"Engaged?" I stare at Jack, my mouth falling open in amazement, "Daniel said we were engaged?"
"Why...I mean how?"
"Didn't get that out of him before Sparky showed up."
"I suppose it's theoretically possible....from a physics point of view."
Jack raises his eyebrows, no doubt expecting another lecture. Sensing he's not really in the mood to listen I decide to shut up. Engaged? After a shaky start, Jack and I have a pretty good friendship, but the thought of romance has never entered my mind. We haven't even kissed since that time he thought I was Sara.....OK once, when we were both drunk....but that didn't mean anything. Despite myself, I can't stop a grin spreading across my face, as I remember that night. Kowalski bet twenty dollars that Jack and I couldn't keep going for ten minutes...Ferretti upped the bet to fifty, so naturally we had to try and take his money! I think we nearly asphyxiated, but what a way to go!
"What are you smiling at?" Jack demands.
"Nothing," I tell him.
He's nervous. No wonder. The future of the Stargate program is in the balance. I don't think I ever realised how much this all means to him. All that stands between continuing the project and shutdown is SG1's testimony. They're the ones who have to persuade Senator Kinsey that the work we do here is worthwhile. Guess that's what happens if you're the Project's foremost team. Sometimes I still get annoyed that I was relegated to SG2...despite the fact I got a promotion out of it....right now I wouldn't swap places. They'll be called in a couple of minutes. Which is why I found Jack, in his dress uniform, pacing the corridor outside the briefing room.
"So what are you going to tell Kinsey?" I ask him.
"Don't know...I just hope I don't lose it with him. How long do you think I'd get for punching out a Senator?"
I'd laugh if I didn't think he was serious. Before long the rest of SG1 join us. Daniel has his arm in a sling after his return from his alternate reality. I'm still a little sceptical about that. I mean if I hadn't already seen so much strange stuff I'd be angling to have him committed.
"Ready kids?" Jack asks.
They all nod and he turns to lead the way into the briefing room.
"Hang on a second," I stop him.
Moving in front of Jack, I pull his tie straight and brush a speck of fluff off his jacket.
"Hey look," Kowalski laughs, "the little woman is making sure her Colonel is all neat and tidy before he meets the Senator."
"Daniel told him we were...?" I question.
"Daniel told everyone," Jack admits.
I glare at Daniel who immediately tries to apologise.
"Actually it's kinda cute," Charlie goes on.
"Wanna arm wrestle, Major?"
"Wanna broken arm."
"Hey, play nice children," Jack interrupts us.
They were stuck in there for three hours and I spent most of that time in the Gateroom, pretending to work. Like I didn't stare up at the briefing room, just to see if I could work out what was going on. Senator Kinsey didn't come crashing through the glass, so I figured that Jack was keeping his temper. Despite my earlier misgivings, I wanted to be in there, fighting our corner. Why the hell didn't Kinsey ask to see the rest of the SG units? We'd all done our fair share. My own team are a good bunch of men and some of the missions we've been on have rivalled the legendary SG1. At least none of us have ever slept with a native and nearly died as a result. Besides, I make sure my guys carry condoms.
There's a pretty good relationship between SG1 and SG2. It helps that Kowalski, Ferretti and Jack all served together on the first Abydos mission. Charlie and Jack go back even further than that. Now Jack and I have a better relationship we all hang out together off base. Oh they used to do that before....they just left me out. Now they go out of their way to make me feel like one of the guys. Which is great...I have a better social life without having to shave my legs. What more could a girl ask for?
I'm actually adjusting something that needs adjusting when Siler taps me on the shoulder.
When I see them all standing at the window I know it's over; Teal'c, Kowalski, Daniel and Jack. Charlie turns his thumb down, but I didn't need his signal. I can tell by the expression in Jack's eyes. Angry is probably an understatement. I wouldn't like to face him in that mood. Guess Kinsey must be braver than we all thought...or stupider. Given the fact that he's obviously decided to shut the program down....I think it's probably the latter.
I leave the Gateroom to go and meet them, but by the time I get there, Jack's already gone. Must have left to change out of his dress uniform. There's no smiles from the rest of the guys, no banter. Daniel's clutching a piece of paper. I look at it, then at him.
"Kinsey didn't get the alternate universe theory, did he?" I ask.
