K.I.A. continued

Part II

by Linda Bindner

Sam wore her own BDUs home from the base when she and Jack could get away later that day. It had been March when she left two months before... cold, wet, snowy... Now, it was May 15th, warm... warmer... but she no longer had appropriate clothes in her locker at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex Locker Room. If she had needed a reminder of how very long she had been absent from Colorado Springs, the sweater and turtleneck that she had stashed on the locker's top shelf were a sharp enough reminder to her. She chose to wear her spare pair of BDUs instead. At least she wouldn't sweat do death while she and Jack were headed to his house together that evening.

She waited at Jack's house while he gathered a few clothes, and his dress blues to wear while seeing The President in a few days, then they both piled back into his truck for the drive to her house, where she would collect clothes and pack as well. He'd argued that even though her car got better gas mileage than his truck did, she hadn't driven for over two months, and he wasn't going to give her the opportunity to survive a Goa'uld infestation, only to wrap her car around a tree on her way home from the base. He'd drive home, and he'd drive to Denver the next day, and he'd keep driving her until they had the chance for her to practice driving in an empty parking lot where there were no trees to hit for miles around. When he put it like that, she couldn't argue with him that she was perfectly capable of driving where she needed to go.

It felt so strange to enter her closed up house after two months of neglecting it that it was almost surreal for her to calmly walk across the threshold again. She was glad that Jack was with her to add his larger, more solid presence to hers as she strolled again into her own house.

She glanced around, but found everything much as she had left it the morning she had accompanied Anise through the Stargate several weeks before. Her plants, she could see, had been removed. Had they died from neglect? The dishes from her last breakfast, few that they had been, were put away, leaving the table conspicuously clean except for the neat pile of mail on one corner.

You? she asked, pointing to the pile of envelopes and magazines on the table.

Jack shrugged, and stuck his hands nervously in the pockets of his trousers. I got the mail for you, even when they told me that keeping any mail service going here was useless. I know I shouldn't have come into your house like that, but...

She interrupted him with a grateful smile. I don't care what they told you... I don't mind you coming into my house.

Just to look after things, Jack hurried to say. I felt... closer... to you here, he admitted then in a soft voice, flushing slightly. They all said I was being stupid... Especially after the room was needed at the base, and they cleaned out your lab... over my very loud protests, by the way. Jack sheepishly continued, Anyway, I knew that Pete wasn't likely to come out here, still living in Denver the way he was until he could transfer to the Colorado Springs PD, and...

Sam stopped him so that she could consider all that he was telling her; Jack had collected her mail, though he didn't know if she would ever see it or not? He even knew where her boyfriend lived? Soon to be past boyfriend, she absently corrected herself. Was there anything about her that he didn't know?

Jack continued, still sounding just as sheepish. I hope you don't mind...

Sam had to agree with his assessment that Pete would not have thought to come and take care of an empty house for her, beyond collecting whatever stuff he had carried into it over the last nine months.

Then Jack confessed, I got a phone call from Shanahan a few weeks ago. He asked if he'd been told right by the Air Force official who had visited him... That you were K.I.A... He looked regretful now. I had to tell him...

It's all right, Sam assured. That must have been when Pete had gathered his stuff, and took it back from her house. Actually, now that she thought about it, Jack had saved her the trouble of throwing it all out, or boxing it up and sending it back to Pete in Denver. She was glad that the paperwork for his transfer hadn't had time to go through the system yet, and he hadn't moved yet, and wasn't searching for a new place to live on top of everything else that had happened.

However, she was still glad that his stuff was gone already. She had no desire now to be staring at Pete's DVD collection spread out on the floor near her TV while she was also thinking about permanently ending her relationship with him. In addition, she didn't want to bring Jack into a house full of reminders of her former alliance with Pete Shanahan, either.

Reminded so starkly of Jack's presence with her, she pulled him close as she breathed in the stale air inside the house. No, I don't mind you coming here at all. I'm glad that you did, actually. Then, she grinned. If only to get my mail.

Jack grinned as well. I also watched your movies, too. I never knew you were an old movie buff, he exclaimed, then, turning his answering grin on her. You have some good movies in your collection.

Sam smiled at his statement, then without ceremony or further comment to give him a hint as to what she was planning to do, pushed him forcefully against a wall, and leaned into him. I don't want to watch a movie, old or new, right now, she whispered up to him. I'm tired of watching.... But she wasn't talking about movies at this point in the conversation.

Sam.., Jack slowly said with a shake of his head and a stupefied look on his face. But at the same time, he wasn't surprised by her forward behavior at all. His hands had crept up to cradle her bent elbows now, and there was no mistaking the seductive, husky sound of her voice, or her passionate demeanor. There was open passion blazing out of her eyes as she continued to stare at him. He couldn't help but answer her openness with his own. However, he went on, Maybe it's not a good idea to go into all this right now...

Yet, his voice was sounding weaker and weaker, even to his ears. He tried to swallow his feelings one more time, and forced himself to go on, I mean, there's a good chance that I won't be able to stop myself from doing something I shouldn't. In case you want to stop later. I mean, this is your first day back and all...

Wasn't this all going a bit fast? He helplessly looked down at her, expecting her to back up now that he had mentioned the entire desire situation that they shared, even as vaguely as he had mentioned that particular situation. He was thoroughly flummoxed, not knowing what to do. Or, more specifically, knowing what he wanted to do, but not knowing if he should actually do what he wanted to...

But she didn't appear to want to change anything about the current scenario that they were playing part in. Hadn't he claimed only hours earlier that he wanted to marry her? she asked herself. He had to feel something for her, she deduced. Is it because I'm technically still engaged? she inquired of his seeming aversion to being seduced now. Is that why you're suddenly so reluctant?

Jack gave an explosive snort. 'Reluctant?' He wasn't 'reluctant...' Hardly, he said then. I don't care if you're still engaged. I would grab you and kiss you myself if you weren't doing the same thing to me. Then he cautioned, But I care about you way too much to ask you to do something you're not ready for. Or if they began something that he didn't want to, or couldn't, stop.

'Ready?' Sam incredulously repeated. She drew even closer to him. I've been ready and waiting for a long time. And you wouldn't believe how long that is...

He gazed unwaveringly at her blue eyes. Oh, I know perfectly well how long...

Eyes burning now with an intense inner fire that instantly reduced his resistance to ashes, she continued, whispering, Every time thoughts of you entered my head...

With that, and no warning whatsoever, Sam leaned the rest of the way into him, and hungrily kissed him.

The second that Sam's lips touched his, Jack felt his desire for her slam into his senses. He didn't have a chance of withstanding such an emotional bombardment. He was overwhelmed in seconds, as if the floodgates on his emotional control had failed, and all the gates were thrown open at once.

He was awash in sensation. She was tossed into him. Or was he pulling her even closer?

He clutched at her, desperate to feel the skin of the one person who he thought just that morning that fate had denied to him.

Sam couldn't fight the roughness of that tide of emotion that she was feeling any better than he could, apparently. She rubbed her fingers across his skin left free between the edge of his t-shirt and his trouser waist band. The subsequent explosion of sensation made Jack think that he honestly might actually faint in this situation. Since that would be the ultimate embarrassment, he resisted the influence of his pounding blood in encouraging him to pass out, but that was all he could resist at this point.

Skin... Hell, who had time to just feel skin? They sank down on the floor, bruising their knees, their butts, the hardwood planks very unforgiving under whatever softer tissue touched it.

Both could feel the all-consuming burning inside them, sense the need for the other that directed their choppy flurry of actions now. There was no comprehension of regulations to guide their behavior, no thought of consequence... No nothing except this raging fire that threatened to explode unless they let the other quench the desire coursing through their veins.

Panting, straining, reaching... There was no sound in the room, in the entire house, except an occasional moan, a groaning of a name...

There were going to be bruises later, they both knew and acknowledged... But they were utterly helpless against this sudden urge to consummate emotions that had been simmering for eight long years.

