The Shower Scene Series. Stargate SG-1 Fanfiction by Scribe
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Shower Scenes

Acts of God and Colonels

Livengoo

 

 

All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

EMAIL: livengoo@tiac.net

CATEGORY: humor, gen

SEASON: none

SPOILERS: none

WARNING: Dirty language, dirty laundry, lots of dirt in general.

SERIES: no

ARCHIVE: Comfort Zone, StargateFan, Heliopolis

SUMMARY: Response to flood challenge.  Jack rises to the challenge.

DISCLAIMER: In case you didn´t know, all the characters named belong to Gekko and Top Secret and are rightfully associated with Stargate SG-1.  Except maybe Daniel, who they got rid of. Does this mean we get him now?  No infringement intended, no harm, no foul. 

AUTHOR'S NOTE:. My betas must have the patience of saints. CarolS, Catspaw, the Nameless Hermit and all the rest, thanks for coaxing, cajoling and correcting.

 


 

 

This was bad.

Jack O´Neill had been a soldier most of his adult life and had faced things that most people never even saw in their nightmares.  He´d killed, stolen and cheated and right now he wished desperately for a mother-ship (whether to shoot with or be shot by remained to be seen) as he took a tentative, wary step down the stairs into the dank confines of his basement. 

It was worse than he´d thought.  A foamy glob of shampoo oozed down his neck and he angrily flicked it away, wishing idly that the water had waited just five more minutes before it shut off. 

Or forever.  He shuddered as a dank reek like Ra´s torture pits rose to meet him.  Something down there splashed.  Not a clean, fresh splash.  A thick, scary sound.  Whatever was down there it was stinky. It was smelly.  It made his eyeballs sting.  And it was lurking in his basement.

He fled.  Up the stairs and into his room where he hastily wiped away most of the shampoo and pulled on his jeans and a shirt.  And reached for the phone.  There´d been a time when Jack O´Neill, man at arms, had been a solitary player, a solo act, but those days had ended and now he had a team.  Who ya gonna call?  “Daniel.”

“Jack?  Did you know it’s Sunday?”

“Get over here.  Now.  And bring  . . . bring stuff.”

“Stuff?  Jack, it’s Sunday and I’ve got my coffee and my Danish and my paper and I’m reading the funnies.”

“It’s an emergency.”

“I’m reading Dilbert.” 

“I’ll take the little dog, too.  Just get over here and be ready to clean.”

He shoved the phone back into its cradle and shuddered.  He needed waders.  But they were down there in the subterranean murk of the basement. 

Instead, he did what any team leader would do.  He looked out for his team.  He made coffee.

Or he tried to.  He was foiled by the same thing that had disrupted his frolicsome, carefree shower.  Namely, no water came out of the tap. 

No water.  For a moment his survival-trained mind reeled through the choices – snowmelt, bottled water, the reservoir in the back of the toilet tank. But it was a dry April day.  No snow.  And he had shampoo scum in his hair and didn´t want to get in his truck on a dry, chilly April day.  No bottled water.  He called Daniel back but the machine picked up.  The toilet reservoir . . . Then he pictured Daniel´s face when he learned where his coffee had been.  And he dialed Daniel´s cell phone.

“Daniel.”

“Jack.  I just left the store.  I’m on my way.”

“Did you get coffee?”

“ . . . I thought you said we were going to clean?  And you do know you’ll owe me for that.  You will SO owe me!”

“Fine.  I owe you.  Pick up coffee, okay?”

“We could make some . . .?”  Jack growled at the implied question and Daniel hung up fast.

If there was ever a time he wanted to be abducted by Thor this was it.  Jack daydreamed longingly on the image of a worried, contrite Daniel cleaning up that godawful mess down there while Jack heroically, cleanly, tidily rescued the Asgard and Earth from dire and multi-legged peril.  He stomped around waiting.  He cleared this throat.  He considered taking off his clothes in the hopes that Thor might be attracted to the least convenient moments in which to abduct a person.  But he was still standing there, fully dressed, clots of sticky shampoo drying in his hair when the doorbell rang.

He didn´t need the look on Daniel´s face.  “You know you look like an electrocuted carp when you do that?”

“What’s that . . . goop in your hair.  Tell me you didn’t get drunk and sit up watching ‘Something About Mary’ again.”

“You can be dealt with.  And what are you carrying?”

“Coffee.”  Daniel gently waggled an ugly, pink cardboard drink tray.  “And you said you needed help cleaning up.  I got supplies.”

He held up the teeniest, tiniest, daintiest little bucket Jack had ever seen.  Nestled inside was a cute little wee canister of Comet and a sponge that might grow up to do dishes if it ate all its vegetables and was good.  Jack took a deep breath and counted to ten.  And did it a couple more times then stood back and waved Daniel in.  “Sure.  Right.  Clean up.  Daniel, what do you use to clean YOUR place?”

“I don’t.  I pay dearly for the privilege of never having to dust.  But if, hmm, if that’s how you like to do your male bonding, who am I to criticize a personal cultural choice.”

“Ah.”  Jack took a cup of coffee from him and led him to the kitchen.  “Perhaps I should have told you more.”

“Please don’t explain.”  Daniel had set down his coffee and now that finger came up.  The lecturing finger.  The one Jack occasionally wanted to bite just to see what Daniel would do.  “Prejudicial judgments impede accurate observation.”

“No.”  Jack dumped sugar and creamer into his coffee.  He needed the energy.  “Nooo, you’re not here to observe, Dr. Jackson.  And anyway, isn’t archaeology about digging into the dirt to uncover the buried truth of your subject?”  Daniel was beginning to get a wary look on his face.  Jack manfully suppressed a smirk though he was going to have tooth marks in his cheeks to show for it. 

Daniel´s eyes narrowed.  “Since when do I need to dig into dirt to learn about you, Jack?  Come to think of it, since when do you invite me to, um, dig WITH you?  You aren´t, um, planting anything are you?” 

The nervous glance out at the garden was almost too much for Jack but he sucked in a breath and held it until he could control himself.  Though his voice was a little squeaky when he finally answered, “No, no, no gardening, Daniel.  Nope.  Not a bit.  Drink your coffee and we´ll get started.”

The archaeologist kept a wary eye on him and guzzled his coffee.  Jack sipped more slowly, girding his loins.  Daniel paused, studying him.  “So, mm, what, precisely, am I here to clean up?”

“Oh,” Jack affected his most innocent look.  The one that made him look boyish. Or too stupid to scheme, he’d never been sure which.  “You know.  Just a little water.  In the basement.”

“Water.”  Daniel had the skeptical expression he’d thought only Catholic grandmothers had perfected.  When had Daniel learned to do that?  Maybe Carter had sent him a memo.  “Jack?”

He snapped out of the pleasant, dry, paranoid fantasy and gave Daniel a disingenuous grin.  “Yeah.  I guess the pipes backed up while we were . . .”  He waved his hand in a vague circle.  SG1 body language for off-world.

Daniel´s expression was getting more and more suspicious, eyes flicking between Jack´s hair, the coffee cup, and the sink where dirty dishes skulked.  “Backed up.”

“Yeah.  You know, little water, little mess.  We turn on the sump pump, do a little plumbing, and mop up.  No problem.”

Daniel blinked.  “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“You really are a cynic.  Well, if you won’t help then I guess I can call Teal’c –“  Oh yeah.  Jack almost rubbed his hands together as Daniel got that tight, stubborn look that meant he’d take on all challengers.  Or challenges.  Heh.

“I didn’t say I ‘wouldn’t’ help.  You’re putting words in my mouth, Jack.”

“Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”  Jack got onto his feet and walked out before Daniel could really think that through.

“You didn’t warn me.”  Of course, Daniel was way smarter than the average bear.  Or colonel. 

“You’re just not getting your memos.”

Distraction was a time-honored military tactic that had worked on armies for thousands of years.  One mild-mannered archaeologist didn´t have a chance.  Daniel was successfully lured to the basement door where Jack clapped a companionable hand on his shoulder and handed him a flashlight.  “Light it up, Danny boy!”

“Excuse me?” 

“There’s a lightbulb in the middle of the basement.  You go down first with the flashlight and I’ll get the light and then we can get to work.” 

Daniel had a wary, tense scowl on his face and Jack could see him working to find a reason not to comply but he finally turned around and stepped onto the stairs.  One-two-three steps and he froze.  Jack reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, feeling the tension there.  In the light of the flash he saw Daniel´s nostrils flare.  “Pretty stinky, huh?”

“Jack.”  Daniel’s voice was strangled.  “That’s not water.”

“So, it’s a little messy.  The pipes backed up.”

“That’s got to be a week’s worth of sewage.”

“It’s not that bad, Danny.  A couple of days at most.  It’s just that stuff that gets stuck under the stairs and in corners, you know.  Just let me get the pump going and you’ll see.”

The whites still showed around Daniel´s eyes but he nodded and took another step and Jack knew he had him.  Lightly tripping down the stairs past Daniel, he turned a pleasant, confident grin on his friend and stepped into the murky fluid on the floor.  And sank up to his knees in icy, smelly, water.  His teeth clenched so hard he thought he´d cracked a crown but he kept that smile on his face and grated out, “See, not so bad.”

“Keep telling yourself that.  Where’s the light?”

Jack waved towards a string in the middle of the room.  “Right . . . over . . . Oh boy.”

“Right.”  Daniel played the light over the hanging string, down across tumbled boxes half-afloat and stained with brownish fluid.  “Jack this is raw sewage.”

“It’s just a little dirt!  Little ammonia, soap and water and it’s good as new.”

The archaeologist made a rude noise.  “I´m not getting in that without a hazmat suit, Jack.  Do you know what´s in this stuff?  Listeria.  Pfeisteria.  E. coli.  Campylobacter pylori.  Giiardia.  . . .”

“Yadda yadda.”  Jack cut him off.  “It’s just smelly, Daniel.  It won’t hurt you.”

