Colonel Jack O'Neill walked purposefully through the halls of the SGC wondering why he had been summoned to his CO's office. Actually, he was wracking his brains in an attempt to recall what he could possibly have done wrong *this time* to warrant a dressing-down from General Hammond.
Oh well, I'm about to find out he thought, as he knocked on the General's door.
"Come in, Jack."
Was that a smile he saw on the General's face? Maybe he wasn't in trouble after all.
"Take a seat son."
Of course, he could just be in BIG trouble.
Not that the General was mean, but Jack's instincts had suddenly gone on alert, and were telling him that his CO was already being a little *too* amiable.
"Well, I know how much you like small talk Jack, so I'll get straight to the point here," the General began. "As you know, a new president has recently been elected and, as such, was apprised of the Stargate program."
Jack groaned, "Oh...please, General - tell me he's found a more original response than to try and shut us down again."
"Well, actually son he did. The President is most impressed by our efforts, despite the lack of enthusiasm shown by his predecessors, and he wishes to make a more...*active* contribution to the program."
"Cool, so...what're we getting? More funding? Extra SG teams? An off world base? A pony?"
Well practiced in ignoring his 2IC's sarcastic sidebars, the General continued. "There are endless possibilities for what this could mean to our program, Jack. But first the President wants to arrange a more formal recognition of our alliances."
"Thought I could feel a big 'but' coming there," Jack mumbled, knowing it had sounded too good to be true. "So what's he gonna do? Blow us open to the public?"
"Ever the optimist, eh Jack? But the answer is no. The president agrees the program should be kept a secret," General Hammond replied, biding his time before he dropped what he was certain would be an unwelcome bombshell on his 2IC's head.
"Okaay...then I'm confused General, exactly what is it he wants to do?"
"He wants to organise a State dinner…"
"A party - sweet."
"...for representatives from all our established off world allies."
"*All* our allies? Umm...General, I realise that math isn't exactly my strong point, but won't that be an awful lot of guests?"
"We're estimating in the vicinity of 1,000 Colonel."
"Sounds like a lot of hard work, sir."
"Yes, it does." Hammond paused, trying to determine the best way to continue. "And, given the *sensitive* nature of this project, we can't exactly have the White House staff running around organising it."
As Jack caught the accompanying look the General threw at him with that last comment, he felt a headache coming on.
"Oh, please sir, tell me this isn't going where I think it's going."
"Colonel, I'm putting SG-1 in charge of organising this landmark event."
He was wrong, Jack thought; it wasn't a headache, it was a migraine.
"General, have I done something to tick you off? More than usual, I mean."
"It's not a punishment, Jack. This is a critical event in our history, and I'm trusting you, as my second-in-command, along with your team, to ensure that it comes off without a hitch." He waited a beat before adding, "Besides, I thought you'd jump at the chance. SG- 1 has been through some grueling missions of late and you've been after some downtime, look at this as a chance to regroup."
"Playing host to an intergalactic gala wasn't exactly what I had in mind for my downtime, sir."
Jack could see that his protests were falling on deaf ears, so he decided to try reasoning with his CO. Carter must be rubbing off on him, Jack thought, not that that was an entirely unpleasant prospect...much more in-keeping with his plans for downtime, actually. Oh, for crying out loud Jack, he chastised himself.
Finished with his internal berating, and realising he was attracting strange looks from his CO, Jack spoke up. "General, I'm just not sure I'm the best person for the job. They didn't exactly cover hospitality in Black Ops training."
"Nice try Jack, but organising an event such as this requires a strategic mind - of which you have one of the best." Seeing his 2IC wasn't about to let this go, he added definitively, "It's not negotiable Colonel."
To his credit, Jack realised any further protests would be futile, and might just annoy his CO enough that instead of organising the party, he'd find himself washing the dishes afterwards.
He sighed, "Yes sir."
"You're kidding, sir."
"Wish I was, Carter - but it seems SG-1 has just been elected chief organising committee of the inaugural intergalactic allied ball."
"I think I'd prefer to be fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the program open again," Sam muttered in response, echoing Jack's own sentiments.
He gave her a lopsided grin, one he found returned when he commented, "Who knows Major - if we pull this off maybe next they'll let us try our hands at interior decorating. I know that's why I joined the Air Force."
"I don't know guys, it could actually be quite fascinating watching the various cultures all interacting in the one venue."
Jack rolled his eyes at the archaeologist, his scathing retort cut off when Sam interrupted with an interesting question. "Ah, speaking of venues sir, where are we going to hold hundreds of representatives from across the galaxy? I mean, even if we only invite the planets with humans, it would pose a serious security risk. And we can hardly fit them all in the Gateroom."
