Catnip To The Ladies
by Suz suzvoy@tesco.net

Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.

Spoilers for 'Watergate', 'Unnatural Selection' and 'Sight Unseen'. Episode addition for 'Sight Unseen'. Come on...you knew *someone* was gonna use that as a title eventually, right? ;)

I haven't been able to write anything for a *long* time, so if anyone finds my muse can they please FedEx it to me? Ta.

*

"Are you *sure* this is really necessary?" Jack asked, just knowing from her description of the woman how boring this was gonna be.

"Trust me sir," She murmured back. "She was very worried about him, and...and to be honest, I think he's all she has. And vice versa."

That was depressing. "All right, all right." Sighing, he rocked back on the balls of his feet...and couldn't help but admire the view. He so rarely got to see her in civilian clothes. They'd finally met up again barely two hours ago, Jack having had to make his way back from Piedmont - with Vernon and the aid of the security forces, of course.

Vernon, for his part, had been fully 'briefed' on his experience. Though Jack had spun his own story about what had happened, they'd needed to make sure that Vern stuck to it, while also incorporating that weird germ theory Carter'd come up with to convince the guys Grandmother.

Then, once they were sure Vern had everything down pat, Carter had made the suggestion.

Teal'c and Jonas had already returned to the base; Teal'c had to meditate (he'd put it off due to the whole bug thing), and Jonas' presence wasn't really *required*...and he was supposed to stay on the base anyway.

So in the end - with Hammond's clearance - it was just him and Carter, taking Vern to see his only living relative. Or at least according to Carter, the only relative who was living and actually cared about him.

As the door to the house opened, Jack couldn't help but wonder how long it'd been since he'd talked to anyone in *his* family.

And then other things distracted him.

"Vernon!"

Mrs Sharpe flung her arms around her grandson as enthusiastically as she'd flung the door open. "I was so worried about you!"

As expected Vern hesitated, seeming decidedly embarrassed before half-heartedly returning the hug. "Hey, 'Ma." Whether it was an abbreviation of 'Grandma' or if he really saw her as his mother wasn't clear...but when he got over his embarrassment and returned the hug fully, it was obvious he was glad just to be with her.

Pulling away, Mrs Sharpe smiled brightly at him and closely examined his face with the kind of thoroughness Fraiser would be proud of - and always freaked Jack out. "Are you okay? You look like you're okay. They promised you'd be okay," And then, as if only just noticing the two people standing behind her grandson she turned her head towards them, focusing on Carter. "Thank you for keeping your word; for bringing him back safely."

She smiled; no doubt pleased the reunion was going so well. "I'm happy to do so Mrs Sharpe, and you're very welcome."

The woman looked towards him...and paused. Then frowned. "Who are you?"

"Colonel Jack O'Neill, ma'am," He extended his hand.

She didn't take it.

"It's a pleasure to..." He quietly stopped talking, lowering his hand. "Uh, meet you."

She seemed downright disappointed, still frowning as she turned back towards his second in command. "Where's the other one? The one who's your-?"

"He couldn't make it," Carter interrupted suddenly, surprising Jack. "Had to get back to work. You know."

"Oh *I* know," Mrs Sharpe replied, as if sharing part of some vast conspiracy. "Vernon here works himself half to death at that gas station of his." She smiled at him again. He promptly rolled his eyes.

Oh yeah. Definite parental relationship. The classic 'Gee, *Mom*' look was unmistakable.

"Well," She continued, stepping back into the house and all but yanking poor Vern with her. "Why don't you two come in?"

"We wouldn't want to intrude," Carter said, surprising him again. He'd assumed it would have been *him* making excuses to leave.

"It's hardly intruding," Mrs Sharpe argued with a smile. "I'm asking you in. *Please*."

Her expression said it all: she wouldn't take no for an answer.

Sighing, Jack figured it'd be best to just get it over with. The sooner they started, the sooner they could leave. Putting on his most charming expression (or at least what Carter had once described as such), he began. "We'd love to visit with you, Mrs Sharpe, though unfortunately it can't be for very long. The demands of the work..."

Suddenly enamoured she smiled brightly, released her hold on Vern, stepped towards Jack, and hooked her arm around his. "I just can't *imagine* what it must be like to work the in the Air Force. Do you get overtime?"

Grinning and bearing it to new levels of extreme, he followed (i.e., was dragged) into her house.

Carter and Vern were left to follow alone.

Her place seemed pretty nice and Jack made a point of commenting on it - causing what was unmistakably a blush to rise on Mrs Sharpe's features. Leading them into what turned out to be the living room, she soon had them seated around a table that seemed to have been designed for people with height issues.

Fraiser would have loved it.

Jack was seated at what was effectively the head of the table, and Mrs Sharpe ("Alice, please.") very obviously sat to his right - so Jack made damn sure that Carter was sitting to his left. If he was going to do this, he was at least going to get some vague enjoyment out of it.

