Disclaimer: I don't own them. MGM/UA, Gekko Productions, and Double Secret Productions owns them. I'm just playing with them for awhile.
The minute General George Hammond saw Daniel Jackson and Major Carter helping Colonel O'Neill down the ramp of the Stargate, followed closely by Teal'c carrying their weapons and packs, he knew that something had gone terribly wrong with the mission to PRX-251. The fact that the group of four had just left an hour before, and was returning almost a full day early were other hints.
SG-1, what happened? Hammond asked as they picked
their way down the ramp towards him. Colonel O'Neill walked on
one good leg and hobbled on his left leg.
Major Carter was clearly fighting for breath as she said,
We'll explain everything, Sir, but we need a medical team down
Damn! swore Jack O'Neill then as he rested too much
weight on his left leg. He grimaced and winced in pain.
knew things were going too well when we first got there!
Hammond looked on in concern as Dr. Fraiser helped to wheel
a medical gurney right to the bottom of the ramp.
someone please explain to me what happened? Colonel? Major?
Sam Carter was starting to almost bend over double from the
weight of her Commanding Officer. She helped to heft him onto
the side of the gurney with a shove of her hip as she grunted,
I walked into a damned hole, General! O'Neill
finished for her.
It wasn't deep, but I tripped, and
that twisted me knee up pretty bad.
Carter heaved a sigh that imitated the one just made by Dr.
Jackson, and wilted near the steps leading up the ramp. She
panted, but managed to say,
Colonel O'Neill... needs... to see
a... a doctor... Sir!
Yes, that's quite clear! Hammond was saying as he
waved an arm to tell the SFs surrounding the 'Gate to move out of
the way as Dr. Fraiser and her team instantly set to work on
stabilizing O'Neill's leg. He groaned loudly every time she so
much as touched him as he lay back against the sheets on the
Ouch! he exclaimed, and glared at Fraiser.
you possibly be more enthusiastic, Doc? he sarcastically
Fraiser tightened the temporary splint she had already
applied to his leg a bit too tightly, and the Colonel groaned
Just lie back, Colonel, she brightly said.
We'll take care of everything.
Yeah! Jack grunted, and winced again.
I bet you
Sam Carter grinned at O'Neill's complaining, and at Fraiser's apparent happiness at getting him as her patient again. Sam wasn't certain about things, but she tended to think that Janet Fraiser lived to get difficult patients like Jack O'Neill placed under her care as often as she could. O'Neill groaned in pain, and Sam thought she heard Fraiser say something about him not being such a baby as the medical team wheeled the gurney out the door and down the corridor. Still, Sam couldn't be certain over all the noise of the medical team and the whirring of the wheels of the medical cart. Yet, she couldn't help but smile, if a bit grimly, as Daniel and Teal'c joined her to stand beside the General.
Without a word, Teal'c handed over the weapons he still
carried to the SFs as Daniel shook his head, and muttered,
Poor Janet. He shook his head again.
He's going to
drive her crazy. Mark my words. Totally crazy.
* * *
Thirty minutes later, the healthy members of SG-1 were no longer thinking about Janet Fraiser's mental condition. They were more concerned about the way Jack's knee had ballooned to the size of a small watermelon in the amount of time it had taken them to shower and change before meeting once more in the Infirmary to hear the doctor's prognosis.
It was a grim woman who confronted them as well as General
Hammond with her news.
The knee is pretty well inflamed, as
you can see. I have him on a double dose of pain killers and
sedatives, but it seems to have had little to no effect.
Behind her, the entire group could hear Jack's exuberant cursing
as nurses and technicians tried to make him leave the brace
supporting his leg and knee alone, while he tried to take it off
the second their backs were turned.
Hammond couldn't help but nod at the fuss O'Neill was
making, and try not to give an inappropriate smile. Instead, he
turned to the doctor and inquired,
Just what does this mean,
Janet sighed heavily, then regarded the General.
means that Colonel O'Neill may have simply stepped into a hole
and tripped, but the damage he did to his knee is fairly
extensive. He pulled his ACL, and damaged the cartilage around
the knee, not to mention the wrenching he gave it, which is
causing the swelling that you see.
Hammond's brows furrowed.
How long will it take to
Janet's gusty sigh again sounded in the otherwise quiet
I can't say for sure, of course, but even if the
swelling improves in the next day or so, we're looking at six or
seven weeks before I can clear him for active duty again.
Six weeks! Daniel incredulously shouted, giving voice
to the shock that they were all experiencing.
Give or take a week, yeah, that's the
best we can hope for. She blinked at their obvious distress
at hearing her news.
ACLs are very tricky to heel, she
apologetically told them. Then, she looked again at the file in
But the good news is that he'll make a full
recovery... She sighed.
This is just great, Daniel muttered.
the promise of some good ruins on that planet. We didn't even
get to see them!
Sam Carter did her best to ignore Daniel's whining and ask,
Is there anything we can do for the Colonel, Janet?
Janet flipped her file folder shut.
For now, no.
Colonel O'Neill's going to be under observation for the next two
Sam smiled when she heard that statement.
Oh, he's going
to love that! she said.
Janet smiled back at her.
Here's something else he's
going to love... He has to keep that knee brace on for all six
or seven of those weeks I was just telling you about, or he has
no hope of returning to active duty at that time.
Carter regarded her team mates.
I suppose we can take
turns making sure that he's keeping it on.
Teal'c spoke then.
But it will not be easy to convince
him to leave it in place, he said.
It was Carter's turn to give a sigh.
No, Teal'c, it
won't. She knew Colonel O'Neill well enough to predict
Janet continued with her report, then.
I've also placed
the Colonel on Medical Leave until he returns to duty... He'll
be under my command until I see fit to hand him back to
Daniel stared at the doctor.
That leaves us without a
Hammond jumped into the conversation again.
This is an
excellent opportunity for Major Carter to acquire more command
experience... He turned to face the Major.
yourself the temporary leader of SG-1, he said.
juggle the mission rotation a little so that you aren't in the
field as much as you were going to be. At least, we can at try
to minimize the trouble you can get into. But this is almost too
good of a chance to let pass by, as bad as it is for Colonel
O'Neill. You'll report directly to me while the Colonel is
Yes, Sir, Carter intoned, all the while thinking that
at the very least, the Colonel wasn't going to be happy about
being left behind on future missions, even if he would get some
satisfaction out of knowing that his 2IC was leading his team in
As one, five people sighed and gazed at the Colonel struggling against the effects of a double dose of sedatives. It was going to be a long and loud six or seven weeks.
* * *
Sam Carter fancied that she could hear Colonel O'Neill's yells of complaint all the way down the corridor to the elevator. Smiling in sympathy, she swiped her identification card, but had to wait for a car for her planned stop at the Commissary for a cup of coffee before her further intention of working in her lab. While waiting, she amused herself by thinking about the Colonel...
They had been so careful to stay apart these past few years, ever since that entire Za'tarc incident. Even being alone in her lab with him, a frequent occurrence due to his desire for information or to simply chat, was always fraught with a little bit of distance between them. The emotions that had caused those conditions of distance in the first place were always there, in the back of her mind, but buried under her sense of duty, honor, and peppered by a healthy bit of fear. Now, with six weeks or so of no Colonel to contend with on missions, dropping unexpectedly by her lab, or smiling his secret smile that was meant just for her, in spite of trying their best not to arouse suspicion, Sam felt that she could relax her natural hesitancy just the tiniest bit while the team was off-world.
