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Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S7 Avenger
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Daniel/Sha're.  Daniel/Janet UST.  Sam/Jack UST. 
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Appropriate Gifts for Super Heroes

Samantha Carter smiled at the two other women standing next to her. The team she had gathered to work on the Alkesh was small but good. Doctor Lindsay Novak was one of the most brilliant engineers Sam had worked with, although the thin and bookish woman radiated nervous energy. Lieutenant Jennifer Hailey stood in military 'at ease' with a gleeful look painted across her young face.

Sam couldn't help smiling because for a moment Jennifer reminded her so much of Jonas Quinn, there was really only one thing to say. 'First time on a Goa'uld ship, Lieutenant?' Her blue eyes sparkled with the same excitement Jennifer was feeling.

'Yes, ma'am.' Jennifer grinned back. 'I know it's not one of the motherships but it's something.'

'Something.' Lindsay agreed, losing her nerves enough to grin along with them.

'Yes, it is.' Sam said brightly.

The grinding sound of the roof closing above them drowned out every other sound. There was a hiss of depressurisation and a door opened on the side of the vessel; a ramp extended. Sam started the walk towards it. A moment later, Jack O'Neill strode down, a smug smile on his otherwise tired face; his short silver hair tousled into complete disarray.

He stopped by the end of the ramp. 'Carter.'

'Sir.' Sam nodded at him. 'This is Doctor Lindsay Novak and you know the Lieutenant.'

'Hailey.' His brown eyes swept over her briefly, before he nodded at Lindsay, and returned to her. He gestured back at the ship. 'So, Carter, do I bring you the best presents ever or what?'

The story had already made its way round the SGC, Sam thought ruefully; how the Colonel and Teal'c had ridden to the rescue as she and Jay Felger had tried to sort out the issue with the Stargate on a planet in Ba'al's territory, after the virus they had created had been altered by Ba'al to corrupt the entire network.

'And it's not even my birthday, sir.' Sam replied cheerfully though, because a Goa'uld Alkesh really was a great present, and while neither of them could admit it out loud as anything other than a joke, she knew he and Teal'c had appropriated it to save her. The thought sent a warm rush through her and she was suddenly aware that she and Jack were smiling at each other inanely.

Sam bit her lip and tried to think of something to say, anything.

'You have our orders?' Jack asked briskly, getting back to business.

'Two days here, sir. I have permission to study the Alkesh. General Kerrigan would like to liaise with you on the 302 pilots.' Sam replied. 'We're to report back to the SGC on Wednesday. Daniel's remaining with the inhabitants of P3L997 at the Alpha site for the time being.'

'OK,' Jack sighed, 'I should go and check in. The decontamination team has done their thing and we've done a full sweep so we don't think there're any Jaffa assassins hiding in the shadows.'

Lindsay hiccupped.

Jack stared at her. He shot a look at Sam which clearly said 'another civilian geek, are you sure this is a good idea?' and she smiled weakly back at him. Lindsay was not Felger. Sam had the utmost confidence in the young engineer. And her confidence in Felger hadn't been completely misplaced. He had designed a good virus even if Ba'al had turned it against them – and seriously, how were they to know that the Goa'uld knew how to trigger an automatic correlative update to the Stargate network?

'Teal'c's inside in the engine room.' Jack said out loud. He turned his attention back to Sam's companions. Sam hid her smile as Jennifer straightened automatically.

'Have fun in there, Lieutenant.' Jack said dryly. He gestured with his cap toward Lindsay. 'You too, Doctor.'

Lindsay hiccupped again. And Jack shot Sam another look as he passed her.

Jennifer looked delighted at the Colonel's words. Ever since news of Jennifer's pregnancy had hit the SGC grapevine, Sam knew everyone had been treating her with kid gloves. It probably made a nice change for someone not to do that.

Sam headed up the ramp, confident the others were following. She looked over her shoulder and grinned again. Jennifer followed her, wide-eyed as she took in the Goa'uld ship for the first time. Lindsay was open-mouthed; her hands skirting over the gilded walls. Sam made straight for the engine room.

Teal'c stood up as they entered. He had been poring over a shelf of multi-coloured crystals, the different lights cascading in a rainbow effect over his smooth head. 'Major Carter. Lieutenant Hailey.' He looked inquisitively at Lindsay.

'Doctor Lindsay Novak, Teal'c; Teal'c, Doctor Lindsay Novak.' Sam introduced them hurriedly.

'Hi.' Lindsay waved at him weakly and hiccupped.

'Teal'c.' Sam smiled at her team-mate brightly and ignored Lindsay's nerves. 'Any problems?'

'The engines performed adequately.' Teal'c informed her with an incline of his head. 'But I believe they require maintenance.'

'I believe you might be right.' Sam dumped her backpack, crouched down and peered at them. Her mouth twisted into a grimace. 'Some of these look on the verge of being burned out.'

'Indeed.'

Jennifer took another step toward them to get a closer look.

Sam looked up and raised her hand. 'Don't come any closer. These things can spark unexpectedly when they're in this condition.' She'd taken one too many jolts herself not to be wary of them.

Jennifer halted immediately. Her hand unconsciously strayed to her abdomen in a protective gesture.

Sam motioned at Teal'c. 'Can you show Hailey to the bridge and one of the control consoles?' She turned back to Jennifer. 'Download all the information you can from the database and start translating it.'

'Yes, ma'am.' Jennifer was smart enough to know that the ship's computer could hold important intelligence and that her assignment wasn't make-work.

