"General Hammond, on behalf of the Jedi, I bring a gift to you." Qui-Gon Jinn reached into his duffel bag and brought out a signal device. "The Jedi are wise enough to learn from the wisdom of others," he commented wryly. "We are negotiating with the Kalistan government to place an iris over the Stargate in our universe to prevent the Goa'uld possessing Zly's body from returning. Obi-Wan and I have one signal device for our trip home, but the Jedi Council would like you to retain the ability to visit us."
General Hammond nodded in response to the Jedi's words. "We appreciate your trust," he said, taking the device, "and you can be certain this device will be protected."
Doctor Frasier entered the gateroom during this conversation. She announced herself by stepping forward. "Well, gentlemen, I guess you're mine now."
Surprised at the doctor's statement, Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan who answered his unspoken question, "Military regulations, Master. All new personnel to the base must have a complete physical."
"I don't understand, Master Jinn," Hammond asked. "I thought you and Obi-Wan were bonded." The General turned instinctively to Daniel Jackson. Like Qui-Gon, he tended to seek knowledge from his own people.
Obi-Wan turned to look at Daniel as well. The two had been bonded briefly and each remembered much of what the other knew or was likely to say. The scientist explained, "The two are bonded, General. They can communicate telepathically, but that doesn’t mean they share every thought. It would be disorienting, always having someone in your mind and always being in his."
"Yes," the Jedi Master affirmed. "Obi-Wan and I keep our mental shields up the majority of the time in order to function. I know more about Earth than Teal'c could have when he arrived, but I prefer to access Obi-Wan's Earth memories as little as possible since I must invade Daniel's privacy to do so."
The Jedi smiled apologetically at Daniel, who shrugged. The bonding between scientist and Padawan occurred accidentally and so quickly that being able to remember Obi-Wan’s entire life seemed a natural part of his mind. While Daniel was mildly uncomfortable that his thoughts could be accessed by a third person, that concern was mainly negated by Obi-Wan’s overwhelming trust and respect for his Master.
Obi-Wan inserted, "General? Would you please send all our Special Services Status paperwork to me? I'll fill out the forms for Qui-Gon and I."
"Paperwork?" Qui-Gon asked bemusedly.
For the first time, Colonel Jack O'Neill entered the conversation. "Military paperwork. Truly one of the joys of life. You have a lot of - oh - fascinating - experiences before you, Qui-Gon." Out of consideration for the Jedi's ignorance of Earth, Jack added, "Just remember: Generals have Colonels who have Majors who have Captains who have Lieutenants who have Sergeants who have... well, 'Padawans' in your case, to fill out the forms. We call that 'Chain of Command.'"
Before the Colonel could continue his sarcastic discourse on military life, the General ordered, "Doctor Frasier, the physical exam. Colonel, arrange quarters for our new team members. I'm sure Obi-Wan can explain our paperwork to Qui-Gon. Dr. Jackson, establish a background for the Jedi. We can't have them telling any outsiders that their place of birth is 'Parallel Universe.'" Orders issued, Hammond strode out of the gate-room trailed by his staff initiating his directives.
In the infirmary, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan sat on examining tables, dressed in medical gowns, bare legs dangling. To avoid disturbing Dr. Frasier's concentration, they communicated telepathically as she pulled Obi-Wan's medical file and began creating a folder for Qui-Gon.
/ /You were right, Obi-Wan. Not invading Daniel's privacy was the correct explanation to give for my lack of Earth knowledge./ /
Dr. Frasier pressed a cold stethoscope to Qui-Gon's chest. Obi-Wan got his Master's short chill as he replied. / /The General is extremely protective of personal freedom -- to the extent that he can be and still fulfill his military duties. Besides, "I want to judge Earth without being influenced by Daniel's personal prejudices" would not have been well received./ / Obi-Wan's mind touch was dry.
Aware of Obi-Wan's conflicting feelings on the subject, Qui-Gon choose not to pursue the issue further, instead querying, / /Paperwork? Can't we help them without filling out forms?/ /
Obi-Wan grinned at Qui-Gon's plaintive tone. The Republic government, as well as the governments for most individual planets in the Republic, were dominated by unwieldy bureaucracies. While the Jedi managed to streamline their own personal paperwork, all Jedi negotiators were intimately familiar with wading through reams of treaties, contracts, and similar documents. Though highly skilled at the task, few Jedi particularly enjoyed it. / /No, Master. This may be a top secret, classified installation, but the military thrives on documents. Regulations must be obeyed. Besides, the General will arrange documents so we can get social security numbers and be paid. That’s why he told Daniel to establish a background./ /
The Master was surprised at the glee in his Padawan's thought. / /Paid? I've never seen you happy at the thought of credits, Obi-Wan./ /
/ /They say money, Master. Money, bucks, dollars, moola, the green stuff, dinero. Credit cards, plastic./ /
/ /Yes, Obi-Wan/ / thought Qui-Gon, refusing to be sidetracked by a lesson in slang, / /but why this interest?/ /
/ /SG-1 has had little success in retrieving Daniel’s wife or her brother in the last three years. We may be located here a long time before we capture Zly. There are beautiful places on this planet. I'd like to take you to some, to travel through the peaceful forests of this state, make love to you in a meadow surrounded by evergreen trees. We could visit Egypt and make love in the sand dunes, the heat baking our bodies./ /
Janet adjusted the sphygmomanometer on Qui-Gon's arm, pumping it full of air.