"One step ahead of you there, Carter. We're having this little shindig off world"
SG-1's two scientists exchanged hesitant glances before Daniel continued. "Umm, Jack, I'm sorry to play devil's advocate here, but, um...doesn't that present more problems than it solves?"
"Relax, Danny-boy, that part's all sorted out. It turns out Hammond and High Chancellor Travell had a nice long chat when she visited last year, and there's a sweet little planet near Tollana where the Tollan grow all their crops. They're sticking a new Stargate in the middle of a nice big plain, the Nox are gonna 'hide' us *and*, just to be on the safe side, the Tollan will be monitoring the planet the whole time. Plus, we have their personal assurance that those ion cannons they have can reach that far - just in case any gate crashers decide to come a'knocking."
Teal'c, whose only comments up to this point had been channeled through his eyebrow, decided to speak up. "This sounds to be most proficiently organised O'Neill. Why then are our services required?"
"Well, Teal'c buddy, they want us to sort out the whole 'party' side of things - tables, food, decorations, entertainment... Basically, we've just become the SGC's one-stop party shop."
As the days rolled by, Jack found that in spite of himself, he actually enjoyed organising Operation Spangle (the dinner's codename as designated by a certain, at the time somewhat chagrined, Colonel). Seeing everything coming together, after so much hard work, was more satisfying than he would've thought possible.
Teal'c had proven to be a fountain of ideas for decorations and had consequently been put in charge of setting up the venue.
Actually, Jack had found it so strange that the Jaffa was knowledgeable in such areas, that he called him on it one day. -- "Okay Teal'c, I gotta ask - how the hell do you know about all this stuff? I mean, you spent your entire life training to be a warrior, but you know the most appropriate type of table trimming for a balmy night - what gives?"
Teal'c raised his eyebrow, before patiently responding. "As First Prime of Apophis it was my responsibility to oversee all celebratory events to ensure the most powerful representation of my Goa'uld master."
"The Goa'uld have parties?!"
"Indeed. The System Lords organise events to display their greatness and supremacy over fellow Goa'uld. These are not enjoyable gatherings such as we are planning, O'Neill. Great feasts are followed by the slaughtering of many Jaffa in the service of the host. This is intended to illustrate the greatness of the System Lord's armies by showing that their servants are largely expendable."
"And I thought having to dance with the brass' wives was bad..." Jack muttered. -- Meanwhile, Daniel had been responsible for creating the invitations for each of their allies (which the other SG teams spent several weeks distributing). He also ended up fielding questions from the various worlds about proper etiquette and the cultural expectations for such an event.
While Jack had to focus on the big picture for the dinner, Sam tended to the details. As usual, he found himself relying heavily on his 2IC. It was Sam who devised a way to deliver the 5-course meal he had organised to the other side of the galaxy, still hot. And it was Sam who suggested they invite representatives from the music-based culture recently discovered by SG-14 to provide entertainment for the party...
Jack could've kissed her for solving that last problem, he probably would've if General Hammond hadn't been in the room when she burst in to tell him her idea. As it was, he only just barely restrained himself. Finding people with the right security clearance, who were also capable of playing suitable music for an event such as this, wasn't exactly easy. Their previous best hope had been a makeshift ensemble of SG staff, which consisted of 4 guitars, a cello and a harmonica.
Most importantly though, it was Sam alone who could make him smile when the stress of accommodating literally hundreds of diverse cultures - at a dinner, on an alien planet - really got to him. More than ever, it was Sam who kept him sane.
While they had both been dubious about their latest assignment in the beginning, the excitement associated with the event was infectious, and Jack and Sam often found themselves working late, plotting their next move, or identifying problems that still needed to be solved.
About three weeks into Operation Spangle, SG-1 began having 'committee meetings' on the weekends. At first these had included a few hands of poker and a liberal amount of beer, but as the weeks went by and they found themselves being swept up in the planning, these meetings became the only time the whole team could get together to compare notes and finalise their plans.
On the last Saturday before the big night (which was to finally eventuate the following Friday), Jack was in his kitchen, cooking some spaghetti for his expected guests, when the doorbell rang. He called out, "Come on in Carter," and heard the familiar noise of the door opening and closing again politely, followed by footsteps making their way towards him.
"How did you know it was me, Colonel?" came the voice from behind him.
"Well, Teal'c's still off world, overseeing the finishing touches for the decorations...and the doorbell makes this really annoying sound when Daniel rings it." Turning as he spoke, Jack wiped his hands on the towel slung over his shoulder. "Besides, it's exactly 1800 hours - that's military punctuality."
