FOURTH  BY PHOENIXE
Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R
Category:  Angst, Established Relationship, H/C, Romance, A/R, Drama, A/A, Character Study, Humour
Season/Spoilers: Season 7 Just before Osiris pays a house call on Daniel.  Story 5 in the Holiday Folly Series.
Synopsis: Blind dates, barbeques and breasts, oh my!
Warnings:  Violence. Not for S/J fans.
Length:  262 Kb  Posted to the net 08 Oct 08

Notes:  Firstly, my profuse thanks to the lovely and talented Saladscream for her much appreciated assistance with Daniel's French. Also, as previously mentioned, particularly with this story, this series has definitely moved into an alternate reality.  I'm picking and choosing elements of season seven, and soon to be eight canon I need to tell these tales, and this story uses an extremely controversial scene from canon recently discussed and debated on AG I've somewhat altered to allow me to further explore issues involving Sam's character and actions the writers chose to ignore.  Any character study of Sam is a prickly undertaking, especially if you choose to expand on some of the less than complimentary aspects we've been shown over the years.  Near as I can figure, the basic problem we're all wrestling with is there are two Sam's - the woman we want her to be and the one the writers have given us.  Is there a way to work through and reconcile this dichotomy?  That actually is the question I'm trying to answer with this entire series with this story and the ones to come.  So, although you may consider some of this to be 'Sam-bashing' bear with me, I really am going somewhere with this!  Oh yeah, I find it hard to believe Jack could spend over three months in a time loop learning to translate Ancient and not retain some of it, so this Jack in this reality definitely does.  Which got me to thinking, I've had Jack use affectionate names with Daniel,  but not the other way around.  If Daniel did, I thought, being a linguist, he wouldn't do it in English, in fact, he'd probably use a language hardly anyone else could understand, but Jack could.  Hmmm. Ancient, perhaps????  Lots of us have wondered why Daniel neglected to translate one little word for Sam and Teal'c when Jack was saying good-bye to them in Antarctica.  Perhaps, the reason is in this story...     


 

“Doctor Jackson.”

“Daniel!  How ya keepin’?”

“Jack!  It’s good to hear your voice!”

“Likewise.  So how ya doin’ since I’ve been stuck here in DC, stayin’ out of trouble, I hope?”

“Pretty much.  Nothing happening here, the place is about as lively as a dead, false god. Me, I’m knee deep in the same old, same old.”

“Squiggles and etchings and runes, oh my?”

“Something like that.  How’s Washington?”

“It’s still here.  Unfortunately, so am I.”

“Sorry to hear that.  Been kinda hoping you’d be on your way home by now.”

“Yeah, you and me both.  Alas, no such luck, looks like we won’t be winding things up here until tomorrow morning.  Then I’m on the first plane outta here.”

“Tomorrow, huh?”

“Yup, sorry.”

“Me too.  Okay, well then, I guess I’ll take Sam up on her offer after all.”

“Carter?  So…you and she?  Okay again?  No more Major - ”

“Don’t say it!”

“I wasn’t gonna.”

“Were to.”

“Okay, maybe I was.  But anyway, you and Carter.  Things a tad less… frosty?”

“Yeah, apparently.  We haven’t exactly been joined at the hip since you’ve been gone, or anything, but the last few days she’s been stopping by, again, and we’ve been… we’ve been talking…”

“Good.  Talking is good.”

“Yeah. She even brought me coffee and cookies this morning, and invited me out to dinner tonight.  Wants to introduce me to Pete.  At least that’s what she said.”

“Pete?  Do tell, wasn’t that the…”

“Blind date.  Yeah. The same.  I guess it went well.”

“Excellent!  Go Pete!”

“Now hold on, Jack, don’t get too excited, they’ve only been on a couple of dates.”

“But she’s seeing him.  Again.  More than once.  That’s a good sign, right?”

“I certainly hope so.  It would solve most of our recent problems, not to mention letting you off the hook.”

“I’m sayin’ nuthin’.”

“That’s kinda how we ended up in the mess in the first place, need I remind you.”

“Daniel, gimmee a break, already, I said I was - ”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean – I’m… I’m sorry.  It’s just…it’s been awfully quiet around here, since you’ve been gone, and I’ve been sorta, I mean, well…you know…”

“Yeah.  Me too.  Hold that thought, Daniel I’ll be home tomorrow and then we can…catch up.”

“Catching up sounds good.  Looking forward to it.  Soooo, tomorrow then.  For sure.  Meaning you’ll definitely be back in time for the General’s barbeque? “

“You kidding?  I wouldn’t miss Hammond’s 4th of July bash for the world.  Holy buckets, does that man know how to barbeque.  Definitely a Texan born and bred!”

“Ah, so the ability to successfully sear meat over hot coals, it’s a geographically specific skill is it?  Might go a long way to explaining why you find the activity so challenging, Chicago via Minnesota.”

“Whatchew talkin’ about, Daniel?”

“Jack, come on, whenever you mess with the outdoor grill you bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘burnt offerings’.  The last time you did battle with the barbie you charcoaled the weenies.  To a crisp.  And let’s not even talk about the sirloin briquettes.  Not a pretty sight, if you will recall.”

“Hey, I was distracted, if you will recall!”

“Okay, I’ll give you that one, maybe you were… a little - ”

“Listen Daniel, I’d love to hang around and be insulted some more, but it looks like they need me in there again. Sorry for cutting you off, but gotta go.  See you tomorrow, buddy.”

Can’t wait.

I hang up the phone and take a couple of deep breaths. I don’t believe this, I’m actually trembling. It was just a phone call from Jack, for crying out loud; nothing to get excited about. Not like he hasn’t called me a million times or so over the past seven years.  And not like we’ve never been apart before!  No big deal, Jackson, get a grip, already. Time to calm down now and start acting like an adult.

 Yeah, right, no big deal Jack’s ass, look at me, the mere sound of his voice and I’m a total basket case; shaking like an agued leaf, heart hammering as if I’ve just run a hundred yard dash to the gate with a brace of Jaffa in my wake.  And he’s only been gone for a week, how sad is that?

You know what’s even sadder?  Most of the time, when he is here, I wish he was somewhere else!  He drives me absolutely nuts. All the time. Seriously. He’s got an office, but you’d never know it, he’s never there, he’s always here, messing with my stuff, getting in my face, constantly perfecting his incorrigibly annoying perpetual distraction act totally at my expense. I gotta tell you, whenever he’s hanging around it’s almost impossible to get anything done.  He’s astonishing obstructive at the best of times, but most of the week before he left, he was a total terror. I had so much to do; three backed up mission reports I owed Hammond, the translation of the inscriptions from the caverns on P7L 903, staff evaluations,  I hadn’t even started the draft for the treaty with the Tellorans, hell, let’s not mince words here, I had a ton of paperwork piling up because I couldn’t get a damned thing done because of Jack, ergo I couldn’t wait ‘til he left and left me alone so I could have some peace and quiet, concentrate, focus, buckle down

You know, there really is an art to constructing the perfect paper airplane; it’s definitely not as easy as it looks, the secret’s not just in the creases, although that is important factor, to be sure, but in addition the empirical data I’ve collected over the past few days, based on my numerous test trials suggests the material out of which the projectile is constructed is equally important, the right weight of paper, the size…

All right, you got me, I’m having a hard time… focusing.  I’ve grown accustomed to his fuss; it’s too damned quiet here, now he’s… not. 

I miss the big lug.  Leave me alone.

Crap, there’s the phone again.   Can’t be Jack, he just – and said he was going into another meeting.  Wait a minute, maybe it is, maybe something happened and there’s been a change of plans.

Maybe he’s coming home today after all!

“Doctor Jackson.”

“Daniel, it’s Sam.”

“Hey, Sam, what’s up?”

“Just calling to see if we’re on tonight or not.”

“Yeah, dinner would be nice.  Count me in.”

“Great!  How does Alfredo’s at seven thirty sound?”

“Sounds expensive.  You’d better be buying.” 

“Don’t worry, tonight is definitely our treat.”

“How can I pass up an offer like that?  Seven thirty it is.  See you there?”

“You got it.  Oh, and Daniel?  Wear something nice.”

What? 

Nice?  What the hell does that mean?  Like I make a habit of showing up at expensive restaurants in sweats and a T-shirt.  Alfredo’s is strictly jacket and tie; I know that.  She knows I know that.  Dammit, just when I thought things were finally getting back to normal between us, a few bizarre parting words and I’m weirded out again.

No, no, Daniel, don’t go there, things are good, they’re fine, everything’s… fine; okay, it’s true for a couple of weeks there after that night it was looking not so good, between me and Sam.  Not that her behaviour while at the SGC or when we were off world, pretty much the only time I ever saw her, was in any way incorrect or improper or anything like that, because it wasn’t; no, vis a vis yours truly her on duty demeanour was impeccable and totally by the book correct, it just wasn’t a whole lot of… 

The kindest word I can find to describe the prevalent quality of our infrequent interpersonal interactions during the interval between then, and now, was… distant.  Extremely remote.  With a discernable chill factor.  It wasn’t just me imagining things, unfortunately; Jack may play the fool; doesn’t make him one.  He’s nothing if not observant, he saw what was going on although, bless him; he exercised an admirable degree of restraint when it came to offering any sort of commentary about his… observations.  Then the night before he left he went and blew his good conduct record by apologizing for leaving me alone with Major Freeze.  I smacked him one and told him to knock it off, he smacked me back, instructed me to go fuck myself, then said ‘oh wait, better idea here, let me help you with that’, at which point we mutually opted to skip the lovers’ quarrel and segue straight into the hot monkey make-up sex.

So, the past few weeks, while occasionally discouraging on the Sam front, not entirely all bad.  

But that was then, and this is now. Right after Jack left for DC Sam started stopping by again, with coffee and cookies, even, and things began to change.  Whatever she was holding against me, she seems to have let it go. We’ve been talking a lot this past week, about all sorts of stuff, and the best thing of all, virtually none of our conversations have been Jack-related.  It’s been nice, to hang out with like we used to, and not feel like I’m being constantly grilled for intel about Jack.

Nice to feel like I’m her friend again; and not simply a means to an end.

Yeah, I know, I’ve been down this same road, not all that long ago, and I was…well, it didn’t turn out great, but this time, it’s different.  I know it is.  Friends.  Sam and I are friends again.  Tonight I’m going to dinner with my friend Sam, and she’s going to introduce me to her new boyfriend.

Pete.  I know I told Jack not to get his hopes up, but me, I’m feeling pretty optimistic.  Sam really seems to like this guy; she’s certainly been talking him up enough, and I’m taking it as a very good sign her inviting me out to this dinner tonight, especially given its stated purpose.  If she likes him enough to take it to the next level – introducing him to the family…

That’s me, right?  Maybe not a brother by blood, but every other way that matters.  We’re family, and tonight my sister Sam wants to run her new beau past me to see if he meets with my approval. If that’s not a sign things are pretty serious with her and Pete, I don’t know what is.  Which makes tonight a mighty special occasion indeed.  Oh crap, now I feel like an idiot, of course this evening is important to her, she wants everything to be perfect, she wants me to make a good impression too, no wonder she said…what she said.

Wear something nice?  You got it Sam; tonight I’m pulling out all the stops, putting on all the bells and whistles, cranking it up several notches just for you.  I’ll show up so spiffed up you won’t even recognize me.

Hey you’re worth it.  You mean so much to me, least I can do for you in order to show it.


Ugh, I may have overdone it in the ‘spiffing’ department; I look like a male model on steroids.   The tie is definitely over the top, and yet, sadly, that’s the least of my problems.  Oh my, I’ve spent waaay too much time in BDUs; I don’t remember this suit being quite so…confining.  Feels like a full body straight jacket.  There’s an image.  Woo.  Ack, I’d better not breathe, eat, sit down or for God’s sake, no bending over.

I love you, Sam, but this Pete had better be something pretty damned special. 

However ridiculous I look, there’s a bright spot, thanks to Jack’s penchant for gifting me with really expensive cologne I smell pretty good, so all is not lost.  Oh well, for what little it’s worth  I’m definitely as gorgeous as I’m ever gonna get, I’ve made it this far without embarrassing myself and the car is parked, ergo all that remains is for me to, well, get my expensively clad ass in the damned restaurant.

Alfredo’s.  Not a place I habitually frequent, and the moment I step inside, I remember why.  Haute cuisine all the way, with prices to match, definitely not somewhere to bring the kiddies for Sunday brunch, select for a business lunch or drop in on your own for a quick bite.  The theme here is strictly seduction; the room is so rife with romance you can almost see the airborne cupids strafing the unsuspecting patrons below.  Yup, this wee bistro has it all; atmosphere up the wahzoo, the crowded flock of intimate tables swarming with candles and flowers, strolling violinists, low, we’re talking ridiculously subdued lighting, in fact, it’s so damned murky in here I don’t see the maitre d’ until I’ve almost walked into him. 

While it’s more than slightly dim in here it’s not so dark I miss the pitying look he levels at me once he registers I’ve crossed his threshold apparently…unaccompanied.

“Welcome to Alfredo’s, M’seiu,” he sniffs.  ‘I am Pierre , ‘ow may I asseest you ziz evening?”

I got a car needs washing, you up for that?  No?  Okay, try again.  I’m wearing a suit, I have an appetite, and by a happy coincidence, this is restaurant, so get me a guide dog to take me to a table, how’s that for starters.  Yeah, I’m alone, so what?  Take a good look and then get over it, okay?

“M’seiur ‘as a reservashion?” he haughtily inquires.

Oh, and by the way, nice fake accent, pal, bet you were born in Duluth and your name is really Ralph.  You’re not fooling me, you’re about as French as I am.  Hey, here’s a thought; I should answer him in French, could be fun. We’d see some sweatin’ then.

No, too evil, not to mention completely unnecessary.  I’m here to have a nice dinner with Sam and her boyfriend, not play a round of ‘bait the snob’, however tempting.  Oy!  I really have been hanging around with Jack far too much.  Behave, Daniel; leave the poo-poo head alone and let’s get on with this already.  Lessee, the reservation, which name would they have gone with, Pete or Sam’s?

I dunno, let’s find out.

“Shannahan?”  I venture.  From his reaction I’d say first time out we have a winnah.  Interesting, and slightly unexpected, to be honest.

I wonder if it means anything.

Probably not.  Probably only means he made the call, not Sam.  Still, she’s my friend, not him; he doesn’t even know me, why would he… and not her?

Who cares, it’s not important right now, focus, Jackson , excited fake Frenchman at three o’clock, try to look like you give a damn.

“Ah!” ‘Pierre’ lights up as if the secrets of the universe have suddenly been revealed to him with the utterance of a few syllables.  “So eet eez you!” he beams at me and excitedly claps his hands together. “Your guest eez already seated.  Come ziz way, M’seiur, I will be most ‘appy to take you to ze table.”

Great, you’re happy, I’m happy, we’re all delirious.  Super.

Pierre’ gives me a pointed once-over and nods approving.  “Ze young lady will be most pleased,” he cryptically observes with a satisfied smile.

Um…what?  Flattered, I’m sure, but what about the guy she’s with?  Surely to God she’s happy enough with him.  I have no idea what this man is talking about or why he keeps looking at me and snickering up his sleeve like he’s just pulled naked pictures of me with pink polka dots on my ass off the internet. 

Nah, it couldn’t be.  Not possible.  Jack swore to me he deleted those…

Okay, enough already, I’ll leave suddenly rampaging paranoia behind and the deciphering of confusing compliments to another time.

Pierre offers me a stiff bow and with a grand flourishing wave of his arm proceeds to lead me into the restaurant.  He confidently weaves through the labyrinth of cosy tables laden with food and happily respirating wine bottles, occupied by a bevy of cooing couples.  Romance is almost as thick in the air as the smoke from the forest of flickering candles.  As we make our way towards the back of the restaurant I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the ambience and consequently confused; this whole place is geared towards just one thing and it isn’t a casual dinner and some pleasant conversation between friends.  I’m wondering which of my two prospective hosts was responsible for choosing the venue; it doesn’t seem exactly appropriate for a friendly threesome.  I have to admit, a place like this wouldn’t be my first choice for a getting-to-know-you dinner; the amount of money this evening is probably gonna set Pete back – and I have no doubt he’s the one who’s picking up the bill - I’m thinking if it were me, and I took out a second mortgage on the house in order to be able to afford to bring my special someone here hoping to impress and consequently get some after, I wouldn’t want a third-wheel archaeologist along for the wine and dine.

Oh, if only I could.  Bring my special someone, here, that is.  Maybe some day.

