Plain Brown Wrapper
"Your move, Jack."
Jack sat up straighter in the chair, allowing the newspaper he was reading to crumple into an untidy pile in his lap as he glanced at the board. Across the table, Daniel pushed his glasses higher on his nose, smirking obviously as he crossed his arms over his chest.
"What are you grinning at?" Jack asked accusingly.
"Nothing. Nothing at all."
Jack moved a piece on the board and then looked up into his friend's smiling eyes.
"Don't be so cocky, Daniel!"
"You aren't even concentrating, Jack! You're reading the paper."
"Well, I didn't get a chance to read it this morning and I wanted to check the hockey scores."
"And you think I'm such a push-over…"
"Daniel." Warning clearly obvious in his tone, Jack reached up and removed his reading glasses as he locked onto Daniel's glare. "You said that, not me."
"Well, I'd think you pay more attention with these stakes…" Daniel let his voice trail away in a strongly suggestive manner, hoping to snag Jack's full attention.
"Yeah? What did you bring? Some ancient tablet from P9X…whatever?"
"No…actually…I brought this."
Daniel picked up the envelope that he'd casually dropped on the floor earlier and began to open it. Jack cocked his head to one side as he watched him, smiling slightly at Daniel's obvious excitement. Jack laid the paper down and waited patiently.
"Oh, wait! You first. What did you bring?"
Jack smiled and reached into his pocket.
His fingers grasped the cold stone in his pocket and then slid it clumsily across the table, evoking a shriek from his teammate.
"Jack! What the hell is that?" He reached out and picked it up, turning it over in his hand to examine it. "Oh my god! Where did you get this? Isn't this supposed to be at Area 51?"
"Not that I know of…it's been in my desk drawer for a while now."
"You can't bet this, Jack, it isn't yours."
Daniel filled his voice with all the authority he possessed as he pushed the stone gently back towards Jack, allowing his fingers to linger for just a moment over the ancient markings.
"Oh, come on, Daniel! Who else is going to use it? Who else would want it!"
"Besides, if I lose…it's going to be yours and you can do whatever you want with it. If you want it to go to 51…then send it to 51."
"I can't believe you stole…"
Jack cut him off, waving his finger in the air and shaking his head. "Ah, ah, aaa. I didn't steal it…I just…forgot to turn it in." Jack grinned devilishly and Daniel shook his head, knowing the argument was lost. "So…I showed you mine, now you show me yours."
Daniel grimaced but reached for the envelope again, the game practically forgotten the moment Jack had tossed the ancient communicator stone onto the table. Maybe that had been Jack's plan all along. He'd find something to distract Daniel away from the game; something he'd know Daniel would be extremely interested in…and the stone had certainly accomplished that but he had his own strategy in this game of chess.
With slow deliberation he pulled the contents from the envelope and cleared his throat when he realized Jack was again reading the paper.
"Oh, sorry, Danny! Let's see it!"
With his eyes locked on Jack, Daniel slowly turned the object towards him. For a few seconds there was absolutely no reaction but Daniel waited patiently; waited for the signals from Jack's eyes to untangle themselves and travel to his brain. It took a few more seconds before his mouth began to move like a fish gasping for air and Daniel couldn't help the slow smile that colored his features.
Jack lifted one hand and pointed. "Where did you…how did you?"
"Oh, I have my sources." He smiled.
"Give me that, Daniel! You can't wager that!"
Jack lunged at Daniel, grasping at the object but Daniel was quicker and pulled it neatly away.
"If you can wager a priceless, ancient artifact then I can wager this!"
Daniel watched Jack staring, mouth hanging open, at the picture of Sam, clothed only in an American flag. He wasn't sure that Jack was even breathing and he could see small beads of perspiration breaking out on his forehead.
"Daniel! That is extremely inappropriate! Where did you get that?!!!!"
Shocked at the image in Daniel's hands, Jack was nearly shouting as he stared at the expanse of bare skin highlighted by a tremendously bright smile. He tried to focus on that smile but his eyes kept slipping lower, to the flag she held clasped just above her barely covered breasts. He knew he should look away but his eyes betrayed him and he just continued to stare. Strong arms and creamy shoulders all beautifully bare led his eye to the tan lines that disappeared beneath the flag. His eyes lingered a moment at that apex before he realized he was staring at his second in command and quickly forced his gaze higher.
