IT’S ALL A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
Jack watched the video clip of Kinsey’s triumphant ‘resurrection’ dispassionately, breathing an audible sigh of relief when Hammond turned the sound down. He didn’t need a replay of the press conference; unfortunately that moment was indelibly ingrained in his brain, along with Kinsey’s smug remark that his appearance and involvement would be instrumental in Kinsey’s presidential bid.
“I know that wasn’t easy for you, Jack,” Hammond said. “But this will go a long way towards repairing relationships that have been damaged by the actions of the Committee, not to mention the public’s faith in the military.”
Jack recognized the sincerity in Hammond’s voice and nodded. This was one of those scenarios he knew all to well, where the little guy was sacrificed on the altar of the greater good. And this time he was the little guy sacrificed to Kinsey’s ego and political ambition.
His eyes were drawn back to the video though, when he saw Kinsey turn to him and he had been forced to shake the man’s hand. He’d never shaken the hand of a Goa’uld, but Jack imagined it would feel much the same—like a dead mackerel. Jack reflexively wiped his right hand on his pants leg, as if he could somehow wipe away the slimy feel of Kinsey’s hand in his and the sound of the almost frantic click and whir of the cameras as the photo op was captured for the eager public.
Hammond’s smile was sympathetic. “Take the next few days off, Jack. Get things back in perspective. SG1 isn’t scheduled to rejoin the mission rotation until next week, I don’t want to see you back on base until then.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack responded, recognizing the dismissal. He also knew this conversation with Hammond was the closest thing to an apology that he’d ever get for being accused of murder and his subsequent incarceration. He stood when Hammond rose and disappeared into his office; the video of the press conference had started playing again. Jack grimaced and pressed the off button the remote. Kinsey had told him he was going to make him a hero. It was funny, because he certainly didn’t feel like one.
What he felt, Jack realized as he left the briefing room and strolled through the quiet hallways of the SGC, was strangely isolated—too much time alone with his thoughts, especially with the whole prisoner thing coming right after a week alone at his cabin. Alone…without his team…without her. Already dressed in his civvies, he made his way to the elevator, which came right away and instead of pushing the button that would take him topside, he pushed the button for level nineteen. She’d had it all wrong when she’d accused him of only inviting her because he knew she was already busy. He really wanted her to come fishing with him—along with everything else that euphemistic invitation might entail.
Hammond had told him to get some ‘perspective’ and maybe the old general was right. He’d certainly been given a different perspective while he’d been incarcerated. And it was funny what a different perspective he’d gotten while standing next to Kinsey on that podium. It was one thing to put his life on the line with some Goa’uld or other alien, but when the very government he was working for turned on him…well…it just didn’t sit right. He didn’t often doubt the necessity of the ‘job’ but maybe it was beyond time to put it in perspective with the rest of his life.
But right now he’d just settle for seeing Sam. Basically, he’d be happy to see any of his team, Jonas included; he hadn’t seen Sam, or the others, since that last visit she’d made with Jonas while he was still incarcerated. And it niggled a bit that all three of them had been absent from his homecoming. Not that he’d expected a parade or anything, but a ‘welcome back’ would have been nice. It was unfair he knew. Hell, he’d barely had time to change out of his prison garb before Hammond had shown up and hustled him onto a transport to DC to be the main attraction in Kinsey’s dog and pony show.
The numbers lit up in rapid sequence as the elevator traveled swiftly to level nineteen, for once not making a stop on every floor and Jack exited the elevator, striding purposefully down the empty hallway. The distinct lack of personnel reminded him it was early evening. And yeah, he knew it was a Friday, but for crying out loud! Carter had no life and Teal’c and Jonas lived on base, it wasn’t like any of them had any other place to go.
“Carter?” Jack pushed the door to her lab open and found…nothing but a few blinking lights on the various pieces of equipment lining the walls. The computer on her work table was dark and the lab had a distinctly forlorn and abandoned air. Well crap. Of all days for her to decide to go out and get a life. All right, so he’d scored a big fat zero as far as Sam went—and while he’d certainly lived with bigger disappointments, this one seemed exceptionally keen—so he left the deserted lab and bypassed the elevator for the stairs, jogging up the two flights to the base’s living quarters.