Sam grinned, "I don't think a doorbell can sound any more annoying just because Daniel rings it, Colonel."
Jack was barely aware of his indignant reply to the contrary, as he found himself caught up in her smile. That grin had gotten Jack through countless stressful situations over the past few weeks, and on innumerable occasions before then. It was a grin that made him feel all was right with the world - the universe even, a grin that he had found solace and familiarity in even when his memory had been erased...It was a grin that suddenly looked quite hesitant.
"I, um...I brought this," Sam stated almost shyly, cautiously producing a bottle of red wine. "I thought we deserved a small celebration now that all this is nearly over."
"Great, it'll go with the spaghetti bolognaise," Jack replied, taking the bottle from his major. If he didn't know better, he would've thought she looked almost embarrassed. "And all the more for us," he continued, turning back to the stove. "Daniel never drinks this stuff with his allergies."
Sam became somewhat flushed at this comment, and was grateful Jack's back was turned, not sure he would believe her heightened colour was from the heat of the stove. "Um, actually sir, I just spoke to Daniel, and he's not coming." She hurried on before he could comment, "He's taken Janet out to get a dress for the dinner. He said to tell you that he's sorted out the problem with the Rogefians. Somehow he got General Hammond to agree to let all male military members wear civilian formal wear instead of dress uniforms. So you don't have to worry about anything except getting a tux," she ended in a rush, practically out of breath.
Jack had turned when she was in mid-explanation, and now stood in front of her, eyebrows raised. "Breathe, Sam."
She sucked in a deep breath, contemplating which was more embarrassing - having it just be the two of them for dinner tonight, or being embarrassed that it was just the two of them tonight.
Jack had wisely decided to give her a few moments to compose herself. Turning back to the stove, he became absorbed in his cooking until he heard a gentle, "Sorry sir," come from behind him.
"Nothing to apologise for Carter. Organising this little 'do has been getting to all of us." They both knew that wasn't the reason for her babbling, but they also knew Jack's kitchen *wasn't* the room that reason had been left in. "Come on, let's eat. O'Neill's famous Spaghetti Surprise will cure all your ills," he said as he waggled his eyebrows.
"Ah, *famous* sir?" Sam questioned, his easy-going manner setting her more at ease.
"Well, infamous perhaps," he replied with a cheeky grin.
Sam couldn't have stopped the corresponding grin from appearing on her face if she'd wanted to. "I probably don't want to know this," she added as they sat down to dinner, "but what's the 'surprise' exactly
"Ah, but I cannot reveal the Colonel's secret recipe."
For that he received a full-blown smile. Jack had to admit, he'd actually enjoyed watching her discomfort earlier. His Major so rarely lost her composure, even in the most extreme circumstances, that it was rather endearing to see her off-balance simply because she was alone with him. Still, that was nothing compared to the joy he got from seeing her smile that smile, especially when it was because of him, at him, for him.
They had spent their dinner discussing the finishing touches for Operation Spangle, and when they'd finally gone through all the remaining issues, the schedule for the night itself, and Sam's bottle of wine, their conversation lazily drifted onto less relevant topics.
"So, I'm going to have to get my tux dry-cleaned, huh?"
"Yeah, the uh, the Rogefians have some issues with military dress."
"And we're sucking up to them *because*...?"
"They're the ones with those, what did you call them? ...'Cool battleship drugs' I think - remember?"
"Ah, yeah...potential cure for cancer, wasn't it?"
"Yes sir - so the General figured being out of uniform for one night was a small concession."
A companionable silence ensued, and as if by agreement, they both started clearing away the dishes. Sam followed Jack into the kitchen and leaned against the counter, passing him items as he bent to load the dishwasher.
"It'll be strange going back on missions after all this."
Startled out of the rather inappropriate thoughts an unobstructed view of her CO's rear had elicited, Sam responded with a defensive quip, "What, don't tell me you'd rather eat, breathe and sleep presidential parties than explore the wonders of the universe sir?"
"Actually, I was thinking about resigning my commission and becoming a 'function-planning consultant'...I was getting kinda sick of all those trees anyway."
"Well, I'm sure Teal'c would go into business with you - decorating seems to be the only thing he's more passionate about than fighting the Goa'uld."
They both laughed for the umpteenth time that evening, and once Jack had put the last item in the dishwasher he turned around - only to become acutely aware of the sudden proximity of his favourite 2IC.
As his pulse sped up and his smile faded, Jack's brain issued him a belated warning about the dangers of being slightly drunk, in excellent spirits and very much alone with his beautiful major. Whoa, backtrack he thought, beautiful Major? Not that she wasn't - Jack was long past denying that to himself - but if those thoughts were seeping into the sensible part of his brain, they should definitely be calling it a night.
