Disclaimer: They're not mine, and I didn't make any money off this fanfic. So don't sue. Please.

Author's note: This story contains adult themes... If such things bother you, avoid this story. Consider yourself warned.

Changes

by Linda Bindner

Janet Fraiser knocked on General Hammond's office door, a file folder in her hand. Hammond glanced up, then smiled.

Doctor! he said, showing what an unusual pleasure it was for him to see her unannounced in the middle of the day. Is there something I can do for you? he asked next.

Dr. Fraiser hesitated in the doorway. She clutched the file she was holding to her chest. Finally, she seemed to come to some sort of a decision, for she moved into the office, shutting the door behind her. It was only when she was certain they were alone and no one would accidentally overhear their conversation that she pensively regarded her superior officer.

Hammond was quite clearly confused by her mysterious actions. Doctor? he questioned, his brow wrinkling in concern.

I'm sorry, Sir, but I need your advice on an... Janet hesitated again before going on, ... on an issue of a rather delicate nature.

What have you got? Hammond prodded her.

Fraiser looked at the file in her arms, staring for a second at the name printed at the top of the folder. Then she said, I need to know how you think I should proceed before I... She paused, took a breath, then continued. Before I say the wrong thing to the wrong people.

So, Hammond thought, it wasn't a plague that she was referring to, or some kind of virus that was infecting the staff of the SGC. Such things had happened before, and she had never acted as if it pained her to tell him about the effects. So it had to be something else. What's going on? Hammond inquired, looking curious and concerned at the same time.

Fraiser squared her shoulders and began to tell her senior officer some news that she knew he wasn't going to like to hear.

* * *

Hey, Daniel! Jack O'Neill called as they both simultaneously reached the bottom of the stairs leading to the Briefing Room, and hence, the General's office, stopping the man before he could climb the rest of they way up. Do you know what this little impromptu meeting is all about?

Daniel turned. Jack! he greeted, then answered his team commander's question. No, I have no idea.

No idea, huh? O'Neill echoed. Teal'c started up the stairs just behind them, and with a sudden chill, like a breeze riffling uncomfortably through his hair, he noticed that none of them were seeing Carter following them. Which meant that she must already be in the General's office. Which could mean any number of things, few of the scenarios that popped into his mind good.

Have any of you guys seen Carter today? Jack asked as the three men crossed behind the Briefing Room's chairs.

No, I have not, Teal'c answered, sounding nonchalant in his reply. But then, Teal'c always sounded nonchalant, so Jack wasn't automatically soothed by his tone of voice. Perhaps there is something about her that will be revealed in this meeting that we have been called to attend, the Jaffa went on.

That hypothesis did little to set Jack at ease. It was only when they entered Hammond's office together, and saw the three empty chairs, but no Carter, did Jack begin to relax a bit. But the concern displayed by the General and Dr. Fraiser raised his own sense of worry again.

General... Fraiser.., Jack said, trying to set a lighter tone. What's up?

It was Hammond who invited them into his office. Come on in, gentlemen, and Dr. Jackson, please close the door behind you.

Daniel complied, shutting the door firmly in its seal before collapsing into the last free chair; his fellow team members had already slipped into two of the three available seats. The four chairs, pulled from the Briefing Room, plus the General's desk and chair, made the entire office a bit cramped.

Daniel looked around at the others gathered in the office in confusion. Whaaaat's... What's going on? he asked as he got settled.

General Hammond sat gravely facing them. I called you all here in order to tell you some unfortunate news that I think you need to be privy to, but I don't want any of this information to go beyond these four walls... He stopped talking to gaze at each man in turn. Am I understood?

The three men immediately nodded.

Yes, of course, Jack said for all three of them. You know that none of us will say a word to anyone.

Hammond laid his hands on the desktop. I knew I could trust you all, which is part of the reason I'm letting Dr. Fraiser tell you in her own way about the recent events.

Recent events? Jack asked with a raised eyebrow. He quickly searched his mind, but couldn't recall anything of a confidential nature that had happened lately. The doctor must want to tell them about something new that had happened. Again, Jack noticed that Carter was conspicuously absent from the meeting, and another shiver raced up his spine.

Dr. Fraiser spoke up then. Yes. I... She sighed heavily, and looked down. There isn't a nice way of saying this. She looked up, a tragic expression on her face. Last night, sometime between 1700 and 1800, Sam was attacked and raped by two male Air Force officers wearing the BDUs that are often worn at the Cheyenne Mountain complex.

At her words, Jack felt his world tunnel down to a single, focused point. His breathing was rapid as sweat broke out on his forehead. But he didn't say anything. He couldn't say anything. All he could do was think over and over Rape... OhGodohGodohGod...

But Daniel wasn't so speech impaired as Jack was. What? he exploded. Then all he could do was look revolted. You must be joking?! he incredulously announced.

Janet went on in a quiet voice, I wish I was.

Hammond spoke up again. We've telephoned Dr. McKenzie to ask him to tell us what the long term effects of this incident could be, and he told us several things, but he couldn't join us for this meeting, as he had a previously scheduled appointment with another client who...

Jack interrupted Hammond. His face white, his voice a strangled whisper, he asked, Is she alright? Is she hurt? Surely, he vaguely thought in revulsion of the deed that the doctor was describing, this wasn't happening to him, to Sam... God, he groaned... Sam... Another shiver swept over him.

Fraiser spoke up again, oblivious to Jack's inner thoughts. Besides the obvious injury, she's bruised and traumatized, but otherwise healthy. McKenzie did tell us that you three should know about the occurrence, in case something happens to her... nightmares, traumatic reactions to unknown males... anything on future missions that might trigger an automatic emotional fallout in her. The doctor continued, It would be fairly awful for her to have to explain to you by herself what happened, or for you to wonder what the heck was going on in case something occurred.

Which is why we chose to tell you three, Hammond went on. Major Carter's personal life is strictly her business, of course, and we don't wish this news to be spread around the base. But we all agreed that her team mates should know.

Janet said, The sympathies of the other personnel, while well meant, would be intolerable to her...

Teal'c interrupted this time. They would be nothing but unwelcome reminders of the event for MajorCarter.

Yes, Teal'c, Janet confirmed in her soft 'doctor' voice'; she was being as understanding as she could be. Very unwelcome. We don't need to put her through all that in addition to her other injuries.

Daniel leaned forward. What can we do? he asked. Are there things we need to avoid mentioning, or doing, or what?

But Jack was no longer listening to General Hammond rattle off his information. He was too numb to listen. Suddenly, he was reminded of how he'd felt in Iraq the second he realized he had been surrounded and captured by enemy soldiers. His heart seemed to fall into his toes, and prickles of apprehension crawled over his skin under his own BDUs. He felt sick, as if he might throw up at any second. At the same time, he kept hearing those words still repeating in his brain... OhgodOhgodOhgod. Rape was something that happened to somebody else, he thought, not so someone he knew, and knew well.

General Hammond's and Dr. Fraiser's voices droned on as Jack was caught up in his emotional response to their news. But he found that he still couldn't focus on what they were saying.

Then, Jack's head snapped up, and he broke in on what Janet was currently explaining. Did she say who they were? he snapped.

Janet stopped talking, then looked at General Hammond. Jack couldn't decipher her expression. Reluctantly, she said, When the ambulance came in last night, I had already left to go home, and by the time I arrived back in the Infirmary, I didn't hear everything Sam reported to the SFs who had responded to the initial call. Only that she said something about the Airman who was assigned to drive her home, since her car's still in the shop, and a friend of his... Louder, when O'Neill reacted to her news with a jerk of his body, as if he meant to rise from his chair, she said, Now, I don't know if she was pointing fingers or just explaining the chain of events... This could mean nothing... Colonel! she sharply said in desperation.

Jack held up a warding hand in her direction. I'm alright, he insisted. No worries... We should be more worried about Carter than about me. OhgodOhgodOhgod!

General Hammond heaved a sigh then. At least you know what's going on, and the reason why SG-1 will be on temporary downtime while Major Carter works through the implications of...

A baby.., Jack started to say.

Janet reassured him. It's standard procedure to give a victim of this type of crime a morning after pill. We may have to wait seventy-two hours or so to see if Sam actually has any need of a safety measure like a morning after pill, but we don't have to worry about any sudden and unwanted pregnancies.

That's something, Jack muttered under his breath. Louder, he inquired, Where is she? Can we see her? Is that allowed?

Janet knew exactly why Jack wanted to see Sam himself, to make sure she was alright, but Daniel and Teal'c were as concerned about their fellow team mate's whereabouts as Jack seemed to be. She's at her home right now, resting...

That's not where she was attacked, is it? Jack asked.

Janet answered him. I'm afraid it was, but we had no place else to send her to his morning. Jack..! she started to protest as Jack suddenly launched himself out of his seat and vaulted through the office door without even bothering to ask General Hammond for permission to be dismissed.

Let him go, Hammond suggested. He's probably the person she most needs to see right now, anyway, he went on, not even trying to pretend that he was unaware of the special regard the two officers had always felt for each other. He looked grimly at Jack's departing figure. He's her CO, after all, and a good friend, besides...

Should we wait for a little while until we go and see her, too? Daniel asked, gesturing between himself and Teal'c.

Hammond nodded. It would be a wise move. Now, Dr. McKenzie will be free in an hour or two if you find that you need someone to talk to about this, and...

What's going to happen next, General? Daniel asked then.

General Hammond shook his head in sorrow. I don't know, Dr. Jackson, I really don't know.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, Jack stood on the last step leading up to Carter's house, ringing the doorbell as well as banging on the front door with his fist. She had to hear his insistent knocking if he banged, he figured.

Five seconds after that, Jack heard the lock flipped aside, and the door was slowly pulled open a crack. Sam peered cautiously through the opening.

She jumped when she realized that her visitor was male, then visibly regained control of herself once she saw that her visitor was Jack. Colonel! she exclaimed.

God... There were bruises on her face, and a long scratch down one arm, as well as bruises around her wrists. But, despite her obvious injuries, Jack didn't try to soften his words in platitudes that he had never been good at uttering anyway. Carter... Sam... Fraiser and Hammond told us everything...

