Disclaimer: No creativity today, so I'm simply gonna claim that I don't own them and I got no money for this work. (Shrug) I'm just sayin'..!
General Jack O'Neill stared across the Commissary table at
his friend, Daniel, as the man continued to eat his humongous
breakfast of waffles and toast. Jack watched him eat, and
regretfully answered the question that Daniel had just asked,
No can do, Daniel, my friend, buddy, spacemonkey...
Mwf rrry hhhaaaa thaaaa, yaaaaaa ow, Daniel
O'Neill raised his brows and politely inquired,
Daniel swallowed a particularly large bite of waffles
covered in sticky syrup, then stated,
I said that I really
hate you calling me that, you know.
The General continued to stare at his friend.
know, he nonchalantly said, though the humor was evident in
his voice to anybody who knew him well.
That's why I keep
calling you that, he divulged.
I know that it pushes your
buttons, and I do so love pushing them for you.
Daniel was one such man who could read Jack O'Neill like one
of the mythology books he kept in his office to pour over, but
now he glared at Jack, annoyed.
I know quite well where my
buttons are, thank you very much. I don't need you pushing them
for me. I get enough of that from Sam.
It's good to hear that she's carrying on
my illustrious tradition.
I'm not sure if 'illustrious' is quite
the word that I would use. He watched the General grin at
But seriously, Jack, what are you doing tonight that
makes you so busy, you can't see the next Harry Potter movie that
Teal'c and I rented? You got a hot date or something?
The teasing expression that Daniel was sending him across
the table told Jack that his past team mate was joking with him
again. So he felt free to send another glare in the man's
No, he informed.
I'll leave that hot
dating stuff to Carter.
Daniel snorted here, but Jack went on over the noise.
No, I've got a thing to go to tonight that will probably last
until the wee hours of the morning, and consist of lots of
alcoholic products, naked girls, and guys puking their guts
out. Jack considered what he'd said. Even he wasn't
sure that he wanted to be around for all that puking.
second thought, maybe I should see that movie with you guys
instead. It promises to be a lot cleaner.
But Daniel was confused. He gave a soft grimace and an
inquisitive narrowing of his eyes.
What kind of thing are you
going to that involves getting sick to your stomach? he
Jack sighed, showing his irritation about the upcoming
event, but replied,
Oh, I've got this bachelor party thing
that I promised my one cousin I have left that I'd go to, and I
don't want to let him down... again. It's not like I'm
gonna be gone on a convenient mission tonight, so the 'I have to
work' excuse won't do it this time.
Daniel stared in sympathy at his friend.
It's kind of
like a family reunion, huh?
Yeah, something like that, Jack told him.
feel like I should go, since I haven't been to anything in the
past ten or twenty years, and I don't plan on being free for the
wedding this weekend either... A General has to work
Soooooo. Daniel smirked again.
Don't get too
drunk and be one of those guys throwing up in the wee hours of
the morning, he suggested with a smirk.
Jack rose, then picked up his tray with the one plate that'd
had his one piece of cake on it only five minutes earlier. As he
left his friend sitting at the table, he said,
I'll be a good
boy, Daniel, I promise.
Just as long as you don't call me for a ride home,
Jack turned around to glare back at him.
I know just how hard you are to wake up in the
middle of the night. Forget it... I'll call Teal'c
Daniel grinned at Jack's departing figure as the man left
with his tray.
Have fun! he ordered as Jack went out of
Jack called back,
Not likely, but I'll try!
* * *
That night, Jack rang the doorbell of his cousin's apartment, and looked down the hall outside that apartment, automatically noting the possible exits in case he needed to use one of them as an escape route. Not that he knew what he might have to escape from... But still... It was good to have a little intel before he needed it, he noted to himself.
Suddenly, he heard the distinctive sound of footsteps running haphazardly up to the door, almost, but not quite, in time to the muffled sound of the pounding music that poured into the hallway through the closed apartment door. That distinction was quickly remedied as the door was opened so fast that it was almost yanked off its hinges, and the sight of an already slightly inebriated Dan Jolson met his sight.
Jack! Cos! the voice of the man squealed out into
the hallway. He reached up and jerked Jack through the door.
Get in here, you old dog! Long time no see! Hey, grab a beer
and join the fun!
Jack briefly wondered if Dan was capable of not shouting every statement that he made, but he allowed the man to hustle him over to the refrigerator, and pull out a can of beer for him. It was Pabst Blue Ribbon, Jack noted the brand, and that made him think of Carter's blue eyes, for some reason. Must be the word 'blue' in the brand title, he figured.
Then Dan showed Jack to the empty sofa in the living area of
There you go, my man! Peanuts are on the
coffee table I think. Dan squinted, and looked at the coffee
table fronting the sofa. At last, he nodded.
said. Then with one more pat to Jack's shoulder, he was pulled
back into the crowd by one of his other pals.
Jack sighed, sat, then ran an aggravated hand over his face as he looked around. What the heck was he doing here? He hardly knew his cousin anymore, not since the days when they were two high school boys who terrorized all the girls in their gym class by throwing the balls a little too hard at them. It wasn't until a girl threw one of those balls back, and hit Jack in the... uh... balls... and Jack had limped around for the rest of the day that he and Dan had decided to quit that particular... and particularly painful... activity.
But that was a long time ago. Now, Jack hardly knew Dan, he admitted to himself, only that the man was getting ready for his third marriage. Or was it his fourth? Jack shrugged as he slipped off the blazer he had worn over his white polo shirt with the Air Force logo on the upper left side that he had chosen out of his closet that afternoon, and tried hard to remember.
Jack gave up that memory game five minutes later as he continued to pop peanuts into his mouth and look around the room. Dan's apartment, it appeared, was like any other hundred apartments that he himself had been forced by circumstances to live in over the years. What was obviously two bedrooms opened off the main living area in one direction, and the kitchen opened off the living area from the other. It was a rather open floor plan for an apartment, and it reminded Jack of Carter's apartment where she had lived those first few months after she had moved to Colorado Springs.
Actually, Jack was such a mess at the time because of Charlie dying, and the following divorce from Sara, that he barely remembered much of anything from back then except Carter's apartment. He had crashed there often enough right at first that he figured he should remember it. Or, at least, he remembered that lumpy, second hand couch that she had found at some garage sale. Or, his back remembered it well. He recalled going furniture shopping with her almost right away so that she could get a descent couch. He figured that if he was going to be spending any time sleeping on the thing, it might as well be comfortable.
But those days were over, he sharply reminded himself. Yet at the same time, he wondered what had happened to that couch she'd bought with him tagging along. It had been in her house the last time he'd been there, but that had admittedly been several months ago. For all he knew, that Shanahan character she was engaged to now had asked her to replace it, and she would have complied, as she strangely seemed to comply to all the cop's 'suggestions.' Jack admitted that he didn't understand how such a strong willed woman could become so malleable, but he also admitted that it was none of his business what she did, so he tried his best not to think about it at all. Most of the time he succeeded admirably well.
Jack sighed a second time. He decided that he would stay at Dan's bachelor fling long enough to finish his beer so as not to appear rude, but that he had way too much work to do to sit at this party for too long. He grinned rather ascerbically to himself; work always made a great excuse to get him out of uncomfortable situations, he had found.
Hey, mind if I sit here for a sec? a man who Jack
guessed to be in his forties asked him while he pointed to a
chair across from the sofa Jack was currently seated on.
don't know many people here, so I feel kinda... Hey! he
suddenly exclaimed in excitement, interrupting himself. He
gestured to the logo on Jack's shirt.
You're in the Air
Force! So am I!
Jack smiled a bit, a lifting of the corners of his mouth.
He didn't want to give too much credence to this guy he didn't
know, after all. But he did reach over to shake the man's hand
when he offered his in return.
Major John Solo, the man
said, introducing himself.
Solo, huh? Jack grunted as they shook hands over the
bowl of nuts on the coffee table.
The man's face fell into a comical scowl.
Wars jokes, please, he requested.
Jack's smile widened.
Fine with me, but I have to admit
that I know a guy who would just love to meet you.
Instead of replying, John fell into the chair across from
Where you stationed? he asked.
somewhere else far away, like me? Then he chuckled before
Jack had a chance to reply.
At least we ain't comin' from
overseas this time! he exclaimed.
Or, at least, I'm not.
How 'bout you?
That question made Jack give a low laugh in response.
know too much about overseas postings, that's for sure, he
said, remembering all the times he'd been stationed at one of the
overseas bases during his long tenure in the service.
at one of the installations in the area, he noted.
tell you more about it, but then I'd have to shoot ya, as it's a
top secret installation, and I've found that shooting an
acquaintance kind of puts a dampened on any of my new
relationships, so... Jack continued to grin as he shrugged
General Jack O'Neill... Nice to meet you.
John's expression of affability slid off his face.
You're a General? he squeaked upon hearing Jack's
rank, and he sprang up.
I'm sorry, Sir, but...
It was just the reaction that Jack had been trying to avoid
all night. He would never have given his rank if the other man
hadn't done so first.
At ease, Major, Jack said.
not one of those by-the-book Generals you run into, or anything.
I prefer to forget my rank, actually, so you can help me more by
just ignoring all that 'Sir' crap, and just call me
John slowly resumed his seat in the easy chair he'd sat in
earlier, and retrieved his beer from the coffee table. He softly
I admit, you're a lot more easygoing than my
commander. She would have bit my head off, and put me on report
Jack didn't let him finish.
Where did you say you're
stationed? he asked, a wrinkle of curiosity on his
I'm at Minot, North Dakota this time,
What did I say about all that 'Sir'
crap? Geez, this guy was as bad as Carter!
Um... John seemed confused.
Uh... If you
insist, he slowly said.
Jack grinned, hoping to set the other man at ease with the
I do, he said.
Just call me 'Jack,' and
But Jack was interrupted again when a shout rang through the
apartment. He heard Dan loudly proclaim,
Shannie, you old son
of a gun, get the hell in here, man!
With a lurch of fear that shot straight through his heart like an attack of highly armed Goa'uld, Jack gave a start, and his head jerked around towards the door. He caught sight of Pete Shanahan as the cop was yanked through the door, just as he had been, and was pulled into the crowd of men in the apartment.
Crap! This couldn't be happening. Jack groaned, then lowered his head into his hand to revel in a brief moment of pure agony. Could this night possibly get any worse?
John looked around to the door, then back at the General.
Friend of yours? he questioned.
Friend? Jack just groaned again. After a second of
wallowing in the misery he felt, he lifted his head, and said,
Listen... John, is it? The man nodded ascent that Jack
had guessed his name correctly. He went on,
You can do me a
big favor by just staying here and talking to me for a little
while until I finish my beer. I plan to leave as soon as it's
gone, but I don't want to be left alone to possibly have to talk
to... uh... He gestured in the direction where Pete had
disappeared into the crowd.
The other man didn't need to hear a detailed description of
the reason why Jack knew who this 'Shanahan' character was. He
only had to know that a General had requested assistance, and he
was available, so he was as agreeable as he could possibly be.
Say no more, he instructed Jack.
I'm there for
you. He grinned, showing that he was teasing by quoting the
oft utilized phrase.
Jack gave a small smile.
This isn't a covert operation
with lives at stake, you know. Relax, and it'll be okay. He
glanced at Shanahan again, but spoke to John.
you know... leave me sitting here all alone. I'm less likely to
make an ass of myself if I'm not alone, where there's no one
around to stop me.
At that comment, John actually laughed. He did relax, but
went on to suggest,
If you'd like, we can go over to my hotel
room and catch the game that's... But then he paused.
Oh, yeah, Genie's there tonight, and might not understand me
bringing someone I just met over to our room and all.
'Genie'? Jack inquired.
She you're date for the
wedding, or something?
She's my wife. Then he amended,
But I guess she is my date for the wedding, isn't she,
as one of the only reasons I'm even here is because of her.
He went on to explain,
She's Julia-the-bride's second cousin
twice removed, or something like that. Then he smiled a
guilty little smile.
