Chapter 12

Jack stared at Pete half in amazement, half in disgust, then rubbed a tired hand across his tired face. “For crying out loud.”

Pete straightened, but could only gape in open mouthed astonishment, taking in the sight of Thor still standing serenely on his dais, and the ship surrounding him. “You're... you're... an...” But his voice trailed off before he was able to finish his comment.

Jack scowled, annoyed at once again having Shanahan unexpectedly show up to complicate what was really a common occurrence to him and Carter. He was also very irritated that this man had come to interrupt what had been the only promising conversation that he and Carter had shared in the last several years. True, they had both been furious and yelling during that conversation, and struggling at its end, but they had been making progress, even if it was unspecified progress. According to the way his hand had landed possessively on Carter's shoulder, Shanahan had been intending to take her away and ruin the scene. Jack's patience with him was minimal during most encounters - now, it was basically nonexistent.

“Yes!” Jack testily affirmed to the gaping Pete. “Thor is an alien! We deal with aliens on a daily basis - you know that! What did you think we did all day? Sit around and knit?”

Pete continued to grunt helplessly. “I thought... thought... I...”

Sam's expression bespoke impatience as she said to Pete, “Will you please stop staring? It's rude.”

When Pete continued to gape at Thor in spite of Sam's admonishment, she let her scowl wash over her. She had been holding back that scowl in her typical and (especially in this case) misguided urge to be polite to everyone she met. But she almost immediately abandoned such a sense of diplomacy. “Pete, stop staring at Thor like you expect him to combust at any moment.”

He turned towards her, but was still unable to wipe the look of shock off his face, or to do more than issue a grunt every now and then.

To get him to not look like a rookie at his first murder scene, she added, “Believe me, you don't want to be rude to Thor - he's one Asgard you don't want to piss off.”

In response, Pete blanched even further. “But Sam! He's a..! He's a..!” His shocked voice again vanished into nothing.

Carter's scowl now matched Jack's thunderous expression as she accused, “You knew that this is what we did, what we dealt with. You've known for months!” She turned to Thor standing quietly on his dais, watching the humans with interest. “I apologize, Thor,” she firmly said. “Don't let Pete's rudeness influence your...”

Pete interrupted, ruder yet. “But Sam, he's an alien!” His tone of voice indicated that an alien was akin to being a particularly disgusting monster.

The growl that issued through Carter's tightly clenched teeth sounded loud in the following silence. “I know that, Pete!”

Pete didn't seem to register the disintegrating mood that came through in the sound of her voice. “Are we on an alien spaceship?" The way he said it, the idea simply appalled him.

Jack had to restrain himself from flippantly commenting on the fact that the cop had just declared that Thor was alien, and therefore, it was a good bet that Thor was on an alien spaceship, and it could be further concluded that since he was with Thor, then he was then on an alien spaceship, too.

But Carter's sarcastic retort sounded in place of Jack's. “An alien being present equals we're on an alien ship - how is this a hard concept to grasp?” The minute she spoke, she held up a warding hand. “I'm sorry - that remark was spiteful and uncalled for.”

“No it wasn't.” According to Jack, Shanahan-the-cop should be able to think on his feet faster than he was doing at the moment.

Carter shot Jack a rueful look, as if she wanted to agree with him, but addressed her ex-boyfriend. “Pete, I know this is a lot to take in right now, but you're the intruder here, and obviously Thor has something to tell us, or we wouldn't be here. I'm sorry that this was sprung on you so suddenly, but you already knew about the Stargate, and had to realize that the universal consequences of that infor...”

“But all that Stargate stuff - I thought you were making that up!” Pete wailed, losing what little dignity he still had. “I never actually saw it!” His wail had turned into a high pitched keening sound full of terror. “I thought...! We thought...! Me and Dr. Stubs thought you just had PTSD when you talked like that!”

The second his words registered, Carter's face went hard as anger once again took over. “If that's what you think, then you deserve to be shocked,” she spat. “We're in something of a hurry here - keep up!” In a far more benign tone, she asked, “Thor, what's the problem?”

