Warriors, Pink Cakes and Little Gray Butts by Cjay

Previously in Part One of Warriors, Pink Cakes and Lil' Gray butts; another stirring chapter in the continuing adventures of that delectable hard candy confection, with the soft chewy center, Jack O'Neill:

Endeavoring to settle into his new posting at the Pentagon, Jack finds the major assigned as his assistant annoying in the extreme. Promptly setting out to find the irritating supercilious popinjay a suitable new posting, he proceeds to locate an aide-de-camp whose character reflects principles our ex-special ops operative can respect. Devising a seemingly innocent test, he sends the new man out to collect a list of 'necessities' for an upcoming mission of 'international importance.' Then, learning that his boon companion and bother-of-the-soul, Teal'c is uncharacteristically glum, the sly general schemes to lift the gloomy Jaffa's spirits by summoning him to Washington in the company of Colonel Mitchell, entangling the pair in yet another of his canny schemes...

And now, on to...

TWO: O'Neill's Unique Solution - Within the Brilliance

Rowdy ushered Teal'c and the colonel into General O'Neill's private office and closed the door. Turning, he spotted a vintage green Yo-Yo resting atop a neatly folded scrap of paper, perched conspicuously on the seat of his chair. Bemused, he set the wooden toy aside and unfolded the note beneath. It read:

Teal'c and I will be leaving at light speed.

Ignore the fireworks and take care of Mitchell.


Tucking the note and the prized Yo-Yo inside his right hip pocket, the major sat down at his desk, absently shuffling papers. Contemplating the new experiences his recent assignment had thus far presented in rapid-fire succession, he ignored the sudden bright flash of light spilling under the general's door.

"Well Mortensen, how soon can you be packed?"

Mitchell's soft drawl pulled Rowdy from his daydream. Blinking, he looked up. "Sir?"

"Apparently General O'Neill's taken a shine to you, Major." Colonel Cameron Mitchell settled a file folder beneath Mortensen's nose. Flipping it open with a flourish, he tapped the orders contained within. "Come sunset, you and I will be soaring with the eagles." Resting one hip on the edge of the desk, he crossed his arms over his chest.

Rowdy carefully scanned the brief paragraphs before him. According to the paperwork, he was to return to Stargate Command, along with Colonel Mitchell by way of the top-secret X-303. Once there, he was to await the general's arrival, sometime within the next week, and familiarize himself with both the facility beneath the mountain and its personnel's unique mission.

Panic's icy hands slid along the scarred flesh of his spine, wrapped her long fingers around his lungs, and squeezed hard. Gritting his teeth stubbornly, he concentrated on breathing slowly, denying terror a foothold.

Mitchell noted the major's unnatural stillness. The mute man's posture gave him pause. He didn't know anything about the general's aide, but he did know military men and he sensed the officer before him was grappling with something bigger than rearranging a schedule. "Any questions, Major?"

O'Neill's new man slid a stealthy hand inside his pocket. Wrapping his long fingers around the well-worn Yo-Yo, he held on tight. Slowly his pounding heart regained its usual steady rhythm. Barely hearing the colonel's query over the residual roaring in his ears, he looked Mitchell in the eye. "When do we leave?"

The colonel's blue-eyed gaze mirrored the major's studied nonchalance. "Well Mortensen, I'm famished. My first priority is a good meal, a shower and a bit of shuteye. So, I guess I'll leave arranging our flight clearance to you."

"Very good, Sir." Rowdy nodded. Using the desk as cover, he wiped his sweaty palms on his trouser legs. "General O'Neill secured temporary quarters for you here in town. Once I've ferried you over, I'll give the airfield a call." Pushing back in his chair, he snapped the folder shut.

"Hold your horses," Mitchell interjected, raising a hand. Mortensen seemed inordinately eager to be rid of him. "I'd prefer to eat first."

Realizing his error, Rowdy colored lightly. "Of course, Colonel, my apologies.