'Lindsay and I'll stay down here and see what we can reuse. Maybe there's something that we can use to help McKay out with the repairs of the Prometheus.' Sam continued.

'Understood.' Jennifer smiled at her. 'Good luck with that, ma'am.'

'Just, you know, be careful.' Sam implored her. Her eyes twinkled suddenly. 'It'll be my ass Major Tennyson kicks if something happens to you.'

Jennifer rolled her eyes, still smiling, but she nodded and followed Teal'c. Because of her pregnancy, Jennifer was temporarily assigned to Sam as a research assistant. It kept Jennifer at the SGC which had been a struggle. The SGC was considered a frontline facility and not the place for a pregnant woman. Sam and Janet Fraiser had worked hard to work out a compromise with the General; Jennifer was considered non-essential personnel, she was not allowed near the lowest levels of the SGC and the gate room to minimise the risk of her coming into contact with something alien. Her place on SG5 would be covered by someone else until she went back to the team – if she went back to the team.

Sam pressed her lips together and set Lindsay onto another set of crystals. SG5 were being great about the unexpected pregnancy, supporting Jennifer very visibly, and Major Tennyson had made it clear that his view was Lieutenant Pollo was only covering until Jennifer's return. Sam knew Jennifer had said she wanted to go back to SG5 but parenthood might change that. Sam thought if she ever had a child herself, she wouldn't want to be going through the Stargate, and yet she couldn't ever imagine not going through the 'gate, and what did that say about her chances of ever having a family?

One day, Sam mused dismissively. She would have a family one day. If that was what she wanted.

Sam tried not to sigh out loud, knowing Lindsay would hear and ask her what was wrong. She focused on connecting her laptop up to the control unit of the crystals so she could take some readings. Her mind drifted back to a conversation between herself and Janet a couple of weeks before. Janet had challenged her when Sam had explained how restless she had been feeling, and asked Sam what she wanted.

It wasn't an easy question, Sam mused. What did she want? It had seemed so clear when she had been Hailey's age; she'd wanted to get into space; she'd been focused on her career and the idea of marriage and a family had been a far off some day. The only time she had allowed her plan to change was when she had gotten engaged to Jonas Hansen. She had been caught up in the idea of being in love, caught up in fixing Jonas and she had almost lost herself. She had quickly realised her mistake there and returned his ring. And then, there had been the Stargate programme.

She frowned and swept her eyes over the report her laptop was faithfully providing. The crystals were almost burnt out and would need to be replaced. She'd have to talk with Teal'c. Maybe the Jaffa would be able to procure them the replacements. She disconnected her laptop and moved onto the second shelf of crystals.

It wasn't as though she didn't have career goals anymore. She did. She wanted a promotion to the next rank; she wanted the leadership of SG1 when the Colonel was ready to move on, and, maybe, beyond that command of one of the Earth ships they were building. One day, when the programme went public, she also wanted some recognition as a scientist – maybe not a Nobel which was McKay's dream but something. And she was on track as far as her career was concerned. Both the General and the Colonel were supportive and she was being given more and more responsibility to increase her leadership skills and experience. She would get there despite the occasional doubt that crept in when she was having a bad day.

The problem was that sometimes, more and more if she was being honest, even on good days when all her career dreams seemed like they could come true, it felt like something else was missing. Like her career was all she had.

Her lips firmed in disapproval of her own thoughts. She wasn't the kind of woman who believed that she needed a man in her life. She dated – well, OK, not recently but that was because…and she cut that thought of in its infancy because she refused, absolutely refused, to think about her non-relationship with Jack, about being hopelessly in love with him, while she was working.

But it had to mean something, didn't it, Sam wondered as she moved onto a third tray of crystals; it had to mean something that Jack had battled Jaffa and taken an Alkesh to ride to her rescue. Sam rolled her eyes. It meant that he was a good team leader who wouldn't leave one of his team without support; it meant he knew only too well what it was like to fall into Ba'al's hands and wouldn't wish it on her and not even on Felger; it meant nothing at all.

A faint noise her head snapping up.

She frowned. It sounded like someone in the corridor coming towards them. It was the wrong direction for Teal'c and Hailey; the Colonel would have radioed ahead to warn her he was on his way so…so maybe the decontamination team missed something.

Lindsay looked over at her curiously. 'Major…'

Sam held up a finger to her lips and reached for her zat. She gently put her laptop on the floor and sneaked across to stand flat against the wall beside the doorway. Lindsay seemed frozen at her console, her thin face white with anxiety before she hiccupped and slapped a hand over her mouth, panicked eyes meeting Sam's across the shadowy engine room.

The footsteps were close; they weren't particularly stealthy but they were cautious. Sam counted off in her head and as a body moved into her eye-line, she kicked out, sweeping the legs of the man entering out from under him and pointing her zat into his face.

'Don't move!' Sam ordered before her brain reengaged and she recognised the shocked face staring back up at her.

'Hi.' Cameron Mitchell offered a sheepish smile.

She breathed out and backed off. 'Cam.' She holstered her zat and grabbed one of Cam's arms to help pull him to his feet. 'What are you doing here?'

'Heard you were on base.' Cam said with a pained smile. He brushed the dirt off his flight suit, rubbed the base of his spine and limped a little as he staggered over to lean on a wall. 'That was some welcome.'

'You know him, Major?' Lindsay asked tentatively. She hiccupped.

'Doctor Lindsay Novak,' Sam gestured with her hand toward Cam, 'meet Cameron Mitchell.'

