Groceries by AbbyEddey
Summary: Between Universal disasters and world-destroying threats, the little things in life go on
Categories: Jack/Sam Characters: None
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Romance
Warnings: Adult Themes, Language, Sexual Situations
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 24 Completed: Yes Word count: 49625 Read: 6698 Published: 26 Jan 2016 Updated: 28 Jan 2016
Story Notes:
I've been told to go write a happy story. Well ... this is it.

1. Chapter 1 by AbbyEddey

2. Chapter 2 by AbbyEddey

3. Chapter 3 by AbbyEddey

4. Chapter 4 by AbbyEddey

5. Chapter 5 by AbbyEddey

6. Chapter 6 by AbbyEddey

7. Chapter 7 by AbbyEddey

8. Chapter 8 by AbbyEddey

9. Chapter 9 by AbbyEddey

10. Chapter 10 by AbbyEddey

11. Chapter 11 by AbbyEddey

12. Chapter 12 by AbbyEddey

13. Chapter 13 by AbbyEddey

14. Chapter 14 by AbbyEddey

15. Chapter 15 by AbbyEddey

16. Chapter 16 by AbbyEddey

17. Chapter 17 by AbbyEddey

18. Chapter 18 by AbbyEddey

19. Chapter 19 by AbbyEddey

20. Chapter 20 by AbbyEddey

21. Chapter 21 by AbbyEddey

22. Chapter 22 by AbbyEddey

23. Chapter 23 by AbbyEddey

24. Chapter 24 by AbbyEddey

Chapter 1 by AbbyEddey
Author's Notes:
Contains explicit sex scenes and adult themes.
Groceries by Abby Eddey

Episode Related: 0202 In the Line of Duty, 0207 Message in a Bottle, 0211 TokRa, 0213 Spirits, 0215 A Matter of Time, 0216 The Fifth Race, 0220 1969


Chapter 1

"Ooohh," a voice murmured, "how do you know a good one?"

Jack turned to face a petite red-head with a pug nose and freckles that her powder didn't quite hide. Her green eyes smiled up at him as he stared down at her.

"How do you pick a really good one?" she asked, her nose wrinkling.

"Smell," Jack replied, holding a partially ripe pineapple out, "They smell sweeter. This one should be ready in a couple of days."

The red-head took a tentative sniff and then smiled, "Oh! It does smell sweet!"

"Take it," Jack said, handing it over, "I'll be out of town so it will just get all ..."

"I hate that!" she declared, accepting the fruit and smiling appreciation. "I'm Glenna. I just moved into the neighborhood."

"Jack," Jack replied.

"Do you live around here, too?" Glenna asked as Jack pushed his undersized yuppie cart toward a bin of green apples. Teal'c had a fondness for Granny Smiths, particularly with a chunk of extra sharp Vermont cheddar.

"No. Across town," Jack replied, picking up an apple and turning it. The skin was dark green, no yellow tinge, and the scent was tart and fresh. Trader Joe's might cost multiples of the dingy grocery near Jack's house, but the fruit was worth it. Jack claimed a dozen apples as Glenna paused, her face thoughtful and a little disappointed, "That's too bad, Jack. I was hoping I might run into you every now and then ..."

It was an opening, an obvious invitation. Jack hesitated, tying the ends of the apple bag together, and Glenna charged ahead, covering his social stumble, "So if you don't live here, why do you shop here, Jack?"

"Oh, it's on the drive to the office," Jack lied.

The road to Cheyenne Mountain was a block from his house. Carter's place, on the other hand, was in the newer southern suburbs. Places like this Trader Joe's were common on Carter's side of town. Jack's neighborhood had all the best grungy bars and unbelievable rib joints.

"Where do you work, Jack?" Glenna asked, but Jack barely heard her. He'd caught a glimpse of a blonde beyond the stack of yam chips.

"Excuse me," he mumbled, as he maneuvered his cart to avoid being seen by the object of his 'Wednesday op.'

It had started innocently eight months before when Jack had asked Carter where she bought a particular brand of hand cream. He'd lost his and borrowed some on a mission. To his surprise, despite the pink bottle, it was unscented and not at all greasy. Jack had dropped by the Trader Joe's to pick up a bottle of the stuff a few days later - on a Wednesday evening - and, low and behold, had almost run into Carter doing her weekly shopping.

Being a professional sneaky-bastard with way too much time in special ops, Jack hadn't let her see him. Instead, he'd enjoyed at least 45 minutes of real down time observing Samantha Carter in her native environs. It had been fascinating and damned educational.

Carter, he learned, loved junk food, but denied her hedonistic side, probably because of the strict weight regulations imposed on SG team-members. Jack had watched from afar as she examined each of at least forty kinds of chips, dips, cookies, and even a bag of something that looked like fried pig skins. Being a Yuppie store, Jack guessed the chips were actually made of soy or sesame-stuff, but it spoke volumes about the clean-living Captain Carter that she would even pick up a bag of pseudo-fried-pig-skin.

'Live and learn,' Jack had thought at the time. After tracking Carter almost into the check-out line, Jack had dropped the two bags of mixed nuts onto a shelf and faded before she saw him. As he drove across town, he found himself smiling and chuckling at the experience of watching Sam without a brilliant thought in her beautiful blond head. It had been a perfectly normal hour in proximity to an extraordinary person and that made a Wednesday evening anything but ordinary.

****

Jack had dropped by the Trader Joe's the following Wednesday, but found no sign of Carter. They were off-world for the following three Wednesday's and so it was a month before Jack caught Carter in the act of normalcy once again. He'd timed his arrival to anticipate hers, but had felt a thrill of alarm when he saw her hot silver sports car already parked at the far side of the empty lot. Leave it to Captain Sam Carter to eke a bit more exercise out of shopping.

Jack pulled his pickup into the used car lot across the street, parked behind a massive Suburban, and killed the engine. He waited a couple of minutes, surveying the area. There was no sign of Carter, so he hopped out, crossed the highway a half block away and approached from the rear of the building. Finally, he entered, with his eyes lowered to his miniature shopping cart and began to systematically quarter the grocery store. He caught her in the junk food aisle.

Sam was lingering before a box of something that looked like chocolate. Jack smiled as she reached for the shiny brown box, her fingers hovered over the sleek package, but she pulled away at last and pushed her cart a short distance, stopped and glanced back. Jack froze.

'She really wants those ...whatever's in the box.'

He waited, hidden behind a rack of blue corn taco chips, until she turned the corner. Then he moved quickly down the aisle, snagged the box that had tempted her and doubled back.

Carter moved along the aisles in a pattern much like he'd observed the last time: Lingering through the junk food, resisting temptation, but obviously interested, and then stocking up in the fruit and veggie sections. Fresh milk, organic milk, and a teensy carton of high-octane chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream rounded out the contents of her basket. Jack took careful note of each item, including the freshness dates. He watched her check out, wheel her little red plastic coated cart out of the store and leave it, like a good little shopper, in the cart return space, before striding across the parking lot to dump her groceries in her trunk.

"May I help you?" the clerk called, jerking Jack back from his re-con of his subordinate's every move.

"Yeah," he reacted, tossing the sleek box of truffles onto the belt alongside a giant bag of fake pig-skins.

The check-out clerk eyed the items, lifted his eyes to Jack’s and grinned, "Either you're in love," he smirked, "or your cousin from Alabama is coming to visit."

Jack blushed under the scrutiny of the stranger and muttered, "Bag it."

The clerk stopped flirting, stuffed the chocolates and fried fake pig skins into the same bag and ran Jack's credit card through without further comment.

Jack was grabbing the bag when the clerk tried once more, "She's not your type you know."

Jack blinked and said, "Who?"

"The blond you bought the chocolates for," the clerk replied, "She never buys that junk. Only looks at it."

"The truffles are for me," Jack lied, "I bought her the pig-skins..."
End Notes:
I lost access because Yahoo closed my email account. Some of my other works appear here under my former pen name Abby Eddey.
Chapter 2 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 2

It was the 2-Buck-Chuck that warned him. Jack had been watching Sam Carter shop for the better part of a year, occasionally purchasing some indulgence she'd lingered over and managing, one way or another, to share it with her. He'd brought the truffles to a party for one of the nurses who'd been promoted.

No one had thought it unusual that Jack O'Neill would spend $45 on a co-worker, considering his reputation for being an ass with the medical staff. Jack had been taken hostage by microbes from another world the week before and had been skewered by the little bastards. Although they'd healed him before skipping off to occupy an uninhabited world, Jack had been confined to the Infirmary for the better part of a week, under observation. He'd gone stir-crazy and had been less than strictly cordial to the staff, including the nurse who was promoted. At the festivities, Carter had scarfed three of the high calorie morsels, Jack noted with huge satisfaction. He'd popped one into his mouth and had to agree, they were sinful.

Another time he'd arrived at Teal'c's sci-fi DVD night bearing a large carton of the chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream that Carter favored. She'd had her share as well as his. Jack was definitely a vanilla bean sort of guy, but watching Sam clean every dab of chocolate out of her bowl had been sensational - triggering his fixation with the taste of chocolate. Not any old chocolate - deep, dark chocolate on the spoon that slipped between Sam Carter's lips.

Jack told himself it was just a silly fantasy, infatuation, but he continued to watch Sam shopping one Wednesday a month - when their mission schedule didn't screw things up. He told himself it was innocent. Fun. It didn't matter and nobody got hurt.

Jack told himself that until the evening Sam bought the 2-Buck-Chuck. Then, he realized, that he cared ... a lot. Maybe a bit too much.

Carter had been evaluated after her 'involvement' with Jolinar. The white-coats had deemed her fit for duty and Jack had concurred. She had been through a rough time.

'Hell, who hasn't?' Jack reasoned.

No, she'd shown her mettle and came through it like the professional warrior she claimed to be. Jack felt proud of his subordinate. For all her female qualities, Sam Carter was as tough as any man Jack had commanded. Truth be told, maybe tougher. Still, Jack knew from experience that alcohol, drugs, and other things could serve as a crutch when the work became too much. He knew and he wondered about that 2-Buck-Chuck.

If he hadn't been watching her - If he hadn't observed Carter under overwhelmingly normal circumstances for months, Jack wouldn't have thought twice about her buying wine. Personally, he still knocked back a six-pack a week, even though it meant he had to bike and run to keep his weight down. Sam, however, didn't.

Jack had watched his 2IC - at parties, off world, shopping when she didn't think anyone cared what she ate or drank. Near as Jack could figure, Carter didn't drink, except on rare occasions and then only one. So, seeing her grab six bottles of 2-Buck-Chuck from the shelf in Trader Joe’s set off alarm bells.

Worse, she didn't linger over the junk food. She pushed her little cart directly past the chocolate aisle and on to the produce section where she bought carrots, broccoli, apples, and oranges. Then she checked out.

Jack watched her go, wondering what had possessed her to drop twelve bucks on cheap wine. He drove home, still wondering. Went to bed wondering and, about 2 am, gave up on sleep, and just stared at the ceiling, turning the question over and over until the alarm rang at 5:30 am.

Jack arrived at the SGC on time, if grumpy from lack of sleep. He cut a bee-line for the cafeteria, needing coffee ... lots and lots of coffee. The cafeteria, located just two turns past Carter's office, presented a good excuse to delve into the question that had cost him a night's sleep. Jack slowed and then stopped outside her office. He could hear the tapping of a keyboard. Sounded like the Captain was in, bright and bushy as always.

"Carter?" Jack said as he leaned around the doorway.

Her head snapped up and she stared at him, her eyes round and very blue.

"Sir!" she blurted. "You startled me."

"Sorry," Jack said, stepping through the door with his hands jammed into his pockets. "I need coffee... lots and lots of coffee. Wanna join me?"

Carter's eyes clouded for a moment. Jack felt the air crackle with something he hadn't felt since courting Sara.

She hesitated so he pressed the issue.

"It's just coffee, Captain," he said. The use of her rank added a dose of decorum, he felt. "A little pie?" he urged, grinning. Her eyes gave her away before she said the words.

"Sure, Sir."

Sam hit 'save', hopped off the stool she favored, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.

As he walked, however, Jack noticed that his heart was beating faster and he felt inexplicably nervous.

'What is this?' he wondered.

He'd always thought of the woman who walked beside him as beautiful ... and too smart for him, not to mention the regs that denied any chance of a personal relationship. But as he worked with Carter, he'd come to admire her and the distraction of her beauty had faded ... to his relief. She was a Captain, a resource and a helluva valuable member of the SGC. He was proud to have her under his command.

Jack shot a look at Sam. She seemed fine, if a little uncomfortable.

"Nothing's wrong, Carter," he blurted.

"Sir?" she replied, turning her big blue eyes up at him.

"I said, is anything wrong?" Jack changed the wording.

Sam blushed, chose a bowl of blue Jell-O from the chow line and murmured, "Is it that obvious?"

Jack snagged two pieces of pie - pumpkin and pecan - and balanced them on his coffee cup, "Not to everyone. I know you, Captain."

He led the way to a table in the far back corner of the cafeteria, away from others, and settled with his back to the wall. Sam took the other chair, as if by instinct choosing a location that would cover her back.

Jack waited a moment, sipped his coffee and took a bite of pecan pie.

After he swallowed and took another deep sip of coffee, he said, "I'm a bit concerned. What's goin' on?"

Sam blushed and Jack felt his color rush to his face.

"I ..." she began, but stopped. Jack could feel her mortification, so he put down his cup, lifted her chin and stared directly into her blue eyes.

"I need to know," he said. "I can help."

"You can't, Sir," Sam stammered. "Of all people ... not you."

"Why?" Jack pressed, suddenly concerned that he'd screwed up somehow as her commander. "If it's something ..."

"No, Sir." Carter interrupted. "It's me ... and Jolinar. Ever since I've had these ... this ... Oh God, Sir. This is so ..."

"What?" Jack whispered, leaning close and grasping Sam's tightly clenched fist under the table. "Tell me."

"I'm ... lonesome."

Jack could see the pink of her cheeks turn rosy red. Her lips quivered until she trapped the lower between her white teeth.

"I've been there, Captain," he heard himself say. "It's ... a professional liability."

Sam nodded and mumbled, "Sorry to have bothered ..."

But Jack cut her off and gripped her fist tighter, leaning forward until their lips nearly touched, "I'll call you," he said. "Tonight. You're not alone ... not on my team, Captain. You got that?"

"Yes, Sir," Sam whispered, her breath tickling Jack's face.
Chapter 3 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 3

Jack sprawls on his bed, steaming from the shower and wrapped in a damp towel. He glances at the digital clock beside his bed.

22 hundred ...

He reaches for a cold beer sweating on his night stand, takes a deep swig, then grabs the phone, punches speed dial for Carter's home and listens to it ringing ...

... one, two, three ...

Jack's about to disconnect, feeling like a damned fool when she answers.

"Hello?" Sam's voice comes through the phone.

"Did I wake you?" Jack asks, suddenly feeling bashful as hell.

"No, Sir," Sam replies cautiously, "I was just ..."

Jack hears her rethinking her answer and wonders what she was doing that she isn't saying. He thinks about the wine and wonders if she's already had some tonight.

On an impulse, he says, "You got any booze in the house, Carter?"

"No, Sir," she replies.

Jack's surprised. He has never known Sam Carter to tell even a fib. "You sure?" he asks again.

"Oh, wait," she says, "I got some wine a few days ago ... Why?"

"Open a bottle," Jack says. When she hesitates he continues, "... if I have to, Carter, I'll make that an order."

There's a sharp intake of breath, as if she's prepared to argue, but then she replies, "I'll be a minute."

Jack listens to her light footfalls as she walks across a carpeted room, trots downstairs ... he realizes she's barefoot and had almost certainly been in her bedroom after all.

Something stirs.

Jack shifts, sucks down some more beer and pictures her as the soft slap of her bare feet tells him she's entered the kitchen. There's the sound of opening drawers and doors and the 'pop' of a wine bottle opening.

Finally, he hears the sound of liquid as she pours a long slug of wine into a glass.

"Okay," she says somewhat breathlessly.

"Go back upstairs," Jack says, "...and don't forget the bottle."

There's more rustling and the patter of Sam's bare feet on the kitchen tiles as she pads back to the stairs and then upstairs.

The bed squeaks slightly as she settles back onto her mattress.

"Okay," she says.

This time she's definitely breathless. Jack's heart is pounding, too. In his mind's eye, she’s holding a glass of wine in one hand, the bottle in the other and cradling the receiver against her shoulder as she sits on her bed. He wants to ask what she's wearing, but knows she'll panic if he steps over the line of concerned commander and friend to ... to what?

Jack's analytical self wonders where this might lead, while the rest of his brain whirls, scrambling for something to say next. He bites his lower lip, leans back into his pillows and, then, drains the beer.

"I watch the stars a lot," he says completely apropos to nothing.

"I know," Sam says. He hears her pause and take a sip of wine. "Teal'c told me about your telescope. It sounds like a good one ..."

Jack smiles. She's working hard at keeping this conversation going. He understands. It's odd to talk to your boss, while lying in bed with a glass of wine. On the other hand, he's been alone for a long time and knows how nights can be the worst. He'd have given a lot ... many nights ... to talk to someone who gave a damn.

"Its consumer grade," he replies, taking a swig off the empty bottle of beer. "But it's good enough for what I do."

"What do you do, Sir?" Sam asks.

"Planets ... moonscape ... close in stuff," Jack replies. "I never get to see the really far out stuff, the places we ..."

He pauses. It's a secure line, but still he's off base and a lifetime of security stops him.

"I know," Sam rallies, "I ... There was a big telescope at MIT. I used to use it. There's just nothing ... nothing like seeing it that way ..."

Jack nods, shakes his empty beer bottle and sets it on the night stand, then asks, "Better?"

There's a soft laugh, almost a snort, as Carter replies, "Yeah. I am ... Thank you, Sir."

"I'll call again, Captain."

"I hope so," she murmurs.

"Soon," he whispers, but then hangs up the phone before he says too much ... too soon.

***

It's Wednesday again, but Jack sits in his cab with his heart hammering. He's got a decision to make. With his growing connection to Sam Carter his long-standing 're-con' on Wednesdays suddenly feels like ... stalking. He sees her silver sports car pull into the lot across the street. She climbs out, pushes her hair back out of her eyes and heads into the grocery store.

Jack hesitates. He's aware of a growing interest, a dangerous interest, in Carter's whereabouts, her likes and dislikes, her ... life. While it's perfectly acceptable for him to know everything from her dietary habits to her toilet habits as her CO, it's completely inappropriate for him to be interested in her outside of the SGC. And yet, he's sitting in his truck across the street from her usual grocery store for the twelfth time. He's been, to put it bluntly, spying on his 2IC for the better part of a year.

"Crap," Jack growls. The phone calls at night have been even more interesting. He's stuck to chit chat about office politics, encouraged lectures on astronomy, and pried just a bit out of Carter as to what's been bothering her, and it's been the happiest he's been since losing Sara. It's pitiful.

"Fuck me for a goddamned fool," Jack growls, turning the ignition.

A sharp rap on his window makes him jump and there, staring into the cab, is Sam.

"Crap," Jack mutters, before grinning at her and winding the window down.

"What are you doing here, Sir?" she asks.

"I'm ... Carter I'm going out for ribs and saw your car in the lot. I thought maybe you'd like to ... um..."

Before he finishes asking, she's opened the door and slides in beside him.

"I'm famished," she declares, "Let's go!"

Jack drives cross town, without thinking about the fact that he's using his usual Wednesday ops route. He's driven to Trader Joe's so often that he's developed a faster series of back roads that allow him to cut almost fifteen minutes off the drive.

"Wow," Sam exclaims, as he navigates through a railroad yard and cuts through an ungated warehouse district. "I had no idea you knew Colorado Springs so well, Sir."

"Live and learn, Carter," Jack replies, grinning. In fact he'd researched the route on MapQuest, found it useless, and developed the final route using a set of maps in the library of the SGC. 'No need to mention all that,' he figures.

"So where is this place?" Sam asks as the minutes tick by.

"Not much farther," Jack says, then he pulls out his cell phone, hits a preprogrammed number and says, "I'll need two racks of baby-back ribs in about ten minutes, slaw, baked potatoes, beans and ... garlic bread, sure. Right. Ten."

Sam just looks puzzled, but doesn't ask. Jack doesn't explain. He is, after all, playing this all by ear.

Finally, he pulls into the 'Big Pig' Diner, parks and turns off the truck.

"This is it?" Sam asks.

"Yeah," Jack admits, he can read what she's thinking on her face.

"Your house is ..."

"About two blocks away," Jack finishes the statement. "I eat here a lot. You'll like it; I promise it's better than it looks."

Sam nods and follows him into the grungy diner.

Jack nods and smiles at the man at the counter who turns and shouts toward the kitchen, "O'Neill!"

A young man trots out carrying three brown bags and sets them beside the register.

"Fifteen eighty seven," the counter guy says.

Jack pays and heads back out the door with Sam trailing.

"I thought ..." she starts to say, but Jack just shakes his head and says, "Patience Captain."

He places the food behind the seat, fires the engine, waits till Sam's buckled in, and then drives past his house and beyond, heading up the hills until the city falls away.

After five minutes, he slows, signals and pulls off the road onto a makeshift overlook. There's no other car in sight.

"Oh," Sam says as they sit looking out across the valley lights. "It's really beautiful."

Jack doesn't answer. Instead he climbs out, pulls the bags of food out, and says, "Grab the blanket out of the back on your side."

Sam obeys and follows as he heads into the brushy growth beyond the parking area. He leads her down a narrow path, beyond the bits of litter that dot the area, and into deeper woods that rear up where the slope steepens. About 300 yards into the brush, the trees give way to a small glade bordered by trees on three sides and the valley lights on the fourth.

"Here," Jack says.

Sam spreads the blanket and they settle down to destroy dinner.

Jack eats without speaking and Sam, too, focuses on the ribs and fixings. Eventually, as the night deepens, stars come out overhead and Jack gnaws the last rib bone, while Sam polishes off the cole slaw.

"That was superb," she says at last, collecting the foil wrapping, plastic cups and lids, and stuffing them into the paper bag.

Jack folds up the greasy foil with the twenty well cleaned rib bones and shoves them into another sack. He opens a small foil wrapped handiwipe and tosses another to Sam. They scrub their fingers and wipe their faces and then, finally, lie back on the blanket and look up at the stars.

"Do you know them?" Jack asks.

"Not as well as you 'd think, given my job," Sam admits. "I know how stars work ... I don't know the constellations or much at all about the mythology, history ..."

"That's Sirius," Jack murmurs, pointing at a brilliant star almost directly overhead. "There's the Pole star, of course, and ... the W shaped series of stars is Cassiopeia ..."

"I ... " Sam begins, but Jack turns to look at her and says, "Hush, Captain."

"But ... I'm ..." she tries again.

"There are some things people need to survive, Carter," Jack says, "food ... drink ... shelter and ... friendship. You told me you're lonely. It's my responsibility to make sure my people have what they need to do their jobs, Carter. Besides ... I like you. You're an interesting person and I'd like us to be friends, if that's not too uncomfortable ..."

"No Sir."

"... because hard as I fight it, Carter, I'm lonely, too."
Chapter 4 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 4

"I died," Carter's disembodied voice whispers.

Jack waits certain that this is it. She's about to get to the heart of the 2-Buck-Chuck episode.

"Before that I was taken ... my body was taken ..." Sam stands suddenly and murmurs "I can't do this ..." She turns toward the path leading back to the truck, but Jack reaches up and grabs her hand, barking, "Wait!"

"Is that an order, Sir?" Sam sounds angry and hurt.

"No," Jack stammers. He lets go of her fist. It's a fist he notes, and sighs, "Of course not, Captain, but I can make it an order, if this is a problem. Don't go there, please." He reaches up and touches the back of her hand tentatively, then feels her hand open to him. He wraps his fingers around hers and closes his grip, but gently this time.

"You can tell me anything, Carter. I'll listen. I've been through enough crap that I won't judge. I promise."

Jack feels her pulse against his fingers and then her nearness and heat as she turns back and slumps at his side. He wants to wrap his arm around her shoulders and pull her to him, but he doesn't move a muscle. Carter's his responsibility. She's a valuable asset to the SGC. It's his sworn duty to protect the SGC and she's a means to achieve that mission ... besides, she's one of his people. He takes care of his people, and not by climbing all over them like a rutting goat. So he waits with his arms locked over his knees, staring down on the lights below, while her breathing slows and then she starts in a whisper ...

"I ... saw a man hit. He fell and I ... stopped ... We were under fire and ... he had no pulse. So ..."

Sam falls silent and Jack hears a ragged sob.

"You stopped and administered CPR to the villager," he murmurs, "... and then?"

"It was so ... alien. I knew almost immediately that something was odd, but the instant I touched my lips to his, there was ..."

She's weeping openly now and Jack tightens his grip around his knees to stifle the urge to hold her.

"C'mon," he murmurs, "it helps to say it out loud ..."

"There was this terrible movement and pressure. It was against my teeth, between ... m-my ... my jaws couldn't close and ..."

Sam stands suddenly, takes three or four steps and then vomits violently into the grassy edge of the glade. Jack is behind her and touches her side, letting her know he's there for her. She's sobbing and trembling under his hand.

"Oh, God! I'm so sorry ... You must think ..."

Jack cuts into her apology, "F'cristsakes, don't apologize, Carter. You were abducted by something we've been battling for almost two years. It took over your body, controlled everything you said, everything you did, night and day for ..."

Jack stops as she straightens and stares into his face. She looks like hell, even in the kindness of moonlight.

"How ..." she starts to say, but Jack pulls her tight against him and murmurs into her hair, "How," he rasps, "Easy. I've been where you are. Not as weird, but I've been there, believe me. It takes time to get back. Talking about it is part of getting back ... they tell me. That's why we're up here. So you can talk to me. Now, wipe your face. Spit. Blow your nose and take a deep breath, that's an order. Okay?"

Jack releases his embrace and steadies her as she takes a step back and whispers, "Okay."

And then, sitting in the dark as the full moon swings over their heads, she talks to him ... really talks.

***

"It was terrifying," Sam begins. "I felt ... it. Then, there was pain and ... confusion. I felt like we ... as if I ... he ..."

"Easy," Jack murmurs.

"I ..." she settles on the pronoun like a drowning man grabbing onto a rope, "... As if I was watching it all happen. I tried to stop it. I t-tried and ... but ..."

There's a shuddering gasp and the sound of her muffled sobs. Jack doesn't react this time. He knows Carter's going through the guilt, the second-guessing, the terrible aftershocks of shame, grief and personal failure that POWs always experience. He knows the cleansing power of tears and of confession, no matter how damning the circumstances. So, he waits. Sam weeps for a while and then gathers up the threads of her explanations and regrets and stumbles through the entire sorrowful morass.

"I put the SGC at risk ..."

"How could I have missed that he carried a Goa'uld?"

"No matter what I did, he was just so strong ..."

"I was sure I was dead ..."

"Why didn't I see ..."

Jack has a retort on the tip of his tongue each time Carter damns herself, but he doesn't interrupt. He's not Sam's judge, he's her confessor. So, hard as it is, he simply listens in stony silence to the stumbling of Carter's painful words. Painful for her because she still doesn't get that there was nothing - absolutely nothing - that she did to cause what happened and nothing she could have done to prevent it. Painful for Jack because he knows there's not one single thing he can say that will convince her how brave and strong and fine a warrior she really is ... in his eyes and on the official record of the review board that went over every facet of the events with a fine-toothed and highly critical comb.

So, Jack listens ... until her words run out.

They do eventually. The moon has crossed over their heads and touches the far horizon.

When silence falls and holds, Jack's stretched out on his back on the blanket, looking at her silhouette. Her profile is chiseled in black, backlit in a pale blue halo from the dying moon. He's feeling pretty good about helping her when Sam speaks in a completely different tone.

"When I said I'm lonely," her voice floats softly across the small dark space between them, "it's for something I've never really had. I've dated ... a bit. I was even engaged ... once ... for about two years ..."

Jack's forgotten the moon, the stars, and everything except the electrical charge he feels from the woman at his side. He swallows, suddenly acutely aware that he could reach out and touch her face ... that his head is five inches, maybe less, from her thigh. He needs to move away ... wants to move closer ... but he doesn't move - not a muscle - as her words spill over and his hungry heart hammers.

"There was this sense of being complete. I don't know how I know ... but Jolinar knew love and ... passion. When I connected with him I had those feelings ... those memories. And ... God, I miss it. I didn't even know I'd missed it. Not until Jolinar touched my mind and now ... there's this hole ... this emptiness ..."

Jack blinks hard and the stars shimmer and swim. He's lived with the loss Carter's describing. He's loved and lost. As she speaks the words, he knows that he'd give anything to get that back ... given half a chance. He reaches for her without thinking, but her words tumble on, freezing his hand before it touches her cheek.

"God, Sir."

'Sir ...'.

"I'd give anything to have that feeling again ... but real, y'know? For myself."

'... Fuck.'

Jack blinks, presses the heel of his hand against his eyes and murmurs, "Yeah, Captain. Anybody would."

***

"SG-1, you have a go," Hammond's voice reverberates through the Gate room.

Jack leads off this time, sensitive to the fact that anything might be waiting on the other side. The telemetry from BP6-3Q1 indicated an advanced civilization, perhaps with advanced technology worth acquiring, but nobody home. It made Jack's neck hairs stiffen as he watched the video from the MALP, empty streets, empty homes, empty world ... maybe.

So he leads the way this time, ensuring he'll be there as the others emerged from the Gate into what might be a very hostile world.

Jack's first view of 3Q1 indicates no obvious threat. It doesn't belay his concern - actually it sets his teeth on edge to see the sunshine, clean streets, and well-ordered spaces ... completely devoid of life.

Not a bird chirps ... not a child calls ... or laughs ... or cries.

Carter, Teal'c and Danny emerge a moment later and the Gate snaps shut with a disconcerting 'zip.' Jack should be used to the sound by now, but it always leaves him waiting for shit to hit the fan.

"Move out," he says in a calm tone. No need to spook the troops.

Teal'c takes the lead. It's their usual pattern - Warrior sandwich with the creamy scientist center. Not that Carter can't cut the mustard. Far from it, but it keeps Danny from noticing that he's being looked after. He'd bitch.

Jack watches them find their proper interval and then follows, his nerves twanging in the sunshine and the silence.

They're approaching what, on Earth, would be a high-price office building - a place for lawyers and other distasteful life forms. Jack shifts his P-90, wondering when one of them will appear.

And then it happens. He steps is a pile of foul yellow goo the consistency of ... goo.

"Aw, Man," he complains, lifting his goo-contaminated boot. "Anyone have any idea what this is?" he asks. This planet looked uninhabited. If so, what the hell laid this stinking mess?

"I hate to say it, Sir," Carter responds, "but it looks like they may have a bit of a pigeon problem."

'For a scientist, Carter, you lack common sense, sometimes,' Jack thinks, as he replies, "I don't see pigeons, Captain, and there should be a lot of them."

"Well," Carter continues, "whatever did this did so pretty recently."

