2006

 

Disclaimers: Some of the people featured in this story are real men and women. I mean no harm at all and their interaction with the fictional characters is kept to the minimum so as not to intrude too much.

Author’s note: this is a “What if” story. Solar flares have been done to death, I know; just bear with me on this one, too!

Thanks: My husband for helping me out of a dead end, Barbara for her beta-reading and encouragement! My dear friend Ruralstar for helping me with current locations and suggestions.

Copyright © Anakin David 2006

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“Why am I gearing up to participate in something as boring as treaty negotiations again?” Jack asked Daniel as he was putting on his combat BDUs in the locker room.

“You’re an added bonus, Jack. Besides, Sam thought you’d welcome the distraction after the fiasco with the Russians and Kinsey…”

“Oh yeah, talk about a distraction… Sitting through endless meetings and politely smiling to everyone seated around the table…” he huffed.

“No, actually, we took care of all that for you. What you will attend is the actual closure of the negotiations, the signature of the mining treaty, and the trade agreement… They need sulfur, we need naquadah… After that, there’s a celebration planned…”

“Sweet!” he growled sarcastically.

“Well, if you want to blame someone, go blame Sam!” Daniel resumed in an aggravated tone,. “I for one did not want to put *you* through that!” he said, dramatically.

“Oh, I will, don’t worry… But please note that I *do* appreciate the distraction… after all, last time I went off world, we got back with an Ancient ship; I’d have preferred white sand beaches with blue waters or a fishing pond, though,” he smirked.

Daniel rolled his eyes as Jack exited the locker room and headed down to the gate room.
Sam was already there, pacing, while Teal'c was his usual stoic self.
Jack swiftly entered the room through the blast doors, followed by Daniel, as the gate started rotating. Sam straightened, almost as if to stand at attention, but an annoyed look from Jack made her relax slightly.

“Alright, kids, let’s go!” he said, climbing up the ramp as Sam quickly fell in behind him.

Teal'c looked at Daniel questioningly, but the latter shook his head, rolling his eyes, making the corners of the Jaffa’s lips curb slightly up. They started up the ramp as Jack and Sam reached the event horizon.

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“And… cut!” a voice said as Sam and Jack stepped down the ramp.

‘What the…’ Jack thought, disbelieving as he faced a crew of cameramen, microphone holders, and other film technicians instead of a squad of SFs – which would have been still strange, but which he would have understood better.

“Thanks, Rick, Amanda, we’re done for now…” a man wearing shorts and with earpieces hanging around his neck said as he stepped down from what appeared to be the main camera’s seat.

“But we…” Jack was interrupted by Carter’s hand on his arm and the warning look in her eyes as he turned toward her touch.

A man approached him to take his P90 — despite the mission being entirely diplomatic, it was standard procedure to go off world fully armed. Jack clung to it, earning a surprised look from the man.

“Hey, I need to bring it back to armory!” the technician said.

“Sir, I think it’s best if…” Sam murmured as the rest of the technicians left the place. She unhooked hers and gave it to the man.

“It’s stuck, wait a sec…” Jack said, fiddling with the hook of his P90 on his vest.

Soon, they were rid of their basic equipment, including vest.
Awkwardly standing at the foot of the ramp, they were gently ushered out through the blast doors which led behind the set of a studio.

“Carter?” Jack asked in hushed tones, frowning.

“I don’t know, Sir,” she said in a low voice. “Let’s… let’s get out of here; we’ll find a way to get our P90s back…”

Jack knew better than to say anything else. They exited the building and faced a parking lot with tens of trailers parked in lines in front of them.

“Carter, is this place what I think it is?”

“I think so, yes, Sir. I think we’ve just stepped onto a movie set or TV shoot…” she replied.

“Good; that means I haven’t gone crazy, we both have,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

“The only explanation I can think of is a solar flare or a cosmic magnetic surge that interfered with the wormhole,” she resumed, scanning the field of trailers.

“Yeah, well, you know me and astrophysics…” he mumbled, his eyes everywhere, too. “Hey! Isn’t that Daniel and Teal’c?” he asked, pointing at two men dressed in civvies and chatting enthusiastically as they exited the trailer area.

Sam frowned, observing them. “They definitely look like them, but there’s something…off…” she said thoughtfully.

“Like the fact that Daniel doesn’t have his glasses, which we both know he can’t see without…”

“… or the fact that Teal'c doesn’t have a tattoo and, from what I can hear, seems to speak English with Americanisms and contractions?” she continued. “I don’t think it’s them, Sir…”

“Right…”

The man resembling Daniel waved at them from afar before heading with his partner to the building they had just left. Jack responded, smiling, and resumed his walk with Sam toward the trailers.

“Okay, now what?” he asked aloud.

“Now we try and find as much information as we can about this world,” Sam said pragmatically.

“Okay, well, here’s some information for you: we’re probably in Canada, according to the license plates here, and those trailers have names on them with a schedule attached to the door,” he said, waving at the door with “Amanda Tapping” on it.

“Which means they have a Canada here, too…” she nodded, then resumed. “Amanda Tapping?” she repeated. “Didn’t that man call me ‘Amanda’ back in the gate room?”

“I think so… Do you think it’s...?” he trailed.

“At least it’s worth a try…” she shrugged. “What’s her schedule?”

“Hmmm, let’s see…” Jack said, his finger hovering over the plastic holding the schedule. “She’s on the set today until…”

“Wait!”

“What?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“How do we know it’s ‘today’?”

“Good point…” he said, looking down.

“I think I saw newspapers inside…”

“You wanna go back in?”

“Well, that’s the only way to know exactly what day it is,” she said, wincing a bit.

“And then what?”

“Then we sneak into an unoccupied trailer and try to find a computer.”

“How do you know they have computers in this world?”

Sam sighed. “I saw a technician with a laptop…”

“Ah, there you go… Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. You stay here; I’ll go back and find a newspaper, or at least what day it is. You have your lock picking set with you?”

Sam smiled, tapping her left breast pocket. “Never leave home without it…”

“Good girl!” he smiled in return. “You wait for me, okay?”

“Yes, Sir.”

He scanned the area before jogging to the door they had exited moments before and re-entered the building. As he stepped inside, he almost bumped into a fifty-ish man with long curly hair.

“What are you still doing here?! I thought you’d already left!” the man exclaimed.

“I, er… I forgot something…” Jack replied apologetically.

“That’s a first! Wednesday, 5:20 pm, and Richard Dean Anderson is still on the set!” he joked. “You held the plane?” he resumed, on the verge of hilarity.

“Dang! I hadn’t realized it was already that late! I gotta go!” Jack exclaimed.

“Yeah, I thought you would!” the man still joked. “You’re lucky, traffic is exceptionally light today!” he shouted as Jack disappeared through the door in a hurry.

He crossed the area between the studio and the parking lot quickly, and re-joined Sam, who was still waiting next to the same trailer.

“That was fast!” she exclaimed.

“I ran into someone,” Jack explained.

“So you didn’t get any newspaper?” she said, disappointed.

“No, but I have all we need. I was mistaken for a ‘Richard Dean Anderson’. It’s Wednesday, and we’d better set our watches to 1720… Oh, and that Anderson guy is probably on a plane –or close to– as we speak…”

Sam smiled slightly. “Then we have to find his trailer…”

“Lead the way, Colonel…” Jack said, nodding his head.

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After checking several trailers, they finally found the one they were looking for. Sam managed to unlock it, and they stealthily crept inside.

Jack toured one side quickly as Sam checked out the other. The mini fridge was almost empty and the trash bin was full; the bunk had been lain upon as the crumpled blanket testified.

“The guy has just left, if my instincts are right, and a cleaning lady should be here soon to clean this place…” he said thoughtfully.

