"Jack, you have to see this!"
The archaeologist's ecstatic shout almost made O'Neill wince. The only thing that that particular sound meant, was another God knows how many days on this damn dusty planet. It was always the same, either trees or dust, dust or trees… and either an archaeologist or theoretical astrophysicist flapping about some new doodad. And don't forget the aliens. Never forget the aliens.
"Jack, did you hear me? You *have* to see this!"
He groaned out loud as he pushed himself up from his less than comfy rock. When Daniel found something *this* thrilling, he knew it was pointless to ignore his cries for attention. If he did, they'd just get louder and more annoying… much better just to bite the bullet and go look at his latest…thing.
He crossed the small plateau quickly, noticing the multiple sets of alien eyes following his movements. He'd be lying if he said that their intense scrutiny was welcome. Truth was, he hated it. He hated having every tiny little thing he said, did or didn't do watched so closely, but it was something that he had to deal with otherwise Daniel and Carter wouldn't be able to play in rocks and dust.
They'd gated to PX1 203 three days ago, desert BDU's and all. Daniel had seen something in FRED's telemetry that made him (literally) bounce on the spot. So after having sucked up to Hammond, here they where. Jack suspected it was the General's need to remove an enthusiastic archaeologist from under his feet that finally won Daniel his chance to come play.
What the probe had failed to show, was that they would not be alone as they stepped through the gate. In fact they were pretty much surrounded, by sharp, very pointy, not too welcoming metal sticks. Jack's defences had shot up straight away, his wariness matched by both his second and his Jaffa buddy. But as usual it was Daniel who broke protocol, stepping in front of Jack's P-90 with a huge smile on his face and a greeting on his lips. One of these days, that would be Daniel's downfall, either the native's wouldn't be friendly, or Jack would fire himself out of sheer frustration with the good doctor.
This however, wasn't one of those times and the natives had indeed been friendly, if not a little anal. After speaking with Daniel, Jack could tell this was going to be one of *those* missions. Not only were they one of the few people that *didn't* speak English, they were also probably *the* most uptight race Jack O'Neill had ever met. Sure, they could go play in the sand and look at rocks painted with gibberish, but they could only do it at certain times, for a strictly adhered to period of time. They couldn't touch anything other than what they were told (something that Jack knew would pretty much itch Daniel to death) and they couldn't walk anywhere they weren't told. Something about 'precious' this's and 'sacred' that's.
Talk about tense.
And so they had to put up with being scrutinised if they so much as blinked out of turn and it was starting to get on Jack's nerves. What made it worse, was that it didn't seem to bother the rest of his team. Daniel was too busy being Daniel, Carter was too busy helping Daniel be Daniel, and even Teal'c had deserted him in his hour (make that day) of need. All of which combined to leave Jack bored and cranky, which was widely known to be a very bad combination.
So following the carefully marked out "walkway", Jack arrived at the entrance of the cave wondering how on earth (or whatever planet they were actually on) he managed to control that streak of his personality that rebelled against such close confines.
He had always struggled to conform to rigidity, a notion that stuck him as absurd for a career military officer. Yet it was that very military training, years of Special Forces that had instilled in him the need for flexibility. In this less than publicised branch of the military, it seemed the more you railed against structure, the better you did. As long as your primary objective was met, the methods were orderless, a personal decision. It was invaluable training for leading SG-1, a team constantly getting themselves in situations that not even sci-fi writers could dream up, a team that got out of those scrapes in the most unorthodox ways. Yet, it was hard to reconcile the soldier in him with the diplomat he now needed to be and days like this just seemed to emphasise that gulf.
As he turned carefully along the pre-marked route, he could hear the sound of Daniel's chatter in broken alien dialect become louder. Glancing briefly at the alien recipient of his friend's excited diatribe, Jack would have sworn the painted dude was bored.
After spending hours in the heat of the plateau Jack felt the cool interior of the cave wash over him like rain, the invigoration the only plus point of having to come in here to listen to Daniel hail yet more virtues of a pile of rock.
Sticking resolutely to their strictly allotted path, and firmly ignoring the new sets of eyes on his back, he made his way over to the wall that Daniel was obviously having a stroke about. He could feel the retaliation of his own personality to the eyes that constantly followed and watched their every move. He had to admit that he would *love* to see the reaction of their latest inflexible friends to the sight of him running madly around the cave, blowing raspberries. The smile that had stolen across his face the only clue as to the direction of his thoughts as he schooled his impulses just in time to see Carter raise her eyes to his in a questioning expression. Daniel, it seemed, was just too damned consumed with his ridiculously tiny hammer and chisel set, to take notice that Jack had finally arrived.
"Sam, look here… if this is what I think it is…!"
Sharing a raised eyebrow and silent grin at their friend's childlike fluster, Jack interrupted his glee.
"OK, Daniel, what miracle and 'meaning of life' stuff have you found this time?"
"Oh, hey Jack, didn't see you come in," he answered distractedly. "Well if I'm right, this writing looks like one of those that we found on Ernest's planet and given that we've met two of the four, and you've spoken one of the other two, I think that this could be a connection to the Furlings." Daniel gestured wildly towards something that struck Jack as a series of randomly squiggled lines. "Can you imagine what that would mean? If I could just translate it, I mean the Nealin language helps but… Can you see how important this is…"
"Wait a second here, Daniel, are you seriously telling me that these… people…" he motioned towards the half dozen seriously solemn watchers around them, "…are distant cousins of the big guys?" He caught Carter's grin out the corner of his eye as Daniel tutted.
"I dunno, Jack, but if they're not, they are at least connected somehow. It would certainly explain why they are so defensive about their idolatry and community structure. Races such as the Furlings would certainly have seemed Godlike to these people a few thousand years ago. It wouldn't be the first time that one of the four races had assumed theological status to promote cultural growth and provide protection. Just think what this could mean, Jack…" Daniel reasoned.
"Oh I know what this could mean, Daniel," Jack replied wearily. "It could mean that we have to spend even more time here!"
This time Daniel didn't even dignify that statement with a reply, he just grunted something Jack definitely knew was not complementary and went back to his rock. Carter on the other hand, caught his attention.
"They making you a little nervous, Sir?" she grinned as she briefly glanced at their observers.
"Ya think?" Even now he could feel them and it gave him the creeps. Anyone that found his movements *this* interesting was either seriously cracked or up to something.
Just then, Carter made to stand up and in doing so her left foot grazed the edge of their marked out safe zone. Before either of them realised, their attentive friends were up and over to them, pushing her back inside the perimeter and grumbling loudly.
"Oh for cryin' out loud it was just an *inch*," Jack argued as Sam lowered her head and joined her hands over her eyes, the sign of deference and respect that was their only way of keeping the native's weapons lowered.
Obviously accepting her apology, the good folks backed off, still mumbling and Carter looked towards her CO.
"Oops, guess I should be more careful, Sir."
"Carter, I don't think there is enough 'careful' in the entire galaxy to relax these guys."
She smiled at that, but changed the subject.
"Why didn't you go back to the Gate with Teal'c, Sir? At least you would have been doing something." Her reasoning was sound and he'd asked himself that same question a hundred or so times since Teal'c left for the supply run.
"Trying to get rid of me, Major?" His quip received the expected smile in return as he continued truthfully. "Teal'c I can trust, Daniel when he's found a new toy; I can't."
She smiled at that too and was just about to say something in response when Daniel all but jumped off the floor, yelping with delight.
"Jack, Sam…" he started.
Colonel and Major caught a look, "…you *have* to see this." they both finished, mimicking the rest of their friend's sentence.
But before they could see or be shown anything, Daniel's head had disappeared into his backpack, closely followed by his arms as he started digging around furiously for something. Jack looked towards Daniel, whose whole body was now in danger of disappearing into the bag, then flicked his amused gaze to his Major, his eyebrow raised as he listened to Daniel muttering to himself.
"I know it's in here somewhere. I can't see it. It was in here, I know it was. Oh, I must have left it with the other books outside…"
In his usual peak of excitement, Daniel got straight up and was about to put a whole, *entire* booted foot straight in a no go area before Jack managed to grab him by the sweaty collar and pull him back to safety.
Sparing a glance at their ever-present new friends, Jack decided he was just in time to stop one of those highly pointed and pretty much lethal looking metal spears from getting up close and personal with the archaeologist. "Daniel, why don't you stay here and I'll go get whatever it is you so desperately need. Carter, stay with him and don't let him move."
"Yes, Sir," she replied, pushing gently on her friend's shoulder to make him resume his seated position.