Jack agrees and scans the area, still seeing no threat ... no movement, as Teal'c hypothesizes, "Perhaps whatever did this suffered the same fate as the inhabitants of this city."

Jack's gazing off in the distance, trying to decide if a series of towers at the horizon could be a stronghold of some kind, when something whizzes past.

"Whoa!" he barks, ducking instinctively, "Did any of you guys hear that?" he demands.

Before anyone can answer a huge honking bug streaks in and lands right smack in the middle of Teal'c's upper back. The Jaffa freezes. Jack stares, horrified, and then draws his 9 mm, taking a bead on the pug-ugly bug.

Teal'c's eyes shift to catch Jack's gaze. The Jaffa doesn't move another muscle. He's counting on Jack to deal with the threat.

Jack takes aim. Breaths out and stops, ready to squeeze off a shot when the thing arches its long wicked tail and strikes, plunging a stinger into the base of Teal'c's neck. Then it whizzes away.

Jack follows the creature for a split second, but doesn't get a shot. It's too damned fast and way too maneuverable ... Teal'c staggers and falls against a lamp post. Jack turns and snaps, "Carter, Novocain."

"Yes, Sir," she replies, pulling out the First Aid kit.

But Daniel interrupts, "Aaah, we better get out of here..."

"No really?" Jack snaps, he's pissed that he hesitated and now Teal'c's injured.

"No really," Daniel repeats, pointing.

"There," Carter calls pointing and Jack follows her arm upwards into the blue sky. A dark, indefinite form hovers. It's far off, but approaching fast. As the distance closes the swarm takes shape ... and heads straight at them.

"Let's move!" he orders, spinning and trying to avoid the creatures that whiz past him too fast to shoot. "Crap," Jack barks as they're surrounded by huge, honkin' creatures that look like Prehistoric dragonflies.

The team reacts, turning and running. Daniel's at the DHD, dialing. Carter's got her weapon up and she's firing into the swarm, hitting a few and seeming to give the others pause. The Gate engages, spewing plasma into the swarm and a few more disappear in a hiss. Jack jerks Teal'c's arm and plants his shoulder in the Jaffa's armpit, flexes his aching knees and drags his friend up the four broad steps into the swirling blue.

A moment later, he stumbles through into the Gate room and bawls, "Close it up!"

Carter yells, "We've got wounded here!!"

Jack turns and watches the iris close, relieved that none of the bugs made it through. There's a staccato thunk ... thunk-thunk as the bugs that were behind them strike the iris.

"What is that!" Hammond demands as he stalks up to the foot of the ramp.

"Those are bugs, Sir!" Jack bawls, still more than a little shook. "Big, ugly ... bugs!"

Then Jack drops to his knees at Teal'c's side on the metal ramp, rolls him onto his stomach, and pulls his t-shirt collar down. A grotesque hole is already puckering and swelling.

"Medic!" Jack shouts, although he knows they're coming. "Goddammit, get some ..."

White coats surround them, someone pulls him back and the litter is placed beside his friend. Teal'c is lifted and carried off, leaving Jack standing, staring and wondering how he could have screwed up so fucking thoroughly ...
Chapter 5 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 5

Jack tosses the covers back and groans. It's 3 a.m. and he's not asleep ... again. Ever since the whole bugs-from-beyond thing happened to Teal'c, it's been one sleepless night after another. Teal'c covers Jack's ass. Jack cover's Teal'c's and between them they take care of the others. That's how it's supposed to work.

But it didn't work out that way on 3Q1. Teal'c nearly died and Jack stood there and let it happen ...

Jack rolls onto his side, punches the pillow and groans. They'd come close that time - not only to losing Teal'c. If the Jaffa's body had transformed into those damned alien bugs that had infested him, Earth's entire human population would have been wiped out in less than a year ... probably less ... more likely a couple of months.

Nothing he'd done had made a damned bit of difference - a kid had saved them ... thank god for that precocious urchin, Ally and her ability to smell a rat ... if Maybourne had his way ....

"Crap," Jack growls as he swings his legs over the side of the bed, pulls on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, and stumbles out to the kitchen.

Jack opens the fridge, considers popping a beer, but doesn't. He lets the door swing shut and leans against the counter, rubbing his eyes. His head hurts.

'Thank god it's Friday night,' he thinks. He can sleep in tomorrow, assuming he can get to sleep tonight.

With a sigh, he crosses the dark kitchen, enters the living room and reaches up to the top of his DVD cabinet where several dusty bottles reside. He hasn't had anything stronger than beer since he returned to Abydos.

He pulls down the closest bottle - it's all whisky and he's not feeling picky. He slips on his battered moose-skin moccasins and heads out the door into the cool, clear night.

Jack walks around the side of the house to a permanent ladder to the roof. He clambers up, using one hand while the other carries the bottle. He reaches the roof, steps off the ladder and settles into the battered lounge chair. Then he takes a long, deep pull from the bottle, coughs, and removes the waterproof cover from the telescope.

Jack drinks and stargazes for the rest of the night. It's nearly dawn and the bottle is empty, before he finally sleeps. He never hears the phone ringing inside.

Sam hangs up the phone, wondering where on Earth the Colonel can be at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning. She stops, then blushes at the obvious explanation. She pulls on her jeans jacket, grabs her keys and heads out the door without another thought. The SGC is trying to reach him. He should have brought his cell phone with him if he was going to be ... out ... overnight. So, maybe there's another explanation.

Sam tries the Colonel's cell phone again as she drives and then hits speed dial for his home phone. Both ring until the voice mail picks up. She doesn't leave a message, but drives faster, suddenly scared.

Ever since the Colonel butted heads with Senator Kinsey a year ago, she'd worried about repercussions. Sam had spent time enough in DC to know, without a doubt, that Kinsey has dangerous connections. If he wants to, Sam knows, the Senator can make Jack O'Neill pay.

The sun's just over the horizon when Sam pulls into Jack's driveway. His pickup's there. Her heart jumps. Maybe he's sick ... or ...

Sam jumps out of her sports car, trots to the door and knocks. There's no answer.

"Colonel," she calls, hammering louder, "Colonel O'Neill!"

'Now what?' Sam thinks, resting her hand on the door knob. She turns it and , to her surprise, it opens.

Sam's heart hammers as she steps inside, "Sir?" she calls. "Are you okay?"

There's no light burning and no reply.

Sam closes the door. The living room is tidy. There is no sign of trouble ... no sign of a struggle. She checks out the kitchen and sees nothing more alarming than a couple of dirty dishes in the sink.

Reluctantly, Sam walks down the hallway. She's never stepped foot beyond the public areas of the house and has no idea which room is a bedroom. She's blushing furiously, but she's come this far and found her CO is missing. Duty outweighs her embarrassment.

Sam pushes a door open and sees rumpled blankets. She smells that particular mix of scents that identify Jack O'Neill's space. Sam flushes and pauses in the dark room.

"Sir?" she whispers. "Are you in here?"

There's no answer so she walks around the end of the bed, sees there's no body on the floor - her fear - and shakes her head.

'Where is he?' she wonders.

Finally, Sam turns and leaves the room, walks down the hallway and, taking one more look around the empty house, pulls out her cell phone to report the Colonel missing, but then a thought strikes her.

"Stargazing," she murmurs, looking up at the edge of the roof. She sees no way up and so circles the building, searching for a way to climb up there. She finds the ladder on the other side of a thick growth of juniper, scrambles up to the roof and freezes, her breath caught in her throat.

"Colonel!" Sam cries, jumping onto the roof and racing to his side. He’s slumped in chaise lounge, pale and unresponsive. He looks dead or very ill.

"Colonel O'Neill," Sam calls again, crouching at his side and slapping his icy cheek, then touching the side of his throat, searching for a pulse.

His eyelids twitch. .

"Carter?" he rasps, swatting her hand away and lurching aside.

"Sir! What happened? Are you injured? Who did this?"

"Poisoning, Captain," Jack groans, coughing and then moaning. "Self-inflicted... by whiskey ..."

Sam jumps up as if she's on springs.

"Oh!" she barks, "Oh. I ... Of course, Sir. I ..."

Jack sits up, still holding his head and moans, "Shhh. Carter. Have mercy. Please..."

Sam wants to disappear, but the Colonel looks like death. She's not sure he can descend the ladder safely. She goes first and lingers until he reaches the ground. She follows and as they round the side of the house, he stops.

“Hang around for a bit,” he growls. “I might need a lift.”

Sam nods, her heart sinking. She’d hoped to vanish, but knows she has to stay, at least until he determines whether he needs to report to the SGC. He's in no condition to drive.

Sam watches her superior officer falter as he passes between the front of her car and the tailgate of his truck. She sighs and trails behind as he crosses to the path, stumbles up the steps, through the front door and into the living room. He grabs a portable handset for his phone, dials, grunts a couple of times and hangs up.

"Emergency over," he growls as he shuffles into the kitchen.

'Good thing,' Sam thinks. She smells a thick pall of whiskey as he moves past. Sam resists the urge to ask what the hell precipitated such alcoholic excess. The Colonel doesn't exactly look in a tolerant mood for uppity questions from mere Captains.

So, Sam lingers in the doorway and observes in silence as her senior officer makes coffee. Every small action signals killing pain.

"I can go," she suggests as he fills the coffee urn with water.

"If you want to, Carter," Jack growls, looking at her through red-rimmed eyes, “go. Or stay. There'll be java in a minute or two."

He leans against the counter, pinching the bridge of his nose. His hair's sticking out in every direction and he needs a shave. His hand trembles slightly.

"Need some aspirin, Sir?" Sam asks, pulling a bottle out of her bag.

Jack looks up and grins weakly, "Bless you, Captain. Thanks."

Sam crosses the kitchen and shakes a couple into his outstretched hand. She jumps a bit when he closes his other hand over hers and shakes out six more. Then he shoves all eight pills into his mouth.

"That can't be good for you," she murmurs.

"Works," Jack mumbles from around the dissolving pills. "Trust me. I know."

Sam returns his grim smile and suddenly blurts out the question that's been in the front of her mind since this bizarre interaction began.

"Did something happen, Colonel?"

Jack looks at her serious blue eyes, wide with concern and a touch of panic lurking there. He shakes his head slowly. He's a Colonel. It's the job description that he carries the load. Carter's a Captain. Smart. Sure of herself, but a Captain. The burden of command is way, way beyond her pay-grade. It's wrong to dump his problems on her youthful shoulders.

"Nothin' in particular," he replies, choosing to divert rather than flat-out lie to her.

"It has been a rough few months," Sam replies.

"Yeah," Jack agrees, watching the coffee dribble into the urn and wondering why it takes so fucking long. "First that whole Jolinar thing; Then Daniel gets himself addicted to sarcophagi. Now, I nearly lose Teal'c."

Carter's eyes grow large and Jack realizes he's tipped his hand. Why he said it, he's not sure. He hadn't planned to. The truth had just spilled out.

"That's why ...?" Carter's question dies on her lips. Jack knows why. His jaw's tense. He straightens and tries to smile, but can't quite make it reach his eyes.

Carter's expression shifts from concern to something like fear.

"Easy, Captain," Jack growls. "I'm not going to eat you."

The coffee timer dings, saving him from saying something else idiotic ... or scary. Jack pulls down a mug, fills it, and thrusts it at Carter. He reaches for another and his grip slips. The thick government-issue mug flies across the kitchen and shatters, spraying ceramic shards everywhere.

"F-fffuck," Jack gasps, avoiding Carter's alarmed gaze. He grabs another cup, sloshes coffee into it and slams it back, draining the cup. Then he pours another and picks his way across the kitchen grumbling, "I'll clean that up ... tomorrow."

Jack leads the way through the living room and out onto the deck. Carter trails behind. He's not sure why, but it pleases him that she hasn't bolted ... yet.

He settles in a deck chair and, when Carter hovers, says, "Sit." She does.

"Sorry you had to see this, Captain," Jack says. "I don't make a habit of it. It's just ... sometimes."

"I understand," Sam replies.

"No. You don't," Jack sighs, "I know your records like my own, Carter. You don't drink. You don't do drugs. You don't see anyone in particular on a regular basis. You don't even speed. You work. Hard. So, no, you don't understand. You haven't got a damned clue."

Jack hears no reply except a ragged sigh. He glances sideways and sees, to his alarm, his 2IC with tears welling up in her big blue eyes.

"Oh, crap," he murmurs, sounding gentler than he intends. "Don't ..."

Carter stands suddenly, spilling coffee over the rim of her mug.

"I am so sorry that I ... disturbed you, Sir. I shouldn't have ... I couldn't ..."

"Sit," Jack interrupts, "... I owe you an apology and a real explanation." And then he explains, in detail.

***

"You don't need to know this," Jack says, staring into the dregs of his coffee. His head feels like it’s coming unscrewed from his neck and he wants to crawl away into a dark corner and forget his life ever happened.

"No Sir," Carter says after a lengthy pause. She starts to rise, but Jack glances at her and she settles back into the chair wearing a carefully composed professional mask.

"...But you deserve to, I think. Carter, I don't usually ... well ... ever ... talk about these things with my subordinates," Jack continues, wishing he could stop. A second glance at Carter indicates that she wishes he would stop, but he doesn't. He can't. He's opened up and now things better left unsaid for years are spilling out.

"You'll lead a team someday," he reasons aloud. "So maybe it's best to know what that ... means ..."

"Yes, Sir."

"I've been in command of ... well ... more teams in more places than I can say ..."

"I guessed as much," Carter's tone softens slightly and Jack glances at her again. Her eyes are softer, too.

He plunges ahead, determined to erase that look of sympathy, bordering on pity, and to regain her trust and respect ... if he can.

"I didn't know what it would be like when I joined up," he says, tipping the coffee remnants over the side of the deck. "I saw my first action in Nam. Survived. That was enough to earn a field commission ... then ..."

Jack pauses, lost in memories of those violent years after Nam. ..."

"Special Ops?" Carter offers after the pause lengthens into silence.

"Right.” Jack nods, shoving the images of his first team’s last firefight back into the box. “Special Ops. That's when I started to catch on."

Jack rubs his eyes. The sun's climbing. It's angling over the horizon directly into his face. It hurts and his eyes sting. He's dehydrated, but if he stops to get a glass of water, Carter will exploit the opening and make her escape. So, he keeps talking.

"I've lost men under my command over the years," Jack says, "It's not easy to lose people, Carter. Friends ... losing comrades ... that's hard, but when you give the order ... when it's your call ... your responsibility ..."

Jack hesitates, unable to find words to express why this ... how this led to his draining nearly an entire a bottle of whiskey.

Jack stammers, searching for the right words, "... mine ... my responsibility, I mean. But this ... This was bigger than losing a friend, bigger than losing a battle or even a war. It's about our planet, Captain, and I nearly lost it."

"You couldn't have known, Sir," she protests, but Jack shakes his head. Her eyes drop and then lift again, questioning. He smiles a grim smile.

"Doesn't matter ... I'm in command, Carter. It's on me."

Her blue eyes widen. She gets it.

Jack leans back in the chair, closes his eyes against the penetrating morning light and, somehow, words keep coming. Bad decisions ... sleepless nights ... dead friends and cocked-up missions ... better precautions ... intel ... training ... equipment ... anticipating risks and mitigating them ... and on and on ... He spills it all.

Six hours later, while Carter waits, Jack excuses himself, takes a quick shower, shaves and, when he returns, escorts his 2IC to a well-deserved brunch.
Chapter 6 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 6

Jack sips coffee and gazes at Samantha Carter. She's telling him something about ... he's not sure what ... and her eyes shine and sparkle.

He's feeling much better - sober and relaxed. He's beat, but well-fed, having polished off two short stacks of pancakes, sausage, bacon, melon slices and pineapple chunks. Now he's nursing his third cup of coffee, just because he doesn't want this moment to end.

Jack nods, gazing through his lashes at Carter. She doesn't break to breathe when she's wound up and he's got her going full bore on ... whatever she's telling him.

'It's ridiculous,' Jack thinks.

Carter's bubbly enthusiasm has distracted him from the moment they met. After all she's a beautiful woman ... and way, way too smart. He's mitigated this distraction, using a system to let him focus on Carter's point, rather than her lips. This morning, however, he can't quiet convince himself that she's actually Lou Feretti.

"Sir?"

Carter's lips stop moving and Jack chokes on his coffee.

"You okay?" she asks.

"Wrong pipe," Jack rasps, ignoring the fact that she noticed something wrong before he inhaled his coffee.

Jack shakes his head and coughs, empties his cup and says, "Let's get out of here."

Carter drops her fork and says, "Sure."

Jack follows her out of the low, tightly packed breakfast joint. A popular weekend destination, the restaurant is doing a hot business. Jack and Sam had slipped in just before the crowd. It's hopping now, as she leads him across the busy parking lot to her little sport car.

Jack folds his long frame into the small space. It reminds him of a jet trainer. Not bad once he's inside, but challenging for a guy who's over 6' - and most of that leg.

Sam fires the throaty engine, backs out with flare that surprises Jack, and murmurs, "Where to, Sir?"

"You got plans?" he asks staring out the window, so she won't catch the hope he fears is obvious.

"Just grocery shopping," she says. "That can wait."

"Cool," Jack murmurs, resting his head against the headrest and continuing, "Just drive."

Sam grins and obeys, guiding her car through traffic, managing to make stoplights, and reaching the open road beyond Colorado Springs in less than five minutes. Then she punches it.

Jack grins, enjoying the rush of speed and the unusual sensation of being chauffeured by a woman - a woman who drives like a man ... correction like a maniac.

Jack glances at Sam. A feral smile lights her face as she rockets past a line of cars, accelerating up a long, sloping incline that winds up into the mountains.

"And I thought you don't speed," he murmurs.

Her smile glows as she turns and says, "I don't get caught. You don't know everything about me, Sir."

The sun's warm on his face. Jack closes his eyes, lulled by the feel of the twisting road under the wheels and Sam Carter's insane and decidedly expert driving.

The crunch of gravel wakes him. Jack sits up, blinks and realizes they're parked at an overlook. A broad expanse of lowlands falls away, stretching a hundred miles or more to the hazy shrouded horizon.

"Where are we?" Jack yawns.

"Somewhere in the mountains," Carter replies. "Pretty, isn't it?"

"Beautiful," Jack sneaks a glance at Carter. "Just beautiful."

"You fell asleep," she adds, "so I just drove."

"How long?" Jack asks, realizing he forgot to put on his watch.

"About four hours," Carter replies.

"Four!?" Jack exclaims.

"Maybe five ... or six," she admits. "You were asleep. I ..."

Jack rubs his eyes and chuckles softly. He hasn't slept four straight hours in weeks. Six hours of undisturbed sleep is a gift.

"Thank you, Carter," he says, reaching over to grasp her hand on the steering wheel.

Color rushes into her cheeks as she turns and smiles, "You're welcome, Sir."

"Now," Jack continues reluctantly releasing his grip on her hand, "better head home."


****

Jack leans against his front door jamb, watching Carter's tail lights dim and then disappear around a sharp bend. He turns the knob and lets himself into the empty house, tosses his cap on the table beside the door and turns the lock.

It's been a good day, he realizes. The first really good day since ... forever.

***

Jack stares across the conference table at Carter.

"You don't think it was just a dream?"

Sam shakes her head, "No, Sir. It was real. I could tell."

"You could tell?" General Hammond echoes.

'Yes, Sir," Carter responds. She's nervous. There are dark circles under her eyes. She hasn't been sleeping. Jack knows the look."I don't know how, exactly," she continues, "but I could tell."

Jack cocks his head and murmurs, half to himself, "So we're supposed into buy this ... ESP, or whatever it is?"

Jack wants to stand, grab Sam by the hand, haul her into the hall and shake her ... hard. He knows where this is going. She's going to use these dreams to argue that they should seek out the Tok'ra. He's sure as hell not interested in putting her back in close proximity to the son's-a-bitches who high-jacked her body the last time.

Teal'c replies, "O'Neill, when a Goa'uld infests its host, their minds intermingle, become as one. It is possible that portions of Jolinar of Malk-shur remain in Captain Carter's mind."

"These Tok'ra were on the run," Carter adds. "They may be in trouble. Now, if we want to find them again, we should find them before they move on. They may still be at these coordinates."

'There it is!' Jack thinks, clenching his fist under the table, 'Dammit, Carter ...'

Daniel fidgets and jumps in, "Now, you said their eyes glowed. Are you really sure that these Tok'ra are what Jolinar said they were? I mean, good guys, for lack of a better word."

"Yes," Sam replies.

"Yes?" Jack barks, exasperated. "Just yes?!! Could you elaborate a little?"

"I'm sorry Colonel," Sam replies. "I know it's hard to accept. I don't really understand it myself, but I am sure. I ... I just know."

There's a pause. Jack doesn’t drop his gaze and Sam’s eyes remained locked, intensely blue and so brave. Jack swears that sparks are flying between them. He shifts and drops his eyes, trying not to give his motives away. General Hammond has enough on his plate without a love-struck Colonel.

Teal'c glances from Jack to Sam, missing nothing, and speaks.

"According to Jaffa legend, the Tok'ra are the Goa'uld resistance. Their stated goal is the destruction of the System Lords and a change in the ways of the empire. They are hunted and despised by the Goa'uld." Teal’c pauses, lifting his eyebrow slightly and Jack knows that Teal’c knows the score.

"Yes! My kinda guys!" Jack declares, deciding it’s high time to cover his ass, and Carter’s. If Teal’c sees the score, Danny can’t be too far behind. Unlike Teal’c, the epitome of stoicism, Dr. Jackson offers no guarantee that he won’t blurt out Jack’s awkward secret when the epiphany strikes. So, with an effort, Jack ignores Carter's obvious distress and dons his patented ‘happy’ face.

Interpreting it as his approval, Carter drives her point home. "General Hammond, if I may," she says. "My vision is the only lead we have to go on. Shouldn't we at least check it out before they move on?"

Hammond turns to Jack, "Colonel?"

Trapped, and still wearing a half-assed smile, Jack snaps back, "General?"

"I'm prepared to send SG-1 through to the coordinates Captain Carter saw in her vision," Hammond states, locking Jack in his sights, "if you agree."

Jack doesn't respond for a moment. He's wondering if Hammond's aware of the electricity still snapping between him and Carter. Before Jack can divert attention from that inconvenient sensation, Carter chirps up, pleading her case.

"Colonel, I know you're skeptical about these things, but I am confident that I am right on this one."

Jack ponders the situation as the room waits – desperately looking for a counter argument. Finally, he faces facts. He’s not going to wriggle out of this. SG-1 has a mission and Carter's key to accomplishing it.

"Let's check it out."

Jack's geared up and striding down the hall, still musing over how in hell he's going to squelch his wildly inappropriate urges to protect his 2IC. He jumps when Carter calls out.

"Colonel, all right if I catch up with you?"

"We leave in ten," he barks.

"Only need five," she calls, turning and trotting back toward the Control Room.

Jack's waiting a couple of minutes, wondering what's keeping Carter when she jogs through the blast doors with an unusual expression on her face.

"Ready, Captain?" he asks, feeling a jolt of concern.

But, she nods.

"Okay,” he smirks, trying to lighten his mood. “Let's go find your dream-guy."
Chapter 7 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 7

Jack trudges through loose sand, wondering where the hell Daniel and Teal'c are leading them. It doesn't matter. They have no idea where to hunt for these 'Tok'ra' guys. There's no sign of human activity. So Jack's relaxed ... at least as relaxed as he can be on an off world mission to find a pack of 'legendary warriors' with snakes in their heads.

Then, Jack's sixth sense twitches. He closes the gap to Daniel and Teal'c, acutely aware that they've entered a series of high dunes. There's no telling who's behind those piles of sand. An ambush could cut them off, limiting their ability to provide supporting fire.

Jack's got his weapon at the ready and is no more than three steps behind Daniel when, suddenly, the sand explodes around them. A dozen guys rise up, arms at the ready. They're surrounded.

Jack wants to open fire. Instead, aware that there’s no chance, he freezes.

"Good guys or bad guys?" he mutters to Carter, as a potential Tok'ra approaches.

"I am Cordesh. We mean you no harm. But I warn you, if you make any aggressive moves, we will fire upon you."

Jack gives a thin smile, sizing the guy up, and murmurs, "Same here."

Cordesh laughs and continues, "Well, I think we have the advantage. There are more of us."

"This is true," Jack admits, fixing Cordesh with an arrogant glare that conveys the impression that he’ll be damned, and do his best to blow every one of them to hell, before he backs down an inch.

Cordesh shifts uncomfortably, clearly trying to decide if Jack will act on his bravado.

Then one of the others barks, "This one is a Jaffa. Apophis sect!" He's glaring at Teal'c’s golden symbol.

"I am no longer in the service of Apophis," Teal'c responds. Jack has to admire his composure.

"Who then are you in service to?"

"I am allied with these," Teal'c reacts, "the Tau'ri, in battle against Apophis."

Jack glares at the guy who’s still glaring at Teal’c. From the looks of things he’s ready to let 'er rip. A teeny part of Jack hopes he does.

Daniel, unaware of all danger, blurts, "And all other Goa'uld!"

Sam murmurs, "Careful, Daniel ... They are Goa'uld."

Cordesh barks, "Do not call us that! We are not Goa'uld!" but his eyes glow. Jack glances around, notes the locations of his people, settles on his target when the shooting starts, and then Carter goes all strange.

"Martouf," she says stepping forward toward the Goa’uld who’s still eye-fucking Teal’c. Jack’s gut turns. Something in Carter's face is very wrong. She should not be looking at that guy the way she has sometimes looked at him … once or twice … when they're alone together.

"I do not know this woman!" the hothead barks.

Carter moves closer and murmurs, "But I'm right, aren't I. That's your name, Martouf."

Jack hates that name already. The guy smiles a half smile. Sam's eyes light up.

"It is," Martouf replies. "How do you know me?"

"I don't," Carter admits, "But I knew someone who did. His name was Jolinar of Malk-shur."

"Where is Jolinar?" Cordesh interrupts.

"He died," Carter says, “saving my life.”

Daniel pipes up, "That's why we're here, to seek out the Tok'ra."

Jack blurts, "Assuming of course you are the Tok'ra," hoping they’re not so he can blow Martouf’s ass away.

Cordesh spins on him, hissing, "And if we're not?"

"Well, I guess we all start shooting ..." Jack says with an evil grin. He's itching to stir things up. "... there's blood, death, hard feelings ... it'd suck."

But Martouf is talking again. "And if we are this thing you call Tok'ra?" He speaks without taking his eyes off Carter.

"If you are indeed the Tok'ra of Jaffa legend," Teal'c states, "we should form an alliance."

It looks like Jack might not get a chance to blow the hell out of him after all. Carter turns jabbering. Jack feels his team's sympathies have turned. He really can’t debate with them in front of this pack of snake-heads. Besides, what would he say? That he doesn’t like the way his 2IC is glowing? Fuck.

"I learned a lot from Jolinar," Carter's burbling. "Enough to know that we could be good friends. And frankly, enough to know that you are the Tok'ra."

Martouf is yattering and Danny is smiling. Even Teal’c has relaxed … a bit. Then, Cordesh raises his hand, the Tok'ra lower their weapons, and Jack has no choice.

"Well that's better, isn't it?" he smirks, wishing someone would start something, but they don’t and he continues, "So, take me to your leader."

Jack steps closer, responding to a signal from the Tok'ra leader, Cordesh, and wondering if they're all about to sing Kumbaya. Suddenly, rings activate. In an instant, he's standing in the cool dark of a shadowy tunnel and having serious doubts about the wisdom of having trusted Carter's ESP.

Cordesh turns and walks down one of the tunnels without a backward glance. "This way."

Jack follows, murmuring to Sam, as he walks, "Carter, what's the story with this Martouf?

"I'm not sure, Sir," Sam replies. "I get the feeling I know almost all of these people, but my memories of Martouf are the strongest. It's like I have some weird bond with him."

Jack glances at her and sees, to his dismay, that his 2IC is blushing.

"Yeah, Carter," Jack sighs, "... weird."

***

Jack slumps onto the couch and glares at a blank television. He hasn't bothered to turn it on, or the lights either for that matter. He just walked in, slammed the door, and locked it ... tight.

Jack rubs his eyes.

"Thisssss... sucks..." he growls. Not forty minutes ago Jacob Carter had walked off to who knows where with a snake in his head.

"That's just not right," Jack mutters to the empty room. He grabs the television remote and lifts his hand, pointing it at the tube, but doesn't press the power button.

Suddenly, he's replaying the terrible moment when he saw what the Ashrak had left. That killing machine had gutted both guards and then took his time about torturing Sam Carter to death ... nearly. Jack had found her there, pale as death, tossed on the cell floor like a rag doll someone had abandoned ... he'd abandoned.

And now?

'I give you my word,’ Martouf had said. ‘I will watch over your father as if he were my own.’

"Or was it that other poor bastard talking? The one who gets to carry a snake around for eternity?" Jack snarls. General Jacob Carter had just joined the ranks of Tok'ra donkeys ... with his genius daughter's blessing.

From the start, Jack's had a very bad feeling about this.

For all their fancy ideals and tap dancing about the greater good, these are the same wonderful folks who invaded Carter's body in the first place. The same aliens, who violated her, used her as cover, and then left her to die at the hands of an Ashrak. The superior bastards who wouldn't have given the SGC the time of day, except for Jacob Carter's desperate gambit to let one of those damned things take over his body, too, rather than die of liver cancer.

"F' crying out loud," Jack mutters, "What's the matter with you, Carter?"

Jack knows the matter and he doesn’t like it. He’d been worried about Sam's physical welfare on this mission and, frankly, even more concerned about her sanity, particularly after the whole Jolinar invasion.

Sure, she'd rallied and to all appearances had settled back into the routine. He'd been relieved. Then, three days ago, this crap started about her dreams of the Tok'ra. Dreams, hell. More like delusions. No one said the word, except Jack. He'd gone to Hammond and argued the wisdom of putting an abductee back in the clutches of those who'd held her. He'd been overruled. And now this.

After the end of the mission, Jack had stepped through the ‘Gate feeling spent and off-balance. Carter had come through, but he hadn’t liked her response to Martouf. He’d liked the orders to bring Martouf back to the SGC even less. Then, as Jack followed Hammond out of the 'Gate room, he’d heard Martouf play his hand:

'I look forward to seeing you again.'

"I fucking bet you do," Jack snarls in the dark living room.

Then, instead of letting him down easy, Carter had said the words: 'So do I.'

"Hell," Jack barks at the television, "They got to her. She practically gave him her phone number."

Jack had been upset – fuming actually – but he had a lid on his temper, until the kicker. In the shower room, after the debrief, while Jack stood under the shower, counting to a thousand while the pounding water eased his fury, Daniel had let it slip – the cozy little scene he'd stumbled over – Carter playing paddy fingers with Martouf.

She'd said she had learned a lot.

Jack blinks and stands in the dark staring at shards of broken television tube scattered across half the room. He doesn't remember throwing the remote, but there it is, sticking out of the hole in the screen like a shiny silver tongue out of a gaping black mouth.

Jack picks up the DVD remote from the arm of the couch, tests the weight and flings it, finishing the job by knocking every jagged tooth out of that mouth, and remembering that just fucking fine, thank you very fucking much...