“Well there’s a TV, a telephone, and a printer, but no computer…” she said dejectedly.

“But you saw one on the set, right?” he asked, an idea suddenly forming inside his head.

“Yeah.”

“Here’s what we’re gonna do: obviously, I’m out of the picture since I’m supposed to be Anderson, and Anderson is gone. You, on the contrary, are supposed to be Amanda, right?”

“From what it appears, yes,” she replied, trying to guess what his plan was.

“Go check her schedule and see when she’s out or on set. When she’s out, check her trailer and see what you can find. According to Anderson’s schedule, he’s not back until Monday, so if we’re discreet, we can establish our base here once the cleaning lady has done her work. I’ll wait outside for that in the meantime and stay hidden. Do you think you can manage that?”

“Yeah, it’s well within my abilities,” she smirked.

“I’m not finished…” he smirked in his turn. “Remember where that laptop is?”

“I guess I can find the guy if he hasn’t left,” she nodded.

“Then go find it, borrow it, use the fact that people are mistaking you for that Amanda woman, I don’t know, but get that computer over here,” he said, his voice in command mode.

“Yes, Sir,” she replied automatically.

“Now go, Colonel!”

She checked that the way was clear and disappeared quickly through the forest of trailers. Jack followed her out and crouched underneath the trailer, cursing his knees in the process.

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A solid two hours later, Jack was beginning to wonder where Sam had gone. The cleaning staff had come and gone, and his knees were killing him. He had tried to stretch his long limbs, but the exiguity of the space in which he was hidden made it difficult to really alleviate the pain.

Finally, he heard steps coming his direction and noticed booted feet walking cautiously alongside the trailer. He risked an eye outside his hideout and saw Carter glancing nervously around her. She was carrying a pack.

“Carter?” he murmured.

“Sir?” came her reply and his cue to come out.

The sun was setting and the area close to the trailers was bathed in darkness.

“What did you get?” he asked.

“Can we go inside? I’ll show you,” she said, handing him her pack and fishing for her set of tools to pick the lock.

He noticed the pack was rather heavy and took that for a good sign.

Once inside, they quickly locked the door and set the pack on the table. Sam extracted a laptop, a bottle of water, several sandwiches, cereal bars, biscuits, and a bunch of fruit. Upon seeing his surprised look, she said “I figured we would be hungry eventually…”

“Good point,” he nodded.

“They have a catering service. That should keep us fed at least until Sunday. I’ll have to go several times and secure provisions, though. I don’t think they work on Sunday…”

“Always the practical one, Carter,” he smiled. “You managed to get a hold of the P90s?”

“The P90s are locked in an armory. The rest of the weapons are fake. I suppose all of the real weaponry is in that same armory. We don’t have much time. I suppose we could break into the armory, but I’m wondering if it’d be that important. There don’t seem to be any hostiles apart from the regular driver here; besides, I think the entire place is monitored, and the armory must be guarded tightly,” she finished.

Jack looked at her thoughtfully, then nodded. “Getting our weapons back is not the priority; you’re right. Finding out what sort of mess we have stepped into is more important.”

“How do you want me to proceed, Sir?” she asked.

“Well, first we eat; then, since he has a TV, I don’t see why we couldn’t watch it and gather some information about this world. I could do that while you try to find out if we have counterparts here. When do you need to give the laptop back?”

She cringed. “Well, actually, I didn’t officially borrow it… there was a locked office, I sneaked in and retrieved it. I’ll return it when we leave this place.”

“And you don’t think they can track it to this trailer?”

“Well, I don’t really know yet how their computer systems work, but even if they manage to track down the IP, they won’t get to us before a couple of days at the very least. I figure we’re safe for about three. I’m hoping I won’t need that much time to sort out this mess.”

“Not to mention the cascade thingy that could happen real fast… ” he mused aloud.

“Entropic Cascade Failure, Sir,” she corrected him with a smile. “My first job will be to find out if Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter exist here…” she agreed.

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Jack woke up with a start. The eerie light of predawn filtered through the blinds of the trailer, and his back was killing him. He tried to remember where he was and spotted a blond head resting on his shoulder. Carter had come to lie on the small bunk with him some time during the night.

[They had discussed last night what he had found out watching TV: so far, not many differences between this world and theirs; the similarities were even creepy sometimes, down to the sports results. What happened into this world was almost exactly what happened back home.
On her part, Sam had found no trace of either of them in the military. Sam Carters and Jack O'Neills existed but had nothing to do with them.
“ I need to go deeper into the military files, Sir,” she had concluded before he went to bed. “If they’re working for a top secret facility, their information might be inaccessible.”]

He realized his hand had come to caress her hair lightly while he was lost in his thoughts. She hadn’t stirred. He checked his watch in the dim light -0603. He rubbed his eyes and softly extracted himself from the small space in order not to wake her up. He hadn’t really noted the time she finally came to bed, but it must have been late or very early, depending how you looked at it. After all, time was all relative…

He stretched and worked his taut muscles a bit before checking her pack and the mini fridge to see what food they had left. Turkey sandwiches and donuts -a good start, he thought. Oh, how he’d kill for a coffee! He had spotted a coffee maker in the small kitchenette at the back of the trailer
Maybe the cabinets would provide the much needed ingredients.

Sam was awakened by the smell of brewing coffee. “Owww” she groaned, rubbing her back and wincing.

“I promise I’ll grant you a week’s leave at a four star hotel, charged to the USAF, when we get back, Carter!” he said gently, bringing her a mug of steaming coffee.

“Ouch! that’d better include the back massage, too, Sir,” she muttered, taking the proffered coffee. “How did you manage to…” she asked, nodding at the mug.

“There’s ground coffee in the cabinets and a coffee maker. We’ll clean everything up when we leave, don’t worry,” he smiled.

“Quite frankly, Sir, at the moment, I don’t really care,” she said, grumpily sipping the black beverage.

They silently ate their breakfast before getting down to business again.

After about five hours, Sam decided to call the search. Jack had been watching TV in the meantime, and he was getting clearly bored, as his long sighs testified. She reclined on the back of the chair upon which she was seated.

“You okay?” he asked in a soft voice, welcoming the distraction.

“Yeah, I guess I am. The search is pointless, Sir. This world seems to be an exact copy of ours for the most part. The only things that are different are –as I told you yesterday– there is no Jack O'Neill or Samantha Carter in the Air Force; no Daniel Jackson has ever been registered as an archaeologist; the President of the United States is not Henry Hayes; and the only thing that seems to be in Cheyenne Mountain is NORAD, which is about to be closed down. Of course, we can’t be sure that there’s nothing underneath.”

“So what? We don’t have counterparts in this world?”

“As far as I know, no… the closest we can get physically are probably Amanda Tapping for me and Richard Dean Anderson for you.”

“Yeah, on that note, maybe you should go and check out the catering facilities again,” he said as his stomach growled. “We’ll decide of a course of action when you get back,” he smiled.

“Yes, Sir…” she answered with a tired smile of her own.

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“All right, here’s a list of things we have —or don’t have, for that matter— that I made while you were out,” he said, wiping his mouth with a tissue. He extracted a piece of paper from his pocket and resumed. “We don’t exist here, which means we have no ID, no bank account, no social security number, no nothing. On the bright side, it also means we won’t have any problem with that cascade entropy problem, correct?” he asked.

She nodded, her mouth full with the apple into which she had just bitten.

“We don’t know if there’s a Stargate here, and if there is, we don’t know where it is. The correct assumption would be Cheyenne or Antarctica, though. To all of the above, we can add the fact that we don’t know how long we’re gonna be stuck here,” he concluded with a smirk. “That’s what I’d call one hell of a lousy gate trip.”

