-- Chapter Three --
Jack couldn't help but stare at the couple kissing in the middle of the room before him. "Did I miss something?" he asked, stepping into Daniel's house.
Carter and Daniel separated, goofy grins on each of their faces. They turned to look at him for a moment before Carter planted a big kiss on Daniel's cheek. "We're married!" she said with a giddy laugh.
For the first time in his life, Jack found himself speechless. He took another step into the room. Then he was suddenly distracted by something even more shocking than Carter and Daniel tying the knot and not even inviting him to the party. There was a man standing near the wall, totally engulfed in flames.
A fiery hand waved in the air. "Hi, General! Happy Halloween!"
That voice was familiar. Jack squinted into the flames. "Mitchell? You, uh, you okay in there?"
"That's what I forgot!" said Daniel, smacking his forehead with his palm. "I totally forgot you were coming by tonight, Jack!"
"Uh huh." Looking back and forth between Carter, Daniel and Mitchell, Jack noticed that no one else seemed concerned that Mitchell was on fire. So he just shrugged and went with it. "You guys wanna tell me what's going on?"
"We are celebrating the Tau'ri tradition of procuring sugary confections from strangers while in disguise."
Jack turned back to Teal'c and nearly jumped out of his skin. "Gah! T, you look like...The Thing."
"That is my intention, O'Neill."
"Okay, what's going on here?" Jack waved a finger at Carter and Daniel. "And when were you two going to tell me you finally got together?"
"Well, we're not really married," said Carter. Nevertheless, her hand stroked affectionately up and down Daniel's chest. "He's Mr. Fantastic and I'm the Invisible Woman. See?" And then she touched something on her wrist and vanished.
Oh crap. And suddenly this was all very, very bad. Something had clearly happened to SG-1 to make them all lose their marbles. How in the world had they even been allowed off the base? Jack fumbled for the cell phone in his pocket.
"Carter, you become visible right this second." Jack barely suppressed a groan at his words. "Damn! There goes another item on my list of 'orders I should never have to issue'."
"No fair! You were invisible for a whole week!" came her disembodied voice.
Oh, for crying out loud. "That's an order, Carter."
Thankfully, she complied. But she didn't look very pleased about it. In fact, she seemed to be pouting. "Party pooper," she grumbled.
"We were just about to go trick or treating, Jack." Daniel smiled at him. "You wanna come?"
"Actually, I think the four of you should come with me to the base."
Mitchell shook his flaming head. "I don't like that plan. It sounds boring. We want to have fun, and we're going trick or treating." He bounced down the hall, and Jack heard him open a closet door.
"It'll just be for a minute," said Jack. "There's, um, something I need to pick up."
Carter narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Sounds like a trick to me, sir. And Teal'c has his heart set on some treats tonight."
"Indeed," said Teal'c.
"And, um, there are four of us." Daniel wrinkled his nose at Jack. "And only one of you."
Now, Jack was sure he had seen everything. Little Danny-boy was threatening him. And he had a point. "How quickly they grow up," he muttered, shaking his head.
Suddenly, Daniel's eyes lit up. "Ooh! If you're coming with us, you should go in costume too! Hang on a minute!" He disappeared into another room and came back a few seconds later with a battery-operated camping lantern, tying a loop of string to its handle.
"Here," Daniel said as he turned the lantern on and looped it around Jack's neck.
Jack eyed him warily. "Uh, thanks."
"Don't you get it?" Daniel snickered giddily. "You're a Jack O'Lantern!"
Before Jack could properly tell Daniel what he thought of the idea, Mitchell reappeared with a handful of pillow cases. "Alright, gang! Let's blow this popsicle stand!"
They were all heading out, and Jack decided they needed someone to keep an eye on them. Mitchell had turned off his costume for the walk, but Jack wasn't sure how long it'd stay that way.
The four of them practically skipped down the sidewalk. Jack followed, pulling out his cell phone on the way. After dialling the direct line to Landry's office, he quickly explained the situation. Landry assured Jack that an extraction team would soon be en route.
SG-1 turned up a sidewalk and knocked on the door to a small house. Jack could hardly believe his ears when Carter giggled after Daniel whispered something in her ear.
The door opened and a young woman with a child clinging to her leg looked out.
"Trick or treat!" shouted SG-1.
The woman looked them up and down. "Aren't you a little old for trick or treating?"
The little boy on her leg stared up at Teal'c, or rather The Thing, with his mouth hanging open.
Mitchell waved at the child and smiled at the woman. "You get better quality costumes with older kids, y'know."
"Well, I admit, that one's pretty impressive," she said, pointing to Teal'c. "But what are the rest of you supposed to be?"
