Disclaimer: Don't own them, made no money, so suing will get you nowhere.

'Threads' Just Keeps Going and Going...

by Linda Bindner

A/N: Sequel to ''Threads' Continued - Carter Style'

General O'Neill's office, may I help you? came the banal voice of the secretary as he answered Mark Carter's phone call in the General's Pentagon office in Washington DC.

Is the General available? Mark asked, his voice slightly tinny over long-distance.

No, I'm sorry, but the General's in an important meeting right now, responded the secretary. Can I forward your call to someone who is free?

No, I just need to speak to General O'Neill - I'll call back at a more opportune time. Goodbye, and thank you.

My pleasure - goodbye.

Click.

Click.

* * *

General O'Neill's office - how may I assist you? came the banal voice of yet another secretary, a female this time.

Is General O'Neill available? Mark asked, sounding like he feared the answer she was going to give him.

Mark was right to fear her response, as it turned out. No I'm sorry, the girl informatively said. He's currently meeting with the President and the Joint Chiefs. Is there something that I can help you with?

The... Is that... Mark choked. Do you mean... the President? As in, the President? Who was this guy that his sister had connected with in such a seemingly sudden manner?

Yes, the female voice answered in a deadpan way, as if it was common for General O'Neill to meet with the President every other day of his life.

Which was silly. No one just 'met' with THE PRESIDENT! Did they? As in, the real President?

A brief laugh erupted over the line. As opposed to a fake one? she asked.

She was joshing with him, Mark figured... right? I'll take that to mean a 'yes.'

Yes.

Um.... Mark choked a cough for a second time. How did one ask about someone who was important enough to meet with the President? Do you know when General O'Neill will be available?

The response was swift, at least. I'm sorry, but I don't know the answer to that question.

She couldn't answer that question? What was that supposed to mean? It wasn't like a meeting time with the President was classified... right? She should know what time such a meeting was scheduled to end... right? Mark sighed. This mein of secrecy was the very reason he disliked the military. But he ignored his feelings for now to say, Well, I hope he pays you really well to say such a silly line.

Actually, I could do with a raise, she announced with a lilt of amusement in her voice.

Well, Mark could at least put in a word of encouragement for that... if he ever spoke directly to this General, that is. Tell me your name, and I'll let him know, or my sister, Colonel Carter will fill him in.

Again came the banal laugh, as if she didn't believe him. No, really...

I insist. The least he could do was mention it - someday...

Well... Okay, she said at last, giggling the entire time, as if she was thinking, 'what the heck - I'll do it!' Are you really Colonel Carter's brother?

Yep, my name's Mark, what's yours?

Kathy.

Her answer had been too quick, too decisive. It sounded like a cover to his seasoned ears. Now your real name? he asked on a sigh.

But she was insistent. That is my real name.

Mark heaved another sigh, this one long suffering. Sorry, but I'm an Air Force brat, and know when I'm getting the bull line...

Caty, she said, With a 'C.'

Her hesitation let him know that she was not telling him the whole truth. As in Catherine? he guessed. Catrina?

Catrina... yes... Mark, isn't it?

That's who I am... at least, that's who I was the last time I looked in the mirror...

Another giggle sounded over the line. Okay, Mark, I'll tell him that you called.

And... trust me. You'll want to see that he actually gets my message this time that he needs to call me back - he already has my number. I think. I told Sam to give it to him ages ago...

Yes, here it is, right here in my Rolodex.

Good, then I guess I'll let you go. Hey, is there any time that O'Neill isn't in a meeting?

A hiss of doubt came over the line. He has an opening on Thursday at 0800...

Dang. That's too early for me to call - I live in San Diego.

Yes, I know, that's what my card in my Rolodex says.

Well. This conversation was going about as smoothly as Mark had expected it to go. If he didn't know better, he'd say that this General friend of Sam's and Daniel's was avoiding him. But how could he be avoided if the General didn't even yet know him? It wasn't like he had ever spoken to the guy before! He's got my address, my number, and my name. He's got everything, Mark said just for the sake of saying it.

