Chapter 1: Prologue
A/N: Welcome to the sequel to "Supposed Crime" – if you haven't read "Supposed Crime" click your back button and do so now. Otherwise, please remain seated until…oh wrong spiel – this one is inspired by the song "Front Row" by Alanis (I figured since the last one was Alanis, I should stick with her) – great song to listen to, but she has some background lyrics that you'll only find if you look them up on the internet. So without further ado: the prologue…
When Colonel Dixon stepped through the Stargate he was expecting a routine mission. Of course, as soon as the gliders showed up he realized he should have known better as the problem with traveling to other worlds was that nothing was ever routine. The last time they gathered soil samples they ended up fighting for their lives as an alien organism slowly made them grow fur… in their throats. Breathing was a bitch, but besides having a tube jammed in his throat, he figured it was probably milder on his list of weird things that had happened to him.
"What the hell…" he muttered as the dove for cover. "Seriously. How the hell does anyone know about this planet? It's a damn backwater planet according to the damn Tok'Ra." His rant was overshadowed by the scream of the glider soaring over them. Dave wanted nothing more than to stand up and give whatever Jaffa was in there the finger.
He motioned for his team to head through the woods towards the encampment the UAV had picked up on before they came through. The pictures showed basic homes and so they weren't really planning on seeing any activity. That should have been his first clue. Now their mission had changed from exploration and first contact to rescue. They had to get the people out of there before they were slaughtered by whatever Goa'uld was up there. It especially sucked because Wells was still out of commission.
The small village came into view and they started towards the first house. Kicking it open they found a small family huddling. "Balinsky, start getting people to the Stargate. As soon as you get there, open up and tell them to expect refugees." The man nodded and immediately sprung into action as Dave and Robert Bosworth started towards the next house. They entered and found it empty so they quickly moved forward. That's when Dave's heart stopped.
One of Anubis' super soldiers stood in the middle of the town and easily gunned down three unsuspecting villagers who were trying to escape. Dave was a soldier, hard core and special ops trained, but the super soldiers put the fear of God in him, especially without anything to take them down. Hitting his radio he called to Balinsky. "We need backup, we have super soldiers." He looked at Bosworth and motioned for him to stay low as they moved to the next home. They had to sneak in through the back and when they did they found themselves behind a petite woman trying to quiet a crying infant.
"Ma'am. We're friends. We need you to come with us."
The woman froze and didn't move. The child continued to cry.
Dave tried again. "Ma'am, we don't have time. That soldier out there is hell-bent on killing every last one of you. If you want to live, you'll come with me."
She started to turn around slowly and Dave's eyes went wide while Bosworth's face paled.
"Hot damn," was all Dave could think to say.
Chapter 2: Prologue
The klaxons were a welcome interruption to Colonel Jack O'Neill's report writing. General Hammond was generally lenient on the deadline for his reports because they were the flagship team and it wasn't unusual for them to get pulled away at a moment's notice. However Jack didn't have that excuse this time and he knew Hammond would expect it on his desk at 0800 the next morning. The report writing was even harder because it had to be typed up and despite years of doing reports, he'd just never really mastered typing. He could do it, of course, just not very quickly.
Clicking save (he'd learned the hard way when the electrical entity had taken over Carter and shut down his Word document before he'd remembered to click the little icon), he left his small office and started towards the control room. Sam was already there and he suspected she'd probably been there when the wormhole opened. Daniel and Teal'c came up not a few minutes later as Walter announced that it was SG-13's iris code.
"Open the iris," Hammond ordered.
Balinsky's voice came through the comm. "We are under attack, I repeat, we are under attack. Sending through refugees. Medical teams standby!"
Jack and the rest of SG-1 headed down to the gate room to assist with the chaos that started up as soon as the first refugee came through. A medical team seemed to appear out of nowhere and immediately began ushering the various men, women, and children towards the corridor. Finally Balinsky came through with the last of them.
"Where's Dixon and Bosworth!" Jack called up the ramp.
"They radioed and said they were on their way. It was Anubis! There were super soldiers everywhere," he gasped in sheer panic as he met Jack at the bottom of the ramp. Jack swore under his breath.
"Let's get these people out of here! Someone grab the new gun so we can make sure we don't have a super soldier rampage!" Jack ordered and several men took position with guns.
"This is Colonel Dixon, we are coming through. Repeat, we are coming through. We have a super soldier on our ass, so don't be shy in closing that iris!"
Seconds later Colonel Dixon, his arm around a cloaked woman, came through followed by Bosworth. "Close the iris! Close the damn iris!" he hollered and he ducked as one shot came through before the metallic scraping of the iris rang through the room. Jack saw the shaken look on Dave's face and felt a measure of sympathy. Anubis' super soldiers were badass enough to scare the shit out of the most hardened soldier, especially when conventional weapons were useless.
"Holy Hannah," Sam blurted out from behind Jack. He had been so engrossed in his own thoughts he hadn't noticed the sound of a baby crying and he hadn't noticed the cloak falling from the strange visitor's head. "Janet?" she breathed.
The petite woman let her cloak drop as she tried to reposition the baby in her arms. If Jack had to guess he would have pegged the child to be around three or four months old and from the sound of the cry, it was either hungry, tired, or both. Janet slowly walked down to a stunned SG-1, holding the upset babe close to her.
"I'm Janet Frasier. I'm from an alternate universe. My Samantha Carter said I needed to be aware of entropic cascade failure…" she flitted over faces and paused. "I need to know, Sam, do you have a child?"
Sam's mouth moved silently before she was able to choke out a response. "No. No I don't have any children. Or you. I mean, you aren't here. Anymore."
There seemed to be a look of understanding in Janet's eyes but if she wanted further clarification, she was willing to wait. Tiny cries kept the room from falling into an awkward silence. "Can I get some formula? He's hungry."
One of the nurses, Susan, reached out to take the child from Janet, but the doctor pulled back slightly. "He stays with me. I'll go the infirmary, I know that's what you want, but please, bring some formula so I can feed him." Susan nodded and stepped back. Janet moved past her coldly and Daniel had a confused look cross his face, but said nothing as they followed her out and towards the infirmary.
Personnel froze in place as they walked through the corridors, but Janet maintained a stoic demeanor, refusing to acknowledge anyone. There were hushed murmurs as she walked into the infirmary and it wasn't until she was seated on a bed that her façade cracked to show her weariness, her sorrow, and her fears.
"So what's his name?" Sam asked trying to break the awkwardness.
"David Paul…" she paused and looked at Jack. "O'Neill." Teal'c raised an eyebrow and Sam felt like kicking herself. In every universe her and Jack were together and on some level she felt she should have seen it coming. She felt torn between stealing a glance at her commanding officer and moving closer to study the baby more fully. Would he have brown eyes yet? Choosing the former she realized he was lost in his own stunned world and her heart constricted. Regardless of the fact that he'd lost his son, he was still a father, she could see it in his gaze. His fingers twitched and she knew he wanted to hold his son, even if it wasn't technically his son.
"Jack and Sam were married, I take it?" Daniel deduced. Sam noticed Janet licked her lips (a tell that she had picked up when her and Janet played cards).
"Yes." The mousy woman avoided Sam's eyes. "Sir, would you like to hold him?"
Jack stepped forward and expertly took the boy from a reluctant Janet. The cries he had been screaming (which had been more like screamlets) quieted to a whimper. Susan appeared with a bottle which he took and gave to the child. David sucked down greedily.
"It seems you are quite adept with babies, O'Neill," Teal'c observed with a faint Jaffa smile.
"I guess it's like riding a bike, T." Jack's brown eyes never left the baby. "You never really forget how it's done."
"I figured this could take a while, so I decided to come down here," came the thick Texan drawl. "I want explanations."
With her arms now empty Janet fiddled with the hem of her peasant shirt. "Our planet was attacked by Anubis and we couldn't get to the Stargate in time. We'd acquired a second quantum mirror some years back that Sam had been working on and so I managed to sneak in and turn it on while the others tried to make it." Her eyes began to water, but she blinked her tears back. "Only Colonel O'Neill, Sam, and David made it. The rest of them died trying…" Her voice cracked and she took in a deep breath.
"You're telling me that we have twins running around in this reality?" Jack pressed.
Janet shook her head. "No. I'm sure they're dead. They went to destroy the quantum mirror. Sam gave me David and told me to do whatever I had to do to keep him safe. So I hid while they fought. I think they were trying to lure one of the soldiers to the mirror to use his weapon to destroy it. The mirror is extremely difficult to destroy." A tear escaped and slid down her cheek. Sam reached out and squeezed her arm.
"You did the right thing. Someone had to protect the baby." She found it difficult to talk about David because on one hand it was biologically her child, but on the other hand, she'd never given birth.
"We'll send a team through just as soon as we know it's safe to recover the bodies. Is there anything else we should look for?" General Hammond inquired, his voice gentle as he tried to be mindful of the grief Janet was experiencing.
She nodded. "Sam had a notebook with some notes about the mirror and there were several discs with her theories and calculations. She worked on it for the better part of her time at the SGC."
"I'm curious. Why do you think Anubis attacked that planet? Doesn't it seem odd? As far as we knew it was a backwater planet with limited technology," Daniel pointed out.
"It is possible, Daniel Jackson, that there was a traitor in their midst that recognized Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter but did not realize they were from an alternate reality," Teal'c posited.
"I suppose that's possible," Janet agreed, although she didn't sound entirely convinced. "Would it be okay if I took a shower?" she asked rather suddenly. Another, older nurse nearby nodded in permission.
"I'll take you to the locker room," Sam volunteered and the two exited together, leaving the rest of SG-1 to try to make sense of a very strange situation.
After Sam had helped Janet find some BDUs that would fit her and lent her some of her bath toiletries, she made her way to the commissary. On one hand, she was thrilled at the prospect of having her friend back. On the other, she felt a tension that made her wonder if the other Janet had been through too much to be able to slip comfortably into a life that wasn't hers. She had a lot of questions like, did Cassie exist in her reality? Was she her mother? She poked her jell-o with her spoon and sighed. Cassie hadn't been taking Janet's death very well and Sam felt like an absentee parent. She suspected the girl was drinking, but unfortunately she wasn't around enough to try to gather enough evidence and it was tearing her apart.
"Orange today?" Jack's voice held a playful quality to it, even if there was a hint of tension between them due to Janet's earlier revelation.
"All out of blue. I should probably complain," she retorted with a smile. "Although I don't suppose it matters much since it doesn't seem like I'm eating it."
"I have to admit I don't have much of an appetite myself," he answered looking down at his lemon meringue pie. "Teal'c apparently has the knack for putting babies to sleep." There was a short silence. "Feels kinda weird doesn't it?"
"I think that's the understatement of the year, sir." She sighed. "I feel like I have a thousand problems running through my head and I don't know where to start."
Jack leaned back in his chair, "Like what?"
"Like what to tell Cass. Like what we're going to do with the bab… David. How am I going to tell Pete?" At the mention of her boyfriend's name, Jack's shoulders tensed up just a bit. "I found a condom in the bathroom trashcan."
"What?" The switch caught him off guard.
"I think Cassie had a boy over while we were off-world last week. I really suck at this mom thing. How the hell am I supposed to deal with a baby?"
"There's a big difference between inheriting a teenager that's lost two mothers in her lifetime, not to mention her entire world, and has to pretend that she's from Canada of all places and getting a baby who probably can't tell the difference between you and Bizarro Carter."
She wrinkled her nose. "I know, I'm just used to being good at the things I do. That's why I like math. You either get it right or get it wrong."
"And parenting isn't quantifiable. I get it. But trust me, no one can suck at it more than I did," he said, his voice lowering and his eyes shifting downward. He cleared his throat. "I'd better go finish my reports. Hope you have better luck with your jell-o."
"Bye, sir." She watched him walk away and felt a pang of deep sympathy for him. His attitude was so snarky and irreverent she often forgot that he was using to hide a guilty conscience and a feeling of utter failure.
A bassinet had been found and rolled into the VIP quarters where Janet was staying. Although she was more than certain that this Jack and Sam were much like her own, she felt protective of David as though he were the last connection to a life that now seemed almost dreamlike. Had she really once been chief medical officer? Had Dave Dixon and Paul Davis given their lives for them? In her dreams she saw their faces and she felt bitterly alone.
David was sleeping peacefully after another bottle. It surprised her how maternal she had become, especially for a child that wasn't even her own, although she had been a mother to Cassie, so she supposed it was natural. Things would get figured out as time went on, but part of her worried that somehow she would have to be a mother to this baby. Everything about that seemed wrong to her. Jack and Sam existed in this universe and while she knew in her mind that they weren't her Jack and Sam, keeping David seemed out of the question. A knock on the door made Janet jump slightly and she called out "Come in!"
Sam walked into the room and noticed the sleeping baby. She smiled warily at David, her apprehension obvious. "I came to see how you were doing," she said softly. "It's been a crazy day."
Janet gave her a tight lipped smile. "It has been. We could probably take a short walk if you wanted; he's been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now." Sam nodded and the two exited with a nod to the SF outside the door.
"How long have I been dead?" she started, breaking the silence. "Everyone around here acts like they've seen a ghost when I walk by."
"A month. I think people were just starting to get used to not seeing you in the infirmary when they came in."
"I see," she responded. "How's Cassie?"
"Misses you. I think she's getting herself into trouble and I can't seem to figure out what to do," Sam confessed, avoiding eye contact.
Janet nodded. "Can I ask you a personal question?"
"How close are you and Colonel O'Neill?"
She didn't miss how red Sam's cheeks got or the embarrassed smile on her face. "We're friends I suppose. I mean we've seen combat together so we're close in that regard. It's definitely a bonding experience when you face death together."
"Sam, if you're sleeping with him, I already know," she stated point blank. "My Sam started sleeping with Colonel O'Neill almost four years ago."
They came to a dead stop as Sam looked at her with wide blue eyes. "I'm not sleeping with Colonel O'Neill. In fact, I'm seeing someone right now."
"Oh," Janet answered looking mildly ashamed. "I'm sorry, I guess I just thought… you just seemed so uncomfortable with the question, I guess I assumed. I shouldn't have."
The pace started up slowly again before Sam spoke. "They were sleeping together? Was I… was she military?"
"Yes," the petite woman answered, sucking in a deep breath. "They were together despite the regulations. None of us knew. They were extremely discreet."
"I guess it hit the fan when she discovered she was pregnant."
"It did. Colonel O'Neill was pulled from SG-1 and bore the brunt of the punishment. You were pulled off due to your pregnancy, not that any of that mattered of course. Anubis attacked before it all took effect." She licked her lips and Sam sighed in resignation.
"What aren't you telling me?"
"Something else happened. I want to know what," Sam pressed in a strong tone.
"I don't want to talk about it," Janet replied. "Look, it's late. I'm tired. I've lost two friends, and now I have a baby I have to take care of. I'd like to get some sleep."
Sam relented and took her back to her room. Janet said goodnight and Sam wandered through the corridors trying to digest the information that the doctor had given her. That she had a son with Jack O'Neill would be hard enough to explain to Pete; if he ever found out that the baby was a result of a clandestine relationship, he'd never want to continue a relationship with her. She had always felt as though it were time paradoxes that were the headache, but now she was starting to wonder if it was the alternate reality instead.
Jack stared at his deceased counterpart before reaching out a finger and poking his cheek.
"Sir!" Sam exclaimed.
"What!" he replied, shoving his hands in his pockets while looking like a kid who's mom had just told him to stop touching things. "He's me or I'm him… he's dead, so who cares?"
The bodies were badly bruised with cuts and wounds all over. They were covered to their shoulders so only their heads were showing which hid the burn holes from the super soldier weapons. Colonel Dixon had been able to confirm that the quantum mirror was destroyed and so Janet took a little comfort in knowing they had carried out their last act.
"I can't believe they're really gone," she murmured, her eyes watering. "Everything I know is gone!" Tears flowed freely down her cheeks and Daniel wrapped an arm around her, holding her while she sobbed. The others looked uncomfortable, unsure as to handle the weeping woman who reminded them of the one they lost and yet seemed so incredibly different. Sam moved towards the petite woman and motioned to Daniel to let her take over. He let go and she moved the woman out the door into the corridor.
"Talk to me Janet. Tell me what's going on."
"They loved each other, Sam. It was hard and they lost everything, but at the end of the day they had each other," she whispered. She sniffled and vainly tried to blink back the storm of tears. "I lost everyone I loved. Sam, Daniel, Teal'c, Cassie… Oh God, Cassie." The sobbing started anew and she gathered Janet into a hug. "They killed her. They murdered my baby."
Terror pierced through Sam and she pulled back. "Who murdered Cassie?"
"You said they murdered your baby. Who killed Cassie?"
Janet shook her head. "It doesn't matter. It's different here. Everything's different."
"We don't know that," she chided, trying to nudge her in the right direction. "What if there are people here but we don't know because our Janet's dead."
"She never told me, you know," Janet said, changing the subject. "Sam never told me that she was sleeping with Jack." The use of the Colonel's first name surprised Sam, but only for a moment. "I'd try to set her up and she always begged off. When I found out… I found out after she was… that's neither here nor there. I guess I thought we were friends. I thought she would have known that she could trust me."
"I'm sure she did. I mean, if they were sneaking around she probably didn't want to get you into trouble," Sam explained, feeling strange at trying to justify her counterpart's actions. "And yes, things are different here, but there's a lot that's the same. Cassie, me… I mean we're here and we're alive and you don't have to worry about secrets because I'm not with Colonel O'Neill."
Unexpectedly Janet reached up and hugged Sam. "It may have been against regs, but it was right. The two of them, I mean. When we were on the planet together, it was like they spoke their own language. It's so unfair that they had to die. They deserved a break, you know?"
Sam gave her a tight smile. "Why don't we go get some food? Teal'c is a great babysitter and can probably stand David for another hour."
"That sounds good. Maybe you can tell me more about Cass. You think she'd want to see me?"
Putting her arm around Janet's shoulders Sam gave her a genuine smile. "I'm absolutely sure of it."
Chapter 3: Erasable
David was crying again and Janet tried desperately to soothe him. His diaper was dry, he'd refused the bottle, and no amount of rocking or pacing or singing could quiet him. For the past week she had tried to put her emotions on hold as she dealt with the tiny baby, but now, as she swayed from side to side, she found herself unable to hold back tears.
"Why won't you stop crying?" she pleaded between sniffles. "I know you miss your mommy and daddy. I miss them too. I'm so sorry." Salty drops started streaming down her face uncontrollably and she collapsed on the bed with the infant who only cried harder. Was this what new moms felt like? Her hair was put up in a ponytail, her face was pale, her eyes were dark, and her shirt was covered with spit-up. SG-1 had been called off world and Janet had found herself alone. A sharp knock startled her and she stood up and vainly tried to wipe the streaks from her face.
"Come in," she called and she was surprised to see Dave Dixon walk into the room carrying a bag.
"I figured he'd need some clothes and some other random things. Seeing as I have five kids we managed to pull some stuff out of storage which is a relief for me. Damn storage unit is getting too full." He hoisted the bag on his shoulder. "Sounds like he's got a pair of lungs on him," he said as he walked in. He took a double take of her expression. "You doing okay, Doc?"
Unable to lie she shook her head and started crying again. Dave crossed the room quickly and plucked the screaming baby out of her arms. Janet normally found herself fighting anyone except SG-1 taking David, but somehow, she just didn't have the energy to argue. "I can't get him to stop crying. Everything I do is wrong. I checked him out, I had the nurses check him out, I fed him, I changed him; what the hell am I missing?"
"Well I think you know the big one," he commented as he bounced David up and down. The cries abated slightly, but there was still apparently some discomfort for the child. "Does he do okay with Jack or Major Carter?"
"Sam seems spooked by David but he seems to recognize her. Jack comes by every chance he gets, which unfortunately hasn't been much."
"It's okay to let him cry you know," Dave responded as he stroked David's nearly bald head. "My first one had to cry for fifteen minutes before she'd fall asleep. Same for number two, but my first boy, well, if he started crying it just worked him up. He cried because something was bothering him."
"How do you know?"
Dave shrugged. "You learn. You have a few sleepless nights, a few meltdowns of your own, and a stiff drink, and eventually you and the kid come to an understanding." He studied Janet for a moment. "Look, I've got some paperwork to do and I'll just be putzing around the base today. Why don't I take this little guy and you have the day to yourself?"
She bit her lip, but gave no protest. Dave walked over to the bag, opened it, and pulled out a Baby Bjorn. Gently he laid the whimpering infant on the bed and Janet cringed a little as the wails started back up, but within moments, Dave had the babe strapped in.
"Get some sleep, Doc, okay?"
"I will," she answered. She hesitated for a moment but called out. "Colonel Dixon?" The man spun around to meet her gaze. "They named him after you." Dave gave her a soft smile before walking out. The silence as the cries became distant was welcome and exhausted, Janet climbed into her bed and dozed off.
It lit up. That was about as far as Sam had gotten in the three hours that she'd had the device SG-5 had brought back. Secretly she wondered if it was the alien equivalent of a lava lamp, pretty but basically useless. So far everything they'd found had some function, but surely Earth was not the only planet that created objects purely for aesthetic purposes. An image flashed in her mind of Asgard looking aliens studying a lava lamp trying desperately to figure out the greater function. A small giggle escaped her lips as she flipped the device off again.
"Is it a telepathic joke telling machine?" Jack asked as he walked into her lab.
Sam glanced up and sighed. "I wish. Tell me you have something more interesting, sir."
He shook his head. "I'm bored out of my mind. Daniel kicked me out. David is sleeping. You're next."
Her muscles tensed at the mention of David. Janet had requested her to come and see him several times, but she begged off with excuses of missions, reports, and alien artifacts. The other woman knew Sam was avoiding both her and the baby but she seemed to be okay letting Sam set the pace at which she warmed up to him.
"I think he has your brain," he commented as he rolled a small sphere around in his hand. "I swear I can hear him crunching numbers when he looks at me."
"I doubt that sir," she replied with a grin. She flipped the switch on her device again. Still glowed blue. She bit her lip and hit the switch again.
Jack paused with the ball in his left hand. "Doc said you haven't come by."
"I'm not ready," she confessed. "I'm not quite sure I'm ready to accept the reality that David brings with him."
"We can always let someone adopt him, Carter. You don't have to be a mom if you don't want to," he assured, leaning against the lab table.
She studied his brown eyes for a minute. "What about you?"
"I don't know yet. Personally I'd like to find a way to still be a part of his life, but it's only been a week. We've got time to figure it out."
Inhaling deeply, Sam averted her eyes as she tried to figure out how to reveal to him the information Janet had told her. "They were together. The other us."
"Yes. I know that. Baby, duh," he teased. "I didn't think I'd have to explain that part of it to you."
"No I mean… ugh," she muttered. "They weren't married. It was an affair, sir. They were having an affair, breaking the regs."
Jack dropped his eyes and put the orb down. "Oh."
"Did she think we were… you know?"
Her cheeks reddened. "Yeah, but I set her straight. Told her about Pete." She risked a glance at Jack's face and she felt her heart pound as his eyes bored into hers. The intensity made her breath catch and she had to look away. "Speaking of Pete, I don't know how I'm going to tell him."
"You don't have to tell him everything. Just like we don't have to put everything in our reports," he stated with a low voice. "Does he want kids?"
"I don't know. I think so; he seems to be really good with them. Our relationship isn't that old which is why I'm sort of nervous."
She noticed how tense his shoulders were and the way he avoided meeting her eyes. "I think you ought to talk to Daniel. Maybe he has some insight. I have some paperwork I have to catch up on," he said suddenly. "I'll catch you later, Carter."
The abrupt end of their conversation left her feeling extremely unsatisfied and had completely shot her ability to focus on the alien lava lamp any further. Her conversation with Jack kept replaying itself in her head and with a sense of resignation she decided perhaps it was time to give David more than a passing glance. A knot in her stomach kept her body locked tight as she made her way the VIP quarters. She rapped on the door and took a deep breath to try to calm her nerves.
"Sam!" Janet exclaimed with surprise. "Come in."
She walked in and gave a tight smile. "I know you've been asking me to come for a while and I thought I ought to."
David was lying on his tummy on a blue blanket on the floor trying desperately to figure out how to get the tiger striped teething ring just out of his reach. Frustrated gurgles were made and saliva dripped from his lip. On the desk was a freshly prepared bottle.
"He's hungry, you want to feed him?" she asked, picking up David who forgot about the toy as soon as he saw the bottle in Janet's hand. Before she could protest, the babe was placed in her arms.
"I don't know about this. I've never done this before. I mean, I've been around babies, but never really taken care of them," she explained feeling flustered.
"Sit down on the bed, it'll be easier. I'll get you a burp cloth," the petite woman said and soon Sam found herself holding a bottle in her right hand and cradling David in the other. She put the bottle to his mouth and he started to suck, his big brown eyes staring up at her.
Janet sat down across from her on the bed and watched her for a moment. "See, not so hard."
"He has the Colonel's eyes," Sam remarked letting herself get lost in gazing at her alternate's son.
"They just went brown about a month ago. I'm glad you came by, I think he's noticed that no one smells like you."
"How can I even smell like me? We're from different realities," she answered, looking at her friend. "This is all so surreal."
"You're telling me."
"Colonel O'Neill said we could put him up for adoption if neither of us could take him."
Janet froze before regaining composure. "I don't think that's a good idea. I mean, he's from another reality and we don't know what the repercussions of that are going to be. He needs to stay with you and Jack."
"Nothing's for sure, I guess I just wanted you to be aware that it was on the table."
David finished drinking and Sam held him to her shoulder. This much she knew from watching other people and gently she pat his back and was rewarded with an unnaturally loud belch. A small coo escaped the baby's lips and Sam brought him back down so she could continue to look at him. As she watched him, a thought occurred to Sam and she gave Janet a warm expression.
"You want to go topside and get some coffee?"
"I would love some good coffee," Janet replied and together the two women with David left the room.
Coffee with Janet had been just like old times and Sam was finding it hard to think of this Janet as being from another universe. She put her key in the lock and opened the door. The sound of soft sobbing greeted Sam's ears as she entered her house. She followed the sound to Cassie's bedroom where she found the girl with tears streaming down her face clutching her pillow. Mascara had pooled under eyes and she barely acknowledged Sam as the woman sat down next to her on her full size bed. Without a word Sam rubbed her back and drew her close, comforting her with her touch.
"He broke up with me," Cassie finally said, wiping her eyes and sniffling. "Bryan broke up with me."
A pang struck Sam's heart as she saw the agony the girl was suffering. "I'm sorry, Cass. I know that's hard," she empathized, continuing to stroke the girl's hair.
The teenager shook her head. "This is different Sam. This time I was stupid. He said he loved me and I was feeling so sad and lonely… I know I should have talked to you, I'm so sorry." The tears started to flow anew and she buried her face in Sam's shirt. "I'm so sorry."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Cassie's bottom lip trembled as she met Sam's eyes. "I only did it once. It wasn't even that good."
"The first time usually isn't," she said knowingly. "I get it, Cass. I'm only disappointed that you didn't feel you could come to me about what you were feeling. I know I've been busy and I'm sorry that I wasn't here for you."
"You're really not angry?" The girl sniffled again. "I thought you would be really mad."
Brushing a lock of hair from Cassie's face and tucking it behind her ear, Sam gave her a small smile. "I was a teenager once too. A teenager without a lot of supervision and no mom."
"Did you… you know?"
Sam shook her head. "I tended to keep to myself. I was too busy trying to be strong for Mark and Dad and being the 'mom' of the house. I remember how I felt though, how lonely I was. I ended up getting involved with a guy I shouldn't have when I went to the Academy," Sam confessed remembering her broken engagement. "I'd spent so much time being lonely I fell for the first guy that didn't seem intimidated by my brain."
