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Even In Space, It's The Thought That Counts

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Even In Space, It's The Thought That Counts

You would think - and Daniel has not only thought but mentioned it at length, and more than once - that in their secret billion dollar budget, the SGC would find the wherewithal needed to hire one or two professionals.

But you would be wrong, and for some years now years he, and Stan Kovacek (a military attorney, wasn't that close enough?) and the two or three anthropologists who could be trusted offworld were it. For the entire damn planet. After all, what does a Highly Classified Secret Military Operation normally need with an official diplomatic corps anyway? As Jack O'Neill says way too often and with way too self-satisfied a smirk, they can get by with charm, coffee, cake, above all chocolate... oh, and C-4.

Or not.


1.

"They're a diplomatic gift, Jack. Smile and look grateful."

Daniel isn't sure if their hosts hear him, he is just grateful that they don't understand military or any other form of English. Or possibly body language.

He pastes his customary 'thrilled and awed and appreciative' look on his face as he steps forward to examine the newest 'gesture of friendship and amity meant to seal the treaty between our two worlds from this life into the next' as the local chieftain put it (though in way, way more words).

Coffins.

Four massive, painstakingly carved and molded, embellished and enameled, and astoundingly true to - well, not life, more like true to death - coffins, one for each of SG-1. The likenesses with which they were lovingly decorated leave no doubt as to who they are for; Daniel spares a fleeting, disturbed thought for just how lovingly the locals have imagined him and his teammates as brilliantly, horrifyingly realistic - and totally naked - corpses, as he launches into yet another version of the 'courteous, enthusiastic and tactful' diplomatic spiel he and Kovacek had perfected for occasions like this.

"Well," Sam says faintly, her smile in place and her near-scarlet, mortified blush firmly ignored, "at least we know they like us."

"Lie back and think of the cadoliin reserves they are letting us have," Jack growls from the corner of his fixed grin. "Right, Daniel?"

"Something like that, Jack. The Chuaa people are quite obsessive about their death-cult religion, they spend their entire lives preparing to die and years creating their own very very... very personal coffins. They've already apologised several times for only taking a small fortune and the last four months to create these for us. What do you want me to say, we can't take them home?"

"We - you - too damn right we can't take them home."

"Yes we can."

"Can't."

"Can and must." Still smiling, Daniel turns a firm and reproving eye on his team leader. "Diplomatic incident, remember?"

"But - oh crap." Yeah, his team leader remembers very well the times some less than diplomatic SG team had caused an incident, an affront, an argument... and in at least three cases, a near all-out war with the words "we can't take that home!"

And these don't even need quarantining, worse luck. Arriving home with them will be...

Oh God.

"Colonel," Sam, bless her, says through gritted teeth, "can't you ask the General for an empty gateroom when we go back?"

Daniel likes that. "And four extra-large tarpaulins...

"Oh yes, and before we do," he adds as several of the natives came forward to wrestle with the coffin lids, "as part of the gesture of friendship... they want us to try them out first, for comfort. As in... right now."

"They..." Sam - who is carefully not looking where the hands are going on the painted naked likenesses - tries to pick her jaw up and fails.

"They -" Jack tries not to swallow his tongue.

"They do," Teal'c - who has stayed silent in his best impression of a wooden storefront Jaffa - stolidly affirms.

"So it's take your clothes off first, then lie back and think of the cadoliin reserves," Daniel goes on. "It's cultural, Jack. It's a huge compliment. It's the equivalent of giving the President a country's highest medal of honor. And it's because they really really like us and the gift we keep bringing them every visit." He sighs, and reaches for his belt. "I keep telling you, chocolate doesn't fix everything."


2.

"Doctor Jackson -?"

Why he agreed to go and help SG-3 out with this one, he doesn't know; Daniel sighs, fixes yet another "thrilled and awed and appreciative" look on his face, and launches into yet another version of the diplomatic spiel as he watches Colonel Makepeace trying to ignore the 'gifts' clustering around his legs, and those of his hapless team members.

These will need quarantining, oh yes. At least the General quickly saw the light about the alien menagerie/museum/quarantine station at the Alpha site... well, quickly enough after the present from PRQ-790 gave half the base some form of extraterrestrial (and thankfully short-lived) 'chiggers'.

And that nasty business with the 'purely decorative' but actually carnivorous confetti.

And SG-7's 'winnings' in a game of intergalactic not-quite-craps which turned out to provide the... yeah well, crap all on its own.

He pulls his thoughts back to the newest gifts, most of which are now looking up at him with liquid eyes and burbling in an oddly Lovecraftian form of... speech? Song? animal call? - that he hasn't heard before. Maybe he just thinks it's Lovecraftian because they look appallingly like baby Cthulhus made of pastel-colored candy - appallingly because from what he can tell, the locals see them as extremely rare and valuable farm animals and expect their newest and oh so valued allies to cook and eat them.

Not gonna happen, friends.

"We can't take them home," Makepeace says helplessly.

