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To Elvis, Or Not To Elvis
The team had barely stepped off the plane onto the tarmac when they were approached by an Air Force sergeant, clipboard in hand. He had been tasked to pick up the members of SG-1, although he didn't know their official designation as a team. He'd been given names and a general description of the people he was to meet. Given the diversity of the group, and those descriptions, it hadn't been difficult to recognize them.
"My orders are to take you directly to the White House," the sergeant said as he led the team to a waiting van. His tone of voice relayed his awe. "Important meeting there?"
"Beats me." Jack replied. "Radar," he pointed at Casey, "won't tell us what's going on."
"You'll find out soon enough," Casey said smoothly. "If General Hammond didn't want you to know beforehand, there's a reason."
Damned good reason, Sam thought, casting a sideways glance at Jack. Wonder if he'd try to bolt if I told him on the way?
"We're meeting with the president...for some reason," Daniel added, grinning at his best friend.
"Wow," the driver said, suitably impressed.
Taking what Casey had said the night before, and her comment about name plates, Daniel had concluded that his two friends were about to be promoted. Working with the military as long and as closely as he had, he was aware of the fact that the promotions were not only well deserved, it was important that they happen, particularly to prevent any grumbling from within the Pentagon. Jack rocked the boat often enough as it was, no reason to give a disgruntled general a legitimate reason for kicking him out of the Air Force, and as a result, the Stargate Program.
Daniel realized that he didn't have to agree with or approve of many of the aspects of the military to understand how it worked. For the most part, he thought, the men and women of the Air Force…and those who had been tapped from the Navy, Marines, and Army…were decent people with a love of country, and the desire to do the right thing. He supposed that his dislike of the 'brass', as Jack referred to the highest ranking officers, was due to the fact that those men, and a few women, were more political than military. Sitting in offices in the Pentagon, they didn't have a clue what was happening on the front lines. Not that the civilians sitting in DC were any better at dealing with issues they knew little about. Power, he thought, was a very dangerous thing. And too much was in the wrong hands. Putting just a bit of that power into the hands of men like General Hammond and Jack O'Neill was the best thing that could happen. For the country, and for the world. Not to mention making his life easier, and certainly more pleasant.
"I believe that one or several of us will be presented with medals," Teal'c said calmly, as he eased his large frame into of the van's bench seats.
Jack stopped, and turned to look at the Jaffa. "Really?"
"I believe so," Teal'c replied.
"Usually the general just does that at the S...er...at the base," Jack said, frowning slightly. He'd filled out the paperwork recommending that Sam be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. After what she'd dealt with and had managed to accomplish in spite of the odds, on that planet where Kookoo the Snake hung out, Sam more than deserved the award. Maybe the president had been impressed enough to want to pin the medal on her personally?
Casey smiled. While she wouldn't be surprised if such awards were a part of the day's events, it certainly wasn't the 'main event'. She cocked her head sideways, listened to the soft whisper in the back of her mind. Well, no wonder Jack is being promoted! General Hammond is being promoted as well!
"Casey?" Daniel asked softly.
"Is there anything you need to tell us?"
Her smile was full of innocence. "Nope. As long as the 'line-up' stays the same, and according to the general it will, everything is absolutely wonderful!"
Jack's eyes narrowed. "What could change the 'line-up'? Wait, what 'line-up'?"
"The chain of command," Casey replied, unaware of her 'slip'.
So, as long as the chain of command remains the same... Jack's frown deepened. What did Radar think could change the chain of command? As long as that Presidential Order in the Roswell File remained in place, and according to Radar and the president, nothing could undo that, not even promotions could change... Oh, crap. "Promotions?" he rasped out, his mind reeling at the thought of becoming a... a...general! Oh, crap!
Casey whirled to look at him. "General Hammond and Sam, too," she said, watching him carefully.
He nearly fell into the seat in the van. "General? They're going to make me a general?"
"Brigadier General," Sam qualified, her cheek twitching slightly.
"Oh, crap." Jack glared at Daniel, as if the archaeologist was singularly responsible for the upcoming and now totally dreaded promotion. "You know what this means, don't you?"
Daniel leaned back in his own seat, taken aback by the look of ire in his best friend's eyes. Don't look at me like that, pal! I didn't have anything to do with this! "What?"
"It means they've succeeded in making me 'The Man'! I'm all about struggling against 'The Man'!" Jack shook his head stubbornly. "I will not be 'The Man'!"
He couldn't help but snicker at Jack's absolute outrage. "Technically Jack," Daniel grinned, "if General Hammond is going to remain OIC, you won't be 'The Man'."
"But I'll be closer now than I've ever been," Jack grumbled.
"You've been second-in-command since the SGC started back up," Daniel pointed out. He totally ignored the look Casey gave him...one that insisted he be more sympathetic to his best friend's plight. This was just too damned much fun. Seeing Jack so disconcerted was rare, and he was going to enjoy every minute of it. Because, he thought, Jack always took delight in tormenting him! "How is that not being close to being 'the man'?"
"I was a colonel, not a general." Jack shuddered slightly. "That just sounds wrong. Me. A general. Crap! I'll be part of the brass! I hate the brass. Well, excluding General Hammond."
"Jack, you've been part of 'the brass'…you're a full bird colonel. You may be on the bottom of the ladder, but it's still the same ladder."
"I have never been brass. I'm just a plain ol' colonel," Jack insisted.
Daniel chuckled. "So you are. I don't think most of 'the brass' in the Pentagon are going to be doing handstands about this. You've been a thorn in their sides for years...and you won't stop now, just because you'll have those new things on your collar."
"I'll have stars, Daniel, instead of eagles."
