Twelve Days - Continued.
On the tenth day of Christmas…
"Easy does it, Major." Sam ordered as the Hammond nosed its way into the golden mist of the nebula.
There was the usual churn of excited butterflies in her tummy, the weight of the lives of her crew on her shoulders and the familiar buzz of adrenaline lighting up her veins as it always did when Sam had something new to explore.
"How are the sensors doing, Lindsay?" Sam asked, throwing her question to the back and the engineering console.
"We've got limited capability, Colonel." Lindsay informed her calmly. Long gone were the days when Lindsay Novak would hiccup her way through crises. "But they're all functional and at full strength."
"Can't we go faster?" asked Vala plaintively, leaning on the back of Marks' chair with a pout.
"No." Sam said firmly.
"But we know the exact coordinates of the Coscoroban satellites." Vala argued.
"Maybe but we don't know if there's anything between here and there." Sam argued.
Teal'c inclined his head. He stood next to Sam's chair like the stalwart sentinel he was. "Indeed."
"You know what this reminds me of?" drawled Cam, hovering to the side of Marks' console and giving away just how much he wished he was the one flying. "Driving in the pitch black in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter. You might know where you're going to but you don't know the road and you're not sure if you're going to end up in a ditch or get surprised by the local wildlife springing out at you."
Vala conceded the debate with a huff and opened her mouth.
"Don't say it!" Daniel folded his arms, his eyes glued to the forward screen. He glanced over his shoulder at Vala briefly. "If you say 'are we there yet' just once I won't be responsible for my actions."
"Well, that has possibilities." Vala noted.
"Isn't this where the parents suggest tipping them out on the side of the road?" Cam asked loudly.
Sam flashed him a quick smile. "Phelps, connect me with the Hammond puddlejumper."
They'd left the survey team on the planet with SG20 at the Stargate and a couple of F302s for good measure. A cloaked puddlejumper remained in orbit to act as a communications relay between the planet and the Hammond. It was likely that communications would be affected by the nebula but Sam was hoping that with some tweaking they could at least do the relay.
"Peartree here, ma'am." The pilot's voice was filled with easy assurance.
"First check-in, Captain." Sam said. "We'll check-in every thirty minutes from here on out."
"Understood, Colonel." Peartree replied. "We'll be waiting for your call. Puddlejumper, out."
It was almost thirty minutes later that they made it to the first set of coordinates.
"External lights on full." Sam ordered. "Full sensor sweep ahead."
The egg shaped satellite rose up on front of them; a smooth oval shape in a pale grey.
"We're reading some kind of power source in the upper part of the, uh, egg, Colonel." Lindsay reported.
"Send usual first contact hails." Sam ordered. They couldn't assume that there was no-one on board.
"Negative response, Colonel." Phelps said. "Even with the addition of the communication Doctor Jackson provided for the Coscorobans."
Sam motioned at Cam. "Looks like you have a go."
SG1 along with Jennifer Hailey filed from the bridge to get ready. Cam had asked Sam to go with them originally and she'd been tempted. But the Hammond was in a nebula blindfolded and with its hands tied behind its back in many ways and her duty was clear. Hailey was her protégé; brilliant in her own way and more than qualified to provide the scientific expertise that SG1 might require in exploring the satellite.
"We're ready for beam out." Cam radioed.
"Maintain radio contact, Cam."
"Roger that." Sam nodded at Phelps.
There was silence for a long moment and Sam felt the catch of her breath in her throat – had something gone wrong?
"We're here." Cam's voice came over the audio channel loudly. "Wherever here is."
"Breathable air." Hailey confirmed.
Sam could imagine them taking off the breathing gear, stowing it away as they regathered themselves ready for exploration.
"OK, so this is creepy." Cam commentated. "Shadowy corridors…minimal lighting."
"There's no markings of any kind." Daniel added. "No directions, nothing but blank walls."
"We're approaching the energy source." Hailey confirmed.
"Bingo!" Cam said and Sam felt a rush of irritation as she waited for him to expand on the finding.
"It's…incredible." Daniel breathed out in wonder.
