Disclaimer: Not mine - so sad!

Invasion 'Threads' - Aftermath

by Linda Bindner

A/N: A brief synopsis so far: The 'Threads' Communication Series:

story one - Mark and Carter have a conversation on the phone

story two - Mark and Jack have a conversation on the phone

story three - a Jack and Sam e-mail conversation with very unusual consequences

story four - Carter receives a concussion when she interrupts a meeting between Jack, the VP (Kinsey), et all. She then spends time in ICU while Jack anxiously waits for her to wake up. It's hard to have a face-to-face chat with an unconscious person

story five - Carter learns secrets - from Mark and Daniel, and from Jack - and on a side note, someone is trying to kill her - but who?

story six - codes, letters, and more secrets

story seven - What every man dreams of, but rarely gets - a cliché in the making

story eight - Sometimes it's what isn't said that's important

story nine - Earth is invaded? On the evening news?

now, on with the series........

CNN Special Report:

Hello, I'm Julia Donovan of Inside Access, a CNN affiliate, with continuing coverage of yesterday's 'uncovering' of the top secret Stargate Program. Once again, I'll turn things over to the highest ranking politician who's had enough security clearance to know about this Program for years, and who can now further explain the situation and keep us informed of the exciting changes happening to our country, and to the world: President Henry Hayes.

The TV image faded out to black, to be replaced a second later by another shot of the Press Room at the White House, empty again except for Henry Hayes and the woman behind the camera filming him. He stood at the front of the room, again supported by his Press podium, gazing straight into the camera, a tired sheen to his eye.

Despite the obvious exhaustion that he was feeling, his voice held the energy of several recent hours of rejuvenating sleep. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Earth's North American continent, as well as the world at large, he began. We're doing our best to keep you informed with information regarding the Stargate Program as that information becomes available. Further developments have necessitated this second briefing, with an eye aimed to the future of this great planet.

Hayes continued, It has come to our attention that not only did certain individuals in the United States government know of this secret project - and I again apologize for not disclosing information about the Stargate Program sooner - but the Russian Federation also was nominally aware of the ongoing Stargate project, enough to first try to run its own Stargate program inside the Soviet Federation, using a second Gate discovered and retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean, then to have its own specialized team of explorers working in tandem with the American Air Force, also based out of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado.

Hayes' voice became firm then, as if he wished to emphasize the next point that he wanted to make. However, knowledge of the program and its technologies does not constitute an act of aggression of any kind on the parts of The United States or the Russian Federation. While it's true that both our countries have participated in the act of furthering our foothold in space, often on a galactic scale, the technologies discovered through the use of the Stargate Program are, and have always been, designed for the ongoing defense of the planet Earth. To my knowledge, much of this futuristic, alien technology has been available to the governments of both countries for several years, and neither country has ever done anything with this technology besides try to understand it, and to study it with an eye towards implementing it in purely defensive situations. If it was our intention to use this technology in aggressive moves against the other countries of this planet, both countries had ample opportunities to do so in the past. The fact that neither country took the opportunities presented to us to use this technology in acts of aggression doesn't mean that future acts aren't out of the question, true, but... Wouldn't we have done so by now if that was our intention? he asked, counting on the abilities of his listeners to employ their logic in this situation, as if he inherently trusted his listening populace to actually have that logic that he wanted them to now use to begin with. It was a gamble to trust logic to billions of people at once, but Hayes was enough of a gambler to successfully pull it off.

So he schooled his 'trusting' expression, then went on to further explain, The Stargate Program has been up and running for nearly a decade... if conquering the globe was our desire, then what the heck are we waiting for? Alien help? You've already seen first hand accounts of some of that alien assistance that I'm talking about that we've never utilized before. What's to stop us from taking advantage of it now, you may ask? Nothing, except the previous eight years' worth of a record that shows the peaceful intentions of those people assigned to defend planet Earth from the enemies that are even now knocking on doors that are barricaded only by the continuing effectiveness of our teams of explorers in the Stargate Program.

The speech continued, In the recent hours, the United States has become increasingly aware of the growing hostility between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Federation, all based on the uncovering of the Stargate Program, made known when certain individuals seemingly 'disappeared' from their governmental tasks and duties without so much as an explanation. I understand that the people of China are confused as well as angry about being purposely kept out of the 'Stargate loop,' as was much of the rest of the world - previous secrecy of the Stargate Program was enforced for their own protection. It was always believed that total chaos would ensue with the uncovering of the Stargate, and China, with that continent's vast distances and spotty communication, fall directly into that 'chaos zone' that the Goa'uld always hoped would come to fruition. Let me assure both Americans and those citizens of the People's Republic of China that falling into chaos now would only assist the Goa'uld in taking control of our planet, keeping us from forming the necessary bonds to fight their intergalactic takeover attempts. Infighting is precisely what the Goa'uld alien race desires, and exactly what we must avoid at all costs, learning to trust each other instead of fighting each other.