She sighed. “I can help us get an identity at least,” she started thoughtfully. “We could always pretend we’ve lost our papers and go to the Embassy to get them…”

“Hey, Carter, look at this!” he interrupted as his attention had shifted to the loud music coming out of the still switched on TV.

She stood up and stared in awe for a few minutes before meeting her superior’s equally awed look.

“Well, at least it seems to be less lousy than Wormhole Xtreme,” he commented softly as “Colonel Jack O'Neill” stepped through the gate to a desert world.

Sam sat back down as if her legs had been cut out from her body. “No need to search for a Stargate, Sir…” she said in a breath.

“Hey, Carter!” she heard as exhaustion and shock finally took their toll on her body.

She came out of her sudden blackout with a start. She was lying down on the small bed, and a damp cloth had been placed on her forehead.

“Mmmm…” she said, trying to rise, but a gentle hand pushed against her shoulder and forced her to lie down.

“’Gave me a little scare here, Carter. Can you please tell me what time you went to sleep this morning?” he admonished gently, holding a plastic goblet for her to drink.

“Around 0430, Sir…” she admitted.

“Ah, and we woke up at 0600… I know you’re a trained soldier, Carter, but even soldiers require a little more sleep than an hour and a half…” he snorted. “No work on the computer for you tonight, Colonel, and I’ll make it an order if necessary.”

“Well, given that you’re a TV character in this world, I’m not sure I should obey you, Sir!” she replied, aggravated at herself for passing out.

“You’re a TV character, too, and you’re a major; I still outrank you. Now drink; then we’ll decide what to do.”

She sighed noisily and finally took the goblet from his hands.

“Well, at least we know for sure that our counterparts are only fictional here…” he said, trying to alleviate her sour mood.

“As well as the gate, Sir,” she pointed out. “The closest thing that we have to an actual Stargate is that prop back at the studio…”

“How do you know it’s not like Marty’s show? Maybe they use the whole TV show setup as a smoke screen?” he asked.

“Well, in that case, we’re definitely not part of the program, since we’re in that show!” she shot back.

“Colonel?” he asked, his eyebrow raising.

“Sorry, Sir,” she said defeated. “It’s just that I had hoped we’d find the Stargate, but given the circumstances, I think we’re truly stuck here for good. This world is very similar to ours, but the differences are pretty significant, and the Stargate is among them.”

“Well, we got in; there must be a way for us to get out.”

“It won’t be our doing this time, Sir. The only thing we can hope for is that they figure it out from the other side and come and get us by whatever means they find.”

“Lucky me; I’m the one stuck with the genius…” he snorted. “Sorry, Carter, that wasn’t intended to be mean,” he said apologetically upon seeing her hurt face.

She sighed. “I know, Sir…”

“Even if they manage to figure this out, they’re going to need some time, right?” he resumed.

“Yeah, and depending on who takes care of the problem, it might be a long time. Lee won’t be able to figure it out. I give him credit, he’s a good scientist, but he’s more of a researcher than a problem solver.”

“And McKay’s in Atlantis…” he stated.

“Even if the Daedalus were ready –and she’s not– it would take her five weeks at full speed to reach Atlantis and five weeks back. Then they’d need some time to solve the problem… Sir, we’re here for at least three months, *if* they think of contacting/getting McKay, and *if* the same McKay manages to get his mind to work instead of his pride. We’re here for a long time, Sir, if not forever,” she concluded, realization of their situation hitting both officers at the same time.

They remained silent for a moment before Jack turned the TV off and sat on the second chair next to her. “You said you could help with IDs; what have you got in mind?” he asked gently.

“Well, creating IDs will be relatively easy, creating social security numbers, too; I could also create a history for both of us even though that might take some time. Not much, but it would still be some place to start from,” she agreed.

They fell silent for a moment, considering their options.

“Money might be a problem,” she stated.

“Yeah, I was thinking about that particular issue… those actors, they must be getting a paycheck or something?” he said.

“Probably,” she nodded.

“Why don’t we try and get some cash out of a paycheck? It wouldn’t be much, but at least it’s something to start with… And we’d send the money back as soon as we could…”

“Well, it will have to be me, then… Your counterpart is not present. I’ll go…” she said, determined.

“You’ll have to choose your moment and go to the right person.”

“I’ll reconnoiter when she’s on set and see who’s the one in charge here, then I’ll go see that person at a moment when she’s in her trailer…”

“Risky, but it’s worth a try, and if we manage to get a paycheck, we go to a bank, cash it, and disappear into thin air…”

“I have to admit, the idea is appealing,” she conceded, a small smile finally gracing her face.

“Hey! I have a reputation to maintain!” he said in mock indignation. “Okay, so we use our look-alikes’ names to get what we need first, but no abuse. As for the future, I think I can work somewhere as a pilot or flight instructor, but I’ll let you decide what you’re going to be,” he concluded.

She sighed. “Obviously Astrophysics is out of the question—like you said, we’d better fly under the radar… I’ll be a computer specialist. I can do something productive at least…” she mused.

“Now, first things first. You should create IDs and whatever to fall back on in case plan A doesn’t work… What do you need to do that?” he asked.

“Time…” she replied.

“Then get to work, Carter, because time is not something of which we have plenty, and we need to get that paycheck before tomorrow…” he encouraged her gently, giving her a nudge on her shoulder.

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Sam exited Richard Dean Anderson’s trailer. She was wearing her cap and had turned up the collar of her BDU. She went to look at the schedule on the other trailer’s door. There was a window in which to execute their plan in about 20 minutes. She checked her watch and frowned, then headed for the studios.
She would try to gather some information while waiting for Amanda Tapping to go back to her trailer.

Fortunately, the set was in darkness, so it was easy to hide in the shadows of the various equipment there. She spotted her counterpart talking to this world’s version of Daniel.
She watched mesmerized. If she didn’t know she was not in her universe, she’d jump for joy at hearing Daniel rattle off historical blabber. She had to admit that whoever wrote their dialogues was pretty accurate. She frowned upon hearing herself talk. Her character was in charge, and the guy playing Teal'c was not bald, as he had been on the show that they had glimpsed earlier on TV. She was referring to “General O'Neill,” so obviously they were shooting episodes in sync with her own time line. This was utterly disquieting.

The same man who had been on the set when they first arrived here shouted “cut,” signaling the end of the take. She figured he was surely the director.
A smaller, slightly bald man wearing glasses stood up from his director’s chair and moved next to the first.
Several other people talked to them, including the actors, and after a while, Martin Wood was left alone to talk to the technicians. The actor playing Daniel gave his glasses to a prop guy on the set, while chatting excitedly with the actor playing Teal'c. She could hear part of their dialogue… strange to hear the deep baritone of the Jaffa talking common Americanisms and contractions.

Finally, she saw herself, or rather her image in that world, exiting the set. She followed her stealthily, making sure the other woman was leaving the place. When she saw her disappear through the door leading outside, she retraced her steps, almost bumping into Daniel and Teal'c… the actors playing Daniel and Teal'c, she chastised herself.
They just smiled at her, minding their own business, on their way to exiting the building as well.
She gave them an embarrassed smile. “I forgot something on the set…” she said apologetically by means of explanation.

Avoiding other contacts as much as she could, she reached the now almost deserted set. ‘Crap!’ she thought. ‘No one’s here now…’ She spotted a technician changing scenery panels and decided to chance it.

“Hey,” she asked the man, smiling.

“Can I do something for you, Amanda?” he replied amiably.

“Yes, I need to ask the bosses about something, and I was wondering if you knew where they are?”

“Well, Brad is on the Atlantis set, I guess, and Robert should be in his office…” he replied, pushing the panel into its new spot.

