Does happily-ever-after really exist? Do dreams really come true? Those were the questions foremost on Major Samantha Carter’s mind as she snuggled further into the warm body cocooning her, as slumber grudgingly started to relinquish its hold over her.
A lazy smile and two warm, sparkling brown eyes were the first things she saw when she opened her eyes and she could feel the corners of her mouth turn up in an answering smile before she had the chance to stop it.
“ Mornin’.” Leaning in, Colonel Jack O’Neill covered her lips with his tenderly, and then rolled over onto his back, taking her with him. For a few blissful moments, they lay together in silence. Their legs were entwined and he traced patterns on her bare back as she rested her head on his chest, soothed by the steady beating of his heart beneath her.
Their transition from friends to lovers had taken place over the weekend, as naturally as night gives way to day. To them, it was a gradual change, one that had been set in motion a long time ago but their doubts and worries were beginning to break through the surreal embrace that had enfolded them from Saturday night right up to Monday morning.
The Monday morning that not only brought the unwelcome return of reality, it brought with it the realisation of what they had done and the many possible ramifications of what breaking the military regulations they’d both vowed to live could be. Jack studied Sam’s face carefully and witnessed the fading of her smile and the arrival of the dark cloud that passed over her features, knowing at that exact moment that Major Carter was struggling to take over where Sam Carter had previously been in control.
“ Sam.” His tone was firm without being harsh, serious without being too demanding. “ Look at me.” He waited until she met his request and gave her what he hoped was a reassuring grin. “ I have no regrets about what happened. And I don’t want to go back to the way it used to be, I don’t think we could.”
“ But the regulat– ” Sam started to protest, only to be cut off by his finger against her lips. “ Ah, ah, ha. No. No buts, Sam. You had your chance to say no. You wanted this as much as I did. There’s no going back.” He moved his arm back to its original position of being wrapped around her, pulling her tighter against him. “ I love you, and I’m not letting you go – I can’t let you go.”
From where her face was nestled against his chest, Sam’s reply was muffled. “ I never said I *didn’t* want this and I didn’t say I want to go back to what we were – I don’t know if we could, especially with Charlie being involved as he is. But we can’t just ignore what we did, Jack, and hope we get lucky. There will be consequences and there will be losses.”
Instinctively, his arms tightened around her again as he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. “ As long as I don’t lose you, I’ll be happy.”
Sam closed her eyes tightly, keeping the stinging tears that were brimming in her eyes at bay. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she pushed herself up, leaned back down to kiss him briefly and then hopped off the bed. “ The sooner we start this, the sooner it’s over.” Blowing him a kiss over her shoulder, she picked up her open overnight bag and disappeared inside the small en suite bathroom.
Jack watched her go, his expression troubled. The feeling of contentment that had gripped him since Saturday night was rapidly fading into something else. Something that was cold and heavy and settled in the pit of his stomach.
Something that wasn’t good.
Once Charlie had been introduced to Mrs. McDonald, the woman who had agreed to watch him at the same time as watching Cassandra, Jack and Sam drove to the SGC in silence. As soon as they had got back in the car after hugging Charlie, Sam’s professionalism had kicked in and Jack could see the Major mask was firmly in place. Her arms were folded across her chest and her gaze was locked on the passing scenery.
Stifling a sigh, Jack tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he hummed tunelessly. He needed to fill the silence with something. Silence meant time to think, thinking meant conjuring up the possibilities. The possibilities weren’t always good ones.
Ten minutes away from the base, Sam found she couldn’t take his finger tapping and humming. she told herself, “ Can you *please* stop doing that?”
“ Doing what?” His face was a picture of complete innocence.
“ The tapping and the humming,” she answered tolerantly, softening the blow with the smallest of smiles. “ One isn’t so bad but two different tunes at the same time? It’s too early in the morning for that.. Sir.” She added as an after-thought, looking out of the window again.
“ Sir.” Jack repeated, his fingers turning white as he clutched the steering wheel. “ So. *Major*. Any suggestions on how we go about doing this?”
Tensing imperceptibly, Sam clasped her hands together in her lap. “ Don’t be like that. It’s not fair.”
Resisting the urge to retort with ‘you started it’, Jack flicked the indicator and pulled over into a lay-by just around the corner from the SGC. “ We need to decide what we’re going to do before we go any further.”
“ I know.” She sighed heavily and suddenly became very interested in studying her hands. “ But this isn’t exactly a situation I’m familiar with.”
“ Glad to hear it.” He couldn’t help a small grin. “ Then again, I’m not exactly in the habit of indulging in relationships with subordinates either.”
And that was part of the problem. Neither of them had been in the situation they were in. They didn’t know how it was going to turn out. They’d both heard stories, of course, of commanding officers and their subordinates; stories of court-martials and heartache and careers that emerged in tatters. Any story that had a happy ending wasn’t made common knowledge; it wasn’t the kind of gossip that was popular on a military base. Just because they hadn’t been heard of, of course, didn’t mean that they didn’t exist – or at least that was what Sam and Jack were secretly hoping. Most tales of such relationships, however, resulted in court-martial, and those that didn’t usually resulted in both partners realising what they were fighting for wasn’t strong enough to survive the struggle so they gave up and let it go.
Jack wasn’t about to do that. He was determined that what he shared with Sam was strong enough to overcome whatever hurdles were thrown at them and he was determined to make sure he was right – no matter what the long-term cost. He only hoped Sam felt the same way, as he alone couldn’t get them through this.
“ So do we go straight to Hammond? Or do we act oblivious for a while so we can figure out what we’re going to say?” Sam asked, suddenly breaking through the silence and his thoughts. She looked at him expectantly, biting down on the inside of her mouth nervously.
“ Well, I think we obviously need more time to talk about this. How about we act oblivious today and don’t let on that anything’s happened and then tonight, after Charlie’s in bed, we’ll sit and talk until we come up with something we both agree with?” He stopped short when he saw her try to hide a smile behind her hand. “ What? What is it?” He glanced at his reflection quickly in the rear-view mirror. “ I don’t see anything on my face.. What’s so funny?”
“ Nothing.” She bit back her smile as she lowered her hand. “ I think that’s probably the most sensible, rational thing I’ve heard you say since we met.”
Jack still looked adorably confused. “ What is?”
“ That we should talk before acting. Usually with you, it’s act first, think later.” Sam explained, unable to keep her smile from her face. “ It’s a good thing, Jack. I promise.”
“ Oh.” Thinking about it for a moment, Jack decided it was nothing to be worried about and grinned back at her. “ Good. Now as much as I’m enjoying this little conversation, we should get going or we’ll be late.”
Sam nodded her agreement, still smiling and Jack turned the key in the ignition, allowing the engine to roar to life. They made the short journey from the lay-by to the SGC in companionable silence, each made a little happier knowing the inevitable had been delayed just a little bit longer.
“ Sam? You got a minute?” Just ten minutes after Sam had settled herself in her lab, Doctor Janet Fraiser peered around the door, her smile strained.
“ Sure, Janet.” Sam finished what she was keying into the computer and looked up, a smile on her face in preparation to greet her friend. The smile faded at the look on Janet’s face. “ What is it? What’s wrong? Is it Cassandra..?”
“ No, No.” Janet shook her head and stepped fully into the lab, closing the door behind her. “ Not really. Well.. partly. It’s complicated.”
“ Sit down, you don’t look too good.” Sam stood up, looking concerned, and pulled another stool across for the ashen-faced Doctor to sit on. Hesitating, Sam remained standing after Janet had taken her seat. “ You want a coffee or something?”
Janet looked up, her eyes cloudy with emotions. “ Oh, I could do with something a *lot* stronger than coffee.”
“ Want me to raid the Colonel’s supply of whiskey?” Sam offered, only half jokingly.
A small smile flickered on Janet’s face but didn’t quite meet her eyes as her face crumpled and the first tear slid down her cheek. “ God, Sam. I’ve made a huge mistake.”
“ Hey..” Sam leaned over and put a supportive hand on her friend’s shoulder. “ It can’t be that bad.”
“ It is, it’s worse!” Janet declared dramatically, her brown eyes shimmering. “ I.. I feel like such a fool! Everything’s so messed up..”
Sitting down on her own stool, Sam looked at her in concern. “ Go back a step. Tell me what happened.”
“ Major Kawalsky spent the night at my house,” Janet blurted out suddenly. “ With me,” she added unnecessarily.
For a few moments, Sam just stared at her, her mouth slightly agape. She shook herself mentally and tilted her head to one side, a disbelieving expression marring her features. “ Okay. Go back a few more steps.. What are you telling me? *When*?”
“ On Saturday,” Janet clarified. “ At the barbeque.. we were getting along great. And you know Daniel and Teal’c left earlier than me because I wanted to talk to you and Charles – Kawalsky – wanted to talk to Charlie? Well, I offered to give him a ride back to the base since the others had left and we knew Colonel O’Neill would want to talk to you alone so.. Well, Cassie was tired so he suggested we take her home first so she could get ready for bed while I took him back to base. Anyway, Cassie was asleep by the time we got there so he offered to carry her in so I wouldn’t have to wake her.. Are you following this?”
“ So far.. I think.”
“ Good, because now it stops making sense.” Janet couldn’t miss the ‘when did it start?’ expression on Sam’s face but chose to ignore it. “ We got Cassandra inside. I got her settled in her room and told Kawalsky to help himself to some coffee or something from the kitchen. I came downstairs and he’d made me a cup so we sat down.. and talked..”
There was a note Sam couldn’t identify in Janet’s voice, a catch in her voice when she spoke the last word. “ Talked?”
“ Yeah..” Janet shifted uncomfortably, her cheeks flushing. “ For a while. We talked about you and Charlie and Colonel O’Neill.. and then we got onto the subject of his reality and the other me.. He told me he was engaged to the other me. He was so sad, Sam. Almost in tears.. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just..”
“ Let me guess,” Sam cut her off warily. “ You comforted him. One thing led to another and you ended up kissing.. Then the next thing you know, you’re somehow up in your room facing the ‘morning after’ scenario. Right?”
Looking away, Janet’s blush deepened. “ Almost.. We.. um.. didn’t quite make it upstairs.. The first time, anyway.” Bringing her gaze back to her friend, Janet found Sam staring at her, an expression that was both incredulous and amused on her face. Several moments passed and Sam didn’t move. “ Sam? Say something. Please?”
Realising she was staring, Sam was startled from her daze. “ I.. Sorry. Wow.” She bit her lip to keep back a smile. “ I don’t know what you want me to say. I can’t believe you and Kawalsky.. So soon!”
“ I know!” Janet exclaimed, closing her eyes and resting her head in her hands. “ It’s not like me at all! I mean, I like him. I know I like him. A lot. There’s this.. thing between us.. I just couldn’t.. I didn’t want to stop it from happening.”
“ So what’s the problem?” Sam asked simply.
Janet did a double take, looking up at her friend in surprise. “ Excuse me?”
“ Well..” Sam started. “ You like him, he likes you.. What’s the whole problem?”
“ Well..” Janet started to say something, then faltered, taking a few moments to think about what she was going to say before trying again. “ Regulations for one thing.”
“ I didn’t think it was against regulations for you two. You’re not in the same chain of command,” Sam pointed out. ‘Not like my relationship with Jack,’ a little voice at the back of her mind added sardonically.
“ I don’t know, but even if there isn’t any official reason we shouldn’t, there’s still Cassandra.” Janet answered, gnawing on her bottom lip forlornly.
“ Cassie?” Sam looked surprised. “ What does she have to do with..”
“ She walked in on us,” Janet interrupted, burying her head in her hands again in humiliation. “ In the morning. She hasn’t spoken to me since.”
Shaking her head, Sam smiled reassuringly. “ She’s probably just shocked her Mum has a sex life. Talk to her about it tonight. She seemed to like Kawalsky on Saturday.” She reached out and put a hand on Janet’s shoulder. “ I honestly don’t think there’ll be a problem. Cassandra just wants you to be happy. If anything, she might be a little upset you didn’t talk to her about it first.”
“ Yeah. You’re right. Possibly.” Janet didn’t look convinced. “ I’ll talk to her tonight.” She turned to Sam with her sweetest smile in place. “ Will you come, too? You know she’ll listen to what you have to say..”
“ I’ll be there,” Sam assured her. “ Now, is there anything else? You still look upset..”
Sighing, Janet fidgeted with some leafs of paper on the workbench. “ I.. It bothers me that he was engaged to the other me.” She looked up and once again, the tears were shining earnestly in her eyes. “ What if he only wants to be with me because I remind him of her?”
“ I can’t answer that one.” Sam smiled gently. “ The only one who can is Kawalsky. You two need to sit down and talk all of this out. And if you guys do decide to give this ‘thing’ between you a try.. take it slowly. Make sure he gets to know you, not the memory of someone else.”
“ Okay.” Janet nodded and smiled weakly. “ So basically I’m worrying about nothing and need to talk to both Kawalsky and Cassandra?”
“ Yes.” Turning back to her computer screen, Sam straightened the papers Janet had been fidgeting with. “ You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Giving her friend a sidelong glance, Janet stood up and walked around to the other side of the bench, curiosity replacing sadness in her face. “ Where were you yesterday? If it’s that simple, I could have had everything organised by now. I called you dozens of times but I kept getting your machine.”
“ Yeah,” was Sam’s half-distracted, half-guilty answer. “ I have some.. problems.. of my own to figure out.”
“ Anything I can help with?” Janet asked helpfully, her smile encouraging when Sam looked up. “ It’s the least I can offer with everything you’ve helped me with.”
Smiling slightly, Sam shook her head and half-sighed. “ Sorry, but I think I’m on my own for this one.” Her eyes lit up. “ But you could always stock up on plenty of ice cream and tequila for this girls night in.. That would help.”
“ Will do.” Janet turned as if to leave, only to change her mind and impulsively turn back to Sam and give her shoulders a squeeze. “ Thank you, for being here for me.”
“ That’s what friends are for,” Sam quipped as she watched Janet walk out of the lab, closing the door behind her. She stared at the monitor of her computer, seeing nothing but the face of someone she shouldn’t be thinking of. Thoughts cascaded through her mind, thoughts and fears that were hitting hard. The reality of what was at stake, and of what there was to lose.
Half an hour later, Sam was still battling with her doubts. Unfortunately, they seemed to be winning. She found herself wandering the corridors of the SGC, smiling politely at the various Airmen she passed. She came to a stop outside a familiar door, and knocked on it before she could change her mind. Hearing what sounded like ‘come in’ but could have been a noncommittal grunt, Sam opened the door and put her head around it. “ Colonel? Do you have a minute?”
Jack looked up from the open file he had been staring at for the last ten minutes, grinning at the sound of her voice. “ Sure, Carter. Pull up a chair.” He indicated for her to come in and close the door, leaning back in his seat as he watched her gracefully walk across the office to sit in the chair on the other side of his desk. His grin faded, though, as he saw the solemn expression she wore and the tight lines of her face. “ So, what’s up?”
“ I’ve been thinking..” Sam started, glancing down at her hands. “ And we need to talk.”
Jack thought to himself, feeling cold at the way she was avoiding his gaze. “ I thought we were talking?”
A ghost of a smile flickered on her lips but she soon brought her expression back under control. “ You know what I mean.”
“ Yeah, I do,” he agreed softly, his tone making her look up at him. “ I thought we were going to work this out later?”
“ I’m supposed to be at Janet’s house for a girls night tonight,” Sam said in way of explanation. “ She needs my help with Cassandra..”
“ About the thing with Kawalsky?” Jack asked before she’d even finished her sentence.
Frowning, she tilted her head to one side. “ How’d you know?”
“ He cornered me earlier,” he replied with a grin. “ I don’t know why but he came to me for some advice.”
Sam didn’t smile as he’d hoped she would. “ What did you tell him?”
He sighed as he tried to remember what he’d told his friend. It wasn’t important anymore, he didn’t care. He did, however, care about talking to Sam and getting rid of some of the shadowy doubts he could see lurking in her eyes. “ I said he’d have to talk to the Doc and make sure she knew it was her he was interested in, not the ‘ghost’ of his fiancée.”
“ Good advice,” was her noncommittal response.
