Getting to Know You
Part VIII: Getting to Know You
One by one, the members of the “Scooby Gang” found unoccupied seats at the table, Tara seeming quite at ease next to Teal’c. Willow, after a slightly more wary look at Teal’c, took the seat on the other side of the blond Wiccan. Food was offered and eaten, SG-1 appearing to enjoy breakfast equally as much as the Scoobies… yet, the entire meal was eaten in an eerie silence, the only noise being the clink of silverware on plates and drinks being poured into glasses. No one spoke so much as a single word until the meal was finished and the dishes put in the dishwasher.Of course,
Xander realized, that might have something to do with the less-than-stellar introductions at the beginning of the meal. “Jack, Sam, Daniel, Murray, these are my friends. Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Tara, Giles… this is Jack, Sam, Daniel and Murray. I’ll chime in with more information once we’ve had something to eat. Until then, will it be that hard for everyone here to be civil?” Naturally, in the paranoia that’s running rampant this morning, everyone figured that the only way to be civil was to say nothing. Joy.
Table washed and dried, Xander turned back to his guests – both friends and hopeful allies – mentally squared his shoulders, and readied himself for the chaos that would most likely follow. “Everyone comfy here or would you prefer the living room?” It didn’t take much for him to notice the almost-telepathic level of communication between the members of SG-1… but then, it could be said that he’d been there when it was first developing. He couldn’t keep himself from being impressed at how the four had solidified as a team. Xander would lay odds that if one were to split them up and assign them to different commands, they could be reassigned together ten years from now and know that they would still be a team, in the deepest sense of the word. It was a rarity that reassured him.
Xander wagered that the team would request to stay where they were. After all, the table had a direct view of three different exits; the living room only had line-of-sight to two.
Granted, he wouldn’t have won much betting against himself, but they did choose the table. Now for the hard part.
“Alrighty, campers” – shit, I shouldn’t have used that phrase
– “it’s time for full introductions. The dangerous as hell gentleman with the salt-and-pepper hair at the end of the table is US Air Force Colonel Jonathon “Jack” O’Neill – with two ‘L’s. Apparently, the other one doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. Next to him is his second in command, Dr. Major Samantha Carter. Willow, I have the feeling you and she could find quite a bit to talk about. She tends to add dimensions to the term “genius” and excels in accomplishing the supposedly impossible. Next to Major Carter, we have Dr. Daniel Jackson…” Please don’t let Willow recognize… damn. I can see it. She knows exactly who he is and is making connections no one wants her to make right now. Just stay quiet for a little while longer, Wills… please?
Xander took a deep breath and continued the introductions, praying that his best friend wouldn’t interrupt him. “Dr. Daniel Jackson, incomparable linguist and civilian consultant to the Air Force. In between Jackson and Tara is Murray, another civilian consultant to the Air Force, though I really couldn’t tell you his specialty.” And, it’s time for another deep breath.
“Now for the hard part. Both of our groups have secrets. I know this and so does everyone else in the room. The Colonel and his team – I would suspect – already know most of ours. I know a fair amount of theirs, and I’m pretty sure that some people in this room are making a few connections of their own. Here’s the question: Seeing as we’ve got a situation that impacts all of us, how much is going to be laid on the table in regards to background?”
Harris doesn’t waste much time getting to the point, does he? I like that. I haven’t seen much of this place, but what I have seen shows a good grasp of tactics. There’s always more than one way out. Smart. Wanting to make sure his people are covered in case the shit flies by making sure both groups have an equal amount of blackmail material on each other. Also smart. Good thing the CIC gave us approval for a little tell-all session… and Hammond reminded me to pack the right forms… in triplicate.
“We don’t know anywhere near what we should know about your little group, Harris. I’d like to get my hands on whoever wrote those reports and drag them in to get their eyes checked. The Initiative seemed to be selectively blind when it came to certain people in this room.”
Harris stopped just short of openly rolling his eyes. “I’ll take a wild guess that someone thought I ranked somewhere between ‘couldn’t take a wet kitten in a fight’ and ‘don’t trust him at your back – he might shoot you?’”
“Something like that. How’d you guess?”
“Riley’s boys never did seem to be able to account for my survival. Since I never showed them any sign that I actually knew what I was doing, they presumed someone else was looking out for me and I was just there to get the doughnuts. That, quite frankly, is exactly how I wanted it.”
