Disclaimer: If I owned them, I would sell the concept of the show to MGM, make a bundle of money (at least, more than I have now), then retire to the Bahamas. Alas, none of that's gonna happen, 'cause I don't own the concept of the show. Crap.

Training the Troops

by Linda Bindner

Training the troops... That has such a nice alliterative ring to it, General Jack O'Neill... retired... thought to himself as he hefted his borrowed P90 onto his shoulder to head from his borrowed Jeep to the training field at one end of the Academy grounds. He smiled and tried to relax as the sunshine poured over his back. The heat from the sun soaked through his black t-shirt, and into the skin along his shoulders and back. It was no wonder that he was so tan after spending so many hours standing in the sun, wearing a black t-shirt. Black looked good with the olive green of the Air Force's BDUs, certainly, but it did cause one to heat up rather quickly during drills.

Such as right now, Jack thought rather sourly to himself as he approached the patiently waiting group of student cadets standing in the sun, waiting for him to arrive on that Friday afternoon in May. He hadn't stood, watching them, for more than a few moments before sweat had started to run between his shoulder blades, but he ignored the sensation as his gaze washed over the cadets standing at attention in company lines that looked as stiff as a new dollar bill.

Attention! yelled Professor Tiggery at the opposite end of the group of cadets. This is a day specifically set aside to hear the wisdom of General O'Neill, who has spent his entire life making mincemeat of the enemy. So, if I were you, I'd pay attention to what he has to say, or he'll make mincemeat of you without batting an eye.

Well, maybe I'll bat an eye, Jack interrupted in his typically indolent, sarcastic voice. But not much of one.

Professor Tiggery continued to give instructions as if Jack had not spoken. But the man realized without a doubt that Jack had helped his authoritative position grow ten times larger. As a teacher, he knew what Jack had done for him, and he was grateful to him, even if he didn't acknowledge that the event had ever transpired. He's here to train you people about firing a weapon... Even the ones who think they already know how to shoot. So listen to him. or else... He didn't finish his threat, which made it an even bigger threat. Jack smiled to himself as he took a seat on a convenient barrel, and surveyed the troops assigned to him for the day.

They were, without a doubt, the youngest group of green kids he had ever seen. Maybe they seemed younger because he was getting so much older? Jack sighed as that thought ghosted across his mind, but didn't give voice to his concerns, knowing that thought would be construed as weakness by the most macho members of the class before him. So, he ignored his own thoughts, and hopped off the barrel to clutch his weapon in his hands. At the same time, he walked slowly in front of the cadets, hoping to intimidate them at the same time he studied them.

You're damn lucky, Jack said with his eyes trained on the cadets. I live here in Colorado Springs, so it's not a problem for me to make the jaunt over here and tell you how to save your butts. If you're smart, you'll listen to what I have to say, because my advice may be the difference between your continued life, and you pushing up daisies in some field someday. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but we're in the Air Force, and the phrase 'the last line of defense' takes on a whole new meaning when you're staring at some idiot who will shoot you as soon as look at you, unless you can think fast, act faster, shoot more accurately than he can, and kill him first. Not a pretty way to live, but we didn't sign up for 'pretty,' and the field is often as ugly as you can get.

Fifty gazes skewered him as Jack slipped his sunglasses over his eyes, then retreated to the side of the field by his barrel again. As he sat, he held out the gun before him, and said, This is a P90. It will be your best friend, your constant comfort, unless you never figure out what it can do. That's why we're here today... To figure it out, and... Suddenly, he jerked upright to a position of attention, listening intently. In the next instant, he jumped off his seat, strode through the troops standing in the sun, then put his hands on the collars of two cadets. Without offering an explanation for his abrupt actions, he dragged them toward the front of the group.

Hey! one of them indignantly called. What the hell do you think you're doing?

Jack remained silent until he pushed the two men into the lineup of wanna be soldiers. Take their places in back, he told the two cadets who were being pushed out of line by his personnel rearrangement. The two cadets moved back, as Jack shoved the two he'd dragged forward into their places. He said to them, You wanna talk during what could be the best thing you ever hear, then you gotta be as close as possible so that you can talk and hear at the same time.

Hey.., began the protest of the indignant soldier.

But Jack wasn't in the mood to put up with an argument just then. Thinking of the way that Daniel had so often argued with him over the years, Jack held up his index finger, stopped the protest with an Ah! then added, Not a word, or you'll be doing pushups all night long. Never disregard a General bent on a mission, Jack said then. First words of advice: You wanna live to see your butt again another day? Then pay attention to what he says! he barked.

Sorry, Sir, muttered the second soldier as he stared straight forward. It won't happen again.

No, it won't, Jack spat. Cause you two just volunteered to be put on the spot. He held up his weapon again. As I was saying... before I was so rudely interrupted... this P90 will be a great friend that you will learn to trust with your life. Now, first cadet rank, get those target bags started swinging while the rest of us sweat here in this sun and get all smelly for ya. Remember, the longer it takes, the worse we all smell... go. The seven soldiers took off at a run as the other cadets waited for them. Parade rest, Jack called over the group, and they snapped into a position with their hands at their backs, feet apart, weapons dangling on their chests from straps looped around their necks, looking incongruous as they stood in their restful positions. But by the time they were all feeling really stupid for standing so motionless in the heat of the sun, the first rank had returned after setting the target bags to swinging back and forth on the sun-drenched field.

