"Sam, are you sure?"
"Yes Sir" She responded, trying hard not to roll her eyes at him. Of course she was sure!
"I don't mind you know, it's no trouble" he was like a dog with a bone!
"Sir, it's fine… you really don't have to"
"Sam, look, I know you're tired, you know you're tired, so let me do this!" he was getting impatient now, she could tell.
"Colonel, I am tired, but not that tired that I can't drive myself home!" Now she was getting impatient.
"Sam, you've not slept for two days because of that reactor thingy, now come on, be sensible!" His arm gesture eloquently displayed his feelings.
"Sir, you don't have to worry, I'll be fine. The only thing I need is a little relaxation, which is what I intend to do for the next three days… if you would just let me go home!
Jack knew how tired she must be, once again his 2IC had rewritten the laws of physics and he could tell by the darks shadows that had formed under her eyes that she was not as "fine" as she protested she was. However, he also noted the determined glint in those overtired eyes and knew he was not going to convince her of the soundness of his plan. So throwing his hands in the air, he stepped from in front of her car. She really was the most stubborn…
"Fine, but just be careful ok? I don't want to be reading about you in tomorrows Obits!"
"Yes Sir." She replied, doing her best not to show her exasperation at his determination.
"I'll be fine. Goodnight Colonel." Without giving him further chance to try and stop her, she turned the ignition and stepped on the gas, looking in her rear-view mirror at the man she loved.
NEXT MORNING 9am:
"So, Jack, why has Hammond called us in today? We where supposed to be on stand down for three days" Inquired Daniel.
"Your guess is as good as mine Danny, I just hope one of our little snakey friends hasn't reared it's ugly head (or heads) again" Commented Jack as he knocked on the General's door.
"I am surprised not to see Major Carter here O'Neill"
"Don't worry about it Teal'c she'll be here, can you imagine Sam giving up an excuse to come on base and play with her doo-hickies?"
On hearing the gruff "Enter" Jack, Danny and Teal'c trooped through the door.
"So General Hammond, what can we do for you on this fine…"
Jack's bouncy comment was halted mid sentence as he took in the atmosphere of the room. Hammond had a look in his eye's that did not bode well, plus Janet was there and had immediately lowered her head, Jack would have swore he saw a tear fall down the CMO's cheek.
The three members SG-1 took in the scene, but before either man could voice a question, Hammond interrupted in a barked order that warned each man to remain silent.
"Gentlemen sit down please."
Jack looked curiously at Hammond's face for some hint as to what this was about, but what he saw chilled every nerve ending in his body.
He knew that look on a CO's face, hell he'd even worn that look a few times, on occasions he did his damndest to forget. God forbid, but Jack O'Neill knew what was coming next and he felt his soul shatter as the full realisation of the scene dawned upon him. Daniel and Teal'c where not as accustomed to this type of thing, so they had a few merciful seconds with which to remain blessedly ignorant, but Jack's years in the military afforded him no such luxury.
A low moan tore from his chest "No. Please… No!" being the only words he could articulate, but as the General looked at him, he knew that his plea was falling on God's deaf ears.
"I regret to inform you that at 1900 hours yesterday evening. Major Samantha Carter, USAF, was involved in a serious road accident. She was immediately taken to the Air Force Academy Hospital, but was sadly classified as Dead On Arrival." Hammond himself paused then, the pain and disbelief he could see on the faces before him nearly threatened his own composure.
For a few moments no one spoke. Teal'c and Daniel staring into space, unable to take in the impact of what they had just been told. But Jack, well he knew. He knew this pain, he knew that it brought no last minute reprieves and no second chances. She was gone, taken away from him and it was his fault. If he'd have only ordered her to let him drive, if she'd let him take her, if… there where so many "ifs", and the only fact was that she was gone.
Unable to sit still any longer, he got up and left so abruptly that he startled a nervous jump out of Janet. Teal'c immediately made a move to follow, but was halted mid stride by Daniel, who himself had tears in his eyes.
"Leave him Teal'c, he needs to be alone right now."
"Dr. Jackson is right Son, Jack needs his own space right now, but I would be grateful for your co-operation on a difficult matter. There is the unfortunate need to have SGC personnel clear Major Carter's apartment and although it is not an immediate priority, I would appreciate if I had your back up."
Seeing the pained nods of both men Hammond paused once more. This never ever got any easier no matter how many times you had to do it. In fact, Hammond thought to himself, that this was probably the hardest time he had ever had. However as base Commander, it fell to him to perform his duty, even in the most intense situations.
"I have sent word to the Tok'ra, Jacob will be informed as soon as possible and the funeral has been arranged for two days from now. She will be buried with full military honours as befitting the woman and soldier that she was. Dismissed"
Hammond sat down with a weary resignation as he watched the two men and Janet walk out of the door. He knew pretty well the pattern their grief would take. But it was Jack that worried him, he had seen the soul destroying pain that had swept unhidden across his 2IC's face when he had prematurely realised the news and he had also seen that part of Jack had died right along with his Major.
Hammond wasn't stupid, he knew why, he knew that although they had never broken any regulations, that they had been so much more than colleagues and friends.
Jack had gone topside. He needed to get out of the mountain, to get away from people.
Not stopping for anything other than security checks, he had spoken to no one. It was too early for him to even pretend to be able to think about this, too early to be able to acknowledge anything other than the old, deep pain that burned in a place so dark that he could lose himself in it's depths.
