Disclaimer: I don't own the characters that we love to watch so much. I don't even wish I did. And the actors who play those characters make more money than I do. And I made nothing on this story. Sometimes life isn't very fair, ya know?

Beef... It's What's for Dinner

by Linda Bindner

The Embarkation Room erupted into excited chatter as SG-1 walked through the door, their eyes on each other rather than the others waiting for them in the old missile silo. Specifically, General O'Neill was waiting to see them off on their daylong mission.

Hello, kids, O'Neill's voice rang out in the room. Forget something? he asked at their continued chatter.

Daniel turned to him, then. No, we're just making bets on what we'll find on the planet today.

No trees, announced a congenial Teal'c. It will be a desert planet.

All eyes turned to the blast window protecting the Control Room of the 'Gate, and to Walter, who would know what the preliminary MALP readings showed.

Nope, Walter sang out through the microphone linking the Control and Embarkation Rooms. Verdant planet... Lots of trees.

Doh! O'Neill said. Better luck next time, T.

Then Walter hesitated. But there is sand in the makeup of the soil, he said. That sort of half counts.

Hey! General O'Neill sang out to Teal'c. Way to call it, Big Guy!

I vote for naqueda, but no mine, Carter said then.

Naqueda, but no mine, O'Neill repeated. And you, Daniel?

Ruins, of course, Daniel said, But with an Ancient something or other left behind in a secret room.

Don't mention anything specific now, teased O'Neill. You would be happy just to find the ruins, after all.

True, Daniel agreed. But where's the fun in that? he asked. The more specific, the greater the joy!

Carter snorted laughter at that comment, spraying O'Neill with what she'd had for breakfast. Oh, sorry about that, Sir! she exclaimed, highly mortified.

O'Neill took a handkerchief out of his back pocket and ran it across his forehead. Well, Carter just let us all know what she thinks your chances are.

In no uncertain terms, Teal'c agreed with him.

Ah, Daniel confidently retorted. I'm gonna win, anyway. Guess I'll start thinking about what I want.

What's the bet for? the General inquired as he restored his handkerchief to his pocket.

The loser has to..? Daniel looked at his other two team members.

Has to wash the other's car, Carter suggested.

I no longer own a vehicle of any kind, Teal'c immediately informed.

Oh, yeah, that's right, Carter said. That would hardly be fair.

Then Daniel snapped his fingers. Got it, he said.

When he didn't speak right away, Jack prodded, Well go on... Don't keep us in suspense like this.

Daniel complied immediately. Loser makes dinner for the whole team. Winner chooses the menu.

Carter and Teal'c glanced at each other, then they both looked at Daniel. Since the bet was already down to being between only Sam and Daniel, they looked at each other with narrowed eyes.

Meatloaf, Daniel said then. No help.

Meatloaf!? Sam yelped. But, you forget that I can hardly boil an egg!

Oh, come on! Jack said with a swat in her direction that purposefully missed. How hard can it be?

Teal'c looked at O'Neill and raised an eyebrow. Have you forgotten what it's like to eat ColonelCarter's cooking, O'Neill?

Hey! Sam yelled in offense.

Okay, Daniel said. How's this? If Sam loses, then Jack can help. That's fair, since he was on the team at one time, but really isn't anymore.

Sam peered at Jack. Help? she asked.

But he can't do it for you... Help only, Daniel said.

Three sets of eyes turned towards Jack.

Jack thought for a moment; Spend the afternoon cooking? With Sam? Had he died and gone to Heaven, and everybody forgot to inform him? Okay, he said a last, trying to sound reluctant when he was actually jubilant inside. But it will have to be at Carter's house; my oven isn't big enough to accommodate a meal large enough for four people.

Okay, Sam agreed. You've got yourself a deal. But I'm not gonna lose, she predicted.

Ha! yelled Daniel. You are so goin' down!

That so sounds like something I would say, Jack appreciatively noted, then. You've got yourselves a deal. Then he regarded Carter. And you better be sure about this. There's a game on Saturday that I'll miss if I have to cook all afternoon. Only he didn't sound too irritated, now, at the prospect of missing a game, but cooking with Carter instead. His sense of reluctance sure hadn't lasted long, he groused to himself, but pretended to appear to be more irritated than he really was by frowning. Hmm, O'Neill thought to himself, watch another game on the tube, or spend time with Carter... Hmm... Which would everybody else pick? He answered his own question, then, deciding on watching the TV, just to be on the safe side. But his second thought let him know that he was simply fated to be reckless that coming weekend, and at that point, Carter won by default over watching the game on TV.

