Author's Note: Standard disclaimer. This had nothing to do with implant people - I didn't know they existed. Or that I'm probably one myself. Not pleased with that discovery.

Given the sexual nature of my injuries I can only assume this is revenge or a cult practicing human sacrifice. That last isn't a joke. And given they are trying to mirror things up here but what they are mirroring has nothing to do with me for the most part, either the people arranging this little soiree are complete bonkers or they are cultists. I'm trying to talk to the FBI but the mail is a little slow apparently.

However, given how completely and utterly my life in retrospect was scripted by the people around me, and they all had one trait that made them completely disfunctional, it's like I fell into some sort of personality training for FBI profilers with all the down moments and no ups except the odd compliment on my writing. Which actually makes me wonder if I was injured to create a gestalt that knew how to write so they could sell it. Aside from the fact these are people and might have agreed - which says bad things about my countries ethics, there were a few odd situations that actually seem aimed more at a man than a woman.

So I'm wondering if they were getting revenge on some guy and got me instead. Which also says bad things about my countries willingness to engage in vigilante atrocity. Not thrilled to find that out.

So...this seriously needs to be investigated by the BAU. Even if this cult does just make it look like they are cultists to lie about what they are selling on the black market.

(I've had 2 years to wonder about this and no answers and no way to get any)

But my name is in an anagram formed by the names of the two main characters of the X-Files. Given the situation, I doubt this is a good thing. Worried there is no gestalt. Just a bunch of people talking through the implant and all those years learning how to write were done to benefit someone else while they used me as some sort of physical punching bag. I will say this, if this is tied into Hollywood and you have some feminine star chamber going on down there punishing men for sexual assaults you think happened or can't prove - cool your jets and talk to the FBI.

Assuming they still exist.

Natalie

Title: Monkey Screaming : Silk and Chains

Author : SGCBearcub

Warnings : Profanity, graphic consensual sex

Pairings : implied Sam / Jack, Jon / Alex RST

Spoilers : Season Eight/Nine

Summary : Fixing what was broken was the easy part.

Author's Notes:

This story was originally posted as Monkey Shines at MiniOTP. It has undergone some editing and revision and is being re-posted. Although it can be read as a stand-alone story in a series, it was originally part of Monkey Screaming: Mirror Image (originally posted as Monkey Business).

Due to the nature of the relationship arc between Jon and Alexandra, Part 4(Hellbringers-not yet completed) WILL NOT be posted at Gateworld. Nor will any subsequent installments in the series should there be any. The entire series(as available) will be posted at: . as well as Heliopolis and

Disclaimer: Stargate and its characters belong to MGM. Also, I am not a mental health professional. All inaccuracies are purely my own invention and any opinions or perceived opinions herein should not be taken as fact about the field of psychology or psychiatry.

"You did what?"

Jon rubbed his palms nervously against his jeans and smiled at Alex brightly.

"I signed us up as flyer carriers. We start next week," he repeated, determinedly ignoring the varying expressions of shock being directed his way.

Daniel stared at the Life Skills textbook in his hand with dismay."I thought Harper approved us doing our job skills credits with the SGC."

Jon grimaced."He did. But Mckenzie and Warner are both concerned it's too close a connection, too soon. They think the SGC is too adaptable. They want us to have more of a history away from our other selves first."

"They have a point," Alex said quietly.

There was no response other than a grunt from Daniel. Jon knew his face was expressionless, but when he looked away from Alex, he saw Will watching him with sympathy. It had been hard on them all, adjusting. She had tried hard to forgive him, but in her eyes, he could see that she had not forgotten. It was a bitter reminder of his failed marriage, and it was made worse by the fact that this time, it really had been his fault. Not an accident. Not a miscalculation. He had known what he was doing.

Things had been...tense.

Jon looked at the Life Skills project brochure in his hand and his smile faded. He had won a partial victory. Won back Major Carter. Won back the right to be her commanding officer, even if that was not what he was anymore. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he had won back his soul. His team. The person he was when they looked at him and saw Colonel O'Niell. It was going to have to be enough.

He could not risk it again.

Jon had taken one look at the unfilled positions left in the Life Skills program and nearly had a heart-attack. He had been hoping for a video store job for Will, and maybe something at the University for Daniel. Nothing. Fry guy at Mcdonald's was still available. Carter...god, what a disaster in the making that would be. With her twitchy reflexes and current state of mind she needed something physically exhausting or mentally challenging. Otherwise Harper would be prescribing medication.

Or they would be bailing her out of jail.

He had stumbled over Mrs Martin while she tried to talk her sociopathic cat out of a tree. Fluffy and he had had an interesting chat, and after a hero's reward of a dozen really good chocolate chip cookies, he had clued into the fact that Mrs. Martin had spent the last fifteen minutes complaining about her flyer delivery people. Something about rose bushes.

Flyer routes.