Carter leaned on Daniel, wrapping her arm around his waist. "We're the Fantastic Four! And I'm the Invisible Woman!"
"You're not invisible!" accused the little boy.
"Oh yeah? Watch this!" Carter activated her Sodan cloak and, naturally, disappeared.
The little boy's eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head. "Whoa!"
Jack just sighed. This was going to be a fun mess to clean up. Where was that extraction team?
"Think that's cool? Check this out!"
Jack groaned as Mitchell activated his 'costume' and burst into flames. The poor woman screamed and clutched at her child, trying to drag the boy inside.
Then, Mitchell rocketed into the air and hovered about ten feet overhead. Jack laughed weakly and brought a hand to his forehead. "So this is what a stroke feels like."
Carter rematerialized as Daniel held out his pillow case. "Trick or treat!" he said. And then his arms stretched a good five feet, covering the distance between the group of costumed freaks and the terrified mother and her fascinated little boy.
Wow. When Carter designed costumes, she really went all out, didn't she? It was a damned good thing she was on Earth's side.
Mercifully, a large, black van showed up at that moment. "Okay, kids. Time to go. Mitchell, you get down here right now."
"But we didn't get any candy!" moaned Carter.
The rebellious superheroes were rounded up by the Marines of SG-3 and tucked into the waiting vehicle. All of the alien technology they had was confiscated.
Jack nodded to the woman before following them. "Sorry for the trouble, ma'am."
"How–how did they—?" She raised a trembling finger to the sky and then pointed toward the van.
Jack puffed out his cheeks as he blew out a breath. Explanations were Carter's forte, not his, so he shrugged. "Magnets." Then he climbed into the waiting vehicle to go back to the SGC. There'd be a solution to this complete weirdness at the base.
They were barely out of Daniel's neighbourhood when Mitchell started whining. "Quit it!"
Jack turned around to see Carter and Daniel getting all snuggly in the middle seat. At the back of the van, sitting between two smirking Marines, Teal'c had a single finger hovering an inch away from Mitchell's nose.
"There is nothing to quit, for I am not touching you," said Teal'c.
Mitchell swatted at the Jaffa's hand. "Knock it off!"
Jack had had enough. "Don't make me pull this car over!"
The Lieutenant driving the car snickered quietly. Jack pointed a finger at him. "Don't you start."
The rest of the drive to the mountain was relatively uneventful. Mitchell and Teal'c were pouting in the back, and thankfully, the only noise was the occasional giggle from the snuggling scientists.
Jack and the Marines almost managed to bring everyone inside in an orderly fashion. Landry was waiting for them outside an isolation room. He wore a stern expression, and the members of SG-1 had the good sense to look chagrined.
"I told you we were going to get caught!" grumbled Mitchell.
Carter snorted. "Oh, you are in so much trouble!"
"It was your idea!"
"But you're the one who's," she made quotes with her fingers and waved them in the air, "'in charge', remember?"
"Why you little..." Surprisingly, Mitchell lunged for Carter, but she darted out of his reach. Either Mitchell had a death wish, or he hadn't seen Carter's hand-to-hand combat skills yet. She could be damned scary.
Then Carter put her thumbs to her temples and waggled her fingers at Mitchell. "Neener, neener, neeeeener!"
Jack struggled to control his laughter. She certainly wasn't very scary now. "That's it," he said, trying his best to look angry. He pointed to the isolation room and stomped one foot on the floor. "All of you, go to your room!"
After a lot of moaning and eye-rolling, the four of them eventually shuffled through the door.
Landry and Jack went up to the observation room and looked in on SG-1. Carter and Daniel were sitting against a wall. Her head was leaning on his shoulder and their fingers were intertwined as they talked to each other. Teal'c was holding Mitchell at bay with one hand on the Colonel's head and the other behind his back. Mitchell was swinging his arms at the Jaffa as he leaned into Teal'c's hand, but couldn't reach his target.
"I have a hazmat team visiting the planet SG-1 just came back from," said Landry.
Mitchell seemed to give up and moved to a bed. He dragged the mattress onto the floor and began jumping up and down on it. Teal'c watched him for a moment and then followed suit with the second bed.
"Well," said Jack, pointing at the activity below. "That right there is worth the trip from DC."
The off-world activation alarms sounded, and Jack and Landry headed to the gate room to greet the returning team. They reported that SG-1's unusual behaviour was the result of a ceremonial beverage, and they should be back to normal by the next day.
Jack did his best not to let it show that he found the entire situation incredibly amusing. How they hadn't learned by now that ceremonial drinks and cakes were a bad idea was beyond him. He went back to the observation room and found the four kids in the midst of an epic pillow fight.