Actually, I don't really know how
they're related. I just asked for leave when she told me that I
needed it, and I promised her that I'll show up at the rehearsal
on time so that I can be one of Dan's ushers, and do things
right, and not embarrass her by seating people on the wrong side
of the church, or somethin,' he confided.
bachelor shindig really isn't my scene.
Jack felt, if he hadn't found a kindred spirit, then at
least John was someone he could empathize with.
I know what
you mean. The whole 'getting drunk until you throw up' thing
kind of played out about a decade or two ago.
Yeah, John answered.
'Been there, done that,' and
all that sort of thing, he continued. He took a drink, then
grabbed a handful of peanuts and started popping them into his
mouth one by one.
You never told me if you're married or
anything... Genie would really like it if I can produce someone
for her to talk to during the wedding reception.
Jack smiled, a bit sadly. But he answered,
I'm one of those swinging bachelors that you've no doubt heard
You mean that you go to a party every weekend? John
asked, and grinned, clearly teasing again according to his
sarcastic tone of voice.
Jack didn't miss a beat. He matched sarcastic comment for
sarcastic comment by saying,
I'm so booked with social events
that I meet myself both comin' and goin'
John gave a nod.
In other words, you work all the time,
and haven't been to anything quite like this shindig all
Jack grinned again.
Yeah, something like that. He
just knew that he would like this sardonic guy, he noted
to himself, and took a drink of beer as he considered his new
friend. John was so laid back as to be practically dead. But
Jack rerouted his attention to the conversation they were having.
The dating scene isn't exactly my thing anymore, he
If I'm lucky enough to get home, I'd rather have a
beer and watch some Simpsons on TV than have a hot
Yeah. John chuckled.
It's been so long since
I've had a hot date that I think I wouldn't know how to behave
even if I had one. I'd probably open my beer can with my toes or
That would hardly impress a lady, Jack agreed.
Especially not one of them military ladies like I've met
over the years. Tougher group of people I'll never
meet! John emphatically said.
Jack had to agree.
They can kick my sorry butt from here
to Timbuktu in five seconds flat.
Don't you know it! John stated, then took another
swig of beer.
It's been so long since I had a beer that I
think this is going right to my head!
Jack laughed, and lifted his own can in a salute to the
I know someone just like you, he said,
referring fondly to Daniel.
He can't hold his liquor for
Kind of like these guys. John gave a rueful look
around the room at all the swaying party guests. At least half
the men at the party were drinking hard enough to already be
You'd think cops could hold their liquor better than
this. He added,
Or at least know when they need to stop
Cops? Jack questioned.
Yeah, John replied.
Isn't that groom guy a
That would explain Shanahan's presence at the party.
he is, then Dan's changed professions since I last saw him,
Jack told John.
But I admit that when I last saw Dan, it was
a loooong time ago! Like, about twenty years or so!
Yeah, it's kind of like those early
postings of mine. You lose touch with the guys after
Jack smiled and took a drink from his own beer.
those guys that I knew twenty years ago would hardly recognize me
They didn't expect the whole rank thing? John
I didn't expect the whole rank thing, Jack
I think the Joint Chiefs were asleep when they
decided to give me that last promotion. I honestly don't know
how else I could have gotten it. Then he mumbled,
everyone in Washington went crazy for a day, all at the same
John laughed, then changed the subject so that his wife
couldn't later accuse him of talking only about military topics.
Hey, do you know of any good places to eat around here? he
Genie was saying just yesterday about wanting something
* * *
Surprisingly, several hours passed with this joking type of conversation before Jack even knew what was going on. He had already drunk his second beer, but stopped drinking alcoholic beverages after downing his second can from Dan's fridge, knowing that Daniel... or Carter, for that matter... would never let him hear the end of it if he needed to call a taxi, or heaven forbid, one of them, to drive him home from the party. He drank water for the rest of the evening, and he and John continued talking until John finally gave a big yawn.
Sorry! John quickly apologized.
It isn't the
company, but I must have jet lag or something. I'm really
Yeah, Jack agreed.
I have a million bits of
paperwork to authorize before I turn in for the night, he
Gotta love that paperwork, he sarcastically
Something tells me that I shouldn't be
actively seeking that next promotion, he said, just as
sardonic as Jack he been a moment earlier.
Oh, you can seek it, Jack told him.
get assigned to lead anything. That's where all the paperwork
is. And they never tell you about that, either.
John opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off when another
shout rang across the apartment.
Do... Do... The
shouter drunkenly laughed, then tried again.
Any of you
guys... know... who to call... for a ride for this guy?
Jack and John looked back towards the kitchen as that question was asked, and saw none other than Pete Shanahan seated at the kitchen table, his head cradled in his bent arms, his face green as he groaned again. He didn't look up at the shout. Jack didn't think that he could look up at the shout.
But the original shouter was shouting again.
He... kinda needs a... a lift...
Is that a lift home? someone else called back.
Then the voice leeringly went on,
Or a lift somewhere
else? The gathered men all collapsed into a fit of laughter
Crap! Jack thought. Double crap!
Carter would kill him and serve him for dinner if he didn't say
something, and come to Shanahan's rescue. So he reluctantly
Yeah I know where he can go.
The first shouter pointed to a corner of the kitchen, and
There's the... the... He tried hard, but was
unsuccessful at saying the word 'phone.'
Jack rescued him by interrupting.
I think I can find it. He set his
glass of water down on the coffee table, then crossed to Dan's
kitchen wall phone. He heard Pete give another groan as he
passed near him, and gave a shudder. The man wreaked of beer,
sweat, and vomit, and even Jack's seasoned nose wrinkled. He
waved a hand in front of his face.
Whew! It had
been a long time since he'd been that drunk! He picked up the
phone receiver just as another thought struck him.
He could never do this to Carter, never wake her up in the middle of the night, and ask her to drag herself through the dark to take care of... He gave Pete another glance, then finished his thought... to take care of her fiancé that also happened to be in Pete's current condition. Besides the fact that she would hardly attribute a nice attitude to her Commanding Officer (and Jack always wanted her to visualize him as being nice), but after seeing him in a place like this... with people like this... and he didn't want Carter equating her fiancé's behavior with her CO's...
Crap! With an aggravated bang, Jack returned the
receiver to its place on the wall phone. He turned around to
look where his new acquaintance had gone off to. There he was,
still in the same chair. Jack crossed back over to the
apartment's living area. As he replaced his blazer, he asked
You up for helping a really pissed off General be not so
John rose until he was standing beside the chair he'd spent
the evening in.
Sure, he replied.
I was thinking
about leaving, anyway. Genie must be ready to turn in for the
night by now.
Jack gave a sigh, but gestured at John, then looked at Pete
drooling now on the kitchen table.
Come on then, he said
Give me a hand with him. He led the way over to
stand beside Pete's form, and wrinkled his nose again.
might be a short bit of helping, but it sure as Hell won't be
pretty. Man, the things he was willing to do for Sam Carter!
He was turning into a total sap in his old age, he grumbled to
himself as he reached for the lump at the table that was Pete.
He turned to John.
Can you grab hold of his other side?
I got this side.
Ugh! John grunted as he helped lift Pete from the
Come on, dude, give us a hand here! he told Pete
in a low voice.
You better be worth all this effort!
He's not, Jack said, making sure to do his part and
support Pete from his side even as he made the comment.
If he's not worth it, John grunted, indicating Pete
as they made their way towards the apartment door,
are we helping him like this?
Because his fiancé's a very good friend of
mine. I can't just dump him on her as he is. I'm mean, but not
Fiancé? John grumbled.
She must be one heck of a
special lady for us to go to this much trouble.
Jack's reply came readily.
Oh, she's one of a kind. Too
bad cop-boy here doesn't know what he's getting. Jack
grunted as he led the way into the much quieter hallway.
figures that there would be no elevators in this building, and
Dan would have to live on the second floor, he grumbled.
They struggled to pull Pete towards the outside door, then down the stairs built into the side of the building. Pete was so heavy in his drunken stupor that Jack almost lost his grip on him as they reached the final step. He would have hoped that Carter appreciated what he was saving her from, but he knew that, without a doubt, Carter could never hear about this from anyone. If she even suspected that he would go to this level just so that he could be considered 'nice' by her...
They made their way over to where Jack had parked his truck for the evening, and Jack fished his keys out of his front pocket as John supported the mumbling police officer.
With a heave and a lot of maneuvering, the two men got Pete
situated into the front passenger seat of the vehicle, and the
seat belt around him, then Jack slammed the door shut with
another expelled breath of air.
Whew! He turned to smile
Think I earned my General's stars over that
I would guess so! Too bad he won't
remember any of this, or maybe he could have put in a good word
for you at your next personnel evaluation, he lightly
Like I want him to put in a good
word for me. No, think I'll just give it my best shot on
John drew in one final deep breath.
I somehow think that
you'll be okay, he said.
And if you need any help getting
Naw, Jack commented.
I'll just sort of let him
roll down to my couch.
At least it's not uphill... You don't have to drag him
all the way to a second floor, do you? John asked as he
peered at Jack.
Jack shook his head.
It's the couch for him, I
think. He smiled once more at John, then offered his own
hand this time.
If you're ever in town again, look me up and
give me a call.
Sure thing, John answered.
Sure wish you were
coming to the wedding, he lamented.
It would give me
someone to talk to. Then he sighed.
But, I can't have
everything, I guess. So I'll be seeing you around, he said,
then turned to walk to his own vehicle.
Thanks, John. I owe you one, Jack called after him. Jack
sighed, then clutched his keys even tighter in his hands. He
mumbled to himself,
I sure hope that in one of those alternate
realities, Carter appreciates the heck out of this. He
climbed into his truck, and while Pete snoozed, snoring softly on
the seat beside him, Jack drove home through the darkened
* * *
The next morning found Jack sitting at his dining room table, calmly eating a bowl of Fruit Loops, and reading the daily newspaper headlines, when Pete slowly slipped around the corner from the living room. The cop's surprised, indrawn breath alerted Jack that he could no longer pretend that he didn't have an overnight guest.
I wondered where I'd gone off to, Pete said as his
Jack continued to read the headlines and didn't bother to
look at Pete, but said,
You were passed out drunk, so instead
of inflicting the likes of that on Carter, I brought you
Pete remained standing in the doorway leading from Jack's
front hall to his dining room, appearing ill at ease, but
carefully looking the house over as well.
I know that we've
only met a few times... He gave Jack a quizzical glance.
I thought you didn't like me, he stated.
Sam says that
I'm being stupid when I say that, but that's...
Jack cut him off.
This isn't a complete change around
for me, you know. I'm doing this for Carter, he said in such
a no-nonsense tone that anyone listening to him had to believe
every word he said as the God-honest truth.
Pete stared some more, not completely comprehending all that
was happening around him, clearly, as the expression on his face
became more and more confused.
So, what's this whole
sleeping-one-off in your house for? Is it because of Sam? Is
that why you're being so nice to me now?
Jack suppressed a desire to roll his eyes at the other man's
seeming lack of ability to quickly think on his feet. Of course,
he reluctantly realized, it was hard to think at all, let alone
quickly, when a hangover was pounding on your skull like a hammer
blow to the head. And Pete Shanahan had to have a doozy of a
hangover right now, Jack had to remind himself. But he needed to
answer Pete's question.
I've always liked Carter - certainly
well enough to know that it would be a very good idea to keep
this from her. Then his face grew harder as he said,
make no mistake... You're here because I don't want her to be
bothered with drunks.
Pete grunted, and continued with his looking around Jack's
house by openly peering at everything, looking for clues... but
clues to what, Jack couldn't say.
Well, at least you're being
honest, Pete said as he looked, then muttered,
Thanks for that. But... uh... where's my car?
Jack crisply folded the paper in his hands, letting it make
lots of noise as he answered,
Your car's still at Dan's
apartment parking lot.
