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Fanfiction: Questionable Motivations

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S6 Memento
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Jonas & Team friendship. Sam & Teal'c friendship. Daniel & Vala friendship.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.
 

Questionable Motivations


‘I really don’t think this is a good idea, Boreck.’ The brunette flicked her ponytail over her shoulder and regarded the man in front of her with a frown. Her finger tapped the metal tankard on the scarred wooden table in front of her.

Daniel Jackson leaned on the wall beside the table and watched the exchange with interest. As an Ascended being he was confident that he was completely hidden from view and wouldn’t be seen by any of the patrons of the alien tavern. He was half-amused, half-surprised to find that the grungy back-water dives teeming with alien life depicted so much in classic sci-fi films actually existed in reality. He was torn between wanting to observe from a purely anthropological basis and just wanting to soak up the atmosphere. There had to have been half a dozen alien species that weren’t remotely human lounging at the bar. If only Teal’c were with him, Daniel mused fondly. The Jaffa would have gotten a big kick out of the similarity to the tavern that appeared in Star Wars.

He felt a pang of loneliness. He missed Teal’c; missed his other former SG1 team-mates Jack O’Neill and Samantha Carter too. He could imagine Jack’s wry comments about the tentacles of the barkeep; Sam’s spark of adventure flaring in her blue eyes at the prospect of seeing an alien bar brawl. He shook away the thoughts and focused.

He’d travelled to the tavern for a serious reason, Daniel reminded himself. He’d been following Anubis’s First Prime for days as Herak searched for the Eye of Apophis. The Eye was one of six ornaments that had once been part of an Ancient weapon capable of destroying a planet with a single blast. Anubis had recovered four of the six and it looked as though he was intending to rebuild the weapon although how he knew about it was a mystery.

Daniel sighed at the thought and stopped abruptly as the brunette threw a look towards him as though she had heard him. Daniel held his breath as her eyes raked over the spot where he stood.

She frowned and returned her attention to her drinking companion evidently dismissing her brief thought that she had heard something. ‘You’re trying to con Anubis, Boreck. That’s never a good idea.’

‘It’s a great idea!’ The fifty-something male grinned at her revealing a set of crooked teeth. ‘Everyone in the sector knows he’s been looking for the Eye. I bet you a heap of naquadah that if we don’t do this, someone else will. Probably those goons from the Alliance.’

‘There is no we.’ The woman said lightly almost teasingly but Daniel could sense the underlying steel in the words.

‘Your father said you would help, Vala.’ Boreck pushed a hand through his limp and thinning brown hair.

‘My father...’ she could herself before she could finish the sharp retort but Boreck had clearly gotten the message.

He held up two hands. ‘Jacek just said that you were a whiz at the old ‘I am Goa’uld’ pretend thing.’

Daniel watched as the woman – Vala – stiffened. It was almost imperceptible, and hidden by the layer of form fitting leather she wore. Boreck failed to notice the way her muscles were tensed, his eyes landing instead on an expanse of her exposed cleavage as he glugged down another tankard of whatever alcoholic beverage the bar was serving.

‘Look,’ Boreck paused to burp less than discreetly, ‘this First Prime will be arriving for the meet soon; I got this.’ He pulled out a package from his bag and placed it on the table. He unwrapped the cloth binding and revealed a dull silver circle studded with cheap amber stones.

It wasn’t a bad facsimile of the Eye, Daniel mused.

‘Is that...?’ Vala asked, apparently her curiosity getting the best of her.

‘A fake.’ Boreck said. ‘But I based it on the real one.’

Vala looked at him sharply. She flicked her hair back again and sat back in the chair, a picture of studied casualness. ‘You’ve seen it?’

Boreck waved a hand. ‘Doesn’t matter.’

‘Why don’t you just sell this First Prime what you know?’ Vala asked idly. She waved a hand at the ornament which Boreck wrapped back up. ‘Why the fake?’

He snorted. ‘What am I stupid?’

Yes, Daniel thought unsympathetically; he could practically see the same thought travel through the woman’s mind.

Boreck stuffed the fake Eye back into his bag. ‘You gonna help me out here or not? Would sell better if it was a Goa’uld making the exchange.’ He winked at her.

Daniel saw the momentary flinch although Vala was quick to hide it. He wondered at it.

‘Anubis is the Goa’uld other Goa’uld fear.’ Vala said seriously. ‘Crossing him is not a good idea.’ She stood up in a smooth fluid motion that showed off her lithe body. She grabbed her leather jacket from the back of the chair and flashed Boreck a clearly insincere smile. ‘I’m out.’

‘Your loss.’ Boreck said.

Vala hesitated suddenly. ‘Boreck, I would seriously reconsider and just tell Anubis what you know about the Eye.’

Boreck shrugged and reached for his tankard.