Sam hit the reply button. "Someone want to tell us exactly what you've found over there?"
"It is a stasis chamber, Colonel Carter, containing many of the beings we know as the Coscorobans." Teal'c replied.
"They really do look like geese." Vala commented.
"I have something! There's one chamber here with ten individuals and from the sign that's been left this is the ruling council." Daniel said.
"They have their own power source separate to the main one the Hammond identified." Hailey confirmed. "We should be able to revive them."
"Do we want to revive them?" Cam asked bluntly.
Sam appreciated the question. She remembered Daniel possessed by the ruler of a people who had essentially done something similar to the Coscorobans and preserved their people in stasis; the leader had been arrogant and self-serving. But it wasn't her call and she could hear Daniel's impassioned argument that it was the right thing to do even as she debated it inwardly.
"Cam?" prompted Sam.
"I guess we're waking them up." Cam stated dryly.
Sam motioned at Phelps. "I'm sending you an extra security team and a medical team to assist." The replacement for Phelps was already radioing the instruction to the infirmary.
The next few hours flew by as the team on the satellite revived the ruling council; five pairs of mated couples, one of whom comprised the lead scientists who had devised the satellites. Eventually, everyone was beamed back aboard the Hammond to discuss the next steps.
M'Rau and Amrak, the lead scientists, were the first to greet Sam as she entered the conference room. The Coscorobans were a tall, graceful people. They had feathers over their skulls and the backs of their hands - potentially elsewhere but the rest of their bodies were covered in a long tunic and pants combination. Their faces were pointy, noses and mouths retaining a hint of the beak their ancestors had no doubt had.
M'Rau's beaky face split open in a wide smile, her grey feathered head inclining. "Colonel. I have waited these long days to meet you."
Sam smiled tentatively and accepted the outstretched feathered hands, clasping them gently in her own. "I'm pleased to meet you too."
"You have an exceptional clutch, Colonel." M'Rau said.
"A clutch being?" questioned Sam curiously.
"Ah, your words…team, family?" M'Rau cocked her head to the side, her black eyes blinking. "It is unclear to us."
"I think both work in this case." Sam said delighted. "Please sit."
"We would like to revive the rest of our people." M'Rau said without preamble. "We have supplies and emergency housing facilities stored on all the satellites. If your ship could tow each to the planet…"
"We'll be happy to help you if we can." Sam confirmed. "We'll need to do the calculations and, forgive me, but do the satellites have their own shield for re-entry or…"
Hailey cleared her throat. "Ma'am, there may be an issue in being able to revive the population and maintain the required power needed for the shields to sustain themselves. During my access to the main computer I noticed that the power units are almost all used. The power requirements to bring the satellite back online are immense."
She slid her computer over to Sam.
Sam's eyes quickly took in the calculations. They had naquadah generators they could use but they'd run out of power before the satellite was fully lit up. Except…
"I think I have an idea." Sam said.
It was late when Sam finally managed to call it a night.
The Hammond was still inside the nebula having checked out the remaining four satellites and determined the power requirements for each. The ten Coscoroban leaders were all delightful and thrilled that they had successfully managed to save their people – and that those that had found them were compassionate and willing to help them. She opened her latest email from Jack sent on via the relay with the puddlejumper.
"Re: Your idea
The V'Breeni are delighted to have you use their gift to revive an ancient population of geese folk.
I think they're planning another gift for you.
Maybe this will make the ten geese leaders leap for joy?
Happy Tenth Day!
Always, Jack x"
Sam grinned, opened a new email and tagged on the picture of the ten Coscoroban leaders.
I don't know about the Coscorobans but I definitely feel joyful that for once they're not an alien bad guy.
Wish you were here.
Love, Sam x."
On the eleventh day of Christmas…
It wasn't until they were towing the fifth Eghkt – and Daniel was the only one who'd managed to pronounce the Coscoroban name for the satellite as far as Sam knew – that her mind strayed to the twelve days of Christmas and the lack of anything remotely close to eleven pipers piping happening that day.