"Yes we can. And yes, we have to."

"But -"

"Unless you want to hold the feast right here and have the signal honor of..." Daniel makes a vague gesture that he hopes the locals won't recognize across his own throat.

SG-3, big tough Marines as they are to a man, gulp and falter and stare at him in appeal.

"Apparently they are delicious," Daniel goes on ruthlessly, taking a moment to wonder if - like so much in the galaxy - they do taste like chicken. "Though not nearly as delicious as the wonderful gift we have given them. After all, they were going to give you a nice set of decorated plates for the General -"

"We'll take the plates!"

"- But the king decided that was a poor recompense for your magnificent wonderful glorious confection. And he's hoping for more, lots more. So we take the little Cthulhus..." Daniel falters, realizing that he's now named the little things for officialdom forever, and his fellow geeks at the SGC will never let him forget it, "and hope they don't grow up to be... Cthulhus.

"And please... next time, remember that I've told you, coffee and cake don't always make things better, okay?"


3.

They do get plates though, at the next planet Kovacek, along with SG-6 and Robert Rothman visit.

Mind you, given that the plates, the cups, the bowls, the whole damn service, (including several utensils whose purpose not even Daniel wants to speculate on) is made of the exoskeleton and shellacked entrails of the local giant not-caterpillar, painted with the not-caterpillar's version of blood, and used in the feast in their honor, consisting of nine courses of not-caterpillar garnished with the chocolate Kovacek had given out - neither Daniel nor Makepeace begrudge them at all.


4.

The High Priestess of the Ct'uaa people on PXH-555 is one of the few people in the galaxy who doesn't like chocolate. She - and her people - like coffee quite a lot, true, but then they decide they like Daniel better.

It takes a hell of a lot of negotiating, arguing, bargaining, explaining and less-than-diplomatic hissy fits on both sides before the Ct'uaa accept that their offering of forty cynocephalus-milk cheeses and a half-share in their smallest some-new-and-apparently-unbelievably-useful mineral mine is, however reluctantly, not equal in value to the offworld visitors to Doctor Jackson, and take the coffee.

Oh, and pickled cabbage, once the High Priestess decides it tastes far better than chocolate. And no, neither the General nor anyone at home is undiplomatic enough to ask how the High Priestess found that out at all.


5.

This time, Daniel doesn't feel like offering the 'thrilled and awed and appreciative' look, or the 'courteous, enthusiastic and tactful' spiel to the locals.

This could have something to do with the cuffs on his wrists and ankles - gorgeous, elaborately wrought sort-of-rococo things made of carnelian, copper-colored metal, cats'-eyes gems and god knows what else - and a whole lot to do with the twin smirks on Jack's and Lou Ferretti's faces.

He is going to kill them once they are all safely home with the all-important trade agreement and treaty and the thirty-five other and quite unexceptional gifts the Cho-lamei have loaded on Jack as Great Commander and his 'entourage' (SG-1 and SG-2, five geologists looking for naquadah and a medic who is over the moon about the prospect of getting samples of the local miracle). And he is going to have help from the three other non-military members of the entourage, all in the same utterly diplomatic mess as he is.

Earth's Great Commander, it seems, is thought to be too lax with his clerics (who are rare and fragile and must be cared for, cherished and corrected whether they want to be or not) and needs tactful encouragement towards the proper discipline. Said discipline being softly lined cuffs, light but unbreakable chains and jaw-droppingly crafted, richly detailed, luxuriantly furnished, portable... cages. For safekeeping, it is explained.

(Sam and Teal'c, being not at all stupid, are keeping well out of this. Sam, being not at all stupid, is also acting military and non-intellectual and not at all clerical with all her not-inconsiderable might.)

"They're diplomatic gift, Daniel. Smile and look grateful," the Great Commander says gleefully. "You're the one who keeps telling us to respect cultural norms and the cultural norm here is obviously..."

"It's a cage, Jack," Daniel hisses.

"A cage with more and better fittings than most five-star hotels, admit it. Daniel, you've got a four-poster bed in there," Lou says, ignoring the fact that the posts are what Daniel's chains are bolted to, "and look at those books and scrolls and... stuff you like they've provided, enough to keep you busy for weeks. Not," he goes on quickly, at the scorching glare Daniel turns on him, "that you'll be in there for weeks."

Jack snorts, then makes a patented and quite deliberately failed attempt to wipe the smirk off his face. "That's right, my valued and delicate cleric - did I get that bit right, Daniel? - just till I can find an excuse to send you home -"

"Not like this, you can't."

"The cage and cuffs were a diplomatic gift, Daniel. Purely - what's the word you use? - ceremonial, that's right." Jack is way too pleased with himself, and Daniel is definitely going to kill him. "Hey, you're the one who keeps telling me we have to take the gifts, no matter how much we don't want to. Diplomatic incident, remember?"

Daniel represses the urge to flounce on the - okay admittedly - very soft and luxuriant bed. "I. Don't. Care."