Well, Mark Carter of San Diego, I'll forward your message, the secretary - Caty - cheekily promised.

That's all I can ask... thanks.

No problem. Bye.

Bye.

Click

Click.

* * *

Yet a third of the many... manymanymany... secretaries answered his next call to the Pentagon office. Mark was beginning to think that the secretaries were the only people who really did any work in the governmental office, and that this General O'Neill fella that his sister kept telling him about was in truth just a monicker on a nameplate affixed to the office's main door. General O'Neill's office, how may I...

Mark didn't waste a second in responding this time. This is his brother-in-law, can you..?

The secretary - a smooth, calm, collected one - and one who knew her boss fairly well, it turned out... answered Mark without letting him finish his comment. The General has no brother-in-law that I know of. Perhaps you can call him again during off hours?

No, please, don't hang up!

Click.

Shit.

* * *

A male voice again answered the ringing phone. General O'Neill's office, how..?

This is Mark Carter calling for the General, and if he ever wants to have sex with my sister again, you'll put me through to him now!

There was a slight pause, then a suspicious voice came over the line. Who is this? I'm warning you, bud, I don't take too kindly to...

Mark recalled what his sister had said about the General liking the TV show, The Simpsons a little more than was normal, but he figured that he would have nothing to lose now by making a reference to it. Homer should be a named a National Hero, he decisively stated for no other apparent reason than to gain the trust of the minions this General fella employed.

The telling pause sounded again before the voice came over the line once more, though this time it was a bit more hesitant. What do you know about Homer?

He's a Simpson - what more is there to say?

The pause came again. For cryin' out loud, who is this? the voice next demanded to know.

This is Lieutenant Colonel Carter's brother, and I think that you secretaries have quite a racket going on here to...

The tentative voice coming over the line now attempted to explain, The secretary of the day is out to lunch right now with all the other staff - I'm doing my paperwork till they all come back. There was a thoughtful pause, then the disbelieving query, Is this really Carter's brother? Mark, isn't it?

Yeah, how did you know? Am I beginning to get the reputation of the world's most annoying caller, someone you can discuss around the watercooler or..?

I'm too busy to hang around the watercooler, but there's quite a betting pool going on right now among the staff as to who will answer your next outrageous phone call. And I hear that Caty wants a raise?

That's what she told me, Mark replied, remembering his earlier conversation with the mythical Caty. I told her that I'd say that she really deserves that raise, too, if her phone-answering skills are any indication.

I'll keep that in mind, the voice replied. Except that all I can do is give a recommendation for her file, since it's the Air Force that pays her salary, not... He cut himself off, and then there was another pause, a remembering pause. The voice next said in a far more cynical response, Wait a minute, bud, if I was having sex with your sister, I think that I would know about it - wild horses couldn't make me forget something like that!

The pause sucked up the silence again, until a moment later, a much more subdued Mark Carter hesitantly accused/asked, This is General O'Neill, isn't it?

The one and only, Jack replied. Just don't tell anyone that I sit in my office during lunch to play solitaire and watch the phones - I mean, to do paperwork. I figure I have about another month of hiding away for an hour a day until the rest of the big wigs figure out what I'm doing... or not doing... and crash my office. What the world doesn't know won't hurt it.

The pause deepened, then Mark slowly promised, Your secret is safe with me. What Mark was really doing was secretly comparing this enigma that was General O'Neill to the more known commodity that was his Dad. Somehow, even given similar ranks and military careers, the two images in his mind didn't jive.

The sound of a more amused voice cut off Mark's thoughts, though, and next instructed, You can tell Carter about this, but no one else.

'Carter?' Not 'Sam?' Interesting. Not even Homer could wring it out of me, I swear.

The sound of a smile came through in the voice as the General next inquired, So, Mark, what can I do for you - unless you're calling to tell me some bad news? Then he mumbled, But if something bad happened to Carter, I would know...