Then, just as the elevator door opened and Sergeant Siler politely stepped around her on his way to somewhere clearly important, according to the way he hurried down the corridor, it hit her like a ton of bricks.
Janet had said that she was placing Colonel O'Neill on Medical Leave, which meant that he answered specifically to her. In the meantime, Sam herself was given command of SG-1, and she answered directly to General Hammond. Which meant that, for the next six or seven weeks, O'Neill was a noncommissioned officer, and not an official member of SG-1.
Which, in turn, meant that Jack O'Neill was not her CO until Dr. Fraiser returned him to duty.
Sam felt like someone had punched her in the stomach; her world tilted, whirled, and she was certain that she was going to be sick right there in the hallway of the SGC the second she fully understood that new information. Slowly, the swirling walls of the corridor settled into order again, and her stomach calmed with it. Still, her eyes were wide and her mouth had fallen open to form a silent, surprised 'Oh' as personnel streamed in and out of the elevator to go around her and continue on their way.
That was where Daniel found her, leaning helplessly against the wall, seeming content to hold the beige colored bricks up and to stare off into space.
Sam? Daniel inquired, then looked in confusion up and
down the corridor after he had seen the empty expression on Sam's
Is something wrong? he went on to ask.
Sam continued to stare emptily at the far side of the
hallway. Yet, she dreamily answered him.
Daniel, she said, habit behind her remarks.
No need to
But the vacuous look in her eyes didn't encourage him to go
on about his business.
You sure? he asked again.
Because I can get Janet for you if...
No, I'm fine, Daniel, Sam repeated. Then, totally
out of the blue, she said,
I just realized; He's not my CO
anymore. Then she amended,
Not until Janet files the
paperwork to return him to duty.
Her first statement confused Daniel even more. His brow
furrowed in bemusement.
Uh... Excuse me?
Colonel O'Neill, Sam said, as if that comment
explained everything. When Daniel didn't appear to comprehend
where she was going with that information, Sam said,
Medical Leave... He's under Janet's command. I'm under
Hammond's command. I...
Suddenly, the befuddled, pained expression lifted from
Daniel's features and was replaced by dawning excitement and
He's not... Oh, wow!
Sam peered at him from her place by the wall.
that's what I thought, too, she told him.
Daniel tried to regulate his excitement, without having much
luck in his endeavor. For a moment, he stood beside her, and
didn't say anything. At last, he asked,
Are you going to do
anything about it?
Sam gazed at him, then crossed her arms.
I can do about anything at the moment; The Colonel's
confined to the Infirmary for the next few days. He's either
unconscious right now, or driving Janet up the wall. Either way,
I can hardly change much of anything until he's released to go
When's that gonna be? Daniel wanted to know.
As soon as the swelling in his knee goes
down, and not a moment sooner, or I don't know Janet.
That could be tomorrow or next week, Daniel noted
with an irritated slap to his thigh.
You're right, Sam agreed with him. She drew in a
deep, shuddering breath, then pushed herself off the wall she was
currently leaning against.
Since there's nothing I can do
about this information right now... I need to think about what I
want to do, anyway... Why don't you join me for a cup of coffee?
I was heading up to the Commissary when I... She nervously
cleared her throat, but went on in determination,
figured all this out. Why don't you come, too? Then, she
smiled and wheedled,
There's always time for coffee, you
Daniel answered her smile with a grin of his own.
never knew that you were so depraved as to bring up my worst vice
right now, of all times, Sam. He paused, and then his grin
grew even wider.
You're on. He joined her in the
elevator car when the doors opened just then. He was still
grinning when he said,
And maybe we can come up with a plan of
action about how to handle this problem concerning Jack while
we're there, just sittin' around the Commissary.
Sam gazed at him out of the corner's of her eyes, once again admitting to herself just how long it was going to seem to be until Janet released the Colonel from the Infirmary. Until then, Daniel was her only companion who knew of her current debacle.
With a sigh, she straightened and turned her eyes to the front of the elevator. No matter what she and Daniel decided to do about the new state of affairs, those few days while Colonel O'Neill was trapped in the Infirmary, recovering to Janet's satisfaction, were going to seem utterly infinite to her.
* * *
Sam waited, quite patiently, she thought, for three days. The Colonel was released from the Infirmary on the second day after his injury, and Sam waited for him to arrive at the door to her lab so that he could say something, anything, to her. But he never arrived to brighten what in effect was a relatively dull day. And so, she ended up spending the entire day waiting for a man who never showed up... Nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary happened that day.
Sam then asked Daniel if the Colonel had said anything about figuring out their new military hierarchy, like she had, in a flash of understanding. But he couldn't say one way or the other if Jack comprehended their new standing or not, as the Colonel hadn't said anything to Daniel since the archaeologist had been used as a human crutch on their way down the Stargate ramp the day the injury had happened.
Next, she dropped a few questions to Janet, trying to glean some information as to whether or not Jack understood how things now stood between him and his 2IC, and Janet was adamant that her former patient's new military role was fully understood, as they had discussed that very thing. So that wasn't the reasoning behind his sudden disappearance.
So Sam waited another day, but, again, nothing happened. What the heck was he doing? Sam finally wondered to herself. He hadn't seemed angry with her for some unknown reason, so what was it that was keeping him as far away from her as possible? He hadn't even come to tell her goodbye when he'd left the Infirmary and gone home on that third day. Was he a bit reluctant to have her see him while wearing that leg brace, which she knew O'Neill would imagine her to think of as a weakness? Though, Sam could really care less if he was displaying his injury or not.
So, was he afraid of what would happen if he saw her? Sam wondered next. Was he concerned about the concept of them possibly cutting loose and exploring their true feelings for each other, only to be shut down again in six or seven weeks by the fraternization regulation that would force them to revert back to pretending to not care one way or another about each other... Did he not want to put either of them through such imagined pain as that would undoubtedly be, and was therefore avoiding her like she had the plague or something?
A final possibility, one that Sam was hardly even able to consider, was that Jack no longer had special feelings for her at all. Now that he could show those feelings she'd thought he had always harbored to everybody without fear of a court-martial, he didn't love her any more.
This last reasoning was driving her to distraction. It was when she had done the third stupid thing that day, and ruined yet another project that she'd been working on for days that she decided that she'd had enough of waiting around like some passive object for him to decide on his own to approach her. She had to know at last what was going on in his mind, so she determined that if he refused to come to her, then she would go to him. She'd bluntly ask him to spell out his emotions for her; she couldn't stand anything else anymore. This 'not knowing' was taking over her life and distracting her in ways that she couldn't afford. The chances of that haze he was causing her to fall into overwhelming her on a mission was just too high, so she decided that if he hadn't phoned, or met her, or done anything by the end of this third day after his injury, then she was going to act by driving to his house and demanding answers of him herself.
This promise of action made her feel somewhat better, and she ceased to do such stupid things, like spill her cup of coffee all over her laptop, or accidentally flick grease on the blueprints of a plasma particle generator that she had created over the course of several days, or hit the 'delete' key instead of the 'enter' key while working on her cooperative on-line schematics project of a new model of small, space worthy planes being re-imagined for the Air Force. This preoccupation that she had with O'Neill and who was whose CO was costing her just too much to ignore any longer, though doing something about that preoccupation scared the crap out of her.