They didn't? Sam demanded to know, her voice laced in disbelief as a way of protest.

McKenzie thought it would be a good idea for them to tell us, so they brought us up to Hammond's office... You don't have to worry; we won't tell a soul...

They sounded like they were discussing the weather or what the Commissary was serving tomorrow... Both had been emotionless and robotic up until that point, then their conversation came to a screeching halt. Jack even imagined that he heard tires scream on asphalt as he stood there and just looked at her. Suddenly, feeling came back into his heart, and he felt the pain he'd managed to mask spring forth and bubble over. God, Sam, I'm so sorry, he said, then, sounding as contrite as he could possibly sound when his voice was just a hint above a whisper.

Sam quickly raised her fingers to press on the bridge of her nose. Don't, she desperately said. If I hear anything that sounds anything like sympathy coming from you, I'll start crying again, and I can't stand to cry again... I might not be able to stop crying if I do start. She hung onto the edge of the door like it was her worldwide lifeline, gripping it so hard that her knuckles turned white. Please...

Jack stared at her, helpless against the tide of his own sorrow. Sam, I... Talking was no good. He took a step closer. She took an automatic step back, flinched a bit, then did the visible shaking of herself again and reasserted control.

Just.., she said. Just... But, she couldn't finish what she wanted to say.

Jack was softly hesitant when he raised his arms up to her. Is it... Is it okay to touch you? he asked out loud. I don't want to startle you or anything.

At his comment, Sam gave him a strangely odd little smile considering the issue they were discussing. She took in a large, shivery breath, her voice barely a whisper itself when she said, You're probably the only person besides Janet who can touch me right now...

Jack took her words as an invitation, and, moving slowly, stepped across the threshold of her house until he was standing directly in front of her. He gently took the door from her hands and quietly closed it, shutting out the noise of her street until everything was just muffled sounds coming through her door to be soaked up by the silence of her house. His eyes still locked on her, he fought the urge to quickly draw her forward into his embrace. Instead, he moved very slowly towards her so that he wouldn't frighten her with any sudden movement on his part. Still, he didn't stop until she was cradled in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder and his shirt balled up into her fists between them on his chest.

Sam trembled as his arms wrapped around her, not trapping her, like those other holds she had been on the receiving end of, not hurting her, but protecting her, keeping her safe, just like he always did. She tried to still her muscles as she leaned against him, but she was too frightened, her heart was forcing too much adrenaline through her veins. Ohgodohgod.., was all she could say as her eyes widened to fight back the tears that instantly pooled behind her lids in a futile attempt not to cry one more time.

It's okay, Jack whispered. Let it all out..

But Sam violently shook her head. I can't, she whispered into his chest. If I start crying, I will cry forever, so it's much safer not to start at all.

You can't bottle this up inside you, Jack protested. You have to let it out. He spoke as if he knew about such pain, as if his experience with Charlie had helped him to understand the twists and turns of a tragic event.

I can't let myself feel anything, Jack, she responded, her voice sounding mechanical, as if she had thought about this very thing many times. To feel anything means that I feel too much... I get too scared.

You're irrational? Jack asked, not responding to the fact that she had used his first name for the first time. She needed comfort now more than empty reminders of military protocol.

I know I'm being stupid, but I can't help it, Sam went on as more emotion started to creep into her voice. And it's really hard to let anyone touch me... She shivered again, then sniffled. I know I shouldn't be like that, but...

Jack interrupted her, Don't waste time telling yourself what you should or shouldn't be able to do. It doesn't solve anything... His arms tightened a fraction of an inch around her back. Just hang on... Hang on...

An eternity passed as they stood in her hallway, locked together in a totally platonic embrace. But soon, the cold of the outside air began to seep under the door and through their boots to their feet and had started to creep up their legs. Jack rubbed his hand firmly up and down her back, soothing her as well as informing her that he planned to put an end to their shared gesture of affection. He slowly pulled back and away from her. The shivering had stopped after a few moments, but Sam still had his shirt front balled into her tight fists.

Without thinking about what he was doing, without admitting that he had dreamed so often about doing such a thing, Jack kissed her lightly on the top of her head, then, when he and she had separated far enough apart, kissed her again ever so lightly on her bruised lips. But the action was over before either of them could even think about reacting to his movement.

Calmly, Jack smiled at her and rubbed his hands up and down her arms. Alright? he asked. She looked like she had to think about her answer for a moment, but after awhile, she nodded. He slipped his hands around hers and fondly gave them a squeeze. Alright, he announced. I'm going to make us some tea... We both need something hot, I think, or we're going to turn into icicles right here...

In spite of the fear she was obviously still feeling, she smiled, and even laughed a tiny laugh at his comment. Then, she nodded, and purposefully peeled her fingers off his BDU overshirt. The sight of his clothes clearly affected her, but she swallowed her reaction to his outerwear. Tea sounds good right about now, was all she said, her voice still a whisper.

Okay, Jack said, and very slowly moved away from her, telling her what he planned to do before he did it so that she would know his every move before he made it. When he had extricated himself fully from her, he moved into her kitchen and grabbed two mugs from a cupboard above her counter. He filled them with water, stuck them in her microwave oven, then pulled two tea bags out of a box she had resting on the countertop.

Jack had just pulled two packets of sweetener towards him when he heard the doorbell ring again, followed by several knocks on the wood of her front door. She opened the door wide enough for her to see though the opening, and he heard familiar voices as he tore a packet of sugar. He could just see the concerned expression on Daniel's face as he and Teal'c stood at her front door, when his hand was suddenly arrested by an ear splitting scream that ripped through the natural silence of her house.

Jack's heart stopped beating for a moment at the unearthly sound that slashed through his being. He was just coherent enough to understand that the noise was coming from Sam when her fist struck out in a powerful slap as she struck Daniel across the face before she was lost in complete reaction to the sight before her. Her arms flailed at Daniel and Teal'c, striking more often than missing, even in the randomness of her attack, and her blows had the strength of a seasoned soldier behind them. Teal'c warded off her strikes as Daniel did what he could in covering his head, though that movement left his chest open, and she was taking advantage of his inability to fully defend himself. Teal'c never fought back, only did his best to block her wild blows.

Then Jack was behind her, wrapping her arm in a full body embrace, but making certain again to not hurt her as he contained her. Sam tilted her head back into him, but Jack moved his head to the side at the last second, allowing her instinctual head butt to smash into his shoulder instead of his nose, her intended target.

Carter! Jack harshly grunted. Stop! That's an order!

The second the military phrase left his mouth, Sam seemed to wilt in his arms, the fight seeping out of her as she fell forward against his grip to flop against his arms. Shit.., she whispered, then was consumed by crying sounds as more shivers raced up and down her body.

Alright, that's it, Jack decisively said as he took control of the situation without a second thought. Teal'c, there's a medkit under Carter's bathroom sink... Clean up Daniel as best you can, then take him into the Infirmary... I'm going to take Carter to my house, where there's not a constant reminder of... When you have time, pack a bag for her with enough clothes and shower things and the like... It will be a few days at least before... Go!

With his words, the men were galvanized into action. Daniel and Teal'c entered Sam's house with the ease of constant familiarity. Daniel was only bleeding from a superficial cut on his forehead from one of Sam's nails, but he pressed his fingers to the blood oozing out of the cut as he and Teal'c pushed by Jack and Sam and into the house. As to himself, Jack yanked a coat... any coat... off the hooks near her door and threw it around Carter's shoulders as he led her outside. The cool air bit through his BDUs, but he hadn't taken the time to grab his own coat before leaving the base to come to Carter's house an hour ago. So, before long, they were both shivering as they crawled into his truck, Carter scooting across the seats and laying her head to rest against the cold glass of the passenger window as Jack followed her into the cab, then started the truck's engines. He had to reach across her to grab her seat-belt for her, and he made sure to tell her what he was going to do before he did it. But Carter may as well have been a statue for all the response she gave to his words.

Then, the seat-belt was buckled securely around her waist, and Jack pulled his own belt on with a minimum of fuss. Then they were off, gliding down her street and turning right at the next corner as they started the ten minute drive to Jack's house.

He pulled into his own driveway, then climbed out of the truck. He was just about to walk around the front of his vehicle to open Carter's door for her when she scooted once again across the driver's seat and slid to the ground through Jack's still open door. So far, she hadn't said a word, only pulled the coat close around her shaking shoulders, and snuck up his front walk. He followed close behind, then flipped his keys to reveal his house key so that he could unlock the front door and let them in. Carter slid through his open front door, took off her coat, like it was an action so normal that she had been doing it all her life, then disappeared into his living room as Jack watched her go. Quietly, he sighed as he stared after her, then shut the door prior to moving into his kitchen to remake the tea he had been making at her house. They still hadn't shared a word between them on the entire drive over to his place.

But even without words, Jack knew one thing now... The way Carter had reacted, without conscious thought, to Daniel and Teal'c's presence on her doorstep told him one thing; Carter's original attackers had clearly been of similar coloring and height to her team mates. One man had been African-American, and the other had been White.

* * *

Two more days went by before Jack felt that Sam was settled enough to handle a visit from Daniel and Teal'c. She had slipped into the routine of living with him as if they had always lived together. His largest guest room was instantly freed to be at her disposal, and the presence of Janet Fraiser bedding down on his couch seemed to calm her enough to go to bed that first night. But, at 0200, Jack was woken by the sounds of thrashing coming from his guest room. Jack jumped out of his own bed, glad that he had thought to wear sweat pants to bed that night, as he really didn't want the doctor to peak so far into his personal life so that she could report that he usually wore shorts and an old t-shirt to bed. But, no matter what he had chosen to wear, he was about to call for Janet's help in calming what was clearly a nightmare when Sam once again let rip that same bloodcurdling scream that she had issued at her own house when her team mates had appeared on her doorstep. Jack didn't waste any time after that. He burst into her new room, Janet only a step behind, and placed a hand on Sam's shoulder in order to get her attention. Sam!