The fire in their eyes burned hotter as Master and Padawan stared at each other. Qui-Gon became increasingly mesmerized by the visual images Obi-Wan created. / /Hammond will insist on vacations. He understands the need for relaxation. We'll require travel money. And I would like another motorcycle excursion. I see you in a brown leather jacket... and chaps hugging your thighs.../ /
"Master Jinn." Doctor Frasier's words were ignored. "Qui-Gon!" she said more tartly.
Qui-Gon broke the spell to give the brunette doctor a distracted look. "Yes, Doctor Frasier?"
"Qui-Gon, the purpose of a preliminary physical examination is to ensure the patient's health by establishing a baseline for future exams."
"Yes, Doctor Frasier?" Qui-Gon repeated, not catching the inference in her explanation.
Janet looked pointedly down at Qui-Gon's lap and back up into his face, arching her eyebrows. Medical gowns fit the body loosely, but not loosely enough to disguise certain obvious protuberances. "I doubt that I'll get accurate pulse and blood pressure readings with you in this condition."
Obi-Wan hastily stifled a snicker as Qui-Gon said, "My apologies, Doctor. One moment, please." He closed his eyes, delicately touching the Force to restore his internal physical balance. / /I caught that snicker, Padawan. Wait until she begins your exam,/ / he threatened with serious intent but no malice.
/ /I shall look forward to it, Master. You know it's always my pleasure./ /
Teal'c awaited them as they exited the infirmary. Obi-Wan guessed the reason for his presence and asked idly, "Weapons and equipment test?"
"Colonel O'Neill requested that I ensure your proficiency," the Jaffa replied. Taking their assent for granted, he led them down the hallway to the elevator.
"Weapons and equipment test?" Qui-Gon parroted, as the two strode after Teal'c.
Pulling from Daniel's knowledge of project protocol, Obi-Wan replied, "The General demands all members of a team be reasonably proficient in all weapons and equipment used by that team. For most, it primarily means that the scientific members learn the military hardware. Initially, only Samantha learned to fire Teal'c's zat gun - "
"Not Jack and Daniel?"
Shaking his head, Obi-Wan explained, "Jack and Daniel both used zat guns on Abydos, against Ra, though they did practice more with Teal'c's. Now all companies study Goa’uld weaponry. There’s been too many occasions when SG members have needed to use them."
Teal'c slowed his steps slightly, joining in the conversation. "Many of the scientific members are deficient in the more advanced military applications, such as munitions. Daniel Jackson is a notable exception." The Jaffa's unconscious pride in his team members showed in his last statement. Raised in a culture which stressed the art of war and loyalty above all else, Teal'c was impressed by scientists such as Daniel who developed his weapons skills to combat the Goa'uld.
Qui-Gon flashed Obi-Wan a pained look. "Guns? Munitions?"
"We only have to be competent, Master, in case we are separated from our own lightsabers and need to use our team members' Earth tools."
Qui-Gon replied firmly, "A Jedi does not become separated from his lightsaber, Padawan."
The trio arrived at the firing range. Teal'c removed handguns from the weapons locker, giving each Jedi one. "These are M9s, a semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated, double-action, hand-held pistol chambered for 9mm ammunition. Each clip contains 15 rounds."
Qui-Gon held up a hand, cutting off any further words. "Instructions in their usage are not necessary. Obi-Wan?" The two communed wordlessly as the Jaffa patiently waited. Obi-Wan skipped sharing Daniel's earliest memory of firing a gun, aiming desperately at Ra's guards on their first mission to Abydos. Instead he concentrated on Jack's later lengthy drills after Stargate Command was officially formed.
"Thank you, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon pulled a headset from the rack and stepped into position. The others also donned headsets to muffle the deafening sound of cartridge explosion followed by bullets impacting the target. Qui-Gon stood, feeling the weight of the weapon. Though not as heavy than a lightsaber, the balance felt wrong in his hands. Too compact, too deadly. There was no grace and elegance to this killing device, no skill other than the ability to point and shoot, no technique or finesse required. He fired six shots in rapid succession before pulling off his headset.
"A left torso shot, a right torso shot, two head shots, a flesh wound in the arm and leg. Is that sufficient?"
"Admirably," Teal'c replied.
Obi-Wan stepped into position, following Qui-Gon's example of letting himself become comfortable with the grip of the gun before firing quickly. All three removed their headsets and contemplated the pattern formed on Obi-Wan's target.
Qui-Gon spoke, "Why did you shoot facial features, Obi-Wan?"
"It's called a 'smiley face.' Or a 'happy face.' Daniel saw it once in a movie."
"A movie. These are the two-dimensional entertainments where people can survive the vacuum of space?" While Qui-Gon's words dwelt on Obi-Wan's actions, his mind brushed against Obi-Wan's shields, which instantly dropped for him. Obi-Wan's mind usually reflected his personality, cool and still, with flashes of his impish humor, a powerful, logical intellect devoted to peace and the study of the Force. The Jedi Master was disturbed to find disconnected pieces of Daniel's life swirling through Obi-Wan's thoughts, like debris preventing the ripples of a lake from calming. The unintentional bond had been supplanted by the deliberate link between Master and Padawan, which later was partially severed when a Goa'uld possessed Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan was suffering from the radical changes he had experienced, his thoughts disjointed.
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan response was subdued.
"I think we can delay watching movies."
Teal'c disputed the Master's decision. "There are many movies on this world which are quite enlightening. I particularly enjoy the story of a young girl who battles evil witches with the assistance of her dog and three companions. I find the fight between good and evil, with the victor successful despite the overwhelming numbers of her foe's army of monkey warriors, inspirational."
