Daniel looked at Jack.
That familiar mixture of childlike excitement and pleading fighting for top spot in his eyes. The same look that Jack just *knew* meant his favourite little archaeologist had found something new and wanted to go explore.
Glancing first to Teal'c and then to his Major and then finally to the big stone "thing" that had caught Daniel's attention, Jack did his best to bite back his grin,
"Yes Danny, you can go play. Teal'c make sure he doesn't get into any trouble"
Before the last syllable had been uttered, Daniel turned and virtually ran over to the stone steps and proceeded to climb right up to the top. While Teal'c inclined his head towards Jack and began to follow in Daniel's wake.
From the corner of his eye, Jack noticed the smirk that now resided on the lips of Sam Carter at her friend's enthusiasm. Turning to face her fully he echoed her expression and raised his hands in a defeated gesture,
That earned him a real smile, a smile that did what it always did to his insides. Shaking his head slightly to remove the sudden influx of hormones to his brain, Jack forced himself to concentrate on the mission at hand.
"So, Carter, any signs of life yet?" asked Jack, while simultaneously glancing over at Daniel to make sure he was ok. Not that he didn't trust Teal'c, but Jack knew from past experience that Daniel could *always* find trouble.
It didn't help that Jack's gut was warning him, there was something hedidn't like about this. He didn't know what or why, but there was just *something*.
"Well Sir" Began Carter as she watched the little bright lights flicker on her do-hickeys, "I'm not picking up any radio waves or radiation, but the UAV did show a small village about a mile from here."
"OK, Major. Then I guess we can let Daniel look around some more before we go meet and greet and say hello" he replied with a smile as he began to walk towards Teal'c knowing without doubt that his Major would let his actions lead hers and fall right instep behind him.
"O'Neill, I believe DanielJackson has noted something of importance" Teal'c stated as Jack and Sam both craned their necks to see Daniel on the highest point of the structure.
"Yo, Danny-boy! What you found?" shouted Jack
"Jack, Sam… you guys should see this, it's amazing. At first I thought it look Mayan, but when I got up here, it's actually more reminiscent of Aztec and…"
"Ack! Daniel!" interrupted Jack, non-too quietly "can we have the Reader's Digest Version please? Preferably from a height that doesn't give us all a headache?"
Jack could have sworn he saw Daniel pout just a little as he reluctantly climbed down to join them.
"As I was saying Jack, the inscriptions and drawings are more Aztec and on top of the steps there seems to be a…"
Suddenly Jack saw something move to his left and instinctively crouched and raised his weapon, Teal'c and Sam reacting to his movement did exactly the same. However it was already too late. Something flew past Jacks right side and just as he realised what it must have been, he heard the shout of pain from Daniel and turned just in time to see what looked like a spear protruding grotesquely from the archaeologist's thigh.
Before any of them had chance to react, they all came up close and personal with very sharp, very pointed objects in very delicate places.
"Lower your weapons!" An authoritative voice boomed from above Jack.
Risking a furtive glance to the rest of his team, Jack realised that they where in trouble. Carter was surrounded, as was Teal'c. Daniel too, even though he was in no condition to fight anyone.
"What if we don't?" Questioned Jack. His irreverence as usual, a mask against the feeling of "Oh Shit" now firmly embedded in his gut. However, all it earned him was a fist connecting with his jaw. As he fell backwards, he heard Carter's fear for him as she shouted "SIR!" earning herself a violent shove to the ground.
Looking back up into his captor's eyes, Jack could see that they had indeed got a big problem on their hands. He could tell by the look in his eyes that this man was in no mood for diplomacy (not that that was his strong suit anyway). Just before Jack could make any further comment, the voice boomed once again.
"Who are you and how dare you defile the temple of the Deity!"
'OK, Danny come on… it's only a spear in the leg… this is where we need you' thought Jack in vain. Oh well… he could do diplomacy, couldn't be *that* difficult. Right?
"We're explorers from a planet called Earth" Began Jack. He'd heard this speech from Daniel enough times through the years to be able to use it now. "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill, that is Major Samantha Carter, that's Teal'c and the guy with your spear in his leg, thanks so much for that by the way, is Dr. Daniel Jackson"
Hearing the tactful cough from his Major, Jack realised that he was heading in the wrong direction with these guys.