Definitely some day.  It’s on the top of my ‘to do’ list starting the second after Jack announces his retirement.  That is, right after I do Jack on the gateroom ramp.

Okay, so that’s probably never going to happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Anyway, I must put irrational but extremely entertaining fantasies aside; for the meantime, I’m going to have to make do with being here, even though I don’t quite understand… why here.  So be it; their choice, however puzzling.  At least I’m reasonably assured of getting a pretty good free meal out of the deal, even if I won’t be able to see what I’m eating.

Are we there yet? I murmur an apology to the guy I accidentally whack because I’ve been visually fixated on Pierre during the whole wending process.  I stumble onward, following in Pierre ’s wake as he rounds what I desperately hope is the last turn.  Ah, here we go; we’re definitely closing on our ultimate destination; he’s leading me toward a table tucked into the remotest corner of the restaurant.  Wait a minute, this can’t be right.  The table we’re headed for has a single occupant, a woman if I’m not mistaken, although in this light, we’re still not close enough to be absolutely sure. Could be a lousy female impersonator.  Yup, that’s a woman, all right, she looks up, sees me, and, oh my, what do we have here, unless in the few short hours since I last saw her Sam has dyed her hair brunette, changed her eye colour and had extensive plastic surgery to completely alter her appearance, the woman we’re approaching now staring at me with a slightly stunned expression on her completely unfamiliar face - definitely not Sam.

What’s up with dis? Pierre has to have made a mistake; he’s taking me to the wrong table.   We must have missed Sam and Pete, during the murky wend through the romantic obstacle course, entirely possible I walked right by them without seeing them, nor they me, so maybe I should…  I should say something before he tries to seat me with a stranger.  Why is she looking at me like that, like she knows me or… can’t be, she can’t know me, I’ve never seen her before, at least, that is, I’m pretty sure I’ve never – wait - wait a minute, the hair, and the dress, threw me off for a bit, she looks so different, but it is, it’s… I do know her, well, what do you know about that, she’s one of the new civilian scientists in Sam’s lab, what’s her name, I know it, I – it’s just on the tip of my - 

“Your table, M’Seiur,” Pierre proudly indicates my destination with another one of his grand flourishes.  The wide-eyed woman whose name unfortunately is still escaping me gapes at me with horrified fascination while I dazedly drop into the only other available chair.

What is her name?  And why is she here?  Where’s Sam?  Where’s Pete?  What the hey, as long as we’re asking questions, where’s the nearest exit, I’m getting a really, really bad feeling about this.

“Doctor Jackson!”  My dark-haired, and by all appearances equally stupefied companion squeaks.  “What are you doing here, I was expecting - "

A craftily conniving major attempting to play cupid, perchance?

Oh no, she didn’t!

“Surprise,” I croak, devoutly wishing the earth would open up and swallow me.  No wait, I must somehow survive this experience, emerge unscathed, live another day so I can leave this place, hunt Sam down and kill her.

When it looks the darkest it’s always nice to have something to live for.

“Omigawd, Doctor Jackson!” she says again, and promptly hiccups.  “Omigawd, what are you doing here?”

Okey doke, she’s turning green, that’s not good, I didn’t think people actually did that, gotta pull myself together here and focus, judging by the interesting colour of her complexion and what appears to be a nasty case of spontaneous hiccups this newly revealed aspect of the arrangement – she didn’t see this coming any more than I did.  Yep, no doubt about it, the terror in those eyes is entirely real; I’m thinking Doctor Novak here is just as much a victim as -  

Novak!  That’s her name!  I knew I knew it!

Okay, Daniel, pull yourself together and say something…intelligent. 

“Doctor Novak!”  I give her what I hope is a reassuring smile.  “I’m sorry it took me so long to recognize you, it was the hair, usually, when I’ve seen you before at the – you know where - it’s... and now it’s… it’s… it’s very nice.”

Woo, that was smooth, Jackson.  Now try it with your other foot in your mouth.

An emphatic ‘hic’ is her only response.

Oh look, there’s Pierre again, loping agilely around the tables, a couple of menus tucked under his arm.  A tall, spindly, myopically blinking waiter bearing a champagne bucket and a pair of flutes forges bravely after him.  They’re coming this way; ooh, is that bubbly for us?  Maybe there is a God after all. The way things are looking, a magnum or two of the good stuff just might get us both through this alive.

“Compliments of your ‘osts,” Pierre happily announces upon arrival.  Bucket boy sets up his burden by the table and proceeds with the business of popping the cork and pouring while Pierre carries on gushing.  “M’Sieu Shanahan and M’mselle Cartair regret zey cannot join you ziz evening, but ‘ope you will be zair guests and ‘ave a lovely meal wizout them.  Ziz eez for you, M’mselle,” he says kindly, offering an envelope to Doctor Novak.  “And for you, M’sieu,” Pierre bows slightly, and hands me one too.  “Your menus,” he smiles, and thrusts them into my other hand.  Enjoy ze wine,” he nods.  “We trust it will be to your liking.  Andre will be your waitair tonight, when you are ready to ordair ‘e will be ‘appy to asseest you.  I am also instructed to inform you your dining experience tonight eez compliments of M’seuir Shanahan and the lovely M’mselle Cartair, zey wish for you both to enjoy yourselves, and each ozair, completely at zair expense.”

Oh God, make that three magnums of Champagne .  And yeah, and most expense entrée on the menu, here I come.  I don’t care if it’s sautéed shark’s brains, revenge doesn’t come cheap and neither will this ‘date’.  Even before I open the envelope, which has to be from Sam I have no doubt that’s exactly what this ‘invite and switch’ is supposed to be.

“Ah, look at zem, zey are so ‘appy with each ozair zey are speechless.”  Pierre clasps his hands together, heaves a dramatic sigh and turns to Andre, if that is in fact his real name.   “Eez love not wondairfool?” he burbles at the waiter pouring the bubbly.

Pierre , give it a rest, okay?  You’ll get your tip, and it’s gonna be huge.  Hey, I can afford to be extremely generous; I’m not paying for any of this.

Pierre and Andre fade back into the romantic gloom, leaving a lightly hiccupping Doctor Novak and yours truly alone with each other, some impressively expensive champagne, our menus and respective envelopes.  With a sigh I delve into mine while Doctor Novak hics again and opens hers.    

“Thinking of You” is the simple message on the front of the card.  I open it and find my worst suspicions confirmed.

 

Daniel, don’t be mad. I know this evening isn’t exactly what you were expecting, but trust us; it’s for your own good. You probably would never have done something like this for yourself, but you know what Daniel, it’s high time you got out there again. You’ve been alone far too long, and you’re never going to meet that someone special if you hang out with the colonel all the time. I know I wasn’t very open to the idea of dating myself, but I’m so glad I went on the one that brought Pete into my life. That blind date turned out so well for us we thought we’d see if we could pass some of our luck along to a couple of special people we really care about and think would be pretty sensational together.  So forgive us for playing matchmaker, but you know what, sometimes true love needs a little help.  Give it a try; what do you have to lose?  I think you’ll find you and Lindsay have a lot in common.  I expect an invitation to the wedding!  Just kidding, no pressure, have a great time, you two!

 

‘Wink, Wink’

Sam and Pete

 

Wedding?  Woo, Sam, you think big!  And what’s with all this ‘we’ stuff, Pete doesn’t know me, or, Lindsay, from Adam why would he care about either one of our love lives?  Don’t go trying to hang any of this on him; I’m fully confident this was entirely your idea, with him going along with it, because well, he’s still trying to impress you, isn’t he?

Well, isn’t this special and you know what, it also explains the tenor of some of the conversations Sam and I had over the past week. I wondered why she seemed so intent on leading me down memory lane, constantly bringing up the good old days with Shau’ri and all. Guess we know why now.

So, Sam thinks I need a girlfriend, does she?  Oh dear.  But seriously, Sam, what do you really want?   To see poor, lonely Daniel get some female companionship because you want me to be happy, or do you want me occupied with someone else so I won’t be spending so much time with Jack?

Okay, that wasn’t kind, and probably way too paranoid.  I gotta stop thinking like this, Sam is my friend, of course she wants me to be happy, that’s what this is about and nothing more. Besides, she seems pretty happy herself with Pete, so why would she care about how much time I do or don’t spend with Jack, or how much time anyone spends with him, for that matter.  She wouldn’t, she doesn’t, she’s just trying to help, no matter how unnecessary or inconvenient her misguided meddling.   

Thanks loads for the thought, Sam, but I don’t need an assist with my social life, and I certainly don’t need this.  My dance card is quite full enough, thank you.  And speaking of my not-present partner I wish to God he was here right now; I could use a massive infusion of his silver-tongued O’Neill Irish charm to talk my way out of this!   What am I going to say to this woman, how am I going to let her down and get us both out of this as gracefully as possible; I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I can’t let her start entertaining even the faintest flicker of a notion this could be the start of something or there could ever be anything between us.  Nope, I have to come up with a way of kindly, but firmly kiboshing whatever romantic aspirations she might be harbouring in her hiccing bosom and I have to do it pretty damned fast.  Like the next thirty seconds or so.  Say something, say something what, what, what to say to unravel this cunning and nefarious web of deception the blind date fairies have ensnarled us both in

Oh God, this would be a great time for a Goa’uld invasion!  And where the hell is Thor when you really need him? Replicators?  Mutant alien hamsters on goofballs?  Tribbles!  Please, God, something epic and diversionary, anything!

I have no idea what I’m going to say; I just know I have to say something!

“Doctor Novak,” I start, and am promptly interrupted by a loud hic from across the table.

That hiccupping is really strange.  Not to mention irritating.  There she goes again.  Maybe there’s something wrong.  Maybe I should…

“Listen, are you okay?  Can I get you anything, do you want some water… or…”

“Dammit to hell!”  My ‘date’ fumes.  “I can’t help it, every time I get nervous it just… happens, but, never mind that now,” she huffs and affixes me with a stern expression.  “Doctor Jackson, let’s get one thing clear, right now – “

“Daniel,” I smile at her.

“And you can call me Lindsay,” she frowns and hics again.  “Listen, Doctor – Daniel, stop right there, before you say another word and this gets any worse than it already is, although at this point, I can’t imagine how that’s possible, there’s something you need to know.”  She pauses, purses her lips and fires a glare in my direction that’d make a sizeable dent in the iris.

Yikes, laser eyes of doom.  What’s that all about? You know, when a woman looks at you like that, odds are what she’s about to tell you, it’s going to be either life-changing, or life threatening. Not to mention needing to be put through college.  Either way a quick exit is often in order.   Right now I’m very happy I know there’s no possible way I need to worry about any scenarios involving shotgun weddings or paternity tests. Still, if the usual reasons don’t apply in this case I can’t imagine why she’s giving me the eye, and not in a good way, but I guess I’m about to find out.

“There’s no easy way to say this, but here goes.  I’m flattered, really but this…"  She pauses and waves a hand vaguely about between us.  “This is a terrible mistake.  Hic!  I know all about you, Doctor Daniel Jackson, the way they talk about you a girl would have to be out her mind to not want to – hic!  From what I’ve heard half the woman on the base would kill to be sitting where I am now - "

Half the base?  Okay, now that’s so not true.  I wouldn’t say half the base, that’s slightly… excessive.  A quarter is more like it.

A third tops.

“But before you get the wrong idea, Doctor - Daniel, no offence or anything, I’m not one of those women.  There's no easy way to say this so I might as well just come right out with it. Hic!  I'm very sorry, Daniel, but I can't go out with you, you’re not my type.”

What did she just say?  Not her type, how can she say that?  She doesn’t even know me!

“How can you say that; you don’t even know me!”

Omigawd, what did I just say?

“I don’t have to know you,” she patiently continues, like she’s trying to explain physics to a three-year-old.  Or Jack.  “It’s got nothing to do with who you are, it’s what you are.”

Confused?

She folds her hands firmly on the table, purses her lips and sighs impatiently.  “You’re not getting it.  Okay, try again.  You. Are. Not. My. Type.” She firmly enunciates, glaring at me meaningfully.

Not who I am but what I am?  What am I?  An archaeologist?  Single?  Caucasian? Over-educated? Breathing?  All of the above, so what, not her type, what does that mean?  Not her – not -

Not her type!  OH!

“Oh!”  I blurt.  “Type!”

“Got it now?” she smiles crookedly at me.

“I see,” I burble some more.  “Oh, well, I can fully understand why you wouldn’t want, you and me... definitely wouldn’t work out for you at all.”

“Yeah,” she smiles ruefully at me.  “Listen, Daniel, you’re a really great looking guy, and if I was… into guys, I’d probably be going after you big time like practically everyone else on base, but I’m not, so even though you’re extremely pretty, one of the best looking men I’ve ever met, as a matter of fact and quite nice – for a good looking man – from what I’ve been able to tell, that is..."

No, stop, really, enough of the slamming with faint praise thing, you lay it on any thicker I’ll be swimming in it.  I get the message, and I do believe I can take it.

“Thank you,” I weakly reply.  “I’m flattered by the glowing character reference. But, bottom line, for all my stated positive qualities, which was very kind of you to mention, by the way, not doing a thing for ya, huh?”

“Nope,” she ruefully replies.  “Nothing personal, you understand, you’re just not…”

“Not your type.  Gotcha,” I smile back at her.  Well, isn’t this one for the books; I’ve been kicked to the curb by the hiccing Nerd Queen.   Isn’t that special.  You know, something like this could only happen to me. I am so glad Jack isn’t here; he’d be wetting himself right now.  I don’t know whether to storm out of the restaurant to seek a suitable balm for my wounded male pride or collapse on the table and giggle hysterically with relief she isn’t crawling all over me. Oh well, now I’m over my brief ego fit of being roundly but politely rebuffed by a woman who could probably give Bill Lee serious competition for the top slot in the ‘Science Geek of the Year’ Awards I should take this ‘Get Out of the Date Free’ card the universe has so kindly dropped in my lap and run for my freaking life before she changes her mind.

“Daniel, please don’t feel bad,” she tells me with earnest concern.  “I don’t know what Major Carter told you about me, but I hope it didn’t get your hopes up too much.”

No worries, in all the conversations we’ve had over the past week, you never came up once.

“I know you were married, and you lost your wife several years ago, and you’ve been alone ever since.”

But apparently, she’s been talking me up to you some.

“It’s obvious she had plans for us, but she didn’t know that wouldn’t be possible.  That’s not her fault, even though I am a civilian you and I both know coming out at the SGC wouldn’t be a very good idea.  But apparently keeping my boss ignorant of my orientation meant some unfortunate assumptions were made, and here we are.  I’m really sorry you got caught up in this, Daniel.  I don’t want to hurt you, but I can’t be your girlfriend,” she softly tells me, her eyes glistening with moist distress.

Aw, bless, she’s really worried she’s just broken my heart. She’s genuinely concerned for me; it would be sweet if the whole thing weren’t so surreal.  I wish I could tell her she’s fretting in vain.  But I think it’s safer to go down the ‘takin’ it like a man’ route.

I put on my best brave face and smile manfully at her.

“I appreciate you setting me straight.”

She giggles, and I realize what I’ve said.

“Okay, that didn’t come out right,” I grin.  And then it hits me. 

“Hey! Your hiccups are gone.  I guess that means you’re not feeling nervous any more.”

“You’re right,” she muses.  “Wow.  I guess it does.  She gives me a blinding smile.  “You’re taking this really well, you know.  That’s a huge load off my mind. Thanks so much for understanding,” she finishes gratefully, and reaches for the champagne flute at her side.

You’re welcome.  My pleasure.  Well Daniel, congratulations, one huge, honking bullet, nicely dodged.  And the best part, she did all the work!  You know something, now I don’t have to view her as a potential threat and she’s calmed down as well, and stopped hiccupping, I’m glad to have this opportunity to get to know Lindsay.  Even out of uniform and lightly gussied up, she needs a bit more work before you could honestly call her attractive, but even so, she’s not without her own appeal.   

As to the scenario itself, now the abject terror factor has been removed, we are left with a howling irony I am the only one in a position to appreciate.  Sam thought we’d make a good couple because we had so much in common, well, she was righter than she knew.   However, knowledge of that point of commonality is not something I will be sharing with my present companion, or Sam, anytime soon. 

And speaking of the lady seated across the table from me, you know what, I’m starting to like her.  Even though I’ve seen her around the SGC, honestly, she’s so good at blending in I’ve barely noticed her.  Heck, I didn’t even recognize her at first, outside of the context of the SGC and out of uniform.  Odds are if this hadn’t happened, I would have continued to not notice her and it’s highly unlikely we would have become acquainted.  Which I’m thinking now would have been a shame; I’ll wager there’s quite a character under that repressed exterior.