"Have to admit, I like the birds," Daniel said, his blue eyes twinkling.
"Ha ha." Jack sighed. "I liked 'em better, too. Less responsibility."
Knowing his best friend as well as he did, Daniel was aware that the responsibility of leadership rested heavily on Jack's shoulders. Because he would always take to heart any errors in judgment, any mistakes that brought harm...or just unwarranted scrutiny…to those under his command. "If anyone can handle the job, you can," Daniel said quietly.
"Doing the job isn't always the hard part," Jack admitted.
"I know," Daniel replied. "You're not alone, ya know."
Jack gave his friend a crooked grin. "I know."
"So quit yer bitchin'," Daniel grinned broadly. "You're a general now. So what? Suck it up."
Apparently his new rank wouldn't mean any more to Daniel than his old one had. That lack of interest in rank, which he had mistakenly interpreted as a lack of respect when he'd first met the archaeologist, was one of the things that had eventually come to endear the scientist to him. Jack grinned from ear to ear. The frown faded when he realized the amount of paperwork that being a general would involve. "You have no idea how much work being a general is going to be."
"You managed to get out of most of your 'colonel duties'," Daniel teased. "I have no doubt that you'll shirk at least half of your 'general duties'."
"But you just know I'm going to have to do more..." Jack paused. "That's why he has me doing the extra paperwork! Hammond has known about this!"
"What paperwork?" Casey asked innocently.
"The colonel is responsible for all requisition requests from the classified levels of the...er...of the facility," Sam said, casting a dubious glance at the driver.
"Really? Like what?"
"Anything the lab rats think they need," Jack sighed. "I have to look up all of those long words and try to figure out what they're talking about. I have no idea if what they're asking for is even real!"
Sam snorted. "Doctor Lee was really upset about the fact that you refused to approve his request for that Tanaka ACO-7 flash point tester."
Daniel and Casey exchanged confused glances. "A what?" Daniel asked.
"Just what it sounds like," Sam explained. "It's a machine that tests the flash point of a sample...whatever that sample might be."
"Exactly like that. Or any of the other compounds that are found," Sam nodded.
"Did you look it up?" Casey asked Jack.
"Yes, I did. And according to the equipment inventory, we already have one of those things. And the one Lee wanted is expensive," Jack replied.
"Actually, the one he requested is quite reasonable, and the company he wanted to purchase it from is very reputable," Sam said.
Jack's eyebrows flew up. "No way! Twenty-five thousand dollars for some box that you use to just set things on fire?"
Daniel snorted, then began to chuckle. "I think it's a bit more...involved...than just that."
"For that much money, it had better be!"
"Does this mean that when we get back I can tell Doctor Lee to resubmit his request?" Sam asked, giving Jack a knowing smile.
"But we already have one," Jack said, the petulant tone of voice making Sam's grin wider.
"Colonel, the tester we have is nearly worn out. And, we need one that can accept additional programming for-" she broke off and again glanced at the duty driver. "For special compounds."
"He didn't put that on the form," Jack said accusingly.
"It's not required," Sam responded.
"Sure it is! There's a space to put in any relevant information. That would be relevant information," Jack argued.
"I'll be sure to tell him that."
"Better let all of the lab rats know," Daniel smirked. "Just so that Jack will understand the reasoning behind the requests."
"You're just a laugh a minute," Jack grumped.
"But boss, it would make the job easier for you," Casey pointed
Jack gave this idea a moment of consideration. "Ya think so?"
"Yep," was the immediate response. "You could even ask that a brief description of what the equipment is actually used for be added to the requests."
"That really is a good idea," Sam said, nodding thoughtfully. "That would make the person filling out the requisition stop to think about that particular piece of equipment, and whether or not it's pertinent for what they want to do, or if they've just been 'making do', and would actually benefit from something else."
"Which would be better for the budget," Daniel added. "Getting the right equipment the first time would save money in the long run."
"I could help you draft a memo," Sam offered.
Jack nodded. "If this makes it easier to get through those things, I'm all for that. As soon as we get back."
Sam nodded her agreement. "We can go through a requisition form, and address any other...problems."
"Ya know, if the general had just put me in charge of requisitions for something I know about, this wouldn't be necessary," Jack complained.
"I don't think there's much need for fishing equipment or yo-yo's," Casey quipped.
"Latrine duty, Radar."
"Heard it before, colonel."
"One day, I'm really going to put your name on that roster," Jack threatened.
"Doesn't mean I'll report for that particular duty," Casey replied. "I'm a civilian, ya know."
Daniel snickered. "Since Casey is assigned to the Archaeological Department, of which I just happen to be the head, I'm the one with the final say on any peripheral duties."
Casey beamed at Jack. Who glared in return. Or at least tried to...until they both wound up grinning at one another.
Traffic was snarled, to say the least; two fender-benders were causing a backup of several miles. Jack checked his watch. "Maybe we should give General Hammond a head's up that we're gonna be late."
Before any of them could get their cell phones in hand, the driver had taken an exit, and was darting up and down side streets. "It'll be close, but I'll get you there on time," the sergeant called back to his passengers.
Jack grinned. "Gotta love duty drivers. They know all the best shortcuts."
True to his word, the driver was stopping beside the guard shack at the driveway entrance of the White House not more than thirty minutes later...giving the team ten minutes before they were scheduled to appear in the Oval Office.
Ushered through security and then into the Presidential building, the team followed the Marine guard who had been tasked to escort them to the reception room. Their presence was announced to the secretary in charge of dealing with the guests of the president; they didn't even have a chance to sit down before the woman appeared.