"Ok, we didn't know anything about "defiling a temple" and we're really sorry. But you should put a sign there, you know something like 'Archaeologists keep the hell off. Do not explore cause we don't like it much' That kinda thing" This time the cough from Carter came slightly too late, as again a fist connected with the other side of his jaw.
Jack struggled back to his previous position, rubbing at his now tender jaw as he heard Carter attempt a more acceptable form of diplomacy.
"Look, we didn't realise that we where dishonouring your beliefs. Please accept our apologies. We came here to explore and meet new people, in the hope of becoming friends, is there some way we can make up for…"
Sam didn't get chance to finish as she was cut short by their leader.
"Friends do not defile our temple. Our Deity is sacred and in all the generations has never ever been defiled by human contact. We demand retribution. Under our laws, you have committed a crime punishable by death. Therefore you must die."
"Now just wait a minute!" Bellowed Jack, pushing himself higher. "You've already injured one of my team, you will NOT injure or kill anymore of them!" The look in Jack's eyes held no room to question his utter conviction as Sam jumped into the conversation once again.
"We'll leave. We'll take everything and leave and never come back"
The leader completely ignored her attempt and looked at Jack once
"You are the leader, yes?"
"Yes I am"
"Then it is you that will be held for death."
Jack kept is face carefully neutral as he heard Sam's intake of breath followed by Daniel's weak cry of "no" and Teal'c's "that is not acceptable"
Again completely ignoring anyone else the leader continued to address Jack alone.
"You are the leader. Therefore you are responsible for their actions. You gave authority for exploration. As such you are held accountable"
Before Jack could formulate an answer, he saw Teal'c move, taking two guards with him before he too fell back in pain, another ugly spear had hit him squarely in the shoulder. Jack decision made in a spilt second.
"STOP!" He screamed. "You've made your point. Yes I am the leader; yes I take responsibility for my team. So if you want retribution use me. But you let my team go home. *Now*"
The leader thought for a moment before answering. "That is acceptable appeasement" and motioning towards the remainder of his guards, they stepped away from Daniel, Teal'c and Sam, who immediately ran to her two injured friends before looking back to her colonel.
"Sir you can't do this"
"Yes Major I can, and I have. Decision's made. Get yourself, Teal'c and Daniel home."
"No Sir" her eyes flashed, Jack knew that she wouldn't just accept this decision.
"Carter. You have two injured members of the team who need medical attention. Get them home safely. That is your priority." His command voice very much evident in his tone.
"Colonel! I will not walk away while they take you to your death" Her eyes screamed at him, showing more than concern for a superior officer, but he had to ignore them.
"Major Carter! I am giving you a direct order to get your team home. Is that understood?" He schooled his eyes so that they showed a cold detachment that he was proud of. He had to make her go. He had to make sure his team was safe.
"No Sir! What happened to no one gets left behind?" her eyes locked with his and Jack saw that much admired determination in every aspect of her. As the surrounding guards began to tightly bind his hands while a looser bind was placed around his feet to allow him to walk, Jack tried again.
"Major… follow my order and get the hell out of here!" his voice took on that dangerous quality that worked wonders with so many people. Not this person though.
"LEAVE ME! You have to get them home!"
"I know I do. I also have to get *you* home!"
It was a battle of wills that Jack knew he wasn't going to win. So he changed tactics as he was unceremoniously hauled to his feet by burly guards.
"Jesus Sam! Please don't make my last order worthless." He let his eyes implore her and he saw the momentary loss of composure in her blue ones. Suddenly lost in her unwavering gaze he asked quietly, "Why won't you follow my last order?"
"I won't follow it because I care about you, you jerk…" God she was angry, he could tell. But what he saw and heard next nearly sent him back to his knees. "… A *lot* more than I'm supposed to"
Jack could feel himself nearly fly apart at her words. In another time or place those words had meant so much, to both of them. But the same thing that stopped him leaving her once before was now kicking in to make sure she would leave him. Using the only thing he had left he spoke, letting his eyes speak in conjunction with his words, he cupped her face with his bound hands and whispered,
"Please Sam… " He could tell by the way she blinked back tears, that it wasn't orders she was going to follow. But rather a plea from him and a look that showed her everything.