There was another silence, so Jack rose to place the bowl he'd been using for his breakfast cereal in the kitchen dishwasher. If his chair scraped against the dining room floor, making Pete wince at the noise, then he could hardly help it, could he?
Um, Pete finally said.
How am I supposed to get
back there? he queried.
You want me to call Sam?
As if! Jack brusquely announced,
Carter only hears about
this over my dead body. I'm not loading a hungover... Here,
he glanced at Shanahan, and decided that after the kind of night
he'd had pulling the man into the house all by himself, it was as
accurate a description as he could get without using curse words.
So he went on,
I'm not foisting a guy who's sick with a
hangover on Carter right off the bat one Friday morning, he
I wouldn't do that to her.
Pete looked like he didn't know quite what to say.
Sooo.., he tried.
How am I going to get back to my
Geez! Could this man think of nothing by himself? Jack
dropped the bowl into the dishwasher. It clanked loudly against
the other dishes already in the machine. He allowed himself a
pleased, inward smile as Pete winced again. He straightened, and
You got money for a cab?
Pete reached around to draw his wallet out of his back pocket. He opened it up, peered inside, then shook his head, as if he were trying to clear it.
Double vision? Jack asked, not quite sounding polite
in the asking.
Um... yeah, Pete responded. Finally he had to close
one eye before he could get a good look at the contents of his
All I have is one dollar... That will get me to the
next block, he said.
I guess I can walk from
Jack gave a sigh, and looking irritated enough to take on
the entire world by himself in a fight, he dug through the front
pocket of the BDUs he was wearing that day, and pulled out his
cell phone. He dialed a number, but while the phone was still
ringing, Pete said to him,
I really don't know why you'd drag
me all the way over here for the night, then call the police to
haul my sorry ass back home.
Jack sent a glare at Pete standing in his dining room.
Relax, he ordered.
I'm not calling the police.
Then he returned the phone to his ear just as the other end was
Hey, Walter, Jack said into the phone.
is the General... He paused as Walter said something.
Keep your shirt on, Jack testily replied.
there in about half an hour, but can you do something for me
first? Can you call Motor Pool and have an Airman drive to the
house to give someone a ride home? Jack paused again as
Walter said more. An expression of irritation crossed over his
It's not what you're thinking, Walter. Jack
listened again, then said,
It's not like that. But Walter
cut him off once more, and Jack was forced to listen to more
words from his aid. Jack tried several times to cut in to
explain, and finally, had to coldly interrupt Walter to bluntly
Look, I have Shanahan here, and he needs a ride
home, so send an Airman to my house. He shrugged.
all I'm after, so just call, please. Then he added,
don't say anything to Colonel Carter about this, will ya? She
might think that I'm the one who needs a ride after last
night. He paused again, then confirmed,
Yeah, the party
was all right. You know, there was a lot of alcohol, food,
general debauchery... The usual. He smiled a bit as Walter
then said his good byes.
See you in about half an hour.
He slapped the phone shut, then looked at Pete.
you a few minutes to take a shower, clean yourself up a bit
before an Airman gets here. He looked Pete over with a
critical, discerning eye.
You are capable of taking a
shower this morning, aren't you?
Pete would have glowered back at him, but the nausea he was
clearly fighting, according to the greenish cast to his face,
kind of ruined the whole 'tough guy' image he was trying to
Yeah, he replied to Jack's inquiry as most of
his attention remained on not throwing up in front of his
fiancé's friend. His dilemma must have reminded him of a problem
in that plan for a shower, for he next commented,
I don't have
anything that's clean to wear with me, so..,
Jack interrupted him.
There's already some clothes in
the bathroom. At Pete's look of surprise, he shrugged and
The clothes in the bathroom are too small for me,
anyway. Go on and keep them.
Uh... Pete obviously didn't know what to say to that
kind of generosity when Jack was obviously not being very
generous at all, according to Jack's earlier harsh tone.
Thanks, he said anyway.
Jack pointed him in the right direction to the bathroom.
Just don't forget that all this is for Carter, he
I'm not likely to forget, Pete muttered as he
disappeared in the direction of the bathroom.
Jack let himself truly smile the moment the man vanished
down the hall.
Good, he said to himself, and grinned some
* * *
Ten minutes later, a dark colored, nondescript car pulled into Jack's driveway just as Pete appeared again, wearing dark blue sweats and a white t-shirt with the Air Force logo emblazoned on it. Just that morning, Jack had secretly thought it was appropriate for the man to be wearing the clothes that not only hadn't fit him for ten years, but also advertised the organization that both he and Sam were part of. It was unvoiced commentary that Jack and Sam belonged to something bigger than themselves, and belonged to that organization together, while Shanahan didn't belong to it at all, not according to his usual attire, minus the logo in this case. But Jack didn't say a word to Pete about the outfit other than to say that it came from what was meant to be a pile of cast off clothes due to sizing issues, and that he guessed all those extra muscles from saving the world were catching up to him.
Pete didn't know what to do with that information, either.
Uh, he stuttered.
Thanks for the clothes.
Geez! What did Carter talk about to the man, anyway? Jack shook his head in amazement, but hid the gesture under the guise of answering the knock that they heard on the front door just then.
An Airman stood stiffly on the front step. He saluted.
General, was all he said.
Jack pointed to Pete.
I want you to take him to this
address. He gave a piece of paper with Dan's address written
on it to the Airman.
And I order you to say nothing to
Colonel Carter about this transaction. Am I understood?
The Airman gave a brief nod.
Jack went on.
Is there anyone else I need to order not
The Airman immediately replied,
Major Cornell, Sir, my
superior officer. And we need to have the record of your request
deleted from the computer database, or ordering us to silence
won't have much of an effect.
Okay, Jack briskly said.
You take care of
recording the information of this ride in some other way, and of
wiping this entry from the database when you get back to the
mountain, and I'll take care of talking to Major Cornell,
Yes, Sir, the Airman replied. Then he turned towards
If you will follow me, Sir, he respectfully
Don't forget your clothes, Jack reminded the hungover
Pete tried to keep up with the conversation as he gathered
his clothes into his arms.
Thanks, for everything, he
said to Jack as he passed by on his way out the open door and on
into the morning sunshine.
I won't forget any of this, he
Oh, Jack quietly said.
I hope you do. Then
And remember, you don't owe me for anything. You
don't even owe me any thanks for this. Any gratitude you owe,
you owe it all to Carter. Then he looked like he felt a bit
awkward to even be mentioning Carter in the first place to her
fiancé, but, his voice quieter yet, said,
Treat her well...
that's all I ask.
Jack was about to issue a sigh of relief that both men were
gone, and close the door behind them, when Pete stopped him with
a hand resting against the wood of the still open front door. He
You ain't doin' this for me... You don't even
like me, so... He looked at Jack through the open
door, the Airman standing one step behind him. He thoughtfully
You really must love her a lot to do this for
For a moment, Jack remained silent as he frantically considered how best to respond to such personal commentary. But mostly, he was busy trying to keep his emotions under control. He was almost too angry to think straight, but he did know that it wouldn't do for a General to lose his temper and strike out at an unsuspecting civilian. Yet, he felt the deep fury laced with remorse course through his veins. Through the silent moments that followed Pete's statement, Pete calmly leaned on the door frame as he waited for Jack to reply to what he had said.
But Jack couldn't reply. He worked his mouth through his teeth clenched against his anger. By making such a comment in the first place, if the observation was innocent or not, Pete had insinuated that a respected military officer was silently suffering under the curse of feeling affections for one under his own command. He had made that same comment of Jack while, if not knowing for certain, then at least Pete had to suspect that such affections were against military regulations. The man couldn't know Carter well enough to be engaged to her and not know something about the military she worked for. And worst of all, Pete had made his comment right in front of a witness of that same military.
The best side of Jack's personality made him guess that Pete had said what he'd said out of ignorance, with no real idea of what he had just done. But the fact that Jack simultaneously wondered at Pete's more dubious reasons behind saying what he'd said in the first place, due to Pete's naturally suspicious nature, was entirely too disturbing; The thought that Pete could even consider harming Sam or her career by referring to her in that sentence just to hurt Jack at the same time was reprehensible in Jack's seasoned opinion.
Shanahan, Jack began softly, and employing the same
tone of voice that he used right before a battle; soft, serious,
What you just said could lead Carter straight to
a court-martial in the worst scenario. I hope, for your sake,
that you didn't mean those comments, as an accusation against
either myself, or Carter, because if you did, you had better
leave, now, before I choose to forget that I'm a General in the
United States Air Force, and beat the crap out of your sorry hide
right here, and right now. He drew a deep breath in through
his nose, trying to calm himself, but felt his grip on his anger
slip another notch nonetheless.
You have Carter to thank for
all the good that has happened here so far today, but don't make
the mistake of thinking that even she can protect you from all
that I might choose to do to you. What she sees in your slimy,
suspicious, control-freak little mind is beyond me. He
continued on in the same subdued tone,
And what a distrustful
guy like you is doing with someone whose middle name means
'classified' is also something I can't quite comprehend. But
she's made her choice, and I accept that. Once again he met
Pete's gaze head on, and bitingly said,
Now get out of here
before I completely lose my temper, and forget how truly awful a
court-martial really is. 'Cause it's seeming less and less awful
all the time. Jack breathed some more, shaking in the anger
he felt tumbling through his body.
But Pete just didn't seem to know when a good thing was a
good thing. He said,
Don't try to convince me that you and
she haven't been involved in the past, or...
The second that Pete referred to Carter, and Jack's and
Carter's past 'involvement,' was when Jack finally lost his fight
with his temper. His voice lowered even further to grow quieter
I'm only going to explain this once, Shannie,
he dangerously growled, deliberately shortening the man's name.
I care about all the members of my old team. We're all
'involved' in friendly relationships. However, by making such a
comment like you did, you are insinuating that I, as well as
Colonel Carter, have broken regulations, and I won't allow a
slimeball like you to insinuate anything of the sort. He
jerked his head towards the car parked in his drive.
take him out of here.
The Airman put a cautious hand on Pete's arm, as if he were telling him to 'Come with me,' and they both backed away, leaving Jack alone, trembling in his opened doorway. He clutched his fists and let them thump in small, controlled motions against the door jamb just before he slammed the door shut with a satisfying thud. It was only then that Jack let his true feelings wash through him.
Crap, crap, crap, crap! Jack rested his forehead against the wood of his closed door for a moment, silently cursing his noble streak that made him let drunk people sleep on his sofa after parties. Anybody could see that the only reason that he could possibly be this upset at those comments was that there had to be some truth in Shanahan's suggestion. The people at the SGC weren't dumb... They would see the truth long before he was ready for them to see it.
Crap! Jack softly cursed again, ground his head painfully against the wood of the door, then finally pushed himself off and away from the paneled wood. Crap.
Feeling highly mortified, but still able to think fairly clearly, Jack grabbed his car keys from the tiny hall table beside the door. As soon as he heard the other car leave the driveway, he jerked open the door to head for his truck. As he walked, he concentrated on slowly regaining his sense of himself, and he finally began to calm down. By the time he'd reached his truck, he was mostly in control of himself again. But even as he gripped the steering wheel, his hands still shook.
* * *
Jack entered the SGC ten minutes before an oblivious Colonel Carter stepped into the Control Room. It was long enough for him to talk on the phone to Major Cornell of the Motor Pool, and order the Major not to speak of the morning's details to Colonel Carter. By the time Carter first visited her lab to read any email she'd received after she'd left the day before, then start for her visit to the Control Room to check on the 'Gate, a normal morning routine for her, Jack had spoken to all those he needed to speak to in order to keep Carter from ever hearing of the events that had transpired the previous night and that morning. Or at least, that's what he thought.
In the time it took for Carter to reach the Control Room for her usual early morning diagnostic of the 'Gate, the entire base personnel knew all about the event that she wasn't supposed to know about. The fact that General O'Neill had said 'don't talk to Colonel Carter' to the key players in the drama meant that they didn't talk to her... They talked to everybody else who would listen for a few moments to their story. They weren't breaking orders... technically. They were just... bending them... a bit.
