Summary: Not Supplied
Colonel Jonathon 'Jack' O'Neill, team leader of SG-1, 2IC of the SGC and chosen representative of the Asgaard, shifted nervously in his seat before taking another swig of his now warm beer. His keen eyes darted around the room, taking note of the handful of patrons, the movements of the bartender, as well as the doorway which was, of course, in his direct line of sight. Al's Tavern was no different from any of a dozen such drinking establishments sprinkled around the outskirts of Colorado Springs. The decor was bland, the cable TV kept flitting in and out, usually at a particularly key moment in whatever sporting match was on view, the beer was slightly watered down _and_ overpriced, and the patrons seemed to have a collective IQ hovering around Jack's shoe size. It, did, however, have one virtue: it was located as far as possible from the Cheyenne Mountain Complex and therefore remained unfrequented by the the personnel of the SGC. This lack of SGC patronage was precisely why Jack chose this particular watering hole for his clandestine meeting. The stakes in this operation were simply too high to risk discovery. His antagonist had proven to be remarkably cunning at ferreting out his secrets, and even more disconcerting, at gathering allies who were fiercely, even maniacally loyal to him and his cause. It was, Jack, thought, a little like fighting Joan of Arc; what had begun as a simple battle of wills had rapidly deteriorated into a kind of holy war and Jack could only hope he wasn't going to be the one who ended up burning at the stake.
Jack took another sip of his beer and peered yet again at his watch. 'Where the hell are you?' he thought. His operative was already 20 minutes late for the rendez-vous. Had his nemesis somehow caught wind of the meeting and detained his operative? Or worse, had his archenemy succeeded in converting his operative and winning him over to his side of the battle? It wouldn't be the first time. Jack knew from experience that his rival had an uncanny ability ofwinning people over, lulling his hapless victims into a state of abject devotion. If Jack didn't know better, he would suspect his nemesis of using nishta, so complete was his hold over his acolytes. Jack sighed. No, he knew all too well that nishta wasn't involved. Jack was immune to nishta, but not to the considerable charms of his adversary.
Jack was just about to give up the rendez-vous as a failure, when the door to the tavern opened, letting in the blinding glare from the late afternoon. A single man stood in the doorway, his form silhouetted and his features hidden by the harsh light. When the door hinged shut and his eyes compensated, Jack could see that his operative had arrived at last. He heaved another sigh, this one of relief, and waved the man over to his table. The man nodded, and quickly walked to the table, sliding unto the bench facing the colonel.
"Colonel," the man acknowledged, gesturing to the bartender and ordering a beer.
"Clem," Jack responded, all business. "Whaddya got for me?"
Sergeant Clemson shook his head. "You were right, colonel. We've got a spy in out midst."
Jack wracked his brain; the name wasn't ringing any bells. He gazed at Clemson meaningfully.
"New recruit. She just started about six weeks ago."
"Ah," Jack responded. "Are you sure?"
"Yes sir, I'm afraid so. One of my operatives sighted Corporal Reynolds engaged in conversation with the enemy. He said their body language suggested familiarity and that the your adversary was overhead calling her 'Caroline'." Clemson took a large gulp of beer, then a second to wash the taste of unease out of his mouth.
Hm. "Did your operative happen to notice her expression during this exchange?"
"Yeah, ya know, did she look, oh, I don't know, kinda goopy?"
"Yeah, you know, besotted. Big dopey grin, shy smiles, blushing, that kinda thing."
Clemson thought for a moment. "Yes, as a matter of fact, Matthews did say he coulda swore he heard her giggle. He was kinda taken by surprise. Corporal Reynolds is normally very serious, hard working, diligent type. As far he knows, nobody has ever heard her giggle, before."
Damn. Worst case scenario. "Sorry, Clem, you gotta traitor in the ranks. She has clearly fallen completely under the sway of the enemy. She's compromised but good."
"What do you suggest I do, sir," the sergeant asked, his rising anxiety evident in his voice.
"For the moment, nothing. If you act too soon, my adversary will know we're on to him and he'll adjust accordingly, and potentially just go recruit someone else. Let me think a moment." Jack leaned back from the table, resting his chin on his fist in a posture of deep thought, running contingency plans through his mind.
"OK, here's what we do. Don't do anything just yet, don't give her any reason to think you suspect her. But keep an eye on her. If she has any further interactions with the enemy I want to know, ASAP." Jack paused, thinking once again. "This actually may be a good thing. He's slipped up here, let us in on one of his secrets. This can work for us. If we're clever."
"If you say so, sir," the sergeant responded, not completely convinced.
Jack smiled at the man reassuringly. "Trust me, Clem. Have I ever steered you wrong?" Jack saw the other man opening his mouth to respond, and added "Don't answer that."
"Yes, sir. Is that all sir?"
"Yeah, Clem, and thanks. There's a pair of Avalanche tickets comin' your way."
"So close you can smell the blood."
"Lookin' forward to it sir. Just so long as its not mine." And with that the sergeant rose from his seat and headed towards the door and the sunshine of a late Colorado afternoon.
Jack remained seated, thinking about the current situation. How did he ever get himself embroiled in such a disastrous scenario in the first place? How had his little covert foray escalated into all out war?
It was all Daniel's fault. That went without saying. All Jack had done was to...intervene...on behalf of Daniel's wardrobe. He had never understood how a man who was six feet tall, weighed a healthy 178 pounds and sported the body of one of ancient Greek athlete types, somehow always managed to look like a little kid wearing his big brother's hand me downs. There was something seriously wrong with this picture. Finally, one day, Jack just...snapped. Enough was enough and he decided the time had come to take swift and decisive action. Behind Daniel's back, of course. A call to his old hockey buddy Clem, an occasional twenty spot, and voila, one sizzlin' hot, Space monkey stud muffin on tap.
Jack knew he wasn't the only one who had noticed, and thoroughly approved of, this sartorial transformation. Jack hadn't seen so many tongues hanging out outside of the pound on a hot summer day. Heads turned, eyes bugged, people started fanning themselves in his presence. Maintenance had taken to just leaving mops and buckets scattered along the main corridors to deal with increased drool factor. The less Danny wore, the hotter the immediate vicinity got. Hell, Jack'd even caught Carter checking out Daniel's butt, though she had denied it. Several times. Loudly. Even without him saying anything. Huh. Go figure.
And she wasn't the only one, either. Jack had always known Daniel had most of the women on base wrapped around his little finger. Rumor had it several of Janet's nurses had his picture pinned up in their lockers (rumor also said Janet had Daniel's appendix pickled in a jar in HER locker, but Jack _really_ didn't want to know about that). Daniel's devotees could be a handy bunch, though. Jack had noticed quite early on that whenever Daniel entered the mess hall, fresh slices of apple pie and chocolate walnut cookies suddenly appeared where only half-melty green jello and bland vanilla pudding had previously been. If he was in desperate need of dessert, he just needed to follow his archeologist.
But now that the new and improved ultra deluxe Daniel model was on display, Jack had noticed quite a few of the men watching Daniel with decidedly covetous eyes, Who woulda thought the jarheads had such good taste? None of them had dared to say or do anything that might embarrass Daniel. Jack liked to think it was out of respect for the cool. authoritative presence of one Colonel Jack O'Neill, but privately he acknowledged it was probably due to Teal'c and that little chat he'd with Major Orvitz. Bad news travels fast, and Teal'c is _definitely_ bad news if you're even thinking about making Daniel uncomfortable. Since then, the male population had satisfied itself with watching and secretly lusting, which was OK since Daniel remained his typical oblivious self.
For several weeks, all had been bliss. Danny looked stunning, morale throughout the base was at a record high thanks to a steady diet of Daniel Jackson eye candy (sweeter than a dozen chocolate bars but without the calories), and Jack got to bask in the glow of a job well done.
But as always, such perfection was short lived, and OK maybe, just maybe, it was Jack's own fault. Maybe he shouldn't have told Clem to run Daniel's tee-shirts through another rinse cycle. Up until that point, Daniel hadn't seemed to notice any change, and if he had, he hadn't been bothered enough to complain about it. But once Daniel got his dander up, he's a fearsome spectacle. And yes, OK, Jack really got a kick out of yanking Danny's chain; he loved watching Danny getting all indignant and bouncy and the way he threw his hands about and made those adorable scrunchy faces. Too cute and just too irresistible.
