Disclaimer: I still don't own them. But I did see those who do on TV this afternoon. Does that count?

Part VI - As Deceptive as a Blue Jay

by Linda Bindner

Several months later:

Sam attempted to stretch her legs one more time in the cramped quarters she had chosen for herself to keep watch. She knew that she couldn't stand up - she had no idea who would see her if she did. Since it was a variable she couldn't control, revealing her position to just anybody wasn't something she wanted to do. So she straightened one leg out in front of her while allowing her weight to settle on her bent leg, then switched legs. The kinks that had knotted her muscles into a slinky were reluctant to release her, but she maintained the painful stretch until her previously cramping legs relaxed bit by bit. As she stretched, she mentally reviewed the last month, going over every detail in her mind until she was satisfied that her team was in the correct location this time in order to assist in catching the prey.

For though she had officially been suspended from 'Gate travel, she had unofficially been granted the free time to find and catch 'Pete Shanahan.' That meant she and SG-1 were able to work in tandem with Detective Albers and Lieutenant Bakerstone in searching for, finding, and hopefully catching the con man. But making sure that all the players in what had turned out to be the domestic drama of the year were in the right place at the right time to make an attempt at a possible apprehension had never been easy.

First, she had been forced by her concussion and broken ribs to take it easy for several weeks. She had done most of her recuperating at Jack's house in Washington DC. Both Teal'c and Daniel had visited her at separate times to work with her on a her current mission - not only to discover the whereabouts of 'Shanahan,' but to find out what he knew about the Trust, the Jaffa, the Asgard... the workings of the galaxy before that galaxy blew up in their faces. How she accomplished that goal was up to her, she was assured. But as 'Pete' now had enough info to 'out' the entire program, he absolutely had to be caught. Finding him before he had the chance to cause more damage than could be contained was governmental priority #1.

But as Sam didn't need the actual Stargate in order to save the program this time, her suspension held, but her forced medical leave due to her car accident afforded her the free time to track down 'Pete' herself To that end, she tirelessly sifted through mountains of information on all possible sitings. She ordered her two team members to check out the most probable of the sitings that she discovered, and to report back to her.

When she was certain that the siting was authentic, thanks to information provided by Detective Albers and, occasionally, Lieutenant Bakerstone, she would inform Albers, who would then go in with his police team, and attempt to apprehend 'Mr. Shanahan.'

But 'Mr Shanahan' proved a more elusive opponent than she ever gave him credit for. Though she had made certain to inform the correct parties for a quick arrest and end to this nightmare, 'Pete' slipped through their fingers at the last moment, leaving only a short, taunting message for them on the back of his current business card: 'Missed me!'

Frustrated, Sam went back to monitoring all possible sitings, letting three go by this time. 'Pete' was aware that he'd slipped under her radar for now, and he carried out several successful compaigns to his benefit. Jack insisted that if his experience with this type of con man remained reliable, and if 'Pete' continually went unapprehended, he would likely grow careless, and overconfident, much like the Goa'uld SG-1 had fought for many years.

All of which led to a more cautious approach on Sam's part, and definite overconfidence on 'Pete's. Just as Jack had predicted, the con man grew more and more relaxed about who knew his whereabouts. He started to consistently use the name 'David Stanley,' enough to leave a paper trail that led through twists and turns, turns and twists, and ultimately to her hiding behind this Dumpster in an alley in New York City.

The city teemed with civilians, of course, something that Sam had noticed that 'Pete' liked to use to conceal his location. She figured that he had assumed no one could find him in such a mass of people, and it hadn't even been easy to trace him, let alone find him! It was finally Teal'c who had suggested that she stop looking for the man, and instead look for the name he was living under at the moment before her information began to reap any positive benefits.

She found 'Pete' rather quickly this time, and she and the police team followed the trail left behind by his David Stanley persona with caution, but with an underlying sense of closing in on the prey. Two undercover police officers were moved into positions as apartment renters in the building that housed a suite of rooms rented under 'Pete's pseudonym, and an arrest seemed immanent this time.

But again, 'Pete' slipped through their fingers, leaving another of his annoying messages behind for them to find. They were all successfully annoyed in seconds, not to mention frustrated beyond belief, all of which only led to an even firmer sense of stubbornness on Sam's part to find and help in catching him... or, she vowed, she would die trying.

She patiently went back to square one, and monitored the reports sent to her by her fellow police assistants. They both agreed that at this point, the hunt for 'Pete Shanahan/David Stanley' would be called off, and their losses cut. But Sam doggedly stuck to the course the JCS had chosen for her, and the one that, at this point, she would chose for herself. She'd had no contact from the Air Force of any kind telling her that she had mysteriously been fully reinstated to active duty, so she continued with her mission, searching for 'Pete' like a dog with a bone.

This time, she allowed ten mentions of anything related to a 'Pete Shanahan' or a 'David Stanley' to go unreprised. She noticed that 'David Stanley' had morphed into 'Craig Yates,' but it was easy enough to follow him when he latched onto the side of a woman named Carol Leavenworth, who was much easier to follow than even 'Craig Yates': as Carol was quite affluent, Sam knew that 'Craig Yates' wouldn't be far behind in his bid for her hand.

And just as she predicted, there in the paper of Carol's parental home in Syracuse, New York, the proud announcement of the engagement of Carol Leveanworth to a Mr. Craig Yates of San Jose, California was made right there in page five, section three, next to the birth announcements.

Theft-by-marriage was certainly 'Pete's MO, Sam knew, though the man hadn't attempted this marriage scheme of his for quite awhile. He had been involved in weapons trafficking in Brazil, and had sold drugs in Mexico, both highly lucrative businesses, if thoroughly shady. He had also informed for slave traders on the Nile, and been a gambler in Morocco. His gambling stint had transferred to Los Angeles, where Sam had picked up on his trail with relative ease now that he had returned to American soil. From there, he traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he had met Carol Leavenworth on a short vacation from her job with a New York publishing firm. From there it was simple work for Sam to trace him to New York, where he foolishly took an apartment in Craig Yates' name. She informed the police, and they moved into position. But she was not leaving things up to fate this time around. She was determined to be there to assist if assistance was necessary, and to make certain that 'Pete' didn't slip away for a third time. To help that end, she made sure that the other members of SG-1 were also on the case.

Sam was currently hiding behind a Dumpster two blocks down from 'Pete's apartment building, with Teal'c lying in wait four blocks in the other direction. Several undercover police officers were hiding one and two blocks from the apartment building, ready to close in on 'the suspect,' but she preferred to have her own team ready as back up in case it was needed. To that end, Daniel was on the roof of the building directly across from 'Pete's abode, though an officer was also available in the same building, though a few floors down. Daniel's signal now came through on one of the radios she had purchased at Walmart, using Jack's money. As Sam no longer had access to the Air Force communication equipment used on official missions, and Jack refused to let her go into any field of operation without a way to contact backup if she needed it, she had bought the least expensive, most reliable communication devices she could find. But things were going so smoothly on this operation, it didn't look as if she was going to need her team's intervention any time soon.

Things have gone smoothly before, she reminded herself in sour self-remonstration. So don't get cocky!

Just as she had that thought, Sam heard the radio in her jeans pocket click three times, and she dug out the device, knowing that Daniel was calling her from his rooftop vigil.

“Go ahead, Ballard,” she whispered into the device. They had all decided that it was safer to use their middle names in this game where they didn't wish to be detected at an awkward moment.

Daniel's voice came out in a subdued manner, but he hadn't perfected his whisper yet. “Ballard here. I suppose the others have sighted him, too,” Daniel said, referring to the police, but not openly talking about them. “But, just so you know what's going on, I can see him exiting the building with his new fiancé. They're standing in front of the building, talking. He's waving his hand around in the air... and they've started walking up the sidewalk in Bray's direction.” There was the chance, no matter how slim, that 'Pete' had heard the name 'Murray' while he was still living with Sam, and could attribute it to Teal'c. So the big alien had chosen to go by a name similar to his Jaffa Master's name. “Do you copy?” 'Ballard' now wanted to ascertain.

