"Greetings, O'Neill." Thor's throaty salutation echoed ethereally
amidst the lingering light's intensity. "Teal'c, it is good of you come.
Perhaps between the three of us we may yet appease the
Shifting his gaze to his right, General Jack O'Neill noted the
big Jaffa frown, and offer a dignified bow to the little nude
gray-tinged alien situated serenely beyond the fading glow.
"Thor! It's good to see ya!" Jack called jovially. "Not to worry
buddy, we brought snacks!" Catching sight of a long onyx table resting
on a similarly inky pedestal, O'Neill strode confidently forward and
spilled the contents of the large shopping bag he carried across its
"Snacks?" Thor's impassive expression and large liquid eyed gaze
belied his incredulous tone.
"Yes, snacks..." Jack's brows rose and fell with his words.
"...Along with common sense and..."
"Your people's ignorance has unleashed the Ori on a helpless
galaxy and you believe mere foodstuffs will mollify the council's
wrath?" Thor expounded.
Ignoring Thor's skepticism, Jack sorted through the colorful
pile, until he found several small brightly colored packages. Tearing
one packet open, he brandished the thick cube nestled inside. "I seem to
remember the effect these ostensibly innocuous little pink cakes had on
a certain unnamed alien in the past... and simply figured on hedging my
"O'Neill, you plan to manipulate the council by means of
intoxication?" Thor surmised with disbelief, fixing his gaze lustfully
on the small cube.
"Manipulate? Me?" Noting Thor's huge pupils dilate with greedy
anticipation, Jack extended the tiny square. "I prefer the word
Unable to resist, Thor accepted the small cake and popped it into
his already watering mouth. His overabundant saliva quickly dispersed
the cube's minute particles into his vulnerable bloodstream. "It's a
diabolical scheme, O'Neill."
Savoring the dextrose rushing through his tiny body, the alien's
enormous eyes close with ecstasy. "One must never underestimate your
unique ability to find a solution to any given problem."
"Indeed, O'Neill your stratagem is both unconventional
and stark." Teal'c responded darkly. "However..." He continued
with admiration, "...one cannot deny its simplistic beauty."
"Ya think?" Jack granted with barely concealed delight. "I do
have my moments."
Several days earlier, near the Pentagon:
Eyeing a partially crumpled scrap of paper clutched tightly in
his left hand, Major Ronan 'Rowdy' Mortensen tugged at the pristine
collar of his uniform. Having spent the better part of this searing
August afternoon scouring both Arlington and Washington D.C., hunting
for the numerous items scrawled across the paper, he was hot, tired, and
frankly, incredibly pissed off. Unfortunately for him, his search was
far from over. One lone item, which graced the very top of O'Neill's
'necessity list,' remained unaccounted for.
A decorated veteran of the Gulf and Iraq wars, Mortensen hated
politics, butt kissing and deception. Therefore, his dealings with the
bureaucratic types had so far lacked finesse. A talent he quickly
learned would be vital to his survival if he were to successfully
maneuver through the political morass known as the nation's capital.
Fortunately, his size thirteen's had barely gotten wet when he'd
suddenly been reassigned to the Pentagon's new shining star, General
Jack 'The Maverick' O'Neill, as his aide-de-camp.
Mortensen's own reputation was as colorful as O'Neill's.
Surviving in a battle situation required lightening reflexes, strength
of character, an agile mind and the ability to 'manipulate' the rules.
Commanding others in the midst of that kind of hell, also demanded a
finely tuned sense of humor, one liberally flavored with irony. A gift,
his dubious mother often complained Ronan had been born with, along with
an inability to remain still for more than a millisecond, and earning
him his rather unique call sign or moniker - Rowdy.
To date his forced attachment to the Pentagon offered little in
the way of satisfaction for a warrior. Rowdy rapidly discovered that the
Pentagon contained too few real champions for his taste. However, he did
enjoy reading the highly classified and enlightening documents he was
now privy too. Learning that O'Neill had personally saved Earth's
collective ass on more than one occasion and that he'd quite literally
been among the first to journey light years away, via a wormhole no
less, gave Mortensen's new posting an altogether different
The junior officer hoped to strike-up a rapport with his new
commander, but so far the tightlipped, taciturn O'Neill hadn't displayed
much warmth. In point of fact, the general's first request effectively
reduced his new assistant to little more than an errand boy and added to
the major's mounting frustration.
Drawing on his innate ability to find the humor in most
situations, Rowdy subdued his ire. Contemplating the peculiar contents
of the enormous shopping bag, resting against his left shin, he grinned
slyly. Maybe this whole 'shopping for a top secret diplomatic mission's
essentials' thing was some kind of test. If so, he planned to pass it
with flying colors.
Ignoring his aching feet, Rowdy hefted the bag and marched
determinedly along to his eleventh specialty shop. Grasping the ornate
door's brass knob, he pushed his way inside. Angling the bag carefully,
the major made his way along the cramped isles toward an aged and squat
little man standing behind an old-fashioned wooden counter at the back
of the establishment.
The bald little man's rheumy blue eyes and wizened face tilted
upward quizzically in order to meet Rowdy's inquiring gaze. At six foot
four, Mortensen's own piercing hazel orbs stood at least ten inches
higher. "Hello there sonny, what can I do ya for?"
Allowing the heavy bag to settle near his feet, Rowdy leaned
forward slightly. Scanning the massive collection of toothsome
delicacies displayed within the smudged glass beneath the old counter,
he sighed dramatically. "Well sir, I hope you can help me out. I've been
just about everywhere and the fact is I've almost given up
"Here now, we can't have that." The man responded soothingly.
