AN: You guys have got to be the most helpful readers ever! I got
nearly twenty offers from people. Many, many thanks- many of you
will be hearing from me in the future, I'm sure. :) And yes, I'm
off to answer reviews from the last two chapters now...
If you're ever looking for some crossover wallpapers- check out my
site. I have Buffy, Stargate, and some Buffy/SG1 crosses...
Standard disclaimers apply.
**************** Trick-Or-Treat: Chapter Twelve *****************
"What do you think, kids?" They were sprawled in various positions
around Carter's lab as they discussed SG-1's newest puzzle- one
highly classified Alexander Lavelle Harris. "There's something fishy
going on and we all know it because no one is red-taped like he is
without good reason."
Carter frowned. "NID, sir? Could he be rogue?"
Jack echoed her frown at the suggestion, not willing to dismiss it
but wanting to. Somehow he just didn't see a one eyed construction
worker from Cleveland who worked in a Home for emancipated minors
being a part, no matter how distantly, of nefarious NID operations.
"Not even an option," Daniel stated empathetically. Oh really? Why
the ever living hell not? The three of them turned to look at their
resident archeologist and linguist. Teal'c even raised a brow.
Daniel, hands weaving and waving through the air distractingly,
continued to explain like the good genius he was. "Xander can't be
NID. Sam, think about it, the statistical probabilities alone are
staggering." Jack preferred to ignore the math himself...
"But if he was a plant," Carter started to argue but Danny cut her
"He couldn't have staged that, Sam. I mean, as evil as the NID can
be, not even they are capable of engineering the escape of a minor
Goa'uld prisoner who chose, out of thousands upon thousands of people
wandering the streets in downtown Cleveland, to try to take over
Carter's eyes flashed dangerously, and Jack winced. The two
brainiacs didn't disagree often but when they did- things got vocal.
And the words just got longer and longer... "Statistical
improbability or not," Sam snapped, "the cold hard facts are that
Xander has a file not even I can hack into. He was involved in some
sort of secret government agency. This can't all be coincidence,
Daniel looked at her solemnly before quietly asking, "Why not? I
mean surely you can concede that Xander can't possibly be a spy!"
Jack waited cautiously to see if he needed to edge away in case
Carter exploded but after careful, if annoyed consideration, she
simply nodded sharply as Daniel beamed. "Spy or not, it doesn't
change the fact that he was still a..."
"Victim," Teal'c supplied softly, drawing the focus of the argument
to him before continuing. "Xander Harris displays many symptoms
common to victims of traumatic experiences. Despite his agreement
to remain with the SGC for the duration of three weeks, he is most
displeased by the honor that necessitated such a response."
Carter and Daniel both shut up at that.
Jack stared at Teal'c, evaluating. "So, you're thinking that Xander
was an unwilling participant in some big, bad, secret experiments or
something?" Teal'c inclined his head slightly. "He is awful damn
jumpy around all of us... It would explain why he might be immune to
the Goa'uld. If the government was testing some new kinds of
drugs..." Jack whistled. "No wonder his file is safeguarded."
"The government likes to hide its skeletons very well," Daniel said
Jack thought darkly of Maybourne and couldn't find it in himself to
refute that statement.
"I still think there's more to it than that," Sam said firmly.
Jack sighed. "Carter, there's probably books more." He stood
reluctantly and reached for the phone in her lab. "Guess its time to
get the cliff notes version, huh?" He dialed the number for Agent Riley
Finn's home and waited as it rang six times before someone answered.
Someone who sounded cute, adorable, and very, very young. "Hallo?"
came the breathless half question.
Jack wondered wildly if he had dialed the wrong number and fought the
inane urge to laugh. "Hello?"
The voice brightened precipitately with his greeting. "Hi!"
His lips twitched despite his best efforts. "Hi."
There was noise in the background, and faint murmurings, before the
little girl's voice spoke again. "Got's ta go. Not supposed to
answer the red phone. Bye!"
Jack's bemused goodbye was still falling from his lips when a no
nonsense female voice came online. "Finn residence."
"Agent Finn?" he asked cautiously.