A baleful look was turned on him.  “It won´t hurt me because I´m not getting into it.”  He pulled out his phone.  “Sam knows a good plumber.”

Jack dashed up the steps and snatched the phone out of his hand.  “We don´t need no steenking plumbers!”

Daniel grabbed it back.  “What we don´t need is bad movie quotes!  What we do need . . .no.  What YOU need is a plumber.”  He turned and started up the stairs.

“Hey.  HEY!”  Shouted Jack.  Daniel paused, turned to shine the light in his eyes.  “Could you shine that someplace else – thank you.  Look,” Jack compromised, “I’ll call a plumber for the real repairs but this is just the clean up part.  I don’t need to pay some guy a hundred bucks just to turn on the sump pump.”

“Then you don’t need me for it either.”

“Of course I need you.”  Jack threw his arms out and smiled effusively.  “You’re my team, Daniel.”

“And so’s Sam.”  Daniel shot him a brittle smile and opened his phone. 

“Now see, there you go again!”  Jack yanked the phone away again.  “Just hold the light, okay?”

Daniel reached for his phone.  Jack pulled his hand back out of reach.  “Ah!  Daniel!  Come on.”

“Jaaack.”  Right on time.  The whine.  Jack rewarded the effort with a wince and waited for Daniel to go on.  “Jack.  This is not a good idea.  Just let me call Sam, okay?”

“And tomorrow morning I will go to the mountain and I will walk into the canteen and I will get my cup of coffee and do you know what I will hear, Daniel?  Sniggering.  Muffled.  Sur-rep-titious sniggering.”

“Why?”  Daniel drew the ‘i’ sound way, way out. 

“How obvious do I have to be?”  Jack threw his hands out again.  “Where do we live, Daniel?”

“Colorado Springs.  And, in case you missed it, there are plumbers in Colorado Springs.”

“Daniel.  Let it go.”

“How else will they send their children to college, Jack?”

“Colorado Springs, Daniel.  What does that mean to you?”

Daniel opened his mouth and held up a finger but then froze like that, and Jack watched him desperately looking for what to say and failing.  He´d have to remember this moment.  “It means the heartland, Daniel.  Where men are men and women are women and little fuzzy critters are little fuzzy critters.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”  Daniel’s brows drew together in a puzzled frown.  “Leaving aside the sexist assumptions in that statement – which I’ll have to share with Sam, by the way – I am still not following you.”

Both of them looked down the stairs, into the basement, then up at each other.  Jack drew himself up and gave Daniel his most serious, mano-a-mano look.  “I can´t allow you to undermine my masculine authority by doing something that suggests I am unable to take of my own . . .”  He paused. 

“Shit?”  Daniel leapt nimbly into the breach, eyebrows arching.

“Bite your tongue, Daniel.”  Jack smothered his own desire to grin.  “Look, just hold the flashlight.  You’ll see.”

The light flickered back, forth, towards the upstairs door, back then finally steadied.  Jack heard a long, exasperated sigh.  “I can´t believe you´re doing this.  I can´t believe I´m letting you sucker me into this!”

Jack reached up and clapped a companionable hand on his shoulder.  “You´re not being suckered.  You´re being a good, loyal friend.”

“Let’s just get this done with.  I need a cup of coffee.”

“Right.  Of course.”  A man didn’t get to the rank of colonel without learning to exploit a tactical advantage.  Jack turned and plowed back into the flood before Daniel could change his mind.  He stepped up onto one crate and it sort of wobbled, then settled as he put his weight onto it. 

“Jack!”  An irritated – and irritating – voice interrupted him.  “Something with lots of legs just ran over my foot!”

“Daniel!”  Jack spun to glare.  “Now, I know damn well that you have worked in a lot of places with a lot of bugs.”

“Those lived in deserts, Jack.”  Daniel’s voice was pointedly patient.  “They were clean.” 

“These are clean bugs!  They’re waterbugs.  A few waterbugs are normal in basements.  Sign of . . . ”  Jack fumbled, trying to think of something good about roaches.

Daniel´s glasses flashed in the dim light.  “Right.  I´m sure they ate dust and kept things tidy.  Clean roaches.”

“Waterbugs,” Jack corrected half-heartedly.  He ignored Daniel’s disbelieving snort and turned back, carefully working his way over the flotsam until he could reach the string hanging from the ceiling.  He wrapped his fingers around it.

Daniel cleared his throat.  “Uhm, are you sure you should do that?”

Jack frowned.  “What do you mean?”

Well, your basement is flooded.”  The light briefly skimmed over clotted water.  “That´s an electric light.  I´m not the physicist on the team, but I seem to recall something about electricity and water being a bad combination.”

“Hah.  Hah.  Very funny.”  He yanked on the light cord (holding his breath, though he’d be damned if he’d tell Daniel so).  And frowned when it didn’t do anything.  Yanked again.  Nothing.  “The light’s out.”

“Your powers of observation continue to amaze me, Jack.”

“I say again.  Hah.  Hah.  Come here.”

“Ooooh no.”  Daniel chuckled.  “A deal’s a deal.  I’ll hold the light but you’re on your own down there.”

“The sump’s under the stairs.”

“I’ll give you the light.”

Jack crossed his arms and huffed.  “I need both hands to turn on the pump.”

“I only need one to call the plumber.”

“I’m asking you for your help, Daniel.  If you weren’t gonna help you should have said so from the start.”

Daniel frowned.  “I didn´t say I wouldn´t help.  I´ll help.  I´ll do what you should have and call a trained, skilled professional.”

“Who will charge me a fortune and not come out on a Sunday.  Thanks a lot.  Just stay there and keep your feet nice and tidy, Dr. Phone-fingers.”  He splashed noisily – and, he had to admit, noisomely – through the muck.  “Lemme see . . .”

“This is dumb, Jack.”

“You calling me dumb?  I don’t dig in peoples’ old trash for a living.”  Jack leaned down to look into the stygian space under the stairs and breathed shallowly through his mouth as a clot of something he was glad he couldn’t see clearly floated past.

“I didn’t call you dumb, Jack.  On the other hand your primitive need to defeat your plumbing . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, when I slay the evil beast you are gonna eat those words.  You want ‘em fried or roasted?”

“Braised with fava beans and a nice Chianti on the side.”  Daniel was playing with the light, shining it in corners, tracing the pipes along the ceiling.  “You know you can see where the – for sake of argument, I’ll call it water – is coming in over there.”

“Where?”  Jack stood and turned to look where the light was playing over roiling, brownish water.  “See!  That’s the drain.  It’s just backed up from the rain, Daniel.”

“It hasn’t been raining.  And that doesn’t explain . . .”  Daniel let his words trail and put the light further back in the corner where a toilet stood.  “That’s pretty nasty.  Backed up like that.  What do that call that stuff, Jack?  Oh yeah, sewage!”

“Clever.  Tell you what.  Let’s get the work done and then we can play ‘I-Spy’ ”  Growled Jack, turning back to the space under the stairs.  The sump pump was sunk back there, hunched in its own little concrete pit if he recalled.  He squinted into the dark and almost crouched, then realized what he’d be crouching into and leaned over instead.  Reaching out he swept his hand around trying to find a wall or ledge to help him keep his balance.  “I could really use some light down here.”

Daniel snorted.  “That´s the least of what you can use.”

Jack sneered at him.  “Look, you want to be a chicken-shit, fine.  I can live with that.  But can you lean out and shine that light in here just a little?”

Daniel edged up the stairs until he was above Jack and leaned out, clinging to the stair rail.  “How´s that?”

Jack glared at him.  “I guess it´ll have to do, won´t it?”

“Got my cell phone right here.”

“Keep your dirty, subversive, un-American schemes to shirk our duty to yourself.”

“You’re really are unpleasant when you get like this,” observed Daniel mildly.

“Yeah, yeah Rock Boy.”  Jack didn’t have the attention to spare to come up with an original insult.  He sighed and edged his foot deeper into the darkness under the stairs until he found the place where the pit in the floor started.  “Riiight. There you are, you devil.”

“Of course.  In the smallest, most cramped, inaccessible place in your basement.”  Daniel’s voice had taken on the bright, snide tone he sometimes got when he was forced to comment on what he thought should be obvious.  “I used to wonder if that was just cheapness combined with a faulty use of aesthetic values, but now I’m leaning towards the idea that, subconsciously, modern man creates these minor dramas for himself as a ritual heroic quest.  Arguably, you are overcoming obstacles and braving hazards to achieve the holy grail or, in your case, sump pump.”

“You can be dealt with.”  Jack straightened briefly to glare at the archaeologist, regretting the flimsy nature of his riposte. 

“Cycle of the hero, Jack.”  Daniel smiled sweetly. 

“Which would make you either my mouthy sidekick or my nefarious nemesis.”

“You’ve been reading too much Batman, Jack.  I think the role of wise but cryptic oracle is closer.  If you’d properly consulted the oracle you’d have used the phone but of course, that would ignore the whole Greek dramatic oeuvre recognizing irony and hubris.  Yes, I think that’s probably the appropriate model for – hey, hey, don’t flick that stuff at me!”  Daniel scrunched his face up and scrambled back as Jack shook his hands at him, droplets of fluid glistening in the flashlight beam.

“I’ll stop flicking if you stop pontificating.”

“Nice word,” Daniel burbled admiringly.  “But you flick that stuff at me again and I’m out of here and you can solve your problem on your own.”

“No more Greek shit then?”

Daniel sniggered.  “I think we´ve got enough – okay.  No more.”

“Right.  Now . . .”  Jack took a breath and leaned back down, reaching into the stuff that had once been water until he found the top of the pump.  The chill bit right to his bones and the touch of the oily, thick fluid made his skin want to crawl up his arm and hide.  He called upon his training, his discipline, his courage, gritted his teeth and felt for the switch. 

“Isn’t it on the side?”  Daniel’s voice was obnoxiously chirpy.  “I seem to recall that the switch is on the side on those things.”

Jack lifted his hands out of the water and shook them menacingly, glaring at the archaeologist.  “What would you know about sump pumps?  You live in an apartment and pay people to do your dirty work.”