“ Thanks.. I try my best.” He sighed and looked at her. She once again refused to meet his eyes, instead choosing to look everywhere and at everything but him. But Jack knew. He couldn’t be the one to start this conversation. She was the one who came to him. She had to put the suggestion out there between them. Jack prayed.
“ So. Anyway.” After an uncomfortable pause, Sam reluctantly began putting her thoughts into words. “ About us.. This weekend..”
“ Don’t say it.” He interrupted before she could finish it, having heard enough to be confident about what she had been planning to say.
“ Don’t say it, *Sam,*” he ordered, putting emphasis on her name to remind both of them they were talking about a personal matter – even if they were at work. “ Don’t lie to me or yourself and say it was a mistake.”
“ But it was!” She blurted out, her gaze searching out his. She winced at the hurt in his eyes and softened her voice. “ Being here.. Look at us. This isn’t the kind of conversation we should be having as Commanding Officer and Second-in-Command.”
“ Not on base,” he stated calmly, “ I agree.”
“ Not anywhere! It’s wrong!” She protested, her argument lacking some of the heat he had witnessed her use for other, more passionate causes.
“ Say’s who?”
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Sam tried to control herself, realising her hands were shaking – out of nerves or frustration, she didn’t know. “ The US Air Force, the regulations… Just because it *feels* right doesn’t mean it is, and we’ve both worked too damn hard to get where we are just to give it up..”
“ ‘Give it up?’” Jack cut in sharply. “ Is that what you think we’re doing? Aren’t there more important factors too consider here than our careers?”
Misunderstanding him, or choosing to misunderstand, she stared at a spot on the wall just over his shoulder and spoke evenly. “ Charlie, yes, I agree. Which is another reason we should try and go back to being friends so he doesn’t get hurt.”
“ I was talking about us, Sam.” He sighed deeply. “ How *we* feel, whether *we* get hurt.. You might not be prepared to give up your career but I’m not prepared to give up what we have. Not now. Not when something’s finally happened and I know you feel to same way I do. I won’t give you up, and I won’t let you just because you’re scared.”
She was silent for a minute, unable to deny it. She *was* scared, and that was part of the problem. She wasn’t used to being scared, she was used to being in control. Where her feelings for Jack were concerned, however, she had little power over what happened. “ But what kind of life are we going to have together if we have to hide it?” She asked quietly. “ And what kind of future do we have if a few years down the line we start resenting the sacrifices we’ve made to be together? What if.. What if this *thing* isn’t as strong as we want to be and we end up hating each other with Charlie in the middle? I *am* scared, Jack. I’ll admit that. I’m scared of how I feel and what my feelings tell me to do. I’m scared of someday losing one of the best friends I’ve ever had if something goes wrong.”
“ You won’t.” Jack got to his feet, moving around the desk and pulling his chair round with him so he could sit next to her without hurting his knees on the cold floor. He sat down facing her and took her hands. “ Listen to me, Sam. I can’t make any promises. I can’t sit here and tell you it’s going to be smooth sailing and that we’ll always be happy and will never fight because it isn’t like that. Real life isn’t like that. *Love* isn’t like that. What I can do, though, is promise you that you are *not* going to lose me and I am going to do everything it takes to make sure this works between us. I’m scared, too, but show me one person on this God-forsaken planet who isn’t.”
“ But what about regulations?” She murmured weakly, looking down at their joint hands. “ We can’t ignore them..”
“ I’m not saying we do,” he told her softly, squeezing her fingers. “ What I’m suggesting is that we wait a while. We keep this to ourselves until all our doubts are gone and then we go public. As soon as we’re ready to face anything they throw at us, we go to Hammond and start making some decisions.”
Raising her head to his, Sam searched his eyes, finding nothing but sincerity. “ Even at the cost of our jobs?”
He nodded, his eyes never leaving hers. “ As long as it’s not at the cost of you, I’m happy.”
She stared at him for a few minutes, taking in every emotion that flickered in his eyes. Finally, she gave him a genuine smile and got to her feet. “ Thank you,” she whispered as he stood with her, reluctant to let go of her hand. He grinned and gave her fingers another squeeze before letting her go, immediately feeling bereft at the lack of physical contact between them but told himself firmly that there would be time for that later. Sam stopped as she approached the door, her hand grasping the door handle. “ Colonel?”
A cheeky grin shaped her lips, deepening the dimples in her cheeks. “ Anyone ever tell you you’re getting soft in your old age?”
“ Soft?” He scowled at her without real rancour. “ I resent that.. I prefer the term ‘hopeless romantic’ – with less of the ‘hopeless’ - thank you very much. Just don’t let it get around.”
“ Of course not, Sir,” Sam grinned. “ You have a reputation to protect..”
Narrowing his eyes, he couldn’t help the answering grin that tugged at the corners of his mouth. “ I’ll get you later.”
Laughing, Sam opened the door, his threat and his earlier words setting her doubts at ease. “ Yes, Sir. You will.” The suggestion was rife in her words and in their meaning, but it was subtle enough so that anyone who happened to overhear wouldn’t understand.
Chuckling, Jack walked to the door, glancing both ways first to make sure the corridor was empty and then stood in the entrance of his office, watching as she walked away deliberating, allowing himself to enjoy the view before the mountains of unfinished paperwork on his desk called him back to reality.
In retaliation of the impromptu ‘girls night in,’ Jack decided to have a poker night at his house, his excuse being that they were yet to have a manly welcome for Kawalsky. So it was a bring-your-own-beer-and-poker night for the male members of SG-1, Kawalsky and Ferretti.
“ Danny! Teal’c! Come on in!” Jack swung open the door and greeted them with a grin, a half-empty bottle of beer in his hand.
Teal’c entered the house first. “ O’Neill.”
“ Hey.. Jack.” Daniel stepped in, casting a wary glance at his friend.
Kawalsky appeared from the living room, standing in the hall looking nervous as he shuffled from one foot to the other. “ Doctor Jackson,” he nodded a greeting to the tense archaeologist. “ Teal’c.”
“ Major Kawalsky.” Daniel stiffly returned the greeting as Teal’c nodded.
There was a tense silence. Daniel looked down at the floor, Kawalsky looked at the walls. Teal’c just looked from one face to the other, raising an eyebrow at the undercurrent of hostility between Daniel and Kawalsky. Jack shut the door and turned to walk through to the living room, noticing for the first time the tension that was present.
“ Hey, come on guys.” He clapped Daniel on the back and grinned eagerly at Kawalsky. “ We’re all buddies here. It’s Danny and Kawalsky. Drop the formalities!”
Daniel stared at his friend who had slung an arm casually over his shoulder. He could barely believe this was the same man who had been so down and isolated just over five years ago on their first meeting. “ Ah, okay, Jack..” He raised a concerned eyebrow. “ Are you feeling okay?”
“ I think he’s had a head start on the beer,” Kawalsky supplied helpfully as Jack left Daniel’s side and sauntered into the living room, apparently satisfied with his meddling and under the impression that all was well between his friends.
“ That explains it,” Daniel murmured as he followed Kawalsky into the living room, his shoulders still tense. There was something that made him uncomfortable about the new arrival. Something that made him unsettled. A nagging voice inside supplied. Telling the voice to shut up, Daniel sighed and squared his shoulders, settling into ‘his’ chair in the O’Neill household, irrationally pleased he had beaten everyone else – namely Kawalsky – to the seat.
“ Help yourself to the beer, you know where everything is!” Jack called out from his place at the table where he was downing the remaining contents of his beer as Ferretti shuffled a pack of cards.
“ We were just about to start a round of poker,” Kawalsky spoke up as he took his seat at the table. He looked to Daniel and Teal’c, a friendly smile firmly in place that looked forced to Daniel’s sceptical eyes and nervous to Teal’c observant and unwavering gaze. “ You want in?”
Daniel told himself firmly. “ Sure.” He got to his feet and walked round the table, taking the seat opposite Kawalsky’s.
“ I will participate also.” Teal’c stood, watching Daniel as he took the seat next to him, concerned and surprised at the animosity he felt being radiated by his usually mild-tempered friend.
“ Great,” Jack beamed as he set his empty bottle down and twisted the cap of another one. “ Just remember to keep it down, guys. Charlie’s sleeping.”
“ We’ll manage.” Kawalsky and Daniel spoke in unison, staring at each other warily when they realised they’d both spoken. Kawalsky was the first to look away, feeling disconcerted as he felt the archaeologist’s unflinching gaze bore into the side of his head.
The evening continued, and Kawalsky’s unease grew. No matter what he did or said, he was rewarded with a stony, suspicious glare from Daniel. Jack was oblivious to the ill feeling that existed between his two friends, pleased to have all of the men he had been able to class as best friends in the same room at the same time, something that had seemed impossible just a month ago. The tension reached boiling point just after Jack and Kawalsky had re-iterated a tale from one of the missions they’d served together, both being pleasantly surprised they had the same memory despite not having created it together. The story sent them both and most of their companions into fits of almost-drunken laughter, all but Teal’c, who didn’t understand the story, and Daniel, who just sat in his chair scowling darkly.
As the night wore on, Daniel found he couldn’t watch the camaraderie any longer and keep the contents of his stomach and the beer he’d drank where they belonged. Unsteadily, he got to his feet and gave a slurred excuse for why he had to leave early.
“ You sure, Danny? You’re more than welcome to stay the night.” Jack stood, with surprisingly little to no problems keeping his balance. “ Kawalsky’s staying over but there’s plenty of room..”
“ No. I’m sure.” Jack’s words sobered him up more than the strongest cup of coffee could. “ I have some things I want to get done in the morning and if I stay here, I won’t have time.”
“ If you’re sure,” Jack shrugged and looked to Teal’c, who’d also got to his feet. “You gonna make sure Danny makes it home safely, Teal’c?”
Nodding, Teal’c put a hand out to steady Daniel as the young man started to topple to one side. “ I will, O’Neill.”
“ Good.” Jack grinned and walked them to the door, slapping them both on the back enthusiastically. “ We should do this more often, it’s a nice change from watching something educational at Danny’s house.”
“ Yeah, Jack. Sure,” Daniel muttered through ground teeth, clenching his fists at his side as he made his way, slowly with measured steps, to the passenger side of the car. “ Whatever.”
Over the course of the night, partly due to the fact they were alone with no witnesses and partly due to the amount of alcohol they’d consumed, Jack and Kawalsky had had a man-to-man talk. About the women in their lives, about the life of Jack O’Neill from Kawalsky’s reality and about what could be done about their love life problems. Jack refrained from mentioning the developments in his relationship with Sam, choosing to keep it completely private until he was sure they were both comfortable enough to broadcast it to anyone – including their friends.
The conversation, however, had covered the topic of Janet and Kawalsky’s relationship and it’s developments, as well as what Kawalsky could do about it. And that was why he was standing nervously outside General Hammond’s office, knocking cautiously on the door.
“ General Hammond, Sir?” He poked his head around the door.
“ Major Kawalsky.” The General nodded in acknowledgement and motioned for the younger man to enter the office and close the door behind him. “ Take a seat.” He watched as the Major did as he said. “ Now. You asked to see me?”
“ Yes, Sir,” Kawalsky answered uncertainly. “ About a.. personal matter, Sir.”
“ I see.” General Hammond folded his hands on the desk in front of him and stared expectantly at the officer opposite him. “ What seems to be the problem? You’re fitting in okay?”
“ Yes, Sir,” Kawalsky hurriedly assured him. “ There’s no problem. Or at least, I don’t think there is. I.. I was just wondering about the regulations.”
General Hammond nodded, his interest piqued. “ What about them?”
“ Well.. everything.” Kawalsky stuttered nervously. “ I know they’re different to what they were in my.. where I came from. I was wondering just how different they are.”
Biting back an amused smile, General Hammond leaned slightly over the desk. “ Are there any regulations in particular you wish to know about?”
“ Fraternization regulations,” Kawalsky answered immediately, without a moment’s hesitation. “ Where I come from, there was a.. a system. If two officers wanted to be together, they would go to their Commanding Officer who would report it to the General. Then there’d be an investigation into the effects of the two officers in question starting a relationship. A report of the findings would go to.. you – the other you – and he’d make the final decision.”
“ Interesting.” General Hammond was truly intrigued. “ Did this ‘system’ work?”
Kawalsky grinned, remembering the first time the system had been put to use. “ Yes, Sir. It did.”
“ No doubt you’ve noticed such system isn’t in affect within the SGC..” General Hammond pointed out, a curious expression on his face.
“ Yes, Sir.” Kawalsky admitted with a sigh. “ Which why I’m here. In my reality, the regulations were different and they didn’t affect certain people.. such as.. say.. a member of a field unit and the CMO.. I was curious as to whether that was the case here?”
“ Son..” The General looked both concerned and amused at the line of questioning and palatable nervousness of the officer in front of him. “ Yourself and Doctor Fraiser are not in the situation of being a superior and a subordinate.. You are therefore not affected – officially – by this structure’s regulations. However, I suggest you take things slow and don’t rush into anything you might come to regret.. It could get uncomfortable around here if there was a messy break up.”
Nodding, Kawalsky stood up. He grinned boyishly at the General. “ Permission to be excused, Sir?”
“ Permission granted, you’re dismissed, Major.” General Hammond watched him leave, allowing himself a small grin. A thoughtful expression arranged his features as he pondered the different realities and possibilities that had opened themselves up in his mind.
He debated for less than five minutes as to whom he should go to first. Telling Janet won over telling Jack the news. Kawalsky whistled as he made his way to the infirmary, missing the glare thrown in his direction by Daniel, after he walked past the archaeologist without sparing him so much as a greeting. He didn’t ignore him on purpose, his mind was elsewhere and he was truly oblivious to the younger man’s presence. Daniel, however, had seen Kawalsky, and even though any greeting wouldn’t have been returned as warmly as it should have been, Daniel was annoyed by the lack of acknowledgement.
Kawalsky continued on regardless, unaware of his mistake, standing in the doorway to the infirmary for a few moments as he watched Janet treat an injured Airman. Professionally, she seemed to be the same as the Janet he had left behind. Her motions were fluent, her actions precise.
“ Ah Jan—Doctor Fraiser? Can I talk to you, please?” He decided to speak up when the Airman she was treated looked up and caught sight of his standing there.
“ Sure.” Janet cast him a fleeting glance before turning her attention back to her patient. “ Just a minute.” She smiled at the man she was treating and finished securing the bandage around his wrist. “ Keep taking the antibiotics and don’t hesitate to come and see me if you think it’s starting to show signs of an infection. You can go now.” She watched as her patient smiled his thanks and left the infirmary in a hurry and busied herself with clearing away the equipment she had been using. “ You wanted to talk?”
“ Yeah..” Kawalsky nodded nervously. “ About a private matter.”
“ Oh. Okay.” She looked at him then, looking around the near deserted infirmary to make sure no one else was listening. “ We can use my office.” She led him in and shut the door behind them, turning to face him, her nerves turning her stomach. “ If this is about what happened..” Kawalsky silenced her with a long kiss, pulling back only when the need to breathe became a problem. Janet stared at him with wide eyes, shock and outrage on her flushed face. “ Major!”
“ Relax, Janet.” He grinned wildly. “ I checked with General Hammond. It’s okay.”
An initial wave of relief crossed over her face, only to be replaced with a stern demeanour. “ Well.. Good. But that doesn’t fix everything.”
“ I know it doesn’t,” he hurriedly agreed. “ I know we’ve still got a long way to go. I know I have a lot of convincing to do to make you sure it’s *you* I want to be with so here’s what I’m saying.. Just hear me out, okay?” Kawalsky took her hands in his and Janet nodded her consent. “ We take it nice and slow. We get to know each other and take our time doing it. We can do the stuff other couples do – go out on dates and stuff, sometimes with Cassie. You can find out whether you’re interested in a loser like me and I.. I get to fall in love all over again.” He paused for a moment, trying to gauge her reaction from her wary expression. “ Is it a deal?”
“ I..” She stopped and studied him carefully. “ General Hammond said it was okay?”
“ Yes.” He gave her hands a reassuring squeeze.
“ And we go slow?”
