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Fanfiction: Then and Now Part II

For author's note and disclaimer see Part I.

 

Then and Now

Then

Teal'c spun and blocked Bra'tac's blow with his own staff; he parried and thrust forward, only to hurriedly step left as Bra'tac batted Teal'c's staff away as though it was nothing more than an annoying dringbat and drove towards him with another sharp thrust. A few blows later and Teal'c was on his back staring up at the night sky, his breath sending white clouds of air through the dark.

'You are distracted.' Bra'tac said. His tone was even but Teal'c felt the sting of his mentor's disapproval.

'Yes.' Teal'c knew to deny it would only result in another demonstration that he was.

Bra'tac harrumphed; a thread of amusement in the sound. He held out his hand and Teal'c grasped Bra'tac's forearm firmly, allowing the older Jaffa to pull him to his feet.

'Thank you, old friend.' Teal'c said formally. He reached down and picked up his fallen staff.

Bra'tac leaned heavily on his own. 'I heard of the massacre.'

Teal'c stiffened. 'I could do nothing to prevent it.' Apophis had been determined; nothing could sway him and Teal'c had come too close to incurring the Goa'uld's wrath.

'You tried.' Bra'tac stated, although he could not have known for certain as he had not been with the fleet.

'It was not enough.' Teal'c admitted reluctantly.

Bra'tac's hand grasped his shoulder. 'You can only try, Teal'c. Who knows this better than I?'

Teal'c inclined his head in silent agreement. They wore matching gold tattoos as Bra'tac had been Apophis's First Prime before him; Bra'tac knew only too well of the Goa'uld's disregard for life other than its own.

'You must have patience, Teal'c.' Bra'tac cautioned. 'The System Lords are restless in the wake of Ra's disappearance. They know it creates confusion among the slaves.'

Because if Ra could disappear, could die, the Godhood of all Goa'uld could be questioned. Teal'c felt a stirring of hope. Perhaps Ra had been defeated as was the rumour. No doubt one of the other Goa'ulds would claim the victory, Teal'c thought sourly, possibly even Apophis himself although Teal'c knew he had not ventured near Ra's territory for many decades.

'This is why Apophis refuses to show mercy at present.' Bra'tac said. 'It will pass.'

'We lost over one hundred Jaffa.' His words dripped with disgust.

Bra'tac's eyes widened. 'That many?'

'He did not care we had troops on the ground when he ordered the gliders attack.' Teal'c bit out. 'They were acceptable losses to him.'

'To all Goa'uld.' Bra'tac murmured. 'You know we are nothing more than assets to be used and deployed as is their will, Teal'c.'

'We are their power.' Teal'c growled. 'They would be nothing without us.'

Bra'tac sent Teal'c a warning look and glanced around the clearing. Teal'c was certain that there was no-one there; he would not have commented if he had thought otherwise.

'As long as we are dependent on them for our lives, we will not be free.' Bra'tac said quietly.

Teal'c glowered but he could not deny the truth of Bra'tac's words.

'Go home, Teal'c.' Bra'tac shifted back and hoisted his staff. 'Take solace in your wife and son.'

Teal'c lowered his head in acquiescence. He wrapped his cloak around himself but looked up to the night sky instead of following Bra'tac down the path to the settlement.

He could not suppress the small hope that had flared to life with the news of Ra. If the Goa'uld could be defeated then perhaps one day the Jaffa could be free. One day.

o-O-o

Now

The Marine hit the mat with a thump and groaned.

Teal'c offered him a hand and the Sergeant climbed to his feet with a chagrined smile. 'You need to practice.'

The Sergeant gave a nod and bowed. Teal'c returned it, knowing it signalled the end of their sparring match. He looked around the gym for another contender and found Bra'tac watching him from the doorway.

'Master Bra'tac.' Teal'c gestured at the mat in invitation.

