“Yes, Sir. I understand. Yes, Sir. Happy Holidays to you and your family as well.”
Hammond ended the call and, with a tight smile, sat contemplating the red phone he’d just finished using.
The President had made his decision, and there was nothing he, nor anyone else, could do or say that would alter it.
Glancing at the closed door of his office, George considered the men standing on the other side waiting for his command to enter.
Jack O'Neill and Teal'c. Not only were they two of his best men, but they were also the reason for the unrelenting jackhammers pounding away at his brain.
Transferring his gaze to the ceiling. George leaned back in his chair. Jack’s unforeseen retirement from the Stargate program, and consequently the Air Force, would be official in less than a month. It went without saying that he was having a hard time imagining a day, much less a future, without the man’s exasperating presence in it.
“Why Jack? Why now?” George asked aloud even though he knew the answer.
The young man’s death had affected Jack in ways many of them could not even begin to understand. Work, relationships and life in general had been thoroughly scrutinized and found sadly lacking. Deeply guarded secrets, one in particular that George had already guessed, were openly shared with the truest of friends, and he felt honored to be included amongst those trusted with such.
“Of course, it’s put me in one hell of an awkward situation,” he muttered, “but what else is new?”
Massaging his throbbing temples, George glanced again at the door. ‘New? What else is new? Damn it, Jack. Couldn’t you be like everyone else for once in your life?’
The question had barely formed in his mind when its answer came barreling straight at him. There was nothing normal about Jack O'Neill, nothing normal at all. And if further proof was warranted, the evidence was standing right outside the door in the form of one very determined Jaffa warrior.
George sighed. It was bad enough he was witness to the full disclosure of Jack’s sexuality. Did he really have to know about Teal'c or the fact that both of them were in a relationship with not only each other but two other men as well?
George closed his eyes and shook his head in utter disbelief.
A foursome. Jack and Teal'c were part of a foursome, a ‘gay’ foursome.
The pounding in his head intensified tenfold.
Picking up one of the many papers lying on his desk in front of him, he examined Teal'c’s formal request to live off base. Recent events involving their significant others . . . George searched his memory for the names of the two men.
Gibbs and DiNozzo.
He nodded his head in satisfaction when the names came easily to mind.
NCIS Agents Leroy Gibbs and Anthony DiNozzo.
Recent events involving the two federal agents, specifically young DiNozzo’s brush with death, had convinced Jack it was time to bid Uncle Sam a fond farewell. Time to leave the thrill of exploration to those whose joints didn’t protest every little movement and whose hair hadn’t turned entirely gray. According to Jack, he’d had enough of near misses to last several lifetimes and continuing with his military career just wasn’t worth the risk now that he was in a committed relationship.
George turned and looked at the framed family photographs scattered throughout his office. He could still hear Jack’s voice as he recited the frightening story of his young lover’s illness. The obvious agony in the man’s hushed voice brought back memories of loved ones he, himself, had lost over the years, and it was all George could do to keep his own voice steady while offering words of comfort and understanding.
Teal'c had remained silent during the entire story, and thus had surprised him by extending a hand to join with his when he’d reached out in sympathy and grasped Jack’s. One look at the Jaffa’s expressive eyes as the details of DiNozzo’s lengthy recovery were discussed told him just how important the young man was to Teal'c.
George glanced down at the form submitted to him upon his arrival at the base this morning. Teal'c was seeking permission to live off base permanently. More to the point, he wanted permission to leave the program but still have access to the Stargate. As the fight with the Goa’uld progressed, Teal'c would need to travel off-world in order to assist with the rebellion. The only problem was that he wished to do so as a civilian -- a civilian who just happened to reside in their nation’s capital with his three male lovers.
George pinched the bridge of his nose. Too much information. His brain was overloading on too much information. And now . . . .
He looked at the red phone sitting so innocently on his desk.
The sharing of information, or rather on Jack’s part, the lack of sharing, was the reason for the upcoming meeting. As usual, Jack had neglected to inform the proper authorities of certain changes in his life.
George rolled his eyes. It wasn’t that the bureaucratic paper-pushers needed to know Jack was in a relationship with three other men. Hell, no, he silently exclaimed. Talk about stirring up some shit.
What Jack should have done, was required to do, was to submit the names of any and all non-SG personnel he wished authorized to contact him while on base. All calls went through the base’s main switchboard and if a person’s name wasn’t on the list of secure contacts, then that person was, without exception, denied access.
Checking the call sheets for the day DiNozzo fell ill, George had discovered a total of fifteen calls from Gibbs, all within a six hour time span. The man must have been at wit’s end. No wonder he’d sought help elsewhere.
George grimaced in sympathy. He would have done the same considering the circumstances.
Picking up a pen, he made a note to research Gibbs’ background a bit more thoroughly. He already had the man’s file on his desk, but nothing in it indicated a connection to Harry Maybourne.
A deliberate growl of frustration rose in the back of his throat, and George did nothing to silence it.
Colonel Harry Maybourne was one royal pain in the ass and had, on more than one occasion, made their lives at the SGC a living hell. Even now the sneaky bastard was sticking his nose in where it didn’t belong and had, subsequently, revealed top-secret information to Jack and Teal'c’s respective partners.