"No," Daniel replies, "he didn't."
"He shot down every damn argument Jack made," Kowalski went on, "And then Danny-boy speaks up....We might have well have signed the death warrant right there and then."
"It'll happen. I've seen it."
"Daniel would you shut up!"
"Where did Jack go?" I cut through the arguments.
"I think he went to the Commissary, to try and scrounge some of that crap coffee you both drink."
Somehow I feel that I have to find Jack and see how he's doing. That confrontation can't have been easy for him...especially when Daniel decided to stick his oar in. Jack wasn't in the Commissary, but I finally managed to track him down...in my lab. of all places. He must move fast because he's managed to ditch his dress uniform and grab us both coffee.
"I was looking for you," he says as I appear at the door.
"Likewise, thanks for the coffee......I heard what happened."
"Kinsey has no idea what goes on out there. He thinks the good ole US of A can defeat the Goa'uld."
"Maybe you should have taken him through the gate."
"I offered. Believe me, I thought about just tossing him through."
"So that's it."
"That's it....Hammond won't even let Teal'c go home."
"After all he's done?"
"I know, but the President has given his orders, no one is getting out of here that way."
"Yeah...I'd have gone with him. Still might if we can swing it."
I can't help staring at him, trying to think of reasons why he should stay. Jack can't leave. Who would bring me coffee? There wouldn't be anyone to pick me up and take me out to meet the rest of the guys. No one to sneak chocolate into my rations.....Who am I kidding? When the program closes he won't be here to do that stuff anyway.
"Why would you go?" I ask.
"There's nothing for me here. Out there...well...I might be able to do some good."
I'm almost tempted to throw it all away and go with him. Would be better than staying here and getting sent back to the pentagon.
"Sam...this alternate universe thing."
"You think there might be anything to it?"
Is he asking what I think he's asking?
"There could be," I reply, carefully.
Thinking about it, I'm not as adverse to the idea as I thought I would be. Samantha Carter-O'Neill does have a nice ring to it. Ring...I wonder what kind of ring he's going to get me? I've always been partial to sapphires myself, they go with my eyes. Hey, maybe we could take the honeymoon in Maui........
"So if we dial in those co-ordinates...?"
Oh...Jumped the gun a little there Samantha....Back to reality.
"We may be able to Gate somewhere....assuming the Goa'uld launch their attack from the same place in this universe. After all Daniel described some differences...."
Jack looks at me and grins. I find myself blushing a little, especially given the direction my thoughts were taking.
"Sam, I can count on the rest of SG1 to come with me.....but you know the base computers better than anyone. We could really use your help."
I take a sip of my coffee......How can I refuse?
The first thing I feel is someone touching my face. I open my eyes, but it's dark, I can't see a thing. Making an instant decision, I grab the hand and I bite down....hard.
There's a satisfying crunch....followed by an angry yell.
Jack, it's Jack! I'd recognise that voice anywhere. I grope about with my hand, finding his leg and his sidearm...that is his sidearm, right? Moving further up his body I touch his face, just reassuring myself that it really is him. I can feel his hat, the scar on his left eyebrow...his lips. I snatch my hand back.
"Jack..? I'm sorry, it's just so dark in here."
"It's all right....I like your attitude," he tells me.
Looks like I really did hurt him.
"What do you know, the Major bites....that should be fun, Colonel."
Okay, so Kowalski's awake too. We could have done without that prime example of his so called wit. When Jack says stuff like that it's funny. If it's Charlie it's just sick.
"It's not dark, we're blind!" Daniel interrupts.
"All right take it easy Daniel, we've been in worse situations than this," Jack tries to reassure him.
"Not to my knowledge," Teal'c adds.
"Thanks, Teal'c," Kowalski says.
"They're getting ready to wipe out the major cities of Earth, they'll do it from orbit, out of reach," Daniel goes on.
He doesn't want to be reassured and I can't say I blame him. If he has seen all this before, it must be like finding himself living a nightmare.
"Danny-boy....could you try to look on the bright side, just for a minute...."
"Kowalski, I've already been through this once before. I've already seen this before?"
"Daniel will you relax? You've been through it before and you survived. We're....just having a bad day," Jack tells him
No longer really paying attention to the argument I start to blink my eyes rapidly. Is it my imagination or is there some texture to the darkness?