Sam sighed and gazed out of the forward screen at the haze of nebula gold that the Hammond was navigating through slowly – the Eghkt secure in its tow following on behind.
It had been a very busy day. She had essentially designed and built a super-naquadah generator to accommodate the greater capacity requirements for the Eghkts' needs. The V'Breeni statue had been dismantled and reformed into five huge blocks, each of which was included in one of the new generators. They worked perfectly. One by one, each Eghkt was brought online to power shields and taken to the planet where the Hammond, or the Apollo which had been deployed to assist, placed them gently into position on the Southern continent near to the large reservoirs that would provide water. Once the Eghkt was secure on the planet's surface, the Eghkt's operations staff were swiftly brought out of stasis to enable the rest of the civilian population to wake to a secure and comfortable environment complete with food that had also been held in stasis storage.
It was all going very smoothly and Sam admired the Coscoroban leadership more and more as the day progressed. She had no doubt that within very short order the Coscorobans would rebuild their world and the Eghkts would become historical relics, revered for their part in helping to keep their population alive, and the continuation of their science, culture and history. She hoped Earth would still be an ally in that future since Daniel had been tasked with establishing a formal treaty between the Coscorobans and Earth. He was in his element and Sam had seen the rest of SG1 look on indulgently as he revelled in a positive first contact. He and the rest of SG1 had stayed behind with the last Eghkt to provide additional assistance.
Sam spared a thought for the Destiny crew. Those that had fled to Destiny when Rush had dialled the ninth chevron had entered stasis some months before to survive the journey between galaxies. She hoped they made it; hoped that their stasis would be as successful as the Coscorobans.
Beside her M'Rau coughed – a signal Sam had learned that M'Rau would speak.
"You are deep in thought, Samantha." M'Rau enquired with a cocked feathered head.
"I was just admiring how things have progressed today." Sam admitted, turning in her command chair to smile at the Coscoroban. She and M'Rau had swiftly developed a firm friendship; both leaders, both scientists, both women. They had a lot in common.
"It has this far gone to plan," M'Rau said, her beaky face smiling back at Sam warmly, "but we should not count the clutch before it is laid."
"We have a saying that you shouldn't count your eggs before they hatch." Sam confirmed. She rolled her shoulders to ease out the kinks.
"I did not realise that your species laid eggs." M'Rau said.
Sam swallowed the urge to laugh as Marks choked on a chuckle beside her. "No, our reproduction is internal but we have several other species on our planets that lay eggs."
"Remarkable." M'Rau said brightly. "I am looking forward to learning about your planet, Samantha."
Sam nodded in agreement. While the Hammond retrieved the last Eghkt from the nebula, the Apollo would move the Stargate closer to the Eghkrts on the planet making Stargate travel between the worlds possible.
"You were also thinking of the number eleven quite strongly." M'Rau commented.
Sam tried hard not to blush. The Coscoroban telepathy only picked up on their surface thoughts and only if they were in close proximity to a human. It was disconcerting and slightly embarrassing because they had no concept of internal privacy as their entire race were telepathically linked and thus everything was out in the open so they assumed no issues with questioning what they picked up from humans. But it wasn't threatening and having an ally be so open and honest with them was in some ways refreshing.
"I was thinking about the number eleven." Sam conceded. "We have a song on Earth called the Twelve Days of Christmas – Christmas is a…a religious holiday for some people. The song details a…someone sending a gift comprising of the number related to the day. Today is the eleventh day of Christmas and so…"
"You are expecting your mate to send you something that conforms with the song?" asked M'Rau bluntly.
Sam did blush at the term 'mate.' She wrestled with her answer, not wanting to put too much of her relationship with Jack on show for her crew. They all knew she and Jack were married but there was a difference between knowing and knowing the intimate details of their relationship. She sighed as she settled for as much as she had shared with SG1.
"Well, not exactly. I mean, my husband, um, mate, did send me something on the first day but he wasn't going to attempt the whole twelve. But then we've had some strange coincidences each day since such as my being gifted with a statue of two birds on the second day by the V'Breeni, and…"
"You were anticipating the number eleven would have meaning today." M'Rau gave a soft chirp of approval. "How wonderful."
