Disclaimer: I don't own them, and I made no money off this fic, and really, Christopher Judge does (or did) play a Jaffa on TV, which is basically beside the point that I know that this story is only based on a show that makes lots of people besides me very wealthy, and... Well, at least I still have chocolate ice cream!

Dream Reality

by Linda Bindner

It was a Saturday night when General Jack O'Neill finally began to see the light. But he wasn't aware that anything of amazing possibilities was even happening. As far as he was concerned, he was just watching a movie with a suddenly politically minded Cassie on her first midterm break from college.

Cassie had recently been wooed and won by the Campus Democrats. And, as it was an election year, and they had all been literally inundated by political adds, smear campaigns, and negative propaganda of every kind, she decided that a purification of democratic ideals was in order. To that end, she had brought back a copy of the older movie The American President with her to Colorado Springs. And as she refused to stay in the same house as Pete Shanahan for even a minute... it was no secret that she and Pete really didn't get along. She viewed him as an interloper, and as having stolen something that she had personal dibs on. So, she stayed with Jack when she and Pete were both in town at the same time in order to keep the peace.

Thus, she was at Jack's house, alone with him for the evening (she'd already seen Sam the day before), so to fill up the empty time of 'before bed, but too early yet to go to bed,' she begged Jack to watch the movie with her in order to explain any political nuances she misunderstood. Jack grumbled, griped, loudly proclaimed that every woman in his life knew how to manipulate events to her advantage, but watched the movie with Cassie. He even enjoyed it quite a bit. But he would never tell Cassie that.

That night Jack's dreams replayed the movie, specifically the scene where, while talking to the US President, the character played by Michael J. Fox insisted that the character played by Richard Dreyfuss was the only person doing any talking before the presidential election, as the presidential incumbent/main character dude of the movie refused to get into a character debate with his main opponent over the morals of the woman he was falling in love with. So naturally, the American Public was judging a situation on the information they were receiving, but they were receiving only one side of the entire story... the wrong side. Thus, that was the problem of the whole movie. Cassie was ecstatic and fully satisfied with both the political side of the movie's plot as well as it's romantic side. She loved all of it, and was only slightly perturbed when Jack grew more and more silent as he thoughtfully watched the movie with her.

Jack awoke the morning after viewing the movie completely disgruntled. He was puzzled at the meaning behind his odd dream that he'd had. But he shook off the effects of such an innocuous thing as a dream. The dream hadn't been a nightmare, hadn't left him covered in sweat, hadn't scared him half to death, only tickled the back of his mind all day long as he went through the quieter dealings of the SGC on a Sunday. As he had taken Saturday off to spend with Cassie on her first break from college, he had agreed with himself to working on Sunday as a penance for missing work on Saturday.

He also missed Sam Carter that weekend, but she was engaged now, and to someone else, so there was little he could do about her anyway besides feel extreme sadness over her apparent need to 'find a life.' Her engagement to Shanahan was a direct result of that need within her, Jack knew.

However, it worked out best that Jack didn't have to see Sam that day, anyway, as seeing her always caused him pain that he couldn't quite hide from everyone else at the SGC.

So Jack was glad that Carter was absent from work that Sunday, but sad that she was also absent from his life. The dichotomy of emotions that he constantly suffered because of her recent decisions was confusing enough to encourage him to remain silent on voicing his opinion of her engagement, or of her ability to move on from waiting for him any longer. Thus, his unwillingness to speak his mind continued the cycle of pain and avoidance that she and he had begun years before.

But that one scene from the movie kept nagging at the back of his mind all day. The one that claimed that the Richard Dreyfuss guy was the only one doing any talking. As if the President couldn't, or wouldn't, do anything about changing the perameters of his current situation.

Except, in the end, the President did talk, and change his situation for what was definitely for the better. But that same type of thing could never happen in real life. Jack just shook his head when he thought of that idea, and sighed; Yeah, right, only in Hollywood, he thought. Since there was no point in getting so worked up about a stupid movie, he decided to continue working. If he worked hard enough, perhaps he would forget about the movie, the dream, and Carter. Yeah, right, who am I kidding?

