Jack sat by the lake and tried to put his world to rights. He still felt that he had been justified in what he had done to Carter. If she'd been in his shoes he was positive that she would have done exactly the same. So in a small measure that made him feel a bit better.
However he could not shake off the feeling that everything was a tad unreal. Mind you he wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders yet either. When was it going to end? Zombie symbiotes on Earth? The NID sticking their noses where they weren't wanted as usual. Same old, same old. He sighed.
Something very good or very bad was going to happen; he could feel it in the air. And he wasn't sure how he felt about either option. He just felt too strung out.
The sun warmed his tired body and he slipped into a light doze, one ear alert for any disturbance from Carter.
Which was just as well because that's what he got.
He jerked awake; reached by his side for a non existent P90. He looked round wildly before rational thought returned and sent him racing back inside the cabin.
He could hear her mumbling, then desperate cries of `No! Stop! Let me go!' When he reached the room she was tangled up in the sheets and cover, sweating.
Trying to remember how Doc Fraiser helped him sometimes, he placed one hand on her face while firmly saying her name.
"Carter! You're dreaming wake up!"
"Let me go, you son of a bitch! Make you regret this!" she gasped. She was swinging her arm around, but he evaded it. At least she hadn't bitten his hand…yet.
"You're safe, Carter! Wake up, that's an order. Come on," Jack continued, hoping her last comment wasn't directed at him.
Suddenly she woke up. She stared up at him, her face still flushed and her eyes wild.
"Hey, Carter. You're okay; you're visiting me in Minnesota, remember?" said Jack warily.
Carter blinked at him. "Oh God I thought I was…kidnapped again. Oh…feel bad…" she said as she lurched off the bed and dove for the bathroom.
Jack went and refilled the glass of water and put it by the bed and then checked the bathroom.
Carter was leaning over the sink. She let the cold water tap run as she repeatedly washed her face, and rinsed her mouth. Grimacing she swigged some mouthwash to eradicate the sour taste in her mouth. She looked awful. Her face was pale, dark circles shadowed her eyes.
Jack frowned, realizing suddenly how fragile she seemed. She was hanging onto the sink like it was the only thing holding her up, which was entirely possible. Taking a deep breath she straightened up and turned to go back into the bedroom.
Jack watched with concern. He knew how fiercely independent she was; hell, he was just as bad. He hovered closely, overseeing her shaky progress and he was glad he did when she suddenly started to keel over.
In an instant he was there, catching her and holding her up. He clung onto the armful of Carter as she melted into him. He stood, unsure what to do next. Carter stirred and her arms tightened around him. They were both holding on for dear life, and it felt good. The black void receded.
"Thanks." she murmured into his chest. "Feel better now."
"Really?" Jack asked, as she looked up at him, a small smile on her face. He thought she still looked like crap.
"Yeah, sometimes you do after losing it all in the bathroom."
Jack knew what she meant. Been there done that.
"Sure I don't need to get Doc Fraiser up here?" he prodded, still worried.
Perhaps he should call the Doc, or take her back to the SGC after all, he wondered tiredly as they took comfort in the close embrace.
"No, everything's fine, Jack." she said softly as she brought her hands up round his neck and pulled him down to kiss him. She took in his startled look before his dark eyes pulled her in. His hands tightened round her as he responded, the kiss forceful and full of need.
The phrase `lips like cherry, kisses like wine' floated through his head, even as he tasted the mouthwash on her lips and his arms moved up her back.
It felt so good to hold someone again, to feel needed, and to help heal all manner of things. But this someone wasn't Sara; she was an officer under his command…
He pulled apart with a gasp.
"We shouldn't be doing this. It's wrong. For all the wrong reasons. I'm sorry; it's not fair to you," Jack said sadly.
"I wasn't planning this. It just felt right a moment ago. You're right; comforting each other isn't the best way to go. But I'm not sorry and neither were you!" replied Sam.
"No, I'm not sorry. Our timing always sucked," Jack agreed.
"Look, we're on sick leave. Nothing happened that we regret. Right? We know where the lines are," Sam said confidently.
"Do we? Did we? Do you really think that we can leave it like this? I don't want to compromise the team; we can't afford that on missions. You already know I care about you more than I should," Jack said worriedly.
"You feel that about anyone who goes through the Gate with you. Let's face it, it's because I'm a female officer. Your natural alpha male protective instincts are kicking in."
"Don't go there. We already did that one - or you almost did. Remember?"
"I do," she replied blushing slightly. "And you said, `Not like this'…"
"We were in the locker room!" he shot back.
"We aren't now. We're twenty miles from anywhere!"
"Still not far enough away!"
"Maybe you should feel flattered that I didn't go for Teal'c or Daniel."
"Whoa, too much analysis Carter!"
