Daniel had finally returned from his relocation project, the last member of SG-1 to come home. It seemed the Alpha site was rapidly becoming the 'hot spot' in the galaxy to go when one's home world became unlivable. The people of P3L 997 had not yet given up on their planet despite the SGC's geologists assuring them the cataclysmic changes they'd experienced were there to stay. Whether they accepted it or not, the SGC's number one off world base was just a stopping over point until a suitable place could be found for colonization.
The Colonel's mission had been equally ambiguous on the topic of success. Yes, the Jaffa finally pulled together when they were attacked by Baal's forces and were not too subtlety reminded of just who the real enemy was, but the level of trust between the groups was far from where it should be. O'Neill was certain the peace between them was tentative at best.
Carter, too was dealing with her own less than happy ending. Felger had made almost no progress with the DHD's dialing program and as soon as the Colonel and Teal'c arrived to take over the job of providing security she was able to give the programming her full attention. Her wayward scientist colleague did come up with the 'patch' to prevent additional tampering but the anti-virus itself was constructed wholly by Carter.
A fact that did not escape Colonel O'Neill who made it a point to loudly assert that if it was Carter's doing he knew it would be done right and as far as he was concerned that was the end of the story. His confidence did nothing to assuage her guilt over the fiasco she's had a part in though. Besides that she'd put her own projects on hold and she was now seriously behind schedule in several of them.
The only really bright spot in the mess was the triumphant arrival of O'Neill with his newly acquired Al-kesh. Apparently he'd sufficiently impressed more than one or two of the Jaffa leaders and they felt it was fitting the Tau'ri warrior return home via something nobler than mere gate travel.
O'Neill's mood had been guarded despite his prize and hit bottom when word came through more of the petty infighting among the Jaffa had resumed. This time Hammond sent in the diplomats, bypassing SG-1. O'Neill took it a slap in the face and grumbled loudly when they were given a 'cake' mission instead of returning to sort out the Jaffa. The General and Colonel spent several minutes in his office in a private deliberation and when the O'Neill emerged he was only slightly more reconciled to the situation, and definitely no happier. He was determined to make the best of it for his team and invited them to come to his home when they got back to do some bonding and forget their SGC woes for a little while. Unfortunately the planned 'team night' ended up being little more than an opportunity to commiserate.
Their run of less than stellar outcomes continued when the mission turned bad. The planet was peaceful enough until the locals figured out they weren't 'gods' and locked them up with no explanation as to why. Even Daniel lost his patience with them after a while. The language wasn't a problem; it was their odd use of it. Every time he tried to explain something to them they seemed to respond in circles, never giving back any information and never giving a clue they truly understood what he was trying to tell them.
Eventually he gave up. Too late though. They actually *had* understood him and also understood the string of expletives he spoke under his breath when he resigned himself to defeat. Not exactly the right thing to do in front of the chief's daughter.
As penance they were each required to give a peace offering of their personal effects. When it was suggested they hand over their weapons O'Neill's response could be heard to the edge of the village. Daniel was finally able to negotiate a settlement. They gave up their rations, medical supplies, tools and even radios- everything they had that *wasn't* a weapon. Even three of the four GDO's were counted in albeit without their battery packs, another O'Neill non-concession.
They were allowed to leave and did so immediately despite the fact it was now raining and they had no gear or food and were a four hour hike from the Stargate on a good day, as in one with no mud.
They returned tired and utterly cranky. O'Neill left it up to his team whether to forego the bonding and was somewhat surprised when all three showed up at his house that evening.
As usual O'Neill and Carter were the main drinkers at this party of four. Daniel was pleasantly inebriated by his second beer and though Teal'c without his symbiote could have handled the alcohol at least as well, was loath to sample the brew. He offered the excuse of taking his 'designated driver' duties to heart.
Talk was minimal and the hockey game was a taped repeat from earlier in the week but still it was good to be in the company of friends who required nothing more than each other's presence. When Daniel started snoring loudly it was determined perhaps they should call it a night and head home.
Carter had just opened another beer and waved it in the air to the Jaffa. "You two go on. I promise I won't drive, that's why cab companies stay in business you know."