Daniel looked from one to the other and was just about to argue against Jack rummaging around through important historical texts, when he realised that if Jack went, he could stay here and work some more.
"OK, Jack. It's a black leather diary. It's in the backpack with all my notes on the repository on Ernest's planet."
Jack nodded and looked to Carter, sending her a clear message. 'Don't let him move an inch'. She nodded back. Good enough. He turned carefully and followed their marked pathway out of the cave.
Again he felt them with the following eyes, man these people were just down right weird.
He located Daniel's travelling library and began to hunt through. It was only as he reached for the last bag, that he started cursing under his breath. He was hot, sweaty and even crankier than before and to top it all, he couldn't find the damn book! If Daniel mentioned the words 'Oops', 'wild', 'goose' or 'chase', O'Neill knew he wouldn't be responsible for his actions.
He was just about to give up and go shout at Daniel, when he stood to his full height and he noticed that one of the bags had fallen over the edge of the plateau and was resting a few feet below, luckily in a "safe" zone. 'Typical' thought Jack, obviously the one he needed would fall down the goddamned cliff! His eyes followed the trail that had been marked for them, measured to the inch so that they didn't stray onto anything that was considered too phenomenal for them to even touch. It'd take him ages to get the bag if he had to go so far out of his way to get virtually all the way back again and he *really* couldn't be bothered with the escort service.
Mentally debating just how important getting that book was, Jack quickly realised that it just wasn't worth his pain not to. Besides, if he acted like he was looking at the other bags and kinda casually dangled his arm over the edge and stretched a little, he might just be able to reach it. Surely Special Ops had given him some advantage over the anally retentive, shiny stick-wielding locals?
Choice made, he slipped himself to the ground and made a quick and easy lunge for the bag, he had it in his hand when he felt the edge of the plateau give way. Dammit! As he tucked himself into a tight ball and gave up to the momentum of the fall, he just knew that this wasn't gonna go down to well with the Freudian Delights.
It wasn't often that Jack was right, but when he was right… wow, he really was.
To say they weren't happy with his free-fall down the side of a cliff was an exercise in understatement that would have done Teal'c proud. He could attest to this fact, by the presence of one of those sharp little pointy deals at his back, an even spikier one at his stomach and the rope type deals that were now secured around his neck and hands. Nope, they were not happy at all.
Right at this moment, Daniel was pleading his case to the Furlings' cousins, while Carter did her best to help. Jack was perversely pleased that *something* could drag the archaeologist away from his wall. But judging by the look on his Major's face, he could tell it wasn't going well. Great move, O'Neill, great move.
His mental castigation was interrupted as his unhappy captors backed off for the arrival of Carter. Well at last! Some measure of privacy, ok they hadn't gone far but it was far enough to provide relief from those damn pointy spears! But he didn't need her to speak a word, her eyes told him everything.
"Sir, they say you've broken ancient, sacred laws and we can't defend you because…"
"…I kinda did, didn't I?" he finished for her. "I know, Major, believe me I know."
"Daniel won't give up, Sir. He'll find some loophole to get you out of this," her voice belied her confidence.
"Carter, maybe you should think about going home and getting SG-9 in on this?"
Her eyes flew to his, totally shocked by his atypical willingness to call for help.
"I'm just saying that I'd really not like to spend the rest of my days in prison, Carter, and we're out numbered ten to one. If Daniel is struggling to convince these guys that I'm not such a devout infidel, it might help if we got the professionals in on the act."
She held his gaze for a long time, when finally she broke it, it was to call Daniel over.
"Jack, they say you have broken one of their most sacred laws. You have dishonoured both their culture and their gods by treading upon sacrosanct ground. The only atonement that they usually accept is death, but I talked them down to life imprisonment." The archaeologist looked at his feet. "I can't reason with them, Jack."
"Well, swell. Thanks for that, Daniel." Jack's retort was just about to lead to a frustrated Daniel shooting back when Carter jumped in.
"It's ok, Daniel. The Colonel thinks we should go home and get reinforcements."
Daniel's head shot up disbelievingly. "Jack, you can't *fight* these people, it would be…"
"Relax, Daniel," Jack explained. "I meant reinforcements of the diplomatic kind. Go get SG-9, Kovaceck owes me one anyway."
"Oh, right." Daniel mumbled and Jack knew he was shocked at the strategy, especially since it had come from him.
"Look you guys get out of here now, if you hurry you can catch Teal'c before he doubles back. Explain everything to Hammond."
"Sir, we can't just leave you here." Carter argued. He noticed that stubborn defiance that played across her eyes, he'd seen it before and he was grateful that she was showing to him now.
"Look, Major, they're going to take me away anyhow and you'll be able to do more good at home convincing Hammond to come save my sorry ass." Again their eyes held for a second too long, but in the end she turned away and said.
"Ok, Daniel. You heard our orders, get ready to move out."
"What? But, Sam…"
"But nothing, Daniel. Go, now. You've got two minutes." Her tone tolerating no arguments.
Daniel shook his head. "Woah! Yes, Ma'am." And with that he went to collect his stuff, making sure he didn't step a single millimetre out of bounds.
"Wow, Major, you have to tell me how you do that. He didn't even argue!" Jack watched her, somewhat awe-struck.
"I guess when you got it, you just got it, Sir," she replied.
"Carefu,l Major, you're starting to sound like me. It's only a temporary command you know." His eyes fused to hers once more.
"I know. We'll get you out, Sir." She vowed.
"Never doubted it, Carter. Now go find Daniel and make sure he doesn't end up in here with me. *That* would be worse than anything these guys could do to me!"
His light tone would usually make her smile, but right now as she prepared to leave him tied and imprisoned on a strange planet; she couldn't quite bring herself to make the gesture. Instead she put her pack on her shoulders and slowly reached down to lay her palm against his face. "See you soon, Sir."
He couldn't help himself, she'd left her hand there just a fraction too long, allowing him the chance to turn awkwardly against the ropes and press his lips lightly to her fingers. Her gasp told him more than anything she could have articulated and as she removed her hand, their eyes clashed once more and a silent promise was made. A promise witnessed by those ever-present little aliens as they began to lead Jack away from his team and his home. God he hated being watched all the *damn* time! Had they *heard* of privacy?!
He was yanked unceremoniously along the path, all the while they made sure that he did not step off their track, if he did, he was prodded back on with the pointy things and dragged harder.
"All right already, I'm coming." They didn't understand him and he didn't understand them. Sometimes, Jack had to admit, an archaeologist who spoke 23 different languages fluently, with a smattering of a dozen more, came in really useful.
'Hurry up, Carter,' he prayed, 'these guys are gonna send me nuts, and they have *no* sense of humour.'
"Are you telling me that Colonel O'Neill is being held prisoner because he went to retrieve one of you notebooks, Dr. Jackson?"
"Um, yes, Sir. But we had known all along how strict the Nealin are. My first contact with them showed that they are friendly. They appear relatively less advanced as a culture, probably equivalent with 14th Century Europe. As such, they have a very rigid religious doctrine, and if I am right, one that comes right down from the Furlings."
Daniel could have continued, but Hammond cut him off.
"Major Carter, what is your assessment of the situation?" He looked directly at her, willing her to give him another option.
"Sir, I think Colonel O'Neill was correct in his suggestion. SG-9 is our best chance."
Nodding slowly, Hammond looked to the final person in the room.
"I concur with MajorCarter, GeneralHammond. I believe that it would be wise to attempt to free O'Neill without force. Although they appear fundamental, as we have seen before, appearances can be most deceptive."
All eyes turned to the previously silent Jaffa. As usual, his warning heeded. It was Daniel who spoke next
"I think Teal'c's right, Sir. Considering the data I gathered already from the cave, this could be one of the most important finds we have ever made. If my primary translations based on the Nealin dialect pan out, we could be looking at the ability to contact another of the four original races. If Jack hadn't taken a short cut to get my bag…"
"Dr. Jackson," Hammond started, "This was Colonel O'Neill's fault?"
The archaeologist nodded slowly, keeping his eyes on the long table, he knew what that admission was going to cost his friend. "Yes, Sir."
Hammond shook his head ruefully as Carter turned his attention from linking thoughts of homicide with a certain colonel.
"General, with all due respect, it was an accident. Surely SG-9 can use that argument?" Hammond looked at the Major, she knew as well as he did that this didn't look good, but he knew that she wouldn't give up, that none of them would give up.
"Accidental or not, Major, the Colonel was at fault. That weakens our position substantially."
"Yes, Sir, I know that. Which is why I would like to request backup, in case SG-9 aren't successful." She eyed him steadily, aware of the enormity of what she was asking and the position that she was putting him in.