"I know that this was `a moment' we won't forget or regret, but it's not all bad…sir…please. I know we have planets to save and people to meet, things to discover, but I also know that you have strong feelings for your ex wife. I can't compete with that. I never have, and I'm not going to start now. It's what makes you, you."
"Have I ever told you that you talk too much?"
"All the time, sir."
"And that some of the time it actually makes sense?"
Before Carter could reply, her stomach rumbled noisily.
"Sorry!" she laughed, as he raised an eyebrow at her. "Didn't you promise me some food hours and hours ago? Aren't you hungry, si…Jack?"
"Yeah I did. I forgot. Not hungry," Jack replied.
He knew that the Doc suspected his food intake was minimal since his return from Ba'al's prison. Left to his own devices he wouldn't eat, because he'd lost the knack of regular mealtimes. Going through debilitating withdrawal hadn't helped either.
If someone else made food, he would eat it. It had driven Sara to distraction on his return from Iraq, but the incentive of getting him to make meals for Charlie had helped a lot. Gradually his big appetite had returned.
However it was a weakness that occasionally revealed itself after stress and trauma. And Jack had thought that he'd been coping just fine until Carter had turned up. Clearly things were going to have to change.
"Why don't you freshen up a bit? Did you bring any luggage in your mad rush from the Mountain?"
"It's in the trunk of my car," she said and she dug the keys from her pocket and passed them over. Jack was back in a few minutes with a small duffel bag.
"You grab a shower first while I rummage in the kitchen," suggested Jack. He went to a cupboard and got some extra towels for her.
Once in the kitchen he tidied up the pill bottle and glass from earlier, and put some coffee on. `I know what I have in the cupboards; I just can't be bothered to eat any of it. But Carter's got to keep her strength up.' Jack thought to himself. `Another damned psychological mind game.'
"Are you just going to look at it or can we eat any of it?" came Sam's voice from behind him, as she caught him staring blankly into the fridge. Startled and annoyed with himself he snapped, "Have at it, Major. I'll grab a shower too." With that said, he stomped off.
"Stupid! Stupid!" Jack berated himself as he stood in the shower, letting the hot water flowing over him ease the tension and tiredness from his body. `Why take it out on Carter? It's not her fault, not really. Yeah and it's not yours either, so straighten up and fly right, airman. It's not like she won't be used to my crappy moods, but I'd better apologize…'
By the time he returned the coffee was ready and Carter was stirring something in a pan. He peered over her shoulder at it.
"It started off as a cheese omelette, but it went wrong. Sorry. You didn't have much else in the fridge," she explained.
"Don't worry about it. It'll be fine," Jack assured her, wondering how someone could get an omelette `wrong'. And then he remembered she was a scientist, good on a lot of things, not so good at others.
"Just look at this scenery!" The Colonel enthused as we sat on the decking in the sunshine some time later. "There are some great trails," he said wistfully.
"I don't think I'm up to a ten mile hike, sir."
"I'm not going to make you. What do you think I am? We can go for a slow amble round part of the lake. It's so nice we should be outdoors not stuck inside. But perhaps we'd better stick close to the cabin for today anyways," Jack glanced over at me.
I was nice and relaxed in the deckchair at the moment.
"I need to get my laptop from my car," I suddenly remembered.
"You brought your laptop?" He turned to me in surprise.
"I never go anywhere without it!"
"Uh huh, and you thought you'd do some work while you drove out here to confront me about stuff?"
"You make it sound so bad; I packed it like I always pack it that's all. I had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. It's peaceful here; I could run a few diagnostics…"
"Ah, ah ah," Jack waggled his fingers at me. "Nope. This is R&R sick leave, not downtime from the Gate. We have our orders. Rest. Recuperate. Recharge those Energiser batteries. Why do you think I'm up here and not back in Colorado with The Simpsons and the sports package?"
"Fishing?" I guessed, my heart sinking.
"Fishing isn't so much about catching the fish, as in waiting for the fish to come to you."
"That's not what Teal'c said." My chair creaked as I wriggled to get more comfortable. I grinned and closed my eyes, letting the sunshine bathe me in its warmth.
"Humph. I'll go get your precious laptop if it's gonna keep you quiet," and I heard him move away.
I was glad I'd come. We'd made it through another disaster. We still needed to talk some more about Kanan. I wished I knew what the Colonel meant when he'd asked why Daniel hadn't come for him, during the rock throwing incident the first night I was here. One thing at a time.
Once again I had underestimated the Colonel's hidden depths. He was too good at hiding himself. From us. From his family. From himself.
Well then, if he could shove it all in a box and carry on, I could too.
I guessed I could forgive his earlier bad mood, but not the poorly stocked fridge and lack of beer. That wasn't like him.
I hadn't intended to kiss him. But being held felt so good and he'd seemed so solid, so strong despite what he'd been through. It just happened.