Obi-Wan shrugged at Qui-Gon's questioning look. "The memories from movies and other entertainments are mostly elusive in my mind, Master. Such entertainments are watched, not experienced, in this universe, and therefore less vibrant than Daniel's actual life."
While Obi-Wan seemed nonchalant, Qui-Gon could sense his disappointment with his Master's attitude and desire to experience all aspects of the Earth culture. Avoiding movies wouldn't calm Obi-Wan's mind, only time and meditation would help his Padawan fully recover from his ordeals. "Very well, Teal'c. If you think these movies are worth exploring, I will accept your recommendations. And now, I believe we have more to test?"
"The Heckler and Koch MP-10 automatic machine gun, the Mobile Attack Turret, the Mobile Ground Transport, the Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe …"
Drowning out Teal'c's words, Qui-Gon caressed Obi-Wan with a mental touch, reassured to see Obi-Wan glow with restrained pleasure. As well as time and meditation, strengthening their bond would help Obi-Wan eradicate Daniel’s influence and find his balance. Increasing their own rapport was a task which Qui-Gon anticipated with joy and delight.
Daniel Jackson normally worked at the computer in his room, preferring to immerse himself in silence when researching Earth cultures to discover connections to the Goa’uld. When tackling unusual assignments, he found he needed background noise, the bustle of other people to help him focus. He packed up a laptop and settled at a table in the compound’s dining area, a cup of coffee at his side.
He got more distraction than he had anticipated appeared when Janet and Sam sat down opposite him, both women smiling.
“So Daniel, how’s it going?” The Major cheerily asked.
“Um. Fine. Why?” An unusual intensity in their expression made him nervous. They were women on a mission, but he wasn't sure what mission.
Janet responded, “We’re just curious about the background you’re establishing for the Jedi.”
Daniel eyed the two women and acknowledged that the battle was lost before it started. He turned the laptop to face them.
“65!” Janet yelped. “You can’t have Qui-Gon be 65 years old.”
“The Jedi use the birthdays from their own home planets. Qui-Gon’s birth planet is very close to its sun. It has a short rotation. He thinks of himself as 65,” Daniel argued.
Sam explained, “Yes, but he doesn’t look 65. Any cop would be suspicious if his driver’s license is ever examined.”
Janet nodded her head in agreement. “Physically, he’s no more than 45 by our standards. Make him born in 1954. That's my medical recommendation.”
“Okay,” Daniel agreed, appreciating the suggestion’s validity. He should have automatically made that adjustment, after the ribbing he received for correctly noting Teal'c's age of 90. At least Obi-Wan was 21 in Earth years, so the Padawan would be legal age and wouldn't have to recall differently if ever questioned. “Anything else?”
“Oh that’s a perfect birthday,” the Major said. “Qui-Gon’s a Leo. He looks like a lion."
Janet noted, "And Obi-Wan's birthday makes him a Scorpio. Let's see - Scorpios – ’hidden emotions, sensual, controlling and passionate’…?" Her words dangled as she looked inquisitively at Daniel, expecting confirmation. The longest time she'd spent with Obi-Wan was in her infirmary, not the best place to judge a patient's character other than how he dealt with pain.
Staring at the two women, Daniel was suddenly struck by his sparse personal knowledge of them. He had learned experienced the most vital factors time and time again – they were two of the most capable, dedicated, intelligent, dependable women he had ever had the privilege to work with. They thought fast under fire and unhesitatingly risked their lives for their comrades. He had acquired a general sense of Sam’s background – a mother who died too early from cancer, a demanding father, a rebellious brother – but he’d shared few personal conversations with Janet. Too much of his free time was spent locked in his room, researching history and mythology for Goa'uld footprints. Too much of her free time was spent doctoring. In fact, he wasn’t sure when she last took R&R.
Maybe it was time to start learning these people as friends rather than merely comrades. On the other hand, satisfying curiosity by disseminating Obi-Wan's private life wasn't a good beginning to a more meaningful friendship. Janet would have plenty of chances to spend more time with Obi-Wan; she could make her own evaluation of his character. He ducked the dangling question in her words by answering, "Scorpio is an Earth sign. It's very symbolic that Obi-Wan was destined for the Agri-Corps until he became Qui-Gon's apprentice." He blinked. “Don’t tell me you believe in astrology?”
Janet's quizzical look gained a slightly mocking air. “Don’t tell me the cultural anthropologist thinks there’s something wrong with knowing a bit of astrology? Particularly the cultural anthropologist who talks about Scorpio being an Earth sign.” She bit her lip rather than point out Scorpio was a water sign. Daniel was so staggeringly precise on academic details, his occasional flubs always seemed rather endearing.
Feeling defensive, Daniel responded, “It’s not wrong. I’m just surprised." How could he have worked with these women for three years and be ignorant about them? Obi-Wan's life was an open book to Daniel. His early life in the creche, his agony at losing his temper at a childhood enemy and almost losing his chance to be a Padawan, the first time he’d masturbated, guiltily, secretly, picturing Qui-Gon’s hands…Hundreds of small and large memories, past events Obi-Wan had lived and would never think to mention.
He didn’t even know when Janet and Sam learned the astrological charts or if they read their daily horoscopes. And if they did, was it for fun or serious belief? A sudden vision of pre-teen girls giggling over their horoscopes popped into his head. Of course, Sam had probably built rockets for her friends' Barbies while Janet excelled at the board game, 'Operation.' He opened his mouth to ask whether they first studied astrology as blossoming adolescents, but Sam was shaking her head.
