The atmosphere of the base was serious, almost grim, and it matched General Hammond's expression as Jack entered his office. The older man looked more serious than Jack had seen him in a long time. "Afternoon General. Someone die?"
The attempt at humor was not well received.
"Damn it, Jack! This is serious!" Hammond exploded, his hand slamming onto the desk.
Holding his hands up, Jack apologized, "I know, I know. Sorry, Sir."
Shaking his head, Hammond said, "The Tok'ra have agreed to a trial, except there will be three judges, two of theirs and one of ours."
"Ah, isn't that a little biased, Sir?"
"Considering that it was one of theirs murdered, the President didn't want to anger them more by not agreeing," Hammond informed him.
Irritated, Jack exclaimed, "But I didn't do it!"
"I know that. That's why you're not in the brig, even though you should be," Hammond stated. "Major Davis is picking out legal counsel for you. He'll be calling shortly with the name."
Jack grimaced. "Major Davis, Sir? Don't I even get to pick my own lawyer?"
"Do you know any good ones?" Hammond asked pointedly.
"You'd think with my career history that I would, but no Sir, not personally," Jack replied with a wry grin. "But there is this really good JAG lawyer that I've been following for a couple of years."
Tapping his finger on the desk, Hammond agreed, "What's his name?"
"Commander Harmon Rabb."
"And how did you come to know the Commander?"
"I don't," Jack explained. "I read about this really cool maneuver where he used his jet to push another damaged jet by way of their tail hook into friendly territory so the other pilots could eject to safety."
"Colonel, this is a murder trial, not aviation maneuvers," the General said tiredly.
"Yes, Sir, believe me, I know. He's a damn good lawyer from what I've read. Commander Rabb rarely loses a case, which I definitely need right now," Jack replied.
Sighing, the General asked, "You really want this lawyer?"
Jack nodded firmly. "Sir, someone with guts enough for that maneuver can defend me any day."
Hammond eyed him a moment longer, then promised, "All right. I'll contact his CO and get the ball rolling."
"Thank you, Sir."
* * * *
The soft strains of classical guitar echoed lightly through the apartment. Jack watched Daniel's fingers move easily and smoothly over the guitar strings for a few moments, then closed his eyes. He relaxed into the comfortable couch and let the gentle music wash away the horrible reality of the last couple of days. As Daniel played, Jack lost himself in the music, briefly wishing he could do more than just whistle Dixie.
It had started out as a bad week when Sam sprained her ankle and couldn't act as liaison to the Tok'ra. Jack had been called to fill in, though why, he still didn't know. He'd spent a couple of days arguing with Noryn, a newly promoted Tok'ra with more of the traditional Goa'uld arrogance than most Tok'ra admitted to having, let alone displaying.
Every night he'd return to the base, tense and ready to explode from pointless meetings with the aliens. Jack would spend an hour on the mats wrestling with Teal'c, then go home and listen to Daniel play the guitar. After that, they would have some form of comfort food, take a long, often playful bath or shower, then tumble into bed for marathon sessions of lovemaking.
Then came that friggin' murder, and him accused of it. The worst part of it was that he'd spent the entire last session with Noryn plotting how to kill the asshole and get away with it. And he hadn't been entirely joking at the time, either. Daniel stopped playing, and Jack opened his eyes to find his lover staring at him intently. Bemused by the other man's expression, he asked, "What?"
"You're not relaxing," Daniel commented.
Jack sighed deeply and admitted, "I probably won't until this whole mess is over with."
Daniel put the guitar aside and moved to sit beside Jack, his head resting on the Colonel's shoulder. "What do they have?"
Jack shifted so that his arm encircled Daniel and pulled the younger man tight against him. Resting his chin on Daniel's head, he replied, "I don't know. There's supposed to be a meeting tomorrow afternoon to go over that."
"What about your lawyer?"
"Commander Rabb is arriving tomorrow morning," Jack replied. Kissing the top of Daniel's head, he continued, "He's a good lawyer, I'm sure he'll get me off."
"He should, since you're innocent," Daniel said acerbically.
Surprised, Jack said, "Hey, easy there."
Daniel pulled away and stood, pacing for a few seconds before rounding on him with, "No! This is the most ludicrous farce they've come up with so far, and that's saying a lot! How can anyone think that you'd kill that man?"
"Well, to be fair, I didn't make a secret of the fact that I couldn't stand him."
Glaring, Daniel exclaimed, "There's a big difference between not being able to stand someone and killing them, Jack."
"And ah, the fact that I spent a couple of hours pondering how to kill him probably doesn't help me any."
Daniel stopped short, pinching the bridge of his nose with a pained expression. "Please, Jack, please tell me that you didn't actually say that to someone."
Wincing, Jack answered, "Well, I may have let it slip."
Daniel scrubbed his fingers angrily through his hair. "This is so wrong, Jack! After everything we've done for them, after you've personally saved the planet five times, for them to accuse you of anything, let alone murder, is just, just, just wrong!"
Jack could see that Daniel was working himself up into a lather and hopped to his feet, closing the distance between them. He pulled the other man into his arms, knowing that Daniel needed it just then. Daniel struggled to get free, but even with the muscle mass he'd gained over the last couple of years, he was no match for Jack. He held on to his squirming lover until Daniel stopped moving.
Breathing heavily, Daniel suddenly wrapped his arms around Jack's waist and clung to the older man. "What will I do if you don't get out of this?"
Daniel's whisper went straight to Jack's heart and he tightened his hold. The archeologist's fear of abandonment by those he loved was top of the list of his fears, and something that Jack never made light of. Kissing the side of Daniel's throat, he answered, "We'll deal with that if it happens. Don't go borrowing trouble, Daniel. Chances are that everything they've got is circumstantial and they don't have a leg to stand on."
Daniel buried his face against Jack's throat and his fingers dug into Jack's shoulders as he murmured, "I can't lose you, too. Won't."
Not wanting to make a promise that he might be forced to break, Jack stayed silent and held on.
* * * *
Harm looked up at Tiner's voice and smiled. "Morning, Tiner. What can I do for you?"
"The Admiral wants to see you in his office right away."
The unusually serious expression on the young man's face didn't bode well. Harm frowned, but couldn't think of anything he might have done recently that would require a reprimand. He nodded and stood, following Tiner to the Admiral's office. The Admiral's Yeoman sat at his own desk just outside, while Harm went in.
From all appearances, the well-appointed office looked normal; there were no angry superior officer's sitting in front of the wooden desk, and the Admiral himself was calmly perusing a file. Of course, the Admiral always looked calm right before he chewed Harm out, unless there had been bodily injury…then he waited until Harm was better before chewing him out.
Coming to attention in front of the desk, Harm questioned, "You wanted to see me, Sir?"
"Have a seat, Commander," Admiral Chegwidden ordered, not looking up from the file in his hand. "You've been requested as legal counsel for an Air Force Colonel accused of murdering a high-level, ally Diplomat. Doesn't say which ally, but from the level of security I've seen so far, it's got to be England, maybe France. They don't want to tick off the ally, and are moving forward with a very speedy trial."
"Why me?" Harm asked curiously.
Grinning slightly as he finally looked up from the file, the Admiral said, "Apparently he heard about your mid-air push with that injured jet and was impressed."
"He wants me as a lawyer based on my aviation skills?" Harm asked incredulously.
The Admiral shrugged. "He's Air Force. Who knows how they think?"
Harm grinned briefly. "Good point, Sir."
"Now, if you agree to be his counsel, you'll have to sign additional confidentiality and security forms, due to the sensitive nature of the Colonel's background. He was black ops for a number of years."
"Not a problem."
Chegwidden nodded. "I didn't think it would be. Pack for several days. Our flight leaves for Colorado in two hours."
Eyebrow arching in surprise, Harm questioned, "Our flight, Sir?"
"General Hammond, Colonel O'Neill's CO, asked me to second chair as a personal favor. And, though I've never personally met the General, everything suggests that he's a good man who runs a clean ship. Well, a clean base anyhow," the Admiral amended.
Frowning a bit, Harm observed, "That's a little unusual, Sir."
The older man shrugged. "He insists that O'Neill is completely innocent of the charges, and he doesn't strike me as a man to be fooled, especially not by his Second-in-Command."
"Yes, Sir," Harm said, standing. He was always happy when his client was actually innocent of the charges. "I'll meet you on the tarmac, Sir."
"See you there, Commander. Dismissed."
* * * *
AJ Chegwidden hadn't made the rank of Admiral by being stupid. What made Colonel O'Neill's file so interesting was what it didn't say. The official mission of the base was research of long-range radio transmissions in space. The Colonel had no experience in any way, shape, or form, of the scientific kind. His career had been strictly action-oriented, and he'd done it very well. There was a lot missing, but what was there told AJ that this man was no more a scientist than he was.
Despite that, O'Neill had been assigned to Cheyenne Mountain for the last six years. The obvious conclusion was that Cheyenne Mountain wasn't involved in radio research of any kind. There was something going on there that needed a Colonel as second in command, as well as civilian personnel. Archeologists, linguists and Anthropologists seemed to be the division among the civilian population, and for the life of him, AJ couldn't figure out why.
Of course, he'd been in the armed forces long enough to know that he didn't need to know. All he had to make sure of was that Colonel O'Neill was acquitted if he was innocent, and convicted if he was guilty, no matter what General Hammond thought. He'd reserve judgment on the Colonel's guilt until meeting the man in person. Then he'd get Harm's opinion, since the other man was rarely fooled by anyone. One of the reasons he was so good at what he did.
Sighing faintly at the thought of his top lawyer, AJ stood and looked out the window. Harm had just reached his car and was getting in, talking to Mac as he did so. The two officers were obviously exchanging easy insults, from the broad grin on both their faces. Lt. Colonel Sara MacKenzie, known by all and sundry as Mac, always gave as good as she got. She and Harm had had a tumultuous relationship over the years, but they were the best of friends now.
Harm said something that sent Mac into laughter as he got into the car and shut the door. She waved and then headed back inside JAG. AJ smiled at the interplay between his two best litigators, and his two best friends, really, then returned to his desk. While the friendship between all of the officers ran deep, he considered his relationships with Mac and Harm to be closer than most. As close as he could allow himself to get to his subordinates in public, at least.
He sighed a bit as he thought about that. They'd worked together for so long that most times it was difficult to maintain those 'proper' barriers. Especially with Harm. Mac was a great Marine, and it was practically built into her to keep her personal feelings separate from her professional ones. Harm, on the other hand, felt things deeply and tended to show what he felt, right then and there. He could, of course, conceal his feelings like any military person, but it wasn't in his nature, it was something Harm had to consciously do.
At least as far as AJ had observed over the last few years and, where Commander Rabb was concerned, he observed far too closely. It wasn't something he would ever let on to anyone about, his feelings for Harm. So far as the world at large knew, Harm included, Admiral Chegwidden kept Commander Rabb in line as a stern, father figure and a good friend.
Unfortunately, that wasn't anywhere near the truth of what he felt for Harm. At first it had been a near-constant irritation, dealing with the brash young man who looked before he leaped. A grudging respect, and then an honest friendship, had developed slowly, at least on his side. AJ really hadn't wanted to like Harm, certainly not so much, but the other man's open, honorable and friendly manner made that impossible.
Then that damned sub incident. Harm had been in plenty of dangerous situations before. Hell, he'd been to Vietnam as a 16-year-old kid looking for his father, and flown recon missions over Chechnyan airspace during the US peacekeeper days. But all those circumstances had been out of AJ's sight, even if the recon missions hadn't been out of mind. When he'd found out that Harm was trapped in a submarine brig with no way out and water filling it up, it had felt like a kick in the gut. He hadn't even stopped long enough to check the air gauge on the breather tank he'd used to get Harm out of there.
There had been two miracles that day: his own air not running out, and Harm still alive to be rescued. From that moment on, his heart had told him in no uncertain terms exactly where it belonged, and his heart wasn't with anyone other than Commander Harmon Rabb.