“I lived in houses growing up.  Sometimes they even flooded.”  The lenses of Daniel’s glasses gleamed.

“Uh huh.  And you didn’t just call the plumber?”  Jack hesitated, then took a deep breath and slid his hand down along the side of the pump.  His fingers found something soft and . . . fuzzy.  Or slimy.  Hard to tell.  It felt bloated.  He cringed and gingerly pushed it away. 

Daniel was still talking.  “Little kids don´t generally have the same credibility with plumbers.  Or the same credit line.”

Jack snorted.  “So if you know so much about sump pumps why aren´t you down here helping me?”

“Because I happen to learn from my experiences,” announced Daniel in a snotty tone. 

Jack sneered.  “Piling it higher and deeper, aren´t you?”

“You DO know what a Ph.D. is!” exulted Daniel.  The light wavered and when he spoke next his voice sounded hesitant.  “What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?”  The metal was chill and slick under his fingers.  He shuddered as what looked like an over-inflated mouse floated by just below the surface.  “If I can just get a good angle on this switch . . .”

“Jack.  Stop.” 

The strangled quality of Daniel´s voice caught his attention and he paused.  “Why?”

“Because I’m grossed out enough already.  If you actually do push down the switch half your face is going to be in the . . . bleagggh.” 

It was an impressive sound, disgusting and expressive all at once and Jack stood up to take a good look at the man who could make a noise like that.  And getting out of the icy, stinky water was an added benefit, of course.  “Nice noise!  If I didn´t know better I´d say you were in this stuff instead of me!”

“So you admit you’re up to your knees in sewage?”

“I’m noticing a real theme developing here.  Would it kill you to stop calling my basement a sewer?”

“Look, this is getting ridiculous.”  Daniel leaned out and shone the light under the stairs.  “Take a good look at the stuff in this . . . water . . . Jack.  You’re already up to your armpit in it.  Let me call the plumber before you get in over your head.”

“Daniel,”  Jack heard the impatience in his own voice, the hard D, hard L pronunciation he gave his friend’s name, and he bit down on his tongue and started over.  “Daniel, plumbers don’t come out on Sundays.  This is a simple home repair job.  Just hold the light and let me turn on the pump, okay?”

There was an uneasy smile on Daniel´s lips.  “This is really disgusting, Jack.”

Privately, Jack agreed but no way in hell was he admitting it to the guy at this point in the game.  He gave a resigned shake of the head and leaned back down to do his duty.

“Uck.  I just realized.”

“WHAT?”  Jack snapped and glared at him.

“I have to go through wormholes with you.  Bleagggh!”

“What, pray tell, do wormholes have to do with this?”  Jack wasn’t sure he really wanted to know, but if he didn’t ask Daniel would keep making those noises and this was bad enough without the sound effects.

The archaeologist had a doomed, sepulchral note to his voice as he intoned.  “I have to go through wormholes with a man who´s been dipped in, for want of a better term, fresh shit.  According to Sam the wormhole breaks us into our component atoms and streams them through the hole to the terminal gate.”

Daniel paused for breath and, against his better judgment, Jack made an encouraging noise.  “Go on.”

“That means my atoms are going to be bumping up against yours after you’ve been marinated in . . . this.”  He made a gagging noise again.  “Some of your atoms might get mixed up with mine.  Sam never did say if it tracks our discreet atoms or just reassembles the pattern from materials on hand.  Bleearrrggh!”

“Lovely noise, Daniel.  Practice really does make perfect.” Sniffed Jack.  “You sound like I’m never going to take a bath again in my life.  For your information, I do intend to wash.”

“What kind of soap are you using?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I can get some of that anti-microbial decon stuff Janet uses . . .”

“Damn it, Daniel!  Look, you’re a scientist.  Think of it this way.  Anything in this water was in a human at one point.  Are you gonna ask Janet for enemas before we go through the gate?”

The flashlight skimmed across the water briefly and Jack heard another disgusted “bleeaagh”.  The light came back to him.  “I don´t know, Jack.  I think it´s evolved.  It´s scarier than the stuff in my fridge.”

“It’s just dirty water!  What is your problem?  You lived for a year with no indoor plumbing.  And I’ll bet those digs in Egypt didn’t have all the modern conveniences.  Hell, I’ve seen you eat stuff that looked worse than this.”

“You’re not helping.”

“Daniel.  You dig up dead bodies for a living.  You paw around in peoples’ trash and corpses and, yes, sewage.  Didn’t you say you mucked out mastadge pens?  Squeamish doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, you follow me here?”

“I’m not following you into that, Jack!”  The light dropped to the fluid and followed one particularly large, brown mass floating majestically by.  “This isn’t just any crap, Jack.  It’s yours.  There’s a certain level of personal squick-factor here.  Archaeologists usually don’t talk to the source while they do the work.  This is . . . this is fresh.  It’s gross.  And I’ve seen what you eat.”

“What’s wrong with what I eat?” Jack blustered.

The light came up to his face and stayed there a minute before Daniel put it back on the pump.  “Let´s just say I didn´t play in the sewers in Egypt and I´d rather not play in them here.”

“For pity’s sake.  George Carlin used to swim in the East River and it’s kept him healthy.  Do you good to get into this yourself, build up your immune system and cure some of those allergies.”

“I’m having an allergic reaction to disgusting things at the moment.  It wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“Just shine the damn light on the pump, smartass!”

“Jack, please.  I’m begging you.  If you won’t call a plumber at least don’t try it by hand like that.  You’re getting in over your head.”

“Such a prima donna,” growled Jack, shaking his head.  Now that he thought about it, though, the idea of getting his face into this stuff . . . maybe Daniel had the right idea.  He ducked back under the stairs, and gingerly probed with his foot for the space between the pump and the side of the well.  Tight fit but he had skinny legs. 

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”  asked the Voice of Doom from the stairs.

“Look, you told me not to use my hands.  Quit bitching and moaning.”

“Somebody’s got to be the voice of reason in this fiasco, Jack.  Don’t you have any tools you can use to do that?”

“Do I look like Tim Allen?”  Ah, there, he slid his right foot carefully into the space.

“Who’s Tim Allen?”

“The Tool Man!”  Jack grumbled.  “You are such a cultural illiterate.”

“I haven’t read that one.  Isn’t crouching like that going to be hard on your knees?”

“You let me worry about my knees, Rock Boy, and it’s not a book.  It’s a – oooof!”

SPLASH!

“That didn’t sound good.”  Daniel was hanging out from beneath the railing, holding onto the rail with one hand while shining the light on where Jack was sitting in the slimy muck.  “What happened?”

Jack blinked.  “I almost had it.  Then I slipped.”

“Uh.  Huh.  You okay?”

“Sure, just a little damp.”  And cold.  And his left knee twinged at him.  He tried to pull his right foot out of the well.  And came up against some kind of projection out of the side of the pump.  “Damn.”

“What is it?”

“Give me a minute here.”  He tried to push his foot back but sitting there, the angle was lousy.  Tried to push it forward but whatever it was got in the way.  “I’m stuck.”

“Maybe if you took off your shoe?”

“It’s a work boot, bright boy.  It laces up.”

“Yuck.”  Daniel was quick on the uptake.  “You’d have to get right down into it . . .”

“Look, I got into this, I can get out of it.  Just help me get up, okay?”

“What kind of help?”  Daniel’s voice was wary.

“Give me your hand,” Jack explained with all the patience and single-syllable words that a man learns when he’s dealt with two year olds in the past. 

Daniel eyed him with the same apprehension he reserved for vicious dogs and angry Jaffa.  “No.”

“Daniel!”  The hard D, hard L were back.  “Stop being a sniveling, yellow-bellied, neat-freak and GIVE ME A HAND!”

“Have you got rope anywhere?”

“Sure.”  Jack showed all his teeth in what was not a smile and pointed to the stygian depths of the basement.  “Right over there in the corner.”

The light shifted to the corner and stayed there for a moment during which Jack could actually hear Daniel swallow, then came back.  “Maybe some snow chains?”

“JUST GIVE ME YOUR DAMNED HAND, DANIEL!”

“Okay, okay, no need to shout.”  He set down the flashlight and Jack watched through the risers of the wooden staircase as he wiped his hands on his jeans.  Like that would help.  He hesitated and for a moment Jack though he’d chicken out entirely, flee the basement, request transfer to another SG team and just leave Jack there to rot in the muck.  Daniel, though, came through like he always did.  He got a good grip on the railing and leaned way out and down, extending his hand to Jack.  “Here.”

Jack flailed but he was just a little too far away.  “You´re too far.”

“Can you reach a little more, Jack?”

“I am stuck in a hole.  My foot is jammed.  NO, I can’t reach any more!”

“Great.”  Daniel pulled himself back onto the stairs and peeked through the risers at Jack.  “Maybe from here?”

Jack reached up listlessly, waiting for Daniel to figure out that he didn´t have the right angle from there.  It took a couple tries.  The archaeologist was damned determined not to get anywhere close to the water.  Jack finally sighed.  “Are you done?”

Daniel didn´t speak for several minutes, didn´t move for so long Jack started to get nervous.  Not to mention shivering and wishing badly for a bath.  Then Daniel heaved an audible sigh and moved up and down the stairs until he had as good an angle as he could get, then got a good, firm footing on a riser.  “I think I can get closer from here.”

“Great!  Glad to hear it.  I’ll just sit here and enjoy the view and you drop in when you get nice and comfy, okay, Daniel?”

Daniel paused and peeked over the edge at him, blinking owlishly in the faint illumination of the flashlight.  “There´s a time and a place for sarcasm, Jack.  It´s not a universally appropriate response.”

Jack snorted.  “You come down here and then you can give me attitude.  I´ll just sit here and think about, oh, I don´t know.  Performance reviews.  Latrine assignments.  How long we hang around looking at ruins.”

“Threatening me isn’t going to make this any easier.”

