Note: First appear in the fanzine Ad Astra Per Aspera 5.
"We need to talk."
Jack cursed under his breath.
There was nothing that he hated more than talking. The current environment he was in didn't help the matter either. The pink walls around him seemed to get closer as the minutes passed. He was even starting to feel a bit claustrophobic.
"Do we have to?" he all but whined. He tried to shift his butt a bit on the cold surface of the cell, but the comfort that he was looking for still eluded him.
His only cellmate frowned at him, clearly thinking that he had some serious issues. "Yes, we do. Is there something wrong with it?"
Jack sighed heavily. "Well, first of all I would say that the timing really sucks. Second, what on earth do you want to talk about?"
He had a very bad feeling about this. Actually, every time someone said that to him, he automatically knew that he wouldn't like it. This time however, he knew instinctively that he would hate it. Especially when the person that wanted to converse with him was the father of his second in command. The smart, intelligent, witty, and beautiful second in command.
Oh yeah, he would definitely hate this.
"First of all, I would say that the timing is perfect. I have hardly had time to talk to you and this time you have to talk back to me, whether you like it or not, seeing that we're the only people in here. And second, I'm sure that you know what I want to talk about. You're not that ignorant."
Glaring at the Tok'ra, Jack had to concede. They were held prisoner by the natives on P9Y 630. For a reason that still was a mystery to both captives. The Tok'ra High Council had requested SG-1's help to mediate the negotiation between them and the natives of this world. The planet's soil was rich of the raw material that can be use to make the crystals used for creating the Tok'ra's tunnels.
They were always happy to help their ally, plus the Tok'ra had promised them a share of the crystals that could aid them in eluding or hiding from their enemies. Thus, Jack and the rest of his team accompanied Jacob to the planet. Apparently, the natives still had their reservation about the Tok'ra, even though they knew that they were different from the Goa'uld. By bringing SG-1 along, Jacob wished to show them that the Tok'ra can be trusted. He was also using this as a way to spend some more time with his daughter since he hardly saw her anymore.
They had been on the planet for three days, when he and Jacob were suddenly escorted to this pink room without any explanation at all. Deciding that it might be some kind of misunderstanding, they complied with their host's request, knowing that the rest of SG-1 would get to the bottom of it.
But why the Hell did they paint the holding cell pink? Why didn't they paint it black, or grey, or any other dark color for that matter? It is supposed to be gloomy, not cheery and girlish for crying out loud.
He hated pink.
"Alright, what is it that is so important that you want to discuss in here then?" he shifted and tried to make himself more comfortable.
Jacob's expression darkened. "Sam."
Of course. What else?
"I think you're talking to the wrong person here. If you are worried about your daughter, then go talk to her." He tried to dismiss the conversation by stating the obvious.
"You don't think that I know that?" the older man was clearly frustrated. "The problem is that she doesn't want to talk to me either."
Surprise, surprise. Jack held his tongue from making any sarcastic remarks; this was neither the time nor the place. Truth be told, he had a soft spot for any paternal problems.
"And why is that?" It didn't stop him from making fun of the poor man though.
Jacob glared in response.
Feeling (a bit) sorry for him, Jack didn't press the matter. "Look Jacob, I'm not a psychic. What makes you think that I know what it is that Carter didn't want to tell you about? And even if I do, I'm not going to betray her trust in me by blabbering it all to you."
"Because I'm her father, damn it," uncharacteristically, Jacob snapped. He stood up and started pacing around the room. "I handled things badly with Mark, cutting myself off his life for years. I don't want that to happen with her too."
Jack sympathized with him, he really did. "As much as I'd love to help you, I still don't know what it is that you want to know."
The general stopped in his tracks and turned towards him, slowly. He then stepped forward until he was one step away from Jack's position. Crouching, he whispered, "She's ... happier these days."
"I thought you would be glad to know that."
"She didn't want to tell me why."
"She said that I shouldn't have to ask why. That I should have known why without asking her. And on top of that, she said that you, of all people, had seen through it."
Jacob is jealous of him, Jack realised. The fact that he noticed the change in her life and her own father didn't, was bound to make the father-daughter relationship a bit shaken. However, it wasn't his fault that he was able to identify Carter's humming as a sign of her finding someone special.