Since there was no way he could ever tell Harm how he felt, AJ had buried his heart. Given the military views on homosexuality, AJ knew that he would never be able to be what he wanted to be to Harm. Even if the Navy had no problems with it, there'd never been any sign of Harm returning even one iota of the same kind of feelings for AJ. For that matter, there'd been no sign of Harm looking at any man in that fashion. There was no point in dwelling on it, so AJ maintained the charade of dating and seeing various women. Though something always seemed to go wrong, just when it grew serious.
Snorting to himself, AJ rubbed his eyes tiredly and finished cleaning off his desk. He still had to pack and get ready for the trip to Cheyenne Mountain.
* * * *
The elevator ride into the mountain was one of the longest ones to which Harm had ever been subjected. Mostly because it was down into the bowels of a mountain and he had no use for being underground. He wondered how people who were supposed to have a natural affinity for the air dealt with working in the opposite element. He glanced at the Admiral and was somewhat consoled by the tight clench to the older man's jaw. Obviously the Admiral had no use for their current location either.
A major in dress uniform greeted them when the elevator opened. He was in his mid thirties, with dark hair and blue eyes. "Admiral Chegwidden, Commander Rabb. I'm Major Paul Davis and I'll be your guide and liaison during your stay."
"Thank you, Major," Chegwidden replied. "I'd like to meet with General Hammond if he has time, and of course, the Commander would like to meet Colonel O'Neill."
"The General is eager to meet you, Admiral, but he's tied up in a meeting at the moment," Major Davis informed them with polished regret. "I thought I would bring you to your quarters and let you get settled so as not to waste time. From there, you'll meet with Colonel O'Neill, and General Hammond will join you as soon as he's finished. You're scheduled to meet with the Tok'ra at 1330 this afternoon."
Harm frowned. "The Tok'ra?"
"You'll both be thoroughly briefed by General Hammond personally."
The Admiral sighed faintly in annoyance at the stonewalling, but nodded. "Very well. Lead on, Major."
They entered another elevator that went even further down and Harm glanced at the Admiral, who was scowling faintly. He knew that the older man was thinking the same thing he was: just how deep did this base go and why? What did they work on that was so secret they had to be miles down in the earth? He met the Admiral's eyes and saw the order not to ask plain enough. Harm nodded slightly and looked ahead once more.
The doors opened into a plain, gray corridor filled with personnel going about their business. They'd gone a short distance when someone called the Major's name.
"Major Davis! I'm so glad I caught you. That artifact breakdown report that I sent you is…I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt…?"
Harm looked over the civilian with hidden amusement. Though the man wore cammo pants and a black t-shirt, his waylaying of them, the stack of papers in his arm, and his scattered aura, practically screamed civilian. He was in his early thirties, wore glasses and had bright blue eyes and short cropped, brown hair. Harm noted the Major's fond smile with interest.
"Admiral Chegwidden, Commander Rabb, this is Dr. Daniel Jackson. He's the lead archeological consultant to the base," Major Davis introduced.
Harm waited until the man moved the papers to his left arm and held out his right to shake hands. "What does the Air Force need with an archeologist?"
Grinning briefly, Dr. Jackson answered, "You'd be surprised. So you're defending Jack, then?"
Somewhat startled by the bald question, Harm looked at the Major.
"Dr. Jackson has been on the Colonel's team for a number of years," Major Davis explained hastily.
"I see," Harm said in surprise. A civilian on the Colonel's team? What sort of team? "Yes. I'm defending Colonel O'Neill."
"Good, good. You look ah, very competent," Dr. Jackson observed. He shifted the stack of papers back to his other arm and continued, "No matter what the Tok'ra say, Jack's innocent. He just wouldn't do something like this."
Uncomfortable, Harm merely nodded politely.
Everyone turned towards the sharp voice and Harm knew instinctively that this was Colonel Jack O'Neill. He looked to be in his late forties, with silver hair, dark eyes and a commanding presence. Harm's eyes flickered back to Dr. Jackson, where he was surprised to find an almost defiant attitude now present in the previously mild man.
"Daniel. We talked about this," Colonel O'Neill continued darkly when he reached them.
"I just…" Dr. Jackson's voice trailed off and he sighed. "Sorry to have bothered you all. I'll just get back to work."
Colonel O'Neilll watched until Dr. Jackson turned the corner, then turned his attention to them. Harm liked the way the older man looked him directly in the eye, a humorous glint to the dark gaze.
"Archeologists. Their discipline sucks, but you just can't decipher ancient languages without them," Colonel O'Neill joked, saluting the Admiral then holding out his hand. "Colonel Jack O'Neill, Sir."
"Admiral AJ Chegwidden."
Harm could tell from the Admiral's voice that he liked the Colonel already. Truth to tell, so did he. Harm shook the Colonel's hand next. "Commander Harmon Rabb, Sir."
"Good to meet you. And someday you're going to have to give me the details on that injured jet push, Commander," Colonel O'Neill said.
Harm echoed the other man's smile and agreed, "I look forward to it, Sir."
"I was just bringing the Admiral and Commander to the VIP quarters so they could get settled when Dan -- Dr. Jackson caught up with us," Major Davis explained.
"Well, how about I play porter and you can let the General know that they're here," Colonel O'Neill suggested.
It seemed as though Major Davis was about to protest, until a pointed look from the Colonel changed his mind. "Yes, Sir."
Interesting dynamics here, Harm thought with interest. The Colonel definitely had his people under control, though it seemed to be a bond of respect. As first impressions went, Colonel O'Neill had made a good one. Harm had difficulty understanding how anyone could seriously accuse this man of murder. Killing in the line of duty, sure, Harm could see that. But murder? Harm's gut said no chance.
The walk to the VIP quarters was short and, like most military housing, Harm found the room to be Spartan and immaculate. Though it was bigger than he expected it to be, probably reserved for the higher-ranking officers like the Admiral. His was probably a closet.
"Admiral, this is your room, the Commander will be right next door."
"Thank you, Colonel," the Admiral replied, setting his bag on the bed. "We'll unpack later, as I'm sure you're eager to go over the case with Commander Rabb."
"Yes, Sir, thank you," Colonel O'Neill agreed.
They moved to the next room, which actually wasn't closet-sized, and Harm left his bag. They headed for the elevator after that.
"Did you want something to eat? I know you lost a couple hours coming out here, so it must be almost lunch for you," Colonel O'Neill offered. "We can talk in the commissary."
Surprised that the other man would feel free to talk in such a public place, Harm looked at the Admiral, who shrugged minutely, indicating that it was his decision. "You want to discuss your case in the commissary? For that matter, why aren't you in the brig?"
The Colonel shrugged. "I didn't do it and General Hammond knows that. What we do here is too important for me to let an asshole like Noryn get in the way. Besides, if I really had killed him, you can bet that whatever evidence they think they have, they wouldn't have."
Harm believed him. The simple, matter-of-fact way he stated it, however, sent a brief shiver down his spine that he had to shake off. This man was a decorated officer who'd served his country for a long time. If he had killed, it was in the service of his country, not for personal reasons. And it wasn't like he hadn't met the type before, because he had. "It sounds like you don't know what they have."
The Colonel grimaced and confirmed, "Not a clue. They're supposed to be sharing that little tidbit with us at the meeting this afternoon."
"Well, then. Why don't we have lunch, Colonel?"
Grinning, Colonel O'Neill nodded and corrected, "Call me Jack. Anyone who saves me from prison time or the death penalty should use my first name."
Harm grinned back and agreed, "Sure. And it's Harm."
* * * *
"General George Hammond, this is Admiral AJ Chegwidden and Commander Harmon Rabb," Jack introduced when the General approached their table.
Greetings and first names were exchanged, as the General settled in the seat beside Jack.
"Thanks for coming, AJ, I really appreciate it on such short notice. I know how busy you must be," George said.
"My pleasure, George. Too bad any of this had to happen, but I'm glad we got the chance to meet," AJ commented.
George nodded and agreed, "Same here, same here. I'm sure you've got questions, so fire away and I'll answer what I can."
Harm looked at the Admiral, who nodded for him to go ahead. "Well, Sir, who are the Tok'ra?"
"Let me first give you some background as to why they're our allies and move from there," George started. At their nods, he continued, "Approximately eighty years ago, a device was unearthed in Egypt. The US Military has been trying to decipher its use and function for most of that time. Then, seven years ago, Dr. Jackson was hired to translate the hieroglyphs on the device. It was through his work that we discovered the device to be a portal to other worlds.
"The Stargate is a temporary, but stable wormhole that allows us to travel through the galaxy, as long as another gate is already set up on the destination planet. On that first mission to Abydos, of which Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson were a part, we encountered a hostile alien, a parasitic life form known as the Goa'uld, who use human beings as hosts. They are destructive, cruel, and, in my opinion, just plain evil.
"The Goa'uld have been enslaving humanity for millennia. Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson's killing of Ra, the alien on Abydos, was only the first battle of the war in which we are currently embroiled. The Tok'ra are a rebel faction of the Goa'uld who wish to overthrow, well, destroy, the ruling Goa'uld. They've been our allies, for the most part, the last four years," George finished.
There was silence as the two naval officers took in the explanation. Harm glanced at the Admiral, who was looking at the General with the half-lidded expression that signaled deep and furious thinking. Most people mistook it for disinterest or boredom, but Harm knew better. The Admiral usually came out with his sharpest thoughts after that expression appeared. And Harm would take his cues from his CO, as he always did, in how to respond.
"Well. I assume that since you're in charge of a couple hundred Air Force personnel…"
"And Marines," Jack interjected.
"And Marines," AJ continued smoothly, "That you aren't a raving lunatic. I don't suppose that you'd care to let us see this wonder, General Hammond?"
George stood. "Of course, Admiral. Right this way, gentlemen."
* * * *
"What the hell did you think you were doing?"
Daniel flinched at the anger in Jack's voice and looked up from his notes. "Ah, would you believe that I wasn't?"
Carefully shutting the office door behind him, Jack replied, "Oh sure, I'd easily believe that! Daniel, you said you wouldn't go near Commander Rabb until I introduced you! You promised!"
"I know, and I'm really sorry, but it wasn't something that I planned, I swear!" Daniel exclaimed, standing up. "I really was looking for Paul to go over a report, and didn't notice who was with him until after I'd interrupted."
Jack looked at him closely and, after a minute or so, relented. "All right, I believe you."
Daniel sagged in relief. The one thing Jack had always had trouble with was trust and it had taken a very long time for Daniel to get beyond those barriers. He wasn't going to screw up their relationship over anything. Smiling tentatively, he asked, "So how did it go with them? And an Admiral? How did that happen? Did he volunteer, or is he overseeing the Commander for some reason?"
Jack chuckled and commented, "The ever irrepressible curiosity strikes again."
Grinning, Daniel said, "I gotta be me."
Jack shook his head and said, "Truer words, Danny, truer words. Now. To answer your questions, in order, it went fine and the Admiral is here as a favor to Hammond. I guess having the JAG on your defense team says a lot."
Daniel frowned. "The JAG? I thought JAG was an organization, not a person."
"It's both. He's one of the head honchos over there, the Judge Advocate General, and they work out of the Judge Advocate General office," Jack clarified. "We're meeting with the Tok'ra in about ten minutes."
"Then what are you doing here?" Daniel demanded.
"I needed to talk to you first. Didn't want to be distracted during the meeting."
"Oh, right." Daniel moved over to him and briefly touched Jack's arm, looking up into the dark eyes. "I really am sorry, Jack."
"That's all right. You can make it up to me tonight," Jack said suggestively.
Daniel flushed and looked away, clearing his throat.
Grinning at Daniel's discomfort, Jack continued, "The other reason I'm here, is to ask if you want to sit in on the meeting."
Startled, Daniel asked, "Me? Why?"
"Because you're damned good at figuring other people out and, ah…well…I'd really just like to have you there," Jack admitted.
Extremely pleased, Daniel straightened and said, "I really want to be there."
Smiling, Jack said, "Great! You can think up some shtick as to why you're there on the way. Let's go."
Daniel's head snapped back when Jack grabbed his arm and yanked him sharply forward.
* * * *
At the conference table was Selmak/Jacob Carter, Kylin/Noah and Ina/Marin for the Tok'ra delegation. Harm tried not to stare and, considering that this was his first time meeting aliens, he thought he was doing pretty well.