Jack's voice trailed off as Mark blurted, You and the Sampster... always ready to think that I'm the bearer of bad new... you guys have got to be the biggest 'worst case scenario couple' I've ever met! It sounded like he was shaking his head wherever he was calling from.

Jack choked on the sandwich he was eating as he played solitaire on his computer. The 'Sampster?' he echoed coughing.

Mark suddenly smiled, and his humor transferred over the line straight to DC. Yeah, Sam's told me about a million times that she hates that name, but if an older brother can't tease his kid sister with a name, then who can?

Indeed, Jack replied, aping the phrase Teal'c always utilized. But he let his 'Teal'c persona' drop as he reiterated, Again, I have to ask, why are you calling me if there's no dire emergency?

Mark's reply was casual, Oh, just wanted to get to know my future brother-in-law a bit better, that's all.

Future..! Jack began to cough and splutter into the phone, his computer game summarily forgotten. Now wait a minute! There's... I haven't... You've... Finally Jack paused to catch his breath and reorganize his scattered thoughts. The first idea to come out of that scattered pile was: You've been talking to our friend, Daniel, haven't you? he accused.

The pause was more telling this time. What makes you think that? Mark evasively inquired.

Jack groaned in irritation. Let's just say that a certain irritating archaeologist of our acquaintance is going to find his ass nailed to the wall one morning! Then he mumbled, Of all the...

Or at least Mark thought that the General mumbled something along those lines. It was difficult to hear over all that distance. Daniel said that you might not be too conducive to the idea of him hanging out with me.

'Conducive?' Jack mockingly echoed. I'll be happy to give him 'conducive...' Suddenly Jack took on a much more suspicious tone. Why? What did Daniel say?

Oh. Mark seemed to think for a moment. He has this theory that the fricatives of old English are...

Daniel has a lot of theories, Jack stated. And If I remember right, us even knowing each other started when Daniel had 'one of his theories!' Jack grumbled some more. He put you up to this, didn't he? Without waiting for Mark to answer, threatened, The next time I see him, I'll do more than nail his ass to a wall, I'll..!

Mark heaved a patient sigh. Actually, Daniel didn't 'put me up' to anything. He advised me not to call you, actually. Calling you was my idea.

That statement undid Jack for a moment. In fact, Jack was so quiet that Mark was about to ask him if he was alright when the General finally responded, If Daniel didn't put you up to this.... Then why are you calling?

Like I said, Mark repeated.

'To get to know your future brother-in-law - I know, Jack said before Mark could say it. What makes you think I even want to fill any in-law shoes?

Mark's snort was loud over the line. Come on! I saw you and Sam at that funeral after party thing - even I can see the connection between you two!

Were they that obvious? Jack wondered. If so... Time to do some damage control, at any rate - it wouldn't hurt. Really, I didn't mean to mislead you into thinking that...

Now, don't get nervous, Mark advised the nervous General. The only reason that I even noticed it in the first place is because I know the Sampster so well that I...

There it was again... 'The Sampster.' If I call her that someday, do you think that she'll..?

Rip your lungs out - yeah.

Jack leaned back in his leather office chair, trying to force himself to relax after what Mark had promised. So you don't recommend it, he guessed, finally thinking that Mark might be a treasure trove of 'Sam' information if he would only pay attention.

I wouldn't call her that if you want to live, Mark suggested. But she can't kill me - I'm her brother, after all. I'm supposed to call her stupid little pet names, and be really annoying, and...

Jacob had you pegged wrong, Jack bluntly told him then. He said that you weren't brave enough to join the military...

Mark snorted again, this time in faint disbelief that Jack would admit that his father had even spoken about hum. I'll just bet Dad was at his best when he...

Jack cut him off once more. Jacob was wrong, he again asserted. You're plenty brave for the military...

Damn, Mark appreciatively swore. I don't think that I've ever heard anyone say that before.

