I didn't dare move as Jack held his camping knife to my throat. Even if I could get away I knew how good he was at throwing it, Heru-ur found that out.
"No! There's no symbiote now. I swear! Please don't do this sir," I argued.
"Then you admit there was one?"
"It's me, Carter! Please don't do this, Jack," I pleaded as he reached behind him to search for his gun.
"Try again," ordered Jack.
"There was a symbiote, but it was immature. It only took over at night. Jonas, Teal'c and I discovered this group in Oregon. They were making the locals build a ship. It was what I was trying to tell you about earlier. We even had to butt heads with the NID," I explained.
"Is it a Tok'ra? Can't even trust a Tok'ra, mine left me for dead," said Jack harshly.
"Not a Tok'ra either sir. But it has gone. Honestly," I added, seeing the determined look in his eye. "Call the SGC; call the General, or better- talk to Janet!"
"Why should I call them in particular?" he asked curtly. He was silent for a moment.
"Lie on the floor, face down, now!" he ordered, before pulling me off the bed.
"Colonel, don't do this!" I begged, even as I complied, knowing I had no choice. I hoped he hadn't lost it after everything he'd been through. I'd seen that dark look on his face many times but not directed wholly at me. Only at an enemy.
"You don't get to tell me what to do! I don't have a choice," he growled at me. He pushed a handkerchief into my mouth, and then tied up my feet as well. He stepped back and grabbed his cell phone and speed dialled, all the while his gun trained on me.
/O'Neill? Is that you? What can I do for you?/
"You tell me, buddy."
/Are you well O'Neill? Did Major Carter reach you? Dr. Fraiser is most displeased that she left. She was not well./
"No she's not, is she?"
/O'Neill, what have you done? Dr. Fraiser was monitoring the side effects of the dissolving symbiote. She has to take her medications on time and with food./
"There's no…ah situation that I need to be aware of then? Everything is okay in Colorado?"
/Indeed. May I speak with Major Carter?/
"Ah no, she can't come to the phone right now…"
/O'Neill, I must insist that I speak to Major Carter./
"I….dammit, hang on." He moved over and leant down pulling the handkerchief out of my mouth, and placed the phone to my ear.
/Major Carter, do you need assistance? Are you well?/
"Yeah, I'm okay, I guess. The Colonel didn't know- he saw the back of my neck and ah, let's just say he was surprised."
/Very well. Are you injured Major Carter?/
"I've been better, Teal'c."
After that the Colonel resumed speaking into the phone.
"Satisfied now Teal'c? I've got some things to sort out now, so I'll talk to you guys later. O'Neill out."
Jack abruptly ended the call, stabbing at the button in anger, and tossed the phone onto the bed. He put the safety back on the gun and put it on the table.
"Well I guess Teal'c cleared you," he said as he bent down to undo the ties. He was still unsure of her and of himself. Was any of this real or was he still dreaming in bed, or in a cell somewhere?
The enormity of what he'd done was beginning to seep round his carefully built fašade. Major Carter was never going to forgive him for this.
"God, I'm so sorry," Jack whispered as he tried to reach out to her, but she jerked out of his reach. They were both still high on adrenaline, shock, fear and anger.
Well that was only fair, he thought, I have just tried to kill her and thought she was a Goa'uld.
I flexed my hands painfully as they were freed. Trying not to flinch from him, remembering the look on his face and the absolute power he held with the knife and gun. Not again, I thought, remembering being picked up and thrown in the van by the kidnappers. My heart thudding in my chest from the adrenaline, I trembled. He stepped back giving me a wide berth as I sat up on the floor.
"It's alright sir, I understand really I do," I began.
Jack shook his head as he sat on the upright chair, head in his hands.
"Just when were you ever going to tell me? Huh, Carter? I mean. God, what were you thinking?" he said bitterly.
"I took a calculated risk. It was the only option I had left. I knew the symbiote would break down. You would have done it!" I shouted at him.