Sam seemed to reach the same conclusion, as she tore her gaze from his to glance at her watch. Announcing that she should probably hit the road, Sam stepped away from him, allowing them both to reinstate some semblance of a normal breathing pattern.
Jack walked her to the door, shoving his hands deep into his pockets; an act experience had taught him was the only surefire way to stop them responding to reflex instead of reason by trying to reach out for her.
Jack's impromptu reverie of all the places his hands shouldn't touch Sam was interrupted by the realisation that they had been standing at the door for quite a while.
Confirming his suspiscion, Sam turned towards him, her hand still on the doorknob. "It's um, it's stuck, sir," she said sounding mildly embarrassed,
Jack just looked at her blankly for several seconds, before a single coherent though managed to infiltrate his brain - the door.
"Ah, sorry, it's been jamming a bit lately," he mumbled, reaching out to yank the offending obstacle open. At least, that had been his intention when he reached past her for the handle. This was quickly forgotten, however, when his hand landed squarely on top of the one Sam still had resting there. Despite the innocence and brevity of the contact, Jack felt an undeniable jolt run through him - creating a sensation that he saw echoed in Sam's features.
All their rational thought was apparently stuck on the other side of the now-forgotten door because the two officers began leaning slowly towards each other, as if being pulled by a powerful magnet from which they could not break free.
As they moved closer, Jack's gaze altered its trajectory from the blue depths of Sam's eyes to the incredibly inviting shelter of her mouth. Feeling their breaths mingle, he glanced up in time to see Sam's eyes flutter shut, and he moved to close the last of the space between them.
Judging by the speed with which the two jumped apart, an invisible hand must have flipped the magnets that had previously been drawing them together.
"See, that'll be Daniel," Jack commented with a resigned sigh. Sam wouldn't look at him, seeming to be in deep contemplation of the toes of her shoes. Mumbling under his breath, Jack used all the extra tension he had just generated to pull open the stubborn door.
"Hi Daniel," Sam offered with a small smile.
Meanwhile Jack used all of his considerable self-control to keep himself from glaring darkly at the younger man.
However, he couldn't manage to control his tone of voice quite as well as his facial expression as he quipped, "Little late for a social call, don'tcha think?"
Daniel didn't seem to notice the edge of resentment in his friend's voice, either that or he ignored it, replying mildly, "Well, I was just coming back from Janet's and I saw that Sam's car was still here, so I thought I'd drop in."
Jack was busy making a mental note to have garage doors installed, when Sam broke the silence, "I was just leaving, Daniel. We've all got an early start tomorrow."
"Oh, okay...well, um, Cassie said to tell you that she has Wednesday afternoon off from school, so you two can go pick out your dress then." Sam just nodded and Daniel continued completely oblivious to the uncomfortable looks his two friends were shooting each other. "She spent the whole night trying to convince Janet and I that she should be allowed to come to the dinner. She says that they should make an allowance for her being a kid since she's the last remaining representative of an entire people. It was actually quite a convincing argument. I think Janet's ruing the day she let Cass join the debating team... Anyway, we told her that if it was up to us she could come, but - "
Jack had no idea just how long Daniel stood there rambling, and a part of him felt bad for not listening, but it was just too much for one night. When he heard the archaeologist finally stop for a breath, he interrupted. "That's great, Daniel. But Carter's right, it's getting late and you two really should be going."
"Oh, um, okay." Not that it was unusual for Jack to be impatient, but he generally loved hearing about Cassie. Daniel suddenly got the feeling that there was something more going on. As Jack ushered them out the door, he caught a glance between Jack and Sam that, uncharacteristically, he couldn't interpret.
"Did I miss something here?" he asked her as they walked towards their cars.
If it hadn't been for the poor lighting, Daniel would've sworn he saw her blush.
"I think he's just tired, Daniel. We've all been working pretty hard on this thing."
Daniel didn't buy his friend's explanation, but he also knew better than to push it. As he watched Sam drive off he thought to himself that Janet would pay good money to hear about this development. Getting into his own car to drive home, he mentally toyed with ideas of how precisely he would extract payment from the SGC's CMO.
Jack only saw Sam once during the week leading up to the dinner, and that was but a brief encounter in the corridors of the SGC. This wasn't unexpected - they both had a lot of last minute things to organise - and they always seemed to keep their distance for a while after an 'incident' such as last weekend. It wasn't that they avoided each other, and they were still friendly when they did meet - they just seemed to subconsciously agree to give each other some space.