"You betcha," Jack snarls, then flings himself down on the couch with his arm across his eyes and tries very hard not to care.
Chapter 8 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 8

The phone's ringing. Jack opens his eyes and rolls off the couch.

"Awww!" he barks as he lands among the shards of glass from his broken television. "Crap!"

He's upright and moving toward the phone. He grabs it and barks, "What!"

"Sir?" Sam's voice is low, tentative. "Did I wake you?"

"Yeah, Carter, you did."

"Oh. I'll just talk to you ..."

"What is it?" Jack asks in something closer to a human tone.

"I just ... it's nothing."

"Don't DO that," Jack growls. "Now, TELL me, Captain. That's an order."

There's a long silence and then, "I was wondering if you might like to catch a movie ... Sir."

Jack glances at the clock. It reads 7:45. He glances at the curtains, they're pulled but no light shines at the bottom. So, 7:45 p.m.

"When?"

"It's tonight," Carter replies, sounding less than enthused, "in about 45 minutes ..."

"Where."

"I can pick you up ..."

"No, Carter."

"Oh, well maybe another time ..."

Jack's looking at the television.

"No," he repeats, "I'll pick you up."

He hangs up without another word, hits speed dial, and says, "I need a favor. I busted my television. Can you come over and ... make it all disappear? Yeah. Pick up something new ... a replacement. Use your judgment. Bye."

Then he strips off his rumpled shirt, jeans, and underclothing and limps to the bathroom, tossing the dirty clothes into a hamper, and stepping under the stream of icy water. He scrubs quickly, lathers and shaves, washes his hair and is out again before the water's completely warm. He moves while he towels off, dumps the towel into the hamper and pulls on fresh clothes from the closet, runs his fingers through his hair, wipes the blood off the floor from the slice in his heel, and pulls his sock on over the wound.

In ten minutes he's out the door, driving toward Sam's and wondering why, tonight of all nights, she wants to spend an evening with him.

It's ten minutes to show time when Jack pulls into Sam's driveway, leaves the engine running and hops out. He limps to the door, rings and she opens it with a filmy shawl pulled over a silk tank top. Jack watches her lead the way to the truck and notices that she's wearing tight jeans. It's a good look on her. Different from the dowdy, librarian look she tends to favor.

Jack climbs behind the wheel and says, "Where's the flick?"

Sam hesitates and then says, "I lied. There's no movie. I just needed to see you ... now ... tonight."

Jack stares at her hard. It's looks like Carter, but Sam Carter never lies and she'd never, not in a million years, invite him to a movie as a ruse to ... see him.

"You want to see me ... " Jack replays the words, slowly, hoping to grasp the meaning behind them.

"I need to ..." Sam says, emphasizing 'need.' It makes Jack's heart pound.

"Need." He repeats the word softly.

"Please."

Jack sits for a moment and then takes a shot.

"So ... I'm not driving us anywhere, am I."

"No. Not if you don't want to."

He frowns and stares hard at the woman beside him. She's his 2IC, but she's not the Sam Carter he knows. Not by a long shot.

"Am I misunderstanding something?" he asks.

"No."

With that Jack opens the door, gets out, walks around to the other side of the truck, opens the passenger’s door and hands her out of the cab. He holds onto her hand and walks her to her door, opens it and when she's inside, says, "I'll be right back."

Then he trots to the truck, climbs in, fires the engine and backs out of the driveway a shade too quickly, squealing the tires in his haste.

Jack drives two blocks to the Trader Joe's, parks, walks inside and emerges five minutes later with a large carton of chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream. He leaves the truck in the parking lot and walks the two blocks back to Carter's place.

She's still standing in the door way when he mounts the porch.

"Still want to see me?" he asks, slightly breathless. "I come bearing chocolate."

She smiles for the first time. It lights up her eyes and lifts Jack's heart to see it.

"Come in," she says, holding the door wide and reaching for the ice cream. But Jack pulls back a moment and fixes her with a hard look.

"You're sure, Captain," he asks.

"I'm sure, Sir."

Inside, Jack's less than sure what to expect. Carter has talked with him about many things over the past months. The conversations started about work and grew more friendly and personal as time passed.

But this is a whole new level.

Jack feels an icy trickle against his fingers.

"The ice cream's melting," he murmurs, heading for the kitchen.

"Stick it in the fridge," Sam says as he steps through the doorway and freezes in his tracks.

There are plates on the table ... and candles ... and wine glasses.

"Wow," he says. "You did this for ..."

"I want to apologize, Sir," Sam says, reaching out for the ice cream. Jack lets her take it, he's still thunderstruck by the effort that's gone into setting the scene.

"Apologize for what?" he finally asks, when her words register.

"Daniel ... I was ... The whole Tok'ra thing, Sir. Particularly what happened with Martouf. I think it upset you ... somehow."

Jack's licking ice cream off his fingers, as a means of not speaking. He feels like a deer in the headlights. What can he say? That he's jealous of Martouf? That he's afraid he'll lose Carter? Without the option to offer her another option, what right does he have to feel anything at all.

"Won't you let me," Sam asks, "I just want us to be like we were before, Sir. Close."

Jack shakes his head and smiles, "It's fine, Carter," he chokes. "I don't know what Danny said to bring this on, but ..."

The words stop when Sam Carter steps close, takes Jack's hand and lifts his fingers to her lips.

"Shh," she whispers, kissing his finger tips. Then her tongue flicks out, lightly tracing down the trail of chocolate ice cream.

Jack feels his jaw drop. Then, fixing him with her deep blue eyes, she closes her lips around his index finger and sucks.

Jack's knees turn to water. All the blood in his body rushes into his loins.

"What ..." he groans, but the concept of words is fleeting. Sensations flood his brain driving out rational functions. Jack bends forward, cups his hands under Carter's ass and lifts. She hops, wrapping her legs around his hips and grinding her crotch against him.

"Where ..." he asks, but direction is not forthcoming. Carter's lips cover his mouth and her teeth find his lip, biting hard enough to draw blood.

Jack improvises, carrying her to the kitchen counter and depositing her at an ideal angle for better contact. His hands move up, seeking skin. He feels silk sliding under his touch as he roams down her back to the bottom of the tank top. His fingers find flesh at her waist, he slips his hands inside the silk and feels her shudder at the heightened contact.

"Oh, Jack," she breathes into his neck, "I've wanted this so long ..."

Overwhelmed, Jack can't speak, so he lets his body answer, tracing his lips along the side of her sweet face, leaning in to kiss her collar bone, pressing his hands up inside her shirt to cup her breasts, sliding under her bra cups to find the tight rosebuds of flesh.

Sam mews and lifts her chest against his hands. Jack pushes her shirt up over her head and lets it fall to the floor. He reaches behind her and unsnaps her simple white bra. She's panting against his neck. He undoes the clasp and then runs his fingers down her spine to the waistband of her jeans. He slides them inside, pressing into the flesh of her ass as far as he can inside the skin tight jeans.

Sam pulls back, her bra slips down and Jack swallows hard. Her breasts are large but upright, with small pink nipples. He leans down, pressing her down to lie on the counter. He nips her right nub. She gasps and lifts her hips. He bites hard, sucking and pulling at her breast hungrily.

Sam’s fingernails rake his neck. Fire shoots down his back. Jack's cock thrusts against his fly. He ignores the painful erection and concentrates on devouring Sam’s breast. Her breathing catches, gaining speed and intensity. Jack knows the signs. She's about to orgasm. He moves to her left breast, lifting his hand from her belt to pinch and tease her hard, wet nipple while he suckles and then bites at her sweet white flesh, bringing its twin to attention. Sam pushes against his lips, offering herself eagerly. He bears down harder, forcing her roughly against the counter and feeling her body yielding to his control.

Jack releases her breast. He traces his fingers down her belly to the metal snap on her jeans. He slips his fingers inside, tracing his nails along her flesh just above her mound. She moans deep and throaty, driving all remaining blood into Jack's cock. He can't think, except to think how he'll bury himself in her sweet flesh. He turns his hand and the snap opens. He moves just right and the zipper spreads. Sam's hips lift against his hand. Her knees open. He feels the tension of the jeans against his wrist give way as he presses his fingers down, sliding them deep inside her panties.

Sam lifts eagerly. The jeans shift and slide down. Her belly and legs are bare now. Her jeans are gathered around her ankles. Her bra falls to the floor beside her shirt.

Jack breathes in her heat. He kisses the velvet skin of her inner thigh. She rears up suddenly, thrusting her cunt against his chin. He turns his mouth to her, flicks his tongue into her folds making Sam cry out. !!"

"Oh, God! Fuck me!!!"

Jack laps at her, then slides his hands under her, lifting her as he slides his fingers inside.

“ Oh God, I need … I need you now! Fuck me, Martouf!!"

Jack freezes, then straightens and stares at her. She opens her eyes and stares back, horrified.

"What the fuck did you say!" he roars, staggering back from the counter.

Carter's eyes focus, her color rises to rosy red. She sits up, wraps an arm across her bare breasts she stammers, "I said ..."

"Martouf!" Jack roars. "Fuck me Martouf! Jesus, Carter! We risk everything. I risk Leavenworth and you're thinking about another guy?"

"No!" She scrambles off the counter and steps toward him, but Jack backs away. Then he turns leaves.
Chapter 9 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 9

Daniel glances at Jack, who strode into the briefing room moments before the General arrived, sat next to Sam, and hasn't made eye contact, yet. Daniel had looked for him earlier, called five times on Sunday, but got the machine each time. Clearly, Jack's ducking him and now, from his casual friendly demeanor, he seems determined to shove his emotional turmoil under the proverbial rug.

Sam looks relieved and maybe a little overly perky. Like a good little soldier, she's following her CO's lead. If Jack says things are fine, they're fine.

Daniel sighs, wondering if denial is a mandatory course at Basic Training.

Teal'c stands and opens a sample case containing the ore that General Hammond's been talking about. Sam, seated next to Jack, holds the rock between them so they can both look at it. Daniel notices her cheeks are pinker that usual as, for that matter, are Jack's.

"It's our hope," General Hammond says, "that this material may one day help us fight the Goa'uld."

"What is it?" Jack asks turning the rock he's taken from Sam.

"Trinium. Captain Conner and SG-11 discovered it on a routine exploratory mission on the planet PXY-887."

"Yeah," Sam interjects, "I remember hearing about this. It's supposed to be 100 times lighter and stronger than steel."

Teal'c crushes one of the rocks with his hand and General Hammond chuckles and adds, "That's a sample of raw Trinium, which is too brittle for manufacturing because of its impurities. We commissioned SG-11 to extract more Trinium samples from the planet. As of this morning, they are 48 hours overdue for the weekly check-in. It's time to find out why."

"Any indigenous people on the planet?" Daniel asks.

"Well, not according to a preliminary sweep by the UAV."

Jack raises his brows and says, "Well, it is a big planet, Sir."

The General replies, "True enough ... and Conner's people have only scouted within a few miles of the base camp, but they picked up no radio traffic, EM signatures, no sign of any indigenous life whatsoever."

Daniel jerks when the klaxons sound.

"Incoming traveler!" echoes through the Complex.

Daniel and the rest join General Hammond at the observation window, just as the wormhole activates. Suddenly, something streaks through the 'Gate and crashes through the observation window glass.

Daniel drops to the floor, along with the others. A moment later he hears General Hammond ask, "Everyone all right?"

There's a groan to Daniel's right. It's Jack.

"Uh, no ... Oh, no," he groans.

Daniel scrambles to his feet and lifts Jack off the floor. He sees blood - a lot of blood - and a wickedly barbed arrow sticking out of his friend's upper arm. It's metallic, a finely forged piece, far advanced from Clovis points, or even the modern hunting tips currently in use on Earth. It appears almost ... ceremonial. Daniel wants to examine the piece more closely, but Jack gasps, "Oh, God," and passes out in his arms.

Jack hears them coming before they enter the infirmary. Daniel's yammering on about 'the artifact.' Jack decides that morphine's a godsend. Not only for his arm - which hurts like a son-of-a-bitch - but to let him endure Daniel in full 'new discovery' mode ... and to face Sam Carter with a smile and a vote of the confidence that he's decided he owes to his 2IC.

"Hi, kids," he grins, taking special care to meet Carter's concerned gaze.

"We're about ready to ship out, sir," she says. "You going to be okay?"

"I'm not dead, Captain," he replies. "Just grounded for a few days."

"Well, if the bullet proof glass hadn't slowed it down ... " her voice trails off. As it is, the arrowhead tore a good chunk out of his triceps and chipped his humorous. With greater speed it might well have torn his arm off ... a few inches to the right and he'd be worrying about an entirely different sort of broken heart.

"Oh, please," Jack says, sidestepping the chance to go all morbid. "Aliens are always poking me full of holes."

"Right," Carter says.

Daniel watches the exchange - it's fascinating how these two can reinforce the mythology ...

"Uh, you might be interested to know that the arrow is native North American, but of advanced design," he says as the conversation slows. He hands the front half of the arrow to Sam, who then hands it to Jack. "Our preliminary tests show it was made of pure forged Trinium. If there are Native Americans on this planet, they've come a long way, technologically, in the past few hundred years. And we just marched in and started mining," Daniel concludes.

General Hammond joins them as Jack fiddles with the arrowhead. "I've just talked to the Pentagon," he announces. "While they're obviously concerned about finding SG-11, they also want to avoid further upsetting the indigenous people."

"Meaning they don't want to risk losing the Trinium," Sam states the obvious.

The General nods and says, "Your secondary objective is to negotiate a mining treaty with these people. Obviously, we've started our relations on the wrong foot."

Jack's clearly feeling no pain and adds, "But that's so rare, sir."

General Hammond doesn't rise to Jack's bait and continues briskly, "Captain, as you are taking over command of SG-1 on this mission, my superiors have ordered me to remind you to be diplomatic."

"Yes, sir."

"Just as I would be," Jack murmurs, looking stoned and pleased with himself.

"SG-1, you have a go," General Hammond states, turns and leaves. Daniel and Teal'c follow, but as he leaves, Daniel hears Jack's voice murmur.

"Sam ... "

***

"Sam ... "Jack says as Carter walks toward the door. She stops and turns back to face him.

"Colonel"

She looks worried.

"First command ..." Jack says, well aware that it is her first.

She nods.

"Cool," he says, trying hard to be cool himself, while conveying the support and confidence she deserves from her CO.

"I'll do my best, sir," she replies.

"I know you will, Captain."

Carter smiles then. The first genuine smile Jack's seen for a while.

"Thanks," she grins, then looks at General Hammond, gives a quick nod and leaves, closing the door behind her.

Jack smiles, until he looks at Hammond who says, "I'm not sure what's going on with you Jack, but don't worry about Captain Carter. She's ready."

George turns with a grandfatherly smile on his face and Jack watches him go.

As the door closes, he murmurs, "I hope ..."
Chapter 10 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 10

Jack's arm is throbbing when he wakes. There's nothing going on, but he's feeling a twitch. He rolls off the bed and crosses the Infirmary, grabs his uniform and pulls it on. He feels ill from the pain of lifting his damaged arm through his blood-encrusted shirt sleeve, but it's nothing he hasn't done before. Lacing his boots is a greater challenge, but he finally stuffs the laces inside the boot tops. He hustles down the hallways leading to George's office, aware that the nurses will bust him soon.

George is at his desk when Jack arrives.

"Colonel?" he asks, obviously surprised to see Jack on his feet. "Should you be up so soon?"

"No, Sir," Jack replies, figuring he'd better cut to it, "but I have to ask ... any word from SG-1 or -11?"

"No," Hammond replies, "Why?"

"I'm a bit concerned about Carter..."

"Her first command," George replies, "Don't cut her short, Jack. Sam Carter's got a good head on her shoulders."

"I know she does, Sir," Jack replies. "Is everything five by five?"

"Actually," George replies as he glances at his watch, "she's late checking in ..."

"How late?" Jack asks, his blood turning to ice water.

"Five hours," George replies frowning, "I hadn't realized ..."

Jack waits a heartbeat and then plunges in before his sense of self-preservation interferes.

"It's not that I don't have confidence in Carter," he says, "General, I think there's something really wrong ... ever since that whole Jolinar thing, Sir."

"What exactly do you mean, Colonel?" George asks, sitting straighter in his leather chair.

"I think there's still some of that Jolinar baggage kicking around in Carter's head," Jack replies.

"What exactly makes you think so?" Hammond asks.

"A case of 2-Buck-Chuck," Jack answers, "and a slip of the tongue ..."

George tilts his head and says, "If you think our people are at risk, Colonel, I want an explanation. Sit."

Jack sits and starts.

"I happened to see Carter shopping one day across town ..."

"When?"

"About a year and a half ago, Sir."

Hammond doesn't speak, but he's got a cold gleam in his eye that Jack doesn't like. Faced with prolonged silence, Jack continues.

"So ... I found myself dropping by there about once a month ..."

"On the days she was shopping?" George growls.

"Yeah," Jack answers, "I ... I didn't do anything. I just watched her."

"Why in Hell would you stalk your 2IC?" Hammond barks, "... and what does this have to do with her ability to lead?"

"She doesn't drink, General," Jack says, feeling his own temper flare, "She doesn't even buy junk food. So then, out of the blue, a couple of weeks after that Jolinar thing, she buys a case of 2-Buck-Chuck. What is that about?"

George turns rosy red and starts to speak, but then, unexpectedly claps his mouth shut. Jack waits. George waits. So Jack continues.

"Anyway, Sam told me she was having trouble adjusting to not having that damned thing in her head. She said the snake had carried memories and it made her ... lonely."

"You didn't!" George has jumped ahead in the script and is glaring at Jack.

"Not for a long time," Jack admits, "but then ... Last weekend she called and invited me to a movie. I figured it was harmless. One thing led to another and ..."

"You slept with your 2IC!" George explodes, leaping out of his chair and, for a moment, looking like he's going to tear Jack's head off and beat him to death with it.

"Almost ... well, sort of. Close enough."

'DID you or did you NOT have sex with Captain Carter!" George leans into Jack's face, roaring as only an enraged General can roar.

"I kissed her."

George straightens and pales. "Do I need to hear the details of this?"

"Yeah."

"Go on."

"I kissed her and … I was working my way ... down ..."

"Oh Christ, Jack."

"... when she called me 'Martouf'."

All oxygen leaves the room. A moment passes and then another.

Jack's heart's pounding as he waits, but he doesn't move a muscle. This is the last moment of his military career, he knows, and he wants it to last.

"Martouf." George has an odd smile on his face.

Jack nods his head and says, "I ... left. It was my fault, I realize that and I gave Carter my full support. She's a fine officer. She would have never ... not in a million years ... done this. It only went as far as it did because of my ... because of me."

George walks back behind his desk and sits. Hard.

"You poor bastard," he murmurs, reaching for the phone. George punches speed dial and says, "Contact SG-1. See if they're all right."

The phone's not even back in the cradle when the klaxons blare. Harriman's voice echoes through the facility.

"Off-World Activation. It's SG-1's Iris Code."

Jack's on his feet and moving when George calls out, "This isn't over, Colonel! Not by a long shot!"

Carter's through the 'Gate when Jack reaches the Control room. He trots down the metal stairs right on George's heels. Before they enter the 'Gate room George turns and growls.

"Get your ass back to the Infirmary. I'll send for you when I'm ready to deal with you."

Then George disappears through the blast doors. Just beyond, Jack catches a glimpse of Carter and a stranger in Native American garb.

Jack's slumped on a bed when Carter arrives, all smiles. General Hammond's behind her, ushering the stranger. Carter doesn't hesitate. She presents herself at Jack's bedside and briefs him on the mission.

"So the elders agreed to allow Tonane to come back and observe our alternative mining methods and here we are," she says, smiling broadly. It's clear that General Hammond has not bothered to mention Jack's fall from grace.

"Sounds like fun," Jack replies with a slow smile. "I'm sorry I missed it. Good job, Captain."

"Thank you, sir," Carter grins. She motions to his sling and asks, "How's the ..."

"Fine. Fine."

Their visitor, Tonane, has been walking around the Infirmary, gazing at the alien medical gadgets. He stops at Hammond’s side and says, "I thought you were going to show me your mining methods, George."

"We intend to," Hammond reassures Tonane, "but first we need you to take a brief medical exam."

Jack glances at Sam and says, "George?"

"Tonane," Hammond continues, "this is Colonel Jack O'Neill."

"Jack?" the visitor says uncertainly.

Taking an instant liking to him, Jack says, "Yeah. That'll do.” He reaches out to shake Tonane's hand. “It's an honor to meet you, sir."

***

Jack turns away from the 'Gate to grin at General Hammond. "Uh ... I'll explain it all later, Sir," he says with a satisfied smile. Once more he's saved the SGC. Carter, Daniel and Teal'c will back him on this. Maybe ... just maybe, it'll earn him some slack from George.

Fifteen minutes later, slouched in a chair in the privacy of Hammond's office, Jack explains what happened.

“ ... folks were disappearing all over the facility,” he sighs. He’s been through it once before, but George is confused and needs him to go through it again. Jack runs his hand through his hair, recounting how the 'Spirits' protecting Tonane were the reason. He glosses over the details of his role in dealing with them, confident that his team will fill George in. Glad as he is to have had a chance to redeem himself, Jack’s tired. His arm throbs. He’s ready to be ‘forced’ to rest and take something strong for the pain.

Before he can do that, though, he’s got to tie up the loose ends for his CO. To George Hammond's credit, he seems truly embarrassed by his role in the attempt to lie to the Salish and steal their Trinium. However, George recovers the upper hand without too much trouble.

"Captain Carter appears to have handled a challenging mission with considerable skill," Hammond notes.

"Yes, Sir."

"While I owe you a great deal for saving the SGC from the Salish’s' guardian spirits, Jack, I can't let your ... involvement ... with Captain Carter just ... slide."

"I know that, Sir." Jack’s hopes sink. So much for saving the SGC … again.

"You should have come to me immediately with any concerns about her ability to lead ... and about any residual effects of her blending with Jolinar. You put Doctor Jackson, Teal'c and Captain Carter at risk."

"Yes, Sir," Jack answers, his voice dropping to a husky whisper.

'This,' he realizes, 'is it ... and it's going to be bad.'

"Captain Carter is an invaluable member of the SGC. I am unwilling to lose her, Jack."

"Would you prefer a Courts Martial or shall I just tender my resignation, George?" Jack asks, glad that he's managed to keep his voice from shaking.

"I don't know. For the time being, you are to stay on base. You will not talk to Captain Carter, or to anyone else about this matter. Is that perfectly clear, Colonel?"

"Yes, Sir," Jack stands sensing that the General's dismissing him.

"That's all. Dismissed."

Jack leaves without a backward glance. He heads to his quarters on base, closes and locks the door, and strips off his blood-caked BDUs. He pops a handful of painkillers, lies down and tries to sleep without much success. Between the anxiety, the pain and rethinking that terrible moment in Carter’s kitchen, he tosses and turns. Five hours later, there's a rap on the door.

"Colonel O'Neill. General Hammond wants to see you immediately."

Jack's still mostly dressed, he pulls on a clean shirt, abandons the sling and glances in the mirror. He looks like crap, so he washes his face, runs wet fingers through his hair, battling a case of bed-head. His BDU pants are rumpled, but ...

'Hell,' he thinks, 'what else can they do to me?'

So he doesn't bother to spruce up. He just heads for Hammond's office. When he arrives the office is empty. Jack pauses and then, an instant later, Walter pops out from behind his desk and says, "The General is waiting for you in the Infirmary, Colonel."

Jack rolls his eyes and retraces his steps. Finally he rounds the corner into the Infirmary and slows, almost to a stop. George, Doc Frasier, and Sam are staring at him. Jack stops.

"What?" he asks.

No one answers. It's then that Jack notices that Sam's rigged for telemetry. Janet's examining a read-out and George is holding Sam's hand. It's disconcerting.

"What is this?" Jack tries again. "You okay Carter?"

"Stop," Janet barks and Jack freezes. "Okay, now walk toward Sam." He does with a strange feeling he's not going to like what's happening.

"The medulla oblongata is showing marked activity, General," Janet reports.

"Medulla ..." Jack repeats. "Is somebody going to tell me what's goin' on here?"

Jack looks at Sam who just blushes and turns her gaze down to her clasped hands. Janet glares at him and George, with a wry smile that doesn't bode well, says, "I asked Doctor Frasier to examine Captain Carter's past medical records. She discovered anomalies."

"You okay, Carter?" Jack steps close and lifts her chin, so she can't look away. Tears shimmer in her eyes.

"Yes, Sir," she says. "I'm ..."

"There are marked differences, Colonel," Janet interrupts, "in Captain Carter's CT scans prior to her blending with Jolinar and since. I am detecting persistent residual changes in certain areas of her brain. Endorphin levels are up. There are heightened levels of oxytocin, serotonin, vasopressin and endogenous opioids. These have a similar effect to heroin, Colonel. They all indicate response to certain very specific stimuli ..."

"Such as ..." Jack prompts.

"Romantic love," Janet says ticking items off on her fingers, "Chocolate and certain types of red wine, eroticism, touching ..."

Jack blushes, but doesn't speak as Janet continues her synthesis.

"Her brain parameters are all within normal range, so I didn't notice anything until General Hammond brought your concerns to my attention. I reviewed Captain Carter's routine exams for the past two years and there's a subtle, but definite change in her brain pattern."

Jack looks from Janet to George. Sam won't look him in the eye.

"So ..." Jack finally prompts.

"So, Colonel," George states sourly, "it appears that you were right. There’s a residual effect from Captain Carter's unfortunate incident with the Tok’ra."

Jack wants to smile, but the attitudes of everyone present scream that there's more.

"What's the bad news," he asks.

"The bad news, Colonel," Sam says abruptly looking up, "is that we ... I ..."

"We need to investigate this in a controlled environment," Janet states, "and we need your assistance."

"Assistance."

"They need us to have sex, Colonel," Sam blurts, a tear spilling down her cheek. "They need to ..."

"WHAT!" Jack explodes. "You are asking me to have SEX with my 2IC!?"

George stares at Jack in stony silence for a moment before he replies softly, in a tone that chills Jack's blood, "I am NOT asking."

Jack squirms in his chair as Doc Frasier explains the theory behind the proposed investigation.

"Captain Carter's uncharacteristic behavior ... her appetite for certain very specific foods and ... other ... um ... sources of gonadotrophic substances may provide a window into Goa'uld physiology, biochemistry, and may even serve as a means of identifying the mechanism of action driving the megalomaniacal behavior of Goa'uld. Instances of hyper-sexual individuals, those with insatiable need for endorphins, exhibit behavior very specific and parallel to that associated with the Goa'uld. In addition the high levels of gonadotrophins result in extreme behavior, including intense need to control others, extreme appetites for excitement, violence, causing pain ..."

"It's almost like what we dealt with from the disease state of the 'touched.'" Hammond adds.

Jack stands. This is unbelievable. He jams his hands into his pockets and blurts, "I don't get how you can put Sam through this shit, Janet! She's your friend!"

"In addition to gaining invaluable insight into the Goa'uld mind, Colonel," Janet snaps, "this might help her continue to serve in a front line unit. She's asked for help. Unless this works ..."

Jack spins on George and barks, "What's she talkin' about!"

"Colonel, surely you understand that Captain Carter's biochemical maladjustments mean she's no longer fit for duty in a fighting unit."

"No!" Jack barks, banging his fist on the table and leaning into Hammond's face, "I did NOT understand that for a goddamned minute. I screwed up, NOT Carter! Don't you DARE hold her responsible for MY mistake!!"

"Calm down, Colonel," George says, his voice low but firm, "This is not a matter of punishment. This is a matter of fitness. Sam Carter is a fine officer. Everyone here has her best interests in mind. Now. Sit. Down."

Jack sits.

After a long moment he asks quietly, "Why me?"

Hammond rubs his eyes and says sourly, "You've been assigned, Colonel, at Captain Carter's request. Besides, it's not as if you haven't already started down this road, is it. I'm just ordering you to ... finish the trip."
Chapter 11 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 11

"It's Bluetooth technology," Sam says. "The uplink is located in the ... yadada, yadada."

Jack nods as she briefs him. The Captain perched beside him on his couch is nervous and, Jack knows from experience, talking techno-babble to cover her distress. His gaze roams from her flushed face down to the small blue crystal dangling at her throat. If he didn't know it was alien-adapted technology, he'd have thought it a touch of bling from the local mall.

The blue crystal shimmers, complementing her shining blue eyes as she chatters away about the telemetry gear that will uplink her biometrics to the SGC mainframe It was decent of George Hammond to arrange for this 'mission' to occur off-base. Carter picked Jack's place and, so, here they are, behaving like adolescents on a first date.

Jack leans back on his couch, sips his beer and closes his eyes. It's been a long week. His arm’s out of the sling, but the chipped bone still aches like a son-of-bitch. Despite SG-1 being 'down' due to Carter's disability and his own injury, he's had a series of brutal meetings, fending off the NID, the boys from Groom Lake, and even NASA scientists, and two dozen others - all of them seeking Carter's reassignment. Half of the offers were legitimate requests and based on her remarkable scientific skills. The other half were ploys to get hold of a person carrying naquida in her bloodstream and alien memories in her mind. Jack had beaten them all, but it hadn't been easy.

"Sir?"

Jack opens his eyes and sits up, "Yeah Carter."

"Are you okay?"

Jack smiles and says, "I should ask you that, Captain."

She says nothing. Her glass of white wine still sits on the coffee table - untouched. Her eyes shine but her gaze a little bit wild. She’s as freaked by this as he is, Jack realizes.

"Why me?" he asks softly.

Carter blushes and reaches for her wine.

'Playing for time,' Jack notes her strategy.

"So?" he persists as she sips and then returns the wine glass to the table.

"I ..." Carter stammers, "I have to do this, Sir, or lose my place on your team ..."

It's Jack's turn to squirm.

"... Daniel and Teal'c are civilians ..."

"What about Martouf?" Jack interrupts.

"Well, for one thing, we don't know where the Tok’ra are, Sir."

"Right."

"... and there's no one else with the necessary security clearance ..."

"Yeah, saving the world on a weekly basis doesn't leave a lot of time for socializing," Jack concludes. He shifts, drains his beer and stands.

"Take your coat off, Carter. Try to just ... relax. I'm going to get another beer. Want anything? Nuts? Crackers? Cheese?"

"No, Sir."

"... caviar, foie gras, shark fin soup, snails ..." Jack continues suggesting increasingly ludicrous foods as he walks into the kitchen, tosses the bottle and snags another from the fridge. He pops the cap off, takes a long swig, and then pauses. After a moment of reflection, he opens the freezer, removes a pint of chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream and fills a small bowl with the dark chunky confection. He drains his beer, plunges a sugar spoon into the bowl, and returns to the living room.

"House specialty, Captain," Jack says, passing the bowl to Carter.

"Oh!" She's surprised. " Trader Joe's isn't anywhere near here! This is my favorite. How'd you know, Sir?"