Still, knowing was better than not knowing, Teal'c told her on the afternoon of the third day that she spent waiting, wasting time, and not working. At this point, she was a bit hesitant to spend any time alone in her lab lest she ruin yet another project. So she stayed away from her lab and visited her friends, finished up projects that she couldn't ruin with one wrong key stroke on her laptop computer. When she reached the end of her patience, she went to her house to pack a bag full of clothes in case she found them necessary and stowed the pack in her trunk before purposefully driving to Jack's house amid the sounds of her pounding heart.
Sam knew right away that he was at home, as his truck resided in his driveway, and she had parked her car directly behind it. She supposed that he could take a cab if he absolutely had to go somewhere, but somehow she knew that O'Neill's inborn sense of independence wouldn't allow him to call a cab to ferry him to some undetermined destination. He would simply forgo such a trip, waiting instead for one of his team mates to check up on him to say that he needed something from the grocery store, and then have that team mate run to the store for him, or do whatever he needed to have done. He would see such a run to the store as an act of friendship rather than the act of charity it would have been if anyone else had performed the task.
So at least I have an excuse for being here, Sam grimly thought to herself as she climbed from her car and walked up the front sidewalk to his door. She could check up on his brace-wearing activities, and then ask if he needed her to do anything for him. That is, she could do such a thing if she lost her nerve at the last minute. So, not intending to need the excuse to see him, but still feeling well fortified with excuses for being at his front door in the middle of a work day, she knocked.
But, she didn't need those excuses, it turned out; she pounded on his front door before she could lose her nerve. Then she waited as a cold wind curled around her, heralding the coming Autumn. She was just wishing that she had worn her heavier jacket when the door was pulled open and Jack stood in the warmth of his entryway, looking... Well, looking damned good for a man with one leg encased in a white, plastic knee brace, she admitted to herself.
Carter! Jack exclaimed in some surprise.
to check up on me, or what? He didn't pause to allow her to
pretend that she didn't know what he was talking about, but
rushed on to say,
You can tell old Doc Fraiser that I'm being
a good boy and wearing this dumb leg thingy, just like she
insists on me doing, so...
Jack, Sam interrupted with a roll of her eyes and a
new, steely sense of determination to be honest in her reply,
thus the reason she used his first name in her response.
put that brace on right before coming to answer the door, in case
I was Janet, ready to give you a good dressing down for
not wearing it in the first place. I think that after all these
years, I know you well enough to predict that. But checking up
on you is not quite why I'm here.
It's not? he said, and looked even more surprised
than her words had already made him.
No... Um... Can I come in, do you think? she asked,
hesitant now that she had started to act on her earlier
It's getting awfully windy and cold out
Oh, sorry about that, he said of not remembering to
invite her in right away, then stood aside to let her pass off
the windy porch and into his warm entryway.
Sam shut the door behind her, then proceeded to remove her coat and hang it up on the hooks provided for visitors before she turned to face him, her heart still pounding wildly in her chest.
But Jack wasn't aware of her nervousness. He continued on,
You caught me by surprise there, or I would
Jack stopped talking when she moved close to him, backing
him up against the wall behind him, and without introducing a new
topic of conversation, said,
Stop talking for a second, and
just listen. I need to know... before I go insane... if you
still care about me 'more than you should' or not.
Her direct approach to the quandary seemed to surprise him,
if not immediately bring about the desired results. He had cut
off his voice the second her hands came in contact with his arms,
and now stood before her in a rigid pose of protective self
control. He closed his eyes against the possibility of seeing
her, as if the sight of her was slowly eating away his resolve,
and painfully exhaled a breath before softly saying in a voice so
low and so strained that it was almost a gasp of air,
I don't think that...
Sam interrupted him again.
Don't try to protect me,
Jack... I've been driving myself to distraction these last few
days, wondering what you were thinking. I got so worried that I
couldn't even work, and you know that for me not to work, things
have to be pretty darn bad.
Jack tried to gently remove her hands from his arms.
Carter, we need to...
But Sam was resolute in her need to know. She interrupted
I still feel the same as I did on that day of the
Za'tarc test, and I need to know if you do, too, or not. She
didn't know how she could make things clearer than that.
Jack swallowed, then closed his eyes again, as if he were suddenly in total consternation, or in intense pain.
Sam was beginning to have doubts as to the intelligence of
asking these questions in the first place of the man who was
usually her Commanding Officer. He looked as if he were going to
imminently hurt her emotionally, and hurting her was the last
thing he wanted to do, but he couldn't avoid it. She felt the
first scrabblings of desperation crawling up her spine, and her
confused fear as to his reaction was evident in the way her brow
furrowed in deep lines to illustrate her mental state. Maybe
this seeking of answers hadn't been such a good idea after all.
Discouraged, Sam plowed on one last time, anyway, and asked for
further information, but in a voice growing smaller with every
Is this not something you've been waiting for as long
as I have, Jack? Am I totally wrong; don't you want
Jack swallowed, and the action seemed to hurt, the way his motion stuttered to a stop right in the middle of the activity. Then he gasped against whatever was holding him back.
He looked like a man who had suddenly reached his personal
limits of restraint. His face, already white and drawn, grew
even paler, and he breathed in once with his eyes closed tight
against her image before him. When he spoke, his voice was torn
from him, full of agony mixed with the sound of hope.
yes, I want this, was all he whispered. Then his own hands
rose just high enough for him to slowly pull her close to him
until she touched every inch of his body with hers as they
embraced each other in his entryway.
A shiver ripped through Jack, as if he were still battling his emotions for her. But it was a losing fight for him, though Sam could tell that even in his surrender to the strong desires that constantly accosted him, he still wanted to show his control of the situation, even when he had no control left. That shiver he'd undergone showed a vivid picture of just how little control he actually had at this point. She set out to destroy any resistance he still carried inside him, and kissed his chest just once as her arms tightened around his back. A groan ripped from his lips, and his own arms tightened in response.
Sam, I'm.., he began to say in a low voice that still
sounded strangled and restrained. But then he went on,
I'm so sorry... I tried... I tried to stay away... He
lowered his forehead until it just barely brushed hers. He
God knows, I tried.
Her own heartbeat somehow quickened further when she felt
his lips graze the top of her head. She suddenly experienced the
sting of tears in her eyes, and had to ignore that sensation to
Don't be sorry... Never be sorry.
He shook his head, and drew in a shuddering breath.
I know what's going to happen once Fraiser gives me the all
Jack, I was so confused.., Sam started to explain in
her shaky tones, but he cut her off when he tenderly cupped her
cheek with a shaking hand and slowly wrapped his other arm more
firmly around her back to hold her tightly against him.
They stood like that, leaning against the other, for a long time, neither moving. Their breathing regulated to match the other's; in, out... in, out.
Finally, Sam broke the quiet when she whispered,
feels more wonderful then I always thought it would.
Sam could feel Jack smile against her hair.
very content, he noted.
I am. After the last few days that I've
had, just waiting, and destroying everything I touched, it's nice
to feel like I'm finally in the right place at the right
time, she admitted.
You're always in the right place at the right time,
Jack commented in a low voice.
That was when the ill-timed beeping came from the direction
of Jack's kitchen, reaching them in their position in the
entryway. Jack's head flicked up, and Sam could actually
feel him look in the direction of his kitchen.
Bad timing, he said under his breath, then laughed.
Timing... That's rather funny...
Jack, Sam complained.
You're not making any
Jack reluctantly withdrew from her arms.