“Okay, thanks a lot!” she beamed. Now if only she could find the way to the offices…

She exited the set and rounded the building; the location of the offices was probably indicated somewhere…
Indeed, a large sign bearing a map of the studios was posted at the end of the large parking lot into which she had wandered. She quickly reached the panel and located the Stargate SG-1 offices…

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Jack was beginning to worry, but worse than that, he was really, really getting bored watching TV while waiting for her. This world was just like theirs in terms of the quality of its TV programs — or lack thereof. Even *he* could answer most of the riddles on the local Jeopardy, and he was so not into soaps. He had tried channel surfing a bit, but the occasional hockey/baseball match he encountered really didn’t hold his interest… Not really a surprise since he knew Carter was out there without him watching her six –and how did he like *that*!– and she really could get into a lot of trouble.

He stopped pacing the small space and flopped down onto the small couch. Even Carter didn’t know how they’d manage to pull this one out. He knew without a doubt that their situation was really serious this time. Basically, they had to start making a living here as soon as possible or they would end up merely surviving and increasing the risk of drawing attention to themselves. His old special forces training had kicked in, and she had seemed to acknowledge the urgency of their physical and material situation. She was probably already wracking her brain to find a means to get them out of there, but she had already admitted defeat, and Carter was not one to do that easily.

Rushed footsteps on the side of the trailer interrupted his musings. The door opened slowly and she entered.

He came to his feet in an instant. “Well?” he asked.

“I got CAD 20,000,” she said, a bit out of breath.

“That’s what she’s getting a month?!” he asked, bewildered.

“A week…” she replied.

He collapsed back down on the couch.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said, taking a seat herself. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw what the accountant had written on the check. I almost betrayed myself when I reminded him I only needed the advance for a week.”

“God! When you think we’re risking our necks every day for what we’re getting paid! This is…”

“This is Hollywood, Sir… Or their version of it, at least,” she interrupted.

“Okay, well, that’s our luck, anyway. CAD 20,000 should help us get the basics…”

“These are Canadian dollars, Sir, and if the exchange rate is like it is in our world, it should go down to approximately $18,000.”

“Still good…” He paused. “Carter, we might be on the move quite often…” he resumed in a serious tone.

“I know, Sir,” she replied, her eyes meeting his for an instant.

He gave her a half smile, his hand coming to rest on her shoulder for a brief moment. “We’ll leave at dawn tomorrow, for better or for worse…” he concluded.

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The night sky was slowly being replaced by the whiteness of dawn. Sam quickly entered the trailer with a set of clothes hanging from her arm.

“Sir?” she asked softly.

“In here, Carter,” came his muffled voice as he donned a large sweatshirt. “Boy! Either this guy has a taste for large clothes, or he’s fatter than I am! I look like a complete clown!”

She couldn’t prevent the small giggle that escaped her throat as she saw his attire.

“What did you get?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I borrowed her clothes, too,” she said, showing the bundle she had carried in.

“The sooner we get new ones for us, the better. I understand his need for privacy, if that’s what he’s getting at wearing these clothes,” he said, gesturing at the too large jeans and top; “but quite frankly, I’d be more comfortable in dress blues, and that’s saying a lot!” he concluded, slightly aggravated.

“I’ll go change, Sir, then we’ll head out. If we want to get a ride downtown, it might take us some time, and I don’t think you’d want to stop a bus, on the highway this time, Sir,” she smirked, clearly stressing the reference to their trip in the past.

“Carter?” he warned jokingly.

She went to change quickly and joined him as he was cleaning the last remnants of their stay in the trailer.

“You took care of the fingerprints in her trailer?” he asked.

“No need to, Sir… We probably have the same… We probably messed around a lot more in this trailer. Did you check that everything was back in order?”

“The best I could. We didn’t use the sheets, so I remade the bed completely, and I emptied the trash into a container outside. Aside from his clothes, nothing should look amiss…

“You think we should leave a note? I mean about the clothes?”

“Negative, Carter. We’ll return them as soon as we can, and that’s enough. You got everything printed out?”

“Yes.”

“So, let’s recap a little. We go downtown and cash the check, then we go to a motel for a while and do some research to decide where we go next…”

“Whatever we decide, I think it’s better if we end up in a small or rural state in the US, Sir. For one thing, we’re more familiar with the American territory, even in this world, and second, I created American ID’s. Even if the controls are tight at the frontier, with what I got us, we should get in without too much trouble,” she affirmed.

“That will have to do, Carter,” he smiled. “And don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll sort it out,” he added with a meaningful look.

“I know, Sir. The question is, will they be able to do anything about it, and if they do, when?” she replied.

“Well, like I said, Carter, we got in, there’s got to be a way to get out…” he said with force.

She smiled. “Yes, Sir.” She opened the door of the trailer. “Shall we?”

“After you, Colonel…”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They managed to pass the entrance guard without too much trouble: Sam talked to him as Jack snuck behind; then they started hitchhiking in the hopes of reaching the center of Vancouver.

Surprisingly to them, the first driver that came by was willing to take them “even to the moon!”
They understood the reason soon enough…

“My daughter won’t believe I had Amanda Tapping/Lt. Colonel Sam Carter in my car!” the man said enthusiastically. “And when I tell my wife MacGyver/Jack O'Neill was sitting right next to me, she’ll have a fit!”

Jack frowned.

“Oh, Amanda –I can call you Amanda, right? You wouldn’t mind signing me an autograph?” the man said, trying to reach for a piece of paper in the glove compartment while still driving.

“Hey!” Jack said, grabbing the steering wheel as the car lurched to the right.

“Sorry,” the man blushed. “You’ll sign it too, right?” he grinned at Jack, giving the crumpled piece of paper to Sam.

She took it cautiously: it looked like a candy bar wrapper.

“Oh, I don’t have a pen! Would you mind checking in there, Richard?” the man added, gesturing for Jack to check the side compartments.

Reluctantly, Jack fished inside the door compartment and finally extracted a sticky pencil that he gave to Sam.

At a loss, Sam asked. “Er, what should I write?”

“Oh! Er, ‘to Sonia, Sam and Jack forever,’ and you’ll both sign? My daughter’s nuts with the Sam and Jack dynamic. You’re doing great, you know? The attraction is there; we can feel it, but always on the edge of the razor, huh? Mustn’t be too hard to play, seeing as you both have a great chemistry in real life… I mean I’m not suggesting anything or whatever… I know you both have your personal lives packed, and I’m… I’m rambling, and I really, really shouldn’t talk to you about that, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “But really, when I saw you both hitchhiking on the side of the road, I couldn’t believe my luck… Oh, Richard, I know you travel a lot, aren’t the trips too tiring? I’m a huge fan of Stargate, you know! Have you heard of Gateworld? That’s where fans fish for the most detailed and recent information, you know… it’s a great source…” the man continued blabbering for long minutes, not paying attention to the pained faces of his passengers until they finally reached a busy street downtown, where Jack urged him to stop.

“Look, pal, this is very entertaining, but the place we need to go is not far from here,” he said, putting his hand on the man’s arm gently.

“Oh, okay,” the man said apologetically. “I know I’m babbling; it’s just… we’re all huge fans of the show, the whole family watches…”

Jack forced a smile. “That’s nice, thanks…” he said, reaching for the door handle.

“We’ll go by foot from here, thanks,” Sam added as she opened her door in turn.

“You can call me anytime if you need a ride! I’ll be happy to oblige! I’m Paul, by the way. I live just outside Vancouver in a nice suburb. I know you’re very busy, but if you ever have a few minutes, please come by and visit!” he finally concluded, giving them a business card.

Jack and Sam forced smiles for Paul as he started the car down the road again. Jack suddenly waved frantically for him to look at the road instead of them as Paul barely avoided a nasty accident.

