was luring Claire away from following in her father's footsteps. Claire revealed in her diary that, unknown to her father, she had already been developing more of an interest in Ancient Egypt than the civilization of the Maya that fascinated Nick so much.
Finally, the diary got to the part where Melburn proposed to Claire. It expressed her joy and excitement. Several pages later, however, those feelings changed. The two of them had broken up after having a huge fight. Angry and upset, Claire went off to Venice Beach to spend some time with a school friend of hers and relax on the beach.
What Daniel read a couple of pages later shocked him.
"I met someone last night," Claire wrote. "Jean and I went to a club, one of those noisy places with fast dancing. It really isn't the kind of place I like, but I just wanted to get my mind off Mel. But I finally couldn't stand it anymore and went outside for some air. There was a man outside, quite good-looking, with reddish hair. He smiled and nodded at me, but there was a kind of sadness about him. I don't know why, but I walked over to him, and we got into a conversation. I found out that he was in the Air Force and that he'd just broken up with his girlfriend. Well, that led to me pouring my heart out about Mel. He really seemed to understand and care. We decided to go someplace nicer. After saying goodbye to Jean, I went with him to another club, a much classier place with slow music and slow dancing. We were there for hours, talking about ourselves, our families. It was really nice.
"But then I made a terrible mistake. I went to his motel room with him, and we made love. When I told him it was my first time, he was so gentle with me. He made it beautiful and wonderful, a night I know I'll never forget. I know that the only reason it happened was that we were both hurting and needed something to take the pain away. I can't blame him for it. He didn't push me into it. I wanted it just as much as he did. But it should never have happened. He was just on leave and would be going home the next day, and, in a few days, I'd be going home, too. I knew that I'd probably never see him again.
"This morning, I went with him to the airport. We said goodbye, and I watched him fly away."
Daniel was surprised by what he'd just read, his mother's confession of a one-night-stand. Not that such a thing was never done back then. It was the sixties, when both men and women were starting to shake the bonds that had been placed upon sexuality for so many years. But the fact that it was his own mother shed a different light on the incident.
Daniel turned to the next page, noting that the date of the entry said it was just a couple of days later.
"Mel called. We talked for a long time, during most of which I cried. I came back home, and we talked some more."
Claire went on to recount that she and Mel got back together that very day, consummating their love in a glorious night of lovemaking. The pages that followed were about the renewal of their engagement and their happiness at being back together.
"I'm pregnant," Claire announced several pages later. "I just told Mel. He was surprised, but he handled it well. He said that we should get married right away, and I agreed. We're heading off to Las Vegas tomorrow. I'm sad that my friends won't be there to witness our union, but I'm not sad that Dad won't be there. He's been so difficult about the whole thing with Mel that I'm not sure he'd even have been there if we had a regular wedding. Well, to heck with him. I love Mel, and I'm going to marry him. Tomorrow, I will be Mrs. Claire Jackson. Oh, just the sound of that makes me so happy."
Smiling, Daniel continued reading. The pages that followed talked about their married life and the digs they worked on.
And then came Daniel's birth. He read the words of joy that his mother inscribed in the book, the love she felt for him the instant she laid eyes upon him. From that point on, Daniel was the main subject of many of the entries.
"Mel is completely smitten with Daniel," Claire wrote a while later, when Daniel was around six months old. "He's constantly playing with him, making silly faces and noises just to make Danny laugh. It's amazing how such a serious, mature man can make a complete fool out of himself all to make his child laugh. Watching them together, I know that I'll never be able to tell Mel the truth that I've finally had to accept, the truth I knew somewhere deep in my heart the moment I saw that reddish tint in Danny's hair. How could I ever tell Mel that Danny isn't his son?"
Daniel's breath froze in his lungs, his whole body stilling. He stared at the words in disbelief, shaken to the very core by what he'd just learned. Feeling numb, he read the next paragraph.
"From the day I learned that I was pregnant, I have known that there was a fifty percent chance that Danny was not Mel's child, but I had hoped so much that he was. Even after Danny's birth and the red in his hair became evident, I still wanted to believe that he was Mel's. I ignored all the comments people made about not seeing any of Mel's features in Danny. But I just can't deny it anymore. I have to accept the truth. But no one else ever needs to know. Mel is Danny's father in all the ways that truly matter."
The words on the page blurred as Daniel's eyes lost focus. For all his life, he had been secure in the knowledge that he was the son of Claire and Melburn Jackson. He'd had no reason to doubt that. Though his mom's hair had been blonde and his father's black, Daniel had never wondered about the red highlights that had been quite evident in his hair when he was younger, highlights that had gradually faded the older he got and the darker his hair became.
Now that Daniel knew the truth, he didn't know what to do. Somewhere out in the world might still live a man who was Daniel's biological father. He'd been in the Air Force when Claire met him. Maybe he still was. Would Daniel be able to find him?