Okay, Jack said in his getting-down-to-business voice. Good, Jack said at their speed. Now, and his gaze swept across the group before him. First lesson: It's much harder to hit a moving target, hence the moving.... um... targets. Jack cleared his throat a bit deprecatingly, then went on, Three beers to the person who can at least hit the targets while they're moving. First rank, weapons up! he yelled. Sight! Then he waited for just a second before he yelled, Fire!

An explosion of sound peeled throughout the ground. When all the smoke from firing so many weapons all at the same time had cleared on the wind, they all squinted towards the bags spread out on a wooden support fifty feet away.

Not one of the bags had a visible hole in its side.

Okaaaay, Jack said. Then he smiled. See... What did I tell ya? Moving targets are harder to hit... Illustrated so well by these fine soldiers who 'volunteered' to be first. He faced the seven cadets in the front row. Head to the back, he ordered. Then to the entire group, he yelled, Move forward one step!

The group of individuals did as he asked, scooting forward, all of them looking a little less confident now in their shooting abilities. The second group to fire didn't hit the bags either. God, they're as bad as Daniel was at the beginning, Jack muttered to himself, shook his head, then called, And who here is planning to spend the entire weekend at target practice? At least half the class members raised their hands into the air. Jack snorted. And all of you haven't even taken a turn yet. He faced the new first rank of cadets. Fire!

And so it went for the next half hour. Then, in the last group to shoot at the still swinging targets, one female cadet finally hit a bag. Hey! Jack said in delight, squinting against the bags hanging in silhouette of the ever climbing sun. Finally!... And he looked more squarely at... Cadet Pansy... I hope your first name isn't as unfortunate as your last name.

It's Rachel, Sir! barked the girl in the front row. All eyes had turned to regard her, and either everyone was busy feeling sorry for her for drawing the cranky General's attention to her, or were jealous of her obvious natural ability to shoot. Either way, Jack chose to go on, You have the potential to become somebody! A few more years of practice... and a few beers... Cadet Pansy looked slightly disgruntled at Jack's predicted timeline. You might end up on the SGC waiting list when that someday comes to pass! He grinned, knowing that the men and women in front of him had all heard about the secrets going on in the Air Force, and even if they didn't know that a top secret organization was practically part of their back yard, they at least knew that he knew more than they knew, so they didn't question his odd commentary.

They looked hot but respectful, even if a bit uninterested, until another Jeep appeared from around a building at the edge of the grounds that they were all standing on. Despite Jack's prior treatment of conversationalists, all the male soldiers stood at attention and murmured appreciatively to themselves as the dust stirred up by the arriving Jeep started to settle. The vehicle came to a stop. A moment later, Sam Carter emerged from the driver's seat (hence the appreciative commentary), toting a weapon like all the cadets, and trying to open her sunglasses with one hand and sling her gun's carrying strap over her neck all at the same time. Only she could make such awkward activities look so easy.

Carter! Jack called in even more delight. Nice of you to join us!

General! Carter called back, and grinned as she moved to stand beside him.

That's retired General to you, ya know, Jack corrected her in a friendly voice. In an amazing display, the squint lines on his leathered face relaxed into a much more peaceful expression the second he saw her. When she stood, firmly ensconced next to him, he turned to face the group of cadets who were watching their interaction with suspicion. This is Colonel Carter, Jack called out to them. She was my 21C for... He didn't actually know the number of years she'd been under his direct command, so he ended, for a long time. He cleared his throat again as he was aware that Carter's smile grew wider at his discomfort. Um... She's also the best damned shot that I know of, and I've served with a lot of people over the years... She's here to demonstrate that a moving target is not as impossible to hit as you all now think. Jack faced his old team member, and smiled. Carter, go ahead.

Jack sat back on his same barrel as Carter said, Yes, Sir, and moved forward. She asked the first soldier she came to, Can I borrow your..? She motioned to the plastic muffs covering the woman's ears, then reached out as the protection was offered to her without a word. Thanks, she said, and placed the protection around her own ears. Don't want to go deaf, she said in an offhand manner, smiled in such a way that she knew would have most of the boys wanting to grin back at her in spite of the General's presence, smiled again, then turned to face the targets.

The seven bags were still swinging in the breeze, their supporting ropes taut, and the scaffold holding them aloft creaking with each move the bags made.

Single shot, Jack quietly commanded, his eyes also turned towards the targets.

Carter slipped her hand along the stock and pushed the weapon into single shot mode. Yes, Sir, she mumbled, then sighted at one of the targets. A breath later, she fired.

And fired.

And fired.

And fired.

When she was done making seven shots, every bag was lying in a heap on the ground, and empty ropes were swinging in the breeze shifting across the practice grounds.

There was silence for a moment as each cadet breathed softly in amazement, then they all murmured as a single indistinguishable person, Wow!

Carter grinned at them. As you can see, it's much easier to aim at the smallest point of a moving target, so that the kinetic energy put off by that target is at its smallest possible momentum. That makes the entire target easier to hit. She grinned again.

A second later, the young man who had been speaking out of turn, and who Jack had hauled to the front of the group, muttered, I would have never thought a woman could...

The instant he heard that comment, Jack jumped down from his barrel, crossed in front of Carter, and while his back was covering both his actions as well as him and the Colonel, he reached out with a calm hand, pulled the clip from her gun, and pocketed it in one smooth motion. In the same move, he turned back to face the cadets, and to particularly face the young man who had once more spoken out of turn. He let his face grow red with the anger he was feeling. Carter, he still managed to say in a congenial voice. He talks too much... Kill him.