If Jack had been thinking straight, he would have told Clem to lay off for awhile, let Danny calm down and slip back into his default setting of 'adorably clueless' before returning surreptitiously to his sartorial diversions. But had Jack done so? Of course not. He never could leave well enough alone where Danny was concerned. Jack's only defense, and it certainly wasn't one he'd be voicing publicly anytime soon, was that being in close proximity to Daniel's delectable body was having the detrimental effect of sending all of his available blood to his shorts. It was like Daniel could magically change gravity; he walks in the room and just watch all of Jack's blood plummet. 'Yeah Jack, why don't you go explain that to Hammond, and while you're at it just go an type up resignation letter, was it three or four now?'
So Jack had made a tactical error of monumental proportions by telling Clem to run the tee-shirts through an extra hot rinse. Alright already, it was fucking stupid, but Daniel has to share at least some of the blame for that. After all he was the one who mentioned belly buttons in the first place. The image lodged irresistibly in his brain and Jack knew there was only one course of action he could reasonably pursue.
The results had been everything Jack could have hoped for: smooth, sleekly muscled skin, taut planes and the delicious navel (Daniel was an 'inny'. 'Yes! I knew it!') plus the added bonus of Daniel in major indignation mode. Whoa! Can that boy curse a blue streak! Who knew? And then Carter and Teal'c had burst into the room, and well, Heckle and Jeckle's expressions just capped off what was sure to be the event of the season. Hell, if Jack had known it was gonna be that good a show, he would have sold tickets and used the proceeds to buy Danny an entirely new wardrobe of sharp civvies to go with those smokin' hot BDUs.
Unfortunately, Jack's triumph had been shortlived. While Jack was off planet babysitting a bunch of junior flyboys and flygirls, Daniel was ruthlessly plotting against him. Jack could admire Daniel's tactics; he was sneaky, manipulative and downright evil. The plot had been brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed. Every element planned out, each conspirator assigned the ideal role. It was, perfect and Jack had never even seen it coming.
And he should have. He's the colonel, dammit. He's the instigator, the perpetrator, the bad thing that happens to good people. That was the natural order of things, or at least it used to be. This time around he had completely misjudged his opponent. After five years, he should have known better. Daniel, as he was painfully aware, was smarter, faster and more clever by half, but Jack had always assumed he had the edge when it came to downright sneakiness. He was, after all a special ops trained soldier, a master of covert operations and military strategy. He had smuggled spies out from behind enemy lines, he had helped to take down ruthless Third World dictators. More recently, he had proved adept at kicking the crap out of slimy Snakehead deity wannabes. So how the hell had he managed to let an archeologist-cum-anthropologist-cum-linguist kick his ass six ways to Sunday? Danny boy had out thought, out foxed and generally out maneuvered Jack at every turn. And it was, well, damned embarrassing, if you wanted the God's honest truth.
Jack prided himself on being a good judge of character. It was a skill that had kept him alive in some of the most hellish situations you could encounter on this, or any other planet. But when it came to Daniel, he seemed to have a blind spot the size of an accretion disk. He had underestimated Daniel, badly. 'And dammit, Jack, you should know better. The guy's thirty-freakin-five years old, fer cryin' out loud. He's got more degrees than a thermometer, he's lived all over the world, not to mention another planet. He's spent most of his adult life, not to mention a goodly portion of his childhood taking care of himself with no help from anybody. Daniel is nobody's fool, least of all yours.'
Daniel had said it himself. 'I was never that naive and innocent, Jack. And I'm not responsible for your misconceptions about me.' Yet Jack had fallen for the act, hook, line and sinker.
'It's the eyes,' Jack thought. Oh yeah, those big baby blues and the way he would bat those lashes and offer up the perfect 'sad puppy' look and a sweet, wistful smile. C'mon who _wouldn't_ fall for it? How could anyone who had been exposed to Daniel's full on "sweet little Danny" manner, not fall like a sack of lead?
And Daniel, contrary to his denials, cultivated that image with all the skill and artistry of a Shakesperean actor. It was, Jack suddenly realized, a survival tactic, not unlike Jack's own smartass 'dim bulb' persona. It threw people off the scent, made them underestimate him, consider him harmless, when in fact Daniel was--is--a very cunning, and very dangerous man when he chose to be.
This time around, Daniel had decided to up the stakes. Jack had offered a truce and Daniel, in a neatly Machiavellian turn had chosen to adhere to the letter rather than the spirit of the law, throwing down the gauntlet, or in this case the shrunken tee-shirt, daring Jack to take it up. What Danny didn't realize was that if he chose to escalate the conflict, Jack had no choice _but_ to retaliate. If Jack O'Neill played, he played to win, and he most certainly didn't play fair. Daniel's ass was grass. And if Jack was really lucky, it might just be his.
'I'm on to you buddy boy. You wanna piece of me? Well, go ahead and try. You may have won round two, but you just remember, Danny boy, it's the best two of three falls that wins the match.'
Jack grabbed his beer and downed the last swig with a grimace. He dropped a couple of bills on the table and left Al's Tavern with thoughts of Greco-Roman wrestling running pleasantly through his mind.
Dr. Daniel Jackson, native of Earth, adopted son of Abydos and decipherer of the Stargate was in an exceedingly good mood. After nearly a week of false starts and blind turns, he had at last succeeded in deciphering the alien script from the tablet found on the PX5-284. While the text had revealed no evidence of any kind of super weapon to fight the Goa'uld, it did explain, in great detail, a cure for a disease that sounded remarkably like Alzheimer's. Although the native plants used in the remedy inevitably went be different names, the descriptions of the plants were meticulous enough that it should be possible to locate them. SG-14 and Dr. Gregor, the SGC's resident botanical specialist, were going to gate back to the planet to gather samples. This was potentially a real medical breakthrough and a very nice justification of all the "meaning of life" stuff that Daniel had been expounding for the past five years. Oh yes, it feels very good to be right.
But as exciting as that news was, it wasn't the real reason for Daniel's current euphoria. No, that was due to the lingering satisfaction that came from getting one up on the oh so smug Colonel O'Neill, a glow that had carried clear over from yesterday.
It had been a fairly routine morning. They-he, Jack and Teal'c-had been in the locker room gearing up for a simple meet and greet on PH2- 198. Daniel had been trying, without much success, to explain to Teal'c exactly what the phrase "white trash" meant while silently cursing Jack for getting their Jaffa friend hooked on "The Jerry Springer Show" in the first place, when Jack attempted to pull on his tee-shirt. Attempted was the operative word, because the poor colonel couldn't seem to make much headway with the scrap of black cloth that seems to have evaporated somewhere prior to arriving at its destination. Jack was only able to get the stubborn item as far as his pecs, leaving the taut plane of his stomach exposed, along with a line of silver gilt hair arrowing down to disappear beneath his boxer shorts.
"O'Neill," Teal'c intoned with this ever present gravitas, "It would appear that that article of clothing is incapable of continuing further down your body."
"Really Teal'c? Oh, thanks so much for the news flash, big guy."
As always, Jack's sarcasm was either lost on the Jaffa, or rightly ignored. "I am pleased to be of service O'Neill."
"Would you care to explain this?" Jack asked, keeping his voice carefully neutral.
Daniel looked at Jack, studying him, his brow creased in thought. "Is that your normal size? It looks kinda small."
"Yes, Daniel," Jack said, carefully biting off each syllable, "it is my size. However, it appears to have shrunk. Would you care to explain how that might have happened."
"How should I know? I don't work in the laundry."
"Daniel," Jack began with straining patience, "you're about 10 seconds away from experiencing a spin cycle head first..."
Oh, yeah, no mistaking the disapproval in those two clipped syllables. Sic' 'im Teal'c.
"Maybe you got Sam's tee-shirt by mistake," Daniel suggested affably. "Sam! C'mere!"
Major Samantha Carter, pushed the door of the locker room open. "What is it Daniel? Holy Hannah!"
Well, that was a perfect response to the scene before her. Here in all his lean, mean glory, was her commanding officer wearing what looked more like a cut off muscle shirt than a U.S.A.F. approved and supplied article of clothing. Sam did the only thing she could in the current circumstances. She snickered. Then she snorted. Then she giggled, before succumbing to a full scale fit of laughter, rolling around on the floor as waves of laughter roiled up from the vicinity of the locker room bench.
"Oh thanks, Carter you're a _big_ help," he said tartly
The only response was a wheezing snort. Nor was she alone in her amusement. Daniel by now had joined the giggle fest and Teal'c, well Teal'c was raising his eyebrow in a manner that to the initiated just screamed 'I am delirious with mirth.'
"Daniel! I know you did this! We had a truce, dammit!"
"Yes, Jack, we did," he replied, wiping at the tears streaming down his cheeks.
"You promised no more shrinking laundry!" Jack said, his annoyance getting the better of him.