"No problem, I assume you've a few loose ends to tie up around here." Mitchell empathized.

"Thank you, Colonel. Actually, as the general was to be away for a few days, I was planning to tackle the small mountain of paperwork he left behind on his desk." Rowdy admitted conspiratorially. "Do you have a taste for anything in particular?"

Mitchell's eyes lit with undisguised desire. "Well, I don't suppose you know where a man can get a generous portion of Southern-style barbecue?"

Rowdy smiled crookedly. "I assume you'd like a bit of cornbread to go along with said barbecue."

Squinting, Mitchell pursed his lips and cocked his head. "I did say 'Southern-style,' didn't I?"

"That you did, Colonel. And I know just the place." Rising to his feet, Rowdy tucked the folder beneath his left arm. "I confess your choice makes my mouth water with anticipation. Might I join you, Sir?"

Unfolding his lanky frame, Mitchell smiled with genuine pleasure. "Well now, any man who has a hankering for the ambrosia of the South is welcome to share my table anytime, Mortensen."

"Ambrosia of the South," Rowdy repeated appreciatively. "Mind if I borrow that rather poetic turn of phrase, Sir?"

Mitchell's eyes narrowed warily. "Well Mortensen, that all depends..."

"I was planning to use it to finesse us an early lunch." Rowdy's ingenuous expression reinforced his sincerity.

Glancing at his watch, Mitchell noted it was barely 0930. "In that case, feel free to wield my jargon in any way you see fit, Major."

"Thank you, Sir. I'll call the airfield after our mutual need for sustenance has been met." Rowdy opened the office door to allow the senior officer to precede him.

Grabbing his cap from a nearby file cabinet, he set it jauntily on his curly dark head. "Once I lay that 'Ambrosia of the South' line on Miss Jolene I'm confident she'll satisfy our mutual 'hankering.'"

"Major, I like your style." Mitchell's head bobbed lightly as he moved fluidly into the hall. "Yes, sir, I think we're gonna get on just fine."


When Mortensen suggested they forgo transportation and walk the short distance to the restaurant, Mitchell readily agreed. "My legs could use a bit of stretching."

It was a fair day for walking. The morning was bright and cloudless. A cooling light breeze ruffled the few trees scattered alongside the hot sidewalk, adding nature's music to the soft drone of their surroundings. Always observant, Mitchell noted the slight hitch in the taller man's gait, slowed his pace and fell into step beside the younger officer. "So, what do you think of General O'Neill?"

The major hesitated briefly. "I think there is more to the general than meets the eye, Sir." Despite his earnest expression, Mortensen's lips twitched.

Mitchell heard the admiration and respect beneath the carefully chosen words. 'And in spite of the fact that you've only know O'Neill a short time, you'd gladly take a bullet for him.'

Satisfied, he changed the subject. "Guess it's a bit early for lunch. I sure hope this Miss Jolene is feeling accommodating today."

"I'd say we've got more than a fair chance. She seems to have a weak spot for military types." Mortensen confided with a grin.

"Military types in general, Mortensen..." Mitchell drawled mischievously, eyeing the major's spit-and-polished attire. "Or just you?"

The good-natured barb sparked a shift in the major's careful air.

"There is no denying that a few shiny medals and a chest full of colorful ribbons, coupled with one's own unique sense of style, tend to ease the way with most ladies." Rowdy's eyebrows rose impishly. "However, I'm betting your smooth Southern charm will steal Miss Jolene's breath clean away."

Returning Mortensen's smirk with similar panache, Mitchell knew he'd found a kindred soul. "Touché."


Snapping the shower curtain aside, Mitchell wrapped a thick towel around his lean waist. Using a second towel, he rubbed his short sandy hair dry. Padding out of the bath, he striped the damp cloth from his flanks and tossed it aside. Stretching out on the large inviting bed, Cameron tucked a pillow under his head, rubbing his over-stuffed belly with a sigh. Dining at Miss Jolene's sated both his appetite and an ever-lingering need for the soothing ways of the South.

