Story Notes: Steps 06: AUTHOR: Ruth M. King

ARCHIVE: Sam and Jack, anyone else please ask

SPOILERS: A Matter of Time, Into the Fire

SEQUEL: A sequel to First Steps, Step Two, Three Steps Forward, Four Steps Back, Timesteps

NOTES: Continuing my challenge response :):)...which seems to be going on a lot longer than I expected :)

If this had been in the movies, Jack and I would have kissed and made up. I must admit it was the thought of the making up part that made me agree to stay in the restaurant and not storm off home....which would have been well within my rights. However, not content with setting us up our so-called friends decided that they suddenly wanted to be voyeurs. None of them know the meaning of subtlety.

When Jack and I came out of the restaurant, there was Daniel's car parked right outside. I just knocked on the window and handed the bill to Janet. Then Jack and I went our separate ways, barely managing to say goodnight. If they hadn't been there I think he might have...what? Shaken my hand? Dinner had been a little awkward. We only started to relax after a couple of glasses of champagne. Even then there was a tension between us, that I can't really explain. We kept our discussions neutral and neither of us mentioned Martouf.

Perhaps we would have been better off shouting at each least we might have got our feelings out in the open , instead of bottling them all up inside....but we probably would have ended up trashing the restaurant, and I doubt Janet would have been willing to bail us out of jail.

So here I am. Walking home through the snow covered streets with an armful of groceries. Going back to my empty apartment. It's damn cold out, the wind is cutting into my face and hands. I guess I should have put on gloves and a scarf. The grocery store isn't far, but I didn't think it was possible to get this cold in such a short space of time. That's one of the reason's Dad's always thought that I needed someone to look after me. I don't know when it's time to come in out of the snow.

Not much further now. Why do I always go to the store meaning to buy bread and come back with everything but? I don't think there is anything of any real food value in these bags, and it weighs about a ton. I hate grocery shopping. Most of the time I eat at the base. At least then I only have to decide between a few items....and I don't have to deal with my atrocious cooking. OK, it's not that bad. There are a few things I can cook really least Jack said I could....but I think he was more interested in dessert if you know what I mean. Why did I have to think about that? The image of Jack and whipped cream was not one I wanted right now.

I pause on the sidewalk, opposite my apartment building, ready to cross the road. There seems to be more traffic than usual. I guess people are trying to get home before the next load of snow falls. From the look of the sky, it won't be that long now. It'll be nice to watch it...once I'm back in the warm. Hurrying across the road, I fail to see the two people who are standing in front of the entrance. My head is bent downwards to give me some protection from the wind and I walk right into one of them.

"Sorry," I apologise, and go to move past.

Out of reflex I glance up, right into Jack's face. It isn't him I walked into....I collided with a blonde woman, but my surprise is such that I hardly notice her.

"Jack?" I question.

What the hell is he doing here? And who the hell is she?

"Sam," he acknowledges, sounding a little uncomfortable. Caught you, didn't I? How does it feel?

We stare at each other and I offer him a nervous smile. I think we've both forgotten that there's someone else standing with us. She soon makes her presence felt, however. She gives a non-discreet cough which shakes both of out of our staring match.

"Uh....Sara..this is Sam Carter," he says.

Sara? Not ex-wife Sara? Oh please, don't tell me he's back with her. I know they must have loved each other once, but surely not now. I didn't even know that they still saw each other...then again....Jack never does say much..... He never really talked to me about her.

"The Sam?" Sara questions.

"Uh.....yeah," Jack replies.

"You're younger than I expected."

There's not much I can say to that. I shift nervously from foot to foot as she looks me up and down. Somehow I get the feeling that Jack told her we were together....but never mentioned the break-up. Which kind of explains her attitude, and the fact she's looking at me as if I'm a speck of dirt.

I reprimand myself for thinking such uncharitable thoughts. These two people lost their son. I can see their shared grief in the way that glance at each other....scared, half-longing looks. If Sara doesn't like me...well, she has every right not to.