"Look, Jacob. I've spent almost every day for the last seven years with your daughter. And you, well, didn't. It's completely understandable that I'll be more ... sensitive to what's going on in her life than you." Never say that Jack O'Neill is not capable of being tactful.
"I know that she is seeing someone," Jacob blurted in self-defence. Perhaps he was insulted when Jack implied that he was more insightful than him.
"Why are we having this conversation then?"
Jacob's eyes twitched. "I asked her if it was you."
Even though he was not drinking or eating, Jack choked. He stopped breathing at the accusation. His eyes went wide.
There was nothing that could describe what he was feeling at that moment.
"Jack? Are you alright?" Jacob's voice brought him back to reality.
"You said what?" He didn't know whether his shock would completely fade out or not. "And you wonder why she didn't want to talk to you after you said that?" He was so close to screaming.
"Hey, I acted on impulse."
"Do you really think Carter would do that? She respects the Air Force, Jacob. She lives by their rules as long as she's in it. And I can't believe that you think so little of me. I would never endanger her career, and you should know better than accusing us of -"
Carter senior had just tricked him into revealing something that should've stayed secret somehow.
And he had just done something that would pretty much classify as admitting it.
Jacob knew about Carter and him.
Suddenly nervous, Jack forced his voice to stay calm. Jacob had the upper hand on the situation for the moment, so he had to proceed carefully. "What is it that you want?"
"Name. I want to know his name, Jack," the overprotective father seemed a little bit desperate there. "And you to check up on this guy. I trust you. I know that if he passes your ... standard, then he'll pass mine too."
"She chose him, Jacob. Surely, she would not be dating a megalomaniac," Jack reasoned. There was no way that he would tell Jacob that he had run a background check on Carter's boyfriend when she mentioned his name for the first time. Who knew what her new boyfriend would think of it? And not to mention what would happen if Carter ever found out. The background check was justified though, even Hammond had approved it. "Besides, don't you trust her? If she thinks that he was good enough for her, don't you think that it should mean something to you too?"
"Jack, remember Jonas Hanson? She almost married that guy."
"But she didn't. That's what counts. Come on Jake, she's smart. She knows what she's doing."
"Oh yeah? And that's why she had this thing going between the two of you?"
Jack cursed using every language that he knew inwardly. It wouldn't do him any good to lose his composure and let Jacob know about it. "I can't believe that we're having this conversation."
"Believe it," Jacob muttered. He was not too happy about this either.
Wondering how long Jacob had had this knowledge, he asked him, "Why haven't you said anything about it before then?"
Jacob sighed. "Because I saw no reason to."
"And now? What kind of reason do you see now?"
"She has a boyfriend."
Feeling incredibly ridiculous, Jack raised his eyebrows. "That's your reason? Are you feeling alright, Jake?"
"Jack, she has a boyfriend."
"And she talks to you about him," he continued.
Not seeing how it got to do with anything, Jack repeated, "And?"
"Don't you see?" Jacob was furious. Of what, Jack couldn't be sure.
"She trusts you more than me, more than her own father. And you know what that means?"
"No. What does it mean?" Jack's patience was getting shorter by the second. He had no knack of dealing with clues, wishing that Jacob would just say what it was that he wanted to say.
"It means that she picked you. Heavens knows why, but she picked you."
"Get to the point, Jacob."
Jacob took a deep breath. "I'm scared, Jack. She's my only daughter."
Enough is enough. Jack stood up and put a hand on Jacob's shoulder. "You know what? You're not making any sense at all. Can I talk to Selmac, please?"
Jacob's head lowered for a fraction of a second.
"Colonel O'Neill," Selmac's voice greeted him.
"Selmac." Jack withdrew his hand. "Can you tell me what's been bothering Jacob? Because I know for sure that it isn't this business with Carter seeing a guy that caused him this grief. There has to be something more."
"It is not my place to say," Selmac replied.
"I know. But talk to Jacob for a while for me, will you? His worry makes him edgy and nervous at the same time. He'll go round and round in a circle and I'll fall asleep before he'll get to the bottom of it. But you, you and I can have a civilised conversation. One minute with you will get the three of us to where one hour with Jacob would."
