Author: Karen T
Disclaimer: Not mine, any of them.
Classification: Post-"Affinity," implied Sam/Pete, Sam/Jack friendship
Spoilers: Everything up through "Affinity" (807).
Feedback: Much appreciated.
Notes: Oodles of thanks to my beta posse of Jojo, Julie, and Michelle.
Jack thinks he'd really like to kill Daniel.
It's actually the perfect opportunity. They're at a secluded location (his cabin in Minnesota), he has ample means (that tackle box sitting next to the fireplace has a large supply of Tritanium Plus, perfect for strangling a certain archaeologist), and, well, Daniel has it coming.
Unfortunately, they're at his cabin, and he suspects the local sheriff wouldn't have a hard time poking holes in his 'Daniel must have gone crazy and killed himself with my fish line!' defense. And then there's the whole matter of having to explain to the president how one of the very few people capable of reading Ancient is dead. Jack imagines that would do serious damage to his odds of being promoted again. Not that he cares all that much about that sort of thing, mind you. He just thinks a second star would be pretty cool.
But that's all beside the point. The point is that he thinks he'd really like to kill Daniel.
Even if it had begun innocently enough days earlier.
Jack had just finished his debrief with SG-1 about how their little visit to P4J-338 had almost led to them being eaten alive and burned at the stake (in that order), and had ultimately ended with Dr. Niesben inserting a pacemaker into the local chieftain of P4J-338. Carter had made a beeline for her lab so she could play -- and yes, it was play, despite her protests to the contrary -- with the doodad she'd found on P4J-338 before the natives had trapped her and decided they were hungry. Teal'c had excused himself to his private quarters, probably to contemplate a possible lifestyle change to vegetarianism. And Daniel had followed Jack back to his office, lingering in his doorway until Jack waved him in with an impatient "What?"
"I was thinking ..."
"Was this before or after you told the folks on 338 that you're high in cholesterol?"
Daniel blushed but then narrowed his eyes. "It confused them long enough for Sam to perform CPR on Chief Grieon and save his life, didn't it?"
"Sure, Danny. All part of the master plan, right?" Jack didn't even attempt to hide his smirk as he began scrawling his signature on the forms Walter had left on his desk.
"At least we didn't get eaten."
"Yes. Now that's something to put on your tombstone."
Daniel further narrowed his eyes until Jack had to wonder if the man could even see him any more. "Anyway," Daniel said pointedly, "I was thinking we should throw Sam an engagement party."
Jack stopped in the middle of signing his name -- right at the top of the hump on the 'N' in 'O'Neill', to be exact -- and watched a blob of ink bleed out from the tip of his pen. "Really?" he managed to ask nonchalantly while covering up the ink splotch with his left arm.
"It's customary for family and friends to do that. And with Jacob out of reach, that leaves ... us."
"Well, okay, I could ..." Jack tapped the capped end of his pen against his temple as he began to construct a mental list of items he'd need to buy. "I could heat up the grill this weekend while the gate's offline for maintenance, and you guys could come by, and we'll--"
"Uh, actually, Jack," Daniel stammered, "I was thinking of something a little more, um, formal."
The pen fell onto the desk with a thud. "Formal?"
"Yeah. You know, suits and ties for us and Pete. Sam could get all dressed up ..."
Daniel's eyes narrowed once more. "Yes, Jack, it's customary to invite the entire engagement couple to their engagement party."
Jack heaved an overly dramatic sigh and leaned back in his chair as he kicked his feet up onto the top of his desk. "Don't tell Carter this but I'm not really a huge fan of Pete."
"Because he has Sam?"
Jack's chair came precariously close to shooting out from underneath him. "Wh-what?" He scrambled to drop his feet back down to the floor, almost wrenching his left knee in the process. "No!" Now it was his turn to narrow his eyes. "I don't like Pete because he's Pete. That's it."
"Oh. Right." Daniel plopped down into one the chairs in front of Jack's desk. "Sam says Pete feels really bad about what happened with Osiris."
"As he should."
"Can't really blame him, though."
"Oh, trust me, it's not that hard."
"He meant well."
"He put Carter in danger. He put all of us in danger, especially himself. It was a reckless and stupid thing to do."
"Riiiight." Daniel peered at Jack over the tops of his glasses. "So, about this engagement party?"
Squeezing his eyes shut, Jack groaned at the thought of playing dress up and making nice with Pete. This only further cemented in his mind that one rarely ever receives good news when a general. "Do you really think Carter would want something formal?"
"Well, if not formal, then the party should at least be special. Certainly more special than another barbecue at your place."
"Hey! My barbecues are ... special."
Daniel lifted his eyebrows in what Jack knew was Daniel for 'You're hopeless'. "Sam's engaged. We should do something special." Daniel hesitated for a second before grinning and continuing on to say, "Unless there really is another reason why you don't want to throw Sam an engagement party ..."
That led to Jack ordering Daniel out of his office. And it had gotten his mind spinning.