Then, the next night, in the few hours of sleep he got after a crisis that had brewed over the new Jaffa Nation, which Teal'c was very involved in, and which he then had to become very involved in as well, he had the same dream again. Irritated now at the way the dream left him not scared out of his mind, or soaked through with sweat, but puzzled beyond belief at the situation without bothering to give him a solution to that situation, he shook his head, growled, then went back to work to escape having to think about the dream any more. Maybe his efforts would work this time as it hadn't on Sunday.

But as he worked, Jack soon found himself thinking again about the movie he'd seen. He growled some more. That dream/movie just wouldn't go away! It was plenty obvious to him the parallels between his dream situation and the current scenario he was plagued with suffering through involving Colonel Carter. Geez, he didn't need to be hit over the head with it, though!

But still Jack refused to do anything about Sam, her engagement, the way he was still in love with her, still waiting for the mythical time when she and he could be together... Now, she seemed to have successfully moved on with her engagement to Pete Shanahan. It didn't matter what he had always thought would happen between him and her. The fact was that it hadn't happened, and now never would happen if he had anything to say about it... or not say, as the case may be. Carter had made her choice in who she wanted to spend her life with. She hadn't chosen him. He had to deal with this. End of story.

Cassie just snorted in angry disbelief whenever Jack said such a thing to her. She had always maintained right from the moment when Pete Shanahan had walked into Sam Carter's life that Sam had simply been taken in by a talented salesman who seemed to have no competition, since Jack refused to speak up about his feelings for Sam. When Jack excused his actions by quoting regulations, and saying that he couldn't speak up if he didn't want to break any rules, Cassie always snorted again, saying that breaking rules had never bothered him in the past, and what the hell did he mean by staying quiet now? He was, in effect, handing over the woman he loved to another man, and refusing to fight for her at all. As far as Cassie was concerned, this made him a coward, and if he wasn't willing to do everything in his power for Sam Carter, then he didn't deserve her.

Even when Jack rebutted Cassie's argument by bringing up the excuse of a possible court-martial for Sam if he ever spoke up didn't dissuade Cassie. That was a worst case scenario, she argued, was never going to happen, not to the members of the premier team of 'the last line of defense,' and besides, Jack and Sam could both retire if necessary if a court-martial ever threatened to become reality. So he needed to come up with a better excuse than that if he wanted her to believe that staying silent was in any way proof that he cared about Sam more than he cared about the fact that he was too cowardly to say anything to stop this engagement of hers. (Cassie had the ignorance of the young that said she must never hold anything back when she was speaking her mind. Jack tried to always remember that about Cassie, and not get too angry at her for repeatedly calling him a coward. But not blowing his stack was hard.). However, unless he wanted to tell Cassie anything different, she didn't want to discuss the subject of Sam, or her engagement, with him anymore.

While Jack contemplated whether anyone would notice if Cassie was suddenly too traumatized to return to college due to his famous tickle torture, he was also still dreaming, and still puzzled by the dream enough to potentially end of his sanity. By the early morning of the day after the third repetition of his dream, where even his own mind was busy screaming at him that something was wrong with people who stayed quiet in order to maintain the comfortable familiarity in his or her personal life, he was beginning to admit to himself that perhaps his policy of no interference in Sam's life had been the wrong tact to take.

Jack thought about it that concept. Then he thought about the time several years before when Daniel had said that he had to feel something for the fact that the time loop he had been stuck experiencing over and over again had also left him free of consequences. Any decision he made, or any action he took, had been instantly wiped out of everyone else's memories by the reset of the loop. Jack recalled how frustrated he had felt with his constant looping until he had started working on the things he had always wanted but been too busy to do. Or else he had been too afraid of the consequences to experience any of them.

That memory morphed into his later memory of Daniel again bringing up the same basic idea when he was considering taking the position of General offered to him. Jack would be responsible for everything that happened in the entire SGC, and that idea terrified him, until Daniel had blithely pointed out that a General could do whatever he wanted to do. Sam had amended the idea that Jack could do what he wanted to do within reason, but now he amended her amendment by asking Who's reason? And why bother with worrying about the fetters placed on me in the first place if I don't agree with them to begin with? Shouldn't he and Sam do something about their situation instead of leaving everything going along nicely, but safely, in an the inert status quo they had already established? Shouldn't he? Wasn't he courageous enough to at least change that?