George forcibly opened his clenched fists. The reason for Maybourne’s treasonous stupidity was beyond his comprehension, and even if he did manage to somehow figure out the convoluted workings of the man’s brain, it didn’t matter. The damage had been done. As required, the incident involving Maybourne was reported to their Commander-in-Chief, and because the President was now pissed as hell, Teal'c’s request had been unequivocally denied.
“This is not my day,” George muttered as he rose to his feet.
Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and instructed, “Come in, gentlemen.” Jack entered first, followed quickly on his heels by Teal'c.
Striding back to his desk, George pretended not to notice the love bite on Jack’s neck that was barely hidden by the collar of his jacket.
“Sit down.” The words came out a little more brusque than necessary but considering the image that had taken shape in his mind, that of Teal'c sucking on Jack’s throat, it was a wonder he could speak at all.
George waited until both men had taken their seats before resuming his. “I’ve spoken to the President regarding the situation and to say that he’s not happy in the least is an understatement.”
“Harry’s in hot water, eh?” O'Neill asked with a smug smile on his face.
George answered with his own concurring smile. “The President has issued orders to apprehend Maybourne at all costs. You could say our former colleague is now the most wanted man on the planet.”
O'Neill rubbed his hands while Teal'c solemnly nodded his head. “Can’t wait to see the look on ole Harry’s face when the Feds slap the cuffs on him.”
“That is a sight we will have to miss, O'Neill,” Teal'c stated. “As civilians we will no longer have the necessary clearance to view such events unless, of course, they are publicly broadcasted on one of your nation’s many news channels. I, myself, prefer CNN. Anderson Cooper is not only highly intelligent but as you are fond of saying, O'Neill, the man is ‘easy on the eyes.’”
George felt his grin slide completely off his face, and he was not the only one to notice it.
“Sir?” His forehead creased with worry, O'Neill leaned forward. “What’s wrong?”
“General Hammond?” Teal'c also leaned forward in his chair. “Am I to assume my request has met with your superior’s disapproval?”
His reply died a quick death when eyes burning with fierce intensity caught and held him in place.
Teal'c stood and slowly placed his arms behind his back. “I formally request safe passage through the Stargate for both myself and my mate, Anthony DiNozzo.” He stalled Jack’s protests with a firm grip to his shoulder then immediately relaxed his grip when the man grunted in pain.
“I apologize for causing you discomfort, my friend,” Teal'c apologized.
The Jaffa’s gentle tone hardened into one of steel, and George forced himself not to flinch when it was directed at him.
“I have sacrificed much in order to assist your government in the fight against the Goa’uld,” Teal'c declared. “I left my home, abandoned my wife and son, suffered injuries too numerous to recite. I expect you to honor my years of voluntary service by allowing me to leave as requested.”
Teal'c’s gaze turned hostile. “Or do you plan to hold me hostage for the remainder of my years?”
The Jaffa placed one hand on either side of George’s desk and leaned forward. “You are an honorable man, General Hammond. It would cause me great displeasure to fight you.”
George carefully inched his chair away from the desk when Teal'c leaned in closer and whispered a threat that was anything but idle.
“And know this,” the dark-skinned warrior warned. “It is a fight you won’t win. I *will* leave this place, and my mate *will* be at my side when I do so.”
“Now wait one darn minute.” George shoved back his chair and stood. Threats, whether genuine or not, did not bode well with him. “Sit down, Teal'c.” he commanded. “You too, Jack.”
O'Neill had assumed flank position when Teal'c made his move. Not only that but he looked about as determined if not more so than his colleague to take up the challenge.
“No one is going anywhere,” George corrected. “Yes, the President has denied your request to live in D.C. on a permanent basis. He feels it’s too much of a security risk, and I agree. The citizens of this country just aren’t ready to have an alien living amongst them, no matter how opened-minded they think they are.” He raised a hand when both men moved to speak. “However, since I’m not the heartless bastard you two believe me to be---”
“Hey, hold on. It wasn’t me who---”
George waved them to silence. “As I was saying, I’ve given this matter a great deal of thought and am prepared to offer your . . . .” Closing his eyes briefly, he searched for the correct word to describe Teal'c’s lover. What was the PC term being used nowadays? Domestic partner? Life companion? Significant other?
George again rubbed his throbbing temples. “Thanks to Maybourne, both your . . . umm, partners have full disclosure of this facility. And because I can’t undo what’s already been done, nor can I disobey a direct order from the President, I’m therefore offering yours,” he glanced at Teal'c, “a position here on base. There is a vacancy with our own internal investigative services, one that I’m sure DiNozzo is more than qualified for. As to living arrangements . . . .”
George took a closer look at Teal'c and silently breathed a sigh of relief when he noted the bloodthirsty gleam fading from the man’s obsidian eyes. Clearing his throat, he continued with his proposal. “Of course, DiNozzo would be issued his own private quarters if he should so desire to live on base. However,” George glanced briefly at Jack hoping the man would catch the hint he was about to offer, “if DiNozzo happened to own a home here locally, I do believe there would be no objections to you spending time with him on the weekends.”
