Disclaimer: I don't own them... others do

A/N 1: Ship, pure plain and simple. Don't like ship? Then don't read the book. Either version.

A/N 2: There is no 'version two' of this book yet. I've started writing it, but it's not finished yet. And as I dislike posting WIPs, there will be a wait for any 'version two,' but know that 'it's out there!'

A/N 3 The first part of this novel... ('Magnets...' was intended to just be a story... But I got carried away, as usual.) This first part is a missing scene to the episode 'Moebius.' The rest of the book is an A/U that moves forward from there. It's as if season nine doesn't exist. But if you haven't seen the episode 'Moebius,' go watch it, or you will not understand anything going on in this story... or in this book... either book.

Blue Moon Award Nominee

Beyond 'Moebius' - a Novel

Version One

by Linda Bindner

Part I: Magnets

The tent flap was suddenly shoved aside and a bright square of sunlight filtered on to the sand that made up the floor. Jack squinted against the harsh light that had found it's way into the darkened, cool recesses of the tent as Teal'c and Carter strode through the opening.

Hi, kids, Jack flippantly greeted. No luck with the ship? he asked as his gaze rose from the wristwatch in his hands that he'd been fiddling with. He didn't suppose it mattered if he suspected the watch battery had died in the night, anyway. It wasn't like he could wear a twentieth century watch in Ancient Egypt. Not if he wanted to blend in with the local population, as Carter insisted that they all do.

It was Teal'c who answered General O'Neill's question. He actually sighed in aggravation. That sound he'd issued showed just how emotional the Jaffa had grown over his team's plight while in the Egypt of Earth's past. Unfortunately, no, O'Neill, he responded. The ship that we intended to use as our escape from this place is too heavily guarded by Ra's Jaffa to be of any use to us at this time.

Any breaks in their guard system? Jack asked him.

None so far, Teal'c answered. I will return to the landing site to determine if a pattern has been established in the guard rotation, and how we can best take advantage of it if such a break in duty should exist. He sounded like he had little hope that there would ever be a 'break in duty' of Ra's assigned Jaffa, despite his words. But true to those utterances, he lifted the flap, and disappeared again into the afternoon sunlight.

Gee, Jack said to Carter as she removed her head scarf, now that she was inside, as he had, and the afternoon sun glinted on a patch of her golden blonde hair. Jack had to swallow hard in order to repress his urge to smooth it down for her. Instead, he said, I didn't mean for him to just leave like that without taking a break. He's been on surveillance all day. He doesn't have to overwork himself just because we're stuck here.

Carter smiled a tiny smile. Teal'c wants as much as any of us to get back to the SGC. This is the second time he's facing a complete transition to his way of life, after all.

True, agreed Jack. And I guess that Teal'c isn't the only one of us who wants to get back home, he said with a pointed look towards Carter.

Carter's small grin grew into a broader smile. No, I guess you're right, she conceded, then moved away from the opening of the tent that the final brother left alive had assigned to SG-1 when they had mysteriously landed in his back yard. Jack was a little worried about the state of his memory when he couldn't immediately recall the Egyptian's name. But then, Ketep was too busy grieving for his brother, dead at the hands of Ra and his Jaffa, to notice much of what the strangers did, Jack thought.

Anyway, Jack said, in order to fill the silence that had invaded the tent, You hungry? I noticed that you missed lunch. There's a little meat we kept in a bowl for you, as well as one for Teal'c.

No thanks, Carter said in answer to his offer. I thought I might lie down and take a nap, actually. I haven't been sleeping well at night.

Jack smiled at her, if a bit grimly. He looked down at the watch still in his hands... hadn't he meant to put it aside? But this way, he wouldn't have to look at her. What's wrong? he gently asked, concerned as he stared at the useless watch. Missing Pete, are we? His voice was still kind in spite of his words. One thing he didn't wish to do was hurt Carter, even if he was referring to what'shisname... her fiancé... and a sarcastic tone might be the last straw for her. She was already blaming herself for getting them stuck in the past, after all. For an instant, Jack's gut clenched at the thought of the woman he loved wanting to marry another man.

Jack sighed sadly then; okay, he was in love with Sam... he admitted it... for all the good it did him now that she was engaged to what'shisname... that Cop from Denver... that interloper who could never love Carter like Jack did. But the military man in Jack strangled such thoughts even as they surfaced in his mind. It would do no one, him especially, any good to dwell on what he had lost... hadn't even had to lose, he reminded himself. He sighed again, the sound echoing through the tent.

But Carter smiled in spite of his sad sound, an endearing expression on her, he had to admit as well, as it had always been a wonderful gesture for her to make at any given time. Fishing for information? she mildly asked as she crossed over to her bedroll lying on the sand.

Of course I'm not, Jack lied. If he were honest with himself, and with her, he would admit to his blatant search for information. But he felt more secure in lying. It's what he had done for years when any conversation concerned her. I'm just showing my concern that we're stuck here is all. And that's not your fault, so don't think that it is! Anyway, he said, going on, Being stuck here has gotta be harder on you than it is on me. I don't have anybody waiting for me at home, after all. And, boy, was he glad that he'd needed to come along on this mission, for if he was in the SGC right now, and all of SG-1 had been declared missing in action, as they would have been by now, he knew he would have been pulling his hair out in dismay at Sam's absence. As it was, he was supremely thankful that he had come along on this mission, just to be with her, if nothing else.

Sam lay down on her bedroll, then stretched out on her back. I guess we're in the same boat, then, she answered nonchalantly. Pete and I broke up before I came here with you guys, she announced.

Jack's heart stopped beating inside his chest. Had he heard her correctly? He took a long, slow breath, then let it out in a quiet hiss. I'm sorry, he said, and was surprised that he really did feel sorry at her news. Sorry for her, to be precise. I know how rough ending a relationship can be.

Sam gave a little half shrug against the blanket under her. Well, I could hardly expect him to just wait for me all the time when I had realized that I wasn't the right person to make him completely happy. Expecting him to spend his life just sitting around, waiting for me to come home from missions...

That you can't talk about, Jack added.

Sam smiled again. Yeah. Anyway, that would have just been cruel, she lightly answered. So I decided that it was for the best to let him out of the engagement.

Nice excuse, Jack thought to himself, but didn't speak out loud. He glanced at her, then. She was lying on her back, her hands crossed on her stomach, trying to appear unconcerned about the entire subject they were discussing. But O'Neill wasn't fooled by her calm demeanor. She really wasn't concerned about the end of her engagement. In fact, she looked almost... relieved.

Jack peered carefully at her while trying not to seem like he was staring at her. He wanted to encourage her to tell the truth, that she had ended the engagement to Pete because of her feelings for him, Jack, but he didn't know for sure if that was the actual truth, or only wishful thinking on his part. In order to distract himself from that line of thought, he tried to move beyond her stunning news, and concentrate on her. That isn't everything that's on your mind, though, he argued, noting her attempt to look calm, which told him that she was anything but calm. Something else was on her mind... Jack had been around her long enough to recognize the vibes she was giving off. Come on, Carter... You might as well tell me what you're thinking about.

Carter heaved a sigh into the empty tent, but didn't say anything.

Which meant that she really was thinking again. Jack knew he had anticipated her action correctly, for he acknowledged that he knew every member of his former team extremely well, and Carter even better than Teal'c or Daniel. He certainly knew that she liked to think everything through until every possible angle had been thoroughly examined. All the time he had spent with her, both as a fellow team member, and alone with her specifically, had taught him that.

Jack then acknowledged that it was never a good idea for him to be alone with Carter. He had tried to turn that into one of his governing rules about their relationship. But he found that with this recent revelation about her defunct engagement to Pete Shanahan, he was more than willing to overlook his own set of rules regarding her.

Carter finally, quietly, admitted, No, I guess you're right again... That's not all that's bothering me.

Yes? Jack prompted her to continue.

Carter sighed a second time. Well... Social customs are different here, she noted. Women are viewed differently.

So that was what was on her mind. Feeling a little confined? Jack guessed.

A little, Carter admitted. I mean, I know that Teal'c is really only trying to protect me, but he's become something close to a watchdog, and it would be so nice to have a few moments to myself, she plaintively went on.

Jack winced. I hadn't realized it was so bad for you here, he said, then waved a hand toward the tent entrance. I can leave if you want, he offered, then grinned. You know, so you can have that time alone that you're craving. I can go find Daniel... See if he's happily involved with that 'brushing up on his Ancient Egyptian' bit that he was talking about doing.

But Carter shook her head. That's not what I meant, General, she said, and Jack winced again at her use of his title. I guess I'm being a bit ungrateful to Teal'c's and Daniel's efforts. She sighed, then tried again. I guess they see me as their younger sister, of a sort, and they just want to keep my reputation here from becoming... something it's not, she lamely ended.

Jack noticed that she hadn't included him in her assessment as a younger sister, and he wondered if that meant she considered herself to be something else to him, or not. He ignored her words, choosing the safety of silence on the subject instead.

At last, he said, Well, you are a bit unconventional, here. I mean, I doubt these people have ever seen a female soldier, or a female scientist, for that matter.

Jack saw Carter grin from her place on her bedroll. No, probably not, she said.

I guess it's up to you to change their minds, Jack told her. But I would go about doing it slowly, if I were you, he suggested. Social norms won't change overnight. He finally threw the watch aside in disgust. What a time for the battery to die, he groused to himself.

Carter considered what he had told her. I guess you're right, she said, then added, Again. She stared up at the tent ceiling. I should think on it some more, she announced.

That was his Carter, Jack ruminated... thinking again. You do that, he said. I think I'll... think... too, he awkwardly said as he leaned back against the chair behind him. It was a fold-up chair, a clever design that was meant for a more nomadic lifestyle. It had belonged to whatever-his-name was who had been killed by Ra, Jack remembered. But then he doubted that any of the four from the SGC would be doing much 'nomading' in the near future, even considering that they now owned the chair, as well as all the brother's personal things. Their ship was currently guarded by several Jaffa bearing staff weapons, so it was doubtful that they would be going anywhere any time soon. No, Teal'c had been right in his earlier assessment; it was going to be nearly impossible to reclaim their ship.

Thinking of a way to get the ship back? Carter inquired.

Yep, Jack told her.

Always strategizing, Carter affectionately mumbled. Just like Teal'c is always a warrior.

They slipped into silence, then, both consumed by their own private thoughts. Except that Jack hadn't exactly been telling Carter the whole truth the last time he had spoken. He had been thinking about a strategy to reclaim their ship, he grumpily reminded himself. However, that strategizing had quickly given way to more thoughts about what he'd discovered concerning Carter, and her relationship with what'shisname.

That now-ended relationship, he firmly corrected himself. He couldn't hide from himself the swell of happiness that he felt when he thought of the state of affairs between her and Shanahan. He tried to be sad that her engagement was over, but try as he might, he couldn't quite dredge up the appropriate amount of remorse. If he were honest with himself... and he was trying to be honest with himself... he was feeling damned ecstatic that she wasn't planning on marrying that cop anymore.

And why are you feeling so happy about that? Jack sarcastically asked himself. Again, he grimaced, but couldn't hide his feelings from his own mind as he could hide them from most people in the Air Force. He was so happy about what she had said because he had always fantasized about someday marrying Carter himself. He couldn't deny it, whether such an idea went against those military regulations they'd been living with for the last eight years, or not. Jack glanced at the woman stretched out on her bedroll. Regulations or no regulations, he slowly broke out with a huge grin on his face.

That grin could be construed as falling totally over the regulation line, he considered. But then, what were Air Force regulations when he and SG-1 seemed to be stuck here in a place that fell in a time long before the invention of that military organization, and its regulations? The Air Force didn't really exist yet, so he and Carter couldn't be expected to hold themselves bound by such regulations, he argued with himself.

He was trying to argue a thin line, he admitted, but he also knew that he felt weary from spending the last eight years trying to fight against his own tender feelings for her. If he were being honest here, he would have to mentally admit that he truly wanted to marry Samantha Carter himself, no matter what he had always been taught that he should feel about a subordinate officer under his command. That was why her news wasn't bothering him as much as it should be bothering him.

For a second time, Jack glanced over at Carter's form. Her eyes were closed, but a smile now graced her lips. Stop staring at me, General, she said.

She could see through her eyelids, now? But instead of commenting on her sudden insight, he said, Since we'll be here for awhile, maybe you can call me by my first name instead of my title?

Her eyebrows lifted to her hairline. I suppose that's a small enough change... if you call me 'Sam' instead of 'Carter.'

Jack thought about that as he gazed at her. That shouldn't be too hard, he agreed.

Sam seemed to smile even more. Okay, she said. I can do that.

So can I, Jack informed.

More silence descended after that. Sam continued to try to sleep, and Jack watched her. Finally, he stood up, and crossed to her side. Sam... You asleep? he softly asked as he sat down on the sand beside her bedroll.

Sam cracked one eye open. Not yet. She sighed. I never could fall asleep during the middle of the day; guess naps are hard no matter what time period I'm in, she ruefully added.

Jack was quiet for a second, then hesitantly entreated, Can I talk to you for a minute?

Her other eye opened, and she rose onto an elbow so she could regard him. Sure... What's on your mind?

Jack wavered again, then firmly told himself to just say what he was thinking, and get it over with. Well, if we're stuck here, there's no Air Force, yet, and no pesky regulations to try to avoid. And we can't break what hasn't been invented, yet, and.., he said, plunging in to what he had been contemplating without bothering to change the subject more gently for her.

I've already thought of that, she admitted.

So, he continued, then, before he lost his nerve. Will you marry me, Sam? he beseeched in a soft voice.

Sam stared at him as the blood drained from her face. She continued to just stare at him, then raised herself into a sitting position. At last, she whispered, Are you serious? Jack nodded. Sam blinked, and tried to keep control of the emotions that Jack could see running rampant across her features. What... What about Kerry? she blurted then.

