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In Medias Res

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The negotiations were, as always, dry. Daniel was doing most of the talking, Teal'c was doing most of the listening, and Sam spent most of her time taking random items from the colonel and shooting him reproachful glances that had, so far, done not a bit of good in the area of keeping him focused. The looks did, however, seem to be a source of amusement for him as the harder her looks got the brighter his eyes twinkled. He was enjoying it, damn it.

She studied the collection of pebbles, strings, and paper clips she'd appropriated from him over the course of the last six hours. Who knew the man kept so much in his pockets? What was he expecting to have to do? Diffuse a bomb with nothing more than the contents of his pockets? And, if so, he must really love a challenge. The strings and paper clips she could almost believe, but pebbles? Where on P3C-928 had he found all these pebbles? Or had he carried them in his pockets from Earth? Knowing him, either could be equally possible.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw him produce yet another item to turn over and over in his hands. His fingers were quick and she had to reach over to cover his hands with her own and finger wrestle him for the thing before she was able to identify it as the tab to a zipper. During the match to win the prize, though, she couldn't help but notice how warm his roughened hands were and how cold hers were. Before she could snatch her hand away out of her sake of propriety, he sandwiched it between his own in a clear effort to warm her skin. She quirked up the side of her mouth in thanks and then he released her.

She zoned back into the negotiations. Little progress had been made since she'd checked out nearly twenty minutes beforehand. They were still discussing how much naquadah the '928 government would trade for the medical supplies Earth was offering. The trouble was, '928 wanted defensive systems and weaponry. The defensive systems, Daniel had told them, could probably be worked out. But the weaponry was off the table. Sam knew all the nuances of the negotiation down to the last detail, after all, she'd helped draft the offer. Her heart, however, was not in the act of negotiation itself, especially not with the constant distraction of the colonel beside her.

Either his pockets were empty or he was lulling her into a false sense of security because he started fiddling with the corner of the button placket of his BDU jacket. He had to have noticed her scrutiny because he held his hand out and made a give it motion with his fingers. Clearly, his pockets were empty and he wanted he toys back. There was part of her that wanted to start handing the items back, one by one, until they could start their game over again, but it was also her job - General Hammond's orders - to keep the colonel focused and, so far, she hadn't done a great job. As a matter of fact he'd served to distract her more than was prudent for such negotiations. Not that she was greatly needed; Daniel was doing a fine job.

After the seventh hour of negotiations, everyone was starting to get a little restless, including the people who had started the day shooting the fidgety colonel dirty looks. The '928 negotiator suggested they break until the following day, just in time for dinner. After dinner, they'd offer tours of either the capital city's educational facilities or their current defensive capabilities.

For the first time the colonel spoke up. When Daniel expressed an interest in seeing the educational facilities, Jack pulled rank and sent Teal'c along with him. She knew the colonel was interested in seeing the defensive capabilities but that he was also interested in keeping her close. He had been for the entire time they'd been on the planet. Something, he'd told her, he couldn't quite put his finger on gave him the willies. She'd given him a hard time and asked what the tactical advice was for something that gave one the willies. If memory serves, he'd rolled his eyes at her and just told her to stay close.

So, though Teal'c would have enjoyed the defensive tour much more than the educational one, SG-1 was summarily split up to explore various factions of the city. That was the point at which the negotiations, though the table was currently closed, came to a grinding halt.