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Fanfiction: Found Again

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S6 Paradise Lost
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sam/Jack UST. Sam & Teal'c friendship. Jack & Teal'c friendship.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.



Found Again


The rings of the Tok’ra cargo ship had barely deposited Jack O’Neill on the planet’s surface when Teal’c stepped forward and hugged him. Jack felt the contained strength in the Jaffa’s muscular arms as they encased him. He was really unsure where to put his hands – one of them held a rucksack; the other balanced the weapon attached to his tactical vest. He dropped the pack and tentatively patted Teal’c’s back with his free hand.

‘Hey, there, T.’ Jack said slowly. The Jaffa wasn’t usually given to showy displays of affection.

‘You have been missed, O’Neill.’ Teal’c’s low voice rumbled in his ear. The Jaffa released him and stepped back.

‘So I see.’ Jack said. He brushed his dirty jacket and vest down as though to straighten them and tried hard not to stare at Samantha Carter, the team-mate who he wanted to hug him; the woman he had dreamed about hugging in the nights he had been stuck on the moon with Harry Maybourne.

Jonas Quinn looked from Teal’c to Jack and back with a small frown as though he couldn’t quite believe what had occurred – Jack wasn’t entirely sure he believed it himself. But Jonas gave a shrug and stepped up before Jack could stop him. Jonas hugged Jack briefly before moving back rapidly before any kind of response was required.

Jonas nodded briskly. ‘Colonel.’

‘Jonas.’ Jack replied carefully. He finally shifted his eyes to Carter and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

She looked back at him uncertainly. He could guess what was running through her mind; protocol, regulations, feelings they never spoke about...they were running through his mind too but so was the thought that he’d hugged the others, that SG1 was alone on the planet and that he needed her.

He made the smallest gesture of a nod, giving permission.

For a millisecond Jack believed Carter was going to decline to give him a welcome back hug but she suddenly moved. She took the few steps between them and he wrapped his arms around her, pushing his gun to the side.

He closed his eyes and savoured the feel of her; the press of her body against his, her warmth, the clean orangey scent of her hair as it tickled his nose...he ducked his head as his hand cupped the back of her neck and breathed in Carter. Jack felt her tremble against him but before he could tighten his hold, she shifted, pulling back. He let her go reluctantly. He could have stayed the whole day just holding her.

She avoided looking at him as she waved at the departing Tok’ra ship. ‘Colonel Maybourne, sir?’

‘Not coming with us.’ Jack confirmed.

‘I’ll dial us home then, sir.’ Sam said.

Jack nodded. It would be good to get back to the SGC. He looked around the ruins, half-remembering the mission weeks before as he stooped to pick up his dropped pack.

Maybourne had claimed he had known where there was a cache of weapons. He’d bartered for a pardon and his place on an off-world mission to show them where it was. Jack had made a grievous error and forgotten the son-of-a-bitch couldn’t be trusted at all. He’d been lulled into a false sense of security by Maybourne’s previous acts of helping them, Jack thought, as he limped over to stand beside Carter.
His eyes ran over her; she looked great. Tired, maybe. But great. The last time he’d seen her she’d been sprawled unconscious on the ground after being zatted at point blank range by Maybourne. Jack could remember the terror of that moment – of seeing Maybourne shoot her...in truth, he’d gone after Maybourne less to stop him from getting away and more in a red haze of anger at him hurting Carter.

Jack realised he was staring at her and averted his gaze hurriedly. It was just good to be going home, Jack thought. He had barely believed the Tok’ra Jolen when he had explained that Jack and Maybourne had been transported to the moon of the planet. For once, Jack mused, the Tok’ra had actually come through for them – for him. Jolen been surprisingly helpful, he’d healed his leg; healed Maybourne. He had even agreed to take Maybourne somewhere suitable once he’d dropped Jack on the planet so he could ‘gate home with the rest of SG1.

‘Did you get the, uh, key to the transporter arch?’ Jonas asked, breaking into Jack’s thoughts.

‘Yep.’ Jack tossed his pack to the Kelownan who delved into the bag to bring out the bundle containing the control key.

Jonas unwrapped the egg-shaped device and held it up to the light. ‘Amazing.’

‘If you say so.’ Jack watched the wormhole blossom out. All he wanted was a hot shower and a bed. His eyes drifted back to Carter. OK, so not all he wanted, but he needed to focus on what he could have, and Carter in the shower or in the bed was so not going to happen except in his dreams.

Carter finished sending the IDC. ‘We’re good to go, sir.’

Jack nodded, falling into step in between her and Teal’c as they headed into the wormhole. Jonas hurried after them, quickly stowing the key back into the bag.

The trip was disorienting and Jack stumbled on the other side. Teal’c righted him before he could fall and Jack shot him a grateful look.

General Hammond waited at the bottom of the ramp with a wide grin on his round face. ‘Colonel.’

‘General.’ Jack looked around the familiar gate room.

‘Good to have you back, Jack.’ Hammond said warmly.

Jack offered a tired smile and refused to look at Carter. ‘It’s good to be home.’

‘The weapons cache?’ Hammond asked quickly, getting straight to the point.

‘Nothing on the moon, sir.’ Jack said succinctly. ‘It seemed to be some kind of hippy retreat but it was abandoned a long time ago.’

‘And where is Maybourne?’ Hammond asked pointedly. He looked around as though to verify the former Colonel hadn’t travelled back with them. ‘He’s no longer with you?’

Jack grimaced. ‘Well, I may have shot him.’

Hammond’s eyebrows shot up as the rest of SG1 turned to stare at him.

‘You shot him?’ Jonas sounded incredulous.

‘We were both eating this plant which messed with our heads.’ Jack said. ‘The Tok’ra healed us; I handed Maybourne over to their custody.’

‘They demanded he be turned over to them for his former crimes against them I take it?’ Hammond pressed, trying to understand what had happened.

‘Yes.’ Jack pointed at him. ‘Let’s go with that.’

Hammond’s face took on a pained expression as he registered he didn’t really want to know the truth.

Jack waved at Jonas. ‘We did get the key back.’

Jonas opened the pack and handed the wrapped key to the General who took it with a grimace.

‘I’m sure it’s going to be a fascinating debriefing.’ Hammond’s eyes scanned Jack’s wan face. ‘Which can wait until tomorrow. Report to the infirmary, Colonel. Get yourself checked out.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Jack gave an inward cheer.

Hammond turned from him to Carter. ‘I need to see you in my office a moment, Major.’

