"O'Neill appears to be rather irritable at the
moment," Teal'c observed after a particularly
"Now that he's gotten used to having Daniel back with us, Colonel Grumpy's returned as well," Sam agreed.
She looked across the commissary table at Daniel and sighed. His forehead wrinkled in puzzlement.
"What? You want me to ascend again?"
"No, of course not," Sam exclaimed. "I just wish the colonel would learn to chill a little."
"O'Neill is chilly enough - when he is not being truculent."
"Yeah, he really needs to lighten up. It's - It's bad for team morale," Daniel responded.
"I have an idea," Sam said with a sudden smile. "What day is it today?"
"October thirtieth. Why?" Daniel asked.
"And what day comes after October thirtieth?"
"October thirty-first," Teal'c answered proudly.
"Ah! I get it! Hallowe'en!"
"So we go 'trick-or-treating'?"
"What is this 'trick-or-treating?'" Teal'c wanted to know.
The three plotters parked a little way down the street and walked towards Jack's house. Coming away from the property was a group of five children clutching small bags of treats. They were dressed in a variety of home-made Hallowe'en costumes. They eyed the adults with the detached interest typical of childhood.
"Not a bad pumpkin," opined a girl in a witch's outfit, "but you got one eye bigger than the other."
"Why's the ghost got a ball and chain?" came the muffled voice of a small boy in a green 'Incredible Hulk' mask.
A tall boy at the back took in Teal'c's Jaffa armor.
"Hey, cool! It's Grell!" he exclaimed. "He's my
favourite. You really gotta love 'Wormhole
Teal'c gave him a wide smile that was not a little smug.
"Hey, man, love the scary smile," the boy grinned. "That'll get you lots of treats."
The smile withered.
"But that face is scarier," squeaked the small Incredible Hulk, sidling to the back of the group.
"Aw, Grell won't hurt you, ya wuss. He's a good guy really."
"He never gets to say much though," said a kid in a star-spangled wizard's hat, wistfully.
Teal'c's eyebrow rose.
"Well, he's only a robot," said the witch scathingly.
The eyebrow rose even further.
"He's better than that grumpy colonel that's always bossing people about," said another boy wearing red face paint and horns.
"S'pose you like that know-it-all Major Monroe who babbles on an' on an' on about boring techno-stuff that's all just made up."
"Like you would know!" said the girl indignantly over a choking sound from Sam.
"Besides, I like Doctor Levant best. He's cute."
Sam sniggered again.
"Well, I think we'd better be going," Daniel said in a husky voice he hoped was anything but 'cute'. "Nice meeting you guys and good luck with the trick-or-treating."
"You, too. Oh, and Mister," the girl said, eyeing Teal'c critically, "you got the wrong shape on your forehead. Grell's got a diamond, not an oval..."
"Oh, come on, Zelda," said the tall boy, leading her away, "you know grown-ups never take these things seriously."
"I guess," agreed the young witch, clearly despairing of grown-ups in general and these three in particular. "Good luck anyway."
"Thanks," Daniel said gruffly.
Daniel, Sam and Teal'c walked up the driveway to Jack's front door and knocked. And waited. And knocked again. And waited. Daniel was about to knock a third time when the door was thrown open.
"What?" Jack demanded, scowling.
"Trick or tre-eat!" the trio sing-songed.
"Oy..." Jack moaned.
He took in the outfits of his three uninvited visitors.
"Well, you make a very fetching witch, Carter," he remarked.
His eye wandered on to Daniel, white-faced and draped in a bedsheet.
" I suppose you're supposed to be a bewitching fetch? Teal'c?"
"I am a Jaffa, O'Neill."
"Not exactly seasonal Teal'c."
"On the contrary, O'Neill. I have it on good authority that I do in fact look adequately scary."
"So - trick or treat then, Jack."
"Why are you carrying a ball and chain, Daniel?"
"I'm Marley's ghost, and stop trying to change the subject. Where're our treats?"
"Huh? Marley's ghost? That's a Christmas story - with Ebenezer Scroo Wa-ait a minute. Are you saying I'm mean?"
"I have heard it said that when O'Neill opens his billfold, the moths fly out..."
"That is so not funny, Teal'c."
"So you do have some treats for us, O'Neill?"
"Oh, gimme a break, guys," Jack whined. "All the neighborhood kids have cleaned me out."
"You mean you worked out who'd come round and just bought the exact number of treats?" Daniel asked, exuding cynicism. Jack managed to look just a tad shame-faced.
Sam stepped forward.
"Guess you're going for the 'trick' option then, sir," she smiled, gently patting his chest.
Before Jack realized what she was up to, she'd slipped something down the neck of his sweatshirt then slapped it sharply as it fell down inside. Jack's face was a picture.
"Ew! Carter! What was that?"
"You really want to know, sir?"
Jack gave her a challenging glare.
"It's a germinal disc attached to a vitelline membrane containing a nutritive aqueous solution of polypeptide chains of amino-acids, lipids, glucose, vitamins and minerals. The vitelline membrane is suspended by two chalazae in thick and thin solutions of proteins, mainly ovalbumin, all enclosed by a biomineralised composite ceramic consisting of calcium carbonate embedded in an organic matrix. Sir."
Jack was looking at her open-mouthed. He looked down inside his sweatshirt and grimaced.
"Carter, it's an egg!"
"Egg-zactly, sir," she beamed.
"Then why didn't you say so in the first place? And since when were you a biologist, Carter?"
"Oh, I'm not, colonel, but I do Google occasionally," she replied, a little self-consciously as if she'd been caught taking cookery classes.