“You think our insurance would work here, Carter?” Jack murmured as he watched the car pick up speed, glad he was still in one piece and not in that car anymore.

“Well, apparently we’re huge hits here!” Sam snorted.

“Jack and Sam forever?” he smirked.

“Kind of uncomfortable, Sir,” she said, embarrassed.

A shadow briefly passed over his face before he resumed. “Okay, now what?”

“I figure we try the first bank we come across?” she suggested, shrugging.

“I’ll wait for you outside, then. I wouldn’t want our counterparts to experience more gossip than they must usually get because of our little stunt here…

They started walking down the street until they reached a shopping area and spotted a bank.

Sam entered as Jack waited outside with their few belongings: i.e. mainly their BDUs and what they had kept from the set. He wandered by the various shops there, trying to gather information while Sam tried to get them some cash from the paycheck.

Fifteen minutes turned to thirty, then to forty five. Jack started worrying until he finally saw Sam come out of the bank with a smile on her face.

“So?” he simply asked.

“Mission accomplished, Sir,” she said with a smile. “I think we should go somewhere private, Sir,” she concluded with an uneasy smile.

“Gotcha… motel?”

“That would be nice, Sir,” she nodded.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

2006-Part 4


Jack, wearing a new cap, entered the Motel 6 room with a couple of full and rather heavy bags.

“Hungry?” he asked with a smile, extracting several smaller bags from a larger one.

“Famished, actually!” she smiled, standing up to select a sandwich after rummaging a little in the small bags. “What did you get?”

“For one, I got us some clothes. I hope those will fit,” he said, tossing her a couple of pairs of jeans. “I wasn’t sure about the size, so I had to trust my gut,” he said. “I also got you tops, but for the underwear, well… er… you’ll have to do that on your own, Carter,” he smiled uneasily.

“Thanks, I will,” she beamed.

“I also got several maps of Canada and the Northern US… and last, but not least… I got you…” he fished inside the biggest bag and retrieved a computer case, “…a laptop…”

“Sir! That’s too extravagant! We need to be frugal with our money; remember that we have two plane tickets to buy before we run out of that money!” she exclaimed.

“Relax, Carter… It was a good bargain, and really, we need a computer and your skills to make this work. I’m not as savvy as you are computer-wise, but I guess this one has everything we need for the moment. We need to decide on a remote — but not too remote — location to settle down a while, plus at least one of us should secure a job beforehand; the other can find one when we get there.”

She looked thoughtful for an instant, then nodded. “You’re right, Sir… I’m sorry, it’s just that right now, we don’t have much, and I figure we need to live on that for at least two to three months. Let’s plan for the worst, and if we get the best, then that’ll only mean we’ll be able to reimburse the money that much faster. I am adamant, Sir. We must send the money back.”

“In times of war, Carter…” he started, but she cut him off.

“This is not a war, Sir.”

He sighed and finished unpacking the bags. “Let’s get started…”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They worked on their plans all day. At some point during the afternoon, Sam went out and bought several items for herself. The clothes Jack had gotten her fit almost perfectly, and she wondered briefly just how much Jack had been observing her. Deep inside, it pleased her that he had. On the outside, though, she would never admit to it.

When she came back from her brief shopping spree, she found him gently snoring on one of the beds. The TV was on in the background, and he was sprawled on top of the bedspread, his large, long frame almost covering the entire bed.

She smiled and coughed discreetly to announce her presence.

He sat up, startled, and looked confused for a moment before obviously remembering where he was.

“Oh, Carter… Found what you were looking for?” he asked in a hoarse voice.

“Yes… Did you contact the real estate agencies?”

“Yeah, one of them,” He stood and went to pick up a notepad off the table, “but there’s more…”

“Oh?” she said, putting down her bags on the other bed.

“I called Rutland Airport in Vermont. It’s a small regional airport, and they said their main carrier, CommuteAir, might have a position for me,” he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“Really?!” she beamed.

“They’re looking for experienced pilots. My credentials impressed them… thanks for keeping that in my history!” he winked.

She snorted. “So we’ll settle in Rutland?” she asked, flopping down onto the bed.

“I’m not sure we should decide on a place to settle yet,” he said thoughtfully, “at least not until you’ve found something to do. I made an interesting discovery, though.”

“Oh?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

“IBM has its home base in Essex, Vermont… Could be what you’re looking for.”

She frowned. “Don’t you think it might be too… obvious?” she hesitated.

“Carter, we’re not in enemy territory; we’re not terrorists, we’re trying to mingle,” he said, gesturing wildly with his hands.

“With fake IDs?” she smirked.

“Give yourself credit, Carter. I’m sure we’ll be okay, at least for the time being,” he said with confidence.

“We have no choice anyway… So what do we do next?” she asked, getting back to the main subject.

“I suggest we first take a plane to Burlington. Once there, we rent a car and get a motel room. Then I’ll call Rutland Airport, and hopefully they’ll want to see me for an interview. They said they’d expect me. While I go there, you can start checking out job offers that might suit you. We can stay in Rutland if you don’t find anything right away, so as to spare some expenses. I figure we’re gonna have to buy a car pretty soon, though. When you find a job, we’ll look for another car and then a more permanent place to stay. The real estate agency that I called said they would look for apartments and houses for rent and give me a list when I call back. They have holiday rentals, something we could go for since it means everything will be already furnished. Even if we don’t know exactly how long we’re gonna stay, that’s a ‘temporary’ that’s more acceptable than a motel.”

“Good idea,” she nodded.

“You get everything you wanted?”

“Huh?” she asked, not understanding.

“When you went out…”

“Oh! Yes, thank you, Sir!” she smiled. “Have you made the airline reservations yet?”

“Nope… Was waiting for you to listen to my plans first…”

“Then I’ll make them then, Sir,” she said, standing up and reaching for the phone.

He inwardly cringed at her use of his title again. As he watched her book their flight for Burlington, Vermont, he continued to ponder their situation. Here they were, with no hope of getting back to their universe in the foreseeable future, and they were still acting like the perfect soldiers. Of course, he reasoned, for their sanity, it was probably better this way, and without their training in adapting to every type of situation, they wouldn’t have known what to do. For now, he was comfortable enough with her, but at the same time they still were both in ‘battle mode’, and the objective was what counted. But what if their estrangement from their world lasted far longer than just a few weeks? A few months? A few years? He sighed, mulling over his thoughts, and decided that for both their sakes, the sooner they were able to return to their own world, the better. Then again, this was his optimistic side talking, and Jack was not particularly an optimist.

His thoughts were interrupted by Sam hanging up the telephone. He looked at her, smiling. “So?”

“We’re booked for the day after tomorrow, departing at 1042. It’s not a direct flight, but we should be there about 2000 local time.”

“Okay, then I suggest we grab something to eat and go to bed early. I’ll ask the front desk to reserve a taxi at 0700 sharp for that day,” he said, opening the door for her to exit.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Vancouver International Airport was already bustling with travelers when they arrived, each carrying a small backpack to hold their meager possessions. Sam was a little anxious about going through customs, but they had no more problem than the average international traveler, which served to alleviate her fears a little.

Once they were finally airborne, she started breathing again.

“See? No problem, genius!” he whispered in her ear.

She rolled her eyes. “We’re not out of the woods yet, Sir,” she murmured in reply. “Once we’re truly on the other side of the border and have passed through customs there, then I’ll be relieved. Our story about losing our passports and having only an official statement from the Central Authority Administrator in lieu of the passports might get us through on this side, but I’m wary about the other side…”

…And, indeed, they were detained for several hours at South Burlington Airport, while the US government officials checked their story and identities.