Carter glanced at Jack apologetically but she nodded at Hammond. ‘Sir.’

He watched as she followed the General out of the gate room. Jack followed Teal’c and Jonas down the corridor to the infirmary. He rested against the back of the elevator tiredly. Jonas looked over at him with a curious expression.

‘What?’ Jack asked brusquely.

‘You really shot him?’ Jonas asked.

Jack shrugged. ‘I thought he was a pig.’

Jonas frowned. ‘So because you didn’t like him, you shot him?’

‘No,’ Jack corrected as they stepped out of the elevator, ‘I mean, I literally thought he was a pig.’

Teal’c raised an eyebrow. ‘I can understand why you would mistake Colonel Maybourne for such an animal.’

‘I was hallucinating.’ Jack said loudly, looking over his shoulder at the Jaffa as they entered the treatment room.

‘Well, that fills me with confidence.’ Janet Fraiser’s wry voice startled Jack into an abrupt halt in the doorway.

D’oh.
He looked at her chagrined. He hadn’t exactly been intending to tell the doc anything about the plant.

Janet smiled as though she’d read his mind. ‘You’re with me, Colonel. Jonas, Teal’c; the nurses will see to your post mission checks.’

Jack sighed as the diminutive CMO led him into a private room.

‘So, you were hallucinating?’ Janet asked as she began examining him. He filled her on the plant, the hallucinations, the shrapnel wound as he suffered through the battery of tests.

‘From what you’ve told me, the drug probably has worked its way out of your system.’ Janet noted as she scribbled on her clipboard. ‘But we’ll double check your blood work just to be sure. You need to put on some of the weight you lost back but build up your diet slowly; light, bland foods until you can tolerate more. You know the drill.’

He did and he fully intended to ignore it. He already had his pizza order in his head and he intended dialling it in as soon as he got home.

‘Your leg wound has been healed but I’m going to prescribe some painkillers for the residual aches and you will need to rest it. Light duty only for the next week.’

Jack wasn’t going to argue; after spending almost a month off-world roughing it, a week on Earth sounded like heaven. ‘Are we done?’

‘Yes, Colonel.’ Janet stripped her gloves and smiled at him. ‘Cassie will be pleased to hear you’re back.’

‘How is she?’ Jack asked, slipping off the bed.

‘Good. She aced her history test yesterday.’ Janet commented proudly.

‘Excellent.’ Jack gestured towards the door. ‘I should...’

‘Shower.’ Janet nodded in agreement.

Jack grimaced at her pointed look but accepted the observation. He’d bathed occasionally in the lake but he’d been wearing the same clothes for days. He probably stank. He was unsurprised to find that Jonas and Teal’c had been released before him and he wandered along to the locker room alone.

The room was filled with steam and faint musky odour that indicated men. Teal’c was in front of the large mirror, his lower half and Goa’uld pouch concealed by a large towel. Jack gave him a nod of acknowledgement and headed for his locker. He stripped, dumped his clothes in a laundry bag and stepped into a shower stall. Five seconds later, hot water cascaded over him.

He closed his eyes in bliss. He raised his head and rubbed the water over his face before he reached for the toiletries he’d collected. He washed slowly, enjoying the warmth and the clean smell of soap. It was a while before he stepped back out into the locker area. He slowed at the sight of Teal’c; he’d expected the Jaffa to have left.

‘You didn’t have to wait, Teal’c.’ Jack said, touched and surprised at the gesture.

‘As I said, you were missed, O’Neill.’ Teal’c replied. The Jaffa sat on a bench in front of his own locker; redressed in a green set of BDU pants and black t-shirt. He kept his eyes forward, allowing Jack some privacy as he dressed.

Jack reached for his civilian gear. He fully intended to go home and sleep in his own bed. He glanced over at Teal’c, frowning. The Jaffa was usually the most undemonstrative amongst the team. It wasn’t that Teal’c didn’t care – he did, deeply – it was just that usually he kept it hidden. He wondered at the Jaffa’s behaviour; the hug and the staying behind. He fastened his jeans, reached for his t-shirt and decided to take it at face value. ‘We’ll do a team night tomorrow; catch up.’

Teal’c tilted his head but didn’t look at him. ‘Major Carter did not cease in her efforts to find you.’

Jack paused in the act of pulling on his t-shirt. His eyes darted anxiously to his team-mate. Teal’c had once been witness to the confessions Jack and Carter had made about their feelings. They’d never really spoken about it. Not in the immediate aftermath; not in all the months that he and Carter had tried to move on. But then if they spoke about it, if any of SG1 spoke about it, it would mean having to deal with it openly, and deal with the repercussions.

Had Carter said something to the Jaffa in his absence? He slowly resumed dragging his t-shirt on. Or had Teal’c seen something that gave away how Carter felt? He swallowed hard and reached for his socks and boots.

‘I knew you all wouldn’t give up on me.’ Jack said evenly, sitting down to pull his socks on. And he had. His previous experiences of being stranded on Edora, of being captured by Ba’al, had taught him that. The thought that his team would be looking for him had kept him sane during the weeks he had been gone. That, and wondering whether his Ascended friend, Daniel Jackson, would show up. Not that glowy Daniel could have helped him get home given the rules he seemed to have to abide by but God knew he would have been better company than Maybourne.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c said. ‘But it was Major Carter who realised where the transporter had sent you and who was responsible for your return.’

Jack stuffed his feet into boots and laced them. He wasn’t surprised to hear it had been Carter who had come up with the save. He looked over at Teal’c relieved as he realised that the reason Teal’c had remained in the locker room was to make sure Jack knew about Carter’s role in his rescue. ‘I’ll be sure to thank her.’ He promised the Jaffa.

Teal’c rose and bowed slightly.

For a brief second, Jack thought the Jaffa was going to say something else and his heart jumped in painful anticipation, but Teal’c clasped his hands behind his back, his dark features settling back into their familiar impassivity.

‘Do you require an escort to the surface, O’Neill?’

‘I’m good, Teal’c.’ Jack said.

Teal’c inclined his head; the light glancing off the dark skin. ‘Then I will take my leave of you.’

‘See you tomorrow.’ Jack watched as his friend left before he got to his feet and pulled on his jacket. He debated whether he should go in search of Carter but decided it could wait until the next day. He’d missed her too much during the time he’d spent away and his own emotions were too close to the surface. Ironically, now he was home, it seemed he needed to get some distance. He closed his locker with a clang.

o-O-o

Sam slowed and came to a halt, her hands tightening around the bundle General Hammond had given her. The meeting in his office echoed through her head...