Jack was genuinely mystified at her words. Kerry who? he asked before he could think about his response.

Sam blinked again. Kerry Johnson, that's who. You know... The woman you're supposed to be dating?

Jack relaxed again. Oh, that Kerry.

Yes, that Kerry.

Jack drew a deep breath. That... He refused to say the word 'relationship.' What I had with her... it's been over for... for ages. Then, he added, Well, since your... Since before Jacob died.

Flustered, Sam announced, I had no idea about that!

Yeah, Jack told her matter-of-factly. She dumped me, dumped me good.

That seemed to interest Sam, for her head jerked once, as if she truly hadn't known, and was shocked to find out now. Really?

Really, Jack answered. Then he shrugged at her expression of disbelief. Well, she said... He paused, catching himself.

But Sam was a relentless interrogator. She said what?

Jack's glance slid aside for a second as he considered telling her another, safe, story. But then he reminded himself that being stuck in the past demanded some honesty if anything did. So he said, Well, she said that she saw my heart was already... busy.

Busy?

Okay, okay, he gruffly, quickly, admitted, then. It was stuck on you, and she knew it, and she didn't want to be second choice, all right? Jack said all in one breath.

Sam appeared surprised at his candor. Slowly, she asked, Why did you decide to date her in the first place if you were... busy?

Jack shrugged again, still trying to pretend to her that his reasoning really didn't matter. His habits were proving to be harder to break than he had expected them to be. He tried his best to explain, Well, you were engaged to Shanahan... I figured that I should try to take my own advice, and find a life of my own, too.

But.., she protested.

You were off limits, Jack finally explained. Out of bounds... I had to get over... whatever I felt... concerning you. I knew that. He sighed, the sound unhappy. And I liked Kerry when she came to the SGC. The rest is history, I guess.

You weren't in love with her, though? Sam asked in a quiet, subdued tone of voice.

Jack shook his head. How could I be, when my heart was already... busy?

Sam sat in silence for a minute. He could tell by the expression on her face that she was thinking again. It made him nervous. At last, sweating, he said, Look, forget I ever said anything. I...

She interrupted him, saying as she shifted to sit right in front of him, We are both such idiots.

Her comment caught him so by surprise that he paused in his bid to climb to his feet, and disappear. He sat back down on the sand. Excuse me?

Sam closed her eyes, an expression of pure regret washing over her face. You don't understand, do you?

Uhhhhh... No, Jack was finally forced to say.

Again came that pained glint to her eyes. I wasted so much time.., she whispered.

Sam, he threatened. You'd better start making sense real soon, or I'll call Teal'c...

A ghost of a smile flitted across her face. Sorry, she instantly stated. I don't mean to not make sense.

Some explanation would be a good thing right about now, Jack suggested.

Her smile widened. All right, I'll explain. But she was silent for a moment, instead. Finally, she said, I didn't intend to act this way, but I couldn't help myself at...

Sam...

Without missing a beat, she confessed, I was always comparing Pete to you. You know, in my head... And he always lost. And he didn't really deserve to be in an unfair competition... I knew that... Then, she hung her head and quietly confessed, But I couldn't help myself, either. She paused. That's the real reason why I broke up with him, though, I swear. He could never compare to you.

Jack sat silent for a minute. Okay..,, he said. You say that there was some kind of contest going on?

Sam grinned again. I didn't mean for there to be. I did have a good time with Pete at first...

At first?

Sam nodded. Before we got engaged. Before everything got so serious. Then she looked at him, pained confusion gracing her features. But you had told me to go ahead, and find a life for myself outside the SGC! she half protested, half wailed in a subdued voice. I thought you weren't... She stopped, then went on, I thought that you didn't care about me anymore!

Jack frowned. That was why you told him 'yes?'

Sam nodded once more. I thought...

You should have asked me, point blank, instead of thinking so much, Jack suggested.

I was going to! Sam insisted. That day I went to your house, but...

Jack finished for her in sudden understanding. But Kerry was over for dinner.

And then Dad... Sam let her head fall into her hand. We should have been honest with each other a long time ago!

Jack sat on the sandy floor beside her. We couldn't really say anything... The regs...

I finally admitted to myself that you're worth breaking the regulations over, she told him. But by then, you were dating Kerry, and I was engaged to Pete... It just never seemed to be the right time for me to say anything, she wailed.

Jack appeared to grow more and more uncomfortable as he gazed at her. Finally, he felt that he had to say something to her, or burst. This.., he croaked, then had to clear his throat when he paused to think some more. Finally, he hesitantly went on, This might also not be the right time, but it's all we've been given... So, I guess... His voice trailed out again.

Sam glanced up at him. What? she quietly cajoled.

Jack looked at her, looked down at his hands in his lap, looked at her again, then all but blurted, It's not quite the truth for you to think that I just care about you, like I said a few years ago.

Sam stared at him with wide eyes. It's not? she finally inquired in a soft voice.

No. Jack looked down once again; maybe this would be an easier confession if he wasn't looking at her when he confessed it. So, he resolutely stared at his hands still clenched together in his lap. I do still care about you, but... He took a deep breath. But my feeling have grown a lot deeper over the years from caring to... Ah, hell, he might just as well tell her everything!

But Sam interrupted him again. Looking scared, now, she questioned, To? It's grown to..?

Jack could do little more at this point except to softly blurt, Love, Sam... I mean, I love you, and have for a long time... for years.

Sam's eyes grew even wider than they already were. Finally, she asked in a whisper, You..? You love me? Well... He had asked her to marry him, after all, she told herself. But a lot of people got married who didn't love each other. She needed to make sure... She shut her eyes, and shook her head. I mean, you're in love with me?

Jack felt as if he wished that he hadn't said anything to her, after all. He didn't want to hear her admit that she felt flattered, but... well, she was still in love with Shanahan, even though their engagement was over...

But she smiled a bit shyly, then divulged, I... I'm in love with you, too. Jack jerked his head up to stare at her, and she went on, That's also one of the reasons why I decided that I could never marry Pete... the most important reason. She gazed at him with a studied, intense look on her face. I loved you instead of him, and I should have been in love with him if we were planning to marry. She looked down again, and whispered to her hands, But I wasn't, and never was. You were... She looked miserable, now, in her divulgence. The idea of you was always there, she forced herself to say.

Silence again descended on them. But it was a silence of discovery, of surprise, of astonishment at what each had learned about the other. Jack began to slowly speak, So you're saying that... that... you were never in love with... with Shanahan?

Still miserable, Sam shook her head. I could lie to myself all I wanted to, and did, for months, but I have always been in love with you.

The happy bubble inside Jack's chest swelled a little more. Gingerly, trying hard not to move too fast, he let his hand slowly snake across the sand until it came in contact with her fingers. Then, he let himself slide his rough hand around hers. I guess I always knew that, but I... I thought it was just wishful thinking on my part. You were engaged to someone else, after all.

Sam squeezed his hand cradling hers. I'm not anymore, she said, while looking hopefully into his eyes.

Such a stare was difficult to maintain, Jack admitted to himself. They were both so much more used to skirting around each other, of trying their best to hide their feelings from those around them, to the point that even looking at each other was a formidable thing to do.

Does your offer still stand? Sam breathed after a moment when she felt herself swimming in his brown gaze, not wanting to tear herself away. Do you still want to marry a total idiot?

Jack's reply was immediate. You're smarter than anyone I know, not a total idiot. And yes, I still want to marry you, if it doesn't bother you that I'm an old soldier who's close to the end of his career.

Sam snorted when he said that. I've just been waiting for the end of that career, actually. Her own hand reached up, very tentatively, to explore the feel of his cheek.

Jack closed his eyes, and leaned into her hand like he worshiped her touch. You're sure you don't mind?

I'll prove it, Sam whispered, smiled a tiny smile of anticipation, then leaned in the rest of the way to softly kiss him.

Such a fleeting gesture of affection was quiet, warm, and over before Jack could react to it. He felt her draw back, and found himself staring seriously at her blue eyes, instead. With as much caution as he'd seen in her original gesture, his own hand rose to carefully caress across the side of her cheek. You are so beautiful, he said in such a confident tone that it indicated his complete inconceivability of any argument.

She argued anyway. And I think that you are, so that just shows what nuts we've become. She added, I love the lines on your face. They make you light up like the sun when you smile.

Jack smiled when she told him that, making his face fairly glow. He couldn't help himself. But he also thought she was a bit on the insane side. You must be in love in order to think that, he remarked.

Sam giggled quietly into his hand. Yeah, I must be, she echoed. She leaned her head foreward until she felt her forehead come in contact with his. He felt cool against the warmth still in her own skin. Yet, in spite of the natural heat they were feeling, neither took their hands away from their cherished exploration of the other's cheek.

Very slowly, Jack moved forward, and kissed her again, a little shyly at first, but then his desire roared to life. So fast that it would have taken his breath away if he could still breath. He fell into Sam's and his own swirling web of passion mixed with an undying affection that set him on fire from the inside out.

That was when Daniel entered the tent through the flap. The second his eyes had adjusted, his gaze landed on the two sitting on the sand that made up the floor of their home for the time being, kissing each other like they were dying of thirst, and the other was an unexpected glass of water. Uh... Sorry... Guess I should have knocked...

But Jack and Sam were completely ignoring him, too wrapped up in themselves to even register what he'd said.

Daniel was distinctly embarrassed by now. I'll just go... He turned, but paused when he heard Jack's voice behind him.

Daniel? Jack questioningly stated.

Daniel turned again to regard his teammates still sitting on the sand, staring at each other like besotted fools. Yeah?

Jack said, Ask that friend of yours... What's his name again? Ask him who we need to talk to in order to get married.

Daniel raised an eyebrow in surprise. His voice was strangled as he blurted, Uh... Married? Uh...

You heard me, Daniel. Now get going. Jack hadn't taken his eyes off Sam, but he knew by the rush of wind that Daniel had left the tent. He smiled. I think we just shaved about five years off of Daniel's life.

Sam softly laughed at what he said. Maybe we'll break the news to Teal'c a bit more gently.

Jack whispered, I have an engagement ring... in my bedroom, in the side table drawer, in Colorado Springs. Not that it does me any good right here.

Sam gave a start. You have a ring?

I've had it for years, Jack explained. Just in case... Though it doesn't seem to be doing me much good right now. And Jack shrugged.

Sam gently laughed again as her forehead once more touched his. I don't need a ring. I don't even care about one. She sighed, and closed her own eyes so that she didn't deny herself a bit of sensing everything her hand could observe about the feel of his cheek. I just want you. Then she realized how her words would sound to Jack, and smiled again. Both in the Biblical sense, and not, she added.

Jack grinned. Me too... Oh, me too, he emphatically said.

* * *

A knock quietly sounded, and the tent flap moved hesitantly aside once again. Ketep's face appeared, followed by Daniel as they both entered the shadowed home. Ketep muttered something foreign sounding when he spotted Jack and Sam seated by the bedroll lying on the sand. He looked as if he wished he were anyplace but where he was. Finally, he blinked, then asked in Egyptian, You wish to marry? Daniel translated his question for him to both Jack and Sam.

It was Jack who answered, though his and Sam's obviously linked fingers were making his hand tingle. Yeah, soon, as in, right now, if we... Then, he turned his head to stare at Ketep. Is that all right? Is there some ceremony that we need to go through, or something? Whatever rules you have here in Egypt...

Daniel translated Jack's query, searching for the best words to get the General's point across without including his personal opinion on the subject.

Ketep said something more, but Daniel didn't translate right away. He rubbed his forehead, sighed, and finally had to give in to his burning need to voice his personal opinion. Jack, Sam isn't this going a bit fast for you? I mean, aren't you..? He helplessly let his voice trail away into silence. He'd made it all of thirty seconds before voicing his concerns.

However, Daniel got no further in that opinion. Jack scowled, but silently acknowledged that, for Daniel, thirty seconds was quite a long while to remain silent. What is this? Jack asked anyway, masking his sudden knowledge about his teammate. Is this Marriage Counseling by Dr. Daniel Jackson? He regarded Daniel, grimaced, and informed, Daniel, you're not even that kind of a doctor.

Sam piped up. And we have been waiting for this to happen for... She gave a thoughtful shrug. ... eight years? Isn't that enough time to pass for us to know what we're doing?

Yeah, but.., Daniel spluttered in protest. Then he tried to persuade them by saying something different. Jack and you both said that you care about each other... Sorry, Teal'c showed me the tape of your Za'tarc episodes when I pestered him about it almost nonstop for a week.

The sense of Jack's natural interest in Daniel's confession disguised a deeper sense of animosity that only his good friends would ever be aware of. He never told me about that, Jack noted, being deceptively nonchalant.

Daniel glared straight at him. No, Teal'c wouldn't, because he likes to stay alive. Then he shook his head. But my point is... caring about someone is a long way from loving someone enough to want to marry him... her... them... uh, each other!

Sam blinked once, then dropped her head to stare at her lap. Instead of yelling in a raised voice that displayed her swirling frustration at having to convince Daniel, she tried to be calm and diplomatic. Maybe begging wasn't quite out of order, either, she thought. Daniel, you have to believe us... She glanced up, and saw the doubt cross his features. What can we say to convince you that we're serious?

Daniel regarded the two figures in front of him with another raised eyebrow. You..? You're actually serious? Jack and Sam both nodded. But this is nuts! Daniel burst out then. Shouldn't you date or something, first? Remember, I've been married, and...

Jack's face darkened dangerously as he reminded Daniel, I've been married, too. His dangerous expression lifted somewhat when Daniel looked chastened at the reminder. I know what this all entails, and we both know what we're doing, he continued. He glanced at Sam, sitting calmly beside him on the sand, and said, Dating... so overrated. And flirting? He gazed at Sam with a stupid grin plastered on his face. We've been doing that for as long as we've known each other. Then he turned back to look at his teammate. Come on, Daniel, you've been around us for years... We're sooooo not gonna wait any longer. He grinned again at Sam, then went on to ask, What do you two say? And he gestured at Ketep and Daniel.