She paused for a moment if considering arguing with him further but she suddenly turned on her leather boot clad heel. She stalked away to another table in the far corner where a game of some sort was in progress and quickly inveigled her way into the group.

Daniel shook himself again as he realised he was watching her. Camouflage, Daniel thought idly, thinking about her outfit; armour and weapon combined. She accentuated her attributes to fool a man into thinking she was harmless; to allow her to con him out of everything with a smile and a wink. But there was a quick mind and compassion buried beneath the act; she had a good heart. He’d seen it in the way she had tried to convince Boreck to give up his con.

Daniel sighed. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or apprehensive that the lead Herak had gotten about the Eye had turned out to be nothing but a sham. He had a bad feeling about what would happen to the hapless Boreck too much to be completely pleased. He couldn’t interfere, Daniel reminded himself. He was just observing. He shifted, wrapping his arms around his torso as he looked over his shoulder. He half-expected Oma to show up and lecture him on his journey again. He was certain that the idea behind Ascension wasn’t to spend it traipsing across the galaxy tracking the movements of an enemy. His mouth twisted. He was beginning to wonder again why he had Ascended. He had initially made the leap thinking he could do more to make a difference only to discover that he couldn’t do much at all. He’d stayed because he believed he had something to learn from the experience but he was beginning to question even that.

The sudden silence of the tavern alerted him to Herak’s arrival in the open doorway. The blond haired Jaffa sneered as the crowd looked him and his escort over. Boreck waved at him and Herak entered the tavern as whispers erupted in the small dark corners.

Anubis’s First Prime took the seat across from Boreck that Vala had earlier vacated. His two burly escorts flanked him.

‘You are Boreck?’ Herak asked, sounding uninterested.

‘I am he.’ Boreck smiled. ‘I have what you seek.’

‘Show me.’ Herak said.

Boreck reached into his bag and brought out the fake Eye. He laid it ceremoniously on the table in front of the Jaffa.

Herak shot him a look but picked it up and unwrapped it. He fingered it carefully before handing it off to the Jaffa on his left.

‘And my reward?’ Boreck asked smoothly.

Herak looked at him. ‘Outside.’ He pushed the chair back and swept out.

Boreck quickly downed his drink and followed.

Daniel simply shifted through space until he was outside the tavern. Night had fallen and only a small patch of ground was visible in front where the lights from the windows illuminated the area. The cargo ship Herak had used to get to the planet sat in the middle of the town square.

Herak waited until they were shrouded in darkness before he moved. He suddenly grabbed Boreck and forced him up against the tavern wall. ‘You are a fool.’ He snarled and gestured at the Jaffa beside him who unsheathed a dagger. The blade gleamed in the dim light.

‘Woah, woah.’ Boreck said, trying for an innocence that he couldn’t quite pull off. ‘There’s no need for that.’ His dark eyes gave away his fear; sobriety rapidly setting in.

‘You think Lord Anubis wouldn’t know you intended to trick us?’ Herak gloated darkly, releasing him and taking a step back. ‘He is a God.’

Boreck swallowed hard. ‘Look...no harm, right?’

Herak smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant sight. ‘He knows you have seen the Eye. This reproduction,’ he tossed it at Boreck carelessly who failed to catch it and it hit the ground with a dull thud, ‘is too close to the original for you not to be aware of its existence. You will tell me everything you know.’

‘Sure, sure.’ Boreck agreed. He gestured nervously. ‘I, uh, I saw it a few years ago. Just after Apophis was defeated by Sokar. It was in Sokar’s Temple on Hypthon.’ His eyes darted to the blade. ‘That’s all I know, I swear.’

Herak took one half-step forward, his manner threatening.

‘OK, OK.’ Boreck said quickly. ‘The monks there sent it to Laka to Apophis’s Great Palace when Sokar fell. And that’s it, I swear!’

Herak stepped back and Boreck breathed a sigh of relief. Daniel held his own breath, all too certain of what was coming next. Couldn’t interfere, he reminded himself even as guilt and frustration slid through his belly.

The Jaffa with the dagger exchanged a look with Herak. The First Prime walked away to the cargo ship and the Jaffa moved in on Boreck. The blow was swift and lethal. Boreck fell to the ground, blood gushing from his open gut. Daniel watched as the Jaffa ran back to the ship as the cargo ship lifted into the night sky.

Daniel shivered. He could feel Boreck’s life slowly seeping into the ground. The conman would be dead soon. He couldn’t save him. It was against the rules. It didn’t take away the sour taste in his mouth or disgust at his own inaction.

The tavern door opened and Vala stepped out. Her eyes tracked the departing cargo ship. Boreck moaned and though it was soft and low, Vala’s head swivelled towards him. She hurried over to him and knelt beside him.

Vala’s eyes scanned over Boreck and she pulled a face. ‘I did warn you, Boreck.’