"What do I do now?"
"You cry. You live and learn," she said with compassion. "On a practical note, I found a condom so I know you used protection. At least you were smart about it."
She nodded in response, feeling comforted by Sam's reassurances. "Thanks for talking with me. I've missed Mom so much… I've learned my lesson though. I'm going to wait until I'm ready next time."
"That's my girl," Sam encouraged, giving her a hug. "Pete's coming into town tonight. I'm having dinner with him, but I'll get him to stay in a hotel so you and I can hang out tonight. I think I have a bottle of wine and I'll pick up some ice cream."
"You don't have to, I'll be okay."
"You may not have lived with me the last few years, but I love you like you were my daughter. You might be all right, but I'm going to take care of you. So let me okay?"
"Okay," Cassie answered. Then she wrinkled her nose. "Pete's not going to mind is he?"
"No, he'll understand."
"That's good I suppose."
Sam pulled back a little. "I thought you liked Pete."
"I do, he's nice, but… well…he's kinda dumb," Cass admitted with a small cringe.
"Cass! He is not dumb."
"If you say so."
Sam rolled her eyes at the teenager before giving her a light smack on the arm and getting up. "He's a good guy. You just don't appreciate his sense of humor. Now I'm going to get ready." She left Cass's room and went to her own bedroom to try to figure out what she was going to wear for the evening. She had hoped to tell the teen about Janet, but she wasn't sure throwing a second shock on the girl's system was the best thing to do. Hopefully she'd have better luck with Pete.
Pete took Sam to an expensive Italian restaurant which Sam thought was sweet considering she had asked him to stay at a motel. He had been more than understanding and didn't press for details when Sam said it had to do with "girl issues." He said that experience had taught him that for him that was code word for something really gross. Sam pushed her pasta around her plate trying to figure out how to tell him about David. Pete was talking about some homicide he'd been assigned and how frustrating it was to have to deal with drug related murders.
"Pete, I need to tell you something and it isn't easy," Sam started as Pete broke from talking to eat some of his food that had remained untouched thus far.
The man froze in mid-bite and then lowered his fork back down. "What's going on? We're not about to be, you know…" he lowered his voice. "Invaded?"
Sam leveled her gaze and then gave him a smile. "No, no, everything's fine in that regard, but it does have to do with work. Have you ever heard about alternate realities?"
"Didn't they have an episode like that on Star Trek? Like Spock was sporting a wicked mustache and was all evil?"
"Kind of like that. Scientists theorize that for every decision we come to, reality diverges and continues as an alternate reality, so instead of it being a straight line, reality is in fact like a tree, branching out in seemingly infinite directions."
"Okay, I think I'm following. So like when I was trying to figure out between the chicken Marsala and the lasagna, there's some reality where I chose the lasagna instead," he summed up. Sam gave him a surprised look.
"Yeah, exactly." Sam took a deep breath while Pete took a bite of his chicken. "Well, it's not really a theory. We've come across technology that has allowed us to visit these alternate realities and have people from other realities visit us."
Pete watched her patiently, allowing her to continue. "About a week ago we had someone come to us from one of these alternate realities."
"And this was…" he prompted when Sam paused.
"Oh my… does Cassandra know?" he whispered, leaning forward.
"Not yet, she was pretty upset today so I didn't have a chance to tell her. There's more though, Pete and after I tell you this I'll totally understand if you need time or if you want to end the relationship."
"Let's not jump the gun."
"She brought a baby with her. He's my alternate's baby and his name is David O'Neill," she revealed while feeling like she was going to lose what little of her dinner she had eaten.
"Oh," Pete responded. He blinked and looked down at his meal. "Well, I mean, I guess if all things are possible, then I guess that means it makes sense you could be married to Colonel O'Neill..."
Reaching out a hand she covered his to stop him from continuing. "Pete, you need to understand, there is nothing and I mean nothing going on between the Colonel and I. There never has been. Her feelings, her life aren't mine."
He studied her. "You don't feel anything for him?"
"I have respect and admiration, but no, I don't have feelings for him," she said with a smile. Inside she was trying to silence the voice in her head calling her a liar. The flirtations, the glances, they were all innocent, she told herself. She hadn't done anything two good friends wouldn't have done. Still, deep down, she only remained half convinced.
"What's going to happen to…David?"
"I don't know. Honestly I feel awkward around him and I've already got Cassie. Colonel O'Neill said we could let another SGC family adopt him," she said as she twirled pasta on her fork.
They said nothing more for about ten minutes, both eating and avoiding each other's gaze. The clatter of Pete's fork against his plate surprised her and she looked up.
"I know we're still fairly new in our relationship, but I've really come to care a lot about you Sam. What if I helped you with him? No pressure, but I'd be willing to get a transfer out here, move in with you, and go part time."
Sam stared at him, stunned at his offer. "That's a huge step forward. I'm not sure I'm ready for that."
"Like I said, no pressure, I just wanted to put that on the table in case you found yourself really wanting to keep the baby for yourself. I love kids and I know that Cassie hasn't quite warmed up to me, but I'm hoping she will."
Heat rose in Sam's cheeks and she felt her heart pound. Pete kept on surprising her in unexpected ways. His offer was sweet even if she wasn't sure she was up for it yet. He didn't say anything else about the matter and they ate the rest of their meal talking about his current case. Like a gentleman he walked her to the door and gave her a short, but passionate kiss before leaving. With everything that had happened that day, Sam was definitely looking forward to that bottle of wine.
Meeting with General Hammond had lifted a huge burden off of Janet's shoulder. Although it was still tentative he had told her that he wanted to "reinstate" her as it were. They hadn't found a suitable replacement for the CMO and if she was willing, he wanted her back. Janet was more than willing. His plan went a long way to making her feel like her life might be able to be put back together again.
Opening the door to her quarters she blinked as she realized the room was dark. She had left David with Daniel while she met with the General, so she thought that perhaps Daniel had gone back to his office to get a book or something. Closing the door again she walked towards Daniel's office but ran into Teal'c.
"Teal'c, have you seen Daniel? He was watching David in my quarters," she asked.
"Indeed. Daniel Jackson is in the infirmary with the child," he explained. "They are well, the doctor just requested to do a preventative check."
Panic shot through Janet and as fast as her legs would carry her she practically ran to the infirmary. She entered in time to find Daniel putting a diaper on the baby.
"What the hell are you doing?" she exclaimed pushing him out of the way and taking over. "I do all his check ups; there is absolutely no reason to bring him here." Her lecture took Daniel by surprise.
"We needed blood and DNA samples. It's standard procedure, you of all people should know that," Dr. Brightman explained, placing several vials in a container.
"Still, I should have been consulted," she snapped. Picking up David she exited swiftly and Daniel ran to catch up.
"I'm sorry Janet. I really didn't think it would be a big deal and I know you've been dealing with him a lot lately," he explained. Janet stopped and faced him.
Her face relaxed and she looked down regretfully. "I'm sorry. It's just… bad things happened in my reality. The things we went through to get him through the mirror and the deaths, well I just don't want them in vain."
He wanted to press her for more information but he felt unsure as to how to go about it. Janet was definitely keeping something back, but Daniel still felt a deep sense of trust for the doctor.
"I'm going to head back to my office, but if you need anything, let me know okay?" he said and she gave him a grateful smile before heading down the corridor.
The next few days passed without much incident. SG-1 traveled overnight to a planet that was thankfully peaceful. It was, however, very muddy and after slogging through the terrain for two days, they were smelly and exhausted. Jack took a nice long, hot shower at the base and again when he got home. Even still, he could swear he was still finding mud in random orifices. Now, he sat on his couch with the Beach Boys playing on his stereo while sipping a cold one. These were the moments he relished; simple luxuries in a complicated universe. Leaning back he closed his eyes and let the tension melt from his body. Then he heard a knock at his door.
"Damn," he muttered, forcing himself to stand up and go to the door only to find himself face to face with Daniel and Teal'c.
"Can't I have a moment of peace and quiet," Jack complained.
"You're phone is off and General Hammond has been trying to get a hold of you," Daniel said looking concerned. Teal'c just stood there.
"I just got back from a mission that could have doubled as a spa resort for some very rich women. I'm trying to relax before I kill somebody."
His friend leveled his gaze. "Can we come in?"
"You are indeed needed O'Neill. Dr. Brightman wishes to go over some test results she ran on David O'Neill," Teal'c explained.
"See, this is why T is great. Why didn't you just say that when I opened the door? Hold on let me grab my shoes." Jack closed the door and hunted around for a clean pair of boots and pulled out clean BDUs. Ten minutes later he was in the car with Daniel and Teal'c. General Hammond, Sam, Janet, and Dr. Brightman were in the conference room waiting.
"I'm glad you could join us, Colonel," Hammond quipped with a sigh. "I know you all would like to get home, but Dr. Brightman assures me this is very important."
The slender woman stood up. "I found something very peculiar about David," she started. Pulling up an image on the screen behind him, everyone looked at her expectantly waiting for her to explain, but she seemed frozen.
"Doctor?" Hammond urged.
"I'm… I'm sorry this looks completely different from my work." She flipped through a few more slides and when she got to the end, she looked flustered. "General, I assure you, this is not the information I gathered. Something is wrong here."
Janet's voice spoke up. "I don't understand. It looks like him – you can see the naquadah in the blood analysis and the Ancient marker in his DNA."
"Great, can I go home now? I was enjoying my afternoon," Jack stated with irritation.
"Doctor, I don't know what you were expecting, but I think you should take a second look and get back to me. Dismissed."
SG-1 filed out of the room, but Sam made a glance over to Janet and noticed that she seemed relieved. Now she was sure the woman was hiding something and she was determined to find out exactly what that was.
Chapter 4: Ambivalent
He gasped as her hands slid down the length of his body. Her pale skinned glistened in the moonlight and he tried to soak in as much of her ethereal beauty as he could. Jack bathed in the sweet water of his name escaping her lips as they moved together in an erotic dance of passion. Eventually he couldn't hold back any further and it was her name he called out.
Then he was sitting up in his bed. Jack heard nothing but the crickets outside and felt nothing but the cool air against his sweaty skin. The dreams weren't frequent, but when he dreamt about her it made him feel as though he had a craving inside that couldn't be sated. Jack's dreams took him to places that he was forbidden in his waking moments except during private times when he took matters into his own hands.
The clock showed that his alarm would go off in less than ten minutes, so switching it off, he dragged himself from the comfort of his bed and towards the bathroom where he showered. The dream had left him with unresolved desires and he quickly dealt with them, not at all wanting to, but knowing he needed to. It was her. It was always her. Those bright blue eyes, her golden hair, her lithe figure, her lilting voice.
BDUs were donned, coffee was made, and toast was eaten. The air was chilled and crisp and he had to put on the defogger as he made his way to the mountain. Almost robotically he parked his truck and went through security. By the time he entered his office (which he regularly claimed he had no idea he had; after all, if he didn't know where it was, no one else would either, leaving him peace and quiet) – his dream had long been forgotten. Several folders sat on his desk and he sighed.
A tap on his door startled him although it was imperceptible and he called for the person to enter. To his pleasant surprise it was Sam.
"Carter, what brings you to my neck of the woods?"
"Actually sir, I'm kind of shocked you're even here. I usually only check here when all my other locations fail," she answered, coming in and closing the door.
He gave her his charming, boyish grin. "Good to know I can keep you on your toes."
"Always, sir," she replied, taking a seat. "I came by because I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Brightman about David."
"She's absolutely certain that the test results she showed us in the briefing a few days ago was not what she had originally gotten. It seems the vials are missing and so she can't retest the information."
Jack leaned forward. "So why not just take some more blood?"
"Janet's refusing, sir. She keeps telling Dr. Brightman it's for his own good and even though she hasn't admitted it to me, I think she's the one that tampered with the results." Sam's expression conveyed her concern and worry. The same question weighed on both their minds; had they been too eager to see their old friend in her that they had ignored a potential security risk?
"General Hammond could order it," he suggested tapping his pen against his desk in thought. "She has to leave David alone some time. I'd hate to do it that way, but if she's hiding something of significance we need to figure it out."
"I agree. I was going to go try a last ditch effort to talk with her before we try something a little more forceful."
He sighed. "I'll grab T and we'll meet you down there, would that work?" She nodded and he dismissed her. This was one of those moments he hated being in command. It was never fun to be the tough guy… well, that wasn't entirely true. Jack had to admit the look on Felger's face the last time he glowered had put him in a good mood for the rest of the day. Groaning, he stood up and went to find Teal'c.
By the time Teal'c and Jack arrived, they could hear the shrill voice of Janet Frasier on the other side of the door. Jack held up a hand motioning for Teal'c to stay put and they paused outside waiting for the right moment.
"This isn't an option; we need his blood on file. How far do you think you're going to be able to push this?" Sam stated firmly. He could just imagine the steel in her blue eyes but he knew that with Janet it would be tempered with concern and compassion.
"You need to understand. I can't let anything happen to him and if his blood gets put on file then I won't be able to protect him!"
"You don't need to protect him! This is a different reality, different situation. You've already admitted you tampered with the results and you're lucky I didn't storm in here with several marines."
Jack opened the door and interrupted their conversation. Sam turned and Janet hugged David a little closer. There was fear in the doctor's eyes; she knew why they were there. "Doc, I don't want to do this, but if you don't report to the infirmary now, we will take him by force."
Her eyes shifted back to Sam. "Sam, please, believe me. I'll tell you everything, just please, please don't let them take his DNA and put it on file."
He considered himself a reasonable man and inhaling he held up his hands in surrender. "I can't promise anything, but if you come with us to the briefing room and tell us what's going on, General Hammond might and I mean might be willing to make an exception."
Relief flooded Janet's eyes and she loosened her grip on the babe who had managed to sleep through the entire ordeal. Jack stepped back and she walked past Sam into the corridor. Although Jack didn't think she would run, he felt he needed to be on guard since it had become apparent there were pieces of the story missing. Daniel was already in the conference room having just finished briefing SG-7 on a planet that SG-1 had previously visited. He gave a quizzical glance at Jack, but didn't get up when he saw the others taking their seats. General Hammond exited his office, having been appraised of the situation before Jack had confronted Janet.
"It seems, Doctor, that we've not been told the whole story about your trip to our reality," he stated with a hint of accusation in his tone. "Why don't you enlighten us?"
Reluctantly she handed David to Sam who was sitting next to her. The blonde seemed hesitant but accepted the infant without a protest. Janet sat forward in her chair and pursed her lips. "David is an Ancient."
Daniel sputtered some of the water he had just sipped. "What?"
"Several years ago, my Sam had contact with an ascended being who called himself Orlin. He did something to her, we don't know what, but Sam said he told her that he was giving her a special gift for when the time was right. It seems that when Sam's naquadah enhanced blood and Ancient enhanced egg merged with Jack's Ancient DNA marker… well, it's either the rebirth of our predecessors or the next step in human evolution."
"Wow, Thor was right," Daniel muttered looking at Jack in amazement. "I mean I know he said it, I just didn't…"
"Believe him?" Jack finished leveling his gaze at his friend. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"This does not explain why you wish to keep his genetic make-up a secret," Teal'c observed with a raised eyebrow.
Janet bit her lip. "Anubis didn't find that planet by accident. I don't know how he knew, but he was looking for David. On my Earth he had infiltrated our government and even the SGC just to get at him. I can't risk that here. If Anubis gets his hands on him, he'll be able to ascend fully. David's DNA keeps him from suffering the ill effects of being inhabited by Anubis, thus giving Anubis plenty of time to use his body to finally reach a level of power that would be unstoppable."
"Sir, it's possible that Anubis in the other reality used the mirror to contact himself in this reality," Sam theorized looking at General Hammond.
"Which means if he didn't find David among the village he's still searching and you get one guess as to where he's going to check first," Jack summed up. "Doc here is right, we can't put David's DNA on file."
General Hammond nodded. "Agreed. Dr. Brightman is trustworthy and she'll be transferred out of here in the next month as Dr. Frasier will be taking over CMO duties."
"Thank you, sir," Janet replied.
"Next time Doctor, please, just tell us. You can trust us," he answered in his Texan drawl.
"Now how are we going to handle this new threat, people?"
Daniel leaned forward. "I'm still doing some research, but I'm hoping that some of the documents we've retrieved over the last few missions will give us the location of the Lost City."
"I will check with some of my contacts among the rebel Jaffa, it maybe that they have heard of Anubis' next plan," Teal'c offered.
"Keep brainstorming. Dismissed."
Janet turned to Sam to take David, but the woman seemed comfortable with a certain peace having fallen over her. A pang cut through her heart as she remembered that David wasn't hers. While he wasn't technically Sam's either, it was where he belonged and Janet needed to start getting ready to be able to let him go. An image of Cassie flashed through her mind and her arms ached to hold her adopted daughter once again. Her friend stood up, continuing to rock with David while Janet followed suit and they walked out into the corridor.
"I've been thinking I'm ready to see Cassie," Janet confessed as they strolled towards the VIP quarters. "There's only so much I can take of artificial lighting and I'd like to get fresh air on a more regular basis."
"I'll talk to Cass tonight, tell her about you," Sam replied, looking up at her.
"You haven't told her," she answered with a bit of surprise in her voice.
Sam shook her head and gave her a guilty look. "Things have been… tense at home. I've been trying to find the right time and… look, I promise, I'll talk to her tonight."
"Do you think she'll take it okay?"
"I honestly don't know. We've only just started packing up your house; it's not even sold yet. I know Cassie really didn't want to move."
They stopped at the VIP quarters and with heaviness Sam passed David over to Janet. The first time had been the hardest, but this time, watching him in the conference room, something inside of her had started to change. Adoption still seemed like the best option, but she began to wonder if she would be able to part with him. With a small kiss on the baby's head, Sam turned and made her way back to her lab.
The aroma of freshly baked brownies greeted Cassie's nose as entered the house. She'd gone over to Amanda's to study and she hoped Sam had remembered. Dropping her backpack she walked into the kitchen to find her cutting brownies and putting them on a plate.
"Wow, brownies. I'm impressed," she remarked as she sat on a stool.
"If I can build a naquadah reactor, I'm fairly confident I can follow directions on the back of a box," Sam retorted, sticking her tongue out playfully. "Besides, this way I can get you to sit in one place while we talk."
Cassie tensed. "Talk? Is this about, you know?"
"Sex? You should really learn to say it. But no, it's not about sex," she said. Her smile had faded and there was a nervous silence as Sam finished her work. "I know things have been hard on you lately and I haven't figured out how to tell you about this, but I need to."
Panic cut through the teenager. "You're not leaving are you? Sam, you can't. You can't," she said quickly. The fear in her blue eyes made Sam's heartbreak.
"No, I'm not leaving Cass," she assured and the girl relaxed just a bit. "It's about your mom, Janet."
Again the girl jumped to conclusions. "I know, I know. We need to get the house cleaned up. It's just hard for me to let go because it was my first home after… after I lost them."
"Would you let me finish?" Sam said with a bit of irritation. "I promise that what I'm about to tell you, you will never guess." Cass clamped her mouth shut and once Sam was satisfied that she would not be interrupted again, she spoke. "Remember how I told you about alternate realities?" The girl nodded mutely. "We've had a Janet Frasier from another reality show up in ours and we can't send her back."
Cass paled. "You mean my mom… she's here?"
"Listen, she's not your mom exactly. She had a Cassie in her reality and she misses her greatly. There are a few differences but we think that our realities were close enough that if you wanted you could meet her and if that went well, you could even move back in with her."
Tears pooled in Cassie's eyes and she covered her mouth as a soft sob escaped her lips. "Mom… my mom…" One salty drop fell and then another and soon she had them streaming down her face. Sam enveloped her in her arms and pressed her lips to the top of her head.
"This is totally up to you. Janet knows this is strange and she doesn't want to do anything to upset you, but I know she would love nothing more than to see you."
"Yes, yes!" Cass exclaimed. "When? I want to see her as soon as possible." She wiped her face but tears kept coming. Her eyes were shining with joy and hope, something Sam hadn't seen since she lost her second mother.
"How about we miss school tomorrow and we go to the mountain?"
She nodded enthusiastically and let out a small laugh of happiness before embracing Sam again. Warmth flooded Sam's body and she was thankful that at least one thing was starting to make sense.
Jack rocked back and forth in the large wooden rocker as he held David who seemed content to wave a rattle around. He took baby duty while Janet and Cassie had their lunch together and he felt as though he could stay there with his son all day. Ever since Charlie had died, he'd carried around a lead weight of guilt but from the first moment he'd laid eyes on the baby something inside had started to heal. A piece of him that he never thought would have comfort was bandaged by the presence of David.
He had always been a believer in giving others second chances but he had also denied himself that same luxury. Now he wondered if this was God or the universe's way of granting him the very thing he was unable grant himself. A small "ahahah" came from the brown-eyed boy's lips as he successfully stuck the rattle in his mouth and attempted to chew on it.
There was a ghost of Charlie in David's face. The brown eyes, the nose, but the lips and the cheeks reminded him of Sam. Jack traced a finger down the pudgy face but it didn't deter the gnawing action. His finger intercepted David's other hand and instinctively the baby wrapped his hand around it. A knock at the door caused him to look up and he saw Sam's head poke in.
"Sir, thought I'd stop by and see how you were doing." She walked in and sat on the bed opposite the rocker. "Not that you wouldn't be doing fine."
"Thanks," he responded. "How's Cassie?"
"She was nervous; we spent all morning trying to find the right outfit. Then she couldn't decide about lip gloss. I was barely here on time this morning."
"And you're already finished taking apart and putting back together all your doohickeys?" he teased with a smirk.
Sam returned his smile. "No, I still have that alien lava lamp." She turned her eyes away in embarrassment. "I kind of wanted to see David."
He raised his eyebrows. "Really?"
"Is that so hard to believe?" she retorted with irritation. "Sir," she added belatedly.
"No, it's just you haven't been exactly jumping at the chance to be around him," he pointed out. "You want to hold him?"
A brief expression of fear crossed her visage, but she nodded. Jack stood up and passed the now dozing infant to her as he took a seat next to her on the bed. Where there had been tension in her before during the briefing, there was a new found sense of familiarity that seemed borderline maternal.
"This feels like some strange dream," she commented, her eyes fixed on David who squirmed before continuing in his peaceful slumber. "I keep thinking I'm holding a new nephew, not my own child."
"He reminds me of Charlie," Jack responded in a hoarse whisper. It surprised him that he voiced that particular truth as he head repeatedly put it out of his own head. Sam looked up at him and was met with soulful, lost brown eyes that were focused on the baby. They flicked up to meet her blue eyed gaze and her heart caught in her throat. He was only inches away she found herself aching to close the distance and place her lips firmly against his as if she might be able to absorb some of Jack's heartache into herself and thereby relieve him. Duty stayed her, however, and Sam settled instead to try to convey through her clear eyes the depth of her sympathy towards him.
There they remained and all of time could have passed and neither would have been aware, but the intensity overwhelmed Jack and he could no longer bear to have his soul stripped of its usual armor. Clearing his throat, he stood up to put space between them.
"I need to go drop something off to Hammond, if you're good here that is," he said while gesturing towards the door. That he was put off his game was apparent but Sam knew better than to call him on it.
"I'm good sir. Go ahead."
He exited swiftly and as the door clicked shut Sam found herself again transfixed by her son. Her son. She felt her heart clench and unclench at the thought. That her own thoughts betrayed her was cause for concern and was slightly overwhelming and so she quickly shifted to letting herself ponder the things that Janet had revealed to them about who David was. One thing was for sure, Sam knew her life would never be the same.
A car had taken Janet to a café just ten minutes away. The last time she'd felt this anxious she was getting ready for her own wedding except that her anxiety then was well-founded. Whether this would go well or not, she had no idea, but she knew she had to try. She hoped that this Cassie would want her mother back as much as she desperately wanted her own daughter. Walking in she quickly scanned the mostly empty café and automatically zeroed in on the girl sitting by the window at a table that was sequestered off near the corner. There was relief as she saw Cassie tapping the table, something she always did when she was nervous.
"Cass?" she said as she slowly approached her.
"M- Janet? I'm sorry, I don't know what to call you," Cassie confessed, her face red. Janet sat down opposite to her. "I-I don't much about this kind of situation."
"Me neither," she empathized. They held their tongues as a waitress brought them coffee. Once she was out of earshot, they continued. "Call me whatever you're comfortable with. I had a Cassandra too so Mom isn't foreign to me."
"What happened to her?"
Janet dropped her gaze and absently opened some sugar to put in her drink. "She died. I didn't even get to say goodbye."
"I didn't get to say goodbye either."
There was a pensive and sad silence between them as they each mourned a version of the other.
"I want her back," Cassie blurted out, blinking back tears. "And you're her, I don't care what anyone says. You look like her, you sound like her. Maybe it's naïve but… I want my mom back again. I already lost one, I don't want to live without you too." Tears streamed down the girl's face and Janet instinctively reached across the table and grabbed her hand.
"I'm here sweetheart. I'm here and if you want me, I'll stay. I feel the same way about you and I know there will be differences but I don't care either." Janet felt her own eyes start to sting. "You and me against the world, huh?"
Cassie smiled underneath her tears at the saying. It was something they said to each other when things were tough to remind the other that they weren't alone. "You and me against the world, Mom."
It was the older woman's turn to start crying and they found themselves laughing at how pitiful they looked and reveling in the fact that they were each being given second chances. As the hour wore on, they ordered sandwiches and compared notes and by the time the car came to get Janet, they were hugging and talking about when Cass could move back home.
"I'll talk to General Hammond," Janet replied. "As soon as we can get things sorted out, we'll both be home in no time." Her "new" daughter engulfed her in another embrace and kissed her on the cheek.
"I love you."
"I love you too," she answered and the two reluctantly parted ways. Once safely inside the black vehicle, Janet broke down again and let the tears of both sorrow, reprieve, and joy stream down her face. Having Cassie back made everything better as far as she was concerned. With Cassie, Janet felt confident in her ability to find her footing in her new home.
Chapter 5: Close Up
The spaghetti sauce was spicy and sweet against her tongue and she found herself chewing slowly so as to savor the hints of cherry and oak that were deliciously simmered in by a full-bodied merlot that Pete had used. Sam couldn't even remember the last time she'd had a home cooked meal made from scratch and truthfully, the flavor of Pete's homemade spaghetti sauce gave her a deep appreciation for what he brought into their relationship. Opening her eyes after she swallowed the first bite, she blushed while he smirked, incredibly self-satisfied that she was so taken with his cooking.
"Way better than Paul Newman's and he makes a damn fine sauce," she said, her face now breaking into a grin. "Where did you learn to cook?"
"My mom. She used to say that she didn't want to hear us complaining after we moved out that all we ever ate was Ramen and pizza. My brother, sister, and I took one night a week and made dinner for the family," he explained.
She let out a throaty hum of pleasure as she took another bite. "Thank your mom for me will you?" Pete laughed and Sam could help but feel a surge of desire for him. Despite his years as a cop, he held a youthful optimism that made her feel alive.
"Where did you put the wine?" he asked, standing up.
"I'll get it," she volunteered and Pete sat back down. Her stomach was fluttering nervously as she opened the Riesling. She had no idea if white wine went with spaghetti, but it a favorite of hers so she figured what the hell.
Pete had been true to his word by not pressuring her to accept his offer to help take care of David and she had found herself seriously considering his solution. The problem was that no matter how many ways she looked at it when she pictured a father figure for her son, she saw Jack O'Neill. She felt her breath catch as her mind wandered the forbidden trails of her fantasies and she forced herself to take a few sips of wine.
"It's been decided that I'm bringing David home next week," Sam started slowly. Pete cocked his head to the side and let her continue. "Colonel O'Neill and I decided we'd try to look for a nanny together although he says it should primarily be my decision."