Without even knowing how it happened, Jack's pants were gone, Sam's BDU trousers were gone as well, and, hot and pulsing, he thrust into her opening as she kept kissing every part of him that she could reach, even if that area was covered by what he was wearing. Her hands roamed under his shirt, feeling the intense heat of his chest, his hips, his...

With that, Sam lifted her own hips off the floor, and pushed into his. Her eyes flew open, her head bent backward into the floor, and she arched into him with a yell that pierced through the quiet of the house, Oh, God... Jack!

That was all he could take, even as he tried to helplessly employ his control over the uncontrollable, and hold back, try to slow things down... But he was as out of control as she was, as consumed, as awash in soaking desire, as wanting to give to her as to possess every inch of her being.

It was so furious, so vibrant, so... So consuming. The emotions he was feeling completely captured him, wrapped him up in the heat, the warmth, the all-around thrill of Sam, finally in his arms, in his heart, in his soul...

Jack managed to grunt a whisper in her ear as he burst in an orgasm so strong that it felt like it ripped right through him to his center, his essence blending with hers for the first time.

It was wild, wet, forceful, full of pent up lust, passion, heat, want, need... even of love... and it utterly unraveled them both. They would have never behaved in such a flagrant way under normal circumstances. If they hadn't been apart for nine weeks, hadn't thought the other was either dead, or dead to her in her heart...

Giving, taking, demanding, pounding... Jack's whisper seemed just as loud as her yell, mixing as they were in a symphony that surrounded them, binding them one to the other with a bond that was as strong as naqueda for all its invisibility, and as soft as satin, as unbreakable as silk... Strong, soft, tight, freeing... Pain, pleasure... All stirred into one giant emotion...

Jack and Sam lay very unglamorously on the floor of Sam's living room, between the couch and the wall, trying hard to catch their collective breath. Sam was the first to be able to speak. That was totally, all-around, completely, uncontrovertably... I don't care if that's a word or not... That was incredible.

Jack could only grunt his agreement with her, still unable to form a coherent sentence.

They heaved in air for a few more seconds, the sound of their attempt at normal breathing blaring loud throughout the empty house. Finally, Sam wheezed, God, Jack, I'm so sorry, I never meant to...

Jack's voice cut hers off. I'm not sorry, not a bit...

Okay, she admitted then, changing her words of apology of to words of acknowledgment now that she knew what Jack was thinking. I'm not sorry, either.

But Jack went on as if she hadn't spoken, And I want to do that again... a lot slower... and somewhere softer... but immediately, now, instantaneously...

Really? The delight in Sam's voice was unmistakable to Jack.

He glanced down at her, meeting her eyes, falling into her blue gaze just like he had always wanted to fall into her gaze. Really, he told her. I love you, Samantha Carter, and I got you back from the dead today, and I want more than anything to celebrate that fact until the cows come home, and I will... We will... As soon as I'm able to walk to your bedroom...

Sam laughed. Then let's move there at the earliest possible moment, she seconded.

Jack rested, still in a state of semi-shock at the powerful emotions that he had just shared with Sam. Oh, I plan to stay in your bed for the rest of the night, until we have to leave tomorrow... Just give me a minute...

Sam laughed again. You can hold me like this for as many minutes as you need, she invited.

Jack innocently queried, Your butt's not getting numb from the floor, is it?

Sam quickly answered, I haven't been able to feel my butt for several minutes. Then she grinned mischievously. But you can rub it later if you want.

Jack grinned back at her. I want, he replied. Later, and later than that, and then for the rest of my life...

Sam hugged him close, clutching him to her chest. I love you, too, Jack O'Neill.

Jack smiled and let his head rest on her shoulder in contentment. You have no idea how great it is to hear that, he said with sincerity in his voice.

Sam disagreed. Oh, I have a pretty good idea how nice it is to hear... Or at least, I know how good it is when I hear the same words coming from you.

Jack sighed, and smiled when he glanced at her. I'm gonna say those words all the time, too, or show you, or...

Sam interrupted him with a brief kiss on his lips. I look forward to it, she quietly said.

* * *

They were in Denver by 1000 hours the next morning, and Sam directed Jack to the police precinct where Pete was employed as a detective. They would have arrived a bit earlier, but the morning had been nicely disrupted by the lovemaking that had earlier consumed their time, a slow, quiet, but purposeful seduction of Sam, who had been just as purposefully more affectionate to Jack because she had already figured him to be a little worried about their coming ordeal in Denver.

She was grateful to him that she didn't have to go through this unpleasant, planned activity by herself. She would be sure to feel unhappy enough as it was when it was over, but at least she wouldn't be alone. She may not feel the right kind of love for Pete in order to marry him, but she didn't want to hurt him, either, and a breakup with her after finding her alive again after so long was bound to hurt.

Jack parked his truck in the parking lot in front of the police office building, then gazed at Sam. Are you sure that you don't want me to wait for you out here? I can...

No, she cut him off. I'm sure. She took his hand in hers, and gave it a fast kiss on his palm. I don't think you should actually come in to see Pete with me... I don't want you to go through that. Then she glanced at Jack out of eyes consumed in tragic thought. But I would feel a little better knowing that you're waiting right in the lobby for me, she announced.

Jack didn't have to think twice about his decision. Okay. He squeezed her hand in a comforting gesture. I can read fishing magazines, or somethin,' while I wait.

Sam giggled, the noise sounding appreciative of his humor, and nervous at the same time. Okay... Let's do it.

Together, they climbed from the truck and headed into the building. Warm sunshine gave way to the coolness of air conditioning as they traversed the two doors and narrow entryway that greeted them and moved through the building. Jack walked a little closer to Sam than he strictly needed to in order to insure her protection, but he couldn't help his instinctual reaction as he noticed that the men and women employed by the precinct kept stopping whatever they were doing to stare at Sam in open-mouthed astonishment as they passed deeper into the office. Jack softly let his hand hover near her back as they walked, guiding her, and unconsciously marking her as 'claimed' as they came to a halt in a tiny anteroom at the apex of several office groupings.

Sam nervously stuffed her hand in her front pocket once more. It's just over... She gestured behind her.

Jack did his best to remain agreeable, even as a jealousy that he had not anticipated feeling suddenly bloomed inside his chest. He stomped it down in his mind, and turned to her. I'll wait for you right here, he determinedly said, and indicated four or five empty chairs sitting in the empty circle of the apex. He tried to ignore his jealous feelings enough to ask, You sure you'll be okay?

Sam smiled then. As long as I know that you're waiting for me, I'll be fine. She paused in her speech to thoughtfully add, More than fine, actually...

Jack sent a smile her way, supporting her in this sure-to-be painful endeavor of hers, then settled down in a chair as she continued on to a door at the end of one of the hallways, and disappeared into the space behind the door. Jack sighed, then looked around, trying to ignore the surreptitious and curious glances thrown his way by the various employees seated at the desks surrounding him. He grabbed a magazine dedicated to... what else?... fishing... and was soon lost in the latest news about lures and bobbins and hooks.

Thus, Jack was very surprised when a slight shadow fell across the article he was engrossed in. Was Sam finished already? She had only been gone for a short time...

Jack looked up, then choked. Shanahan! It was the last person he expected to see.

I never thought I'd see you here, Pete admitted as he fell into the chair next to Jack's.

Where's Sam? Jack instantly inquired as he shut and tossed the magazine in his hands aside. He looked all around the police office complex. Is she all right?

Pete slouched down comfortably in the chair he had chosen to sit in next to Jack. She's fine, she's fine, he assured Jack. I saw her disappear in the direction of the rest-room just now. He was silent for a few seconds, then divulged, But since I saw you sitting here after she left my office...

Sam asked me to come, Jack quickly assured. It's not like I want to rub your nose in...

Pete interrupted him. Actually, I'm glad that you are here.

That admittance surprised Jack even more. You are? Since when had Shanahan ever been glad to see him?

Pete gave a slight roll of his eyes, and a raise of his brows. I know that we haven't exactly been the best of friends up till now...

We couldn't even be in the same room together, Jack negated. So what's changed?

I met someone else, Pete suddenly blurted, and flushed.

