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Ideally Suited
By: Maj. Cliffhanger

(CIA Headquarters; Langley, Virginia just west of Washington, D.C.)

Burke looked up from the f'n lap-top he was fighting with. Damn new software! It never failed - as soon as he finally got a program mastered the stupid powers-that-be would switch to something else and "bam!" he'd have to learn a whole new way of doing things. What the hell was a PDF and why couldn't he read the damn thing?

He'd actually been happy to transfer from Central America to D.C. for this shit?

His phone rang.

"It's your two dimes and a nickel: Speak!" he answered flippantly. One of these days a Deputy Director or one of the Chief Supervisors would probably call him on the carpet for it, but at the moment he didn't much care if it was the President himself calling.

Yeah, that would be the day!

The caller at the other end chuckled. "I see forcing you to wear a suit hasn't changed you much. Tie too tight?"

"It's a friggin' noose," Burke answered, automatically running a finger under his collar even as he tried to place the voice and failed. It seemed familiar. "Who wants to know?"

He was answered with a disappointed clucking. "I'm hurt! Two months stuck behind a desk instead of traipsing through the Nicaraguan rain forests and you forget me already?"

The voice finally clicked. "Jack?" he asked in surprise.

"The one and only," the other man answered easily. "Heard you finally got transferred to D.C. after our little stroll down south. How you likin' being home again?"

"I'd rather be fighting zombie rebels in the rain forest," Burke answered honestly. He frowned. "I hope this wasn't your idea of a reward for that job, because I'd have to come hunting for you if it was."

"Definitely not," Jack denied quickly. "You in a suit is my idea of a gross misappropriation of resources - but lowly little colonels can only pull so many strings."

"Yeah, I didn't figure you still hated me that much."

Jack continued as if he hadn't spoken. "Course, now I'm a general, so I have a few more strings I can yank if I want."

"A general?" Burke echoed in disbelief. "You? MacArthur is rolling over in his grave!"

"Ha-ha," Jack answered dryly. "And here I thought you might be interested in a reassignment?"

" 'Reassignment'?"

"Ever thought about re-upping with the Air Force?"

"I was forced to accept an honorable discharge, Jack. They don't want me back."

"I want you back."

"Why? I mean it's not like I wouldn't mind getting out of this urban hellhole, but, ah, I think you'd need to pull some 550 paracord and not just strings for that one." He turned his chair to face out his window - not that there was anything except another building to see. "Besides, the CIA pays a hell of a lot better. A few more years and I'll be able to open myself a sweet little cantina down Mexico way, sell a bunch of drinks with those silly little umbrellas, maybe some decent hotdogs. You know Hondurans have no idea how to make 'em? I once got served hotdogs on a pizza, can you believe it? With chimichurri sauce! I tell you, my greatest joy in coming back to the states was being able to hunt up my first real New York dog in over five years. A brat' never tasted so good!"

"If you can survive being stuck behind a desk that long."

As always, Jack had no problem hearing the sarcasm hidden behind the overly infectious enthusiasm. They both knew the cantina was never going to happen.

"I give it six months, tops. Then you'll go postal on everyone."

Burke winced. He doubted he'd make it even that long. "You still haven't said 'why.' "

"I've got a job for you," Jack answered simply. "One I think you're ideally suited for."

" 'Ideally suited for', huh?" he echoed, leaning back and grinning. "You been put in charge of some kinda clandestine suicidal black-ops group type thing, Jack?"

"I wouldn't call it suicidal--"

"--just potentially deadly," Burke interjected, still grinning. Jack had said something along those same lines when they agreed to take that last mission in Somalia.

"It can be," the other man agreed, "but we try to avoid that. As for the rest - yeah, clandestine black-ops is close. All very secret, hush-hush, can't tell your mother type stuff, but then you've already proven you can keep a secret."

"That secret cost me big time," Burke remembered with a frown, not sure he really wanted to explore whatever Jack was offering any more. His bosses weren't going to be happy about this call anyway, and would likely demand answers and explanations he wasn't prepared to give.


Jack interrupted his thoughts. "Was it worth the cost?" he asked simply.

So perfectly Jack; cut to the heart of the problem.

Burke turned his head, his gaze focusing on the picture of that last barbecue; on Cindy's Woods' face, the smiling one year old with pigtails beside her. "Yeah," he answered bluntly. "It was."

He'd known when he finally told Jack about Woods ghosting them and how the guy had turned his weapon on him and he'd just reacted - he'd known that secret would stay safe. Even if Jack had decided to go back and contradict his own report of the incident, no one would have believed him - not after all this time without any proof. He'd expected Jack to stand up for him a bit more, back then. He swallowed around a tight throat at the memory even now. But he also coulda/woulda/shoulda told Jack the truth at the time. All that would've done was compromise the other man - and put Cindy and the baby at risk if Jack decided to say anything.

Burke hadn't been willing to risk that, regardless of the cost to his and Jack's friendship. Or his career.

"That's why I want you," Jack told him just as bluntly.