Bra'tac shook his head decisively. 'I am not so foolish as to spar with you in this mood, Teal'c, unlike these striplings.' He raised an eyebrow. 'We will take a walk. I understand it is almost sunset outside and I have yet to see this.'

Teal'c felt a flicker of resentment but inclined his head, unable to deny Bra'tac his wish nor his summation of Teal'c's mood. He picked up his towel and rubbed the sweat from his arms and neck as he walked over to the door.

The elevator ride to the top of the Mountain was made in complete silence. They stepped out into the crisp and cold Colorado air. Teal'c shivered as they made their way into the clearing leaving the security guard behind by the entrance. He wondered if his wish for outer clothing over his vest signalled he was getting old and weak or old and wise.

The sky was a stunning lilac; the golden sun dipping into the horizon and bleeding out a stream of colours across the azure. The pale partial globe of the moon hung in the far corner of the sky.

Teal'c breathed in the scent of pine and grass; the earthy dirt beneath his feet; the faint tang of fuel from the vehicles on the roads below and the sky above.

'It is beautiful.' Bra'tac said reverently. 'This planet of the Tau'ri.'

'Yes.' Teal'c said.

'Yet I believe I still prefer Chulak.' Bra'tac admitted with a sigh.

'As do I.' Teal'c confessed. He would always have a preference for the planet that had raised him; for the planet where his mother had died; where he had met Sho'nac and Drey'auc; where Rya'c had been born. But even knowing that he would return to it one day, sometimes he struggled to think of it still as home.

Bra'tac patted his shoulder. 'What troubles you, Teal'c?'

Teal'c simply raised his eyebrow.

Bra'tac's face brightened with amusement, the dark eyes gleaming with laughter. 'You are concerned about Anubis's new super soldier.'

'Indeed.' Teal'c confirmed. He placed his hands behind his back and looked out at the darkening sky.

'They are formidable.' Bra'tac acknowledged.

Teal'c did not comment. Bra'tac was only too aware of the advantages the super soldiers had over the Jaffa; over the humans. If other Goa'uld followed Anubis's example and replaced their Jaffa armies with super soldiers…

'Do you remember when Apophis captured O'Neill and the others that first time?' Bra'tac began in a conversational tone that did not fool Teal'c at all. 'I told you not to be rash; that it would be foolish to trust them.' He snorted. 'Yet you insisted on following your own path.' He turned and held Teal'c's gaze fiercely. 'You were right, Teal'c. Because you made such a leap of faith, Apophis is now a dead False God. Our children will no longer have to rely on the Goa'uld to live now we have tretonin. There are Jaffa who live free and who fight so all Jaffa will be free.' He paused. 'And the Goa'uld search to replace the power they have lost by creating something else just as they once created the Jaffa.'

Teal'c repressed the urge to sigh at how well Bra'tac knew him. He had only just begun to acknowledge his feelings of guilt at the existence of the super soldiers yet he also knew he would not trade the Jaffa's freedom to eliminate them.

'We will defeat these super soldiers of that I am certain.' Bra'tac said firmly. 'I believe Major Carter and Selmak are already conferring on what possible weapons could be derived from the device Daniel Jackson discovered.'

'You speak wisely, old friend.' Teal'c said softly.

Bra'tac smiled at him. 'Come, Teal'c. I am in need of food and I have not yet had a chance to update you on mine and Rya'c's last visit to Hak'tyl.'

Teal'c felt his spirits lift a little. He looked forward to news of Ishta and her people; of his son. He let himself be led back into the mountain. He cast one last look at the Earth sky. The Jaffa had come so far; he would not let the super soldier destroy the fight for their freedom.

o-O-o

Then

Sam stared at the briefing file in front of her; incredulity, excitement, disappointment and anger rushing through her in relentless mixed up waves that stole her breath and voice.

Bastards.

Goddamn bastards had got the Doorway – no, the Stargate – working. Thanks apparently to the linguist guy that Catherine Langford had brought in as the last resort. Doctor Daniel Jackson had cracked the code within days of Sam's departure from the mountain and they'd actually created a wormhole to another planet. A wormhole! And a team had gone through it.