He pinned Teal'c with a look that dared the man to argue. “And, if those two day passes should somehow extend to three or even four days, then so be it. I don’t think the President would object, especially if the two of you continue working for the SGC *and* conduct yourselves in the proper manner.”
George ignored the elbow jab and teasing grin Jack aimed at Teal'c.
“Obviously,” he announced loud enough to recapture his men’s wandering attention, “all of this hinges on DiNozzo being cleared by security. From what I’ve seen, his record is clean, his performance evaluations above average. I foresee no problems in that area.”
Finished with his announcement, George resumed his seat and was somewhat caught by surprise when his words weren’t met with the appropriate expressions of gratitude he’d expected.
“Crap! This is not what we expected.” O'Neill turned to Teal'c. “Why did you let Jethro talk us into this harebrain idea?”
“O'Neill,” Teal'c firmly corrected, “I do not believe it was Gibbs who suggested we---”
“Whatever.” Raking a hand through his hair, O'Neill sighed loud and long. “You can’t leave. That’s a given. We gotta stick together, no matter what.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned. “Jethro’s so not going to like this. You know how attached to Tony he is.”
“As it is with you,” Teal'c replied. “I believe you will miss our youngest lover more than Gibbs.”
“Well, Tony is one fine specimen of manhood, not to mention he gives a hell of a bl---”
Cheeks flaming with embarrassment, Jack clamped his mouth shut, leaving George to wonder exactly what task DiNozzo was good at.
“Um, well, you know what I mean,” O'Neill mumbled. Standing suddenly, he repeatedly paced the entire length of the room. “It goes without saying that you two can have my house. I was gonna put it on the market now that Jethro’s bought---” Turning on his heel, he again faced his partner and cursed. “Damn it, Teal'c. Jethro just bought that big honking house thinking we’d all be together. How in the hell are we gonna afford the notes on it?”
Glancing sideways at his commander, O'Neill frowned. “Sorry, sir, but to be honest, the program’s retirement package sucks big time.”
“No offense taken,” George answered.
“I believe I have the answer, O'Neill,” Teal'c offered.
“What’s that?” Returning to his chair, O'Neill sat down and stared gloomily at the floor.
“I am confident Tony will comply with General Hammond’s proposal,” Teal'c ascertained. “His subsequent resignation will create a vacancy within Gibbs’ team. Might I suggest you apply for that position?”
George hid the grin that came from seeing the expression of complete and utter shock on Jack’s face.
“Me?” O'Neill croaked. “Work for Jethro? Have you lost your mind?”
“I have, in no way, misplaced my intelligence.” Teal'c laid his hand high on Jack’s thigh and squeezed. “O'Neill, do not dismiss my suggestion, not until you consider the opportunities such a position will present to you and your mate. Opportunities for . . . .”
Leaning to the side, Teal’c whispered something George could not hear. Whatever it was clinched the dispute.
An incredibly familiar look of wickedness had settled upon Jack’s face, and suddenly George was praying for the continued well-being of one Jethro Leroy Gibbs.
“You are one devious bastard,” O'Neill happily admitted while slapping Teal'c on the back. “Good thing I keep you around. Would never have thought of that.”
Teal'c denied his colleague’s claim. “I refuse to accept such a statement, O'Neill. Your mind is much more devious than mine, and will, no doubt, devise opportunities that not even Gibbs can anticipate.”
O'Neill agreed with a smile of extreme smugness. “You’re right, of course. Jethro won’t know what hit him.”
George allowed his men to banter back and forth for another minute or two. Finally, when the conversation threatened more information than he was comfortable knowing, he ended the meeting.
“I’ll expect to see you and your respective partners at my home one week from this Saturday. DiNozzo’s security check should be complete by then and well,” George looked down at his desk and again cleared his throat, “I would appreciate meeting both him and Gibbs.”
“Want to check our boys out? Place your seal of approval on ‘em, is that it?” O'Neill questioned.
“Something like that, yes,” George gruffly answered. It was hell being a father figure to his men.
Standing, he ignored Teal'c’s knowing lift of the eyebrow and escorted both to the door. “I’ll see the two of you at this afternoon’s briefing. Colonel Cameron Mitchell has agreed to take your place, Jack, and will be meeting with you and the other members of your team later today. I expect you to extend the utmost respect and courtesy to the man.”
O'Neill offered a lazy, somewhat insolent, salute of compliance. “Sir, I’m offended you would suggest such a thing. When have I not been respectful and courteous to others?”
George was ready with an immediate comeback but was beaten to the punch by Teal'c.
“There are not enough hours left in this day for an accounting of all such occurrences,” the Jaffa warrior intoned. “I will, however, do my best to refresh your memory with the most recent ones. For instance, do you not recall your conversation with Senator Kinsey on the subject of your incarceration for the . . . .”
George shook his head as he watched the two arguing men disappear down the corridor. Maybe he wasn’t going to miss Jack as much as he originally thought he was.
Of course he was.
End of chapter 14
Disclaimer: This work is not intended as an infringement upon the rights of those that own these characters and is meant solely for non-profit entertainment purposes only.