Pete paused in mid-bite. "I told you I'd move in with you; you don't need a nanny."
"I'm not ready." She inwardly cringed at the bluntness of her statement but Pete seemed to take in stride.
He sat back in his chair. "Okay. I just wanted you to know that I was in this. When my ex-wife left me it destroyed me. I'm a passionate, one-woman kind of guy and so, I wanted you to know I wasn't going to bail."
"Wow, I mean… I guess I'm still new at this whole thing, it's been so long," she confessed, relief flooding her.
"Why don't we have a barbeque this weekend? I'll put it together; you just invite whoever you want. It'd be a great way to introduce me to David and I'll get to know your team better."
Her grip tightened on her knife and fork. "I don't know, it seems like it might be a bit much…"
"I promise you won't have to do anything. Well except get the food because I won't be able to get in until late Friday night," he responded his eyes bright with excitement. Sam felt her heart sink. He was fun, he was great, but meeting her team? She'd been putting it off because he wasn't supposed to be serious. That's what she had told Jack. Guilt flooded her and she took a rather large drink from her wine glass. "It'll be fun, you'll see," he urged.
"Okay," she conceded forcing a smile. Pete was perfect. He was attractive, good in bed, sweet, ambitious, and committed. So what was that nagging feeling that kept making her want to run?
Despite four cups of coffee Daniel felt as though every language he knew was starting to melt together into one gigantic verbal pot. Ancient documents, modern obscure commentaries, off-world tablets, and various artifacts were spread out on his table and he felt like he was searching for a needle in a haystack. A microscopic needle in a very, very large haystack.
"Damn it all to hell," he muttered, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "The answer has to be here!"
A knock on his door startled him and he looked up to see Janet standing in the doorway holding a mug. "Jack told me you were in here slaving away and I thought you might need a refill."
He accepted the coffee from her and she took a seat on the stool next to him. A sigh escaped him as he took a long sip and savored the way the hot liquid rolled over his tongue. "It's weird you know."
"The coffee?" she asked with confusion.
"You, here, talking about Jack with such familiarity," he explained meeting her gaze.
She gave him a soft smile. "Facing death and then being trapped for almost a year on a planet without any hope of going home tends to breed friendship." A tense silence fell between them; Daniel wanting to ask more and Janet hoping he wouldn't. Clearing her throat she changed the topic. "How's the hunt?"
"Fruitless. It's only a matter of time before Anubis shows up demanding we hand David over and we have nothing to fight him with." His voice was fraught with irritation. "I used to think the Ancients were this great race, but I'm discovering they're just about as screwed up as we were."
"I don't know; I find that oddly comforting. It's like we have a chance too," Janet responded idly turning a page on the book in front of her.
Daniel took another sip. "How are things coming at home?"
"Surprisingly well. Jack had someone keep up the yard and so I've just been sprucing things up. Cassie's moved a few things over."
"Did your family buy the cover story?"
"For the most part. It helps that 'my' body had been buried without anyone seeing it due to the nature of the death. It made it more believable that my death had been faked for a top secret mission. Regardless, my mother was so happy she cried for an hour. I promised her that when everything died down Cass and I would travel to Louisville to see her." There was a sadness emanating from the doctor and Daniel reached out to place a hand over hers.
"I know this is disconcerting. I've done the whole alternate reality thing. The only difference is that you aren't trying to get back to your reality. I don't know what we were like but I have to believe that we had your back, and we still do." His expression was tender and full of compassion. Janet felt her eyes sting a little and then a tear slid down her cheek.
"For goodness sakes, look at me!" She pulled her hand away to wipe her face. "I've been given a second chance and I'm grateful, I really am! It's just… I still have the memories you know? Sometimes I can forget, but at night, I have these dreams about what happened." Despite her self-admonition the tears started to flow. "Damn," she hissed, vainly trying to get rid of the salty drops. Daniel gingerly reached out and grabbed her wrist, bringing her shaking hand down to her lap.
"Hey, hey now," he comforted. "It's okay to be upset. A lot of things happened and if you need to talk about it, I'm glad to listen."
She let out a muted chuckle. "Where would I start? Despite having Jack and Sam, I've been alone for so long. They had each other and I had me. Cassie died, I found out my best friend was in an illicit, against regs relationship, our government was infiltrated by Goa'uld, and I watched my friends die trying to save our lives."
"You're not a combat officer, Janet. Hell, I've been in combat for the last seven years and I still get queasy when I have to defend myself. I mean I watched…" his voice trailed off and he closed his eyes at the painful memory that had surfaced. Taking a deep breath he started again. "I was with you… her, when she was shot."
A blanket of sorrow covered them and Janet let her tears go. "I need to do something fun," she said, sniffling.
"Yeah, we are pretty depressing," he admitted and she laughed. "We could grab Teal'c and go bowling."
"That sounds great." With a smile Daniel slid off his stool and keeping his hand in Janet's they left to find their Jaffa friend.
Sam stared blankly at the rows and rows of bottles in front of her. Some were tall, some were short, some had disposable liners, and others were advertising that they were BPA-free. If that weren't bad enough they were numbered too. Her perplexed expression made Jack chuckle as he rounded the corner holding a package of diapers.
"I didn't think that was a look you had, Carter," he teased.
"Look at this! This is insane, sir. There are too many choices. This is why I joined the military; everything comes standard issue." Finally she sighed and picked up the least complicated looking bottle and threw it in the cart. She was about to start walking again, but paused to throw in three more. "Thank God Colonel Dixon already provided eighty percent of what I needed."
"Second hand is definitely the way to go," he agreed as they walked down the Target aisle. "As thrilling as this is, I'm thinking I'm ready to call it a day. I'm thinking food. A big, juicy burger."
"Oh, that reminds me," she started as she loaded items onto the conveyor belt. "Pete and I are having a barbecue on Saturday as a sort of 'welcome home baby' type thing." Sam forced the words out trying vainly to make them seem natural. The neutral eye-brow raise from Jack made her mouth go dry but she kept her expression friendly.
"Sounds like a good idea. I should be able to come for a little while. I have a few house projects I'm working on," he stated nonchalantly. "I can bring beer. I always have beer."
"Good, good," she said, swiping her card and thanking the cashier. They said little else to each other as they loaded everything into the car and drove away. Sam watched the world go by outside although she stole a glance once at her companion. His body screamed that he was on alert and she chewed her bottom lip in frustration. Why was this so hard for them? Jack turned a corner to a local diner and parked. The hostess seated them quickly and both eyed their menu silently.
Finally Jack cleared his throat. "So Pete looking forward to being a father?"
"He's not… I mean, we're not… no, I mean he's looking forward to having David around, but we're not doing anything official. It's too soon," she explained, her cheeks hot. "And besides, you're David's father and I know Pete doesn't intend to usurp that."
Jack watched her for a second. "I think it might be best if I'm just Uncle Jack. Kind of like I am with Cassie." Sam looked slightly startled at his response. "Carter, look, I don't have the energy to chase a toddler. Hell, I don't have the energy to do half the things I do right now. What David needs is a stable home with as little complication as possible. You and Pete can give that to him."
"That's not fair, sir. You can't just dump your responsibility on me. Pete and I aren't even that serious yet. Could we be? Maybe, I don't know, but until we are, I'm alone."
"That's not what I meant," he answered looking perturbed. "I was planning on setting up a crib and stuff in one of my spare rooms. All I meant was that I wasn't going to try to take on the parenting responsibility. I'll abide by whatever you decide."
They avoided each other's eyes as the server placed drinks in front of them and they ordered their food. The atmosphere between them was fraught with unspoken questions and hidden concerns that if brought out in the open would cross imaginary lines both had made great pains to keep in place. The food came without much fanfare and Sam made several attempts to restart the conversation but Jack seemed intent on one word answers. On the way back to her house he used the radio to keep conversation to a minimum and Sam stopped trying. Instead she focused on trying to figure out all the lyrics to "One Week" which had come on.
"You need help getting it inside?"
She shook her head. "No sir. I'll see you later." Grabbing the bags she hauled them to her front door without looking back. As she fiddled with her keys she realized that she still heard Jack's engine idling and so she turned around briefly only find him watching her. When he saw her look, he turned off the ignition and exited his vehicle.
"Can I come in for a second?"
"Sure," she answered, unlocking the door. The heat from his close proximity made her hands tremble slightly and she inhaled his scent deeply, thankful that he couldn't see her face. Her stomach knotted as he had rarely been to her house and never alone. Jack followed Sam into the living room with a bag in hand and set it down by her couch. She faced him and her heart started beating when she realized there were only a few inches between them. "Do you want a beer or something?"
Declining with a wave of his hand he responded, "No, I'm not going to stay that long." Sam didn't reply but waited for his next move. His brown eyes held hers intensely and his hand twitched as though he wanted to reach out to touch her. With a low voice he spoke. "I don't do this whole talking thing very well, so I'm just going to say it. I didn't mean for you to think you were alone on this. I really screwed up the dad thing before and I just don't want to have to relive that. David deserves more, better, and I can't give him that. That's all I'm going to say on that issue."
She stood stunned, knowing she should say something but her voice was caught in her throat, not that it mattered. A chill ran through her when he stepped back and she felt painfully solitary, her brain racing. Jack was already out the door before she could even croak out a meager "sir." Her knees weakened underneath her and she sank to the couch. He always seemed so put together that it shocked the hell out of her when he let anyone glimpse a piece of him that seemed ruined beyond repair. No matter how much good he did, in Jack's mind there was no way to be forgiven for the crime of killing one's own son through negligence.
Spying a mound of blue fluff in one of the nearby bags, she pulled out a soft puppy dog with sewn black eyes. "Every boy should have a dog," he had said when he picked it up. And every father should have a son, she thought to herself sadly.
"Unscheduled off world activation! Unscheduled off world activation!" Walter's voice rang loud and clear over the PA system. General Hammond walked up behind him and waited on the report. "Receiving SG-1's iris code. Opening iris."
The metal slid back and a very colorful Daniel Jackson stepped through followed by an equally colorful Teal, Jack, and Sam. To say that they looked irritated would be an understatement, but he was thankful that they weren't injured. They were supposed to be gone another twenty-four hours; obviously Jack decided that would be twenty-four hours too long. Walking into the gate room he ordered. "Report."
"Jack pissed off the natives again," Daniel accused, rubbing futilely at his face trying to remove the paint.
"For crying out loud, look at us Daniel. We look like we're damn Smurfs!" Jack cried out, throwing his arms wide.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Are Smurfs not blue O'Neill?"
"Not the point T," he retorted. It looked as though paint had been dumped on them in various colors ranging from vibrant fire truck red to night sky indigo. Sam's blond locks, which were no longer blond, were matted to her head and she kept sticking her index finger in her ear to try to clean it out.
"The point is the ritual only had two more steps. You couldn't hold out for just a little longer," Daniel butt in. "I've been working my ass off trying to find the Lost City so that Anubis doesn't show up and take your son and you just had to go ballistic when we were so close to getting access to the ruins."
What had been only moderate irritation in Jack now jumped up to hot ire. "Go to hell," he growled and pushed passed the younger man.
"Colonel O'Neill!" Hammond barked and Jack froze, pulled himself to attention and faced his superior officer. "I don't know what happened on that planet, but I expect a full briefing. Report to the infirmary, get cleaned up, and I expect all of you to have a more civil attitude when I see you at 1500 hours. Do I make myself clear?" Despite his words, he focused solely on Jack, his eyes never wavering from the hardened jaw of his subordinate.
"Yes sir!" Jack dutifully responded. Only when General Hammond started towards the door did he relax and follow suit. SG-1 filed out and as they made their way through the corridor Jack announced that he was going to hit the showers first. No one argued with him about proper protocol, not that they would have been able to, and the remainder of the team went to the infirmary.
"Did you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?" Janet quipped as they each took beds. Sam gave her a withering glance. "O-kay. Forget I said anything. Where's Colonel O'Neill?"
"O'Neill wished to take a shower and considering his mood we did not think it wise to stop him," Teal'c informed stoically. Janet could sense the heightened tension among the group and decided to let it go. Susan showed up to help her and Janet stiffened at the presence of the woman. Regardless of this particular woman giving her no reason to doubt her in this reality, all she could recall was the betrayal of her counterpart. It wasn't fair to crucify her for another's sins, but it made Janet pause and wonder how different could two realities be.
Daniel's eyes focused on the floor and Janet noticed the Sam shot a few narrowed glances his direction. Teal'c remained as stoic as ever. The tests were done quickly and without fanfare. Daniel inwardly lectured himself and saw Teal'c and Sam leave out from the corner of his eye. He was about to get up and leave himself when Jack walked in, freshly showered. Years of black ops training let the Colonel remain passive in his visage while still exuding an almost deadly hostility. He sat on the bed in front of the younger man, his back to him. A nurse, Aaron, came up and began the standard post-mission exam.
"Jack, look, about what I said," Daniel started, but Jack held up a hand.
"I don't want to hear it, Daniel. Not now." The rage was well-contained, evident only as an undercurrent, but it was mixed with a long simmering agony that cut Daniel through to the core. He slid off the bed and walked passed where Jack sat, pausing for half a second to turn and face the man who refused to look at him.
"I'm sorry," he said softly and left to shower. Jack looked only in his direction after he had walked out.
The tired soldier didn't even flinch as his blood was drawn and barely heard Janet as she reviewed what Aaron had done. It took too much energy to bury the memories and emotions from Charlie. David was beautiful and had dredged up a hope he hadn't felt in a while, but the more he fell in love with the child the louder his insecurities grew. Nightmares starring his deceased son had started up after his shopping trip with Sam a few days prior. Then Daniel had to be so careless with his words.
"Colonel? Are you listening to me?" Janet's voice broke through his heavy thoughts.
"Sorry Doc, must still have some of that damn paint in my ear," he joked with a half-hearted smile. She eyed him suspiciously.
"So it seems. I said you're free to go and report to me if you notice any abnormal side effects."
"Will do," he said as he slid off the bed.
"You are attending the barbecue right?"
"Wouldn't miss it!" He left the infirmary as fast as he could, hoping to avoid any personal conversation. All he wanted at the moment was a cold beer and something mindless to watch so he could forget for just a little bit.
Friday afternoon at Wal-Mart was, as usual, busy. Daniel pushed the cart while Sam scanned the different paper plates before choosing some tough looking Chinet. Despite her irritation at Daniel's treatment of Jack after their last mission, she knew he was remorseful.
"He won't return my phone calls and he avoids me on base. I know I was insensitive, but this is starting to get ridiculous," he complained as he slowly moved forward.
"And I'm not saying it's not ridiculous, but it's the way it is," she answered before holding up two packages of napkins. "Red or blue?"
He sighed. "Blue. Are you listening to me?"
"Yes, but I don't know what you want me to say. If it's any consolation he's not really been that forthcoming with any of us. Teal'c stopped by my lab yesterday. Teal'c of all people. I think he usually gets his dose of people from the Colonel." She studied the shelf with the napkins on it. "The red are on sale."
"Red makes people hungrier," Daniel commented.
He shrugged. "I think I read that somewhere, but it could be an urban legend. I spend most of my time trying to find truth in mythology. I don't have time to also validate every piece of information I read on the internet."
"Blue it is. Better safe than sorry; I don't want to run out of food because people were too hungry." They moved on to the next aisle. "Just give him time, he'll come around. Other than that how are things?"
"Good, I suppose. Janet and I went bowling the other day bonding over our mutual death of loved ones." He scrunched up his face. "That sounds a lot more morbid when I say it out loud."
Sam laughed. "We're a weird bunch aren't we?"
"That we are. Although, this Janet is a better bowler. She totally beat me," he said with mock dejection.
Daniel didn't bring up Jack again and both enjoyed each other's company. He helped her load her car and assisted her with getting it all into her house. As he was getting ready to leave he turned to her one more time.
"You really think he'll be able to let it go?"
Sam gave him a sympathetic look. "He respects you. I promise Daniel, he'll let it go. You'll see." He nodded and let the door close behind him. He knew deep down that Sam was right, but it always helped to have outside affirmation.
Jack took a long drink of his Guinness and watched as Cassie dumped a cup of water over Janet's head. The woman shrieked while the teenager giggled but was soon shrieking herself when her mother retaliated. He smirked at the scene. It gave him a sense of peace to see the two together. They were tangible rewards to the mind bending, life altering, deadly work in which he found himself embroiled. Sam sat in the shade holding David. Pete sat next to her and he was grinning while he made goofy faces at the baby.
"They're perfect," Jack muttered, glad he was wearing sunglasses so that no one noticed his lingering gaze.
He didn't blink or turn his head. He'd know Daniel's voice anywhere. "No one."
They stood quietly together; Jack sipped his beer, Daniel drank his Coke.
"I know you're still pissed."
"No, I'm not. It's water under the bridge," Jack assured. "It's just been a rough week."
Daniel eyed Jack thoughtfully. "Sam told me you only wanted to be Uncle Jack."
"Daniel, let it go," he warned. He let out a sigh. "This is what I want. This is what's best. I don't want a lecture, I don't want to be told that it's wrong. Your comment only served to reinforce that decision."
The younger man opened his mouth but quickly closed it again. He had to pick his battles and this one wasn't his to fight. If Sam wanted Jack to be more then it was her argument. "So… want a hamburger?"
Jack finally turned to face Daniel. "That sounds like a great idea."
As they walked towards the grill that was being manned by Teal'c and Dave Dixon, they were unaware of Sam's eyes following them out of the corner of her eye. Pete had arrived late the night before and she had been asleep. The day had been busy with preparations and this was the first moment they had to be alone but she was finding it difficult to focus on him. There was little conversation, thankfully, as Pete was completely taken by David.
Then she felt something wet on her lap. "Uh oh."
Sam lifted David up and noticed a wet stain on her jeans. "I think I just got peed on." She stood up. "I'll be back in a second." Hugging the baby close to her (she was already wet she figured) she hurried into the house to find a clean change of clothes and a fresh diaper.
He had just taken a bite of his burger when he saw her leave Pete's side. Jack struggled with the choice of whether to follow her or stay. The easier option for him was to stay and continue repairing the dent in his relationship with Daniel, but he'd had a baby before. Pete hadn't which is why he was still sitting under the tree instead of following his girlfriend. Jack had promised Sam that she wasn't alone and he needed to prove it to her. The best way to do that was to be sure he was there for the everyday, practical things that people took for granted.
"I'll be back," he said to Teal'c and Daniel. He put his plate down and headed in to find Sam. The air in the house was considerably cooler than the outside summer air. He released an involuntary shiver and headed back towards where he knew the nursery was.
"Carter!" he called out before he walked passed the nursery towards the open door of Sam's bedroom. He froze when he was greeted by the heavenly sight of Sam's bare legs, long and smooth that ended underneath a pair of aqua blue bikini cut panties.
"Sir!" she squeaked as she dove behind her bed and he just as quickly jumped back into the hallway.
"Sorry! Sorry! I didn't see anything!" he lied feeling unusually flustered. It wasn't as though he hadn't caught glimpses of her body before, but they always seemed forbidden. This one he found especially hot because he caught sight of her panties. Now he knew instead of only suspecting and he let out a voiceless groan as he felt his pants tighten. Sam came out looking only a light shade of red.
"I didn't know anyone was going to come in here. Why are you in here, sir?"
"I came to help you with David. I have had a kid before and I know that it's sometimes hard to balance several things at one time and besides, you know, I promised," he explained trying his best to appear calm and collected.
She gave him a nervous smile and then slipped back into her room. David had been lying on her bed between some pillows while she changed. "I already got him out of his wet clothes and into a fresh diaper." Jack took the bare baby from her arms.
"I'll find him a new outfit if you want to go back out." He headed into the nursery and laid David on his back on a playtime mat. Opening the first drawer he found diapers and wipes. He was about to just go down when Sam appeared next to him.
"The closet, sir. I hung them all up so I could see them." She looked more embarrassed at this admission than having been caught in her panties. Jack just shot her one of his patented boyish grins and opened the closet. A simple blue one piece would do the trick, he thought. Turning to the little guy on the floor who had managed to roll himself over he wrangled David into the outfit.
"We need to get you something cool. Like a cowboy outfit," Jack said as he buttoned up the legs of the outfit. "When you can walk, I'll invest in one and we can run around…" he trailed off as he realized that Sam was still standing in the doorway. "Sorry Carter, I've gotten used to talking with him when we're together."
"Don't apologize," she replied walking to him. "I think it's great, sir." Her eyes sparkled in affection and it made her seem angelic. David let out a little yawn. "I think it's getting close to his naptime." She reached to take him, but Jack shook his head.
"I've got him." He rocked back and forth on his feet and placed a soft kiss on David's head. Sam watched him as he swayed and hummed a lullaby to their child. His movements were natural and loving and she wanted nothing more than to stand in that spot forever. Something inside her was stirring, her respect for Jack seemed to increase a hundred fold, and her admiration was growing as well. Who was this man who could be deadly in combat but be so tender and protective of those he loved? David's eyes closed and it wasn't long before he was faintly snoring. Jack laid him down in his crib and Sam walked over to join him.
"You're good with him," she whispered, her eyes transfixed by the slumbering infant.
"Practice. Although not as much as I would have wanted," he commented with sorrow and regret. "I was out of the country when Charlie was born." Their shoulders were touching and Jack knew he needed to put space between them. He couldn't bring himself to step away; there was something soothing about feeling her so close.
"I don't want you to be Uncle Jack," she confessed, her blue eyes unguarded as she now met Jack's eyes. She knew she needed to add "sir" onto her statement but there was a magic in the moment and she didn't want to disturb it.
His smile was sad. "It's best this way, Carter."
"Stop it," she hissed suddenly. David flinched, but didn't wake. Sam pressed herself even closer to Jack. "You've been spending so much time with him, more than me. You're so natural with him and he needs a father. You're his father, sir." When he didn't respond, she continued, her whispers gentler this time. "I watch you with him and all I can think is that you have a gift. I know you have a lot of unresolved issues, but despite them, you're a good man, sir. An honorable man. Stop punishing yourself; if not for your sake then for David's," she pleaded.
Her eyes poured out her unreserved devotion to Jack and he found himself unable to look away which he knew he should do. Without thought he lifted a hand to absently brush back a lock of hair and then cup her chin as his thumb stroked her cheek. She closed her eyes and let herself fully embrace his caress, her breath caught in her throat.
"Samantha," he breathed, his eyes falling to her moist and slightly parted lips. As though in a trance he started to lean forward.
"Sam! Sam! Are you in here?' Pete's voice hollered from the hall. The spell was broken and they jumped apart as fast as possible. Jack's eyes were focused on David who remained peaceful and she tried to calm her nerves. What the hell had just happened? "Hey guys. Hadn't seen you…" he noticed the sleeping baby and lowered his tone. "Sorry. I was just coming to get you guys because we're about to make root beer floats."
"Go ahead Carter, I'll be there in a minute."
"Yes sir." She shared a last brief moment with Jack whose brown eyes were full of regret and a deep yearning.
She followed Pete out the door and found the outside air felt stifling after having her time inside the air conditioned house. Pete had grabbed her hand and led her towards the table where Teal'c had taken ice cream duty. Janet had somehow ended up on soda detail and smiled at her as she handed her a float. Everyone was talking and laughing but Sam was still in the nursery in her mind. The forbidden touches and the forbidden almost kiss. Shame left her mouth bitter and she forced the dessert down despite the argument from her stomach.
Jack never came out. Sam saw his truck was gone when she went to look for him an hour later. David was still sleeping, which wasn't unusual, and she felt a pang of disappointment that Jack had abandoned the party. Unable and unwilling to continue to pretend to be put together, she sat in the rocking chair to watch her baby. Pete didn't come looking for her this time and soon she dozed off awakened by the screamlets coming from the crib. Gathering him into his arms before he could let out a full blown cry, Sam headed towards the kitchen to make a bottle.
"Hey, is everyone gone?" she asked, finding Pete standing over the dishwasher loading it.
"Yeah. I came to check on you just as everyone was leaving but you looked so content, I didn't want to wake you," he explained as he rinsed off platter. Sam wasn't sure if it was her imagination, but his eyes seemed heavy and weighed down. She still didn't feel like talking and so she prepared the bottle wordlessly. After he was done in the kitchen they settled in the living room to watch a movie until it was time for David to go down.
Pete moved closer to her when she came back from lying David down and he put his arm around her. Sam's stomach tightened as she knew precisely where this was headed. He stroked her hair but before he could do more Sam gently removed his hand. "I'm really tired Pete. I know it's been a while, but I just want to enjoy the movie."
He pulled back and Sam swore she could feel suspicion screaming from him as he focused on the movie. Still, he said nothing more for at least half an hour.
"I saw you earlier," he said as the credits began to roll. "You and Colonel O'Neill." She was going to act oblivious but the pain in Pete's eyes kept her from saying anything. He dropped his gaze to the floor. "Are you in love with him?"
"Pete, what happened today was a lapse in judgment. We both got caught up in a moment, it didn't mean anything," Sam answered dismissively.
"I'm a cop, Sam," he said, leaning forward. "What I saw wasn't a lapse in judgment. Are you in love with him?"
Heat flooded her cheeks. "I care about you. It's just a stupid crush okay? We've been through a lot together and it's natural that there might be some attraction. He's my superior officer and nothing can or will happen."
"Just answer me this and then I'll let it go," he cleared his throat, his eyes piercing into hers. "If the military wasn't standing in the way, would you be trying to have a life with him right now?"
Anger and frustration pooled in her gut. "That's not a fair question! I don't know what I would be like if I weren't military. For all I know I could be married to Jonas Hansen!" Sam felt defensive. It wasn't like she had cheated on him; it had just been an incredibly heated, lustful, longing… she sighed inwardly.
She watched him as he stood up, his eyes not holding any accusation although she felt thoroughly accused. And guilty. He leaned over and pecked her cheek. "Sam, you're amazing and the truth is I think I'm falling in love with you, but what I saw today… My ex-wife left me for my best friend. I don't want to live that over again, so I'm going to give you some time. Figure out what you want okay? If you care about him, I'm okay with that, I'll tell Mark you and I just don't click. But if you don't, call me. I don't want to let you go, but I don't know what else to do."
Tears welled up in her eyes as he walked out the door and she sank down on the couch. The whole situation made her feel intensely alone. There was no one in the world to whom she could confess her deepest attractions or hopes or fears. She'd driven Pete away. She couldn't have Jack. Not knowing what else to do she curled up on the couch and cried herself to sleep.
Chapter 6: Thirty Good Reasons
This chapter is a strong T, but I put an asterisk next to the chapter that might push it just a bit in case those who prefer not to read anything at all in that category can skip it. Read, review, enjoy!
The plain manila envelope had Janet Frasier's name neatly lettered on the front. Sergeant Masters delivered it to her desk which was unoccupied. It sat there unseen due to SG-9 coming in hot and heavy with refugees after another attack by Anubis and his super soldiers. Amid the stench of burned flesh, the screams of Captain Peters as Janet tried to stop the bleeding, and the flurry of nurses trying to decide who could wait and who needed to be moved to the front of the line, it laid there unassuming. Doctor Warner delivered several reports and placed them on top. By the time Janet found even a second to poke her head into her office she was hoping to sit for five minutes to drink a cup of coffee.
The coffee went cold while waiting on top of the stack. A late lunch was taken in the commissary with Sam. There was a briefing shortly thereafter and so it was close to 1700 by the time Janet slumped down in her chair and paused long enough to put her head on her desk. Five minutes later she put the coffee off to the side, filed the reports, and picked up the envelope. With curiosity she pulled out the contents and felt her stomach clench. Trembling, she stood while gripping it tightly; then she ran all the way to General Hammond's office.
