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Special Ops V - The Mission by iiiionly



Operation Stealth Reindeer

 

“Daniel!” I hiss, peering through heavily falling snow to where my kid last was. 

What in the name of Baal was I thinking of when I agreed to do this? 

“Daniel?  Where are you?”

“I’m right here,” he grunts, trudging out of the gloom into my line-of-sight.  “They’re a lot bigger than I remembered.”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud!  The thing is three times his size!  The only reason he can pick it up is because they’re made out of grapevines and weigh next to nothing.  One misstep though and both the deer and Dr. Jackson are done for.

What could I possibly have been thinking?!

“Don’t move, and I mean don’t move from that spot, Daniel.  If you do, that’s it, we’re done, and we’re not attempting this again.  I’m going to go get their extension cords.  I mean it, don’t move!” I repeat, just in case the first two times didn’t sink in. 

“I’m not moving.  I get it.  But hurry!  It’s cold standing still!”

It’s snowing hard – which is good – Daniel, in his snow-camo, blends into the night like an artic hare in a snow storm – and bad – Daniel, in his snow-camo, blends into the night like an artic hare in a snow storm.  I’m having a hard time keeping track of all my snow-camo clad teammates in this mess.  Teal’c and Carter I’m not too worried about; though Carter, strangely, keeps breaking into little dance steps every now and then. 

Twice she’s snatched up Daniel and whirled around with him like they were caught in a devil dervish, both of them laughing hysterically, though without a sound. 

I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole.  If Daniel lets her do it, more power to both of ‘em.

She looms up on my left as I rejoin Daniel, who is, extraordinarily, exactly where I left him. 

“Teal’c has three more, sir.  We ready to make the trip to the school yet?”

“Yeah, let’s go.  Daniel, put the deer down and let me grab the front end.  You grab the back end.”

“I’ve got it,” he insists, shifting the thing awkwardly.

“What if you trip?”

“Well, then,” he laughs softly, “we have a deer to replace.  Come on, let’s go.”

Carter giggles like a debutante, but hoists her two prisoners higher and starts off, scuffing her boots through the knee-high snow to make a path.

We’ve got the first eight.  According to Daniel’s map there are forty-seven more deer and at least sixteen more houses.  We’ve hit three so far in just under twenty minutes – so that’s not so bad – only a couple of hours.

Daniel calculated it shouldn’t take us more than three, even factoring in weather issues and his midget stature.  In looking at the logistics, I thought that was pretty optimistic, but maybe not.

He was correct in his estimation of Teal’c’s ability to collect as many as four deer at a time which means he can clean up one yard in an easy pass, while I go behind collecting the extension cords and at least one more yard in the bargain.  Carter’s capable of a two-hostage yard by herself and Daniel’s got the one-deer lawns covered, so it looks like, depending on the number of deer in any given yard - and there are no yards with more than four this year - we can do this four to six yards at a run.  His estimate of under three hours could be right on target.

All right, so long as I can keep track of our kid, we’ll be fine. 

I blow out a sigh of relief and lengthen my stride to catch up with Daniel who’s managed to pull ahead by several yards, trotting along behind Carter as if her path was a trail of bread crumbs – or maybe chocolate.

“Vehicle coming.”

Teal’c’s voice drifts back to me, echoing eerily inside an eddy of snow that swirls around me, briefly obscuring my vision.  When the curtain lifts again, none of my teammates are to be seen, except there’s a deer’s head bobbing merrily along behind the waist high hedge.

“Daniel, get your deer down!  Stop if you have too!” 

Depositing my own deer hastily over the hedge, I have to dive for the nearest snow bank and hope the plume in the headlights looks like it came from the passing car.

“Clear,” Teal’c signals a couple minutes later, as my crew reconvenes on the sidewalk.  “Perhaps we should stay behind the hedge, O’Neill.”

“Ya think?” 

Spitting snow – and who knows what else – I finally find the spot in the hedge they all went through and collect my detainees, falling back into standard recon formation as we start out again.  Teal’c taking point, Carter behind him, Daniel in the middle between me and my 2IC.