"MajorCarter," Teal'c broke into the conversation again. "I do not believe that would be a wise decision. Colonel O'Neill is but one man and this culture is no threat. In fact it may be a considerable ally according to DanielJackson's findings, one which we may regret isolating by utilising military force."
Hammond saw Carter bite back her instinctive contradiction; she really was more like her colonel that she would ever want to admit to, the only difference being that she at least respected authority… at times.
The General thought about the information at hand and made the only decision that he could. They couldn't afford to alienate the potential discoveries that had Daniel so excited, not even for the Colonel.
"SG-9 will be briefed on the case, but if they fail. I will not authorise the use of any military force against these people. As far as I can see, they are validly implementing their laws. Colonel O'Neill is at fault, we must respect that. I'm sorry."
"Yes, Sir." In that moment, her eyes lost their usual vigour, but he had no choice, none at all.
"Dr. Jackson, will the Nealin be open to hearing arguments and will Colonel O'Neill be allowed representative counsel?"
"I'm not sure, Sir, I didn't fully understand their judicial system because of the language barrier but I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't accept a trail as we know them. As far as they are concerned, Jack is guilty; therefore he is to be punished. Having already had his "sentence" commuted to life in prison, I'm not certain that they will be open to another plea."
"Would they not accept our word that he would be punished here?"
Daniel studied the General slowly, hating to be the bearer of bad news. "Sir, until we get back I really can't say one way or another, but I do know that their penal system allows visitation rights. I am a little sketchy on the details as they didn't give any specifics, but at least we will be able to see him and tell him what is happening."
Hammond nodded. "Ok, SG-1 you have a go to return to Nealina with SG- 9. Do what you can people, but I am ordering that you use no military force to free the Colonel should SG-9's efforts fail."
Hammond saw them nod at his words, hating having to issue the order. But it was the weight of command, and at the end of the day; O'Neill was but one man who had broken a law. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't bend the rules so far.
Carter looked at her General and knew he had made the right call, however hard it was to swallow.
"You ship out in one hour, people. Dismissed."
As the remaining members of SG-1 rose and filed out of the room, Hammond called Carter back and spoke to her in a soft, not quite so two star General voice.
"Major Carter, if SG-9 fail. Find another way to bring him home."
He saw the smile that lit up her eyes.
Sam walked quickly, with a new determination into the locker room. Daniel and Teal'c were already there sorting through their packs. Both men looked up as she entered, Teal'c bowing his head in his customary greeting, Daniel seeming to search her face for any indication that she was unhappy with either the weight of their task ahead or their apparent acceptance of Hammond's orders.
She merely smiled to both men as she headed for her locker, it was only when she heard Daniel's timid voice that she turned to face her friends.
"Sam… are you ok?" She would have smiled at that moment if she hadn't been so focussed on her mission.
"Yes, Daniel, any reason that I shouldn't be?" She could see the confusion in his eyes, her response being so unexpected.
"Well, I just thought… given the fact that… I mean…" Daniel seemed to give up at that point, so it was with impeccable timing that Teal'c took over the conversation.
"I believe that DanielJackson is attempting to ascertain your feelings regarding the possibility that we must leave O'Neill behind if SG-9 are unsuccessful in their endeavours, MajorCarter."
She did smile then, leave it to Teal'c to bypass all normal social niceties and head straight to the point.
"Look, Teal'c, I don't have any problems with that because there *is* no possibility of leaving the Colonel behind. One way or another it's not going to happen. He has never given up on us, we don't start giving up on him now."
"But, Sam, if SG-9 fail…?" Daniel pointed out a split second before Teal'c mentioned,
"GeneralHammond did not condone our use of force, MajorCarter, therefore I see no alternative."
"Then you just aren't looking hard enough, Teal'c. We can't use force, so what? Daniel, aren't you the one who always wants to find a non-military solution to a problem? Well here's your chance, we have a potential problem and we need a non-military solution."
Her voice was implacably calm as she turned back to her equipment.
"If SG-9 fail, we find another way, because we are not leaving there again without Colonel O'Neill. It's as simple as that."
The quiet determination that had lilted her voice had found its mark as she turned briefly to the men in the room. Both eyed her with unhidden admiration, their own determination to succeed finally re- asserting itself.
They would bring him home, no matter what.
The dimming light made it difficult for Sam to gauge the expression in the faces of the men that approached. But she knew as soon as they came within the blanket of firelight that Major Kovaceck, Daniel and the rest of SG-9 held ill tidings. Stubbornly refusing to let her momentary desolation assert itself, she focussed her entire being on her determination to rescue her Colonel.
"Sam," Daniel began. "I'm sorry, there was nothing we could do. They were adamant that Jack would atone for his crime."
"Yes, Ma'am, the more we tried to argue that Colonel O'Neill is a stranger to their ways and thus should not be governed by them, the more resolute they became. They say that Colonel O'Neill was well briefed as to their conditions concerning the excavation by Dr. Jackson and by wilfully disregarding them, he became fully culpable. In the end we had to cede to their demands or they would have re- installed the death penalty."
Sam looked from officer to friend, taking in her Jaffa protector along the way. They all appeared to be waiting for a response from her.
"Ok, Major Kovaceck, have a break while we try to figure another way around this." Both men looked slightly startled by her almost clinical detachment, how funny they would find it if they knew how hard she was fighting to retain her composure. But she realised that right now the only chance to save Colonel O'Neill would be for her to take a lesson from her CO and suppress any and all emotion on the subject.
As SG-9 bundled themselves around the fire and began to take out rations, Sam turned back to the archaeologist.
"Ok, then it looks like we go to plan B. Captain Danner, did you manage to find out if an escape would compromise the treaty?"
Danner looked up, impressed by the detachment evident in the Major's words. For someone who was supposed to have the world's biggest crush on a superior officer, she was handling his imprisonment well. Too well perhaps, Danner started to wonder just how much truth there was in all those rumours as he answered her.
"Ma'am, while Dr. Jackson and Major Kovaceck were negotiating, I was able to gain some insight into the implications if Colonel O'Neill were to escape. As such I believe that as long as any attempt at escape is seen as an individual effort, that is to say, with no outward appearance of aid from Earth or its representatives, the treaty will remain viable. Colonel O'Neill however, will be held responsible and as such would be held accountable if he ever returned here."
Sam smiled briefly, "I don't think that would be such a problem, Captain, I don't think that the Colonel would be too eager to come visit again." Danner nodded in agreement; highly appreciative of the way her eyes twinkled when she smiled.
Shifting her attention to her friend Sam continued. "Daniel, did you ask about visitation rights? We need to brief Colonel O'Neill and it would help if we knew what we were up against from the inside."
Both Sam and Teal'c were startled at the response received to the seemingly innocuous question. Danner and Lieutenant Phillips both looked away and concentrated so hard on the flames that Sam thought they may be hypnotised, Major Kovaceck coughed nervously and Daniel blushed so brightly that he could have lit up the entire perimeter single-handedly.
"Um, Major Carter…" Kovaceck began, only to have Daniel interrupt and Sam couldn't help thinking that Kovaceck seemed eminently grateful.
"Well, they do allow visitation rights, but only one… um… person… may visit. In fact they seemed offended to think we didn't expect them to. They believe it barbaric to deny a prisoner… um… company…" Daniel stalled uncomfortably, as Teal'c spoke.
"Then we must decide which of us would be the most beneficial to O'Neill, DanielJackson."
If possible Daniel blushed harder, "Ah, Teal'c, it's not as complicated as that." He stalled again and Sam had the uneasy feeling that all eyes were on her again. "There is only one person here who could actually… visit… with Jack." Sam knew she wasn't imagining it this time, every member of SG-9 was looking at her, half-afraid and half-amused.
"Then which of us will it be, DanielJackson?" Teal'c persisted.
"According to their traditions, it would have to be Sam, Teal'c." Daniel looked at her directly now, and she knew she wasn't going to like was coming next.
"Why will they only permit MajorCarter to visit O'Neill?" Teal'c asked again.
"It has to be Sam, because… well… she's… she's a… woman…" Daniel gulped audibly as Sam responded.
"What? Why? Are they afraid that I couldn't break him out by myself?" Sam looked amused by the idea, but as Daniel continued speaking, he knew that that reaction was about to change.
"No, Sam, it has to be you because you are a woman and as such you are the only one likely be visiting Jack for… well… his 'conjugal' rights."
"His *what*?" Daniel winced at her demand.