"Who the hell told?" she screamed, ignoring Jack who took a step back in surprise. "Who?" Her eyes were blazing.
"Doc, look why don't you let us in on what you're talking about," Jack urged gently, holding up his hands in surrender.
"I'm talking about this!" she answered as she furiously thrust the envelope into his hands. General Hammond watched the interaction choosing to let Jack diffuse the situation before speaking. His second pulled out the file.
He let out a sigh. "Shit."
"Colonel?" Hammond asked. Jack handed it to him and he studied it, his face tensing. "It looks like we have a leak. Somehow someone who shouldn't knows about David O'Neill."
"What are we going to do, sir?" Jack asked.
Janet stepped forward. "We're getting him out of here. If someone in the Trust knows about David it's only a matter of time before they come after him. I won't let that happen, sir. I won't!" Jack grabbed her shoulders and leveled his gaze.
"Calm down, we're not going to let them hurt him. All the note said was that they know, they haven't made any demands or threats yet," he soothed, forcing her to meet his eyes.
She gnashed her teeth together. "I'm not going to let them touch him," she hissed. "I'm not going to let them do this to me again."
"David isn't your responsibility anymore, Doctor," Hammond interjected. Jack let go of Janet, but continued to watch her.
"Trust me, Doc, okay? I'm not going to let anything happen to him," Jack reassured. "And I'm going to make damn sure they don't touch Cassie either." Janet's face relaxed although the fear remained.
"Thank you," she took in a deep breath. "I'm sorry; I know I acted emotionally sirs." Her military mask was up again, but Hammond gave her a sympathetic nod.
"All is forgiven, Doctor. I think anyone would be emotional in your situation."
Without another word she exited and Jack sat down in the chair across from Hammond. Letting out a sigh, he rubbed his hands through his hair. "We have to get him off the planet. We need to send him some place where Anubis can't find him and those slimy bastards in the Trust can't get him."
"I'm thinking the Tok'Ra," the older man said, leaning back in his chair. Jack grimaced. "I know you don't like them and they sure as hell haven't given us a lot to trust them with, but we know Jacob and we do trust him. More than that I don't think they want Anubis fully ascending anymore than we do."
"I know sir," Jack admitted reluctantly. "I'll talk to Carter and get her on board. She's had him all of two weeks and we're already whisking him away again."
"She'll understand, son. I'll have Walter contact the Tok'Ra in the mean time."
He stood up and left dreading not only the conversation he had to have with Sam but also with Jacob. It was a delicate and awkward situation that's for sure. His pace slowed as he entered the corridor where Sam's lab was located. Since the barbecue they had withdrawn from each other, interacting only when necessary. The tension wasn't angry or fraught with distress; on his end it was a sense of guilt that kept him from being able to look Sam in the eye very long. His hand still burned where it had touched her cheek – an action that violated the very boundary he was duty-bound to uphold.
He paused in the doorway watching Sam type proficiently on her laptop. Clearing his throat, he entered. She looked up suddenly. "Sir!"
"How's it going Carter?" he asked nonchalantly, leaning against her table.
She gave him a weak smile. "I was doing some work on the other Samantha's notes on the quantum mirror. It appears that if you just switch it on it reads the DNA of the user and automatically searches for a universe in which there is the least likely chance of entropic cascade failure."
"Okay…" he responded trying to process her words.
"Janet was the one that turned it on but she was holding vials with David's DNA. At the time that they came through, she wasn't dead yet. I think David's DNA being Ancient overrode her DNA. I don't know. It's all very confusing," she confessed biting her lower lip. As seemed the custom lately, an uneasy silence fell over them. "What brings you here, sir?"
Jack tapped the table with this knuckled and averted his gaze. "Frasier received a threatening message although technically there wasn't a threat really made."
Alarmed, Sam sat up straighter. "What did it say?"
"Just that they know about David. General Hammond is contacting your father. We're going to send him to the Tok'Ra for now."
He risked meeting her eyes and he saw the disappointment which made him inwardly cringe. He didn't want to let David out of his sight anymore than Sam did, but keeping him on base just wasn't an option. "It's for the best," he tried to encourage, but it fell flat.
"I know, sir," she answered dully. "I should probably get back to this. Are you still picking up David from Marie's?"
"Yeah, I'm going to give Dave a ride home." Jack started to turn to leave, but paused. "How've you been Carter?"
"Ever since this whole thing started I guess… I mean do you need to talk?"
Sam felt her heart start to race as his brown eyes bored into her. What was he doing? Why was he trying to breach the barrier between them? "I-I'm fine, sir."
He gave her a nod and then left. Her hands were unsteady and she took several slow deep breaths. She hadn't told him that Pete broke up with her or that she felt painfully inadequate to be a mother or that she felt guilty every time she dropped David off at Marie Dixon's. Or that his illicit touch had made her dreams since vivid and sensual. Sam felt thirsty for his caress and she hated herself for it.
The universe seemed to be on Earth's side. Almost twenty-four hours after Walter sent a message to the Tok'Ra, Jacob Carter was walking down the ramp. The Tok'Ra had intel that indicated that Anubis was on his way to Earth, but why, they had no idea. Selmak suspected that they were about to find out when they had received the urgent summons and had told his host so. He greeted General Hammond with a firm handshake.
"George," he said with a smile.
"Jake, it's good to have you here. Hopefully you'll be willing to assist us with our dilemma," he said pursing his lips. "Follow me."
Jacob followed his friend down the corridor to the VIP quarters which caused his curiosity to pique. The door opened and he was surprised to find Jack sitting in a rocking chair with a baby in his arms. Daniel and Sam were sitting at the table and they looked up from the file in front of them. Teal'c was reading a book. Jacob let his gaze linger over the title and raised an eyebrow. Jane Eyre?
"I knew the SGC was looking for some young blood, but don't you think he should at least be able to walk before we give him a P-90?" the Tok'Ra joked. His daughter gave him a tightlipped smile.
"Dad, this is David O'Neill," she introduced nervously. Jack gave her a look before standing up to hand him to Jacob who took him with a bewildered expression. "Your grandson, kind of."
"Why do I get the feeling I'm missing a huge part of this story?"
"He's from an alternate reality," Sam explained. "Colonel O'Neill's counterpart and my counterpart were… involved. This is their son."
"Ah," he responded. "That explains a lot, I suppose."
"There's more," Jack said with a sigh. "He's fully Ancient and Anubis is after him."
Daniel spoke up. "Because of his DNA Anubis will be able to take him as a host and ascend completely."
"That explains my intel," Jacob answered. He pat David on the back and the baby let out a happy gurgle. "Anubis is on his way here. We've got operatives on board Anubis' ship but let's just say that Anubis is one stubborn son of a bitch."
"SG-2 is currently off-world investigating some ruins," Hammond said. "Doctor Jackson has been burning the midnight oil trying to find something to help us find the Lost City and with it a cache of advanced weaponry. Our search has thus far proved fruitless." He shared a look with Jack. "Someone who shouldn't have, found out about David. That means he's at risk here. We also want to send him with you to keep him out of Anubis' hands if our defenses should fail."
"We've got a hidden colony where we send families of our operatives, he'll be safe there," Jacob promised. He looked at his daughter and saw the trepidation in her eyes. "I'll be with him Sam."
David started to fuss and Sam immediately jumped up. "It's time for a bottle. I'll take him."
"Why don't you grab the bottle and we can go to the commissary," Jacob offered. "Unless you have more we need to discuss?" General Hammond shook his head. "Okay."
Sam grabbed the diaper bag and followed her father out the door pretending not to notice everyone's eyes following her.
Jack meandered down the corridor trying to figure out a way to avoid the stack of paperwork sitting on his desk. He was almost caught up on his reports and he had set up another training exercise for recruits. The truth was his mind tended to wander when he was sitting at his desk. He looked at his watch. Jacob would be leaving shortly if he wasn't gone already. With things being awkward between himself and Sam he'd wanted to give her space. He also didn't want any strange conversations with Jacob about the nature of his relationship with Sam. Not that there was a relationship.
"O'Neill!" Teal'c bass voice broke Jack's thoughts. He stopped and let his fellow warrior catch up to him. "Daniel Jackson and Major Carter desire a social gathering."
"I may sit this one out, T," he said as they started a slow walk. Teal'c raised his eyebrow. "I just feel tired," he confessed in a rare show of emotion.
"You have found it difficult to be parted from your son," he deduced. A shrug from Jack confirmed his assessment. "It is difficult for Major Carter as well. As her father left she looked as though she might weep."
With a heavy sigh Jack shoved his hands in his pockets. "This whole situation has made things strange for Carter and me, you now?"
"Besides, she has that cop. He'll take care of her."
His Jaffa friend paused mid-stride. "You are not aware?" Jack gave him a bemused expression. "Their relationship ended recently."
"I do not know, O'Neill. I do not think she wished us to find out but it came out in the course of a conversation with Daniel Jackson."
"For crying out loud!" he exclaimed running his hand through his unkempt hair. "Why the hell didn't she tell me?" Teal'c said nothing. "Is this what this whole 'social gathering' is about? To cheer her up?"
"Daniel Jackson and I thought it would be to both her and your benefit."
"All right, I concede, count me in," he said with a wave of his hand. Guilt ran afresh through his mind. So many lines had been drawn, so many walls erected, and he got too close and… he pushed the thoughts aside. He wasn't going to take the blame for the demise of Sam's relationship, especially since he could only guess as to the cause.
"The evening will begin at 1800 hours. Do not be late," Teal'c warned before walking away. Jack let out another sigh and spun around on his heel. It looked like he would need to finish up that paperwork after all.
After spending all evening avoiding each other, Sam would have never figured that the evening would have ended with her pinned tightly underneath her commanding officer. They had gone to dinner at Chili's where it was happy hour and she drank four rum and diets. The problem came when she tried to walk. In her infinite wisdom she had worn heels instead of sensible flats. Why she had worn heels was beyond her, it had made perfect sense when she was getting dressed. They looked good with her jeans. They were stupid, she decided as she tried not to enjoy the feel of his leg squarely placed between her thighs.
"Who put this damn hill here?" Jack growled. Sam had stepped forward, gotten her heel stuck in the soft soil, grabbed the nearest object which happened to be him, and proceeded to fall down the small mound. She tried not to groan as he slid off of her. Like a gentleman he offered his hand and helped her up.
"Thank you sir."
Her cheeks were red but a few deep breaths helped bring her adrenaline levels back down to normal. She inspected herself and let out a sigh of frustration. Her clothes were dirty and would need to be washed.
"I think it might be best if we call it a night," Sam said.
"It's okay. SG-2 is due back in an hour or so and I'd like to sit in on the briefing," Daniel said. "Sam, you coming with Teal'c and me to the base?"
"I can't. I really need to get some sleep. I'll call a cab."
"C'mon Carter, I'm standing right here," Jack pointed out.
"I don't want to put you out, sir, really, I'm okay," she protested with a polite smile. Jack knew he should let it go, but something in him kept him pushing.
"You're on the way. No more arguments," he practically ordered, knowing he'd pushed just a little too far. Her blue eyes glinted, but she said nothing, following him to the truck after saying the perfunctory goodbyes to Teal'c and Daniel.
When they were out of earshot of anyone, she dared herself to speak up. "Sir, permission to speak freely?"
"We've been on the same team for the last seven years, you know you're allowed to speak your mind, Carter," he responded as he unlocked his truck. Sam moved to be face to face with him.
"I don't think this is appropriate sir."
He dropped his gaze for a second before meeting her eyes again. "Nothing's happening that hasn't happened before. I'm just taking you home and saving you money on cab fare." His brown eyes were heavy and Sam felt her breath quicken. There was always a simmer between them and there were so many moments, like this one, where she swore everything was going to explode. An image, like a dream, crossed her mind. She'd had the fantasy once of kissing him and yet beyond a stolen, hormone-induced frantic passion, she had nothing tangible to really hold onto. Nodding she made her way to the other side of the truck.
The drive home was quiet; Jack didn't even bother with the radio. His hand twitched, desiring to reach out and run the length of Sam's thigh. Instead he settled for watching her through the corner of his eye. "It sucks we had to send him to the Tok'Ra."
"I'm not looking forward to my empty house," she admitted looking at him with a sad smile. "I'd just gotten used to him."
"Just pretend it's my night."
"I don't know that I can, sir," she responded, her voice low. They pulled up in front of her house. "Thanks for the ride, sir."
She looked as though she might say something else, but just shook her head and got out. How much longer could they last before the tension destroyed them?
When Jack stuck his head into the repository interface, sheer terror cut through Sam like knife, slicing her from her head to her feet. She was a combat soldier so she did what any good soldier did and channeled the terror into extra energy. Her mind became clearer, her sight sharper, her hearing more acute. They had to get to the Stargate.
By the time they made it through to the other side she thought she would collapse, her body was screaming that it needed to let go of the heightened senses in order to recover but she held on just a little longer until she could get to the locker room. Her hands shook as she tried to undo her pants and hard as she tried, Sam couldn't stand and she sank onto the bench in tears. Jack left after the briefing and she had yet to confront him.
So consumed by the emotions she had ignored she didn't even notice the door open.
"Sam?" Janet's voice brought her out of the haze. "Sam, sweetie, what's wrong?" The petite woman sat on the bench next to her friend and wrapped an arm around her. "Talk to me."
"I can't, I'm sorry Janet. I just can't," she answered, grabbing her jacket and rushing away. Sam practically ran through the corridors and once she was topside, she drove home at a breakneck speed. SG-1 had the weekend and she needed to sort through the myriad of emotions hanging onto her. Opening her freezer she found a pint of ice cream and half a bottle of rum.
Sam was careful not to get drunk. Tipsy was one thing, but drunk always left her feeling rather nasty. She could avoid the headache with a few well timed glasses of water, but the churning stomach acids left her unable to eat for most of the day. A drink or two, half a pint of ice cream, and one TBS showing of Back to the Future later she found herself half asleep. The clock read 2109 which seemed a bit early for her, but after the day she'd had, she decided to turn in anyway.
The sound of her phone ringing woke her up several hours later. Rolling over she groaned at the clock showing it to be just after midnight.
"Carter," she said groggily into the phone. There was no response so she repeated herself one more time. She was about to hang up when a familiar voice finally spoke.
"Don't hang up," Jack said.
"Sir?" His voice shook the last tendrils of sleep from her mind and she sat up in bed. "Is something wrong?" She waited for him to continue.
"You ever wonder about what ifs?"
"What ifs?" She furrowed her eyebrows.
He let out a sigh. "You know what I mean. Like what if I'd bought a Chevy instead of a Ford? Or what if I'd had pizza instead of Chinese?" He paused. "What if I'd locked up the gun instead of thinking I'd do it later?" His voice was laden with guilt, shame, and remorse.
"I-I don't know what to say, sir. I mean, the past is what it is, I can't change it. I can only hope to use the information to make better choices in the future." She bit her lip and rolled her eyes at herself. She sounded like a damn guidance counselor. Or a really depressing Hallmark card.
"No second chances on that one, Carter," he chided. "Not that I deserve one."
"Are you drunk sir?" There was no response. "Sir?"
"Haven't done this in a long time," he revealed. "Watched too many guys go down this path because the job requires you to be one sick son of a bitch."
"Why are you now?" she asked softly.
"Because I might die and somehow I just figured why the hell not."
Sam closed her eyes tightly. "Don't talk like that, sir. We're going to contact Thor; we'll get this figured out."
His breathing was heavy. "How many times can we call in that marker? I'm not worth it, we should save our ticket for when we really need it."
"Stop being so self-pitying," she snapped. "What happened to Plan B, C, and D and if those don't work, improvise?"
"Carter," he growled as a warning, but she wasn't going to back down.
"With all due respect sir, you called me, drunk. You know how important you are to the SGC. The Asgard deal with us because of you and I think that they are more than happy to make sure their favorite human remains alive and well."
His unexpected chuckle made her feel a little off kilter. "Some things never change. That's why I love you, Carter." There was a pause. "Shit. I meant… I mean…"
Gripping the phone tighter Sam's mind raced for a response. "You know we can't…"
"I mean hypothetically even if the regs weren't in place…"
"You'd confuse me with all that technobabble," he said. Sam could hear bottles clinking together in the background.
She bit her lip. "You'd leave your socks in the living room."
"You've got a very promising career that'll take you away from here eventually."
"You'd want to stay at your cabin all day and fish."
"You'd want me to talk about my feelings."
"You'd never open up. I'd eventually resent you."
"Neither of us can really cook so we'd eat Chinese take-out every night," he continued.
Sam felt her eyes start stinging. "You'd leave it out on the table, the dog would eat it, and get sick."
"We'd have a dog?"
A tear started down her cheek and she sniffled.
"I'm sorry, sir, I have to go. Have a good night," she said quickly before hanging up the phone. Tears started down her face. Yes, we'd have a dog, she thought to herself, and it'd be perfect.
Jack pulled himself out of bed around noon feeling no worse for wear despite his heavy drinking the night before. A couple of Advil, a glass of water, some toast, and a shower later he felt somewhat presentable for… well he didn't know what for, but at least he didn't look like a bum. At some point he was going to have to apologize to Sam for his complete stupidity the night before, but that could wait. A knock on his door interrupted his aimless thoughts and much to his dismay he found the object of his musings standing at his front door in a denim jacket with a blue top and matching skirt.
"Carter," he said non-chalantly. They stood there for a minute before he started. "About last night, I was pretty hammered, I'm really –"
"Don't," she said, holding up a hand. "Just don't." She was clearly upset with him and so Jack stepped back to give her entrance into his house.
"Do you want a beer or… beer?" he asked, but she shook her head.
"I have to say this, sir and I have to say it before I back out," she explained as she leveled her gaze at him. Jack nodded and she continued. "What you did, what you've done… you think your life is so much less valuable. But acting that way is unfair not only to you, but to those of us who care about you."
"Carter, look, I know I'm not good at this sort of stuff," he tried to explain.
"No sir, you're not. How could you do it? How could you stick your head in that thing again? You're always the first in line to offer your life and you say it's for us but I can't help but think you're trying to do some sort of twisted penance for your perceived crimes," she said, her cheeks flushing and her heart starting to pound. She had to get this out. "But you have other responsibilities. You have a son and while you didn't have anymore to do with his existence than I do, he's yours and he needs you." Her voice dropped and she averted her eyes. "I need you."
He didn't say a word, but his eyes were intensely fixed on the exquisite woman standing before him. "What else was I supposed to do? Daniel's the only one who can translate, Teal'c's not allowed because of Junior. And you… you're the single more important person the SGC has." Jack stepped forward and in an echo of his actions weeks before he let fingers push a lock of her hair back. "It couldn't have gone down any other way."
Sam's breath caught in her throat as they stood frozen. Then she felt him slide his hand to the back of her neck and start drawing her closer. She felt her arousal pool in her belly and there was no way in hell she was going to say no to him. Then there was a knock on the door. Regret flooded Jack's eyes as they pulled apart and she moved aside to let him answer the door.
"Daniel, T, what brings you to this neck of the woods?" Jack asked, all evidence of his earlier desires gone much to Sam's chagrin. The two companions walked in.
"Well, we were driving around and Teal'c wanted donuts and I thought, hey, let's see if Jack wants any…" he glanced between Jack and Sam. "We weren't interrupting something were we?"
"No, not at all, come on in," Jack said and Sam forced her best smile on her face. As Teal'c and Daniel made their way into the living room, he gave Sam a painfully apologetic glance. Neither had wanted to stop, but with the presence of their friends, they were faced with the sobering reality neither truly wanted.
After General Hammond's unexpected visit and even more unexpected announcement, the evening had turned excruciatingly somber. Hammond had left, receiving well wishes and support from all of them, and Daniel had tried and failed to find something that would lighten the mood. Finally, after a dinner of Thai take out it seemed only natural that they should part ways. Jack headed into the kitchen to throw away some of the containers and he heard the front door close and the house go silent. Noticing a plate that needed cleaning off, he scraped the scraps into the garbage before rinsing it off. Then he made his way out of the kitchen but stopped cold.
"Carter? I thought you left," he commented. Sam was standing by the front door and she was biting her bottom lip as she often did when trying to make a difficult decision.
"I was going to, sir, but…" her words trailed off. She moved closer to him and let her clear blue eyes peer into his. He thought she was going to continue speaking so it came as a shock when he felt her press her warm lips to his. Jack let his hands wrap around her waist so that he could pull her into him and let himself kiss her more deeply. There was desperation in the kiss, a fear of endings and mortality.
*Her nimble and deft hands undid the button to his jeans and Jack let out a low guttural moan as her hand slid the zipper down. Primal instinct took over and he pushed her against the wall, nipping at her neck causing the most arousing gasps escape her lips. The raw desire that had simmered beneath the surface for years came boiling over in an inferno of lust. She begged, he answered with strength, she sighed, he groaned, and in a passion that ended far too quickly for either, they were sated. Sam gripped his forearms to steady herself as he moved back from her and she couldn't help but sink to the ground, sitting against the wall he had pinned her to in his need.
His breathing was erratic as he came down from the high and he soon joined her on the floor. "Wow, that was… wow," he practically panted, closing his eyes as he laid his head back. "You?"
"I think that's exactly what I was going to say," she answered. He opened his eyes to look at her. "I wanted… I mean if for some reason things go wrong…" She closed her eyes and then opened them again.
They sat in the darkened hallway, letting their heart rates drop and their breathing even out. At some point her hand found his and their fingers intertwined.
"It's late Carter. I think we should go to bed," he invited, his voice tender. He squeezed her hand. "Stay with me tonight."
The entire situation felt surreal to Sam. She was supposed to feel guilty wasn't she? Having sex with her skirt hiked up while she was wedged between her commanding officer and the wall wasn't her style. Sam didn't even feel like talking about it with him, she just wanted to relish it, savor it, bask in it. If there was guilt to be had, she would deal with it later. Tonight she was going to take for herself because as much as she wanted to believe that Jack wasn't going to die, she had watched far too many friends cross that bar. She wanted no regrets.
They prepared to sleep; wordlessly he handed her one of his old shirts and a pair of boxers and she found another toothbrush in a drawer. They slipped under the covers together as though they had been doing so for years. Although she normally wasn't a cuddler, Sam allowed him to wrap his arm around her waist and spoon against her. More than anything she wanted her body to imprint the memory of him onto her skin. Soon he was lightly snoring and Sam followed quickly after.
She woke up the next morning to the sweet aroma of coffee and she groggily felt for the shirt that had been discarded from when they made love early that morning. Unlike the ferocity of their first encounter, this one had been subdued. Instead of cries of ecstasy there had been soft whimpers and muted sighs. Once she was decent she went out to find Jack sitting at his table reading the newspaper with a large purple mug with a blonde Viking on the front. Sam poured herself some coffee and sat down across from him.
He put down his paper. "Hey."
"Hey," she said back, tracing the rim of her mug with her index finger.
"Do we need to talk about it?" he offered.
Sam gave him a heavy smile. "One problem at a time. This can wait."
Jack studied her for a moment. "We weren't wrong."
"Just as long as we're on the same page."
Her eyes fell to her coffee. She took a long sip, finding pleasure in the heat that traveled down to her stomach. They said little else to each other and when Sam was leaving they didn't even share a kiss goodbye instead settling for a squeeze of the hands. The walls that had been let down were back up again. Later, she promised herself, later they would sort it out, if and when they survived Anubis' attack.
Chapter 7: I Can't Love You
"Mama ma ma ma ma," a little voice babbled in her ear. Sam's mind felt fuzzy and she felt incredibly disoriented as she slowly opened her eyes. A boy, no older than eighteen months was standing next to her in a blue onesie as she lay on the couch. His chubby face broke into a delighted grin. "Ma ma mama ma ma!" he squealed, a little bit of drool escaping his lips and dribbling down his chin.
"Davey! Davey!" came a familiar voice. She glanced around the unfamiliar living room but didn't get a chance to take it in before Pete poked his head through the doorway. "Davey, come here you little munchkin."
"Dada da da da… Ma ma ma ma," he continued with glee. Sam sat up and eyed Pete suspiciously.
"Pete, what are you doing here? Where am I?"
The smile that had been on her former boyfriend's face fell and he moved to sit next to her on the couch as he picked up "Davey" and sat him on his lap. "You don't remember?"
"Last I remember I was on…" she bit her lip. "A mission."
"You were trying to find Thor to save Colonel O'Neill and you were captured by Replicators," he filled in. "That was over a year ago sweetheart. You've been having trouble with nightmares but… I think I'd better call the Doc."
She shot out her hand to stop him. "Wait, maybe if you tell me what's going on, it'll jog my memory." It wasn't that she didn't believe him except that, well, she didn't believe him. As real as everything felt she was certain it was a Replicator mind trick.
Pete grimaced. "If this gets to be too much, you tell me okay?" She nodded. "Thor didn't make it in time. By the time they thawed Colonel O'Neill, it was too late, he was gone." Sam's face paled but she said nothing. "You were alone with David and you needed help so I came to help you. After what happened with O'Neill you snapped somehow, nightmares, hallucinations, but I stuck with you. You and Davey here. We got married about four months ago and moved out here to Montana so you could relax."
Standing, she walked towards the window. It was autumn outside, the leaves were bright oranges and reds interspersed with brown. They were on a farm of some sort. "Cut it out Fifth. I know this is you."
"Dammit Sam, let me take you to see the Doc. You're not well," her "husband" insisted. David wiggled out of his arms and toddled towards a stray stuffed dog while Pete went to Sam and put his arms around her waist. "I know I wasn't your first choice. I've accepted that. I told you I'd be with you through thick and thin." He urged her to turn around and looked into her blue eyes. "I love you." He gingerly lowered his lips to hers and she allowed him to kiss her even though she didn't return the affectionate gesture. "Doesn't that feel real?"
Again she nodded and felt her eyes start to sting. Her brain felt foggy and discombobulated. Everything felt wrong but she couldn't figure out how to prove that this was a fantasy and not reality. Unable to do anything else, she decided to play along. "So what's on the agenda?"
He smiled warmly. "I convinced Mrs. Mason down the road to watch Davey tonight so we could go into town, catch a movie, get some dinner…" Pete moved close to her and pressed his lips to her neck. "By the time we get home it'll be his bedtime and you and I can go to bed ourselves." His suggestion made her bristle and she abruptly stepped back.
"Pete, that's nice, but you know I think I'd rather just stay here. Have a quiet night in, order pizza, and turn in early."
His face darkened and he gripped her wrist. "What the hell is wrong with you Sam? I've done everything for you. I put up with your fits, I watch Davey. I gave up my career for you and this is how you repay me? I know you think about him with you're with me. I know you want him but he's dead."
The bitterness and ferocity of his words frightened her and she felt his hand tighten. "You're hurting me… Fifth. Pete was a great guy and does not deserve to have his memory tainted. Why are you doing this?" she asked. Pete's image morphed into Fifth and he harshly let go of her.
"I love you Samantha. Here you can have everything. I'll be anyone you want." His voice was pleading and before her eyes he transformed into Jack. "I couldn't look like this before because I wasn't sure I could fool you with him, but I'm willing to look like him, act like him, and love you the way you want him to." He took her hand again, this time with tenderness.
"You're not him. You could never be him," she hissed with barely contained rage. "Let me go. This isn't real and I will never be happy in this illusion." Still in Jack's form he back handed her and she fell to the ground. Sam's hand touched her now red cheek and the only thing that comforted her was the look in Fifth's eyes – he had the visage of Jack but his eyes lacked the spark and life that she had come to love about her commanding officer.
"Then you will be unhappy for a very long time."
The room transformed into the cold, metal Replicator built chamber and Fifth, now in his original form, melded into the wall and left her there alone.