“I hear you, Ballard,” Sam responded in a whisper again. “I'm coming out of hiding to follow - I'm sure the others are, too, but go ahead and keep your eye on them both, see if they split up. Where do you think they're heading?” Sam now stood up, shaking her legs to work the kinks out as quickly as possible.

“Ohhhhh...” Sam could tell just by his tone that Daniel was looking around at the other buildings in the area. “My guess would be that they're heading towards a deli several blocks to the East.”

“Copy that,” she whispered. “Bray, can you see them from your position?” She began walking through the alley towards the street as she spoke.

Teal'c's rumbling whispers issued out of the radio. “I can, ColonelCarter.”

Sam gently protested to him as she walked, “No 'Colonel,' Bray, remember that. This isn't an Air Force operation - strictly speaking.” Sam gained the head of the alley and glanced around, but she couldn't discern the police officers in the crowd. Which was good. Perhaps they had a better chance than the last two times of catching 'Pete' unawares if he couldn't detect that they were coming. Then she wove into a particularly large group of people heading her way. She naturally fell into the back of the chatting, laughing group of people most likely on break for lunch. Slowly, they crept closer to 'Pete's apartment building. “Call me Renee,” she continued talking to Teal'c.

“Yes, SamanthaReneeCarter,” Teal'c instantly replied.

Sam just as quickly whispered, “What if he happens to overhear you say my name? He won't recognize Renee like he will Samantha Carter. Call me Renee - I know you can.”

There was a pause in which Teal'c grumbled, and Sam smiled at his grumbling. But at last, he agreed. “Yes... Renee.”

Sam tried not to laugh. “Good! I knew you could do it.”

“I will not tell O'Neill, as he told me that... I see them now!” Teal'c interrupted himself as he stood beside the third story window of an antique store across the street from the deli. “They are indeed moving into the restaurant, just as DanielJackson... Ballard... predicted.”

The Jaffa were obviously too literal to see the benefit of using assumed names. Sam made a mental note of this, deciding to say something to Jack about how it could possibly be used by SG teams as a way to confound Jaffa on other worlds. But for now, Sam just sighed, deciding not to argue with Teal'c, and followed the crowd of people into a crosswalk. “They went inside?”

“Yes... Renee. Walk several blocks in my direction until you come to a green awning. You will find the deli in question to be there.”

“Gotcha, Bray.” Sam moved forward at a faster clip, aiming for the green awning that she could just see in the distance. “Have you sighted... any others... in the area?”

“I have,” came the quiet assurance. “There are currently three trailing the criminal and two more waiting beyond him.”

“Copy that,” she said, indicating that she understood what she had to do. She needed to walk passed the deli, passed 'the others,' then wait for an arrest attempt that she would help with if she had to. But she understood that she should be available, yet remain hidden - this was a case for the police to handle, not her, at least, not if she wanted his arrest to be 'official.' And she did. An apprehension by a suspended Air Force Officer assigned to a classified base wasn't likely to hold up in legal proceedings. If at all possible, she must stay out of any arrest. She figured that she had the harder job between her and the police.

She was still a block away from the deli when Daniel's voice carried over her radio. “What do you plan to do?”

Sam hurried passed the deli, then stood in the shadows in a convenient alley. “I'm not going in, but I'll stand here until they come out, then watch to make sure an arrest happens this time.”

“What if they procure a vehicle?” Teal'c asked as he noted the many cabs patrolling the street.

Sam noted the cabs as well, then called into her radio, “Ballard, Bray, come down. I have an idea...”

They met Sam on the street five minutes later. She handed them each a roll of money from a stash that Jack had lent to her weeks before. It had been supposedly for her to buy clothes for herself, but now she handed each man several fifties. “Give one of these to every cab driver who stops on this block, and ask them to drive at least three blocks away. Then when 'Pete' and his girl can't get a cab because there aren't any here...”

Daniel grinned. “Nothing like setting them up,” he noted, sarcasm coloring his voice.

They made sure the others on duty knew what they were up to, then split up. She canvassed one side of the street, Teal'c the other, and Daniel handled the cabs a block farther up the street. Altogether, they spent $200 before Teal'c calmly signaled on his radio. “We have been warned to get out of sight - they are coming out now.”

Quickly Sam stuffed the rest of the bills into her jeans pocket, concealed herself, then ordered, “Bray, give me one click on the radio when they come outside, then one click if you see them heading back towards the apartment building, two clicks if they head farther down the sidewalk.”

“Understood,” the Jaffa's voice quietly echoed through the communication device. A second later, Sam distinctly heard one click, a pause, then two clicks in quick succession. 'Pete' and his new girl had tried to hail a taxi when they emerged from the deli, then finding none, had started walking in an Easterly direction again. Sam quietly and calmly watched two of 'the others' fall in behind them, then begin to trail them up the sidewalk. Daniel, she knew, would be doggedly following the officers on this side of the street, while Teal'c would be doing the same on the other. It was comforting to know that she had backup in case she needed it, just as Jack had predicted. Hopefully, though, she wouldn't need help of any kind.

It was almost too easy to watch the officers and the newly engaged couple. They slowly closed in on 'Pete' and Carol just as they reached the crosswalk to the street where Sam was hidden. At this point, Sam saw 'Pete' seem to look around as he and Carol continued to walk and talk, but Sam wasn't fooled - he already knew of the presence of the officers as if he had a personal radar attuned to any officers of the law. “He knows that he's being followed,” she warned into her radio. “Ballard, close in. Bray, stay ready.”

Sam continued to watch, letting 'Pete' and Carol traverse the block as they drew ever closer to her concealed position. 'Pete' was hurrying Carol now, growing more and more nervous as the undercover officers now more obviously closed in on them.

'Pete' moved Carol into a nearby store, still chatting amiably, though Sam could now hear the edge that was in his voice. Sam instantly moved into the crowd, and turned right at the next intersection. “They're trying to evade!”

“I see them,” came Daniel's tense voice. “I'm on it, and so are... the others.”

Sam wasn't taking any chances this time, though. “Daniel, follow them into the store! Bray, stay there and make sure they don't try to slip back out,” she ordered. “I'm going round the corner.”

“You are doing the same thing Detective Albers and his men are doing,” Teal'c informed. “Be aware of their presence.”

Meaning that Albers would stop a few stores down from where the 'Pete and Carol' store had its back door, and Sam needed to be several stores farther than that if she wanted to be ready to assist in any escape attempts in case Albers missed his prey. To that end, Sam ducked into an alcove belonging to a restaurant and pub located near the next corner.

Then she waited, trying hard to peer through the press of people set free on the lunch hour without being seen by either the officers on the case or its quarry when 'Pete' and Carol suddenly emerged from an alley and began moving in Sam's direction.

Sam saw Albers and another officer get ready to jump the fast approaching 'Pete,' but at the last second, the con man made sure several pedestrians were between him and the officers. The clueless individuals didn't move out of the way fast enough for the Detective and his officer to apprehend anybody. They instantly began chasing 'Pete' and Carol down the sidewalk at a fast clip, but the game of 'catch and arrest the perpetrator' had turned into 'chase the perpetrator' with seemingly no effort on 'Pete's part. It was clear that he had previous experience with evading capture, and was using similar tactics now.

Sizing up the situation in half a second, Sam decided to take a risk that he would see her and quickly moved to the edge of the store alcove so that she could come up from behind him and Carol Leavenworth. She roughly forced them apart, linking her arms through Carol's left and 'Pete's right. “Hi there!” she brightly chirped, smiling in the most annoyingly cheerful way she knew how. “I hope you don't mind if I just drop by.”

A bewildered look crossed Carol's face. “Craig, do you know this person?” It was clear just from her casual tone of voice that she had no idea that 'Pete' had been hurrying her away from capture by law enforcement officers. Sam realized that those officers were even now watching what she was doing with avid curiosity. But they weren't interrupting her and their quarry.