Until the Admiral nudged him sharply in the ribs and murmured, "Commander."
Harm jerked to attention, focusing his eyes away from the delegation. "Sorry, Sir."
"It's all right, Commander," AJ replied, just as quietly. "Just don't want them thinking that the Navy doesn't have any finesse."
Harm hid a grin. If the Admiral wanted finesse, that was exactly what he'd get. "Aye, aye, Sir."
The door opened and Jack entered the room with Dr. Jackson in tow. Surprised, Harm nonetheless smiled a greeting and held out his hand. "Good to see you again, Dr. Jackson."
"You as well, Commander. I just wanted to apologize for my behavior earlier. To both of you," Dr. Jackson amended, with a sheepish expression. "It's been a little tense here, and I'm afraid I was a bit over-eager."
"Not a problem. I understand what it's like to have a teammate in trouble," Harm said graciously.
"As do I," the Admiral agreed, accepting his hand as well.
Gratefully, Dr. Jackson said, "Thank you, both."
Harm watched as the Colonel subtly maneuvered Dr. Jackson towards the conference table when General Hammond indicated it was time to begin. They never actually touched, but Jack was in Dr. Jackson's space close enough to guide the other man to a chair that would be between Jack and the General. Harm frowned at the protective placement, then took his seat beside the Admiral, who sat on the other side of General Hammond.
Harm suddenly had the thought that if you considered the dormant/dominant personalities, the Tok'ra actually outnumbered Earth by one, and hid another grin.
"Selmak, Jacob, good to see you again," General Hammond began.
"Why is Dr. Jackson present?" Ina/Marin demanded without preamble.
Answering for the General, Dr. Jackson replied, "I thought it would be a good idea to be present, in case of cultural misinterpretations."
Kylin/Noah spoke up with, "We object to his presence."
In a reasonable tone, General Hammond asked, "Why? Dr. Jackson has successfully negotiated treaties and gotten us through hostile situations many times in the past. Having a cool head available is always a good thing."
"I agree. Dr. Jackson is an honorable man and will help us discover the truth of what happened."
Selmak clearly overruled the other two Tok'ra, though they were just as clearly unhappy with the decision. Almost sullenly, Kylin stated, "The truth is that Noryn is dead, and Colonel O'Neill is responsible."
"Excuse me," the Admiral jumped in smoothly, with a polite smile. "Now, I realize that the Commander and I are Johnny-come-lately's here, but as I understand it, Colonel O'Neill has worked with your people for a number of years. Why would he jeopardize one of Earth's best hopes for survival by killing this Noryn?"
"We don't know why, we just know that he did," Ina stated.
"What's your proof?" Harm asked.
Selmak held up a hand to quiet the other Tok'ra and countered, "Before we get into that, I think introductions should be made. I am Selmak. And I'm General Jacob Carter."
Harm was startled when the voice and eyes noticeably changed back to normal.
"Admiral AJ Chegwidden, Judge Advocate General. This is Commander Harmon Rabb, my lead attorney," the Admiral answered.
"Navy representation, Jack?" Jacob asked, obviously amused.
Jack shrugged. "He's a jet pilot. I figured that we'd get along, even if he is a lawyer."
Wryly, Jacob observed, "Flyboys sticking together, huh?"
"I thought so, Jacob," Jack said pointedly.
Jacob grimaced faintly. "I had no choice in this, Jack, I'm sorry."
"You always are."
There was an uncomfortable silence after Dr. Jackson's quiet statement.
General Hammond cleared his throat. "Why don't you tell us what proof you have that Colonel O'Neill committed this crime?"
"An eyewitness," Selmak informed them.
Harm expected any number of reactions from the Colonel, all of which were different than the one they got. Out of the expectant silence as eyes turned towards him, Jack started to laugh. It wasn't a nervous chuckle or titter, but a full-bodied laugh.
When he was done, Jack wiped at his eyes and gasped, "Sorry about that. It's just…unless I've been sleepwalking, your eyewitness is lying. Give us both a polygraph or put us under that mind machine truth thingy, because if that's your only evidence, then you're screwed. Let me state right here, flat out, that I did not kill Noryn, and will undergo any test you want to prove it."
The Tok'ra were obviously shocked at his answer, but Selmak recovered quickly. "Very well. The device can be transported here within the hour."
* * * *
"The General has an awful lot of faith in you," Harm observed, leaning back in his chair. "Considering some of the things that I've read in your records over the last couple of days, I don't know that I'd have that much."
Jack grinned wryly and said, "Well, there's no accounting for taste, Harm. And just think, you haven't even read any of my really big boo-boo's, because those are above even your Admiral's security clearance."
Harm was thrown by the 'your Admiral' reference, but Jack continued before he could comment.
"And it doesn't matter how much faith Hammond has in me, since this is a Tok'ra matter. It'll be a kangaroo court, despite your wonderful defense suggestions," Jack finished sourly.
"What do they have against you, anyhow?" Harm asked. "It's not like you haven't been working on the same cause for the last few years. You and SG-1 have worked fairly closely with them, and the Major is Jacob's daughter."
"Ah, but Jacob is just one man, or, two people, well, you know what I mean. And the fact that we've saved their butts a number of times is exactly what they've got against me," Jack answered.
"That and Jack's unsinkable good nature and charm," Daniel added dryly, walking in on the end of the conversation. He sat beside Jack on the couch and continued, "It's not that they don't really like or respect Jack as a soldier. It's just that a lot of the Tok'ra think that Jack doesn't show the proper...deference."
"Now where would they get that idea?" Harm pondered aloud with a grin.
Jack grinned in return. "That's what I want to know!"
Shaking his head in amusement, Daniel asked, "How goes the defense?"
Harm sighed. "I've had easier cases. I still can't believe that the machine showed both of you to be telling the truth. I thought that was impossible."
"Yeah well, you'll find out that a lot of things that are supposed to be impossible, aren't," Jack said, stretching, then settling back on the couch closer to Daniel.
"Tell me about it."
Daniel smiled as he said, "You'll get used to it. We deal with the impossible on a fairly regular basis around here."
"No offense, but I really don't want to get used to it," Harm countered. "This whole thing has blown my mind enough."
Daniel's smile broadened into a grin as he suggested, "You guys have been at it for a long time. How about knocking off for the night?"
Harm nodded and stood, rubbing his eyes. "Good idea. I'll see you both in the morning."
When the door closed behind the officer, Daniel said, "The General's assigned me to keep an eye on you while off-base."
Jack slid his arm around Daniel's shoulder. "Remind me to thank him later."
Shoving Jack away, Daniel got to his feet. "Are you coming?"
"Not yet," Jack answered, wriggling his eyebrows.
Rolling his eyes at the seriously bad pun, Daniel left the office, causing Jack to scramble after him.
* * * *
Harm knocked on the Admiral's door.
Opening the door, Harm walked inside, then stopped short at the sight that greeted him. The Admiral was stretched out on his bed dressed only in a snug t-shirt, and pajama bottoms that left little to the imagination. Lying on his side, the older man had on his reading glasses and was reading a book. When hazel eyes looked at him from over the top of the glasses, a zing of heat ran through Harm.
Eyebrows arching, the Admiral prompted, "Yes, Commander?"
Forcibly pushing the unwelcome thoughts and feelings down with the ease of long-time practice, Harm stepped further into the room and sat in a nearby chair. "It doesn't look all that good, Sir. Especially given the bias against the Colonel in the first place."
Sighing, the Admiral rolled into a sitting position and set aside the book and his glasses. "Wonderful. So what's your strategy?"
"Well, I'd really like to move the trial to another venue, but given the circumstances, that won't be possible," Harm answered tiredly.
Frowning, the Admiral pointed out, "You won't help anyone by exhausting yourself, Commander. We all know that you'll do your best, and that's all that can be asked."
Shaking his head stubbornly, Harm countered, "No, Sir. If I fail, my best won't be good enough; it'll cause the death or imprisonment of an innocent man. Do you know what I'd really like to do?"
"Visit the scene of the murder. Both to get a better sense of these people and view the scene."
"I'm sure General Hammond would allow it, but not necessarily the Tok'ra, given the resistance I've encountered in talking with them over the last couple of days," the Admiral stated thoughtfully. "You've still got two days before the trial starts, so I'll see what I can arrange. It's only fair that we see exactly what these people go through."
Eyebrows arched in surprise, Harm asked, "We, Sir?"
"You don't honestly think I'd let you go through that gate without me now, do you, Commander? With my luck, I'd wind up with two officers on trial."
Grinning at the other man's wry tone, Harm agreed, "Good point."
"All right. Get some sleep and we'll start fresh in the morning."
Harm stood and said, "Truthfully, I'm not sleeping very well. Being under so much rock just gives me the willies."
"Understood," the older man agreed with feeling.
Somehow, it made Harm feel a lot better to know that the Admiral was going through the same thing. He half-waved before leaving the room for his own.
Getting ready for bed, Harm's mind turned back to Jack's words. Given his reaction to seeing the Admiral just now, he wasn't as ready to dismiss it as he might have been earlier. It had been a long time since he'd felt an attraction to another man. He'd always found the Admiral compelling. It was a given that people found his distinguished looks and honorable ways attractive. For Harm, though, there had always been an internal 'don't even think about it' associated with his commanding officer.
Mostly because he was Harm's commanding officer.
Collapsing on the bed, he stared at the ceiling for several minutes as he contemplated the men and women he'd met over the last couple of days. He and the Admiral had, as yet, to talk about it, but he knew it was coming. He had seen the slight but interested tilt to the Admiral's head when he'd met each and every officer on SG-1.
The thing that struck Harm the most was the similarities between this base and JAG. Despite the age and rank difference, he had the sneaking suspicion that the Admiral had lumped Jack and himself together. He didn't get into that much trouble...did he? And at least he could say that he'd never personally pissed off a single interstellar power, let alone several. All of his snafus were definitely terrestrial. Not that there were that many...
Mac and Major Carter were definitely on par with each other. Though he'd have to give Carter more brain-power, Mac was right up there with inventiveness and sheer stubbornness. Strangely, Harm thought that Gunny and Teal'c were a lot alike; both were 'deep waters' kind of men who revealed little of what they thought. Gunny was a lot more verbal than Teal'c, but given another hundred years, that could easily change. And while Bud and Daniel were disparate more ways than not, the fondness and esteem each team held the men in were very similar.
Except for the Colonel's personal feelings for Daniel. Harm definitely had no such feelings for Bud. As a matter of fact, he shuddered a little at the thought of even contemplating Bud as a sexual being, especially in regards to himself.
It wasn't anything overt. Harm had never witnessed anything inappropriate between the two men, but he knew; he just knew that they were having an affair. Jack was...softer...was the only word that came to mind, when Daniel walked in the room. It was as though a 'feeling' switch was flicked on in the younger man's presence.
When it was just Jack and Harm, the Colonel was sharp and all-business. Harm could see the covert ops officer hovering just below the surface. That wasn't to say that he was an unfeeling asshole without Daniel around, because that wasn't the case. It was more that he was all-military, very black-and-white. When Daniel was around, unexpected depths surfaced very quickly.
Actually, it was with Daniel that Harm had discovered Jack was a lot smarter than he pretended to be. Harm hadn't even realized that Jack had been dumbing down the first day and a half of his stay on the base. He thought, now, that it was an automatic persona the Colonel fell into around new people so that he could reserve the element of surprise in case his surroundings turned hostile, even among people who were supposed to be allies.
But Daniel, Sam, Teal'c and Dr. Fraiser had joined them for a late lunch just today, and Harm had been treated to a display of the real man.
"All I'm saying, Jack, is that the hierarchy is very complex and rigid. No room for originality or innovation, as is evident in most militaristic societies. They need the order and discipline to keep their people in place. I seriously doubt they'll want anything to do with us, especially given their reaction to our appearance in the first place," Daniel insisted.
Jack snorted. "And all I'm saying, Daniel, is that you completely missed the fact that despite their outwardly militaristic view of life, these people are all a bunch of peaceniks."