"No, I didn't Jack. If you'll remember correctly, I only promised not to shrink your pants. I never said anything about tee-shirts."
Jack was stunned silent with indignation. The little shit!
"Ah, c'mon Jack. I'm just practicing a little Biblical justice here. An eye for an eye, a belly button for a belly button."
Jack clamped his lips shut, trying to get control of his anger. He tore the offending tee-shirt off his head-quite literally, since he was fairly sure he head a seam rip-and tossed it to the floor. He fished around in his locker looking for a replacement, luckily finding one that had escaped Daniel's devious clutches, 'cos there was no way in Naetu he was leaving the locker room in a freakin' baby doll tee. And suddenly a thought came to him. 'I only promised not to shrink your tee-shirts, Danny boy.'
Jack smiled his most sharky grin. "OK Daniel, you win this time. But be warned. This ain't over. Not by a long shot. Carter! Get outta here! Men dressing!"
Sam picked herself off the floor, grasping Daniel's hand to haul herself upright. Wiping her tears from her eyes with the back of her hand she replied, "Yes, sir. I'll meet you all in the gateroom."
"You do that Carter." Jack looked coolly at the remaining hecklers. "Daniel, Tealc?" Aren't you boys ready to run along yet?"
Teal'c bowed his head. "I shall meet you in the embarkation room O'Neill," he said as he strode from the room.
Daniel, suddenly realizing he was alone with a thoroughly peeved Jack O'Neill decided that on this occasion discretion-and flight-was the better part of valor. "Yeah, ah, me too. I'll, uh, see you there Jack."
Daniel beat a hasty retreat, but even as he continued down the hall, he couldn't help but smile at the recollection of the extraordinary sight of Jack O'Neill standing tall and proud with his mid drift exposed to his teammates. It was a sight that was both comical and, well, deeply arousing. Daniel, truth be told, was completely unprepared for the impact that it had had upon him. He had done gotten Caroline to shrink Jack's tee-shirt purely as a prank to get back at Jack for the earlier embarrassment of the whole belly button debacle. Revenge, pure and simple. Except, it wasn't quite so simple anymore, and the thoughts running through his quicksilver mind were anything but pure. 'This is bad, Daniel. This is very, very bad.'
Fortunately by the time they returned through the Stargate, Daniel's earlier discomfort had been forgotten in the wake of rampant anthropological enthusiasm. The people of PH2-198 had been wonderful, friendly and very receptive to discussion of alliance and trade. Theirs was a curious culture, seemingly Mesopotamian in character but with elements that suggested a Far Eastern influence, maybe China or Korea. It was all terribly fascinating to Daniel and by the time they left his mind was spinning with the cultural possibilities and with trying decide who on his archeological/anthropological staff would be best suited to follow up the preliminary visit when Hammond gave them the go.
Although Daniel's earlier discomfort had faded, his pleasure at getting one over on Jack and the added glow of subtle attraction had buoyed him through the subsequent debrief, medical exam, and his return to his lab. At present, Daniel sat perched on a stool, sorting through a crate of artifacts SG-7 had brought back the previous week trying, without much success, to match them up with the sloppily prepared manifest that had been shoved in the top of the box. Daniel shook his head and sighed. It looked like he would be giving another lecture in the not too distant future on the proper methods for packing and recording archeological finds.
As that unhappy thought crossed his mind, Daniel's phone started to ring. Crossing the room, Daniel grabbed the handset, nearly toppling a stack of folders in his haste. "Daniel Jackson!"
"Number Two here. Code Red," the feminine voice announced.
'Shit.' "Are you able to talk?"
Daniel's mind whirled, looking for a solution. He had it. "Meet me in 25W 6A in ten minutes."
"I'll be there." The connection ended and Daniel hung up his phone. The warm glow of triumph had just evaporated.
Daniel hurried his way to his selected rendezvous point, 25W 6A, the base library. It was the best he could come up with on short notice. No one would ever question Daniel's presence in a library, and if anyone saw his companion, well, she could just say she was looking for something to read on her lunch break. Perfectly plausible. Right? Right?!
When Daniel arrived at the library, he saw that his companion had already arrived, and was thumbing through some worn paperbacks on a rack in the corner.
"Caroline. What's up?" he asked, his voice soft enough not to carry.
Corporal Reynolds looked over at him and then back to the books in front of her. "We've been compromised."
"Apparently someone oversaw us talking and ratted me out to Sergeant Clemson."
"Who, of course ratted us both out to Jack."
"'Fraid so," she mourned.
"How did you find out?"
"Corporal Danzig. She's serving as a double agent. Don't worry; she's utterly loyal to us."
"Sheila? Oh sure. I haven't seen her in a while. Say, how's Piccolo? She have her litter yet?"
Corporal Reynolds couldn't help but smile at the thoughtful comment. "Last night. Seven kittens. Four boys, three girls."
"Anyway," Corporal Reynolds started, returning to the business at hand, "they're wise to me. I'm fairly certain I'm being watched. I'm no good to you now," she added, a slight waver in her voice.
"That's not true, Caroline. You've been a big help. And you're still a help, passing along this intell." Daniel paused, thinking. "You know, this could work in our favor."
"If they're watching you, you could spread a little false intell, interject a little chaos into their ranks." He paused again, this time for dramatic emphasis. "It could be fun." He smiled, broadly.
She smiled back. Yep, this could definitely work. No way in hell was Daniel going to let Jack 'pain in the mikta' O'Neill win the day. No way at all.
"I'll figure out a way to communicate with you. We may have to lay low for a bit."
"You can pass messages along via Corporal Danzig. She'll keep you informed."
"Thanks, Caroline. You've been a real help."
"My pleasure Daniel. Besides, its been fun."
"Don't worry, it ain't over yet. Not by a long shot." With that, Daniel left the library, plotting and planning the downfall of Jack O'Neill.
Two days later...
Jack was not a happy camper. Hammond had just informed him and the rest of his team that their presence had been requested on Akkarin, the new Tok'Ra home base. Apparently High Councilor Persus was stepping down and one of the other snakes was going to take his place. Since the Tok'Ra and the Tau'ri were now best buds, thanks to that damn treaty, the Tok'Ra High Council had asked a Hammond to send a contingent from the SGC to attend the swearing in ceremony, and shake hands, tails?, with the new high muckety muck. And who better than SG-1, flagship team and number one on the Goa'uld "hit" parade.
Carter, of course, was delighted at the chance to see her father, if only briefly. Daniel was thrilled by the prospect of witnessing an aspect of Tok'Ra culture. Teal'c, well, he was probably less than happy; he was still hurting over the whole Tanith thing, not that Jack blamed him one bit. A snake is a snake, in Jack's book, and no matter what Carter and Jacob and anyone else said the contrary, the more he saw of them in action, the more certain he was right.
There was only one bright side to all of this that Jack could see; he had a little surprise planned for Daniel and this was the perfect opportunity to spring it.
Carter had been given first dibs on the locker room, since, well, to be honest, she always managed to get showered, dressed and kitted up faster than her male counterparts. Now the three men were taking their turn gearing up. Well, make that Jack and Teal'c were gearing up. Daniel was just standing in front of his locker, a look of shock frozen on his face.
"Daniel? Something wrong there, buddy" Jack asked amiably.
Daniel whirled, his towel almost sliding off his slender hips with the sudden movement. His face was a mix of emotions: outrage, horror, embarrassment. As the flush crept across his face Jack couldn't help but think 'And its embarrassment by a nose. Pay the winna!' Tearing his eyes away from the stunned expression, and carefully trying to keep his eyes away from that broad muscled chest still glistening with water from the shower, Jack noticed something else: a bit of pink fabric, wadded up in Daniel's fingers.
"Daniel?" Jack asked again, using that soft patient tone that usually broke Danny out of his funks.
Daniel looked at Jack and his expression changed to one of true outrage. "Jack!" He yelled.
"Look at this!" he answered, waving the bit of pink fabric under Jack's nose. Only now, as it was unfurled could Jack see what it was. A pair of boxer shorts. Bright _pink_ boxer shorts in point of fact.
"Uh, Danny...is there something we should know here?"
Wrong question. "These aren't mine! Well, no, that's not true. They were mine, back when they were white!"
"Oh," Jack said. "They're, um, colorful?!"
"Yes, very," he replied tartly. "And they aren't the only thing." Daniel stepped aside so that Jack could peer into his locker. Well, Daniel wasn't lying there. His shorts weren't the only thing. His entire desert camo uniform-tee shirt, utility shirt, BDU pants, jacket-were all now an utterly captivating shade of pink.