"I've been in this business for fifty-nine years and have yet to allow
an unsatisfied customer to walk out of my shop, especially one of our
lads in uniform."
Waddling around from behind the counter, he grasped Rowdy's elbow
and steered him toward a tall stool tucked neatly in one corner. "Now
then young fellow, take a seat and tell me what you've got a yen for. If
it's still on the market somewhere Uncle Jerome's Candy Emporium stocks
Thrusting the crumpled list into the old man's hand, Rowdy
dutifully perched atop the stool. "It's not for me it's for my
commanding officer - a supposed matter of international
"International importance?" Uncle Jerome patted the overstuffed
shopping bag and huffed loudly, reading over the list. "And, I see
you've found almost everything too, save the first and I assume,
singularly most important item."
Snorting loudly, he shook his naked pate. "Judging from this, I
think it's far more likely your boss has a sweet tooth the size of
Texas!" Offering a sidelong glance, Jerome pitched his voice
conspiratorially. "Is he a cantankerous rotund sort?"
Grinning broadly, Rowdy shook his own dark curly head. "Not at
all sir, fact is the general is exceptionally fit. If anything he's
"I see." Jerome interjected with a knowing wink. "Oh, and please
call me Uncle Jerome, being referred to as 'sir' makes me feel
"Of course, si... Uncle Jerome." Rowdy agreed theatrically. "As for
the general's disposition, I don't really know, this is my first day as
"Ah!" Uncle Jerome's animated face beamed with understanding. "So
then, this is a test. Hah, we'll show him!"
Hurrying back behind the counter, he motioned for Rowdy to join
him. "You're in luck, dear boy. I just got a new shipment in this
"Rowdy, please." Relieved, the major quickly made his way to the
older man's side. "Here, let me lift that." Picking the good-sized
carton up from the floor, he happily placed the heavy box on the
counter. "Uncle Jerome, you're a lifesaver!"
"Not quite, but for your sake I am grateful that I ordered every
flavor available." Neatly slicing the thick tape sealing the box with a
small penknife, Jerome pushed aside a layer of packing material to
reveal the treasures nestled inside. "Your general is going to be very
pleased with you Rowdy, very pleased indeed." Wearing a Cheshire cat
grin, he reached within the carton and drew out several small red, white
and blue packets.
Taking in the colorful heap, Rowdy returned the genial
proprietor's smile. "One can only hope."
Sensing something more than simple sincerity in the young man's
light tone, Jerome angled his double chin toward the stool in the
corner. "Now that we've completed his list, suppose you tell me more
about this exceptional general of yours..."
Briskly exiting the elevator, General Jack O'Neill tucked several
thick files beneath his left arm. Contemplating the complexities
involved in Earth's current state of affairs gave him one hell of a
headache. Topping the list of problems was the 'Ba'al goes Wall Street'
Why, oh why, did that slimy snakehead have to choose the good old
U.S.A. as his new habitat? Oh yes, Jack so bought the 'I just wish to
live out my life here in peace' line of crap. Jeez, how lame! Revenge
was a more plausible explanation. Eradicating his ass was the only
option, but for now the smarmy son-of-a-bitch had faded from
Jack unconsciously rubbed one hand over the long healed,
half-remembered wounds the evil ex-god once inflicted on his person and
shelved the matter. Glancing at his watch, he wondered how Mortensen was
fairing with his shopping list; delegating the task of stocking up on a
few 'basics' for his upcoming diplomatic mission served several
purposes, not the least of which was testing the major's
Jack would have preferred to make the unique purchases himself.
Unfortunately, unfamiliarity with his new surroundings, coupled with his
inability to get away, left few options.
Taking over Hammond's old duties was becoming a habit. And, he
supposed, truth be told, a good fit. With one very glaring exception,
this time the assistant that came with the job was a self-important
little popinjay with absolutely no battlefield experience. O'Neill
tolerated his pomposity precisely forty-eight hours. Then, throwing
caution to the wind in his usual manner, hustled his butt to General
Jumper for a little one-on-one.
General Jumper took one look at his resident rogue officer
wearing a carefully innocent expression and knew he was in for trouble.
"Alright Jack, out with it."
Jack batted his eyes blankly. "Sir?"
Jumper leaned back in his big comfy chair, releasing a loud,
world-weary sigh. "Do not deign to insult my intelligence Jack. You want
Jack's eyes crinkled. "I'd like the opportunity of choosing a new
"I see." Jumper pursed his lips, biting back a snort. 'Ha!
Hammond owes me a twenty.' "I'm curious Jack; the man is..."
O'Neill's nostrils flared with distaste; his deep brown eyes lost
their usual light. "Major Perkins is a self-righteous, self-involved
"Well, there is that." Jumper allowed. "You do realize the major is
highly qualified. Hammond had no complaints." Pausing dramatically, the
general inhaled deeply. "However... if you're not satisfied, I'll
gladly reassign him. What about the man you left behind at the
"No sir, I'd prefer to find someone else, if I may." Jack leaned
forward and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Old Walter is a gem, a
tad too anal and more than a trace persnickety at times, but nonetheless
a gem. However, he's also an integral part of Stargate Command and you
might say he's... ah... looking after things for me, sir..."
"Looking after things? Don't you mean quietly keeping you in the
loop, Jack?" Jumper finished for him sagely hiding a smile.
Caught, O'Neill grimaced and cleared his throat. "That too,
'Ouch, I'll bet that cost ya, Jack.' Jumper ran a thoughtful hand
over his chin and coughed lightly. "Fine, I'll have a list of available
candidates sent to your office this afternoon."
Rising, he ushered O'Neill to the door, "Any suggestions as to
Perkins' next posting?"