Actually, she reminds me of another socially-challenged loner who not so long ago found himself thrust unsuspecting and unprepared into an alien and hostile environment, and we’re not talking about Abydos , here.  It’s been many, many years between now and then, and as sad a case as I used to be, that’s no longer true, mostly because I was really lucky, I had good friends and a lot of help on the journey from there to here.

Oooh, I have an idea…

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine,” I tell her with all the sincerity I can muster.  “You have every right to your feelings and besides, it’s not your fault; you didn’t create this situation,” I smile ruefully at her.  “And now we have all that out of the way, I don’t know about you, but speaking strictly for myself, I don’t have a whole lot else on for the rest of my evening, so why not make the best of this one?  You’re here, I’m here, Pete and Sam are picking up the tab, so I suggest we take full advantage of the situation and have ourselves one high time.  It’s clearly understood we’re not on a date, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be friends.  You haven’t been at the SGC very long, have you?”

“Couple of weeks,” she says, and takes another sip of champagne.

“Uh huh,” I nod.  “And I’m guessing you’re finding the… fitting in... thing, it’s not going very well.”

“How did you know?”  She gazes at me with genuine wonder.

“Trust me, I’ve been there,” I fervently reply.

“You?”  Her eyes widen in astonishment.  “I find that hard to believe.”

“Yeah, well don’t let this overdressed exterior fool you, once upon a time not so long ago I was not as you see me now.  Way back when this party started I was the SGC’s original ubergeek.  Glasses, floppy hair, plaid shirts, pocket protectors and all.  The hair went years ago, Jack and Sam ritually burned the plaid shirts and the pocket protectors, still got the glasses although they’ve been upgraded once or twice, but other than them, that’s about it. Previous to the extreme make-over, I was a serious mega-nerd.  Granted I’ve picked up a few social skills over the years, but don’t let the suave exterior fool you, I can still give a power-point demonstration that’ll put a whole room of marines and the odd Air Force colonel to sleep in less than thirty seconds.  Yeah, I still got it,” I boast.

“You’re funny,” she smothers a grin and takes another slurp from the flute.  “I envy you. You’re so lucky.  You make it look so easy.  Me, on the other hand, when it comes to mingling, and the whole social interaction thing in general, well, I suck,” she scowls at her champagne and takes another slurp.

“I don’t know; you seem to be doing just fine.   And believe me, luck had nothing to do with it.  It took a lot of effort to learn how to fit in, and I didn’t do it by myself.  I had a ton of help from some very good friends.  Which brings me around to General Hammond’s barbeque.”

“What about it?” she gives me a puzzled frown.

“I’m guessing you weren’t planning on going.”

“No, I wasn’t.  I wouldn’t know anyone there.”

“Maybe not at first.  But you should definitely go.  You’re never going to get to know anyone unless you try, and this would be a good place to start.  Almost everyone at the SGC is going to be there, the atmosphere will be nice and relaxed, and trust me, General Hammond throws one heck of a party.  His barbequed ribs are to die for.  You should come,” I throw her an encouraging smile. 

“I don’t know,” she frowns.  It sounds like it might be fun but… no,” she sighs.  “I never have a good time at things like this, I don’t know what to do, what to say - "

“Tell you what, why don’t you go with me?  Consider me your social icebreaker. Not a date, a facilitator, if you will.   I’ll take you around, introduce you to a few people, we’ll have a couple of beers, some nice ribs, pleasant conversation  - ”

“You don’t have to do that,” she mumbles, colouring slightly.  “You don’t have to be nice to me; you’re off the hook."

“It’s not like that at all,” I gently protest.  “I like you, Lindsay, and I want to help you with this.  I know how it feels to be the new civilian kid on the military block.  When I was where you are now I had good people running some considerable interference for me.  They helped me fit in, and I honestly don’t know where I’d be if they hadn’t.  I’d like to do the same for you, if you’d let me.  Trust me; give it a shot. What’s the worse that could happen; you arrive with one friend, have some great food, a fun afternoon, I show you around, introduce you to a few people and who knows, by the end of the afternoon you might have a few more.  Friends, that is.”

Leastways, that’s my plan.  And I have the perfect person in mind to fit the friendship bill.  And possibly even more, but honestly, I’ll be plenty happy if she and Lindsay hit it off strictly on the friendship level.  Hey, Sam isn’t the only person who can manipulate people and social situations to suit a suddenly realized secret agenda.  Only thing is, mine has a much better chance of actually succeeding due to the advantage of far more accurate intel.

“You’re a nice man, Doctor Jackson,” she tells me with a shining smile.

So I’ve been told.  Oh well, I could be worse.  Let’s hope she still thinks so after the barbeque.

“Daniel.  So, how about it?  Will you go with me?”

“Okay!”  She gives an emphatic nod.  “You talked me into it. You may escort me to the barbeque.  But no funny stuff!” she sternly scolds me, her eyes twinkling merrily.

“I’ll be good,” I promise, making a show of crossing my heart.  “Archaeologist’s honour.”

That earns me another giggle, swiftly segueing into a snort.  It wasn’t that funny.  I’m thinking her appreciation of my feeble attempts at humour is not due so much to the actual material or the delivery as it is to the champagne.  She’s already on her second glass and I haven’t touched mine yet.

This is going to be an interesting evening.

“Fine, now we’ve got that out of the way, if I remember correctly the food here is pretty good.  What say you we find out, and do our best to run up a Visa bill Pete’s never gonna forget?”

“Works for me,” Lindsay says, and hiccups.  This time I’m pretty sure it’s not because she’s nervous.

Works for me too.  So, despite the disastrous start, not such a bad evening after all.  There’s one thing still bothering me, though. 

After all this I still didn’t get to meet Pete!


“Daniel.”

“What?  Trying to sleep here.”

“Explain to me again why you’re bringing a date to Hammond ’s barbeque.

“Grow up, Jack, it’s not a date. Lindsey was very considerate, she let me down nicely."

“Yes, I’m happy to hear she didn’t break your heart.”

“No, no worries there, she was very gentle.  Unfortunately, she also has some social issues so I thought I’d give her a hand with them by way of a thank you.”

“Major geek?”

“You know it.  Pretty tightly wrapped to boot, that is, until she gets a couple of glasses of champagne under her belt, and then, she’s actually a lot of fun.  You’d like her. Anyway, she’s been here a couple of weeks and is having some problems with fitting in, so I thought I’d take her to the party, introduce her to a few people - "

“And?”

“Okay, one person in particular.”

“Daniel…”

“Don’t worry; I know what I’m doing.  Margo’s good people.”

“You’re talking about Doctor Seavers, right?  SG-9’s civilian anthropologist.  She’s... gay?  Get outta town, I didn’t know that!”

“Of course you didn’t, she’s not exactly public about it, any more than we are.”

“Point taken.  So how come you know?”

“She’s a member of my staff.  We… talk.  She needed a shoulder to cry on about six months ago while she was going through a messy break-up.  I happened to have a spare one.  It sorta came out then.”

“And I guess you could say, so did she.”

“I wouldn’t have, but you, of course, can’t seem to help yourself.”

“As long as you keep pitchin’ ‘em at me you know I’m gonna keep knocking ‘em right out of the park.”

“Fine.  Now you’ve got that out of your system, can we go to sleep?”

“What’s yer rush? It’s still early.  So, Seaver’s break-up. That must have made for some interesting conversation.”

“No, I’m not giving you details so stop fishing.”

“Well, you’re no fun anymore.

“That’s right, I’m a drag.  Sleep now.”

“In a minute!  I still don’t understand, especially seeing how you yourself have had a recent narrow escape from a felonious fix-up attempt, why you think turning around and doin’ it to some one else is a good idea?”

“Jack, it’s not about trying to get them together, per se, I don’t honestly know if either of them are even interested in starting a relationship at the moment. It’s about networking.  Making connections.  Margo’s been here awhile, she’s made friends in the right places.  She’s very personable and eager to help, and I’m sure she’ll be more than willing to take Lindsey under her wing.”

“Ah. Gotcha.  Still, it would be pretty ironic if they did hit it off.  Not to mention very probably put a considerable frost on Carter’s cookies, seeing as how she was hoping to see some sparkage between you and Novak.  And speaking of Carter, what the hell was she thinking, pulling a stunt like that?  What did you ever do to her?    Oh, I got it, I know how this was supposed to work, by pairing you off with the geekette Carter was hoping you’d be so busy with your new amour you wouldn’t have time to hang out with me anymore.”

“Jack, this wasn’t about you.”

“The hell it wasn’t!”

“Sam’s got a boyfriend, I’m sure you’re the farthest thing from her mind.”

“Then why did she do it?  She was bored?  Yeah, I can buy that one, ‘oh dear, I am so bored, there is nothing in my lab to blow up and the colonel is out of town, whatever shall I do, oh, I know, let’s send Daniel on a blind date.’  Yeah, right.  Wake up and smell the set-up, pal!  Carter tried to gift wrap your ass and hand it to Novak on a Visa platter because she’s still after mine!”

“You’re about a hair away from me handing it over to her.”

“Aw come on, Daniel, you know I’m right.  What other possible reason could she have had?”

“I don’t know, maybe because she’s my friend, and maybe she cares about me and thought she was doing me a favour.” 

“You keep thinking that Daniel, if it makes you happy.  Me, I’m gonna keep checking under the bed before I go to sleep.  You just never know where Carter is gonna turn up next.”

“Honestly, I don’t know why I bother talking to you.”

“’Cause you’d explode if you didn’t.  Never mind getting pissy with me though, seems to me I’m the injured party here.”

“Excuse me?”

“There’s me, hard at it in Washington, up to my ass in bureaucrats, slaving over a hot conference table, completely unsuspecting my main squeeze can’t wait for me to get outta town so he can bat on both sides of the fence; hell, Daniel, my side of the bed is barely tepid and you’re stepping out with some science floozy.”

“That’s it; you’ve finally lost my mind.”

“I can’t believe you wore the issey Miyake for another woman.”

“Are you listening to yourself?”

“Try to avoid it as a rule.”

“Ja -mmmmmmmm, niiice… not that I’m complaining or anything, but what was that for?”

“It’s a nice thing you’re doing for the little geekette, but then, you’re a nice man, Daniel Jackson.”

“Nice am I?  That’s a hell of a thing to say to a guy! Well, don’t get too used to it ‘cause I’m sick of being nice.  Don’t wanna be nice, I want to be naughty.  Very naughty.  Starting right now.”

“I thought you wanted to sleep.”

“Changed my mind.  I can do that.  You gonna give me any grief about it?”

“Who me?  You kidding? How do you want me?”

“Here.  I’m glad you’re home.  I missed you.”

“Me too.  Oooh, that’s nice, but… wait!  Before we make with the making out, there’s just one thing bothering me.”

Now what?”

“Where the hell am I gonna find a date for the ‘que?  It’s so last minute; all the good geeks are probably already taken…  Daniel, Daniel that was a joke. There’s no need to resort to violence – or that either.  Okay, you’ve had your fun, now put it down.  Daniel?  Not kidding here, Daniel, put it down.  Don’t go there, don’t think about it and for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t do it! I mean it – put that down right now, that’s an order – Daniel?  Daniel, these are really expensive sheets and that’s definitely gonna leave a mark.  Daniel – don’t you dare –

CRAP!  DAAANNNIELLLLL!!!!!!!" 


“Wow, I can’t believe I’m saying this, Daniel, but I’m having a great time.”

“What did I tell you?”  I grin smugly at Lindsay.  “Doctor Jackson would not steer you wrong.  All you had to do was relax, trust me, have a beer…”

Or several.  I smile at the woman across the table from me finishing off her third.  Me, I’m still on my first.  Gotta keep a clear head because, well, aside from the fact I’m the designated driver, all things considered, I think it would be wise.

“I know you did, I know you did,” Lindsay giggles and sets the empty down.  “I shouldn’t tell you this, but what the heck,” she burps and grins.  “It wasn’t that I didn’t believe you, but..."

“You didn’t believe me,” I lightly scold her and feign a pout.

She throws me a bashful but engaging grin.  “But I guess you figured that out already.”

“I wasn’t entirely unaware of your shocking lack of confidence,” I tease.  “The hiccupping chorus during the drive over sorta gave it away.”

“Damn.”  She throws lower lip right back at me.  “Busted.  I really gotta work on that.  But you were right, you were absolutely right.  This is a great party, people here, really great and these ribs!”

“Great,” I beam back at her.  “Couldn’t agree with you more. I’m glad you’re having a good time.”

“I am, I really am,” she smiles gratefully.  “Thank you for being so nice to me.”

And…I think that’s my cue to move onto phase two of my cunning plan.  Margo has been circling for the last ten minutes, waiting for my signal.  Yes, I planned ahead and went the extra mile, making the effort to be slightly more intelligent, not to mention considerate in my machinations than my conniving co-worker; I approached Margo yesterday, brought her up to speed and elicited her whole-hearted co-operation with ‘Operation Integration’.  She’s quite keen to meet Lindsay and help her feel more at home at the SGC, which is what I figured when I thought of this in the first place.

“It was my pleasure,” I say to Lindsay, and nod to my eagerly waiting accomplice.

Yes, Margo, now would be good.  As much as I’ve enjoyed Lindsay’s company, it’s more than time I found Jack and pried him away from the barbeque pit.  General Hammond is a generous man, but that largesse does not extend to sharing his duties as king of the grill.  Especially when Jack is the one trying to wrest the tongs and baster from his unwilling fingers.  Hammond takes his role as chief burgers, steak and ribs dispenser very seriously and Jack, well Jack, for all his hearty enthusiasm for all things barbeque, put him anywhere in the vicinity of one and he’s a three alarm fire just waiting to happen.

I love him, so I have to put up with it, and him, but I figure the general has suffered enough.

“Hey Doctor J, fancy meeting you here,” Margo enthuses upon stepping up behind Lindsay.  Lindsay visibly starts at the vocal intrusion, but also is clearly intrigued by its sultry, mellow, alto sound, and honestly, I don’t blame her, Margo’s voice is like warm cognac for the ears and when she’s had a few and can be goaded into singing you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

Maybe that’s a metaphor I shouldn’t use.  Anyway, Lindsay’s head whips around and once she gets an eyeful of the 5’10” red-headed, emerald-eyed Amazon author of the mellifluous interjection her lower jaw drops open and bottoms out about her waist.

Sooo far, so good…

“Margo!”  I beam at her.  “Nice to see you.  Having a good time?”

“You know it, Doc,” she grins back at me.  “Mind if I join you?”  She doesn’t wait for an invite but slides her athletic form gracefully down on the picnic bench beside a still gaping and frankly staring Lindsay.

Really, really good…

“Not at all, take a load off,” I unnecessarily respond, for the lady in question is already seated, and smiling warmly at my lightly blinking companion.

“Don’t mind if I do, Doc.  Are you going to introduce me to your attractive friend, here?”

Lindsay, still silently staring, gulps convulsively, her jaw abruptly clamping shut.  I hope she’s not going into shock.

“Of course, where are my manners?”  I quickly pick up the cue.  “Lindsay, this obvious introvert who’s just joined us is Doctor Margo Seavers, a member of my staff and my favourite anthropologist.  Margo, Doctor Lindsay Novak.”

My “introvert’ comment elicits a hearty snort from Doctor Seavers.  “Favourite anthropologist,” she scoffs.  “You’re just saying that because I make the best coffee in the mountain and you want me to tell you my secret recipe.”

“Talented, but unfortunately massively mistaken,” I counter, keeping the banter thing going so Lindsay has time to process and adjust to the new situational parameters.  “You have promise, I’ll give you that, but you’ve got a lot to learn before you can top me in the java department.”

“Not only is he in denial over the whole coffee issue,” Margo gently nudges Lindsay and gives her a conspiratorial wink.  “But he knows damned well my Mandarin is way better than his and I can arm wrestle him under the table.”

“Ah Margo, I hope you and your delusions will be very happy together after I’ve transferred you to P4N-689,” I airily return.  “How does spending the next month off world cataloguing coprolite grab ya?”

“That’s one way to win an argument,” she laughs.  “All right, all right, I concede, you are the boss.”

“Woof,” Lindsay faintly interjects.  Her eyes have not left Margo during the whole course of our spirited exchange.  I doubt she even remembers I’m still seated at the table.  Lindsay, that is, Margo is very much aware I’m still here, and unless I’m mistaken, which I don’t think I am, is about to tell me to piss off.

“Hey Doc, don’t you have a colonel to corral?”