Casey had already met President Hayes. Found him to be a very nice man; and she'd 'seen' that he was a firm supporter of General Hammond and the SGC. She'd been in the Oval Office only once before. She still found herself fighting butterflies in her stomach as the secretary led the team down the hallway to one of the most well-known rooms of the White House.
"Mr. President, Colonel O'Neill and his team have arrived," the secretary announced, motioning that the group should enter the room
Jack led the way, his hands in his pockets. His kids formed a tight half-circle behind him.
Generals Hammond, Vidrine, and Maynard rose from their places on the two sofas that faced one another in the middle of the room. President Hayes looked up from behind his desk, where he sat reading from a stack of reports.
"Very good, thank you," Hayes replied. He stood up, rolled his shirt sleeves down, and reached for his suit jacket. Waited until the secretary had closed the door before speaking again. "Glad you could make it," he grinned.
"Yes, sir," Jack replied cheekily, offering his own crooked grin. He hadn't actually been present during the president's visit to the SGC, but his 'memories' indicated that the team had ignored the pages requesting their presence in the briefing room to meet with President Hayes. They hadn't responded until Casey and Daniel had returned safely from that alternate universe.
Casey looked over at General Hammond. "Sir, I slipped a bit. Um...Jack knows."
"That's all right," Hammond smiled. "The fact that he's here leads me to believe he just figured it out."
"Yes, sir, I did," Jack admitted. "I guess I can't blame you for not wanting to let me know in advance."
"I just have to ask," Hayes said curiously, "would you really retire over a promotion?"
Jack studied the floor for a moment, then looked back up at the man who was his Commander-In-Chief. "I'd probably think pretty hard about it," he said honestly, quietly.
"Being part of 'the brass' is that distasteful?" Hayes asked, his voice low as well..
"Well, sir, present company excepted of course, most brass I know are a pain-in-the-"
General Hammond cleared his throat.
"It's okay, George," Hayes grinned. "I agree. Present company excepted, I think the majority of the brass in the Pentagon are the biggest pains-in-the-ass I've ever had to deal with."
Jack grinned. "I'm guessing that my promotion isn't going to be hailed as a good thing by very many of those men."
Hayes laughed out loud. "Colonel O'Neill, I'll be sorely disappointed if it is."
Everyone in the room chuckled loudly.
"Well, Frances tells me we're pressed for time. General Hammond, Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter, front and center, please," the president said, reaching for three small boxes that waited on the table. There were several others there as well.
General Hammond glanced at Generals Vidrine and Maynard, noted their enlightened smiles. He moved forward to stand next to Jack and Sam. The three stood at military attention in front of the president's desk.
"From what I've been told, these promotions are not only well deserved, they should have happened under my predecessor's watch. For whatever reason, it was overlooked. I'm honored to be the president to bestow these promotions." Hayes opened the first box. "Major-General George Hammond, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General." The president carefully pinned new silver stars on each of Hammond's shoulder boards, beside those that were already present.
The OIC of the SGC was now a 'three-star' general. The new rank meant that there were only a dozen or so men in the Pentagon who outranked him. That was a very good thing for the men and women of Stargate Command. And everyone in the room was well aware of that fact.
"Congratulations, George," Hayes said with a grin, saluting the new Lieutenant General.
Hammond snapped off a salute. "Thank you, sir," he replied, accepting the hand the president offered, shaking it briefly.
Putting down the now empty box, Hayes opened the second, and moved to stand in front of Jack. "Colonel Jonathon O'Neill, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Brigadier General." Deftly unpinning the silver eagles that adorned Jack's uniform jacket, Hayes replaced them with a single silver star on each shoulder board. "Congratulations, General O'Neill." Again, the president saluted the newly promoted general.
Jack saluted smartly. "Thank you, sir." Oh, god, it's official. I'm 'The Man'! He barely repressed his shudder. General O'Neill! Crap! I'll never get used to that!
The second empty box was dropped onto the desk. Hayes stepped in front of Sam. "Major Samantha Carter, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel." Hayes removed the gold oak leaves on Sam's uniform, and pinned silver oak leaves in their place. "Congratulations, Colonel Carter." He saluted her.
Sam saluted, for a brief moment wishing her father were present to witness the promotion. "Thank you, sir."
The insignias that had been removed were carefully placed into the now empty boxes, and the president handed those boxes to the respective owners. He looked over Jack's shoulder at Daniel, Casey, and Teal'c. "Would the three of you please join your teammates?"
Exchanging nervous glances, Daniel and Casey moved to stand beside Sam. Teal'c stood beside General Hammond.
The two other generals in the room stepped forward, and picked up the boxes that remained on the president's desk.
"I would love to make these presentations in public, in full view of the media and the people of the United States...and the world," Hayes started. "But, I can't. I hope you understand, that if the citizens of the world knew what was happening, they would be as eager to see these medals awarded as I am to award them."
Moving to stand in front of General Hammond once again, the president smiled. "George, I've only spent a few hours at the SGC. What I saw, and heard, still has my brain spinning. How you deal with all of that...intensity...on a daily basis, I'll never know. Tim Miller had wanted to present these medals before he left office. I swore to him that I'd make certain it was done as soon as I could. Today, I'm keeping that promise."
General Vidrine stepped forward, and opened the first box.