Sam promptly reached a hand up to strike at his arm, and it was only because his elbow was bent as he leaned over her that she didn't break his arm. Ignoring the pain that throbbed through his left arm, Jack grabbed hold of Sam's other flailing hand before she had the chance to do any more damage with it. He sat beside her and pulled her into a sitting position, drawing her into his soft embrace that was also meant to gently immobilize whatever move she tried to make.

Sam fought against him a moment more, never fully waking up, until she quieted and rested her head back against his shoulder. Her breathing calmed, then it was clear that she wasn't going to be plagued by the same nightmare again for the rest of the night.

Janet sighed in a breath of relief, and closed her eyes for a second to calm her own sense of terror. I've never heard a scream like that, and hope I never hear it again! she emphatically exclaimed, placing a hand over where her heart had to be pounding adrenaline through her body's system. Then, her gaze fixed on him as he held Sam. That was brilliant, Colonel! How on Earth did you get her to calm down without using a sedative of some kind?

Jack smiled a grim, tired smile. Black Ops training, he answered on a whisper. I learned a long time ago how to detain someone intent on carving me up into tiny little pieces even while I didn't want to hurt my attacker.

Well, whatever you did, I'll have to have you teach me so that I can use those same moves in the Infirmary with seizure patients. Sam was as strong as they are at trying to get free. She stared at the sleeping Sam leaning back into Jack. Are you certain that you'll be okay from here on out?

Yeah, sure I will, Jack replied. You go on back to bed. And thanks for your help, Doc.

Janet shrugged. I didn't do anything, but you're welcome, for what it's worth. Then she turned and left the two alone in the bedroom.

Even though things had quieted down again, Jack continued to hold onto Sam as her breathing slowed and her head lolled against his neck. Jack no longer had to pretend for Janet, so he closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath that tore through his tightened muscles. He'd been too shocked and surprised to respond in any kind of a romantic way when Sam had screamed before, but now he shuddered at the touch of her skin. He accepted the fact that his response to her touch was rather sick, considering the circumstances, but he couldn't help it when a surge of longing encompassed him in its sudden burst of warmth. Sam's smell filled his nose, her curves fit into the crooks of his arms, and his form wrapped around hers as if he was meant to become part of her. Sam's blonde hair tickled his chin, and gently moved with his breath when he heaved in air through his nose in an attempt to compose his racing heart. But all that did was bring the clean scent of her skin to him, reminding him in full force who he was holding in his arms.

But Sam was asleep, totally oblivious to the effects she was burying him with. She made a move to pull the covers tighter against her body, then snuggled up to him with her head under his chin in an endearing move that was as artless as it was natural. She unconsciously wrapped her arms around his waist, and sighed in sudden contentment.

Jack froze for a moment at their unexpected closeness, then relaxed as her head burrowed more firmly into his shoulder. Her other arm came up to cling to his neck, and again she sighed in utter contentment, mumbling something about her lab at the SGC and chickens with soft feathers.

The nightmare was at an end, and probably wouldn't come back until the next night. That didn't mean that other nightmares weren't just waiting for Sam to relax before they struck her subconscious and gripped her in their own dark terror. But for now, all was calm again in the night.

However, the second Jack tried to move out of her hold, another nightmare started, according to the way she furrowed her brows and began moving her arms hard enough to cause him bruises where her hand again collided with his body. When he stopped moving, so did she. When he tried to leave a second time, she grew agitated until he sat back down beside her on her bed. Again, Sam snuggled up closer to him, and gripped him even tighter than before.

Jack gave in to what he had suspected all along. For whatever reason, he calmed her enough so that she could truly sleep. It was only his duty, wasn't it, to stay with her in this time of trouble? Even as he entertained this thought, Jack felt like a heel as he curled up beside Sam on the bed. But if he truly wanted her to sleep, he had decided that he would have to stay with her, no matter how it looked to the world at large. If he were really lucky, the world at large would never know about the strange sleeping arrangements at his house, and no one would feel the necessity of teasing him unmercifully the moment he or she heard about it.

Jack was specifically thinking of Daniel's reaction, but he needn't have worried. When Daniel and Teal'c came by a few days later, they were too busy being wary of a supremely apologetic Sam to be concerned about hers and Jack's sleeping arrangements. She apologized for her behavior at her house the minute she answered the door, as Jack was busy making dinner for them in the kitchen. The minute he noticed who was in his living room, he chucked his dinner preparations and ordered three large pizzas, one just for Teal'c, then joined his friends in their conversation.

Hey Teal'c! Hey Daniel! Jack greeted upon seeing them. I ordered pizza, so no one's leaving until they're good and full, and no one's going to get clobbered, I promise.

Daniel sheepishly laughed, and moved a hand to stroke the cut on his forehead. Sam's already explained about her hitting me, Jack. You don't have to feel like you have to explain as well.

Good... I wasn't, Jack replied, to which Sam laughed. He had noticed that she was doing more laughing, especially at his sarcastic commentary, so he was sure to sprinkle every conversation with as much sarcasm as he could. When she started talking techno mumbo jumbo to him, he would know that she was going to be alright.

So, Teal'c started off saying to Sam. Do you have plans on remaining here, or will you return to your house?

Sam glanced at Jack before answering, Well, actually, that's a good question, Teal'c.

Nothing like getting right to the heart of a matter, said a sardonic Jack. That's what I like about you, T... You're so straight forward.

Well, piped in Daniel. It is a good question. I mean, we have no idea what to expect, do we?

Sam grimaced. I really don't have much desire to go back to that house I own. Jack and I talked about it for a long time today, and if you guys could help me a little by boxing everything up and selling the house, I would be really grateful... You'd get some good Christmas presents this way, she wheedled.

Daniel smiled. You don't have to promise us anything for cleaning out your house, Sam. We're glad to do it, aren't we, Teal'c?

Teal'c turned to regard him. Actually, I'm very interested in good Christmas presents, DanielJackson.

What would you particularly like this year, Teal'c? Sam asked.

Before Teal'c had the opportunity to ask for something really expensive, and bleed Sam's funds dry, Jack cut in. I'm sure that anything would be suitable, wouldn't it, T? He glared at Teal'c, but the Jaffa remained stubbornly obtuse.

A flatscreen TV, answered Teal'c. With a remote control, connected to a VCR/DVD player.

It's yours, Sam said with a grin. And thanks. I really appreciate this.

To his credit, Teal'c pretended not to notice how subdued Sam was acting, in spite of the way she tried to join in the conversation by offering him and Daniel good Christmas presents. He simply smiled his enigmatic smile and bowed his head.

Sam went on, Jack's been nice enough to offer to have me stay here, and I might, since he has already the room.

'Jack?' Daniel questioned, and Jack wished Daniel wasn't quite so astute. What happened to 'Sir,' or 'Colonel?'

Sam wrinkled her nose again. Those are such formal names, she responded. They're not really suitable for a living environment, if you know what I mean.

Teal'c commented, You seem much more relaxed here, MajorCarter.

I am, Teal'c, Sam answered readily enough. I can sleep here, for whatever reason. I don't seem to have the nightmares that Dr. McKenzie was worried that I would have.

Jack couldn't help but snort. Since when has McKenzie ever been a doctor? he asked. His definition of a 'doctor' was a person who had 'MD' behind his name, like Marcus Welby. The fact that Sam still had nightmares every night, and McKenzie didn't suspect that she had them at all played a part in his condemnation.

Sam shrugged. Well, he's at least trying to help.

Yeah, Jack, agreed Daniel. We might not like it, but we have to admit that at least he's a little more prepared than we suspected that he would be.

Jack knew that Daniel was talking about how he had anticipated Sam's nightmares in the first place. It was Jack's turn to grimace this time. But I still like that other doctor who we saw better... What was her name?

Doctor Adams, Sam answered.

Yeah, her, Jack continued. She makes housecalls, he said, as if he thought that making house calls helped in making one become a real doctor in his opinion.

True, Sam conceded. And she brought that dog along this last time.

Jack wrinkled his nose, but laughed. I'll never get the smell of dog out of my carpets! he complained. Sam laughed with him.

Daniel seemed thrilled that Sam could laugh at anything at this point. What dog was that?

Sam turned to Daniel. His name was Jack... That was soooo confusing! She laughed again. Every time we yelled at the dog, Jack thought we were yelling at him instead.

Daniel and Teal'c both grinned at the idea of Sam and a formal doctor yelling their team leader's name in a command to stop barking. But it was clear that Daniel was having a hard time hearing the word 'Jack' come out of Sam's mouth every other minute.

It was to Daniel's credit that he ignored her sense of comfort, however. Instead of commenting on it, he ascertained Sam's desire to sell her house. So, just to make sure, you want us to box up all your stuff, right, and sell your house?

Please, Sam responded. I can't say that I want to have anything to do with that place, really.

That makes sense, Daniel said. I wouldn't want to have anything to do with it, either, if I had been... He stopped, and Jack glared at him from behind Sam's back, but the damage was done. Sam started to immediately withdraw even further, illustrated by the way she hung her head on her chest.

A knock on the front door saved them all from severe embarrassment, then. Pizza's here, Jack announced. Sam, why don't you grab the drinks from the 'fridge while I pay for the food?

Sam left without a word, aiming for the kitchen, and Jack gathered the food from a delivery boy who didn't look old enough to drive yet. Jack beat Sam back to the living room, then, and heard only Daniel's lowered voice.

How is she, really? Daniel asked as Jack spread out three pizza boxes on his coffee table.

Has bad dreams, whether she knows it or not, Jack said. Looks lost half the time. Won't eat.

What kind of bad dreams does she have? Daniel inquired.

I don't have any dreams, Sam innocently said from the doorway, four cans of soda in her hands. She turned to Jack with a look of apology on her face. Sorry... No beer, she said. I think we need to run to the store.

But three sets of eyes were staring at her, in spite of her attempt at distracting them with her comment about the grocery store.

You need to ask Fraiser whether or not you dream, Jack suggested.

Janet? Sam asked in some confusion.

Yeah, she stayed here on the couch that first night you were here, Jack informed, trying to keep the conversation light with the casual tone of his voice.

Sam shrugged. Okay. I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon... I'll ask then.