“I should hope that he knows me!” Sam exclaimed now, and beamed, liking the fact that she had a rapt audience of two, as well as several officers who were available to jump to her aid if she were to suddenly need it. The attention of the dual audience gave a boost to her lagging self-confidence. “But I admit that he might have forgotten what his wife looks like after all this time.”

“His what?!” Carol blurted incredulously.

“EX-wife!” 'Pete' snarled in Sam's direction.

Sam patted him awkwardly on the arm with her hand linked through his. “Mistake,” she chorused, pleased that what she was about to say was true. “Didn't I tell you? You and I aren't quite divorced yet.” She looked at him in remonstration. “You should never leave unattended divorce papers behind when you decide to cut and run with the ex-wife's entire life savings, 'Pete!'”

Carol's bewilderment grew. “Craig? What's she talking about?”

Sam quickly turned in Carol's direction while clenching her arm muscles that surrounded 'Pete's arm. She didn't want him escaping now just because her hold on him wasn't tight enough! “Carol, is it?” she asked. The woman nodded, too confused to talk, so Sam went on, the smile falling from her face. “Get one thing straight - his name isn't 'Craig.' I knew him as 'Pete,' and he's recently paraded around under the name 'David' when he sold drugs in Mexico. He's planning to do to you what he did to me - steal every bit of your life, then leave you high and dry with no house, no car, no savings, no nothing - definitely with no husband - while he walks away, sitting pretty, until he can take advantage of the next naive girl to come along and marry him.” She frowned as she continued to look at Carol, but yanked 'Pete' nearly off his feet. “Isn't that right, lover-boy!

Carol would have stopped walking to stare at her fiancé if Sam hadn't continued to propel her farther down the sidewalk. She, however, could do nothing to halt Carol's mouth. “Is that true, Craig? Was I nothing but a paycheck to you?”

“Of course not, darling!” 'Pete' protested, trying hard to work his arm free from the lock Sam had on him. “She's obviously nuts!”

“I'm not nuts,” Sam insisted in a mild voice. She pulled 'Pete' tighter to her side as they crossed another street, the police officers and her team still following close behind. Once they regained the sidewalk, she turned to 'Pete' and snarled, “I'm mad as hell, and I want my money back!” Her eyes glittered with malice. “And if you don't stop struggling, I will break your arm,” she promised, not caring at this point that several people were overhearing everything she said. She was once again too angry to care. “Understand?”

Carol stopped instead, jerking both Sam and 'Pete' in her haste. “You'll what?” she gasped at 'Pete,' clearly still caught on the 'steel your life's savings' part that Sam had just said.

Sam's fingers tightened around 'Pete's arm, but it was Carol she spoke to. “Run, honey, run as fast as you can. As it is, he's lucky I don't do the easy thing right now and slit his throat.” She looked at him and smiled as if beholding something precious while mentioning throat-slitting. She said to 'Pete,' “Another mistake you made was tagging someone in the military - I know five ways to kill you that will take fifteen seconds or less. And there's a lot to be said for death while attempting to flee - so DON'T PUSH ME!” 'Pete's struggling instantly stopped.

Still befuddled, Carol took two steps away from them, then halted, still studying both Sam and 'Pete' like she didn't know who they were.

Sam decided things for her. “Run!” she yelled in what she called 'her command voice.' It took all of one second for Carol to do as she was told. She turned and ran like mad.

Sam yanked 'Pete' close to her again, then spun him around, tripped him, and as he fell gracelessly to the concrete sidewalk, was finally joined by her police tagalongs, who instantly pulled out plastic ties from his front pocket. The officer shoved his knee right into the middle of 'Pete's back, ribbing his kidneys as he bound him. Ignoring the curious looks of those people passing by on the sidewalk, Sam then toggled her radio and said into it, “Enemy neutralized - come on out, guys.”

'Pete' sent a sarcastic bark into the cement under his face. “Enemy! I'm no enemy!” he sardonically said.

“Shut-up!” Sam growled, pulling him none-too-gently around to face her. “You're going to the deepest, darkest prison I can find - I personally guarantee it.”

But 'Pete' hardly looked cowed at her aggressive tones. “I'll be out of your damned jail inside of two months. I guarantee that!”

“We'll see,” Sam snidely grunted as Daniel and Teal'c strode up beside her. She let the officer haul 'Pete' roughly to his feet while muttering about attorney and prisoner rights. “Good work, guys,” she praised her team. “Well Detective,” she said, turning to Albers. “I'd say that we found the fish.”

The fact that Albers then laughed, cracking jokes about fish, made her feel almost back to normal. As a group, they led 'Pete Shanahan' away.

Sam smiled as they went: stage one of Operation 'Get my life back at all costs' was successfully complete.

* * *

'Pete' was right - he was out of jail before he'd served more than the month while waiting for his trial.

“No evidence of wrongdoing,” the judge decided in the municipal court that was trying the con man's case.

When Sam wanted to argue that stealing all her money, then all her stuff was plenty of 'evidence of wrongdoing,' she had a hard time letting her lawyer do her arguing for her. The judge shook her head, then proclaimed, “There was no 'stealing of stuff:' there was a husband using the money he and his wife kept in a joint checking account, which is perfectly legal. As to 'stealing stuff,' there is no evidence that he stole anything, as the aforementioned 'stuff' has not been produced.”

Sam seethed with a red face, wanting to cry, “That's because I don't know where it is!” But she restrained herself while from across the room, 'Pete' gave her a confident sneer.

“No evidence means 'no evidence,'” the judge decreed. “Case dismissed.” Her gavel landed in a heavy bounce on her wooden desk.

“See?” 'Pete' gloated while Sam grumbled a string of epithets in Ancient as her lawyer tried to convince her to walk away from this, glad that her husband hadn't taken anything else from her, like her life. “Out in less then two months - can I call it, or what?”

The gloating man was led away to retrieve his personal items prior to his release. The minute he disappeared from sight, Sam allowed a small smile to play on her lips as she leaned into Lieutenant Bakerstone's side. “Nice job, 'lawyer,'” she said with only a small amount of scathing in her voice. “I think I can handle things just fine from here on out.”

Bakerstone, whom 'Pete' had never seen before, and hadn't recognized, grimaced in Sam's direction, and whispered, “I'd like to know who you people are, but I know I'd end up regretting it. So I'll just cut and run.”

Jack slapped Bakerstone on his shoulder. “Smart man,” he said in a low voice. It looked exactly like he was thanking the man for doing his best.

Bakerstone nodded, then left the courtroom without a backward glance, carrying only the legal-looking briefcase he had brought in.

Sam stood alone for a moment in the emptying court room, surveying the scene of her demise at the hands of 'Pete Shanahan.' Both the lawyer for the prosecution and defendant had vanished. The defendant himself had disappeared prior to his release. Daniel and Teal'c were both currently off world, and their presence, though not needed, was sorely missed at this moment when Sam could have used the added support. This was frustrating for her to go through without their solid presence with her in the courtroom. She'd rarely felt so alone.

No, I'm not alone, she reminded herself the moment the thought coalesced in her mind. Her gaze settled on Jack as he talked quietly to Cassie. Silently, she contemplated all that he had done for her throughout this mess.

At first, Jack had been outraged on her behalf at the way she found herself at the mercy of her husband.

Husband, Sam sardonically reflected. A husband was supposed to be someone who laughed at your dumb jokes, who calmed you when things got a bit too haywire, who kissed away the frown of severe concentration that bloomed on your face as you stared at your computer, who always made certain that you ate even when things got hectic, who loved you the most just when you grew so bitchy that it was a wonder he didn't just toss you out the window.