He could heard, more than necessarily see, the eyes of the speaker
narrow into wary slits. "Which one?"
Jack was starting to feel out of his depth. Who knew top-secret
phone calls could be so complicated... "I'm looking for AGENT Finn."
"Yes, I am aware of that, sir, but there are TWO Agent Finns at this
house. Which ONE are you looking for?"
And Carter and Danny claimed he wasn't stupid. Showed what they
knew. "Oh. Riley Finn. Agent Riley Finn."
"Colonel O'Neill?" clipped the suddenly cold voice with surgical
Oh yeah, WAY out of his depth. "Speaking?"
"You hurt my Husband or my Daughter and I will hunt you down and
kill you. One moment please."
He was guessing this was the other Agent Finn. The one married to
Riley. That would make her, Special Ops with a mother's protective
instinct. Shit- scary stuff. Not that he blamed her. A lot of the
higher ups liked to play rough when it came to blackmail and family
members. Jack would have been the same way for Charlie, if things
had been different. He swallowed the thought, and the emotions that
went with it.
Finally, the right family member! "Present," he drawled, with just
a touch of sarcasm.
Finn sighed, deeply. "My apologies, sir. My... my daughter has
taken too well to playing secretary and my wife, she..."
"Worries?" Jack asked, softening his tone.
Another deep sigh. "Do you blame her?"
"Hell no." Time to get down to business. "So, I take it we're still
"So I assumed."
"Good," Jack said fiercely. "So, now that you've seen what a stellar
specimen of Air Force material I am, care to fill in some very
definite blanks with young Alexander?"
Riley chuckled mirthlessly. "Young Alexander is tough enough to
take on just about anything, even an example of the Air Force's best
Finna chuckled coldly again as Jack fought the urge to sulk. He
hated being left out of things, especially top state secrets. "All
right, fine, you want the dirt? I was involved in a top-secret
"Code name," Jack snapped, falling easily into interrogation mode.
"Classified," Riley replied rapidly in a tone that matched
O'Neill's. "And not classified in a clearance way classified.
Classified because some very, VERY bad shit went down and the people
in charge are desperate to cover their tracks."
That made him pause and consider. The difference Riley had pointed
out was real, and telling in its own way. "How bad?" Jack finally
asked suspiciously. Finn fired off the name of a semi-notorious
Special Ops mission from Iraq that had gone down in a bloody mess
that left a lot of soldiers, and related politicians, dead- not all
from enemy fire alone. He whistled in response. "That bad?"
"Worse. Much, MUCH worse."
This was getting interesting... "And Xander?"
"Civilian. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time when things
started to go downhill and got stuck in the cross-fire."
"Was the cross-fire proverbial?"
A slow burn started in the pit of Jack's stomach as Finn answered,
voice haunted. "I wish. He's one of the only reasons any of us made
it out alive."
"How many made it out?"
Riley Finn uttered a single digit number that made Jack go numb.
He'd been on missions like that. He knew what they could do to you.
How badly they could mess you up. Made him better understand, if only
a little, the walls Xander Harris had erected against him and his.
Made Jack understand why the sharp kid hid behind a ready wit and
carefree smile. "I need to know that Xander will be okay, Colonel
O'Neill. I owe him. My men owe him." Their lives, their honor.
Jack understood all too damn well, even without the specifics.
"He's agreed to stick around for a few weeks. I'm not going to kick
him out before, Agent Finn, he could be important to our mission.
But Xander won't come to harm here, not from any of my men."
"And how many men working on your project are outside of your
Jack respected him for having the balls to ask that question. Just
about anyone but himself would be pissed off by it. "Only one and
since he puts up with me, that gives you a fairly good idea of what
kind of man he is."
"Three weeks then, phone calls- even supervised ones- whenever he
wants, and if I find Xander with a scar more than he came to you
with, there'll be hell to pay." Debts to be collected...
"Three weeks?" Jack snapped as the exact knowledge of their time
table occurred to him. "How the hell did you know that?"
Agent Finn snorted. "His friends, his girls, worry. They wanted to
know if they could trust you."
There was a beat of silence. "Well, can they?"
