Disclaimer: They're not mine. I borrowed them anyway, and I'll give them back, totally unharmed, when I'm through. [Okaaay... mostly unharmed!]

If you have trouble downloading this looong file try sg103.htm.

Secrets Revealed

by Linda Bindner

A/N: An AU after the seventh season episode 'Birthright,' where Ishta is introduced. AU, besides meaning its obvious, means that things are going to be just a little... off... in this story. So if events seem to be out of order, or characters seem to be out of... character... that's why.

SG-1 followed the group from Hak'tyl and their supplies through the 'Gate, prepared to show the collection of rebel female Jaffa who they'd earlier met how to utilize the gifts they'd been given by the Earthers. Everything looked normal once they arrived en masse: a party of female warriors was waiting near the 'Gate to greet them, their horses shying when the strangers appeared.

Carter immediately took control of the FRED and moved it over the rough terrain with what looked like effortless adjustments of the remote control. Truth to tell, those 'adjustments' were so minute that hers were the only hands small enough to work the controls of the remote. Each of the three men of SG-1 had tried, often, to work the controls, and had ended up with a FRED embedded on a tree trunk, and Carter laughing her ass off. So they relinquished the remote without fuss to Carter's more experienced... and smaller... hands.

The group slowly wound across the fields and forests, and worked together at finagling the FRED across the one shallow creek that bisected the path in a field of tall grass. They called out greetings to the sisters waiting for them to appear in the Jaffa camp. Welcoming them to the collection of tents was the proud image that Ishta threw into the afternoon sunshine.

Ishta's understated smile nevertheless showed her pleasure in meeting this particular group. Again, welcome to those sisters who showed uncommon strength of character and bravery to test the Tretonin that now holds our hope for a future that is bereft of our dependence on Goa'uld symbiots. Then her eyes turned to the young Nesa surrounded by her taller protectors. And Nesa has shown extreme courage in the face of possible death with the untried drug... courage especially for one so young. She has shown us the true meaning of bravery on this day.

Nesa's face glowed the bright red of embarrassment at the praise being heaped upon her by her leader, but her answering grin simultaneously betrayed an inner pleasure at hearing those words. Even Neath looked proud of her younger sister, in spite of the way that Nesa had earned that praise.

Next Ishta's gaze settled on the female Jaffa's new Tau'ri friends. We have much to thank our new friends for...

Neath rudely interrupted Ishta's flowery words. Surprised, she blurted, We should thank them for Mala's death?

Ishta sighed, both at the interruption and the words that had been spoken. We will make certain that Mala's death not be in vain. We will mourn her, as well as do our best to put this wonder drug to good use so that she will have died in support of a good cause. I ask now for four more volunteers to travel with the group from Earth back to their... She hesitated, doubt showing on her face.

To the SGC, Carter filled in for her in a sure voice.

Ishta nodded her thanks, and repeated, To the SGC to...

But Neath only barked a grim laugh, again surprised by her leader's comment. You intend to continue this..?

It was Ishta who cut her off this time. We have no choice but to continue the tests of the Tretonin. Though several people have already demonstrated its possibilities for the Hak'tyl as our saving grace, we do not want Mala's death to be a useless sacrifice. To that end, we must pursue the testing until we have all found the tolerance level we can expect with Tretonin.

Neath sneered. And how many more must die for..?

Ishta's sigh again cut her off. It is with the knowledge that we gain with each trial that will lead us to more intelligence about the Tretonin. The sacrifice will be great, and no one will be asked to contribute to the trials against their wishes. I only ask for...

So the guilt that we all feel for Mala's death will also be 'volunteered?' Neath continued in the same vein.

And that was when Colonel O'Neill cut in to say, For cryin' out loud, Doc Fraiser did everything she could for Mala. I was there. I saw it all. And Mala refused the doctor's suggestions to replace her symbiote at every turn, determined to let the Tretonin run its own course. When we left Earth, Doc Fraiser still couldn't explain why Mala died.

Daniel piped up, Maybe it was something to do with her family history, or...

But Neath interrupted him, too. Mala was one of us who didn't know her own history, as she was among the first ones to be taken from the temples, then raised here by an 'adopted' mother who took her in when she was young. We all know that! she scorned.

Yes, Ishta agreed, clearly trying to steer the conversation back to the original topic. We can not thank our new friends enough for the hope they now bring to us, as well as for the supplies they wish to contribute to our fight.

We'll demonstrate how every item is to be used, Carter broke in to assure. We won't just leave you with a bunch of stuff that you won't know how to use. We promise.

The Colonel announced, And to that end... He walked over to the FRED without finishing his sentence, and began pulling off items. We have shoes, medical supplies, infant supplies, infant formula... He held up a can of Enfamil formula, and smiled. Just add water, he said in a singsong tone, then continued, There's canned milk, cans of food... hope there's a can opener somewhere in here. He began rummaging through the nearest box of supplies with his free hand.

As the group of Hak'tyl warriors began to dissipate, Ishta appeared at Jack's side, confusion written all over her face. What is this 'formula' that you speak of? she asked.

Daniel filled her in. Formula... as in, baby formula. At Ishta's continued confusion which showed on her face, Daniel supplied a different word. Um... food... for an infant... newborn.

Oh, Ishta said in sudden understanding. We have our own substance that is made from a mixture of grass and corn, ground together with water added until...

The Colonel cut her off, This is much easier, believe me. But no need to take my word for it. Might as well show you. He peered around the group of tents and cooking fires. You got a baby to try this out on?

Ishta's face fully cleared of her initial puzzlement. It draws near to the time when we will go to the temples on Chulak once again to ensure the ongoing life of several female newborns set to be sacrificed. And so our community will continue to grow.

Jack broke in on the conversation. That whole 'save the babies set for sacrifice' thing must get old after awhile.

Ishta did not disagree with his assessment of the situation. It is true that on several past excursions to the temples, we have lost as many warriors as saved newborn girls. It is... not the most efficient way for our movement to grow in new members... by gaining one and losing many at the same time.

Carter's forehead wrinkled in confusion. But don't you ever have members of your own who get pregnant?

Ishta now looked as puzzled as Carter. Get pregnant... what do you mean?

Carter shrugged and said, Pregnant... expecting. Finally Carter rounded her hand in front of her tummy to pantomime a pregnant woman. 'Pregnant?'

But it was immediately clear that Ishta still didn't understand. I do not see... 'pregnant?' Then she added, Without men?

Carter barked another mirthless laugh. Don't you have pregnant women... without men? she asked with a sense of incredulity.

Ishta appeared even more confused. How is that possible?

There was a silence filled with the hushed awe of a group of people obviously thinking 'You've never heard of such a thing?' without any of them saying a word.

At last, Daniel thoughtfully broke in. Guys, he cautioned. She obviously doesn't know what we're talking about.

'Obviously' O'Neill echoed in a sarcastic voice.

Well, really, Daniel continued. They may have no experience with pregnancy... without men. At O'Neill's look of disbelief, continued, Has anyone ever even seen a pregnant Jaffa?

A moment of silence followed this query, then all eyes turned toward Teal'c. He allowed a few more seconds of further quiet before he explained, There are often female Jaffa who... For the first time in the history of SG-1, Teal'c couldn't produce an analogy to use for the benefit of his friends. So he simply said, Round... growing...

Yeah... Pregnant, Carter broke in to say, nodding her head. But you don't need a man to get pregnant! Her slightly indignant voice blanketed the tiny group of people still surrounding the FRED.

Teal'c nodded his head as well. Yes... We speak of being pregnant, he specified. Then he continued, These women... all pregnant female Jaffa need a man in order for the event to occur. These women reside at the Temple of Lineage nearest to their homes while they are... He looked decidedly uncomfortable now, but finished his explanation, ... pregnant. Drey'auc did this when she was expecting Rya'c.

You mean that you didn't see her for nine or ten months? Daniel asked Teal'c, flabbergasted.

It was six turns of the moon, Teal'c answered.

But to put them away like they have some sort of a... disease! Daniel wrinkled his forehead in puzzled aggravation, and coughed. That's barbaric! he exclaimed at last.

Without giving Teal'c time to respond to Daniel's outburst, Carter argued in a slightly derisive tone, But you don't need a man for pregnancy to occur. She looked at them, an amount of befuddled astonishment showing in her puzzled features. You can use artificial insemination, or any number of other ways to get pregnant without men, she continued to adamantly explain.

Ishta's gaze deepened as her own sense of perplexity grew. She blankly looked at the Earthers. Her gaze finally settled on O'Neill. What is this art..?

O'Neill also looked uncomfortable as he quickly said, Carter, why don't you field this one?

Carter huffed. Oh, and just because I'm a female, I'm supposed to have some kind of inner knowledge about pregnancy? Or artificial insemination? Her voice was half angry now, but still held a hint of teasing. Then she shook her head. No, not me, I don't know much at all, she insisted. You've been through this once, Sir. I'm sure that you know more than I know. Then she hesitated, and added, About... pregnancy... artificial... or otherwise.

Surprise graced Ishta's features to hear of O'Neill's previous experience with pregnancy and babies, but she was no more astonished than the others on SG-1. The group shared an unspoken rule to never mention the Colonel's son, even in a periphery manner, and the way Carter had just blurted out her reference to him was unnerving. But she expectantly looked at the Colonel now, waiting for him to reply.

Looking ill at ease, the Colonel still managed to open his mouth to say something, snapped it shut again, then turned to Carter and asked, You sure you don't..? 'Cause I'm happy to sit this one out.

Carter grinned, amused at his attempt to get out of responding to Ishta's query. But determined not to let him squirm his way out of replying so soon, Carter nonchalantly added, No, I'm sure that you know far more than I do, Sir. I can't even have children, she protested. So I'm not likely to know about something that isn't even possible for me. She invited, You go right ahead, before it dawned on her that the three men's astonished expressions meant that they hadn't known of the personal information about her, something that she had known for years and had begun to assume was common knowledge.

Colonel O'Neill gave a slow blink, his brain desperately trying to process what he had just learned about his 2IC. You can't have a baby? he asked in a strangled voice.

Carter looked from one to the other of her shocked team mates. No, she said in a voice full of her further confusion. I thought you all knew, she excused, embarrassed now to be the one to finally tell them her news.

Daniel was the first to slightly recover his faculties. No, he coughed, then added. God, I'm sorry! he then exclaimed. When did you first..?

Jolinar, was the only thing Carter had to say in explanation.

Looks of understanding passed across the three male faces, while Ishta's confusion remained.

Jolinar? the female Jaffa asked.

Colonel O'Neill abruptly turned towards her, and said a short, Long story, in hopes of sparing Carter yet another repetition of what had to be a tale full of unpleasant memories. Look, General Hammond... our leader... is expecting us back in... as soon as possible. Who wants to volunteer to come with us?

But Ishta only stared at him. This art..?

Daniel piped up, clearly trying to move the group beyond Sam's startling revelation. We can do artificial insemination if you prefer, as you obviously don't have any males just lying around, waiting to be used for... Then he considered what he had said. Bad choice of words, he muttered.

Ishta puzzled on. Artificial..? Her voice again trailed off at the unfamiliar words.

Carter broke in, Janet... our doctor... healer... will be able to explain even more about that, and can help you if you need help.

Ishta slowly responded, But we know nothing about... uh... Not having a word to use, she did the same pantomime motion that Carter had recently done. 'Preg..?' Without men?

Again Carter would only report, Like I said, Janet can help you if you need it, she offered, and shook her head. We won't leave you stranded without knowing what to do, promise.

Still befuddled, Ishta shook off her questions about the alien sounding condition, and only ascertained the safety of the AI procedure. This 'art... sem...' Is it safe?

Carter answered that question, too, eager to leave the Hak'tyl planet, as her friends were eyeing her in a most uncomfortable way. It's perfectly safe, she assured. I'll even go through the same procedure myself, though I know what the end results will be, just to show you how safe it is.

But in spite of his discomfort, O'Neill protested right away. Carter, there's no need to...

She turned to peer at him, at the surprise still showing on his face. She wished she could smooth that surprised sensation away, but she would need to touch him in order to do it, and it would be too dangerous for her to touch him right now. She might be unable to stop. So it was best not to start in the first place. She said, I want to, Sir, especially if it's something that the Hak'tyl decide they want to do. She gave a gritty sort of smile. After all, you're always saying that knowledge is power, she said. The more they know, the better off they'll be.

Colonel O'Neill still felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up at the thought of Carter going through a redundant medical procedure, even for the benefit of one of their allies. Only if Doc can be sure that it's completely safe, he at last stipulated.

Carter nodded. Janet and I have talked about AI before. She's always assured me that it's totally safe. When O'Neill still didn't look convinced, asked, Would Janet endorse anything that isn't perfectly safe? She added, Sir? when he didn't immediately respond.

O'Neill felt cornered. He still didn't like it. Hell, he didn't even know what he thought about the bombshell that Carter had just dropped on SG-1 without more thought on the subject! A lot more thought! But he found himself nodding, just to move things along. Okay. But only if it's safe! he added. And only Doc Fraiser!

Of course, Carter said all the while thinking, Worrywart! Carter stared into his stormy eyes. She'd had no idea that the Colonel had such strong feelings about whether or not she could have children someday. It had never occurred to her that he was worried about her personally in conjunction with having babies. Future children for either of them necessitated a relationship to begin between them, as a relationship, or a child, with anyone else was way too unimaginable for her right now. Yet it seemed like the possibility of a relationship between them was so remote that children was almost a non-issue, and she'd forgotten how important kids were to Jack O'Neill.

That was assuming that he still wanted a relationship with her someday. Carter knew that her feelings on the subject were unchanged, but that his emotions might have wavered in the last few years since their taped confessions at the SGC. She tried not to let it show how much that idea bothered her.

The conversation was going on. Okay, O'Neill said to Ishta. Let's decide on those volunteers, shall we? He loudly clapped his hands together as a distraction to himself from his thoughts. Mustn't keep the General waiting.

'Mustn't?' Carter sardonically echoed, but only to herself. It was weird hearing such a formal word coming from the Colonel. But he was constantly surprising her, she silently admitted as he looked to several nearby women, his eyebrows questioningly upraised. Carter tried not to think of the women as cattle, with O'Neill playing the part of the solicitous rancher, but it was hard.

* * *

SG-1 left it to Colonel O'Neill to explain things to General Hammond once they were standing at the bottom of the 'Gate ramp in the SGC, gazing at a slightly angry look of inquisition coming from Hammond when he noticed the three alien women who had accompanied SG-1 through the 'Gate. The General's expression clearly asked his team who they'd managed to drag back to Earth this time, and what did the three women they'd brought back want?

In answer to the unspoken request, Colonel O'Neill immediately began with the introductions. Sir, this is Kijilla, Sandaff, and Kana of the Hak'tyl. He turned to the three women behind him, all of them blondes, all of them tall, and all of them scary enough looking to make even the SFs in the 'Gate Room take notice. They've come with us to Earth to continue the tests of the Tretonin, and to... Here, the Colonel's voice trailed off, and he glanced at the others on his team. But both Teal'c and Daniel were strangely reluctant to meet his gaze, and Carter would only stare at him in a mixture of amusement and prodding encouragement. The first two members of SG-1 that he glanced at were no help at all, and even Carter refused to do more then gaze at him out of her soulful blue eyes.

The Colonel stood, frozen to the spot, while Hammond suspiciously eyed his guests. He still didn't know the entire reason the women were in his facility, and it was beginning to gnaw at him. It's been a long day, Colonel O'Neill. Just spit it out, he impatiently ordered.

The Colonel coughed. Well, he said as he raised his hand to thoughtfully run it through his graying hair. The action clearly said that he was wondering how to say what he had to say. He looked again at his team members, but was stymied on all sides. You're no help, he growled.

Daniel muttered, That's why they pay you the big bucks.

Hammond was growing more agitated as he waited. This better be good, Colonel, he remarked. Out with it.

So the Colonel just flatly announced, They want our help with getting pregnant, Sir.

Hammond looked taken aback at this comment. Colonel?

O'Neill sighed loud enough to crack the observation window of the Control Room. The Hak'tyl have no contact with men if they can help it, and.., he started to say before his voice gave out on him. He cleared his throat. And only then is it to kill male Jaffa, so... Again his voice trailed away.

This time, General Hammond looked truly irritated, and not much besides misunderstanding something about one of his teams really got to him after over six years in command of the SGC. Say again, Colonel? he requested.

The Colonel's face turned beet red in a blush. They want us to help them get pregnant, he repeated.

Several silent seconds passed before the General glared in continued perplexity at SG-1. His astonishment was growing. Yes, that's what I thought you said.

Colonel O'Neill added to his explanation, trying to include the reasoning he had heard on the planet. They wish to continue to grow as a community, and unless they steel their new members from Goa'uld temples, where current Hak'tyl members are at constant risk of losing their lives, they need to be able to produce... Here he hesitated once more. At last he was able to add, They need to have children.

Hammond was still amazed. And they want our help?

Colonel O'Neill looked like he had swallowed a very sour lemon. Yes Sir, he squeaked.

Carter couldn't hold back her laugh any longer. Even Colonel O'Neill's glare at her didn't completely squelch her amusement. She turned to regard the astonished Hammond. I'll talk to Doctor Fraiser in more detail about this, Sir. I'm certain that she has recommendations to make.

Hammond gaped. Doctor Fraiser! Why?

Then Carter realized that none of them on SG-1 had fully explained the situation. With AI, Sir! she hastily explained. Help with artificial insemination! Not... She cut herself off, and her face flamed a beet red as everyone present in the 'Gate and Control Rooms realized what she had meant to say.

Hammond simply stared first at Carter, then moved his gaze to take in the three Hak'tyl women, whom he admittedly had already begun mentally calling 'The Blondes.' He seemed to be rooted to his spot on the floor. Alien AI? Well, I think I've heard everything now, he said in quiet amazement.

Carter was busy grinning at the General; she really was getting way too much enjoyment out of her male friends' discomfort on this subject! I'd like to volunteer for a trial run of the AI process, General. To demonstrate the procedure to the Hak'tyl. With your permission, of course.

The General appeared as if he'd breathed in a very large bug as he ate his lemon. Colonel? he managed to croak at last, appealing to the one man in the room who seemed to understand what was going on.

Carter laughed again.

Colonel O'Neill tried his best to remain as professional as possible while speaking about a very personal subject in the middle of the very public 'Gate Room. Major Carter assures me that Doctor Fraiser vouches for the safety of this procedure, Sir. On those grounds, I have no problem with the Major's participation in AI.

Hammond wrinkled his nose. 'On those grounds?' he repeated. Astonished again, his gaze swung back and forth between Carter and her CO. Finally, he was able to ask, Do you have other objections, Colonel? He studied the man in astonishment. Won't she..?

Flustered despite his understanding, O'Neill shook his head. No... no... I.., was all he said, not saying which of Hammond's questions he was attempting to answer. All he could think of in his muddled state was about Carter telling them all so nonchalantly that she couldn't have children herself, but he didn't want to just blurt her secret to everybody in the 'Gate Room, either. And that wasn't grounds for an objection, anyway, no matter the state of upheaval his own emotions were currently in. So he went on, No, no objection at all. These fine... fine women... Why had he said that? Way to go, O'Neill! he thought to himself, and he could swear that he heard Carter's laugh again. He ignored the sound to continue, They understand the risks in the Tretonin trials, Sir, and what's at stake. They still wish to continue the tests.

Well. General Hammond eyed everyone in the 'Gate Room. At last, he seemed to recover enough of his wits to look at his guests and say to the women from Hak'tyl, Then, welcome to Earth. If you'll follow Major Carter through the doors over there, she'll take you to our Infirmary, where you'll be in good hands with Doctor Fraiser. She's our Chief Medical Officer, and one of the best doctors I've ever served with. If you have any complaints, or requests, please see me as you get settled. The three women then followed Carter out of the room. Each nodded as she passed him. Hammond gazed after them, shaking his head back and forth, and muttering, Nothing can possibly beat this for the strangest day on record yet.

* * *

Dr Fraiser gaped at Carter. You want to what?

O'Neill chimed in, That's what I said on Hak'tyl, Doc. But she's made up her mind; she wants to help. He called back over his shoulder as he followed Daniel and Teal'c through the door prior to their debriefing. Good luck in trying to change her mind. If you say 'no' you won't perform the procedure, I'd duck when she starts throwing things if I were you, he added. Her aim is awfully good.

Carter smiled as he disappeared into the corridor, leaving her behind in the Infirmary. She opened her mouth to say more to convince Janet of her sincerity, but Janet spoke first.

Sam! the doctor remonstrated. I'm not an OB/GYN! You know that!

Sam colored a slight red at Janet's casual reference to the whole 'baby world,' a world in which she was naturally ignorant. I know, Carter said in a subdued voice. But with security clearance being what it is around here...

Janet finished what Sam hadn't yet voiced. You thought I could perform the procedure that you want on you and these girls... She waved to 'The Blondes.' ... due to the fact that I have clearance, and very few other doctors do, none of them OB/GYNs. She nodded her head as her wry voice washed quietly over Sam.

Well. Sam beseeched her friend with her gaze. You're such a good doctor, and...

Sam, Janet sighed. Flattery won't get you anywhere.

Sam firmly stated, I wasn't flattering you. Then she colored a very bright red, realizing what she had just said. I mean, she hurried to correct herself, You are a wonderful doctor, but... what you said about clearance has merit.

Janet sighed in defeat. You will owe me for this, Sam. Lucky for you I know the procedure, and have all the AI equipment available, just in case. She sighed again. Or this could be a really short alliance. She went on to add, We only have one collection of... Here, even her voice trailed off until she managed to reassert her professional detachment. She said, We only have one set of sperm on file! Surely you don't expect...

We can get in touch with other sperm banks and see if they can help out by donating any sperm they might have on file, Carter blandly suggested, trying not to think about the potential controversy in what she was suggesting. A bank that's not local? Maybe one that's way across the country? It might be able to help us. And the Hak'tyl. She blinked at Janet's refusal to do more than nod. So she went on, In the meantime, there are Tretonin tests that you can run. Then she stared at Janet in query. Who's... She cleared her throat to get rid of the latent embarrassment she felt over this issue. Who's sperm do you have on file here? she asked. Just out of curiosity.

Janet's face turned a shade pinker as well. You know I can't tell you that, Sam! she explained in a pained voice. That's a matter of doctor/patient confidentiality!

Carter sighed one final time, defeated. I thought it was worth a try, she grumbled anyway.

The pink in Janet's face had definitely changed to red by this time.

Carter suddenly giggled, enjoying her friend's discomfort... it was better than owning up to her own.

Janet glowered. You're enjoying this way too much! she accused of Carter.

Carter smiled, having successfully gotten under the doctor's thick medical skin. Go to it, Janet! she ordered with a sense of glee. Any AI you have me undergo won't work, but at least our Hak'tyl friends will get the idea of what the procedure entails. She was even more amused than before. We can't disappoint our newest allies, she slyly commented.

Janet roughly slapped Carter's medical records onto the bottom of her Infirmary bed. Let me get prepared, she said with an acerbic look thrown Sam's way, just for good measure. There was no doubt about it; the Major was enjoying this way too much!

* * *

The final moment of Carter's demonstration AI procedure had Janet helping her friend to hop down from her bed to the Infirmary floor. If you feel any unusual sensations, she warned, Contact me right away.

You know I will, Janet, Carter said. Though I doubt I'll be having any 'problems.' She slipped towards the door as she spoke to the Hak'tyl women. But now everyone knows what to expect. Any questions should just go right to Janet, Carter said. She gazed at her friend and medical doctor. You can trust her - she'll take good care of you.

Oh, and Sam.., Janet thought to add. I was looking through Mala's blood work while you and SG-1 were on Hak'tyl, and there was an abnormality in her genetic makeup that Tretonin would never have been able to accommodate. I doubt even her symbiote would have been able to successfully deal with it in a few years.

Sam acknowledged that in a strange way, the information was comforting to know. Now they at least had a reason behind Mala's unusual death. Just take care of our guests, and let me know about the Tretonin tests' conclusions, Carter called to Janet as definite sighs of relief issued from 'The Blondes' at hearing why their friend had died during the previous Tretonin tests and how they were unlikely to also die in future trials of the drug. Carter went on, I'll be in my lab, she informed. I'd stay, but I have that analysis of the metal alloy from R2X-769 to complete this afternoon. The General's already asking for it.

Janet called after her, Then take care, Sam, and remember...

Any symptoms, Carter gave a flippant call over her shoulder.

Instead of responding to her friend, the doctor turned toward her three alien charges. She gave them each a bright smile. Climb up on these beds, and I'll be with you in just a moment. Then she went off to order some sperm samples, so the SGC would be prepared to assist their newest allies. That order was assuredly the oddest order she'd ever made.

* * *

Two and a half months later:

Sam stared in horror at the tiny pink plus symbol that had appeared in all its innocence on the pregnancy test kit she'd purchased at the grocery store. It claimed that she was, beyond doubt, pregnant. Immediately, her mind flew back to the Artificial Insemination she had so casually undergone in the Infirmary in order to demonstrate the procedure to the Hak'tyl women who wanted to use their Tau'ri friends' expertise in this matter of getting pregnant without the necessity of actually having a male present during the impregnating event. And as Carter had always thought that she could not get pregnant due to the effects that Jolinar had rendered on her body, she had naively volunteered to demonstrate the procedure herself.

Now it seemed that the Universe had taken those many unconnected events and woven them together into a totally unarming, ironic twist just for Major Samantha Carter's benefit.

Oh no, Sam whispered, the horror she was feeling at her discovery now stealing across her heart to make it pulse and throb in her temples. This couldn't be happening! Again she desperately thought back over the events of the past few weeks... anything that could be the cause of the nausea she had been recently feeling. Could she, or the test, possibly be wrong? Could she just have a cold? The flu? A latent injury from that time she'd had that concussion on board The Prometheus?

But try as she might, she couldn't think of a single reason besides the one she already had that would explain her nausea, or the fact that her breasts were becoming tortuously sore, or that the smell of coffee recently made her stomach turn over, or...

Pregnant.

With God-only-knew whose baby.

Her sense of horror grew to unmitigated proportions at that thought, at the 'I-don't-know' of it all. Crap!

Sam recalled how teasing and lighthearted she had been with Janet in the Infirmary back when her AI procedure had seemed like such a good idea. Now she would have to eat the way she'd treated the entire situation so cavalierly. She would...

A thought stopped her inner rambling: But I can't have a baby! she protested to herself and the test results she was staring at. Janet assured me that it would be physically impossible! The thought comforted Sam for a whole second until she remembered just how long ago it was that Janet had made her initial prognosis of Sam's likelihood of getting pregnant. It had been years since then. Things might have changed in Sam's body: how would they know, after all? It wasn't like they knew a whole lot about a person having naqueda in her blood. To the knowledge of all those at the SGC, and even to some races not of the SGC, no one had survived a symbiote implantation before at the time of her Jolinar experience. Even now, nobody really knew the effects a host/Goa'uld situation might bring about. Perhaps the detrimental effects that Jolinar had wrought on Sam's system were and always had been temporary.

Crap! Carter thought again. Wish I'd known that choice piece of information! But the Tok'ra... the only race who could possibly have any information on this subject... had never shared with their Human allies any of their potential findings on symbiote death and host physiology that they might have accumulated over the years. Sam suddenly felt particularly ill informed. She didn't like the sensation overly much.

Again all she could do was stare at the little pink plus symbol on the pregnancy test, thoughts of the Tok'ra fleeing her mind. A silent minute went by where Carter's brain was once more so frozen by shock that she couldn't think at all.

When her mind woke again, it was to the highly unpleasant, but very real, possibility that she had unwittingly just ended any chance of furthering any relationship she might have had with Pete Shanahan, which had in turn ended... almost ended?... tried to end?... the ridiculous yearnings that she'd had... for years... in regards to Colonel O'Neill. Hers and Pete's relationship was still too new to throw an accidental baby into the mix. Pete... the man she'd recently met through her brother and begun dating... because he was 'available...' (Even though, she realized, that was a lame reason to decide that now was the time to move on from her feelings for Jack O'Neill.) Pete would never understand that this baby was simply an act of fate... chance... really bad luck... none of which she could tell him about. Sam thought about Pete's rather suspicious nature, which she had already noted, and shuddered. He would never just buy her 'It's classified' spiel, and would demand to know how she had gotten impregnated by another man when she was supposed to be dating him. She could already see how it would all play out; news of this entire situation would not go over well.

And then there was the team. And telling Colonel O'Neill. And General Hammond. And the base personnel as a whole...

God... What was she going to do?!

Sam instantly felt bile rise up at the back of her throat, and she fought to calm herself so that the sick feeling in her stomach would go away. Though she was already in her bathroom, she really couldn't afford yet another bout of sickness just now. She was already so thin, and she'd had so many bouts of sickness besides! Sam breathed deeply through her nose, concentrating on riding out the wave of nausea.

Carter blinked. Well, first things first, she decided, trying to concentrate on being practical about this situation. Go to the Infirmary - have Janet run a few tests. The store thingy... test kit... It could be wrong, she reminded herself. She needed to get a physical anyway, she thought, or she knew instinctively that Colonel O'Neill, for one, would also not be happy with her once he heard this latest news.

* * *

Sam, Janet said in a quiet voice that could not penetrate the curtain that she'd pulled around her patient's bed. I don't understand how yet... but you're pregnant. Her voice had gone even softer at the end of her statement.

Sam's heart fell. That's what I thought you would say, she admitted in a resigned tone. She had wildly hoped to be told a different prognoses, but had known that her feelings of hope were pretty much feelings that were in vain.

This comment of Sam's surprised Janet. You knew? the doctor quietly asked.

Suspected, Sam told her, also in a low voice. Then she sighed, a sad exhalation of air that gusted through her clenched teeth. How could this have happened? she rhetorically asked. You and I both thought that this was impossible!

Janet sighed a breath as well. I guess that things change, was all she said, a shrug accompanying her statement.

No kidding that things change! Sam acerbically retorted back to her friend.

Janet went on, We know so little about host/Goa'uld symbiosis even now that anything I might say would still be only a guess! She gazed at her friend out of worried, apologetic eyes. I'm so sorry, Sam, but we just don't know anything that...

It's all right, Janet, Sam cut in on her to assure. I know that this isn't your fault.

Janet peered at her in caution. Was it the AI procedure? Or that fella that you're seeing? Or has there been someone that I don't know about? Or..?

Sam waved her arm desperately through the air to stop her friend. No! she emphatically said. It was the AI! She gazed at Janet in dumbstruck horror. What kind of person do you think I am? she finally managed to gasp. I don't sleep with just any old guy, you know!

Janet's gaze turned soothing now. I know, Sam, I know, she assured. I just had to make certain... I am a doctor, after all.

Sam gave a sheepish smile. I know, she said, now a bit ashamed of her tirade. You're just doing your job, no matter how uncomfortable that job makes me feel.

Then Janet stared at her friend in sympathy. I have the feeling that things are going to get even more uncomfortable for you sooner rather than later.

She's talking about me telling the General and the team, Sam thought. She blanched. That's what I'm afraid of.

Janet sighed again. Okay. She remained silent for a moment. The AI, then. There. That was the event, wasn't it?

Sam seemed mollified. All right, she agreed. Yeah, it was the 'event,' she repeated, feeling strangely detached at calling it something so cold and unfeeling. That was... what?... nine... ten weeks ago?

Janet nodded. I'm fairly sure it was at least eight weeks ago, but I can check my records for accuracy. Then she snapped on another pair of rubber gloves. Let's just check you over one more time, and more thoroughly, and deal with the rest as we come to it.

Sam sighed in trepidation. She really hated physical examinations! And to have one twice! But she agreed with Janet's sensical suggestion. Okay, dealing with stuff as it comes sounds like good advice. She lay back on the bed. Just go to it, Janet! She grimaced, but in pained amusement. Junior awaits!

* * *

Forty-five minutes later found Sam staring at the door to Colonel O'Neill's office, contemplating what she was going to say to him. She couldn't just blurt out her news... anyone might hear that! She needed to tell him as gently as possible, and where no one could overhear so that they could then decide on a course of action for her to take. They could both decide. Together.

It made sense, in a strange sort of way. She was, after all, part of his team. He counted on her to at least be there... on missions... to be available. But pregnant women were not allowed to go through the 'Gate on missions. Therefore, Sam was sure that she would be put on standdown while her pregnancy continued, and she wouldn't even be allowed to attend missions with her team. She was letting down the Colonel, as well as Daniel and Teal'c, at the most basic level. But there was nothing that she could do about it now.

Still, that sense of togetherness that she and the Colonel certainly had now was as undeniable as it was strange. This is weird, Sam thought as she gazed at his office door. We're in this together, but we're not really 'together,' and never have been. And can't be. Oooh! She was growing impatient with her reluctance to knock on his door. Just knock! He probably isn't even in his office. Sam gave a firm rap on the door with her knuckles.

Come in! was the surprising answer. And don't let in any rain on this nice day!

Boy, it sure sounded like he was in a good mood. That wasn't much like the gruff, rough, Colonel O'Neill that she'd known for seven years. What's gotten into him? Sam wondered as she pushed through the doorway and entered his office.

Without looking up, Colonel O'Neill calmly stared at the paperwork spread out before him and muttered, Not that we'll get to see any of this nice weather, but...

The comment, even unfinished, was sarcastic. His voice trailed off into quiet as Sam sardonically thought to herself that she was now hearing the Colonel that she was more familiar with.

After speaking, the Colonel finally glanced up from the paperwork that he was still in the middle of doing. Carter frowned at the sight that greeted her. In spite of his last comment, she gave a start - Jack O'Neill... doing paperwork and in a good mood... more or less... All at the same time? Briefly she wondered if Loki had kidnapped the Colonel again and left them with a clone of something that looked like the Colonel, but clearly wasn't him.

Carter! Colonel O'Neill exclaimed in delight once he caught sight of her. How can I help you, Major?

Was he delighted only because she was interrupting his paperwork? Or was it something more? Carter found herself hoping that his delight at seeing her fell into 'the something more' category. At least, his mood was good for now, she reminded herself, no matter what category his jovial mood landed him in.

However, maybe his mood wouldn't be good for much longer. She grimaced. Uh, Sam began. Her voice sounded too hesitant, as if she'd done something wrong, so she cleared her throat in order to get rid of that 'I'm culpable' sound. She continued, I... uh...

O'Neill sat forward as he ignored his papers to give her his full attention. He looked concerned. Spit it out, Carter. Then his gaze turned questioning. What? You came to tell me that you have yet another boyfriend hanging by his thumbs, right?

Sam smiled. Even in this serious situation, he could still make her grin. But what was she doing grinning with one man while wanting to refer to another man, her baby's father, whoever that was? Sam shook her head. Still, she took his question, or the teasing quality behind it, as a good sign. No. I... um... Just... Can we just talk for a minute, Sir? she entreated.

'Talk?' O'Neill echoed. Sam had never wanted to 'just talk' before. He put down his pen now, and stared at her. He wrinkled his forehead in puzzlement. What gives? he inquired. Then he added, I mean, sure, we can 'just talk,' about whatever you want. But this is a bit of a strange request coming from you, you know. He smirked at her and guessed, You came to tell me that you and that guy you've been dating have called it quits, and want me and Danny and T. to beat him up... after you've done the same, of course.

Sam couldn't squelch her second grin. No, it's nothing like that, Sir.

Disappointment briefly flashed across O'Neill's face, but it was just as quickly gone again. Well then, what..?

Sam's heart would have fluttered at O'Neill's wisp of an expression, but she was too focused on what she had to say to notice anything extraneous just then. She cut him off to explain, It's rather personal, Sir. She glanced at the open office door. Maybe we can go topside for a few minutes of total privacy? She hesitated again. That is, if this isn't a bad time?

O'Neill shifted in his seat. It's never a bad time for you, Carter, he softly and sincerely said, in spite of any discomfort he was feeling at the thought of being alone with her, as her request stipulated.

Though the tone of his voice was teasing, Sam had to flush with remorse when he said that, thinking that he wouldn't be saying such nice things when she told him about his team member's immediate future. She didn't even want to contemplate how he might react to her news!

He appeared agreeably surprised now, as if he wished to take her attention away from what he had just said. Sure, we can go topside to 'talk' if you think it's necessary... for privacy.

Sam wilted a bit, glad that he had agreed with her suggestion, but sad that her suggestion was necessary at all. Yes, I think that would be best, Sir.

Well then, he said, and waved a hand to the door.

Sam rolled her eyes in sudden amusement. I know, I know... Ladies first.

Ten minutes later, the trees of the outside of Cheyenne Mountain crowded around them. They were on a trail that meandered for miles within the perimeter of the base boundaries, though people rarely utilized this path. Sam had chosen it specifically for its solitude. Though it wasn't ever a good idea to be caught alone with the Colonel... (what would people think?!) However, she didn't want anyone to overhear her news, either. Avoiding that second scenario was the more important of the two at this point.

O'Neill paused when they were well away from any SGC personnel. Carter! You're white as a sheet! he exclaimed. Are you sick? He looked closely at her. You sure that coming out here was such a good idea?

I'm fine, truly, she confided. Then she took a deep breath, both to calm her racing heartbeat, and to settle the nervous color that had obviously taken up residence in her cheeks. Sir, I have some news that may come as a bit of a shock to you at first. But...

He interrupted her as the blood drained from his face in one sudden whoosh. You're getting married, he blurted his guess.

Sam had to laugh again. She understood like nobody else how such news might bother him, even if she had trouble acknowledging the reason behind her understanding. Still, in spite of her penchant for pretending that no special connection between him and her existed, her heart momentarily soared to note that he cared enough to worry about her marital state even as she replied, No. She laughed once more. No. That's not it.

The relief on his face was intense, even though he tried to hide his emotions again. Okay, then..?

Perhaps you should sit down? she suggested, and pointed at a stump of a dead tree. At the thought of what she was about to tell him, her heart again swooped to her feet.

O'Neill bounced on his toes. No, I'm fine, thanks, Car...

Sir, I'm pregnant, Sam blurted out, since he wasn't going to sit.

She once again watched as the blood drained from his face. He blinked. He coughed. He gave a strangled/startled moan. You're..? he choked.

Instantly realizing that he thought that she was pregnant with Pete's baby, she hastened to correct his assumptions. I don't know who the father is, Sir, she hastily blurted.

The blood drained even further from his face. His features scrunched up as soon as he'd had time to process her comment. What?

Belatedly, Carter realized that what she'd just said would do nothing but make matters worse. Sam took a moment to comprehend that she was making a complete hash out of her explanation, and how could someone so intelligent be so... dumb? She shook her head as if to clear it, then desperately hurried to clarify, No! I mean... She sat with a thunk on the tree stump that he had refused to utilize a second earlier, and let her head fall into her hand in despair. No! she wailed. I mean... But what could she say to fix this mess? The truth of the matter would remain the same, no matter what she said at this point. Still, she had to try to say something that would explain the situation, to stop him from thinking the absolute worst of her, if nothing else. Now that she was on the verge of losing his good opinion of her, for the first time, she fully understood that his good opinion meant so much to her.

So she stumblingly said, Hak'tyl... AI... 'The Blondes'... Jolinar... But that wouldn't make any sense to him, and his confusion showed in the way he had screwed up his eyes to stare at her.

W..? he began to ask.

Sam took a deep breath, held it for a calming count of five, then gave a wan grin, and repeated, I'm p...

I heard you! O'Neill rasped in a firm whisper. Then he looked at her in lost amazement, clearly trying to hang onto any coherent train of thought in his confusion. But... How..?

Sam sighed in resignation. She still refused to look at him through more than her lashes, as if by not completely looking at him, she could hide from her situation a little longer, too. This is where the story gets a bit confusing, she warned, speaking into her hands.

He raised his brows to keep her talking, but didn't say anything. He looked too... stunned... to say anything. So to fill the dreadful silence that had fallen over them, she went on, trying her best to remain sedate and understandable, Remember the three blonde women from..?

Hak'tyl, he interrupted. Yeah, I don't think the General has recovered from the shock of what they wanted even now. Then his eyes crinkled in confusion again. But what does that..?

Sam didn't need to let him finish his question any more than he needed her to do the same. The AI, Sir, she explained, repeating herself. Her voice sounded partly full of regret at this divulgence, and partly ecstatic at the idea of her having a baby - until two hours ago, she'd thought this was impossible! Years ago, Janet told me that there was no possible way that I could ever get...

Obviously she was wrong, the Colonel needlessly pointed out.

Sam did lift her face to stare at him now, only to see that he still looked shell shocked, as if she was telling him that the baby was his. Sam cleared her throat, appalled at the very thought of the consequences of that, and as a way to cope with even the idea of having his child (just the thought made her both terrified and simultaneously elated), she went on with her explanation. Janet told me that the SGC doesn't have the kind of Infirmary that does Artificial Insemination on a regular basis, that...