'Oh, the squadron leader of the 302s.' Lindsay blushed as Cam held out his hand for her to shake. 'Nice to meet you.'

'And you, Doctor.' Cam smiled charmingly.

Sam punched him gently on the shoulder. 'You don't have permission to be on this ship.'

Cam tried to smile charmingly at her. 'Aw, come on. It's a Goa'uld ship, Sam, and it's right here.'

Sam folded her arms and raised her eyebrow in a good approximation of Teal'c. She would bet Cam thought their friendship would give him a pass on getting a look at the ship. 'I could have zatted you.' She pointed out dryly.

Cam rubbed the back of his neck. 'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to surprise you.'

'Hmmm.' Sam let him squirm for another moment. 'Just be glad it was me and not Teal'c; he would have punched you.'

'I'll keep that in mind.' Cam said. He crossed his arms and ankles, leaning fully on the wall and looking around with awe. 'This is so cool.' He looked at her hopefully.

'I can't give you a tour.' Sam said firmly. 'I give you one and your entire squadron will want one.'

Cam winced. 'I can keep a secret.'

'No, you can't.' Sam poked him in the arm. 'They'll take one look at your smug expression and know. Not to mention that I only get two days to take a look at her myself so…'

'Right.' Cam sighed, disappointed but she could see understanding in his blue eyes. 'So, any news on when the Prometheus will be fixed? They're not really telling us anything.'

'There was an explosion.' Lindsay blurted out before Sam could give Cam the official estimate.

Sam shot her a quelling look.

'An explosion?' Cam frowned, concern giving his boyishly handsome face a more mature cast.

'The interface that the team there created between the hyperdrive and the Prometheus systems blew up.' Sam explained. McKay had complained loudly and often about the incompetence of the engineer responsible and for once she couldn't actually blame him. If the interface hadn't blown up during the testing, it could have stranded the Prometheus in deep space again. 'We're starting again on that item so it'll be another month at least.' It was partly why she and Lindsay were examining what they could scavenge from the ship without making it unoperational.

Cam grimaced. 'You know a bored squadron of fighter pilots is a dangerous thing.'

'You're Earth's first defence if we get attacked these days.' Sam said unsympathetically, although she appreciated his view. The delay to the Prometheus would mean the 302 squadron wouldn't deploy to the ship for another couple of months at least.

'And until someone or something shows up, we're sitting around on our butts doing nothing.' Cam sighed with frustration.

'Be careful what you wish for.' Sam advised cheerfully. Her laptop beeped at her. 'I have to…' she gestured down at her abandoned work.

'You want to meet up later; catch up?' Cam said easily, pushing off the wall and making for the doorway.

'I'll call you.' Sam said. She could probably meet Cam for a drink before dinner with the team. 'Can you make your own way out?'

Cam nodded, threw a breezy wave in her direction and headed out.

Sam crouched down and picked up her laptop. Some of the crystals were good in the third tray and they could use them as replacements for some of the others so…

'He's very cute.' Lindsay commented brightly.

'Excuse me?' Sam choked out, looking up from her readouts.

Lindsay flushed bright red. 'I'm sorry, ma'am. That was very inappropriate of me and I…'

'It's OK, Lindsay.' Sam said hurriedly. She motioned with her laptop in Lindsay's direction. 'I was just…surprised by your comment.' She looked back down at the analysis and moved on to another tray of crystals. 'And call me Sam.'

Of course, what made Cam cuter was that he had never really understood just how cute he was despite the hordes of females lined up to date him, Sam mused with amusement and affection. She and Cam had gone on precisely one date during their Academy years because Cam had been honest enough to admit he had been dared to ask her out, at which they had determined they worked better as friends with a shared love of old classic cars and motorbikes, and that had been that.

'Uh, yes, ma'am.' Lindsay stuttered, her hands flapping in Sam's direction. 'And I am sorry about the comment about him being cute. I know it was inappropriate but I think he's the first pilot I've met since I started working for the Air Force that has made me think Top Gun wasn't totally wrong about the relative attractiveness of fighter pilots. I mean, statistically as a scientist I know that most of the pilots couldn't in all probability be that buff or as handsome but really…' her voice trailed away as she realised Sam was staring at her. 'Um.'

Sam smiled brightly. 'Who doesn't like Top Gun?' She said glibly. Although the inaccuracies did drive her nuts.

Lindsay attempted a smile but it came out more as an embarrassed grimace.

'Carter?'

The Colonel's voice sounded through the radio and Sam answered quickly, relieved at the distraction. 'Sir.'

'On my way back to you.' Jack replied.

'Understood.' Sam signed off and turned back to her work. She frowned. She would need to run the analysis of the power ratios through the main computer.

She wasn't surprised when she heard footsteps again; the Colonel was making no effort to hide his approach.

Jack nodded at Lindsay in acknowledgement, his dark eye scanning the space. 'Where's your mini-me?'

'Hailey's with Teal'c downloading the database, sir.' Sam answered, responding to the teasing that lit up Jack's dark eyes.

'Kerrigan wants some extra training with the 302 pilots,' Jack informed her briskly, 'he's getting worried at having a rabble of adrenaline junkies sitting around on their asses.' He paused. 'And as I just caught Mitchell sneaking out of here, I'm guessing you know that already.'

'It wasn't Major Carter's fault, sir.' Lindsay jumped in to defend Sam before Sam could stop her. 'He walked in here without permission and she told him she was busy…'

'Lindsay, there's no need…' Sam tried to interrupt, touched and irritated at the defence in equal measure.