He watched her as she broke his gaze, looked to Teal'c and then Daniel and then finally back to him. Her words so quiet he nearly missed them.
Smiling once more into her eyes before his captors dragged him away he spoke to her for what he knew was probably the last time.
"Thank you Sam"
Feeling the rope dig into his wrists as he was pulled along, Jack twisted his neck as far as he could, he had to make sure. He saw her shoulders stiffen and her features compose. That was his Major. Not able to look backwards anymore (thanks to the spear that now found a home at the base of his skull) Jack contented himself with what he could hear. Sam asking if Teal'c could help her support Daniel, Teal'c's assurance that he could and that junior was already helping, and Daniel's innocent question about what was going on. He heard her answer and he smiled. 'Yes Sam that's right you are following orders.'
"Sam, we can't just leave him," Daniel said weakly, the blood loss starting to take its toll on him.
"Daniel I had no choice. You and Teal'c need medical help, and I was ordered to get you home" Sam's voice didn't waver and it was something she was eternally grateful for. The last thing she needed right now was to be reminded that she had left the man she loved to die, because she was following orders.
"O'Neill is a great warrior MajorCarter. He will prevail"
"Yeah Teal'c. He is"
If Teal'c or Daniel noticed that she only agreed with the fact that he was a "great warrior" they didn't comment, again she was grateful. She was more grateful however a few minutes later when the Stargate came into view.
"Teal'c, you get Daniel to the base of the gate. I'll dial home and send the GDO code. You get him through that gate Teal'c."
"I will MajorCarter" She nodded her grateful thanks. As Daniel came to a little as a result of being passed totally to Teal'c.
"Sam? You're going back for him aren't you?" Daniel knew it wasn't a question, rather a statement, but he asked it anyway as the event horizon whooshed to life and she sent the signal.
"Damn right I am Daniel." Daniel smiled at her determination and wondered if she knew how much she reminded him of Jack at that moment. "He ordered me to get you home. I've done that. If he wants to bring me up on charges, he can. Once he's home"
Teal'c merely nodded to her as he began to walk Daniel up the ramp. Just before they disappeared through the wormhole, Daniel shouted.
"See you both soon Sam"
His faith in her rallied her spirits. 'Yes Daniel, you will' she thought as she quickly headed back to where she had last seen her Colonel, hoping that her tracking skills wouldn't let her down and praying that she wouldn't be too late.
Jack kicked out at a loose piece of dirt. As prison cells went this certainly lived up to his expectations. Dirty, smelly and small. Kicking out again in bored frustration, he half wished that they would just get this over with. Whoever said anticipation was half the fun had obviously never been in this situation!
Finally making himself still, he sat down. This was it. He was going to die. No going out in a blaze of glory for him, no… he was going to die cause of a pile of rocks! He smiled to himself. This was the way it should be. He was gonna die so that he could save his team, and if someone had have given him the choice, he would of chose this. Not through some self-congratulatory response, or so he could play the martyr. But because he *was* their leader, and because he knew that his team, his family where safe.
His life for theirs? Damn good trade in his opinion.
The best thing being that he *knew* that they where safe. He didn't have to worry that they were out there somewhere injured, maybe dying because they wanted to help him out of this. He'd seen to that. He knew that Carter was the one person he could rely on to put her duty before her emotions, and for once he was oh so grateful for that. Granted, the emotional blackmail was low, but he'd had no choice. He had to make her get her team home, to make her see that her duty lay with them, not him. And she had, thank god, but not after letting him know how she felt.
He felt his heart lurch again as he remembered her words, an echo of another time. The sentiment as strong for her as it was for him. That had never changed, he loved her then, he loved her now and he would love her forever.
At the time it had taken every single ounce of willpower that he possessed to leave it in the room as she asked. But he had, because he knew that she wasn't ready to take that step and he wouldn't ask her too. Not with so much to loose. So they had coped, as best as they could and it had worked. It was only after a meeting with General Hammond a few days after the "Anise debacle" as he has christened it, that Jack was given a real problem with that damn room.