Sam was a bundle of nerves, and the cool attitude of her commanding officer was even more aggravating than usual. Didn’t he realize what this could mean for them?! She had put locks and securities everywhere when she created their IDs, including traces of trips to and back from Canada, but she was not infallible, and she was not familiar with this universe’s systems. Granted, they looked similar to their own, but similar didn’t mean they were an absolute match.

“And what was it you were doing in Canada, if I may ask?” the umpteenth agent inquired, sitting down in front of them with a sigh.

Jack was finally getting really annoyed at answering that same question again and again. Sam sensed it and put her hand on his thigh, squeezing a bit, before he replied, as calmly as possible.

“We were simply visiting. We’re both starting over, and we just wanted to have an extra long vacation before working again. We were mugged, our passports, checkbooks, credit card, everything stolen, end of story… You know the procedure when that happens. Now I’m interested in a job position here in Vermont, so here we are,” he concluded.

“Still, I find it strange that you’re traveling with so much cash… $16,000, more or less…” he commented, leaving the question hanging.

Sam replied in a tired and aggravated tone. “What would you do if all your other means of payment had been stolen? Go to a bank and get cash!”

“Ah, but that’s it, you know… all your US bank accounts seem to be closed,” the agent replied with a predatory look.

“What part of ‘we’re starting over’ don’t you get?” Jack retorted. “We simply had a cash reserve in case an accident happened; it did; we took it. End of story!”

“Well, $16,000 is not much of a reserve, if you ask me… Anyway, like you yourselves said, your story is a bit strange, but my superiors cleared it. You’re free to go,” the man said before standing up. “Your belongings, or what remains of them, await you at the main office, but if you want my advice, next time you want to start over, try to be a little more on the cautious side. You’re a grown man,” he looked pointedly at Jack. “You shouldn’t be taking this young lady on such an adventure without a failsafe… Just my opinion, of course.”

“Well, that’s it, you know: you should mind your own business!” Jack was past caring about being polite. Sam’s grasp on his arm prevented him from saying much more of what was on his mind at this precise moment.

They finally exited the airport and took a cab to the University Inn & Suites, which they had booked online before taking the plane.

They reached the motel around 0200 local time. Jetlag was in their favor, but the stress of the previous hours had taken its toll on their bodies, and they collapsed on their respective beds, falling asleep in a matter of minutes.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The next day, they went in search of a cheap used car both online and then at the car dealer. Jack, being Jack, had settled on an F-150 type truck, arguing that they needed a practical car rather than a city one. Sam finally relented, acknowledging Jack’s reasons, silently promising herself that if their situation lasted long enough for her to have her own car, she’d buy one more suited to her own needs.

After grabbing a sandwich downtown, they went back to their motel, and Jack called Rutland Airport to set up his interview. He left just after noon while Sam started checking for jobs in the area.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack came back early in the evening, and if the shit-eating grin he sported was not explicit enough, the hug he gave her served to convince her he had gotten the job.

“So?” She asked smiling, “what is it they want you to do?”

“Oh, fly businessmen. The company maintains a Beechcraft 1900D, flying to northeastern and Midwestern destinations: one round trip a day, 3 days in a row, 2 days’ rest, and get this… $10,000 a month, insurance included… They’re so in need of a good pilot, they made me do a test run, and about 15 minutes into it, they told me that I had the job!”

“Oh wow!... A nice ego trip on top of it, then,” she smirked.

“Carter?” he asked, slightly annoyed.

“Sorry, Sir,” she amended. “It’s just that… IBM doesn’t have a position for me at the moment, although they seemed interested in my application. I gave them my email, but, well, you know the drill. Otherwise, there’s nothing very interesting for me to do in the area. Nevertheless, I filed an application for a teaching position at the University of Vermont in Burlington. They have an engineering/mathematical/sciences department. If I can’t work for IBM, I could still teach and maybe have a research team…” she shrugged.

“I’m sorry,” he said, sincerely.

“For what? You’re not responsible for what’s happening to us, and besides, it could be stimulating to teach,” she smiled weakly.

“It’s just that… You shouldn’t be teaching, Carter, you’re one of the greatest minds of this world…”

“Not this world, Sir,” she interrupted, “and besides, a Brigadier General should not be ferrying businessmen, either, so we’re even,” she concluded.

He sighed, looking at her, before smiling encouragingly. “Come on, Carter, let’s consider this an extended vacation!”

She snorted. “If you say so, Sir,” she conceded.

“Good… Hungry?” he asked.

“What do you suggest?” she smiled.

“There’s an Italian place a coupla hundred yards down the street. Pizza?”

“They deliver?”

“I don’t have the number, and it’s only a few hundred yards away, Carter,” he smirked.

She forced a smile but it didn’t reach her eyes. A cold blanket descended upon his heart upon witnessing her discomfort. “Carter, once again I don’t like this anymore than you do,” he growled menacingly, “but we’re in this together, whether you like it or not. If you don’t trust me a little, I guarantee our lives are gonna be far more hellish than the predicament we’re currently in!” he concluded.

Sam looked at him sharply then lowered her gaze. “It’s not you I don’t trust, Sir,” she said almost imperceptibly.

He blinked. “Look, Carter,” he sighed.

“No… don’t ‘look Carter’ me, Sir. With all due respect, how long are we going to be able to maintain professional etiquette and call each other ‘Carter’ and ‘Sir’ without hating each other for it? How long are we going to last in this universe trying to respect a certain decorum and chain of command between us? No matter what you say, Sir, you’re my commanding officer, and I’m your subordinate! Generals don’t go to restaurants alone with their subordinates!” She suddenly stopped, mortified at her outburst.

Jack was silent a moment, before standing up and coming to sit next to her on the bed.
“ For your information, Colonel, said General and subordinate are also sharing the same motel room…” he started in a soft voice.

She looked at him sharply but he smiled cockily, diffusing the tension. She chuckled.

“Sam,” he started, making her look at him again. “I don’t know where this is going to take us, but like you said back at the studios, we’re in this for the long haul.” He paused. “For now, there’s no General, no Lieutenant Colonel, only Sam and Jack, and before everything, we’re best friends, right?”

“I don’t know what we are, Jack,” she said, her throat constricted.

“We’re not facing a court martial yet, Sam; right now, we have to start living here. We’ll find a way to deal with other situations if or when we come to them,” he patted her shoulder in a friendly gesture.

“I wonder what they are doing…” she said to no one.

“Probably wracking their brains over our disappearance,” he said lightly, knowing very well what ‘they’ she was referring to. “Come on, Sam, I’m in the mood for a nice pizza…” he said, standing up and making an inviting gesture with his hand.

She stood up, too, and they headed outside.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

“Middlebury…” she said, her eyes fixated on the screen of her laptop.

“What?” he asked, raising his eyes from his newspaper.

“I think we should try and settle in Middlebury…”

Jack sat up straight and put his newspaper down before standing up and coming behind her. They had been living in the same motel room for about a week now, Jack making the commute between Rutland Airport and Burlington.

He leaned forward to look at the map she was consulting on the laptop. His proximity unsettled her in ways too good for her to think about. She cleared her throat and resumed. “I think I’m gonna take that teaching position.”

Jack sighed.

“It’s best, really,” she said before he could utter a word. “I don’t want to draw attention, and that’s what would happen eventually if I were to start working at IBM, no matter the amount of self control I could exercise,” she said calmly.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. The college replied favorably to my application. The science department is developing a little more each passing year since the environment has become a big issue. First, they wanted to see my credentials of course, and I had to rake my mind a little, not knowing exactly if what I’d set up would be plausible, but apparently they were impressive enough for them to want to see me. I’ll have several more interviews before I even know if they accept me, but they have graduate programs, and I think I could do something rather stimulating there,” she concluded with confidence.