Jack grins, shakes his head, and watches Carter dig in. This is going to take time, but he's got time. He couldn't turn down this assignment, but he is in charge of the details. He's going to take all the time that Sam Carter needs. He'll be damned if he'll rush her. Carter’s vulnerable. She's been abused by the Tok’ra, tortured by an Ashrak, nearly lost her father, and now she's just trying to cope with a brain load of alien memories rattling around in her head. She needs help ... She's asking for his help.

So, Jack watches the spoon slip between her lips and swears that he'll get this right ... Exactly right.

The plan is open-ended. The only limitation is where. He's required to 'perform' here. The house has been wired, from basement to rafters. The geeks at the SGC will record every physiological reaction that Sam Carter experiences. Jack's agreed to this, but for his own sanity and out of a sense of honor, he's insisted that her reactions not be monitored in real time. They'll have a degree of privacy. He doesn't have to worry about performance anxiety. No one will be watching while he completes this 'mission.'

While Carter chases the last bits of cream from the edges of her bowl, Jack stands and lowers the lights. The fire flickers brighter in the low light. Soft classical guitar plays. He gazes across the room at Carter. She places the bowl on the coffee table, then stands and removes her jeans jacket. The firelight dances across her face, catching the shimmering silk of her rich brown silk shift. She kicks off her shoes and then sits, tucking her feet up under her thighs.

Sam gazes back at him and then smiles sadly. "I'm sorry, Colonel. This has to be ..."

Jack's across the room before she finishes. He sits beside her and pulls her close, running his hand down the back of her silk dress and murmuring into her hair. "Never apologize, Carter. I'm ... I'd ... It's an honor, Captain. I am truly touched and ... glad to serve."

She giggles. Jack smiles. As she pulls back a bit, he sees her eyes are shining. He wraps her in his arms. He can smell her shampoo and her hair tickles the side of his face.

"You don't mind?" she murmurs.

Jack leans into her and kisses her, soft and sweet, barely brushing her lips at first.

Sam moans, low, and pulls him tight against her.

"Oh, Sir," she murmurs.

"Jack," he breathes, barely breaking the kiss. "Call me Jack, Carter."

"Then it's Sam," she murmurs. He feels her lips turn up in a smile.

"Sam," he whispers against her cheek.

"Yes, Jack ..."

"Yes?"

"Yes. Please ..."
Chapter 12 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 12

Jack silences her with a slowly deepening kiss. Sam's lips part and his body reacts. He hasn't had a woman since Kynthia. Near death on Argos cooled his interest in alien lovers. Still two years is a long time. Sam Carter's lips invite more and he responds willingly. Jack runs his hand down to the small of her back, relishing the feel of silk under his hand, of firm muscle beneath the silk, and of Sam's fingers moving along the waist of his jeans.

"Slow," Jack murmurs into her hair, "Easy ... Easy, we've got time ..."

Sam doesn't seem to hear him. Her fingers slide inside his jeans, pressing down along his spine to the curve of his ass. Jack shivers under her touch and shifts to grant greater access. Her mouth finds his jaw. She nibbles, then bites the soft skin there, sending fire from his throat to his groin.

Jack moans and follows her lead, letting Sam set the pace. She's moving against him, pressing her breasts against his chest, kneading his ass, and panting against his neck, while she teases the skin over his collarbone with her teeth.

Jack slips his hands down under her rump and lifts, moving slightly to ease her back onto the couch cushions. Sam reclines, pulls him down with her and arches her back, lifting her body up against his crotch. Jack growls and pulls back and her hands find his fly. She’s unsnapping his pants, pulling the zipper, reaching past his rumpled shirt tails to bury her fingers inside. Jack gasps and closes his eyes as her fingers trace along his cock. His hand finds her zipper and opens the back of her dress. She shifts, pulling away just enough for her dress to slide down, revealing shoulders and the lacy top of her bra.

Jack kisses the point of her collarbone, tracing kisses to her shoulder and then down to the top of her full breasts. Sam shivers as he cups and lifts them, kissing her cleavage. He slides his thumbs over the lace, teasing her erect nipples earning a whimper and a deeper moan, "More ... oh please ...”

Jack stands, strips off his clothing, barely noticing the stab of as he wrenches his injured right arm out of his shirt sleeve. Before he's fully naked, Sam's on her knees, her lips at his cock.
"Easy," he pleads, but she's not hearing him. She pulls him back to the couch and, when he sits, buries her head in his lap. Jack wraps his hands around her head; the silky texture of her hair against his naked skin is almost as erotic as the concept of Carter feeding on him. As her hands and mouth work his shaft, he falls back against the couch cushions trying to hold back, but her tongue flicks and laps at him. His ass tightens. She’s tipping him over the edge, but then her talented fingers slide down, clamp at his base and she pulls back, gazing up at him, feral and smiling.

"Not yet," she says, low in her throat. It's a voice Jack's never heard before. For an instant he’s not sure whether it's Jolinar or Sam Carter. The thought cools his ardor for a moment, but then evaporates in a rush as she stands. Sam kicks off her dress and strips her bra over her head, revealing her gorgeous breasts. The blue crystal shimmers there. Jack stands, pulls her close and kisses it. Then he lifts her in his arms, carries her to his bed, and places her on the crisp white sheets. He gazes down at her, hardly believing the transformation.

Sam Carter’s always been beautiful, but not erotic. Now, wearing just the blue crystal, stockings, and a narrow gray thong, she stretches across the white cotton like a center fold, clearly appreciating his appreciation of her. Her golden hair tumbles across the sheets and down to hide one shoulder. Golden curls show along the edges of the thin gray band of cloth, just visible behind the garter-belt straps. She arches her back, teasing him. When she licks her lips seductively, Jack sits beside her, unsnaps the straps holding her stockings and slips them from her long, strong legs. He pulls down the garter belt and their bare thighs touch. His heart hammers as he traces his fingertips along the side of her face, down her long, graceful neck, to her breast, along its full warm curve, down her ribs to the point of her narrow hip. He pauses and she shivers under his touch, anticipating his next move. Then, purposefully but slowly, Jack plays his fingers along the edge of her thong, teasing the tracing of curls there.

Sam gasps, moans and lifts her hips, opening to him.

"Please ..." she moans low. "I need you ..."

Jack leans over her. He kisses her through the slip of silk. She moans low and long and Jack slides the thong down slightly, barely revealing her pussy. They’ve got all night and he intends to make this last. Sam has other ideas. She spreads her knees, eager for his touch. Jack nuzzles her. Her scent fills his nostrils. She lifts and he threatens to take her folds into his mouth, still working around the sexy gray silk thong. He flicks his tongue, teasing. She cries out. Jack drops across Sam's hips, pinning her eager body beneath him. She gasps and squirms under him. Jack realizes with a jolt that she’s already coming, though he’s barely touched her.

“You’re so hot,” Jack murmurs as he kisses the inside of her upper thigh. “Hot and ready,” he murmurs. He’s close enough to tickle her hungry pussy with his breath, but doesn’t touch her. Even so, she cries out again and lifts, offering herself. Jack pulls away, then pulls down her thong another fraction, enough to reveal her engorged nub among her golden curls. He kisses her there, gently closing on her nub.

Sam explodes. “Oh, Jack!” she cries as she sobs and rocks as Jack eats her. He follows her rhythm pressing her thrashing body down against the bed, while she wails and begs him for more. When she slows, he takes her in his arms.

"Shh," he murmurs, running his hand down her bare, sweat damp back, "Shh. Easy."

Sam folds against him. He holds her, stroking her hair, until her breathing slows and her lips seek his.

"I love you, Sir," she murmurs as they kiss. "I love you and I need you."

Jack brushes her hair out of her eyes, gazes into them and says, "What did you say?"

"I ... love you?"

"I love you, Sam …" he whispers, feeling a knot of anxiety loosen. Whatever happens, whatever screwed up circumstances brought them to this place, this night is theirs now. This means forever. "… and I am going to make love to you ..."

Jack runs the back of his hand down her side, raising goose bumps. He slips his fingers under her thong. She moans and shudders as he slides it down past her knees and then off. Sam stretches out, naked and ready. She reaches for him, runs her fingertips along Jack’s thigh and up to his cock. He moves away, worried that any touch and he'll lose control. Instead, he grabs her wrists in his left hand and pulls her arms over her head, stretching her body out. Sam lets him move her, watching him through half-lowered lids. Jack grins at her and then tastes her shoulder, the fullness of her breast, her velvet ribs, and waist, then the point of her hip. She turns into his hands and his fingers are on the front of her thigh, inside her knee. Jack leans down and kisses her there and continues down to her calf, ankle and foot. Sam giggles as he closes his hand around her foot and kisses the tops of her toes.

Then he moves up, still taking it slow, savoring the inside of her calf and up to her inner thigh.

"Jack," she sighs softly.

"Tell me what you want," he murmurs, hovering over her.

"I want what you want," Sam says.

Jack straddles her chest; he kisses her hip and moves lower. Sam grasps his hips and pulls him down, closing her mouth over the tip of his cock. Jack groans and, close to losing it, buries his face in her pussy. Sam sucks hard and his need surges. He presses her knees open, closes his lips on her folds, eating her hungrily, as he bucks into her mouth. His balls are on fire. Before he loses control, Jack pulls away from her lips. "Come for me," he barks, "Sam. Now. Hard."

Sam tips over the edge again and Jack thrusts his fingers into her heat; somehow she captures his cock again and, sucking like a Jakarta hooker, her hands grip his hips and then claw the small of his back, ramping up the passion past his ability to resist.

Intent on satisfying her before he comes, Jack turns and kisses her, tasting himself on her mouth. Sam wraps her legs around his waist. Jack buries himself in her, driving into her tight, hot cunt up to his balls. After a dozen swift thrusts, Sam bucks so hard that they roll over and she straddles him. Jack barks out her name as she leans low and thrusts back, impaling herself on him. With every urgent thrust, her full, sex-flushed breasts sway. As she grinds down on him, Jack grasps her hips and rises to meet her. Sam is panting hard as she fucks him, her lips apart and her hair wild.

Jack has needed her this way, since the moment Sam Carter strode into his life three years ago. Now, the still functional fraction of his mind notes, Doctor Samantha Carter is fucking him. He needs more. Jack traps her writhing body against him roughly and tips them off the bed. They hit the floor without breaking rhythm. He grabs a fistful of her sweat-damp hair in his right hand and grips her jaw in his left, kissing Sam’s sex swollen lips hard, thrusting his tongue between her teeth. He’s rewarded with a mind-blowing response, her mouth demands more. Jack devours her. Then a sharp bite breaks the skin of his lower lip.

Stirred by this startling rough side of Sam Carter, Jack pulls her head back, bares her neck, and bites her hard just under her ear. Her body stiffens, but she likes it, Jack knows, as her cunt clamps down hard, resisting as he draws out of her ravenous depths and pulsing as he buries himself there again and again. Sam twists her head and grinds urgently against him as he punishes her with his need, fucking her on a bare wooden floor, wringing screams of pleasure and pleas for more. Her scent, her primal sounds, drive him. Her sweat-slick skin slides against his body. Lovemaking doesn’t enter into this – they’re beyond that, beyond technique and eroticism. Jack’s way beyond tenderness. He pulls out, grasps her hips and turns her, driving in from behind, the brute force of it shoving Sam down to the bare wood. She grunts as he fucks her, gasps and begs as she peaks in yet another ecstatic wave. As the climax crashes and recedes, Jack wraps an arm around her waist, lifts her against him without pulling out. He bites her shoulder; Sam cries out softly, but falls back against him, totally spent. Sam’s done, it’s down to Jack now. He locks her limp body against him with his right arm and runs his left hand down her belly to grasp her pussy, where he feels each penetration of her. He buries himself in her unresisting flesh, feeling her fullness under his hand as he drives home; once, twice, once more and, in a bone-shaking final thrust, Jack comes in a rush of heat and feral joy. Then, quaking with exhaustion and spent need, he lowers Sam to the floor. His erection is fading as he pulls her against him, drops his head to her shoulder and sleeps.
Chapter 13 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 13

Jack pulls Sam close as he wakens. He's sore from his toes to his hair and he’s really got to pee, but the feeling of waking up with her bare butt against his lap and her soft snores is too good to disturb. Jack doesn't move. He's afraid that maybe, in bright morning light, what happened last night will change. So he waits: feeling her heartbeat where his forearm presses against her chest; feeling alive for the first time in four years; feeling hopeful and vulnerable and very, very grateful.

Jack had eventually carried her to his bed and now he relishes the sensation of a woman between his sheets. Sam trembles slightly and moans something in her sleep. Jack brushes his lips against her face. Softly. He doesn't want to wake her.

She's dreaming. He can see her REM eye-movements. The dream is intense, if the rapid motion of her eyes is any indication. Her body twitches. He hugs her tighter, feeling protective, although he has no idea what's happening inside her great big beautiful brain.

"Rhe'u!" she mutters, "Rhe'u!"

"Shh," Jack whispers, stroking her hair. "You're safe Sam."

"Di'dak'dida ..." she mutters. Her body is suddenly tense. Jack shifts slightly, pulling her close, but she struggles and pulls away.

"Ya'isid"

"Listen to what?" Jack murmurs."Ya'ol'wa?" he asks, "What's the matter?"

"Ya'isid ma'gue ..." she sighs, "Ya'isid ma'gue, Martouf!"

***

Jack cocks his head and waits for George Hammond to say something. The General doesn’t speak. He just sits at his desk, lost in thought. Finally, Jack breaks the silence. "This morning Carter was talking in her sleep ... Goa'uld, General. I caught a couple of phrases ... 'Listen', 'We gotta go', and she seemed to be talking to Martouf."

"You did well, Colonel," General Hammond says as Jack stares across his CO's desk.

"Duty, Honor, Country," Jack replies. It was foolish to hope that Sam might waken and be okay ... somehow cured. Still, he’d hoped. Instead she'd spouted Goa'uld in her sleep and woke admitting that she’d had nightmares. After an hour of cuddling, something Jack insisted upon, he and Carter had reported in bright, but not quiet early. As required, like a good little guinea pig, Sam had trotted off to the Infirmary for a briefing of her results with Janet, whereas Jack had presented himself at the General's door. Now, he's not sure he likes where this meeting is going.

"Doctor Frasier tells me,” George says as he taps a folder on his otherwise empty desk, “that this read-out confirms that Captain Carter still carries Jolinar's memories, probably vast quantities of information about the Tok’ra. The question is how we tap into that knowledge..."

"Patience, support, and empathy come to mind, General," Jack replies.

"Don't presume to lecture me, Colonel," Hammond snaps. "I am treading a very fine line here. You are not without culpability in this matter. If you had just trusted me, Jack, instead of trying to handle this on your own ..."

Jack squirms and drops the attitude. George is right and he's a good man, a far better commander than most Jack's served under.

"So," Jack says, rubbing his eyes, "what now, General?"

"I'm open to suggestions, Colonel."

Jack pauses a moment and then says, "I would like to handle this my own way, General. If you'll trust me and give me time ..."

"What exactly are you thinking of, Jack?"

"Patience, support, and empathy ..." Jack replies. "Somehow Carter's wires got all tangled up with Jolinar's memories. She needs time to untangle them, Sir. She also needs motivation. From what she's said, Martouf and Jolinar had a pretty intense relationship. Carter's young and ... Well, let's just say she's concentrated on her work. I think she needs time to find herself again. I'm her CO and I don't want a bunch of geeks poking her and trying to tap into those memories. When Carter's ready, she'll remember the stuff. We've gotta give her time ... and support, General."

"And ..." Hammond says.

"And," Jack answers, "a reason to work through this crap. She needs to see light at the end of this."

"You want to keep seeing her."

"No. I don't want to keep seeing her, George."

"Then what are we talking about Jack?"

"I'm going to marry Sam Carter ... if she'll have me."

"Under orders?"

"... or not. I love her, Sir."

Hammond doesn't speak for a long time but then growls, "So I have the choice of losing you, Captain Carter, or both ... or sanctioning this."

"That's one way of looking at it, Sir."

"That's the only way of looking at it Colonel! You're jamming me up, aren't you, Jack?"

"I acted under orders, General ..."

"On one condition, Colonel."

"Yes, Sir?"

"I give the Bride away."

***

Jack swings by Carter's lab afterwards. Their plan is to rendezvous and share notes, work the day as if nothing has changed and then head out for dinner and bowling. The bowling was Jack's idea, something to keep them from getting into a rut. Knowing Sam Carter as he does, the last thing he wants is to bore her and he doubts that he'll be able to hold her attention with conversation.

When Jack pokes his head into the lab there's no Carter. No sign of life. The lights are off. The computer is off. He swings past Daniel's office, thinking she might be there.

"I haven't seen Sam today," Daniel responds without taking his nose out of his book. Daniel, of course, has no idea of how Jack and Sam spent the evening. That information is strictly classified and restricted to Janet, George, a team of technicians, and Sam.

"Why? Do you need to get the team together?" Daniel continues.

"Naw ... Never mind. It's not pressing," Jack replies. "If you see her, tell her to drop by my office."

Jack strides down the corridor from Daniel’s office to the elevator, a hard knot of fear forming in his gut. Carter, he feels certain, is still in the Infirmary ... it's been a couple of hours and she's still meeting with Janet and the team.

'Crap,' Jack thinks as he punches the elevator call button, 'something's wrong.'

Jack steps out of the elevator, practically jogs down the corridor, and turns the corner and sees Carter hunched over a bank of machines. Janet's beside her. They're shoulder to shoulder and don't see Jack as he approaches.

"How long..." Sam is saying.

"It's really hard to say, Sam," Janet replies, giving her friend's forearm a quick squeeze. "I'm sorry. I know that's not good news, but it's different for each ..."

Alarmed, Jack closes the distance in another stride, grasps Sam's shoulders and spins her around to face him.

"However long you've got, Carter," he declares, "We're spending it together. C'mon ..."

Then he pulls her off the stool, leads her through the Infirmary and to the elevator.

"Sir," Sam begins while they wait for the elevator.

"Hush," Jack replies. "Just wait 'til we are out of here and then ..."

The elevator arrives, the doors slide back and Jack steps in, pulling Carter behind him.

"... we'll talk as long as it takes, Sam. I promise."

Carter bites her lip. Jack glances out of the corner of his eye. She's pink. Her eyes are glistening. Jack blinks and grips her hand tighter.

"Just hang on," he growls.

The elevator finally stops at the half-way point. They change to the other bank and, when it stops at the first level, Jack emerges, salutes the guard and strides out into the sunlight.

Sam's trotting to keep up and when they finally stop beside his pickup, she's breathless.

Jack turns and his expression dissolves into sorrow as he folds her into his arms.

"God," he says, his voice cracking, "I don't care what's wrong Sam ... however long you've got. I swear to you that we'll make it good."

"Jack!" Sam says, hugging him tight. "You are a wonderful, wonderful man." Her shoulders are shaking and Jack hugs her tighter and says, "Don't cry. Shh ..."

"I'm not crying," Sam gasps. "You're breaking my ribs, Jack."

She squirms away and blurts, "I don't know what you heard, but I am fine. Perfectly healthy. Absolutely fine, Jack."

"Fine?"

"Yes."

Jack slumps against the truck bumper and rubs his face, muttering.

Sam waits a moment and when he doesn't look at her, she steps close, pulls his hand away from his eyes, and says, "Jack?"

His fingers are wet and she kisses them, then leans closer to kiss his tears away.

"I'm fine, Jack," she whispers, "and I'll take you at your word. Whatever time I've got, let's make it good."

Jack runs his hands up her back and pulls her tight again.

"The best," he murmurs, "We'll make it the best."

Finally Jack wipes his eyes and straightens, stares down at Sam and says, "Ready, Captain?"

"Let's get back to work, Sir," Sam agrees.

As they walk across the parking lot, Jack slows and then stops.

"What did Janet mean when she said she didn't know how long?"

Sam blushes and smiles.

"I was asking how long it will take before I start ovulating ... Sir. Doctor Frasier was explaining that it's different for different people."

"But you're on the pill ... right?" Jack asks. They hadn't used protection last night.

"I was yesterday," Sam confirms, "but ... not today."

"Not today."

"Nope."

"You want ..."

"Kids."

"Cool."

And with that, Jack grabs Sam's hand and turns back toward his truck.

"No time like the present, I always say ..."
Chapter 14 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 14

Jack watches Sam and fights a goofy grin. She's in full lecture mode and it's adorable ... and sexy as hell. He's thinking he should ask for a recap tonight just for the fun of touching her while she talks technical stuff.

"In the 5 weeks since our return from PX7-941..." she's saying, "... we've been able to process most of the data we've collected and as a result we think we've corroborated some fairly startling first hand observations."

General Hammond's interested, Jack notes. Although the General was less than supportive of Sam's decision to forego birth control, Jack mitigated George's concerns by agreeing to take on some 'cake walk' assignments, like spending five weeks on Madrona, getting to know the locals and teasing their technological secrets out of the local priesthood. The payback for George's cutting them slack is going to be big.

Jack smiles in anticipation as Sam continues, "The inhabitants of this planet can proactively affect their own climate."

"That's a bit of an understatement General," Jack adds. "They can call it up just like that!" He snaps his fingers to reinforce the coolness of Madronan technology.

"You got a crop that needs some water," Daniel chimes in, "order some rain, you have a crop that needs sun, it's literally a matter of dialing it up."

George Hammond looks from Jack to Daniel and then back to Sam before asking, "You sure you weren't under the local voodoo?"

"Believe me General," Sam replies, "no one was more skeptical than I, but the fact is we may have stumbled on the most important piece of technology the SCG mission has discovered to date."

"Even the Goa'uld do not possess such technology," Teal'c confirms.

George shifts in his chair and says slowly, "And you think you know how they do it."

That does it. Jack fights a grin as Sam reacts like vinegar and baking soda - her words boil out in an enthused tumble.

"Well our best theory is the planet was terra-formed about 900 years ago," she says.

Daniel's no less enthused and jumps in, "Now the Madronans are technologically primitive so it's likely the planet was terra-formed by another alien race."

Not to be bested, Carter snags the puck as she turns to the monitor and points to the gizmo that controls the Madronan weather.

"Weather seems to be regulated by this device," she says highlighting the gizmo with a laser pointer.

"The Madronans call it a Touchstone," Danny adds. "It's an ancient artifact probably made by the other alien race. Uh ... It-It's right there. It's in the statue's hand."

George is nodding. Jack's beginning to yawn. He's been there and knows this already.

"And the high priest turns a series of calibrated rings, which seem to determine meteorological conditions over the entire planet's surface," Sam explains.

Cutting to it at last, George asks, "Do we have any idea what makes it tick?"

Seeing his chance, Jack replies, "That's why we'd like to go back, sir. Carter wants to get a closer look with some of her specialized doohickeys."

"Doohickeys?" George asks.

Jack nods and confirms, "I believe that's the technical term, Sir."

Sam smiles and activates the overhead lights.

"My instruments will measure the Touchstone's emissions and hopefully give us a better idea of how it works," she says.

George is frowning. Jack can read concern on his CO's face.

"Any chance we can borrow it for a few days, do a little backward engineering?" George suggests.

Old-school and fond of Sam, George Hammond hates the idea of Sam Carter stepping through the 'Gate without every available protection. Clearly he'd prefer to keep Sam safe within the walls of the SGC. Bringing the technology back to Earth would minimize risk to Sam. Jack agrees, but his eagerness for kids and Sam's desire to get started ASAP, keep him silent. Besides, unlike George, Jack will be out there, right beside her and ready to do whatever it takes to ensure Sam's safety.

"You have to understand, General," Sam replies, "the Touchstone maintains the weather on this planet."

"Right ... " George says. "Okay then ... Go see what you can figure out."

Sam grins and Jack nods.

"Okay," Jack says, catching Sam's eye and grinning. "Let's go ..."

Jack heads for the locker room, gears up alongside of Teal'c and Daniel, and joins up with Sam in the corridor. He follows her, admiring the firm curve of her rump where it's visible under her field pack.

Sam leads them through the blast doors and pauses while the Control Room dials up Madrona.

"SG-1," Hammond's voice echoes, "You have a go. Godspeed people."

Jack drops his guard for a moment as they step into the wormhole. He shoves back the worry before it takes hold of him. Carter's a professional. Jack's dealt with worried significant others - they're a pain in the ass. He'll be damned if he'll do that to Carter. Still ...

It's wild and wooly on the other side. The wind's shrieking and it's snowing sideways.

"Ah!" Jack declares, "Good to be back in Minnesota!" as they stumble through shifting drifts of dry flakes toward the settlement.

Frozen guards huddle in the shadows of buildings, shivering so hard that they're pitiful. Still they're pointing their primitive weapons at his folks. Never a good feeling, no matter what the weather.

Daniel says, "Greetings Rohan, Princess La Moor," when they are close enough to be heard over the howling wind.

"It's the visitor's, Uncle," the Princess cries, running to her elderly relative's side.

The old man, Rohan, is blind. He walks forward, gesturing angrily and calls, "We demand that you return the Touchstone!"

"What?" Carter asks, "I-It's missing?"

"Do not play games," Rohan barks. "You must return it at once."

Jack takes off his sunglasses, looks into Rohan's sightless eyes and then turns to his niece.

"No games," he says. "We didn't take it."

"It is gone," the old man quails. "Come ... see for yourselves." He leads them to the temple. They walk past guards who still hold their bow-and- arrow weapons ready.

Jack feels the prickle of being in someone's sights as he passes, but follows without a backward glance. Princess La Moor and Rohan lead down the stairs into the temple and to the statue. O'Neill stops beside the statue and examines the hand where the Touchstone should rest.

"Well," Sam states, "I guess this explains the storm outside."

"Without the Touchstone to shield us," Rohan says, "we shall soon be overtaken by the elements. It's only a matter of time before we begin to die because of your theft."

Jack steps down from the statue's pedestal and says, "All right ... here's a question for you. If it was so important why wasn't it guarded?" The constant insistence that his team's ripped off the technology is wearing thin.

"It was guarded," the old man shoots back. "We let down our guard because of your people."

"We trusted you," Princess La Moor adds.

"We did NOT take it," Jack repeats.

Teal'c states, "Had we taken the artifact, there would have been no need to return to this place."

Princess La Moor insists, "There were witnesses."

Jack asks, "And what did these witnesses see?"

Princess La Moor insists, "A group of people taking the Touchstone in the dead of night. They were dressed much as you are and carried weapons like yours."

Carter, looking puzzled, looks to Teal'c.

Jack asks, "Did they see where these people went?"

"They left by your Stargate," Rohan replies.

Princess La Moor insists, "As you know, none of our people know how to use the portal."

"Guards! Disarm the wrongdoers," Rohan cries.

Jack barks, "HOLD IT!" and pulls his Beretta, pointing it at the guards.

Everyone freezes for a moment and then Jack sighs, "All right ... we came here in peace, we expect to go in one ... .piece.

"Then explain yourself," Rohan demands, "but be warned. If your answers are not satisfactory, then we have no choice but to seek retribution."

Teal'c states, "Taking revenge on us will not return the Touchstone for we are not those who took it.

"Perhaps not," Rohan admits sourly, "but it will lead us to those who did."

Jack says, "Only if they care what happens to us."

Rohan considers his words and Jack continues, "Look, let me give you a little life lesson on thieves. They're not really in touch with their feminine side."

Rohan turns away from him disgustedly, and O'Neill looks at La Moor who explains, "My uncle grows impatient."

Jack concludes, "Caring would be on a low priority.

"If the thieves who took the Touchstone," Daniel adds, "used the Gate to escape, then the only hope to get it back is to let us go back through the Gate."

Carter states, "And if they did come from Earth, we have technology to help us find out who the thieves might have been."

Rohan demands, "How do we know that you will not use the Gate to escape responsibility?"

Jack asks, "Trust us?"

Princess La Moor insists, "We are a simple people Colonel. We have no means to protect ourselves from this disaster. If my uncle decides to trust you this day, our entire future will depend on that decision."

Jack answers, "Ok, that's a little pressure! But we can handle that."

A high wind blows into the temple and thunder and lightning continue to crash outside. Two guards close the double doors.

"Let them go," Rohan murmurs, his shoulders slumping, he turns to Jack. "Please ... help us."

***

Jack storms through the SGC on Hammond's heels. He's pissed. Really pissed.

George enters and takes a seat.

Jack shuts the door to the office and stands staring at his CO ... significantly.

"What's this about, Colonel?" Hammond asks.

"The Touchstone was stolen, Sir," Jack snaps. "By people wearing SGC uniforms who came and went through the Stargate."

"What?" Hammond exclaims, "Well who was it?"

"Everyone involved here would like to know that, Sir," Jack growls.

"I don't appreciate your implication Colonel," Hammond growls back. "Why would I send your team to study the thing if I knew it wasn't there?"

"No implication intended, Sir," Jack continues, "but circumstances do beg the next logical question ... which is ... Could any one of the other SG teams have gone through without your order?"

"Not without my knowing about it."

"Yes, Sir," Jack presses on. "General, do you mind if I have Carter recheck the dialing computer. Just to see if there are any signs anyone ... sneaking through the Gate ... covertly, behind your back as it were, Sir."

"Nothing happens regarding that Stargate without my knowing about it," Hammond insists, growing angry, "If a person sneezes near it, I get a report."

Jack sighs and says, "I understand, Sir." Then he walks over and reaches for the door knob. As he turns it, Hammond calls.

"Colonel!"

Jack turns around and looks at him.

"Have Carter check it anyway."

Jack smiles and, feeling relieved, says "Thank you very much, sir."

He strides down the hallway, punches the elevator call-button and rides two floors down to the level of Carter's lab. She's at her desk; her hair's still wet from the shower. Jack aches to run his fingers into the damp curls at the nape of her neck. Five weeks on Madrona is a long time to behave.

"Sir?" she asks as he turns the corner into her lab.

"Hammond's given the okay for you to dig into who ripped off the Madronans' touchstone, Carter," Jack says, leaning against her desk and crossing his arms to keep from touching her.

"Yes, Sir," Sam replies.

"Where you gonna start?" he asks.

"Oh, I've got a couple of ideas. For one thing..."

"Ah!" Jack stops her, "Save it for the briefing, Captain. Now ... I've gotta hit the showers."

Jack turns as Sam growls and sees her grin and lick her lips suggestively.

"Cold shower," he murmurs and leaves her to saving the Madronans.
Chapter 15 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 15

Forty minutes later, Jack's heading back to General Hammond's office. The General's on the phone ...

'The red phone,' Jack notes, but Hammond waves him into the room.

Jack knocks on the door anyway and waits 'til the General calls, "Come."

Jack enters. Hammond motions for him to sit down and continues speaking with the party on the other end.

"No, I need to talk to him now," George insists. "Son, do you know what COLOR this phone is? Yes ... I'll hold."

Then General Hammond places his hand over the receiver and hisses, "Did Carter find anything?"

"Yes, Sir," Jack whispers back. "Apparently the second Gate is being used."

"What?" Hammond barks. "I was given top-level assurances that Gate was to be sealed."

"A case of the left hand not knowing what the right foot is doing, Sir?" Jack asks.

"That's what I'm trying to find out," Hammond growls, his face growing dark. Then he barks into the phone, "No, It can't wait, son. Well, make sure he gets the message the second he comes out."