Perhaps Cassie wasn't so far off in her argument that he was acting cowardly concerning the way he'd always handled the Sam Carter issue. Maybe it was time to change his strategy?

Strategy... Tactics... That was something he could understand. So, emboldened by the questions that he was asking himself, he woke up on Wednesday morning after having experienced the same dream again, but this time upon waking, he was filled with a new sense of determination to finally do something to change his and Carter's situation. For the first time, he was going to fight for the woman he loved. But he would never tell Cassie that she had been the one who forced him to 'see the light.' (Knowing about her power to influence him might go to her head, and he couldn't live with that!)

And as he only knew how to deal with missions, and mission peramaters, he treated his sudden desire to change everything between him and Sam as just another mission. He broke down the whole into its necessary parts so that he would then be able to successfully handle them one at a time. He vowed that Pete Shanahan would never stand a chance.

The first phase of 'Operation Carter' went into effect early in the day on Wednesday. He was busy doing his paperwork... his never ending, overnight-breeding paperwork... when he received his first phone call that was all 'part of the plan.' He reached for the black phone on his desk, and answered the call as he continued splashing his signature on one form after another. O'Neill.

Sir, sorry to bother you, but this is Sergeant Anderson in the Security Office, and...

As the soldier from Security rambled on, Jack looked around his messy desk in confusion. There was another stack of forms waiting to be signed sitting somewhere near a corner of his desk... Jack was sure of it. He finally found what he was looking for, underneath the remains of his lunch, and slid the stack to him from the opposite corner of his desk than the one he'd been studying. Finally, he cut into Sergeant Anderson's explanation of something that seemed very important to demand, Describe the situation again in 100 words or less.

So Sergeant Anderson tried again, and tried to be more succinct this time. We just got some rather confusing data about the security camera in Colonel Carter's lab. The picture blinked for a second, went out, came back on, then went out for good. All we see now is static. We've been working on the problem for the last few minutes, and so far haven't figured out what's wrong... if it's the camera, or our computer system. We decided that before we go any further with repairs, we had better inform you of the situation, Sir.

Jack put his pen down on his desk top so that he could reroute all his attention to the Sergeant. Have you sent someone down to Colonel Carter's lab to make sure she's all right, and to see if this problem is something caused by whatever she's currently working on that could have unexpectedly affected the camera in her lab? It's possible that even she doesn't know what alien technology is going to do to our computerized systems.

Sergeant Anderson's voice sounded reinvigorated as she promised, We're on it, Sir.

General O'Neill let the tiniest hint of a smile curve his lips as the Sergeant spoke. Keep me apprised of the situation, Sergeant, he requested, then hung up.

Fifteen minutes later, another soldier called to inform him that the Colonel was fine, and that the project she was working on at the moment had interfered with the new Security software that had just been installed all over the base. The software had been affected by the EM field produced by the device brought back by SG-8 the previous night after Carter had left for the evening, just as O'Neill had predicted it would. That interference problem had been corrected by placing a specialized patch on the Security software that it had naturally not been delivered with. All was again as it should be. General O'Neill thanked the Airman for the update he was given, and instructed those in the Security Office to keep him informed if anything else 'weird' transpired.

And that was it.

But General O'Neill let himself send his empty office a full on grin this time. No software patch would hold up to an EM field as powerful as the one SG-8 claimed the device produced. Though Carter could easily create a patch that would permanently fix the Security software, she had to learn about the fact that her lab camera was inoperable again from an outside source, and that she needed to write a patch in the first place. And she wouldn't hear about it just yet as long as Jack had anything to say about it. And she would never think to watch her own lab's Security camera in order to make sure it was working correctly. So he was still in control of a seemingly innocent situation. Yep, 'Operation Carter' was right on schedule.

And as long as everything continued to go according to how it was predicted to go, everything about 'Operation Carter' was going exactly as he'd planned. Carter was oblivious, just as Jack wanted her to be. Perfect.

The following morning, Friday, Jack made certain that he was on the same level as Carter's lab when he got the phone call from the Security Department that the same problem with the same Security camera had happened again. We thought we had everything under control, Sergeant Sadowski stated over the line. She sounded puzzled, and slightly irritated as she went on, But I guess we need to look again. I have to tell you, Sir, that this is just too weird.