Carter didn't seem particularly surprised by his behaviour, though she was amused...and Mrs Sharpe looked anything *but* amused.

The next ten minutes or so were full of the kind of small talk he dreaded; weather, plants in her back yard, the comparison of Air Force to civilian clothing...she didn't even watch The Simpsons.

So maybe, just maybe, he paid much more attention to Carter than he usually did.

Okay, okay: much more attention than he usually allowed himself to pay.

Vern - who'd remained completely silent the entire time, sitting at the opposite end of the table to Jack - suddenly volunteered to get drinks.

Prompting Grandma to speak. "Oh I can't believe I forgot to offer you anything! I'm just so thrilled to have a real live Air Force officer in my house! You must think I'm a terrible hostess."

"Not at all," Jack replied graciously, fighting the urge to point out that she'd already had a real live Air Force officer in her house when Carter had visited earlier. Turning to his 2IC he surreptitiously rolled his eyes, pleased as usual when she tried - and failed - to hide a grin.

Jack's gaze continued around the table, focusing on Vern who...seemed to have some kind of tick. Weird. He hadn't noticed that before. The guy hadn't stood yet, but his head was definitely movin...ohhh.

For whatever reason, Vern wanted Jack to follow him. And he didn't want the others to find out.

Slapping a hand on the table (and making Mrs Sharpe jump in the process and eliciting just a small amount of satisfaction from the action), he began to stand. It wasn't easy; his knees kept hitting the little table. "I'll just give ol' Vern a hand." Eventually, he was up.

Mrs Sharpe studied him with concern. "Are you sure? I wouldn't want you-"

"Please, Mrs Shar...*Alice*. I'd be honoured."

It was, apparently, the right thing to say, as she stopped talking and smiled as he walked out of the room into the kitchen, following Vern (who'd apparently won his own battle with the table).

And who grabbed and pulled him aside as soon as they were clear of the room.

"What the-?"

"Shhhh!" Vern hissed, pushing Jack against the wall in the kitchen before speaking quietly. "Like catnip to the ladies."

Okay, Vernon really *had* flipped. "*What*?"

Seeming to have an answer, Vern carefully tugged him towards the doorway they'd just stepped through, his finger raising to his own mouth. Obviously, he was meant to listen.

Confused, but happy to do anything just as long as Vern wouldn't grab him again, Jack did what he was supposed to. Leaning closer to the doorway, but careful not to let his head show, he listened.

Grandma could be heard first, speaking freely now that she thought they were alone. "*What* do you think you were doing?"

Carter's confused voice more than matched Jack's internal dialogue. "I'm sorry?"

"Nice try, but that innocent act won't work with me. I saw you. *Both* of you."

"Both of *who*?"

"You and that Colonel O'Neill." Jack's head almost made it into the doorway. "I saw what you were doing." What the heck was she talking about?

"I'm sorry, Mrs Sharpe. I really have no idea what you're talking abo-"

"Grinning," She announced, as if confirming a death sentence. "You were grinning. At each other. Continuously."

All *this* because they'd grinned a few times?

"Mrs Sharpe-"

"No," She interrupted. "No explanations. Colonel O'Neill I can understand - he is a man after all, and they *do* do 'men things'." Jack couldn't help but frown at *that*. "And he has, at least, been trying to keep me happy. I comprehend the fickleness of his heart when it comes to the two of us. But you and that Jonas really do make such a lovely couple - he's obviously besotted with you. This is going to break his heart!"

There were several things about her statement that made Jack frown. The fact that he was a man and apparently capable of 'man things', whilst Jonas was a man whose little heart was going to be broken; the fact that she had his and Carter's relationship completely wrong; and-

Carter and Jonas? Jonas and Carter? A *couple*?

Nice of her to leave *that* little detail out.

Jack was surprised to realise that he didn't really feel jealous. Sure, there was that little part of him that wanted to corner Jonas and remind him of exactly what happened to every guy who got involved with Carter, but mostly it was just relief.

Relief that it hadn't been him who'd had to play Carter's beau.

The first couple of years they'd known each other, it might have been quite entertaining. He would have ribbed the hell out of her afterwards, never letting her forget it, knowing it was safe to do so because they really were 'just friends'.

But after the first few years, they stopped being 'just' anything.

He didn't know the specifics of how Grandma came to the conclusion that they were a couple, or even exactly how Carter played along with it (which she must have, he realised - earlier interruptions on her part that had previously baffled him now made complete sense), but he did know that the scene would have played a *lot* differently if he'd been the one to go with her instead of Jonas, and Grandma had said the same thing about them.

So it was probably just as well.

Except, now Grandma seemed to be saying something similar. About them.

Crap.

"Mrs Sharpe, I can *assure* you that the Colonel and I are just colleagues and friends. Nothing more."

Did she have to sound quite so insistent?

Did it really have to bother him so much that she sounded quite so insistent?