Hammond slams the red handset back into the cradle.

"And suddenly," Jack notes, "the President is NOT available."

"Every time I call, he's tied up," Hammond grumps. "It's like someone is orchestrating his schedule to keep us from speaking today."

"Got a someone in mind, Sir?" Jack asks.

George Hammond glares at Jack for a moment, then rubs his face and sighs.

"This is going to sound paranoid, Colonel. Back when the SG program began, there was a philosophical skirmish about its mandate. Some people wanted to make sure that any and all discoveries were brought back regardless of considerations like interplanetary diplomacy."

"Do you mind if I ask who these "some people" were?" Jack offers.

"Well, the truth is I'm not sure I ever fully knew who they were. I had a feeling that someone chose not to surface during the debate. Not military ... politicians pulling strings behind the scenes. No one said so exactly. Thirty years in the service you develop an instinct about these things."

"General," Jack asks, frowning, "is your gut telling you that this group, person, whatever is responsible for stealing the Touchstone?"

"I'm a long way from drawing that conclusion, but I'll be damned if I'll be blocked by some sycophant in the White House. I have other channels I can pursue, markers I can call in."

"General," Jack exclaims, "I know I don't have to tell you this, but whoever these dark side guys are, they can do some pretty nasty damage if they figure out how to work this thing."

"I know, Colonel. I know. Let me do some digging."

Dismissed and at loose ends, Jack wanders back to Sam's office. She's still got her nose pressed against her computer screen. Jack watches for a few minutes, enjoying the vision of Sam Carter totally immersed in her work. After a while, though, the vision is too sweet. Jack needs more. It's been five weeks off-world.

"Captain," he says softly.

Sam jerks away from her screen, wide-eyed. He's startled her ... again.

"I was ... I didn't realize you were there, Sir."

"That's okay," Jack grins, "I was quiet ... sort of on purpose.

Sam's cheeks turn ruddy and Jack feels his grin spread and deepen.

"General Hammond's got some leads to run down," Jack continues, "and we're down for the next eight or ten hours. Whaddayasay ... Dinner?"

Sam slides off her stool and crosses the lab. Jack's got the unnerving feeling that she's not going to stop until she's in his arms. He steps back a half step, but she veers off and grabs her jacket from the peg on the wall.

"It's been five weeks ...Sir," Sam murmurs. "Let's get out of here."

Jack's on her heels, fighting the urge to grab her hand as he replies, "You read my mind, Captain Carter."

"That's my job, Colonel O'Neill," Sam shoots back, grinning.

Jack's heart thumps as they enter the elevator. He resists the urge to shove Sam against the wall and explore the turn of her throat ... just where it reaches her jaw line.

Finally the elevator doors open and Jack strides out on Sam's heels. Fifteen minutes later they're at his house. He's at the door when her car pulls in... He’s turning the key, as her hands run up his back, leaving hot trails against his bare skin. They're through the door and her mouth's on his. He's pulling at her blouse. She's unbuttoning his uniform shirt. They're against the wall of the hallway, shedding clothing as they pull away momentarily. Then Jack lifts Sam in his arms, carries her into his bedroom, and they fall together in a joyous jumble of skin, lips, hips, and sheets.

Jack slides Sam's bra over her head and plants a kiss on her shoulder, moving down to her full, warm, breast. He tastes her nipple, teases the puckered nub with his teeth and relishes the sharp suck of breath elicited by his touch against her smooth skin.

"Oh ..." she breathes against his hair. Jack smiles, he runs his hands up her body, from the point of each narrow hip to the curve of her waist and on to the swelling at the base of her breast. He closes his hand under her breast and kneads her flesh, causing her to shiver and moan. The sounds are deep and throaty. They send shocks of yearning into Jack's aching balls. He spent four years without sex. Now - barely six weeks of Carter have him needing more touch, more skin ... just MORE ... every day, every minute, every moment. Jack leans against Sam's chest and listens for a moment to her hammering heart.

"I can't get enough of you," Sam murmurs.

"Me, too," Jack admits, sorry that he missed the change to say it first. "C'mere," he growls, sliding his hand and arm under her shoulders and lifting her into his embrace. She smiles, holding his gaze with hungry eyes.

"I love you, Carter," Jack growls. Her eyes widen. Neither has said the L-word, not since their first time.

"I love you, Sam," he repeats. "And I'm In Love with you."

She gazes at him, her eyes wide.

"Be kind," he continues, lost in the blue depths. Then he leans forward and kisses her forehead, "Be ... careful."

Jack realizes what he's revealed a moment too late. But it's too late. The words are out there.

Sam's squirming away, her blue eyes still wide but the look of desire is replaced by something that looks a helluva lot like cold fury.

"WHAT did you say?" she hisses wrapping her arms around her bare chest.

"I ... I love you?" Jack takes a shot.

"Be CAREFUL!?"

"Sam," Jack slides to the far side of the bed. "I didn't mean to say that. It just ... I just ..."

"No. Dammit, Colonel O'Neill," Sam's on her feet and her voice has dropped. "I am ALWAYS CAREFUL! I am a PROFESSIONAL! What the HELL do you think? I'm just some damned SCIENTIST??"

Jack's shaking. His voice trembles slightly as he stammers, "I ... Sam, I lost ... If I lose ... Dammit."

He's standing and grabbing his shirt when she's suddenly there, pulling him close.

"Jack!" she's saying, "Oh, God. Jack, I'm sorry ... I didn't realize ..." She's kissing him between the words and Jack feels his body respond, even though he's embarrassed and more than a little scared of where a relationship can possibly go with a front-line warrior like Sam Carter. He could be left alone again and, Jack knows, he won't survive. Not again.

Sam's fingers are in his hair and he follows her down onto the bed. She pulls his shirt open and kisses a trail from his lips to his belly. Then, her fingers run down his stomach to his briefs ... slip inside and slide down to caress him. Her lips follow and Jack groans as she pulls him free of his clothing and slides her lips over the head of his cock.

"Carter," he moans.

"Mmmm," she murmurs, sending electrical charges along the length of his shaft. Jack groans again and lifts his hips, burying his fingers in her hair. Sam slides her hands down the sides of Jack's butt and under, pressing him hard against her. It's unbelievable to be pinned down by her mouth on him. Jack groans again, fighting the urge to come immediately, trying to make it last.

Sensing his plight, Sam pulls away, sliding her tongue roughly along his shaft. Jack is trembling now, torn between the sweetness of her lips and the desire to throw her down on her back and fuck her silly.

"C'mere," he growls, pulling her back toward him, rump first. "You're gorgeous, Sam," he murmurs, running his hands over her ass, spreading her cheeks and marveling at the dusting of gold fur leading away. The sight of it causes a surge of desire. Jack grabs her and pulls her back, plants a kiss on her rump and then flips her, pins her and plants another quick kiss on her lips before moving lower, breathing against her skin and loving the shivery sounds she makes in response.

Sam's eager and Jack grins as she lifts her pussy to greet his mouth. He'd imagined her inexperienced and, in fact, she was ... at first. But brains have an advantage. Sam learned artful lovemaking as quickly as Jack imagined she'd learned everything else in life. She studied hard, concentrated and brought the full force of her formidable mind and drop-dead body to bear on the problem of bringing him exquisite pleasure. The first week of sex had been mind-blowing, athletic and original in every conceivable way.

Now, Jack smiles, realizing she's learned his weaknesses. Blow jobs. Fingernails. Pussy. He buries his face in her and she mews as he feeds on her flesh. Her hips rock. As she moves under him, he feels her thighs tense and her ass lift off the mattress.

Jack slips his hands down to grasp her cheeks and squeeze. Her butt's small and tight and fits in his hands like a pair of ripe melons. He likes melons. He cups his hands and presses her up as he explores her cunt with his lips, teeth and tongue. She's crying out now, panting and rocking while he eats her. Then, as she sobs, he slips his fingers inside and she explodes.

Sam's a strong woman. Her body lifts off the bed, taking Jack's full weight with her. He's been here before ... it's not his first rodeo ... and he twists her around as they land, turning her so they are on their sides. An instant later, her cries are muffled and Jack feels the unmistakable sensation of Sam sucking his dick like she wants to take it off at the base. He groans, sending vibrations through her flesh. She rewards him with a sharp, sudden increase in pressure. He's losing it and she's coming against his face and riding his fingers. It's perfect and, Jack realizes, it's more than sex this time ... it's love-making ... baby-making. He pulls away, turns and flips her onto her back.

"I'm going to make a baby for you, Sam," he says. "I'm gonna to bury my cum so deep that you'll have our kid inside you tomorrow."

Sam grabs his hips and pulls him to her, opening her long, strong legs and wrapping them around his waist as he thrusts into her. She pulls him close and he buries his face in her neck, pumping so hard and deep that the bed shakes with every thrust.

Sam arcs to meet him and they come together like perfectly machined parts of an engine - pumping, sliding, exploding and pumping, harder and faster. Then, in a rush, the rhythm changes. Jack's coming. Every cell in his body bends to one animal need - planting his seed into the willing body of the woman he loves.

Sam climaxes against him, groaning and pulling him tighter with every earth-shaking thrust, until at last Jack throws his head back. His muscles lock, only his cock and balls move, as Sam's pulsing channel strips the last of his seed.

Then, dripping sweat, exhausted, and panting like he's just sprinted a mile, Jack drops at Sam's side and lies still. Cradled in her arms, he sleeps.
Chapter 16 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 16

Jack's gaze follows Sam as she walks into the briefing room. She looks tired and ... pregnant. Jack knows the odds are low, but Sam's glowing and Jack nurses a tiny flame of hope that he accomplished his midnight mission of starting a kid with Samantha Carter ... soon to be Mrs. Jack O'Neill.

Sam takes a seat and Jack feels a silly jab of disappointment that her boot is beyond reach under the table. He needs to touch her ...

"In an effort to determine whether the Touchstone was being used on Earth," Sam begins the briefing, "I figured out a way to measure the Doppler shift for gravitational and radiation emissions. I used one of my monitoring instruments and tied it into two NOAA satellites."

"What did you find?" the General asks.

"Well, Sir," Sam hesitates, " ... it's somewhere in the Nevada desert. Now from the crude triangulation, I was able to determine it's ... "

General Hammond cuts her off, "Nevada!"

"Yes, Sir," Sam confirms.

General Hammond looks across the conference table at Jack

"Something wrong?" Sam asks.

Jack wants to break something, but instead fiddles with his pencil.

"The second Gate ended up in Nevada, didn't it, Sir?" he asks, by way of answering Carter's question, "Nellis?"

"Yes." The General does not look pleased Jack notes. Teal'c raises his eyebrow. The Jaffa gets it, but Daniel, the eternal boy scout, looks puzzled.

"Well," Jack adds, "if the Gate is there, it makes sense that the Touchstone has at least been there."

"You're going to love this, Colonel," Hammond says sourly. "Guess who just got himself reassigned to Nellis?"

"Do tell," Jack asks, not wanting to know from the look on his CO's normally affable face.

"Colonel Maybourne."

"Oh, well," Jack sneers, "there's good news!"

"Nellis," Daniel says. "That's the base we send the technology we bring back through the Gate, right?"

Jack turns and watches the gears turn as Daniel puts it together. He's naive but he's not stupid.

"Yes. The Groom Lake Facility," Hammond confirms.

"Area 51," Jack adds for good measure.

At that, Daniel looks sharply at Jack.

'Ah, cometh the dawn,' Jack muses, staring back into his best friend's alarmed face.

"Sir," Jack says, finally breaking the gloom of the briefing, "How about if Carter checks out the status of the Madronans."

Jack doesn't doubt things have grown worse on the planet. In fact, part of him needs to check to be sure there's still something left to save before risking his people on a mission to run down the thieves ... particularly if it means infiltrating Area 51 and facing down that weasel Maybourne.

Hammond is an experienced commander and catches Jack's unstated intention.

"Right. Get on that immediately, Captain," he orders. "If there's nothing else," Hammond glances around the table. No one stirs. He stands and says, "Dismissed."

Jack stalks out of the briefing. If he stays another moment, he's sure he'll piss Carter off. All he can think about is that this is getting very messy ... too messy ... and the last place he wants Sam is at Groom Lake Nevada with all its alien technology, black ops bastards, and security as heavy as Cheyenne Mountain, if not heavier.

He heads to the gym and spends a couple of hours warming up and then boxing with Teal'c. He gets his ass waxed, of course. It's true that sex gets a guy right in the legs. His footwork is pitiful and Teal'c, who never moves an inch, knocks him flat twice before Jack throws in the towel. He hits the showers, drops by the Infirmary to get a cut over his eye tended and then swings over to Sam's office, still worrying about how he can get her off this mission.

'It's hard enough to penetrate that hole on my own,' Jack's thinking as he turns the corner into her lab and hears General Hammond ask, "What are we looking at?"

"We sent the MALP back to Madrona," Sam says. No explanation is necessary. Jack can see the planet's in white-out. It didn't seem possible that there could be more snow blowing around than the last time they visited, but there is. The MALP is effectively blinded by the dense curtain of white.

"It's a blizzard, sir," Carter explains. "Winds gusting up to 80 miles an hour. It gets any more intense and their whole planet's a write-off."

"How much time do they have remaining?" Teal'c asks the question that Jack can't. He makes eye contact and nods slightly. Jack wants to hug the big lug.

"Well, if my extrapolations are correct," Sam replies, "we're looking at 48 hours maybe 72, before all the terra-forming is kaput."

"Permission to take a little trip to Nevada, Sir," Jack states, figuring he'll pitch a one-man show when he gets the General alone.

"Ok," Hammond replies. "I'll call the Commander at Nellis and get you cleared."

"Uh, General," Jack adds. "It's become pretty obvious that our own people are involved here. The government types, you know. How do you know who to trust?"

He looks at Hammond pointedly.

"We already have the necessary clearance level, Sir," Sam adds.

Jack doesn't like the sound of 'we', but he focuses on Hammond, watching his CO's mind process the possibilities.

"Colonel," he finally says, "I need some documents hand delivered to the Groom Lake Facility."

"Are those documents sensitive enough to warrant a three-man team?" Jack asks, thinking of Danny, Teal’c and himself.

"With a Jaffa escort," Hammond replies, smiling wickedly.

Jack nods, smiling ruefully and sensing that Hammond has heard from Sam about his overprotective urges. Fifteen minutes later, they are assembled in the briefing room.

"Ok, here's the deal," the General says as he sits. "This NID landing strip doesn't officially exist therefore I don't think there's a jurisdictional issue. But even if there is, that C-5 is Air Force property and it is our jurisdiction."

"Can we go now, Sir?" Jack asks. The Madronans are nearly out of time. Every minute counts.

"There's a chopper waiting up top. It will take you to Hill Air Force Base. From there, you're on your own," Hammond replies.

"Thank you," Jack says, as Teal'c and Daniel stand and leave the briefing room.

Sam lingers as General Hammond says, "One other thing, Colonel. We don't know if the people who took the Gate and the Touchstone are friend or foe. Therefore, under no condition are you to fire on them. Understood?"

Jack's stomach lurches.

"Under no conditions ... fire?" he stammers, glancing at Sam and trying his damnedest to cover his alarm. She's on this mission. This mission's just gone completely FUBAR. Jack's mind races, he's thinking how in hell he can pull the plug ... or go in alone.

"That's right," General Hammond confirms.

Carter blurts, "What if they fire on us, Sir?"

Jack's still focused on how in hell he can get the 'us' scaled back to 'me,' when Hammond replies, "Then you take cover. Do not return fire unless it's the only option remaining in order to defend yourselves."

"General," Jack stammers, "I don't think that's going to..."

"Those are my orders, Colonel," Hammond barks. "We're going way out on a limb on this one. I don't want my people mortally wounding another American who may just be following orders. Understood?"

Jack's screwed and knows it.

"Yes, Sir," he replies like a good little soldier. He can't help glancing at Sam. She raises her eyebrows, but heads out. Jack has no option but to follow, promising that come what may, he'll cover her beautiful backside ... if he has to throw rocks.

***

Jack stands at the massive door to a massive warehouse. His nerves are twanging - have been since stepping foot onto the Area 51 facility. The source of Jack's discomfort is multifaceted. Area 51 has never been Jack's favorite place. Too many cocked-up missions originated at Groom Lake to give him warm and fuzzy feelings about the wind-swept bastion of military spooks -- like himself. Recent developments indicate that this particular pile of steaming horse shit derives from civilian asses - not a positive attribute to a military mind. Having Harry Maybourne smirking beside him does nothing to alleviate Jack's concerns ... and then there's Carter. She's trailing a step behind her CO and every instinct in Jack O'Neill's well-honed sense of survival screams to grab her and flee ... or open fire ... as the impossibly oversized doors slide back revealing very large crate in the middle of the room.

"There it is," Maybourne states. "Happy now, Colonel?"

Jack stares at the crate. He won't be 'happy' 'til he has Sam safely off this fucking base. Without acknowledging the worm at his side, Jack says, "Carter." Then he approaches the crate unfastens the latches and raises the lid. Teal'c climbs up on the crate. They move around the packing and verify that the Stargate is, indeed, in the crate.

"Satisfied?" Maybourne asks. Only it's not a question. More like a challenge. Jack's itching to accept that challenge, but he can't see a way to explain knocking Harry Maybourne on his ass.

"Not really," Jack replies. "Just proves it got packed up real nice after it was used."

"I assure you," Maybourne spouts, "that Gate has been in that crate since it was brought here from the Antarctic."

"Come on, Harry," Jack growls, taking off his sunglasses and making eye contact with Maybourne for the first time. "You and I have been through this dance before."

Maybourne's eyes flick away. He's about to give something up, Jack feels, but Sam interrupts the unspoken exchange.

"Uh ... Colonel ..." She taps the 'Gate. There’s an odd hollow sound, "...This Gate is plastic."

"What?" Maybourne blurts, giving more away than Jack had hoped for.

Teal'c runs his hand over the surface of the 'Gate' and confirms, "Captain Carter is correct."

"That's ridiculous!" Maybourne exclaims. He charges over to the crate and touches the Gate. Jack follows, almost enjoying the moment as Harry squirms like a worm on a hook. He raps on the Gate. Sure enough. It's fake.

"That IS the Gate that was brought back from the Antarctic," Maybourne declares as he stalks across the warehouse. "It has been under lock and key since it got here."

Jack glances at Daniel, then at Carter. She says what's on everyone's minds. "This Gate's plastic. Where's the real one?"

"So ...” Jack calls to Maybourne. “What the HELL happened to the Stargate?"

Maybourne gestures wildly and blurts, "It's obviously been moved!" He’s coming unhinged to Jack’s vast amusement, but he needs to focus on just how serious this loss might be. “So it can be fired up without raising any eyebrows?" he asks.

"That's highly speculative," Maybourne snaps back.

Jack closes the gap to Maybourne, thinking, ' "Speculative" is an interesting word ... Harry's not denying a thing, just pointing out that I can't prove it ... and he's right. Dammit.' When they're within eyeball distance, Jack snarls, "I don't know who's giving you orders, Maybourne, but they better come from where the air is REAL thin."

"Is that a threat, Colonel?" Maybourne growls. He's got a spine that Jack didn't expect. Harry must have serious backing on this little project. Still ... maybe he can rattle his cage and force a slip up.

"You tell me the punishment for losing a Stargate ..." Jack lets it hang out there for a delicious moment.

"That presumes there was no authorization to MOVE the Stargate," Harry rebuts. It makes Jack's neck itch to hear it. Harry's on the brink of spilling some serious intel, when Daniel interrupts, "So ... who authorized it?"

Harry's regained his equilibrium and he runs for cover, stating primly, "That's classified."

"We have the highest clearance," Jack presses hard.

"Within the military, you do."

Jack acts shocked, covering his inclination to gloat. Harry's just verified what Jack had guessed long before coming to this spook Emporium.

"Are you telling me this is a civilian operation?" Jack snaps, but Harry's done playing. He turns his back on Jack and calls to the guards, "Gentlemen, Colonel O'Neill and his people need an escort back to their vehicle."

Four heavily muscled guards approach across the vast warehouse space. Jack takes one more desperate shot at shaking Harry's tree, "Who's pulling the STRINGS, Maybourne?!"

"Take a piece of advice, Jack. Let this one drop." Harry's gloating and the little worm's self-satisfied smirk hits Jack's frustration and worry for Sam and the Madronans like brownie water on open flame.

"DROP IT?" Jack barks, taking a step to tower over Maybourne.

"Please," Maybourne snaps, looking up at Jack with a lot less confidence, "Don't make these gentlemen have to get disrespectful."

Jack glares down at Maybourne then around at everyone else. His team's waiting for his next move, ready to back him up, but ... There's nothing to do but get the hell off Maybourne's turf and try to find some other way to save the Madronans.

Jack spins on his heel and marches after the guards without a backward glance at Maybourne, but he can feel the little man's smug gaze follow him across the entire wide space of that fucking warehouse.
Chapter 17 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 17

The plug breaks water forty yards to his right, rings spread across the quiet surface, shimmering under the last rays of the sun. Jack shivers involuntarily, rubs his eyes and murmurs, "Fuck."

'I want to stay with you, Jack ...' Charlie said.

All Jack could do was lie to the kid.

'He'd visit.'

'The Tok'ra.'

'Yeah, right.'

But the kid was dying. His translucent skin and dark, too-bright eyes made Jack's heart ache and his hands itch to break someone's head ... starting with Mother, that Retu bitch who'd cobbled Charlie together from inadequate parts.

"Fuck."

It's been a rugged six months.

The last real break was the wild week he'd had with Sam ... before discovering Madrona and saving the Touchstone. Then there was that crap with Cromwell and Henry Boyd.

'Crap. Boyd’ ... still frozen out there somewhere in mid-flight – Forever running back to a 'Gate that won't function when he reaches it ... from his perspective.
‘Boyd…’ Not dead - not from Jack's perspective. Boyd's been left behind. Abandoned by his CO, Colonel Jack O'Neill. So, Jack's restless conscience hasn't let him sleep much. Not that he's had the time.

Time.

"Fuck."

Ever since losing Cromwell to that swirling void, Jack's been torn between despair and desperate hope – hope intensified and embodied by a skinny little alien who saved him from the knowledge of 'the Ancients', a race of incredible accomplishment and, according to Danny, the likely creators of the 'Gate system.

Jack nearly ran out of time. It was a one-way trip when he stepped through the 'Gate. Sam knew. He knew, but he was dead anyway and something inside told him he had to go. So, with one long last look at Sam Carter, he left her.

Jack shakes his head as he recalls his sudden, unexpected salvation, and return to the SGC a week ago. There'd been no end of tests, probes, poking, pen-lights, until he protested to George and was finally released. Jack had left the SGC Infirmary like a fleeing felon, drove home and discovered the lights on and Sam Carter's car in the driveway. Sam had moved into his house, without invitation or discussion. She'd spent a lot of time there, of course. But when Jack stepped through the door, he saw her stuff around the place and knew. Sam never said a word about it. She just took his hand and led him to their bed.

Unfortunately, wiped out from too many days of saving the world, his ass, the State of Colorado, his ass ... the Universe, and then his ass again ... roughly in that order, Jack had fallen into her arms and slept like a dead-man. They'd had no other opportunity to enjoy her decision to take the relationship to the next level. Eleven hours later, dressed in PJs with feet, Charlie stepped out of the wormhole ...

'Charlie ...'

"Fuck."

And then, with no explanation, Hammond started acting strangely secretive. Jack noticed it hours after Charlie left under the care of Jacob Carter. Sam had a nasty accident in the Physics lab. George had stalked into the Infirmary, where Jack was definitely not hovering, and demanded to see her injury.

Doc Frasier had allowed him a peek. Jack had watched, his 6th sense twitching, as the General examined her palm. The cut was deep and long, but it would heal. It certainly didn't warrant the reaction Jack witnessed. George Hammond, thirty year veteran of military service, former combat warrior for most of those years, had actually paled. Hammond left without a word. The General’s office door remained shut for the rest of the day.

Jack checked in with Hammond the next morning, knocking and peering around the door as the General waved him inside. Jack took his usual chair and offered an opening, subtly. “So, Carter’s hand took twelve stitches. That broken gizmo might have done worse, though …” The General didn't rise to the bait. Finally Jack flat out asked and George shut him down. Flat. Then he ordered SG-1 to take some 'much deserved down time.'

Since being dragged back into service, Jack gradually learned to trust and respect his CO. Sure, they got off to a rocky start, what with Hammond seeing through Jack's lies like a Grade School Principal through a second-grader's fabrications. It offended Jack's professional ego to be transparent. But, he had to admit, it felt good to have someone ... anyone ... even his CO ... give a damn.

Every General that Jack had served before Hammond was a self-serving prick, who’d kept their eyes on the prize and subordinates at boot-level. Jack kept them in the dark about his private life and most of his official activities as a matter of course. "Need-to-know" limits the political casualties when the shit hits the fan. It had always been in Jack's PD to take those hits, to shield his chain of command, until he met George Hammond.

George Hammond was the first CO who cared enough to know pretty much everything going on in Jack's life. What Jack didn't willingly share, George was prepared to sweat out of him. Aside from Jack's mother, who never knew everything, that degree of concern was a first.

From the beginning Hammond 'encouraged' Jack to spend time chatting. At first it was under orders and Jack resented it. As weeks lengthened to months, George's interest didn't flag. He continued to fan the glimmer of mutual respect into the glow of genuine friendship. Jack found George Hammond a solid, ethical and lonely man. Jack knew the feeling well. Being only human, Jack had no choice but to reciprocate. He did what he could to lift the load on Hammond's broad shoulders, to be a reliable 2IC and a real friend. So when George suddenly shut him out, it hurt.

The screen door slams.

"Jack?"

Jack shifts, rubs his eyes quickly, and lifts his rod, reeling in the plug. No fish. No kidding.

"I'm coming up," he calls, standing as the plug breaks water. Then he hooks it into one of the guides, closes the folding chair against his thigh and tucks it under his arm, snags his warm beer, and walks up the slope to the cabin.

The windows shine bright in the evening gloom.

Jack climbs the gentle slope slowly. Croaking and grunting of frogs punctuate the otherwise quiet evening. He smiles as a shift in the breeze carries the scent of dinner across the lawn. Sam's burned the beans again.

She's standing in the doorway by the time he stows the chair and his rod. He pulls her into his arms and kisses her, more hungry for her touch than for whatever's on the stove.

"I ..." she begins.

"I'm more interested in the cook than what's cooking," he murmurs, trapping her against the refrigerator. "Can it wait?"

Sam doesn't speak, but her hands run up Jack's back. Her nails bite into the nape of his neck, triggering delicious shudders. Jack groans and presses his body against hers, feeling her heart beat against his chest.

"Bedroom," Sam murmurs, but Jack has other ideas. He grips her hand, backs out the door, drawing her out into the night.

"Outside?" Sam's voice is almost lost among the racket of calling frogs, crickets and other night sounds.

"I've been ... planning this," Jack replies.

"What? When?"

Sam has a point. Jack hasn't had a moment of down time since their first week together. He can't really explain that he's entertained the hope of bringing someone he loves to the cabin since before he met her. Still ... it's true.

Rather than explain, he leads her down the flagstone path toward the dock.

"It's too cold to swim," Sam protests.

"Not swimming," Jack replies, but he doesn't expand.

A few more steps and they’re around the side of the boat house and there, screened by a small stand of fragrant hemlocks, is his sweat lodge, a squat structure made of rough-hewn logs, half-buried in the rocky shoreline.

"What is this place?" Sam asks as Jack lifts the thick wooden latch. The door swings open and he strikes a match, lights four or five heavy bee's wax candles and the interior glows in the dancing candle light.

"It's just an old hut," Jack replies, stoking the stove and lighting a fire under the kettle. He stands, pulls a cord, opening a skylight that occupies most of the roof, and starlight spills in. “I’ve upgraded it through the years.”

"There's a sauna ... and a whirlpool! I can't believe you never mentioned this," Sam stammers. "It's lovely, Jack."

"I was saving it," Jack admits, "...for the right moment. Marry me," he continues, pulling her close. "Sam, I won't live without you. Not another moment. I need you. We need kids. I'm gonna grow old with you, Sam Carter. Say yes ..."

"Yes, Jack O’Neill."

"Yes?"

"Yes."

Jack bends down and kisses her gently, sweetly, then steps back and turns away for a moment, switches on the whirlpool heater and stoops. He opens a mini-fridge and pulls out a bottle of Champaign, all without looking at Sam. He unwinds the wire cage and pops the cork, takes down two slender stemmed glasses from an upper nook, fills them and passes one to Sam.

"To us," he says, finally looking into her eyes. They're shining.

"Us," she replies, sipping without breaking eye contact.

Jack drains his glass in a gulp, fills them both again and tosses off the second glass, then sets the glass aside, pulls his shirt off over his head and steps close to Sam.

She trembles slightly as he traces the back of his fingers down the side of her face and on along her throat.

"I love you," he murmurs, bending down to kiss her again.

Sam's lips open to him, then respond hungrily, urgently seeking him. Jack runs his hands down her body, slips them under the edge of her shirt hem, and up under, into the warm velvety softness of her skin. He lifts the soft flannel shirt, pulls it over her head, and bends low to kiss her shoulder, her upper arm, her breast. He wraps his arm around her waist and presses her back against the edge of the sauna bench. It's warm already and Jack feels a trickle of sweat run down his back. Sam's lips feel cool against his skin.

Sam's hands run down Jack's back to the back of his belt. Then move around to the front and fumble at his belt. She's practiced and his belt and pants open quickly. Jack moves closer, offering her access and Sam pushes her hands inside, sliding his pants off, pushing his briefs down and gripping his ass.

Jack moans, partly from the contact of her skilled hands on his ass, and partly in anticipation of her skilled lips on his cock. She doesn't disappoint. Jack leans forward, resting his hands and forehead against the lowest rafter as Sam's tongue teases his aching flesh. It's been too long. Jack can't hold back. He grabs her head and pulls away, gasping.

"C'mere," he rasps, pulling Sam to her feet, turning and leading her across the small space to the sunken tub.

"In," he says, trying to be gentle. It sounds like something between an order and a plea.

Sam smiles, she understands. While Jack stands, staring, she strips off her pants, stands for a moment wearing nothing but a rose-colored thong and a smile. Then she slides the scrap of silk down her pale legs, kicks it off and steps into the water, turns and lowers her body.

Jack feels like he might have a stroke as she rises up, lifting her wet breasts from the steaming water and smiles. Rivulets run down her skin and she glows in the light of the candles, then she turns, places her hands on the edge of the tub and leans over, spreading her ass. She's gorgeous, from the pale, firm turn of her hips to the roundness of her rump and the hint of golden fuzz leading between ... and Jack needs to be there ... now.

He's beside her in the water. He hits the jets and grasps Sam's hips, kissing the point of her hip. She's wet, but he strokes between her legs and feels that she's more than wet. She's ready.

Sam arches her back, opening to him. Jack stands, slides his cock between her cheeks and guides the head of his shaft deep into her wet, tight pussy.

"I love you," he growls as he slides inside. "I love you so much, Sam."