And so, with her usual, perky, happy-to-be-alive expression on her face, Carter approached a free computer terminal that Friday morning, and sat in the chair pulled up to it. But before she'd even had time to type her access code on the keyboard, she was aware of the hush that had fallen over the room from the minute she had walked in.
Carter looked up, noticed that Sergeant Harriman was taking
nanosecond long glances at her, and she widened her
puzzled/startled study of him to include those in the entire
room. Then she nervously smiled, but whispered out of the side
of her mouth in the Sergeant's direction,
Why is everyone
staring at me?
Harriman 's nervousness increased exponentially the moment
she spoke directly to him.
Uh.., he tried to stall.
Carter continued whispering, overriding his attempt at an
Did I do something yesterday that I shouldn't
have done? she asked.
Should I be prepared for a
court-martial that I didn't expect this morning? She was
only half joking.
Panicked, Harriman glanced around the room, but finally
I really shouldn't say.
That statement surprised Carter. She'd been right about
something happening... Sergeant Harriman hadn't said that
something hadn't... but she couldn't even begin to imagine what
she had done wrong. She decided that she needed more information
before she drew the incorrect conclusions.
What did I do
wrong, Sergeant? she asked.
You didn't do anything wrong that I know of, Harriman
responded, still whispering to her as the noise in the Control
Room only now began to return to its normal chaotic hum.
Carter raised her voice so that the Sergeant could hear her
over that hum.
So... If I didn't do something wrong, then
why is everyone staring at me? Harriman remained quiet after
her insistent question, so she tried once more.
Harriman cut her off.
I can't disobey the direct order
given to me that I shouldn't say a word to you about what
happened yesterday, he eventually divulged.
That statement surprised Carter even more. Her eyes slid to
take in his fidgeting form.
You were ordered not to tell me
about yesterday? she quietly asked.
Harriman nodded, his eyes wide behind his glasses.
Carter went on, making her tone as comforting sounding as
she could, specifying,
You were ordered not to tell just me,
or me and a whole lot of other people?
The Sergeant first nodded his head, then shook it as she
voiced the second half of her question. That way he told her a
bit of the specifics about his orders without actually saying
anything to her.
I know that I'm drawing a fine line with my
interpretation of my orders, Colonel. Perhaps you should
continue asking these types of questions to someone else who can
tell you more, like Sergeant Siler, who won't be breaking any
Carter's forehead wrinkled in puzzlement.
He knows about everything that happens
around here, the General's aid nervously acknowledged.
I'm fairly certain that he might know what's going on if
anybody would know.
So, still unsure of what had happened, Carter thoughtfully narrowed her eyes, then crossed the room to an empty chair near Sergeant Siler, and sat so that she could interrogate him in comfort.
But Siler had anticipated her wish for information.
wasn't there, Colonel, he informed her the minute she sat
You would be better off speaking to... His
expression clouded over, as if he were mentally running through a
list of people he had heard through the SGC grapevine who
couldn't talk to Colonel Carter, versus those who could speak to
her about the events of he day before, and finally said,
were you, I'd have either Doctor Jackson or Teal'c visit the
Motor Pool to speak to Airman McGillis sooner rather than later,
before he gets off night duty, and leaves for his home. Teal'c
and Dr. Jackson haven't been ordered to silence, after
For the third time during her first hour at work, Carter was
shocked enough to show her surprise.
The Motor Pool, she
Teal'c or Daniel. Siler nodded.
right, she slowly agreed, then rose from her chair and headed
out of the Control Room, an expression of curiosity on her face.
Even Siler's behavior had been a puzzle. But she loved puzzles,
so she agreed to his suggestion with a only a sense of bafflement
in her demeanor.
She felt like one of those historically great detectives attempting to uncover an equally great discovery by following the appropriate clues in the correct order. Daniel hadn't arrived at work yet, so she soon found herself knocking on the door to Teal'c's quarters.
The big man answered her summons, and upon seeing her,
smiled his pleasure at her unprecedented visit to his quarters.
May I be of service to you, ColonelCarter?
Yep, Teal'c, you can, Carter replied.
Siler told me to come see you so that I can get an explanation of
what happened yesterday. Her expression turned to one of
Sergeant Harriman would have told me, I
think, but he's been ordered not to say anything specific. It's
all very mysterious, if you ask me, she commented with a
So Teal'c... do you know what's going on? Or went on?
Or something? Then she stared at him more closely.
Unless you've been ordered not to talk to me, either, and no
one was informed about it?
Teal'c took a moment to stare at her. At last, he very
softly spoke, as if what he was about to tell her was not for her
own good to hear, and he didn't want to be caught as the one
finally telling her, but wanting to speak of it all the same.
I have not been ordered to avoid speaking to you, and will
therefore tell you what I know of the topic, he reluctantly
said. Then he continued,
However, I do not think that you
will like what I have to say about yesterday's and this morning's
This morning? More had happened this morning? She hadn't
heard that so far. Sam's forehead puckered. What could have
possibly happened that garnered this kind of a reaction from
everyone, including the unflappable Jaffa?
What did you hear,
But Teal'c drew her into his quarters and shut his door
before he said anything. When he did speak, even with the
door closed, it was still in subdued tones. Sam sat on the edge
of his bed, listening intently to his every word.
heard, Teal'c began.
As well as what I witnessed for
myself, all came to me through regular gossip channels, and
should be treated as the gossip that it is. However, he
Gossip and rumors usually have their roots in truth.
It does well to keep this point in mind.
Teal'c, Carter prompted, now curious beyond her
Just tell me, she ordered.
So Teal'c said,
Yesterday, DanielJackson told me that
O'Neill had a marriage party to attend for a relative last
evening, he said with a wrinkled nose.
A bachelor party, Carter said, showing that she
understood his meaning.
Go on, she invited.
Because of this party, O'Neill would be
unable to join us in viewing the Harry Potter film we had
rented. He paused, and Carter waved a hand through the air
to 'encourage' him to hurry on with his story.
So Teal'c went on.
This morning, I was walking with
Sergeant Harriman in an SGC corridor when we met Airman McGillis
after his night duty shift ended. Airman McGillis said that he
had recently arrived back on base after taking a MrShanahan home
from O'Neill's house. Then, Teal'c's face took on an air of
puzzlement as well.
I did not connect the two occurrences
until several minutes later, but I do believe that PeteShanahan
also attended this 'bachelor party,' and that PeteShanahan then
spent the night at O'Neill's residence, much the worse for
alcohol, as Airman McGillis reported it. Upon leaving O'Neill's
residence this morning, PeteShanahan... Teal'c hesitated,
and finally muttered,
'Accused' is not the correct word to use
in this case. He thought for a moment before settling on a
PeteShanahan wished to know if it was true
that O'Neill is guilty of having broken regulations by having
'feelings' for you that are less than military-professional, and
acting upon these feelings. Airman McGillis then reported that
O'Neill was 'so angry at hearing such an asinine story that he
vibrated with the effort not to tear the man limb from limb.'
Teal'c's puzzlement increased.
How would it have helped in
that situation to tear PeteShanahan's limbs off?
It was by far the most Sam had ever heard the Jaffa say at one time. Still Sam balked, barely paying attention to how many comments Teal'c had just made, or to his last question. She was busy considering the details of Teal'c's story.
Pete had been at the General's house? All night? And when he had finally left, he'd basically accused the General of...
Carter's heart froze in her chest as a feeling of absolute
horror accosted her. Crap! She managed a weak smile for
her friend, but felt sick even while she answered him,
Threatening to tear someone's limbs off is just an expression,
Teal'c. But in truth, she felt the cold ball of horror
congeal again in her stomach. In her mind flashed images of an
angry General O'Neill vibrating back and forth as he yelled at
Yet, she was more worried about General O'Neill's reputation than of her own. People had been court-martialed for lesser offenses than what Pete had suggested she and O'Neill had done! She still turned red at the way that the General's 'concern' for her had manifested itself. No wonder all the base personnel were discussing her this morning! But she didn't know who she was turning red for, O'Neill, for vibrating in anger, acting like her protector, as if she needed a protector (she didn't)(and protection from what?), or for Pete, for making such a ridiculous comment as he had made in the first place.
But Teal'c had more information to relate.
McGillis then said that he had been ordered by O'Neill to say
nothing to you about PeteShanahan's accommodations, nor
condition, neither of last night, nor of this morning. McGillis
declared that his superior officer had also been ordered to say
nothing to you, and that the Motor Pool ride database should be
wiped of any recording of this morning's occurrence, after the
data had been recorded in another way. Teal'c looked at her
in curiosity again.
Does not O'Neill's order to wipe the
computer database also break with regulations,
Carter managed a weaker smile this time.
only had the Motor Pool wipe out the one transaction, Teal'c, not
the entire database, she guessed. That distinction was
important, but she couldn't force her sluggish mind to understand
why. Still, she knew that it was important that Teal'c
understand this point, so she automatically soothed him,
be all right for the General. In the meantime, her mind
churned over several issues at once as she said her words. She
barely grasped the fact that General O'Neill must have given a
drunk Pete a ride to his home, and a place to spend the night, as
well as providing him with a ride this morning. What she didn't
understand was why he hadn't just called her to the party to deal
with Pete on her own.
She had known none of the goings on the night before, nor the morning after the party. She didn't doubt that Pete had lost his common sense, and drunk far too much beer the previous night, as he occasionally did at parties such as the one he had told her he planned to attend the night before. It had indeed been a Bachelor Party, she knew, and she planned to attend the wedding for Pete's friend Dan with Pete this weekend. The coincidence that Pete's friend also happened to be General O'Neill's relative made her reel. She hadn't even known that the General had any relatives!
Added to those facts, she felt the bitterness of anger at hearing of Pete's 'observation' of the General. How could he treat General O'Neill that way, after being provided with a place to sleep that night? And she was highly concerned about the way he had employed her name in that same 'observation.' No wonder General O'Neill had been angry. She was angry!
At last, she took a breath to calm her churning emotions,
and turned to her friend.
What do you think I should do?
she asked in a small voice as she thought about the situation.
What kind of advice do you have to give for this..? She
didn't even know what to call what had happened! An instance of
a really bad choice of words? A soap opera? A love triangle?
She immediately discounted the idea of it being a love triangle.
She knew it couldn't be that... didn't she?
Ignoring the implications of her own thoughts, and uncomfortable at the direction of those thoughts, Carter looked at Teal'c again, concern laced with guilt written all over her face.
Fortunately, Teal'c had an answer ready for her. He said,
I suggest that you call PeteShanahan and ask him for an
explanation of what happened at last night's party that caused
this morning's occurrence. Perhaps this is merely the product of
misinformation, and will be cleared up with a phone call.
Carter brightened momentarily at that idea.
That's good, Teal'c! I bet he can tell me what went on, she
But it turned out that a phone call was not as helpful as
Carter had at first thought it would be. Pete sounded groggy
when he answered the summons of his cell phone.
Pete, Carter said as neutrally as she could given the
Are you just waking up? Is this a bad time to
Pete quickly replied.
Um... Late night, is all. What
do you need?
Carter gave a little laugh into the receiver, and without
even thinking that she shouldn't, concocted a story to give as
the reason behind her early morning phone call.
see, it's like this... I don't quite know what to give to Dan
and Julia as a wedding gift, and I thought you might have seen
Dan's need for something while you were at his apartment for the
Bachelor Party last night. She practically crossed her
fingers for Pete's not knowing that she was telling him a
fabrication, just to see what he would say.
Pete gave a tiny laugh himself.
Sorry, Babe, but I was a
bit too drunk to notice anything last night.
Carter was gratified that he had at least admitted to being
drunk the night before.
So what happened? she asked.
How is it that you're home if you got drunk?
Pete's laugh was stronger this time.
Babe, he said.
I didn't get drunk and then drive
home. He laughed again.