Jack was astounded for the second time in the last fifty seconds. What? he asked in a dull voice. This was soooo not what he had expected to hear. He'd anticipated more that Pete would be very upset... completely unhinged... at Sam's ending of their long relationship. Jack hadn't known that he'd expected Pete to react as he himself would have reacted in the same situation. But he definitely hadn't expected Pete to tell him that he had already moved on from Sam.

I mean, I'm very glad that Sam's all right, and all, Pete readily admitted. But...

But? Jack prompted.

But... Then, Pete sighed in defeat. Do you want to hear the whole story?

Jack wasn't sure that he really wanted to hear it, no, but he pretended to be affable for Sam's sake. Go on.

Pete relaxed into his chair, and began softly talking. When it was obvious that something was wrong... When Sam had been gone for... two weeks, I think... Or three weeks...

Jack scowled. I get the picture. He didn't particularly want to be reminded of the memories that accompanied events that he couldn't help reliving.

Ah, now this is the General that I remember, Pete told him. Frowning at me...

It's gonna be more than a little frown if you don't get on with it, Jack growled in a low voice.

Okay... Pete shifted in his chair, and continued. Anyway, I called the base, and talked to that Sergeant Harriman...

Walter? Jack questioned, surprised again. He never told me that.

Yeah, well, he told me what was going on. And I admit that at first I was kind of a basket case, Pete said. Then, another week passed, and I was still a nervous wreck... And some of the guys around here convinced me that I needed to see a therapist.

A shrink? Jack ascertained.

Pete turned to stare at Jack. You know, they hate being called that.

How would you know what they hate? Jack ascerbically asked. It's not like...

Pete broke in on what Jack was saying. I know because I went to see someone, talk it all out... And the next thing I knew, we were talking it out over coffee and donuts at the local coffee shop. Then it moved on to talking at dinner, then lunch, then...

Jack grimaced. I think I've heard enough.

Pete looked down at his knees, a slightly guilty expression on his face. I was glad to see Sam today, really I was, and that she had gotten back okay...

You mean that we found her alive? Jack asked, a biting edge to his voice.

Pete sighed. Yeah, that too. He sighed again. Look, I...

Two cups of coffee were suddenly thrust towards the two men. I never thought I'd see the day when you two were talking, Sam commented as she handed them their coffee, then picked up her own cup from the table with the magazines on it, and slipped into the chair on the other side of Jack from Pete.

Jack didn't miss the preference that Sam was very subtly showing in her choice of who to sit by, but he noticed that, according to the bland look on his face, Shanahan missed the entire thing. For that, Jack was grateful. Grateful both that Pete remained oblivious, and that Sam was very subtly choosing him. It was a childish gratitude, perhaps, but Jack still reveled in the feeling of it.

Pete took a sip of his coffee. Ah, sugar and cream, just the way I like it. Then he seemed to consider the situation, as his expression grew ever more pensive. Though I suppose you would know that, wouldn't you, Sam? He cradled the warm Styrofoam cup in his hands. I was just telling the General here about Kristin.

Ah. Sam nodded in understanding.

Jack said the first thing that came to his mind to say in order to distract Sam. Sugar, no cream... Just the way I like it. Thanks, Carter.

Sam snorted at the sight of the two men sitting beside her on the plastic chairs in the waiting area. They both looked like they could simultaneously be nice to the other man, and happily throttle him at the earliest convenient moment. She turned to Jack and said, I got a drink for you plenty of times on missions to know how you take your coffee.

Sugar, the same as you, he said in an off hand comment.

That negligent manner of Jack's was meant to cover a nervous streak, Sam knew. He always sounded mildly sarcastic when he was upset or nervous. At least it's not black, like Daniel takes his coffee.

Now there's a man with a serious addiction, Jack agreed.

Pete gazed at them over the rim of his coffee cup. Don't worry, I'm going, he flippantly said to the General's unvoiced request to end the interview they were reluctantly sharing.

Sam appeared to be aghast. Don't feel like you have to run off just because...

Pete interrupted her to say, If I wanted to feel uncomfortable, I'd strip and do wrestling as a pastime.

Hey, now there's an idea, Jack sarcastically said.

Pete gave a little laugh as he rose. But I don't want to embarrass you guys, so...

Jack glanced at Sam, and joked as he asked, Do you feel embarrassed? He blinked, then swiveled around to glance at Pete. Because I sure don't feel that way...

Boy, are you a rotten liar, Pete said.

Sam laughed then. The General's an excellent liar, actually. He must want us to know that he's lying through his teeth right now, and actually feels embarrassed as hell... She gave Jack the 'evil eye' expression as she spoke.

Jack's earlier scowl deepened. I'll thank you to stop discussing me...

Sam laughed again while Pete just looked like he didn't know how to react to Jack's and Sam's verbal bantering. Well, he said at last. I just wanted you both to know... No hard feelings, huh?

Riiiight, Jack said, drawing out the word. There's no hard feelings, Shanahan.

Pete looked really uncomfortable now. Uh... Bye, then, Sam, he said as he backed off towards his office, his coffee in hand. See you around, General... Then he was gone.

Sam took a deep breath in, soaking up the coffee smell, and the Jack smell all in one gulp of air. That went better than I thought it would, she dryly commented.

Jack's voice was almost a whisper as he inquired, You gave the ring back and all?

Sam nodded. First thing.

Jack gave such a tiny smile that it was as if his features grew lighter rather than he actually gave the gesture. Good, was all he said.

Sam did smile at him then. 'Good?' Is that all you have to say?

Jack glared at her. I can't exactly do the dance I want to do while we're in here... surrounded by cops... now can I?

Sam grinned again. Then let's get out of here, she said.

Jack drained his coffee, and threw the cup into a nearby garbage can. I'm all yours, he said flirtatiously.

Sam followed suit with her own coffee cup. Good, she mocked, and rose.

Why, you..! Jack mock threatened back as they proceeded to walk out of the building together.

* * *

And so, that's the way it is, Mr. President, Jack ended his explanation the next day to the leader of the country, and to Generals Hammond and Francis, all conglomerated in the Oval Office. Jack went on, I'm not about to give up Sam after all that we've both been through, and if the military disagrees with my choice, then I'll retire... Unless the Joint Chiefs feel that it's necessary to court-martial both of us.

General Hammond sighed after a silent moment had passed for the gathered men to assimilate the new information they had heard that day. Jack, he began in a soft, restrained tone of voice. You know that court-martial is always the worst case scenario way to deal with a misbehavior of this kind, and...

Jack had to snort softly at Hammond's comment. This is more than 'a case of misbehavior,' though, if you don't mind me saying so, Sir.

Sam cut in to the conversation then to add, Jack proposed marriage to me in the 'Gate Room in front of several dozen SGC personnel. I don't think this is one of those instances that can just be reprimanded away.

Francis studied Colonel Carter and General O'Neill from his seat on the sofa across the room. And there's nothing we can do to change your minds? he asked. Or to encourage you both to wait until one of you has officially retired from the military?

Sam snorted this time in her interruption of the officer. General Francis, she said. With all due respect, I was pronounced dead for nine weeks. I may not have witnessed Jack's personal distress following that news, but I certainly know of it. And I agree with him that the military can do what it feels it has to do with us, but neither of us are going to be dealt with like conveniently invisible children who are seen and not heard. This situation can't be quietly swept under the proverbial rug. She then added, We're done being like that.

Jack took up the commentary. Throw us in jail if you feel that you have to make an example out of us... Neither of us would blame you if you did, even if we wouldn't like it very well. Although we hope you don't feel that you have do do that... He glanced at Sam. But we aren't ashamed of the way we feel about each other, either. We've felt the same way for years, have successfully worked together for years, have chosen not to ever do anything about our feelings for years, and now we've decided that putting ourselves and our feelings aside simply isn't an option any longer. He paused to smile at Sam, and to wrap her hand with his fingers. Besides, there's nothing worse that can be done to either of us that hasn't already been done. He glared at the three men. I've had to announce that the woman I want to marry was K.I.A... Sam almost completely lost everything she's worked years for by becoming a host... It can't get much worse than that, he declared.

