Warriors, Pink Cakes
Little Gray Butts
by CJay


"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 council."

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 gleaming surface.

"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 bets."

"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 cajole."

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 flavor.

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 hope."

"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 it!"

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 importance."

"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 rather thin."

"I see." Jerome interjected with a knowing wink. "Oh, and please call me Uncle Jerome, being referred to as 'sir' makes me feel positively ancient."

"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 his aide."

"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 morning!"

"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' situation.

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 sight.

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 character.

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 something."

Jack's eyes crinkled. "I'd like the opportunity of choosing a new aide-de-camp."

"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 popinjay, sir."

"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 SGC?"

"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, General."

'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. "Anything urgent?"

"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 for inspection."

"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. "Daniel?"

"Jack." Danny's voice responded evenly.

"Daniel." Jack countered. How he missed their daily banter.

"So, how are things?" Daniel inquired with studied nonchalance.

"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 about Teal'c."

Jack's bushy brows shot up sharply "Oh? What about him?"

"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 him."

"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?" Jack whined.

"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..."

"I 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 your status?"

"We're on stand down for the next week." Daniel replied.

"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 thoughtfully.

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 for naught.

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 car, general?"

"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."

The general's lighthearted reply echoed in the corridor, "Ya-sure-ya-betcha!"


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?

His previously silent computer noisily interrupted his dark thoughts.

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 request.

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.


The big Jaffa was busy pondering the significance of O'Neill's unexpected request when a terse knock resounded on the metallic door to his quarters.

Rising, he pulled the portal open to find an airman standing just beyond, and subtly inclined his head. "What is it, Airman?"

The young man maintained a respectful posture, eyes firmly focused on the bigger man's massive chest. "Orders, sir."

As soon as the envelope was accepted, the airman nodded, then spun on his heels and was gone.

His 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 placate him.

Now 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 airborne?"

Sharing the colonel's eagerness, Teal'c ran a gloved hand lovingly over the sleek belly of the fighter. "Indeed."


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 nerd!'

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.

The 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.

The 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, Colonel Mitchell?"


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."

"I see." Teal'c released a long breath. "Have you not read my file?"

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."

"A 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 concluded sensibly.

"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 Force."

"Your sire did not serve in the same manner?" Teal'c questioned curiously.

"Ho 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 and remembrance.

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 Conflict."

"I 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.

"I too had a grandmother." The Jaffa's regal whisper echoed within the cockpit.

"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 more."

"Ah, well... perhaps you'd enjoy hearing of her penchant for the brewing and sampling of ambrosia nectar?" Teal'c intoned.

Indeed." Cameron replied jovially.


"It's been too long, Jack." Jerome rushed forward smothering the taller man's hand in his, shaking it enthusiastically.

"Ya think?" Jack quipped, returning the little man's handclasp with a mischievous grin.

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 watered.

"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.

"Do I detect a hint of censure in your tone, Jerome?" Jack's brows shot skyward.

"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 surprise!"

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.

"I 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 the snacks."

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.

"No 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 billfold.

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."

"I 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.

As 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, airman."

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 office."

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 silent prayer.


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, "MMMM... hazelnut!"

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 bag.

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 just fine.

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 eye himself.

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 is..."

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 stand down!"

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 facility."

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."

The 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 orders."

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 on, Major."

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, sir..."

"My guests have arrived." Jack finished for him wryly. "Thank you Major."

The 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 and SG-1."

"If I may be so bold, General, I think Dr. Jackson holds me singularly responsible for his current fate." Mitchell interjected gravely.

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 left brow.

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, sir?"

"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 X-303."

Startled, Cameron's forehead resembled a rumpled sheet. "Sir?"

"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 Command."

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."

"I 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?"

"I 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 show..."

As 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?"