"That's not the point!" he yelled back at me, red faced, angry. "It was still a snake, Carter. We've both learned they're far more trouble than they're worth. You know we can't remove them with surgery. It was bad enough with Kowalski. And then we had to shoot Rothman. Daniel's never forgiven me for that! I would have had to shoot you…again. I would have had to…shoot…."
Suddenly his face paled and he rushed to the bathroom. But he could only dry heave thanks to Frasier's pills. When I heard the water running as he washed his face, I got up stiffly from the bedroom floor and went in. He sat on the bathroom floor, the front of his T-shirt wet, his wet face pressed against his folded knees. I knelt on the floor beside him.
"Leave me alone dammit,"
"No I'm not leaving, not after all this! I know you don't talk about things but we need to talk about this. I need to…"
"Teal'c said something about medication. What's up?" he asked quietly.
"The rejection formula for the immature symbiote that I injected into myself has screwed up my blood work. It seems I'm a bit allergic to it. There are some side effects. Janet and I don't know if it's because of Jolinar or not. It took it's time to reveal itself, not until after you'd got back from… from…"
"Yes. Janet's been trying to sort it out for the last few weeks. I get bad stomach pains, I can't eat. I'm anaemic. I fall asleep at the drop of a hat."
"I noticed the last one. But you were there in the infirmary when I woke up and later on," he pressed.
"Well, where else would I be! I'd forced you to take Kanan in the first place, and then you went AWOL. It was entirely my fault, Colonel! I just thought I was ill with worry and over work as usual. We almost crossed the line with the Tok'ra ambassador. We were running out of options," I explained.
"I sent everybody away," Jack said quietly.
"Not surprising really, withdrawal isn't pretty. But we wanted to help you. And then I got this phone call in the middle of the night. We ended up in a little place called Stevestown."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know any of this! No one said anything about what you guys had been doing while I was ….away."
Jack lifted his head and leaned back against the tub.
"Stupid!" He cursed "I should have realized that a Goa'uld would never be ill, and tired like you were…are." Not to mention the fact that Major Carter was a highly trained officer who could usually cope with the weird situations SG1 often found themselves in.
Then, as if to remind him of my ongoing problem, I suddenly clutched my stomach and groaned with pain, going white.
Pushing his own demons away for the moment, he asked desperately, "Carter, please, let me help you. Did Janet give you anything to take?"
I moved restlessly on the floor. I struggled to compose myself before breathlessly saying,
"Pills. In my bag. Shoulda taken some on way here, forgot, fell asleep. Way overdue."
"Ok." Jack got to his feet, probably glad to be doing something at last that would help.
He found my bag and got a glass of water. When he returned I was still curled on the bathroom floor. I watched as he turned round and put the pills and water on his bedside table. Retracing his steps to the bathroom Jack reached down and gently scooped me up. At first I went rigid in his arms –a combination of the surprise and stomach spasms I was having. I went limp as he placed me on the bed, my body suddenly deciding to re-boot itself. I felt him frantically checked my pulse and breathing until I moved and opened my eyes.
"Think you'd better take those pills, Carter." He cautiously helped me to sit up, passed me the glass and shook out the pills.
I took them and lay down again wrapped in the bedclothes. Jack moved away, looking lost.
"Don't go." I said very softly. I was curled up on my side with the covers tucked in all round.
"Carter, I…" Jack didn't know what to say
"Stay and...talk to me, Jack."
"No. I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Don't put me on that pedestal, Jack, I'm not perfect."
"What?" he asked confused.
"Don't suddenly treat me like I'm a china doll! I won't break if you sit here a while till I feel better. It's just you and me. What are you scared of?"
"I don't treat you like that. Do I? And yes you scared me. Another freaking Goa'uld- you. God. I over reacted I guess." he said as he edged back into the room.
"Just slightly," I grunted as I rode out another wave of pain.
He was back at my side in an instant and held onto a hand.