Daniel grimaced, certain that she intended to rob Boreck of his belongings. Instead, she reached into her jacket and Daniel’s eyes widened at the sight of the Goa’uld healing device. He watched as she held it over Boreck’s abdomen, as the healing glow of amber hit the conman and repaired the damage done by Anubis’s Jaffa.

Boreck’s eyes were wide as he looked at Vala healing him. When she took her hand away, he scrabbled back away from her. He stared at her. ‘What are you?’

‘It’s actually a very long story...’ Vala began, straightening to stand up.

Boreck bolted. He sprang up, pushed past her, catching her shoulder and sending her sprawling onto the ground. He ran off into the darkness.

Daniel just stopped himself in time from stepping forward and helping Vala regain her feet. She must be a former host, Daniel realised. Like Sam or Skaara. She probably had naquadah in her blood that enabled her to use the Goa’uld technology.

Vala swore lightly as she brushed herself off. ‘What did you expect, Vala? A thank you for saving his worthless ass!’ She adjusted her leather corset and put away the healing device. ‘I should have just robbed him.’ She muttered under her breath as she winced and rubbed at the shoulder Boreck had barrelled into.

Daniel could see the hurt under the bluster. He wondered how many times someone had rejected her the same way Boreck had after learning the truth about her. She had tried to do the right thing; she deserved better.

She sighed audibly as though agreeing with him and stooped to pick up the discarded fake Eye which she pocketed. She suddenly turned in Daniel’s direction as though aware she was being watched. ‘Hello?’ Vala called out. ‘Anybody there?’

Daniel held his breath, certain he was still invisible to her. She shrugged and went back inside the tavern. Daniel frowned. He’d had a similar problem with Osiris seeming to sense him but he’d put that down to his past connection with Osiris's host, Sarah. As far as he knew he wasn’t connected with Vala – whoever she was – at all. He pressed his lips together. He must have just given his presence away without realising it – disturbed the air somehow. He pushed the thought away and allowed his body to dissolve into light. He would follow Herak to Laka.

o-O-o

Jonas Quinn tried to look inconspicuous as he looked around the infirmary. He had been missing over a week with the mishap to the Prometheus and he was eager to catch up with Stacey Rush, the woman he’d been dating for the past month or so, and reassure her he was OK. As a nurse working at the SGC, she was usually on duty and he’d half-expected to see her during SG1’s post-mission checks. When she hadn’t appeared, he’d showered hurriedly before he went in search of her.

He peeked into another room and halted at the sight of Stacey’s house-mate, Angie. ‘Hey.’

‘Jonas.’ The petite redhead smiled at him but he couldn’t help noticing that it was somewhat nervous and that she continued sorting through the medical equipment in front of her. ‘It’s good to see you back. I thought...there’s a rumour you and the rest of SG1 were headed for Area 51?’

‘Tomorrow.’ The team had been assigned to oversee the equipment and personnel allocation for the return trip to Tagrea to fix the Prometheus. Jonas shoved the thoughts of the mission out of his head. ‘I was looking for Stacey?’

Angie’s eyes dropped rapidly back to her medical equipment. ‘She’s not here today.’

‘Oh?’ Jonas asked. He was a little confused at her hesitant tone. Worry suffused him as the most obvious reason for Stacey’s absence jumped to the forefront of his mind. ‘Is she OK? Is she sick?’

Angie sighed and put down the box of gauze she held. ‘Look, Jonas, it’s not really for me to tell you but...Stacey transferred to the Air Force Academy hospital two days ago.’

His eyebrows shot up. She’d transferred? Why? Jonas was even more confused. Stacey hadn’t mentioned anything about a transfer to him. He rubbed a hand through his short hair. ‘So she’s there?’

‘Yes, on the early shift.’ Angie nodded. ‘I’m sure she was going to tell you herself about the transfer.’

‘Sure.’ Jonas agreed quickly. After all, he and Stacey were dating. She’d probably intended to tell him but he hadn’t been around to tell. ‘The early shift?’ He checked his watch. ‘So she’ll be finished at two, right?’

Angie nodded.

‘Great.’ Jonas smiled, an idea leaping into his head. ‘I’ll go and surprise her.’

‘Jonas,’ Angie took a step toward him as he turned for the door. He stopped at her movement and raised an eyebrow in an imitation of his Jaffa team-mate.

‘I called Stacey earlier to let her know you were back.’ Angie tucked a strand of her red hair behind her ear. ‘I’m sure she’ll call you later.’

Apprehension made Jonas’s gut knot. He couldn’t shake the feeling Angie wasn’t telling him something – or was telling him something just that he couldn’t make out what. He smiled at her again to cover his bemusement and headed for Teal’c’s quarters to beg a ride.