Hayes now relaxed his stance a bit behind the podium, even going so far as to lean against the podium edge for a second, as if his big 'defense speech' was over, and now he could get to the emotional heart of this matter. Even though I've known of this Stargate Project for a few months, I admit to not yet fully understanding the intricacies of interplanetary politics. Like I'm asking you to do, I've had to simply take on faith the word of the people involved with this Stargate Program, as their knowledge of the incidents involving these alien Goa'uld far outweighs my own, and to trust in them that this country and planet have not been unduly put at risk for the sake of the Asgard and other 'good' alien populations of the galaxy. From what I've been told by these 'individuals in the know,' I don't want to meet the 'bad' aliens - the Goa'uld - that almost succeeded in conquering the globe. If the actions yesterday of the US Vice President are anything to go by, I would have to say that the 'people in the know' are right.

Then Hayes' expression became less severe yet, and his demeanor changed to become more begging in nature... as if the US president ever truly begged. Again, I can only implore you to remain calm in this situation. We can either make it through this crisis by working together, or we can do exactly what the 'bad' aliens wished to accomplish with their attempt at a subverted takeover - we can dissolve into planetary chaos, where I've been assured that we will then be 'plucked like a dead goose,' then turned into slaves at the first available opportunity by our enemies, or by other galactic mad... not 'madmen' but 'madaliens'... aliens who seem bent on using humans as they see fit. It's our choice at this point, and how we conduct ourselves in the next few days will illustrate either our unity as a people, or our inability to form the necessary bonds to overcome this planetary crisis. It's my understanding that the second possible outcome won't be pretty, for any of us.

Hayes sighed then, his breath gusting out in a sound of energized exhaustion, the sound of a man living on coffee fumes and hope. He wrapped up his speech with a final plea, Again, I implore all of you to remain calm, to accept our apology at face value, and to stay tuned for further information regarding the Stargate as we learn of its potential use as a planetary defense system. We realize that we are counting on your continued support in an unprecedented way... yet these are unprecedented times. Please, trust in the ability of every citizen of Earth to weather this galactic storm. More information will be forthcoming as we become aware of it - until then, remain alert remain calm, and above all, remain human. He ended his TV time with a joke before adding a heartfelt, Thank you.

The TV image again centered on the form of Julia Donovan sitting behind a large news desk, her demeanor also relaxed, as she promised, We'll bring you more coverage as it develops. Then she turned to continue facing another camera, and announced, First, though, Inside Access sent a team of reporters, along with a camera crew, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to get one of the first modern close up views of this now legendary place located under NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain called Stargate Command, or the SGC for short. 'The SGC' is buried under layers of rock, making Cheyenne Mountain the perfect hiding place for what was the top secret military base that is not so top secret any longer.

Julia turned again as the camera 'turned' with her. We were met on the surface of the mountain by none other than General Jack O'Neill himself. Our scheduled interview with him was superseded by his new assignment given by President Hayes just last night, of 'galactic damage control.' However, he took a few minutes to speak with us while outside the NORAD complex.

The image on camera faded away to be replaced with one centered on the military person who was quickly becoming comfortingly familiar in this 'time of change' - Jack O'Neill stared at Julia Donovan, speaking to her instead of into the camera, as she had earlier instructed him to do. She was a much more known commodity to him than the person operating the camera that he was supposed to be staring into. As always, he opted for comfort over 'doing what he's supposed to do.' In a way, he supposed that he had been doing just that all his life, while at the same time he'd made a career out of obeying most of his orders without thinking about them overly much. It was an odd mixture of beliefs that he'd always had to live with, only occasionally getting into trouble with the dichotomy when the two sides of himself 'butted heads' once in a great while.

He listened with half an ear trained to what he was saying to Julia, filling her, and hence, her viewers, in on the events that had transpired since the Bregman SGC documentary had been filmed several years prior to this particular time. But his other half was busy thinking that in just a few minutes, he would come face to face with Carter again for the first time that work day. He hadn't been this excited to see Carter in ages, since right after that Zanax test thingy a few years back. He hoped that now he would not feel the sense of disappointment that he had ultimately felt then, and that things would go a bit more smoothly between them this time, as they were now engaged, and had slept together... how many times?... seven?... eight?

Ah, who was he kidding? The 'quick one' that they had indulged in when he had first entered his house in the Springs once again, only to find her sleeping on his couch in his sunken living room, had been nothing short of spectacular, even though it had only been ten hours since they had last seen each other.