"So far nothing though." Sam mustered a smile and tried to cover her disappointment. "It was a long shot that there would be something every day. I mean, statistically the odds are…" she cut herself off before revealing that she had actually calculated the exact odds. "Anyway, I guess it's not going to happen today."
"Not unless you make it happen." M'Rau commented with a graceful dip of her head.
Not unless she made it happen.
Of course. How stupid was she, Sam berated herself. Just because the universe hadn't come up with something that fitted with the song, it didn't mean that Sam herself couldn't simply send Jack something with the number eleven - just as Jack had sent her the snow globe on the ninth day.
Sam grinned. "You're right."
Marks cleared his throat. "I believe Lieutenant McKeown has a set of bagpipes in his quarters, Colonel."
"But it doesn't have to be literal, right?" Phelps chimed in from the other side of the bridge seats before Sam could reply. "It just has to be something with the number eleven."
"It could be pictures of eleven pipes." Lindsay offered from the engineering console behind Sam.
Sam glanced back sharply and raised her eyebrows a touch as she returned her gaze forward. She was torn between embarrassment at her personal business becoming ship's business, and bemusement at how quickly her crew had jumped in to support her. "Thank you all for the suggestions, but…"
"Incoming communication on the emergency channel," Phelps interrupted her with a look of apology, "it's the Apollo, Colonel."
"On screen." Sam said.
Colonel Abraham Ellis came into fuzzy view. Ellis was military through and through, but he had a good sense of humour and he was a good man underneath the military bluster. "Colonel Carter."
"Colonel." Sam returned the greeting. "What's this about?"
"We have Jakrian warbirds entering the system." Ellis informed her briskly. "We can't get a lock on the number but it's multiple, and their course suggests they're heading our way. I've reported to Homeworld and am awaiting orders. I wanted to bring you in the loop."
"ETA?" Sam said sobering rapidly. The Jakrian warbirds were the equivalent of the Hammond or the Apollo. The Jakrians had more of them though and they were designed for war rather than exploration; weapons, manoeuvrability. Doctor Coombs had compared them to Klingon warbirds and the allusion had stuck. In all aspects the Jakrians outmatched them but Earth had come up against more powerful ships before and survived, and they had even come up against Jakrian warbirds and survived.
"They'll be in weapons range in twenty-one hours." Ellis said tersely.
"We'll be at the planet in one hour." Sam informed him. "We'll rendezvous then."
"Roger that." Ellis signalled his comms officer and the connection blinked out.
"Samantha, who are the Jakrians?" M'Rau asked, a serious chirrup escaping her.
"The Jakrians are an alien race we came across seven months ago." Sam said. "They're advanced technologically but are extremely xenophobic. They hadn't explored beyond their own solar system but when they realised the universe was populated with other alien races they decided to wipe us out."
"May I see?" M'Rau asked plaintively.
Sam realised she was asking for a telepathic connection. "How, uh…"
"Bring your memories of the Jakrians to the forefront of your mind, Samantha." M'Rau said. "I will do the rest."
Sam nodded, retrieving memory after memory; Daniel's account of his first encounter and the torture they'd put him through, the first battles on worlds near to the Jakrian home system, the Hammond's own encounter with a warbird - which they'd won because Sam had been able to pinpoint the weakness in the warbird's shields to beam across an explosive device…
It only took a moment.
M'Rau inhaled sharply. "They dare!" Her black eyes gleamed with anger.
"I'm sorry you've been brought into the conflict between us and the Jakrians." Sam said sincerely. "We'll do everything we can to defend your planet."
M'Rau waved away her words with a feathered hand. "They would attack us eventually, would they not? We will stand beside you." Her beaky face suddenly took on a feral expression. "We are not without explosive devices of our own, Samantha, and we are very territorial."
The remaining hours of the day sped by in a rush of activity.