Shaking his head, Daniel demanded, "How on earth do you get that!? They nearly vaporized us before we convinced them that we were peaceful!"
"Look. There hasn't been a war on this planet in how long? Not even a border skirmish or trade dispute. If they were the militaristic jarheads that you're assigning them to be, they would be constantly at war with each other. Instead, in a mere, what, three hundred years since their combustion engine was invented, they've become a cohesive, vibrant people with almost no crime and damn little conflict. Domestic violence and abuse is unheard of, and murder is practically a sin. They've taken the free-love crap of the sixties and refined it to an art, minus the bad fashions," Jack finished firmly. Then he added with a shrug, "Besides. They're so boringly unified, they're probably dying for a chance to trade for new and unusual things."
After a startled, clearly thoughtful moment, Daniel turned to Harm and said, "And that's why we keep him around. Occasionally, he has really great ideas."
Jack had shoved Daniel rudely away and tossed a grape at his friend for added emphasis, but Harm could tell how pleased he'd been by the compliment. And so Harm had been treated to the first real glimpse of Jack O'Neill. Seated at the commissary table, surrounded by his friends, Jack had felt free to lose the sarcasm and really show his brains.
Sighing, Harm thought about the relationship between Jack and Daniel. It was obviously an open secret on the base because all of the people he'd talked to couldn't seem to bring up one name without shortly bringing up the other. How did they manage it? How could they be together and not let it spill over into the day? As far as Harm could tell, they were genuine in their quasi-antagonistic work relationship. Like it was something they'd come by honestly, not contrived to keep their relationship a secret.
There was a timid knock at his door and Harm sat up. "Come in."
The door opened to reveal Daniel standing hesitantly on the threshold. Surprised, Harm stood and asked, "Daniel? Something wrong?"
Closing the door behind him, Daniel entered the room further, shaking his head. "No. No. No, not really. Um, yes, actually there is."
"Have a seat," Harm invited, motioning towards the chairs by the card table. They sat and Daniel suddenly seemed to have nothing to say. Taking pity on the awkward man, Harm asked, "What's got you here so late?"
"Couple of things," Daniel answered. He took his glasses off and cleaned them almost nervously. "I like to lose myself in the translations when things are bothering me, but I can't seem to manage it this time."
"Worried about the trial," Harm guessed.
Daniel nodded and said, "If it weren't for that eyewitness, I wouldn't be worried. But, couple that with Jack's natural tendency to, well, rub people the wrong way, and I'm worried. Not to mention his comments about Noryn being heard by a few people on both sides of the gate."
"Not good, I agree. But except for the eyewitness, it's all circumstantial. Just because a person says they'd like to kill someone, doesn't mean they're going to do it," Harm reminded.
"No. No, it doesn't, but this is Jack. And, ah, I don't know if he told you this, but people heard them arguing about me," Daniel admitted softly.
Freezing in surprise, Harm responded, "No. He didn't tell me."
Daniel sighed. "I didn't think so. It's just like him to protect me like that."
"Like what?" Harm asked, making the question an order.
"Well, apparently Noryn was making comments about me and Jack took exception to them," Daniel explained.
So much for keeping their work and personal relationships separate, Harm thought wryly. "What sort of comments?"
Flushing, Daniel replied, "Of a, um, personal nature."
"Daniel, I have to know what's going on," Harm pointed out gently. "If it helps, anything you say to me is confidential, since it has to do with Jack's case."
The look that Daniel gave him was one of the most searching ones that Harm had ever received in his life. It made him straighten, hoping that the other man found him worthy of trust. Even though he'd only known the archeologist for a couple of days, there was something about him that cried out for honesty and compassion in a strange mix.
After a few long moments, Daniel said, "Jack and I are lovers. Noryn guessed about it, or someone let it slip, and he was all over Jack about it most of the day before he was killed. That was the main reason Jack was, ah, toying with the thoughts of killing him. But he'd never do something like that, I swear! Jack is just..."
"Jack," Harm finished dryly.
Obviously relieved that Harm understood, Daniel nodded. "Exactly!"
Rubbing his eyes, Harm thought about the new information for a few moments. "Us knowing that it's just talk doesn't really help, though, because you can bet the prosecution's going to use the information, if they have it."
"You can see why I'm so worried."
Harm nodded. "I can. I wish I could tell you not to worry, but I just don't know. If I could get a change of venue, I'd be a lot happier about his chances."
After another long silence, Daniel said, "Jack is the first person in a very, very long time that I've allowed myself to care about. My wife, Shau'ri, was taken by a Goa'uld only a year after we were married. Teal'c had to kill her to protect me. Before that, my parents died in an accident when I was a child, and I was shuttled from foster parents to foster parents because my grandfather didn't want me. I'm not telling you this for sympathy or anything, I just...want you to understand... It took a lot for Jack and I to get together, and I don't want to add to your pressure, but...if Jack gets the death penalty..."
Harm knew, without a doubt, what Daniel wouldn't say. If Jack died, then Daniel wouldn't be long for this world. And, though horrified, Harm could almost understand it, given the brief history Daniel had just given him. Despite the short time he'd known the man, Harm suspected the archeologist felt things deeply, passionately. Impulsively, Harm leaned forward, reached across the table to take Daniel's hand, gripping it tightly. "I'm not going to lose, Daniel. I'll make sure that he gets out of this somehow."
They stared at each other for a long, silent moment. Which was what Jack walked in on a second later.
"Well. I can see that you two are getting along," Jack snapped before stalking right back out.
"Oh crap," Harm muttered, straightening up. Daniel was already on his feet and out of the room, door slamming shut behind him.
Harm got up wearily from the table, and was halfway to the bed when there was another knock at his door. "What is this? Grand Central Station?"
Opening the door, he found the Admiral standing there, reading glasses and book in hand. Surprised, Harm questioned, "Admiral?"
"Everything all right, Commander?"
Deciding that he'd explain everything in the morning, Harm answered, "Yes, Sir."
Mildly, the Admiral observed, "So that wasn't Dr. Jackson that I saw running after Colonel O'Neill as though a Goa'uld were after him?"
Busted. "It was, Sir. There was a, uh, minor disagreement. I'm sure they'll work it out."
Nodding thoughtfully, the Admiral put on his glasses and agreed easily, "I'm sure they will. I've rarely seen a couple so suited, despite their personality differences. Good night, Commander."
Stunned by the bizarre pronouncement, Harm stammered, "Ah, good night, Sir."
Harm watched the other man enter his room and close the door, mouth still gaping like a fish. The Admiral knew about Jack and Daniel?
Of course he knew, Harm thought derisively, shutting his own door. The Admiral knew about everything. Sighing, Harm got into bed and decisively shut the light off and closed his eyes. He was going to get some sleep if it killed him!
* * * *
"Jack. Jack wait up!" Daniel called, struggling to get through security as quickly as possible.
Forcefully, Jack replied, "I don't want to hear it, Daniel."
"I have to accompany you off base, remember?" Daniel reminded loudly.
Which told Daniel exactly how upset Jack was. Despite his military background, Jack rarely swore. Daniel had always figured it as part of his middle-class upbringing, because Daniel had no problems using expletives. He caught up with Jack and walked silently with him to the jeep. They were obviously going to discuss this at the house.
But when they got there, it was all Daniel could do to keep up with Jack and not get locked out. He had his own key, of course, but thought of it as more of a symbol than anything else. If he actually had to use it to get inside, Daniel felt as though something would be lost. Sighing deeply, he watched as Jack stomped upstairs to the bedroom without even bothering to get his pre-bedtime cup of tea.
Daniel stopped in the living room and took his time to lock the door and make sure everything was in its place. It was a habit that Jack had gotten him into, much as he'd gotten Jack into the habit of having tea before bed. Twice they'd found listening devices, so it was a habit that Daniel took very seriously. He had no intention of their relationship being used against Jack to force him out. And that's exactly what Jack's enemies would do, though they wouldn't be able to send him to jail for it. Jack had too many friends off-world for that to happen.
Once that was done, he moved upstairs and repeated the procedure in the empty bedrooms and study/office Jack had made for him. When he entered the master bedroom, Jack was already in bed. "Jack? Did you...?"
"Yeah," Jack answered grudgingly. "We're clean."
Nodding to himself, Daniel undressed slowly and left his clothes where he dropped them. He could practically hear Jack tensing with each piece that hit the floor, and grinned. His messiness drove Jack nuts, and not always in a good way. Performing a strip tease was a new experience, and he smirked upon Jack's restless shifting in bed. Daniel walked to Jack's side of the bed and stood beside it, about a foot away. "So. Let's talk."
Without warning, Jack grabbed him and threw him onto the bed, pinning him in place in seconds. "Let's not."
Daniel shivered at the possessive growl and tentatively tried to move his arms, looking for leeway and finding none. Jack's knees were to either side of him and his shins crossed Daniel's thighs, keeping them firmly in place. "Jack. You have to know that what you saw was completely innocent. Harm was just trying to reassure me."
"Uh huh. That's exactly what I saw," Jack said, leaning down to bite off the top button of Daniel's shirt.
"Hey! This is a new shirt!" Daniel protested. Further words died in his mouth when dark eyes blazed up at him. Swallowing heavily, he lay back passively, waiting for the fury to run its course. Jack sometimes got into the strangest moods, most of them having to do with insecurity and jealousy, but since Daniel was usually left extremely well-fucked and sated by the end of it, he really couldn't complain.
Actually deciding to push his luck a little, Daniel smirked and commented, "Can I help it if you flyboys seem to have a thing for archeologists?"
The shirt was torn off Daniel in a second and the pants were gone shortly thereafter. He was flipped onto his stomach and pinned to the bed by a knee in the small of his back. Jack's hands were everywhere at once, pinching and groping,; as was his mouth, licking and biting. Daniel barely had time to gasp in shock at the hot, wet invasion of Jack's tongue to his anus, before it was replaced by cold lube.
When did he have time to get lube? Daniel wondered vaguely, already panting with lust.
Jack's fingers gripped his ass cheeks, holding them aside as his cock drove into Daniel slow and steady. Groaning and whimpering in pain, Daniel drew in a ragged breath, trying to relax into the possession. When Jack's hips pressed flush to his ass, Daniel craned his neck up and pleaded, "Kiss me!"
Obviously happy to oblige, Jack seized his mouth in a punishing, demanding kiss. Their tongues danced in anticipation of what the rest of them were soon to be doing. It wasn't long before Daniel was desperate for his lover to move, to relieve the burn so recently inflicted, but Jack wasn't moving. Daniel tried to push his hips back, but Jack's entire body-weight was on top of him and he was held quite easily in place.
"Jack, please! God, need you so bad!" Daniel moaned.
There was a sharp bite to Daniel's shoulder, hard enough to bruise. "You're mine, Jackson, don't you ever fucking forget that! You might only feel the shadow of my cock in your ass for a couple of days, and this mark for another few beyond that, but you're mine forever."
Shuddering in response to the command in his lover's voice, Daniel nodded. "Yours Jack, only yours, I swear."
He was bitten again, this time just above the shoulder blade. As he did so, Jack pulled out a little and shoved back in, causing Daniel to gasp with sensation. There were another few minutes where Jack just lay on top of him, licking and sucking at various places on his back before pulling out and shoving in even harder. Suddenly, Jack hauled Daniel onto his knees and began moving in and out of him in a strong, smooth motion.
On a particularly hard thrust, Jack caught Daniel's prostrate, provoking a shout of pleasure from the besieged man. Head hanging limply between his shoulders, it was all Daniel could do to ride out the incredible fucking Jack was giving him. He couldn't think, could only respond to the hard loving with groans of pleasure and heavy breathing. He pushed back to meet Jack's hips, biting his lip as it went on forever.
Then it changed. Out of nowhere, Jack slowed down. His hands released their death grip around Daniel's thighs to massage his back and shoulders. He pressed open-mouthed kisses to Daniel's back and licked his way up and down his sweaty spine. Daniel sighed and relaxed into the loving, thrilling to Jack's incredible command of his body.
Every time they loved, it was exciting and different and Daniel loved all of it. But this was the kind of encounter that he felt Jack's love like an actual caress. Every touch, every shift of muscle and flesh in and around him was a blessing to Daniel. He'd had so little physical contact throughout his life, that each time was precious.