The Jaffa was only too happy to act as Jonas’s driver and it wasn’t long before Jonas found himself in front of the hospital building clutching a bouquet of flowers they’d stopped off to buy. Teal’c deaprted after Jonas reassured him Stacey would provide transport.

Jonas scouted around the car park until he found Stacey’s car tucked into a good spot in the employee’s section. He lounged back against the blue vehicle and checked his watch again. He figured he would probably have to wait for a few minutes. He settled back and found his mind drifting back to the mission.

SG1 had only gone along on the shake-down cruise of the Prometheus as back-up. Jonas knew their team leader had been frustrated at that. Jonas had thought it was a good thing; moreover, he had appreciated the chance to see how the naquadria, the substance he had betrayed his government to deliver to Earth, had performed. It was fascinating. He knew Sam felt the same. He had asked her why the Colonel had been so against the trip.

Too many Colonels.’ Sam had said with a wry grin.

She had been right, Jonas mused. Their Colonel and Colonel Ronson who commanded the Prometheus had clashed on everything from how SG1 should be used in an emergency to the way to handle the Tagreans.

Jonas breathed in deeply, enjoying the crisp air. It had been a good mission. SG1 had been pivotal in forging a bond with the Tagreans; in finding the Stargate. A frisson of remembered excitement, of accomplishment, ran through Jonas again. He had enjoyed researching the Stargate; enjoyed helping to unbury it; to see it rise up from the sand. He hadn’t enjoyed the getting taken hostage and threatened just after that but everything had been resolved in the end thanks to the bond of friendship they had forged with the leader Ashwan.

There was no doubt that the arrival of the Prometheus would have a profound impact on Tagrea going forward, Jonas mused. He wondered at that a little; whether it would ultimately be a good thing or a bad thing. He had to believe it was a good thing; had to believe that because it had been his idea to go there. Maybe it had been the only idea but it had been his, and he felt a responsibility in that.

A shout grabbed his attention and he straightened as he recognised Stacey in a group of other nurses leaving the building. Stacey was waving to a departing friend and hadn’t spotted him yet. Jonas grasped the bouquet tighter and straightened. He smiled at the sight of her; delight at seeing her spreading through him and settling his mind. He’d missed her during the mission; missed catching up with her. He watched as she caught sight of him, as her step slowed for an instant before she reassured her questioning colleagues and made toward him. Something in her manner stirred the apprehension that had knotted his gut during his conversation with Angie.

Jonas grinned to cover it. He held out the flowers. ‘Surprise!’ He moved to hug her and felt her hesitate before she responded. He pulled back from her and looked at her, trying to understand what was going on.

Stacey’s smile was small and tight as she stepped away from him; her eyes wary and guarded. ‘I’m glad you’re home, Jonas.’

‘Really?’ Jonas blurted the question out. ‘Because you seem kind of...’ he gestured at her in lieu of finishing his sentence.

She sighed and buried her nose briefly into the flowers, giving the multi-coloured blooms an appreciative sniff before she lowered them. Her eyes met his. ‘We need to talk.’

He let her lead him into the hospital gardens. She selected a wooden bench and they both sat down.

‘So...’ prompted Jonas. He rubbed one hand nervously with the other, tracing over his life line with his thumb again and again.

Stacey turned to him, tugging the skirt of her uniform down as it rode up. ‘Jonas, you’re a great guy...’

Her apologetic tone gave away where the conversation was headed and Jonas’s heart sank. He liked Stacey; really liked her. ‘But you don’t want to date me anymore.’ He finished for her.

‘It’s not you.’ Stacey hastened to assure him, reaching out to place a hand on his arm before she withdrew again. ‘It’s just...’ she sighed and dropped her gaze. ‘When you went missing, I realised I couldn’t handle it.’

‘It?’ questioned Jonas.

‘Being with someone on a frontline team.’ Stacey’s lips twisted sadly. ‘I mean, I’m proud of you; of what you do...and I know it’s part of who you are but...I just...I couldn’t handle loving someone and not knowing if they’re not going to come home one day.’

Jonas knew he could argue life wasn’t certain; that there were no guarantees. His late father hadn’t been a soldier and yet he hadn’t made it home one day either. Instead, he nodded. ‘I understand.’

‘I think it’s better if we end it now before...’ Stacey took a deep breath. ‘Before we get more involved.’

Jonas nodded again. He looked back towards the hospital. ‘You didn’t need to transfer...’

‘I didn’t.’ Stacey said hurriedly. ‘The transfer had nothing to do with...us.’ She pulled a face. ‘I’d already requested it before you asked me out the first time. Actually, I think it was why Doctor Fraiser was OK with us dating. She’s not keen on any of the medical staff getting involved with the SGC teams usually.’

Jonas could understand why. At any point a team could return through the gate injured. The medical team had to remain objective.

‘I’m working with amputee survivors.’ Stacey said softly. ‘It’s an area I’ve always wanted to specialise in.’