Daniel blinked, comprehending the unbending expression that had settled on Jack's face, then looked to see the same expression of complete and determined adoration on Sam's face. Then he looked at Ketep, who just appeared to be confused at all the English words he didn't understand. Daniel sighed. It seems that I'm going to have to teach you some English, he mumbled to the Egyptian man, but Ketep still didn't understand what he had said. So he turned back to Jack and Sam, and continued, There isn't a ceremony per se. The bride and groom become married when the bride... Here, he glanced at Sam. That's you. She nodded to show that she understood. When the bride moves her belongings to the groom's... And he glanced at Jack. You. Jack nodded. Daniel finished. When the bride moves her belongings to the groom's tent.

Jack furrowed his brow. Um... Problem, he said with his left hand raised to point a finger at the ceiling. He went on to say, I don't own a tent. He amended, I own a house, but it's in Colorado Springs, with... And he turned to Sam. With the engagement ring, he ruefully ended.

Daniel did a double take. You have an engagement ring? he asked in some surprise. You mean that you've been planning this? He paused to shift his weight on the sand. Then, he blinked in astonishment. Um... I had no idea you had thought things through that far.

Jack cleared his throat, looking a tad embarrassed, too. No, probably not even Walter knows about that ring.

Daniel nodded. And Walter knows everything, he remarked.

True, both Jack and Sam said at the same time. Then Jack raised his own brow. The tent? he prodded.

Oh, yeah, right, Daniel said, and spoke to Ketep.

Jack shook his head, and muttered under his breath to Sam, He's more absentminded than you are. To that comment, she answered with an affectionate, light swat to his arm. The swat barely even penetrated the outer robe, and the layer of BDUs that he was wearing. He just grinned at her, then kissed her cheek.

After Daniel's hurried explanation, Ketep stepped out of the tent with only a finger held up to indicate that the others should wait for him for a moment.

Five minutes later, Ketep ran back into the tent, and spoke quickly to Daniel. Daniel's brows rose once more. Uh, he answered, regarding Jack. About that tent? Jack nodded. Um... I guess you own a small one, now.

That announcement surprised Jack. No, I would have remembered buying a tent, and I'm pretty sure that the chance to grab one never crossed my path. He frowned.

Daniel continued. Well, it seems that you're wrong, Jack. Apparently, some friends of Ketep just moved into bigger digs. They gave you the smaller tent that they'd been using as your... as a wedding present.

No kidding?! Jack burst out, looking suddenly more delighted than he should appear to be gifted something as humble as an Ancient Egyptian tent.

No kidding, Daniel repeated. He convinced some friends of his... I think I got that right... to start setting up the smaller tent next to this one. You two can move in whenever they're finished.

Sam and Jack stared at each other, surprised at their good fortune, and surprised that they thought owning a tent was good fortune in the first place. Sam tried to express her gratitude over an impossible language barrier. Uh... Thank you... De Nada... Lo Siento...

That means 'sorry,' Carter, not 'thanks,' Jack informed in a soft voice as he continued to try to smile gratefully at Ketep... which was harder than anyone might think, as he wasn't practiced at being a gracious person.

I know, Sam whispered back to him. But at least it's in a foreign language...

Just tell him that E=MC squared, and he'll roll over and beg, like all the guys do who hang around you...

Sam gave a start. They do not! she protested.

Yeah, right, Jack intoned with a roll of his own eyes. I've watched men pant after you for the last eight years.

They don't pant! Sam still protested.

Daniel tried to hide his laugh behind a hand placed carefully over his mouth and chin.

At last, after Daniel had laughed, but tried to turn it into a more polite cough, Jack asked, Moving in to the same tent... that's it?

Daniel shrugged, seeming glad to have something else besides Sam's fan club to think about. That's it. Apparently there's no other ceremony, except the feast...

That must be universal, Sam commented.

Grinning, Daniel went on, As long as there's no divorce or anything...

There won't be, Jack said with an air of finality.

Daniel clapped his hands together. Then I guess that covers it!

Jack stared at Sam. I'll hardly feel married without going through a ceremony, or something to commemorate the moment, he groused under his breath.

I know what you mean, Sam agreed. They stared at each other, then they turned as one to stare at Daniel.

What? Daniel inquired.

Jack spoke. Can you, sort of.., perform..?

A wedding ceremony? Sam finished.

* * *

So it was during that evening, before appearing at the feast cooked in their honor... (Those Egyptians barely needed an excuse to start cooking, Jack noted...) Daniel stood nervously on the sand before Jack and Sam, regarding his friends as he prepared to lead them in a marriage ceremony that he wasn't quite credited to perform. Teal'c stood beside Jack, acting as an impassive observer. His dour expression bespoke of the food he thought he was missing more than the way Jack thought a good witness should behave.

Um.., Daniel started, looking frantically at his friends. I'm trying to recall how a wedding ceremony goes... Um... Join hands, he finally instructed.

Jack and Sam grabbed onto the other's hand, but the orders couldn't quite wipe away the stupid grin they kept flashing at each other. A linked hand meant so much to them, who hadn't been able to even give each other a romantic look for eight long years, let alone be encouraged to touch each other. It all seemed like one big daydream twisted into reality somehow. Like one of those alternate realities that Sam had frequently spoken of connecting with theirs...

Daniel continued, Uh... Finally, he had to look up at Jack and Sam. Do either of you remember how this is supposed to start?

Jack shifted on the sand, and glanced at Teal'c. The big Jaffa shrugged.

But Sam said, Doesn't it start 'Dearly beloved..?

That's right! Daniel crossed his hands over his front, attempting to appear reverent, but actually just looking nervous, and began again. Dearly beloved, he intoned, and Sam giggled at the serious sound in his voice.

Jack squeezed her hand. No giggling, Carter, he warned.

'Sam,' remember? she shot back in a stage whisper. Unless you want me to keep calling you 'Sir' as well?

Will you two be quiet? Daniel said in exasperation. I'm trying to think here, he added.

Sorry, Sam immediately said, trying to seem contrite.

Sorry, Jack echoed Sam. But, somehow, he didn't look very regretful.

Scowling, Daniel echoed again, Dearly beloved, we have gathered here... in Egypt... some 5000 years ago...

With a new tent next door, Jack had to helpfully add.

Next to a new tent, Daniel dutifully repeated. To join in... what is it?

Sam whispered, To join in matrimony...

Daniel instantly continued, To join in... unmatrimony... Sorry, guys, he said, now looking apologetic. I'm not exactly supposed to be allowed to do this kind of thing...

Just get on with it, Jack prodded in irritation.

Daniel got on with it. Um.., he said to give himself time to think. Something about prayers, and candles... He jerked his head up. Are either of you Catholic? he asked.

Daniel! Jack warned.

Sorry! Daniel exclaimed. I've only seen two wedding ceremonies, and one was mine!

Then throw in a few Abydonian... things, Jack ordered. We don't mind.

Okay, Daniel said, instantly appearing to grow more comfortable. I've been to a few more of those. Then, he continued, Of course, that was a long time ago... and I didn't particularly pay attention. At the scowl on Jack's face, he hurried on. Okay... Um... He paused again, clearly still thinking. Um...

Daniel, just say something! Jack ordered, sounding every bit like the commanding General of the SGC.

Something about love, blurted Daniel, And nothing breaking this union...

Asunder, Sam filled in.

Jack peered at Sam beside him. What the hell does 'asunder' mean, anyway?

Sam was too busy giggling to respond, but Teal'c said to them all, It is defined, 'to pull apart.' He regarded his friends with a slight smile on his face. I am sure that is the correct meaning, he affirmed.

Jack stared at Teal'c. Thanks, big guy... I know that we can always count on you.

You asked, Teal'c responded. I answered.

Anyway, Daniel hurried to say. Let no one... break them apart, he said. Then he eyed the two standing before him with a baleful look in his gaze. And try to be serious, he said to his friends.

Oh, we are, Jack intoned.

Sam giggled again.

Daniel went on as if Jack hadn't spoken, And feel the joy, and the light, and the spark...

Daniel, Sam interrupted this time. I think you're confusing Abydonian wedding ceremonies with American wedding ceremonies.

There's no mention of a light? Or a spark? Daniel asked.

Uh... Not that I know of, Sam informed him.

Okay, Daniel continued. Uh...

Vows, Jack reminded.

Daniel looked delighted that he had actually remembered something with only a little prodding. Vows! Right... Uh... Jack? Do you?

Jack peered at Sam. You're damn right I do.

Teal'c actually smiled a ghost of a smile when Jack said those words.

Daniel tried his best to ignore his Jaffa friend. Sam? Do you?

Uh... Yeah... Damn straight... Uh... I do, she stuttered. She squeezed Jack's hand. He squeezed back.

Daniel went on, Uh... Oh, and this part I do remember... By the power that is NOT invested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may... Ouch! With that, Daniel took a step back to shift his weight onto his other foot, tripped over the one chair that was in that portion of the tent, his shoe catching on the chair leg, and he tumbled over into the sand. As he fell, Daniel yelled, Shi..! He stopped himself just as he was about to finish yelling the English expletive. Uh... Shoot! he said instead, changing the word he chose to say at the last moment. Damn! Uh... Darn! He moaned from his place on the sand, and grimaced in obvious pain. I think I broke my ankle!

Sam instantly bent down to take a look. She gently fingered Daniel's already swelling ankle while Jack knelt behind his friend, his hands supporting Daniel's arms while Daniel grimaced in pain.

Get the stretcher braces out of the packs, Sam next ordered. Teal'c jogged over to Jack's pack, and searched inside until he was able to draw out the parts of the collapsible stretcher that Sam had requested.

Sam next called, Bring the medkit, too! When Jack looked at her, wondering what the medkit could possibly do for an injury as serious as a broken bone, Sam explained, I want to use the bandage that's included to make a splint... sort of... Teal'c tossed Sam the medkit, and the two pieces of the stretcher she had requested, then she said to the Jaffa, Okay, Teal'c, get behind Daniel with Jack, and try to hold him steady.

Daniel peered at her, worry written in every line of his face that wasn't already clouded by pain. What are you going to do? he screeched.

Sam screwed her face up a bit. God, Daniel, I'm sorry about this, but...

What. Are. You. Going. To. Do? Daniel repeated, his voice rising with his growing hysteria.

Your ankle is broken. I'm going to... She gave a sharp twist to his ankle, which popped the bones back into place. ... set the bones, Sam finished as Daniel loudly grunted once, then fainted.

Well, at least he's only fainted. He's not dead this time, Jack quipped as he relaxed the grip he'd had on Daniel's shoulders.

Sam giggled softly as she wrapped the bandage around Daniel's ankle, then secured it with medical tape that she bit through in order to tear.

Jack couldn't squelch his grin as he said, You can do that to me any day.

What? Sam questioned. Tear you?

Bite me, Jack corrected with a quirk of his eyebrows that lent a seductive quality to his colloquial comment that would normally have been absent.

Sam grinned. Be careful that I don't.., she smilingly warned.

This is flirting, Teal'c stated then, his deep voice sounding flat in the tent. You are married now... more or less... and have no real need to flirt any longer, if I understand correctly.

Jack grinned. Ohhhh, Teal'c, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Sam giggled again. Jack appeared to enjoy the flush of her cheeks more than he should. Well, I'm hungry... What say we head on over to the dinner?

What about Daniel? Sam asked in some concern.

Jack just waved at the man with his hand. If he's still out when we come back, then it will be time to worry.

I will stay with him until he wakes, Teal'c stated. You enjoy your wedding feast without me.

Sam instantly said, You're right, Teal'c, someone should sit with...

Jack interrupted her by placing a hand on her arm before she could volunteer to relieve the Jaffa anytime soon. Teal'c will be fine. He swung his head around to stare at his friend. We'll bring you a plate. Then he tugged Sam to the tent entrance.

But.., Sam protested.

Wedding, Jack said in a sing song voice. And I didn't marry Daniel or Teal'c. I married you.

Sort of, Sam clarified.

Let's go, he ordered, and dragged a protesting Sam from the tent.

Jack, I really don't think.., Sam began.

Jack pulled her into the shadow the tent cast onto the sand. Good... Don't think, he suggested, as he pulled her into his arms, and, totally without warning, kissed her hotly in the dark of night.

Sam felt her knees turn to liquid, and her stomach swirl into knots. She couldn't help but respond, despite her concern about Daniel.

Thank you, Jack whispered into Sam's ear before he lightly kissed it. Thank you for marrying me. You've made me the happiest I've been since coming to this... land.

You can curse if you want to, she told him.

This accursed land, Jack instantly amended. I have sand in all my unmentionable places, he groused.

I'll be happy to wash it all away for you, Sam suggested next.

Thank God, Jack breathed, then kissed her again in a flash of light, and a shower of sparks from the direction of the fire.

* * *

In the end, it was because of Teal'c that they decided to lead the rebellion that was supposed to happen sometime in the next few years, even though Sam wished for all of them to keep a low profile. He spoke to both Sam and Jack as they brought the promised plate of food into the tent a scant hour later. Without Tretonin, or a symbiote to rely on, he reminded them, he would die in only a few days' time. It was as simple, as black and white, as that. He apologized for inconveniencing anyone with this reminder, especially on this, of all nights, but he was already feeling the weakening that came with his lack of the Tretonin that he had brought with him. Further rationing was out of the question, as he was already rationing almost more than he dared just to stay alive.

So, Jack had to admit to himself that they needed to reclaim the ship now or never. He promised to find Ketep at the ceremonial dinner being held on the other side of the encampment. Teal'c stayed with the unconscious Daniel Jackson while Jack and Sam disappeared, ostensibly to find the Egyptian man called Ketep, but were gone far longer than such a simple task required.