"I can't even imagine the hell it must have been for all of you when Ba'al nearly succeeded in taking over the planet," Hayes continued. "I've read the reports. And I agree wholeheartedly that everyone at the SGC responded professionally, quickly, and with the same distinguished service that has become the standard for that facility. I recognize - we," Hayes motioned to the generals beside him, "recognize that the OIC and the premier team set the example for the others to follow. And we know that you have each acted above and beyond the call of duty. I can't award the Medal of Honor, our highest award, and while I sorely wish I could, too many questions would be asked. We just can't open that door. But... For your service during the seventy-two hours that could have seen an end to Earth as we know it..." Hayes paused, looked at the ribbon in his hands. "Somehow, this ribbon just doesn't seem like enough for something that...important," he said softly. He shook his head. "For your service, I bestow upon you the Distinguished Service Medal. And I offer my sincerest thanks for your service." He placed the ribbon around General Hammond's neck. Once again he saluted.
Hayes looked up at Teal'c. "I have no idea if the Goa'uld ever awarded the service of their Jaffa or not. But here on Earth, here in the U.S., we honor our heroes." Hayes took the ribbon, with the medal attached, from the box General Maynard held open. "Teal'c of Chulak, I am most honored to award you the Medal of Valor. This is the highest award that we can offer civilians."
Teal'c nodded his understanding. Leaned forward slightly so that the president could slip the ribbon around his neck.
"I'm glad you're on our side, Teal'c," Hayes said, offering his hand.
"I am honored to fight at the side of the Tau'ri," Teal'c replied, shaking the president's hand.
Once again Hayes moved to stand in front of Jack. "Co...er...General," he said, grinning, "I understand that it was your message to Thor that brought our little gray allies to our aid during the Ba'al crisis. If not for Thor, we wouldn't be standing here right now."
"Well, Thor, and Daniel and Casey," Jack replied cheekily.
"Point taken," Hayes grinned. He turned slightly, took the ribbon from the box General Vidrine held. "General O'Neill, it is my honor to present you with the Distinguished Service Medal. I offer my sincerest thanks for your service." He put the ribbon around Jack's neck.
Jack squared his shoulders, returned the president's salute. Gave a sideways glance at Hammond, then grinned broadly. "Never let it get old, sir."
For his part, Hammond chuckled softly.
"That's a promise," Hayes said quietly. Grinning broadly, he stepped in front of Sam. "It seems you've been a very busy major, Colonel." He took the ribbon from the box General Maynard held. "According to General Hammond's reports, your work perfecting the naquadah generators has given me the edge to keep the funding of the SGC from being toyed with. He also informs me that you managed to come up with a plan to use our satellites to jam communications on the Goa'uld warships, during the Ba'al crisis. It is my honor to present you with the Distinguished Service Medal. I offer my sincerest thanks for your service." He saluted Sam. "For the record, I'd like to see that program of yours ready to deploy at a moment's notice."
"Yes, sir," Sam replied.
"Now, it seems that you went on a mission where you were literally alone among the enemy. And during that time, you made certain that your dead, albeit Immortal, teammates were safe from any harm from Jaffa or Goa'uld. And that you did so under extreme circumstances. For performing above and beyond the call of duty, I'm honored to present to you the Meritorious Service Medal. Good job, Colonel."
"Thank you, sir," Sam replied.
"You know," Hayes said conspiratorially, as he pinned the medal on Sam's uniform jacket, "I will never get used to the idea of having Immortals around."
Sam grinned. "It's a little weird from this side, too, sir."
Hayes laughed out loud. "I'm certain it is!"
Daniel was next in line, and Hayes stepped in front of him. What did I do to deserve a medal? he wondered, trying not to look as surprised as he felt.
"Doctor Jackson, from what I understand, you're unique in the whole of the universe. And you bear a burden that I don't think any of us can comprehend," Hayes said quietly.
General Vidrine opened the next box, smiled slightly as the archaeologist shifted nervously from one foot to the other, obviously ill-at-ease with the attention. While Doctor Jackson could be annoyingly vocal and exasperatingly persistent when he believed he was right, the man was certainly not egotistical. A refreshing change from the egos he dealt with on a daily basis.
"Son, I'd give you every medal they make if I could," Hayes continued. "I've read the reports on what you did during the crisis with Ba'al. And that you very nearly died to save this planet. Your willingness to sacrifice all is nothing out of the ordinary for you, according to General Hammond and General O'Neill. I am more than honored to bestow the Medal of Valor to you for your heroism." He placed the ribbon around Daniel's neck, and shook the younger man's hand.
"Thank you, sir," Daniel said. Just doing my job, like everyone else in the Mountain.
Hayes stepped in front of Casey, folded his hands in front of him as he smiled at her. "You, young lady, are another rarity. I, for one, am absolutely thrilled to know that you and that amazing gift of yours are working for the most important defense this planet has."
Casey blushed brightly, lowered her eyes slightly.
"It seems that you were key in helping Doctor Jackson pull off the miracle that sent Ba'al scurrying away."
"Daniel is The One, sir," Casey replied. "I'm just His Guide."
Hayes smiled. "According to his reports, Doctor Jackson can't do his job without you."
She glanced at her Husband. Blushed brighter when he winked at her.
General Maynard opened the last box.
"I'm truly honored to bestow the Medal of Valor to you, Mrs. Jackson." Hayes put the ribbon around her neck, then shook her hand. Waited until Vidrine and Maynard had given the medal recipients the boxes the medals had been in. "The SGC is the first...and only...defense we have against the Goa'uld. The six of you are on the frontlines every day, and for that I will be eternally grateful. The ribbons you've received are a mere token for the gratitude of this office for the outstanding work you people do."
"We're just doing our jobs, sir," Jack said quietly.
"Be that as it may," Hayes replied, "what you do is nothing less than extraordinary. You are true heroes."
General Maynard stepped forward. "The Joint Chiefs of Staff agree with the president, that nothing should be changed in the way that the SGC is being run. Operations will continue as they have been. While you've been promoted, for the most part, your jobs will remain the same. The only real difference is that General O'Neill will now have the authority to enter into any treaties he believes will benefit the SGC, the US, and planet Earth."