Even during the best days, when her marriage to 'Pete' was still new and interesting (had it ever really been 'exciting?'), 'Pete' had never been as good to her as Jack had been from day one. Sam considered that the day she had haltingly confessed her heart to Jack on his dock in Minnesota to be the real beginning of something truly beautiful. Since then, he had been unfaltering in his support of her, in his belief that she was in the right, in the way he had treated her like the National Treasure he was always claiming she was. Jack had been ten times more of a husband to her than 'Pete' had ever been, though she and Jack had never married, and weren't talking about changing that status in the future. But that didn't say why she had been so reluctant to admit this wonderful man into her life before now. Perhaps she truly had been nuts?

Sam couldn't answer any of that. She could only claim that she had been afraid for years, and let her fear rule her in every way. More than the things she had lost: her stuff, her money, and her car; not to mention the job that she had all but lost... All that was shoved into the 'iffy' category for now. But she intrinsically knew that if 'Pete' had truly wanted to hurt her, he would have gone after Jack instead of the things that made up her life. Fortunately there was no profit to be made in harming her directly, so Jack had been safe from the con man's crazy attitude. Now that he thought he deserved all those parts of Sam, she was eagerly waiting for her moment of revenge, but was glad beyond measure that she didn't have to seek revenge for the loss of Jack as well as the loss of the things that made up her life. Things could be replaced. Money was a renewable resource. She could buy another car, find another job. But Jack...

Jack was irreplaceable. Thank God... even false ones... that 'Pete' had never realized that.

Now she approached Jack and Cassie in the courtroom, ready to continue with phase two of her plan to get even with 'Pete Shanahan.' She felt like a modern Count of Monte Cristo.

“Ready to go?” Jack was asking, interrupting her thoughts as she drew near.

“Sam, I'm sorry about all this,” Cassie was saying, a mournful expression on her face. “If I'd known it was so bad for you with potato head... I mean, with Pete... with him... I would have come home.”

“And done what?” Sam had to ask as she gathered together the few items she had brought into the courtroom with her, then linked her hand with Jack's.

Cassie shrugged. “I don't know. I could have at least talked to you, I guess.”

Sam made a relatively rude gesture at herself. “I wouldn't have listened to anything you said, and we both know that. It's better that you saved your energy for when I really needed you.”

Cassie shrugged again. “If you hadn't listened to me, I would have just zatted you, then dragged you to Uncle Jack, so that he could...” She faltered, and finally settled on lamely saying, “He could do something really horrible to that idiot you're married to, and you wouldn't be conscious to stop him.”

Sam grinned. “He's helping me right now in the best way he possibly can,” she enigmatically responded as they slowly meandered out of the courtroom.

Cassie gave Sam a befuddled look. “You know, for a woman who just lost what was basically her entire life to a jerk of an ex-husband, you're awfully calm.”

Sam sighed, then gave a sick sort of grin. “Nothing gets passed you, that's for sure, Cass.”

“For one thing,” Jack said as he held the courthouse door open for the two women. “He's not Sam's ex-husband.”

Cassie stared with wide eyes. “He's not?” she asked in disbelief. When Sam shook her head in agreement with Jack's assessment of the situation, she barked, “Why?”

Sam snorted, then patted the girl on the arm. “Don't worry - I pulled a page from 'The Pete Shanahan Book For Messing Up People's Lives,'” she said. “I'm the official 'Pete' spokesman for the JCS, and they'll make sure 'Pete' gets everything he has coming to him, believe me.”

For a moment, Cassie stared at Sam, then Jack, assessing both of them, then shook her head, appalled. “I sure hope you know what you're doing.”

Jack simply smiled and shooed them both to his car waiting in the parking lot. “Don't worry, Cass. It'll all work out in the end.”

* * *

'Pete' was out of jail and back in the world of freedom in record time. Completely pleased with himself and showing it, he jauntily sauntered to the mailroom of his apartment building several days later. He was just going to mail a letter of thanks to Sam for clearing his name so quickly when an SG team under General O'Neill's command stealthily apprehended him, tied him up, and kidnapped him all in the space of forty seconds. By the time a minute went by, there was no sign that he had ever been there at all.

* * *

Sam frowned as several SFs pushed 'Pete' into an SGC holding cell and closed and locked the door with a clank. Sam hesitantly spoke to Jack. “I don't know about this whole thing, Jack. I'm not sure the SGC can keep him under arrest like this.”

Jack sighed. “He's a security risk, Sam,” he said, reminding her of what he had already told her. “As such, the JCS want to find out why he even knows about the Trust, and the Jaffa, and has access to Asgard Beaming Technology. As scary as it is, and as little as I believe that the military would actually do something like 'make somebody disappear,' we have to protect our own interests despite the possible cost. We have to find a way to make this guy talk.”

Sam cocked an eyebrow. “And just how do you plan to do that?”

Jack smiled a bit evilly. “I talked to Jumper - we're going to let this 'Pete' guy stew for a few weeks, not talk to anybody, then throw him in with one of our 'special' guests - get him around someone for the first time in weeks, get him to gloat... I hope.” He looked at Sam. “Crap, by then he'll be so glad to talk to anybody, about anything, he won't be able to keep his mouth shut.”

* * *

Two weeks and two days later:

'Pete's holding cell door was thrown open at a time that wasn't meal time. A man under thirty-five, and wearing some kind of opulent pajamas, was thrown in. The holding cell door instantly slammed shut.

The two jailed men sized each other up, one standing at one end of the room, the other standing on the opposite side.

'Pete' knew he smelled rank, had a two-week old scratchy beard, wished he had a comb for his thinning hair, and could brush his teeth, but regarded the new addition to the cell with a mix of wary confidence and intrigue in spite of his recent lack of grooming.

After spending weeks by himself, with only the walls to listen to his complaints, he was so ready to talk to anybody that he couldn't talk at all. Not quite believing that anyone else had been thrown into his personal cell, he didn't know what to say first. The new addition ignored him anyway.

“This is unacceptable!” the man roared in a hollow, low, reverberating voice. The sound bounced off the walls. “I will not stay here with this...” He sneered in 'Pete's direction, curling his lips. “... this vermin!” He clearly found 'Pete' disgusting, for his lips curled even more, and was galvanized into pounding on the cell door. “I will not put up with having to share accommodations! I demand to speak to your God!”

'Pete' watched this display, wondering, What is with this guy's voice?

Before he could ask about it, though, Jack appeared in the open cell, four SFs at his back, their guns at the ready. His abrupt appearance made the man fall back several steps. Jack gazed at him in ire. “Your Jaffa take up so much space that we've had to double up,” he at last grudgingly explained. “You know that. You want to talk, fine, we'll listen. Until then... SHUT UP!” And he slammed the door in the man's face.

“Insolence!” the man yelled through the closed door. “I will not stand for this! My Jaffa will free me within a day, you Tau'ri Kresh'taa! You will beg for mercy! You are just the slayer of children that you are known for! You are a weak, pathetic..!”

The door once again slammed the wall as Jack flung it open. He marched straight up to the man, stopping to stand between him and 'Pete,' glaring at the man, murder in his eyes. The man stuck out his chin in an unwise move of defiance. He made a rude gesture with his fingers in Jack's direction. “Weak!” the man again claimed. “Slayer of the weak yourself!”

Without warning, Jack brought up a gun and shot him in the leg. The man didn't fly back, but he did give a grunt of pain, and grimaced. In spite of the wound he'd just received, he slowly straightened to stand tall while he glared at Jack, and his eyes gave a brilliant flash. Though Jack was blocking a clear view of this new inmate, 'Pete' saw enough of the events to form his own opinions about what was happening.

And what was happening was that the new man seemed purely pissed, more angry than pained. His furious gaze flew to take in his adversary, and he opened his mouth to sneer something more to him, but Jack cut him off. “Your Jaffa shot me, and I got no medical attention. Now there's no medical attention when I shot you. Consider us even.” And he spun and slammed the door shut without another word.