"Sam, their civilisation believes that to imprison a man away from society is a fitting punishment, but to imprison a man from his more… innate… requirements is nothing short of torturous. Because of that they allow…" Daniel was cut off abruptly.
"They allow us the opportunity to infiltrate the prison and thus return the advantage to our favour, DanielJackson."
Sam watched on, aware of Teal'c's diversionary tactics and almost impressed by his ability to forestall her rightful pique. But he was right; this was the break they needed.
"Sam, I know this may seem a little… um… different," However shocked she felt, Sam had to hide a grin as she watched Daniel struggle to find an appropriate way of wording this. "But we need to be able to communicate with Jack freely, and I doubt very much that you would have to contend with an… audience. If Jack broke himself out of prison, it would be an individual act, therefore, only the individual would be accountable. Earth could still maintain diplomatic terms and as such access to the site I was excavating. The only stipulation being that Jack would never be able to return here, and as you said, I don't think that would be a problem. You asked me to find another solution, I have. This way, we aren't countermanding orders, but we may be able to get Jack home."
Sam allowed her gaze to settle on each man in turn, SG-9 obviously uncomfortable in their expectations of her reaction, Daniel was waiting impatiently for her reaction, and Teal'c, well, he seemed to already know what her reaction would be.
"You're right, we have to get him home. End of discussion. Daniel, just how do we go about this?"
She suppressed the grin at the response she got from SG-9, after all, didn't they realise that whatever it took, no one ever got left behind? It was one of the basic rules of SG-1. It was one of *her* basic rules, thanks to her Colonel and she wouldn't let him down, not now, not ever. After all, it wasn't like she would have to actually *do* anything… just act a little for whatever guards she came across, until she got to her CO…right?
Oh how wrong could one person be? Sam stilled for a moment, not quite ready to leave the security of her tent. How naive she had been in assuming that all she had to do was look a little love lorn… HA!
Here she was, Major Samantha Carter, USAF, acting commander of a high class, front line unit – dressed in a… actually, 'not dressed' was more accurate. The robe was made of beautifully embroidered silks of the finest quality, the problem was that there wasn't very much of it, and what bit of it there was, was practically see through. Not only would it be almost impossible for her to smuggle any ordinance to Jack (which she conceded, was probably the point), but it also made her feel less of the soldier she needed to be for this mission.
The thought of just exactly *how* she had to accomplish this mission sent a frission of nerves through her body. For such a long time she… they… had denied and suppressed, for the greater good. But now, here in this place, she of all people had to use that dusty emotion to 'act' a role.
The problem she faced was that the act was so close to the truth that she didn't know if her sensitivity to the subject would cloud her mission. That by putting herself so close to the very thing that she had spent long nights distancing herself from, she might lose sight of what was at stake. It was a weakness that she couldn't talk about, to anyone. A fear that she couldn't acknowledge to her teammates because to do so would make them ask questions that were most definitely best left unanswered.
No, she would not allow herself this weakness. Too much depended on her ability to carry this act through, she hadn't failed him before due to her 'problems' and she wouldn't start now!
With that resolution firmly embedded in her mind, Sam allowed herself one last look at her appearance…
She was *not* going out like this!
Just as she began to smile at the echo of her father's words from her teenage years, Daniel's voice sounded from just outside the tent.
"Sam, are you ready? We have to leave soon."
Looking quickly around the shelter, Sam made a decision. Taking off the delicate sandals, she pulled on her BDU's and her boots, and then slipped her jacket over her shoulders. It was bad enough to have to do this to get to the Colonel, but she sure as hell wasn't letting the others see her looking like she just stepped out of a lingerie department. Pleased with her new plan, she unzipped the tent door and presented herself to a pre-emptively embarrassed Dr. Jackson.
"It's ok, Daniel, you can look. I have it on underneath." She smiled benevolently, grateful for his almost comical relief as he looked at her.
"Right, good. Ok then… we should go. Teal'c and I will walk you to the prison, I will explain your um… purpose…" Sam smiled again as he blushed once more. "Then it's upto you, Sam." Sam nodded as Teal'c spoke.
"We will be awaiting your return, MajorCarter, regardless of the passing of time." Sam's head snapped around to the Jaffa, just what was he implying? Shaking herself, she realised that Teal'c knew that to allow the guards to believe she was actually fulfilling her "purpose" she would have to remain for some time. Which was fine, as it gave her more time to work a solid plan with her CO. Right?
"Ok, guys, lets get this show on the road."
Taking her lead, her one man and Jaffa escort followed, taking up residence at either side of her, offering her the unquestioning support she knew they gave.
Sam shifted uneasily on her feet as Daniel spoke to the guard. She had no idea what was actually being said, but she didn't like the way the guard's eyes roamed her body. It made her feel even more vulnerable than the nearly nothing she now wore. Teal'c moved imperceptibly closer to her, a movement that she was grateful for and took comfort in.
Finally, Daniel returned.
"You can go in now, Sam. Don't worry, you won't be in any danger, it is forbidden for another man to touch someone else's…. um… property."
Sam nodded, as her dry throat and nerves caused her voice to rasp slightly.
"I doubt that anything will happen on this visit, but just be here when I get back, you know the Colonel, patience isn't his strong point."
It was only as she began to move towards the entrance that she felt a hand rest lightly upon her shoulder.
"You are a formidable warrior, SamanthaCarter, but you are yet an even more formidable friend. Will we await your return."
Her eyes became suspiciously moist as she smiled at the tall man, his words helping to propel her feet to the guard waiting to take her inside.
"Daniel Jackson, why do you smile?"
Daniel looked away from the now closing gate their friend had just walked through, and towards his companion.
"Oh no reason, Teal'c, just thinking about what the guard told me."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow as Daniel slid himself down to the floor, covering his face with his hat, waiting for an explanation. Daniel squinted up at him through the afternoon sun before answering.
"When we arrived, I began to explain to the guard why Sam was here. He already knew, Teal'c. He knew that Sam was Jack's "EteraKardia" which I think is from the Greek derivation and loosely translated means 'other heart.'" Daniel continued, aware of Teal'c's eyebrow.
"So…" He smiled to his stoic friend, "I'm just wondering just what made them draw that conclusion."
Teal'c bowed his head solemnly as Daniel replaced his hat over his eyes while they both waited for the return of their friend.
Sam was nervous. Actually nervous didn't do her heart rate justice. She was walking through a prison, dressed in something that might just pass as an opaque hanker-chief and if that wasn't enough, she was also about to seduce her CO.
*Pretend* to seduce her CO, she chided herself, this was all pretend… *not* real.
In fairness, it wasn't one of the worst places she had ever been, ok, so it was cold, dark and the stone effect made it seem totally forbidding, but as far as prisons went…
She could feel numerous pairs of eyes on her; a sensation that she had grown somewhat used to while they were at the dig site, but here it was down right uncomfortable.
As the guard directed her to turn left, she could hear a familiar sound, a sound that almost made her knees weak with relief. Sure, Daniel had said he wouldn't be harmed, but up until this very moment, she wasn't as trusting as he had seemed to be.
"Hey! Anybody ever heard of TV? Comic books? Hell, a crayon? These walls need *something*! What is this? A prison?"
This time Sam couldn't hold back the grin, if she had been asked her to describe O'Neill in a jail, this was pretty much it. She looked at the guard who had muttered something she couldn't translate directly, but knew enough to recognise that this wasn't the first time the Colonel's voice had echoed against the dim walls.
The guard stopped suddenly and Sam realised that they had arrived and her pulse hiked dramatically, although from the positioning of the cell, she knew that O'Neill wouldn't be able to see that the guard had brought company.
"Ah, there you are. I was beginning to think that you'd forgotten about me…" Jack baited as he noticed the arrival.
"Quiet!" the guard commanded and Sam smiled at how quickly an alien picked up the phrases that mattered most. Actually, what surprised her more was that her mouthy Colonel did quiet down. However, it soon became apparent exactly *what* had silenced him.
Sam didn't have the luxury of giving either of them time to think. The charade had to start now and as much as the nerves danced through her stomach at the knowledge of what she was about to do, do it she must.
"Hi, Jack," she crooned softly as she purposely walked towards him, swaying her hips as if her life depended on it.
In another time and place, she would have been utterly thrilled by his reaction, never before had she seen her CO so completely enraptured or utterly stunned and it was all down to her. Despite their situation, a whisker of purely feminine pleasure erupted through her system, surprising her with its intensity.