Reaching his destination, he slumped down at the side of a rock and stared into nothingness. For once, not noticing his environment, not being alert to anything other than the vision of her face, her smile and those eyes that he would never be able to laugh into again. She was gone.
So there he stayed, for who knows how long, torturing himself with memories of her image, memories of her smile and then by replaying his last moments with her as a darkness surrounded his heart.
The hardest part of this whole thing was that she had died not knowing just how much he loved her, only ever hearing a forced confession in such a public way. She had died because he hadn't taken her home, because he hadn't looked after one of his team.
She was dead and he was to blame.
In the eye's of this Colonel it was a cut and dried as that.
Daniel was wandering around the base. His mind preoccupied with grief. When they had left Hammond's office that morning, Teal'c had gone straight to his quarters to place himself in Kel'noreem, vowing to fast for the allotted time of grief. Janet, who had remained so silent during this whole mess, turned in a separate direction, leaving Daniel alone with this grief.
This hurt him, in places that he didn't want to be hurt anymore. He had experienced this type of grief before, and losing Sam hurt just the same way. She had been like his sister, right from the start. Always watching out for him, understanding his way of thinking, always being Sam. Now he would never laugh with her, never work in her lab with her, never watch her flirt with Jack and have them pretend it meant nothing.
As tears burned in his eyes, he entered her lab. The worst part was seeing everything just how she had left it, the coffee cup at the side of her computer, the pen on top of her precious notebook, her shirt draped over the back of her chair. It was exactly how she had left it a hundred times before when she had just gone home for a few days, only this time she would never be coming back.
With that thought, Daniel's reactions suddenly realised that the person he needed to find was Jack. If he was feeling this much pain, Jack's own feelings must be ripping him apart. Daniel knew how difficult it was to lose the love of your life without telling them one last time that you loved them, and Jack hadn't even got that to cling to, he had never even told Sam how he felt, not in the way he should have at least. So replacing Sam's favourite pen, he walked out of the lab with a purpose.
Janet had moved directly to her office and had sat with a weight of sadness in her heart as the tears spread. How was she ever going to be able to break this to Cassie? How was she going to be able to watch the grief of Sam's team, men who for all purposes where her family and one man in particular whom she had wanted to be so much more?
"I am so sorry," she said to no one in particular as she abandoned her resolve not to cry.
Daniel tentatively knocked on the familiar door. He knew Jack was at home, his car was in the driveway. What he didn't know was what to expect from Jack himself.
Depression, anger, denial? He had no idea, but he had to find out, because as much as Daniel himself was hurting, he knew Jack would be hurting so much more.
Just as he was about to knock again, Daniel had a thought, so without further hesitation, he swung himself around and walked to the back of the house and began to climb the stairs leading to the roof. Sure enough, there was Jack. Focussed towards the stars.
Coughing nervously, Daniel tried to get his friend's attention, but not once did Jack turn around. Daniel however was not going to leave, so just as he made up his mind to move to where Jack couldn't pretend to not see him, he heard Jack's voice, normal in all respects, save for the betraying coldness and detachment that sent a shiver through Daniel.
"What can I do for you Danny boy?"
"I just came to see if you where all right" Daniel cursed himself, that was not the way to go when you wanted to deal with Jack.
"I'm fine Danny, why wouldn't I be?" The detachment evident in Jack's tone was beginning to grate on Daniel's raw nerves.
"Well, I just thought that after the "news" we got today and the way you shot out of the mountain, that you might want to talk" Daniel moved forward so that he could at least see Jack's profile as he heard the response.
"Nope, don't need to talk"
If you were only hearing Jack's voice, you wouldn't have realised anything was wrong, but as Daniel fought down the urge to scream at Jack, he noticed the look in his eyes, the dullness that seemed to chasm forever.
"Jack, I know this is hard for you, but you need to stop running away. You need to face the truth that Sam is…"
For the life of him, Daniel couldn't say the word. Even though he knew Jack needed help to get through this, he couldn't say the word. Which, fortunately worked out ok, because it was then that Jack decided to talk.
"Daniel, see that star, just left to the top left star in Orion?" Daniel could only respond with a confused nod, but Jack couldn't see that, he just carried on, assuming that Daniel knew where to look.
"Well that's her star Danny… I just gave it to her, even though she'll never see it with me, that is now Sam's star" With that Jack turned to completely face his friend, his face a tightly controlled mask. Showing nothing, no revelation of sadness, no regret and eye's that conveyed only a lost energy and despair because the reason for them to light up was now gone forever.
Daniel realised that this was not his most eloquent speech, but his grief at loosing a sister and now at seeing an almost "non-reaction" from Jack had strangled his usual flair for words from him.
"What's there to say Danny, she's gone. Never to return. Dead."
The finality that echoed inside Jack's own ears caused a little more of his soul to wither and die, but he'd be damned if anyone else was going to see that. Regardless of the fact that his heart was now residing in a place so dark that no light could reach, and regardless too of the fact that his very reason for being had just been taken away from him.
He was Colonel Jack O'Neill, USAF… he had lost many men before, he knew that it came with the territory. He knew it was a CO's job to rise above pain, even at the darkest hour and damn it that's what he had always done before. Why then was that mask so difficult for him to wear right now?