I was making
cookies when you came over... I had just put them in the oven
and set the kitchen timer on the microwave when you knocked. I
guess they're done now.
Sam was astonished.
You make cookies? she asked,
I can't follow a cookie recipe to save
my life, she said.
I'm a bit surprised that you can,
she admitted as she followed his limping form into his
Jack looked back at her and grinned as he grabbed the hotpad
he had laid on his counter, waiting to be used.
asked in a mocking tone.
Do you mean to tell me that there's
something that Sam Carter can't do?
Oh, that's soooo not funny, Jack O'Neill, Sam
answered, though her words were softened by the tiny grin
displayed on her lips.
Jack kept grinning at her. Above all, they were friends, if
perhaps a bit more, and his tone of voice now fully indicated
that friendship he felt for her.
I think you've been around
me too much... You're beginning to sound like me.
There are worse things to be like, I
Jack paused as he set one cookie sheet on his stove and was
reaching into his oven for the second. He looked at her.
Either that's a really camouflaged compliment, or I'm not
being hard enough on you on our missions off-world. The look
he sent her, though, indicated that his idea of 'hard on her' was
a little different than most people's concepts of how difficult
their behavior should be.
Oh, I think I can deal with anything you can dish
out, she remarked.
Jack straitened up, cookie sheet in hand.
Is that a
challenge? he asked with a glint in his eye. He set the tray
of desserts on the stove to start cooling off.
You can take it however you want to, Sam told
Jack pulled a spatula towards him and began removing the
cookies from the first cookie sheet in order to set the desserts
on cooling racks already waiting on the counter.
know, he absently commented,
over the last few days, when
I was trying not to think about you and go insane at the same
time, I actually looked at those junk magazines you get in the
mail, just for something to do.
You were getting desperate, Sam announced with
Jack shrugged back at her.
Anyway, I was looking at this
catalog I'd never seen before, and I saw some sort of
advertisement for wooden signs, you know, the decorative kind,
and I saw one that said 'Life's short... Eat cookies.
Ah, noted Sam,
That explains your cookie-making
Don't kid yourself, O'Neill told her.
anything to keep me from driving over to your house and throwing
myself on your well-developed sense of mercy.
Sam thoughtfully paused, looking inward.
like what I did to you, she said.
Throw myself at your
mercy, I mean. Then, she added,
Minus the cookies, which
I would burn if I somehow managed to make the dough correctly in
the first place.
Oh, these are frozen cookies, Jack said
The dough comes already prepared... All
you have to do is break the squares apart and cook them, and...
They come that way? she asked, amazed, and at Jack's
I'll have to remember that.
Anyway, I was trying not to think of you, but then I
couldn't help but think of you in light of this new situation...
I was thinking about that wooden sign's saying, 'Life's Short'...
And all I could think about was that life's too short... Pretty
soon, the saying from that sign had changed to 'Life's Short...
Kiss your Second in Command,' and all sorts of ridiculous things
like that. And then there you were, knocking on my front door.
Seeing you when I was thinking about you was like all those
miracles that Daniel is always talking about all wrapped up in
Sam smiled again, thinking along the same lines that he had
What about 'Life's Short... Kiss Your Commanding
I'm not your CO right now, O'Neill reminded her.
Sam stared at him, but raised her eyebrow.
No need to
remind me! she exclaimed.
Anyway, Jack continued,
I kept coming up with all
these sillier and sillier sayings about 'Life's Short...'
Like..? she questioned.
Promise not to laugh?
Promise, she said.
Jack stood still, spatula in hand. He wasn't aware of what an incongruous picture he painted; a seasoned soldier standing in his kitchen in a shaft of late afternoon sunlight, spatula poised over a sheet full of cookies, lost in thought. It made Sam choke in order to hold back the laughter that bubbled up inside of her.
But Jack knew exactly what she was thinking. Sam should
have known that he would read her thoughts, as he had...
always... almost... been able to... practically... read her mind.
Again, that glint of mischief came back into his eyes.
'Life's Short... Attack the woman you love,' he said, and
It was the first time he had ever mentioned loving her, and Sam was a bit surprised by his admission. Even in the Za'tarc test, he had claimed only to care about her 'more than he should.' There had been no mention of being in love with her. Now, the admittance rolled off his tongue as easily as if he'd always been saying it.
Still, she endeavored to act like hearing it didn't affect
her so much that it almost made her turn into a pile of goo at
his feet. Instead, as a way to distract herself so she wouldn't
turn into mush from just looking at him, she thought for a
moment, then said,
'Life's Short... Jump Your Superior Officer
While He's Not Your Superior Officer.'
'Life's Short... Be Happy About Being Jumped By Your
Subordinate,' Jack shot back at her in a rapid fire sense of
So that was the way he wanted to be... Sam smiled even
wider, then said,
'Life's Short... Hug the Man You Love...
Jack grinned again when she said that, then went on to
'Life's Short... Marry the Woman You Love Who is
Marry?! Sam choked, her heart rate increasing again.
She was once more so shocked that it was hard to think. It made
her more blunt, again, than she wished to be.
We haven't even
slept together yet... Heck, we haven't even kissed..! And
you're already talking marriage?
Jack threw the spatula onto the counter top, and grabbed her
hand to pull her till she had slid into his arms, and was right
up next to him to stand beside the warm oven. He took a moment
to affectionately grin down at her. He dropped the hotpad in his
hand, and placed his fingers on either side of her face to allow
his thumbs to lovingly rub over her cheeks. Without giving Sam
time to retaliate in kind, he kissed her on her forehead, then on
I love you, he whispered. And, then, he
kissed her full on the lips.
It only took an instant for Jack's kiss to turn hot and passionate, for his hands to glide over her jeans-clad bottom, the rest of her clothes... Sam was so quickly lost in a haze of returning desire that it was before she even knew what he was doing that she felt his hands reach under her untucked shirt (how had her shirt come untucked?). Those amazing hands caressed across her stomach, over her back, up her chest... Oh God... The sensations of his probing fingers caused quakes and tingles to erupt all over her skin... She couldn't breath. Her heart was pounding in her throat... Oh, God,... his hands covered one of her breasts... It felt so good, so right... She yearned for more of his touch...
Sam groaned into his mouth as Jack sensed her own spiraling passion, and his kiss deepened, claiming her, inviting her... His tongue was doing amazing, incredible things to her lips...
Heat... It exploded through her body, eating away any resistance she had left... He passed his hands across her back, her breasts, her abdomen, down to the waistline of her pants...
That building desire raging inside her exploded then into shivers and shudders as it twisted, and grew so hot that it licked like fire through her veins to... Suddenly, she clung to him as she fell over the edge of that craving... she pushed into him, felt his own reaction to her pushing into her hips, moaned into his mouth, swallowed his own sigh of desire, shaking with the force of her explosion of passion...
It took a moment of quiet for Sam to calm her breathing after Jack slowly withdrew from such an incredible, deep kiss, turning that kiss into one of light affection, one of steadfast love, one of an emotional promise of his constant permanence. Then, he wrapped her in his arms, his head resting on her own as they both gasped for air like fish out of water, standing there, incongruously in his kitchen, of all places.
A moment later, Sam was able to whisper,
Among other things, Jack whispered back.
That... That... She couldn't quite wrap her mind
around the concept she was trying to get across to him. At last,
she gave up.
No one's ever made love to me with a kiss
Marry me? Jack beseeched.
