Disclaimer: I don't own them. I don't even own the basic idea behind this story. It came from the story 'Hanging By a Moment' by Snowflake-shona (found at the Fanfiction.net profile site at the address http://www.fanfiction.net/u/344645/). I admit to using the idea for this story, which I started immediately after reading her?... his?... story and making chocolate chip cookies one afternoon. My thanks, and apologies for borrowing something again, though no one really owns anything related to 'Stargate, SG-1' except for its creators, an elite group of individuals which I am not part of. I'm just borrowing everything for awhile. Does that make me the world's biggest mooch?

A/N Season eight, between the season seven episode 'Chimera' when Pete was introduced, and season eight's 'Threads' when Pete's character was written out of the show.

Blue Moon Award Nominee

Blast From the Past

by Linda Bindner

Part I

Sam sank even deeper under the covers of her bed, smiling in contentment. Saturday morning was meant for snuggling and sleeping in as far as she was concerned. It was a real pity that she had way too much to do to lay in bed for too long. Everything always piled up during the week, no matter how hard she tried not to let it to, and she ended up playing catch-up with every personal thing in her life each Saturday.

But she couldn't lay in bed, being a slug, all day, she reminded herself. Pete was driving to Colorado Springs from Denver that morning, and though she had to admit to lately feeling a slight unease when he was around her... as if she were being naughty, and knew it... she also knew that she had to get a move on in order to get everything done before he arrived.

Sam ignored her misgivings about Pete, and instead forced herself to carefully consider her fiancÚ's upcoming visit. But, as was typical of the recent weeks, her frown of concentration turned into a smile that grew even bigger as her thoughts quickly moved from centering on Pete to concentrating on a much more controversial topic: General O'Neill. Why was it that lately she always felt like she was cheating on the General when she thought of Pete, or was spending time with Pete? She hadn't technically been involved with the General in any way before Pete came into the picture, so how could she possibly be cheating on O'Neill? It didn't make any sense.

But even if her feelings of unease defied logic, she still was guaranteed to experience them every time she planned to do something with Pete, such as today. Yet, Sam rolled over to hide the grimace of guilt she instantly felt stabbing through her gut. She wasn't exactly being honest with herself when she claimed that she hadn't been involved with General O'Neill. She acknowledged that she hadn't been involved with him, but she also couldn't pretend that she and he hadn't been tied together by the personal admissions they had both made four years earlier. It was true that a lot of time had passed since then, and much had happened, most notably, both their promotions, but it was also true that nothing had ever come of their confessions during that Za'tarc incident four years earlier, either. However, the words had been divulged, and the feelings behind those confessions had been very real, and still were, at least on his part. Her part in the 'affair' was much more ambiguous, at least outwardly. Inwardly was a whole other story.

Oh, Sam wasn't so dumb that she didn't see the aching look in his eyes when Jack O'Neill stared at her, and she was helpless not to respond to that affection he always felt for her, in spite of her engagement to Pete. He and she were careful enough to never let it show when anybody else might see, and she was fairly certain that nobody could see it, anyway. But she knew Jack O'Neill too well by now to be snowed under with the rest of their friends and coworkers. To her, he was still as clear as a window, and she could easily read what was displayed in plain sight on his face, or in his eyes. He was a man who was in constant pain, and that pain was her fault, caused by her engagement to Pete, and only she could fix things.

Though Jack had never said a word to her about his feelings, never approached her about ending her engagement to Pete Shanahan, never even mentioned his feelings for her one way or another after that infamous Za'tarc test, she could still sense that he wanted to every day. Yet, their relationship now was always professional, so formal that she was beginning to squeak with all the ritualistic words that peppered their current conversations.

Again, Sam grimaced into the sheets.

Then, she groaned; she needed to get up. With determination, Sam threw aside the covers, then crawled out of bed. Without giving herself time to get used to the colder air of morning, she jogged down the hall, already peeling off the T-shirt she had slept in, followed by her paint-smeared sweat pants as soon as she reached the bathroom. A shower and coffee was what she needed so early in the morning to shock her completely awake, and she turned on the hot water the instant she was standing naked in her tub.

Ten minutes later, she was clean, and dressed in overalls and a white shirt with long sleeves. She always did her best not to wear black, blue, or olive green when she was scheduled to be off the base, as she was for this entire weekend. She figured that she wore those colors so often while at work that she didn't have to force herself into them on the weekends, too.

Sam sighed to herself as she poured a mug of the hot coffee that had already percolated in the coffee maker set up on the counter. Then she headed for the table, where she carefully set her mug down next to the pile of papers, reports, mail, and extraneous odds and ends that she had brought home with her from the SGC the night before. While the brown liquid in her mug cooled at her elbow, she glanced through the pile again to remind her of what she needed to accomplish this morning before Pete showed up.

That was when she once again noted the large yellow envelope that General O'Neill had handed to her the day before on her way out of the mountain. He had explained to her that it had been mysteriously delivered to him instead of her... hand delivered, too... by an anonymous airman from the internal mail service. It had been delivered to him because, though the envelope was actually addressed to her, it was addressed to her in care of the present Commanding General of the SGC in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since the present Commanding General was him, he had received the envelope the previous day. However, she hadn't paid much attention to what he had explained to her, or to the large envelope the night before when he had handed it to her, as she had been in a hurry to leave the mountain behind for the weekend.

Now, however, she took the large yellow envelope into her hands more carefully. She blew on her coffee in its mug as she sat and stared at the envelope. There was no return address on it, no real address at all. There was only her name, written in pen in a handwriting that looked vaguely familiar to her, and the words 'Care of the Commanding General, SGC'. She turned it over and over in her hands, and when she was certain the envelope was too thin to hold a bomb of some kind, slit the envelope open. ('It never hurts to cautious' Sam heard the General's voice in her head repeat one of his favorite phrases that she had heard extolled over and over again when she and he had been part of SG-1).

Out fell a large photograph, a slip of paper, and another envelope, this time of a normal legal size. She pulled apart that envelope, too, then read the brief letter that was tucked inside.

Sam,

When you lived with us for a short time in 1969, you instructed both Michael and me to leave this packet for you in Colorado on this date, as long as life permitted us to do so. We never looked at the contents of this package, so we have no idea as to what it contains. But we did as you asked, leaving this at the address of a 'Samantha Carter' in care of the Colorado Springs Cheyenne Mountain Complex SGC Commanding General... not that we could find what 'SGC' stands for... We decided that you know. We found both Jack's name (the Commanding General, it turns out) and yours while looking in the governmental database for Colorado. The fact that Michael was once also a soldier, and has access to such information, helped immensely in our search. You are one hard person to find!

Anyway, here it is, as you requested, thirty-six years after that day you told us to leave it with you, or with your 'friend,' come 'hell or high water.' It might be a few days early or late... Neither Michael nor I could recall the exact date you requested that we leave it for you. We were all a little more than a bit drunk at the time when you first mentioned the date that you wished to again see this package. But we figured that getting it to you was more important than what date it was delivered. If we're wrong about the day of delivery, we apologize ahead of time for any inconvenience.

Jenny and Michael Robilard

May 10th, 2005

Sam stared, frowning at the letter in her hands, grateful that Michael was still alive, and delighted that he had actually been able to marry Jenny after all. Still, neither Michael nor Jenny could talk about that week they'd spent with the team in 1969. SG-1's time in that past year was a highly classified event. The story they'd given to Jenny and Michael during that mission, about the team being aliens from somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, was so close to the real truth, only twisted until it sounded ridiculous, so that anybody would have been hard pressed to believe such a story. It was no wonder that the Robilards had sent it straight to her via General O'Neill, as anyone who was curious enough to hear the story after seeing the package would undoubtedly laugh until they got sick.

Sam grimaced slightly at the thought that she would have liked to see her old friends again, but was at least relieved to know that they were still alive and unharmed. Yet, that information was a small comfort to her, considering.

Frowning even harder, Sam lay aside the letter from Jenny and Michael, then picked up the photo lying innocently on her table so that she could look at it more closely.

And that was when her world came to a screeching halt.

* * *

Her hand trembling slightly from shock, Sam picked up the receiver of the phone sitting in her living room, and dialed Pete's number in Denver.

Shanahan, Pete answered the phone in a rushed sounding voice.

Pete! Sam said. I'm glad I caught you before you left.

You almost didn't, as I'm about to go out the door right now to drive to Colorado Springs.

Sam intended to ask Pete not to come that day, that she was terribly sorry, but... The thought ghosted across her mind that there was really no way that she could even be engaged to him any longer, but she didn't plan to tell him that little tidbit, at least, not yet.

But she had to admit to herself that she was already a party to an existing... What was it called that she had discovered in the large yellow envelope that General O'Neill had so casually handed to her the evening before? That she and the General were already in an already established relationship... technically... But didn't the details in such a case matter in the long run? If neither party had known that such a thing as this relationship existed... this connection to each other... did it exist in the first place?

She tried to push the confusing concept aside, and was about to give Pete some kind of invented excuse to keep him in Denver for the weekend, to put off the inevitability of having to tell him about something that she didn't quite understand herself, when the sound of Pete's voice distracted her from her thoughts just in time to keep her from saying anything at all to him about this recent snafu in their lives.

Out of nowhere, his voice drawled the sound of disappointment due to previous experience in her ear. Don't tell me... It's like all the other times... Something has come up at the SGC, and I shouldn't come to Colorado Springs because you have to work, and you're not going to be around anyway, he sadly stated, though his voice had gone from being full of disappointment to having a definite edge to it by the time he ended his commentary.

Sam felt a tad guilty for using the idea of unexpectedly having to work that weekend as her excuse, but she needed to think, and she couldn't do that unless she was able to come up with a viable reason to keep Pete in Denver that weekend. She couldn't possibly see him that day. She didn't want anything to interrupt the tangled web of her thoughts even now as she spent some much needed time pondering what she had discovered. Thanks for understanding, Pete, but...

She didn't get any further in her apology before he was saying, I said that this has happened before... I didn't say anything about understanding, Sam.

Sam was stunned for the second time that day, and she didn't think that was possible. What?

There was an awkward silence on the phone then.

Eventually, Pete continued. Look, Sam, I'm sorry to complain so much like this, but this is the third time this month that we've had to either postpone something we had planned together, or completely cancel our plans because you always have to work.

Well, I do have to work a lot... You know that, Sam slowly argued with him.