The placement of the last Eghkt was overshadowed by the war conference that had taken place on the Hammond. The Coscorobans had insisted that Sam lead the defence and she had accepted. They had a plan, a very good solid plan, and in all likelihood it would work even with what they were facing…
Sam sighed and picked up the report that lay on her bunk again.
Sensors confirm the approach of eleven Jakrian warbirds.
Not the way she had wanted the number of eleven to have manifested, Sam mused tiredly. She shook her head fiercely as she recalled M'Rau's words to her on the bridge - that she could make her own eleven - and opened up her laptop. She reread Jack's email to her first.
I wish I was with you but I know you're going to do great because you're you, and you blow up solar systems and take down warlords and invent computer programmes that dial Stargates.
You can handle eleven Jakrian warbirds.
Always, Jack x"
Sam traced over the words with her fingers and pressed the reply button.
Eleven things I love about you…
The way you look in uniform…because that was the first thing I noticed.
Your eyes…the second thing I noticed.
Your sense of humour…because you made me laugh in that first meeting and you've been making me laugh ever since.
Your compassion…because I know you took Daniel home when we came back from Abydos that night and gave him a place to stay and a friend.
Your passion…because without your words and your sincerity Teal'c would not have saved us that day.
Your intelligence…because I find your strategic brain very sexy.
Your loyalty…because I can count on you, if not to find me, to never stop looking.
Your honesty…because I can count on you to always tell me how it is.
Your trust in me…because you believe in me, I believe in me, and somehow eleven warbirds doesn't seem so insurmountable after all.
Your love of fishing…because it's you and it's us and it's where we're headed when I'm home next week.
And lastly, I love the way you love me with everything you have and everything you are…because I love you that way too.
Love, Sam x"
On the twelfth day of Christmas…
Sam kept perfectly still in her command chair. It didn't look good for her to fidget and be visibly nervous in front of her crew.
Despite the fact that she wanted to fidget and was nervous, very nervous.
She was always nervous before a battle.
Always had doubts about her ability to lead and command.
It had always been a struggle balancing the military side of her work with the scientist; deciding that she wanted command and leadership in addition to her research and field work. She'd joined up in a haze of ambition to simply pilot a shuttle into space; she'd fought for her wings just like any other female officer – with difficulty and fighting against ingrained prejudices about women in a military environment.
And then the Stargate programme had happened, taking her away from the skies but offering something more in recompense: space in all of its wonderful glory.
Not right away.
Not until Jack and Daniel had gone through the wormhole without her that first time and discovered Abydos and the Goa'uld.
Not until Apophis had forced Earth into recognising the threat hadn't blown up with Ra and Stargate Command had been built by George Hammond on the foundation of the team he'd put together based on his own first meeting with them back in 1969; SG1.
And Sam had slowly and steadily learned leadership under Jack's example and wanted to be the kind of leader that inspired others the way Jack inspired her. She had carefully taken in all the lessons on strategy and tactics she could glean from him and Teal'c; had with their encouragement taken command more and more, wanted to take command more and more until she was suddenly there – SG1 leader, R&D leader, Atlantis leader, the CO of the Hammond…
She would never be the natural Jack was at strategy.
She would never be as commanding as Teal'c.
She would never be the silent steady presence of George Hammond but they had all taught her well and she would use every lesson to protect her family from the hatred of the Jakrians. SG1 and SG20 weren't with her; they were on the planet ensuring the planetary defences were working in case plan A didn't work.
"Jakrian ships coming into communications range, Colonel." Phelps informed her briskly.
The bridge was unnaturally silent; tense, anticipating the battle to come.
Sam pressed the buttons to send the communication and nodded at M'Rau.
"Jakrian armada, this is M'Rau of the Eghktian Alliance aboard the Earth vessel, the USS Hammond. You are approaching the planet Egh. If your intention is not hostile, cease your approach and talk with us."
"Incoming communication, audio and visual." Phelps confirmed. "But they haven't stopped."
"Main screen." Sam ordered. She got up and followed M'Rau but stayed back allowing the Coscoroban leader to take point. It was their planet.