I don't think I can
stand not being married to you after that. Then, he added,
And it's the only thing I can think of to do about handling
the fraternization regulation.
You're talking about the amendment about spousal
exclusion, aren't you? Sam recalled the way the regulation
had been written, exlcuding spouses from its confining
Though the idea of marriage seemed way too
farfetched, it was the only way I can see how we can be together
while I'm still your CO... But I never expected that you would
agree to it... You're constantly a surprise to me.., he
... a nice surprise.
Sam stood, encased in his arms, still wrapped in a fog of
her love and desire for him. At last, she just nodded to answer
his question about marrying him, again unable to speak.
Wow, she finally managed to whisper.
Double wow, Jack whispered back. He caressed a hand
down the hair on her head, and rubbed her back. A moment later,
his sigh coiled through the darkening kitchen.
anticipating the real thing to come in the not so distant
I don't know about you, Sam said,
but that kiss
came close enough to the real thing to be real as far as I'm
Though... I think I need to change clothes now, Jack
ruefully went on. The mischievous light was back in his eyes
Want to help me with it? he asked.
Sure, Sam surprised him again by saying.
short, she reminded him.
So it is, he said, agreeing with her. Then he
regarded her inquisitively.
Are we truly engaged, or did I
dream that part?
Do you mean, do I want to change my mind? she
Apparently I didn't dream the part at
Sam shook her head back and forth.
You keep kissing me
like that... I would be an idiot not to say 'yes.'
And Sam Carter is anything but an idiot, Jack
finished for her.
Can't take compliments particularly well...
(I'm going to have to work on that..,) he muttered.
have to agree that you are not an idiot.
Sam smiled into his shirt.
How can I be, with you around
to keep setting me straight.
Jack smiled, then.
You give me too much credit, he
Or not enough credit, Sam negated.
Like right now, I don't even have an engagement ring
handy for just these kinds of unexpected emergencies, Jack
Sam looked up at him, thinking that any jewelry shop would
be closed by this time of day, and the next day, a Friday, she
had to work.
We can choose something together on-line,
Now, it was Jack's turn to be amazed.
You mean there's
something as esoteric as engagement rings on-line?
I spend all my free time surfing the 'net...
I can find almost anything you want...
Slowly, Jack grinned again.
Of course you can... How
'bout a duplicate of you..? She grimaced at him, but he only
tightened his arms around her.
I have to remember that you're
Sam Carter, computer expert extraordinaire.
Sam blushed, but remembered what he had claimed about her
and accepting compliments, and kept her own comments to herself.
Instead, she gently corrected,
I'm a 'Gate expert...
Computers are just my hobby.
That comment made Jack laugh.
Well, lucky for us, I have
a desk top computer in the other room so that I can fulfill that
hobby of yours.
Lead on, she invited.
He hesitated, though. Finally, he said,
After I change
* * *
The next morning, Sam had barely entered the SGC via the
elevator when she was accosted by a human dynamite with the last
name of Fraiser.
I've been waiting by the elevators for you
to get here ever since I got here, myself, Janet said as she
fell into step beside her friend.
So, tell me... What
happened last evening?
I don't know what you're talking about, Janet, Sam
lightly said, trying hard to distract her friend so that she
forgot to delve for the truth.
What Sam herself wasn't able to remember was that Janet was
completely impossible to distract.
You do so know what I'm
talking about, Janet insisted in a low voice so that
passersby wouldn't listen in on their conversation.
you... the Colonel...
Which Colonel? Sam inquired, being purposefully
At which point, Janet grabbed Sam's arm and stopped her.
You know exactly which Colonel I'm referring to! Come on,
Sam, don't play dumb with me, or I'll claim that you need about
twenty shots in your behind... Then she stuck her index
finger into Sam's face.
And don't think that I wouldn't be so
low as to do that, either. You know me better than that.
Yes, I guess I do, Janet.
So... Spill, Janet ordered. They resumed walking
down the corridor together.
Sam couldn't stop herself from grinning, then.
What? Janet demanded to know.
Nothing. Sam shrugged. In actuality, she was trying
to coax Janet into her lab before the doctor did something, such
as squeal like Cassie did when she was excited, and alert other
personnel that something was afoot. Sam unceremoniously grabbed
Janet by her hand and pulled her the last few feet to her
Oh, God... We're running, Janet said.
that what you have to tell me is either really good or really
Good, Sam said, just to set her friend at ease.
Well, that's something, Janet commented. She pulled
out a lab stool the second they passed into the lab.
girlfriend... Remember, I have to live vicariously through you,
so tell me everything.
Sam simply couldn't help herself at this point; she grinned
Well, as you know, Colonel O'Neill is on Medical
Sam, interrupted Janet.
Don't do this to
Okay, okay... Sam glanced down at the floor.
made love to me with one kiss, she quietly said.
Janet just stared at her for a minute. Then she blinked,
and gave her head a shake.
Wait a minute, she commented.
I thought you said that he made love to you with only one
It was a damned amazing kiss, Sam corrected.
Janet's eyes widened.
You're kidding me! she
Janet! Sam hissed. Then, she added,
No, I'm not
Janet whistled a sigh.
Damn, if I'd known what kind of
effect Medical Leave would have on the man, I would have done
this years ago.
You have to promise not to say a word about
this to anyone, Janet...
And lose all my fun?! Janet incredulously exclaimed.
I think not!
I mean it, Jan! Sam said.
One word is all it'll
take for everyone to treat me like...
Like this is the most exciting thing to happen around
here since Teal'c discovered what belching out loud sounded like
and laughed for the first time?
Yeah, that was quite a day, she
But Sam was too excited herself to let her friend finish
And I'll tell you something else... As long
as you promise, pinky swear, not to tell a soul!
I have to tell Cassie, just in case it's life
threatening, so that she can call 911 for me...
It's not life threatening, Sam soothed.
Janet continued without missing a beat.
Then, I have to
tell Cassie because she'll never forgive me if I don't tell her,
and then she'll never speak to me again...
I am never having kids.., Sam muttered to herself,
You mean that you're never having teenagers, Janet
Now... Tell. When Sam remained silent, she
Or do I have to make it an order, and don't think I
Few things made Janet irritated enough to pull rank more
than not knowing some juicy bit of gossip, Sam knew. She also
knew that Janet would make good on her threat if she felt she had
to. So, Sam whispered,
I'm engaged... We're engaged.
Janet's eyes fairly popped out of her head.
what? she hissed.
Engaged. Sam was beginning to regret saying anything
to her friend.
Jack spent the last three days trying to think
of what we could do when you turned in the paperwork that lets
him back on duty... She saw Janet stare blankly at her.
Come on, Jan, what would you do if a guy kissed you hot enough
to make you...
Oh. My. God, Janet said.
Jan? Sam wailed in a whisper.
What does God have
to do with it? She pretended to open her laptop in
preparation for the coming day so things would look normal for
the guards in the security office watching the exchange. But
actually, she was thinking about the incredible night she had
shared with Jack at his house... in his bedroom... naked. The
'naked' thought reminded her to add,
Life's short, and all
Janet continued to stare at her friend in bug-eyed silence.
Oh, come on, Jan! Sam wheedled.
How many times
have you said yourself that we're both incredibly lucky to even
Too many to count, Janet told her in a flat tone of
Sam shrugged this time.
So... Then, she peered
down at her friend.