'Weird' as in I might be viewed as too weird if I err on the safe side and have someone check on Carter again, make sure she's okay? Jack asked.

It's my opinion that nothing is too far on the safe side when the weirdness of the SGC is a consideration, Sadowski replied. If someone checks on her for us, then we'll be able to stay up here with the computers to find out what's wrong. We'd all really appreciate you sending someone to check on the Colonel for us, Sir.

Jack almost couldn't contain his grin by then. He said, I happen to be on the same level as her lab...

Like clockwork, the Sergeant interrupted him. That would be great, Sir, especially since you're already on her lab's level. Or you can send someone else if you're busy. Either way, it would save us several minutes of work time.

Will do, O'Neill answered. You guys send me some cake or pie from the Commissary, and we have a deal.

Sadowski chuckled. Sure thing, General.

Checking on Carter, or even sending someone else to look in on her, is certainly no hardship on my part, Jack responded. I'll surely send someone by in order to defend her from all alien incursions we come across, he promised in a lighthearted tone of voice.

That would be a load of our minds, General. Thank you.

I'll call you back when I know for sure everything is A-Okay. With that, Jack hung up the corridor extension he was speaking on, and turned towards Carter's lab. Yep, everything was going along just beautifully. He deserved a metal for this kind of tactical manipulation, O'Neill decided as he began sauntering down the corridor.

Five minutes later, Jack sauntered right into Carter's lab in all his unannounced glory.

Carter looked up, called, Sir? in her best interrogative voice, and straightened minutely on the stool she was sitting on.

At ease, Carter, Jack called back, teasing her with his use of the military protocol that they were well beyond by this point in their stagnant relationship. Security camera is out again. The Security Office just wanted me to make sure you haven't been taken over by an alien entity or anything. He casually placed his hand on the door of her lab as he spoke.

Carter grinned at him. Well, you can see that I'm free of any pesky aliens, there are no viruses here, no time loops... In fact, there's nothing. I'm perfectly fine, Sir.

Great, Jack enthused, then finished closing the lab's door to the shut and locked position. Then there's nothing I have to worry about, is there?

Carter now appeared confused at his odd actions. She slid off the stool she was sitting on, but stood tensed at combat readiness in case he had been taken over by an alien entity, and the use of force suddenly became necessary. Then what's wrong, General? she asked, fully aware how strange his behavior seemed, but still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt unless she had to defend herself against an alien incursion of some kind.

The general in Jack was glad to see that Sam was willing to defend herself, even against her friends whom she automatically trusted with more than her own life. The man in Jack was also glad the time had come to take action of some kind versus the years of inaction he had thought he'd had to suffer through.

Relax, Carter, Jack ordered as he walked purposefully around her worktable.

Is something wrong? she repeated, her voice still displaying her inner confusion.

Nope, he jocularly replied. In fact, things my be right for the first time in years.

And with that statement, he strode directly into her personal space, wrapped his left arm around her lower back, threaded his right fingers through her blond hair, just as he had always dreamed of doing, and whispered, You're so beautiful it's totally amazing the every man or woman on this base isn't also head over heals in love with you like I am. But then, there's no accounting for personal taste, is there? As he spoke, he dropped the shields he had always maintained around her and let his feelings shine through in his eyes like never before. He went on to slowly draw nearer to her, and to whisper, Thank God for personal taste.

Then Jack affectionately kissed her full on the mouth. Then he smiled at her in lazy, sanguine enjoyment as her amazement at his behavior gave way to her own powerful, if denied, emotions for him.

Then he kissed her again, this time much more passionately. He held nothing back with this second kiss, overwhelming her in seconds with the full force of his emotions for her. At first, she resisted his overture, or tried to, as he had expected her to. She had been too taken off guard by his first kiss to give much of a reaction. But, even as she tried to employ the feeble resistance against him that she clearly felt she had to use, it didn't take long before his second kiss pushed her defenses aside, and she was giving in to his passionate kiss, and kissing him back, communicating her own feelings for him through the gesture she and he were privately sharing in her deserted, unwatched laboratory.