She doesn't reply, except to moan as he fills her and withdraws, then rams home again, gripping her hips as he plunges into her heat.

Sam lifts to meet him, shifting the angle slightly, heightening the pressure and the friction. Jack growls again, frustrated.

He can't last.

In one more stroke, he's coming.

Sam's head snaps back. She cries out, matching his thrusts with her own. Jack wraps his arm around her waist and lifts her, pinning her ass tight against him as he pummels her, groaning as she rears back to meet him. She leans into him and he wraps his other arm around her crushing her breasts and biting into the side of her neck in his hunger for her. She turns against him, her breath coming in hard gasps and whispers, "Harder, Jack."

He thought he was done until that husky voice whispered in his ear.

Jack finds, suddenly, he's far from spent. He bites down on Sam's sweet, soft flesh, sucking the skin and relishing the taste and scent of her as she comes under him. He's coming, too, but his cock doesn't want to quit. Not yet. He's hard as a rock when he pulls out of her, dripping cum, and turns Sam around to face him.

She's unfocused - her face flushed from heat and lust. Her hair is damp and curling wildly from the steam. Jack touches a curl and leans forward to kiss her hair. Sam bites his ear - hard - sending spikes of desire from his jaw to his toes.

"Fuck me," she murmurs, "Fuck me hard, Jack..."

She doesn't have to ask twice. Jack hits a button, turning the jets to low, grabs a bottle of something and squirts it into the water. Suds form. Sam grins lustily and Jack grins back. Then he reaches into a cabinet over Sam's head and pulls out a small silver gadget.

"What's that?" she asks, her eyes growing wide.

"Something you might enjoy," he replies. It's a vibrator - a Carter-sized vibrator. Petite and low-key silver. Like something the Asguard might design. Nothing rude.

"You'll do just fine ..."

"I can only be in one place at a time," Jack replies. "Trust me ..."

Sam watches as he turns the switch. Jack slides it under the suds before she can protest again. She spreads her legs, but he shakes his head and grins.

"Patience," he murmurs.

Instead, Jack kisses her, taking his time as he works his way around Sam's beautiful face, licking her ear, tasting her eyelids, kissing her cheeks, her lips, her chin, her neck ...

"Lower..." she murmurs.

Jack moves down, going slow now despite his raging hard-on. Her breasts, partially hidden amid the growing mountains of bubbles, are pale and wet. Her nipples are pink, tight nubs in a center of rose. Jack licks the nub, nibbles, bites, sucks and feeds hungrily, wrapping his arm behind Sam and pressing her hard against him. She's coming again, grinding her breast against his teeth and moaning when he moves the vibrator between her legs and slides it inside. She explodes.

"Oh! Jack!" she cries, thrashing and sending water over the edge of the tub. "Oh, GOD!"

Jack bites her titty harder, then flicks the button to 'high' and Sam tips over the edge. Words become animal sounds, as she claws at him, coming harder and harder, while he holds her. Finally, she begins to slow. Her nails no longer bite into his back and her groans become soft moans.

Jack feels it's time. He pulls the plug on the tub, turns off the jets, and eases himself away from Sam. Then lifts her out of the half-empty tub. He carries her across the small space to the sauna bench and lays her on the warm wooden slats.

The wood steams from her wet body and Jack can smell her in the smell of hot, wet cedar wood.

"Mmmm," she murmurs, as he places her just so.

Jack raises one of her arms and gently ties her wrist to the end of the bench.

"Alright?" he asks.

"Wonderful," she murmurs. "More, please ..." He ties her other wrist and then spreads her legs, running his fingers down into her wet, warm fur.

"You are so beautiful," he murmurs. "I want you to be mine, Sam."

"Do what you will, Jack ... anything ... everything ..."

He bends low and kisses her pussy, tasting her for the first time. She's dripping wet and spilling his seed, but she still tastes like a woman. He yearns to fuck her. He's going to fuck her ... deep and hard and long. All night and all day ... as long as he wants.

Jack turns and lifts Sam's leg, pressing it back against her naked chest, relishing the fact that he can do whatever he chooses ... that she wants him to take pleasure in her body. Her knee touches her breast and Jack smiles to see her long, tight expanse of muscle under his hand, under his control. His eyes run down her leg from her toes to her ass and the tight wet bed of curls waiting for him there.

His cock tightens painfully. It's time.

"Sam," he says almost too low to hear, "I'm going to fuck you so long and hard ..."

"Please ..." she whimpers. It's not like her to beg. It's a thoughtful touch.

"I'm going to use this," Jack adds, lifting the vibrator, "and you're going to love it ..."

"Don't wait," she murmurs, "I'm so ready. I need you inside me ..."

Jack leans forward, careful not to touch her skin until the head of his cock is just above her pussy. She can see it. She licks her lips. It sends a shiver of hot desire through him and Jack pushes her leg farther up, opening her to him, then penetrates her hot, willing cunt ... and stops there, waiting until Sam moans, "Please ..."

Jack grins and moves his hips, sliding another inch into her. She's tight. It's as if he didn't already fuck her twice. Her muscles clamp down on his shaft, undulating, pulsing around him. He holds still, feeling her orgasm build and he hasn't even begun. He wants to plunge in to his balls. He wants to bury himself in her. He wants to, but not yet. Not yet. It's tough, but he's a tough guy. He can take it ...

Sam's panting when Jack decides that he really can't take it ... with a grunt he shoves his cock into her, ramming it into her depths, burying himself in her, thrusting until his balls nestle against her ass, losing himself for a moment in the swift, total perfection of fucking Sam Carter. It is perfect. Her body welcomes him with hot, tight sensation along the full length of his hungry shaft.

Jack groans and stops again, trying to prolong the moment, but she pulls back and then shoves her hips against him, fucking him hard and fast.

"No, no," he growls. "I am the fucker here. You are the fuckee!" He bites her tit and then pulls back, nearly pulling out as she lifts to capture him. Inspired, Jack moves quickly, positioning the vibrator and when Sam lowers her ass to the bench there's suddenly a third factor.

"Oh!" she exclaims, but Jack thrusts deep into her cunt, driving into her and, as experience has taught him, her ass relaxes as he hits her pleasure zone. He slides the tool up her ass and hits low. The vibration rocks him, through the wall of her cunt. Carter screams and rears back, against the tool, coming violently.

"We have the technology," Jack murmurs as she wails. He closes his eyes, riding her as she rocks beneath him, torn between her desire for his cock and her need for the new sensations he's causing in her ass. Jack understands, the tool is bringing him rapidly to peak, too. He's hard and Sam's tight, thrusting body, is working him beyond the point of control.

"Now!" Sam cries, lifting Jack in her passion.

Not certain what she means, Jack grabs her other leg and lifts it up, trapping it over his shoulder. Sam cries out as he pins her to the bench on her upper back, fucking her pussy hard and fast and shifting the angle of the tool for maximum penetration. Jack gazes down into her face as she comes. She's totally out of control. Her eyes are wide and her mouth open as she gasps and cries out. Her head thrashes and her arms are pulled tight against the bonds. It's incredible to see her like this, panting under him. Jack slams in, fucking her hard and deep, feeling her body pulsing along him as he follows her down to that place where lovers go ... pounding his flesh into her, coming in a hot, grunting rush and then, finally, collapsing over her as she weeps and calls out his name.

After a few minutes, Jack stirs, opens his eyes, disentangles himself from Sam's limp arms and legs and loosens her bonds. He brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes and she moans. Jack crosses the room, pulls a couple of pillows and a blanket from the storage space over the fridge, blows out the candles and tucks Sam in without waking her. Then he settles beside her and tries to sleep, but he can't.

She's muttering something under her breath ... and it's Goa'uld.

'…Fuck...'
Chapter 18 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 18

"Pel'tak ... Shor'wai'e!" Jack repeats, running his hand back through his hair. "Rhe'u Martouf ..."

"Martouf again," George sighs.

"Yep."

Teal'c cocks his head and murmurs, "Clearly Captain Carter's memories from Jolinar remain strong."

Jack glances at his stoic friend. He bites back a snotty retort and, instead, nods.

"Yep."

"Pel'tak ..." George murmurs for the n-th time, "command center..."

"Shor'wai'e ..." Teal'c echoes, "Quickly ..."

"Rhe'u ..." George says, "... Stay back!"

"Martouf," Jack adds. "Martouf ..."

George shifts and frowns. Jack waits. Something's coming and he's not going to like it. He knows the signs.

"Excuse us, please, Teal'c," George says, "I need a private conversation with Colonel O'Neill."

Teal'c, ever gracious, nods politely, rises and departs, closing Hammond's office door behind him.

The door closes with a sharp 'click.' It's the only sound for a long, long time.

Jack waits. Hammond won't look at him. Jack's heart is hammering when General Hammond finally raises his eyes to his friend. Jack sees that his friend George has left the room. This is strictly business.

"Jack, you are cleared for P2X-555," Hammond says. His tone doesn't match the words and the hair on Jack's neck prickles.

"P2X-555?" Jack replies, lifting a brow as he stares at George Hammond's stoic face.

"That is all, Colonel ... dismissed."

Jack hesitates, not quite believing that George is kicking him out ... ignoring Sam's condition and just sending them off on another cake walk mission to some agrarian society on the backside of the galaxy's ass.

"Dis-MISSED," Hammond growls and Jack's training kicks in, bringing him to his feet, saluting and getting him out the General's door before the roof falls in, even though Jack's brain is still churning over George Hammond's complete lack of concern for Sam Carter ... Jacob's little girl.

***

Jack walks as he muses over the unsettling turn of events. Something's going on with Hammond. That much is clear. Something's going on with Carter, too. CFB. She hasn’t been sleeping well and lately he’s noticed a certain pre-occupied look in her eyes. In a woman of Sam’s mental acuity, he expects her to be distracted by innumerable brilliant thoughts, but this is different. Something’s bothering his betrothed.

'Can't do anything about George,' Jack decides, so he heads for Carter's office. He finds her at her desk with her nose in her computer, naturally.

"Whatchadoing?" he asks after a couple of minutes of watching her work.

"Oh!" she turns and grins, "I'm just running some numbers for the next mission, Sir."

"P2X..."

"-555. Yes, Sir."

Sam's eyes twinkle and Jack has to smile. She looks happy, rested and very well-satisfied with herself. He feels his cock come to half-mast as he realizes the reason for her look of obvious well-being.

"I'm heading for some coffee, Captain," Jack says. "Wanna come?"

She flushes slightly at the suggestion, catching the innocent double entendre.

"Yes, Sir. I'm feeling a little peck-ish. I can ... eat."

It's Jack's turn to blush as she grins innocently up at him. He steps back a half step and waves his hand in an elaborate half-bow.

"After you, Captain."

"And don't think I don't appreciate it, Colonel."

Jack follows Sam from her office, down the hall and into the cafeteria. It's only 10:00 and the place is deserted. Sam picks out some Jell-O and Jack snags a plate of pie, coffee and a bowl of cherries. They settle at a table in the back of the cafeteria.

As he takes his seat at her side, Jack leans close and murmurs, "How you doing, Sam?"

"Wonderful," she murmurs. Her eyes are shining.

"I've got to ask you something ... It's important."

"I already said 'Yes,'" she replies.

"Something else."

The twinkle blinks out and Sam's gone. Captain Carter looks back at him.

"What?"

"What did you dream about last night, Carter?" Jack asks gently. "Do you remember?"

Her eyes drop and she blushes. It's clear that she remembers something and she doesn't want to tell him.

"It's important, Sam," Jack repeats. "Tell me."

She looks back at him and Sam's there in her gaze - the woman he loves - and she's in trouble. Jack’s guessed right. This preoccupation has something to do which the damned Tok’ra. Jack grasps her hands, forgetting that they're in uniform, forgetting that they're sitting in view of anyone who walks by, aware only that Sam's in trouble and needs him.

"Tell me ..." he insists.

Sam tears her eyes from her hands and looks up into Jack's eyes. He's waiting. He grips her fists, squeezing until it hurts.

"Tell me."

Sam takes a deep breath and begins. “I’ve been trying to find a time to tell you … love you Jack. Only you. I've loved you for years." His brown eyes widen slightly. His pupils dilate, telling her that he's actually surprised. “From the first, Jack," she continues. He needs to understand the depth of it before she tells him the rest ... the dreams.

And she has to tell him the dreams.

"After ..." Sam begins in a whisper that Jack can hardly hear. He leans closer and grips her fists. "After Jolinar saved me …”

Jack's gut turns and he drops his fork, the pie forgotten. He's never accepted Sam's belief that the snake had done her anything but harm. It was Sam's grit and strength of spirit that pulled her through – not a damned Tok’ra.

"... I felt so alone, Jack. I'd never known such complete and utter connection ..."

Sam's voice trails off and Jack realizes he's glaring at her. He drops his eyes, feeling guilty and suddenly scared.

"... until you made love to me. You saved me. If you hadn't been there for me, Jack, I don't know what I might have ... done. Our first time, when you touched me I felt his hands, his lips, smelled him ... a man I don't even know and yet, I knew every inch of his body, the touch of his skin and ... I'm so sorry ... "

Jack fights down his alarm, wraps his arm around Sam's shoulder and pulls her close, just holding her. Finally she continues.

"After you left, I cried myself to sleep, and then ..."

"What?" he rasps past the lump in his throat.

"... the dreams began ..."

Jack waits, his heart hammering. Sam's trembling in his embrace, but he waits. He must not break the fragile balance of trust and fear that's allowing her to unburden herself of something that must be faced if they're to have a life together.

"Our first night together, the dreams came again, but only afterwards. I don't know if you can understand this. I'm not sure that I do, but Jolinar loved Lantash for hundreds of years, Jack. They occupied dozens of hosts. Martouf and I …”

Jack’s gut rebels at the phrase, the green-eyed monster unleashed.

“… were just the last of a long series of hosts and ..."

"Tell me," Jack whispers, turning his face into Carter's hair to calm his fears. "Tell me."

"My first dream was not of Lantash and Rosha. It was of two much younger hosts. I don't know their names. I only saw Martouf’s host - he was a slender black man. I saw some of Jolinar's host's body. It was pale and her hair was straight and black. They made intense, passionate love and ... it was me, Jack. I can still feel his ..."

"You said the name ‘Martouf’ in your sleep, Sam," Jack cuts her off abruptly.

"It's the only name I know ... the others have no names ... to me they’re all ‘Martouf’."

Jack closes his eyes, waiting for the other shoe to fall. After a moment, Sam's voice continues.

"I know you understand that this was not me ... these are not my memories. They're not my emotions, but Jack I still carry these memories and these emotions and they are deep and very, very ... intense... It’s not just Lantash, or any of the others. The hosts change almost every time I dream."

The silence is longer this time as Sam searches for words to explain. Jack waits, praying for words to ease the searing knot under his solar plexus. At last she says in a trembling whisper. "When you touched me, Jack, it was me and you. No one else. I swear it. But ... when I dream ..."

Jack can’t face it again. He stands abruptly and glares down at Sam. Spilled coffee spreads across the table top. It’s running off the table edge before he trusts himself to speak.

"You're having erotic dreams about dozens of men you've never met ..."

Sam looks up at him with her eyes full of tears, "Hundreds ... and it's as if I loved them, Jack, intensely ... every one of them."

"But now you love me," Jack growls his feelings a turmoil.

"Yes … No … I mean …."

Jack blinks hard, shakes his head and, with a brittle half-grin of disbelief, he turns and stalks away.

Before he reaches the corridor, klaxons resound and General Hammond's voice reverberates through the complex.

"Colonel O'Neill to the 'Gate room ... Captain Carter to the 'Gate room..."
Chapter 19 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 19

Jack stands at the base of the ‘Gate, staring up at Carter. She's working at the computer console in the Control Room. "What is she doing?" he asks Daniel.

"Uh, she said something about having to time the calculations exactly right this time of year," Daniel replies.

"This time of year?" Jack replies, "What difference does it make?"

"Oh, she said something about solar..." Daniel pauses, frowns and shrugs, "Uh, well, to be honest with you, I wasn't really paying attention."

"Really?" Jack replies, then he turns and shouts up to the Control room. "Carter?!"

She looks up and leans into the microphone, answering, "Almost there, sir. This time of year, the direct line between P2X-555 and the Earth takes us within 70,000 miles of the sun. I have to update the computer's drift calculation to include gravitational space/time warping."

Jack pauses a beat before barking, "We know that. Let's go!"

"Yes, sir," she replies but finishes the calculations as General Hammond comes down the steps and into the Control room.

"How's the hand?" Hammond asks. He reaches down and takes her right hand to inspect it. There’s still a nasty gash on her palm, running from the webbing between her thumb and forefinger to her wrist. It's been stitched and taped, but the skin around the cut is purplish and bruised.

"It's a little sore," Sam replies, afraid that Jack might have reported her untoward behavior and that the General might pull her from the mission, "but it'll be all right. Thank you, General."

"Chevron one, encoded."

General Hammond holds up a small yellow piece of paper, folded in half, and says, "Take this note along with you, Captain. Keep it in your vest pocket until you get on the other side." He hands the note to Sam before concluding, "It's fairly self-explanatory."

"Chevron two, encoded."

"Sir, is everything all right?" Carter asks him, puzzled by the odd request and his detached manner. General Hammond doesn’t meet her eyes. He stares straight ahead at the 'Gate and says simply, "Everything's fine."

"Chevron three, encoded."

"Time to ship out, Captain," Hammond notes. Carter hesitates, still puzzled, but when Hammond doesn’t react, she slips the note in her vest pocket, says "Yes, sir," and heads out of the Control room.

"Chevron four, encoded."

Carter enters the Gate room, shouldering her weapon as she comes up to the rest of SG-1.

"Chevron five, encoded."

"Ah! Done already?" Jack murmurs to Sam, who ignores him. She’s had more than her fill of strange reactions from the men of the SGC. All she wants for the moment is to get on with the mission at hand.

Jack observes the set of her jaw and her chilly demeanor. ‘She’s pissed,’ Jack realizes, fighting the urge to apologize.

From the control room, George Hammond stands beside the technician, looking down at SG-1 in the Gate room. Carter glances up to see him watching her.

"Chevron six, encoded."

"Chevron seven, locked.”

Jack and Daniel mount the metal ramp. Teal'c and Sam follow. A moment later, Jack emerges and leads them down the same ramp. The four of them step off the ramp, gazing about at disturbingly familiar surroundings. Jack turns back to stare at the Gate, until the wormhole shuts off and the Stargate fades.

"Whoa!" Jack shouts.

As the others spin around, the Gate and the wall behind it ripple for a moment and then vanish, leaving a darkened section where the wall once stood.

"Did you see that?" Jack barks as the other walls ripple and the Gate room melts away, leaving an underground launch pad.

"Uh, Jack, do you see this?" Daniel asks.

Jack glances at Daniel. Then, feeling icy fingers play across his skin, looks up into rocket engines and nozzles, not six inches overhead, and hisses, "Captain Carter, where are we?"

"I don't know, Sir," Sam replies. "For a minute there, we were back in the Gate room."

'She's still working the Physics,' Jack realizes as he walks to one side of the launch pad, trying to get a better look at the threatening machine looming over them. "You know," he observes ominously, "this looks suspiciously like the butt end of a Titan missile."

"Standing by for test burn in T-minus 20 seconds," a disembodied voice reverberates.

The whine of generators begins. At that, Jack straightens, alarmed.

"What is a 'test burn'?" Teal'c asks.

"Just what it sounds like," Jack barks as he herds Sam off the launch pad. "Any ideas here?" He calls, striding to the nearest bay door, hammering on it frantically, and shouting.

"Abort! Abort!"

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack sees Daniel jump off the launch pad, checking the perimeter of the room for a door that will open - any door. Sam's checking a series of electrical sockets ... god knows why. Teal'c remains on the launch pad, gazing up the ass-end of the missile. Having no luck with the electric sockets, Sam moves to fiddle with one of the meters nearby.

"15 seconds," the voice states.

Jack pounds viciously at a control box. No effect. He twists dials trying to affect something ... anything ... still roaring, "Abort! Abort!"

Over the sound of his shouts, the PA system voice intones, "Stand by for ignition."

Sam runs to Jack's side. He grabs her hand and pulls her close, still shouting, "Abort!" Daniel tries to tear a fuse box from the wall. Teal'c, Jack realizes, is still just standing under the missile.

"10... 9... 8... "

Teal'c looks up and activates the zatnicatel. He aims at the smoking missile above him.

"7... 6... 5... "

Daniel dives for cover, flinging his arms over his head.

"4... 3... "

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack sees Teal'c lift and fire his zat. Tendrils of blue-white energy stream over the missile. Then Jack flattens himself against the wall, pulling Sam close, covering her with his body, his back to the violently rumbling missile.

"2 ... 1. Ignition."

Nothing happens.

The shaking stops.

Jack lifts his head and sees Teal'c still standing under the missile, zat raised. Jack pauses another second. Then he whispers heartfelt thanks, before stepping away and releasing Sam from where he'd sandwiched her against the wall.

Teal'c lowers the zat.

Jack reaches out and grasps Sam's hand and squeezes it hard, conveying everything words cannot, as he stares at the deactivated missile.

Daniel scrambles to his feet and joins them. All three stare at Teal'c, dumbstruck.

"How'd you know that would work?" Jack finally asks, almost laughing with relief.

"I did not." Teal'c replies.

Jack's blood-pressure's still pounding when an industrial-strength buzzer blares. As he spins, the bay doors behind them slide open and three Marines charge into the room. "Hands on your heads!" the Sergeant in charge roars. "On your knees!"

Sam, Jack and Daniel obey. After a moment, Teal'c kneels beside them.

"Who are you and how did you get into this facility?!" the Sergeant demands.

"What facility?" Jack asks.

"Answer the fucking question!" the Jarhead shouts in his face.

'He's not foolin' around,' Jack can see from the pin-point pupils. The guy's real scared ... real pissed ... or both.

Sam hisses, "Sir, don't say ANYTHING. This IS the Gate room."

"Shut the FUCK up!" the Sergeant snarls, spinning on Carter.

"Sir," Sam persists, "We ARE still in Cheyenne Mountain."

"The NEXT person who shoots his fucking mouth off gets this," the Sergeant barks, thrusting the butt of his weapon at Sam. "Is that clear?!"

"Take them to the holding room," a disembodied voice orders.

"Yes, Sir," the Sergeant replies.

"NO, take me to your CO," Jack interjects.

Without a second warning, the Marine slams his rifle butt into Jack's face. The blow throws Jack back. His last vision is Sam crouching over him, her eyes wide with alarm.

***

"I'm fairly certain that we've traveled back in time," Sam says, "roughly about thirty years."

Jack looks up at her. She's in full 'lecture mode' and it makes him feel unbelievably tired. His head feels like that damned Jarhead tried to tear it off. Still, Jack tries to concentrate. The strained look in Carter's eyes warns him that he NEEDS to pay close attention ... he needs to get this.

"For a second or two," she continues, obviously thinking aloud, "I think we were in both time-frames simultaneously, which is why the Stargate seemed to be there one minute and was gone the next."

Jack sighs, "Little bump in the calculations, Captain?"

"I'm sorry, Sir," Sam says, "I don't know what to say."

"Well," Jack says, "I'll tell you what. Get us back home and we'll say it never happened." He drops his head into his hands, clenching his teeth as Daniel quips, "Or get us back before we left and it won't happen."

Jack lifts his aching eyes from his hands. Sam and Teal'c stare at Daniel who's getting pretty wound up.

"Well, think about it," he exclaims. "We're the first people in human history to go back in time, well ... for all we know. If we could figure out how to do this again, just think of what we could do! We could actually visit Babylon, we could ... we could ... we could ... see the Great Wall of China being built."

"Or prevent regrettable events from your history from ever occurring," Teal'c murmurs.

"No!"Sam interrupts, "That's exactly what we CAN'T do."

"Why not?" Jack says. There are a few hundred mistakes he'd gladly erase from his life.

"Because of the grandfather paradox," Sam says. She stares at him as if he's supposed to be following her, but Jack stares back, until she huffs and expands on her cryptic statement. "If you went back fifty years and murdered your own grandfather, your own father would never have been born."

"So you're saying that if we change our own past," Jack says, really trying to figure it out, but his head's pounding and Sam's not making much sense, "... ummm."

"We could change our world in ways that we can't possibly imagine," Sam cuts in. "We might even cease to exist, along with everything and everyone we know."

Teal'c states, "I myself have no part in the history of your world."

"But, when they find out about the Goa'uld threat," Sam says, "they might have second thoughts about opening the Stargate in the first place. In which case, we never meet ... and you're back to being First Prime of Apophis."

"I see."

So ... we don't tell them about the Goa'uld," Daniel says.

"How do we explain the larval Goa'uld that Teal'c is carrying?" Sam interjects. "Our advanced weapons, our GDO's?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, Captain,” Jack says, "but ... haven't we altered history already just by being here?"

"We have to concentrate on damage control," Sam replies. "At the very least, destroy our advanced weapons and technology."

"That's going to be a little tough," Jack says.

Sam adds, "We also cannot tell anyone anything about who we are or where we're from." She holds up her SGC patch and raises her eyebrows significantly.

"This is a top secret facility,” Jack notes. "Anonymity does not go over big here." He's already demonstrated for the class what happens when these guys don't get their way.

Sam repeats, "We CANNOT tell them we're from the future, sir. Even if it means ..."

The sound of the cell door lock stops her in mid-sentence. Two armed guards enter. Jack sizes them up, noticing that they're locked and loaded. An officer enters. He's wearing no insignia, and Jack smells 'Intelligence' as he approaches Daniel.

"Soviet spiloten?" he demands in Russian.

Daniel shakes his head and says, "Nyet."

Jack stands and says, "Daniel?"

"He just asked if we were Soviet spies," Daniel explains. "I just ..."

Daniel stops, realizing his error. Jack gives him a look, unable to believe this one.

The Intelligence Officer gestures to Jack. "Come with me."

Jack sighs, glances at Danny and says, "Sure. You bet." As he walks out door, he mutters to himself, "Nyet?"

***

The cuffs bite into Jack's wrists as the van swerves along tree-lined back country roads. He catches glimpses of shadows on the road through the narrow gaps between thick metal bars on the van’s security windows.

Jack glances to one side at Teal'c and Danny. They lift their eyes without changing expression. The guard watches every move. Jack drops his gaze, but leans against Sam as the van speeds through another tight curve, unbalancing slightly.

Jack concentrates, despite the pounding in his head, and tries to think what to do.

'I can't just sit on my ass ...' Jack decides. Maybe the future will be changed, but he's here ... she's here ... now. Now.

"Listen," he murmurs, "... I don't know where we're headed, but they'll probably split us up. So we won't have much time to ..."

"Escape and hopefully live out the rest of our lives without affecting history," Sam murmurs back.

"Or...?" Jack chides.

"I can't think of an 'or' at the moment, Sir," Sam hisses.

"No 'or'?" Daniel interjects softly. He looks scared as hell.

"There's an 'or'," Jack insists softly, trying not to alarm the kid with the M-16.

"There's an 'or'?" Daniel directs to Sam.

"Sir," she responds, "you can't just will something to happen because you want it to be a certain way."

"Captain," Jack replies, sounding far more self-assured than he feels, "where there's a will, there's an 'or' ... Way..."

"If I remain on this planet," Teal'c offers, "I will eventually be taken over by my mature symbiote."

'If Carter's right ... and when isn't she?...' Jack considers, 'We can't DO anything. But if we don't ... Fuck.'

He shudders slightly, knowing that unless they act, they'll be either shot or imprisoned for life. Deals had been made during the early years of the Cold War, he knows, for the exchange of Soviet spies. Unfortunately, the deals involved REAL Soviet operatives. Despite evidence to the contrary, they aren't Soviet spies. They're fucked. No one will care if they're shot or locked up ... forever.

Only slightly more worrisome, Jack decides with a guilty twinge, is the fact that Carter's absolutely right. There's the future to consider. People they know and love. Their world. Their timeline. Still, that larval Goa'uld in Teal'c's belly will be noticed sooner rather than later. It's a miracle that no one bothered to strip search them, yet. At the end of this lovely country drive, however, Jack's pretty sure things will become very, very thorough. He's never yet been incarcerated without a pretty good look into every cavity a human body can offer to inquisitive minds. At that juncture the ideal outcome of 'living our out lives without affecting History' as Sam phrased it, evaporates like a fart in high wind.

Jack leans against Sam. Her heat penetrates, bringing a surge of painful desire and fear. After a few moments her body against his calms him. He focuses. Things will change, whether he acts now or not. Better to try.

His mind made up, Jack turns toward the guard, grinning, about to make his move when, suddenly, there's a sharp sound of decompression. The van tips, throwing Jack hard against the metal wall of the tilting van. Carter's tossed against him. He pulls her close, trying to shield her as the van careens violently.

Teal'c and Daniel are flung onto the floor and the guard falls hard. Jack's moving, jumping for the guard's weapon, then the van shifts again flinging him off balance. He crashes down, scrambling for the butt of the rifle, but the guard's pulled it back and is crab walking backwards, lifting the weapon, as tires scream.

Forward motion stops suddenly. Jack's thrown backwards. When he lifts his head from the floor, he's gazing up the barrel of the M-16 into the eyes of a very young, very scared Lance Corporal.

"Easy, Son," he murmurs as the kid's trigger-finger tightens.

A tense moment passes before a door slams. Keys rattle in the door lock. Jack eases back onto the bench, nursing a bruised knee. Daniel and Teal'c follow suit. The door swings open and light shines in as someone shouts, "I'll keep an eye. You help the driver ..."

Jack turns toward the voice and asks, "Flat tire?"

***

Another truck rumbles toward them. Jack grins as Sam cocks her hip and sticks out her thumb ... and her chest. The truck whizzes by and Sam crosses her arms in disgust.

"Sir!" she growls stalking away from the roadside to scramble down the berm into the ditch beside him. Jack grins and shakes his head, murmuring, "Don't know what they're missing ..."

Teal'c has been watching and, as another vehicle appears in the distance, climbs up the steep slope, stands for a moment and then steps into the path of the on-coming, multi-hued bus. Jack straightens, alarmed as Teal'c raises his arms, but the bus slows and then stops.

"C'mon," Jack urges Sam. Daniel follows and, in less than a minute, they've trundled onto the bus after convincing the driver, Michael, that they're on the lam from 'The Man.'

Jack claims the back bench of the bus and stretches out, resting his head on his arm and flinging the other arm across his eyes. His head still feels like a bomb blew between his ears. He closes his eyes and lets the rattle and sway of the ancient bus rock him to sleep.

Two hours later, Jack wakes with a snort. The bus has stopped and Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c are following Michael and ... whatever her name is ... off the bus. Jack rolls to his feet, groans, and staggers after them. Michael pumps gas while the rest head for the head. Jack follows Danny into the Men's Room, grinning at the multi-hued bandana tied across Teal'c's forehead to cover his golden seal of Apophis.

Sam has disappeared into the Ladies' Room, following the dark-eyed young woman from the bus. By the time Jack washes his throbbing head and re-emerges from the toilet, they're nowhere in sight. His stomach rumbles as he passes a rack of steaming hot dogs. Without money, Jack passes them by, steps into the light beyond the door, and gazes around wondering where Sam's disappeared to.