Huh, Jack grunted, but didn't explain. Again I ask what's the reason that you're calling?

Oh, uh... Besides the obvious? And besides that Dr. Jackson really did put me up to this...

I knew it! Jack crowed.

Mark went on as if Jack hadn't spoken. I... uh... wantedtotalktoyouaboutDad, he finished all in a rush.

Dad? Jack echoed in uncertainty. Then he hastily corrected himself. Uh... I mean, Jacob? He fidgeted in his chair. What about Jacob?

Mark's sigh was so loud that it nearly split the phone line in half. He tentatively began speaking, Um... How did Dad always..? He seemed to change his mind as well as the course of the conversation. Did Sam ever..? He sounded so unsure that he changed his mind again. What I mean is...

Just spit it out, Mark, Jack advised. I don't have much longer before the staff all comes back from lunch.

So Mark hurried now. What came out was another sentence all run together in his anxiety. SamalwaysdidthingstopleaseDad, yaknow.

As used as Jack was to listening to Daniel's mile-a-minute-drivel, that comment still flummoxed Jack. Uh... care to repeat that?

Mark sighed a third... forth... fifth... time. Sam...

Yeah, I got that part. What about Carter? Jack was getting worried now, and it sounded in his concerned tone of voice.

She... How to say this? Did she always seem like a major rule follower to you over the years?

Jack instantly perked up. How could Mark know about their need to 'follow the rules, come hell or high water,' especially after the Za'tarc tests? How could Mark possibly know about the way that Sam had requested that he and she 'keep it in the room?' Yeah, Jack hesitantly began. She sometimes came across that way, he cautiously added.

Sam always was a big one for the rules, the regs, Mark admitted then. I guess it helped to give some sense of organization to her life, he supposed. It was easy for her to say 'I can or can't do this because it it is or is not against the rules.' That made everything so much simpler for her.

Mark sounded like he was talking about Sam in general, not the way she was about certain incidents - Jack had to wonder why he had jumped to that conclusion about Za'tarcs a minute ago. He had never told Mark about the tests, and he doubted that Carter had said anything. So this must be coming from... Is this from what you thought when you two were young... er?

I didn't notice much when I was in my later years of high school, Mark confessed. But I did notice that right after Mom died, it was like she couldn't keep herself from making all these rules and things. The shrug sounded loud in his voice as he said, I just wondered if you had seen the same thing happen?

Ummmmm... yeah... a time or two, Jack admitted. But what does this have to do with Jacob? Jack was still confused.

Mark told him, I think that Dad sometimes played off that need of hers to always follow the rules, be the 'good little soldier'... and I wanted to let you know what was going on over the years in case you were... you know... confused, he lamely ended.

Jack thought over what Mark had just told him, and his eyes narrowed. This sounds more and more like a Daniel setup if you ask me, he said at last.

That's because it is, Mark admitted. Not that the bit about Sam and our Dad isn't true, but Daniel did give me the idea...

It was Jack who heaved a sigh this time, only it was a sigh of disgust. You can tell that...

You can tell him yourself, Mark surprisingly said.

The next thing Jack knew, the familiar voice of Daniel accosted him, And you'll listen to him if you ask me, Jack, Daniel said over the line.l

Yeah, well, I'm not askin,' Jack gruffly said. He had had enough of the two meddling... What is this, a dynamics language twins convention? he caustically intoned. Look, I don't care what...

Mark again interrupted him. I hope that you're not mad, or think that this is none of our business, or...

This isn't your business! Jack barked, then continued to mumble, Of all the...

Mark again cut him off. I just thought that that might explain some of the things that Sam might have done over the years, that's all, I swear! In case something never made much sense, or something!

And Jack was suddenly back to wondering how much Mark knew about Za'tarc tests and things. Daniel was with him, after all. He could have so easily seen what happened in that room... But didn't he understand that neither she nor Jack could ever confess anything substantial? Outside that room, that is? That might lead them both to court-martial!