"Jack, come on… talk to me… I know how much she…" Daniel's attempt to reach his friend was quickly stopped.
"Daniel, she was a soldier… soldiers are lost everyday, it happens" The ruthlessness that flared in Jack's eyes stunned Daniel, but not for long. His anger soon took over, how dared he say Sam was just another soldier, just another body… how dared he!
"Bullshit Jack! She was more than that and you know it, she was our friend, my sister and the woman you loved. If she was just another soldier, why the hell have you just given her a star?!" Daniel was too incensed to notice the acute pain that now raced across his CO's face "For god's sake Jack, take your head from out of your ass and let yourself grieve. You're doing the same thing you did when I first met you, you're on the same path…"
Daniel wasn't expecting to be interrupted this time, so it took him a moment to focus on the intensity and pain he heard punctuating every word that came from the man stood before him.
"How the hell else do you expect me to react Daniel? You of all people should know what it's like to lose the woman you love so deeply that it actually hurts. What it's like to have a loved one taken from you so suddenly that you can't quite grasp it. How do you think it feels to know that you could have saved them? That if you had not given up so easily, that they would still be here. Wishing to any deity that will listen that it had been you instead." Daniel could only stare, speechless at Jack as he carried on with revelations that stunned him by their depth and intensity.
"Do you think you could live that again? Could you stand to have her ripped away from you again? Because I don't know if I can!" With that Jack turned and fled, his voice had broken, the mask had broken, but no tears fell.
Daniel knew that it would be useless to go after Jack now, he just hoped that having at least vented his emotions to some extent, Jack would allow himself to grieve properly. As he climbed back into his car, he took one last look at "Sam's star"
Daniel had always known Jack was the type of man who loved and hated with equal intensity, but he had never quite realised how vulnerable he was before tonight. It was an image that just seemed ludicrous when labelled to Jack O'Neill, but looking up at that star right now, Daniel knew that beneath the sarcasm, bravado and irreverent attitude dwelled a heart that needed love, a heart that needed Sam.
Daniel held tightly to the woman at his side, she was doing her best not to let the dam of emotions break. But as the Airman raised the bugle to his lips to play the haunting melody that signalled the presenting of the flag and the lowering of the coffin, that dam could be held back no longer. Daniel, tightened his grip on Janet's shoulders, his own eyes smarting with unshed tears as he watched the precision with which the flag was folded. He watched as the honour guard slowly walked towards Jacob Carter and offered the flag to the father.
Jacob's eyes too where brimming with tears, and Daniel suspected that it was only the presence of Selmak that stopped those tears from falling. But as Jacob took the flag from the guardsman, he took a step forward and with military precision borne from years of service he made his way to where Jack was standing. Tall and proud, stood at attention looking straight ahead, seemingly removed from the sorrow surrounding him, if Daniel didn't know him better he would have sworn that Jack was not affected in anyway by the situation.
It was only when Jacob stood before him, did Jack's eyes move from their fixed stare. At no point during the ceremony had Jack let his control slip, not during the procession, not during the eulogy and not at the sight of Sam's coffin being placed just above her grave. But now, as Jacob stood before him, offering him the flag, Jack's fašade slipped just a little.
Daniel watched as Jacob held out the flag. Military etiquette would have been for Jack to take the flag and clasp it to his chest. But as Jack looked into Jacob's eyes he unknowingly showed the older man the pain that intertwined with his soul. Jack slowly shook his head at the offered flag, and for the first time looked at the casket that was now being lowered into the earth. Only those in the closest proximity could have heard the anguish as Jack uttered in a whisper so raw "I can't take that Sir, please don't make me" Jacob merely focussed on the other man's eyes and nodded, returning without fuss to his previous position.
As the haunting lone bugle faded away, Daniel watched as single shots where fired low, ringing out as a final knell. Each shot making himself and Janet jump, each shot signalling the end of a life. Each shot bringing home to all present that Samantha Carter was gone.
As the crowd broke up, Daniel noted that Jack moved quickly away, not stopping for anyone, or anything. He was still running.
"Dr. Jackson?" Daniel shifted Janet imperceptibly under his arm as he turned to face his General and Jacob.
"General Carter, I am so sorry for your loss" Was the only thing Daniel could manage to say. Only receiving in return a small inclination of the head, because his eyes too where focussed on the
tall, uniformed man who was walking from the scene as quickly as he could.
"He's still running Sir. I can't get through to him"
"Son, no one can. Until further notice SG1 are on stand down, but unfortunately doctor, I will need to see you tomorrow morning. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to the base with Jacob. He need's a full explanation"
With that Daniel witnessed the two old friends walk towards the waiting car and climb inside, hidden immediately by the blacked out windows. With one final glance at the fresh grave, he felt Janet shudder again with tears and decided that it was time to leave.
"Goodbye Sam. I'm going to miss you" was his final words to the air around him.
As Hammond wearily took his seat in the car, Jacob sat facing him. He pulled off his tie and sighed a sigh that conveyed so eloquently his feelings. Sensing the mood in the car, he finally spoke.
"I'm sorry. You have no idea how I wish this could have been different"
Jacob nodded, knowing that there was no other way. The figure sat to the immediate left of Hammond however, was not quite so understanding.
"With all due respect Sir, it *should* have been different. Why did you have to make them go through this? Did you see Teal'c, Daniel and Janet? Even though Janet knows. Not only did this plan cause the people I care about most in the world to think I am dead, but you also made Janet have to stand there and watch, knowing that what they where seeing was a charade!"