“You just keeping telling yourself that, Daniel.  And I’ll keep sitting here, waiting.  How long does it usually take you to translate some stodgy old heap of rocks?”

“Now you’re getting repetitive.”  The wooden railing creaked softly as Daniel leaned and leaned and reached, hanging by one hand with his body swung out over the mucky water as he tried to get Jack’s hand.  It was one hell of a stretch.  Jack heard his joints pop as he pushed his hand out as far as it could possibly go and managed to hook fingertips with the archaeologist, feeling the calluses and remarkable strength that fingers had.  Daniel grunted and tugged and that tiny bit of help let Jack kind of – hop – up for a moment, getting a firm grip on Daniel’s cold hand. 

“C’mon, Jack.”  Daniel was grunting, voice harsh with strain as his grasp tightened.  “Don’t make me call the fire department.”

“Oh CRAP!”  Sheer astonishment gave Jack the impetus to yank himself a little more upright.  The twinges in his left knee couldn’t compete with the mortifying image of a rescue team extricating him from the sump pump in his basement.  “Just pull!”

Daniel hissed and Jack felt a strong, steady tug on his arm that got him upright, if still stuck.  He wriggled and twitched and squirmed, trying to slide his stuck tootsie loose.  Daniel groaned, “Hurry up! 

“Getting there, getting there . . .”

And that was when they heard the low, worrisome creak turn into a louder, ominous crack.  Daniel looked at Jack.  Jack looked at Daniel.  Together they yelled “OH CRAP” as the railing broke and Daniel tumbled unceremoniously into the murky swamp below with a loud, sticky, SPLATSH!

Jack was yanked sharply forward, yelping as both knees twinged and winding up on all fours up to his armpits, soaked in stuff that smelled kinda like the stockyards on a warm, sunny day.  He was so disgusted, annoyed, and busy complaining about his knees that it took him a minute to realize that he WAS on all fours and that both boot-shod feet were nicely free and un-sumped.

Daniel, by contrast, was dead silent, sitting there up to his chest in the stuff, mouth gaping and shutting and a look of profound horror on his face.  Jack finally wound down enough to notice that Daniel was in the muck and that both Jack´s feet were nicely free, if still drenched in terra unfirma.  “Hey!  Daniel!  Ya did it!  I´m FREE!”

The archaeologist stared at him, expression blank, then his face crumpled into an expression of horror and disgust and he groaned, “You pulled me in.”

“It wasn’t my fault!”

“You pulled me in!  It’s on my GLASSES!”

Jack tried to let him down gently.  “Danny.  You´ve got my shit on all of you.”

“Oh.  No.  Ew.”  Daniel lifted his hands slowly into the air and brownish stuff dripped off his fingertips.  He made an inarticulate sound that Jack would have associated with a camel in terminal agony if he didn’t know it came from his archaeologist. 

“Daniel?”

“ . . .”

“Daniel?”  He was starting to get worried.  Daniel was just sitting there with a look of stunned revulsion on his face.  A slow, slimy drip of something thick oozed out of his wet hair and down the side of his face and he suddenly snapped back into focus, turning to face Jack. 

“This is the most disgusting thing that has EVER happened to me and I am including Hathor, getting kissed by Ra, getting shot by jaffa, getting turned into Cave-Man-Daniel AND having to fill out military paperwork in god-damned-quintuplicate!  Jack, it is time to STOP the madness and get on the phone!”

“Ra kissed you?”  Jack stuck his tongue out, rapidly thought better of it and grimaced.

“JACK!  PHONE!”

Jack winced as Daniel´s outraged tirade got louder and louder, and patted the air, trying to convey soothing thoughts.  “Danny, it´s okay.”

“It is NOT okay!  I have YOUR sewage on my GLASSES!”

“You’re kinda stuck on that one, aren’t you?”

“I don’t want to LET myself think about the rest of the places soaked in this . . . this CRAP!”

“Look at it this way.  The worst has happened.  It can only get better from here.”

Daniel stared at him blankly, mouth doing that goldfish thing again, then shook his head and groaned.  “Not only do I get dumped in a dark, dank sewer of a basement WITHOUT the reasonable excuse of it being for the greater good, but I have to share it with ‘Little Mary Sunshine´.  And no coffee.”

“Well, this stuff’s coffee colored,” noted Jack, quite reasonably, he thought.  The look Daniel gave him was enough to make him resist the urge to laugh out loud.  “And don’t think I didn’t notice your latest slur against my dwelling.”

“I want to get out of here.”

“Just – just calm down.  We’re both down here now.  It should be easier.”

“Easier would have been using the phone.  You’re on notice.”

“One more try?” Jack pleaded.  “Come on.  You KNOW plumbers don’t come out on Sundays.  And if we can’t fix this then there’s no shower.  Unless you want to drive over to your place?”

“Smelling like this?  In MY car?”

“Well we’re not getting in my truck smelling like this!”  Jack planted his hands on his hips and glared.  Daniel glared right back. 

“Trucks are made to deal with smells like this, Jack!  It’s why they invented them!”

“Hell.  No.  That’s a custom leather interior!”

“Nice truck!  Shame about your –“

“DON’T YOU DARE!”

“Dick,” finished Daniel (hard D, hard K, noted the little voice in Jack’s head that tended to sound like Daniel at his worst.  Well, at least he was a hard dick, there was that . . .).

“Then we’ll just HAVE to fix the plumbing, won’t we, Dr. Jackson?”

“Fine.”  Daniel snapped.

“Fine.”  Answered Jack.

“Right.”  Snarled Daniel.

“Right.”  Growled Jack.

“Then fix it!  I want a bath!”

“It’s my house!  I get dibs!”

“I’m a guest.  You have lousy manners.”

“I’m a colonel!  I outrank you!”

“I’m civilian!  And RANKING civilian at that.  You can’t pull rank on ME!”

“Oh, you’re pretty rank all right,” sniped Jack.

“You’re one to talk!  Being a - a pottymouth takes on a whole new meaning in the context of your house!”

“Pottymouth?  Daniel, did you just say ‘pottymouth’?”   Jack goggled, and then he giggled.

“It’s a perfectly valid and highly descriptive expression whose precision makes it the PERFECT choice for this venue.”

“Pottymouth.  Venue.”  Jack was chortling and starting to cough on the basement fumes and laughter combined.

Daniel eyed him then gave a little snort down his nose.  And then he giggled.  “I´d have to say that the airborne faecal material has really impacted the rotating atmospheric distribution device this time, Jack.”

That just made Jack laugh harder.  “Give a guy some warning!  And ‘impacted´?”

“A term which should only be applied to wisdom teeth but of which the military is inordinately fond,” noted Daniel in his most pedantic tones. 

It was too much.  Jack accepted he was beaten, howled with laughter and sat down before he slipped and fell down.  “How long have you been waiting to use that?”

“Quite a while,” chuckled Daniel.  He laughed more quietly but at least he wasn’t screaming anymore.  “Let’s get this over with, Jack.  Then we play rock-paper-scissors for whose car we despoil.”

“What makes you think we’ll be despoiling any cars?”  Jack put on an air of affronted dignity.  “Personally, I plan to shower in my own capacious master bathroom.”

“Yes.  Well.  We’ll jump in that shower when we get to it,” murmured Daniel, getting the flashlight off the stairs.  “Now, can you get that pump turned on or can’t you?”

“Of course I can.”  Jack sidled cautiously back up to the pump.  “Look, let me hold onto you for balance.”

“And let you pull me back in again?  I think not,” grumped the archaeologist.  He splashed over to the foot of the stairs and came back with a broom.  “Here.  Why don’t you use this?”

Jack wrinkled his nose at the hairy, clotted mess on the wet straws.  “Because it´s gross?”

“Just break it off and use the handle.  You’re the one who likes using brute force.”

“Huh.  Me Jack.  Me break broom,” he grunted and suited actions to words, holding up a long, hard stick.  “Actually, that’s not such a bad idea.”

“Yes.  I know.  I’m used to that.”

“Brilliant and humble, too,” muttered Jack, poking the handle into the murk and searching for the elusive switch.  “Lemme see, it was right around . . .here.”

Daniel leaned in beside him as Jack felt the handle settle and push against something firm.  He grunted.  “Little stiff?” asked the archaeologist.  “I suppose we could call Teal´c.”

“No.”  Grunt.  “I.”  Grunt.  “Have – ACK!”  The switch suddenly moved and a gout of sparks shot straight up from the pump.  Jack felt a jolt, heard Daniel yelp, and then both of them were scrambling up the stairs.  “OWOWOWOWOW!”

They paused halfway up, where the rail was broken, and leaned against the concrete wall and panted while their racing hearts slowed.  “That certainly went well,” observed Daniel in a mild tone.

“Don’t start up again.  It’s a temporary set back.”

“It’s potential electrocution!”

“Wood,” declaimed Jack, pointing to the stairs under their feet, “does not conduct electricity.”

Daniel eyed him warily.  “So?”

“So.  With your admittedly good suggestion of using the broom handle, we can stand up here and push the switch.”

“There’s something wrong with this idea.”

“You’re just jealous that you didn’t think of it first.”  Jack preened (though admittedly, it was hard to preen in his current state) and found a good spot on the stairs, leaning down to get the handle seated on the switch once again.

“You’ll fall in when the switch moves.” Noted Daniel.

“I’m relying on my buddy and teammate to hold onto my belt and anchor me.”

“That might not be wise.”

Jack shot a look over his shoulder, noting the longing glances Daniel shot towards the door at the top of the stairs.  “Performance evals.  Survey duration.  Rocks.”

“Artifacts,” sighed Daniel, sitting down and getting a good grip on Jack’s waist.  “But there’s still something wrong about this.  You don’t keep gasoline or kerosene down here, right?”

“Do I look stupid to you?”  He paused a moment then plowed on ahead.  “No.  No explosives down here.”

“There’s something . . . what is it . . .”  Daniel was muttering as Jack probed and found the switch again, bracing himself.  “Something about volatile gasses.”