* * *

Two hours later, Daniel sauntered into Sam's lab, only to find his team leader doing strange things with Sergeant Siler, who was doing exactly what Sam kept telling him to do, down to the minutest detail, and Generals Landry and O'Neill listening avidly to two disembodied voices echoing out of a sound recorder set into a large, strange looking piece of technology on her lab's workbench. The recorder had all sorts of blinking lights and dials and levels and switches and... He didn't know what was going on!

“Don't tell me,” he said as he drew close to the group working hard at listening to the voices. “Jack's gone and got himself made invisible again, and this is a clone sent to us by...”

Jack's hand suddenly clamped like a vise against Daniel's lips. “Say one more word, and you'll be wearing duct tape on your mouth for a week,” he hissed.

Wide-eyed, Daniel made a zipping motion across his lips. Jack assessed him with his gaze - Daniel's true thoughts always showed in his eyes. But his eyes blazed only with quiet intentions, so Jack slowly took his hand away from Daniel's mouth. He raised an index finger threateningly at the younger man, but the warning wasn't necessary - the two voices echoing from the machine set up on Sam's workbench were saying things too interesting to interrupt, anyway.

“Well I've captured and tortured all of SG-1, to the brink of death,” a man gloated in the reverberating sounds of the Goa'uld.

'Pete' responded to the taunt. “Not to one up you man, but I was the one who won over the majorly reluctant Major, then Colonel Carter, then married her, then...”

The Goa'uld's derisive laughter floated out of the recorder. “You call marrying that wench hard work? Were she to fall into my hands a second time, she would soon know the true meaning of 'marriage rights!'”

'Pete's amusement at that idea sounded a bit forced, but he laughed with the Goa'uld anyway. “How did you capture the legendary SG-1? I haven't heard about this yet.”

The Goa'uld's voice grew authoritative. “I am a God - I do many great things.”

'Pete's voice was derisive. “What's with this 'God' stuff? I thought you were an alien, not a God.”

A barking laugh exploded over the voiced words. “Am I not Lord P'tash, God of Pain and Underlings?” Another bark of laughter echoed over the receiver on Sam's desk. “I am a God - you... humans...” His sneer came over the recorder loud and clear. “... you are the aliens! I am certainly not like you, kitten of the Tau'ri - I will never bow to these rodents!”

'Pete's voice sounded like his pride had been seriously pricked. “I'll have you know that I'm no kitten! I've been here for weeks.” He didn't specify how many weeks he really had been there. “In all that time, I've bowed to no one!"

The sound of low, goading laughter filtered through the system. “My Jaffa will come for me, and when they do...”

The disdain in 'Pete's voice was unmistakable. “I don't need any Jaffa!” The way he spat out that word left little doubt that he viewed the Jaffa much like a poor substitute for servants. “When I get out of here, it'll be all by myself - I've always been solo, and I'll always be solo!”

There was a moment of silence, then the Goa'uld said, “I am unfamiliar with this 'solo.' Perhaps it is your species rendition of 'solofol,' which means...”

"It means 'alone',” came 'Pete's annoyed tones. “As in 'don't need no help from any dumb Jaffa.' I got in here totally on my own... and I'll get out of this the same way.” 'Pete' now sounded confident, as if he was privy to information no one else knew.

The Goa'uld laughed in amusement anyway. “You?! You could not...”

'Pete' sounded as if the man had wounded him, and arrogantly said, “I can, and I'll have you know that I did... and I will.”

A derisive laugh sounded once again. “You could not influence a single person... not even a simpleton such as O'Neill!”

'Simpleton?' Sam and Daniel's brows simultaneously rose at that word, but the scowl on Jack's face had them both listening some more rather than commenting.

'Pete' gurgled like he again knew something his new 'friend' didn't. His voice grew quiet and conspiratorial. “Maybe you find O'Neill an easy target, but you're overlooking the real easy target of that bunch of lunatics... Sam Carter.”

There was a brief silence, during which Carter gave a slight gesture, part grimace, part smile to Jack, who had taken that moment to brush supportively against her fingers.

'Pete' was going on. “I said some things about her sleep talking, to do some finger pointing and cause doubts, but what I really did is...” Maddeningly enough, he stopped in the middle of his confession. In a suspicious sounding voice, he asked, “How do I know that you're not some kind of plant to get me to tell you..?”

The sound of very amused laughter came out of the device's speakers. “That is an idea that is worthy of me, not these Tau'ri scum!”

'Pete' was affronted. “Hey, who you calling scum?”

The laughter continued. “The idea that your pathetic race could devise something as underhanded as..! How amusing!”

'Pete' obviously didn't find this amusing at all. “If you want underhanded, how's this for ya?” he asked, goaded. “I infiltrated this 'top secret' base, see?”

More disbelieving laughter filtered into the lab. “You expect me to believe that a Tau'ri infiltrated..?”

“What is this Towree stuff?” 'Pete' was incensed. “I'll have you know that I'm not like these bozos who can't see what's right under their noses.”

Lord P'tash sighed an aggravated sigh. “I will believe nothing without more details that I cannot refute. You are just like all the rest... you, who says...”

“You want details? Alright... sit down and shut up!”

Lord P'tash's voice grew hard and unrelenting. “Only words that are not empty bragging interest me now, Tau'ri scum! I have no patience for...”

That was when 'Pete' had clearly had enough. “I spent three visits to Sam Carter's lab making a dummy picture of an empty room for her security camera, then just slid it in place when I needed to make a recon of the base to...”

More derisive laughter. “My Jaffa have tried many times to make a recon of this base. It is a surprising stronghold.” The amount of arrogance in his voice was astounding. “How did one single..?” The pause didn't give voice to any particular object, but the silence ended up giving a good impression of just what Lord P'tash thought of this human's recon skills.

'Pete's voice, on the other hand, was assured even as it was arrogant. “I broke into her computer system... her triple password protected computer...” 'Pete' was sure to explain. “... and I found out about the Trust, and Asgard beams, and Jaffa... so that's what that Teal'c is.”

Lord P'tash growled. “He is Shol'va! We do not speak of him!”

“What's 'Sholevha?'” 'Pete's curiosity was palpable.

“I said we do not speak of him!” roared P'tash.

“Okay, okay, don't get your shirt wet,” 'Pete' instructed. “Sorry I asked.” He paused again, as if he were collecting his thoughts, then went on with his story. “I married Sam, then played the part of the concerned husband - that's so easy! So many people will buy anything! They're such idiots that...”

Sam's fingers curled into a fist at her side, and it looked like she was about to sweep the recording device off her lab table in a fit of intense pique, but Jack's hand laid calmly on her wrist stopped her.

'Pete' was still talking. “I changed into their clothes in the bathroom once when she was injured and in the Infirmary, and even though I had an escort, I snuck right passed him...”

Gotta remind Landry to beef up security, Jack thought to himself, but it was obvious that Jack wouldn't have to do any reminding, as Landry was already writing that reminder down on a notepad.

'Pete' went on as Landry's scribbles continued, “Then, when I looked just like everybody else, I snuck into Sam's lab, slipped the dummy over Sam's camera lens', then went to work on her computer with no worries about being caught.” His arrogant snort exploded through the recorder. “I knew this would never work with that O'Neill guy in charge. He had guards guarding guards. He's the biggest paranoid idiot of them all - worse than me...” He cut himself off, then went on. “Like I said, I found so much information - it was like a buffet table... early birthday for old Davey boy.”

Sam gave a start. The way he'd said that about old Davey boy getting an early birthday... had he just used his real name? Or had he simply mentioned the pseudonym he'd recently used? Sam wasn't sure, and wasn't sure she cared at this point. All she really cared about was that he mention where he was hiding her stuff so she could get it back. She went back to avidly listening with the others.

The casual shrug 'Pete' must have made was loud in his voice. “Then it was an easy matter to just backwards engineer that Asgard beam thingy... and voila!"

“Asgard technology is inferior,” Lord P'tash declared. “It is...”

