Title: Collateral Damage

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: K+

Summary: SG-1, CSI. An old friend confronts Jack while he's out recruiting for the program. 900 words.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Spoilers: Vaguely post-season 5 for CSI and post-season 8 for SG-1.

Notes: For izhilzha, who requested "SG-1/CSI, Jack & Catherine, a not-so-chance meeting."

She leaned back against his car as he approached, arms crossed over her chest and defiance snapping in her eyes. Her disdain was as obvious as her aggressively displayed cleavage; if it weren't for the increasing thickness around his own waistline, evidence of life finally catching up to him since he'd been shuffled into a desk job, he might have thought he'd somehow been thrown back in time. (Not that accidental timetravel would be much of a surprise, all things considered).

"Catherine," he said, nodding solemnly as he came to a halt just out of arm's reach. He tugged off his sunglasses and folded them away in a pocket, then squinted at her against the setting sun. "To what do I owe the honor?"

She tossed her head a little, red-gold hair flaming in the dying sunlight as it fell back over her shoulder, and resettled her stance. "I don't know. Why don't you tell me, Jack?" she parried, uncrossing her arms enough to reveal a sheet of paper half-crumpled in one hand. It wasn't close enough for him to read what it said, but then again, he didn't need to; the seal at the top of the page made things clear enough.

He winced. "We're not going to keep him, Catherine," he said, raising his hands placatingly and adopting his best wheedling tone. "We just want to borrow him for a little while. We'll return him good as new afterward, I swear."

"Uh-huh," she said, eyebrows raised in disbelief. "And that's why you didn't pick any of the perfectly qualified techs who do DNA work in federal crime labs-- you picked the young, single, male CSI in my department who's been doing field work the last few years. Spare me the platitudes. You and I both know Janet didn't die in any kind of accident or training mishap; my cousin was a medical doctor based out of Colorado and she still got killed doing whatever it is you're up to. No way are you stealing any of my guys and getting them involved, too."

"I think that's his decision to make and not yours, Catherine," Jack replied, kicking himself silently for not realizing just where the kid worked when he made the recommendation to put him on the shortlist. She must've spotted the letter at some point and xeroxed it. "Do you know what the penalties are for interfering with the U.S. Mail?" he asked, only half jokingly.

"Can it, Jack," she said, unimpressed by the implied threat. "Why? Why Greg? We've gone through hell the last few years to keep our team together, and he's an integral part of it. I know you know what that's like; Janet talked about your team often enough, even if she'd never tell me what it was you did out there."

Why? he thought, wryly. Because they needed gifted scientists who wouldn't freeze if they ran into armed aliens, of course. She worked in Vegas; she ought to be able to suspend her sense of disbelief more than most people-- but unfortunately, she didn't have the clearance to be told. The powers that were might agree to spill the beans to Grissom if he signed a new confidentiality agreement-- the man had done some quiet consulting in the past, and the SGC would be eager to have a specialist of his caliber available for certain kinds of emergencies-- but not his subordinates.

"Your lab is the second best in the country, and your friend comes highly recommended," Jack said aloud, hands in his pockets. "We have a short-term need for people with his skills; when the project is over he'd be free to return. That's all there is to it. We aren't looking for cannon fodder or targeting your lab on purpose-- and if he decides to say no, we won't push. I sympathize with your losses, Catherine-- believe me, I do-- but this could be the opportunity of a lifetime for him."

"Like it was for Janet?" Catherine asked, bitterly.

Jack sighed. "I miss her too, you know," he said, then smiled a little, crookedly. "You should have kept in touch; Sam says Cassie asks about you sometimes."

Catherine snorted. "Don't give me that. And don't act like you regret it, either. Cassie writes me herself-- and I heard all about that CIA girlfriend of yours."

"Ex-girlfriend," Jack said automatically, then waved the argument away. Not that Catherine was wrong about the lack of regret-- he'd dated her a few times back then at Janet's urging, but their lives and concerns were so far apart, there'd never been any real potential for more. Still, they'd had fun, and he hated to see anyone so hurt by the program he'd died and lived for all these years.

"Look, Catherine..." he began again, hesitantly, not quite knowing what else to say to her.

She stared at him a moment, then shook her head and pushed away from the car. "Oh, just forget it," she said, roughly. "I know I should have called sooner-- and I shouldn't have come out here to confront you over this. I just..." she sighed. "I just..."

"I know," he replied, sympathetically.

She strode away, head high, refusing to look back.

Jack wished, very briefly, for the clarity of a field command and a P-90 in his hands again. Then he got in the car, sighed, and drove away.