President Hayes thoughtfully and quietly spoke for the first time during the interview, asking Jack and Sam, And you're opposed to changing your minds?

Sam smiled a bit tolerantly. We don't want to change our minds, Sir, she corrected him, deliberately emphasizing the proper word in her statement.

Jack continued, But I'm more than willing to retire if you want me to.

Sam added, I am, too, after a pause had silenced those on the room.

Eventually, Hammond broke that silence, and sighed a large gust of air. You might not have a choice in the matter, Son, he admitted, though reluctance colored his voice. Either of you.

Hayes went on, And you may not know it, or admit it yourself, but you are the best man we have to run the SGC, Jack.

Jack's face was cast a deep shade of red, and Sam grinned as he intoned, Thank you, Mr. President. That means a lot to me to know.

Hayes went on, And I'm well aware of what a fine soldier and scientist Colonel Carter is... We don't want to loose either of you to retirement.

Jack nodded a second time, but refrained from speaking. He only gripped Sam's hand all the tighter as they both nodded at the other man.

Francis asked again, just to make certain, There's nothing we can do to tempt you to..?

Sam interrupted him to firmly state, No.

Hammond added a recap of the situation, Jack, you wish to retire, and Colonel, you plan to retire as well? She nodded, so he continued, And you don't want to go off world with SG-1 any longer? he added.

There is no SG-1 any longer, Jack reminded them. It's not quite fair to expect Sam to die, then be resurrected, only to be forced by our own ignorance of the matter to go off world with a new team, he pointed out. Not after everything that's happened.

Hayes sighed his frustration then. Well... And he slapped his knees to draw everyone's attention to him. I need to talk this over with the Joint Chiefs, he said, then spoke directly to Jack and Sam, And I can't promise you anything at this point...

Just promise to discuss the issue, Jack told him. That's all we ask.

Sam poked at Jack's ribs, then. The Tok'ra.., she reminded.

Oh, Jack said, and perked up a bit. Thanks for reminding me, Carter... er, Sam. He turned to face Hayes. I turned future relations with the Tok'ra over to Colonel Reynolds. General Hammond appeared confused, so Jack went on to explain, I'm a bit too... He fished through his conscious mind for the correct word to describe his current feelings on the Tok'ra issue. Too... too angry.., he decided on saying. Too angry with the way the Tok'ra chose to to handle this situation to insure that future relations between Earth and the Tok'ra won't be... strained... to say the least...

Hayes interrupted him to ask, What are you saying here?

Jack colored red a second time during the short interview, but added, I'm saying that I'm afraid I might destroy our future relations with the Tok'ra, Sir, that I'll say something irreverent someday, and royally tick them off. I thought it would be prudent of me to turn over those relations to Reynolds before I have the chance to do any damage that can't be undone.

Hammond grimaced, and sighed once more, but admitted, Well, that was probably wise of you, if a bit inconvenient...

Sam broke into the conversation to say, We realize that this entire thing is inconvenient, Sir, but the military's desire for simplicity isn't enough for us to change our minds on...

Jack burst out with, They made Sam a host, for crying out loud! The Tok'ra conscripted her without her knowledge or will, and sent her off to capture a group of really bad-assed people. And though she knew that she and her father might not succeed in the long run, she went. And then, to really make matters as awful as possible, the Tok'ra didn't bother to tell us at the SGC about any of it! We couldn't even think of mounting a rescue mission because we thought she was dead! Now, if the Joint Chiefs feel that she... that any of us... should be punished more than going through that, then they should go ahead and do what they want to do. Then his voice lowered. But don't you think we've all gone through enough? He turned his question into an appeal as he spoke. Don't you think that she's been through enough?

Three sighs of reluctant agreement, colored with irritation at Jack and Sam, as well as at the Tok'ra, for creating this unfortunate situation to begin with, sounded simultaneously throughout the room. It was Francis who broke the following quiet. We need to read your reports of the occurrence again...

Thank you for bringing those reports with you, by the way, Hayes interjected, talking to Jack and Sam, who only nodded.

Francis continued, But I have to remind you both, General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, that there's no guarantee that...

We know, Jack said, not allowing him to finish his statement. We know that we're both acting very inconveniently, but we're tired of just being a convenience, two officers who can always be counted on to risk their lives over and over again without some kind of compensation. He turned his grim visage towards the President then. You can look on this as me finally calling in the favor you mentioned a year ago about granting, if that helps.

Hayes appeared to be lost in thought, but he responded to Jack's suggestion anyway. I might have to do that..., he mumbled, still contemplating.

Thank you, Sam said then. She lifted her head to glance at everyone in the room. To all of you.

Again Hayes slapped his knees, then rested his arms on his thighs. Well... If that's all..?

Jack had to laugh at the President's formal query. I think we've already given you enough to keep your thoughts busy for a few days, at least.

Without missing a beat, President Hayes smiled and said, Hopefully, a half hour will do.

Then we won't keep you, Jack said as he politely gestured for Sam that he would follow her lead from the office. Thank you. They smiled their good byes, then walked to the door concealed in the semicircular wall.

Don't thank us yet, Hayes told them as they moved to leave. Then, to the underling/intern/secretary who entered the office as Jack and Sam crowded through the door, said, Carl, I need to talk to any of the Joint Chiefs that you can assemble on short notice, and can you get a detachment of Secret Service Agents to stay with General O'Neill and Colonel Carter for the next... He glanced at the other two men in the office with him, then decided, For the next half hour, or forty-five minutes, or so? He turned to Jack and Sam as they were leaving. He explained, This detachment of Secret Service is for your own protection, you know, while you wait for us to make some kind of decision about what to do with you... He didn't finish his comment, almost as if his reference to Jack's and Sam's special behavioral problem was plenty loud enough already. Then he glanced again at the other men gathered in the room. George, Francis... I want you both to stay. I have the feeling that I'll need your expertise in this matter before it's all over. Then he smiled at everyone in the room. Just give me five...

Without another word, they were all ushered out of his inner office into the outer room, where a collection of desks met their combined forms. Jack tried not to bang his shins on any desk corners that might leap out to grab his unsuspecting legs in the following crush of people as they all filed out. He was busy considering that Hayes' last smile had been the first time that he had seemed like a true politician to Jack, and he didn't want to add an injury to his sudden perception.

Jack was stopped by the look of gloom and doom adorning both Generals' faces as they left. Don't look like that, he told them in a subdued voice. You're making me worry.

General Hammond sighed, then grinned. Well, at least your sense of humor hasn't changed, Jack, he commented.

Jack glanced at Sam. It's the only thing that got me out of bed every morning for the last two months, he noted. His sigh echoed his one-time CO's. At least I had that.

Yes, well.., General Francis muttered.

Jack interrupted him. Think I'll take a walk, leave you guys here to decide the fate of the Universe...

I'll go with you, Sam volunteered after taking one look at her austere surroundings, and the gloomy expressions on the people still in the office.

Another person whose name Jack didn't know opened the outer office door for them. Jack and Sam moved as one through the door and into the hallway. How about outside? Sam asked then, and a man... presumably of the Secret Service detachment... pointed them in the right direction. As Jack and Sam trooped down the corridor, the Agents followed them, remaining a discreet distance behind the strolling couple. As they moved down the hallway, Sam noted under her breath, Do you think they're here to keep us out of trouble, or to keep us from causing more trouble?

Jack had to grin at her inquiry. Both, maybe, he quietly said. Louder, he added, But I have to admit that I like your idea of waiting outside. If this is my last free half hour, it would be nice to spend it in the sunshine of the planet I've risked my life for so many times.

What do you want to talk about, then? Sam asked as they pushed through a set of double doors, and suddenly found themselves facing the green expanse of the White House lawns. If we talk about what they're talking about... She visibly shuddered. I might deflower the back yard at the White House.

'Deflower?' Jack repeated in an awed tone. I don't think I even know what that means, but I have the sneaky suspicion that it doesn't have anything to do with the plants in the garden.

Sam snorted again to hide her immediate laughter at his comment. She wasn't sure that laughter was entirely appropriate in this situation they found themselves in. Yet, at the same time, she was just so happy at finding herself in Jack's company again that she couldn't be as dour as she felt she should be.

