Knocking on the door, Jack waited as the sounds of a fight quieted. Xander opened the door, remote in hand, so Jack was guessing that had started the bickering. He'd discovered that without aliens trying to kill them all, Spike and Xander's fighting had turned into something a little more aggressive. Willow sat in a chair, cross-legged, watching the TV with a bowl of popcorn in her lap.
"Hey, Teal'c says your training's going well," Jack said to Xander. Spike snorted.
"Don't start with me, bleach-head," Xander growled.
"Oi, didn't say a word. If you're all insecure, don't go blaming me," Spike defended himself. Willow just ignored them both.
"I like training with Teal'c, but I’m starting to get as paranoid as Fangless about the whole underground base secrecy thing. We don't have anything more to offer, so I'm wondering why we're still here."
"Speak for yourself. I know lots more, but I imagine they've gotten everything they can outta that empty brain of yours. They're probably down to echoes by now."
"Keep it up, and they're going to be sweeping you out of here," Xander warned darkly, but Spike just sat on the arm of the couch, one boot resting on the cushion as he considered Xander with as much fear as a tiger looks at the deer he's about to eat.
"Actually, that's what I came to talk to you about," Jack said. Willow looked over, Xander backed up a step towards the couch, and Spike's baleful glare transferred to Jack. "The NID is denying any knowledge of the Initiative, but we did find Captain Finn. He confirms many parts of your story, and the Sunnydale authorities have registered missing persons reports for you two. In other words," Jack summarized, "we can confirm that this is your world. Come sundown, the general has a car to take you to the airstrip. We should have you in L.A. by morning, and to Sunnydale the following night."
"We're going home?" Willow asked uncertainly. Jack still had trouble reconciling this timid woman with the white-haired power who had summoned an Ancient or set the Wraith on fire with her words, although the fire had been from her black and veiny period. "Can I call Tara?" she asked.
"The phones have been turned on," Jack agreed. "Just don't run up the phone bill," he added with a look toward Spike. The vampire's innocent expression sent warning flares up his threat-assessment nerve.
"Anya's going to kill me, and I hope that's figuratively since she doesn't do the literal evisceration of men any more."
"That you know 'bout," Spike added.
"Don't start in on Anya," Xander warned.
"Oi, I like the bird. She's an honest sort, unlike some others who make big promises about bein' a worshipper and then go and get emancipated."
"And don't start on the slave crap," Xander added. Unfortunately, the distraction gave Willow time to beat them to the phone. Jack could only shake his head at them. This was the crack team who had been foiling magical plots to end the world for three or four years now. God, some things he really wished he could just unknow. This would be one.
"The General does have one other suggestion," Jack said casually, but Spike narrowed his eyes and glared. "He suggests we make a mutual protection treaty of sorts. If we run into trouble, like the Goa'uld flying in here with a fleet of mother ships, you'll give us a hand, and if you get into trouble, like an ancient goddess trying to suck your brains and open a portal to hell, you can call us."
The three sat in silence, looking at him, and Willow had even stopped dialing.
"Um, that's a good offer, but I'm thinking we're getting the better end of that deal, and the last time I got the better end of a deal was when I bought Uncle Rory's car, and the engine fell out of it after about two hundred miles," Xander said slowly.
"You're amazing fighters, all of you," Jack said honestly. "And from what little you've said, your friends must be incredible. If the planet is in genuine danger, I'd like to think I could count on you to help," Jack explained. He didn't point out that the thought of them handling apocalypses and demons alone made him want to keep them all in here while he took a nuclear bomb to California.
"I'd show up for world-endage. I'd get my ass kicked, more likely than not, but I'd show up," Xander nodded. "We'll talk to the others."
"That's all we can ask for," Jack agreed. He hadn't expected more than that. "The guard will still be outside the door since I trust Spike as far as I can throw him, but come sundown, you'll be on your way." Leaving the three of them to call home and pack, Jack headed out into the hall.
"Have they agreed to ally themselves with us?" Teal'c asked.
"They agreed to think about it," Jack said as he headed for Daniel's office. Teal'c fell in step beside him.
"They are warriors, they will agree," Teal'c announced with certainty.
"I hope so," Jack said. "I'm getting too old for this shit, and I'd like to think there were people that good ready to save the planet when my knees are too arthritic to bend any more."
"That day is many years away, Colonel O'Neill."
"What day?" Daniel asked as he came out of a storeroom, his arms straining with books as he headed for his main office. Jack held the door open.
"The day when Colonel O'Neill is physically crippled." Teal'c answered.
"Oh, I don't know, he's getting awfully grey and forgetting to turn in reports. Senility and crutches can't be far behind," Daniel said seriously. He dropped the stack on his desk and pushed his glasses back up on his nose as he smirked.
"Don't start with me, Danny-boy," Jack warned. "I'll give you a wedgy that you'll be picking at for the next week."
"A wedgy?" Teal'c asked curiously.
"Oh, let me demonstrate," Jack offered gleefully as he advanced toward Daniel. Danny backed away, holding up a hand to ward Jack off.
"Don't you dare," he warned. Jack laughed and lunged forward. Daniel dodged, and the chase was on. Yep, life was back to normal at the SGC.