Heightened Security

Sam didn't know how they had let themselves get talked into this. She subtly jabbed her elbow into the colonel's side, giving him a non-verbal that she was feeling a bit shut in. The cost of fuel and care for the environment be damned, she thought Janet needed to get a bigger vehicle. It would have been better if they had just asked General Hammond to do this particular task. He was Texan, not that short, and he knew the importance of legroom. He had an SUV.
"Doc, can't you go a little faster? This is bad for my knees," the colonel said.
"I don't think you should be complaining. You're behind Janet. You've got miles. I've got the hump," Sam groused.
"I believe neither of you have cause to voice your dissension in this matter."
Sam switched her focus to Teal'c, who looked at her dolefully, then shot a look up to the passenger in the front seat. For a guy who wasn't that much taller than her, Daniel had incredibly long legs and he had the seat back as far as it would go. He was, apparently, oblivious to the poor scrunched Jaffa behind him. She reached up to poke Janet again, and received another vehement headshake for her trouble. Rolling her eyes, Sam let it slide. They were almost there, anyway. Janet's territoriality over Daniel could be questioned after they got back.
"Uh oh," Janet said.
"Uh oh, what?" the colonel asked. "Or don't I want to know?"
Sam stared with horror at the sea of red taillights on the road ahead of them. The temptation to call a Chinese Fire Drill nearly overwhelmed her; she knew she could take the colonel for a better seat. A low hum sounded through the car as Janet slowed down. It took her several seconds to realize the noise came from within the vehicle, not as a result of tires against asphalt. Beside her, Teal'c went from mildly tense to hard as a rock. She didn't need any other information to know he was the source of the hum...growl. She gave Daniel a tiny pinch on the back of his arm.
"Ow...hey," Daniel yelped, turning slightly to give her hurt puppy dog eyes. Sam felt a twinge of remorse and then immediately thought she might have figured out how he had got the nice, spacious front. "Sam, what did you do that for?"
"If we're stuck in traffic, I think you should either switch with Teal'c or move your seat up," Sam said.
"What?" Daniel twisted to look at Teal'c's crowded form. "Why didn't you say anything? I didn't realize."
The colonel snorted in her ear, then muttered something Sam couldn't make out. She didn't figure anyone was supposed to hear, but it sounded disparaging. Teal'c gave a bare smile, signaling he had heard and agreed with the mysterious remark. The front seat jerked forward.
"Mind sharing that out loud, Jack?" Daniel asked, hurt puppy eyes now blazing bolts. Sam smiled and sat back to enjoy the show.
"Not at all. I said: of course you didn't realize, you're too fixated on your fantastic little idea to notice you're torturing the rest of us."
Ouch. Sam couldn't disagree, though she still thought they each had come culpability. After all, they could have said no.
"Torture?" Uh oh. Daniel had adopted a confused and cautious tone. Classic warning sign.
"We're riding in a tiny tin can in order to get on a big tin can. Even with Shorty driving, I'm crowded. Carter's jammed into a spot usually reserved for kids or people with extraordinarily little legs. And Teal'c, until a few moments ago, looked like a sardine. He's still looking mighty uncomfortable. So, yes, torture."
"Shorty?" Janet said. Oooh, trouble. "Tin can? I think someone has forgotten who's in charge of his next physical."
"Aw, Doc, give me a break. Carter keeps elbowing me. It's hot in here. And, yes, I'm annoyed because I really don't think I've 'gotten out of touch with the real world' like Daniel seems to believe."
"I just think if we're going to travel for reasons unrelated to the Air Force, we should fly commercial like everyone else does. Teal'c's never even been on anything but a military plane," Daniel shot back. "If you really didn't want to do this, why didn't you say something before?"
Exactly, Sam thought wryly.
"Uh," said the colonel, appearing unable to shore up an articulate response. Actually, he looked embarrassed.
Sam knew, then, that the colonel had been a victim of the puppy eyes. But 'puppy eyes' wasn't an accurate description of Daniel at his most imploring. Thing was, she was pretty sure Daniel didn't even know he could magically turn his teammates and random strangers into worthless puddles of goo just by looking at them with enthusiasm and certainty. It wasn't his fault. He hadn't orchestrated this whole ordeal; he wanted them to experience something normal for a change. There was nothing wrong with that.
"O'Neill made reference to not having the desire to bur - " Sam played dirty, aiming for Teal'c's midsection with all her force. Daniel would not appreciate the inference he was in any way getting special treatment. " - Oof. Major Carter, why have you attacked me in such a manner?"
"Carter?"
"Sam?"
"Sam?"
Great, now she looked like the bad guy.