The screen flared to life revealing a dark bridge. The Jakrian commander glared out at them. His head was covered with brown feathers and there was a sharper angle to his face where a beak resided instead of a nose and mouth. His eyes widened at the sight of M'Rau but they settled back into their glare rapidly.
"You are not Jakrian." The commander declared.
"We are not." M'Rau's head cocked to the side. "And you are so angry, hatchling. So much hate for something that it isn't your norm and that you believe inferior." She gave a soft coo. "No love at all just duty and obligation and rules to follow to maintain order in the Jakrian world of warriors. How sad."
The Jakrian commander gave a sharp echoing cry and lurched out of his seat. "Get out of my head!"
M'Rau fixed him with a sharp stare. "Get out of my solar system."
"You are not Jakrian and will be destroyed!" The commander snarled.
"We are not Jakrian and you may attempt to destroy us but you will fail, hatchling." M'Rau said derisively. "Fly away while you still have wings to do so."
"You do not order me to do anything." He snapped back.
"Colonel Carter," M'Rau said indicating for Sam to step forward, "I am formally asking for Earth's assistance in stopping the Jakrian armada."
"You have it." Sam confirmed, staring down the monitor at the Jakrian.
He made a dismissive grunt. "You have but one pitiful Earth ship." He said. "It will not last long."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "The last time my ship met one of yours in battle, the Jakrian was the one that did not last long." She smirked. "But if you think you can do better then take your best shot."
The signal was cut.
"I fear that the hatchling has much to learn." M'Rau said as she made her way back across the bridge and Sam resumed her seat.
"Much." Sam agreed with amusement despite the circumstances. "Weapons range?"
"Five minutes." Phelps said tersely.
"Hold steady." Sam said firmly. "Shields up. Arm weapons." She hit the comms button. "All crew to battle stations! This is not a drill!"
"Jakrian warbirds coming into range now."
"Apollo, now!" Sam ordered. "All Egh vessels decloak now!"
In space, the Apollo left the nebula where it had been hiding to take position behind the Jakrian warbirds; the ten Egh vessels – stored safe and secure in the Eghkts during the long stasis of the Coscorobans – decloaked; white gleaming arcs forming a circle that linked the Apollo and the Hammond and locked the Jakrians into the centre.
Twelve allied vessels to the eleven Jakrian warbirds.
"Target the nearest ship! Fire at will!" Sam ordered briskly, adrenaline rushing through her so much she could feel the buzz of it on her skin.
"Direct hit!" Phelps said. "Three Jakrian warbirds are down!"
The Hammond rocked under enemy fire and Sam held onto her seat.
"Hold position! Pick a target! Continue firing!" Sam ordered.
"Shields down to sixty percent!" Lindsay shouted over the alarms.
"Rotate frequencies." Sam ordered.
M'Rau coughed. "My sister ship has failing shields to our left due to a direct hit."
"Extend shield bubble around the Egh!" Sam instructed Lindsay who gave a nod and made it happen.
"Two more warbirds are down." Phelps said grimly. "Incoming communication from the Apollo!"
"Colonel," Ellis' frantic voice came across the radio, "Apollo's life support has been hit. We're losing stability."
Sam swallowed hard as across the battle before her through the forward screens she could see the Apollo drifting from its position. "Get your people out of there, Abe!"
"Beam to the nearest Egh, Colonel!" M'Rau said swiftly. "We will provide safe landing place."
"Understood! Ellis, out."
Sam breathed a sigh of relief.
"We have a couple of runners, heading for the gap." Phelps noted.
"Close them down." Sam ordered.
"Three more Jakrian warbirds are down." Marks informed her.
M'Rau cleared her throat. "Sister ship is confirming that they took out one runner."
"One is entering hyperspace." Marks noted. "Permission to pursue?"
"Let it go." Sam said briskly. "Status of the Apollo crew?"
M'Rau gave a chirrup. "Sister ship confirms they have all the crew safe."
"Last Jakrian warbir…Colonel, I'm reading an energy build-up in the Jakrian's engine system!" Phelps snapped out hurriedly.
"All vessels move to a safe distance!"