That maneuver was little help as he found himself spell bound by the twinkling blue eyes that stared back at him from beneath a shock of messy, blond hair. Her teeth biting down seductively into her bottom lip, accentuating the smile that adorned her lips and mesmerizing Jack as he searched for the perfect word to describe her expression.
Giggling? No, that's not it. Naughty? Definitely. That's it! But wait, Sam? In a naughty picture?' He quickly forced his gaze away from the photo and back to Daniel.
Daniel chuckled softly and slid the picture back into the envelope.
"Did you just say…inappropriate?" He chuckled again. "Maybe you should wipe the drool from you chin and try again!"
Jack blinked as if his brain had short circuited and suddenly realized he should try to regain some composure, the shock of seeing Sam in such a…a revealing persona totally destroying his well-practiced neutral demeanor. He could see the delight in Daniel's eyes and knew he'd be a long time living this one down. He craned his neck then cleared his throat and tried to relax into the chair, quickly reconstructing that "never let them see you sweat" attitude that he'd perfected over the years. When he spoke, his voice was cool and calculating; the formidable Colonel O'Neill back in charge.
"You're a dead man, Daniel. You know that, right? She'll kill you."
"She'll never know unless you tell her."
Jack tilted his head to one side and seemed to consider that statement while Daniel went back to studying the chess board.
"You gonna tell her, Jack?"
Jack didn't move; he was pretending to study the board while he avoided Daniel's laughing eyes. That was a rhetorical question; he didn't really expect an answer. Did he?'
"Your move, Daniel."
His slender fingers reached out to confidently move his chosen piece and then his eyes returned quickly to Jack.
"You know, Jack, it's a good thing you're not always this transparent."
"Shut up, Daniel."
"Well, of course…you couldn't actually do anything with it even if you win. Like you said…she'd kill you…me….um, both of us."
"You have no idea, Daniel. Is that the only copy?"
"Um, no…actually no."
Jack looked up completely startled.
"Are you telling me you made more of those things? Daniel…"
"Wait! Made? I didn't make them, Jack…I mean I didn't take the photo."
Jack settled his chess piece on the new square and let his hand fall away, staring at Daniel.
"No, of course not. I knew that! But you'd better destroy the others…computer manipulation or not…Carter will…"
"It's a real photo, Jack. I didn't alter it."
Daniel moved his knight in silent pursuit of Jack's queen before looking up again.
Jack blinked slowly trying to retain his grasp on reality. For just a moment he wondered if he was under some unknown alien influence…and Carter right along with him.
"Don't be ridiculous, Daniel, Carter would never…"
Each continued to play out their strategy as the game progressed amidst their disjointed conversation.
"Evidently, she would…um, she did."
"I don't…" Jack's voice trailed off as he pondered what Sam's motive had been…when and where that photo had been taken. A slight smile crossed his lips as the memory flashed through his mind and Daniel settled his pawn on a new battle line. "Although…it does have a certain…luminosity."
"Yeah, right!" Daniel exclaimed loudly while borrowing a generous dose of Jack's sarcasm. "Luminosity, my ass!"
Jack calmly moved his rook one square to the left and looked up at Daniel.
"What? Check? No…."
Daniel's thumbnail slipped automatically into his mouth as his eyes moved furiously across the board and confirmed Jack's proclamation. He studied his strategy and shook his head in confusion, intense concentration clearly evident on his face.
Now it was Jack's turn to chuckle.
"It's just a rock, Danny."
Daniel looked up at Jack, aggravated at the obvious implication in his voice.
"Well…it's just a photo…Jack. Besides, this strategy will work, it's a proven fact."
"You're right." Jack chuckled again.
"Shut up, Jack. Let me think."
Jack stood and moved towards the kitchen.
"Got any beer…while you're…thinking?"
"Yeah, help yourself."