"Well, that'll come in handy if we ever gate to the planet of the Pepto Bismoids," Jack supplied.
"This isn't funny, Jack! I can't go to Akkarin looking like a...a..."
Ohh, tough crowd. And when did Daniel get those laser beams installed in his eye sockets, anyway?
Daniel sputtered in outrage.
"Huh. I guess somebody must stuck a red sock or something in with the wash," Jack theorized.
Daniel's eyes narrowed and his gaze turned positively artic. Oh, he had no doubt who was behind this little escapade and he swore Jack would live to regret it, though he might not live much beyond it.
Taking in Daniel's expression, Jack decided it was time to call in reinforcements, or maybe a hostage negotiator. "OK, Danny, I'm sure we can find a replacement uniform. Carter!"
For the second time in three days, Sam had been summoned into the locker room to witness yet another in the ongoing series of 'SGC fashion don'ts.' If she thought the colonel's muscle tee was out there, well, Daniel's Dream Barbie SGC Prom uniform was even better. She couldn't help it. She guffawed.
"Sam!" Daniel chided, his indignation now being edged out by hurt.
Sam immediately felt duly chastised. "Sorry Daniel."
"Carter, see if you can rustle up a replacement uniform for Daniel before he starts turning redder than his undies, will ya?"
"Yes, sir." And she was off in a flash. She returned twenty minutes later, but her mission had only met with partial success. She found a spare tee shirt, utility shirt, jacket and pants, but, alas, no underwear.
"Sam?" Daniel asked pleadingly, the sad puppy eyes spontaneously causing hearts to flutter all the way on the other side of the facility.
"Sorry Daniel, no luck."
"C'mon Daniel, you'll just have to grin and bear it. Besides, no one will be seeing your underwear, right? Well, unless you wanna give Anise a little thrill and talk about glottal stops or something in your shorts, seeing as how she's all hot for your brain, anyway." Jack tweaked. He just couldn't help himself.
Ohh, and Daniel really was going for that whole if looks could kill thing. Youch! So far he's mastered maiming; dismemberment couldn't be far behind. Time tone it down a notch,
"Daniel?" Jack queried softly "We've really got to go. Hammond told us we're shipping out at 1400. That's ten minutes from now."
"Fine," Daniel sulked. He threw on his clothes as quickly as possible. And as Jack said, no one could see his bright pink shorts, but Daniel knew they were there. As did Sam and Teal'c, and Jack damn him to hell. Daniel knew he would be fidgeting the whole time, painfully aware of his highly unconventional underwear. Only one thing helped. The silent promise that Jack O'Neill would soon be feeling his pain. In a very big way.
Three days later...
Daniel had been giving Jack a wide berth ever since the whole "Pretty Princess" uniform fiasco as he had taken to calling it privately. There had been no witnesses beyond the members of SG-1, but Daniel had the distinct impression that people were, well looking at him. Like they knew somehow. It was almost like they were undressing him with their eyes to see if he was currently wearing bright pink boxer shorts. It was an uncomfortable sensation.
Daniel knew that Teal'c could be relied upon to keep the tale under wraps. He was, after all, the very soul of discretion. Besides, people didn't just up and engage Teal'c in idle chit chat. And even if they did, somehow Daniel didn't think his briefs would be the number one topic of conversation.
Sam could be a problem. She was, after all, chatty, and in normal circumstances she loved the opportunity to interact, share, explore. But she had been so upset on Daniel's behalf, that no sooner did they get the all clear from Hammond then she went out a bought Daniel a compensatory bag of chocolate walnut cookies. No, his big sister Sam would protect him.
So that left only one possible suspect: the bane of his existence, the thorn in his side, the rock at his back, Colonel Jack 'the tactless' O'Neill. Jack was, after all the instigator of this particular incident, and therefore he had the most to gain by making Daniel's humiliation public.
And yet, Daniel knew deep down, Jack would never do such a thing. Oh, he might enjoy getting one up on his favorite civilian pain in the ass, but there had never been any malice behind his actions, no intent to wound or shame. No, Jack's little pranks had always been of the good, clean, and on occasion, slightly bawdy in a PG-13 kind of way, fun.
If Daniel were honest with himself, he'd have to admit this last incident had really been his own fault, at least in part. Jack had offered a truce after the revelation that Daniel had been the mastermind of "Operation AllTemperCheer." Daniel could have accepted it and just moved on. But no. He couldn't let it go. There was this little imp inside, taunting him, teasing him, reminding Daniel of all the times he had endured Jack's dubious sense of humor. It also reminded him of how much fun it had been to be, well wicked.
Daniel really hadn't ever had the opportunity to do these sorts of things growing up. Pranks, potty humor, all those things that were part and parcel of the typical American teenage boy's life, were as foreign to him as they were to Teal'c. When most boys were TPing neighbor's houses and giving each other wedgies, Daniel had been working on mastering language number nine? ten? preparing for his SATs and basically leading a bookish and fairly anti-social existence. He wasn't really complaining. He made his choices and those choices had ultimately brought him here, to the SGC, SG-1, and Jack, so there was no way he could regret the outcome. It was just, that, well, he'd never really had the chance to be bad while growing up and now, at the age of thirty-five, he found that he _wanted_ to be bad. Very, very bad. And even more, he wanted to be bad with one Colonel Jack O'Neill.
'Christ, Daniel. How do you get yourself into these situations anyway?'
Daniel closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair with a weary sigh. Maybe it was time to just buck it up, apologize to Jack and leave all this childishness behind.
He was startled from his reverie by a light rap on his door. Daniel opened his eyes to find Sam standing in his doorway, her body half hidden by the frame. She was worrying her lower lip with her teeth and her eyes darted around the room looking everywhere but at his face. Everything about her body language screamed tension and a profound desire to flee. Alarm bells began to sound in Daniel's mind. 'Not good, not good at all.'
"Daniel? Can I come in? she asked her voice uncharacteristically hesitant, as if she were unsure of her welcome. The alarm bells began to screech.
"Sure, Sam. You know I'm always available for you."
That earned him a tremulous smile. Sam entered the room, softly closing the door behind her. The alarm bells were now joined by flashing red lights and a tinny voice screaming 'warning, warning.'
She sat down on the stool on front of the desk facing him, and for the first time she made eye contact. She drew a deep breath, blew it out and then spoke in a sudden rush. "Daniel, I'm sorry," she blurted.
"Sorry? Sorry for what?"
"The colonel made me do it. I didn't want to, but he..."
"He what, Sam," Daniel prompted, keeping his voice soft and low.
"He smiled at me. And he said please. And then he reminded me that since I'd helped you with the whole 'let's convince Colonel O'Neill he's fat' scam then technically I owed him equal time in the prank wars, because otherwise I'd be playing favorites, and we're a team and..."
"Breathe, Sam," Daniel encouraged. 'God, is this what it feels like to be Jack when I go on a ramble,' he wondered. "What did Jack ask you to do?"
"He told me I was supposed to find you a spare uniform. He showed where it was hung so I could find it easily. But he was absolutely adamant that I wasn't supposed to bring any new underwear, just the uniform proper."
'Sonovabitch!' That sneaky little weasel! He set it all up and he even conned Sam into helping him, hence Sam's current teary confession. All thoughts of apologies and absolution were chucked right out the window. 'Alright, O'Neill, you asked for it.'
But first he had a crisis to resolve. "Its OK, Sam. I forgive you."
"You do?" she asked.
God, she sounded so desperate. Daniel felt as pang of guilt that she had been caught in the middle of all of this. She had been a willing conspirator, every bit as anxious as he to teach O'Neill a lesson he wouldn't soon forget. Of course, that lesson didn't seem to take, now did it? It looked like it was time to call school back into session and continue Jack's education. Maybe instruction by repetition was the way to go in this case.
Sam watched him, her apprehension still lingering. "If there's anything I can do..." she began.
"Thanks, Sam. I appreciate the offer. I may take you up on it. But don't worry; it's not your fault. I know how persuasive Jack can be." 'Yeah, kind of a cross between a bull dozer and Cary Grant wearing a tux. And sunglasses, don't forget the sunglasses..."
"Daniel?" Sam's sharp query snapped Daniel out of his sudden, and disturbingly erotic thoughts.
"Uh, sorry Sam. I zoned there for a minute."
"So, we're OK?" she asked hopefully.
He smiled his warmest and most reassuring smile. "We'll always be OK, Sam."
She fairly leaped across the desk, tackling Daniel in a full body hug.
"Hey, keep that up and I'll expect a wedding ring," he quipped, returning the hug with equal fervor.