Carter did deserve to be happy, and she did deserve a special party celebrating her happy engagement to Pete. So Jack came up with the perfect plan.
Unfortunately his perfect plan had led to this. This being Daniel asleep on the floor of his cabin bedroom, Sam holed up in the spare bedroom, Teal'c meditating in the living room, and him freezing his ass off on the deck while dreaming of elaborate ways to kill Daniel.
Yes, Daniel must die. That much Jack is positive of.
A thin wisp of condensation floats out of his mouth and twirls upwards as Jack exhales loudly. He shouldn't be doing this, he tells himself. Not now. It's not fair.
And yet, he is. Despite how he knows so much better, Jack can't stop himself from wondering if Daniel is right. And the thing is, Daniel is right. There is another reason why he dislikes Pete, and there is another reason why he was so hesitant to throw Carter an engagement party. And both of those 'other' reasons are why he ended up sacrificing the one weekend he'll probably have off until he retires to throw Carter and Pete a private fishing-in-Minnesota-where-the-fish-are-this-big engagement party.
His mind is nothing if not intricately convoluted.
And this is all Daniel's fault.
His toes are numb and he's beginning to lose feeling in them. This is ridiculous. He doesn't even remember why he ventured out onto the deck in the first place. (Well, truthfully, he does -- to avoid Carter and to berate himself in peace, for those keeping score --but he'd rather pretend he doesn't. Again, he has an intricate and convoluted mind.)
Jack doesn't begrudge Pete the fact that he's landed Carter. He doesn't. He doesn't. He's just ... sad, because marriage will mean things will definitely be different between him and Carter. Not that 'different' is necessarily a bad thing. Because it's not. After all, gate travel typifies how different can be good and lead to good things. But still, he's sad. And cold. And he should really go inside because as much as he doesn't ever want to explain to the president how Daniel died, he also doesn't want to explain to the president how he managed to come down with pneumonia while at his own cabin.
Rubbing his hands together to warm them, Jack decides he's going to sleep and will deal with his Carter 'problem' in the morning. And if he just happens to fall off his bed during the night, thereby smothering Daniel in the process, then so be it.
The warmth of the cabin hits him squarely in the face as he steps inside and eases the front door shut behind him. He can feel the heat coloring his cheeks and spies Teal'c still deep in meditation in front of the fireplace. Everything is rather calm and quiet. Everything, that is, except the pitter-pat he hears coming from his spare bedroom.
Creeping down the short hallway, Jack sees a dim sliver of light under Carter's door. Oh for-- He'd ordered her to bed at least an hour ago since they'd all have to be up early to get a jump on the fish. He'd ordered her.
"Carter!" Two loud raps on her door follow his bellow. Jack isn't that concerned about the noise he's making since he knows Teal'c won't mind and nothing can wake Daniel once he's had a couple of beers. "Didn't I tell you to get some sleep?"
"Sir! I was just--"
"Ah!" Jack holds up a hand at the closed door. "Sleep. Now, Colonel. Don't forget, the early bird gets the worm that gets the fish." He pauses, an eyebrow raised. "Or something."
There's soft laughter on the other side of the door, and Jack smiles. "Yes, sir," he hears between chuckles. "Good night."
He does a quick check around the cabin to make sure all windows are closed and no lights have been left on. And then he wonders if he'd cleared the beer bottles and paper plates off his deck from the dinner they'd thrown together earlier in the evening. The last thing he wants to wake up to is a hungry bear with a well-honed sense of smell.
Once again braving the frigid cold front that has descended upon Northern Minnesota -- oh, he's going to have so much fun forcing Daniel out to the lake in the morning -- Jack ventures outside and scans the deck. All clear. He shrugs, blows warm air onto his hands as he turns back towards the door, and walks right into a warm body.
He yelps. The warm body lets out a surprised "Eep!"
"Jesus, Carter." Jack clutches his chest and glowers at Carter as she steps out of the doorway's shadows.
"Sorry, sir. Thought you heard me come out."
"And I thought I'd told you to go to sleep."
"Yes. My father would be so proud of you."
She grins at her comment, but that only makes him deepen his glower. "Don't think I'm going to let you weasel your way out of fishing tomorrow if you say you're tired."
"Duly warned, sir."
"All right, so," he crosses his arms, "what are you doing out here?"
She stares at him before saying, "I wanted to thank you again for throwing me and Pete this party. And Pete wanted me to let you know, again, that he's really sorry he had to bail. He was looking forward to coming out here all week, but he's working on that case and ..." Her words trail off as she offers an unsettled smile.
That's when it occurs to Jack that she really wants him to like and approve of Pete.
"It's okay," he says. "If there's anything we understand, it's having to work overtime at a moment's notice, right?
Her smile tightens and compels Jack to admit, "I'm glad you still came even though Pete couldn't make it."
She looks surprised at this, slightly taken aback. "Well, I ..." She walks past him to sit on the top step of his deck. "I've always wanted to see your cabin. It's beautiful out here. I can see why you love coming here so much."