“Like hot air.”  Jack grunted and got ready.  “Three, two, o –“

“Methane!”

“-ne!”  And the switch moved and the pump spat sparks and juddered and shuddered and groaned and Daniel yelped “METHANE!  We need to get out of here, Jack!”

They smelled burning hair and worse and heard the sparks hitting the water and the rattling, horrible sound of the pump and Daniel was scrambling up the stairs with Jack right behind him because he remembered methane.  Methane blew up.  Sometimes sewers blew up.  And like it or not, right now Jack´s basement was . . .”

“Fire in the HOLE!”  Yelled Jack, chivvying Daniel up the last steps, the two of them bursting out of the basement and pelting willy nilly for the front door, no questions asked, grabbing the keys off Jack’s table on the way and slamming the door behind them. 

To stand drenched, reeking and sore out in the April sunshine and the stiff, chilly April breeze.  Daniel wrapped his arms around his chest and his teeth started to chatter.  Jack yodeled and slapped his hands on his sides to stay warm.  Daniel glared.  “Should we call the fire department?”

“I don’t know.”  Jack eyed his front door nervously.  “Maybe yes, maybe no.  I don’t hear any explosions.  Maybe we should check?”

“No.”  Daniel plastered his back to the door and Jack wrinkled his nose at the idea of cleaning it off.  Or maybe just repainting would be better.  Daniel glared.  “We are NOT going back into that pit.”

“I almost had it.”

“You almost got electrocuted.  Isn’t your hair gray enough?”

“You should know.  It’s your fault.”

“Oh, right.  Just because you stopped using Grecian formula.”  Daniel snatched the keys from his hand and stalked towards the truck.

“No!  Daniel!”

“You saying you didn’t dye your hair, Jack?”

“Well, maybe, wait!  Not that.  Daniel, that’s my truck.  Can’t we talk about this?”

“And say what?  Call a cab?  Do you think a driver’d let us in smelling like this?”

“Your seats are vinyl.”

“They’re fabric.  Give it up, Jack.”

“Corinthian leather!”

“There’s no such thing as and your insurance might replace it.”

“It’ll never be the same,” mourned Jack.

“Colonel O’Neill, you lured me over on false pretenses to help you clean up what you suggested was a small mess.  You finagled me into your flooded, sewage-filled basement, then proceeded to immerse me in said sewage while you botched several attempts at minor household repairs and plumbing.”

“We didn’t get as far as the plumbing.”

“Jack, if you try to get me back into that house, I will personally take great delight in tightening YOUR nuts for you!  Am I clear?”

Jack blinked and swallowed.  “That´s one hell of a threat, Danny.”

“On Abydos they taught me to castrate mastadges.  Push this one, Flyboy, and we do show and tell.”

“Okay, okay, no need to get ugly.”

“I don’t need to GET ugly.  After being in your basement I AM ugly.”  Daniel spun on his heel, droplets of muck splattering off his clothes as he moved.  Jack could see the force he used stabbing down on the button that unlocked the truck’s doors.  Daniel stalked to the driver’s side and Jack whimpered softly as he unhesitatingly, slid his smelly, wet, filthy body into the custom, leather bucket driver’s seat of the truck and prepared to desecrate the leather-wrapped steering wheel with his hands.  He couldn’t watch.  He closed his eyes and manfully stifled the sob that rose at his truck’s ordeal. 

“Are you getting in or not?”  Daniel’s normally mild, gentle voice had that waspish, harping note it sometimes got when he’d been dragged from a particularly stodgy site of great importance. 

Jack looked beseechingly to the heavens, but St. Jude, with a convenient clean up crew, did not appear and after a moment he caved in to despair and destroyed the passenger seat with his presence.  Daniel made an unsympathetic noise and turned on the truck.  Jack glared.  “You could show some sympathy and respect for my loss.”

“Spare me.  You’ll wash it, oil it and tell people it’s the new, distressed finish.”

“Well, you got that right.  Distressed, huh.”  Jack slumped despondently into his seat and prepared to take it like a man.  Whining all the way. 

Daniel just shot him a look ripe with disgust.  Jack just felt ripe, period.  He crossed his arms and sulked.  They took a left.  He sat up.  “Where are we going?”

“To a hotel.  That has nice, hot, running water.  And nice, clean basements that I won’t have to visit.”

Jack turned his head, studying the surroundings.  “Which hotel?”

“Hilton, I think.  Something nice.  Tidy.”

“No.”

Daniel pulled over to the side of the road and turned an utterly incendiary glare on Jack.  “I´ve had it.  Get out of the truck.”

“It’s my truck!”

“Then . . .then . . .ARGH!”  Daniel drummed his hands on the steering wheel, audibly gritting his teeth.  He took a deep breath and held it until his face turned red then blew it out in a loud puff.  “Okay.  What.  Is.  Wrong.  With the Hilton?”

“One,” Jack ticked off a finger, “They’d remember me looking like this.”

“How often do you stay there?”

“Doesn’t matter.  I do NOT want witnesses to this.”

“Then you admit this was a humiliating fiasco and you should have called a plumber from the start?”

“No.” declared Jack, pulling his tattered dignity around him.  “That’s your interpretation.  I think we should have finished the job we started and fixed the damn plumbing.  In privacy, like an honest, red-blooded American man does.”

“Where are the Goa’uld when you need them?” wailed Daniel, thumping his head on the wheel. 

“You’re being hysterical, Daniel.  Are you going to start doing this kind of thing in the field?  I just want to know if I need to stock anti-psychotics in the med kit.”

Daniel turned a glacial stare on him and curled a lip in an expression Jack had last seen on a particularly bad tempered Rottweiler just before it dumped on his lawn.  “Right now, the only possible interpretation for anti-psychotics is anything that would keep you away from the sane, sensible members of the populace.  Please keep your pseudo-psychological expertise to yourself.  So your main objection to the Hilton is that there would be witnesses to your fall from home repair grace.”

“Well, that and the fact that I don’t think they’d let us in.”

“Why?”  A suspicious tone matched the expression on the archaeologist’s face.  “We’d pay.”

“Daniel.  Take a breath.  Do you think the Hilton would let anyone who smelled like we do into one of their rooms?  Their cleaning staff would go on strike.”

Blink.  Blink.  “I wish you didn´t have a good point.”

“Uh huh.  Take a right at the next light.”

“Why?”  The tone was suspicious. 

“Because I know a place where we can get a room.”

Daniel shot him another suspicious glare but complied, taking the turns Jack indicated until he pulled up before the office of . . .  “This is a roach trap!”

“We prefer No-Tell Motel in my neck of the woods.” 

“Do they even HAVE rooms for more than hourly occupancy?”

“You’re showing your elitist snob streak here, Daniel.  Many a young man has a fond place in his heart for this establishment.”

Daniel boggled.  “Do they give bug spray with your key?”

“Frankly, right now, we pretty much have to take what we can get.  Now, if you’d drive back and let me fix that pump . . .”

“I get enough big explosions on the job, Jack.  I think I’ll take my chances here.  You go in and talk to . . . Is that the clerk?  I think that’s supposed to be a kiss.”

“I guess he’s looking for his girlfriend’s tonsils.”

“And not finding them.  You rent the room, I’ll park the car.”

“Ooooh, no, Kemosabe.”  A sudden premonition of Daniel peeling out and heading for the Hilton crossed Jack’s mind.  The little weasel had no shame.  He’d have to nip this in the bud.  “If I have to face public scrutiny like this so do you.”

“This is all your fault!”  Daniel’s voice squeaked up several octaves and made Jack wince.  Somewhere a dog howled.  “If you’d taken MY advice this never would have happened.”

“Oh, so it’s all my fault now is it?  Like you never made a mistake in your life.”

“What do my . . . that is so . . . ”  Daniel spluttered.  Jack took advantage of his superior tactical position to turnoff the engine and snatch the car keys. 

“C’mon.  It’ll be painless.”  Relatively, he thought.

When he opened the door a pungent cloud of what was not cigarette smoke wafted past them and Daniel smirked.  Jack rolled his eyes.  “Roach motel.  You called it.” 

The kid let go of his girlfriend and grabbed the ashtray with the smoking joint, stuffing it under the counter.  “Can I, uh . . .”  He trailed off, round, dilated, bloodshot eyes moving from one man to the other and a vaguely revolted expression settled on his face.  “Whaddaya need?”

Jack rocked from heel to toe and back again.  Daniel gave a muffled cough next to him.  “Well.  You guys usually rent rooms.”

“So?” asked the kid, scratching at his pimply chin. 

“So we’d like to rent a room.”  Jack said it firmly, the way he spoke to raw, dumb recruits.

“And we’d like extra soap and shampoo, please,” added Daniel.

Both kids looked from Jack to Daniel and Daniel to Jack, wide eyed.  “Sure.  Whatever floats your boat.  But we don´t know anything about it and you pay in advance.  Cash.”

“Cash?”  blustered Jack.

“Fine.” Growled Daniel.  “$65, right?”

“That’s what the sign says.”  The kid took a key off a hook.  “Last one on the left.  And you might want to keep it down.  The walls are kind of thin.”

“Thank you.”  Jack snatched up the keys and turned, stalking out.  Daniel followed a moment later, clutching extra bath supplies. 

“Great.  Insult added to injury.”

“What do you care what a pimple-faced, dope-smoking, girl-groping desk clerk thinks?”

“Coprophilia is one of those lines I draw.”

“Cop-ro . . .He thinks we love cops?”

“He thinks we love each other.  And shit.”

Jack grimaced.  “Yuck.”

“I know.”  Daniel eyed him and shook his head.  “Yuck.”

“Hey!  A lot of people think I’m very attractive.  For my age.”

“Not when you’re covered in shit.”

“Does that mean you think I’m attractive too?”  Jack leered as they got into the truck..

“I am not going there.  I am going to take a shower and get clean.  I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.  This is all your fault.”

“You’ve got a scratch in that record, Daniel.  Might want to take it back.”  He pulled into the spot in front of their room.