Before he could reconsider, he walked into the largest distributor he could find and asked the manager if he could use four reliable delivery people. Jon dropped Jack's name as a reference and after the startled manager made a quick call to the SGC, he hired Jon on the spot.

Flyer routes were perfect for them. Forget the money, the independent nature of the work would keep them from suffering close contact with management and customers alike. The deliveries were on a deadline, but they would be free to work them into existing timetables rather that the other way around. All in all, a good thing for them. It was not until he watched them flip through the file folders and start hashing out a plan of attack that he admitted another reason.

SG-1.

They never blinked twice when they discovered their file folders stuffed with photocopies of road maps with transparent overlays showing elevations. They all had bikes, and Jon had used his own money to purchase two equipment trailers, the kind that bolted onto the rear wheel of the bike and were pulled along behind. Once the flyers were bundled into individual plastic bags, they could probably carry about a hundred and fifty each load. That would mean several trips back to whichever apartment was acting as command central, as well as careful coordination between all four bikes and riders, including due consideration for hills, one-way streets, and roads with no shoulders.

Within two hours, his kitchen wall looked like they were about to launch on Goa'uld occupied territory.

Which was fine with him.

If he was going to keep them, first he had to get them back.

Jon waited for his team to clear the room. Harper glanced at him, startled when he quietly shut the door behind them. He knew they would wait for him. He looked at Harper soberly and saw the man's curiosity shift cautiously. In a moment, a bland expression regarded him with pleasant interest.

Jon planted his feet and squared his shoulders in a manner Harper should have no difficulty recognizing. He did not bother with his normal 'I'm not challenging you, but you have rocks in your head, Sir' posture. Harper was not his superior officer and Jon damn well was challenging his authority. Harper straightened in his chair.

"Lay off Carter about the money, Harper. She's doing the best she can," Jon said bluntly.

Harper considered him thoughtfully, then steepled his fingers as he casually leaned back in his chair. Jon resisted the temptation to roll his eyes.

"All I did was suggest she try harder to control her budget," Harper said mildly.

Jon snorted."Asking Carter to try harder is like asking a bomb to blow up. It's redundant. And stupid. You do not want to be at ground zero when Carter runs out of reasonable options."

Jon yanked their Life Skills homework from his backpack and dropped the papers on the desk. The psychiatrist regarded them warily. They were copies of the weekly Money Management budgets the teachers wanted to see tracking what they did with the money they earned from their internship positions, and his team did not know he had kept them. Out of habit more than anything, Jon had taken over being their contact with the Life Skills project, and every Friday morning he got their reports and turned them in with his own. Last Friday, one item on Daniel's budget caught his eye and he had taken a closer look.

He supposed he should feel guilty.

From his expression, Harper obviously thought he was invading their privacy.

On the other hand, Harper had no idea what those budgets were really saying.

The clones had restricted their budgets to the income from their flyer routes, not wanting to draw attention to their pensions from the military. While the school had the information about their legal status as emancipated minors, expenses like rent and cable were none of their business. The school project called for the students to practice budgeting, so they had kept records of what they were doing with the income from the flyer routes.

It was a good idea. Students had been instructed to budget for one low, medium, and high ticket want or need. Income was allocated based on how the students wanted to "save" for their purchases. Every expense then had to be deducted against one of the three. There was no deducting random expenses like chocolate bars from the income first and then moving any remainder into the accounts. Every expenses meant that something else had to be sacrificed and by choosing which want or need to delay, the students were able to see immediately how small uncontrolled purchases delayed other purchases. Normally, Jon would have said it was a great idea. Wonderful. When it was used as a tool.

His team's records had become a documentation of deprivation.

Their primary needs were being purchased by their pensions. Uniformly, his team seemed to have adopted the idea that their flyer money was their "fun" money. The money they spent on luxuries and wants, rather than basic needs. Jon had discovered that what they chose to purchase as a luxury-and what they chose to sacrifice-more revealing than he thought they would ever have intended. On the other hand, why would the teachers have a clue what their choices said about them?

Will's wants were fairly simple. DVDs. Art sculpture. A big-screen TV. Whenever he had to choose, it was the art that was sacrificed. Will planned for the long-term, and a TV he could not buy for three years was as real to him as a DVD he could buy next week. Two things bothered Jon. The fact that Will had increasingly needed to dip into his flyer money to pay for his martial arts club fees, and the sudden DVD shopping spree.

From the timing, Jon suspected Will had been sandbagged by his December electric bill. They had known he was having a bit of difficulty, but he had not started changing his eating habits so they had shrugged it off. Jon was the only one who had seen the change on his high-ticket account from TV to a piece of Shona sculpture he must have discovered on the web. Everything else was sacrificed for weeks until suddenly the high-ticket account was back to being a big screen TV. Unlike before however, the amounts going in on a weekly basis were smaller, and Will had cleaned the pot. Taken every penny he had saved and gone shopping for every DVD he had denied himself over the previous months.