"Look, I'll get the four of you sent home and out of all of this." Jack pretends to think. "Soon enough, anyway. It's probably worth a fortune, all that metal and jewels and... and yeah, we'll hang on to it all at the SGC. After all, if you have to come back at any stage -"

Daniel shakes his cuffed wrist, making the chains tinkle with a delicate beauty that adds insult to injury. "No way."

"Someone will have to, Daniel," Lou points out reasonably. "There's naquadah in them there hills, and someone will have to negotiate for it. Like the Cho-lamei Commander said, it's got nothing to do with status, he's happy for you to do the negotiations, just..."

"From - in there," Jack adds less than helpfully. "Where you'll be safe. Something I have been trying to make you for years, after all."

"Jaaack..."

"And more damn comfortable than any of us, trust me. The quarters for non-clericals are..."

"Cells, really," Lou offers.

"Adequate."

"Barely."

"Spartan."

"Hardening."

"Meant to toughen people up," Jack gives an overdramatic wince. "Trust me, you're better in there."

"With these?" Daniel shakes the cuffs again, and Jack's wince - mirrored by Lou's - turns a little more real.

"Like you keep saying, Daniel, diplomacy and cultural norms." Jack has clearly been actually listening to him more often than Daniel - at this precise moment - is happy with. "Tell you what, I'll be noble and do the whole 'thrilled and grateful and want to be pals more than anything' bit, the look and the shtick, for you this time. Just take that glower off your face for the sake of diplomacy -"

"And naquadah -"

"Okay? Just till we can trundle you and this back through the gate and home."

Daniel looks down, grits his teeth, and swallows the totally undiplomatic but pretty pointless retort. Diplomacy and naquadah. Yes.

And at least the Cho-lamei Commander doesn't want to keep him and the cage.

Jack is watching him; his smirk dies, just a little. "Daniel -"

"Yeah, Jack?"

"You do know... if there was any reason we thought you'd be hurt or were being treated badly..." Jack stops, maybe hearing the touch of uncertainty in his own voice. "You'd be out of there at once, even if we had to take C-4 to the lock. You know that, don't you?"

Daniel says nothing and says it loudly.

"Don't you? It's just for a day or two, then we'll go home with a nice fat trade agreement and everyone will be happy."

And he can then kill Jack and Lou. Okay. He's dealt with worse.

"And you can have your pick of the thirty-five other presents we're taking home, I'll get Hammond to sign off on that. There's some fascinating dooda... artifacts there. You'll have a great time with them."

Again, he reminds himself, he's dealt with worse.

"Daniel."

He looks up, and his Great Commander's pushed his hand through the highly decorate, faux-rococo bars, to offer his rare of not even slightly fragile cleric... a chocolate bar. Just one.

"They like the chocolate, at least. We'll be bringing back truckloads, at least, even if we give them other... diplomatic stuff, they want more coffee and Earth cake and candy and yeah, chocolate. They really really really like it."

Daniel sighs. "Doesn't everyone?"

"Well, pretty much everyone in the galaxy. If they're human, that is." Jack shrugs. "And sometimes if they aren't."

"Rule of nature."

Jack's lips quirk, in a real smile rather than that smirk this time. "Maybe you and Carter can write it up some time for one of the papers you'll publish when we go public."

"The Integral Function of Theobroma cacao in Interplanetary/Interspecies Politics and Mediation... yeah, that'll work."

"Think of the money we've saved the good old US of A," Lou says. "Allies give us gold cages and naquadah and artefacts -"

"And edible alien pets and even more alien dishware, and furniture and carnivorous confetti -"

"And don't forget the coffins," Daniel puts in.

Jack shudders. "Never."

"And we spread chocolate and coffee through the Milky Way, and somehow they all think it's pretty equal."

"You should get the credit, Daniel." Lou grins. "Or the blame. After all, you started it, didn't you? First bar of intergalactic chocolate, you gave it to all the way back on Abydos."

"I... oh god, I did, didn't I?"


By the time they get him home, Daniel has to admit the bed is the softest and best he's ever slept in.

He's still pissed enough to suggest that the chocolate supplies are diverted more than once to the people with the coffins and the cadoliin reserves. And he knows some of it ends up with the growing baby Cthulhus, who like it as much as their farmers did (though SG-3 never went back, too afraid of what they'd have to eat this time... or bring back alive)

The cages, cuffs and chains go into storage, with the coffins and the caterpillar crockery, and a hundred other things SG teams are given over the years. Sometimes, they even get taken out and given away as gifts to some other race... who won't know where they came from. Daniel doesn't always know himself.


You would think - and Daniel has, and does, and always will - that the SGC would find the wherewithal needed to hire one or two, or more, professionals. But then you would think that the SGC would find some other way to grease the wheels of diplomacy out there in the galaxy.

Maybe they can and they will, one day. For now it seems, Daniel and chocolate seem to be doing as good a job as anyone could expect...

- the end -