You should be warned, Sir, Carter said to him. I have two left thumbs in the kitchen.

Then we're in luck, Jack instantly shot back. I have two right thumbs, one for both of us.

The Stargate suddenly kawooshed into the room, and SG-1 started up the ramp.

Good luck! O'Neill called after them. Stay far away from any ruins!

Will do! Sam called back, and grinned.

But she wasn't grinning when they came back through the Stargate at the end of that day. We found a mine, but it was centuries old, she reported dispiritedly. The naqueda that we found was only in trace amounts on the surface, but not nearly enough to warrant mining. She looked pointedly at O'Neill. What was there was mined out a long time ago.

Which means.., Daniel said, indicating that he was carrying something in his hands, all wrapped up in his pack. He smiled broadly.

Which means... what? Jack asked, curious. He pointed to the object in Daniel's arms as he approached the bottom of the ramp. Jack was always at the ramp when SG-1 returned from a mission, but it wasn't to welcome Daniel or Teal'c, they all knew.

Yet, Daniel had the last laugh this time. He pulled the bundle from his chest, where he was cradling it, and presented it to Jack. Take a look yourself.

Jack took it with a furrowed brow. He unwrapped it to find...

... A fully charged ZPM, Daniel said with a flourish of his voice. Perfect for plugging in to the weapon in Antarctica. It should last a decade or so, as long as we're judicious.

You stink! Sam muttered then.

Do not! Daniel remarked back, incensed. I took a shower just before we left, I'll have you know.

Sam sighed. Not that kind of 'stink,' the kind where I'm really irritated at you because now I have to spend all Saturday afternoon cooking. I had plans! Then she added, Sort of.

What plans? Daniel inquired, then looked mischievous. Planning on polishing your knife collection?

Ha ha, very funny, Sam sarcastically replied, sounding much like O'Neill, but ignoring the way she sounded when she said what she said in lieu of glaring at Daniel. It so happens that I was invited to attend a friend's wedding Saturday afternoon.

Then Teal'c broke into the conversation. Looking consternated, he inquired, But isn't that wedding in Canada, ColonalCarter? Jack guffawed as Teal'c asked that question. The Jaffa continued, I'm sure that's where you said it was, and that you did not plan on attending.

Sam shot Teal'c a look of irritation. Thanks a lot, Teal'c. See if I ever cook for you again.

You are cooking on Saturday, Teal'c replied, as if to remind her. I do not understand.

See if I ever cook something edible for you, she corrected.

Daniel demanded, This had better be edible. He turned to his General. Jack, stop her! She's going to ruin my favorite meal!

No one's ruining anything, Jack said, bringing Daniel's complaining to an abrupt halt. He regarded Carter. What time do you want me there? he sighed, while simultaneously hiding the fact that his heart was doing little flips in his chest.

How long does this cooking of this meal take? Sam asked Daniel.

The archaeologist raised his own eyebrows. That depends on what all you want to make. The meat takes an hour and a half. I can get the recipe for you if you'd like, so you can buy what you need... or Jack can just bring it over, because we know that he has everything already, unlike you. Daniel eyed Sam evilly.

Sam rolled her own eyes at him in mock disgust; she was never going to live this one down. The recipe would be very helpful, she admitted. And we're having ice cream with brownies for desert!

No blue jello? Teal'c teased.

No! Sam declared. If I'm gonna do this, then I'm going all out!

That's the spirit! Jack said.

Sam leaned in toward Jack and stage whispered, Do you know how to make brownies, Sir?

Jack almost lost his composure than, with her so close to him that he could smell her skin. But his distraction had more to do with her closeness than her question. Sure I do, he proclaimed instead of saying how good she smelled, and cleared his throat. You buy the kind that already comes pre-made, and you break them apart and put them in a pan. That's the way I make them, at least.

Are they real brownies? Daniel inquired.

Jack stared at him with eyes like beady brown bullets. No Daniel, they're invisible! he sarcastically remarked. Of course they're real! he announced then.

They're the best with ice cream, Carter said, having experienced the General's brownies before when she had stopped by his house totally unannounced one Sunday afternoon.

Then I'll bring the ice cream. I have an unopened tub at home, Daniel said.

You can bring it as long as it's vanilla ice cream, Carter told him.

And I will bring the chocolate syrup, Teal'c announced.

T! Jack mock exclaimed. You're really going all out for this, aren't you?

Teal'c frowned. But that is the way that ColonelCarter always eats brownies.