“I don’t know where to start.”  Daniel had a dazed look on his face.  “With your antiquated choice of techno-metaphor or the concept that you can blithely ignore your culpability, or your overweening ego.”

“Talk about your abundance of riches, huh?”  Jack let them in.  “See.  Classic, utilitarian, functional.”

“A dump.”

“You can go TRY to book into the Hilton.  Remember how the desk clerk sneers at plaid?  What’s he going to make of –“  Jack waved a hand up and down Daniel’s length.  “Your current homeless chic look.”

“The homeless smell better than this.”  Daniel had shut the door and locked it and was stripping faster than Jack thought anyone could. 

“Kinda making my point for me there, aren’t you?”  Jack took a more leisurely approach, since his work boots wouldn’t come off like Daniel’s Weejuns and the idea of sitting there with his pants around his ankles, trying to undo soggy laces didn’t appeal.

Daniel was bare-assed and grabbing the little bottles of shampoo and soap.  “Hot water.  Hot, running, clean water with NO risk of electrocution!  I´m going to get CLEAN!” 

Jack watched him dash across the bedroom and into the bath and snickered at the way his buttocks (among other parts) bounced with the enthusiastic dash he made for clean tile and water.  The shower went on almost immediately, with Daniel´s voice crooning the praises of hot water and soap.  Jack, for his part, got his boots and pants off and then faced the daunting task of getting his shirt over his head without having it touch any part of him from the neck up.  He contorted and grimaced and squirmed, trying to avoid contact with the awful thing but finally caved and just yanked it off fast, the way Daniel had done.

The archaeologist was still in the shower, making little happy noises as he lavishly soaped and rinsed, but a dark note was starting to enter his sudsy symphony.  Jack stood shivering on the tiles, hands tucked under his arms, balls tucked between his legs and glared.  “Are you done yet?”

“Get your own room!”

He thought about it for a moment then realized he´d have to put his clothes back on.  “Go to hell!  You´re done.  Get out of there.”

“I’m not done!”

“Daniel, you have washed yourself twice since I walked into here.  Let alone the scrubbing you must have done while I was still après the bathroom.”

“That’s after the bath, Jack.  You’ve been reading the cheap perfume bottles in the drugstore again.”

“Okay, okay.  You’re clean.  Get out.”

Daniel was contorting.  He could see it through the frosted shower door.  The man was arched back trying to get his hands in the middle of his back.  “You look like you´re doing that yogurt thing.”

The pretzeling paused for a moment as Daniel slid the shower door open and peeked myopically out.  “You´re doing that on purpose.  Even you know better than that.”

“You’re halfway out now, Danny.  Get out and give me a chance.  I’m freezing out here.”

“Turn up the heat.  I’m not done.”

“What, exactly, are you trying to do?”

“I can still feel that stuff between my shoulder blades.  I’m trying to get clean!”

“Looks clean to me.”

“I’m not!  I can feel it.  I can smell it.”

Jack sighed and prepared to sacrifice for the sake of his friend.  And to get into the damn shower before the hot water ran out.  “Look, I´ll wash your back for you.” 

Daniel peeked out again.  “You wash my back right now and you´ll get me dirtier than ever.”

“If I get in there with you are you going to scream?”

“Are you going to do anything that a dope-smoking, girl-groping desk attendant would imagine?”

“In your dreams, Jackson!”

Daniel blinked.  “God, I hope not.”

“Just let me in there.”  Daniel backed up and Jack squeezed into the tiny, tiled shower stall.  God help anyone overweight who needed to shower in here.  It couldn’t be more than three-and-a-half foot squared.  He had the shower control in his back but he didn’t want to step away because then he’d be rubbing, ahem, sidearms with Dr. Jackson. 

Daniel was glaring at him, nose wrinkled.  “You stink.”

“Oh, right, like this is news to me?”

A bar of soap and a little teensy bottle of shampoo were thrust into his hands.  “Wash.  Now.”

“You’re being awfully pushy.”

“I’m sharing a shoebox with you and you’re next to the door!  Now wash.”

Jack growled but turned, or tried to, and set the shampoo on the soap ledge.  Rubbing enthusiastically he got a good lather up between his palms and started to rub it over his chest, humming happily.

“What is that noise you’re making, Jack?”

“Opera.”

“No.  It’s not.  It sounds like a dying animal.”

“Everybody’s a critic.”  Jack lifted an arm to wash his pit and hit Daniel in the face.

“Ow!  Damn it!”

“Sorry.”

“It’s not enough I have to burn my clothes and scrub my skin raw, but now you’re hitting me too?”

“I said I was sorry.”  Jack finished scrubbing his pit and gingerly lowered the arm, backing away.  And right into the metal and tile of the wall.  “Ow! Ow!  Cold, ouchie!”

“Serves you right.”  Daniel was still rubbing his reddened cheekbone.

“Drama queen.  If you weren’t hogging the space maybe you wouldn’t get hit.”

“I’m not hogging, you’re flinging your arms around!  And what about my back?”

“Your ordered me to scrub first, m’lord,” Jack pointed out.  “I’m just doing what you told me to do.  Now, if you could give me some space?”

“Oh, right!  How am I supposed to do that?  Climb the wall?”  Daniel glared as Jack lifted a leg to soap himself.  The leg, of course, could only fit right past him, putting them almost front to front.

Jack eyed him.  “You better keep your hands to yourself.”

Daniel blushed from his scalp to his knees and maybe beyond, but Jack couldn´t tell through the steam and hot-water-flush.  “For once I´m glad you guys have don´t ask, don´t tell.”

Jack glared.  “There´s nothing TO tell.”  He turned to rinse off his front and soaped his butt.  “Any time you want to pitch in on the middle of my back is fine.”

“What, you don’t want me to wash your posterior?”

“I can take care of my own butt very well, thank you.”  Jack glared over his shoulder then sighed happily as he felt strong fingers rub soap between his shoulder blades.  “Oh, yes, just a little lower and to the left, ooooh, that feels GOOD Daniel.”

The hands washing his back paused.  “I´m not sure whether to laugh or file sexual harassment charges.”

In other circumstances this whole situation would have been mortifying.  Here, now, with Daniel after the day they´d had . . .it was still mortifying but a lot less uncomfortable than waiting for Daniel or kicking him out.  Jack decided to leverage his position.  “If I recall you still want a favor from me, smartass.”

The fingers washing his back paused again then continued and no further comments issued from behind him.  And that was good.  After all, they´d been offworld until Thursday, then in mandatory quarantine and while he was used to the base showers, he just didn´t feel right until he´d bathed at home.  That option hadn´t quite worked out.  This wasn´t perfect but given the alternatives he´d take what he could get.  Daniel dug in and, after another couple scrubbings, Jack finally, for the first time in days, felt really clean and turned around in a much better mood.  “Okay.  Your turn.”

Daniel sighed in obvious relief and turned to face the wall, leaning against his braced arms.  Jack almost commented on the lurid image presented then resisted, and simply returned the favor.  Daniel, in all the time he´d known him, had always been personally fastidious if not tidy.  Jack felt a twinge of guilt for having lured him into a situation that could only be called ‘icky´.  Then he remembered his truck seats and figured the scales were more than balanced. 

He lathered and scrubbed again.  “How´s that?”

“Feels great.”  Daniel’s voice sounded tired and relieved. 

“Just say when.”

He didn´t say when.  Not then.  Not one, not two or more scrubbings later.  Jack soaped the washcloth up for what was the fourth round and hesitated.  “I think the skin´s starting to come off your back.”

“Just once more.”

Enough was enough.  “No.  The water´s getting cold.”

“Liar.”  In a wheedling tone, Daniel added, “Just one more, Jack.  I promise.”

“One?”

“One.”

Daniel got his wish.  Jack leaned into it and washed for all he was worth, then edged out of the shower to let Daniel rinse off.  The air was chilly but man, it felt good to be clean.  He grabbed one of the cheap hotel towels and rubbed his hair and body down, then wrapped it around his waist and turned to the sink to start rinsing and gargling for all he was worth.

“Trying to get the smell out of your nose?”  Daniel was drying off behind him.

“Yeah.  I think I envy your allergies right now.”

“I think this is the first time I’ve wished for more pollen.  I’m not stuffed up enough.  And I note that you are beginning to face reality and stop denying your basement.”

“Did I ask you to play MacKenzie?”  Jack turned, aggrieved, to levy a long-suffering look.  “Here I was trying to be sympathetic and you start bad-mouthing my house again.”

“Not your house.  Just your basement.  And you weren’t being sympathetic.”  Daniel had pasted a sanctimonious look on his face.  “I think you could have stopped at ‘pathetic’ and had it about right.”

“There are times I’m amazed at what a good friend you are.  Then there’s now.”  Jack sighed loudly and turned back to the sink.  He had stubble.  Forget five o’clock shadows, this was a midnight murky kind of stubble.  He sighed and though longingly of the razor sitting cold, foamless and dry on the side of his sink.  Daniel didn’t have stubble.  He’d gotten a shave that morning.  He . . . was being very quiet.  Jack scowled, seeing suspicion in his own reflected eyes before he turned to the door.  “Daniel?”

No answer.  But there was a soft, wet sound that raised Jack´s hackles.  He crept to the door and peeked around it to find his friend disconsolately poking a dismantled wire hanger into the heap of his soggy, soiled clothes.  “Daniel, what´re you doing?”

Myopic blue eyes turned towards him.  “I didn´t want to touch them.”

Jack couldn´t blame him.  He had to admit, if only to himself, that he´d been in denial, hoping against hope that the Good Laundry Fairy would drop by while they were in the shower.  Saying that, though, would just invite more Daniel-scorn and Hilton comparisons than he could cope with.  He squared his shoulders and took up the burden of the leader again.  “I guess we´ll have to figure something out.”

“What?”  Daniel had hooked his cell phone and was tugging it out of the pile of putrid clothing.  “You have something in mind?”

“Give me a minute to think about it.  Special ops trained here.  Just relax.”