Thor seemed hesitant now that he was again the focus of their attention. “O'Neill, Major Carter...”

Colonel Carter,” Jack corrected in a congenial voice. “We had a little promotion... thing... awhile back.” He twirled his right index finger in the air to indicate the promotions that had happened since they'd last seen each other.

Thor blinked in response. “My apologies... Colonel O'Neill, Colonel Carter.”

Carter corrected him as well, almost as if it was second nature, “And it's General O'Neill now... not that it matters.” She self-consciously cleared her throat. “And this is Pete Shanahan,” she introduced, almost as an afterthought. “He's my... was my...” She didn't continue, clearly not knowing what to call Pete. Or at least, what she should politely call him. “He WAS... but not anymore... though he clearly doesn't think so.”

It was also clear that Thor was trying to understand what she wasn't saying. At last he just blinked his huge eyes and gave his head a thoughtful tilt. “Forgive my abrupt transport - I did not mean to interrupt your meal.”

“Yes, we were sharing... but you didn't interrupt,” announced Jack.

“No,” said Pete. “You did.”

“Shut up,” demanded an exasperated Carter. “He did not.”

Pete looked back and forth between Jack and Sam. “You weren't eating... you were fighting,” he told them, as if they hadn't known what they'd been doing. “I heard you. The whole nursing home heard you!” He turned to regard Thor with sincerity practically oozing out of him and proclaimed, “They were fighting.”

Thor blinked his huge eyes once again. “Was there a victor?” he asked in all innocence.

Jack scowled. “A victor?” He didn't like having the activities he shared with Carter to be the topic of idle conversation, even for one he respected as highly as Thor.

Thor blinked his eyes at Jack, indicating his broken arm. “You appear injured, O'Neill.” Then he turned back to stare at Sam. “And though appearing uninjured, I note that Colonel Carter has not yet risen from the place she landed upon transport. Do you require assistance, Colonel Carter?”

Carter stared at Thor in stupefaction. “Uh...” She wasn't prepared to explain her injury just yet.

But Pete had no problem, and announced, “She lost her leg - someone named Ball took it.” Then he frowned. “But don't you already know that? I mean, an all-powerful guy like you should...”

“Indeed, I did not previously know.” And Thor's blinking took on a decidedly surprised aspect as he closely studied the Colonel. “When did this occur?”

Carter blushed, shooting Pete a furious look for even mentioning her medical problem. “Much as I like being the center of attention, I'm fine, Thor.” Then she not-so-subtly changed the subject. “What do you need from us?”

Jack knew that Carter was most definitely not fine. But she didn't seem inclined to want to discuss her injury at Ba'al's hands, so he instantly played along with her, used to accepting her unspoken thoughts from years spent basically reading her mind in the field.

But Pete hadn't been in the field. He hadn't been a desk jockey, either. He hadn't been in the SGC at all. So he naturally didn't know enough about Sam to pick up on what she wasn't saying. He barely had a handle on what she was saying. “She says something about him sending a clone to...”

But that was as far in his unwanted explanation as he got when Thor interrupted him. “Ba'al's cloning is the reason behind my desire to speak to you, O'Neill.”

“Ba'al?” Jack parroted in uneasy disgust.

“Clones?” Carter anxiously inquired at the same time.

“First,” added Thor, “I will heal you, O'Neill, before I explain further. Your arm is making me nervous.”

Asgards could get nervous? They had feelings? This had never come up before with Thor. Frowning, Jack regarded his arm. What about a cast was there to cause a case of Asgard nerves?

“I don't...” he began to say, but again Thor interrupted him.

“Place your arm on my transport pad, O'Neill.”

But Jack was suspicious, even of the Asgard. “What for?”

Thor blinked. “I wish to transport your... doohickey... off your arm so that I might fix your injury.”

Carter gave a jerk. “You can transport with that degree of accuracy?” she asked in astonishment.

Jack continued to stare at Thor in suspicion as Thor did nothing more than stare back and blink, showing his lack of understanding as to why Jack hadn't yet complied.

