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Fanfiction: Burdens of Guilt

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S5 Beast of Burden
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Team friendship.  Mild Sam/Jack UST.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Burdens of Guilt


The video played endlessly in Daniel Jackson’s head.

He could see Chaka, the Unas who he had befriended, approaching the energy bar. The reptilian features seemed expressionless but Daniel had been studying the Unas for a while. He could see there had been delight in Chaka’s yellowy-green eyes; pleasure as he had sniffed the air, scenting the food. Chaka had grasped the treat with the knowledge that it had been his friend Daniel who had visited.

When the humans had appeared from the trees, Chaka had been wary but Daniel was his friend and humans were not a food source or an enemy to be feared any longer. He had stretched out his claw and offered the food. He had been shot and captured for his trouble.

Daniel rolled over in his bed and stared at the ceiling.

It had been his fault.

His fault.

He had unknowingly baited the trap the men had used; he had been responsible for befriending Chaka, making him open to human approach.

The ticking of the clock was loud. It broke through the frigid silence. Each tick echoing in the room. In his head.

Chaka!’

The sound of the staff weapon discharging. The stench of burned flesh; the odour and taste stuck in his nostrils, in his throat. The dead look in the trader’s eyes.

He had gone to the planet to free Chaka and erase his guilt but things hadn’t exactly gone to plan. When had any of their plans ever gone to plan, Daniel mused with bittersweet amusement. He scratched his bare shoulder almost absently before he tucked his hands behind the pillow under his head. He watched the shadows play across the ceiling.

Their first attempt to free Chaka had resulted in himself and Jack O’Neill being captured during the rescue. Guilt curdled in his gut again. He had insisted on the rescue; Jack hadn’t wanted to do it. Actually, Daniel thought, his face creasing with puzzlement, he really had no idea why Jack had agreed to the rescue. There was no tactical or military reason why they should have freed Chaka. It would have made sense to have walked away. Daniel frowned, squinting into the semi-darkness.

Why had Jack agreed?

Maybe he had actually listened to him. Daniel snorted. OK, maybe not but what other reason could there have been? Never leave a man behind. The rule zipped into Daniel’s head like a freight train. Jack lived by the code. Maybe he had extended it to Chaka. Maybe.

Daniel sighed and closed his eyes. Why Jack had agreed to the rescue was a mystery but he had and the older man had been tortured by the trader as a result. Daniel had truly been scared the sneering bully was going to kill Jack at one point. Of course, a Jack in captivity never made things easy for himself; sarcastic, belligerent and more apt to infuriate the hell out of their captors than try and smooth the waters. Not that Daniel could exactly blame him; the trader had been particularly loathsome.

It wasn’t Jack’s fault, Daniel reminded himself; it had been his for insisting they rescue Chaka. In trying to help one friend, he’d almost got another killed. He turned restlessly, moving to lie on his side. He stared at the clock; barely making the time out between the dark and his natural eyesight. Two a.m. He was supposed to be sleeping. He closed his eyes again; willed his muscles to relax. The tick of the clock sounded loudly in his ear.

At least Teal’c and Samantha Carter had rescued them, Daniel mused. Plan B had worked like a charm. They and the Unas had headed for the forest. There had been an ambush waiting for them but they had fought and Chaka had killed the lead trader.

Daniel opened his eyes. He had called out; told Chaka not to kill him. The Unas had made his own decision. Chaka had also decided to stay; to fight for freedom for the Unas on the planet. Daniel could hardly blame him; he’d had no right to stop him. He’d tried to explain as he’d left though that Chaka didn’t have to kill. Even so, they had started a war.

‘Yep.’ Daniel murmured in the darkness, rubbing a hand over his tired face. ‘Way to make a difference.’

That’s all he really wanted to do – make a difference. Make the world and the galaxy a better place. He winced. He sounded like a Coke commercial. He was suddenly thirsty. He sat up and shoved the covers back. He padded his way into the kitchen without turning on the lights and filled a glass with water. He sipped it at the sink. The cool liquid slid down his throat. The glass was hard against his teeth, smooth in his hand. He took another sip. He shivered. It was cold and he was only wearing boxers.