Jack’s footsteps echoed ominously down the hall and he stopped outside of Teal’c’s quarters and pounded on the door. And again nothing…so, he backtracked to Jonas’ lab, which of course was just as dark and deserted as Carter’s had been, the TV wasn’t even on. What the hell had happened to his team? But he wasn’t an expert tactician for nothing. Carter, well…she was easy, at least he figured she’d be at home and he was so not going to go hunt her down there. As for Teal’c and Jonas, all he had to do was check with security and he’d know the exact location of his entire team. So, it was up to level sixteen.
“What do you mean they’re not on base?” O’Neill scowled at the young airman manning the main SGC security checkpoint.
The boy’s voice trembled slightly, but he held his ground. “They’ve checked out for the weekend, sir.” He shuffled through several clipboards on the desk. “They’re not due to return until twenty-hundred hours on Sunday, sir.”
Jack glared at the earnest face of the airman, his eyes flicking briefly to his name tag. “Are you telling me, Barker,” he snapped, “that you let two alien’s waltz off this base all by themselves?”
“Ah…no, sir,” the hapless Barker stammered. “They were accompanied by Major Carter, sir.”
“Were they now?” Jack replied, his voice silky.
“Yes, sir,” Barker nodded eagerly. “She had all the proper releases, signed by General Hammond.”
Jack had no doubt that if he asked, Barker would produce the paperwork. He didn’t doubt that it was all legit, what he did wonder was what the hell Sam and Colorado Springs two resident aliens had planned for the weekend. Well, there was only one thing he could do. “Thanks, Barker,” he told the perplexed looking airman and headed toward the elevators that would take him to the surface. “Keep up the good work.”
“You know,” Jonas said, his amiable faced filled with mild confusion. “Just when I think I’ve got Earth cultured figured out….” He grabbed a handful of popcorn out of the bowl on the coffee table and gestured toward the TV where John Wayne was busy forcibly hauling Maureen O’Hara through the picturesque Irish countryside. “This type of behavior wouldn’t be considered at all acceptable on Kelowna.”
Sam merely grinned and grabbed another handful of popcorn before sprawling back on the sofa. “I agree you’d be unlikely to see this kind of behavior being considered acceptable today, but The Quiet Man is a period piece.”
“He treats his woman in the way of the less-enlightened Jaffa,” Teal’c rumbled.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Sam added, tossing a kernel of popcorn at Teal’c where he sat cross-legged on the floor, which he easily deflected. “I think she gives as good as she gets.”
Teal’c merely raised an eyebrow and Jonas laughed. “That she does.”
Jonas reached for his beer and Sam watched in amusement as he took another swallow of the Guinness she’d insisted they all drink. He shuddered and set the half-empty bottle back down. “You’re sure this is what you’re supposed to drink on Saint Patrick’s Day?”
“It’s either this or green beer,” she answered with a grin and took a healthy swallow from her bottle. She wasn’t a huge fan of Guinness, but she had finally gotten to the point where she could drink it without gagging. As for Teal’c, the only Earth drink he seemed to have any problem with was milk.
“If you say so,” Jonas muttered and then proceeded to hoot with laughter then, when on the screen, an elderly woman offered John Wayne’s character a stick ‘to beat the lovely lady’.
“Definitely not politically correct,” Sam chuckled. Settling back on the sofa, she pulled the afghan a little bit closer around her and let her thoughts drift while on the TV Sean and his brother-in-law started their long-awaited brawl. Jonas had approached her about this whole Saint Patrick’s Day weekend long before the attack on Senator Kinsey and the Colonel’s incarceration. And once they’d been able to clear him, she hadn’t been able to come up any reason to cancel the weekend.
Jonas had looked so eagerly hopeful when he’d reminded her of it, she hadn’t had the heart to say no to him, even though it didn’t seem quite right without the Colonel. Not that he would have accepted her invitation to celebrate with them, just like she had said no to his fishing invitation. Sam wondered if he was back from Washington; she sighed softly, she had the funny feeling that their paths had crossed in mid-air. The last time she had seen him had been in the prison at Peterson.
It had been more disturbing than she liked to acknowledge; to see him in a prison jumpsuit, shackled and stripped of his dignity. If had had been painful for her, she couldn’t even imagine what it had been like for him. They’d all watched the press conference, of course. She knew it had gone against every grain in his body to stand on the podium next to Kinsey, but she also knew his sense of duty would outweigh his personal discomfort at being a pawn for the NID. But none of that really mattered, at least to her, because he was free.