We could decide what we want to do for the wedding, Jack prompted. We might never see it all come to fruition, but that doesn't mean that we can't plan anything, he pointed out.

Good idea, Sam instantly agreed, even as she secretly marveled at Jack knowing the definition of a word like 'fruition,' to say nothing of him being able to use it correctly in a sentence. Jack was far more intelligent than even she had realized, Sam was beginning to understand. What do you have in mind? she asked him then. They started strolling down a sidewalk, as the grounds were wet from a rain the previous day, despite the May sunshine now blazing down on them.

The SGC chapel? Jack hazarded to suggest.

That's a bit on the small side, Sam cautioned, then went on to add, Not that small isn't fine with me, but we need to decide then if we want a big wedding, or a small wedding.

Jack looked toward Sam, clearly considering his options. Either is fine with me, he finally told her. Are you planning on having the entire SGC attend the ceremony? he asked. Or do you not care about that? He glanced at her again.

That depends, she said with a wrinkle to her nose. Do you want to invite... She paused to say, Only those people with high enough clearance?

But that leaves out your brother and his family, Jack instantly protested.

And that also leaves out... Sam hesitated to mention the person she was thinking about. Um... She swallowed.

Yeah? Jack prompted her once more.

That was when Sam stopped to peer down at the pavement under her feet. Her face burned red, but she blurted, Jack, did you want to invite your... She ran out of air as she let it all out in a whooshing sigh, and had to take in more. She tried again. I mean...

Sam, will you just spill it, already! Jack exclaimed then, irritated with her indecisiveness. Which was unusual for her, he realized. She was so rarely indecisive. But once she had told him of who she was thinking about, her indecisiveness was fully understandable.

Sara! Sam blurted to him on a second whoosh of air. Were you thinking of asking her?

Jack was surprised once again by Sam's courage in mentioning his ex-wife in the first place, and also proud of her ever forgiving nature in thinking that he might wish her to attend his second wedding. He paused on the path to gaze questioningly at Sam. At last, he inquired, Do you want me to ask her?

I hadn't thought much about it, Sam confessed, squinting up at him in the strong sunlight.

Jack hedged, We can't have any wedding in the SGC if we invite people like Sara, who don't have the proper clearance, he reminded her. Maybe we should choose to have it at the Academy Chapel? he suggested then.

But Sam wasn't going to be sidetracked by his change of subject. You didn't answer my question, she accused in a mildly annoyed tone. Do you want to invite Sara?

Instead of answering, Jack asked, hedging, Do you?

Sam stared pensively at a tree full of the white cherry blossoms of late Spring. I don't know, she haltingly replied at last.

Wouldn't that be like throwing my old life in your face on the day that should be just about you? Jack gently asked.

His asking such a question let Sam know that it was still more important to him to know that she had even thought of this issue than the issue itself meant. Sam had to grant a tiny smile at his query and its subsequent unspoken commentary. It's a day that's about you, too, she argued. And it can hardly be about you if we don't acknowledge that this is your second marriage. She turned back to squint up at him again. As awkward as that situation might be...

Jack hesitantly admitted that she was right with a nod of his head. Okaaaay, he carefully intoned. But if we invite Sara, then we can't invite... You know. Jack didn't want to speak Thor's name in public, but he did wish to acknowledge the small alien. He is my 'little buddy,' after all.

Sam grinned. We may not be dumb enough for him, anyway, she teasingly warned.

I'm going to tell him you said that, Jack warned back.

Sam gave a soft laugh, the sound tinkling across the expanse of yard to the Secret Service agents behind them, who perked up at the sound.

Careful, Jack whispered. You're making the protector goons nervous.

Sam glanced behind them in the direction that Jack was staring. She softly commented in his ear, We wouldn't want that, would we?

It had been a rhetorical question, Jack knew, which was good, as he was suddenly too consumed by the delicious feel of her lips next to the skin surrounding his ear to answer a louder question. He couldn't let anyone, but especially not the agents behind him, know that he was affected in such a way by her nearness to him, especially as they were both currently wearing their military uniforms, and had to behave accordingly. So Jack only cleared his throat, smiled charmingly at the group of people now staring at both him and Sam with suspicious gleams in their eyes. Then, still smiling and looking as friendly as possible at them, whispered to Sam, You're going to either kill me, or really embarrass me in front of Secret Service goons on the White House lawns.

It was a statement made in such a desperate sounding whisper that Sam gave another laugh. Still giggling, she lowered her head to stare at the bland cement color of the sidewalk they were standing on. She purposefully chose to place her hand on Jack's stomach, and let her laugh tinkle again across the lawn. Well, we are talking about our wedding after all, she argued. If they think... certain other things... are being discussed, who are we to dissuade them?

Jack's smile was now turned full beam onto Sam. You're so evil... I love it, he told her in hushed tones. But then he cleared his throat again, forcing his mind to remain fixed on such boring things as wedding details when what he really wanted to do was think of other things. Okay, he said anyway in determined, louder tones. Maybe we can have the wedding further up the mountain, in the outside air? he suggested next to Sam. Will that be a big enough place for everybody, and one that won't have anything to do with everyone needing high security clearance, like the SGC?

Sam was still grinning, especially at the discomfort that she saw in Jack's eyes, looks that she had become more then adept at reading over the past several years. We can dress 'your little buddy' in a long overcoat and a hat, like a fedora, I guess, she said. We can ask Teal'c what he might suggest as far as hats go.

Jack sent her an appreciative look. Dressing him up is an idea that might work, he said. I hadn't thought of that.

Just then, something made a slight beeping sound, its insistent peel splitting through the air between the Secret Service agents and the couple they were... guarding?... protecting?... vigilizing?... Whatever they were actually doing didn't really matter to Jack as he watched one man speak into a radio, then listen, then nod to his unseen informant a moment later. With no warning, he separated himself from the group, and approached Jack and Sam further along the sidewalk than them. He didn't smile or give the military personnel any indication of his own personal pleasure or disappointment with his words as he said, The President will see you now.

Thank you, Jack told him as the man turned away. He found that he desperately wanted to take Sam's hand in his own then for a comforting squeeze, but knew that a 'comforting squeeze' on the hand of his second in command wasn't exactly one of the auras that the Air Force would want one of their Generals to project, especially when both he and Sam were wearing their dress uniforms that represented that same elite military organization. So, he settled for simply turning and gesturing for Sam to precede him in the direction that would lead them back to the Oval Office. He let his hand guide her by hovering just a bit over her lower back, but he wouldn't touch her, no matter how much he wanted to.

Together, they made their way back to the office they had been invited to earlier, a space that was now crowded with men and women in and out of blue uniforms. He looked around at them until he spied the familiar, friendly face of George Hammond, and he didn't look away again as he asked, So, you've reached a decision about us already?

Hammond gave a grim nod. Yes, he said, speaking for everyone gathered in the office.

That was fast, Jack commented under his breath, though the others gathered together heard every word he had to say. No one spoke, though, so finally Jack went on to comment, Alright, the suspense is killing me... What did you decide? he asked. Is it acceptable for Sam and I to marry, or are we spending the next five years staring at the bars in the cells at a minimum security prison?

Hammond sighed again, showing his unhappiness at speaking his next words, but duty bound to say, no matter how unpleasant he personally found the task, General O'Neill... Colonel Carter. His voice was formal as he intoned the titles of his friends. Please stand up so that everyone can see you...

Sam spoke as she and Jack rose from the seats they had formerly occupied on one of the sofas, Why am I getting the impression that this has turned into formal proceedings whether we want them to be or not?

George Hammond sent her a brief smile. Because these proceedings are as formal as we can make them on such short notice, and in the wrong venue. Then he continued as if he hadn't just spoken, We've discussed the situation among ourselves, and I feel that I need to point out that there are those among us who favor locking you both up for several years, and throwing away the keys. And he glanced around the room at the others gathered together, but his gaze wouldn't land on any of them, incriminating no one.