She does? asked a surprised Jack. You do? he then asked Carter. I didn't know that. He filed that information away for later perusal.

You always leave the Commissary before the dessert round, Teal'c informed him. You have paperwork, you always say, and you claim that paperwork awaits no man, he recited.

Well, I do, and it doesn't! O'Neill exclaimed.

Yeah, don't you have some to do now? Daniel prodded.

Jack clapped his hands together. Oh, that's right. Thanks so much for reminding me! His voice was so sardonic that both Daniel and Sam smiled at his remark. He started off for his office, then, in order to finish his work.

Saturday, thirteen hundred, Sir! Carter yelled after him.

Jack turned around again and walked backwards through the door. Isn't that a bit early for dinner? he asked.

Not if I ruin things, Carter told him. Then we'll have time to just buy everything at the corner deli if we meet earlier than necessary!

How 'bout if I just bring sandwiches when I come? Jack asked as he went slowly through the door.

No cheating! Daniel objected.

Jack shrugged. The King has spoken.

He's going to be insufferable till Saturday, ya know! Carter's voice rang out across the room.

Jack smiled at her then, a grin that lit up his eyes and made them glow, she noticed, causing her own insides to melt. I know! He's already insufferable! Jack called back to her.

Why, you..! Daniel began, but Jack was already on his way to his office.

Thirteen hundred! Jack called back. I'll bring the beer! he promised.

* * *

Sam opened her front door to him at thirteen oh three Saturday afternoon. You're late, she announced.

Jack shifted the bag of groceries he was holding, then glanced at his watch. I am?

Sam grinned, and it was Jack's turn to melt. By three minutes. she declared, then stepped away from the door. Come on in.

Jack entered to hear the strains of music. You got company? he asked, suddenly worried that Pete the fiancé was there.

No, Sam said, much to Jack's relief. I thought I could handle listening to something calming while we cooked, and this is about as soothing as my music gets.

Jack grunted. Any more soothing, and we'll both be dead, he announced.

Sam laughed. Better to be dead than to drop a finished meatloaf onto the floor from being too tense, she predicted.

Then don't drop it, O'Neill suggested. Meatloaf is nothing to feel tense about. Then, he was all business the second his foot crossed her threshold. Okay, what do you want me to do first?

Besides kiss me? Sam thought, then berated herself for even having that thought in the first place. She was an engaged woman! she fiercely reminded herself. Uh, just put the bag on the chair, there.., Sam directed. That's good. Then, she peeked into the bag he'd brought with him, browsing through the ingredients. What did you bring; the kitchen sink?

Oh, that is so not funny, Carter, Jack said as tingles started to worm out from his heart in his chest. He wondered how he was going to make it through that entire afternoon without kissing her.

Well, Sam shrugged. I don't have a sink, for all you know.

It's right there, Jack said, pointing at the corner of the kitchen without bothering to look in that direction. Under the window.

Wow, Sam said, her hands in the back pockets of her jeans. You knew right where it was. I'm impressed.

And you keep one bottle of beer in the door of your refrigerator, Jack finished. For ease. Here, he lifted a six pack of bottles out of the grocery bag he had carried in. He put five bottles on the top shelf, beside the milk, and one bottle in the door. For later, he whispered.

Sam giggled.

No giggling! Jack commanded. We haven't even started cooking yet!

You're right. Sam pulled out the recipe card Daniel had given to her the day before. Meatloaf... It couldn't be that hard, she figured. But first, they would need... A loaf pan.., she read. I think there's one here somewhere.., she muttered, opening her pan cupboard and peering into its depths.

Jack reached into the bag and pulled out his loaf pan. Voila! he said.

Wow. Sam straightened up to take the pan. Now I'm really impressed. I didn't even know that you had one.

Of course I have one.

Sam shrugged, disarmed. Of course you do. You have everything.

Not quite everything, Jack negated. I don't have you, for instance, he thought, but didn't state his thought out loud. Instead, he said, I didn't bring my aluminum foil.

Oh, Sam said, and rolled her eyes. Well... And she pointed to a drawer right next to the sink.

Thanks! Jack pulled it out and began lining the loaf pan. Easier to clean up this way, and I'm all for keeping things easy.

And whose idea was that? she asked. Sara's, I suppose.

No, Jack told her, and Sam was instantly glad that the idea had not come from his ex-wife, at least. He continued, I read about it in the paper.

You read the cooking section? Sam asked incredulously.

Don't get too astonished just yet, Jack told her. I only read it for the good ideas in the most prominent articles, he told her.