"So any thoughts of wedding bells?" Sara goes on.

I'm so shocked, one of my grocery bags slips from my hand. It's only Jack's sharp reflexes that stops a bottle of wine smashing on the sidewalk. He really should explain to her, but all he does is shake his head no.

"Um....actually Sara," I begin.

"Of course, I'm interrupting," she cuts me off. "You two obviously have plans. I'll see you around Jack."

"Yeah, look after yourself," he replies.

"Nice to meet you, Sam."

This conversation is getting more confusing by the second. Jack happened to run into his ex-wife outside my apartment? In that case what was he doing here? There's something almost wistful about his expression as he watches her walk away. He still wants her, I can tell. The very thought brings tears to my eyes, but I'm strong enough not to let Jack see.

"I should," he gestures down the street, in the same direction Sara has taken.

"Unless you want to come up for a while?" I suggest.

"Can't, I have to get back to base. "


"Yeah, SG1 has a mission scheduled at 2200."

"Another time."


One of us has to go or we'll be standing in the snow for the rest of the night. It's me who makes the move. I take my bag from him and walk into the building.

I take the stairs very slowly. Part of me wants to run back down and stop him from leaving, but there's no way I'm going to do that. Besides SG1 has a least I'm assuming that he was telling the truth about that. He could have just been finding an excuse to get away from me and back to Sara.

The lights of my apartment are on as I stumble inside. I'm glad I thought to leave them when I went out, it makes finding the kitchen alot easier. Wait a second.....I didn't leave the lights on. Rushing back into the living room, I take a quick look round. TV's still here, VCR, DVD player.....OK so I haven't been robbed, but... Lying on the coffee table is a bouquet of red roses. There's a card beside them that reads; Jack.

That's all it says. I know he's usually a man of few words but....I can't help smiling. Jack bought me flowers, red roses no less. No one's ever done that for me before....I have to call that...I have to call Jack. He won't have got to the base yet, I should be able to catch him on his cell phone. To my annoyance, he doesn't answer and I get switched through to his voice mail.

"Hey, Jack," I reply to his message, "thanks for the flowers, they're beautiful. Call me when you get back...."

I want to say something else, something a little more personal. My mind refuses to form words, so I hang up and go and spend some time with my flowers.

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I find myself hanging behind as the briefing room empties, using the opportunity to adjust my underwear. This was a bad choice. Sexy doesn't go well under fatigues. I feel like it's cutting me in half...damn butt floss. Jack had better appreciate this when he gets back. Maybe I'm jumping the gun a little, but I want to be prepared....those flowers had to mean something. I push up my push up bra a little and make my way down to the Gateroom. SG1 are due back any second and I want to be the first person Jack sees. I want to be able to smile at him and see his face light up.

When I got here, I let myself into his quarters and set a few things up. Some of Teal'c candles for one, a bottle of wine, and a single red rose on the pillow. Cheyenne Mountain may not be the most romantic location, but SG2 are due out early tomorrow morning, so we won't have time for anywhere else. I stand there in the Gateroom and wait...and wait...and wait. Eventually, General Hammond gently tells me that I should be somewhere else. His way of saying that something is wrong.

I retreat to Jack's quarters and calmly strip it of all the trappings of romance. When the area is bare, I return to my own room. Damn, but this underwear is killing me. I don't think it was ever meant to be worn this long, but that wasn't the point of this exercise. I free myself of my constricting garments and return to my sensible, boring attire. It's not going to turn anyone on, but I don't care anymore. I curl up on my bed and hug my pillow close. Jack and I made love here once. We had this rule about not doing it on the base, which lasted all of about two days. Both of us spend so much time here that we couldn't really help ourselves. What General Hammond didn't know wouldn't hurt him....and the walls here are pretty thick.

Jack has to come back...he just has to.

Sleeping was the best thing I could have done under the circumstances and I crashed out for ten hours straight. In fact, the next thing I knew was Janet waking me up.

