Story Notes: Steps 09: EMAIL:

SPOILERS: Shades of Grey

SEASON/SEQUEL: A sequel to First Steps, Step Two, Three Steps Forward, Four Steps Back, Timesteps, Six Steps, Alternate Steps, 100 Steps


ARCHIVE: Sam and Jack, anyone else please ask

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Continuing my challenge response :):)...Sorry this part has taken so long. I've had flu twice whilst I was appearing in two pantomimes!! But here it is!

I'm waiting for Jack to come home. The fire is lit, dinner is under control and I'm sitting here with a glass of wine re-reading one of my favourite books. I have to admit I'm very comfortable here. There's enough of my stuff around to make it feel like home. My pictures are on the walls, my cushions decorate the couch......Jack's built loads of shelves to hold all my books.

I curl my body into a more comfortable position, taking another sip of my wine. When I first moved into Jack's house I was little worried. Jack had his habits and I had mine, and we'd both been living alone long enough to become set in our ways. We have some adjustments to make, but we're doing pretty well. Okay, so it's only been three weeks, but.....If I'm honest most of my stuff was here already.

The plan is we live together for six months and then get married. I know Jack wants to start a family pretty soon after that, but the thought doesn't scare me anymore. To be honest, I really want to get pregnant again. I've even thought about coming off the pill, but now would not be the right time. In some ways I want to prove myself that I can have children....and make sure I can be everything that Jack wants me to be.

Jack's only been back from Edora for six weeks and I still wonder what exactly went on between him and Laira. He says nothing, but.....She wanted something from him, that much was clear. Trouble is, I can see him enjoying the life she offered. Jack is an outdoors type of guy. Nothing would make him happier than to spend his time building things, growing I understand he got a whole lot of fishing done while he was there. So maybe he didn't spend that much time with Laira after all. I know what Jack gets like when he finds a good spot....he doesn't care if there are any fish there or not and I find myself smiling as I think of him sitting on the bank of that river, with Laira trying to get his attention.

It's getting late. I thought Jack would be home by now. He said he had to go and see the General, but even so.....I shouldn't really be worried. Any number of things could have kept him on the base. Sighing to myself, I uncurl myself and go to switch the oven off....Dinner will reheat...I hope. I'm not mad at him, not really. It's a fact of the life we both lead.

I settle myself back with my book and pour myself another glass of wine. Despite my misgivings I told Jack about the miscarriage. In a way he was more devastated than I was. For me, at least, the pain has dulled just a little. My Dad said that it's lucky I'm a strong person, but I'm not so sure. I get the feeling that I didn't grieve enough. Jack was pretty upset, some of it from the fact that he wasn't here, even though there was nothing he could have done. He blames himself because I was spending so much time working to get him home again. That part I don't regret. If I'd have waited for the Tollan to send a ship, Laira would have worn him down for certain. We'd have got to Edora to find the happy couple surrounded by half a dozen little O'Neill's.

Without meaning to, I must have drifted off to sleep. The next thing I know, there's a key turning in the front door. Jack walks into the living room, looking like hell. I glance at the clock, it's gone 2100. What was so important that the General had to keep him this long?

"Sam?" his voice is husky, I can smell beer and cigarettes.

So he stopped off on the way home. Why? What the hell is going on?

"You're late," I say.

"Yeah. wanna go out?"

"At this time?"

"Catch a movie or something?"

We haven't been to the movies in ages, but why does he want to go now? It isn't like there's anything either of us would particularly want to see....unless Jack insists on Disney again. There's only so many times I can watch The Lion King.

"Jack, are you OK?" I ask.

"Yeah....I just.....look if we leave now we can get dinner and catch the late show."

Raising my hands in supplication I haul myself up and go to the bedroom to change. I suppose this might be a factor of Jack's behaviour of which I was previously unaware but....I'm not really in the mood to argue with him. Exchanging my sweats for jeans and a shirt, I join Jack at the front door. He seems very eager to get out of the house. As soon as we're in the car he seems to relax a little. Despite evidence to the contrary, I don't think he actually is drunk, his eyes are too lucid.

We don't talk as he drives us to the edge of town. He probably thinks I'm mad at him, but I'm just too drowsy to start a conversation. In fact, I actually fall asleep and Jack has to wake me up. There's sympathy in his eyes and he offers me his hand. His fingers twine with mine. I wish I could work out what is going through his mind. His words and his actions just don't seem to match. Food is obviously the last thing on his mind, he barely touches his meal....and refuses dessert. Normally he'll eat a small South American Country's worth. Something stops me from asking what's wrong. I don't know why, but I can't seem to bring myself to do it. Maybe he'll tell me in his own time....I certainly hope so.