A small thing maybe, something every American took for granted. Sacrifice and patience sometimes meant only that. Denial. Deprivation. It was a basic change in his friend, this shift closer to understanding the desire for instant gratification. To understanding the greed of the consumer culture. It was a loss of Jaffa certainty and innocence that hurt because it was inevitable, and there was nothing Jon could do about it.

Except mourn.

Daniel had been harder to read. At first glance, Jon had thought his book-buying habits had simply spilled over onto the flyer route budget. Daniel buying books was nothing new. Then Jon had recognized the titles. Daniel's books fell into one of two categories: those he wanted and those he needed. Jack had signed off on enough lost or destroyed books over the years to recognize the difference. Daniel's high-ticket want was a rare book on Egyptology by Claire and Melburn Jackson. Disturbingly, it was consistently sacrificed for inexpensive but basic texts that any archaeologist usually possessed as a matter of course. Daniel should have been able to buy them from his military pension. The fact he was not doing so, meant he could not. When Daniel deducted ten dollars to buy half a pound of his favorite coffee, Jon had wanted to hit something.

When he saw Carter's list, he wanted to cry.

He traced a finger over one of her entries. His smile was sad, but his eyes, when he looked at Harper were bitter.

"Strawberries," Jon said carefully.

Harper frowned, confused.

Jon laughed shortly. "All that money on food and you never once noticed that she never buys strawberries. She can't justify the expense when she's barely meeting her protein requirements as it is. The point is, Carter loves strawberries. She eats them three times a day when they are in season. The commissary has to lay in extra supplies when she's not offworld and Spellman won't go near her lab for fear of going into anaphalactic shock."

Jon held up her flyer budget, pointing at the entry that showed she robbed her high-ticket item last week for a box of strawberries. Once. "One box,"Jon said. "One box in a six week period, and look where she stole the money from."

Harper looked at the neatly printed words "Indian Motorcycle" and frowned.

"We make two hundred dollars a month each, delivering flyers. Do you know what an Indian costs?" Jon asked quietly.

"Do you?"

Jon smiled tightly. "Too damn much."

Harper sighed. "Jon, I understand that things are difficult. That you can no longer buy the things you once owned. But these are just things."

Jon looked at him blankly, before replying softly,"No, they're not."

They were unacceptable sacrifices.

Will losing his certainties. Daniel giving up his only link to his parents. Carter giving up the closest thing to the freedom of flying since they had stripped her of her wings. Did Harper even know what she had had to do to join the Stargate program? Hammond had let it slip once and Jack had filled in the gaps by asking strategic questions here and there.

Jack had been intrigued when she had calmly mentioned flying an F-16. Those were no twin seaters. If you flew one of those babies, you had your hand on the stick. There had been rumors of women flying in the Gulf. Hell, he had met two of them. He had looked curiously at her file one night and been disturbed to find nothing in it. He had expected classified, especially considering the "no female pilots in the combat zone" rule. He had assumed she simply chose not to wear the awards to which she would have been entitled. That was not exactly new in his career path. Instead, he found that her file had been rewritten, the blandly damning fiction erasing her time in the Gulf more completely than any of his missions had ever been. No hint. No sign.

Definitely no medals or awards.

Without those awards, she could kiss good-bye any chance of getting into NASA as a pilot. She could not compete. Two months later she switched career tracks. Went in as a weapons systems officer on the strong reccomendation of what Jack realized must have been one hell of a guilty CO. The same bastard who had rewritten her mission profile.

Six months later, George Hammond went pushing for the Stargate project, and actively campaigned to have her transferred to Washington in order to help him prove viability. The Pentagon agreed, on one condition. She had to give up her active flight status. Jon felt a shiver work its way down his back as he considered what it must have been like to hear those words. Jack had wondered if the politicians had simply wanted her out of the combat zone in case a very photogenic young woman came back in a bodybag, or if there had been a darker agenda. Hammond had hinted that if she had refused, he had been so far out on a limb using her as leverage there could have been some nasty fallout for the Stargate program.

But to give up her wings...

There would be no going back. A voluntary was forever. There was no combat pilot alive who would ever think she had done it for duty and not lack of ability or courage. She had too few years in the seat.

The one thing Hammond had promised her, the only thing she asked, was that she go through the Gate with the first expedition. Then General West was assigned to the SGC and saw only a scientist using political favors to gain something she had not earned. From a military perspective, she had not been qualified. But the same reasoning that allowed Daniel to go should have applied in her case, and it had not.

Hammond had not said much about that other than the fact he had miscalculated badly. Looking back, Jack could see that Hammond must have spent his whole life preparing her for SG-1. Hell, Hammond was one of the officers instrumental in lobbying for women in the combat zone. He also would have been able to find Jack easily enough, his name had been on his confiscated tags. Then West refused to allow her through the Gate. Had in fact, ordered her to remain in Washington where she belonged.