"Well, General Jumper, sir, I've given that a good deal of
thought." Jack grinned wryly. "It seems to me the man's complexion is
woefully pasty. He needs to get out in the sun more. I was thinking a
desert climate might add color to his cheeks."
"Pasty you say?" Jumper responded sardonically. "Well we can't
have that, can we Jack."
Perkins was reassigned that very afternoon, leaving behind a
relieved and pensive two-star general. Who, for the first time in years,
was feeling completely alone and out of his element.
Irishman though he was, O'Neill rarely entertained illusions.
Nope, he knew his own limitations all too well. Comfortable in his own
skin, Jack was smart enough to accept the unvarnished truth; SG-1's
unique characteristics had complemented his quirky style. And, their
absence left him feeling more than a bit exposed. Okay, so for the past
year or so he hadn't technically been a part of SG-1. However, he'd
still been their C.O. and thus, they'd been on his six.
Frankly, as long as he was traversing the lofty depths of this
unknown stratosphere, O'Neill preferred to be supported by an aide he
could trust. Someone gifted with an unbridled sense of loyalty and
honor, capable of bending the rules, just a tad, graced with more than a
dash of humor, who had their priorities straight - in short, an officer
whose character more accurately mirrored his own.
During his first days here inside the big five-sided geometric
monstrosity known as the Pentagon, Jack read more than a dozen
candidates' dossiers. Each and every text painted a vivid image of
another butt-kissing, mold-perfect, by-the-book type, guaranteed to make
the skin on the back of his neck crawl. Refusing to capitulate, Jack and
his stack of files stomped along to the commissary for a bite.
Haunted by the echoes of despair's old familiar anthem, O'Neill
chanced to overhear another general complaining about Mortensen's 'lack
of polish.' Intrigued, he summoned Rowdy's record; by page two, Jack was
confident he'd found his man. Consequently, the major was immediately
assigned the thankless job of keeping General Jack 'I so hate paperwork'
O'Neill on top of things.
The door to his outer office stood open. Jack silently took in
Mortensen, his head studiously bent as he busily sorted through a pile
of mail. The man was a seasoned veteran and yet, sitting there with the
last vestiges of sunlight streaming through the window illuminating his
unmarked, slightly freckled face, he looked impossibly young.
You wouldn't know it to look at him, but the kid's last
assignment had taken him to hell and back. In order to save several of
his men from certain death, Mortensen had bent the rules and sustained
injuries to his spine so severe that he'd been relegated to a desk job.
Jack's compassion led him to wonder if the still vivid scars forever
marking the youngster's flesh had also marred his soul.
Glancing up, Rowdy spied the general hovering on the threshold
and jumped to his feet, smoothly assuming a rigid posture of attention.
"Good evening, sir, I trust your meeting went well?"
"At ease, Mortensen." Taking in the small mountain gracing the
major's desk, Jack arched an inquiring brow, waving a dismissive hand.
"Nothing here sir, just a phone message from Dr. Daniel Jackson
requesting you contact him." Relaxing, Rowdy tucked his hands behind his
back. "He implied that the matter could wait, but I believe I detected
an undercurrent of urgency in his tone."
"Ah!" Jack's thick gray brows rose and fell as his head bobbed
briefly. "Well then, I'd best return the good doctor's call. See if you
can get him on the horn for me, will ya?"
Jack made to enter his own office and stopped short. Pivoting on
his heels, he cocked his head to one side and inquired lightly, "Oh, how
was the shopping expedition, Major?"
Noting the twinkle in his commanding officer's brown eyes, Rowdy
responded blithely, "Enlightening, sir. I left the items on your desk
"Excellent!" Jack crowed with anticipation.
Smiling, Rowdy watched the general stride happily into his office
for a moment.
Apparently O'Neill's new aide had just passed his first test.
Loosening his tie, the major dutifully moved to the phone.
Jack gleefully examined the numerous packages of varying size
lined up neatly on one side of his desk. Yes! The kid had succeeded in
finding each and every item he'd scrawled on his list. No mean feat, as
he hadn't seen more than a few of the elusive labels tantalizing his
sweet tooth in more than a few years. Nor, had he really thought about
them. In fact, the lad had found several varieties, even Jack, a
consummate connoisseur of confection, hadn't heard of!
The phone's jarring jangle rudely called him back from his
reverie. Fingering the tiny pile of receipts Mortensen had carefully
placed beneath his favorite Yo-Yo, Jack picked up the handset.
"Jack." Danny's voice responded evenly.
"Daniel." Jack countered. How he missed their daily
"So, how are things?" Daniel inquired with studied
"Okay, Jackson, spill it. What's wrong?" Jack demanded
suspiciously. Usually their little game went on a bit longer and
besides, he knew that tone. It was the same tone Danny used to inform
him that he'd been hoodwinked by that sinuous femme fatale, Vala. And,
the exact same approach he'd used to inform O'Neill of the twosome's
inadvertent involvement with the interfering Ori. "What have those pesky
Oreos done now?"
"Nothing, that is..." Daniel began hesitantly. "Jack I'm calling
Jack's bushy brows shot up sharply "Oh? What about
"He's... well if I didn't know better I'd say he's depressed."
Daniel lowered his voice. "I was wondering if you could talk to
"Me?" Stunned, Jack rubbed the back of his neck.
"Yes, you." Daniel tossed back. "Look, I know you hate getting
involved with anything touchy-feely..."
"Don't go there Daniel." Jack growled.
Ignoring the warning, Daniel pressed on, "Face it
Jack, despite an occasional lack of verbal expertise, you my friend have
a gift for getting to the crux of a problem."
"Jeez, has anyone every told you you're a nudge?"