Hammond looked up at her as he placed the wrapped Furling key on top of his desk. ‘Firstly, congratulations on the safe return of Colonel O’Neill, Major. That was good work.’


Thank you, sir.’ Sam said neutrally.

He sat down and regarded her with a frown. ‘I know this last month has been difficult for you, Sam.’


Her heart sank at the use of her first name.


I know you believed it was your fault that Maybourne acquired your weapon and was able to make an attempt to escape.’ Hammond continued. He held up a hand when she would have spoken and she kept silent. ‘We’ll wait for Colonel O’Neill’s report to make that determination. However, there is another matter I need to speak with you about.’

Sam looked at him blankly.


Your attitude towards Doctor Lee and the other scientists.’ Hammond expanded. He tapped the report to his left. ‘Doctor Lee states in his report that you were outright rude and hostile towards him; that you raised your voice and made unreasonable demands.’

Sam flushed; her whole face filled with heat.


Then you don’t deny it.’ Hammond stated as he watched her reaction.

No, sir.’ Sam managed. ‘As you say, I was upset about the situation but that’s no excuse.’

Hammond sat back. ‘I have to admit that you are the last military officer on this base who I would have thought needed to have my ‘please be nice to the civilian scientists speech’, Major.’


It won’t happen again, General.’ Sam assured him. Her heart beat fiercely in her chest in anticipation of the reprimand she was certain was coming.

See that it doesn’t.’ Hammond said mildly. He handed her the key. ‘Doctor Lee and his team will be returning to the planet with SG22 to study the arch tomorrow. Perhaps you can give this to him.’

He was offering her the opportunity to apologise, Sam realised. She took the key. ‘Yes, sir.’


That’ll be all, Major.’

Sir.’ Sam nodded at the dismissal and left the office. She paused in the corridor outside and took a deep breath. She knew the General had been lenient with her. She made for the infirmary. She would talk with Bill Lee after her post mission check...

Checked, showered and dressed, Sam knew she couldn’t put the moment off any longer. She took a deep breath and took the few remaining steps forward to the scientist’s lab. She knocked briefly on the wall outside before entering.

‘Major.’ Bill looked up from his work and frowned at her.

‘Doctor.’ Sam couldn’t blame him for the wary look in his eyes. ‘General Hammond asked that I bring you this.’ She held out the bundle and watched as he took it and unwrapped it.

‘Wow.’ Bill’s mouth dropped open as he examined it almost reverently. ‘This is beautiful.’

‘Yes.’ Sam said. ‘I understand that you’re going back to examine the technology more thoroughly now we have the key?’

‘Yes,’ Bill said, ‘as I stated in my report, the technology is incredible and I believe that it is, if you’ll excuse the pun, the key to how it works. I mean, if we could replicate it, well, as you know, the benefits are obvious.’

‘I agree.’ Sam said softly.

Bill looked up at her sharply.

Sam cleared her throat and clasped her hands behind her back. ‘I, uh, I owe you an apology.’ She bit her lip. ‘I shouldn’t have spoken with you on the planet the way I did.’

Bill lowered the key back to the wrapping. ‘Apology accepted, Major. When I calmed down, I realised you were probably just concerned for Colonel O’Neill’s well-being. ’ His mouth quirked into a rueful wince. ‘I, uh, may not have calmed down exactly before I wrote my report.’

Sam shrugged. The report was on record; it was embarrassing and the General’s reprimand, even as mild as it had been, had stung but she could live with it. ‘I was out of line.’

Bill tried a tentative smile. ‘Well, congratulations on getting Colonel O’Neill home. Your deduction was brilliant.’

‘Thank you.’ Sam accepted the olive branch with gratitude. She pointed at the door. ‘I should...’

‘Right.’ Bill held up the key. ‘Thank you for this.’

Sam nodded and left. She let out a shaky breath relieved that she could put the incident with Lee behind her.

She headed for Daniel’s old office, wanting to check on the Colonel and suspecting she’d find the rest of SG1 there – it was their usual congregating place. She wondered at that a little. With Daniel’s death, it wouldn’t have been unusual for his office to become off limits. It had for a little while, she acknowledged, but with Jonas joining SG1, slowly but surely they’d all just drifted back there.

She hovered in the doorway as she took in the lone figure of Jonas.

He looked up. ‘Hey, Sam.’

‘Hey.’ Sam wandered inside. ‘Where is everyone?’

Jonas motioned at her. ‘I ran into Teal’c. He told me the Colonel’s gone home already. We’ll do a team night tomorrow.’

‘Ah.’ Sam was disappointed the Colonel had left but she wasn’t surprised. Given the few words he’d said about the moon, it didn’t sound as though he’d had luxurious quarters during his time there. The thought of his house and bed must have been too appealing to resist. ‘Teal’c?’

‘He’s in his quarters.’ Jonas pulled a face and pointed at the book he held. ‘I promised Nyan I’d finish this for him.’ He looked over at her. ‘Are you sticking around?’

Sam began to nod – God knew there was a ton of work in her lab that needed her attention – but she changed her mind and shook her head. Her own house and bed sounded appealing to her; she’d spent too many nights at the base in the past month going over the data and trying to find where the transporter had sent the Colonel. ‘Actually, I think I’m going to call it a night. See you tomorrow.’

‘G’night.’ Jonas called.

Sam went straight to the women’s locker room and changed back into her civilian gear. She closed her locker and turned around, briefly glancing at the bench. Had it only been a day before when Teal’c had comforted her over potentially losing the Colonel? She remembered how she’d blubbed all over him with a touch of embarrassment. Poor guy.

She knew she’d probably given away too much about how she felt about the Colonel despite her efforts not to mention her feelings. But she was aware Teal’c had seen her confess how much she loved Jack during the za’tarc incident so it wasn’t really news for him, although she’d hoped she’d convinced him before her break-down that she had moved on just as the Colonel had done. It was disconcerting to realise that Teal’c probably knew the truth even if she hadn’t admitted it out loud again; a relief in some ways that someone did; mortifying in others, but she knew Teal’c would never raise it unless she did. Still, Sam half-suspected that Teal’c’s uncharacteristic hugging of the Colonel on the planet might have been prompted by his knowledge; just to give her an opportunity to hug the Colonel herself.