By the following afternoon, though, Jack was wondering why he couldn't keep his big mouth shut when he heard the loudspeaker page for Colonel O'Neill to come to the infirmary ASAP. By the time he got there, the place was in total chaos, with instruments on the floor, two nurses crying, and Sam standing in a corner by herself, facing six tall, very male SFs all by herself.

You'll have to shoot me if you come any closer, Jack heard Sam say, and Janet responded to her comment.

No one's going to shoot anybody, the medical officer calmly said, her hands up and held out in a gesture that was rather audacious considering there were six men holding P-90s pointed at her friend's chest. Now, why don't you sit down on the closest bed while I finish my exam? she questioned.

Sam warily eyed the SFs and their rifles. Are they gonna be there to laugh at me?

Janet shook her head. No one's going to laugh at you.

That's what you think! Sam yelled, then. Those other men... They laughed the whole time... They thought it was one big joke! That I was a joke!

No one thinks that, Sam, Janet was telling her.

Then why are you saying that I'm having dreams when I'm not? Sam panted. Are you lying?

Um.., Jack broke into the conversation. Maybe I can talk to Sam for a minute? He stared at Sam while she glared back at him. Then, he added, Or Sam can talk to me?

It took Sam quite a few moments of nailbiting tension to come to a decision to relent and verbally ascertain, Talk... That's all?

That's all, Jack assured, dismayed that Sam had regressed so far that it took his intervention to calm her enough for her to get something as simple as an exam. How was she ever going to go on missions if she couldn't even stand to get an exam afterwards?

Are they going to watch? Sam asked then, indicating the SFs standing at attention and eyeing her warily. Obviously, they all had some experience with the blows she could deliver with her amazingly fast arm responses, for they eyed her as warily as she eyed them.

In answer to her question, Jack turned to regard the SFs. Get lost, he ordered.

For the first time since they'd entered the Infirmary together an hour before, Sam smiled at his commentary. I wish men would respond to my orders that way, she muttered as the men filed out of the room at O'Neill's request.

Doesn't everybody follow orders around here? Jack asked as he seated himself on the bed in the far corner of the Infirmary, the one that Janet had indicated. A few minutes later, Sam joined him.

Sam grimly smiled, though she seemed to be more amused at his naivete than anything else. There's always one soldier, male or female, who won't follow an order, Sam said.

Then knock their heads together, O'Neill suggested.

Sam grin turned more genuine. Who says that I don't? she asked.

Jack glanced at her in appreciation. Good for you.

Then the laughter died out of Sam. At least, I used to knock a few heads together. Who knows what will happen now that everyone knows...

No one knows anything Sam, unless you tell them, Jack interrupted.

Sam snorted. With all those SFs in here? she sarcastically pointed out, and Jack had to bob his head to show his concession to her logic. They'll all talk...

You don't know that, Jack said.

Sam stared at him. Oh, come on... Everyone's just waiting for perfect soldier Sam Carter to come tumbling off her pedestal.

Is that how you always felt? Jack inquired. That we put you up on a pedestal?

Sam shrugged. Well, sort of.

How can you be on a pedestal if at least once a month you come back from a mission covered in mud? Jack wondered.

His question made Sam smile. It's a dirty pedestal, she responded.

Oooohhh, Jack intoned. I see.

Sam appeared uncomfortable, then. She glanced down. That's why those two guys... She didn't finish what she was saying, but instead went on, There's always guys like that in every company, just waiting for me to relax, and then... She shivered.

Jack leaned foreword so that he could peer into her lowered face. Would it help if we found out who those two guys were? he asked then in a whisper. They have to have left some kind of trail that we can follow...

Footsteps through the grass, or under a window, you mean?

Jack grimaced. I think you've been around me too much; that's soooo like something that I would say.

Jack, Sam asked then. What's this that Janet says about me having nightmares?

So, she hadn't forgotten what this conversation had been meant to be about, like Jack had hoped she would. Well, he began in a hushed voice, It's rather embarrassing.

Sam snorted. I don't see how anything could be more embarrassing.

No, Jack explained. It's embarrassing for me.

For you?

Jack hedged a shrug. Everything's not about you, ya know.

That comment surprised Sam. I never said it was, she told him.

But that's what you were thinking, Jack accused. I could tell...

Sam grinned. Now I am a bit embarrassed, she said.

Jack grinned back.

But about these nightmares.., she persisted.

Tenacious, aren't you? Jack rhetorically noted.

Sam knocked him in the shoulder with her own shoulder. Start talking, she ordered.

Are you ordering me around? Jack asked.

Sam grinned again. Yes, she answered.

Okay. Jack lowered his voice and looked around. He was surprised to find that he and Sam were still ensconced in the base Infirmary. He'd always expected to have the conversation they were having in his house... someplace that he could be sure held no eavesdroppers. Still, he took a deep breath and went on, Though this may not be the right place for this particular dialogue...

Stop stalling, Sam commanded with a sigh. Just tell me.

Well.., Jack hedged again.

Sam hung her head down. This must be bad.., she proclaimed.

Nooooo, O'Neill told her. It's just that some people might get the wrong idea about this.

What is it?

Jack sighed, a bit sad that he hadn't been able to put her off. Every night, around 0200, you start dreaming, he whispered.

So? Sam noted. That's not so bad.

Then you start screaming, Jack went on.

This wasn't such welcome news to Sam. Oh.

Jack hesitated some more. That's when I come in...

To my room?

No, to the locker room, Jack sarcastically told her. Of course to your room, he hissed.

Sam seemed fascinated. Then what do I do?

You... Jack paused. Well, that first night I was stupid, tried to grab your arm to wake you up, and you slugged me.

I did?

You have a good arm muscle, did you know that? Jack asked then.

But? Sam asked.

Jack sighed again. She was so determined to know! Then you don't wake up. Jack said.

Why don't I? Sam inquired.

This was the part that Jack wished he could have avoided telling her. You... I... He heaved a sigh. I stay with you and you usually calm right down.

Sam stared at him. You stay with me... All night?

Jack swung his legs back and forth on the medical bed in nervousness. It's either I stay all night with you, or have you screaming until morning, and keeping us both awake.

Sam was quiet for a moment as she digested this information. And where do you sleep when you're with me? she asked.

Jack shrugged. In the bed... with you... all curled up against my side.

Sam was horrified. Jack! she whispered. If this gets out..!

No one knows! Jack insisted. And I don't sleep under the covers with you! After that first night, I take my own blanket with me!

Sam groaned in despair, Oh, God!

Janet won't say anything, and neither will I, if that's the way you want it to...

Of course that's the way I want it, Sam whispered fiercely at him. Do you realize what they can do to us if someone finds out?

Jack glared back at her. Of course I realize what they can do!

Suddenly, Sam paused again. What's it like? she asked out of the blue. What's it like to sleep with me?

All curled up in my arms so that you don't wake up? O'Neill asked. Then he grinned. Kinda nice, actually.

Sam sighed. Wish I could remember.

Want me to jerk you awake next time? Jack asked.

Well... Sam thought about the implications of knowing what he was doing compared to not waking up from her dream and maybe going ballistic on him. What if I start hitting you again?

Jack shook his head. I don't think that will happen, he negated.

Why not? Sam inquired.

Jack shrugged. You seem to be too comfortable.

Comfortable? Sam asked in a whisper. After a minute, she made sure, And I sleep through the rest of the night?

You've slept just fine every night since... since this began, O'Neill judiciously told her.

What about your room? Sam asked. Don't you feel a bit put out that you can't sleep in your own room?

Suddenly, Jack smiled, a slow grin that was covert and sexy at the same time. Would you? he whispered.

Sam didn't have to think as she told him, No.

Well... Jack nodded a little. There you have it.

Sam was quiet again while she thought on all that he had said to her. Maybe... She hesitated.

Maybe..? What? he prodded.

Maybe, she hesitantly went on. Maybe we can sleep in your room next time...

Jack looked taken aback, more surprised by her suggestion than horrified. Then we'd have to start out there, he said. You don't seem to want to let go of me once you have me in your room, he noted.

I can understand that, Sam said of wishing to keep O'Neill once she had him.

What? What do you understand? he asked.

Nothing, she insisted. Then she thought some more. You... Don't you find me..?

Jack put a hand on her knee to stop her. It was so unusual for him to touch her while inside the base that it caused Sam to suck in her breath at the warmth he created with just the touch of his hand on her jeans. Sam, you don't know... O'Neill swallowed. You don't know how hard this is...

Even... Even now?

Jack did gape at that question. Do you think that those guys somehow..? That they can stop me from..?

Sam shrugged. It's crossed my mind a time or two... Or three, she said. Three million times... Or so.

Jack rolled his eyes at that comment. You don't have to worry there, he said.

That made Sam grin. Oh. I wondered, she said.

Jack cleared his throat. You can experience what it's like to sleep with me for yourself tonight, if you want to, he invited in barely a whisper.

Is that an invitation? she asked, grinning, but refusing to look at him so no one would guess what they were discussing.

Jack pursed his lips. If you want it to be, he answered recklessly.

Sam grinned even more. Maybe.., she said.

You know, I'm a bit surprised to hear you talking like this, he admitted. Not that I don't want you to talk like this... Fantasized about it, actually. But you're usually so...

Stiff? she finished for him.

By-the-book is more like what I was going to say.

Of course I'm by-the book... Then, she changed tracks. Did you know that Dad used to hold inspections of mine and my brother's bedrooms once a month when I was growing up?

Jack laughed when he heard that. You're kidding?

No. Sam smiled. When Dad was home, he inspected our rooms once a month. It got to the point that Mark didn't want him to come home because he was so worried about those inspections of Dad's...

What did Mark not want him to find?

Sam snorted, then looked at him out of the corners of her eyes. You promise not to tell? Mark will kill me if he finds out that I said something to you.

Cross my heart, O'Neill said.

So Sam divulged, He had condoms in his bottom drawer underneath his t-shirts.

Is that all? Jack asked in a sense of disappointment. So does every boy in the United States. The way you were telling it, I thought he was hiding drugs or something.

That came later, Sam said,

Jack looked at her in shock. He was... doing drugs, I mean?