Jack screwed up his face in the irritated way that she knew so well, and encouraged her to get on with her story. And..?

Sam cleared her throat again. That... She said that... there was only one male DNA sample on base...

O'Neill broke in to finish for her, And you just thought that you'd... Then he paused, his voice going from understanding to confused in a second. Well, I guess that I don't know what you were thinking at the time.

Sam smiled again, though now her gesture was grim. I was thinking that a procedure like an AI wouldn't have any consequences for me, that's what, she told him. I wanted to show the Hak'tyl that they had nothing to worry about with this procedure, and in order to show them, I needed...

He interrupted her once more. I get the picture.

Sam hesitated, then softly said, Yeah, that about... She flinched as the truth came out. Yeah.

O'Neill sighed, too. He sounded kind of... sad... so Sam abruptly said more.

It was partly a joke, she told him. But partly... She blushed. Well...

Yes? he prompted.

The idea of having a... was kind of... cool, she swiftly replied before she lost the nerve to say the words.

Oh? he asked. Cool as in - temperature? He sounded hopeful now, but hopeful of what?

Sam opted for honesty, since she didn't know what he was hopeful about, and couldn't begin to guess. No, cool as in... cool, she admitted with some trepidation.

O'Neill seemed unsure. Cool? he asked again.

Sam answered by specifying, As in... neat. Then she kicked at the stump with the back of her boot heal. I've always wanted to have a baby, and even though I thought at the time that it wasn't possible, the... She felt her face go warm as the redness of a blush suffused her skin. She looked away, unable to meet his gaze. This was such a personal topic for her! And to have to discuss it with Colonel O'Neill..! Sam had to grit her teeth just to continue. The idea was really... cool, she blurted at last. Then she hastened to add, Though I didn't think it would really work. It was only now that she was finished speaking that she was able to meet his gaze again.

O'Neill looked at her with a question in his eyes. So you had no idea this was going to happen, right? he asked as if to ascertain the facts, even though he'd been there at the time... sort of.

Sam shook her head. Not a clue, she answered. I'm as surprised as you are.

That effectively ended O'Neill's questions before they had even begun to form in his mind. He stared at her, still far too dumbfounded to speak, according to the empty expression in his eyes as he gazed at her.

Was he going into shock? Colonel? she asked. Are you okay? Why was this news affecting him so much? It wasn't like this was his baby! And it wasn't like he hadn't been aware of her personal conundrum! Sam blinked as she continued to stare at him in sudden, dumbfounded clarity as she finally comprehended the reason for his expression. Was he wishing that this was his baby? Was he glad that it wasn't? Was he so surprised all around by this news that all he could think about was how this coming baby would affect his team? What?

O'Neill blinked, shook his head back and forth, then went back to staring at her in puzzlement. But he seemed more in control of himself this time. The better question is; are you okay? he quietly asked.

Sam was more than surprised by his question. She was amazed again. Or more to the point, she was simply amazed that this was the first question that he had thought to ask. She expected him to be angry with her for putting him into this position, a team leader with only half a team, even if she had conceived this baby totally inadvertently. She certainly hadn't anticipated his rapid concern. I'm fine, she said, sounding a bit stunned in her reply. And in one moment where she met his gaze with her own, where sparks flew that even she was going to have trouble denying, her world changed in one instance. She forgot all about the last two months worth of vomiting fits, the nervous worry that she had contracted a dreadful off-world disease... I'm good, actually, is what she finally said.

He slowly settled down on the stump beside her. Carter... Sam... He paused to just stare at her again. Preg..? he asked, cut off by her nod of affirmation. He briefly looked away, then swung his gaze back to her face a moment later. But he looked as if he still didn't know which of his thoughts to articulate first. He looked as if he had been aware of the moment between them that had happened just a second before, even if he refused to speak of it now. He grunted an admittance of it, but that was all. At last he confessed, I thought you... I'm... stunned, and his words took on a double meaning. He shrugged. I don't know what to say.

You don't have to say anything, Sam quickly said. I just wanted to tell you. I don't expect any special treatment, or...

Hold on! His voice was harsher than he meant it to be, and a contrite look instantly crossed his face. He softened his expression and his voice, gazing at her. Carter... Sam... Carter... His breath came out in a tiny gasp of incredulity. You... Eventually, he had to turn his head so that he could gaze at her unimpeded. Sam... He was still having trouble voicing whatever comment he wanted to make.

So Sam spoke instead. I know this must be a horrible shock for you, Sir. It's a horrible shock for me. But I just wanted you to know, and I don't expect any... any... But she couldn't go on this time. Large tears welled in her eyes for no reason that she could discern, and the next thing she knew, they careened down her face despite her attempts to hold them back. I don't... I don't... She stared at him with a look of despair. Oh God, I'm having a baby! she helplessly thought. She didn't know anything about babies! She might end up hurting it when she wanted to help it!

Fears scampered through her mind like mist. She instinctively knew she shouldn't be making him feel like he needed to take on the emotional upheaval she was experiencing right now, and she tried not to soothe herself by begging him to share his knowledge about child-rearing. After all, he had been there before. At the same time, she did want his knowledge of baby care, but didn't want to use his knowledge on the subject only to bring back what could quite possibly be painful memories for him.

She was torn. She didn't know what to do. Crap! she cursed and once more buried her head in her hands. I'm sorry, Sir! I'm not asking for anything, you don't even have to tell the General... I will... it's my responsibility! Only...

Carter, O'Neill said with a hint of wonder now in his voice. You're having a baby. He looked away, clearly stunned again as the words made the situation seem much more real to him. Wow. He sat for a silent moment, contemplating his hands. Wow! he said once more, as if he couldn't quite visualize her with a child. Heck, she couldn't visualize it!

Suddenly he looked up, concern all over his face and fogging his eyes. Does..? He paused, then diplomatically said, Your guy friend... Does he know yet?

Sam grimaced again at just the thought of telling Pete about this baby. Um... no, she admitted at last. I need to tell him sometime soon. She grimaced again. Like, tonight... or this weekend. He lives in Denver, you know, but I'm going up there to see him on Saturday.

O'Neill didn't even hide the discomfort that statement of hers made him feel. But all he said was to offer, I can come along for the ride when you tell him. He hesitated, then added, If you want me to be there for... moral support... and all.

That's sweet! Sam instantly thought to herself. But she shook her head. I can't ask you to do something like that, she began.

He said, You're not asking, I'm volunteering. Then he rolled his eyes after he said his last word. You should like the whole 'volunteering' thing... His voice was lost as he looked down again at the ground under their feet, his attempted joke falling flat.

Sam still smiled at his comment. She knew what he was referring to; she had 'volunteered' for the original AI procedure that had put the entire team in this predicament in the first place. Sir, you don't have to feel like...

But he interrupted again, discomfort apparent in his voice even as he forced himself on. Like I told you, I don't feel like I need to do anything. He stopped himself, and sighed. Carter, don't you think that this kind of situation... uh... you being pregnant and all... Doesn't it mean... We'll be in more contact on base because of this... Doesn't it mean that you should call me 'Jack?' Then he added, I mean... if I'm... we're... we're... SG-1, I mean... if we're going to help and all...

Carter stared at him in bemusement. Um... She blinked to clear that fog from her mind. Um... She wasn't asking for help, wasn't expecting it, but was more than glad to accept it! She brightened. Sure! I think... I can call you 'Jack.' But only if you call me 'Sam,' she stipulated.

Jack nodded his head. Okay, he slowly intoned, then added, Sam-mother-of-an-SG-1-child...

Sam snorted. Daniel and Teal'c don't even know yet, and...

This seemed to surprise the Colonel... Jack. They don't?

Sam shook her head again. Not yet. I wanted to let you know first.

So it's our... yours, really... a Sam Carter secret? He cocked his head to the side and finally said, That has a nice ring to it.

But Sam didn't act like her 'secret' having a nice ring to it would ultimately make much of a difference. It might even be detrimental, she added to herself, predicting how Pete's reaction to her news might play out. She again dropped her head into her hands with a groan of despair when Jack said that she was the soon-to-be mother of his... SG-1's... child. His... soooo not going there! Oh, crap, this weekend is not going to be a good time! She shuddered.

Jack pulled her hands down from her face. But it was all he could do to cajole her to lower even one hand. The other scrubbed wearily at her cheek and forehead.

Maybe you should be there this weekend, Sir, she despairingly said. Although, I feel I should warn you that it isn't going to be pretty.

Jack's features wrinkled in concerned puzzlement. Sam wondered if he suspected how that expression made him... adorable... in her eyes.

Why? Jack asked as Sam continued to have her inappropriate thoughts about him. Do you think that Pete will be angry?

Sam snorted. I predict that 'angry' won't be a big enough word to entirely describe his reaction, she told him. Again she thought about Pete's suspicious nature, and shivered.

Jack saw the shiver, and immediately thought she was cold, and threw his arm around her shoulders. His impromptu hug wasn't exactly romantic. But then, it wasn't exactly platonic, either. Sam decided that this whole pregnancy thing rather put things in perspective for both of them. Though she had no intention of reneging on her promise to uphold the Air Force fraternization regulations (and she suspected that he wouldn't, either), that sort-of embrace was still... nice. Without even thinking about it, she leaned her head into the side of his neck and drew a shuddering breath. This is going to go so bad! she predicted again.

Jack felt the warmth of her breath on his neck, and repressed a shudder of his own. Why do you think that? he asked as a distraction to his thoughts, which were just as inappropriate as Sam's. If Pete will be angry, as you say he will, what do you think he'll do? Yell a lot before he decides that this wasn't your fault and forgive you for the whole thing?

Sam wished! No, I think that this will be the end of everything, she said.

Jack balked beside Sam. You mean that you think he'll leave? As in, leave you? His voice was utterly astonished, as if he couldn't believe what he was suspecting, that he couldn't fathom the idea of anybody volunteering to leave her.

Sam smiled a bit sadly into the side of his neck. I think that's a distinct possibility, yes, she answered. How would you feel if yours and his places were reversed? If I had to tell you that I'm pregnant with... somebody else's child?

It's an AI child, not just anybody's, Jack corrected. Then he sighed. But I see your point, he conceded. I wouldn't be happy at first. Then he cautiously added, Buuuuut...

Sam turned her head so that she could look into his eyes, obviously befuddled. But? she prompted.

Mottled red skin rested under her cheek as Jack blushed a furious red, but forged on and said, Buuuttt... It's you. He quietly intoned another statement. Accidentally having someone else's kid doesn't seem to be enough incentive to totally give you the boot. He glanced at her, still blushing - which showed a much softer side of Jack O'Neill than Sam had ever expected to see. An unplanned AI pregnancy wouldn't be a nice thought, especially at first, but... I can't say that I could hold you personally responsible for what was an accident, after all. His glance lasted a bit longer this time before his gaze shifted back to the ground. I sure don't hold you responsible. It was an accident, you say... though it means strange working conditions for the team... and team changes... He paused and peered down at her, a strangely positive expression on his face. I guess what I'm saying is that I think I... the team... we'll all 'come around' after a day or so. Then he snorted. Daniel will make sure that at least I do, though he won't have to work hard at it, and...

Sam smiled into his neck. You're right... Daniel is a good friend, whether he or you admits it or not. She sighed a sad breath. He'll bother you even if he doesn't have to until you say you're okay about the whole... team... thingy.

Jack smiled at her use of the imprecise word 'thingy.' You mean, he's a good friend whether I want to kill him at any given time or not, he said a tad indignantly.

Sam's smile was firmer this time. Yeah, that's what I said, she assured impishly.

Jack's arm suddenly tightened around Sam in what was definitely a reassuring embrace. This Pete fella will see reason, too, I bet, he encouragingly told her. It will just take time, he lied. He swung his gaze back to her face. It'll be fine... you'll see.

* * *

Jack couldn't have been more wrong if he had said that Pete would volunteer to swing from a trapeze in one of those 'Dare to Do This Crazy Stunt' shows on television.

Saturday, in a prearranged meeting between Sam and Pete in a Denver park, in stumbling words and phrases, Sam told Pete everything.... or at least, as much as she could tell him. Like she had predicted several days earlier, Pete didn't exactly take the news as calmly as Jack had taken it.

Instead, Pete stared at Sam like she was a lunatic just escaped from the local mental institution when she told him her news of her 'accidentally' carrying... whoever's... baby. Sam's heart fell when she saw the look of disgust on his face, but to her surprise, it didn't fall quite as hard or as far as she had always expected it to fall in a situation like this.

You're what?! Pete incredulously queried of Sam, a red cast to his face. Pregnant?! Through an accident?

Sam sent a wan smile. Yeah. I know it sounds like a joke, but...

But nothin'! Pete went on, his voice suddenly furious and his face ugly with anger. You expect me to believe this... this... story? He stared at her in open-mouthed incredulity. That it's... you don't know? How gullible do you think I am?

Sam's features swooped into confusion. She glanced at Jack, and when she looked back at Pete, she could tell that he was thinking now that Jack was the father, all because of one glance from her in Jack's direction. Sam instantly shook her head at Pete, and emphatically repeated that she didn't know who the father was, but she wasn't sure that Pete believed her. Pete stared at her with a hard stare, while Jack carefully watched her and Pete, suspicion of Pete written all over his face. Suspicion of Pete, and a desire to protect her that he couldn't quite cover up. He remained standing outside his truck in the parking lot while Sam spoke to Pete in the park, as he had promised during the drive up to Denver, but he was acting like his vow was becoming mighty hard for him to keep.

Jack had been calmly (seemingly) ignoring them and reading a military strategy journal up until this point, but now the journal swung from his hand at his side and he was listening to Pete's rising voice. Of course, most of the people in the park were also listening to them; Pete was hardly being quiet.

Sam hissed to Pete, Will you please lower your voice? She nervously glanced around. You're making a scene!

Pete immediately pounced on her statement. Me?! he incredulously stated. I think it's you who's 'making a scene!' he accused. What did you do, Sam? Sleep with some military base guy behind my back and just concoct this ridiculous story about AI and friends and stuff?!

'Concoct?' Sam echoed. No! she refuted, horrified at what he was suggesting. You know that anything between me and anybody military at the base is against the Frat. policy! Not exactly a true statement, but the truth was becoming too complex for her to want to go into just now. She conceded, The baby is from someone from the base... though I don't know who... She stared at him, her own mouth open now in shock. I'm not that kind of a girl anyway! Someone who cheats on...

You've been cheating on me for ages! Pete accused now with a sidelong look in Jack's direction. Even if it's only been in your mind, I know it was always him who...

Sam did her own interrupting this time, trying to distract Pete away from this ridiculous topic with a question. Him who? she acerbically inquired, though she knew perfectly well who Pete was referring to. But she wanted to force him to acknowledge his suspicions aloud. Then she was going to knock his block off! It was oddly okay to defend the Colonel in such a critical situation, even if it hadn't been okay to defend herself.

But Pete didn't say anything, only glanced again over at Jack still carefully watching them without trying to appear as if he were watching them.

Sam continued to gape as she followed Pete's line of sight. She pretended to be stunned even as she wasn't really stunned at all. Jack... Colonel O'Neill? We've never..! she exclaimed anyway.

Pete harrumphed unkindly, then pushed away from the picnic table he'd been leaning against where Sam had chosen to 'talk' to him. I've heard enough, he snarled, but in a quieter voice. And to think - I was going to ask you to marry me this trip.

Marriage? That idea positively rocked Sam's concept of the world. Marry you? she gave a startled yelp. But I hardly know you!

Pete's gaze riveted to her. We've been dating for some months, Sam. Surely you've seen this coming, as smart as you are!

Sam gave a snort now. Sure, we've dated for... She tried to think of when she had begun dating Pete, but in her daze, couldn't exactly remember. I think it's been five whole weeks... She looked at him again, and went on, But I've known the Colonel for seven years, and if we're sleeping together, as you suggest, then why is it that I haven't married him in all this time? Pete didn't answer her question, so Sam continued, What makes you think that I would want to marry you after only five weeks? She paused, and after considering how rude her words must have sounded to him, added, What makes you think I would want to marry anybody after only knowing them for five weeks?

Pete simply stared at her with a grim look on his face. You just saved me the trouble of buying an engagement ring, he said in a monotone.

Sam's face took on the look of even deeper confusion. Pete, what's the matter with you? she asked on a breath. What..?

I wized up, he said. Or this wized me up, even if the background checks I ran on your team didn't.

Sam hadn't heard about this background check thing. What? she asked, dumbfounded. What checks? When Pete didn't reply, she asked in an aghast tone, You mean that you tried to see what Daniel... Teal'c... the Colonel...

Interesting that you aren't throwing yourself in with that lot, Pete then said to her in an acerbic tone. I couldn't find anything about you... and that Teal'c fella... I couldn't find anything at all out about him! It's like he doesn't exist or something!

Sam knew she should be angry at Pete for what he was confessing, but truth to tell, she had already conducted her own search of Pete Shanahan when they had begun dating. She didn't want him to find out about her own research, thinking that trying to explain this odd compunction of hers not to completely trust anybody since 'the Jonas affair' wouldn't go over well with him, a man who always needed to be in control. She briefly wondered why she hadn't checked out her team members under this same anxiety of hers, but dismissed the idea to focus more on the man standing before her. Pete, you know that what I do for the Air Force is classified! Any useful information wouldn't show up on a simple background check!

Pete snorted again. You could be doing anything at all in that mountain of yours, and I would never know. He stared pointedly at her stomach then. For all I know, you've got the demonic twins of Dr. Daniel Jackson in there percolating away!

Sam reared back at Pete's asinine suggestion. Pete, that's... that's crude! she finally replied.

Yeah, Pete responded. Well, this whole situation is crude to me, too.

Sam's tone became one more begging in nature, as if she were trying to convince herself of her innocent intentions in this whole baby thing as well as convince Pete. Pete, I thought you'd be angry at first, but then you'd come around to see...

To see what? he repeated her, demanding. To see that my girlfriend is just some cheap bimbo in combat boots?

Jack's voice suddenly inserted itself into the conversation, the sound instilled with calm frigidity as their raised voices had induced him to join them at the picnic table. He firmly told Pete, If that's what you think of her, then you're stupid as well as gullible. It was an accident, like she said. Now lay off.

Pete's sneer turned to face Jack. I'm not one of your lackeys that you can order around! I've got rights!

Jack sneered back. You lost your rights the minute you checked us out. At Pete's look of amazement, said, Oh yeah, I know about that, as you well know when I told you in the Infirmary the day you got shot and asked me not to tell Carter! Now if all you're going to do is insult Carter, get lost!

Pete sized up the taller man, looking as if he was deciding if he could take Jack out or not.

Jack correctly read the younger man's expression. It wasn't like he hadn't seen the same antagonizing look on people's faces before. Don't bother, he suggested. Then he lowered his voice to a dangerous near whisper. And don't push me. You'll be sorry you did.

Pete injudiciously balled his fists up at his side, but Sam was there to block his arms before he could make any move in Jack's direction. Don't, she said as she wrapped her hands around his wrists in an instinctive defensive move. Get out, she calmly ordered then. You're not worth it.

Pete slapped her hands aside and sneered. At least I don't have a girl protecting me!

Sam punched him then. Jack caught hold of Sam from behind when she was busy with controlling the energy of her punch follow-through swing.

Carter, don't! Jack ordered. The little prick will probably just scream 'assault' or something, even though he deserves it as much as the stupid guys we're fighting.

Sam knew that Jack was referring to the arrogant Goa'uld who were so idiotic that they called themselves 'Gods.' So he was in effect saying that Pete was an arrogant idiot, as well. An arrogant idiot who had threatened Jack... the Colonel... and paid the price for his conceited assumptions in this situation.

Pete sat on the ground where he had landed, looking up at Sam in astonishment. You hit me! he yelped.

Sam answered, And you deserved it, you small-minded ass. I can't believe that you ran background checks on my team members! Be glad that I'm not doing worse to scum like you! She flicked her head to the side. Now get out of here. Then her gaze turned decidedly wicked. Before I really get mad! she added as a final incentive.

Pete didn't push her to see if she was telling the truth or not. He crawled to his feet and began loping away, rubbing at his tender nose with his hand. But he turned when he had run too far away from her for her to hit him again, and yelled back, Mark sure has rotten taste in little sisters!

Sam's face darkened into a thundercloud, even though his intended insult really didn't make any sense. Mark has rotten taste in friends! she yelled back to him.

Pete didn't answer, as Sam had suspected that he wouldn't. He only turned again and left as fast as his legs could carry him.

Sam relaxed in Jack's arms the second that Pete's vehicle left the parking lot. The idiot, she proclaimed with a shake of her head. And he's supposed to 'protect and serve?' she indignantly muttered, speaking of his connection to the police force. Are we sure that the Goa'uld haven't infiltrated our state and local forces? she asked, rhetorical again. 'Cause he's worse than a lot of the characters we've run into so far on our travels.

Jack and Sam were silent for a moment as they watched Pete's SUV disappear into the distance. Jack slowly released his arms, and they crept away from where they'd been holding onto Carter's still-flat waist. Well, Jack finally and nonchalantly commented to Sam as they made their way to his truck a few moments later. One thing we know for sure... Pregnancy hasn't changed your fighting skills any.

* * *

Then it was a whirl of events in the next day, and Jack and Sam didn't have the time to do what they discussed doing on the way back to Colorado Springs from Denver concerning telling Daniel and Teal'c about the coming 'SG-1 baby.' They had every intention of telling General Hammond too about the baby that following Monday morning. But once again, life got in the way.

Sam heard something about the presence of a film crew on base, how they were making a documentary, or something like that, but Sam didn't have time to really think about their presence in the SGC beyond giving them an interview, then forgetting to ask them just why she needed to be interviewed in the first place. Her mind was too scattered and full of 'baby' thoughts.

Early Monday morning, after spending some time on Sunday with the film crew, SG-1 was called in early for a very unexpected emergency briefing with the General, and before they knew it, were on a rescue mission with several other SG teams to extract Dave Dixon and his team members from what had become a Goa'uld trap.

The firefight to extract the beleaguered team from the alien Jaffa was intense. There was mud, smoke, explosions, death, carnage, mud... more mud... It was everywhere that Sam looked.

Then, out of the corner of her eyes, she caught sight of the Colonel getting hit by a staff blast that exploded on his chest, and he went down.

Sir! Sam yelled as her heart pounded her sudden fear in her throat. Her voice was instantly swallowed up by the cacophonous noise of battle. The mental question of why hadn't she yelled 'Jack!' flew through her mind, but it was an impossibly fast thought. On the heals of that thought was Oh God, he's dead! Then the ridiculous phrase I never got to pick his brain about child-rearing techniques! flashed through her mind. She could potentially now become exactly as uninformed as she had always claimed to be. She was terrified into thinking that Jack was dead. That she was alone in the Universe with a baby who had no father... father figure... a figure who knew what he was doing...

God, what am I thinking? Sam asked herself as she huddled amid the distraction of the fight, peering at where the Colonel had fallen. Inappropriate thoughts continued to race through her mind. I'm thinking that the Colonel won't die on my watch! she finally insisted to herself.

Sam felt an irrational sense of determination flood through her. She would tear Jack from the brink of death if she had to single-handedly force his energy back into his body herself!

Sam had been hiding behind a nearby boulder when she saw Jack... the Colonel... go down. She calmly turned, pointed her gun at the Jaffa who had snuck up behind them to shoot Jack, and sent several rounds of bullets straight into his chest and shoulders without compunction or compassion. She felt cold, focused, deadly... Several more Jaffa joined their fellow alien in death on the muddy ground. Then, still with a single purpose in mind, she fell forward onto her belly, and, mindless of the bullets and grenades and staff blasts whistling just inches over her head, belly crawled the ten meters to the Colonel's side.

Don't you dare die on me, you hear me!? Sam screamed into his ear as she grabbed his vest at the top so that she could unzip it in order to see the damage that the staff blast had done to him. She yanked the material aside, prepared to see a mass of blood and guts where his chest had been, but still determined to make his heart continue beating.

Sam was not prepared to only see the intact material of his BDU jacket underneath the vest, nor his wrinkled, but otherwise intact t-shirt when she pushed aside the jacket. Shoving his black shirt up without thinking that this was the first time her fingers had passed over his stomach in years, she stared at the bruised skin of his chest. There was no gaping hole, no blood and guts, no fried flesh to meet her eye, just a growing bruise. Once she had semi-recovered from the surprise that greeted her, she belatedly thought to check for a pulse. She quickly found one in his neck under her probing fingers, beating steady and strong, as if he had just fallen asleep on the field of battle.

But still Sam didn't know what to do for him beyond the typical field dressing of his 'wound.' She needed Janet. Janet! she screamed into her radio.

To Sam's surprise, it was Daniel who answered. Sam, I'm so sorry! Janet's dead!

Dead?

Sam's brain froze for a second.

Then with a start her numbed fingers jerked to life again. Janet was dead, gone... Okay, but...

But Jack was alive.

One out of two, Sam ridiculously thought in a flash of cold despair, but cold determination as well. Her thoughts flew through her mind, frigid and logical before the emotions of horror, grief, and terror had the chance to consume her.

Jack... Janet...

Sam shut her mind down, before she went insane. If Janet was unavailable... Medic! she screamed into the surrounding chaos.

* * *

Sam knelt on the Stargate ramp a few minutes later and watched as a still unconscious Jack was wheeled on a gurney through the blast doors of the 'Gate Room. When no medic had arrived when she screamed for help in the battle, she had dialed the 'Gate, thought to wait for the area in front of the 'Gate to be clear, then activated the alien device. The whoosh of the wormhole formed, the sound covered by the noise of the battle. Sam sent through her GDO code, then thought to yell into her radio, Teal'c, I'm taking the Colonel back!

Teal'c quickly responded, Go! I will cover you as you run through the 'Gate!

Sam wondered where Daniel was, and decided that he must be dealing with Janet's dead body. Before she could ponder what the doctor's death might mean to her personally, and to her baby, and her pregnancy (which was weird enough already), she aimed for the whirling puddle of blue. She had pulled Colonel O'Neill haphazardly over her shoulders, his weight unequally spread in a sort of tenuous balance that was the best she could get it in under the circumstances... and her shoulders were clearly a lot stronger than they looked. She slowly staggered up the Stargate steps, her gaze not wavering from the blue before her.

She had to get Jack back to the SGC! Back to safety! She didn't consider if he had broken ribs, if one of those ribs was right then puncturing one of his lungs, if that lung was then filling up with blood... She just made a sideways staggering run for the 'Gate and threw herself forward as Teal'c's staff weapon sang in the air to join the explosive noise of the battle behind her.

In the next blink of her eyes, she was on her knees on the SGC ramp. Close the Iris! she screamed. She pulled both her and the Colonel to the side, narrowly missing being hit by an aberrant staff blast that had followed them through the 'Gate as the Iris whirled shut behind her. Jack's weight settled on her like a heavy ton of bricks as she ended their roll near the left side of the ramp. She lay under him for three quick heartbeats, the smell of blood, smoke, and ash mixing alarmingly with the smell of his skin, a smell that simply meant 'Jack' to her.

Then before Sam could react to that smell and completely embarrass herself by hugging Jack hard at the edge of the ramp (or worse - kissing him) she felt his weight leave her body as he was pulled away, rolled over, and the medics swarmed around him. She did her best to suck in air and blurt, Staff blast... chest... bruise... not seen by medics yet... may have internal injuries! She coughed as her stomach heaved.

Her stomach rolled a second time inside her, making a hash out of her breakfast of toast and juice. She frantically pulled off her battle helmet, yanked out the inner lining, then threw up into it just as she caught sight of the Colonel being wheeled away on a medical gurney.

Major! Hammond blurted in her ear. Report! How is it out there? Are you hurt? Do we need to recall Doctor Fraiser?

At the mention of her friend's name, Sam retched into her helmet one more time. She briefly wondered if it was the smell of battle that still lingered in the air, the stench of blood, or the thought of the death of her friend that caused her stomach upheaval. Or maybe it was the baby, which no one but her, Janet, and the Colonel knew about... and now Janet was dead... Sam retched a third time, coughing up bile and spewing liquid. It was all soooo not pretty!

Sam glanced around to take her mind off Janet... off Jack... and only then noticed the controlled chaos of the 'Gate Room. There were other injured soldiers spread out on the floor, and medics scurried around the room in their white coats and uniforms, trying to soothe their patients, trying to reassure them that the doctor would be with them shortly...

Janet's dead, Sam heard her voice nonchalantly say into the post-battle noise. Daniel should be bringing her in in a few more minutes. It was as if she was simply giving her superior a report on someone she didn't know. Her thoughts were consumed now by the baby she was carrying.

Sam rolled to her knees and climbed to her feet, still thinking only of the baby growing inside her. She had to get to the Infirmary and get checked out. If anything happened to the baby now, she would never forgive herself. Grimly she thought about the choice she'd just made... to go through the 'Gate, to save her CO, who she happened to be in love with... (She admitted it... sort of... to herself...) Or should she have remained behind where it was safe, and ensure the safety of the baby? But there hadn't been much of a choice then, just like there hadn't been a choice when she had brought Jack home through a dangerous rain of bullets and staff blasts.

Now Sam slid down the ramp. She stumbled down the two metal steps. A fog had encased her mind, and inexplicable tears streamed down her cheeks as she aimed herself towards the Infirmary.

Major, my office, now! Hammond barked from somewhere behind her and to her left. I want to hear more of this story behind Doctor Fraiser.

Her mind rebelled, taking her body with it. No, she had to get to the Infirmary... Jack... the Colonel... the baby... No, must... Infirmary...

Colonel O'Neill will be fine. Didn't you hear the medics say he was just bruised? Hammond went on, clearly thinking that was what was bothering her. I need to hear your report Major, now, and...

Sam crudely wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her coat. No, she blurted in single-minded intensity. She knew she wasn't thinking clearly, but there was nothing clearer than the concern she felt for her baby that was now monopolizing her mind. It left no room for logical thought. She didn't even realize what she was saying to her superior officer. I have to get checked out... the Infirmary.

Major! Hammond barked a second time. Are you in shock? I said my office! He placed what he must have thought of as calming hands on her arms to steer her in the right direction. I'll meet you there in...

She didn't let him finish. Suddenly frantic again at Hammond's seemingly detaining hold on her arms, she yelled, No! You don't get it! I have to get the baby checked out!

Hammond stared at the writhing form of one of his best officer's and could only gape. What baby? he asked in astonishment. Was there a baby on the planet? Major, report! he ordered, clearly thinking that a military approach to this problem of hers would break her out of whatever spell she had fallen into. So his bark filled the room as he uncharacteristically yelled at Sam.

No! Sam hollered back. My baby!

For one moment, the noise and chaos ceased in the room as at least fifty pairs of eyes snapped to her in astonishment.

Hammond gaped. What?! he hollered. Major, explain!

Explain - she could do that. She had been doing that for days now. AI! Sam hollered back, still trying to aim herself in the direction of the Infirmary. Hak'tyl! Geez... don't these people know anything? she unrealistically wondered.

It was then that Sam realized that she might not have very steady brain functions just then. Her decisions might be... suspect. Infirmary.., she muttered anyway, and threw Hammond's surprise-weakened arms off at the same time she jerked forward. Not thinking about what she was doing, caught in a web of maternal protectiveness without realizing it for what it was, she fled past the hundreds of staring eyes to cry her way down the corridor towards the Infirmary. The visiting film crew tried to block her path, but she pushed past them with a growl, intent on her destination.

* * *

Two hours later, Hammond stood at her bedside as she blinked back the fog of a sedated sleep. It was a feeling that she immediately recognized. Major Carter? Hammond gently inquired, his voice sounding in her ear. Major Carter?

Carter stared at him in sudden confusion. Where was the Colonel? The Colonel always sat beside her bed when she was injured. She cautiously looked around. She was injured, wasn't she? She was in the Infirmary. Where was Janet?

Then it all came crashing back as the fog slid away. Oh God... Janet... dead... Jack... almost dead... injured...

Sam jerked upright against the blankets. Where's the Colonel? At least she had the presence of mind not to call him by his first name.

Hammond placed a calming hand on her shoulder. It's all right... He's fine, you got him here in time before any more damage could be done to his ribs. Only a few are causing him pain... the medics are wrapping him up as we speak. His forehead puckered at the breath of relief that Sam drew in.

But before he could question her further, Sam's hand flew to her stomach, which was naturally still as flat as it ever had been. She could feel nothing under her smooth skin. The baby! she yelped. SG-1 will kill me! The Stargate... What was she saying? And in front of the General? Jack's going to kill me anyway, right after the court-martial!

Hammond's cheek furrowed with his forehead, the only sign that he was agitated at all. Major... He looked away in order to mutter to himself, How do I put this delicately? He turned his head back to stare at her. Are you..?

Sam didn't let him finish before she interrupted. So that he wouldn't have to worry about delicacy, and diplomacy, she blurted, I'm pregnant, with a baby. Of course with a baby, she thought. What else would she be pregnant with? I'm eight weeks along. It was the AI procedure for the Hak'tyl, Sir, that did it, and before you go thinking that I'm involved in an illicit relationship with anyone on the base, there's...

Hammond sighed as she babbled. Finally, he held up a hand to stop her. Major... Why wasn't I informed about this sooner? Meaning - Why did you go through the Stargate on this rescue mission if you knew you were pregnant?

Sam swallowed a tiny amount of nausea, and saw that sensation as a good sign that the baby was all right. We... I mean I... She didn't want to let the General know that the Colonel had also known of her condition, but had let her go through the 'Gate anyway that morning when she had insisted that she accompany her team 'come hell or high water.' He had caved in to her demands when she had started spewing clichés. I had plans to talk to you this morning, but the R&R happened first, and... She was babbling again. She looked down at the blankets and sheets under her in order to give herself time to collect her scattered wits. It was an accident, she whispered, hoping that he took the news better than Pete had that weekend. I'm sorry.

Hammond stood, staring at her, his eyes unblinking, his visage smooth and unwrinkled and no longer confused. But he did look aggrieved, as if he didn't know what to do with this news, or how he was going to explain the situation. But all he did was sigh. Major Carter, you are hereby grounded from 'Gate travel until the birth of your baby. Where that birth will take place has yet to be seen. Doctor Fraiser is no longer here to testify to the truthfulness of your story, nor to recommend a course of action in this instance, and though her council will be greatly missed, I need to speak to Colonel O'Neill about this, then to the President and Joint Chiefs before I... He didn't finish his comment. Instead, he whirled around and strode to the door.

General! Sam desperately called back to him.

Hammond paused at the door, but didn't turn around to look at her.

He hates me for doing this to him! Sam thought, despondent. Aloud, she repeated, It was an accident. I didn't mean to put everyone in a position that...

Hammond still didn't turn around, but aimed his mouth to project over his shoulder. Major, you didn't 'put me in' any position. This is simply an unprecedented reaction to Earth's allies in the war against the Goa'uld. I will explain it as such to the President.

Sir...

I'll keep you informed of what he decides, Major. And with that, Hammond was gone.

* * *

Daniel found Sam an hour later, after her release from the Infirmary, sitting in her darkened lab, crying into her folded arms.

Sam? Daniel asked in alarm. You all right? Then he muttered, No, stupid question after losing... Then he asked a second query, Is there anything that I can do?

Sam turned her head to stare at him when Daniel spoke his words. She tried to brush her tears aside, but when he walked into her lab and shut the door behind him, she knew that a serious discussion was about to take place, and the fear of what that discussion topic might be brought more tears to her eyes. God! When had she begun to cry so much like this? She wasn't a crier by nature. Blame it on the pregnancy hormones, she advised herself as she tried to quickly regain control of her wayward emotions.

You heard, Sam then said into the silence of the closed lab.

Daniel raised his eyebrows. About the... your baby? Sam nodded in misery. Daniel snorted. Sorry, Sam, but the way you behaved with the General this morning... The entire base knows about the baby.

More tears. God, why could she not stop crying?! This had to be more than just hormones. I meant to tell you, she swiftly explained. You and Teal'c...

Does Jack know? he asked, cutting her off, as if her telling him and Teal'c was unimportant compared to her informing their commander.

Again Sam nodded.

Is it..?

Daniel didn't get the chance to finish what he was asking, for she interrupted to wearily explain once again, It was an AI accident, and no, I'm not with Pete anymore, because of the baby, and the Colonel knows all about all of it, he went to Denver with me this weekend to talk to Pete about it... Pete, that asinine swinehole... and the Colonel's been calling the baby an SG-1 baby ever since, and Janet knew all about the baby, but Janet's... Sam choked.

Before she could put words to the doctor's recent tragic death, Daniel managed to send her a rather watery but encouraging grin... sort of... and, after physically schooling his expression, said, Well, yeah, if that's how you want to think of it... your pregnancy was an accident after all, as you say... So I guess it is a sort of an SG-1 baby...

Daniel, Sam tearfully interrupted once more. I brought the Colonel back... from the planet, she finished telling him. It was awful. I threw up on the 'Gate ramp... All I could think of was that I have no idea what to do with this... this baby. I don't know the first thing about any child-rearing rules and raising kids, not like the Colonel... though asking him might make him remember things he'd rather forget. But he knows... he's been there before... and I'm so clueless... and Janet's been there before, too... sort of... but now Janet's... She choked again.

Daniel looked alarmed. Geez, you must be terrified!

Sam peered at him in even deeper misery than she had felt when she came hurtling back through the 'Gate. She sniffed and whispered, I have no idea what to do, Daniel.

Daniel stared at her some more. Well, I can't say that I've had a whole lot of experience with kids... none with babies... except holding one or two on Abydos. Then he wrinkled his brows at her. Have you thought about abortion?

Sam's eyes grew wider, and that urge to throw up was again on her. No! Then she bit back her swirling emotions long enough to amend, I mean to say that yes, I've thought about it, but I can't do it. I didn't even think that I could get pregnant! How can I get an abortion now just because it would be more convenient? She beseeched him through her teary eyes. Thanks for bringing it up as an option, though, Daniel.

Daniel didn't hesitate to continue, as if now that he was on an option roll, he couldn't stop his mouth. Adoption? he suggested next.

Sam sniffed again. She hadn't considered adoption, actually. If she were honest with herself... Daniel, she said, crying again. I thought that I could never even have a baby, she reminded him. I don't want to give one up if I get to actually have one... I mean, be pregnant with one. So, no, I didn't think much about adoption. She peered at him across the room. Or at all, really.

Daniel just continued to stare at her. The intensity of his gaze was beginning to unnerve her. Daniel.., she began.

An SG-1 baby, he said, mostly to himself. Then he grinned in his usual way, belying the fact that he had been with a good and dear friend at her untimely death just that morning. He asked, If it's a girl, can we call her 'Rose?' That was Janet's middle name.

At the name, Sam once again burst into tears, but she was smiling as she cried.

* * *

Teal'c was as stoic and as expressionless as ever when Sam told him the news he had surely already heard that morning.

They were sitting in the Commissary. Teal'c was looking at the tray full of fruit and greens that he had thoughtlessly taken, his expression showing that he hadn't realized that his appetite would die that morning when he thought of the small, yet immensely strong, doctor. He stared now at Sam over his tray of food. MajorCarter, he intoned, as if preparing to give his greatest and most sought after advice. Then he asked, If this is to be an SG-1 baby, as I've heard it called by DanielJackson, would you care for a tiny SGC uniform for the child? Shall I provide this uniform?

Sam laughed and cried at the same time. God! When had she become such a watering pot?

Teal'c looked bemused, clearly unsure of just what he had said that had set off her tears. I am aware of a website that specializes in uniforms for small children, he informed, still at a loss.

Sam cried even harder.

Teal'c tried again. If it is a boy, and you do not know who the father is, as you say, would it then not be wise to name the child after the SGC's and SG-1's greatest ally? Shall we name it 'Thor?'

Wow! The men of SG-1 were, and had always been, so accepting of her, and of this latest of her accidents. And now here was Teal'c calmly conceding to the importance of her news, and suggesting a name for the baby. Sam's tears burst out of her in sobs as she grinned at the Jaffa.

* * *

Several days later:

Her father wasn't so accepting of the subject of a surprise baby as her team had been when Sam told him why she needed to fly in a ship to the Alpha Site in order to work with him on a possible weapon response against the Kull Warriors that Anubis was surely planning to send against the inhabitants of the Universe sometime in the near future.

A baby?! Sam, are you insane! Jacob raged the instant Sam said the word 'pregnant.' This is the direct result of some forbidden relationship, isn't it? Sam, the frat regs..!

Are still intact! Sam raged back. This was just the kind of reaction that she had feared from the more volatile side of her father. It was an AI accident! And you would know that if you would just shut up for a minute and let me explain a few things!

Sam could feel her blood pressure rising with each word she yelled, and she abruptly sat down in order to calm herself. High blood pressure was something she wanted to avoid as long as she was pregnant - she knew that much, at least!

Jacob noticed her reaction, alarmed. Sam, are you all right? he immediately asked, his features contorted into anxiety.