Pete sighed, and the aggravation in the sound came loud and clear over the phone line. Listen, is there any way for you to get out of this unscheduled work thing? he asked, whining now. Sam recognized the sound in his voice. She had also experienced it several times in the past, and been forced to deal with his less than understanding attitude about her work. No one can be that indispensable.

I can't help it if...

Pete cut off Sam as she began to answer. Is this how it's always going to be after we get married, too? Me always showing up at events alone while you go off to that mountain to work?

Sam sighed as well. Was he more concerned with her having to go into work unscheduled, or arriving at events alone? It's possible, she conceded with a second carefully restrained sigh meant to cover up her thoughts. I work for the Air Force, which you already know, and sometimes I have to do things I don't want to do.

Pete's whining moved up a notch, and Sam felt her anger finally engage as his petulant tone assaulted her. Can't you get out of it this one time? he asked. I mean, we've had these tickets for that show in downtown Colorado Springs for ages.

I know, and I'm really sorry about.., Sam started to say, after she had made a true effort to rein in her temper.

But once again, her apology was interrupted. You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were making this whole work thing up.

Sam's anger flared at his words despite her earlier efforts to tamp her temper down. Pete, are you trying to start an argument with me this morning? she inquired. Of course I'm not making this up. Only, she was telling him something of a story. It was true that she'd had to work many times in the past, but it wasn't technically true this time. She just needed time to think, and she wouldn't get that if she had Pete constantly breathing down her neck, wanting to know what was going on, if he visited her that weekend. Only, she couldn't tell him the real reason she needed him to remain in Denver, since the real reason had to do with a past mission for the SGC... Oh! This was quickly growing more and more complex by the second.

Of course I'm not trying to pick a fight, or anything, Pete said in answer to her earlier question.

Sam barely heard what he had to say at this point, as she was busy already thinking about the implications of this new predicament she found herself in, and she was also angry at what Pete had inferred about her. Scowling, she retorted, You know, I'm not sure I like what you're implying about me when you say that you don't believe me about work and all.

What's that supposed to mean? His voice grew louder as he asked his question.

Sam replied, I don't think I like you thinking that I'm lying about working all the time, that's all.

Pete snorted over the line. You have to admit that three cancellations in one month is pretty suspicious.

Sam gritted her teeth against the anger she was feeling, trying to again tamp it down. Why don't you just trust me more than to think that I would lie to you about having to work all the time? Sam inquired then, her voice also rising at the end of her question. She finally couldn't resist her own emotions as her anger grew. Just what is it that you think I'm doing on these weekends? she sarcastically asked. Seeing another guy?

A telling silence greeted her question.

Is that what you think? Sam demanded, amazed that the silence between them had indicated that her wild guess had been more right than wrong. You think that I'm seeing someone else on the sly?

Well, Sam, came Pete's voice, sounding accusatory now. I am a detective, after all. It doesn't take as many degrees as you have to figure out...

He was questioning her impressive number of degrees? Was he perhaps... uncomfortable... with how smart she naturally was? How many times had this very thing happened before? She wasn't ashamed of the degrees she held, no matter how it affected Pete Shanahan's sensibilities. Then you suck at being a detective, Sam firmly declared. I can't believe that you...

Look, Sam, I don't like the sound of your voice, here, and...

The sound of my voice? Sam angrily repeated. You don't like it? Sam gripped the receiver even tighter in her hand, but wasn't aware of what she was doing. Well, let me tell you that I don't like the sound of your damned whining, either, and...

My whining? Pete asked, flabbergasted. I don't whine...

Then you need a tape recorder! she yelled into the phone. If you don't trust me even as far as to not cheat on you, then I'm not sure how I can marry someone who thinks...

Are you saying that you want to break up just because of this little thing?

Sam's animosity exploded. I hardly call being accused of cheating on you with another man a 'little thing!' she yelled.

Hey, you're the one...

I am not 'the one' doing anything here, but you know what, you little prick of a small-minded...

Hey! There's no reason for name-calling! Pete yelled.

Sam hollered back. I think there's plenty of reason for name-calling! And if you don't clear your stuff out of my house this week... this weekend... today... I'll leave it spread out on the lawn like happened before! She knew that it was low of her to bring up what had happened to him in his past relationships like this, but Sam was angry enough to say anything at this point.

It's that General O'Neill, isn't it? Pete half asked, half yelled into the phone. He's...

Don't you dare drag him into this! Sam hollered back. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't even be here for you to have this argument with! I think we owe him...

I don't owe him anything for screwing around with my fiancÚ!

That did it. In a voice that had moved from vociferous anger to deadly calm, she said, I don't know who you think you are, buster, but both General O'Neill and I can kick your ass from here to Kingdom Come! Don't say one more thing about...

But Pete ignored her threat to declare, It's always been that team of yours, or some mission, or the Stargate needing work, or...

The calm again stole over Sam. It was the same dangerous tranquillity that always overtook her in battle. The engagement is off, she decisively said. The wedding is off. Get your stuff this afternoon, Pete, Sam ordered. Before I throw it out. I'll be gone... And leave your key to my house on the kitchen counter, or I'll get the locks changed next week. You're choice. Goodbye.

Sam..! she heard in protest over the handset, but she had already replaced the receiver in its cradle, and didn't hear any more of what he had to say. He probably just wanted to make more untrue declarations about General O'Neill, anyway, and Sam was sure she didn't want to hear any more of that right now. Pete's suspicious nature should never settle on General O'Neill, anyhow, she thought, not after all that the General had undergone in the previous years.

Thinking of the General made her again consider their current situation. The fact that she had discovered what made up the contents of the large yellow envelope had perhaps caused her to be less receptive to Pete's wheedling ways this time, she reluctantly admitted to herself. But, if Pete had chosen to be more understanding about the reason she had given him because of the mess she now found herself in, she might have been more willing to listen to him. However, as it was in the end, she had been less compelled to listen at all, and more compelled to act as she had after hearing his accusations against her. It was almost as if his lack of understanding in this case had caused her to break off the engagement, not what she had uncovered only moments before when she had spilled the contents of the yellow envelope onto her table top. Her analytical mind enjoyed the irony of that situation as she absently glanced around her living room, trying to decide what to do next.

Suddenly, she knew what she had to do. Feeling coldly detached, her gaze alighted on Pete's collection of CDs that he had left beside her entertainment center. She determinedly crossed the room, scooped them into her arms, then left them in a pile right in direct line of sight of a person who would sometime walk through her front door. Next came Pete's collection of 'Dilbert' comic books he had left on her bookshelf. Heart pounding her fury, she added the books to the CDs on the floor. Then came his clothes that she could find, both clean and dirty, and she folded them before she added them to the pile. She included dishes next, baseball memorabilia from a game he had insisted on going to, even though she had protested at the time that she thought baseball was boring. Then she added the few board games he had left with her, a deck of cards, and the half full case of Bud Light beer that she didn't drink, and never would. She preferred Guinness, like the General drank, and could never go for Pete's version of alcohol. What was she... still in college, where she had to drink the less expensive beer? she asked herself. If she had, indeed, still been in college, she would have drunk whatever beer she could find, and not complain, but she was an adult now, and plenty old enough to buy whatever brand she wanted to. She had commented to Pete many times that she didn't understand how he could drink that stuff, and now she wanted it out of her house, before she dumped it down her kitchen drain.

Last, she lay his engagement ring at the top of the pile.

When everything that she could find was collected in the hallway beside her couch, she grabbed a piece of paper to write a short note to him.

Pete,

Here's your stuff. Take it, or I toss it. And don't try to talk to me about something I'm sure you think of as 'my mistake.' You've made an accusation against me that isn't true, and has never been true. Goodbye.

Sam

Sam considered how confident the note sounded. At least her time spent in therapy after the whole Jonas Hansen affair, as she liked to think of it, had done her some good in that now she sounded much more confident when she told someone off. She may not actually be all that more confident, but at least she came across that way.

Now, she set the note on top of the pile of things sitting on her floor, then crossed back to the kitchen table to gather together the package that Jenny and Michael Robilard had left for her. Her plans had changed with the conversation with Pete; there was no way she could remain in her house to think the weekend away. She had to get out, and now, before Pete showed up from Denver to collect his stuff, before she did something stupid, such as actually kicking his ass, as she had earlier noted that she could.

She glanced down at the picture from the Robilards again as she attempted to return it to its envelope casing. A slight grin started to worm its way across her face as she continued to gaze.

It was a grainy black and white photo of her and the General, known then as Colonel O'Neill. Their arms were firmly wrapped around each other, in a decidedly romantic way, and the words 'Gillette Wedding Chapel' plainly stood out in the background. Both of them were grinning like idiots, and she had her head resting on his left shoulder. Her right hand was cradled against his T-shirted stomach, and he was gazing straight at her with obvious affection in his eyes. The poor quality of the picture did nothing to hide the adoration they were both showing, in spite of their apparent drunken states, if the words spoken by Jenny and Michael Robilard were to be believed. And Sam had no reason not to believe them. So, in light of no contradictory evidence included in the package, she found that she instinctively believed everything that Jenny and Michael had said.

However, it could admittedly be reported that the picture of her and the Colonel... General... and her could be explained away as the two of them simply wanting to make a joke at the wedding chapel's expense. Except for what she had found just behind the picture. The piece of paper that had been included was an official document that would be much harder to argue against. It was a wedding certificate. More specifically, it was their wedding certificate, bearing two shaky, but legible, signatures on the bottom lines, and Jenny's and Michael's signatures below theirs, on the 'witness' lines.

Nope, it was as official a document as she could ever produce. She and the Colonel... the General... were married, tied by the bonds of Holy Matrimony, joined as husband and wife... Oh, the Air Force was just going to love this little news break...

Though, probably not as much as she secretly did.

Slowly, a smile, and then a warm glow started spreading up her arms from her chest as she enjoyed the double entendre of this situation. At a time when she should be much more broken up about the ending of her engagement to Pete, she was too busy thinking about what it meant to her that she had discovered that she and Colonel O'Neill... General O'Neill... had been secretly married for over thirty years.

Realizing again that she didn't need as much time to think about what to do next in this twisted scenario as she had originally expected, Sam reached for her phone, and dialed the Cheyenne Mountain Complex switchboard, only to be told that General O'Neill had actually managed to take this weekend off from working at the base, and wasn't in his office. Disappointed, but not deterred, Sam dialed his home number, and decided that she would try his cell number next if he didn't answer his ringing phone.