“Obi-Wan can be English but Qui-Gon needs to be Irish.”
“Oh, his brogue.” Daniel mentally kicked himself for missing the Master’s occasional accent. “Good catch.”
Leaning close to Sam to see the computer screen, Janet made a small tsking noise. “Obi-Wan’s eyes are blue, not gray. Just like Qui-Gon’s.”
“Blue?” Sam disputed. “Hazel.”
Daniel was sticking to his guns this time. “No, they’re gray.” A three-way glare was shared before Daniel triumphantly pronounced, “Obi-Wan thinks they’re gray.”
Such insider information could not be disputed. Sam and Janet subsided their arguments, bending their heads over the laptop. Blond hair touched brunette as they contemplated the rest of Daniel's invention with the same diligence they displayed while studying Goa'uld technology. The anthropologist waited for further input, wondering if life would ever be quite the same with the Jedi on Earth.
Jack and Daniel found the Jedi under Teal'c’s supervision in the armory carefully storing C-4 plus detonators. Without his usual joking tone, the Colonel asked the Jaffa, "How did it go?"
"They are most proficient in all types of weapons and equipment used by SG teams, Colonel," Teal'c studiously responded.
"All?" the Colonel asked, disbelievingly.
"All," was Qui-Gon's firm reply. "And quite relieved to have this finished. We will carry guns only if absolutely required. A Jedi's weapon is his lightsaber."
"All?" Jack repeated, still seeking affirmation from Teal'c. He'd realized the Jedi would have advantages but training usually took weeks. Thus he'd assumed at least several days would be required.
Teal'c's eyebrow arched. "All," he replied succinctly.
The Colonel glanced at Daniel, who simply shrugged, not surprised. Earth weapons would seem like child's toys to the Jedi. The complexity of some alien ordnance they’d learned, particularly some ‘studied’ while under fire, was light years advanced beyond Terran technology. Given no reason to doubt Teal'c's testimony, Jack acceded. "Okay, I'll let Hammond know you're good-to-go. In the meantime we thought you might like to go out to dinner at a restaurant. Have a chance to say ‘hi’ to the locals."
Qui-Gon appreciated the thoughtfulness. Last time they visited Earth he'd remained in the Stargate compound, becoming too well acquainted with the unremitting military gray paint and stark functionality of its design. For secrecy purposes, the project occupied an Air Force base buried deep in the Rocky Mountains to resist nuclear attack. The oppressive weight of tons of granite overhead muted Qui-Gon's connection to the living Force, limiting his senses to feeling the vitality of the compound's personnel. Any chance to explore more of this planet would be eagerly accepted. He longed to be closer to the forest plants and animals above, as well as non-SGC humans. True to his training, Qui-Gon Jinn would not presume to understand an entire culture by sampling only one community, especially a military cadre engaged in classified activities.
Ever conscious of the social niceties, he only said, "We would enjoy dinner, but we do not yet have money. I assume it is required in restaurants?"
Daniel replied, one finger pushing his glasses higher on his nose. "This is our treat. It's a ‘Welcome to Earth’ dinner. There's a great steak place in town."
Obi-Wan smiled, sensing Qui-Gon's emotions. "We would be delighted to accept. I'd like to try some jalapeno poppers."
"Jalapeno poppers?" Daniel frowned. "I don't like jalapenos. How can you want to try poppers?"
The younger Jedi spoke gently, "Just because our minds bonded doesn't mean our likes and dislikes are identical, Daniel. I can taste the memory of foods you've tried and think I might like them. And even if I share your reaction, I still want to make my own decisions."
The brief impression of a kicked puppy crossed Daniel's face, as if he was hurt by the realization that he and Obi-Wan weren't total soul brothers. Disappointment was quickly replaced by a fond smile. "I remember the first time you tried yaster tubers. You spit them at Yoda."
A smothered laugh as Obi-Wan recalled one of the frequent occasions the Jedi Master helped with the young initiates. He parodied the small being, "Think you spitting at a diplomat will help negotiations? Jedi must like all foods! Honor all customs!"
The image of the squat green troll scolding a little, tow-headed Obi-Wan made everyone smile. Jokingly, Jack promised, "You can eat anything you want - just as long as you don't spit-up on me."
Smiling, Obi-Wan shook his head, "I promise I've learned to control my reactions." Mentally, he reached out to Qui-Gon, / / There are Earth foods I definitely want to share with you, Qui-Gon. With you, on you…/ /
/ / Hush, Obi-Wan, I think we've already done enough damage to the Doctor's image of Jedi self-control during our exam. We don't need to duplicate that performance in front of the entire group. / /
/ / Then tonight, Qui-Gon, I'll tell you tonight…If you must insist I wait. / / Obi-Wan flashed a mock pout at Qui-Gon as the five men strolled out of the armory, but the love in his eyes belied any true disappointment.
As the seven were settling into a booth, a song began playing on the jukebox. Janet paused before sitting. She loved this song. She wanted to dance to this song. She surveyed her dance partner options, quickly eliminating Jack and Daniel. American males were notorious non-dancers unless officially on a date. Moreover, from the vibes she'd intercepted between those two (and that Sam oddly refused to admit seeing), neither of them was likely to be interested in dancing with her. Teal'c's candidacy went next. As far as she was aware, the Jaffa had never danced. The Jedi? Being diplomats, dancing for social functions might be a training requirement. Then again, Daniel had probably infected Obi-Wan, so… She grabbed Sam's hand. "Come on. I want to dance," she said, dragging the taller woman to the small dance floor.