Where is Jack when I need him? Sam thought, and took a moment to enjoy the amusement of her wanting Jack for the way he used a calm approach to most adverse situations. Jack O'Neill didn't exactly bespeak 'calm' when he was in a situation that was already calm. It was only when things were already chaotic that his calm approach to a crisis situation reared its head. Just at the moment, Carter would do anything to have a sedate Jack to quietly talk things through with her father for her.

But that smacked of Sam's more cowardly ways. And besides, her stomach was grumbling its protest to her even as her father continued to glare at her in spite of his anxiety. Sam ignored her inner rumblings in order to more fully return her attention to her father and the situation at hand. Dad, listen once, and listen good, Sam said. I'll tell you everything, but you have to promise not to fly off the deep end first.

Jacob sighed, but saw a new uncompromising light in his daughter's eyes. All right, he said on a sigh of resignation. Her expression must have convinced him. Shoot.

And Sam told him everything.

* * *

Sam ran. Always running, always gasping for breath, always this exhaustion sucking at her, making a stitch form in her side, making her head swim, making her think about as clearly as your typical cloudy tank full of maturing symbiots...

She ran... for hours. The Super Soldier chasing her would not give up. It (she couldn't bring herself to call it a 'he') chased her around the destroyed Alpha Site perimeter, chased her till she was ready to drop. It paused only long enough to shoot down her first ray of hope that day: the UAV that flew over her position in the forest. SG-1 is here, she thought when she saw it, images of the possible father of the baby... Oh, you wish, Sam! she derisively thought at herself. You go ahead and wish one of SG-1 was the father of the baby! That would make things so much easier in some ways... and so much harder. But it doesn't matter, because that idea is just ridiculous! So instead of pausing to think things through with a logical bent to her ideas, to hypothesize like she normally did, she forced herself to ignore the UAV she had seen, and to continue on... and on... and on.

Still, the thought continued to inappropriately accost her as she at last allowed herself to sink down in the boulder field where the UAV had crashed. She wanted to take advantage of the short pause she'd been granted when the Kull Warrior's attention was off her for a moment as it reassessed its position, she assumed. No matter how brief that pause was, she had to take advantage of every opportunity she was given and to rest while she could.

But she didn't rest now. She had an armed UAV to contend with, and if she kept her wits about her, and went on ignoring her rambling baby thoughts, she would still be able to use the missile attached to the UAV by reprogramming its intended target. Then all she had to do was lure the Super Soldier into the projected path of the newly targeted missile, then fire at it, hopefully killing it. Simple.

Ha! Was she becoming delirious or something? A Super Soldier would never allow itself to be 'lured' anywhere!

Unless it had the right bait that it couldn't ignore.

And Sam was the perfect bait.

As she worked to rewire the controls of the UAV missile, Sam continued to think about who might be on the planet right at that exact moment, searching for her. But she tried to tell herself that it didn't matter who was searching for her, and who wasn't. They wouldn't be able to do her much good if she died due to exhaustion... or if this intended missile attack didn't work.

Absently, she rubbed her stomach, thinking, This isn't the best life for you during your gestation, is it, baby... Thor, she tried out the name that Teal'c had stubbornly stuck to.

Sam watched as the smoke from the downed UAV rose relentlessly into the air before it dissipated into the light blue atmosphere above her and to the right. It would bring the Kull warrior to the downed UAV site. It would also bring the members of SG-1 who were... But no! No use going down that road of distracting thoughts right now! She couldn't afford it.

Still, the hope inside her that had sprung up at the sight of the tiny plane flying through the sky wouldn't go away. With it the undeniable hope that SG-1 was somewhere on the planet, trying to rescue her, trying to help...

It was all she needed to gain her second wind. New tingles flared in her, and it was also all she could do not to call out Colonel! Guys! Over here! But that would be foolish and would only give away her position to the Super Soldier earlier than she intended. It was surely already hot on her six before she was ready to face the warrior anyway.

Another wisp of a thought went through Sam's mind about hoping her father was faring well through this disaster. Then, her thoughts firmly fixed on baby names that were not the names of Norse Gods, she pushed herself to continue wiring and reprogramming the UAV missile, her and her babies' last hope.

* * *

Her last hope didn't work. When the Super Soldier rose again out of the rubble that the missile had created, she acknowledged that it had her, at last. She was so tired by then, so drained, that all she could do was muster enough energy to send a thought to her baby, Sorry, baby Thor... or Janet Rose... or whoever you are. Mommy tried. The Kull warrior lifted its arm to take aim at her with the deadly weapon attached to its armor...

And that's when the real reason she had stayed alive against all odds burst out of the surrounding trees and literally lifted her, and her baby, from the jaws of death.

But she would never tell Jack about the intensity of the relief that shot through her the moment she saw him. Knowing of such emotion would only go to Jack's head, after all.

* * *

Jack looked down on her in her Infirmary bed, his face a picture of affectionate exasperation. You are going to be the death of me, he said in a calm voice that hid the acid of worry that had almost consumed him as recently as four hours before.

Sam grinned a soft grin as she tried to come completely awake, and to push aside the feeling of a sedative-induced sleep. That's what my Dad said a few minutes ago when he was in here to say goodbye to me for a time. Her voice was slightly slurred, and she cleared her throat to rid herself of the sound. Finally, she glanced around the Infirmary, a look of confusion suddenly on her face. At least, I think my Dad was here, she hesitantly said.

Yeah, Jack assured. You're not going crazy... yet. I saw him leaving the Infirmary, but I was too far away to say anything to him. The calm look on his face made me feel better. If he'd looked tense or concerned, I would have gotten here even sooner.

Sam's grin turned from soft into something more mischievous. She caught sight of two nurses across the Infirmary with their heads bent close together, as if they were sharing a secret... or gossip. People are talking about how soon you got down here already, I see.

Hey, not you, too! Jack huffed a breath, then crossed his arms in defiance. Damn gossip mill!

Oh, Sam thoughtfully and wickedly stated, being more open than she had ever been with him before. (It must have been the drugs). SG-1 has been the center of so much gossip before now that one little baby... or a run-in with a warrior trying to destroy me... None of it should tip the gossip scale too much.

Jack gazed at her in amazement. Have you been talking to Daniel lately? he asked, suspicion all over his face.

Daniel was always more privy than his team mates about base gossip. There was just something about his face that portrayed his inner innocence, something that made everyone trust him...

Sam was easily distracted by this thought. And speaking of Daniel... He suggested the name 'Rose,' as in 'Janet Rose,' if the baby's a girl, and I was thinking of the name 'Cheyenne'... I did have the AI procedure done in Cheyenne Mountain, after all... So while I was running from the Super Soldier, I got to thinking...

Jack gave another sigh of exasperation. Geez, Carter, you're even thinking when a Super Soldier is after you? He leaned down towards her stomach in an unprecedented move of total intimacy, and sang to the place in her stomach where the baby was lying, Your mom is nuts, Junior, you know that?

Junior? How did he know that she had called the baby 'Junior' at first? That, as sick as it was, since they had called Teal'c's symbiote 'Junior,' she had thought about calling the baby 'Jacob Junior' if it was a boy. As she didn't know what the baby's father's name was, she therefore couldn't name it after the baby's father, so she'd thought about naming it after the baby's grandfather. Right from the start of that suggestion, her dad had negated her idea, and told her just yesterday that she needed to be more creative in what she chose to name her baby, that he wanted something more special than 'Jacob Junior.'

So Sam barely paused long enough for Jack to speak. She asked him, What do you think of 'Janet or Rose Cheyenne,' Sir? She raised her brows in a look of desperate interrogation. She already knew that Daniel liked the name, and what Daniel liked, Teal'c inevitably followed, and vice versa. Now all she had to do was get Jack's approval of the name. I'll call her 'Cheyenne?' She looked up at him, her features lifted in an expression of hope. When he didn't respond, she goaded, Sir?

Jack sat back down in a chair he had pulled close to her bed. He looked as if he were thinking... hard. Then he leaned in towards her in another unexpected move of blatant intimacy. Carter... Sam... here you are, in the Infirmary, where your good friend reigned until just a few days ago... and you're thinking about baby names? he gently and incredulously inquired.

The expression of hope disintegrated on Sam's face. Instantly a chill accosted her body, and she fought more tears as she looked at him.

Sam was suddenly mortified, but trying not to look it. She played with the sheets, embarrassed for him to think that she had forgotten about Janet for one second. She looked everywhere but at him so he couldn't see the tears in her eyes. But it was no good - a tear was already worming its way down her cheek. So Sam sniffed, then confessed in a voice full of resigned sorrow, The truth is, Sir, that if I don't think about something stupid like baby names, I'll end up thinking about how I keep expecting Janet to run out of her office, and then I remember that she'll never run out of her office again, and I might burst into tears without the help of pregnancy hormones, so I concentrate on the baby in order to forget. Then she looked at his stunned expression, and added, Or at least I pretend to forget.

Jack's features fought the blush of mortification that was creeping up through his own hair. God, Carter, I'm sorry I said anything. Thinking of baby names isn't stupid. Again that blush shot up his skin, though this time it was blush of embarrassment that mottled his face. He glanced aside to see if anyone was watching, then met her gaze once more. Truth is... His blush deepened until his face flamed. Truth is, I did the same thing. He looked uncomfortable but determined now. In a soft, slow voice, he told her, I thought a lot about names when I was laid up with those ribs of mine just last week. His hands worried themselves together in his lap, but he forged on in spite of his embarrassment over his confession. And I have a... an idea...

Sam perked up. Yeah?

His face again burned crimson. Um...

Sam was fast moving from 'exasperated' to 'irritated' at his hesitation. Pregnancy may not have affected her fighting skills any, but it sure made her patience a lot shorter! Colonel, just...

Sam was going to say 'tell me,' but the Colonel's words cut her off. Okay... If this is a true SG-1 baby, I was thinking about all of us on SG-1, you know, all our names put together, but 'Sajadate' sounds too... alien... so I got to thinking about SG-1, then I got to thinking about Jonas, and then I thought that if it's a boy, naming it 'Jonas'' might resurrect really bad memories for you... as in, making you think of Jonas Hansen. It's not the right name for an SG-1 baby... not a... baby name... And you might not like that name so much, anyway, but we did have a Jonas on SG-1... Jonas Quinn... and I got to thinking about the name 'Quinn'...if it's a boy. He looked completely terrified at the very thought of suggesting a name to her. And suddenly he also seemed totally adorable.

'Quinn.' She paused, mulling over his idea so that she could hide her eyes and her emotions from him. He would be sure to see right through her to her feelings about him if he saw her eyes. She could no longer control the fact that her eyes so realistically portrayed what she was thinking at any given time. So she looked down and cocked her head. I kinda like that. His idea brought pleasant thoughts of spending time with Jonas in his office with The Weather Channel playing in the background. Well, that certainly goes on the list of name possibilities. Then she grinned up at him. Right along with Teal'c's suggestion of 'Thor.'

Jack grinned back at her, looking pleased that she didn't automatically think he was crazy to have thought of names in the first place, or to make his suggestion in the second place. We'll save 'Thor' to use as a middle name, he said, and they laughed.

* * *

Only a week later, just like that, in the blink of an eye, the world pulled the rug out from under her again.

So... she was pregnant... SG-1 was her only support group, since Mark wasn't speaking to her any longer, too angry about the whole Pete deal, and Jacob was now absent, and had been since the Super Soldier incident. But now Jack, the centering stone of SG-1, their leader, was... gone. Well, not gone... frozen... But as good as gone.

Leaving Sam alone.

She hadn't realized how much she'd come to rely on him before Jack was... gone.

Sam sniffed a mournful sniff as she sat in her unnaturally quiet, agonizingly empty lab. She had to face facts soon... Jack had been gone three whole days already, and she was just now beginning to admit to herself that she didn't know how to bring him back.

What was she going to do?

If one of their allies wasn't able to pull a miracle out of their... he might be gone forever.

Again Sam was consumed with despair.

* * *

Sam let the deadness of the Commissary at four in the morning soak into her. She was in the middle of recalling that conversation she and Jack had shared in the Infirmary, the one about baby names, before all the trouble had begun, before Jack had sacrificed himself to another Ancient download, before he had fought Anubis, beat the hell out of his Goa'uld ass, but at a terrible personal price.

She shivered, as if she too were frozen in Antarctic ice the way Jack had been frozen for the last month. If the baby's a boy, she stubbornly went on with her thoughts, what about calling him 'Jack?' We can call him that in memory of the greatest CO that his Mom ever had.

The way Sam sat - alone - her only company her morose thoughts... It was becoming a typical sight in the SGC. She kept her thoughts to herself, always, but her idle ideas still managed to leak out to the base personnel, making everyone look at her in sorrow and pity as they passed her in the hallways. She hated it.

But now she was alone again as she sat in the darkened Commissary, where she had taken to sitting at all hours of the day or night. Even General Hammond, who had been called in from his temporary posting in Washington DC to consult with new base commander, Dr. Weir, about what had happened to the original base 2IC had shaken his head at his formerly robust Major Carter. He clearly didn't know how to help her.

But nothing could help her, not even her memories. Especially not her memories! Now that she had recalled that previous, semi-light conversation about baby names between her and Jack, she also recalled how she had jokingly shared her ideas with her more-than-CO in the Infirmary after the Super Soldier incident. Why was it that she constantly treated the defining moments of her life with lightness and banality rather than with the seriousness they deserved? She sighed, morose again.

Jack had been frozen in Antarctica for a whole month, she reminded herself. She was still having serious doubts as to whether she would find a way to unfreeze him, to say nothing of restoring his memory to him! He might not even be able to recall the conversation that he'd had with her about baby names!

Tears welled. She knew that she was going to end up crying into her tea (she could no longer drink coffee without puking) if she didn't think about something else besides Jack, pronto.

Funny how she had no trouble calling him 'Jack' now that he was...

The tears fell in spite of her efforts.

The baby moved in a now familiar flutter against the sides of her stomach. Her hand immediately went to her tummy to rub it in soothing circles.

Don't worry, little Quinn, we'll get Jack back. He'll be here, causing trouble, before you know it. Mommy promises.

The flutter fell, only to be picked up again a moment later. Whoever was this baby's father must like nightime, because this baby had always been especially active at night, ever since she had begun feeling that tiny flutter of movement against her ribs. Sam sighed and brushed the tears off her cheeks. When she finished, she whispered, I wish Jack could see how big you've gotten, Rose Cheyenne. But I'll figure out how to rescue him if it's the last thing I do, promise. The baby wriggled again. Then she invoked her new favorite name, Jonathan Jack, I'll get him back. I'm working on it.

* * *

And work she did, constantly, when ever her never-ending nausea let her. Even though her pregnancy was progressing at a normal rate, Sam had suffered nausea from day one. And as crackers helped ease her nausea, no matter how stereotypical that was... So there was a Tupperware container of crackers in the Control Room beside what over the years had become known as 'Major Carter's dialing terminal.'

Crackers, no matter how stereotypical, was a stereotype for a reason. The dryness of crackers always worked to control Carter's incessant nausea. There was another cracker container that she was handed every time she entered the Commissary. There was one in the Infirmary, one in Daniel's office, one behind the General's... the Commander's... Dr. Weir's desk in her office. An inspection agent once tried to remove all this 'unsightly personal food' when she was on a sweeping tour of the SGC to make sure that it met Air Force regulations, and Sam had grabbed the Control Room container like it held the manna of the Gods, then laid out the inspection agent, a Lieutenant Pellergy, with one punch to her stupid regulation-enforcing jaw.

It took a whole hour of begging and scraping and apologizing for General Hammond to smooth things over with the President and Joint Chiefs after that particular incident.

But the event left Sam sort of grinning every time she thought of it, happy that, indeed, her fighting skills hadn't diminished with her pregnancy.

Sam said to the baby in sotto voice, Just like Jack said weeks ago, Walter George.

* * *

A month later, things were the same... but they were different, too. After begging Dr. Weir to be allowed to fly to the Asgard Galaxy to look for help with resurrecting Jack, Sam and Teal'c left on a modified Goa'uld ship to careen through space. From a trip that almost ended in death for her and Teal'c, to the Asgard ship surrealistically named The Teal'c, to an indeterminate replicator ship where she was held prisoner and tortured for what seemed like days on end, Sam remembered that she'd had to admit in parting with Daniel that at least things were never the same boring old thing in their jobs at the SGC.

Things seemed particularly strange when she woke up suddenly to find herself alone, in a strange bed, in a strange environment other than the replicator ship that she remembered being beamed to what seemed only moments before.

She stared at the bedroom she was in that she didn't recognize. She was dressed in a nightgown that she also didn't recognize, and she was in a house that she didn't recognize, with a dog that she didn't recognize, with a man who looked like Daniel (which made sense in a weird sort of way - Daniel had been the subject of her latest thoughts, after all). But she knew that this look-alike of Daniel couldn't be Daniel because he was still at the SGC on Earth, where she and Teal'c had been forced to leave him. Seeing Daniel immediately upon exploring her new and strange environment reminded her of the other strange events that had recently occurred in her job, and she wanted to put her hand on her ever-growing pregnant tummy and say, I'm working on it, Cassandra Dray'auc, I'm working on it, but she didn't even dare say the statement in her mind, as the Replicator Fifth might be able to read what she was thinking.

Definitely the oddest thing of all was that she felt no baby in this strange reality that she didn't recognize. She only felt her flat tummy.

It was at that moment that she knew without a doubt that this unrecognizable time spent with Daniel wasn't real, just as she had suspected. That it was all a replicator-induced hallucination.

But she didn't dare think or say that, either.

* * *

Carter! A recently resurrected Jack shoved his way through the dense undergrowth of the new Asgard homeworld. Carter! he called again.

Sam! Jack heard Daniel call from somewhere behind him and to the right.

MajorCarter! Teal'c added his voice to Daniel's and Jack's. A minute later his tone became much more frantic. Over here!

Jack sprinted through the trees. Thorns grabbed at his clothing, but he ignored every interruption of his dash to his destination. Gotta get to Carter! he thought in a feeling close to panic. His heart thumped painfully against his ribs, ribs that had been broken so many times...

Jack skidded to a halt as he took in Sam's prostrate form lying spread out on the ground. Before he even stopped running, he sensed the swell of her baby bump hidden under her BDUs, but he only sensed it because he knew that it was there. Anybody else looking at it would think that Sam had simply gained a little weight instead. It was too early for her to have the comfort of wearing maternity BDUs yet, but he knew. Besides, Daniel had told him in idle conversation on the Asgard ship that Sam had wondered if the baby... named 'Mala Neath' the last time he had heard... liked the maternity BDUs or, like Carter, thought they were ugly.

Jack didn't care if Sam were dressed for the next several months in a gunny sack, just as long as she was alive.

Now he skidded down beside Sam to the wet ground in an abject sense of alarm, ending up kneeling beside her. He gave Sam a timid shake, not wanting to hurt her. Who knew what that replicator bastard had done to her and the baby she carried. Jack then gently whispered in her ear, Carter, it's me. He gave her another mild shake, Wake up... please.

The 'please' told Daniel and Teal'c that something else was going on here other than the reuniting of teammates. This was the reunion of so much more than that.

Carter wasn't aware of Daniel and Teal'c's shared look. She only saw Jack when her eyes fluttered open. It was as if she had been waiting for the last several months to hear those exact words spoken into her ear by Jack. But, as had been the case for the months before now, she figured that she was again imagining his presence, and shut her eyes against the glare of the Asgard sun instead of looking at him with a sense of recognition.

She was only imagining hearing Jack's voice... wasn't she? But Sam's eyes fluttered again. She blinked, then squinted at the three men surrounding her, and...

Wait, she groggily thought to herself. Three men? Sam paused for one or two painful heartbeats. For the first time, she played with the idea that this was real, no hallucination, no imagination... The baby kicked as a perfectly-timed distraction - she felt it. She was aware of it. Did that mean..? Then this isn't a replicator dream?

She discerned the rustle of the leaves under her as she moved her leg up in a knee-jerk reflex action. She took in the sight of Teal'c, Daniel, and Jack leaning over her. She could feel the way Daniel placed his hand on her leg, the way Teal'c touched her arm. The smell of Jack's skin.

Wait a minute! The smell? How could she smell Jack if he wasn't here, for crying out loud? She had taken to repeating the Colonel's favorite sayings lately, just to feel closer to him.

Now... She could still smell him. She could 'almost clearly' see him. He was fuzzy, but... They all were, and they all had anxious expressions on their faces, but Jack... He looked so much more anxious as to be almost obsessed with determining her safety.

How could she dream up an expression that was so... resolute? Sam blinked. The fog hovering over her eyes lifted. For the first time in what seemed like months, her mind cleared.

Oh God, she smelled him! His smell. He's here, right here, gotta be, she decided. The Asgard must have come through in the end after she was swept away in that replicator beam, and brought him back. So that must mean... If this is a dream, she deduced, then it's a very realistic one. Don't anybody wake me up.

Sam inhaled sharply, now smelling dirt, and old leaves, and Daniel, and Teal'c, and the sting of replicator blocks, and the tang of Asgard metal, and... Jack.

In one sudden motion, she rocketed to her knees, and... damn the regs and the consequences... she threw herself at Jack. Her arms wrapped around his neck as his caressed her back, his arms slipping naturally around her just under her ever-spreading waistline. Sir, she reverently breathed into his ear, a smile widely creasing her cheeks.

And the baby chose that very moment to kick her in her bladder. Her full bladder.

She didn't even mind.

* * *

That night, after a hectic homecoming, after hours spent in wild debriefings, Infirmary visits, baby monitoring, showers, and quick explanations in the corridors, Sam had been allowed to go home. Now, after several hours, another warm shower, and a hot dinner later, a knock interrupted her reading time spent relaxing on her couch. It was the first time that she had relaxed in... months.

But now, her relaxation was being interrupted by... who could it be at this time of night? She paused, placed her book on the coffee table before her, noted the time of 1900, then opened her front door to see Jack's worry-lined face as he stood on her top step. In spite of the thoughtfully sorrowful expression in his eyes, she beamed. She just couldn't help it. To finally get to see him again! Even if he looked...

He didn't say anything to her, but the serious expression on his face said a lot more than he did. Sam's smile slipped a bit. Sir! she exclaimed anyway. She was just so happy to see him standing there, even if he did look like the universe had been stranded on his shoulders. Colonel! Jack! Come in! She moved aside to let him enter, closing the door behind him. It's so good to see you on my front steps again, Sir! SG-1 missed you!

But Jack's features remained in a serious swoop. Carter, I need to talk to you. You got a minute? he somberly asked.

Sam had sensed his grave mood, a mood that matched his grave expression, right from the moment she really looked at him. Something was wrong, again, so soon after his homecoming. She hurried to say, Yes Sir.

'Jack' the Colonel automatically said. Call me...

Jack, she repeated. The baby kicked. Oh! Her hands flew to her stomach. She likes that!

She? Jack asked, unnaturally interested. It's a she?

Sam blushed. I've had an ultrasound, but... She paused, then went on in some embarrassment, But I didn't want to know the baby's gender yet. Not before talking to you... all of you on SG-1. All of us at the SGC are having such fun with coming up with boy and girl names that I didn't want to find out the gender of the baby and spoil the fun. But now that you're back, we can ask if Daniel and Teal'c...

Sam, Jack interrupted. Then he ran an aggravated hand through his hair. Sorry, he apologized. I don't mean to cut you off, but... Again came the agitated look. He was frazzled almost to the breaking point.

Sam's brows became deeply furrowed. What's wrong? she emphatically asked.

Sam... Jack gestured towards her couch. You'll want to be sitting down for this.

She looked confused, and hesitant, and frightened, but shut the front door behind him and sat anyway, trying to bring some sense of normality and nonchalance to his visit with the movement. He too sat on the couch as her hand rested protectively on her stomach. Sir?

Jack stared at her unconscious movement. He grinned.... sort of. You look so cute that way, he remarked almost as an afterthought.

But Sam heard him, even with his soft tone, and she blushed at the unnaturally personal comment coming from him. He was usually so taciturn about his personal thoughts on everything that to hear such a comment was... unusual. Sam perked forward to better hear his reasons for his visit to her house that night at 1900 hours.

But Jack continued to quietly sit on the couch beside the chair she had taken for herself. He acknowledged the seating choice she had made, and looked at her out of approving but saddened eyes, as if he knew why she had done what she'd done, and unhappy that the subject of his visit had the potential to forever cement decisions like where she sat in the future, and was sad because of the potential consequences.

But she was only theorizing what his look could mean at this point. To get her mind off that possible topic of discussion that he might want to bring up, she stared at him with wrinkled brows now lifted in inquiry. He simply sat for a few more silent moments, staring off into the space before him, until Sam moved minutely. Then he leaned in to take Sam's hands in his. Sam...

Jack had never made such a motion to touch her like this before, never chanced being so close to her like he was now. Neither of them had. The hand-holding was the typical movement of an established couple, but it had never been 'them' before.

She then theorized that this hand holding must mean that the coming conversation topic must be something big. Sam's face fell as her body went numb. Oh, God, you've been transferred! she guessed.

Jack gave a ghost of a smile to her. No, I've been promoted. I'm head of the SGC now, replacing Dr. Weir, who's moving to head the Antarctic site, and General Hammond is now permanently stationed in Washington.

Shock. He is? Sam asked, still numb, but for a different reason now. You are? Then she smiled her million watt smile at him in spite of her earlier misgivings. Congratulations, Sir! Though I'll miss Hammond...

Jack cut her off again. Sam, Thor told me. While I was on The Teal'c, he said next with no segue whatsoever to introduce this new subject.

Sam was confused, and looked it. Thor told you..? He told you what?

Jack sent a watery grin her way, one that was meant to put her at ease, but instead raised the hair on the nape of her neck. Her eyes squinted in suspicion. What was it that he wasn't telling her? Tell me, or...

It's mine, he said without preamble.

But Sam was still confused. What is?

The baby, Jack announced. Your baby. He was silent after giving voice to that particular bombshell, letting his news sink into her tired mind.

Sam felt her heart freeze to a stop. But... the regs! was her internal protest. That was as far as she got. His news couldn't sink in any further - it didn't have the chance to sink any further. The moment that Sam heard his news, her mind had shut down, keeping her from thinking any more about the subject. At any rate, it shut out every feeling except a sense of numbness that was steeling across her body.

As she just sat, unable to do anything more, Jack continued explaining, as if more words could keep this situation from wrecking both their lives. Thor did a scan when he first beamed you aboard his ship, and found the Ancient gene right away. Actually, his ship did the scan, an automatic scan, of both you and Teal'c, and... He gazed at her out of eyes fogged in... something indescribable. At last he just admitted, You and I share DNA with the baby. I'm the father.

Sam blankly stared at him, once again hearing his words, but unable to internalize them, still feeling stuck between one second and the next. You're... she managed to grunt.

Jack stared back at her, his eyes taking on a profoundly earnest expression. That's the truth, as Thor told me this afternoon, and if I had known, all those months ago when you became pregnant, I swear to God, I would have... He stopped speaking, and just helplessly looked at her.

Sam could not respond to him. She was still too... stunned. But... how... That's not possible, she quietly blurted, insisting so that she wouldn't have to face the truth of what he was saying. I don't know who the father is. Janet said so, she dumbly insisted, as if it had been common knowledge that Dr. Fraiser had never been wrong about anything, even about nothing but what was, in effect, just her medical opinion.

Jack sighed in regret at what he had to do to her ideas, her 'truths.' He didn't want to shoot her down like this, but what choice did he have? Let me guess - Doc never told you the father's name because that was a matter of doctor/patient confidentiality. Sam didn't say anything to his assumption, so he ascertained, Am I right?

Sam stared at him in flustered discomfort. That's what Janet said, she admitted, but it was all she could do to recall that conversation that she'd had with Janet so long ago. Still, he didn't know that. To keep her mind occupied so that it was too busy to think yet, she began to argue with him. But Janet also...

Sam blinked. Crap... Her mind was thawing already, in spite of everything she instinctively did to keep it from waking up. A thought ghosted through her mind even as she stared at him. This is Colonel O'Neill's baby? General O'Neill's? I've ruined... ruined his career... my career...

She didn't know how to accept any of this. She just wasn't equipped to hear any of... Again, she carefully argued while she refroze her mind one more time, But Janet said that... there was only one sample on base...

When he spoke, Jack gently explained, That was because years ago Thor asked the Doc to store a sample of my DNA for him in a location that had nothing to do with anything Asgard, in case of a replicator takeover, or an Asgard defeat, or... For a moment he sat with a despairing look on his face, but he cleared it away and went on. The Asgard Council, through Thor, insisted that my Ancient gene might be the Asgard's last hope as a race to solve their cloning degeneration problem. He forcefully cleared his throat. And the Council didn't want my DNA to maybe become lost, or cantaminated, or...

But Sam wasn't exactly listening to his explanation. His words washed over her like a blanket while her brain still zeroed in on one thing; the regs. Not only had she and Jack broken the Frat. regs with the manifestation of this baby...

Her heartbeat rocketed when she thought about breaking the regs, and the natural consequences of that situation. He... they... they would be court-martialed... she would give birth in a prison...

Sam tried to breathe, to focus, but found her world slipping out of her grasp. She and Jack would have to deal with more than breaking the regs! Everyone else would see this as the two of them having trashed the regs!

She still didn't hear anything more than her own panicked breathing. All she could see in her mind's eye was her and Jack, dressed in prison orange, both condemned to five years hard labor at a minimum security prison, her with a very distended, pregnant belly.

And where was the baby in this scenario? It would have to be adopted out... Jack's baby... adopted...

Sam gurgled, barely holding onto reality at this point.

Oblivious, Jack sighed into the surrounding silence in the house. The point is, Sam, that the Human Race... Earth... our technology isn't as advanced as Asgard tech. The Doc couldn't think of any way to store my DNA with what the SGC offered except to keep a... A decidedly uncomfortable expression wormed across his face. Yet he determinedly said the correct words, A sperm sample... keep a sample on hand. Now he appeared guilty. Thor asked the Doc, and she asked me, and I left a sample that...

Sam was going to throw up. Crap! She ran to the bathroom and retched, loudly, letting the dinner she'd eaten that night swill in her toilet.

Sam retched a second time, and yet again, all the while thinking, Pregnancy isn't so pretty sometimes so she wouldn't have to think a hysterical, OhmyGodwhathaveIdone?

A moment later she felt a soothing hand on her neck. Jack was calming her even in this awful situation. He handed her a glass of water, which she gratefully took, swishing the water around and around her mouth before spitting it out, getting rid of the metallic taste of stomach acid.

Jack's sardonic voice carried to her as she recuperated from her heaving stomach. I've never had this effect on a female before...

Thank you, Sir, Sam whispered in a statement that made no sense after his comment, trying her best again to distract both him and her so that she could put off talking about this situation a little longer. But she shook her head in regret. It's not you... it's what you said... Which I won't think about right now, she thought, then gave a rueful mental laugh. That's right, Sam, deny it, she thought in derision. Pretend, and maybe it'll go away.

Carter, you all right? Jack asked with concern lacing his voice. The fact that she was purposefully not making any sense made her seem a bit loopy still after her replicator experience... at least it would appear so to him. Did that replicator ... thing... do something to you? He gazed at her in half panicked, half puzzled shock. If you think it'll help, I can go... get help...

Sam violently shook her head. She didn't want to be alone at this moment. But she didn't want to hear his concern for her, either. That could so easily be her undoing right now, her... unraveling. But hadn't she caused everything to unravel already? The regs... the baby... Then her face screwed up in agony. I didn't mean to make things so hard for you, Sir, so... awful! I've ruined...

But Jack stopped her. Carter, that's crazy talk. If I didn't know you so well, I'd say the pregnancy hormones are screwing with your brain. Then he went on, But I know that nothing, not even hormones, messes with Samantha Carter.

His voice was so casual, his tone one that brooked no argument, that she was amazed once again at the amount of raw faith the man had in her. Here she was, having messed up his life so completely that she might have ended his career, and he was complimenting her for it. Still feeling sick, noting the comfort he was offering, but unable to fully comprehend it enough to do anything about it yet, Sam slid helplessly down beside Jack to the bathroom's tile floor. Her features scrunched into anguished lines and she hid her face on her bent knees. But I did this to you! she insisted. It's all my fault! I'm the one who got pregnant, who... She was going to say that the AI had originally been her idea, but he stopped her.

His voice was firm when he interrupted, You didn't know that you even had the ability to get pregnant at the time of the... He swallowed. The AI, he quietly pointed out.

This rational point, spoken so calmly, stopped Sam in mid protest. Well... True, she conceded at last. I didn't think that getting pregnant was even a possibility, and I had no idea whose... whose sample I was using. Janet made sure that I didn't.

Jack's brow furrowed in sudden puzzlement. Did she say that? he asked, then clarified, I mean, write it in your medical file?

Sam shrugged, still in between tears. I don't know, she admitted. But I do know that Janet was a meticulous record keeper. She won the Infirmary record award three years running.

Jack's puzzlement didn't abate. There's an Infirmary record award?

Sam snorted when she heard his question. There's an award for everything, she derisively told him. And a wager on who will win it next year as well. She gazed at him. Daniel just told me the other day that I had won the 'Cutest Major while Pregnant' award. But I was down in the dumps at the time, and he might have said that just to cheer me up.

You were down? he asked, latching onto a part of her story that she hadn't expected him to.

Uncomfortable with the personal aspect of this topic, Sam shrugged again and answered him anyway. You were gone, and it didn't look like I was going to be able to bring you back this time. How could I pick your brains about baby stuff if you were gone? Sam shrugged one more time. So, yeah, I was down then.

She was down now, to be honest. Feeling small, she gave a sad sigh, then laid her head on his shoulder in a pose of defeat, just as she had done when she'd originally told him about her pregnancy. It was a comfortable action between friends. There was nothing romantic about it. Now I've gone and made you break the Frat regs... or look like it... without you breaking the Frat regs... as I got knocked up in the beginning through an AI procedure... that I asked for... for one of our allies' benefit... and...

Jack halted her rambling words. That's just it, Sam. He spoke quietly now, yet emphatically. We haven't broken any regs.

Sam lifted her head off his shoulder. She snorted again. Oh, that may be, but it will appear that we...

Jack adjusted his posture so that he was facing her. Sam, before I came over here, I read through my copy of the regs again. I wanted to find if there was any way to keep your name and 'regs' from being spoken in the same sentence. You don't deserve that right now... or ever. You have enough to deal with with Junior here. And he gave a disarming pat to her stomach.

Sam grinned in spite of the seriousness of the discussion. She had to admit it... she loved getting 'baby pats,' and from him...

Jack was going on. Sam, he explained. The Fraternization Regulations...

36-2909, she supplied for him.

He nodded. Very specific. Anyway, the regs mention the need to avoid certain kinds of relationships. You know that. It mentions not getting to be too close of friends with anyone, not having... He swallowed, but forced himself to continue no matter how uncomfortable it appeared to make him. ... sexual... relationships... with your recruiter's family members, not having... sexual... relationships... in CO/subordinate situations, not having relationships in chain of command situations...

Exactly like ours, Sam sadly stated. If he was going to be so open about their constant connection to the Frat regs, then so could she. It seemed silly to keep her distance now.

But Jack barely heard her comment of comparison. The regs even say something about married couples behaving professionally. Then he paused for effect. But it doesn't say anything about two members of the Air Force having a baby together. He looked at her, his eyes glittering.

Sam could only gaze at him, her insides going numb again. But..,she began to protest.

Ah! he said. I looked everywhere. If we can find proof that you didn't know what you were doing when you had the original AI procedure done, then you can't be court-martialed.

Sam screwed her eyes up again at him. But what about you? she asked, still more focused on him than on her.

Neither of us can be, he corrected himself. This baby was an honest accident, Sam. A really nice accident, I'll grant that. But an accident, just as you've always claimed. And your medical records will hopefully share that point. Even if the baby is mine, it's through something that neither of us had any control over. We're both equal victims in what was a really weird event connected to allies of the SGC. He stared at her now in hope. No politician, no lawyer, or no member of the Joint Chiefs, will ever be able to convince a jury of anything else.

But what if someone tries, Sam argued. What if..?

Ah! Again he rose his finger to point it at the bathroom ceiling in order to stop her. I say we spend the next few hours going back to base and searching for proof in your medical file. Even the President won't be able to refute proof like we'll hopefully find, and written by a well respected medical practioner... who, unfortunately, died well before her time.

Sam had to give another sarcastic snort. Yeah, just think how denying information like that would make a politician look...

And a politician never wants to look anything but nice, Jack said. 'Politics is perception,' he repeated an often spoken mantra for SG-1 on their secret conversations off-world. Since it's politicians... and the Joint Chiefs... who will want to prosecute either of us for our involvement in this... event... and such high-ups really can't afford bad press, and this kind of press will only end being bad for everyone involved... I'll make sure of it... even the President will have to see that this is a losing battle, and not press charges.

At least, so you hope, Sam ascertained as she continued to sit on the cold floor beside him.

It was Jack's turn to shrug. Well... yeah... I guess it all comes down to what we find in our medical files. And we won't find anything if we don't go back to base and look...

Sam was rising from the floor as he spoke. If there was even a ghost of a chance that she could protect him from being prosecuted for breaking the Frat regs... which neither he nor she had broken... She had to take it. Well then, let's go, she urged, her mood as changeable as Spring weather.

Jack smiled up at her for the first time all evening. Fighting spirit... Junior, he said, speaking now to her stomach, an occurrence that was happening with surprising regularity whenever she was around him. Junior, your mom's quite a go-getter, he said as he slowly climbed to his feet, his knees creaking against the cold that had seeped into his bones from the floor. Not that I didn't already know that, he went on. But it's good to be reminded of these things from time to time.

With that, Sam swished out her mouth one last time, flushed the toilet, then they left, leaving the lights on in the house in their haste to get back to base.

* * *

It was almost easy to mount a defense for both Jack and Sam when all was said and done, even though General Hammond didn't think they would need such a defense in the first place. The Joint Chiefs, the Air Force... It's not out to castigate you for an event that was really beyond your control, he argued when she and Jack presented him with both their medical files and an explanation of the situation they now faced.

When Hammond left early the next day, it was with copies of the pertinent pages from both their files, showing that Jack had been 'requested' to leave a sample with Dr. Janet Fraiser so that his DNA could be stored for the Asgard, that she believed that Sam would never be able to have children after the Jolinar incident, and that she had told Sam of her opinion, and that Sam had received counseling after the Jolinar incident to the effect that she could no longer expect to have children, that years later Sam had asked for the AI... 'firmly believing that she still can not get pregnant,' Janet had written in the 'comments' section of the AI report... that she used Jack's sperm samples for Sam's AI procedure because nothing else was available at that time, but that Sam was none the wiser for her actions... It was all there, every bit of information that Sam and Jack needed to keep them as far away as possible from the threat of courts-martial.

It was a relieved Major who walked beside the newly-promoted General four hours later down the corridors of the SGC, utterly worn out, but happy in spite of her fatigue. Have you told Mark yet about all this baby stuff? Jack then wanted to know as they left General Hammond's old office... Dr. Weir's old office... now Jack's new office.

Sam sighed. The baby kicked, as if it knew that it was the subject of their current discussion. I called him right after I found out about the baby... and he didn't take things very well, she reluctantly admitted. I haven't talked to him since. He doesn't know anything more... about you being gone, about you being the father...

Jack cut Sam off again. That's all right. You shouldn't worry about him, I guess. he said. Just concentrate on the idea that Hammond will be able to convince everyone of what's going on here, and that you don't deserve a court-martial.

Sam gave a slight smile. Neither of us do, she insistently reminded.

Jack had to concede her argument's worth. All right neither of us do. Then he looked over at her, noting her exhaustion, her lagging step beside him. Why don't you go home and get some rest? He grinned then. We don't want Junior to be kicking the hell out of you for not taking care of yourself.

Sam couldn't resist grinning back at him. Yeah, all right, but 'Junior' will probably kick the hell out of me, anyway, he being a night creature and all. Then she regarded Jack with a speculative eye. You must be quite the night owl, Sir, she said. I think the baby has already got your night spirits, because that's when he... or she... is the most active.

Jack sent her an apologetic glance. Sorry about that, Carter, he said. I never thought that my night tendencies would be handed down like this.

Sam's expression was forgiving now. That's all right... except when I wake up at night, and the baby kicks me in the bladder, and my bladder is so full I think I'm going to explode. She couldn't stop herself from the chuckle she gave. Then it's not so convenient.

Sorry, he sheepishly repeated. Look, Daniel's gone home for the night, Teal'c's asleep in his quarters... why don't I drive you home in... say... ten minutes? I gotta get something first.