It was apparent from the moment that he and Mortensen entered the lady's small, yet attractive, establishment that they were welcome. Recognizing the major with a smile of delight she'd bustled out from behind the orderly counter to offer her magnolia-kissed cheek for the major's fond peck. And, mere moments after Rowdy laid the 'Ambrosia of the South' line on her; Miss Jolene served up a luncheon fit for the gods. Her succulent cornbread coupled with the gentile woman's sassy repartee eased an unspoken ache in Cameron's soul. It'd been a long time since he'd enjoyed such culinary bliss.

Miss Jolene's attitude regarding Cameron's desperate need for nourishment had been charitable. Although, he suspected she'd been more concerned with stuffing Mortensen, than pleasing his palate. The lady fussed over the likeable young officer like a mother hen over her long lost chick.

Pulling the light coverlet over his naked limbs, Cam punched at his pillow, adjusting his position. His body was more than ready to rest; yet, sleep eluded him. There was something intangible about the major that weighed on his mind. Judging by the slight limp and quickly hidden grimace whenever he rose from a seated position, the major's rangy body was still on the mend from some grievous injury. But, the memory of Mortensen's unnatural stillness as he read the general's order suggested there was something more.

O'Neill's request flittered within the fringes of his consciousness. On the surface it was a simple enough assignment; get to know Mortensen and familiarize him with the basics of Stargate command. Conversely, the unspoken interplay between the general and Teal'c in the office this morning left him feeling mystified. His gut told him there was more depth to this so-called 'favor' than the general's light tone implied - his gut, and a lingering history of succumbing to the seasoned covert operative's machinations.

Cam flipped over and buried his head under the pillow, willing his mind to shutdown. Drifting off, he wondered what the crafty O'Neill was really up to.


Gazing about the cavernous council chamber, Brigadier General Jack O'Neill coolly watched chaos ensue.

Convincing the delegates aboard Commander Thor's flagship to set aside any debate until after they'd sampled the delicacies he'd brought along, proved to be all too easy. Since the Asgard diet consisted of multicolored squares and cubes, the many and sundry items he dumped from his shopping bag seemed both innocent and tempting. Admiring the shiny colors, his long fingered hosts tore through the packets concealing the candies inside. Trusting O'Neill implicitly they summarily popped the small potent doses of refined sugar into their unsuspecting thin-lipped mouths.

As he'd been the first to imbibe, Thor was the first to succumb. Swaying gently from side to side, a small wet pink sphere eased out of his tiny mouth, growing rapidly as he exhaled.

Half a dozen large gleaming black eyes dilated in fascination as the bubble expanded and grew. Until, it suddenly popped, leaving its gooey remains tenaciously spread across his pointy gray chin.

Startled, the council's mesmerized members released a collective gasp.

"Ah, for crying out loud!" Blinking sluggishly, the little alien swiped an unsteady hand at his newly acquired tacky pink beard. "O'Neill this method is flawed!"

"On the contrary, you are not the first to experience a similar outcome. You must employ perseverance." Teal'c advised sagely. "Observe."

Inhaling deeply, the muscular warrior worked his jaw briefly; and then, exhaled slowly, emitting an ever-growing, slightly oblong pink orb. Gauging the expansion carefully, he arched an expressive brow.

Satisfied, he sucked the elastic matter back into his mouth. "Perhaps, you should begin again, Commander Thor."

Jack coughed; using a quick hand to mask his reaction, delight suffocating minuscule embers of regret.

"Way to go, T." Jack crowed, slapping the Jaffa proudly on the back,

"O'Neill..." Thor grumbled forlornly, "I fear that I shall never aspire to either yours or Bazooka Joe's expertise!"