"Hey," he said concernedly.
"It'll be okay; it'll pass soon," I reassured him, hoping it was true.
"Sure?" he asked.
"See you're scaring me again," Jack said bluntly.
"Told you I wasn't perfect. I won't break; I promise."
"You're one of the strongest people I know. But you can't keep doing this to me! Becoming a Tok'ra, taken over by alien entities, kidnapped by trophy chiefs or mad scientists after your blood or brains! Enough!"
"What about you! You keep getting stranded on planets, stranded in space, killed by Nanites or tortured by some mad Goa'uld! Shall I go on?" I easily countered.
"Don't keep saying that! We both know the risks of the job," I replied.
Silence reigned for a while. Maybe Jack thought I had fallen asleep.
"We were going to tell you," I murmured.
"Tell me what?"
"About Stevestown, the antidote business and what happened to me. But there never seemed to be the right time after you returned. We had other things on our minds." Like trying to cope with what had happened to Jack in Ba'al's fortress I thought to myself.
"Yes, I suppose," he agreed.
"I guess it wasn't a good time all round just then."
"No, it wasn't, sir. You came back and then told everybody to leave you alone and then you left..." I said.
"Then I got signed off by Janet and left. And look where we both ended up," I continued.
"Yeah, kind of ran into each other, running away from each other sort of," said Jack "What are we going to do about it?"
"I'm gonna sleep now. We'll talk later. Promise, Jack?"
"Promise. Feeling better?"
"Ok then. Sleep well." He left the room.
She needed her rest. Jack needed to do something and some time to think it all through, but before he could do either his phone rang.
/Colonel is everything alright? Teal'c informed me of your situation, Doctor Fraiser is on hand as well./ said General Hammond.
"Yes sir it's okay now. But I wish I'd known earlier, sir. God, she may want to press charges."
/What?! How many court martial forms will I need?/
"I saw the scar on her neck and well… I reacted, how was I to know, sir? What did Teal'c tell you?"
/That you'd restrained her until you knew the situation. Colonel O'Neill, you didn't trust either me or the Doctor?/
"No, coulda been another foothold situation for all I knew. It was the only thing I could think of, sir."
/I'm sorry to hear about this Jack. It wasn't an easy decision for us to make. We thought it was in your best interests at the time, to delay telling you. We would have informed you when you got back from sick leave./
"General, sir. What's done is done. We'll deal with it. I didn't make things easy for you," said Jack absorbing some of the guilt, remembering his actions and attitude in the wake of his time in Baal's prison. A new set of nightmares to go with all the other ones he'd acquired over the years.
/Major Carter is alright? Neither of you need medical attention?/
"We've been better, and we're no more injured than we were when we arrived. We have some catching up to do. I have plenty of food and lots of fresh air and open space up here, sir. The situation will be taken care of, sir. Trust me on this one," replied Jack determinedly.
/I do trust you Jack, but if Major Carter shows any abnormal symptoms…Doctor Fraiser is still monitoring her medications./
"Yes, General. Assume everything is okay unless you hear from me."
/Report back on duty in seven days at 0800 Colonel. The same goes for the Major too./
"Roger that, sir. Over and out."
Jack put the phone in his pocket and leaned against the door and looked out over the lake. During his talk with the General he'd walked through the cabin to the porch. He took a deep breath.
The day had turned sunny and blue with a few wispy clouds overhead. A light breeze stirred the trees, making birds fly over the water. The lake was calm and smooth, sparkling in the sunlight. If he closed his eyes he could hear the insects buzzing, birds calling and wheeling through the air, the slap of water and the faint bump of the row boat against the jetty.
Jack didn't just come here to fish. It was where he recharged his batteries, cherished his memories and dreamed his dreams.
He would make it right, he usually did. Okay, so after Charlie died he'd compromised some. The magic of Grandpa's cabin and his lake always won in the end. It was just going to take longer than he thought this time, now that Carter needed mending too.