Where she belonged. Good God.

True enough, without the Stargate program it was not as if there were many places for her to be Carter. The scientist part of her would have been bored silly as Special Ops. Stuck in a lab, the parts of her that made her a soldier, starved for proper training and experience, and combined with her IQ, could very easily have gotten tired of being surrounded by idiots. Carter had not been dangerously arrogant when he met her, just confident in her own abilities and frustrated by not being able to find an outlet to challenge her. Given another ten years, however, and more gross mismanagement by her superiors, and she could have been.

The rest was history. Jack went through and came back without Daniel. The project was shut down. Jon could not imagine even now, what it must have been like for Hammond, wondering if everything was still to come, or if he had screwed up somewhere and changed the future. Worse, Carter had given up. She had given in to her hurt and frustration and angry resentment and handed in her resignation. He was not even sure he blamed her. It boggled the mind that West had not seen the potential in her.

Then again, maybe he had.

Captain Carter had been a brilliant weapons officer with a slightly bent SpecOps fiance. She would have recognized the extra baggage Jack had taken with him, emotional and technological. Odds were high she would have found the "faulty switch" that had nearly cost 5000 innocent lives.

Forget suicide. The phrase that had reverberated in his nightmares was the more accurate. Mass murder. In his grief, he had allowed himself to come too close to doing the unforgivable. West had betrayed everything Jack believed in when he gave that order. Not because he had been protecting Earth, no. West had been protecting Earth's Stargate. Earth's wonderful new toy. As Daniel had pointed out, Jack would have been blowing up the wrong damn Gate.

Aside from her damage potential as a scientist and soldier, Carter also physically resembled his then-wife to an unnerving degree. Everything except the eyes. Carter had always looked at him with admiration and trust and respect instead of anger and disappointment and needs he could do nothing to fix. Captain Samantha Carter hit every button Colonel Jack O'Niell owned, and Jack had suspected West had known exactly how she might affect Jack's resolve.

Not that anyone could or would ever have explained any of this to Carter.

Hammond put his career on the line to convince her to stay. He had given her Jack's highly classified file, leaving out only the more personal details. Then he had made her a promise. Continue her research, time travel this time. Get the Gate working again and the next time it opened, he had the President's signature on a piece of paper promising she would go through under Jack's command.

Jack had not known whether to be stunned, honored, or humbled that she had said yes.

All three, Jon decided.

It HAD been an honor. He just had not known at the time that she had wanted his approval in specific. That her minor hero-worship and eager-beaver attitude had not been the normal reaction of any new SpecOps soldier, but belonged to someone who had already been burned by the very men who should have moved Hell on Earth to maximize the asset she represented. Jack had decided it was a very good thing he had not known any of this back in the early years.

Not that it would have changed a damn thing.

Those had been very good years.

Jon's eyes darkened abruptly, and guilt washed over him. So much for Plan B, he thought, self-loathing briefly strangling him. What he had done to Carter was bad enough, but what he had done to Daniel was almost worse. Carter was right. He had been tearing his team apart, and he had not even noticed. He had relied on their loyalty to forgive him. On her loyalty. But he had not anticipated Daniel's reaction. He should have. It had taken dying for Daniel to truly accept where he belonged and Jon had unintentionally taken that away from him. He truly had not expected Daniel to notice the difference in him.

He had a feeling he would forgive himself for Alex long before he forgave himself for Daniel.

She, at least, was equipped to fight back.

So...Plan B was dead, defunct, no longer in operation. The risk was still there, however. He could still lose them. He might have to accept that Alex would never see him the way he wanted her to see him. He could accept that. He would. But Ba'al could roast his guts for garters before he gave up anything else.

Time to look for Option Three.

"Are you insane?" Daniel asked politely.

Will stood on the ice and slush-covered excuse for a lawn and stared at the old farmhouse in silent contemplation. For the first time in months, Jon could not read a thing on that impassive face. Alex was doing a good guppy imitation. Her mouth kept opening, but nothing came out. Finally, she shook her head incredulously.

Jon dug mental heels in and prepared for the fight of his career. "Look guys, I know it looks bad. But most of this is just garbage."

"Literally," Daniel muttered. "About forty years worth."

Jon gave him points for being close. The original farmhouse had been replaced by the commune that had purchased the property after the first World War. At least, the group would have been called a commune in the Sixties. Back then it had been labeled an experiment in Utopian social engineering. Patterson had bought the place in the Fifties, and Jon did not think he had been to the dump since. Most of the rooms were down to a single narrow pathway threading through groaning piles of junk and trash.

"Sergeant Patterson inherited from his father. The guy was a mean drunk so Patterson has no fond memories of this place. Unfortunately, the IRS is assessing at three times what the real estate agent thinks he can get for it-and that's if he can sell it in this condition," Jon explained.