"Janet?" I question, thinking that maybe she has some news.

"Nothing yet.....I thought I'd better wake you up. SG2 is due out in half an hour."

I drag my hands through my hair and across my face. Going off-world is the last thing I want to do right now, but duty calls.

"You'll recall us if there's any news?" I ask her.

"Girls scout's honour," she answers.

I don't want to leave the base, but duty calls. Ferretti tells me that SG3 and SG5 went out after SG1. I guess Hammond couldn't trust SG2 to remain objective about the situation. Let's face it, we would have torn the whole planet apart looking for them. Colonel Makepeace knows better than that.

They found Teal'c by the Stargate, but no sign of the rest of SG1. He's still out cold in the infirmary and won't be telling us anything for a while. Teal'c's really sick. Worse than he's ever been before. Janet doesn't know if he's going to pull through. Not even his symbiote seems to be able to heal him. If Teal'c's this bad what does it mean for the rest of them...for Jack? This can't be happening. SG1 always comes's part of what makes them....well...SG1. Jack's team is the best, everyone knows that. They can't just die. Jack can't die...he sent me flowers.

After my mission is over, when I finally get home, the roses are sitting in a vase, mocking me. Damn, why couldn't he have given them to me one day earlier. I know what they mean now....Jack has forgiven me....and it's too late. Those are words I never expected to hear myself say. We should have clung onto every moment we had....I should have made him come back to me.

Oh God! What the hell am I going to do?

I curl myself up on the couch and give myself over to grief. Tears are meant to be cleansing, aren't they? Shouldn't I feel better after crying my eyes out for three solid hours? In the end I go to bed, there's really nothing else I can do. I'm still a major, I still lead SG2....I have that much to console me. My life has to go on...even if Jack can no longer be a part of it.

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SG2 are off to pay a visit to the Tok'ra, not that I really feel like going. Each time I step through that gate I feel like I'm going to miss something....some sign that SG1 are still alive. But I especially requested this mission so I could see Dad, so it wouldn't look good if I made excuses. Actually, a good long talk with my father is probably just what I need. No doubt he'll have some sound, pithy advice for me. Something along the lines of don't fall in love with your could have been worse...Jack could have been my commanding officer.

We're not going to meet them on their base planet. Despite Dad, the Tok'ra still don't trust us enough to let us know where they're based. The world we travel to is like most of the others; covered with trees and wet. The Goa'uld have very little imagination when it comes to terra-forming their worlds. We sit in the rain for five hours before the Tok'ra deign to join us. I don't know what information they have, but it had better be good. None of us is in the best of moods right now. We want to be back at base, joining in the search for SG1.

"Hey Dad," I say as he finally makes an appearance. There are a couple of others with him, but they take up position by the Gate, guarding our retreat.

"Sam?" Dad questions me.

"You tell me, you were the ones who asked for this meeting," I joke.

"OK, have it your way, business first."

No, I didn't fool him for a second. Since he's been blended with Selmak, Dad has got way too perceptive for his own good. At the best I've only managed to forestall the inevitable conversation.

"So, what do you have for us?" I go on.

But before Dad can open his mouth, the gate springs into life again. We all dive for the tree line, taking cover as best we can. As it turns out our precautions aren't necessary. Our visitor turns out to be Martouf. Dad goes to meet him, but I find myself hanging back a little. He is probably the last person I want to see. Jolinar's memories are under better control now, but I can't stop myself feeling something every time I see him.

"Sam," Dad beckons me over and I go with bad grace. Ferretti comes with me, hovering on my shoulder like some kind or guardian angel.

"What is it?" I ask.

If Dad notices my coldness towards Martouf, he doesn't comment.

"I have information, regarding SG1," Martouf says.

"What? Where are they?" Ferretti demands. "Are they hurt?"

"It's Hathor."

Bitch queen from hell Hathor? Damn. Last time we saw here she practically took over the base.

"So what can you tell us?" I ask.