Jonas attempted a smile. ‘That’s great.’

Stacey pressed her lips together. ‘Friends?’

Jonas nodded. ‘Sure.’

She lifted the flowers. ‘You want them back?’

He shook his head. ‘They’re yours.’ He waved at her and attempted another smile. ‘Friends can give each other flowers, right?’

She nodded. ‘You need a ride back to the base?’

‘I’m OK.’ Jonas said politely. He wasn’t really. He was disappointed and hurt and...not ready to spend time with her pretending he wasn’t.

‘OK.’ Stacey stood up and brushed off her skirt. ‘I’ll see you around?’

Jonas nodded again because it saved him from talking. He watched her walk away and slumped back against the wooden slats of the bench. No wonder Angie had been so awkward with him, Jonas thought; she had evidently had a suspicion or knew about Stacey’s decision.

He sighed.

Loneliness nibbled at him; the sense of being an outsider returning full force in the wake of Stacey’s rejection. He’d just started feeling like he fit in; that he was part of the team. And his dating Stacey had made him feel like he had a real new beginning not one forced upon him by a decision he’d made in a fit of anger and pique over his government’s lack of ethics.

A cool breeze drifted over him and he got to his feet. He seemed to remember a pay phone in the hospital foyer. He’d call Teal’c to come and pick him up.

o-O-o

‘No.’ Rodney McKay stared at Sam with horror. ‘Absolutely no way.’

‘McKay.’ Sam said exasperatedly as she ticked off another item on the list of equipment. She regarded the storage room filled with boxes with a resignation. Area 51 had said they had sent everything she had requested during her visit – including McKay and other key personnel assigned to the build of the Prometheus. It was going to be a long and tedious task to check that they really had sent everything and a more tedious task having to deal with McKay and his ego. ‘How did you think you were going to fix the Prometheus?’

The scientist gestured at her wildly with his hand. ‘You know. I thought we’d just send stuff through and I’d advise from the SGC.’

Sam stared at him sceptically.

McKay returned her stare with one of his own. ‘You can’t seriously expect me to go through the Stargate.’ He folded his arms tightly over his chest. ‘Don’t forget, I know what happens to you when you walk through that thing.’

‘You’ve had the training.’ Sam said, desperately trying to stay focused on her list.

‘For emergencies only.’ McKay shot back.

‘This is an emergency.’ Sam retorted. She moved onto the next container and started to check her list.

McKay snapped his fingers. ‘What about Novak?’

‘She isn’t cleared for off-world yet.’ Sam replied briefly. And if Novak didn’t get her hiccups under control when she was nervous, it was possible the brilliant young engineer wouldn’t ever get off-world.

‘Well, they have engineers on the Prometheus, don’t they?’ McKay said, puffing up with his usual pomposity. ‘And while I realise they don’t match my levels of intelligence or skill...’

Sam snorted audibly.

‘They are...competent.’ He allowed.

Sam felt a dull throb of pain start behind her left eye. McKay always managed to give her a headache. ‘It’s not just about the Prometheus.’ She said, not even attempting to keep the snap out of her voice. ‘It’s about their Stargate. They’ve only just got it operational and we’re going to need it to stay operational during the repairs. They need a Stargate expert on their side of the gate for any emergencies.’

‘So why can’t you do it?’ McKay snapped.

Sam glared at him. ‘I’m assigned to SG1.’

‘And I was working on the 302.’ McKay suddenly smiled at her smugly. ‘You have that Jonas guy now on your team, don’t you? I’m sure they could spare you for a few months.’

Sam felt her temper bubble up; the urge to just punch the supercilious grin off his face building until her fingers clenched around her pen. It would be wrong to punch him, she reminded herself. And would probably only lead to the General giving her another lecture on being nice to civilian scientists given her previous run-in with Bill Lee when the Colonel had disappeared.

‘You know you are just so hot when...’ McKay began.

‘Is there a problem here, Major Carter?’ Teal’c’s deep voice boomed in the large room. The Jaffa walked over to stand next to McKay, subtly intimidating him with his formidable presence.

‘No problem.’ McKay stuttered. His eyes slid to Sam’s and begged silently.

‘Maybe you should go and help Sergeant Siler check the rest of the equipment in the other room?’ Sam said crisply.

McKay nodded. He skirted around Teal’c and disappeared out of the door.

Sam rubbed her forehead ruefully, trying to budge the ache that had settled there. ‘Thanks for the save, Teal’c.’

He inclined his bald head, the lights glancing off the smooth dark skin and gold brand. ‘Are you in need of assistance?’

‘That would be great.’ Sam handed him a second clipboard and briskly gave him instructions.

They worked in silence for a few moments.