The cadets broke rank then, shocked at the aggressive move, stumbling away from the soldier who had spoken. Wait a minute! the young man called in a panicked voice. I didn't mean...

The hell you didn't, Jack said as he crossed to stand to the side of the singled out man, sure to stay out of Carter's sights. You just made a remark that can only be construed as gender harassment, and to a superior officer, who is armed, I might add. Just what else could you have meant?

The man's face went red. I... I... He glanced at Jack, at Sam, at Professor Tiggery, at his fellow cadets, who had abandoned him. Well... I.., stuttered the cadet.

Yes? Jack prompted in his continued friendly manner. His eyebrows rose interrogatively. You have something more you want to say? A final comment, perhaps?

The cadet was now staring straight ahead, but sweat was pouring off his forehead. No, Sir, nothing to add, but please don't kill me! he begged.

Jack grinned then. Lesson number... Oh hell, I don't remember what lesson number we're on... just listen up, he called to the scattered group of cadets as he poked the injudicious young man in his stomach. This is a last line of defense only if you respect those defending you from whatever enemy you're facing. He moved to stand in front of one of the group members, intimidating in his stance. It doesn't matter if that person is male or female when they stand between you and certain annihilation, he added. You won't give a damn, or you'll be so scared that you'll pee your pants, and it won't matter anymore, cause no enemy will come within two hundred yards of you then. Of course, neither will anyone else. So.., and he held up three fingers. One, respect your fellow soldiers, no matter their gender... They might just save your ass someday... Carter's saved mine in more situations than I can count... Two, know that a moving target is harder, but not impossible, to hit... And three, go to the bathroom before any engagement you're ordered into in the future.

Jack politely coughed. One final word... He whirled around once, taking in Carter, who still had not lowered her weapon, which was unwaveringly trained on the unfortunate cadet with the big mouth, and the group of his fellow soldiers who had abandoned him at the first available opportunity. He faced the group again, and said, No matter what happens, no matter what looks like it happened, never, ever leave another soldier behind, no matter the situation. He glared at the cadets who were slowly beginning to sidle back to surround the unfortunate young man who was still in Carter's sights. Jack gently put a hand on her shoulder, and only then did she slowly lower her weapon back to swing on her chest. But she glared at the group as fiercely as Jack.

Once the cadets had reassembled into formal ranks, Jack raked them over with his gaze. That's all that you can assimilate in one day, I think... Dismissed, he said in a quiet voice.

The cadets slowly began to drift away in ones, twos, and threes, but the largest group was easily surrounding the young man whom Jack had ridiculed. He stood in the center of attention, and his face slowly returned from its previous scarlet to a more normal pink. Can you believe that? he asked in a quiet, whiny voice, staring at Jack and Colonel Carter talking to Professor Tiggery to one side of the field. That was some nerve... I can't believe he had the audacity to hold me at gunpoint... Wait till the Academy brass hears about this. His face was white now, white with rage. My Dad's part of that brass who...

That was when Jack broke away from the group of adults right in the middle of one of the professor's windy comments... (Are all professors alike? Jack thought...) to approach the group of cadets who had gathered around the young man.

Boy, do you have a thick head or what, Jack said to him as he reached into his pocket. Reminds me of me, so there's hope for you yet. He pulled out the ammunition clip that he had been carrying. Look familiar? he asked the complaining cadet. All the soldiers peered stupidly at the clip in Jack's fingers. Hey, Carter! he called next. Toss me your gun!

A look of confusion on her face, she complied anyway. He caught the weapon in midair, then slipped the ammunition round back into its place on the weapon. It was clear to everyone in attendance that the gun Carter had earlier trained on the cadet hadn't even been loaded. Jack grimaced at the complaining soldier. You were saying? he taunted the cadet.

Now the young man's face was scarlet again. Uh.., he said.

That's what I thought. Jack shoved the second weapon around his neck to join his first. Pay attention next time, and you'll at least know if the gun pointed at you so threateningly is loaded or not.

At least I don't humiliate fresh new cadets for fun, Sir, the man shot back, his words having the desired effect as Jack also went red in the face.

His temper finally engaged, Jack leaned forward to regard the other man who was barely old enough to shave. Why didn't Dad bother to teach you how to properly treat a General at the same time he taught you how to be stupid? he rhetorically inquired as he kept up his unnerving, unblinking stare. You're on borrowed time, Mister, and one more wise crack out of you, and you're gone, and there's nothing that Daddy on the Academy board, or whatever he's on, can do about that. He turned as if to go, then whirled back. And as far as humiliating you, I don't have to help; You've done a fine job of that yourself.

Yes, Sir, the young man sneered, this time being very open about his disregard. I'll remember that, Sir. And while I'm at it, I'll remember that you've been saved several times by a girl, Sir. His tone left no doubt as to how he regarded the issue of females in the military, saving anybody.

That was when Jack's knuckles met the young man's jaw. The cadet flew back into the group of soldiers surrounding him. Jack glared at the man just as openly as the young man had glared at Jack.

Jack heaved in air as he tried to shake the sting out of his fist. Lesson number one, he grunted. Never purposefully take on a General. Even a retired one... who can punch your friggin' lights out with impunity... I've got a lot of friends in high places, he kindly explained. Lesson number two: Never.... Never.... Never... insult that General's wife. Then he just turned his back on the group to return to the Professor and Carter's sides as if nothing had happened. But inside, he was laughing in spite of his anger.