Hammond turned to the direction of the painful rebuke; this was the hardest part of being in charge. He had seen the looks on the faces of his teams today, he had hated having to cause them this pain, but as CO, he was left with no other option, he wished she could understand that. But just as he was about to attempt another explanation, it was Jacob who interrupted him.
"Sam, sweetheart… George is right. This is for your own safety, you know that."
"I know Dad, but have you any idea what it felt like to sit here, at my own funeral and watch how it hurt my team, my friends, my…"
Sam cut herself short, she was upset at what she had just been forced to witness. The last thing she needed was to admit to her father and her General that what had nearly ripped her to pieces was the sight of Jack O'Neill. Cold and tall, to all outside eyes the strong soldier. But to eyes practised and knowing, he was hurting *so* badly that it was tangible to Sam.
Yet, the hardest part was that she could do absolutely nothing about it, she could do nothing to ease his pain, knowing that with every minute that passed, she was only adding to it. But she was under the strictest orders; this was the only way. She just wished so hard that she didn't have to cause him so much pain.
George and Jacob shared a look. They both knew how hard this was for Sam, not only to watch Janet witness the pain around her, to watch Daniel and Teal'c deal with her apparent loss, but to watch the man she loved have to face the thought that he had lost her. They knew the only thing stopping her from coming from undercover was not the threat to her life, but the orders that she was honour bound to obey. The orders that Hammond had had to issue to make sure that she could be kept safe until Maybourne made his move.
As the driver slowly moved the car forward, George ran through this "plan" and the reasons for it once more.
Four days ago, he had received intelligence that Col. Maybourne had discovered that the protein marker left by a symbiote in a human host could be used as a viral agent of epidemic proportions. So sensitive was this protein marker that it could be altered to specifically attack a certain gene, thus making genetically engineered warfare a much less dangerous business to those who create the "bug".
However, the only problem with this little discovery was that for the marker to be so malleable to genetic manipulation, it had to come from the body of a recently deceased human being. Now, since it was a problem finding nice, newly deceased human ex-hosts, Maybourne hadn't taken long to figure that he had an ex-host right on his door step, the only slight problem being that she wasn't exactly newly deceased. Well that would be a problem if you didn't move in the circles that Harry Maybourne moved in.
When Hammond found out about this, he had to think quickly, not only to come up with a way of keeping his favourite Major safe, but also if possible to catch Maybourne in the act and thus make damn certain that this time he would not escape justice.
His first state of business was to get Jacob in on this, his first thought being send her to the Tok'ra until this was settled, but together with Jacob he realised that that would only delay Maybourne, not stop him. They needed something more "permanent".
So working alongside his old friend an elaborate plot was hatched and put into operation. Sam would be going undercover, very, very, deeply undercover. In fact, they where going to kill Sam for Maybourne, or at least pretend to (with the help of a certain doctor under orders to issue a "death certificate" for her close friend).
Once news of Sam's "death" spread, Hammond was sure that Maybourne would act quickly to get his hands on the body, so rather than put an unsuspecting base and hospital staff in danger, it would be so much easier to keep an empty graveyard under surveillance. Knowing full well with a record like Maybourne's, grave robbing would not be considered beyond the bounds.
Although pleased with the tightness of the plan, both men knew that the problem would come in telling Sam, in making her realise exactly what this plan would entail and having her agree to it. Neither man was wrong. Sam's initial reaction was one of shock and disgust, but as the intricacies of the plan where put before her, that reaction changed to absolute negativity at the thought of running away to the Tok'ra and more so at having the people she cared about believe she was dead.
She had argued long and hard, pleading that every member of her team had been though that kind of pain before and she wasn't willing to put them though it again. Although her argument had remained carefully neutral, showing no real bias towards any one member, all present knew that it was her concern for Jack's reaction that bothered her the most.
Hammond had watched her face and the betrayal of her eyes as she had realised what this would do to her CO, especially after the "incident" with the Zay'tark testing, which Hammond was aware of (unbeknownst to either party). He knew that she was not going to willingly agree to this, so with a nod of understanding from her father, he had made the request an order, the hardest order he had ever had to give.
Looking at her now as she stared unseeingly through glazed eyes out of the darkened window, he remembered the same look of desolation on her CO's face and wished this could have been different. He wished it would all be over quickly and hoped like Hell that he would be able to play this out to it's conclusion, albeit a conclusion that was going to change a lot of things.
Sam knew nothing about that of course; she expected that when this was all over to go back to being the damned good 2IC that she was, but Hammond had known that that wasn't possible. Not after exposing the feelings of Sam and her CO so blatantly, so he had taken steps to "fix" that situation. But until Maybourne made his move, the only thing he could do was watch the pain in all members of his frontline team.
Jack was sat on his chair, staring up into the night sky. His eyes focussed towards the top left-hand corner of Orion. The now stale beer he had held in his hand for the past few hours had never even made it to his lips.
After her funeral, Jack had come home needing the security of familiar surroundings. But the only thing he could see were images of Sam sat on the couch smiling while they played poker, images of her rolling her eyes at him as he got way too excited about the hockey game on the TV. Then suddenly the scene in his mind changed, to a coffin, a flag a painfully emotional melody and the sight of her being lowered forever away from his sight.