'Also she kicked him onto his butt when he tried to come in here. It was very impressive and, uh, dramatic.' Lindsay finished dramatically. She suddenly seemed to realise that they were staring at her. 'Uh, sir.'

'Thank you for that entirely unnecessary report.' Jack waved at Lindsay. 'Mitchell already explained himself.'

Lindsay hiccupped.

Jack glanced over at Sam and she was relieved to see a glint of humour lighting up his expression. 'He didn't mention you kicked him on his ass.' He smirked. 'I'm disappointed I missed it.'

Sam repressed the urge to sigh. 'He may have mentioned the 302 squadron is getting a little bored, sir.' She tried to get them back to the point.

'Well, Kerrigan wants to give them a tour of the ship and a live fire exercise with the Alkesh against the 302 squad.' Jack informed her, accepting her redirection. 'Who other than you can get that set up?' He held up a finger. 'And if you say Felger I will shoot you.'

Sam ducked her head to hide her smile. She thought over the available scientists. 'Bill Lee would be the best, sir, but he's currently on a mission.' She bit her lip. 'I could check whether Simon Coombs is available. He's currently working here on Project Daedalus but he might be able to spare a couple of days.'

'Coombs?' Jack grimaced. 'Really?'

'He did agree with you that the Prometheus should have been named the Enterprise, sir.' Sam said brightly. She knew the Colonel actually had a soft spot for Simon, mostly because the scientist had saved their lives and hadn't made a fuss about it after unlike Felger.

'Yes. He did.' Jack sighed. 'Fine. Coombs, it is.' He grimaced. 'I should probably head back and inform General Kerrigan.'

He looked exhausted and she wondered how much sleep he and Teal'c had managed on the trip home.

'I have to head over to the main lab, sir.' Sam said. 'I need to put this data through the computers there so I can take a message to the General if you'd prefer to stay here.'

'OK.' Jack agreed, pointing at her. 'I'm sold.'

'Yes, sir.' She thumbed her radio. 'Carter to Hailey.'

'Here, ma'am.'

'What's your progress, Lieutenant?'

'The database is still downloading, ma'am.' Hailey informed her.

'OK, I'm heading into the main lab. Find me when you're done. Colonel O'Neill is in the engine room with Doctor Novak.'

'Understood, ma'am.'

Sam signed off again and packed up her laptop. She slung the backpack over her shoulder and looked over at the Colonel.

'Don't worry, Carter,' Jack said dryly, 'Teal'c and I will watch over your geeks.'

She smiled. 'Yes, sir.'

Lindsay hiccupped.

They both looked at her.

Lindsay made herself very busy with her console. Sam suppressed another smile as the Colonel raised his eyebrows expressively.

Sam headed out. She glanced over her shoulder at the Alkesh as she got to the hangar door. She could remember the planet; Felger behind her desperately trying to code; the Jaffa approaching in numbers and the knowledge that she didn't have enough firepower to hold them off. It was so clear in her mind; the smell of the staff blasts and the heat of the bullets; the Alkesh appearing from nowhere to protect her. She'd envied Felger when he'd hugged the Colonel because she had wanted to do the same; hug him and thank him for rescuing her.

But she couldn't.

And it didn't mean anything.

Sam shook away the thought and tried to smile. Maybe it wasn't really a present from Jack but she could pretend that it was.

o-O-o

Simon Coombs happily watched as the lines of code flowed across the monitor. He tapped his keyboard and made a few corrections before rereading through everything a second time. He was pleased with the progress and felt certain that he was on track to complete the program for the deadline. He picked up his mug and took an appreciative slurp of coffee, glancing around his small lab with satisfaction. Coding filled the white boards; his two spare computer terminals were on and occupied, compiling the latest code and running simulations. There was the scent of recycled air, a standard cleaning product used on the floors, and dust.

It was perfect.

He knew his transfer to Area 51 was meant to be temporary, standing in for Doctor McKay while he was away fixing the Prometheus, but in truth he preferred the Groom Lake base. There was no imminent risk of alien invasion; no sudden off-world missions to strange planets and awful living conditions. The company was mostly other scientists despite the obvious military presence and he was happy with the sense of camaraderie and latent competition; it reminded him of academia and was as familiar to him as breathing. He was hoping he could make a case for remaining at Area 51 and with Project Daedalus.

The phone beside him rang stridently.

Simon picked up without thinking and immediately cursed himself as he recognised the babbling tone on the other end. 'Jay.'

'Simon, I need to talk you; this is a matter of life and death, my friend; life and death.' Jay said passionately.

Simon saved his work because he knew from experience that Jay wouldn't go away and Simon knew hanging up on Jay never worked; Jay never got the hint, he just called straight back. Simon reached for his coffee. 'You've already told me about working with Major Carter on the virus, Jay.' He sighed. 'Several times.'

'Oh, come on, Simon, like you wouldn't be ringing me up to boast if Major Carter asked you to work with her.' Jay replied. 'Did I tell you how she came to my home? Or how she tracked me down to the park? She was so sweet and…'

'You said life and death, Jay.'

'Our work on the virus was life and death, Simon.' Jay said defensively. 'It could have been the answer to giving us a strategic advantage against the Goa'uld. Well, if it wasn't for the, you know…'

'Ba'al using the virus to his own nefarious purposes?' Simon suggested dryly. 'Although I agree it's interesting that the Goa'uld have the coding skills to change your virus so quickly and transmit it to the entire Stargate network.'

