Title: The Alchemy of Bartering
Author: Karen T
Rating: K
Disclaimer:
The characters don't belong to me.
Classification: Humor, post-"Shades of Grey," teamfic.
Spoilers: "Shades of Grey"
Notes: Thanks to Michelle for laughing in the right places and smacking sense into me in others.

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Jack is a realist. Or at least he likes to think he is.

Jump to your feet while holding an open bottle of beer and you'll end up with a beer shower. Finish the last of the chips while watching a late-night zombie movie marathon and you'll be out of munchies the next time you can't sleep. Insult your co-workers while lying to them and you'll have to apologize profusely if you want to avoid being the butt of all interplanetary jokes during your next month's worth of offworld missions.

Jack knows this and has accepted this but is still worried about just how much he'll have to grovel to get back on his team members' good sides. Sure he apologized to each one individually, but he knows he's not off the hook yet.

So when he sees Daniel heading towards him, he inhales a deep breath and girds himself for another round of 'Watch Jack Apologize'.

"Hey, Daniel." Daniel looks up from the papers he'd been reading and Jack's smile wobbles slightly when he sees the glint of glee in his friend's eyes. "Whatcha doing?"

"Nothing much. Just catching up on some reading."

A whoosh of relief spreads through his body. Leave it to Daniel to get a hard-on from reading. "Listen, I just wanted to make sure we're ... good. All that stuff with Tollana and our chat at my house? It's all water under the bridge, right?"

"Oh, yeah, sure." Daniel nods and smiles. But then he separates a sheet of paper from the stack in his hands and passes it to Jack. "There have been three words I've been meaning to say to you, though. Blue Mountain Peaberry."

"What?" Jack peers at the sheet and makes out a bunch of text with an accompanying photo of coffee beans.

"Blue Mountain Peaberry," Daniel repeats, smirking. "The best Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans available for purchase. Eight one-pound bags should make me completely forget that nasty conversation we had at your house."

Jack stares at him in disbelief. "And if I refuse to buy you the beans?"

"Then our next mission should be a riot. For me at least." Daniel reaches out and pats Jack's back sympathetically.

"I can't believe you're holding our friendship hostage for coffee beans."

"But they're not your average coffee beans. They're--"

"Yeah, yeah. Blue Mountain Peaberry." Jack narrows his eyes. "I have to say, Daniel, this is an ugly side of you."

"No one ever said friendship is cheap. Or apologizing, for that matter."

"Carter would never stoop this low."

"Really? You've talked to her recently?"

Jack can feel the color draining from his face. "She wouldn't."

"Who wouldn't?" Ever the soldier with impeccable timing, Carter rounds a corner and stops beside Daniel.

"You," Daniel says, still smirking. Jack's never been so tempted to punch him before.

"And what wouldn't I do?"

"Well, Jack's been criticizing my completely reasonable request for those coffee beans I told you about yesterday."

Before Jack can come to his own defense, Carter turns toward him, her mouth forming an 'O' of shock. "Sir, do you really think this is the best time to be criticizing Daniel?"

"I wasn't criticizing Daniel," Jack snaps. "If anything, I was complimenting you."

"Really?" Her back draws a bit straighter as she beams. "What'd you say about me?"

"That you would never stoop as low as Daniel has with his beans. You'd never do that, right?" Jack is so sure of her response that it actually takes him several seconds to process her lack of confirmation. He shoots her a pointed look. "Right, Carter?"

Her cheeks begin to pink, but her smile never wavers as she reaches into her back pocket and pulls out a folded sheet of paper. Unfolding it, she hands it to him and says, "A medium should be perfect, sir. Thanks!"

Jack looks at the paper and sees a rather stylish black leather jacket. Then he almost chokes when he notices the price.

"Apologizing isn't cheap, right?" Jack asks through clenched teeth.

"And neither is friendship," Daniel chimes in.

"Let me guess," Jack says after counting to twenty so his blood pressure can drop. "Teal'c has a request of his own?"

"I do indeed," Teal'c announces as he approaches from the south end of the corridor.

Jack shakes his head at what he now knows has been an elaborate set-up.

Not even bothering to ask, he merely holds out a hand and waits until Teal'c has placed a sheet of paper into it. Upon reviewing the paper, Jack's relieved to see an image of candles. But, of course, the price is the kicker.

"Fifty-dollar candles?" Jack cries.

Teal'c shrugs and it's Daniel who offers an explanation. "A Jaffa has to kelnoreem in style."

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack sees Carter's hand fly up to her mouth to muffle her snickers. Heaving a sigh, he folds the requests four times and shoves them into his side pocket. "You know, my lying to you guys was all for the good of the SGC."

"We know," Carter says.

"And I only said what I did because I needed to make sure none of you would interfere and blow my cover."

Three heads bob in acknowledgement.

"And I'm not the only one who lied to you."

"Oh, we know," Daniel declares, his smirk growing exponentially larger.

Despite the unexpected bleeding of his finances, Jack smiles mischievously. "What're you hitting Hammond up for?"

"A full-time research assistant."

"A SuperVAR synchronous condenser."

"The VocoPro VSCTV karaoke machine with a thirteen-inch monitor and over two hundred songs."

Jack's eyebrows shoot up at Teal'c's request, but he decides it'd be best to let that one be, no questions asked. Puffing out his chest, he looks at each of his team members. "You learned all that from me, didn't you?"

"No one can negotiate like you can, Jack," Daniel says.

"It's good to have you back, sir," Carter adds.

Swelling with pride, Jack considers lying and insulting his friends more often.

Yep, he's a realist all right.

-the end-