"Seems a certain Irishman has lodged that complaint
on more than one occasion." Daniel countered dryly.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Have you tried boxing? Maybe
all he needs is..."
tried that route, he beat the living crap out of me, but nothing
changed. Sam tried getting him involved in a weekend trip to see Cassie
and that was a bust... hell, even Mitchell gave it a shot... he just refuses
to discuss whatever is bothering him." Daniel's voice cracked in
frustration. "Jack, he's barely eating."
Teal'c not eating? This was serious. "Okay, Daniel
I get the picture..." O'Neill pinched the bridge of his nose. "What's
"We're on stand down for the next week." Daniel
"Perfect." Tucking the handset beneath his chin,
Jack fired up his computer. "No worries Danny boy, just relax and leave
the T-man to me."
Jack sat back, stretching his long arms overhead.
Sinking deeper into the supple contours of his thickly padded leather
chair, he yawned and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands,
inhaling with satisfaction. One quick phone call to Landry, a few
e-mails and viol-la! - the plot was in motion. Squinting at the vast
array of goodies gracing his desk, he scratched his head
Pushing up from the chair, he paced back and forth
studying the various colorful treats. Hmm, what in the blue blazes was
missing? Everything had to be just right or all his scheming would be
Catching sight of the large shopping bag, he
stooped to peer within. Spotting a small golden business card at the
bottom, he was startled to see a familiar name scribbled in bold block
letters along its edge. "What's this, a golden ticket?"
Bending from the waist, Jack fished the 2x2 card
from the depths of the bag. Beside the standard business address a small
notation had been added. Jack scanned it smartly and smirked. Checking
his watch, he hastily shutdown his computer, grabbed his hat, and
hustled out the door.
Striding past his diligent aide, he nodded
pleasantly. "Quitting time, Mortensen. Go on home and get some supper,
I'll see you in the morning."
Rowdy stood, returning the nod. "Shall I summon you
"Nah, I need to stretch my legs, night." Tucking
his military cover under his arm, Jack shrugged, barely breaking stride.
"Oh, by the way, Rowdy, you're one hell-of-a-shopper."
"Ah, thank you, sir." Flushing with pleasure, Rowdy
inclined his head and added, "Have a good evening."
general's lighthearted reply echoed in the corridor,
Teal'c slumped morosely over his laptop reviewing
his latest mission report. Following the events of the past month,
General Landry had accepted his re-instatement to Stargate Command with
little commentary. While he found the new commander an honorable leader,
Teal'c missed O'Neill's simplistic talent for seeing past deceit and
subtleties. Ever candid, he'd a penchant for getting directly to the
heart of a matter. And, now that it was gone from his days, the normally
serious Jaffa felt bereft of O'Neill's unabashed ironic wit.
Releasing a long sigh, the world-weary former rebel
leader wondered what his brother-of-the-soul thought of his current
situation. Gerak's manipulations and secretive intrigues had effectively
usurped Teal'c's influence with the fledgling Jaffa government, sapping
both his power and much of his dignity.
After years of struggle, his people were finally
free, but what of the cost? Had his sacrifice, his years of separation
from his family, the persecution he'd suffered at the hands of the
Goa'uld false gods, been of so little consequence?
previously silent computer noisily interrupted his dark
Using his finger as a mouse, Teal'c opened his
e-mail's inbox. Noting the subject attached to the new e-mailing, he
arched his left brow. It read: Pentagon, General J. O'Neill; urgent
Intrigued, the glum warrior opened the text and
began to read its cryptic contents.
Hop the next plane out of there; I need your help regarding a
pressing and delicate matter of intergalactic proportion.
Your official orders to follow.
big Jaffa was busy pondering the significance of O'Neill's unexpected
request when a terse knock resounded on the metallic door to his
Rising, he pulled the portal open to find an airman
standing just beyond, and subtly inclined his head. "What is it,
young man maintained a respectful posture, eyes firmly focused on the
bigger man's massive chest. "Orders, sir."
soon as the envelope was accepted, the airman nodded, then spun on his
heels and was gone.
curiosity mounting, Teal'c broke the seal. Drawing forth the letter
within, he rapidly read a set of sketchy orders confirming his immediate
assignment to General Jack O'Neill for temporary duty. Noting his
current commanding officer's concurrent authorization, along with his
flight assignment, he efficiently gathered a few necessities and made
ready to depart.
Mentally twiddling his thumbs, Lieutenant Colonel
Cameron Mitchell rested casually against the smooth hull of the X-303
awaiting his co-pilot. Receiving O'Neill's order to fly Teal'c directly
to Washington for some highfalutin diplomatic mission hadn't set real
well. Hell, he'd just gotten the old band together again! Nope, hadn't
set well at all, until he'd gotten to the part about flying the big man
over in one of these babies. Yes sir, the wily general knew just how to
most folks who'd nearly died in one of these metal birds would've stayed
clean away, but Cameron, well... Cam loved to fly. Fact was he reveled in
the sensation of flight. It made him feel truly alive; and never more so
then when he'd been hurtling out of control to his imminent death into a
vast icy wasteland of frozen tundra. It was the hard landing and dying
slowly in the frigid cold that'd sucked.
O'Neill had asked him once; back when he'd made a
visit to the hospital Cameron languished in for far too long, if he'd do
it again. Without missing a stroke, Cam answered, "In a heartbeat!" That
was when the general had promised him a place at Stargate Command; had
effectively given him, a man broken in both body and soul, the will to
fight once more. And now here he was again, leaning against the metallic
source of his greatest joy and sorrows itching to ascend and soar amidst
the heavens. Where the heck was Teal'c anyway?