Teal'c said nothing when the three hurried into the tent an hour later, and he tried hard not to notice the looks of affection that passed between Jack and Sam, concentrating instead on communicating their intentions across a language barrier, made even harder since Daniel was unavailable to translate for them.

But, by morning, a plan had been devised. They attacked at dawn, found Ra and his Jaffa more than ready for them, as betrayal had been just as abundant as those willing to fight for freedom, and while staff weapons boomed, were quickly captured by the Goa'uld whose death had started everything on SG-1.

They were captured in the morning, and dead by early afternoon. And Daniel? He slept through it all, trapped as much as his friend's were by his own broken ankle. When he awoke, it was to a warning from Ra to the entire encampment as to what could befall any who disputed his authority. After dumping the bodies of the three rebels firmly into the sand at the edge of the rough camp, Ra's Jaffa blasted away at the invisible obstruction that they had been guarding for several days, and thoroughly destroyed the ship that had carried SG-1 to Ancient Egypt in the first place.

Daniel could do nothing but stand on his good leg beside Ketep, stony faced and horror struck, as his three companions of the last eight years of his life were laid to a final resting place far from home, but at least, on the planet of their birth. He wasn't able to cry until a full week had passed.

* * *

Five years later:

Daniel found himself sneaking another glance at the man stretched beside him. Their backs were resting on the log near one of the many fires at the rebellion celebration supper they were both attending. Most of the Ancient Egyptians seemed quite happy that Ra, their one time ruler, and his Jaffa cohorts had been thrown off the planet. They were busy laughing, eating, dancing, celebrating...

Colonel O'Neill seemed content as well, sitting there beside Daniel. But Jack's gaze had remained mostly on Sam's form all night. Every now and then, the Colonel's eyes would move to take in Teal'c's position as the big man quietly talked with Ketep, but then those brown eyes of Jack's would immediately search out Sam once again. Daniel saw the firelight flicker between his two friends as they watched each other. It was strange, Daniel ruminated, to see such open admiration on the alternate Jack's and Sam's faces. He had always associated both people with the military officers they had become who had been forbidden to show such admiration for each other, even though he had married them... sort of. Maybe, Daniel now thought, this new Jack and Sam, and their revised timeline, had some possibilities after all.

Jack turned to see Daniel shrewdly regarding him. What? he asked accusatorily. He took another drink from the mug full of... whatever it was he held in his hand.

Daniel shrugged. Nothing.

Jack gestured at him with the rough hewn cup he was holding. No... What is it?

Daniel shifted on the sand beside him, leaning more comfortably against the log at their backs. Uh, he started to say. I've just never seen you stare so much at Sam. I mean, not you exactly, but... Suddenly Daniel halted his nervous speech. You know what I mean.

Jack's face blossomed into a smile that lit up his eyes and made him appear ten years younger. Yeah, he dreamily agreed with the man that he knew, but didn't know, had just met... It was confusing when he thought about it, so he didn't think about it very much. He sighed thoughtlessly instead. I think I'm actually falling in love.

Completely astonished, Daniel spit what passed as the Egyptian version of ale across the sand and into the fire several feet in front of them. He looked at Jack, who looked at him in some bewilderment at his abrupt gesture. Daniel coughed. You're what?

Uh... Nothing. Embarrassed, Jack answered Daniel as he pounded his back.

Suddenly, Daniel smiled. You like Sam, don't you?

Jack stared at Daniel, then his face broke into that same sappy smile he'd displayed a moment before. Yeah, I do.

Daniel laughed out loud, showing more emotion than he had illustrated since the others had come to the Egypt of this time period.

What? Jack asked again. His smile disappeared, and he scowled. It was a far more familiar expression on him.

Uh.., Daniel answered. Nothing, nothing, he said this time, showing his awareness of Jack's expression, and just what it might mean.

Daniel.., the Colonel warned.

Okay, okay, Daniel said, giving in. It's just really weird to see you staring so obviously at Sam when...

I always want to be staring at Carter, I admit, Jack insisted, his features lifting at the mention of her name. I have ever since I met her.

Daniel nodded, but thought, Geez, he already has it bad for her! It amused him at how expressive his sort-of friend suddenly was. But he tried to hide his new knowledge, and instead concentrated on answering Jack's comment. That's just it, he said. See, in my time... when I knew you from before... it was against the rules for you and Sam to...

Jack narrowed his eyes. Against the rules? he asked. What rules?

The frat rules, Daniel quickly explained.

Jack instantly looked across the fire to Sam again. You mean...

Yeah, Daniel said, cutting him off. In my time, Sam was a soldier in the Air Force, too.

Damn, Jack softly said, fully comprehending just what that information entailed. All the while, he continued to stare at her across the Egyptian compound. He cocked his head again, and kept staring. I bet she's a good one, he thoughtfully said at long last.

Oh, the best, Daniel told him.

Jack went on, though. She's so damned smart...

She was in my time period, too, Daniel said.

Jack didn't miss the man's use of the past tense of the verb he had chosen. Um... Daniel... Look, I'm sorry about... How did you say that you were sorry that... you... were dead? Even though you weren't... Jack ran a hand through his hair again. Man, this was confusing!

It's not your fault, Daniel said. They tried to lead the uprising against Ra sooner than they should have, and he captured them, instead. He... Daniel swallowed until he reached the lump obstructing his throat. This was always so hard to talk about! He tried to talk around the lump. They... um... It was Ra who did it, he finally settled on saying.

Ra? Jack inquired.

Daniel nodded. That big, evil bad guy with the glowing eyes. You now, the one who left? The reason why we're celebrating now?

Oh, yeah, yeah, right, Jack said.

Daniel smiled. That is so weird, but I keep forgetting that in your reality, you and I never went to... Daniel stopped himself just in time from talking about something that was top secret.

Jack glared at Daniel when he paused, slightly irritated. I have the highest security clearance, you know, he reminded the man. And I've already been through that Gate thingy... He swirled his hand in the air, indicating the circular Stargate. There's really nothing that you can't tell me.

So, Daniel ended up blurting, I forget that we never had to kill Ra this time, like we did last time. We never went to Abydos.

A bit taken aback at the information Daniel had revealed in his outburst, Jack gestured back and forth between him and Daniel. You and me? Killed Ra? By ourselves? Daniel nodded. Jack went on, At... whatever you just said.

Abydos, Daniel informed. Another planet. It's where I met my wife, and... Daniel's voice trailed off as he started thinking about what had happened to Sha're.

Now Jack was utterly and thoroughly confused. Excuse me for pointing this out, Dr. Jackson...

Daniel.

Daniel, Jack corrected without missing a beat. But... How did we kill this superhuman... by ourselves? You're an archaeologist, not a soldier.

I know, Daniel said. He turned to Jack, and smiled disarmingly. We always made one hell of a team, anyway, he said then.

Jack continued to look like he'd just been run over by a troop transport. A team? he dubiously asked.

Daniel nodded again. We were the start, the original SG-1.

SG-1? Jack asked. What the hell is that?

Well, it's.., Daniel started to explain. He gave up when he saw Jack's confused expression. He would never be able to do the subject justice for Jack. How did we get onto this subject, anyway?

Jack paused, thinking, then happily sighed again. I was talking about Carter, he reminded Daniel.

That's right, Daniel said.

Is there anything else that's different? Jack suddenly asked. Because we both know that Carter is no soldier.

But I bet she's a fast learner, Daniel protested with a grin. Jack gave him 'the look,' and Daniel voluntarily continued to explain to Jack the history of his alternate version. You... my Jack, I mean.., he corrected himself. He was once married to Sara... Before you... he... got divorced...

Jack stared at him in incredulity. I... he... married Sara Peterson?

Daniel nodded.

Jack's grin grew into a look of total incredulity. You're kidding with me!? he half yelled, half asked.

Daniel shook his head 'no.' At least, you... he... married Sara something. I don't think you... he... ever mentioned her maiden name over the years.

Crap, Jack softly, appreciatively, swore a second time. He turned to regard Sam across the fire again. I dated Sara a long time ago, but... I never married her.

You... he... they... had a son named Charlie, Daniel went on.

A son!?! Jack exclaimed. I never had any kids!

Neither did my Jack, Daniel told him. My Jack's son accidentally shot himself with your... Jack's... own handgun.

Crap, Jack reverently said again under his breath. They were silent as the information Daniel had imparted sank in. Finally, Jack said, He didn't get Carter for a long time, if ever, and his son shot himself... I kinda think that your Jack wasn't too happy of a camper.

Daniel shook his head. No, you could say that he was on the verge of doing something really rash when I met him.

I'll bet he was! Jack exploded.

Daniel went on to say, But then we met Sam and Teal'c, and things just sort of fell together.

You mean this SG... 100... whatever you said it was? Jack asked.

Daniel grinned. Some things sure don't change. Even my Jack never could remember the numbers of things, he said. Then he nodded. But, yeah, we were a team, the best of friends. Sometimes I think we led a charmed life.

What do you mean by that? Jack asked.

Daniel tried to explain. We... We faced death so many times, he finally said. And we always came back to fight another day... until they were executed, that is, Daniel quietly added.

I'm sorry about that, Jack muttered. You gotta believe me when I say that. He turned again to look at Sam now on the other side of the compound, speaking... no, gesturing... with a group of three giggling Egyptian girls. The thought of Carter being... being dead... Jack wrinkled his forehead in distress, unable to finish his comment.

Yeah, Daniel agreed with a sigh. Fear of that same thing happening always kept my Jack going, too. He added, Whether he would admit to it or not. Daniel grimaced this time. He cared about her an awful lot. He sighed sadly into the night.

The two men were silent as they watched the three girls with Sam look in their direction, and giggle again. Their peals of laughter just carried to Jack and Daniel as they sat by the fire.

I think I'll go talk to Carter for awhile, Jack said, and began rising. I hope you don't mind. I'll stop by to see Teal'c, too, for a seco...

I married Jack and Sam right before it... the executions... happened, Daniel suddenly blurted.

Excuse me? Jack inquired. He had risen so that he was half standing, and half sitting when Daniel spoke.

I've never seen either of them happier than they were at the wedding ceremony, Daniel added almost to himself as Jack resumed his seat beside him. I'm not actually supposed to marry people. I mean, I'm not a doctor of divinity... You know that...

Jack resumed his seat in the sand beside Daniel. Me and Carter... uh, Sam? he asked for clarification, oddly pleased at what Daniel was telling him. You married me and Sam?

Yeah, Daniel told him. Then I tripped over a chair, and broke my ankle, he conversationally informed him. That's why I wasn't with them during the first rebellion. Or I would have been executed, too.

Quadruple crap, Jack whispered. Then he let the silence stretch between him and Daniel. At last, he asked, You're sure? Daniel nodded. Me and Carter? Uh, I mean Sam? Daniel nodded once again. Sam Carter? Daniel nodded a fourth time. Our Sam Carter? The wonder brain? This time Daniel smiled as he nodded. Jack looked once more at Sam watching them from across the camp. Craaap, he happily, sappily, appreciatively whispered. He cocked his head once more, a tiny grin splitting his features. Wonder what she saw in me... uh, him.

Daniel spluttered laughter. You two... they... mooned over each other for eight years.

We did? Uh... they did? Jack corrected himself.

I don't know why they didn't just do what they wanted to do long before eight years was up, Daniel remarked.

Are you serious? Jack incredulously asked. They couldn't go against the frat regs!

But aren't those rules, those regs, just guidelines? Daniel asked.

It was Jack's turn to splutter laughter now. Guidelines that can get you court-martialed! he told him.

Daniel sighed. Partially agreeing with the man seated beside him, he said, And my Jack wouldn't do anything to hurt Sam's career.

Jack said, I don't blame him. I wouldn't hurt my... this... Carter... Sam... in any way, either.

Daniel went on, But you don't have to worry about any old frat rules, do you? he intimated.

Jack turned to peer at Daniel in the darkness. What are you suggesting? he sharply inquired.

Daniel innocently shrugged. Who, me? he asked. Nothing, nothing...

Yeah, right. Jack clearly didn't believe him. He rose instead, obviously peeved by what Daniel was intimating. Think I'll go talk to Carter... uh, Sam... for awhile, he said rather than lose the fragile hold he had on his temper. He walked away before Daniel had the chance to stop him again.

Jack slowly walked around the fire, and approached Sam's position. He pulled his cap from his hair, and nervously riffled his fingers through the gray strands as he drew near. Hi, he jovially said in order to cover up his feelings. Watcha doin'?

The three girls giggled again, then turned and left as one big group.

Jack stared after them in the dark. What did I do?

Sam smiled, then sighed. Nothing. You didn't do anything.

Then... Why..? Jack grunted. He would never understand females, even if he lived through ten realities.

Sam rolled her eyes... Jack could see the whites reflected in the firelight.

What? he asked again.

One more time came Sam's irritated sigh. Finally, she admitted, You didn't do anything wrong. It's just... Well... She finally gave in to her instincts, and grinned. They think you're really good looking, and it makes them act... sort of... She searched her mind for the right word. Sort of teenagerish, she said, smiling up at him.

Jack abruptly swiveled his head so that he could stare at her again. I am? He shook his head and corrected himself. I mean, they do?

Sam nodded. Yes, to both, she thought.

Jack continued to regard her as if she were insane. And you got all of what they thought through gestures and things? He waved his arms a bit to demonstrate what he was talking about.

Sam grinned at him, too. Yeah.

Wow, Jack commented. That's pretty good.

Thanks, Sam said, and started walking slowly around the perimeter of the camp. Jack followed. But you're changing the subject again, she pointed out.

I am not, Jack instantly protested without thinking about what he was saying.

You are too, Sam disagreed. But I guess that's your prerogative. She curled her hands into the hem of her BDU jacket as they walked. It had cooled off now that night had fallen, and Sam was glad for the extra covering she wore. But her mind wasn't really on what she was wearing. Is he going to kiss me again? she wondered instead. Is that why he had come over to them from all the way across the camp? To pretend to talk to her in order to get close again?