He glanced across the kitchen to his coffee machine. His fingers tapped against the glass he held and he finally gave in. He placed it on the counter-top and opened cupboards. Five minutes later the sound of coffee percolating filled the silence; the drip and hiss of the machine a familiar comforting sound in the darkness. Daniel wandered back into the bedroom and grabbed his glasses. He shivered again and detoured to the bathroom for the terry cloth robe Sam had bought him for Christmas. He shrugged into it, leaving it unfastened. The kitchen beckoned him with the scent of coffee and he poured himself a large mug.

He inhaled the rich bitter scent before blowing lightly on the surface of the liquid and taking a gulp. It was almost too hot; it stung his tongue and throat but it warmed him. Ten minutes later, he was curled up on his sofa, a lamp illuminating the small space where he sat. The mug of coffee was forgotten on the table as he began translating an old manuscript that he had brought home with him. It had been found by SG18 on PY5893; a planet with the ruins of a great civilisation. It was a strange language; old Greek and some variant of Latin or French. The translation was eluding him.

He scribbled in a notebook as a thought hit him; trying to search for common patterns; testing the meaning with first Greek, then Latin, then French. He worked diligently. The thoughts that had plagued him since he had returned home were silenced as his mind turned to the puzzle of the language.

It was daybreak when he cracked it; the language giving way and offering up its secrets as the first rays of light filtered through the balcony windows. He quickly finished the translation. He read through it again; satisfied. It was a letter from a father to a son leaving for battle. It spoke of hopes and dreams; it offered comfort and reassurance of home; it spoke of pride. His eyes travelled over the last section, one more time…

For you, my son, protect us in this time of war. You take arms not for the sake of violence but to defend; you offer your life so that we remain free. You, to whom all life is sacred, you step forward to save us from this Evil which would destroy us. You stand as a good man, an honourable man.

Remember this on the battlefield when blood is shed and the ground is muddy with bodies of friend and foe, I am proud of you, my son. Remember this when you wonder if you can take another step, or fire your weapon one more time, or see Death approach; I will always be proud and you will always be my son.

Daniel nudged his glasses up until they perched on his head and he rubbed at his sore eyes. He took a gulp of the cold coffee and grimaced at the taste but took another. He picked up the manuscript carefully.

‘I will always be proud and you will always be my son.’ He repeated softly. He wondered if his father had lived if he would have been proud of him. Would his father have understood his theories? Agreed with him? Stood beside him when the rest of the archaeology world dismissed him as a fruitcake?

Would he have approved of the path Daniel had taken? Would he have understood why Daniel was fighting a war? Would he have been proud?

His memories of his father were vague and fuzzy; disjointed. He remembered warm, strong arms picking him up when he had fallen; a large, warm hand holding his as they walked through a loud, noisy market in some foreign land, the rumble of his voice as he had read to him. He hadn’t truly known his father beyond the journals, the archaeology books and papers that Melburn Jackson had written. They spoke of a liberal academic; a deeply intelligent man who cared about the cultures he studied and someone who had protested against war and violence.

What had he done to make his father proud, Daniel questioned harshly. The war was his doing; he had gone to Abydos, started a revolution and killed Ra. He had unburied the Abydos Stargate and lost his wife, Sha’re. He had failed to find her; to save her. The only good thing he had ever done was to have left her child, Shifu, with an alien protector – and even then the alien had almost had to hit him over the head before he had gotten the message.

Shifu hadn’t bothered to be so subtle when he had visited. The dream Shifu had given him had shown Daniel just how close he had wandered down a path of anger. He had told Shifu that he would choose another path, and maybe he wasn’t angry any more, maybe he didn’t want to wipe the Goa’uld – any Goa’uld – from the existence anymore but he had remained stuck, walking the same old rut. The only difference he was making, as far as he could see, was to make things worse. He needed a new path. The question was what? He didn’t belong in the academia of the archaeology world anymore; Abydos was too painful without Sha’re and there were Goa’uld everywhere throughout the rest of the known galaxy. As much as he hated to admit it, the SGC was the only place for him and he couldn’t deny that SG1 was the only family he had.

He picked up the coffee and took another gulp as he set aside the manuscript and got to his feet. He stretched; his neck and shoulders were knotted from sitting awkwardly for so long. He yawned. His phone rang. The shrill tone startled him; his heart pounded as he went to answer it.

‘Daniel.’ Jack greeted him grumpily.

‘Jack.’ Daniel checked the clock on the kitchen wall. It was barely six.