"Undoubtedly." He inclined his head and hefted the younger man up with a strong arm around his waist.
It took both O'Neill and Teal'c to get Daniel situated in the car but Teal'c assured him he was more than capable of carrying a man over his shoulder if the need arose once they were at their destination.
O'Neill picked up his bottle from the front steps where he'd left it and turned back to the Jaffa. "Drive carefully."
Before he entered the driver's side of the car Teal'c nodded back toward the house, "Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter."
Carter waved her hand. "'Night, Teal'c. See you Monday."
The Colonel stepped through the entry and bumped into the door making it bounce open against the wall with a loud bang. Carter had been leaning against the wall just a few inches away and the noise of the impact made her jump noticeably.
"Sorry, just clumsy I guess." He mumbled an apology and made sure to keep a firm hand on the door as he slowly closed it.
Carter took a step back but didn't yet retreat into the den. Something was 'off' about her CO and though the last mission had been a disaster, she knew it started way before then. It didn't seem like it should have been the mission with the Jaffa leaders. Sure he could have been *killed*, no thanks to her, but he came out of it with the most to show for his efforts. Neither she nor Daniel had fared as well. The tech guys alone would be reeling over that Al-kesh for months to come. O'Neill even got the Pentagon higher-ups to agree that the ship not be dismantled by the Area 51 engineers. It could be studied but had to be kept in working condition in case it was needed on short notice.
When she didn't move O'Neill stopped there in the foyer and looked at her. "You want that cab?"
She blinked, momentarily forgetting what she'd said only a few moments before then raised her still full bottle. "Ah, sorry, no rush, right?"
He shrugged and gestured to the main room and followed her in.
She felt a little unease about sitting down just yet and walked over to the mantle to look at the assortment of military paraphernalia and photographs displayed there. Meanwhile the Colonel sat down on the couch and propped his feet up.
When she turned around she expected him to speak to her, at least to make some kind of small talk but he didn't, his attention was far away in some other corner of the universe.
His expression struck her as sad and instead of taking the chair she moved toward him and sat on the other end of the couch. She kicked off her shoes, curled her feet up under herself, and took a long swig of her beer. He didn't stir at all and if his eyes hadn't been open she would have sworn he was asleep. He did blink though finally and lowered his eyes to scrutinize the liquid as he jostled his bottle and made it swirl.
"You're not happy."
He blinked again, brought back to the present by the sudden break in the silence. "Not unhappy either."
She wriggled a little to get more comfortable on the cushions and his head turned partially toward her just for a moment when he felt the cushions give as she changed her position. When his attention did not stay with her she spoke to him again.
"You don't *have* to talk about it but it would help."
He turned his head to her and looked her in the eye then blinked, looked down and turned away again. "It's nothing."
Now she knew she was right, something *was* bothering him and for once, he was on the verge of actually talking. She couldn't let the opportunity go by. "Sir," She set down her beer and turned more fully toward him. "We're teammates, and more than that, friends."
He knew she was asking him to open up to her and closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "Carter." Her statement stuck in his craw. "Maybe that's just it, we're *more* than we should be."
She was shocked at where he chose to direct the conversation and knew instantly what he was talking about. Despite that she still asked him "What do you mean?"
He leaned back and rubbed a hand over his face and on up through his hair. "You wanna know how we got the Al-kesh?"
She was totally confused now. Was he changing subjects already? "The Jaffa decided we should have it, gave it to us."
"No, I mean how we captured it during the attack."
Her eyes narrowed slightly. She'd read his report and to be honest it was so well manicured she had a hard time believing he wrote it, she had a feeling there was a lot more than what he chose to include.
"The battle was in full swing and just a few minutes after they landed Hammond made a radio contact. I brought him up to speed on our situation and he told me what you were doing."
So far that agreed with the report.