A few minutes later, the Professor's mini lecture wound down, and he returned with his straggling, chastened students, to his class room, leaving Jack and Carter alone on the practice field.

Carter shot Jack a disapproving look.

Ah, he said, pointing a finger at the blue sky. I know that look... You're thinking again, and that thinking doesn't mean anything good for me.

She put her hands on her hips. Was punching that cadet such a good idea? she asked.

Jack's eyes bugged out at her. He'd insulted you! he responded. Punching him was the least I could do!

She regarded him with a sour expression on her face. Yeah, but if he's got important connections, like he said...

You're defending him? Jack incredulously inquired.

Sam snorted. Hardly, she said. He can go and fall in a dark hole, and stay there, for all I care. No, she further explained. I'm a little more concerned about you.

Jack's grin at her words was tremendous. He put his arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze. That's awful sweet of you to be concerned about little old me.

Carter rolled her eyes. How many times do I have to tell you; you're not old.

But don't worry about this retired General, Jack went on. There's nothing that stupid soldier-in-training can do to someone who's already retired.

Except charge you with assault, she suggested.

Assault? he scoffed. It wasn't even with a deadly weapon!

He didn't know that, she pointed out.

That's because he's stupid, Jack said back in a perfectly flat voice. I bet that cadet what'shername... Pansy... I bet she knew that gun wasn't even loaded. Jack regarded Sam for a second. I would never point a loaded weapon at one of my own people.

I'm just sayin'... she said.

He hugged her to him. Oh, you're always 'just sayin''. And I'm just sayin' that I never knew you were such a worry wart before we got married. Now... He stopped her next comment before she could even voice it. Stop, he commanded. Then he leaned up to give her a quick kiss. For what it's worth, I love you. She smiled, still a bit astonished that he and she could say those three words and not be terrified of instant retribution. A second later, Jack continued, Did you figure out that thing you were working on this morning?

Her face brightened; she just loved talking about her work. Jack knew that, which is why he'd mentioned it in the first place. Nothing, not even him, could distract her as quickly as her work. Yeah. I wanted to finish it up before I met you out here this afternoon, she said.

Thanks for coming out here, by the way, Jack said then. I know how busy you get...

I wouldn't miss one of your 'lessons' for the world, Sam assured. I especially love it when you tell me to kill one of the cadets. She laughed now, more relaxed after his calming talk. That shocks the hell out of them every time!

Jack chuckled along with her. You know, it's getting harder to keep a straight face when I say that because I know you're just behind me, staring at my six, and laughing your head off inside.

But glaring on the outside, Sam corrected him, grinning impishly, and flirting outrageously. Then, she changed the subject to something more personal to them both. Hey, have you already decided on what to make for dinner tonight?

Why? Jack asked, then regarded her with as much suspicion as the cadets had shown them earlier. Did you do it again?

Sam appeared guilty. I might have invited a few people over.

How many is 'a few?' Jack asked then.

Sam grimaced, then reluctantly admitted, The whole team.

All of them?

She sucked in a breath of hot air. Yeah, she went on to inform him. Daniel said that he couldn't come, cause he has a date...

Jack reared back in interest. Daniel has a date? he asked in surprise.

Yeah. that's what he said, she told him.

Jack stared at the ground in stunned surprise. Go, spacemonkey! he replied under his breath.

Yeah, but then I told him to just bring her along, so the four suddenly became five. I hope you took a lot out for dinner.

I'll just put what leftovers we have back in the freezer, Jack said, And we can wonder what the heck they are a few months from now. Then he looked at her. But a civilian puts a bit of a crimp in the conversation around the dinner table, he warned her.

Yeah, but Daniel said this person's used to it, as 'top secret' was a daily part of her last job.

Ah, Jack said in understanding. You know, he said as he held Carter, and she took a seat on his lap. I would suggest that you cut this out... all this askin' people to dinner crap... but I know you like to show off that new dining room table we have...

Forget the dining room table! Carter exclaimed in some humor.

Jack raised his eyebrows at her. You don't care about the dining room table?

Carter kissed him on his sweaty forehead, then ruffled her fingers through his hair. It's you I like to show off. Plus, I like it when you have a good time, and the team makes you have a good time, so...

Jack grinned. How did I ever get such a cool wife?

By wanting to buy an air-conditioned house, Sam told him. Then she looked at him assessingly, too. I never would have pegged you as a stay-at-home-to-cook kind of guy... You're sure you don't mind?

Cooking for you is different than the way I had to cook for myself all those years, Jack explained. Don't mind it a bit. He kissed her cheek.

Okaaaay, she slowly agreed with him. Then she rose to her feet. Now, I really have to get back to work, so that I can earn that paycheck that supports you.

I'm retired, Jack argued. I get a pension.

I hardly call a few hundred dollars a month something to write home about, she pointed out. It won't even support your Simpsons habit.

I owned all the seasons of The Simpsons on DVD before we got married, Jack argued. And, God, you're cute when you argue. He kissed her on the end of her nose.

Sam kissed him back on his. Don't change the subject, she said.

Damn... You figured out what I was doing way too soon, Jack groused. You know me too well...