Jack handed Thor another square of chewing gum. "You're doing fine, buddy. All ya need is more material... and a tad more practice." Manipulating the large wad he'd sequestered against his molars, O'Neill extended the tip of his tongue passed rounded lips, exhaling softly. The small planet-like mass he rapidly produced dwarfing that of the erstwhile Jaffa.

Drawing closer to observe the general's technique, High Councilor Astrid swallowed her last bite of licorice, giving up all pretense of boredom. "Most impressive...you display great prowess, human. However, given sufficient time... we are confident Supreme Commander Thor shall surpass your ability."

"No doubt, High Councilor... it's nothing more than a simple matter of repetition." Jack nodded politely and shrugged, sucking the shiny pink mass back into his mouth. "As you are a vastly superior race, such... ah, trivialities are mere child's play...

Scooping a handful of pink cakes from a nearby pedestal, he made short work of their wrappings, extending them with an abbreviated bow. "Perhaps you'd care to try?"

Returning the human's deferential salute, Astrid accepted the implied challenge. "We shall all try this unique custom of yours, O'Neill." Hiccupping loudly, she strove to maintain a dignified stance while greedily stuffing several pieces into her diminutive mouth.

Noting the exchange, the remainder of the delegation abandoned whatever confection they'd been sampling. Moving forward, they haughtily accepted the cubes O'Neill and Teal'c swiftly distributed.

Soon the entire company's bloodstream was polluted. The task of demanding Earth answer for the situation with the Ori forgotten, replaced by an ever escalating infatuation with the art of chewing gum.

Jack sidestepped another intoxicated gray body and drew alongside Teal'c. "Ya know T; I think the whole vastly superior intellect thing is overrated."

"Indeed, O'Neill." The Jaffa's sepulchral tone was laced with thinly disguised amusement. "You've successfully clouded their vision with sheep's hair."

"I'll bet you've been dying to skew that colloquialism for years." Jack tossed back shrewdly. "Got any more colorful phrases you need to get off your chest, T?"

"Such as?" Teal'c queried his thick lips quirking infinitesimally upward.

Jack was thrilled to see a rare spark of childish joy igniting in the all too often somber Jaffa's dark eyes. "Well let's see... oh, ah... here's one... that was like taking candy from a baby..."

"Alas O'Neill, that particular phrase does not apply." Teal'c responded with mock sorrow. "The Asgard are far from children and we gave them the sweets..."

"Jeez, T... are ya trying to rain on my parade?" Jack complained with a sniff. "Or just goad me into spouting another cliché?"

"My apologies, O'Neill." The Jaffa replied cheekily, adding a small deferential bow. "What now?"

"Now, we negotiate." Jack replied dryly.


After taking a few minutes to scrutinize the stats on the X-303, it took Mortensen less than an hour to log their flight plan, notify an obviously half-asleep Colonel Mitchell of the departure time and make sure the general's affairs were in order. Securing the last file cabinet, he locked the office up tight and headed out to get some air.

At precisely 2100 hours, both he and Mitchell would be strapped inside a small metallic craft and launch perilously into space. It wasn't the flight that disturbed him. It was the confinement. A splinter of panic sketched a frigid path along the vulnerable contours of his aching spine. Suddenly, he was shattered... hemmed in, feeling the chill penetrate helpless limbs... his nostrils clogged with particles of gritty soil... his lifeblood feeding the sandy earth that entombed him.

Fumbling in his pocket, Rowdy's clammy hand located his newest talisman. The worn green wood of O'Neill's parting gift felt familiar and safe, its welcome presence pulling him back from the past. Gulping air, he pried frightened eyelids open, forcing his paralyzed brain to focus on his current surroundings.

Licking the salty sweat from his upper lip, he furtively scanned a few passersby gauging their reaction. Nobody seemed in the least affected. Clearing his parched throat, he planted one shaky foot in front of the other, moving aimlessly along. Once upon a time, fear had been a valued tool, an ally keeping him safe with her whisper of warning. But now, terrifying tendrils of memory refused to depart. Rowdy doubted his mind would ever truly be free again.