Marks' hands were already moving over his console, the Hammond already shifting away taking with it the Egh caught in its shield.
A moment later, the space in front of them erupted in a flash of white as the Jakrian warbird exploded and took out everything around it.
The Hammond rocked under the ripple through subspace.
And then it was silent except for the eerie blare of the alarm.
Sam breathed out and adjusted her position in her chair. "Have all vessels report. I want damage reports from all departments." She slipped out of her chair. "And turn that alarm off!"
She made her way to the windows and looked out at the devastation; chunks of Jakrian warbirds drifting across her vision. How many had been killed?
There was a lump in her throat as she considered the question.
M'Rau drew up beside her. "That you regret the loss, Samantha, is to your credit."
Sam breathed out, a rush of gratitude for the understanding. "We should clean-up." The Apollo spun in space; charred and damaged but they could fix it – the crew was safe. But they also needed to contact the planet, and Homeworld, and check the debris for booby traps and…and a whole lot more.
Sam repressed the urge to sigh, straightened her shoulders and went to work.
It was late evening by the time Sam found herself alone in her office. They were parked on the planet for the night; the Apollo beside the Hammond on the stretch of land beside the reservoir and in front of the newly moved Stargate.
Sam frowned at her laptop when she realised that there was no message from Jack. It wasn't too surprising. He was busy and it wasn't that unusual for them to miss a night exchanging emails because they'd gotten caught up doing something else but…
Sam bit her lip and opened her email to send a message herself.
A cough at the doorway had her raising her head and smiling. "M'Rau."
"Are you not joining the festivities in your eating place, Samantha?" M'Rau asked, her feathered head cocked to the side inquisitively.
There was a party in the mess. Sam knew her crew needed to unwind and they'd been joined by the Apollo personnel for the night.
"Later, perhaps," Sam waved a hand at her laptop, "I'm just going to send Jack a message."
"Ah, your mate." M'Rau murmured. Her eyes shone suddenly with understanding. "You are sending him something with the number twelve?"
"Pictures of twelve fish." Sam said with a blush. "He loves fishing so…"
"May I speak with you a moment?" M'Rau asked almost hesitantly.
"Of course." Sam ignored her tiredness and waved the Coscoroban inside.
M'Rau entered the office and closed the door. "You are aware that the satellites were set up to initiate a telepathic scan to determine whether to reveal the reality of them to you."
"Yes. Daniel discovered the information in one of the databases." Sam said softly.
"The minds of the leadership were woken when a ship would come into orbit. We once felt the touch of those you call Ancients and once the touch of the Goa'uld. The latter were evil and self-absorbed; the former far too clinical and detached in their bonds. And then we felt you, Samantha," M'Rau said, "and it was your bonds with all around you that swayed us. Your love for Jack; your maternal caring for Cassandra; the duty to your people; your sisterly affection for those you call your family, the team you name SG1. Each day you have spent beside us, Samantha, these bonds have defined you. You are a worthy ally and I am proud to be your friend and to have stood beside you in battle today."
Sam blinked back her shock and felt truly touched by M'Rau's words; she knew the truth of them.
It had started with SG1, with the four of them, long before she and Jack had slipped from attraction into love. She, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c had become family and made others family like Cassie, Jonas, Cameron and Vala along the way; they'd gathered up others like Teal'c's son and Bra'tac along the way; mourned Sam's father, Janet and George Hammond as the years had gone by.
But the web went beyond them to the men and women of the programme who served with them – command personnel like Walter and Siler, or SG team leaders like Dixon and Reynolds, pilots like Peartree and Partridge, even Generals like Landry and Vidrine, medical professionals like Carolyn Lam and Anna Brightman, and the civilian scientists…Bill Lee, Jay Felger, Simon Coombs and so many others…
And the Atlantis team – a family of its own out in Pegasus with Rodney, John, Teyla and Ronon at the heart of it, gathering in Carson Beckett, Jennifer Keller, Evan Lorne and Radek Zelenka – even Richard Woolsey while they mourned their own losses like Elizabeth Weir and Aiden Ford.