"Surprise, honey!" she smiled at him, just as her arms wound themselves sensuously around his tension filled neck, pulling his taut body close to hers and simultaneously bringing his ear to her lips. She could feel his confusion and wariness; it permeated every pore of his being. Not that it surprised her, this wasn't exactly what he would have been expecting, and given previous incidents, openly playing on dangerous ground... was… shocking, to say the least.
"Trust me, Sir." She whispered quickly as her teeth nipped his ear lobe.
She knew that he had heard her as he thankfully did as she requested, as she felt the rigidity and shock leave his body, his muscles becoming malleable under her touch as he pulled her closer. His whispered 'Anything you say, Ma'am' was uttered so gently that Sam felt herself fall dangerously close to the edge of something that she had been running from for such a long time. He let his eyes lock to hers for a fleeting moment as he placed a soft kiss on her neck and splayed his fingers across her back, running them idly along the sheer fabric.
In some part of her mind, she could hear warning bells screaming throughout her body, but as she melted further into his touch, any strategy she had for this meeting vanished. Sam was so lost in the sensations he was creating that she almost stumbled forward when he abruptly let her go.
Her confusion shone through as she looked into his eyes, her body still coming to terms with its sudden loss. A split second later, his words punctuated the air between them and although his volume was carefully controlled, his tone was desperately clinging to his anger, keeping it in check, at least allowing her the chance to explain her actions. Allowing her the opportunity to justify why their biggest weakness had been so candidly manipulated.
"OK, Major, what the *hell* was all that about?" he whispered dangerously.
Sam belatedly noticed that the guard had left the room, obviously content to see what little he had. The more rational part of her kicked in and embarrassment flooded her being. She hadn't even been aware of anything, so fully immersed in the pseudo-kiss and caress that she had forgotten her mission. Luckily for her, he had remained detached enough to bring her back to reality… dammit. She wouldn't have been quite so flustered if he had lost it too, but he hadn't and now he was looking at her with deep brown eyes that demanded an explanation.
Keeping her voice hushed, she double checked to make sure that the guard couldn't see into the bare stone cell before guiding him to sit on the 'bed' while she quickly and quietly began enumerating the plan to her CO.
"Sir, according to Daniel, the only way that we can get you out of here is by you escaping, alone. If we appear to have aided the escape, Earth loses the Nealin and the excavation site."
Sam took a breath, as the Colonel nodded his understanding.
"I guess Kovaceck needs to bush up on his diplomacy skills?" He complained with a touch of a smile. "Danny too, apparently."
"Sir, I can visit you, on… a …technicality, so you can pass us the information we'll need to meet you on the other side and get you to the gate."
"A 'technicality' huh?" he made finger marks in the air as he spoke. "Thank God you *didn't* send Teal'c!" He smiled again, the smile that always gave Sam trouble concentrating.
"Ok, shoot," he began. But Sam had noticed that his attention was somewhat diverted, an occurrence that was not ordinarily strange to her, but when combined with a look of almost boyish reluctance, her metaphorical ears pricked up. She wasn't to be disappointed as he continued.
"But unless I miss my guess, our friendly guardian outside is only going to believe this, if he… um… hears enough to convince him." He motioned with his head to the door. Sure enough the guard couldn't *see* in the cell, but he would sure as hell be able to *hear*. He met her eyes quickly; the understanding of what he was asking had rendered her silent.
"Do ya think you could do me justice, Major?" His lopsided grin was exactly what she needed to see. It gave her the courage to silently answer his challenge. If she didn't know him as well as he did, she would have been offended by his flippancy, but she could see by his dark eyes, that he felt as awkward as she did.
Over the next hour, Colonel and Major concocted a solid plan for his escape. Punctuating each whispered conspiracy with soft sighs, furthered in the final stages of planning by deeper, more seriously suggestive moans. It was a situation that would have caused Sam to die a thousand deaths had it not been for the Colonel. He'd made it funny; almost a competition as to who could out moan the other, and the combination of his eyes and her determination not to giggle, kept her mind just off centre enough to keep their act viable.
Only when all necessary information had been exchanged, Sam finally stood to summon the guard, knowing that she would have to make one more 'conjugal' visit to give the Colonel explosive tape to break the lock on his cell door.
She was so relieved at her successful mission that she didn't even mind that the Colonel called her "snookums" when she left, nor did she care that the guard's knowing smile translated to all what he had just "witnessed".
"Sam!" Daniel called as she emerged into the bright sunlight, his expression one of dubious curiosity.
She remained silent until she was at their side. "The Colonel is ok, bored but ok. He's up to speed on the plan, I'm going back in tomorrow to take some explosive tape as it's about all I can smuggle through in this." She motioned to her attire just as Teal'c handed her her BDU's.
"So, everything went… um…" Daniel began hesitantly and this time Sam really did smile.
"It was fine, Daniel, it's not as if we had to actually *do* anything." Although she had kept her tone casual, both men noticed the slight darkening of her cheeks but said nothing, knowing that her task was difficult enough already.
Jack sat down on his 'bed' with a thud. To say he was surprised didn't quite cover it. To say he was bone numbingly stunned may have been more accurate. His second-in-command had just flounced into his cell, wearing nothing more than… well, what that little creation did to him was still taking its toll on his imagination now!
His initial shock had manifested itself in defensive anger, he couldn't believe she was holding him and kissing him as she had in too many dreams. Of course it wasn't real, it was merely taking advantage of a situation. Something which he should be proud of her for, he knew he would be later, but right now he couldn't get past the memory of her wrapping her arms around him and letting their bodies fit just as he had always known they would.
The fact that it was purely an act was painful. It was too close, too raw. The only way he'd been able to deal with it at the time was to take refuge in old defences. He'd deflected the intensity of the situation with humour, as he always had and probably always would.
He slammed his fist down against the hard rock pallet and immediately regretted the action as the throbbing began to travel through his entire arm. But it didn't hurt as much as the fact that she would have to do the entire thing again tomorrow, but this time he wouldn't have that blissful moment of ignorance. That singular moment when their eyes had clashed and for one amazing moment he'd actually thought that she'd wanted him. But she didn't, he knew that. But holy shit, when she wrapped her arms about his neck and let him hold her close, he would have given anything in this world or the next for it to have been real, just once.
He groaned in frustration, knowing already that sleep wouldn't been forthcoming tonight. The sound of her feigned sighs and counterfeit moans would see to that.
"Dammit, I *really* hate this place!" He shouted, but his only response was silence.
"Major Kovaceck, you and your men report back to General Hammond. With any luck the Colonel will be home sometime tomorrow night Earth Time."
Sam finished briefing the other team. Having been careful not to divulge anything compromising to either herself or the Colonel, Sam was fairly certain that Hammond would have no cause for concern when SG-9 reported home.
"Yes, Ma'am." Kovaceck responded as he lifted his pack onto his shoulders. "See you in a few hours." He smiled at her as he ordered his team to head out, before he was too far away, he turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. "Oh, Ma'am?"
Sam's smile was all the answer he needed as he turned and followed his men home.
Not allowing herself to bask too long in her glory, Sam turned to face her own team. " I'll take first watch, Teal'c second and Daniel last." Both men nodded unquestioningly and settled themselves for the night, seemingly unaware of her motives.
Sam knew herself well enough to know that she wasn't going to find sleep easily tonight. So rather than toss and turn in her sleeping bag for hours, she might as well take first watch, hopefully by the end of it she would be tired enough to sleep and have sorted through her jumbled thoughts.
Her stomach still flipped over as she remembered that singular moment when his eyes had taken in her appearance. She could remember exactly how it had felt to be so close to him, to feel so secure in his arms. Yet she knew that the hardest thing she was ever going to have to do was to put that all back in the room and get on with life as a CO and 2IC. She had felt herself lose all notion of her mission, understanding only the feeling he was creating and it was humiliating in the extreme to know that he had been able to remain detached from her.
She stared into the flickering light from the dancing flames and berated herself. Her responsibility had indeed been clouded by her emotions and it was a weakness she hated, she couldn't let it happen again. Yet as she steeled her resolve, she had to acknowledge the truth.
It was the fact that despite that tiny glimmer of *something* which seemed to have gone before it even arrived, Jack O'Neill had been thoroughly unaffected by their brief interlude that troubled her. She had always thought that he was the one who would make any move forward in their almost relationship. If she were truly honest with herself, she had liked the fact that she had known that his feelings were always there for her, that he felt deeply enough to let her call the shots. But after today, all evidence suggested that he had done what she had been most afraid of.
He had grown tired of waiting.
And she would have to face him all over again tomorrow, without being able to pretend to herself, for even a moment, that some of the laughter in his eyes and passion in his voice had been actually meant for her.