"I wish," she chuckled, her eyes twinkling mischievously. 'Yeah, me and just about every woman on base, and more than a few of the men.
He bent his head and pressed a kiss on her forehead. "OK, enough of this mushy stuff. I suspect you've got work of your own that you've been neglecting while you've been stewing in your own completely unnecessary guilt," he looked at her and she nodded in confirmation, "and I have artifacts on tap," he said gesturing towards the work table. 'And revenge to plot.' "So git."
"Yes, sir, Dr. Jackson sir!" she said, offering a sloppy salute.
He couldn't help but smile. Things were back to where they should be between he and Sam.
She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Thanks," she said, as she slipped from his embrace and scampered towards the door, her assuaged mind no doubt already filled with quantum theories and random quarks.
He remained standing there in the middle of the lab, his own thoughts scurrying about, looking for the correct solution to his current dilemma. An idea suddenly came to mind. He wasn't sure if it was feasible, whether he could he master the logistics of the task, but he was more than willing to try.
He hustled over to his computer and logged on to the server. He pulled up a private e-mail address and then set up the personalized encryption code Sam had installed. He had asked for it because he had the suspicion--OK, the paranoid fear--that a certain wily air force colonel was sneaking a peek at his e-mail account, despite said colonel's supposed technophobia. Daniel knew that Jack wasn't nearly as dense as he pretended to be and since he had no idea of the extent of Jack's knowledge on any given subject, nor of the minions he had recruited to do his bidding, Daniel opted for caution over complacency.
Once he was sure it was safe, he began to type his message.
"Number Two. I have an idea. Would it be possible to..."
Daniel chuckled wickedly. Oh yeah, this would be good.
Two days later...
Jack O'Neill jogged briskly towards the briefing room, casting a quick, anxious glance at his watch. He was running later than planned this morning. He'd had a bear of a time getting his car started due to the battery that was dead or nearly so. One of his neighbors had provided him with a jump start and Jack had made it to base but his car wouldn't be leaving anytime soon, not without another jump, anyway.
This was one of the biggest problems with his current lifestyle. He spent so much time off planet, he had little time to take care of Earthbound problems. And when he did finally find the time, so much time had elapsed, he forgot what he needed to do. Like replace his car battery. He'd known for a while that it was on its last legs, cells, whatever, but he'd had so many other concerns crowding his mind, it had taken a back seat. Till now. 'Maybe I can get Daniel to give a jump, or a lift to Cliff's Auto this afternoon?'
Speaking, well thinking, of Daniel, he hadn't seen a whole lot of the Space monkey the last couple of days. Jack suspected he was still licking his wounds after the "Pretty in Pink" incident. OK, maybe it had been a _little_ over the top, but it was Daniel who instigated this round of pranks. Jack was just returning the favor. And yes, maybe Daniel had been a bit embarrassed by it, but, Jack had to admit, his response had been priceless. Oh, for a camcorder at times like this. Though, thinking back on the incident, he would have been happy to just have a tape of 'Space monkey in skimpy towel, apres shower,' or better still, 'Space monkey sans skimpy towel, apres shower.' Oh, yeah, now _that_ is a Kodak moment if ever there was one.
Jack hastened his stride and banished that image from his mind. The last thing he needed was to arrive at the mission briefing with a hard on. Wouldn't that just be the topic for discussion. Yeah, he could see it now...
'O'Neill, you appear to have a sizeable erection.'
'Colonel, would you care to explain what you're doing at a mission briefing with a boner?'
'Well, sir, its...well it's Daniel's fault!'
'Well, yeah, you're the one walking around looking hot enough to set off the smoke alarms. And that's fully clothed!'
'So it would be worse, without the, um clothes?'
'I think we need to test that hypothesis.'
'She's right, Jack. It's solid scientific method.' And with that Daniel slowly and oh, so sensually, began to strip off his uniform, piece by piece, until he was standing before Jack in all his delectable, naked glory.
Daniel looked down at Jack's lap and smiled, a thoroughly filthy smile that incinerated the last five brain cells left in Jack's head. 'Oh yes,' he drawled, 'Very solid.'
Jack came to a sudden stop in the middle of the corridor, nearly getting plowed over by the airman walking just behind him. Jack grunted an apology, as he moved over to the wall and scrubbed a hand over the face.
'Christ, Jack. Getta hold of yourself.'
'I'd rather getta hold of Daniel.'
'Make me, flyboy!'
Ah fuck. Now he's having arguments inside his own skull, fer cryin' out loud. Could this day get any worse? As he continued towards the briefing room, he had a sneaking suspicion he was about to find that out and all too soon.
Jack finally reached the briefing room, with about thirty seconds to spare. The rest of his team was already there. Teal'c was seated facing the door, reading a copy of the "National Inquirer" bearing the sordid headline "I had Wayne Newton's Alien Baby!" along with a badly doctored photo of a child with the butt ugliest toupee ever seen by man. Carter was across the table, scribbling something on a yellow legal pad. She looked up and flashed him a grin and a quick "Good morning, sir," before returning to her doodling. Daniel was seated next to her, his eyes skimming over a text, his long, restless fingers dancing over the handle of his ever present coffee mug. He too looked up, shot Jack a smile and a rather distracted "Hey Jack."
'Oh yeah, I can feel the love,' Jack thought as he moved over to the coffee pot to get a quick jolt of caffeine. "Where's Hammond?"
"He got a telephone call. I think it was Kayla announcing another tooth going AWOL," Carter supplied, smiling.
Jack smiled too. He liked Hammond's grand daughters and he was glad the general played such an active role in their lives. Somehow Jack couldn't see old General West attending his five-year old grand daughter's first ballet recital. But then again, West wasn't half the man 'Hammond of Texas' was. Jack took a sip from his mug and began to move towards the table.
Jack looked up, surprised by his Jaffa friend's sudden acknowledgement.
"It appears that you have a loose thread hanging from the sleeve of your garment," he intoned. "It is most distracting."
Jack looked down. Yep, sure enough there was a loose thread hanging all the way down to his left thumb. Huh. No biggie. He pulled, but instead of breaking off, it unraveled further. He tugged again with a bit more force; it unraveled some more. He gave it a third tug, this time with even more force. The results were _not_ what he had anticipated.
With the third forceful tug, the entire garment fell apart: sleeves, front, back, collar, Instead of hanging on his lean frame, the pieces of his erstwhile shirt were now flopped around his feet in a pathetic puddle of olive drab.
He stared bemusedly down at the remains of his shirt now resting at ground level. And then he heard it. A snigger.
He looked up to find his teammates, the same three people who had accompanied him on a suicide mission to Apophis's ship, who had toiled so diligently to save him Pelops' nanocyte technology, who had worked tirelessly for three months to rescue him from his exile on Edora, who stood by him through thick and thin, now struggling heroically to contain their spastic mirth, with less and less success.
His eyes sought out one member of his team in particular. 'Oh, Danny boy. You couldn't leave well enough alone could you? Don't worry. You'll be getting yours, real soon.'
At that precise moment, General Hammond strode into the briefing room to encounter the bizarre sight of Colonel O'Neill, dressed only in a tee-shirt and BDU pants, with what appeared to be bits and pieces of a utility shirt at his feet, and the remainder of his team giggling like school girls (well to be accurate Dr. Jackson and Major Carter were giggling, while the ever stoic Teal'c indulged in a broad, satisfied grin). He looked at them and sighed. 'Ah, yes, the flagship team of the SGC.'
"Ah, sorry, sir. I seem to have gotten a defective shirt," he said, quickly gathering up the remains and sliding into the seat next to Teal'c, which was, conveniently enough, located directly across from his own private millstone, one Daniel Jackson. Jack looked across the table and caught the archeologist's eye, flashing him a smile that promised retribution, before turning his gaze towards his commanding officer.
"Well, people, are we ready now?" the general asked, his tone tinged with wry amusement and the tolerance he kept on reserve when dealing with his best, and frankly favorite, team.
"Yes, sir," Carter replied. She flipped on the viewscreen and began her presentation, all seriousness and cool competence once more. "The preliminary readings sent back from the probe we sent to PX4-113 suggest a world rich with plant and animal life as well as..."
As Carter droned on about planetary conditions, diurnal cycles and photowhatsis, Jack again turned his attention to Daniel who was focusing completely on Sam's words, frantically scribbling down notes to himself. 'You're clever, Space monkey, very clever indeed. But this time, you've bitten off more that you can chew. You're playing in the big leagues now and you don't stand a chance against Jack 'The Terminator' O'Neill. Prepare to be decimated.'