I don't even look at it, Sam said.

Jack laughed. Well, to be honest, I only looked at it that one time.

Sam laughed, then. I won't tell anybody.

Jack's brow suddenly furrowed as an idea struck him. Look, Carter, why don't I make the meatloaf and you make that soufflé you're famous for?

But Daniel said that I had to make dinner myself, Sam instantly and sadly negated.

Jack gave her a tiny grin, then whispered, What Daniel doesn't know won't hurt him. Then, in his regular, loud voice, he went on, That way, we won't be tripping over each other all the time while we... cook. Oh, there was so much else he wanted to do as well, but couldn't!

Works for me, Sam said, responding to his verbal comment rather than his thoughts. I'll take the counter.

Good, cause I have to start by rolling out cracker crumbs, Jack stated.

Sam stilled. I had a rolling pin at one time, I think.

Jack whipped his rolling pin out of the bag. I brought mine.

Oh. Sam put her hands on her hips, slightly sarcastic now as she regarded him. Is there anything you forgot?

Jack hesitated as he glanced at the bag's contents. No, I don't think so.

Good, Sam announced, surprising him. Because I probably don't have it myself.

Already thought of that, Jack said.

So I see. Sam sighed, then reached into her refrigerator and pulled out the milk and the last two eggs, intent on making her famous soufflé.

Sam and Jack worked side by side for a few minutes, the music sending soothing vibes throughout the house around them.

Tell me, Carter, Jack finally said. How is it that you can't cook, yet you're famous for this one particular soufflé?

Sam smiled. It's all I could ever make, she confessed. It was my mom's recipe, and my favorite thing to eat at supper.

Another piece of information for Jack to file away. You had it often? he inquired.

Carter shook her head. Nope. Only for my birthday. But, and she held up a finger. I requested it every year after I turned six.

Soufflé for six-year-olds? Jack asked. He was already finished crushing up cracker crumbs, and ate the last cracker in the package he'd brought before adding the crumbs to an egg he'd already beaten in the bowl he had set on the table.

It's a special soufflé, was all Carter would say in explanation. That's why it's perfect for any age person.

Jack shrugged and began to add the rest of the meatloaf ingredients to the bowl he had set on Carter's table. If you say so, then this soufflé must be extraordinary.

Sam just grinned. Wait and see, she said. Or taste, rather.

They set to cooking in earnest, then, and Sam only muttered to herself a For drying out loud! when she was trying to reach a pan at the back of her cupboard, and couldn't.

Jack crossed over to her, smiling at her choice of words. He was finished with the meatloaf anyway, and he turned his thoughts to what she had muttered. He couldn't believe it - he was clearly rubbing off on her! Let me help, he told her.

It's a pan for the mashed potatoes, Sam said.

Jack suddenly halted. We're having mashed potatoes?

We are, as long as you brought some potatoes. Sam gazed at him out of her blue eyes. It's not like I have some potatoes just sitting around here. At Jack's continued look of surprise, Sam announced, You forgot to bring the potatoes, didn't you?

Jack screwed up his features, then admitted, No, I didn't forget. They're in the bag.

Sam sighed. Well, at least I can reach that.

Jack laughed, then. You should have seen your face! You looked like you had severe constipation!

General! Sam exclaimed, shocked. I did not!

It's 'Jack' when we're not on duty, Jack reminded her. And you did too.

Sam blushed. See if I don't get you for that!

You? Get a General? Jack pretended to feel shock. I'm...

A knocking at the door interrupted him. They rose together, standing very close once they were both up. But before anything could come of their unexpected closeness, the knock sounded again.

I'll get it; I just washed my hands, after all, Jack said. He tossed a towel over his shoulder, then wiped his hands on it again.

Sam pulled the potatoes out of the grocery bag that Jack had brought, then went back to trying to reach the pan in her cupboard. I can almost reach it on my own! she grunted, struggling to stretch her arm far enough to grab the corner of the pan.

Don't pull a muscle or anything! Jack cautioned her. I'll get it when I come back. Then he yanked open her front door...

... to find the form of Pete Shanahan standing on her doorstep.

General O'Neill! Pete exclaimed.

Well, this is a surprise, Jack said, not exactly trying to keep the animosity out of his voice. Carter and I are just cooking the wager supper. Come on in. He turned, looking for all the world like he was so comfortable in Sam's house that he lived there, too. Hey, Carter, you have a surprise visitor, he announced.

Ugh! Sam yelled. Almost got it! But with her head in the cupboard, she missed everything Jack had said.