"Very well. I'll try."
Jack let both Jacob and Selmac discuss the matter within themselves in silence. He really didn't know what to make of all this. It was so weird to see the general like this. Actually, it was rare to see a Carter like this. He wouldn't be surprise if he found out that being rational was in the gene of his 2IC's family.
He didn't have to wait long before Selmac informed him that Jacob had relented and allowed his symbiote to be their mediator.
"So, what is it then?" Jack inquired.
Selmac looked impassive. "Jacob fears that our daughter's feelings for you have clouded her judgement. That she would court this man in an attempt to forget about you."
Jack was at a loss for words. Never in a million years would he have come out with that scenario. "No offence, but there's just one little flaw in that explanation. Why would Jacob be worried about that? Shouldn't he be ... relieved?"
The Tok'ra shook his head. "The only thing that stands between you and Samantha are the regulations. And when that is no longer an issue, she will be hurt. And Jacob does not want to see that."
"Selmac, Jacob, look, I am not trying to make any excuses here, but don't you think that you assume too much? I admit that Carter and I have some ... unresolved issues, but she is not a cruel person. She wouldn't use anyone for any purpose. She really likes him, Jake. I don't think I have anything to do with her decision to have a relationship with him."
"That's where you're wrong, Jack." Jacob snapped as he resurfaced. "Sam is always in control, Hell, she likes having control of her own life. But love is not something that you can control."
The L word. Jack was feeling cornered by Jacob's assumption. It wasn't a word that he said if he didn't meant it. "It's not -"
"Cut the crap, Jack," Jacob cut him short. "I know it, you know it, Sam knows it, Daniel and Teal'c know it, and even George knows it. Why can't you just be honest for once? This is my daughter you're talking about."
Jack's annoyance was on the edge. Trapped, he hissed, "I realise that. But she's also my subordinate, Jake. What do you want me to say, huh? I care about her, but no more than I care about Daniel or Teal'c. They're my team, my friends and my family. And that's what I am to every single one of them."
Unexpectedly, Jacob's expression turned weary. "Damn it, Jack. Why can't you act like an ass right now? It irritates me when I can't find a reason to shout at you."
Because Jack appreciated Jacob's honesty, he mellowed. "If that will make you feel better, please do. I can't bear to be in your company for much longer if your mood stays like this."
"She's a good kid, a good daughter. But she still needs me," Jacob paused for a moment. "No, she needs us."
"What's really bothering you? Tell me, because I can't understand you very well right now," Jack gently asked him. He didn't want to upset Jacob further. "Tell me, so that I can help."
Touched by the colonel's offer, Jacob smiled sadly. "She wants to be with you, Jack. Surely you realise that."
Jack didn't deny or confirm Jacob's statement. He waited patiently for the general to continue.
Jacob started his pacing again, but with less intensity this time. "I hate to see her like this. She's in denial. She can't have you, so she's looking for someone else to fill your place. It's not right. If what you told me about the guy is true, then she'll hurt him eventually. The fact that she's the one who will cause his pain will upset her more than the end of their relationship itself."
Jack understood it very well. She did care about Pete, but right now she also cared about her CO. And someday, she might have to choose between the two of them. Jacob thought her decision would sway on Jack's favour. Jack, however, wasn't that confident.
He had seen them together. He had seen how he made her smile. He would be a liar if he said that it didn't make him sad.
And yet, she told him everything. Maybe it was her way to let him know that she didn't forget about him, that she still thought of his feelings and only wanted to be honest with him. He didn't think that she would do that to upset him. She was not that kind of person.
"There's nothing I can do about that. It's her mistake to make," Jack said.
Jacob nodded. "I realise that too. But I'd be damned if I just sit here and let it happened. You have to talk to him, Jack. She won't listen to me."
He shook his head. "No, I won't do that. Like I said, it's her mistake to make. Besides, I don't want to be stuck in the middle of your quarrel." He then muttered the rest of his sentence, "One Carter is a headache, two Carters is a disaster."
Jacob sighed in deep frustration, not even a little bit insulted by Jack's comment. "What would you do if the regulations were no longer a problem? When you retire or maybe when she gets her own command? What would you do then, Jack?Could you stand watching her with another man when you know that she wants you?"