'Pete' cut him off. “It's useful when you need it, and I finally did - beamed me out of a tight spot - though I'll probably only get one use out of it.” Then came a squeaking sound, as if 'Pete' was currently sitting on one of the beds in the holding cell, and had shifted his position to lean jauntily against the wall. “The rest was easy,” he gloated, sounding pleased with himself. “Found out about the Trust - don't quite know what they are yet.” He gave a thoughtful pause. “I think they're something like a mean SG-1.” Another pensive pause followed that theory, then 'Pete' thought to warn, “Hey, you better look out or them, ya know what I mean?”

Lord P'tash refused to seem as if he didn't know all about the Trust already - any 'God' worth his salt would, after all. Yet he was clearly fishing for more information when he said, “The Tau'ri 'Trust,' as you put it, do not concern us. We will crush them like insects!”

'Pete's snort of laughter echoed over the speakers. “They darn well should concern you!” he advised. “When they start in on one of your worlds with that symbee-something poison that they have... But surely you know all about that already, you being a God and all.” The sense of challenge in his voice was unmistakable.

There followed a silence, as if the two in the cell were sizing each other up once again. At last, the hollow ringing of Lord P'tash's derisive laughter bubbled through the sound system. “You must take me for a fool, Tau'ri scum. Symbiote poison is known by all to be of Tok'ra design, not something belonging to this Tau'ri 'Trust!'”

'Pete's voice was arrogantly confident when he replied, “That shows how much you know, Mr. Alien Bad-Guy!” He gave a triumphant growl. “The Trust is killing you dopes off a million at time, give or take a few Jaffa here and there.” His voice grew singsong as his taunting went on, “And there's not a damn thing you can do about it!”

This, of course, did little but make Lord P'tash impressively angry. “Tau'ri Hasshak!” he spit. “You know nothing! You pathetic..!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” 'Pete' muttered, as if bored. “You can 'pathetic' me all you want - I'm just repeating what I read on Sam's computer. You can believe me, and maybe try to do something about this Trust stuff - or...” And his voice took on a malicious edge. “You can die a painful, very fast death. And no Jaffa is gonna be able to stop it.” There was another pause, and those in the lab could hear heavy breathing coming over the speakers, as if the two prisoners had just run the Boston marathon. At last, 'Pete' broke the silence. “Go ahead,” he jeered. “Don't bother to believe me. I'm just some dumb Towree, anyway.” His offensiveness ratcheted up a level. “I got Sam's personal stuff, and her money... and I'm gonna laugh all the way to your funeral.”

With those words, Landry must have decided that he'd heard enough - he flipped a switch on the speaker system, and the sound system turned off. But it was Jack who spoke.

“Same mistake every criminal makes.” He shook his head in amazement. “They can't help bragging.”

Landry calmly noted, “I've got enough on this guy to nail his ass to the wall. I predict that the JCS aren't going to like Mr. 'Pete Shanahan,' either, though he seems to be clean from being an undercover Trust agent.”

“That makes two of us who don't like him,” Sam mumbled as she finished jotting something down on the piece of paper before her.

Jack threw a confused glance at Sam. “They're a group, Carter. You know that.”

Sam's answering sigh of aggravation showed her tight grip on her patience. “Yes, I realize that!” she growled. “It was just a figure of speech!”

Jack's shrug was equally as irritating to her. “What's got you in a tangle? That jerk just committed treason by even consorting with the enemy, and confessed on tape that he tricked us all on purpose. You're pissed because..?”

Sam's glare could have melted asphalt. “Because - it shows how trusting we...” She was honest then, as much as it pained her. “...I... shouldn't be... Sir!”

“Trust goes both ways, Carter,” Jack reminded her in a quiet voice. “Use it.”

Reminded that she wasn't as helpless as 'Pete' would like her to think she was, Sam's eyes glittered and turned hard. She was now fully prepared to follow that order to the letter. “Yes, Sir!”

* * *

First thing's first: they 'extracted' Lord P'tash from his holding cell stage.

“Move it!” Jack barked as he stood at the holding cell door, gun in hand, backed up by his typical four SFs with their own guns pointed directly at P'tash's chest. “I don't have time for your grandstanding - let's go!”

“My Jaffa..!” Lord P'tash began, but had to swallow his words when Jack simply grabbed his arm and gave him a jerk towards the door. It was either stop talking, or lose his balance. P'tash growled invectives at Jack's rough treatment of a prisoner of war.

“Think this is rough, do you?” Jack rhetorically asked. “Maybe I'll just turn you over to the Shol'va - we'll see what he considers 'rough.'

“I am Lord P'tash!” the Goa'uld thundered. “You dare..?”

“Pops,” Jack conversationally retorted. “Challenge me, and you'll wish you hadn't.” He gave another merciless yank. “Let's go!”

Jack jerked him out of the cell, and slammed the door shut behind him, closing 'Pete' in by himself once again.

The second they were far enough down the hallway to be well out of 'Pete's earshot, Jack stopped, released his hold on his prisoner, and smoothed down the man's clothes he had rumpled. “That was perfect, Malek!” Then he grimaced. “As much as I don't like owing anything to anybody, we definitely owe the Tok'ra one for this - thanks.” Though his gratitude was grudging, it was also genuine. Then he grew rather shy. “And as for the 'shooting'... I used blanks... I didn't hurt ya, did I?”

Malek accepted Jack's thanks for what it was, and assured, “I am unharmed.” He fingered the hole in his clothes that Jack had created earlier for the theatrical blood they had used to seep through his clothing so that the Tau'ri prisoner would think that his 'shooting' was real. He straightened to say, “The Tok'ra are glad to have been of service, of course.”

Jack gave a thin smile, considering the circumstances. “Of course. But like I said, we owe ya one.”

Malek bowed his head in Jack's direction. “Then you will be hearing from us,” he formally said, and stiffly walked away towards the 'Gate Room without another word.

* * *

That night the holding area was calm and quiet as a sunny meadow on a hot day. 'Tranquil' was how the officers would have described it. 'Boring' was the word the guards would have used.

That is, until the security cameras all fuzzed out as one.

“What the..?” Sergeant Macey grumbled as one hand went immediately to the screens in front of him and his other hand landed easily on the butt of his sidearm. He was just glancing nervously up and down the corridor, looking for any threat that meant to take advantage of the downed security system when the phone on his desk rang.

“'Lo?” Macey distractedly answered the phone, his hand still on his gun, his eyes still on the empty corridors. After a moment of listening, however, he relaxed. “It's got a virus again?” he asked in his this-has-happened-way-too-many-times voice. “Yeah,” he breathed. “I'll come down and take a look at it - just give me a sec.” With that, he hung up, gave a disgusted look at the security screens before him, then said to his companion. “Grayson, we got a Code 10 - again. I'm going up to Central to take a look. Don't let any of those evil prisoners we got in here escape now, ya hear?” he sardonically ordered.

First Sergeant Grayson yawned. He normally didn't pull a task like guard duty, but had volunteered to fill in for a friend - and had told Macey every minute detail about it through half the night. He now gave a snort. “The one prisoner we have ain't goin' nowhere on my watch - stay as long as you need.” He graciously waved the other man away.

Macey disappeared, and quiet again reigned on the holding cell level - for two minutes.

Then the blue arc of a zat gun engulfed poor First Sergeant Grayson, and he slid to the floor.

Sam slipped forward from an access corridor so that she could make certain that Grayson was still alive. She grunted in satisfaction when she found his pulse, then glanced once at the security screens, gave a tiny smile, then deactivated the gun. Moving swiftly, she patted Grayson's pockets, and quickly lifted his security card. “Gotcha,” she whispered so softly that someone standing right next to her would have had trouble hearingher. She next crept on cat feet to the door of the first holding cell she came to, and shoved her stolen card through the card reader.

The door gave a soft click that alerted no one, and Sam swung the door aside to see 'Pete' lying on the bed, looking at her in amazement.

The minute he realized who he was staring at, he demanded, “What the hell are you doing here?”

With no greeting whatsoever, she whispered, “Do you want to get out of here, or what?”