Jack figured that was pretty much how their whole relationship worked, really. They'd get close, then back off, and then get close again. Sometimes he felt like his beloved yo-yo, and at times, like after his little stint on Edora, the yo-yo would stop spinning altogether and he'd have to patiently wind it up again.
Mostly, though, their yo-yo just went up and down, and whenever they got close enough to actually hold it in their hands, they would let it fall again.
Of course, Jack observed all this secure in the knowledge that their particular yo-yo would always roll up again.
When the big night finally rolled around, Jack found he was a mixture of excitement, anticipation and, quite unexpectedly, nerves.
This is ridiculous, Jack thought as he waited in the Gateroom with General Hammond, Daniel and Teal'c. He'd fought in battles throughout the universe, have quite literally been to hell and back and he was nervous about something as inconsequential as a State dinner? Get a grip Jack!
They had spent the entire day off world, attending to last-minute preparations on the 'party planet', as Jack had dubbed it. They'd returned to the SGC with only enough time to change into their monkey suits and gate back again.
Jack had to admit that the absence of his uniform was only adding to his discomfort. He felt strangely exposed without a clearly displayed rank to hide behind, and was fidgeting like he was waiting for his date to the prom to arrive.
"O'Neill, you appear ill at ease."
"Just eager to get this show on the road Teal'c," he replied, turning his attention to the Jaffa who, he realised, actually looked quite striking in a tuxedo. "How long does it take these girls to get ready anyway?" he added, betraying the true direction of his thoughts.
His next quip was cut short by the appearance of Janet and Sam. The two women hurried into the Gateroom, deep in conversation and apparently oblivious to the waiting men.
"……should've just let me curl it a little - "
"There's no time Janet, besides it looks fine..." Sam cut her sentence short in sudden awareness of the silence surrounding them.
General Hammond was admiring the two officers with the affection of a father, while Jack and Daniel just stood staring at the two women, mouths gaping.
"It would appear it was worth the wait O'Neill," Teal'c stated, the barest hint of a smile lighting his face.
The only response he received were the simultaneous nods coming from Jack and Daniel's otherwise frozen forms.
Was it ever, Jack thought. Janet had on an emerald green ball gown that unashamedly highlighted the best parts of her figure and the red in her hair. While Jack had to admit the Doc looked beautiful, Sam simply took his breath away. She was wearing an understated, midnight blue gown that made her eyes stand out like stars in the night sky, and did things to his heart that would give a defibrillator a run for its money.
Janet put her hands on her hips and attempted to quell her smile with a faux-scowl, "Well, what's the matter boys? Cat got your tongue?"
"You appear most attractive Doctor Fraiser, Major Carter."
The ladies' chorused, "Thank you Teal'c", was met by the customary inclination of his head.
Sam cleared her throat gently, both delighted and embarrassed by the attention their entrance had garnered. "I think it's time for us to go General."
"Right you are Major. May I?"
Sam cast a glance at Jack, and was encouraged by the barely-veiled mixture of desire and disappointment on his face, as she went to take the General's proffered arm. Teal'c courteously made the same offer to Janet, and the two couples stepped through the Stargate.
When had that engaged? Jack thought as he slapped Daniel's arm to bring him out of his stupor.
The two men looked at the wormhole that had just enveloped their four companions, and then at each other.
Without a word, they both sprinted up the ramp.
The night was going well. Dinner had come off without a hitch and the speeches had all been kept short and meaningful, a small mercy for which Jack could not be more grateful.
His one complaint was that he had not been able to spend any time with Sam. They had both been so caught up in having to mingle and talk to all the various representatives that he hadn't even had the opportunity to tell her how great she looked in that dress. Until now, that was.
Jack had just had an - interesting - encounter with a certain little alien when he spotted Sam getting herself another drink. Seeing a window of opportunity to finally talk, he made his way over to her.
Sam saw Jack the second he began to walk over. Unable to keep a smile from appearing, she noticed the mixture of amusement and confusion that permeated his face. Taking a sip of her wine as he reached her, she threw him a questioning glance, "Sir?"
Jack glanced back in the direction he'd come from, and then at her again, "I, ah - Thor...just asked me to dance."
Sam nearly choked. Apparently trying to swallow down your windpipe is not a good idea. Still coughing slightly, she managed to exclaim, "He *what*?!"
Jack just raised his eyebrows and grimaced a little.
Regaining her composure after the initial shock his words had caused, Sam fought to keep a face-splitting smile off her features. "I'm sure he meant well, sir. I don't think Daniel got around to discussing the finer points of etiquette with the Asgard."