The looks on the faces around him summed up that possibility quite nicely. Or badly in this case, for Patterson. The place was on the wrong side of Colorado Springs to be attractive to the military crowd, it was on a rural access road without a bus route, and the place was a serious fixer-upper.

Which was exactly what Jon wanted.

Alex ticked the negative points off on her fingers one by one. "No water, no electric, no plumbing, god knows what shape the roof and walls are in, I can see five windows covered by black garbage bags, and the rats are renting by the hour."

"Mice."

"Whatever," she said sourly.

Jon acknowledged her points with a nod, then marshaled his counter-arguments. "The roof is good. Remember that storm a few years back? Patterson was low-income. He got a grant to help rebuild since he also ran his business from here. Half the walls need to be gutted, but we'd have to do that anyway to redo the wiring and put in the bathrooms. The floors actually seem to be in good shape. The basement is mostly a dirt floor cellar, but it has good airflow and I didn't see any evidence of flooding."

"What about the rest of the house?" Daniel asked, pointing to the tar papered walls.

Jon had to admit, they looked bad.

"He got tired of painting. Patterson said his father planned to put up siding but could never afford to finish the job. So the outer walls are good under there. The porch needs to be replaced, and a few of the windows, but that's about it."

Alex studied the house incredulously,"You actually think buying this money pit will save us money?"

Jon held his hands out,palms up. "The mortgage and property taxes will be a third what we're paying in combined rent. And what we'll save not having four separate cable/Internet and phone accounts will offset anything extra we would pay in electric over what we're all paying now. We're wasting money living like we are and look at what it's getting us. No space, no privacy, living in the cheapest parts of town."

"So why don't we look at buying a house closer to the school?" Alex asked reasonably.

Hot damn, she was considering it.

"Because they're too expensive. And it's not just the house, Carter. Look..."

He grabbed her arm and dragged her past the first barn. Daniel and Will followed curiously. They rounded the second barn and stared in confusion at the point he was indicating. He grinned as he carefully moved some of the waist high weeds and stepped down. It was not until Alex leaned over and moved more weeds, that they realized the glass they had thought was just another pile of half-buried junk, was actually the roof of a pit greenhouse.

Jon emerged, coughing slightly, and proudly deposited a large clay pot in Alex's arms.

"We could turn this into a year-round greenhouse! You could grow strawberries," he said temptingly. He swept his hand out past the barn, "There's 183 acres of land out there. Forty of it is hayfield and the farmer who leases it pays for it in hay bales. Enough that we could keep a couple cows if we wanted, maybe a milk cow and a beef one. Those fifteen acres over there used to be a farm market garden. We could put a hell of a dent in our food bills with a little effort."

Daniel looked blank,"You want us to become farmers?"

Jon snorted,"Hell no, but Carter and Will's protein needs alone are twice what you and I pay for our entire grocery bills. I'm not saying this would be easy. But we're cash poor and what we are spending isn't buying us anything we want. I don't know about the rest of you, but I couldn't afford to put gas in a car right now let alone insure one. I'd kinda like to start driving again before I'm twenty."

Will raised his eyebrows slightly at the vehemence in Jon's voice, but both Alex and Daniel looked wistful.

"We'll need a car, to live here," Alex pointed out.

No one disagreed.

They could bike to school from the farm, barely. It would be tough on Carter, adding that much extra cardio work on top of her training schedule-and they were just coming into Spring Training. Jon figured she'd have to sacrifice her morning run to do it. But it would be impossible to deliver the flyers and catalogues from this location. It was just too far outside of town. Until they had a vehicle, something would have to be arranged.

Daniel looked thoughtful."The mortgage is cheap enough. I suppose even if we had to sink a couple hundred into repairs every month, we'd have enough to pay for gas and insurance on a car."

Jon's grinned smugly. He led them back to the first barn, the one nearest the house. Hauling open a door at one end he pointed at a battered old truck.

"It comes with," he said.

Then his smile widened and he swung open the inside door and they stepped cautiously through. Alex gasped as she stared at the oil covered equipment lying carelessly on several battered benches. Some of it might be beyond repair, but even from where she was standing, the welding equipment looked to be in decent shape. Alex sucked in a breath as she realized the reason there were so many dead cars lying out in the fields.

"He was an auto mechanic," Jon told them. "Patterson said anything on the property goes with the property. That includes the contents of the house and outbuildings. I doubt there's much of value in the house, but think we can piece together a working vehicle or two?"

From the look in Alex's eyes, she wanted to go treasure hunting right then and there.

Jon looked at his team seriously. "We need space guys. Our own space. There's enough room here for all of us to have privacy. Carter can blow stuff up without getting arrested. Daniel-you can put up all the bookshelves you want, and Will, there's another barn over there that's the perfect size for training."

Will had yet to say anything and Jon was beginning to worry he hated the idea. The Jaffa cocked an eyebrow."Did not Sergeant Patterson's wife recently have a baby?"