But on the third ring, he picked up, and in a mild voice, said O'Neill... And this had better not be Walter or Daniel calling to tell me about some problem or other, or ruins that we just have to investigate... His voice trailed off to silence as he waited for her to respond.

Sam grinned at his humor. No, Sir, it's not Walter or Daniel, I promise.

Carter? His surprise, delight, and then worry came through loud and clear over the line. Is something wrong? Why are you calling me when you're supposed to be on downtime?

Sam grinned at his obvious and quick concern. No, there's nothing wrong, she assured him. But I would like to talk to you about something, if you're not busy right now, that is.

Talk? What's happened? Work stuff? he asked, immediately interested. You've never had problems with work stuff before.

Sam kept grinning. No, this isn't work stuff, General. It's... She hesitated, then eventually said, It's personal.

There was just the briefest of pauses, then O'Neill's voice came again, You okay over there Carter? Do you need me to kick somebody's butt? He paused again. As if you can't already kick somebody's butt better than I can...

Sam laughed this time, the sound of her merriment translating over the connection between them. How was it that he could always make her laugh, no matter how dire the situation seemed to be? No, I don't need you to kick anybody's butt... Though, I do need to show you something that has to do with the SGC, and I need to show it to you right away, and it is of a personal nature, so...

Say no more, Carter, Jack said. Come on over, he invited. Stay for lunch... I'll even grill for ya... And I'll try not to blow up my grill if you do.

The General's instant acceptance of her and her commentary was especially nice to hear after Pete's outrageous accusations. And staying to eat lunch with him suddenly sounded like a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

So Sam ignored the fact that she hadn't even eaten breakfast yet, and accepted his proposition right away. Sounds good. I'll even bring the ice-cream.

What, no cake? he asked, sounding incredulous, and teasing, and flirting... in a friendly way... all at the same time.

Sam smiled again. I'll tell you what... I'll forget about bringing ice-cream, and stop on my way over, and get a cake.

Make it chocolate cake, and all is forgiven for you not having a cake just sitting around your house with my name on it, he started to say.

Sam grinned once more, marveling at the way he was always able to make her laugh. Chocolate... Will do, she said. Thanks, and see you in a few. With that, and still grinning wide enough to rival the Grand Canyon, she hung up.

* * *

An hour later, a sharp knock sounded on Jack O'Neill's front door. He muted the game he was watching on TV, and ran up the steps into the hallway to answer his door. He wasn't surprised to see Carter standing there, holding a truly impressive, dark chocolate layer cake in her hands.

I come bearing gifts, Sir, she said the minute the door opened to reveal him wearing his stay-at-home-and-get-comfortable weekend attire of jeans and a baggy, old T-shirt.

Carter, he said, then interrupted himself when he took the cake from her, and opened the cake's protective plastic seal for a sniff at its chocolate icing. Man, that smells good! Then he determinedly closed the cake cover, and returned his attention to her. What took you so long? he demanded. However, he didn't give her time to answer his question. Come on in, and let's have a piece of cake.

Sir, Sam couldn't help but protest, laughing at him and his enthusiastic tone. Shouldn't we eat lunch first?

Lunch is for boring people who always eat their vegetables, Jack informed her as he led the way to his kitchen, carefully carrying the cake in his two hands. He carefully set it on the counter, then pulled two dessert plates down from an upper cupboard. He proceeded to uncover and slice two generous pieces of cake off the dessert that she had brought. What's this cake called, anyway? he asked as he continued to cut.

'Death by Chocolate' she replied, then took the piece of cake he was offering to her.

Hey! he declared in awe. Good name! If you have to go, at least you go while eating chocolate cake. He grinned. Now all we need is some milk, he muttered, turned away from her, and stuck his head inside his refrigerator, glancing at its contents. See, this isn't a totally unhealthy lunch, he said as he backed into the room, holding up a half empty carton of milk. You want some? he asked as he closed the refrigerator door.

Sam nodded, and General O'Neill poured two huge glasses full of white, creamy liquid, then led her, cake, milk, and all, into his living room. He settled on the couch, then turned off the TV with the remote he had set amongst a pile of books and magazines on the coffee table in front of his couch. He took a bite of cake, and it was plain to see the rapture that he allowed to spread over his features. He took a drink of milk, then continued to eat the cake while he asked, Now, what can I do for you?

Sam lifted her eyebrows into her hair. Glad you like the cake so well, she said of his obvious enjoyment of eating what she had brought. Grinning, she took a bite of cake herself. He was right... it was good! Then she took a drink of her milk, wiped her mouth on the napkin she had found on the kitchen table, then picked up the yellow envelope she had placed her package back into for safe keeping. I wanted to show you this, Sir, and see what you think of it before I ask you what you think I should do next.

Jack set his cake aside, then held out his hand for the envelope she handed to him. What have you got here? he asked. He looked up at her, and his eyes twinkled momentarily in her direction. He had toned down his natural urge to flirt with her since she had become engaged to that Shanahan character, but he couldn't turn off his desires completely. Now, he didn't stop himself from mischievously looking at her. Is this some request that we get some alien gadget transferred from Area 51, or something?

No, Sam assured, her voice grim now. I wish it were that simple, but... Well, just take a look.

Arrested by her bleak tone, he in turn changed his tone to a more serious one. Okaaaay, he said with interest in his voice. O'Neill flipped open the top of the envelope, and glanced first at the photo as it came tumbling out. He had already glanced away from it, then he did a double take, and looked at it more closely. Craaaap, he slowly said, his tone now laced with the sounds of his recent discovery.

Yeah, that's what I thought when I first saw it this morning, too, Sam told him.

His head popped up so that he could stare at her. Where did you get this? he asked. Then, before she could tell him, inquired, Is this some kind of a joke?

Sam sighed. I wish it were, but it's no joke that I can tell. I got it last evening, right before I left the SGC. Actually, you handed it to me. You said that it had been sent to you, but it was only in care of you. It was really meant for me. It's from Jenny and Michael Robilard... Remember them? They owned that bus that we rode across the country in...

His smile gone now, Jack scowled at her. Of course I remember Michael and Jenny, he said. We owe them more than we can ever repay, and...

Well apparently, we owe them even more than we used to, Sam said next, her comment accompanied by a wince. She inherently knew how much O'Neill hated to owe anybody anything. They came from who-knows-where to hand deliver this letter to the SGC, because I had the gall to ask them to give it to me sometime while we were stuck with them in 1969. They wrote me a short letter when they delivered it... She quickly dug around in the large yellow envelope he'd set aside on the coffee table, and pulled out the smaller envelope. She then handed it all to him. Here's the letter if you want to take a look at it. They clearly didn't trust the regular mail system with such volatile, and personal, information... Or I just instructed them to hand deliver it at the time... Or they couldn't find me in particular to give it to me.., she admitted.

Jack quickly scanned the letter that he took from Sam, and when he was finished reading it, looked up at her again. What else was there? he asked, as if he just knew that the photo of the two of them being buddy-buddy wasn't everything she had to show him.

Look in the big envelope again, she told him.

He did, and pulled out the marriage certificate. When he realized what kind of a document he was staring at, and whose signatures were on the appropriate lines, he jerked back from the paper as if it had burned him. Whoa! he yelped. Holy..!

Sam gazed knowingly at him. Yeah... Holy Hannah, she quietly finished for him.

Jack continued to stare in amazement at the paper in his hands. Finally, he commented in an offhand way, Well, this sort of puts a bit of a crinkle in that engagement you have with Shanahan.

Sam glanced down at her fingers linked in her lap. Actually... There is no engagement anymore, she admitted.

What? Jack frowned, surprised twice in five minutes. What happened?

He sounded noncommittal in his concern, as he always sounded when she mentioned her engagement, but she responded much more passionately than he had asked. We had a huuuuge fight, about you, actually, then we broke up. I gathered all his stuff, and left it in the middle of my living room floor so that he can find it when he comes over this afternoon to pick it up. I hope you don't mind, but I was kind of hoping that I can stay here while he's over there?

Jack was rather unfamiliar with the beseeching tone in her voice, but he was ready to agree with her request when she had barely made it in the first place. He could never deny her anything, no matter how much he didn't want to get involved in hers and Shanahan's engagement. Um... Sure... Um... He paused, then hesitantly went on, You really threw his stuff out?

Sam grinned a little at his amazed tone. Yep.

No chance of a reconcil..?

I asked for my house key back, or I threatened to change all the locks, Sam told him, cutting him off.

Oh, Jack deadpanned back to her in complete comprehension. After another silent moment, he recalled something she had mentioned earlier. You said that you had argued about me... What did I do?

Sam sighed, then pushed her hair out of her face, and reluctantly tried to explain. You exist, she told him without mincing words. He thought we were... Sam blushed as she spoke. That we were... um... having an affair, she finally blurted.

Jack sat, still unmoving, for another unremarkable moment, then burst into loud, uncontrolled laughter. An affair? he repeated with an amused snort. Is he nuts? I don't have time to pick up my dry cleaning, let alone have an affair with anybody!

Sam couldn't quite hold back her smile at the way he had responded to her news, but she hid her face in her hands when she answered, I think he is a little nuts. She slid her hands from her face, and propped her head in her hands then so that she could stare at him. But this marriage of ours... She gestured between the two of them, then, before going on, This marriage is going to be hard enough for the Joint Chiefs to swallow. She grimaced then. They don't need me to be adding a nutcase to the mix.

Jack sighed, and rubbed dispiritedly at his face. Yeah, you ain't kidding, he commented under his breath. It's a plain case of disregarding the regulations to...

Don't expect to see a court-martial just yet, though, she said.

Meaning..? he inquired. There was undoubtedly a hint of hope in his tone.

Meaning that I did a little digging on the Internet before I came over here. That's what took me so long. Sam questioningly glanced in the direction of his hallway. I'll show you what I found... But I don't suppose you have a computer with Internet capability? she asked. I brought mine with me, but I left it in the trunk of my car.

I have a computer, O'Neill said. But it isn't wired up to the Internet, he explained. I use it mostly for games.

I'll get mine. Sam jumped up to collect her computer from her car, as if she were glad to have an excuse to be going out of the house for a minute, relieved to put some distance between them after this news of their thirty-six year old marriage.

He stopped her with a hand on her arm. It's okay... You can show me later, he said. Just tell me what it is that you found. He looked straight into her eyes, his brown gaze unwavering. I hope it's some way around the regulations, or this marriage, or, in a worst case scenario, you and I may be losing our careers come Monday morning. His forbidding voice was as unmistakable as the intent of those words he said.