Now, while I have never discussed the exact nature of my relationship with Jack with Margo, for obvious reasons, she is neither stupid, nor blind.  I know she knows, and she knows I know she knows.

That’s all either of us need to know.

“Off you go now, Doc,” Margo makes a quick shooing motion with her right hand while keeping her attention fully focused on Lindsay.  “I’ve got things covered here.”

I do believe I’ve been dismissed.  Even though I have no doubt I’m no longer needed here, I feel peculiar about just… going. I shouldn’t just assume Lindsay is okay with me taking off;  I mean, I don’t want her to think I’m abandoning her.  Even though technically, I am.

“Lindsay, are you okay if I…” I venture.

“Hic!” and a frantic ‘get the hell out of here’ wave of her hand is her only response.

Yup, my job here is definitely done.


“Here, General, lemme sauce that one a little bit more for ya, won’t take a sec.”

“Colonel O’Neill, if you wouldn’t mind!  Jack!  Please don’t help any more!”

Oh, oh, from the sound of Hammond’s voice, Jack has more than over-basted his welcome.  I’d better get him outta there right now before the general decides to transfer him to Antarctica or some other place equally remote, frigid and barbeque-less.

“Jack, there you are!”  I slip up behind Jack, quickly wrest the baster out of his grasp and hand it over to Hammond with a huge smile.  “I’ve been looking all over for you.  Heck of a crowd, great turn-out, having a wonderful time, General, the food is great, Sir, as usual, and speaking of food, Jack, have you eaten yet?”

Jack is staring down stupidly at his empty hand.  “Well no, I – I - " he stammers, and then shoots a sulky ‘how the hell did you get the drop on me?’ glare at me.

Surprise!  Yeah, I got some moves too, my man.  I’ve been practicing, and I’ve had a very good teacher.

Of course, it helped my highly-trained, senses honed to a razor’s edge, lightening-reflexed colonel was unfairly distracted by a barbeque.

Hey, you gotta go with whatever advantage you can get.

“I’ve been busy!” he finishes defiantly.

“Time to take a break,” I curtly inform him, then grasp him firmly by the shoulders and wheel him about before he has a chance to protest.  “General,” I nod at Hammond after shoving Jack on his way.

“Thank you, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond mouths at me, naked gratitude fairly bleeding from his eyes.

Hmmmm, I have a feeling I’ve just scored the additional personnel I’ve been trying to get for my department for the last six months.  Not to mention permission to return to P8R 901 for oh, let’s say a month, to have a proper go at the temple complex there.

Yeah, life is good.

“Daniel what the hell is the matter with you?”  Jack has finally figured out he’s been strategically withdrawn and starts balking and resisting my determined effort to propel him even further away from the barbeque.  “I was cookin’ there – hey, leggo!”

“Jack, listen to me carefully,” I instruct while continuing to motor him away from Hammond and toward the buffet table. “If I let you go and you go back there, next time I want to see you, it’s gonna be a hell of a commute.  Hammond was a hair away from sending you on a trip you wouldn’t particularly enjoy and wouldn’t be coming back any time soon and we’re not talking going through the gate here.”

Jack stops, whirls about in my grasp and stares at me, astonished.

“Whaddaya taking about, I was just, I wasn’t doing anything!” he indignantly asserts.

I love this man, but honestly, he can be so obtuse at times.

“Jack!” I glare at him accusingly.  “You were driving Hammond nuts and you know it!”

“Ya think?” he blinks innocently at me.

I cross my arms and narrow my eyes at him.  Not giving him an inch here.

He maintains the indignantly innocent act a few more seconds before finally caving.

“Well maybe I was... getting a little… over-enthusiastic,” he grudgingly admits, lowering his eyes.

“Over-enthusiastic? Jack, if you could have found a way to get away with hog-tying the general and locking him up in his own basement in order to completely hi-jack the barbeque, you’d have done it!”

“Maybe a lot over the top,” he sighs.

“Just…” I wearily shake my head.  “Consider yourself officially relieved from grill duties for the rest of the day, okay?

“Wokay,” he pouts and hangs his head.  Honestly, all he needs to do is start stubbing his toe in the ground and he’ll be the complete epitome of the chastised ‘bad little boy’.  He looks so adorable, so bad, so sad, that little twinkle gathering speed in his eyes as he’s covertly gazing at me to see if it’s working and he’s making me go all soft and squishy inside because he’s just so damned…

…hot.

“Stop it!”  I growl at him, slap him on the shoulder and start pushing him again.  “Stop trying to start something you can’t finish.”

“Well, not here, sure, that’s a given, but there’s always later.”

“Don’t assume anything!  You, food, now, and for God’s sakes, behave yourself!”

“Hey!  Jack blusters,”  “Don’t I always?  But about Hammond , do you really think he woulda sent me somewhere nasty?  Washington, maybe?  That would suck.”

“Actually, I was thinkin’ Antarctica.”

“Really?  Naw, he wasn’t that pissed at me!”

“Oh yeah, he was, he really was.  Trust me, he was getting so steamed Antarctica woulda been him letting you off easy.”

“Wow, that’s pissed!  So maybe I should be thanking you for – oooh!  That looks really good!  No, I don’t want any of that crap, give me some of those!  More!  Oh yeah, and lots of that.  Screw the salad, get that green crap off my plate, this is a barbeque; I don’t have to eat veggies if I don’t want to!  Oh yeah, is there any pie?”


“You gonna eat that?” Jack casts an avaricious eye at the untouched sliver of pecan pie to the right of my cup of coffee while cramming the last of his third piece into his mouth.  I don’t know where he’s putting what he’s already consumed, but apparently he’s got room for more.

Or at least thinks he does.

“No, go ahead,” I push it toward him and then snatch my hand back before he accidently amputates one of my fingers with his eagerly stabbing fork.  “I know I took it, but I really don’t want it.  What I ate while I was with Lindsay was more than enough.”

“Howzatgowanbytheway?” Jack manages to get out around the huge hunk of pie he’s currently vigorously masticating.

Ewwww.

“God – that’s – can’t you at least swallow first before you…”

Jack glares balefully at me and deliberately shoves another generous forkful in his already stuffed-to-capacity mouth.  The result isn’t very pretty, but it’s very Jack.

Honestly, some days I don’t know whether to kiss him or kill him, but I don’t know what I’d do without him.

And I pray to God I never have to find out.

“It’s going fine,” I continue, opting to answer his original question while ignoring his infantile antics.  “Lindsay seemed very pleased to meet Margo.”

“I’ll bet,” Jack snorts and shovels the last of the pie in his mouth.  His eyes twinkling mischievously, he makes an elaborate show of chewing and swallowing before speaking again.

“Seavers, now there’s a woman who wasn’t exactly beaten up with an ugly stick.  And she’s a hell of an arm wrestler.”

Tell me about it.

“Ah yes, arm wrestling,” I nod thoughtfully.  “I’m sure that’s at the top of Lindsay’s list of requirements for friends and potential partners.  Anyway, when I left them, things seemed to be going very… what?”

Jack is frowning down at his empty plate.  He can’t possibly be thinking what I think he’s thinking.

“Do you think there’s any more pie?” He says with a slight whine.

“You can’t be serious!” I exclaim.  “You try and cram one more molecule in there and you’ll explode!”

“Nah,” Jack grins and shrugs.  “I’m just winding you up.  I’m full.  So, what do you think, are we good to – that is, do you think the geekette will mind if you skip out on her with me, so we can blow this party already?”

“Um – I’m not sure.  I don’t know if it would be – I mean, I drove her here, I don’t think it would be right for me to go, and leave her here, yeah, it’s highly likely Margo will be happy to make sure she gets home, but I shouldn’t assume – but there’s nothing stopping you from going, that is, if you want to.”

“Well, if I am henceforth forbidden from participating in any activities that are barbeque-related,” he glares at me.

“You are.”

“Then I’m pretty much done here, so yeah, I want to go, but I don’t want to go without you,” Jack grumbles.  “And I really do think we should get while the going is…”

He’s not saying it, but I know what he means.  So far, there hasn’t been any sign of Sam.  Which has, I’m afraid to say, made for an extremely enjoyable afternoon.  She did say she wanted to come, but apparently Pete is also in town, so, maybe she decided showing up here with him in tow wouldn’t be a good idea.

To be honest, I’m torn between relief and disappointment.  Pete is all Sam has been talking about for the last week.  I will confess I’m becoming more than curious about this apparent paragon, so after being so cleverly done out of what I thought was going to be my previous opportunity to encounter him I kinda wish they were here today so I could, and yet…

Not having her around has been…oh God, it’s been great.  I feel like a total shit for thinking this, but having this quiet time, alone with Jack, even though we’re not really alone, we’re surrounded by most of the members of the SGC, still, not having her hovering and watching us and hanging on Jack’s every word…

No drama, no tension, no pretence, no bad pizza…

It’s been nice.

“Colonel!” 

Jack’s eyes widen in alarm.

“Tell me I’m suffering from toxic pie shock and I did not just hear Carter taking my rank in vain,” he leans forward and desperately whispers.

And now, it’s over.  Or, just starting.

Super.

Heeeeere she comes, cutting an unerring path through the milling, munching throng, definitely bearing down on our position, a dark-haired, extremely eager-looking man hot on her six.

Ah, this must be the mythical Pete.  Well, what do you know, he actually exists.  And he’s here. 

I sense things are about to become very interesting.

“Just remember, I wanted to leave,” Jack heaves a heavy sigh and casts his gaze heavenward as if appealing for divine intervention or hoping to sight a passing Asgard he can cop a fast teleport outta here from.

Don’t start with me; it’s going to be fine.

However, the look on Sam’s face when she gets close enough to our table to see me, with Jack, and not…

She couldn’t be more shocked at seeing the last thing she was expecting than if I jumped up on the table and mooned her.  And the reason the perfectly normal and usually usual sight of me and Jack together has thrown her such a curve? 

Hands up everybody at this table who’s been a bad, bad boy.  Oooh, that would be me.  I have, I really have, and you know what, confronted with the tragic disappointment on Sam’s face, I’m actually feeling more than slightly remorseful at the moment because I’m pretty sure the reason why she’s currently looking like someone kicked her in the teeth; probably my fault.  You see, it’s entirely possible, although, if confronted I will deny everything, I may have given Sam the impression Lindsay and I were… dating. 

Just a little. 

Okay, okay, you beat it out of me, Sam kept pestering me for details about the night at Alfredo’s and asking me if Lindsay and I were going out again and I cracked and told her about asking her to come with me… today, and I may have, possibly, perhaps, made it sound like we were going on a date, but she made me do it, the only way to make her stop interrogating me was to give her the impression… make her think…

 Well, you know damned well what you made her think, Daniel.

“Daniel!”  she blurts, coming to such an abrupt stop the man I presume is Pete has to take a quick step to the right to avoid barrelling into her back.  “What are you doing here – um, I thought you were with – where is Lindsay?”

By the time she gets to the end of her interrogative it’s almost an accusation. Not that I owe her an explanation or anything, but before I have a chance to respond…

“Daniel!  There you are!”

Oh no!  The other one!  Quick, somebody hide me!

I turn desperate eyes to Jack to see him leaning slightly forward, his elbow on the table, chin resting in his cupped hand.  He stares innocently back at me, his eyes sparkling with amusement, a huge, happy grin on his face.

Bastard.

Sam’s eyes light up at Lindsay’s approach but when she spots who’s got her six she gets that confused, unhappy look again.

“Major Carter, Colonel O’Neill,” Lindsay mutters, after shyly sidling toward me. She throws a curt nod their way and turns into me and away from them before addressing me in a low, hesitant voice.

Unfortunately not low enough for everyone else assembled, particularly Sam to not be able to hear every word.

“Daniel, thanks for bringing me, you were a dear for driving me over and introducing me to… everyone, but I was wondering, that is, do you mind…”

She casts a shy look at the woman hanging back a discreet distance waiting for her.

“Lindsay, I don’t mind at all,” I tell her softly. “Feel free to ditch me with my blessings.  Go, have fun.  I’m good.”

She flashes me a brilliant smile of genuine gratitude.  “You really are a nice man,” she murmurs.  “Thanks.  For everything.  And I do mean everything.  See you around the SGC sometime?”

“You bet.”  I grin at her.  “Now scoot, get the heck out of here.”

And… they’re gone.  You know, it would be a lot easier to bask quietly in the glow of the satisfaction of a job well done if I didn’t have Sam’s eyes drilling holes into the back of my skull.

“Wait a minute,” Sam says.  “Where is she going, what does she mean, ‘see you around some time’, I thought you two were – I thought - "

I know what you thought, Sam, and it’s my fault you were thinking that because I thought it would be fun to make you think what you’re thinking, but now I’m thinking I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.

I want to lie down now.

“So Carter, who’s your friend?”  Jack suddenly pipes up.

Pete! Omigawd, I’d completely forgotten about him!  Thank you Jack, you’re my hero again.

Deflected from her intention of grilling me silly by Jack’s timely and surprising interjection, Sam forgets all about me and the one that got away and focuses full on him.  I know I’m gonna owe him later for drawing her fire now, but I figure I’m up for the job.

Payback isn’t always a bitch, lemme tell you.

“Oh!”  Sam exclaims.  “This is my… this is Pete Shanahan!  You may have heard me mention him, once or twice?  Pete, this is Colonel O’Neill.  He’s my - "

“I’m her boss,” Jack says smoothly, extending his hand towards the man stepping eagerly forward to accept it.  “Pleased to finally meet you, Pete,” Jack continues while being subjected to a hand pumping enthusiastic enough to sprain his wrist.  “You’re all Carter talks about these days.”

“Sam’s boss?  It’s good to meet you, Sir! Colonel, Colonel O’Neill, Sir,” Pete gushes, still pumping, and gives Jack an ear splitting grin.  “You’re a colonel?  Air Force, I presume, same as Sam?  That’s really impressive.  I’ve never met a genuine colonel before!” 

Wow, he certainly is… eager.  Not to mention apparently easy to impress.

Nice teeth.

“Ah, it’s a living,” Jack shrugs deprecatingly.   “I could say I’d never met a genuine cop before, but then, I would be lying.”

“That’s funny, Sir,” Pete beams while Jack finally manages to reclaim his hand.  “So you’re Sam’s boss.  I feel like I already know you.  Sam talks a lot about you too.”

Really?  How… creepy.

“All good, I hope,” Jack smiles generously up at him while surreptitiously shaking out his hand under the table.  “But let’s dispense with the formalities, shall we.  She has to call me Colonel,” he tilts his head back towards Sam.  “But you can call me Jack.”

Sam blinks and gulps at Jack’s ‘colonel’ comment; while it’s obvious his less than subtle remark has gone completely over Pete’s head, the shot definitely hit the intended target and is stinging more than some.  I’ll just jump in here now, move things along, change the subject, give Jack a good, swift kick under the table…

“And I’m Daniel,” I tell Pete.  “I work with Sam too.  Good to meet you.”

“Oh, so you’re Daniel,” Pete acknowledges, subjecting me in turn to his hyper-achieving handshake and an interestingly scathing once-over, not unlike the visual search he conducted on Jack earlier under the cover of hand-pumping and misdirecting babbling.

And speaking of hand pumping…

Ow.  Quite a grip.  You can let go now.

Ow.  Thank you.  Now, if I can just get the feeling back in my fingers…

“You’re the reason I’m working overtime to pay off my Visa bill this month,” he grins.  “Thanks for that by the way.”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea,” I shrug.

“You got me there,” he chuckles.  "Anyway, pleased to finally meet you. You’re not military?”  he asks, unexpectedly, but it’s not really a question.

Yeah, he’s a cop all right. And he’s good.  While he might look and act like a big puppy dog and seems three times as desperately eager as one, this man is no fool.  A quick glance at Jack confirms he’s come to the same conclusion.  Sam’s new man has more than sussed out the gaps in her cover story and because he cares about her, a definite point in his favour, he’s trying to fill in the blanks.  I can’t say I blame him; mysteries are compelling at the best of times, but add to that the impetus of new love and wanting to know and embrace everything about the newly discovered beloved: potential recipe for security issues. Unfortunately for Sam, and possibly for us, that burgeoning concern and insatiable curiosity comes all wrapped up in a package labelled ‘cop’, even worse, a homicide detective, a trained observer and someone who makes a living tracking down clues and solving puzzles… 

We’re going to have to be on our toes around this guy.

“Nope,” I answer Pete.  “I’m a civilian consultant.”

“And you work with Sam?” he presses.  “Doing…?”

Fishing, he’s definitely fishing…

“Yes, he does,” Jack smoothly interjects, his tone low, and friendly, with just a hint of ‘don’t mess with me, you won’t like what happens’.