Jon grimaced." Twins. And the estate taxes on this place are due."

"How much?" Daniel asked.

Jon shifted, then said slowly,"He's asking a lot less than it's worth because of the taxes. He needs to sell. But I was thinking we could offer what he could get if this place were cleaned up a bit more. Something fair. He needs thirteen for the taxes. If we give him fifteen thousand for a down payment, that still leaves us $5000 for unexpected expenses."

"Like wiring?" Daniel asked wryly.

Jon was a bit surprised no one called him on the obvious source of that down payment. When the clones had started their new lives, each of their SG-1 "parents" had handed them a check for $5000. There had been no stipulations placed on the money although the expected use had been university or cars. By unanimous vote, they had each agreed that the money was best held as emergency funds in case they ever needed to disappear. Or something.

This was something.

Alex snorted, then looked thoughtful."Actually, I don't think it will be that difficult to rewire. Especially with the walls coming down anyway. The expensive part is the fuse box and we might be able to get one at a salvage yard for a good price. Same with the windows."

Jon hesitated."So you're on board with offering him more than the asking?"

Daniel eyed the house doubtfully,"He's holding the mortgage right? At short-term rates?"

Jon nodded."Yeah. He owns the place free and clear except for the taxes."

Alex shrugged. "Win-win as far as I can see. He gets a fair price and a monthly income, we get a mortgage. Personally, I'm happy enough not to have to try approaching a bank."

Even Will looked appalled at that thought.

The Jaffa inclined his head slightly. "With young children and his responsibilities at the SGC, it would be quite impossible for Sergeant Patterson to do the work necessary to achieve an appropriate selling price. I, for one, would be pleased to assist in making sure he does not suffer for doing his duty as a warrior of Earth."

Jon looked back at his team and found them watching him, a slightly scared, slightly excited look beginning to grow in their eyes. He almost closed his with relief, clamping down tightly on the spiralling hope beginning to sing through him.

It was going to work.

Daniel and Alex stared at each other in disbelief, as if shocked at what they had just agreed to do. Then Daniel muttered something about making a list and headed for the front door. Alex followed him, looking dazed. Will placed his hands behind his back and regarded his retreating friends with a slight smile. He looked around the overgrown yard, taking in the dilapidated house, barns and various outbuildings.

"This will require much work, O'Niell."

Jon smiled, content."Yep."

"I also do not believe that the care and feeding of domesticated bovines to be enjoyable in the wintertime."

Jon blinked, then laughed. "Maybe we'll start with the garden and work our way up."

Will smiled softly after a brief silence. "This is a wise idea, my friend."

Jon felt something deep inside settle into a place. A part of himself he did not even realize had been missing, but now that it was found, left him with something to look forward to, instead of something to mourn. Jon laughed again for the sheer joy of being able to do so, truly, for the first time in months. He saw an answering excitement in Will's eyes when he turned to look at him.

"Tell me that again if the bathroom isn't ready by November." Jon told him.

"Where are my socks?"

Jon looked at him incredulously. "How the hell would I know?"

"You packed them, didn't you?" Daniel asked, resigned.

Jon looked affronted. "I did not. Check your backpack."

Manfully refraining from pointing out that this was the first place he would have looked, Daniel made his through the cardboard jungle and camping gear that had taken over Jon's apartment. Where in the hell had all this stuff come from? For the love of all that was holy, they were broke. His books and Will's DVD collection, as well as the few pieces of furniture they owned had already been stored in Alex's apartment. How had they acquired all this stuff?

The last month had been insanity personified. They had taken ownership on April 1. Handed over the better part of twenty-thousand dollars and signed on the dotted line. Jon's lease wasn't up until the end of May, so Daniel and Will had given their notice for the end of April and moved in with him. Truthfully, it was the only way they could comfortably afford to pay the rent on Alex's apartment without dipping into their last $5000. Her lease was not up until November, and they figured they could use it as Command Central for their flyer routes at least until Alex got one of the vehicles working and Jon was legal to drive. It also gave Alex a place to stay when football season started and biking back and forth on the same day became impractical.

Personally, Daniel thought it a bit unfair that the military had not given them all November birthdays. He had to wait until next April before he could drive. Jon just grinned smugly whenever he complained and Daniel had seriously considered hiding his Gameboy.

"You may borrow a pair of mine, Daniel," Will said calmly.

Daniel still heard a "Jackson" on the end of those sorts of sentences. Will had tried to use his chosen last name, Igashu, but it had never felt comfortable for either of them. Not to mention people looked at them funny. So, Will got to practice using just Daniel. He figured he might get used to it. In five years or so.

Pulling on the proffered pair of socks, Daniel went down a mental checklist. He knew Jon had done it already, but he could not help it. It came from being shuffled around as a child. Anything left behind was lost forever.

"Did you remember to get ice?" he asked abruptly.