“ As slow as you want.”
Janet seemed to consider if for a few seconds but a smile soon broke out over her face. “ Then you’ve got yourself a deal, Major.”
“ And a date for Thursday night?” Kawalsky rewarded her with his most charming grin, a hopeful glint in his brown eyes.
Laughing, she pulled her hands out from his and shook her head. “ Don’t push your luck.” A flash of seriousness made an appearance on her face. “ I’ll have to check with Cassandra first.”
“ Oh yeah.” Concern washed over him as he recalled the teenager’s reaction to finding him in her home on Sunday morning. “ How is she?”
“ Don’t look so worried,” Janet told him with a smile. “ She’s okay with it. Sam and I.. Oh.” Her sentence trailed off as another thought occurred to her.
“ ‘Sam and I’ what?” Kawalsky pressed with a raised eyebrow, wondering why she’d suddenly stopped in the middle of her sentence.
“ We talked to Cassandra about it..” Janet answered him slowly, frowning slightly as she thought.
He took a step closer, putting a hand on her arm. “ What’s wrong? You don’t look.. happy.. anymore.”
“ I’m happy,” she murmured distractedly. “ I was just thinking.” She lifted her head to look him in the eyes. “ Sam and Colonel O’Neill.. How are they going to react to us dating? I mean, it hardly seems fair they’re the ones who’ve wanted to be together for years and almost have a son together.. Yet they can’t be together and we can.”
“ Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.” He paused thoughtfully, mulling it over in his mind. The Sam and Jack he’d knew well had been thrilled when he had got together with the other Janet. Then again, they had been involved in a serious relationship themselves at the time.. He shook his head, reminding himself of Jack’s words of encouragement the night before. “ They’ll be happy for us. Won’t they?”
“ Yeah.. Yes.” Janet nodded decisively. “ Of course they will. They’ll be fine with it.”
“ Yeah, fine.”
“ So.” She looked up at him shyly.
“ So..” Kawalsky grinned down at her, giving her his best puppy-dog eyes expression. “ Thursday night sound okay to you?”
The news about Janet and Kawalsky quickly spread around the small group of friends that was SG-1 plus extras. Cassandra was surprising had the most enthusiastic reaction to the news. She had spent some time talking to Charlie O’Neill about Kawalsky and with that on top of her conversation with Sam and Janet, Cassandra had come to accept there was enough room in her mother’s life for someone new.
Though Sam and Jack were happy for their friends, they couldn’t help the underlying envy they each felt. They were genuinely pleased their friends could be together and explore what was between them but it didn’t seem completely fair. Janet and Kawalsky weren’t the ones who had known each other for four years, fighting their attraction as well as fighting side-by-side to defeat a seemingly immortal enemy in a never-ending battle. They hadn’t almost lost each other more times than could be counted.. They didn’t have the added pressure of having to raise a son and hide what they felt. They didn’t have the risk of losing everything they’d worked for, the ever-present threat of what was to come..
Despite being slightly jealous, Sam and Jack tried not to let their thoughts and feelings on the matter show. Daniel, however, was another story.
After he learnt the CMO and newly appointed SG-1 member were the base’s first couple, he was opening hostile towards both Janet and Kawalsky – more to Kawalsky rather than Janet. He resented the fact Kawalsky had been assigned to SG-1, instead of another team, grumbling that he’d rather the Major was given control of SG-2 rather than join *his* team. He found out about Kawalsky and Janet’s new found relationship just twenty minutes later, and made no secret of his disapproval.
“ Doctor Fraiser.” He strode into the infirmary, his blue eyes blazing. Janet looked up in surprise at the unusually sharp edge to his voice. “ If you have a moment,” he ground out too politely to be sincere. “ Perhaps we could talk in your office?”
“ Y-Yes, of course.” Janet stuttered, taken aback at his abrupt manner, following him into her office and closing the door securely behind them. “ Is something wrong, Daniel?”
“ I was going to ask you the same thing!” Daniel retorted harshly. “ I just don’t understand, Janet. Sam and Jack are supposed to be your friends! How could you do this to them?”
Puzzlement schooled the petite Doctor’s features. “ They are my friends.. What did I do?”
“ What did you do?” Daniel retorted incredulously, his voice rising in level as well as anger. “ You took what they’ve always wanted and you’re flaunting it in front of them! Rubbing it in their faces that the regulations don’t apply to you! You’re reminding them of what they can’t have!”
“ I am?” She looked genuinely shocked. “ But I spoke to Sam.. She’s happy for us!” Her response was cut short by a derisive snort. Her surprise was replaced with a hint of anger. “ What business is my personal life of yours? What gives you the right to march in here and tell me what I can and can’t do?”
“ Being a *true* friend of Sam and Jack gives me the right!” Daniel shouted at her, resentment seeping from his every pore. “ Then again, I don’t think you even know the meaning of the word! If you did, you certainly wouldn’t be doing this to them..”
“ Doing what? Being happy?” Janet snapped. “ It’s my life! I sympathise with their position but I don’t see why I should let that stand in the way of *my* happiness! They wouldn’t want it either..”
“ What would you know?” He snarled callously. “ Have you even spoken to them today? And do you really think,” he continued condescendingly, “ that they would tell *you* how they really feel? Of course not! Because they’re *real* friends. They don’t go round stabbing their supposed friends in the back!”
Janet felt something inside her give. She bunched her hands up at her sides and pushed away the glimmer of guilt that had started to come through at his words. She was happy, damn it, and Sam and Jack were happy for her! “ Let me ask *you* something, Doctor Jackson. How much of this is out of loyalty to Sam and Jack, and how much of it is out of self-pity for yourself? How much of your reaction is based on the fact you’re not happy so you can’t stand the thought of anyone else being? I’m sorry you lost Sha’re, I’m so sorry she died as Apophis’s wife and not yours, I can’t imagine how inadequate that would make you feel, but this is *my* chance at what you’ve already had and let pass you by and I’ll be damned if I let you stop me from taking it.” She took a deep breath and flexed her fingers. “ You don’t approve, obviously, and I accept that. But everyone else is happy for me and I will not let the selfishness of one insignificant person ruin that.”
“ You think everyone’s happy for you,” Daniel smiled humourlessly. “ But they’re not. When you’re not there, people talk. They whisper. No one can believe you’d be so cold-hearted, Janet, and betray your friends for a quick roll-in-the-hay. No one is going to be able to respect or trust you again.” He made for the door, opening it but pausing instead of leaving. He turned his head to face her, his eyes clouded by something akin to both pain and furiousness. “ And if you *ever* mention *my* wife like that again..”
He left the threat in the air between them, storming down the maze of corridors of the SGC with little to no regard for anyone who happened to get in his path. Janet closed the office door behind him and slowly sunk to floor. She wondered self-consciously.
Five minutes later, she still hadn’t reached a conclusion she was comfortable with so she sought out Kawalsky and unburdened her thoughts and fears on his welcoming shoulders. He talked her though them, hiding his own building anger from her. Anger aimed at Daniel for interfering where he wasn’t wanted, anger at the Air Force regulations that stopped his friends from being able to indulge in their feelings and frustration at himself, for not being able to do anything to make it all okay. He was resolute that they would all talk through their problems, SG-1 and Janet. At the next opportunity they got to talk about whatever resentments were lurking and building under the surface of their calm demeanours, they would sit down and do it. And they’d stay there until everything had been resolved.
Ten minutes later, the Stargate was engaged. The Iris slid into place, only to be opened again as the technician in the control room announced they were receiving the Tok'ra signal. Sam and Teal’c were the first members of SG-1 to get there in time to greet Jacob Carter. The lines on his face and worry in his eyes were instant signs that what he had to say would not be good.
The talk Kawalsky had been planning didn’t happen. Not in time for their differences to be resolved before SG-1 embarked on a mission were trust was imperative if they were all to survive.
Disbelief was the over-all reaction of those gathered in the briefing room. Sam looked a little shaken as she sat beside her father, her eyes wide and bright. Jack looked uncomfortable, but he couldn’t honestly say the news came as a great surprise to him. He had never trusted the Tok'ra completely; once a snakehead, always a snakehead. Now it seemed part of his suspicion had been proven correct.
“ We need your help, George,” Jacob finished wearily. “ The Tok'ra are at war with their own kind – and we’re going to lose. These.. renegade Tok'ra, for want of a better term, cannot be allowed to reach Apophis. They know all of the Tok'ra and Tau’ri secrets. If they were to give that knowledge to the Goa’uld.. Earth and all its allies would not be safe. Apophis has a powerful fleet behind him. With this extra support.. he will become an even more elusive target.”
“ Why are these.. renegades.. rebelling against the ways of the Tok'ra? What is it they want that the Goa’uld offers and being a Tok'ra doesn’t?” It was Sam who spoke up, looking at her father in concern.
Jacob shrugged helplessly. He lowered his head and his eyes flashed; Selmac was in control. “ They want power. It appears they do not believe in the ways of the Tok'ra anymore. They want to ensure their own personal survival rather than the survival of the freedom we are fighting for.” Selmac looked directly at Sam. “ These.. renegades.. They are those amongst us who believed we should not share our technology and knowledge with you. They have tried, in the past, to convince the High Council that our alliance with the Tau’ri was pointless, and that we should abolish it, and take what we need from your planet. You were lucky to have the idea opposed by the majority of the High Council. We believe it will be beneficial for the Tok'ra and Tau’ri to join together in this assault, so we may defeat the renegades together and affirm the mutual trust in our alliance.” Selmac moved her gaze around the briefing room table. “ The Tok'ra sent an operative to Tollona to ask for the support of the Tollan in defeating our new enemy before it can join forces with our old one. We do not know, however, whether they will be able to offer assistance. When we last heard from the Tollan, they were in the middle of a dispute themselves. Half of their people would rather share technology to strengthen alliances. The other half prefer to keep their knowledge to themselves out of fear once their technology is shared, their allies will turn against them.”
“ Which half is winning?” Jack spoke up curiously, ignoring the pointed look he received from Daniel, Jacob and Sam. He instead turned his attention to General Hammond. “ If the half who wants to share technology is winning.. it could be a good thing..”
“ Not if the dispute continues and the Tollan are preoccupied by fighting one another,” Selmac responded. “ Without their help, and the help of the Tau’ri, the Goa’uld-Tok'ra Renegade alliance will be go ahead and we will all be at the mercy of Apophis, every planet the Tok'ra and Tau’ri have knowledge of.. every race.. If Apophis has that knowledge, he can find a way to defeat us all.”
Nodding, Jack was silent, pondering the possibilities. Teal’c looked as worried as he had ever done, no doubt concerned for his wife and child who lived on one of the planets that could be affected by Apophis and the renegade Tok'ra joining forces. Daniel seemed thoughtful, when he wasn’t receiving and sending glares to and from Kawalsky, who was sitting with a blank expression on his face, patiently waiting for someone to say something.
“ Obviously, I’d love to say we’ll help you in whatever way we can,” General Hammond finally responded after weighing the pros and cons in his head. He decided it would be better for the alliance if the SGC agreed to help. “ I will, however, need to contact the President and the Joint Chiefs. What you’ re asking is obvious dangerous, and half of the SG-units are already off-world on assignment..”
“ We don’t think it would be wise to send a troop of SG-teams, George.” Jacob was back in control. “ As of yet, the fighting has not become open. We only know of their plans because of some quiet attacks on some highly respected members of the Tok'ra High Council. We believe, with the help of SG-1, we can pinpoint the main leaders behind this.. rebellion.. and through doing that, we can stop it before it turns out into an all-out war.”
“ Would it not be wise to attempt finding all the renegade Tok'ra with a big contingent of units from the SGC?” Teal’c questioned. “ Together with the Tok'ra who wish to stop them, we would create a formidable barrier between the renegades and Apophis.”
“ I agree.” Jacob nodded. “ But if we do that, we’re effectively declaring an open war. War means people die. If it’s possible, the Tok'ra would like to solve this with a minimum of casualties and without using our resources.” He turned to the General again. “ The Tok'ra believe SG-1 will be able to help us stop that. We can create a cover for them, saying Sam and Doctor Jackson are going to help decipher some ruins and technology the Tok'ra recently discovered and that the rest of SG-1 are with them as it’s standard procedure. During this time, however, SG-1 can keep a close eye on all the Tok'ra they meet. A fresh perspective may lead us to discover who are our enemies.”
General Hammond got to his feet. “ I’ll see what I can do but I can’t promise anything. Major Carter, no doubt you’d like to spend some time with your father.” He gave Sam a small fatherly grin as she nodded in acknowledgement. “ Colonel O’Neill, perhaps you should call your son in case the mission is given the go-ahead. Dismissed.” Decisively, he marched out of the briefing room and into his adjoining office.
“ Son?” Jacob raised an eyebrow as Daniel left, followed by Teal’c and then Major Kawalsky and Jack. He looked at his daughter questioningly. “ Is there something I’m missing?”
“ I’ll fill you in, Dad,” Sam assured him, taking his arm and leading him from the briefing room and to the relative privacy of her lab, her priorities torn between talking to Charlie O’Neill herself and finding out how much danger her father could be in.
Sitting in his office, Jack waited impatiently for someone to pick up the phone on the other side. Eventually, after the seventh ring, the receiver on the other end was picked up and he heard the familiar voice of Mrs. McDonald. “ Hello, McDonald residence.”
“ Hi Mrs. McDonald, it’s Colonel O’Neill. Jack. I was wondering if Charlie was there. I need to talk to him about something.”
“ Oh, hello, Colonel,” Mrs. McDonald greeted him in her warm, motherly way. “ I’ll go and get Charlie for you. He’s playing in the garden with Cassandra.” There was a moment of rustling on the phone and then silence. Very faint footsteps were later heard and then Jack heard a second pair, one that started off faint and then got louder and more.. elephant-like. “ Dad!”
“ Hi Charlie,” Jack chuckled into the phone, swinging his feet up on the desk. “ How are ya?”
“ Fine!” Charlie bubbled over with enthusiasm. “ Cassie and me are building a tree house! Mrs. McDonald said we could and Mr. McDonald’s given us some wood and said he can help us and show me how to make one myself in our garden at home!”
“ That’s good, Charlie. That’s good.” Jack sighed and closed his eyes as he listened to his son describe in detail all that he had done and was going to do in his own garden when Jack was on downtime and could help him. After a few minutes, Jack realised Charlie had fallen silent. His eyes flew open. “ Charlie? You still there?”
“ Yeah, Dad.” Charlie’s sigh was carried through the phone. “ I asked you what was wrong. Why are you calling?”
Jack paused for a long moment. Sighing heavily, he couldn’t see the point in putting off telling his son the truth. “ Charlie.. Sam and I are probably leaving on a mission today. We’ll be a way for a few days, I think. Now, I’ve cleared it with Janet.. She said you can stay with her and Cassie.. and we won’t be gone too long..”
“ Promise?” The catch in Charlie’s voice was clear.
Hesitating, Jack closed his eyes again. “ I can’t promise we’ll be home for dinner.. But I promise we *will* be home.”
“ Okay then.” Charlie grudgingly agreed, falling silent for a few moments. When he next spoke, his tone was a little brighter. “ Is Sam there then? So I can say goodbye to her?”
Again, Jack hesitated, feeling guilty at having to disappoint his son for the second time in a row. “ I’m sorry, Charlie. Sam’s talking to her Dad at the moment.” He could picture the expression on his son’s face and it sent a flash of remorse through him. “ How about I try and get her to give you a quick call before we leave? There should be time for that.”
“ Yeah!” Charlie greeted the suggestion enthusiastically. The conversation continued for a few more minutes, with Jack reluctantly ending the phone call so he could find out whether the mission was a go or not. Part of him wanted it to be disapproved by the President and Joint-Chiefs but the other part of him understood it was an important mission that they needed to approve.
Sighing heavily, he cast one last longing glance in the direction of the photograph of his son, himself and his team mates taken not so long ago at the barbeque before squaring his shoulders and leaving the sanctuary of his office to see what fate had in store for him.