"The Joint Chiefs are also taking a report, written by myself and Major Paul Davis, with input from Senator John Sheppard, under consideration," General Vidrine said. "While the SGC is considered to be property of the Air Force, and is regarded as an Air Force installation, it is such a unique entity that we feel there needs to be clarification allowing the OIC, General Hammond at this time-"
Glances were exchanged among the team and general. They, and the president, were the only ones to know that General Hammond would be the only OIC for a very long time to come.
"-a bit of latitude when it comes to operations, particularly when under a crisis," Vidrine continued, unaware of the true meaning for the quick glances. "Military protocol will be in place at all times. However, we feel that additional definitions need to be made to offer that latitude."
"We have high hopes that Doctor Weir, who will be taking over as head of Homeworld Security, will be able to keep the Stargate Alliance under control," Maynard added. "Until those member nations are offering more than opinions, their input will be acknowledged, but not necessarily taken under advisement."
"But how long before those member nations will send troops, so that they can have more of a say in operations?" Jack asked.
"That's hard to predict," Vidrine admitted. "However, the Joint Chiefs are working on an agreement that will basically keep our people in complete control. If other nations send in manpower, they'll be put into positions of our choosing...or rather, General Hammond's choosing. If he sees fit to put them on SG teams, that's totally up to him."
"And, since the SGC is a US military operation, even though it is protecting the entire planet, that fact offers us the ability to keep the majority of classified information just that...classified," Maynard added.
"There's always a chance that 'outsiders' won't remain that way, not after they see the reality of what we face, and what we do," Daniel said quietly.
"I don't understand, Doctor," Hayes frowned.
"I have no doubt that in the beginning when any men or women are assigned to the SGC, no matter what country they hail from, their allegiance will be solely to their government. A few trips through the wormhole, an encounter or two with the Goa'uld, and they'll see that we all work together as one, or we'll all go down together as the splintered planet that all but a few see," Daniel explained. "While their respective governments might make demands for intelligence information, those people will understand that the political posturing means nothing."
Casey nodded her agreement. "Not one of us who work at the SGC can take seriously the problems that seem so insurmountable to everyone else. For us, those problems seem petty compared to what we face every day."
"We can even see what the solutions should be, or could be," Sam said, recalling dozens of conversations with others who worked in the mountain, all of them agreeing on what seemed to be such simple, obvious answers for the perplexing problems. How many of the most crucial of the country's 'crises' had been 'solved' over cups of coffee in the cafeteria? "Maybe because we're not constrained by political or religious beliefs. That's not to say we don't have our personal opinions, or that we're all atheists, it's just…well, I guess we can see all sides of an issue, not just 'our' side. What we do every day requires that we consider every option, and choose what works best."
Daniel was nodding his agreement. "Often, what works best is a melding of ideas."
"Compromise," the president said.
"To a point, I guess," Daniel replied. "Although, I don't think anyone who offers ideas ever feels that he or she has to compromise their ideals in order to reach a workable solution."
"None of what we do would be possible without input from various specialists," Casey added quietly. "And those specialists aren't constrained by funding that demands that the results of study or experimentation meet with the criteria…or rather, the political agendas...of those who are supplying that funding."
"That's right," Sam nodded. "We can't afford to use anything but absolute facts. When we're walking through the Stargate, political posturing can get us killed. Popular scientific rhetoric can get us killed."
"We have to operate on the cold hard facts, and nothing else," Jack added.
"That doesn't mean that our hearts, and our emotions, aren't involved with our decisions," Daniel said. "We're human…it's impossible not to feel one way or another about any given situation."
"I guess what we're saying," Sam said, "is that if the people of this country…if the people of Earth…knew what's really out there, and what we're really facing, the 'daunting' problems that fill the nightly news will seem…trivial." She shook her head. "No, not trivial…but certainly not as impossible to deal with as they seem now."
"Eventually, because I understand that it would create chaos at first," Daniel said, "revealing the existence of the Stargate to the public in general could lead to the permanent solution to the majority of the problems we face today."
"Anyone who becomes a part of the SGC family, and just the nature of the work we do would see even 'outsiders' accepting what they learn, and being accepted by the people who work in the SGC, would see the same things," Sam added. "Like Daniel said, they might be willing to send any and all info they can get their hands on back to their respective governments when they first arrive, but that attitude won't last once they've had to deal with the reality of the SGC."
Hayes tented his fingers, pressed them against his lips. "While I can understand, and certainly appreciate, what you're saying, I'm afraid I can't be as optimistic about having outsiders in the SGC. I realize that one day that will happen. I can damn sure promise it won't happen while I'm sitting in this office. I have enough leverage right now to prevent that."
"If working with other countries becomes a problem, the existence of the Stargate and the Stargate Program could be revealed," Daniel said.
"And that's another can of worms completely," Hayes sighed.
"It doesn't have to be revealed completely, or all at once," Daniel pointed out.
Hayes contemplated the comment. An idea began to form in his head. The first step, as it were. He wouldn't be in office when it was offered to the media, but still...
"For now, we have control," Vidrine said. "And, with luck, we'll be able to make the running of the SGC just a bit easier for those of you on the front lines."
"That would be greatly appreciated," General Hammond sighed.
There was a tap on the door, and the secretary stuck her head into the room. "Sir, your next appointment has arrived."
"I'll be ready in a minute," Hayes promised.
"I suggest that your medals be returned to their cases," Maynard said quietly.
The recipients nodded, and carefully put the ribbons and medals back in the silk-lined wooden boxes.
The group was almost to the door when Casey paused, and tilted her head sideways.