Without her.

Envy filled her up and she swallowed hard against the sudden sour taste of it in her mouth. She glanced up at the General sitting at the end of the table and had to lower her gaze again to hide her anger.

Had West done it deliberately? Had he pulled her from the project because he wanted her out of the way? According to the information in the file, he'd brought in the Kawalsky guy the day after she'd been reassigned; O'Neill a week after, damn it. She hid her fisted hands in her lap.

It should have been her going through the wormhole. Her.

General West leaned forward over the briefing table. 'The reason why we recalled you, Captain, is that we want to test whether this Stargate can be connected to another outside of the Abydos gate.'

Against the recommendation of Colonel O'Neill who had signed off his report with the terse phrase 'bury the damn thing.' Not that Sam thought West would appreciate her raising that.

Sam dragged her mind back to the meeting, pushing her feelings into the background to be dealt with later. 'Theoretically, it should be possible. I mean, there are more symbols on the ring than those discovered on the cover stone and now we know the symbol which designates the position of origin, we know we need to recombine…'

'You start tomorrow morning.' West cut in.

'Sir,' Sam hurried out, 'I don't think you realise that the number of potential permutations that we're looking at; even removing the point of origin symbol, there are thirty-eight different symbols which need to be placed into a six symbol combination and…'

'I get your point, Captain.' West interrupted again. He frowned and tapped his fingers restlessly against the polished wood. 'Fine. Designate a test sample. You have a week.'

Sam did the calculations in her head; the power outputs needed, the time required between each test, the number of hours in a day – they could test hundreds of permutations. Hopefully, one of the combinations would connect. She took a deep breath. 'Sir, if we do find another viable address, I'd like to request permission to be part of the next team to go through the Stargate.'

West grimaced and shifted in his chair. 'Nobody is going through the damn thing, Captain. Just follow your orders. Understood?'

'Understood, sir.'

'Dismissed.' West said curtly.

Sam knew the tone from years of living with her father never mind her time in the Air Force. She'd pushed as far as she could for the time being. She stood up, tucking the briefing folder under one arm and came formally to attention before executing a perfect about-turn and walking out.

She stormed down to her quarters and had the satisfaction of slamming the door hard behind her.

Damn, damn, damn.

She shrugged out of her jacket and uncaringly tossed it and the folder on the bed. She was never going through the Stargate if West had his way.

A sharp rap on the door had Sam hastily grabbing her jacket and smoothing it out even as she called for the visitor to enter.

Catherine stepped into the room with a welcoming smile. 'Samantha.'

'Catherine!' Sam tossed her jacket down again and took a couple of quick steps over to hug the older woman. 'They told me you'd resigned.'

Catherine squeezed her hard before she inched back and examined Sam's face. 'I have. I was about to leave when I heard you were in the Mountain.' Her lips twisted. 'They brought you in to head the team testing other symbol combinations, yes?'

'Yes.' Sam sighed and moved back towards the bed and the abandoned folder. 'Theoretically, it doesn't make sense for the ring to have so many symbols and for it to only go to the one planet. Of course, many things can change spatially over time so…' her voice trailed off and she sat on the bed; the scratchy blanket rough beneath her hand. 'Not that I have any chance of going to another planet; West's made that painfully clear.' She glanced back across at Catherine with a frown. 'Did you know when they transferred me that it was going to work?' She tried to keep the note of accusation out of her voice and wondered how successful she'd been.

'I hoped Doctor Jackson would be successful,' Catherine replied swiftly, 'but I could not be certain.' She sighed and walked over to sit on the bed beside Sam. 'Truthfully, I don't think the General believed that Doctor Jackson would get it to work. It was made clear to me that Daniel's involvement was going to be the last approved attempt.'

'I can't believe we missed something so obvious.' Sam admitted abashed. The solution to the seventh symbol had been there in front of them all along.