Not even in his own home could he escape the memories of her, but that strange thing was that he didn't want to. The only things he had left of Sam now was the object in his free hand and the pictures in his mind, a mind he had hidden in, in that bittersweet torture because without her, the world seemed a darker, more lonely place. Only her star seemed to light up the dark.
He had taken refuge in his recollections of her, going back into his mind and replaying his time with her, the comments and laughs, the smiles and sometimes the tears. He remembered the first time he had seen her, how she had taken his breath away and how hard he had tried not to show it. Hiding it carefully away behind that mask.
He remembered all the occasions when she had seen beneath his armour, how he had unknowingly allowed her access to his heart and how she had finally and irrevocably broken through the carefully erected defences. How she had made his heart beat again, made him fall so deeply in love her, made him realise in one second that he would rather die than lose her.
No more would he be able to make her smile or laugh with a dumb joke or a irreverent grin. No longer would he be able to make her explain astrophysics to him, just so he could spend a few minutes of time alone with her. No longer would he be able to watch her sleep on some planet or other. Watch her while dreaming that some day he would be able to hold her tightly, or to tell her how much he loved her without being forced into a semi-declaration that didn't even begin to explain the depth of his feelings.
So caught up in his thoughts was he that he hadn't noticed the temperature drop, or the fact that he was still only in his shirt sleeves, also remaining heedless to the fact that he hadn't eaten for far too long a time. Neither did he notice how the rest of the world went on, oblivious to his pain and longing. His only focus was on what he had lost and how he could not show how deeply it had effected him. If it was possible, it was going to be even harder to pretend he didn't love her now, than it was when she had asked him to leave it in the room.
Looking upwards once more to her star, he uttered the words he would have sold his soul to Sokar to have been able to say.
"I love you Sam"
The star twinkled back at him with a bluish glow that reminded him of those eyes he would only ever see in his dreams. Lifting his right hand he brought the object to his eye level. Stroking the material of her cap, he saw her face appear underneath the peak, laughing up at him, that was *his* Major.
With that memory, a single tear trickled unbidden down the roughened cheek while his soul screamed in agony.
Sam was lay staring up at the now familiar ceiling. She had been in this "safe room" for nearly five days now and it was just about driving her insane. Although General Hammond had supplied her with enough research and equipment to keep her occupied, she could concentrate on nothing more than her friends, especially after today.
Everytime she closed her eyes, she could only see the tears falling from Janet's eyes, the pain and loss that spanned archaeologist and Jaffa, but worst of all, she could see the missing glimmer of once sensuous brown. She could feel the pain and anger and hurt emanating from every pore of his being, and the hardest part was that she was the cause.
She was the reason that Jack O'Neill had to grieve all over again.
All's she wanted to do was to pull him close and tell him that she loved him and that she was never going to leave him. But she knew with a certainty that pierced her soul that even when this mess was finally over she would never be able to do that. Even if he could ever forgive her for hurting him so badly, she would still be his second in command and they would still have to lock up all their feelings and put them back in the room.
She felt tears prick her eyes as she wondered at the cruelty of fate. Did anyone else in the world have to love a man that they could never have? Did anyone else realise what it was like to know that he loved you back but was bound by honour not to act on it? Did anyone else know what it was like to take the greatest source of pain for the man you loved, and be the reason he endured it all over again?
"Jack, I love you so much. I just wish I could tell you that, I wish I could make up for all the pain and hurt, I wish…"
The last part of her sentence was swallowed up by heart wrenching tears as she cried herself into a restless sleep.
"Control, this is Foxtrot Niner, come in control" the static laced sound jolted Maybourne from his thoughts. Soon, very soon he would have what he needed and really without the need to get his hands dirty. Fate could be a wonderful ally sometimes.
"Foxtrot Niner, this is control. Report" He replied into the radio mike that one of the faceless Black berets handed him.
"Coming upto target now Sir. No un-friendlies, proceeding with plan"
"Very well Foxtrot Niner, just be sure to replace everything. Control out"
Colonel Harry Maybourne handed the radio mike back and almost rubbed his hands in joy. This was going to gain him some major (excuse the pun) credits with his superiors. Looking at his watch, he timed the actions of his team. Right about now they would begin excavating the gravesite and in a few minutes they would be bringing a blood sample from the recently, and "unfortunately", deceased Major Carter. A blood sample that would bring with it a weapon that would firmly place his organisation back to the pinnacle, just how it should be.
"Control, this is Foxtrot Niner, come in control"
"Right on schedule" muttered Maybourne to the Black beret as he handed the mike over once again. "This is control, report"
"Sir, Mission a complete success, we have the package and are returning…What the Hell?" Maybourne's eyebrows furrowed as he heard the commotion on the other end of the mike. Something was wrong. Without thinking any further Maybourne quickly ordered the retreat of his control team.
Just as the van was about to remove from this location, the back doors flew open and several MP5's where pointed in his direction. Momentarily blinded by the torchlight in his face, Maybourne could only hear the words…
"Colonel Harold Maybourne, you are under arrest for the crime of treason against the USAF and it's allies…"
The rest of his "rights" became a distinct blur to the Colonel, he knew that this had been his last chance with the powers that be, he had screwed up and now he was in trouble, very big trouble.
"SG-1 to General Hammond's office, Doctor Fraiser to General Hammond's office" the toneless voice over the PA intoned.