"Come with me, Daniel, I love you so much, want to share this with you," Jack gasped into his ear.
The words goaded Daniel's overwhelmed body and aching cock into release. Shaking arms finally gave up the battle, and Daniel collapsed forward, spilling into the bedspread, too exhausted to even attempt to move while his cock jerked come out beneath him. Even as he moaned into the pillow, Daniel felt Jack's orgasm flood within and smiled at the hot liquid soothing his sore passage.
Jack whispered Daniel's name over and over, kissing his back and shoulders between speaking. When he began to pull out, Daniel reached back and gripped him tight, shaking his head, desperate for the connection to remain.
"It's okay, Spacemonkey, I'm not going anywhere," Jack promised softly, kissing the back of his neck. He did shift onto his side, pulling Daniel with him and sliding one arm under Daniel's head as a pillow while the other went around Daniel's waist.
As sleep stole over him, Daniel laced their fingers together and sighed in contentment, heart and body completely sated. "Love you, Jack; body, heart, mind and soul. I'm yours forever."
Jack's fingers tightened briefly and, as Daniel's head grew heavy with sleep, whispered, "Back atcha, Danny-boy."
* * * *
Going to sleep with Jack's cock in his ass hadn't been the brightest thing Daniel had ever done, and he cursed his sentimental idiocy every time he tried to sit. He studiously ignored Jack's smug expression whenever the other man caught him wincing. He wasn't really surprised by Commander Rabb's neutral expression upon meeting up first thing in the morning at the commissary. What did surprise him was the Admiral's twinkling eyes and barely hidden grin. It was embarrassingly similar to the one General Hammond got when the older man knew that he and Jack had made up, but was officially forbidden from commenting.
"Enjoy it now, flyboy, because it isn't happening again," Daniel muttered sourly into Jack's ear.
Jack laughed out loud, then replied, just as quietly, "That's what you think."
Daniel glared at him and walked away. Unfortunately, he couldn't storm out without pain, so his dramatic exit was somewhat less than he'd hoped. As he headed towards his lab, he was surprised by the Admiral's call for him to wait. Turning towards the naval officer, he asked, "Yes, Admiral?"
"It's AJ," the older man replied with a smile.
Nodding cautiously, Daniel repeated, "Yes, AJ?"
"I was wondering if I could talk to you privately."
The older man seemed sincere, but Daniel had an innate distrust of most military personnel, especially those of high rank. "Ah...sure. May I ask what about?"
"It's rather personal in nature. If you don't mind?"
Curious now, though still cautious, Daniel nodded. "Of course. We can go to my lab."
Daniel looked over at Harm's call, and for a split second saw worry on the other man's face. It was the first time he'd seen it, and Daniel couldn't think what might have caused it.
"Everything's fine, Commander. Dr. Jackson was just going to show me his lab," AJ answered with a bland smile.
The response seemed to reassure Harm, who nodded and reminded, "We'll be leaving in thirty minutes, sir."
"I have a watch, Commander," AJ said, the hint of a smile playing around his lips.
"Ah, yes Sir, of course. Meet you in the gateroom."
Daniel watched the exchange with interest. It was a side of the Admiral that he hadn't seen as yet. While it had only been for a few moments, Daniel had seen distinct worry coming from Harm. AJ had not only diffused it with only a few simple words, he'd gone one further and put the Commander on the defensive. It was a technique that he'd used on Jack many times before they'd become intimate. He'd employed it to make sure the Colonel hadn't noticed how much Daniel needed and wanted him.
Mentally pursing his lips, Daniel waited for AJ to indicate that he was ready. When the Admiral turned his way, Daniel motioned down the hall. "It's just this way."
The journey took only an elevator ride and short walk down a corridor. Daniel noticed AJ looking around with interest, as the military personnel were replaced more and more with civilians. When they entered his large, dim office, Daniel flicked the light on and headed for his computer, sitting on the stool at the long lab table. Swiveling to face the Admiral, Daniel asked, "So. What can I do for you?"
Of all the words that Daniel could anticipate, those two were definitely not on the list. Mouth dropping open, he stuttered, "Ex-excuse me?"
Making a slow perusal of the lab, keen eyes missing nothing, AJ repeated, "How's Nick? I met your Grandfather many years ago. Just didn't make the connection until last night."
Stymied, Daniel didn't answer at first. "Ah...he's ah, he's classified actually."
Amused, AJ glanced over at him and observed, "I'm about to become classified myself, Dr. Jackson, so I assume that means he's somewhere on the other side of the wormhole. Which is good, because the last I heard, he was in an institution."
"H-how do you know Nick?" Daniel demanded.
"It was in Vietnam, believe it or not. He was following some damned fool's lead about his obsession and got himself in trouble with the locals," AJ explained. "All we knew was that an influential civilian was being held against his will and we were supposed to get him out. That was before he...well...before the academic community tossed him to the wolves and then into the institution."
Astonished, Daniel exclaimed, "You rescued my Grandfather?"
Smiling briefly, AJ nodded. "My Seal team did. Which made me feel a little responsible for him. He wasn't like you, not back then at least. He seemed a bit lost to me."
Astounded again, Daniel repeated, "Lost? Nick seemed lost to you?"
Shrugging, AJ replied, "He was a different man back then. At least, from what I read of him in the papers, he seemed different. I tracked him down when I got stateside, checked on what he'd been up to in the subsequent years. I'm glad that he found what he was looking for after all that time. And that brings me to you."
Wary all of a sudden, not liking the way the Admiral's voice changed, Daniel asked slowly, "What about me?"
"You know you're treading a very thin line with this relationship, don't you?"
Daniel felt as though he'd been punched in the gut. Tightly, he replied, "I don't know what you're talking about."
AJ returned his gaze, eyes boring steadily into him.
After a few, silent moments, Daniel sighed, defeated. "Harm said that he wasn't going to tell anyone."
"He didn't," AJ said softly. "It's pretty obvious, Dr. Jackson. And if I can see it when I've only known you both for a few days..."
"Then anyone can see it," Daniel finished. Running a hand through his hair distractedly, all the fears that he'd ever had for Jack came flooding forward. Every dark punishment, from dishonorable discharge to jail time, pounded through his mind. AJ gripped his shoulder, bringing his attention back to the present.
"I didn't mention it to scare you. Well, perhaps a little. But primarily, I mentioned it because I don't want to see you get into trouble, Dr. Jackson. You and the Colonel need to be a bit more circumspect in your interaction."
Miserable, Daniel replied, "We can't. I mean, this is how we've always been. In each other's faces, as well as each other's back pockets, Jack ordering me around, me shoving back. It's just how we are."
"Then may I make a suggestion?"
Daniel nodded, eager for any wisdom the other man was willing to convey.
"When General Hammond retires, do the same."
The blunt advice shocked Daniel as effectively as a bucket of ice cold water. "Wh-why?"
A faintly bitter smile crossed the older man's face. "General Hammond obviously cares for all of you like a family. He'll look the other way and not think twice about it, as it's both in the best interests of his people, and the mission. But when he's replaced, you can be damned certain that it will be with someone far more objective and by the book."
Wondering where AJ's bitterness came from, Daniel asked, "How do you know? As far as I understood it, Jack was next in line."
The mild Admiral's mask firmly back, AJ drew back. "I don't, of course. It just seems more likely that the next in line would be a political appointee, not Colonel O'Neill, despite his service record here at the SGC. Or, more likely, because of it."
Daniel knew that wasn't the full story, that there was something else behind AJ's warning...something personal perhaps? Had he been burned in the past in a similar situation, before he'd become JAG? "AJ..."
"Time to go. We can continue this later, Doctor."
Daniel watched the other man leave, thoroughly bemused by the change in gears. After a few seconds, he jumped off the stool and hurried to catch up. There was obviously a lot more to AJ Chegwidden than the Admiral let on. It would be interesting to get to know him better, if he ever dropped the military mask he kept so effectively in place.
* * * *
Daniel was a lot more like his Grandfather than he thought. AJ had realized that almost the moment he recognized the young man. They had that same strength of will, while at the same time maintaining an innocence that just about drove everyone else nuts. That had been what AJ termed 'lost', though of course Nick had known exactly what he was doing. Just as Daniel Jackson knew exactly what he was doing.
Shaking his head as he strode down the corridor, AJ wondered if this whole idea of Harm's wasn't a disaster in the making. Not only would it put them at the mercies of these Tok'ra, it would put them at the other side of the galaxy, or further. AJ didn't trust allies who tried at every turn to subvert the alliance for their own benefit.
In this case, he'd have to agree with Colonel O'Neill: the only good snake, was a dead one.
Daniel caught up with him quickly and AJ turned his attention back to the matter at hand. Traveling through a wormhole to view a murder scene. It had been quite a while since he'd been so personally involved with an investigation, but despite his qualms, AJ knew it was probably the best way for Harm to get a feel for what happened. And it wasn't as though they'd be going alone. Colonel O'Neill might not be going with them, confined to base as he was, but Daniel, Major Carter and Teal'c were accompanying them.
They reached the gateroom and AJ found the others already assembled, Colonel O'Neill included. Eyebrows lifting in inquiry, he questioned blandly, "Going somewhere, Colonel?"
"My team doesn't leave without me, Sir," O'Neill replied firmly.
"They do today. You are confined to base, Colonel, remember? No sense pouring gasoline on the fire."
"I'm afraid that I have to agree with the Admiral on this one, Colonel," Hammond said over the loudspeaker. "Stand down."
Obviously frustrated, O'Neill looked at Daniel, then the rest of his team, before coming back to AJ. "Sir. I really think..."
"Now, Colonel," AJ ordered in a tone that brooked no insubordination. O'Neill wasn't his first recalcitrant officer, and Harm kept him in shape on that score practically every day. As expected, O'Neill snapped to attention at his words and stiffly walked out of the gateroom.
Harm moved close to AJ and murmured, "Good to know that even a superior officer jumps when you use that tone, Sir."
A smirk escaped before AJ could stop it, but the expression was banished quickly. Looking pointedly at the Commander, he said, "I don't recall asking for your opinion, Commander."
Harm snapped to attention. "No, Sir!"
For some reason, AJ's gaze met Teal'c's, and he was surprised to find subtle amusement in the dark eyes. But then, from all accounts, Teal'c had been a General on his own world and would also have his own way of dealing with stubborn subordinates. He made a point to compare notes with the other man later. "Let's move, people. We haven't got all day."
Everyone fell into line, Teal'c in the front, Harm second, Daniel third, himself next and Major Carter bringing up the rear. When it was himself stepping up to the shimmering pool, he hesitated and reached out with a curious hand, placing it against the rippling surface. It was cool, but not wet. It gave under his touch, then pulled him in with a strength that he hadn't anticipated. Gasping in surprise, AJ moved forward, the rest of his body following his hand into a chaotic maelstrom that would give even the best roller coaster designers a massive inferiority complex.
The cold was more than he'd been prepared for, too. Just when he thought that he'd been frozen into one single popsicle, he was thrust out of the wormhole onto the other side. He was caught in strong arms as he stumbled across a smooth floor and collapsed in a familiar embrace.
Harm's warm voice murmured, "Easy, Sir, you'll be fine in a second."
Allowing himself a few treacherous seconds in the strength of his officer, AJ rested his head against the other man's shoulder before straightening up and pulling away. "Thank you, Commander. That was a bit more than I expected."
"Understood, Sir," Harm replied, a sympathetic expression in place.
Back under control, and there was nothing like a jaunt across the universe to make one lose said control, even if only for a few minutes, AJ looked around. They were in a gray, rounded corridor, the floor a polished, marble-like material. Selmak/Jacob stepped forward to greet them and AJ looked closely at the other man. There was something subtly different about him that he couldn't put his finger on.
"Why don't we get directly to business?"
AJ kept his suspicions to himself and nodded politely, gesturing for the other man to lead the way. He was unsurprised to notice Teal'c, Carter and Harm place him and Daniel in the center of a military wedge. The most important and/or weakest links were placed in the most defensible positions. To be honest, AJ was pretty sure that Daniel was the only one who didn't notice the tension in the air.