Sam thought of all their allies – the Nox and the much missed Asgard, the Tok'ra and the fallen Tollan, the people of Cimmeria and the Land of the Light, Camelot and the Sodan…Abydos where it had all started. The Coscorobans would be a welcome addition to the ranks of those Earth called friend.
"I'm proud that you call me friend." Sam replied to M'Rau.
M'Rau chirruped in delight.
A few minutes later, Sam found herself alone again and focused on her email. She wanted to put the pictures in a slideshow to send to Jack with some drums in the background. It was eclectic but Jack would get it. She bit her lip as she attached the file to the email.
Seems I couldn't let it go.
Happy Twelfth Day!
Can't wait for the fishing.
Love, Sam x"
She pressed send.
"So, I heard there was going to be cake."
Her head snapped up in shock and her eyes landed on Jack O'Neill, leaning in her doorway, decked out in a black BDU pants and a black t-shirt. His grey hair was cut short, his brown eyes were twinkling, and he had his trademark smirk aimed in her direction.
"Jack?!" Sam was out of her chair before she could register she'd moved.
Jack closed the door behind him as he crossed over to her, sweeping her up and kissing her and holding her…
And Sam's whole world was at peace for the first time that day.
"I missed you." Sam said as she eased back to look at him.
"I missed you too." Jack smiled softly. "The President gave me permission to join the celebrations. I have to go back tomorrow morning though."
Sam hugged him. "Have the guys seen you?"
"Who d'ya think escorted me? I had Daniel yammering at me the whole way about the importance of pronouncing Eghkt correctly."
"Nobody but Daniel pronounces it correctly." Sam laughed, rubbing her hands over his shoulders.
"That's what I said." Jack kissed her lightly. "Come on, let's go get some cake."
Sam nodded. She kissed him again before shutting down the laptop and shooing him out of her office. They fell into step beside each other as they walked to the mess; close but not too close since they maintained a professional distance on bases and ships as required by the regulations.
Sam frowned as they neared the doors; there was music, live music. She pushed the doors open and stared.
A twelve-piece band was set-up at the far end of the mess and was playing what appeared to be a lively Sixties number that had a lot of the Hammond and Apollo crew up dancing on the make-shift dance floor where the tables had been cleared away and pushed back to make room. The Coscorobans were watching in curious amusement, smiles on their faces. Sam spotted Peartree being twirled by Partridge; Grogan and Hailey dancing together; Vala dragging Daniel onto the floor…
The music changed to something softer and Jack cleared his throat noisily beside her.
"Thank you, sir." Sam accepted his hand and laughed as he tugged her into the centre of the dance floor and a traditional hold; her hand in his; his other arm around her waist, her other hand on his shoulder.
Sam looked around as they swayed and smiled at the happy faces; the relief of a battle won; the happiness of a new friendship and alliance.
Her gaze drifted to the band. "Twelve musicians?" She murmured in Jack's ear.
"All from the programme." Jack said. "Walter might have helped organise it."
"You tried to find twelve drummers and had to ask for help, didn't you?" Sam said amused.
"I admit nothing." Jack said dryly. His hand tightened on hers. "It's been fun though, right? This whole twelve days thing?"
Sam met his eyes and drank in the love and affection that his gaze brimmed over with. "Fun." She agreed.
"O'Neill, Colonel Carter." Teal'c's soft low voice interrupted them and they belatedly realised the Jaffa had sneaked up to stand beside them, his hands clasped as always behind him. The rest of SG1, Cassie with an arm slung around a grinning Vala, looked on from the side of the dance floor. "I believe you are standing under mistletoe."
Sam ducked her head to hide her smile. It was such a set-up but as her laughing eyes met Jack's again, she knew neither of them really minded. One kiss wasn't going to interfere with discipline, regulations or no regulations.
"Well," Jack declared with a smirk, "never let it be said that I don't hold with tradition."
And as he framed her face and kissed her, Sam ignored her cheering crew, the whistles and clapping, and enjoyed the moment and Jack…because his being there to kiss her and dance with her surrounded by the people they loved was the best gift of all.