However, Hammond continued at last. You do have your supporters, the President among them... Here, he glanced once at Hayes, then back at Jack and Sam as he went on, And this is the compromise we reached in the short notice we were given in discussing this matter. He eyed Jack and Sam. General O'Neill... Colonel Carter, he repeated. It is the will of the organization to which we all belong that you both meet several requirements before given the opportunity to further your personal situation. General... He turned to face Jack. It's been decided that you will retire from the military, as you desire, but that, due to your unique knowledge and abilities concerning Earth's continued defense from intergalactic... He seemed to search for the word he wanted. At last, he said, Intergalactic whatever, you will retain command of the SGC. In retiring, you will gather your pension, but your future salary will be docked for a year by no less than a sum of $10,000, and no more than a sum of $20,000, and there will be no contact with the Air Force beyond your dealings with the SGC, which will probably be enough for you to handle, anyway. He turned his head then to take in Sam. Colonel Carter... Here, Hammond gave a regretful sigh, a gesture that sent chills of foreboding up Jack's spine. However, he remained silent, and Hammond went on, It's been decided that your bid for retirement from the military has been denied. You're far too valuable as the 'Gate expert to let you go. You will report under Dr. Lee for your future job position, your salary will also be docked by the sum of $10,000, not to exceed $20,000 in a year, and you will continue to lend your personal experience and knowledge to the military as concerns the Stargate, and anything discovered by means of said Stargate. Your future personnel evaluations will be handled by Colonel Reynolds, so that your own husband will not be in charge of holding such power over you in a work situation. He took in both Jack and Sam then. It's either agree to all this, or face a court-martial, which may or may not find in favor for your continued happiness at the SGC. How do you respond to all this? he inquired then, the sense of formality dropping out of his tone. Is there anything you wish to request a compromise on?

Jack's hand did gravitate over to Sam's then, and he wrapped his fingers around the ends of hers. Um.., he said, just beginning to understand the implications of Hammond's words. Then he looked to Sam, gauging her expression, then looked back at the gathered throng. Um...

Sam squeezed his fingers then, willing him to silence as she said, Everything seems fine... acceptable... more than fair... Then she beseeched her former Commanding General with her blue eyes narrowed to inquiring slits. Can we run now before anyone changes his or her mind?

Hammond had to chuckle at the question. That's what I would do, I admit, he noted.

Hayes interrupted, Just as long as neither of you make a habit of this... He waved his hand around at the other people in his office. Now get the hell out of here while we hold back the hoards who want to prosecute you instead...

Sam tugged on Jack's hand. Yes, Sir. Then, she pulled Jack out of the office like the Wraith were hot on their tails, and not until they were relatively alone in the outer office did she let the breath out that she had been holding.

Sam! Jack then declared in an aggrieved, irritated tone of voice. You didn't give me a chance to respond at all!

Sam sighed in relief despite Jack's words. I know, she said at last. I planned it that way.

That statement made Jack jerk back. What?

Before you could say something that might invite that court-martial that seemed to be hanging over our heads.., she explained. Then she rolled her eyes. Jack, you have to admit that your temper, once it's started, builds pretty quickly to near boiling point. I wanted to get us out of there before you could say anything that might make anyone change their minds.

Jack seemed to be considering her words, but he felt he had to argue, But you didn't let me say anything!

Now Sam was getting irritated herself. You might have said something that could hurt you, me, us..! She placed a calming hand on his arm despite both of them still wearing their formal uniforms. I didn't want too give you the chance to commit vocal suicide. I know you, Jack.., she warned.

Jack balked a second time. But don't you think that all that money that we agreed to give up is... well... is quite a bit of cash?

Maybe, Sam muttered, looking around now at the office workers who refused to meet her gaze, thus lending her and Jack some privacy in a public setting. But as opposed to a possible prison term, I'll take it, even if the next year proves to be financially pretty hard on both of us. She then dragged him out into the deserted hallway. There was no sign of a Secret Service Agent now. For that, Sam was glad. You ready to head home, Commander?

Jack reared back again at the unfamiliar title. Sam, he protested.

Let's go, before something more happens, Sam suggested, cutting him off. We have a wedding to plan.

Jack didn't respond to her comment, but he did give a slow smile as the fine details of their situation dawned on him. Yeah, he said in a brightening tone, as if he had just discovered something exquisite. A wedding...

* * *

A Week And A Half Later:

Daniel calmly gazed at Sam over the artifact still in his hands as he stood at the desk in his office. He met Teal'c's gaze as the Jaffa stood near his office shelves, then returned his gaze to his former team leader. And what happened then? he hesitantly asked Sam, as if he weren't sure that he truly wanted to know, but that he had to ask in order to fully understand the events of all that had happened to Sam and Jack the week before. I mean, you were only back that one day before you were off to the wedding.

Sam's eyebrows rose on her creamy white forehead. Before or after Jack was able to commandeer places for both of us on a transport plane heading from D.C. back in the Colorado Springs direction? she queried.

Daniel nodded. After.

Sam nodded too. We figured that finding seats for us on the plane might be Jack's last act as a General, you know. He figured that we might as well enjoy the privileges of his rank while that rank lasted... And he was right...

Daniel had to grin at Sam's cheerful attitude about all that had transpired for her, and he was secretly marveling at how much money Sam was willing to give up so that she could be with Jack. Together, their combined salary losses equaled a possible $40,000. He suspected that they wouldn't be buying a new car anytime within the next year or so...

Daniel encouraged her with another nod, so Sam continued, Well, after we returned to our hotel, changed out of our uniforms, made wild love on the floor...

Daniel paled. Too much information! he suddenly exclaimed.

Sam giggled for such a length of time that Daniel looked like he wondered if she was telling him the truth or not. Sorry, guys.., she said, glancing between Daniel and Teal'c, and back to Daniel. I don't want to make you uncomfortable, after all... She calmed, cleared her throat, then went on, We caught a cab to the airfield... Jack didn't feel right about calling for a car since he was going to pull for a spot on the next plane out... and then we flew to the Springs, and here we are. Sam shrugged as if to note that their journey had not been as big a deal as it had seemed.

After spending a fun-filled five days filled with a wedding and honeymoon in Vegas. After the... I don't know what we should call it exactly. Daniel still looked as if he was trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Jack wasn't going to be his friend, General O'Neill, for much longer, when Teal'c's voice broke through his reverie.

Do you plan..? What are your plans now, ColonelCarter? asked the Jaffa.

Still smiling at her friends' inquisitiveness, Sam continued, Well, Teal'c... Then she seriously regarded her alien comrade. We don't quite know, Teal'c, she admitted. We still want to get married here, in front of our friends, someday, and now that we can, we...

She was interrupted when the phone rang. Daniel reached for it, since it was his phone. Daniel Jackson, he smoothly said into the receiver. He listened for a minute, then handed the receiver over to Sam. It's for you.

She took it. Thanks. Then, into the phone, said, This is Colonel Carter...

* * *

Jack's black phone rang from where it was resting off to the side on his desk. He finished signing the form under his pen, glanced at his watch, noted that he had about five minutes before he had to run down to the 'Gate Room in order to see SG-9 off on their next mission, then answered the insistently clanging phone. O'Neill, he tiredly said. He fervently hoped that he would not be told of a new crisis that would require reams of paperwork from him. Nothing could wear him out faster than paperwork, he admitted to himself. But then a large, introspective grin lit up his face, and he had to change his recent assessment of life: Nothing could wear him out like paperwork except for Sam, that is...

Jack listened for a moment, then his face blanched a bit. He glanced again at his watch, muttered, Crap, under his breath, then said to the unknown guard on the other end of the line, Have her sign a Nondisclosure Form, explain the whys and wherefores to her, and then show her to my office... I have to see SG-9 off in about two minutes. Tell her I'll be right with her. With that, he rose, hurried out of the room after closing the door behind him, pushed the button on the wall that would lower the shield over the blast window in the Briefing Room, then hurried down the stairs and into the corridor outside the 'Gate Room. He was self-consciously twirling his new ring the entire time, still not entirely used to its presence on his finger, but reminding himself that it was a good presence, whether he was used to it or not.