"Ya think?!" Jack shot back, taking in the impossibly gorgeous look of amusement on his Major's face. A look he realised he'd do anything to keep there. "I don't know, Major, I mean - the guy did name a ship after me. And he keeps beaming me up at the most inopportune times."
Jack's grin broadened in direct proportion to the fading of Sam's own smile, watching as a blush crept into her cheeks. He continued, delighted at the effect of his words, "And now he starts hitting on me..."
Sam had managed to quell her embarrassment by this point, and a skeptically amused look graced her features as she interrupted him, "Sir, I hardly think asking you to dance could be classed as hitting on you."
Jack looked at her schemingly, her statement presenting him with just the opportunity he was looking for. "Well, in that case Major, would you..."
"Colonel O'Neill!" His question was cut short by the enthusiastic arrival of Freya.
Jack sighed, casting his eyes skywards as she approached. If it wasn't one ding-dong interrupting them it was another, he thought.
Sam looked about as impressed as he felt with this sudden change of events, and they both had to call upon all their considerable willpower to stop from simply walking away.
"How are you both this evening?" Freya asked them. Not even waiting for a response she turned to Sam and said, "Major Carter, I believe your father is looking for you."
"Thank you," the blonde woman replied, relieved at even a fabricated excuse to leave, yet disappointed that she couldn't conceive of a reason for the Colonel to come with her. Instead, she gave him a sympathetic and slightly regretful smile, which he returned as she excused herself from their company.
Jack watched the Major's retreating form with disappointment, and didn't hear the snakehead's next comment. "Hmm?" he said, and then remembering his manners amended it with, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
Freya, obviously annoyed by his lack of attention to her repeated, "I was simply informing you of what an enjoyable evening this has been."
"Forgive me for saying so Colonel O'Neill, but you seem distracted. Did I interrupt something?"
Freya's feigned innocence wasn't enough to fool Jack, but neither was he going to rise to the bait. "No, no. Everything's just peachy."
"I am most interested in participating in your ritual of dancing. Would you please join me?"
It sounded more like a demand than a question, and it was only his acute sense of duty that stopped Jack from flat-out refusing her. As they reached the dance floor, Jack half-joked, "Well this is fun, last time I danced in a threesome was at college."
Freya clearly wasn't fooled by his light tone of voice. She replyed, "You are most uncomfortable with the, how did you term it - the 'Snake' within me, are you not?"
"You could say that."
"That is unfortunate."
"Not especially. My opinion doesn't really matter to the Tok'ra- Earth alliance, Freya."
"Perhaps it matters to me."
Jack found he had no response to that, so they finished their dance in silence. Performing a quick recon of the dance floor Jack had finally managed to locate Sam dancing with Tuplo, the representative from the Land if Light. She looked to be having about as much fun as he was, but he was selfishly glad to see her with Tuplo - there was little chance that he would put any moves on her.
Freya excused both herself and Anise after the dance, and Jack didn't see her - or *them* - again for the rest of the evening. As the night stretched on, planet by planet, the guests began to leave, until eventually there were only weary SGC personnel remaining.
"If I could have your attention for a few moments please people," General Hammond announced over the din. Only when complete silence prevailed did he continue. "Thank you. I would just like to extend my congratulations to you all - this evening was a complete success. I know many of you have put in a lot of long hours for this evening to eventuate, and we couldn't have done it without every single one of you here this evening - you've done me proud and I want to thank each of you for your efforts. As a special note, I think we should all thank SG-1 for coordinating this mammoth task. I know this wasn't a welcome assignment for them at first, but they approached it with their customary vigor and I'm sure you'll all agree that they did a fantastic job."
The last sentiment was met with raucous applause from all corners and SG-1 exchanged contented smiles, fully satisfied with the job they had done.
"Just one last note, people - and I know you're all tired and want to go home...but we need someone to stay here the night to ensure our property remains intact."
"Don't trust our allies not to come back and steal our stuff, eh Sir!" Someone shouted from the back, as a grumble rose from the exhausted soldiers remaining.
"SG-1 will stay behind, sir" Jack spoke up, ignoring the looks from his teammates and the roar of gratitude from the other teams.
"Thank you, Colonel O'Neill, but - "
"Please, General - it would be a nice way for us to end this assignment."
The General relented, "Very well, Colonel." Turning his attention to the other SG personnel he barked, "Dismissed."
As the other SG teams dispersed, SG-1 gathered around their CO.
"Um, Jack? What did you do that for?"
"I thought it'd be nice for us to have our last 'committee meeting' here," the older man replied, "sorta wrap everything up."
"I cannot remain O'Neill."
"What!? Why not?"