"Yes, Daniel."

"What about fuel for the lanterns?"

"Yes, Daniel."

"What about..."

"Daniel!" Jon barked,"We have everything."

Daniel slumped onto the sofa. "Just ignore me. I'll be sane again tomorrow." He untied and retied his boots, then said with a sigh,"I hate moving."

Jon blinked."Who's moving? We're just changing locations."

Will raised an eyebrow at this blatant absurdity, then smiled slightly. "Do not the Tau'ri have a saying, 'Home is where the heart is'?"

Daniel groaned,"If you've overdosed on Hallmark cards, yes."

Will shrugged. "Then O'Neill is correct. We are not moving."

Daniel was about to explain that phobias were not logical, when he realized that there was nothing logical about that sentence, and-go figure-he actually felt better. Strange but true. Then again, his friends had a point. All those years ago, every time he moved, he lost something or somebody. Even when he had Ascended he had left something precious behind. It had taken him almost a year of linear time to see that. The commercials were right. Home was where the heart was. Which meant he wasn't moving.

He was changing locations.

"You got the pizza money? Alex promised this kid gas money and pizza," Jon asked.

"Tim," Daniel corrected reflexively.

"What?"

"The kid. His name is Tim."

Jon raised both eyebrows,"He has a truck. Do I need to know more?"

"He is greatly enamored of Alexandra," Will said smoothly.

Daniel coughed slightly to hide a snicker as Jon jerked upright and stared at Will suspiciously. Gods, he was so easy sometimes.

Jon sniffed disdainfully,"She's not into younger men."

Daniel plastered a thoughtful look on his face."I don't know. He's got a truck. You know it's always the vehicles that impress the babes."

Jon widened his eyes."I am so telling Carter you called her a babe."

"Will not."

"Will too."

"Will not."

"Will what?" an amused feminine voice asked from the doorway.

"Daniel thinks you're a babe," Jon answered promptly, with an unhealthy disregard for the seventeen-year-old hunka testosterone and football fury looming just behind Alex.

"That's not what I..." Daniel started to say, stopping when he realized what he would say if he finished that sentence. He glared at Jon who was calmly picking up a box of camping gear and moving toward the front door. Daniel narrowed his eyes and considered upgrading to Gameboy assassination.

"Do you all live here together?" Tim asked curiously, eyeing the postage stamp-sized apartment.

Ah jeez. Too easy.

Daniel smiled slowly. "No, not at all. I was just here for the month while we were getting everything arranged for the move," he said, carefully neglecting to mention that Will had also been a recent addition.

Alex stared at him with astonished eyes. He ignored her and watched with satisfaction as Tim's eyes flicked from Jon to Will, added two plus two and came up with five. Tim's eyes flicked to Alex and the kid relaxed. Well, keep the man with the keys happy, Daniel supposed. How the hell had THAT rumour started, anyway? Alex had fallen over laughing when she figured out why half the football players kept eyeing Jon guardedly whenever he came out to the field. Then she had sworn Daniel to secrecy.

Yep, revenge was sweet.

Now where the hell were his socks?

Alex shifted the box on her lap and leaned forward to get a good look at the farmhouse as it came into view.

God, what a mess.

She chuckled as she considered the insanity of this plan. On the other hand...

Her eyes shifted to a large lump safely hidden under a dirty canvas tarp she had dug out of the second barn. She had found it last week, snooping on her own time, and none of the guys had seen it yet. To be honest, she was beginning to think there was a lot more hidden under all this grime than they had first thought. However, Jon had been right. It was not only about the money. They were buying back their souls. She had been determined not to say anything, not to give him a reason to feel guilty, but the grinding poverty of their situation had been killing her. Without the resources of the SGC, she had lost her lab, her free work-out facilities, and access to the commissary.

She had taken so much for granted.

Not that she had not earned it. She had. But she had never really known what it meant to be poor before, not even as a kid. Her Dad had never been rich, but they had been comfortable. Oddly enough, she had always thought she did not care about money. However, not having it sure as hell made it difficult to do the things one loved to do.

Especially when what she loved were fast cars and high explosives.

The military so owned her ass. There was not a doubt in her mind where she was going. With or without a war with the Goa'uld, she was going through that Stargate again. It had been driven home with a trinium stake that she belonged there, body and soul. Just not yet. She could wait, she realized. Time was no longer an issue and she thought maybe she was beginning to feel...normal.

Well, as normal as any fifteen-year-old could be whose ex-CO had coaxed her into buying a quarter-share of a rundown mice factory by dangling the lure of strawberries and exploding objects.

Will eyed Alexandra as she dropped her end of the tent and bolted for the dirty mound sitting in front of the nearest barn. He tilted his head and wondered when she had had time to move the object. Then he frowned and he wondered how she had moved it.

"Don't touch it."