‘The base just called.’ Jack informed him briskly. ‘Apparently the Tok’ra have turned up with something.’

‘OK. I’ll see you there.’ Daniel said. He dropped the phone back into its cradle and headed for a shower. He guessed he’d worry about a new path tomorrow, he decided.

o-O-o

Jack slapped his phone back down beside the bed and stood up, stretching as his body protested. Daniel had been his only call; Teal’c had disappeared to Chulak immediately after their last mission because of a communication from Bra’tac, and according to Sergeant Harriman, Carter was at the base already. She seemed to spend more time there than ever. Not thinking about Carter, Jack reminded himself brusquely as he made for his bathroom. Ten minutes later he was showered and shaved. It took him five to get dressed. Another five minutes and he was in his truck.

He turned the heater up high and turned the music off. It was too early even for the gentle aria. He enjoyed the relative silence; the huff of the heater, the swish and swash of the wipers across the windshield, the hum of the powerful engine.

Daniel had sounded tired, Jack thought absently as he turned onto the main road. Knowing the younger man he guessed Daniel had been up all night worrying over what had happened with the Unas. Jack grimaced and for a second he was back in the cell, the electricity riding his entire body; his muscles and flesh in agony. He shook the memory away. It had not been one of their best efforts. Still, they had got home even if they had started another revolution on the way.

Jack pulled a face. If he was honest, he wasn’t exactly comfortable with what had happened. The Unas were intelligent beings – he got that – but he still regarded Chaka as the Unas who had abducted Daniel when all was said and done. He definitely didn’t feel like they owed him anything and while he hadn’t exactly approved of the whole slavery take, he could appreciate how it had happened and why.

All of which begged the question why he’d given into Daniel’s urgings and attempted to rescue Chaka. Maybe he’d just been tired of Daniel’s arguments, or maybe it had been the look in Daniel’s eyes, Jack mused. The look that said he needed to rescue Chaka; that he needed a win given the number of knocks they’d suffered lately. Jack sighed. He should have followed his gut and gone back to the Stargate as soon as they had ascertained the planet held no technological value to Earth. Instead, they’d ended up letting loose an Unas intent on freeing his people and Chaka seemed just as serious about it as Teal’c was about freeing the Jaffa. He wondered whether the humans on the planet would suffer or whether Chaka would heed Daniel’s words that he didn’t have to kill. Chaka had killed the lead trader guy and that Jack wasn’t too bothered about that having been tortured by the guy, but there were innocents among the human population.

Guilt stirred in his gut.

Not his problem, Jack reminded himself. The population of the planet were responsible for the set-up there, for the slavery and mistreatment of the Unas. Maybe SG1 had stirred things up but they took that risk every time they stepped through the Stargate. They fixed what they could but there was always going to be times when they couldn’t. As far as Jack was concerned they had learned that particular lesson after the debacle on K’Tau. They had made a mistake, they had tried to fix it even though the locals hadn’t wanted their help, and in the end it had looked like they hadn’t succeeded at all. It was very likely that the Asgard had stepped in and saved the day.

He came to a halt at a set of traffic lights and took advantage of the stop to turn the heating down a notch and roll his shoulders. He’d once thought the Stargate programme was his chance for redemption, a chance to put the somewhat morally ambiguous deeds of the past behind him but he was beginning to question whether that was possible. War was always filled with shades of grey between the black and the white. Maybe he’d made the decision to never deliberately dabble in the black again but it seemed to become harder with each passing year to stay in the white.

Jack frowned. His thought of a year passing by hitting some kind of mental chord. He searched his memory and almost missed the red light when he realised why. He braked hard; the tail of the truck fishtailing a little as the vehicle came to an abrupt halt. Jack sat back in his seat; his hands gripped the steering wheel tightly.

A year. It had been a year. A year since he had sat strapped into a chair and forced to admit to a select audience that he cared about Carter more than he should; that he would rather die than lose her; a year since she had done the same and they had agreed nothing had to leave the room, that they could handle their confessions and continue serving on SG1 together because they needed to put the mission first.

A horn beeped and startled Jack from his memories. A glance at the lights confirmed his suspicion that they had turned green and he moved off with a reluctant wave to the guy behind him in mute apology.

A year.

He could hardly believe it. He could hardly believe it had happened and he could hardly believe the mess they – he – had made of everything since. He shifted in his seat, his thoughts straying back despite his attempt to focus on the road and his driving.

