Tada. I give you the long awaited sequel to 'Colonel For Sale'. Don't be a twit: read that before you read this. I promise you won't regret it.

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The universe has a way of playing tricks on the most unsuspecting of individuals. The powers that be seem to enjoy setting two different people on a direct collision course, while the galaxy at large sits back, relaxes and waits for the impending fireworks.

Samantha Carter was one such person. Strange things were always happening to her. The whos, whats, wheres and whys didn't matter...the outcome however, did.

For example, if you had pulled her aside just six months earlier and told her that within the year she'd go on a date with Rodney McKay, she would have looked at you like you were around the bend.

If you were to tell her that she would be considering a second date with the man in question in that same length of time--even looking forward to it--she would have had you committed to the nearest psychiatric facility where you could be watched closely by trained professionals in case whatever disease had eaten your frontal lobe was contagious.

However, regardless of how she might have felt a year or so earlier about Rodney McKay, things had changed--facts had shifted before her eyes--and her perceptions were forever altered.

It was a result of those changes in perception that she found herself pondering over the invitation to the latest Presidential Inauguration Ball and who she could get to escort her.

Somewhat disturbing that she found her mind leaping immediately to Rodney McKay.

Of course, she could have gone with General O'Neill, she supposed...if he hadn't already found some nubile young thing to drag into the White House on his arm.

It was probably wrong of her to consider using McKay as a tool to make O'Neill jealous...but to be perfectly frank, she didn't realize that's what she was doing until she was already on the phone with Rodney. She assumed her reasoning was perfectly sound--after all, they were friends--there was nothing wrong with going to a ball with a friend...

But when she heard McKay's voice over the line and she found all she could think of was the look on O'Neill's face when she entered on Rodney's arm, she realized with shame that she was planning to exploit her friendship with the other physicist.

She hung up immediately without saying a word.

So of course, the bastard had to use star sixty-nine and call her back.

She glared at the telephone as it rang repeatedly, waiting for it to stop trying to shake itself off its hook.

Which it did...

But only for a few minutes before it started ringing again.

Rodney McKay was nothing if not persistent.

With all the resignation of a man on his way to the electric chair, Sam snapped up the receiver and put it to her ear. "Hello?"

"Sam?"

She grimaced, scrunching up her face in a most unattractive manner.

She was an Air Force Colonel for crying out loud...and here she was acting like some moronic teenage girl, playing all the ridiculous little games that were supposed to be reserved for the more 'feminine' members of her sex.

"Hi, Rodney," she replied, irritated that her voice came out somewhat breathlessly as a result of her agitation.

Oh God, she hoped he didn't get the wrong impression.

He cleared his throat awkwardly after a moment. "Um...you called?"

Sam smiled against her will, hearing the note of uncertainty in his voice. The man wasn't without his redeeming qualities...his vulnerability in this situation fell squarely into that category, in her opinion. So egotistical on the outside--such a hapless puppy cowering just waiting to be kicked on the inside.

It was almost endearing.

It wasn't, but it came uncomfortably close.

"Sam? Sam, are you there?"

She shook herself, realizing that she'd just internally compared Rodney McKay to a puppy, and wondered briefly if she had a fever. "I'm...fine, Rodney."

Sam didn't even sound convincing to her own ears...there was no way she sounded convincing to his.

Rather than giving him the opportunity to inquire further and make things even more awkward (she didn't know how it could be more awkward, but with her luck, fate would find a way to outdo itself), she pressed onwards.

"Yeah...I called to ask you something, Rodney."

"Oh. Um...what? Do you need notes? Or--or a--"

"I wanted to ask if you'd--" she winced. "If you'd agree to be my escort to President Nelson's inauguration?"

There was a thud from the other end of the line, followed by silence.

Did he faint?

"Rodney?"

More silence.

Well, that was better than another thud, at any rate.

"Rodney!"

There was a sickly noise, somewhat like an inarticulate gurgle (not that any gurgles are particularly articulate anyway), and a loud sound of someone swallowing thickly.

"Did you...are you asking me out?"

"Yes. I mean...no...I just figured since you're on Earth, and I'm on Earth and I have this invitation--"

Please tell me I don't sound a stupid as I think I do.

"Oh...well, huh." He sounded genuinely puzzled. "Sam, I uh...I wish I could but--"

"Busy?" Most of her was relieved but part of her was disappointed.

She ignored that particular part rather effectively.

"Well, not busy precisely, but I just...I don't know, Sam."

She spoke before she realized she had time to think about making the offer she was making. "I could pay you."

Sam's eyes went wide and she tore the phone away from her ear, thumping her forehead with it.

Idiot!

She recovered quickly and put the phone back where it belonged, clearing her throat. "I mean, Rodney, I feel so bad that you spent so much on me at that Bachelorette auction...I...wanted to pay you back."

"Most people just write I.O.U.s" he said with an air of sarcasm that made her think he was rolling his eyes at that particular point in time.

"I'm not most people."

There. That was relatively clever.

"No," he replied honestly, "You are most decidedly not most people. Part of why I...um...well, you know."

Sam smirked. "Is that a yes?"

He sighed dramatically as if this were all very trying and dreadfully dull. "Well, if you insist on appealing to my better side--"

"Your greedy side?"

"Hey now, do you want me there or not?"

"Always, Rodney," she answered, pouring on that thick layer of flirtatiousness that she so rarely got to use. It was almost fun to be playful with him, knowing full well that it wouldn't go any further than simple friendship.

"Alright, I'll be there." He let out another breath, still acting like the put upon professional escort. "Where's there again? And when?"

"Two weeks from now and Washington D.C., naturally."

"Fine."

"Don't worry, Rodney, I'll make it worth your while."

His attitude changed within seconds and she heard the lasciviousness creep back into his tone. "Yeah, you better be wearing something revealing and do a lot of leaning over."

Sam promptly hung up on him.