Obviously, Jack had believed him; and, just as obviously, believed he'd done the right thing. Back in the jungle, Burke hadn't been sure if he did or not. Oh, Jack had given him the benefit of the doubt, they'd parted ways amicably enough, but that wasn't the same thing. Burke felt a knot in his gut he hadn't even known he still had loosen and melt away - only to have a sudden thought tighten it right back up again.

"You know this line is being monitored, right?" he suddenly warned his friend. All CIA communications were monitored. Jack hadn't said anything to compromise national security but-- yeah, his bosses were going to have a lot of questions.

He winced again.

"No it's not." Jack offered with the air of someone who was very certain of what he spoke.

Burke lifted a silent eyebrow. That would require some major strings - or a security level that would blow his mind.

"We should meet," Jack suddenly declared, not bothering to explain his previous statement.

"Ooo-kay." Burke decided to roll with the punches. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? He leaned back in his chair. "Name the place and poison."

The conversation was suddenly interrupted by a sharp knock and the immediate opening of his office door.

"Hold on a sec," he warned Jack, quickly standing to confront the unexpected and rather rude Air Force major who'd just invaded his domain.

The man turned and locked the door behind him.

Burke blinked in surprise even as he considered reaching for the weapon in his top drawer.

"Apologies for the intrusion, sir," the unknown man turned back to offer with a pleasant look that was somehow non-aggressive while being completely unapologetic at the same time.

Burke glanced at the man's name plate: Davis. The Master Intelligence Badge above the fruit salad on the other side caught the CIA Agent's attention as well. A quick scan showed no combat or foreign service ribbons. Lotta Meritorious Service Awards and Commendations though: Distinguished Service, Organizational Excellence, Outstanding Unit. Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Award - with a star, so both 9 mil. and M-16? A pencil-pusher who could shoot. Well, the Air Force needed those too and apparently he was very good at whatever he did.

"General O'Neill sends his regards." The intruder stepped forward to lay his briefcase on the corner of Burke's desk before bending to pop it open.

Burke eyed him askance. "Jack?" he asked into the phone, both question and threat inherent in his tone. He didn't like being surprised. No one who'd ever been involved in the kind of shit he and Jack had been involved in liked to be surprised!

The officer straightened to extend a slender manila folder towards him.

"You aren't holding a weapon by any chance, are you?" Jack suddenly asked in an apparent after-thought.

"Thinking 'bout it," he admitted, eying the unknown major warily.

"Well, don't."

"Non-disclosure agreement, sir," the major explained, ignoring the phone byplay before him. "What you are about to hear and see has been classified above Top Secret under section 11-C-9 of the National Security Act."

" 'Above Top Secret'," Burke echoed, chewing on each word. There wasn't supposed to be anything above Top Secret, although anyone who worked with the Agency knew damn well there was.

Davis continued as if he hadn't spoken. "Any discussion of this information outside the program will be considered treason, punishable by death, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

"In other words, I'd either be killed or disappear down a deep dark hole, never to be seen or heard from yadda, yadda, yadda - got it." It wasn't the first time he'd heard the National Security speech, 'though it was rare for anyone to actually mention the death penalty in their little spiel. He grimaced and reached up to scratch his smooth chin - he actually missed the scruff from Central America - then glanced up at the stupid security camera in the corner of his office. It was picture only, but--

"It's being jammed." Davis had noted the direction of his glance and now proffered a perfunctory smile he probably thought of as reassuring. "Your superiors have already been informed this meeting never took place."

Burke eyed him with mounting suspicion. He was far more than the lowly major or simple pencil-pusher he appeared to be, that was sure! "Ja-aack?" he asked again, turning his attention back to the phone in his hand, "what are you trying to drag me into here?"

His friend didn't mince words. "You ever hear of the Stargate program?"

Burke's frown morphed into a more pensive scowl. There'd been a whiff of something out of the NID a few years back. He had to think for a long second. "Magnets?" he finally asked in vague memory. That couldn't be right. No way Jack O'Neill would ever consider him 'ideally suited' for something all science-y.

"Not quite," the man on the other end of the phone replied. Burke could practically hear the grin in his voice. "I'd simply come out and tell you, but you'd never believe me."

"Crazy crap?" he surmised, immediately thinking of that zombie he'd blown up - hard to call it anything else after seeing the guy keep walking after being riddled with bullets! Good thing he'd brought the grenade launcher. Jack had thought he was insane.

Not so much!

"Yeah," Jack agreed, "but it's important crap. You asked me to trust you once upon a time; now, it's my turn: You're going to want to do this."

The ex-black-ops captain again eyed the spit-and-polished major waiting patiently in front of him and made a decision. "What the hell," he declared and wedged the phone between his shoulder and chin. "You know we coulda just met for a beer somewhere and talked like old times." He sighed as he quickly took the folder, flipped it open on the desk, and scrawled his signature where needed without bothering to read what he was signing. "I don't need no piece of paper to keep my mouth shut."

He straightened and handed the folder back to the major who took it without batting an eye and deftly hid it back away inside his briefcase.