Why do you always walk with your hands all curled up like that? Jack suddenly asked. Is that from a childhood injury, or something?

Or maybe kissing again was an activity that was far from his mind, Sam thought to herself in some disappointment. Uh... No, she said at last, forcing herself to concentrate on his question. She shrugged. Um... I guess it's just habit. She looked timidly in his direction. I guess.., she lamely let her voice trail away into the darkness.

You sure have some strange habits, Jack commented.

Sam studied him, stopping abruptly to peer at him in irritation. Says who?

Jack glanced at her. Well, don't you? he asked after a moment had gone by. I mean... He paused. How was he supposed to mention that kiss that had happened in the ship they'd flown to this land in, and how much he had enjoyed it, without totally embarrassing himself? Uh... I mean... Uh... Jack actually blushed, completely flustered, as they stopped beside a tent. What happened... on the ship... You didn't seem to be shy then. He looked at her. I mean, curling your hands kind of makes you seem sort of... shy... He took a deep breath in order to clear his head. Why are you... shy... now? Jack winced at the trepidation in his voice.

Sam colored red at his question. She was glad of the darkness so that he couldn't see her face. I'm sorry about that, by the way. I was... Uh...

I'm not sorry, Jack interrupted her.

Sam turned towards him again, and looked hopefully up at him. You're not?

Jack noticed the sudden optimism she was showing on her face, and couldn't stop himself from smiling. Hell no, he emphatically told her.

Sam slowly grinned. I'm not, either, she admitted.

They walked on. Then why did you say that you were sorry? Jack softly inquired.

Sam looked down, her hands curled into the hems of her sleeves. She gave a nervous little skip. Well, I... She blurted, I figured that you were sorry... Her voice trailed off.

Jack snorted. Not a bit, he replied. In fact, he admitted in a quieter voice. I wouldn't mind... if it... happened again.

Sam couldn't help herself... She grinned at his statement. You wouldn't? she asked.

Grinning, too, Jack shook his head.

That made Sam grin even wider. Well... uh... She blinked, and disarmingly cocked her head, seeming to get stuck with her own head shake. Me neither, she admitted at last after a silent moment had passed.

Jack stopped walking again in order to watch the firelight flash off her hair. Mesmerized, he swallowed. Well, then, what are we waiting for, if you don't mind me asking?

Sam paused in the sand to stand next to him, fairly stunned at his bluntness. But a warm glow was beginning to flow up her spine. No I don't mind you asking, she quietly said. And if you don't mind me answering, I don't know what we're waiting for, either.

Jack laughed, suddenly feeling much happier, and more content. We're waiting for... uh... permission from our parents? he hazarded to guess.

Sam laughed. I think Ancient Egypt is a little before their time, she noted with a snort.

Jack had to laugh with her. You're right, He sighed, then gently added, And you have a great laugh. You should laugh all the time.

Sam smiled again. And you always seem to make me laugh, she shyly admitted. I must be feeling pretty darned good right about now if...

Someone as hot as you are should laugh a lot, Jack said, cutting her off, and grinning a bit at his reminder of their earlier conversation on the ship.

Sam grew red again, but not in embarrassment this time. Then... uh... you should laugh a lot, too.

Are you saying that..? Jack started to inquire as they walked forward once more.

Sam quickly over rode his words, as if she were nervous, and trying to hide it. You're awfully good looking, and you know it.

Jack snorted this time. I don't know about that, he said.

Sam turned to stare at him in the moonlight. Then, forgive me for saying so, but you need to let more females into this military organization of yours so that they can tell you every day!

We do let females join! Jack protested.

Apparently not often enough, Sam said, then guiltily glanced around, as if she were afraid to state such an aggressive opinion. Then, taking a chance, she tremulously continued, Or you would have been snatched up a long time ago.

Who says that I wasn't? Jack asked flirtatiously, his mind on what Daniel had been telling him about his double being married to Sara Petersen.

Sam's glance was both sharp and hesitant at the same time. You haven't, she announced at last. Or I would have known about it.

How?

Now, assured of her revised opinion upon thinking about the matter some more, Sam confidently shook her head. But her confidence didn't keep her from stumbling over her words in her trepidation. I would... uh... have heard... uh... something while I was on base... uh... before we left... And I... uh... didn't hear a thing about the... uh... the good-looking Colonel O'Neill being... uh... taken... not while I was there. She curved her hands into her sleeves again.

Jack gently pushed her fingers down. Stop that.

She straightened her fingers. I'm trying, she said in exasperation, But it's hard to break such a bad habit, Sam explained to him.

Jack went on. If I have to, I'll take your hands into mine so that you can't curl them up all the time.

Oh? Sam asked, at first in surprise, then in challenge. And just why would you do that? Why would you even care that I curl up my hands all the time?

Jack looked at her again. God, she was beautiful when she was mad at him. Because I want to feel your hands when I kiss you again, he said.

Sam gave a start. Oh, she said, and stopped walking entirely for a second in even more surprise.

Jack stopped, gazed at her, then resumed walking again when she did. That's all you've got to say? he asked. 'Oh?'

Um.., Sam mumbled.

Jack smiled at the effect he clearly had on the blonde scientist. You're right, he admitted then. I don't have anybody here, or, I might add, anywhere else. I guess I was just waiting around to meet the right girl.

And am I the right girl? Sam breathlessly asked as they stopped once again on the sand just outside the encampment.

Jack smiled a small smile as he gathered her (curled) hands in his, and pulled her closer. God, I hope so, he said with a grin on his face, and leaned in closer, and tenderly kissed her.

Sam kissed him back in a rushing spurt of emotion. There was certainly nothing shy about her now as she kissed his ear, and suggested, Maybe somewhere more private... would... um... be a good... Damn, where had Jack learned to kiss so well if he'd never been married before? Sam asked herself. She tilted her head back then sighed as his lips caressed her neck. Um... She was usually so cautious with men... But where was all her caution now? Um.., she finished, giving the indication that she planned to do much more than just talk; she couldn't help but respond to the way Jack was turning her insides into liquid with just the touch of his skin on hers.

Jack liked the feel of her fingers on his thigh. Being a copy editor is obviously not the only thing you know how to do, he commented.

Obviously not. Where had she learned to kiss that way as well? And where had she learned to touch so seductively? And did she care? Nope, she breathed, now determined not to be the cautious individual that she always had been before. Jack O'Neill, she was pretty darned sure, was worth the risk. She was still kissing him when she had the chance to break out of her previous set behavior pattern with men. Am I being seduced, here, or are you?

Jack smiled gently at her. Does it matter? he asked.

* * *

In stumbling steps, Jack led Sam to where they had parked the ship after secretly flying it to the site of the Stargate, removing the huge metal ring, and burying it in the sand earlier that night. He hit the switch on the side of the ship that allowed the ramp to lower into the dirt at their feet.

Uh... Jack, Sam tried to say as the lights came on inside the ship to illuminate their way.

But Jack was too entranced by the smell of her skin to listen to her words too closely.

Jack.., Sam tried again. She took a step back to put some distance between them. Jack?

Her words finally penetrated the pleasant haze that was soaking through Jack's brain. This had better not be some long technical explanation that I'm stopping for, he warned.

Sam laughed at his words. No, she said. But..

She kissed him again, and the soft, velvet touch of her lips almost made Jack lose his restraint again. Is something wrong? he asked. Please don't tell me that something's wrong, like you're married, or something.

Sam giggled. No, I'm not married...

You have a boyfriend, then.

Sam giggled some more. No...

Jack felt his skin tingle everywhere she touched him. His heart skipped a beat, then raced inside his chest to make up for it. He had never felt this way with a woman in his entire life. Then what?

Um... I didn't... um... come prepared or anything... I mean... um... nothing like this has ever happened before... God, this was an embarrassing subject to talk about!

Jack buried his face in the short hair that was clinging to her shoulder, internalizing what she was hinting at. He clung to her, and nothing had ever felt so right before in his life. It amazed him how fast he had fallen for her, but he had fallen, and fallen hard...

Sam was referring to birth control, Jack knew. Protection. He lifted his head back to stare into her blue eyes for a moment. So soft, so blue, he thought, and had to fight his own instincts to get lost in that gaze. There was something important that he was supposed to be paying attention to...

With a start, he recalled Sam's comment. And suddenly it didn't seem so important anymore. Do you want to risk having children with Sam? he inquired of himself. His next thought to race through his conscious mind was that he really didn't mind such a risk, and he balked at that thought, grasping the idea that he had never wanted children before with anybody. He couldn't resist thinking of the boy, Charlie, that Daniel had told him about, and the image of him playing things like basketball, and other sports with his own son flashed through his mind.

His own son... Jack drew in a deep breath, trying to push away the haze that had fallen over his eyes. I don't think that makes much of difference, he whispered to Sam, knowing that she was waiting for him to reply. I don't have anything with me, either.

Sam jerked against his suddenly tight embrace. You mean..? She breathed a deep breath, and her face became red again. A cute wrinkle embedded itself in her forehead. I didn't think you were that kind of man, Colonel, but this hasn't been the first time I've been wrong about... She stepped back, struggling now in his arms. Don't think that I'm not a little disappointed, though, she began to say, a hard edge now coloring her voice.

Jack was just as confused as he had been earlier. What? he asked. What did I do this time?

Sam shot him a scathing look. Honestly, I never expected that you would...

I haven't done anything that I know of, Jack protested. Come on, Carter, give me break. He sighed in exasperation. At least tell me what I've done that's made you so mad.

She glared. Do I have to spell it out for you? she icily asked.

Apparently, yes, Jack answered, still completely bewildered by her behavior. If you're going to castrate me, I should at least know why.

Do you really think so little of me? Sam interrupted him. At Jack's continued confusion, she went on, I may be just a dumb scientist to you, and a female to boot, but I'm not that stupid.

Damn, he wouldn't get that look of utter confused hurt off his face! It was hard at the best of times to speak to such an expression.

But, Sam had to try anyway. She put her hands on her hips now that she was free of his embrace, and able to do so. All you men are just alike! she fumed. I'm just something that you can take advantage of when you think...

Now, hold on! I don't want to take advantage of you! Jack protested with brows lowered in the first hint of his own anger.

Sam's glare only intensified. Oh, really? she caustically inquired. What do you call it, then? One night of a little pleasure may be what you get, but I might have a hell of lot more than one night if I end up getting pregnant, and having kids, and...

Whoa... Hold on! Jack said. Then he stared at her in bemusement. Are you reading my mind, or something?

His question made Sam give another start. She blinked, calming. Then, she admitted, No... It's just... what else am I supposed to think, and..? She looked at Jack's confused expression, letting his bewilderment finally sink in to her own mind instead of feeding more of her anger. Well, us girls always have to consider that... She stared at him again, her own puzzlement mounting now that she was taking the time to think instead of just to react. Well, isn't that what you were thinking? she asked, sounding small, now, and a bit unsure of herself. I mean, about just wanting one night..?

No! Jack's voice exploded through the tiny enclosed space of the ship. Geez! What do you take me for? He looked at her in revulsion, not revolted by her so much as by what she was suggesting. I would never just...

Sam narrowed her eyes to assess him again. So... What were you thinking, then?

Her question put a stop to whatever else Jack was going to say in his defense. He stared at her in consternation. He ran his hands through his hair. He hung his head for a moment, studying the toe of his combat boot like it was the most fascinating thing he'd seen in a decade. Um... Well... How did one ask this kind of a question? he wondered.

Well... What? Sam prompted him.

Um... Jack heaved a breath of air, his sigh sounding loud again in the small space. Um...

Sam was fast becoming irritated. If you can't tell me, then I don't have any choice but to...

Sam, I want to marry you, Jack blurted out. His eyes were scrunched tightly closed, and his hands, which had been fairly relaxed before, now balled into tight fists, as tight as he could make them.

Sam blinked a second time. She was more surprised to hear his comment than she had ever been before. Had she just heard a proposal of marriage? Now? Wasn't it way too soon for something like that? What? she blurted.

Damn it! Jack muttered. His hand was again ruffled through his hair. Do you want me to spell it out for you? he asked, feeling like an idiot, but pressing on to make an even bigger idiot of himself. How can you read my mind at every other time, but not at this one time that's so..?

Yes, Sam cut him off to say.

Jack blinked, as bewildered now as he had been a few moments before. 'Yes...' what?

Sam grinned again. Um... 'Yes' to your question. She paused to glance down at the floor. Though it may seem kinda quick to everybody... and I'm not usually so much in a hurry where men are concerned...

Jack finally understood that she was agreeing to marry him. 'Yes?' he asked, making sure that she didn't want to change her mind. You're sure that you don't want to say 'no?'

I'm sure, Sam said then, still looking at the floor of the ship, curling her hands into her shirt sleeves in sudden nervousness.

That's a 'yes, I'll marry you,' and not a 'no, there's not a chance in hell I'll ever marry the likes of you,' right? Jack asked again.

Sam stared at him in faint irritation now. Why do you think that I might not want to marry you?

Um.., Jack answered, just as nervous now as Sam appeared to be. Um, he repeated. Because I've never been married before? he hazarded to guess at last.

Neither have I, Sam responded.

I've never even asked anyone before, he told her, then. I've never wanted to.

You mean, we've both gotten this old, and never...

I didn't say that, Jack answered. I was as hot blooded as the next American teenaged guy who...

And who says that I wasn't as hot blooded as you were? Sam asked, her irritation quickly rising again.

Um... Jack faltered for a moment, then honestly asked, You were?