Slowly, Sam regained her seat in front of him on the edge of the coffee table. His hand was still wrapped around her arm, and the warmth it left was almost an aphrodisiac to her jangling nerves; she really didn't need any help in the being-hyperaware-of-her-CO department just then. But, she also admitted that it was true that he had never touched her so readily like that before. He'd almost done it without thought, as if he no longer cared, or had to care, what might happen to them if someone got the wrong idea about their relationship.

What relationship? Sam sharply asked herself. But the obvious regard for her that Jack was suddenly showing in his eyes told her that she didn't know all there was to know about him or his feelings for her... at least, his feelings for her now... She slowly resumed her seat. Her feelings for him were suddenly clearer than they had been for months. But, instead of talking about emotions, she told him far more analytical, hence safer, news. I found a clause in the regulations... an addendum, I guess... that might help us... Unless you think an annulment..?

For a marriage that's thirty-six years old already? he scoffed. I hardly think any judge is gonna go for that reasoning!

She blinked, and thoughtfully squinted her eyes. A divorce?

Jack sighed, and ran his hand through his hair. Despite the opposing expression on his face, he said, If that's what you want. Though it might be hard to convince a judge of a need for a divorce if we can't tell him or her anything about why a divorce is necessary in the first place because we can't tell him... or her... about the Stargate program, or how it was that we got married when we did, he gently pointed out. I doubt that any judge or lawyer will just accept an excuse of 'We need to get a divorce, but we can't tell you why we need one.' He sighed, his eyes soulful pools that she could so easily get lost in. I don't think anyone will go for that, either.

Sam closed her eyes against the draw of his gaze. Okay, she softly said. That's what I thought you would say, I admit. Which is why I did that research in the first place.

Just tell me what you found on the Net, he ordered, sounding tired now. What's the news?

Sam couldn't help but respond to the distressed tone of his voice, and slid next to him on the couch he was resting on. It's not so bad, she insisted. It's kind of an amendment to the Frat. Reg, like I told you. She blinked again, then went on, It's about prior relationships, I admit, not quite like... ours... in our case... She floundered, then rushed on. And it says something about serving with spouses being permissible... but inadvisable... But at least it did mention something that's close to our situation. She let her voice trail off into the silence surrounding them, and couldn't help the frown that erupted on her face at his perceived reaction to her words; He was going to dislike anything she had to say, she just knew it.

Contrary to Sam's prediction of his reaction, Jack did sigh, admittedly, but not terribly sadly. He stared off into space for several minutes, and finally returned his gaze to her. His look was now the most open, vulnerable expression that she had ever seen on him. Or we could just admit to everything, and take our chances with the Joint Chiefs and The President, he quietly suggested. Assuming, of course, that you still have... a little... regard... for me?

Sam blushed when he said that. I know that I just ended a relationship that... And you must be confused as hell about that... I've been confused as hell... Sam stared at him, blushed, looked down, looked back up at him, didn't pretend not to understand that he was referring to the feelings they felt for the other, and that they had managed to keep hidden and buried for years. At last, she softly agreed with him, Yeah, we could take our chances with the Joint Chiefs and the President, too.

There was another awful, heavy silence, then Jack peered into her eyes. He hesitantly mumbled, I know that maybe this isn't a good time to ask... He appeared to be the most uncomfortable she'd ever seen him. I mean, you just broke off an engagement and all... And you haven't had the proper time to think about that, yet, and all...

His nervousness spoke loudly to her each time he repeated himself. I don't need time to think about that, Sam immediately declared in order to help put a stop to his case of nerves. She was surprised at how true her words were, though. That wasn't what she had intended when she said them. But, despite how she only felt intense relief at her breakup with Pete, as if she had averted a big mistake, she instead asserted, I feel okay about all that, and...

You sure? he inquired. 'Cause you were... He faltered a bit, then forged on. You and him were together for a long time.

That bothered you, didn't it? she softly asked rather than responding to his comment.

Jack seemed to consider his answer for awhile. Yes, he honestly said, then changed it to, No... Her expression showed the disappointment she was automatically feeling at his supposed assertion that her engagement hadn't bothered him in the least, and he instantly admitted again that it had. Then Jack sighed, and ran another agitated hand through his hair. Finally, he stopped messing up his hair, and just gazed at her. Do you want the truth? he quietly inquired, and at her hesitant, then much firmer nod, told her, I didn't like it, no, but I thought that you were happy, and... and that was going to have to be enough for me.

Sam sighed regretfully, the hiss of her breath sounding loud in the serene room. I guess I was happy... At least, I was in the beginning, she amended.

In the beginning? He peered at her quizzically.

Sam sighed once again. Was that all she could do? she asked herself; Sigh her regret at the situation that she had admittedly caused; at the hurt she had, no matter how inadvertently, stirred up in a lot of people? She even regretted the way she must have hurt Pete in the end, though there was very little guilt accompanying the emotion now flying throughout her chest. Well, at first, I thought it was so great to have something going on outside my job for a change, she told him. Something that I could look forward to.

But? he asked. Why do I hear a 'but' in your voice?

But, she dutifully said. But... I should never have let it go so far out of control like I did. It wasn't like I....

Don't go blaming yourself, Jack quickly interrupted. I know you, Carter, and I know how it's like you to want to take all the blame for this, and...

But it's my fault! she insisted now, her eyes as wide as their dessert plates.

Jack snorted, an inelegant sound, but an honest one. You take all the blame if you like, but that's not exactly how I remember it happening.

What do you remember? she asked, gently probing.

Jack ruffled his fingers through his hair again. Um... I seem to recall telling you something about not being here if things were different... It wasn't like I asked you to stop him and his proposal, or anything...

Frightened by the possible consequences, Sam touched the little finger of his left hand with her right one, anyway, offering him what comfort she could. You really couldn't say anything, though, could you? she pointed out. The regs...

Jack almost grinned at her then. That sounds good, using the regs as an excuse. But... I've never been one to go for the rules before. Why did I choose to stick to them then? he asked, then answered his own question, It was a nice convenient excuse, that's why. He grunted when she brushed her hand against his again, then he trapped her little finger with his, as if to illustrate his point that he wasn't going to hide his special regard for her any longer. He went on, If I didn't really give you an answer then, either one that was honest, and that would help you, or one that steered you in the other direction, away from me... Then I could pretend to myself that I had helped you in what way I could, that... he finally stopped, looked down, then blurted, Crap... I was so scared that day, and I saw the easy way out, and I took it, he admitted then. That was really cowardly of me, I know, and...

You weren't the only one who was cowardly that day, though, she insisted in a soft voice. I was the one who eventually agreed to his proposal, probably because it was easier to say 'yes' than to say 'no.' Again, her voice was swallowed up by the silence surrounding them. I could have said 'no...' Should have said 'no.'

After a long, quiet moment had passed between them, Jack managed to grin, and say, Okay, so we both have to take a little of the credit, and a little of the blame, for that day. He shook his head. Boy, were we both ever stupid... Maybe we should tell Daniel that if we're ever that stupid again that he needs to hit us over the head with one of those fat reference books that he has. Then he reconsidered. No, that might break our necks...

Sam laughed outright at that statement, true as it was, and Jack grinned at her.

You have a really nice laugh, you know, he shyly proclaimed. We haven't heard it often enough lately.

Sam couldn't help but smile. She stared down at their fingers all twisted around the other's, and tightened the grip of her hand on his. For what it's worth, I'm really sorry, she said in such a low voice that she almost whispered her apology to him.

Jack's smile widened, though she didn't know if it was because of her tightened grip on him, or because of her apology. I guess I should say that I'm sorry, too. I could have stopped this all from going forward if only I'd been a little bit more aboveboard with you in your lab that day.

So we're both sorry, Sam summed up, then grinned with him. That's probably the first time we've ever been completely honest with each other.

Yeah... I feel like we should celebrate, or something, Jack told her.

Sam smiled. We could always eat cake, she suggested.

Jack thoughtfully eyed her from his position close to his chest, where he had ducked his head after their last conversation. Are you being coy? he inquired in pseudo amazement.

Sam thought about what he had asked. I guess I am, she admitted after a surprised moment. Does that bother you?

Hell no! Jack instantly told her before he thought better of his more 'colorful' language choice. He blushed, then tried to undo the damage he'd already done by blurting out his commentary like he had, I mean... What I meant to say is...

Your more 'colorful' language is just part of your nature, she quickly negated. I don't mind, and I've certainly heard it often enough that I would miss it if I didn't hear it at all, I think.

Really? he asked. Sara had always complained about his more vivid use of language, and had done her best to cure him of the habit. But it was a too strongly ingrained habit in him to speak exactly what was on his mind to change at his age, no matter how much she had wanted him to change. It was refreshing now to not have to worry about everything he said, since Sam didn't seem to mind what he said, or how he said it. I'm relieved to hear you say that, I admit! he told her.

Sam grinned. I figure that if you can handle all my techno 'mumbo jumbo', then I ought to be able to handle a cuss word or two.

Or three, or four, Jack finished for her, smiling in spite of himself. Were they actually flirting now? As in, romantic flirting? He didn't quite know what to say to her, as he didn't have much experience with the lighter moments that most couples enjoyed together. He was far more adept at hiding his feelings from her and those around him than owning up to his emotions. Does this mean we're dating now? he asked her, puzzled.

He obviously didn't know how well a puzzled air became him, she realized, and swallowed convulsively, though she knew that some of her instant opinion of him leaked through in her eyes, in spite of her attempts to keep everything she was feeling hidden from him. Dating your own spouse? she asked in trepidation. That's pretty weird, isn't it? she asked him.

'Weird' is part of what we do for a living, Jack answered her. It's not any weirder than having your conscience downloaded into the computer mainframe...

True, she considered, and felt herself begin to slowly give in to her emotions for him. She gave a hallow little laugh in order to distract both him and her. It worked... sort of.

What? he asked, but leaned in closer to her as he did his asking. For the first time that he could remember, he didn't feel like he was doing something wrong.

It's kind of ironic, Sam answered, aware of how close he was leaning towards her, but forcing herself to revel in the sensation rather than be instantly terrified of any contact between them. As she was enjoying their sudden closeness, she went on, Pete said those awful things about me, and about you, and about us... And they totally weren't true... But in saying those things, he unintentionally forced them to come about... She blushed at what she was referring to. I mean, forced us to deal with each other... so that the very thing he was predicting to be true actually... She blushed again, and fell silent, even as she took tiny peeks at his face as he thought about what she'd almost said.