Jack just shook his head. Daniel was lost now, completely immersed in the puzzle that Jack had so easily woven around him. Yep, that photo had been a master stroke but Daniel had waited too long; the battle had been lost before he created the diversion. Jack chuckled again, opened his beer and walked back to the table.
Ten minutes and two moves later, it was over.
"Damn!" Daniel expounded. "How do you do that?"
"Practice, Danny. Lots of practice." Jack lifted the rock and moved it closer to his side of the table then held out his hand.
"She will kill me, Jack. Seriously."
Jack nodded and accepted the envelope with a wide smile on his face.
Silently they began to put the game away, allowing it to rest until their next battle. When they were finished, Jack quietly pulled the photo from the envelope. He stopped part way and stared down at Sam's face. A small smile tickled his lips and turned into a lop-sided grin as Daniel watched.
"Hard to believe, huh?"
Jack simply raised his eyebrows and nodded.
"I guess I never had a chance of winning once you saw that." Daniel had spoken off-hand and looked up suddenly to check Jack's reaction. "Did I just say that out loud?"
"Well, it isn't as if it's a secret...well, not from me anyway."
Jack decided to ignore that remark completely.
"Daniel, just how did you get this?"
"Um…I copied it. Sam has the original."
"You better hope she never finds out."
"I'm not worried, I don't have it anymore…do I?"
A sudden startled expression spread across Jack's face like a tidal wave and he seemed to pale as Daniel watched.
"Hey! I'm not taking the blame for this!"
"But you do have it, don't you?"
And suddenly there was another voice in the room….
"Hi guys! Have what?" She was bubbling over with enthusiasm as she smiled at them with sparkling eyes.
She frowned slightly and then chuckled at his obvious nervousness.
"Have what?" She repeated.
"Carter! Um, yeah. We were just playing chess."
"Sir…usually that requires a chess board and those little pieces…you know?"
She was grinning broadly now, sure that she'd caught them up to something but having no idea what.
Daniel spoke quickly, his voice squeaky with discomfort. "We, um, just finished. Jack won…again."
"Well, he is a master at military strategy, Daniel but I'm sure you gave him a tough challenge." She paused and turned towards Jack. "So what was the bet this time?"
She asked the question with only casual interest but Jack and Daniel looked as if she'd suddenly ordered them in front of a firing squad. They both started fidgeting and stammering; increasing her slight frown at their reaction as well as her curiosity.
Jack glanced at Daniel, silently signaling what he wanted and it would have worked, too…with anyone other than a member of SG-1. Sam however, didn't miss a beat. She read the signal and locked onto Daniel who suddenly looked terribly guilty while trying to look totally innocent. Quickly her eyes returned to Jack, who was also looking extremely guilty.
The next few seconds was like a magical, silent ballet. They all stood their ground, silently watching the others, while Jack tried to work out the best resolution. Anyone walking into the room would have been immediately uncomfortable; they were almost frozen in place, waiting for that proverbial other shoe to drop, afraid to give anything away with their movements. Years of working together under very stressful situations had taught them volumes about hiding emotions…it had also taught them to read their teammates with shocking accuracy.
Jack didn't want to give up his winnings but he hadn't planned on Carter ever knowing about the game, much less the wager. If he moved one muscle towards that envelope lying so innocently on the table, she'd reach it before he could. He couldn't risk that, so…on to Plan B.
"Carter, you know what a thing Daniel has for his…rocks."
Daniel's mouth dropped open and Jack grinned. Not a good choice of words. Maybe he could still surprise them after all. They just might get out of this without Carter ever knowing. He just needed a diversion.
"And it was just a friendly game! What could it possibly hurt for Daniel to have one little rock over for a week-end visit?"
Carter's eyes widened only slightly as she glanced at the table and suddenly recognized the communicator, then her eyes slowly closed in disbelief.
Jack pounced. He leaned in and snatched up the envelope almost before her eyes were closed, taking note that Daniel was grasping for the communicator, right on queue. It was in both their best interests to divide her attention thus preventing that famous Carter mind from working out too many possible scenarios. Daniel was a smart guy; he didn't want to incur Carter's wrath any more than Jack; he'd figured that much out long before he'd obtained the photo.