Taking careful note of their passage, AJ memorized as many landmarks as possible to get him back in case of trouble, although they passed few of them in the bland surroundings. When they stopped at a door and Selmak/Jacob stepped through, the hairs on the back of AJ's neck stood up in warning of a trap. Was this how Colonel O'Neill felt every time he came here? How they all felt? His already high opinion of the team went up another few notches.
AJ turned to Harm and shook his head, indicating that the younger man should keep his thoughts to himself. Obviously unhappy about it, Harm nonetheless quieted. Though he did step in front of AJ while Teal'c entered the room first, not moving aside until receiving an okay from the other soldier.
That's when it really hit AJ, and he mentally and emotionally reeled from the impact of the discovery: Harm really would die for him. He would willingly throw himself on a bomb, or in front of a bullet, or between AJ and a staff weapon blast, without thinking twice about it. And AJ knew that it was more than Commander to Admiral...it was Harm to AJ. The young man felt as strongly for AJ as he did for Harm.
Which meant what, exactly? Knowing that it wasn't the time to be thinking about such things, AJ thrust down both the heat and confusion inside at the discovery. Masking his suddenly chaotic thoughts was difficult, but AJ succeeded in presenting a polite face to Selmak in the conference room they'd entered.
"This is where it happened," Selmak informed them. "The body was discovered only an hour after Colonel O'Neill's departure, when Noryn failed to report to another meeting."
AJ stood back and let Harm do his thing. The other man was incredibly perceptive when it came to solving a crime, and interfering would do more damage than good. Besides, it gave him a chance to watch the younger man work, something AJ rarely got to do outside of a courtroom.
Walking around the room, Harm looked over everything. Kneeling in the spot marked where Noryn's body had been, he touched the dark stain that hadn't yet been removed, then stood. Turning abruptly to Selmak, Harm noted, "There are three entrances to this room. Anyone could have entered through them after Colonel O'Neill left, and no one would have been the wiser."
"True. But they were both sealed when the body was discovered," Selmak replied.
Harm kept his thoughts to himself as he mused, "You said that the victim was killed with a pistol."
Selmak nodded and confirmed, "A standard military issue from the ballistic reports. Two shots to the head."
Gazing at the Tok'ra, Harm asked, "How come no one heard the shots?"
"This room is soundproofed. All the conference rooms are."
AJ was dying to ask where Harm was going with this line of questioning, but remained silent. He knew the other man would reveal his thoughts when they would do the most damage to the opposition. Which, of course, suited him perfectly fine.
Making one more pass around the room, Harm questioned, "Who discovered the body? The eyewitness?"
Selmak shook his head. "The witness came forward later."
"Anything else?" Selmak asked pointedly.
Harm nodded. "Mind if I take a look through here?"
Before the Tok'ra could reply, Harm had opened one of the doors and gone through. Everyone followed quickly, and AJ found himself in a small, narrow corridor that led to another room. This room was very similar to the first, and by the time he got inside, Harm had already stepped through another door. While Selmak called for Harm to stop, AJ kept silent, curious as to where the Commander was going with the investigation and knowing that the Commander wouldn't stop until and unless AJ himself said to do so.
They wound up in the main corridor where Harm stopped abruptly, causing Selmak to bump into him. Obviously annoyed, the alien's voice went deeper than usual as he demanded, "Did you have something particular in mind, or were we just getting some exercise?"
Looking around the conference room, Harm asked, "What was going on in the conference room next to the murder scene that day?"
Frowning, Selmak replied, "I don't think anything was. Why?"
Harm shrugged and questioned, "Did Noryn have a significant other? A wife or mate?"
Thoroughly confused, Selmak answered, "Yes. What has that to do with anything?"
But Harm was back in the conference room, looking around carefully.
"Have you seen enough Commander?" Selmak demanded.
Harm smiled and replied, "I believe I have, Sir. Thank you for your cooperation."
Selmak looked like he'd swallowed something unpleasant. "As though I had a choice."
They were led back towards the gate, something for which AJ was grateful, because the constant feeling of being under threat of ambush was wearing thin. When they reached the device, it was Jacob who spoke to him, not Selmak.
"You've got another Jack O'Neill in the making there, Admiral."
AJ shook his head and replied, "Not in the making, I'm afraid."
Jacob grimaced and agreed, "True enough. Do you think this helped Jack at all?"
Glancing at Harm, who stood impassively by Teal'c, AJ evaded politely, "I'm sure we'll find out once we get back and the Commander informs us of what he thinks he's learned here. Major, send the signal through to let them know we're coming back."
"Yes, Sir," she replied smartly, tapping her fingers lightly over the radio signal device strapped to her wrist. Once she sent the identification code through, they would be cleared to return to Earth.
"He seems confident of something," Selmak observed, making an abrupt reappearance.
AJ shrugged, trying not to be disconcerted by the symbiote's return. The glowing eyes were disturbing in an almost visceral way, despite the supposed allied status and the host's country of origin being the USA. "We'll see. He's lost cases before, though not too many, I'll grant you."
The minute or so they waited for confirmation were the longest in AJ's life. At least it felt that way. The hairs on the back of his neck continued to stand up in warning, and he wasn't surprised to see that Teal'c had his hand on the zat at his side. Major Carter was positioned at the Dial Home Device, set to enter the proper sequence the moment the all-clear came through. Harm moved unobtrusively into place by Daniel, engaging the civilian in conversation, while keeping his line of sight clear enough to take any necessary shots.
The moment Major Carter's hand pressed against the first symbol, AJ breathed a faint sigh of relief. They were going home and that sounded better with every passing second. Something here was very wrong, and AJ wanted to be gone before whatever it was, happened.
"Do you mind if I accompany you back to the SGC?" Selmak continued.
AJ eyed the other man sharply, then shook his head. "I don't suppose that would be a problem. We're allies, after all. Able to come and go without fear of anything untoward happening, isn't that right?"
Was that a faint flinch? AJ wasn't sure, but there had been a reaction of some kind. It was enough of one for him to say, "Excuse me." and move towards Harm. No matter what the others thought, it was Harm who would be a target, not himself. Rank just didn't enter into this equation. Movement to the side caught his attention, and without a second thought, AJ shoved Harm away from Daniel, out of the line of fire.
And fire it was. Pain seared through every muscle, which promptly turned to lead. AJ fell over, oblivious to the shouts going on around him. It was an instantaneous struggle just to breathe, and AJ had no control over any part of his body. When Harm dragged him over a broad shoulder, all he could do was flop gracelessly against the Commander's backside. Any other time, it might have been a pleasant diversion, but the shoulder in his gut wasn't helping his shallow breathing.
Then they were in the blessed cold of the wormhole, which slowed the flames licking internally along his frame. Funny how being upside down made no bit of difference when it came to the maelstrom of the wormhole.
Next thing he knew, they were in the gateroom, claxons sounding, competing with more shouting that he still couldn't understand. He was placed gently on the floor, and Harm's frantic visage appeared. Though he tried to reassure the younger man that it had been worth it, AJ couldn't draw in enough breath for himself, let alone words.
'So this is dying,' he thought in faint surprise, as darkness covered his sight, edging out Harm.
At least it had been a pleasant last view.
* * * *
"He's not breathing!" Harm exclaimed, yanking open the Admiral's shirt desperately.
Kneeling beside him, Daniel ordered, "Start CPR!"
Harm angled the Admiral's head properly and took a deep breath before blowing it into the man. Putting his ear to the Admiral's mouth to listen brought no sign of air, so he repeated it twice more before Daniel started compressions against the older man's rib cage. He didn't know how long they kept that up before someone shoved him aside. Harm fought to get back to the Admiral, but strong arms wrapped around him, pinning him in place.
"Do not interfere, Commander Rabb. Dr. Fraiser will do her best to revive Admiral Chegwidden," Teal'c stated firmly.
Forcibly brought back to his surroundings, Harm shook his head to clear it of the panic swarming him. As though sensing that he'd returned to sanity, Teal'c released his hold on Harm and stepped aside. Breathing heavily, feeling unnatural not to be supplying the Admiral with air, he watched helplessly as the petite, efficient woman and three other medical personnel worked over the Admiral right there on the gateroom floor.
"We've got a rhythm," she announced triumphantly a few minutes later.
They loaded the Admiral onto a gurney, oxygen mask over the officer's face, and hurried him out of the gateroom. Harm was going to follow, but General Hammond and Jack got in his way.
General Hammond was the first to speak. "What the hell happened over there!?"
"I'm not sure, Sir," Harm admitted, eyes trained on the door.
Dragging his eyes and his attention back to the General, Harm explained, "I was talking with Dr. Jackson when the Admiral shoved me aside. He was hit with some kind of laser blast."
Over the loudspeaker, someone reported, "General Hammond, Selmak is asking to come through, Sir."
The General looked up at the control room and shook his head. "Tell him that until we get things settled here, we will not be receiving any Tok'ra visitors."
Cater stepped forward and said, "Sir, I was standing by the DHD when it happened. There was a complement of Tok'ra, and one of them aimed for the Commander, not the Admiral. Admiral Chegwidden pushed Commander Rabb out of the way just before the first shot went off. It was a weapon I hadn't seen before. I started the sequence home even before they arrived, before you had confirmed, because it just...it felt wrong sir."
"Yes, General Hammond. I, too, felt the tension in the Tok'ra base shortly after our arrival," Teal'c confirmed. "It seemed to grow as Commander Rabb continued his investigation."
"So what the hell are they doing over there that they want me out of the way with no chance of being cleared?" Jack asked suddenly.
Tiredly, the General ran a hand over his bald head and said, "Right now, we have more pressing considerations than that trial. Commander, you're free to go check on Admiral Chegwidden. Please report to me after you have done so."
Grateful, Harm snapped out a salute and a, "Thank you, Sir!" before striding out of the gateroom. He stopped once outside, realizing that he didn't know which way it was.
"The infirmary is this way."
Harm looked over at Daniel and forced a smile. "Thanks."
It took only a few minutes to get there, but Harm felt each one like an eternity. For all they knew, the Admiral had stopped breathing again and couldn't be revived.
"Working yourself into a frenzy isn't going to help him."
Startled at the observation from the quiet man, Harm sighed deeply and scrubbed his fingers through his hair. "Sorry. I just...it should have been me. Why did he do it, Daniel? I don't understand! I'm supposed to protect him, not the other way around!"
Half-smiling, Daniel replied, "For the same reason I keep stepping in front of a staff weapon for Jack. Because he loves you."
Harm shook his head, shocked that Daniel would even think that. "No. No, Daniel, that's not it. I would have seen some kind of evidence of it. The Admiral, he's a man who feels things deeply and can't hide his true feelings. Not from me, at least."
"Even if it was to protect you?"
Daniel's question brought Harm up short. It was the one argument against which Harm had no defense. The Admiral would, of course, do whatever was necessary to protect those he loved; even against himself. If it meant denying himself, the older man would consider it a painful necessity, but not shirk from such a course of action.
The elevator doors opened before Harm could formulate a response and he followed Daniel silently down the corridor. The infirmary was busy, but not frantically paced, which reassured him somewhat. It looked like any other military hospital, gray and Spartan. Harm immediately found the Admiral and blanched at seeing the normally strong, active man lying unconscious in the bed. The oxygen mask had been replaced by a respirator tube, and there was an iv in his arm, as well as other wires that he had no idea about.
Dr. Fraiser caught sight of them and walked over. Her dark eyes looked at Harm compassionately as she reported, "He stopped breathing again, we had to put him on a respirator. Whatever he was hit with disrupted his autonomic functions, because we also had to shock his heart back into a rhythm twice. Right now, the only thing we can do is wait and treat the symptoms as they occur...but...I'm afraid it doesn't look good, Commander. He's a strong man, but I'd feel a lot better about his chances if he was a good ten years younger."
"Yes, ma'am," Harm replied. "Can I...ah..."
"Go and sit with him. Talk to him and try to bring him around. A familiar voice is always helpful," Dr. Fraiser ordered gently.