'Sometimes another pair of eyes is required to see the wood among the trees.' Catherine agreed wryly. 'Imagine my chagrin, Samantha. I've been working on this almost all of my life.'

'I should have gone with them.' Sam sighed, her mouth twisting with remembered frustration.

Catherine reached out and tucked a lock of Sam's hair behind her ear. 'I'm just as pleased you didn't go, Samantha.' Her face clouded with grief. 'They lost so many.'

Sam felt the blush heat her entire body. God, she was selfish. All she'd done since she'd read the briefing documents had been to think of her own situation and not the loss of lives; the loss of good men and an entire planet. She weaved her fingers through Catherine's atop the bed. 'I'm sorry. About Doctor Jackson.' She bit her lip. 'I wish I could have met him. I think I would have liked him.'

'I think he would have liked you too.' Catherine said with a small smile. She fingered her gold amulet with her free hand. 'But it's clearly very dangerous out there. Jack…Colonel O'Neill was adamant about that and it is the reason why the military have taken control of the project.'

Sam's eyes widened as her mind gathered the available evidence and made the connections. 'This test…it's a threat analysis, isn't it? They're not testing to see if we can go anywhere else, they're testing to make sure nobody else can use the Stargate to come here.'

Catherine's fingers tightened on hers. 'You always were smart, Samantha.'

'West told me there wouldn't be any further missions, I thought he was saying it to put me off because he doesn't have any intention of sending me through.' Sam let her disappointment bleed through into her words, knowing the other woman would understand. 'This is such a waste. I know it's dangerous and I can understand the Colonel's recommendation given the technological level of the…the alien he came across but surely it would be best if we were out there exploring and finding allies and technology rather than simply waiting for them to come to us.'

'I wouldn't give up hope yet.' Catherine murmured. She smiled at Sam's questioning look. 'I've suggested if the test fails that they look into alternate uses. Perhaps time travel?'

Sam's face creased in confusion. 'There's nothing to suggest that the device can be used in such a way although the wormhole clearly must warp space-time as we know it in order for instantaneous transport to occur and…'

Catherine laughed.

Sam stopped another blush adding colour to her cheeks. 'Sorry, I get so caught up.'

'I don't blame you.' Catherine said with enough indulgence that Sam's blush deepened. 'You remind me of me when I was young.'

'I take that as a great compliment.' Sam said sincerely.

Another rap on her door interrupted them and Sam got to her feet to answer the summons. A nervous Airman stood on the other side.

'I'm sorry, ma'am, but I have orders from General West to escort Ms Langford from the Mountain.'

Sam's lips tightened. 'That's Doctor Langford, Airman, and I'll escort her myself.'

'Sorry, ma'am, but the General was very specific.' The Airman swallowed nervously.

'It's alright, Samantha.' Catherine said behind her. She got to her feet gracefully and walked over to hug her goodbye.

Sam let the older woman's hug comfort her for a long moment.

Catherine stepped back and held Sam's gaze. 'Your time will come, Samantha. I believe that. You just have to believe that too.' She smiled. 'Take care of yourself.'

'You too, Catherine.'

Sam watched her walk away with the Airman beside her, down the corridor until they disappeared from view. She closed the door and rested her forehead against it momentarily. She pushed off and made her way back to the bed.

Her stomach rumbled and she grimaced. She should head to the mess for some dinner and then go to the control room to start putting together the first list of symbols. It would make sense to try different combinations of the Abydos symbols first before they attempted others.

Her eyes fell on the folder. She picked it up again and thumbed through until she reached Colonel O'Neill's report. She'd read it several times already, fascinated by the sparse yet descriptive prose as he'd detailed the Abydonian civilisation; the alien known as Ra. Whatever he had intended his sense of awe and wonder had seeped through the dry commentary.