It seemed to be getting harder and harder for her to keep her feelings for him hidden, especially after everything that had happened since Daniel’s death. His death had forced her to re-examine some of her deepest feelings and those that she felt for the Colonel were right there at the top, just waiting to be set free. And in spite of the clarity she had discovered while mourning Daniel, it had proved more difficult than she’d ever imagined to reveal those feelings to the man who mattered the most to her.
“What?” she asked, forcing her mind away from her forbidden thoughts.
Jonas stood in front of her, three DVD’s in hands. “Which one next?”
“Oh.” Sam peered around him to look at the TV, the movie had ended and the credits were running. Teal’c had disappeared, but she could hear noise coming from the kitchen. “Let me look at them again.” Jonas handed her the DVD cases—Finian’s Rainbow, Darby O’Gill and the Little People and…a Saint Patrick’s Day horror movie?
Holding up Leprechaun, complete with ghoulish cover, she asked, “I thought we agreed no horror movies?”
“Ah…” Jonas stammered and shifted uneasily.
“It was my choice.”
Sam swung around. Teal’c walked back into the living room carrying a plate piled high with shamrock green Sno Balls, Twinkies and HoHo’s. Setting the plate down next to the popcorn, he selected a Sno Ball and bit off half. “Are leprechauns not part of Irish folklore?”
“Yeah, they are…but,” she added, displaying the DVD with its lurid leprechaun on the cover. “A leprechaun that goes on a killing spree doesn’t exactly exemplify the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day.”
“Maybe we should watch Finian’s Rainbow instead.” Jonas shoved the DVD case at Teal’c; Fred Astaire and Petula Clark smiled engagingly from the cover. “Look! Singing! Dancing! No killing!”
“You can watch Leprechaun after I go to bed,” she stated firmly.
Teal’c nodded, shoving the remains of the Sno Ball into his mouth. “Very well,” he mumbled.
“I believe our choice is Finian’s Rainbow, Jonas.”
Jonas smiled and Sam stood, handing back the DVD. Stretching, she looked around the living room. It wasn’t quite trashed out yet…she picked up the empty of the two pizza boxes and headed to the kitchen.
“Sam? Could you bring me another beer?”
Sam rolled her eyes, what was it about men? “Sure and go ahead and put the movie in,” she called to Jonas, folding the pizza box into the garbage. “I’ll be right there.” She had just grabbed two more beers out of the fridge when the doorbell rang.
“Do you wish me to answer the door, Samantha?” Teal’c’s voice boomed from the living room.
“No.” Sam stuck her head into the living room and handed Jonas his beer. “I’ll get it.” She walked down the hall and flipped on the porch light, peering curiously through the peep hole. “Colonel!” she exclaimed, immediately opening the door. “What are you doing here, sir?”
He was dressed casually, in khakis, dark shirt and his weathered leather jacket, but the expression in his eyes was anything but casual and it immediately put her on edge. “May I come in?”
“Yes, of course,” she said, stepping back and letting him in. Her foyer seemed very small all of a sudden. They simply looked at each other and she felt a huge surge of relief at finally seeing him. She didn’t even realize she was staring at him like some love-struck schoolgirl until Jonas’ voice broke through her trance.
“Sam?” Jonas stood at the other end of the hallway, still by the kitchen, Teal’c looming behind him. “Everything okay?”
“Yes,” she stammered, tearing her eyes away from the Colonel’s. “Look who’s here!” she exclaimed, gesturing towards the still silent O’Neill. There was a flurry of movement when Jonas and Teal’c hurried up the hall and crowded into her tiny foyer. Sam found herself smashed up against the wall while the three men exchanged greetings.
“Colonel! When did you get back?”
“O’Neill, it is good to see you.”
“Not too long ago,” O’Neill rumbled. “And it’s good to see you too, T.”
Sam slipped away unnoticed and headed back down the hallway and into the living room, almost frantically picking up more of the debris from their earlier pizza and snacks. His unexpected appearance had her totally flustered. At work, on base, she had no problem dealing with her wayward emotions, but in her home and after the events of the last few weeks, she felt uncomfortably vulnerable.
“I have asked O’Neill to join us.”