“You, Sam, and all these people.  You all work together.  What was it again, deep space radar telemetry?”

Still fishing.  Also, apparently not easy to intimidate.  He’s meeting Jack eye to eye, not backing down an iota.

I’m impressed.  So is Jack.

“That’s right. Kinda has a cool ring to it, don’t you think?”  Jack smiles, and pats the bench beside him.  “But enough about us, let’s hear about you.  Come on, you two, sit down, we’ll chat, have a couple of beers…”

Pete gets and accepts the fish aren’t biting; the interrogation portion of the afternoon has been officially terminated.  His curiosity is far from slaked, but he knows when to back off.

Yeah, definitely smart.  Which means he could be a whole bunch of eager, well-meaning trouble, but I sincerely hope not, for Sam’s sake. 

“A beer would be great, Colonel – I mean Jack,” Pete grins, shifting back into enthusiastic puppy mode and moving to settle in beside Jack. 

“There ya go. Carter, how about you?  Beer? "

“No – no thank you… Sir, I’m… we… we weren’t going to stay, I just wanted…”

“Oh, pshaw, Carter, what’s your rush; pull up a picnic bench and park it for awhile.  “Hang out,” Jack finishes with an ironic smile.

Sam settles herself beside me with a softly expressed, but extremely unhappy sigh.  The whole time Jack and Pete have obviously been bonding Sam’s expression has been growing progressively troubled.  Although she’s doing her best to brave-face this little confrontation it doesn’t seem to be sitting well with her at all Jack has been manifestly cavalier about Pete’s existence and even more accepting of and willing to accommodate his presence.

The beer thing has really set her world on its ass. 

I’m thinking this wasn’t the reaction she was going for when she decided to bring Pete here and present him to Jack.  I’m thinking she was hoping meeting the ‘competition’ would have elicited quite a different response from our favourite colonel.

Now it’s apparent Jack is perfectly fine with his ‘rival’ to the point of partaking of the male bonding beer ritual with him she doesn’t want to stick around and have her nose rubbed in yet another rejection, but short of throwing a hissy fit and dragging Pete out by one ear, she’s kinda choice-less at the moment.

Because it’s more than plain to both her and me Jack’s not in any hurry to let them get away and her off the hook.

That thing I said earlier about payback not always being a bitch?

I was wrong.

I know why Jack is doing this, and part of me understands and realizes it’s unfortunately necessary but the other part so wishes it wasn’t.  Sam’s clearly not enjoying having to swallow yet another sharp slice of reality being served up to her a la carte and to be honest, neither am I.  I’m sorry, Sam, I really am, but it’s for the best.  You’ve got a good guy there, a chance for genuine happiness with someone you actually have a chance with.  Grab him with both hands and run like hell.

Maybe this will finally do it.  Make her wake up and see she’s been sniffing up the wrong colonel.

Um… that didn’t come out quite right.

“Daniel?” Jack says after throwing his arm around Pete’s shoulders.  “How would you like to rustle up a beer for my friend here?”

“Sure,” I nod and push myself to my feet.  “I presume you want one as well.”

“As long as you’re going, I wouldn’t mind,” Jack shrugs.

“Okey doke, and one for you, Sam?”

“Sure, why the hell not,” she grumbles and casts a baleful glance at Jack he ignores and Pete completely misses.  “Hold on, I’ll help you.”

Oh… joy…

I make a break for it, taking a swift, circuitous path through the partiers for the bar, hoping to secure the requested beverages and return to the table before Sam catches up to me.

“Daniel, wait up!”

Reluctantly I throttle back and allow her to catch up with me.

“What happened with you and Lindsay?” she asks as soon as she reaches me.  “I don’t understand, you said things were going well.”

Her concerned expression cuts deep, and I feel like a total ass.

“I – I – I know what I said, but I was wrong.  We weren’t…” I struggle for something plausible to tell her but I’m having trouble lying around my guilt while watching every word coming out of my mouth making her face get longer and sadder for me.

“I wasn’t her type,” I finally blurt.  “And I'm really not ready... just wasn't meant to be, I guess,” I shrug while wanting to shoot myself.

Oh God, look at her, if she could weep tears of blood for me now, she would. I am such a schmuck!

“Oh, Daniel, I’m so sorry to hear that,” she murmurs, her voice reeking with almost overwhelming sympathy.  “I really hoped you two would be good for each other, for both your sakes, but especially yours.  Daniel, I know you think you're not ready but you need someone in your life and I really thought I’d found her for you.”

She puts her arm around my waist, leaning her head against me and we walk on towards the bar that way, not saying anything more about it.  I can feel the heights of her hope and the depths of her disappointment swirling around me, mingled with her pity and concern and it touches me, more than I can say, feeling how much she cares about me and my happiness and  there’s a part of me, deeply buried and restrained by unfortunate necessity, the part that loves her so much and wants to turn her around and tell her everything, share my secret with her and tell her what  she wants for me I already have, I’m so happy, I’m so loved, she doesn't have to worry about me.  I want to tell her, I want to, oh God, how  I want to and I’m so close to breaking and giving in to the almost overwhelming desire to tell her she doesn’t have to grieve for me, but that shadow of uncertainty, that small, warning bell inside me…

She loves me now, as long as she thinks I’m something I’m not, never dreaming I’m any threat to her own dreams about our colonel but if she knew, really knew I already have a special someone and his name is Jack…

Would she love me then?


“Well, look who’s finally coming to bed.”

“Oh, you’re still awake.”

“Obviously.  What time is it anyway?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“That late?  Did you turn off all the lights?”

“What do you think?”

“Check all the doors were locked?”

“Jack.”

“What about - "

“Okay, Jack, you’ve found me out, I confess all, before I came to bed I went around the whole house turning on the lights, I opened all the windows, left the doors wide open, turned on all the faucets and the appliances and for good measure I threw a handful of carpet tacks along the hallway and down the stairs.”

“Fine.  Point taken.  Stop being such a sarcastic bastard and come to bed already.”

“Okay.  Move over.”

“Snuggling.  That’s nice.  Daniel?”

“What?”

“Are you sure you locked all the doors?”

“JACK!”

“Okay, okay, I’m just saying…  So, did you have a good time today, baby?”

“That’s one, and for the most part, yeah I did.”

“Looks like the geekette made out all right too.  Or maybe she is as we speak.”

“I really don’t know about that, I’m just happy it all went well.  So…”

“So?”

“What do you think about…”

“Pete?  Seems nice enough. Talks a lot.  Smiles even more.  Impressive handshake.  He’s clearly nutso about Carter.”

“Yeah, I got that.  He’s definitely smitten.  Honestly, I’m not so sure about… Sam.  About him, I mean.  I know what she says, but…”

“Trust me, Daniel, that guy’s not going anywhere any time soon.  He’ll wear her down eventually.”

“Wow, there’s a nice image.”

“You know what I mean.”

“For Pete’s sake, I hope you’re right. 

“Is it just me, or does the guy remind you of a – a - "

“Puppy?”

“Yeah.  Big, babbling, bouncy, panting and drooling.  At one point I was tempted to throw Carter to see if he’d fetch her.”

“Oh, that’s droll, Jack. It’s the eyes.  The ‘eager to please’ desperation.  Very puppy-like.”

“That and the wet nose.”

“Okay, can we not talk about this any more?”

“Fine.  So, the fourth is over and done with.  Always a good time, especially if Hammond is hosting the party, but not my favourite holiday in July.  The main event is yet to come.”

“What are you talking about, there isn’t another… oh.  That.”

“Yes, Daniel, that. Only the most significant day in the year, as far as I’m concerned.  So, it isn’t an official national holiday, but it damned well should be, and you wait, I’m thinking one day it will be.”

“You, sir, have officially moved into la-la land.”

“Long as you’re living there with me, I have no problems with that.”

“Sweet.  Strangely delusional, but still… sweet.  Jack, it’s just my…"

“Say it, Daniel, it’s not a dirty word.”

“”Birth…”

“Come on, you can do it!”

“Birthday!  My birthday, okay; I said it, you happy now?”

“Very good, it only took you one try to get it out this time.  Hot damn, we’re making progress here.  Maybe next year you’ll be able to say the ‘B’ word without any problem at all.”

“I can say it just fine, what I don’t understand is why you are so obsessed with making such a big deal about it, it’s just one stupid day out of the year just like every other stupid - "

“You know, Daniel, you say this every year.  ‘It’s just my birthday, Jack, just like any other day of the year; you don’t need to do anything special.’  And every year you’re like a kid in a book store when I spring my yearly extravaganza on ya.”

“That’s candy store.”

“What?”

“What you said, it’s kid in a candy store, not a - "

“Daniel, how much time did you spend in candy stores when you were a kid?”

“Oh.  Right.  What was I thinking?”

“Yeah, trust me, baby, four days from now you’re gonna be a very happy man.  I’m gonna show you fireworks that’ll make the fourth look like - like - "

“That’s sweet, Jack, but honestly, you don’t need to.  That’s two, by the way.”

“Yeah, I do.  I really do.  And you love it.”

“Whatever makes you happy.”

“Now you’re talking.  Give me some sugar, baby!”

“And that’s three!”

“Daniel, what are you – aw crap, you know how hard it was to get that stuff out the last – Daniel, come on, it’s just a little word, you don’t have to get all – DANIEL!!!!!”


“So, Daniel, what does it say?”

I ignore the nagging noise behind me sounding suspiciously like Jack...nagging and brush the dirt away from the symbols of the last line of the inscription.  If he would just shut up and let me concentrate…

“You know; if you would just shut up and let me concentrate for a minute I’d be able to tell you!”

“You said that ten minutes ago,” Jack dryly observes.  “You also said the lingo on that stone thingee - "

“Stele.”

“Whatever - is Ancient, you can read that crap in your sleep.  What’s the hold-up?”

Honestly, I have to go through this with him every single – he doesn’t understand, what I do it’s not like I can spit it out on demand; even if you understand a language, sometimes things just don’t make sense, that’s what he doesn’t get and it always makes me crazy!

“Jack.” I take several, calming breaths, then turn around and look down at him from my vantage point on top of the stone podium the stele I’m studying is standing on.  “Yes, I can read Ancient, but there’s Ancient, and then there’s Ancient, and this is really ancient so trying to figure out what it says, it’s not as easy as you might think.”

Jack cocks his head and blinks up at me like he hasn’t head a word I’ve said.

“So, five more minutes, ten tops?”

“Sure, Jack, whatever you say,” I snap at him and turn back to the mouldering, cryptic symbols I’m struggling to decipher.  “Why don’t you go and bother Sam and Teal’c for awhile.  I’ve got work to do.”

Right on cue Sam and Teal’c enter through the wide stone portal of the vast, domed chamber Jack and I were previously the sole occupants of.  Sam’s head is bowed over her hand-held detector and I can hear it humming from here.

Oh oh.

“Carter?”  Jack says.

“We were circling the building and I wasn’t picking up anything,” Sam crisply reports.  “All of a sudden I got a spike.  The readings are faint but I’m definitely getting something now.  Seems to be coming from there,” she finishes, pointing at where I’m standing.

 Of course it is.  And it here it comes.

“Daniel, what did you touch?”  Jack says in a sweetly indulgent yet incredibly patronizing voice.

“Nothing, there’s nothing to touch!”  I bristle back at him.  “It’s just bare stone, no machinery, no moving parts no - "

Oh wait, I did touch the inscription. 

Crap.

“You did mention you believe this structure pre-dates all of the Ancient sites we have visited by many thousands of years, did you not, DanielJackson,” Teal’c gravely offers. “That being the case, while there might not appear to be a mechanism in this location, such as have been at the previous Ancient sites we have discovered, perhaps the stele is more than it seems, and the Ancient technology we seek is here, although not immediately apparent.”

Oh, I hadn’t thought about that.  The stele isn’t a simple monument, it’s actually…

Okay, I’d better get back to this translation.

“I see where you’re going with this, Teal’c,” Sam pipes up after I turn my back on the assemblage beneath me to resume doing battle with the baffling marks before me.  “It’s clear the power source is somewhere in the vicinity of that thing, but what you’re saying is it might actually be inside it because it’s not simply a monument, as we previously believed, the whole thing is the mechanism.”

Wait a minute, wait a minute, I think I’m getting this.  Yeah, that’s the word for puzzle.  I’m sure of it, such an archaic form, though, no wonder I missed it.

“So you’re saying that stone thing, not a big, horking stone… thing, but one of those freaky Ancient devices?”  Jack says.

What is, is not all.  That’s what it says. Yup, definitely what it says. That’s what it says, but what does it mean?

“I think so, Sir.”

I dunno, maybe the next line will shed some light.

“Something we don’t know what the hell it’s for and could go off in our faces without any warning and do God only knows what?  That kind of freaky Ancient device?”

Puzzle, puzzle, we got that one.  What the puzzle?  Examine?  No, that’s not quite right.

“It’s possible, Sir.”

Explore!  Okay, moving on, almost cracked this thing.

“Daniel?”

I’ve got my back to Jack so I can’t see him, but I can hear it in his voice, he’s getting edgy, I’d better hurry, he’s starting towards the stairs behind me, gonna pull me off this thing, just a few more seconds…

“I’ve got it!”  I exclaim, and whirl around just as Jack puts one foot on the bottom step.  “I know what it says!”

“And?” Jack prompts, looking up at me.  He’s paused for the moment, but his foot is still on the stair and if he doesn’t like what he’s about to hear we are out of here.

What is, is not all there is,” I read from the stele after turning back around.  “There is also what could have been.  Explore this puzzle if you dare, but be warned, some paths are best left untrammeled.”

I’m still not so sure about the last line, I don’t think it’s complete, there’s a bit there, underneath the text, a really encrusted section, there could be more text, but I can’t tell without cleaning the stone first.

“Daniel, what are you doing?”  Jack barks at me. 

“I was just – I think there might be another line or two of text, but I can’t be sure without - "

“Do me a favour and don’t touch anything on that thing,” Jack says.  “Not until we know more about it.”

“How are we going to do that unless I see if there’s any more to translate?”  I stubbornly insist.

“Let’s work with what we have for the moment,” Jack reasonably rebuts.  “Which is, if you ask me, pretty damned cryptic.  All that hoo hah you just said.  What does it mean?”

I was afraid he was going to ask me that.

“I have no idea; I just know what it says.”

“Well, that’s not very helpful, is it?” Jack shrugs.  “Carter thinks this stone thing is some sort of Ancient device.  What do you think?”

“It’s possible.  I – I don’t know.”

It could be, but if it is, I wonder what it does.

“What’s it do?” Jack muses, narrowing his eyes while scanning the stele from top to bottom. 

There’s an abrupt ‘bamf’ sound and the entire chamber is suddenly flooded with blinding white light.  And I do mean blinding.

I really hate it when this happens.

“Crap!”  I hear Jack yell.

Just as suddenly as it came, the light is gone.  Blinking, I look around, look down, trying to focus.  Nothing in the chamber has changed; everything looks exactly the same, Jack, Sam and Teal’c are in the same places they were, they look okay, thank God, everyone’s okay but…

They’re all staring at me, why are they staring at me?  Jack’s eyes are fairly bugging out of his head, Sam’s got her hand clapped to her mouth like she’s trying to hold something back and Teal’c –

Well he’s just staring. 

What’s going on?  I grow another head or something?

“Daniel,” Jack chokes out; then clears his throat.  “That – that is you, isn’t it?"

“What do you mean, is it me, of course it’s me, you can see that, what are you talking about?”

What the hell is he talking about and why is he – he’s staring at my chest.  Why is he staring at my chest? 

“I’m only asking because…” Jack falters, breaks off, takes a deep breath and clears his throat again.  “I’m only asking because you’ve  – you’ve got breasts!”

“WHAT?”

I clutch my chest, looking down at myself at the same time.  I’m fine, I’m still me, that is, as much of me as I can see – I still look exactly the same.

Definitely breast-less.

“I do not!”  I indignantly blurt.

“Oh yeah, you do,” Jack emphatically nods, his eyes widening as  his gaze leaves my chest and moves slowly up and down my entire body.  “You most definitely do. Mind you, they kinda work with the whole new look you’ve got going for you at the moment.”

Oh my God, what is he looking at, what is he seeing?  Whatever it is – it’s me, but I don’t think it’s me – me the way he’s staring, his eyes get any bigger they’re gonna fall right out of his head!

“I do not have breasts!”  I inanely assert.

“You’re right, you don’t,” Sam tells my crotch.  She’s staring at my crotch.  Oh my God, what is that all about?