But Sam had taken an earlier flight than he had from DC to Colorado, and they hadn't anticipated seeing each other for several weeks. The fact that their reunion had been several hours after their parting instead of the weeks that they had anticipated only fueled their burning desire to make this reunion happen as fast as possible, and be as big as possible, so that neither of them could be yanked away before that reunion had truly taken place, yanked by orders that now changed by the minute.

But Jack now had something to show Carter, to get her technological opinion on, and as Carter was once again in Colorado, he had hopped the first military plane headed west. And as that plane had landed at 0245 in the morning of this day, and he had found Carter so conveniently waiting for him at home (when asked, she would only say that she was at his house because she could better smell him there, and felt closer to him. It was an oddly imprecise thing for Carter to care about, but Jack wasn't about to 'kick a gift horse in the mouth' either) Jack and Carter had made good use of his old bed, still in the furnished house that he had never sold when he moved to Washington. He had signed the house over to the protected custody of Daniel, but planned to keep it and to retire in the Springs, if that retirement of his that he had threatened for years ever actually became a reality.

It didn't look like he was going to retire anytime soon, however, but he didn't care any longer now that Carter was the one who he opened his eyes to every morning. At least, he hoped that he would continue to open his eyes to Carter just as he had done that morning before they went into the SGC together, where they split, her going on to her lab, and him waiting on the surface for the scheduled arrival of the film crew, who he was even now briefing, bouncing with energy as he said his words.

At last, his briefing was over and he was able to lead the crew, the camera still rolling, down the elevators and out onto level 19, where he exited the elevator, followed by the diligent camera crew, and one very curious Julia Donovan. He tried to ignore the retinue that he had unwittingly picked up in the last thirty minutes.

Even before he had fully exited the elevator, he spied Master Bra'tac talking moodily to a politely listening Daniel near the first bend in the corridor. Delighted at seeing the old friend and often-colleague of SG-1, plus thrilled that he now had the potential situation at hand he needed to draw the attention of the film crew away from him and onto the Jaffa master, Jack called out a greeting down the corridor, Bra'tac, you old coot! It's been a long time... relatively... all time is relative, so I'm told. How's things going on Dakara? Might as well throw the populace into the deep end of the pool right away, and mention another planet, Jack thought. He had always championed total immersion into any new project - and this was an excellent opportunity to 'get the world back' a little for keeping him and Carter apart for so long. (Was he opting for just a bit of revenge? Nah!)

Jack smiled his disarming, charming smile as the two men standing in the corridor peered towards him at his call. How goes it with the Free Jaffa? he asked next, aware of how strange it was to utter that question with a nosy reporter and film crew at his back, but he did his best to ignore them as he spoke.

Master Bra'tac warily eyed the odd collection of people that the former commander of the SGC had accrued, but he responded to the question asked of him readily enough. Ah! The politics of the Jaffa may yet do me in, O'Neill of Minnesota, he answered loudly so that the approaching Jack - and the film crew - would have no trouble hearing his fairly aggressive complaint.

Jack inquired, So, you're telling me that space politics is as mind-numbing as Earth politics?

More mind-numbing, Bra'tac replied in a voice so grouchy that Jack fancied he'd never heard that particularly petulant tone from the Jaffa Master before.

Daniel broke in, Master Bra'tac was just telling me about all the infighting they have on the newly formed Jaffa council, and how nuts it was driving him... and Jack, who is this? Daniel swept his arm out to wave across the area in front of him, including Julia as well as the film crew with his gesture.

Jack blinked, then gave a starting jerk, as if he just remembered that he had an audience of several million following him everywhere he went. Ah... He'd just recalled that the last time Julia Donovan had been allowed access to any of the SGC projects, Daniel had been all glowy, and had missed the following 'excitement,' and thus, wouldn't know her. So he explained, This is Julia Donovan and her film crew from Inside... His voice trailed off, as he could no longer remember the last name of the news show Julia worked for.

Inside Access, Julia finished for Jack, then held out her hand towards Daniel. Hi, I'm Julia Donovan, and I'm here with the first film crew not made up of military personnel to film the goings-on of the SGC in light of what's been happening the last few days.

Daniel took the offered hand in his and gave it a hesitant shake. His eye danced from Julia to Jack. Uh... Jack... what's..? His brow furrowed as he stuffed his recently retrieved hand into his trouser pocket. Um... what's been... happening... the last few days?

Julia gawked at him. You have no idea?

Daniel smiled his most benign, unthreatening smile at her, and shook his head. Nope, he cheerily responded. I got caught up in trying to finish a translation that I was doing, you know, before I head out to visit Mark in California...

Daniel planned to visit Mark? No fake emails this time! Jack ordered on a growl.