Jack smiled in appreciation the moment he understood what idea she was trying to get across to him. Yeah, that is ironic. He smiled some more, enjoying the simple act of being able to smile with her again. Their strange, strained relationship was almost back to the way it had been when they'd gone on missions together; light and bantering instead of all the avoidance and dancing around each other that they had indulged in over the past year. It was liberating. And so were the looks she was giving him that she clearly hoped he didn't notice. Only, he noticed. Emboldened, Jack quietly asked, Mind if I point something else out for you to think about?

Sam shrugged. Not at all... Go right ahead...

Jack quailed for a second, wondering if he really had enough... audacity... to mention what was on his mind, but then he reminded himself that nothing risked meant nothing gained, and went ahead and asked, Since we're married... and apparently have been... and we both know about it now... Have you thought about... Um... Then he seemed to change his mind, and remain silent on the subject. No, he said at the last minute, chickening out. It's dumb...

What? she asked. Then, she sighed in slight irritation. Now you've got my curiosity all stirred up, and you won't even tell me what it's all about?

Okay, Jack blurted. I'm wondering... and you don't have to do this if you feel strongly about it, or...

General.., she warned. But she couldn't go around calling her own husband something so formal, could she? She tried again. Sir... That wasn't much better, she decided with a shake of her head. Jack, she settled on at last.

Jack went on, blurting, I'm wondering If you're going to change your last name to 'O'Neill' or keep it like it is. He hung his head then, and squeezed his eyes shut in embarrassment. See, I told you it was dumb... and inconsequential... and dumb... and pointless... and dumb...

Sam raised her eyebrows in faint astonishment. Gosh, I hadn't thought about changing my name, she commented, sounding surprised. I've never really wanted to before now.

Sam, Jack interrupted then. Do you still care about me, or..? Where had that come from? And what did it have to do with changing her name?

Sam did her own interrupting, then. I care about all my friends, she was fast to say, as if she were rehearsing a memorized speech.

Okaaaay. Jack tried not to get too frustrated too quickly. I'll be more specific... He took a deep breath, then asked, I don't mean do you care about your friends, I mean do you care about me... Truthfully..? Jack stared at her, half terrified, out of worried eyes. He was taking an awful chance if she had to 'truthfully' tell him that her feelings for him had changed over the years. But at least he would know for certain, then. And, at least he already knew that she couldn't intentionally misunderstand him this time. After all, how much more specific could he get?

Sam couldn't lie to him, or pretend any longer. He deserved some honesty this time. She was quick to respond, for which he was grateful, though what she said came out small, and scared, and she looked even more afraid than she sounded. You asking... like that... She swallowed, looking very nervous, but forced herself to go on. It means that this time I can't hide behind a nice, pat evasion of an answer. At last, she stared at him, frightened half out of her wits, and looking like it, but determined to ask, Do you still care about me?

Jack grunted again, looking like he was in pain, but he answered her anyway. That's not exactly fair... I did ask you first, I want to point out... But to answer... Jack blushed, then. Actually, I don't know how I avoid hauling you into every convenient corner we pass, and kissing the daylights out of you. But I guess that would be a bit much for a first date kind of scenario...

Sam couldn't quite stifle her laughter. Before she knew it, Jack had joined in with his own stifled laughter, and pretty soon, their laughter wasn't so stifled anymore, and they were sharing a private joke just like any other couple in America. Sam leaned against him, chuckling, and took the opportunity to link her hand more securely with his.

His touch felt so good! Even though it wasn't the same as she was used to feeling with Pete. She didn't mean to compare the two of them, but she couldn't exactly help it, either. She told herself that Jack... and his touch... wasn't unpleasant at all, just different. A good different. The fact that his touch was as enticing it was should have left her feeling guilty for desiring it so much, but she was just too busy enjoying that touch of his to feel too much guilt at all. It was confusing if she thought about it too heavily, so for once, she ignored her need to analyze everything, and simply appreciated his company for the first time ever. She laughed with him more than she should have, given the circumstances, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Jack smiled at her, and in return, she smiled back, and the expression of pure contentment in her eyes practically blew him away, leaving him breathless, weak in the knees, and hyperventilating from so much laughter.

No giggling, General, Sam pseudo quoted him to him, which only served to make them both laugh harder. Before they knew it, his arm was around her shoulders, her head was crowded into his neck, and they were as surprised by the other's hilarity as they were at their own. Which made them laugh even harder yet.

And in the next moment, his lips bravely met hers, and laughter died as she experienced the concept of 'having the daylights kissed out of her.' She clutched onto his shirt as if her life depended on not letting go.

And perhaps it did. Her behavior surprised Jack at first, but he adjusted to it with lightening speed, and soon he had cradled her cheeks in such a show of affection that she wondered how she could possibly have missed his regard for her before now...

I'm so slow, she lazily realized. But she was too busy thinking that he... and his touch... were definitely all right with her, and that she wanted to experience both on a much more regular basis. She was too preoccupied to worry about her slowness when it came to her personal relationships, and... Sam sighed, and, though it should have been wrong, and her recovery from her just ended engagement was too quick, gave herself completely up to his kiss. At long last, she felt like she'd finally come home, and determined to stay right where she was in his arms, come 'hell or high water.' As it should be.

* * *

Part II

Two years, four months, two weeks, and three days later:

A stray thought shot through Sam's mind that she should have been more content to take things slower between she and Jack on that day several years before. The fact that she had just recently broken off her engagement to Pete should have by all rights bothered her more than it did. And she was saddened by the abrupt ending of her engagement, but the marriage to Jack sort of took over most of her attention then, as it had been doing now for the last two years. It was true that he had been promoted, had a new job far away from the SGC, now lived in Washington D.C., wasn't her direct CO any longer, and that they only saw each other once or so each month, but...

The short visits were precious to her, however. Sam had enough concentration left over after factoring her marriage to Jack into the equation to go on missions with a revitalized SG-1, and had a sliver left over for her lab work, but a great portion of it centered on the man that she had inadvertently found herself married to all those years before.

The rest of the time, she faked her attention in order to keep that marriage a secret for as long as possible. At first, they had to keep the marriage a mystery due to the regulations they had been unknowingly breaking for thirty-six years. After Jack's promotion, when the two of them were no longer in a direct chain of command situation, they continued to keep the marriage a secret because of clandestine habits already formed, and the confusion that such a divulgence of a concealment that had literally been going on for years was sure to cause.

The fact that Sam was even now thinking about her marriage, however, was part of the reason why she even noticed the Pertathian law concerning joined couples when she was staring right at it. Mostly, she was busy thinking that Jack would not exactly be the most understanding of husbands if his wife was suddenly executed, along with the rest of SG-1, on a little known planet with the dubious designation of PSS-123. But, that distraction of hers was what actually saved them all in the end. If she hadn't already been thinking along the lines of marriage, she might have missed what she saw.

Daniel had spent days during their captivity pouring over the laws and rules set down in a book by the ancestors of the Pertathians, the residents of PSS-123, but had come up empty in the end, thus leading to their swift trial, guilty verdict, and why they now languished away in their special 'SG-1' cell, waiting for their executions to be carried out. When Sam had asked to take a look herself at the tomb of rules and laws of the Pertathians, Daniel had been almost frantic to agree to her request.

And because her mind was on her secret marriage, and her secret husband, while she read through the book with her typical speed, she discovered what could possibly be the salvation of the entire team. Quickly, her gaze still riveted to what she had found, she asked one of the guards standing watch near their cell to speak to High Councilor Tervane immediately. She was already considering how she could weave her defense of the team members when told that the High Councilor was in a meeting at the moment, and could not be disturbed. In response to what was clearly a dodge in dealing with the condemned team, Sam threatened to start singing every song from every musical that she could remember until the High Councilor agreed to see her. Her teammates sent up such a clamor at the idea of a singing Sam, which could be agony on their eardrums if she wanted it to be, the guards thought it wise to tell High Councilor Tervane that she needed to come as soon as possible, in spite of a heavy meeting schedule. After all, the members of SG-1 had heard Sam sing before, and it hadn't been a pretty thing to undergo at even the best of times.

Outwardly, Sam pretended to be hurt at her team mates' opinions of her singing abilities, but inwardly, she was cheering. The sooner she saw the High Councilor, and presented her argument on SG-1's behalf, the better for them all around.

You wished to see me? Councilor Tervane asked in a bored sounding voice as, half an hour later, she strode up to the cell relegated to the members of the off world team. She expected more pleading for a lighter sentence, but she was setting herself up for a surprise of astounding proportions.

Sam pushed her way to the forefront of the team, near the bars fixed in the top portion of cell's door. Yes, and thank you for coming, she said, even though she was duly unimpressed with the Councilor's bored attitude. She was, after all, not the typical criminal. She was certainly much smarter than any average person who was set for execution. She should be treated accordingly, but knew that she was straining the limit of the Councilor's good will even by requesting an audience with her. She wasn't surprised by the Councilor's disposition, even if she was secretly aggravated by it.

You found something new? Councilor Tervane asked next.

Sam hefted the book of laws more firmly into her hands. Yes. She shifted the book so the Councilor could see its words as well as her. I'd like to point out that, according to this Partathian law... and she pointed to the correct words with her right index finger, ... any joined convicted person has the right to avoid any sentence, as long as the person who is joined to the convicted person relies on that convicted person... or in this case, persons... for his or her continued survival and well being. We have a similar custom to joining on Earth, where we're from, called marriage. And as we're all married here, and as I can prove that several people depend on our continued support, you can't execute, or even hold, any of us, according to your own law.

Sam waited while High Councilor Tervane quickly read what was written down before her. Finally, the woman dressed in the long robes of the council chambers settled back on her heals. She regarded Sam through the bars affixed to the cell door. This appears to be an applicable law. What new evidence do you have to include that can support the application of this particular law to your specific case?

Sam shot a look towards Cam, and surreptitiously raised her finger to her lips in a sign that meant he had to continue to be quiet and let her speak. He in turn socked Daniel in his stomach, and after Daniel had made his usual remonstrations to what he thought was his leader's rough handling of a team member, Mitchell turned his back to the Councilor, and passed on Sam's message to stay silent. Daniel told Vala next, and Vala did her best to convey the idea to a slightly bemused Teal'c. When Sam was fairly certain that no one would interrupt the outrageous stories that she had half concocted to go with the Pertathian law, she began to speak.