Jack hurried over to her side. Don't hurt yourself, Colonel! He stuck his hand into the cupboard and pulled out a pan. This one?

How did you know? Sam asked, and took the muffin tin that he handed to her.

I can read your mind, Jack joked, then crawled out of her cupboard, more conscious of her the entire time than he was willing to admit. I said, you have a surprise visitor, he repeated.

Oh? Sam straightened up to see who was standing in her living room, instantly got dizzy from low blood pressure, and tripped on the General's outstretched leg. Her hand ended up catching herself by splaying across Jack's backside. Sorry! she muttered when her fall had come to a stop and she was all spread out beside Jack on the kitchen floor. Sam yanked her hand away, but not before it had begun to burn as if it were on fire.

Pete came around the end of the counter, but missed the embarrassing spectacle of Sam's hand spread all across her commanding officer's behind. Are you all right, Sam? he asked in blissful ignorance.

Oh, I just hurt my dignity! Sam said, tried to smile, and shrug the incident off. But her hand continued to throb where she had touched the General's backside.

And Jack was only in slightly less denial than she was at the unexpected contact between her hand and his... At least you didn't hit your head, he noted, trying to distract himself from concentrating on her touch. A headcase hardly goes with meatloaf.

Pete smiled, but looked confused. I didn't know you knew how to make meatloaf, Honey.

I don't, Sam replied while rubbing her own backside. Jack tried not to watch her ingenuous action. The General made it. And how's my soufflé?

Both she and Jack turned towards her counter, then, where a sorry looking mess greeted their eyes. Flat, declared Jack.

Sam looked decidedly disappointed, but tried her best to hide the emotion. Oh.

Pete laughed. I must have done that when I knocked. Sorry, Babe, but you can make another one, he said, sounding positive.

I hate it when you call me that, Sam negatively commented anyway. I always feel like you're calling me a pig. At his quizzical expression, Sam went on to explain, You know, from that movie a few years ago. Jack nodded to tell her that he knew what movie she was referring to.

Oh, sorry. I've never heard of a movie called 'Babe,' Pete said.

Jack knows what I'm talking about, Sam thought, staring at the smile on Jack's face. But to Pete she asked as her eyes grew puzzled, too, Pete, why are you here? Then at the abruptness of her question, smiled and explained herself, I mean, I thought you had to work today.

Oh! Pete said. I traded with Richard Hudson. I have to work next weekend, now.

But, Pete, Sam protested, appearing horrified and concerned. Next weekend is my Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary party at my brother's in San Diego. I already bought your plane ticket! I told you about it last week!

Oops! Pete said, and smiled again. I'm sorry, Honey. Look, I'll ask for Sunday off, so we can see each other, but I don't think I'll make it to San Diego for your Dad's party. I'll only have time to drive up here.

But the party lasts all weekend, Sam protested once more. I won't get back till the late hours of the evening on Sunday... You knew that.

Jack could sense a fight brewing, and decided to get out of the way while the getting was good. Hey, kids, why d..?

Sam interrupted him. You know, I've always hated to be called that, too.

Jack raised an eyebrow, just like Teal'c had showed him. He'd practiced in front of a mirror half the morning, but this was the first chance he'd had to use the gesture. Still, Carter recognized it right away. He knew she did, according to the small grin lifting the corners of her lips.

She continued to smile, pointed at his eyebrow, and said, Teal'c.

Jack grinned. Yeah, he said, then sobered. But you don't like it when I say 'kids?'

Sam shrugged and explained, That's what my Dad always called me and Mark.

Jack nodded, then muttered, I'll have to remember that.

Then Pete seemed to recall why he was there. Oh, Sam, Babe, you have to listen to this new CD I just got in the mail! It's great! He stopped the soothing music that Carter had chosen without asking her first if he could stop her music, and popped a CD out of its case and installed it in her player. He turned the volume up until the stereo was much louder than it had been. Soon, twangy guitar music had replaced the calming strains of the artist Sam had particularly chosen.

The sound of Pete's CD was completely different. Jack thought... God, that's an awful sound, he whispered to himself, and shook his head in wonder at how anybody could actually like that noise coming out of Sam's stereo. In reaction to the music, he reached for his coat that he'd earlier flung across a kitchen chair. Think I'll head out! he yelled. This music is a bit much for my tender old ears! He skirted the couch as he went.

But what about the meatloaf... and dinner... and.., Sam called after his retreating back, feeling slightly panicked now. Was he going to leave her alone to cook the rest of the meal by herself?