Of course, when had danger to his best friends ever stopped Daniel from doing anything? And it seemed as if Mark had become a willing accomplis in the archaeologist's endeavors.

Mark, Jack started, sounding reluctant now. Neither Carter nor I...

Just as suddenly, Mark blurted a question that completely phased Jack. Do you have a 'thing' for my sister, General O'Neill? His voice sounded accusing to Jack now. 'Cause I...

Jack didn't let him finish, but began in a conciliatory tone, hoping to head the man off. Hey, I know that this Pete was a friend of yours, but that has nothing to do with me. That was all your sister's decision.

Mark's voice turned nonchalant. Oh, yeah, I know that, he told Jack as if the subject that Jack had mentioned wasn't important. And I told Sam that she'd made the right decision on that one.

Mark had spoken to Carter? About Pete... her love life? That was more than Jack was willing to chance! How had the man survived to call Jack later? Yeah? And?

Mark hesitated for a moment again, then admitted, I just wanted to tell you that whatever reaction you might have been used to getting from Dad - romance-wise - you won't get the same thing from me. Mark added, I'd like to think that I'm not as judgmental as he was... and I'm not military.

Yep, the man was definitely uncomfortable. So Jack hedged, Ummmmm... Do you think that Sam... Carter... and I... could ever..?

Yes! Now Mark sounded desperate.

Jack laughed. You don't even know what I was going to say.

I can read your mind, Mark insisted.

Jack couldn't help but laugh again at that assertion. Carter used to do the same thing when we were in the field together. Maybe it's a Carter thing? he pondered. In the blood? You know, Carters and O'Neills - bonded forever.

Jack had meant 'bonded by blood,' but Mark took it a bit further than that. If other bonds ever work out... He sounded as if he didn't want to encourage any one type of behavior even as he encouraged it anyway. And even though the whole Pete-thing happened... and ended... You won't get any opposition from my end, he promised.

Well... That was nice... to know... he guessed... But Jack really didn't know what to think about Mark's last statement. Um... thanks, he finally said. I appreciate it. Too overt - he tried again, Or I mean, I appreciate... knowing... His voice trailed off. He fidgeted again. If anything happens, that is, he hedged once more.

Call her, Mark next encouraged. What's she gonna do... say 'there's no way?' He snorted a laugh. The girl that I saw at Dad's funeral isn't going to say 'no,' he equivocally stated.

Jack still didn't know how much that Mark knew or not. He spluttered, Um... well, okay... um...

You two can complain about me, Mark next suggested. Nothing's better than trashing a sibling, you know.

Jack didn't quite know how to take this new overture of Mark's. Um... Okay... But I doubt that Carter wants to trash your name...

Mark snorted for a third time. Right. Ask her to tell you about me and Scott and her dolls...

Hmm, Jack hummed. Sounds kinky.

Mark laughed and goaded, It's what Dad did to all her boyfriends, and wouldn't you like to know all about it? But what would be the fun in that!

Fun... But, yeah, Jack would like to know all about it. I'm gonna call her up... Just then the group of secretaries paraded down the corridor. Later, Jack finished. Look, Mark, gotta go.

Gotta stop that Solitaire thing... Mark stated.

Jack smiled. Right...

Don't think this is my last phone call, Mark threatened in amusement. I know when you're available now.

Jack grimaced. Just don't tell anyone, he pleaded.

Mark laughed again. Mum's the word.

That's what Carter always says, too, Jack confided. It always makes me nervous.

Smart man.

Yeah, well, I gotta go do genrally stuff now... later.

Yeah... later, Mark said, then hung up.

Bye, Jack hung up as well, then rose to surreptitiously hear the latest comments as his staff gathered for one final gossip around the watercooler before the continuation of the day, thoughts of Mark, Sam, and Daniel running through his mind.

Jack stopped very suddenly. Wait a minute - her boyfriend!

The End


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