Bemused, Qui-Gon asked, "I was under the impression men and women danced together in this society."
Obi-Wan and Daniel were already raptly examining the appetizer menu, so the task of explaining fell on Jack. "Well, typically, yes. But women dance together, too. It's okay."
The Master appeared pleased. "Does that mean Obi-Wan and I can dance together?"
"No!" Jack took a deep breath, then hissed, "Men and women dance, and women dance. You can't dance with Obi-Wan. Not in this town, anyway."
Breaking away from the developing argument over mozzarella sticks or jalapeno poppers, Daniel stated, "I think what Jack is trying to say is, that as a primarily heterosexual society, men and women are normal dance partners in America. It's part of the courtship rituals to develop a romantic relationship. However, the cultural perception is that men don't really like to dance because it threatens their masculinity. Women aren't bound to the same requirement to be masculine, so it's become acceptable for women friends or family members to dance together, either as a couple or in a group. Men avoid dancing together because it automatically identifies them as homosexuals."
The explanation helped but raised more questions. Qui-Gon pursued, "But it doesn't identify women as lesbians?"
Jack answered first, "No. And that's just the way it is. It may not make sense, but it's the American way, okay?"
"It's perfectly fine, Colonel. Obi-Wan and I are Jedi diplomats. We have no prejudices how a society *ought* to be. I simply wish to ensure I am following the acceptable social parameters." Considering the two women as they faced each other, gyrating to the beat, Qui-Gon asked, "Would they prefer to dance with male partners?"
Neither Jack or Daniel was sure how to answer. It wasn't a subject they'd ever discussed. Tentatively, Jack offered, "My wife did complain when I wouldn't dance with her…"
The younger Jedi nodded. "Yes, Master. It would be hospitable."
"Excuse us, gentlemen." With those words, Qui-Gon slid out of the booth and strode off toward the women, followed by Obi-Wan. Jack cringed. Sure, he guessed Sam and Janet would appreciate the gesture. His wife would have. But somehow, the vision of the regal Jedi Master boogeying to a disco beat…he cringed more then relaxed as the music ended.
Good. All done. The Jedi and the women held a brief conversation, then moved to the jukebox.
Bad. Sam dropped in quarters and a slow song began playing as Obi-Wan swept Janet into what Jack guessed was a modified waltz. Qui-Gon bowed to Sam and they duplicated the first couple, clasping left hands, Sam's right hand resting on Qui-Gon's shoulder, his hand on her waist, feet gliding in unison.
Okay, watching slow dancing he could handle.
An odd noise emerged from Daniel's mouth. "I never realized Sam is Obi-Wan's height. The top of her head comes to Qui-Gon's nose too."
"How sweet," Jack replied. Instead he ignored a vague disgruntled emotion as the two couples proceeded around the small floor in rhythm. Damnit, he didn't like to dance. He didn't. He'd hated it when his wife made him dance. He didn't have a bizarre desire to sweep Daniel into his arms and into a box trot. He didn't. He wouldn't even recognize a box trot if it trotted over him.
Silent through this exchange, Teal'c finally questioned, "Is it permissible to ask a woman you do not know to dance?"
Jack's answer was absent-minded. "Sure. That's how dating starts." When the Jaffa began sliding toward the front of the booth, he exclaimed, “Hey! You can’t dance wearing a hat. It’s not done.”
Headgear of some variety was a permanent fixture of Teal'c's attire outside the SGC headquarters. He removed it now and holding the wide-brimmed white hat in his hands, skimmed his fingers lightly over the edge. “Daniel Jackson?”
“Ah – yes Teal’c?” The scientist was nervous. Whenever Teal’c had a new idea about Earth or Earth culture, it was guaranteed to be interesting, to say the least.
“Do you find the symbol of Apophis more unusual by your cultural standards than the multitude of pierced rings on the woman at the bar?”
Glancing in the direction indicated, Daniel saw a young woman dressed in skintight clothes with her face pierced in several places. She was animatedly talking with a friend, facing toward him and coincidentally, the SG-1 booth. “I guess not,” Daniel answered dubiously. “If someone asks, you could say it’s a new type of tattoo. Hot wax permanently affixed or something.” Gentle as Teal'c was, his stoic demeanor ad imposing size warned most people away from asking him questions, especially personal questions.
“Thank you Daniel Jackson.” Setting his hat on the table, Teal’c smoothed the line of his jacket, looked around the room, made a decision, and stalked off toward three women sitting together.
Jack almost buried his head in his hands. Things were changing, he could tell. Life was never going to be quite the same at the Stargate command. Not that Jack didn't appreciate change, but he'd spent too many years in the military not to enjoy the comfort of the status quo. Change could mean growth and new ideas; it also could generate death and war.
Then Daniel's voice hesitantly asked, "Uh Jack?"
Damn. A Talk was about to start. He could always tell when his wife was broaching a serious subject. He breathed steadily. He could handle this. "Yes, Daniel?" He turned enough in the booth to look at Daniel. The scientist was staring at the table's fake wood surface.
"Jack, when you and I - " Daniel's words ceased before he barely began.
"Got together?" Jack supplied helpfully. Damn. Not only a Talk, but definitely a Relationship Talk. Double that damn.