"Incoming," Jack murmured automatically.
Hayes watched, fascinated as her teammates formed a semi-circle around her. All of them were watching her carefully.
"The fox and the peacock are about to start a fight that nobody wants," Casey said, her voice soft. "Not everyone believes them individually, but there are enough people who will believe them if they speak with one voice, from different sides. People will choose one side or the other, and that's going to cause more problems. Better to just gag them both."
Jack snorted. "Radar, that has got to be the weirdest thing you've ever said!"
Daniel grinned, and carefully repeated what she said, watching for any sign that she could give them an idea what she was talking about.
"Well, that's a nice bit of gibberish," Casey huffed.
"Fox and peacock?" Hayes asked, frowning. There was that report from Iraq that had been leaked to the press...if he ever found out who was responsible, he'd personally kick the guilty party's ass. Fox and peacock… "Fox News and NBC," he said suddenly.
"Fox and peacock," Daniel nodded. "They're up to something."
"I think I know exactly what it is," Hayes said. "Frances, get the heads of those networks on the line. I have to stop them."
"Freedom isn't free, and the battle to remain free isn't always pretty," Casey said softly, her gaze locked with the president's. "Tell them the truth...that if they don't want to bring down everything our men and women have died for in every war ever fought, they'll choose what they say very wisely. Knowing the truth doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be broadcast. There are those who will take that knowledge and twist that truth into something hideous, to use in achieving their own goals of complete control."
Hayes nodded. "That's very true," he said.
Casey blinked. "Um...what?"
Snickers echoed softly around her. "I'll tell you later," Daniel promised.
Green eyes rolled heavenward. "Here? You have to pull that here?"
"She gets a bit testy when we hear it and she doesn't," Jack said, in way of explanation to the three men who stared at her. He grinned broadly. "Normally she's a bit more...succinct...in her displeasure."
Hayes laughed. "Well, whether or not she heard it, the advice is absolutely sound." He led the way to the door that would lead the team back to the reception area. "SG-1, it has been an honor and a pleasure to see you again. General Hammond, I trust you to take care of the problems out there," he waved his hand toward the ceiling. "I'll deal with the idiots here."
"I think I have the easier job," Hammond smiled.
"I don't!" Hayes said emphatically. "The idiots may be annoying, but for the most part, they aren't threatening the annihilation or enslavement of the human race, or destruction of the planet."
"For the most part," Maynard sighed.
"SG-1, shall we let the president deal with this latest disaster?" General Hammond said, leading the way to the door.
"One of these days, I'm going to make another visit," Hayes called out.
Jack turned around, offered the president a cheeky grin. "If you give us enough advance notice, we can try to keep things under control."
With a loud guffaw, Hayes waved as the team left the office. The grin faded, and he sighed.
"Mr. President, I have the COO of Fox on the line," General Maynard said quietly.
"He's an idiot," Hayes said under his breath. Better than dealing face-to-face with the Goa'uld, he thought. Picked up the phone. "David! We need to talk…"
A A A A A A
General Hammond informed the team of their authorized time off, telling them that as soon as General Vidrine and Major Davis arrived, he would be taking time off as well. Casey did a quick search, and found no indications of impending doom. Satisfied that there weren't serious threats looming on the horizon, the general took a cab back to Bolling, to return to Colorado immediately. There were several reports which needed his attention before he left for a few days of vacation.
Standing in front of the White House, Jack looked from face to face. "Anyone else hungry?"
"Starving!" Casey declared.
"I could eat," Daniel said.
"Me, too," Sam added.
"I too, would welcome a meal," Teal'c said.
"There's a really nice restaurant not too far from here. Considering the...events...of the past hour, I think a celebration is in order, don'tcha think?"
Sam looked at Jack, studied his brown eyes. "You're okay with the promotion?"
"I wasn't talking about that," Jack replied. Again barely suppressing a shudder at the thought that he was a general. "We got medals!"
"What about the promotions, Jack?" Daniel asked.
"I refuse to be 'The Man'," was the stubborn reply. "No matter what the pips on my uniform are, I will not be...I'll never be 'The Man'!"
Casey giggled. "Jack, I don't think it's possible for you to be 'The Man'."
"Think of it this way," Daniel suggested. "Right now, somewhere in the Pentagon, there's a general or two just pissed as hell. Especially if they're Brigadier Generals."
Jack's scowl turned into a wide grin. "That, Danny-boy, is the most pleasant thought I've had all day!"
"Let's eat, before I pass out from hunger," Casey said, slipping her arm around Daniel's waist.
"Restaurant is just a few blocks down," Jack said, shoving his hands into his pockets.
Casey looked pointedly at the heels on her feet. "If it's not within a block, I'm taking cab."
"Shoulda worn your combat boots," Jack teased. "Come on, we'll have a better chance of catching a cab at the corner. He began walking. Sam fell into step beside him. He could hear, and feel, the Jacksons and Teal'c directly behind him. As long as he was still CO of SG-1, he'd deal with being a general. General. Crap. That makes me sound old.
A A A A A A
The Montmartre was a popular French restaurant on Capitol Hill. Jack had always found the waiters a bit snooty, but for the most part, he could deal with them. The food was always good, and a glance at his watch let him know that the main lunch crowd had already left for the day...in fact, there were only about twenty minutes before the restaurant closed for the afternoon. He called to see if he could get a reservation, telling the maitre d' that he and his party were on the way, and were hoping to stop at their favorite eatery before catching a flight home. The team was in luck, there was a large table available. Casey teased him about mentioning the fact that he was coming from the Oval Office, telling him that in DC, that really didn't mean much.