It’s only a little after 11:00 o’clock.  We’re still getting the stragglers from the 2 – 10 swing-shift.  This is the third time we’ve had to dodge headlights.

In front of me, Daniel shifts his unwieldy burden and stumbles, missing his footing, or just plain sliding in the snow, but manages to catch himself – and the deer – before they both take a header. 

The sound of his sharply drawn breath grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.  I have no hands to catch him and no possible way of breaking his fall if he goes down.

“Next trip, we share the damn deer,” I whisper loudly.

“I’ll partner with Daniel, sir,” Carter sends back quietly, “that way, between us we can probably manage four.”

“If it works, great.” 

I see her do another one of those little jiggity jog steps like she’s got ants-in-her pants or something. 

“Carter, what’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing, sir.  Just having the time of my life!  Thank you so much for letting Teal’c and me in on this!”

“Are you nuts?  We’re running around stealing deer in a snow storm and you’re thanking me?”

“You have no idea, sir, what this means to me,” she laughs.

The low, throaty chuckle, sexy as hell, floats back to me.

Ahemmm . . . I don’t have thoughts like that about my 2IC. 

Well – not regularly anyway.

“Sam?”  Daniel skips forward a little faster.  “Do I smell coffee?”

“Yep,” Carter trills with hushed merriment, “I spilled a little inside my pack, there’s a thermos of Starbucks with your name on.”

Daniel moans theatrically.  “When I grow up again, will you marry me?  ‘Cause I love you to death already!”

“I figured it was a special occasion and Janet doesn’t need to know,” she whispers over her shoulder.  “Speaking of Janet, she and General Hammond think we’re skiing tonight.  We need to get our story straight so we’re all on the same page tomorrow.”

“Skiing, Carter?  We actually managed to convince Daniel to go skiing?”

“How far back do you wish to place the deer, O’Neill?”

We’re at the school already?

Sure enough, the hedge on our left has petered out.  Momentarily we’re going to have to cross the street and work our way up the tree-line on the west side of the playground. 

“The generator’s about ten feet into the tree-line fifty yards up the playground – so – middle-ish.”

“Wait, I will reconnoiter the other side and signal when it is clear to cross the street.”

“And we’re  . . . waiting.”

“Shhhhh, Jack,” Daniel giggles, sounding a lot like Carter.  “You’ll give us all away.”

An owl hoot hangs on the night air, captured and reborn as if the snow flakes are echoing the call. 

We move forward immediately, no telling how long the all-clear will last, sending Daniel straight across the street and into Teal’c’s waiting care.  Carter and I cross together, blurs, I’m sure, even if someone were out to see us, in the wildly whirling snow storm.

There are sighs and grunts aplenty as we unburden ourselves, and while Carter and I rig up the power strips to the small, purring generator, Daniel darts around directing Teal’c how to “settle” the herd so it looks natural.

“We’re not plugging them in yet, are we?  Not until they’re all here and we can light them all at once?  Right?  We don’t want anyone to notice them until we’re ready.  And when we do plug ‘em in, we gotta be ready to hit the road, Jack, and get home as quickly as we can, right?” Daniel repeats, slinging an arm around the neck of the nearest deer. The top of his head doesn’t quite reach the tip of the antlers.

“Right.” 

I only hope we can find our way home through the woods with it snowing as heavily as it is.  It never occurred to me to bring a GPS locator.  But that’s a hurdle for later. 

We’re only forty-five minutes into this and already we have eight deer artistically arranged so they’re grazing gracefully about the lawn, ready to light up at the flick of a switch.

Only forty-seven to go.

An hour later, we’re more than halfway done and Daniel gets his coveted Starbucks, in a mug with Rudolph on the side.  We’re back in the shelter of the trees and Carter tells Daniel to hold his flashlight up so he can watch the side of the mug as she pours coffee into it. 

Rudolph’s nose starts blinking on and off as the coffee heats up the mug and Daniel snorts back a laugh.

“Where did you find this, Sam?” he immediately wants to know.  “It’s hilarious!” 