Jack let the sound of Carter's voice wash over him, a soothing backdrop, as Jack prepared what would be his most daring covert operation of all time.
'Oh, yeah. This was gonna be good.'
Two days later...
Daniel scurried back to his lab, tossing a quick glance over his shoulder, then looking left and right, before slipping the key in the lock, and opening the door. He slid inside quickly, closing the door behind him and leaning against its solid support.
This was the one aspect of the escalating prank war that Daniel hadn't foreseen: the nail biting, gut twisting paranoia. Logically, he should have seen it coming. After all, the key to a good prank was lulling your victim into a false sense of security then hitting him when and where he least expects it. Of course, Daniel, having no experience with such things, simply hadn't realized how nerve- wracking it all would be.
Daniel has always considered himself someone who wasn't easily ruffled. Oh sure, he might occasionally stutter or blush, but that never kept him from doing what needed to be done. The problem was, this time he was going up against a special ops trained soldier, one with a steady hand and nerves of steel. The archeologist was forced to consider, that maybe, at least in this respect, Jack had him at a disadvantage.
For the past two days Jack had been, well, nice. He'd been thoughtful, solicitous, he hadn't snapped at Daniel, not once. He'd even brought him coffee and a chocolate covered doughnut with rainbow sprinkles this morning. This could only mean one thing: Jack had another prank up his sleeve-and not the one that was lying on the briefing room floor on Tuesday. Jack was up to something and it was going to be bad. Very, very bad.
But it was too late to back out now. He'd made his bed and now he'd just have to lie in it. Of course, he wouldn't mind that at all if the bed happened to be occupied by a hot, naked air force colonel with a wicked smile and sunglasses.
Oh, God, not again. These recurring and increasingly erotic fantasies involving his arch enemy and bete noir were _not_ helping his concentration _at all_.
His mind flashed back to the scene in the briefing room two days prior. He had no idea how Caroline had worked the unraveling utility shirt stunt, but it was brilliant, magical, everything Daniel had hoped for and more. A box of those imported English toffees she liked so much was even now making its way to her home as a gesture of appreciation for her artistry.
Daniel sat down reliving the scene, the tugs on the loose thread, the shirt falling apart like a hastily built house of cards. And Jack's expression! God, that had been wonderful! He couldn't help but chuckle in reminiscence. But now his errant imagination was providing another scenario: Jack tugs on the thread, but it isn't just his shirt that falls off, it's everything: tee, pants, boxer shorts, all of it fluttering to the ground leaving a completely naked and oh so edible Jack O'Neill occupying center stage. And in this fantasy, there's no Sam and Teal'c, no Hammond in the adjacent office. No, there was no one but Jack and Daniel in an empty, and softly lit room.
In his mind's eye he sees Fantasy Jack walking over to where Daniel sits at the briefing room table. The archeologist's mouth was suddenly, inexplicably dry, even as his palms become moist. 'Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,' the thought passes through his mind, racing erratically like a child's wind up toy. Jack is now standing directly in front of him. He swivels the chair around so Daniel is now eye to cock with Jack's erection and yes, it is every bit as scrumptious as the rest of the man. Daniel looks up and sees Jack looking down at him, his expression provocative and his voice sultry. 'Is this what you wanted, Daniel?' Fantasy Jack asks, his fingers tracing down Daniel's cheek, along his jaw, his thumb caressing his lips.
'Yes,' he manages to croak out in response, his heart fluttering against his ribs like the wings of a frantic bird.
Jack smiles, a wonderfully wicked smile full of promise, as he leans ever so slowly, inexorably, seductively down towards Daniel's willing mouth. 'Whatever you want Daniel,' he offers, his warm breath gusting against Daniel's mouth. Daniel's lips part in invitation as Jack moves closer, closer...
"Daniel! Fer cryin' out loud! Ya in there?"
Daniel started to full awareness, nearly falling out of his chair in surprise. He blinked his eyes rapidly to clear his hazy vision. Standing there before was not his naked and willing Fantasy Jack, but the real McCoy, fully clothed and gazing at Daniel with that expression of his that seems to ask whether Daniel had finally taken the dive off the deep end. 'Well, maybe this time he had," Daniel thought ruefully.
Jack took in Daniel's face and his own expression softened. "You OK there Danny boy?"
"Sure Jack, peachy," Daniel replied, running his hand through his short hair, spiking it in a way just too adorable for words. "Uh, did you, um, did you want something?"
"Yeah, matter of fact I do. Frasier's been trying to call you but she couldn't get through."
Daniel glanced over at his telephone. Sure enough, the handset was resting slightly off kilter in the cradle and he could now make out the bleating sound it was emitting. He must have jostled it with his elbow when he slipped into his hot little Jack fantasy. How long had he been sitting there daydreaming, and more importantly, how long had Jack been standing there watching him?
Daniel's eyes flickered up to Jack's face, a slow flush creeping over his cheeks. He scanned Jack's face looking for any evidence that the other man had seen or, Oh God!, overheard anything untoward, but the colonel's expression was carefully bland. Daniel sighed inwardly. His secret, at least for the time being was safe.
"Daniel?" Jack asked, his voice soft and cautious.
'Shit!' He was zoning again. "Sorry, Jack. You were saying?" 'Get a grip Jackson, and no don't you _dare_ think about that part of his anatomy!'
"I was saying Frasier's waiting for you." Daniel cast him an uncomprehending look. "Your physical?" Jack prompted.
Daniel's eyes widened. 'What?' He looked over at his wall calendar. Yep, there it was scrawled in bright red letters: 'P.E. Dr. F, 2pm.' He looked down at his watch. '2:24.' 0
Daniel dropped his head on his desk, with a satisfying thud, so satisfying, in fact, he did it twice more before looking up at Jack once more.
Jack was smiling fondly at him now, clearly amused at Daniel's behavior. "Ya know, Danny. They say the memory's the first thing to go."
"As you, no doubt, are well aware, colonel, given your, ah maturity," Daniel responded haughtily. OK, so winding Jack up wasn't the best idea when he knew Jack was plotting something, but it was sound tactics. After all, didn't they say 'the best defense is a good offense?' Or, wait was it the other way around? Oh, never mind, the important thing was to distract Jack from Daniel's current bout of absent mindedness, and since Jack's age was one of the man's hot button topics, it was usually a sure way to get a rise out of him and deflect unwanted attention away from Daniel.
And look. Worked like a charm. Jack's eyes narrowed and he now had that slightly pained grin he got when he wasn't amused, the one that looked like he had just sucked a lemon or had a run in with Maybourne.
"Well, Daniel, are you going to the infirmary, or not?"
"Sure, Jack, of course," Daniel offered affably, rising out of his chair, heading towards the door. The colonel, he noted hadn't moved. "Um, Jack?"
"Is there any particular reason why you're still in my lab?"
"No. None at all. What possible reason could I have to stay in your lab if you weren't even here."
Daniel's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "That's kinda what I just asked you," staring rather pointedly at the other man.
"Oh!" Jack drawled "Right. Got it," he replied finally moving out the door, falling into step with Daniel.
"You don't need to escort me. I _do_ know where the infirmary is."
"Just making sure you get there safe and sound, Daniel. Ya never know what dangers are lurking in these here corridors," the other man explained.
'Or what dangers are walking right along side me, eh, colonel?'
Daniel heaved a sigh. It was going to be a _long_ afternoon.
Daniel was going nuts. That was the clinical term for it. N-U-T-S. And it was all Jack's fault. He knew something was coming, he knew it was going to be bad, he just wished Jack would get it over with so Daniel could get on with his life. Yesterday Daniel had been practically quivering in nervous anticipation, but today? Today he was ready to throttle his commanding officer, and maybe toss him through an open wormhole ass first. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Daniel threaded his way along the corridors towards the locker room to trade his civvies for his uniform. If six years ago someone had told him he'd be wearing a uniform-a military uniform, no less-to work everyday, he'd have told them to up their medication. But now, wearing a uniform was actually one of the more normal, more stable aspects of his daily life.
Opening the locker room door, Daniel made his way to his locker. The room was deserted, oddly quiet without the boisterous presence of his teammates. Skinning out of his civvies, he opened the door and reached inside for a tee-shirt, slipping the black cotton over his head, before reaching in for a pair of BDU pants. He tugged on the buttons to open the fly, but they wouldn't move. He tugged again. No luck. Pulling off his glasses he squinted myopically at the buttons, suddenly realizing why: the button holes had all been sown shut. No way that fly was coming open without first removing all the buttons, then tearing out the fresh stitching and then re-sewing the buttons into place. Since his name wasn't Betsy Ross, Daniel decided to leave well enough alone.