Daniel jabbed his mucky sweater with the hanger.  “If I wanted you to blow them up I´d find that reassuring.”

“Your sarcasm is not helping the situation.”  Jack was prowling, checking the dresser drawers and closets.  Gideon Bible.  Wire hangers.  He turned back to study the bed in the middle of the room.

The sounds of water running and shutting off in the bathroom distracted him for a moment.  He looked back, briefly trying to picture Daniel wearing the lampshade from the bedside light.  Nah.  The bedspread was an ugly thing in 1970´s gold and avocado shades.  He´d never noticed before.  Daniel wandered back through, drying his phone on the corner of the towel he wore and checking the signal.  “Figured anything out yet?”

“Sure!”  Jack yanked the bedspread off the bed and wrapped it around himself.  “To-GAH! To-GAH!”

A withering look met his effort.  “I don´t think so.”

“You got a better suggestion?  It’ll do to get us home.”

Daniel blinked, looked from Jack to the piles of soggy, stinky clothes, and out the front window at the truck.  His nose wrinkled.  “I think this is one of those times for thinking outside the box.”

Jack, wrapped in his avocado toga, glared at him.  “And that means?”

Daniel shot him a crafty look and, Jack noticed, carefully placed the bed between the two of them.  “Teamwork, Jack.”

“Daniel,” wheedled Jack, “what are you doing?”

He hardly needed to ask.  Daniel flipped open his StarTac and hit the speed dial.  “Calling Sam.”

“NO!  Daniel, stop!”  Jack dashed for the foot of the bed, intending to corner the archaeologist and wrest the phone from him but Daniel suddenly bounced across the bed and was on the other side.  “Hey, no fair!”

“Hi, Sam?”

Jack, standing at the foot of the bed, raced back towards him and Daniel jumped up onto the bed and bounced away to the other side.  Jack picked up a pillow, yelling “That´s no fair!” 

“Got a little problem here, Sam,” Daniel broke off to duck the thrown pillow.  “Don’t throw things at me, Jack!  I’m doing this for both of us.”

“You are not going to tell her about this!”  Jack lunged across the bed this time, emulating Daniel.  “This comes under don’t tell even if they DO ask!”

“Stop it, Jack!”  Daniel jumped onto the bed and stayed there, bouncing.  “Sam, listen, we’re in this little motel . . . Hey!”

Jack jumped up after him and Daniel bounced towards the foot of the bed to avoid him.  Jack bounced after him.  Daniel panted into the phone, “It´s the bedsprings, they´re noisy.”

Jack winced.  “Don´t tell her that!  I´m gonna drive you through the mattress if you keep talking!”

“Ooooh, bad choice of phrase, Jack!”  Daniel smirked and bounced across the king size bed, which shuddered under their weight.  “Don’t worry, Sam.  He’s not getting violent.  He’s already done his worst.”

“Daniel!”  Jack lunged and Daniel tucked and rolled to the foot of the bed, dropping the phone.  The two of them leaped for it, colliding mid-air.  “OW!”

“OW”  Jack, get your hands off me!”

“Hell no!”  Jack panted, grappling with Daniel.  “Sam, hang up!  Daniel’s playing a joke!”

“I don’t believe you!  Sam, he’s got me in a no-tell motel!  Bring clothes!  Bring tools!  We need help!”

A worried, squeaky little voice came out of the phone speaker.  Jack tried to snatch it up and Daniel tackled him.  “Get off me, Daniel!  Go get your own toga!”

Daniel had lost his towel in the tussling and he paused, blushed, then got a determined look on his face.  A moment later he had possession of the phone again.  Jack rolled over on top of him, wrestling for the phone.  “Get your hands off me, Jack.  I´ve had enough of this!  I want clothes and coffee and I want you to get off me.”

“Give me the phone!”  Jack was bouncing up and down with his knees, hands wrapped around Daniel’s hand, trying to twist the phone away. 

“He’s lost it Sam!  He’s done lewd, terrible things to me today!  Help!  We’re at the . .”

“Jackson!  Your ass is mine!”  Jack rolled, taking them both towards the head of the bed and startling Daniel into letting go.  The phone went flying.

And the bed gave a long, mournful wail of springs and cheap metal and collapsed.  “AUGH!” they both screamed as the castered feet skidded across the floor and the bolts at the head of the bed frame gave it up and dropped springs, mattress, sheets, pillows, and two startled men through the gap that opened up by the headboard and onto a dusty floor. 

Daniel recovered first.  Well, his voice recovered first actually, but that was no more than Jack expected.  “You broke the bed!”

“I didn’t break it.  You did!”  Jack thrashed, trying to disentangle himself from Daniel, the headboard, the springs, the whole situation.  Someone was thumping on the wall and a squeaking noise was coming from the phone. 

“Ow!  Get off my butt!”

“Quit wiggling!  Stuck here.”

“Saaaam!”  Daniel howled.  The pounding on the wall started up again and Jack was so tangled he couldn’t get a hand free to muffle the damned loudmouth.  “Sammm! Lodgepole Motel!”

“You –“  Jack was twisted up in the bed spread like a tangled fishing reel.

Daniel was squirming wildly, wriggling his body past Jack.  “Get your –“

“Jesus, Daniel!  Your dick’s -!”

“Stop talking!  That tickles!”

“You started it!”  Pubic hair was tickling his nose and god knows, he really didn’t want to tickle back considering what was in his face, but a man could only take so much.  He winced at the thought and was damn glad he hadn’t said that out loud.

Daniel kept squirming and suddenly it was knees in Jack´s face, then feet and the archaeologist was loose.  A mixed blessing considering the first thing he did was head for his phone.  With more room to work Jack started getting himself out of the mess of bedding and bed that had trapped him, but not fast enough.

“Hi.  I got loose.  Yeah, I’m fine.”

Jack growled, imagining the other half of the conversation.  “You won´t be once I get my hands on you, Jackson!”

“He’s threatening to put his hands on me again, Sam.  You better get here fast.  Whispering Aspen.”

“I should have bitten it off when I had the chance!”

“Ouch!”  Daniel crossed his legs at the threat.  “He’s threatening me with things I’m pretty sure are covered under ‘don’t ask and don’t tell.’  You may want to check out a weapon.  And a tool kit.”

“Daniel!  Stop there or you’re dead!”  Jack finally rolled loose.  Daniel started to back up.

“Yes, Sam.  I do know what kind of place this is.  Could you hurry?  I’ll explain later.” 

Jack backed him towards the wall until he could swipe the phone out of his hand.  “You there Carter?”

“Sir?”  Her voice had a strangled quality to it.  “If you’re laughing I want you to remember one word.  Evaluations.”

“Yes Sir. Of course Sir.  Will we need a new archaeologist?”

“Possibly.  The current one’s pushing his luck.”

“Let him in one piece for now, okay Sir?  If you’re going to kill him please pick a more . . . decorous location.”

Daniel was standing there, watching him and fidgeting.  Jack´s glare didn´t intimidate him though as he leaned in and added, “And coffee, Sam.  Bring some coffee.  I´m in withdrawal.”

Her chuckle burbled out of the phone before the connection broke.  Jack lightly smacked the side of Daniel´s head.  “Now you´ve not only prevented me from doing my duty as a householder and damaged my masculine confidence, you´ve undermined my authority with my second in command.”

Daniel sneered, plucked his phone from Jack´s fingers and sniffed.  “I´ve only punctured your over-inflated self-image and questioned a display of unerringly bad judgment.”

“Don’t start with me, Daniel!”

“Tell you what, we’ll wait for Sam, explain it to her, and let HER decide if I’ve committed lese majesty –“

“The less you say about my majesty the better,” grumped Jack.

“- or if you bit off more than you could chew then dragged me along to Heimlich your delusions of competency out of you.”

“ . . . I think you really should have mixed that metaphor more.”

Daniel rolled his eyes.  Jack looked down at his undraped frame, considered extricating the bed spread and finally decided that retreat was the better part of valor in this case and withdrew to the bathroom to wait for reinforcements.

It took her long enough.  Jack rediscovered an ancient hatred of multiplication and division in the process of counting the tiles on the floor.  And the walls.  And in the shower.  Daniel knocked on the door a couple times and Jack snarled at him.  “Traitor.  Slacker.”

“Keep talking to the voices in your head, Jack.  Maybe one of them knows more about plumbing than you do.”  Daniel’s voice was muffled but Jack couldn’t escape the suspicion that the archaeologist was laughing at him. 

“Least my voices answer back, not like your rocks!”

“I’ll remember you said that.”

Unfortunately, Jack was quite sure that was true.  He sighed and sat back, scratching idly and practicing the blank, relaxed mindset that worked so well for those beloved military moments of numbing boredom, all the more frequent since he´d met Dr. Daniel Jackson and learned just how tedious archaeology could be for anyone who wasn´t an archaeologist. 

And, as with all those hours spent waiting for Daniel in the field, it seemed to take Carter for-fucking-ever to get there.  Car doors and muffled voices were a strong hint but there wasn´t any guesswork involved when the bathroom doorknob rattled once, twice and the meager lock didn´t even give a gasp of resistance as the door was opened and Teal´c stood there, eyebrow already hoisted towards what would be a hairline in anyone else.  “O´Neill.  Major Carter told me the Tau´ri conduct fertility rituals in places such as this.  I confess I did not believe her.”

“Well.  I . . .”  Jack paused, trying to think of a fitting response that wouldn’t get him squashed by the Jaffa.

Teal´c didn´t give him a chance.  “However I fail to understand what fertility outcome you hope to achieve with DanielJackson.  Unless some aspect of Tau´ri physiology has eluded me.”

Jack glared.  “Okay.  You´ve had your fun.  Now where are my clothes?”

The corners of Teal´c´s lips curled up, a bit more of a smirk than the decorous smile that Jack had seen before.  He turned back towards the room where a low chatter of voices told him Daniel was grossly misrepresenting events and that he had to get dressed and out there to defend his manly honor.  He barked, “Clothes!  Now!  Carter?  What´s the hold up out there?”