They agreed to meet outside the elevators. Sam went off in the direction of her lab, and the crackers she had stored there, and Jack went straight to his computer, which hadn't been moved to his new office yet, and pulled up Sam's personnel file, copied Mark's second-of-kin phone number down, then stuffed the scribbled note in the front pocket of the civvies he still wore.

He had to run to meet Sam at the elevator, but thought that the delay had been worth it. He wanted to know what Sam might think about having children in general, if she'd ever thought of having children with him specifically, and what might come from this situation, all before he brought it up with her. He had hopes of being better prepared for the inevitable if she decided that having a any child was too dangerous all around. And the only person he could ask who was an expert on Samantha Carter... besides Jacob, who was with the Tok'ra, and who had been incognito for months now... He could think of no one else besides Mark for knowing how Sam might react to all this. So he had to ask Mark, no matter what Mark's reaction to this newest 'baby' development would be.

Jack impatiently waited next to the elevator, wondering if this might be his stupidest idea yet.

* * *

The next night had Sam and Jack eating a celebratory dinner of sausage and pineapple pizza (the combination made even Jack cringe) for Jack's first day as the commanding General of the SGC. Daniel and Teal'c had specifically not been asked to join them for once as Jack and Sam needed to talk, especially about how this coming baby might affect both their careers... not to mention their lives... and in order to feel comfortable enough to do that, they needed to be alone.

Sam's stomach had been tying itself into knots of anxiety all day anyway. She briefly wondered if her roiling stomach was due to the baby, or simply a product of her nervousness due to the potential volatility of the information that General Hammond had taken with him back to DC. Plus, she'd known that she and Jack would need to have this 'baby' conversation sometime ever since Jack had arrived back on Earth. That didn't mean that she was looking forward to the experience, though. The raw state of her nerves made her more surely, an attitude that she immediately attempted to rectify, but she didn't have much success, even though Jack was more humorous than he normally was in an attempt to make her feel more at ease.

Well, Jack said as he took a tentative bite of the strange pizza combination, then washed it down as quickly as possible with a swig of beer. At least nothing really weird happened today.

Sam grinned in an attempt to seem more casual. All the attempt did was tie the knots already inside her stomach even tighter. So she tried instead to fake it. I thought I was going to lose it when Dave Dixon showed up in the Infirmary with that green rash on his...

Jack cut her off. I think Dave turned two shades of red just telling me about where it was.

Sam grinned again, still trying to seem lighthearted. Lieutenant Rush from the Infirmary told me that the red on his... She delicately cleared her throat. She said it clashed horribly with the green - that he wasn't quite red enough for her taste.

Jack snorted a laugh. Was she thinking that while she was treating him? And was he turning red as she... and he was on his stomach to..?

It was Sam's turn to snort this time as she cut him off. Debra Rush said that his rash wasn't so very gross until that one bump on his... Until it burst that blue liquid, spraying her in the...

It was Jack's turn to interrupt her. Well, this isn't exactly a good dinner conversation anyway, he loudly proclaimed.

I'm sure Colonel Dixon agrees with you, she said in a bit of an aside, her mouth full of her suddenly mouth-watering pizza, though she was so sick to her stomach by then that it was getting hard to eat at all, even the pizza with the combination of her choice.

Jack tried not to wrinkle his nose at his food, and only succeeded in sporting a half wrinkled nose. Nope, don't miss those missions where all you bring back through the 'Gate is the weird disease-of-the-month. Glad I got to stay behind on that one. Then he slyly glanced in her direction. Of course, promoting you...

And all those others, Sam was quick to correct him.

Jack only nodded to indicate that he'd heard and was agreeing with her comment. But he said, That's why I even took this job... to...

Sam smiled a bit sarcastically. You couldn't wait to pin those silver maple leaves on for even a minute, huh?

Jack shrugged. I wanted to see if you'd make it through the ceremony without losing your lunch.

Sam hit him squarely across his chest with a convenient throw pillow. You did not!

Jack laughed while trying to fend off her attack. There was a bet going on about...

Wonder what Hammond will say about all that? Sam asked in order to interrupt him. She didn't want to know what people were saying, or betting, about her. So she turned to look at him. What do you think? If there was a bet about me throwing up while I was on the 'Gate platform with you, then news about... She didn't voice his new fatherhood status, but indicated it with her silence. Staunchly, she went on, The news... has to have gotten around by now. Ya think? She took another bite of pizza, and her stomach grumbled in protest. It did a funny flip, the baby kicked, and Sam dropped her pizza slice back into the box. She had suddenly lost her appetite; anxiety often made her sick.

Jack already knew this, so he didn't need to ask her what was wrong. I talked to Mark last night on the phone, he nonchalantly told her instead, changing the subject rather than tackling her concern.

Sam wrinkled her brow, this time in puzzlement. Mark? she questioned. As in, my brother Mark?

Jack raised his brows at her over his pizza slice. Do you know another Mark?

He did mean her brother. What were you calling him about? she asked, then thought to amend, Or did he call you?

Jack shook his head. No, I thought I'd tell him about me being the... He gave a self-conscious nod in the direction of her just slightly protruding tummy. That way he could yell at me instead of yelling at you for a nice change.

Sam snorted again, then sarcastically said, Yeah, I bet it was nice! Her stomach doing another fast turnaround, it calmed once more at her sarcastic tone. Which was odd. She had heard about sudden emotional changes while pregnant, but this was ridiculous!

So she concentrated on how she was feeling at this exact moment; It seemed that the more she indulged in her feelings of the moment, the calmer she became... Interesting.

So after her 'purging' of her emotions to a calmer state of being, Sam tentatively took hold of her pizza again for another attempt at eating it. She was already feeling more at ease, and further conversation didn't seem like the burden it had a second ago. So, did Mark bite your head off, then spit it out so that saliva came out at your end of the phone line, or..? she asked around her mouthful of pizza.

No, Jack told her. First someone named Katy...

Sam swallowed, then laughingly informed, My niece. She's thirteen years old this year. Even Sam was amazed at the way her moods so quickly changed now that she was paying attention to them.

Jack didn't appear to notice that anything was different about Sam. Well, no matter how old your niece is, she must play with the answering machine message a bit too much, Jack told her. Mark grounded her for a week for leaving a message that invited someone named Caitlyn over to run the video camera while Katy drops her old computer off the upstairs landing, where she predicts that the computer will then smash apart when it hits the hardwood floor after a thirty foot drop to the front vestibule from the second floor indoor balcony. Katy wants to watch the video tape in slow motion.

Sam laughed in glee, ignoring her moods for a minute. Yeah, that sounds like Katy, she enthusiastically replied. She loves her computers, old and new, but she loves watching things come apart even more.

Jack grimaced, then rubbed at his temples as if he had a headache. God, he groaned. Another Carter.

Sam snorted one more time. If you didn't want to know about the existence of my own version of mini-me, then why did you call Mark in the first place?

Jack gave a heartfelt sigh. He finally imparted, I thought I'd save you some trouble.

Save her some trouble? That was weird, and very UNlike Jack. Since when did he go looking for trouble so that Sam wouldn't have to? She quickly amended that thought to 'When did Jack look for trouble on purpose?' Sam instantly placed the back of her fingers on his forehead. You don't feel like you have a fever, she thoughtfully stated. Hmmmm. Maybe the Dixon disease-of-the-month has infected you already.

Jack jerked his head back as he pulled her hand down so that she wasn't touching him for any longer than a few seconds. But it was long enough for him to become very aware of what... or who... had stroked his forehead. No, that wasn't it, he testily said, pushed into sounding harsher than he felt by her unprecedented solicitation. I had an ulterior motive.

Sam's expression grew even more puzzled. And what was that? Jack didn't reply right away, so Sam prodded him, What? Do you want to promote me again, after I was promoted just today, and you needed to ask Mark's permission, or..?

I wanted to know if he knew what you think about all this baby stuff, Jack blurted.

Sam was stunned into silence. Oh, she managed to croak at last.

Jack carefully watched her as her features remained schooled in the same bland expression, but her eyes indicated that her mind was already whirling through many possible reasons for his actions. I can already tell that you're thinking. There's steam coming out your ears. Don't hurt Junior.

Junior's fine, Sam absently said. No one had asked her what she thought about the baby... in fact, still wasn't. Jack had asked Mark, not her. No matter what Mark had told him, Jack still didn't know what gender she wanted the child to be, how she felt about a child in general, what she had considered about it, what she thought about how the military was likely to take this little snafu of hers. What about the baby? she finally asked as casually as she could when in actuality, she was terrified. She suddenly wasn't hungry again. She set the pizza slice aside.

Jack watched her seemingly negligent movement, and tried to interpret what he was seeing, but she wasn't saying. In the meantime, he continued, I wanted to know if you had ever mentioned wanting a baby before, he revealed.

Sam gave a thoughtful snort. That's hardly something I would mention to my brother, Sam quietly told him.

Jack nodded. That's what I thought you'd say. And it is what Mark said.

Sam looked to him, trying hard not to turn green as the pizza that had sounded so appetizing half a minute before roiled again in her stomach. What else did he say? she inquired.

Jack negligently dropped his own slice into the pizza box, feigning disinterest in this subject of what she thought, or what Mark thought she thought, but he leaned back and wiped his hands on a napkin as he pondered her expression. Then he sighed in slightly bitter self-disappointment. He knew that he could pretend all he wanted, but the truth was better told in his expression, which he couldn't completely school to a look of nonchalance; he was very interested in what she thought on the subject of babies. But his interest was right now taking the form of curiosity at hearing what Mark thought she might think. Mark said that he didn't know what you thought about... His voice trailed off as he admitted to himself that he had already suspected that she...

Sam then interrupted, No, I don't think I ever told him about not being able to...

Then Jack interrupted Sam. But about that time in mine and Mark's conversation, Katy got on the phone to argue with her dad about the week-long-grounding-answering-machine-message thing, and she said that one time many years ago, she had seen you when you were playing with her brother Nathan on the floor when he was still a baby, and you suddenly got this wistful look on your face when you looked at him. When she asked you about it later, you said that someday, if all went well, and you got married to that one special guy out in the real world who was a perfect professional model right now, that someday there might be another baby Carter hanging around on the floor, and what did she prefer, a boy or a girl, and she just stared, as she wasn't very old at the time.

Uh... yeah! Sam defended hers and Katy's past actions. I'm a little surprised that Katy even remembers what I said and did then! She wrinkled her nose in thought. That happened before I even met you, I think...

If she's thirteen now... and Nathan's ten... and Nathan was a baby then... that would make it happening right before we met. Jack squirmed uncomfortably beside her on the couch. He finally forced himself to bring them back to the original topic. The point is... What do you really think about all this... this... baby stuff... now that we're... And I'm talking about what you think, not what Mark thinks you think... now that we're... He tried to fiddle with his beer bottle, and asked, You got any more beer? even though his bottle was still half full.

Don't change the subject, she warned him. Now that we're... what? He still didn't answer her right away, just sat still on her couch. Sam relentlessly prodded, Tell me, please, or...

Jack told her. Now that we're... having a baby, he said then gestured at her stomach. Now that Junior... He waved his hand. I mean...

Stop while you're ahead, she dryly advised, trying to alleviate the importance of what he'd mentioned by introducing humor into the conversation. It was a trick often worthy of Jack O'Neill...

Jack paused, then peered at her in question. I never had the chance to ask you before, he abruptly queried. There was so much going on when I first got back, he lamely said. When she didn't immediately respond, he quietly asked again, What do you think?

What did she think? Sam swallowed so she could gain some time, even a microsecond. Do you mean, what do I think about having a baby in general, or having... She swallowed again. Having your baby in particular? she forced herself to say.

Jack sighed, a sad sound that reverberated in the silent house. Carter, he finally said, and turned to fully face her. We're having a baby. Together. We're going to share a kid for a long, long time...

And that's what worries me! Sam abruptly exclaimed.

I thought we had already proved that we did nothing wrong, Jack emphasized. Then he sighed in aggravation, ran his hand through his graying hair (how she had missed that move of his!), and finally looked straight at her. You still haven't told me what you think about having a baby, having a kid, what you want to do about the baby, your job, your...

What do you want to do? Carter asked instead of answering.

Jack sank back onto the couch cushions, and eventually sighed again. Why do you do that? he asked in curiosity.

Sam sent him a puzzled look. Do what?

Jack quickly responded, Whenever someone asks you a hard personal question, instead of answering, you turn it back to the person asking the original question by repeating that question back to them.

Sam gave a start. I do not.

Do too, Jack instantly replied. She opened her mouth to reply again, but Jack held up a hand to stop her from making a comeback protest. Let's not get into the Daniel thing that he and I do. This topic is too important.

Sam snorted, again giving in to her inner thoughts and emotions of the moment. Forgive me for saying, Sir, she said before she'd managed to talk herself out of saying what she secretly wanted to say. But if having a baby is such an important topic to you, then how come you haven't told me what you think about having another kid? She regarded him in mild accusation. I know that you consider that things didn't exactly end well the last time. What do you think this time?

Again she had brought up Charlie and how he'd died without saying an actual specific thing about him. No one else in the entire SGC had ever dared to do that to his face before this, and again she was doing it with such an air of nonchalance...

But instead of making him instantly angry, it aroused his curiosity. Why would she, of all people... as a member of his team... bring up this subject, and why now? His puzzled gaze met hers. Are you mad? he asked in slight rhetorical accusation of his own. Cause I think that this whole baby thing has turned your brain into...

Sam interrupted him, sounding tired now of the whole need for prevarication of this subject. What do you think, Sir? she repeated. I need to know... really, and...

That's hardly fair, Carter, Jack shot back at her. I don't know what you think about this whole thing, either, and you're not exactly being open enough to tell me.

Then, with no warning, Sam blushed to the roots of her hair as she silently regarded him. One hand went to rub at her slightly rounded tummy in an almost protective move, one that if she knew she was making, she would make fun of that move. She kept staring at him out of her wide blue eyes, but didn't say anything, until Jack began to squirm in discomfort beside her.

Listen, Sam, he gently said at last. I need your honest thoughts on this subject. Have I screwed up so badly that I'll never see the light of day again? Have I..?

I love this, Sam blurted, cutting him off. She looked away as she blushed again, her face flaming a crimson color that was so strong it reflected off the white of the pizza box.

Jack had been so busy talking about his own concerns that he missed what she'd said. Sorry? What was that?

God, she had to say it again?!? It had taken every ounce of her courage to say it the first time! Sam took a deep breath, then after both of them had squirmed for several minutes, managed to once again blurt, I really love this.

But Jack still didn't quite understand what she had said. You love... what... exactly?

Sam gave a pat to her tummy. This. she vaguely said.

Still, Jack understood her vagueness, and interrogatively raised his eyebrows at her. You love... having just any old baby?

Sam had her eyes shut now. Maybe she could say this easier if she didn't have to see him. No, she said, then corrected, I mean, yes. Then she again corrected, I mean... She sighed. I mean... having a baby... your baby...

Jack didn't ask her to clarify what she was saying any more than she already was. He could see the agonizing hesitancy on her face, even if he couldn't see her eyes. You... You don't... don't mind... that you're having my baby? he brokenly asked her.

Sam still had her eyes tightly squinched shut. No, she squeaked. Like I already said... At last she just sighed again, smiled a pained smile, then said, I think... This is cool, she managed to choke.

That made Jack's brows raise even higher. It's cool... cooler... now that you know it's..?

Sam bobbed her head up and down. Absolutely, she firmly noted, then took a deep inhalation of air to steady herself. This conversation and admittance went against everything she had held tightly to herself for years, and wasn't easy to make. But circumstances were forcing her to admit to her recent innermost thoughts. She recalled what she had thought while the Super Soldier had chased after her at the destroyed Alpha Site. It's what I always hoped for, she whispered, sounding like a Goa'uld was torturing the confession out of her.

That admittance surprised Jack a second time. Actually, it surprised and delighted him. Really? he blurted. Cause I... Then he stopped, pausing to take a breath of his own so that he could courageously say, Cause... Try again. Cause... I really... like it... too.

Sam's eyes popped wide open at her astonishment. You do?

Jack looked down at the floor for a moment, and rubbed his hands back and forth in nervousness. At last, he gave a cursory nod, but couldn't talk around the lump of fear in his throat.

Relief at his nonvocal answer swamped Sam in a single wave. She was thinking of Charlie again, and how Jack might not want anything to do with his possible future children. At least he hadn't outright denied wanting any of this! But she still didn't know precisely what he thought or felt on the topic of babies, her having one in particular. You don't feel..?

I'm terrified, Jack admitted in a spurt of words, not needing her to finish asking her question for him to understand what she wanted to know. It had always been like that for him and her... almost as if he could read her mind. But I'm thrilled at the same time, he went on to quietly choke out. He couldn't even sneak a glance in her direction at this point. Still staring at the floor, he said, But I can't help wondering about what'll happen if I mess up again. That idea just horrifies me, he told her in a soft voice. A deep breath later, and he was able to go on, I know that I've already ruined Sara's life by what I did a few years ago. He didn't get more specific than that, but he didn't have to, either. I don't think I can stand it if I do the same thing and ruin yours, too. He did sneak a glance at her now. Then his eyes immediately darted back to the place where they had been burning a hole in her floor. In a whisper he said, I'm so scared that I'll screw up again that I...

You won't, Sam firmly told him. I'm as likely to screw up as you are, she admitted, now thinking of how little she knew about raising a child.

Jack was arrested by her words, as she had intended for him to be. You'll never.., he began to protest.

And neither will you, she said. So you think this is okay? she asked, and gestured at her stomach when neither he nor she agreed or disagreed with her statement.

Jack sat unmoving on her couch for several minutes. When he didn't answer, Sam said, I'm prepared to spend the whole night here until you tell me what you think. My stomach is already full of nervous knots as well as baby after what General Hammond has to do for us in Washington. I don't need to add wonder at what you're...

Again he cut her off. It's really cool, he blurted, just as she had. When she peered at him in question, he went on. You... you having... my baby.

Even though that was an accident, she cautiously reminded him.

Jack's head popped up when she made that almost bland comment. It was an accident, he repeated, as if his repetition of her comment made that point somehow significant.

Sam grimaced, then nodded. I think that if we have to be thrown into this position... But she just sighed instead of indulging in her inner thoughts this time. I'm sorry about... all this, she ended. She morosely dropped her head into her hands, This is all my fault.

Jack pulled her hands away from her face, not even realizing that he was touching her in order to do it. It's not your fault, he emphasized. It was an accident, he reminded. Then he smiled. A really, really nice one.

Sam blinked at his hands holding hers. As long as she focused on his hands, she could ask, Do you think so, Sir? That it's... nice?

Jack, on the other hand, was able to now look her straight in her eyes. Jack thinks it's... great.

Great? she squeaked.

Jack sighed again. Carter, he began. He stilled. She stilled because he stilled. You're having my baby, he unnecessarily said. Then he grinned again, a huge, fully satisfied grin. This is... very... cool!

* * *

But Jack no longer just thought of his and Sam's predicament as 'cool' several days later when General Hammond called him on the black phone sitting on his office desk.

Jack, Hammond began by greeting him in a voice laced with reluctance. I hate to have to tell you this, but...

Jack cut him off as his blood suddenly alternately froze and boiled in his veins, and his heart pounded in a dry throat. He choked when he tried to speak. The guys in DC didn't buy mine and Sam's defense, did they? he croaked.

Hammond paused, which made Jack sweat even more, but then the former CO of the SGC said, Yes and no.

Yes and no? Jack's brow puckered. What's that supposed to mean?

Hammond hesitated again, and Jack continued to sweat.

Finally Jack had had enough. Okay, what's with the drama routine? This isn't a high school musical audition.

Hammond didn't pause this time as he muttered, You may wish it was.

Jack barely heard the General's voice, one filled with doom and gloom, and he treated it with his usual brand of sarcasm, only heightened a notch or two. Would it help if I broke out in song, Sir? he sardonically asked. I know a stirring rendition of...

Jack, Hammond said again, this time in a voice of warning. I'm afraid that singing won't help in this instance. The Joint Chiefs...

Jack tried one last time to add some levity to the conversation. Don't tell me that they've collectively lost their sense of humor, Sir? If they ever had one.

Hammond sighed, the sound gusting over the phone line. The Joint Chiefs... or rather, Vice-President Kinsey, through the Joint Chiefs... still have some concerns about this situation of yours and Colonel Carter's. I've been informed that one of the aids assigned to the Vice-President wishes to speak to you both personally for some more ideas as to your situation...

Jack interrupted him a second time to scowl, Ah, come on, General, there isn't anything to investigate in this 'situation,' and you know it. Doc Fraiser's notes on the whole AI incident are plenty clear enough to...

It was Hammond who cut into Jack's tirade this time. I'm sorry about this, too, Jack. You have no idea how sorry.

Then call off the goons, Jack patiently suggested.

Again came Hammond's sigh. I wish I could, but I'm not in charge of this investigation.

Then who is? Jack inquired, proud that he was able to keep the scowl of danger in his voice toned down to a minimum. I promised Carter that there would be no problems or stress with...

Vice-President Kinsey has an awful lot of questions that he...

Jack sighed, irritated the second he heard the dreaded politician's name, and rubbed dispiritedly at his forehead. Oh, here we go...

Jack, Hammond broke in to explain, I don't think you understand the kind of pull he has now that...

I'm beginning to understand it all too well, Jack deadpanned back to Hammond. He knew that Kinsey was just using this situation to his own advantage again, hoping that an investigation would uncover something more covert going on at the SGC, or at least, between its CO and his former second in command.

The investigator is already on their way to Collo...

Jack interjected, Then, I want one of my own people in on this investigation, too. He or she is to be with this Investigator of Kinsey's...

Captain Downery, Hammond informed.

With this Captain Downery at all times, Jack finished saying, as if Hammond hadn't interrupted him. That's the only way I intend to cooperate with this... this... farce.

Hammond sighed for a third time. I don't blame you for wanting to make this difficult.

'Difficult?' Jack incredulously repeated. Neither Carter nor I did anything wrong, General, and as there is nothing to 'investigate,' I plan to be as difficult as possible.

A fourth burst of air from Hammond sounded over the line. Again, I don't blame you one bit. I just wanted to give you a little warning about what's going to happen tomorrow.

Tomorrow!? Jack exclaimed in disbelief. That's a bit soon, isn't it?

That's what I...

Seems like old Kinsey already had a plan up his sleeve in case he needed it, Jack growled in a sudden insight full of his disapproval.

Hammond replied, My thoughts exactly, General, but you didn't hear it from me.

Resigned, Jack gave a defeated grunt and said, All right, I'll tell Carter, but I just want to go on record and say that this is the biggest load of... Jack managed to rein in his exuberance on the subject just in time before he said something he would later regret. You know what I mean, he ended. Anyway, do you know what time I should expect this Captain Downery?

1300, Hammond firmly told him.

Jack answered, Then I'll expect him...

Her.

Her, Jack corrected. I'll expect to see her here by the time I get to work in the morning.

Hammond groaned, then added, You might not want to bother going home tonight.

I just might do that, Jack said, ending the conversation with a smile, though a decidedly vicious one.

* * *

True to his word, Jack walked down to Carter's lab and informed her of the unhappy events of the following day. Carter was less than thrilled with the prospect of an investigation. This is exactly what I was worried about, Jack! she insisted the moment he was done in a voice clouded with concern.

Jack responded by calmly predicting, And this is exactly how Kinsey is counting on us to react. You've got nothing to feel badly about, he reminded. Neither of us did anything wrong...

I'm more worried about what Kinsey thinks we did... or I did, Sam told him as she dropped her head in her hand in despair.

Jack gave an awkward pat to Sam's back, as though he was still unused to showing any kind of emotion or comfort to her. This investigation will be over before you know it, Sam - a piece of cake. You've got nothing to worry about, he repeated.

Sam looked at him out of eyes filled with anxiety. That's what worries me, she confessed in a small voice in the otherwise quiet lab.

* * *

Jack was well prepared to meet this Captain Downery the moment the elevator doors opened the next morning (he had compromised with himself by going home to get some rest before the coming investigation, but had headed back to base at a ridiculously early hour the next morning). But it wasn't the unknown Captain Downery who met him the moment the elevator doors opened on level 28 of the SGC. Instead, it was Sergeant Harriman who greeted him just like it was any other normal day, except the 'normalness' of this particular scene instantly raised the hairs on the back of Jack's neck.

The elevator doors had barely moved aside before Jack straightened from his indolent attitude of leaning against one side of the elevator car only to be stopped by the expression of anxiety on his aid's face. Jack instantly caught on to that expression, and sharply asked, What's wrong?

Walter didn't bother to inquire how the General had known that something had happened, but only curtly replied, Colonel Carter was admitted to the Infirmary, Sir, at 0400 this morning. They think...

Walter didn't manage to give any further explanation before Jack's heart had leapt into his throat - the baby! Sam! he thought in a double dose of dread. He smashed his fist onto the proper button for the floor for the Infirmary, and the elevator doors closed again, effectively shutting out the Sergeant and his voice.

Jack burst out of the elevator the moment the doors moved far enough apart for him to fit through. He bound down the Infirmary corridor, glad that the hour was still early so that he didn't have to dodge extraneous personnel at the same time. He burst through the Infirmary doors just as Teal'c was moving to leave.

Where is she? What's happening? Jack asked the big Jaffa the moment he was inside the room. He looked wildly beyond Teal'c's bulk, trying to see through the man. Is everything all right?

Teal'c responded to Jack's barrage of questions in his maddeningly slow tones, a benign expression gracing his face. ColonelCarter rests well, O'Neill. There is nothing to concern yourself with.

But a frantic Jack wasn't soothed. What's going on? Walter said that...

Then another voice broke into the conversation of worry, stopping Jack before he had the chance to finish. Sam tranquilly reported, Jack... um, General...

Carter! Jack called the moment he saw where she was located in the long room full of beds. His heart was still in his throat and pounding loudly in his temples, but he could at least see that she was sitting up, her knees tenting the blanket, covering her in layers of extra material. Jack wasn't angry as he approached her bed, only badly frightened, but he sounded angry as he ordered Sam... Teal'c... anybody... Somebody better tell me what's happening or...

But Carter was so used to Jack's bark by now that his seeming anger that made younger officers shake in their boots had little effect on her. So it seemed to be at odds that her voice was so calm when his was so agitated. It's nothing, really, just...

He took in her reposing form and the hospital gown that she wore in one swift glance, and said, It doesn't look like nothing to me. What happened? he barked again. Is the baby all right? Are you all right?

Again came a burst from her shortened patience level, I'm trying to explain! Carter's answer was in the slightly testy tones that were becoming common to the pregnant Colonel. That voice caused Teal'c and any other medical technician in the near vicinity of Colonel Carter to quickly sidle to the other side of the Infirmary, out of the line of fire.

In this way, Sam and Jack had a more direct line to only each other. Jack motioned her to lower her voice, then waved her on, and she took his cue to begin her more subdued explanation. I woke up sometime around 0320 to use the rest-room, and that's when I found out that I was bleeding...

Jack gulped. And you had to come to the SGC all alone?

Sam gazed at him out of blue eyes that were a bit shadowed from lack of sleep, and clearly puzzled. How else was I going to get back to base to get checked out? she rhetorically asked.

Jack responded to her question anyway. You should have called me! he insisted.

Sam huffed a breath. You were surely asleep at the time! I didn't see the point of waking you up just to make you wait for... She interrupted herself, and gave an exasperated sigh. What could you do anyway? she asked. It's not like you're a doctor or...

I don't know what I would have done! Jack answered, obviously more disturbed by this event than she was. But at least then I would have known, or...

Sir, Sam said with a shrug in her voice and befuddled eyes. I don't understand why this has you so upset, and...

Jack's gaze burned into her. Something serious could have been wrong, could still be wrong! he hissed. Have you ever heard of a miscarriage due to bleeding, or birth defects, or... He stopped speaking long enough to give her a piercing look while his heart continued to thunder inside his chest. Does this have something to do with what that replicator... thing... did to you a few days ago?

Sam shrugged again, now clearly confused, not knowing how to answer him, or even if she could answer him. No one knows... it might... it might not...

Without stopping to consider her response, Jack immediately continued to ask, Was this bleeding thing 'spotting,' or..? In asking he was assuming that she even knew what 'spotting' was.

But it didn't matter if she knew what he was talking about or not. An unfamiliar voice snapped across the room. General, this line of questioning is highly inappropriate between a CO and a subordinate! The censure in that voice froze everyone in their tracks.

Jack whipped around to regard the form of a small woman highlighted in the door for half a second before she stepped forward to give them both a crisp salute. I'm Captain Downery, General O'Neill, Colonel Carter. I'm here from Washington DC to lead the investigation into this situation that you and Colonel Carter are in. I'll try to be as delicate in my questioning as possible, but have to ask you both to desist in discussing this situation further before you have both been thoroughly debriefed on this issue, she barked, barely allowing Jack or Sam to breathe without feeling like they would be criticized for the movement.

But Jack being Jack didn't allow the intimidating tones of a simple Captain to rattle him - he was rattled enough already just by the site of seeing Sam in an Infirmary bed. We'll be finished talking in just a moment, Captain, so if you'll just...

But Captain Downery was shaking her head. I understand about your greater rank... s... but, please allow this investigation to proceed as scheduled, she half begged, half ordered. It will go easier for you if you do, she warned. The Investigation is already under way. So, Sir, as we'll begin with you... If you'll just follow me? She performed a perfect 180 degree turn, and headed for the door to the Infirmary, obviously expecting the General to follow her.

Captain Downery may have experienced that most people being investigated were more than willing to cooperate with her, but she hadn't before met Jack O'Neill. I said give me a minute, he reminded Downery, and when she turned back around to give him a look that she had perfected over time meant to hurry people along, he glowered. I said to give me a minute!

That was when Sam broke in on the conversation. Sir, she began in placating tones.

Jack barked, I told you to call me 'Jack!'

Sam once again looked unfazed while the rest of the Infirmary staff near her bed gave a jump. Dr. Warner is certain that this is just 'spotting,' like you said, nothing serious.

And the baby monitor? Jack asked, pointing to the instrument that was strapped across Sam's rounded stomach.

Sam touched the device, one on loan from the Academy Hospital, and which amplified the steady sounds of the baby's heartbeat for all to hear. Dr. Warner's just being cautious, she assured.

I thought I was being cautious, too, right before Charlie... Jack stopped talking before he said too much, but Sam still fully understood what he wasn't saying. The pain suddenly blazing at her out of his eyes ripped through her to freeze her insides and stop her from saying more.

Sam's blue eyes also clouded over with her inner tormented answer to his anguish. She slowly shook her head, and without thinking about it, reached across the expanse of blanket so that she could touch his arm in a gesture of pure comfort and affection. This isn't... isn't like that, she firmly whispered in a voice that stuttered, but didn't break.

Carter, Jack began, but was unable to continue.

Captain Downery chose that moment to clear her throat in a faintly imperious way, catching both Sam and Jack's attention. They looked towards the Captain as one, and by now, both had control of their feelings, and nothing showed in their eyes. General? Downery prompted. Please? She gestured with her thumb into the corridor behind her.

Jack ignored the impatient gesture. but Sam gave him a tiny shove with her hand still on his arm. Please, Sir... Jack, she added, one eye on him, and one on the ever-growing impatient woman before them. It will only be worse if you don't, she pleaded, repeating Downery's promise.

Jack saw the look of entreaty now in Sam's eyes, begging him not to make this more difficult than it already was, and he felt himself relent, even though relenting was farthest from his thoughts. All right, he said in a whisper. I'll go. But only because you want me to... for the investigation. He turned to follow his interrogator out of the Infirmary, but paused to add over his shoulder, You have to promise me that you'll tell me all that you find out about, and he gestured at the Infirmary, her lying in her bed, everything. About... this.

I promise, Sam instantly said, willing to agree to almost anything if he would just calm down. The minute I know more.

It's not just for the baby, you know, Jack then added in even softer tones. His eyes, usually so shuttered, were clear and brown and worried as he gazed at her.

Not just for the baby? Jack had told her the night before that he thought having another child was very cool, true, but he hadn't specified that having a child with her was cool. Now, his last whispered words were almost as good as a definite confession that his thoughts had gravitated not so much to his child, but to the mother of his child as well.

Sam's heart stopped beating altogether. When it started up again a moment later, it tripped and stuttered along, and the heart monitor she was also wearing gave sound to the anomaly. She ignored all that, however, to gaze back at him with equally as clear eyes. No, I didn't know, was all she could say to him in a low voice.

Now you do, Jack said. Then without looking at her again, he spun back around to follow the Captain from the room.

It looked to anybody else watching that final scene between General O'Neill and Colonel Carter that they had merely been quietly discussing the baby, and her reason for being in the Infirmary to begin with. But to Sam, all she could think about as Teal'c, the General, and Downery disappeared as one group into the hallway outside was that Jack had only once looked at her with such warmth in his brown eyes, and that had been when they'd been separated by a force shield, and she had subsequently discovered more about her CO than she'd ever known before.

Until now...

* * *

It was several hours later, and Sam felt bleakly uninformed and ignored as she sat or lay in her bed in the Infirmary, effectively sequestered from what was going on in the rest of the base. She shot another worried look at the empty door, then firmly told herself not to worry about Jack, that he could take care of himself... But what was taking so long?!?

One of her concerned darting glances at the door finally heralded the arrival of Daniel through the portal. Sam! he called out to the bored Lt. Colonel. Jack sent me down here to stop you from going stir crazy and destroying all the Infirmary's delicate medical equipment.

Yeah, Sam ruefully agreed with his assessment of the scene. That is what Jack would think I was doing.

Daniel stopped in surprise next to her bed. 'Jack?' he asked, a hint of slyness in his otherwise normal sounding voice. What happened to you calling him 'Sir?'

Sam firmly ordered herself not to blush at his questioning tone, and its innuendo, but she blushed in spite of herself. She couldn't help it, but she kept recalling Jack's deep brown eyes... He insists that I call him 'Jack,' was all she said by way of explanation.

Daniel knew when not to push his team leader on something. Okay, he nonchalantly replied. Still trying to look casual, but only managing to look very interested instead, Daniel continued, Anyway, Jack came to the conclusion that this little shindig of an interrogation is going to take longer than he initially thought it would, and that if you're cleared to leave the Infirmary, you should go home to rest, but he can't make sure you'll actually go home to rest... he knows you quite well, and realizes that you wouldn't rest unless someone actually makes you rest. He sent me to take you home to gather a few things, then to bring you back to base. He doesn't want you to be home alone if this... Daniel gave a weak gesture at Sam sitting propped in her bed. If this... thing... that happened to you last night happens again. He sent Sam a knowing look. You know Jack, he said, as if that said it all.

Sam gave a grimace. He's such a worrywart, she announced, knowing that she hadn't bled for the last six hours, and even the cautious Dr. Warner had said that he was prepared to release her. But Jack's obvious concern for her warmed her nonetheless. She tried to tell herself that his anxiety was just for the continued health of the baby, but at the same time, she knew better. And what she knew thrilled her.

Daniel went on, Yeah, well, since he has the return of SG-9 to wait for, he asked me to drive you home and...

Sam cut him off. I'm perfectly capable of driving myself! she indignantly said. How does he think I got here in the first place?

Daniel looked uncomfortable as he glanced down, his face reddening. Yeah, about that 'alone' thing...

Daniel, Sam shot at him in a warning tone.

Daniel grimaced and groaned, but forged on. Do you have any ideas about the way the regs suggest that two officers shouldn't share living accommodations, but how he can still be in close proximity to you and the baby, so you aren't alone anymore?

Sam looked at him, baffled. She shook her head. Nope, she replied a bit sadly. I haven't thought of way to do that yet.

No, me neither, Daniel said. Jack neither. And he talked about that in his own 'interview.' like he didn't give a crap what 'Der Capit n' thought about it. He said that he didn't care what happened to him, but he was going to make damned sure you weren't stranded by yourself in your house clear on the other side of town if you developed gestational diabetes, or something.

Sam was surprised. Jack knows about gestational diabetes? she asked, astonished. I don't even know what that is!

Daniel shrugged. Either Jack knows what he's talking about, or he's really good at making things up, then sounding like an expert.

Maybe that was how he made so many System Lords look dumb, Sam guessed, muttering to herself.

Anyway, Daniel said, The 'Capit n' is on her way down here as soon as she finishes questioning Teal'c.

Sam gave another start of surprise. Teal'c's actually answering questions?

Daniel sighed. No. He's just staring at Downery, not saying a word, not blinking... you know how Teal'c is... and it's really pissing her off. So be prepared, Daniel warned. She'll be in rare form...

Daniel's voice trailed off as Downery marched into the Infirmary. Sam didn't even get the chance to ask Daniel why Teal'c was being questioned in an investigation into her conduct before Downery was addressing her. Colonel Carter, Downery crisply announced as she approached the bed. You're next. She slapped some files near Sam's feet under the covers.

In here? Sam gawked, looking around the public Infirmary. In front of everybody? Like this? In public? she mentally questioned. Oh, this is going to go over so well! she sarcastically thought to herself. As if the gossip mill wouldn't be churning already, Downery thought she had to help it along! And you call this an 'investigation? It'll be more like 'grist for the damned mill!' Sam exploded.

Downery sighed, looking annoyed. I suppose we can have your bed moved to one of the more private Isolation rooms, though I was hoping that just pulling the curtains around your bed would be enough...

Again Sam gaped. Closing the curtains may close out sight, but it doesn't close out sound! she loudly protested. What are you trying to do... make me stressed?! Stress was the one thing that Warner had told her to avoid so that she wouldn't have any more 'spotting' episodes. It never occurred to her that she had recently had what was basically a conversation with her CO about her menstruating while pregnant, a very personal subject. That should cause stress if anything should. But discussing her recent intimate trauma with Jack... and not General O'Neill... had seemed almost natural.

Downery rolled her eyes at Sam's apparent need for privacy, but grumbled, I'll call the doctor over...

Downery disappeared for a moment, then came back with Dr. Warner in tow. Colonel Carter, things seem to have settled down, he cheerfully told them. You're no worse for wear, your baby is strong, and the ultrasound shows that it's healthy...

'It?' questioned Downery, showing a bout of human interest in the baby rather than in 'General O'Neill's and Colonel Carter's situation' for the first time since Sam had met her.

Sam explained, I don't wish to learn the baby's gender until I've discussed it first with Ja... General O'Neill... no, Jack, she firmly said, changing her mind what to call him. He was the baby's father, after all. And we haven't had time to talk yet, she told them.

You haven't had time? Downery blustered. You found out about this pregnancy months ago! she protested.

Sam realized her interrogation had already begun. She answered the first interrogation 'question' as smoothly as she could given the circumstances. Yes, but we only found out about Jack's parentage a few days ago.

Downery was clearly confused. A few days ago? she repeated Sam. Where was he before then? And why didn't you do a paternity test?

It's classified, Sam quickly answered, just to piss the other woman off.

'Classified?' Downery was predictably incensed at Sam's reply. May I remind you that my clearance is...

Sam ignored Downery's rant and turned to Warner. What you're saying, Doctor, is that I can go?

Warner gave Downery a funny look, gave Sam a funny look, then shot a glance at Daniel.

Daniel just shrugged. I'm only here waiting for Teal'c to deliver the popcorn, he said with a small grin.

Sam sent him a murderous glance before turning her attention again to Warner. Doctor? was all she asked, but then, it was all she needed to ask.

Warner seemed to snap out of the daze he had fallen into after Daniel's popcorn comment. Oh, yes, you're free to use Isolation room number five, next door, but I want to officially keep Colonel Carter under my care so that we can take her blood pressure one last time after the interview, just to make certain that it's low enough to encourage a release.

Downery broke in to announce, That's acceptable. She'd always expected Colonel Carter to be a patient of the Infirmary, anyway. Whether that patient was walking, standing, or lying in a bed made no difference to her. Any woman in any one of those positions could still be properly interviewed. She nodded an abrupt agreement.

Warner nodded. Good.

Fine then. Downery grabbed her files without thanking the Doctor for his time, then marched back out of the medical room towards Isolation Room number five.

Sam rolled her eyes at Downery's apparent rush, then threw off the bedcovers from her legs. She grumbled, If we're going to be in a room that has an observation window, I'm going to get dressed first. She pulled the curtains around her bed, shutting everybody out and her inside. No offense, Daniel, but I don't want anyone to see my stretch marks at the moment...

No problem, Daniel said, wondering what the hell stretch marks were. Stretch marks on what? But all he said was, Give little Janet a pat for me.

Teal'c would be rather incensed if he heard that comment, even from one of his best friends. Little Janet Thor is doing fine, but I'll pat her for you anyway, Sam answered absently as she gathered her clothes from the nearby chair where they were being stored.

Sam got dressed as quickly as a five month pregnant belly would let her, then joined the waiting Daniel, and they walked next door to the adjoining room, which had a bed, a Sergeant who was patiently waiting to witness the investigation, a table, two chairs, a video camera on a tripod, and one irate Captain Downery who was much more tired of waiting than the anonymous Sergeant, and it showed on her face. She gave another smart, irritated snap with her files on the tabletop, and glowered.