That blank look of Thor's finally unnerved him. Still scowling, Jack slowly slipped off the sling he wore around his neck, then lifted his casted arm to rest on what Thor referred to as his 'transport pad,' though it looked just like any other Asgard console.

“You will feel a slight tingling sensation,” Thor instructed as he concentrated for a moment, moving his rocks around in some pattern that only he understood.

Jack had visions of his cast disappearing, taking half his arm with it. Suddenly he wasn't sure he trusted Thor completely. He trusted him, but... he wasn't sure that he trusted him. Just like he trusted Sam... but didn't. Another wave of guilt slammed into him from nowhere at that thought. He didn't like thinking about his inability to fully give himself to her... not when he'd thought for years that it was already a done deal. “Um, Thor, you don't have to...”

The cast disappeared in flash of white light.

Jack stared down at his arm that he hadn't seen in weeks. Even he could tell that the bones weren't fully knit together yet. The entire arm felt fragile, especially without the weight of the cast. “You know, maybe this wasn't such a good idea.”

“A few minutes in the medical pod will be enough to fuse the bones together again,” Thor assured, his sonorous voice easily overriding Jack's protests.

Jack wasn't convinced so quickly, but even he admitted to himself that by now, he should know better. Thor was as trustworthy as they come.

And for that fact, so was Sam.

Even thinking along those lines brought a blush to his cheeks. The guilt was just as encompassing the second time as it had been the first. Lest that emotion consume him now, he suspiciously regarded the medical pod that Thor had conjured up beside him. His look heavy with innuendo, he muttered, “I hate these things.”

Despite his lowered voice, Thor was still able to hear his soft words. “May I ask why that is, O'Neill?”

Taken aback that he'd been overheard, Jack still managed to say, “They're so...”

“Claustrophobic,” he and Sam simultaneously responded.

Pete's eyes widened at the amount of unity in the answer, but all he did was ask, “Sam, you're claustrophobic? I didn't know that.”

“Why should you?” Carter rhetorically asked, though all the while Jack knew exactly why she would claim to be claustrophobic. Her time spent in suspension inside the computer mainframe when that Entity had stored her essence there while her friends tried to find a way to save her must have left her feeling a heck of a lot more than simply claustrophobic!

But he was already feeling guilty enough about Carter. He didn't need thoughts about that Entity Incident to add to his rampaging emotions. With the beginning of a claustrophobic attack clamoring against his skull, Jack clenched his teeth. “Let's get this over with.” And he awkwardly climbed into the pod.

Sam scooted across the floor to the pod, then used its edge to pull herself upright. “If it makes you feel better, I'll monitor things from here, Sir.”

Jack winced at her struggles, but knew that she would refuse any help he offered. He just said, “Yeah, that does make me feel a bit better.” He watched as Sam positioned herself at the side of the pod, then stretched out just before the pod closed, clutching his half-mended arm to his side. He willed the rest of his body to relax, letting his gaze rest on Sam, even though she wasn't looking at him, but at the pod controls. Then with no segue whatsoever, he fell asleep.

Five minutes later, he was awake again, his left arm completely mended and feeling as strong as ever. The top of the pod slid aside, and Jack climbed out, experimentally bending his arm as he did. “Thanks, Thor!” he exclaimed in gratitude. “It doesn't even hurt anymore!” The awe in his voice was palpable.

The awe on Pete's face was nothing short of thoroughly astonished as he stared at Jack's formerly injured arm as if he'd never seen an arm before. “Uhhhhhhhh...”

No one paid any attention to him. Now out of the confines of the pod, Jack continued to bend his arm back and forth, thrilled with Thor for helping him as he had. And Carter was simply too internally gridlocked to pay much attention to anyone outside herself. The awe in Jack's voice was still wreaking havoc on her psyche: it made another surge of guilt flash briefly across her features, and when Jack saw it, he suddenly recalled that it had been her assault that had broken his arm in the first place, and stopped acting so thrilled.

“I am glad that I was able to assist you in healing properly,” Thor commented. “Now I am less nervous... I will tell you why I brought you here.” He paused, then dramatically announced, “As you already indicated, Ba'al has returned.”

Chapter 13

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