Just throw it in the oven at 350 degrees when it's time! O'Neill hollered back to her. Remember, it takes an hour and a half to cook!

Yeah, I remember! Sam shouted behind him, trying to show him out, but still be heard over the music. Pete had thrown himself onto the couch, and was now thumbing through Sam's magazines, his head bobbing in time to the drumbeat of his new CD.

Just make sure that you kids... Jack stopped himself, looked at Carter, smiled, then said, You guys have fun! Then he was outside, where there was at least some peace and quiet.

Sam crossed to the window and made sure that Jack safely crossed the road to his truck, then strode to her stereo and jabbed the 'stop' button to halt Pete's CD. It was so suddenly quiet in the house that the air rang.

Pete glanced up. I was listening to that, he commented.

Sam sort of smiled. Sorry, she said. It was giving me a headache. She rubbed at her temples and grimaced, but her expression was for her thoughts, not the pain in her head; Why was it that lately she felt like she had to make personal excuses when she was with Pete? And besides, she had been having such a good time cooking with the General... But she couldn't even think such traitorous thoughts..! Could she? Sam refused to let herself consider what the thought of enjoying being with General O'Neill, even if she had been cooking with the man, could mean to her personally.

But again, Pete was oblivious to her thoughts. He apologized, I'm sorry about your headache, Ba...

Please stop calling me 'Babe!' Sam ordered, her pounding head making her short tempered. I haven't started oinking yet, but I'm about to start any minute now if you don't cut it out!

Pete looked taken aback. Sam had rarely raised her voice to him. Sorry.

Sam tried again to smile and relax, drawing a deep breath through her clenched teeth, then said, It's just this headache of mine. It's making me cross and crabby; headaches always do.

Then Pete appeared to be concerned. Are you sure that you didn't hit your head?

Sam just barely stopped herself from saying that the General had already declared that she hadn't hit her head, but instead of bringing up another man to her fiancé, said, No, I'm fine. Except her hand kept burning. But, she didn't tell Pete about that, either.

You know, I don't like that guy, Pete suddenly said.

Who? The General? Sam asked, surprised.

Pete shrugged. Yeah, the General. He straightened on the couch and tossed the magazine he was holding onto her coffee table fronting the sofa. He makes me kinda... nervous, he announced. And I'm not sure I like him being over here and cooking with you, either, he went on.

Sam tolerantly grinned then. Nothing happened... Except that you ruined my soufflé. Sam forced herself to give a light laugh.

Yeah, Pete said, laughing with her, shaking off his earlier gloomy mood. Sorry about that. But there's always more soufflés, aren't there?

Sam clenched her teeth again, and managed to mildly say, Of course, but I'll have to start all over again... And I used my last egg in that one, which means that now I'll have to run to the store... Unless you unexpectedly brought some eggs? she hopefully asked.

Pete laughed again. No, can't say that it even occurred to me.

Well.., and Sam tried hard not to show her disappointment. It's just some stupid eggs, she reminded herself. Aloud, she added, Maybe the General left some egggs here. She crossed to the bag sitting on a kitchen chair.

I still don't like him, Pete commented as she fished through the bag's contents.

Triumphant, Sam drew a carton of eggs out of the bag. Bingo! she said, then turned to Pete, egg carton in hand. Now what was it you said about the General?

Pete shrugged again. I mean, a guy who knows how to cook... When Sam just kept staring at him, he went on, explaining, Don't you find that kind of... I don't know... Weird?

That thought had never occurred to Sam. I can't say that I...

And you said you have some kind of wager dinner with your team mates? Pete continued.

Sam nodded. Daniel won the bet, and Teal'c got it half right, so that left me, and I lost, big time. The General was helping me make what Daniel wanted for supper, she explained.

Oh, Pete said, sound like he really didn't understanding, but was pretending to. And I suppose that you can't tell me what the bet was about?

Well, I can't, Sam excused, trying to envision herself describing a ZPM without saying the word 'ZPM.' It's a sort of... No, can't say.

Ugh, grunted Pete. Figures.

Sam paused on her way to starting her soufflé again. What's that supposed to mean?

Nothing, Pete instantly answered.

No, Sam patiently said. What did you mean?

Pete shrugged. Nothing, I guess. It's just that whenever you don't want to tell me something, you claim that it's 'National Security...'

Sam laughed a bit incredulously. No, I don't. It means exactly what I said it means; I can't say. It's for security reasons, like you said.

Pete muttered, a bit ungraciously, I bet General O'Neill can know.