Sam felt like a deer caught in the headlights, her hands full of discarded trash and empty beer bottles, while three sets of eyes looked at her. Teal’c remained calm and steady and if he suspected his invitation had surprised her, he didn’t reveal it. Jonas’ eyes held a mixture of concern and eagerness. She knew he still harbored feelings of inadequacy regarding his appointment with SG1 and relished the time they all spent together, but he also wasn’t insensitive to the swirling emotions evident in the room.
And the Colonel…he simply stood there, hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket, his eyes now dark and unreadable. But she knew him too well and she could sense the uncertainty beneath his casual stance and it was suddenly a very easy decision. Brushing past the three men; depositing her trash in the kitchen before she turned and smiled warmly at him. “If you think you can stand an evening watching Irish themed movies, you’re welcome to join us.”
“And drinking Guinness,” Jonas added, holding up his bottle of the dark brew.
“Irish movies?” Jack asked.
“It is Saint Patrick’s Day tomorrow, O’Neill.”
Sam opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Guinness, handing it to the Colonel. Their fingers brushed when he took it from her and she drew her hand back quickly, ignoring the faint smile on his face as he twisted off the cap. “Sounds good to me,” he said, flipping the cap onto the counter and taking a healthy swallow of the Guinness.
“We were just getting ready to start Finian’s Rainbow,” Jonas added.
“Singing and dancing,” Teal’c intoned, walking back into the living room, Jonas and the Colonel following.
“Yes, well, what is Saint Patrick’s Day without a little singing and dancing? Ah, pizza!”
Sam smiled and grabbed several more paper plates and napkins, along with her beer, and returned to the living room. Jonas was busy at the DVD player, Teal’c had already resumed his position on the floor, the plate of snack cakes close at hand and the Colonel sat sprawled on the sofa, precariously holding a slice of pizza in his hands as he took a bite.
Stepping over Teal’c, she tossed several napkins in the Colonel’s direction. He grinned at her and adeptly fielded them one-handed. The opening strains of Finian’s Rainbow filled the room and she took her place at the other end of the sofa, which, in spite of the safe amount of distance between them, still seemed uncomfortably close to the Colonel.
Before the movie was half over, Sam was curled up nicely by his side; mostly because Jonas had decided to take up residence on the sofa as well, but Jack so wasn’t going to complain about something that got him closer to Carter. It seemed the lighthearted musical and the undemanding company of his team was just what he needed after the stresses of the last few weeks. He could actually feel some of the ragged edges of his soul start to heal.
The movie was hopelessly dated, but the music was familiar and the perky blonde heroine reminded Jack of his blonde heroine. He glanced at her, she seemed almost half asleep and in one of his more daring moves, he carefully put his arm around her. He felt her stiffen for the briefest of moments and then she relaxed against him. Jonas and Teal’c ignored them—Jack suspected Teal’c was actually performing kel’no’reem, the big guy hadn’t moved for a good hour. And Jonas, well…Jonas was being Jonas and appeared enthralled with the movie, tossing out the occasional comment to which Sam would always murmur appropriately.
Long before he was ready for the evening to end, the movie was over and Sam roused. Jack reluctantly removed his arm from around her when she sat up and his heart skipped several beats at her warm look and smile. “So what’s next?” he said hurriedly, dragging his eyes away from Sam.
“Leprechaun,” Teal’c rumbled, apparently awake now.
Jack raised an eyebrow and Sam shrugged, quickly covering her mouth when she yawned. “Some grade B horror movie,” she told him. And then much to his disappointment she added, “You can stay and watch it if you like, but I’m going to bed.”
“But Sam!” Jonas protested. “It’s not even midnight!”
“You two haven’t forgotten the Five K run tomorrow, have you?”
“What run?” Jack asked.
“There’s a Five K Saint Patrick’s Day run, starting at Acacia Park,” Sam informed him.
“And the parade, don’t forget the parade!” Jonas chimed in.
“Right,” Sam smiled. “And the Saint Patrick’s Day parade that starts at noon downtown.”
“And of course the pub crawling,” Jack added, just on the off chance….
“Well, we had planned on stopping by Jack Quinn’s,” Sam admitted, naming the Springs most well-known Irish pub. “But it will probably be a mad house.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jack said. She studied him, her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed in that thoughtful look he was so familiar with. He kept his face open, smiling gently under her intense perusal.
“Well, you probably shouldn’t be driving, I mean….” She gestured vaguely around the living room where maybe a grand total of six empty Guinness bottles rested.