“Here Sir!”  A slender hand reached around the door with a set of everyday blues. 

Jack grabbed the clothes.  “Are you laughing, Major?”

Teal´c turned his back.  Daniel´s voice and Carter´s rang out at the same time, “No, SIR!”  “What do you think, Jack?”

“I think Lieutenant Carter sounds damn good right now,” growled Jack.

Daniel was standing there, happily dressed in his blues and guzzling a cup of coffee.  Carter and . . . oh crap.  Siler.  “Oh, for Pete´s sake!  Carter!  Over here!”

She scampered over, damn but she actually scampered, eyes sparkling and mouth pursed on what he just knew was laughter.  He shot her a look that had taken decades off the lives of junior airmen but clearly going through the ‘Gate had damaged her mind because she just stood there with that perky look and choked out a strangled, “Sir!”

“Siler?”

“Yes Sir.”  Her dimples were going to get painful if she bit back that grin any more.  “It seemed like a good idea.”

“Feel like letting me in on why?”

Daniel had wandered over and he, too, was dimpling but he wasn´t even trying to hide his smile.  It was plastered from one side of his face to the other as he savored the last of his coffee.  “Because I was right.”

Jack just reached out and planted a hand over his mouth.  Across the room Siler and Teal´c looked up from the clothes and shook their heads.  Daniel gently peeled the hand off his face and smiled more widely.  Carter and Daniel glanced at each other and matching, wide-eyed blue gazes met his while the two of them tried and completely failed to look innocent.  “I thought he could help.”

“Why?” 

“Gee Jack, I thought you knew?”  Daniel was dragging it out, malicious smile firmly in place.  “You could have gotten a plumber on Sunday.  No problem.  And kept it all in the family.”

Siler had wandered over and Jack could see it in his eyes – that look.  That ‘sergeant-one-ups-damn-fool-office.-Again. Look.´  “Thought you knew, Sir.  It runs in the family.”

“I thought . . . Carter said your dad was a mechanic.”

“Yep.”  Siler kept that humble-yet-snotty look on his face but Carter and Daniel smirked outright.  “He sure is.  I learned plumbing at Mom’s knee.  Broke her heart when I joined up.  I’ve got her tools out in my truck.”

“No.  Non.  La’.  Nyet.  Neg-a-TORY.”  Daniel Jackson rapped out each negative in clipped, clear tones.  Not that he expected Jack, the original man of action, to actually be deterred by mere words.

Jack´s reaction didn´t surprise him.  “Aw, Daniel, c´mon.  It´s clean!”

“I remember your basement, Jack.  I do not want to go down there.  I will not go down there.  How much more clearly do you need me to state it?”

“I cleaned it.”  Jack puffed himself up, waving his arms. 

Daniel watched the show of indignation impassively.  “I don´t care.  You lured me down there once, Jack.  Never again.”

Jack drew himself up to his full height.  It didn´t escape Daniel´s notice that doing so gave him at least two inches of altitude from which to look down.  “This is a point of pride, Daniel.  There´s a point to be made and you owe me satisfaction.”

“Satisfaction.”  Daniel rolled the word over his tongue, drawing out the syllables.  “Have you ever heard the term ‘I can’t get no . . .’?”

“Just come take a look.”  Ah.  As Daniel had expected, Jack rapidly progressed from words to actions.  A hand settled in the middle of his back and urged him towards the basement door with the gentle pressure of a bulldozer.

Daniel dug in his heels but he never had been able to out-muscle Jack and he doubted he´d escape now with anything short of open rebellion.  Nonetheless, he had to try.  “Did you do what Siler told you to do?”

Jack nodded enthusiastically.  “I fixed it!” 

“I distinctly remember him telling you his fix was temporary and that you should, and I’m quoting here, ‘call a plumber.’”

“’Call a plumber, Sir.  You forgot that he added ‘sir’.”

“I didn’t forget.  I didn’t add it.”

“Trust me, Daniel.”

“Do I really need to answer that?”

“I have a nice bottle of Chianti for you.”

“What?”  Daniel yanked his arm loose and turned to face him.  “What are you talking about?”

“You, Hannibal!”  Jack was chortling, rocking back and forth, heel to toe with barely repressed glee.  “You said you’d eat ‘em braised with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Daniel blinked, trying to keep what he knew was a clueless look off his face and, he feared, failing miserably.  Time for a good offense.  He summoned his most patently phony, soothing tone and crooned, “All right, Jack.  Just stay calm and things will be all right.”

“I knew it.  You’re trying to weasel out.”

“And you’re trying to guilt me.”  Daniel crossed his arms and glared.

“I am merely trying to get my due.”

“I thought you got enough of that last weekend.”

“Cute.”  Jack smirked at him, but Daniel noticed with regret that the hand was back in the middle of his back.  “I ask for a simple look, no cleaning, no work, just a look at the pipes in a nice, clean basement and what do I get?”

“To leave me alone?”  Daniel asked wistfully.

“A look.  Just a look.”

Daniel shut his eyes and heaved a long, deep sigh.  “If I can stay on the stairs.”

Jack beamed at him.  “Sure.  No problem.”

“No cleaning up.”

“No need.”  The smile looked almost painful.  “I cleaned up.  I fixed it.  Nothing will happen.”

Daniel shut his eyes for a moment and wished he knew of some ancient deity of plumbing to whom he could appeal, but finally nodded.  “Okay, Jack.  A look.”

A hearty slap on his shoulder sent him staggering.  “And then you´ll have a good, full helping of words.  So.  Where you gonna take me?”

“Take you?” 

“Of course.  After dissing my house and casting aspersions on my manly skills you owe me, Dr. Jackson!”

“Ribs.  Will ribs do?”  Daniel gave him a beseeching look, hoping the allure of one of Jack’s favorite foods would cut this fiasco short.

“Ribs.”  Jack ran his fingers over his chin as if thinking it over then smiled.  “Ribs to make up for the ribbing you gave me?  Sounds right.”

“Let’s get this over with.”  Daniel braced himself then turned and marched down the stairs.

Jack skipped lightly past him and across the basement, where he turned and held out his arms like the hostess on a game show.  “See?  A masterpiece!”

Daniel stopped on the bottom step and crossed his arms.  “What am I looking at, Jack?”

“This flange-work!”  Jack turned and ran his fingers over new PVC pipes.  His voice was rich with satisfaction.  “I replaced allll these.” 

“Uh huh.  All by yourself.”  Daniel eyed the pipes warily, looking for signs of moisture or strain.  Nothing.  From what he saw at least.

“Go on, Daniel!  Test it!”  Jack gave the pipes a firm slap. 

“Thanks, I’ll pass.”

“No. No!  I insist.  Go flush the can.  Run the water.  You’ll see.”

Daniel shut his eyes for a moment, then opened them and smiled appeasingly at Jack.  “Sure Jack.  Whatever you say.”

“Go.  Go!”  Jack made little shooing motions with his hands.  

Daniel sighed and clumped up the stairs, dearly wishing they didn´t have to do this rite of atonement.  He went to the kitchen and turned on the tap.  Faintly, from the basement, he heard a cheer.  Shoulders slumped in resigned acceptance he went to the bathroom and turned on the taps.  And turned, eyeing the toilet as if it were a personal enemy.  Slowly a grin settled onto his face.  A grin he´d been told was cherubic, but he knew better.  Turning back he went to the basement door, calling.  “Live test, right Jack?”

“What other kind is there?”

“Right.”  Daniel went back to the bathroom and grabbed the toilet paper, wadding and tossing several handfuls into the john then flushing.  He ran to the master bath and did it again.  A moment’s memory of Jack after one of his Mexican dinner blow-outs and he added a third and fourth round to his test then sauntered to the basement door and down the stairs, stopping halfway to look across at Jack.

The colonel smiled widely and planted his hands on his hips.  “That the best you got?”

Daniel gave him his most malign look.  “Good work, Jack.  I´m impressed.”

“You should be.”  Jack buffed his nails on his chest and studied them closely.  “One day, my friend, you’ll learn to respect my native skills and talents.  But I forgive you – it’d be hard for an expat like you to grasp the range and depth of the American male’s humble, yet heritage of self-reliance and . . .”

Yadda yadda yadda thought Daniel, regretfully considering how insufferable Jack was going to be.  Slowly, he noticed a faint, groaning sound from the ceiling.  Jack was still talking.  Daniel held his breath and listened closely.  There it was again.  A gurgling sound and a low hiss.  He followed the pipes with his eyes and saw a glisten of water at a join and almost – almost! – called out a warning but Jack had brought this on himself. 

A premonition put an itch between Daniel´s shoulder-blades and he turned and ran for high ground.  Jack´s voice rang out behind him, “Hey!  Where are you going?  You owe me the chance to gloat!”

He´d just made the top of the stairs when he heard the low, weird sounds of rending plastic and the very familiar, not-at-all low sounds of an outraged Jack O´Neill´s howls.  “ARRRRGHHH!”

“Jack?”  Daniel turned, and almost went back.  A sudden, ridiculous image of himself as Orpheus leaving the underworld sent a hiccup of laughter through him as his toilet-paper-strewn Eurydice appeared at the foot of the stairs. 

“Daniel!  Goddamnit what did you do!?”

“Live test, Jack.  Nothing you haven’t done yourself.”  Daniel gulped and hiccupped again. 

“Get back down here!”

He thought about it.  For a millisecond.  As the thought registered he rejected it and reached into his pocket for his cell phone.  “Nope, not this time.”

“What?”  Jack caught the cell phone Daniel tossed and glared back up the stairs.  “What the hell?”

Daniel grinned.  “Charge won´t last forever, Jack.  I suggest you call a plumber.  Fast.”  And he slammed the door.  And locked it. 

And went to find Jack´s phone.  Sam brought Teal´c and carryout and beer and the three of them sat happily in the living room eating Chinese food, listening to the howling from the basement and betting on how long the plumber would take. 

Life was good.

 

****

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