Yeah, I do. Sam grinned at him, then turned back towards her Jeep in order to leave. But she threw one last comment over her shoulder as she walked away. Don't get bored with all that cooking... See you tonight. With that, she climbed into the Jeep, and waved as she drove off.

Jack grinned, then sighed a sappy sigh. I love being married, he said to the sun-dappled grass that surrounded him on the empty practice field. He sighed again, still grinning. If only Sam Carter knew how badly she had whipped a certain General...

* * *

Sam pulled hers and Jack's front door open to find Mitchell and Vala standing patiently on the top step leading up to her house.

Come in! Carter invited them, and the two smiling guests entered the foyer as Jack suddenly appeared from the kitchen, his hands full of a hot casserole dish in the pot holders he used to keep his hands from getting burned.

Mitchell! Jack greeted as they all faced the dining room. Make yourself useful, and take this for me. Just set it on the table there... And Vala, there's glasses already laid out on the kitchen counter... I don't suppose you could pour water for everybody?

Just lead the way, Vala good naturedly said. And that's what I love about coming to the O'Neill's for dinner... Everybody earns their food.

You bet, Jack said, and turned to follow Vala back to the kitchen to show her the way, and to grab another dish from the oven.

A second knock on the door interrupted the casserole dish retrieval, and only Carter's hands were free to pull open the door for the new arrivals.

Daniel stood on the front steps, Ishta and Teal'c standing near him.

Teal'c! Carter yelled in surprise. Ishta! She hugged them both, since it had been weeks since she had seen either one, and all three guests crowded into the entry hall amid waving arms and called greetings. When did you two get in? And how come I never heard anything about it? she aske when everything had calmed down, and she was relatively sure that they could hear her questions.

Before anybody could explain the situation to a stunned Colonel Carter, Jack appeared with a second casserole dish full of chicken pieces smothered in a white sauce. He beamed the minute his gaze landed on the Jaffa, though. Teal'c! You dude! How did you convince the Jaffa Council to let you go for the night? And Ishta! You still trying to train this old dog to do what you want? Any luck?

Ishta stood on the threshold with Teal'c, and tried her best to follow the rapid conversation among the old friends. No, I'm not having any luck, she honestly answered Jack's question.

Carter broke into the converesation then. We all know that Teal'c's as stubborn as they come, so you'll probably need that luck that Jack's talking about.

Hey, what are you two doing here, anyway? Jack repeated. I thought you were gonna be gone for several weeks this time around, he said, and regarded Teal'c.

Daniel shoved his glasses up his nose with a finger, and tried to weave around Vala and the many glasses she carried. Uh, that would be my fault, he said by way of explanation. All this was my idea.

Yours? Jack barked.

Uh... Yeah, Daniel admitted.

I thought you had a date, Carter immediately objected.

Daniel appeared contrite. Well... Finally, he admitted, I lied.

This was impressive. Carter didn't think that Daniel even knew how to lie. She said as much to him when she commented, I didn't know that you can lie.

Oh, yeah, Daniel told them. I can lie with the best of them... Only, lucky that I so rarely need to lie to you guys... He cleared his throat after his admission. Anyway, I was gonna surprise you both... I met Teal'c and Ishta in the 'Gate room after Sam had left for the day, and when I mentioned these dinner plans...

Teal'c interrupted, I see you are still cooking, O'Neill... Can we assist you with any preparation? Before Colonel Mitchell drops his covered dish on the floor.

Set the table? Jack asked as he glanced at Carter. I think that's all that's left to do...

Teal'c inclined his head. And where would you like me to 'set it,' O'Neill?

Jack turned to him, a bit surprised at his question. No, I mean set the table... Uh, lay it with all the silverware... Give everyone plates... Then he peered closely at Teal'c. You're joking, aren't you?

Teal'c gave just a hint of a grin to Jack, but inclined his head. I am discovered, he said.

Jack socked his shoulder. Well come in, before you cause any more trouble around here. Grab a chair... and sit in it, he amended. Don't run away with it, or Carter will never let me live it down... But he looked pleased at even the prospect of being reprimanded, as long as the reprimand came from Carter.

Within moments, they were all seated around the table, passing plates, and filling them with chicken pieces covered in white sauce, mashed potatoes, and beans. Hey! Mitchell explained, sounding surprised now as he took an experimental bite of the meat. This isn't half bad!

Daniel grinned as he passed his plate to Vala for a chicken piece of his own. You mean that Jack finally learned how to cook?

Jack frowned at his friend. And all I had to do was retire first, he teased in a sarcastic tone. I just didn't have the time to cook when I was part of the SGC.

At least Sam didn't cook, Daniel went on.

Hey! Sam protested, and popped her head up to look at him. I can cook!

No, you can't, Daniel bluntly told them all in a friendly voice. If you want to blow up a sun, Sam's your guy... uh, woman. If you want to hot-wire a naqueda generator, she'll have it done in record time. But there's no way on this green planet that I want to eat her cooking!

Sam covered her eyes in mock distress I'm never going to live down that damned sun, am I? she asked no one in particular.

They all chorused No! anyway.

What's this about blowing up a sun? Vala innocently inquired.

Jack grinned. That's a good story.., he said, then for the next ten minutes, related plenty of information, peppered it with liberal compliments to Sam, all so that he could watch his wife's face grow more crimson by degrees. He enjoyed every minute of her discomfort.

Aw, come on, Sam, Daniel said then as he glanced at her, This is nothing compared to the night of Jack's retirement party... Now, that had to be embarrassing!