Sam nodded. Marijuana... That's all I know about for sure.

Suddenly, Jack panicked. Did you join him in that habit?

Sam shook her head.

The relief in Jack's voice was unmistakable. Whew! For a minute there I thought I was going to have a flying high Major to contend with on our next mission.

No more than we might have a flying high Colonel.

You might, if I was thirty years younger or so.

Sam regarded him in surprise. You didn't..!

Jack kind of ducked his head in apology. I was a bit reckless in my youth...

How reckless? Sam asked. Come on, give me the dirt! she commanded, though her whisper ruined the effect of her order.

Let's just say that the 60s were quite good to me, was all that Jack would divulge.

Sam smiled again. I can't believe that you once did...

Don't tell anybody! Jack hissed at her. I lied on my Air Force entrance exams about it.

God, and a lie, too?

One word about this and I'll have to rub alcohol in all your open wounds!

Nasty! Sam exclaimed, though still in a whisper. You drive a hard bargain! Sam muttered.

Jack chuckled then. As long as you're quiet... calm... You ready to finish up that exam now? he asked.

Sam grinned at him. I feel a lot more peaceful... Thanks.

Hey, anytime. If all I have to do is tell you that in high school I did...

Jack! Daniel called then as he entered the Infirmary to hand over some notes he had for the doctor, unknowingly interrupting his leader. Sam! What the heck are you guys doing in here on downtime?

Checkup, Sam told him. To see if I'm going crazy or not.

Jack laughed at her comment. Oh, you're definitely going crazy, he told her.

Daniel scowled as he approached them from across the medical bay. You're beginning to sound like each other... Too sarcastic... I don't know if I can stand this, he grumbled.

If I sound like Jack, does that mean that I get to bark? Sam asked.

Jack slugged her on the arm in a playful way. Hey!

Janet followed Daniel's approach. Guess that if you guys are joking around, it means that I can finish up my exam now.

Sam rolled her eyes. If you must.

Janet smiled. I must. As long as you promise to be good and stop making my nurses cry.

Hey, that wasn't me! Sam insisted. I merely suggested that they should go to medical school, that's all! How was I supposed to know that they've already completed their rotations and everything?

Janet rolled her eyes. Be a good patient and shut up, she told her. And that goes for you, too, she told O'Neill.

Jack balked at the doctor's words. Me? he asked innocently. What did I do?

Janet took Sam's pulse, then tested her reflexes. Just getting a head start, Fraiser said, picked up Sam's chart attached to her clipboard, and began making notations.

Sam just swung her legs in time with O'Neill's own leg movements, and grinned.

* * *

By the time a few weeks had passed, things were beginning to settle down into a kind of routine. Daniel and Teal'c had done as they promised, and boxed up Sam's belongings, and put her house on the real estate market. Most of her belongings ended up in Jack's basement, but Jack figured that the space was made for storing unused items, so he didn't complain.

As Jack and Sam got better used to living together, the routine was more obvious every day. Jack made coffee while Sam was in the shower each morning, and Sam read the paper while Jack took his shower and dressed. Then they both hopped into his truck, and Jack drove them to the SGC, where they both pretended that nothing had changed in their relationship while they were at work or on missions. They even called each other 'Carter' and 'Sir' in order to throw everybody off as to the true state of affairs. Then, after a dinner that Jack cooked or they ordered (Sam couldn't cook worth a darn, unless it was to make brownies in the oven, which she often did. Jack grumbled that she was trying to burn down his house even as he cut a second brownie from the pan she had chosen to use for her dessert.) They watched TV together, or a movie, or an episode of The Simpsons before curling up as one in Jack's bed in order to sleep. But, as anyone else who knew about them would say, they would spend their nights like a couple of tangled arms and legs and two heads practically joined at the hair. But they never actually slept together. It was an odd arrangement that few would understand if they knew about it, and even the few who did know all about what was going on confessed that it just left them confused.

Daniel was one such confused friend, he admitted it the night that he and Jack were driving to meet Sam and Teal'c at a local restaurant/bar for a team night out on the town. It was rare that Sam drove her own car into the SGC, but since Daniel had to finish up some translation work before he was free to go, and his own car was getting it's oil checked at the mechanic's shop, and Jack had offered to drive him, he had hung around until they found this infrequent moment alone together. Daniel chose that moment to bring up the state of affairs between Jack and Sam to Jack when he was going to be too busy driving to club Daniel over the head for bringing up the forbidden subject in the first place.

You do know what you're doing, don't you? Daniel asked as they passed out of the SGC parking lot and were on their way to meet their team mates.

Being too busy to drive didn't mean that Jack couldn't scowl heavily in Daniel's general direction. What's that supposed to mean? he asked.

Daniel sighed. I'd just hate to see Sam's career ruined by a court-martial at this late date, is all.

So would I, Jack told him in as nice a tone of voice as he could muster, which wasn't a very nice one.

Daniel realized that things were getting slightly dangerous, and even if Jack was busy driving, it didn't mean that he couldn't heave Daniel out of his truck at a convenient stoplight. Is it worth it? Daniel asked anyway, taking his life into his hands. Sleeping with her?

I'm not sleeping with her! Jack immediately argued.

Yes, you are, Daniel argued back.

Jack conceded a bit. Okay, technically, I'm sleeping with her, but I'm not really sleeping with her!

That's just semantics, and you know it, Daniel pointed out.

You'd rather I leave her alone to scream from her nightmares? Jack questioned. Because that's what'll happen... She'll end up hollering so loud that there's no way anyone can get any sleep at all.

Oh, that's got to be an exaggeration, Daniel accused.

O'Neill slapped the steering wheel as he turned a corner and entered the bar's gravel lot. Jack pulled up alongside Sam's empty car and shut off the engine. The sudden silence was deafening. Jack turned to Daniel. Okay, have it your way.

Okay... Good, I will. But Daniel should have known that it wouldn't be so easy to convince Jack of anything.

Let's make a deal, Jack insisted. We all stay at the SGC tomorrow night, in our own quarters, and we'll see how much sleep we actually get, he sarcastically said.

And if we don't get any sleep? Daniel cautiously inquired. AS you predict will happen?

You buy all our meals on the next team night, Jack said.

Okay, you've got yourself a deal, Daniel immediately said. Then he climbed out of the truck. How hard can that be?

Harder than Daniel had imagined, it turned out. Things were quiet at the SGC... until about 0130 in the morning. Then, just as Jack had predicted, Sam screamed loud enough to wake the dead. Daniel, who had been assigned quarters right next to Sam's, had no trouble hearing the commotion that she caused.

When he sleepily opened his door, it was to find a fully dressed Jack... who hadn't bothered to change the night before... doing his best to calm a frantic Sam in her quarters. Jack ordered Daniel to bring him an extra blanket to keep him warm when it was obvious that Sam wasn't going to let him leave, but the twelve people who politely asked Jack to simply take Sam home in between the time Daniel left and the time he arrived back at the room with an Air Force issue blanket in tow had convinced Jack otherwise. In the meantime, Jack glared at Daniel, and said, Thanks a whole hell of a lot for bringing this to the attention of as many people at work as possible. Then he and Sam were gone, after Jack had spent a good fifteen minutes waking Sam without touching her. The entire ordeal left Daniel with the feeling that he had been a total idiot, an idea that Jack didn't bother to dispel for him.

And then, when Daniel overheard Teal'c threaten to dismember anyone he heard gossiping about Sam's recent ordeal, Daniel knew that his horrible night was now complete.

Other changes were set for Jack and Sam to deal with, unfortunately. Things were finally calming down into the routine again when, all of a sudden, Janet Fraiser died, leaving Sam to her grief, and Cassie to finish her senior year of school living with Sam, and that meant living with Jack. They tried to settle on a college for Cassie to attend in the Fall while making life as normal as possible for Cassie, but her natural grief over another mother being taken from her kept getting in the way. Besides, Jack had no experience dealing with a surly teenager. It was only luck as it was that Jack still had one room free for Cassie to sleep in. It had held his computer in the past, but he gave the computer up to Sam, since she used it the most, anyway. But when Cassie discovered his and Sam's odd sleeping arrangement one Saturday, the embarrassment that they all felt was a tad too overwhelming to just brush aside.

When Jack explained the situation to Cassie, corroborated by Sam, she had asked for an Ipod in order to guarantee her silence while in the SGC.

Surliness Jack didn't know how to handle, but he totally understood bribery. And he had no problem with it on a moral plane, either. As long as Cassie was happy, and promised to keep her mouth shut as well as Daniel had since the night of his sudden 'initiation' into the lives of his team mates, they were all content.

Then Jack was suddenly promoted to command the SGC as its General, Hammond was moved to the position of Air Force aid to the President, Sam was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Sg-1 was changed as to its personnel, and Jack and Sam were again hurtled into an entirely new life. Duties underwent a complete overhaul, and both Sam and Jack had to get used to the fact that he had a desk job, now, and Sam was the Colonel instead of Jack, and the nightmares reasserted themselves for a time. She handled herself well enough while off world, and, as long as she could hear her friends breathing next to her, she was able to sleep. But it was still only with Jack beside her that she truly got the healing sleep that she needed to get.

Then, when things were finally settling down again into this new routine, Sam's father, Jacob, came for a visit, and ended up spending his first morning on Earth in many months trying to calm down at Jack's after meeting the new owners of Sam's old house. He overly sweetly demanded to know what had happened while he'd been away on the mission of his Tok'ra career.

Jack did his best to run interference and drag Jacob off into his bedroom in order to explain. But, the What? that Jacob finally exclaimed was still enough to make Sam flinch in her position on the living room sofa. It had been amazing, really, that Sam had always managed to meet her father at the SGC in the past, thus keeping her living arrangement from her father, who would surely not understand in the slightest. But the minute she heard her father yell at Jack, You slimy, rotten, good-for-nothing bastard! she threw open the door of Jack's bedroom to confront her father herself.

Don't you dare call his names! Sam said as she stared at her father while trying to contain a fury so intense that she trembled. You have no right..!

And what gives him the right to take advantage of an already bad situation concerning my own daughter? Jacob half asked, half yelled, which drew Cassie, who was back from college for a visit, onto the scene, and chaos ensued.