“Buffy, I’m not telling them anything yet that they wouldn’t have realized from looking at the reports and using their own eyes. Besides, they have enough problems of their own to handle and would most likely prefer to leave other issues to other experts; in the case of lovely, scenic Sunnydale... that would be us. You know as well as I do that misdirection is sometimes the greatest form of defense. Riley’s boys believed that no ‘normal’ person without military training could be a threat, and in large part held that belief to the last. They also thought technology could solve all problems. We saw where that got them.”Yeah, so did we. Nice little video the General made us watch before we left the base, just so we’d believe what we read in the files. ADAM gives me the willies.
“It’s true, you know. The Initiative files did tell us a hell of a lot… but not enough. It’s also quite clear, Harris, that you really haven’t
told your friends what you know about our work… makes me feel a little better when it comes to deciding whether or not you’re a serious security risk. However, our C.O. – infinitely more intelligent than myself – had the wisdom to gain clearance for everyone in your group. We brought the forms – you sign them, and we can at least tell you the basics that everyone else on base would know.”
“Why can’t we know everything that your team specifically would know?”Interesting to see that look of pain go across Harris’ face – almost looked like Hammond for a second… like he could benefit from a couple dozen Tylenol. More specifically, it looks like me trying to explain something military to Daniel… during the first year. He’s much better now.
“That’s where we get into ‘Chain of Command’ and National Security Issues, Buff.” Please, don’t let anyone lose control. M.G.’s not having a lot of fun at this little conference, I can tell you. Buffy and Jack both with ‘Alpha’ personalities, and Buffy trying to get all the information she can get her hands on… even when her time dating Riley should have let her know that some things stay secret regardless of all other concerns. This is going to be fun.
“The entire base cannot know everything that O’Neill’s team is cleared to know, just like O’Neill’s team isn’t cleared to know everything that O’Neill knows, O’Neill isn’t cleared to know everything his C.O. knows, and his C.O. isn’t cleared to know everything the President knows. They’re offering to tell us the equivalent of what they already know about us, so that we can be on equal footing and actually work together.”So much for taking care of the Goa’uld first. I should have known this discussion would have to take priority. Hell, I don’t know any other way to convince O’Neill that at least some of us have to go in with him, just to make sure SG-1 doesn’t become a “Sunnydale Special” before they even get to Ishtar. Please, God, let this conversation be over soon. Yeah, who am I kidding? I’m not that lucky.
One deep breath later, Xander began again. “Ok, now comes the hard part… figuring out how to start the information trade. Who wants to go first?” I wouldn’t mind a hand here from someone else who might be willing to deal with this… or at least help.
“Don’t we have some nifty little forms to sign?” Never thought bureaucracy and the death of a forest would make for a good ice breaker.
The forms were passed out to the entire Scooby Gang, Giles and Xander taking the time to actually read them in their entirety before signing. Willow, Xander noticed, seemed to read the forms… and then look to him, taking in all factors before making her decision. She appeared to decide that nothing in these forms was any more restricting than the non-disclosure forms signed when “The Initiative” was scrapped.
Forms signed and handed to Dr. Jackson, Xander locked his gaze with the Colonel’s, certain the Spec Ops specialist knew the thought behind that gaze. Your move, Colonel.
~~~~~~~~And, here we go. Where to start?
“Everyone’s put their names on their papers and handed them to the professor? Good.” At most, the comment gained a few involuntary giggles from one or two of the girls… and the look from Harris was beginning to unnerve him. He knows what I’m doing, knows far too much about me for my peace of mind. Who the hell is this kid?
Shaking off the feeling of unease, O’Neill took one last look at all of those gathered around the table before beginning his speech, wondering – at least in part – if he should have passed this task over to Danny. Explaining the Stargate was part of the Spacemonkey’s strength, after all. Yet, the Colonel found himself shaking his head in response to Daniel’s unspoken question.
“In 1928, during an archaeological dig at Giza…”
One long, but concise explanation later, Willow found herself – for once – stunned speechless. This defies the babble.
Granted, she had been making connections since the moment she heard the name ‘Dr. Daniel Jackson,’ and she had the feeling Xander knew that, but she hadn’t quite believed them until now. Aren’t demons enough? Now, we have to battle aliens with delusions of godhood? And they don’t take over corpses, but actual people and we’d be trapped and seeing everything they did but not be able to do anything about it and… Ok, Willow, calm down. There are obviously ways to fight them, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The human race would already be enslaved… or would still be enslaved… whichever.
But… who did our race annoy to have to deal with aliens and demons at the same time?
Willow’s eyes caught Tara’s and watched as the other witch seemed to take in every little bit of information being revealed at the table. What she planned to do with it, Willow had no idea, but at least she was involving herself in what was happening, which was better than Tara had been right after Glory died. There were days when Willow wasn’t certain Tara had come back to them completely. She’d been a quiet person even before the Hellgoddess raped her mind, but now… now Willow blessed the days when the other witch said even so much as a single word. And she had no idea how to help Tara other than simply to be there with her. After all, how would anyone go about explaining the Glory situation to a psychiatrist without earning a nice, long stay in a room with padded walls? I don’t know what to do… but… at least her mind’s in the room with the rest of us. And… and she’s not afraid of Murray… and that’s a good. Right?