"Why the hell don't you just go back there?" I scream at him.

"Maybe I will!" Jack yells back.

We couldn't have picked a more public spot for this particular argument to break out. It's lunchtime and the commissary is packed.

"At least Laira can give me what I want!" he goes on.

"I'm not some kind of breeding machine."

"No, you're not...and that's the real problem isn't it! You should have been able to get pregnant again by now!"

I fling the contents of my glass into his face. It's a damn shame it's only water. I don't want to break down and cry, but somehow I can't help myself. There's tears streaming down my face, but I hardly notice. I have to get out of there, away from him, away from everyone. If I stay I'll.....


It's Janet's voice, but I make like I haven't heard her.


She grabs my arm and forces me to stop.

"Are you OK?" she asks.



"It's nothing."

"I never realised you and Jack were having problems. You should have said something."

"Janet, I really have to go."

There's a yell and the next thing I know, Jack comes flying out of the door, hits the wall and slides to the floor. Janet and I look at each other. It's all I can do to stop myself rushing to help him up. The members of SG1 and SG2 walk out of the commissary, not one of them sparing Jack a second glance. I wonder which one of them hit him? Let's just hope it was Teal'c. I don't particularly want any of them court-martialled for striking a superior officer. Jack's actually bleeding, but not even Janet goes to him.

"Report to the infirmary," she tells him. "Get one of the nurses to put some ice on that."

He doesn't say anything. Just uses the wall to haul himself to his feet and disappears into the elevator. The rest of the guys form a protective barrier around me....just in case he decides to start again.

"What are you going to do?" Janet asks me.

"Move out, I guess," I reply.

It's something I was hoping to avoid, but there really isn't anything else I can do.

"Need some help?" Ferretti offers.

"Yeah....lot of stuff to move."

We go home right away. There's no time like the present after all. Janet says I can stay with her until I find someplace else. I just hope it won't take too long.

With everyone helping, we have my belongings shifted to Janet's in a couple of hours. It's funny, but Jack's house looks kind of empty. Probably something to do with all the empty bookshelves. I want Jack to know that I've gone, that this house is his again. Alone for a few moments, I take one last look around. There's a throw rug draped along the back of the couch. It's mine. Jack and I used to wrap ourselves up in it when we went out stargazing. I reach out and touch it, letting my fingers run over the warm fabric, remembering those nights we spent up on the roof. Something tells me I should leave it here, so I don't pick it up. I wonder if Jack will even notice, but I can't leave his life completely, however much the circumstances require it.

This is alot harder than I expected it to be. Jack and I just seemed to have got comfortable with each other...and then all hell broke loose. I know his words will haunt me for a long, long time. The worry that maybe I can't have children has been with me......ever since the miscarriage. This whole thing has made the longing even worse. I can hardly look at a child without getting misty eyed. My emotional state is fragile, to say the least. Which is one of the reasons Jack's words hurt me so much.

Janet has and apartment the other side of town, which is good. At least I won't accidentally run into Jack outside of work. It's not big, but it has two bedrooms, which means I have somewhere I can be alone. Right now I need the solitude....I lie in the small single bed and stare at the ceiling, wishing Jack was with me.


I'm damn glad I didn't pick the short straw. Seeing Jack is not an option. Three steps inside the door and I'll try to rip his clothes off. It's only been a week and I miss him like mad. I keep telling myself that there's nothing I can do.....that I've just got to go on as if life is normal....well as near to normal as it ever gets.

Daniel was the one who got to see Jack. From all accounts it wasn't a pleasant encounter. No one can figure out what's going on with him. They all seem to be putting it down to his extended stay on Edora. Even so, I can't help feeling jealous when he announces his decision to return. Makepeace was the first one to find out and he happily spread the news around the SGC. He and Jack have never gotten along well. Their dislike is something deeper than just the habitual rivalry between airforce and marines.....and the feeling is mutual.

Makepeace has been given command of SG1. An appointment that none of us is very happy with. It should have been Kowalski, everyone knows that. It doesn't matter that he's still a major. SG1 would die for him....but I think they'd happily stand by and watch Makepeace burn. I know the Colonel has been bad mouthing his team, which doesn't endear him to me any further. He calls Teal'c the if he doesn't have another name...and he has no patience with Daniel. I'm surprised Kowalski hasn't got himself court-martialled yet. He isn't the most....tactful of officers.

Watching Jack step through that gate was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. I stood there like a good little soldier....even saluted him. He didn't even look back, just took his stuff and went. No words, nothing, I just hope Edora doesn't prove too distracting.