Jack knew that he could do little to contain the fallout of such an event, so he did his best to just enjoy his last moments on Earth before Jacob killed him, and listened to Cassie ask, What, do you want your own daughter to suffer from nightmares all by herself instead of living with Jack? The teenager eyed Jacob in her unfriendliest way. Jack's been working so hard to calm Sam down for a whole year, and then you come rolling into town with all your yelling, and orders, and upset everybody again! she hollered in disgust.

Suddenly, Jacob laughed. He turned to stare at Jack. This is what you have to live with? he asked in between his chuckles. You have my sympathy.

It usually isn't this exciting, Jack told him in a dry voice.

Thank goodness for that! Jacob announced.

But Cassie wasn't deterred so quickly. Hey! she yelled in Jacob's direction. We were all getting along just fine until you showed up! The wrinkle she added to her nose gave Jack the indication that she associated Jacob with something that smelled extremely bad.

This works for you all? Jacob questioned, waving his arm around, indicating the strange living arrangements with his gesture.

This works out quite well, Dad, Sam icily informed him, still so angry that she trembled from the emotion. Just as long as you don't try to stir up trouble at the SGC for us, it will continue to work out just as nicely. Her growl at the end of her statement held a hint of a threat in it, communicating quite plainly that she would kick him out on his ass if he ever said anything.

Jack just hovered in the background by the window, ready to intervene if there was more trouble, but just as willing to let Sam kick her own father in his ass if she had cause to.

Jacob turned to Cassie. And you don't mind this..? He waved his arm again. This living in sin?

Cassie rolled her eyes. Old people are so not worth the effort! she exclaimed. Then she regarded Jacob. There's no 'living in sin' going on here! It would be a bigger sin to leave Sam alone at night, if you ask me!

I wasn't, Jacob said.

To which Cassie instantly responded, Oh, yes, you were, and maybe both Sam and Jack will put up with your strange ideas, but I'm not willing to change a way of life that works, just because you think it's a 'sin!'

Jacob grinned again. Ya know, I think I like her.

Three cheers for you, Grandpa! Cassie sarcastically commented.

It was a comment that made Sam laugh, as she had never heard anyone refer to her father in such a derogatory fashion before. Usually, people were too frightened of Jacob's blustering to do anything but obey his slightest whim. It was good for Jacob to meet someone who would rather go head to head with him than bow to his wishes.

What are you, a System Lord? Cassie went on to ask.

No, I'm a Tok'ra, Jacob calmly reminded her. And unlike what you say, little girl, I do have some standards that I expect my daughter to live by.

Cassie grunted, I am not a little girl! And if Sam were living in your house, then I'm sure she would agree that you have a point. But this isn't your house. This isn't even your planet! So...

But Jacob wasn't content to not have the last word in any argument. It's not technically your planet, either, he said.

But Cassie wasn't phased by his comment. I suggest we let Sam and Jack do whatever they want, as they're both consenting adults, after all, and we should just leave them alone!

Deal! Jacob yelled.

Deal! Cassie yelled back.

And thus another disaster was avoided.

Until Jacob suddenly up and died, that is.

* * *

Jacob's death came as a shock to everybody, as the vitality that he'd shown was quickly proven to be an illusion that he had been displaying for awhile. But, the minute that he told Sam that his symbiote, Selmak, had slipped into a coma, everybody knew his time in the Universe was limited. It wasn't long after Selmak's fall into that coma that Jacob followed in the steps established by his symbiote, and he joined her in sleep. Then they both simply... ceased to be, going into death much more quietly than Jacob had ever done anything before.

Jack, Sam, and Cassie were just ushering the last of the people who had been present at Jack's house for a wake of sorts for Jacob to Jack's front door when Cassie announced that she had plans to spend the night talking till dawn with a friend in order to catch up on the local gossip. Five minutes later, she was gone. Sam said goodbye to her ward through the still open door, shut it, then turned and suddenly caught sight of Jack's reflection in a mirror out of the corner of her eye. She flinched.

Sorry, she instantly apologized, then visibly relaxed. That hasn't happened for a long time.

You know, Jack casually said as he sat down on one of the chairs scattered about the living room that she had entered. I wish you would let me see if I can track down those two guys who attacked you. There must be some clue that they left that I can follow, or...

Jack, Sam interrupted. I'm not sure if I want to know who they are. And we've discussed this before. I wouldn't do anything about it when you brought it up in that time in the Infirmary, just after the initial attack, and by now, the trail must have gone cold...

You don't seem to comprehend the clout I have from being a General, though, Sam, Jack persuasively said, cutting her off. I have a lot more options than I used to have. It's amazing, really, what being the commander of the Stargate program means, he added, then rose and changed the subject to one much safer. I'm going into the kitchen for a beer... Do you want anything?

Sam shook her head. No, I'm so full from all the food I ate today at the wake, and anyway, I doubt that beer would be of much help to me right now.

Jack paused on his way out of the room and turned to regard her. Are you sure that you're going to be alright? he asked.

I said I'd be fine, Sam assured.

But Jack just shook his head. You know what I mean... I'm not talking about that time from before, but now, what with Jacob...

Sam smiled forgivingly up at him, sad but accepting of the facts when he unconsciously mentioned her father's death. She placed a hand on Jack's arm to stop him from speaking. I know what you meant, Jack, and I meant what I said, too... I'll be fine, promise. Then she smiled and moved from the room in order to change out of her Air Force dress uniform.

Jack stood stock still in his living room after she had disappeared down the hall, staring after her. What was that? he wondered to himself, thinking of the touch she had so artfully given to him. Sam had never touched him before, except for the comfort given to her at night, in all the time they had been living together. In fact, she had been careful not to lay a finger on him.

Not so, now. Did this sudden change mean something? Did it, for instance, mean that she was more intent on displaying her feelings for him than she had been before? An annoying surge of hope flooded his heart.

But Jack decided to stop imagining things, to be more cautious, and vigorously shook his head to rid himself of the image of a touchy/feely Sam, and went to change out of his own uniform. When he returned, he found Sam in the living room again, staring at the wall with a strange, calculating look on her face.

Change your mind about wanting something from the kitchen? Jack inquired. I never did get that beer I was...

Jack, Sam interrupted. She looked at his reflection in the window. What are we doing?

That question confused Jack. I'm sorry... What?

Sam turned to face him. I asked what your thoughts were on what we're doing, she answered.

That's what I thought you said, Jack told her, but his voice trailed off when she crossed to him, and again, very deliberately, laid a hand on his arm. Jack stared at her fingers wrapped around his wrist, trying to remember to breath, but attempted to go on with their conversation like nothing was happening. I still don't quite know what you mean, he said. Whatever I say depends on...

Sam wrapped her other fingers around his free hand. I mean, she slowly stated, that here we are, living together, and have been for a long time, and we haven't done anything about it... our situation.

Jack was soooo conscious of the warmth of her fingers wrapped around his wrist. Yet, he was still trying to deny the obvious about her commentary when he said, Come on, Sam... When she glared at him, he capitulated and stopped pretending that he didn't know that she was referring to their feelings for each other, and their historic agreement to leave any mention of that shared regard in the Za'tarc testing room. He sighed. What can we really do about it, though? he softly noted. He was no longer attempting to carry on the conversation they had started. In fact, he was starting to lose focus on that particular dialogue. Yet, he made one last effort to pull himself together and speak like an intelligent being. The fact that your father just died shouldn't be used as an excuse to...

Jack, Sam announced as if she were telling him about something she needed at the grocery store. She looked up at him, then went on despite the way her forehead wrinkled in sudden apprehension. She swallowed. I think you know exactly what I mean. And I'm not using Dad's death to... She paused, clearly thinking. Well, I guess it has made me... question... some things, she admitted.

There, you see? It's all.., Jack started to announce, but again Sam interjected.

That's not what I'm saying. I mean more along the lines that Dad's dying made me rethink my priorities. She stopped again, then looked straight at him to boldly announce, My feelings are still the same, and I'm asking if yours are, too.

Jack swallowed the bile at the back of his throat, suddenly scared as Hell. Uh... He cleared the bile away, and tried to calm his erratic heartbeat by gazing out the windows of his front room. He heaved a sigh in order to get air to his lungs, then had to admit, I guess you can say... that... that my... my feelings... are... the same as they were years ago. Now, he was gazing straight at her. They're deeper, now, he admitted. But what did you mean when you said your priorities had changed? He didn't want to assume anything, despite a second annoying surge of hope to his heart.

Sam looked down to study the floor, then back up at him, determination flashing in her eyes. I mean that we've both been so... proper... in the past. And it really hasn't gotten us anywhere except that I was attacked, then a year later, my Dad died, and...

Sam, Jack halted her rambling speech by laying his own hand on her shoulder. At last he was tired of skirting the issue of his feelings for her, but he wasn't willing to change his way of thinking just in time for her to change back to their old, comfortable way of behavior again. I appreciate what you're saying, but... He shrugged. I'm not a one night stand kind of guy...

Sam choked. I hope you aren't... No, I never thought you were like that...

Are you being serious, here? Jack broke in to ask in a voice so quiet that he was almost silent.

I am, Sam responded. Are you?

You know I am, Jack replied.

Sam grinned, then, a full smile that lit up her eyes. Then I have to wonder what we're waiting for? she asked. Because we can only be sure of one thing if we wait; that we'll die someday.

We could lose our careers, Jack pointed out.

But that strangely didn't have much of an effect on Sam's outlook on life. You're right, yet.... What's the big deal in starting over again like we would be if we were caught? You're close to retirement, as you've said many times yourself, and I get at least one offer a week from some scientific company here on Earth.

So you're saying that you think it's worth the risk that we would be taking to..? Jack whispered to her, but his voice trailed off into nothingness.

Again came that grin that made Sam so famous around the SGC. I'm saying that it would be soooo worth any risk we have to take! she emphatically said, her newfound determination ringing loudly in her own voice. Then that voice faltered a bit as she said, The thought of you, or me, dying without... She swallowed again, clearly in mental anguish as that thought of his or her imagined death accosted her mind, as she had predicted it would. I need you to know everything, at least, in case...