Sam smiled... She just couldn't help herself. He was so cute when he was confused! She wrapped her arms around his waist and drew him closer to her. A part of her brain asked what she thought she was doing, but a much stronger part was encouraging her flirtatious behavior. She had never met some one like Jack before, someone she instinctively trusted so soon after meeting him. Jack wasn't like other males, she knew; he would never do anything to hurt her, and she didn't have to be on her guard without looking like she was on her guard against him somehow hurting her. She didn't even know how she knew that, but she knew it nevertheless. 'Yes,' she repeated again. And I'll say it again, just for you in case you don't believe me. 'Yes.' And I'll even be specific, so there's no worry that neither of us misunderstands what I'm saying. 'Yes, I'll marry you.

Jack was smiling, too, by this time. Sweet, he said, and leaned in to kiss her in a far more passionate display than he'd allowed earlier.

Daniel and Teal'c suddenly poked their heads into the back of the spaceship. Daniel said, Yeah, here's my pack that... That was when he caught sight of Jack kissing Sam... Sam kissing Jack... It didn't matter, he finally told himself. Uh, sorry, didn't see you, uh... Going, now...

Daniel! Jack's cry stopped the archaeologist in his tracks.

Daniel slowly turned back to face his two friends... companions... time diluted versions of someone he'd once known. Yeah? he hesitantly inquired, as if he knew instinctively what Jack was going to ask, and was pretty certain that he didn't want to hear it.

Jack asked anyway. Do you know what we have to do in order to get married here in Ancient Egypt?

Daniel groaned, Not again, he mumbled to himself.

It's your fault, Jack insisted. You gave me the idea when we were talking earlier.

Daniel sighed, then gave as short a version as possible about marrying the Egyptian way.

* * *

Daniel briefly closed his eyes in apprehension. I guess it's time for me to say that I now pronounce you...

What about the 'You may kiss the bride' part? Jack asked as they stood inside one of the tents a few minutes later. Ketep had already organized his friends into setting up a second tent beside the original tent that belonged to his family and Daniel. A married Jack and Sam had just technically moved in and set up housekeeping... or tent keeping... or whatever they wanted to call it. Daniel was hurrying through a sparse American wedding ceremony during the short lull between the official Egyptian tent ceremony and the celebration dinner (there's always a dinner!). Except that Daniel wasn't exactly certified to perform a wedding ceremony. However, nobody, least of all the participants, cared about such a tiny detail as certification.

Daniel testily responded to Jack's question about 'the kissing part.' I was getting to that...

Jack impatiently went on, As far as I'm concerned, you can skip all this 'announce' stuff and just get to the kissing part.

Teal'c broke in on the ceremony. You seem to be in something of a hurry, O'Neill.

Jack gave his eyes a slight roll, then explained, Well, not a hurry, exactly...

But Daniel cut him off. Sam, you're being awfully quiet about all this wedding stuff... anything wrong?

Wrong? Sam repeated questioningly, then shook her head. Uh, no, I'm... uh... actually... She glanced at Jack as he glanced at her. Then she offered him a blinding smile. She turned back towards Daniel and told him, I'm just waiting for the kissing part, too. And she gave a helpless... but endearing... shrug.

Jack grinned disarmingly. Great minds think alike, he unapologetically said.

Yes, well, Daniel responded. Since he wasn't quite sure how to respond, he only took a step back to give Jack and Sam room to swivel towards each other, all while saying, You may kiss th...

But he was unexpectedly cut off again as just at that second that Daniel stopped back, his foot landed on a small, round piece of rock lying buried in the sand. The rock rolled from all the extra weight resting on it. Daniel's foot rolled with it... right out from under him.

Daniel went down to the sandy ground with a shout and a curse and a snap of bones that made the end of the wedding ceremony far more memorable than it normally would have been.

Sam leaned down, not into Jack, but into Daniel as her friend felt Teal'c's arms try to wrap around him and catch him. Jack lunged forward across the space between them, and...

In a flash of light that Daniel almost missed because he blinked, and before the pain in his ankle reached so high a level as to become all-consuming, Daniel suddenly found himself standing in... in the SGC?... staring at... himself?... on a computer monitor/TV screen stacked precariously on a very messy desk.

What the..? he thought to himself, and he blinked in confusion. Where had he been? He remembered sand... hot sand... hot wind... Sam... a worried expression on her face... bending, kneeling, reaching for his right ankle...

... because his right ankle was broken...

Daniel gave his right ankle an experimental twist, but the pain that he expected to feel wasn't there. That's odd, he thought, grimaced, gave a twist to his lips, then tried his best to bring his day to the forefront of his mind.

His day... His day... What had he been doing?

Daniel glanced at the others again. Let's see, there had been Jack... Sam... Teal'c... And there was a Jack, a Sam, and a Teal'c with him right at this very moment...

Daniel glanced at Teal'c standing next to him. Jack and Sam were sitting on stools just in front of him. He looked around at the surrounding area more closely. Familiar book shelves full of a plethora of paraphernalia lined the walls, each item lending itself in some way to encouraging ancient devices into divulging their secrets. The haphazardness of the items on the desktop was even more familiar.

Then it hit Daniel... They were in his office at the SGC.

But, what were they all doing in his office at the SGC? They had been in Ancient Egypt... at a wedding ceremony... What was going on?

Daniel next turned his attention to the computer/TV monitor that the four of them had obviously been in the middle of watching. He saw Jack come onto the screen, with silver hair cropped short, looking just as he remembered the soldier looking. The TV Jack turned outward to a camera obviously off screen, and he said something about football...

That was when Daniel recognized this scene, or at least the one on... that computer/TV thing in his office... They were watching the videotape of... of themselves?

Funny. SG-1 was talking about being in Ancient Egypt, and about ZPMs, and spaceships, and... The last thing he remembered was a wedding... or two...

Daniel's breath drew in with a sudden hissing sound.

The wedding! ('Weddings,' he amended himself.)

He was back in his other time... his own time... he must be... That must mean that the entire five years that he had spent in Egypt, and then meeting the other Jack and Sam and Teal'c... The wedding... It had pushed them all into another timeline...

Daniel inhaled sharply at the implications of his thoughts. If he was in another time... that meant that his friends hadn't been executed... an event that had always felt wrong to Daniel... It also meant that none of what had come after the executions had happened. Daniel shook his head and amended his thoughts to say that he was referring to the second time period that he had experienced... the second Jack/Sam/Teal'c meeting...

Daniel then tried to remember what he had been doing before it all went haywire. He had married... married Sam and Jack... So everything was because of the wedding he had illegally performed... twice..?

Daniel balked. All this time, he had thought the Rebellion of the Egyptian Slaves had been the defining moment that proved to be the end of his original timeline and the event that forced the switch to the other timeline that had always felt all wrong to him... the timeline where his friends had been executed, then come back to him five years later, when he had married them... again... But the rebellion...

But the rebellion can't be the catalyst for the twisting of the timelines, his mind argued with himself. The night of the day of the Rebellion, he and Jack... the other Jack... had been engrossed in a very intriguing discussion while sitting beside one of the many fires at the evening celebration at the Egyptian camp. That was before Jack went off with Sam, before the two of them asked to be married...

... in a wedding ceremony.

Daniel couldn't open his mouth fast enough. You two have to get married! he blurted as quickly and as loudly as he could.

Sam paused the video tape they were all watching to gape at him in dumbfounded silence. And Jack swiveled on his stool to face him. Excuse me? he politely asked. Did you say something?

Sam continued to stare. She wrinkled her nose and forehead in puzzlement. I thought he said something about... She wrinkled some more. About... someone getting married? she asked. Who's getting married?

Not you, Jack said to her, not impolitely, though his relief at the news that she had ended her engagement the previous week showed on his face before he could cover it up.

Sam shook her head even as she saw his relief. He'd meant her to see that emotion of his, she realized, or he would never have allowed so much feeling to show in his expression. However, she ignored his hasty look of... what?... relief?... gratitude?... to shake her head at him in answer to his comment. No, I'm not getting married anymore... but someone is, right? She turned back to look at her recently descended team mate. Daniel?

Daniel was so excited that he was almost beside himself now as he hopped from foot to foot. If Teal'c hadn't been standing so closely to him, he would have fallen. You two! he exclaimed, and waved his arm at Jack and Sam.

Jack pointed at himself with a finger stroking the outside of the BDUs that he always wore to work. Me? he asked. You mean me?

And Sam, Daniel said without thinking about what he was saying. You have to...

Sam looked like she had just swallowed a lemon the wrong way. What? she asked in incredulity.

Uh.., Jack began to intone. Um... Daniel? You do know that the two of us getting hitched is against every regulation known to the Air Force, right? he gently reminded.

Daniel noticed that Jack hadn't said that his marrying Sam wasn't against his own personal feelings, just against military regulation. The General was simply trying to distract him again, Daniel was sure. Well, it wouldn't work, the archaeologist decided in determination. It's either that, or...

Or what? Sam asked, cutting him off.

Daniel looked helplessly at the monitor/TV combination just as the Jack on screen was about to say something more. Daniel then pointed his index finger towards the screen, indicating the Jack on the TV. He's going to say that there are no fish.., he declared in mid point. No fish in his pond..!

Daniel, he... I.., Jack stuttered.

Listen, Daniel told them. He... you... are going to say... something about where he... you... fishes... Listen!

Not believing what Daniel was claiming... (Was he having descended dementia or something?) Sam pushed the 'play' button on the remote she was still holding, and the Jack on the screen continued. 'And there are no fish in my pond... at all... where I fish. I think that covers it for me.' the man said.

In shock again, Sam paused the video tape so they could all stare in incredulity at the screen, then at Daniel.

See! Daniel pointed excitedly at the screen. He turned back to Jack and Sam. And you have to get married! And I have to do the ceremony! And I have to break my ankle! He paused to think about what he was saying. Actually, that part isn't much fun...

Jack's face screwed up. Daniel! he warned. Start making sense, or...

Then Daniel told them a story about time, time bending in on itself, repeating things, meeting new/old friends, marrying two of those friends that he met... again and again and again...

It's the wedding! Daniel then exclaimed in excitement. It has to be! He further mumbled, All along we thought it was the rebellion... but it has to be the wedding...

A rebellion? Teal'c inquired in his low, rumbly voice.

Yes! Daniel blurted. The rebellion that we led against Ra...

But you and I killed Ra, Jack protested. He's been dead for years.

Daniel waved his arm at the TV screen. Not in that time period! he exclaimed. The one in Ancient Egypt! I mean, the other Ancient Egypt! Ra lived! True, he left Earth, but he took the Stargate with him instead of someone burying it in the sand...

Sam finished his statement for him. So there was no Stargate to find outside of Giza way back in 1928...

Daniel turned to her, Catherine... you... never got together to work on the Stargate project...

Sam blinked in concern. And Teal'c?

Stayed First Prime of Apophis, captured us, killed me... or the me in the other timeline...

Sam blanched then, looking hurriedly towards Teal'c in disbelief and regret. Then her shadowed eyes settled on Jack's form beside her. And the General..? she hesitantly asked.

I'm not entirely certain, Daniel replied, admitting to his lack of knowledge on the subject of his leader's life. As far as I could tell, he'd never married, Sara or anyone else, Charlie was never born, he'd just met and was falling in love with Sam...

Jack gaped at him. And I admitted that? he loudly objected, an incredulous twist to his voice. He went on to proclaim, I would never say anything like that that might somehow harm Carter's career...

Daniel interrupted him, Sam wasn't in the military, he informed them all. She worked as a proofreader at the Air and Space Headquarters in DC.

Sam wrinkled her nose when she heard that. As a proofreader? she questioned.

Yeah, so you told me, Daniel said. You were bored to death, he admitted.

Sam blinked again, trying to wrap her brain around what Daniel was telling them. I don't doubt that I was, she said then. She glanced at her Jaffa friend. And Teal'c..?

Yeah, scary, huh? Daniel shortly retorted.

Sam's glance moved towards Jack. And the General..?

Yeah, Daniel affirmed with a sudden grin curving his lips.

That I... he... said... what you said I... he... said? Jack lamely noted again in a slightly horrified tone of voice.

Daniel was definitely smiling now as he answered his long time friend. Yeah. I heard it with my own ears. You said that you thought you were in love... Or he... the Jack from the revised timeline said that. He then placed his fingers to his forehead, and shook his head. This is getting so confusing.

Jack couldn't afford to give his friend any of his sympathy, as he was busy being disbelieving of what Daniel was claiming, yet being wildly hopeful at the same time. He gestured between Sam and himself. We... as in me and Carter... have to...

Daniel cut him off again to say, Get married. He then amended, I mean, I have to marry you...

But.. um... if what you say is true, Sam hesitantly protested. Didn't you already do that five thousand years ago? she asked, as confused as Daniel claimed that he was.

Daniel said then, Um, yeah, um... I did marry you two... I think... once... or twice... or three times... He let his voice trail off. I'm not really sure how many times I performed a wedding, actually...

Teal'c broke in on Daniel's stilted explanation to ascertain, Yet it was always O'Neill and ColonelCarter participating in this ceremony?

Daniel's fingers again massaged his forehead. Um... yeah.

Sam's confusion was growing, I... he.. they... broke the regulations? she inquired. Were willing to? she specified. I have a hard time believing that the General... that I.., she weakly began to protest.

But Daniel pointed out, It seems redundant to adhere to regulations that won't exist for thousands of years.

Jack shrugged. Good point, he reluctantly admitted.

Sam looked at Jack in shock. Are you agreeing with this..? She glanced at Jack, then back to Daniel. She hesitantly repeated, This..?

But it's already happened, Daniel expostulated. I performed the wedding thousands of years ago... and then did it again... and then ended up here...

But you're not a doctor of Divinity, Sam protested.

Daniel pointed at her. That's what you said five thousand years ago. But in the end that didn't seem to matter to you guys...

Sam balked, Of course it would matter, she argued, thinking that she had found a way of explaining her past's... future's... alternate's... not alternate's... double's... whatever's... decision to accept Daniel performing a ceremony he wasn't authorized to perform. How can the General and I be married if you're not..? she asked.