"Actually, Angel, just going to the White House isn't such a big deal. But a meeting in the Oval Office? That's still pretty impressive," Daniel said.
"It got us a last minute reservation, didn't it?" Jack asked.
"I'll give you that," Casey said. "Of course, I'll reserve judgment on how good a thing that is until after I've eaten."
Opting to take two separate cabs, rather than waiting for one of the larger cars available, the teammates arrived within minutes of one another.
Jack led the way inside. Their table was ready, and they were led to it immediately. Since they were celebrating, he ordered a bottle of champagne, and it didn't take long for the hungry group to place their orders. Which probably relieved the staff, Jack thought. It looked as if he and his kids were going to be one of the last lunch groups for the day. Only three other tables, all near their own, were occupied.
Casey gave Daniel's hand a gentle squeeze. "I'll be right back," she said softly, slipping the strap of her purse over her shoulder.
"Okay," Daniel replied, squeezing her fingers in return. Her smile warmed him to his very core. Watching her walk away from the table lit the fire of his passion, the sexy sway of that lovely heart-shaped fanny threatening to have him rising to full mast. Down boy, down! It wasn't easy, but he managed to maintain control of his body. Barely.
"Wait, Casey, I'll go with you," Sam said, rising to her feet.
"Why is it that women always go to the restroom in groups?" Jack grumped, watching as his fiancée reached for the strap of her own purse.
"So we can talk about the men we're with," Sam replied easily.
Jack snorted. "No doubt about that."
Daniel grinned. "I'm willing to go to the restroom with you if you need company," he told Jack. "We can talk about Sam and Casey if you'd like."
"No, thanks," Jack said. "I'm capable of going by myself." He gave a significant look at his lover.
"I'm just as capable," Sam retorted. "However, the chance to gossip isn't to be missed." She rose to her feet, grinned down at Jack, and then hurried after the slender blonde.
Casey waited until they had moved far enough away from the table that the men of SG-1 couldn't hear them. "You realize, Colonel," she said, grinning broadly, "that the general is going to make us miserable all the way back to Colorado."
Sam grinned as well. Her heart jumped slightly at hearing the new rank. While making rank was an expected part of being an officer, it was always exciting to reach that next step. Lieutenant Colonel Doctor Samantha Carter. Holy Hannah! It's a good thing I don't have to get all of that on my uniform! "Which is precisely why I plan to buy a good book before the return flight. The better to tune him out."
The sound of Casey's soft giggle filled the air. "That's not a bad idea. There has to be a bookstore nearby!"
"I don't care how close it is," Sam chuckled. "I'm not getting on a plane with Brigadier General Jack O'Neill without something to hide in!"
Pushing the door open, Casey stepped into the tastefully decorated powder-room. A casual glance was all it took to ascertain that she and Sam were alone. Giving in to her instincts, she decided to grab the moment of privacy to broach the subject of the upcoming marriage of her friends. She'd felt earlier that there was something...wrong. Something that was holding her best friend back from having an actual wedding. Her hope was that a private chat between friends could help remedy the current…situation. "Sam, about your wedding...er...getting married...are you sure you just want to go to the Justice of the Peace? I mean, getting married is...well, it's the most important day of your life! If you're really that nervous about planning it, you and Jack can go to a wedding planner, and I can help with any other details."
Sam grimaced slightly. "Let's just say that experience is a harsh teacher."
Casey turned to face her best friend. Took her hand, led her toward the loveseat that sat in the corner. "Tell me about it," she said softly.
The newly promoted colonel shrugged slightly. Took a moment to gather her thoughts. Acknowledged, with a bit of amusement, that what she was about to tell Casey were memories she'd never shared with anyone. "When I was seventeen, I wanted to do something special for my dad's birthday. Mom had always made arrangements for dinner out for the two of them...but she wasn't...well, anyway, I told dad not to make any plans for his birthday. That I had something in mind. I remember that he grinned really big, and hugged me, and thanked me. I've never been a cook...and I was so busy with studying and schoolwork..." Sam shook her head, and took a deep breath. "I saved up money from my allowance and my part-time job; I worked at a repair shop near where we lived at the time-"
"Which explains your ability to fix anything," Casey teased gently.
"At least in part," Sam admitted with a smile. "I called a nearby restaurant, one of the nicest in town. Ordered one of the best meals on the menu, and explained that I wanted it for my dad's birthday. The chef was really sweet...he made sure everything was just right, and wrote out detailed instructions on how to place the garnish. All I had to do was put everything on the plates. And I bought Dad's favorite cake from the local bakery."
"Sounds easy enough."
"It was," Sam nodded. "So, the night of Dad's birthday, I picked up the food...it was piping hot and ready to eat. I set the table with the china and crystal. Put the cake on Mom's crystal cake plate. Lit candles. Had everything ready..." She paused. Even after so many years, the memory still stung. "That morning I'd reminded Dad that he needed to come straight home after his duty shift, so I was just sure he'd be home on time. He promised that he'd be there."
"But he wasn't," Casey said intuitively.
"After three hours, I blew out the candles, put the food in the fridge, and the cake back in the box," Sam said. "Dad finally called Mark the next morning. Something had come up. I have no idea what it was, but he didn't come home for three days. Of course by then the food was bad and the cake had dried out. I dumped it all in the garbage, and cried for days. I remember feeling as if I'd wasted every penny. And it wasn't cheap, especially for a seventeen-year-old! The worst part was, the only thing that Dad said was, 'that's military life, Sammy'."