The defeated tone of the grieving father was the only thing that made Jack stay calm. He'd thought about that too. He lay awake at night thinking about it.
"I'll cross that bridge when I have to. Not a second sooner," Jack stated firmly. "But she deserves the truth, because she's being nothing but honest to me. It might cause her some distress, but hey, Carter is tough."
"She is. But you're one of a few persons that can destroy her."
Jack looked up at the other man in surprise. Surely, Jacob didn't suggest that he would hurt her just because he could.
"I am," he admitted reluctantly.
Jacob closed his eyes and slumped on the floor, using the wall to aid his decent. "Maybe this is just a father's selfishness, but I really wish that she would be pinning over you. She can't have you anyway. This way, no man would touch her. And when the regulations are finally out of the way, I'll get rid of you somehow. So, you couldn't touch her either. That's how I planned it."
Jack didn't know how to react to that remark. He was surprised at the amount of possessiveness that Jacob had. 'Get rid' didn't always mean 'kill', right? Surely Jacob wasn't planning his murder all these times. "Always glad to assist."
"What's wrong with me, Jack?" Jacob suddenly looked so vulnerable. "I should have been happy for her, shouldn't I? She moved on with her life."
"I don't know. Are you?" Jack countered.
"Am I what?"
"Happy for her?"
"At this moment, I don't know. Knowing that one day this happiness might cost her so much ..."
"She's a grown woman, Jake. Maybe it's time you treat her like one."
Jacob's eyes opened slowly. "I always treat her like an adult."
Jack disagreed, "Not always, only sometimes. Do you remember when you were trapped in Netu and we came in to bust you out?"
"How can I forget? She risked her own life just to save me. It's unnecessary," Jacob mumbled miserably.
"That's exactly my point. You treat her like she's an ordinary woman. But you should know better than that. You should have been happy that she was there, that she had finally come to save you. Heck, you should have hoped that she would come there to save you. You're her father. But you didn't, did you? You don't have enough faith in her ability and her strength. Sure you know that she's intelligent, that her brain is bigger than most of the Earth population. But she's more than that. You should see her as a whole, Jake, and be proud of it," Jack insisted. "I am."
Jacob groaned. "Am I really that bad at parenting, Jack? You know her better than I do."
"Hey, like I said, I spend more time with her lately than you do." Jack shrugged his shoulders. "Besides, you're the one who had the opportunity to change her diaper." The image made Jack mused for a second. "You're allowed to treat her like the little girl that you used to know." Wistfully, he added, "You're allowed to want her for yourself and not sharing it with the rest of the world."
Jacob sighed in defeat. "You're a good friend, Jack. I know that I can trust you."
"Sure you can."
"Would you do me a favour?"
Jack smiled a little. "Shoot."
"If that guy will ever hurt her ..." Jacob trailed.
"Then he will have to deal with me, Teal'c and Daniel. Don't worry about it. We'll take care of her, Jake." Jack included the whole SG-1 in his reassurance to the other man, because it was the truth. If her boyfriend would ever treat her wrong, then there was no chance that Teal'c wouldn't ask for retribution or that Daniel wouldn't plan a little vengeance. And Jack would be more than happy to act as the organizer of the whole thing.
The general grinned. "I won't ask for that. I know that you'll do it with or without me asking for it. What I ask, is for you just to be there for her."
"I'll always be there for her. That's what friends are for." Once again, Jack tried not to think of her like he wasn't allowed to.
Jacob shook his head. "I know that too. What I want you to do, is not to let her mope alone."
One of Jack's eyebrows rose in interest. "Carter? Moping? Are you sure we're talking about the same person?"
"She'd kill me if I said that she'd cry, because she won't. But she'll be in a bad mood for several days and create a shell between herself and the world. She's capable of doing that. Just be there for her, will you? Force her to have your company even though she doesn't want it," Jacob elaborated. "Go to her house, drag her out to have a meal outside, ask her for a bike ride. Just get her out of her misery."
"Whose misery?" a familiar feminine voice spoke.
Both men jerked as the object of their discussion appeared before their eyes. She was standing at the door that had just slid open quietly.
"Sam." Jacob greeted.