"I have promised to return to the Land of Light this evening to visit my son. General Hammond has granted permission."
"And, ah...I, I'm um"
"Daniel?" Janet's voice broke into their conversation.
Daniel glanced from Jack to Janet. Apparently there was no competition, as the archaeologist simply stated, "See ya'," and hurried of to reach the waiting CMO, almost tripping over his own feet in the process.
Jack watched, flabbergasted, as the last of the SGC personnel departed the planet. He sighed, his back to Sam as he watched the others leave. So much for the wrap-up party, he thought. "Well, looks like it's just you and me Carter," he said, still too dejected at the abandonment of his 'debriefing' session to register the implications of his words.
"Um, sir?" She sounded so uncertain, and as he spun Jack noted the concerned look that had transformed her features.
"What? Don't tell me the President invited you back to the White House for after-dinner mints?!"
That was enough to make her smile. Any unnecessary concerns she had at spending the night alone with him were erased as she replied, "No sir."
They stood, taking in the now deserted 'party planet' in companionable silence.
While Sam's attention was focused on the mess that surrounded them, Jack took the opportunity to simply take in the sight of her. She looked as beautiful now as she had when he'd first seen her that evening - perhaps more so, with her hair slightly mussed, and her shoes long discarded.
Without warning, a clue flew in the proverbial window and smacked him squarely on the forehead - he was on a deserted planet...alone with Carter...all night. Not that that was a reason to go wild - but maybe he could at least have that dance now.
Jack's next action was to voice that very thought. "Wanna dance?" Oh, smooth Jack, very smooth, he thought sarcastically, resisting the sudden urge to bang his head on the nearest solid object.
Well, that was a shock. He'd expected at least *some* resistance. But maybe Sam had just figured he'd convince her in the end and decided to save time and skip the formalities.
He was all for forgetting formalities, he thought as he recalled the time they'd been unable to remember such trivial matters. He had felt so contented then, despite the circumstances. Jack sighed, he just wished that some of them could *stay* forgotten.
By this stage, he had reached the CD player they'd brought as a backup, in case the musicians from P6Whatever ran into difficulties. Quickly checking it was loaded, he simply hit 'play' and made his way back to his Major.
Feeling as if he were in a dream, and thinking how there'd be hell to pay if Danny suddenly materialised to wake him from it, Jack reveled in the sight of Sam. Under the luminescent light of the planet's three moons she looked absolutely breathtaking.
Jack held his hand out to her, pushing his nervousness into the farthest corner of his mind. The very feel of her hand slipping into his own was almost enough to send him into a catatonic state, and yet it was nothing compared to the indescribably exquisite sensation he derived from pulling her close.
In my wildest dreams never thought I'd see The day someone could change me You walked into my life made me feel so alive Now I'm just not the same me
You're my soul reason for feeling this way Come and warm me like the sun You're my inspiration, you're every breath I take You're my soul reason I laugh, I cry and I love
Out of nowhere a smile might cross my face It can happen at any time or any place At the very thought of you…
As the two officers became caught up in the lyrics of the song, the respectable distance that had remained between them dissolved. Jack's cheek rested softly against the side of Sam's forehead, and he had brought their joined hands to sit comfortably against his chest.
Had they not been so close, he would have missed the barely perceptible sigh she uttered.
"What?" He asked, gently.
"It's nothing, sir," was the murmured, self-conscious reply.
He pulled back a little - enough to see her face, without relinquishing the addictive contact of the remainder of their bodies. A softly enquiring look was all it took to coax her into continuing.
"It's just," she sighed again. "I just wish things weren't so complicated, that's all."
Jack was struck by the number of emotions that her words evoked in him - understanding, concern and an affection so strong that it scared him even as it warmed him.
Finding himself unable to construct the words to convey all this, he hugged her fiercely, hoping to somehow infuse the emotions from his body to hers.
When he could finally find it in himself to release his hold - at least enough to let them breathe again, he whispered into her hair, "I'm so sorry, Sam."
"Why?" Sam asked, sniffling a bit and sounding slightly confused.
He pulled back to look at her again, and this time it was his turn to sigh. "I'm sorry if...if I've made things more difficult for you. Believe it or not, I don't actually set out to complicate things more, it's just...arh I dunno, it just seems to happen."
Sam actually seemed amused at the sentiment, but she replied seriously. "This isn't anyone's fault, Colonel."
Then, obviously feeling the need to lift them out of this melancholy, she smiled haphazardly at him through glassy eyes. "And believe me, if I thought you spent time with me just to do something we could get a court-martial for, I would've transferred out long ago."