When the za’tarc tests had happened, he and Carter had only just started to acknowledge that there were feelings between them, feelings that were way more than the nebulous team bond the frat regulations allowed and the frisson of attraction they’d always had. Feelings that they couldn’t explore because if they did they risked the team, risked their mission. Leaving it in the room with the hope of maybe, possibly, one day, had seemed the best option even if in truth there had been disappointment along with the relief. Only leaving it in the room had been almost undoable especially after they’d gotten closer when their memories had been suppressed, when they’d only had the feelings. And in the end, even just feeling feelings had proved too dangerous.

I have observed. You value the life of one. This one is important.’ The entity’s voice sounded harshly from the synthesiser as it looked out from Sam’s blue eyes.

Jack had tensed; hating that it was inside Carter; hating it. ‘She is.’

For this reason this one was chosen. You will not terminate this one in order to destroy me.’

Maybe the entity had chosen to possess Carter because of her value to the SGC but Jack had always wondered, always feared it had chosen Carter because it had observed Jack’s feelings for her. He had fooled himself before it had happened into believing that feeling feelings didn’t matter, that they could still do the job but he had been wrong. Their feelings – his feelings had placed her in danger. He had failed to protect her; as a man, as her commanding officer. Worse, he had almost killed her – had thought he had.

His arm raised; blue lightening shooting out.

Carter’s crumpled body on the floor.

It was over, Jack told himself briskly, ignoring the corrosive guilt that ate at his gut. Carter had lived and since then they had made the difficult, painful move back to a primarily professional relationship. As far as Jack could tell, Carter had already moved on. She had developed a relationship with a glowy alien who had followed her home and, although it had ended when the alien had sacrificed his life to save her, Jack figured it was a sign. Jack had known she would move on given the chance; he was just a beaten-up old soldier with a ton of baggage. Carter was young, beautiful and a genius. She could do better than him; had done better given that the alien in question had been an advanced being. So, he was moving on too.

His mind drifted to the old acquaintance he had run into at the grocery store the previous weekend; Amy Castle. She had been a neighbour when he and Sara had been married. Charlie had been a couple of years older than her daughter Daisy. She was an attractive brunette with a wide smile and a good sense of humour. She had just recently divorced Daisy’s father and had made it clear to Jack that she wouldn’t be averse to meeting up for drinks. He still had her business card in his kitchen drawer. He’d been meaning to call her…

Jack sighed in frustration as a wave of guilt hit. It made no sense that it felt like he was cheating on Carter. It wasn’t as though they’d had any kind of agreement not to see other people or that she hadn’t moved on herself with Mr Glowy-Alien-Guy. But it didn’t feel right to call Amy given the anniversary and, if he had remembered it, he was certain Carter had remembered it especially as the day had ended with Carter killing the Tok’ra Martouf who had been turned into za’tarc and programmed to kill the President. Martouf had also been the mate of the Tok’ra symbiote who had taken Carter as a host briefly and she had felt the full force of her grief and Jolinar’s. He felt a frisson of remembered guilt that he hadn’t been able to shoot Martouf before Carter…

Jack’s heart sank.

It was so not shaping up to be a good day.

o-O-o

Teal’c stepped through the Stargate and onto the ramp with a clatter. He ignored the raised looks at the traditional Jaffa warrior garb he wore and nodded at General Hammond as he came to a stop before the SGC commander.

‘Teal’c.’ Hammond greeted him warmly. ‘It’s good to have you back. Your meeting with the other Jaffa leaders went well?’ He gestured and they both turned for the gate room door.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c agreed as he handed over his staff weapon to the waiting Sergeant. They detoured into the control room and up the stairs. ‘More Jaffa join our cause every day.’

‘That’s good news.’ Hammond murmured as they reached the briefing room. ‘Well, your timing is excellent.’

Teal’c raised a questioning eyebrow.

‘The Tok’ra arrived thirty minutes ago.’ Hammond explained. ‘They believe they’ve found something of interest.’

‘To them or to us?’ Teal’c asked dryly.

Hammond laughed appreciatively, pausing outside his office. ‘Good question. The briefing will be an hour. Doctor Jackson and Colonel O’Neill are on their way in.’

‘And Major Carter?’ Teal’c checked.