"Carter." Jack almost shouted her name in relief and moved closer to her to put a distance from her father. He was glad that he could finally have a reason to end this conversation. Having Jacob lecturing him on the way to cheer up his daughter had been disturbing on oh so many levels. "It's good to see you again," he added eagerly.
She gave her CO a funny look at his odd behaviour before her eyes met Jacob's. "Is everything alright here?" Apparently, she could sense that something was going on between the two men.
"Everything's fine," Jacob dismissed her concern.
"No, it's not," Jack disagreed. "I'm inside a pink room, Carter." The statement was begging to be ended with 'With your father', but he knew better than saying that out loud. "How can everything be alright? Have you found out why they put us in here yet?"
Carter cleared her throat, he could see the mischief that glint in her eyes. "Yes, we have, Sir. It's nothing but a big misunderstanding. Daniel found out what it was and the council has accepted his apology on your behalf. You're free to go."
"Good, that's good," Jack commented while exiting the room. But the smile on her lips told him there was more to the explanation. He knew that it would be better to leave things just the way they were, but his curiosity was already piqued.
"Is there something more that you want to tell us?"
"Yes, Sir. The council said that because there was no harm intended, they were willing to overlook this," she informed them as they started to walk down the corridor.
"And?" He knew that she was far from finished with that sentence.
Jack had to applaud for her innocent expression. But he knew that she was far from innocent. "Carter," he said in his best commanding voice. "Is there anything else that you want to tell us?"
"Like what, Jack?" Jacob watched the interaction between the two officers in great interest.
"I don't know," the colonel admitted. "But I'm sure Carter will be more than happy to enlighten us, won't you Major?"
"Well, Sir, if you insist. Besides, I have to write this on my mission report anyway." She bit her lower lips to prevent the laughter that threatened to burst out.
"Write what?" Jacob turned his attention solely to his daughter. He was frowning.
"The reason why you are detained, Dad."
Jack was not in the mood for games. "And? What is it? Out with it!"
"Yes, Sir." Her grin was insistent. He had a feeling that he didn't like what was coming. "Do you remember when the two of you went to investigate the area near the ruin that Daniel found yesterday?"
"Yes." Jacob nodded. "I wanted to check whether they had the mineral that we needed. A miner that we met in the town told me that I might find what I was looking for there. And since Daniel and you were busy talking with the council, I asked Jack to go with me. Teal'c refused to come with us, he had said that he preferred to stay with you."
"Well, from what I've heard, you wandered off from the ruin quite far," Carted said.
Jack didn't deny it. "Jacob said that he wanted to see if he could find another area with more of the stuff that he needs."
"They have a sacred ground, Sir. Near a lake where they sometimes hold ceremonies. And you, well, basically you guys were trespassing. Only certain people are allowed to go there at certain time."
Fair enough. They had been in a place where they shouldn't have gone. But it still didn't explain the grin on his 2IC's face.
"It's an honest mistake to make," Carter continued. "But they thought that the miner whom you got your information from had told you about the place and what's going on there. They thought that you went there on purpose. We've tracked down the man, and he explained everything. He said that he hadn't seen the need to tell you about it, because he thought that you would just stay around the ruin."
"It's not the kind of crime that is punishable by death, is it?" Jacob asked in curiosity.
"No, Dad. But it's still important to them." Carter deliberately took a deep breath. "When the two of you went there, there was something ... going on in the lake."
"What was it?"
Jack could see her struggle with her composure.
"It was the time of the month when all the maidens in the city took a bath there," she answered.
Huh? She couldn't be serious. Could she? There was no way ...
Was that why she is so smug when she came to fetch them?
"Sam, you're kidding, right?" Jacob asked wearily. Even he knew the implication of that piece of news.
Jack would be damned if he was caught in the middle of Carter's revenge. Jacob deserved whatever coming his way, but what about him? He hadn't done anything rotten lately.
"No, Dad. I'm not." She was on the verge of laughing out loud in front of the men. Jack searched his brain frantically to see what he could have done to deserve this.
Sadly, Carter didn't seem to care for his virtue. The smirk on her lips indicated that.
Damn it, he knew it.
"They thought you were a couple of peeping-toms."
Two Carters is a disaster.
Beta Read by: *ses*
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