I already know everything, Sam, Jack gently told her.

Sam gazed at him with a steady eye. But knowing everything doesn't mean that I can't show you... every day... for the rest of our lives.

Show me? Jack wondered to himself in a sense of glee at her announcement. Was it finally time to..?

But Sam's fingers slipped from his wrist to caress the skin along his cheek. She stared at him, her gaze full of wonder, and Jack stared back, his gaze full of the trepidation he was feeling at the moment. She seemed to be more full of that same sense of resolution that he had seen a moment ago. So soft, she whispered about his skin as she rubbed her finger back and forth over his exposed cheek. Just like I always thought it would be.

Jack took her hand to cradle in his own fingers as his heart thundered in his chest. Still, he protested, Sam, I don't want anyone to think that I simply took advantage of you today.

Is that what you're doing? Sam quietly asked. Are you taking advantage of me? The way she asked her question made him feel ridiculous for even bringing up such a scenario.

Well... No, he answered. His own hand came up until his index finger could lightly stroke across her cheek. I have wanted this... wanted you... since... forever, he said with a shrug, as if what he had said was common knowledge.

Sam's eyes flicked up to his. They slowly drew closer together as she said, It's always been about wanting or needing...

Sam, he whispered.

Jack, she whispered back.

Their lips met then in a kiss that was so light, it almost didn't exist. Jack ran his hand down the front of her neck to stir the tingles that had already started on their own in her throat. He drew back to look her in the eye. I don't care what happens to you, Samantha Carter. I will always love you the way I love you today.

And how is that? Sam whispered.

Jack suddenly grinned. So much that it's like nothing anyone in this galaxy has ever seen.

Sam declared much the same as her eyes again flicked to his lips. And I love you so much that it feels wonderful and hurts at the same time.

That's how much I love you, Jack decisively told her. It's like living Christmas day all the time...

That's a nice comparison.., Sam breathed. And I love you too much to ever let you go...

I wouldn't go anywhere right now for all the domesticated equines in the universe, Jack declared with a slight smile. Their next kiss was deeper, more passionate, than their first. Sam's arms slithered up to embrace him around his neck, and his slid securely around her waist. She was warm, soft, and... so Sam... that it was almost his undoing. He fell into her embrace, then, kissing her for all he was worth, as if he were afraid that she might disappear in another moment.

Jack's panting breath matched Sam's as he kissed her cheek, her ear, her hair, and whispered, I'm dreaming, right? At any minute, I'm going to wake up and see...

Sam shook her head. No dream, not unless I'm dreaming, too.

You're not dreaming, Jack stated, then picked her up in his arms, noticing her lightness, her ephemeral quality, as if she might slip away, still, though it was a detail that he could never dream. The weight she had naturally lost after the attack had made her even thinner than she had been before.

But Jack was hardly more than peripherally interested in her weight. He was far more enthralled by the feel of her in his arms, her curves, her pliancy, her... her. Still kissing her cheek, he very slowly walked through the gathering gloom into his bedroom and closed the door behind them.

Jack was so gentle with her that she was amazed that the hands she had seen club Goa'ulds unconscious with one blow now brought her to the brink of release over and over again. As lover's went, he was far more skillful than any other person she had ever been with, far more caring, far more conscious of her state of mind, of her soul, making it look like his move to put her in control of their lovemaking was so natural...

For her part, Sam gave as good as she got, sliding onto him so slowly that she would have sent him over his edge if not for his tight restraint and famous discipline. Their breathing matched when she kissed him again, her muscles getting used to his invasion even while he continued to expand inside of her, hardening at the rush of desire she caused when she started moving in agonizing pushes and pulls that were so slow and intense... She had moved only twice when he tilted his head back, called her name on a whisper of delight, and grabbed onto her waist as he tightened around her in one last push before his own shivering wave crested as he moved his head against her shoulder, and simply held on as tightly as he could.

His cry wrung one of her own out passed lips that were caught in her teeth as she tried to quietly ride through the swells of her own passion. He kissed her again, bringing her to the relieving shivers that years worth of pent up emotion had stirred in one beautiful burst of desire.

They lay entwined together, catching their elusive breath, their heavings the only sound in the quiet, darkening room.

At last, Jack kissed her on her head, and cuddled her closer as she lay atop him. You are so... so perfect, he whispered. I'm the luckiest man in this entire universe. He heaved in a contented breath of air, then smiled up at her. I love you, he whispered on an exhalation of air.

Sam rubbed a foot against his calf as she grinned at him, then rested her head on his chest. After a quiet moment went by where they collected their emotions, Sam kissed him languidly on his chest, and said, Jack, I'll tell you about that... that day if you'll tell me a little about when Ba'al captured you.

Jack went tensely still. He had to force himself to relax enough for him to whisper, It isn't pretty, that time I was with Ba'al, and you'll hate him when I'm done.

I already hate him for what he did to you.., she insisted.

Jack grunted. You don't hate anybody.

Wrong, she said, then lifted her head so she could look at him. I love you as much as I... don't love... those two men...

Tell me about it, Sam, he whispered. Please.

Sam grew silent while she lay back against his warm skin and thought to that night. I was so stupid.., she began. I was so innocent... It made me dumb... She closed her eyes, remembering. I don't know how many times you had told all of us to be more suspicious of everybody until proven otherwise... Sam heaved in a deep breath, then began to tell a story. I thought about asking one of you guys to drive me home that night, since my car needed a new radiator, and it was still in the shop, but I didn't want to bother you...

You are never a bother, Jack protested.

Sam seemed to agree with him, for she said, I wish now that I had been just a little bother... But I called an airman for a ride home instead. He was so nice, nicer than any male I had met, besides you three... Men are always so intimidated the minute they hear that I have a doctorate in theoretical astrophysics...

And I can't even say that, Jack grinned at her.

Sam grinned back, but continued. I invited him in for coffee, since it was getting colder outside by the second... He agreed, and we were having such a good conversation.., Sam said in a reluctant voice. Then, while I was in the kitchen, making coffee, oblivious, his friend snuck through the front door... which I hadn't thought to lock, of course... So stupid... The friend grabbed me from behind between my elbows and my wrists, making sure that I couldn't do anything with my hands... His friend, that oh-so-nice airman of a minute before, stuffed a rag in my mouth so I couldn't scream, then yanked down my jeans to my ankles... Sam heaved in a shuddering breath. Jack lay beneath her, his muscles tight as she recounted the events of that night. I couldn't move my legs for a good kick to his head... I couldn't do anything... It was pretty clear that they knew what they were doing, and had done it before... God, it hurt... She buried her face in his chest. Jack felt the trickle of tears move slowly down his torso. His arms caressed her back in reaction to her words. You know the rest.

Several quiet moments went by as Sam heaved in air, cried softly into his chest, and Jack lay under her with coiled muscles, growing tighter and tighter. It was amazing that she had trusted him enough to still want to...

At last, she sniffled, moved a fraction of an inch until her head rested on his shoulder, then sniffled again and rubbed at her nose with the edge of the sheet. Ba'al, was all she said, her voice low.

Jack stilled even more. He was clearly fighting the strong pull of painful memories. Finally, he said, Torture... Acid... Knives... Sarcophagus... Couldn't even die to escape... His arms had tightened in their hold on her until his embrace had become almost painful. But Jack went on, unaware of what he was doing. Buried the thought of you so deep in my mind that when Daniel came to visit me, saving me from insanity... You and he did that, you know..? Saved me over and over again... His gaze moved back to contemplate the bareness of the ceiling. Even Daniel didn't know about you... I was so close to telling Ba'al about the slave, though... You saved me just in the nick of time... Like you always do...

Sam groaned in a deep breath. More tears as she whispered, I was so scared... More scared than that night, even, that I would never see you again...

You almost didn't.

Then, when you got back, I couldn't do anything, couldn't throw myself at you the way I wanted to...

I understood, Jack told her. You did what you could...

It was never enough, Sam told him. I went home and cried that night... Cried and cried and cried... I loved you so much...

Jack's arms tightened again. It's like we're on some cosmic list of doom and gloom...

Not anymore, Sam said with resolve steeling her voice and making it solid. I won't give you up anymore... Won't say no anymore...

So that was what had instigated this entire evening's events. Jack had wondered. He grinned. Thank goodness that one of us was strong enough to say 'no more'

Sam hugged him hard. I love you, Jack. Don't ever forget that... No matter what happens...

Jack sighed, feeling better for telling her as much as he had about being Ba'al's prisoner. That slimy... He never found out about you. I kept you safe...

Like you always do. She snuggled up closer to his side, kissed him on the smooth skin of his chest, then slept. Jack stroked her hair in a smooth caress as he watched over her for a long time. Then he, too, slipped into a dreamless sleep as he held her in his arms.

* * *

Walter, Jack asked the next day as he stood in the SGC Control Room after SG-11 had departed through the wormhole. Is there a record kept of past times when airmen drive a person somewhere? He was proud of the casual tone of his voice.

Walter raised his eyebrows, anyway, at the unusualness of the request, but turned to his computer. I'm not sure... We've never had to check up on that... He scrolled through a bunch of data that Jack didn't understand. Yeah, here it is, Walter said once Jack was thoroughly dizzy.

If Jack didn't know Walter as well as he did, he'd swear that the sergeant always scrolled through useless pages of numbers on purpose. He wouldn't put it passed him.

Jack leaned in close to see the schedule that was finally stilled on the monitor screen. Where did you find that? he asked incredulously. I looked for that very thing for an hour this morning. Finally gave up.

I can email the link to you, Walter suggested then.

Yeah, Jack absentmindedly said as he scanned the listing, double checking that it was what he'd been looking for. Why don't you do that. Then he straightened up and smiled at his aide. You know that I'm not so good at the schedule program...

Walter rolled his eyes. I know exactly how bad you are at it, Sir...

Ha, ha. Jack narrowed his eyes. That's not so funny, ya know...

Yes, it is, Lieutenant Davis nervously piped up. I... um... He caught sight of Jack staring at him, his gaze entirely dubious. I... um... check... your schedules every month and fix all the mistakes there...