Teal'c thanked the driver and exited the Jeep. The
sight of Colonel Mitchell's flight-suit clad form leaning against the
proud craft gave him pause. Perhaps O'Neill's plans included the colonel
as well? Inclining his head regally, he pulled on his gloves. "Colonel
Mitchell, I was unaware that you'd be piloting the craft. I look forward
to our mutual journey."
Pushing off the cool metal, Mitchell grinned
lazily. "Back at ya Teal'c. Now what say we get ourselves
Sharing the colonel's eagerness, Teal'c ran a
gloved hand lovingly over the sleek belly of the fighter.
General Jack O'Neill strolled confidently along
Arlington's pavement ignoring the crush of passersby. He wasn't fond of
living or working in a big city. A city drew crowds; its buildings
stretched upwards, enveloped you and obscured the heavens, making it
almost impossible to glimpse the sky. Frankly, he preferred to live in
more wide-open spaces. Hell, he missed Colorado, missed climbing atop
his roof to gaze at the ebony expanse of midnight with her glittering
collection of bright jewel-like stars.
Jack's carefully hidden artistic side relished this
time of day almost as much. When nature's light surrendered to shadow; a
darkening firmament smudged with purple hued streaks, scattered over a
pink and orange backdrop, lending an air of tranquility to the end of
day. Ah yes, the gloaming, twilight: that period of fading light after
sunset just before dark. His unconscious photographic memory elicited an
ironic snort. 'Jeez, O'Neill sometimes you can be such a
Arriving at his destination, Jack took a moment to
run fond eyes over the establishment's cluttered display windows; then
firmly grasped the ancient brass doorknob.
Jerome waddled to the rear of the store and hit the
main light switch, casting his little shop into deep shade. He'd waited
as long as he could; Emma would begin to worry if he didn't arrive home
soon. Puffing his cheek with regret, he secured the antique cash
register and turned to make his way to the front door.
tinkling of the little bell above the entry heralded a lone figure's
arrival; tall and slender, the dark form was haloed by dusk's fading
light. Jerome was at first, more than a bit disconcerted, but then,
something in the man's stance seemed familiar. "It's about time; I was
beginning to think I'd made a mistake."
Stepping forward, Jack doffed his cap. "More than a
few, I'd wager."
Teal'c would have preferred to fly first seat.
However, sensing the unfettered joy with which Colonel Mitchell piloted
the craft, he wisely sat back and relinquished control.
young officer was much like O'Neill in both tenacity and temperament.
Great suffering had forged them both into warriors of immeasurable
strength of will and character. Teal'c was honored to serve with each.
Still, Mitchell did not possess O'Neill's uniquely inherent ability to
'read him like a book.'
"Are you always this quiet, Teal'c?" Mitchell's
voice inquired with studied indifference.
"Indeed." Teal'c responded, hiding a smile. 'Yes, he
was much like O'Neill.' "Was there a matter you wished to discuss,
Cameron never knew the word 'indeed' could be used
in so many ways. The Jaffa's very formal use of English sometimes made
him feel like an ignorant cracker. "Well shucks, I was hoping we could
use this time to get to know one another."
see." Teal'c released a long breath. "Have you not read my
Cameron thought he detected a spark of humor in the
Jaffa's liquid baritone. Then again, he wasn't quite sure. Teal'c had
been much too serious of late; no doubt a result of that carpet bagging
huckster Gerak's machinations. "I have, but one's dossier tends to be
rather two dimensional. I'd like to get to know you, not your image. Ya
know what I mean?"
"My, image?" Teal'c echoed.
"Yeah, I mean don't you get tired of being a
mysterious icon?" Cameron paused, shifting uncomfortably in the cramped
cockpit. "Okay, never mind. Look, isn't there something about me that's
sparked your curiosity?"
"Indeed. On occasion you're pattern of speech is
most unusual." Teal'c acknowledged affably. "O'Neill's speech often
differed from the norm, as well. However, your discourse posses a
softer, almost lilting, quality. No doubt your upbringing influenced
your use of language; I'd be most interested in hearing about the manner
in which you were nurtured."
Nurtured? The term made Cam chuckled lightly.
'Yeah, I guess one could say I was 'nurtured' at that.'
Sobering, he began his response thoughtfully; "I
was born and raised a child of the South. And I guess you could say my
grandmother was the one who nurtured me. She was a grand lady, what we
call a steel magnolia; one minded her or incurred her wrath. Although,
truth be told, her wrath was rather genteel and cultured."
sage woman." Teal'c's tone reflected admiration.
Cameron nodded in agreement. "That she was, Teal'c.
My youthful rather hedonistic tendencies were often tempered by her
influence. She wanted me to be a Southern officer and a gentleman, like
my daddy and his daddy before him."
"Your lineage then, is that of a warrior." Teal'c
"You could say that. My family has been singing
Dixie since the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter." Cameron drawled
proudly. "I am the first however, to be a member of the Air
"Your sire did not serve in the same manner?"
Teal'c questioned curiously.
no, my daddy was Marine." Cameron responded softly.
"Jaffa males customarily follow in the footsteps of
their ancestors." The big Jaffa replied. "Did your sire object to your
deviation from his path?"
Cameron hesitated, lost in the silence of regret
Teal'c's sepulcher baritone pierced the silence.
"Are you well, Colonel Mitchell?"
"What? Oh, sorry." Embarrassed, Cameron cleared his
throat. "No, he didn't object. You see, we... ah... lost him in the Viet Nam
too lost my father to the ravages of war. It would appear we have much
in common." The Jaffa's grave tone offered commiseration.