True to his words, Sam's face glowed crimson again for a moment. You just had to mention that, didn't you? she inquired with a blush. The less said on that subject, the better! she stated then.

But Ishta was already grinning from her place at one side of the table. I don't think I know about this one! She glanced up at a stoic Teal'c who sat beside her. What happened? she asked as she popped another piece of chicken in her mouth and chewed, waiting for the story to unfold.

Jack suddenly smiled in delight as he watched Sam's face grow redder yet. She waited for the party to get over, he said in an offhand tone of voice. And when I was alone in one of the SGC corridor's outside the Commissary, she jumped me.

I did not! Sam vehemently stated. Then she paused and considered. Okay, she conceded. Maybe I did...

Maybe..? Daniel incredulously asked. If that wasn't jumping a guy, I don't know what is.

Vala seemed thrilled to be getting some juicy gossip about the woman with a reputation as being a perfect team mate. Tell! she commanded, a huge smile of anticipation on her face.

There's not much to tell, Sam insisted, dangerously eyeing Daniel. I just waited for everyone to leave before I said anything to Jack about... She paused again, thinking better of what she was going to say.

But Vala had different ideas about the level of personal agony she wished to inflict on her friend. About..? she prompted, her voice full of a sacharine tone.

Daniel snorted. He had always liked to live dangerously, anyway... My take on the story is a little different than Sam's, he said without looking at Sam before he spoke so that she couldn't intimidate him with her thunderous expression. He went on, At least, that wasn't the idea I got at all when Jack opened the door of Sam's quarters a few minutes later... When I said that all I wanted was Sam's opinion on a new translation I was having trouble with, he grabbed my arm, said that he had been waiting a decade to have sex with Sam, and now that he finally could, there was no way in hell that some translation was going to interfere. And then he slammed the door in my face.

End of story! Jack said over the noise of everyone's laughter. Although I don't think that Siler quite ever recovered from the moment when he passed by me and Sam that night out in the hallway, right after... He paused in his explanation as well, and glanced Sam's way, not wanting to prolong her embarrassment if he could help it now that she was thoroughly embarrassed. Well, he told us to get a room, and when Sam said that we already had one, thank you very much, he dropped the plate he was carrying, and when it hit the floor, it broke into a million pieces. Jack shook his head in regret. What a mess... Maccoroni salad everywhere...

Teal'c smiled his patented Jaffa grin at them. At least he had you nearby to help him in his cleaning duties, he pointed out.

Sam, her face still red, said, Oh, we didn't help... He told us to... um... go on about our business. That this was Jack's special night, and he could do what he wanted, and that Siler himself would clean up his own mess that one night, and...

I think General Hammond stepped in the cheese sauce.., Jack commented then. It was even all over the walls.

Well, Mitchell said from his place at one end of the table. At least you waited a whole week before getting married. It gave us some time to recover from the shock of your news about it.

Is that when you bought this house? Ishta innocently asked.

As one, they all looked at the ceiling, as if by looking up, they could see the entire house at once. Jack responded, Yeah... I wanted to get Sam's opinion on anything we were planning to buy before we bought it.

Daniel added, Plus, he was terrified of what she would do to him if he didn't ask her opinion first.

Sam objected, I wouldn't have hurt him. She looked in Jack's direction. At least, not too badly.

Daniel snorted. And speaking of hurting people... How did the cadet training thing go this afternoon?

Good! Jack enthused. I didn't kill anyone this time, he joked. They all knew how often Jack threatened to kill a cadet, but never followed through on his threat. It had been a joke for as long as he'd been training troops.

Not for lack of trying, Sam amended. Though the looks on the soldier's faces when he orders me to shoot one of them is totally priceless! Again, they all laughed.

Mitchell interjected, I have a hard time thinking of you threatening anybody, Sam.

Daniel piped up. Yeah, now that all you threaten is the computer in your lab, since you quit SG-1...

We could really use you back on the team, Mitchell added, hope sounding loud in his voice.

Don't give her any ideas! Jack immediately barked. I like her right where she is... in a nine to five job, no more going off world at all hours of the day, being in constant peril, saving the planet on a monthly basis, danger at every other turn...

Boring, isn't it? Mitchell asked Sam in a deadpan voice.

Sam sighed. A little, if you want to know the truth, she said. That's why I get such a kick out of helping Jack with his training sessions. She turned to smile at him. It's good to know that I can still hit a swinging target at fifty paces.

Even I can't do that! Mitchell told them.

Which is why I ask Sam to help me, and not you, Jack told him.

Mitchell sent Jack a sour expression across the table. I was going to compliment you on the food, but now I've changed my mind.

Fine, Jack said back in aggravation without missing a beat. Then I won't tell you how to make this incredibly easy dish, and I'll laugh at the thought of you trying to cook something later that's edible.

Okay, Mitchell sighed. I'll bite... How do you make it? he asked. And let me just go on record here by saying that you telling me how to cook anything is a bit on the scary side.

Oh, ha, ha, Jack mocked him. Throw some chicken pieces into a dish with ranch and blue cheese dressing, slosh it around a bit, then throw it all in the oven at 350 degrees for a little over an hour. Then voila, an edible dinner.

Mitchell balked, and raised his brows. That's all?

That's all, Jack told him.

Damn, Mitchell approvingly said under his breath. Even I can handle that...

Oh, and there's cake for dessert, Jack said. So don't fill up, or anything.