Leaving the Pentagon behind, the brooding major paced along the neat streets of Alexandria, hoping the afternoon sun's bright warmth would dispel the insidious shadows lingering in his mind.


Jerome finished sweeping the last bits of discarded debris into his ancient dustpan and set aside his broom. Mopping his balding head with a large faded handkerchief, he squinted upwards allowing the puffy clouds to mitigate his ire. Litterbugs offended his sensibilities. Clicking his tongue, the confectioner was just about to stoop over and collect his pan when a familiar figure rounded the corner. "Rowdy!"

Startled, the preoccupied major looked up. Catching sight of the round little man, wearing an apron and a smile, he quickly plastered on a polite grin. "How are you today, Sir?"

"Sir?" The wizened fellow echoed disappointedly. "Suddenly I'm a stranger? Yesterday it was Uncle Jerome..."

Coloring, Rowdy stammered. "Forgive me... Uncle Jerome... I was just..."

"Coming to have tea with me!" Jerome interrupted gleefully. Gathering his dustpan and broom, he dumped the pan's contents into a nearby trash receptacle. "And here I thought I'd have to eat my Emma's freshly baked cookies alone." Shaking his head, he bustled back inside his shop.

Rowdy was about to decline, the sizeable brunch Miss Jolene had prepared more than sated his appetite, but something in the older man's tone and carriage echoed an almost forlorn loneliness. Glancing at his watch, he trailed behind. "Cookies?"

"Back here." Pushing past the long curtain hiding the backroom of his establishment, Jerome tucked the cleaning utensils inside a tall cupboard. Maneuvering his squat frame beyond a small pile of boxes, he led Rowdy through a tunnel-like stockroom and into his tidy office. Resting on top of an old-fashioned roll top desk, a state of the art computer sat incongruously beside a lightly steaming brass kettle, perched atop an electric hotplate.

Using his double chin to indicate a pair of old-fashioned chairs in the corner, Jerome motioned for Rowdy to take a seat. "Sit, sit... I'll just wash the dust from my hands and be right with you."

Stepping into an adjacent room, Jerome's voice mingled with the sound of running water. "So what sort of tea do you fancy? Take a gander inside the desk's top right-hand drawer; I've got quite an assortment to choose from."

Rowdy preferred coffee. However, obediently pulling the two chairs next to the desk, he sat down. "I'm not picky." Setting his cap aside, he slid the ornate drawer open revealing at least a dozen oddly shaped tins. Choosing a round container brightly decorated with small birds and blossoms, he set it on the desk's polished surface. "What about you, Uncle Jerome?"

"Oh, I like them all..." Stepping back into the office Jerome eyed Rowdy's choice appreciatively. Selecting two cobalt-blue ceramic mugs from a shelf above the desk, he filled each with steaming water. Fishing several tea bags from within the tin, he then set them to steep. "Nothing refreshes the body in the afternoon like a cup of tea and a homemade treat!"

Stooping over, Jerome pulled the desk's bottom drawer open and withdrew a sealed plastic container from within. Prying the lid off, he offered his guest the first choice. "The oatmeal-raisins are my personal favorite, but you must try them all."

"My momma used to make them with walnuts." Selecting the uppermost cookie, Rowdy obligingly took a large bite. Chewing slowly, he closed his eyes; savoring the sweetness as it tantalized his taste buds. It'd been a longtime since he'd been treated to a little bit of home. Instinctively, his rigid body relaxed.

Pleased by the younger man's response, Jerome eased silently into the opposite chair and blew softly on the surface of his hot tea.

The shop's entry bell tickled distantly, drawing the pair from their companionable reverie.

"Ah, a customer. Have another cookie my boy, I shan't be long." Setting his cup aside, Jerome bustled from the office.