He remembered it so clearly. Hammond had asked to see him about a mission report, so in he went suspecting nothing. What he got however *was* a huge, great big honkin' shock. Hammond had found out about them, somehow Jack knew that he would, he was base commander after all, but he had hoped… boy had he hoped.
Jack had expected a serious talking to, an order for reassignment for one of them and possibly even a reprimand. He had got neither.
Instead Hammond informed him that certain rules had been bent a while ago when it became apparent to him that two of his finest officers would give him big problems down the line if he didn't pre-empt them. So within a few days of their first meeting Hammond had secured this adapted protocol. Acting quickly so if the regs couldn't get bent, he could let them have the Abydos mission together and then reassign one of them before anything else could happen. As it happened he hadn't needed to and so Jack was given only a serious warning that involved "hurting the Major" and "Med exams from hell".
Jack, possibly for the first time in his life, had actually taken the time to think about the consequences of this information. Sure he could run right upto her and confess his undying love, ask her to marry him and have his children, but even he knew that wasn't a good option. For one, she'd just lost Martouf, and he may be an insensitive jerk sometimes, but even he wasn't that dumb. For two, she was the one who wanted it left in the room and for three, he knew she wasn't ready to mix duty and emotion, which she would have to do if they had a chance together. So he said nothing, just kept the knowledge that they *could* be together as a way of making the loneliness seem bearable.
He smiled an ironic smile. Even now, he hadn't told her and all the months spent wearing his heart on his sleeve in the hope that she would gain confidence from his behaviour seemed futile. She would never know, but maybe that was a good thing, because if she did he was pretty damned sure she wouldn't have left him here, just like he couldn't leave her.
For probably the only time, he was glad that she didn't know, because she had followed his orders and got her team home.
Sam was breathing hard as she monitored the guard patterns. The run had tired her, but then again it was more an all out sprint than a run. But it was worth it. It was obvious from the amount of guards and the erected, but unused scaffold that Jack was still alive. Now she just had to time her movements to coincide with their five-minute pattern and they where home free. Ok, so she would probably be going home to face charges, but Jack was worth it. The fact that these people obviously didn't expect a rescue attempt gave her the surprise element she badly needed.
Waiting until the right moment, Sam moved quickly but stealthily through the dirt and upto the hut that Jack was held in. It was a clay-like material that Sam hoped would be easily breached. She wasn't disappointed. Moving to the back wall of the structure, he hit it hard with the butt of her P90, she felt it begin to give and smiled as she heard a familiar sound from within… "What the hell?"
Hitting it again and again, she finally made a hole large enough for her to look into. As she stuck her head into the gap, a puzzled face met hers.
She smiled, he growled.
"What the *HELL* are you doing here?!" Woah, the man was angry.
"Sir, I'm here to get my *whole* team home" she answered determinedly
"I gave you a direct order, does that not mean anything to you *MAJOR*?" Oh yeah, he was mad as hell, but right at that moment, she really didn't care as she carried on hitting the wall.
"Sir, with all due respect. You're coming home and that's final. You wouldn't leave me, I won't leave you, so save the court-martial 'til we're back on Earth, for now… help me, we've only got two minutes left before the guard comes back"
He moved slighty away from the wall, and Sam could hear his muttered curses, but she smiled to herself as she felt the wall shake more as he hit it from the inside. A few seconds later, she figured what he was hitting it with, as a regulation army boot broke some more of the wall away. As he kicked the remaining piece away, he crawled through. He didn't need to speak. She knew two things. One, he wanted to know which way, and two, oh he was mad!
"This way Sir" she pointed him in the right direction and they set of again at a sprint back to the gate.
Her chest was breathing hard, they where running faster now. The last thing they needed was to get caught now. She'd done it. She'd got him out and now she was going to get him home. If that meant that she'd face charges for disobeying a direct order from a commanding officer, so be it. Although it pretty much meant her Air Force career was over, but it was worth it, *he* was worth it. Wonder how much the private sector paid?
As they ran, he could tell she was thinking about what it meant for her career when they got home. He hadn't really spoken to her since she came back for him. When he had he'd been so angry with her, not for disregarding orders, but for risking her neck to come back for him. But that anger had soon dissipated. She'd come back for him, she'd finally allowed duty and emotion to meet and that realisation hit him harder than he expected.