Daniel's face went red the second that Jack mentioned his recent emailing adventure. No, he quickly promised. Mark and I are going to talk about communication without using words... at least, that's the reason behind this visit. I hope to expand my knowledge a bit so that it... Daniel paused, clearly not wanting to mention things of a classified nature with civilians within hearing distance. I plan to use it on missions, he said instead of saying exactly how he planned to use the knowledge that he might garner from his time spent with Mark Carter. He then stared at the film crew with an even deeper wrinkle in his forehead. Uh, why are there civilians here, Jack?

Someone in the film crew gave a snicker, and Jack gently covered it up with a pat on Daniel's back. Daniel, I suggest that you have a TV installed somewhere in your office so that if you get buried in what you're doing, you'll still know what's going on topside.

A TV? Daniel echoed, still obviously confused. Jack, I thought that you were in Washington right now - what are you doing here?

Jack replied, I came to give Carter some more toys. Now... TV? he reminded the bemused archaeologist. In fact, the General said, giving Daniel a turn. Why don't you find the nearest television set right now, take Master Bra'tac and his bad mood with you, and both of you catch up with what's been going on lately here on Earth.

Daniel seemed even more confused, but pliable in his confusion. Well... Come on, Bra'tac, let's see what Jack's talking about, since it's obvious that he's not going to tell us. As he and the Jaffa master moved off down the hall, Daniel turned back to say, Oh, Jack, I passed by Sam's lab not ten minutes ago, and peeked in to see if she was there yet or not. She's here and she's... sciencing.

Of course, Jack knew very well that Carter was on base, but he didn't fill in the archaeologist with his new insight. Her lab was the first place I was going to look, he instead chose to inform. See you guys later, he added, then turned back to Julia. The younger man is Dr. Daniel Jackson - he's an archaeologist, a linguist, a psychologist, a humanitarian... He made a great conscience for me when I led SG-1... when he could keep his foot out of his mouth long enough to give me his advice. Then Jack considered what he had just said. He didn't wish to paint such a poor picture of Daniel as his last words implied, so he added, Only... Daniel never could keep his foot out of it. It was like he had some kind of inside 'trouble button' that he always felt that he needed to push. The moment he pushed it and landed us all in hot water as a result was always about the time that me and Carter came out shooting, he informed them on the jocular side. Teal'c was always already shooting, he ended.

Teal'c? Julia questioned.

Oh, and Jack snapped his fingers. Bra'tac was Teal'c's teacher... before Teal'c ended up here on Earth, he lamely explained. Then he sent Julia a look of inquiry. She stared back at him with her own confused expression. He said, Even though you've seen the other documentary, what I'm saying doesn't make sense to you, does it?

Julia sent him her own attempt at a look of understanding, but finally had to admit, No.

Jack gave a sigh. I never thought before about how hard it was going to be to explain what we do here on a daily basis if the Stargate ever went public, he confided. It made him dizzy just to think about it, even though he knew that the Bregman documentary made a few years earlier and now televised throughout the world had explained a few of the most basic concepts of the SGC. There's still so much to learn... it makes even my head spin when I think about it! he declared with a grin, his inner attention continuing to fix on getting to see Carter in only a few moments. That focus of his 'inner attention' was simply making him far happier than he normally would have been in a time of uncovering the 'Gate.

However, Julia sent his 'inner attention' to a screeching halt when she invited, I have the entire day, and all day tomorrow, scheduled with filming in the SGC, so we have the time... Care to explain a few things?

Uh... Jack began at his hesitant best. I would love to explain things to you all (not really) but I have to follow my most recent orders - I need to talk to Carter... How to best get out of more TV time, but not look as if he was wanting to get out of it? Uh... He thought at a furious pace - Carter would have been proud of him for thinking so quickly. I have some things to do... he eventually mumbled. That's it O'Neill, Jack sardonically thought to himself. When in doubt, go with the vaguest answer possible. Ignoring his thoughts, he then reached out to a passing airman and stopped her by tugging on her arm. Airman... Since he was unfamiliar with this particular airman (They make them younger every year, he groused to himself), he quickly read the woman's name tag pinned to her uniform. Airman Conolly...

The airman smiled encouragingly up at him, and Jack continued, Why don't you escort Miss Donovan and her film crew to General Landry, and answer any questions that they have on the way? he blithely suggested. I need to see Colonel Carter about something...

Yes, General, Sir, she intoned. Then she turned to face Julia and her crew. Come right this way, please, she said, waving them all off down the corridor.

Jack stood smiling in the hallway as the airman, Julia, and the crew disappeared towards the elevator, chatting the entire way. His smile faded the instant they vanished from sight, and he whirled back in the direction of Carter's lab. He fairly jogged the rest of the way down the hall.