Seeing Jack O'Neill appear before him (even if he was a hologram) made Daniel feel incredibly relieved. Although he hadn't been wallowing in self-pity and guilt, he would remiss if he didn't admit to feeling very responsible for Jack's near-death. His irreverent friend was bent over his own body in the pod and seemed to be studying himself intensely.
"I think the gray actually suits me," he said thoughtfully. "I am rather ruggedly handsome, wouldn't you say Daniel?"
Good to see the entire repository of the Ancients hadn't made him any less 'Jack'. "We need you to-"
Jack held up a hand. "I already know. Ship's logs. In fact, my ability to multi-task has increased exponentially. Not only am I working on a plan for our little bug problem, but I am also solving the mysteries of the universe and extrapolating possible future episodes for The Simpsons."
"You know that massively expanded brain power might be better served focused solely on the issue at hand. I don't know if you realize or not but Sam was taken."
The hologram turned to Daniel and his gaze was piercingly deadly. "I know." He shuddered as Jack turned to a table that looked as though it were creating a virtual device. He wanted to ask what it was, but knew better, especially with the look of concentration written all over his friend's face. Just then loud, sharp alarms started to go off.
"I must revive him," Thor announced. Teal'c who had been standing motionless and silent near the pod raised an eyebrow.
"Wait!" Jack shouted. The hologram began to flicker but after another second he turned to Thor. "Done."
The pod hissed as his image disappeared and as the pod opened he blinked to focus his eyes. "For crying out loud Thor, next time you need to park your ship, would mind not doing it on my head?" The small alien gave him a quizzical expression, well, Daniel assumed it was quizzical. The lack of eyebrows made the whole facial expression thing difficult to read.
"What is the last thing you remember O'Neill?" Teal'c's bass voice caused Jack to wince.
"Getting my head sucked by that head… sucker… thing," he answered. His head really throbbed. "I need some Advil."
"The discomfort will pass and your memories will return shortly," Thor assured him. "I am currently constructing the device that you made while in the ship's computer."
The trio watched as Thor assembled the device and Daniel turned to Jack with an expectant look on his face. "Well?"
"What does it do?"
Jack scratched his head. "How the hell should I know?"
"You made it?"
"Oh for… Thor!"
That's when they dropped out of hyperspace.
When Jack first saw her limp form on the ground in the forest of Orilla his heart dropped. He'd maintained the cool façade, the snarky humor, and general non-chalant attitude required in high stress situations but the sight pushed his abilities. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and he didn't feel it start to recede until Teal'c was by her side helping her sit up. Her sublime, heavenly bright blue eyes met his and he remembered everything. His tongue remembered the taste of her lips, his fingers remembered the feel of her skin, his ears remembered the sighs and gasps and screams as she released herself to exquisite pleasure.
"Good to see you Carter," he said with a grin. He extended a hand and helped her to her feet.
Returning his smile she answered, "You too sir." Then she looked at Teal'c and blinked. "What's with the hair?" Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow and Daniel put his arm around her shoulders.
"Let's go home Sam," he said giving her a gentle squeeze.
It took over a week for them to reach Earth and both Jack and Sam spent most of it sleeping. Both looked eager to talk but remained silent, sharing glances when they were sure no one was watching. Jack typed up his resignation the second he walked into his "secret" office on base and was on his way to see Weir when Walter Harriman intercepted him. A chill cut through him as he was handed a plain manila envelope like the one Janet had received. Ducking into an unused holding room he opened it and swore as he saw the contents.
How the hell someone had gotten pictures of Sam pinned against the wall in obvious orgasmic bliss eluded him. It also sickened him. He collapsed on the chair and pulled his resignation letter out of the stack. The paper caught another sheet which had on it a simple, typed message. "Take it."
Crumpling up the message he hurled it across the room. "Damn fucking bastards," he growled. Jack wanted to kill someone. Anyone would do at this point, although the photographer would be top on his list. He was so damn close. He'd tasted her. He'd had her and he wanted her over and over again. Regaining his control he picked up the message and smoothed it out, placed it with the photo and put it all back in the envelope. All he could hope was that the message would make sense soon.
He continued the trek to Dr. Elizabeth Weir's office and with a knock found himself taken aback as she put a framed photograph in a box.
"Colonel, what can I do for you?"
"Going somewhere?" he asked as he walked in. She gave him a friendly smile. "I don't think I smell that bad."
"I'm going to Antarctica to head up negotiations. It appears my term here was short."
"Too bad, I think you were just starting to like me. So who's the hard-nosed, pain in the ass that's taking over this facility?" Jack tapped the manila envelope against his thigh as he rocked back and forth on his heels.
"I think you know him," she teased playfully. "Brigadier General Jack O'Neill."
He froze. Take it. His mouth went dry and found himself speechless. Elizabeth misinterpreted his lack of response as a positive sign. "Congratulations, you deserve it. I know you've been jealous of this chair for a while."
Quickly he recovered. "The chair itself, yes. The paycheck and the parking spot are also a plus, but I'm not so sure about being 'the Man'."
With a quirky glint in her eyes she responded. "I have a few skirts I'm going to get rid of if you'd prefer to be 'the Woman.'"
"Thank you, but I'll pass. Pantyhose makes my legs itch," he declined. "I'd better go enjoy myself before the call of duty drags me back again." Once he was in the safety of the corridor he let his face fall and he closed his eyes. Take it. He had no choice, not if he wanted to protect Sam and David. Someone clearly had surveillance on his house and there was probably a mole within the SGC. Jack knew what had happened in Janet's reality and his heart felt as though it had been stabbed through with a knife. He was a father and he had a responsibility.
It was Daniel that told her about Jack's impending promotion. To say that she felt off balance at the announcement was an understatement. Sam felt her stomach twist on itself as she pulled on her skirt and tucked in her blue button up. They hadn't talked about anything yet, of course. It had only been two days and she had spent a good deal of that time in the infirmary. Jack had come by once but he seemed reserved and distant. Her nervousness made her fumble a bit with the buttons on her jacket. After Daniel told her about him being in charge of the SGC, she chalked it up to needing to maintain a professional distance until they could properly deal with what had happened between them.
Her fears were moved to the back burner when she arrived in the gate room and saw him standing at the top of the platform. Pride surged within her. How could she not be proud? She'd served under his command for seven years and she knew precisely how honorable and intelligent he was. His speech was succinct but she was completely floored when she heard her name. Normally she would have been warned about a promotion and especially about the pinning on ceremony.
"You deserve this Carter," he whispered as he pinned silver oak leaves to her shoulders. Their eyes met and she saw everything she remembered reflected in them. She took her oath, her gaze never wavering. Afterwards there was cake and punch and people milled about congratulating her. Jack remained elusive, however, and her day ended without being able to find him.
She changed into her civvies in the locker room and headed up to the surface. Once there she dialed Jack's number.
"O'Neill," he answered.
"Sir, it's me. I wanted to… I wanted to stop by if that was all right with you," she replied inhaling deeply.
There was a hesitant silence on the other end. "It's been a long day Carter…"
"Oh, well, I understand." Now paranoia was starting to set in. She was coming to an end of the list of excuses she had prepared mentally for his reticence. He sighed with frustration on the other end.
"Come on over," he relented before he hung up. Sam bit her lip feeling confused by the interaction but determined to get clarification when she met him. She willed her thoughts to remain quiet and not draw conclusions, but she could do nothing to stop her stomach from flip flopping. Pulling up behind his truck, she got out and knocked on his door.
Jack opened the door and thanked God that she was wearing jeans. Every time he saw her in a skirt memories from their first encounter flooded his mind. Sam gave him a small smile and he motioned for her to come on in.
"Uh, no, Fifth kept my head pretty cloudy so I'm rather enjoying the clarity at the moment."
He shrugged and moved towards the living room. She sat tensely on the couch while he took a more comfortable position. "What can I do for you Carter?"
The look in his eyes was different than before. It lacked the emotion that had been new to their secret and stolen glances. Doubt caused her to second guess everything she had interpreted as being at all romantic. "I was wondering if you wanted to talk about what happened, you know, before the attack by Anubis."
His gaze fell to the coffee table and he cleared his throat. "I don't really remember anything to be honest," he confessed, looking back at her apologetically. "I didn't do something inappropriate did I? If I did, I'm sorry. Those Ancients just love to futz around with the wiring upstairs."
The color in her face drained. Of all the scenarios she had played out in her mind, she hadn't even considered this one. Willing herself not to cry she stood up abruptly. "I- I need to go, sir. I just remembered something I need to do." Sam didn't care that her excuse was flimsy; she just knew she needed to get the hell out of his house. Jack stood up but remained motionless as she practically ran from him.
She managed to hold it together until she got home. As she crashed to the floor inside her door and let the torrent of tears fall she tried desperately to push back the black abyss that was consuming her. The last time she'd felt this pain she was battling the loss of Jolinar and with so many years between then and now, she'd forgotten how deeply such agony could cut her.
The wine rolled over her tongue and Janet savored the full-bodied flavor as she sat on her couch waiting for her chick flick to start. It had been a hectic month and thankfully Cassie had gone off to Mandy's for a sleepover so that she could practice a little bit of self-care. Pulling her afghan closer she snuggled in. Then the doorbell rang. "Damn," she muttered. Letting the red afghan drop to the couch she put her wine down and went to the door.
"Daniel!" she exclaimed. "What brings you by this late?" She turned and started in and he followed.
"I tried calling Jack, but he didn't answer and neither did Sam. Teal'c's like an old man and likes to go to bed at the most ridiculously early hours," Daniel explained. His demeanor was uncomfortable so Janet poured him a glass of wine.
"Feeling off kilter about all the changes?" she asked leading him towards the living room. He took a seat next to her and placed his wine on the coffee table.
"Can I be honest?" Janet nodded her head to urge him to continue. "I feel guilty about Jack having stuck his head in the repository. I know that sounds stupid, but I was really scared we'd lost him. I really wanted to talk to him today but he's been sort of a loner and I just needed to get it off my chest."
"He's alive – you don't need to feel any sort of guilt. Besides, he's the commander and he made a decision. When we join the military we signed our lives away on the dotted line." She sipped her wine. "Come hell or high water, we promised that we'd die to protect our country and the people we love. In this case, we also happen to be saving the world."
The look on Daniel's face told her that he didn't believe her. "I wish I could accept that."
"You don't have to accept it. It is the way it is," she stated matter-of-factly.
"So it's the same for you?" he asked meeting her eyes sadly. "Is that what happened when you died?"
Setting her glass back down, Janet reached a hand over and put it on his leg. "From what I understand I died here saving a man's life. A man who has a beautiful daughter and is alive to see her. If I couldn't die an old lady in my sleep, I couldn't think of a better way to go," she admitted.
He ran his hand through his hair. "You know I never stop to think about what all this means in the long run. When I lost Sha're the first time I held onto this idea that she was out there. When I lost her for the final time, I shoved it down, told myself I'd really lost her years ago. Then I ascended, came back, and had to live through it all again."
"I'm so sorry," she whispered sympathetically.
"Then just a few months later I watch you die. And then Jack. I'm tired of losing people. I'm tired of watching people die. I want this damn war to be over. I want to go back to my fossils and tablets where the only bloodshed I faced was the ancient texts of ancient civilizations whose names no one can even pronounce anymore." The frustration made him take a greedy drink of his wine.
"If that's how you feel, then go," Janet replied. "Nothing is holding you here except your own decision. Go on your digs, go off world and live with some culture, the Unas for example. You'll fade into obscurity but your life will be quiet." There was a bite in her tone that he hadn't been prepared for and he opened and closed his mouth a few times not sure how to respond. "You of all people should understand how frail this life is. I shouldn't have to be the one to remind you that it doesn't matter who you are, if you're not part of the fight eventually the fight comes to your doorstep and you're left unprepared."
When Daniel was finally able to pick his jaw up off the ground his voice was filled with a sense of shame. "You're right. I guess I have trouble reconciling it all in my mind. When this whole thing started ten years ago I just wanted the truth to be known, I didn't know that that truth was going to be this complicated."
Janet gave him a smile. "I can be a little passionate about this," she surrendered. "Growing up my grandmother used to tell me stories of her days as a nurse during World War II. Options for women were limited in those days and she was a feisty woman. When we entered the war she figured if she couldn't hold a gun, she'd at least mend the ones who could. My middle name, Lillian, was her name and I guess I always felt a strong connection to her. Papaw always said he saw her spark in me and becoming a doctor was my way of honoring her."
"I had no idea," he said with a sense of awe. Daniel looked at his now empty glass. "Crap, looks like I finished the whole thing."
"I take it you're as much of a lightweight as mine was."
He gave her a sheepish shrug. "I'll just crash on your couch for an hour and then head home."
"You can crash in Cassie's room if you want. I'll get you some clean sheets." Janet was up and to the linen closet before he could protest and he decided to take her up on it. Truthfully he'd probably be fine, but deep down he just didn't want to go home and be alone with his thoughts.
"Think nothing of it. Have a good night," she said before walking around the corner and into her own bedroom. If she couldn't watch her movie, she figured she could at least take a nice hot bath.
Shrill screams startled Janet from her slumber and it took a minute to register that it was Cassandra. Leaping out of her bed she ran down the hall to find her daughter standing in the hallway covering her eyes. "Cassandra?" she asked with a loud concerned tone. The teen just pointed towards the bedroom where a very naked Daniel Jackson was sitting up in bed with just a comforter covering his more private bits.
Unable to contain herself she started laughing and her daughter just looked at her horrified. "Mom! Daniel is naked in my bed."
"He does lose his clothes a lot doesn't he," Janet commented while the flustered man tried to find his glasses. "Nightstand to your left."
"Thanks," he muttered.
"We'll let you dress," she responded pushing Cassie further into the hallway and pulling the door shut behind her. "Sorry hon, I thought you were going to be at Mandy's until later."
Cassandra grabbed Janet's arm and pulled her towards the master bedroom. "Mom did you and he… you know?" There was a genuine fear in the teen's eyes. "Cuz there wasn't anything between them here and…"
"Relax, Cass. He stayed as a friend. Do you think he would be sleeping naked in your room if we had been intimate?"
"Did you have to say it like that? I'm going to be scarred for life!" she practically shrieked. "There are images I really, really don't want to live with."
She rolled her eyes at the dramatic tone her daughter took. "Go put your stuff down in my room and I'll get some breakfast started. We're going to go see Sam later today for some celebratory shopping."
"Awesome!" Cassie exclaimed giving Janet a peck on the cheek before heading down the hallway, pausing only for a moment as Daniel exited her room, this time fully clothed. "Next time Daniel, at least wear a pair of boxers."
Janet convinced Daniel to at least stay for breakfast but he excused himself after a second cup of coffee. Being on downtime he wanted to work on some papers for publication some day. He figured eventually the Stargate Program would be known and when it did, he wanted some sort of vindication. It was another couple hours before the women were ready to go and Cassie was unbelievably excited at the prospect of shopping.
They pulled up in front of Sam's house and Cass turned off the stereo. Knocking on the door Janet fiddled with her purse and when no one answered she knocked again. "Sam!" she called out. "It's me!" Still it was silent.
Picking up her phone she dialed Sam's cell.
"Carter." She picked up after two rings.
"Sam it's me. I'm at your house, we were supposed to go shopping remember?"
Sam let a curse escape her lips. "I'm so sorry Jan. I completely forgot. It's been such a nightmare for the last month I just wasn't thinking."
"It's fine, we were just worried. We can reschedule. I'll take Cass; after all she'll have no end of what she wants to buy so I'm sure I'll still be broke by the time we do go." Cass stuck her tongue out at her mom.
"Thanks. I'll catch you guys later."
With a sigh of relief, Sam hung up the phone and leaned her head on her knees which were drawn up close. She was wearing a large knit cardigan and sitting on the edge of a small hill at the Garden of the Gods. After her disappointing, heartbreaking conversation with Jack the night before she just couldn't bear to be with anyone.
Her eyes were red from her hours of crying and she felt like such a stupid girl. That's a judgment, she heard her therapist from her childhood chide her. Crying was a normal, healthy way of dealing with an emotion. She had given a piece of herself to Jack and he didn't remember. How was she supposed to live with the secret? How was she supposed to work with him when she knew exactly what it felt like to be with him?
The sun started setting by the time she left and when she stood she felt dizzy with hunger. Sam felt as though she dragged herself home but when she saw the form of a man on her front steps her heart started to pound. Had he remembered? Parking and getting out she could barely keep herself from running but when she saw the man's face she began crying all over again.
"Pete," she whispered as he moved towards her. It was clear he wanted to embrace her but he kept his distance, not wanting to overstep his bounds. "What are you doing here?"
"I heard about some strange stuff down in Antarctica and I knew it was a cover story and well…" he made a hand motion. "I knew you were probably involved and I was worried. I know we aren't together and everything but I couldn't help myself. I called and called but didn't hear anything and when I called the base today they said you were back so I drove here. To see you. To make sure you were okay."
The hunger and the loneliness weighed her down and she felt herself start moving towards the ground but Pete's strong arms shot out and picked her up. "Geez, Sam, what the hell happened?" She shook her head and choked back another sob. Gently he took her keys from her hands and helped her towards the house.
He unlocked the door and got her to her couch. Leaving her to lay there limply he went to the kitchen and found a box of cookies and a diet Coke. Walking back he put them in front of her. "I'm sorry I'm not good at this so I just sort of brought you whatever I could find."
The pop of the can was like music to Sam's ears. She hadn't realized how thirsty she was. "Sorry you caught me like this," she said, wiping her eyes. "I just needed a day to feel sorry for myself before I kicked my ass back into gear."
"I know you probably can't talk about it, but if there's something you can talk about and you need to, I'm willing to listen."
She met his puppy dog eyes and let out a small snort of laughter. "You are a glutton for punishment aren't you?"
He returned her grin. "Yeah, I can't help it. Probably why I married my ex-wife." Sam leaned against him and he put his arm around her. He moved back and she moved with him reveling in his sweet and compassionate touch. "Why don't I order food and we can watch a movie. Maybe one of those sci-fi flicks you like to rip to shreds."
"You hated it when I talked through movies."
"Well I hate sci-fi more, so it'll be the lesser of two evils." Pete felt her shake with a silent chuckle before she pulled back and looked at him with her blue eyes. He couldn't help himself. He knew she was in love with someone else but he couldn't bring himself to walk away. A thought occurred to him. "He didn't hurt you did he?"
Her body went rigid. "No, not like you're thinking. It… it's not his fault either. I don't want to talk about it; can we not talk about it?"
"Whatever you want. I'm yours."
"Thanks. It means a lot."
Then she settled back down, putting her ear against his chest. Sam knew she needed to eat, but she wanted to feel safe again, if only for a few more minutes.
Chapter 8: We've Yet to Acknowledge
Jack shook his pen as the ink ran out mid-signature. How many pens did that make? Four? He barely read half the forms that crossed his desk anyway so what did it matter if his pen ran out of ink? Walter could forge his signature for all he cared. Not that Walter would ever do such a thing. Jack sighed. His day had started out miserable. He had been out of milk and cereal and when he shown up on base all they had left were Cheerios. The coffee was old, his knee hurt, and then that damn Russian flyboy showed up going on and on about how great he'd be for SG-1.
He was convinced the desk made him old. For all his aches and pains, when he had been out on the field he'd barely noticed them. Now they seemed to be occupying his every other thought. Better that than Carter, Jack conceded. A knock on his door startled him and he looked up.
"Asleep already sir?" There was a playful smile on her lips. It had been over a month since she'd shown up on his doorstep wanting to talk about their night together. The night of which he feigned ignorance and which caused him to sink to a new level of self-loathing. His only respite had been when it seemed she had finally forgiven him. Jack knew most of it was an act, but no matter how hard they tried to get away from each other, they always found themselves right where they started.
"I wish I were," he commented, picking up a red folder. "Let's get this briefing on the road." He followed her out to the conference room. Jack took the traditional head of the table and Sam sat to his left. Teal and Daniel had paused their conversation and sat down as well upon his entrance.
"I'm going to assume you told Alexi no?" Daniel started off.
Jack gave him an annoyed glance. "'Hell no' would have been a little impolite, don't you think? Besides, there's no rule that says SG teams have to have four people. It's just a nice number so someone isn't running around all by themselves."
"I am in agreement O'Neill. Are we not acceptable as we are?"
"Exactly!" Jack agreed. "Carter?"
"Any thoughts? This would be your command," he prompted. Sam focused her blue eyes on him as though studying him. "Carter?"
"I don't see why we need a fourth person, sir," she finally replied. A beat passed. "Just as long as we're on the same page."
It took all of Jack's training not to break the stare. She was looking for something, a crack in the armor, a stray twitch, or a small tell. He had to admit she was good using his own words to try to jog his memory; or perhaps she was trying to call his bluff. Jack hated that he was a damn good poker player and he gave her a smile and then turned to Daniel. "Daniel you'll go out with SG-11 while SG-1 is on down time. I know Carter has some lab work and Teal'c you can go out with another team or go do whatever it is you like to do. Dismissed."
He kept his eyes down, unable and unwilling to face the disappointment he knew he would see in Sam's eyes. Her beautiful, exquisite, sapphire eyes that made him feel like the sorriest loser on the face of the planet. Her presence lingered even after she was gone and he honestly wondered how long he was going to be able to keep the façade up.
Colonel Vaselov had yet to awaken after his mysterious collapse in Daniel's office and Janet didn't see any use in her standing around waiting so she decided to take a much needed break and head to the commissary. The preliminary blood work would be back in an hour which meant she might actually get to enjoy a cup of coffee for once. She was so lost in thought, however, that when she turned the corner she practically knocked over Daniel.
"Janet! Sorry! I didn't see you," he exclaimed.
"Don't worry about it. I was just headed down to get something to eat," she explained with a wave of her hand.
"Why don't I join you? I could use some nourishment myself."
They walked together to the commissary and she chose a half sandwich and a cup of soup while Daniel chose the special of the day which looked like meatloaf or something resembling meatloaf.
"So when you do think they'll bring the child back?" he asked suddenly.
"You mean David?" she said with a raised eyebrow. Daniel almost always used David's name. He nodded.
"I don't know. I suppose whenever they decide the threat to him is gone. With Anubis taken care of, probably sooner rather than later, but there's no way to be certain. There are those here on Earth that would like to get their grubby little hands on him," Janet answered.
"They can't leave him with the Tok'Ra forever though," he commented. "I mean, the Tok'Ra are ill-equipped to handle a child for any length of time."
She gave him a bemused expression. "Are you feeling all right? I mean, you of all people know that they do have a place for their families to live while they're fighting right?"
"Yeah, but it's just… he's a special child."
"I guess so," Janet answered with a shrug. "It's not like he has magical powers or anything. So far he's been nothing more than an average human baby."
"He's exhibited no Ancient abilities?" Daniel inquired, his food remaining untouched. "I mean with the genetic code, surely he would exhibit something. Maybe healing or expanded brain function?"
Janet shook her head. "I really haven't seen anything. Maybe it'll develop when he's older, who knows. Orlin said he was a gift and unfortunately we don't have much else to go on." She felt a vibration at her hip. "Oh! Colonel Vaselov is awake. You'll have to excuse me, Daniel."
She leapt up from her seat, leaving her tray, and not noticing that Daniel started after her. Halfway down the corridor she felt a strong hand grab her arm and she was yanked into an empty holding room. Pain stabbed through her skull as she was pushed up against the concrete wall and her breath caught at the sight of a very angry Daniel Jackson.
"Tell me what you know about the child," he hissed venomously at her.
"D-Daniel?" she choked. "You know everything I know." There was a satisfaction in his eyes as fear engulfed her.
He brought his lips to her ear. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Where is he?"
"I don't know! The Tok'Ra have him," she pleaded. Suddenly he pressed his lips to hers before chomping down on her bottom lip, causing her to gasp as blood filled her mouth. "I don't know!"
Roughly he threw her to the table. "You do know! You have to know. I know you wanted the boy for yourself. You hated that they didn't understand his value. You loathed them, those ungrateful worms. But you… you know him, you love him, and you will tell me where he is or so help me…" Janet was lying on the table now, trembling beneath him. The coldness in his eyes was the only thing that let her know she wasn't dealing with Daniel and for that she was grateful. His hand was perched on her thigh and was slowly making its way up and terror screamed through her.
"Down here! The security cameras saw him take her in here!" The distant voice made hope surge within Janet's chest and she screamed out. Daniel covered her mouth again with his lips and as the door was opening, he collapsed to the floor.
"Janet!" Sam's voice was full of concern and she rushed to her friend's side. Janet wiped her bloody lip with the back of her hand and slid off the table. "Janet are you okay?" She put a hand on her friend's back to support her but the petite woman simply waved her away.
"I'm fine. Daniel just got a little rough that's all," she explained, watching as several medics hauled him onto a gurney and took him towards the infirmary. "Good thing you were diligent in your duties and found me when you did."
"Colonel Vaselov woke up and apparently he doesn't recall anything after visiting with a cosmonaut friend of his. He told us we had to find 'the man with glasses' which we figured out was Daniel."
Janet's eyes darkened. "Oh?"
"We're hoping to get the whole story from Daniel when he wakes up. Oh! And those lesions you found on the Colonel's body? His friend had them." Sam paused and eyed her friend with a bit of suspicion. "Janet are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she snapped. "Look, I'm sure this is all very interesting but I have to get back to work, so if you'll excuse me."
Sam blinked in surprise as Janet swept by her with out even another glance. Something wasn't right but her gut told her that she didn't want to alert Janet so she detoured from her lab to Jack's office. When all else failed, she thought, she knew she could trust him.
"Ma'am, I just wanted to let you know that per General O'Neill's orders gate travel has been suspended for the time being," Lieutenant Evans informed Janet. The slender, younger woman was eyeing her nervously and clearly wanted to leave the office as soon as possible.
"What?" she growled, standing up. "Did he say why?"
"N-no ma'am," she stuttered. Ever since Dr. Jackson had collapsed Janet had been edgy, shouting commands, demanding information, sending them on pointless errands. Then Samantha Carter had come down with this order and told her, her, of all people to inform Dr. Frasier.
In a fit of rage Janet shoved the pile of papers on her desk to the floor. "How am I supposed to work with this level of incompetence? All of you are idiots! Don't you think it would be pertinent to tell me why the hell he shut the gate down? I'm the damn Chief Medical Officer! How am I supposed to function if I don't know what's going on?"
Lieutenant Evans shrank back. "I-I'll go find out for you, ma'am."
"Don't bother. It's clear someone with some level of intelligence has to deal with this. I swear if we were on another planet I would have you shot for your stupidity," she spat, rushing by the poor woman. It had been four hours since the incident in the holding room and she had no more information on the child than when she started. Her blood was boiling and there was a sense of bloodlust rising in her. On a mission she barreled out of her office and ran smack into Daniel with four SFs.
"Janet." His voice was level and calm. "How are you feeling?"
Willing herself to calm down she inhaled deeply. "A little worked up, but other than that, I'm okay."
One of the SFs started forward but Daniel held up a hand for him to wait. "You know, it's funny, but you never came by to check on me in the infirmary. Dr. Larson ended up handling my issue. Where were you?"
"I'm the Chief Medical Officer. I have a lot of things I have to do," she responded, her voice taking a sharp tone. "I can't handle every little petty problem that comes up." She was clearly becoming agitated. "Now if you don't mine, I must see General O'Neill."
The man shook his head. "Nope. He's very busy. General type stuff, you know. You're not feeling well, Janet, so you're going to come with me."
"The hell I will," she hissed before lunging at Daniel. He wasn't completely caught off guard and managed to deflect most of her attack. A zat blast was fired and hit her, causing her to crumple to the floor but not before a black cloud rose up from her and disappeared into the base walls.
"So you were right," Jack commented, leaning back in his seat. "It's an alien entity jumping from person to person."