Jack was aghast at the young lieutenant's admission. You don't! he half asked, half barked. Did Carter tell you to do that?

Davis looked like he'd eaten a particularly bad tasting fish. I do, he said in a pinched way. Then he corrected himself. Um... She did... does.

Ugh! Jack grumbled, then aimed for the stairs leading up to the Briefing Room and his office without uttering another word. When he was certain that those in the Control Room couldn't see him, he smiled; he just loved playing with their minds like that!

Davis looked at Walter. I'll be glad when Colonel Carter returns after her leave... She's so good at calming the General down...

Walter smiled, then turned back to email the link to his General.

* * *

Thirty minutes later, Jack sat, staring at his computer screen for a second. Lieutenant Jinson, he said to himself. There was the name, printed in bold black on white, right next to the date of October twenty-third, and the name Colonel Samantha Carter. October twenty-third was the date of Sam's assault... The date forever burned into Jack's brain...

Jack stared for another moment, then wrote the name down on a pad of paper he kept by his computer... He would never remember the name unless he wrote it down...

Next, he cross referenced the name for the last year, and found fifteen other names next to Jinson's on the schedule. He wrote those names down, too. Then, he started looking up those second names in the personnel database, and found that four of them were female. One was listed as requesting a ride on September fourteenth, but three were listed as riders after October twenty-third. A little more digging through the personnel records that were available to Jack, but weren't available to the Air Force masses, showed that two of the three later female riders were still stationed in Colorado, one at Cheyenne Mountain, and one at the Air Force Academy. The third had transferred to Missouri a month after her ride with Jinson. Gee, wonder why? Jack sarcastically asked himself.

The two still in Colorado Springs were about to get a surprise visitor, Jack told himself.

* * *

Cold wind wrapped around his military uniform as Jack stood, trying to be patient, at the door of the hangar near the Air Force runway, and waited for the arrival of a Sergeant Conolly.

When she arrived at the hangar door, covered in grease and filth, but with an open, trusting expression, Jack immediately introduced himself.

General Jack O'Neill, head of a top secret program here at...

Conolly's expression shuttered the second she saw that he was male. Yeah, I know who you are, she said right away. I've heard about you.

Jack left his hand out in her direction until she had to take it or be accused of being insubordinately rude. She gave it a brief shake. Do you need a lift somewhere, or..?

She had gazed around the airfield connected to the Cheyenne Mountain complex until Jack shook his head. No, I... I need to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind? Man, getting these women to talk about an event that they would undoubtedly rather forget was going to be hard! he noted to himself. Even Sam had had trouble telling him what had happened on October twenty-third.

Sergeant Conolly nodded. Alright. You are the General, after all. But it was clear that she didn't quite trust him.

Jack sighed, making note of her wary expression. Sergeant, I want to make this as easy on you as I can...

Her sense of wariness deepened. Yes..?

Jack sighed. I'll be blunt, Sergeant. I'm looking for some information on two men...

The wariness vanished, and a feral gleam took its place. You gonna roast them for what they did?

And are still doing, Jack informed her. A very good friend of mine was assaulted about a year ago...

Let me cut off their balls, and I'll tell you anything you want to know.

Jack gave a start at what she had said, but spoke, You have... what I can promise.

After a moment, she nodded. Good enough for me. What is it you want to know?

Tell me what happened, Jack muttered. I can't guarantee any prosecution at this point... I don't know what I'm going to do, yet... But tell me your story.

Then, Jack listened to a tale similar enough to Sam's that it raised the hair on the back of his neck.

* * *

He met the same kind of resistance when talking to Major Green at the Academy. But the second he mentioned that he was looking for information on two men who had assaulted a good friend of his, she reacted in a similar fashion to Sergeant Conolly.

Do I get to rip their balls off? she had asked.

What was it with women and men's balls? Jack wondered. But he grimly smiled and said, You can either get in line, or choose another bod part...

Can I castrate them, then? she wanted to know.

Sure, Jack had gamely answered. But I can't make any promises here... I might just threaten them, and force them out of the military...

Not good enough, Green announced.

Jack was astonished that she was willing to make demands of a General. What was that? he inquired, still trying to be nice while looking for the information he sought.

Green's eyes narrowed down to slits. I want them prosecuted. I want 'sex offender' to sit right by their name for the rest of their lives. I want to castrate them for...

I get the picture, Jack said as he held out his hands in surrender, then.

What do you want to know? Green asked then.

Whatever you can tell me, Jack said with a determined expression on his face.

Green must have noted the emotion behind his expression, for she finally relented and began telling her tale.

* * *

Major Dew (unfortunate name, Jack thought to himself) in Missouri was less forthcoming once Jack strode off the transport plane and onto the airfield at the base in the southern half of the state. She said that she was sorry he had come all that way for nothing, but that she really just wanted to get on with her life away from anything to do with Colorado Springs, especially Generals who were stationed at the base in Cheyenne Mountain. It didn't take long for Jack to figure out that she had been given a runaround when she had originally reported her assault to her superior officers. When she wouldn't tell him anything, Jack was forced to board the same plane and fly back to Colorado empty handed.

* * *

Jack then began looking at the personnel linked with Lieutenant Jinson before October twenty-third, and found two more women in Colorado Springs, still stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. One on the NORAD team was as informative as her counterparts, Conelly and Green, had been. The second had been married at the time, and wanted to add domestic entanglements to the growing list of crimes written on that paper in Jack's office. It was currently locked in a drawer of his desk, but he knew that Sam knew how to pick locks, and was fairly certain that she had picked the lock on that drawer, and read what she'd found. But she said nothing, only listened to his daily reports on the issue on their way home each night.

Now, Jack found himself staring at the blazing eyes of a woman who claimed that the assault by the two men had started a chain reaction that ultimately led to her divorce. They ruined my life, Major Inrid claimed.

Jack grimly listened to her, then awkwardly patted her on her back and told her not to give up on life just yet. She was young, and he was proof positive that one never new what life was going to have in store for her.

Jack left her with some ideas to think about, and she left him with enough information to charge the two men he was after with anything he wanted to charge them with.

But Jack bided his time, following the proper procedure concerning the two men, until the paperwork he had filed on them went through, and a confrontation was imminent. Still, Jack didn't want to raise the alarm and cause the two men to run just as he had them where he wanted them. So he visited the Motor Pool and talked to several other people stationed there, getting information on the identities of a Lieutenant Jinson and his inseparable friend, Captain Jamaar Alphonso. Several women in the Motor Pool gave reports of strange vibes given off by the two men under suspicion, but their fellow male soldiers were clueless. Jack had never thought about how women needed to be more aware of such things in their day-to-day lives than men ever did, but the evidence that he was collecting gave a different slant to the story, he noted.

Finally, one morning, Jack told Sam that he was going to request that Daniel and Teal'c accompany him to where he planned on confronting the two men.

Do you have enough evidence to arrest them? Sam wanted to know.

Yes, Jack told her. Enough, and then some.

Sam gave a ghost of a smile. Good, she said, then went on with her self-appointed job of loading the dishwasher.

There are some people that you might want to meet, too, Jack told her as he rolled up the sleeves of his clean BDUs.

Track down who was Major Dew's Commanding Officer at the time of her assault, and I'll think about it, Sam told him in an offhand way.

Jack gazed at her, then accusingly said, You've been snooping around in my office!

Of course, she told him. Like you knew that I would, or you wouldn't have left all your notes in such an easy place for me to find them.

Jack brushed his fingers on the edge of the kitchen counter as he slowly joined her in front of the dishwasher. Gently, he wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in her neck. Good for you, was all he said, and brushed a kiss behind her neck that sent shivers crawling up her skin.

Sam smiled, and sighed.

Suddenly, Jack asked, Have you had rotten luck with getting bad Commanding Officers in the past?

Sam shrugged. You and Hammond have been the best, the most understanding, she said. Then she shrugged again. Every female in the military has to expect to get some officers in command of a team that she's on to be... Sam paused, then judiciously went on, not so understanding about certain things.

Geez, Jack said under his breath. I never knew it was so bad until now.

Sam said nothing, then softly commanded, Find him, then let Teal'c stare at him for a few hours. That really unnerves people, I understand.

You are so nasty, O'Neill appreciatively said.

Sam grinned. That's probably the nicest thing you've ever said to me, she noted.

* * *

So Jack went back to the personnel schedule, found Major Dew's name, noted the date she had accepted a ride from Lieutenant Jinson, then made a few calls until he got a name; General Stinson, retired, living in Halifax, New Jersey.

Jack called Sam, gave her the name he'd found, and within half an hour, she called back with a phone number for a retired Gary Stinson living in Halifax. Two minutes later, Jack was talking to an astounded Stinson, telling him that he could either face late charges of obstruction to military justice, or write a letter of apology to a Major Dew who had been under his command the previous year. And that General O'Neill planned to check back in a month to make sure the letter was written, and if it wasn't, then... Well, he was going to hijack the former General and leave him locked in a room with Major Dew, and give her a knife. That was all he said, but then, that was all he had to say.

Daniel and Teal'c accompanied him to the Motor Pool of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base the next morning, and had to do nothing but offer support as Jack O'Neill, General of a top secret program at the bottom of the Mountain, happily charged a fully astonished Lieutenant Ralph Jinson and Captain Jamaar Alphonso with premeditated abduction, assault, rape, and a plethora of crimes that were as long as the Jaffa's arm.

As the two men were being pushed into an SF vehicle, their hands cuffed behind their backs, Jack figured that, for Sam, and for all the assaulted women everywhere, the least he could do was help capture the two men responsible for so much agony. He could never fix the things they had done, but he could damn well make sure that they could never do anything ever again. For the first time in a year, he finally felt that Sam was free of what had happened to her.

It was with an odd mix of feelings that he watched Jinson and Alphonso being driven away. He hated what they had done, but at the same time was grateful for causing the reactions that they had forced on Sam, and on him. It was a double entendre, he mused. And he and Sam had received the better end of the two men's nefarious deeds... a change that he was more than glad that had taken place, and one that had to be just about perfect.

The End


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