SG-9 was already suited up and standing ready in the 'Gate Room. See you in two days, he said as he drew near them. Don't harm any trees while you're there.

Major Jans smiled her warm smile. Yes, Sir, she said to O'Neill's parting warning. I think the trees on PRX-973 are safe from us, she told him. We'll be back with that treaty, Commander.

Bring me a t-shirt, he said. See you in two.

With collective grins on their faces, the five person team headed up the ramp towards the activated Stargate. As a final thought ghosted through his mind about a having another female team leader under his command, he considered how his wife had set the precedent for such a thing. He jauntily turned back to the open door behind him as soon as the 'Gate deactivated. It's good to be back in business, he thought, though he had immensely enjoyed his honeymoon, even as short as it had been. Now for... He headed back to his office, and the person waiting there for him.

Sara! He jovially greeted as he opened the Briefing Room office door. What brings you here? he asked, then jokingly commented, You never call, you never write...

Jack! Sara O'Neill exclaimed as she rose from one of the chairs fronting her ex-husband's desk to lean in and give him a quick hug. I can't believe this is all... She paused, caught by the glint of his new ring in the light cast from the fluorescent bulbs in the ceiling. When the hell did you get married again?! she half screeched, half whispered in complete awe.

Jack nervously fingered the gold ring on his left hand once more. Sorry about not telling you before now, he said. It was all pretty sudden, or I would have said something...

Sara gazed at him in astonishment. Jack! she loudly said. It's not like you to..!

Suddenly, Jack grinned a huge grin. I know it's not, he told her. Great, isn't it?

Sara peered at him in astonishment as if she didn't know quite what to say.

It was during this silence that Jack was able to get the quiet he needed to study his ex-wife, and that was when he noticed several key details. You let your hair grow longer, he noted. I like it.

Sara self-consciously brushed a lock of blonde hair over her shoulder. An awkward few seconds ticked by, and then Sara broke the quiet with a question. Well, when did all this happen? she inquired, gesturing at his left hand as she spoke.

Jack again fingered his ring. Um... He hesitated. About one week ago...

Is that all? Sara blurted. Why wasn't I told about all this?

Jack had the decency to color a deep shade of red. Uh... It wasn't like we were trying to keep it a secret or anything, he explained. The day after we got back from seeing the President...

Sara gulped and gave a squeak at the mention of the leader of the country, but didn't interrupt Jack's explanation.

Anyway, Jack continued. That morning, she came running in here, asking how I felt about a Vegas wedding, since we couldn't figure out a way to combine those with security clearance, and those without security clearance, and... Suddenly Jack brightened. We had it all videotaped... I'll send you a copy if you'd like.

Sara continued to stare with a shell-shocked expression on her face. Uh... I didn't have any idea you had become so important.., she said, again appearing to think of Jack's meeting with President Hayes.

I was a General, Jack explained. But now I'm retired...

Um, Sara went on. Yeah, I'd like a copy of that tape... or I'd at least like to see it...

Okay, Jack told her. I'll have Sam make a copy right now. He picked up the phone, dialed an extension, and waited only a few seconds before the receiver at the other end was utilized. Hi, this is the Commander...

He waited again while whoever had answered the phone handed the receiver to the Colonel without him even asking to speak to her. She said something, and Jack grinned. Hey... You got a minute to make another copy of the tape? He paused, then said, Send it up with T. I want to see him before he heads out anyway. Jack laughed at something she said to him, then, and he responded, I don't know about you, but I vote for those sandwiches from the deli on Main Street... He paused again, then asked, I don't know about that, he hedged sarcastically. I don't know if I can handle a non work related meal. Then, the subject clearly changed, for he brightened and added, Already? Man, I didn't think your house would sell that fast! He laughed again. No, I'll wait a year on that selling of mine... He listened again. I know that you don't think... Listen, we'll talk about it tonight... Well, we have to eat sometime... We can talk then... Okay, see you soon. Then he hung up the receiver and turned back to Sara. Never a dull moment, he quipped with a grin.

You don't need to make this video if it's a bother, Sara began to say when Jack stopped her.

It's no bother! he assured her. Sam said that she would just throw it in the machine while she calibrated... Jack took a breath of air while he considered. She said something about something with a really long name.

Something to do with Science, if you don't remember it, I bet, Sara said then, a grin on her face. Well, thanks for the video. I appreciate it.

Jack grinned as he sat down behind the large desk in the room. No problem, he said. Now... What can I do for you? he asked.

Well... Sara sat down heavily in one of the chairs across from Jack. Wedding's are kind of what I need to talk to you about, she admitted. Jack... Then she drew in a big breath and blurted, Jack, I'm getting married in another month, and...

Jack beamed at his ex-wife. His attitude had greatly improved since his own wedding. Sara, that's great! he enthused. Congratulations!

Sara smiled. I admit that this isn't how I expected you to take this news. I was pretty nervous coming over here, she admitted. But I wanted to tell you face to face, and... She swallowed once. And...

That seemed to make Jack even happier. Hey... That's great... She peered at him,]unconvinced. No... Really, he protested. It is!

And you said something about selling a house? she politely inquired, spurring his explanations then.

Oh, yeah, that. Jack gestured towards the phone on his desk. We were talking about Sam's old house... My wife, he said, then looked as if he thought it strange that he was speaking of his current wife to his ex-wife. He noisily cleared his throat so that he could go on. Sold it to some medical student on rotation...

Well, Sara said with a smile in his direction.

Tell me about... Jack pointed at her engagement ring. Your new fella.

Sara looked down as if she had never seen her own fingers before. She grinned then. Oh! she exclaimed. Well, he's a lawyer, works for that downtown firm, Barnes and Stowe... In fact, he's the 'Barnes' part...

A lawyer, Jack appreciatively said. Where did you happen to meet a lawyer?

At a Church trip for singles, she told him. Then her brow rose. We don't all have the same lack of experience with religion as you do, Jack, she said with a roll of her eyes.

Well, Jack said this time, trying hard not to give too much classified material away with the dour expression on his face, as Sara used to be good at reading his looks. What can I say? he rhetorically inquired. We can't all be saints.

Just then, a knock on the door sounded, and when Jack called, Come in! Walter entered his office, followed by Sam, without Teal'c.

She handed over a video tape. Here it is, Jack! she happily noted. Signed, sealed, and with all the right 'i's' dotted!

Jack just as smoothly handed the tape on to Sara as she stood up as the new people entered his office. Here ya go, he said.

'Sam!' Sara exclaimed. Your wife's name is Sam? I just thought...

Sam rolled her eyes a bit, and grinned. I get that a lot, she said, then held out her hand to shake. Hi, I'm Sam, and you are..?

I'm Sara, she said. Sara O'Neill, soon to be Barnes.

Sam's face fell in a comical swoop as she realized whose hand she was shaking. Jack..?

A voice over the PA system interrupted her. Colonel O'Neill, to the Control Room, Colonel O'Neill, to the Control Room.

Sara looked back and forth between Jack and Sam and back again. Boy, that's weird to hear, she muttered under her breath.

Well, Sam said, and shrugged. That's me, so I better... She began heading back out the door she had come in, but Jack stopped her.

Go this way, he said, and pointed to the Briefing Room door.

Sam made for the door. Sold my house, Jack, she called back as she went through the door.

How much? he asked.

We close next week, but it looks like it pulled in $50,000...

For that little thing?

Sam snorted her laughter at his comment.

So Jack went on, It's good that you sold the house...

Sam giggled, and interrupted, No, it's sweet! she said.

Hey, that's my line! Jack yelled after her. When she was gone, he turned back to Sara. That whirlwind was my wife, he said.

Colonel Carter.., Walter began, then corrected himself by saying, 'Colonel O'Neill' is quite busy.

Jack looked at his aid, askance. That's the first time I've ever heard you mess up on something like that, he noted. Walter, you're getting soft.

Walter solemnly regarded his Commander. It won't happen again, Sir, I promise, he assured.

Jack glanced at the determined expression on Walter's face, and said, I don't doubt it.