“Indeed, he does not, O’Neill,” Teal’c chimes in.  I don’t know what he’s looking at, he seems to be staring past me, his eyes tracking something… moving. 

“Thank you!”  I acknowledge my allies, put my hands on my hips and prepare to face off with Jack.

Who is still staring and gawping like he’s never seen me before.  Oh my God, he’s almost salivating!  He’d better stop it, it’s creeping me out!

Sam starts to giggle.

“What’s so funny?”  I yell at her. I’m bewildered, sliding towards scared, way past steamed and becoming slightly animated in my agitation.  Sam giggles again and snorts before giving way to peals of hysterical laughter and Jack’s eyes are back on my chest, his head moving up and down like he’s watching something… bouncing…

This is not happening.  Not, not happening.

“I’m sorry, Daniel,” Sam finally manages to gasp after regaining a tenuous modicum of self-control.  “Sorry for laughing at you but I can’t help it, you’re just so adorable!  You look – you look like you’re about five years old and you’re so darned cute!”

What did she just say?

“Are you telling me when you look at me you see a little kid?”

“Mmm hmmm,” Sam nods vigorously, smothering another giggle.  

Oookay, that explains why Sam is staring at my crotch.  If she’s seeing me as a five year old to her, that’s probably right about where the top of my head is.

I can’t believe I just said that.  I can’t believe how calmly I’m taking this.  Okay, what just happened here?  The inscription was talking about… then Jack said… we were all subjected to a weird Ancient light show and now when Sam looks at me she sees my inner child on the outside, and Jack, apparently Jack is seeing me as…

I can’t even say it!

I look down at myself again.  I’m still me to me but to them, I’m… different.  I don’t get it, why are they still them to me, but to them I’m –

I have to hear it again, I still don’t believe it!

“Let me get this straight,” I manage to get out after staving off an almost overwhelming urge to hyperventilate.  “You all look the same to me but to you - " I point at Sam. “I look like a little kid.  That right?”

She nods vigorously, biting her lip.

“And you - " I point at Jack.

“You know, this started out weird, but I could get used to it,” Jack thoughtfully muses.  “How do you feel about being called Danielle?” he asks hopefully.

“Actually, from my perspective L’ll Danny would be more appropriate,” Sam snickers.

“I hate it!” I snarl at him.  “Don’t do it again if you want to live!” I tell him with all the sincere menace I can muster.  “And you,” I point at Sam, my hand slightly shaking.  “Don’t even start with me.  Okay,” I turn to the last, and up until now mostly silent member of the assemblage.  “What about you, Teal’c, do I look like a little kid or a - a - "

I still can’t say it.

“A female,” Teal’c finishes for me.

“Yeah… that,” I nod gratefully, gesturing for him to continue.  “Well, do I?”

“Indeed, you do not, DanielJackson,” he assures me, bowing gravely.

Thank God, at least one sane person in the crowd.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

“Your appearance is much the same as before,” he adds.  “However, I must confess I find the addition of the prehensile tail extremely disquieting.”

He’s kidding.  He has to be kidding. 

I can’t help it; my hands fly to my ass.

There’s nothing there that shouldn’t be there.  No tail, no…

No tail.  No damned breasts either.

I… I knew that.  As far as I can see and feel, despite what my team mates are saying they are seeing, nothing about me has actually physically changed.

I’m still me. No additions, deletions or gender alterations.  They’re the ones with the perception problem. And… apparently having way too much fun at my expense.  Especially…

“Shut up!”  Jack hoots at Teal’c with a grin so big it threatens to swallow his face.  “Danielle has a tail?  This I gotta see!”

Jack leans forward, craning his neck so he can get a better view of my ass.  I’m not sure if looking for my alleged tail is his actual objective or if he just wants to check out my…

Tail.

Okay, I’m officially as freaked out as I’m going to allow myself to be.

“We’re looking at Daniel, but we’re each seeing different… versions… of Daniel,” Sam thoughtfully offers. “However, from Daniel’s perspective, we haven’t changed and neither has he, so actually, it would appear none of the Daniels we are seeing are actually real. It has to be the machine, Sir.”

“Ya think?”  Jack snorts.  “I guess we found out what it does.  Can’t imagine why, though.”

I don’t care why; I just want to go home, climb under my bed and never come out again.

Well, I might emerge occasionally for coffee, but that’s it!

“So, Danielle,” Jack says, his grin getting smarmier by the second.

Stop CALLING me THAT!”  I shriek at him.

Oh God, I’m shrieking now.  Not to mention freaking.

“Okay,” he soothes, still smiling.  “Chill already.  You sure you’re still you?  You’re acting kinda funny.  It’s not a… female… thing, is it?  You know, hormones?” he leers, waggling his eyebrows at me.

I can’t believe he just said that!  Does he want me to shoot him?

“Of course I’m sure!  You’re still you and I’m still me!”

“Not from what I’m seein’,” Jack responds with an apologetic shrug.

He’s not sorry at all, damn him, he’s enjoying this way too much and I find that disturbing on too many levels to count.

“I have to go along with the colonel, Daniel,” Sam adds with a rueful smile.

There’s a shocker!

“I must regretfully also concur with O’Neill and Major Carter,” Teal’c chimes in.  “Your outward appearance does indeed seem to have undergone a noticeable alteration.”

“I don’t care what you think you’re seeing, you’re all wrong!”  I’m starting to sound distinctly hysterical, not to mention alarming alone in my belief in my own reality, but I know what I see and feel.

I’m… me.

I – I think.

“Are you sure?”  Jack frowns.  “How do you know; you can’t see your own face.”

“I can see enough to know I’m male!”  I glare at him.  “A mature, adult male,”  I fire at Sam.

I’m so not even touching the tail thing. 

Wait a minute, I’ve got an idea.

“Sam, give me your compact.”

Mirror, I need a mirror.

“Why do you assume I have a compact?” Sam bristles.

“You’re a girl, Carter, it goes without saying,” Jack sighs.  “Just – give it to he – him,” he quickly catches himself.

Sam mutters to herself and starts fishing around in one of her vest pockets.  Okay, I can use the mirror to verify I’m still me, but, oops, detecting a slight flaw in the strategy, I’m not the one needs convincing, the mirror will work for me, but not for them.  And now I’m thinking about it a bit more, if this device is doing what I think it’s doing, using a mirror won’t prove anything at all.

Not even to me.

“Never mind, Sam,” I sigh.   “It’s not going to help. I know what I see when I look at myself, and at you, but that doesn’t mean what I’m seeing is any more real than what you guys see.”

“Because of what the machine could be doing to all of us?”  Sam stops rummaging in her vest and addresses my crotch.

I really wish she’d stop doing that.

“It’s definitely altering your subjective perceptions of reality with regards to me, specifically, but what we have to determine somehow - "

“Is whether your perceptions are also being altered, or if you are exempt from the subjective effect and are simply the object we are being influenced to perceive differently.  Which would of course automatically mean you are the only one seeing actual reality.”

Um…yeah!

“I almost understood that,” Jack marvels.  “Cool.  Who’s reality is really real, ours or yours.”

“Or none,” Teal’c booms.

Oooh, that’s a scary thought.  I wish he hadn’t said that.

“I wish you hadn’t said that,” Jack shudders. “So, sounds like a plan,” Jack tilts his head and squints up at me.  “Now we’re agreed we all need a reality check, got any ideas how we’re gonna do it, Danielle?”

“Will you STOP calling me that!”  I howl at him.

I swear, if he doesn’t stop drooling and licking his lips…

“Okay, okay,” Jack holds up his hands in a gesture of surrender.  “Just, gimme a break and stop bouncing, will ya?  It’s very… distracting,” he flushes.

I am so angry at Jack right now. I want to kill him, very slowly, very painfully, at the very least permanently remove that shit-eating smirk from his face.  But I can’t let my rage at the disturbing ease with which he seems to have embraced ‘Danielle’ overwhelm me; I’ve got to stay calm, focus, think. I might be the only one capable of seeing what’s really real, the only one who can get us out of this, somehow figure out how to get things back to normal.

I’ll do it.  I’ll figure it out.  Pull another impossible solution to a seemingly insoluble situation out of my ass Sam will later take credit for and get our asses out of this.

Then I’ll kill him.

Think, think, think, think!

Oooh, I got it!

“Camcorder!”  I blurt.

“That could work,” Sam nods.  “If the device is affecting us, our minds, and not our technology…”

“The camcorder should record what’s really, really real, and hopefully we’ll be able to see the way things really are.”  Jack interjects.  “Whatever the hell that is. Good, go for it.”

“Already on it,” I say while rooting through my pack.  What the hell, where is the stupid thing, I just had my hands on it.  What the – what is that doing in there…

Ah ha, success!

“Got it!” I jump to my feet, camcorder in hand and head down the stairs to meet Sam, who’s stopped at the foot of the staircase.  She stands beside Jack, looking up at me.

Well, half of me, anyway.

I wish she’s stop grinning like that.

I’m two steps above her about to hand off the unit when she suddenly giggles again.

“I’m sorry, Daniel, I can’t help it, you’re just so darned cute!” she gushes and suddenly reaches out like she intends to pinch one of my  -

“Sam!”  I squeak and frantically backpedal before her hand connects with a portion of my anatomy I’d much rather she not become familiar with.  At all.  “God, watch where you’re – six feet tall, Sam, head - up here!”  I wave the camcorder frantically over my head.  “Not… half of that,” I finish, waving it at waist level.

“Oh,” Sam gulps and grimaces.  “Sorry about that!”

“I don’t think the cheeks you almost pinched were the ones you were going for,” Jack drolly observes, still craning his neck in an attempt to get a better look at my ass.

Danielle’s ass.

Whatever.

“I’ll just toss it to you, shall I?”  I mutter at her.  After she catches it I cross my arms and wait, inwardly fuming, while she fiddles, then aims and shoots.

“That should be enough,” she says after several seconds.  “Let me just…” she fiddles with it some more while Jack peers over her shoulder in order to see the playback.

“Yep, that’s Daniel all right,” Jack nods with what I swear sounds like a disappointed sigh.  “Same as he ever was.  So, that settles it, he’s fine, we’re the ones who are screwed up.”

Nothing, I’m saying nothing.

“Thank you!” I snarl at them.  “So, now what?”

“Clearly, we must find some way to return our perceptions to normal,” Teal’c offers.

“How, we don’t even know why this happened in the first place,” Sam responds.  “I could examine the stele, but my perceptions are compromised, I don’t know if what I’m seeing is real, if I try to…fix it, how do I know - "

“I don’t care what you do,” Jack barks at her.  “Just do it!” 

“Make it stop now!” Jack and I simultaneously shout at her.

Bamf!

“Crap!”  Jack yells again as the room whites out.

And… we’re back.

“Daniel!”  Jack gapes at me.  “Wow, there you are, breast-less.  Not that there was anything wrong with them, the breasts, that is, they were very nice, but they weren’t exactly you – okay, they worked with that you, but this you not so much.  And now they’re gone,” he finishes sheepishly.  “Welcome back?”

I must be going crazy, he can’t possibly have preferred me as Danielle but his face, his expression – he actually looks sorry I’m me again and not…

Still can’t say it!

“Indeed,” Teal’c echoes.  “DanielJackson, you have resumed your accustomed appearance.”

Yippee for me.  And guess what, if today’s alternate offerings of Daniel Jackson haven’t been entertaining enough, here’s another treat for you; this is what I look like when I’m leaving.

I silently stomp down the stairs, intending to put as much distance between me and my team mates, but most especially Jack, as quickly as possible.

“What just happened here?”  Sam blinks and stares.

“How the hell am I supposed to know,” Jack shrugs. “Whatever that thing was doing to us, it’s not doing it any more, so we’re so out of here.”

Way ahead of you, folks.  Talk amongst yourselves if you please, me, I’m gone.

I don’t look at Jack while stalking past him, I’m making for the exit and I’m not stopping until I’m home. 

My own bought and paid for with my own damned money I hardly ever see because I’m always at Jack’s but after what’s happened here today that might be changing… home.  Jack had better take a good look at my ass, commit it to memory, even, because it’s going to be awhile before he sees it again.

“T – I can’t stand it, I gotta know, what was the deal with the tail?”  Behind me, I hear Jack inquire of our Jaffa companion. 

I keep walking.  Really not interested in the answer.

“Spacemonkey,” Teal’c rumbles in response.

Okay, maybe slightly curious.

“Come again?”  Jack says.

“I have always been curious why you assigned that particular appellation to DanielJackson,” Teal’c explains.  “All the years I have known him I have never observed him to evidence the slightest resemblance to an extra-terrestrial primate except for the occasional tendency to bounce when extremely agitated.”

Well, that’s nice to know.  However, while it’s weird enough to think Teal’c has been secretly scoping me for simian characteristics all these years, apparently he’s not the only one.

Not only does Jack fancy me as a woman, but…

Oh don’t go there, Daniel, down that road lies only madness.

“Perhaps the machine detected my confusion and sought to satisfy it.”

Okay, that makes a certain amount of twisted… but disturbing sense.  So, that takes care of Teal’c’s reality issues, but what about the other two?

“Wow, that’s… disturbing,” Jack answers.  “I swear, it was just something that popped into my head, I never meant it to mean anything and certainly never intended to suggest I thought Daniel looked anything like a monk  – you really saw him – Daniel - with a tail?” he finishes with a loud whisper.

“Indeed,” Teal’c replies.  “However, as sharing that fact with DanielJackson seemed to upset him, I deemed it prudent to refrain from mentioning the ears.”

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  I really have to get out of here now.

“What of yourself, O’Neill,” Teal’c continues.  “Does DanielJackson know you are harbouring a secret desire he become a member of the opposite sex - "

He does now.  And that pretty much does it, I’m gone.

I take off down the path toward the gate, not caring if any of my team mates are following me, or are within a hundred mile radius of me, for that matter, truth be told.  That part of the inscription about some paths best left alone?  Right now, I’m with them. I could have gone a whole lifetime without going through what’s happened to me today and subsequently finding out… what I’ve been  shown today. Never mind what they saw, that was humiliating enough but I can learn to live with it, what I have no idea what to do with is why they saw me the way they did, what it possibly, and very probably means.  

What does it mean?  Everything?  Nothing? 

Sam prefers me pint-sized, Teal’c has been making a monkey’s uncle out of me and Jack?

I can’t even – I can’t even go there.

What does it mean?  Why would he – how can he –

Does he really feel that way?

Really?

“Daniel!”  Jack hollers from behind me.  “What the hell, why are you – wait up, for crying out loud!”

I quicken my pace, trying to block out the sounds of Jack’s running footfalls behind me.  I know this is stupid, it’s probably – it probably means nothing, but it’s just – I feel so – how long has he been feeling like this, is it something recent, or has he always, as long as we’ve been… together and if he does,  why - why would he…

What’s wrong with me the way I am, am I not good enough for him, why not, why would he want me to be…

That?

“Daniel!”  Jack chides after he sliding to a stop and falling into step beside me. “What’s the matter with you, why did you take off, without us, you know better than that!”

“Go away, Jack,” I snarl at him, fiercely blinking back any betraying indicators of how shaken and upset I really am. Which is… really upset; and I think that scares me the most of all.

“Leave me alone. I don’t – I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

I don’t, I can’t, not now I – I have to sort this all out somehow before I can.

“What?”  Jack gapes.  “What the hell brought this on?”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing.  How can he be so damned obtuse!  Doesn’t he realize what happened back there, doesn’t he understand…

“Wow, you’re really upset!” he softens his voice, realization setting in as he gets a better look at me and sees, even though I’m trying desperately not to let him.

“Daniel, you’re kidding, right?  You’re not seriously letting a stupid little thing like - "

“Stupid!”  I hiss at him.  “Stupid?  You don’t think I should find learning you secretly wish I was a woman upsetting!  Oh, silly me, I can’t imagine why I should take such a trivia detail like that personally!  How long have you been feeling this way, Jack, and how inconvenient has it been for you to have to deal with me as I am when all the while you’ve been wishing I had – had - "

I have to stop talking because I want to scream at him, vent this terrible disappointment and rage swelling inside me but I can’t, I have to keep a lid on it, can’t get too loud, can’t say what I really feel because Sam and Teal’c are right behind us, have to remember that, can’t let it out now…

“I wish you were a woman?”  Jack exclaims.  “Is that what you think?”

His tone is incredulous, with more than a hint of hurt, but I don’t know what to believe any more.  I ignore him and keep walking. 

We’ve reached the ring of standing stone surrounding the Stargate.  The DHD is just a few short feet away.  Suddenly Jack grabs my arm and whirls me to face him.