He reached into the locker and pulled out a second pair of trousers. He knew the instant he touched the fabric of the leg they wouldn't be going on. Laundry services had starched these puppies to within an inch of their lives. He held them out in front of him. They looked like a strange 2-D cut out and Daniel had the terrible premonition that if he dropped them they would probably shatter into pieces all over the locker room floor.
Well, Jack had certainly outdone himself this time. He reached into the locker for the third pair of pants. The fabric felt normal. He checked the fly; the buttons popped easily. Suddenly, Daniel was wary. Alarm bells were clanging in his brain, screaming 'trap.'
Jack might, from time to time, accuse Daniel of lacking in survival instincts, but after five years living, working, fighting, and even dying side by side with soldiers, it really wasn't true anymore. He might not have the superior senses if Teal'c, or the training and skills of Jack and Sam, but Daniel could usually smell a trap, especially when it came with a big fat neon sign saying 'way too easy.'
Daniel looked at the pants, studying them carefully. Everything _seemed_ OK. No colors, no spots, no holes. They looked fine. And maybe they were. Maybe _that_ was the prank: to make Daniel think there was something wrong, drive him crazy with suspicion, getting him to twist himself all up in knots like a dog chasing his own tail.
The question, of course, was whether or not Jack was capable of being that subtle. Usually, Jack was an upfront kinda guy, direct, no nonsense and about as subtle as an anvil to the head. But he _had_ been in special ops, and he had participated in covert operations.
And suddenly an unpleasant and unwanted memory rushed forward in his mind: sitting in Jack's living room, toying with the tall neck of a bottle of beer, feeling the drops of condensation beneath his fingers as his best friend looked him in the eye and told him their friendship was s sham, that it had no foundation. Daniel winced at the memory, ruthlessly pushing it aside. It still had the power to wound, even now when he knew it had all been an act.
'Well, Daniel. There's your answer. I'd say that was pretty subtle.'
Daniel realized he was still standing there, wearing nothing but his tee-shirt and boxers, fingering the fabric of the trousers like a discount wholesaler in the Garment District. 'Alright, Daniel. Put up or shut up.'
He sighed, He didn't really have any choice here. He pulled the pants on, buttoned the fly and threaded his belt through the loops. Sliding a utility shirt over black cotton clad shoulders, he closed his locker and strode purposefully from the locker room.
Thanks to his earlier trouser crisis, Daniel was now running late for SG-1's scheduled briefing. Now he only had just enough time to run back to his lab, grab his notes and a pad of paper before jogging to the briefing room. By the time he arrived the other three members of SG-1 were already seated. Sam gave him her brightest smile, before turning her attention back to her laptop, her fingers fairly dancing over the keys. Teal'c wore a frown of deep puzzlement as he watched the other member of SG-1, Jack O'Neill, as the colonel bounced a little rubber ball attached by an elastic string against a wooden paddle. Jack had quite a rhythm going, the elastic stretching and contracting, as the ball slapped emphatically on the wood. Again. And again. And again. Daniel shook his head and walked over to the coffee pot. The thwack of rubber ball meeting wood stopped abruptly. "See Teal'c? It's all in the wrist. Why don't you give it a try?" O'Neill offered, sliding the paddle across the table towards the Jaffa. "No." "Ya sure? It's loads of fun." "I do not think so." Well, you can't argue with that, now can you? "How about you, Daniel? You up for a little test of your hand-eye co- ordination?" "As...scientific as that may sound, I'll pass," Daniel said, putting his mug down on the table and sliding into the chair next to Jack. He should have known sitting that close to Jack was a jinx. No sooner had he lowered himself onto the upholstered seat, then he heard a sound. A ripping sound. Tearing. Rending. Daniel paled, then flushed. 'Ah, crap.' The other three heads immediately looked up at the sound. Daniel pushed himself up from the chair to try to survey the damage, praying it wasn't as bad as he thought. No, it wasn't. It was worse. Far worse. He hadn't just torn the seat of his pants, he had in fact, torn the entire inseam. From one ankle up to his ass, and then all the way down the other side, Daniel now had complete ventilation. In house air-condition. Ideal for missions to hot, humid planets but embarrassing as hell here on terra firma. Daniel sighed and just lowered his head to the table wishing the earth would just open up, swallow him and be done with it already. General Hammond walked into the briefing room just in time to hear the sound of tearing and the vicious epithet uttered under the breath of the hapless victim. "Dr. Jackson? Are you alright, son?" Daniel looked up, cursing the general's timing. Bad enough Sam, Teal'c and Jack the Joker were witness to the newest prank, but now General Hammond had joined the audience. 'Double crap.' "Yes, sir, everything's fine sir. I, uh, I just must've gotten a pair of...um...bad pants," he winced inwardly hearing himself uttering something so completely and utterly inane. "They certainly couldn't have been approved by the U.S.A.F." he ended weakly. General Hammond's eyes narrowed looking form Daniel to Jack and back again. "No I'm sure they weren't. Perhaps I'll have to look into the matter." Now it was Jack's turn to wince. "Well, now that that's settled, shall we get on with the briefing? Dr. Jackson?" Oh, right. He was supposed to be giving a presentation. 'C'mon Daniel, get it in gear.' Taking a deep breath, he began. "Well, sir, based upon the information SG-4 brought back from their recent trip to PX6-905, I think it is highly probable that we're dealing with a culture..." Daniel continued on, grateful that he had prepared his notes so meticulously the night before. The rest of the briefing went smoothly. Sam supported his argument that this culture had apparently developed to a technological level equal to, or perhaps slightly surpassing that of Earth, Teal'c corroborated the apparent lack of Goa'uld presence, and Jack had enthusiastically endorsed his proposal to return to the planet and try to establish trade for the unusual crystals they used to power their technology. All in all, a very positive meeting. By the time it was over Daniel had almost forgotten about his little trouser woes, except, of course for the occasional flow of cool air against the inside of his legs, "Very well people. You have a go. SG-1 will return to PX6-905 to negotiate a trade agreement with the indigenous population. You'll leave at 0800 Monday morning. Dismissed." The four members of SG-1 began to stand, gathering their belongings and preparing to depart. "Colonel O'Neill? Dr. Jackson? A word, if I may?" It may have been spoken as an interrogative, but both men knew an order when they heard one. Standing up, they followed General Hammond out of the briefing room and into his office. "At ease," General Hammond said once he was seated. "Dr. Jackson?," he asked, his voice soft and solicitous, "Would you like to sit? I know you're not terribly comfortable, so I'll make this as brief as possible." "Thank you, sir," Daniel replied miserably, sliding into the upholstery and pushing his legs tightly together. "I'll get right to the point," Hammond said, his previously paternal manner now gone. "We've been undertaking a lengthy internal review of the various departments and sub-departments of the SGC. Today, I had a look at the records of the laundry service," he paused for dramatic emphasis, "and I was wondering if either of you gentlemen could shed any light on some of the curious notations I came across." Jack and Daniel looked at one another. Oh yeah, there it was, that sinking feeling. General Hammond turned his attention to the sheaf of reports on his desk, Flipping through a few pages, he apparently came across the one he was looking for. He cleared his throat before beginning. "Shrinkage of SGC uniforms belonging to Dr. D. Jackson," General Hammond intoned gravely, warming up. "Extra hot rinse cycle for tee-shirts of Dr. D. Jackson. Dying of one complete desert camoflage uniform plus undergarments belonging to Dr. D. Jackson-use red dye #8. Sewing shut of buttons of fly of one pair of BDU trousers belonging to Dr. D. Jackson. Five extra heavy starch treatments of one pair of of BDU trousers belonging to Dr. D. Jackson. Five extra heavy bleach treatments of one pair of of BDU trousers belonging to Dr. D. Jackson." Hammond looked up and gave Daniel a sympathetic look at this last. In response, Daniel, gave the general his best put upon, long suffering, used and abused archeologist expression. And then, for that little added extra, he batted his eyelashes and gave the general his most tremulous smile. The general smiled back. Jack glared darkly at them both. "It would appear, based upon these records, that Dr. Jackson has been the victim of a series of pranks. Although only one of the annotations gives any indication of the instigator of these events, I think I can extrapolate the identity of the perpetrator. Colonel O'Neill, do have any comment? Jack, for once decided to keep his big mouth shut. For about five seconds. "But sir," he began indignantly, "Daniel shrunk four pairs of my trousers!" "Yes, colonel, I'm well aware of that fact. Dr. Jackson undertook that action with my complete approval. He believed, as did I and the other people involved in the endeavor that you needed to learn to curb your, ah, high spirited activities. Obviously, the exercise wasn't as successful as we'd hoped." The general sighed. Daniel sighed. Jack, once again, glared. "But sir!" Jack interjected. "He shrunk _my_ tee-shirt!" "Based on the evidence it doesn't appear you left him much choice _but_ to retaliate in response to tour activities," the general replied, his tone sharpening. Jack was stunned. This couldn't be happening. He wanted to explain, to renounce Daniel for the devious little weasel he was, but every time he opened his mouth, words failed him. He kept opening and closing his mouth, doing a passable impersonation of a fish thrown up on shore. Lord knows he looked just as pathetic and was every bit as defenseless. Trapped between the twin forces of his stern CO and Sarah Berhardt over there doing his best tragic victim performance, Jack knew he was dead. "Well colonel?" Jack hung his head. There wasn't anything he could say or do that would dig him out of this hole. "To say that I am disappointed in you colonel, would be stating the obvious. But its really Dr. Jackson you should be apologizing to, seeing as how he is the innocent victim of your little pranks." 