Briefly stunned by that notion, the pair shared a
moment of companionable tranquility.
too had a grandmother." The Jaffa's regal whisper echoed within the
"Did you now?" Heartened, Cameron checked the
controls, adjusting a few settings. "Tell me about her. Did she have a
voice like molasses and a will of iron?"
"Indeed." Teal'c concurred fondly. "She was a very
gifted woman. She made the most delectable honeyed cakes. I can still
savor their flavor melting against my tongue."
"Whew we, sounds like my granny's key lime pie!"
Mitchell crowed gleefully, gratefully sharing the moment. "Tell me
"Ah, well... perhaps you'd enjoy hearing of her
penchant for the brewing and sampling of ambrosia nectar?" Teal'c
Indeed." Cameron replied jovially.
"It's been too long, Jack." Jerome rushed forward
smothering the taller man's hand in his, shaking it
think?" Jack quipped, returning the little man's handclasp with a
Jerome let go of his long lost friend, waddled over
to post the closed sign on the front door, and then ushered Jack to the
rear of the cluttered shop. "Come on in back and let me have a good look
at you. Oh, I'd better give Emma a quick call and have her set another
place for dinner. She's made a pot roast!"
"Sounds good to me. Do you think she made those
little red potatoes too?" Jack's fingers mimicked the size; his mouth
"You have to ask?" Jerome tossed back wryly,
dialing the phone.
"Ah! One thing before we go, Jerome." Jack flipped
on the lights. "I need to make a purchase."
"Forget to add something to that lengthy list of
yours, General?" Jerome's stubby finger hovered in mid-air.
I detect a hint of censure in your tone, Jerome?" Jack's brows shot
"No, but the lad did tramp needlessly all over the
city searching for those goodies. I'm more than a bit distressed that
you did not send him to me from the outset." Jerome replied, entering
the final numbers into the keypad. Placing the handset to his ear, he
waited for his wife's answer on the other end of the line.
"Sheesh!" Jack tossed his cap onto the counter and
thrust his hands in his pockets. "I forgot something, okay? I'm just not
sure what exactly..." Rolling his eyes toward the ceiling, he shrugged;
his voice a mere whisper. "The kid got to ya, didn't he?"
"Much as another lost youngster once did." Jerome
gazed at his friend askance. Hearing his wife's sweet voice answer, he
smiled. "Mama, set another place for dinner, I'm bringing home a
Wandering amongst the shelves, Jack used the time
to search for the elusive item he sought. Some things never change, he
thought, Jerome was still running the show.
Listening for a moment, Jerome shook his head. "No,
if I tell you it will not be a surprise will it? Now be a love and set
that place, we'll be along shortly."
Hanging up the phone, Jerome watched Jack move
lithely through the shop searching the shelves. "I suspect that young
man's been through a nightmare recently, hasn't he Jack?"
"Yep." Jack answered distractedly, stooping to
check a large lower bin.
see, so you've taken him under your wing then?" Jerome settled his bulk
on the stool in the corner and crossed his arms.
"Okay." Jack grudgingly allowed, still pouring over
the shelves. "So, I hoped he'd find his way here... but mainly, I needed
Jerome covered his mouth with a chubby hand. Jack
was like one of his confections, a delectable piece of hard candy with a
soft chewy center.
"Besides, the kid is my assistant, he's supposed to
run errands for me. I'm a busy man these days, ya know." Jack added
defensively, sensing Jerome's smile.
doubt." Jerome sighed. "What happened to him, Jack?"
"Ah, ha!" Jack chortled, snagging a bulky package
from a top shelf. "Here it is. I knew you'd have it!"
"Hah! I thought you weren't sure what you needed."
Jerome snorted derisively. "What happened to Rowdy, Jack?"
Spinning, O'Neill shot Jerome a temperate look.
"Not my story to tell, you'll need to ask the kid."
Slapping the packet against his thigh, Jack reached
for his wallet. Tossing a crisp bill on the counter, he pocketed his
Scooping up his hat, O'Neill set it jauntily on his
silvery head and waggled his thick gray brows. "Don't worry, he'll be
back and then, you can use your own personal slick forms of
interrogation on him - like Emma's cooking."
Tucking the bill into a charity jar, Jerome flipped
the lights out once more. Beaming, he took Jack's arm. "Don't you ever
tire of playing the hard case, Jack my boy?"
"Who's playing?" Jack barked, feigning chagrin.
"I'm a bad-assed heartless old bastard of a general."
have no doubt that you can be a very bad boy when it suits you, General
O'Neill." Jerome spouted unimpressed, locking the front door. "And, that
usually you can be quite an ass, but a heartless bastard? Never. Now
come on, I'm hungry!"
"You'd be surprised." Jack whispered under his
breath. "Oh yeah, very surprised."
Securing the X-303 within a hanger, Mitchell took
note of a fresh-faced airman, standing in the shimmering glow of predawn
light alongside an awaiting Jeep. Pulling his flight bag from under the
seat, he tucked his helmet inside the cockpit and jumped lightly to the
ground, following Teal'c's lead.
they drew closer, the airman's pale blue eyes traveled rapidly over the
Jaffa's impressive form and impassive face. Flittering curiously over
the peculiar golden emblem embedded in Teal'c's dark forehead, the
youngster's bright orbs rounded in astonishment. Shifting his gaze to
the colonel's amused expression; he regained his composure and snapped a
proper salute. "Morning, sirs."
Hearing the syrup-smooth tones of the South in the
man's voice, Mitchell returned the salute, his eyes twinkling. "At ease,
Visibly relieved, the younger man smiled
pleasantly. "If you'd be good enough to stow your gear in the back of
the Jeep, sir, I'll take you directly to the general's
Bowing slightly, Teal'c silently vaulted into the
rear of the open vehicle, leaving the colonel to ride shotgun. Once the
pair was seated, the lad climbed behind the wheel turned the key,
shifted quickly and took off at breakneck speed.