"Not just any alien entity. It's Anubis," Daniel replied with urgency. "I can't explain how I know, but I remember when I attacked Janet the feeling, the thoughts."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "How is this possible Daniel Jackson?"
"He's not fully human… or Goa'uld… or whatever," Sam said thoughtfully. "Perhaps his shield that allows him to interact with this plane of existence was destroyed and now he needs to make it through the Stargate."
"But why wouldn't he use some of his cool powers?" Jack asked tapping his pen on the desk. "I mean couldn't he just, I don't know, fly to another planet?"
"I don't think it's quite that easy," Daniel replied. "If he did that, he'd be stopped by the others because it wouldn't be through a means that had been acquired 'naturally'."
"Oh for crying out loud," he exclaimed in response. "How much more hypocritical can these guys get!"
"Sir, I noticed when I was in Janet's office that she had accessed everything we have on David. It's likely that not only is he trying to escape, but he's also trying to find the location of the Tok'Ra base."
Jack met her eyes and for a brief second she saw unguarded concern and fear before his military persona kicked back into high gear. "We've known all along that David's what he wants," he states, his voice low. "None of us knows that location so no matter how far Anubis gets, he won't get that." Sam stiffly nodded.
"All right, so we need a plan. Any ideas?"
Daniel and Sam met each other's eyes and then looked at Jack. "Actually, sir, we have one."
She quickly outlined her plan to split the base up into three parts in a way that would prevent Anubis from being able to control any one person and access the Stargate. Daniel pointed out that they had plenty of food and water that they could ration out equally between the three sections.
"Dr. Larson said he found elevated white blood cells in both Alexi, myself, and Janet, meaning that if we do tests on everyone on base, it'll give us an idea of where he is or at least let us track his movements," Daniel explained.
Jack looked at Teal'c and back at Daniel. "It's the best idea we've had yet. Let's do it."
Sam leaned against the wall as she was subjected to another screening. The lockdown had been in effect for six days and everyone was going a bit stir crazy. Usually there was some crisis that required everyone's sharpest attentions and helping everyone forget they were buried underneath tons and tons of dirt. This time, it was a waiting game, an attempt to flush out an enemy by holding the only advantage they had over it – the Stargate.
"You can go, Colonel," the nurse said, motioning to the door. Wordlessly she nodded and headed out, down the corridor, towards the room she had been assigned with three other women. It was empty, thank goodness, so she took off her boots and laid down.
The phone that was hooked up started ringing almost instantly. Groaning she sat up and picked up the receiver. "Carter."
"Ma'am, it's Sergeant Harriman, I have a Pete Shanahan on the line."
Stifling another groan she replied, "Put him through." She waited for the telltale click of the line switching over. "Pete!"
"Sam! I was just checking on you, seeing how you were doing."
"Just been super busy with work, you know how that can be," she lamely explained. Sam bit her lip as an awkward silence ensued. "I sort of have a situation here on base that I'm trying to deal with…"
"Oh! Ah, yeah, look, I just… I was wondering if maybe you wanted to have dinner on Saturday night… or another night if that one doesn't work."
Closing her eyes she cringed. After her day of self-pity she had allowed him to stay with her for a few days. Nothing had happened between them…until the last night he was there. Sam was still kicking herself for not having picked up on what he was doing until it was too late. He had bought champagne and roses (how could have missed the big red cliché flag he was waving?), cooked dinner, and rented a chick flick. Three glasses of champagne later she was feeling sorry for herself again and he was looking very inviting. When she woke up naked next to him the next morning she left so fast she almost forgot to leave him a note to tell him she had to go into work (a half truth).
Now she had been avoiding him with incredibly valid excuses. It was time for her to stop running.
"Pete…" she started, her voice soft. "Nothing's changed."
She heard him inhale deeply. "I know."
"The other night shouldn't have happened and I'm sorry that it did. I never meant to hurt you." She hoped her voice didn't betray her eagerness to end the conversation.
"Yeah," he muttered. "I'd… uh. I'd better go. So…"
Hanging up the phone she breathed a sigh of relief and laid back down on the cot. Somehow she knew she'd be able to nap a little easier. As Sam drifted off she was unaware of the black cloud descending from the ceiling above.
He was going to kill somebody. He'd started a list in his head and at the top of that list was Walter. Oh, he knew that old adage about not killing the messenger but Jack had a sneaking suspicion that if he killed the man, the reports, the paperwork, the constant so and so needs something or other would just STOP. Then the red phone rang.
"General O'Neill here," he spoke into the receiver. An aide at the other end told him to hold for the President. Two second later President Hayes was on the other end of the line.
"Any sign of Anubis?"
"No sir. So far it seems he's calling our bluff," he conceded with a weary sigh.
"You know how important the program is Jack. I can't allow you all to remain inactive much longer. I'm giving you 24 hours and then you're just going to have to fold. It's not like we can kill him in his current state anyway," Hayes commented.
Jack wanted to argue, he really did, but he understood the President's position. "Yes sir."
"Keep me updated," he ordered. "Oh, and Jack? Good luck."
"Thank you sir." He placed the phone back on the cradle and studied it. They were living in the 21st century and his direct line to the President was a corded telephone. It served its function he supposed. Jack shook his head. All he was doing was preventing himself from dwelling on the nightmarish problem before him. Twenty-four hours didn't leave much time for anything. Picking up the receiver on the other phone he punched the PA option. "Attention, this is General O'Neill. I have been authorized by the President to continue the lockdown indefinitely. So get comfortable." Jack could mentally hear a collective groan rise up from the base as he leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.
He hadn't realized how tired he was until he woke up with a start to the sound of klaxons ringing through the base. Had his ruse worked? Reaching over to pick up the phone to try to call one of the section leaders he was stopped when his door flew open. Daniel tossed him a zat. "Jack we've got to move!"
"What the hell is going on Daniel?" Jack growled, following his friend.
"He's in Sam."
Jack's blood ran cold and a deadly aura took hold of him. He was not going to let the bastard win, not while in the body of Samantha Carter. "We'll set the self-destruct," he stated firmly. Daniel spun around.
"What? Why? We just need to stop Sam and then force him out. Then we start the wait over again."
He shook his head. "I was bluffing. I was ordered to resume normal Gate activity within 24 hours. We can't let him get to David otherwise we are royally screwed." His friend said nothing but they detoured to the control room. Using his command authorization Jack set the self-destruct and Colonel Dixon offered his code to initialize. "Now let's see if we can't go talk some sense into Carter," he muttered. "Dave, don't let her get near this place." He tasted bile in his mouth. "Use whatever force you deem necessary."
Narrowing his eyes, he stormed out into the corridor with Daniel at his heels. "How the hell did this happen?" Jack spat as he moved like a hunter closing in on his prey. "We designed this damn plan so this wouldn't happen!"
"It was never a foolproof plan Jack."
Then the self-destruct klaxons went silent.
"Dammit," he swore and changed direction leading them to the gate room. "Daniel, go around see if you can't head her off." He watched his friend leave without argument but let out more curses when he opened his door only to find Sam entering the other side. Jack raised his zat. "Stand down." Sam said nothing and her gaze remained fixed on him. "I said stand down. No one's going to let you off this base." Just then the gate started dialing. Mind racing he blurted out, "Let her go and I'll let you have me."
"Fool," she said, her lip curling into a cruel smirk. "I'll be able walk in and take the child without any question as Jacob Carter's trusted daughter." An electrical beam flew from the end of his zat and hit her. She flinched but righted herself quickly and made her way to the end of the ramp. "It'll take more than that to stop me."
Desperation forced his adrenaline levels high. He had to stop her but if he fired once more and Anubis left at just the right time… Pull the trigger, he told himself. He'd done it before, he could do it again. He had to do it again. In his moment's hesitation he missed the door opening again and the sound of a nine mil echoed through the room just as the wormhole engaged. As if in slow motion he watched Sam lose her footing, bleeding from her right thigh.
"Take me!" the Russian screamed. "Take me and leave them. They will hunt you to the ends of the galaxy if you try to take one of them, but take me. I go willingly."
"Alexi no!" Daniel hollered behind the man, but he remained outside the door and watched. The black essence that had filled Sam lifted from her and entered Alexi Vaselov. At that point Jack didn't give a damn about what Anubis did but ran do Sam's side. Her face was pale and she was limp; Jack wanted to call for a medic but he knew that Walter would have already done so. He didn't look up again until he heard the wormhole disengage. The gurney arrived within seconds and he reluctantly let them take her. He noticed the hot sticky red blood on his hand and he just wiped it on his pants. Finally sense was coming back to him and he turned to Daniel who now stood next to him.
"We have to contact the Tok'Ra," he said in a hoarse whisper. "We, uh, need to get David."
Daniel shook his head. "That was the part of the plan we didn't mention. Sam had anticipated that Anubis might use her so she had me program the planet using a password. I took it one step further with the help of Siler and I made it look like he was going one place but he really went another."
"Let's just say he's going to wish he'd remembered to pack a parka," Daniel said with a smile and pat him on the back. "Now let's go see Sam."
The lights of the infirmary were the first thing to come into focus for Sam's weary and sensitive eyes. She felt like she was just getting over the flu, her body was fatigued, her mouth dry, and there was a horrible pain in her right leg. "Someone shot me," she murmured.
"Blame the Russians." Jack's voice startled her and she turned her head to see her commanding officer and one time lover perched on the bed next to hers. "Saved your life though."
Images started to flood her brain. Setting up an automated dialing program, knocking out a couple of SFs, Jack aiming a zat at her. "You tried to stop me, but the zat was useless."
With a good deal of effort Sam sat up. "At least it's over now; I had a bad case of cabin fever."
"Me too. I broke my yo-yo. It was tragic," he quipped with a grin. Sam felt heat rise in her cheeks as his eyes took in her entire body. She didn't feel particularly attractive but the hunger in his eyes told her that it didn't matter. A flash shot through her head of Jack with a pleading look while she stood on the ramp to the Stargate.
"My life is as valuable as your, sir," she finally said softly, dropping her eyes to the floor. "Why are you so ready to sacrifice yourself?"
"Carter," he started with a sigh. "I told you before, you're the most valuable person this place employs and currently I am the best position to state that."
She cocked her head. "Before, sir?"
Damn, he thought. "Sure, I've told you that dozens of times," he lamely stated with a wave of his hand.
Shaking her head, she disagreed. "No sir. The only time you ever said that to me was after you had the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into your head."
Jack set his jaw like flint and stood up. "I told you before, Colonel, I don't remember anything that happened." There was a desperation in his tone but when he saw the broken hearted expression on Sam's face, he let his mask fall. "Please, just believe me," he pleaded, his eyes reminding her of a time when he had once stood helpless to save her on one side of a force field.
He hesitantly allowed himself the pleasure of patting her on the shin before walking out the door. Inside Sam quivered with anger and fear. That he felt the need to do whatever he was doing alone enraged her and yet Jack knew she was a capable soldier. On the other hand that whatever it was would drive Jack to lie to her made her skin crawl. How long would the universe play this game with them? When would it be their turn to be happy?
Chapter 9: Your Jekyll and Hydeness
Her arms felt painfully empty as she sat down with a sigh. Her lab was exactly as she had left it except now she had a few extra pictures to add to display. Sam looked at photos of David in front of her. His eyes were bright and happy; her father was holding him with a proud grandfather grin. With the adjustment to this reality she had worried that her son would have difficulty with the Tok'Ra, but he seemed to be thriving. Jacob spent as much time with him as possible and the family he was staying with was full of laughter. It was killing her.
"Hey, I heard you got back," Janet said as she walked into the lab. She glanced down in front of Sam. "Pictures!" Sam handed over a stack to the eager woman. "He's getting so big and he looks so much like Jack."
"Dad says he'll probably start crawling any day now. He was on all fours rocking back and forth." She bit her lip as she felt a jolt of regret pierce her. "I'm not going to see it. Melina promised they would record it but I won't see it."
Janet looked up from the pictures and studied her friend. "You've become quite maternal it seems. Not that I expected anything less."
"Funny isn't it? I didn't give birth to him and I certainly spent enough time avoiding the situation, but inside I feel content when I hold him."
There was a faint sorrow in the doctor's eyes at Sam's words. "That's what she used to say."
"I guess I'm more like her than I thought." The blond woman shook her head. "Listen to me, I'm babbling like a hormonal mess. I really need some sleep and something not alien to eat."
"Is it so bad to be like her?" Janet replied, ignoring the latter half of her statement. "She was a good friend, a good officer, and a hell of a mother."
Sam raised her eyebrow. "I'm not saying she wasn't a good person but, let's be realistic, she had an affair with her superior officer. I can't even fathom doing that."
"Not even if it was the only way you two could be together?" Janet's eyes were solidly fixed on her and the intensity puzzled Sam.
"Am I talking to Janet or some alien taking on her persona?" Sam exclaimed with slight irritation. "I don't want to hide my relationship. I don't want to be looking over my shoulder. I don't want to lie to the people I care about. I don't know what her problem in life was or why she chose to make such a stupid mistake, but I'm not her."
Her friend's lips were pressed tight and Sam knew she wanted to push the issue but wouldn't. Instead Janet took in a deep breath. "You should probably take some of these pictures to Jack. I imagine he'd like to see them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some paperwork I need to finish." Her voice was strained and strictly controlled, but Sam said nothing to stop her as she walked out. Sam let a sigh escape her lips and closed her eyes. At that moment she wanted to be back with David who was content to let her tickle him and who gave her open mouth, drooly kisses. Janet was right on one account though, Jack would want to see the photos. Gathering them up she headed into the corridor towards his office. She was about to knock but paused at the sound of raised voices.
"I didn't want this damn assignment," she heard him say. "I took it because you told me to."
"Sir, I know, but just listen, the Trust is still out there, you can't give up the chair yet," said a familiar voice. It took her a second to place it as Major Davis. "We shouldn't be having this conversation." Sam shuddered as she recalled their latest encounter with the Trust and their immoral use of the symbiote poison.
"Get out!" Jack growled and Sam jumped back as Paul Davis came running out of the office. Then she heard what sounded like glass shattering. "WALTER!" Sam hovered outside the door watching as the shorter man hurried into the office from the Conference Room side. "Get someone to clean up that damn mug and bring some fresh coffee."
"Y-yes sir. Right away sir," he said quickly, running as fast as Paul had past her looking terrified. She'd stopped being frightened of him years ago, but she knew to be cautious when he was in a mood.
He looked up and saw her. Almost immediately his expression softened. "Carter. What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to bring you the photos I took of David while visiting with him," she said with a small smile. Jack's eyes which had often looked heavy as of late perked up at the mention of his son's name. "He's going to be crawling soon."
"Yeah, I did the math the other night," he said quietly. "Let me see." She crossed the office and handed him the stack of photos that had been held earlier by Janet. He was about to look at them when his phone rang. With a frustrated groan he put the pictures down and answered it.
"O'Neill…that's great so they should be picking out the crew…no I will not… find somebody else…what part of no don't you understand…I'm the general and oddly that means I get to have the final say and if you don't want me to come down there and put my foot up your ass, you won't ask again!" Then he slammed the phone back on the cradle. "Damn civilians."
He glanced up suddenly as though he had forgotten she was still there. "Oh they finally got that hyperdrive working so they're picking out crew to go to Atlantis. They wanted you and Daniel."
"Well I certainly don't want to go, not with David here, but Daniel…" she trailed off when she saw his expression which clearly said "not you too." "But you know, he's important here."
"Daniel can go over my dead body."
Just then the alarms went off and Walter's voice called over the PA system. "Unscheduled off-world activation."
By the look on Jack's face Sam was concerned he was going to throw something else but he just grunted. "It's like they know. They know I want to kill somebody today…" he muttered as he walked towards the control room with Sam at his heels.
A chill went down Sam's spine as she watched her Replicator twin pace in the holding room at the Alpha site. Why she had insisted on this was beyond her; the tactical mind in her was screaming that she should have just shot the damn monster on the spot, but the scientist in her had won out. She wanted to understand this version of her that remembered what she did and yet was unique. Her whole life she had sought to be humble in her abilities but as she studied and observed what she could, Sam had to confess that the thought of a being as cruel as the Replicator harboring her talents and IQ could be devastating to the galaxy.
"We must interrogate her concerning the Replicators. We must ascertain their location and their numbers," Teal'c stated calmly, the weapon at his side.
"I know." Her face remained glued to the screen.
"Do not be fooled Colonel Carter; she is not you," he warned with concern.
"I know," she repeated. She furrowed her brow in concentration. "Go see what she knows." Sam never removed her gaze from the screen and she saw Teal'c enter the small room. They went back and forth for ten minutes before it heated up and RepliCarter was begging him to use the weapon. Panic shot through Sam and she ran as fast as she could. "Teal'c! No!"
The Jaffa froze, but maintained his aim.
"There's another way," she said, coming face to face for the first time with her machine counterpart. "You don't have to be Fifth's minion."
"I am what I am. You don't know what he did to me," RepliCarter spat. "Just shoot me and let my existence end."
Not letting her fear show, Sam drew herself up and stood toe to toe with her. "Show me." Teal'c took a step forward but she held up a hand. "She won't hurt me."
Her own blue eyes stared back at her and a hand that mirrored hers rose up and plunged itself into her skull. Pain shot through her and she fell to her knees as she was consumed by the memories of RepliCarter.
She was standing in front of Jack's house and in her hand was the cold steel of a 9 mil. Without her consent her feet moved forward and she banged on the door. Sam internally found herself silently pleading with whatever power was controlling her to make it stop as though she could sense the next action. Jack opened the door and his face broke into a smile, in his arms he held David who looked to be only four months old.
"Carter! You made it, Daniel and Teal'c are in the living room," he said with a smile. Then his eyes noticed the gun in her hand. "Carter?" Her resolve wavered so she pushed her way past him and without hesitation she shot Teal'c and then Daniel.
"What the hell…"
She spun around and Sam felt herself screaming internally, begging to make it stop, but this was not her memory and she had no control as she leveled the gun at Jack. Her hand trembled. Then Fifth appeared next to her. "Kill them. Kill them all. You must sever your ties to them."
"No," she hoarsely whispered. "I can't." A searing heat coursed through her veins.
Wanting the agony to end she pulled the trigger once, watching Jack fall to the ground and then she pulled it again to silence the weeping infant. Then suddenly she was in the interrogation room again on her knees, tears streaming down her face. There were not words for the horror she had experienced and her ears were still ringing from the gun shots in the foreign memory.
"I didn't hurt her," RepliCarter insisted. She knelt down and looked deeply into Sam's eyes. "You understand don't you? I can't go back. Please don't make me relive that again because he will make me." There was such desperation in her voice that as Sam's tears dried she found herself nodding.
"Help us and we'll help you."
The machine looked hesitant but nodded. "Fifth has found a way to neutralize your weapon's effects. I… I escaped before he could finish uploading it to our brethren because I knew it would be the only way the suffering would end."
Teal'c and Sam shared a glance before she looked back at RepliCarter. "Perhaps if you help us, we can help you. We'll protect you."
Holding her hands tightly her counterpart's eyes looked misty. "Thank you, thank you."
Daniel sat in the chair across from Jack in his office. His fingers were interlaced and he was trying to figure out what was going through Jack's mind. The news that Fifth had figured out how to counteract their weapon had everyone on edge, but Jack had been on edge for what seemed like months.
"I'm surprised you didn't have Teal'c shoot her."
"Carter says she can get the cipher; I believe her," he replied signing another requisition form. He stopped and re-read the form. "Do you have any idea what Felger would want with three hundred tennis balls?"
"Uh, archaeologist?" Daniel answered motioning to himself. Then he gave a shrug. "Maybe we're going to play pairs with the Super Soldiers."
"Sounds like as good a plan as any I suppose," Jack muttered adding it to the pile of signed forms. "Taxpayer dollars hard at work." He looked at another form. "Fifteen couches? What the hell could the geologists want with fifteen couches? I think they just heard I wasn't reading the forms." He made a note that he would approve their request once they gave further information. "Ha, that'll show them. I am reading the forms."
"Jack can we stay focused here?"
"Right, what were we talking about?" He looked up with a confused look on his face. "Oh, wait, Evil Carter."
"Well we don't know that she's evil."
"She's a Replicator. They're inherently evil," he responded as he rubbed his eyes. He needed a nap but decided maybe more coffee would be in order. When had he become a junkie?
His friend sighed. "That's what I was getting at before. Why didn't we shoot her on the spot?"
"For crying out loud Daniel, aren't you the reach out and touch somebody guy? I would have thought you of all people would support my decision not to blow her to smithereens," he exclaimed throwing his hands in the air. "I really don't have the patience to deal with you questioning my every move."
"I'm not questioning it. Just… debating it. Normally I'm glad when you don't pull the trigger, but something just doesn't sit right with me. Why Sam? Why now?"
Jack's silence was telling encouraging Daniel to continue with his thought.
"I love Sam. I really do, but I'm worried that her judgment has been compromised."
"I've taken precautions. Let's just give her some more time. I trust her, she's smart," Jack reiterated, but as he sat there, he had to admit that there was a nagging doubt in the back of his mind.
The hours seemed to drag on and Sam let out a yawn as she typed up more code. Teal'c stood in the far corner, diligent in his duties of guarding her. RepliCarter stood next to her, eyes closed, searching code looking for the cipher. Sam jumped at the whisper of the machine's voice.
"What?" she answered just as softly, continuing to type.
"How's Jack?" RepliCarter repeated, her voice only slightly louder. She opened her eyes, which looked like they were reading, and which paused only for a fraction of a second to notice whether or not Teal'c had heard her. He appeared to have not.
Sam shrugged. "Fine, he's a General now."
"You two didn't… I mean I would have thought after his house…"
Her body tensed as her counterpart brought up memories she considered private. "He doesn't remember."
"Oh." There was a lengthy pause. "I know how you feel about him, you don't have to pretend."
"Is that why you rejected Fifth?" Sam looked up and faced her counterpart. Teal'c's eyebrow rose slightly at her movement but she was fairly confident her he hadn't heard anything.
The familiar eyes bored into hers. "In my mind I have a family with another man. How could I settle for a cheap imitation of that? It's why I wanted you to kill me. I don't want to go back to that life where he can torture me."
Her heart ached at the memory of what Fifth had put RepliCarter through. "I won't let him take you. I promise." Her voice was full of compassion and the woman nodded before closing her eyes to continue looking for the cipher.
Just then the wormhole activated and they were greeted by Thor. It took a few minutes of convincing but Teal'c eventually left them to deploy the satellite. Sam wanted to question RepliCarter some more about what she remembered, but time was of the essence and her personal desires would have to wait.
"No one else trusts me, but you do," RepliCarter said remaining still.
Sam tapped on the keyboard. "I experienced what you showed me. I know you can't be working for Fifth." Her voice quaked slightly at the memory of David's limp, lifeless form.
"No!" RepliCarter exclaimed with panic. "He found me!"
"What about the cipher? Have you found the cipher?" she asked urgently. RepliCarter shook her head. "How much time do we have?"
"Just under two hours."
"We have to get that cipher and upgrade our weapon before Fifth gets here."
Sam sighed. Why couldn't anything be simple?
In the end, Sam found herself betrayed. Shrouded in darkness with a single light illuminating her counterpart's visage Sam stood before her trying to understand how she could have been so wrong. Her own face was staring at her in a cold, hardened, mocking way that made her feel queasy to even contemplate.
"It wasn't all a lie. I wasn't working for Fifth, the pathetic fool," RepliCarter stated harshly. Then she cocked her head. "Don't you dare pity him. He wasn't fit for my love and he wasn't fit to rule this galaxy."
How cliché, Sam thought idly, Jack would be cringing right about now.
"You have untapped greatness, but you let your fears control you. You and your worthless rules, what has it gotten you? You don't even have the man you love. At least the alternate version of us had some balls," she hissed at her.
"Galactic domination doesn't make you strong. It just makes you busy," Sam deflected. "Besides, I have no desire to rule the galaxy. Too much paperwork."
RepliCarter chuckled in a way that was eerily familiar. "You sound like Jack. Go back, pine for your lost love, and lick your wounds. Ask yourself why he chose to be a general and why you work so damn hard to get up the ranks. In the end, all humans want is power of some sort."
"We will stop you. I will stop you," Sam vowed, her blood beginning to boil.
Her twin walked towards her and lowered her lips to her ear. How odd it seemed to Sam that she could feel hot breath on her skin and smell her own scent surrounding the machine. "You forget, Samantha, I am you."
With a jolt Sam blinked and realized she was standing in the control room at the Alpha Site with alarms blaring. She had only a few seconds to contemplate that she was going to die, that this was it. Before her conversation with RepliCarter she'd set up a self-destruct plan.
"The naquadah generators are set to explode. Idiot, do you not realize what I am? What I can do?" RepliCarter plunged her hand into the keyboard and light flickered on and off, alarms went silent, and Sam closed her eyes as she realized that she was not going to die in an explosion today. There was only a moment before a powerful sting crossed her face and she went flying back into a wall. With a groan she tried to pull herself up. After a few moments she found her footing and was relieved to see Teal'c standing again as well. Together they ran to the gate room. She ran towards the computer to see if she could cease the dialing sequence. Then the wormhole engaged.
"I can't get in. She's locked me out!" she exclaimed as Teal'c fought to keep RepliCarter at the Alpha site. They played a strange game of tug-of-war before her counterpart severed her own arm. She disappeared, causing the wormhole to close and the arm disintegrated. Paralyzed with shock, Sam slumped down in the chair behind her unable to speak.
"Do not blame yourself Colonel Carter," Teal'c reassured, but Sam could say nothing as the weight continued to drag her soul down.
The room was dark, not that it mattered as Sam had her eyes closed. After having sat in her lab for three hours playing with Replicator blocks in some vain attempt to find some value, she gave up. The guest quarters were still camera-less despite it having been years since the Goa'uld ambassadors had been there. To Sam that particular memory felt like a different lifetime. Maybe it was. A tear slid down her face and she brushed it away. There would be no torrent; the salty drop was a mistake. Her eyes opened at the sound of the door creaking.
"In here sir," she said, her voice wavering, then she closed her eyes once again. Jack's heavy steps entered the room and he shut the door behind him. She felt him slide down against the wall next to her, his shoulder touching hers. "I got a headache and needed someplace dark and quiet."
"Feel any better?"
A beat passed. "I told you before it wasn't your fault."
"And I disagreed with you," she retorted. "Can we not argue about this, sir?"
When he said nothing she took that to mean he accepted her position on the matter and was dropping it. Not caring about propriety she let her head fall to his shoulder and was glad he didn't move.
"I dropped the pictures off in your lab. Took a couple. Hope you don't mind," he told her finally.
"I miss him."
"Me too." That he shared her emptiness didn't surprise her. His hand intertwined with hers. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Sam took in a cleansing breath as she continued to enjoy the close contact with him.
"I think you know," he answered.
Now she looked up and could just make out the features of his face in the black room. "You remember. Why? Why didn't you tell me?"
Jack situated himself so his left hand remained in hers but so that he could face her more fully. "There are pictures of us. If I were to be accused of an unprofessional relationship with you they could remove me from command."
The pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. "David," she breathed and he nodded. "The Trust is trying to get to David."
"They don't have a lot of power and they can't just replace me, but if they could they'd bring him back and we'd have a hell of a time protecting him." Sam closed her eyes as she soaked in what he was telling her and she was taken aback when she felt his hand tuck a stray lock behind her ear and his thumb tenderly caress her cheek. "Nothing's changed Samantha."
Her mouth went dry and her cheeks flushed under his intense gaze. "It hasn't changed for me either, Jack," she managed to say and she gasped as he leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead. There he lingered before she felt him move lower and he just barely touched her lips when she choked out, "I think you should go." As he pulled back she was trembling and she felt as though she were physically dying as he removed his touch from her.