Within the hour, the new SG-1 and Jacob Carter were standing at the base of the ramp, waiting for the stargate to engage. Sam had managed a very brief conversation with Charlie although she had refrained from making the same promises his father did. After taking to both her own father and Selmac, Sam was convinced that though it sounded like a simple but important missing, it had the potential for turning dangerous quickly.
“ SG-1,” General Hammond’s voice came over the speakers from the control room, almost drowned out by the swoosh of the gate activating. “ You have a go.”
In perfect unison, Sam, Jack and Kawalsky saluted the General and turned back to the event horizon. Jacob and Jack led the way up the ramp and through the Stargate, with Sam and an unusually quiet Daniel following and Teal’c and Kawalsky bringing up the rear.
Chaos was what awaited them on the other side. The renegade Tok'ra had made their first move albeit anonymously. Per’sus, a member of the Tok'ra High Council, had been attacked in his quarters. He was recovering from his injuries due to the healing ability of his symbiote and due to the fact that fortunately the attack had been interrupted. They were greeted by Aldwin, who explained this in a hushed voice before speaking urgently to Jacob in Goa’uld for a minute of two before leading them all to their temporary quarters.
“ You can sleep here,” Jacob told them once they were in their room, wearily sitting down on one of the bunks. “ Someone will come for you when it is time to eat. Tomorrow, Doctor Jackson and Sam will be taken to our labs to help deciphering our newly found texts and technologies. Colonel, yourself, Major Kawalsky and Teal’c can join them or you can wander around the tunnels if you can do it inconspicuously. Be careful.” Jacob looked specifically at his daughter, concern etched on his face. “ It is a dangerous time amongst the Tok'ra. You are here to observe, nothing else. Please don’t take any unnecessary risks. If you see anything suspect, find me immediately.”
“ We will, Dad.” Sam sat down beside him and squeezed his hand. “ As long as you’re careful, too,” she added quietly.
“ I will be,” Jacob promised, bringing her hand up to his lips so he could press a soft fatherly kiss to her knuckles. “ Get some rest and keep on your guard.” He stood and left, nodding at Jack as he did.
Glancing around the blue crystalline walls of their joint quarters, Jack shook his head and sat down on the bunk closest to Sam’s, claiming it as his own. “ Well, campers. Looks like we should get some rest. We’ll take turns keeping watch, just like we would on any other mission, but we’ll do it in pairs. Carter and I’ll take first watch, then Kawalsky and Daniel, then Teal’c and me again. So get some sleep.”
“ Yes, Sir.” Kawalsky nodded briskly and settled himself on the bunk at the far side of the room, as far away from the others as he could get.
Wordlessly, Daniel and Teal’c followed his example and soon they were either lying in their bunks sleeping lightly or, in the case of Teal’c, sitting cross-legged on his bunk in a light state of Kel’No’Reem.
Once he was sure the others were occupied, Jack moved from his bunk to Sam’s, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, pleasantly surprised when she leaned into him instead of fighting his embrace like he’d half-expected. “ How long do you think we’ll be here?” He asked softly, careful not to disturb the others.
“ A couple of days at most,” Sam murmured, closing her eyes in attempt at blocking out the little voice in her head that was chiding her for being so close to him. They were on a mission, it was unprofessional, it was wrong.. It just happened to feel right. “ Dad doesn’t want us here any longer than necessary. He’s worried, Jack. More than I’ve seen him before.”
“ It’ll be okay.” He pressed a kiss to the crown of her head, inwardly groaning at the lack of conviction in his voice. “ Dad’s gonna be okay, Sam. We’ll find who’s behind this whole thing and everything’ll be okay.”
“ I hope so.” In an unconscious gesture, Sam cuddled further into him, sighing softly. After a few seconds of silence, her eyes opened again. “ How did Charlie sound when you talked to him on the phone earlier?”
Pulling back slightly so he could look into her face, Jack saw the underlying concern in her eyes and felt uneasy. “ He sounded okay, a little upset we were going away.. Why? Did he say something..?”
Sam shook her head slowly and took her time before answering. “ No, not really. There was just something in his tone.. He wasn’t happy with us both going on a mission, he sounded worried, a little scared.” She gave him a one-shouldered shrug and stifled a yawn with one hand. “ He’s probably had a lot of close calls in the past with one or both of us,” she theorized, barely managing to suppress a shudder at the many close calls they’d gone through in the past. “ I don’t suppose it’s something he’ll ever get used to, us going away for long periods at a time and knowing there’s a chance one of us won’t come back.”
“ Or both of us,” Jack mumbled, tightening his grip on her shoulders and drawing her closer again. “ I hadn’t thought of it like that.. What if both of us didn’t come back? What would happen to him then? He’s already lost his parents once..”
They lapsed into silence, the grim reality dawning on them as they each considered the possibilities, not only of losing each other but also of leaving the young boy they both felt responsible for alone in another lifetime. After drawing comfort from their embrace for a few minutes longer, Sam pulled away and sat up right. “ We shouldn’t..”
“ I know, you’re right.” Jack relinquished his hold on her shoulders and reluctantly moved to his own bunk. He lay down, his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling that was just as blue and crystalline as the walls enclosing him. He sighed heavily, twisting his head to look at her as she leaned back against the wall, her legs pulled close to her chest. “ You ever wonder why we do this?”
Surprised by his question as well as by the tone it was asked in, Sam opened her eyes and looked in his direction. “ Why we do what, Sir?” The ‘Sir’ was added by force of habit.
“ Take the dangerous missions, travel from planet to planet..” Jack gestured with a hand to their surroundings, averting his gaze from her face and back to the low-hung ceiling. “ What do we do it for, Carter? What is it we’re hoping to find?”
“ We do it because it’s our duty, Jack.” She turned the conversation to being one of a personal nature, the use of his first name slipping out as concern filled her voice. “ If we didn’t do this.. The Goa’uld would attack Earth. We’re doing this to save ourselves, aren’t we? To find something to make it safe for the future generations?”
Jack was silent but she couldn’t be sure if it was because he was pondering her answer or if he was lost within his own thoughts. When he made no attempt at answering, she assumed it was the latter. Sam didn’t know what he was thinking, she had no way of knowing he was considering the options open to him, options that were limited by his new responsibility as being father to Charlie. In his mind, he had been given a second chance, and he didn’t know whether he could risk losing that, no matter what hard decisions had to be made.
Twenty-four Earth hours passed. Sam and Jack were kept too busy to continue their conversation. Sam was shown to one of the Tok'ra’s makeshift labs and was immediately enraptured by the technology her father showed her. She was assigned to work with Aldwin on discovering how it functioned and what its function was. Her interest as immediately piqued so Jack ordered Teal’c to stay with her, knowing his Major would be content to work and Teal’c would be content to watch over her.
Daniel was also immediately engrossed in the manuscripts shown to him by Anise. He started explaining to Jack about the importance of the documents, mentioning references to the Ancients, the Furlings and the Asgard. Jack stopped him at that point with a brisk order to Kawalsky to stay on guard in the la, leaving as quickly as he could so he didn’t have to spend more time that was necessary in the presence of Anise and her symbiote, Freya. He felt uncomfortable around her, not only because of the confession she’d made the last time they’d met but because of the two confessions she had over-heard.
No sooner had he left the labs, Jack found himself in one of the other chambers, with Jacob Carter and several members of the Tok'ra High Council for company. For over two hours, Jack was treated to all the information they had on the renegade Tok'ra – which wasn’t much – and had all of them insisting how dangerous it would be for them all were the Tok'ra renegades to join forces with Apophis and his fleet. No sooner had the warnings been issued, Jack was summoned to the lab he’d left Daniel and Kawalsky in to interrupt the two from arguing. Anise had complained it was not a productive atmosphere to work in so he had no choice but to send Kawalsky to switch places with Teal’c, telling both Daniel and Kawalsky he would talk to them later.
Finally, it was time to sleep. It had taken a small miracle to remove Daniel and Sam from their respective labs. In Sam’s case, it had taken her father’s stern voice, and in Daniel’s.. it had taken Jack threatening to have Teal’c forcibly remove the over-enthused archaeologist. They took it in turns to keep watch again, with Jack and Teal’c taking first watch, Sam and Kawalsky taking second and Teal’c volunteering to join Daniel on third. By the time morning came for the others, Daniel had dosed himself up with the Tok'ra equivalent to coffee and was itching to get back to work.
“ Wakey-wakey!” He beamed at Sam as he leaned over her, his blurred grin the first thing she saw when she woke up. “ Morning, Sam! Did ya sleep well? It’s a lovely day.. I can’t wait to get back to studying those texts.. They’re so fascinating, you should take a look once you’re done in the lab..”
“ Danny!” Jack’s command voice broke through the enthusiastic tirade. He ran a hand through his hair and looked bleary-eyed at the still grinning doctor. “ Take a time-out, okay? Not all of us have hit the loopy juice this morning.”
“ But Jack! It’s an amazing find!” Daniel protested, bouncing up and down on the soles of his feet.
“ Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Kawalsky muttered under his breath, unfortunately not quiet enough. “ Whatever, geek.”
His snide comments were overhead by Daniel, who immediately stopped his enthusiastic animation. “ To those with the intelligence to understand them, the documents are priceless and entirely interesting. To those who can’t comprehend them, I’d imagine they would seem.. as taxing, as though they were.. written in another language.”
No one laughed at the weak joke. The tone he used was scathing and aimed at Kawalsky, something that couldn’t be ignored by any of them. Narrowing his eyes, Kawalsky stood and moved until he was toe-to-toe with Daniel. “ Are you trying to say I’m too dumb to understand, Jackson?”
“ If the hat fits,” Daniel quipped, inching closer to be nose-to-nose, a glint in his eye that his team mates had never before seen – not in the eyes of the mildest, calmest member of their team.
Hurriedly, rising to his feet, Jack manoeuvred himself between them in an attempt at intervening. “ Come on, kids. Lets all play nicely, okay?”
“ He started it.” Kawalsky ground out through gritted teeth.
“ I don’t care who started it. Now,” Jack took a step backwards, keeping a restraining hand on each of their shoulders. “ Lets go get refreshed and fed. Then Kawalsky, you’re in the lab with Carter; Teal’c, you’re with Daniel. And me.. I’ll wander round looking for something interesting to do.” He glanced from one tense man to the other. “ That okay with everyone?”
Noncommittal grunts were all he received in reply but in good faith, he assumed they were grunts leaning towards the side of ‘yes.’
“ Colonel O’Neill?” They turned to see Aldwin standing in the makeshift doorway. “ I was sent to make sure everything was okay and to inform you Jacob Carter has made arrangements for you to return home this evening. Selmac believes you have done all you can and does not wish to further the risk to you all any more than it is. Due to some.. issues with security.. I’ve been told to ask if only two of you will attend the eating chamber this morning. You are welcome to collect food for your companions and eat in your quarters.”
“ Erm.. Okay.” Jack barely had time to nod in acknowledgement before Aldwin disappeared. “ Well. That was.. something.” Lifting a hand to his face, he rubbed the skin between his eyes. “ Okay. Carter, you’re with me. Teal’c, stay here and baby-sit tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. We’ll be back with food soon, kids, so try to get along.”
Leaving hurriedly so to avoid any protests or questions, Jack left Sam with no choice but to shrug helplessly and follow him quickly. She caught up with him after a few moments of fumbling through the maze of dazzling blue walls. “ Colonel! Sir! *Jack*!” He stopped so suddenly she almost walked into him. “ Oh. Sorry.” A light blush stained her cheeks as she steadied herself, looking up at him in concern. “ So what’s wrong?”
“ Nothing’s wrong.” Jack responded innocently, arching a quizzical eyebrow whilst avoiding her eyes at the same time. “ Why what could be wrong?”
“ I don’t know,” Sam started. “ You’ve been avoiding me since yesterday, you have less patience than usual with Daniel.. What did we do?”
“ Nothing.” Closing his eyes, he reached out for her and pulled her against him, leaning again the uneven wall. “ You did nothing wrong. Honest. I’m just getting tired of Kawalsky and Daniel bickering and I guess I miss Charlie, too. That’s all. I promise. You’ve done nothing,” he repeated, stroking her back soothingly.
Glancing around them quickly to make sure they were alone, Sam stood on her tiptoes and kissed him languidly, fighting the voice inside that told her it was wrong and listed all of the military regulations they were breaking. “ As long as you’re sure I’ve done nothing to make you mad at me.”
“ Absolutely positive.” He grinned at her as she pulled away straightening her sleep-crumpled uniform. A suggestive glint appeared in his eyes as he moved his hands down her arms to clasp her hands. Tilting his head to the side, he gave her the most innocent grin he could muster. “ You think anyone would miss us if we.. disappeared for a while?”
Smiling in spite of herself, Sam’s eyes sparkled mischievously. “ Probably,” she admitted, her smile widening to show her dimples at the slightly crest-fallen look on his face. “ But we could always tell the others there was a long queue for food..”
“ I like how you think..” Casting a fleeting look around them, Jack noticed another small corridor intersected with the one they were currently huddled in and steered her towards it. They stumbled along the corridor until they found a relatively secluded and empty cavern, both knowing it was wrong and against all the promises they’d made themselves when they’d got involved, but what was one more broken promise in a sea of broken rules?
Silently deciding not to go further than a few heated kisses, Sam and Jack emerged ten minutes later, both flushed and smiling. They walked hand-in-hand along the corridor until they heard voices and reluctantly broke all contact. One voice in particular was familiar to them both – the voice of Anise, symbiote of Freya – and it was the urgent tone of voice that stopped them from just walking by.
“ We must act now,” she was saying in a loud whisper. “ The Tok'ra and Tau’ri are getting too close!”
“ What makes you think they even know of our intentions? The attack on Per’sus has been listed as that of a singular Goa’uld spy and methods have been taken to find the responsible party. There has been no indication they know there is more than one of us amidst their collective,” another voice, one neither Sam nor Jack could recognise, argued back.
“ The Tau’ri are here to discover us! What other motive would they have for being brought here? They have never shown interest of staying with us before!” Anise insisted. “ Selmac went to them and asked them for help in exposing who we are. We cannot take the risk of them doing that, we must act now!”
The male Tok'ra she had been arguing snorted with derision. “ What can they expose? They do not know who we are, or what we are planning. There is no way the Tau’ri pose a threat to us. They cannot warn the others of something they do not know!” There was a moment of silence as those gathered around the two murmured in agreement. “ However,” the male spoke up in his symbiote’s voice, the smoothness of his tone contradicted by the near metallic twang. “ We will move our attack forward. We have received word from Apophis that his fleet will be arriving at the rendezvous planet within three days.”
There was another pause and Sam peered round the opening to the room to see the other Tok'ra renegades in the room nodding in agreement. She fought a shudder as Anise’s eyes glowed ominously, ducking back behind the wall when the Tok'ra cast her eyes in the direction of where she was.
“ Then it is settled,” Anise spoke, using Freya’s own softer voice, her eyes locked on the entrance to the room. “ We will disable the Tok'ra and take as many hostages as possible, starting in the next two hours in the sequence we have prearranged.”
Having heard enough to know they needed to warn her father and the rest of the Tok'ra, Sam and Jack crept away as stealthily as they could, all thoughts of food forgotten. Once they thought they were out of earshot, they turned to each other, their eyes wide with surprise.
“ You go tell Teal’c and the others,” Jack ordered her quietly. “ Get ready to defend yourselves.”
“ And you?” She pressed when he made no move to expand on what he would be doing.
“ I’m gonna track down Dad and the others. We should warn them as soon as possible.” Sam nodded and made to move but was stopped by his hand reaching out for hers. “ It’ll be okay, Sam. We won’t let them win.”
Smiling a little at the reassurance in his voice, Sam squeezed his fingers once before letting go of his hand and heading in the direction of their joint quarters. Jack watched until she disappeared from his line of sight, and headed towards where he thought the main Tok'ra chambers were.
Less than a minute later, Anise lead six other renegade Tok'ra from behind one of the corners in the corridor. Her eyes flashed as she turned to them, her symbiote taking over. “ You, go and tell Ler’ris we are bringing the attack forward. You two go and try to intercept Colonel O’Neill from reaching the Tok'ra. You two, come with me.” Her eyes narrowed. “ If we cannot stop Major Carter from reaching her team mates, we will have to ensure they can not cause us further trouble.”