Daniel looked from Teal'c to Janet, all three wearing the same look of puzzlement tinged with sadness, they weren't SG1 any longer, and they hadn't been since the day Sam had died.
Silently all three stood and made their way to the said destination, only one lady doctor hid a betraying smile and a fervent hope that it was all finally over.
"Enter," came Hammond's response to the knock. As Teal'c, Daniel and Janet came in to the room Hammond sent a brief smile towards the lady doctor and was rewarded by a smirk that had to be quickly hidden.
"Dr. Jackson, Teal'c, where is Colonel O'Neill?" questioned Hammond, but he already knew the answer he was going to receive, Jack hadn't exactly been Mr. Congeniality this last few days. Before now, Hammond had let it slide, knowing the grief that his finest officer must be feeling, but at this moment, he was even more delighted that Jack hadn't turned up. It would work out much better for all concerned that he wasn't here for this.
"He, um… said that he was…"busy"… general" Replied Daniel, knowing full well that his lame attempt to cover for Jack was nowhere near close to being believed.
"I'm sure that's what he said Dr. Jackson" Commented Hammond conspiratorially, understanding just exactly what Jack O'Neill was much more likely to have said to the intrepid archaeologist.
"I suppose you are wondering why I have requested to see you" Hammond bit back a grin, he knew that in just a few seconds the pain and misery of the last few days would be relieved. "Well there is someone who very much wants to see you"
Right on cue his door opened and Major Samantha Carter (formally deceased) walked in, a nervous smile on her face, obviously unsure as to the reception she would be given.
As she took in the completely stunned expression of her team, Janet moved quickly and enveloped her in the tightest hug Sam had ever experienced.
"SAM!?" stuttered Daniel…
"Major Carter" stated Teal'c
"It's great to have you back Sam" enthused the doctor.
Before she could think, she was squarely surrounded and squashed by the other two men, smiles and laughter taking the place of words.
"Hey… guys… you're … squashing… me!" Sam barely managed to speak.
Instantly she was released from the huddle, but not one let go of her completely.
"I don't understand… you… we thought… you…" Daniel's smile conveyed his emotion because he was too stunned for words
"Major Carter" stated Teal'c once again, only this time instead of the stoic gaze, the Jaffa sported the largest smile she had ever seen.
Sam smiled back at the faces before her, her relief tangible. "Guys, General Hammond will explain, but right now there is something I really have to do" Sam neatly extracted herself from her friends as General Hammond spoke. But before he could officially give her leave to exit, the door opened and she was virtually sprinting up the corridor, leaving passing SF's gawking at the "ghost" of Sam Carter.
George watched the retreating form, silently wishing her good luck at the task that lay ahead of her. As he turned to face the two men of SG-1 he smiled, knowing that this debriefing was going to be "interesting" to say the least.
"General Hammond, with all due respect… what the *hell* is going on" Hammond thought he was going to burst with shock and laughter, because that comment came from the most unlikely source.
Three faces turned to look up at the huge Jaffa, all three equally stunned by such "human-ness" but it was Daniel who recovered first and broke the stunned silence.
"I second that General, to quote Teal'c, what the Hell is going on!?" demanded Daniel, who still cast a sideways glance at his ex-first prime friend.
"Well Son, it all started with a phone call…"
Sam had given herself very little time to think about the sanity of her actions, if she had done, she wouldn't be running up the corridor right now and getting ready to face Jack alone. But she was fuelled on instinct, driven by the need to stop him hurting, to remove that image of his face, dull, cold and detached as she had last seen it at her "funeral"
Upon reaching her destination, she allowed herself a split second to take a gulp of oxygen before opening the door without even bothering to knock. What she saw before her twisted her heart into pieces.
Jack was asleep, lay on his bed, holding the baseball cap she always wore on missions in his hand, clasped over his heart. Even in sleep she could tell he was in pain, the boyish glimmer on his face had been replaced by a deep set furrow of pain, and she had caused it.
Once again throwing all normal logical calculation out of the metaphorical window, she walked slowly upto the sleeping form, knelt at the side of him and gently placed her hand to his cheek.
The sudden contact sent a shiver of electricity crashing through her entire being. That feeling mustn't have been hers alone, because immediately brown eyes opened, for a brief second showing the scars and the pain that had now lay siege to his soul. As he focussed his gaze to her face, he smiled a bitter, ironic smile.
"If this is a dream, please never let me wake up" the anguish in his voice cut into Sam's soul "If this is a delusion then I will happily go mad as long as you don't leave me again Sam"
His poignant plea seared a path straight to her heart as tears began to fall across her cheeks.
"Jack, this isn't a dream and you aren't going crazy. It's me and I'm here" He words came out ragged to her own ears, but Jack smiled a smile that again seemed mocking to his own sanity.
"Jack I didn't die… it was set up to flush out Maybourne… I'm alive… and I'm here!"
She tried to explain, but the look of sheer desolation on his face caused a pain in her own heart, she knew that he would be hurting, but she hadn't imagined that he would have retreated so far into himself like he obviously had. In a perverse sort of way, that made her love him more.
"You always say that Sam, every time that I see you, but please, don't leave me this time. Please!" He sat up as he said the last words, reaching out, half-afraid to touch her in case the action caused her to disappear. "You are so beautiful Sam, I just wish I could have told you that… there's so many other things I wish I'd have said"
Sam could see the cloud of self-recrimination that passed across his handsome face, and at that moment, she knew that no words where going to convince him that she was really real. So without a second thought, she leant forward and took his lips in a fiercely possessive kiss.