Not one word, Janet! Remember
Then Janet seemed to come to life again, and looked around
the lab, dismayed to see how empty it was.
You expect me to
keep something like this quiet!? she shrieked, whisper loud.
How am I supposed to do that?
Don't make me regret telling you! Sam said next.
Jack and I both decided not to say anything until he comes
back to work on Monday! Then you can talk about it all you want!
But not a moment before!
Except to Cassie, or she'll kill me.
Cassie, and that's all... And, so help me,
if she says anything..!
She won't, on pain of death, Janet promised. Then,
she glanced at Sam's ring finger.
Why aren't you even wearing
an engagement ring, then? she inquired.
It's not much of
an engagement if you're not, if you ask me...
I'm not, Sam said to her.
And the ring hasn't had
time to ship, yet... That's why. She added,
bought it last night. Give us a break.
Janet looked as if she wanted to ask Sam where she would
like that break, but she deferred. Instead, she stuck her hands
in the pockets of her lab coat.
Okay, she agreed, but
didn't look happy about it.
I won't say a word, but come
Monday morning, all bets are off!
Sam grimaced, then.
Did I mention that I moved in with
Sam! Janet exploded.
Nope, guess I forget about that part..,
* * *
Monday morning, the briefing at 0800 was interesting.
By the time Sam and Teal'c had climbed steadily up the first set of steps to the Briefing Room, they could hear two voices issuing down the open stair well without any trouble. Sam paused the second before her head would come into view in order to listen, and stopped Teal'c with a hand on his arm. The strange tilt to her head must have told him that she was listening, for he seemed to be tuning into the two voices they heard, as well.
It was clearly Jack speaking to Daniel that they were
overhearing, Sam surmised. Jack must be already in the Briefing
Room in order to get a head start on his paperwork or the like,
because when Daniel ran up the stairs just ahead of Sam, she
could hear him falling into a chair, where he paused for a
moment, then said,
Sam could see the scene unfolding right in her mind's eye
just as if she were witnessing it; Jack peering at Daniel without
raising his head or halting his writing.
So? she heard
him echo. Her heart flipped over at the sound of his voice, she
admitted to herself. She did her best to calm it, as Daniel was
Got back late last night from a scientific mission to
PSC-198.., Daniel was saying when Jack interrupted him.
You're point? Jack sardonically asked. Sam could see
him raising an eyebrow in her mind.
Daniel must have shrugged, then.
It was too late to call
by the time I got back... He would be staring at Jack's
taciturn expression, then. Finally, he wheedled,
Jack! You know what I'm after, here!
It would have been Jack's turn to shrug.
Have no idea,
actually. Sam could hear him go back to the pad of paper he
was writing on, then, and knew that he was trying to look busy
for Daniel's sake. He was just playing with the poor
archaeologist, Sam knew.
She was about to run the rest of the way up the stairs and
rescue Daniel when he said,
What are you so diligently
scribbling on about, anyway? Then, he must have caught a
good look at what subject his intrepid leader was actually
writing in regard to, and grabbed the paper.
Hey! Jack yelled.
Give that back!
'To mention the wedding to:' Daniel read. Sam
grimaced, and noticed Teal'c's eyes dart to her left hand, where
she was, indeed, wearing the engagement ring that Jack had had
shipped next day mail, and that she had been wearing since it had
come on Saturday. Teal'c's eyes next darted questioningly up to
hers, and she knew that hers and Jack's secret engagement was no
longer such a big secret anymore. Actually, Monday morning at
0800 was pretty good for keeping something a secret at the SGC,
the biggest gossip factory in America.
'Asgaard,' - Thor, Daniel read.
Jacob, he went on.
'Ry'ak; Bra'tac; Ishta; Mark, Andrea,
and kids; the President... The President? Daniel
Hey, Sam heard Jack answer.
Daniel went on.
Jack, who's getting married? he
demanded to know.
Wasn't Siler getting married last month
enough of a slap in the face for all us bachelors to remember
forever? he questioned, half joking.
So, who is this for,
really? he asked, sounding suspicious, but waiting for Jack
to confirm what he was thinking.
For a minute, Jack remained silent. Then, when Daniel must have raised an inquiring eyebrow, quietly said something that Sam and Teal'c couldn't hear from their places on the stairs.
What? asked Daniel.
Jack repeated himself, only marginally louder. Sam still couldn't hear him. Neither, it appeared, could Daniel.
Huh? Daniel asked again.
At this point, Jack lost his temper.
Me! he shouted.
Tell the entire SGC while you're at it, why don't ya?
Daniel breathed in great gasps of air, masking the noise
that Teal'c made when he jerked and hit the stair's metal
What? Daniel asked again, his voice
Me! Jack emphatically hissed.
How many times do I
have to tell you, Daniel? he went on, still just as
But Daniel didn't appear to be comprehending anything that
morning, for next he asked for clarification.
Jack just sighed. Then he must have yanked the paper back
from his friend; Sam could hear the rustle of paper.
Sam... Married... Any questions?
Teal'c's eyes were as big as Janet's had been on Friday. For the first time, Sam wondered if the Jaffa could faint.
Sam.., Daniel said, and Sam gave a grimace. Her
secret was most definitely out, now.
Don't say anything! Jack demanded.
That seemed to snap Teal'c's attention back to what he was
doing, as well as Daniel's.
Sam... Does she know about
this? Sam heard Daniel ask.
I hope so, Jack said.
She's the one who...
He gurgled to a stop, and Sam was glad that he hadn't revealed
what she had done on Thursday after work. It was a rather
embarrassing incident, even if it had brought about such
What? Daniel asked, his voice now much louder than it
had been before.
Jack sounded as if he were embarrassed, himself.
But he wasn't as embarrassed as Sam was at that moment. She could feel her face growing redder and redder by the second. She hoped that Teal'c wasn't noticing, but at the same time, knew that very little got passed the Jaffa and his x-ray vision.
What? What did she do? Daniel demanded to know as
Teal'c stared at her. Daniel's voice went on,
Is she sick or
something? Is she all right?
She's fine! Jack told him. Then, he added,
than fine, actually...
Okay, okay..! She threw herself at me, that's what she
Sam's face got even redder than it already was, and nothing would compel her to look at Teal'c just then.
Daniel remained silent for a moment.
That wasn't part of
the plan, he mumbled, then.
It was Jack's turn to be so surprised that he couldn't
You had a plan? he eventually inquired.
Daniel must have nodded, for next he said,
Yeah, she was
What? Jack demanded this time.
Uh... Daniel changed his mind about what he was
going to say.
Nothing. Uh... Well... Was she worth the
Sam was really blushing now, especially when she heard
Jack's much happier answer of,
Daniel didn't respond, but announced instead,
I need some
water! Sam was glad that he wasn't yelling what he had been
told to anybody who would listen. Yet, she could hear the
unmistakable sound of someone running towards her spot on the
stairs that she shared with Teal'c. Sam glanced at him once,
begging for help out of her eyes that had gone dark with horror.
Then she loudly said,
I didn't have time to go on that
shopping trip to Denver that I told you about... Sorry, Teal'c.
I'll get you a new hat next time I go, I promise.
Teal'c, for once in his life, got the hint, and loudly
joined in their game of subterfuge.
That is acceptable,
MajorCarter. He jogged the rest of the way up the stairs
with his companion in eavesdropping at his side.
Daniel skidded to a halt as much as anybody could skid on
the carpet at the top of the stairs.
Sam! he cried.