"Take the next couple of days off Carter," he said with compassion and then he was gone. Still shaking Sam leaned her head back against the wall, resuming her previous position. Her Replicator twin had been wrong. She wasn't weak; she was strong. She knew because if she weren't the void that was threatening to suck her soul out of her body would destroy her and as it were, she was still alive.
Chapter 10: Figuratively Slapped
"Damn," Sam muttered as watered sprayed off the spoon she was rinsing onto her casual blue button up. With all the stress as of late and Teal'c's discovery of Jack Bauer, Daniel had suggested they get together and have a 24 marathon. She didn't understand the appeal honestly; she lived on adrenaline too many days out of the year. Janet had taken leave with Cass for some mother-daughter bonding time so her only estrogen ally against the testoterone laden team couldn't bail her out. In the end she agreed because she was tired of coming home to an empty house and sleeping in an empty bed. Tonight, at least for a few hours, she wasn't lonely.
"Carter?" She involuntarily tensed at the sound of his voice. Who was she kidding, she thought to herself, she agreed because Daniel had off-handedly mentioned that Jack had been curious about the show. Ever since his confession weeks ago, she found there was almost a secret connection between them and she felt like a starving woman who was aching to be satisfied with crumbs.
Turning Sam put a smile on her face. "Sir?" He walked towards her and stood next to her at the double sink. She rinsed a bowl. "Jack Bauer not doing it for you?"
"We've solved worse in less time," Jack quipped. He paused and met her eyes. "Well to be accurate you've solved worse in less time. And you've blown up a sun."
She grinned now. "Hard to beat that, sir." Suddenly he reached out and took her hand, threading his fingers through hers. "Sir?" Her voice wavered just bit at the unexpected contact.
"I want to bring him home," he told her, his eyes meeting her with hunger. "I think it'll be impossible to completely destroy the Trust, but my sources tell me that they no longer have any significant political influence." Sam could barely form a thought as she was completely enthralled with his thumb that was absent-mindedly stroking her hand.
"If… If you think that's best sir," she choked out unable to tear her eyes away. Jack had been craving her for months; missing her so badly that his dreams of her made him wake in a cold sweat feeling lost and unsatisfied on so many levels.
Gingerly he reached out his other hand and cupped her cheek knowing he shouldn't and yet not caring anymore. She closed her eyes and turned her face into his caress. "Sam," he breathed and her eyes opened in surprise. His expression was raw and desperate.
"Jack! Sam!" they heard Daniel holler from the living room. "You guys need to get back in here! You're going to miss everything!"
The moment broken, Jack pulled his hand away from her face, but kept his hand in hers. "You heard him, we need to find out what impossible problem our hero has to solve," he said with a small chuckle.
"Yeah," she whispered, her cheeks lightly flushed.
"C'mon," he urged and he pulled her towards the living room, releasing her hand right before they walked in. Then she took her place by Daniel and he took the floor near the coffee table. Inside she hoped that once David was home things would actually start to change.
Jack's excitement permeated the Gate room and Sam couldn't keep the grin off her face. He was rocking back and forth on his heels eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jacob who was bringing David back from his temporary exile. Her own stomach was quivering in anticipation. She'd spent the entire weekend dusting and pulling things out of boxes. Daniel had teased her over the phone saying that she was "nesting." Sam had just laughed. Her ache at having missed David so deeply had been pushed to the corner of her mind and now it had her ready to explode.
The wormhole engaged, Walter announced the Tok'Ra IDC, and with the familiar metallic scrape, the iris opened. Her blood turned to ice however when Jacob walked through empty handed and grim-faced.
"Jack, Sam," he greeted tersely before meeting Sam's eyes. "The planet where David was staying…" his voice cracked and she saw his eyes get wet. "They were raided by Ba'al's forces. Ba'al has David."
Her entire body went numb and yet she still managed to turn her gaze to Jack. His entire body was rigid and there was a subtle fury that sent a tremor through her.
"When?" The sound of his voice made her envious as she had not yet found her own.
"Last night. I've spent the last twelve hours trying to track the ship and gather as much information as I can. As of yet, I have nothing."
Jacob gave Jack a pained look. "Jack, I swear, we have no idea how he found the colony. Hundreds of Tok'Ra lost their families. Selmak's granddaughter, Mischa, from his previous host… we haven't found her yet, dead or alive."
"Carter, if you'll show your father to quarters," Jack answered hoarsely before all but storming out of the room. Sam watched him and jumped when her father's hand wrapped around her arm.
"Come on," he urged and she mutely nodded. They said nothing to each other during the walk and Sam kept her eyes forward even though she could feel her father periodically looking at her, trying to read her. Once they were behind closed doors she let her façade crumble and Jacob wrapped his arms around her.
"I'm so sorry, sweetheart," he whispered. "I'm so sorry." Tears slid down her cheek and knowing how much pain she was in, caused Jacob to shed a few tears of his own. "Believe me, the Tok'Ra are working diligently on this. They know how much is at stake." He felt her nod.
She pulled back a little to wipe her eyes. "I've been thinking of him as my son for a while now and I just… I love him. I love him more than I thought was possible, Dad."
He pressed a kiss on the top of her head. "I know. Believe me I know. When I held you for the first time, my heart was completely captivated."
"Even though you thought I was going to be a boy," she teased through her tears.
"Hey forgive me for listening to those old wives tales."
"And being awake for thirty-six hours with part of that having been in the air!"
"Your mother gave me such a hard time about having not picked out a girl's name. And of course, the first comment out of my mouth was less than eloquent," he answered as he led her to the edge of the bed to sit down.
"Yes, somehow I don't think Mom was too keen on hearing 'isn't he supposed to have balls?' when you were presented with your daughter." They let out a light laugh together despite the emptiness they both were experiencing.
Jacob put his arm around her and squeezed her close. "I know how it feels to love someone that much, Sam. And believe it or not, I fell in love with David too and you should have seen me rip a few Tok'Ra a new one. We're going to get him back, I don't care what I have to do." In that moment Sam had never been more grateful to have her father nearby.
Jack rubbed his eyes as Jacob, Sam, Teal'c, and Bra'tac filed into the conference room. To say this was a lousy week seemed like a galactic understatement. He let out a sigh once everyone was seated. "So just that we're on the same page, Evil Carter has Daniel because he has Ancient knowledge, the Replicators are kicking Goa'uld ass, and for some reason beyond my comprehension, this is making the Jaffa flock back to their old masters. Did I miss anything?" The irritation in his tone caused Sam to wince slightly but no one said a word.
"It is unfortunate, O'Neill, but even if we defeated the Replicators, the Goa'uld would no doubt take credit yet again solidifying their position as gods."
"I think the key phrase is 'defeat the Replicators.' Carter tell me you have something?"
She shook her head. "No sir. Nothing. The blocks just don't have anything left and Thor hasn't had much luck either."
"That's what I was afraid you'd say. Remind him that he owes us and we can't collect if we're dead." There was a heavy silence in the room and the elephant named "David" remained unnamed. Jack pushed the bile down deeper and he was sure he would have an ulcer before the conflict was resolved. If it was resolved.
"Teal'c and I have been talking and we have decided that we must do something to rally the Jaffa," Bra'tac said finally. He glanced at Teal'c as though he weren't sure about what he was about to say. "We must take Dakara."
"That's insane," Jacob exclaimed. "We need to be focusing forces on preparing for the inevitable Replicator attack."
"What good will that do if we have no forces with which to prepare? If we capture Dakara we capture the hearts of all Jaffa!" Bra'tac exclaimed almost jumping from his chair. Jacob was visibly frustrated but refused to pursue the matter further.
"That's all well and good but I can't commit any of our resources to it," Jack interjected apologetically.
The older Jaffa bowed his head. "You must defend your people and we must defend ours. We will leave at once."
"Dismissed," Jack said getting up quickly and heading into his office. He wasn't surprised when a few minutes later Sam walked in. He was pacing in the corner away from the window wishing he had something to cover the offensive portal up. Sometimes he just wanted privacy.
"Sir," she began softly, but Jack held up a hand. His eyes were tightly shut.
"Don't, Carter. Just don't. Okay?" His voice was weak and broken she couldn't stop herself from approaching him and putting a tentative hand on his arm. Relaxing his face he let his eyes meet hers. "It wasn't your fault."
"I trusted her," she answered with a sad smile.
"I let you work with her. It doesn't matter now. We need to solve this problem... we need to..." his voice caught and he clenched his fist. "That son of a bitch. When I get my hands on that son of a bitch."
Letting her hand fall to her side she gazed at him sympathetically. "I miss him too, sir."
"I was going to retire," Jack explained his expression raw with pain. "When we got him home, I was going to retire and..." Sam watched him and she couldn't bear the distance any longer. Wrapping her arms around him she pressed her cheek into his chest and he held her just as tightly.
"We're going to get him home," she assured as she pulled back just a bit. Their faces were just inches apart and Sam began to lean in to touch her lips to his when she was engulfed in the bright white light of an Asgard beam.
The sudden arrival of Thor was unnerving although not unexpected. Sam wished she'd had some warning so she could have composed herself. Her blue eyes had started watering and she clearly looked upset but Thor made no mention of her emotional state. She greeted him with a tight smile. "Thor, good to see you again."
"Likewise Samantha Carter. I have transported all your research here as well as the remains of the human form replicator." Inwardly Sam twisted as she knew the "human form replicator" looked and sounded just like her, a fact that still gave her chills when she thought about it too long. "I have unfortunately been unable to make any progress. The alterations she has made remain elusive."
"I was afraid you were going to say that." She narrowed her eyes as she studied the monitor in front of her. "We're going to have to ratchet this up a notch."
"If you are suggesting we must take more drastic measures, I concur."
Idly Sam flipped a single replicator block between her fingers and sighed. The replicators were destroying the Goa'uld. The Goa'uld had her son. "We need to reactivate the blocks. Then we can search through the communications and locate the cipher."
"That is very dangerous."
"I know." But it was the only option they had.
He was sipping his fourth cup of coffee when he took a seat next to Jacob at the computer terminal. Sleep had remained agonizingly out of reach to the point that he'd finally zoned out on the couch watching infomercials that had people acting like their lives had been one disaster after another until they bought the one gadget that changed their lives. "Don't need a damn vegetable chopper, I need something to blow those sons of bitches to smithereens," Jack muttered to himself. He only realized he had spoken when Jacob turned to him and raised his eyebrow. The Tok'Ra said nothing but pulled up the data he had obtained.
"Five more regions have fallen since yesterday," he explained pointing to several dots that Jack assumed indicated Replicator activity.
"Not much of a fight."
"Goa'uld are all about territory. He's an idiot," Jacob spat with disgust. "I loathe the idea of giving him an ounce of assistance but..."
"We have one our own in his ranks and he's close enough that he could convince Ba'al to change strategies." The older man's shoulders sagged. "If we can get him to fall back the Replicators will slow down and Sam will have more time to come up with a solution."
"We can't do that."
Jacob just gave him a "see there" look as another blip disappeared off the screen and was replaced by the Replicator dot.
"I can't give the Jaffa any support but I sure as hell don't have to consign them to death. I mean where do you think Ba'al's going to retreat to?" It was truly a no win situation and if there was one thing Jack hated it was not having a good third option to neatly wrap up all previous issues.
"So we sacrifice the rest of the galaxy on the off chance Teal'c can salvage the Jaffa rebellion?"
The disdain in Jacob's voice crossed over that final line keeping him in check. "For someone the Tok'Ra thinks is too sympathetic to Earth you sure seem eager to hand over your friends on a silver platter." A vein in Jacob's bald forehead started to throb but before he could reply klaxons started blaring and Walter's voice came over the PA announcing an unscheduled off-world activation. Within half a second both men were on their feet and practically running towards the control room.
"We appear to receiving a transmission sir it's..." He was cut off as a hologram of Ba'al appeared on the ramp below. SFs took aim and Jack swore under his breath wishing that the hologram was flesh and blood so he could choke the life out of the bastard. His face maintained an unsettling calm and he made his way to the gate room. He knew he couldn't flinch or waver no matter how much power Ba'al had over him. As soon as he entered the room he motioned for the SFs to stand down. Nothing they'd be able to do anyway.
Face to face with the over-dressed Goa'uld he forced a sardonic grin on his face. "Well speak of the devil. We were just discussing you."
"You are aware of the Replicator presence in our galaxy and that my fleet has engaged them in battle."
"Oh?" Jack feigned surprise. "I might have heard a little bird tweeting somewhere, but you know, I am pretty busy these days."
"We hold them at bay for now, but they are proving to be... difficult to defeat." Ba'al was meticulous in his speech and Jack was just as calculated. These were the moment he missed holding a P-90. Back then it was just point and shoot. Now he had to dance with these guys and he hated dancing. "I have heard the Asgard had found a way to fight the Replicators."
"Yes they did. Now I don't like to brag but..." he gave smug expression and his adversary gave an impatient sigh.
"I also know of your assistance."
Jack clapped his hands together. "So just here to confirm rumors? It was nice of you to drop by but I'm afraid I have a meeting to attend." He made a motion towards the door. "If that's all..."
"What means do you possess to fight the scourge?" The words were hurried and just barely betrayed his desperation. Jack froze and bit his tongue. A deep breath. Calm. Must remain calm.
"What was that? I'm sorry, did you want our help?" he asked in disbelief. The blood was rushing so loud in his ears he didn't even see Jacob walk in behind him.
Ba'al grit his teeth. "At some point they will tire of what we have and they will go after everyone else, including you. It seems in our best interest to work together."
Unintentionally Jack let out a sarcastic chuckle. "Good one Ba'al. You almost had me. How much did your First Prime pay you to do this?" Jacob whispered a soft "Jack" but the General paid him no mind. "You know what, I'm standing here thinking that watching you get your ass kicked is the best damn thing I've seen in a long time."
"I have your son."
The card Jack knew but had hoped he wouldn't play. His shoulders were tense and his deep brown eyes narrowed in a deadly glare. With all the bitter hatred he could muster he made himself speak words he knew would haunt him if they did not retrieve David. "I don't have a son. Go fuck yourself Ba'al." The Goa'uld studied him with a small measure of shock before the image blipped out. Shaking he stormed from the room, Jacob hot on his heels.
"What the hell was that?"
Jack whirled around. "I am not going to sacrifice Teal'c and I am not going to let that snake head use my son as a hostage." He stormed off down the corridor leaving Jacob staring after him.
In the end it took another two days before Thor and Sam were able to discover the cipher. She didn't want to allow herself any sense of relief, not until they had seen the weapon in action, but a faint glimmer of hope that maybe something was going right lingered in her mind. Leaning back against the bulkhead she closed her eyes unable to stand against the exhaustion any longer. The small grey alien continued his calculations and modifications with little regard to her inactivity.
"Samantha Carter we have arrived at the coordinates. There are two vessels present."
Sam jumped up, her adrenaline pumping in overtime now. "Replicators?" Thor nodded.
Moving a stone horizontally, she replied, "I've targeted the lead vessel." A few well placed shots and the ships disappeared from her console. "Targets destroyed." Before she could celebrate another ship fell out of hyperspace. Quickly she targeted it but this time nothing happened.
"They have adapted to our modifications."
"That was fast," she hissed in anger. "We better get out of here."
The other ships fired and Thor was forced to take evasive action before jumping into hyperspace. Sam was already scanning their program to try to figure out what they needed to do in order to make the weapon effective again when the lights started flickering and the images on her console became distorted. "We have arrived at Earth, but I have been boarded. I need to return you to Stargate Command before my transport systems are compromised." The white light flashed before she could protest and she found herself standing in Jack's office.
"Damn it!" she swore loudly.
Jack eyed her cautiously from behind his desk. "Not good?"
"They're immune again. They're adapting!" she answered in frustration. "We've got nothing, sir. They boarded Thor's ship and he's trying to get them as far away from us as possible." Gingerly she sat down in the chair. She looked weak and the circles under her eyes conveyed how spent she was.
"So. Back to square one?" he commented quietly and they silently sat staring at each other each at a loss as to what they would do next.
The second transmission from Ba'al caused Jack more ire than the first. Had he not been clear in his initial message? He looked at his watch. Just a few more minutes, he thought to himself as he took another sip of coffee and rocked on his heels. Ten minutes later he meandered down to the gate room where Walter was anxiously trying to explain his lack of presence.
"Relax Harriman, go... organize something," he told the man who looked incredibly relieved to be able to leave. "Ba'al, get done fucking yourself already? I just got done with a lovely brunch myself."
"Impudence," he growled, but Jack just smirked.
"Nope, french toast actually. Although it's not really French I suppose. Either way, real Vermont maple syrup, a little powdered-"
"Enough! Are you mad? Do you not understand what is at stake here?" Ba'al's eyes glowed in fury.
Jack kept his cool. "You mean your fleet which is currently retreating?"
The Goa'uld gave him a suspicious look. "How did you know that?"
"I have sources. You'd be surprised what us mere mortals can accomplish when we put our minds to it."
"We will crush the rebellion there and destroy those who have forsaken their gods." His tone was grandiose and Jack just rolled his eyes.
"For crying out loud. Cut the god crap. I know and you know that there aren't any gods running around up there. So just tell me what the hell you want so I can go take a nap."
Ba'al shifted and looked uncertain for just a brief second. "The Replicators are formidable however there exists a weapon on Dakara that is capable of destroying them."
"Well great, but what does that have to do with me?"
"You have to destroy it."
Jack's face took on a bemused expression. "Okay, I give. You got me. Why in the world would you want us to destroy it?"
"It is capable of destroying not only the Replicators but all life in the galaxy. It was built by the Ancients."
The two enemies stood studying each other. How long would the other keep up the mask? "So let me get this straight. You know of a weapon that could destroy the Replicators but also all life in the galaxy, including your own, and you want me to destroy it because...? I mean why don't you just not use it?"
"I would not. There is one however who wishes to and he is simply biding his time. As I mentioned before O'Neill, I am in possession of a human child that shares your DNA. It does not take a god to know that he is special especially when requested by the most powerful Goa'uld there is."
Jack closed his eyes, not even bothering to mask his distaste. "Don't tell me."
Sam breathed a sigh of frustration. Within two hours of Jack's discussion with Ba'al, her and Jacob had geared up and headed to Dakara to study the grand monument that they believed housed the weapon. The wall blocking their path was completely nonsensical as far as she and her father could tell. Which didn't make any sense either unless by sheer irony they were looking at some Ancient's idea of a joke. She pinched the bridge of her nose and looked over her meager translation again. "Midday, the darkness is high in the sky. What does that even mean?"
Selmak's booming voice responded. "I do not know, but that is what it says."
"Three days to the chicken. The wind bellows on the pillow. I get that they were on some sort of path to enlightenment but I thought that meant you saw things clearer," she commented with irritation. "What is Anubis going to do with it anyway? How cliche is it to rule the galaxy?"
"I think he's going for the universe. He has David and I really think he means to ascend," Jacob replied furrowing his brow as he studied the characters on the page. "The water walks to the dog."
"Let me see," she said holding out her hand. Selmak handed her the notebook.
"The text is incredibly difficult and Dr. Jackson is in need of organizational skills," the Tok'Ra boomed. Just then Sam's walkie crackled to life.
"Colonel Carter, have you made progress?"
"Unfortunately it's slow going Teal'c." She kept her head cocked as she listened for his response.
"We have detected Ba'al's fleet approaching. Your time grows short."
"We copy. Carter out."
She leveled her gaze at her father but his eyes had dropped to the notebook she was holding listlessly in her hand. It was being held at the bottom so that it bent away from her making the writing upside down to Jacob. "What?" she asked. He took the notebook from her and had her hold it upside down to herself. "Oh! 'Midday, the sun is high in the sky'!"
"But that's not what the wall says," her father answered in resignation. Sam brushed by him in excitement and began to rotate an inlaid circle until the phrase read correctly. Triumphantly she turned back and gave him a smile. There was pride in his eyes as he regarded her, but then he spoke. "It can't be that easy though."
"No, there's probably a combination, but we're definitely closer than we were before."
It took about thirty minutes before they figured out the combination. Sam reported back that they had located the weapon and Jack confirmed that their bomb would blow the thing to high heaven. Jacob however remained quiet as he read the inner wall. She was eager to get the deed done so she could get back to the Replicator problem at hand but she knew the look on her father's face. He wasn't ready to be interrupted.
"We can't blow it up."
"What?" she asked incredulously. "Dad, this thing could destroy all life in the galaxy."
He turned and his eyes glowed. "Your father is correct, Samantha. This device lowers all matter to it's basic molecular structure. With the right modifications..." he trailed off and Sam's eyes widened in realization.
"We could use this to fight the Replicators." Hastily she pulled out her laptop and hooked it up to the control crystals underneath the control table. "Okay... so now all I need to do is interface with an Ancient computer. Shouldn't be too hard, right?" Her voice betrayed her anxiety but she remained steady as she began working through algorithms. Jacob contacted Teal'c to update him and it was agreed they would utilize the bomb if the conflict escalated beyond manageable limits.
"I don't know that I can do this," she finally said pounding her fist on the stone table. "There just isn't enough time!"
"This has to be easier than blowing up a sun," her father snarked with a smirk.
"Blow up a sun and suddenly everyone thinks you can walk on water... I've got it!" she exclaimed. "Next up, parting the Red Sea." After a few moment a graph displaying wave oscillations appeared on the screen.
"This looks like it's the frequency for disintegrating matter."
Sam started typing and a second graph appeared. "This should at least help us know if we're going in the right direction... but Dad, something just occurred to me. Even if we modify this weapon the Replicators are going to adapt."
"What are you saying?"
"We need to dial all the gates at once."
Jacob shoulders sagged and he clenched his jaw. "How the hell are we supposed to do that?"
"I think I know someone who might help us..." she said with a grimace. "And I don't like it one bit."
Ba'al's back was killing him. He would never admit that to anyone, however, as it would be a sign of weakness, but the bridge throne was anything but comfortable. Of course, it didn't help that he had to maintain a certain posture that looked rather godly. He was no fool; he knew that Anubis saw him as merely a pawn. No matter how powerful they became, at their heart all Goa'uld were the same and they regularly underestimated their adversaries. He had stayed alive and been successful because he knew how to adapt. While his brothers and sisters preferred to show no humility Ba'al understood that at times a little false groveling could take him much farther than being pompous. His grasp of this basic fact made him rather proud of himself.
"My Lord, should we not send one of the ships with the child to Anubis?" His First Prime bowed before him in deference.
"If I thought that we should, would I not have done so already? The Tau'ri know that we have him, so how suspicious would it look for one of our own to suddenly disappear? What if they understood and chased it? They maybe mortals but their years untouched by their gods has left them... sneaky."
His servant merely nodded and headed back to man his station and Ba'al wondered idly if he could retire to his quarters soon and perhaps have one of his lovely female servants "tend" to him. Endless waiting was wearing on him.
"My Lord, we have a transmission from the Shol'va!"
"On screen," he ordered nonchalantly with a wave at the screen. He drew himself up and attempted to look lordly.
"We have found the weapon on Dakara," Teal'c announced.
"And I assume you mean to destroy it?"
"We do not. It appears that it is capable of destroying the Replicators. The Tau'ri on the surface require some assistance," he explained, an uneasiness in his tone. "While it may seem that we ought to do battle, would it not be prudent to first remove the common enemy so that whatever victory is gained, it is not futile?"
Ba'al pretended to consider his words although he already knew his answer. Anubis needed to be stopped. Unfortunately it made little difference whether it was the half-ascended Goa'uld or the soulless mechanical beings that destroyed the universe as in either case he would not be around to enjoy the fruits of his labor. "Transmit the coordinates. I will assist. But know that once the scourge has been destroyed you will bow before your god." The screen blinked off without any further acknowledgement, not that he expected any. It was a dangerous and deadly game he was playing and he would be remiss if he did not admit that he was thoroughly enjoying every moment of it.
She wanted to throw something sharp at his head and knock the smug look off his face. The bickering back and forth was getting them nowhere and she was just about ready to tell him exactly where he could shove the nearest staff weapon. "Look, we hate each other, I'd like nothing better than to shove a knife in your stomach, but we have a problem. A major problem and for just two seconds can you stop acting like an ass and just help us? I know you can dial all the Stargates at ones, so damn it, tell us how to do it!"
Ba'al made the airs of deeply pondering his response. "Very well, I'll instruct my troops to land."
"No way. If I see even one of your Jaffa the deal is off and I blow this thing."
"It's too complicated to do in holographic form."
"I might not be as old as you Ba'al, but I wasn't born yesterday. This is how it is. You can take it or leave it." Her words were laced with venom and disgust. She hated him with every fiber of her being and so help her she was not going to give him one inch. A small bit of tension was released when he nodded in acquiescence.
While Jack would never admit it, spiders gave him the creeps. He'd stared down death at least a dozen or more times and yet when he saw an eight legged creature there was a deep part of him that wanted to shriek like a little girl and run. He never did, naturally. He was a damn soldier. This fear, however, had been compounded and expanded in recent years to include the Replicator bugs. The telltale clickety-clack of their little metal feet against the cement made Jack's hair stand on end and his heart just beat a little faster. Unlike a spider, which was more of an irrational fear, these buggers could rip a man to shreds and there was no can of Raid on the planet that could save him. Just when he dared to entertain the though that things couldn't get worse, they showed up and started taking over the base.
He found Reynolds up against the wall with several armed men and women. "Report."
"We're cut off from the self destruct."
Jack rubbed his face in consternation. "We can't let these things get out of the mountain. Get everyone up that you can and then we're going to drop the biggest nuke we can." He took a P-90 from a Lieutenant and headed down the corridor with Reynolds' team. He could hear metallic lifeforms around every corner but he had yet to actually see one. Walter's voice cut into the silence. "Sir, evacuees are cut off from the escape hatch on Level 8."
"Understood," he whispered into the walkie. He turned to Reynolds who nodded before he even gave an order. The thought that the Colonel was a good man crossed his mind and he prayed to God that somehow some of that good old fashioned Tau'ri luck would see them through yet again. Together they headed towards Level 8 to rescue the trapped personnel.
"Once we get the weapon activated, I have the DHD set to dial automatically. Theoretically it should work," Sam reported to her father. Just then Ba'al shimmered into existence.
"Of course it will work. How dare you doubt your god!"
She rolled her eyes. "Dad, how's it going?" Jacob looked up momentarily to give Ba'al a hateful glance before dropping his gaze to the table.
"That one!" their ostentatious guest declared pointing to a button.
"How do you know?" her father asked with disbelief.
Ba'al cocked his head. "I am a god. Gods are all knowing."
"He's a drama queen," he hissed to Sam before pressing the button. The frequency changed and while he was glad to be closer to their target, he was to his chagrin that it required the assistance of the Goa'uld. "Lucky guess," Jacob retorted. They tried a few more panels with little luck and Ba'al just stood their watching thing.
"That one," he declared again. This time Jacob said nothing but pressed the appropriate panel down. The frequency went the wrong direction.
The "god" was about to make a remark when his hologram flickered. "The Replicators have arrived and are attacking my ship. We must hurry!" With controlled panic he eyed the table. "There and there." He paused. "That one..." Again his transmission flickered. "I must go. Life support has been lost on three levels and we are severely damaged." Without waiting for a response he disappeared completely.
"He got us close at least," Sam said to her father. She bit her lip and studied the table. They were so close and yet it seemed as though the attack by the Replicators was even closer.
Things weren't going well. For every bug that Jack managed to shoot to hell, five more seemed to pop up. He tried not to let himself think about the consequences of his failure. Failure simply wasn't an option. His thoughts narrowed in on the task. Shoot. Shoot again, and when that didn't work... "GRENADE!" he shouted and quickly hurled one towards the onslaught of bugs. The explosion rang in his ears and they fell back again. They were losing ground and it was not good.