Shaking those thoughts out of her head for the moment, Willow turned her attention back to the main event.
Looks like it’s back to me... especially since the Scoobs seem too shocked to ask questions at the moment. That – quite frankly – is a little too Hellmouthy for even me to deal with right away. Shocked silent Scoobies are not of the good. Well, maybe by the time I get the Sunnydale side of the explanations over and done, everyone will be recovered enough for a little Q and A. Here goes nothing.
“Ok, from our end. I know you’ve seen the Initiative reports. That means you know about demons and the Slayer, and the existence of magic. But... you don’t know how I know about you.”
“Well, we still need to fill in a few gaps in Initiative records, but that was my main question for the moment, yeah.” O’Neill’s voice was steady, as expected, with its usual hint of sarcasm. Xander found the familiarity reassuring. Even if his ears had never actually heard that voice before his phone call to the SGC, the fact that he ‘remembered’ this man could do little other than ease the path of the conversation at this point. Besides, even if he wanted to, it was too late to turn back now.
“My knowledge of the SGC is – in its entirety – the result of what happens when you combine used fatigues and a chaos mage determined to turn everyone into his or her Halloween costume – everyone in this case being those unfortunate enough to purchase even the smallest part of a costume from his shop. In my case, it was nothing more than a simple plastic rifle.”
Xander could practically see the thoughts scrolling through O’Neill’s brain, knowing almost to the instant when he would ask the inevitable question. “The fatigues... whose were they?”
“You catch on very quickly, Colonel. But then, I wouldn’t have expected anything else. The person I dressed as that night knew you too well. The irony here is that if the fatigues had been surplus instead of used, I would have been nothing more than a run-of-the-mill noncom. Instead, I end up with a damn good teacher inside my head, who knows you too well for either your peace of mind, or – I would wager – General Hammond’s.”
Xander’s eyes met Dawn’s as he asked her to retrieve the box from where it sat on the coffee table in the living room. When she brought it back and set it on the dining room table, Xander couldn’t bring himself to open it immediately. The depths to which he had come to know Louis Ferretti had been his secret for too many years for him to want to so easily reveal it now. But there’s nothing easy about it. Doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be done anyway. Besides, there are greater concerns than just this one Goa’uld, and I know it. What would happen if Ethan learned about this aspect of the spell? If someone learned about it who decided he wanted to be the President for the night? Or – God forbid – General Hammond, complete with current command codes and ability to wreak havoc with them before anyone would be able to figure out they weren’t dealing with the real thing? There’s no guarantee they’d be able to do any such thing, but the possibility needs to be dealt with. Still doesn’t make it easy.
Opening the box, Xander took a second to run gentle fingers over those too-familiar fatigues before removing the notebook and placing it in front of O’Neill. “His name’s on the back cover. Look it over, and you’ll be able to figure out pretty easily what I do and do not know. While you’re doing that, I’ll get some more coffee, then we can handle any questions you need to throw at us, and – somewhere in there – figure out something resembling a battle plan.”
Jack knew that the kid’s stint as an SGC officer had had a deep impact on his life, could tell from Xander’s reluctance to open that box that he wasn’t particularly keen on sharing what he’d gone through... but he’d opened the box anyway. O’Neill had to admire the kid’s ability to keep a secret, and his ability to recognize when the situation would call for him to reveal that secret. Harris has good judgment... knows what he can handle and when to call for help.
On top of all that, he hadn’t missed the almost reverent brush of youthful fingers against the used fatigues. It wasn’t how one would normally react to seeing a set of fatigues that had once been theirs, and that told him quite a bit about the kid. It told him that even though Xander had been
this person for a night, he didn’t think of the two of them as interchangeable. The kid thinks of the officer as an old friend, a teacher, a brother... and the fatigues are all he has left of him. Hell.
He knew how Harris felt, because he’d lost more than a few friends along the way, with nothing but memories – and a few pictures – remaining.
And he knew, when he opened that notebook, that he would feel loss again, because it was all too obvious that the fatigues had belonged to someone who knew Jack O’Neill far too well to have just been an acquaintance. Once he opened the notebook, and saw the name written there, O’Neill stopped comprehending the chatter taking place around him, though he could still hear it. Even after the mental discussion with himself, this was one name he hadn’t been expecting to see.Ferretti, Louis (Maj. – USAF)