In an uncharacteristically careless move, he’d left the game plan in enemy territory. The blueprint was crucial to his assignment and he couldn’t leave it unattended.
He surveyed the dimly lit landscape. He’d received some intelligence that the ground was littered with landmines. He’d have to be cautious. He took a tentative step forward before sidestepping to the left - then to the right. It was going to take a lot of agility and concentration to avoid the booby traps, and he was worryingly out of shape.
He ran his tongue across the back of his teeth as he carefully considered his next move. He rose on his toes, then crouched to his knees to gain a better understanding of the terrain.
He retrieved the torch from his belt and shone it onto the ground in front of him. It didn’t look good. The surface was riddled with shiny shrapnel.
He couldn't see the game plan from where he stood - he needed to find higher ground. He squinted to sharpen his vision and noticed a small mound in front of him. He mentally calculated the distance and did a quick risk assessment - he should be able to make it from his position. Ignoring the sharp pain in his knees, he leapt into the air. He exhaled as his feet landed on the protrusion. The flat surface was a lot smoother than he’d anticipated and his left foot slid off the surface and made contact with a razor-sharp shell. A sharp hiss escaped his mouth. He fought the urge to swear and bent his injured foot around to survey the damage. Luckily, his skin hadn't broken. He rubbed at the wound. It was probably going to leave a nasty bruise. He quickly composed himself and inspected the area again from his new vantage point. From here, he could see the blueprints. They were unguarded!
He noticed a discarded cloth nearby and roughly threw it over the shrapnel. He turned and silently signalled for his counterpart to follow him. Once he was sure his colleague had made it to safe ground, he took the final few steps towards the documents. He grasped them firmly with both hands and felt a wave of relief wash over time. They were still intact.
He closed his eyes and slouched against a nearby wall, allowing himself to slide to the floor. This had been a harrowing experience! He beckoned for his offsider to join him. The younger man obeyed. He cast a concerned eye over his form and noticed how dishevelled he looked. The light had faded from his bright blue eyes and his hard hat was sitting slightly askew from an earlier altercation. He also looked sleep deprived - but rest would have to wait.
He wordlessly handed him the plans. His counterpart passed them between his digits before placing them on the floor in front of him. Their eyes met for a brief moment and he gave the recruit a nod of consent. The rookie extracted a red marker from the outer pocket of his shirt and used it to highlight a few pressure points on the game plan.
They were quickly running out of time. They only had a few hours of daylight left to execute the plan. He gave his counterpart a knowing look. They both took a moment to read over the paperwork. For the first time, he felt overwhelmed by its contents. It was practically written in a foreign language! He’d spent most of his adult life in the military, but these instructions made no sense. He ran a hand across the back of his neck and shook his head. This was going to be difficult. He dug out their supplies and splayed them across the ground in front of him. They’d have to make do with what they had. It might be possible to MacGyver something useable from the materials at their disposal.
They’d done it! There was no denying the execution wasn’t perfect, but the end product was serviceable. If Carter didn’t agree, she could fix it herself. He had every faith in her abilities.
“Hey! Where are you?” she called.
He looked at his watch. It was two hours past her scheduled check-in.
“We’re over here!” he bellowed, “Are you okay?”
As the sound of her footsteps grew closer a panic started to rise in his throat.
“How was the OBGYN?”
She materialised at the doorway of the playroom, a delirious smile dancing at the corner of her lips.
“Yeah, good...really good." Her hand fell to her slightly swollen belly. "Everything is progressing nicely.”
“I’m glad to hear.”
“Ummm...Jack? What’s going on?” She took a step forward. “It looks like a Lego bomb went off in here.” She threw her husband a puzzled look from across the room. "How did you even make it over there without hurting yourself?”
She raised a single eyebrow, channeling her inner-Teal’c.
“I used the foot rest to jump over the blocks, then I laid down the rug so Jake could follow.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “You know it would've been easier to just pick-up the Lego.”
“Since when do we take the easy way out, Carter?” he glanced down at his son. "Plus, it was a lot more fun this way.”
Jacob used his father’s shoulders to stand to his feet, before making a jagged beeline towards his mother.
Sam knelt on the carpet and Jacob ran into her outstretched arms. She turned him in her grasp and plucked the camouflaged helmet from his head.
“Is this my hat from work?”
“Yeah,” Jack admitted, “We were playing military.”
She scooped up their son and rested him on her hip. In a few long and nimble strides she crossed the playroom to stand in front of her husband.
“Have you assembled the new cot yet?”
He slowly pushed himself to his feet. He could feel his facial features contort into an expression of guilt.
Her eyes shifted to the floor.
“What’s this all over the manual?” She bent over to pick them up off the floor. “Is that red crayon?”
He nodded. “My assistant here made a few...amendments.”
She toed at the disfigured metal frame resting at their feet. “Jack, this doesn't look right.”
“Carter, you practically need a degree to assemble this IKEA furniture.” He huffed. “I did the best I could.”
“Hmmm…” She flipped the diagram around and handed it back to him. "You were looking at it upside down.”
His palm connected with his forehead. “Doh!”
Jacob, who’d been carefully watching the interaction between his parents brought a tiny hand to his head.
“Da!” he mimicked.
Her eyes fluttered between her son and her husband. The bottom half of her face looked angry, but the top half appeared amused. "Jack, what are you teaching our son?”
“Hey..!” he whined in mock offense, “He could do a lot worse than emulating Mr Homer J Simpson!”
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “I hope we’re having a baby girl, because I can’t handle another O’Neill man.”