Sam ruefully leaned in closer to Daniel to whisper, I wonder if she knows that she looks like Jack? Daniel spluttered a giggle, and Sam continued with a sigh meant only for him. The 'Capit n' awaits.

Sam walked further into the room as Daniel leaned against the wall outside to wait for Sam so that he could drive her home as soon as her 'interview' was finished.

Close the door behind you, Downery directed Sam. She was beyond pleasantries now. Her eyes blazed.

Sam shut the door, but the meekness that she'd expected to feel in a situation like this was superseded by the memory of two brown eyes warming her. Combined with the sudden sensations of maternal instinct that Sam was feeling, encouraging her to protect the baby, the warmth caused by Jack's eyes, as well as the presence of her feelings of 'protect the baby and its father at all costs!' that stirred her heart, she felt suddenly unconquerable. The two sets of ideas gave her feelings of courage and fortitude that she had never experienced before. It was as if the 'spotting' incident, as scary as it had initially been, now acted like a catalyst for sensations that she was invincible, and could say and do whatever she wanted. Which was ridiculous, and not true, she knew, but it was a heady set of emotions to resist as the Colonel gazed at Downery.

The Captain ignored her to fiddle with the video camera that she had set up in the room near the table to record the proceedings of the interview for her 'boss.' When she was done with her fiddling, she gruffly stated, Colonel, take a seat.

But Sam didn't want to be cooperative any longer. I've been lying and sitting all morning, for hours, she explained. It's better for my circulation if I stand. Actually, Sam had no idea about the circulation requirements of a pregnant woman, but she suspected that neither did Downery.

The Captain looked annoyed, but shrugged. Fine. She grabbed a pen, studied her top sheet of paper for a moment, took a breath, then began the interview with a question that was both blunt, and meant to scare the Colonel into making unwise revelations with little effort on her part. Her 'don't beat around the bush' interrogation style was the reason she was so successful at her job. Now, Colonel Carter, when are you going to get over this silly fantasy of yours and the General's and admit that you had a... 'thing'... with General O'Neill, and this baby is a result? she immediately asked.

Sam, however, wasn't about to make an 'unwise revelation,' because one wasn't remotely true, and she was damned if she was going to make herself or an innocent bystander like Jack pay for something that neither of them had the pleasure of doing!

So Sam didn't miss a beat, either, when she responded. I will never admit to a... 'thing'... with General O'Neill, because one didn't happen. This is an AI baby, as you must know. She smiled ever so slightly... and ever so evilly... not cowed by the personal question at all, but instead enjoying the sense of challenge that was in the atmosphere.

Downery sighed in aggravation. That's what the General said, she admitted. I'm afraid that I didn't believe him, either.

Sam snorted her own giggle, as Daniel had earlier. Then I'm afraid, she emphasized, echoing Downery, ... that you're just setting yourself up for disillusionment. This baby was an AI accident... End of story. Carter's voice was just as blunt as the Captain's.

Downery wrote something in her files, then made a great show of dramatically sighing again. Why do you persist in telling me what is obviously not the truth? she asked the Colonel.

Sam glibly replied, Oh, can't you tell the difference between the truth and a fabrication? She went on to say, They give lessons in learning to tell who's lying and who isn't in operative training. I think the next session is...

Colonel Carter! Downery explosively stated, stopping Sam in mid statement.

Captain Downery! Sam yelled at her in an equally loud voice, making the Captain jump in spite of her need to appear cool and unruffled as the investigator in this questioning session.

After a calming moment, Downery continued, My job is to investigate this situation, and to find the truth, no matter what...

Sam glared. Then you're doing a crappy job! she announced in a firm tone.

That's enough of your attitude! the Captain ordered. Just admit to this one thing... that you and the General had...

Sam interrupted, No! General O'Neill and I have been nothing but professional, ever! Then she felt her expression turn thunderous. And I resent what you're implying! Then her expression changed again, to one more thoughtful and sly. The Captain didn't know Sam well enough to feel worried at the sudden gleam in her eyes.

But you know what? Sam went on. She stared down at the seated Downery. I wish I had slept with General O'Neill! Then at least I would have a really nice excuse for this! She gestured at her growing stomach. But instead, I have just the excuse that good old soldier Sam Carter thought she would save the Universe once again by being really dumb this time and showing some of Earth's allies that the Artificial Insemination process is a human, safe one that they didn't need to fear! Her voice rose as she spoke, and with each word, her stare hardened. By the end of her rant, she was glaring at Downery. Sleeping with Jack would have been a hell of a lot more fun way to get pregnant! She breathed through her nose, trying to calm down, but failing in the attempt. Unfortunately for all of you involved in this stupid investigation, it didn't happen that way!

Sam then breathed once more through her nose, closed her eyes on the scene before her, attempting to regain control of herself enough to explain, You must excuse me - patience - especially at stupid things - is highly curtailed during pregnancy. Then she opened her eyes, still glaring. And I've been ordered by Dr. Warner to avoid stress, such as loss of my patience. She walked over to the bed and shoved her hand onto the medical call button on the headboard. A red light began to blink on and off by the door. Someone will come in... right about... now, Sam finished. She smiled at the nurse who entered the room at a run. I'm sorry, Lieutenant, but this situation is getting a bit stressful for me. I'd like you to tell the Captain here that, for medical reasons, we'll have to terminate further questioning.

The nurse blinked, furrowed her brow, glanced at Carter, glanced at the Captain in confusion, then back at Sam in even deeper confusion, noted the evil gleam residing in the Colonel's gaze, assessed the situation, as well as the underlying feelings of animosity coming from a woman known to keep her cool under pressure, then turned to the Captain again to glibly announce, In an attempt to keep the Colonel away from stressful situations, by order of Doctor Warner, I must terminate these proceedings due to the stress levels of the patient.

Downery rose indignantly, pushing her chair back to scrape the floor. Now wait just a minute! she blustered. You can't...

Sam smiled. I can. She turned to follow the nurse back into the hallway. Tell Kinsey to stick it up his ass. Then a hand flew up to cover her mouth. Oh... Did I just say that out loud?

A gaping Captain Downery just nodded with her mouth so far open that she looked like a floundering guppy.

Sam shrugged, then patted her tummy. That was Junior talking. Then she walked out and slammed the door closed behind her.

Downery flopped back down on her chair for a moment, trying to collect herself. Then she glanced at the Sergeant witnessing the investigation of Colonel Carter, and the Sergeant hastily left through the door that Sam had just walked through. Next, Downery glanced at her watch, noted the time, snapped her files once more, then said to herself, Out early... Commissary, here I come. After dismantling and storing the video camera in its case, she disappeared behind Sam and the Sergeant.

Only then did the astonished, shadowed form of General Jack O'Neill rise from his chair in the observation room above, his face shuttered... and simultaneously openly amazed at what Sam had just confessed. Had he heard right? That Sam wished that she had slept with him? That she had wanted to... even before the baby hormones, and the..? He could have..? Months ago? Jack was so astounded by this information that he could barely breath.

Jack heaved in air, and tried to calm his suddenly thundering heart. It didn't work, but the attempt made him feel as if he were more in control of this situation than he really was.

Then Jack had another memory relapse - Had Sam just said that she wished... she had slept with him? Did that mean that she actually wanted to..? Whoa!

When Jack felt that he had enough control of himself again that he could look sort of normal once outside the room, he flipped the switch of the microphone linking the obs room to the now empty Isolation room number five below, and, in a pensive silence, still amazed about what Sam had said - Sam wanted to sleep with him... babies... Sam wanted to sleep with me... sleep... Still fully astonished, he slowly headed out the door.

* * *

Dr. Warner scrunched his eyes up in thought as he stared at Sam's blood pressure readings while a cuff wrapped around her arm. BP... He stared at the numbers: they were numbers from a reading well within the safe range for a woman in her fifth month of gestation. But he preferred that those numbers didn't go on record. After all, he didn't like Kinsey much either. Much too high, he announced, wanting to assist the SGC whenever he could. Sorry, Colonel, he said without actually lying. Those numbers are higher than I would like to see. He patted her on the leg and encouragingly said, Give it a half hour, then we'll take your blood pressure again.

Sam sighed in a show of irritation, but inside she was secretly impressed by Doctor Warner's ability to 'help the SGC.'

* * *

An hour later, Daniel pulled his car up to the curb outside Sam's house. Jack does have a point about not wanting to leave you alone, he was saying to Sam sitting beside him in the passenger seat. In the meantime, I'll think as hard as I can to find a way around the 'no officers sharing of accommodations' thing for you guys.

Thanks, Daniel, Sam said, her hand on the door handle. You don't have to do that, but three heads working on this problem are better than two at finding an answer. I've been staring at those...

She didn't finish her comment to Daniel, but had looked towards her front steps instead, and what she saw on her steps stopped her cold. Then she gave a thoroughly disgusted huff of air, as well as a push to her still open car door. 'It never rains unless it pours,' she muttered, quoting.

Things were indeed bad if she was using cliches. Daniel looked up from his glance down the street to ask, Wha..?

Will this week never end? Sam muttered to herself, then slowly moved forward to greet the man on her front steps, but didn't immediately accept the dozen roses that he held out to her. Pete, Sam began, going for a casual sounding voice. What are you doing here? she asked. Yeah, she thought in a much more caustic tone. I had the idea that I made sure that you knew that things were more than over between us the last time we spoke.

Pete, oblivious as ever, greeted Sam by turning on his charming grin for her, and rose from the concrete front steps. Here, these are for you, he said instead of answering her question. He held out the roses, but Sam stubbornly refused to take them until he explained what he was doing on her front step. Pete's grin wavered a bit, but he didn't lose it completely. He began to explain, Um... I've been doing some thinking, Sam, and... I... I... Finally, he chanced a glance at Daniel, who had joined Sam at a discreet distance away from her porch. Does he have to hear this whole thing? Pete asked Sam.

But it was Daniel who cheerfully answered, Oh, don't mind me, I'm just the chauffeur for the day. I'll be minding my own business... right here. He looked down, and seemed suddenly enthralled by a flower bed at his feet that he had seen thousands of times before. Oh, look, goldenrod! My favorite! He bent down to examine the flowers more closely, giving the two some privacy while also fulfilling Jack's recent 'orders' concerning not leaving Sam alone. Sort of.

Sam turned back to Pete. In a voice that was so hard it was almost brittle, but trying to rein in her natural exuberance for animosity, asked, Again, what's up?

Pete seemed nervous, and was trying not to look so flustered when he said, I... um... thought about it... for months... and wondered... He glanced at her. What do you think about us getting back together again? Then he shot her a look of his puppy dog eyes, begging her, as had always worked in the past when she was angry with him. Come on, Sam, you've got to admit that we had quite a lot of fun before.

Sam sent Pete a somewhat more watery grin than his anticipation indicated, if she could judge by his presence on her steps. But it was the best smile she could produce under the circumstances. The expression of a whipped puppy that she was seeing him give was making her stomach churn, and the brown of Pete's eyes were not quite the right color brown, she realized. Absently, she wondered if she was going to throw up on her front steps, but swallowed the nauseous sensation, and managed to say, Pete, look... You're right in that we had some fun... at one time...

We can make more times, Pete cajoled. But I came to realize these last months that it doesn't matter at all if you're pregnant, that... your story... about the AI... You've never lied to me before, and you surely aren't now, and...

But Sam cut him off. She sighed in a great show of patience. That's really sweet of you, Pete, but... She paused, looked at his peace offering of flowers, and thought again of those slightly different brown eyes that she was staring at. Pete, there have been some new developments since...

That's okay, really! Pete insisted, interrupting her before she had the chance to finish telling him what those 'developments' were. I don't mind! I've thought about it, like I said, and, you know, I don't care who the father is, even if it is O'Neill...

Behind them, they could hear Daniel quietly hiss an indrawn breath. Ew! he softly said to himself. Not a good thing to say.

Sam was suddenly too angry at what Pete had said to give Daniel or his commentary on her life much notice. How had Pete known that Jack was the father of her baby? One guess: he had been in recent contact with Mark, who knew about Jack's paternal connection to Sam and her baby from when Jack had called Mark the other day.

She glared at Pete, her eyes narrowed. The father's identity may not mean much to you, but it means a hell of a lot to me! She propped her hands on her ever-widening hips to regard him. The last time I spoke to you, I still didn't know anything about the baby's father, but somehow you seem to know all about what I found out only recently! She continued to glare. How is that possible?

Pete didn't answer her questions, but let his flower offering fall down a bit as he tried to cover up what she had perceived as a hole in his argument, and one that he had never seen coming. Um...

But Sam didn't give him time to reply. Did Mark call you, trying to get a 'real' man in my life again? Is that what this is all about?

Pete floundered, Well, O'Neill is your CO, and according to the military rules, Mark said, you can't do anything with him... ever... so we were thinking...

Sam erupted, Tell Mark to stick his nose in someone else's business for a change! She threw up her hands, appalled, but at what, Pete clearly still didn't know. I don't believe this, she ranted. Then, still without explaining anything, she grabbed her cell phone out of her pocket, and hit the speed dial button a second later. As she waited for a person at the other end of the line to answer the ringing phone, Daniel sneezed. The flowers, Sam thought, a grimace cementing her irritation. He's allergic to most flowers.

The two could hear a phone ringing on the other end of Sam's phone, then someone picked up, and a voice answered, Mark Carter - how can I..?

Sam interrupted him to yell, It's Sam, you jerk of a big brother! I'm standing on my front steps, staring at another jerk who thinks that the fact that Jack has turned out to be the father of my baby means absolutely squat! That you both cooked up this scheme for me and Pete to...

But Mark cut in to say, Sam, see reason, you've told me a million times that those rules of yours say...

I don't care about the rules! Sam yelled, unaware that she was making a scene right out in public. She was too angry to be aware of much besides her phone conversation. I'll say this once, big brother, so listen up good: I know that my baby is in effect an AI accident, but now that I know who the father is - and I know that you know who he is, too - I intend to see that Jack gets every one of his parental rights in this messed up, FUBAR of a situation. And besides, whether you like it or not, I happen to like Jack a lot! So stop trying to rearrange my life to suit your own damned purposes!

Sam breathed a sharp breath, snapped her phone shut without saying a goodbye, then turned her glare on Pete. Get out. Take your flowers back. I'm sorry for your inconvenience, but you're wasting your time. Now leave. She began fumbling with her keys at her door.

But Pete wasn't quite ready to give up on his attempt at this reconciliation idea of his and Mark's, either. Sam, can't you try to..?

She threw daggers at him out of eyes that shot fire. You basically called me a whore the last time I saw you, and tried to hit Jack when he simply came to my defense. And after all that, you actually think I would want to get back together with you? She stared at him. Are you nuts?

Daniel sneezed again. He sniffed, and mumbled, Sorry.

Sam took in the miserable Daniel, and ordered Pete, Get those flowers and yourself out of here.

Sam.., Pete began again.

But Sam threw down her keys to rattle on the cement under her feet, and whipped out her cell phone once again. She held it up in a threatening manner. My finger is ready to to call the police so that I can report a stalker who won't leave me alone if you don't get your butt off my front steps in three seconds or less. One... two...

Pete beat a hasty retreat down her steps, taking his peace offering of flowers with him.

Three! Sam hollered to his retreating back. He jumped into the front seat of a dark SUV sitting near the corner of her street, then drove away as Daniel slowly rose and sauntered over to Sam. He rubbed at his nose with a handkerchief.

Sorry about the flowers, Daniel, Sam said, feeling the need to apologize to her runny-nosed friend. Pete never could remember about your allergies.

Daniel squinted up at Sam, nodded, then a puzzled expression settled on his face. With a stuffy nose, he inquired, 'A FUBAR of a situation? Does that word really mean anything?

At least Sam ended the disagreeable encounter with a laugh.

* * *

Two hours later in Jack's office, the General was trying, and failing, to reconcile what Daniel had just told him that Sam had said at her house earlier that day to the subdued way he knew her to usually behave. Add to that what she had said about wishing that she had slept with him to become pregnant, and his perceptions of the 'old' Sam Carter went flying out the proverbial window.

Concentrating, Jack ran his hand through his hair as he remained lost in thought. She did..? At last, he looked at the fully recovered Daniel seated before his desk in one of the visitor's chairs in his office and wrinkled his eyes. She said... what?

Daniel's eyebrows rose to his hairline. She called her brother a jerk. Then she said that she liked you a lot, and for her brother to mind his own damned business. Daniel shrugged as he absently played with Jack's desk nameplate. Or... something to that effect. He self-consciously cleared his throat, Then she basically threw Pete out on his...

Another throat clearing stopped Daniel, but this time the noise was made by Teal'c.

Yeah, Jack slowly said back to Daniel, ignoring Teal'c, and still looking lost. Then his own forehead wrinkled in consternation. She said that... she likes me?

Daniel wordlessly nodded.

Jack still looked bewildered. Out loud?

Daniel wordlessly nodded again.

Jack sat back in his chair, stunned. That Sam would say such a thing... out loud! And after what she had said in her interview! That's the part I don't get, he announced.

Daniel continued, And she said something about this being one heck of a FUBAR situation, but she seemed like she preferred it that way instead of the other way around.

Teal'c grunted from his spot near the door to the corridor. It is most unlike the ColonelCarter that we know to be so imprecise in expressing herself, he announced.

Daniel stared at Teal'c, then his eyes moved to take in Jack, who still looked amazed at the same time as he appeared perplexed.

Yeeeaaahh.., Jack slowly intoned. Then he glanced at his two former teammates in consternation, and said, But maybe this isn't the Carter that we know and... He paused before he could say something that might be misconstrued by anyone eavesdropping on the office conversation. He added, We've never dealt with a pregnant Carter before.

Teal'c went on with the puzzling. Perhaps that is the reason for her imprecise word usage, he hazarded to guess.

Daniel glanced knowingly at Jack once more, his brows still raised in a penetrating glance. Without so much as a 'by your leave,' he shook his head and quietly mentioned the one topic of conversation that all of SG-1 had avoided acknowledging for years. It was as if some sort of alien 'tell it like it is' plague had taken over his mouth. This new Sam is going to be even harder to resist than ever. I don't know how you're going to make it through another three or four more months of this, Jack. For once, I'm glad I'm not you. His brows still up, he rose and stuffed his hands in his pockets after replacing Jack's nameplate... upside down... and he and Teal'c left Jack to his contemplations.

For once, Jack was feeling too bamboozled to be angry with Daniel for what he had just said. In fact, Jack looked confused as well as doomed, despite now having an empty office. He could just barely fathom what trials were in store for him.

* * *

The very next day, Jack had an experience that perfectly illustrated what Daniel had been talking about in his office the day before. And though Jack wanted nothing to do with planting this line of gossip around the SGC, he knew now without a doubt what level of agony Daniel had been predicting the previous day.

Sam and Jack were both in the Control Room, and he was busy signing his name on the umpteenth millionth form this week as Sergeant Carstairs held a clipboard for him to use, and Sam was seated at the dialing computer, running 'Gate diagnostics as the Stargate lay dormant, something wrong with its buffer matrix configuration... something or other. He didn't quite know what was wrong with the 'Gate, but he had every confidence in Carter's ability in figuring out what was wrong, and then fixing it, all before lunch.

And right on schedule, she called out, Sir, here's what's been causing our problems.

Sam pointed with a finger at her computer monitor as Jack finished signing his name on Carstairs' form. He sauntered over to join her as Sergeant Carstairs walked away in the other direction, satisfied that she had just completed one of the most difficult tasks in the SGC: attaining General O'Neill's signature.

Forgetting Carstairs the moment she disappeared from sight, Jack approached Sam's chair from behind, and leaned down over her to get a better view of what she was pointing at. What have you got for us today, Colonel? he jauntily asked as he peered over her shoulder.

Here, Sir, Sam perfunctorily said.

Her nonchalant reaction to his words was nothing compared to O'Neill's, however. His libido seemed to have tripled in the last two seconds as he leaned over Sam.... a pregnant Sam. His heart now thumping in his chest, he took a sharp breath, which turned out to be a big mistake. The smell of her skin, her soap, her shampoo... her... hit him in force like a bowling ball plowing into his stomach.

Without quite knowing what he was doing, Jack turned his head just slightly in order to get a better view of her slightly rounded body at the computer desk, openly appreciating what he'd spent years hiding his regard for, and struggling to disguise his instant reaction even now. In doing so, he got another nose full of the odor of Sam, and at the same time was treated to a huge amount of a pregnant Sam's natural pheromones slamming into his psyche all at once. He was just shy of falling into an attack of cardiac distress in seconds.

And Sam hadn't even done anything to him.

Resist this? And just how was he going to do that?

Sam just stared at him, waiting for him to respond to her pointing out of the 'Gate problem. But he wasn't paying attention to her. Well, he was paying attention to her... the wrong kind of attention...

What had gotten into him? She had an excuse (that she was five months pregnant) for any odd movements that she may or may not be making. But, what was his excuse? Quite suddenly, he looked like he found her... irresistible.

Jack groaned to himself: yes, through no fault of his or Sam's, life was going to be hell for the foreseeable future.

* * *

Oddly enough, Jack actually volunteered for that state of hell to continue as long as possible. He appeared in Carter's lab that very afternoon, a long rolled up object made of paper or some other porous material in his hands (at the SGC, one couldn't assume anything). A particularly vulnerable expression had etched itself across his features.

Sir? Sam questioned, then corrected herself by saying, I mean, Jack?

Jack smiled when she said that. Maybe you should call me Sir Jack, he suggested.

But Sam immediately negated that idea. No. That might go to your head, she said with an impish grin.

Jack visibly paled at the sight of her mischievous grin, but she was polite enough to ignore mentioning his expression. Instead, she gestured with a wave of her hand towards the roll of papers that he held in a death grip. What's that?

As if she had reminded him of why he had appeared in her lab in the middle of the afternoon, Jack cautiously approached her worktable. I went home at lunch this afternoon and found these in my basement. I... He hesitated just slightly as he displayed the long papers on her table.

They turned out to be the old blueprint plans for his house. Once she was peering closely at the plans he still held onto for dear life, he continued, I... have a... a proposition... for you. He was anxious, and sounded it, as if he didn't quite know how she would respond to his suggestion, which worried him.

Sam glanced up at him and inquired, A proposition? You do? Um... what kind of a proposition?

Jack nervously drummed his fingers on the tabletop scarred by the many experiments that she ran. I'm worried that you won't like it and will get mad, he confessed at last.

Mad? How can I get mad if I don't know why you want me to look at these? The outer edges of the blueprints were smudged with dirt and oil, probably his, and dust clung to the fiber of the paper. She rubbed it off, then sighed in irritation at his question, already losing her patience. Just tell me. I promise I won't get mad... until I hear you out, at any rate.

Jack carefully eyed her, taking in her already agitated demeanor, but decided that since she was already rather angry... or at least irritated... he didn't have much to lose. Okay. Here's my idea. He shuffled through the blueprint pages until he found the one for the main floor. Here's my house, the main part of it.

Yeah, I see, Sam said as she thoughtfully leaned near him. Here's your living room, and here's the bedrooms. She pointed to each location with her index finger.

Jack swallowed, already in pain at his proximity to her, but choosing to forge on anyway. I was thinking...

Sam leaned in closer yet to better inspect his plans. There's a... Is that a closet, or a crawl space in the guest bedroom?

Jack answered, but it sounded more like he was choking than responding to a simple question. It's a wall safe, he informed her, then cleared his throat.

Sam wrinkled her nose. If it's a wall safe, what's it doing in the floor?

Jack blinked, desperate to clear his eyes of the fog that had fallen over them. Okay, it's a floor safe, he conceded. But that's not what I want you to notice. He shuffled the papers again, moving them and changing the order until they were staring at his attic floor. I don't want you to be alone all the time in case something happens again, what with you being... Could he say the word? ... pregnant... and all, and I...

Her aggravated sigh interrupted them. Jack, nothing is going to happen, she assured. The response I got to my... whatever happened... That was just Dr. Warner being ultra careful.

Jack cut her short by raising a finger to halt her protests. You promised to hear me out, he reminded.

Sam gave him a sour look, but she agreed to his comment. All right. Go on. But she didn't sound very happy about what she was saying to him.

Jack knew that he was living on borrowed time. He didn't want to be the next one whom she called an 'ass,' so he hurriedly continued. I bet that you're getting tired of living on base... even though it's only been one day... Anyway, you're probably tired of it just as much as I want you to be around help if you should ever need it. Sam nodded, but restrained herself from commenting on his statement. Jack went on, So... in answer to your 'not wanting to be on base all the time for the next four or five... months...' What do you think of me converting my attic space into an apartment for you, one where you'll have your own entrance, your own address, and your own mailbox... A place that's completely yours, but still close to someone in case something ever goes wrong again. There will be a connecting door between our two halves of the house so that I can get to you in case you're ever in trouble again. Jack stared at her in an agony of hopeful anticipation. So... Whadya think?

She didn't immediately respond, as she was busy thinking, and his gaze continued to be a hopeful expression mixed with his wish not to piss her off. The combination made him look like a kid who had just asked his reluctant parent for ice cream. We can both store anything we don't need in my basement, he went on to suggest.

Sam stared at him, doubt etched all over her expression. Do you want me to always stay there, or is this only until I have the baby? was the first thing she asked.

Jack looked like he hadn't considered that. I guess that's up to you, he slowly said. But what's the point of doing all this converting if it's only a temporary solution? He went on, entreating, Besides, how often will I get to see you and the baby if you both are all the way across town?

Sam tingled at the slip he'd made. He'd said 'you and the baby.' Did that mean..? Or didn't it mean anything special at all? She ignored her questions, and aloud, only agreed, True. Then she pointed to the attic space in the plans for his house. How many bedrooms are you thinking to put in up here?

I'm thinking two bedrooms... that attic is big, but it's not so big that there will be room for much more than the basic kitchen, bedroom, nursery, and bathroom. Now his voice sounded apologetic.

But Sam was already shaking her head. But if I want a nursery, like you suggest, then where's Cassie going to sleep when she's home from school if there are only two bedrooms?

Your house that you have now is only a two-bedroom... Where did you plan to put Cassie in there? he asked, not expecting her to answer.

Damn - caught! He already knew that she only had a two-bedroom house, and had thought about what arguments she might use in conjunction with his suggestion. She had considered the thought that Cassie could temporarily use her living room sofa as a bed, then reluctantly admitted to herself that she might need a larger house in the near future. Cassie couldn't sleep on the sofa forever, after all!

Now, Sam remained silent when he posed his question, but he also saw in her eyes that she didn't have an immediate answer for him, either. So he argued on, Cassie can use one of the bedrooms in my half of the house... we are her co-guardians, after all... and I can convert my other guest room to a nursery as well, so the baby can always have a place to sleep, wherever he... or she... happens to be, but at least I'll get to see him...

Or her, Carter added.

Or her, Jack quickly said. Anyway, I'll be more involved this time, have more of a connection, just... Jack fished around in his mind for how best to describe what he was feeling. At last, he shrugged. I'll just be more available.

Sam gazed at him, assessing the look in his brown eyes. He appeared almost... obsessively interested... anxious. Are you concerned about this? she finally asked. Did you miss out a lot on..? She didn't finish with what she was thinking, but knew that he tacitly understood what she meant.

Jack glanced down, definitely embarrassed and pained at what she wouldn't say, but was referring to anyway. I just want...

She refused to let him finish, as this was clearly a difficult thing for him to say. And his reaction to her comments on this whole issue of where she and the baby would live, in combination to what she wasn't saying about his previous experience with babies, made up her mind for her. That's all right. Actually, I think converting your attic into an apartment for me is a good idea.

Jack lifted his stunned gaze back to meet her eyes. You do? He sounded completely surprised, yet hopeful again at the same time.

Sam nodded, conscious of how happy it made her just to bring that simple ecstatic expression into his eyes. Yeah, I do, she softly divulged. I was beginning to feel sort of... exposed... living alone like I was.

This was news to him. Exposed, he repeated. How so?

Sam unhappily admitted, Well... She didn't go on, and several moments passed where they were both quiet in the lab. Then she said, It occurred to me the other night that... This was as hard for her to admit as it had been for him to express his need to be around the baby more when it arrived. She took a deep breath, irritated at her lack of verbal skills. It wasn't as if being pregnant had stolen her ability to speak, or to think! So she just blurted, I'm gonna get big... I'm already big... bigger... than I'm used to being. She struggled again while Jack waited patiently for her to tell him what was on her mind. I hate this, she muttered at last.

Hate... being pregnant? Hate... the prospect of getting big? What? No matter what she meant with her cryptic words, Jack didn't like the sound of her confession too much! But he had to admit to himself that he didn't exactly know what she was referring to, either. So he asked. Hate what? he inquired in a soft voice.

Sam tried to say what she was thinking, but had as much trouble as he'd had a moment before at putting words to his feelings. She sighed at last in defeat, then admitted, I'm just worried that I'll get another visit from someone like Pete again, that I will be big as a house at the time, and that I'll never be able to defend myself if I have to, and I have no one else to rely on when I'm at home... Sir, she added for good measure. Then she went on, looking down so that she wouldn't have to see the look of surprised disappointment that she expected to see in his eyes as she divulged this. But she had more than just herself to worry about now, and that in turn worried her quite a bit, certainly enough to say something about her concerns.

However, what Sam did see reflected in his eyes was not disappointment, but more like... compassion. I hadn't thought of that, he softly admitted. When she didn't say more, he added with a soft smile lighting up his face, Or I would have suggested this sooner.

Sam laughed. She couldn't help it. This predicament of theirs suddenly seemed so ridiculous, and embarrassing, and silly, and...

So, Jack prodded. Whatdaya think? Then he was more specific, About the apartment idea... of mine.

Sam stared up at him, obviously still thinking at a fast pace, or pretending to think, at any rate. She didn't want to agree too quickly, after all! He might think she was being too eager in this...

But Jack saw all this... thinking... waffling... as normal, for her especially. I can see the steam roll out of your ears when you get to thinking like that, he remarked in a casual voice. Tell me what's on your mind.

My dad, Sam swiftly replied. I'm not sure he'll understand this kind of an arrangement.

Then we'll make him understand, Jack persuasively said.

He'll stay the night when he's in town, Sam pointed out. Where's he going to sleep?

Jack quietly considered her problem, then said, He can sleep in Cassie's room when she's not home from school.

And when she is? Sam protested. That leaves my couch for him, and he's taller than my couch is long.

Jack shrugged once more. There's always my couch... or the VIP suites at the SGC, if he prefers to sleep on a bed.

Sam considered. That might work, she softly mumbled. Then she brought up another worry. What if you don't like the music that I sometimes turn up real loud? What if..?

Jack quickly dissolved into a fit of laughter as she tried to continue. Sam! he interrupted. She hated to be interrupted, according to the sour expression on her face. We'll deal with whatever problems we have as they come, he lilted back at her. I expect that we'll drive each other crazy some of the time. Then he meaningfully eyed her. But won't it be fun at other times? He wisely chose not to say just how it would be fun.

Sam thought about this further suggestion of his. Then she gave the baby a pat and asked, When can we start so Daniel George and I can move in?

Jack's brows rose in inquiry. 'Daniel George?' he questioned.

Sam smiled. I won't tell either of them, and you probably shouldn't, either. What a pain in the butt Daniel especially would be if he knew!

Jack grinned at her, so they were both in a grinning storm when he said, Promise.

* * *

The contractors had barely been contacted to begin on the attic conversion of Jack's house... (he wouldn't have time to do it himself, not when he was in charge of the entire SGC!) So Jack had hired contractors to convert his attic, but the process had barely had time to begin when he received an intriguing phone call. He ignored the ringing of the phone to finish penning his signature at the bottom of yet another report. Then he picked up the black receiver of his office phone. O'Neill, he tiredly said.

Walter Harriman's voice wafted to him over the line. Sir, you said that you wanted all of Colonel Carter's incoming phone messages to go to you first, in case the Vice President rang, and he's on line two right now. Would you like me to patch him through, or should I leave him on hold for another few years... uh, minutes! he hastily corrected himself.

Jack almost laughed at his aide's mistake, but told him, No, I'll take it now. And thank you, Walter. He hit the appropriate button on his phone, then said as affably as he could, Colonel Carter is unavailable at the moment, but this is General O'Neill, and I hope that talking to me instead of her will be acceptable to...

Jack wasn't able to finish his well rehearsed speech ('rehearsed' so that he could say his line and not throw up at the same time) when a hard, obviously angry voice interrupted him. No, talking to you is not acceptable! I want to talk to Colonel Carter, now!

Jack tried not to get too irritated at the way the other man imperiously commanded him. Now, Senator Kinsey...

Vice President Kinsey! Kinsey spat.

Jack appeared to stumble over his words, as if he didn't know who the Vice President of the United States was. Oh, excuse me, Mr. Vice President, he emphasized. Now what can I do for..?

The angry voice huffed, You can transfer me to Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, that's what!

Jack sighed. No can do, but is there something else..?

Kinsey interrupted him once again. I want to speak to Colonel Carter! he explosively argued. You can...

Jack decided he had heard enough. He knew now that a more honest approach was warranted. He sat more upright in his chair so that he could be sure to give all his attention to his phone conversation. Actually, I've been waiting for your call, Mr. Vice President. he reiterated. See, I had all of Colonel Carter's incoming phone calls routed through my office first...

You've been waiting?!? Kinsey exclaimed, cutting Jack off. I don't think...

I don't care what you think! Jack shot back in a suddenly hard voice. That stupid 'investigation' of yours could have...

Kinsey broke in on his comment to say, And speaking of that investigation, nobody calls me an 'ass' and gets away with it!

That's funny, Jack said, now being completely honest. I call you that all the time.

Kinsey was really getting irate now, according to the incensed huff of air he breathed over the line. Now listen! I have a few words to say to the Colonel, and you're not going to stop me! Let me talk to her, NOW.

Jack jerked even more upright in his chair. No, I don't think that's gonna happen any time soon, and I don't care if you're the President of China! he firmly said. Carter is supposed to avoid stress of any kind right now, and what you want to say to her is sure to cause her stress, and that's my child she's carrying that I have to worry about, and there is no way in hell I'm going to let you see her, or even talk to her! I don't care if you do the talking, or if you have someone else do the talking for you, if there is so much as one mention of you, your 'investigation,' or you wanting to hang her out to dry just because she tried to do her duty to this country... again, I might add... I'll have you or whatever goon you choose to send in your place locked up in a Holding Cell so fast that you won't know what hit you! And one more thing..!

You can't protect her all the time, twenty-four hours a day, O'Neill! Kinsey continued. Even a workaholic like her has to run to her home sometime, and I'll be waiting for her...

She's moving out of her house, and until then, she's living on base! Jack happily, yet acrimoniously, informed the angry man. And no, I'm not telling you where she's going, and I doubt that the President will be too happy with you when you tell him about your need to suddenly find her! And if you do, by some chance, stumble onto where she plans to go, I'll let not only the President know what his VP is up to, I'll tell the Joint Chiefs, and then the American people... whose good will you need for a re-election in a few years, if I'm not mistaken! I'm not so sure that President Hayes is up to having a tainted running mate, are you?

Jack waited for a snappy comeback to his comment from the other man, but only heard infuriated breathing. Then Kinsey abruptly hung up on his end without even saying 'goodbye.'

With a sense of satisfaction in the movement, Jack let his own receiver clatter onto his phone's cradle. After a minute of staring at the phone, waiting to see if it would ring again when the President's half-expected phone call came through, Jack silently blinked.

When the red phone remained quiet, Jack went back to his never-ending paperwork as if nothing had just happened.

* * *

The next morning Jack was again interrupted from his paperwork spread over his office desk, but this time the interruption was in a form that was much more pleasing... and round.

The quiet knock on his door was only loud enough to attract Jack's attention from his paperwork so that he yelled a, Come in! but wasn't insistent enough for him to lift his head from what he was currently immersed in doing to take notice of who came hesitantly through his door. I'll be with you in a moment, he said with a sense of vagueness while he tried to finish reading what was printed on the form under his eyes.

The person who was cutting into his never-ending-paperwork time calmly took a seat across from him in one of the chairs fronting his desk, and sighed, but made no other display of his or her emotions at having to wait for the General's much-sought-after attention. There was a hint to the sigh that showed some contentment at being able to sit, but even that was only discernible to the truly tuned ears of someone listening, and Jack was too distracted by the current form he was reading to listen particularly well. So he missed the sound behind the sigh, and had no concept of his visitor's identity until he signed his name yet one more time at the bottom of the form in front of him and was finally able to look up.

Jack's gaze alighted on the form of a reclining Samantha Carter as she held tightly to a notepad full of what looked like drawings. The expression on her face was slightly blissful as she tilted her head back, kept her eyes closed, and enjoyed the few seconds of forced relaxation that she had received from him like it was an unexpected gift from the gods. As time went by, she was becoming happier and happier to simply get off her feet a few times in one day.

Carter! Jack said, delight coloring his voice. Why didn't you say that it was you? I would have immediately stopped what I was doing - you know that!

Carter's eyes opened, but she only grinned an enigmatic grin. But then I wouldn't have had such a nice excuse to sit down and get off my feet for a few minutes of silent bliss if you had known it was me.

Jack's brows furrowed minutely at her statement. Your feet hurt? he asked, instantly concerned.

Carter sighed again. Yes, but don't worry about it. I...

It's my job to worry about you, he told her, then added, Well, it's my job, but it's also my specific job... unless you've come to tell me that you're carrying twins, and I'm only the father of one of them, so I only have to worry about one of your feet hurting - the other father gets to worry about the other foot. Or maybe I'll be the overbearing father figure that was here first, and I'll beat the other guy to a pulp so that I can have dibs on both your feet at the same time...

Carter chuckled helplessly at his commentary. No, I don't think I'm carrying twins, but feel free to rub my feet as if I were.

Jack grinned, and found that he couldn't shut off the gesture once it got started - he was that fond of just being with her. However, he was able to ask, What can I do for you, Carter? And feel free yourself to interrupt me at any time - you're never an interruption.

Sam grinned as well. Neither are you, Sir - uh, Jack.

Sam grinned at Jack. Jack grinned at Sam. Daniel would have rolled his eyes and groaned in irritation if he'd been there to see them grinning at each other, but the archaeologist was absent for once in his life, leaving Jack and Sam alone to grin to their heart's content.

At last, Jack again broke the silence that had descended on them as they grinned. Well, coming all the way down here must be getting a bit on the difficult side for you. I assume that you wanted to talk to me about something - what's up?

Carter's eyes darted to the drawing pad that she grasped in her hand. Um... She gave a start, as if she was waking from a very satisfactory nap, and leaned forward as she dropped the pad onto his desk. I got to thinking about what you said yesterday... about the converted apartment for me in your attic... you know, a place with a living room, bedrooms, nursery, kitchen... and I was thinking that I really don't need much kitchen space... enough for a microwave and a fridge... and what do you think of cutting the space that you had designated for the kitchen and either adding the space that's saved to the bedrooms that you've already designed, or adding another, smaller bedroom for when my father comes to visit?

Jack pulled the drawings closer to him so that he could take a better look at what she had prepared. Her pictures reminded him of very crude cave drawings from an early human, but he didn't tell her that. Instead, he tried to make sense out of the dimensions that she had included along the sides of each picture. He was attempting to figure out what she had neglected to include, and finally lit upon what it was. But won't you miss having a kitchen sink?

There's the bathroom sink, Carter readily replied. And I can keep fresh water that I draw from the bathroom sink in the fridge and use that.

That'll make nightime feedings a pain in the neck if you decide to use formula and bottles. I guess that we haven't decided on formula or nursing, so I guess it depends on that. Then he did a small double take, aware of the awkwardness of talking about breast feeding with his 2IC, but not feeling awkward to be discussing such a thing with the future mother of his child. The dichotomy of that thought confused him.

Carter's brow puckered. I guess that I don't have much of an opinion about that... which won't be particularly popular, I know from reading websites on the issue of childbirth. Her brow puckered even deeper. Do you have an opinion about that, S... er, Jack?

People talked about breast feeding on the web? Jack didn't know that. And did he want to get into a discussion involving breasts with his former 2IC? Did he dare?

Uuuuh, Jack managed to intone before clearing his throat and trying to at least sound intelligent. No, I guess that I don't have an opinion... on that... Carter... er, Sam.

Formula feeding would at least allow you to be a part of things, like you said that you wanted to be a part of things... Jack, she remembered to call him at the last second. You'll be able to do those nighttime feedings that you mentioned when I'm away off world, she suggested.

Jack grimaced. Only I'm not sure if I want to be a part of nighttime feedings, he injudiciously said, partially surprised by her wanting to continue to go off world, but knowing that he was talking to Sam Carter wanting to go off world, and in spite of having an infant, that didn't come as much of a surprise, actually.