Actually, we're all married on this team, Sam announced with a straight face, not feeling the least bit guilty that she was basically lying, as said lies would end up having a chance to save the lives of the entire team, hers in particular, and that would be sure to make Jack a happier man, at least. I can prove it, too, Sam went on. Cam, and she gestured towards Mitchell with a wave. Cam is married to a woman named Patricia (Sam's own mother's name) with two children already. I can show you a picture of them if you'd like, she suggested. At the High Councilor's nod, she reached into her back pocket, pulled out her special wallet that zipped shut, and was water proofed, and had been a gift from Jack for her last birthday, and was perfect for keeping things safe on missions... She unzipped it to extract two photos from it. She handed the first one to Tervane. This is Nathan, she chatted. He's twelve years old, and this is his sister, Jessica. She's ten. Sam gave the woman the second picture in her hand. The fact that they were school pictures of her brother Mark's two children didn't bother her a bit.

Sam continued to fake her story, and pulled out a third photo. And this is a shot of Adrian... the male form of the name 'Adria' who was Vala's daughter. He's about... one year old? She glanced at Daniel for confirmation, and he tried to look thoughtful as he vigorously nodded. Sam turned back to Tervane, then. Yes, about one year... season... old. The fact that she was now holding up a picture of her friend Danielle's infant son had given her the idea to peg the picture as her friend Daniel's son. Daniel and Vala have been married for three years... which was when Daniel and Vala had met, And Adrian is their first child. Can you imagine, though, what kind of life this little boy would have if both his parents were executed so early in his life?

Sam went on then as Tervane was busy considering the picture of the baby boy. Teal'c has been married to a woman named Ishta... We met her on another planet several years ago... But he and she have only been recently married... uh, joined... and don't have children yet. But I do have this, Sam continued. It's a picture of my own husband. She pulled a fourth photo out of her wallet, and reverently smoothed it with her fingers before handing it over to Tervane. As you can see, that's me, and I'm leaning on...

Your husband? Tervane asked, the shook her head, as if to clear it. I mean, your mate? The man you're joined to?

Yes. Sam briefly smiled. His name's Jack. We've been married... uh, joined... for several years.

How long, and how is he supported by you? the Councilor asked.

Um, Sam hemmed, We've been married over fifteen of your seasons, she told the woman, trying to equate the years into something that Tervane would comprehend. It wasn't a complete lie, she tried to soothe herself: she and Jack had been married for over fifteen years, after all. She reached into her wallet again, and pulled out a folded piece of paper. Here's a copy of my marriage certificate, she said as she unfolded the paper, and thrust it through the bars to Tervane. Then she went on, And Jack used to be in the Air Force... our military organization... but now he's retired... uh... doesn't work any longer because he's older... and he needs what I earn for doing this job of exploring to help him get through life. She hoped she was using words that the Councilor could understand. It's been a month... a moon... since I've seen him, because of being held in here for trial. If I were executed, or detained indefinitely for whatever reason on this planet, I would be unable to continue doing my job, and my... exploration company... would be unhappy with me as much as Jack would be. That's an understatement, she sarcastically thought to herself, but kept her gaze trained on the High Councilor's face as the woman first peered at the picture of she and Jack, taken for their thirty-seventh wedding anniversary, a recreation of the original black and white photo that had been taken for their wedding picture, and the marriage certificate that she had earlier been handed through the bars. The Councilor, Sam noticed, wasn't reading the certificate words out loud. Sam was grateful for that small favor right now. She peered again at the photo, then at the certificate, then at Sam, who smiled at her through the bars on the door, trying to appear friendly even if she wasn't feeling particularly friendly at the moment.

Very well, Tervane at last pronounced. I am convinced. There was a collective sigh from the other four team members, and Sam grinned. But the High Councilor was going on, I will immediately tell this news to the other members of the Council... who are conveniently gathered together for a meeting, or we would have to call them together, and that would take more time... But I will be sure to tell them of this new development. Give me some time to arrange for your release. She turned her back to Sam then, saying, Please excuse me.

It was the first time that a Council member had been so polite to her, Sam noted. She turned around, and gave a smile of encouragement to her team mates, who also beamed back at her, but still remained quiet, in case an outcry would cause their case more trouble than good at this point.

The following hour was tense, but at last, SG-1 was released, profusely apologized to, and escorted to the Stargate clearing after having their vests and weapons returned to them. Five minutes later, the five of them were bounding down the SGC Stargate ramp towards General Landry waiting for them at the bottom.

SG-1, Landry exclaimed. Welcome home. How on God's green Earth did you manage to escape? he wanted to know. He'd been a long distance witness to the team's incarceration, trial, and verdict, but couldn't help his subordinates, as the laws of a visited planet had to be adhered to. And when Daniel had tripped over that book on the floor of the governmental library, and accidentally pushed over stacks of shelves full of hundreds of official and rare books, thus harming some, and destroying many, he had been unable to do anything more than watch as his best team was thrown into prison. He had done what he could for the afflicted team, but had secretly despaired that anything would help his team as they were quickly tried, and the verdict was handed down to them.

Daniel explained the second he reached the bottom of the Stargate ramp, It was Sam, actually, General. She came up with this really creative story about us all being married to overturn the execution verdict. If it hadn't been for her, and her quick thinking, we would all be dead by now, he praised.

Mitchell let out a loud laugh at Daniel's words. Right! he hooted. That bit about me having two kids... And what was my 'wife's' name?

Daniel cut him off. And me being married to Vala..? He snorted, as if the entire idea was wholly unbelievable.

Vala did her own interrupting then. I don't think it's all that improbable, she defended with a roll of her eyes.

But we have a year old kid! Daniel laughingly protested. Sam, that was great!

Teal'c gave Sam a piercing look then. But I still do not understand the part about you showing your marriage certificate to the High Councilor. High Councilor Tervane looked as if she were reading it, but that is impossible. Though both cultures obviously utilize the same written language... as improbable as that may be... you are not married to anyone to our knowledge.

Sam's smile at the high praise of her team mates slipped a bit. Well... Um.., she said, glancing at Teal'c, then around at the others gathered in the 'Gate Room. That may not have been such a tall tale, she finally said. She cleared her throat in the sudden ensuing silence, then went on, That part may have had more than just a grain of truth to it. At the stunned and shocked expressions surrounding her, she defended herself by pointing out, I showed the Councilor a picture of me and... after all. She gave a shy duck of her head to those standing near her in the room.

General Landry sent her a perplexed look. Excuse me? he asked. Are you telling me that a soldier under my command is involved in a secret marriage?

Vala and Daniel gave a nervous laugh, and Mitchell was on the verge of joining them, when a glance at Sam's guilty expression stalled him.

Culpability showed in extreme relief all over Sam's facial features. She tried to give a small smile, but she had too try for even that small gesture pretty hard.

Suddenly, all Sam's team members were no longer smiling at her. General Landry's perplexed expression had grown even more mystified. Colonel? he asked instead, requesting an explanation.

Sam sent them all a huge sigh of resignation, then held out her hand. May I please borrow your cell phone, Daniel? she asked instead of offering them all that explanation that General Landry was asking for.

Sure, Daniel said, then fished in his trouser pocket for his phone. I think I have it on me... Ah! Here it is. He triumphantly handed Sam his phone.

Sam took it. Thanks, Daniel. Mine's in my lab, she explained, In my coat pocket, or I'd use mine. She thought for a moment, giving herself time to remember a phone number that she had programmed into the speed dial function of her own phone years before. At last, she nodded to herself, then punched in a number after first checking the time on her watch, then added the correct amount of hours so that she would know the time in Washington D.C.. She waited for a second, then seemed to brighten as Jack picked up the ringing phone at the other end of the line.

O'Neill, he said into his own phone, though the sound of his voice could be heard by all in the quiet 'Gate Room.

Hi, it's me, Sam said, her standard greeting.

Jack's voice noticeably brightened as well. Sam! he happily exclaimed. You're back! He went on, not giving her time to respond to his statement. How did you get released after all that trial stuff, and everything? God, I can't tell you how worried I was! He paused, but again the silence wasn't long enough for her to interrupt his chatter, and he asked, So, did Daniel do his usual trick, and talk really fast at them until they were so confused, they let you go, or what?

Daniel huffed, then grabbed the phone away from Sam before she could reply to Jack's question. He raised it to his own ear and mouth, then insisted, Jack... I do not talk fast!

There was another pause on the line, and Sam regained her hold on the phone during the lull in the conversation.

Jack had clearly recognized Daniel's voice, for he dully asked, Uh... Sam... What the hell was that?

Sam sighed for a second time, then she said, Jack... Uh, hi, it's me again... You might want to rearrange your schedule, and fly down her ASAP... like, this afternoon, if you can. Her voice was apologetic now.

And why would I want to do that? Jack asked, and the gathered people didn't have to be Sam to hear that hint of danger in his tone.

Sam cringed a tiny bit at his voice, but gamely continued, Uh... because the only way I could think of getting us free was to mention... She sheepishly shrugged. I sort of had to mention the wedding... In front of the whole team...

Oh, came Jack's dull reply, as if he were in too much shock to react any more fully.

Then Teal'c held his hand out for the phone next, and proceeded to say, It was due to ColonelCarter's quick thinking that we are even standing here to discuss this with you, O'Neill. She has done all of us, including you, a proud service today.

Jack answered, Thanks, T.,...uh... Then he slowly continued, I know that Carter wouldn't have said anything about us being... being married... unless she saw no other option. But your approval means a lot...

Sam took the phone back, then. Jack? Is it possible for you to come out here today?

Jack gave a sigh, too, more of a hiss of resignation than a sigh of aggravation, then replied, Yeah, I guess I'll have to...

And bring the yellow envelope, she suggested. And you might want to tow General Hammond along, too.

Good idea, Jack said then, sounding brighter than he had so far in the conversation. Guess I'll be seeing you soon.

Guess so, Sam said.

And Sam.., Jack went on before she had the chance to hang up on him.

Yeah?

I'm glad you're okay, he said in a softer voice that made Sam smile again. Even if we're sort of 'outed' as a result.

Still smiling, Sam asked, See you soon, then?

As soon as I can get there, Jack promised.

I'll be waiting for you at the SGC, she told him. Bye.

Bye.

Sam snapped the phone closed, then handed it back to Daniel. Here you go, and thanks...

Mitchell had remained quiet for as long as he could. In the next instant, he had inquired, You're married? blurting out the question that was on everyone's mind.