He couldn't help but grin. "Well, I have to admit blowing up Apophis' ships is a lot more fun when you're around," he replied, unable to resist the opportunity to tease her. "Or were you referring to other activities that General Hammond might not approve of?"
Jack knew the amused twinkle in her eyes was reflected in his own, as she feigned innocence, "Like what, Colonel? Playing golf through the Stargate?"
"Yeah... Hey! How'd you know about that!?"
"Teal'c told me all about your little time loop adventures, sir. Even demonstrated his juggling skills for me," she replied mischievously.
"Think you're pretty smart, don'tcha?...finding out about all that."
"Actually, yes sir, I do."
He just had to wipe that smug look off her face. "Why'd you want to know what extra-curricular activities I was up to anyway, Major? There wasn't anything specific you were trying to find out, was there?"
"Not at all, Colonel. I was just curious as to what my friends were up to when they had no responsibilities binding them. And since you weren't exactly forthcoming..."
"Maybe you just didn't say the magic word."
Jack watched as Sam swallowed, her discomfort obvious. He could almost see her mental wheels turning. Things were very close to getting out-of-hand, and he could tell she was considering whether or not this particular piece of information was something she really wanted to know.
"Alright sir, I give - what did you do?"
Scientists - they're so predictable, Jack smiled to himself.
"Ah, ah, ah - not so fast there Major. I don't recall hearing a 'please' in there. You're gonna have to work for this one."
"I knew you wouldn't tell me."
"Not until your manners improve. Of course, you could always *guess*."
Sam looked as though she was going to tell him exactly where in his anatomy he could put that idea, when a sly look crossed her face. She then proceeded to produce the sexiest grin Jack had ever seen. In fact, if he hadn't known better, he would've said it was downright seductive.
"So, if I try to guess, you'll tell me when I'm getting warm?"
The low tone of her voice, coupled with the look on her face was already making him a *lot* warmer. Jack was amazed that he managed to keep his voice almost neutral when he replied, "Sure."
She flashed him that smile again. Jack felt his knees go weak as he wondered how exactly she had managed to get the upper hand when he had thought that he held all the cards.
Sam stood on her tiptoes and placed a chaste kiss on his forehead. "Did you do that?" she almost whispered, her blue eyes honing in on his chocolate brown ones.
Jack just stood there transfixed. After several attempts at working his jaw and providing her with an answer, he gave up on his vocal chords ever working again, and simply shook his head.
She seemed to find his speechlessness encouraging, her eyes darkening with laughter and something else he couldn't quite identify. Sam leaned forward pressing her lips to his cheek, just missing the side of his mouth. "Did you do that?" she repeated softly.
Jack found himself wondering where the nervous woman who was concerned about complications had gone. Not that he was complaining.
He was pulled from his thoughts when Sam suddenly stepped backwards, out of his embrace. She looked a little worried, slightly alarmed even. Jack suddenly realised that she might have misinterpreted his shocked silence.
Before he could reassure her Sam spoke, "Did we do this, sir?"
Now Jack was the confused one. "Do what?"
Jack had to stifle a grin - she was obviously concerned that she had just overstepped the mark and assumed he'd done more than he actually had. No, there was no need to worry about that Sam, he thought. Now to get back on track.
"You were *much* warmer before, Major."
That got him a relieved smile, as he pulled her back into his arms. They swayed gently to the still-playing music, as Sam gathered up her courage again.
She pulled back from him slightly, her blue eyes infiltrating his brown ones. This time, any trace of seduction had been replaced by such a sincere look of affection that Jack felt tears pricking at the back of his eyes from the sweetness of it.
Sam's gaze wandered over his face, finally settling on his mouth. When she finally looked back up into his eyes, Jack saw the silent question there. "Getting warmer Major" he answered quietly.
She smiled, ever so slightly, her gaze returning to his lips. Jack realised they had both stopped breathing, as he saw her lips part slightly before closing the gap between them.
It was the sweetest kiss Jack had ever felt. So tender, and yet it evoked a storm in his stomach; never in his life had he felt as complete as in that brief moment.
They pulled apart slowly; Jack knew his face held the same expression as Sam's. They were grinning like idiots, but the silly looks on their faces could not mask the sincere and tender affection that lay just beneath the surface.
For a while they simply stood there, regaining their composure and savouring the moment. Finally Sam whispered, "Did you do that, Colonel?"
He smiled gently. "Close, but no cigar Carter."
She returned the smile. "Guess I'll just have to keep guessing then."
"We've got *all* night..."
"What's the going price on feedback this week?" (apologies to Orson Welles)
Copyright © 2000 by Catherine 'Wally' Wallace