by Vanessa Nichols

Compromising situations are nothing new to you, so you really shouldn't be so surprised. Nor should catching your commanding officer IN one be any great shock--between the two of you (and over the course of seven years) you've both pretty much redefined the term 'indiscretion' until it's synonymous with 'oops', 'busted' and a variety of four-letter cuss words.

But this... this is different. This is more than compromising, more than injudiciousness. This is finding your crush-of-seven-years (and, yes, you still call him a crush, because to call him anything else would be career-suicide) in flagrante delicto in the parking lot behind O'Malley's, half-hidden in the shadows of a dumpster.

His hands in someone else's hair. Their hands sliding beneath his leather jacket just like the way you've never really wanted to do (and you'll keep telling yourself that, emphatically, until the day you die or the day he retires--whichever comes first).

This is astronomically more. Universally different.

The side entrance door bangs open, gunshot-like, and you jump uncharacteristically at the sound, turning to see a gaggle of giggling twenty-something-year-olds spilling out onto the cracked concrete; hyper and drunk. They file past you unorderly, offering glazed smiles of politeness, and you watch them go before turning back to that hidden niche of shadows. That crack in reality which holds an illicit couple doing what you can only describe as really, REALLY, heavy-duty making out.

And it's just--not--FAIR. Really, it's not. This is meant to be YOUR night, after all. Your birthday. Your celebration. Your night to kiss someone, and hold someone, and let everyone see that while their gifts are nice, Robert is the icing on your cake.

Robert who is smart and cute, funny too. Undeniably sexy. A freelance sports journalist who has no problems with your last minute date cancellations or unexplained overtime because on any given weekend he's flying out to Bumfuck, Idaho or Nowhere, Nebraska to cover some pick-up game between Joe Bloe and John Smith and it's your turn to be left holding the warm bottle of champagne.

A guy who doesn't mind riding pillion on your motorcycle, or watching the Discovery Channel's six-part documentary on astronomy. A guy who dresses nice most of the time and treats you right always and if he'd only give up his collection of Jim Beam shot-glasses and that penchant for wearing wifebeaters on the weekends, he'd pretty much be perfect.

(A little too normal, maybe, for your lifestyle, and you know--deep down--that the relationship will never last, but you're not looking for a white-picket fence any more. Just a great guy, active social--sex--life, and someone who doesn't know that yesterday, after breakfast, you saved the world. Again.)

Robert who is YOURS--in a way your CO never can be--and this really, REALLY isn't fair.

The jacket you've just collected from your car weighs heavily in your arms and you stare at it. At this reason as to why you're out here in the first place and not drinking room-temperature Coors with Janet on one side and Daniel on the other, the three of you waiting for Robert to get back from the bathroom, and Teal'c from the bar, and for the Colonel to finally arrive... huh! At least now you know why he was late.

You slip the leather around your body carefully, movements indistinct, and then fumble your car keys with unexplainable gaucheness. They clatter to the ground noisily and you stare at them dumbly, dazed by the glitter of silver metal on grey concrete, before looking up again.

Compromising situations are nothing new to you, and neither are those looks of surprise and shame, guilt and shock. Busted. You read that sentiment from Robert's eyes first, then from the Colonel's, and find it interesting that your car keys have interrupted what five minutes of voyeurism and drunk debutantes could not.

But any minute now Janet and Teal'c and Daniel and, hell, everyone you know and have ever known, are gonna jump out of that nearby dumpster and yell "surprise!" and "April fools!" (even though it's May, not April) and you're gonna laugh and laugh and laugh at this birthday-inspired practical joke. And any minute now the Colonel is gonna say "it's not what it looks like" because that's what you've always imagined he'd say if anyone ever caught you and him doing something like this (not that you've REALLY imagined doing this with him--it's just a hypothesis).

Any minute now...

The dumpster is still, the Colonel speechless. Robert looks embarrassed.

You contemplate alternate realities in the silence (the ones you know of and the millions upon millions that you, as yet, don't know of) and you've always figured that, on the off-chance the Colonel WAS bisexual (an extreme possibility, you'd figured--obviously you were wrong) it'd be Daniel who'd capture his attentions. Daniel, or maybe (in a rare, shocking, circumstance) Teal'c. But not this guy. Not YOUR guy. Not the guy you've been dating for four months, two weeks and six days and who has only ever met your team-mates three times before tonight.

Or so you'd thought. Their body language, after all, is suggestive of more intimate (and numerous--perhaps even frequent) meetings.

Suddenly you're wondering if Robert really WAS in Bumfuck last week, or if that was just an itinerary description.

Words have never been so difficult to find, so hard to force out, but eventually you manage something coherent.

"That's my boyfriend," you say slowly (like O'Neill doesn't understand, doesn't KNOW that the guy whose tongue he'd been swallowing only a few moments before was actually YOURS); too slowly (like this isn't really happening, like this isn't really real, like this is all just some horrible nightmare and ANY MINUTE NOW you're gonna wake up with the sun in your eyes and Robert's palm warm on your hip).

They blink back at you; immobile (with hands still buried in hair, tangled in jacket lapels) and silent. With a touch of hindsight it occurs to you that it's entirely possible your utterance could be construed as having been disrespectful (and God knows you're never that), so you augment a swift, "Sir," to the end out of habit.

Obviously, that's their cue.



They both speak at once, overlapping your identities, and (inexplicably) that's the limit. Whatever the explanation is-- and you're sure there IS one, though it's doubtful you'll like it--you can't hear it. Not when your name is your breaking point.

You turn and walk away and don't dare look back. Not even when you're half a block away, and your eyes are swimming with tears, and you think that, for a best-birthday-ever, you've never been so hurt or felt so betrayed...

You won't look back. You can't. Not now and not ever. Not when you know what it is you'd see.

Your car keys are still on the ground.


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