Sam glanced over at her team-mate and smiled at the sight of Teal’c efficiently checking the equipment and ticking it solemnly off on his list. They had almost lost the Jaffa a few weeks before when his meeting with the other rebel Jaffa had gone badly wrong. They had been betrayed and Teal’c had chosen to save his mentor Bra’tac by sharing his own symbiote with him. When SG1 had found them, they and the Goa’uld symbiote had been close to death. Luckily, the Tok’ra had developed a variant of tretonin, a drug that could replace the immune system, and that had saved Teal’c and Bra’tac. The symbiote hadn’t been so lucky; it had died.

It was odd, Sam mused, not to feel Teal’c’s presence – or more accurately the presence of his symbiote. She had gotten used to her body reacting to him; to the faint buzz from the naquadah in her blood-stream. She would miss it.

She blushed faintly as Teal’c caught her staring at him. She gestured with her pen. ‘I was just thinking that I can’t sense you anymore.’

Teal’c’s mouth turned almost imperceptibly downward in a frown. ‘Nor I you, Major Carter.’

Sam looked at him closely for a moment. ‘But it’s a good thing, right?’ She casually continued to examine the equipment. ‘You’re not dependant on the Goa’uld anymore.’

Teal’c slowly inclined his head.

‘And I know I’d rather not be able to sense you,’ Sam continued, ‘than not have you around at all.’ She flashed him a smile.

‘I am pleased to be alive also, Major Carter.’ Teal’c said quietly.

Sam waited patiently. If Teal’c wanted to talk to her, he would. If he didn’t...well, she preferred working things out on her own enough to respect his need to do the same.

‘It is very different.’ Teal’c conceded.

There was just a wealth of feeling in his words that Sam paused and looked at him fully. It had to be a hell of an adjustment and she wondered how Teal’c was doing with it really.

‘I guess it’s going to take some getting used to.’ Sam murmured.

Teal’c’s face lightened as he took in her worry. ‘Indeed.’

Sam’s lips twitched. She reviewed the next box before she spoke again. ‘How’s Jonas doing?’

‘He is unusually quiet.’ Teal’c’s voice was filled with concern.

‘It’s a shame.’ Sam commented.

‘What’s a shame?’ The Colonel asked, catching her last statement as he walked into the room. He paused and did a double take at how much equipment filled the space. He glanced at her as though to ask ‘you really need all this?’

She focused on answering his original question. ‘Jonas and Lieutenant Rush.’

‘Ah.’ Jack leaned over a tall box to look at them both. ‘How is he?’

‘He is working on a translation.’ Teal’c explained.

‘So holed up in his office licking his wounds.’ Jack deduced.

Sam bit her lip to hide her smile.

‘That would be an accurate assessment, O’Neill.’ Teal’c said.

‘I just don’t get it.’ Sam admitted, gesturing at them with her pen. ‘I mean, I know it can be difficult for someone outside to understand the pressures, but the Lieutenant’s military.’

Teal’c tilted his head in agreement.

‘Some people just can’t handle it.’ Jack said bluntly.

Sam wondered at his statement. She’d always been curious at why the one relationship she knew he’d pursued the year before had ended. Maybe his partner had been unable to handle the Colonel’s absences. Or maybe he’d had other romantic relationships since end because of the secrecy of what they did. She really had no idea if he dated much – if at all. She grimaced.

She was so not doing this to herself again, Sam thought determinedly. It was none of her business who the Colonel dated or if he dated. She was in love with him but he had moved on and she just had to get used to that.

‘So, you got everything you need?’ Jack asked redirecting the conversation back to the issue at hand. He waved around the room.

‘Just checking, sir.’ Sam said. ‘There are other components being made specially to order that we’ll have to wait for but if everything is here as we requested, it’ll be enough to get initial repairs started on both the reactor and the buffer.’

‘Are you sure you’re going to be finished checking everything before we depart tomorrow?’ Jack asked sceptically.

‘Perhaps progress would be faster, O’Neill, if you were to assist.’ Teal’c said.

‘Well, I would.’ Jack replied, a teasing glint in his brown eyes as he looked at the Jaffa that made Sam smile. ‘You know how much I love paperwork but I should probably go,’ he made a vague gesture at the door again, ‘and do...something.’

‘Such as, O’Neill?’ Teal’c prompted.

‘Such as...’ Jack clearly struggled to supply an answer.

‘Inform General Hammond of our progress, sir.’ Sam suggested, amused.

‘Excellent, Carter.’ Jack pointed at her. ‘That.’

Sam tried unsuccessfully to wrestle the smile off her face. ‘We should be ready to depart as scheduled tomorrow.’

Jack nodded. ‘Right.’ He looked around again before he pushed away from the box and smirked at her. ‘Have fun.’

He was gone before she could reply. She sighed and looked at the multitude of boxes.