"Yes, that night." Daniel sounded relieved at the euphemistic description for a night of mind-blowing sex. For a scientist who could be excruciatingly analytical, maybe he wasn't fond of Relationship Talks either. "I didn't realize it at the time, because I was tipsy, but when I bonded with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan on Taberus, I learned it. Learned the truth of what had happened. And I wanted to know if it made a difference."
"If what made a difference?"
"Oh." In his haste, Daniel missed the crux of his confession. "that Qui-Gon Forced us together."
As far as Jack could recall, Qui-Gon hadn't been anywhere near them. The night was a little blurry, except for the very vibrant impression of unbelievable pleasure. "Forced?"
"No, not forced as in 'against our will.' The Force. He gave a Force-suggestion so you and I would get together. That was the night he and Obi-Wan bonded. My - distraction - helped him push me out of Obi-Wan's mind." Confession over, Daniel paused for a deep breath before he risked admitting, "It wasn't against my will." He stared at Jack, waiting a response.
The Colonel was experienced enough to keep a blank face while revving his mind for an acceptable response. He couldn't tell the truth. Couldn't say it didn't matter a damn what Qui-Gon had done. He loved Daniel, loved him with all his heart and soul, would be happy to leave the military to stay with him… now.
The start of their relationship, on the other hand, had been rocky. Jack, reeling from his son's accidental death, had dismissed Daniel as a scientific geek. A non-com with sloppy hair, glasses and asthmatic sneezing. Thankfully their trip to Abydos eventually altered that misimpression as the geek proved his mettle. It was Daniel who could speak the local lingo. Daniel who helped obliterate the Goa'ud warlord. Daniel who discovered the vital seven symbols to get them home.
But Daniel might have stayed a pleasant memory of a mission gone right if Apophis' kidnapping a female soldier hadn't triggered the resumption of the Stargate project. The last three years deepened the men's tentative friendship as they explored other worlds, daily risking their lives. Jack couldn't tell when friendship had grown into love, only that the realization had rushed through him when they'd drunkenly collapsed into bed. 'Forced' by Qui-Gon? Only 'Forced' to confront the truth.
But there was Shau'ri. Daniel would never desert his wife. He would never leave the Stargate project as long as a chance for rescuing her existed. And while Daniel worked for Stargate, Jack would remain at his side, cover his flank, protect his back. As long as possible he wanted to be beside him--loving him.
The waitress arrived with a perky smile and a request for their drinks order. Grateful for the diversion, Jack ordered pitchers of beer, his eyes distracted by the dancing couples. Teal'c was partnered with a tall redhead, her wavy hair almost reaching her waist as she smiled up at him. His hands met at her waist; hers were clasped around his neck as they swayed to the music. Good dance position; his lack of experience would be less obvious. Obi-Wan and Janet were attempting a leisurely tango, his thin braid whipping around as the two glided to the edge of the floor and made a tight turn. Sam and Qui-Gon still semi-waltzed, chatting quietly.
His comrades having fun was a jolting reminder. More was involved here than his selfish desires to be with Daniel. He had pledged to Teal'c to free the Chulak people from the Goa'uld. He hadn't made promises to Sam, but felt bound to her, to her devotion, even to her father, who hosted a member of the Goa'uld renegade Tok'ra within his body. And now the Jedi, new allies crossed over from a parallel universe to protect Earth and rescue their own compatriot.
His life wasn't his own. It hadn't been since he'd signed on the dotted line as a raw, new officer. The trick was to salvage both his duty and his love. He'd been fobbing Daniel off serious relationship discussions with an agreement to 'live in the moment' as the Jedi said. Anyhow, he didn't think diversionary tactics would work this time.
"Look, Daniel, do you think a Jedi would 'Force' us into a relationship we didn't want? Don't they believe in the Light and honor? Stuff like that?"
Daniel considered the question before popping out an answer Jack found unhelpful. "Actually, I wouldn't be sure about that. The Jedi are honorable and do believe in serving the greater good, but their actions don't always conform to conventional American stereotypes of right and wrong. They don't have a lot of qualms about mind control. Their ends do sometimes justify means. And the lightsaber isn't exactly a stun gun."
Okay, O'Neill regrouped, try a modicum of honesty. He massaged the bridge of his nose, trying to squelch an emerging headache. "Daniel, you know that I had a…" Jack lowered his whisper to a hush, wary of eavesdroppers, "…relationship with a man before."
"Yeah…a one-night stand," he absolved.
"So I must be bisexual."
"Technically, the term is ambisexual. Bisexual would mean - "
"Okay, ambisexual," Jack agreed through clenched teeth to forestall a lecture on sexual terminology. Just what he didn't need - a Relationship Talk with intellectual corrections. "So maybe Qui-Gon sensed I wouldn't find the sex distasteful. And maybe he got from Obi-Wan… Maybe he knew… Hey! What did he know from Obi-Wan?" Suspicion shone in his eyes.
Daniel blushed. "I admit - I - I've been curious. Wondered what it would be like, to be with a guy."
"With any man?"
"No." His voice dropped to a whisper but his eyes didn't falter from Jack's. "With you."
"Oh." For a second, they forgot the busy restaurant, went blind to the patrons all around them, and started to lean toward each other, heads angling to kiss. The waitress plunking down a glass pitcher filled with a frothy amber liquid broke the spell.
"Two pitchers of beer and seven glasses," she announced too loudly. "I'll be back to take your dinner order. Anything else you need now, hon?"