Rowdy washed the cookie's remains down with a sip of hot tea and sat back. Allowing his eyes to roam over the organized little office, he wondered at the absence of anything really personal. The only items on display were those generic to any office. Given Jerome's seemingly open demeanor, the curious officer found that intriguing. In fact, given the clutter of the storeroom, the room's immaculate condition was downright peculiar. 'Get a grip Mortensen; you're letting your dark frame of mind eclipse Jerome's hospitality.'

Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved his Yo-Yo. Slipping the string's loop over his right middle finger, he flicked his wrist, watching the painted double disk descend and then, pop back up - tethered by its string.

Following a rather lengthy sale, Jerome returned to the office. As he moved through his cluttered storeroom, he caught sight of the major pensively toying with an all too familiar green wooden toy. Rowdy's possession of that particular Yo-Yo, a model not produced in some forty years, confirmed something he'd guessed after yesterday's shopping expedition, and a certain general's visit. The master of covert intrigue was at it again.

Reclaiming his chair, Jerome pried open the door to one of the roll top desk's many cubbyholes, removed a faded cigar box and laid it almost reverently across one knee. Dragging the large yellow rubber band encompassing the worn box off to one side, he opened the top. Inside a glossy red Yo-Yo and a multicolored wooden top lay majestically on a bed of assorted old-fashioned marbles. Selecting the Yo-Yo, he shut the carton once more, reseated the rubber band and set the box aside.

Making a great show of rolling up his shirtsleeves, the elderly rascal pulled the toy's looped string over one gnarled finger and proceeded to perform several intricate tricks without uttering a word.


Cameron's questing tongue traced a seductive path along the plump contours of the smoky brunette's lower lip. His calloused hands were just about to venture further along the vixen's tempting curves when her soft moans altered into the distinctive melodic notes of his personal cell phone. While his cloudy mind strove to hang onto the voluptuous woman, his disciplined hands groped the bedside table, looking for the phone. Sadly, as soon as he located the offensive source of intrusion, the tantalizing brunette disappeared. "Damnation! This had better be good."

Blinking rapidly, Daniel withdrew the small cell phone from his sensitive ear. "Sorry, Mitchell... is this a bad time?"

"What?" Recognizing Jackson's voice, Cameron sat upright in bed, rubbing the remnant of slumber from his eyes. Glancing at the nearby clock he noted it was only just 1500. "Gee no, Daniel three hours of sleep after pulling an all-nighter should be enough for anyone."

Reseating the phone, Daniel chose to ignore the snarl in Cameron's voice. "Glad to hear it. Your call earlier got me to thinking..."

"How shocking." Cameron responded sarcastically.

"Ya know Mitchell; until I met you I used to think Jack O'Neill had cornered the market on sarcasm." Daniel volleyed in kind. "Was it a blonde or a redhead?" He added knowingly.

"Point taken." Cameron swung his legs over the side of the bed and stretched. "So what's up?"

"As I said, this 'assignment' Jack gave you doesn't track...I mean, why send his aide here? So, I decided to put my rather lofty security clearance to good use." Using his free hand, Daniel tapped his laptop. "I've spent the last hour or so pouring over Major Ronan Mortensen's dossier."

Mitchell grabbed his boxer's and staggered groggily into the bathroom. "And?"

"Cam, maybe you should rethink your departure time..." Jackson's tone chased the last fragments of sleep from Mitchell's brain. "I don't think it's a good idea for the major to be traveling inside a small metal ship in the dark."


'Blast!' Rowdy's attempt to mimic Uncle Jerome's Yo-Yo proficiency fell short. Winding the string yet again, he gave it another try.

"You'll get the hang of it; after all... I've been at it a tad longer than you." Jerome's rather smug little grin belied his modest words. "I knew a young man once who displayed a similar form of tenacity. Mind you, he lacked patience, but then again, this fellow hated to lose."

"I wasn't aware this was a competition." Rowdy responded distractedly attempting to 'walk the dog.'