DanielJackson, Teal'c greeted, as if he hadn't been
listening to Daniel for the last fifteen minutes.
But Daniel wasn't done.
Sam whipped around, her heart sinking at the sight of General Hammond standing just behind her on the stairs. With an aching heart, now, she realized that he must have been just behind her the whole time, listening to what she and Teal'c had been listening to.
General Hammond quirked a brow.
I take it that I should
be offering congratulations? he quietly asked.
Yes, Sir, she meekly said, then climbed the rest of
the stairs and moved into the room.
Hi! she tried to say
as brightly as possible to Jack, who was sitting at the left end
of the table, his leg that was braced spread out under the
Briefing Room table.
Hi, yourself, Jack said, with a grin, which he threw
towards the returning Daniel, though his eyes remained on Sam the
Long time, no see.
But they had already seen each other that morning. A moment later, Sam comprehended the joke he was trying to make.
See, or hear, he whispered after she had taken a seat
on his right side.
He had known she was listening to his and Daniel's
conversation the entire time! Damn.
How would you like your
punishment for letting out that little tidbit? Sam questioned
back, referring to her decisions made on the previous
Oh, it would have gotten around, anyway.
I'm just helping things along a bit.
I was talking about the throwing myself at you part,
Oh, Jack mumbled, just as General Hammond took a seat
at the opposite end of the table he usually sat at, in deference
to Jack's braced leg.
Okay, people, Hammond said, calling the meeting to
Here's your next mission, he said, passing around
file folders to everyone.
As you know, Colonel O'Neill has
some healing to do, so Major Carter will be in charge of this
mission, though the Colonel is attending this and future meetings
so that he will remain apprised of your activities
Four heads nodded, and for once, the Colonel didn't even try to hide the unhappiness he felt at the reminder that he would be remaining behind.
Hammond must have known that Jack would feel less than
enthusiastic about those plans, for he turned to the Colonel and
Didn't take you to as long to propose as Doctor
Fraiser and I expected. And don't worry; I'll call the Asgaard
and the Tok'ra as soon as we're finished here.
Sam and Jack could only look at him in dumbfounded silence,
their eyes wide. Neither of them said anything, until Jack
managed to croak,
Thank you, Sir.
General Hammond just smiled enigmatically, and went on with the briefing.
* * *
Jack hobbled into the 'Gate Room just moments before SG-1,
under the command of their new leader, was about to embark. Sam
glanced at him questioningly, to which he responded,
clearance for Mark, Andrea, and the kids, and they'll be picked
up at the Municipal Airport by an Airman, as long as you tell the
Motor Pool which flight and what time to be prepared for.
And who is performing the ceremony? Sam asked as she
nodded her head, taking in O'Neill's information.
It's a surprise.
Jack! Sam warned.
But Jack was not moved.
Just know that I have someone in
mind. It's all taken care of, so don't worry about a
I hate it when you say that, she
grumbled, but turned towards the 'Gate as the wormhole formed
with the familiar kawoosh into the room.
Jack stared at the blue event horizon, and sighed.
careful, he said sadly.
Sam reached out to rub her pinky against his hand, something
she had never done before.
Be back before you know it,
Jack turned to her.
Is that a promise, or a threat?
Sam giggled, something that she had started doing ever since
his proposal on Thursday. She responded,
Oh, a threat,
Jack grinned when she said that.
Short,' ad all that.
Miss you, Sam said then as General Hammond's voice
echoed in the 'Gate Room.
Sg-1, good luck!
Jack turned from Sam to Daniel and Teal'c, and said,
care of yourselves!
Daniel grinned, as if he were enjoying this scene way too
Don't worry, Jack, he said.
We'll bring her
back in one piece.
I'm more worried about you than I am about Sam, Jack
said, which made Sam giggle even louder. She did her best to
squelch the sound, as she knew that the entire 'Gate Room staff
would be wondering about her sudden urge to utter smothered
With one last grin in his direction, SG-1 departed up the ramp, minus one forlorn Colonel.
* * *
It was General Hammond who met Sam and Jacob at the base of the Stargate at the beginning of the marriage ceremony three days later. Sam turned to glance at Jack, who stood straight and tall in his dress uniform, as Sam had requested he wear. He cocked a brow.
What? he whispered.
As if you don't know, Sam whispered back.
Hammond grinned, then explained,
Not to worry... Three
years ago, during one of the only slow times at the SGC...
Here, the gathered crowd began to laugh softly. Hammond
I got certified as a minister over the Internet...
just in case someone ever got around to getting married.
Hammond glanced at the couple standing before him. Jack cocked
his brow again, as if to ask Who... Us?. Hammond nodded.
Jack had the decency to look embarrassed by the entire thing.
After all, Hammond went on,
who would get high enough
clearance to perform such a ceremony if it weren't for me...
Hammond's eyes twinkled while a mischievious expression
momentarily crossed his face.
Hammond turned the expression into one more serious.
Well, we don't want to keep our guests waiting... And the
General glanced at Thor's tiny figure, then at Jacob, then
Bra'tac... Ishta as she stood beside Teal'c... Mark and Andrea,
their two kids... In a joking, pleased voice, Hammond continued
with the ceremony that he had agreed to perform while the rest of
SG-1 had been off-world on their first mission with a new leader.
It would probably be the only wedding he would ever perform, and
he looked as if he intended to make the most of it.
* * *
Three months later:
Jack's Point Of View:
The time had gone so fast, Jack mused as quiet tears leaked out of his eyes to run down his cheeks and off his chin. He was not ashamed in the least at his uncharacteristic show of emotion as General Hammond accepted the folded American flag from two unknown soldiers, and presented it in turn to Jack, who reverently took it from him. More tears followed on the tale end of the ones before them. Jack brushed them away with the thumb of his free hand, but no one mentioned the teasing that would have gone along with those tears on any other occasion.
Sam was gone. Jack had trouble fully believing that, even now, one entire day after he had emerged from the wormhole at the end of that last, horrible mission, looking more devastated than many in the SGC had ever seen him. Teal'c, following closely in his wake, carried Sam's body cradled in his arms. That one act had done much to explain the expression on Jack's face. Daniel had followed the big Jaffa to the Infirmary, but Janet Fraiser had taken pity on the grizzled Colonel and treated his wounded left arm in an isolation room.
Now, his left arm encased in a sling that held it close to his chest, Jack stood at the bottom of the Stargate ramp, wearing the dress uniform that Sam had frequently said that he looked good enough to eat while wearing, just as he had on his wedding day...
His wedding day... Jack nearly lost his tight grip on his emotions, then. As it was, he was so firm that his muscles were almost rigid with control as he turned again to watch the Air Force coffin bearing Sam's mangled, torn body slowly disappear through the event horizon towards a world that had itself been mutilated by a black hole that Sam had discovered too late to rescue the team who had been trapped on the planet nearest the spatial anomaly... She had always blamed herself for that, claiming that she just hadn't responded to their distress call quickly enough. It was only fitting now that she joined the ill-fated team in their endless ordeal; she would have enjoyed the irony of such a situation, Jack reminded himself.
The quiet in the 'Gate Room was almost absolute. Then, the tale end of Sam's bronzed coffin vanished. The gathered personnel waited for one final, breathless moment, then began to depart out the open blast doors leading into the small room.