'Innocent victim! Like hell!' Internally, Jack was railing against the injustice of it all. His reasons for starting the laundry experiments had been purely, OK, mostly altruistic. They certainly hadn't been undertaken with any kind of malice. Daniel had gotten him back, fair and square. OK, he could live with that, he even offered a truce, ready and willing to put the incident to rest, no harm, no foul, no bad feelings. But then Daniel, DANIEL! just had to go and escalate. Jack was simply responding in kind. And now, to add insult to injury, Jack was getting saddled with all the blame and sweet, innocent little Danny boy was getting off scot free! Christ! Was there any justice in the world?! Daniel, meanwhile just sat there looking sweet and innocent and so damned edible Jack just wanted to throw him to the floor and start tearing off his clothes. Hey, the pants were already half gone. That would just speed up the process. Jack knew for a fact that Danny was _nowhere_ near as innocent as he pretended; unfortunately, Hammond did not. As far as the general was concerned, Danny was just a poor wee lamb who needed to be protected from the Big Bag Wolf O'Neill. God, life really did suck sometimes. "Dr. Jackson?" Hammond's soft voice brought Jack out of his funk. "Yes, sir? "Son, I'm sure that Colonel was the instigator of all these pranks. I apologize for any damage, emotional or otherwise he may have caused. However," Hammond paused, "I hope in the future you won't allow yourself to get dragged into all of this. I sanctioned the first venture to teach the colonel a lesson, but I really don't want to be seen as endorsing this kind of juvenile behavior. SG-1 is the flagship team of this facility and as such must maintain a higher standard of behavior. The eyes of this facility, and our allies are upon you. Do I make myself clear, gentlemen?" Hammond shifted his gaze from the silently fuming, and apparently unrepentant Colonel O'Neill to the blushing and clearly contrite Dr. Jackson. After a long pause he heard two mumbled "yes sirs." "There will be no other pranks involving the laundry, understood?" "Yes sir." "Very well. Dismissed." With that both mean beat a hasty retreat from their less than happy commanding officer.
Jack and Daniel walked to the locker room, side by side in silence. Jack alternated between righteous indignation and guilt. He was royally pissed that that Hammond had ripped him a new one while Daniel, who was at least as culpable as he was, had got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a pat on the hand, but every time some passing air man gave Daniel a curious stare, noticing Daniel's ventilated wardrobe, Jack felt a pang of guilt. Maybe, just maybe he had gone too far this time. All the other pranks on both sides had been private. Only Sam, Teal'c, Hammond and Janet had any inkling of the battle of wills and wits that he and Daniel had been waging. There had been embarrassment, but never humiliation. Until now. Jack pushed open the door to the locker room, following Daniel inside. He glanced over at his companion. The archeologist was awfully quiet, his expression closed and neutral. Usually Jack could read the younger man like a book, but at times like this when his face closed up, he was at an utter loss. Would Daniel forgive him? Could he? Had Jack managed to wreck the best friendship he'd ever had all in the name of a stupid game of one up-manship? Daniel was already standing in front of his open locker. He discarded the ruined trousers; they were so far beyond repair, the trash bin was their only possible destination. Jack went through the process of disrobing and dressing on autopilot, shooting frequent glances over at the silent archeologist. Daniel pulled on his sweater, grabbing his jacket with one hand, while shoving his wallet in the back pocket of his jeans with the other. Jack was just about to grab his own jacket when he heard a sound. Just a small one, at first, so muted he couldn't identify it. He heard it again, and turned sharply to his left. The sound had come from Daniel. He looked closer at the other man, who had his head turned away, his face buried in his chest, muffling the sound. Oh God! Was that a sob? Was Daniel crying. He reached out, placing his hand gently on Daniel's shoulder and giving it a little shake. "Daniel?" he asked softly. "Daniel?" he repeated. Daniel finally looked up that that and Jack got his first clear look at the younger man's face. Daniel wasn't crying, he was... 'Sonovabitch!' The little shit was _laughing_, LAUGHING! At Jack. No. Not just laughing. Guffawing, chortling, bursting with peals of laughter as they rolled off him, tears streaming down his cheeks, his arms wrapped tightly around his middle as he tried to contain his mirth. "Daniel!" 'God dammit!' Here he was worried about poor little Daniel's delicate sensibilities and what does Jackson do? Turns around and kicks him in the ass. "Daniel!" he repeated, not even attempting to hide his anger this time. "Oh, God. Oh, God! That was...that was...priceless," he finally managed to stutter. "Well, I'm so glad YOU enjoyed it, ya little shit! Hammond rips me a new six and he's pattin' you on the back sayin' 'There, there, Dr. Jackson, like you were the poor, innocent victim of the cold hearted colonel." "Oh, don't go playing the aggrieved victim yourself, Jack," Daniel said, finally getting control of his amusement. He wiped his cheeks with his sleeve and scrubbed his face with his hands. "You were an active participant in all this. A _very_ active participant. Its not my fault that your last stunt was so poorly conceived and executed." "Whaddaya mean poorly conceived and executed?" Jack asked, his indignation rising once more. He raised his hand, lifting his fingers one by one as he ticked off the points of his argument. "You chose a public locale, with a semi- hostile witness present, and to top it off, the trap was sprung at precisely the moment said witness walked in the door. You might have pulled off the stunt, but I earned bonus sympathy points from Hammond. All said, I'd say _I_ won the round, wouldn't you?" For the second time that day, Jack was stunned into utter speechlessness. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Wait a second. Your little unraveling shirt trick. That was done in the same public locale with the same semi-hostile witness," he accused. "Yes, but unlike you, I was able to maintain control of the timing. If Hammond had been there, then I would have delayed implementing the plan," he explained coolly. Jack thought about the implications of that revelation. "Teal'c. You had Teal'c spring the trap. Sonovoabitch!" Daniel regarded him unperturbed. "Oh, save the outrage for someone who isn't wise to you, Jacko. You had no qualms about manipulating Sam into helping you spring the pink undie scam. I'd say we're even on that count." Jack felt a sudden and overwhelming compulsion to bang his head against his locker door until he knocked some sense into his noggin or he beat himself unconscious, whichever came first. Daniel had done it. Again. Taken him out at the knees without even breaking a sweat. His wily little Space monkey had out thought, out foxed and generally out maneuvered Jack at every turn. Again. As far as Jack could see, there was one bright spot in all of this: at least Danny was on there side. If Daniel ever decided to switch sides and join up with the Snakeheads, well, Earth was pretty much toast. Jack heaved a big sigh. It just wasn't fair. Why, oh why, had God chosen to saddle him with the devious, intractable and totally scrumptious albatross known as Daniel Jackson? He finally gave voice to that opinion. "It's still not fair that I got busted and you got away scot free!" Daniel smiled at him, a smile full of warmth, humor and just a touch of smug superiority as he began moving towards the locker room door. "Ah, but Jack, it's your own fault. You broke cardinal rule number one of any good covert operation." Jack couldn't help himself. He had to ask. "And that would be...?" Daniel stopped at the door, turning to grace him with his most beatific smile. "Never, ever leave a paper trail." And with that sage pronouncement, Dr. Daniel Jackson, native of Earth, adopted son of Abydos and decipherer of the Stargate swept out of the room, leaving Colonel Jonathon 'Jack' O'Neill, team leader of SG-1, 2IC of the SGC and chosen representative of the Asgaard floundering helplessly, and hopelessly in his wake.
Next: Fluff N' Fold