Eight days. Eight long days since SG-1 had been off world. Every planet that looked promising had eventually fizzled. Jack realized it was taking a toll on his team’s nerves. Twice they had been geared up, ready to go when the MALP detected a problem that resulted in the mission being scrubbed.
Coming into work everyday, researching possible worlds, analyzing options, filling out reports, preparing mentally and physically, and then... nothing. They were all feeling the effects as telltale signs of frustration rose. Sam was curt and snappish when questioned about details in her reports. Daniel seemed quiet for Daniel, not quite as confident in his recommendations. And, Teal’c, well, Teal’c was sounding a bit... sarcastic. That could be Jack’s own imagination, but he didn’t think so. Worst of all, they were all developing a disturbingly low tolerance for the colonel’s brand of humor. It wasn’t personal. Jack likened it to cabin fever. It was nothing a few days off world wouldn’t cure, but being team leader, he felt the need to take more immediate action.
Jack decided eating was the answer. Sharing a meal was the traditional O’Neill family solution to bringing loved ones together. It worked when he was a kid and it would work now. The team had agreed to dinner off base tonight. Not only that, they were meeting for lunch in the commissary at 1300 hours to go over their individual reports on the feasibility of P6X-219 before the official briefing. Jack was certain P6X-219 was a lock. Hammond was prepared to send them to Timbuktu at this point.
Jack checked his watch, oh eight hundred. He might still be able to catch a little breakfast with the kids. He was aware of the old adage, ‘too much of a good thing.’ He just didn’t happen to agree with it.
Jack spotted his three teammates at a table against the back wall. He rushed through the line, disappointed to note they were almost finished eating. He scanned his breakfast tray, immensely satisfied with his choice of cereal, banana and a carton of milk. Real milk too. None of that blue, transparent crap Daniel and Carter passed off as milk.
“I don’t think the Air Force would allow that, Teal’c,” Carter said cheerfully. “But you’re right. Daniel would kick ass.”
“Daniel’d kick whose ass?” Jack asked, setting the tray down. He pulled out a chair and heartily ripped opened the carton, his eyebrow raised in slight confusion at the final snippet of the conversation he’d just walked in on.
“Anyone’s,” Carter answered without further explanation.
“Anyone’s?" Jack’s impatience was obvious by the sarcastic tone. "How about mine? Think Daniel could kick MY ass?” He sucked in his gut, puffed out his chest and tried to look like a lean, mean, Special Ops, fighting machine.
“Absolutely,” Carter and Teal’c agreed in unison.
He’s a scientist for cryin’ out loud," Jack bellowed.
“Jeopardy, Jack,” Daniel explained with a sigh. “Teal’c watched Jeopardy last night and he thought I would... you know...”
“Kick geek ass,” Jack supplied enthusiastically. “Yes, I’m sure you would, Dannyboy. But I think Carter is right about it being a ‘no no’ as far as the Air Force is concerned.” Jack shoveled in a few more spoonfuls of Froot Loops while Daniel tried to ignore the mocking tone.
Jack swallowed another mouthful before shocking them all. “It’s a great idea though. Something I’m going to try when I retire.”
Daniel froze. Sam and Teal’c stopped to gape up at their CO.
“What?” Jack shrugged, peeling his banana, breaking off huge chunks and dramatically tossing them into his bowl.
“You, you want to go on Jeopardy, sir?” Carter asked hesitantly.
“Jeopardy? Do I look like a plaid shirt, bow tie, four eyed, anal-retentive kind of guy? Jeopardy? Geez, Carter, get a grip.” Jack popped the last of the banana into his mouth and washed it down by picking up his bowl and slurping up the remains.
“Ah.” He smacked his lips with satisfied approval, a hint of a white moustache gracing the corners of his mouth. “I was thinking more along the lines of... Survivor.”
Daniel rolled his eyes; Carter furiously beat back a smile while Teal’c appeared to be considering the idea.
“Um, Jack,” Daniel started bravely. “Isn’t that the show where the participants get to vote on who stays and who goes?”
Sam admired Daniel’s attempt to gently lead the Colonel towards the light.
“The very one, Daniel. Talk about kicking ass. I’d whip my sorry teammates into shape in no time. Those weak willed, whiny housewives and crybaby, pansy ass, fruitcakes wouldn’t stand a chance. I can’t lose. I’m actually figuring that million into my retirement plan.”
Apparently, the Colonel was content living in the dark.
“I think what Daniel is trying to say, sir, is that those housewives and... fruit cakes would be the ones doing the voting,” Sam tried cautiously.
Jack appeared to give this serious thought. “Oh. And you think they might vote me off?” He seemed astonished at the revelation.
“First day,” Sam nodded grimly.
“First hour.” Daniel mumbled the correction under his breath.
“You say something, Daniel?” Jack snapped.
“Yeah. I gotta get back to work,” Daniel announced abruptly, choking down a laugh, making a hasty retreat to his office.
“Carter,” Jack scowled, “first day?”
Sam jumped to her feet, unable to contain the grin that broke across her face. “Just something to think about, sir,” she soothed, as she made her escape.