Sam made for Teal’c’s quarters and rapped on the door. He called out to enter in a low rumble and she pushed on the door, unsurprised at the brightly lit candles spread around the room. Her friend sat cross-legged on the floor but he got gracefully to his feet as she entered and closed the door behind her.

‘Major Carter.’

‘I’m sorry, Teal’c.’ Sam said. ‘I didn’t realise you were in the middle of your meditation.’

Teal’c inclined his head and his dark eyes registered her clothing. ‘You are leaving.’

‘Yes,’ Sam gestured, ‘I just wanted to, uh...about the other day in the locker room...’

‘Do not be concerned, Major Carter.’ Teal’c said softly. ‘I will tell no-one.’

‘I know that.’ Sam knew he would never betray her confidence. ‘I just wanted to say thank you.’ She smiled nervously.

Teal’c inclined his head. ‘You are welcome, Major Carter.’ He murmured.

‘See you tomorrow?’

Teal’c nodded.

Sam made her way from his quarters and walked toward the elevators. Her secret was safe with Teal’c, Sam mused as she stepped into the elevator. But, ironically, now the Colonel was home, she was only too aware of how much she needed to get some distance from him. She punched the floor button to take her to the surface; to take her home.

o-O-o

Jack turned over huffily and stared at the clock as though he could will it to show some other time than the one displayed: three a.m.

He groaned loudly and slapped his hands over his face. He was tired so why the hell wasn’t he asleep?

He’d been tossing and turning for the last four hours. The room seemed too quiet without the sounds of the wildlife he’d gotten used to on the moon; his bed too soft in comparison to the one he’d slept in for the past few weeks.

He pushed the covers away from his body, swinging his legs off the bed. He wandered in his boxers and vest out into the kitchen. He didn’t bother with a light. He knew every inch of the house; could traverse it blindfolded. He opened the refrigerator and took out a beer. He knocked the top off using the kitchen counter and took a long gulp. He meandered through the rooms and out onto the back deck.

The night air was cold and bracing. He welcomed it. He breathed in deeply; scenting the dirt, grass and trees; the tang of the beer he held. Familiar smells unlike the pungent grass of the planet and the faint odour of death. He took another gulp of beer. He rested his elbows on the wood and looked out into the shadowy yard. His eyes strayed to the spot where Maybourne had sat a month before with his promise of weapons.

He should have known better, Jack berated himself. He should have known it was a con – he had known it was a con but somehow that hadn’t stopped him from taking his eyes off the weasel and allowing Maybourne the moment he needed to take the zat and shoot Carter...

If the zat had discharged twice; if he’d taken her handgun and not her zat...Jack shuddered.

He frowned into the darkness...

We’re never getting out of here.’ Maybourne complained.

Jack ignored him and concentrated on devouring the flesh of the fish he’d caught. He stuffed another bite in his mouth, licking his fingers to capture the full taste.


You really think they’re still searching?’ Maybourne asked bluntly.

Yes, Harry, I do.’ Jack said caustically. He knew it in his gut that they were still searching. His team wouldn’t give up on him. Carter would work it out.

You’re thinking Carter will work it out but she won’t.’ Maybourne said startling Jack because it was so close – and yet so far – from his own thinking. ‘I have the only key to the arch.’

She’ll work it out.’

Your faith in her is touching, Jack.’

Jack picked out another lump of fish and sucked it from his fingers.


You know you talk in your sleep.’ Maybourne commented around a mouthful of food.

Jack froze imperceptibly before he forced himself to continuing eating and kept his face expressionless as though Maybourne hadn’t spoken. He’d been dreaming about Carter the past few nights; dreams where she’d been stranded with him. Alone. Without Harry. Because dreaming about her being stranded with him and Harry would be disturbing on a whole other level.


She’s one hell of a beautiful woman, Jack.’ Maybourne continued baiting him. ‘I mean who wouldn’t want to...’

Hey!’ Jack snapped. He glared at him. ‘Don’t even think about finishing that sentence.’

Maybourne smirked, a flake of fish hanging from his lips.


Jack went back to his meal.


Why haven’t you two, you know?’ Maybourne asked. ‘God knows nobody would care if you two screwed the regs.’

Jack didn’t respond; he kept eating.


Or maybe the problem is that you care.’ Maybourne said slowly. ‘Maybe she’s too important to you just to f...’

Maybourne,’ Jack didn’t even look up as he spoke over the other man, ‘finish that and I will shoot you.’

Maybourne chuckled. ‘I’m right, aren’t I? ’


Which part of I will shoot you didn’t you understand?’ Jack snapped.

Maybourne held his hand up and subsided. The thought crossed Jack’s mind that maybe he ought to shoot him anyway...


Jack finished the bottle as though the rush of liquid down his throat would drown the memory. The Tok’ra had promised Maybourne would be delivered to an appropriately safe and boring planet. The former NID Colonel had no iris code; no way back to Earth. Maybourne and what he knew or didn’t know didn’t matter. Not that Maybourne knew anything really. All he’d surmised was that Jack cared enough about Carter not to break the regs with her. It wasn’t exactly damning evidence that he loved her.

He shook his head as though to deny that he did.

Jack sighed. He loved Samantha Carter. He had a feeling he always would. But it didn’t change anything. They had a mission; a team that relied on both their skills and experience. Carter had a career ahead of her that Jack would not complicate or risk in any way. And she deserved better than him. He’d screwed up one marriage, and his chest tightened in memory of the reasons why, and he wasn’t convinced he was the right guy to make Carter happy. He hadn’t changed his mind about that.

Even though he was tempted.

Tempted to take what he wanted; to pursue her; to selfishly ignore their duty and honour and everything else that prevented him from being with her. He’d half been tempted to resign out of protest anyway about the whole Kinsey thing and being thrown under the bus when he’d been arrested.

But then if he resigned, if he did throw in the towel, he hardly deserved a woman like Carter, and maybe whatever feelings she had for him wouldn’t survive it. It was really a lose-lose situation, Jack mused with a grimace.

And he wasn’t even sure Carter felt the same way. He thought her feelings for him might have been resurrected after his brush with being a Tok’ra host but he couldn’t say for certain. And even if they had he couldn’t respond; couldn’t let her know he felt the same way. He had to protect her because the last time he hadn’t and he’d ended up with a zat in his hand and Carter lying dead at his feet.

He shifted abruptly with the memory. It was too close to the memory of seeing her lying at Maybourne’s feet after the son-of-a-bitch had shot her. His jaw tensed and he stared out at the empty yard.