This is directly followed by a long sigh and something very close to a purr from Daniel as he savors his first mouthful. 

“I really hope you’ll wait for me to grow up again, so I can marry you,” he murmurs, nose buried in the coffee cup, as much for warmth now, as pleasure, I suspect, since his teeth are chattering faster than the neighborhood speed limit.

The rest of us get insulated Styrofoam; yeah, yeah, bad for the local land fill, I know, not to mention the hole in the ozone.  So sue us, it’s lighter and better for stealth than four clinking mugs.

“So,” I ask the youngest, and now smallest, member of the team, “you ready to call it quits?  We’ve got a good-sized herd here already,” I offer, hunkering down behind Daniel and pulling him gently between my knees to give him a little extra body-warmth at least.

“I’m not tired,” he instantly declaims.  

“Excuse me?  Did the words – are you tired, or you look tired – come out of my mouth?”

“Sorry,” he says sheepishly.  “No, I don’t want to quit until we’re done.

“Okay, it’s your call, but I’d like you to tell me if you do get tired, or too cold, before we’re done, okay?”

Daniel gives this several moments thought before nodding.  “Okay, I can agree to that,” he says, snuggling back against me while he finishes his coffee.

I’m getting better at this negotiating stuff and Daniel’s doing better with understanding and accepting the limitations of this new manifestation. 

While he did sleep some this evening after dinner, he’s usually been in bed asleep for several hours by this time.  I know he’s tired.

But pluck to the back bone and not going to give in until he drops in his tracks.  I hope we’re done before that happens.

Less than an hour has passed and we’ve got one more house – one more doggone house – when an almost lazy circle of lights, followed too quickly by a powerful search light, colors the street we’re on red.

“Oh, crap!  Scramble!” I order.  “Teal’c, take Daniel and make for home the quickest way possible. Go, go, go!”

Fortunately, this is our last trip, I should have made them wait for me at the playground, but Daniel said he was too cold to stand still and insisted on coming along, so we all came back for these final two deer. 

“Go around the back, Carter, you can cut through yards, just don’t forget the house with the dogs that go nuts!  Get everybody dry and changed as quickly as possible so if for some reason the cops do come visiting, there’s no evidence.  Go!”

She takes a step forward, toward me, then two steps back, and disappears into the snow.

Swishing a foot through the most visible tracks, I drift back toward the house and the built-in shadows of the eaves and porch, hoping whoever it is will stick to the road.

If it’s Sheriff Ron, he’s likely to give it a pass.  Probably figures its neighborhood kids pulling this prank and won’t be too keen to get anyone in trouble.

On the other hand, if it’s Deputy Phil, he was hot to solve this mystery two years ago, if he sniffs us out, there’ll be hell to pay.

Oh, well – que se ra, se ra. 

Useless as it is, I can feel the tension building as the squad car cruises slowly up the street. 

Shit! 

And slows to a crawl as the search light plays over the lit deer still grazing in this yard.

I drift slowly back into the darker shadows of the side yard as the squad car pulls into the driveway, red lights staining the light-colored siding on the house. 

The last house and we’d been waiting nearly fifteen minutes before the lights finally went out.  It’s two in the morning, people!  What the hell were you doing up at this hour of the night?

You’re ruining our perfect record!

The house occupants haven’t been in bed long enough, the damn lights are bound to bring them out to investigate – and sure enough, I hear the grating sound of the front door scraping open.

Two seconds later, both the driver and passenger doors of the squad car open and two cops step out – by height and weight, neither of them Sheriff Ron. 

Damn.

“Evening, Officers.  Bit late to be prowling the neighborhood isn’t it?” the male half of this home owner duo inquires. 

I know him by sight, but not by name, we exchange waves when our vehicles pass on the street.

“Sorry to disturb you, Malcolm.”

“The wife and I had just turned in actually.  We saw the lights, didn’t realize you were in our driveway though.  Is there a problem?”

There’s a distinct bulge in the pocket of the robe with the hand in it.  We’re a military neighborhood, friendly for the most part, though not so much when you’re trespassing at 2:00 in the morning. 