Sam laughed again, definitely incredulous this time. Well, he does work at the base, she said. He knows more than I do.

Yeah, said Pete, clearly ungracious, now. He cooks, too.

Sam's eyes narrowed. A little. He has to, ever since his divorce... That is, if he wants to eat.

I thought you said this cooking was for a team bet?

Yeah, that's what I said, noted Sam through her tightly clamped teeth, recalling the fact that she had told Pete all about the supper during a phone conversation with him earlier that week. Daniel and Teal'c are coming over tonight to eat.

And not the General?

Well, he's not officially part of the team anymore, Sam explained.

Then why..? Pete started to ask when Sam's temper snapped, and she interrupted him.

Sam distindtly said, I already told you something like three times; General O'Neill was helping me, as you know very well that I will probably ruin a meatloaf, what with my cooking abilities being what they aren't!

Pete looked surprised at Sam's angry tone. Babe! he admonished. There's no re...

Sam forgot about the eggs she was still holding when she slammed her hand down on the counter. Egg white curdled through her fingers. Do not call me that! she said, trying to restrain her temper. Now her head really was pounding. That's the fourth time you've called me that, and the fourth time I've asked you not to!

Sorry! Pete exclaimed. Guess I forgot, is all.

But the General remembered what I told him after hearing it only one time that a didn't like to be called 'kids,' Sam thought to herself. But she didn't say that thought aloud, either, only clenched her teeth tighter yet. I just don't like the name 'Babe;' I never did.

Oh, and why's that? Pete inquired.

It was the name Dad called me when he was mad at me, but didn't want me to think he was mad at me.

You know, I think you have some father issues to work out, Pete said. In fact, Babe, I...

That's it! Sam yelled, completely losing all control she had over herself and her temper. The egg still oozing through her fingers, she stalked over and yanked him up. Out!

Babe, why..? Pete jumped. Hey, you're getting egg white all over my coat!

Sam patted his cheek. Now you have egg on your face, too. She pushed him towards the door.

Sam, Honey, what are you doing?

Sam cringed. I hate that name, too.

'Honey?' Pete asked. Uh... What'r you doing?

Sam jerked open the door, getting egg all over the doorknob. I'm showing you out, is what I'm doing, Babe, she said then, stressing the last word she'd said. I just can't deal with you and cook at the same time... It all gives me a headache, Sam exclaimed.

Sam...

Look, Sam loudly interrupted. If you don't go, I'm calling Daniel and Teal'c over to help 'convince' you to leave.

Pete balked. You wouldn't!

Ohhh, just try me! Sam threatened. Then, as if by magic, her cell phone was in her sticky hand, and she hit the speed dial button for her team mate. Daniel? she sweetly said when he had picked up his end of the phone, and greeted her. I'm sorry to bother you, but I could really use yours and Teal'c's help right now. She listened for a second. Yeah, come on over, if it doesn't bother you. She was silent again, then said, See ya in a few. She hung up. They'll be here in about ten minutes.

Pete gaped at her. Sam, are you nuts?

It had been a rhetorical question, but Sam answered it nonetheless. Yeah, maybe I am. She peered at him, then sarcastically said, Oh, and Daniel and Teal'c are guys, too. That's the way the military is... Full of guys. Try not to sound too jealous when you realize that.

Guys are fine, Pete protested, but this General... How did he get to become a General, anyway?

You know, Sam said as she decisively took his engagement ring off and slapped it into his hand, egg and all. I think he took cooking lessons, and they let him in. Then she used all her arm muscle and pushed him off balance, out the door, and slammed it shut behind him.

She snapped the lock in place, then looked at her left hand and tried to pull in her temper by breathing slowly. Though blissful silence greeted her in the house, she still suffered from a pounding headache, she noted as she regarded her left hand. Her hand looked empty without Pete's engagement ring gracing her fourth finger, but Sam decided that she like the sight of that emptiness, even with her hand covered in egg white. She smiled. She even thought her headache was beginning to abate in the continued silence that surrounded her.

Sam crossed over to her stereo, ejected Pete's obnoxious new CD, put it in its case, walked back to the front door, turned the dead bolt, opened the door just enough to throw the CD case out into the grass, then slammed the door shut again, and turned the lock. Then, she heaved a big sigh, feeling the tension leave her shoulders for the first time since Pete had arrived. This is good, she remarked to herself, and went into the kitchen to see about washing her hands, and set the meatloaf to cook in the oven.

Ten minutes later, there was a knock on the door, then a call, Sam! You all right?