Suddenly, her eyes were open and she was lunging at them, curiosity propelling her forward at an astonishing rate.
"Sir, I can't believe that you…"
Jack paused, the envelope firmly within his grasp while still trying to outwit Carter.
"Now, just hold your horses, Carter! We were going to take it back!" She glared at him skeptically and he called for back-up. "Weren't we, Daniel?"
Caught off guard, Daniel gave a perfect impression of a pre-occupied archeologist.
"What?" Looking admirably innocent. "Oh! Yes, yes of course!"
"Besides! He can't even operate it!" Jack added.
Carter stopped and turned in his direction, deliberately tilting her head and glaring at him rather sternly. Then she turned her piercing stare back on Daniel and noted with appreciation that he started to squirm. Her gaze drifted back and forth between them until both men had been properly chastised; all without a single word being spoken.
Then she silently held out one upturned palm to Daniel.
He took a hesitant step forward and placed the stone in her hand, opening his mouth to apologize once more.
She held up one pointed finger and Daniel went silent, dropping his head and obediently stepping back to his former position.
"Sir?" Sam questioned her nervous CO innocently.
"What?" He barked.
"A plain brown wrapper? I don't think Daniel is offering Playboy as his ante so what's in there? Did you two steal some ancient text or something?"
"Carter! There you go again! Now, think, Carter! Why would I want ancient text?"
Jack moved the envelope well out of her reach, almost completely behind his back and stared at her with a cool, questioning demeanor.
"Well, you've got me there, Sir." She muttered and glanced at Daniel. That guilty look was still there; overshadowing the innocent schoolboy look with which she was so familiar. "Then again, if it's so innocent…"
Jack squirmed slightly but quickly recovered, putting forth his most indignant expression.
"Look…Carter…it's just…oh, for cryin' out loud!"
She just stared back at him and waited.
"It's just guy stuff, all right? You don't need to see it. It's nothing…"
He almost made it; almost held his colonel's glare successfully throughout that sentence; was well on his way to convincing her but as he neared the end of his "working" defense his mind betrayed him as Carter smiled. It was exactly the same smile as in that photo; her eyes were slightly different and the clothing was definitely different but oh, that smile…and it was enough to give her the slightest glimmer. Jack literally saw the instant her super brain arrived at the solution and couldn't contain the minute groan that whispered past his lips.
Her head turned like a shot towards Daniel and accusing blue eyes flashed with the fire of betrayal. She sucked in a deep breath and Daniel unconsciously took a step backwards.
"How could you?" She wailed at Daniel.
He shook his head and his eyes scrunched up with concern at her distress.
"It's nothing, Sam, I promise!"
"You're not a good liar, Daniel but I'll deal with you later!"
Even though Jack heard her words, his brain was still wondering what exactly she was planning to do to Daniel but his instincts had automatically kicked in and he was already moving, as rapidly as his body would allow, towards Daniel's front door.
"Sir!" She yelled out as she too started moving. "Sir! Don't!"
Daniel's eyes had grown large with concern but he didn't have Jack's instincts and was still standing flat footed beside the table when Jack reached the door and flung it open. Sam was moving faster than Daniel could have imagined, gaining remarkable speed in the small space; suddenly Daniel realized that Jack didn't stand a chance. In desperation to help his quickly fleeing friend, Daniel yelled across the room.
"Sam! Sam! Stop!"
She didn't stop but she did turn slightly and tossed the communicator into the air. Now Daniel found his instincts. He leapt across the space, eyes riveted on the falling object, looking for all the world like a champion football player as his body transformed into a precision instrument, slimming out to his full length, arms extended, his will focused and literally flying through the air. For a few seconds.
Then he was falling, crashing against the couch and then the coffee table, the end table and finally the floor. There was a loud indistinguishable sound as he landed on the floor with enough force to knock him breathless. The lamp from the end table followed him to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces; his glasses slid erratically with each impact and finally skittered across the rug but when inertia at last gave way to gravity and he came to a full stop, the artifact was cradled safely in his hand.