“It’s me, Mal, Phil.  Tom’s riding with me tonight.”

Shit, shit, shit!  Ron’s fabled hot shots.  Just what I don’t need tonight. 

“Just noticed you were the only house in the neighborhood with your deer still lit up.”

“Yeah?  So?  That a crime now?  We always leave ‘em on all night long.”

“No crime,” Officer Phil chuckles, “your electric bill after all.  Just wondering if you’d heard anything around outside, any unexplained noises, happen to look out your window and see anything unusual?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary.  Why?”

“Well, looks like our deer herder might have been out again tonight.  Mind if we hang around awhile?  See if anyone comes calling?”

Well, that’s it.  I wanted those two deer, if only for Daniel’s sake, but we’ll have to settle tonight, though it occurs to me, a bit of a diversion might do the trick.  If the howling dogs two houses over somehow got loose . . . wonder if I can still open a lock with a credit card?

Another forty-five minutes sees me slipping in through the garage door.  I can hear vehicles rumbling down the street.  I bury my wet boots and snow gear under a pile of old newspapers in the back of the garage, though I seriously doubt there will be any further investigation tonight – or any other night for that matter.

However, Operation Stealth Reindeer is now officially in retirement, unless by some miracle Daniel grows up overnight and wants to do this again as an adult.  We are sooooo not doing this again with kid Daniel.

He whirls around – he was standing in the recliner, nose pressed to the window – as I close the kitchen garage door behind me, and vaults out of the chair to race across the room.  He slams into my legs with the force of a hurricane gale, rebounds, and throws his arms around my thighs to steady himself.

“I was sure you’d been caught!  What’s going on?  Are you alright?”  He pulls back enough to look me over, but continues with barely a pause, “Did you get the last two?  Are we going back?  What’s happening?  Did you get caught?”

“We were beginning to worry a little, sir.”

“You protracted absence was mildly disconcerting, O’Neill.”

“No, I didn’t get caught.” I pick up Daniel and settle him on a hip.  “I’m fine, and yes, I got the last two.  Satisfied?”

“No!” Daniel screeches – softly – “What’s going on?  Cars have been going up and down the street for the last hour.”

“It’s a parade.  The entire neighborhood is getting up to see the herd of deer grazing on the school playground.”

“You got them lit?”

“Of course I got them lit.  You think I’d have come home without finishing the job?”

“But that cop car was headed right in your direction!” Daniel thumps a tiny fist against my shoulder.  “What happened, Jack?  Tell us!”

“On the way.  Go change into you p.j.’s so we can join the parade.  Carter, Teal’c, you might want to look less like you’re getting ready to go home and more like you’re spending the night, because you are, by the way.  Especially if driving down to the school is as bad as I think it’s going to be.  Let me go change into some sweats.”

“Hurry, hurry,” Daniel orders imperiously.  “I don’t want to miss any more of this than I have too!”

“How come you’re still awake?”  I toss back over my shoulder as I shuffle down the hall.

“We allowed him to imbibe a further teaspoon of alcohol,” Teal’c intones.  “It appears to have the opposite affect on this DanielJackson as it does on the adult DanielJackson.”

“Right, I’d figured that out already.  And you gave him more?” 

We are so not going to work in the morning.  I doubt the skiing scenario will work if I’m sporting a hung-over Dr. Jackson. 

“Hey, if he wakes up puking in the middle of the night, one of you is getting up with him.  I’m not taking the blame for this one!” I holler back down the hall.

“I’m not sick,” Daniel huffs indignantly.  “I feel great!  Hurry up and get changed so we can go!”

Where’ve I heard that line before?  

As we’re climbing into the truck ten minutes later, Carter’s coat falls open exposing an incongruous pair of pink, frilly pajamas.

I’m sorry, I can’t help myself, my eyes nearly pop out of my head.  “Carter?”

“Sir?”

“Frou frou and pink?  I had no idea you had it in you.”  I just shake my head and slide behind the wheel.

She, however, has a ready, if bizarre, answer. 

“It’s my prom dress, sir.”

I’m not even going to ask.

~*~

 

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