Walter remained seemingly unaffected by the words. Sir, I've come to tell you that it is time for.., He threw a glance at Sara, and finished by saying, For Murray to return to out of town.

Right now? Jack inquired.

Walter gave a nod of his head.

Okay, okay, Jack muttered, then shook his head and added in barely a whisper, Like running a zoo for traveling hippos...

Walter only glanced at the former General, and declared, We all know that you enjoy your work, so there's no use in pretending otherwise.

The General's 'demotion' to Commander had made Walter entirely too cheeky, Jack decided. Yet, he cheerily cast a glance at his friend and aid. You can see right through me, can't you? he jestingly inquired.

But Walter answered the jest as seriously as he used to answer a question. You're still as... readable... as one of Dr. Jackson's reference books, he proclaimed.

Jack winced. That's bad.

Not to worry, Walter added. I don't understand them, either.

Sara had watched the exchange between the two coworkers with humor. Well, Jack, at least no one around here takes you too seriously. They must know you too well.

Jack tried to send a smile towards his ex-wife and warn Walter at the same time, When they think they know me too well is when I throw them a curve ball.

Heaven help the military, Sara declared.

Walter smiled. Well said, Mrs. O'Neill-soon-to-be-Barnes.

Jack then used the trick that he'd seen President Hayes use just a few weeks earlier, and clapped his hands together to bring their attention back to him. Well, kids... He turned to Walter. Hey Walter, I don't suppose you can escort Sara back to the surface for me? That will give me time to meet... He hesitated. Time to meet Murray, and to say good bye before he leaves.

Walter only nodded his head, then gestured to Sara towards the door into the corridor.

If there isn't anything else..? Jack asked. Sara shook her head, then rose to join Walter at the door. Then... Enjoy that tape. If there's any problems... which I doubt, as Sam made the copy and not me... just let me know so we can do it again.

Sara had time to wave and say, Thanks, and the wedding invitation will be in the mail.

Excellent, Jack commented, then added, We'll be there, he promised. He didn't feel nearly as aggravated as he had always expected to feel at Sara' news.

Sara managed a nod, then Walter was walking into the corridor, and Sara followed, closing the door behind her.

Well, that went well, Jack said to no one in particular, then headed back down to the Control Room, where he found Sam staring in perplexity at the dialing program. Jack grinned. Isn't she cute when she's all confused? he rhetorically inquired to a suddenly red Lieutenant Davis seated next to her.

Don't embarrass him, Jack, Sam instructed in a light tone. It isn't nice.

Hey, I'm being nice, Jack said back. And Davis isn't embarrassed, are you? Lieutenant Davis dutifully shook his head while looking embarrassed as hell. See? Jack added.

Sam rolled her eyes. Didn't we talk about being nicer while at work?

This time, Jack's response wasn't so quiet, nor so affable. I am nice! he protested.

Sam turned to Davis, who only stated, Don't ask me. I'm not getting in the middle of this.

Jack chuckled. Wise move, he declared. Sam pushed several buttons on her keyboard, then examined the new configuration of data on her screen. At the same time, she said to Jack, You'll never guess who I got a phone call from today. Go on, guess.., she ordered.

Jack shrugged. Santa Claus, he suggested.

Sam rolled her eyes. I had to tell him you don't deserve anything this year.

Hey! Jack exclaimed. I'm being good. He nonchalantly studied the 'Gate for a moment, then softly added, I'm good for me, that is.

But Sam heard him anyway. I told him to call back in another month to ask again.

You didn't! Jack exclaimed, horrified.

Sam giggled. Okay, you caught me... I didn't... exactly...

Sam..! Jack warned her with his voice.

Guess again, Sam instructed, then cut him off before he could say anything. No, you'll never guess.

How do you know? He inquired. You won't let me.

Pete called, Sam bluntly told him.

Jack grimaced the second he heard the cop's name. You're right... I never would have guessed that... And I would have been perfectly happy never hearing his name again.

Sam didn't listen to him, but added, He's not getting married.

Jack was surprised to hear this. He's not? he echoed.

Nope, Sam let him know. He said that she said that on second thought, he had gotten over me waaaaaay to quickly, and that he had a rejection problem.

Rejection! Jack loudly snorted. There was that tiny detail about you being dead.

Yeah, Sam agreed. There was that. But he said that she said...

This is beginning to sound like a soap opera with all the 'he said,'/'she said' crap.

Wait, Sam told him then, continuing to type in commands to the program on the computer in front of her. It gets better, she told him. It seems that Kristin told him the wedding was postponed as long as he checked himself into a voluntary behavioral rehabilitation hospital, or the wedding was off if he refused. So he wanted to tell me that, if I needed him for anything, I can reach him at the SafeZone Rehab. Clinic until I'm told otherwise.

Jack leaned into the back of her padded chair and laughed. Good place for him! he exclaimed, still laughing. You told him that you won't need anything now, right, Sam? She didn't respond immediately, and he queried again, Right?

Sam seemed to come to her senses, for she said, Uh, yeah, right, that's what I said...

Jack grimaced again. He chuckled evilly. She chuckled because he was chuckling. At last, he said, This could become that embarrassing moment that you've been secretly fearing for ages. I could say...

Don't bother.., Sam quickly interrupted him before he could say something specific and reveal all sorts of confidential matter about her. The people at the base wouldn't believe you anyway, she said without taking her eyes from her computer screen. They're too smart for that. Her voice was so blas‚ that it was instantly intriguing all by itself. At least, they wont believe anything they hear about me. But about you...

That's it, Jack declared. He pulled Sam, still in her chair, away from her computer terminal. Grab your coat, and let's go. Then he stared at Sam with her fingers still poised in the air as if she had been about to type something on her keyboard. He added, And if I have to make that an order, I will.

Sam replied immediately, You can't technically give me ... or anybody... orders anymore.

Jack's comeback was quick and decisive. He ignored his wife's comment, and turned instead to Davis. Get Siler to take a look at the 'Gate, he ordered, in spite of the technicality. After T. leaves... again, I might add... we'll be at the deli at the bottom of the mountain for the next hour... I have a date.

Davis' face turned red again, but he intoned, Yes, Sir,

Sam huffed, and pretended that she disliked having her computer time interrupted, but everyone on base knew that for the Commander, she would gladly interrupt just about anything, even her work on the new naqueda enhancer she was currently building. Okay, she grumbled, though. Meet you in the 'Gate Room. She stood and left the Control Room to retrieve her coat in the lab assigned to the Science department.

Jack grinned, openly watching her leave. He was getting used to this open admiration he could show to her now. He sighed, grinned again, then clapped his hands together one last time just as he saw Teal'c enter the 'Gate Room at Daniel's side, wearing his robes that denoted a trip to Dakarra. Yep, he muttered as a parting comment to Davis before heading down to join his friend's. It's time, I think, for a whole new experience.

Yes, Sir, Davis said, because he didn't know what else to say. He cleared his throat at the uncomfortable silence that followed. Dialing the 'Gate for Dakarra, he announced, punching the correct address into his keyboard.

Briefly Jack wondered how the man could anticipate his requests before he even made them, but ignored his own wonderings to say, Do that, Lieutenant. The 'Gate began spinning as steam hissed out into the room. From the stairs, Jack called back, And have a message sent to the Tok'ra while I'm gone to tell Jacob that we sold Sam's house, so if he comes around in the future that he needs to come to my house instead of hers... And... He glanced at his aid when his personal aid was otherwise occupied. Can I bring you anything from the deli?

No, Sir, Davis crisply added to the personal request. Though the thought is appreciated, Sir. The Commander had become more personable since his 'demotion,' and few at the SGC quite knew how to handle it yet.

Suddenly Jack grinned, astonished at how happy he was at this suddenly innocuous moment in his life when only a month earlier, he had been so miserable. But it was time for him to be happy, he decided. More than time. Later, Davis, he called, and ran down the stairs after grabbing his own coat, ready to see his friend off on yet another grand adventure. The right time, he muttered to himself, and joined his friend's in the 'Gate Room, right where he was supposed to be.

The End


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