“Daniel, you’ve got it all wrong!” he desperately whispers.

“Do I?”  I spit back at him.  “Seems to me maybe I’m seeing things clearly for the first time.  Teal’c’s explanation seems plausible enough, and Sam, I can understand why she’s been nursing a secret desire to infant-asize me but you – this – I have to think about this, Jack, this, this changes things.  I have to think about what this means for us – or – or - if this is the way you really feel about me, if there even should be an us!”

I didn’t mean to say that and yet – and yet I did, I feel so confused, so…so…

“Daniel, don’t say that!” Jack tightens his grip on my arm until he’s hurting me, his face shocked and stricken.  “You don’t understand, it’s not – it’s not like that, I don’t want - "

“Yes you do!” I shrug off his hand and he lets me.  “I saw the look on your face when ‘Danielle’ was gone and all you were left with was me.  She’s the one you really want!”

“No,” Jack says softly.  “No, Daniel, you’re wrong, please, let me explain.”

“Leave me alone, Jack.” 

I abandon him by the stones and stride over to the DHD.  He doesn’t follow me, even if I wanted him to, which I don’t there wouldn’t be a lot of point; this conversation is over.  Sam and Teal’c have caught up to us.  The window of opportunity has just slammed shut.

“What’s the matter with Daniel?”  Sam asks Jack.  I ignore all three of them and start dialling home.

My hand is hovering over the centre crystal when the staff blast shears past my left shoulder.

“Cover!”  Jack howls, and strafes the return path of the blast.  Shaking at how close the blast came to me, I throw myself down behind the only cover available to me – the DHD itself.  I cower behind my meagre shelter while my team mates fan out in front of me along the ring of stones, staff blasts raining down on our position from three different angles.

Jaffa !  Oh God, why them, why now?

I can’t think about that right now, we’re in trouble, Jack and the others are doing their best to cover me, I have a job to do.

“Daniel!”  Jack barks, scurrying quickly to the next stone down the line so he can fire at the Jaffa who’s just popped up from behind the tree-line to my right in order to take a shot at me.  The Jaffa goes down.

“Do it!”  he yells at me while all three of my team mates lay down a withering blanket of covering fire.

I don’t hesitate, leaping up to push the centre crystal, then diving back down behind the DHD.  The gate boils into life behind us, the lapping sounds of the active event horizon barely audible over the deafening din of thundering staff bolts and P-90 fire.

My team are doing their jobs, I have to finish mine.

Still hunkering behind the DHD I quickly send the Iris code and then hit my transmitter.

“This is Daniel Jackson,” I yell into the comm while peeking around the pedestal in an attempt to see what’s going on behind me.  “General Hammond, we’ve been pinned down at the gate by a Jaffa patrol.  The rest of SG-l is returning fire, but we can’t come through yet.”

It’s hard to tell, so many staff blasts, but three, I think it’s only three Jaffa .  Not sure.

Shit!  Staff blast!  Close, too damn close.  Where is it coming from?  Cover, I need to find more cover.  There is none, nowhere to go.

“How many, son?”  Hammond ’s tinny, barely audible voice sounds in my ear.  “Do you need assistance?”

Jack is moving again, skirting the stone ring, darting to the next one, making his way closer to me as another staff blast slams into the earth mere feet away from the base of the pedestal.  He’s trying to cover me, to protect me, knows I’m pinned down, can’t move.  Sitting duck.  There’s a flutter of movement in the trees to my far right, ah, gotcha!  I throw myself to the ground, rolling away from the DHD, bringing up my P-90 to sight on the Jaffa who’s been taking pot shots at me when I’m blinded by a deafening flash, there’s a huge ‘whoosh’ of sound battering my eardrums, and I hear a loud, horrible, hollow, whumping sound.

My eyes still dazzled, vision wavering I can barely see Jack stumble, pitch forward and fall heavily to the ground, a huge, ghastly smoking hole in his back.

Oh God, Jack, Jack’s been hit.  Oh God, oh God!  He’s not moving. 

JACK!

“SIR!”  Sam shrieks.  The desperate, hysterical sound of her voice jerks my attention from Jack’s broken, still body.  What’s she doing, she’s jumped up, she’s running, she’s running to Jack. She’s completely out in the open – what’s she doing?

I feel like I’m the grip of that Ancient machine again, only now it’s my perceptions it’s affecting, making everything slow down, become so clear...

I should be… but I feel so calm.  Sam is running to Jack, shouting something but her words are being carried away by the noise and thunder.  Behind her, she doesn’t see him, the Jaffa breaking cover, standing up, sighting on her back.  Teal’c doesn’t see him either; he’s firing at the Jaffa who took Jack down.

Jack…

I see the Jaffa about to kill Sam.  I see him.  Calm, still calm.  I… I know what to do.

I ignore Sam, still running to Jack, completely heedless of her own danger, look past her, I know what to do.  Raise my weapon... brace... sight... acquire the target, there he is, there he is, calm, steady... hold my breath... squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk.  Got ‘em, he starts to fall.  Good, that one dealt with, out of the corner of my eye I can see Teal’c has taken out the second Jaffa.  That leaves…

The last Jaffa has thrown his staff weapon down, abandoning his position, running away in panic. Teal’c smoothly pivots, fires. He's history.

Clear.  We’re in the clear.  Sam has reached Jack, and thrown herself to her knees beside him.  She’s safe.  And Jack…

Jack, oh God, Jack.

I fall back against the DHD, trembling, feeling weak and dizzy, like I want to toss my cookies into the middle of next Tuesday.  Somewhere in the distance I can hear Sam, she’s saying Jack is alive, God, oh thank God, he’s alive, her voice sounds strange, too high and wild.  But I can’t – I can’t worry about her now.  I have to…  I have to get help.

“Stargate Command, we need help here,” I babble into my comm.  “We’re…     the Jaffa patrol has been neutralized. We’re in the clear, but Colonel O’Neill…”

I can feel the eerie envelope of calm formerly insulating me beginning to drain away.  I feel cold; my hands are shaking, my teeth starting to chatter.  “We need medical assistance, Sir,” I manage to get out.  “We have a man down.”

“Shutting the gate down now, son,” Hammond responds.  “Help is on the way.”

Good.  Good.  Help is good.  I wrap my arms around my drawn up legs and rest my forehead on my knees. I can’t think I can’t move I can’t

Oh Jack…


Happy Birthday to me.  Yippee.

Excuse me if I don’t exactly feel like celebrating.

God, oh God, what a difference a few days makes.  Four days ago, I had everything, I had… I had him.  Four lousy days ago I was happy.  I had a reason to celebrate.  My ‘special’ day, my ass.  He's the one who made it special, who made everything make sense, worth living for, he is everything and I'm... 

I'm scared.

 I can still hear his voice, feel his kisses on my skin.  Promised me, he promised me he was going to rock my world today.  He couldn't wait for it to get here. My birthday.  God, I’ve always hated this day, at least, before, I did, before he – before he came into my life all it was, was another reminder I was alone, and it sucked and I hated it, but never so much as I do… now…

All I want – all I want is for him to wake up, for him to be okay, so I can tell him… tell him…

Jack, I’m so sorry, please, please wake up so I can tell you how sorry I am for what I said, what I thought.

He’s gonna wake up, he has to. He’s still alive.  He made it through the surgery, he’s still with us.  I have to hold onto that, even though he’s been in a coma ever since and Janet says she doesn’t know if he’ll ever come out of it. Can’t think that way; I have to believe he will, he will, he has to.

He’ll wake up, he’ll be okay, he won’t…

Don’t leave me, Jack, not – not like this.

I wipe the tears out of my eyes and try to focus on the text in front of me, but I can’t, it’s all so much… crap.  What the shit do I care about the judicial code of a bunch of dead aliens when Jack is lying in the infirmary in a coma he might never come back from, and the reason he’s there, hovering between life and death…

Me.  He was trying to protect me.  My fault he was hit, and maybe, because of what I said to him, before we were ambushed, what if he didn’t see, let his guard down because... because…

I don’t know, I don’t know, maybe I’ll never know but it’s neither here nor there, all the blame in the world won’t change what’s happened, won’t make Jack not hurt, give him back to me.  I want him back, I want to be there, with him, I need to be with him, but I can’t, I don’t deserve to be, and besides, she’s there, she won’t leave him, won’t let me be alone… with him.

Sam, I can’t stop thinking about Sam, what she did, what almost happened to her out there.  She’s okay, but it was close, too close, she could be lying in the infirmary beside Jack, right now, instead of glued to that chair by his side where I should be sitting, or worse, she could be in the morgue.

She lost it out there, totally lost it.  Jack went down and she…

She could have been a casualty as well.  Should have been, would have been.

I’m the only one who knows, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I want to hate her for being so stupid and nearly getting herself killed but I love her, I’m glad she’s okay, she’s okay but Jack, Jack’s not okay I want, I want Jack back, I want none of this to have happened, I don’t want to know, what I know.

I just want everything to be okay.  Even though I’m scared, so scared everything has changed and nothing is ever going to be okay again.

I don’t know what to do.  Jack, please Jack, wake up and tell me what to do.

Please wake up.

“Daniel?”

Startled by the sound of her voice I look up and see Lindsay standing in my office doorway.  She looks absolutely petrified with the presumption she’s taking, like she’d as soon bolt as be here, but she’s here, and she’s…

She’s staying.

“Daniel, I know you must be feeling…” she ventures, a slight quaver in her voice, “…really scared, and the last thing you want is someone, in your face, mouthing platitudes, but I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry about Colonel O’Neill.”

She is; she really is.  I know how hard this is for her, even though courtesy of Sam’s dating debacle we’re token acquaintances in reality we barely know each other, and she has no concrete reason to expect I’d want or need this from her and yet, the fact she’s here, reaching out to me, battling both her better judgment and her own basic, reticent nature…

I’m… deeply... very touched.

“I just wanted to say that,” she says softly.  “And if you need, if you need anything, if there’s anything I can do…”

“You already have,” I tell her sincerely, even as thoughts start whirling around in my brain it shouldn’t be her, here, now, seeking me out to offer a shoulder, comfort and reassurance, it should be Sam, why isn’t it Sam, when did I lose her, why isn’t she here, I want her to be here, to hold me, tell me Jack’s going to be okay.

“You already have,” I tell her again, and force a smile.  “Thank you for your concern.”

“Everybody’s pulling for him, Daniel.  He’s gonna be okay.”

“Yeah,” I nod sharply and bite my lip against the sudden shard of pain cutting through me.  “I know he is; I know…”

I’m gonna lose it, I can’t talk about this, him, with her, I thought I could, but it’s too much, go, she should go…

“I’ll – I’ll – I’ll go now,” she says, ducking her head.

I nod.  Can’t speak.

“You’ll be okay?  If you need anything, anything at all - "

I swivel my chair sharply around as the first sobs shake me.  I’m praying she’s gone, but I can’t tell, and it isn’t until several seconds of silence ensue I’m sure.

I’m alone.


“Janet?”

“Daniel.” Janet looks up from the file she’s studying and frowns at me.  “Daniel, you look awful; when was the last time you slept?”

“I don’t know and I don’t…” I sigh and silently beg her to not go all medical on me.  Just this once.  “How…how is Jack?”

“He’s still in a coma, Daniel,” she tells me honestly, closing the folder and rising from her seat.  A few steps and she’s by my side, her hand warm and comforting on my arm.  “He’s holding his own, but there’s been no change.”

“But he’s not getting any worse.” I search her dark eyes for whatever small spark of hope I can grab onto.  “He’s going to get through this.  He’s going to wake up,” I hear myself saying.

“Daniel, I honestly don’t know.”  Her smile is tremulous, but tender.  “He’s strong, and nearly as stubborn as you are.  There’s a good chance he’ll make a full recovery but I can’t make you any promises.”

He will; he has to.  She believes; I know she does but she can’t – she can’t say any more than maybe, but she’s expecting a miracle.

Oh Jack, we need one.

“Why don’t you go and see him?” she gently suggests.  “In fact, I’m kind of surprised you’re not already there, with Sam and Teal’c.”

Teal’c?  Teal’c is there too?

“Daniel, is there something wrong?”

I want to, I want to be by his side and I – I should, there’s so much I want to say to him, have to say to him but I can’t, they’re there, before me, but maybe that’s just as well.  He shouldn’t be alone, someone should be with him, someone who didn’t hurt him, make him careless, get him…

I need to tell him it’s okay, I didn’t mean, what I said before… but I don’t deserve...

“Daniel?”

Janet – Janet’s talking to me better answer.

“I’m, I’m fine,” I manage to get out.

“No you’re not,” she gently calls me on the monumental lie.  “Go on, go see him,” she urges, patting my arm.  “It’ll do you both good.”

I wish, oh God, I wish...

I nod and turn away, making my way through Janet’s antiseptic domain.  It’s dark and silent, and the rows of pristine, tightly made beds lining my passage are empty.  It’s been a slow week for casualties at the SGC; Jack is currently the only resident.

I slowly approach our customary niche, there, tucked away in the furthest corner of the infirmary, the privacy curtain partially drawn, blocking most of the silent, swaddled figure lying in the bed. Teal’c… I don’t see him, Janet said he was here, but I don’t see him.  He should be at the foot of Jack’s bed, standing vigil, but he’s not.  I can’t see Sam either, she’s probably sitting close to the head of the bed, concealed by the curtain, but even though I can't see her, I know she's there, all right; I can hear her softly murmuring.

“You have to get better, Sir. Please, Colonel, please wake up.  Oh God, why did I wait, why didn’t I tell you?  It can’t be too late, it just can’t.”

I clear my throat as I round the screen, as much to let her know she’s no longer alone as not wanting to hear any more of what she’s saying.  Her head jerks around guiltily at the sound, her tired eyes widening with relief and need when she sees me.

God, she looks… she looks like I feel. Horrible and hopeless and oh, so lost.  Her face is gray and haggard with exhaustion, her eyes and nose red and swollen. 

She’s been crying.  The tracks of her latest tears are still drying on her cheeks.

She’s not the only one.  But I’ve been shedding mine where no one can see.

“Sam,” I barely have time to say before her face crumbles, her eyes fill and immediately overflow.

“Daniel, where have you been?” she chokes, her lower lip starting to tremble.  Huge tears bouncing down her cheeks, she leaps to her feet and throws herself into my arms, almost knocking me over with the vehemence of her embrace.  Her face buried in my chest, I feel her start to shake.

“Oh Daniel I’m so scared,” her muffled voice cracks.  “I can’t lose him like this.”

“He’s not going to die, Sam,” I try to reassure her, my voice gruff and rasping with grief.  “He’s going to be fine; we just have to believe… he’s going to be fine.”

“Oh Daniel, I’ve been such a fool,” she sniffs.  “Why did I hold back, why didn’t I tell him and now, it might be too late, he’s going to die, and he’ll never know…”

I can’t believe this.  Jack is – is clinging to life and all she can think about is her stupid, ridiculous crush.  Is that why she’s been hovering at his bedside all this time, so she can spring the good news on him the instant his eyes open?

“I know the colonel loves me, Daniel, he needs to know how  I - "

I can’t stand it, can’t listen to any more.  I grab her by the arms and thrust her away from me, some thing in my head red, raw and howling for release.

“What does Jack need to know, Sam, what?”  I hiss at her and shake her.  “That’s who we’re talking about here, Jack, not the Colonel.  The Colonel is something he does, not who he is.  What do you know about Jack?  What, Sam, tell me!  You think he loves you, and you love him?  How can you possibly love him, you don’t know anything about him!   What’s his favourite colour, Sam, pretty basic stuff, do you know that one?  Do you know he likes his eggs over easy, his bacon chewy but not too crispy and if you put fruit on his pizza it’s more than your life is worth?  Do you know where he buys his gas, takes his dry cleaning, the name of his mechanic?  How about his favourite hockey team, got a clue about that one?  No, didn’t think so.  Do you know where he went to school when he was a kid, that he’s an only child, what about his mother’s name, his father? Do you know when his grandpa first took him to the cabin in Minnesota, where he met Sara, where Charlie’s grave is?  Do you know what he dreams, what he fears, what he wants, do you know anything about Jack, or have you been too busy making plans for the Colonel to take him into account?”

She’s looking up at me her face white, eyes wide and staring with dumb pain.  I know I’m hurting her, and I’m starting to yell, but I don’t care, I can’t take any more of this, she has to wake up, she has to see this stupid, stupid obsession she has with Jack almost got her killed today, why won’t she understand she’s living in a fabrication completely unfounded in any scrap of reality, why won’t she wake up and realize she has to let go of this ludicrous, absurd fantasy!