‘Already on base.’ Hammond said briskly.

Teal’c inclined his head unsurprised. Major Carter often spent additional hours working on technology in addition to their missions. ‘I will change.’

‘Good idea.’ Hammond smiled at him fondly and went into his office.

Teal’c made his way to the elevator quickly. He went straight to the infirmary for the mandatory checks. They were quick and efficient, and he was back in his quarters before too much time had passed. He briefly debated using the communal locker room to shower and change. Since his brainwashing incident, he had noticed that many of the Tau’ri were not comfortable with him alone without the presence of Colonel O’Neill or Daniel Jackson. There were looks and glances; one young nurse had refused to treat him although Teal’c could not recall seeing her in the infirmary since. It was best, he decided, to stay in his quarters.

A moment later he was under a hot stream of water, the dust and grime of Chulak washed away. He turned his face up to the spray and enjoyed the beat against his skin, over his closed eyelids, on his lips. He pushed the water over his smooth, bald head and allowed it to cascade on the muscles of his neck and back, a gentle massage that loosened the tension that had gathered.

It had been a difficult meeting.

The different Jaffa factions were beginning to bite at each other; the tribes had been at war for a long time and their shared cause was new to many of them. It was hard to keep them focused; hard for the discussions not to fall into petty bickering over unimportant minutiae rather than the larger questions of what their tactics should be. He had managed to quell the worst of the arguing but he feared if the Jaffa could not agree on how to work together, they would fall apart.

They need leadership, Teal’c.’ Bra’tac told him as Teal’c dialled the gate.

They have a leader, old friend.’ Teal’c clasped his shoulder and squeezed it fondly.

Bra’tac smiled but it did not reach his eyes. ‘I am an old man. They need you.’

Teal’c turned away and took a step toward the wormhole.

Teal’c.’ Bra’tac’s commanding tone still worked as it once did.

Teal’c stopped. He did not turn back. ‘I am not worthy to lead.’ He had been brainwashed by Apophis; weak. His honour was stained.

Bra’tac walked until he was in front of him. ‘Do not let Apophis destroy what you have built.’

Teal’c could not meet Bra’tac’s fierce gaze. He walked past the old warrior.

Drey’auc and Rya’c await word from you.’ Bra’tac called out.

The mention of his former wife and of his son halted him a second time. He lowered his head.

Bra’tac sighed. ‘What shall I tell them?’

Tell them…’ Teal’c hesitated; what message could he send them? He could not visit them; could not look upon his son while he felt so dishonoured. ‘Tell them that I miss them greatly.’ He walked away before Bra’tac could say another word.

Guilt swamped him. Guilt that he could not be the leader Bra’tac believed him to be; guilt that he could not be the father to Rya’c that he had hoped to be; guilt that he had been undone through Apophis’s brainwashing. Guilt for the things that he had done during that time; betraying his friends, attempting to kill them, plotting against them.

Teal’c pushed the guilt away violently.

He was Jaffa.

He would not cower in a bathroom like a weak tar’ek. There was a mission. He would not let his friends down. Not again. He slapped the water off and left the shower.

o-O-o

She wasn’t hiding.

Sam grimaced, her delicate features screwed up into an impressive frown. OK, she sighed, maybe she was hiding just a little bit from the Tok’ra Aldwin who had arrived with some mission for SG1.

She sat down on the stool and dropped her head into her hands. She’d initially been excited when the Tok’ra ID had come through. She had hoped it was her father especially given the date and…her mind shied away from the conclusion to that sentence. She rubbed her face vigorously. She was just tired, Sam mused defensively; just tired. It had nothing to do with…no. Not thinking about that, Sam reminded herself briskly.

She was just tired because she had been up late running tests on a new piece of technology SG15 had brought back. It was a spherical device which had generated some kind of subspace field. Sam had hypothesised that it was a component part of a larger device; maybe a hyperdrive engine. Her tests had been inconclusive. At three a.m. she had admitted defeat and smothered the thing in bubble wrap to send to Area 51.

They were giving her less and less time with the science stuff, Sam mused. She’d heard rumours of a new tech guy there and a lot of the diagnostic issues with the Stargate were being referred to him now. Maybe she was losing her edge as the leading authority on the Stargate with the amount of time she spent off-world; maybe she wasn’t trusted anymore after the whole keeping Orlin in her house affair. She rolled her blue eyes dismissively at the thought. And maybe, she thought wryly, she was jealous for no reason of some poor geeky guy buried in Area 51 who never got to see the Stargate.