Yikes, besides being built like a howitzer, the
airman was a lead foot. Mitchell braced himself and tossed Teal'c an
uneasy glance. The Jaffa's countenance reflected unconcerned serenity.
Cameron tightened his grip on the roll bar, set his teeth and muttered a
Jack moseyed along the corridor leading to his
fifth floor office whistling happily, his mind abuzz with anticipation.
It'd be good to spend a few days with the T-man; he'd missed Teal'c's
unwavering support and understated wit. If, as Daniel insisted, Teal'c's
mood was gloomy, O'Neill was confident that the contents of the paper
sack he'd tucked inside his coat pocket would bring the big guy at least
a degree of pleasure.
Pushing open his office door, O'Neill was welcomed
by the enticing aroma of fresh brewed coffee. Moving lithely inside, he
set his trim duffle bag alongside the percolating coffeemaker and poured
himself a large mug.
Inhaling appreciatively, he closed his eyes,
Gratefully sipping the rich brew, the general slid
behind his desk and into his chair.
Noting the absence of his small treasure-trove of
goodies from the desktop, Jack glanced about and spied the overstuffed
shopping bag resting alongside his chair. Ah! Apparently his efficient
aide had repacked the stockpile. 'Excellent!' Removing his latest
acquisition from his pocket, he stuffed it deep inside the
kid might be physically absent this morning, but his existence was
certainly evident. Besides making coffee, Mortensen had already set a
couple of messages on his desk blotter for inspection. Yes, replacing
the tea swilling, supercilious Perkins with Mortensen was working out
Taking another long sip from his slightly bitter
cup of java, Jack thoughtfully rubbed a hand over his chin.
He'd expected Mortensen's absence this morning. Out
of rehab barely a month, Rowdy still required daily physical therapy
sessions. As his commander, O'Neill was privy to the major's medical
condition. Having received more than a few dents and dings of his own,
Jack understood all too well that Rowdy was still on the mend, and that
he resented it mightily. Oh yeah, O'Neill had been there, done that,
gotten the tee shirt - and spit in more than one frustrated therapist's
However, O'Neill the seasoned veteran suspected
something more than a half-healed injury was troubling the major; he'd
seen his own reflection enough times in the mirror to recognize another
soul in pain. Despite his propensity for keeping his compassionate
nature under wraps and minding his own business, Jack was concerned.
Being a good officer and team leader was a
balancing act of discipline, compassion, support and - when the occasion
arose - taking on the role of Yiddish mama. Sighing, he refilled his
coffee mug. For the moment Jack would respect the major's privacy, but
if the opportunity presented itself, he planned to have a heart-to-heart
with his new aide.
Glancing at the large glass clock hanging above his
favorite portrait of Charlie, he sat back to contemplate the intricacies
of his upcoming diplomatic mission and await the dull pitter-patter of
large booted feet.
Denying the residual pain in his spine, Rowdy moved
briskly through the Pentagon's massive entry door and stopped short. A
squad of Military Police tore past him intent on intercepting a large
black man attempting to make his way through the dual archway of the
facility's obligatory metal detector. Accompanied by a slender Air Force
colonel, who was trying to defuse the situation, the massive fellow's
manner in the midst of chaos was sedate. Turning slightly, he eyed the
armed contingent with a detached air of princely dignity and calmly
raised his hands.
Catching sight of the distinctive golden emblem
perched above his arched brows; Rowdy recognized the legendary Teal'c
and rushed into the fray. "Everybody just simmer down! General O'Neill
is expecting this man; he's no threat to you!"
Mitchell spun on his heels, his nimble eyes taking
the major's measure with one quick glance. "Finally, look here Major
will you tell these guys that Teal'c is not a terrorist?"
Gunnery Sergeant Adams five foot four inch frame
bristled with irritation. His pugnacious mug glared upward attempting to
see eye-to-eye with the taller officer. "We're not letting this... this
intruder anywhere near the general!"
Visibly battle-ready, Adams left eye twitched, "He
set off the metal detectors and the only place this guy's headed
Exasperated, Mortensen set his jaw and donned the
mantle of command. "Enough!" He snapped coldly, eyeing the hyper-alert
security force surrounding Teal'c. "Sergeant, you and your men will
Noting Colonel Mitchell's starched stance, he went
on, "I am not in the habit of repeating myself, Adams. However, as
you're intentions are pure, I will elaborate. Mr. Teal'c is a respected
cultural attaché. And, as such, poses no threat to this
Moving past the prickly marine, Rowdy snagged a
handheld metal detector. "Furthermore, he's a personal friend of General
O'Neill's and a valued member of Colonel Mitchell's team..."
"You've got that right." Mitchell interjected haughtily.
Running the device over Teal'c's massive frame, the
major was gratified when it remained silent - that is, until he reached
the big man's gold encrusted forehead. "Just as I suspected, Sergeant
you've been undone by this man's metallic tattoo; you and your men will
stand down immediately! Is that clear?"
"Crystal, sir." Narrowing his eyes, Adams inhaled
and relaxed his stance. "Let him go boys."
marine's surrounding the unperturbed Jaffa stepped back, allowing
Mitchell to sidle up to his comrade. "Thanks for the impressive
floorshow gentlemen. Now if you'll excuse us, we've got
Turning his serene countenance toward the still
resonating Adams, Teal'c bowed slightly. "I believe O'Neill will be most
pleased to hear of your vigilance, Sergeant Adams."
Smiling thinly, Adams holstered his weapon,
accepted the compliment with a silent nod and stepped back.