Jack burst through the open laboratory door to find Carter staring thoughtfully at her computer screen, her head propped on her fist. She had just pensively hit the 'enter' key, and the screen changed according to her command, when the general suddenly appeared.

Carter glanced up as he quickly walked in, and her face turned from 'thoughtful' to 'utterly delighted' in a heartbeat. Sir! she exclaimed in a pleasantly surprised tone.

Jack smiled at her as he approached. She had seen him smile so rarely over the past year and a half that her own grin grew bigger in answer to his gesture. She itched to touch him after the way that smile of his blended with his dress uniform to make an endearing, sexy display just for her, but she tempered her actions while in the SGC. She did however slide off her stool the moment she saw him so that she was standing to welcome him when he stopped beside her.

You know, he pensively commented while studying her. It's good to see you not wearing glasses. Then he hurried to say, Not that I mind glasses, of course. Daniel's been wearing glasses for as long as I've known him. Then his eyes narrowed in thoughtful affection. It's just that I'm used to Daniel and his glasses - but as much as I liked seeing you in yours... it's good to have the old 'you' back again. He sent her a disarming grin. That's silly, I know, but I think I prefer you glassless, he explained.

Sam was still fighting her urge to pull him into her arms and kiss him senseless. Thor said that the time that I spent in his pod on The Daniel Jackson cured me of all residual effects of the... What was it that I had?

Naquedah Poisoning, Jack filled in for her. Not to mention what looked like a really nasty wrist device wound. He now glanced at her in sympathy.

Sam stared at him as if she'd suspected his answer, accompanied by his expression, all along, and had asked her question just to confirm her suspicion that he knew as well. Ah yes, Naquedah Poisoning - a disease that's unknown to those of us here on Earth. Then she reminded him, It must be a disease that has the annoying side effect of causing double vision... Her voice had turned sly at the end.

Jack knew that his proverbial goose was cooked when her eyes twinkled mischievously at him in that way, and it would go better for him if he instantly confessed everything to her right away rather than after she was told the truth by another source. Okay, okay, you got me... I did it... encouraged it... the Naquedah Poisoning... But I only did it because I figured that an annoyed you was better than a dead you!

Sam mock glared at him. You 'figured this...' and who else? she demanded to know. After all, we've heard of Naquadria Poisoning when Jonas was here. But we've never heard of Naquedah Poisoning, at least, not to my knowledge. Then her mock glare turned more determined. She went on, Which means that you had help in giving me this... poisoning... which you never told me about... which is weird... She sighed as Jack winced. So spill, Sir, please.

Jack had rarely heard Sam say 'please' - this situation must really be aggravating her, he decided, to cause her to say 'please.' Jack began by inquiring, How much have you already figured out? He gauged just how annoyed her following shrug was. I guess that you have to have figured out some of this, and it's been driving you crazy not to know, as you said 'please'...

Sam's sigh split through the silence in the room. Just tell me, Sir, she begged.

Sam Carter was begging? Apparently this 'knowing' but 'not really knowing' of Sam's had obviously gone on longer than he thought. But Jack still shot her a reticent look. Why don't you tell me what you think happened, and then when you're right, I won't have to give you any lengthy explanations of things that you already know, he invited.

Sam huffed a breath, not entirely pleased. Fine. If you're not going to just tell me... When it became obvious by his continued silence that he wasn't going to simply 'spill the beans,' she began, I've thought this through a few times since yesterday...

Jack interrupted, Meaning that your brain whirled till the wee hours of the morning, thinking about all this, and you fell asleep on my couch, where I then found you at 0300...

She interrupted as well to say in amusement, Where we then had a much better time together than I ever did when I was 'thinking' alone.

Jack grinned at her, and at his memory of the incident that followed his interruption of her 'thinking.' I wouldn't mind re-enacting that moment from so early this morning, he suggested.

Sam's grin was equally as infectious. I bet you wouldn't, she agreed. But as I was saying... Jack sent her a glare when she clearly refused to be waylaid from her story. Sam smiled even more - she loved baiting Jack as much as he loved baiting Daniel! Anyway, this is what I think happened: You suspected something about what happened to me right from the start at the Pentagon - Secret Service agents are supposed to 'apprehend' suspected criminals, not kill them, or attempt to kill them. So your suspicion about Kinsey was then aroused, as the Service Agents were in that meeting to 'protect' Kinsey, and somewhere between the Pentagon and the hospital in DC, you somehow managed to contact Thor, who for some reason that I haven't figured out yet, was in orbit of Earth, and he then gave you something.... I haven't figured out the particulars of that yet, either... He gave something to you, which you then injected into me to help the natural protein marker and naquedah already in my blood to 'boost' my immune system to fight off any agent that might be later introduced into my system by Kinsey's 'agents of death' bent on killing me... Am I right so far?