"If the colonel's crowded, I'm crammed," Sam muttered, cringing at the defensiveness she heard in her words. "It was an accident."
"It was not," Teal'c declared.
The car crawled along, stopped for a brief moment, then rolled forward again. Sam cursed rubberneck drivers who just had to stare at someone else's calamity or construction or whatever; they were making her life miserable. Everyone else in the car stared at her. She cleared her throat. She had to think of a way to get the attention off her. Why the hell had she re-routed Daniel and the colonel's argument?
"Look, we're going to be in the car for longer than any of us really counted on. I just think we should try to make the best of it." There, that was valid.
"What do you have in mind, Carter? A sing-along?"
"One big happy," Daniel chimed in. "No, she's right, Jack. If we can't even make the car ride to the airport, how are we going to take the next week at the cabin? Going there was your idea. If you hadn't suggested that, then I wouldn't have suggested taking a commercial flight."
A fair point. Satisfied the attention was back where it should be, Sam sat back and kept her eyes on the traffic situation, her ears on the continuing argument. This particular case was a bit like the classic chicken/egg quandary - in the end, it didn't really matter which came first
"For your information, Hammond ordered us to attend one of those team-building seminars," the colonel said. "You know, the ones where you have to build a tower using only five paperclips, a folding chair, two soda bottles, masking tape and pure creative teamwork. The ones usually under the guidance of someone with a showy name like Dr. Lex Baumgarten or something."
"Team-building," Daniel scoffed. "We've been together for years and General Hammond is just now thinking we need to work on our rapport with each other?"
"Exactly. We work just fine. He said the brass are concerned about how stressful the job is, and the impact that might have on us. The rest of the teams have to do it, too. Hammond made it clear we're not exempt. I offered a week at the lake together as an alternative, which he approved. You should thank me."
"My gratitude will be given only if I survive the insects, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"You're never going to forgive me for taking you to the cabin in August, are you? It's June. Minnesota is like heaven in June. Trust me, this will be better than a stupid seminar," the colonel announced.
Sam forgot she was just going to listen. "Actually, sir, it's been proven that those 'stupid seminars' help people think outside the box, foster respect and understanding for one another, and become more productive and happy. A fishing trip will make Teal'c miserable, Daniel bored, and will cause speculation on whether or not I'm actually fishing with my three male teammates. I don't quite see how this is better."
"What?"
"You're besmirching my good name, Colonel."
"I am not." The denial was adamant, the colonel's face horrified. "You're a member of my team, that's all. All for one and one for...okay, not a really good clich to use."
"She's got a point, Jack."
Sam didn't know why Daniel was suddenly on her side, but she didn't care. She looked at the colonel smugly.
"Wait a minute," her CO said, glaring. "If you're so concerned about your honor, why didn't you mention this before?"
Oh, look, they'd spun around in another circle. Years ago, Sam had lamented not being 'one of the guys', being on the outside no matter what. Somewhere along the way she had gotten her wish, so much so that until she'd started chewing the colonel out, she hadn't even thought about the inappropriateness of cavorting off to a cabin in the woods with three men. Three men she knew were very attractive, even if they were simply her friends. Major or not, she was a red-blooded woman in her thir...for...in the prime of her life.
"Because," Sam said.
"Because? Oh, that's a good -"
"Okay, we're here," Janet announced, interrupting the colonel. "Everyone out."
Sam blinked and looked out Teal'c's window. Janet had double-parked in the unloading zone and there were people hustling and bustling out of vehicles and through sliding glass doors. No, she hadn't missed this kind of travel - not the elbow smacking, personal space invasion, bad breath or the grouchiness. Annoyance at Daniel sparked up again, coupled with a desire for time to speed up so they could get the trip over with. She scrambled out after the colonel, following him to the trunk. He pulled out her bag and handed it to her.
"Carter, if you think you shouldn't go, it's okay," he said. "I don't want something as trivial as this cause a problem."
"What are the other teams doing?" Sam said, wondering how the team-building thing had come about without her knowledge. SG1 was always in on everything.
"Off site week-long seminar."
"So, basically the same thing as this, except they're all going together somewhere." You know, she was kind of glad to escape that.
"Couldn't this be considered preferential treatment?" Daniel mused. Sam jumped, startled by how close he had gotten to her. "I'm going to get so much flak from the rest of the archaeology and linguistics staff."
"There's a tragedy. You'll go through hell," the colonel said. "And I'll lose sleep thinking about how I caused it all."
"Inappropriate sarcasm."