Disappointment fluttered through her again at having missed out on the mission yet her disappointment seemed petty after Catherine's reminder of the men who hadn't made it back. She settled back on the bed and started to read again, once more to honour those who had gone and not come home.

o-O-o

Now

'Please, please, please, I am begging you and you know that under normal circumstances I don't beg but I am on my knees, alright not on my literal knees because then you couldn't see me down the camera but on my metaphorical knees and…'

'McKay, take a breath.' Sam ordered, torn between outright amusement at McKay's pleading expression and annoyance.

'Sam, have I ever asked you for anything? No, don't answer that,' he pointed a finger at her as she opened her mouth to say yes, 'OK, I mean I ask you for things and for input and for supplies and, thank you by the way for the chocolate that you sent because you know, chocolate, and yes, I know it wasn't just for me but I know it was you who sent it and…' he snapped his fingers, 'sorry, sorry, I'm prevaricating, it's just…I can't do this.'

This being supporting the Prometheus on her flight home to Earth from Tagrea, Sam mused.

'It's a spacecraft! It's like a flying box of death!' McKay was oblivious to the look of horror crossing the face of the Marine stood beside him by the stationary MALP they'd placed on the planet. The Marine no doubt was scheduled to travel home on the Prometheus too.

'A flying box of death that you helped design and build, Rodney.' Sam pointed out sweetly.

'Yes, yes, genius here! But I am a theoretical astrophysicist. I wouldn't have gone through the Stargate if you hadn't pushed me.' McKay retorted. 'You've done the whole flying through space thing before; I haven't.'

Sam smiled. 'Are you admitting that there's something the great Rodney McKay can't do but I can?' She teased.

McKay's glare was a thing of beauty. 'Ronson doesn't even want me; he wants you and if it wasn't for his and O'Neill's pissing contest you'd probably already be assigned to the flight. And besides you and I both know that my time would be better spent getting up to speed with the Dadaelus project and seeing what the morons have come up with rather than babysitting the Prometheus through space.'

'And by morons I assume you don't mean the Asgard.' Sam pointed out dryly.

'Exactly! Shouldn't we have our best people working with them?' McKay stabbed a finger at the camera.

'And by best people you mean you.' Sam sighed. It had been a long day and she was tired. Her arm ached with phantom pain the healing device couldn't seem to deal with and her body was stiffening up as her muscles reminded her that she wasn't twenty-one anymore. No wonder her Dad had begged off dinner and headed for bed early after he had healed her. He wasn't a young man and neither was symbiote.

'Of course I mean me.'

McKay's lack of humility rubbed at Sam and reminded her too much of her first encounter with him when his work and attitude had effectively sentenced Teal'c to death in the Stargate buffer. But he had earned her professional respect since and she couldn't deny he was a genius; a pain in the ass but a genius. It was just on a personal level most of the time he still had the acted like an arrogant jerk with the social skills of a skunk instead of the weirdly vulnerable and likeable guy she sometimes glimpsed underneath. She wondered what would need to happen for the scales to shift and the balance go the other way.

'Look,' McKay's suddenly hesitant voice snapped her out of her thoughts, 'I have a small, tiny, miniscule really, problem with claustrophobia…'

Of course he did, Sam thought wearily.

'…and I seriously don't think it's, ah, a good idea for me to trapped in a confined space for the duration of the flight back to Earth because apart from anything, what use am I really going to be if they get into trouble and I'm freaking out because, you know, flying box of death!' He looked at her with the same begging expression that he had begun the call with.

The Marine beside him was looking more sympathetic.

Sam fidgeted with the pen she was holding. McKay had a point and it wasn't as though she didn't want to accompany the Prometheus home. The spacecraft was just as much her baby as it was McKay's – and that was a seriously disturbing thought.

'Please!' McKay begged.

'I'll talk to the Colonel.' Sam held up her hand before McKay could say anything more. 'I can't promise you I'll be able to change his mind. I do have other important work here, McKay.'

'Please, like O'Neill is seriously going to deny you anything once you bat those baby blues at him.' McKay replied.