She sighed into the flame, suddenly feeling the chill of the night encroach on the previous warmth her thoughts had generated.
"Ok, Sam. Here's the tape. We'll be waiting for you."
Sam nodded at Daniel as she took the charge from him, blushing slightly as she tucked the tape into the cup of her bra, thankful that both men averted their eyes and that the tape wasn't particularly cumbersome.
"Right, guys. See you in a while." Daniel watched as she turned to leave, and heard her call over her shoulder. "Daniel, don't forget the sunblock today."
Teal'c heard the small mew of protest from the man at his side as he watched the retreating form of the warrior woman.
"I only got a little tanned," he groused. "She's been hanging around Jack too long!"
"On the contrary, DanielJackson, I believe that your appearance is that of a cooked crustacean."
"'Hot Lobster', Teal'c, it's 'hot lobster' and you've been hanging around Jack too long as well!"
Sam walked through the prison, once again aware of the eyes that followed her. But it was the idea of facing the Colonel again today that was unsettling her the most. She couldn't let him see her embarrassment from her reaction to him yesterday. She had to be professional – well as professional as possible when wearing next to nothing with an explosive charge hidden in your bra.
Despite all her ideals, the moment she and her escort reached the Colonel's cell, her heart rate doubled. That was nothing compared to what it did when she actually entered the cell and saw for the tiniest of moments, his unguarded reaction to her appearance. Today's outfit was blue, rather than red and was, due to the colour, slightly more revealing.
Before she had time to store his reaction away, it was gone. Replaced by a causal indifference that punctured her courage.
"Hey, baby, nice outfit…" He commented for the benefit of the guard. Although, Sam realised that the guard didn't understand the words, the Colonel could say pretty much anything if the tone was right. So why did he…?
Sam's thoughts stilled as he moved forwards and enveloped her into his arms, his lips stealing quickly over her jawbone and down to her neck as he turned her to face away from the guard in an almost protective gesture that softened her resolve to remain composed. She fought against her reaction to his feather light kisses as waited for the moment in which he would be able to let her go, safe in the knowledge that the guard could no longer see. Knowing that the longer she stayed in his arms, the more vulnerable she became to him.
"Carter!" She heard him hiss desperately against her ear. Puzzled at his tone, she lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him. His eyes flicked to the door again before locking to hers. "He can still see us!" He turned her slowly so that she could see the doorway. What she saw set every anxiety she had pulsing through her. The guard may have left the room, but he was standing against the opposite side of the door than yesterday and the layout of the cell meant that he had a virtually unobstructed view of the cell, and thus a single wandering glance could be their downfall. Knowing how anal this race was about observing rules made that wandering glance a decided possibility.
The implications were dangerous in the extreme. Yesterday they had been able to fool the guards with sounds, that would not be possible today and the look she sent him conveyed her feelings soundly.
"I'm sorry," he whispered against her ear.
That, it seemed, was all the explanation she was going to get. Before she could congratulate herself on remaining relatively calm, he wrapped his arms around her lower back and her entire foundations shook as his lips brushed ever so softly against hers, in a kiss that was subtly and intoxicatingly different from anything before.
Somewhere in the vague recesses of her mind, she was aware that her legs were moving, actually that his legs were moving and taking hers along for the ride. Some part of her sanity was shouting reminders about 'remaining in control' and 'focussing on the plan' but Sam couldn't get past sensations of his lips dragging across hers or his tongue investigating every solitary millimetre of her mouth. The notion that she should realise that Jack was efficiently walking them both toward the pallet that could, at a push, pass for a bed, didn't seem to be entering the equation at all.
It was only as she felt the world tilt and his body weight fit perfectly over her own that she took a nanosecond to re-examine her equilibrium and noticed the Colonel must have realised that at least here they had some shielding from wandering eyes. Before she could form any coherent speech she felt his lips leave hers and glide slowly to her ear as he whispered wonderful words to her and about her. If only they were really meant *for* her and not for the man outside.
She let her hands trail across his shoulders in an involuntary caress as he leant himself up on his forearms, allowing her a clear view of his face for the first time. She wished he hadn't, because instead of seeing all the love in the world shining in his eyes, she found only a clinical detachment that almost crumbled her brittle defences. However he didn't give her time to dwell, his face lowering to hers once again as he shifted his body weight to a more intimate positioning, once again purely for the benefit of roving eyes.
"Where is it, Carter?" He asked urgently as he began to rock gently against her, simulating the movement expected of them.
It took her a few seconds to realise what he meant, so powerful were the shots of lightening sparking through her as his undulating tormented her frayed nerves. She knew a furious blush had lit her cheeks as she reached to her bra. His eyes followed her movement until she saw the dawning comprehension in his face and something else entirely. Something that flickered for a fraction of a second behind his eyes before the shutters came down once more. Something that she had already convinced herself hadn't been there at all.
"Wait, let me." He murmured close to her ear and for a tiny moment she thought she saw desire in his eyes, until she realised that it was all part of his act. Should the guard glance over, he would see the appearance of male hands on her breasts, perfect for their role. Her disappointment was exquisite, but was so quickly replaced by burning emotions as she felt her Colonel's hands slip inside the lace support and graze lightly against her soft flesh. In that moment she was so utterly grateful that his head was buried in her shoulder as the combination of his hands, lips and rocking would surely be clearly on display in her eyes and that was something she could never, *ever* let him see.
Thankfully, almost as soon as he had possession of the tape, he pushed himself from her and walked to the other side of the cell, the distance allowing her precious time in which to compose her fragile balance.
As she walked to the cell door, she felt a hand turn her back.
"I'll see you again tomorrow, Baby. Same time, but in the shade huh?" He kissed her cheek as he finished the sentence, whispered so quietly that she wasn't quite sure he'd said it at all. "I'm sorry."
She could only nod into his eyes, so turbulent were her thoughts. She'd got the message and as the guard opened the door for her, she couldn't look back, she *wouldn't* look back. She had to be strong; she had to walk away from this.
She had to, however much it hurt.
Jack watched her leave: willing his hands to stop shaking and silently condemning himself for his actions. Yes, it had been necessary for him to behave the way he had, but it didn't excuse the fact that he had crossed the line with his second. His actions were inappropriate in the extreme and it was obvious from every line in her body that she was uncomfortable with that.
They had managed to deny, suppress and down right ignore so much that had occurred between them (or any alternate version of them) for so long. Jack knew from experience that this incident would be filed under the same 'dangerously too close for comfort' category that housed every previous almost chance he'd had. Never to be discussed - never to be dealt with. Just locked away.
He snorted to himself as he tucked the tape under the band of his wristwatch, once again surprised that his anal little buddies hadn't taken the timepiece from him. But it was the sight of the tape, rather than his standard issue timepiece that reminded him all too clearly of his error. Just for that one split second, he'd gone against every ounce of control he'd been ruthlessly clinging to and he'd let his hands touch forbidden territory. How could he shut away something that had been so close to every fantasy that he'd ever had? She was so soft, so beautiful… so uncomfortable with his behaviour… his conscience prodded.
Logically, he knew that she'd understood; that she recognised the need to act in a way *totally* unbecoming officers in the USAF. But that fact didn't make it easier for her. It sure as hell didn't make it easier on him knowing that he was still as vulnerable to her now as he always had been. The bare fact was that this was one act that Jack was finding most difficult to compartmentalise into convenient little categories like 'Alien Viruses 'and' Alternate Realities. This act was personal.
Both of them, he decided magnanimously, deserved an Oscar. 'Best Actor: Colonel Jack O'Neill, for acting like he didn't care' and 'Best Actress: Samantha Carter, for acting like she did'.
He had to give her credit though - she was good. So good that he'd had to tell himself that whatever he had thought he'd seen flicker across those gorgeous sparkly blues had been merely an impressive addition to her talented characterisation of a women in love. If only…
He leant dolefully against the cold stone wall and caught sight of his guard.
"This is all your fault you know!" he chided hypocritically as he fought against his memories.
"Quiet!" came the sharp reply.
"Yeah, yeah…" Jack let himself slide to the floor resignedly. They couldn't learn his name, but they knew how to tell him to shut up – somewhere in the back of his mind, he couldn't really blame them.
Daniel knew that something was wrong as soon as Sam was close enough for him to see her eyes. They were dull. Sam's eyes were only ever dull when she was hurting. But before he had chance to question her, Teal'c's voice sounded.
"MajorCarter, the plan was not successful?" For once the Jaffa sounded less than stoic, but Sam quickly stemmed the worry.