'Interesting? Is that all you can call it?' Jay squeaked. 'You try writing an anti-virus under fire, Simon.'

'I'll leave that to you, Jay.'

'Major Carter was incredible though.' Jay reminisced and Simon could picture the dreamy look on his friend's face. 'She was magnificent. She never stopped fighting and protecting me. And she looked so hot…'

Simon looked at the ceiling and wondered why him. Jay was his friend, he thought firmly; Jay didn't have a lot of friends. Neither did Simon. Jay would find something else to talk about. Eventually.

'Jay, was there a point to this call?' Simon interrupted the litany of Major Carter's many attributes and felt sorry for the woman. How she had coped with working so closely with Felger given his planet-sized crush on her was a mystery to Simon.

'Yes.' Jay said uncertainly. 'Oh, I remember. I wanted to ask your advice.'

'My advice?' Simon pursed his lips. 'What are you working on?'

'It's not an experiment.' Jay replied. 'It's…Chloe.'

Simon frowned. Jay's assistant. Long-suffering assistant who bizarrely had a crush on Jay. 'What did you do now?'

'I didn't do anything!' Jay protested vehemently. 'She did something!'

Simon waited for Jay to expand on the statement and sighed heavily when it became apparent that Jay wasn't going to expand at all. 'Jay.'

'She kissed me!' Jay said.

'Just now?'

'No, before I went on the mission with Major Carter.' Jay said hurriedly.

Simon's eyebrows rose up his forehead and he closed his eyes briefly. 'Was it a goodbye kiss or for good luck?'

'Maybe both.' Jay mused. 'But it has to mean something, doesn't it? I've been thinking about it and it has to mean she likes me, doesn't it?'

'I'm fairly certain that Chloe likes you, Jay.' Simon said gently. 'She wouldn't put up with you otherwise.'

'No, I mean likes me.' Jay said. 'Only I might have been indulging in a, well, daydream this morning…'

'Jay.' Simon really didn't want to know about Jay's day-dreams; he could guess and that was bad enough.

'OK, a fantasy only it wasn't about Major Carter, it was about Chloe although it was about Major Carter too because she and Chloe kind of…'

'Jay!'

'And that's when I remembered she kissed me!' Jay said excitedly.

'In the dream?' Simon checked.

'No, before the mission.' Jay said exasperated. 'Are you even listening to me, Simon?'

'I wish I wasn't.' Simon said truthfully.

Jay sighed. 'What do I do?'

'How should I know?' Simon huffed back. He was very open about his sexuality and preferring men, well as open as one could be when working with the American military.

'Simon, please! I'm begging you here.' Jay pleaded.

'Buy her flowers.' Simon suggested, adjusting his glasses as he calmed down. 'I understand women like that kind of thing.' He heard a discreet cough sounding from the direction of his doorway. He craned around to see who it was and almost dropped the phone.

'Major Carter.' Simon stammered out.

'What about her?' Jay asked, bemused. 'I'm talking about Chloe but do you think…'

'Jay, I'm going to have to call you back. Major Carter is in my lab.' Simon explained hurriedly.

'Wait! Why is she in your…'

Simon placed the phone back into its cradle and attempted to smile confidently at the blonde haired Major. 'I'm sorry about that.'

She smiled sympathetically as she entered. 'I assume that was Doctor Felger?' She gestures towards the phone.

'Yes,' Simon confirmed as he slipped off the stool and offered it to the Major who shook her head. 'He's been full of his latest adventure with you.'

'Ah.' Her smile turned somewhat pained.

'Given what we know of the Goa'uld as scavengers and tyrants,' Simon said quietly, 'it's hard to believe that they've kept anyone alive with scientific knowledge enough to alter Jay's virus and initiate an automatic correlative update.' He smiled tentatively. 'Admittedly my hope that I may live if the Goa'uld ever invade Earth has increased somewhat with the news.'

He was pleased when she laughed.

'The virus was a good idea.' Simon murmured. 'Jay was honoured that you wanted to work on it with him.'

'It was a good idea.' The Major repeated briskly.

He made a nervous gesture, not sure if she had understood what he was trying to say. 'I know he appreciated your support and Jay is a good man.' Simon said. 'A brave one too. I'm not sure I could have volunteered to accompany you to the planet as he did.'

'You forget that I remember how brave you were when you helped rescue us, Doctor Coombs.' She smiled at him.

'Call me Simon and believe me; the only reason I was there was because Jay dragged me into it.' Simon sighed at the memory. 'I still haven't forgiven him.'

The Major laughed again, collected herself and waved at him. 'The reason why I'm here is that I've just come from General Kerrigan's office; he's agreed with General Vidrine that we can borrow you from your project to assist with a new assignment.'

'Not to go off-world?' Simon asked, fearfully.

'No.' Sam shook her head. 'I assume Doctor Felger informed you Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c rescued us from a Jaffa attack by procuring an Alkesh?'

'Ah.' Simon's confusion cleared. 'I believe it arrived today?'

'Yes,' Sam confirmed, 'I have permission to study it and I already have a team for that but General Kerrigan would like to give the 302 squadron a tour and organise a live fire exercise using the Alkesh. As you're an expert on Goa'uld technology, we thought you would be perfect.'

Simon tried to hide his grimace, mentally saying goodbye to his non-eventful and easy working life for a few days, but nodded, understanding that it wasn't a request.

'Colonel O'Neill will be your immediate liaison.' Sam informed him.

Simon brightened at that. He respected the Colonel; apart from saving Simon's life, anyone who wanted to call a ship the Enterprise was a good man in Simon's book.