The other Tok'ra did her bidding without question. Anise straightened her shoulders and set her jaw, leading her two remaining companions in the direction she had witnessed Sam go, preparing the Zat gun at her side.
Spinning round on her heel, Sam stared at the empty space behind her. She could have sworn she heard something. Her hand moved to instinctively reach for her weapon but it grasped only air as she remembered she’d left it on her bunk. It had been her father’s idea that they keep their weapons concealed if they wore them; to show there was still some degree of trust between them and their allies. She hadn’t had time to put on her jacket before Jack had left their joint quarters and therefore she hadn’t thought to bring her gun with her as she would have had no where to hide it.
Dismissing the sound as being a figment of her imagination, Sam turned back to face the way she was going, the directions she was to follow funning through her mind. First left ahead, second right, second left, first right, first left. She wondered briefly how long it had taken her father to find his way round after his initial joining with the Tok'ra.
Her trail of thought ended there. No sooner than she had resumed her course, she heard the telltale click-like sound of a Zat gun being activated and fired, a split-second before she felt a jolt of energy envelope her being and crumpled to the floor.
Smiling smugly, Anise stood over the unconscious woman as her two followers made sure Sam couldn’t escape when she regained consciousness. By the time they were done, they had been joined by a few more armed Tok'ra rebels, and after giving the order for some of them to take Sam to the assembly point, Anise led the remaining Tok'ra on to the temporary living quarters of the Tau’ri, determined to come out of this attack with a few more valuable hostages to ensure her life once she met with Apophis himself.
Listening intently, Teal’c tried to hear above the arguing of Kawalsky and Daniel. He saw no reason in interrupting them, deciding it was best to let them get their hostility with one another out into the open so they could deal with it and put it behind them. Besides, from what he had witnessed, neither had made an attempt at physically hurting the other. That wasn’t what caught his attention, however. He was almost certain he had heard the discharge of a Zat weapon.
Picking up his staff weapon, Teal’c left the room, keeping his eyes and ears alert for any signs of a possible attack. His departure went unnoticed by the still rowing Daniel and Kawalsky but not by the approaching threat.
“ You had no right interfering in mine and Janet’s business!” Kawalsky shouted.
“ And you had no right coming here and taking over everything and acting as if you’ve been here all the time! You haven’t!” Daniel yelled back angrily. “ This is *my* reality, not yours! You were nothing here! You don’t belong here and you never will!”
Kawalsky’s answer was to cry out as he was hit by a bolt of blue electricity and collapsed on the ground. Daniel stared at him in shock for a moment, turning to the entrance with a confused expression on his face. Standing and looking satisfied with herself, Anise motioned for her companions to secure Kawalsky, smiling sweetly at Daniel.
“ If you’re silent and offer no resistance, I will have no need to use this on you.” She took a step closer to him as he looked at her with a mixture of disbelief and shock on his face.
“ You!” He spluttered. “ You’re one of the rebellion!” He stared at her as she moved even closer, narrowing his eyes when it struck him that he hadn’t seen or heard from Sam or Jack in over fifteen minutes. “ What have you done with Sam and Jack? Where are they?”
Still smiling, Anise bound his wrists, pulling the cord-like material she used tighter than necessary, making him wince. “ Major Carter is safe,” she practically purred into his ear. “ You’ll be joining her soon, don’t worry.”
“ And Jack?”
“ Colonel O’Neill,” her grin faded slightly and her eyes hardened, “ will be taken care of soon enough.” She turned her attention away from him and addressed the man hovering in the corner. “ We have on more hostage to collect. She will be heavily guarded and most likely under heavy sedation. Take her to the assembly point and I’ll meet you there.”
“ Who --?” The rest of Daniel’s question was lost as Anise apparently lost patience with him. Roughly pushing him in the direction of a Tok'ra who could have given Teal’c a run for his money, she stalked off towards the entrance.
“ Bound him if you have to but make sure he is in no position to alert anyone else to our plans.” With that, she left the room. Daniel was brusquely grabbed and soon found himself gagged with some material that tasted slightly oily. He also found himself on the pointy end of a very vicious looking knife and wisely chose not t try and struggle his way free.
he thought as he was led away after the two men dragging Kawalsky between them.
The Stargate was activated and half of the Tok'ra renegades were through by the time the other Tok'ra arrived, prepared for battle. There was the horrific sound of Zats and hand devices being used as small explosions were created all around them. Jacob and Jack saw Sam at exactly the same time, and both began running towards the man carrying her, only to be hit with a blast from the hand-device Anise wore.
They looked on helplessly as all around them people fought. They watched, unable to do anything as first Sam, then Kawalsky and finally the wide-eyed Daniel were ushered through the Stargate and were devoured by the event horizon.
Finally, all of the Tok'ra renegades who escaped the short-lived battle alive had escaped. The Tok'ra began rushing around, collecting their belonging and barking orders to each other, sometimes in Goa’uld and sometimes in English, depending on whether the symbiote or host was in control.
“ O’Neill.” Teal’c approached the shell-shocked Colonel, offering him a hand and pulling him to his feet. It as then Jack noticed the deep gash on his friend’s forehead. “ I attempted to get close enough to see the destination of the Tok'ra rebellion. I am sorry to say I failed in my efforts.”
“ Don’t worry, Teal’c,” Jacob Carter approached them, stress lines aging his face. “ A member of the Tok'ra was able to take note of the glyphs. We know where they’ve gone. However,” he turned to Jack, rubbing his hand over his eyes wearily. “ The Tok'ra reserves have been seriously depleted by this division, over half of our supplies were taken. If we are to launch a rescue mission, we will need use of the SGC’s people and resources.”
“ Then what are we waiting for?” Jack murmured dourly. “ Lets go home.”
Dread and apprehension were the first things General Hammond felt when only three people stepped through the Stargate. His breath caught in his throat when only Teal’c, Jacob and Jack emerged from the water-like liquid of the Event Horizon. Where were the other three people he’d sent through? He heard a gasp that was both startled and horrified emerge from somewhere behind him. Turning slightly, he wasn’t surprised to see Doctor Fraiser looking pale and slightly shaken, a hand covering her mouth.
Stifling a sigh, General Hammond made his way from the control room to the gate room, where he greeted his weary friends. “ Colonel, Jacob?” He addressed the two who he assumed would have the answers he needed. “ What happened? Where are Majors Carter and Kawalsky and Doctor Jackson?” It was then he turned his attention to Teal’c and saw the dried blood. “ Teal’c, you’re injured.” He cast a glance over the Jaffa’s two companions and made a quick decision. “ Get yourselves to the infirmary and get cleaned up. We’ll debrief in 30 minutes.” He added a stern look when it seemed Jack was going to argue.
Wordlessly, the Colonel marched out of the gateroom with Teal’c on his heels. Jacob lingered behind, his expression pained as he looked at his old friend with a sadness in his eyes that scared General Hammond.
“ Sam’s gone.” Jacob murmured in explanation. “ Along with Major Kawalsky and Doctor Jackson. They were taken as hostages by the Tok'ra renegades.” He stared at the space just above General Hammond’s shoulder. “ We need your help, George. We need as many teams as you can give us and as quickly as possible. Jack over-heard the renegades talking.. They’ll be meeting with Apophis in three days on the planet they gated to. We need to get our people back before Apophis gets there.”
His own expression turning grave, General Hammond put a comforting hand on his friends shoulder, seeing the guilt in Jacob’s eyes. “ We will do all we can to get them back, Jacob. I promise you that.”
The debriefing had been going on for over an hour. Doctor Janet Fraiser sat in her office, altering between chewing her fingernails and tapping her pen on the desk. Her eyes kept wandering to the clock, sometimes straying there for minutes at a time, watching the smallest hand click from second to second.
Throughout her treatment of Jack and Teal’c, she asked questions as to where the others were, her concern not only for Kawalsky but for Sam and Daniel as well. Sam was one of her best friends, and Daniel.. even though they’d parted on bad terms, they had become friends over the years, too.
She only knew the basics. Her friends had been taken as hostages to another planet by the Tok'ra renegades and Jacob Carter had returned with the remaining members of SG-1 to gather as many SG-teams as possible to help with the rescue mission. She had over-heard Jack on the phone to Charlie, telling him there’d been a change of plan and he and Sam would be gone a few more days. Her heart ached for both father and son when Jack faltered, obviously having been asked if Sam was there. She had witnessed the look of pain that had flashed across his face as he twisted the truth, telling Charlie she was still off-world with the Tok'ra and she had seen the determination flare in his eyes as the Colonel promised to bring her home soon.
Biting her lip, Janet’s eyes strayed back to the clock on the wall.
And, not for the first time since joining the SGC and befriending these people, Janet found herself sitting in her office, praying for their safe return as a single tear slid soundlessly down her cheek.
Blue. Blue crystal walls. Sam groaned as she looked around her surroundings, raising a hand to her head in an attempt at rubbing away the throbbing pain. She groaned again at the sharp twinge she felt in her arm, grimacing at the awkward angle she had been laying at. For a fleeting moment, the silence led her to believe she was alone. She wasn’t.
“ Sam? You’re awake!” It was Daniel’s voice and although he sounded worried, she had never been more relieved to hear him. Within seconds of speaking, he had moved across their enclosure and was at her side. “ How are you feeling? You didn’t hit your head or anything?”
Wincing again as she sat up fully, Sam shook her head gingerly in answer. “ I’m fine. Just a little sore. How are you?”
“ Fine. They kept me conscious.” The worried note returned to his voice as he next spoke “ Kawalsky’s been out since we got here. He’s still breathing but he hasn’t recovered from the Zat yet.”
“ He’ll wake up soon,” she reassured him. “ I’m guessing he was shot after me so he’s got time..” She looked around once more, frowning at the familiarity of their surroundings, feeling a small swell of hope at the thought they were still with the Tok'ra. “ Where is here, anyway? Are we still..?”
“ No.” Daniel shook his head and sighed heavily. “ They – the anti-Tok'ra or whatever they are – brought us to another planet. These tunnels were already here. I think they’re meeting Apophis soon.. And they brought someone else with them, another hostage, I think. Don’t know who, though. Whoever it is is being kept somewhere different to us.”
Her heart sank. “ We’re on another planet with the reengages. Great.” She looked at Daniel with barely masked concern in her eyes. “ Where’s Colonel O’Neill? And Teal’c and my father?”
Daniel flashed her a fleetingly reassuring grin. “ They’re okay. I think. They’re not here, and I think I saw them fighting to get to us before I was pushed through the Stargate.”
“ Fighting?” Panic gripped her. “ There was fighting?”
“ Oh, yeah.” Daniel continued without regard for her growing sense of panic. “ Zat guns, hand devices.. even some staff weapons I think.” He must of see something in her face as his tone turned contrite. “ I’m sorry, Sam. I’m sure your Dad’s okay. There wasn’t that much of a fight.. Just a small one so the Tok'ra would be distracted as we got ushered through. They’ll be okay.”
“ I hope so.” Anything else Sam was going to say was forgotten as they heard a low moan emanating from the direction of the body slumped on the floor. “ Kawalsky?” She called out to him as Daniel helped her rise on shaky legs, the two of them stumbling over to their team mate as quickly as their own ailments would allow.
“ Holy mother of..” Kawalsky muttered as she opened his eyes, a slightly stunned expression arranging his features. “ What the..” He saw Sam’s blurred face first, then Daniel’s. “ O-kay.. Not the faces I wanted to wake up to. No offence,” he added quickly, needing both of their help to sit up.
“ None taken.” Sam smiled a little, thinking of Janet’s reaction to a comment like that. She imagined her friend would smile and wink, despite the rising blush in her cheeks. “ How are you feeling?” She asked, repeating Daniel’s earlier question to her, noticing how silent the archaeologist had become.
“ Like I put my hand on the thing the sign told me not to touch,” Kawalsky mumbled, squeezing his eyes shut as he fought the urge to empty the contents of his stomach.
“ You’ll feel better in a few minutes,” Sam told him softly, squeezing his shoulder in a sympathetic manner. While he was recovering, she gave him the brief rundown on where they were and who was holding them. “ So there doesn’t seem to be much we can do. There doesn’t even seem to be a door to this place though I’m assuming there is one somewhere.”
“ I saw them activate something on their way out. Probably an energy field of some sort. Like a hologram,” Daniel added thoughtfully, speaking for the first time since Kawalsky had regained consciousness. They lapsed into silence for a while as they all looked round, trying to decide where the wall was real and where it was fake. After a long pause, Daniel spoke again, though his voice was quiet and his companions had to strain to hear it. “ I’m sorry.”
Her brow wrinkled as she frowned in confusion, Sam pulled her eyes from her scouring of the walls and looked at him. “ Sorry for what?”
“ For acting like a spoilt brat,” Daniel answered simply, looking first at Sam and then addressing Kawalsky. “ I’m sorry for making things difficult for you. I know it isn’t easy trying to settle down somewhere new, I haven’t been making it any easier. And I’m sorry for arguing with you all the time, and for hurting Janet. She didn’t deserve it and neither do you.”
Nodding, Kawalsky stared at him in silence for a minute prior to holding out his hand in a gesture of goodwill and understanding. “ I’m sorry, too. It mustn’t have been easy for you, having me come into your life and take over.” The two men shook hands. “ If there’s something between you and Janet..”
“ No!” Daniel protested vehemently. “ It wasn’t that. Not really. I guess I was just jealous.. you’ve got her, Jack’s got Sam, Teal’c has his wife.. If I had someone, I would be okay.. But Sha’re is gone.. And then you and Jack act like you’ve known each other your whole lives..”
“ You felt like you were being replaced.” The two men continued discussing their problems as Sam tried her best to fade into the background, not wanting to intrude on their moment. “ But that won’t happen,” Kawalsky reassured the younger man. “ Jack talks about you a lot. You’re one of his best friends, me being here isn’t going to change that.”
“ I don’t know.. I’ve been acting really stupid,” Daniel sighed deeply. “ I’d understand if Jack and Sam preferred to spend more time with you.” He glanced at Sam who had arched an eyebrow. “ What do you think? Think you can forgive me?”
She smiled at him softly and reached out to put a hand on his arm. “ I didn’t know there was anything to forgive.” Shaking her head, her smile widened reassuringly. “ I didn’t know you were worried about losing me, Daniel.”
“ Of course I am.” He looked at her earnestly. “ SG-1 are the only family I have. I guess.. I know it’s childish.. but I thought if you liked Kawalsky.. you wouldn’t have room for me anymore.”
“ Daniel..” Sam squeezed his arm. “ No matter how much either Jack or I like Kawalsky, it won’t affect our relationships with you. You will never lose my friendship. You’re like the brother I always wanted Mark to be.. There’s no way I’m giving that up, no matter how much like a brother Kawalsky or Teal’c become to me. You’re stuck with me, and you’re stuck with SG-1, too. Having another member won’t change anything.” She turned to Kawalsky and grinned. “ And don’t think you’re getting off lightly, either. You’re pretty much stuck with us all, too. Especially since you’re dating one of us.. Even if Janet isn’t a part of SG-1, she’s one of us.”
“ Is that a thinly veiled warning never to hurt her or you’ll set Teal’c on me?” Kawalsky grinned, breaking the sombre mood that had descended over them.
Smiling, the burden of his guilt and resentment having been lifted, Daniel couldn’t resist teasing Kawalsky a little. “ Oh, yeah. He might seem harmless but if you hurt one of his family.. His bark is no where near as bad as his bite.”
Settling back against one of the walls, Sam closed her eyes as she listened to the two men joking, pleased beyond all measures they had put their enmity behind them. Her mind wandered as she was lulled into a sense of security due to their presence and she found herself thinking of the Tok'ra, her father, Jack and Teal’c, wondering if they were okay and what they were doing.. and what Jack was going to tell Charlie if she never returned.
The disappearance of one of the walls at the far end of the room jolted her out of her thoughts, as Daniel and Kawalsky stopped talking and moved to her side, presenting a united front against whomever had come to see them.