"They damn well better be able to or my head will be on the platter
Jack sincerely hoped that statement was figurative. Remembering the
fierce protectiveness of Xander's little band of pirates, he doubted
it. "I can't not dig, Finn, you know that right?"
Riley paused, and answered awkwardly, "I... I know. I know how these
things work." Jack, somehow, doubted that. The Stargate program was
just a LITTLE outside most people's imaginations. "Just, if you do figure
out how to fill in all those blanks, you can call me. If you need
to. If you can't... can't deal with what you find."
Damnit! Whatever mess Alexander Lavelle Harris had stumbled into was
elevating itself from bad and worse to hellish. "Those scars," Jack
asked harshly, "are they all from what he went through, with your
Agent Finn's voice was reproachful as he replied, voice the most
formal it had been the entire conversation, as all warmth left it.
"Xander's scars are representative of his life choices. Talking
about them to you should be his choice as well. You know how to
Riley Finn hung up on him.
Jack set the phone down in its cradle and glanced around the room at
his team who had avidly monitored his half of the phone conversation.
"Victim. He was a victim."
"Bless you, you are my hero, my knight in shining armor!" Murray
regarded him with bland amusement as the big man settled into the
empty seat at the table, across from a bouncing Xander, and laid the
pack of cards down. "You don't understand, I've been going INSANE
with boredom. Not that I'm not grateful for the comics you lent me-
though I never would have pictured you as a Marvel man, but still,
I'm used to talking to people pretty much twenty-four/seven now and
this whole days of silence thing is killing me."
Murray raised a brow which disappeared under a ridiculous baby blue
cowboy hat but Xander was actually very relieved both for the company
itself, and for the form the company had taken, despite the weird
hats. He'd been in his little basement room for three days. Spike's
visit had been only yesterday, as had Murray's timely arrival of
dinner with old issues of comic books. Reading had kept Xander occupied
for several hours but, if he was honest, as much as he had adapted to
his loss of vision, concentrated reading tended to give him headaches
if he pursued it too long.
Plus he was still wired so tautly with tension he might as well be
fitted onto a bowstring and shot. Between the U.S. government and
the PTB wanting a piece of Cleveland's favorite carpenter he wasn't
sure when all hell was going to break loose and it was making him
antsy. Also, thanks to said tension, Xander was averaging about two
hours of sleep a night. He had a LOT of time to fill as a result.
He could have called the girls again- he knew they would be worried-
but Xander was more concerned with inadvertently slipping and
revealing too much to his highly suspicious, very dangerous by
nature, Air Force hosts.
It was a well-established fact that he would eat his right hand
before jeopardizing the girls.
Aside from the mind numbing boredom though, Murray himself was a cool guy.
Xander wasn't exactly ready to experience any more male bonding
with him, but he liked that the man was so quiet and self-contained.
Murray didn't talk unless he really had something to say and Xander
didn't mind those kinds of silences. Those kinds of silences were
conversations all in their own right. Besides, it really cut down
on the prying questions bullshit, which was nice.
"I have one hour before I must depart Xander Harris."
Xander beamed. "Splendid! Just enough time to get a few good hands
Murray nodded gravely and dealt them both the requisite number of
cards. Xander reached out to pick them up and his fingers
accidentally brushed the larger man's hand. Murray stilled suddenly,
a deathly quiet that Xander had seen a hundred, a million times on
Buffy or any of the other girls before they attacked, and stilled in
response as well.
Brown eyes met brown eyes from across the table and Xander couldn't
quite shake the feeling that something very profound had just
happened- and that he had been left out of the loop on it. Which
was funny, in an upcoming painful death sort of way, because he
didn't have a clue as to what was running through Murray's cowboy
The moment passed suddenly, as quickly has it had come. "Are you in
possession of any sevens?" Murray asked austerely.
Okayyy... they were going for the denial route. He could do that.
Xander tried to ignore his unease and glanced down at the cards he
held. "Go Fish," he replied weakly. The unease returned as Murray
obediently reached for the drawing pile at the center of the table.
The man's left hand was shaking like a frigging leaf.