"Colonel, I think I'm starting to see something!" I say.
"My sight returns as well," Teal'c adds.
"That's what I wanna hear," Jack sounds almost cheerful. Next to me, I hear him scramble to his feet. "Sam...if someone comes in here......you...bite 'em in the hand."
It hasn't escaped my notice that I've slipped back to the military form of address. It just seems more appropriate, given our current situation. Jack's feeling his way around our prison. I chart his progress by the various grunts from the other members of the team, as he unfailingly manages to walk into them. I can see why he would be frustrated, but in the end there's nothing we can do except sit back and wait for our sight to come back. I don't know how long we've been out. It could be that the C4 will blow any second. Maybe that's why Jack's so nervous.
As my vision clears, I can just about see him standing by what looks like a door. He looks like he's about to beat crap out of it. Kowalski must have noticed because he gets up and starts to talk to him in low, urgent tones. I can't hear what they're saying, but eventually he persuades Jack to come and sit down with the rest of us.
"I'm not big on enclosed spaces," Jack mutters to me, by way of an explanation.
It's not much of one, but I get the feeling it's all I'm going to get for now.
"Want me to have a look at your hand?" I ask....which makes him laugh.
We sit there for several hours. Despite my long period of unconsciousness, I have to fight the urge to sleep. We can't afford to drop our guard for a second. As soon as that door opens we're going to try to get out of here. Jack hasn't given any orders...I just know.
"Well, on the bright side, my hand isn't blurry anymore," Daniel says eventually.
I'm about to snap at him, when we hear footsteps in the corridor. Jack waves Daniel and I towards the far wall, while he, Kowalski and Teal'c flatten themselves next to the door. This is it. Even if we don't make it, anything has to better than sitting here waiting for the ship to explode.
A Serpent guard comes through, his helmet open to reveal a bearded man of indeterminate age. I say that because I know that a Jaffa can live longer than a normal human.
"Bra'tac? " Jack questions.
OK so these guys obviously know each other.....which must be why Bra'tac hits Jack in the face with his forearm.
"Oh God!" Jack exclaims as he collapses, holding his nose.
"Fools! Hashak! You doom yourselves! It is all I can do to keep you alive. Do you know all I have done to regain the trust of Apophis and join this campaign?" Bra'tac rages.
My guess is that this Bra'tac guy is pissed about something. I keep quiet, not wanting to interrupt what is obviously a very touching reunion.
"Tek matte, Bra'tac," Teal'c speaks, stepping forward...He could have done that before Jack got hit. Bra'tac seems to relax slightly,
"Hello again Old friend. Your son grows strong, one day he will be a great warrior. But you should not have come."
"I stand by my friends. I believe this world may be our only hope in one day overcoming the false gods."
"Yes. As pathetic as that may seem at the moment. I agree."
Then he looks at me. It clear that he views me as the pathetic one. His eyes are nothing but disdainful.
"You bring a woman?"
"Look, I don't know who you are but...." I start in on him.
"Better ease off on Carter, Bra'tac or she'll bite you," Kowalski grins. "Ask the Colonel......Now you were agreeing that Earth was going to overcome false Gods?"
"He was?" Daniel asks.
"I may even have been able to save this world had you not interfered," Bra'tac continues.
"Hey! What do you think we've been trying to do? It is our world you're talking about," Jack says, finally recovering enough to join in the conversation.
"Enough human! This is not the place to talk of these things. I have been ordered by Apophis himself to execute you. An order I intend to disregard. Come."
We had to leave Daniel behind.....And to think, a few hours ago, I was accusing Jack of making emotional decisions? I know it isn't easy to abandon a team member..... No one gets left behind is his number one rule. I think it was only the fact that we were all going to die anyway that persuaded him to do it. If it had been me or Kowalski or Teal'c I don't think he would have been so upset. After all, we are supposed to die in the line of duty, Daniel is not. The one civilian member of our team had to pay the ultimate price. It's worse because, we're not going to die. The Glider bays are full, we can fly back to Earth....or so I thought.
"Sir, those are two man ships and there are five of us," I tell him.
I needn't have bothered. Even Jack can do that math.
"Go," he yells.
"No one gets left behind, remember?"
I should feel bad about throwing those words at him, but I don't. I will not let him die alone here. Kowalski and Teal'c have already gone to one of the ships and I can see Bra'tac waiting impatiently by another.