It was Daniel's voice. Sam ran to the door, and cautiously opened it. Daniel... Teal'c... Is he still here?

Who? Teal'c asked.

Pete, Sam explained. We had a big fight, which lately is nothing new, and then I broke up with him. Both men gaped at her, but she continued, He was still here a few minutes ago. She had seen his SUV parked on the street when she had looked out her living room window.

Both of Sam's team mates glanced around, trying not to openly stare at her in total surprise at her sudden news of her broken engagement and her disappeared former fiancé. Then Daniel remarked, Well, he's not around, now. You still need us here? he asked. Cause we can stay, if you need us to.

Well... Sam stopped herself from instantly rejecting their offer of help, as she'd been taught. Help wasn't such a bad thing to have every now and then, she thought. I would like it if you'd stay, just to make sure he doesn't come back... He might.

Sure, Daniel said, and both men entered her house.

I need to finish cooking, anyway, Sam informed them.

Daniel looked around the minute he stepped inside. Uh... Speaking of cooking... Where's Jack? he asked.

Pete was playing really awful music, and Jack... the General... left, Sam explained. But the meatloaf is ready, and I just put it in the oven a few minutes ago.

And the brownies? Daniel asked.

Sam's face brightened. I forgot about the brownies! She whirled around to the chair again. Let's see if Jack brought some... She pulled out the flat package of pre-made brownies, trying to ignore the way she had used Jack's first name so readily. He had insisted that she call him by name when they were both off duty, she argued with herself. Then she whirled and displayed the brownie package to Daniel and Teal'c.

Well, let's get started! Daniel said, rubbing his hands together. I can taste them already!

Two hours later, Sam jumped out of her car parked in Jack's driveway, and arranged the four pieces of meatloaf surrounded by six brownies on the plate in her hands. The brownies had slid a bit askew while she was driving, but now she rearranged them again and proceeded up the walk. Teal'c and Daniel had helped her bake them, but had left when the dessert was finished. As a wager dinner, it hadn't exactly been a successful venture, she thought as she knocked on Jack's door.

Jack answered the door right away. He seemed surprised to see her. Carter! he exclaimed. I thought you'd be spending the rest of the day with... that fiancé of yours, he forced himself to say.

Sam smiled. No... We had a fight, instead, and I gave him his ring back...

You gave his ring back?! Jack incredulously asked.

Sam nodded. In fact, we were fighting about you...

Me? Jack asked in dumbfounded astonishment. In fact, he couldn't have been more surprised than if she'd told him she was planning to live out her life on a pre-industrialized planet. What did I do?

Sam grunted. You knew how to cook, she answered with a tiny smile. Then she held out the plate as a sort of apology. Meatloaf?

Uh... Jack stood still for a second, then he was galvanized into action. Sure, he said as he stepped back, inviting her into his home with the action. Uh...

Then Sam surprised him even more. Want to come to San Diego with me next weekend? she invited.

Jack slowly shut the door behind her. Uhhhhh... Boy, was he ever confused! He blinked, took the plate and thanked her as she removed her coat, then blinked again. Finally, a slow smile crept across his face. Sure, on a few conditions.

Sam paused as she hung up her coat. Which are..?

One... That we don't have to listen to that awful music, like the kind that... He wouldn't say Pete's name. ... that your former finacé listened to, Jack announced with a laugh.

Sam chuckled as well. I think that can be arranged, she said.

And two.., Jack went on.

Two? Sam prodded.

Jack seemed to hesitate, then a sense of determination and courage coursed through his eyes. And two... I only have money enough to share one hotel room... Sorry... And I don't cook.

Not enough money..? Sam slyly asked, You're joking with me, aren't you?

Jack wagged his head back and forth, but soon the motion turned into a definite nod. Right.

Slowly, Sam smiled at his words. I think I can arrange one room, too, she said just as he kissed her lips in a gentle, soothing motion.

I'll eat.., Jack told her in a whisper, then added, Later. And he set the plate of meatloaf and brownies aside on the hall table. He was too busy for brownies now, anyway.

But definitely not too busy for other, more important, things that might happen to come along. With another glance at the plate to make certain that he hadn't placed it on the table edge, he smiled down at Sam, and kissed her again. Now this... He kissed her a third time, a gesture full of affection. That's something I could soooo get used to, he quietly said.

Suddenly, even cooking meatloaf didn't sound like a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. As long as he could cook with Sam at his side, he decided. And, just so that she would understand what he was thinking, and never forget, he grinned.

The End


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