"Over here," he hears and turns to see a young blond woman in a full peasant skirt, funky jacket and pink-tinted specs waving at him.

"Whoa," Jack murmurs, realizing it's Sam Carter.

"We should change our ... look," Sam explains as Jack closes the distance.

"Nice look," Jack murmurs, earning a blush and a brilliant smile. "What do we do about cash?"

"I swapped my gear," Sam says. "Turns out Velcro is ... new."

"How new?"

"Not that new," Sam replies handing over a wad of bills, "It was invented in 1948 by George de Mestral."

"...And this is?..." Jack asks, gazing around for a clue.

"1969, Sir."

Jack's head spins as he realizes he's actually travelled back in time ... for real ... but he shoots Sam a wicked grin.

"Groovy."

Jack accepts a wad of bills that Sam passes to him. He selects a whipped leather jacket, a pair of worn blue jeans and a t-shirt, but keeps his boots. On a whim he snags a strangely designed hat, tosses a five dollar bill on the counter and follows Sam out of the second-hand store to join Michael as he finishes pumping gas into the ancient, multihued bus. Jack can't help but appreciate the sway of Sam's hips in the loose-fitting Indian skirt she'd chosen. It makes a real change from her usual conservative clothing.

"So," Jenny asks, coming close and looking up at Jack with her wide brown eyes, "are you and Sam together?"

"So it shows," Jack replies, feeling a thrill, "Then ... I guess we are."

He catches up to Sam and grabs her hand, pulling her around to face him.

"I’m an idiot,” he says, “I don't care about the dreams. All I know is I love you, Sam."

Later that night, Jack watches Sam drinking tea across the flickering campfire, as they discuss their upcoming 'mission.' He toys with the idea of telling the others his plan, but doesn't.

It's too risky.

Daniel is sure to object. With Michael and Jenny within earshot, this is no place for an argument about time travel, interplanetary transportation and whether or not Sam's Tok’ra-induced disability can be cured.

Despite all that, Jack feels he's making the right move. Or maybe he's just praying he's right and grabbing the only chance he's got. Either way, there's no other option he reminds himself as the firelight dances on Sam’s lovely face, reflected in the odd pink-lensed glasses she wears.

Sam's getting worse, not better. Her sleep is more disturbed, her outbursts more vocal and unsettling. So, in a twist of fate, this fucked-up mission is a blessing, Jack's decided. If Sam returns to the SGC in her present condition, she'll be off the team. Jack knows from his years in Special Ops that, once a warrior loses the official confidence of those in charge, he ... or she ... is as good as gone. It happened to him following Charlie's death. It was a miracle that Jack made it back inside that very closed circle of top secret military operations. No other black ops warrior he’d known had, once out, ever won a second chance. This is Sam's miracle. If he doesn't act, she'll return to the SGC, undergo test after test until the white coats find what it takes to jerk her security clearance. She'll be relegated to some low-risk function, probably in high powered research. As much as Jack yearns for Sam to be safe, always there for him, it's a selfish impulse. Gazing across the fire at her, he squelches it. She's a warrior. She deserves better from him. So, Jack sips his tea and waits for tomorrow to come. By tomorrow night, he feels certain, he'll finally be able to give Sam what she needs ... at last.

Aside from a couple of close calls with Michael and Jenny, over the next two days, and Sam's disconcerting tendency to murmur Goa'uld in her sleep all night, the rest of the insertion goes like clockwork. The DC recon is a breeze. Teal'c and Jack confirm that the note from George Hammond does, in fact, provide the precise time of solar flares. Daniel and Sam pry the location of the Stargate out of an unsuspecting middle-aged Catherine. Everything falls into place. It's almost enough to make Jack believe in the possibility of a benevolent higher power.

Finally, it’s just an hour till the next flare. Jack shakes Michael's hand, smiles at Jenny and, as he watches the rattle trap bus disappear from sight, Jack feels a fatalistic calm settle over him. Jack leads the infiltration into the Armory. It's incredibly easy. Jack sidles into the building, zats a guard and signals for Daniel and Teal'c to open the crate. They scramble aloft and unlatch the latches, dropping the sides of the crate to reveal the gate inside.

While they work, Jack glances at Carter. She's busy interlinking several half-ton diesel trucks. He helps, climbing into one truck after another. By the time he's fired the engines, she tosses the jumper cables to Teal'c who hooks them to the power interlink on base of the 'Gate.

"Better not tell the Appropriations Committee that this was an option," Jack murmurs as the 'Gate flickers to life.

"Where to?" he calls to Sam.

"Back the way we came," she replies, "via P2X-555."

"Wait a minute," Daniel protests, "how do you know we'll go forward in time instead of back?"

"Well," Sam replies, getting that far away look in her eyes that Jack knows so well, "General Hammond must have chosen flares on the opposite side of the sun this time, so the sun's rotational differential will send us forward instead of back."

Daniel shakes his head and begins to argue, but before Jack can interrupt, Sam does it for him. "Look, we just have to trust General Hammond. I mean, the point is, we are fifteen minutes away from the only chance we are going to get at this."

Daniel stares hard at him and Jack feels a rush of regret. This decision is right, he knows, but it's not easy to say good-bye to his best friend ... without a word of farewell.

"C'mere," Jack murmurs, pulling Daniel close in an impulsive hug. He holds his friend close, and grins as Daniel returns the hug, without knowing what the hell's going on.

Jack stands away and smiles. "For luck," he murmurs.

Daniel looks at him with a puzzled expression, but nods. They turn and duck behind crates when a guard runs in. Teal'c enters the 'Gate address, manually by spinning the outer ring of the Gate, as Jack crouches low, keeping up a steady pattern of shots to pin the guard down until the final chevron locks and the Gate activates.

"We have GOT to go!" Jack shouts. Return shots are fired, but Jack scrambles up, fires and zats one of the guards, who falls.

"Sir, the timing has to be exact," Sam shouts. "Just a few more seconds."

Jack slaps Teal'c on the shoulder.

"Close enough," he shouts. "Go!" "Wait! Trust me, Carter."

She crouches, half standing and clearly impatient. "Timing has got to be exact," she shouts over the crack of return pistol fire. Jack turns and looks up into her eyes.

"I know, Sam ..." he says. "... and that is why we're going to wait."

Sam’s prepared when Jack snaps, "Now," she springs up, races for the 'Gate and flings herself headlong into the pool of blue plasma. Jack's right on her heels. A moment before the wormhole blinks out, he jumps.

On the other side, Jack finds himself in the Gate room at the SGC. The room is empty, quiet and dark.

Sam stands and offers Jack a hand, pulling him to his feet. "Auntie Em? Auntie Em?" he murmurs softly. Sam ignores the joke and says, "Where is everyone?"

An old woman enters the room. She’s dressed in a long, flowing gown of filmy material that reminds Jack of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. The elderly woman pauses and smiles. "Hello, Jack."

"Do we know you?" Jack asks, dusting his hands off on the back of his pants.

"Sam will recognize me," the old woman replies with a smile, turning to Sam, she motions. "Come closer."

"Oh my God. Cassandra!"

"Dear Sam," Cassandra replies, smiling broadly.

"Excuse me. Who is this?" Jack says, frowning.

"Cassandra," Sam answers.

Jack shakes his head and says," Cassie's thirteen years old."

"Not anymore, Jack. I've been expecting you, my whole life, in fact. You entered the Stargate a few seconds too late, so the flare threw you far into the future. I've come to send you back where you belong."

"How'd you know we'd come?" Jack asks, stepping closer and staring down into Cassis' eyes.

"When I was old enough to understand, Jack," Cassie replies, "Sam explained what happened, and that I'd be the one to send you home."

"A self-fulfilling prophecy." Sam says.

"As much as I would love to spend more time with you, the timing must be precise. You have to go."

"Already? But there's so much that you...." Sam begins.

"No," Jack interrupts.

"You of all people know I can't," Cassie protests, placing her hands on Jack's chest. He reaches over and grasps Sam's hand in a tight grip. "We're not going back yet, Cass," he replies gently. "We came here for a reason. I brought Sam here for a reason. Sam needs time ... and help ... and you're going to give us all she needs of both ..."

"... Aren't you ..."
Chapter 20 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 20

Jack grasps Sam's hand as they step back through the 'Gate. A last glance over his shoulder and he sees Cassie's hand lift in farewell. It had been touch-and-go for what seemed like hours, while Cassie left them alone, locked in the darkened 'Gate room, and pled their case to 'the others.' Whoever the hell they were. At last, she returned with a smile and permission to travel to one of several 'Gates on worlds that had no contact with Earth or with any of Earth's allies.

And so, they're on their way. A moment later, they emerge in a green, fertile terrain. The local sun hangs low in the sky and the gently sloping grasslands roll away to dark, dense forests, already black in the twilight.

Sam hesitates, but Jack strides forward down the steps and shouts, "Hello!"

"They're not going to show themselves," Sam says. "They think we're too young..."

"Pish tosh," Jack replies. "It's been ages. They've had time to think it over. Besides ... we need them."

As much as he needs them, Jack strolls away from the 'Gate, still holding Sam's hand. "Beautiful," he murmurs, "Isn't it?"

"Yeah," Sam replies, glancing at Jack's rump.

"Shaddup!" Jack growls, grinning, but he pulls her around and wraps his arms around her. "Cassie was able to defeat their 'Gate lock-thingy, Sam."

"So?"

"You think they'd have let her if they weren't ... curious?"

With that, and feeling like there's at least a chance of being right, Jack starts across the grassy field, whistling softly.

Then, with an audible sigh, Sam follows him into the gathering gloom.

***

Jack walks at a leisurely pace. He leads Sam across the gently sloping grassland and, as dark becomes complete, reaches the edge of the dense forest. He's not trying to get anywhere in particular. He's just moving for the sake of something to do, other than stare at Sam and face her inevitable barrage of questions. Instead, he's decided to try to keep her occupied and to keep things light until the Nox decide to show themselves.

Strange calls sound from the forest interior, setting Jack's neck hairs on end. The cries are probably Fenri, massive winged beasts, indigenous to this planet. Though they keep mostly to themselves, Jack recalls that the Goa'uld enjoyed the sport of hunting the beasts and, when cornered, Fenri attack.

Jack raises his eyes to the towering trees. A sprinkling of stars dances at the end of the converging spires. He rubs his eyes and then glances at Sam, wondering if he's made a mistake.

"No Nox," Sam states wrapping her arms around her chest. She looks cold. She's removed her pink-tinted sunglasses, but the rest of her garb is equally unsuited to the falling temperatures.

Jack pulls off his leather jacket and tosses it to her. "Put it on," he says, turning to scan the field they'd just crossed.

"I've got a jacket," Sam protests.

"Don't argue," Jack replies and then continues, "C'mon," and plunges into the rank edge of the forest. They push through dense undergrowth. Jack listens for the cry of Fenri. High-pitched screams sound off to their left and then echo and re-echo in the darkness. The screams are still far away, but Jack slows, waiting for Sam to close-up, feeling the need to have her close enough to touch. She joins him, slows and then stops.

"What?" she asks in a hushed voice, leaning closer.

"Nothing in particular," Jack replies. "Just ..." He stops talking as Sam's cool fingers grip his hand. She snuggles close and he wraps his arm around her.

"We've gone far enough," he murmurs turning to face her. Sam sighs and her breath brushes his skin. Jack shivers deliciously, slipping his hands inside the leather jacket and under her short hippie jacket to grasp the folds of her peasant shirt. He pulls it free from her wide belt and finds her warm soft skin. She groans as his fingers explore the narrow width of her lower back.

Sam's hands find the front of his t-shirt, slip under his belt and then into the front of his jeans. "Mmmm," he moans as her fingertips press lower. Jack bends forward, pulling away for a moment, and then leads her down into a bank of fern fronds.

Sam reclines in the ferns. The scent of crushed greenery fills the night air. Jack drops beside her on their improvised bed, seeking her skin and finding that Sam's already wriggled out of the heavy leather jacket and the short felted jacket. He runs his hands down her loose peasant shirt and discovers acres of bare leg below the shirt hem. She's dropped her long flouncy skirt and is wearing only the filmy muslin shirt.

Jack pulls off his t-shirt and is immediately rewarded with the brush of Sam's hot lips against his icy skin. He leans over her, relishing the feel of her and the mingling of crushed fronds with her warm, female scent. She presses against him. Jack rolls back, letting Sam take the lead. She leans over him, kisses him firmly on the mouth, and moves down his jaw to tease the soft, ticklish skin just below his earlobe.

"Mmmm," he breathes softly. Her fingers trace across his bare ribs to his belt. Jack lifts, uncomfortable inside his suddenly too-tight blue jeans. Sam's deft fingers open his belt buckle and then unzip his fly. She slides his jeans down, then grasps the base of his cock.

"You want this," she murmurs, beginning to pump, "You ready?"

"Very," Jack answers, even though his hard cock proves he's more than ready.

Sam kisses him thoroughly, sending shivers from his lips to his toes. He lifts his hips against her hand and her grip tightens.

"Ready," she murmurs again.

"Oh yeah," Jack sighs, surrendering to the growing urgency inspired by her eager touch.

Jack rolls toward her, pressing her leg back into the ferns, bringing his cock into rough contact with her pussy. She moans and he presses his full weight down on her, pushing the head of his cock into her fur. She moans louder and grips his ass. Jack thrust into her, kissing her collarbone, nuzzling her as he rocks his hips, seeking her slit.

Sam arches under him, opening to him and Jack enters her in a swift, sure thrust. As he slides into her, he bites her neck - a move she clearly relishes - earning a sharp gasp and erotic moan.

"We ..." she tries to reply, but Jack drives into her again, deep and hard, and her words melt into throaty, sexy sounds. As he pulls back, Jack bites her jaw. Then he thrusts again, burying himself deep. He pulls back again. This time, sucking her earlobe and running his hand up her side, finding her right breast under the filmy cotton shirt. He grasps and kneads gently, closing his fingers around her and teasing her nipple in time with his thrusts. Sam's groans gain urgency and her body becomes tight and tense under him, moving in tandem to his hungry thrusts.

"Sexy," he growls, "so ... hot and ... sexy ..." punctuating each word with a thrust. "You need .... a good ... hard ... fuck ..."

"Fuck ...," she gasps and Jack runs his hands down to grip her ass, pulling her up as he rams harder and faster, grunting softly now with the effort.

"Fuuuuck," she moans, grasping his bare ass with both hands and grinding her cunt against him. Her body is pulsing and Jack concentrates on matching her rhythm.

"Fuuuu ...." Sam groans, her word a moan as he drives into her harder and deeper.

Jack bites his lower lip, concentrates on maintaining his stroke, while Sam's body thrusts eagerly to meet him. He's gasping now, sweating and trembling with excitement and exertion, while she pulls him against her harder and faster.

"Ffff ..." Sam cries, "Oh, ffffuuuuckkkk!"

Jack runs one hand down to the small of her back and presses her body tight against him, while running his other hand up inside her shirt to her bare breast. He nuzzles through the thin fabric and is rewarded with a spike in tension, as Sam tips into full-blown orgasm. He bites her nipple through the cotton, teasing and squeezing. She cries out. "Fuck me, Jack!" Her body seems hell-bent on sucking his cock dry.

Jack responds, moving faster and deeper, grunting with the effort as he rides her orgasm. The pressure is almost painful, but still he doesn't come. 'Not yet. Not yet. Not ....'

"Uggghhh," Jack barks and he tumbles into the delicious void of sensation and desire.

***

"Hal mek!" Sam murmurs.

Jack stirs in the damp ferns and listens, holding her close. "Hal mek!" she repeats, pushing him away. "Gonach!!"

An angry cry sounds directly overhead and Jack opens his eyes, fully aware of the presence of Fenri ... close. He scans the trees, looking for the source of the scream. Movement overhead confirms the location of the Fenri.

"Sam," Jack murmurs, shaking her, "Shhh. Easy." When he feels her stiffen, he hisses, "Three o'clock," Jack murmurs in Carter's hair.

She moves slightly and freezes, cognizant of danger and sensible enough to await his assessment.

"Fenri," Jack repeats, unsure just when Sam woke.

"If it doesn't see us," Sam murmurs, still remaining motionless.

"Yeah," Jack murmurs softly, "... except it's not just a Fenri. I see a nest." There's a crashing as something plummets through the thick weave of branches overhead. A knob of bone, the partial joint from some freshly killed creature, crashes beside them.

"Yeah," Jack murmurs after a moment. " About that ... I'd say that they are right over us."

"Oh ..."

***

A rush of leathery wings and a bow sways as if a great weight has landed, bending it against the moonlit sky. "There," Jack murmurs.

"I didn't see it," Sam replies in a hushed whisper. "Neither did I," Jack mutters, "but it's up there alright."

Snapping, tearing and crunching sounds filter down from the nest. Jack shudders as remnants of Fenri table scraps crash into the underbrush all around them. "Uggghhh," Sam hisses as a large, rank bone lands in their fern bed, barely missing Jack's head.

"Mmmm," Jack murmurs in a noncommittal reply. Still he scrambles away. The bone stinks of death. It had been ripe when the Fenri began to feed. Voracious as they seem to be, Fenri are not efficient eaters. Significant clumps of half-rotted meat still cling to the obscenely pale bone.

"I know," Jack agrees, pulling her close and burying his nose in her hair, "that's also why we can't move ..."

"Right."

"Right ..."

Another shower of debris rains down. Sam shakes her head trying to remove bits of Fenri crumbs without catching the creatures' attention.

"Not until ...?" she adds hopefully.

"I'm still working on that part."

"Well work faster ..." Sam adds, snuggling against him. Jack suspects she prefers his scent to the odorous scraps that are pelting down from above. "... or we'll be next on their grocery list."

"Right."

***

Dawn is approaching when Jack hears the heavy sound of wing beats and the high, piercing squeal of something large and young. It’s the Fenri nestling begging for food. It's cries become insistent as the wing beats fade, then the screams abruptly stop.

Sam groans and murmurs in her sleep. Jack pulls her into his arms, hugging her icy skin against his chest. It's still cool and, despite the double jackets, Sam's wearing a thin shirt and light cotton skirt. Definitely the wrong gear for a mission.

There's no reply but the wrenching sound as the human's strength dissolves. He drops to the sleeping bench, buries his head in his hands, and weeps, shoulders heaving.

The Nox turns and leaves, but then he pauses. Listening, he feels the whisper of something old ... far older than the Nox ... as old as pain, as old as death ... something truly ancient and almost forgotten.

***

Nafrayu runs through the forest. A brilliant green and yellow geirfalki flashes amid the undergrowth and the boy squirms and wriggles among the thick-growing tangle of young trees, barely keeping the bird in sight.

The stand of young trees has sprung up from the otherwise park-like forest floor as a result of the death of a forest giant. The gnarled trunk lies at an angle across its smaller neighbors. Many were snapped or fractured by its fall. A few continue to sprout new growth, creating weird shapes with humped backs and reaching fingers that remind Nafrayu of the mythical characters his father speaks of at the nightly fire.

The stand slows him and, quick as a flash of lightening, the geirfalki wings away. Nafrayu mounts the giant trunk, standing on tip toes to see the bird's colors against the sky. Then, his mission to obtain a feather for his collection thwarted, the young Nox hops off the trunk and, with a cry, grabs his foot.

Blood trickles between his fingers and the boy bites his lip, then wincing looks at the gash. It's small and the blood is already slower. He wipes his hand across it and takes a tentative step. Then something catches his eye among the forest litter.

Something shiny and pink.

Nafrayu picks up the strange object. It's unlike anything he's ever seen. The boy smiles, delighted. Although it's not a geirfalki feather, it's as pretty. He lifts it to the sun and squints through the tinted glass. Everything looks rosy. He balances his treasure on his nose, hooks the metal loops over his ears and trots back through the forest to show his father.

Nafrayu races into the glade, breathless with excitement. "Father!" he calls, running into their hut. It's empty, so he races back into the sun dappled glade. "Father!!" he calls again.

"They're not here."

Nafrayu gasps and turns, startled by the human's presence. In his excitement he’d forgotten their guest. Nafrayu stares at the tall, dark-eyed man, wondering what has made him so sick. Dark smears under his eyes make them look even darker in his pale, drawn face.

The man stares back at him and then, to Nafrayu's alarm, races forward and grabs him by the shoulder. "Where did you get those!" the man roars, plucking the treasure from the boy's face."Where!!"

Too startled to speak, Nafrayu squirms away from the man's grasp and flees back into the forest.

Jack doesn't notice the boy has gone. He stands staring at Sam's rose-tinted glasses. Fresh tears burn hot trails down his face as he holds them, his gaze fixed on the smear of blood across one of the lenses.

***

"I'm going ... step aside," Jack growls.

"You haven't eaten for two days," Anteaus responds. "At least eat before you go."

"You're not going to argue?"

"No," Anteaus replies. "You are our guest, not our prisoner Jack O'Neill. I hoped we could ease your grief, but it's clear your companion is lost to you. It is equally clear that you must ease your pain in your own way ... in your own time."

Jack reaches for the food and Anteaus smiles as the human begins to eat. Then he turns and leaves the human alone with his grief.

***

For seven days, Anteaus wondered if he'd made a mistake by resurrecting Jack O'Neill. The man was recently dead when discovered, otherwise assistance wouldn't have been an option. His wounds were clearly the work of Fenri. Anteaus determined that the attack hadn't been provoked. There were no weapons on the human.

'A simple matter of Fenri predation, then,' Anteaus had determined. As such, he felt responsible for the death of the human. Nox had for ages provided Fenri with invisibility in order to thwart the perverse Goa'uld habit of hunting the great, fierce beasts.

Occasionally, as a result, innocents fell to the Fenri and the Nox repaired them, even giving them life, whenever possible. It wasn't until later that they learned of the human's lost companion, not until it was far too late to do any good.

So Anteaus had done nothing to search for the other's remains. At least not until yesterday. Upon returning, he'd found the human on his knees in the sunlight, a pair of broken glasses cradled in his hands. The human confirmed that they'd belonged to his companion, 'Sam.' Anteaus remembered the female. She had been petite, with hair of shining gold and intelligent eyes. She'd been resurrected after dying in an ambush by Goa'uld troops.

After learning the details, Anteaus had questioned Nafrayu. Then, together with Lya, and Ohper, he had immediately returned to the site of the fallen trees. They searched all areas of high likelihood, starting at the massive half-dead giant. They'd found a temporary nest, little more than a few sticks in the high notch where a fledgling might feed or rest between practice flights. O'Neill's broken body had been discovered by Lya under one such tree some distance away.

Hopeful, Anteaus had examined every inch of ground between the trees. He found only the cracked and broken bones of indigenous species ... nothing as exotic as a human's bones among the Fenri leavings. He'd continued the search by striking out from the fallen tree in several directions, using his eleven keen senses to discern the presence and activities of Fenri. Though he'd encountered several dozen adults and even more fledglings, there were no indications that any had carried off Samantha Carter.

Still, she was gone ... almost certainly dead. Clearly, the human believed she was lost to him. He didn't speak of her, not after his first sudden demands to see her ... followed by the gut-wrenching realization ... but his silent pain communicated far more than words.

Seeing the man's unabated pain from that moment onward, Anteaus had conferred with Lya and Ohper. All agreed that the human male would be better off without the pain and guilt of his recent memories. Anteaus had explained that Nox can remove pain, including mental anguish, selectively. He urged the human to consider this option.

The human refused.

Anteaus had suspected the human would prefer knowledge and pain to forgetting his mate. In some ways he was eerily like the Ancients that Anteaus had known. In other ways, the man was unique ... disturbingly so. An Ancient would make conscious use of his mental powers, exhibit more self control, less passion and far greater patience. By comparison, this human was feral. Like an Ancient raised by wolves. His intelligence was almost instinctive by contrast. He demanded instant action, immediate results, and planned no further than the next confrontation.

Or so it had seemed at first.

Over the week during which Anteaus observed him, however, the man gave the Nox reason to pause. Anteaus, who'd known the greatest leaders of the Ancient world, saw depths to the human that mystified him.

Had the human changed so much in so little time? Or had Anteaus failed to note the signs on his first encounter with this brash warrior race? Either way, he observed the man now - in the depths of despair - and sensed dimensions unheard of among the inhabitants of Terra ... at least not for a hundred thousand millennia.

Not since Annihilation.
Chapter 21 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 21

Jack stares at the wall of the hut as the shadows move gradually across the tightly twisted weave of bark and leaves. He wipes his eyes. They're dry and sore. He hurts, but welcomes the pain.

'Serves me right,' he thinks, biting his knuckle until he tastes blood. He'd somehow forgotten ... It seems impossible, but the pain of losing Charlie - of being the reason for his son's death - had actually faded. The desire for payback ... an almost undeniable need to put the cold steel of his 9 mm inside his mouth and pull the trigger ... had eased and then, somewhere along the way, had been replaced by renewed interest in the lives of his people and eventually in hope.

'Are we going to have to arm-wrestle?' The sweet memory brings the sudden sting of fresh tears. Jack rubs his salt-raw eyes and feels that urge for pay-back gnaw at him. He shifts, glazing around the hut, then realizes he's still dressed in grubby blue jeans and a white t-shirt and he remembers.

'This wasn't a mission ... No weapons.'

"Crap," he murmurs. The word cracks like a rusty hinge. He stands, leaning heavily against the sleeping bench that has been his Universe for ... "How long?" he asks the emptiness.

'Too damned long,' he thinks. Jack turns and stumbles through the low doorway into the blinding brightness beyond.

Anteaus hears the heavy sounds and turns to see the human stagger from the hut, lifting his hands to his eyes. Half-blinded, and obviously still weak, the man careens across the glade. He's nearly at the edge of the forest when Anteaus calls out. "Where are you going?"

"Back," comes the harsh bark.

"You can't find the way back without help, Jack O'Neill," Anteaus calls, trotting to catch up to the long-legged human.

"Then help," the man rasps.

Content to follow, Anteaus lets the human lead the way. Amazingly, through a tangle of forest, across a confusion of gullies, slopes and false trails, they head almost directly toward the Nox 'Gate. It's something Anteaus would take for granted from a being of an older race. But this being is, to all outward appearances, merely a human. Alert for other cues, Anteaus follows. It's not difficult. In his depleted state, the man can barely manage. The sun is almost at the horizon again when the steps to the 'Gate appear on a slight rise ahead.

"You wish to leave us?" Anteaus asks. It comes out more as a statement of fact.

The man halts and turns, fixes him with haunted eyes sunken in a pale face and, to Anteaus' shock, says: "Thank you for trying ..."

"I wish we could have done more for you, Jack O'Neill."

"...For trying to find her. Please ..."

"What?" Anteaus blurts, but the man has turned away. He's moving with greater speed now and Anteaus trots to keep up. "What were you going to ask of us?" he calls as the man presses symbols, dialing the Stargate. The 'Gate erupts behind him, as Jack O'Neill turns and answers.

"...If you find her ... remains, Anteaus, send her home."

Something in the words - or behind the words - make the Nox tremble and he knows. He hasn't saved Jack O'Neill from death after all. He's delayed it for eight grievous days. Anteaus watches the broken human climb the four wide stone steps, stumble into the shimmering plasma and disappear. Even after the man is gone, he stands staring into the wide blue pool of energy. Then, with a zip, the Stargate closes. Still, Anteaus stands, staring as night deepens and the calls of the Fenri echo across his world.

Finally, with a shudder, the Nox turns and heads back to his hut, feeling tired and far too old.

***

A small triangular chip glows on a panel. The monitor reaches out, depresses a touch pad and speaks.

"Dr. Frasier, there's activity in the ... um ... the 'Gate Room.'"

"I'll go and meet them, Sammi," Cassandra's disembodied voice replies.

"Of course," Dr. Samantha O'Neill-Jackson sighs, turning back to her analysis of the groundbreaking 21st Century work of her mother, the legendary Colonel Carter. "Go ... Meet ... Greet ... and then send them back to where I'll come from ..." Sammi runs her hand through sandy silver hair, growls softly and then pinches the bridge of her nose. Suddenly the analysis that had fascinated her moments before had lost all allure. Her parents - both of them heroes of such Universal acclaim that, at age 50, she'd only recently outgrown her awe of them - were even now stepping through the Ancient Stargate and materializing in the mothballed 'Gate room' where it all began more than a lifetime ago ...

"For cryin' out loud," Sammi murmurs and turns away from the screen. She stands, brushes her gauzy wrap, self-consciously smoothing the rumpled material, touches her genetically unruly hair and then leaves her lab, resolved to at least observe the rendezvous between Cassandra and her parents-to-be, Colonel Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill and Captain Samantha 'Sam' Carter.

Sammi reaches the Control Room and as she enters murmurs, "Abort light activation." She steps into the shadowy gloom and stands well-back from the blast windows, just close enough to see the two figures at the base of the long metal ramp. "Dad," she murmurs as the taller figure turns and her childhood memories flood back in a wash of emotion. She glances at Cassi, who is gesturing and shaking her head. Sammi watches, hardly believing that Cassi is actually arguing with the man who would one day save Earth and then achieve feats of heroism with even farther-reaching impacts. It's clear now that Cassi is very upset. Sammi knows the signs. But, although Cassi is animated, Sammi finds her gaze drawn to the unmoving figure standing in half-light.

She steps closer to the blast windows, a lump in her throat, as she watches him. Then, her hands are pressed against the glass and she's shouting. "What's happened!?" All the protocols she'd agreed to forgotten, her only concern is the prostrate form of her father, Jack O'Neill. Without warning, he has simply slumped into a heap at Cassi's feet. "What is it!" Sammi demands, thumping her fist against the thick protective glass.

Cassi raises her eyes to the Control room windows and shouts, "Call for a medical team, now!"

Sammi hesitates for a moment, staring at her mentor, unbelieving. A shaft of light illuminates a weapon in Dr. Cassandra Frasier’s right hand. "You SHOT him?" Sammi shouts.

"NOW!" Cassi barks. Jolted into action, Sammi slams her hand on the key, activating klaxons that haven't sounded for nearly seventy years. "Medical team to the 'Gate room," her voice reverberates throughout the facility, "Security to the 'Gate room ... Emergency!"

***

"The Others aren't part of this decision," Cassandra repeats, glaring across the table at Sammi.

"Well, they should be!" Sammi snaps, "How can you think you have the right to decide, Cassi? It's my ... existence! And theirs!"

"It is my responsibility, Samantha," Cassi replies holding Sammi's defiant gaze with her own steady stare. "... given to me by your mother. You know that and still you choose to debate me?"

"He's my father, not yours," Sammi snaps, feeling petulant, but unable to bite back the bitterness, "... and I can't even see him!"

"You know the reasons," Cassi sighs, "Your mother developed them for very sound reasons and you agreed ..."

"My Mother is missing!" Sammi barks, half standing to lean across the table into Cassi's space, "... and I expect that I will be missing along with the Others if we don't get this exactly right ... ALONG with the entire eugenics program!"

Cassi stands and leans into Sammi's face until they're nose to nose, and hisses, "You are so damned ..."