'Pete' blinked at her in incredulity. “Are you kidding?” he rhetorically asked. With a jump, he stood beside the bed. “When do we leave?!” he asked, managing to keep his voice at whisper level now, but only just.

“First,” Sam whisper-yelled to him. “You tell me where my stuff and my money are, then I'll get you out of here,” she promised.

'Pete' just stared at her. “I don't believe you,” he flatly stated. “How do you plan to get passed Nutcase O'Neill?”

Sam took a moment to assess him. Finally satisfied that he was in earnest about wanting out of the holding cells, but was suspicious only of the whereabouts of his captor rather than her intentions, she replied, “General O'Neill isn't here right now.”

'Pete's brows rose to his hairline. “Not here?”

Sam threw a hasty glance over her shoulder down the corridor to see that it was still empty, then spun back to face him. “Either we go now, or not at all!” she hissed. “Tell me - where's my stuff!” she demanded.

It only took 'Pete' a second of quickly gauging her intentions before he stated, “Denver Self Storage - Valentia Street.” She drew a scrap of paper from her pocket and wrote this information down as he went on. “Look 'em up - they're on the Internet.”

Sam growled. “So help me - if you're lying...” she threatened. If looks could kill, he'd be dead.

'Pete' confidently replied, “I was never gonna keep your stuff for long - I ain't lying. The key's in my Denver PO box.”

Sam wrote this information down, too, then stuffed the scrap of paper into her pocket.

While she stuffed, 'Pete' gave an expression close to a wince. “As to your money - it's gone.”

Sam gave a double take, and almost forgot to keep her voice down. “What? Already?” She had amassed quite a large amount of money in savings over a lifetime on military pay, and it was gone? He had spent it so fast?

'Pete' shrugged. “Hey, I gotta live on something,” he lightly excused. “And it's been a long time since we were at O'Neill's cabin.” He shrugged again. “A lot has happened since then - and a dollar doesn't go as far as it used to.”

Sam growled low in her throat and did a quick turn in the doorway in order to contain some obviously unhappy emotions. When she again faced him, her displeasure was more than the obvious of her emotions. But she managed to curtail her desire to kill him now and be done with it. “That was my life savings, you jerk!” she hissed instead.

“Hey,” 'Pete' snapped. “I told you where to find your stuff, told you the money is gone - we gonna get out of here now?” Then he sneered. “Or are your promises no better than anyone's in this hole?”

Sam growled a third time, but the concession that she realized his point showed on her face. “I'm on SG-1 - we don't leave anybody behind - even assholes like you.”

'Pete's face lit up with a smile of satisfaction. “That's my Sam!” he softly called.

“Shut up!” Sam ordered. “I'm no one's Sam, least of all yours!” She tossed him a set of BDUs that she was carrying under her shirt. “Change into these... and get rid of your shoes! I'll get you some combat boots to wear instead.” She nervously gave a second glance back down the corridor she had come from while 'Pete' changed from prison garb to the military uniform. She left him for a moment to lift the boots from the unconscious First Sergeant Grayson. She hurried back to the cell and threw the boots at 'Pete,' who plucked them from the air. “Don't complain if they don't fit!” she hissed her order. “You can go where you're going with no shoes at all!”

Without comment, 'Pete' did as he was told, then looked down at himself, then at the prison clothes he'd just discarded. “Not much different,” he mumbled, and brushed at his new olive green clothes.

Sam ignored his comment. “Hurry up!” she hissed to the scrambling 'Pete.'

The prisoner soon joined her at the door, glancing up the corridor as she concentrated on looking the other direction. “My way's clear,” he whispered.

“Alright,” Sam whispered back. Deciding that the corridor was definitely empty enough for her purposes, she said, “Follow me.”

They started on tip toe back the way she had come.

* * *

When they reached the more crowded level 28, Sam gave a tug on the arm of the anonymous airman walking hesitantly beside her, pulling Airman 'Pete Bowker' into a darkened conference room. “I wrote a program to take out all the security cameras for the entire base at the same time, so there's no one watching us in the security office,” she whispered. “I also started the report of a fire on level 19 in my lab... when the call for help comes, the whole base will answer, including the Control Room crew... and I'll zat anyone left in there... and then I'll close the blast doors, and... Here.” And she quickly handed him a vest a pack, and a military cap. “Put these on, and for God's sake, keep your hat on! If anyone notices us, they won't be able to identify you.”

“We're going through the Stargate?” 'Pete' rushed to ask as he did what she said.

Sam gave a terse nod. “You are. I can't go with you - it'll cause too much suspicion.”

“What happens once I'm off world?” 'Pete' quickly asked. “And why do I want to go off world, anyway? It's not like I can be charged with the same crime twice here on Earth!” He smiled in a way that purely irritated Sam. “I should be home free!” His smile grew even more irritating. “I might as well stay right here!” And he crossed his arms, planted his feet in his too-big combat boots, and looked like he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Sam's eyes glittered, like she knew things. She imparted, “You futzed with my computer to find out about the Trust - that isn't taken lightly, especially here!” As 'Pete' stared at her in amazement that she knew about his futzing with her computer thing, she went on, “It doesn't matter how I know that! What does matter is that you're not safe on Earth anymore!”

'Pete's expression was full of suspicion. “Oh, really?” His voice dripped with his sarcasm.

Sam had no patience for sarcasm. She grabbed hold of his shirtfront and hauled him close. “Do you honestly think the Trust doesn't know about it?” she screeched in her whisper. “They're watching that account, you moron! And they constantly watch the SGC.” Not that she knew any of that for sure - but then, neither did 'Pete.' “They know who talks to who, who's with who, what they're doing...” As 'Pete's face blanched, she went on, “That's right - this very scary governmental group who thinks it's above the law knows all about you, all about how you gloated knowing about them, all about your conversation with that Goa'uld in Holding!” 'Pete' again looked incensed at how she knew this information, but Sam didn't enlighten him. “Changing your name isn't going to protect you this time! These guys are everywhere, they know everything!” She gave him one last shove backwards away from her, disgust written all over her face. “Though God knows why I care, I won't let even a rat like you end up with them. If you think the Goa'uld are bad? - Hah!”

She shoved him none-too-gently out of the conference room and up to the 'Gate Room blast door. Without another word, Sam flipped her card through that card reader too. As the door ground open, she glanced around, trying not to look nervous. “Wait for me here,” she muttered, then glanced at her watch, noting that the 'fire' should start right about... now!

As if on cue, there was a cry over the PA system about a dangerous chemical fire on level 19. That cry was followed by an uproar in the Control Room, then a call for more bodies to fight the fire... and five able bodies from the night shift rushed down the stairs and hurried right by Colonel Carter without so much as a nod, then they were out of sight. When she was sure the Control Room was minimally staffed, she whispered to 'Pete,' “I'll be down in a minute.” She strolled unconcernedly up the stairs to the Control Room, then used the zat gun held behind her back to render the three remaining people unconscious. She called up the dialing program, and had the Stargate grinding away in record time. She hurried back down the stairs and hustled 'Pete' through the blast door that slid shut behind them.

The next thing 'Pete' knew, he was in the 'Gate Room, confronted for the first time with a huge, dialing Stargate. With a whoosh! the 'Gate sprang to life, and 'Pete' gave the typical jump backwards. Sam tried to ignore his reaction and not roll her eyes.

“So...” said a now nervous 'Pete.' “Where am I going?”

Refusing to soothe him from his case of nerves, Sam just answered, “Remember my friend I told you about who died?” 'Pete nodded. “We don't go to that planet anymore.” She suddenly grew diffident. “It's sort of silly,” she began. “But we have this respect for the dead thing going on.” She hastily cleared her throat as if to cover up the fact that her thoughts were now on the former SGC doctor, but managed to go on a moment later, “So we don't go there,” she repeated. “You should be safe from detection, at least from all of us here at the SGC - no one will think to look for you there.”