She stepped aside as Teal'c moved in. He took Jack's face between his big hands and planted a long and solid kiss on him. Jack made mumbly noises as his arms windmilled ineffectively. Finally the big guy let him go.
"Ew! Teal'c! Tongues?!" he gasped, looking a little wild-eyed.
"Have you never been kissed by a man before, O'Neill?"
"Teal'c!" Jack expostulated, "You shouldn't ask things like that."
"So you have, O'Neill."
Jack's jaw dropped.
"That's something you're not supposed to ask, and I'm sure as hell not telling!"
"Ah. This is the foolish 'Do not ask and do not tell' rule?" Teal'c enquired as Sam, her face suddenly feeling rather warm, withdrew into the more shadowy part of the porch.
"Unfortunately, it's necessary in Uncle Sam's homophobic military," Daniel commented dryly.
"And yet I know of a number of men in the S.G.C. who indulge in the rite of kel'na'vash."
" How do you know?" Jack asked, momentarily diverted. He shot Teal'c a speculative look then added, "No, on second thoughts, don't tell me."
"Indeed, O'Neill, I would never betray those with whom I enjoy the rite of kel'na'vash," Teal'c said with hauteur.
Jack gulped as the words 'those' (plural) and 'enjoy' ping-ponged around his head. He looked at Carter who seemed to be finding her shoes particularly interesting, then at Daniel who was attempting to look nonchalant.
"Daniel?" he asked uncertainly. He was surprised by the strong reaction inside his pants to the whole thrust of the conversation.
"What?" Daniel said, his innocent air slipping a little.
"I certainly never got the memo on that one," he murmured, sotto voce.
"So, trick or treat, Jack?" Daniel asked and gave an evil chuckle at the 'deer-in-the-headlights' look that settled on his best friend's face.
Jack shuddered at what the evil part of Daniel's mind might have conjured up for the trick alternative. Stalling for time, he asked what had inspired this Hallowe'en outing. The three exchanged looks - a kind of virtual scissors-paper-string. Daniel lost.
"Well, Jack," he began slowly, "you've been acting lately like you don't belong to the team any more - like you don't want to belong."
"What? Of course I'm part of the team! Whatever gave you the idea that I don't?"
"Oh, the surliness, the bad-temper, the way you never want to listen to anything Sam or I have to say, the - the fact that you often seem quite distant, like you're someplace else - somewhere you'd rather be than with us"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Jack said, holding up his hand to stop the increasingly impassioned catalogue.
Daniel was spot on. He had wanted to be someplace else - somewhere where there was just him and Daniel. Letting Daniel go, so many long months ago - letting him follow his heart with Oma - had broken him up inside. So he'd shut down his feelings and just got with the job. He'd lost friends before - good friends - so it puzzled him why this one had hit him so hard. He'd put it down to the fact that Daniel was the only one who'd chosen to leave him - until he'd fallen into the clutches of Baal.
Afterwards - after Daniel had seen him safely tucked up in the infirmary then left him to his thoughts - he'd realized that the pain had come from the fact that he loved Daniel, pure and simple. When Daniel returned, he was overjoyed. Then the reaction had set in. He couldn't afford to give any hint of his feelings. And that was far worse - having Daniel forever so close, yet being unable to have him. Like Tantalus.
Tonight, he'd discovered - well, had to admit - that it wasn't love alone. He'd long denied the very idea that his feelings could include anything else but love. That reaction - which was refusing to subside - told him incontrovertibly that lust was involved too. No wonder he'd become so tetchy...
"There you go again!" Daniel was protesting. "You never let me finish what I have to say!"
"That's because you're right. I accept what you say and I'm sorry."
"Wh-what?" Daniel asked, dumbfounded.
God, he loved wrong-footing Daniel! The look on his face was well worth the discomfort of eating humble pie.
"I said you were right, and I apologize. I will try to be more affable - have more joie-de-vivre - in future," he said, making a dramatic flourish in the air with one hand.
"Oh. Well. Good. That's good," Daniel said, floundering.
Dr. 'Twenty-three languages - pick one' Jackson reduced to monosyllables. So good! Jack gave him a feral smile.
"Trick or treat, O'Neill." Teal'c broke into his self-satisfied reverie and brought him back to point of the exercise. Now he was on the back foot again. He sighed.
"Thought you'd already achieved your objective," Jack asked, back in whinge mode.
"I'll make it easy for you, Jack. Either you can keep looking over your shoulder for the next few weeks, wondering what I'm going to do to you if you backslide, or Here, hold this..." Daniel said, dumping the ball and chain in Jack's hands, pulling the bedsheet aside and dragging a scrap of paper out of the pocket of his jeans. "Or you can comply with this."
There was a slight kerfuffle while the ball and chain and the scrap of paper changed hands, then Jack read the note. An inscrutable expression rested on his face as he read, but his eyes sparkled in the porch light.
"Well?" Daniel asked brusquely.
"Oh, you'll have to let me think about that one," Jack said, tormenting his tormenter.
"Um, I think I'll go for the..."
Jack sucked in his breath between his teeth and puffed out his cheeks. Then he sighed, moved his head and one finger from side to side as if struggling with a fierce internal debate.
"Come on, Jack," Daniel urged, beginning to look distinctly uncomfortable.
"Hm, well... I guess it's gonna have to be the treat." Jack could swear Daniel breathed a faint sigh of relief.
"Okay," Daniel nodded. "Let's go guys. I think we have mission accomplished."
Jack closed the door, leaned back against it and adjusted himself. He re-read the note, smiling:
Maybe not mission accomplished yet, but Jack had high hopes that it soon would be.