He stared down at it for a moment, sighing in relief as he saw it intact and undamaged. Then he looked up and squinted toward the open door where Jack and Sam had disappeared. Slowly he moved to his feet to follow them.
He picked up his glasses, straightening them slightly against his face then stepped outside the door and turned his head to the side, towards the shouting voices that echoed across the lazy afternoon. He couldn't prevent the smile that followed.
Jack was running at full speed and Sam was in hot pursuit. She was shouting, mostly unintelligible things at him as he ran. Jack was dodging hedges, then leaping flower beds and groaning as he landed on unforgiving concrete. He was shouting, too; ordering Sam to stop…right now, Carter'…but of course, she was ignoring him.
Daniel leaned into the door frame and watched, knowing the end couldn't be too far away. Jack was good but Sam wouldn't give up and he suddenly found himself wishing for a video camera thinking he could use that footage for all kinds of interesting persuasion.
Jack turned to look over his shoulder, checking on Carter's progress and slammed into a parked car, his leg grinding against the bumper with a sickening thud. Then he was rolling, away from the car, away from Carter and reciting a string of expletives between clenched teeth. Daniel pushed off the door frame and started running towards them just in time to see Sam pounce on the downed colonel.
"Come on, guys! That's enough!" Daniel shouted at his friends. "You're gonna get hurt!"
Sam crashed into the colonel with a resounding thud and immediately began struggling with him; her legs wrapping around his as she settled her weight on his chest; arms reaching for the envelope that he held at arm's length.
"Give it to me, Sir, it isn't yours!"
Jack grabbed at her with his free hand and pushed against the ground, trying to unseat her from atop his body.
"I won it!" He yelled childishly. "It is mine!"
"No, it's not! Now give it to me!" Sam demanded.
"Jack! Sam! Stop it!" Daniel yelled as he approached, smiling slightly at the rapidly moving mass of arms and legs. They knew each other too well and were countering the other's moves almost before they thought of it. "Let's discuss this. We can find a solution!"
"It's mine, Daniel! That's the solution! And I want it back!" A strong arm grasped her waist and her air rushed out in a loud whoosh, making the rest of her words erratic. "…not…on…base. I'll…kick…your…"
"Ok, ok! I get it! You're going to kill me! Can we do it inside, please? Before the neighbors call the cops?"
He said it but he wasn't really worried. The few people who had gathered to watch were smiling, enjoying the show as Jack laughed aloud and held Sam at bay with one hand. Oh, he was struggling all right, she seemed to move every direction at once, but he wasn't really in danger of losing this battle even though she still sat astride him, holding him to the ground. Daniel knew he could topple her easily enough and gain the advantage…if he let go of the envelope.
Yeah, right!' he thought. not happening.' Suddenly Jack's voice broke through his reverie and he looked up.
"Daniel, grab her!"
Daniel hesitated, almost said no but then remembered he was responsible for Jack's predicament so he stepped forward and reached both arms around Sam, pinning her arms to her side. Jack immediately dropped the envelope behind his head and grabbed a thigh with each hand, fingers pressing down hard as he held her still.
Carter struggled for another moment then pressed her lips tightly together in anger.
"Dammit!" She spewed. "Let me go!"
"Not until you promise to behave!" Jack shouted in her face.
"Me?" She yelled again and Jack winched.
Daniel laughed softly at the picture; Jack was still in command even when flat on his back with a very pissed off Carter astride him.
"Come on, Sam." Daniel pleaded. "Time to stop!"
"I'm gonna kill you both!"
"No, you're not, Carter. What would Hammond say? How would you explain killing Daniel and me over a stupid envelope…you don't even know what's inside!"
Sam growled. Then she shook her shoulders, twisting with all her strength as she pushed her strong legs against the ground. Damn Daniel and his weight lifting!' She thought but no matter how hard she struggled, she couldn't seem to get free. In frustration, she opened her mouth and let go with an angry scream.
"Hey! Hey! What's going on here! Let her go!"
Three heads turned in unison toward the concerned stranger; three pairs of eyes wide in surprise.
Sam stared up at the man for a moment and then glanced down at Jack, her commanding officer. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself before speaking.
"It's all right." She said calmly.