Jack looked slightly uncomfortable that she had managed to figure out so much of what had truly happened so quickly. Ssssssort of, he began, trying to derail her 'figuring out' attempts - she was so close to being right that it scared him! You're half right, he informed her.

Sam belligerently crossed her arms and invited, Oh, then please, enlighten me.

She was mock glaring at him, too. He really didn't want an angry Carter on his hands. So Jack hurried to tell his story. Okay - here's the truth - I was so scared that something more serious had happened to you when you hit that conference table that day that when I followed the ambulance to the hospital in my own truck, I contacted Thor on his rock that he'd given me...

Sam suddenly appeared understanding. Ah - a communication stone, she nodded at him. At his affirming nod, she continued, I had guessed that he had given one of those to you at some time over the years. But you never said...

Jack winced. It was mine and Thor's secret... a stone that only I could use, and only in an extreme emergency. Having you get hit in the head so badly was a pretty extreme emergency as far as I was concerned. He shrugged at her continued glare, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. You're soooo worth it, Carter, he excused. That Secret Service guy... Tiny... he hit you a lot harder than I had always thought a Secret Service Agent should hit a person when he didn't know that she was a threat. It was as if he assumed you were a threat to Kinsey right away, and acted as he did... Jack's voice trailed off as he winced yet again. None of it made sense to me, he admitted. Even as I was rushing to the hospital after you... He waved his arms to convince her to understand what he was saying. After all, what if whoever that Tiny was working for tried to hurt you again? And how could Kinsey not know the strength of his own Secret Service Agents? Then Jack blew out a breath of air that he was holding. I decided that you being put in a dangerous position with me not really being able to help you - this was a medical situation and all, and my medical skills are pretty nominal, he explained. So I contacted the Asgard while I was in my truck on the way to the hospital.

Sam stared at him in puzzlement. So Thor answered you? What was Thor doing in communication range?

Jack grimaced a third time. Um... Thor didn't answer me.... the Asgard scientist Loki did.

Sam blanched the moment she heard that name. Loki! she exclaimed. What was he doing here? she asked in amazement. I had assumed that some Asgard was here without us knowing of his or her presence, but...

Jack cut her off, as her voice was rising into hysterics. Take it easy, Carter, he suggested. I didn't know that Loki was in Earth's solar system, but it turned out that I was mighty glad that he was.

Again Sam gazed at him in suspicion. What happened?

Jack sighed, but went on readily enough, After I reached the hospital, Loki locked onto the locator beacon in my rock thingie...

Communication stone, she again automatically corrected.

Yeah, that thing, Jack said. And the next thing I knew, I was on his ship...

She gaped at him. His ship? And that didn't upset you right away? she demanded to know. The last time that you were beamed to his ship, I remind you that it didn't turn out so well! she emphatically told him.

Jack put calming hands on her arms, momentarily forgetting about the presence of the security camera in one corner of the lab as he touched her. Look Carter, I know that things must have seemed pretty desperate for me to let Loki beam me to his ship, but... Finally he leaned back a bit away from her. You were injured, Carter, he told her. In a situation that, quite frankly, scared the crap out of me. Jack sighed once more. I told Loki why I was afraid, and he then told me about the... whatever it was... substance that would cause the Naquedah Poisoning in you, and that I was scared that something more would happen to you soon, and that you might not live through it. He told me that I had to give his stuff to you ASAP, that the naquedah already in your blood would counteract anything that anyone gave you by turning it into nequadria... Here Jack stopped and stared. Honestly Carter, I know that you're thinking 'how could you trust that little gray bastard like that?' But it was your life that I knew that was more than likely at stake. And I was soooo scared. His eyes grew beseeching. How could I not try something that might potentially save your life?

Sam glared a real glare this time. But how could you trust him when..?

Jack rubbed his hand through his hair. I didn't trust him, he proclaimed. But really, what choice did I have? he rhetorically asked her. I knew that something wasn't right at the time, and I totally preferred to talk to Thor... but Thor wasn't there, and Loki was... he had been released from his Asgard incarceration, and true to from, told the Asgard that he'd learned his lesson, then immediately flown a ship back to Earth to do more experiments... sure that he could solve the Asgard cloning problem...

Sam then stared at him with a sad expression on her face. It must have been so hard for you to have to semi-trust him, of all the Asgard...

Jack gave another grimace, this one much deeper than the others before. You have no idea, he told her. But I did promise that if things didn't work out for you like Loki said they would, I would spend the rest of my natural existence hunting him down and shooting him after I torture him in the most painful way that I can imagine...

He believed you, I take it? Sam dryly asked.