'I'm just about to head back to the Alkesh if you want to come along and have a provisional discussion with the Colonel about what's needed.' The Major offered with another smile.

Simon looked regretfully at his computer but nodded, and gestured for her to lead the way. They wound their way through the maze of corridors in the main Stargate research and development building before heading out in the stifling heat. The Major appropriated a small buggy to transport them and Simon appreciated her thoughtfulness; it was a very long walk to the large hangar where the Alkesh had been housed. He enjoyed the trip; Jay was right that Major Carter was a brilliant scientific mind and as he discussed his latest work with her, she offered a number of helpful suggestions.

The journey was over too soon and they pulled up in front of the hangar. It was an impressive sight, Simon allowed as they entered and took in the large Goa'uld ship.

Major Carter hesitated as they approached the ramp and turned to him with a tentative look. 'Doctor Coombs, forgive me for asking but I couldn't help overhearing your conversation and I'm a little worried that Doctor Felger may have gotten the wrong impression with regards my support and…'

Simon stopped her by raising his hand. 'The flowers are for Chloe.'

'Chloe.' Her face brightened with realisation. 'Ah. He worked out that…'

'Indeed.' Simon said with a smile of his own.

She smiled at him, her face lighting up, and Simon was struck anew by her beauty. He could see why Jay worshipped her. He had never thought about SG1 as superheroes like Jay but he sometimes considered them on a par with the crew of the Enterprise – old, new and the prequel; the best of the best. And Samantha Carter was not a woman for whom flowers were an appropriate courting gift, Simon mused. Oh, he was sure she would appreciate them for the gesture they were but to win her heart, Simon rather thought it would need something more…something bigger…something like an Alkesh.

Simon smiled at the idle thought and followed the Major up the ramp, his mind turning to his new assignment. He didn't think it would take a lot to convince the Colonel to designate the Alkesh 'the Enterprise' in the upcoming 302 training scenario.

o-O-o

'OK, so I think we're done.' Janet smiled at the young boy sat on the Alpha site infirmary, sucking one end of what had to be a security blanket in his mouth. She pushed back with her heels; the wheeled stool slid easily across the concrete floor.

Daniel murmured something to the mother standing at the end of the bed and the pretty blonde smiled and turned to Janet, speaking a torrent of words that Janet couldn't understand. Her eyes flew to Daniel.

'She thanks you for taking care of her son.' Daniel translated. 'Either that or you remind her of a teapot.' He crinkled his nose and shrugged his shoulders.

Janet hastily turned her laugh into a cough, smiled again at the woman and said. 'No problem.'

Daniel spoke brokenly to the woman in her own language, one hand weaving in the air beside him as though plucking words from nothing.

The woman's smile softened as she darted a look at Janet before her attention returned to Daniel. She said something in a low voice and placed her hand on Daniel's arm and Janet didn't need to know the woman's language to know what that meant. She quickly looked down at the chart and hurriedly began to make notes as Daniel responded in more broken language that Janet couldn't understand.

She waited a long while after he stopped speaking and when she looked up, both the boy and the woman were gone but Daniel still stood at the end of the bed. He looked tired but in a good way. There was the satisfaction of a job well done radiating from him in the confident set of his shoulders, the easy way he had pushed his hands into his pockets and the small smile lifting his lips. He deserved to feel satisfied; he had helped to ensure the safety of an entire population.

Janet gestured, clicking the pen off and placing it in her pocket. 'Where did…'

'Oh, back to the camp, I think.' Daniel said, correctly assuming she had been about to ask the whereabouts of the woman and her child. He suddenly smiled sheepishly. 'I, uh, may have, might have told her we were, uh, involved. Sorry.'

Janet felt her lips twitch and ignored the strange flip-flop in her belly. 'I see.'

'I didn't know the words in her language to explain…' Daniel stopped suddenly and gave another shrug.

Janet reached over and patted his arm. 'What are friends for?'

He smiled again and his shoulders dropped as the tension eased out of him.

Janet got to her feet and stretched, easing out the kinks and aches of a day spent running medical checks on the refugees. 'Thanks for staying to translate. These checks would have taken a lot longer without you being here.'

'I enjoyed it.' Daniel said. 'It's not often I get to see you work without, you know…'

'Imminent death?' Janet joked.

'That.' Daniel agreed.

Janet regarded him speculatively. 'Actually, you don't make a bad field medic.'

Daniel blanched and hurried out a denial. 'I mean, that's Sam's job and I wouldn't want her to feel like I'm muscling in on her space.'

'It wouldn't hurt for SG1 to have two competent medics out in the field.' Janet said mildly.

'And that means I really should just shut up and give in, doesn't it?'

'I knew you were a smart man.' Janet rejoined happily. Her stomach rumbled loudly and she blushed furiously as Daniel grinned at her.

'Dinner?' Daniel waved toward the door.

'I could eat.' Janet murmured self-consciously. 'Let me tell Andy where we're going.' She hurried back to the office to inform the Alpha Site CMO that she was leaving the infirmary for food. The young doctor grinned at her and waved her out.

The walk from the infirmary to the mess was short and silent. Daniel's mind was clearly occupied with something and Janet was tired enough that she didn't object to the silence. She breathed in the fresh air; the scent of pine and dirt assailing her. The breeze brushed over her and sent the stray strands of her hair flying. It felt good against her skin after a day inside. Maybe she'd take a walk after dinner, Janet mused; let the air sweep all of her mental cobwebs away.