He paused a moment and looked up at the ceiling. "When he told me you'd gone to P5S 117 without back up, and only Felger, well, I was pissed. I held it in pretty good for Hammond I think, but as soon as the transmission ended I started ordering those Jaffa around like a bunch of raw cadets. Funny thing was they listened to me. We out flanked Baal's men and cut them off from the ship then surrounded them. Took out the gliders with their own ship. Had to kill quite a few but we did get some who were willing to listen rather than die."
"I told them I needed the ship and that's when they decided I should keep it. Something about going home with honor. Those guys are a lot more sentimental than they'll admit. Anyway, that's when we came to get you."
Okay this part of the story she could understand, but his statement about *them* being *more* was distracting her. "So what does that have to do with-"
He put his feet on the floor and leaned forward putting his elbows on his knees and rested his forehead in his hands. "I wasn't just pissed. I was angry and scared too. Funny, I didn't really even think about you getting killed, I was worried you'd be captured and taken to Baal."
She nodded slowly. She didn't need to be reminded of what that could mean after the Colonel had been tortured to death and revived over and over again at the hands of the Goa'uld. "But I wasn't captured, you came."
"Right. I came." He said it almost with a mocking tone in his voice, and then continued contritely. "I took some chances way beyond what I should have, I guess that's what impressed the Jaffa, seeing a weakling Tau'ri like me take on a battalion." He paused again and she held silent waiting for him to continue.
His voice was soft, just above a whisper. "I couldn't *not* come. I made an emotional decision, not a logical one, not one based on tactics or Intel. It came off well, lucky SOB that I am, but I could have just as easily be dead, and then what would have happened to you?"
She bit her lip she was thinking so hard. He believed his command ability had been compromised by his feelings for her. What could she say to that, especially if it were true?
She moved uncomfortably and set her feet on the cushion between them then wrapped her arms around her knees. If they were confessing things here she had something of her own to declare.
She started slowly; hoping he'd understand what she was saying was not off topic. "When you were talking to Hammond earlier and we saw the Jaffa attack all I could think about was how it was my fault you were trapped there and couldn't get away."
O'Neill started to object but she held up a finger to silence him. "I know, it was Jay's basic idea and I really just egged him on and tried to keep an eye on anything he might miss. You see that's it, as it was *I* missed something. We thought it was us, but it actually was that I didn't take into account Baal might be able to figure out what we were doing and use it to his own advantage."
O'Neill turned sideways on the couch to face her keeping one foot on the floor and the other up on the cushion. He kept quiet and let her speak.
Her eyes misted over as she recalled watching the transmission. "When the Jaffa attacked and we lost the MALP, that was the longest two minutes of my life. I don't think I even breathed until I heard your voice again. That hit was so close and you were right there." Her chin was quivering and she slid her hands down to her ankles and bowed her head.
O'Neill's eyes followed her hands as they slid down to her feet and he smiled briefly at the bare pink painted toes before him. His gaze returned to her face and he watched her as she continued to speak. Her eyes were closed and she wasn't aware of his scrutiny.
"I begged Hammond to send a team, when he said 'no' it was all I could do to not insist he let me go alone. For a moment I completely forgot how important it was for me to stay and figure out how to fix the dialing program; all I could think about was getting to you." Her voice faded as she finished.
She jerked her head up as warm hands encased hers and his strong thumbs began to massage her wrists. Internally she wanted to pull back from his touch but her body did not move, instead she held still and looked into his eyes.
He noticed the telltale wet streaks on her face and gripped her hands more firmly. "Quite a pair aren't we?"
Carter took a shaky breath then hastily dropped her eyes and nodded.
He removed her hands from her ankles and tugged gently to pull her closer. Even though her body wasn't resisting, her mind was and she started to object. "We can't-"
"I know." He didn't give her time to say any more and continued to draw her forward. She came to him, sliding her legs out of the way and when she was close enough he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her the rest of the way pressing her head to his shoulder.
At any other time this would have been *the* compromising position of the day but right here and right now it didn't seem to be so. Usually their physical proximity was something to be avoided for fear of arousing something neither of them would choose to deal with but this was neither arousing nor stimulating, if anything at all it was the opposite, she felt the tension go from her body as she relaxed against him.