For a few moments, he didn't react and just as she was about to pull away, afraid that not even that could convince him, she felt herself pulled hard towards his chest. Iron strong arms encircling her, holding her so tightly as hungry lips finally responded, drawing her into the most poignantly passionate kiss of her life.
When he finally pulled away both struggled to put air into their lungs, both never losing the eye contact, both a little amazed and a more than a little stunned.
"Since when does a dream or delusion feel like that Colonel?" She had to be sure he knew that she was real, because she needed him to kiss *her*, not a delusion.
"Sam… oh God Sam, you're really here…"
With that he pulled her against him again, his lips making sure that he wasn't dreaming this time. No dream he had ever had had felt like this, and believe me he had had enough dreams about Sam over the years to know the difference.
Just as Sam began to lose herself in his kiss, he wrenched away from her so abruptly that she fell forward slightly from the shock of losing his support.
"What the Hell are you playing at Major?! What is going on here? One minute you're dead, funeral and all, and the next minute you're kissing me and are most definitely not dead!" his arm movements showing his confusion as he stood and began to pace quickly up and down the room.
*This* Sam had expected, but before she could offer a word of defence, he continued undeterred.
"One day, I wake up to be told that you are dead, that I have to grieve for you, that I have to live through losing you. I have to watch as our General explains to us that you've been killed and I am supposed to deal with it!" his voice had raised several decibels, his relief suddenly spurting into the anger that Sam had expected from the beginning. Yet, she didn't interrupt, she didn't think she could, even if she wanted to. He had to let this out and she had to let him.
"What type of game have you been playing with us? Have you any idea how we felt, how Danny felt at losing a sister, how Teal'c felt at losing his favourite lady, how Janet felt, how I…?"
He cut himself off sharply, took a breath and continued, his face furious, but his eyes alive.
"Can you imagine what it was like to watch them lower your coffin into the ground, to hear that God Damn military bugle sound, to have your father offer me your flag? Have you any idea how hard it was for me to think I would never be able to see you again? Do you know how it ripped me apart a just little more everyday, knowing that the only way I would ever see you smile again would be if I closed my eyes and dreamed? How I tortured myself thinking that I was to blame, that I hadn't looked after you, that I had failed you? God Sam, how do you think it feels to have your heart ripped out of your chest for the second time in your life, knowing that this time there will be no angel to come and fix it?
She could barely see the sheen of tears that sparkled across his eyes, because her own eyes where heavy with tears of her own. She had known that he would hurt like this because she knew the depths to his soul that he let very few people see. But as she looked at him now, her own soul felt the pain, desolation and anger that he had been living. Even in those few brief seconds of understanding, she didn't know how he had the strength to even live it a day.
She looked at his eyes once more, at least they had that gleam that she had feared was missing forever, but she was unsure of him. Had she hurt him too deeply? Could he ever forgive her?
The questions that went through her mind where unknowingly transmitted to him though her eyes. He stood still for a moment, taking in those eyes that he thought he would never see again, he knew she was scared, he knew she didn't know what to do, but in a most powerful moment of clarity, he knew, he understood and he acted.
Before she could register his movement, he had once again pulled her into his arms, one hand tight around her back, the other hand threaded through her hair, pulling her head to his chest. She could feel his breathing; she could feel his heart and she knew that it was going to be ok. So raising her own arms up she reached behind his head and pulled his face down to looks at hers. Tears still fell as she spoke into his eyes and into his soul.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry"
Jack only stared at the face before him, he couldn't move, so grateful was he to the same Fate that he had spent the last five days cursing to the core. Looking at the angel held tightly in his arms, he didn't answer, he just lowered his lips to hers and showed her more eloquently than any words.
Just as she sank into the depths of him, he jerked away once more, this time grabbing her wrist tightly and yanking her along at a rate of knots, out of the door and along the corridors of the SGC. Uncaring as SF's stood blatantly gawking at the sight of Colonel O'Neill dragging the recently "un-deceased" Major Carter along the corridor.
Her brain was still trying to catch up to the situation, she had no idea what he was doing, in fact since the first time she saw him tonight, she had no idea what either of them where doing. So she decided to ask. He was definitely a man on a mission, but she wanted to know just what that mission was.
"Jack! What are you doing?"
He heard her voice from a few feet behind him, treasuring it's sound. Revelling in the feel of her slim wrist underneath his fingertips. An hour ago, surrounded in darkness, he never thought he would witness either ever again.
Without stopping he felt the grin form on his lips, and without breaking step he yanked her the few necessary feet to bring her crashing into him once more. Without word or explanation he bent his head and set them both on fire before pulling away once more and continuing the breakneck speed along the uniform corridors. Only briefly glancing over his shoulder at the confused woman in tow…
"I like it when you call me Jack" was her only explanation.
But as he turned along the final corridor, she knew where he was going and felt her legs stop moving in shock. He glanced over his shoulder once more and sent a look her way that melted her insides as he continued to his destination.
"So Maybourne has been caught red handed then?" Asked the ever- inquisitive archaeologist of his General.