Jack felt it the instant it happened. Carter melted against him, overcome by her own turbulent emotions for him that must be consuming her by now. She pulled his head closer to her by placing one arm on his back, and one on his head as she finally completely gave in to her emotions and kissed him back with everything in her. She pulled all of him even closer to her yet, dissolving into the entire length of him, seeming to want to become part of him if she could only hold him tightly enough.

Softly, gently, Jack pulled back a minute later. He was breathless, just as overcome as she was. His heartbeat thundered in his chest, and his stomach was still turning flips that practically incapacitated him so much that he had to clear his throat before continuing to speak to her in a low voice.

Just wanted you to know what you're missing, he whispered. And that I love you, even if, deep down, you already know that. But there's no substitute for saying it, is there? He slowly, reluctantly, pulled away from her embrace, feeling cold the second he parted from her, but forcing himself to go on. I just wanted you to know, he whispered to her once more. He kissed her again, more platonically, but still plenty affectionately, then backed away. Carter saw the familiar shutters fall back into place across his eyes, hiding his feelings for her again from anyone on base who might see. With one last look of longing, and one final sigh of regret, he whispered, Later... Sam.

Jack gently ran his right finger down her cheek, sighed once more, shut his eyes on her form, then purposefully strode back to the door he'd shut only moments before. He unlocked it, opened it, and disappeared down the corridor without looking back.

Heaving in air like she was starving, Sam Carter watched him vanish from her lab. Still melted into a relaxed puddle of goo, Carter sagged against the stool at her back, and whispered to herself, Holy Hannah.

Not once in the past several moments, when she was in effect cheating on her fiancÚ with another man by kissing Jack like she'd just done... Not once had she even remembered about Pete Shanahan. And what does that tell you? she asked herself.

It told her that she needed to be equally as determined as Jack had just been with her that Jack shouldn't disappear from her life as easily as he'd disappeared from her lab.

It was clear, and she couldn't hide from the truth any longer: She was in love with Jack, a man who was not her fiancÚ, and she had to do something drastic about her situation, and soon. Pete would definitely not be happy with her, or with how things had come about so suddenly, but everything was so much more obvious now.

There were really only two things that she could do at this point, she admitted to herself. She sappily... happily... goofily... sighed once, her voice echoing in the quiet of the lab as she spoke the one sentence that she was currently capable of speaking. You have great taste, Jack, she whispered to the empty room.

Then she simply reached for her coat, and left.

* * *

That very night, Sam appeared, completely unannounced, at Jack's front door. The second he pulled the door open for her, she thrust a piece of paper at him without saying a word of explanation.

Puzzled, Jack took the paper from her in a sense of stupefaction. What's this? he asked.

As if you can't guess, Carter said back.

Jack's features fell into lines of consternation, but he also wasn't really surprised by her actions. He'd done the same thing that very afternoon, after all. He read through her letter. Then his brow wrinkled, This is a letter of resignation, Carter, he announced.

She nodded. Yep, it is. I typed it up, then called General Hammond this afternoon. He was very confused as to why I suddenly want to resign, and why I wasn't following the appropriate chain of command with my bid for resignation, but he only pointed out that he'd always thought that I loved my job, and that resigning was the last thing he expected me to do. I said that I did love my job, but that I love you more. And he didn't have any way to argue against that. So he accepted my resignation, and started the paperwork through the system today. In another week, I should be good and retired, which is probably what you already guessed. She didn't add a 'Sir' to her explanation, something that didn't get by O'Neill.

Okaaaaay.., he said, sounding confused, but in actuality, not confused at all. He reached down to the small table resting beside the door, where he kept his truck keys, lifted a sheet of paper, then said, Here's my letter, if you want to read it. I'm retiring, too.

She took the letter into her hand, read through it, then almost absently added, Oh, and by the way, I broke it off with Pete today. He was a bit upset at the suddenness of all this, but really, what else could I do? There was absolutely no comparison to how he makes me feel versus how you make me feel. It's like comparing a sandwich with a steak. I'd rather have steak, I think.

Jack slowly grinned. As he pulled her towards him in his entryway, leaving the door gaping wide open, for the first time not caring who saw what happen between the two of them, he tenderly said, I've never been compared to steak before.

Smiling now as well, Carter wrapped her own arms around him, securing him to her. There's a first time for everything, she said, and kissed him like she'd always wanted to do.

The End

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