“ People of the Tau’ri,” Anise smirked at them, showing her perfectly straight white teeth, dressed in the long robes usually associated with Goa’ uld royalty. “ We take great pleasure in being the one to inform you Apophis shall arrive shortly. He is pleased with us for capturing you. You shall be given the option of serving our God or you will be given death. The choice, for Major Kawalsky, is his to make. For Doctor Jackson, you will serve our Goddess in whatever way she pleases. And you, Major Carter,” the gleam in Anise’s eyes had nothing to do with a change in power between symbiote and host. “ You shall be Apophis’ to do with what he wishes. He has expressed a great deal of interest in you.”
“ I can’t wait,” Sam muttered sarcastically.
“ You insolence will not go unpunished,” Anise continued, narrowing her eyes. “ Any attempt at a rescue will fail. The feeble minds of the Tau’ri are no match for us.”
“ What makes you think they’ll try and rescue us?” Daniel asked, trying to dissuade any expectations the Tok'ra renegades had, knowing that a certain degree of surprise would be needed if their friends were to stage a successful rescue mission.
Anise, however, would not be fooled. “ The Tau’ri are nothing if not insistent. They will come for you, Colonel O’Neill in particular will not stand by and let Major Carter come to harm. Nor will her father or any of your people allow us to keep you here without a fight.” She smiled wickedly. “ When they do come, we will be prepared. We will take as many of them as we can to present to Apophis as a sign of our allegiance to him. The capture of Colonel O’Neill and the Shol’va in particular will please him. And if they are retained,” she added, her eyes locking with Sam’s, “ I will ask Apophis if I may keep your Colonel as my reward once he is done with him.”
To her credit, Sam refused to sink to the level of the Tok’ra-come-Goa’uld. She bit down on the inside of her mouth and ground her teeth together, swallowing the retort that was on the tip of her tongue. There was no way she would give Anise the satisfaction of knowing how much the thought bothered her.
“ Is that all you came here to say?” Kawalsky said suddenly. “ Because we’d pretty much figured that out on our own.”
Scowling, Anise turned sharply on her heel. “ The guards will bring you nourishment when we think it necessary. Apophis’ arrival is imminent. Know that he will not be so lenient.”
A tray with a single bowl of something unrecognisable and three spoons was placed on the floor by one of the guards who had accompanied her. The three members of SG-1 watched as the last guard left and the holographic wall was put in place. As Kawalsky moved to examine the thick sludge in the bowl, Daniel and Sam moved to the holographic wall to investigate. Sam tentatively put out a hand, drawing back when her fingers came into contact with an energy beam and sent a series of electric shocks up her arm.
Grimacing, she and Daniel reached the same conclusion at the same time and turned away from the wall, shoulders slumping in defeat as they joined Kawalsky.
“ You think this stuff is edible or are they trying to poisoning us?” Kawalsky picked up a spoon piled high with the sludge, watching in disgust as the thick mush slowly dripped from the spoon and landed in the bowl with a quiet splash.
“ I don’t think they’d poison us if Apophis and his Queen do have plans for us,” Daniel murmured, looking at the mush sceptically. “ I wonder who his new Queen is, anyway. After Sha’re..” A look of sadness crossed his face and lingered on in his eyes. “ I wonder who she is.”
“ Sha’re is at peace now, Daniel.” Sam told him softly. “ Besides, if we’re lucky, we’ll never find that out. Hopefully we’ll be out of here before Apophis gets here.”
“ I’ll drink.. um.. eat.. whatever you do with this stuff.. to that.” Kawalsky lifted one of the spoons to his mouth, tentatively sniffing the scentless concoction. “ Here goes nothing.”
Watching in revolted fascination, Sam and Daniel waited until he had tasted it and declared it tasteless before lifting their own spoons. “ Here goes nothing.”
Just over a day later, the rescue mission was put into action. The remaining members of SG-1 teamed up with several Tok'ra, and with three SG-units behind them, set off for the planet that was located at the coordinates a member of the Tok'ra had memorised in the initial attack. They were prepared to meet immediate resistance on the other side, knowing their arrival would not be a surprise but determined to go through with it anyway.
At the word from General Hammond, Jack and Teal’c led the way up the ramp, armed and ready to face whatever they found on the other side. Jacob Carter was only a few feet behind them, the same determination on his face as was on the faces of the men and women behind them.
No matter what they’d been expecting on the other side, it wasn’t what they found.
They were met by weapons fire and a combination of Tok'ra renegades and Serpent Guards. Apophis was already there.
On one side, the early arrival of the System Lord was a blessing. The Tok'ra renegade leaders were too busy talking with Apophis to fight and they had apparently underestimated how much support SG-1 and the Tok'ra would be bringing with them. It lasted for over two hours and both sides suffered casualties but eventually, the SG-teams and Tok'ra won out and were able to advance forward. Where they were advancing to, however, was a mystery until Jacob theorised the renegades were living underground.
“ So we need to circle round, find the transportation rings and get down there,” Jack sighed heavily. “ This could take hours. How do we know Apophis isn’t transporting Sam and the others up to his ship now?”
“ We don’t,” Jacob agreed. “ However, if we get a concentrated blast of energy, we should be able to punch a hole in the top layer of soil, directly into the tunnels beneath.”
“ Like on Hathor’s planet,” Jack mused, scouring the ground. “ Okay,” he raised his voice so it would be heard over the wind. “ All those with Staffs and hand devices, come over here. All those with Zats and good, old-fashioned military-style weapons stand over there.” He waited a few minutes for the soldiers to arrange themselves accordingly. “ Okay, so here’s the plan.” With Jacob and Selmac’s help to explain the science behind it, it took only a few minutes to explain what he wanted them to do. “ Everyone, keep your eyes covered and heads down.”
Five minutes and several concentrated energy blasts later, they successfully punched a hole in the outer layer of ground. Jack took a few tentative steps closer to the edge, testing the stability of the earth beneath his feet. A small triumphant grin played about his lips as he caught sight of the bluish hue.
Leaving a number of soldiers and Tok'ra guarding the Stargate and entrance, the rescue party moved forward and down into the tunnels. Splitting into two groups, they covered both directions, arranging silently to meet back where they started in twenty minutes. With the help of Selmac and Jacob, it didn’t take long to navigate the tunnels and find the cell where the prisoners would be kept. Unfortunately, after disabling the guards outside, Jack was disappointed to find the quarters were empty.
He cursed and kicked at the wall, frustration seeping into him as his shoulders slumped. “ They’re with Apophis, aren’t they? We’re too late.”
“ Not necessarily,” Jacob answered, a small frown creasing his brow. “ Listen carefully.”
Jack silenced the other men in the room with a simple motion with his hand and listened. He heard what Jacob had heard – the clanging of approaching Jaffa. Within moments, they were all working together as a team to drag the bodies of the guards they’d disabled into the cell, and quickly taking the armour off the guards and helping Jacob and Teal’c put it on.
By the time the Jaffa approached the cell, it was the picture of normalcy. The two guards were standing outside, ready to take over watching the prisoners. Inside the cell, there was silence, the SG-teams and other Tok'ra holed up in one corner of the room with the bodies of the genuine guards.
Nothing was done as Daniel and Kawalsky were roughly shoved back into the room. Jack held his breath, waiting for Sam to put in an appearance but the guards reactivated the wall without returning her. Only when he heard the telltale sounds of zat guns from outside did he make his move and leave the shadows to approach his two friends. Kawalsky looked up at the sound, concern lining his face as Daniel sat on the floor where the guards had pushed him, seemingly oblivious to everything going on around him.
“ Colonel, it’s good to see you!” A relieved smile crossed Kawalsky’s face but it didn’t reach his eyes. He read the question on Jack’s face and shook his head slowly. “ I’m sorry, Colonel, but they kept Major Carter. The snakehead’s taking her with him as reassurance the Tok'ra renegades are really on his side now.”
“ We’ll see about that,” Jack muttered as the entrance was opened once more, revealing Teal’c and Jacob still clad in their borrowed armour. He knelt down beside Daniel, who was rocking back and fourth, shaking his head as he wordlessly mouthed the word ‘No’ over and over again. “ Daniel?” He glanced up at Kawalsky. “ What’s going on? What did they do to him?” “ Nothing.” Remorse and sympathy filled Kawalsky’s brown eyes. “ The anti-Tok'ra guys.. They brought a fourth hostage with them. Someone the Tok'ra had been keeping under tight guard.” Kawalsky darted a quick glance at Daniel and motioned for Jack to follow him out of the archaeologist’s earshot.
“ What?” Jack glanced back at the shell-shocked archaeologist, noting Teal’c was helping him to his feet. “ Who was it?”
“ Sha’re,” Kawalsky answered in a low voice.
Jack’s eyes widened. “ But Sha’re’s dead! She died two years..”
“ Apparently not,” Kawalsky grimaced. “ Sounds like the Tok'ra have a lot of explaining to do.”
“ But if she’s alive.. Why didn’t they tell us?” Jack shot a wary glance at Jacob, who was seemingly engrossed in a conversation with himself. “ Are you sure it was her? And she’s from this reality?”
“ Positive.” Kawalsky nodded shortly. “ Anise made it clear. Something to do with some tests she was doing for the Tok'ra..” He shook his head and put a hand on Jack’s arm to stop him from walking away. “ There’s something else, Jack.”
“ She’s still a host to Ammounet.”
Swearing, Jack narrowed his eyes and glared at the Tok'ra nearest to him. His fists clenched at his side as he tempered down his anger, telling himself this wasn’t the time and that they still had something important to do – they had to find Sam. “ I’ll deal with this later.” Walking away from Kawalsky, Jack stood in front of Daniel, his alarm and sympathy growing as his friend stared through him. “ Daniel.. Come on.. We have to get you out of here.”
Blinking, Daniel seemed to hear him for the first time, realising where he was and that he wasn’t alone with Kawalsky. The anguish in his eyes was enough to break anyone’s heart, as was the hoarse voice he used when he spoke. “ Jack.” He reached a shaking hand out for grasped Jack’s arm, desperation joining the pain in his eyes as he fought back the stinging tears. “ They.. Sha’re. They have her, Jack. They’ve got Sha’re!”
“ I know, I know.” Jack spoke as soothingly as he could. “ We’ll get her back, Daniel. I promise. But we have to go now. You need to keep it together till we’re home, then we’ll think of something. You think you can do that?”
Daniel nodded, although he looked unconvinced and was still leaning heavily on Teal’c, trembling visibly. Jack felt anger swell up inside him, unable and unwilling to imagine the agony his friend was going through, knowing the woman he loved, someone he thought was at peace, was actually still a prisoner in her own body. It had been heart-rending to watch Daniel being tortured by the knowledge before but now, having mistakenly believed the nightmare to be over for over a year, it was unimaginable to know what suffering Daniel was going through.
“ I will assist Daniel-Jackson, O’Neill,” Teal’c volunteered, his brow furrowed in a rare display of concern in for the Jaffa.
Jack nodded in acknowledgment. “ Thanks, Teal’c.” He took a step back and was immediately approached by Jacob.
“ Do they know where Sam is?” Was Jacob’s first question, concern for his daughter shining in the depths of his eyes.
Softening a little at the mention of her, and at the worry of a father he could identify with, Jack’s anger abated to some extent. “ Kawalsky said she’s with Apophis. If he doesn’t know we’re here, the snakehead would probably have her brought back to the cell. However,” Jack sighed, “ it’s more than likely he’ll have figured it out by now so we’re gonna have to go get her. I was thinking of sending everyone else back to the ’gate and going for her myself. There’s no point in risking all of us at once.”
“ If you’re going for Sam, I’m going with you,” Jacob added resolutely. He held up his hand when Jack opened his mouth to protest. “ She’s my daughter, Jack. If it were your son, would you let me tell you what to do?”
Jack had no reply to that.
“ Um. Colonel?” Kawalsky brought Jack’s attention to him by lifting a hand. “ If you’re going back for Major Carter, I’m going with you.”
“ If I order you to go back to the ’gate with the others, you’ll go,” Jack retorted firmly. “ Geez, when did following orders become optional?”
“ With all due respect, *Sir*,” Kawalsky added purposely. “ I’ve been to the main chamber-thing. I know where it is and where the guards are. I can help.”
Knowing he was right, Jack sighed heavily and shook his head, effectively giving up. “ Okay. Everyone but Jacob, Kawalsky and myself, go back to the ’gate. Wait for no more than twenty minutes and if you find yourselves under attack, pull out immediately and go home. Understood?”
There was a chorus of ‘yes, sirs’ and the others left the cell, the Tok'ra following at a nod from Jacob. Jack started to follow them but came to a halt when Jacob stood in front of him.
“ Let me go first,” Jacob murmured. He pressed the button the helmet of the Serpent Guard armour he wore, covering his face. “ I can get in there without being detected, have a look around and let you know what’s happening.” His voice echoed from inside the helmet.
“ Fine.” Jack sighed with resignation. “ Go ahead. We’ll be ten paces behind you.”
Jacob nodded, knowing Jack wouldn’t be able to see through the helmet. Taking a deep breath and heeding Selmac’s warnings, he started out of the room, navigating the crystalline corridors the best he could with the unaccustomed weight of the armour on his back.
Ten seconds later, Jack and Kawalsky followed in silence, both men poised with their fingers over the triggers of their guns.
Just in case.
“ What do you think, my love?” Apophis asked Ammounet, who’s eyes glowed in response to his stroking Sam’s cheek as though she were a prized pet. “ Will she please you?”
“ She is very.. pleasing..” Ammounet responded in her hollow voice, her eyes narrowing slightly as she experienced some discomfort. “ I grow weary of this host. She has been.. restless.. since you brought that pathetic Tau’ri in here.”
Chuckling as Sam tensed at the reference to Daniel, Apophis dropped his hand from her cheek. “ You will not have to suffer much longer, Ammounet. Your host, on the other hand, will witness the death of that particular Tau’ri once you are free of her.. And I will take great pleasure in watching her pain.”
“ As will I.” Ammounet smiled lovingly as Apophis approached her, taking the seat next to hers. “ I am curious, my Lord, to what end does an alliance with these.. Tok'ra.. serve you? The one named Anise is responsible for reviving me and for empowering my host.. Why does she still live?”
“ They will supply us with all we need to know about the Tau’ri and Tok'ra,” Apophis explained smoothly. “ Then they will die.” He touched Sha’re’s cheek as Ammounet closed her eyes. “ If it weren’t for them, you would not have been returned to me. You would still be imprisoned and out of my reach.” He grinned maliciously. “ This.. alliance.. has served me well. I agreed to it only after learning they had taken you from your resting place and given you life once more. Their knowledge of the Tau’ri led them to where you were buried.. I am sure it will have further uses for us.” Out of the corner of his eye, Apophis noticed another guard join them and let his hand drop to his side, eyeing the newcomer warily. “ What news do you bring us?”
“ My Lord.” The guard walked over to him and knelt, with some difficult, in front of the throne-like chairs. “ The Tau’ri have escaped, my Lord. We have failed you, please forgive us.”
“ What?” Apophis rose to his feet, his eyes blazing. He kicked at the guard kneeling before him, taking little pleasure in the cry of pain he received as a result. “ How could this happen? Send for Anise!”
No sooner than the order had been issued, Anise appeared, visibly shaking with nerves. “ My Lord,” she lowered her head. “ I am sorry. It seems the Tau’ri and Tok'ra managed to get past the guards at the Chaapa'ai and into the tunnels.” She raised her head, biting her lip nervously. “ I am sorry, my Lord. They have taken the two prisoners and left.”
“ No,” Apophis shook his head vehemently, moving to stand beside Sam, yanking her to her feet brutally. “ They would not leave without this one, the Tau’ri see such distain in leaving one of their own behind. They would not leave without at least attempting to rescue you, would they?” He snarled, his face barely inches from Sam’s. “ You know them.. Where would they be? What are they planning?”
Sam, staring him evenly in the eyes, remained silent, trying to quell the hope she felt rising inside her.
“ Answer me!” Apophis roared, backhanding her viciously, so hard she would have been thrown to the floor under the force of it had her arm not been held tightly in his grasp.
“ Hey, snakehead!” Sam’s heart leapt up to her throat at the sound of the voice, followed by the sound of a Zat gun discharging. “ Looking for us?”