Sam's warm blue eyes instantly grew colder and more piercing at his last statement. Nighttime feedings aren't popular, I know, but you have to take the good with the bad, Sir. There's no half and half with a kid, and I'm not gonna be stuck with all the unpleasant duties while you go off and have fun when you want to have fun. She gave another deep grimace. In fact, this sounds a lot like the role of a Grandparent, not a father, if I can say so. You know, play with the baby, wind it up till it screams, then give it back when you can't handle it any more...

Jack gave a sheepish grin in order to put a stop to her tirade before she really got going. No! No, that's not what I meant at all by that comment.

Then what did you mean? Her voice was still a bit harsh, and unbending at her prediction of his desires on this unexpected issue.

Jack again gave his same disarming grin. I meant that I won't always be able to be there, either. Be at home I mean. I'll have to stay here some of the time... that's what being head of the SGC means, and...

Oh, Sam said, her face reddening as she finally understood. I hadn't thought of that, she at last admitted, pensively considering the prospects before him. That must not please you so much, she finally said.

No, Jack had to admit that it didn't please him so much. But short of retiring - which I don't plan to do in the near future - I don't know what I can do about it.

Sam gazed at him out of sympathetic eyes. No... unless we turn one of the lab rooms or designated closet spaces into a sort of unofficial nursery...

That's an idea, Jack commented, immediately warming to the thought. He had a vision of holding a baby while in the Control Room, cleaning away spit-up as a team walked towards him down the Stargate ramp, a crib set up in one of the larger closets nearby... Jack enthusiastically noted, I can pop in every few hours if the baby stays on base... Then he gave a grimace and slight shake of his head. He didn't want to get too caught up in a fantasy when Carter had walked all the way to his office from her lab to discuss her kitchen idea. But back to the apartment... If you don't mind the loss of a kitchen, then I don't see why we can't modify the plans to include another bedroom.

Sam sighed in gratitude, glad that convincing Jack of the validity of this idea had proven to be so easy. Another bedroom would be more useful to me than a kitchen in the long run, she said.

If you're sure? he asked again one last time.

Sam nodded.

Okay. Jack jotted down a note to himself to remind him to talk to the apartment contractors. And that brings us to...

I was thinking of doing another ultrasound, Jack, Sam announced, glibly using his first name now as if she had been doing it for years. I know I just had one last week, but you weren't here then. I assume that you would want to be there? To find out the gender of the baby? Not that it really matters... does it?

Jack sent her a baleful look. Carter, are you trying to ask me if I think a boy would wrap me around its little finger faster than a girl?

Sam laughed again. Yes Sir.

Jack gusted a sigh. I wrap around girl's fingers as well as a boys'. I'll just be happy if there are fingers.

Sam had a sudden image of Jack literally coiled around a baby's finger, and laughed. But I thought that you might like to know what to expect.

So I can prepare myself to get fluffy pink dresses rather than a basketball?

She can play basketball in those pink dresses just fine, don't you think?

It was Jack's turn to laugh. I am in so much trouble, he stated, laughing again. I think I'll ask Teal'c to move in just to balance things out if it's a girl.

Sam gave an amused grunt. And who do I get if it's a boy?

Cassie counts, Jack instantly declared.

Cassie's at school for most of the year, Sam countered.

She counts invisibly, Jack amended.

Carter's peel of laughter made his absurd feeling at this conversation that he had gotten completely worth it. He had always loved her laugh.

When she had calmed down, she slouched comfortably into the chair, glad that his chairs had something to support her back, unlike her lab stools. The back support eased the chronic ache that was beginning to develop in her lower back. So... formula... so that you can share in the joy.

I wouldn't miss it, he blithely responded.

* * *

Two days later she sat in the Commissary with Teal'c, watching him consume a combination of something that looked like green space goo, and trying not to lose her breakfast at the same time. Throwing up in the public Commissary was not an enticing thought.

The General and I went in for an ultrasound yesterday, Sam said, still attempting to draw her attention away from a suddenly heaving stomach.

Teal'c's eyebrow rose interrogatively. What is an 'ultrasound?'

Sam smiled; she had momentarily forgotten who she was talking to. It wasn't such a stretch of the imagination that Teal'c wouldn't know what an ultrasound was. It's a test that doctors do to make sure the baby is growing properly, and so that it's parents can find out what gender the baby is... if it's a boy or a girl.

Teal'c perked up at that news. And what did you find, ColonelCarter?

Sam smiled. That thing's are coming along just fine... I'm a good percolation machine. She could tell by Teal'c's expression of bland interest that he didn't understand her coffee reference the way that Daniel had earlier that day. And that I'm having a boy.

So we must endeavor to think of male names, Teal'c said in restrained delight, Teal'c style. I still recommend the name 'Thor'

Sam smiled again. I haven't had time to run that one by Jack yet. But I'll keep that in mind. Do you have any other ideas?

Teal'c looked puzzled as he said, How many male names do you need for one baby, ColonelCarter? Unless there is more than one?

Sam blanched at his suggestion that she might be carrying twins. Funny how the same suggestion from Jack a few days before hadn't bothered her a bit. No, I'm not having more than one baby... at least, not that I know of... but it's always a good idea to have more than one name in mind, in case Jack doesn't like the idea of naming his kid 'Thor' for some reason.

Hammond, Teal'c instantly suggested.

But Sam finished the quote for him. Hammond of Texas, she said in a deadpan voice. I'll always think of Master Bra'tac saying that, and then think of shining bald heads... though many babies are born bald...

Bray, Teal'c next suggested.

Sam gave a frown. I'm afraid that I'll always think of a donkey whenever I say his name, she vetoed.

Teal'c thought hard. We certainly do not want you having images of an ass when you refer to the baby. Sam choked a snort of laughter at what he had just said as he continued to think. His eyes lit up after a few quiet moments. Ah - We are the members of the team SG-1. We travel to other worlds through the confines of space... so we work in outer space, so to speak.

Teal'c, what are you getting at? Sam questioned him, feeling suddenly nervous.

A name with the letters 'S' and 'G' might be descriptive of a true SG-1 child. Teal'c gave her a thoughtful look. I was going to suggest the name 'Sagan,' for the letters 'S' and 'G,' after the surname of the famous science fiction author, Carl Sagan. He would be pleased.

That surprised Sam, more so since she liked the name. You've read some of Sagan? she inquired.

Teal'c gave her one of his rare, slow smiles. Do not tell O'Neill.

Which caused Sam to chuckle once more. Mum's the word.

* * *

Five days later, Jack was in his office, once again signing more forms (he swore that they multiplied over night when no one was looking) when the black internal SGC phone sitting on the edge of his desk rang, capturing his attention away from the forms. Darn, an interruption, he sarcastically thought, gladly answering that interruption.

O'Neill, he said into the receiver.

There was some hesitation over the line.

Jack furrowed his brows in confusion. This is General O'Neill, can I..?

Jack's second greeting was summarily cut off by what sounded like a scuffle, then clear signs of distress - crying, hissing, crying some more. Then came the urgent shrieking of one particular voice that obviously belonged to Carter. I said not to bother him! A sob interrupted her.

Jack paused, his thoughts frozen - a crying Carter? Carter never cried. His frozen veins solidified even more at her next inquiry, What are you doing?

Jack's confusion and fear increased, and he immediately jumped to a conclusion. Oh God, the baby! Alarmed at hearing an obviously upset Colonel Carter, he barked, Airman! Why was she so upset?

Finally a voice of a seriously harassed... and young... male airman came over the line. Sir, we're at the first checkpoint... can you please meet us here!

The panic in the unknown airman's voice spurred Jack towards the door as he answered, I'm on my way!

Heart pounding, palms sweating, anxiety encasing his forehead in wrinkles, Jack made for the first checkpoint out of the mountain at a run. When he arrived, it was to find three men, awkwardly patting Carter's back as she sat in one of the guards' folding chairs, crying her eyes out, with no Kleenex in sight to use to mop up her tears, and her hand protectively on her stomach, her baby bulge showing through her civilian shirt.

Carter! Jack yelped as he skidded to a stop.

Carter glanced once at him, then turned a tear streaked glare at the three men. I told you not to call him! she yelled, but her hiccup that was so big that it practically stole her breath away marred her 'enraged pregnant woman' expression quite a bit.

Jack stopped right in front of her chair. He took over the awkward patting of the three men, cutting the hands on her back down from three to one. Can we get some tissue here? he absently asked, but so much of his attention was turned on Carter by now that he didn't even hear an airman reply in the affirmative, or see another one disappear in the direction of the nearest supply closet. He only knew that a very red-faced, runny-nosed, teary-eyed soldier-turned-pregnant-woman-in-the-blink-of-an-eye was his current concern. Carter? She didn't appear to be wounded in any way. He just didn't understand... What's wrong?

Carter surprisingly exploded into a tirade worthy of Ba'al himself. God, this is so stupid, and embarrassing, and stupid, and dumb..!

She was embarrassed? And obviously crying because of it? Okay... He was aware that this whole crying event couldn't have worse timing - she was sure to be caught crying in few moments in a public place by the 1700 rush of base personnel leaving the mountain for home, and be even more embarrassed because of it. He had to get her out of there before she began crying even harder! Jack desperately looked up and down the nearby corridor, sighted an empty conference room just across the hall, and said, Okay, I think that you don't want to be caught crying out in the open. He still had no idea what was wrong, just that it would be a very good idea to get her out of the possible eyes of base personnel. Come on. And he helped her up, still crying, and led her into the blissful calm of darkened Conference Room #2.

Jack flipped the light on just as the door swung shut behind him. Though they were still under the ever-present eyes of the security camera (and boy, was he ever aware of those damned cameras!), he admitted to himself that this was still preferable to having Carter fall apart at the first checkpoint just moments before the 1700 rush. So he pulled out a chair, helped Carter's quivering form into it, then sat next to her. Okay, he said, and wiped her tears off her cheeks with his thumbs since he still didn't have any tissues.

The airman popped his head into the conference room and silently offered Jack a new box of tissues. Sir, was all the airman said as Jack took the box, but the soldier's expression of intense relief at the sight of the General was so obvious that Jack knew he was going to laugh about all this... later. Jack tore into the box, pulled out several tissues, then began mopping at Carter's eyes. Snot was running into her mouth at one corner, but he didn't think that he needed to tell her what a mess she was - she probably already knew, anyway.

Jack began sounding patient, but ended up sounding rather hysterical himself. So, what is it? What's wrong? Is it the baby?

Carter choked, The baby's fine - I'm sorry, Sir, I told them not to call you, that this is just a stupid thing... but they're men who don't know anything about pregnancy... pregnancy hormones... and women, and...

Exasperated, Jack shook his head. Carter, just tell me - what were you doing wanting to go out? He'd found her at the first checkpoint out of the mountain - it only made sense that she was going out.

Suddenly Carter's face screwed up, and she grabbed more tissues from the box and buried her face into her hands. This is so horrible! she hiccuped.

What is? Jack tried to keep his voice calm and rational sounding when he really wanted to shake her until she told him what was so horrible.

Sam gestured around her, taking in the walls of the room and the SGC as a whole. This, she said, as if Jack could read her mind.

But Jack could read her mind - he knew exactly what her vague gesture meant. Carter, you know that Kinsey will find you the minute you go out...

I know! she yelled in a surge of self-irritation of her own, and lifted her head from her hands so that she could yell... er... 'talk' to him. But that's just it! I need a hair cut, and I can't even do that because... I'm... I'm stuck... hiccup, sob... I'm stuck here... More hiccups... jerks... tearing tissues... Not that I think I'm actually stuck... but...

Jack sighed, leaned back, and placed a comforting hand on top of her own hand. Now I get it, he laconically told her. You're not stuck... but you're stuck.

Carter sobbed. All I want to do is get my hair cut! And I can't even do that anymore! Her head fell onto her palm on the table top, distress evident in every line on her face. And you've been so nice about this whole thing, and you're even redoing your house, and I'm really not an ungrateful slob, but I just want to get a stupid haircut, and I can't, and I can't even bend over right anymore, and doing things in my lab has gotten harder - I can't just hop up onto the stool in front of my computer anymore, and I'm craving root beer out of the tap in the Commissary, and I don't even like root beer, and..!

Jack laughed a low chuckle - he couldn't help it - and without even thinking of what he was doing, pulled Carter into a comforting hug. Carter, he said in as soothing a voice as he could produce on short notice. You're pregnant! You're supposed to be feeling this way!

Carter wasn't mollified in the least. But my appointment for my hair is only five minutes away, and I'll never make it now, and my hair is still in my eyes, and..!

Jack rubbed her back. It's all right! I'll have Daniel or Teal'c go with you...

I don't need a baby-sitter! Carter yelled through her tears, incensed.

No, you don't, Jack instantly agreed with her, wanting her anger even less than he wanted her tears. This is a rotten situation, I know, and so help me, if the likes of Kinsey ever gets his hands on you or the baby...

Carter was immediately conciliatory. I'm so sorry, Jack! I didn't want the airmen to call and bother you..!

Hey! Jack reminded. You are never a bother! Don't think that you are! Then a wicked gleam came into Jack's eyes. Besides, this gives me another chance to say 'hi' to Junior... 'Hi, Junior!' he hollered in the direction of her tummy. He even gave it a pat with his hand. Your mom's nuts, you know? he called. But all us guys on SG-1 love her anyway, especially with the way that she saves our butts all the time!

Carter couldn't help but give a slight giggle at the sight of General O'Neill, one of the most powerful men in this galaxy, yelling silly things at her stomach. She buried her head into his shoulder, smearing her tears and snot all over his BDUs (I have another pair in my locker, Carter, I swear! he said) as her tissues were so used at this point that they were useless balls wadded in her hands, and she laughed and cried all at the same time. God, I feel like such an idiot!

Jack breathed in the smell of her skin, her shampoo, felt her in his arms, even if it was just due to an act of comfort, and grinned. This pregnancy stuff was all right!

Jack made a face at the way he was enjoying this situation too much for his own good. He tried to distract himself by making this all about how Carter was feeling at the moment. Don't feel stupid, Carter, it's just pregnancy hormones, like you said, and they'll go away before you know it, and don't worry... I bet your hair place will make another appointment for you, and I don't think it's a good idea for you to go out by yourself just yet, and if anything ever happens to you or the baby, you know that I'll go ballistic, and...

Carter took a deep breath, and abruptly stopped crying. I would never want you to go ballistic, Sir.

It's 'Jack,' he whispered his reminder.

Carter nodded. 'Jack,' she said, still laughing and hiccuping at the same time.

Jack rubbed her back, letting his hand trail from her shoulder to her hip. Now what do you say to a trip to the Commissary... for me!... I need help avoiding my paperwork, and this is just the excuse that I need. You can have a root beer while I eat cake. Whadyasay?

Carter laughed a genuine laugh this time. How can a girl who's five and a half months pregnant with her CO's baby say 'no' to that? She sat back, then rubbed at her tears, blew her nose, wiped her face, then snarled, These are the most horrible, scratchy tissues! Who buys these, anyway?

They both rose, Jack pulling Carter along behind him as she seemed consumed by the tissues in her hand. Uh... I do, he admitted. Want me to requisition some other brand? he asked.

Sam mopped her eyes again. She sniffed. If I'm going to be having hormone crying attacks all through my pregnancy, I want Puffs - with lotion.

Puffs it is, Jack slung his arm around her waist and led her to the door. You ready to face some very frightened airmen?

Sam rolled her eyes. They're not frightened, she protested. They just think I'm stupid.

Jack gave a snorting sort of laugh through his nose. They're scared crapless, he insisted. Come on, he directed her to the door, but went on, A crying woman... a crying pregnant woman? He met Carter's watery, blue eyed, beautiful gaze. They're wetting their pants even as we speak. I know - I used to be one of those ignorant airmen.

Carter giggled another laugh, so that she was laughing when she and Jack emerged from Conference Room #2. Still laughing, they walked away.

The three airmen an guard duty watched General O'Neill and Colonel Carter head in the direction of the Commissary. One of them shook his head in disbelief. I don't know what the General said to her, he said But whatever it was...

Wow, hissed another guard under his breath.

The third guard murmured, Amen to that.

* * *

The weeks passed - Carter grew rounder, and Jack had to change his tear-and-snot-sodden BDUs so often that he began keeping extra pairs in his locker just for changing occasions. Without warning Carter would start crying in her lab, in the Control Room, in the Commissary... she was trapped on base, she was being an ungrateful slob about the apartment that he was turning his attic space into, she was bound to be an awful mother who accidentally would kill the baby by banging its head on a doorjamb someday when she was just turning around to say something to someone... Jack heard it all, but he just made sure that there were two or three boxes of Puffs tissues in every room that Carter was likely to be in. And, happily, he got to hug her all the time, and he even had a ready made excuse! This pregnancy stuff was extra all right!

But it was Daniel who next ate with her in the Commissary. He eyed her tray of drink, hamburger, and greasy fries. I thought you were just craving root beer, he noted. What's with the fries and things?

Carter shrugged as she set her tray on the blue table top, pulled out a chair, sat down in it with a plop and a pregnant woman 'feed me, I'm hungry!' expression on her face, and explained to Daniel, As stereotypical as I think having cravings is, I still admittedly crave things, and this time I've expanded my cravings to include other things. So cope, Daniel! And she bit into the greasiest, best tasting burger she'd ever had - perfect!

* * *

Teal'c caught up with Sam in the corridor on level 21. ColonelCarter, where are you heading?

Carter looked up, and smiled at her Jaffa friend. I'm heading for the Commissary to feed Junior, Teal'c, she announced. I was in an early briefing with the F303 pilots this morning, and I had to cut the briefing short because I need a hamburger now! Then she grinned a huge grin. Wanna come with me?

Teal'c managed to bow with his hands clasped behind his back and walk all at the same time - Sam briefly wondered how he did that, but she was too taken with the idea of eating a hamburger right this very minute to spend much time on contemplating her Jaffa friend's stance. I will be happy to accompany you, ColonelCarter. Teal'c informed, I am on my way to breakfast, too.

* * *

Carter walked into the Control Room, Jack! Sam wailed for the millionth time, already consumed by her newest bout of tears. I'm gonna accidentally kill this kid without meaning to! I just know it! She burst again into more ridiculous tears, but it didn't help her to know that she was being ridiculous. It just made her feel stupid as well as make her cry, and feeling stupid made her cry even harder.

Walter looked at Siler, feeling useless, and helpless, and not knowing what to do....

Jack just wrapped Carter up into a hug that was hardly unprecedented now that it was Carter's sixth month of pregnancy, and he pulled her and her bigger belly close. Don't be silly - this kid will be great, with a great mother, and an even greater General for a father who will take his kid to work and burp him and have spit-up dribbling down the front of his BDUs, and he'll be a great distraction for me when you go off on missions, just like we talked about, and...

Sergeant Siler intervened, If you need a baby-sitter during a crisis, Sir, most of my time is spent in the Infirmary... I'll be happy to watch your son if I'm not injured too badly, at least, for awhile.

Jack beamed, even as he held a sobbing Colonel Carter. The incongruity of this scene hit him just as he said, You're on, Sergeant! Then he squatted down and gave Carter's belly a tap. You hear that, Junior? Siler said that he'll keep you from blowing the place up.

It never failed to make Carter giggle when the General did something as absurd as talk to her stomach. The fact that he was doing that talking in the crowded Control Room was even more absurd.

Carter cried, and laughed at the same time.

* * *

But Kinsey wasn't crying or laughing when he called Jack the next week - he was too angry to cry. I've got you now, you SG-1 wanna-be! he crowed in satisfaction, the angry edge to his tone of voice coming out as sarcasm. So you plan on sending the Colonel out on missions after the birth of her baby - like we believe that you can send out the mother of your baby into a war zone while you keep that baby of yours in your own war zone, and...

Cool off, Jack retorted into the receiver of his phone. Babies have lived in war zones for as long as there have been war zones, and as to sending out the mother of my child on missions... Carter made up her own mind about that, and she's gonna keep going through the Stargate on missions whether I like it or not, whether she has a baby or not, and if you want to be the backwards politician who stops a soldier, a woman, and a mother from doing what she wants to do, be my guest, commit political suicide. I'd love to watch Carter hang you up by your balls until they turn blue... Hello? Hello? But Kinsey had already hung up.

A very self-satisfied General quietly returned the receiver to its holder. Eat that, you sanctimonious jerk, he thought.

* * *

Kinsey's next move was to have two of his male attachés corner Jack in a private 'interview' held in his office the very next week. They popped a video tape in the player that they had requested, showing how many times that General O'Neill, leader of the SGC, was very inappropriately hugging his subordinate officer who also happened to be pregnant with his child. The damning tape showed image after image, all of them with the General giving hugs in the Control Room, in the Commissary, in Carter's lab, in his office, in an innocuous corridor... one after the other after the other...

Jack reached over after ten minutes of viewing and shut the TV and tape off before the tape had ended. He ejected the tape, then called Walter on his phone to come up to his office, pronto. When Walter arrived, out of breath after a sprint up the Control Room stairs and through the Briefing Room, Jack told him that he immediately needed a copy of the video tape in his hands, that Walter should take the two officers currently in his office with him while he made his copy, or the General might commit double murder, then see that the officers made it back to the surface - with their own video tape - then that Walter should store his own copy of the tape in a safe place, but that he should tell no one about it (not even the General) and that if those two men didn't get the hell out of his office in the next two seconds, he might blow the place up just to get rid of them, and... The attachés beat a hasty retreat with Walter out of General O'Neill's presence, glad to escape with their lives.

Jack gave himself one minute to calm down from being so angry that his blood boiled in his veins (which was bad for his digestion - he wondered if he had an ulcer?). When he had calmed sufficiently, he called down to Teal'c, Hey, T. buddy...

Teal'c interrupted him with, What do you think of the name 'Thor Ashton' O'Neill? I am currently watching the miniseries 'North and South,' and 'Ashton,' a name of a character in the series, seems to compliment the name 'Thor' nicely.

Huh, Jack grunted. I'll run that one by Carter. I told her about 'Siler Thor' that you gave me last week, by the way, T.

Thank you, O'Neill, Teal'c graciously said. How may I help you now? he formally asked.

Reminded of his urgent mission, Jack said, Oh, yeah, right... How good are you at editing a video tape?

ColonelCarter and DanielJackson have both informed me of this process, O'Neill, Teal'c admitted. I am fairly proficient.

That's what I want to hear, Jack said. Listen, with SG-1 on standdown, what with Carter out of the game, I was wondering if you can go through all the security tapes these last two weeks, and make a copy of any image that you find of someone hugging Carter. You know, hugging her 'cause she's crying, 'cause she's crying, 'cause she's crying...

The delight in Teal'c's voice showing how glad he was to be of help to his friends came over the phone line, but Jack knew that was the only hint of the Jaffa's pleasure that he would ever get. You will have your video tape in two days, O'Neill, Teal'c promised.

Don't work on it all the time, though, Teal'c, Jack remonstrated. That's not what I mean. Three or four days is fine if it takes you that long. Do other things, too.

I had always planned to do 'other things,' Teal'c assured. I have a standing date with ColonelCarter to take our afternoon breaks together. I eat two bowls of fruit while she consumes a hamburger and root beer.

Jack's incensed voice came over the phone. How come I never get invited to these..?

Teal'c cut him off again. Because two hours later, you eat with ColonelCarter during her 1600 break, where she consumes another hamburger, this time with the addition of what she calls 'cheesy fries.' Am I not correct, O'Neill?

Jack gave a halfhearted cough that was more to cover his embarrassment than anything else. Okay, sorry about that, I...

It is quite all right, the Jaffa intoned. You will have your video in days. He hung up his phone.

Sweet! Jack proclaimed.

* * *

Five days later, Vice President Kinsey received a rushed delivery of a video tape in the mail that had only the words 'play me' written onto a sticky note that had the SGC logo in the upper right hand corner. Perplexed, Kinsey pushed the tape into the VCR that he always had in the corner of his office, and instantly the image of Jack O'Neill comforting a clearly distraught Colonel Carter appeared on his screen... followed by the tech sergeant who ran their silly dialing computer hugging her, followed by an image of that scary Jaffa alien guy hugging her, followed by Jack hugging her again, followed by some military man holding a big wrench hugging her, followed by Jack again hugging her in her lab, followed by a shot of Dr. Jackson sharing a meal with her where she tipped over a glass of - something that looked like soda - where she instantly burst into tears, and Dr. Jackson hugged her, and somebody Kinsey didn't know brought her another glass of soda, and patted her on her belly while smiling like an idiot... The shots went on and on. They finally ended fifteen minutes later, and the last shot faded to a written sign on the screen that said, 'Nice try... try again... I dare ya.'

* * *

Daniel looked at Jack sitting at his desk, exasperation clearly etched into the lines of the archaeologist's face. Jack! Daniel complained. I've already gained five pounds! All this eating with Sam is going to make me too heavy to go on missions!

Jack just gave a shrug, and lifted his arms in the 'then work out' sign that he was always giving Daniel when he saw him lately.

I already do that! Daniel went on complaining.

Jack eyed his friend. We agreed months ago... we take turns eating with Carter. Do you want to go back on the deal? he asked. Imagine how disappointed Carter would be to find out that her team...

Daniel sighed, looking long-suffering, but agreeable. What's five or ten pounds for an SG-1 baby, right?

Jack nodded, as if Daniel was finally getting the picture. Jog an extra five miles a day to get rid of your extra weight, he suggested.

Daniel balked. Five miles!

Jack went on, I hear that takes the pounds right off.

Daniel sighed, then escaped from Jack's office. He was just glad to get away before Jack added a backpack full of ten pounds of artifacts to his 'suggested' run.

Daniel gave a rueful shake of his head - amazed at what he would do in the name of supporting an SG-1 baby!

Jack called after the departing man, If it makes you feel better, Daniel, I've gained fifteen pounds!

* * *

Carter looked at the scale in the Infirmary as if it had grown an extra head over night. But I can't have gained that much weight already! she exclaimed. The scale must be broken!

New base CMO Doctor Caroline Lam sighed as she helped the now quite pregnant Sam Carter off the scale and back onto the examination bed. Have you been eating a lot of something that you shouldn't be? she asked, her voice only slightly accusatory. Sometimes eating a bunch of fatty foods makes a person increase in weight very quickly... even a pregnant person.

A flush of guilt passed over Carter's face. Well... She sighed then. I have been eating cake with the General a lot lately... and hamburgers... and French fries... and candy bars...

Caroline cringed. Well, that explains it.

Carter sent her a slightly suspicious glance. Explains what?

Caroline flipped open the medical file that she was carrying. These latest blood tests of yours give me some concern...

* * *

What? O'Neill asked in such an astonished voice that the starchart window in his office rattled. Care to repeat that, Carter?

She did, though she didn't relish what she had to tell him. I have gestational diabetes, Sir.

How many times do I have to tell you: It's 'Jack!' Jack barked. He tried to remain calm, but was actually scared to death. Something's wrong with Carter! he yelped in thought. Aloud he was slightly more rational. And gestational diabetes means..? He thought that he already knew, but he had to make sure.

Carter sighed. It means no more sugar of any kind.

Jack quailed. No more cake?

Carter tilted her head. No more cake for me - you can eat whatever you want. You're not pregnant.

But Jack had promised himself early on to eat whatever Carter could or could not eat. No, he now said, though his voice came out rather weak. That's fine... I need to lose some weight anyway.

So... Carter eyed him, patted 'Junior,' and invited, Join me for a nice bowl of veggies, General?

Jack sighed, regretful for a second, then he smiled, threw down his inkpen that he'd been using to sign his many forms, and grinned charmingly up at her. You read my mind, Colonel. Lead on!

Sam turned to head out of his office, then turned back. I know - I'm gonna miss cake, too. She gave a regretful sigh, then patted 'Junior' again. Thor Charles, what me and your dad are willing to give up for you just blows my mind, she said in the general direction of her protruding stomach.

And Jack patted her tummy as well. Hope you like veggies, he said to their unseen baby. I have the feeling that you'll be getting a lot of them.

With that, they headed for the Commissary.

* * *

Nothing fits! Carter yelled at Daniel in the Commissary two days later. I have to wear BDUs that are two sizes too big just to get them around my stomach!

Daniel shot her a perplexed look, hoping that she wouldn't lose it in the middle of the busy Commissary. Why aren't you wearing maternity BDUs by now?

Carter gave him a 'this is so obvious that a child could tell you!' look, and explained, Because Thor Reynolds Jacob O'Neill doesn't like the maternity BDUs. He bangs his fists on my stomach the whole time I'm wearing them until I take them off. She shrugged disgustedly as she popped another vegetable into her mouth. It's easier just not to wear them in the first place. But that means that I have nothing to wear! And the military frowns on the idea of me wearing Jack's shirts to work in - I've been told that it's not professional.

Not professional? Daniel echoed. Told by whom?

Carter hesitated, not wanting to get anyone in trouble. Um...

Sam! Daniel warned. If you don't tell me, you know that Jack will just kill me anyway for not getting it out of you, so please, do me a favor and tell me now, or...

Sam answered as if the response was being yanked out of her. It was Captain Allas, my new research assistant! We got to talking one day about how hard it is being pregnant in the military, and...

You did research on this 'Captain Allas,' didn't you? Daniel's voice was now sharp, as he knew that if he didn't uncover what was going on, then Jack would surely kill him before he killed him for not telling him what was wrong with Sam in the first place.

Well... Sam hedged, Um... She finally answered, No, not exactly. At Daniel's look of intense incredulity, she defended herself by saying, What! You know how hard it is to get proper help with the proper clearance down here! I jumped at the idea of having someone to assist me with the things I can't do anymore in the lab, and to... Carter cut herself off when Daniel abruptly rose from his chair, scraping the chair legs over the Commissary floor. Daniel, where are you going?

Daniel replied, To do the research that you should have done but didn't, all before Jack decides to kill me. And he was gone.

* * *

It turned out that Captain Allas's previous assignment had been working for a certain Senator named Kinsey.

Allas was reassigned the next day, with a message from O'Neill exhorting the Vice President 'Maternity Clothes... I know that you can do better than that!'

* * *

Sam's life got much easier once she switched to wearing Jack's bigger civilian shirts, and she had learned her lesson. She now did more research into the new personnel of the SGC than even Jack did.

That was why the next time a man came from the Vice President's office to 'interview' her and Jack, she started that conversation off with him by handing over a card with Captain Downery's name on it, as she knew this 'interview man' could take it to her.

Is this for the Captain? the man asked as he took the card just after setting up the now customary video camera.

Yes, Carter explained. Yesterday while I was going through the files of the two new employees in the Control Room, I took the opportunity to read Captain Downery's file too, because I think of her as a sort of friend... a prickly one... and I noticed that it's her birthday next week. And since you're going back to Washington today...

The man protested, I have orders to get to the bottom of anything illicit occurring at the SGC - I might not be finished here until it's after the Captain's birthday. When did you say it was?

Carter sent the man a scathing glance. Of course you know, and those two guys in the Control Room? Next time, don't send someone to work here who used to work on General Itac's task force, since the fact that General Itac was on the Appropriations Committee with Kinsey is all over the Internet. She shot a snotty glance at the man before her armed with his trusty video equipment. How stupid do you think we are? she scathingly asked.

Jack just sat back and watched the scene unfold, leaving this newest form of Kinsey-torture in Carter's capable hands.

And Carter's capable hands were busy now gesturing at the military man accompanied by a look of pure venom. Honestly, did you and Kinsey truly think that we would never even check them out? she went on with a wrinkled nose. Wow - you must think that we're stupid enough to think the letters 'SGC' stand for 'Supreme God Complex' or something.

Jack burst out laughing as the current Kinsey-annoyer simply stared at Carter before promptly replacing his video equipment in its protective case, then rising to leave without asking a single question.

Jack watched the man depart, still chuckling at what Carter had said. Guess that interview is over, he quipped.

Nope, there was nothing that could stump Carter for long, or keep her down... even a pregnant Carter.

* * *

Then, at 27 weeks pregnant, Carter did something that Jack thought she would never do. And his anger was so swift and so intense that it surprised even him.

RepliCarter had come, had conquered even her Earth duplicate, and for some reason, Carter had done nothing to stop it until it was too late.

Furious at Carter's lack of even a protest, Jack stormed down to Carter's lab to question her. He could hear Daniel speaking the closer he got to Sam's lab after this very scary, very menacing replicator version of Sam Carter had escaped through the Stargate. If anyone approached General O'Neill while he was on his way from the Security Office to Carter's lab on level nineteen, one growl from him sent the person scurrying in the other direction.

Jack approached Carter's lab unimpeded. He could just make out the sound of Daniel's voice as the archaeologist asked, So, those are the replicator chips?

Carter answered, Yep - take a look at them in my microscope if you want to see something really cool - my stomach keeps getting in the way.

A second later, Daniel said, Whoa! That is so...!

That was when Jack whisked around the corner and entered the lab. He didn't let his 'science twins' say anything, but coldly instructed, Daniel, you will not say one word if you value your life. But you will leave - now.

Daniel looked up from Carter's microscope, shot a glance at Jack, one at Sam, then back to the clearly furious visage belonging to Jack, who again skewered him with another death glare. Tactical retreat, Daniel declared, forgetting for a moment that Jack had told him not to utter a word. He held up his hand in a farewell gesture to Sam, then practically ran out of the lab.

Jack slammed shut the door behind Daniel's retreating form.

Carter jumped at the noise, and so did the baby, who didn't react well to such loud noises.

However, that was something that Jack knew - but at the moment, Jack didn't look like he cared.

Carter opened her mouth to ask what had happened, when Jack suddenly loomed in close to her, using his size to intimidate her for the first time ever. What. Where. You. Thinking? Jack slowly enunciated in an angry voice.

This question mystified Carter, as she still didn't have a time frame for the question. What was I thinking... when, Sir? she bravely asked for clarification.

The throbbing vein in Jack's forehead just about split in half. When that thing had her hand in your head! he specified. When you stood there and did nothing to stop her! He advanced again on Carter, making her bend slightly backwards against the worktable. When for some reason you let her put my baby at risk by letting that thing stick her hand in your head! Might I remind you that the last time this happened, you had a 'spotting' episode, which means that you were bleeding an abnormal amount, which could have led to a miscarriage. Letting her stick her hand in your head... do you actually want to have a miscarriage?

Carter was momentarily stunned that Jack knew about the 'hand in her head' action, as she had purposefully left it out of her official report that he must have read by now. But she internalized that it didn't matter how he knew, only that he did know, and she began trembling.

Which only enraged Jack further. Do you know how I felt when I saw what really happened on the tapes in the Security Office just now? He didn't give her time to answer his inquiry. He simply yelled, I was scared crapless, that's how I felt! You didn't even ask me if I thought this was a good idea or not. You just went ahead, damn the consequences, and if something happens to the baby now..!

I'm so much further along this time than last time, Jack! Carter entreated, trying to reach his reason. Sounding persuasive now, she added, And there's been no connection made between what Fifth did to me and my 'spotting!'

I. Don't. Care! Jack roared. This..!

And just as suddenly as Jack's anger had washed into the room, Carter burst into frightened tears.

That isn't going to work this time! Jack told her. He loomed even closer, but still didn't touch her. Instead, he used his voice as his weapon. How dare you put my child at risk without consulting me first when you know perfectly well what happened the last time a child of mine was put in danger!

Carter sagged against the worktable at her back. Stop it, Jack! she demanded, though her voice lacked the force it needed to make him stop from doing anything. Sam sobbed. There's no need to get so upset!

Jack's vein throbbed in his forehead again. Oh, I think there's a fine reason to be upset! I..!

Carter sobbed again, the sound almost getting stuck in her throat. Oh, God, Jack, she killed you! Sam unexpectedly blurted.

The pronouncement did what she could never have done on purpose - it made him pause. What? he asked after one stunned second.

Carter put her hand over her mouth, her distress clearly showing in her stance. She killed you, Jack! The replicator killed you! she whispered in distress.

How could she - I'm standing right here! Jack protested.

No, I mean... when her hand... Carter tried to say more, but her voice broke as another sob crashed into her, stealing her breath from her. No... Her hand wasn't..! She tried again. They were her memories, we were in her head, not mine! She bent foreward, away from the worktable at her back. She killed you - I saw it! And you left me all alone, and I don't know what to do with a baby! And you... I don't want to be alone! The agony she was now feeling in her chest, where her heart was located, pulsed with her own anguish. I just knew that that would happen if I didn't do what she wanted! She... But Carter couldn't speak, the horror of a future with no father for her baby paralyzing her... the thought of a future with no Jack in it freezing her insides. She..!

Suddenly, Jack understood. Carter had done what she could to... The whole time, she had thought... She was protecting him.

But by then, the scene was too emotional for Carter to take. She would have crumpled to her knees if she hadn't been standing so close to Jack. She kept sobbing, repeating the phrase, She killed you! She killed you! over and over again.

Jack caught her around her widening waist, hauling her close to him. Now that he understood why she had done what she did, he wasn't surprised at all by her actions. Carter, Carter, it's okay, I'm all right, I'm right here, you're not alone, he murmured into her ear.

But she was beyond the soothing balm of mere words. She was almost hysterical as she clutched at him. No! Carter screamed, caught in the nightmare that Jack had managed to reawaken with his previous accusations. Without you... without... Carter slumped forward, fainting in order to get the memories and their accompanying fear to go away.

Jack again caught her. Crap! he swore. He carefully lowered her suddenly limp form to the cold linoleum floor beneath his boots, then ran to the far side of her lab and smashed his hand against the red alarm button that rested there. He grabbed up the receiver on her phone and yelled, Medical emergency, Colonel Carter's lab on level 19!

* * *

Four hours later, Jack stood beside Carter's bed in the Infirmary, and ran an agitated hand through his hair, which was already sticking straight up, as if he had previously threaded his fingers through the gray strands as his anxiety increased every hour that Sam remained unconscious. He turned for the millionth time and checked Carter's heart monitor, somewhat comforted by the steady beeping of the light that met his glance. Carter? he asked, again for the millionth time. Please, I'm sorry, just wake up and be okay! He ran another hand through his hair when Carter didn't stir at the sound of his pleading words. I didn't know! he whispered to her. I didn't know! Carter remained asleep. The beeping of the heart monitor and the steady thump of the tiny heartbeat from the baby monitor strapped to her stomach was the only things keeping Jack from losing his sanity.

Suddenly Daniel arrived in the Infirmary to stand at the foot of Sam's bed, skulking. How is she? he finally asked in a lowered, tense voice. Is she..?

Jack cut him off. No change, he miserably told his friend. He lowered his head until he was leaning on the metal rail that had been raised in case Sam thrashed in her bed, something that couldn't happen unless she moved, which she didn't. Doctor Lam says that her blood pressure... He groaned and covered his face with his hands. She might not wake up! he whispered to Daniel, the agony so clear in his voice. I did this! I did it!

Daniel was quick to absolve his friend. No, Jack, don't say that! he insisted. How could you possibly have made her fall unconscious? he asked his rational question. You couldn't have done this!

Jack turned haunted eyes that covered none of his grief towards his friend. Daniel, if something happens to her because of me... I don't know how I'll ever forgive myself!

Stop it, Jack! Daniel forcefully demanded, being uncharacteristically forceful. He grabbed at one of his friend's wrists. You didn't do this. His emphatic tone of voice punctuated each word as it left his mouth. I talked to Dr. Lam hours ago, and she thinks that something that the replicator did to Sam interfered with her pregnancy hormones...

Jack turned to again regard the woman lying unmoving on the bed. She has high blood pressure. She'll probably get preeclampsia now, all because I upset her. It's all my fault. Jack rubbed a hand over his face, so he missed the flicker Carter's eyelids made.

But Daniel didn't miss the fluttering movement. Jack, she's waking up! I saw her eyelids move!

Jack didn't lift his head. You did not! he insisted. She... Daniel, do you know what preeclampsia does to a person? he rhetorically asked. It can cause her to have seizures, and ruin her kidney, her liver... even her brain, he dismally noted. She may never be the same, even if she wakes up, and it's all my fault! Jack whispered in agony. She...

Is right here, Carter finished for him, her own voice a whisper that matched his. She slowly lifted a hand to dispiritedly rub at her forehead. Wow! she groaned. Did anyone get the number of that bus that hit me? Or was I hit by a troop transport? Or was it a Super Soldier?

Jack lifted only his head in order to assessingly study her with a piercing gaze. Carter, you okay? he asked in a shaky voice. Are you..? Then before she could say anything to soothe the fears that were showing on his face, turned towards the Infirmary in general and bellowed to anyone who could hear him, Get Dr. Lam! Quick! She's awake!

* * *

Carter grimaced again as she sat on the edge of a bed in the Infirmary, and stared in horror at Dr. Lam. Bedrest... for months?!?! This is not what I signed up for, she firmly groused. Then she added, Actually, I didn't sign up for any of this, but I really didn't sign up for three months of constant bedrest! She purposely eyed Jack and Dr. Lam, as if this newest decision for her continued health and the health of the baby was all their fault. You want me to go insane, don't you? she accused both of them.