Daniel picked up the book and skimmed through the pages that talked about the man Claire had one night of passion with. He realized that she never mentioned the guy's name. He jumped forward to the pages after the point he'd stopped reading and saw that she never again wrote about Daniel's parentage.
Closing the book, Daniel stared at the cover. He had no name, no clue to where the guy had been stationed. All he knew what that the man who fathered him had spent his leave in the fall of 1964 in Venice Beach, California and that he had reddish hair. That wasn't much to go on, especially after all these years.
But should Daniel even pursue this? Did he even want to know who that man was? Melburn Jackson might not have fathered him, but he was still Daniel's father in his heart. He was the man who loved him, guided him, taught him so many things about Egypt and the rest of the world. Wouldn't any attempt to find Daniel's biological father be a betrayal of that relationship, those memories?
"Daniel, are you okay?"
The archeologist started and looked up. Sam was standing just a few feet away, gazing at him in concern.
"Um . . . yeah. I'm . . . I'm okay."
Sam frowned. "You don't sound all that sure, and your expression a moment ago certainly didn't look like you were okay."
Daniel sighed and began toying with the diary. "I was, uh . . . reading my mom's diary. It was in with Nick's stuff."
Sam sat down. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked gently, knowing that the pain of losing his parents was still buried deep inside. That had been all too clear during the events on P7J-989, when the Keeper forced him to relive that horrible day over and over again.
Daniel didn't look at her. "It, um . . . it was nice reading Mom's thoughts, really learning who she was on the inside. It's an old diary, starting before she met my da—" Daniel's voice stumbled. "My dad. It goes through their engagement, the wedding, my birth and almost a year beyond."
Sam smiled. "That's nice. I bet it was really interesting reading all that."
"Sam, I . . . I found out something, and, now, I don't know what to do."
The astrophysicist frowned. "What did you find out?"
Daniel finally looked at her. "I found out that I'm not Melburn Jackson's son, that I'm the product of a one-night-stand my mother had after she and Melburn had a big fight and broke up."
Sam's eyes widened. "Oh . . . my," she breathed.
"Yeah. Ironically, he was in the Air Force. Talk about a coincidence."
"But, Daniel, that means that your real father might still be alive."
"Holy Hannah. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I have no name, no details on who he was, where he was stationed. How would I find him . . . and should I even try?"
Sam could understand his hesitancy to go looking for the man who fathered him. If he actually succeeded, it was unlikely that the guy would be all that happy to know that he had an illegitimate son, the result of a one-night-stand with a woman who'd probably meant nothing to him.
"I need to think about this, Sam," Daniel said.
She nodded and got to her feet. "Of course. But, Daniel, if you need to talk about it, you can come to me at any time. Okay?"
Daniel looked up at her and gave her a little smile. "Thanks, Sam."
Over the next two days, Daniel's mind was not really on his work. It took a while, but Jack finally noticed.
"Okay, so what's up with you?" he asked.
Daniel looked at him. "What do you mean what's up with me?"
"You've been distracted lately. Twice now I've come into your office and found you staring at nothing. You usually don't stare at nothing. Your eyes are generally aimed at some book, artifact or other such thing. So, I ask again. What's up with you?"
Daniel frowned. "Have you ever considered that it might be personal?"
Jack straddled a chair. "Well, yeah. Look, Daniel. If you don't want to talk about it, I'm not gonna push, but you need to either resolve whatever it is or move on. Hammond happened to mention that you had two spelling errors in your last report."
"Doctor Daniel Jackson having spelling errors in his report? That's pretty much tantamount to Earth's sun rising in the west or all the Goa'uld never doing anything bad again."
"I think those two things are a lot more unbelievable, Jack."
"Only just barely."
Daniel sighed and stared at the top of his desk. "What would you do if you ever discovered that you weren't really who you always thought you were?"
"I can't say, Daniel. It depends on what you mean. Did you discover that you're actually the son of alien visitors? That wouldn't surprise me much."
"No, I discovered that I'm the illegitimate son of a man my mother spent only one night with."
Jack's jaw dropped. "Uhhh . . . okay." He struggled for words. "Um . . . damn. That's. . . ."
Daniel sighed again. "Yeah."
"How did you find out?"
"My mother's diary. It was in with Nick's things."
"Do you know who the guy was?"
Daniel shook his head. "She never said his name. He was in the Air Force."
"Well, that's . . . ironic."
"I've been trying to decide what to do. I should just forget about the whole thing."
Jack leaned forward. "Daniel, you just found out that the man you thought was your father wasn't and that the man who really fathered you is some guy who might still be alive. I don't see how you can forget something like that."
Daniel didn't respond, continuing to stare at the desk with a frown knitting his brow. "So, what do I do?" he finally asked. "My chances of finding him are pretty poor, and, even if I do, I can't just walk up to him and say, 'Hi, Dad. I'm your illegitimate son.'"