Daniel nudged her in front of him as they hit the line for dinner and Janet grabbed a tray, loading it with cutlery, a glass of juice and pointing at one tray of stew instead of another, on automatic. She turned scanning the mess tent for a place to sit. The tables were mostly full or partially filled; two tables of Jaffa, a table of Tok'ra, a couple of tables of humans and Jaffa or humans and Tok'ra, and in a far corner, Jacob Carter and Bra'tac were alone and talking animatedly.

Janet was about to head over to them when she felt the touch of a tray against her shoulder. She threw a look backwards and raised an eyebrow questioningly at Daniel.

He smiled bashfully. 'Do you mind if we sit over there?' He pointed at an empty table near to the door.

Janet shook her head and allowed him to lead her over. She slid into the chair opposite him and regarded him thoughtfully. 'Not feeling particularly sociable?'

Daniel darted a glance toward Jacob and Bra'tac. 'It's not that so much as…' he grimaced as he reached for his cutlery, 'they have this tendency to be all…paternal.'

'And that's a bad thing?' Janet asked, semi-amused.

'It's…weird.' Daniel said, leaning forward as though whispering a confidence. 'When Sam and I went to find Jacob to save Jack and Teal'c that time? Jacob yelled at Sam and I like we were three year olds.'

Janet chewed thoughtfully. She had done the same thing fairly often to Cassie and her friend Emma. In the heat of the moment, reaming both girls out was usually the quickest way to deal with whatever transgression had happened. Still, it was amusing to hear that Sam's father and Teal'c's mentor took the same approach to the entire SG1 team. 'It's typical behaviour for parents.' She said mildly.

Daniel shrugged. 'But with the adult friends of their children? I mean, Jacob does the Dad routine with Jack and, well, there's an age gap, but not enough that Jacob could be Jack's actual Dad unless he was very precocious,' his eyes widened at her suddenly, 'and oh God please don't tell me he's standing right behind me.'

Janet burst out laughing. She took a sip of her water as Daniel checked that he hadn't been overheard. 'I think you're safe.' She sent him a chiding look. 'I think you should be honoured.'

'I am,' Daniel protested, 'honoured, I mean.' He adjusted his glasses and focused on his meal. 'And don't get me wrong, they're great, I like them both enormously but…'

'So what did you do that would make them yell at you?' Janet zeroed in on what she figured was the problem.

'I didn't do anything; it was the others!' Daniel reddened as he realised he sounded like a petulant child.

It was cute, Janet noted as she continued eating.

Daniel closed his eyes briefly. 'Could you, uh, forget that I just said that? Please?'

'What did the others do?' Janet said as though he hadn't said anything.

'Sam and the thing with Felger and going to Ba'al's planet alone, well, with Felger but alone.' Daniel huffed out, scooping up some stew. 'And Jack and Teal'c taking on a whole group of Jaffa to get the Alkesh to go back-up Sam when Bra'tac had told them it was foolish and unwise – although I think he's proud of the fact that they achieved what they set out to do but not so happy at leaving him to clear up the resultant mess with the other Jaffa. And it's not like I had anything to do with any of it!'

Janet's lips twitched.

Daniel glared at her and pointed his fork at her. 'You think this is funny.'

She did. 'So, they're being all disapproving with you because the others aren't here for them to yell at properly? And that's why you didn't want to sit with them?'

Daniel took a deep breath. 'Please tell me you're not going to do this with Cassie's friends once she's…?' he motioned with his knife to describe Cassie's departure to college.

Janet shrugged. 'I don't know.' She beamed at him. 'It's going to be fun finding out though if they all react like you.'

Daniel glared at her but he couldn't hold and smiled sheepishly back at her. 'How are things going with Cassie anyway?'

'Don't think I don't know you're deliberately changing the subject.' Janet pointed her roll at him.

'And?' Daniel said a little desperately.

Janet rolled her eyes. 'She's doing fine. Actually, she's really focused on her school work which is great.' She scooped up some stew with a lump of bread. 'Thanks for helping her with her history project by the way.'

'No problem although it's hard when the textbooks are all wrong.' Daniel replied, his eyes going distant as he considered exactly what was wrong with recorded history and why.

'Well, I appreciated it and I know Cassie did too.' Janet said firmly.

'And how are you doing with all the preparation for college?' Daniel asked.

His blue eyes were warm and compassionate when Janet finally looked up. 'OK,' she hated that her voice wasn't steadier, 'it's just hard.' She shifted on the hard seat and tried to smile. 'I keep thinking that it can't be time yet. It only seems like yesterday that we brought her back from Hanka.'

'I know what you mean.' Daniel forked up some green vegetable that Janet thought might have once been broccoli. 'When I came back, I suddenly realised she's not a kid anymore.'

Janet's interest sharpened abruptly. Since the return of his memory and the mission to save Bra'tac and Rya'c, she had hardly ever heard Daniel refer to his Ascension and return. He had claimed he had accepted that he would never get the memories back of that time but Janet worried that he still hadn't quite dealt with losing a year of his life.

'I guess you would see the changes more clearly after being away.' Janet said gently, focusing on her plate.

'It's strange.' Daniel admitted quietly. 'Things look the same but then something will happen or someone will say something, and I'll realise that they're different and I don't know why because I wasn't here.'

'Frustrating.' Janet said sympathetically.

'At least I'm here here. Which you know, if I hadn't Ascended I probably wouldn't be so…' Daniel shrugged.