"Yes, and I will personally see that he doesn't see the outside world for a very, very long time Dr. Jackson"
Hammond had finally finished explaining to the two men, both of whom where now much calmer and understanding. But just as Daniel was about to ask another question, the office door was flung open in a manner that nearly took it off its hinges.
"Permission to barge in General?" said Jack, already barging and pulling a somewhat dazed Major right along with him, placing them both in front of their commanding officer.
"Jack?!" exclaimed Daniel
"O'Neill?" questioned Teal'c
"Colonel… Major…" greeted Hammond, barely keeping the grin off his face as Jack launched into his little diatribe.
"General Hammond, I am here to tell you that although I don't know the intricacies of this little scam, I do know that I am not going to beat around the bush anymore. I am not going to leave anything "in the room" anymore. I love Major Carter and I will *not* let you, the Airforce or the President himself keep us apart. I will not spend another day, minute or second without Sam. So I am here to tell you that either you find a way to make it happen or you find yourself a new leader of SG-1"
Jack finished with gusto, a determination on his face that Hammond almost winced at. He looked around the room slowly, Daniel and Teal'c where stunned into silence once more, Janet was smiling, Sam was staring at the back of Jack's head torn between shock and amazement, but definitely in love.
When he turned his eyes back to his Colonel, he saw the unbridled passion that was present in most of Jack O'Neill's more forceful arguments.
"That is quite some ultimatum to issue me with in my own office Colonel" He barked, hoping that his laughter didn't show.
"General, with all due respect, after the last few days I'd stand right in front of the President himself and say the same thing."
Wow, when that man got a bee up his ass, he really got a bee up his ass!
"I'm sure you would Colonel O'Neill, but I don't think that would be the wisest move you have ever made"
Jack recognised the caution he was being given, under normal circumstances he would have heeded the warning from probably the only commanding officer who had gained his complete respect, but right now, he just squared his shoulders and looked said CO right in the eye. Hammond recognised the stand off, and finally allowed himself the luxury of a smile.
"Jack, stop looking like a man possessed. You don't need to issue ultimatums to me or to anyone else." Biting back the out right laugh caused by the confused look on his Colonel's face, George picked up a letter and began to read aloud from what looked to everyone in the room like an official directorate from the White House.
"In recognition for outstanding sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty, an official dispensation has been made and declared for Major Samantha Carter, USAF and Colonel Jonathan O'Neill, USAF in regards to the USAF Regulation number 21/3b. Both officers will legally be allowed to conduct a relationship without threat of court martial"
Now Hammond could not bite back the laugh. Everyone in the room was stunned into silence, but this was the reward he had engineered from the beginning of this whole fiasco. He was just grateful to whatever power had done this that he had been able to pull it off. For a split second he thought neither one of his officers had grasped the implication of the directorate. That was until Jack decided to act.
Before everyone present in the room, he pulled the woman he loved into his arms. Unashamed before friends he looked deeply into her eyes and said the words he had wished he could have been able to say so many times in the last four years.
"I love you Sam" he smiled into her eyes, all traces of pain wiped from his now bare soul.
"I love you too, Jack" She answered, all doubts removed from her mind.
The four onlookers watched the couple kiss a kiss that joined hearts minds and souls. A smile quickly spread around the room, and a cheer from Daniel and Janet was soon following.
As they pulled apart, a grin on both faces, Sam was once again the focus of a group huddle that this time reunited SG-1, their favourite doctor and their favourite CO.
The base had been buzzing with the events of the day and Sam was honour bound to put in an appearance for all her colleagues. Jack had been uncharacteristically patient as she did the rounds; often she would look up to find him watching her and a smile of understanding would pass between them. Jack had only made one request. That she let him take her topside for a few minutes when the meeting and greeting had been done. She had no idea why, but as he threaded his way across the top of the mountain her hand firmly in his, she was dying (excuse the pun) to find out.
When finally he stopped, he looked around him, this was the same place he had come on that desolate morning not long ago consumed with a darkness that had fallen and taken hold of his very being. But now, this time there was nothing dark or desolate about him. He was in love, he was allowed to be and Sam Carter finally knew it.
He was happy.
Moving to stand behind her he put his arms around her waist and pulled her close. As she snuggled into him, he pointed to Orion.
"Sam, see the star to the left of the top left star of Orion" He felt her gaze follow his and felt her nod her head. "Well, the night you "died" I gave that star to you. It sparkles blue and it reminded me of your eyes and it allowed me to keep a part of you close to me. It allowed me to break the darkness with just a little light. I never thought I'd be able to show it to you" he finished in a husky whisper, his throat suddenly dry, he knew without looking at her that she had tears in her eyes.
Slowly he turned her to face him, his suspicions confirmed as her looked deep into the moisture rich eyes before him. Taking her hands in his he continued.
"Sam, when I thought I'd lost you, I can't tell you how I felt and because of that I will not spend another minute of my life without you. Not just as my 2IC or as my lover. I want you as my wife Sam. Until death really does do us part. Will you marry me?"
For a long moment they just lost themselves in the eyes of the other, until she finally answered.
It was simple, but that one single word spoke more than any essay or speech.
Falling into his arms, she heard him whisper "I love you".
Just before her lips met his, she answered him in the same whisper.
"I love you too Jack, let me show you how much"
Finally the darkness fell away to be replaced with unhidden and unbridled love as Sam's star shined brightly above them.
I hope you enjoyed it. Chocolate sauce to all who send feedback!