And maybe, she realised a little more soberly, her confidence had taken a knock of late. The Orlin thing had been the start of it when even the Colonel hadn’t trusted her about seeing an alien but she knew the disaster on K’Tau had added to it. She had pressed the button that could have caused the end of a world. Sam shook herself free of the guilt that had her whole body cringing at the memory. They had fixed it or the Asgard had fixed it. Disaster averted. She bit her lip.

SG1 were just spending more and more time off-world trying to find an advantage – any advantage against the Goa’uld. Maybe it was just her but it felt like since they had finally put an end to Apophis it had gotten harder not easier. She sighed and swivelled on the stool to face her computer. She had another thirty minutes before the briefing; she could write up her notes on the spherical device and send them to the CO at Area 51. A knock on her lab door interrupted the thought and she frowned. She called out for the person to enter and her heart sank as Aldwin walked in.

‘Major Carter.’ Aldwin bowed slightly, his light brown hair flopping into eyes the same colour. ‘I hope I am not interrupting you.’

Sam glanced at her computer before turning back to Aldwin with a bright smile. ‘What can I do for you?’

‘I have a message from your father.’ Aldwin reached into the small leather satchel that he carried – the strap cutting across his beige Tok’ra tunic diagonally. He pulled out a package and handed it to Sam.

She took it with a quizzical look and fingered the leather bindings. ‘What is it?’

‘Your father did not say.’ Aldwin said. ‘He merely asked that I deliver it to you personally as he could not come himself.’

Sam nodded. ‘Thank you.’

Aldwin made another small bow and left, closing the door behind him. Sam tapped the folder thoughtfully. Her father rarely sent communications and he had just visited Earth a week or so before. She undid the ties and pulled out a computer memory disc and a sheaf of paper.

Sam,

I followed up on the za’tarc research as you asked and transfered what I could to the computer disc. I’m sorry I can’t be there to tell you this in person. I want you to know that if I had known, I would have told you.

Remember I love you, kiddo.

Dad x

Sam made a face. She turned the disc over in her fingers. She had asked the Tok’ra on so many occasions for the za’tarc information but she had always been stonewalled. When her father had visited to pick up a sample of a substance SG1 had acquired and which Earth had shared with the Tok’ra, Sam had reminded her father that the Tok’ra still owed them the information on the za’tarcs. He had admitted that he had no idea of the specifics as he had been kept out of the project but he had promised to find out what he could. Evidently, he had kept his promise.

She turned the disc over again. Sam wasn’t sure if she was up to looking at the information. It wasn’t a good day; it was the worst day. It was the day she had…grief rushed through her.

Guilt wormed inside and prickled her skin into goose-bumps.

Sam closed her eyes and let the image take over.

Martouf in the gate room; his eyes on hers begging her to end his life.

Samantha!’

Her hand squeezing on the zat a final time; the weight of his body in her arms.

Her eyes snapped open and she hastily swiped at the tears that had seeped out. She owed it to Martouf, she thought strongly. He had begged her to end his life in part to enable the research into the za’tarc programming; to leave them with his brain intact and whole so it could be examined. She owed it to him to look at the research. She inserted the disc into the computer.

A data stream of Goa’uld appeared on the screen and she ran it through the translation programme. It took a moment before the words began to form on the screen. She frowned as she read through the data.

‘That can’t be right.’ Sam muttered.

Stasis. A long term solution to reversing the effects of the za’tarc programming is to be found.

He was alive.

Martouf was alive.

Sam looked at the screen unable to make the words make sense.

No.

She had killed him.

He had died in her arms.

Sam reached up with a trembling hand to the keyboard. She paged through the report.

Host continues to deteriorate; it may become necessary to take him out of stasis and extract the symbiote.

Sam shook her head. She reread through the data. Martouf’s body had initially died with the two zats; she had killed him but his symbiote, Lantash, had somehow sustained him. It had been Lantash who had agreed to stasis while the Tok’ra tried to find a solution to the za’tarc programming to save Martouf.

A riot of emotions surged through.

Shock.

Anger.

Why the hell hadn’t the Tok’ra told them? They could have helped; they could have tried to find a solution together. She had thought she had killed him…

Air. She needed air. She needed to breathe.