“It is something to consider, O’Neill,” Teal’c offered diplomatically. “All of the Tau’ri may not be strong enough to endure the rigors necessary for you to accomplish your objectives.” Teal’c bowed his head slightly and hightailed it out of there with the rest of them.
“Wimps,” Jack thought.
Teal’c had a point, though. Those civilians would drive him crazy. He could always go with Plan B. Plan B was foolproof, his ace in the hole... Fear Factor. Jack smiled. None of that voting crap. It was a lock. Eating at the commissary five days a week definitely gave him an edge.
“So, kids! How’s P6X-219 looking?” Jack set down his tray and pulled out the empty chair.
Sam gave a brief, enthusiastic report on the possible resources available on the unexplored planet.
Daniel launched into his preliminary interpretation of the ruins he had studied via MALP photographs. He was practiced at talking fast, putting out as much information as possible before someone, usually Jack, cut him off. The interruption never came. Realizing he was getting a bit long winded, he paused for a breath and glanced up at his audience. Sam and Teal’c’s eyes were on him. Jack was busy scanning the room. Daniel glanced around, didn’t spot anything of particular interest and happily went back to his theories on the demise of P6X-219.
“Any questions?” Daniel asked, satisfied he had more than made a case for an off world mission.
“I have a question.” Jack dabbed the corner of his mouth with a napkin. “Why are we sitting at the same table we sat at for breakfast?”
It took Daniel a minute to recover. “I-I don’t know... are we?”
“Yes, we are. The very same one. Why?”
Daniel took a deep breath and looked a little flustered. “I don’t know, Jack, I just picked a table. Is it important?”
“Seems odd. Out of so many tables...”
“Do you want to change tables?” Daniel used every ounce of self-control at his disposal to appear calm.
“Well, no. Not now.” Jack’s hand gestured around the room, as if stating the obvious. “Now...”
“Then let’s just drop it,” Daniel interrupted.
“So, you were saying...?” Sam coaxed, attempting to get the boys back on track.
Jack and Daniel both started speaking at the same time. “You first,” Jack offered graciously. He was rewarded with a glare from his chatty archeologist.
“The Goa’uld were definitely there and not more than a few hundred years ago.” Daniel finished with a bang, mustering up his former enthusiasm.
His teammates nodded eagerly, relieved at the prospect of going off world again.
“JACK?” Daniel deferred, managing to put more sarcasm into a syllable than seemed possible.
“Oh, well, I was just going to say that the perimeter tables are all occupied now. You know I don’t sit in the middle,” he expounded pleasantly.
“Afraid of an attack on the SGC cafeteria? Some deranged officer didn’t get his fair share of tuna casserole, perhaps?” Daniel smirked, rising to his feet. “I gotta get back to work.”
That rang a bell. Daniel the first to leave, saying he needed to get back to work. A little deje vu from this morning’s breakfast scenario. Hmm, could be a table connection in there somewhere. Jack gallantly fought the urge to point it out. Instead, he yelled at Daniel’s back. “Don’t forget dinner tonight. Rafferty’s, 1900 hours.”
Daniel heard the reminder along with everyone else in the commissary. He didn’t turn around, but raised his hand with a quick wave of acknowledgement. He had to give Jack that much or General Hammond would be announcing their plans over the COM for the entire base’s entertainment.
“He heard me,” Jack said confidently.
“You still want to go out to dinner, Colonel?” Sam asked a little bewildered. “We’ve already shared breakfast and lunch today. We could save it for another time, sir,” she suggested hopefully.
“Nonsense, Carter,” Jack beamed. “I made reservations!”
“What do you think?” Jack asked after they were seated.
Rafferty’s was a pleasant neighborhood bar & grill with a small dining room separated from the bar area. Being a weeknight, only half of the tables were occupied. The atmosphere was casual and comfortable.
“Nice,” Sam acknowledged. Teal’c bowed his head in agreement.
“Table to your liking, Jack?” Daniel teased after the four of them were seated.
Jack did an obvious check of the room for show. “It’ll do. Why?” Daniel smiled and shook his head, marveling at Jack’s audacity to ask.
Jack recommended the burgers, specifically the ‘Big Bob’ burger, in a manner that left no room for argument or alternate ordering. After breakfast and lunch, they wisely succumbed to the Colonel’s wishes.
Happily, the recommendation was excellent. The burgers were scrumptious, thick and juicy, oozing with cheese.
“How’s the food?” Jack asked his quietly chewing companions.
“Most enjoyable, O’Neill,” Teal’c agreed heartily. “Perhaps I shall order another.”
“I have to say, sir, this is delicious. Beats that limp salad I had for lunch.” Sam was savoring every tasty bite.
After a brief lull, Jack realized he was one rave short. “Daniel, you’re suspiciously quiet.”
“Well, I’m sure it’s good, it’s just that I asked for well done and it’s a little...pink.” Daniel pursed his lips, emphasizing the ‘P’.
“Let me see it.”
“No. You don’t have to see it, Jack. It’s pink.”
Just then the waitress came by to ask if everything was okay. Three ‘greats’, along with one hesitant, dissenting opinion.