Even Sam seemed impressed to hear this news. You made a cake?

Jack grinned at her. Thought I would try my hand at it again...

Hey, Vala said then. I'm impressed. Mind if I marry you someday? she teased.

Sam immediately told her, He's taken. Hands off.

Touchy, touchy! Vala responded in a voice of mock hurt. You could share, at least. Didn't your mom ever teach you how to share?

I don't share this! Sam firmly told her, not wanting to get into explaining her mom's early death at this point, which kept her from telling her daughter about sharing her future husband's cooking abilities. Anyway, I'm done... Time for cake! she declared as a way to distract everybody.

Jack gave her a look that said he was closely watching her reaction to Vala's question, but noted, It's always a good time for cake!

You would say that, Daniel grumbled at him.

Careful, Daniel, Jack said without even looking at him. Or that story about how you taught the kids on Abydos how to make moonshine will just slip into my conversation when you're not listening. he threatened.

Moonshine? Mitchell asked.

Daniel responded by pretending that no one had spoken. Where's that cake when you need it? he rhetorically inquired.

Jack laughed. Come with me to the kitchen, and carry the dessert plates for me, and save your worthless hide, he suggested. If you're really lucky, I won't kill you off... today.

Yeah, mumbled a complaining Daniel. He rose, but helplessly muttered, There's always tomorrow.

Together they disappeared into the kitchen next door, and the conversation resumed. Sam was about to ask Ishta and Teal'c about how Rya'c and Carrin were doing when they heard Daniel's shout of amazement filter into them.

Wow! That is so cool!

Ah! they heard Jack answer Daniel. Hands off... that's Carter's...

How'd you do that for..? Daniel next inquired, but Jack spoke again before he could finish asking his question.

Plates, Daniel, Jack reminded. And come on in to the dining room... I'll explain everything there...

In the next instant, Jack and Daniel appeared coming from the kitchen, each of them holding plates in their hands. Jack held something that looked like...

Is that the symbol for Earth? Mitchell wondered as Jack carefully set one of the plates he was carrying in front of Sam seated at the table.

Jack ignored Mitchell's inquiry in lieu of saying to Sam, Happy Birthday, Carter.

Sam sat in stunned silence. On the plate in front of her rested what was obviously a partial triangle, the point at the top, a circle covered in icing above the tip of the triangle, all chocolate, and all covered in just a film of white icing.

Jack went on, I know how you don't like too much frosting, so I went easy on it for you. The rest of the icing is in the fridge, in case I get an itching to eat it out of the container sometime in the night.

Sam was still speechless, but Mitchell wasn't having the same problems with his voice as she was. He was busy eyeing the other plate, holding a circular cake that had... Is that supposed to be the Stargate chevrons? he asked, astonishment now coloring his voice.

Yeah, Jack answered, stuffing his hands in his pockets in his nervousness. He wasn't sure if his friends would see this cake representation of the Stargate they were all so familiar with as something either really cool, or really dumb. It's amazing what you can do with an icing bag and a few Jell-O molds that you buy at the hardware store...

But Mitchell cut off Jack's explanation. Now I'm really impressed... He stared at the chocolate circle lying on the plate set in the middle of the table. What made you..? he started to ask, but this time it was Sam who interrupted him.

Jack, I... I thought you forgot...

Jack turned to regard her with a guilty smile beginning to form on his lips. Of course I didn't forget, he patiently explained. But it was so hard not to say anything to you this afternoon...

Sam broke in on his response a second time. But how did you know that I had invited people over for supper tonight, and that you needed to make so much cake?

Mitchell appeared a bit guilty this time. Uh... I might have had something to do with that...

Jack answered, He called me this morning, right after you asked him over, to warn me, and to...

Ishta interrupted this time by asking, What is this 'birthday' that you are talking about? Is there some celebration that I don't understand yet?

Teal'c smiled down at her from her right, and said, It is customary for Earthlings to celebrate the day of their birth each year with presents and food. Cake is just one tradition among many that is part of the honor that makes up this 'birthday.' He nodded his head in Jack's direction. For example, I know that it will be O'Neill's birthday in just three standard weeks, but DanielJackson must wait six months for his turn at a birthday.

But Mitchell refused to be completely interrupted. You did this with a Jell-O mold? he asked Jack again, leaning up from his seat in order to get a better view of the cake.

Yeah, Jack said again. I haven't exactly figured out how to make the circle stand up in the right way, yet, so it's sort of lying on its side, but...

That's so cool! Mitchell appreciatively yelled.

Jack smiled. Well, at least no one laughed.

Mitchell continued, But it is a bit scary that you spend so much time thinking about cooking now, I have to admit. I never thought I would say that...

Jack resumed his seat at the table as he answered, It didn't take much thought, actually. I got the idea one day when I was wandering around the 'home help' section at the hardware store... Hey, I didn't know that store even had a 'home help' section... I had just gone to buy a new drill..

Sam spoke up again, Is that what you were doing that day..?

Jack couldn't keep the smile from blossoming across his face. I do many mysterious things while you're playing with all your doohickies in your lab.

Sam was finally able to grin as she asked, How did you find the little circle here at the top..?

That's just cake batter poured into a custard dish, Jack explained. Remember, we got them as a wedding present from your great-aunt Alice, I think is her name... I knew I would find a use for those dishes someday...

Vala gawked this time. That's so clever...