After a few more unsuccessful attempts to hold the corridor he fell back into the control room. "Tell me we can dial the gate," he pleaded with Siler.
"Working on it sir."
"Ten minutes to detonation!" Reynolds called out. The sound of heavy fire came from outside the doors. It would be only minutes before they were breached. Jack's heart pounding, the surreal experience of not feeling present but watching everything from afar overtook him. It wasn't an unfamiliar feeling, it was the only thing that kept him from losing his head in the face of certain and inevitable death. Hoisting his P-90 he exited back out into the corridor. This is where he was needed. Again he threw a grenade and watched as it made nary a dent.
"Siler!" he yelled as they wave neared them.
"I'm working sir!" the man hollered back.
Then, just as Jack was ready to go out in a blaze of glory (not that there would be anyone to really remember) the Replicators froze. "Huh," he said looking around in confusion. "What the hell is going on?"
"Maybe they accidentally assimilated Windows, sir," Reynolds answered eliciting a few nervous chuckled. They kept their weapons trained.
"Well, let's start shooting boys," Jack called and they released their ammo into the hoard. They had barely started when the bugs started to move again. "I knew it was too good to be true!" The freeze had bought them minutes at most but every one of them kept at it, reloading as fast as possible despite their limitations.
"Incoming wormhole!" came Siler's voice.
"Just what we need," the General muttered focusing his rage into his P-90. Apparently today was a good day to die.
When Jack wrote his report he said it reminded him of an Asgard beam. The light was so bright he felt blinded but as it pulsed away from the Stargate the Replicators fell apart leaving them with the task of a major clean up. His recommendation was to disintegrate them in the vortex of an opening wormhole to make sure there was never any risk of them activating again. In the end most went that way, but a small shipment ended up at Area 51. Bureaucrats were bureaucrats he supposed. Someone wanted to make money somewhere and if there was even the off chance this could have that sort of revenue generating power, well they sure as hell weren't going to destroy it.
Now he sat in his office waiting for Sam to come back. For Teal'c to report in. For the next big disaster. For news on David or Daniel. Waiting. As much as it had sucked to be overtaken by Replicators for a brief time he had felt young and useful again. The skills he had spent years cultivating in the field were once again called upon. With a heavy sigh he signed another form. Then he checked his watch. Then he signed another form.
"Unscheduled off-world activation!"
Jack didn't jump, but simply took a decent, steady pace to the control room. It was SG-1's GDO and the iris was opened. He walked down the steps and into the gateroom and a grin broke out on his face. Coming down the ramp was Sam and in her arms she held David who was sucking the first two fingers of his right hand and smiling a rather drooly smile. He was clothed in what looked like gold and red brocaded silks.
"What the hell is he wearing?" Jack asked with a mock glare.
Sam just beamed at him. "Sorry sir, we didn't exactly have a lot to choose from. He was the chosen vessel for a god after all."
"Don't remind me," he responded opening his arms to take the infant. "Where was he?"
"Mamamamamama," David cooed as Jack took him.
Jacob walked up looking proud. "Teal'c found him on Ba'al's vessel. He abandoned it before Bra'tac was able to apprehend him but in their search of the ship they found this guy. Whoever bought us those last few minutes..."
Sam and Jack shared a sad but tender look. "Daniel," she whispered.
"Who else?" he answered. He looked at the babe again. "I think this guy's hungry. Jell-O sound good buddy?"
"I think Jell-O sounds great, sir!" Sam spoke up. Together the small group headed down towards the commissary. The galaxy still needed saving, but they had done enough for today. Anubis would still be there tomorrow.
The shrill cry of David woke Sam from a dead sleep and she yawned as she drew herself into a sitting position. Sunlight was just starting to peek through the windows and it illuminated the semi-unfamiliar bedroom. Her feet touched the soft carpet and she shivered as the cool air hit her bare skin.
"Someone's hungry," Jack's muffled voice said as he turned himself over. Through his bleary eyes he saw her bare, freckled back and he reached out and brushed his fingers against it. "My robe's on the chair over there." Sam quickly went across the room to grab it thinking on her way that Jack apparently liked to sleep in the equivalent of the Arctic Tundra. When she turned around after wrapping the blue robe around herself she saw him grinning at her. She just shook her head and made her way to the small nursery (formerly the guest room) to find David standing in his crib crying his eyes out. The room still caused him some anxiety and Sam tenderly embraced him, lifting him from his bed, and making gentle shushing noises. By the time they'd reached the kitchen he was babbling insistently.
Jack had a bowl out with a small amount of Gerber oatmeal already in it. "I got the kind with banana. Thought it might make it more palatable," he explained as he poured in a little milk and stirred. He popped it in the microwave for just a few seconds before taking it over to Sam who was now seated with David in her lap. The almost-tot drooled with excitement as Jack brought a small spoonful to his lips. "You can put him in the highchair if you want, I can do this." A slightly tense silence descended over them and he kept his eyes focused on his son.
"We should probably talk," she broached gingerly. "This was... unexpected."
His brown eyes flicked up to hers. "Was it?"
She flushed with a small smile. "Maybe not entirely."
Sam laid David down in the crib Jack had set up for him. The babe had fallen asleep in her arms while they watched t.v. and barely stirred in the transfer from her arms to the bed. This had been the routine for the last week, ever since he'd come home. In a moment she would leave, but she lingered just a little longer. She felt Jack place one hand on the small of her back. The touch was unexpected and she met his gaze which caused her heart to stop. Desire. Hunger. Lust. Love. It was all there. Guiding her to a position where they faced each other he leaned down and lightly touched his lips to hers. She didn't resist but gladly tilted her head up to encourage him. With a sudden force he pulled her into himself and pressed his lips hard against hers. A startled gasp escaped her lips as he trailed his kisses along her jaw and to the soft, sweet spot behind her ear. Grabbing both of his wrists she began to walk backward out of the nursery. They both knew where they were going and part of her couldn't stop from thinking it was about damn time.
Oatmeal dribbled down David's chin but the infant remained satisfied as long as the spoon kept coming. Jack was about to say something when a chubby hand reached out to grab the spoon and promptly dumped its contents all over the onesie and Sam's legs. He used the towel nearby to clean it up and wiped off the giggling baby's hand.
"I mean... it's just..." she stammered with a grimace.
"It's still against the regs?" he replied with a smirk. "I told you Carter, I'm done. Called Hammond three days ago."
She looked stunned for a moment. "What about Anubis?"
"He's either going to blow us to hell or you're going to brilliantly save the day. Whether I sit in the chair and sign paperwork for God knows what or not makes little difference." He held her eyes. "It'll take time for him to find a replacement anyway."
Sam opened her mouth to respond but his phone started ringing. "O'Neill." She tried to pick up the gist of the conversation but it was mostly "uh-huhs" so she took David back to his room to clean him up. A few minutes later Jack walked in just as she was finished dressing him. He took the child from her as he filled her in on the conversation. "Teal'c and Bra'tac are back. I think there's a situation brewing so I need to head in." He shifted his stance. "I know we're still sorting everything out but don't feel like you have to go anywhere."
"Thanks," she answered giving him a sweet smile. He returned it before heading back to the bedroom to get changed.
Taking a shower had almost been an effort in futility. David had screamed bloody murder when she tried to put him in the Johnny Jump-Up so she undressed him and brought him in the shower stall with her. That only made him cry because the water was in his eyes and he kept trying to escape the relentless spray. Soaking wet and not yet clean, she dried him off, diapered him up, and with a semi-stern voice told him, "Sorry kiddo, I've got to get ready, Janet's going to wonder where I am as it is." For whatever reason he only whimpered for a few minutes when she placed him back in the springy apparatus before he discovering the joys of bouncing. Turning the shower back on she was prepared to step in when her cell phone started ringing. Naked and cold she sprinted to the bed and grabbed her cell phone.
"Sam? Where are you? I'm at your house to help you get David ready but you're not here," Janet answered and Sam heard the sound of her neighbor's dogs barking in the background.
"I'm at General O'Neill's," she told her friend. There was little point in lying. "I wasn't expecting you. I thought I was meeting you at the base."
"I see that. Well that's fine, I'll just meet you over there and we can carpool into work. I need a latte something fierce."
Cringing, Sam responded. "Sorry Janet, I'll just have to meet you there."
"No, I am so not letting you out of this. I really need a latte," her friend hinted loudly but when she didn't catch on Janet sighed. "Damn it Sam. Cassie told me she wants to move out. Some friends of hers are renting a house or something."
"Oh. Oh!" Biting her lip she closed her eyes. "The thing is... I'm not really umm... I'm not really dressed."
The dead silence on the other end caused her to hold her phone out and check the connection. "Janet? Janet are you there?"
"Are you talking to me on the phone in your birthday suit?"
Thanking all the deities in the universe, even the false ones, that no one could see her save the laughing baby, she turned bright red. "Maybe."
"And you're at Jack's?"
"Well put something on, I'm almost there." The phone went dead and Sam just stared at it dumbfounded.
There had been little conversation when Janet initially showed up, mostly due to Sam not yet being ready to leave and therefore entrusting her friend to get David ready to go. The truth was, Sam had no idea what she was going to say. Did she need to explain? A moderate sense of guilt plagued her.
"I don't blame you," Janet finally said when they stopped at a light. "I know you've been in love with him for a long time." Sam kept her gaze forward and fiddled with the zipper on her jacket. "She loved him too."
"I'm not her," she replied shortly. "I play by the rules. Jack talked to Hammond and we're going to do this right."
The doctor sighed. "What is your problem? I get that you don't like the idea of a version of yourself out there that said screw the regs, but really, what the hell is it?"
Her blue eyes narrowed as she watched the scenery go by. "Look at what it cost her. Look at what it cost everyone!" She faced Janet. "They're dead. Daniel's dead. Your reality was invaded by Anubis looking for him," she motioned towards David in the backseat. "Cassie was murdered. This isn't some damn fairy tale. Good people paid for their mistake." Sam was trembling by the end of her rant and she felt sick. Realization dawned on her and she covered her mouth. "What have I done?" she murmured.
"Nothing," the petite woman insisted. She spared a glance in Sam's direction and let one hand touch her shoulder. "You've done nothing wrong. You said it yourself, Jack talked to Hammond. So what if you started now or in two weeks or whatever. You're doing it right, Sam. You're doing it right." There was an urgency in her voice and a deep desire to soothe her friend's conscience. "And you don't know that their relationship is the defining factor of my reality. It's just the only one we know of." Sam remained silent however and the two said nothing further the rest of the trip.
Jack felt like he was running on empty. After what felt like an arduous meeting with Teal'c, Bra'tac, and Jacob, he had retreated to this office to work on paperwork. For the first time since he'd taken the job he was grateful for the distraction. Hammond had called earlier but he'd not been in yet. The General hadn't left a message instead telling Walter that he'd call again. The fact that he was making the call personally and not his secretary tipped him off that this was not a run of the mill check up. As if on cue, the phone rang and when he picked it up he was greeted with Hammond's familiar Texan drawl.
"Jack, how are you doing?"
"You're calling me personally, sir. I'm not so sure how I should be doing," he answered, his lips drawn in a grim expression. "What's going on?"
There was a pause. "I'm sorry to have to do this... I'm denying your request for retirement." Jack said nothing but just leaned back in his chair.
"Is there a reason? You know as well as I do I was blackmailed into this position. I don't want to do this anymore, George." When his superior officer didn't respond he started again. "I'm sure you're aware of the reasons I don't want to do this too. I... I feel in the interest of full disclosure you should know that Colonel Carter and I are pursuing a relationship that is in direct violation of the frat regs."
"I figured half as much. Damn it. Couldn't you have waited just a few more weeks? Let us get this straightened out?"
Now he leaned forward and put his elbows on his desk. "From what I understand sir, you want me keep pushing paper and raise my son like his mother's a stranger." He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice and he knew he was bordering on insubordination. He also knew that Hammond was incredibly patient and for that he was grateful. "I can't do that. The United States government cannot ask me to do that. The only reason I'm not throwing the whole frat regs in the face of everyone so they have to let me go is because I won't tarnish Sam's reputation."
"I'm working on it, son. I wish you'd trust me," Hammond pleaded with him. "We'll work around it somehow, I just need you to bide your time."
"Yes, sir." His voice was stiff. It was the only way he could keep from losing it. "Thank you sir."
"I know how much she means to you. I always have. I promise I won't let you down."
Jack's face softened. "You never have, sir."
"Good bye Jack."
With a click, the line went dead and Jack placed the phone back on the cradle. Why the hell did things have to be so damn complicated?
Daniel was starting to wonder if dying would be preferable to being stuck in perpetual limbo. No one, save Jim, spoke to him and Oma continued to be elusive in her conversation. He was starting share Jack's disgust of ascended beings. The newspaper article described Anubis moving into position, deceiving the Jaffa. He was still going after the weapon which made his blood run cold. Oma sat down across from him.
"Does he have David?" the archeologist asked dropping the newspaper onto the table. Oma just looked at him. "C'mon. You can't be breaking any high laws to tell me. Besides if someone would lend me a copy of yesterday's paper, maybe I'd know the answer."
"No, he doesn't have the child," the ascended woman conceded. "But he'll use the weapon anyway."
"I thought the point was that he wanted to ascend? If he destroys David then he'll still be stuck the way he is," he argued, pushing his now cold coffee aside. He spared a momentary thought that it seemed odd that "ascended" coffee could lose it's heat. Oma's eyes were fixed on the table. "What aren't you telling me?"
"It's not important. That's what you need to learn. Let go and I'll help you ascend again," she finally replied. "The things that happen are small compared to grand design."
"Grand design? Grand design? You want me to be okay with billions of people dying because of a megalomaniac's thirst for power?" He was irate now. "What the hell is wrong with you people? Don't you get it? He's not going to stop with the galaxy. He's going to figure out how to ascend and he's going to come after you!"
"The others will stop him."
With force Daniel swept the mug and the paper off the table causing the coffee to spill everywhere. Standing up he began to yell. "What is wrong with you all? What good is all your damn knowledge if it does no good for anyone but yourselves? While you sit up here with your high and mighty knowledge we're fighting for survival. You know what, Oma," he growled turning to the sad faced woman. "You all deserve what you get. Every last one of you."
No one looked. Everyone stared at their food and ate in silence, or so it seemed to Daniel. The frustration flowed through his veins like fire and he clenched his fists. The sound of a lone man clapping broke his broke his rage and he turned to see Jim standing in the corner. "Nice speech. I agree with you by the way." The heavy set man made his way towards the counter and took a mug from in front of a woman eating waffles. She didn't pay him any attention. "They don't. Never have. Isn't that right Oma."
The woman just glowered and moved behind the counter. Daniel noticed the mess he had made was gone as though his outburst had never happened. "It just doesn't make any sense. He wants to ascend completely."
Jim shrugged and took a sip of his coffee. "They think they can stop him. Been living so long at the top they figure no one can reach 'em. Mmm, this is good coffee." He gave Daniel a toothy grin. "And you know what's even funnier, they know exactly how important the child is but they're so wrapped up in their rules they're not going to do anything!"
"Wait, what do you mean?" he asked with his brows furrowed. "I mean he has Ancient DNA but beyond that he hasn't exhibited any unusual tendencies."
The other man just chuckled and winked throwing down the paper on the counter. Then he began whistling and made his way out the door. Daniel's eyes focused on the headline, Child to Survive Galaxy Annihilation.
The baby boy held onto the edge of the bed and carefully shuffled his way to the end in an attempt to grab the blue puppy Jacob had set down while opening the diaper bag. He had a headache and he let out a sigh as he closed his eyes to try to reorient himself. The silence in his mind was deafening and it was difficult for him to get used to the sound of only his thoughts. "Dooh doooooh," the tot cooed at the animal.
"That's right, doggie," he encouraged and David smiled while hitting his left hand against the bed. A knock at the door caused him to look up and Sam poked her head in.
"Hey Dad," she greeted making her way to a chair across from where he sat. "Can we talk?"
Jacob cocked his head and tried to ignore the throbbing. "Of course." His daughter looked deeply troubled and he found a knot in his stomach forming. "Whatever it is, you know I'm here for you."
"It's about General O'Neill and... and me," she started avoiding her dad's eyes. "There's this thing that's... what I mean is that I have feelings for him and he has them for me too..." Sam struggled with her words and kept her eyes focused on her son. She knew she wouldn't be able keep pushing forward if she saw disappointment in his eyes. Carefully she considered her next statement when Jacob held up a hand.
"Hold on," he hissed, his eyes closed. His forehead was wrinkled in pain and he was hunched forward. "Oh... oh!" he exclaimed before tumbling forward onto the hard floor unconscious. She propelled herself to his side and rolled him over checking for a pulse and calling out. When she got no response she grabbed the phone and called the infirmary. The rush of medics with Janet in tow frightened David who had been forgotten in all the turmoil and he began to cry. Scooping him up Sam held him close.
"It's okay baby. It's okay," she whispered, following the medical team down the corridor. She was careful to stay out of their way and she found that in soothing David, her own anxiety and panic stayed away.
Sam spun at her name and saw Jack standing in the doorway. "Sir?"
"Walter told me. I don't know how he knows this stuff but..." he shrugged and moved near her. "Anything?" She shook her head somberly and he could see her pouring her attentions in to their son instead of herself. Reaching out he took the now calmed infant from her arms. "Go." Her blue eyes softened in gratitude and as Janet beckoned for her she neared her father. Jack spared a moment to watch her before slipping out unnoticed.
"Dad?" she whispered. Jacob's eyes fluttered open and he had bewildered expression on his face as he tried to recall the most recent hour. "Dad, you're okay. You're in the infirmary."
"I thought..." he croaked. "I thought I had more time."
"What do you mean?" Her heart rate began to speed up and she felt the palms of her hands grow damp. "What do you mean?" she repeated.
There was an agonizing look of regret on her father's face. "Selmak is dying."
"I'm so sorry," she empathized laying her hand on his arm.
He shook his head. "You don't understand. I'm dying too, Sam."
Her heart stopped dead. "What? No! The symbiote can give its life like Jolinar did for me." Her father shook his head again.
"No. Not this time. It requires a conscious effort by the symbiote and Selmak slipped into a coma a few weeks ago."
Unshed tears glistened in her eyes. "You knew? You knew and you didn't tell me?" Sam closed her eyes trying to fight the threatening flood. 'Why?" she rasped wiping away one lone tear that had escaped.
"I thought we needed him. I thought I needed him," Jacob said to her as he weakly grasped her hand. "It's okay. I thought I was going to die years ago but instead I got to not only travel the galaxy but get to know my little girl."
The tears she had been holding back came forward and she gripped her father's hand tightly. "I love you, Dad," she whispered and allowed herself the indulgence of hushed weeping.
He'd wanted to stay when he'd gone down to the infirmary and saw Jacob passed out while the nurses worked on him. Jack had wanted to run back to her and hold her hand when Walter had given him the update to the Tok'Ra's condition. When the Tok'Ra base called back and said they would be sending delegates to pay their respects to Selmak, he'd wanted to hide with David and simply lose himself in the innocent simplicity of childhood. Instead he was sitting in his damn office again while Sergeant Hassad in the infirmary had taken charge of the child.
There was a knock on the door. "Come in!" Walter came in holding a stack of folders.
"Sorry sir these just came in from the Pentagon. They're wanting updates on - "
"Just set them down with the rest of the crap the Pentagon wants to know."
"Yes sir." The man looked like he wanted to say something but didn't, placing the folders on top of an already large stack. He started back out the door and then turned. "Sir, if I may..."
He adjusted his glasses. "You've been a pleasure to serve under, sir."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Are you going somewhere?"
"No, no sir. It's just... I mean you put in your retirement papers so I figured..."
With a sigh he gave a rather pathetic smile. "Why don't we wait until it's actually official before we put the nail in my coffin." Walter nodded and the door closed. He didn't ask how Walter knew about his retirement papers. The man was like Santa Claus; he just knew. Reaching over, Jack grabbed the top folder and flipped it open.
There had been chanting involved with the few Tok'Ra dignitaries that had come to see Jacob in his final hours. There was a somberness and a sense of finality in their ritual that made Sam feel as though someone were grabbing her heart and clenching it tightly. She was grateful when they left and she took her place again by her father's side.
"They rarely get to do that anymore," Jacob noted sadly. "Too few of us left and too many dying while in the field."
"I didn't even know they had much of a culture," she confessed. "Changing locations tends to create a sense of transiency. I never even thought about them having families until we needed to hide David."
"For a lot of Tok'Ra that's what makes them stay sane, knowing that they will make the galaxy a better place." Silence fell over them and her father regarded her carefully. "It's okay you know."
"That you love Jack. You have a child together and if you must know Selmak is a hopeless romantic," he paused with a smile. "And so am I."
Sam blushed and looked down. "I don't know Dad. Things are complicated."
"Look at me sweetheart." He waited until her eyes met his. "I lost your mother and it was the most devastating loss I have ever experienced, but I would do it again knowing how things turned out. She was worth it. I want you to be happy. Promise me you'll be happy." Desperation exuded from his expression and all she could do was nod that she would. No matter what it required she would honor Jacob's last request.
He stared at Oma with hard eyes. "They punish you by destroying us. You all suck at parenting, I hope you know that."
"You don't get upset if a mother gets rid of her son's ant farm do you?" she shot back but her tone didn't hold much weight. For all her arguing about how insignificant the lower planes of existence were, she cared. She cared too damn much. "Besides it doesn't matter. Anubis can't be killed, not by me, not by you."
"I really thought there was something to this higher plane of existence," Daniel spat pushing away his empty plate. "I thought the good, the noble ascended to some great peaceful plane. But I was wrong. It's the same up here as it is down there. You all have knowledge in gallons but not a single drop of wisdom or discernment. I'm really starting to lean towards death."
Oma dropped her gaze just as the door jingled open. Jim walked in whistling with a grin plastered on his face as seemed to be the usual for him. He grabbed a mug from the counter and sauntered over to their table. "Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. Still trying to figure ole' Oma out, huh? Well get a load of this!" He threw down the latest newspaper. "Those Jaffa are idiots!" He chuckled and took a sip of coffee. "So predictable, so gullible. That's why they needed their gods."
A bemused look crossed Daniel's visage. "I'm sorry? You sound happy about this?" He scrutinized Jim's jovial expression before his eyes went wide.
"Who said you needed ascension to be enlightened?" the man replied with a wink.
"Anubis. You're Anubis!" he breathed before looking at Oma for confirmation. The grim shadow over her face was the only answer he needed.
Jack found her sitting quietly in the observation room watching her father slowly fade. He sat down next to her and put his arm around her. A tear trickled down her face and she sniffled a little before looking at him with a faint smile. "Hey."
"How are you?" he asked her, his voice tender and low.
Sam moved closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder. "Better than I thought I would be. I had him for longer and I knew him better. I guess I got my second chance."
His brown eyes were fixed on her reflection in the mirror as he wordlessly adored her. "I'm going to miss him," he finally said, his fingers caressing her arm. She pulled back just enough to look at him.
"Me too." They shared a moment of connectedness before Jack leaned over and graced her forehead with a light kiss. She inhaled deeply and he let his hand come up to caress her cheek. She found herself wishing they were alone. The beeping from the monitors hooked up to Jacob interrupted them and Sam was motioned to come by Janet. Grabbing Jack's hand she gave it a squeeze before steeling herself and heading to his room.
When she arrived by his side she immediately took his hand, his grip was poor but she held on for all she was worth. "Daddy," she whispered barely holding herself together. Jacob's eyes met hers and he gave her a soft smile.
"It's okay kiddo."
"I love you," she replied, her voice trembling.
"I love you too." It was as though he were imprinting her face on his memory so that he could dream about her. His eyes closed and Sam let her tears go as what little pressure she had felt from her father's hand slipped away. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed soundlessly into her hands and suffered the stinging realization that everything was irrevocably changed. After a few moments she looked up to the observation room where she saw Jack standing his face unreadable but his eyes vulnerable and she knew she wasn't alone.
She stood to the side and watched her blonde friend snuggle David as a few tears trickled down her cheek. Janet was glad the boy was asleep and able to give Sam a sweet comfort as she mourned. At times like these she remembered her Sam, sun-kissed from their short but rural life, her hair longer and streaked, hips a little wider, stomach no longer taut, but arms chiseled with hard work. The eyes were different though. This Sam, her loss fresh and raw, still had a peace around her. Dropping her gaze, the doctor remembered with an ache the emptiness that her Sam had struggled with.
Her brown eyes shot up. "Hey. I came by to check on you. See if you wanted lunch."
"Not now. I'll eat but I guess I just want to sit here and hold David. There's something soothing about his innocence," Sam explained lovingly brushing back a lock of hair off his forehead. "When he showed up I thought he was going to throw my life off track. He did too, but in a good way."
Janet moved closer and leaned against the gurney across from her. "Kids do that."
"I know. Dad..." she stopped to take in a jagged breath. "Dad said he knew how I felt about Jack."
"I want this," she told her friend. "I want Jack and David. Whatever I have to do..."
"Colonel Carter!" Walter's voice startled her. "Teal'c is back and General O'Neill wants to see you in the briefing room." Sam gave Janet a concerned look and the petite woman willingly took David off her hands.
Sam hurried through the corridors with a sick sense of dread. She slowed her pace somewhat as she entered the room. Jack was pacing and Teal'c sat stoically at the table. They were in mid-conversation.
"This is why we should have destroyed the damn weapon!" the General muttered. "We'll get the biggest nuke we've got and shove it through."
"Anubis will shield the gate. The bomb will never make it."
She brought herself into Jack's line of vision. "If we dial the Alpha Site that should hold up the gate for - "
Their eyes met and she saw panic. This is it.
Two seconds after they had David in his crib, Jack had pulled Sam through the hallway to their bedroom kissing her fervently. She responded eagerly opening her mouth. Their eyes stayed locked, their hands in constant motion. By the time they hit the bed she had only her panties and bra on. The way he looked at her made her crave what they were about to do. The lust, the need, the love. His bare chest moved against her as he tasted every inch of her jaw, her neck, her breasts. He slowed his kisses and pulled back to let his eyes meander over her full form. She traced his brow and ran her finger down his cheek to her lips. We didn't die today.
Later Sam was wrapped around Jack's torso and he was lightly stroking her shoulder while she made patterns on his stomach. "I needed this," she whispered in the dark room. Her father's death, their seemingly inevitable demise, Daniel's return, and her acceptance of herself as a whole woman, it had made her feel ensnared in her own mind. Her lover just tightened his hold on her but she had yet another confession. "I sent in my resignation." Jack's hand stilled and then started again.
"I told you I was going to retire," he responded, his voice expressing his confusion. "Although when I talked to Hammond today..."
"I know. He called me after everything to give his condolences. He and my dad were good friends." Sam pushed herself up so she could see him face to face. "I told him what Dad had said and when he mentioned the issues with your retirement..."
"You told him you were resigning."
She nodded in affirmation. "Does it bother you?"
"It surprises me."
They didn't say anything for a little while and she laid her head down again so she could hear his heartbeat. "I didn't do it for you. I did it for me. For what I want."
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Marry me?" she breathed, her voice hoarse. When he didn't answer right away she sat up. "Jack?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
His face broke out into a wide grin and Sam started giggling. She fell over onto him and they laughed together in the dark.
A/N: This is it. The final chapter. I was going to do an epilogue but I liked the way this ended I felt it didn't need more. Thank you to all of you who have read this from the very beginning. I hope that my promises that you would be satisfied are fulfilled. I'm not a review beggar, but I would love to hear your thoughts - what did you see in the series overall? What did you enjoy? What was hard? This was a journey. For those of you reading this through for the first time, thank you as well.