He should really stop thinking about it and go back to bed before the night was completely over, Jack ordered himself briskly. He looked up at the sky with its blanket of stars and sighed. He turned around and went inside.

o-O-o

Sam pulled her knees up to her chin, shifted position on the cosy window seat, and stared out at the sky. It was clear and the stars shone; pinpricks of light that dotted the darkness. Her eyes strayed to the clock and winced.

Three-thirty a.m.

She’d woken an hour before, her heart racing, panic tightening her chest and making her breathing ragged in the wake of the nightmare. She could remember snippets; the shock of a zat blast, the Colonel disappearing into the haze of light that filled the arch, the horrifying panic that she couldn’t find him; the overwhelming sense of loss...

He was home, Sam reminded herself. She hadn’t lost him. He had come back.

This time.


Sam traced a path on the edge of the window, the cool feel of glass beneath her fingertips. She’d seen so many people lost in the last few years, Sam mused, it seemed strange to think that she often allowed herself to forget that there were no guarantees going through the Stargate. Every mission brought the risk of failure and death. Somehow despite all their near-misses she had let herself believe the hype around SG1; that the rules didn’t apply to them.

The hype was justified to some degree. They did have incredible luck which held more often than not; they always seemed to find a way out of an impossible situation. Other people might get captured, might not make it home, might get dosed with radiation and die...but not them. Daniel had effectively cheated death by Ascending and even the Colonel had made it home despite being captured by Ba’al. But somehow the latest near-miss by the Colonel, which didn’t really look like it had been a near-miss at all – just a case of ending up in the wrong place, had shaken her. It had brought back all the loss she’d felt when Daniel had left.

Daniel might have cheated death but he was still gone and she missed him. Sometimes the grief was like a physical ache wearing away at her insides. She missed starting her day debating something with him over breakfast; missed him turning up in her lab to check some theory out; missed the easy way they had swapped rations and cookies off-world on missions. More, she missed his presence when she needed someone to talk to in the middle of the night; someone who would just hug her without worrying about regulations; someone who would just know how she was feeling and empathise with her without her needing to explain it.

And she’d needed that empathy with the Colonel’s disappearance. Jonas was a lovely guy; sweet, incredibly intelligent, and he had turned into a friend but he wasn’t Daniel. He didn’t get her moods; didn’t quite understand her temper. He’d known that she was upset during the previous month, and she knew he’d walked on eggshells with her the whole time but she also knew that he hadn’t the first clue how to make it right for her.

That had fallen to Teal’c. Her finger traced the corner of the glass again. The Jaffa was like another brother to her; his quiet, silent support had helped during the first few days, sustained her through the first week. But she had been unable to confide in him; unable to turn to him because deep down she knew she didn’t want to appear weak to him. And she’d missed Daniel more because of that.

Missed Daniel so much that she’d begun to wonder if she had lost the Colonel too...had lost Jack.

The name whispered across the forefront of her mind and Sam stirred guiltily. He’d given her permission in their early days to use his name off-duty but she’d never been comfortable at calling him Jack; it was too personal, too...dangerous – especially after she’d fallen head over heels in love with him. No, it was better that he was ‘the Colonel’ to her. His rank reminded her of all the reasons why they couldn’t be together; the team, the mission, the regs and their working relationship.

Even if sometimes she wished things were different.

Sam stirred anxiously at the thought. She slipped off the seat and headed for the kitchen. She pulled out a tin of hot chocolate and set some milk to warm.

She still swung between mortified and grateful that Teal’c had eventually taken matters into his own hands and sought her out to comfort her. But she had needed the release of admitting to someone her fear that they had lost the Colonel and how she couldn’t bear the thought; not so soon after Daniel...not at all, if she was being honest.

Sam grimaced as she poured the milk over the hot chocolate and stirred vigorously until the grains had melted. She blew on the top of the liquid and took a hesitant sip. It was almost hot enough to burn the roof of her mouth but the warmth and cocoa smell comforted her.

Maybe, Sam considered as she walked back over to the window seat, it should bother her more that she had given away her feelings for the Colonel, for Jack, when Teal’c had comforted her but she truly believed his reassurance that he would tell no-one; that her secret remained safe. And yet...Sam couldn’t quite shake the notion that maybe it would be even more of a relief just to get it fully in the open.

The temptation tugged at her heart seductively.

All she had to do was admit the truth of her feelings and the Air Force would do the rest; reassignment, the Colonel removed from her immediate chain of command, freedom to pursue a relationship with him.
Panic, want and fear danced through her and left butterflies in her belly. She took another sip of the dark sweet liquid to drown them before she rested her head against the pane of glass. She stared out at the stars.

The idea of transferring from SG1 wasn’t as scary as it had once been. It wasn’t that she wasn’t proud of her position on the team because she was; very proud. But she knew her rank and field experience qualified her for a SG team lead position. She figured if she had been on any other team she would have been offered her own command.

So what was she waiting for? Life was short...shouldn’t she just make the leap and leave? Daniel had. Sam frowned. She had never wanted to be the type of female officer who had to leave for personal reasons, for falling for a senior officer. But it wasn’t just that...she wanted SG1.

Was that too ambitious? She wanted the flagship team to lead. The fact that General Hammond had been considering her as the Colonel’s replacement had been flattering but she knew he would prefer someone with a higher rank. Maybe it was ridiculous to hold out for SG1; the Colonel was in good shape and showed no sign that he wanted to retire from the field...she may have to move to another team eventually.

Eventually.
Was she still prepared to wait for a personal life; put it on hold for her career as she had done? Just hope the Colonel was available when she got around to wanting to be with him? Sam sighed and took a drink of her chocolate. She knew he’d dated someone else the previous year. He’d moved on.

Or had he?

Sometimes...sometimes he looked at her and she was reminded of how he used to look at her before a computer entity had brought it home to the Colonel that he was too close to her. Just glimpses. Sometimes so fleeting that she would think she must have imagined them. Like earlier when they’d greeted him after the Tok’ra had ringed him to the planet, when he’d silently looked at her and nodded his permission for her to follow Teal’c and Jonas. His hug had been so familiar and yet not familiar enough. It had been too much.

Sometimes when she thought about being with Jack, it scared her. She loved him so much despite all the obstacles to their being together. What if they did get together and she lost him? How much more would she love him then? How would she stand it? The memory of her alternate universe twin drifted through her mind. The other woman had been devastated by the loss of her Jack. And, Sam mused, if losing Daniel hurt her so much, how much worse would it be to lose Jack if she was his lover? She had seen her mother’s death devastate her father; devastate their family.