She stops and sits with an inelegant thump, runs her hand back through her thick white hair and growls, "... right."

Sammi blinks, sits and lifts her hands in a shrug. "Thank you, was that so hard? So, what do we do?"

***

Jack opens his eyes and sees a muted white ceiling. It glows. If it didn't he'd think he was in the Infirmary of the SGC.

"Uggghhh," he groans as he sits up. Correction ...tries to sit up. Straps across his chest and hips and ... oh yeah ... thick restraints at his ankles and wrists make the 'sitting up thing' not quite possible. "Fuck," he growls.

Immediately footsteps sound off to his right and in a moment he senses someone approaching.

"Where the FU ...," he begins, twisting his neck to gaze at his captor. The words freeze in his throat and he chokes out a single, anguished name as she stands over him. "SAM!"

Sammi blinks back tears and shakes her head. "No," she says, "I'm not her. I'm her daughter, Colonel O'Neill."

"D-daughter?" he rasps. Tears leak from the edges of his reddened eyes, making Sammi want to touch his face, to brush them away and explain.

"I'm so sorry for your loss, Sir," Sammi continues, sticking to the script she's negotiated with Cassi and the Others.

He doesn't speak, but squeezes his eyes tightly shut, fighting for control. She watches him succeed and, when he opens his eyes, she remembers exactly why she stood in awe of this man as a child. He looks at her through calm control and says, "What's the deal?"

"I apologize for the restraints, Colonel. Dr. Frasier feels it's important to contain your options. Your ability to escape, despite precautions, is legendary. For reasons I am sure you can appreciate, we have to avoid letting you see anything that might contaminate the timeline when we send you back."

He doesn't respond, so she continues. "I'm sure it's occurred to you that you already know certain ... facts ... such as my existence ... that violate that principle."

"True."

"After careful consideration," Sammi says, the words tumbling out now, "it was decided that you needed to see my face in order to accept that I am not Major Samantha Carter and we're not holding her here against her will."

"I do ... now."

"You did see me, didn't you?" she asks.

"Yeah."

"And ..."

"And passed out, I guess," he sighs, "Sam Carter died on the Nox home world. I took her there to help her, and ... I lost her there."

"What were you arguing about, Colonel?" Sammi asks, abandoning the script.

"I was trying to convince Cassi to send me back to my time, alone. She was lecturing me about ... something. Anyway, she seemed to think I was mistaken about Sam. As if I ..."

"Take your time, Sir," Sammi says. Despite his self-control, it's clearly wrenching for him.

"... I saw movement at the window, looked up and saw her there ... I thought ... hoped ... Anyway, I went down like a sack of rocks." His right hand moves as if to reach up to pinch the bridge of his nose in frustration, but the straps prevent it.

Sammi grasps his hand and says, "It must of been a terrible shock. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have been there."

"But ... you are here now, Doctor," he observes dryly. "Why?"

"We decided that, since the damage is already done, this might help to limit its impact on you and ... on me."

"Explain."

"You have to help us, Colonel. People are depending on you, Sir."

"News flash, Doctor: When aren't they?" he growls and Sammi smiles in sympathy. His life was duty ... to his people, to the President, to Earth and now to the future. Sammi feels his fingers tighten around hers and, for the first time, he smiles a genuine, heart-lifting grin.

'Things will work out, somehow,' she thinks, 'He'll make things right,' having him near makes her feel sure of that, just has he always did when she was a little girl.

"So ... exactly what do you need?" he asks.

"You have to be patient, Colonel," Sammi whispers. "You have to be patient and you have to have faith..."

"Faith?" he rasps, the light goes out of his eyes. Sammi sees despair there and something that frightens her.

"Please," she pleads, "It will work out. You have to trust me..." Her father's dark eyes grow darker. Suspicion glints there. She grips his hand tight, leans down and whispers urgently, "... Really trust me."

"Okay ..." he says slowly, "Then, in the interest of trust and mutual understanding, let's start with the fact that Sam's a Captain, not a Major ... not yet."

"Oh! That's right."

" ... And, if she's dead, as her daughter, Doctor, you should not exist ..."



Chapter 24

Jack paces his small room - a prefabricated holding cell on level 16 from the look of it - and grinds his teeth. It's been hours since his interview with Doctor Samantha Jackson. Hours. After he pointed out the obvious paradox of her existence, she'd paled, excused herself and never returned. Security staff had appeared soon after her hasty departure and, after extracting a solemn promise not to attempt escape, had released his restraints and marched him to these tiny quarters, locking him inside.

"Crud," Jack growls, turning and pacing the abbreviated floor space again. "I should have played dumb a while longer. Probably spooked the kid."

"Jackson," he mutters before turning again, "Daniel and Sam ... I'll be ..." It's not entirely out of the question, of course. It's not like Jack hasn't taken note of the hours Danny and Sam spend in close contact, pouring over artifacts, generating theories, solving things ...

That Doctor Sam is the daughter of Captain Sam is indisputable. One look erased all doubt, but ... of Daniel? Not one thing about her reminds him of Daniel Jackson. Whereas Daniel oozes geek, this woman is about as far from a geek as a person with the title of Doctor can get - straight, strong and no-nonsense ... in the extreme. If anything, Jack muses, she reminded him of ...

He stops pacing and sits on the edge of his bed with a thump. Can it be true?

Jack shakes his head, replaying her every move: The forceful thrust of her chin. Her cool, appraising gaze, her strategic reticence, the endearing quirk of her mouth - something Charlie had, too ... and Jack's mother ...

"... OH!"

***

"SOMEBODY!!!" Jack roars, banging the side of his fist hard against the thick metal door. "HEY!!!! Crap," he hisses, shaking his throbbing hand. "OPEN UP!!" he shouts, this time kicking the base of the door with his boot toe. "HEY!!!"

Twenty minutes later, more or less (they took everything, except his boots, jeans and t-shirt), Jack hears footsteps. He bangs harder and shouts, "LUCY, YOU GOT SOME 'SPLAINING TO DO!!"

"I am not Lucy," Sammi says.

"...and you are not Daniel's kid," Jack replies with a grin. "C'mere." He opens his arms and the proper, older woman steps into them and hugs him hard. "Hey," Jack says, stroking her back as she sobs against his chest, "Nobody's dead, kiddo. Shhh."

"I ..." Sammi begins, but the words stop and she buries her face in his filthy t-shirt.

"I know," Jack fills in the blanks, "You were under orders to preserve the integrity of the timeline ... blah, blah, blah."

"Other way, Dad," Sammi says, catching his elbow and turning them.

"Not using the 'Gate?"

"Can't," Sammi confirms. "The Nox have locked us out. We'll fly."

***

"Invisibility can be achieved, theoretically, through the use of meta-materials. A meta-material has structural features smaller than the wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation with which it interacts. For instance, if a meta-material is to behave as a homogeneous material accurately described by an effective refractive index, the feature sizes must be much smaller than the wavelength...."

Jack leans back and stares into the star-studded black of deep space. It's been a while since he's been in a Goa'uld ship. Even so he can see this is a suped-up version. He doesn't comment on what he sees. It would freak Sammi and might worry 'the Others' she's always mentioning. No reason to give them an excuse to keep him here, stuck in the future, rather than helping Sam and him return to their own time ... after he finds Sam.

So, he stares into space and waits, muses over what they are likely to encounter when they reach the Nox Home world. At his side, Sammi is piloting the ship while chattering away about the theoretical physics behind invisibility.

"...Typically, visible light has wavelengths of less than one micrometer. The value is 560 nanometers for sunlight on Earth. I'll have to make adjustments for the Nox stars, of course. Anyway, the structures are generally half or less than half this size. In other words, we are looking for something composed of meta-material with structure of less than 280 nanometers. For microwave radiation, the meta-material structure needs only be on the order of one decimeter."

"Uh-huh," Jack murmurs, half listening to her words, but far more intrigued by the feeling of déjà vu engendered by having a female of direct Carter-lineage brief him on technology that's so far over his head that it's ludicrous.

'How can such smart women keep missing the fact that I do not have a clue?' Jack wonders, shifting his gaze to the stars over her left shoulder.

"Meta-materials have many similarities with photonic crystals and frequency selective surfaces," Sammi continues.

Jack blinks and then straightens, looking directly at her for the first time.

"What?" she asks as he stares.

"Crystals," Jack says. "You said crystals might make someone invisible."

"Well ... yeah," she replies with a puzzled expression on her face.

"Like these," he says, standing and pointing to a bank of typical Goa'uld-style control crystals.

"Not exactly," Sammi says standing and joining him at the control bank. "See, Dad. These are colored crystals, they're designed to bring energy into a particular phase. You've probably never noticed, but these circuits downgrade or upgrade the energy by directing its flow through very specific color-gradients. Excess energy is harvested in this way to ..."

"Stop," Jack interrupts, turning to look his daughter-to-be in the eye. "What happens when energy that's ... um ... in phase encounters a crystal ... or a lens ... that's the wrong one?"

"I don't understand?"

"Just answer the question ... it's important," Jack's shaking, feeling like he's at the edge of something vital.

"If meta-material-transformed energy somehow encounters a lens?"

Jack steps close and nods, grasping Sammi's upper arm.
"What happens?" he urges her.

"If it's high enough energy," Sammi says slowly, obviously thinking through the analysis as she speaks, "the energy might be released in an uncontrolled matter..."

"The lens would break," Jack adds.

"Sure," Sammi says, "but more importantly there could be a massive release of energy ..."

"An explosion," Jack barks.

"For the kind of energy required to render objects invisible," Sammi agrees, "I'd say a damned big explosion."

"Crap. I think I know what happened to your Mother," Jack says.

Sammi interrupts, "The Nox protect the Fenri by making them invisible!"

"Right," Jack says.

"Something happened," she continues.

"When the Fenri attacked us," Jack continues, "Sam had these funky pink glasses ..."

"Lenses!"

"... I found them ... later. One of the lenses was shattered. Could that ...?"

"When the energy from the Fenri cloaking device encountered the imperfections in the lens ..."

"She's out there," Jack murmurs, "Probably hurt in the explosion and ..."

"Invisible."

***

Jack slumps in the co-pilot seat. Frustration drives him to toy with the pair of shattered glasses as he waits for Sammi to get them to the Nox world.

Mom and Dad at the rustic cabin deep in the Minnesota Northwoods. There's that one special a moment, frozen for all time in her infant eye. Hand-in-hand, they walk along the edge of the pond. Dad, carrying fishing poles, stops and - seemingly in slow motion in Sammi's memory - pulls her mother around and kisses her. The kiss is deep. He runs his hand down her back to playfully grasp her rump.

Sammi focuses on her controls, feeling a hot blush color her face. That moment had been little Sammi O'Neill's first glimpse of adult love and she still felt the burn as she remembered their embrace. Her brother had been born sometime later and then the others ....

Sammi glances again, sees the flash of her mother's broken pink eyeglasses in her father's fist. "She's alive," she says firmly.

"If she wasn't," he replies, "You wouldn't be here, I know."

"We're sure of it," she continues, arguing with his tone rather than the words.

"Because you know so much about Physics and time-travel ..." he replies without taking his eyes off the glasses.

"That's ..." Sammi barely stops in time. Instead of launching into her theories of time and space she smiles and shakes her head. "You want to go back, so I can't explain. You know that."

"I do," her father says, looking up for the first time in an hour. "But here's a question I can't work out. I died on the Nox world kiddo. Twice. So ... where were you then?"

Sammi's heart falls as she meets his eyes. They're dark with worry and guilt.

"She's fine," she repeats.

"So you've said."
Chapter 22 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 22

Sammi powers down, bringing the vessel into geosynchronous orbit over the Nox home world. The planet stretches like a luxurious green carpet overhead. She leans back and gazes at the contrast between the brilliant green swatch against the stark black void of space.

“Let’s go,” Jack says, startling Sammi.

“I thought you were asleep,” she says.

“Well, I’m not. So, let’s get down there,” Jack’s on his feet as he speaks. He had been asleep, Sammi knows. Actually, he’d passed out soon after they got underway. From the looks of him he could use another ten or twelve hours, not to mention vitamin shots, a meal and a hot shower.

“We don’t have to go down to the planet,” she says, standing to touch his arm. “I’ve been thinking about this. If she’s been …”

Jack pulls away and snaps, “I’ve got to get down there, kid. So, either help or get out of the way.”

Sammi lets him go, but calls after him, “The Nox won’t help you.” The slice-swish of the rings tells her he’s already gone. With a sigh, she turns back to the ship’s computer and initiates the program she’s developed while he slept. Her fingers fly as she enters one more fudge-factor – an adjustment to account for the Nox star peculiarities. She double-checks the results, then trots across to kneel in front of the crystal bay, pulls open a bank of softly glowing crystals and deftly transposes three of them. A soft whine begins immediately and Sammi stands, feeling satisfied with the results. She crosses to the computer again, notes the monitors and, finally, settles into the pilot’s chair to wait.

***

Jack turns slowly, casting about for a landmark – endless forest stretches away in every direction. He rubs his eyes, suddenly bone-tired. “What the fuck am I going to do?” he asks the emptiness. Then, with a firm shake of his head, he takes a reading on the local star and starts walking, uphill, in the general direction of the settlement of Anteaus and his family. This part of the planet is unfamiliar. Jack’s sure he’s never been here, but he’s used to dead reckoning and doesn’t think twice about striking out on his own across an alien landscape in hopes he’ll run across something … anything … to lead him to Sam.

***

Sam crouches in the far corner of the Fenri nest, pushes blood-matted hair out of her face and listens. A distant sound carries on the breeze. Leathery wing beats tell her that the nestlings are returning. Sam presses her back against the wall of the nest and shivers, in part from the cold wind that bites at her bare ankles, but mostly at the thought that Fenri nestlings are about to reoccupy the vast nest. She’s avoided contact with the ungainly half-birds/half-reptiles, dividing her time between the nest, to hide from threats on the ground, and the tree trunk below, when the young creatures return from the hunt.

The smell of fetid meat, half-eaten bones and decomposing carcasses permeates the nest - the smell of death. As wing beats throb, she pulls Jack’s leather collar across her mouth and nose and breathes shallowly.

‘Jack.’

The touch of the worn leather on her lips brings his scent to her and mist fills her eyes. One moment they were in the ferns, the next his neck was broken and four obscene slices revealed the meat of his shoulder, back, waist and upper thigh. A massive adult Fenri must have struck, Sam realized later. It broke him like a dry twig. She saw nothing, of course. Then, before she could react, she’d been grasped in those same claws and lifted, screaming, into the air. Inexplicably, without forewarning, something had freed her. She had been straining against the claws, looking up, she remembers, trying to see past thick scaled claws and the heavy flaps of leathery skin. She’d only begun to wonder at being able to see her captor when a dazzling flash erased all vision. A force punched her in the gut so hard that she didn’t remember the fall back to the Planet of the Nox. She awoke sometime later, her body bruised and aching, with blood matting her hair. She smelled of burnt flesh and, when she was able to stand, she’d stumbled over several meaty chunks that could only be pieces of Fenri.

That was just over a week ago. She’d spent a fruitless day wandering, searching for Nox, searching for Jack’s body, and as the local star crept over the treetops, searching for food, water and shelter. In a twist of fate, she found both food and shelter in the high, windblown sanctuary of Fenri nestlings. So, she’d barely survived for eight miserable days, crouching in the empty nest. Nights she spent on the ground, or clinging to a branch below the nest. When the nestlings departed at dawn, she’d rubbed a notch in a stout stick that she pulled from the thick tangle of sticks, bones, and trash that comprised the Fenri version of home-sweet-hovel.

There is a ninth notch to add. Sam hunches down while she rubs her fingernail against the wood, peering over the edge of the nest for any sign of her nest-mates. She spies them a in the distance, although she can’t actually see the creatures. Under the force of their powerful wings the upper branches of the forest sway. Leaves filter to the forest floor like a trail of breadcrumbs. From the distance and apparent speed, Sam estimates that she’s got roughly ten minutes before one or both return. When they do, she knows, she needs to be elsewhere.

Sam clutches her tally stick, which doubles as a crutch and a weapon, and slings her good leg over the edge of the nest. The heavy wing beats grow louder, but Sam takes her time, making sure she has a solid foothold. When she has a firm grip and her foot is well-placed, she heaves her battered left leg over the edge.

A wave of blackness engulfs her, the usual pain and nausea, and then her head clears. She hops from limb to limb until she reaches the bone- and carnage-littered undergrowth at the base of the nest tree. Almost as soon as she touches the ground the tree sways heavily, signaling the arrival of the first nestling. A second, less violent shudder, tells Sam that the second Fenri has also landed. A moment later the snap and screech of the nest mates begins. As usual, they are struggling against each other for space, food, and supremacy.

Sam moves carefully through the gloom, doing her best not to disturb the undergrowth. Although it’s clear the Fenri can’t see her, their acute awareness of movement, sound, any sign of food or trespassers, could bring one of both of them down on her. Highly territorial and deadly in the extreme, Fenri brook no encroachment in areas they’ve claimed. That simple fact has kept Sam alive, although living under constant peril that the Fenri nesting overhead might make a meal of her if she’s not very, very careful.

Sam discovered her survival strategy by sheer chance. After the nestling’s parent had been blown to bits, flinging her free with only a concussion, lacerations across her waist and back and a shattered knee and wrenched ankle, she’d passed out. She awoke at the base of the nest tree. Disgusted by the rain of detritus from the feeding nestlings, in hopes of finding a Nox, and still clinging to the possibility that Jack might have somehow survived, she’d crawled and then limped as far as her injuries would allow, calling out alternately for Jack and for help.

During the middle of that first night, she’d just attained a small rise and leaned heavily on her stick, gasping while her vision swam, when the scream of nearby Fenri shattered the quiet. Sam dropped as leathery wings whistled over her. Another scream rang out from behind her, in the direction of the nest tree. Something plummeted through the treetops and struck. The two creatures crashed into the undergrowth, visible in their impact on their surroundings. In a moment, a third Fenri crashed into the struggling pair.

Sam watched from the depths of the underbrush, while blood-soaked chunks of Fenri fell about her, suddenly visible. After a bloody battle, all three Fenri rose heavily into the air, spilling blood across the greenery below. Sam waited, uncertain which way to turn for safety, until another Fenri strayed into the area. Once again the nestlings struck, beat the intruder, and sent it winging away.

Sam considered her options. It was clear that Fenri enforce strict territories. It was less clear, but possible, that the nestlings might be somewhat less deadly hunters than the adults. They’d just lost their parent. With no second adult in evidence, it might offer a sanctuary of sorts, at least compared to surrounding areas that were clearly occupied, probably by full grown adults.

So Sam made her way back into the heart of the nestlings’ territory. She was within sight of the ungainly nest platform when dawn broke. That was when she discovered the other occupants – large, furry scavengers, the size of dogs, scuttled through the undergrowth. Snarls and snapping jaws indicated that whatever these scavengers fed upon they weren’t picky and they didn’t like to share. Sam touched her hand to her blood-soaked hair. The bleeding had stopped, but she still stunk of blood. She swiftly ascended the nest tree and, half way up the trunk, secured herself to a branch by wrapping her arms around the trunk. There, she spent the predawn twilight, serenaded by the snarls and yowls from below.

Dawn had come and as the Nox star spilled light across the deep green forest, Sam felt the tree sway. She looked up in time to see both Fenri take wing, their path made clear as they winged through swirling mists. Trembling with exhaustion, she finally climbed up, clambered over the edge, and fell into the nest. It was disgusting, but not as bad as the midden beneath the tree. Fresh air and sunlight helped clear away the stench of death. So Sam pulled Jack’s leather jacket tight and fell into a fitful sleep. Later, she woke with a start when a Fenri landed almost on top of her. She drew back, avoiding the crushing weight that snapped sticks all around her. Although she couldn’t see the Fenri, she could see the impact. To her surprise and relief, it proved that they too couldn’t see her.

And so it had gone. She slept while the nestlings hunted and managed to survive under the shield of their fierce territorialism and their inexperience as hunters. Between the fear, the hiding and the pain, Sam forced herself to analyze what might have rendered her invisible.

***

Jack shivers as night falls. The Fenri cries have faded, but he continues to move warily. Being killed by a Fenri once is enough. Ahead, he sees a familiar shape. The hunch-backed form of a fallen forest giant crouches against the failing light. He stands, remembering the details. Nefryu had shown him the place and Anteaus had scoured the area for traces of Sam.

“Carter!” he shouts. “Carter!”

A scream of a distant Fenri is the only answer. Jack stands, uncertain what to do now that he’s located the place where the last trace of Samantha Carter had been found.

“Carter,” he murmurs. “Christ, Sam …”

Then, from the direction of the Fenri’s cry he hears it.

“Jack!”

***

He’s running then, shouting again and again. She’s ahead, somewhere.

“SAM!”

Jack plunges through the undergrowth. The growing dawn colors the world with splashes of scarlet on the black forest floor. He hears footsteps, crashing of a body through brush.

“SAM!”

Still nothing until she hits him. Arms around his neck, a mouth – her lips – against his face, and a body crushed against him. “Jesus, Sam,” he gasps, “I can’t …” Jack returns her hungry kiss, then pushes her back to look into her eyes and sees … nothing.

“SAM!”

Her hand grips him. He’d known this was a possibility, but believing it’s another matter entirely. “Don’t let go of me,” he orders as he reaches out with his other hand, tentatively, to touch her. His fingers find the side of her face. It’s sticky. “You’re hurt,” he demands, squeezing her hand. “How bad?”

“There was an explosion,” Sam’s disembodied voice replies. She’s close and she sounds exhausted. Jack can feel her breath as she continues. “I think I’ve screwed up my knee pretty bad. My head’s been better. I’m hungry and I stink.”

Jack grins at that. He wasn’t going to say anything, but his beloved betrothed smells like a slaughterhouse. Instead of agreeing he pulls a jug of water and some dried fruit out of a bundle Sammi had prepared before they left Earth. She’d apologized for not providing something better, but the fear of contaminating the timeline required her to avoid any additional information about the future – including the state of it’s cuisine and anything resembling a backpack … apparently.

Fingers snatch the water from him and he watches the Invisible Man shtick enacted – for real – before his eyes. The jug lifts and water disappears. She hands it back almost empty and Jack offers her the food. It too vanishes as she eats.

“Now what?” Sam finally asks, after the last of the fruit is gone.

“Now we get you the hell out of here and … visible.” Jack says, pulling a device out of his jeans pocket.

“Got her,” he says and Sammi responds instantly. “Right.” A moment later they’re in the vessel cargo hold and Jack’s trying to cope. At the sight of her daughter-to-be, Sam has gone to pieces. Between exhaustion, injury and shock, her first sight of Sammi has her nearly hysterical. Jack hasn’t let go of her hand (and won’t until he can finally see her) and so he pulls her against his chest and lets her weep. Finally, she pushes away and says, “If you’re ready, I’d appreciate your undoing whatever has happened to me.”

When Sammi doesn’t respond immediately, Sam continues with the words that are on Jack’s lips.

“Can you?”

Sammi nods once and leaves the hold. Jack grips Sam’s hand, until their daughter’s voice calls, “You need to let go of her, just until I’m done.” He feels Sam’s fingers tighten, but then she says, “I’m not going anywhere Jack.”

Jack gives her a quick squeeze and then steps away. “Ready,” he calls. There’s a brilliant flash of light, intense heat and then ….

***

Jack opens his eyes and groans. The groan becomes a grin when two pairs of bright blue eyes appear overhead. Sam reaches out a hand, grubby with dried blood and god-knows-what-else, and he grips it. She pulls him to his feet as Sammi chatters on about the process that’s just knocked him on his ass.

“… at a submolecular level requiring gigajoules of power directed into the cargo hold. Mother’s dermal area and her clothing would have eventually worn away. In terms of her dermis, she would have in time lost the …”

Jack rubs his head and turns to Sam, muttering, “Are you getting this?”

“If I’d had a bath,” Sam smirks, “I would have become visible again. A good rainstorm would have done it. In other words, I’d have been Fenri-food, if you hadn’t been quick about finding me.”

“Ah,” Jack says, but he can see from Sam’s shining eyes that she’s not hearing him. She’s gazing at Sammi: animated, focused, and the spitting image of her beautiful mother.

“She’s every inch your daughter,” Sam says softly. “Look at her: Tall, strong, forthright and brave.”

Blushing with pride, Jack murmurs, “She’s ours, Sam, and she’s got your eyes.”

“When is she born?” Sam asks, pulling Jack close.

“Don’t know,” Jack replies, letting his gaze shift from mother to daughter. “But it does it really matter?”

“Not really, Sam replies, “… still.”

Jack watches her beautiful brain struggle against her natural need to know when and how they’ll conceive the awesome woman who is still yattering on about the transformation that rendered Sam invisible. Jack smiles and pulls Sam tight against his side as they follow Sammi out of the cargo hold and she settles in the pilot’s seat. “Let’s go home,” she says, but Jack shakes his head and says, “Not yet. There’s something we need to do, first.
Chapter 23 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 23

“You offered to help,” Jack says, glaring down at the little Nox, “So, help.”

“I offered to help you,” Anteaus replies. “You were …”

“Never mind what I was,” Jack interrupts, glancing furtively at Sam and his daughter. There’s no need to let them know how close he’d come to doing something selfish and incredibly stupid.

“I don’t want to forget,” Sam blurts for the umpteenth time. “You have no right to force me to …”

Jack shakes his head, getting pissed off. Smart as she is, Sam Carter can be incredibly thick at times. “Do you want to stay here forever?”He barks. “Do you want to go back and be jerked off the Team?! Because that’s the deal, Sam. You get your head screwed on straight or you’re done!”

Silence falls over the group embarrassed by Jack’s blunt assessment. He rubs his eyes. His head’s pounding and he’s scared. They sit for a moment in the glade occupied by the cluster of rude huts that the Nox call home.

Sammi stands suddenly, grasps Sam by the hand and pulls her to her feet. “We need to talk,” she hisses and marches off a short distance with Sam in tow.

“You should both forget these memories,” Anteaus comments as they watch the women in animated discussion that they cannot hear.

“I’ll be fine.” Jack says, “It’s Sam that needs your help. Her future is …” He stops talking as they return and Sam sits beside him with a ‘thump’ that indicates she’s met her match in Sammi.

“You’ll do it,” Jack observes, nailing the deal before Sam can have second-thoughts.

“Yeah,” Sam says.

‘She still doesn’t like it, but that’s tough,’ Jack decides. “It’s better than losing your slot on SG-1, isn’t’ it?”

Sam doesn’t acknowledge his attempt to blow sunshine up her butt, and Jack bites back more encouragement. It’s enough that in a few minutes, she’ll have the memories from that fucking Tok’ra expunged.

Jack watches from his place on the bench as Anteaus leads Sam to a ceremonial platform in the center of the glade. The platform has been cleared of its usual jumble of bowls and implements and has been transformed with a bed of ferns, piles of flowers and scented candles. Nefreyu and Lya emerge from the forest with arm loads of flowers. As Sam lies back in the bed of ferns, they pile flowers around and over her until she looks, to Jack, unnervingly like the guest of honor at an old-fashioned Irish wake. He shifts on the bench, moving closer to their daughter and Sammi grasps his hand. She’s feeling it, too.

“I’ve been here before,” she says and Jack knows she doesn’t mean she’s been to the Nox home world.

“I’m sorry, kiddo.”

“Don’t be,” Sammi adds quickly. “I knew her for a long, long time.”

“You shouldn’t be telling me this,” Jack adds, grateful for the knowledge that come-what-may Sam has a long lifetime before her.

Sammi turns and looks deep into his eyes. She doesn’t say a word, but Jack feels a chill run up his spine, telling him that she had not known him – not well.

“So it’s been a while for us,” he observes dryly, pulling her closer and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “Did I tell you how proud I am of you?”

“I can’t …” Sammi says, her voice is husky with emotion and Jack continues, “You didn’t say a thing I didn’t already know, kid. I never thought I’d last this long. Let’s face it, I have a dangerous job. I can’t tell you how many times … Well … Anyway, I want to tell you that meeting you makes whatever time I’ve got precious. I can’t wait to see you again. I’m very proud of you, Samantha.”

“Oh, Dad,” Sammi whispers, turning against his shoulder. “I love you, too.”

Jack hugs his daughter and waits while Anteaus and his family conduct a healing ceremony over Sam. Their chanting floats across the glade along with the scent of flowers. Birds call from the forest and the Nox star swings overhead until long shadows fall.

“What did you say to her,” Jack asks, breaking the silence.

Sammi shifts, pulls away from his embrace and smiles, “I told her that you’ll need her.”

***

Incoming traveler, sir. It's SG-1.

“Open the iris,” George Hammond says, leaning forward to peer through the blast windows at the ‘Gate expectantly.

A moment later the iris slides open and Jack follows Daniel and Teal’c through into the Gate room. Sam follows on his heels.

“Yes!” Jack declares as he strides down the ramp, beaming.” He grins as Hammond hustles in to greet them, beaming with pleasure and relief.

“We're home,” Jack continues effusively, “thanks to one sparky young Lieutenant Hammond.”

Sam approaches the General, all smiles but also curious, “How did you know, sir?

Clearly eager to finally be able share, George replies, “When I was a young lieutenant, I was ordered to escort four people out of Cheyenne Mountain. In the vest pocket of one I found a note with my name on it. Needless to say, I followed its instructions.”

“But you couldn't have known when to give it to me,” Sam insists.

“No,” George agrees, “not until I saw the cut on your hand. Remember when I took your cuffs off?”

“Then you've been waiting for this to happen,” Sam says, shaking her head in frank amazement.

“Ever since we met. I almost didn't let you go.”

“But if you didn't,” Sam adds, “you would have changed your own history.”

George grins and replies, “It's going to be a long debriefing, people. We'll start in one hour.”

“ Yes, sir,” Jack says, relief warming his smile as he grins at George and his Team.

George pauses in his path across the Gate room, turns and adds, “Oh, by the way, Colonel, with interest, you owe me five hundred and thirty nine dollars and fifty cents.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack grins wider, thinking, ‘You’ll never know all that I owe you, George.’
Chapter 24 by AbbyEddey
Chapter 24 - EPILOG

A meteor streaked across the sky on the night she was born. Jack had spent two days at the Air Force hospital during Sam’s difficult delivery. After greeting his daughter and seeing Sam was well and asleep, he’d crept home, exhausted. Still too wound up for sleep, Jack climbed to the roof of the house Sam had chosen and sat in the same battered lounge chair he’d used when he lived alone. He’d stared into the night sky first with his tired eyes and then through the professional-grade telescope that had been Sam’s wedding gift to him twelve years earlier.

Jack fixed his sights on the Nox star, his heart overfull and memories of their time there fresh before him. He’d lost Sam there. He'd found himself and met his future - the formidable woman that their pink, squalling daughter would grow to someday become. Jack wiped his eyes at that happy thought, fixed the Nox star in his sights and, through meticulous fine-tuning, he finally brought the green planet into view, brilliant against the black of space.

“You're older,” he said to the unhearing night, “but you were wrong, Anteaus, and I was right... and I’ll never forget one moment. Not ever.”

- The End -
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