I was too far gone for driving,
and I knew that much, at least, he said.
I was going to
crash at Dan's, but there wasn't room, so a friend of mine from
the Force said that he would take me to his place. Then I called
a cab this morning, had the driver take me back to Dan's
apartment building, got my car, and drove home. I've been home
for a few minutes, but I guess those few minutes was all I needed
to fall asleep again. Something tells me that there was too much
general debauchery going on at the party last night for many of
the guys to show up at the office today.
Carter forced her own giggle of agreement out of her mouth, but her insides froze. Pete's story of last night's proceedings was different from what Teal'c had told her that he had heard this morning. And she instinctively trusted Teal'c's word.
But didn't she trust Pete's word as well? A whisper in her mind argued that she had known Teal'c a lot longer than she had known Pete.
She made her excuses for hanging up, then.
I don't want
to keep you if you're still sleeping one off, she said to
I know how uncomfortable talking is in that condition.
So I'll see you tomorrow for the wedding.
1:30, then? Pete inquired.
That's when I'll pick
you up for the 2:00 wedding?
Right, Carter confirmed.
See you later. She
hung up the phone.
Teal'c immediately said,
I can deduce from the expression
on your face that this phone conversation did not go
Carter shook her head, feeling like she was trapped in a
No, Teal'c, she replied.
You can say that it
didn't go well at all. Then she tried to go on,
Carter had to swallow before she could say,
He said something
about being too drunk to drive home last night, that there had
been too much 'general debauchery' at the party, and that a
friend from the Police Force drove him to his place. Then, this
morning, he took a cab back to Dan's, got his car, and drove
home. My phone call woke him up after he had fallen asleep
Teal'c gave her a questioning look.
was the same phrase that Sergeant Harriman said that O'Neill had
earlier used to describe the party from last night. It is odd
that PeteShanahan would use the same words to describe the
Sam tried to remember to breathe.
And it's not a typical
phrase, she told him.
It sounds more like something that
General O'Neill would say than Pete would say,
Teal'c still appeared puzzled, and looked at her with his
Should you not speak to someone else
who was at the party for a third opinion on what
That means that he thinks I should talk to the
General, Carter realized.
You think I should talk to
General O'Neill, don't you? she asked him.
Teal'c bowed his head wordlessly in her direction.
Carter sent her friend a wan smile.
But the idea of
talking to the General scares me to death! she divulged in a
If I do, he'll figure that I know about the gag
orders, who got them, and that something's going on today at work
for me to even think I had to ask him for an explanation of what
happened last night and this morning. She shook her head.
I don't know if I can do that, especially considering this all
came from Pete accusing him... and me... Her voice trailed
Teal'c said into the following silence,
You will not know
of what transpired last evening and this morning if you do not
speak to O'Neill.
Carter looked at Teal'c then, her eyes wide with a
And what if the General tells me another
different story? she asked.
What should I do
Teal'c cocked his head, as if he were considering her
Would O'Neill behave in such a disrespectful manner
as to create a story to appease you? he asked.
Carter tilted her own head.
Are you suggesting that Pete
would? she asked.
Teal'c sighed, and remained quiet while looking at her with
great intensity. Finally, he said,
I did not wish to tell you
of this, ColonelCarter, but perhaps now is the time to say
There was more? Carter's brows lowered again in her
Tell me what, Teal'c? she asked.
Teal'c sighed once again. He stood in the center of the
room, his hands clasped behind his back, then told her.
DanielJackson/Osiris Operation occurred several months ago,
PeteShanahan appeared quite suddenly at the
scene of that Operation, and was shot as a result. He was
transported to the Infirmary here at the base.
Carter nodded, still confused.
That's right, she
said, agreeing with him.
Colonel O'Neill gave Pete enough
clearance so that I could tell him some things about the Stargate
program, she said.
Teal'c looked at her again, his expression serious once
My first thought upon the arrival of PeteShanahan at
DanielJackson's home was to wonder what this unknown stranger was
doing there, and why did SG-1 need to be saving him? Then I
began to wonder at O'Neill's decision to take him to the base for
further care. Then I wondered at why O'Neill gave clearance to
this unknown individual to hear about a highly secret program.
After pondering all this for several hours, I decided that the
Common denominator, Teal'c, Carter automatically
corrected, her voice sounding tired now. But she continued,
That's the right phrase to use.
Teal'c again bowed his head.
The common denominator,
was you. When I asked for clarification as to
why conditional clearance had been granted to this unknown man,
O'Neill only told me that the reason behind all the odd
occurrences was you. At first, I thought that perhaps you had
contracted a plague off world that had infected you. But O'Neill
told me instead that this man was a person you had been seeing
socially for some time. He then asked me not to say anything to
you about him granting clearance to PeteShanahan. I complied,
and said nothing. But I also looked on the Internet in order to
answer my many questions about the affair, as DanielJackson is
often encouraging me to do when I have questions concerning Earth
culture. This event with PeteShanahan gave me much to
Carter's expression was more curious now rather than had the
serious cast that Teal'c's features still wore.
What did you
find? she asked.
Ultimately, nothing. Then DanielJackson
suggested that I also research the word 'stalker' in my quest.
He believed that PeteShanahan 'stalked,' or followed you to his
You could say that Pete's being there wasn't
him following me at all, but was nothing more than a typical
police detective's curiosity.
Teal'c argued back,
Yet, PeteShanahan must have been
aware of such a description possibly being ascribed to his
Carter gave a nervous laugh through her nose.
'Stalker,' she quietly repeated.
That's the word that
Pete and I talked about right before he proposed to me in the
park, she next added.
He and I both laughed off his
suddenly showing up at the Osiris Op by supposedly 'stalking' me,
but I've always wondered if I shouldn't have been so quick to
laugh it off. Carter looked horrified now.
I guess I
should pay more attention next time to my gut feelings, she
said, then gestured to Teal'c to continue.
So Teal'c continued as quickly as possible, asking the
Do you think that PeteShanahan was, indeed,
Carter sat for a moment, not saying anything. At last, she
took a breath, and admitted,
It's possible. She paused,
and Teal'c asked another question.
Why do you think that it is possible? Explain.
Carter smiled a small smile at his abrupt manner. That
comment was so Teal'c. Then she quietly admitted more
than she ever had, even to herself,
I never wanted to delve
too deeply into the question of just why Pete was where he
shouldn't have been that day. She peered at her friend,
As long as I didn't know anything for certain, then
I could pretend that the explanation that he gave for his being
there was valid.
You wished to pretend? Teal'c clarified.
Carter nodded, but looked down at the floor as she did.
However, Teal'c looked as if he was satisfied with her nod.
To continue, he said.
The internet displayed many laws
about stalking. These laws differ from state to state. Colorado
law states that the simple act of following a person in a public
setting is considered 'stalking.' O'Neill, too, agreed with my
assessment of the situation. But he then asked once more that I
say nothing to you. Teal'c's expression again grew
I did not understand this request, yet
DanielJackson did. He suspected that the feelings between you
and O'Neill were the cause of O'Neill's request to say nothing.
I then connected the two together when DanielJackson spoke of
Carter's eyes were huge by this time. Her heart hammered in her chest. Only Teal'c could so succinctly cut to the heart of a matter such as this, she wryly thought. Yet, she still tried to ignore the insistent thumping of her heart.
Teal'c went on when she remained silent,
The fact that
PeteShanahan appeared at the Osiris site that day was something
that I still did not understand, however. DanielJackson
proclaimed that it was a 'good bet' that he had followed you
there. According to Colorado law, by following you in a public
place without your knowledge or consent, PeteShanahan was in
effect 'stalking' you, and stalking is considered by many people
to be a... Teal'c appeared bewildered again, then remembered
the correct word.
It is considered to be a 'crime,' he
said with satisfaction that he had recalled the right word.
Carter actually groaned out loud now.
Pete claimed that
I didn't trust him when I mentioned that I couldn't tell him
about what I do for a living. He must have followed me all over
the place, looking for an explanation to what I couldn't tell
Teal'c's gaze softened as he stared at her.
What do you
intend to do now? he inquired of her.
Carter stared up at him, her eyes still wide in fear and
horror. She looked confused at the very least.
know, she admitted at last.
I guess I should first hear
what the General has to say about what he thinks happened last
night and this morning, she said.
If his story is the
same as what you heard, then I'll know that what Pete told me is
suspicious, if not an outright lie. If the General's story isn't
the same as yours, I guess that I'll have three different stories
about the same events, and I'll have to keep talking to people to
find out what really happened at that party last night.
But Teal'c was apparently not finished with his inquiry,
May I ask you a personal question,
Carter smiled, but couldn't pull off the gesture well enough
to make it look real.
You want to know if the Za'tark tests
that you witnessed four years ago... if the General and I told
the truth then, she said without further prompting.
The Tok'ra Za'tark machine declared that you were
telling the truth at the time, Teal'c reminded her.
Carter was able to give a hint of a smile now.
want to know that if the General and I still have feelings for
each other, then why am I engaged to Pete, right? Her
question was bold, even if her voice was small.
Teal'c gave his patented Jaffa 'sort-of' smile to show that she was correct.
So Carter went on with a sigh,
I don't quite know how to
Teal'c gave her a befuddled look again.
Do you not have
feelings for O'Neill any longer? he asked.
Carter remained silent for a moment, then gave a resigned
sigh, and said,
It's not that simple, Teal'c.
Teal'c tilted his head the other direction.
But it is
simple, he argued.
Either you have feelings for him, or
you do not. There is nothing in between the ideas that you feel
something for him now, or that you may not feel anything for him
any longer, Teal'c insisted.
It is either one or the
Carter gave a tiny grin.
Well... She sighed,
agreeing that he had a point. But...
It's not so simple,
she told him again with a sad sigh.
I might have feelings
for... She couldn't call him the Colonel, or the General in
For Jack, she finally said as a concession
to her internal arguments.
Feelings for Jack, she
repeated, simply because it felt good to say his name. Then she
went on to argue some more,
But there are military rules that
say he and I shouldn't have feelings for the other... I mean,
romantic feelings, she qualified.
And the regulations say
that even if we do have feelings for each other, we can't do
anything about them. So... Here, she glanced up at her
friend, and gave a shrug.
And Pete has been, and always was,
fun to be with, she explained.
And he was there,
free to be with me, free to show some affection to me, and...
She paused to beseech,
Don't I deserve that?
Teal'c again looked confused.
These feelings for his
ability to show affection to you... Does that constitute loving
Carter let her head fall forward. She wasn't entirely sure
how to answer such a question. Yet, the simplicity of Teal'c's
words encouraged her to be honest at last.
Not really. She paused, still
At least, not to the point that I should if I'm
going to marry Pete, she softly added.
Teal'c again tilted his head. He did that so often that it
was becoming an SGC patented gesture, much as the Jaffa smile
Does that mean that you still have feelings for
O'Neill? he bluntly asked, getting to the heart of the matter
in classic Jaffa style.
Again Carter hung her head.
Maybe, she whispered,
still determined to keep a sense of 'perhaps' to the entire
subject of how she felt about the General.
Does this not please you? Teal'c then inquired,
sounding like 'perhaps' meant more along the lines of
Carter's voice was stronger in her next reply,
doesn't, she said.
I'm not with... Jack, she said.
I'm engaged to Pete. I need to forget about Jack,
she firmly said to herself for the millionth time.
But you just told me that you still have feelings for
O'Neill, Teal'c objected, still clearly befuddled.
Possible feelings, Carter corrected.
There is a difference?
Carter grinned wider when he asked that.
Um... Um... Not really, she replied,
finally admitting what she felt in her heart. She blushed beet
red at the admittance.
Ah, Teal'c grunted, and that grunt of his made her
think of... She still called him Jack, even in her head. She
had to, as she was thinking of the man, not the soldier in this
Teal'c sighed, echoing ColonelCarter. Finally, he said,
If O'Neill's story is different from PeteShanahan's tail, then
PeteShanahan seems to have told you a falsehood. It then makes
me wonder if PeteShanahan has possibly told you other falsehoods
in the past. He stared at her.