“Well, actually, they ordered medium well, I ordered well, and mine’s not quite done.” Daniel made the mistake of showing the waitress the burger.
“Hey, no fair. Why does she get to see Daniel’s Big Bob?” Jack whispered his complaint to Sam and Teal’c just loud enough for Daniel to hear.
Daniel bit down on his lower lip, hoping the server hadn’t heard the juvenile remark. The twenty something waitress flashed Daniel a sexy smile. “No problem.” She seemed agreeable enough. “I’ll have them throw it back on the grill for a few more minutes.”
“Thank you.” Daniel smiled behind a blush as the girl disappeared with the burger.
“Hmm, you probably shouldn’t have done that,” Jack sighed.
“Why not? It was pink.” Daniel explained for the third time. The look on Jack’s face made Daniel want to place his hands over his ears and loudly hum The Star Spangled Banner.
“Haven’t you ever seen Sixty Minutes? About what happens to food that gets sent back by complainers?” Jack shook his head in mock sympathy.
Daniel decided to ignore Jack’s goading, but Teal’c seemed interested. “I have not seen this particular Sixty Minutes, O’Neill. Please explain.”
Jack was more than happy to oblige the big guy. “Cooks and waitresses have been known to even the score with difficult customers by spitting or, well, doing other unpleasant things with bodily fluids to the complainer’s food.
“I was not aware of this distasteful custom. Shall I go check on Daniel Jackson’s burger?”
“No, Teal’c, it’s okay,” Daniel intervened. “Jack’s being ridiculous. And I am not difficult,” he added indignantly.
“Well, actually,” Sam jumped in. “I saw that report too. And, when I was a teenager I had friends who worked at McDonalds and I did hear some unbelievably gruesome stories.”
Jack shot Daniel a smug ‘I told you so’ look.
“I’m sure that would never happen here though,” Sam quickly amended after glimpsing the expression on Daniel’s face.
“I was only just sayin’...” Jack added vaguely.
The waitress interrupted, reappearing with the burger. “You let me know how it is, sweetie,” she said with a wicked smile.
There was an awkward moment of silence as the four of them eyeballed the burger, attempting to threat assess the condition of the re-cooked ground beef.
Sam was the first to snap out of it. “Daniel, did you see the output the modified reactor generated today?” she asked, in an effort to distract Daniel from the stare down contest he was having with Big Bob.
“Carter, we are not going to talk about work,” Jack interrupted sharply. “Anyone catch the Avalanche game last night?”
“Indeed, O’Neill, it was a great victory for your team.” Teal’c’s enthusiastic attempts to understand the game of hockey made Jack proud.
“That goal should not have counted,” Daniel countered glumly. “Forsberg was clearly off sides.”
“YOU watch hockey?” All heads turned to Daniel.
Daniel’s face flushed slightly at his faux pas. Only when he was at Jack’s house and Jack was watching hockey. “No. Yes. Well, a little. I saw it on the news.”
Jack’s eyes were shining in amusement at his lover’s floundering. “Says you he was off sides. Even the replay was inconclusive.”
“He should have passed it anyway.” Daniel determinedly stuck to his opinion.
"Now you’re going to argue hockey strategy with me?” Jack was incredulous.
“Why not? It’s a simple game,” Daniel shot back.
Jack was ready for him. “Excuse me for not embracing your knowledge and expertise in this area, but...”
“But, just last week,” Jack gleamed at Sam and Teal’c, “our resident genius linguist guessed that ‘Zamboni’ was a type of lunch meat.”
Sam stifled a laugh while Teal’c remained stoic.
“That has nothing to do with the way the game is played,” Daniel argued weakly.
“And,” Jack continued happily. “Despite my corrections, he consistently refers to the puck as a ball. So excuse me for not putting much stock in your post game analysis.” Jack lessened the blow with a barely perceptible wink in Daniel’s direction.
Point taken. “I’m learning.” Daniel conceded, licking his lips in response to Jack’s covert gesture.
“You gonna eat that?” Jack pointed at Daniel’s untouched burger.
Daniel pushed the plate across the table. “No, I guess I’m not,” he shrugged in defeat.
Jack and Daniel were sitting up in bed. Daniel between Jack's legs, his back snug against his lover’s chest.
“Is it me, or were you being more of a pain in the ass today than usual?” Daniel asked.
“Okay, I did think we needed a little more family time... maybe,” Jack grudgingly acknowledged, giving Daniel’s waist a hard squeeze and his hair a light kiss.
Daniel thought for a few seconds while Jack nibbled an ear. “And you intentionally picked on me because you knew you could make it up to me with a hot shower and Belgium chocolate.” Daniel smiled, proud of himself for filling in the blanks.
“No.” Jack burst his bubble.
“No?” Daniel asked surprised. It was perfect Jack logic.
“I pick on you because I’m lazy.”
Daniel thought hard, but it wasn’t enough to go on. “And...?”
“And, it’s so damn easy.”
Jack popped another chocolate into Daniel’s protesting mouth then quickly followed up with his tongue to get a taste of his own personal, midnight snack.
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