Martouf has everything we could possibly need, Stargate address, a plan of Hathor's base. It turns out that the Tok'ra have an operative under cover and who just sent word. When he heard, the first thing Martouf did was come to find me. I wonder if Jack could be that generous if it had been the other way around. Dad called the meeting because of Hathor's return to power, but I never figured it would have such personal consequences.

We leave as soon as we can. I start running through the Stargate and don't stop when I get to the other side. Everyone stares as I dash out of the Gateroom and straight up to General Hammond's office. There's some guy from the Pentagon deep in conversation with the General, but I don't even wait to knock.

"'s SG1..." I pant.

"What is it, Major?" he demands.

"We may have found them."

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Well, we found Daniel and Kowalski easily enough, but Jack....Jack....

Colonel Makepeace ordered us to move out, saying that we couldn't afford to go back for Jack. For the first time in my military career I'm tempted not to obey orders. If this had been my mission....but it's not and I find myself unwillingly following Makepeace out of the complex. He's right, Jack is a Goa'uld now. There's nothing that we can do for him, however much I hate myself for leaving him. If I go back, we'll be risking everything and one man just isn't worth it....or so people like Makepeace would have us believe.

Daniel looks pretty out of it. Not surprising, given what happened last time he met Hathor. He doesn't talk about least he's never mentioned it to me. Not that I blame him. I hope he's going to be OK. Charlie's watching out for him...I guess someone has to.

It's dark when we get back to the surface. The Stargate lies before us, unguarded. We know it's probably a trap, but we have no choice. It's our only way home. General Hammond tried to get in touch with the Tok'ra and persuade them to give us some back up. They must have refused, because there's no one here but us. I see Makepeace give the signal and we run for it. I'm not really surprised that we don't make it. There are men dropping to my right and left as we try to get back to the tree line. Weapons towers erupt from the very earth and start blasting chunks out of the ground. Daniel gets shot, I see him go down and Kowalski helps him up....

Ironically, it's one of the big guns that provides our means of escape. By accident or some divine intervention, one of the blasts opens up a Tok'ra tunnel. Not all of us reach it. I'm hoping the rest got to the trees and are hiding out in the woods. We flee through the tunnels, only to run into the forcefield again. Literally in Makepeace's case. It's as I reach out to touch it that I start to realise how I can go back for Jack. We're still exploring the tunnels when we get a message through from General Hammond. He's going to send reinforcements in six hours. The energy barrier is our real problem. We have to get through this thing or we not going to get home.....and it has to be powered from somewhere inside the complex.

Next thing I know, I'm on my way back. Daniel and Charlie wanted to come with me, but Daniel's hurt and Charlie wouldn't know a shield generator if it leapt up and bit him. At the risk of sounding melodramatic....this I must do alone.

I find my way into the base. From what Charlie and Daniel have told me, I know that Jack was being held in one of the SGC areas. They've given me pretty good directions and I can only hope he's still there. He wouldn't have succumbed easily, I know that much, but I'm scared about what I might find. At least I'll know if he's a Goa'uld, I can thank Jolinar for that.

When I reach the room in question, there's no sign of Jack. It's cold...probably due to the pit of liquid nitrogen that appears to be the main feature. The only occupant of the room is slumped on the floor. Cautiously, I cross over to her.

"Forgive me," she says, "there was no other way."

"You're the Tok'ra?" I ask.

She nods, then points to a console, "The controls are set, activate them."

I do as she asks. Some mechanism grinds into life and something that looks suspiciously like a coffin is winched up from the pit in the floor.

"The goa'uld within is gone," she tells me. "The freezing process would have destroyed it, before it had a chance to meld with the host. He will revive automatically."

Her head slumps to one side as she loses consciousness. There really isn't anything I can do for her, so I cross to the 'coffin' and activate the controls to slide off the lid. Sure enough Jack is inside. God, he looks terrible. His shirt is torn....what else has Hathor done to him? I can't stand the thought of Jack being used in the way Daniel was. I know he wouldn't submit willingly.