Jack cleared his throat worried he'd heard more in that than she said. Nonchalantly leaning back, trying not to spring guiltily away from Daniel, he shook his head. "Thanks. Why don't you bring an appetizer combo? One of those things with everything?" His voice didn't really sound very natural.
The waitress noted the order on her pad. "Will do, hon," she said before darting off to the next table. If only the Colonel knew how many gay men she served each week and how she favored them as patrons. They never got grabby and, if military, anxiously over tipped.
While Jack poured the beer, Daniel finally worried quietly, "There's still Shau'ri. I love my wife, Jack. I want to save her. I hate that she's imprisoned by a Goa'uld symbiont."
"I know, Daniel. I know." The words were weary.
Taking the proffered glass, the scientist sipped before stating, "It feels right to be with you, Jack. But it feels wrong too, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." Jack allowed himself the luxury of brushing the backs of his fingers against Daniel's cheek. "I've been in the military a long time, Daniel. Don't ever kid yourself, we may come home to safe beds every night, but we're in the middle of a war. A war that could end the entire world. Soldiers need comfort, they need love. Reassurance that life is worth living. Most buy sex from hookers and pretend that's enough."
Daniel didn't respond, simply watching Jack, waiting for his conclusion.
"We're lucky," Jack hoped. "We're friends who are lovers. There's more than sex, there's caring. I care for you, Daniel. You're my best buddy. When we're together, it reminds me of everything that's worth saving in this world. I want to spend time with you as long as we can. And when we rescue Shau'ri, I think she'll have enough compassion to understand the truth." In Jack's mind, he prayed that he would have enough courage and love to quietly disappear.
Shau'ri and Daniel's honeymoon year together seemed so brief, already so long ago. The researcher recalled his time on Abydos, the excitement of living in a culture like ancient Egypt, married to the most beautiful woman he'd ever known. Shau'ri's outer perfection, her dark hair and flashing eyes, her exotic features, had matched her inner sweet nature.
Daniel nodded as he remembered his wife's unselfish devotion. "Yes, Shau'ri will understand. So we - continue 'living in the moment' and everything stays the same?"
Jack answered with a wry grin toward the dance floor where Qui-Gon twirled Sam. "Everything stays the same between you and I. Somehow, I don't think things will ever be the same again for the Stargate project."
As Obi-Wan dipped Janet over his arm and bent one of his knees so her head almost reached the ground, Daniel could only agree.
Well, you do learn something new every day, Daniel thought muzzily, feeling a tingling buzz from too much beer, his belly pleasantly stuffed with steak, baked potato, and an excess of rich, gooey appetizers.
Sam could yelp. He'd never heard Sam yelp. Heard her be concerned, inquisitive, angry, determined…
She yelped again. "Brookfield!"
"It's not 'Brookfield,' it's SG-4," Jack stated calmly, having anticipated a bad reaction to his announcement.
Sam wasn't accepting that distinction. "SG-4 is Brookfield's team. I can't believe Hammond is going to put the Jedi with that egomaniac. He won't be able to tolerate having Qui-Gon on his missions. Not after losing at ping-pong to him." Part of Sam's adverse reaction resulted from the guilty awareness that Qui-Gon might have an easier time with Brookfield if she hadn't prodded the Jedi into playing against him.
"Brookfield is a good officer. Both he and SG-4 have a superb record. Besides, SG-4 is understaffed. They need more members. We don't," Jack noted.
"Samantha." Qui-Gon's quiet voice and lightly placed hand on her arm caused the Major to stop her objections. "Obi-Wan and I will do fine with SG-4. We will not - "
/ / Threaten Brookfield's masculinity, Master. / /
/ /Thank you. / / Qui-Gon absently thought to Obi-Wan, continuing aloud, "threaten Brookfield's authority. Besides, we could not realistically expect to be part of SG-1. Obi-Wan and I are well aware that Hammond would not waste his resources."
Since the make-up of individual SG teams was not her area of concern, the Doctor had intended to remain silent, but she felt obligated to murmur, "The fact that you diligently avoid threatening him may make it even worse. Brookfield's smart enough to realize when someone else downplays his own superiority. He is a good officer, but he's not without flaws and he's not a Jedi Master."
Qui-Gon's statement had finally worked its way through Daniel's inebriated brain enough for him to articulate, "What's a waste?" At the curious looks, he expanded, "You said it would be a waste of resources for the Jedi to be on SG-1. Why?" Daniel hadn't crossed paths enough with Brookfield to share Sam's dislike, tending to spend his free time alone, with SG-1 or the other scientists. He'd automatically assumed the Jedi would be placed with SG-1 and found himself disappointed at Hammond's decision.
/ / Obi-Wan, explain. You know the facts better. / /
"SG-1 is the best of the best, Daniel. Hadn't you realized that?" Of the Earth people, only Janet seemed to understand Obi-Wan. Baffled expressions from Daniel, Jack, and Sam met his statement. Teal'c's face was impassive. Obi-Wan gave a small sigh before continuing, "Of the members on the original mission, only Jack, Daniel and Feretti survive, correct? You were the first to travel through the gate. You destroyed Ra, saving the Abydos people. Daniel deciphered the Stargate and found all the coordinates for other planets on Abydos, making gate travel to dozens of planets a reality. Sam was one of the original researchers on the Stargate project and also hosted a Tok'ra, giving her superior knowledge of the Goa'uld and an ability to recognize other Goa'uld hosts. Teal'c was a Jaffa, trained to war, and hosts a larval Goa'uld, which grants him increased stamina and the physical ability to recover devastating wounds."
"So?" was Jack's blunt response.