Harm nodded and moved to the side of the Admiral's bed. Once there, he had no idea what to say. He certainly couldn't pour his heart out in a military hospital, or even hint at the feelings he had for the older man. Sighing, he grabbed a chair and dragged it over, sitting as close as possible. Feeling somewhat ridiculous, Harm said, "It's me, Sir. I, ah, Dr. Fraiser thought you might want to hear a familiar voice, so here I am. Not that I wouldn't be here anyhow but, well, you know what I mean. Dr. Fraiser isn't holding out too much hope for you, but I know better. It's your picture under stubborn in the dictionary, and I know you're going to come out of this.
"It looks like General Hammond has a prickly situation on his hands, one which I'm sure he'd love your input on. I mean, what do you do when your allies first frame one of your command personnel and then try to take out the lead defense attorney? Not a good situation. So you need to come out of this and help him out, Sir. You've got to wake up. What will I do without you to order me around? You don't want me giving your special migraine to anyone else, do you?"
Harm stopped talking at Daniel's voice and looked over at the civilian. "What?"
"General Hammond wants to see us," Daniel informed him. "I think Selmak is here."
Anger flushed through him and Harm stood. "Good. I have a few choice words for Selmak."
Daniel grabbed his arm and said, "You shouldn't go in there this upset. You might do something you'll regret."
Taking another look at the Admiral on the bed, Harm gritted out, "I doubt that."
Squeezing painfully, Daniel shook his head. "That's not what he'd want and you know it! I know it and I've only known AJ for a few days!"
Though he knew that Daniel was right, the urge to pound Selmak into the ground was almost stronger than he could control. Taking several deep breaths and forcibly unclenching his fists, Harm brought himself somewhat under control and said, "All right. I'm good. Let's go."
Daniel looked at him a moment longer before nodding, and they headed out of the infirmary.
* * * *
Jack had seen the level of panic on Harm's face before, but it was usually in the mirror after Daniel did something stupid to protect him. He suddenly had no doubt that the Commander viewed Daniel only as a friend, after seeing the way the officer had reacted to the Admiral's situation. That Teal'c almost hadn't been able to hold onto him spoke of just how strongly Harm felt for the older man.
Watching Daniel trail after the other man on his way to the infirmary, Jack asked, "What now, Sir?"
Grimly, General Hammond replied, "Now we find out what the hell is going on."
Jack nodded, just as grim. "Yes, Sir."
They all walked to the command room where, big surprise, Jacob was still waiting for them on the communications screen. Looking into the monitor, Hammond asked, "What happened over there?"
"This will be a lot easier to explain in person, George," Jacob said.
Shaking his head, Hammond stated, "I don't think so. A highly decorated officer that I asked to come here as a personal favor, is lying near death in my infirmary, after a visit to our supposed allies. What's going on, Jacob?"
Jacob sighed and answered, "We didn't want to say anything, but we've been investigating a security leak for the last few months. I believed it was the reason behind Jack's framing, and Selmak agreed. But we couldn't tip our hand too soon."
"So you let an assassination attempt go ahead!?" Jack questioned pointedly.
"No! We didn't let anything happen, Jack. We had no idea that there were so many involved! We're going to be months recovering from this, and while that happens, we're going to need your help." Jacob's eyes glowed briefly, and it was Selmak who continued. "Please do not forsake us when we need your help now, more than ever. I have assembled the Council and would like to bring them over to the SGC, as a show of faith, for your officer to divulge what he found out in his investigation."
"Commander Rabb is understandably distressed by what happened to his Commanding Officer," General Hammond said. "I doubt that he's in any mood to go through what would surely be a mockery of a trial, at this point."
The eyes glowed again and Jacob pleaded, "Please, George, this wouldn't be a trial. That's done. We all know Jack didn't do it. But I could tell that Rabb was onto something when he was here. I need the others to hear that first hand."
Hammond thought about it for a long moment, then nodded. "Unarmed, Jacob. I want no weapons on any of your people. If I see a single one, back through the gate you all go."
"Understood, George. We'll be there as soon as the gate opens on your end."
The view screen blanked out and Hammond picked up a nearby phone, dialing the infirmary. "Doctor. Please have Commander Rabb and Dr. Jackson report to the command conference room. A delegation of Tok'ra are coming to get this mess straightened out."
He hung up and turned to the rest of SG-1. "All right, people, let's make sure that nothing else happens. Keep your eyes peeled."
Jack fully intended not only to keep his eyes peeled, but his hand near his weapon for the duration of the visit.
* * * *
It was a completely different Commander Rabb than Jack had ever seen who entered the conference room ten minutes later. He'd obviously taken a short time to put himself together and change into his dress uniform. The dark suit looked good on him, lending him a dignified air and even more presence than the lawyer already had in spades. His eyes were clear and sharp as they looked around the room, taking in the Tok'ra presence. Jack noticed a tightening of the man's jaw, but otherwise, the officer kept control.
"Commander Rabb, let me personally express my apologies for what happened earlier," Selmak said, approaching the younger man.
Looking coolly at the Tok'ra, Rabb replied, "I'm sure that Admiral Chegwidden would be pleased to hear your apology in person, Selmak."
Oooh. So the Commander did have that Naval 'mess with me and I'll drown you' attitude when provoked, Jack mused with an internal smirk. It was the first Jack had seen of that, too. This suddenly promised to be a very interesting meeting.
"Have you apprehended the assailants?" Rabb continued.
Selmak nodded. "We have."
Rabb asked, "When can we expect them here for trial?"
Surprised, Selmak replied, "We hadn't expected to..."
"Because if a Colonel of Colonel O'Neill's distinguished record can be brought before a kangaroo court of your making, then surely it's only fair that these Tok'ra, seen by multiple witnesses, including yourself I might add, be tried in an American military court."
Jack looked at the General at the same time Selmak did, but wasn't surprised by the lack of help the Tok'ra found there.
"To be honest, Selmak, I was thinking along the same lines."
"Perhaps you can prove to us your Colonel's innocence before threatening our people," one of the other Tok'ra interjected.
Rabb's gaze centered on the Tok'ra who'd spoken as he drawled, "All right. I need a volunteer to be Noryn. You'll do."
Jack snorted when that same Tok'ra found himself taken in what was obviously a painful grip on the Commander's part, and dragged into the center of the room, by the conference table. Rabb met his gaze, and for only a split second, Jack saw the pain lurking there. It was gone nearly as quickly as it surfaced.
"Colonel. If you'd stand here, please?"
Jack nodded and stepped forward, in front of the Tok'ra.
"Here's the first thing that didn't match, which I know that General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill both pointed out to your council," Rabb began. "Colonel O'Neill was not carrying a weapon of any sort, let alone a pistol, when he met with Noryn that day. The argument was made that he could have hidden the weapon there at any time. Let's assume that he did just that. Colonel, you're arguing with Noryn."
Gleefully, Jack did as implied and started a tirade. "And another thing! The next time you decide to meet me here, wear some deodorant, okay? I mean, have you people never heard of personal hygiene?"
Clearing his throat, Rabb interrupted, "I was thinking more along the lines of what you were actually fighting about that day."
Jack froze and met the Commander's steady gaze. It assured him that everything would be all right, but this was his career, and Daniel's, on the line. At Rabb's insistent nod, he sighed and cast his mind back to the actual conversation. The fury he'd felt at Noryn's insults, unfortunately, easily came back to him. "Don't you ever speak about Daniel that way again, Noryn."
Suddenly, Rabb was in his face, sneering at him. "Or you'll what, Tauri?"
Startled, Jack hesitated, then got into the role-playing. "Or I'll knock you into next week, is what."
"I can talk about Daniel any way I please. If I wish to have him, I will."
Fists clenching, hearing Noryn's alien voice over Rabb's, Jack spat, "Over my dead body!"
"That can so easily be arranged."
It was so close to what had happened, that Jack lost it and threw a punch directly at Rabb. But the other man was expecting it and danced out of range. Jack took a few deep breaths to calm down, while Rabb started speaking.
"Colonel O'Neill was furious over an insult, and the implied threat, to a team member. He lost control and decked Noryn. Granted, a Colonel should have more control over his emotions, but he and Dr. Jackson have been friends for many years, shed blood together, died for each other in the line of duty. It tends to make one a little over-protective. If Noryn had been saying the same about Major Carter, or Teal'c, I know that the Colonel would have reacted in just the same way."
"The witness saw the fight and heard the shots," one of the Tok'ra countered.
Turning towards the Tok'ra, Harm questioned, "How? You said that the conference rooms are soundproofed and the doors were sealed. How could the witness have seen or heard anything?"
The simple question threw everyone for a loop.
"According to your people, that machine is infallible, and yet we've got two different accounts ringing true," Rabb continued. "The only way that's possible is if one of them was being covered for. Now, I don't know who actually killed Noryn, but I do know that it's highly unlikely for Colonel O'Neill to be covered for by any of the Tok'ra. On the whole, most of your people can't stand him. No offense, Jack."
Jack half grinned. "None taken."
"I think this murder was committed in the heat of the moment. Noryn's significant other, whoever that is, fought with him after Colonel O'Neill left. Even more likely, the faction who tried to kill me earlier today, seized an opportunity to drive a wedge between our people and used Noryn and Colonel O'Neill to do so.
"The first thing I would do is check that machine and see if it has been tampered with. The second thing I would do, is question the rebels involved in today's attack. Then I would question Noryn's significant other. Then I would figure out why your own people were driven to rebel in the first place if you don't want a repeat of the incident. Because, despite our so-called primitive behavior, there hasn't been a rebellion in this country in a hundred and forty-odd years."
There was silence after Rabb finished speaking. Jack saw many of the Tok'ra looking thoughtful, something he'd never expected to see.
"What you've shown here is a very plausible explanation, far more plausible than Colonel O'Neill risking our alliance for the sake of an insult," Selmak said firmly into the quiet. He looked around the semi-circle of his brethren, as though daring anyone to contradict him. "We will investigate this matter thoroughly, Commander. Thank you for your insight."
Commander Rabb nodded.
"General Hammond. If you would allow me, I would like to personally heal Admiral Chegwidden."
"Thank you, Selmak, that would be appreciated," Hammond agreed. "Colonel. If you and Teal'c would escort the rest of our guests to the gateroom?"
Disappointed that he wouldn't be in on the conversation where the General wrangled out all the information about this new weapon from Selmak, Jack nonetheless nodded. "Yes, Sir."
* * * *
It was tense in the infirmary as Selmak held the circular healing device over the Admiral's body. No one was more tense than Harm as he watched the soft glow spread over his CO when Selmak moved it in ever-widening circles. Dr. Fraiser was standing by the Admiral's head, ready to pull out the respirator tube as soon as it was necessary. Because he was watching so avidly, Harm noticed the moment when the older man's eyes blinked, though they remained closed.
A moment later, the eyes opened and the Admiral looked around wildly, body seizing with fear and disorientation. Harm stepped forward, automatically responding to the other man's distress. The Admiral caught sight of him and relaxed as Dr. Fraiser was instructing him to do in her soft, competent voice. Selmak moved back as the tube was withdrawn and Harm took his place at the bedside. Forcing a smile, he greeted, "Welcome back, Admiral."
The Admiral's puzzled gaze raked over him, and he accepted the sip of water the doctor offered before attempting to speak. "What happened?"
"You were hit by a laser blast on the Tok'ra base," General Hammond answered. "Selmak just healed you."
Dr. Fraiser added, "You'll be weak for another day or so, but you'll make a complete recovery now."
But the Admiral was already looking at Harm. "You weren't injured?"
It was then that Harm saw the fear and love hidden deep within the Admiral's eyes, masked normally, but revealed due to the other man's disorientation. Shaking his head, Harm's smile was far more genuine as he replied, "No, Sir. You pushed me out of the way just in time."
Relief sent the Admiral sagging into the bed and he turned his attention to the General and Selmak. "Everything straightened out?"
"Relatively speaking," Jacob said, coming to stand beside Harm. "I'm so sorry this happened, Admiral. I can't tell you how embarrassed Selmak is that you were injured, let alone almost killed."
"Maybe Selmak should speak for himself," Harm muttered.