Daniel cut her off as well. Nice try, he complimented. But it won't do any good, he then told her, According to the rituals established in Ancient Egypt, all you had to do to get married was move your possessions to Jack's tent.

I own a tent? Jack interjected in some surprise.

Ketep gave it to you. Then Daniel corrected, I mean, his friends did. Then he shook his head and corrected himself again, I mean... Well, you always ended up with a tent, he finally said. And Sam always moved her stuff into it...

Sam again finished for him, And that's all it took for us to be married?

Daniel nodded and grinned. Yep, he answered.

Sam continued by reminding them that, It wasn't just the wedding ceremony at all that married them... us... then, but the whole tent thing that, and that Daniel performs the...

She was interrupted. The date of the marriage should coincide to the date on this video tape, Teal'c roughly commented.

Leave it to Teal'c to cut right to the heart of a matter, Sam thought. They all squinted at the tiny date to one side at the bottom of the TV screen.

It's two weeks from now, Jack emptily replied, noting the numbers on the screen. Then he peered at Daniel. You mean that in two weeks..?

Daniel nodded. Two weeks and two days, he corrected. We'd been in Egypt for two days at that point.

That was fast, Sam reported under her breath, commenting on the way she and Jack had supposedly got together.

Daniel ignored her to continue, Even if you decide not to do anything about a marriage... a wedding... That wouldn't do any good, because to put a stop to... to a wedding... would mean that you also risk putting a stop to... to us... the 'us' in this timeline... and the alternate timeline.., Daniel noted. If there are two timelines... I mean, that would stop everything. from us from going to Egypt in the first place, and from burying the Stargate...

And then none of this... our time, Sam specified, None of this time would exist, she ended for him once more. Helplessly she glanced at all of them. Teal'c never joins us, I never join the Stargate program... I'm a proofreader..?

Bored to tears, Daniel said.

And the General..? Sam haltingly continued.

Is retired, Daniel told her. I think, he added. And there's a possibility that he never met you in the first place. It was only chance that he met you at all.

Sam paled again. Oh God, she whispered.

Daniel couldn't help but saying, So preserving this timeline...

Sam interrupted him to hollowly say, It all depends on...

Daniel interrupted her. On the two of you...

Getting married, Jack bluntly stated, cutting into Daniel's reasoning.

And on Daniel.., Sam continued for him. Her voice trailed away to nothing.

Jack then stared at Sam. Sam stared at him. Both of their eyes were as wide as the saucers they served the pieces of cake on in the Commissary.

Jack broke the spell of partial horror, partial glee, that had fallen over them all at Daniel's most recent surprising utterance. As he slowly rose and reached for the box holding the ZPM in its confines, a dazed Sam stopped the tape. Jack ignored her action to pick up the box before he turned towards the door. I think I better call the President... His voice trailed off as, still appearing extremely befuddled, and horrified, but at the same time elated, he started walking towards the door.

Sam stopped him with a hand on his arm. She couldn't help him in this situation... not exactly... but she could help him with the ZPM. I can take that, she began to say. You have to call... She abruptly stopped talking.

Jack turned back to her. The science labs are on my way... sort of... And the labs are no doubt full of all those male sciency-type geeks... who will be only too thrilled to get their hands on you... I mean, on the ZPM... He was clearly as confused as Daniel to be saying the things he was saying! No, he said at last, collecting himself. I think I'll just keep your fan members at bay for awhile. He turned again towards the door.

Sam noted in some shock that in the one small way that he could help her without looking like he was helping her, he was keeping her from the salivating masses of the scientists in the labs by delivering the ZPM himself. He was keeping her out of the labs, away from the admittedly unwanted attention that the science personnel often gave her... keeping her safe... protecting her...

Briefly, a thought shot through Sam's mind as she wondered how many other times over the years Jack had done the same thing for her... quietly... unobtrusively...

Thank you, she muttered still feeling somewhat discombobulated.

No problem, Jack assured her as he began to leave the room to deliver his burden and to make his phone call to the President. You've all got packing to do, anyway, he suggestively added as the crowd in the corridor swallowed him up.

He was referring to his team's packing for the scheduled fishing trip they were all going to take the coming weekend at his Minnesota cabin. Daniel, Teal'c, and Sam were left to stare in some confusion and consternation at each other as Jack calmly disappeared.

But still, Daniel couldn't keep the smile off his face.

* * *

(This is the point where book version one differs from book version two, thus making this book version one an AU from here on out... well, I guess that they're both AUs, but you get the idea.)

It was several hours later when Sam found herself knocking on the Briefing Room doorway leading to Jack's office. When he called for her to enter, she pushed the door aside and hesitantly poked her head into the room, following it in only when he beckoned her to enter. You called the President? she began by asking in a tiny voice.

Jack looked up at her anxious expression, one that mirrored the distress on his own face. He tried to wipe away his feelings, and paint a less pained look on his face, but even he knew that he wasn't entirely successful. The crux of the situation they were currently facing hit him again as he stared at her standing so seriously in his doorway. He tried to guess what her feelings for him might be just by peering into her face. But she was so good at covering up any of her emotions, he still didn't know for sure just what, if anything, she felt for him. Despite the level of these guessed feelings, he had spent the entire afternoon trying to think of a way to not make a marriage between them so forced, but still make it happen. Sam's knock on his door had interrupted a lot of heavy thinking.

So, he was tired... exhausted... but that didn't mean his day was over, not by a long-shot. He had begun his afternoon with a call to the President. So he told her, President Hayes said he needed to take the day to talk to the Joint Chiefs about... He paused, visibly swallowed in nervousness, then stiltingly finished his comment, About our... our situation. He wasn't able to be more specific than that. Jack swallowed again. Then the President's going to get back to me, Jack finally informed her. Either today, or... His voice trailed away to nothingness.

Sam blinked, her face showing a mix of her relief at his news of the unintended reprieve given to them by the President, and a desire to get an answer to the rest of her life, no matter what that answer might be. So this... this marriage... It isn't a done deal yet? Sam inquired next. She waved between them with her shaking hand. The Regulations.., she weakly started to say.

Jack shook his head. It didn't really matter what he thought he could or couldn't do. As far as the Joint Chiefs were concerned... He vocally protested, I don't see how all the Joint Chiefs can risk the entire Stargate Program... the current timeline... not to mention the entire world!... on this one thing, just to ensure that the rules are followed.

Sam fell into one of the chairs fronting his desk, still in shock. She slowly began to ask him, So you're saying...

Jack interrupted, cutting her off. I'm saying that... this... He sighed, then balefully stared at her. Carter... He had begun telling her that no matter what was decided, he would never ask for such a permanent thing like marriage of her... But, as usual, he just couldn't find the right words... You know that I'm not good at talking about emotions, and... He stared at her again, uncomfortable. Finally, he sighed in defeat admitting at least, Rules can be broken, for the right situation. So the President...

This is about politics, isn't it? Sam asked as she sighed as well.

Irritated, Jack threw the pen he'd been using on his paperwork back onto his desk top. He wasn't irritated with her, only with the situation. He hated feeling like his entire life was being reduced down to an expedient marriage. Actually, he hated even more that she might possibly be feeling the same way... That it was even being considered that she be reduced for the sake of the country. It doesn't have to be about politics if we don't want it to be, he had to mumble at last.

Do you want it to be? Sam asked after a silent moment as she gazed unblinking at him. If only he would give her an honest answer about his feelings for her for once in their lives!

Jack grimaced even as he tried to be sincere. He looked away from her, scared to stare her in the eye lest she deduce what he was truly thinking. At last, he said, I can't say that I ever wanted politics to even exist in the first place, so... But he didn't address his emotions... for her, or for anything else. Instead, he let his voice trail into nothingness as he watched her slump in the chair in front of his desk.

He didn't want to think that the idea of a forced... or not-so-forced... that a marriage with him was so horrendous to her as to make it necessary for her to actually slump, yet he couldn't help but think that way.

A second silence descended on them as they each were caught up in thinking bleak thoughts.

Sam sat up straight at last, knowing that he was interpreting her posture all wrong, but the damage was done before she could rectify it. The unsettling quiet continued, neither knowing what to say.

At last Sam had to break the uncomfortable silence. Do you..? she began to ask, but she couldn't finish her question. She looked at him, shy, nervous, frightened, and determined all at once. She forced herself to go on, I mean, are you..? But her determination abandoned her then. Her voice was small in the quiet space of his office. She pushed into the arm rests of her chair, nervously bending them as much as she could.

Jack peered at her over the top of his desk, but was unable to meet her gaze as he watched her force herself to relax again. Am I what? he mildly asked as a further distraction for her.

Sam forcefully cleared her throat. Um... She looked around, but finding nothing on which to focus her wandering gaze, met his eyes at last. I don't quite know how to bring this up, she finally admitted.

Jack sighed again, this time sounding totally overcome. He knew what she was referring to, what she wanted to know. She was poking at the big... large... huge... elephant that seemed to follow them wherever they went... they're supposed 'feelings' for the other... if those feelings still existed... Or had those feelings just been a product of a previous time?

Jack sighed, feeling sick to his stomach, but stared in sudden determination straight at Sam across the desk. It was now or never, he realized. He had to say something now, no matter how bad he felt. Now while he had this second chance to set the record straight between them. Or (God forbid) another 'Pete Shanahan' was bound to happen sometime. His eyes told the truth with his piercing stare. Honestly? he asked.

'Honestly,' she echoed, her voice tiny again.

You really want to know? he hedged, trying to buy himself some time now that 'the moment' was here.

She swallowed in nervousness, but gathered her courage again and nodded. Yeah, she whispered. I really want to know.

Wow. He was impressed at how calm she was appearing. He himself was full of quivers and shakes, enough to make his stomach heave again. But he ignored the fluttering to caution, I suspect that it isn't always gonna be what you want to hear.

Sam swallowed again. Have I told you what I want to hear? she inquired.

Wow again. But for a very different reason. Jack stared at her in slight amazement. She was more than calm! She seemed almost... eager... to finally hear what he had to say. For a second, he was surprised at the intensity of her answering question. Then he blinked, and tried to formulate a reply for her. Well... No, you... haven't said, he finally admitted. But, you... engagement.., he lamely stuttered.

Yeah, she cautiously agreed with his rough assessment of the recent events in her life. It's... ended, she reminded as brokenly as he had recounted the recent occurrences in her life.

Jack could do nothing except gaze at her. But, he finally objected. But... You haven't said...

You haven't either, she mildly accused.

That engagement... relationship... whatever... Then he sighed, frowned, and finally admitted his feelings to some extent, It hurt. He spoke in the only style he was capable of at that point. His staccato speech went on. It hurt... a lot, he admitted, finally confessing everything he'd felt over the past few months. And, surprisingly enough, admitting his inner emotions to her actually felt... good.

Sam's eyes misted over for a nano second, then she regained control of herself. I'm very sorry, she whispered to him across the expanse of his desk covered in papers and files and reports. She looked pained now. I didn't mean... She looked unintentionally vulnerable. She tried again, I never meant...

I know you didn't, Jack was quick to quietly say. He was so quick to try to put a stop to her pain that he interrupted her speech.

Sam felt the tingles of relief once again sweep over her at hearing his apparent forgiveness of her actions.

But Jack, it seemed, wasn't finished. On the other hand, he went on in a low voice. You... you didn't... um... think... much... at all... did you?

For the first time in Jack's experience, Sam was speechless at his gentle accusation.

Sam finally glanced down at the floor to hide her scarlet blush of consternation from him. Um, she at last disclosed. It must have appeared to you like I didn't... I didn't think, she said in a self-chastising tone. Not exactly.

'Not exactly?' Jack questioned.

Sam sighed still studying the carpet under her feet. It was hard, she softly admitted.

'Hard?' Jack repeated her, sounding like he was trying to remind himself not to be mad at her, even though he really wanted to sound angrier than a nest full of disgruntled bees. You didn't look like it was too hard, he placidly commented.

Sam sighed, the regretful sound washing into the corners of the office. A tense moment went by, full of apprehension, then she bluntly told him, My journal says something different.

This made Jack give a start of surprise again. You kept... keep... a journal? he asked in disbelief. She nodded. I didn't know that.

She gave a small sort-of smile. No, not even Daniel knows about that, she replied in another whisper. It's on my computer.

Jack gazed at her for an assessing moment. Isn't that dangerous? His brow furrowed. What if someday someone tries to break into your computer account, and reads your journal? he asked. If it's a true journal, then that would be proof that you...

She interrupted him. I said right away that we had never done anything. In... in spite... in spite of what we were... forced... forced to say our feelings were four years ago. She glanced up at him out of half hopeful, half fearful eyes. Right away I said that you were totally not to blame in... She stopped herself a second time, then after another second, grinned. The gesture was so unexpected that Jack found himself grinning back at her without realizing it. She went on. My journal is password protected... And encrypted... And encrypted again... and again... At last she confessed, And I'm the only one who even knows it exists. I hid the program behind the firewall I put up to protect it... buried under three other dummy programs.

Jack tilted his head in her direction. Isn't that overkill? he suddenly objected.

Sam gave a listless shrug. I don't want anyone to maybe find it... ever.

And? Jack questioned. What all is in this journal of yours?

Want to read it? she offered next.

Her offer positively astonished Jack. Being invited to read her private journal was like being invited to see inside her soul. Jack wanted to do nothing more, but he'd never anticipated to be invited so thoroughly into her personal life. Do you want me to? he asked, his heart and brain numb at the magnitude of her suggestion.

Sam flicked her eyes up at him, fast, but kept her head firmly facing the floor. I wouldn't tell you about it if I didn't want you to read it, she defended.

Jack was amazed and humbled by her admission. Um... He paused, still so amazed that it was hard to say 'yes' to her offer. Um... Sure... Yeah... Yes... I would like that... I mean, I want to read it... very much.