Do you not wonder the
same thing? he asked.
I'm beginning to, Carter admitted. She sighed, then
rose from her place on his bed. She started for the door.
Thanks for talking to me, Teal'c. I really needed a
You are most welcome, ColonelCarter, he said.
you going to speak with O'Neill now? he went on to
Carter gave a hint of a smile.
Um... No, I need to
think, first, she said.
I'll be in my lab if you need me,
even if the door is shut. Then she opened the door to his
quarters and departed. She had much to think about, as Teal'c
would have said.
* * *
Think... She needed to...
As if she could help it.
Carter, you think too much.
For cryin' out loud! she thought at the memory that ran through her mind.
Then, she groaned the minute she reached the safety of her lab. Ugh!! She was even beginning to hear the General's... Jack's... voice in her head.
Was that a good thing, or a bad thing?
Carter thought about that. She didn't bother to turn on the overhead light as she moved into her lab and shut the door behind her. Instead, she used the light from the bright screen saver currently on her laptop computer to see her way aroun the lab. The picture of Cassie, wearing a yellow dress on a day from the past summer flooded the room with enough light for her to see to crawl under her table without hitting her head on it, and she continued thinking.
So... Good thing? Bad thing?
It depends, she decided.
What on? her brain asked... herself.
So, she went about answering her brain as if she talked to her brain all the time. In fact, she had spent many pleasant times discussing things with her brain in the past. Now wasn't any different, in spite of the intimacy of the topic. She needed to tell herself whether she was thinking about... Jack... at the time she thought about saying one of his favorite phrases, or whether she was thinking about Pete at the time the phrase sounded in her head. If the first... Well, then, cool! If the second, well then, decidedly not cool. It wouldn't do for her to think the favorite phrases of one man while supposedly thinking about another man entirely.
So, is that who you want to think about? Pete?
Swiftly, her traitorous mind turned to thinking about Jack instead.
Well, she didn't have to answer that particular question.
But what about Pete? She was engaged to Pete, not Jack!
But didn't Pete recently tell you an erroneous story over the phone?
'Erroneous?' Now even her own brain sounded like Teal'c! She mentally rolled her eyes. But even as she silently berated herself, she was still thinking about the two men she found to be the most important to her.
Pete.. Jack... Pete... Jack...
She was supposed to be thinking about how she felt about both men. Either man. So... How did she feel again?
Okay, it was down to the wire, crunch time, the finish line, tiebreaker...
So... Feelings... She had to be honest, at least with herself...
Immediately, Carter began to feel uncomfortable. Forget honesty... She hated thinking about her feelings. They always made a hash out of something that was really quite simple.
Simple... That reminded her of what Teal'c had said. That either she loved Jack... No, she corrected herself. That she had feelings for Jack... That she had feelings for Jack, or that she didn't feel anything more for him other than companionship.
'Companionship?' Who are you trying to kid?
Okay!... She conceded to herself that... perhaps... maybe... she might... care... for Jack.
'Perhaps?' 'Maybe?' 'Might?' her mind scornfully repeated her. And only 'care?' Oh, Puh-lease!
Okay... She had to ask herself the hard question. So... Since 'care' was so obviosly not the right word... So... Did she love Jack?
There it was again, the 'l' word. She must be trying to tell herself something, and she figured that she finally needed to listen to herself, after all these years.
So... Did she love Jack?
Be quick! her mind screamed again at her. Keep it simple! Do you love him? Or not? Come on, it isn't a trick question! There isn't a right or wrong answer! Not to this...
Yeah, she still had feelings for him...
Not feelings, you nincompoop, love, as in L-O-V-E!
Yes! she finally admitted to herself, if only to shut her brain up.
Feelings? her mind said, scornful again. Eeeee gads! You can't even admit... Not even to yourself... If a brain could shake its head at someone, it would be mournfully shaking its head at her.
Carter began to secretly smile to herself. Just the thought of Jack... and she hadn't let herself think about Jack for a long time... Just the thought of him sent warm shivers down both her legs to her feet in her combat boots. In fact, she wouldn't mind taking off those combat boots, and rubbing her feet up and down his legs. In fact, she wouldn't mind doing that rubbing while he was...
Oookkkaaayyy! Scary image there! Moving on!
Did she dream about Pete in the same manner?
Well... She hadn't actually caught herself indulging in a daydream about Pete yet.
Then, what the heck are you doing? He's the one you're engaged to marry, isn't he? Aren't you supposed to be having wicked daydreams about him?
But it was much more... fun... to have wicked daydreams about Jack.
And... Well... Lately, she often forgot that she was supposed to be thinking about Pete. In fact, she had to stop daydreams about Jack far more often than she had to stop daydreams about Pete.
Oh, yeah, already established that she didn't have any daydreams about Pete that she had to stop...
Then... Forgive me for saying so, said Carter's brain to Carter's brain... Carter gave her head a shake: This was just too weird!
Ahem! Forgive me, but... What the heck are you doing? What the heck are you doing with Pete?
What are you doing with Pete?
But... Well... Pete was so normal!
Is he the normal one, or is the life he's offering so normal? And why do you want normal, anyway?
Are you normal?
Not in the... normal... way, Carter thought to herself, thinking of the naqueda in her blood.
And that's another thing: How are you going to explain naqueda in your blood to Pete? Won't he think that's really weird?
Huh. Jack had never thought it was weird. To him, it was normal.
Suddenly, Carter crossed hurriedly to her lab phone, dialed
a number from what was in her memory, then waited while the phone
rang. A female voice finally responded to the insistent phone
Carter immediately said to the girl in her dorm room at
Cass, it's Sam.
Sam... You sound horrible! Has something hap...
No, everyone's fine. Listen, Cass, do you think I'm
Normal? Cassie echoed in obvious
Cass! Carter threatened.
Just answer the
Cassie listened to threats like that. A second later, she
made sure she was answering Carter's question.
No? I'm not normal?
Well... She paused again, then
Okay, let's make a list, she suggested,
There's your job. That's not normal. There's your blood.
That's not normal, either. There's the fact that you're a female
in a mostly male military. How normal is that? There's the fact
that you work in a top secret installation for that military.
Not normal. Your father lives... elsewhere... and has
Cass! Don't say it! Carter warned of speaking aloud
about highly classified topics.
I wasn't gonna say it out loud! Cassie huffed.
But... I won't even touch that one. Then, there's... there's
Murray. There's Daniel. There's Jack.
What about Jack?
Cassie once again hesitated.
Well... He's a
And... He gives you your orders.
And... He tells you where to go.
I mean, to other... places... and all.., and...
And..? Carter prompted.
And... Here, Cassie's voice drifted into
Oh, fer cryin' out loud, just answer
Will you listen to yourself for one single minute!
Cassie huffily exclaimed.
You're even quoting him!
So? Cassie sardonically repeated.
You don't quote
But, Pete doesn't constantly use any good phrases like
Yes, he does.
He does? Carter asked in surprise.
heard him say...
'Lord have mercy!' Cassie quoted.
Or my personal
favorite... 'Flip over my cow!'
Pete says 'Flip over my cow?'
Yeah, he does when he gets all excited watching a game on
What a stupid saying! Carter interjected.
doesn't even have a cow!
Well, I think it's pretty stupid, too, Cassie
confessed. Then she went on,
And I've never heard you say it.
But I've heard you say 'Fer cryin' out loud' about a billion
times at this point. Cassie paused.
And what does that
tell you, Sam? she inquired.
Carter didn't know what to say to that question.
Sam? You still there?
Thinking, Cass. Just thinking.
You'd be better off if you think less, and say more,
Carter sighed. That's what Jack was always telling her to do, too.
Carter sighed again. She remained standing near her lab phone, and bit her lip in confusion. She sighed for a third time.
Then, making a decision at last, Carter turned off her
brain. She'd never turned off her brain in her life.
really hard, Cass.
If it were easy, it wouldn't be worth it, Cassie
So..? Jack? Right?
Jack... I haven't thought about him in forever,
You mean, you haven't let yourself think about him
in forever, Cassie corrected.
I've heard you mumble,
'Don't think about him! Don't even go there!' when you thought
you were alone.
I do not say things like that! Carter cried,
You do too! Cassie cried right back.
Carter found herself considering what Cassie claimed.
Okay, maybe I do.
And what, Cass?
So Cassie prompted her again.
And when you say things
like that, you're thinking... what?
It doesn't matter what I'm thinking.
Even thinking about him is against the regs.
Oh, the regs! I'm sick, sick, sick of hearing about the
regs! yelled Cassie.
Well, unless they've somehow undergone a major
transformation in the last week, and someone forgot to tell me
about it, then...
Aren't you getting tired of the regs? asked Cassie.
Or, I mean, of giving yourself the same old story, over and
over, the same old excuse..?
Oh..! God..! Will you just friggin' admit it!
Cassie, you sound frustrated.
Well, duh! I am! Cassie yelled.
as Hell! And you know what else? I'm sick of this whole
Jack/Sam/frat regs/Pete deal! What the hell are you doing with
'Doughboy?' Carter echoed in incredulity.
He's not like Uncle Jack, whose muscles are as hard as
Don't you go comparing him to Jack!
Why not? Cassie shot back.
Do... Suddenly Carter paused, and let her head drop
into her hand. She frequently compared her fiancé to... That
could only mean...
Oh God... Jack's... I have feelings for
Jack, don't I?
Feelings? Cassie scornfully repeated.
Cassie's sardonic tone suddenly made Sam think of what her
own brain had recently forced her to concede.
Sam then exclaimed, her eyes shut in consternation, but
determined to admit to the truth... finally. She sighed.
I'm in love with him, aren't I?
Cassie gave a huge sigh of relief.
Well, it's about
And I'm not in love with Pete...
Oh, thank the-people-who-think-they're-oh-so-important,
but-who-really-have-an-awful-taste-in-clothes that you figured
that one out in time. Carter could hear the sound of
Cassie's sarcasm come through in her voice. The college student
I was about ready to smack some sense into you by
banging a skillet on your head, but Uncle Jack wouldn't let me do
it. He said that you had made your choice, that you were
happy... But, then I told him that if you were happy, I was a
Carter chuckled at her reply.
And what did Jack do when
you told him that? she asked in curiosity.
What does Jack ever do? Cassie rhetorically asked.
Nothing, she answered.
He didn't do anything. You
know, for a man who's beaten about a dozen or more bad guys with
eye problems, he's a real chickenshit.
Cassie! Carter admonished.
Well, he is, Cassie said again, not backing down.
And so are you if you don't grab him the next time you see
him, and kiss the daylights out of him.
Cassie! This doesn't sound like you! Carter
exclaimed in horror.
Just what have you been
My History text book, Cassie responded, then went on,
You don't want to be in the next edition as the world's... no,
the galaxy's... biggest pretender, do you?
Cassie.., Carter admonished.
Well, no, she
Then do something about it, for once in your life! Pete
followed you that day to that Osiris site. He never got
prosecuted for it. Staying with him and not prosecuting him
isn't doing him any favors, you know. It won't stop him next
How do you know about that? Carter demanded in even
T... Murray told me, Cassie nonchalantly corrected
herself. The way she said it made it sound as if having a Jaffa
from another planet tell her about Earth stalkings... uh...
following... was a common thing. Then, she went on,
Anyway, do something, please, before we all lose our
Sam paused once more. She needed to think again. No...
She needed to talk to Jack. Without warning, filled with a
newfound sense of determination, Carter hung up her phone. She
was in the midst of leaving her lab in order to run up to the
General's office to 'do something' when the ringing phone stopped
her. Annoyed at being interrupted at a crucial moment, Carter
still felt like she should answer the summons while at work.
Sam. It was Pete.
Carter's heart fell to her toes. Pete... hungover... He'd lied to her... She'd forgotten all about him... And she hadn't yet decided how to deal with him.
Look, I need to talk to you. You got a few hours?