"I know," Jack agreed. "But I'm not in D.C., and this is so much more fun."

" 'Fun'?" Burke groaned. Not in D.C.? Even better! "Your guy here gonna read me in then, or are you gonna make me hop a jump-seat on a DC-10 without explanation?"

He was suddenly remembering just how fast and easy Jack and his two scientist friends had gotten out of Nicaragua with their little 'artifact'.

"Neither," Jack claimed. "Give the phone to the nice major."

Burke shrugged and held out the receiver. "Boss-man wants you."

The officer took the phone and listened for a moment even as Burke retrieved a piece of gum from his top drawer. He momentarily eyed his weapon, wondering if maybe he shouldn't have pulled it after all and tossed the guy out on his ear; he shrugged, popped the gum in his mouth, and dismissed the thought. Not really his style. And, hey, he'd only agreed to hear Jack out after all, not signed his soul away.

"Yes, sir." Davis nodded at something he was told and reached into a breast pocket before offering up a tiny widget that looked vaguely like a computer memory chip. "For you," he said simply.

Burke again lifted a confused eyebrow, smacked his gum just to irritate the guy, and took the strange looking device. "No little red or blue pill to show me the truth of the matrix?" he quipped even as he noted the major chose to hold onto the phone.

"No need," Davis answered with a smile and stepped back. And then--

Reality blinked.

"Whoa!" Burke reeled, his head spinning as his stomach lurched and ice flashed through his bones. It lasted less than a second but left him more than a little shaken. A hand came down on his shoulder, helping to steady him as he blinked in confusion.

"Easy," a very recognizable voice that should be coming from his phone advised.

The rarely rattled man turned to see Jack standing in his dress blues right beside him - and he was indeed wearing general's stars.

"Find your sea legs."

Burke shook his head, fighting back the last vestiges of whatever the hell-- He glanced forward and froze. Well, not exactly froze. He'd seen too much shit over the last twenty years to freeze up, but - "Holy crap!" he whispered.

" 'Crazy' crap," Jack corrected him, dropping his hand from Burke's shoulder and turning to admire the view.

They were in orbit. They were on a freaking spaceship in freaking orbit around the freaking Earth! Burke slid his eyes towards Jack and understood the understated grin his old buddy was wearing all too well.

"Beam me up, Scotty'?" he asked deadpan.

Jack bounced on his toes, happy to have gotten one over on his friend. "Something like that. Not our usual means of transport," he admitted with a shrug, "but it generally gets the newbies' attention and bypasses all the 'is this a joke?' type stuff we get. Fortunately, it was available." He glanced back at Burke. "You ready to beam down yet? I'm hungry."

Burke turned to eye the view once again, knowing without any question that it wasn't a projection or some kind of induced hallucination, and allowed himself another short moment of wonder. Then popped his gum and shrugged. "Little peckish myself," he allowed. "Where exactly are we going?"

"Stargate Command - sweet little base located under NORAD in Colorado. You might know it as Area 52. Here." He pulled a lanyard with an accompanying picture ID bearing the word 'VISITOR' plastered across the bottom from his jacket pocket and stepped forward to deftly drape it over Burke's head. "Security's a little tight."

'Course it was. Burke lifted the laminated placard to eye his likeness critically. They'd pulled the pic from his CIA file. Not the best, but it would get the job done. He ignored the reference to 'Area 52' - Area 51, yeah, everyone knew that, but Area 52? Must be above his pay grade.

"So what's for lunch?" he sing-songed smoothly, dropping the ID back into place on his chest and shoving his hands along with the little do-dad the major had given him into his pants pockets, regardless of what it did to his suit coat. He had several hundred other questions of course, but he knew the answers would be coming in due course.

Jack smiled at his easy acceptance of everything and nodded at some thought or other. Burke got the feeling he'd just passed some kind of final test.

"You're going to do just fine," Jack decided, ignoring the question and turning to look behind them. "Whenever you're ready Kvasir."

Burke glanced back and saw a classic looking big-head, big-eyed little alien manning a control desk behind them; except he was gray, not green.

He turned back to Jack again. "Area 51?"

"52," Jack corrected him with one raised finger.

"General Landry has requested a moment of your time, General," the spindly little thing behind them announced in a painfully precise tone. "The transportation frequency inhibitors the SGC installed have been temporarily deactivated so that I may transport you directly to his office."

"Jammers, Kvasir," Jack sighed, more interested in Burke's reaction than in correcting the alien. "They're called 'jammers.' The guy is always so unnecessarily verbose!"

Obviously, he must know the little gray guy pretty well to be able to make that comment. Nothing weird about that, right?

Burke awarded his friend an unrepentant and very broad grin, knowing without a doubt that Jack had been right: whatever the hell all this was about, he wanted in on it! He rocked forward, unable to hide his excitement. "Crazy, man!" he laughed easily.

Jack grinned back - and then the transport beam took hold and Burke found himself being swept off into what he was sure would be the adventure of a lifetime!

* * *

The End