I reach out and cup his face in my hands, trying to sense the Goa'uld within. There's trace of Naquedah. I breath a silent prayer, dropping a kiss onto his forehead.

"I don't feel it's presence. You're going to be OK," I say. Although whether he can actually hear me is debatable.

I undo the straps that are holding him down a move around to the other side of him. In my haste to free Jack, I let my guard drop. Hathor is standing there, her hand device trained on me.

"We had hopes for you," she spits.

But I'm in too much pain to care. My whole brain is on fire. I'm trying to fight it, but there's nothing I can do... I'm driven to my knees, struggling every inch of the way.

I must have blacked out for a second, because the next thing I feel is a pair of hands pulling me upright.

"Sam?" Jack asks.

"What happened?"

"Oh God baby, I thought..."

But the only word I hear is baby...He pulls me into his arms, holding me as close as he's ever done. His skin is icy cold to the touch and I find myself hugging him back, trying to give him some of my warmth.

"Hathor's gone," he mumbles into my hair.

"What about you?"

"Cold.....I'm a little chilly, but...I'm me....I'm me."

His lips graze my neck...even his breath is cold.

"Colonel Makepeace came through with half a dozen SG teams to rescue us, but we're cut off from the Stargate. They're using an energy barrier. The plan is to blow it before General Hammond sends in reinforcements."

Jack releases me, "And how do we plan to do that?"

I'm looking right into his eyes. He senses that I don't really have much of a plan. I don't know what to say to him, but Jack realises that words aren't what we need right now. He leans towards me. We're both breathing hard and it's not from any exertion. Just being close to him again is sending very distracting signals to my brain.

"What you seek is in the mock-up of your Stargate facility," the Tok'ra woman interrupts.

"And you?" I ask her. I feel responsible. Without her help I would never have got Jack back.

"My symbiote my yet heal must hurry...go."

I look at Jack again and he helps me to my feet. I must admit I still feel a bit shaky. It could be the after effects of Hathor's hand device, but it could be something else. There's still alot we have to say to each other, but it will have to wait. We have to blow that generator and get ourselves back to Earth..... If we can.

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I don't think Colonel Makepeace was that pleased to see Jack. Technically, I suppose I did disobey his order....but there was no way I was ever going to consider Jack a casualty. Maybe Makepeace saw this as his chance to move up in the SGC hierarchy. That's uncharitable of me, but there's something about that man I find very disquieting. Then again...he is a marine, what can you expect. He's very like Jack in a way, if you took away the sense of humour and basic decency.

General Hammond was as good as his word. Although, I must admit I'd expected an Earth military response, but there was no sweeter sight than Teal'c's deathglider swooping through the 'gate. He's one hell of a pilot. It's disorienting enough walking through the wormhole, never mind tying to fly a plane. You know I swear I heard General Hammond give a rebel yell as they destroyed the first tower, but I couldn't have done...could I? By the time Bra'tac came through with the renegade Jaffa it was more or less over. With Hathor gone, her forces were in disarray. Without her binding force they'd just as soon fight each other as us.

I pick Jack up from the dust and we go to join the others. To my surprise, he slips an arm about my waist. The display of affection makes me slightly uncomfortable. It shouldn't be this easy....or should it? Yet another example of the way Jack thinks. He's found it in his heart to forgive me, so as far as he's concerned we can go back. I'm not so certain. No matter how much he might want to pretend everything is different now. I realise I was the guilty party in all of this but even so....Jack hurt me when he rejected me so forcefully.....without being willing to listen to anything I had to say. A few roses aren't going to solve anything.

Hammond comes over to speak to us. He has an indulgent smile on his face. Yes, Uncle George is happy to see us like this. I guess he thinks it's the end of the conflict within his best SG teams. Both of Jack's arms wrap around my waist and he rests his chin on my shoulder, while carrying on his conversation with Hammond. I've never known him be so demonstrative, but it's kind of nice to feel him like this.