"Competition is overrated. Keep the string taunt, like so." Slowly repeating the stunt's steps, Jerome hid a smile. "Once you've mastered the basics, you will find that working with your Yo-Yo can be remarkably therapeutic."

"Do tell?" Rowdy inquired skeptically. "And here I thought it was just a game."

"Unfortunately, too much of life is just a game." Jerome muttered, flipping the wooden disk into the air. The toy made its return voyage along its string slapping lightly into the old man's palm; his grave expression caught his visitor's attention.

Snagging the green Yo-Yo, Rowdy pocketed it and shifted uneasily. "That was rather flippant of me, Uncle Jerome. I apologize."

"What? Oh, no need for that... I was thinking... you remind me of him." Jerome's rheumy eyes focused on the major's earnest unlined face.

Rowdy swallowed another sip of tea. "Him, who?"

"The fellow I mentioned before, my previous Yo-Yo protégé." The little shopkeeper's reflected thoughtfully. "He was hiding too."

"How's that?" Rowdy coughed sharply.

"Oh, he wasn't as friendly as you my boy. At least, not at first." Jerome rose quickly to thump the young man's back. "No, he was so guarded that for him sarcasm became second nature, an effective sort of mask used to keep him safe."

"That first day, when he strolled into my shop, his voice was cold, devoid of any emotion. There was no light in his obsidian eyes... only an impenetrable darkness, the kind that can destroy one's soul." Leaning in conspiratorially, the little man enunciated each word carefully. "He was skittering on the remnants of sanity."

Feeling a bit like a bug under a microscope, the major's fingers clutched his tea mug with involuntary alarm. He couldn't help wondering if the perceptive candy peddler had noted his similar affliction.

"Oh, he hid it well; perhaps too well..." Jerome continued fondly, regaining his seat. "Turns out, he's a rather exceptional actor. I knew right then and there that he needed my help."

Rowdy was hopelessly captivated. "What sort of help?"

Jerome's faded eyebrows arched upwards. "Somehow, I just had to make him smile."

"You had to make him smile?" Rowdy echoed confused. "Why?"

"Think about it, a real smile comes from here..." Jerome laid one chubby finger against Rowdy's heart. "Not here." He added, plunking the young major lightly on the temple.

Squinting, Rowdy nodded and bit his lip.

Jerome refilled his teacup and took a long draught of the invigorating fluid. "Ya know, it took me a few tries, but he finally deigned to offer me a sorry version of a smile...well it was more of an ironic smirk really..." Plucking a cookie from the container, he took a large bite, settled back in his chair and sighed. "Sadly, it never quite reached those expressive eyes of his."

"Somehow I don't believe that's the end of it." Rowdy advised doubtfully.

"No?" Pausing dramatically, Jerome flicked a few wayward crumbs from his portly belly.

"No." The major repeated confidently.

"You're right." Jerome allowed chewing enthusiastically. "He came around again and again, allegedly searching for something elusive to satisfy his self-proclaimed sweet tooth. I think it became a sort of quest for him. Oh yes indeed, over the months he tried every bonbon and sweet-treat known to man, and occasionally he did smirk... but, I can't say he ever really smiled."

Noting Rowdy's somewhat disillusioned expression, the little man's eyes danced with merriment. "Until, that is, I made him a gift of a Yo-Yo. You know to this day I can still see that first genuine smile, it lit him up like a glorious sunrise after a stormy night."

"I suspect it was more your persistent friendship than a simple toy that did that, Jerome." The major speculated wisely.

"Perhaps." Jerome accepted, cocking his head. "Have you ever stopped to consider just how a Yo-Yo works?"

Assuming it was a rhetorical question, Rowdy waited quietly. When nothing further was said, he ventured, "Okay, I'm not that poetic; care to fill me in?"

"No matter where you throw it, how many twists and turns it takes, even when it becomes tangled in itself, a Yo-Yo never really loses its way." Jerome informed him, rubbing the round disk affectionately. "Despite a few deviations and even a few tenacious knots, it remains secured by its string, true to its center, its heart if you will..."