Janet nodded. She could remember Daniel's slow death all too vividly. If losing him for a year to an Ascended plane had been the price for not losing him at all, she could live with that.

'And talking of changes,' Daniel's brightened tone signalled the change of topic, 'Cassie mentioned you were seeing someone? How are things with,' he hesitated, 'I want to say Thomas but that's not right, is it?'

'His name was Tobias, and the emphasis is on the was.' Janet replied, mentally cursing Cassie again for telling Daniel about her dating. It wasn't that she didn't want him to know exactly – they were friends and Janet had long since given up on hoping for anything else with Daniel when it was very evident that he was mourning Sha're. Maybe, Janet mused, it was just that she hadn't been the one to tell him that made her feel uncomfortable about talking about it with him.

'What happened? Uh, if you don't mind my asking?'

Janet was warmed by the show of concern. 'Nothing happened,' she smiled reassuringly, 'we realised we were better as friends.' She pushed her tray away and reached for the juice she had selected.

'It was an impressive bouquet of flowers.' Daniel commented as he finished up his own meal.

'He does have nice taste in flowers.' Janet agreed dryly.

Daniel glanced at her and she remembered again how insightful Daniel could be when he wanted. 'Not your thing?'

'Who doesn't like flowers?' Janet said flippantly.

'Me.' Daniel wrinkled his nose. 'Allergies.' His eyes widened. 'You have allergies.'

'And there you go.' Janet shrugged. 'But I appreciate the thought when someone buys me flowers.' And she did. It was nice to be courted.

Daniel made a humming sound.

She took a sip of her juice. 'I should apologise for Cassie quizzing you about your love life. I think she got too used helping Jonas with his.'

'Oh.' Daniel flushed. 'Well, no problem. She wasn't to know…' he made a circular gesture with his knife before he placed it down and gave up on his meal.

Janet felt the urge to comfort him and gave into it. 'You know there is no time limit on grieving, Daniel.'

'I know.' Daniel shot back defensively. He stopped and took a breath. 'It's…' he looked down at the table searching it as though it would tell him what to say. He eventually looked back up and gave another shrug of his shoulders. 'I just miss her.'

The disappointment that fluttered through her wasn't new; she had always known Daniel was still in love with Sha're. Janet simply nodded.

She changed the subject, asking Daniel about P3L997 and the culture there and was happy to see his face light up in response. They stayed there for a long while talking. It took them a while to realise that the mess had emptied out of mostly everybody except for them and that the sky had turned dark outside.

'Damn,' Janet said, stretching as they bussed their trays and made their way into the cold, 'I was going to take a walk.'

'Sorry,' Daniel said, 'you should have told me to shut up.' He smiled self-deprecatingly. 'Jack usually has no trouble.'

'It was interesting.' Janet contradicted him. And it had been. It had been great to learn something about the people she had been treating all day.

Daniel nudged her shoulder with his. 'Come on, I'll walk you back to the infirmary.'

Janet didn't protest that she could walk back herself. She liked spending time with Daniel and they were off-world; it was best to walk with someone rather than alone even on a relatively safe world such as the Alpha site. They set off from the mess tent toward the infirmary and Janet gazed up into the alien night sky with a mix of awe and bemusement. It was beautiful; an inky purple with swirls of white mist to the left and pinpricks of light to the right.

'Uh-oh.' Daniel murmured beside her and Janet dropped her gaze to take in the sight of the alien woman from P3L997 and her small son approaching.

Daniel instinctively moved closer to Janet as though seeking her protection, and she had a sudden urge to laugh.

The woman called out his name and began talking rapidly. Daniel held up both hands and said something back which Janet assumed was 'slow down.' The woman said everything again slower, grinned and pushed her son toward Janet.

'Um, I think her son has a gift for you.' Daniel translated awkwardly.

Janet crouched down and waited as the boy smiled shyly and held out the torn and ragged child's blanket he was carrying. 'Oh, sweetie. Is this for me?'

The boy nodded as he handed it over. He ducked his head behind his mother's skirt once it was safely in Janet's hand. The woman spoke again to Daniel as Janet got to her feet, clutching the blanket.

'It's, uh, his blankie. He's had it since he was a baby.' Daniel murmured. 'He thinks you're beautiful and it's the only thing of worth that he can give you.'

Janet thought about protesting but the words died on her lips at Daniel's subtle shake of his head. OK, so maybe refusing the gift was a cultural no-no.

'Thank you. I'll look after it.' Janet promised, roughly.

The woman grinned at them, said something else which Daniel didn't translate; she held onto her son's hand and walked away. Janet gently folded the blanket and fell into step beside Daniel as they resumed their walk.

'This is me.' Janet pointed at the infirmary door. 'Thanks for escorting me back, Daniel.'

'Any time.' Daniel raised his hand and let a finger touch the soft blue fabric of the blanket. 'Better than flowers?'

'Much better.' Janet agreed whole-heartedly. While the blanket had come from a young boy, he had given her a prized possession and she treasured the sentiment.

Daniel nodded as though she had answered some internal question he'd had but hadn't asked. He smiled. 'I'll keep that in mind.' He walked away before she could formulate a reply.

He hadn't meant – couldn't have meant…Janet frowned heavily and shook her head. She was an idiot. There was no way Daniel had meant it that way. He was in love with his late wife; he was grieving; he didn't see Janet that way. Janet sighed and rolled her eyes at her own thoughts. They were friends and she was happy with that; she was. The blanket was soft against her fingers and she hugged it to her as she went into the infirmary.

fin.

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