"Are you sure? I mean, it looks…"
"We're sure!" All three answered and Sam smiled up at the man. "Really, it's ok. We're just…" She looked down at Jack and back again. "It's ok."
The man stood silently watching for a moment, trying to access the situation. Then he threw his hands into the air and chuckled.
"Ok, lady, if you say so."
"I do. Thanks!"
Then he was gone and the other spectators chuckled even more.
"Ok, Carter. Give it up or we are going to have to explain this to Hammond. Do you want that?"
"No, Sir." She spoke resignedly, relaxing against him. She stopped struggling and felt Daniel lighten his grasp; then Jack's hands released their pressure and all three went immobile.
"So, truce?" Jack eyed her cautiously and asked. "No more killing?"
She nodded. "Ok."
"Back off, Daniel." Jack smiled up at her and gently patted the thigh he'd just squeezed hard enough to bruise.
Daniel released her and stepped back, smiling at their behavior. She was still gonna kill them, he just knew it. He lowered his head and was rubbing one hand along the back of his neck when he heard someone calling his name.
"Jackson! Daniel! What the hell is going on?"
"Oh! Carl! Hi! Nothing…just…you know…goofy friends!"
Jack snorted watching Daniel approach his acquaintance and relaxed his defenses completely as he watched them chatting.
"Sir?" Jack turned back towards her, smiling and she returned the smile tenfold. "The envelope, Sir?"
"Yeah, I got it…now, get…"
Jack reached both hands behind his head to grasp the illusive object of their struggle and Carter suddenly leaned forward. Her hands dug into his sides and then his armpits, clawing against his skin…tickling him mercilessly.
Daniel spun to see them struggling again; Jack laughing almost hysterically while Sam vigorously tickled him. He chuckled then raised a hand to cover his grin.
"Married?" His friend questioned as he pointed to Sam and Jack.
"What? Uh, no!" Daniel responded, a bit surprised at the question.
"What are they fighting over?"
Daniel turned towards his friend, still chuckling. "Um, well…I guess you sort of…well, you had to be there."
His friend raised his eyebrows, nodded and looked back at the struggling pair. Jack was squirming like a two year old; trying to avoid Carter's tickling fingers but it looked as if he was enjoying it, too.
"You gonna stop them?"
Daniel watched a few more seconds.
"Naw! What's the point?"
Just as the words left his mouth, Jack finally grasped the envelope and brought it forward as Carter leaned closer, placing her feet flat against the ground. Jack squirmed beneath her, attempting to evade her attack and Carter snatched the envelope from his hands. In one move she was on her feet and standing a few feet away; folding the envelope and stuffing it victoriously inside her shirt.
Jack was motionless, his mouth hanging open in surprise, staring at her in disbelief.
"Hey! You cheated!"
"I don't know what you mean, Sir." She smiled back at him sweetly. "But like Daniel said...we should really stop now and…well, you know…the neighbors…General Hammond."
"Yeah, right, Carter!" Jack climbed to his feet and found himself staring at her chest, his prize lost beneath the cotton fabric of her tee shirt. "That's mine you know."
"Not today, Sir." She stated flatly, still grinning at him evilly. "Ok! Well, I really have to get going guys so…see you later."
"Carter!" Jack yelled after her as she turned and walked calmly away, even knowing she wouldn't stop. He just wanted to get in the last word. Then he turned to Daniel. "Did you see that?"
"Um, yeah. I did."
Daniel's friend chuckled, patted his shoulder and walked away shaking his head then Daniel moved to stand beside Jack. Arms crossed, head tilted slightly in thought as he watched Sam walk away.
"Damn!" Jack exclaimed.
Daniel turned to look at his friend and smiled at his obvious exasperation.
"Come on, Jack." And Daniel started to walk away, back towards his apartment.
"Daniel! Dammit, this isn't fair! I won that, you know I did! It was mine!"
"Yes, Jack, I know."
"Well, let's go have a beer while you calm down and if you're really nice…and Sam doesn't kill us…I'll print you another one."
"You'll what? Print another one…"
"Yeah…but this time you better make sure Sam doesn't find out!"
The End...until the next adventure.