Her eyes caught on the clock on her computer. She was expected at the briefing. She had to leave. Her hand was shaking as she switched off the monitor.

A rap on the door jolted her. It opened before she could pretend she wasn’t there.

‘Carter?’

Her heart sank. She had hoped she would see the Colonel in the briefing room where the others would provide cover. She couldn’t deal with Jack; couldn’t deal with…it – that thing between them that they had confessed to a year before. He’d moved on so fast after the incident with the entity and had treated her so completely professionally in the weeks and months since that Sam sometimes she wondered if it had ever happened; if he had ever confessed to caring about her more than he should. And she hadn’t moved on. Oh, she’d taken some comfort in Orlin’s adoration, been fond enough to hide him but she hadn’t loved Orlin not the way she…

‘Sir?’ She kept her back to him and reached for the folder, tidying around the computer to delay turning to face him.

‘You ready to go?’ Jack asked.

‘I just need a few minutes, sir.’ Sam bluffed. ‘I’ll meet you up there.’

She heard the sound of the door closing and breathed a sigh of relief before she stiffened with some inner instinct.

‘Carter.’ His voice was almost gentle and she closed her eyes in the futile hope that he would disappear.

He had remembered, Sam realised. He had remembered the date; remembered that a year before they had confessed feeling feelings they weren’t supposed to feel.

‘Martouf’s alive.’ Sam blurted the words out and lowered her head at the surge of guilt. She couldn’t believe she’d just used what she had learned to avoid talking with the Colonel.

‘Carter.’

He was using his ‘I think you may be delusional’ tone and she almost smiled.

‘My Dad sent me the za’tarc research, sir.’ Sam was proud that her voice was even. ‘I did kill Martouf but when they got him back to the Tok’ra base they realised that Lantash was sustaining his vital functions. They put him in stasis in the hope that they would find some way of reversing the za’tarc programming.’

‘Stasis?’ He sounded closer.

‘I think some kind of cryogenics, sir.’ Sam swung round to face him.

Jack looked completely bemused. He stood by her central workbench; a mere couple of feet behind her. His hands were stuffed in the pockets of his green BDU pants. ‘So.’ He raised his eyebrows. ‘Not dead.’

‘No, sir.’ Sam agreed tightly. ‘Not dead.’

Jack regarded her solemnly. ‘Pissed?’

Sam’s lips twitched unwillingly; he read her so well. ‘A little, sir.’

He raised an eyebrow in an unconscious mimic of their Jaffa team-mate.

She sighed dramatically. ‘OK, a lot.’

Their eyes met and Sam felt her stomach lurch at the warm look in his eyes; at his complete understanding of how she felt and why.

She had to turn away from it. ‘They could have told me, sir.’

‘They could have.’ Jack agreed. ‘You know if you want me to yell at them, I can do that.’

Her lips curved and she looked over her shoulder at him. ‘I don’t think you ever need an excuse to do that, sir.’

Jack smiled lopsidedly.

Their eyes held again.

‘So,’ Jack’s smiled faded and cleared his throat; he nodded in the direction of the door, ‘we should probably…’

Sam nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’

Jack spun on his heel and she fell into step beside him as they headed out of her lab. They made it to the elevator before Jack looked at her quizzically.

‘I guess this briefing is about the zarc thing?’

Sam shook her head. ‘No, sir. I asked my Dad to look into the za’tarc research and he sent me the information via Aldwin.’

‘So, this briefing is about what exactly?’ Jack asked, rocking back on his heels.

‘Your guess is as good as mine, sir.’ Sam replied.

‘Ah.’ Jack glanced at her briefly. ‘Bad timing, don’t you think?’

Sam’s breath caught in her throat but she held his eyes with her own, silently acknowledging that he knew; that she knew he knew. She nodded, a rush of guilt that she hadn’t wanted him to say anything mixed with a pleased gratitude that he had.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam agreed as the elevator stopped and the doors opened to admit their team-mates.

Daniel looked at them and frowned. He looked exhausted as though he hadn’t slept at all. He gestured between Jack and Sam. ‘Are we interrupting?’

Teal’c looked at them expectantly.

Sam exchanged a look with the Colonel.

‘No.’ They replied in unison.

The doors slid closed.

Yep, thought Sam sadly; bad timing.

fin.

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