Jack gave a soft grin. I made sure that he did, he explained, but didn't explain the specific brand of 'persuasion' that he had used on Loki. Then he proudly added, I can, however, be quite... descriptive... when I want to be.

Sam wasn't sure that she really wanted to know the details to this part of Jack. So? she prompted.

So... Jack gave another shrug. So... Loki gave me whatever substance he assured me would keep you safe from potentially killing agents... and I knew that you would have an IV, at least at first, in case that's how they chose to give you... whatever they gave you... might give you... and I injected Loki's 'Carter savior' into your IV line when I was with you that first time in the ICU... and it worked... even if it had a few side effects that Loki neglected to tell me about...

Ah - the double vision. Sam smiled appreciatively. I never did understand the reason behind that, she admitted. You must have been feeling guilty about my vision... That bit about telling me about Daniel without even making me sign a Nondisclosure Agreement... She chastised him, Really, Jack, you might as well have done something like raise a red flag, and then told me to pay attention...

Jack breathed in the fragrance of her... very alive... skin. I knew that you would guess it anyway. Or at least guess some of it... maybe not the details... but in the meantime, I couldn't let you throw up all the time when I already knew what might work to fix your double vision problem... He let his voice trail away. I had to do something, he lamely ended.

Sam let herself consider the severe worry that Jack must have been consumed with at the time of her hospitalization to do something so desperate as to make a deal with Loki, of all Asgards! Well, yeah, I did have some of this figured out, as you know, she reminded at last. Though not the Loki part, she went on. I had guessed that it was Thor.

Jack said, Thor came by later, but by then Loki was already gone...

Thor seemed to know an awfully lot about what to do for me, Sam then told him. It didn't make sense to me when I got to thinking about it.

Jack sighed, as if in pain, and closed his eyes. This was even before we became engaged... He blinked his eyes back open to stare uncomfortably at her. Oh, and I want to apologize for mentioning that engagement yesterday on TV without talking to you first about mentioning it...

Sam grinned up at him. You had a few other things on your mind at the time, she dryly excused.

How had he ever gotten so lucky as to fall in love with such an understanding person? Jack smiled. Well, the 'cat's out of the bag,' as they say...

Sam grimaced this time. Do you have to use that particular expression, Sir?

Jack laughed. Just for you, he joked, and ignored the security camera again to quickly kiss her on the top of her head.

Sam frowned. I'm honored, I think, she said, not quite knowing what to do with his 'gesture of affection.'

Jack laughed some more. Sam decided that if he kept laughing that way, she would let him use whatever trite saying and 'gesture of affection' that he wanted to. She forced her attention back to what she and he had been commenting on before his lengthy explanation. I admit that I didn't expect to see you again until tonight. Then she peered over his shoulder, clearly searching for something. What happened to the film crew that you complained about having to show around all the way to base this morning?

Jack lips gave a twist. Pawned off on Landry, he succinctly told her. I have something I want you to take a look at.

Her eyes brightened more at his words. Oh - new toys! she said in anticipation.

Jack sent a smirk her way. I'd give you the world if I could, Carter, but I have to content myself with giving you this for now. And he pulled a tiny black rectangular box from the pocket of his dress uniform. Sam reached out an eager hand and took it from him. It was so tiny that it fit in the palm of her hand.

Jack smirked even more. Never say that I didn't give you anything, he teased.

Sam smiled, and wriggled her ring finger that was amazingly still encased with the engagement ring that he had earlier gifted her with. I would never say that, Sir, she saucily replied.

Jack wanted to keep openly flirting with her, but all he said was, So, what do you make of this?

She studied the little black box in her hand, turning it over, noticing the two buttons next to each other, automatically pushing them both, and noting that nothing seemed to happen when she pushed either one.

Jack went on to explain, We found it in Kinsey's pocket yesterday afternoon, so we know that it was of some importance to him, and the naquedah meter we placed near it went nuts yesterday afternoon, so we know that it's somehow related to the Goa'uld. But even though the DC Eggheads... Here he paused, waggled his brows a bit to tell her in a wordless gesture that she was his favorite Egghead, but as she wasn't presently in DC, he'd had to run happily off searching for her. Then he continued, But no one can figure out what it does.

Puzzled and curious, Sam again studied the box in her hands. She turned it over and over, pushed the buttons again, ran a preliminary metal analysis of her own with her computer, verifying that the box's power source was indeed made of naquedah, but only asked, You say that someone has already examined this?

Jack gave a nod, watching her with the device. Yeah, some scientist or other spent all yesterday afternoon trying to figure out what it does. But they gave up, and I got this about 1800, with orders to give it only to you. He grinned. I was only too happy to comply.

Sam smiled at Jack's further teasing, but most of her attention was riveted to the tiny device in her hands. It didn't make a whole lot of sense that such a device would be found on a proven Goa'uld, but then appear to be useless. It had to do something.