Will turned to look at his friend with concealed amusement. Jon's eyes were gleaming with much-missed laughter as he waggled his fingers in Will's direction.

"She threatened to break 'em if we so much as peeked. Says she doesn't want us breathing on it."

Daniel trudged up and lowered the box of lanterns carefully."Ten bucks says it's a car."

Jon nodded sagely. "Yes, but what kind of car? And will it run anytime this century?"

Will eyed the woman patting the tarp lovingly and carefully testing the ropes holding the canvas to the car underneath. "Alexandra was most insistent that we needed a car that would be inexpensive to operate."

Daniel sighed."Ten bucks says its a Tempo."

Jon looked at him disdainfully."Please. The woman drives Volvos."

"Too big to be a hatchback," Daniel pointed out.

"You know she's gonna put a chain on that barn door, don't you?" Jon said mournfully. "Five seconds after it's cleaned out."

Will tilted his head. "Perhaps we could offer to help."

Daniel looked scandalized. "Are you joking. She thinks it's fun to take those things apart."

Jon nodded a solemn affirmation. "Piece by agonizing piece."

Will smiled."Did you not spend much time repairing the vehicle of Michael and Jennie while we were in 1969, O'Neill?"

Jon looked appalled. "Fix, yes. Carter rebuilds. Whole other level of obsessiveness." He shuddered dramatically to illustrate the point.

"Then perhaps we should not disturb her," Will said pointedly.

Jon muttered something that sounded like "not bloody likely" then he hollered,"Carter! Get your ass over here. You can commune after the tents are up."

Alex jerked her head up, eyes refocusing on the problem at hand. Giving the lump one last pat she trotted over to help Daniel unroll one tent while Will and Jon went back for the second. By the time most of the gear was unloaded, the first tent was up. Tim munched on a slice of cold pizza and gazed wistfully at Alex as she puttered about filling lanterns and finding a safe place for the camp fuel.

"Hey Jon!" Daniel yelled, waving a cell phone in the air. "Patterson wants to know if we are still planning to start the big clean-up tomorrow. Says he needs to drop off some papers."

Jon stepped away from the campfire he was building. Stretching out his back muscles, he took the phone. Alex handed Will a can of pop and sat down in the lawn chair beside him. Tim politely excused himself and went home. Will took the quiet moments to study his friends. He was relieved to see a weary but contented expression on Alexandra's face as she watched the fire slowly gather strength. These last few months had been difficult. He was pleased that O'Neill had finally backed away from his disastrous attempts to force a change in his relationship with her. Will understood his desperation, but he could not condone it.

His eyes drifted to Daniel lazily leaning back in his lawn chair and staring at the sky.

There had been more than one casualty in that battle.

He mourned the fact O'Neill now thought what he wanted was out of reach. Truthfully, he suspected his brother still did not understand how important he was to Alexandra. Will had wondered if he had erred by not speaking sooner. For a while, he had feared they would destroy each other. Although rare, such was not unknown among Master and Cha'loa'tek who had not yet accepted the truth of their bond to each other. Stories of bitter betrayal and loss were great tragedies among the Jaffa.

It was not common for Master and Cha'loa'tek to seek to become lovers. Of personal experience, he had met none, nor heard of any such among the ranks of the Jaffa of Apophis. He had floundered with the unfamiliar, not certain if this was something he understood, or was something of the Tau'ri. He had seen what Jon was doing-and the result-but he had not understood the why. In the end, he had trusted to the honor of his friend, and the heart his brother hid with such poor disguise.

This project that O'Neill had discovered for them was a very good thing.

He himself had regretted the loss of the training facilities of the SGC, and the chance to spar and train with warriors of a similar skill level. He had also discovered a contradictory loss of the privacy that came with not having to watch everything he said and everything he did. While he had not regretted the loss of things, even he, whose needs were few, had found himself budgetting carefully.

Better still, was to have an objective once more.

Always there had been the war against the Goa'uld. Yet, in this life, they could do so little to assist in that battle. Training was difficult, and the realities of their unknown futures meant that they had been marking time waiting for something to happen. Now, they were building something. Perhaps it was only a house, and perhaps it would not shelter them for all that many years, but it was solid and tangible. It gave them the chance to regain something of what they were, and, in so doing, would allow them to train for the future as an outgrowth of who they were, rather than as a pointless end in and of itself.

It was a great gift, this new mission.

One he would not squander.

Jon listened as his friends settled into sleep, breath smoothing out and deepening. It had been a good day. Canvas tents were not the norm on SGC missions, and they never used cots or Coleman lanterns. Nevertheless, this felt familiar. Painfully and wonderfully familiar, and he sometimes forgot how much he lived for this. It was not just the uncertainty or the mystery. It was this, being with his team and wanting to see what would happen tomorrow. See what strange twists the universe could come up with and how SG-1 would bite back.

It was...fun.

Essential.

Jon smiled as he relaxed. Option Three.

Worked every time.