Sam was a bit surprised Daniel didn't turn into a cartoon version of himself, complete with smoke coming out of his ears. The colonel was being insufferable. But then again, so was Daniel. She extricated herself from between them and joined Teal'c on the sidewalk. The bickering wasn't entertaining anymore, and she suddenly knew that nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to make this week a pleasant one.
"They are being more irritating than usual, are they not?" Teal'c said.
For a moment, Sam could only gape at Teal'c for sharing his opinion so freely, then chuckled and gave him a small nod. The trunk of the car slammed, and Janet started driving away. Sam couldn't blame her for not sticking around to say good-bye. Or good luck. No one said a word as the colonel and Daniel moved onto the sidewalk. They walked to the self check-in counter, swathed in heavy silence. She wished she could think of something to say, but the way their conversation had been going it would only cause problems.
She watched Daniel print out his ticket and move to the side to wait for the rest of them. Glancing down at her small bag, Sam was glad she wasn't a high maintenance traveler; checking a bag would have undoubtedly turned into a protracted event. Anything that streamlined the tedious ordeal was a blessing not to be taken for granted. She finished up, then went to stand by Daniel, fidgeting while the colonel and Teal'c figured out the computer terminal. It seemed to take forever.
"I don't think they're getting it," Daniel growled. "It's so easy a first grader could do it, what's taking them so long?"
"Calm down, Daniel," Sam said. She couldn't believe she had to play parent. "You're not helping matters, you know. Wait here, I'll go see what's going on."
She resisted ordering him to be good. She sure as hell didn't need him pissed off at her, too. As it was, it didn't look like either he or Colonel O'Neill were planning on offering an olive branch. Sam was only about halfway to the terminals when the colonel and Teal'c finally started moving. She furrowed her eyebrows at their expressions.
"Sir?" she greeted. "Wha -"
"We would have been done ten minutes ago," the colonel interrupted, pausing to glare at Teal'c before continuing, "But T suddenly turned smartass and kept typing in NETU for destination point instead of MINN."
A hybridization of a laugh and a cough carried through the thrum of airport noise. Barely refraining from following suit, Sam identified the source as Daniel, who hadn't waited anywhere. He drew alongside her, and the four of them stood facing each other. No one spoke, two because of the effort to maintain at least a modicum of control, one because silence goes well with smugness and the final was too busy issuing unspoken communication via glowers.
"You have to admit that's funny, Jack," Daniel said at last, managing to tone his mirth into a wide smile.
"No, it's not. It probably doesn't seem like I mind the ridicule about my preferred vacation spot and itinerary, but I gotta tell you it's lost its charm."
The colonel looked really upset, his lips together in a thin, unhappy line. She suddenly didn't find Teal'c's cleverness that funny anymore. Out of the corner of her eye, Sam could see Daniel's smile fade and Teal'c straighten already straight shoulders, both of them apparently as guilted as she by the colonel's wounded tone. It had never occurred to her that the good-natured responses O'Neill always gave to derisive remarks were a front to hide actual hurt. After all, she always took his cries of boredom for anything she found fun and interesting with a gigantic grain of salt.
"Okay, fine, I actually do really like Minnesota. It's a wonderful place some of the time, and I'm not just saying that to make you feel better," Daniel said rapidly.
"Well, thank you."
The colonel exhibiting his appeasement with a small smile, they were finally ready to move on to the next excruciating step. Had she mentioned how much she really hadn't missed being a civilian traveler? As Sam made for the security checkpoint, she caught the colonel's expression change to satisfaction. Not even a hint of hurt remained on his face. They'd been played, or at least Daniel had. She chose not to clue anyone else in. Her sanity depended on her silence.
They presented their boarding passes and IDs for verification, then got in yet another line. If they had gone on a military flight (oh why hadn't the colonel 'fessed up to this being an ordered outing?), they would have been in the air already. Sam let out a heavy sigh and eyed the security guards with aversion. There were only two conveyor tracks open, which explained the line, and women stationed both. A particularly busty, short, middle-aged guard overtly ran her eyes up and down Daniel as he laid his bag on the track. He didn't notice the attention, of course. Sam smiled at the woman, who was too alerting her coworker of Daniel's position. Not just Daniel's. The colonel and Teal'c got the same treatment.
"Next," Busty called.
Daniel walked through. The alarm sounded.
"Shoes," Busty's coworker, NotBusty, ordered.
Leaning down to undo his shoelaces, Daniel remained clueless to the mental undressing Sam witnessed. She didn't know if she should be aghast or amused by the security guards' behavior. She sneaked her own peek at Daniel's rear and settled on entertained. Her friend put his shoes in a bin and walked back through the detector. It buzzed again, and Sam saw his head bob down, shoulders slump. Behind her, the colonel groaned softly.