When he pulled her over he leaned back so now she was settled between his legs with the majority of her body weight supported by him. His arm stayed around her protectively and she snaked hers around his chest and hugged him back.
It seemed forever before one of them stirred. It was O'Neill. He shifted as if suddenly uncomfortable and Carter whispered to him sleepily. "Too heavy?"
He shook his head. "Bathroom."
She pushed herself up with one hand on his chest. "Now that you mention it, me too."
After relieving themselves, she in the hall bathroom and he in the one off his bedroom, she found him tidying up the kitchen. He glanced up but didn't stop what he was doing. "It's pretty late. You're welcome to stay in the guest bedroom. There's some old sweats in the drawer, probably way to big but they'd do for sleeping."
She nodded thanked him. After a few minutes when he didn't say anything else she accepted that he'd 'talked' all he was going to. She turned toward the steps up to the bedrooms. "Night, Sir." He only nodded a response.
He was right; everything in the drawer was too big. She opted for a soft well-worn and many times washed hockey shirt and skipped the pants altogether. The shirt hung down almost to her knees anyway so what was the point?
She sat on the side of the bed and wrapped her arms around herself as if chilled. It had nothing to do with the temperature of the room and everything to do with how close they'd come to losing each other. The thought made something inside her pinch uncomfortably. Admitting to her thoughts and then hugging him had brought her feelings to the surface again which meant, unfortunately, she'd have to deal with them, again.
She got up and threw back the covers then got in. No use dwelling on it, the 'room' was locked up tight and would be for the foreseeable future. She fell into a fitful sleep reliving some moments and imagining what may have happened in others.
O'Neill dozed off a few times but for the most part lay awake thinking. He heard Carter moving in the bed a few times and knew she was not sleeping well. He must have dozed again because he was suddenly forced to wake by that part of him that never really shut off. The door to his room was ajar and he could make out a slight shadow in the doorway.
"Carter? You all right?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you."
"It's okay, I'm not sleeping very well. You?"
"Not really." She could see his eyes glint in the near darkness. "I was wondering-" Her head drooped.
Her question went unasked yet answered when he held back the corner of the covers and lifted them as an invitation.
She took a few hesitant steps closer and when he let out an audible sigh at her seeming indecision she quickly covered the last few feet and slid in facing him. He touched her face, caressing her lightly but in actuality checking to see if she'd been crying. "Turn over." His voice was quiet but with a slight tone of command.
"It's ten after three, do you want to sleep or talk?"
His tone was lighter this time. "Okay, then roll over." He gave her shoulder a little shove.
She did as she was told and turned so she was completely facing away from him. She could feel his hands grip her waist lightly and pull. "Scoot back a little, you must be right on the edge. I promise not to bite."
She complied and found her back and bottom in contact with a warm body. It felt nice. Very nice. She realized she hadn't even considered what he might be wearing in bed when she came to his room. His chest and arms were bare as were his legs; at least he was wearing either shorts or boxers. She gulped and thanked heaven for the small favor. She indulged herself and nestled back into him. Soon she was fast asleep cocooned in her CO's arms.
He too found what he needed there and was able to sleep dreamlessly for a few hours only waking to the sound of a chittering bird outside. It took a moment for him to realize his right hand was fully cupping her left breast and was held in place by one of her hands. He smiled at the situation and let out a noise that was the beginning of a chuckle.
Carter was marginally awake and the sound (and warm breath against her neck) jostled her just enough to become conscious. As she did her hand moved and she suddenly stiffened with awareness. Her hand was on top of his but *his* was somewhere it had no business being.
At some point during the night they'd shifted position resulting in her being a little lower down than before so instead of his arm being around her waist it was, well, higher. "Uh, Sir?"
She noticed he wasn't moving. She even considered that he might still be asleep until the hand gently squeezed what it was holding.
She just *knew* he was smiling and cleared her throat loudly. "I know you're awake."
"Shhh. Not yet." She felt him stretch and settle back into the same position. Well two could play at that game, she stretched a bit too, purposefully shoving her hips backward against him and held them there. She immediately got the response she expected along with a low groan from behind her.