Sam gave a small smile. Yeah, she answered in a tiny voice.

Mitchell gave a disbelieving blink of his eyes, then asked, And you've been secretly married to...

Jack. Sam shook her head, and corrected, General O'Neill.

Mitchell nodded, as if he understood when he obviously didn't understand anything, and went on, You've been married to... General O'Neill... for..? His voice lifted in question at the end of his speech.

Sam smiled a tiny smile again. For thirty-eight years, she answered, making her comment more of a question as well... a tiny question.

Daniel stood pensively for a moment at the bottom of the Stargate ramp before he screwed up his features, and grunted his own inquiry. But aren't you about forty... almost thirty-eight or forty years old yourself? I mean, I know you're older than I am, but not that much older! How can you possibly have been married for thirty-eight years? That would have made you about a year old when you got married, he protested in confusion. You couldn't even talk yet!

Sam gave a grin that then turned into a grimace. She hesitantly replied, I'll wait till Jack... General O'Neill... gets here so that we can explain everything together. Until then, I'll only say one thing... 1969.

The incomprehension on Daniel's face suddenly cleared up, to be replaced by understanding, which was swiftly replaced by dawning horror. You're kidding!?! he hollered after Sam started to leave the 'Gate Room. Where the hell was I? he demanded to know then. Where was Teal'c? Where was your common sense?

Sam called over her shoulder as she went, not bothering to halt her walk as she said, You were asleep on the couch on the bus. Teal'c was meditating in the bathroom...

In the bathroom? Vala echoed incredulously.

Daniel answered her. He said that it was the only place on the bus where he could find enough quiet to Kel-no-reem...

Ah, Vala said, understanding the odd Goa'uld phrase better than most would have. Of course. Then she furrowed her brow, and asked a second question. And what does 1969 mean? Besides being that year you guys time traveled to? She began to follow Daniel as he tried to leave the room behind Sam. But Vala continued, And besides it being a good year to age wine? She turned to her teammates, then, and added, I read that in a book once. Ever since then, I've wanted to taste this 'wine,' but no one seems to have any available.

Landry helpfully supplied, This is supposed to be a dry base.

As if Vala knew what that information meant. I see, she said anyway, and smiled at Landry, then at Daniel.

Landry continued, calling, Colonel Carter, I can't wait to hear this story of yours...

Sam sort of sent him a grin over her shoulder as well, but didn't say anything so that she wouldn't be tempted to say something stupid that would somehow hurt her and Jack's situation more than she already had. She disappeared into the corridor, heading to the Infirmary for her post-mission physical.

The second that Sam was gone, Mitchell turned to regard the men and women... and one or two aliens... standing before him, and asked the first thing that came to his mind. So General O'Neill isn't retired then? At Teal'c's firm shake of his head, Mitchell mumbled to no one in particular, though every remaining member of SG-1 heard him say, I am soooo confused!

* * *

Sam heard Jack's voice before she saw him. He was talking to Walter, she thought, as he passed though the Control Room. They all laughed at something that Sergeant Harriman had said, then a second later, Sam heard a page for the members of SG-1 to go to the Briefing Room. She heard footsteps on the stairs leading up from the Control Room below, and she frantically looked over the items she had gathered together one last time.

She had put to good use the few hours grace period she had between the time she had called Jack in Washington, and when he had arrived at the SGC. She had pulled out the letter from the Robilards that she had kept safe for more than a year, and she placed it next to the overhead of that same letter that she had created in her free time more than a year before, as if she just knew their discovery was inevitable, that it had always been only a matter of time. She placed both items inside an 'SGC secret file' folder, thinking that it would probably be for the best if she just treated this like any other mission briefing, although her nerves were making her tremble far more than any other briefing had made her tremble before.

But then, Jack came bounding up the rest of the stairs, followed by General Hammond and General Landry, both at a more sedate pace than her husband. Then he cleared the painted railing at the top of the stairs, and she saw him for the first time in almost a month.

He rounded the corner, and there was no mistaking that head of silver-gray hair, or the certain way that he held himself as he walked. There seemed to be more of a bounce to his step the closer he got. When he drew nearer than ten steps from her, he smiled, and exclaimed, Samantha! You are such a sight for sore eyes! He ginned even more, then enveloped her in a huge hug right in front of Generals Hammond and Landry. It was so good to see him again that for a minute, she didn't mind a bit, and hugged him back just as desperately.

Hi, Jack! she said into his shoulder. Geez, you smell good!

Jack laughed a little bit. You don't see me for a whole month, and all you can think of to comment on is how good I smell? He laughed once more, then asked, How about saying, 'Boy, it's good to see you, too!'?

Boy, it's good to see you, too! Daniel immediately said as he drifted in through the doorway leading into the corridor on the other side of the Briefing Room.

Jack recovered nicely. It's good to see you, too, Daniel, but not as good as it is to see my wife. Sorry... Hope you don't mind. And he hugged Sam a little tighter.

Daniel shoved his hands in his pants pockets. How is it that you have a wife... again... by the way? Daniel inelegantly inquired.

Jack released Sam, and was about to explain the situation to his befuddled friend when General Hammond pulled Sam into a hug next.

Colonel! he said, a smile on his face. Give this old retired ex Air Force officer a hug, why don't ya! He laughed, then, and dutifully said, It's good to see you, too!

Sam grinned back. You may be retired, General, but you're not an old man, yet, she teased.

Jack mocked him, looking wounded. Find your own wife, Sir, he said then. Right now, you've got mine. And he pulled Sam away from Hammond's grasp, back into his own. He smiled. That's better.

Sam couldn't help but be mortified at her husband's treatment of their ex commanding officer, but laughed at his antics at the same time. Jack! she chastised anyway.

I'm retired, Hammond reminded. And I already had a perfectly good wife, Jack, he explained. I don't need another.

Jack kept grinning, and pulled out one of the big leather Briefing Room chairs for Sam. She sank into the soft leather as Jack said, I'm here to explain all the hows and whys to this situation, General, Sir. Just be calm, and don't let Daniel's lack of patience get to you too much. Then he pulled out the chair next to Sam's, and sat, after first pulling something from the pocket of his BDUs. Hey, Sam, look what they gave to me on the flight over here... He had produced a tiny bag of Doritos. I know how you like them, so I saved them for you. He handed the bag to Sam.

Vala came into the room, beamed at the chips still in Jack's hand, and reached for them.

Hey!... These are for Sam, not you, Miss Sticky Fingers, Jack warned, pulling the bag of chips back before either Sam or Vala could touch them. Hands off!

Vala pouted at Jack with her best sad puppy dog pout that reminded Sam of the face that Pete used to give her all those years before. In order to distract herself from the depressing train of her thoughts, Sam accusingly asked Jack, You bought them from the machine outside the Control Room, didn't you, Jack?

He looked a bit like a guilty ape caught in the act of stealing a banana, then capitulated. Yeah, okay, but it's the thought that counts. Besides, I didn't think of bringing you anything since I was in such a rush to get here. Sorry. Then, his eyes narrowed as he squinted at her. I can eat them, if that's what you want.., he suggested.

No, Sam quickly said, and reached for the bag. Just making sure, she told him as she ripped open the bag, then poured herself a glass of water to wash down the chips.

Vala continued to pout. Some people have all the luck, she mournfully said, and plopped down on a chair as the two Generals seated themselves at the head of the table, and in the chair to the immediate left. They steepled their fingers as one, making Jack chuckle a bit in spite of the seriousness of the discussion they were about to have.

You guys look like Police Squad, Jack irreverently announced as he stared at the Generals, then stole a chip from Sam.

Police Squad might treat you better than we will, Landry quietly threatened just as Teal'c and Mitchell arrived, looking wet and disheveled.

Sorry, Mitchell instantly apologized. We were in the shower after working out... That page caught us by surprise.

Jack turned to watch the two men enter the room. Did you trounce him, T.? he asked.

No harder than I used to trounce you, O'Neill, Teal'c lightly responded, and dragged out a chair for himself.

Jack winced. That bad, huh? he asked Mitchell, who had already plopped down across the table from him.

Hey! Mitchell exclaimed protestingly. I would have had him if there hadn't been that page! He scooted his chair closer to the table then.

Vala tutted at him. Poor Cammie! she said, and while Sam mouthed the word 'Cammie?', the alien continued speaking, But, as much as we would like to sit around here all day and listen to your excuses... uh... reasons, we are here for a particular purpose. She turned to Sam and Jack across the table from her. Spill it, she ordered, then softened her order to a request with an accompanying smile.

Just like that, Jack turned off his charm, and turned into business mode. Okay...

Wedding? General Landry politely prompted.

With his gentle but insistent provocation, Sam rose, and grabbed the remote control from the center of the drinks table, where she had laid it. She quickly dimmed the lights of the room, then clicked the overhead projector on. She placed the Robilard's letter on the projector that she had requested to use for the briefing. Immediately, the Robilards' letter was highlighted on the screen still lowering between the room and the General's office. Two year ago, then General O'Neill-in-charge-of-the-SGC handed me this letter that had been hand delivered to him here. It was addressed to me, but as it was a Friday, and as I was in a hurry to get home, I didn't look at it until the next morning.

Cut too the chase, Colonel, Landry ordered.

Sam hastened to obey a direct order from a General. She continued, The letter was from Michael and Jenny Robilard, and I was as surprised at the contents of the package with the letter as anybody was. But you can read what they wrote for yourselves.

A moment of quiet went by as they all read the letter, then Sam raised the screen again before she walked to her place and retrieved the original letter herself. This is the original, in case anybody wants to take a closer look at it.

Daniel reached out his hand for the smaller envelope, then asked, Is that Michael and Jenny from when we time traveled to..?

Teal'c finished for him. To 1969. You are correct, DanielJackson.

Anyway, Jack went on. We time traveled to that year because of a direct mission undertaken for the SGC, sent by none other than General Hammond.

Hammond looked slightly alarmed, until Sam quickly absolved him by announcing, Not that General Hammond had any choice but to send us. She then continued, explaining, We went on that mission because he had already sent us on that mission.

Teal'c once again finished for his old team mate. To do anything else would have irretrievably tampered with the current time line.

Right, Sam went on. He couldn't do anything else.