Impressed, Rowdy mutely returned the detection wand
to one of the sentries with a flourish. Apparently, every glowing
description he'd read about SG-1's pluck and grace under fire was bang
on the money. "Colonel Mitchell, Mr. Teal'c, I'm Major Mortensen, allow
me to escort you to General O'Neill's office."
Casting Adam's a final look of censure; Mitchell
hid a small triumphant smile and fell into step with Mortensen. "Lead
Elegantly dismissing the incident, Teal'c trailed
after the two younger men, eager to reconnect with his
brother-of-the-soul once again.
Replacing the phone's handset, Jack smirked;
apparently Teal'c's arrival had made quite a splash. Cocking his head,
he listened intently. Hearing the pitter-patter of Rowdy's slightly
uneven gait against the outer office tiles, the fine hairs on the back
of O'Neill's neck confirmed that Mortensen was not alone - neither
Mitchell nor the Jaffa's catlike footfalls were discernable.
Sensing the nanosecond his aide moved to approach
his door, O'Neill called softly, "Come."
Throwing the portal open, Mortensen ushered Colonel
Mitchell and Teal'c into the general's inner office. "General O'Neill,
guests have arrived." Jack finished for him wryly. "Thank you
major's lips twitched slightly as he nodded, removed himself from the
office and closed the door.
Rubbing his hands together with glee, the
indecorous general jumped up from his chair and rushed forward to place
a welcoming hand on his friend's shoulder. "Understand you made your
usual unassuming entrance Teal'c; guess we miscalculated the amount of
gold in that headgear of yours. Maybe it's time we let old Doc Nip-Tuck
take a whack at removing it."
Ignoring the reference to plastic surgery, Teal'c
returned his brother-of-the-soul's modified embrace. "You are looking
well, O'Neill. Daniel Jackson sends his greetings."
Feigning ignorance, Jack raised his brows and
inquired lightly, "How's the space monkey doing these days T, he's a
rather poor correspondent. I think he holds me a tad responsible for the
Daedalus leaving him behind."
"Perhaps." Teal'c responded noncommittally.
"Following his tribulations at the hands of the female brigand, Vala, he
has recovered his former commitment to the pursuits of Stargate Command
I may be so bold, General, I think Dr. Jackson holds me singularly
responsible for his current fate." Mitchell interjected
Shifting his shrewd brown-eyed gaze to Mitchell's
earnest blue one, Jack grimaced. "I doubt it, Mitchell."
"Have a seat, gents." Indicating the two chairs in
front of his desk, Jack returned to his own. "Teal'c, I suppose you're
wondering about our mission."
"Indeed." Teal'c concurred succinctly, arching his
Placing both elbows on his desk, Jack leaned
forward intently. "We'll get to that soon enough. Meantime, Mitchell
I've got a favor to ask you."
Noting the gleam in the general's eye, Cameron
swallowed silently. The last time O'Neill began a sentence that way he'd
found himself the new leader of SG-1, and spent the next few weeks
begging its former members to rejoin his team. "What would that be,
"Relax Cam, this won't hurt ya." Jack understood
the hesitation in Mitchell's carefully respectful tone. Lowering his
voice, he tossed his silver head toward the closed door. "I want you to
ferry Major Mortensen back to the SGC with you aboard the
Startled, Cameron's forehead resembled a rumpled
"Got the orders right here." Jack pushed a small
pile of papers across the desk to the colonel. "Teal'c and I will be
leaving from here and returning in a few days to Stargate
Folding his hands, he continued casually, "And, as
a special favor to me, I'd like you to make a singular effort to connect
with the major. Ya know one warrior to another type of thing. I suspect
the two of you have a good deal in common."
Teal'c smiled sagely. "Has the major recently
returned from the battlefield, O'Neill?"
"Not sure what ya mean T." Jack's normally
expressive eyes became opaque. "I'd like my aide to get to know my old
haunt; it'll give him some firsthand insight into what it is we do,
without putting him in direct danger."
see." The Jaffa intoned gravely. "Perhaps, Daniel Jackson might be of
assistance to Major Mortensen as well."
Jack contemplated that little tidbit for a long
minute. "Perhaps. Danny has a way with most people. Besides, he loves
playing tour guide."
Cameron's inquisitive gaze swiveled back and forth,
scrutinizing the two seasoned men. Something passed silently between the
pair; he suspected they often communicated in a like manner, especially
in combat. Wisely, he remained silent throughout the exchange.
"It's settled then, you and the major leave this
afternoon." Sitting back in his chair, the general's deep-set orbs
speared the colonel. "Any questions?"
think I get the basic picture, sir." Cameron drawled lazily. "The major
and I take a little spin, inspect the big silver ring, make nice and
then I turn him over to Dr. Jackson."
"Exactly!" Jack ejaculated proudly, glancing at his
watch. "I knew you'd catch on Cam. Now get the hell out a here and fill
the major in. Teal'c and I have a ride to catch."
"Yes, sir." Mitchell snapped smartly, rising he
opened the door and made to quit the room.
"Oh, and Mitchell?" O'Neill's voice compelled the
colonel to turn back.
Grabbing the overstuffed shopping bag, his duffle
and cap, Jack stood beside Teal'c and pressed a small tear shaped
crystal device clutched in his left hand. "Ignore the light
the general and the Jaffa's bodies were engulfed by a radiant white
glow, Mitchell backed out the door, shutting it firmly.
Diligently sorting through a stack of papers,
Mortensen appeared not to notice the brief flash of intense light
seeping under the general's office door.
Releasing an inaudible sigh, Cameron cleared his
throat and set the new orders on the desktop in front of the major.
"Well Mortensen, how soon can you be packed?"