I think everyone expects me to break down. When I get back to Janet's, she's bought just about every kind of ice cream in the store and rented half a dozen videos. I try to enter into the spirit of what she's doing, but all I want is my bed. The strain of all this is really starting to show. I'm so tired I barely make it through the first film. In the end I just have to excuse myself and go to bed. It feels strange to sleep alone. There's something missing....or should I say someone. It's worse now that I know he's gone back to Edora. I just hope Laira wasn't there to meet him.

My engagement ring rests on the bedside table. I never gave it back to him...although by rights I should have....I should have thrown it in his face. That would have been a great scene. I could have done that in the briefing room. Or would that have been too melodramatic. It's a fine line we have to walk here. I don't particularly want to be brought up on charges and, until he retired, Jack was still a superior officer.

Several days go by and there's no word from Jack. I didn't expect there to be, but even so....SG1 have been on several missions with Makepeace as their CO. I don't think that team is going to stay together very long. Kowalski has already put in for a transfer. Teal'c and Daniel aren't so lucky. The only thing they can do is quit the SGC and Makepeace hasn't pushed them that far...but I feel it's only a matter of time. Even my own team has been adversely affected. I have to admit I've been a little distracted. Worse than that, there's never anyone to share our downtime. SG1 have started to keep very much to themselves, which is a bad sign. I'm scared they're going to try something stupid.

"Remember we're going to O'Malley's on Thursday," Janet is saying. She has this bizarre habit of planning what we're going to do days beforehand, rather than just letting things happen. It's starting to get annoying. I don't like my life to be quite this organised. I'm starting to wish that I'd just moved into a hotel.

"Sam...." she questions.

"Sorry Janet I was just...."

"Thinking about Jack?"

"I guess."

"Sam, he's gone. You have to accept that and move on. I hate to sound like a cliché but there are plenty more fish in the sea."

"None of them like Jack."

"Which you should probably be grateful for....There are loads of guys on the base who would kill for a date."

I wondering if she ever really approved of my relationship with Jack. She certainly seems dead set on getting me to start dating someone else.

"How about Simmonds?" she goes on.

"He follows me around like a puppy dog....I'd be scared of stepping on him."


"Too old."



"Unauthorised Off-world activation....unauthorised off-world activation...!"

The sound of the alarm interrupts our conversation..... before Janet can set me up with half the men on this base. I'm certain she'd have me out on a date every night of the week if she could. Janet is of the opinion that, if you fall off a horse you should climb right back on. I think that goes a long way to explain her attitude to medicine.

"Gotta go," I tell her.

My presence isn't exactly needed in the Gateroom, but it seems like a good excuse. Besides, I have this funny feeling.... When I get there, I find that the Stargate has been activated and the iris isn't in place. The room is full of SF's, who are cuffing the men and women who are coming through the 'gate. Standing there, one arm still in the event horizon is Jack. As the last man comes through he pulls he arm back and starts down the ramp. I don't think he's seen me, I'm standing just outside the door watching the scene unfold.

"Give me one of those things," Jack says to Makepeace.

"Here," the other man replies, giving Jack one of the binders.

Big mistake....huge. Before Makepeace can react his arms have been bound behind his back.

"What the hell are you doing?" he protests.

"That would be my job," Jack replies and walks away from the man.

By this time General Hammond has made it to the Gateroom, and Jack goes to stand next to him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen I'm pleased to announce that you are all under arrest for high crimes against the United States and her allies," Hammond announces.

As we stand there two members of the Tollan delegation come in.

"You really blew it O'Neill!" Makepeace spits.

"Oh I think it came out quite nicely, don't you, General?" Jack replies, the traces of a smile hovering about his lips.

"Yes I do," Hammond agrees.

"You have no idea how high up this goes," Makepeace goes on, "You pissed off the wrong people."

"Like the Tollan, the Tok'ra, the Nox?" Jack questions

"They refuse to give us the things we need to defend ourselves!"

"We don't need their stuff, Makepeace, but we do need them."

"Get them out of here," Hammond says.

The SF's drag the unwilling prisoners away. Makepeace makes a lunge towards Jack, but is immediately restrained. I'd say Jack has made a lifelong enemy there. Not that Makepeace will be seeing the light of day for quite a while. I always suspected there was something a little 'off' about him, but I can't say I'm glad to have my suspicions confirmed.

"So, just to clarify, this whole past week. Beginning with the appeal we made on Tollana....for which I did alot of hard work by the way. I take it that was all a scam?" Daniel asks when the Gateroom has been cleared.

"Within the last two weeks the Asgard and the Tok'ra approached us independently of each other, with evidence that we were stealing technology form them," Hammond starts to explain.

"We?" Kowalski wants to know. "The SGC?"

"Yes, the Asgard the Tollan and the Nox were going to sever all ties with us. But we convinced them the thefts must be the action of a rogue group from outside the SGC."