No. She didn't want to talk to him right now.
in my lab. He hadn't even asked if he was interrupting an
experiment. Didn't he know her at all?
Okay, Pete continued.
An hour. That's all. Can
you meet me at the Starbucks on 21st?
Sam, it's important, as in REALLY
Carter huffed a sigh.
All right. I'm on my way. Carter
out. So much for talking to the General. She hung up, and,
with a sigh, went to meet Pete.
There was a good chance that she wasn't going to get any work done that day, she grumbled to herself as she walked out of her lab.
* * *
Carter took her coffee cup filled to the brim with a Starbuck's special latte coffee, one sugar, to the table where Pete was waiting for her, sat down, and took a drink of her hot beverage.
Pete didn't mince words.
Sam, I want to break
Carter spit out her coffee, she was so surprised.
I want my ring back.
And just how was she supposed to respond to this kind of a
Pete squirmed, but a sense of resolution seemed to have
found him sometime in his drunken haze.
Sam, I lied to
you, he blurted.
This morning on the phone... Then
his expression lost his resolute edge to it, and he just looked
like a miserable guy with a really bad headache.
stay at a friend's house last night.
What now? Was he going to tell her that in his foray into
alcohol, he had cheated on her?
Where did you stay then?
Carter's voice was full of trepidation.
Well, that answered that question, she admitted to
herself. So much for the cheating theory.
You stayed at the
Pete looked like he felt a bit awkward, now. Or a lot
Yeah. And he wanted me to be totally clear on the
fact that he was letting me stay at his house because of my
connection to you.
Carter sat, flummoxed.
But... Why would he do that?
Why... for me?
Come on, Sam. Pete scowled.
You guys can't even
be in the same room together without both of you lighting up like
a Christmas Tree.
What was it with people and Holidays lately?
I've seen it, Pete went on.
The guy is so in love
with you that he...
Pete! Carter interrupted, worried again for what he
might possibly say about her and the General that might be
overheard by a military employee.
Keep your voice down!
Anyway, how can you say such a
'Cause I'm in love with you, too, Pete miserably
I'm enough in love that I'm done lyin' to you, and
following you, and setting you up...
Carter looked a third horrified, a third bewildered, and a
Pete! Then she looked more confused than
Set me up? She stared at him after making her
You did all that?
Pete hung his head, and played with the lid to his coffee.
Yeah, he finally admitted.
And I set O'Neill up by
making that comment this morning... by saying that accusation...
whatever you want to call it... By saying that thing to him this
morning on purpose. He paused.
That thing... about
you... you and him...
You... You... What?
Yeah, Pete said again.
I thought he would just
laugh off what I had told him.
Carter hesitantly inquired,
But he didn't?
Pete sighed, then shook his head.
No. He got so angry
that I had said something at all, and that I had mentioned you in
what I said... I thought he was going to tear off my legs and
feed them to me while cackling... evilly.
He would never do something like that! Carter
protested in horror.
Pete looked up.
He will when it comes to you. I mean,
I've never seen a guy get so angry so fast before. Not even
criminals. Not even when they're being arrested, and are still
full of adrenaline from doing something bad to somebody.
Pete went on to explain,
I left his house 'cause I thought he
was going to have an embolism if I didn't go.
Okay, she said at last. She sounded
tired, completely worn out, even to her ears. She was one
resigned woman as she suggested to Pete,
Why don't you tell me
what happened, what the General said, and...
Pete interrupted to tell her,
O'Neill took me home last
night so that you wouldn't have to deal with me being drunk, so
that you... He sighed.
For you. Then Pete
went on to admit,
I slept on his couch. This morning, he
called an Airman to haul my sorry ass back to my car at Dan's.
There was no cab involved in the story. Then I went home, and
crashed. Ten minutes later, you called. And I told you that
stupid story that I read once in a comic book.
Carter's brows shot up when he said that.
even make that story up?
No, Pete glumly admitted.
It was a story in
The Green Hornet. Or was it Peter Halloway, Guy
Detective? He looked like he was thinking, trying to
remember, for a moment. At last he went on,
saw it, and I told it to you. Pete again hung his head,
still playing with his now shredded coffee cup lid.
doing things like that, telling you stories, and... I gotta
Things like what? Carter tried to act like she
wasn't horrified at what he was confessing to her, even when she
was secretly horrified as Hell. She took a sip of her hot coffee
while getting her emotions back under control. Then she wrinkled
her nose at her drink. It needed another packet of sugar.
Hold on... She rose, collected a packet of sweetener...
(no real sugar this time. with no real calories...) and sat down
again. She shook out the sweetener, opened the packet, and
dumped it into her coffee.
Well... That's about it, I guess, Pete said.
You lied? Carter echoed.
Sam gazed at him out of widened eyes. Finally, she was able
Do you make a habit of lying?
Pete was quiet for a minute.
That depends what you mean
by the word 'habit.' he finally said, and winced.
More than twice a week?
Pete sighed, then slowly admitted,
Sam, you kick ass as
often as I lie.
Carter gave a startled jump.
That often, Pete repeated.
And I gotta be more
honest in the future... I know that.
More honest? Carter asked in even deeper incredulity.
But, Pete, this isn't something worth breaking up over,
she argued. She heard the words come out of her mouth, and
wondered where they had come from. Sam! she yelled
at herself. What the Hell are you doing?!?!
But Pete nodded, looking miserable, and hungover, and
miserable, and sick, and miserable...
Don't you think it
is worth it, though? he asked.
Well... Carter considered for a moment.
Yeah, she finally admitted in a hushed voice.
Pete looked like he was being vindicated.
That's what I
thought you'd say.
Carter's brows lowered in puzzlement again.
What? he defensively asked.
Then Carter carefully implored,
Um... General O'Neill
actually said that this... um... this staying overnight thing...
it was for me?
Several times, Pete readily admitted.
Wow. Sam sat back in her chair, too incredulous to
move any more than that.
But Pete wasn't so awed.
Sam, what are you still doing
sitting here? he asked.
I'll drink your coffee. Give me
my ring back, and get out of here. Go to... wherever he is...
wherever you guys go...
Carter rose from her chair and handed back his engagement
ring. She'd never liked it anyway.
You're sure about
You sound more and more like Cassie every day.
That won't thrill her to hear.
Pete! came her feigned, loud, admonition again. Pete
just glared at her until she relented, and she gave him a more
Okay... Yeah, you're right.
Now get outta here, Pete told her.
Call me and
tell me how it goes.
Carter turned, feeling free for the first time in a long time, and feeling like things were finally right in her life, and feeling unburdened, and...
And she practically ran out of the coffee shop.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, she wasn't feeling so free anymore. Carter felt sick with indecision, instead.
She stood in the Briefing Room, half way between the stairs leading to the Control Room, and half way to the General's... Jack's... office, reluctant to enter his domain. If she entered, then she would have to say something to him about how she felt. And what she particularly wanted to say about how she felt, she really couldn't say. At least, she couldn't say those things while they were at work. But she couldn't say such things when they weren't at work... They might be encouraged to do something about her feelings for him, and his for her... Work, and its inherent restrictions, was a safe environment for both of them. But she couldn't just say...
Carter sighed in distressed resignation.
She had to put a stop to this awful cycle of non-action she and Jack had been caught in for eight long years!
So, determined, and feeling sick at her determination, and at what it might make her do... or say... Because of all this, she took peeks at him through the star chart window, and paced the floor as she surreptitiously watched him sign one form after another, his silver colored head bent down in concentration. She didn't know what to do, but just seeing him made her feel all warm and tingly... Confident... How had she gotten any work done in the last few months, she wondered in astonishment, if simply staring at the man made her want to..?
And she had been engaged to Pete... It hadn't really been fair to the police officer... or to the military General. Her ability to deny what should be right in front of her nose was astonishing.
In an agony of indecision now, she wondered how on Earth she was going to approach Jack at this point, anyway? She couldn't exactly go into his office and say, 'Hi, me and Pete just broke up because I'm really in love with you, and will you agree to being the father of my children?' She didn't even know if she could have children! Oh, fer crying out loud!
She groaned her indecision for about the tenth time in as many minutes.
Frustrated, and growing more frustrated every second, Carter hid her face in her hands, then ran her fingers in aggravation through her hair, thoroughly irritated at herself and at the situation she found herself in. She continued to look at the floor as she paced back and forth in the Briefing Room.
Finally, feeling frustrated beyond belief, she dropped to a chair. Her accustomed seat was one place to the right of the chair at the head of the Briefing Room table. She ground her face into her arms crossed on the table top.
O'Neill remained oblivious to her presence, intent on signing as many forms as possible in as short a time as possible. It didn't really matter if he actually read any of them or not...
Then he looked up, just to stretch his neck muscles.
Then he looked again.
He blinked. Was that... Carter?
But what was she doing here? At 1030 hours in the morning? And sitting at the Briefing Room table, her head cradled in her arms? She looked like she'd just lost a family member. Had something happened? Had..? Was it Jacob? Daniel? Teal'c? She looked utterly miserable!
Jack stood without further thought, and yanked open the door to his office. He only knew that Carter was hurting, and he could try to help.
Carter! he exclaimed as he approached her place at
Carter's head jerked up from her hands the second she heard
Argh! she grunted softly, and turned her head
Pete and I just broke up.., she told him
without any segueway into the topic.
Well, that explained her demeanor... didn't it? Jack slowly
sat at the head of the table, pulling out the chair so that he
could still see her, and settled into the leather.
This... And he gestured at how her arms were still
crossed in defeat on the table, indicating how miserable she had
This bothers you a great deal? he asked,
his words encompassing all that had happened to her, his voice
sad, but his face a mask of proper sympathy.
If it does, you
can take leave, or...
It was a mutual break up, Carter told him next.
don't need leave or anything.
That comment left Jack confused.
Then what..? What's
bothering you so..?
Her head dropped back onto her arms, but she left her head
propped on her fists just high enough to make certain with her
peripheral vision that the room remained empty. With her voice
still sounding thin and muffled, she quickly whispered,
Because I'm a total idiot and I should have learned a thing or
two by now and I'm in love with you and there's still the regs
and I haven't been able to think of how not to get you
court-martialed in the process of all this mess and did I mention
that I'm a total idiot? And...
Jack leaned in closer to her, and whispered,
up there, Carter. He paused.
I am such an idiot! she declared, her voice still
sounding muted by her arms held in front of her face the way they
were. No one but him could ever hope to hear her comment,
I'll have to blow up another sun just to make up for
Jack still stared at her with eyes as wide as that sun she had mentioned. Neither said anything more to each other, either in whispers, or in more normal tones. Neither knew what to say to the other. Finally, Jack tentatively reached out, and ever so slowly settled his fingers around her arm encased in the black BDU undershirt she always wore to work.
Sam jerked her head up to stare at him the second she became
aware of his touch. There was a minuscule smile on his face that
if she blinked, she would miss seeing. He quietly proclaimed,
The feeling's mutual. He simply gazed at her, and for a
moment, she could see his every feeling for her in his eyes.
Then he shuttered those eyes, as he was facing the
security camera in the Briefing Room. He went on. whispering,
But... Do you think that we should even be bringing this
subject up while we're both at work?
Sam peered at him by flicking her eyes to the side to look at him. She felt his breath wash over her cheek, sensing the smell of his skin, and she shivered at even that close of a proximity. Mentally, she snorted at herself: If he was this close to her, causing this much of a reaction in her..? And still she had wondered how she felt about him?!? Did she need a brain transplant? Or a heart transplant? Or some kind of a transplant?
Sam then whispered the first words that came into her
I love you, she plaintively said.
Jack gave a start back, and he erased the millimeters he had
just given by leaning so close to her. His expression was so
pained that he looked like he was thinking something along the
lines of Oh, Hell... Just put your head down low and
forget about the security cameras for once in your life! Bite
the bullet! He suddenly ducked his head close, and whispered
back to her,
I love you too. His low whisper was half
joyful, half strangled.