Jack and Kawalsky, with the surprising help of one of the guards, quickly took aim and wiped out all of the other Jaffa. In the end, only them, Anise, Apophis, Sam and Ammounet stood standing.
Grabbing Sam, Apophis pulled her in the direction of Ammounet, stopping when his Queen joined him on the floor of the room. “ You cannot win, Tau’ri,” he called out smugly, pulling Sam tighter against him. “ You will live to regret your defiance of us and then you shall die..”
“ At your hand.” Jack finished. “ Yeah, I’ve heard it before. Now let her go and no one gets hurt.”
Apophis laughed, a harsh sound that seemed to echo and bounce off the walls. “ No. Not at my hand, although I shall take great pleasure in watching.” He lifted a hand to Sam’s chin, roughly pulling her face so she had no choice but to meet Jack’s eyes, everything she was feeling clear for him to see despite the distance between them, all the fear and remorse. “ Your death will be at her hand, O’Neill. As will the deaths of the people of your world.”
Before Jack or Jacob or Kawalsky could move, Ammounet activated the ring devices using the bracelet-like-device on her wrist. In front of their eyes, Sam disappeared with Apophis and Ammounet, the look of fear in her eyes haunting them long after she’d gone.
The atmosphere in the briefing room was intense to say the least. Daniel was still in shock, staring into space in some sort of trance. Jack alternated between fidgeting with whatever was available and glaring at the three Tok'ra who sat at the table with them. Janet sat next to Kawalsky as he recounted what had happened after they’d been separated from the others, having to keep reassure herself he was really there. Teal’c sat in silence, listening intently as he cast the occasional concerned glance at the trembling archaeologist. He felt responsible for his friend’s state, his guilt stemming from that fateful day when he had chosen the host for Apophis’ Queen. General Hammond sat at the head of the table, taking mental note of everything that was being said, hoping to find some clue as to why the Tok'ra were so ill at ease.
“ So then we were taken by the guards to the main chamber, where Anise was waiting with Apophis.. and Sha’re,” Kawalsky explained, darting a quick glance at Daniel to see if he reacted to the statement. He didn’t. “ She.. Sha’re is still host to Ammounet but it seemed as though there was something wrong with her. She couldn’t stay in control as easily as..”
“ Sha’re?” General Hammond cut in, an eyebrow shooting skywards. “ I’m sorry to interrupt, Major, but I was under the impression the Goa’uld Ammounet no longer posed a threat to us.”
“ So were we, Sir,” Jack spoke up, giving the Tok'ra an icy stare. “ Seems our good *allies* have been keeping us in the dark again. An alliance with people who don’t trust us and only help us to help themselves isn’t really an alliance, is it?”
“ Jack, please..” It was Jacob, unable to hold his tongue any longer, his tone one of someone seeking forgiveness and understanding.
He was dismissed by the wave of Jack’s hand. “ I’d love to trust ya, Jake, but right now, Sam’s being held by someone we thought was dead.”
“ There is an explanation for this..” Jacob started to insist only to be cut off again.
“ An explanation?” Daniel spat out venomously, coming out of his stupor. “ You brought my wife back from the dead, kept her trapped as a prisoner in her own body and didn’t think to mention it? There is *nothing* you can say to explain this.. this..”
“ Doctor Jackson.” It was General Hammond, his tone soothing but firm. “ I understand your anger, son, but we owe it to Jacob and the Tok'ra to hear him out.” He turned slightly in his chair to face his friend. “ Jacob, if you’d like to explain..”
“ Thank you, George.” Jacob nodded and crossed his hands on the desk in front of him, lowering his head and allowing Selmac to take over. “ You must not blame Jacob,” he spoke in the voice of his symbiote. “ He was against this from the beginning but had no way of preventing it. He is extremely ashamed that the Tok’ra are responsible for this.” Bowing his head again, Jacob took control. “ It is the situation with Sha’re that has led the Tok'ra and the Tok'ra rebellion to this. There have been many who disagreed with the plan from the beginning but we were over-ruled but the High Council who, at the time, believed it to be a good idea.”
Sighing, Jacob unconsciously fidgeted with the paper on the desk in front of him. “ It was Anise’s idea. After we heard you had buried Sha’re on Abydos, Anise went to the High Council and suggested the Tok'ra operatives on the planet take Sha’re’s body and bring it to us.”
“ Body snatching? She suggested you dig up Sha’re’s body and you *did* it?” Disgust radiated off Daniel in waves. “ What gave you the right..”
“ Doctor Jackson.” The General’s tone held a warning note. “ Jacob, please continue.”
Nodding and shifting uncomfortably, Jacob did as he was told. “ This idea was met by many objections but Anise convinced the High Council it was the perfect opportunity to learn what the Goa’uld knew and to experiment in trying to teach the host to exert control over the symbiote. It was her idea that if we could teach one host to overrule the symbiote, we could teach others and defeat the Goa’uld from the inside literally.” He paused and shifted again. “ She was making progress. We used a device given to us by the Tollan to see who was in control, Sha’re or Ammounet, and were able to have several conversations with Sha’re without assisting in the process of subduing the symbiote. We knew, however, that she was in a lot of pain. A small group of us went to the High Council and asked them to stop the experiments and remove the Goa’uld. They wouldn’t listen. They were impressed with Anise’s progress, they did not know Anise had spent many hours talking to Ammounet. We assume it is Ammounet who encouraged the Tok'ra renegades to leave us and join Apophis although we know he somehow found out we were holding her and approached them first.”
“ Ammounet would have inflicted a lot of pain on Sha’re because she was fighting, wouldn’t she?” Daniel looked both angry and distressed at the same time. He got to his feet and started pacing, his fists clenched at his sides as he tried to reign in his temper. “ Will Sha’re still be fighting? Is that why they took Sam?” Disgust took precedence over his other emotions as his temper rose and he leaned over the table to glare at Jacob. “ They’re planning to make Sam Ammounet’s new host and you’re just sitting there? Don’t you feel any remorse for what you’ve done? Don’t you know your own daughter is going to be put through the same torture you put my wife through?”
“ I know that!” Jacob got to his own feet, his voice rising to match Daniel’s with the same edge of desperation in his tone. “ Don’t you think it hurts to know I could have prevented this? To know if only I’d been more forceful, your wife would be here with you and would have been spared that pain? To know it’s my fault my daughter is on a ship somewhere being prepared for the very thing she’s had nightmares about? Of course I know, Doctor Jackson! And of course I feel damn guilty for it but there’s nothing I can do right now! Not a thing!”
“ Jacob.” General Hammond stood and put a calming hand on his friend’s arm, feeling Jacob shaking as moisture glistened in his eyes.
He was stopped from saying more by Jack, who stood and ushered Daniel into his chair, concerned the young man was going to fall over. “ This isn’t doing anyone any good and certainly isn’t helping Sam,” Jack spoke, his voice suspiciously husky. “ We all need to take a time out and come up with a plan to get both Sam and Sha’re back with no snakes in either of them.”
General Hammond nodded, sympathy in his eyes. “ We do, son.” He looked to the others in the room. “ Everyone get a decent night’s sleep and we’ll meet tomorrow at 0800 hours to discuss a second rescue mission.”
“ We can’t do anything if we don’t know where they are,” Jacob muttered bitterly, devastation and defeat causing his face to age. “ George, I know this isn’t the right time to ask for favours..” He raised his eyes to those of his concerned friend. “ Now that the renegades have joined Apophis, it is not safe for the Tok'ra to stay on our home world. Although Anise and several others have been captured, we don’t know how much information Apophis has on us. I’ve been appointed on behalf of the Tok’ra to ask for sanctuary here on Earth until we can find somewhere new to live.”
“ I was expecting a request like that,” General Hammond told him, nodding. “ I took the liberty of putting the request forward to the President and Joint Chiefs and they granted permission for the Tok'ra to live here on base until you can move on.”
“ Thank you, George.” Jacob smiled gratefully if not a little weakly. “ We.. I.. appreciate it.”
“ You’re welcome.” General Hammond returned the smile fleetingly. “ The rest of you are dismissed until tomorrow. Colonel, I know your son would very much like to see you.”
Jack nodded shortly as the others started to file out. Janet and Kawalsky left first, followed by the other Tok'ra, who were no doubt going to tell their companions the good news. Jack stood by Daniel’s chair, clasping his shoulder with a hand. “ Daniel? Lets go. You and Teal’c are coming home with me.” He lifted his head to see General Hammond lead Jacob out of the room, relieved to know Sam’s Dad wouldn’t be alone even if he couldn’t invite him home out of fear of another argument between Jacob and Daniel.
“ Thanks Jack.” Daniel got to his feet a little unsteadily and the three men started walking towards the elevators, each thinking of the women they’d lost. “ What are you going to tell Charlie? He’ll want to know why Sam isn’t with us.”
Sighing heavily, Jack jabbed at the button of the elevator with his finger. “ I don’t know. I can’t tell him the truth, that’s for sure.” The truth was sure to devastate the young boy and Jack couldn’t do that. Not when the only thing keeping him going was knowing that he had a young son to take care of and that Sam wouldn’t want Charlie to suffer in any way.
As strange as it sounded, Sam found the humming of the ship comforting. She didn’t feel as alone with the steady drumming all around her. The room she was being kept in was also a great improvement compared to the cell-like-quarters she had been imprisoned in with Daniel and Kawalsky. Of course, Sam knew the reason she was being given the royal treatment. Apophis had hinted that she would be host to Ammounet once the Goa’uld was removed from Sha’re – why it would be removed, she had no idea. It wasn’t until the first of what would be many visits from Apophis’ Queen that gave Sam the answers she needed.
The door opened with a small mechanical hiss and the sound of material shifting against material alerted Sam to the fact her visitor was not a guard as she’d been expecting. Looking up, she was startled to find herself face-to-face with Sha’re.
“ Leave us.” Surprisingly, she used the voice of Sha’re to address the guard that had accompanied her though this didn’t seem to faze the guard, who followed her orders without question. As soon as the doors closed, Sha’re seemed to crumple to the floor. Sam stood, hovering between keeping her distance and going to help. Sha’re looked up, her face contorted with pain. “ Please,” he breathed out. “ Help me.”
Driven by compassion for this woman in front of her and hope for Daniel, Sam moved quickly to Sha’re’s side, kneeling down beside her. “ Sha’re?”
“ It is me,” the woman rasped, beads of concentration running down her face. “ I have been taught to control the demon within me yet I cannot fight her for much longer.” She gave Sam a pleading glance. “ Please help me.”
“ I’ll do all I can, I promise,” Sam stated, knowing she would do all she could to honour her vow.
“ Thank you.” A strained smile graced Sha’re’s lips but was lost in an exclamation of pain. “ I have come.. to warn you.” She raised her head again to stare earnestly into Sam’s eyes. “ To warn you.. of Apophis’ plans for you.”
Sam hushed her as she felt Sha’re shake violently with the exertion. “ You can do that later. It’s taking too much of your energy to talk.. You should save it so you can keep fighting.”
Shaking her head, Sha’re tried to protest. “ He plans.. to use you. You will be.. host.. to the demon within me. I fight.. too much.. You must.. go.. before he takes.. her from me,” Sha’re gasped, clearly beginning to lose her strength and the on-going battle between herself and the Goa’uld she held inside.
“ I’m not going anywhere without you,” Sam promised. “ There might be a chance we can both get away in the time after they take Ammounet from you and put her in me.”
“ No.” Sha’re shook her head. “ No time. It will.. be done immediately. You must leave, Samantha. And tell Dan’ya.. I love him.”
“ You’ll get to tell him yourself,” Sam insisted, tightening her hold on Sha’re as the young and frightened woman leaned more heavily against her. “ Just hold on a little longer, Sha’re.”
“ I cannot –” Her words were drowned by the scream that was brought on by Ammounet reasserting her control. Her eyes glowed as she grasped onto Sam’s arms in a painful vice, a brief flash of bewilderment in her expression. “ Tau’ri..” Her eyes narrowed as she tightened her grip on Sam, a delighted smile curving her lips at Sam’s grimace. “ You were speaking with my host. What did she say to you?”
Sam said nothing, and instead tried to pull away, angering Ammounet further.
“ Answer me you pathetic woman!” Ammounet got to her feet, a little unsteadily at first, dragging Sam up with her. She pulled Sam closer, until there were only mere inches between them. “ I will enjoy causing you pain and suffering,” Ammounet spat out. “ I will enjoy your surrender to me and my Lord.”
“ That will never happen.” Sam swore vehemently and was rewarded by a slap that stung her already bruised cheek and sent her careening towards the floor as Ammounet relinquished her hold.
“ Whatever you and this.. feeble host.. have planned will not come to fruition. She will die at your hand once the exchange has been made.” A pleased smile played on her lips. “ Yes, I will enjoy possessing you immensely, as I will enjoy destroying Earth once we are joined.”
With a haughty look, Ammounet spun on her heel and opened the doors, her head held high as she left the room and stormed down the corridor outside. Sam saw the Jaffa outside clear a path for her, fear in their eyes, before the doors slid closed.
There was nothing she feared more. After her encounter with Jolinar, the prospect of being a host both terrified and disgusted her. It was an experience she relived in her darkest nightmares and one she would rather avoid by dying than have to repeat it again.
The night passed slowly. Jack couldn’t sleep at all, having grown accustomed to Sam’s warmth beside him and having lied to his son as to her whereabouts. He hated himself for that. For letting her get captured in the first place, for not being able to get her back, for having to look into Charlie’s trusting eyes and promise everything would be okay. He hated breaking promises and spent the night hoping this was one he wouldn’t have to break.
After downing two cups of Daniel’s coffee, Jack drove himself, Teal’c and Daniel to the SGC after dropping Charlie off at Janet’s house. Sombreness was the overall mood in the car. Daniel was silent, staring unseeingly at the passing scenery, registering none of its beauty, haunted by the face of the woman he loved and thought he had lost. Teal’c was also silent, though it wasn’t much of a surprise. Jack could see past the blankness of his expression, however, and could see the remorse his friend tried to hide.
Sighing to himself, Jack listlessly tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove, instinct leading the way to the mountain as he tried unsuccessfully to get his mind off Sam and the fear that the next time he saw her, her eyes would glow moments before she killed him with the blast of a hand device. Shaking his head to dismiss those thoughts, he forced himself to concentrate on the twists and turns of the road ahead, resolutely telling himself they’d find her before that happened.
They had to.
Luck seemed to be on their side.
Shortly after arriving at the SGC, SG-1 were summoned to the briefing room where General Hammond, Jacob and Aldwin already sat waiting for them. Kawalsky arrived last, slightly out of breath, and took his seat just as Jacob brought out a round silver ball and placed it on the table in front of them.
Jack’s eyes lit up with recognition when he saw it. “ Isn’t that one of those communication-ball-thingys?” He asked, pointing at the object.
“ Yes, it is.” Jacob nodded, a small but hopeful grin tugging at his lips. “ Earlier this morning we received the first of two transmissions.” He looked to General Hammond to pick up the story.
“ It seems one of the so-called Tok'ra renegades joined them as a spy for the Tok'ra. He contacted Jacob and the other Tok'ra this morning with news on Major Carter and on Sha’re,” General Hammond added, noticing the sudden interest that leapt into Daniel’s eyes. “ Now I don’t want you to get your hopes up..”
“ In case it’s a trap,” Jack finished, fidgeting with the paper on the desk in front of him.
“ Exactly,” General Hammond nodded. “ But it does seem to be genuine. Aldwin recognised the contact’s name and believes he is truly on our side.”
“ What did he say?” Daniel asked hopefully. “ We’re going to get them, right?”
It was Jacob who answered, nodding slowly. “ We are going to use him information to plan a second rescue mission. George and I have discussed it a great length and we believe we stand a higher chance of success if only a few of us attempt it.” He shifted in his chair. “ We must, however, act quickly. Our contact has told us of Apophis’ plans and it seems that you, Major Kawalsky, were correct in stating Apophis plans to use Sam as Ammounet’s new host. It seems.. It seems Sha’re is fighting her symbiote more often and the inner-battle is wearing on both Ammounet’s and Apophis’ patience. The Goa’uld plan to remove Ammounet from Sha’re forcefully and implanting the symbiote in Sam straight away.”