"Sam, just because-"
"That's not the only thing," Sam said quietly, holding up a hand to forestall Casey's argument. "I was engaged once before. To a man named Jonas Hanson. Captain Jonas Hanson. I met him while I was stationed here in DC. He'd been in Special Ops, and he was here to debrief one of the generals about a mission he'd been on. I..." She turned her head. Took a deep breath. Even now, she questioned just how Jonas had managed to slip past her defenses, past her self-protective 'radar'. "He could be so charming. Funny. Attentive. I knew he was a bit...out there. He was definitely a member of the 'lunatic fringe'. But...I guess I convinced myself that all he needed was the stability of a regular assignment. He'd requested a post at the Pentagon, so I was sure that he'd...well, that he'd mellow out. I suppose, on some level I thought that I could mellow him out, pull him back from the edge."
"You're not the first woman to think she could help the man she's fallen in love with, in spite of her own common sense," Casey said, taking Sam's hand.
"We weren't engaged long. But...I'd started thinking about what I wanted, the kind of wedding I wanted," Sam said. "One night, I made the mistake of telling Jonas that I wanted to get married on the beach. He told me that we would be married in a 'fully sanctified church, by a man of God.' When I mentioned I wanted to have the reception at the Officer's Club, he told me that he would plan the reception. That he didn't want any 'undue influences' marring our solemn day."
"I thought you said this guy was charming and funny," Casey responded, her green eyes wide.
"Up to that point, he had been," Sam replied. "Right after that conversation, I started seeing a side of him he'd kept hidden. He started criticizing everything I did, trying to control everything I did. We'd started fighting...the last time I saw him was the worst. He'd shown up at my apartment, in a snit because I hadn't called him all day. He wanted me to call him several times a day to 'report' what I was doing," she explained. "I gave him his ring back, told him that no man in the world would ever tell me what I could or couldn't do, and that I never wanted to see him again."
The young seer frowned. Sam was describing a man with serious control issues. Such men tended to turn violent when that control was threatened. "He just left?"
"After I aimed my sidearm at him. With the safety off," Sam said, offering a small smile. "I didn't see him again until SG-1 went on a mission to rescue his team. The first SG-9. "
"Surely you must have seen him at least in passing, if he was CO of an SG team," Casey insisted.
"I never did," Sam said. "Funny, I never thought about it until now, but you're right, I should have. Maybe he was avoiding me."
"Can't see that as a bad thing," Casey said drolly.
"Very true. Maybe he avoided me because he didn't want me to let Colonel O'Neill or General Hammond know what a nut-case he was," Sam mused.
"That's possible. Out of sight, out of mind, they say," Casey nodded.
"Anyway, I just...I guess I'm afraid that if I start to plan a wedding, something will go wrong. I've waited too long to be with Jack, I've loved him too long, I can't risk that," Sam whispered.
"You know what you should do? Something fun. Your wedding should be fun. Something that doesn't take a lot of advance planning," Casey suggested.
"Thus the idea of going to the Justice of the Peace," Sam replied with a smile.
"Well then, the reception should be one hell of a party."
Sam grinned from ear to ear. "That sounds like a wonderful idea."
"It's your day. Make it whatever you want," Casey said gently. "If the planning aspect makes you…nervous, don't plan. Just…do it. Spontaneous and fun." Casey stood up, took a step toward the adjoining room, where the stalls were located. "Just don't let Jack know what you're going to do. I love him like a big brother, but he gets some really weird ideas sometimes."
The grin morphed into full blown laughter. "One of his many traits that amuse me."
Casey giggled. "Don't worry. Daniel is a bit weird, too."
"It's all the testosterone. Makes them weird," Sam said.
"Weird or not, we love 'em,"
"That we do," Sam agreed.
Jack frowned when the two women returned. "Took you long enough," he said, nodding toward the plates of food that waited.
"Hey, it takes time to scratch names and phone numbers into the walls," Casey replied easily.
Daniel started. "Tell me you're not serious."
"It wasn't that long of a message. 'For a good time, call Brigadier General Jack O'Neill'," Casey intoned. "I hope I spelled 'brigadier' correctly. And the last two digits of your cell number are three-seven, right?"
"You're not serious," Jack said, going slightly pale. It was bad enough that he'd been promoted to...he could hardly think the word...general. But...nah, Casey would never do that!
Her giggles had others at tables nearby smiling. "Oh, Jack, the look on your face is priceless!"
"But you really didn't do that, right?" Daniel asked, just a tad worriedly.
Casey swung her gaze to her husband. "Daniel, that's destruction of private property! I could never do something like that! I've never done anything like that!"
"Angel, I've learned that with you, the impossible is possible," Daniel replied, smiling at her. Took her hand and lifted her fingers to his lips, kissed them gently. "And when it comes to teasing Jack, your imagination knows no bounds."
"Well, true," she admitted, casting a sly look at her CO and best friend. "He's just so darn fun to tease. He always reacts exactly as expected."
"He is predictable," Daniel sighed, his blue eyes twinkling when he looked over at his best friend.
"And 'he' is sitting right here, smart-alecks," Jack growled. He glanced around. "We need to finish up, campers. These good folks seem to want things cleared up."
No further encouragement was needed. The meals were commented upon, but for the most part, conversation came to a halt while they ate their first real meal of the day.
To make certain that any returns to the establishment would be looked upon with favor, Jack tipped the wait staff generously. It was always a good idea to grease those important wheels! The sudden thought that he was thinking like a general made him groan mentally. Not even half a day, and he was thinking like the brass! There had to be something in the stars that were pinned on their uniforms, he decided. Like some tiny little mind control device. Maybe he'd have Carter look into that possibility. Then he could have her take them out of his silver stars, and he'd not have to worry about his brain being constantly invaded by 'general-type' thoughts. It was worth a shot, anyway.
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