“Okay…” he relented. “So, Middlebury?”

“It would be the ideal location, Jack,” she nodded. “Half way between Burlington and Rutland.”

“So maybe I should call back that real estate agency and ask them to concentrate their search in the Middlebury area?” he said, smiling.

“I have my first interview next week; maybe you could stop on your way in or out and check what they find? Make a first selection and then I’ll come look at those you’ve selected?” she suggested.

“Or you could come with me when I’m not working,” he replied.

“I suppose I could, yes,” she said, smiling. “Oh, on another note… I was planning on having a haircut and dye…”

He looked at her, obviously very surprised.

“I’ve gotten at least two autograph requests already,” she said, shrugging.

“Oh, that! Well, I… I think I’m going to have to wear a mustache or a beard myself, too…” he said, grimacing. “A woman literally yelled into the airport yesterday…it was… embarrassing. No matter what I said, she was convinced I was Richard Dean Anderson. Not to mention the awed looks of both flight attendants when I first flew with them. They thought I was joking when I said my name was Jack O’Neill, and I had the hardest time convincing them that, yes, I bore an amazing resemblance to the character on TV, but that I was not Air Force, and I didn’t own a cabin in Minnesota, would you believe that?! I had to lie through my teeth for that!” he said dramatically waving his hands.

Sam chuckled. “Well actually it’s not really a lie, you are not Air Force in this world, and you haven’t built a cabin in Minnesota in this world either.”

“Hey, maybe I should use that and pose for his stand-in? What do you think?” he winked, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“Oh, I’m sure we could make a lot of money, but our cover would be so blown… So, what color?” she said, fingering her blonde locks.

He sighed. “Well, you know, I kinda like it… blonde…” he grimaced. “A little darker? Not pitch black, please… Nor red…”

“I’ll see what I can do…” she smiled, pleased at his earlier compliment. “Mustache?”

“Well, it’s not as if I have many choices there; the guy is popular…”

She snorted. “Well, if he’s half as cocky as you are, no wonder!” she blushed a nice crimson. “Sorry… Sir.”

He smirked. “So I take it General Jack O'Neill is popular, too?”

Sam rolled her eyes. “I’ll never hear the end of it!” she muttered.

Jack chuckled.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They still hadn’t found a suitable place to live in the Middlebury area by the time Sam started working at the University. They had visited a lot of houses, but either they were not suited to their needs, either they were way too expensive. In the meantime, they were settling in as best they could, still living in their motel room.

Jack had grown a mustache, much to Sam’s internal chagrin, but she had to admit the salt and pepper bar above his mouth gave him a mischievous look and accentuated his dimples, and the longer hair added to a more boyish face.
On her part, she had trimmed and dyed her hair, as she had announced, and had opted for a dark blonde that was quite different from her original color, but still considered “blonde”.
They also bought a second car, Jack having asked for an advance. They were tight on money, despite having kept more than half of their initial reserve, but the second car was going to put a serious dent into it, and Jack had offered a part of his monthly income.

For convenience and safety reasons, they had decided they would only open one bank account for both of them; besides, they didn’t plan on settling permanently in the area, so it was more of a ‘war treasure’ anyway, as Jack had put it.

Sam had acquainted herself with her new surroundings and the team she was going to work with. The labs were rather well equipped, and she silently rejoiced that some of them would probably help her try a few things on her own during the late nights.

Jack was doing well, too. He was quite happy with the small team he had on board, merely one flight attendant at a time, and the plane he was piloting most of the time was easygoing and maneuverable yet reactive. Since he mostly had businessmen, and the trips didn’t last more than two hours at most, his job was relatively enjoyable and came as — finally —a welcome change from his military responsibilities. No worries about sending teams out in the unknown, no hair pulling at deciding the type of potatoes the commissary would be serving, no reports to write except the daily flight sheet.

He had just finished his day, the sun was already low, but he was not too tired. He decided to change his course a little and took a small road outside Middlebury which he had often passed by. A medium sized farm soon loomed into view. He squinted a little. Yes, there was a sign, by the fence of the main house, with “vacation rental” on it. He decided to stop and try his luck.

He parked his F150 along the fence and went to check the entrance door. No doorbell. He tried knocking, but there was no answer. He circled the house, calling. After a while a 60ish woman, red with exhaustion, came from the barns to meet him.

“Sorry, sir, the cows gave me a bit of a rough time!” she explained sheepishly, wiping her brow with her sleeve. “What can I do for you?”

“Well, I saw a sign by the main house. You rent?”

The woman’s face lit up with a huge smile. “Ah, it’s the house over there.” She indicated a smaller house a bit further up the road. “It used to be our son’s, but he’s gone West with his wife now, and we decided we could rent it. You planning on spending some time here for a vacation?”

“Well, yes and no,” Jack replied. “We just found jobs here, and we were trying to find something in between…”

“We?” the woman asked.

“Oh, er, my partner and I… Sam…”

The woman frowned. “I… er… I see… May I ask what you’re doing?” she questioned.

“I’m a pilot at Rutland Airport,” Jack smiled.

“And your… Sam, what does he do?”

“Huh?” Jack frowned. “Oh! No, Sam’s a woman! Short for Samantha!” he saw relief on the woman’s features. “She’s found a teaching position at the University of Vermont in Burlington.”

“I see,” the woman said, jovial again. “Look, my husband is out in the fields, but he should be back soon. Maybe we can share a cup of coffee while we’re waiting for him.”

“That would be nice, Ma’am, thanks… May I use your telephone? I wouldn’t want Sam to worry about me being late…”

“Sure thing! Come on in!” she beckoned, opening the entrance door.

Jack took in the nice, cozy interior. The woman preceded him to her kitchen, chatting animatedly about the warm weather for this time of year. She pointed him to her adjacent living room where he could call Sam and inform her that he would probably run a little late.

“By the way, my name is Oma!” the woman said, giving Jack a mug full of coffee. Jack did a double take but tried to hide it. If he had been superstitious, he would have taken this as a good sign!

“Jack,” he said shaking the woman’s extended hand. “So that house… how big is it?”

“Oh, it’s no palace! Two bedrooms upstairs, bathroom and facilities downstairs, a small dining room/lounge, and a shed to park the car by the house,” Oma described.

“Well, that would be perfect, actually,” Jack smiled.

Before he had time to say more, a man, probably her husband, entered the house through the utility door.

Oma stood up and presented her guest. “Jim, this is Jack. Jack, this is my husband, Jim. Jack might be interested in renting the house…” Oma started.

Jim looked at Jack a bit suspiciously. A bit uncomfortable, Jack smiled to himself.

“He’s a pilot at Rutland Airport, and his girlfriend is a teacher in Burlington,” Oma provided.

“Ah, she’s not my…” Jack started but was interrupted by Jim.

“$1000 a month,” he said gruffly.

Jack frowned.

“Take it or leave it,” Jim resumed, earning a discontented look from Oma.

“May I visit it first?” Jack asked.

Jim relaxed. “Sure. Oma, Can you show him the house while I’ll freshen up a little?”

Oma glared at him before smiling back at Jack. “Come with me, Jack,” she beckoned, heading for the door.

The house was acceptable, but it was in desperate need of small repairs here and there. The wallpaper had peeled off in some places in one of the rooms, and a few drafts needed sealing, among other things that he couldn’t probably see, but he liked the setting and, despite its faults, the house was welcoming.

“I like it, Oma…” he commented as she locked the entrance door before returning with Jack down the path to the main house.

“You do? Jim built it with his own hands, for George, our son,” she said proudly. “His wife never really quite liked it,” she resumed as a shadow crossed her plum features. “She was nice to us, but I could tell she didn’t feel at home here. She couldn’t have children due to an accident when she was younger; I understand she was depressed. My son finally found a job in Chicago and they left. They come for Thanksgiving and the main holidays, but it’s not the same…” she concluded softly.