You mean it was easy, Jack corrected her. Now, take some cake, before Mitchell drools all over the chevrons... I did spend some time getting those chevrons to be just right, you know, so... He turned back to face Sam again. Oh, and Happy Birthday, Carter, he repeated.

Sam smiled the big smile that she had always reserved just for Jack. Thanks! she beamed.

Jack felt his stomach twist in reaction to her smile, and had to be amazed that even after a year of marriage, she could still affect him in the same way she always had.

Daniel stood up, towering over the cake in the middle of the table, and lifted one of the dessert plates from the pile of plates he'd carried into the room. Okay, who wants cake? he asked, smiling.

* * *

Half an hour later, Daniel was the last to leave through the front door, ushering Ishta and a properly hatted Teal'c before him to his car. Thanks for the dinner! he said as a final parting shot to his friends as they wished all their guests a good night. And Happy Birthday, Sam!

Sam grinned. See you tomorrow, she called after him, then shut the door. Quiet now reined throughout the house.

But a minute later, Jack was already commenting, It worked out well to just have everybody carry their own plates, and load them into the dishwasher themselves, don't ya think? He wrapped his arm around Sam's waist. No mess to clean up after a get together always works for me.

Sam said, That was such a good cake, Jack...

But easy, he reminded.

And easy, she admitted. She snuggled closer to him as she talked. And now what are you planning to do until we have to go to bed? Any more birthday surprises? she asked.

Jack smiled, and readily answered her, I plan on jumping my wife in just a few minutes...

Be my guest, Sam assured him with a smile of her own.

Jack answered, I thought that you might like that part of your birthday present after everyone else had left for the night...

Good thinking, Sam admitted. She smiled even wider; What a nice birthday, she thought to herself.

But Jack's smile slipped a little off his face. Carter, mind if I ask you something?

Sam grinned into his shoulder. You made me a chocolate cake shaped like the Stargate out of a Jell-O mold... I think that you've earned the right to ask the odd question here and there, she invited.

Jack sighed as he nuzzled her nose. I was thinking about that part you said about you being bored... You're not too bored working in a lab, are you?

Sam lifted her head and smiled at him. You sound worried...

Jack grimaced as he silently admitted to his concerns with just one expression on his face.

No, Sam firmly replied to his silent question. I'm not too bored at all... I am a little bored on some days... But it's kind of nice to be bored, she divulged then. I would never tell Cam that, but we were so busy for so many years that feeling a little bored now and then is a good thing...

Do you mean that? Jack softly asked. You're not just saying that, are you?

Hell no, Sam responded in a teasing manner. I like being just a little bored now... If it means I get to be with you like I've always wanted to be with you, then a little boredom is a small price for me to pay. This way, I get to be with you for the rest of my life. And besides, every now and then I get to help you with your training sessions...

Speaking of training sessions, Jack interjected. Tiggery mentioned the session I did for him today to a friend of his, and I got an email this afternoon asking if I could come to the Academy to talk to another class on Tuesday... Are you free that afternoon to help me? he asked. It's always so much more fun if you can come, too.

Sam grinned. If you promise to let me threaten to kill one of the cadets again, I wouldn't miss it for the world!

The End

Important A/N: July, 2010 - In this note, I wish to discuss something that I wrote at first out of gun ignorance, then the fact that I left this story 'as is' for so long after learning of my 'gun stupidity' illustrates my general lack of foresight in this important instance. In this story, I have Sam holding an Air Force cadet at gun point, basically scaring an asshole shitless so that he craps his pants. Of course, I first have Sam dropping the magazine from her P-90 and secretly handing it to Jack before she does this, thinking that since her gun is now magazineless, it is unloaded, and therefore no threat to the cadet beyond the fact that a person should never point even an unloaded gun at another person. Sam, being the military trained marksman that she is, would know this.

What's really the truth is that though Sam drops the magazine from her gun, then points it at the mouthy cadet, and I claim that it's an unloaded weapon, her gun is in reality still loaded, and if her finger even slipped just a bit on the trigger of her P-90, she could potentially shoot the unsuspecting cadet. Though he is certainly far too mouthy for Jack and Sam to let slip by without some form of retribution, being held at gunpoint with a loaded weapon isn't it.

Long after I wrote this story, I learned that even if the magazine is removed from a gun, if that weapon has already been fired, as is the case in this story, there is still one final bullet left in the chamber of the gun. Thinking that a weapon without a magazine is unloaded is one of the most common mistakes that gun users make, and the one that causes a great many accidental shootings, even death. This is more than likely what happened to Charlie O'Neill, so it is definitely not a mistake that Jack especially, and Sam by her long association with Jack at the point in their timeline that this story takes place, would ever make.

Once I learned of this gun rule, then realized my glaring story mistake, I thought about leaving this story 'as is' and taking this story down from my public website. Then I considered rewriting this story to make a great show of Sam removing that final bullet from her weapon. But then I thought to use my mistake to highlight what is a simple but often deadly point about gun safety.

The weapons that I use in this story are fictional, and can't hurt anybody, but in reality, that final bullet in Sam's gun has more potential to cause a serious disaster than I gave it credit for when I wrote this story in 2007. Please, please, please don't be as 'gun ignorant' as I was when I first wrote this story: make sure any gun that you carry that you believe is unloaded really is unloaded by removing that final bullet from the chamber of the weapon before doing anything else with the gun itself. Jack, Charlie and Sam will all profusely thank you.

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