“ Forcefully?” Daniel chose to voice his concern. “ Can the Goa’uld do that?”
“ Not without killing the host, I’m sorry, Doctor Jackson,” Aldwin answered honestly, sympathy shining in his eyes.
“ Which is why,” Jacob hurriedly continued, “ we plan to execute the rescue mission before they do that so we can bring both Sha’re and Sam home. Once here, the Tok’ra will be able to remove the symbiote without harming Sha’re.”
Eyes wide, Daniel turned his attention from his contemplation of the wood grain in the table to the retired General. “ You can do that? Without being on your planet?”
“ When the Tok'ra was granted asylum here, we evacuated our planet. All of our technology has been transported to Earth,” Jacob explained. “ If we can get Sha’re to Earth before they removed the symbiote, we will be able to help her, Daniel.”
A small silence descended over them as the news was absorbed. Teal’c tilted his head to one side, contemplating the wisdom of going in with only a few people but decided he would go alone if it meant he could finally put right something he had done wrong.
“ So.” If was Jack, unsurprisingly, who eventually broke the silence. “ When do we leave?”
“ The second transmission gave us the address and a time. Apophis will land his ship on one of the planets in his power so that a Jaffa priest can overlook the ceremony of removing Ammounet from Sha’re and blending her with Sam.” Jacob replied determinedly. “ With a bit of luck, our contact will manage to get both Sha’re and Sam within the vicinity of the Stargate so all we’ll need to do is sedate Sha’re and high-tail it out of there.”
“ Sedate Sha’re?” Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “ Why do we have to do that?”
“ For her own safety as well as ours,” Aldwin supplied in a mollifying tone. “ She will be exhausted from fighting Ammounet. She won’t be able to control the Goa’uld indefinitely and it is best if she is sedated when we perform the separation.”
“ Okay.” Daniel nodded, placated for the time being.
“ SG-1, you have just under two hours to prepare for this mission,” General Hammond shuffled the papers on the desk and glanced at each officer in turn. “ If we don’t succeed in this, I’m not authorized to allow any further rescue attempts.” He paused, a line creasing his brow. “ Do your best, and bring our people home.”
“ Yes, Sir.” Kawalsky and Jack spoke in unison as the others nodded solemnly.
If it was the last chance they were going to get, they were going to make sure they did everything they could to make a successful one.
Disorientated, Sam barely knew what was happening as she was ushered from her quarters. She was roughly pushed from one Jaffa to the other, eventually ending up standing beside Ammounet, with Apophis standing to one side.
“ Are you sure you will not join us, my love?” Ammounet asked, smiling at the Jaffa who secured Sam beside her.
“ Soon, my Queen,” Apophis smiled back at her, his eyes wavering to Sam’s face as his grin grew decidedly more wicked. “ I will join you within the hour. There will be much to celebrate when we next meet: the defeat of the insolent host you now possess, and the claiming of this woman the Tau’ri hold so dear.” He stepped closer and brought Ammounet’s hand up to his lips, kissing her knuckles tenderly. “ Be careful, Ammounet. I do not wish to loose you again.” She smiled again as he stepped back and activated the transport rings.
With a flash of light, Sam, Ammounet/Sha’re and two Jaffa were deposited on a sandy planet. As Sam looked around her, trying to get her bearings, one of the Jaffa revealed a Zat gun and took aim at the second guard, shooting him twice before he had a chance to react.
“ Major Samantha Carter.” The Jaffa spoke, pulling Sha’re’s hands behind her back as Ammounet protested vocally and loudly. “ My name is Ka’Mir of the Tok'ra. We do not have much time so I ask you to trust me.”
“ Be careful,” Sam warned as Sha’re let out an exclamation of pain, having pushed her symbiote to the side. She took a step closer to the pair, anxiety shining in her blue eyes. “ Sha’re? Are you okay?”
“ Yes.” Sha’re breathed heavily, the pallor of her face unusually pale as she shivered despite the heat of the sun. “ I do not.. know how.. long I can fight.”
“ We must hurry, Major Carter,” the Ka’Mir insisted, his nervousness palatable. “ If we do not make our way to the Stargate, we will not be able to escape.”
Torn between wanting to know more and wanting to go home, Sam eventually nodded and sighed. “ Okay. Which way do we go?”
“ That way,” Ka’Mir pointed in the direction of the huge sand dunes. “ The stargate is just over the sand mound.”
“ Then lets go.” Sam cast a glance at Sha’re as they stared hurriedly walking. “ Are you going to be okay, Sha’re?”
Concentrating on overwhelming her Goa’uld, Sha’re’s nod was followed a few minutes later by her plea. “ If I.. cannot.. fight her.. Please.. Do not let her.. take control again.”
Gritting her teeth, knowing what Sha’re wanted her to do, Sam nodded reluctantly, swearing to herself it wouldn’t come to that. Taking hold of Sha’re’s other arm, Sam and Ka’Mir quickened the pace, each focused on the act of escaping, neither daring to think of what the punishment would be was their attempt to fail.
Pacing on the sand in front of the Stargate, Jack was creating a mini-trench. He glanced down at his watch for what seemed to be the fifteenth time in just under a minute. Sighing heavily, he looked up and caught Jacob’s eye. “ They should have been here by now.”
“ Not necessarily, Jack.” Jacob answered soothingly, trying to appease his own worry at the same time as Jack’s. “ Ka’Mir said they would be transported at a certain time, he couldn’t say how long it would take them to get here.”
“ Can’t we go and meet them?” Jack asked, itching to do something other than pace.
Shaking his head, Jacob stood and stretched. “ We can’t risk being spotted by Apophis.” He gazed compassionately at the younger man. “ I know how you feel, Son. We’ve just got to trust Ka’Mir to do as he promised.”
“ Trust a Tok'ra,” Daniel muttered from his own position of sitting on the steps leading up to the Stargate. “ Yeah, right.” As if realising he’d spoke aloud, his head snapped upwards and he made a small gesture of apology. “ Sorry.”
“ Perfectly understandable, Doctor Jackson,” Jacob assured him. “ If I were you, I don’t think I’d be so trusting either.”
“ Colonel!” It was Kawalsky, calling out from the top of one of the surrounding sand dunes where he’d been keeping watch. He motioned vigorously for Jack to go to him, using hand gestures to tell him to stay low.
Clambering up the sand dune, Jack approached quietly. “ What is it, Kawalsky?”
“ I see ’em,” Kawalsky murmured, peeking over the top of the hill. “ It’s Sam and Sha’re with a Jaffa. Only they’re being followed.”
Jack risked a glance over the top of the dune and cursed vehemently at what he saw. Sam and a Jaffa, assisting a stumbling Sha’re whilst attempting to keep far enough ahead of the dozen Jaffa racing after them. “ We’re gonna have to go and help them.”
“ My thoughts exactly,” Jacob’s voice in his ear startled him and showed on his face. “ What? That’s my daughter out there.”
Nodding, Jack motioned for the others – Teal’c, Daniel, Aldwin and another Tok'ra to join them. “ We’re going to lay down cover for them. Daniel, you go and help Sam get Sha’re here – administer the sedative the Tok'ra and Doc. Fraiser gave you. It should be easier that way. Teal’c, you and Jacob try and take out those on the left, Kawalsky, you and me take the ones on the right. Aldwin, I’m trusting you guys with keeping the ’gate free. Okay?”
No one had any complaints and quickly started doing what they were meant to. Dodging the staff blasts aimed at them, they advanced on their enemy. Daniel reached Sha’re and Sam just as Ka’Mir, the Tok'ra in the Jaffa armoury who was helping them, caught a staff blast in his back. Crying out with pain, Ka’mir slumped forward, loosing his grip on Sha’re.
“ Ka’Mir!” Leaving Daniel to hold his wife, Sam scooted over to the fallen Tok'ra and pressed the button on the helmet, disengaging the front panel. “ Ka’Mir? Can you hear me?”
The man inside nodded as his eyes rolled forward and tried to focus on her face. “ I.. am dying,” he gasped, unable to catch his breath, his eyes bright with tears as he pleaded with her. “ Please.. Do not.. let them capture me.. You must.. you must..” His voice trailed off as he breathed in one last, shaky breath.
Knowing what she had to do, Sam wiped the tear from her cheek and steadied herself by putting a hand on the ground. With her other hand, she pried the zat gun from his unresisting hand and closed her eyes. Standing on legs that threatened to give way, she wasn’t allowed a moment to ponder the irony of having to do this twice. Turning her face away slightly, she took aim and fired; once, twice, three times.
Ka’Mir was no more.
“ Sam?” Daniel sounded concerned by she dismissed the question in his voice with the wave of the zat gun. “ I.. I gave Sha’re a sedative to help her fight the Goa’uld. We have tog et her back to the Stargate.”
“ I know.” Sam was sombre as she moved back over to Daniel who was supporting all of Sha’re’s weight now the woman was unconscious. Oblivious to the weapon’s fire all around her, unable to hear Jack’s orders to the others to fall back, Sam focused all her energy on helping support Sha’re as they ran as fast as they could.
She didn’t stop to think about the loss of another life. She couldn’t, not yet. Not when there was another life to be saved.
By the time they reached the gate, she was straining to catch her breath, the heat and exhaustion catching up with her. She waited impatiently as Aldwin put in the co-ordinates to Earth, waited for Daniel to announce he’d sent the IDC and was immediately moving again once he gave the word.
On the other side, there was the usual bustle of the gateroom when a wormhole was established but she didn’t notice any of it. She relinquished Sha’re into the waiting gurney and watched through someone else’s eyes as Daniel followed it out of the room. She walked unsteadily to the bottom of the ramp, turning back just in time to see the others tumble through the event horizon just mere moments before it disengaged and then gave into the dizzying waves of confusion and relief, having no time to cry out as the grid of the ramp rushed up to meet her.
After collapsing from fatigue and dehydration, Sam was confined to the infirmary for 36 hours. In that time, although she wasn’t allowed to leave her bed, she had two visits from Charlie, each lasting between two and three hours, and was kept up-to-date on what was happening with Sha’re. The Tok'ra worked quickly once Sha’re had been brought through and although the removal of Ammounet had gone well, Sha’re was still exhausted and was being kept under observation in her own room. From what Sam heard, Daniel hadn’t left her side for more than ten minutes, despite the fact the woman was yet to stay conscious for that long.
Eventually, inevitably, Sam was allowed to get out of bed and the first place she ended up was in a debriefing with General Hammond and all of SG-1, minus Daniel who was keeping vigil at his wife’s bedside. She told them all everything she knew and could remember, faltering a little when it came to the part where she had to kill Ka’Mir. Jack, who had claimed the seat on her left, took her hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze, giving her the support she needed to get past it.
“ And then I woke up here,” Sam finished, doing her best to stifle a yawn.
General Hammond, however, saw it and hid a small smile behind his hand. “ All right, thank you, Major. That wraps everything up, I’ll expect your report on my desk in a week – no sooner. You’re all on downtime for the next seven days and I don’t expect to see any of you on base – unless you’re visiting Sha’re and Doctor Jackson.” Everyone nodded at this, the mood one of relief. “ Okay, then. SG-1, you are dismissed.”
Kawalsky and Teal’c got up and left quickly, Kawalsky to see Janet and Teal’c to return to sitting beside Daniel in Sha’re’s room. Sam took her time in getting to her feet, still feeling the effects of the ordeal. Jack was at her side constantly, ready to support her the moment she gave the word.
“ Colonel, Major.” General Hammond’s voice stopped them from leaving the briefing room. “ If I can have a word with you both for a moment?”
“ Of course, Sir.” Sam responded as Jack nodded as they stood to attention.
“ Now,” the General started, getting to his feet. “ It’s come to my attention that the two of you may.. or may not.. be involved in a relationship that is unsuitable given your position to one another in the chain of command. However,” he held his hand up to stop the words from coming out of their mouths, protests or admissions, he didn’t know. Nor, at that moment, did he care. Their last mission had been a lesson to him, a lesson in just how fragile life could be. “ Until I know for certain, one way or another, I cannot and will not act on these.. rumours. I feel you should both know the regulations of the SGC are up for review at the end of the month. Until then, I have a.. temporary proposal for the both of you.”
“ We’re listening,” Jack murmured, unconsciously reaching out to take Sam’s hand.
“ I understand you’re in an.. unusual situation, with regards to your son’s arrival and his.. belief.. that Major Carter should be his mother so I have taken the liberty of approaching the joint chiefs with an usual albeit temporary solution to any.. problems that may arise due to regulations.. until the regulations in question can be amended.” General Hammond hid his grin. “ Colonel, would you have any problem with Major Carter being promoted to being joint Commanding Officer of SG-1?”
Blinking, Jack stared at the General for a few seconds as a grin threatened to divide his face. “ No, Sir. I’d have no problems at all.” A thought occurred to him and he frowned. “ Would that work? With me being second-in-command of the base?”
“ Not exactly,” General Hammond shook his head. “ Technically, Major Carter would still be your subordinate..”
“ What if I stepped down from being your second?” Jack asked suddenly, tightening his hold on Sam’s hand when she started to protest. “ I mean.. The paperwork thing isn’t really me anyway, Sir.”
“ I’d noticed,” General Hammond grinned, a thoughtful expression arranging his features. “ I think that can be set up. Temporarily,” he added. “ You’re a damn fine second, Jack. And if I don’t find a replacement by the time the new regulations are in action.. The job’s yours.”
“ Yes, Sir,” Jack beamed. “ Thank you, Sir.”
“ Good, I’m glad that’s settled.” General Hammond’s grin widened at the slightly dazed look on the Major’s face, getting the impression her body wasn’t the only aspect of her that needed a few days to catch up. “ Now, you’re dismissed. I’m sure your son would love to see you.”
Nodding his thanks again, Jack ushered a shell-shocked Sam from the room, grinning from ear-to-ear. General Hammond went to his office and closed the door behind them. He sunk into his chair and sighed contentedly, sharing a grin with the other occupant of the room.
“ You did good, George. Thank you.”
“ My pleasure, Jacob. My pleasure.”
Before going home to see Charlie, Sam insisted they say goodbye to Daniel and get the latest on Sha’re. She tugged on Jack’s hand as they made their way through the corridors; the only thing keeping her on her feet was the thought of seeing Sha’re one more time to make sure it was all real before going home and sinking into bed, with Jack cradling her from behind and Charlie in her arms.
Knocking softly on the door, she didn’t wait for a reply before entering and pulling Jack in behind her, giving him no choice but to follow and close the door. She moved over to the spare chairs on the opposite side to Daniel and Teal’c and sat down, grateful for the being able to get off her feet.
“ How is she?” She asked Daniel softly, picking up the hand nearest to her.
“ Tired,” Daniel answered quietly, the smile that hadn’t left his face since the Tok'ra had finished still present despite his own weariness. “ But alive. She’s alive.” The smile widened as tears shone in his eyes. “ She’s going to be okay. Janet said she should start regaining her strength soon, she might even be allowed out of here in a few days.”
“ That’s good.” Jack commented, taking the seat beside Sam. “ That’s real good, Daniel.” He was genuinely pleased for his friend, genuinely content with the way things had turned out.
The door opened and Janet slipped in, followed, predictably, by Kawalsky. “ Not interrupting, are we?” She asked in the same gentle tone the others had used, no one willing to break the tranquillity that had settled over the room.
“ Pull up a chair.” Daniel grinned at them both, having apologised to them days earlier at Sha’re’s bedside.
Teal’c looked around the room at his friends, at his family, and felt a great sense of peace fill him. His friend’s were all at ease and all was calm, their inner turmoil’s settled for the time being.
Over the last four years, SG-1 had faced many challenges and changes, their personalities and attitudes changing and developing with every new experience. The last few months were no different and SG-1 was still the same team, a family of very different people united against a common foe, who had found in each other something they hadn’t known was missing in their lives.
Nothing had really changed. Not really. The family, although different, was still the same. It was just a little bigger now, and growing all the time.
End of Reflective Fate III: Fate’s Entwined.