Never leaving anyone behind was the way he operated. Anything for his team. But he didn't seem to realize that it applied to him too. And in that moment I loved him for who he was and who he would always be. Right here and so far away.
It was clear that the Colonel meant what he said about keeping close to the cabin for today at least. Not that there was much left of the day by the time we'd sorted ourselves out had a late brunch and sat out on the deck for a while.
I never thought that I would be happy to do nothing for a while; it worried me on some inner level. I spent most of my life being busy, finding answers, looking for the next clue.
It seemed a contradiction that someone as energetic and lively as the Colonel could enjoy `not' catching fish. I should have known better. I had after all seen him in action on and off world. He presented a simple soldier front, but it was all a ruse. He never stopped watching and waiting. Sure he got fidgety, antsy in meetings and in small lockups or cells; but he could also sit or lie still for hours waiting for the right moment, the right light or dark spot to do what he had to do. Like a coiled spring ready to unleash hell.
I had been given my orders.
"Sleep when you need to. We can always reheat dinner if you fall into it. Eat and take your pills on time – otherwise we'll never hear the last of it from the Doc. If you want to go for a short walk and get a different perspective- fine. Tell me or leave me a note. I'll do the same. Throw stones in the lake, I recommend it as therapy. We are not clock watching. That's the point here. We can tighten up on details in a day or two, so we're ready to report back for duty," Jack had explained.
He left me to do my whole lot of nothing while he pottered round the exterior of the cabin doing small repairs.
I went for a short walk, consciously not going far in case I felt ill. I knew that the Colonel would be watching my six as always. I noticed his not so subtle move from the cabin to the row boat, fiddling with the oars as I passed by. Ten minutes later I was back again.
I had noticed a small bookcase in the cabin, I glanced lovingly at my laptop sitting on the top shelf but took a book back outside to read instead. The whole not working thing was still getting to me, but I had no choice. Sitting comfortably in the chair I opened the book and began to read.
"On August 16, 1968, I was handed a book written by a certain Abbe Vallet, Le manuscript de Dom Adson de Melk, traduit en francais d'apres l'edition de Dom J. Mabillon (Aux presses de l'Abbaye de la Source, Paris 1842)."1
That night Jack insisted I keep the master bedroom, that the couch was fine for him. `It's not as if he wasn't used to sleeping rough,' he said. Stubbornly I pointed out that he was recuperating. He won of course.
I was hoping the rest and regular medications were beginning to do some good at last. Quality sleep was hard to come by and I stayed up as long as I could. I'm sure Jack was doing the same thing. He had put on some quiet soothing music, while I got caught up in the medieval adventures of Brother William and Adso.
A light thud made me open eyes I hadn't realized had drifted shut Jack's hand was gently shaking me awake. Despite another shower he still smelled of the wooden floorboards he had been sanding and re- varnishing in the spare bedroom.
"C'mon Carter, you can't sleep in the armchair. Off you go," he said softly, picking up the book that had fallen onto the floor and putting it on the table.
I don't remember falling asleep, but I remember dreaming strange things.
A great power within me, such strength but such puny bodies. Taking over and being taken over. A liquid fire in my neck and throat. Pain. /Get out!/ Memories not my own. Walking within other bodies. Frustration.
Dissolving. Shivering. Cold. So cold.
Then there was a familiar voice and things got better. Normal. Warm.
Sleep then and no more dreaming.
Jack lay on the couch trying to relax enough to sleep, remembering techniques from Ops training. Slowly it began to work. He was almost there when he heard murmuring from Carter in the bedroom. It didn't escalate like earlier that day, so he relaxed again and slept.
Suddenly he was awake, a change in the air particles denoting movement. He knew that some hours had passed. He sat up. Carter stood at the kitchen window looking out. Something was wrong he just knew it. He got up. Worried on one level that if she turned around her eyes would glow, but he asked anyway.
"Carter? Everything okay?" he asked.
She turned around, her eyes were open, but he had the feeling she was still asleep. Lights on, nobody at home. She didn't reply. It was a bit creepy.
Jack could see that she was shivering.
"It's alright, Carter. You're safe," Gently he led her back to the bed and watched as she crawled back in without a word. He drew the covers over and tucked her in. Going back to the closet he got another couple of blankets and put them on top. He sat there until he thought she'd gone to sleep properly then returned to the couch.
Jack sighed as he tossed and turned still wondering if Carter was going to go walkabout again or go all glowy eyed after all. `Surely one good night's sleep wasn't too much to ask for? Couldn't Daniel wave some cosmic magic wand for them?'
`No, Daniel couldn't; he wasn't allowed to interfere was he? Bullshit.'
When he saw Daniel again he was going to kill him again and again and see how he liked it. But in his heart Jack knew if there was any way Daniel reappeared in solid form Jack would be glad to see him and give him a hug. Then Jack would chain him to a desk so he could never go off world again. Ever.