"Did anyone ever tell you you're evil?" He went to move his hand and was surprised when she gripped his and stopped him.
"I am *not* evil. Badly behaved at times if you ask my Dad, but not evil." There was a long pause and she relaxed her grip on his hand. Her fingertips went back and forth across his knuckles feeling the ups and downs of the bones and tendons for another few minutes then she spoke to him in a serious tone. "Do you ever think that we'll never- you know?"
"What makes you say that?"
She shrugged and leaned her head back nearly bumping his nose. "Sometimes I wonder if our luck will run out before we get the chance."
"You think about this a lot?" His thumb began to move in a slow caress.
"Only when one or both of us has almost died."
"That much, huh?"
He took in a deep breath and let it out against her neck. His recent actions were proof the regulations had merit, but he didn't like adding another regret to his growing list. Even though it was Carter who had suggested keeping their feelings boxed up a long time ago, he knew she wavered as much as he did.
He slid his hand away from her breast to a less sensitive area. It was time for his to be the voice of reason and he couldn't do it in mid-grope. "You know it is possible to only exchange one regret for another instead of getting rid of them."
Her shoulders hunched stiffly as she took in his words. She turned around to face him and somehow managed to keep a hold on his hand so he couldn't pull it away. She looked deep into his eyes and said, "But I'd like to choose which ones I keep."
Her next move was to lift her knee and rest it on top of his thigh effectively placing his leg between hers then rocked her hips forward just enough to touch.
He closed his eyes before his resolve was gone completely. "Major."
"Colonel." She didn't move an inch.
He knew she had a stubborn streak a mile wide but never had to deal with it on this level before. He looked at her and opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Finally he growled, "Oh, hell" and pulled her forward.
She responded by using the momentum to push on his shoulders and turn him onto his back then moved on top of him with her legs straddling his hips. She lowered her face to his and brushed her cheek against the stubble as if she were a cat. Her slight movements combined with her weight were increasing his response below and he groaned again.
Which was nothing compared to the groan he made when the doorbell rang exactly two minutes later. His hands went directly to her hips and held her firmly in place. "Not gonna happen."
"It could be important."
He glanced at the clock. "It's before nine AM on a Saturday morning, I'm off duty."
"You think it's the base? Can't be, they would have called." At the look on his face she added, "Right?"
He looked away. "Took it off the hook last night."
"Cell phone, pager?"
"Well, when they couldn't get you they might have called me and my phone didn't-"
His face was the picture of innocence.
"Major! When I'm off, I'm off!"
She glared back at him, "Fine. You want me to get it?"
He glanced down at her bare shoulder poking through the too big neckline of the shirt she'd chosen. "That wouldn't be my first choice, no."
She grabbed his hands on her hips and shoved herself away. "Go."
"All right, but I'm coming back." He shook a finger at her then pulled on a pair of sweatpants over his boxers and stalked out of the room. She could hear male voices speaking but couldn't make out the conversation and in a few minutes O'Neill was back at the doorway. He stopped with one hand on the doorframe.
"Hammond wants us. Now."
She had a moment of guilt-laden panic thinking that somehow the General had found out what they'd been doing, or were getting ready to do.
He crossed the room and lit on the edge of the bed. "It's the Jaffa thing. They apparently don't like diplomats any more than most of us like lawyers. They'll deal with SG-1 or nobody." His hand reached out and caressed an exposed patch of thigh. "Don't think this is over. The 'room' may still exist but we may need to consider opening the door occasionally, Call it stress relief." He scooted further up on the bed and pulled her into a hug. "There's so much coming to a head right now, I can't see the war going on forever. If the rebels can get their act together they have a real chance to defeat he Goa'uld once and for all."
She raised her head from his shoulder. "And then?"
"And then," He pressed his lips to her forehead, "I'll retire and this-" His mouth moved down to the tip of her nose. "Won't have to stop-" He lowered his head another inch. "Like it does now."
When he didn't advance further her eyes flew open. "I hate you."
He grinned and gave her a quick peck on the mouth before pulling back. "I know. Now let's go make nice with some Jaffa."