So much for his being glad that they hadnít pretended to be a couple.

"Don't be silly. I was married for thirty-two years before my Alan passed away. I know what I'm talking about."

Huh. Apart from the fact that Carter and Jonas really weren't...and there was an idea. Something that'd get them out of this situation - and her house - ASAP. He'd already had to stay there far longer than he wanted to.

Carter would likely be incredibly offended or incredibly pissed off...but at least they'd be out of the house.

Giving Vern a wink to assure him that everything was gonna be just fine, Jack stood to his full height and strode back into the room.

*

The door slammed shut behind them.

On the front porch, unmoving in the dusk, Carter sighed. "You heard." It wasn't a question. "I really don't think that was necessary."

"I think it was *very* necessary," Jack argued, jogging down the few steps from the porch to the ground, only pausing his journey to the car when he realised she wasn't moving. Turning back to stare up at her, he frowned. "Carter?"

Yet again, she surprised him, holding his gaze. "She thought we were..."

It was never her who brought 'that' subject up. Ever. "Yeah. I know. But..." He glanced away. "She's obviously nuts, Carter. Bad dye job aside, did you see the pharmacy she keeps at the side of the room?"

"Actually, she doesn't take them."

He didn't know how she knew that, but... "Well, that probably explains *why* she's nuts."

She looked away from him as she pondered. "She did think Jonas and I were a couple."

"Ya see? Proof if ever it were needed."

Moving her gaze back towards him, she smiled. "You know...Jonas is a nice guy. Kind, caring, enthusiastic about his work-"

"About *everything*,"

"-a quick study...quite handsome..."

"Really don't need to be hearing this, Carter." She knew very well that if one thing was going to aggravate him, it would be highlighting Jonas' good points.

Falling silent she smiled again briefly, before lowering her head. Rarely did she ever seem so vulnerable.

He took a step closer to the porch, but didn't climb the steps. "You all right?" He couldn't help but wonder if his behaviour in Grandma's house had something to do with it. The look of absolute horror on her face when he'd wrapped his arm around her was disturbingly memorable. "I really didn't mean-"

She lifted her head suddenly "It's not..." Losing the words, she paused before trying again. "Why did you ask?"

"Ask what?"

Sighing she gave him The Look.

He suddenly understood.

Oh.

Jack considered arguing that she wasn't the only one he'd asked (though the thought that he was *still* using his friends as a safety net when it came to explaining his behaviour towards her was worrying) but decided, just this once, to settle on the truth. "It...might have been my way of apologising."

Confusion etched into her features. "For?"

That was funny, and she didn't even know it. He said the word: "Fifth."

Her "Oh," was whispered, almost silent, her head falling forwards again. "It made tactical sense; I know that."

That was all she offered, and frankly it felt like more than he deserved. "And what about you?" He prompted, feeling daring, dangerous, and deliriously close to stepping over that invisible line. Seeing her frown, he explained. "Studying the alien artefact...?"

"I really was planning to."

"I know," He smiled at last, despite all the things he was feeling, knowing he was only teasing. Knowing he'd never actually do anything about it.

Not yet, anyway.

"So why did you ask?"

He seemed to be getting more questions than the ones he was posing. He considered various responses again, and as he did he couldn't help but remember her reply to the invitation - she'd all but said the only reason he asked was because he knew she couldn't say yes.

But that wasn't the only reason.

So for the second time in the same night, and something of a record, Jack O'Neill again decided on the truth. Or as much of it as he could say. "I guess that...even though you're always going to have something else to do, I just want you to know that, someday, I want you to come fish with me."

There. It was out. And it hadn't been nearly as scary as he'd thought it'd be. In fact, it was almost a relief.

Carter said nothing for a long time, probably having some idea of how good she looked to him at that moment; standing on the porch mostly in darkness, but lit from behind by the soft glow coming through Grandma's window, dressed in a blue that was *so* her colour...smiling.

"Fish?" She asked eventually, the smile growing.

"Fish," Jack nodded happily, feeling more relaxed than he had in a long time. "Fish..."

"...some more," She finished, the grin never leaving her face.

Oh he *liked* the way she said that. "Yeah." If is own grin got any bigger, Jack was sure his face would explode.

She moved then, climbing down the stairs from Grandma's porch, definitely having no intention of doing *anything*...but Jack couldn't let it go.

Reaching the ground she carefully walked around him, and just as she did - *just* as she did - he moved. It was scant, barely there: if anyone had been watching he doubted they would have noticed it.

But it happened.

Extending his arm, he hooked the smallest finger of his right hand around hers, and rubbed gently.

She didn't pause, didn't stop, didn't *say* anything...but he couldn't help but derive some pleasure from the fact that after creating a sound that sounded suspiciously like a gasp (he could dream), she suddenly increased her pace.

Alone now, he looked up into the darkening sky and made a personal vow to kick the ass of every single Goa'uld they came across.

ASAP.

~FINIS

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