Dr. Lam sighed. She said, I'd rather that you go insane than go into sugar shock, or have a heart attack due to high blood pressure, or...

Carter cut her off. I get the picture, she murmured, but with a dark look on her face.

Carolyn sighed again. Finally she looked straight at Sam. Do you want to risk the health of your child simply to fix the 'Gate one more time? she rhetorically asked. Is it worth it to eat the last brownie if your baby is born premature, and dies because of it?

Carter groaned. Well, when you put it that way, of course not.

Good, Carolyn ground out, her sympathy for for this stubborn and recalcitrant patient of hers at her limit. But that's what can happen if you don't...

This time it was Jack who interrupted. I'll make sure she's as good as gold, Doc.

Carter huffed a breath, staring at Jack. You're as bad as she is! she groused. But, of course he was as stubborn about this bedrest thing as Dr. Lam seemed to be. The idea that Sam might inadvertently do something to harm his child was strong in her just now. That's how he'd phrased it while yelling at her in her lab only days before... and Sam just knew that she couldn't handle the guilt of losing the baby now that she'd come this far in her pregnancy. The idea that she was trying to keep her baby safe at the same time she was seeing to his baby's safety didn't occur to her.

But Carolyn was going on as if Colonel Carter hadn't previously spoken, and Sam rerouted her attention back to the doctor. Bedrest means just what it sounds like it means - no work, no stress of any kind, no...

Carter gaped. No work!? she gasped, thunderstruck. What do you expect me to do for the next three months? Knit?

Carolyn Lam's features brightened. It's something that you can take up now - you'll have the time for a hobby...

Carter buried her head in her hands and groaned. I am going to be be sooooooo bored! she exclaimed. This is awful!

Carolyn eyed her. So is the alternative, Colonel.

Carter gave one last groan. Has anybody ever told you that you'd make a great Goa'uld? she asked. You already have that special way of ordering people around that you need to carry it off.

Jack jumped right in with Carter's scenario, teasing to try to get the doomed expression out of Carter's eyes. I should call the Tok'ra - maybe they have a vacancy for the Doc, he said, as always, using humoristic sarcasm to hide his true concerns.

Carter's brows rose. That idea has possibilities.

Dr. Lam looked anything but amused. She cleared her throat, and didn't comment on their suggestion. Instead, she chose to stick with what she knew, and that was medicine. Um.... No work, no climbing stairs, bedrest means that you stay in bed except to go to the bathroom. No sugar, no salt if you can help it, no caffeine... At Carter's questioning look, she explained, Caffeine's a diuretic. And unless you want to set up camp in the bathroom here on base...

Jack interrupted, It's not a good idea for Carter to stay on base. At the doctor's glance of puzzlement thrown in his direction, he said. Trust me. If I know her, she won't be able to stay away from the 'Gate for an hour, much less three months.

Carter shot him a scathing expression, but focused on more immediate concerns than her past behavior. She said to him, But if I don't stay on base, and you've already decreed that I can't go to my house, just where do you suggest that I stay? At Carolyn's stunned expression at the way she so familiarly spoke to her commanding General, added, Sir, for good measure.

Jack sighed. Carter, for the millionth time, lose the 'Sir,' please.

Carter sighed as well, though her sigh was much more aggravated than his was. Since you said 'please' and all...

Carolyn again cleared her throat in order to once more get their attentions. Wherever you stay, she said to Sam, I'd feel a lot better if I knew that you weren't alone.

Carter snorted. Can't do anything about that, she told the doctor. I live alone, always have, always...

Before Carter had the chance to finish her clichéd phrase, Jack jumped in and said, She can stay at my place.

Carter's forehead wrinkled, thinking that he meant for her to stay in her apartment, as they had already planned, and had just finished the week before. But the apartment has stairs...

Downstairs, I mean, Jack clarified.

Carolyn broke in. Yep, no climbing second floor apartment stairs here.

Jack wanted Sam to stay with him, as in move in with him? Sam smiled a tiny smile. That was an appealing idea! Suddenly bedrest didn't seem odious to Sam...

What am I thinking? Sam asked herself in stunned surprise. Stay with Jack? For months? The idea was so appealing that she decided that she was sooooo not going there! So she huffed a breath again in order to cover the brief pause in the conversation that followed Jack's announcement. What am I supposed to do all day? Seriously?

'Seriously,' Carolyn repeated. Rest. Get it while you can. After the baby comes in another three or so months, you won't have time for resting.

How do you know? Carter questioned. I didn't think you were even married, let alone had kids.

Carolyn's brows met her hairline. I didn't know that marriage was a requirement for having children, she artfully said. Perhaps you can remind me of the details of your own baby.

Carter rolled her eyes. She didn't comment on Carolyn's succinct, pointed remark as to her own situation. All right, all right, point taken, she groused. When none of them said anything more, she asked, Okay, I can pee, I can sit on the bed... can I watch TV?

Carolyn nodded. As long as you do it from a reclining position. She added, And the TV is in the bedroom.

Jack held up his hands to stare at Carter through his fingers, as if sizing her up. I bet we can fit a bed in the living room, Colonel, he said.

Carter sighed. Oh, you're no help, she grunted, irritated, still not quite knowing what to think about staying with Jack full time.

Just think, though, Carter, Jack enthused. Here's your chance to wear whatever you want to wear and no one will see any of it. Then his face gave a mock bright look. Hey, you can raid my closet!

Carter rolled her eyes again. I know this will come as a shock to you, but somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better.

Jack would have rejoiced at the fact that he was finally getting Carter into his house full time if he wasn't already aware of the agony both he and she faced from her imposed time of 'rest.' Is there anything that she can do? he asked Doctor Lam.

Have a baby in two and a half, preferably three months, Dr Lam replied without missing a beat.

Carter sighed, defeated for now. Just call me the baby machine, she quipped.

If there's no other questions? Dr. Lam asked. When neither Jack nor Carter said anything more, she said to Sam, Then you're free to go... She almost said the word 'home,' but she remembered to say, ... to the General's home, at the last moment.

Carter turned her glare of steel onto Jack. I warn you, Sir, I'll probably want to watch a documentary or two.

Jack had a comeback ready. Have I mentioned that there's a Simpsons marathon on Sunday afternoon?

Dr Lam gave the two before her 'the eye' this time. Oh, boy, am I gonna want to hear how this goes, she deadpanned.

Jack readied the wheelchair that Dr. Lam insisted that Sam use in order to leave the base. With any luck, we won't kill each other in the first few days that she's on this bedrest, so there must be hope for you in hearing things yet, Doc.

Carter grunted again. Just listen to the grapevine, she advised.

Can I rely on that to be honest, though? Carolyn inquired as Sam eased herself into the wheelchair. She was already getting to be unwieldy, and it was only week number 28!

Carter replied to Dr. Lam, No, it's not all that accurate. If you take about half the things that you hear, and totally discount them as stupid rumors, you're left with the other half, which is a good representation of the truth.

Carolyn grinned... sort of. And how will I know which rumors to discount and which to believe, Colonel? she asked.

Jack called back over his shoulder as he and Carter left the Infirmary. If you knew ahead of time what to believe or not believe, what would be the fun in that?

* * *

Sam didn't ask Jack about how he truly thought of the baby - as his, or theirs - on the way to his house from the SGC. There was no discussion as to exactly why she was actually staying with him for her enforced 'bedrest,' either. The choices were his house and his extra guest room, or the base, and he had already told Dr. Lam that keeping Sam on base was a recipe for disaster.

So she tried her best to cheerfully acclimate to Jack's second guest room, all the while thinking that she really should talk to him, but never found the right time to ask if he thought she was already a bad influence on his child. She didn't ask him about it as he ensconced her in his guest room. She didn't ask about it as he moved her smaller TV, DVD player, DVD collection and his movie collection into her room for the duration of the three or so months that were left of her pregnancy. She didn't ask him about it as he helped Daniel to settle in as Carter's 'companion.' The idea of leaving Sam alone in the house while he was working at the SGC, possibly for days on end, still made him very uneasy.

Just as Carter wasn't asking Jack how he viewed the baby, Jack didn't ask her if she thought the enforced bedrest that she was facing was his fault, especially considering this had all transpired right after he had yelled right into her face. He was afraid of how she might answer him if he did ask.

A strange sort of truce fell upon Sam and Jack from the moment she took up residence on the large guest bed. It was more an unspoken agreement not to mention anything that even remotely had to do with the baby, or with its parents by association, than an actual agreement-by-handshake, as agreements in the past had often come about. But that truce of theirs was shaky at best, and both pretended cheerfulness lest they disturb the uncertain pact that they had made with each other.

But that unvoiced agreement didn't extend to Daniel. Always the guy who wanted to talk things through, which had caused a great deal of trouble for SG-1 in the past, he didn't let the frown that was currently marring Sam's face to stop him as he began to speak while perusing the cards in his hand for the game of Rummy that he and Sam were currently playing this first day of her bedrest.

Your turn, Sam reminded her friend as she waited, patiently she thought, for him to decide what to play.

Instead of immediately playing, Daniel took the opportunity that Sam had offered to play a different kind of card in his repertoire. Jack still thinks the world of you, Sam, he casually said as he gazed at his cards.

In answer to Daniel's comment, Sam snorted, an explosion of breath into the quiet room. He made it abundantly clear what he truly thinks of me that day he threw you out of my lab before proceeding to bite my head off, Daniel, and it had nothing to do with telling me that he was really 'thinking the world of me,' Sam caustically replied.

Daniel finally drew, then had to rearrange his cards before choosing which card to discard. Yelling at you was the last thing on Jack's mind when you were unconscious in the Infirmary, he noted as he concentrated on what he was doing.

Sam gave another inelegant snort of derision. If Jack seemed worried at all, then he was only anxious for the... no, his... baby, Sam reminded Daniel. It had nothing to do with me. She drew the card that Daniel had just thrown away, added it to her cards in her hand, then threw another card onto the 'discard' pile.

Daniel glanced at the card that Sam had tossed aside, then at the cards in his hand, then decided to draw from the pile of cards lying face-down on the bed beside the 'discard' pile. Funny, he nonchalantly drawled while studying his new hand of cards. Jack didn't mention the baby when we were all in the Infirmary. He discarded, then waved at Sam, telling her that it was her turn.

Sam drew from the card deck, but the numbers and suit on the card she had just drawn didn't register in her suddenly addled mind - 'addled' because of what Daniel had just said. Pretending to stare at the card that she wasn't seeing, Sam answered in a voice as nonchalant as Daniel's, Then you're hearing things, Daniel, if you think that Jack cares about anything besides this pain-in-the-mikta bump I have growing in my stomach that currently has a knee in my ribs. She threw the same card that she had drawn and not seen away, then wriggled around, trying to encourage the baby to stick his knee somewhere besides her ribs. The baby moved, all right, but instead stuck his elbow right into her bladder. Sam sighed, discreetly concentrating now on not having to use the rest-room again.

Daniel instantly seized Sam's discarded card for his own hand. He rearranged his cards again, while he also said, If I heard anything at the time, it was an agonized, anguished Jack saying that your condition was all his fault, and if anything happened to you as a result, he didn't know what he would do. Then Daniel smiled, discarded, and layed his cards in a row onto her bed. Gin, he smugly said.

Sam had to concede that he had a good hand of cards that he was showing to her. Such a good hand. It's a pity that we're playing Rummy and not Gin.

Daniel's smile faded. Aren't we playing Gin Rummy, or whatever it's called?

Sam gusted a sigh. Honestly Daniel, I don't know how you can keep all those dead languages in your head with no effort at all, but you can't remember for five minutes what game we're playing. This is Rummy, not Gin, and definitely not Gin Rummy. Sam stared as Daniel sadly sighed, then defeated and accepting his loss to Sam because of his inattention to details, collected the cards and began to shuffle for another game.

Okay, Daniel said while he shuffled. You win. But let's play again. It's poker this time, five card draw.

How 'bout seven card stud? Sam asked without missing a beat. Nine card draw? Four card shuffle and boogie? She smiled at Daniel as he made a face at her, then begin to deal. Sam ignored her cards to abruptly wrinkle her nose in genuine astonishment. Jack said... what you just said that he said... about me?

Daniel had finished dealing, so he smirked at her, suddenly seeming very sure of himself. Yep, he answered. You and Jack should really talk, you know, he added.

Sam gusted out more air, this time in a reluctant sigh. I know, she morosely said. But I'm afraid that he won't say to me what he said to you, that he was actually only concerned about his child... who I happen to be the incubator for. She glanced at the bed she'd so recently been ordered not to leave, and sighed again. God, this was so boring! How was she possibly going to stand this for several more months?

He was concerned all right, Daniel insisted. But for you, and he said nothing about the baby.

Sam studied her cards, as Daniel was currently studying his. Well, he said plenty about the baby to me, right after backing me into my work table.

Mr. Intimidation, Daniel said to her. Honestly, Sam, I'm surprised that you, of all people, would fall for that kind of trick.

Sam uncomfortably thought about the memory that she had seen of the Replicator version of herself cold-bloodedly eliminating Jack, and the ensuing sensation that she was frighteningly all alone in the world now, alone and pregnant, and she had no idea what to do about it as the feeling of a broken heart also dragged her down. Instead of telling Daniel about what she had seen in her head, she responded to his earlier comment about her giving in to Jack's use of intimidation. Falling for his 'Mr. Intimidation' act was a lot easier when that intimidation of his was aimed at me, she told her friend. She ordered her cards held tightly in a death grip as she recalled how astonished she had been at Jack's extreme anger at her. You must have hit your head when you reached the corridor or something if you think that Jack was worried about anything besides the baby. Jack was angry at me and what he thought I had done to his baby. That's how I remember him saying what he was thinking at the time. She shrugged, not looking at Daniel. Then I fainted, so I guess that I don't know what happened next. But I have a hard time believing that what you say happened.

It was Daniel's turn to snort this time. Okay, he half sang to her. You think what you want. Then he pierced her with as firm a glare as he could. But you weren't there, he said, then added, Awake, I mean. You were there, but not awake. Daniel's smile reasserted itself, though it was smaller and not as smug now. Jack was beside himself. For you.

Sam was losing patience. Yeah, right, just go, Daniel, she said. I won last game, so you go first this time. So go!

The smile slowly slid off Daniel's face. Um... he turned confused eyes onto Sam. What game are we playing?

Daniel!

* * *

It only took Daniel an hour to decide that he couldn't stand being a pregnant Sam's constant companion during months of enforced bedrest, so he called Cassie at her university when he slipped away to make lunch after his and Sam's card game. He instantly asked the young woman if she minded taking over for him, citing work as his excuse to leave Sam.

Cassie's agreement wasn't immediately forthcoming. What about my classes, Daniel? she asked the instant that Daniel made his request for her to come and rescue him from 'the crabby pregnant woman who whumps my butt at cards - I can't handle that whumping a second time. I have a tender male ego, you know.'

Now Daniel replied, I've already thought of that, actually, Cass. Is there a way that you can talk to your professors about coming home for this semester, but still doing the required work for the semester? I did that same thing for certain students when I worked at a University.

Cassie sounded surprised as she said, You worked at a University?

Um... yeah, Daniel told her. Oh, he hadn't meant to tell her about that - hadn't meant to tell anybody about that!

When was that? Cassie casually asked in poorly hidden curiosity. And where?

Daniel was beginning to really wish that he hadn't opened his big mouth once again. Uh... before... you know, he told her. At... it was overseas, he lied.

Where, the ever curious Cassie inquired.

Daniel tried to vaguely respond, Uh... very overseas, as in, you've probably never heard of this place, and...

Cassie sighed. Daniel, tell me the truth, or I won't come.

Argh! Okay, Daniel quickly replied. It was at the University of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, in '93, and my colleagues laughed at me and my theories so hard that they threw me out. All right? Satisfied now?

Is that when you met Jack? Cassie wanted to know.

I met him soon after that, Daniel replied. Now will you talk to your professors and come home to keep me from killing Sam? Or I mean, her from killing me? he uncomfortably asked.

Cassie giggled. I was going to come anyway, Daniel, it's just that ragging on you is so much fun. I couldn't help myself.

ARGH!

* * *

The next day, Cassie arrived, opening the door with her key, trying to juggle several books, notebooks, and a box that had just arrived for Sam. Hey, Sam! Cassie called as she dumped her books on the front entryway floor, then proceeded to Jack's guest room, now dubbed 'Sam's Inner Sanctum.'

Cassie continued, holding up the box, This just came for you, and I told the UPS guy that I would bring it in for you. She handed the oblong box over to Sam. I don't know what it is, but it looks like it's from... Cassie squinted at the return address. It's from that sales place on the Internet - Beta... Theta... Omega... something or other, she ended in dismissal.

Hmm... Sam hummed as she examined the box.

Daniel looked as excited as a five-year-old at Christmas. Well, open it! he ordered. The suspense is killing me!

Okay - here goes. Sam used a convenient pocket knife to cut through the packing tape around the box, and opened it, only to find more tape and another box, which she also opened. Inside was a delivery clip, a message, and an ebook reader.

The message is from Jack, Sam told the others.

The message simply read,

Carter,

To keep you from going too bonkers in bed.

Jack

Sam grinned. He got me an ebook reader, she said, her inner excitement growing. She read the directions after reading his message aloud. An ebook reader that surfs the Net, searches the Net, and weighs a fraction of what my computer weighs. Her grin was huge by now. My stomach won't even get in the way of this like it is already with my computer! Nifty!

See, Daniel said, his smug smile returning. I told you that Jack cares about you.

Sam rolled her eyes. He cares for the baby, Daniel, not for me. He just doesn't want me to get so bored that I finally move his refrigerator in here so that I can take it apart.

Daniel shook his head, and sent a glance towards Cassie over Sam's head. Pretend all you want, Sam, he finally said. But he didn't buy the baby an ebook reader - he bought one for you.

Sam tried not to look utterly, over-the-moon thrilled with the new electronic toy in her hand, but was pretty sure that she didn't succeed particularly well.

* * *

A routine of sorts set in then. Sam woke up in the morning, bathed, dressed for the day, then sat in a chair in the 'inner sanctum' while Cassie made her bed for her, and offered her some breakfast, which Jack had just made before he went to work. Then Cassie studied for several hours in Jack's den while Sam played happily with her new ebook reader, searching every subject under the sun that she had ever wanted to research, often getting so caught up in her reading that it was lunchtime before she even knew it. Then she plugged her ebook reader into a wall outlet socket so that the battery wouldn't run down, and waited for Jack to show up on his own doorstep, lunch for three in tow. He insisted that his lunch visits were just so neither Sam nor Cassie got too bored, especially so bored that they amused themselves by having a food fight with whatever they found in his kitchen, but neither Sam nor Cassie were fooled - Jack liked bringing lunch home so that he could spend the next hour and a half talking about SGC problems, and complaining about his paperwork.

But while Jack pretended to complain about his never ending, ever-breeding paperwork that he swore Walter took particular pleasure in leaving on his desk after the General had left work for that day, he secretly enjoyed spending time in the ladies' company. He especially enjoyed watching Sam's stomach expand under his t-shirts that she wore, not because he liked watching the baby grow day by day, but because he liked watching Sam grow as the baby grew. But he could never tell her something like that: the last time he'd spoken specifically to Sam, he had yelled at her about wondering what she was doing to his child. The memory of that event now burned through Jack's mind, but he couldn't completely expunge it, no matter how much it made him cringe. He knew that he should apologize to Sam - Daniel pestered him to do it on a daily basis - but somehow he never found the time or the courage to do just that. So in desperation to make the time with Sam last as long as he possibly could, he complained about his paperwork, since he knew that his paperwork was as unending as his time (i.e. he could continue a complaint for days if he wanted to).

Then, once Jack had left to return to the SGC for the afternoon, Sam tried to work on her SGC computer projects, but often her ebook beckoned, and she ran the battery down as she continued what she had started during the morning hours until it was time for supper.

This routine lasted for days, until the days turned into weeks, then a month, then months, and before any of them knew it, Sam only had four weeks left of her pregnancy. Still, she had said nothing to Jack about questioning how he viewed the baby destined to make an appearance in just under a month, and Jack didn't ask Sam if she considered that he was the cause of her current 'prison.' The three played with possible male names, most containing the name 'Thor' in them, and tried to pretend that everything was normal.

That normality had a severe setback one day when Sam cornered Jack in her room ('cornered' being a relative rather than literal term, of course) and suggested that Cassie finally get a day off from her studies and companion duties, especially since she had missed her university's typical week of midterm break. Midterm was long passed for Cassie, and still she was studying every day, had passed two tests in each of her classes, was doing well, and if Cassie assured that she would carry a cell phone that Sam could immediately call if she got into trouble, could the poor beleaguered college student have just one day off from administering to the rotund... er, pregnant... Sam?

Jack's unconvinced gaze stared back at Sam. Carter, what if something happens while she's gone? Who will help you then if you're all alone? I can't stay here - you know that Master Bra'tac is coming to report in with Teal'c about the free Jaffa sometime today.

How is Teal'c? Sam asked, letting the conversation lead into a tangent in order to befuddle Jack, and she knew that a befuddled Jack was more likely to agree to a reprieve for Cassie than a focused General. So Sam went on, The last time I saw Teal'c, he was suggesting boy names to me, all with 'Thor' as the middle name, as fast as he could talk.

Actually, Jack told her The last I heard, Teal'c was favoring the name 'Jacob Thor,' but I don't know about that - how do you feel about naming the baby after your own father?

Sam didn't miss the fact that he'd just said 'the baby,' not 'our baby,' or 'my baby,'or 'your baby.' Always 'the baby.' Sam gave an inaudible sigh.

But she resolutely turned her attention to the name that Teal'c was proposing via Jack. What about naming the baby after your father? she asked instead of giving her opinion on the name 'Jacob.' Though she liked the name 'Jacob,' she worried that she would feel like she was yelling at her father every time she scolded the child in the future. She didn't quite see that she could adjust to that. The idea of yelling at her own father was... well... weird.

Jack smiled a soft smile. 'Thor' doesn't go so well with 'Arngrim,' does it?

Sam laughed at the name that Jack supplied. We don't have to use the name 'Thor' for the middle name, she suggested next. Then her brow crinkled. And is your father's name really 'Arngrim?'

Jack's smile shifted a bit to turn wry. No, he said, But it still doesn't go with 'Thor' no matter how I work it around. And if we don't use 'Thor' as one of the names, Teal'c will be so disappointed. Do you know how cranky a disappointed Jaffa can get?

Sam laughed at the image of their friend that Jack was painting. How about 'Daniel Thor?' Sam riposted.

Jack seemed to be pondering her suggestion. I'm not sure I want to build that male ego that Daniel insists that he has.

Ah, good point, Sam conceded. But about Cassie and a day off for her? she persistently asked.

Jack still appeared hesitant. He blew out a breath of air, considering. He finished by staring hard at Sam. You're sure that she'll have a cell phone on her?

I'm paying for her to have one, so she better have it on her, Sam complained.

Jack went on, And you'll call her if you need anything?

Sam rolled her eyes. I won't call her if I need to use the bathroom, which happens every fifteen minutes...

We know, Jack cut in on her to say. We tried to watch a movie last night, remember?

Sam blushed a burning red. And we had to pause all the time for me to use the bathroom... yes, and thank you for bringing up that painful subject.

Jack blinked, trying hard to suppress his answering grin. Four hours to watch an hour and a half movie has to be a new record for us.

It's Junior's fault, Sam insisted. If he hadn't had his foot sticking me in my bladder all evening long, I would have been fine.

Jack gave a snort. Yeah, fine for you, he quipped. Which means that we would have had to stop the movie every half hour instead of every fifteen minutes.

Sam rolled her eyes again. Next time, you get to carry Junior and see how it feels.

Jack rose and turned for the door even as he said, Next time, I'm getting in vitro fertilization instead of a simple boring old AI. His tone told her that he was just teasing her.

Sam made one last mention of a day off for Cassie before he left for the SGC. And Cassie's day off?

Jack paused at the door and faced her. Cell phone? Sam nodded. You'll call her if you need anything? Sam dutifully nodded again. Jack made certain, I mean anything at all?

Jack, Sam said in exasperation. Just give it to her! I promise to sit here and play with my ebook the whole morning she's gone, and you'll be here for lunch, and you'll both be back here by 1700 hours. What could go wrong?

Jack grimaced. And that's when I know that something will definitely go wrong - you just had to say that, didn't you?

Grinning a mischievous grin, Sam just said, You go, I'll tell her.

Jack finally nodded, and vanished down the hall.

Sam heard the front door close behind Jack as he left for the day, then she yelled, Hey, Cassie!

It was mere seconds before the girl popped her head in the door. You bellowed, pregnant lady?

Sam grimaced. This girl was beginning to sound as sarcastic as Jack. She didn't know if that was a good thing or not. I convinced Jack to give you the day off from baby-sitting me, and you should run from the house before he changes his mind.

Cassie's face brightened. A day off? Really?"

Sam laughed. Really, she echoed the young woman. Just make sure that you have your cell phone in your pocket so that I can call in case something happens - which it won't, but you know how Jack-the-worst-case-scenario-guy is.

Cassie rolled her eyes this time. Yeah, he's so busy doting on you, it's a wonder he doesn't trip over his own feet.

Sam negated, He doesn't dote on me, only on the baby through me.

Cassie sighed in resignation. Oh, go ahead and keep lying to yourself if it makes you happy, Sam, she said. I'll just grab my car keys, and I'm outta here.

Sam smiled as the girl vanished the same way that Jack had a bit earlier. A minute later, she heard the front door slam, then the lock being thrown, and Sam was left totally alone.

Sam breathed once. It had been so long since she'd been alone that she had almost forgotten how it felt. The quiet cloak of an empty house settled on her shoulders in a familiar blanket, and Sam sighed into the air, feeling free for the first time in... months.

This is more like it, she said aloud, just to hear her voice echo with the aloneness in Jack's house, a place she felt comfortable staying in, but one she had never been able to let herself call 'home.' Calling it 'home' was much too dangerous for her, even now, she thought as she absently patted her widening stomach.

Sam drew her ebook reader closer to her, but then decided that she would watch some movie that she thought wasn't Jack's or Cassie's style, and a movie that she hadn't wanted to force either of them to sit through. Soon the strains of her documentary about engine design filled the room as she relaxed against the pillows at her back.

The movie ended just as the front doorbell rang. She would need to answer the door on her own, as she'd been sure that Cassie had locked it behind her when she'd left, and Sam couldn't simply call 'Come in' to whoever was waiting outside. Crap, she muttered as she rose from the bed, then slowly moved her bulk out into the hall and to the front door. Despite the fact that Dr. Lam had suggested total bedrest for her, it still felt good to stretch her leg muscles and to move around. Total bedrest did not mean it should be to the detriment of someone at the door, Sam told herself as she moved through the house.

When she finally reached the front door, Sam threw open the portal, and found herself staring at the familiar form of General Hammond filling the door. Sir! she said, pleasure coloring her voice. What brings you here? Jack... General O'Neill... has already left...

Hammond interrupted her. I know, Colonel. Actually, I came to see you, not Jack.

Me? Sam asked to make sure she had heard him correctly. Nervously she glanced behind the General to a car... a limousine... parked in the driveway. What was General Hammond doing in a limousine? she wondered. Then she turned sideways at Hammond's nod so that he could see her profile. I'm pregnant, that's how I am, as you can see, she deadpanned. Four more weeks to go.

Hammond chuckled. I can see that, but didn't I hear that Dr. Lam put you on bedrest? His voice grew more anxious as he spoke, Is Jack going to bite my head off when he hears that I got you out of bed just to answer the door?

Sam shrugged. Actually, it feels great to stretch my legs. Jack may bite your head off, but...

Just then the dark car sitting in the driveway shook as the back door slammed shut with more force than was absolutely necessary, and before Sam knew it, Vice President Kinsey was glaring in hers and Hammond's general direction. A man whom Sam had never seen before, but was presumably Secret Service, emerged from the other side.

Is this going to take much longer, George? an irritated Kinsey called as he approached the open front door. He pushed his hands onto his hips in aggravation as he came to stand next to them. I have a busy schedule when we get back to DC, you know.

But General Hammond didn't seem impressed by Kinsey's show of bullying emotion. I warned you that I wanted to see how Colonel Carter was faring, and as this is where the Colonel happens to be just now...

Kinsey suspiciously eyed Sam. Aren't you supposed to be working today? he demanded.

Sam wanted to immediately squish the irritating politician under the heel of her foot, but she swallowed the urge, and politely said, Mr. Vice President, Dr. Lam, the base CMO, put me on extended bedrest, or else I would be at the SGC. I prefer being there than being stuck here, pregnant, I assure you.

He continued to glare. So, nothing's going on here besides bedrest? His glare intensified. And you just expect me to believe that because you say it's true? That O'Neill would just leave you alone to...

But Sam wasn't listening to a word that Kinsey was saying. Her attention had abruptly diverted to an inner focus. The expression on her face immediately changed from the one showing polite irritation at dealing with Kinsey to an expression of concentrated terror.

Hammond's worried voice reached her ear. Colonel? Is everything all right?

Oh, crap, Sam said, not thinking about the fact that she was standing before a high ranking General, and the second most powerful man in the country. I think that was a contraction.

A contraction? the suddenly harried Kinsey nearly shouted. But it's too early for that!

Tell that to Junior! Sam gasped as pain suddenly gripped her stomach, and she doubled over because of it. Oh, crap! she groaned. She knew she should have stayed in bed! If she did anything now that might cause harm to the baby..! Jack was going to kill her!

Hammond caught her at her elbows. His hurried tone indicated the way he had instantly diverted into his 'getting things done' mode. Colonel, are you alone? Is there anyone we can call for you?

But Sam had already dug the cell phone she had on her out of the pocket of her maternity jeans and dialed Cassie's number. The sound of ringing met her ear at the same time as another contraction swept through her. Come on, Cassie, come on! Sam muttered under her breath when the pain she felt rippling across her middle and back didn't steal her breath away.

But the rings increased, and Cassie didn't respond. Crap! Sam said a lot louder as the tenth ring came and went. She hung up, then shakily dialed the SGC. She took a breath, and groaned it out again when another wave of pain stole her breath away.

Stargate Command, came a polite if bored voice over the phone. How may I..?

Sam interrupted. Infirmary, please. Once she was transferred to the Infirmary line, she requested, Carolyn Lam, now! the minute someone picked up the other end, noting that she was speaking to the Infirmary.

Dr. Lam here, Sam finally heard the familiar, soothing tones of the CMO.

Carolyn! This is Sam - Colonel Carter! I'm in... Another wave of pain engulfed her, and she sagged against Hammond's supporting arms. Labor, she breathed in a rush now that she could breath. I'm in Labor, she repeated. What do I do?

Instantly Carolyn Lam was all business. Are you alone? You need to get to the Academy Hospital immediately, and you're in no condition to drive!

Another wave. More pain. Ugh! Sam grunted. No, Cassie was here, but we gave her the day off, and now I can't reach her, and Jack... General O'Neill...

He's already here, of course, Dr. Lam finished for Sam. I had a briefing with him this morning.

God, don't tell Jack! Sam groaned into the phone. He'll kill me if he hears that I'm out of bed!

Do you have some kind of ride with you, Colonel? the doctor asked again, not long deterred from her original topic of conversation. Is there someone who can take you to the hospital? A neighbor, or..?

That was when Hammond grabbed the phone and sternly said, This is General Hammond, and the Colonel is standing here with me now, and what does she need? Then he wrinkled a brow as Kinsey huffed a breath as the drama continued to play out in front of him.

Hammond appeared to be paying strict attention to what the doctor said, then repeated her. The Academy Hospital - I'll get her there, and we'll meet you as well when we get there. Hammond out.

Hammond snapped the phone shut with his right hand, slipped it into Sam's pocket, then with no further discussion of the matter, either with her or with the angry Kinsey, gently led Sam towards the waiting limousine that was sitting in the driveway. It was clear that he intended to personally see that Sam reached the hospital as efficiently as possible.

Kinsey immediately blustered a protest to this action. Now wait a minute, General, we can't..!

Hammond spared a moment from focusing on Sam to glare at his companion. Just what do you suggest that we do? he rhetorically demanded to know. We have a car, and a woman is standing here, in Labor... should we leave her here to fend for herself? Then his face took on the steely expression that Sam would have recognized if she wasn't busy staring at the ground, trying to control another contraction. Not on my watch! General Hammond said. Ignoring Kinsey's impatient huff, Hammond directed the unknown secret service man to hold the back door open as he eased Sam into the rear seat. We'll have you there as fast as a Vice Presidential escort can get you there, he promised as he crawled in after her, still supporting her as best he could.

Sam sank into the limousine's leather seat. She felt Kinsey slide in on one side of her at the same time that Hammond slid in on her other side. She didn't know if the unfamiliar secret service man sat in back with them, or in front with the driver.

Academy Hospital, and step on it, Hammond ordered and Kinsey blustered that he still didn't think this was a good idea.

The driver spoke into some kind of radio that she was carrying, and suddenly several more cars that Sam hadn't even noticed parked on the street in front of Jack's house started their engines all at once. It reminded Sam of a car race, where the announcer directed the racer's to 'Start your engines.' All the cars roared to life at the same time. Before the limousine had even backed out of the driveway, several police sirens filled the air, and two police motorcycles also joined the parade of vehicles that was forming.

A police escort! Sam thought in sarcastic irony at the developing situation. Oh, Jack's gonna love this!

Junior gave a jump at the noise of the sirens, then settled back down to stick his knee in her rib again as another contraction engulfed Sam. She tried to remember the breathing routine that she had learned from the pregnancy tapes that she and Jack had watched while eating popcorn and stopping every few minutes so that Sam could use the rest-room... but she couldn't concentrate with the noise of those sirens in her ears.

Aren't you supposed to be breathing or something? Kinsey demanded in his irritated voice.

Sam grunted in pain. Something's wrong! she affirmed. This is happening way too early!

Of course it is! Kinsey snapped. The kid's an O'Neill! Why would it want to break with tradition, and do things the easy way?

Argh! Sam grunted a pained response, still trying to remember who she was speaking to, but in too much pain to care overly much at this point.

Minutes later, they arrived at the hospital, and General Hammond helped Sam out of the car, and into a wheelchair, while Kinsey decided that it would cause less of a sensation if he remained in the car. Sam was immediately admitted when it appeared that she was in Labor, and a concerned Carolyn Lam joined Sam and Hammond by the elevators, where they ascended to the maternity floor.

The sound of babies crying and people scurrying to and fro met them, but Carolyn let it all roll off her like so much fluff. She ordered Sam a room and a baby monitor in one breath, then left to call General O'Neill just as Jack burst through the door and into the maternity ward.

One look at his harassed expression, and Sam knew that without a doubt, she and Cassie were in soooo muuuuuuuuuch trooooouuble!

* * *

Braxton Hicks contractions, Dr. Lam was saying into the finally quiet hospital room several hours later where a pain-free Sam was at last reclining against the raised medical bed behind her.

This was something that Sam hadn't taken the time to read about. Brack... what? she asked, glad that she could take a breath without pain in order to ask that question.

Braxton Hicks contractions, Dr. Lam said again. They're something like the real contractions, only... Then she hesitated, and finally blurted, Only, they're not the real thing.

Sam wrinkled her brow in confusion. So, no Labor?

Dr. Lam smiled at her. Not yet, though it's not uncommon for pregnant women to suffer from these 'practice contractions.' They're named after the doctor who 'discovered' them in the 1870s.

Sam tried to take in this information. Okay... She felt a bit hesitant herself. But the baby's not coming yet, and these... Hick thingies... they're normal?

Dr. Lam nodded. Perfectly normal. In fact, Colonel, I'm surprised that you haven't had them before now.

So... not real contractions. All that drama involving General Hammond and the Vice President... It had all been for nothing? But it seemed so real, Sam argued, muttering to herself. Oh, Jack was so not gonna like this!

Count yourself lucky, Colonel, Dr. Lam was now saying as she gathered Sam's medical file to her chest.

Lucky?! Sam asked in an incredulous voice.

Carolyn grinned. This wasn't the real thing - that's yet to come - and the General wasn't with you to hover over you and cause trouble. She sighed. Yep, you were lucky.

Sam gave a sick sort of grin. That was probably the first baby to get a Vice Presidential escort to the hospital for fake contractions, she admitted. She glanced at Dr. Lam. Is Jack outside?

He's currently wearing a hole in the linoleum of the hospital floor, and pestering the staff, she answered Sam. Shall I let him in now?

Sam gathered herself, then nodded. Might as well get this over with.

Okay. Dr Lam gave her an encouraging pat on her leg through the blanket, then walked to the door. Sam heard her say to someone, You can go in now.

Then Jack was there, standing in the door, taller than she remembered. How could she already forget how tall Jack was?

Hi, he said in a tentative voice. He shuffled slowly into the room, unsureness seeping out of every one of his pores.

Well, this hesitancy was unexpected. Hi yourself, Sam greeted from the bed. Dr. Lam said...

Yeah, she briefed me awhile ago, Jack interrupted her to say. Then he abruptly pulled a chair next to Sam's bed. We need to talk, he began without preamble.

Oh no, this was it! A fierce wave of terror shot through Sam, and she gave a jump in her bed, but opted to try to cover up the movement at the last moment. About what? she asked, pretending ignorance. However, she had the suspicion that she knew exactly what this conversation was going to be about.

Jack eyed her meaningfully. The fact that I just saw you practically crawl out of your skin, then try to cover that reaction up, is a testament that we definitely need to talk.

It's not Cassie's fault, Sam immediately said in an attempt to keep him off balance and not able to predict what she had to say. She did exactly what I asked her to do. It was all me. I know that I shouldn't have gotten...

Sam, Jack interrupted, slightly amused at her blabbering. Stop. It's not you, it's all me, he insisted. I've been avoiding talking about this for months, and now...

A puzzled expression settled over her face. Then, as a completely new idea hit her as to what was on his mind, Sam abruptly narrowed her eyes while fixedly staring at him. You mean..? She paused, still studying him.

What? he finally asked when she didn't continue.

Her gaze skittered from him to the floor, to him, to the dresser across the room, to him, to the windows beside her bed, then back to him. At last she was able to suspiciously grind out, You mean you don't want to yell at me?

A surprised look settled on Jack's bewildered face. Yell at you? Why would I want to yell at you?

He clearly didn't understand what she was referring to at all. So Sam began to slowly explain, Beeecccaaause... you should be furious with me for being out of bed and putting your baby at risk again. Then she added, Though I didn't intend to do anything dangerous.

Jack seemed to be seriously astonished by her question. My baby? When did you get the idea that the baby's just mine? he asked, still amazed. I would rather that you think of the baby as ours, but...

Sam openly gaped at him now. But... what you said, she protested. Just before I went to the Infirmary a few months ago...

Jack looked as if he was having an 'ah' moment of understanding. About that, he said, sounding tentative again. I... uh... You aren't blaming me for the whole bedrest thing, are you? 'Cause I don't blame you if you are. He glanced down at the floor, winced, then met her eyes again. I know that I was a bit... on the... unforgiving side...

Unforgiving?! Jack, you stormed into my lab and proceeded to bite my head off!

Again came Jack's discomfort. A second wince was close to follow. Yeah, about that... He fidgeted a fraction in the chair he was occupying. I shouldn't have reacted that way. I was just so scared, and so angry that I was so scared, and I took it out on you...

He was frightened? Jack O'Neill was never frightened! This was a surprise. There was nothing to be scared about, she assured as she had assured him months before. The baby...

Again Jack interrupted. I... He seemed to be trying to force himself to go on. I... I wasn't... scared... about the baby, he tentatively said, then conceded, Well, I was, but... You're sure you're all right after... that other 'you' thing? He couldn't be more specific than that in a public hospital room.

Jack had been worried... for her? This was another surprise. Though, Sam admitted to herself, it shouldn't be. Cassie and Daniel and Teal'c had spent the last several months trying to convince her that she had interpreted that incident all wrong. One of the many incidents that I've lately interpreted all wrong she groused to herself, thinking of how she had too easily been gung ho concerning helping the SGC's allies, interpreting their neediness a bit too... enthusiastically. To say nothing of how she had originally interpreted the whole Pete affair...

Wow, she hadn't thought about Pete in... ages! Since the entire Jack-as-the-father thing began!

But Jack was waiting for her to reply, and she focused her attention back to him. No, of course I don't blame you for the bedrest thing. I had high blood pressure, so I already had that disease... What did Dr. Lam call it?

Preeclampsia, Jack quickly told her.

How do you remember stuff like that? Sam wanted to know in incredulity. I can't even pronounce that, let alone remember it for months!