She raised her eyebrow at him; anger tightening her jaw.

McKay's own baby blues widened in belated realisation of what he had said. 'Not that I meant…that is…I wasn't implying anything inappropriate or anything…just that if you asked me for anything I know I couldn't resist a woman with your…' he sketched out a well-endowed curvy female form.

'McKay.' Sam said sharply. 'Anymore comments and I'll come through the wormhole and kick your ass, understood?'

McKay looked suitably abashed. The Marine beside him was trying not to laugh.

'Right. Sorry.' McKay shuffled. 'So…'

'I'll talk to the Colonel and get back to you.' Sam repeated tersely. 'And McKay? You owe me big time.' She cut the connection before McKay could reply. She let out a huff of breath and turned off her monitor.

It was OK, Sam reminded herself. McKay didn't really mean to imply that there was something inappropriate going on between her and the Colonel; that the Colonel – Jack – would give her anything if she asked. She rolled her eyes at that thought because Jack had never once let his friendship or past feelings for her influence his decisions.

Past feelings.

Were his feelings really past? There had been some moments lately that her questioning that; the way he had looked at her when he had informed her he was going after Daniel, the invitation to lunch the day before…

She covered her face with her hands and rubbed her eyes tiredly. Wishful thinking, she told herself briskly. The Colonel didn't feel that way about her anymore. She just wanted to think he did because she was still in love with him. But if he was…

She shook herself briskly and began the procedure to back up and shut down her computer. She should grab some dinner and go to bed. Her Dad was determined to make her go through with healing Daniel's leg first thing so they could all go to the Alpha site to get started on the Telchak device.

'Hey.'

Sam started at the sound of the Colonel's voice. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at the sight of him framed by her doorway, his hands in the pockets of his BDU pants.

His dark eyes twinkled at her. 'Since we missed out on lunch, I was thinking dinner?'

'Sounds good, sir.' Sam replied, refusing to acknowledge the way her heart had sped up; the sense of anticipation that fizzed through her veins. It was dinner in the mess not a date, she rebuked herself mildly.

She slid off the stool and fell into step beside him as they walked down to the elevator.

'How's your arm?' Jack waved at it expansively.

'It's fine.' Sam said automatically.

He held her gaze knowingly and she cursed her fair skin when a tell-tale blush heated her cheeks.

'Aches a little.' She conceded. 'The healing device never quite seems to get that.'

'And your head?' Jack pressed, concern darkening his expression.

'Good to go, sir.' Sam shrugged. 'It was a small bump. I wasn't even unconscious for very long.'

'You're not really supposed to be unconscious for any length of time.' Jack pointed out dryly. He ushered her out and the next few minutes were spent choosing their meals.

Sam smiled when Jack took the glass of red jello and placed the blue on her tray. So he knew her preferences; so did half the base; it meant nothing.

They sat down and began eating.

'Sir, I was hoping to talk to you about the Prometheus.' Sam began, cutting into the steak she had chosen and frowning when she had to saw at the tough meat.

Jack swapped their knives and carried on eating the stew he had gone for. 'What about the Prometheus?'

Sam looked up at him and sighed at the patently false look of innocence on his face. 'You know McKay has requested I replace him as the technical expert on the journey home.'

'And you want to go.' Jack surmised with a frown.

'McKay has claustrophobia; he has no real practical experience of space travel; he's only ever been off-world to Tagrea to oversee the rebuild.' Sam listed out patiently. 'He's brilliant but he's not the best qualified.'

Jack's lips twisted. 'You're needed to work on this Telchak weapon.'

'The Prometheus isn't scheduled to leave Tagrea until Friday. I'll have two days to work with my Dad and Selmak before I need to leave for Tagrea. I can gate straight there from the Alpha site and if the flight goes to plan I'll be back here in two days.' Sam clarified. 'To be honest, Selmak is more qualified than I am to work on the weapon. I'm sure my absence won't adversely impact the development of it.'