"We insisted that you apprehend them yourselves. You have now regained our trust," one of the Tollan's adds. She graciously inclines her head towards Jack, who returns the gesture.

"So you set that whole thing up on Tollana in the hopes that the mole would think you were one of them and approach you?" Daniel goes on.

"And you didn't think you could trust us to help?" Kowalski complains.

"We wanted to assure that your reaction to the Colonel's behaviour was as it should be. And the Asgard insisted that Colonel O'Neill be the only one involved."

"They like me," Jack adds.

"And now, will you come with me, your eminence?"

General Hammond politely escorts the two women from the room. I get the feeling that this affair isn't quite over. The Tollans are going to insist that there is no possibility of these events repeating themselves.

Only SG1 and myself remain in the Gateroom. Jack is standing at the bottom of the ramp, he spreads his arms and takes a step towards us....

"I'm back," he announces.

The rest of his team just stare at him. I can't say I really blame them. Jack's eyes move to meet mine and, very slowly, I walk towards him.

"Miss me?" he asks.

"Oh yeah," I smile back and let him put his arms around me.

I relax in his embrace, burying my head into his shoulder.

"Wait a knew about this?" Kowalski says, suddenly.

Bright boy....some of the time. I pull back from Jack and we turn to meet the accusing stares of the rest of his team.

"What, you think I'd go through this without letting Sam know what was going on?" Jack grins.

I smile back at him, remembering that night at the movies when Jack used the cover of darkness to pass me a letter. Hammond hadn't wanted to let me in on the scam, but Jack refused to have a part of it unless I was informed. He seemed to think that losing me was more important than the safety of Earth....trouble is, I think it's going to be a long time before the rest of the guys forgive us....especially Daniel. He really bore the brunt of Jack's performance.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry I had to lie to you guys. If it had been up to me....." he says.

"We are not helping you move Sam's stuff back," Kowalski interrupts.

"You moved everything out?"

"Yeah," I admit. "I thought it should look realistic."

"All those books?"

"Every single one."

Jack gives a groan and pulls me closer to his side. I press a kiss to his lips and move away.

"I'll see you at home," I tell him.

It's going to be a long debriefing. Besides, I think he needs some time alone with his team. He has one hell of a lot of explaining to do. At the very least they're going to want a blow by blow account of everything that happened.

As for me....I'm going home, to Jack's. My stuff can wait. I just want to sit on my couch, drink a glass of my wine and sleep in my own bed.


Jack's home earlier than I expected. He brings pizza and we sit in front of the fire eating it. This is where we first made love.....we seem to have come one hell of a long way since then. Even so.....some of the things Jack said while he was undercover can't help but prey on my mind. I know he didn't mean any of it but the words rang a little bit too true. Maybe I'm just being too sensitive. I know that we had to fool everyone, but I couldn't help feeling that our arguments were a little too realistic. It's probably just the children thing. If Jack had mentioned anything else I probably wouldn't have been so shaken.

"Coffee?" Jack asks me as we finish the pizza.

"No thanks, I don't want to be awake all night," I reply.

"Why not?"

He grins at me and I can't help laughing. Looks like he's missed something else over this past week.

"Decaff then," I smile back.

As Jack goes out to the kitchen, he dims the lights. I like the way this room looks in firelight. It's warmer somehow, definitely romantic. While Jack's making the coffee, I burn the pizza box. The flames change colour, briefly. Jack brings back my coffee and sits down beside me, pulling me back into his arms. I lean back against him, enjoying the warmth of the flames.

"You OK?" he asks me.

"Yes," I reply. "Why?"

"I thought you might have been mad at some of the things I had to say. You know I didn't mean any of it.....Especially the stuff about.....well, you"

I can't look at him, so I stare into my coffee, hoping that it will tell me how to cope with this particular conversation.

"It happens, you know...more than people realise," I say.


"I mean it's not unusual or anything....."

"What I'm trying to say is.....we can try again, whenever you're ready."

"Jack....what if I can't have children?"

"There are other options. Besides, the Doc said there's no reason why you can't have kids. You know that."

"Maybe I don't believe it?"

I hardly realise that I'm shouting. Jack wraps his arms around me and muffles the sound against his chest.

"Shhhh," he tells me, "It's going to be OK, Sam. I'm back and I'm never going to leave you again."

Until I get pregnant again, I don't think there's a chance I'm going to believe him.

He's kissing me in that way he has. Soft, erotic kisses that are a prelude to making love. Anyone would think we hadn't been together for months. I know this conversation is far from over, but I can't help responding to him. While he was away I stopped taking the pill.....fingers crossed.

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