It was only moments later that Jack found himself alone for the first time in twenty-four hours. Beside him, an aide even took General Hammond away on some urgent business. Daniel and Teal'c were quite clearly allowing their Colonel to grieve alone for now, and Janet was with them as they turned as one and retreated from the room.
Jack sighed, his tears still clouding his sight, and settled down to sit disconsolately on the steps leading up to the Stargate. He wished for the thousandth time in the last day that he had chosen to forgo their most recent mission, but even he couldn't have known how the natives of the planet would turn on them at the last minute, how Sam would then...
Jack let the sorrow roll over him as he buried his face in the hand of his good arm. The flag lay tucked securely under his left elbow, the only thing on that entire arm that didn't hurt, and Jack was only careful that the material didn't fall to the floor as his new position disintegrated undisturbed into him him resting his head onto his leg. He knew that the personnel in the Control Room were watching him through the blast window, and for once, he really didn't care if his grief was visible or not.
That was where General Hammond found him five minutes later.
He took a seat next to Jack's inert blue form on the steps, then
placed a hand gently on the Colonel's arm.
started to say.
I can't do this, anymore, he whispered.
I need to resign, before anyone else gets killed because of my
stupid tongue saying the wrong thing again at the wrong time.
He shuddered, the wave moving up his body from his toes to his
I need to resign.
Don't fill out the paperwork just yet, Hammond
Jack turned bleak eyes to regard the General.
Come on, Jack, I'd like you to see
something, he invited.
Jack just stared at the hand the man held out to him.
don't think I can, he said, sounding the most defeated he'd
Hammond winced at Jack's tone. But he was adamant.
Jack.., was all he said.
Jack heaved a tired sigh, then took the offered hand, and
climbed to his feet, clutching the flag he held tightly to his
chest with his good arm.
Coming, he said.
With that promise, General Hammond led the Colonel out of the 'Gate Room and into the corridor. He said nothing as they climbed the stairs leading to his office.
Jack recalled how he'd seen just the barest hint of Sam's blond hair as she and Teal'c stood, out of sight, listening to him and Daniel discuss their wedding. It seemed like only moments before to Jack, as he again ruminated about the scene. But he knew that it had happened months before then, and he sighed once more, astonished at the warping of time in his mind. Life was definitely too short, he thought. Too short, and too long at the same time...
Jack followed behind Hammond as he led the way to his office. The thought of never sitting beside Sam again in the Briefing Room was almost more than Jack could bear, but he swallowed painfully and passed behind the chairs seated at the red and black table without saying a word. He could just make out a head through Hammond's office window, and he could only think that he really didn't feel up to visiting with anybody right now. He hoped this person was so important that only he could speak to him or her, or Hammond was going to be sorry, he thought sourly as he entered the office behind the General.
The waiting person immediately stood and turned. For a moment, Jack stared, wide eyes horror filled, then he gasped and fell back into the table that held the General's coffee pot and waiting mugs.
General Hammond stood beside his desk, letting Jack crush
his semiprecious mug collection.
Colonel Jack O'Neill, meet
Dr. Samantha Carter, Hammond dryly introduced them.
The Doctor smiled brightly and stuck out her hand to be
Hi! she said, then her face paled as she
comprehended O'Neill's strained visage. She glanced to Hammond
Is this a bad time or something? she inquired.
It will never be a better time, he
Besides, it's not like we can ask you to wait for
another day, he said.
Jack leaned back against the tiny coffee table and gasped
How... How is this possible?" he whispered when
he could find his voice.
General Hammond explained right away, sorry for the shock
he'd been forced to give one of his best officers.
Carter is from an alternate reality... Remember the quantum
mirror that I ordered destroyed a few years ago?
Jack could do nothing but nod.
Hammond took that as an invitation to continue.
Carter had just been reassigned from a job at the Pentagon in
her universe to Area 51, where they were studying...
Well, they were watching us.., he admitted,
their own quantum mirror, when someone spilled some juice on his
desk, lurched to catch it, knocking into Doctor Carter, here, who
lost her balance...
And fell through the mirror, Doctor Carter finished
for him. Her voice held the embarrassment she was clearly
feeling. Her face reddened in a blush that was so familiar and
endearing to Jack that he wanted to run a finger down one crimson
cheek. He stopped himself just in time.
Not very kosher of
me, she disparagingly said, then ruefully grinned.
Hammond went on.
And, as we've destroyed our own
The Doctor took up his narrative.
He means to say that I
have no way home, she said. Then, she shrugged, trying very
hard to look braver than she felt.
I'm stuck here.
Oh, God, O'Neill was capable of saying, then.
there someone waiting for you at... He swallowed again.
... at home? he managed to ask. It was weird thinking of
himself without saying that he was thinking of himself, Jack
Doctor Carter shook her head.
Nope, which I suppose is
lucky, she remarked.
I was an only child, am not married
yet, and my parents are both dead, my Mom when I was thirteen and
my Dad from Cancer last year. She gave a small smile, even
if the gesture was a bit on the watery side.
I guess if
someone has to fall through a mirror into an alernate reality,
I'm as good a candidate as it gets.
Jack stared at her, then seemed to remind himself not to be
rude to their guest.
Uh.., he said, thinking of Jacob,
who was very much alive and living with the Tok'ra.
we have a surprise for you, he said.
The Doctor peered at him quizzically.
hesitantly said back to him. Then the suspicion that she was
feeling appeared on her face.
Do I know you, or
something? she queried then.
Because I get the strangest
feeling of deja vu when I look at you.
You might say that we know each other, was all that
Jack would divulge.
Doctor Carter nodded, taking his words at face value. Then
her sharp gaze landed on O'Neill's arm.
she asked, gesturing towards his sling.
Jack turned his gaze to his arm as well.
Uh... That's a
long story, he said.
Carter gave a shrug.
Well, I seem to have lots of
time.., she said, and grinned.
Jack grinned back at her. He just couldn't help responding
to that gesture he loved so much. He seemed to come out of his
state of shock long enough to ask,
Maybe you'd like to hear it
over a cup of coffee, or a glass of blue jello in the
Carter wrinkled her brow.
Commissary? Blue jello?
That was such a cute expression on her, Jack thought. But
he only told her,
I think you'll like it.
Hammond clapped Jack on his good shoulder.
I see that
I'm leaving the Doctor in good... uh... a good hand, he said.
Then he ushered them both out of his office.
There's a ton of
paperwork for me to fill out regarding this incident... Show her
around, Jack, he ordered.
Then bring her back here in an
hour. I should have all the forms filled out by then. We can
talk. He turned to Doctor Carter.
I'll answer whatever
questions you have at that time, he said.
Again, Doctor Carter gave a shrug.
Okay... I don't have
much idea how the military works... Besides knowing that
everything has to be filled out in triplicate.
Jack gave a wan smile.
Some things are the same no
matter what universe you're in, he noted. Then, he gestured
towards the office door.
Ladies first, he said.
Thanks, I think, Doctor Carter remarked, then moved
passed both Hammond and O'Neill and out the door. Jack gave a
wide-eyed, amazed look towards Hammond before he followed her
into the Briefing Room.
That man would follow that woman anywhere, Hammond ruminated, and crossed to his desk prior to filling out those forms he had been talking about.
At least, this time, O'Neill had ensured that his arm was hurt instead of his leg. An arm in a sling would take up much less room at a table, Hammond thought, grinned, then pulled the proper forms from the file cabinet behind his desk.
It was going to be the best forms he ever filled out in his entire career, Hammond decided, and smiled.
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