'I don't like the idea of you going off alone on the Prometheus.' Jack blinked as though he was surprised that he'd said the words out loud.

She tried hard not to assume that it was a matter of trust; he did trust her, she knew that. He had let her plan the trap for the super soldier; given her command of the mission to Tarturus although commanding her Dad, Bra'tac and Teal'c hadn't so much been about leading them as not letting them overwhelm her with their experience.

'Well, I wouldn't be all alone, sir,' she pointed out instead, trying to inject some humour, 'I would be with the rest of the crew.'

Jack shot her a look. 'It never works out well when a member of this team goes off alone. Look at Daniel; he got kidnapped, tortured and shot.'

Sam winced.

'I'm just saying I'd be happier if SG1 could come with you.' Jack completed, gesturing with his fork and sending tiny drops of gravy over the table between them.

'I'd be happier if you all came with me too, sir.' Sam allowed because it was the truth.

Jack grimaced as he swallowed. 'Somehow I don't think Colonel Ronson is going to go for that.' He gazed at her for a long moment. 'You really think you're needed for the trip?'

'I think so, sir.' Sam said. 'All the reasons for our participation on the shake-down cruise still apply. McKay even admits I'm the best qualified for the job.'

'Well, if McKay thinks so…' Jack quipped sarcastically but he squirmed at her chiding look and sighed. 'I know you're the best qualified, Carter. There's no-one more qualified.'

'Thank you, sir.' Sam felt a flush of warmth at the praise.

For a second their gazes caught and held. Sam found she couldn't look away and there was something in his expression…something…

He dropped his eyes to his food. 'I'll talk to Hammond.'

Sam nodded, knowing that if the Colonel had dropped his objection, it would be unlikely that the General would prevent the temporary assignment. She sneaked a look at the Colonel. His attention was on his food and she took in the deep lines on his face and the shadow under his eyes. He was tired. Her heart ached a little at the thought.

They were all tired, Sam mused. Learning of Anubis's army of super soldiers had been disheartening. She only hoped the Telchak device could be turned into some kind of weapon to defeat them otherwise the fight against the Goa'uld was going to be hopeless.

'It's going to be OK, Carter.' Jack said softly.

Her eyes flew up to meet his. She tried a smile. 'That obvious?'

'That you're thinking about Anubis's new toys?' Jack nodded. 'Yep.'

'You didn't see them, sir.' Sam shivered at the memory of the sheer crowd of super soldiers bowing down before Anubis. 'There're so many of them.'

Jack shrugged. 'His only advantage is that they can't easily be killed, right? So, you and Dad will work out a way to kill them and that'll be that.'

'You really believe that?' Sam blurted out.

'I do.' Jack smiled at her and pointed with his fork at her plate. 'Eat your food, Carter. It's getting cold.'

Sam smiled back at him and gestured. 'So, Doctor Lee said something about a zombie?'

Jack smirked at her. 'You're just jealous, Carter.'

'Absolutely, sir.' Sam shot back at him.

He began to recount the tale of finding Daniel and Sam listened to him eagerly; his voice and the familiarity of his dry commentary settling around her like a warm blanket, easing the last of the tension of the day out of her body. She ignored the warning voice in her head; the one that told her she was too close; that she shouldn't love him; shouldn't hope that he loved her.

He grinned at her, looking at her with so much affection that she blinked before she smiled back at him, her stomach suddenly filled with butterflies. But then his expression shifted again so swiftly into the more familiar smirk he wore that she wondered whether she had seen anything at all.

Sam bit her lip. Maybe some time away from her CO would be good. She could use the time on the Prometheus to get some distance again; get her wishful thinking under control. And maybe she could use the time to consider what she really wanted; she'd been restless in the past months, seeking something but she wasn't sure what. She looked over at the Colonel and sighed inwardly. Or maybe, Sam thought with a sudden burst of honesty, the problem was that she knew what she wanted, she just knew she couldn't have it.

fin.

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