Patiently, Obi-Wan continued, "So Hammond has collected the cream of military and scientific personnel in this country but none of them have the special background or unique abilities that the members of SG-1 do. You are the best of the best. To add two Jedi to your team would be squandering resources."
The Earth members of SG-1 shared conscious glances of embarrassment before all three trained their sights on Janet. She swallowed the rest of her broccoli and responded to their unasked question, "Everyone on the base knows that. Hadn't you realized it?"
The three fidgeted restlessly. None of them answered Janet. Teal'c simply arched an eyebrow, obviously not as discomforted by this new perspective. Thinking it wise to change the conversation, Qui-Gon asked, "Why is SG-4 understaffed?"
"They lost a member. He died on their last mission. An accident." The terseness of Jack's reply indicated a sore subject. Everyone involved in the project took the loss of a team member hard.
The conversation needed a radical shift to break the tension. Obi-Wan slid out of the booth, noting, "There is one way men can dance together." He crossed his arms in front of him, right forearm resting on his left, and dropped into a squat before leaping up, one leg kicking out in front.
"You must be joking," was Jack and Daniel's combined response. They flashed a look at each other before Jack added, "That's gotta be hard to do."
"Let's try it. They'll think we're crazy Greeks. Or drunk. Janet, pick a song for us." The Padawan tugged on his Master's arm, encouraging him to follow.
"Like any of us look Greek," Jack grumbled. "Come on, Major, Doctor, Teal'c. If my thigh muscles are gonna ache, everyone's gonna ache."
With laughter and smiles, everyone tumbled out of the booth, trailing after Obi-Wan. Yes, Daniel mused, wondering if his stomach was too full to cope with such activity, the times definitely were changing.
Everyone was quiet as the elevator arrived at the level where most of the living quarters were located, conscious that many of the other SGC members would be sleeping at this late hour. Jack escorted Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to their new quarters before giving them a wave good-night, turning away to hide the wince from his already complaining thigh muscles.
The two Jedi stepped inside their new home. The Colonel had considerately pulled rank, assigning them rooms initially intended for the high-ranking diplomats who would need protection during the envisioned nuclear holocaust. The rooms were spacious by SGC standards, containing both a living room and a bedroom. The furniture was regular military issue, plain and sparse, but Jack had acquired the largest bed available. He'd scrounged a few amenities, a television and VCR, a coffee pot with both coffee and a selection of teas sitting by it, large potted plants, a luxurious rug covering the cement floor.
They crossed into the bedroom, finding that their clothes had been placed in the dresser or hung in the closet, next to several blue SGC uniforms in their sizes. Obi-Wan fingered one sleeve. "It will feel unusual to wear a different uniform, Master."
"A Jedi does what he must, Obi-Wan," the blunt reminder softened by his gentle tone.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied obediently before his eyes sparkled. "But right now I'd like to see you wearing nothing at all."
Raising his hands to his sides, Qui-Gon promptly responded, "Don't let me stop you, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan teasingly unbuttoned Qui-Gon's shirt, idly stroking the firm skin of the Jedi Master's chest as it was revealed. Qui-Gon accepted the service, knowing his apprentice enjoyed building the anticipation. Obi-Wan dropped to his knees in front of Qui-Gon, unbuckling his belt before undoing the button and unzipping his pants. He eased the pants off Qui-Gon's hips and chuckled as the solid erection covered in plain white Jedi undergarments were revealed.
"You don't normally find me amusing, Obi-Wan. Particularly there."
The extremely dry nuance in his Master's voice amused Obi-Wan even more, and he laughed harder until Qui-Gon tugged on his ponytail.
"I'm sorry, Master." In recompense, he rubbed his cheek against Qui-Gon’s erection, generating an immediate reaction. He kissed his way slowly up the center of Qui-Gon’s abdomen, with soft nuzzling and lingering licks on the taut flesh. “You are definitely not amusing there,” he whispered to Qui-Gon's lips before sealing their mouths together.
“Then?” Qui-Gon asked quizzically after a lengthy kiss.
"I didn’t think about asking the tailors to duplicate all Earth clothes. It was the sight of your undergarments.”
In punishment at Obi-Wan’s delay in explaining, Qui-Gon nipped at his ear. "Yes?"
Rather than feeling chastened, however, Obi-Wan shivered and arched closer before continuing, “We'll need to replace our undergarments at some point. I think we should take Sam shopping with us when we do. I have a feeling she'll want to know the answer to the age-old question - Master Qui-Gon Jinn…, boxers or briefs?"
Recognizing he'd missed another cultural reference, the Jedi Master ignored the question and called on the Force, using its power to help him lift Obi-Wan to toss him on the bed. He filled his eyes with the sight of his apprentice, hands flung back over his head, still dressed in the white t-shirt and blue jeans he'd made the tailor on Coruscant duplicate with exact precision. Visually satisfied, he fell on Obi-Wan, swallowing his laughter with another hungry kiss. His mental shields collapsed as Obi-Wan's emotions surged to meet his own, satisfying his desire for a fuller connection.
Qui-Gon realized their time on Earth would not be simple. Separated from home and their fellow Jedi. Obi-Wan still affected by his bond with Daniel, Qui-Gon occasionally feeling Karvas’ loathsome taint in his mind. Exploring a new universe while ensuring that Obi-Wan received his full Jedi training. Difficult challenges; new friends. But they would be together, as Master and Padawan, as lovers.
And at the end of the day, that was all that truly mattered.
~ the end ~