No. Being with Jack...it wasn’t an option.

If he looked at her sometimes it was because he cared about her as a friend; nothing more. And she should focus on her career. There would be time for marriage and a family later, Sam determined, ignoring the faint hint of defensiveness that edged her inner voice. Maybe with Jack; maybe not. And in the meantime, there was nothing inherently wrong with loving him from afar; caring about him.

Sam glanced at the clock and got to her feet. She would try and sleep for a couple of hours before she headed back to the base.

o-O-o

Jack rapped sharply on Hammond’s door and entered at the brisk command. He stood at ease in front of the General’s desk and patiently waited for Hammond to finish signing his name on what seemed like a multitude of forms. Jack tried hard to ignore how his uniform hung loosely on his frame. He’d only managed half the pizza the previous evening before his stomach had protested.

Breakfast, Jack thought longingly. Oatmeal, maybe. It probably made sense to follow the doc’s directive and keep things bland. He’d actually come in early for food seeing as his own place lacked pretty much everything but beer and the cold remnants of the pizza. He’d gotten a note ordering him to report to Hammond on his arrival.

‘You’re in early, Colonel.’ Hammond noted as he placed his pen down and looked up at Jack.

‘I only have beer and beer in my house, sir.’ Jack said.

Hammond’s face lit up with amusement. He sat back, the leather chair creaking slightly under his weight. ‘Take a seat, Jack.’

Jack grimaced and reached for one of the visitor chairs. ‘I’m not going to like this, am I?’

‘Probably not.’ Hammond agreed with a pained smile which faded as he considered his words. ‘While you were gone, Senator Kinsey resumed his calls for full disclosure of the Stargate programme to the major world powers: China, the United Kingdom and France in particular.’

Jack sighed. ‘Can’t I just shoot him?’

Hammond laughed and shot Jack an appreciative look. ‘I really wish you could.’

‘Just say the word.’ Jack said fervently. I mean, who’s going to suspect me after what happened last time, right?’

Hammond’s look turned a little admonishing. He folded his hands on his belly. ‘I’ve agreed to the disclosure.’

Jack’s eyebrows shot up and he looked at Hammond a little bewildered. ‘I’m sorry, sir,’ he began, ‘did you just say you agreed to the disclosure?’

‘He was going to get his way sooner or later...’

‘I vote for later.’ Jack inserted.

‘And it’s important we retain some control over this.’ Hammond continued. ‘My agreeing surprised the Senator almost as much as it surprised you.’

Jack pulled a face. ‘I’m just not sure that’s possible, sir.’

‘It’s put him on the defensive.’ Hammond said firmly. ‘I’d like to keep him that way.’ He gestured. ‘Paul Davis will be arriving later to pull together a presentation; I’d like you and the rest of SG1 to assist him.’

‘Right.’ Jack nodded.

Hammond cleared his throat. ‘Given some of your remarks yesterday I felt you might appreciate the opportunity to debrief in private this morning.’

‘Thank you, sir.’ Jack suppressed the urge to fidget under Hammond’s kind but resolute stare. ‘I took Maybourne through the Stargate to the planet as agreed. I met up with Major Carter. She informed me Teal’c and Jonas were doing a perimeter check. Maybourne stepped up to the arch with the key...’

‘Where were you and Major Carter in relation to Colonel Maybourne?’ Hammond interrupted, leaning forward.

‘Carter and I remained on the other side of the arch watching him.’ Jack frowned unhappily as he recalled the moment. ‘He said it hadn’t worked. I indicated for Carter to take a look. She went over and Maybourne took a couple of steps back from her to give her access to the key.’

‘And then...’

‘I looked away.’ Jack winced at the admission. ‘I took my eyes off the slimy son-of-a-bitch for one minute and he...’

‘He took the Major’s zat.’ Hammond said.

‘Right but it wasn’t Carter’s fault. I should never have given him the opportunity to grab her weapon in the first place.’ Jack hurried out. He made another face; he had known Maybourne was up to something. ‘I should have ordered Maybourne back to my position and I should never have taken my eyes off him. Carter had every reason to believe I was watching them.’ His jaw firmed. ‘I take full responsibility for what happened, sir.’

Hammond nodded. ‘So Colonel Maybourne zatted the Major at close range...’

‘I was about to respond when he zatted me.’ Jack said. ‘I took a glancing blow. He activated the transporter, took the key and I managed to recover in time to grab him as he went through.’

‘That confirms Major Carter’s account.’ Hammond said.

‘Maybourne and I found a retreat of some kind on the other side. It was abandoned; the people there long dead. I did a recon and realised we were pretty stuck.’

‘So you hunkered in and waited for a rescue.’ Hammond concluded.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And the shooting?’ Hammond asked delicately.

‘There was a plant with hallucinogenic properties although we didn’t realise it at first. Maybourne had been eating it a while and it was sending him paranoid. He went off on his own.’ Jack explained. ‘I ate some of the plant but then I was, uh, reading a historical record of the planet left by the previous inhabitants and I, uh, I realised the plant was bad news.’

Hammond’s eyebrows had slowly climbed up his forehead at Jack’s admission of historical research. ‘I see.’

‘I went after Maybourne to tell him and I ran into a trap he’d set for a forest pig. I injured my leg. The pig came at me when I was on the ground.’ Jack continued. ‘I shot at it; hit Maybourne.’ He shrugged. ‘He thought that I was trying to kill him and tried to ambush me. I had to shoot him again.’ He paused. ‘I want you to know I took no enjoyment from it, sir.’

Hammond looked at him.

Jack silently formed a small space between his forefinger and thumb. ‘OK, so, maybe a little.’

‘Doctor Fraiser reports that your blood work came back clean.’ Hammond said with a sigh, choosing to ignore Jack’s comment.

‘Excellent, sir.’

Hammond nodded and looked at Jack. ‘Do you think Maybourne knew there were no weapons?’

Jack pulled a face but didn’t reply.

‘And yet you allowed the Tok’ra to take him.’ Hammond said, understanding Jack’s non-reply for what it was; an admission.

Jack shrugged. ‘He got his pardon, General, and frankly, isn’t it better that he’s off somewhere out there,’ he gestured vaguely in the air, ‘where he can’t do any harm rather than wandering around free here?’

Hammond harrumphed and settled back in his seat. ‘Very well.’ He regarded Jack guardedly. ‘There is another matter we should discuss.’