"No, Teal'c, everything is fine. The Colonel will break out at this time tomorrow, he'll head to the back of the prison, we'll wait for him there." Sam shook herself and focussed her mind back to the task at hand as she remembered his comment about the shade. The position of the sun at this point in the day meant that the only shadow would be at the rear of the building, and thus a location to meet.
"Very well, MajorCarter, we must prepare ourselves to leave." Teal'c intoned as he handed Sam her precious BDU's.
"Sam, are you ok?" Daniel questioned hesitantly as she pulled the jacket tightly around her shoulders despite the heat of the sun.
"Why wouldn't I be, Daniel? The Colonel will break out tomorrow and we can all go home. In the meantime, we need to get our gear together and make final plans before we get a good night's rest. Same watch pattern as yesterday."
With that she turned sharply in the direction of camp leaving the two men in her wake.
"Something's wrong, Teal'c, "stated the archaeologist quietly.
"Indeed." Replied the Jaffa as the followed their temporary leader back to camp.
Something was wrong all right, Sam thought as she once again stared into the firelight. She was and the way she felt *definitely* was.
This was why they had those damn regulations in the first place. How on earth was she going to be able to look him in the face again? Let alone work in such perfect harmony that was required of their unit?
The answer was fairly simple though, deny, suppress and move on. It wasn't exactly a new idea; she'd been doing it for years. The difference was, for all those years, she thought that he had been doing it too…
She loved him, so what? She had for longer than she cared to admit and she'd dealt with it in the best way she could, i.e., by not. But for a few seconds in that cell she'd looked into his eyes and thought she had seen his reaction, his desire and his needs echoing her own. But it was nothing, only another charade for the benefit of any possible observer. And it was that which hurt most deeply. Her initial flash of empathy with her Colonel was nothing more than misguided hope that after all this time, he still wanted the same thing he had in that damned confession. But it wasn't and he didn't and as she wrapped her arms around herself she felt more alone than she had for a very long time.
Jack was itchy. Not in the true definition of the word, but rather he was counting the seconds until the guard rounds gave him the opportunity to get the hell outta Dodge.
For all outward appearances he was following his normal pattern of activities, in other words he was sat on his bunk doing nothing. In reality he was taking his mind along his escape route one last time, just to make sure he knew where the hell to run to when the shit hit the fan. He snorted at his own thoughts, yeah, his short-lived stay at 'Club Anal' might be pretty much over, but he was jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
Once he was home he would have to face the consequences of his actions, of his feelings – what those consequences would be, he didn't know. But he knew that they would include a frank discussion with his Major, he'd seen her reaction to what they had had to do, now he had to fix it.
He shook his head quickly to free himself from his thoughts; all his training was needed to focus his mind. For the third time in as many days, he thanked whatever force was up there that he could remove himself from even the most intense passion when he had to. It was a skill that allowed him to show no flicker of emotion on the surface while the inside was a bubbling mass of whatever he was feeling at the time.
Thankfully, he was brought out of his reflections by the sound of the passing guard patrol. Quick as a flash he was at the door, packing the tape into the lock, lighting it as soon as their footsteps had receded far enough. Then he was running, as fast as a bad back and screwed knee would take him. Through the prison and into the compound before scaling the wall and then landing with a perfectly executed drop and roll on the other side. He smiled inwardly at how lame their idea of a prison actually was.
Without needing to gain his bearings he took off in the direction that his team would be waiting, ready to take him home.
Sam scanned the area with her field glasses. A few seconds ago there had been shouts from inside the jail, alerting them that he had made his move.
"There!" Teal'c's arm directed them towards a spot around a hundred yards from their location.
Sure enough Jack O'Neill appeared from behind what little cover was available, running towards them and kicking up a fairly impressive cloud of dust in his wake. Without breaking his stride they matched his pace as soon as he pulled along side. No one spoke for fear of losing valuable time. Words would only increase the risk of being seen rightfully accused of aiding the prisoner. Breathing heavily, Daniel dialled home as Sam punched in the GDO code. She nodded quickly to the men as it was sent and a second later every member of SG-1 was plummeting through the wormhole towards home.
"Welcome back, SG-1!" The General's relieved voice sounded over the loud speaker as the four looked towards him, all still a little too breathless to respond.
"Colonel, it's good to have you home!" Hammond continued. "Report to the infirmary, de-briefing in one hour."
Jack made a silent, sloppy salute and began to trudge from the Gateroom towards the infirmary.
That in itself would have been enough under normal circumstances to alert Hammond that something was wrong in his frontline team. Combine Jack O'Neill's sudden enthusiasm for the Doctor and her tests with the complete lack of flippancy and inane humour and Hammond felt the telltale signs of the sting in the tail.
Put that together with a worried glance from archaeologist to Jaffa and a Major who almost looked ready to fall apart at the seams and the General felt the bite of the sting.
"So there you have it, Sir, I guess this knee isn't quite as shot as it acts sometimes," finished O'Neill with his usual attention to military protocol.
"No, I guess not, Colonel." Hammond smiled as he prodded an unusually reticent Major into joining the debrief. "Anything to add, Major?"
"No, Sir, nothing," she replied while keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the wooden panelling of the table in front of her.
Now, Major General George Hammond hadn't been in this business thirty years without developing a knack of knowing when something was wrong with his people. Quite frankly, even without the major hint in the Gateroom upon the Colonel's return, you'd have to be deaf, blind and spectacularly stupid to miss it in this room. Actually, not the room, just two of the people in it – strained and ridiculously uncomfortable, neither one so much as looking in the other's direction.
It had quickly become obvious to the General many moons ago, that those precise individuals only ever acted either this inanely, in the case of a certain colonel, or this awkwardly, in the case of a certain major - when they had something to hide. When something that they denied to themselves (as well as everyone else) was involuntarily dredged from behind the depths of their defences. They were masters of the "pretend it never happened and it'll go away" school. Hammond had seen it before, all too often for his liking and would normally be wondering what the hell had caused it *this* time. For once, he knew almost as much as they did. And this time, that really did give him the upper hand.
SG-9's de-briefing had been a lot more complete than SG-1s.
The "technicality" as Dr. Jackson had so tactfully put it moments before, had previously been fully explained by Kovaceck and his men. And as much as he admired the perseverance and determination of all involved, he knew that this precise method of escape was going to cause problems between the command members of his frontline team. Whatever had happened inside that prison was undoubtedly too close to the truth for them to be able to deal with objectively. He wasn't blind, deaf or spectacularly stupid, and as such, he knew just what these two people denied themselves everyday. It was about time *someone* did *something* about it. And considering the options and stubbornness of the subjects concerned, George figured he'd just nominated himself as that someone.
"Very well, SG-1, you are dismissed. Colonel, may I see you for a moment please?"
Hammond didn't miss the look of guilty almost panic that suffused the first glance that passed fleetingly between the two officers.
"Um, yes, Sir." O'Neill replied warily, like a naughty schoolboy trying to figure out just which transgression he was about to get busted for.
"Good, my office, now." Without looking back Hammond turned from the room; otherwise they would have seen the almighty grin that had taken place upon his face.
"Colonel, take a seat." Hammond offered as he sank into his own behind his desk.
"Actually, Sir, I'd rather stand…"
"Colonel!" George interrupted calmly, "that wasn't a request."
Watching as his best officer sat and immediately began to play with a pen taken from the desk, Hammond bit back a grin. He knew full well that Jack was buying himself a few precious seconds to weigh up his options. Attack, retreat, defend or act dumb?
"Sir," the Colonel endeavoured to pre-empt after obviously deciding upon his preferred strategy. "If this is about Major Carter's chosen method of extraction…"
'Well,' thought Hammond, hiding a smile. 'At least it wasn't the dumb routine.' That only served its purpose when Jack's opposition didn't know him well enough to get the act.
"Colonel, before we go any further, let me advise you that SG-9 gave me a much more *detailed* mission report than SG-1," Hammond interrupted. Eager to cut off all possible escape routes in order to get his own point across.
O'Neill's eyes gave nothing away, but as he watched the colour drain slightly from his face, Hammond knew that his Colonel understood as he continued.
"Major Carter's orders were to bring you home without the use of force if diplomacy failed. As far as I am concerned she carried out those orders admirably and as such I don't worry myself with what, in my opinion, are trivial 'how' details."
Hammond eyed O'Neill once again, making certain that his train of thought and implication were completely understood by his too-often- underestimated Colonel.
"Which, Colonel, brings me to my second point; your 'experiences' while in captivity, while undoubtedly remarkable, seemed to have caused a breach within the command structure of your team. If it is so obvious that it becomes noticeable to others, Colonel, then I consider it something that needs to be dealt with."