‘Do not be concerned, Major Carter.’ Teal’c said solemnly as he made a notation on his clipboard. ‘I believe I was incorrect in my previous statement.’ He smiled and inclined his head at her curious look. ‘Progress will be faster without O’Neill’s assistance.’

Sam’s lips twitched. ‘You might be right, Teal’c.’ She straightened her shoulders with renewed enthusiasm. ‘Let’s get this finished.’

o-O-o

‘...and SG9 will work on the treaty with Ashwan and his Cabinet.’ Jack paused for breath as he and Ronson entered the elevator on the Prometheus to take them from the bridge to the engine room.

‘When?’ Ronson replied tightly as he punched the button to get to the right deck.

Jack rested one hand on top of his weapon. ‘They’re due to complete the negotiations with P9Y543 by tomorrow so Hammond’s scheduled them to arrive here Friday.’ He shot the fellow Colonel a knowing look. ‘Diplomacy proving to be a pain in the ass for you?’

Ronson gave a huff of laughter and his eyes gleamed with appreciation for Jack’s bluntness. He pointed at Jack. ‘You can’t tell me you don’t feel the same.’

Jack allowed himself a small smile. They’d both suffered through the state dinner Ashwan had pressed on them the night before. Since Daniel had gone glowy, he’d come to realise how much he had relied on Daniel to fulfil the diplomatic duties on SG1. Jack didn’t particularly like having to make nice with the natives but he understood it was a fundamental part of the job. Not that he didn’t miss Daniel. The archaeologist had actually seemed to like that part of the job, and he had been, Jack conceded, much better at it than him. At least Carter was still around to smooth his rough edges.

‘You know I owe you an apology, Jack.’ Ronson said, breaking into Jack’s thoughts.

Jack straightened. ‘Oh?’

‘I know I haven’t exactly made being along on this mission easy for you.’ Ronson said stiffly.

In fact, Ronson had made it extremely difficult but Jack waved a hand and accepted the olive branch. ‘I would have been worse.’ It helped his sincerity that it was the truth. Jack had never been a fan of having too many senior ranks in the field. Line of command just got confused and the mission usually went FUBAR.

Ronson’s lips curved upwards. ‘I’m also big enough to admit that without you and your team, it’s very possible that the Prometheus would be stranded in space right now or blown out of the sky.’

‘You would have made it.’ Jack said firmly. Ronson had made a good point early in the mission that he and the rest of the Prometheus team needed to learn how to do it on their own without a safety net.

Ronson nodded slowly.

The elevator shuddered to a halt and the doors opened briskly. They walked towards the engine room, slowing as a raised voice became apparent.

‘No, no, no! Not there! What are you? An idiot?’

McKay’s high-pitched tone resounded down the corridor and brought the two Colonels to a halt.

Ronson shot Jack a look. ‘Are you sure we need him?’

‘Carter says so.’ As far as Jack was concerned that was good enough for him.

‘Couldn’t we swap?’ Ronson smiled suddenly. ‘You take McKay and I’ll take Carter.’

Over my dead body, Jack thought. He managed a careless smirk which he presumed Ronson was expecting in response to the banter. ‘I’m thinking no.’

Ronson’s eyes narrowed on his. ‘She must be coming up for reassignment soon. A Major with her field experience and aptitude? I’m surprised she doesn’t have her own command already.’

Carter probably should have had her own SG team in the grand scheme of things, Jack mused silently, except he needed her – SG1 needed her.

‘I know it’s not ability holding her back so I’m assuming you and General Hammond have plans for her?’ Ronson questioned.

They did but it was none of Ronson’s business. ‘Carter’s needed on SG1.’ Jack said mildly. He lifted a hand and gestured toward the engine room.

Ronson threw him an understanding look and they walked in together. Two of the Prometheus’ engineers were fuming at a muttering McKay who was bent over a tray of crystals.

‘Everything OK in here?’ Ronson asked politely.

McKay didn’t bother looking up. ‘It would be OK if people didn’t keep asking me that question.’

‘Where’s Carter?’ Jack asked bluntly.

McKay looked up, annoyance written across his face before his gaze collided with Jack’s hard stare. His eyes flickered briefly to the weapon Jack held. ‘I, uh, I think she went to the bridge.’

Jack turned to Ronson. ‘We’ll be heading out.’

Ronson offered his hand. ‘Beer the next time I’m Earth-side?’

‘Sounds good.’ Jack said easily, shaking Ronson’s hand briskly. He sauntered out of the engine room, barely listening to Ronson ordering McKay to give him a progress report. He lifted a hand to his radio.

‘Carter.’

‘Sir.’ Sam responded immediately.

‘You done?’ Jack asked.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam said briskly. ‘Teal’c and I were just about to collect Jonas from the mess.’

‘Negative. I’ll do that.’ Jack replied back. ‘You and T head for the gate. We’ll meet you there.’

‘Copy that, sir.’ Sam said.