Jack nodded agreeably. He’d only had two beers, but he was willing to go along with whatever she had in mind. If anything, they were all on a sugar high, as evidenced by the one forlorn Twinkie left sitting all by itself on the formerly full plate of snack cakes.
“The guys are camping out in the basement; I guess you can stay in the guest room.”
“You do not wish to watch the movie, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked from where he stood by the TV; the Leprechaun DVD clutched in his massive hand.
“Nah,” Jack said, following Sam out of the room. “You two knock yourselves out.” With their goodnights ringing out behind them, Jack followed Sam towards the front of the house and then down the short hallway that led to the bedrooms. She stopped at the first door, pushing it open and turning on the light. He stepped in behind her, casually surveying the cozy looking room.
It was simply furnished with what looked to be a queen size bed, a dresser made out of some kind of dark wood and a simple desk and chair; there were several nice aviation prints on the off-white walls. The bed spread was a neutral mixture of cream and brown, accented with navy blue throw pillows that somehow gave it a masculine feel and Jack wondered if she’d decorated it with her father in mind.
“There are towels in the top drawer of the dresser,” she said. “The bathroom is just across the hall. I keep some stuff in there for when Dad visits, there should be some new toothbrushes in there somewhere. I never like the ones the dentist gives out so I always—”
“Sam,” he said gently, taking her hand—which had the intended affect of stopping her babbling—and her drew her slowly toward the bed, sitting down and pulling her down next to him. She tugged tentatively on her hand but he tightened his grip and she seemed to relax, though she still looked like she’d take off the minute her released her.
Talk wasn’t something he was very good at, but he’d had a lot of time with his own thoughts of late and he had found his thoughts continually returning to her. “I just wanted to say thanks, for what you did.” She looked puzzled and he clarified. “Taking on the Committee like you did, clearing my name.”
A slight smile flitted across her face and she looked down at their joined hands, before meeting his eyes. “I would have done the same for Teal’c or Jonas.”
“I know.” Jack smiled, of course she would have but that still didn’t diminish the fact that she had done it for him. “I guess the time I spent locked up gave me a new perspective.”
“It did?” She looked skeptical and he couldn’t blame her.
“Yeah,” he murmured, rubbing his thumb lightly across the back of her hand. “Like…maybe there’s more to life than the Stargate.”
Her skeptical look faded slightly and her lips curved in a tender smile, her fingers tightened around his. “You could be right about that.”
“And I’ve been thinking maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”
“Yeah….” He fell silent, but still kept holding her hand. It felt good and he wasn’t quite ready to give that feeling up yet.
“I’ve been kind of thinking the same thing lately.” Her shoulders lifted in a slight shrug. “Funny how your perspective can change.”
“Funny,” he repeated. It should have surprised him that she had echoed his very thoughts of late, but it didn’t, the connection between them ran too deep—and too strong. And while he wanted so much more, he was acutely aware that they weren’t alone in her house; but a curious contentment filled him anyway. They had plenty of time.
“So, you say there’s a marathon tomorrow?” Jack slowly released her hand and was pleased when she sighed almost inaudibly before standing up.
She nodded almost apologetically. “We have to be at the park an hour before start time.”
“We’ll have to stop by my house so I can pick up my running gear.”
Her face brightened. “I think that can be arranged.”
“And clean clothes for later,” he added.
She raised an eyebrow but her smile was indulgent. “Parade and pub crawling?”
“Aye now, lass,” he said in a very bad Irish accent which made her giggle. “Don’t you think you should let a real Irishman show you how to celebrate Saint Paddy’s Day?”
“Well,” she said, still chuckling. “I guess we’ve followed you into stranger situations.” She lingered at the door and he looked inquiringly at her. “Goodnight then…Jack.”
He felt like he’d taken a direct from a zat when he heard his name on her lips, the warmth in her eyes doing crazy things to his insides. It was funny, Jack had to acknowledge—with no small sense of irony—that his nemesis Kinsey was indirectly responsible for setting into motion the chain of events that had led him to Sam’s house and this moment.
“Goodnight, Sam,” he said, his voice reverberating with an emotion he didn’t bother to hide. Her smile was tender as she closed the door quietly and he just sat for a moment, absorbing the almost infinitesimal shift as his life changed direction.