God, Sam, please, wake up!

She still staring at me, gulping convulsively, tears streaming down her face.   Her eyes are so shocked, so… uncomprehending.

Then she stops crying, and her face changes, she’s studying me with pitying comprehension.

“Daniel, I know you don’t mean to hurt me,” she quietly says.  “You’re not an intentionally cruel person. I don’t want to hurt you either because I really care about you, but I’m sorry, you’re going to have to stop thinking about yourself and face the truth.”

Okay, now it’s my turn to stare at her.

“Um… what?”  I stupidly blurt.

“I know how the Colonel feels about me,” she calmly insists, chin jutting forward defiantly.  “So do you, and that’s your problem. I’m sorry if our relationship makes you feel threatened, Daniel, but you have to realize, you can’t keep him to yourself and away from me forever, he deserves to love and be happy again, and sooner or later, he’s going to come to me and leave you behind.  You’re just going to have to learn how to deal with that.”

What?

“Sam,” I say with a heavy sigh, all my former anger swiftly draining away. I’m so tired right now I can barely stand and I’m in no shape, physically or mentally to deal with the full scope of the delusion, but I started this, I have to see it through, have to make her understand whatever Jack does or doesn’t feel for her isn’t the issue –  her behaviour in the field is. She almost died out there today because she let her feelings for Jack over-write her training and her judgment and she doesn’t realize it.

“Sam, forget about all of that now and please listen to me - "

“No, Daniel, you listen to me!” she insists.  “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried to understand this – this obsession you have for the colonel, but it hasn’t been easy. I know he’s really all you’ve had since Shau’ri died, and he knows that too, that’s probably why he’s been putting up with it as long as he has, he doesn’t want to hurt you. But you have to see by holding on to him the way you are, you’re standing in the way of his happiness.”

I’m so astonished by the words coming out of her mouth I can’t do anything but stand and stare at her.  It sounds like a whole, huge whack of arrogant presumption based on total ignorance of what is going on between Jack and me and yet, from her perspective, the way Jack and I must look to her, because she doesn’t know the truth, what she’s saying makes a strange sort of sense.  To anyone who doesn’t know Jack and I are, what we are, which hopefully is almost everybody, and certainly is her, our ‘relationship’ probably appears exactly like what she’s saying.

And when you look at it that way, from the outside without a clue, I don’t know who must appear to be more pathetic, him or me.

“You’re not doing yourself any good either,” she’s going on.  “You deserve to be happy too, Daniel, and that’s never going to happen if you’re always standing in the colonel’s shadow.  I wish you’d wake up and face the truth; you’re never going to find anyone to love if you don’t let go and move on.  I engineered that little date with Lindsay because I love you, and somebody had to do something because obviously you weren’t going to. I know you blew Lindsay off because you’re not ready to face the truth and let go of your only friend, but Daniel you have to, you’ve got to try to connect with someone else or you’re eventually going to end up without anyone.”

Once Jack finally dumps me for you, you mean.

She has no idea what she’s saying but she means every word of it.  She thinks I’m a lonely, pathetic loser who’s using Jack as a substitute for a real relationship and she wants to save me from my solitary, loveless future.

Oh Sam…

God, I feel awful, for everything I’ve been thinking, everything I’ve said…

“Daniel, it breaks my heart to think of you spending the rest of your life alone,” Sam tells me, a small tear trickling down the side of her nose.

Oh Sam, you’re so wrong, it’s not like that, not like that at all.  I love that you care about me so much, but I’m okay, really I am.

I have to tell her, I have to take a chance she’ll understand she doesn’t have to worry about either me, or Jack.  She has to know the truth, here, now, Jack will kill me later but…

It’s for the best. We care about each other, we love each other.  She'll understand. She’ll be happy for me, eventually, maybe not today but, she will, it’ll be okay.

“Sam…I - "

Before I can get another word out there’s a faint, rustling sound coming from the bed behind us.

Jack!

“Duuu…” he faintly grunts.

Sam leaps on the sound like he’s just thrown her a personal life-line.

“Colonel!” she cries, wrenching herself from my grip and whirling to rush to his bedside.  “Colonel, it’s me, it’s Sam, can you hear me?”

She’s bending over him, brushing the hair back from his forehead, staring entreatingly at his face.  Jack is indeed coming back to us, and true to form, he’s not coming quietly.

“Dan – Dan – “he faintly mumbles, his eyes still closed, head starting to thrash restlessly on the pillow.

“No Sir,” Sam insists, drawing closer to him while tightly clutching his hand to her chest.  “Sam, it’s Sam.”

“Dan – Daniel,” he blurts again, louder, his tone laden with desperate insistence, struggling in spite of his weakness against Sam’s efforts to restrain him.

“Sir, take it easy, Colonel, you’re hurt, you have to lie still!”

“Daniel!”

I can’t get to him, I need to get to him, she’s in the way, she won’t move, won’t understand she’s not what he wants, he’s calling me, he needs me!

DANIEL!” Jack roars, his eyes flying open, his back bowing off the bed.

“Daniel’s here,” Sam futilely babbles, trying to be heard over his frantic bellows, but all her efforts to restrain and soothe him are making him more agitated.  “I’m here too, Sir, you don’t have to – please, Colonel, please calm down!”

DANIEL WAIT!” he screams again.

I don’t understand,  it’s like he doesn’t even know she’s there, he’s fighting, fighting so bitterly to get to me, the terror in his voice, why is he so scared?  Oh God, I know, I know why, he’s remembering… the last thing he remembers, the last thing I said to him…

“Sam?  Daniel?  What’s going on here? What’s wrong with the colonel?”

Crap, that’s Janet.  I have to get to Jack now!

I don’t have time for finesse; I grab Sam and bodily lift her out of the way, have to reach Jack, make him understand everything is okay so he’ll stop this before he hurts himself even more.  I’m the only one who can, and I can’t and don’t have the time to explain that to Janet!

DANIEL! DANIEL!” Jack screams again.  He’s so weak and yet, I can hardly believe this, he’s batting at my hands, pushing them away,  pulling at the covers, trying to fling them aside, oh my God he’s trying to get out of bed!

To get to me.

“Shhhh, Jack, it’s okay, I’m here,” I firmly grasp his face, to focus his wildly darting gaze, make him look at me, see me.

“I’m here, I’m here, amacuse,” I soothe, lowering my voice so only Jack can hear me.  “I’m here.  It’s all right, you can rest easy.”

“Daniel?”  Jack’s voice is weak and pleading, filled with fear and need.  His eyes, welling with tears dart back and forth, finally focusing on my face, just inches from him.

“Daniel,” he whispers. 

“You’re in the infirmary, Jack.  You’re safe.  Sam and Teal’c are okay, we’re all okay, but you, you have to calm down now, Jack and be quiet.  Do you understand?”

“Daniel, what is he saying, is he asking for me?  Colonel?”

“Daniel, Sam, everyone, please, I have to ask you to leave now.”

Sam.  Janet.  I can’t worry about them right now, Jack needs me.

Jack’s hand knots in my shirt with terrifying ferocity, and he pulls me closer while struggling to speak.

“Daniel, have to – have to tell you – “ his breath is warm in my ear as he struggles to get the words out.

“Shhh, amacuse, it’s all right, don’t try to talk.  You can tell me later.”

“No, no,” he weakly insists.  “Now.”

“Daniel, you have to leave.  I have to see to my patient.”

Janet – please, not now.

“Doctor Fraiser, all is well, please allow O’Neill to speak to DanielJackson.”

Teal’c?  Where did he come from?  I don’t know but as usual, his timing is impeccable, thank you my friend, Jack and I we need, we need a little time.

“Not be one… Daniel,” Jack gasps, his voice thready and barely audible.  “but if you were… what I want… for you… to give you… not fair I can’t give you… be with you like I could if you were… hate… hiding… deserve… you deserve everything…”

Oh God, I know what he’s saying, what he means. We can’t be, what we are to each other, because society isn’t ready to accept love transcends any barrier.  We shouldn’t be denied the right to love each other simply because we are the same gender.  And yet, we are.  It’s not fair, it’s not right, but, there it is.  We could… love each other for all the world to see if that wasn’t so, if one of us were… different, and that’s what the Ancient device saw, the ‘what could be’ that isn’t he’s wished for, not a gender change for me, but being able to ‘be’ with me, the same way he could, if I were.

A woman.

But of course, being Jack, when the device took him so literally…

I want to laugh, I want to cry. I’ve been such a fool.  He humbles me, his devotion and determination, he fought to stay with me, fought even harder to come back to me and his first conscious thought, the only thing he wanted, God, look at him, barely clinging to consciousness, and yet he won’t let go until he’s absolutely certain I understand how much he loves…

Someday, my love, you’ll get your wish, we’ll be able to stand hand in hand before the whole damned world and on that day no one will be prouder than me.

“Nothing gonna stop me… no machine… screw… screw the world… you… only you… no matter…”

I love you so much, Jack.

“Teneo,” I gently reassure him, brushing my lips against the side of his face, as much of a caress as I dare given there are at least three pairs of eyes on us.  “Te amo, amacuse.”

Jack’s hand loosens, falls limply away, I feel him sag back with relief into the pillow. Released from his emphatic grasp I can lift my head and resume a more upright position.

“Back…atcha,” he mouths at me.  “Infantia.”

His eyes, heavy-lidded, manage a mischievous twinkle before they finally flutter closed.  A soft, contented sigh seeps past his slightly parted lips.

I step back from the bed, Janet immediately muscling past me, her full focus on Jack.  I make my way blindly toward the nearest chair and sink into it, relief crashing through me as swiftly as the adrenaline is draining out.  I don’t need Janet to tell me Jack is going to be okay, and now, I can let go. I can feel every sleepless, anxious hour I’ve endured over the past few days weighing me down.  Tired.  Okay, okay to be tired, it’s almost over, Jack’s okay, he’s okay, I can sleep soon.

I know Sam and Teal’c are somewhere near but no one is speaking and I’m too exhausted to open my eyes, so I’ll just sit here until someone says something.  Or maybe I’ll… I could fall asleep, right here, right… now…

He’s okay, he’s okay, he’s okay, thank God, he’s okay.

“Good work, Daniel,” Janet’s soft voice penetrates the fog cloaking my awareness, jerking me roughly back from the fringes of sleep. “Whatever you said to the colonel to calm him down, you did a good job.  He’s got some recovery time ahead of him, but the worst is over.  He’s going to be fine.”

I knew that, I knew that but to hear her say it...

“That is indeed good news Doctor Fraiser,” Teal’c says for all of us.

“The best.  Now, I want all of you to get the heck out of my infirmary and let my patient sleep, oh and by the way, go get some sleep yourselves.  Oh Daniel, before I forget, the colonel wanted me to tell you something.  He said to wish you Happy Birthday.”

God, that’s right, it’s my…  Well, for the next… ten minutes, anyway.

Isn’t that always the way, here’s me with the best reason I’ve ever had to celebrate my birthday I can remember and it’s almost over.

That’s okay.  I’m good. Partying on the inside.  Now I know Jack’s okay, I’m better than good, I'm  great.

When I get some sleep I’ll be even better.

Oh no.  Oh wait.  Sam… I still have to find a way to speak to Sam about…

We have to talk about what almost happened to her on P4H um…um...

Too tired to remember…

“Sam,” I force my eyes open.

Sam is standing closer to me than I realized, and Teal’c is beside her.  She’s staring at me, her lips pursed, her eyes smoky with a lurking, sparking emotion I can’t immediately identify and I’m too tired to work out right now.

“He called for you,” she softly murmurs.  “He always calls for you!”

She blinks hard, several times, her face turning into an expressionless mask.  As I gape stupidly at her, not quite getting where this sudden mood shift is coming from she pivots about and stomps toward the exit.

Um…I’m thinking maybe this wouldn’t be the best time for that talk.

Maybe later.

Yeah, we’ll do it… do it later.  Once we’ve both had some sleep.

“I will accompany Major Carter,” Teal’c gently informs me.  “I think it would be best if you remain here, DanielJackson.”

I’ll just stay here, then, shall I?  For a minute, only a minute, in this nice comfy chair… rest my eyes…


“Jack, I just walked into the grocery store, keep your shirt on, I won’t be long.”

“I know that, I just wanted to go over the list again, double-check, I think there’s one or two essential items you might have…”

“Jack, you know damned well what’s on the list and because you’ve only been released from the infirmary I’m sticking to it so get over it already, I’m not going to be picking up any beer - "

“Twinkies?”

“No.”

“Taco chips?”

“Nein.”

“Chunky Monkey?”

“Neen!”

“Doughnuts?  Daniel, have a heart, tell me you’ll get me some doughnuts!”

“Nyet!”

“Okay, okay, I get it, the snack situation around here is gonna majorly suck for awhile, but if I can’t have the doughnuts, or the chips, or the beer I’ll settle for a consolation prize.”

“Meaning?”

“Well Daniel, I’ve been thinking, yanno, you made a hell of a good looking woman, and while we’re both agreed a full-time Danielle wouldn’t work for either of us, have you ever considered…”

“Jack…”

“I mean it, you were totally hot! Think about it, not all the time, of course, that would be weird, but every once and a while, you might wanna slip into something… different.  Maybe a dress, nothing too fancy, basic black, a short little sleeveless number, some ruffles, if you’re feeling really wild and crazy.”

“Absolutely not!  We’re not having this conversation now, or ever again!”

“So I suppose a bustier is out of the question?  How about fish-net stockings?”

“I’m glad you’re home Jack.”

“Me too.  Now, hurry up and buy all that healthy crap you’re determined to  bore me to death with and get your ass back here so we can fight about this some more.”

I shake my head and put my cell phone back in my shirt pocket.  He’s been home less than a half a day and already he’s got me contemplating at least a dozen ways to put him right back in the infirmary.

God, I’ve missed him so much. 

But now he’s well on the mend and home again, and as soon as I finish the re-provisioning run I’m going back to him and whipping him up a welcome home dinner he won’t soon forget.

Although… while the dress thing is completely non-negotiable, I must confess, the more I think about it I’m finding the stockings idea… interesting…

We'll just keep mulling the possibilities over while we stroll and shop, that way we won't be thinking about a certain conversation I've tried to have with Sam so far without success, a certain incident I omitted to include in my mission report and a huge, worrisome secret I'm keeping from Jack.

First, get him better, then, we'll deal with it.

I'll tell him, I will, but not yet.

I’m trundling my shopping cart down the produce aisle and who should I see ahead of me fondling an impressive head of lettuce but…

Oh, he looks very different without the pretentious monkey suit and the slicked back hair, but it is, it definitely is.

It’s my good buddy 'Pierre’.  Well, imagine that. 

Pierre .  Small world.  You know what, I’m going to go over there and say hello.

Or maybe that should be… bon jour.

Yeah, I’m bad, but you know what, I’ve earned this!

I power my cart up to his, banging into it slightly to draw his attention.

“Ah, Pierre, ça me fait plaisir de vous revoir!”  I enthuse, once the guy’s bland gaze swings my way. “Comment allez-vous?”

That’s pretty basic stuff; somebody with high-school French should at the very least get the ‘how are you’ part.

And… he’s giving me the big, blank dumb stare.  Major non comprehension signal, I’m thinking.

Oookay, let’s have some more fun.

“Tu piges pas un mot de ce que je dis, hein?” I continue cheerily, smiling, nodding and patting him on the shoulder like he’s a long, lost buddy.  “Je crois que non.  Donne-moi cette boite-là? Non? Voici mon livre? La plume de ma tante est sur la table?”

I’m just getting warmed up, contemplating moving on to insulting facial features and body parts when he emits a long-suffering sigh.

“Gimme a break, pal,”  Pierre’ says in a Minnesotan accent so broad it would make Jack homesick.  “It’s just a damned job, I don’t actually speaka da damned lingo, and for the record, my name is Fred.”

Minnesota!  Hah!  I knew it!

Fred tosses his lettuce in his cart and beats a hasty retreat.  Flushed with victory and blessed vindication, not to mention a soupçon of payback I’m happily preparing to complete my mission when my cell phone rings again.

It’s Jack.  What’s he want now?

“Jack?”

“Hey Daniel, I’ve been thinking, if the dress thing is completely non-negotiable how do you feel about picking up a nice black wig on your way home?”

 

 

 FINIS

 

** teneo – I understand

 

** Daniel’s speech to ‘ Pierre ’ in English:

Pierre, I’m pleased to see you again, how are you?  You’re not getting a word of what I’m saying, right?  I think not.  Give me that box over there. No?  This is my book?  My aunt’s feather is on the table? 

 

  

 




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Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
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