Jack carried on from there. But we can't argue that the mission to 1969, while fun, was also extremely stressful. We wanted beyond anything to get back to our own time. He turned to Teal'c then. That was before Teal'c was introduced to Tretonin, and he absolutely had to return, or face an eventually maturing symbiote. In the end, he would have been taken over by the symbiote, or he would have died, simple as that. Jack turned back around to take them all in. We... me, Sam, Michael, and Jenny... let off some steam one night by having a little too much to drink... We handled the stress in the only way we knew how.

And Michael and Jenny had stress of their own to relieve, Teal'c reminded them.

Hammond blinked. What do you mean, Teal'c? he asked.

Teal'c replied, It was during your world's time of what is known as the Vietnam War.

The man who helped you, Landry interrupted, This 'Michael,' had been drafted, hadn't he?

Yes, Jack announced. It was either mull over a draft notice one more time for Michael and Jenny, spend one more night on the time paradox for SG-1, or get drunk. We opted for that option. He sounded a bit contrite, but also defensive as he spoke.

Hammond continued the story then. And you just happened to be near this wedding chapel?

Jack replied, Frankly, Sir, I don't remember what happened. Neither does Sam. All we remember is waking up the next morning with terrible hangovers. We hadn't even heard about all this marriage business until Sam got the package from Michael and Jenny Robilard two years ago. But there was no doubt after we looked at the wedding certificate inside the envelope they included. We were married, and had been for thirty-eight years.

Hammond grimaced. So, you're saying that because SG-1 was on a sanctioned SGC mission, that, even though you were drunk at the ime, then this marriage is..?

Jack interrupted, It wasn't exactly our fault that we broke Air Force regulations by even getting married in the first place, Sir, but a direct result of the situation we found ourselves in. That's what I'm saying.

Hammond looked at Landry, and Landry looked at Hammond. But neither of them said anything, so Sam piped up in the silence that followed.

We have a picture, too, in case you want to look at it, Sam offered. She pulled the picture out of the yellow envelope that Jack had brought with him from Washington, and slid it across the table to Hammond. Here it is.

Take a look, Jack invited.

Both Daniel and Hammond peered closely at the picture, then passed it on to Vala, where she and Mitchell perused it, before sending it on to General Landry. Teal'c rose from his seat, and crossed to stand beside Landry in order to lean over the General, and gaze at the black and white photo.

Mitchell asked, So, what are you planning on doing now? I mean, this does go against the Frat. Regs. in a big way. Then he amended, Or it did at the time you two got married.

Jack blew out a breath, then said, I was thinking that we might want to call the President and Joint Chiefs on this one. Oh, General Hammond... George... we might need your testimony on this one, too. But basically, we're going with the story that it wasn't our fault, or our intention, to go against the regs, that we weren't in our right minds at the time... Heck, that we weren't even in the right time at the time, and...

Daniel interjected with another request to see the picture again. Landry slid it across the table to him as Teal'c returned to his seat. The archaeologist intently stared at the black and white image of Jack and Sam, standing in front of the sign 'Gillette Wedding Chapel.' He gazed for another minute, then jumped up from his chair, paying no regard when his chair collided with Vala's.

Hey, Vala protested, but Daniel ignored her.

The archaeologist was instantly transported into hunting/questioning mode. I think.., he muttered. Let me check... He turned to Landry. Can I use your Internet connection on your computer for a minute? I need to double check something...

Landry spluttered at the unusual request. Yes... No... What I mean is you don't have to use my computer. Just use the one in here...

Daniel crossed oveer to the desk situated in the corner. Sam and Jack could both see him bent over the computer keyboard, and they sent a look of perplexity at each other. In the time it took to totally confuse everybody present, Daniel had returned bearing a printed piece of paper in his hand.

It was just as I thought, Daniel said. He looked at Sam and Jack. You don't remember where you got married, do you?

Sam peered at Jack with a wrinkled brow for a moment before turning to Daniel. No, we...

Daniel didn't let her finish again. It was somewhere in South Carolina... Near Richmond, actually, 'home of the Gillette Wedding Chapel, a place that specializes in performing sham wedding ceremonies between friends, ones that are sure to mystify your other friends, complete with a 'certificate' that looks real, and a ceremony that sounds even more real, for a wedding that doesn't need a lawyer to dissolve, because it isn't real in the first place.' He stopped quoting from the paper that he was carrying with him, and looked at Sam and Jack's stunned expressions. Hey, I'm just reading off the handout I printed from their brochure, Daniel added.

Sam couldn't move as she felt the blood in her face congeal, and she went white.

Daniel went on, Didn't either of you think to look this place up, or do some research into the whole thing before..? His voice trailed off as he took in Sam and Jack's wide-eyed expressions. I take it you didn't think of that, he quietly finished. He produced the photo of them for Sam and Jack. Look here. He pointed to a corner of the photo, at what looked like an unidentifiable smudge of black on the picture, but Daniel was more used than most to looking at smudges, turning them into pssoble letters. This is what tipped me off... If you look at it really closely, it sort of looks like an 'F,' as in 'Fake.'

Jack looked at Sam in utter horror, and Sam mirrored his expression back to him. Crap, Jack whispered, vocalizing the only thought that had successfully coalesced in either his or Sam's minds. Double crap.

Daniel went on. I'm sorry, guys, but I thought I'd better look. Jack..? He turned to Sam in alarm. Is he having a heart attack, do you think?

Jack's eyes just grew wider as he looked at Sam in a shock so deep that he couldn't make his mouth say anything. Sam felt her knees grow weak, and she fell into the chair next to her husband's chair... No, she reminded herself, her one-time CO's chair... Crap, she whispered, in a shock that equaled Jack's.

Well, said Landry in an attempt to break through the pall that had fallen over the gathering. At least we can look on the bright side of this.

Sam turned tearing eyes to Landry, and croaked, There's a bright side?

Landry gently smiled at her and Jack. At least we found out about this before we involved the President, and not after. That's something to be thankful for.

Sam did her best to shake off the dead feeling that had frozen her insides. That's the only thing we can be thankful for, Sir, she managed to say.

Jack had reached out and clutched onto Sam's right hand with his left as she spoke to Landry. He felt the need to add, I'm not leaving... I don't care what the regs say... or said... or...

Daniel cut him off. There is a good side to all this, however, besides what General Landry already pointed out. He was determined to be cheeerful.

Please enlighten us, DanielJackson, Teal'c requested then.

Daniel shrugged. Well... Jack isn't Sam's CO anymore... Not like he was then. There's no reason why they can't get married now.

Jack looked to Daniel then with the first ray of hope that any of them had seen shining in his eyes in the last ten minutes. That's true. He whipped his head around to stare at Sam. He has a point.

Sam gazed back at Jack then. Do you think that we can?

There's no reason why you can't, is there? Vala asked to anyone who would listen to her currently sitting at the table.

Sam croaked, Well... She stared at Jack. No, I guess there's not.

Jack broke in, Well... Will you?

Daniel gave another inelegant snort. That's supposed to be a proposal, Jack? That's the best you can do?

Mitchell added, If you need something to say, I've written down a whole bunch of things...

Jack cut him off. No, thanks, that won't be necessary. He turned back to Sam, still feeling shell shocked, but recovering with every minute that passed. Well Sam, will you marry me? A silent minute passed again, then Jack added, There Daniel, that was as plain as I can be. I'd get down on one knee, but I don't think I can get back up again if I do.

Do you have a token to include with this proposal? Teal'c inquired then.

Jack blinked. Oh, that's right... I forgot about needing a ring...

Vala whipped off a diamond and ruby ring that was already on the middle finger of her right hand. Here... I'd be honored if you use this...

Jack took the ring in his hand. Thanks,... He tried to recall what Sam had said her team mate was named, but his numbed brain refused to dredge up a name at this point.

It's 'Vala,' she reminded him with a smile, as if she were simply delighted to help in these odd proceedings.

Vala.., Jack muttered, then turned back to Sam. Well? What do ya say?

Sam's eyes were still wide and horrified. But she tried with all her might to pay attention to what Jack was asking. She turned to the Generals, who were both grinning like idiots as only Generals could grin. But they weren't any help to Sam in how she should answer.

How she should answer?!? she echoed in a tone of incredulity. She should say 'yes' of course! Janet would probably haunt her from the grave if she responded in any other way.

Sam? Jack asked when she didn't say anything. He sat forward as he gazed at her. Now he was beginning to get worried at her continued silence. Sam? he repeated. Samantha? Are you all right?

Yes! Sam managed to blurt. She couldn't explain what she was saying 'yes' to, though.

Does that mean you're all right? Jack ascertained.

Sam didn't say anything.

So Jack clarified, Or does that mean 'yes' you'll marry me.

'Yes!' Sam blurted again. That was all she could say.

Daniel blew out a soft whistle. That seems to be an affirmative to me...

Sam was thawing even as she again shouted, 'Yes!' Then she couldn't stop herself from smiling at Jack seated next to her in the SGC Briefing Room. 'Yes!' She let her emotions for him shoot out into the room from her eyes. 'Yes!'

Wow, muttered Vala. You gonna ever propose to me like that? she asked Daniel then.

Daniel replied by asking, You gonna reply that enthusiastically?

'Yes!' Sam inappropriately yelled again, as if that one word was the only one she could say.

Jack smiled at her. I think we got that that's an affirmative, Sam. He quickly handed Sam the ring that Vala had let him borrow for the occasion. Sam took it, shoved it onto her finger, where it immediately fell off, due to the fact that it was two sizes too big for her. Sam replaced it, grinning a huge grin as she held it on with her other fingers.

Jack then stared at Hammond. Best man? he inquired.

You couldn't keep me away for anything, Hammond replied.

Jack next turned to Teal'c and Daniel. Groomsmen?

Daniel nodded. You bet! he said, answering for both men.

Vala said then, And I'll be the maitron of honor, and I know that Sam would ask if she could, but she apparently can't say more than 'yes' right now, so I'll save her the trouble, and just volunteer my services right now. She grinned cheerily at everyone.

Jack managed to say that Sam might want to ask Cassie to be a bridesmaid as well, but Vala interrupted him. Her cheerey grin turned cheeky as she turned to Teal'c. Does that mean I get to walk down the aisle with Muscles? Do I finally get you in my clutches?

Teal'c responded. If you do so, then I will not be held responsible for my ensuing actions.

Vala's smile slipped. Oh, well... She turned to Daniel. Do I get to walk with you?

When cows grow horns, Daniel answered in a deadpan tone of voice.

Landry helpfully informed then, Cows already grow horns, Dr. Jackson.

Daniel smiled suddenly, and responded, I know.

The End


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