"Carter, the C4 is going to blow. This is no time to ignore orders!"
"Jack! I am not leaving you here."
He grabs my hand and starts dragging me towards the Glider. What's he going to do? The ship only has two...oh. He pulls me into his lap, holding me tightly. Bra'tac looks back at us...I can tell that he's scornful of our human weakness, but he doesn't say anything. He just tosses something in Jack's direction.
"Human, put this on," he orders.
"Will you please stop calling me human?" Jack complains. "Our time is up, we have got to go!"
I feel myself pushed back against Jack as the craft launches. He doesn't complain, but I can tell the impact of my body is enough to drive the air from his lungs. His struggling to breathe as we fly clear of the ship....only to be struck by the explosion. Jack is still holding onto me and it's only the strength of his arms that stops my shooting forward and hitting Bra'tac.
Eventually the shaking stops and we manage to maintain an even flight. I raise my head so I can look at Jack. He gives me a small smile and shifts my weight slightly.
"Bra'tac...Bra'tac! You OK?" he asks.
"Not bad for an old man."
I grin and, on impulse, lean forward to hug Bra'tac. He seems pleased rather than embarrassed.
"Colonel? come in," Kowalski's voice sounds over the radio.
"We're OK, Charlie," Jack replies.
"Same here. But I don't think we bought ourselves much time, our glider's had it."
"I concur," Teal'c agrees.
"We got cooked pretty bad in the explosion," I say, realising how serious our situation still is.
"Sam..." Jack begins.
"We're low on power and in a fairly low orbit, so I don't imagine it'll be too much longer before we burn up in Earth's atmosphere."
"Sam...take a look up."
I follow his gaze. Oh My God! Earth is above us, just like you see it in all those shuttle pictures. The sight takes my breath away.
"It's beautiful," I whisper.
"Yes, it is."
Jack's no longer looking at the view, he's staring straight at me.
"We saved it, sir," I say, meeting his eyes.
"Yes, we did."
"It's going to be a beautiful sunset, Jack."
"You know, Sam, this wasn't such a bad day after all."
"Not bad at all."
I lean towards him, resting my head on his shoulder. We sit together, quietly admiring the view. Dimly, I hear Bra'tac speak again. He's sharing his last moments with his friend.
"We die well, Teal'c."
"More than that, old friend...we die free," Teal'c replies.
That's the important thing....we die free...not locked up in some Goa'uld prison....not stuck on our own planet watching impotently as fire rains from the skies...we die free.
There's only one more beautiful sight than the Earth and it's the shuttle Endeavour, come to take us home.
You know, when I was a kid I always wanted to be an astronaut....but, now I know why they call the shuttle the world's worst glider. Stargate is a much better way to travel. I give it up to those shuttle pilots though. They landed her right on the button. Even Jack was impressed, and that's saying something. Weightlessness was really cool. Teal'c was hilarious....I don't think the symbiont liked it very much, though. We had to wait a while until we had a landing window so Jack and I spent most of the time turning somersaults. That and coping with the toilet arrangements; the slinger I could understand....but Mr. Slurpy? If I didn't know before, I'm now certain that the Stargate project is the right place for me to be. Assuming we still have a project and I'm not Court-martialled the second I get back.
I needn't have worried. The General had quite a celebration organised, but saving the Earth was nothing compared to the revelation that Daniel was alive and well. For a couple of seconds I thought Jack was going to cry. After we'd finished hugging Daniel, Jack pulled me so close I thought he was going to break a couple of ribs. I lost track of him after that. The rest of my team showed up with a couple of bottles of Champagne.....which they liberally sprayed over me. It's on my clothes, in my hair....I thought they'd be pissed because I'd left them behind. It turned out that Ferretti had tried to come after us, but by the time they tried to dial we'd already left the co-ordinates. I love these guys, they're just the best.
Luckily, I manage to save enough champagne to pour a couple of glasses, then I go and find Jack.
"Jack!" I call out to him.
He turns away from his conversation with General Hammond and grins at me,
"Sam, you smell like a winery!"
"It's this new champagne beauty treatment the guys decided to try out. I managed to save some though." I hand him the other glass and clink mine against it. "To dying well," I say.
"To being free," he returns.