Sam kept staring at the carpet in his office. Um... I'll tell you the link... email it to you... or write it down for you... to keep it secret... Her voice trailed helplessly off into silence. She didn't tell him the idea that writing the link down for him would keep both of them safe, too. But then, she didn't have to.

Jack knew what she wasn't saying. To cover it, and to cover her timidity, he said, I would appreciate that... I mean you writing it down... for me... He didn't know what else to say, but his phone rang at that moment anyway. Saved, he wryly thought, and reached for the red phone on one of the corners of his desk. O'Neill, he said. Then he straightened, as if the caller could see him. Of course, Mr. President, I... You're sure? he asked. Isn't it still too early for..? He paused to listen for a moment. Oh, the preliminary.., he began to say, his tone full of understanding. But the President interrupted him, and must have asked something about Colonel Carter, for his gaze moved to include Sam in his attentions. She's right here, actually, he said into the receiver. Okay... You're sure about that? He listened once more. They said that? He sounded faintly astonished. Then he appeared to relax. Sure. I'll tell her. Will do... Monday night, I'll call... Then he did a jerk of his head, and added, No, make that Tuesday morning... I don't get back from vacation in Minnesota until late Monday... Oh, you remember that.. Okay... Gotcha... He hung up. That was the President, he unnecessarily told Sam.

And? she inquired.

Jack heaved a sigh, but his gust of air was neither resigned, nor regretful. Nor was it hopeful, though, either. Nor was it not hopeful... Jack interrupted her rambling thoughts. He and the Joint Chiefs had a pow wow.

Sam was getting antsy to hear his news. And? she prompted.

Jack slowly told her, And... They haven't made up their minds yet one way or the other. They 'suggest' that we spend the weekend thinking it over. He grimaced. But...

But? she echoed. They want us to ultimately make this decision for them, don't they?

Jack couldn't quite meet her eyes, but he nodded his head just slightly to show his agreement with what she had said. Yeah, I think so. He... the President... didn't say so, but.. you know...

Sam nervously twitched her thumbs, but couldn't figure out what made her so agitated. Either she wanted the Joint Chiefs to give her and Jack this excuse... after she and Jack had given them the excuse first... or... But even she didn't know if she wanted the Joint Chiefs to give the two soldiers a nice, pat excuse to pursue a personal relationship of their own, or if she hoped those same high ranking officers would ultimately laugh in Daniel's face for telling his story to begin with.

Jack didn't quite want to tell her what the Joint Chiefs had said, because it didn't quite reflect how he felt, but he also believed that she had the right to know all of what had been decided that day. They strongly feel that we don't have a choice right now... with this... That we shouldn't risk...

Sam gave a jerk. They think we should get married?

'For God and Country' were the exact words, I believe, that some of them mentioned.., Jack said on a sigh.

Sam's features fell into a grimace of horror even as her heart skipped a beat or two. But that's awful! she loudly proclaimed. To expect two people to marry for duty! Then she considered what she was contemplating. I don't even know what I think about it! How can we decide anything, even if it's for the whole country like this?

Jack sighed as he stared at her, thinking that he may not be good at this emotion-talking game, but that he had little choice in the matter now. He had to... owed it to her to tell the truth. That's not why I want to marry you, he quietly told her.

What? Sam blurted, her voice still loud, though she couldn't quite keep the sound of her hope completely out of it.

Jack gave another regretful sigh. Regret at finally having to divulge that which made him uncomfortable, that is. Sam, he said, and used her given name so that he was sure to get her attention. But there was definite affection in his voice when he said it. I can't pretend anymore, and it seems detrimental in the long run to keep it up at this point. He looked at her now in hope, angst, sorrow, and overwhelming love. He was no longer willing to institute the typical military mask of nonchalance that he often utilized. The longing he always felt was now unmistakably evident in his gaze. They can order us to get married, and they can think whatever the hell they want to think... that we're heros... that we're willing to give up our lives for the Air Force by doing this... that we're good little soldiers... Jack sighed again. Actually, I don't give a damn what excuse they use to delude themselves into agreeing to this situation. He stared straight at Sam. I can't pretend that what you just did with that Shanahan character... that it didn't hurt like Hell. It did. His gaze had turned concerned as well as honest. He slowly admitted, But I would be stupid... um... He paused, but went on, Stupid if I said that I'm so stubborn now... so stubborn that I don't secretly want to hold you so hard that... His voice cracked, so he tried again. I want to... to hold you so tight that I... I might be in danger of cracking your ribs. He took a breath, then made himself say, And that I want to kiss you until you're dizzy. He blinked, thinking of more to tell her. And...

Sam moved from her first strong reaction of astonishment to tears of her own marked relief at what he was saying. She couldn't stop the tears that instantly poured down her face. Jack, I...

But Jack was on a roll, and even though neither he nor Sam had moved an inch in the past five minutes, he moved now, lurching out of his chair, coming around beside his desk, moving so quickly that Sam was almost unable to follow him with her eyes. But she did follow his movements, and stood to be something of an equal height with him, a beseeching expression on her face even as she valiantly attempted to put a stop to the tears that she knew he disliked so much.

He stopped at the sound of her sniffs. He halted right in front of her, staring at her in open longing and desire and love... But he didn't touch her. He looked her square in her eyes, but didn't lay so much as a finger on her. His breath washed over her face, raising goose pimples on her arms and neck. He breathed hard as he stared at her, adoration decorating his every feature. But he didn't touch her. And that was more powerful than if he had run his hands over every inch of her body.

Jack also didn't say a word, only looked at her with such intensity that his gaze practically burned a hole through her skin. His gaze chiseled through any barriers that she might have left, and squelched them flat in seconds. He barreled straight through anything she could possibly try by force of habit to erect at the last moment.

Yet, she didn't even try to erect anything at this point. He simply told her everything in his heart with his burning gaze, and no words. It was all on his face, clear as one of the English pages in Daniel's books...

Not a word passed Jack's lips. And Sam said nothing either. She was too unable to move after looking at the emotion roiling on his face. She was sure of only one thing; that her own features mirrored his. She tried to breathe, and sucked in a gasp of air. It was as if his hands had left a hot burn all along her body. But not a single one of his fingers had touched her. It was the most potent moment of erotic non-touching she had ever experienced.

At last, Jack did put his palm against her left cheek, cherishing the brief contact with her, his eyes blazing in unbridled passion and affection for only the second or third time that she could remember. Then, barely before she had a chance to feel like she had even partially matched the intense expression in his eyes, to say nothing of returning such a piercing look, he gently propelled her back through the door to the Briefing Room, then shut the wood in her face, and locked the door against further intrusion.

Far from being incensed about his encouragement of her abrupt departure, she melted against the door, sagged into the wood, slipped into a puddle of pinpricks, tingles, and sludge.

That was when Daniel walked into the Briefing Room from the corridor on his way to the Control Room. All packed, Sam? he absently asked as he continued to study the papers in his hands. We're leaving at 0600 tomorrow morning, and you know how Jack hates it when we're late. We'll never hear the end of it if... He glanced up to take in his languid colleague. Ah.., he muttered. You've already seen Jack, I see.

His deadpan comment still hung in the air between them. Well... I'll be going now. He continued on his way to the Control Room as if he hadn't stopped. As he disappeared down the stairs, a broad grin split across his face.

Honestly, Sam thought in a small amount of rancor. The rest of her was too busy being turned into Jell-O to center too much on Dr. Jackson or on what he must think of both she and Jack right at the moment, but.... But, she managed to make her sluggish brain think, He doesn't have to be so happy about it!

* * *

The fishing trip at Jack's cabin was as relaxing as planned. If Sam was hoping that Jack might say something to her about what had happened in his office the day before the old team members left for Minnesota, she was disappointed. Jack didn't say anything to her. They talked, but always about other things. And she didn't say anything, either, to Jack or to anybody, about what she wanted the future to hold for them. But... After that scene in his office, what more was there that they could say, anyway?

However, Sam did manage to slip a piece of paper with the directions of how to get into her triple encrypted, password protected journal account of the last few years into one of his shoes when no one was looking. Still, just doing that much made her feel incredibly wicked, and daring, and more in love than she had felt so far... and she felt quite sufficiently in love already.

Then the members of the original SG-1 drove back to Colorado, arriving in the Springs late Monday night. But, the team had to return to work on Tuesday, and Tuesday morning dawned bright, sunny, warm for that time in May, and...

Sam reached for the door handle of her car while on her way to work that Tuesday morning, but paused when she caught sight of something spread out on the driver's seat. Puzzled as to what she had left in the car that could be on the driver's seat, she slowly pulled at the handle, releasing the door, and drew it carefully back to reveal something she had definitely not expected to see.

On the driver's seat of her car, carefully spelled out in the colorful heart candies that are so popular around Valentine's Day, was a simple message that still shook her profoundly, even in its simplicity.

Sam

Will You Marry Me?

Jack

The question mark was completely made up of little white hearts that had the two words 'Be Mine' engraved on them in red sugarized ink. The tiny dot of the question mark was a simple solitaire engagement ring, a diamond cradled by two smaller bar diamonds on either side.

The question, and its delivery, might seem smaltzy to an innocent observer, but smaltziness aside, Sam didn't think she had ever experienced a more romantic offering than the one offered to her in that very moment. That was when she noticed that a note had also been taped to her steering wheel, and when she pulled it off, read the words:

Sam,

I'd get down on one knee to ask you this question, but I'm not sure that I would be able to get up again. So I'm here to make a total fool of myself because a girl likes to be asked, and a guy likes to do the asking (in any way he can think of). And because... Damn... I love you more than Thor has funny gray bodies hidden in reserve in his closets. And if I don't ask now, I'll not only be branded the galaxy's biggest idiot... I'll be the galaxy's biggest idiot. And I'll admit that though you're not getting much if you say 'yes,' as I know that I can also be the biggest pain in the ass at times, I love you enough for three guys... no, make that ten... and I'll see that you won't regret it for a single day. (An hour, maybe, but never for the entire day.)

Jack

Laughing, crying, Sam scooped up the engagement ring into her fingers to peer at it more closely. She was smiling a broad grin as if she couldn't quite help herself, and went on with her study, wearing that goofy grin like armor.

But even as she studied, Sam couldn't stop a tiny comparison from sneaking through her mind. She had to admit to herself in that moment of pure weakness of hers that Jack's proposal was certainly better than any 'popping the question' over hot-dogs in a public park, one knee notwithstanding.

Immediately chastising herself for such an unfair assessment of the recent events in her life, she still couldn't quite put a stop to that comparison, either. And she had to admit that Jack's proposal won hands down.

Finally, she gave up fighting her urge to look around for him, to see if he were watching her. She couldn't stop herself from slowly turning to look all around her neighborhood, peering between houses. Most of her considerable attention was cast to the public park across the street and down a little from her house.

The park was empty at this early hour of the morning. 0630 wasn't the typical time for... But despite the time, there he was, skulking just inside the treelike, leaning against a tree, wearing his leather jacket, aiming for the nonchalant look with his crossed arms. But his face looked tired, and lined, and anxious. He was waiting for her answer...

Sam grinned once more. She straightened up, and briefly wondered how long he'd been waiting for her to come out of her house. Still holding the ring he'd offered to her, she shut her car door, then silently crossed the street to the stretch of grassy park after looking both up and down the street to make sure the way was clear of vehicles before entering the street. It wouldn't do for Jack to have finally asked her to marry him after eight long years just to be struck down by a random car on a road at 0630 on a Tuesday morning.

Slowly she approached him, her eyes never wavering from her target now that she had acquired it. Jack nervously stuffed his hands in his pockets, took them out, then stuffed them back in again. She neared him. He slowly walked out of the cover of the treeline to stand in the open, his brittle expression threatening to shatter his feigned poise at any second.

He really is scared to death to ask me this question, Sam thought in astonishment. Didn't he already know how she felt, how she was likely to answer him? He had, after all, found her note in his shoe this past weekend, and thus had to have read her journal... But his uncertainty in this was... His proposing, and subsequent terror, and nervousness... It was a moment that would be chiseled on her mind for eternity: the terrified look on his face, but the mix of frightened determination, the anticipation, that she also saw in his features. He was so afraid of her possible rejection... Yet he had asked anyway.

Sam knew that he knew what she had decided the second he caught sight of her grin. His tight posture relaxed, the tension oozing out of taut muscles. A smile of his own lightened his features. His eyes slid sideways, but she could tell just from his expression that he didn't care anymore if someone saw them meeting like this or not. He took the three steps in her direction that would bring him that much closer to her.

It was like a scene from the year's best romantic movie as he met her in between the trees and a picnic table to scoop her up into his embrace, holding her so tightly that it was like he would never let go.

Jack whispered into her neck, I know it's like we're living the worst cliché right now, but I'm willing to overlook that fact if you just tell me what I want to hear...

You really don't know? Sam softly inquired, and attempted to stem the tears forming at the back of her eyes at the same time she spoke.

Jack shrugged, and Sam felt the movement of his shoulders against her chest where he was clutching her to him. I don't want to assume, he told her, indicating with the sound of his voice that he was still waiting for her reply.

Sam gurgled a wet laugh into his jacket. You are the world's biggest idiot, she fondly told him. Just as long as you're my idiot... And I'm happy to be a cliché if you're waiting for me at the end of it. But knowing that he wouldn't allow himself to be satisfied with anything less than a definite answer to his proposal, she made sure she added, Yes, I'll marry you, idiot and all!

Jack's smile got even larger, but he said, You don't have to say 'yes' just because you think you have to say...

Sam breathlessly interrupted, I don't think that I have to. I want to. Now, shut up, Jack, and give me a kiss before Teal'c and Daniel somehow mysteriously appear out of the bushes, and ruin this first perfect moment of absolute privacy that we've ever had. We may never get another chance for a kiss...

Jack was only too happy to comply.

Sequel: Wedding... s: a Trauma in Infinite Parts


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