'Pete' eyed the Stargate before him. “How do I...? What do I do?” he finally asked, obviously trying not to sound scared.

Sam gave a ghost of a smile. “It's easy, just like walking. I'll go up the ramp with you.”

Sam pulled a stumbling 'Pete' up the ramp beside her, their footsteps clanging on the hard metal. When they reached the event horizon, she made a motion that said 'Ah! I forgot!' and delved into another of her trouser pockets to pull out a carefully folded and stapled set of papers. “I want to show this to you.” She disarmingly grinned. “It's one of my copies, of course, but still good. Look on this as a goodbye present.”

'Pete' reflexively took the papers, which turned out to explain the details of a year old life insurance policy made out to Samantha Carter-Shanahan on the life of her husband 'Pete' for the amount of one million dollars.

Her smile stayed benign, though now there was an edge of maliciousness in her voice. “Remember how you insisted that we take out life insurance policies on each other when we were first married - because our jobs are so dangerous?” Her derisive voice gave the impression that she, at least, didn't think of his job as particularly dangerous at all, especially compared to hers, but refrained from commenting. Her question did jog what appeared to be a very hazy memory for him, according to the look of confusion on his face. He nodded in spite of his puzzlement. Sam continued, “I found my copy of the policy on you here in my file cabinet - it had been delivered to me last year right before a mission - and then I forgot about it until just now. The premium was due for this year only last week. Jack helped me to pay it so that the policy wouldn't automatically close.” As I'm sure you hoped it would, she mentally added.

'Pete' frowned. “But it shouldn't matter if it's closed or not,” he argued. “For you to collect on this, I'd have to be dead.”

Sam slipped an SG-1 patch onto his sleeve for identification purposes at the same time as she brightened. “That's right - you would!” And she gave 'Pete' a mighty shove on his pack, so that the man had no choice but to pitch forward through the Stargate. He disappeared with a slurp.

Sam's grin remained fixed on her face. “An O'Neill special!” she announced, referring to the way she'd just pushed her husband through the 'Gate in the same way that Jack had shoved her through on her first encounter with the alien device, which deactivated a second later.

Sam's lips curled farther on one side of her face in a half grin of pure satisfaction. 'Pete Shanahan, the bane of her existence for the last year, was gone - dead, for all legal intent. No one would ever find him where she'd sent him. They wouldn't even think to look for him on that particular planet. So his disappearance from the Trust - from the SGC - from the United States - from Earth... It was absolutely complete. Freedom never felt so good!

She turned to head back down the ramp as the blast doors opened, the men she had 'zatted' returned to their computer terminals, those who had run out of the Control Room to contain the 'fire' returned to their posts, and Generals O'Neill and Landry sedately walked into the 'Gate Room.

Jack held out his arms to her, palms up, and asked, “Well?”

Sam couldn't squash her grin. “Mission accomplished,” she reported in finality as she joined them.

“He's away?” Landry inquired. “Where the Trust won't find him?”

She calmly dusted her hands once down her trousers, stared him straight in the eye, and lied through her teeth. “Yes.” What she didn't tell him was that she had managed to divert the wormhole at the last second before the Stargate had activated, and that the Taldor who had caused SG-1's past imprisonment in the prison known as Hadante should have found 'Pete' with no problems. They would have instantly detected his SG-1 patch, and jumped to their own conclusions that 'Pete' was a member of that condemned team, the only group of people to ever escape from Hedante. He should have been delivered to the prison via Stargate by now, and be getting all cozy and friendly with his fellow life prisoners. 'Pete' may have been released from jail in record time, but she had promised to send him to prison, not to jail. And she had... in spades!

“You have his dental records so that we can fake his death so that the Trust won't ever know he's alive somewhere to find, right?” Jack asked.

Sam patted her pocket. “It's right here. Don't worry, they'll never find him.”

Landry cut in on the conversation again to remind, “And we have his confession on tape... a copy of which is on its way to the Pentagon right now.” At Sam's smile, he joined her with her gesture. “As soon as you pass your physical, consider yourself reinstated to full active duty, Colonel.” He shook her hand. “Job well done!” And he turned to head into the corridor, and, ultimately, his office.

Sam faltered for a moment, surprised at what Landry had told her. Fully reinstated? It had been that easy? No investigation into her potential sleep talking problem? No temporary reinstatement pending further inquiry into the matter of 'Pete Shanahan,' or even the Trust? Sam felt the joy at finally being completely 'Pete' free forever and ever tarnish just a bit. She didn't understand. Where was this sudden and unequivocal trust in her from the previously suspicious and paranoid JCS coming from? Hadn't they suspended her from 'Gate travel just so that they could..?

Sam abruptly stopped in mid thought. Oh, she said to herself. That's right - they had suspended her from 'Gate travel. But not from her job entirely. She'd been forced to remain on Earth during her suspension - but not because of the usual investigation that typically followed a suspension of this nature. She had instead been allowed to recuperate from her car accident at Jack's house in DC... where, among other things, she'd always maintained at least a minimal connection to the military through Jack... and through Teal'c... and through Daniel... through her team... both former and present.

And she had been given full use of the SGC to 'imprison' the man known as Pete Shanahan to convince him to talk, to record that confession, to then do away with the 'problem' in the manner she wanted to... and all without some form of reprisal, reprimand, or at least questioning? That wasn't like the thorough Air Force that she knew. Just what was going on?

Then another thought hit Sam: had this been planned? Was she still being played, though not by 'Pete,' but by the JCS? Had they purposely kept her around because they knew that her tenacity would inevitably allow her to find and capture 'Con Man Shanahan?' That she would help in wringing a confession from 'Pete?' That, according to her past record, she would be certain to find a way of getting 'Pete' beyond the hands of the Trust while still keeping him alive, of 'doing the right thing?'

And who had set this JCS ball in motion, had told her of this suspension of hers to begin with? Unbidden, her eyes strayed from following Landry's departing form to Jack's waiting patiently for her at the bottom of the Stargate ramp.

Sam blinked. Jack continued to stare at her in innocence. Sam blinked again. Was that innocence of his too innocent? Had Jack known about all this the whole time?

She stared at his face... that face that had become so dear to her, so loved by her in the recent weeks. She, who had spent the last year in agony, who had trusted no one, who had loved no one, who had sworn to herself to remain apart from any man for eternity after her dealings with 'Pete' had run to the one man she'd always wanted... always loved... always needed...

Abruptly, Sam stopped her thoughts in mid wonder. Like it or not, she needed Jack O'Neill in her life. Being near him was as essential to her as breathing. It was as simple as that. To cut his presence out of her life just because she was suspicious about his recent motives... While no one would blame her for doing just that, she knew that removing him from her life would be like cutting off her right arm. Suddenly, a Jack free future loomed long and arduous in her imagination. She would be unhappy for the rest of her days. Leaving Jack now, no matter her suspicions, would be a spiteful thing to do, and would do nothing but hurt her, hurt him, leave her a very unhappy woman with a career, but no future. Did she really want to volunteer for that?

No, not really.

And when push came to shove, did it really matter if Jack had known? If the JCS had played her like an instrument? If any of this had been planned from the beginning? She had been reinstated to full duty at the SGC. She was now financially solvent again. She had Jack. Jack had her. And 'Pete' was gone... gone... gone...

At that final thought, Sam's smile grew until it was downright gargantuan. “Job well done - I couldn't agree more, Sir,” she said to Landry before he completely disappeared through the blast door and into the corridor. She turned her smile on Jack when he strode up next to her and grinned. He didn't say anything, she didn't say anything, but he did wave his arm once to indicate that as the conquering hero of the hour, she should lead the way from the 'Gate room.

She simply bobbed her head once. But before going, she firmly took Jack's hand in hers and wove her fingers through his. They each gave a squeeze, and a grin. Then together, they headed out of the once again normally active 'Gate Room, dodging personnel as they went. She was headed back to her lab, now more than ready to 'kill' her husband and start what promised to be a truly great life.

The End


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