There didn't seem to be much more to say on the subject of how they felt for the other. They loved each other. But... Nothing had changed. According to the regs, they couldn't do anything about their mutual feelings.
But, as Teal'c had pointed out only an hour before to Colonel Carter, such a confession as theirs changed everything.
Their feelings were reciprocated... shared... and they each knew those feelings were shared. Just knowing about her emotions for Jack, and his for her, made her toes tingle inside her socks, made her arms ache to hold him, made the skin of her cheek itch to feel the same skin of his cheek resting against it...
Want to go to a wedding with me? Jack suddenly
inquired, his voice still so low, it almost didn't exist.
As in, a date? she asked him.
Jack didn't hesitate at all when he gave his answer.
in, sooooo a date.
Yeah, Sam replied, also without hesitation now.
do. She still hadn't lifted her head from her arms where she
stared at him, conceding only to lying her head on her right
side, still cradled by those arms of hers so that she could stare
up at him in an unimpeded view.
Their postures were as nonchalant as either of them could make them. They perfectly matched their tones, and moods of the moment.
Jack went on,
And, can you handle a... a date?
Again Sam's reply was instantaneous.
Do birds fly South
for the winter?
Is that a 'yes?' Jack lazily inquired.
Yes, she replied, still whispering.
Jack's smile was now dazzling to her, and she couldn't help
sending him a tiny grin in response.
Want to order a pizza to
You can do that? Sam asked in slight
Here? She looked confused now.
aren't we still at work?
Jack firmly replied,
I'm the General... I can do
whatever I want.
Besides being something that she remembered Daniel saying
many months before, that statement started an idea germinating in
Whatever you want? she echoed, asking him
again to be sure she had heard him correctly.
But Jack still sounded just as firm as he had sounded
before. He gave a brief nod, and added,
Whatever I want. As
long as I get my paperwork done on time.
And to that comment, Carter laughed lightly as her head lay
in repose on her arms.
And did you? she asked.
all done on time, I mean?
Jack's eyes twinkled in merry devilment. He answered,
I'm actually ahead on my paperwork for the first time in my
The giggle Carter gave was louder than the one she had given
a moment ago. She reached out to just barely scrape her index
finger alongside his pinkie resting nearest her hand. Jack
clutched at her finger with his.
Want to do my paperwork
while you're at it, too? she asked of him.
He grinned at her now, a full blown explosion of happiness.
I would love to do your paperwork, he said, then divulged,
Only yours, as we both know how much I love
It was then that Carter was certain that he was using the
term 'paperwork' to mean something much more intimate. She
squeezed his finger encased with her pinkie even tighter.
His grin grew to become a far more dazzling expression yet.
Most, most, most excellent. And is that a 'yes' to the
Carter smiled up at him now, sharing with him the secret smile she had always saved just for him. It had never even been an expression that she shared with Pete. Only with Jack. And that should have told you something, she heard Cassie's voice whisper inside her brain.
Carter ignored the voice and simply gazed at him, soaking in
the sight of his features like it was water, and she was a
sponge. She whispered,
Better order two larges, as it's
inevitable that Daniel and Teal'c will show up at the most
inopportune moment, like... right... now...
Daniel poked his head into the room from the corridor.
Sam... Jack... The relief in his voice practically rang
in the room. He turned to address someone with him in the
Found them, Teal'c. He turned back to stare at
his new discoveries. Then, his expression became much more
Sam? He took in her defeated looking posture,
her crossed arms, her head tilted at an angle in perceived
misery, and asked,
Carter grinned then, and said,
Couldn't be better,
Daniel, couldn't be better!
* * *
Jack and Sam attended the wedding together the very next
day. While they stood and waited for the bride and groom to
release them from the wooden chairs they had been sitting on for
the last hour and a half, Jack leaned closer to Sam, his dress
uniform sleeve brushing up against her arm encased in her own
fancy dress bought just that morning for this occasion. (She had
already bought a dress to wear to the wedding, but it seemed that
wearing the dress she had bought while with Pete to a wedding she
attended with Jack was a bit too much for her, if not for him, to
swallow.) But, even the simple contact of sleeve on sleeve was
enough to make Sam tingle in unmentionable places. He whispered
in her ear,
I wonder if the marriage will last as long as the
Sam loved that he could make her tingle just by standing so
near to her. She giggled, and was sure that she felt just a hint
of his lips rubbing against the skin of her ear as he spoke his
words to her. The action made her tingle anew. Shivering, she
whispered back to him,
I'll always be grateful for this
wedding, even if the marriage does last no longer than their
ninety minute ceremony. And she gave a clandestine kiss to
the air above his ear, too.
Jack's reaction was to give a definite shudder inside his
uniform. He whispered back,
I don't know... This has been a
good Catholic wedding... lots of kneeling... lots of lighting
candles... lasted an hour and a half... I must really like you a
lot in order to sit through an hour and a half wedding just to be
Carter giggled again. She was doing a great deal of
giggling ever since the day before when they'd eaten lunch in the
Briefing Room with Daniel and Teal'c.
Enjoy long weddings, do
you? she inquired in a soft, hushed voice.
Only with you, he replied.
I like anything with you, Sam divulged.
Especially pizza, Jack whispered back.
you, I'll order that pineapple crap that you like every
A grin practically split Carter's features in two, it was so
You say the most romantic things, Jack O'Neill, she
flirted back to him.
I'll have to bring you to weddings more
Jack laughed as he proclaimed,
Hope they serve pizza at
Carter was laughing gayly as she and Jack made their way out of the row of chairs they had been relegated to in the tent the wedding ceremony had been performed in.
Ten minutes later, in the reception hall, where fans buzzed
on the ceiling to aid the air conditioning units, and children
sprinted back and forth between the cake and the buffet tables,
Jack ran into his new friend, John Solo, already seated to his
right at an out-of-the-way table.
Hey, John, buddy, pal,
friend o' mine! he proclaimed, and held out his hand to
John reached up for the offered hand shake.
Jack! Then his brow creased in confusion.
did a quick and cute double swing of his eyes, taking in Jack,
then Sam, then Jack again. Finally as his gaze settled firmly on
Jack, and he asked,
I thought you weren't able to come
Jack gave a tiny wince.
Weeeelll... Carter here kinda
changed my mind for me.
John's gaze widened when he again took in Sam's form to
Oh. Jack took a step back, then formerly introduced
Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, Major John
Sam just about choked.
Solo? she asked.
No Star Wars jokes, and no telling
Murray, he teasingly warned.
Sam grinned, and said,
I promise... But wait until we
No calling him, either! Jack ordered in a bark.
Is that the General thing? John asked then.
scary bark of his?
Sam shook her head, and couldn't stop herself from saying,
When he does his 'General bark,' you'll know.
John grinned up at her.
That's when we run for the
Sam turned to take in Jack.
You knew I'd like this guy,
Jack ducked his head in feigned embarrassment.
I had my
Then it was Sam's turn to appear puzzled.
Air Force, Jack explained.
I can never get away from it. She
shook her head in mock distress as John laughed.
John waved at the table.
Well, Colonel, pull up a chair
and take a load off... Suddenly the woman seated beside him
wacked his suited arm. John rubbed ineffectively at the now sore
Oh, I'm not supposed to act so uncivilized as to talk
Sam plopped down in a seat as Jack took the one next to her.
Clichés, she wisely said.
We try to avoid them when we
can. She eyed the General.
Uh, Jack stuttered. Finally he tried to change the
subject and, indicating the woman sitting beside his friend at
the table, asked John,
And is this the famous, or infamous,
John laughed at Jack's question.
'Infamous' is the right
Jack shook hands with the small woman.
Nice to meet you,
Genie. I've heard a great deal about you, most notably that
you're not interested in eating pizza again.
Genie chuckled a laugh.
The restaurant recommendation
that you gave to John turned out to be a lifesaver! I've never
had such good steak in my life!
Carter turned to Jack with a smile tugging on her lips.
Where did you recommend? she asked.
O'Malley's, of course, Jack replied.
Carter rolled her eyes.
Of course, she echoed in
John smiled at Carter's gesture.
Why? Do you go there
often? Or, not so often; They throw you out one time?
Carter nodded her head towards Jack.
Call me that again, Carter, and I'll take you home right
now to have my wicked way with you.
Promise? Carter saucily added.
Jack could only look at her and nod.
General, General, Gen...
Excuse us, Jack politely said as he grabbed at
Carter's arm and hauled her to her feet.
Carter laughed at his impetuosity.
Buffet table, Carter, I'm only dragging you to the buffet
table, Jack explained then.
Laughing, they both made their way through the crowd to the buffet table covered in hors d'oeuvres, and offering other 'before dinner' treats.
Jack's face brightened.
Hey look! They really do
have pizza! Jack reached for a piece of toasted bread
covered in melted cheese.
Those are pieces of grilled garlic toast, Carter
Jack finished chewing the bite he had taken, and swallowed.
Okay, so it's not pizza, but it is...
Carter interrupted him.
Don't expect me to kiss you if
you eat a lot of garlic.
Jack's brows rose at her words.
You plan on kissing me
Not if you eat a lot of garlic, Carter corrected.
Jack handed her the rest of his piece of toast.
with me, so you're infected with that garlic smell, too. And
that sharing's an order, he immediately said in a deadpan
tone of voice.
Whatever you say, Sir. She took the
bite of the toasted bread he held out to her.
How did she make such a simple thing as eating bread look so
Carter? Jack queried.
Carter was too busy chewing to answer him. When she
swallowed, she said,
You're right... This is
I'm a General, so of course I'm right, Jack told
Carter again rolled her eyes.
Oh brother, she
'Insufferable' is more the word for you, she
Oh, you love me, and you know it, Jack gleefully
Carter had to laugh again at his comment.
sighed, a sappy smile on her face.
And I'm gonna risk getting all mushy and saying that I
love you too. But I promise not to embarrass you by saying it
too often, or in a room crowded full of people, or..
Carter cut him off.
You can feel pressured to say it
again if you want, she playfully suggested.
Okay, he said, then whispered again,
I love you, and we better get back to the table, or John and
his wife are going to think that we got lost on purpose.
Carter quickly grabbed a plate and some food before he led her away.
Share, he ordered before he slipped more of the
garlic toast from her plate to his as they sat back down at the
I got that piece just for you, she told him.
Quickly, the phrase 'garlic bread' was growing to stand for much
more than just bread.
John turned to gaze at them again, and smiled at their
So, Colonel, tell us about yourself, he said.
How did you get this old General here to come to a wedding he
was determined to avoid, the last I heard?
Jack replied for Carter as she ate another bite of garlic
bread. He indicated Carter with a nod of his head.
remember that guy we hauled out of Dan's apartment? he
Yeah, John prompted.
Was her fiancé, Jack explained.
'Was?' John echoed.
Carter answered him this time.
We came to a mutual
ending of our involvement with each other, was all she
Jon wrinkled his nose.
You must have caught a wiff of
him yesterday morning, he said.
Jack gave a hearty laugh at John's statement. Carter just grimaced.
Genie broke into the conversation then.
them, she suggested to Carter.
John told me all about
what happened, and I have to say that someone who gets dead drunk
so easily is...
Heavy, Jack immediately interjected.
He was always a bit on the heavy side, Carter told
At least, he was the last time I kicked his... She
let her voice trail off before she said something that might be
offensive. Then she smiled a bright smile.
But enough about
that! she proclaimed.
It kind of highlighted a few things
about The General here that I'd much rather concentrate
That, and weddings, Jack informed.
taking me to weddings, and...
Carter turned to regard him, even as she fed him another
slice of garlic bread.
I thought that you had asked
me to this wedding, she retorted.
So that I could
meet your friend and his wife. And she beamed at John and
Yeah, Jack agreed.
That, and other things, he
John wrinkled his nose.
Is this the same guy I shared
peanuts with for two hours the other night?
As one, both Jack and Sam turned to regard their new
friends. They both enthusiastically proclaimed,
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