As Sam continued to let her mind drift onto possible theories as to the device's purpose, she asked Jack, And what were you doing wearing a concealed weapon when we ran into Kinsey in DC, a place where gun bans have been around forever? It helped her to think if she also considered inane subjects at the same time.

Jack knew this about her, so he went along, and inelegantly snorted. I could ask the same thing about you, he noted. And about half the people in that crowd. He cocked his head in a thoughtful gesture. It's a good thing that so many of us were armed, or... I would hate to think what would have happened if we had faced off with a Goa'uld and hadn't been armed with something!

Sam shot him a slightly disapproving look, then went back to staring at the device. What were you doing with a pocketknife, too, Sir? she asked, knowing that he would never have been allowed to take such a weapon into the Pentagon, where his offices were located, so he must have added the pocketknife just for her protection.

Jack shrugged. My staff at the Pentagon I trust, he told her. The general public... He shrugged, giving her the indication with his tone that he was questioning the intentions of the general populace of DC. By then, I knew that someone had it in for you, and there was no way that I was going with you onto the street, unarmed. Instead, I had with me whatever I could carry. And he sounded unapologetic to her ears.

Sam's eyebrows went up. With whatever you could carry? she echoed. Just how many pocketknives did you have on you, anyway? she curiously asked.

Jack gave a sick sort of smile. Well... I had to consider that we might both be captured and searched... I didn't know what to expect... Jack then gave a sigh of defeat. Seven, he told her.

Seven! Sam gaped anew, astonished. Plus carrying concealed! It's lucky for you that no one thought that you were a terrorist, Sir! she admonished.

Oh, and you should be forgiven for carrying concealed, too? ha sharply asked. Come on, Carter, if you look at it from the Goa'uld perspective, we are terrorists.

Sam lowered the device for a moment. Wow, she said, as if she'd just been confronted with a new idea. I never thought of it like that.

Jack grunted. Yeah, well, we're legal assassins, too, but I try not to dwell on that specific definition of our jobs.

Crap, Sam softly intoned. I hadn't thought of it like that before, either.

Jack considered all the Jaffa he had killed over the years, but then he also thought of all the times that he and his team had helped to save a planet or a people from certain destruction. We're also the saviors of the known universe, he quickly added. You can just as easily look at it that way, too.

Sam scratched at her chin. True, she said in that vague voice that said she was busy thinking about what he had just told her. There is that.

Jack leaned in to whisper to her. We're also... a lot friendlier than we're supposed to be, too, he suggestively said in her ear.

The rush of warmth that washed through Sam was almost familiar to her by this time. She couldn't resist the grin that split her features. And there is that, she noted, as if agreeing with him. Then her grin became more wicked as she thought of something. Come'ere, she then whispered to him. She negligently stuck the little black box in her pocket, then grabbing his hand, she led him over to the light switch near her door. She closed the door, then turned off the lights with a decisive flick of her fingers. What the security people can't see, never happened, she whispered in what she thought was the general direction of his ear... And she kissed him.

Jack was only too happy to follow where she was leading him as her arms twined around his neck, and his around her waist, pulling her close.

Wow, she smelled good! And felt good. And kissed amazingly good...

Click... slam!

Suddenly Daniel threw the lab door open so that it bounced on the far wall, throwing the kissing Sam and Jack into a square of revealing light... light that the security camera had no trouble discerning...

Both Sam and Jack decided they didn't care what the security cameras could discern at the exact same moment. They parted, only to hold each other tight and sigh in contentment.

Daniel ignored what they were doing and walked around them to grab at Sam's left hand. He stared at the blue eternity ring encasing Sam's finger. Is this something new? he demanded to know, still seemingly uncaring of what they were doing.

Sam dreamily nodded.

Daniel doggedly went on. And is this what I think it is? he asked.

Jack dreamily nodded this time.

Daniel demanded a third time. And did... did Jack...?

Jack's grin riffled through the sweet smelling hair on Sam's head. You bet I did! he emphatically said.

Daniel gave a start as he jerked back and gave a joyous grin in his friends' direction. Great! Thanks - that's what I needed to know. Then he moved to leave the lab. He slammed the lab door behind him, throwing both Sam and Jack back into the enshrouding darkness.

A moment later, Jack whispered, I have the feeling that even if I hadn't said anything yesterday, our secret would be out now. And he gave a rueful smile that Sam could feel, but not see.

Another quiet moment went by, then Sam gave a shrug, and brushed a kiss onto Jack's cheek. Well, at least we weren't having sex.

Jack tried to imagine how Daniel would have handled that, and burst out laughing.

To be continued in Invasion 'Threads' - Interviews

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