"That's what made him smile." Jerome's steely azure orbs peered intently into Rowdy's hazel eyes. "That's what he clung to; it's what kept him sane."

Rowdy's mouth went dry. Was it really all that simple? Reaching into his pocket, he wrapped a fist around the solid wood of the Yo-Yo.

"Yes, believe me it is. No matter what the obstacle, no matter how monumental or terrible the task, if you stay true to who you are, you'll overcome any and all obstacles." Jerome answered the unspoken question emphatically. "Oh, it won't be easy and most likely it'll take a good deal of time, but once you get the knots out..."

"You really believe that?" Rowdy interrupted hoarsely, licking his dry lips.

"I do. But more importantly, he did." Jerome confirmed quietly. "I saw him again yesterday for the first time in many years. And, you know what? His eyes were smiling."


Grinning, Jack dodged another drunken little alien, boldly navigating yet another corridor of Thor's ship, heading for the control room. "Ya know T'man...I think we've been going about this whole diplomacy thing the wrong way. Maybe I should order each team to pack some of those magnificent little pink cakes along with the C-4 and extra ammo."

"Perhaps, O'Neill. However, I believe the Asgard response to sweets is unique." Teal'c supplied, following protectively in his wake.

"Hey, everyone has their weakness." Pulling a thick packet from the inner breast pocket of his dress blues, O'Neill tossed it over his right shoulder, his eyes twinkling with mirth. "Even an invulnerable Jaffa."

Without missing a step, Teal'c deftly caught the parcel. Noting its contents, his grave expression lightened. "My thanks."

"You're welcome big guy." Taking a final turn in the long hallway, the pair moved unchallenged through an open portal. And drew up short.

"I believe your presence is no longer required, O'Neill." High Councilor Astrid swayed unsteadily, her pint-sized androgynous form stood atop the raised dais that housed the ship's control panel. Highlighted by the transparent bulkhead directly behind her, she giggled drunkenly, sliding a smooth black tear-shaped crystal over the panel's symbol covered surface. "I bid you adieu and safe journey."

As his body was engulfed by the glowing light of the Asgard transportation field, Jack took a quick inventory of the stars visible just beyond the drunken councilor's gray-skinned head. "Crap!"

Somewhere within the brilliance Teal'c's deep baritone rumbled. "Indeed."


Tucking a last minute purchase into his back pocket, Rowdy bid the kindly merchant a good day. Stepping out onto the walkway, he was busy wrestling a sudden gust of wind for his hat when his cell phone rang. Fishing it from his pocket, he snapped it open, adjusting his cap. "Mortensen."

"Major? Mitchell here, where are you?" The colonel's tone was all business. "Our departure time has been moved up to 1700 hours."

"Not far, Colonel." Rowdy responded crisply. A nearby bank's digital clock glowed 3:45pm. "Shall I..."

Anticipating his next words, the colonel cut him off. "Negative, I've already secured transportation. Give me your position; I'll pick you up along the way."

"I'm approaching the intersection of Arlington and Peachtree." Rowdy relayed promptly.

"Well stay put." Mitchell instructed curtly. "We're only about two clicks from there."

"Understood, Colonel." Reaching the intersection, Rowdy stopped short. "I'm afraid I don't have my gear with me..."

"Not a problem, Major. I've already notified the airfield of your approximate dimensions, they've got a flight suit that should fit that towering frame of yours..." Mitchell replied in a wry tone. "And, where we're headed your regulation blues won't be of much use. Don't worry; I'm sure we can accommodate ya just fine."

"I'll await you on the northeast corner." Rowdy responded deliberately. Returning the cell to his pocket his apprehensive fingers encountered the smooth wood of O'Neill's talisman. It was time to see if he too, despite a good many tangles and knots, still remained true to center.