The Admiral's eyes flickered to Harm's and he warned, "Commander..."
"No. He is correct," Selmak interrupted. "It was because of my people that you were nearly killed. I am more than embarrassed, I'm saddened that things came to such a pass. We might as well be no better than the Goa'uld we fight, when such things as this happen."
And yet he still hasn't apologized directly, Harm thought wryly.
As though sensing the thought, Selmak eyed Harm warily for a moment before returning his gaze to the Admiral. "I am sorry that this happened, Admiral Chegwidden, and assure you that the perpetrators will be punished accordingly. Your Commander here, is most persuasive. You are lucky to have him."
Smiling tiredly, Chegwidden nodded and agreed, "I know."
"All right, gentlemen, the Admiral needs to rest, so I suggest that you take this elsewhere," Dr. Fraiser ordered.
Harm tried to stay behind, but the Doctor wouldn't hear of it, ordering him out with all the rest. Finding himself in the hall, at loose ends, Harm stared helplessly at the infirmary door, wanting to be at the Admiral's side.
"C'mon. Jack and I are going to celebrate his freedom by going out," Daniel said softly.
Harm shook his head. "No, that's okay, Daniel. The two of you should be alone for that."
Understanding blue eyes looked at him compassionately as Daniel shook his head. "I've been where you are, Harm. Standing guard outside the infirmary and making a nuisance of yourself will not endear you to Janet, even if she does think you're cute."
When Daniel pushed him lightly towards the elevator, Harm gave in. Maybe he could come back later and use the good old Rabb charm on the doctor and get in to see the Admiral.
* * * *
To Harm's surprise, Carter and Teal'c joined them at the restaurant that was, apparently, a local favorite of the base. It wasn't much like the JAG hangout, but there was a general military feel to it that lent it the air of home, even if twice removed. It was crowded and busy and they wound up waiting for a table, since the longer they stood waiting, the more people joined them.
By the time they actually got a table, Dr. Fraiser had joined them, as well as SG-2, whose names Harm couldn't quite remember. Taking the seat between Daniel and Teal'c, Harm ordered a beer and listened to the banter flying all around him. He was hit with a wave of homesickness that left him breathless and amazed.
For the most part, Harm didn't really think of having a home since he was on the move so much. The Navy had been his home for so long, and as long as he had a bunk, he was all right. But now, among people so familiar and yet still strangers, Harm knew that he did have a home, and it was at JAG. The Admiral, Mac, Bud, Harriet, Gunny, Tiner...they were his family.
"You all right?" Daniel asked in his ear, halfway through the night.
Harm nodded and answered, "Fine. Just...doing some thinking."
"No thinking allowed!" Jack said firmly from the other side of Daniel. "I, for one, want to say thanks for saving my butt. It was looking pretty hairy there until you came onto the scene."
Harm shrugged. "Any good attorney would have asked the same questions."
"I believe that this is untrue, Commander Rabb," Teal'c commented. "You are a most perceptive individual."
"Thanks, Teal'c," Harm replied with a smile.
"He's right, Commander. We all appreciate what you did for the Colonel," Carter added.
A general 'hear, hear' went around the table, and everyone raised their glasses. Harm was glad when everyone went back to their dinners. All he really wanted to do was get back to the base and check on the Admiral, not stick around until all hours with people he barely knew, no matter how nice they were.
It was close to midnight when the party finally broke up.
"You are coming back to my house."
Harm glanced at Jack in surprise. "That's not necessary, Jack. I'll be fine back on base."
Jack grinned and countered, "Nonsense. You're coming, and that's that. Consider it an order if you have to."
Sighing, Harm nodded and replied, "All right."
With a slight, mischievous smile, Daniel clapped him on the back and said, "It's not that bad, really. I'll see you all later. I am going straight to bed. Good night!"
Surprised that Jack and Daniel wouldn't be spending the night together, though somewhat relieved as well, Harm said his goodbyes to the group and followed Jack to his jeep. The drive to the Colonel's house didn't take very long, and in short order, they were sitting in his driveway. Harm watched with dark amusement as Jack systematically went about looking for bugs in his own house.
When the other man returned to the living room, an overnight bag in hand, and caught sight of his expression, Jack said, "Don't laugh. I've found them often enough to make that a nightly habit."
Appalled, Harm demanded, "How can you live like that?"
Jack shrugged. "Part of the job. Got Daniel trained to do the same thing, both here and at his place. Though they usually try for visual devices at his apartment since he's got all those translations going on. Sam doesn't bother unless Teal'c goes to her place after work since all of her toys stay on the base."
"Why would...oh..." Harm answered his own question with a mental smack to the forehead. "Carter and Teal'c are..."
With a wink, Jack answered, "Very close friends."
Harm snorted in disbelief. "Riiight."
There was a knock at the door. Grinning, Jack walked over to it saying, "Right on time. Never let it be said that doctors have no heart. Have a good night, Commander, and don't worry about changing the sheets. I'll get them when you're gone."
Harm was thoroughly confused until Jack opened the door to reveal an equally confused Admiral standing there. Jack saluted the older man jauntily and said, "Nice to see you up and about, Admiral. Don't mind me, I'm not staying."
The moment the Admiral walked in the house and the door shut solidly behind him, Harm knew that this was the night that things would change irrevocably between them.
"I hope you know what's going on, because I don't," the Admiral said wryly.
Harm grinned, just as wry, and replied, "I think they're trying to give us a not-so-subtle push."
Silvered eyebrows arching slightly, Chegwidden replied, "I see. Well, I think this conversation would be better had with some coffee, don't you?"
Considering that he generally lost to the Admiral whenever they had a 'conversation', Harm didn't agree at all. Moving on instinct, he crossed the distance between them, grabbed the Admiral's shirt, and pulled him in for a kiss. For several long seconds there was no reaction and Harm nearly had a stroke thinking that he'd completely misread things. Then the other man seemed to sink into his arms and opened his mouth to Harm's.
The kiss was slow and soft, deep and getting deeper as their tongues entered the play. AJ's mouth was like heaven, and when his hands gripped Harm's hips and pulled him even closer, Harm released the hold on the other man's shirt and slid his hands over the broad shoulders and around AJ's neck. When they drifted apart, Harm was amazed that he'd gone for so long without this. Looking into AJ's passion-softened eyes, he murmured, "I love you."
Instead of receiving an answering smile and similar sentiment, AJ sighed and whispered. "I know. That's why I have to stop this."
Harm shook his head. "You don't have to protect me."
Now the smile appeared, though it was a sad one. "Yes, I do. Harm, if this ever got out, your career would be over."
"Some things are more important than careers," Harm stated.
AJ pressed a finger to Harm's lips, silencing him. "Not for me, Harm. I can't let you risk everything that you've built for me."
Anger rose inside, but Harm kept himself in check. Stepping back so the other man's nearness wouldn't be so distracting, he demanded, "How old am I?"
Startled by the question, AJ answered, "Thirty four?"
"And do you consider me as having good judgment?"
"Most of the time."
In a warning tone, Harm said, "AJ..."
"All right! Yes. You have good judgment," AJ answered, irritated.
"And you trust that judgment, right?"
Moving forward again, Harm put his hand on AJ's shoulder and urged, "Then trust me now. Trust yourself, AJ. We can do this. We can work at JAG professionally, do our jobs, and still have a life together."
"No one would ever be able to know, Harm. We'd still have to go on dates, live a lie," AJ pointed out soberly.
Harm nodded, taking the other man's concerns seriously. It wasn't anything that he hadn't thought about, once he started thinking about AJ as more than his CO. He'd seen what had happened to Tiner when just the rumor of the young man being a homosexual had been spread. But if there was one thing that Harm believed in, it was following his heart. Love didn't come around to anyone easily enough for it to be scorned away, not for any reason. "I know. Believe me, I know."
Looking at him with a near-desperate quality, AJ questioned, "And you still want to go through with this?"
In answer, Harm cupped AJ's neck and drew him close. The other man came forward slowly, almost reluctantly, stopping a mere half-foot away. He leaned nearer, pleased that they were nearly the same height. It would make his favorite sport of marathon make-out sessions so much easier. He gave AJ enough time to back away, making his intention to kiss him obvious. Pleased when no form of resistance was given, Harm completed the journey and joined their mouths together.
It was a repeat of their first kiss, a get-to-know-you kiss. Their arms wrapped around each other naturally, as their mouths became familiar. Yet, while he felt himself harden with desire, Harm didn't sense any such response from AJ. Worried, he pulled back and asked, "Is this okay?"
AJ nodded, replying, "I'm afraid I won't be much good for anything tonight. I'm just too tired."
Brushing his fingers lightly across AJ's forehead, Harm smiled. "We've got time. How about if tonight, we just get to know each other?"
AJ leaned into his caress. "Sounds like a plan to me."
* * * *
When Jack let himself into his house early the following day, he was surprised to find the Admiral sitting on the sofa, reading the paper. Harm was sitting on the floor at his feet but he was busily reading a report of some kind, not paying any apparent attention to the other man. Had they all misread the situation that badly? Then the Admiral looked out from behind his paper, and Jack noticed the dark red blotch at the base of his neck, peeking just above the t-shirt. The uniform, of course, would hide it. Jack stifled a grin as he thought, Nope. Didn't misread anything.
"Morning, Colonel," the Admiral greeted.
"Morning Admiral, Harm," Jack replied pleasantly. "Have a good night?"
Eyes twinkling, Chegwidden nodded. "Very restful, thanks for asking."
Restful? Jack was about to say something that was probably unwise, since the Admiral was a superior officer, even if in another branch of the military, when Harm spoke up.
"How'd you like to hear about that tail hook push maneuver, Jack?"
Extremely interested, Jack took the seat beside the couch and motioned for the Commander to go on. Chegwidden went back to his paper, and Harm started talking about the rescue. He was almost finished explaining the incident when Daniel entered the house, took one look at them and groaned.
"What?" Jack demanded.
Heaving a great sigh, Daniel stated, "I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I? Bad enough that you endlessly repeat your own aviation miracles, now I have to listen to others'?"
"Almost as bad as cold feet in winter."
All three of them looked to the Admiral at his amused comment. Daniel was first to recover, with a snort of laughter. "Definitely."
Folding the newspaper, AJ asked, "I assume you're here to get us for the flight?"
Regretfully, Daniel agreed, "General Hammond is sending a car along in about fifteen minutes. Think you can get ready that fast?"
"I think we can manage it. Commander?"
Harm nodded confirmation. "Absolutely."
It was actually thirteen minutes later that both men were dressed in uniform and waiting in the living room for the car to arrive. When it did, Daniel said to AJ, "I'll tell Nick you said hello, if I see him again."
Pleased, AJ replied, "I'd appreciate that. Take care of yourself, Daniel."
"You, too, AJ."
They shook hands, as Harm and Jack said their own, brief goodbyes. Jack saluted the Admiral and they all walked outside. Standing almost directly in Daniel's personal space as the Navy officers entered the nondescript black car that would take them to the airport, Jack murmured, "Think they'll be okay?"
Daniel leaned against Jack, arms crossed over his chest, and replied, "I do, actually. AJ's been around a few blocks, from what little he told me. He'll be able to protect them, now that he's gotten over his fear of letting them be together."
Jack frowned slightly. "I hope you're right, Danny-boy, I really do. They don't have it easy, like we do."
Arching a golden eyebrow at his lover, Daniel demanded, "You think that we have it easy?"
"Compared to the world they live in? Yeah, I do. At least we've got people to watch our backs."
Daniel knew exactly what Jack was talking about. He nudged the other man and said, "Speaking of those people. Hammond expects us on base within the hour."
Jack nudged Daniel back with a grin and pulled his keys out of his pocket. "Race you there! Loser has to rub the winner's feet for a month!"
"Jack!" Daniel watched in amusement as the other man jumped into his jeep and started the car, leaving it to Daniel to lock up the house. As the car backed down the driveway, he shouted, "That's cheating!"
Even from the foot of the driveway, Daniel could see Jack's grin and shook his head. He turned to lock up the door and hoped, as he did so, that AJ and Harm were able to find the same measure of happiness that he and Jack had.