Jack laughed at her dig at herself, but surprised her yet again by saying, I still remember all this stuff from when Sarah was pregnant with Charlie, but... I thought you hated me for what happened to you these last months.

Sam was genuinely shocked. Hate you? I don't hate you! she affirmed. You gave me that reader after all, kept me entertained these last months!

Jack's face reddened. I gave you that ebook reader... for one, because I know how much you love those technical things, and I knew that the reader wouldn't get in the way of your stomach like the computer does. But I also bought it because I felt bad for putting you in the position to need bedrest in the first place.

Sam screwed her eyebrows together. Of course I don't think that I'm on bedrest because of you! Flabbergasted, she tried to continue, I don't..! Finally she explained, All this time, I thought that... I thought that you were mad about... that you thought of him as your baby...

Jack raised his brows to innocently question, He isn't your baby, too? The General shifted uneasily in his chair as he continued to stare at Sam. Um... You don't want anything to do with..?

Sam sat, stunned, wondering how they could possibly have read each other so incorrectly... for months! I... I want... Finally, Sam sighed, trying to gather her thoughts enough to at least sound coherent. I never wanted to give you the impression that I want nothing to do with this baby... child... kid...

This baby is going to change everything, you know, Jack announced, disregarding her stumbling attempts at speaking. A baby will...

Do you think it will... ruin... things? Sam shyly asked. Cassie and I have been trying to extrapolate the way that things will have to change, and...

'Extrapolate!' Jack echoed, laughing. Listen to yourself! This isn't some experiment that you can just sluff off to the next person in case it doesn't work.

Sam sighed, immediately growing miffed at the assumptions that she thought he was making. She knew this wasn't an experiment, and didn't he know the way she thought, after all this time? But she tried to hold on to her temper. Losing her cool just now would not be conducive to any useful discussion with Jack, she knew. I know that this baby isn't an experiment, she calmly said. I used that word just because I've been trained to use that word as a step in the process of suggesting and eliminating different variables when handling an unknown situation. I'm sorry - I should have used a less... scientific... term.

No, Jack was quick to exclaim. The scientific way is the way you deal with things, and it suits you. It's who you are. Jack blinked again as he gathered his thoughts. It just may come across as... a cold approach... to those who don't know you.

You know me just fine, Sam pointed out. Then she wavered a bit. At least, I think you do.

I do, Jack agreed. And you know me, too.

Sam gusted more air, then looked assessingly at Jack. I bet this whole thing terrifies you, but you don't want anyone to know that, she guessed.

Jack's brows hit his hairline once more. Does it show? he finally quipped.

Sam gave him a knowing grin. Only to those who know you particularly well.

Oh, well then, and Jack rolled his eyes a bit. You, Cassie, Daniel, and Teal'c know, is that what you're saying?

Sam didn't reply, only cocked her head in a sort of sideways nod. What scares you the most, Jack? she softly asked.

Jack looked like he would rather be having his fingernails yanked out one by one instead of answering her question. But she deserved an answer, he knew. At last, he inquired, Can you guess that, too? That was sort of answering her question, and sort of not answering anything at all.

Sam shot him an acerbic expression, as if she knew exactly what he was trying to do, but complied by saying, I bet that you're afraid that the same thing will happen to this baby that happened to Charlie, that you won't be a good enough parent to not let your kid get into a dangerous situation. She leaned in as close to him as a distended stomach would allow her to. Am I even getting it close, Sir?

Jack was stunned again at the correctness of her answer. So stunned, in fact, that he forgot to point out the way she had lapsed in calling him 'Sir' again. But then, he should have figured that she would guess his most secret thoughts: she always could basically read his mind. Have you suddenly become clairvoyant? he asked anyway.

Then I'm right? Sam sat back in her bed, looking stunned herself. It was just a guess - an educated guess, true, but a guess.

Jack slouched back into his chair, letting it support his weight, as he decided what to tell her. Yeah... It's crossed my mind a time or two... million... that this will be 'Charlie' all over again... and I don't think I can live through... He abruptly jumped up from his seat and crossed to look out the room's windows, his hands jammed into his trouser pockets.

Sam wished that she could go to him to comfort him, but he was too far away from her to reach. Maybe he had planned it that way, so that he wouldn't have to take any comfort from anyone on this issue, as if he thought he didn't deserve any comfort.

Sam's heart ached at seeing him, shoulders hunched, slouched into his jacket, a lone figure against the backdrop of the cold, unfeeling windows. It was a scene that made her heart hurt, and the baby kicked when the mother was agitated, too. She rested a soothing hand over her stomach without realizing what she was doing, and thought that if she couldn't comfort Jack with her actions, then she would have to comfort him with her words. It was a pity that she couldn't think of anything to say.

But Jack was watching her out of the corner of his eyes, and he caught her hand motion, and smiled. She was so cute, and she didn't even know it! Fingers still encased in his pockets, still staring at nothing out the windows, he gently said, You know that you can always count on me for being right there by you the whole way through this... thing... right, Sam? He finally faced her, his features depicting more honesty than she had seen in his expression since staring at him through a Goa'uld force field. I don't want you to think that I plan to... stiff you... on all the 'responsibility' stuff. His hesitancy was back in full force now, making him so ironically adorable that it was maddening for Sam - to be in such an intimate situation with the man of her dreams, but to not be allowed to behave intimately with him was torture!

Jack now did a little dance in place, moving his feet, squeaking his shoes across the tile so that he resembled a little boy in trouble, and repentant because of it. I know that... that I wasn't... such a good father... the first time around, and...

Sam didn't believe that! She had to stop him! Sir, she began, knowing that he wouldn't be able to avoid chastising her for what she'd called him. I never thought that...

But once again, Sam got Jack O'Neill completely wrong. No, let me finish, he insisted, totally ignoring what she had called him in lieu of voicing what was on his mind. I was gone... last time... so much of the time... The hands were drawn out of the pockets only to be immediately shoved back in. He went on with his broken commentary. And... I want you to know that I... He met her gaze again, now looking as agitated as he must have looked when he was one of Ba'al's prisoners. He drew in a deep breath, then sighed it out, and grinned as he finally relaxed. I just want you to know that I intend to be around for everything. That you can count on me... that I don't plan to take the farthest posting from here that I can get.

Sam considered what he was saying, remembering that they had more or less already decided that he would fill in as 'parent' when she was out on missions, and she had the sudden image of Jack burping a baby on his shoulder while welcoming teams back through the Stargate. She smiled. But she also admitted that they hadn't talked about what they planned to do when they were both on world. And she didn't know if she had enough courage to ask, even now.

Sam didn't have to find out right at the moment, however. Her train of thought was interrupted when Jacob and Cassie suddenly burst together into the room. Sam, what happened? Jacob looked wildly around the room, and when he didn't immediately see a baby in a bassinet, assumed the worst, according to the terrified expression on his face. Did you have the baby? Is he all right?

Dad... A surprised Sam tried to break in.

But Jacob wasn't in a frame of mind to listen. He went on without stopping for breath. Is he in an incubator? Is he..?

Dad! Sam yelled in order to get his attention.

Jacob did a double take. What?

Sam lowered the sheet that had hidden her enlarged belly from sight. He's right here, Dad, still perking away.

Then Jacob sat back on his heels to throw Sam a disapproving stare. You know I hate it when you talk about my grandson like he's a pot of coffee.

Cassie jumped in before Sam could tell her Dad that she didn't view her son as Daniel's next caffeine fix, either. The young woman had shown great restraint until now, but couldn't hold her voice any longer. Sam! I'm so sorry! I don't know what happened, I swear! When I got the message on my phone that you had called, I was already at home, and neither you nor Jack were there, and I thought the worst, and...

Cassie, it's okay, Sam assured. General Hammond and the Vice President were at Jack's and they took me right to the hospital, and...

Jacob's brows rose to his nonexistent hairline. Kinsey took you to the hospital?

Jack answered, his wry grin spreading across his face. Yeah, wish I'd been there to see his expression when Sam started having contractions.

Sam rolled her eyes. An escort was enough of a drama, she proclaimed. You and him in the same car? That would have been too much drama for me!

Cassie still appeared as contrite as she possibly could. I'm sorry, though, Sam, I...

What were you doing, anyway, that you didn't hear your cell phone ringing? Sam asked, curious in spite of her feeling slightly peeved that the one time she actually needed help from Cassie during this bedrest order that she was under, she hadn't been able to reach the girl. I let my phone ring a long time.

Cassie looked guilty now. I must have been on Melissa's new motorcycle at the time. I had my cell phone set on 'vibrate,' so that I would be sure to feel any calls even if I didn't hear them. Her guilt increased as she spoke. But I guess I didn't feel the vibrations because the motorcycle was also vibrating. We were only riding the cycle for five minutes, honest. We had just gone out for some ice cream.

Cassie looked so dejected that Jack didn't feel quite up to the scold he had been planning to give her. It's my fault, Cass, he said. I should have made sure that Carter had someone else staying with her if you were going to be gone.

Jacob then wrinkled his forehead. But everything's okay now?

Sam explained, It was nothing, just some kind of early contraction thing called... She couldn't quite remember the right phrase. Gads, the pregnancy was screwing with her memory! Called...

Jack bailed her out. She was having Braxton Hicks contractions.

Ah, Jacob intoned in understanding as Cassie was looking as if she still didn't know what had happened. Practicing for the real thing, huh, honey? He grinned at Sam on the bed.

Sam briefly thought of teasing him about how she had been instead practicing at getting a police escort to the hospital, but all she chose to say was, You know me... I have to get everything just so. She grinned. Are you in town for the night, or..?

Jacob stated, No, I didn't make plans for an extended visit. When Jack called, I just got here as fast as I could, so I didn't make any definite plans. He glanced now at Jack. If you're going back to the... Can I get a lift back with you this afternoon?

As Jack and Jacob made plans to return to the SGC, Sam in the meantime was reeling. Jack had taken the time to call her dad? Did they even know where the Tok'ra were these days? How much trouble had Jack gone to for her, she wondered, and how could she ever thank him enough?

Sam wished she knew what to say in situations like this, but she had never been good at showing genuine gratitude about such personal things, especially to Jack.

Sam blinked, and remained silent, wondering what she should say as the others cheerfully continued to talk now about past experiences with just such occurrences as hers. Even Cassie seemingly understood what had happened at last, and joined in on the conversation. Sam just sat on her bed, too stunned to utter a word.

* * *

Sam had no problem uttering several words later that same day when she arrived back at Jack's house with Cassie. She stood in the doorway of 'her' room, stared at the bed, at the TV set up on top of the dresser in the corner, and heaved the biggest sigh she had ever been witness to. Here I am again, she thought. Back in my prison. For that's what it now seemed to her - a prison. That room had never seemed so... limiting... before she'd had the opportunity to get back into the 'real' world, back in the fresh air, in the outside, back among the living.

The truth was that her back hurt, her ankles hurt, they were so swelled at this point that she couldn't even wear her shoes any longer, her breasts hurt and were so big that she wouldn't even recognize herself if she saw herself in a mirror, and her stomach was so big that nothing remotely hers fit her anymore. In short, she was thirty-seven weeks pregnant, looked it, felt it, and she was ready for this to be over!

Yet she still had at least three weeks of the pregnancy to go. And first babies rarely came early, or even on time, she reminded herself, so that meant she had at least a month or more of enforced bedrest to look forward to. How was she ever going to get through this?

Don't cry, Cassie affectionately warned. This will all be over before you know it. She led Sam to the bed and sat down beside her on the edge. And I got you some things that will help to pass the time until the baby comes. She pulled a book of math puzzles off the nightstand next to the bed. Here's the obligatory book of math dilemmas for you to solve so that you can sharpen those amazing problem-solving skills of yours before you have to go back to work again.

Sam was touched, even if she was so depressed at the prospect of more bedrest that she couldn't quite show her gratitude. Thanks, Cass.

Cassie went on, as if knowing that Sam felt a little down right at the moment, and more importantly, why she felt that way. And I also got you something from the hospital gift shop that I thought you might find useful now. She held up a real book titled Baby's First Year and offered it to Sam. I figured that while you're waiting for 'The Big Event,' you can prepare yourself for 'After The Big Event.' That way, nothing will take you completely by surprise, and maybe you can even give Jack a run for his money in the baby-know-how department.

Sam really was able to show her gratitude this time. Thanks, Cass, this is great! It would be so nice to have an idea of what to expect after the baby was born, and to not have to rely on Jack so heavily so much of the time. Though, she admitted that she wouldn't mind having to be on Jack at the same time she didn't want to have to rely on him.

Stop it, Sam! she chastised herself. She had been having the added and unexpected burden of very illicit thoughts to contend with as well as being pregnant-and-sick-of-it ever since the Brack... whatever they were called - early contractions... ever since they'd been forced under control. She would just have to get over these thoughts, she decided, especially since Jack didn't seem to want to share that kind of relationship with the mother of his... their... child.

But getting over such illicit thoughts? Easier said than done.

Sam sighed a second time, then lay back on the bed again, plumping up the pillows so that she wasn't exactly reclining, but not exactly sitting, either. It was almost the same position she had been in for the last two... and a half... months.

Only three... or four... or five... more weeks, Sam, she told herself. You can do it.

Sam groaned to herself. This was going to be a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong few weeks.

* * *

Jack sat on the bed next to Sam later that night. How ya doing? Any more twinges from Junior?

Nope, Sam glibly replied. Nary a sign. Then she joked, I wouldn't even know that he was there except for this big honkin' stomach that I have right now.

Jack's expression softened even as he simultaneously reminded her, You know that you've been great about all of this. His voice was tinged with just the tiniest amount of anxiety now. I don't want you to be thinking anything else.

Sam studied him as he sounded more sincere than he'd sounded in a long time. Suddenly Sam realized just how much of a comfort it was to have him there with her at the moment. Thanks for always being here, Jack, and for giving me a place to hang out... for so long. It means a lot to me.

Jack's features softened even further, but fell into a swoop that said that he didn't know what to say. Sam had expected that, as he had never known what to say during their few personal moments together. So she hurried on, giving him a respite from his emotions that were plainly showing on his face. I just hope that you think so well of me when I yell obscenities at you during Labor.

Jack's features changed to one that definitely displayed a more joking-around-with-the-Colonel expression than it had before. He said, Do you really plan to do something so cliché, Carter?

Sam grinned. It may be the only time that I actually get to yell at my CO. I'm going to make the most of it.

Jack laughed. Just as long as those comments don't get too personal, he cautioned. I still am your CO, after all.

But that teasing comment had the opposite effect that such lightness was intended to have. Instead of bringing out her mock indignation, it served as a reminder to Sam that Jack's status in her life was literally unchanged, and unchangeable, in spite of the fact that she was currently pregnant with his child.

What an odd state of affairs, Sam pondered to herself. How were she and Jack supposed to behave towards each other when they shared a child? Were they to continue to be as professional towards each other as they had behaved over the last eight years? That would be confusing to a youngster, knowing that both parents loved him, while simultaneously seeing that both parents treated each other with cold, professional civility. Their child was sure to witness that civility, but still know that in fact his parents were truly in love with each other but also knew that they could never show it. How deranged was that?

Sam shrank at the very thought as the reality of the situation that she was about to embark on slammed into her - she and Jack were destined to seriously screw up this kid!

Not to mention that she was beginning to have serious doubts whether she would be able to blithely hand the baby over to Jack while she traipsed around the galaxy on future SGC missions. What if the baby couldn't adjust to the kind of grueling schedule that Jack led as the leader of the SGC every time that she was away from Earth? What if the baby was sick at a time that one of Sam's missions was scheduled to take place, and wanted nothing to do with the SGC, or Jack, or the multitude of sitters and nannies that he was sure to have? What if Jack decided that he couldn't handle being a father again, and wanted out of fatherhood in six months, or a year? What if..?

Stop it, Sam! she yelled at herself. There was no point in worrying about the 'what if's of parenthood. The SGC was a crazy work environment in which to raise a child, true, but neither she nor Jack would be alone in this. She would have help from Cassie, Daniel, Teal'c, Siler, Walter... er, Sergeant Harriman...

And speaking of her team mates lending a hand when asked... Jack was saying, And I've already asked Daniel and Teal'c to stay here over the next few days while I'm in DC talking with the President, and I already know what you're thinking, and no, having them stay as backup for Cassie isn't overkill at all. Besides, now that Cassie's gotten a taste of freedom, she wants more and more and more... He gazed wryly at Sam, and she tried to look as if she had been listening to him the entire time he'd been speaking, though a trip for him to DC had caught her by surprise. Was it time for the yearly SGC review already? Sam had lost track of the time during her pregnancy, especially the later part. She tried desperately to remember what time of year the review usually took place while Jack mockingly continued, Teenagers these days! He shook his head, playing along with the joke that he'd started. But they wouldn't have gotten along these last months without Cassie, and they both knew it. Jack could joke all he wanted, but Cassie was really the one doing a lot of the work, and she deserved to have inherited the apartment in Jack's converted attic, and there wasn't much that she could ask for at this point that Jack wouldn't give.

And so Cassie was scheduled to attend a moving away party for her friend-of-the-motorcycle, Melissa, while Jack was in DC. Daniel and Teal'c had promised to be available so that Sam would never be alone again, just in case something happened.

Sam sighed: nothing would happen - nothing ever happened! It had been a total fluke the way her fake contractions had happened the first time that Sam was truly alone in months. It's unlikely that anything will happen the second time that Cass wants some time off, but thanks - I appreciate having the guys here. It'll be a good time to catch up with them. She hadn't seen Daniel or Teal'c for some time. They were all due for a good gossip, she figured.

Then it's settled, Jack said, already heading out of the room to help Cassie with the dinner preparations. I'll feel a lot better knowing that if Cass can't be here, then Daniel and T. can. I'll head out for DC tomorrow afternoon, and be back late the following day, when the four of us can spend the entire evening, or what's left of it, stuffing our faces with food, and watching bad sci/fi movies on TV.

Sam grinned at him, thinking that spending a whole evening with her three favorite people in the entire world sounded like a fun idea. At least it was something to look forward to instead of being cooped up by herself in 'her' room, staring at the wall for hours on end. Sounds like a plan, Sir... uh, Jack.

Jack relaxed from almost having to scold her about what she'd called him, then changed his mind on his way through her door and into the hall. You know, Carter, this kid of ours will think it's awfully weird to hear his mother call his father 'Sir.'

Sam calmly smiled back at him. How can you say that and call me 'Carter' at the same time... Sir?

Jack did a double take, then admitted, Good point... Carter. And with that, he was gone.

* * *

Sam was right: nothing happened while Jack was in DC, and the fact that Sam had not one, but two baby-sitters did indeed seem like overkill to her, but as she enjoyed Teal'c and Daniel's company, she certainly wasn't going to complain.

However, it was the night that Jack was scheduled to fly back to Colorado from Washington DC that things began to happen.

With the typical strange timing that seemed to have plagued Sam's pregnancy from the very beginning, events began to transpire, then to rush headlong out of control for everyone even remotely involved in Jack's scheme to keep things on an even keel. Only, when Jack had scheduled Daniel and Teal'c as sitters, he'd had no idea what he was really scheduling them to do.

At 1900, after what had been a boring, 'nothing happening here' kind of day that was gray, windy, cold, and rainy, Sam had decided that she would use the bathroom one last time while Daniel and Teal'c were in the kitchen making popcorn prior to watching the newest Disney animated film. Teal'c was partial to Disney films, and neither Sam nor Daniel could think of a reason not to watch another animated movie with him, so they were preparing to settle in for a good few hours spent in front of the TV in Sam's room. Outside, the rain was just beginning to turn to ice, and it had already started to coat the trees limbs, if they could judge by the sound of the creaking limbs that met their ears every time they passed near a window. But the three of them were snug in Jack's warm, dry house, Cassie had already called to say that she was remaining at her friend's house for the night so that no one at Jack's would have to worry about her driving in this kind of weather, and though Jack hadn't called yet to tell them that his plane had been diverted due to the weather and he was spending the night at ______ AF base, they were certain that he would have the sense to hole up somewhere warm to wait out the storm. They all knew that he would figure himself to be no good to Sam or the baby if he was the victim of a freak late Spring ice storm, and they could reasonably count on his sense that made him such a good commander of the SGC.

Anyway, that was the plan.

However, even the best laid plans of mice and men... and Generals... and Lieutenant Colonels... could go haywire at a moment's notice.

And that's what happened: they all had made their plans, had all tried to predict every possible outcome to the best of their abilities...

... and still baby O'Neill had the final say in the matter of what was going to happen next.

Splash!

Water... or something that looked like water... flowed out of Sam and all over Jack's spare bathroom floor the minute she had finished with washing her hands after using the facilities and headed for the bathroom door. Sam stared at the water at first in puzzlement, then in dawning horror as she realized what that puddle was. Uh... guys, Sam called. She waited for some kind of response, and when she didn't get one, and could still hear her friends arguing good naturedly with each other at the kitchen end of the house, took a deep breath of air, and screamed, Hey, guys, my water just broke and I need a little help in here!

Sam had said the magic words - 'my water broke.' Daniel and Teal'c were in Sam's room in seconds. What? Daniel was saying in stunned disbelief as he stared at the liquid shining on the bathroom floor and staining Sam's maternity sweats a dark color. This isn't supposed to happen for another three weeks, if even then! The baby can't come early!

Teal'c gave his friend a dry glance as he helped Sam through the water and onto the carpeted floor of the bedroom. O'Neill's and Colonel Carter's child seems determined to 'do things the hard way.' If baby Thor wants to arrive early, then we must prepare to help make his transition to the outside world as easy as is humanly possible, no matter how rare the event is reputed to be.

By then Sam had discreetly changed her underwear and sweats, and was seated on the bed as the Jaffa removed her sopping stockings, replacing them with warm, fuzzy, and dry alternatives. DanielJackson, he calmly told his frantic friend. We must devise a way to get ColonelCarter to the hospital. Where are your car keys?

Just as Teal'c asked that question, the first contraction gripped Sam in merciless talons of agony, taking her breath away at its abruptness and strength. Wow! she panted when she could talk again. That's much stronger than the those practice thingies I had the other day.

Teal'c again was the calm in this storm of unexpected events. He glanced at his watch, marked the time, then stated, ColonelCarter, you must be sure to tell us when your next contraction hits, as medical professionals seem most concerned with the timing of the pains.

Oh, Sam said as she remembered something else that she had read in the many baby websites that she had gone through. The websites all said that this stage of Labor could take hours, and to not run to the hospital at the first sign of Labor. She looked at her teammates in indecision. Maybe we should sit tight for a while and not get too excited about something that could take hours, she suggested.

Daniel finally began thinking things through instead of just reacting like a scared rabbit at a rabbit stew bakeoff. Yeah, Sam's right, he said. We need to watch the timing of these first few contractions, but not get too antsy to go to the hospital just yet. He nodded wisely. First babies usually take hours and hours of Labor before they decide to be born.

Teal'c cocked his eyebrow, but only said, I would not be so ready to say that baby Thor O'Neill plans to do what is 'usually' done. He nodded just as sagely as Daniel had minutes before. He is already arriving in an early fashion, the Jaffa pointed out. We should not assume anything.

Daniel snapped his fingers together, and said, Good point, Teal'c. Then he straightened and began feeling through his trouser pockets as he muttered to himself, Keys, keys, where are my keys..?

Hall table, both Sam and Teal'c answered him.

Daniel again snapped his fingers. You're right... thanks! And he sprinted towards the front of the house, leaving Sam and Teal'c to follow him on their own.

I can handle this baby coming early, Sam said under her breath. But I don't know if I can handle a baby and Daniel.

Teal'c sent her one of his rare smiles as he assisted her through the room's door.

They met Daniel as he stared out the front door of Jack's house at the shining glare of ice that covered the sidewalk, the ground, Daniel's car... Uh, guys, we have a bit of a problem, Daniel was saying. We can't take Sam out in weather like this. What if she fell, or the car went off the road and into a ditch, or..?

DanielJackson, Teal'c's voice warned in a soothing calm that negated Daniel's hysterics. You are correct that we must remain here. We will instead phone Dr. Lam while the phone lines are still working, and ask her advice.

Daniel shut the front door on the sleet that was falling from the cloudy sky and turning to ice as soon as it hit the ground. Good idea, Teal'c. Let's go.

It had sounded like such a good plan, too. But again, what plans were made...

Dr. Lam didn't answer her home phone, and the nurse from the Infirmary who answered their phone call told them, I'm sorry, Dr. Lam is unavailable right now. She's... unavailable, the nurse lamely reported, which meant that Dr. Lam had gone through the Stargate with one of the SG teams, and who knew when she would be back. The nurse had said what she could on an unsecured phone line.

So Daniel went on with thinking through the unexpected hitch in their plans. Are there any other doctors there who can come to the phone right now and tell us what to do? Daniel asked, only a hint of his desperation shading his voice. Colonel Carter's in Labor, and we can't risk taking her out in this storm to the Academy Hospital. We need to speak to a doctor, please.

The nurse's voice brightened as she was hit with a new idea. I can do one better, she said to Daniel. Dr. Warner is off duty tonight - perhaps he can come to you. It might help to give him a call.

Daniel wrote down Dr. Warner's home phone number just as Sam's second contraction hit. She tried to be quiet while Daniel was talking on the phone, but it was hard.

Teal'c looked at his watch and blandly reported, Eight minutes, twenty-six seconds.

Daniel hung up his phone, then as he dialed the number he'd been given, said, We don't need this timing-the-contractions thing to be so precise, Teal'c. Just the minutes is enough. Then he was busy listening to the ringing of Dr. Warner's home line. Answer, answer! Daniel muttered, then when someone picked up the line, his voice brightened, just as the nurse's voice had done earlier. Dr. Warner, we need your help! This is Dr. Jackson, and me and Teal'c are with Colonel Carter at the General's house, and he's in Washington through today, and Sam's in Labor, and we can't get to the hospital through all this ice, and we were wondering if you can maybe come to General O'Neill's house to help us?

Daniel must have heard an affirmative reply, for he said an enthusiastic, Thank you! That's so great of you! You know the way already, right? Good! Okay, we'll leave the porch light on for you. See you in a little while! Daniel was smiling as he hung up. Mission accomplished!

Daniel ran to turn the porch light on, calling, Teal'c, we should start sterilizing things to be ready for when the doctor gets here!

A wise suggestion, Teal'c called back. We must also build a warming fire in O'Neill's fireplace in case of electrical and heat loss.

The two men began to efficiently build a fire in the fireplace when they were suddenly interrupted by a ringing telephone.

Daniel tripped over his own feet in his haste to answer the phone. O'Neill residence, Daniel... He paused to listen, then intoned, You're kidding, right? He paused again, then assured, No, no we don't want you to risk yourself in a dangerous situation.

A feeling of deep foreboding settled into Sam. What? she demanded in a harsh voice.

Daniel covered the earpiece, but didn't hang up. It's Dr. Warner. He says that he slipped and fell the minute he went out his front door, then fell again when he was chipping the ice off his front windshield, and had to crawl back to his house. Now he wants to know if we need some information on delivering babies.

Oh, God, Sam thought, her terror at the situation mounting. This isn't happening!

But it was happening. Daniel spent the next hour taking down three pages of notes over the phone until the line disconnected due to ice, trying to cover every aspect of what to do when delivering a baby.

In a shrug of numbing fear, Daniel hung up his receiver. Phone's dead, he bluntly said. He looked at Teal'c. He looked at Sam. They all looked at each other in degrees of terror. We're on our own.

Sam had another contraction.

Eight minutes, seventeen seconds, Teal'c reported.

Daniel jumped as if he'd been shocked. Let's get the fire going, then spread out towels or something over the floor here in front of the fireplace...

Smart thinking, Sam said to herself, content to let her friends take control of this situation. She sat on the couch, watching as Daniel and Teal'c continued to argue over the best and softest way for Sam to have her baby.

This is really happening, Sam suddenly realized as she watched. Sam, you're giving birth in a home not your own, at night during a freak ice storm, without the presence of the baby's father, without medical equipment, without...

Then Sam realized exactly what that meant. No epidurral!

* * *

Jack's base-borrowed car crawled forward, its windshield wipers working overtime as they struggled to keep the piece of glass clear of the sheet of ice that insisted on forming. Jack squinted, trying to make out Colorado Springs' landmarks as he approached his neighborhood, again thinking that maybe making this trip down from Denver where the plane from DC had been forced to land hadn't been such a good idea. But the area around Denver had been so clear, he argued with his conscience. It was only around Colorado Springs that the weather started to get dicey. It had then moved from 'dicey' to 'downright horrible' in moments. Jack had never seen conditions change so radically in such a short time.

Of course, I'm not usually dumb enough to drive in weather like this, either. Jack's wry thought brought to mind the reason why he was chancing the weather the way he was, and he decided that his tendency to fret over stupid concerns was highly overdeveloped. Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c are probably safe at home, watching a movie, warm, dry, while idiot Jack O'Neill is traveling at a whopping ten miles an hour, trying to keep his car on the road. His voice broke through the heavy silence that had descended on the car when he hit the Colorado Springs city limit, and the ice storm, at the same time. Jack O'Neill, you are one dumb...

Jack's voice trailed off as his car crept through an empty intersection, but when Jack applied the brakes to slow down even more, his car immediately spun out of control, and kept spinning through that thankfully empty intersection, until it careened into another car parked at the side of the road.

Crap! Jack muttered. He wasn't hurt, and he hadn't even been traveling fast enough to make his air bag go off, but the crinkled remnants that he could see of his car's engine hood seemed to mock him in the faint light that surrounded him. The street lights had all winked out a few moments before as the electrical wires became coated with ice, leaving Jack in the dark as he tried to assess the damage to his vehicle and the car he'd bumped into.

Using the light from his headlights, which amazingly still worked, Jack quickly realized that neither his car, nor the other car, was going anywhere anytime soon. Crap, he repeated as he decided that he couldn't stay stranded in an unmoving vehicle for the night in weather like this, so he copied down his insurance information, then left it on his front seat along with an explanation of where he was going and why he'd left his car at such a time, and how the owners of the second vehicle could get in touch with him, then he grabbed his bag from the back seat, and set out to walk the rest of the way home.

Oh, those three are going to have a good laugh at this when I get home and find them warm and cozy in front of the fire, he said to himself as he battled to stay upright in the surprisingly strong wind that slammed into him as he walked along the grass by the side of the road where the traction was marginally better than on the cement sidewalk. They're gonna say how dumb you are...

Jack kept this litany going until he finally managed to reach the end of his street. He trudged forward, his head bowed, tears caused by the strong wind streaking his cheeks. His breath was almost frozen in his chest as he turned into his own driveway, noting how Daniel's car was still parked where he'd left it. Daniel and Teal'c were smart for staying at his house on a night like this, Jack mused as he tried to climb his front steps, failed, and was forced to struggle through the wet grass beside his steps instead. Hope Cassie was smart enough to stay at her friend's house tonight, he thought as he pulled his house keys from his trouser pocket. He shoved the key home, ruthlessly turned the lock, and broke the ice seal around the door to tumble through the front portal.

Without waiting for an expected shout from Sam's room, he called, I'm home! Frozen, but I made it! He slammed the door shut, bolted it again, and dropped his bag to the floor as he tried to bring back the feeling in his fingers. He flicked the light switch for the front entry lights, but nothing happened. He figured then that the electricity was off for the house as well as for the street lamps that would have typically lighted his way home.

Then a sound that resembled a scream mixed with an agonized grunt filled his house.

Ah, God! Sam screamed. I'm gonna split in half! Then she started crying, or something that sounded like crying. The sound was surprising: Samantha Carter never cried. I don't wanna do this anymore! Let me off!

Then Daniel's soothing voice quietly said something in response, to which Sam only cried, God, I wish Jack were here... and that he was bringing an epidurral!

Jack's heart leapt to his chin, then clamored for space in his throat. That sounded like... Labor! She can't be in Labor! he thought in unexpected desperation. She's not due for weeks!

Without pausing to remove his winter coat, Jack started off running through his house. Her room - through the kitchen..! He ran into the kitchen part of the house, but skidded to a stop when he saw the unlikely form of Teal'c grabbing at a pair of scissors that had been layed out with several other sharp looking things on a towel on his long counter top. Teal'c! Jack screeched. Where..?

Teal'c didn't behave surprised to see Jack back from his long trip, arriving unexpectedly at his home during such awful weather. Instead, he seemed to know instinctively what his original team leader wanted. He answered, The living room, by the fire... You run, O'Neill. I will walk, as I am carrying scissors.

Jack didn't wait to see if Teal'c meant what he said or not, but ran into the living room, then stood, too stunned to move.

There lay Sam in front of the fire, the only light in the house, just as Teal'c had said. Only her face was screwed up in obvious pain as she panted and strained her way through another contraction. Daniel was crouched at her legs, which were bent up to give him the best possible view, and besides one of Jack's t-shirts adorning the sweaty Sam, she was naked and bare to the world... and her archaeologist friend, who was concentrating on delivering her baby.

Sam! Jack burst out, scaring the two before him enough to make them forget for an instant what they were doing. Why are you here - at my house - instead of at the hospital? he inquiringly yelled. Why are you in Labor so soon? Why..?

Jack! Daniel called out, since Sam was too busy having a contraction just then to talk. The relief in the archaeologist's voice was palpable. I'm so glad you're here we need your help! He was so relieved and excited that he ran his sentences together. Please help It's coming soon I think!

Jack tore his coat off and threw it onto the couch. Let me wash my hands first! he yelled, already on his way to his bathroom. He was quickly back. Tell me what you need! he next ordered, instantly all business as he squatted beside the sweating Sam. He grabbed her hand, and she squeezed his back with surprising strength.

She looked up at him just as her eyes clouded over with another pain. She fell into the grip of the contraction. When it passed, she grunted, Daniel, I'm hallucinating now! I just saw Jack! Am I supposed to be hallucinating like this? Does that mean..?

No hallucination, Sam, Jack assured in a quiet voice like he'd heard Daniel use a moment earlier. I'm really here, smashed car and all, and boy, did I think I was the dumbest guy on the planet for coming home through this ice storm, and now, it's a good thing I was so insistent.

Jack? Sam asked, confusion momentarily mixing with the pain filling her voice. But you're in DC! she protested. Another contraction came, and she squeezed Jack's hand until his fingers went numb.

Damn, those contractions are fast, Jack analytically thought. Not much longer, Sam. he soothed aloud, then glanced at Daniel. How much time? he asked in clipped tones.

Not much, I think, Daniel said, his voice now just as calm and controlled as Jack's had been. I can see the head already. A few more pushes with those contractions, and I think that'll do it.

Jack turned to the reclining Sam, who was propped up by pillows so that she was half lying, half sitting on his living room floor. Hear that, Sam? Jack asked, still gentle and calm. Only a little longer! When the next contraction comes, you need to push if you can. Are you too tired?

Sam just screwed her eyes shut and yelled, Not too tired! Just get it out! Daniel, pull him out if you have to!

Jack heard Daniel's soft laughter fill the room. I don't think we're to that point yet, Sam, but I'll keep it in mind.

Jack called over his shoulder, Teal'c, have a pan of water ready, one that's warm, but not too hot! We'll need to wash the baby as soon as he's born!

Teal'c's serene tone flowed over them all, calming things down yet another notch. I have already done so, O'Neill. A pan of water rests on the fire stones.

The fire stones? Oh, you mean on the hearth, Jack translated as he saw the pan of water Teal'c was talking about. Thinking ahead... Good for you.

Ah! Sam grunted. Here comes another one!

Daniel had his hands out and ready to catch the baby in case he had to move quickly. When this contraction hits, push...

Sam strained against the baby who was trying to find his way out of her stomach even as she sarcastically spoke to Daniel. What do you think I've been doing down here? she yelled at her friend. Throwing a party? She grunted through the spasm of pain that gripped her. Ugh! I'd blame you for this, Jack, but this baby is all my fault and I can't cuss myself out!

Before Jack could reply, Daniel called, Push, Sam, push!

I am pushing, you irritating, little archaeologist. So help me, Daniel, I'll remember this the next time you want more coffee. No coffee for you for a year!

A year? Daniel jibed with her, aiming for distracting her from the pain of her contractions. What did I do?

You made me push, damn you! Another contraction ripped through Sam. Argh!

Hey, Sam, Daniel thoughtfully said, still distracting her. Did I ever tell you what happened to those Hak'tyl girls - everyone was calling them 'The Blondes...' You remember, they came though the 'Gate with us from Hak'tyl, and you had the AI to show them what an AI procedure was like, and that's why we're even here now, and...

Daniel! screamed an anguished Sam. Get to a point before the next contraction hits - I can't listen to you and scream at the same time!

Ah, Daniel grunted in understanding. Okay, he quickly said. But did I ever tell you that none of those girls got pregnant at that time?

Sam actually was distracted then. What? How do you know?

That was when Daniel blushed a bit. I... uh... Janet and I went back to Hak'tyl to check on them right before she... uh...died, and when we found out that they weren't pregnant yet, we had to do the AI thing again, and... Then he stopped to defensively say, Well, she needed a guide, and I do have some prenatal experience, and... Daniel glared at Sam. Don't look at me like that, Sam!

Sam bit off, I wasn't looking at you 'like that,' Daniel, I was having a contraction and trying to be polite and listen to your story instead of scream a string of cuss words like I wanted to do instead! I can't help it if I look like I want to kill someone!

Daniel blushed again at Sam's explanation. Jack's the closest person to you to kill, he pointed out.

Daniel! both Jack and Sam chimed at the same instant.

Daniel gave a shrug, but said, Anyway, on with my story... I was thinking how funny it was that 'The Blondes' came here to Earth to become pregnant, and you just showed them the AI procedure, and thought that you couldn't get pregnant, when it turned out 'The Blondes' didn't get pregnant, and you did, and...

Sam cut him off. Daniel, I do not want to hear this right now! she acrimoniously called.

Distraction time seemed to be over. Daniel returned his attention to birthing Sam's baby. Okay... Push! Push! The unrelenting Daniel didn't let his distraction attempt keep him from his objective for long.

Jack felt Sam squeeze his hand almost in two. He squeezed back his own encouragement.

One more time! Daniel was so excited now that it was amazing he remembered to stay in his crouched position. Push!

Sam gave a mighty shove towards Daniel, squeezing Jack's hand for all she was worth, fighting to put an end to this Labor, this pregnancy... just to 'get it out' as quickly as possible. Nyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

I've got it! Daniel hollered as he held up a red-tinted healthy baby, and Sam seemed to deflate with her call of, Thank God that's over!

The cries of a baby pierced the air as Daniel continued to hold him up, directing Teal'c to, Take him! so that he could clamp the umbilical cord with a waiting clothespin, then cut it with the scissors that Teal'c had brought from the kitchen. But then Daniel paused as he again studied the baby. Uh... guys... there's a bit of a problem...

Problem? Jack thought the baby sounded like a healthy baby who looked fully formed to him in spite of its early arrival. Jack frowned a mighty frown as he exclaimed, I so do not want to hear that, Daniel!

Teal'c stood behind his friend, peering critically at the baby. I see your point, DanielJackson.

What? Jack yelled in frustration. Just tell us..!

Daniel suddenly smiled a huge grin. He turned the baby to face Jack and Sam, then announced, He's a girl!

* * *

Fifteen minutes later, Sam rested in a clean t-shirt, on clean towels, her eyes shut, having already delivered the afterbirth, which Daniel insisted they store in the refrigerator for the time being.

You might want to plant the afterbirth later! Daniel insisted. Many civilizations believe in..!

Daniel! Jack growled, just wanting Daniel to shut up so that Sam could rest. Stuff it!

Daniel turned his quizzical gaze onto Jack. I don't think stuffing it is a good idea.

Argh!

* * *

Five minutes after that, Teal'c handed a cleaned, dried, wrapped baby to Jack, who had to release Sam's hand in order to take the bundle that Teal'c held out to him. Your daughter, O'Neill. Teal'c then turned his attention to Sam as Jack just looked at the baby in his arms, still too stunned to talk. ColonelCarter, have you and O'Neill decided on a girl's name for your baby?

Daniel smiled. I feel like Sam should name it after a Hak'tyl, where all this started.

Sam just smiled her lazy, tired smile, then said, Actually, I've already thought of the perfect name...

Jack and Teal'c both raised their eyebrows. Yes? Jack said. You did all the work - it's only fair that you should get to pick the name.

Daniel nodded. We can draw straws for the middle name.

As in a lottery, Teal'c said.

Guys! Jack hushed them. Let her talk!

Sam took the opportunity that Daniel and Teal'c gave her by saying, I had this good friend at the Academy, and on her way home one Christmas, she died in a car accident. I'm remembering her now, mostly because her name is so perfect for a baby born during an ice storm.

Sam? Daniel wanted to hear this mythical name almost as much as Jack did.

So Sam complied, still sounding dreamy... and warm... and relaxed... and thin... Her name is Summer Quinn Rose Thor O'Neill. The first true SG-1 baby.

The End


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