Jack made his way quickly through the Prometheus to the mess hall. He found Jonas staring out of one of the windows at the bustling scene below. Jack bit back the urge to snap at the younger man. Jonas had been out of sorts ever since his break-up with Lieutenant Rush and as much as Jack sympathised he needed Jonas to get his head back in the game. It was the reason why he had volunteered to collect Jonas himself. It was time they had a talk.

‘Jonas.’ Jack said sharply.

The Kelownan jerked at the sound of his name as though startled. ‘Colonel.’

Jack regarded him with a frown. Jonas was rubbing his head as though it hurt. ‘Headache?’

‘Yeah,’ Jonas’s lips lifted slightly, ‘I think the Tagrean wine doesn’t agree with me.’

Jack gestured with his head toward the door. ‘Come on. We’re heading home.’

They made their way to the ring room in silence. Jack considered what to say. Knowing he needed to talk to Jonas and knowing what he needed to say were two entirely different things. It wasn’t as though they had the kind of relationship which encouraged confidences or discussions about their personal lives. Jack had come to respect and like Jonas; the kid had settled well into the team and had certainly proven himself an asset but Jack would be hard-pressed to call them friends beyond the team bond they shared.

Jack decided to wait until they’d ringed down to the ground. They still had a good ten minute hike to the gate for him to say something.

‘Colonel, I just want to apologise.’ Jonas began awkwardly as they rounded another corner. ‘I know I haven’t exactly given a hundred per cent the last few days.’

Jack glanced at him sharply, relieved and pleased at Jonas’s words. Maybe it wouldn’t be difficult after all. ‘So...’

‘So, I know I have to do better.’ Jonas said.

They were at the rings and Jack was saved from having to reply as they took their places and the technician ringed them to the surface.

‘Jonas,’ Jack cleared his throat as they began walking, ‘you know we’ve all been there.’

‘You have?’ Jonas turned to him wide-eyed and curious.

Jack lifted a hand from his gun. ‘Sure. What guy hasn’t been, uh...you know.’ He grimaced. ‘Dumped.’

‘Is this the fish thing?’ Jonas asked.

‘Fish thing?’ Jack’s eyebrows crept up. He looked at Jonas bemused.

‘Teal’c mentioned something about there being a multitude of fish.’

‘The saying is there are plenty of fish in the sea.’ Jack interrupted.

‘And I’m not sure what that has to do with dating.’ Jonas completed.

‘It’s a saying.’ Jack explained impatiently. ‘There are plenty of fish in the sea so there are plenty of choices, you know,’ he made a gesture with one hand, ‘out there.’ Although sometimes you found the fish, Jack mused, but never got the chance to go fishing.

Jonas looked at him with a curious expression. ‘Why fish?’

‘It’s just a metaphor.’ Jack said brusquely. ‘Look, I think what Teal’c was trying to say was that Stacey’s not the only girl in the world – galaxy even.’

‘Oh, I know that.’ Jonas said, looking surprised Jack thought anything else. ‘And it’s not that.’ He sighed. ‘It’s just...’ his voice trailed away. ‘Sorry, Colonel, you probably don’t want to know this.’

Jack sighed. ‘Probably not but tell me anyway.’

‘It just made me realise the person I am now.’ Jonas explained. ‘I mean, I’ve never really thought about myself being a soldier or being in danger and what that would mean for someone I was dating.’

‘OK.’ Jack got that. When they’d met Jonas he’d been an advisor to his government; a scientific geek more used to labs and experiments than field work.

‘And it made me realise that I’d allowed myself to get distracted.’ Jonas said.

‘So you’ve been distracted for the past few days because you’ve been working out that you’ve been distracted?’ Jack asked caustically.

‘Right.’ Jonas nodded in agreement. ‘I came to Earth to help my people, Colonel. Dating someone...it distracted me from that.’

Jack grimaced. ‘You’re allowed to have a life, Jonas.’

‘I just want to make a difference.’ Jonas stated.

Warning bells started ringing in Jack’s head at Jonas’s fervent statement. He’d heard Daniel say the same thing – right before he’d gotten himself killed – Ascended - whatever.

‘Jonas,’ he gestured at him, ‘you’re doing a good job.’

Jonas flushed, his cheeks reddening. ‘That’s good of you to say, Colonel, but...’

‘Ah!’ Jack held up a finger. ‘There is no but.’

Jonas frowned.

Jack sighed. The Kelownan’s stubborn expression gave away that he might have heard the words but he wasn’t listening. A motion ahead of him caught his eye; Carter and Teal’c by the DHD. They were almost at the Stargate.

He’d keep an eye on Jonas for the next couple of missions, Jack determined. Make sure he didn’t do anything stupid like trying to save an entire city from radiation poisoning. He’d lost one team member to an over-developed need to make a difference; he wasn’t losing another.

fin.

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