Jack looked at his CO questioningly.

‘Major Carter.’ Hammond said.

Jack stiffened imperceptibly. His brain zig-zagged through the possibility that Hammond had come to his own conclusions about how Carter felt about him and was about to break up the team before he ordered his inner voice to shut the hell up.

‘The last month has been a difficult one for her.’ Hammond pursed his lips and raised his hands briefly. ‘As we have already discussed, Maybourne used her weapon to facilitate his escape. She felt responsible.’

Jack remained silent; his heart pounded so loudly that he wondered if Hammond could hear it.

‘I’m afraid she allowed her perceived guilt to influence her behaviour.’ Hammond continued. ‘Doctor Lee made a complaint about her.’

‘Excuse me?’ Jack blurted out, holding up both his forefingers. ‘Lee made a complaint about Carter? As in Carter?’ He looked at Hammond with disbelief.

‘Apparently, the two of them had a heated exchange over Doctor Lee’s conclusion that the scientists could not determine your location from further study of the arch.’

‘Carter has heated exchanges with people over science all the time.’ Jack pointed out, unable to stop himself from springing to her defence. ‘What was Lee’s problem?’

‘Her behaviour to quote Lee was ‘hostile, rude and abrasive.’’ Hammond lifted a hand from his desk. ‘The Major doesn’t deny her behaviour was out of line.’

Jack realised his mouth had dropped open slightly and he snapped it shut. She had been that upset she had acted badly enough to upset others and admit that she had? That had to mean she still cared about him – didn’t it?

‘You needn’t look so pleased about this, Colonel.’ Hammond said sternly.

Jack’s gaze jerked back to his CO.

‘Or do I need to give you the ‘please be nice to the civilian scientists’ speech again?’ Hammond ended caustically.

Jack hurriedly rearranged his expression and gave thanks that Hammond had leaped to the conclusion he was happy Carter was yelling at scientists. His CO didn’t need to know Jack was pleased that Carter had been so affected because it gave away how much she cared about him still. Not that he should be pleased about that, Jack reminded himself; and, not that he was certain that it did prove she cared about him. ‘Sorry, sir.’ He said out loud.

‘Given the circumstances I appreciate her behaviour was out of character and she has assured me it won’t happen again. She apologised to Doctor Lee.’ Hammond continued. ‘I realise you may have wanted to handle the matter yourself as her CO, Colonel...’

‘I’m sure you handled it much better than I would have, General.’ Jack jumped in.

Hammond looked as though he was about to make a comment on how Jack was likely to have handled it, (applause and jokes that she had finally made it over to the dark side came to Jack’s mind), but his CO settled for a gentle huff. ‘Then you would agree that the matter is closed?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Jack said.

‘I assume you’ll speak with the Major regarding the matter of Maybourne taking her weapon?’

Jack nodded. ‘I will.’

‘Very well.’ Hammond nodded at him and Jack stood up, recognising it as his dismissal.

He left the General’s office and stood momentarily in the corridor gathering his thoughts. He was stunned that Carter had yelled at Lee but he could sympathise – if their positions had been reversed, he was sure he would have been equally hostile, rude and abrasive to the scientist; he would have probably been worse. He set off towards the elevator. He’d talk to Carter and then maybe they could grab breakfast together.

o-O-o

The alien artefact was locked tightly shut. Sam adjusted the flame on the cutting torch she held. She had come in early after her less than restful night. The artefact seemed a perfect object upon which to expend some of her frustration. She bit down on her lip and set the flame against the metal surface. Bright yellow sparks arched upwards into the air.

‘Woah!’

The sound of the Colonel behind her had Sam hurriedly turning the torch off and removing the face guard she wore as she turned to face him. ‘Sir.’

‘A bit extreme, don’t you think, Carter?’ Jack pointed at the artefact. ‘Or did it upset you in some way?’ His brown eyes twinkled at her.

She smiled nervously as she took her heavy work gloves off. ‘SG2 brought it back over a week ago. We haven’t been able to get inside it.’

‘And there I was thinking it had refused to keep looking for me.’ Jack quipped dryly as he came to a halt beside her.

Sam blushed furiously and hoped he couldn’t tell from the dim lighting in her lab. ‘You, uh, heard about Doctor Lee’s report?’ She had been informed the team debriefing had been cancelled and had surmised the General had wanted to discuss events with the Colonel in private.

‘Had the Cliff notes from Hammond.’ Jack confirmed. He pushed his hands into the pockets of his green BDU pants.

Sam tried to examine his expression for any sign that he had figured out how she felt about him but apart from the glint of humour in his brown eyes she couldn’t read anything else. Her fingers twisted the canvas gloves she held. ‘Sir, if I could just explain and...’

‘Relax, Carter.’ Jack ordered briskly. He waved at her. ‘Hammond already told me you apologised to Lee so as far as I’m concerned the matter’s closed.’

Sam allowed a tiny breath of relief to escape her lips, and her shoulders dropped a touch.

‘I told Hammond it was my fault Maybourne was able to take your weapon.’ Jack continued crisply.

Her eyes widened on his. ‘Sir...’

‘It was my fault, Carter.’ Jack held up a finger when she opened her mouth to argue. ‘Ah!’

Sam closed her mouth, unaware of how it set in a stubborn line of silent protest.

‘I was in charge of the mission, Carter.’ Jack pointed out. ‘I should have ordered Maybourne away from your position and I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off you.’

Her eyebrow rose a little at the last.

He waved at her hurriedly at her. ‘Both of you. Obviously.’ His lips twisted. ‘Maybourne only took your weapon because I gave him the opportunity.’

Sam felt some of her own guilt dissipate under his certainty. ‘You couldn’t have known, sir.’

Jack leaned against the central workbench. ‘I knew he was up to something.’

‘You really shot him?’ Sam asked curious.

‘Twice.’ Jack said gleefully with a smirk. ‘He was going nuts because of some plant we ate.’ He shrugged. ‘I’m sure the Tok’ra have found a nice boring planet for him.’

Sam smiled and wondered if it was wrong that Maybourne’s fate made her feel a little better.

‘I, uh, also hear I owe you a thank you.’ Jack nudged her arm with his elbow. ‘Something about you working out where the transporter sent me?’

Sam blushed again. ‘It was a team effort, sir.’ She gestured with the gloves. ‘Jonas found some old pictures of the key; Teal’c was running video of the planet when the moon was visible and...’

‘You put two and two together.’