He flipped on the intercom system. Shrieks of laughter filled the small booth. It looked like a lot of fun, and Jack almost wished he could join them. Teal'c became the clear winner of the battle when he began using a mattress as his weapon of choice. Jack was pretty sure that counted as cheating, but he wasn't about to deny the Jaffa his fun.
Eventually, the four of them calmed down and fell asleep. Curling up in his chair, Jack did the same. He definitely wanted to be here when they woke up.
The tinny sound of a moan coming through the speakers woke Jack. Scrubbing a palm against his cheek, he squinted through the window overlooking the isolation room. Carter was stirring. She was laying half on top of Daniel, who had his arms wrapped firmly around her body.
Jack watched as she pried her eyes open and looked around. She wrinkled her nose at the room and placed one hand on her forehead as she turned to inspect her Daniel-pillow.
"Not a dream then," she muttered, her head thumping down to Daniel's chest. Her pillow grunted in response. "Sorry."
"Are we dead?" came Daniel's mumbling early-morning voice.
Carter groaned. "No. But we might be soon enough."
"I wish they'd get on with it."
Mitchell stirred across the room. "Ow, my head." He managed to push himself into a half-sitting position but, with a look of defeat, collapsed back against his mattress.
It was time to get this party started. Jack flipped the switch to activate his microphone. "Good morning, campers!" he said as cheerfully and as loudly as he could manage.
Carter and Mitchell abruptly sat up, then moaned and clutched at their heads.
Jack grinned giddily at them. "How are we all feeling this fine morning?"
A pillow sailed across the room from Daniel's position. It bounced off the window and fell to the ground. "Keep it down, Jack."
"Well, aren't we just Mr. Grumpy-Pants today? What's the matter? Wake up on the wrong side of Carter?"
The room practically glowed with the vibrancy of Carter's blush. Jack watched as a few seconds of silent conversation passed between her and Daniel. It was about time those two got it out in the open. He made a mental note to discuss the new situation between the two scientists of SG-1 with Landry. It just wouldn't do for all of Mitchell's hard work reassembling the team to be unravelled because of something that had been simmering away in the background for practically forever.
Once the two of them seemed to reach an agreement, Jack tapped his finger firmly on the microphone. They all covered their ears, and he grinned. "Or is the real problem a bit of a hangover from all that nummy juice you guys drank off-world?"
Teal'c stood up, placing a steadying hand on the wall next to him. Nearby, Mitchell wobbled to his feet and sent a horrified glance to Jack's window.
"Oh yes, I know all about it. The Ritual of Rejuvenation. The franbu juice." He looked over at Carter and Daniel, who were helping each other off the floor. "And I was there for the, uh, 'borrowed' technology and the Halloween hijinx. And my personal favourite, the insubordination. Hey, do they still put people in the stocks? There are some tomatoes going bad in my fridge that I'd just hate to waste."
Jack realised he was probably having far too much fun enjoying their misery, but he didn't get opportunities like this very often anymore. The stuffed shirts and suits in DC were incredibly boring. Damn, he missed the SGC.
"General O'Neill," said Mitchell. "I take full responsib—"
Carter held up a hand, shaking her head and turning to Jack. "No, sir. It was—"
"There's plenty of blame to go around," Jack interrupted. "But I think it can all be worked out without too much trouble." He grinned at them, knowing that none of them would actually be held accountable for their actions.
"Not guilty by reason of chemical impairment," he said with a decisive nod. In fact, Jack would see to that. There was certainly precedent for it.
Carter gave him a relieved smile. "Thank you, sir."
They all seemed to be recovering from their headaches now that they were up and moving. Yes, everything was getting back to normal. Then, just to prove Jack wrong, Carter turned and planted a sloppy kiss on Mitchell's cheek.
Jack stood up, alarmed, as Mitchell backed away. The Colonel wiped the back of his hand across his face and stared at Carter with an incredulous look on his face.
"Uh, thanks," said Mitchell. "That was...moist."
Carter winked at him. "Just making sure you weren't going to die from my cooties."
Daniel's arm slipped around her waist, and he pulled her close. "Why not give me some of those?"
Jack chuckled as Daniel pulled her into a rather passionate kiss. Excellent. This was what he had been missing the last several months in DC. He'd have to make a point of finding excuses to visit Colorado more often. And maybe he'd take a little trip off-world to get some of that franbu juice. Just for the hell of it.
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Final notes: Thanks to drgemini86 for the fix of my spelling of 'hijinx', and to both jquist and Jess13 for the much improved punctuation of "Jack O'Lantern"! See what constructive criticism does? It makes stories better!! Thanks guys! You rock!