"No, a less direct approach would probably work better. The thing is, Daniel, would you be able to just walk away from this and never even try to find him? He's your father."
"No, Melburn Jackson was my father. This guy was . . . was some stranger I never knew." Daniel looked at Jack. "What would you do if you were me?"
"Well, putting aside the fact that just the thought of me being you gives me the willies, if I was in your position, I'd want to know."
Daniel's gaze went off to a spot across the room.
"So, how much do you know about this guy?" Jack asked.
"Not much." Daniel told him what little he did know.
"Well, you're right. It wouldn't be easy, but it's probably not impossible. We know that he was apparently stationed stateside at the time he met your mother, which narrows it down a bit. He wasn't married, that is unless he lied about just having broken up with his girlfriend. We'd have to look at all the records of the men who were stationed in the States in the fall of '64. It would be a big list, but, since service records give hair color, we'd be able to narrow it down quite a lot."
Daniel stared at him. "We?"
"Yes, we. I'm a colonel and can get records you can't, even with your high security clearance."
"And what do I do if we actually manage to find him?"
"That's going to be up to you, Daniel. You should talk to General Hammond about this."
"Because he's a general and can get access to even more info than me and can cut through any red tape faster. It might take a bit to track the guy down if he's no longer in the military."
Daniel shook his head. "I'd feel really uncomfortable about that."
Jack shrugged. "It's up to you." He got to his feet. "If you decide you want to do this, let me know."
The next day, Daniel went to General Hammond's office.
"Um . . . sir, could I talk to you for a moment?" he asked.
"Certainly, Doctor Jackson. Come in."
Daniel sat in the chair across from the desk, nervously toying with the envelope in his hands.
"Sir, I, um, recently found out something. Among the personal items of my grandfather's was an old diary that belonged to my mother. In reading it, I discovered something about myself."
Hammond watched the man before him, seeing how ill-at-ease he was.
"Go on, Son," he said gently, encouragingly.
"I, uh . . ." Daniel drew in a deep breath. "I found out that Melburn Jackson wasn't my biological father, that I'm actually the child of a man my mother spent a night with before she married Melburn."
Surprised by the admission, the general took a moment to speak. "I see. I can understand how upsetting that would be to you."
Daniel nodded. "Since I found out, I've been trying to decide what to do. He was in the Air Force."
"And you're considering trying to find him?"
"Yeah. Maybe it's a mistake, but if I don't at least try, I'll always wonder who he was. Jack suggested that I come to you, that you might be able to help in the search since you'd have access to record and files that he wouldn't. I know very little about the guy, not even his name. I'd understand if you said you didn't want to get involved."
General Hammond gazed into the eyes of the young man, seeing all the doubts and turmoil in the blue depths.
"I'll be happy to do what I can to help, Doctor Jackson."
Daniel relaxed fractionally. He handed the envelope to the man. "This is all the information I have. It's pretty sketchy."
"I'll take a look at it later and see what I can do."
"Thank you, sir." Daniel got to his feet. "I really appreciate this."
The archeologist went back to his office and tried to get some work done. At around seven p.m., he decided to go on home. After dinner, he turned on the TV, but soon turned it right back off, unable to concentrate. He then got one of his books and attempted to read. He didn't fare much better with that.
What was he going to do if they found his biological father and it turned out that the man was still alive? Would he talk to the guy or just leave it at that and continue with his life? He certainly was not so naive as to think that his father would welcome him with open arms. It would very likely be just the opposite. Daniel didn't need that, didn't need more rejection, loss and pain in his life.
It was going on ten when the doorbell rang. Daniel was surprised to see that it was General Hammond.
"I hope I didn't disturb you," the man said.
"Um, no, not at all. Come in."
The general came into the apartment.
"Can I get you something?" Daniel asked.
"No thank you." Hammond turned to him. "This is about your biological father."
Daniel's eyes widened. "Don't tell me that you've found him already."
"Yes. Yes, I have. It . . . turns out that I know him." He gestured toward the couch. "Come sit down."
The two men took a seat.
"At the time he met your mother, your father was a young airman who'd just broken up with the woman he'd been dating for two years. He was on his last leave before being transferred to a new post and decided to go to the coast to clear his head and find some peace. That's where he met your mother. She was a beautiful, vibrant woman who was going through the same pain of a failed relationship. Though he knew it shouldn't have happened, he made love with her that very night. The next day, he left and never saw her again. A month later, he and his girlfriend got back together, and they were married eight months after that. He never knew that the one night he spent with your mother produced a son."
Daniel was staring at the floor. "Is he still alive?"
"Yes, he's still alive." Hammond paused. "Daniel." He waited for the archeologist to look at him. "I was that young airman, Daniel. I'm your father."