Now he didn't speak to her because he couldn't find the words.
As the Gate came into sight, their only words where familiar to them both.
"Dial us up Major"
With that, the gate whirled to life, the code was sent and they ran through the event horizon, both thinking about the repercussions of her not following orders.
"Welcome back Colonel, Major" Came Hammond's voice over the PA as they steeped onto the ramp. Neither officer answering with anything more than a glance to the control room towards their commanding officer.
Turning to face his Major, Jack could see the look in her eyes. She was expecting him to bring her up on charges right then and there. Well he wasn't about to disappoint!
But just as he was about to speak, Daniel and Teal'c entered the gate room, all bandaged up and obviously in the middle of a conversation…
"O'Neill will not be happy with MajorCater's insubordination, DanielJackson"
"I know Teal'c, but I gotta try, she saved us all and he's gonna have her thrown out of the whole Programme because of orders!.."
Daniel cut off suddenly, as Teal'c nudged him in the ribs, directing his attention to where we were still stood on the ramp. Daniel's in drawn breath a sign of what was to come.
"Sam, you did it! You got him, us *all* home!" Daniel's emphasis on "all" was not lost on Jack, and he smiled inwardly at the loyalty of his friends, as Teal'c inclined his head towards Sam as a sign of respect. Jack saw Daniel look back at him, knowing full well what was about to come out of the archaeologist's mouth.
"Jack… now I know you're not happy with Sam for not following orders, and technically I suppose she didn't cause she didn't get herself home, well not at first anyway… " Jack looked coldly at Daniel, who realised he was babbling, but carried on anyway. "But she did follow your orders, she got us home, safe and then she followed the one thing that you drummed into us from the get go… no one gets left behind. You can't punish her for that, Jack. It's not right…"
Before Daniel had a chance to start again, Jack looked up towards his General, a question in his eyes. His answer was a slow nod and so he took his opportunity.
"Daniel, stay out of this. This is a matter between myself and my second in command!" His tone cold, his eyes colder as they hit the younger man.
On hearing his words, Sam looked to the floor. She had seen the General's nod, so making this as easy as possible, she slowly offered her hands to her CO.
Taking her cue, Jack gestured to the SF stood close by. He was handed a small plastic zip tie that had recently replaced those good old handcuffs. Slipping the noose over her offered wrists, Jack heard Daniel
"Jack! You can't do this!"
"Daniel, stay out of this!" His shouted back
"'Stay out of this'! No I won't! She's my friend and she's doesn't deserve…"
"Shut *up* Daniel" growled Jack, for the first time taking his eyes off the tie binding the wrists before him.
Daniel was disgusted and furious with him, he could see. Teal'c although remaining silent was oozing disagreement. And Sam, well she just wouldn't look at him, but he could feel her embarrassment, just as he was about to do something about it, Daniel shouted again.
"No I will not shut up Jack. You and your precious military, your precious orders! She's saved your life more times that you can count, and *this* is how you repay her? You had to do this, here and now? You couldn't have done this somewhere less public?"
Daniel's rant made Jack smile inwardly, but he kept his voice well guarded. Taking her cuffed hands, he felt her move, expecting to be lead out of the room in shame.
"Daniel, listen to me and listen well." His tone clipped and serious, commanding. "This *is* how I repay her, I *did* have to do this here and now, and *yes* I want everyone to see this!"
Daniel gasped speechless, as Colonel Jack O'Neill lifted Major Samantha Carter's bound wrists… and placed them over his head, letting them drop around his neck. As he wrapped his own arms around her. One hand cupping her face, the other in the small of her back.
Sam's head shot up, her eyes colliding directly with his subtly darker ones. Her question blatant, but he ignored it, saying only…
"Thank you Sam" before smiling a smile that sent her weak. As her understanding of this moment kicked in. Other questions could wait 'til later as she tightened her arms and pulled herself closer to him.
The smile she gave him did what it always did, but this time, it didn't finish there.
"I love you Major"
"I love you too Colonel"
Nothing more was needed, and in front of everyone, Jack kissed Sam for a long, long time.
A smiling General looked down upon his front line team and laughed out loud at the sight of the two kissing officers and the sound of the big Jaffa.
"I believe she did deserve that DanielJackson"