Jack opened his mouth to comment, but was silenced immediately by a raised hand and shrewd glance from his General, who continued unabated.
"Now, for a normally perceptive and impressive officer, Colonel, I find your disregard of this "problem" peculiar to say the least. As such I can only surmise that your insight has been clouded by those previously mentioned "experiences". This leaves me with no other recourse as your commanding officer but to take matters into my own hands. My advice to you, Colonel… sort out this difficulty, whatever it may be, immediately."
Hammond paused, almost smiling at his officer's obvious discomfort.
"Now, my advice off the record, is trust yourself, Son. You know more than you let yourself believe, in there." Hammond motioned in the vague direction of Jack's gut. "So does she. Trust her and your instincts, Jack, they're the two things that have kept you alive and relatively sane for the last few years."
It was quite obvious that his words had stunned his cocky officer into silence, a rare feat of achievement and one in which the General took a perverse pleasure. After all it wasn't often that you out- thought Jack O'Neill, despite what he'd have you believe. So coughing non-too-casually, Hammond redirected his strategy back to the point.
"In matters such as these, I often find that leaving fine tuning of team dynamics to the discretion of the individual or individuals involved is a much more *productive* method of command. In trusting my officers with the competence to give me prior notice of any practical 'problems' I find I get fewer headaches. Do I make myself clear, Colonel?"
Jack's face lost its passivity, in fact it was all out shock, yet his eyes lit brightly as he answered with perfect military etiquette.
"If the General is advising me to take a more *active* role in securing my team's utmost ability to function fluidly with each other by using my own discretion, my instincts and my personal knowledge of my "team" to advise him of potential 'bumps in the road'? Then yes, Sir, you make yourself very clear. Crystal, in fact."
Hammond smiled, "Good. In that case, Colonel, you are dismissed. As I can assume you will be leaving the base, I will see you Monday 0900 hours."
"Yes, Sir." Jack rose from his seat and performed a perfect dress salute before turning to leave the room. Just before he closed the door he turned back.
"Thank you, George," and with that he was gone.
"You're more than welcome, Son," he replied to the closed door.
Jack caught himself again. If he wasn't careful the inane grin that kept threatening to erupt across his face would actually be successful and result in scaring the crap outta the SF's.
He was in too much of a hurry to suffer anyone asking him if he was ok, he wanted off base as soon as his back, knees and various other complaints could carry him. There was only one objective in his mind and that was to find Carter.
From the moment General Hammond had given him the "go ahead" he'd actually replayed the 'visits' in his temporary stay at Camp Anal, only this time he looked at the scenes before his mind's eye with the honesty that they deserved. The conclusion he reached? Well Sam Carter just wasn't *that* good of an actress. Hence the all encompassing grin that he was still fighting to control.
The plan? Go find Carter, see for sure if what he would have bet his last breath on was still there now they were back home… and then… well, it kinda went a little sketchy just around there, but he was sure he would come up with something.
Sam wandered into her living room, placing the tub of ice cream on the table as she picked up the remote and began to channel surf. The vain attempt to keep her mind from the past few days' events was, as expected, utterly pointless. She only had to close her eyes and she could *feel* his hands, see that momentary expression in his velvet eyes that she wished so fervently that she could believe in…
Picking up the spoon she dove with renewed vigour into the Double Choc Fudge.
The General asking to see the Colonel meant nothing and could be explained by any one of a hundred different innocuous reasons. Anything from requisitions to interplanetary politics! Her logical, scientific side knew that.
So why was she so worried? So she had been a little quiet, strained even, in the briefing…
Inwardly screaming at herself for her foolishness, she resolutely hauled another large mouthful onto the spoon and past her lips, just as the doorbell sounded. Great, a mouthful of ice cream to greet the pizza delivery guy, just what she needed. More humiliation.
The doorbell sounded again as she valiantly tried to swallow the copious amount of ice cream, the attempt to shout "Coming" didn't work and came out as an indistinct muffle instead.
Opening the door, the ice cream stuck as she swallowed the last bit. There, looking utterly gorgeous was Colonel Jack O'Neill, smiling a smile that was just enough devil and just enough charm to make him utterly captivating.
"Sir. Um, I wasn't expecting you…" she stammered as she tried in vain to smooth her favourite worn T-shirt and swallow the last remnants of ice-cream, while looking anywhere but into those too dark eyes.
"Yeah, I can see that." The seductiveness she heard in his tone confused her; surely if he was here to deal with the ramifications of their actions by order of Hammond, he'd be as agitated as she was? Why the hell did keep he smiling so damn cutely?
He altered his stance slightly as she belatedly realised he was still standing on her porch and that she really should do something about that.
"Sorry, Sir, would you like to come in?" She finally mumbled, but her mistake came when she caught his mesmerising gaze.
Before she could even begin to try and understand his mood, a hand snaked out to hold her shoulder, effectively preventing her from moving. And in the light of the hallway, she could see the same need glittering in his eyes, which she just knew had been present in her from the moment she had opened the door to him.
"Yeah, in a minute." He answered so gently that she didn't know if he'd actually said anything at all.
In that moment, she knew that he was going to kiss her even before he altered his hold and pulled her to him, fitting her body tightly against his tall, muscular frame. She shivered involuntarily as his eyes pinned hers, while his lips made a painfully slow descent to finally brush against hers, once, twice and then a third time when he kissed her so passionately that her knees did actually give way, taking all logical questions with them.
One, or perhaps both of them released a ragged, desire laden sigh as without lifting his mouth from hers, he altered his hold so that she was now being supported between a hard door and a harder body as his lips and tongue claimed her totally.
He lifted himself away from her fractionally to allow him to place a hand either side of her head, effectively trapping her in place while he gave her chance to speak.
"But… what… I thought… I mean…"
He smiled indulgently as he watched her babble, before gently cupping her face in his hands.
"Hammond knows, don't worry." He pushed himself against her, his movement deliberately evocative of his movements in the cell. Her eyes locked to his, no longer were they cold and detached, now they were darker than she had ever seen them and alive with an emotion she was half-afraid to trust. Yet as she let herself feel his weight, his body, she knew that she could trust him, she needed to trust him.
She needed him, period.
"Sam, please…" He whispered huskily.
Ducking out from underneath his body, she registered the look of desolation that crossed his face. Rather than speaking she simply held out her hand, caught his eyes and waited for him to understand.
It didn't take him long.
Several hours later, after much talk of the future and the laying of "ground rules", Sam lay intertwined with the man she loved, for once unafraid to show him just exactly how she felt.
"Are you telling me, that General Hammond virtually *ordered* you to…?"
The incredulity on her face had grown proportionally with his recount of Hammond's advice, prompting another sound kissing.
"Yup. He's a good General, Sam, but he's a better friend." She nodded into his chest as he spoke.
They stayed silent for a few moments, each taking in the meaning of the chance they had been given. Yes there would be pitfalls and difficulties, but nothing could be as hard as staying apart, denying themselves of each other.
Finally Jack spoke, his voice belying the serious nature of their previous thoughts. "So, Sam, these 'appropriate places' that you mentioned in our agreement? Do they include here?" Jack's mischievous hands began to wander, finally settling in a location that he had so recently discovered. Her gasp confirmed he'd got her attention.
"Colonel O'Neill, *that* isn't funny!" She breathlessly chided as he moved his fingers slowly. "But, yes, that's one place I would include as 'appropriate'."
She smiled a radiant smile as he continued his exploration of appropriate places, before finally shifting his entire weight on top of her and letting them explore together.
A while later, as he absently traced fingers along her arm, he spoke once more.
"You know, I know this beautiful little lake, sky blue waters… home of the loon…"
She laughed into his eyes.
"Jack O'Neill, am I to take it that that's *another* invitation to go fishing?"
He captured her mouth once again.
"Samantha Carter, am I to take it that that's *finally* a 'yes'?
"You know, Jack, that's what I love about you, you're so quick!"
His eyes closed for a second and his body went completely still.
"Say that again." He pleaded in a whisper; his eyes still closed.
It took her a second to realise what he was asking, but when she did, her smile lit up her entire being. Taking his face in her hands, she spoke clearly.
"Jack, I love you."
He opened his eyes immediately, allowing her to see everything, his hopes, his dreams and most importantly, his love. But it was the twinkle in his eyes and the devilish smile that won her over…
Thank you so much for reading. I really hope you enjoyed it.
Captive Hearts: Copyright to Lindsay Allen, July 2002.