For one of the few times in his life, Jack is speechless. No sarcastic retorts. No witty repartee. He studies her hunched back -- she's wrapped her arms around her knees to keep warm -- before taking a seat next to her. He's not sure why he does this because they don't do this. They might have, once upon a time, if he thinks hard, but they haven't recently. Or semi-recently.
She's saved her heart-to-heart chats for either Daniel or Teal'c. And although he's never minded -- at least not a lot -- he now realizes he's missed them. Maybe he's even missed her.
"It's a ... nice ... place." He makes a face at his less than poetic response and is glad the dark is keeping his expression shrouded.
"Yes, it is."
"Yes ..." He makes another face and shoots a sidelong glance in her direction.
She appears serene as she stares out into the darkness in front of them. She's simply looking and ... sitting. There. With him. It feels good. Really good.
Out of habit, Jack locates the North Star up in the sky -- "Every man needs help being guided," his father had told him when he was a young boy -- and every now and again he hears Carter's sleeves rustle as she runs her hands up and down her arms. He thinks about what he could say, wonders if there's anything he should say, and then reflects on those hectic days leading up to his marriage with Sara.
She'd wanted the perfect wedding; he'd just cared about marrying her. But her enthusiasm had seeped into him and he recalls now how the anticipation had kept him warm for many nights.
"You excited?" he finally asks, shooting her another sidelong glance. "About the wedding?"
Carter's face lights up; he knows this despite the dark. "Yeah, I am." She stops, perhaps wondering if this is a conversation she really wants to have with him, then says, "I'm pretty freaked too."
He smiles, knowing how hard it is for her to admit when she's scared. "Want me to call in some favors and have a bunch of those super soldiers crash the ceremony? Would that make you feel better?"
Her laughter disrupts the calm. An owl hoots in a nearby tree. "Please don't tempt me, sir," she replies, still chuckling. He can tell she's somewhat serious, though.
His shoulder's touching Carter's, and with her face turned towards him like it currently is, he realizes that this is the closest they've been to each other in a while. He patiently waits for her to say more. He just knows she has more to say.
"I'm petrified," she eventually admits, "but also really excited. It's nice to be at a point in my life when I'm ready to make this jump, you know?"
"And it's pretty cool to have someone who's ready to make the jump at the same time I am." Her eyes are focused on him and he continues to sense their presence, even after he's turned his head away from her.
"Yeah, it ... is." His wedding to Sara feels very close now. The angle of Sara's neck when she'd thrown her head back and laughed at the way he kept stumbling over his vows. The coldness of her hand when he'd slid the gold band on her finger. The cheers that had showered down upon them as he'd wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close for their first kiss as a married couple. Jack has to swallow several times before saying, "That's very cool, Colonel."
"I guess timing's everything, isn't it?"
He flexes his fingers, curling the tips into his palms and then out again. Carter's eyes are still on him, burrowing holes into his skin while her question hangs ominously over him. He knows she's challenging him, and that pisses him off. What does she want from him? Does she want him to admit he's always had lousy timing? Does she want an apology for said lousy timing?
He's aware timing has never been his friend and that he could apologize for that, but ...
If there's one thing he's learned in his life, it's that you can't force something to happen. You can't manipulate time; you can only let things be. Plus, he's not all that sorry.
He cocks his head towards her and looks deep into her eyes. He hasn't done that for a really long time. She doesn't look away. "You've always had impeccable timing, Carter," he says, his voice even, his expression serious.
Something briefly flickers across her eyes -- shock? sadness? She blinks. "Thank you, sir." Her tone's different now, softer, maybe even relieved. Then she smiles. "I think."
Jack grins. Their shoulders are no longer touching and their requisite silence has returned, but he isn't bothered by either one. This is what he and Carter do, and maybe that's because it's what they need each other to do and it's what they do best.
Carter's clothes rustle again as she makes another attempt to warm herself. "You should get inside before you freeze, Colonel. There's no way in hell I'm telling your fiancé you died on my watch."
There's chuckling and then a warm hand pressing down on his shoulder as she rises to her feet. "Good night, sir."
The owl in the nearby tree -- or maybe it's one of his owl buddies -- hoots again. Jack relocates the North Star, uses it to make out the Little Dipper, and then drops his gaze down to find Ursa Major. He's feeling pretty warm.
"But your hands are frozen solid," he mumbles out loud before pushing off the step and heading back inside.
Teal'c has blown out all the candles he'd lit in the living room and appears to have crashed for the night on the couch. Carter's door is closed, this time without any light streaming out from the bottom.
Jack locks the front door, tiptoes to his room, and slips inside. A series of soft Daniel snores drift up from the floor.
All in all, his plan is turning out to be a pretty damn good one, Jack thinks as he disrobes and crawls into bed. He's with his friends, there will be fishing in the morning, and he's going to fall asleep tonight filled with that nice, familiar warmth.
He still thinks he'd really like to kill Daniel, though.