"Come on, Daniel, you're holding things up."
"Don't worry, big boy, it'll be your turn soon enough," Busty said.
"Uh," the colonel stuttered.
"Empty your pockets and remove your shirt, please," NotBusty requested of Daniel.
"What?" Daniel protested. "Is that normal?"
"Heightened security," Busty explained. "Don't worry, this happens all the time."
Her ass it happened all the time. Sam had heard stories of people forced to strip completely, but always with reasonable suspicion. And in private. She took a step toward a clearly flustered Daniel, stopped by NotBusty. The woman was even thinner than she was, but incredibly wiry and strong. This was becoming a little unentertaining.
"Please, ma'am. We don't want a scene," the guard said, guiding Sam a couple steps backward.
Sam watched Daniel reluctantly lift his shirt over his head, amazed he was complying rather than just walking away. She started to look to her CO and Teal'c, then did a double take. The T-shirt Daniel had on under his pullover raised, revealing the creamy skin of his midriff. Toned muscle over smoothness worth killing for. How had she never noticed how, uhm, well-built her good friend had become? Someone hissed, a disappointed sound, when the T-shirt fell back into place.
As for her, well, it was like she was under some spell, frozen to the spot as Daniel walked through the detector for a third time. Sam heard a dim drone start up and it startled her out of her reverie. She looked around and discovered quite a gathering of women had huddled up close behind them. A couple of men were scattered throughout as well, all there to show their appreciation. Several people pointed to Daniel's biceps, his nape.
Unsurprisingly, the detector buzzed again. The sound was impetus for the dim drone to escalate into an excited hum.
"So much for no scene," the colonel said nervously. "I don't, uh, I don't think Daniel realizes how, you know, he's become."
"Sir?" Sam responded, an automatic reaction. She really couldn't care less what the colonel was saying. She was too busy watching Daniel turn back around. If they made him take off his T-shirt, a feeding frenzy wasn't outside the realm of possibility.
"He's attractive, okay? The workouts have paid off. He's still nothing like T, here, in the muscle department, but..."
That she heard. Despite knowing how wrong this all was, Sam perked up at the thought. She shifted so both the colonel and Teal'c were before her in line.
"I believe my tattoo will prevent me from safely maneuvering through this contraption," Teal'c said suddenly, and loudly. "I regret I will not be able to accompany you to Minnesota at this time, O'Neill."
With that, Teal'c spun around and stalked away at near breakneck speed. Frustrated moans arose from the crowd, and Sam joined them mentally. Not that she didn't have the chance to see her friends up close and personal on a daily basis, but this was different. This, somehow, made them not just her friends.
"I'm going to go make sure he gets a cab okay," the colonel announced. "Have a good trip."
"Sir, what about Daniel?" Sam called, but her question went unheeded.
Left alone to help her poor teammate, Sam turned around. NotBusty had Daniel trapped, preventing his escape at every try. And he was trying.
"T-shirt," NotBusty ordered.
"No. No way," Daniel said.
"Think full body search. Cooperate here, and we can avoid that," Busty informed.
This was ridiculous. They couldn't really be making these threats, could they?
"Sam?"
She knew she should step up. Much to her own surprise, Sam shrugged her shoulders helplessly. Daniel's eyes skittered around the crowd, probably looking for the colonel or Teal'c, who were very likely halfway home by now.
"I can't believe this is happening," Daniel said.
He turned away from the crowd and pulled his T-shirt off. Sam swallowed. Whoa. She swallowed again. She and Daniel worked out together often, she should have noticed how broad his shoulders were, how narrow his waist was by comparison. The muscles of his back were supple and moved fluidly when he put his arms down. Whoa.
She shook her head, a pang of sudden remorse sneaking through her rather stunned state. She couldn't just let Daniel suffer through this, could she? If the situation was reversed, Sam knew he would come through for her. She blinked when Daniel turned around to shoot her an imploring look. Remorse disintegrated. It was a look just like that that had gotten them to this point, after all. Daniel had wanted this experience. Okay, not this experience, per se. Sam looked Daniel over. Her willingness to do nothing had little to do with sinuous pectorals and a six-pack. It had everything to do with people getting what they asked for. Daniel had made his bed.
She dug her cell phone out and punched a number without taking her eyes off Daniel. He relaxed, doubtlessly thinking she was helping.
"Step through, please," NotBusty ordered.
Sam's eyes moved from Daniel's slumped shoulders to his jeans-clad rear. The phone rang twice, and then was picked up. She spoke without waiting for an acknowledgement from the other end.
"Janet, how far away from the airport are you? There's something here you really want to see."
The detector buzzed. The crowd cheered.
The end

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.