‘Something like that, sir.’ Sam admitted as she took advantage of getting rid of the gloves to move slightly away from him.

‘Well, thank you.’ Jack said warmly.

Sam nodded. ‘It sounded like the conditions on the moon were fairly basic.’

‘They were.’ Jack shrugged. ‘We survived.’ His eyes narrowed on her and she shuffled under his intent regard. ‘You look tired, Carter.’

He looked as shocked as she felt that he had said something, Sam mused with a touch of amusement. They usually shied away from personal observations. She must look awful, Sam considered, repressing the urge to touch her hair. ‘I, uh, guess I didn’t sleep much last night, sir.’ She admitted self-consciously.

Jack’s lips tilted up at one corner. ‘Me either.’ He rubbed the back of his neck as he looked at her sheepishly. ‘Couldn’t get used to having a bed.’

‘I was thinking too much.’ Sam said impulsively.

‘You? Thinking?’ Jack placed a hand dramatically on his heart. ‘Surely not, Carter.’

Sam gave a small laugh at his antics.

Jack grinned at her as he rocked back on his heels. ‘You should have called me.’

For the second time, they both looked at each other with equally shocked expressions.

‘I know you used to call Daniel.’ Jack rushed out. ‘So, you know,’ he grimaced as though he recognised the awkwardness of his offer, ‘if you need someone else to call...’

He was offering as a friend, Sam told herself strictly. That’s all it was. She smiled at him in what she hoped was a grateful way. ‘Thank you, sir.’

They looked at each other.

Sam held her breath and wondered if it was just her who felt the air humming with what ifs and maybes...

‘So, breakfast?’ Jack asked.

A flash of white filled Sam’s eyes; her stomach dropped as her body reacted to the sudden dislocation and she staggered a little as she reformed on the bridge of the Asgard ship. The Colonel reached out to steady her and she shot him a thankful look.

‘O’Neill.’ Thor moved out from behind the transporter console to greet them. ‘Major Carter. I am pleased to find you together.’ His large eyes dark eyes regarded them both with warmth.

Sam smiled. ‘It’s good to see you, Thor.’

‘Yes. Good to see you.’ Jack gestured at the Asgard. ‘Is this another mission because I have to tell ya, we’re still kind of getting over the last one.’

‘I have not come to ask for your help on this occasion, O’Neill.’ Thor said firmly. ‘Rather I am here to present Earth with a gift.’

‘A gift you say?’ Jack exchanged a look with Sam. Gifts from the Asgard or any of the advanced races they had encountered were rare.

Thor inclined his large grey head. ‘As a mark of our respect and friendship for your recent efforts, the Asgard would like to install our shield and weapon technology onto the Earth-ship currently designated as the Prometheus.’

Sam felt her heart skip a beat.

They looked at Thor in shocked silence.

Jack held up a hand finally. ‘Did you just say weapon technology?’

‘I did, O’Neill.’

Sam shot the Colonel a look of concern. ‘Thor, isn’t that against the Protected Planets Treaty?’

Thor blinked at her. ‘As someone recently pointed out to me, Anubis rendered the treaty null and void when he attacked our base and took me prisoner.’

‘Ah.’ Jack said. He looked back at Sam who shrugged – Daniel had always known those kind of details better than the rest of them; she guessed it was possible – before he turned to Thor. ‘Well, thank you.’

‘Thank you.’ Thor said. ‘We are in process of fortifying all the protected planets with further safeguards.’ He reached over to a console and picked up a stone. ‘As I will remain in this galaxy, you may contact me on this if your government has any questions.’ He handed the stone to Sam before he stepped back to the transporter control. ‘I will return in approximately two weeks to begin implementing the technology. I trust this is acceptable?’

‘Uh, sure.’ Sam said.

‘Then I will take my leave of you.’ Thor bowed his head in goodbye.

A flash of white engulfed her before she could do anything more than wave at him.

She found herself in the General’s office with the Colonel beside her. They looked at each other with shared bewilderment and confusion.

Hammond stared at them for a full second with his hand clutched tightly to the phone at his ear. ‘Never mind, Sergeant. They just turned up.’ He dropped the receiver back into its cradle. ‘The Asgard?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam replied attempting to assume an at ease position.

‘Thor offered us technology.’ Jack blurted out.

Hammond’s thin eyebrows shot up his forehead.

‘I know.’ Jack motioned at him wildly. ‘That was what I said.’ He suddenly turned to Sam. ‘Carter,’ he said, ‘that did actually happen, right?’ he gestured at her. ‘I didn’t just dream Thor showed up and offered us advanced technology?’

‘It was real, sir.’ Sam assured him. She didn’t think he wanted to hear that she was half-convinced it was a shared delusion somehow conjured up due to sleep deprivation.

‘Thor offered us technology?’ Hammond repeated.

‘Apparently, they just realised Anubis tore up the treaty with his whole attacking Thor thing.’ Jack said. ‘So...’

‘So, they’re now willing to give us technology.’ Hammond blew out a breath. ‘What are we talking about here?’

‘Shields and weapons for the Prometheus, sir.’ Sam said.

Hammond reared back. ‘Weapons?’

‘I know.’ Jack said again. ‘That’s what I said.’

‘You did accept, I take it?’ Hammond asked urgently.

‘Yes, sir.’ Jack confirmed. ‘He’s got to go reinforce protections on the other planets but he’ll be back in a couple of weeks. He left us,’ he waved at Sam, ‘a stone to communicate with him if we had any questions.’

Sam placed the stone on Hammond’s desk.

Hammond smiled at them widely as he picked it up. ‘Good work, people.’

‘Thank you, sir.’

Jack sounded as bewildered as she felt, Sam mused.

‘I know you’ll want to inform the rest of your team but I don’t want this going any further than that.’ Hammond said crisply. ‘I’ll inform the President.’

Sam nodded.

Hammond was already reaching for the red phone as he dismissed them.

She and Jack stepped into the corridor. Jack’s stomach rumbled loudly before he could say anything. He winced and rubbed his belly as though to soothe it.

‘Breakfast, sir.’ Sam suggested.

Jack smiled at her. ‘Excellent idea, Carter.’ He swept his arm to the side to indicate she should go first and she smiled as she walked forward and he fell into step beside her. She couldn’t shake the sense of awe she felt at the Asgard’s gift and she couldn’t shake the sense of happiness she felt at having the Colonel home.

Maybe, thought Sam as they reached the elevator; maybe she should just enjoy the moment and enjoy breakfast.

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