"Major?" Hammond says

"What...I mean, yes sir?" I reply, somewhat distracted.

"Why don't you escort SG1 home?"

"But what about....?"

"We can clean up here."

He's not giving me a choice in the matter. Why does everyone seem to think that Jack and I should get back together? Even Hammond seems to have a romantic streak a mile wide. He's given me an order though, and I have to obey it. I accompany SG1 home.

Janet pounces on them the second we step through the gate and whisks them off to the infirmary. Since they've been frozen, had their memories screwed with Jack's case....been almost taken over by a Goa'uld, it's probably a good thing. More, importantly it's going to give me a chance to get my head together. I know before I was eager for Jack to come back to me but now...I'm getting scared.

In the end I go home. If Jack wants me, he knows where to find me.....but I'm betting on Janet keeping them overnight. I take a bath, open a bottle of wine and order Chinese. I curl up on the couch, in my flannel pyjamas and prepare to relax. I'm halfway through the wine when someone knocks on my door. He's found me. I know it's Jack. He has his own key and I know he'll just let himself in. Funny, that was the one thing he didn't give back to me.

"Sam?" he calls as he unlocks the door.

"In here!" I yell back.

He comes in from the hall and slumps onto the couch beside me. Without prompting, he starts to massage my feet.

"There's beer in the fridge," I tell him.

"I'm good," he replies.

I smile. Jack knows how much my feet ache after a long mission. I close my eyes and just let myself enjoy the sensation.

The mission must have taken more out of me than I thought, because the next thing I know, I'm waking up in my own bed and the sun is streaming through the curtains. I roll over and reach out a hand, disappointed to find that the other side of the bed is empty. I thought that Jack would have stayed.....even without my permission. Maybe he didn't want to. Pushing back my disappointment I crawl out of bed. I throw on my sweats and a shirt and head towards the kitchen for the coffee pot.

It's only as I'm walking back that I notice the feet hanging off the end of my couch. I'd recognise them anywhere. He's taken his shoes off and I playfully tickle his feet to wake him up. Jack won't be easily disturbed and he pulls his legs out of my reach.

"Go 'way," he mutters, curling himself up. I don't know how he's managing to stay on the couch, but he does. Taking the bait, I become a little bolder in my attack and run my fingers lightly over his ribs.

"Goddammit...Charlie!" he yells, his eyes snapping open.

Jack pulls himself upright and drags a hand through his hair. He catches sight of me, taking in my slightly shocked expression,

"Sorry, I guess that memory device screwed me up more than I thought.....I was dreaming about....well, it doesn't really matter......That coffee?"

I hand him my mug, "So you spent alot of nights on the couch when you were married?" I ask.

"You could say that, " he admits, "Sara and I had a few...disagreements. I don't think Charlie really understood when we fought. He thought it was great fun to wake Dad up."

"I'm sorry."

I don't really know what to say. From what Daniel said, I always thought that Jack and Sara were idylically happy together.

"'s Okay," he reassures me.

"You want breakfast?" I ask, breaking he awkward moment.

"What do you say we go out?"


"Then we'll talk, OK."

"Jolinar won't just go away. She's part of me now, and....I may still have problems dealing with that....."



Jack's smile fades. I can tell that he thinks I'm going to reject him, but I'm not. Nothing could be further than my mind.

"I don't love him....not in the way you think."

"I know...If anything I understand a little better now than I did before. When....when Hathor put that thing in my head. I could feel it. You know, emotions, memories and stuff. It was so damn strong. I nearly lost myself.....and I nearly lost you."

I find myself reaching out.....holding his head against my body as I stand before him. A deep sigh escapes his lips.

I think...I think we're going to be OK....I think he trusts me again....

"I love you," he speaks so quietly, that I feel the words more than hear them.

His lips brush my flesh, just above the waistband of my pants and I realise that he has been busily undoing the buttons of my shirt.

I guess we won't be going out for breakfast after all.

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