“Oma, the house is exactly what we need, but I don’t think I can pay $1,000 for it…” Jack resumed.

“Oh, I know… I could see it on your face, and Jim pushed the price up, too… We normally rent it for $900 at high season, $800 at low season. The house is old. It needs repairs, but Jim is not as young as he used to be, and with the farm…. He can’t do the little repairs the main house needs, much less the guest house!” she smiled sadly.

“I could help him… I built a cabin in Minnesota, you know?”

“You did?”

“It was a long time ago,” Jack smiled warmly, patting Oma’s shoulder. “Do you think Jim would lower the rate if I helped him repair the small house and maybe the main one, too?”

Oma looked at him brightly. “Give me a minute with him, Jack!” she said, extending her hand for him to shake it.

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“Sam?” Jack said joyfully as he entered the motel room.

“What’s up?” she asked, raising her head above the ever switched-on laptop.

“Pack your things; we’re moving!” he announced triumphantly.

“You found a house?” she asked.

“Yeah, it’s a small guest house outside Middlebury; it took me roughly an hour to get there from Rutland, and roughly an hour to get here from there, so it’s perfect. Quiet area, nice owners; it’s on a farm.”

“Well, that’s…” Sam started, not sure she was as happy as he seemed to be.

“Normally, they rent it for the vacation only, but they agreed to rent it to us longer if we needed. I promised to help Jim, the owner, with some repairs and such, and we got down the rate to $700. I said you’d want to see it first, so if you don’t mind, we can go tomorrow; I’m not scheduled to fly until Monday. You think you can spare some time?” he asked.

“That should be possible,” she smiled.


Sam had to admit that Jack was right. The house was well oriented and the view spectacular. By the shed there was a small yard with a big oak tree under which she could picture a rocking chair in the summer time, to read outside. Despite its relative proximity to the main house, it was still isolated enough not to feel like they lived in the farm’s courtyard. It was functional, if a little old-fashioned, but Jack had promised he’d remedy the problem soon.

Jim and Oma were also nice people. Jim might have appeared a little rough around the edges, but his heart was pure gold, and Oma had composed a nice flowery/fruity basket she had deposited on the dining room table, which sent spicy aromas floating around the house.

The beds were covered by handmade quilts, no doubts Oma’s work, and there were touches of the simple country life all around the house — something Sam was not used to, but something she found enjoyable and refreshing.

As she came downstairs, Jack and Oma looked at her expectantly.

“I like it!” she beamed.

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“Sam?” Jack asked, descending the narrow stairs.

“In the kitchen!” she announced.

Jack sniffed suspiciously. It did smell good. He cautiously stepped forward and entered the kitchen, wiping his hands on a rag which Oma had provided, along with the paint-stained work overalls he was wearing. “What are you doing?” he asked jovially upon seeing her wearing an apron, and flour covering a good portion of the worktop.

“I’m baking a cake,” she announced proudly, turning to face him.

Jack couldn’t keep the huge smile off his face, and he chuckled.

“What?” she asked frowning.

He stepped forward, entering her personal space. “It’s just that you have… um…” he gestured with his hand toward a spot at the left base of her nose.

Sam self-consciously rubbed her cheek, managing to smear more flour on her nose and cheek.

Jack’s grin widened. “Let me…” he said, reaching out and gently removing the flour with his thumb. His hand lingered on her cheek for an instant and their eyes locked. Jack leaned forward slowly…

“Sam!” came Oma’s voice, and the spell was broken. Jack and Sam separated quickly as Oma entered the house. “I’ve got some fresh eggs for your…” she started to say, then turned a nice shade of red. “…Sorry!” she excused herself, realizing she had caught them in a rather intimate moment.

“Don’t be!” Sam replied hastily. “Jack was just clearing my face from unwanted flour!”

“She…uh, had plenty next to her nose,” Jack said in an embarrassed tone.

Oma smiled. “Well, I brought you fresh eggs… for your cake…”

“Thanks!” Sam beamed, taking the proffered basket and proceeding to put some on the flour-covered counter before putting the rest in the refrigerator.

Jack observed her, amused. “What did you do to Sam?” he asked Oma. “Cooking was definitely not her forte!”

“Jack!” Sam exclaimed, sending a wash cloth at him.

Jack caught the cloth before it hit him and grinned.

Oma watched the exchange with her own grin. “Well, Jack, you know she’s a teacher, but she can learn, too!”

Jack chuckled. “At any rate, it smells delicious,” he concluded, his eyes alight with joy.

Sam observed him while he engaged in idle banter with their landlady, a warm feeling invading her insides. Ever since they had come to this world, and precisely this house, she had discovered new sides to Jack O'Neill she had only barely suspected. It looked like he was enjoying the new life they had been forced into living. His job was easy to him, and she knew he enjoyed helping Jim when he was around the house. Both men had gone fishing together in a nearby pond twice already, and they appreciated and respected each other.

Jack had offered to completely renovate the guest house, much to Oma and Jim’s pleasure. So in his free time, that’s what he was doing. He had already completed her room and the bathroom, and now he was painting his room. He had fixed some leaks in the plumbing and upgraded the electrical wiring in most of the rooms, and with Jim’s help, he had even checked not only the roof of the small house, but also the roof of the main house. In short, Jack was quite the handyman, a side of him Sam hadn’t known and yet was immensely pleased to discover.

On her part, she had to admit the almost rural lifestyle they were living had its good sides. Oma had taught her the basics of baking, and even though — despite the various legends abounding at the SGC — she knew her way around a kitchen, the woman’s simple advice had helped her improve her skills, and she liked it. The lack of time and the stressful life she had back in her Colorado Springs were the main reasons for her lack of interest in cooking in general. Now that the rhythm of her life was — by far — quieter, she was discovering something her mother hadn’t really had time to teach her. She had to acknowledge Jack’s superiority when it came to preparing meat — not grilled, though — but she was proud to have a few more complex recipes on her list.

Her musings were interrupted by Jack. “What do you think, Sam?” he asked.

She frowned. “Er… what did you say?”

“I was asking if you’d like to come and share the Thanksgiving meal with us,” Oma supplied. “George and his wife will be arriving next week, and we’d be happy to share,” she said, a gentle smile gracing her rotund face.

“We wouldn’t want to intrude. Thanksgiving is about family; I…”

“And friends, Sam. Family and friends, and you are our friends,” she insisted.

“Oh! Well… In that case,” Sam acquiesced, “Yeah… Okay… You’re okay with that, Jack?” she stuttered, suddenly thinking of his presence.

“Sure am! We’ll bring the cake,” he winked at Oma, earning a playful slap from Sam.

After Oma had gone, Jack came to check more closely what Sam was doing. “So? Baking a cake?...”

“I actually like doing it; it’s kind of… relaxing…” she said, resuming what she had been doing before his interruption.

“I know what you mean,” he said, turning his back to the worktop and leaning against it. “I had forgotten what it was to do handiwork on a house!” He reached for a glass, poured water into it from the sink, and drank it in one gulp.

“I didn’t know manual labor was so appealing to you,” she said, amused.

“I did a lot of it when I was younger. Helped my Dad with the cabin, renovated the room where we were gonna put Charlie while Sara was pregnant… She was knitting, I was painting; I even tried my hand at carpentry with his first crib… Afterwards, when he was born and I was recruited for the Special Forces, I didn’t have that much time anymore,” he concluded softly, a shadow briefly darkening his features.

She smiled sympathetically.

“It was a long time ago!” he said in a lighter tone, detaching himself from the counter and standing up to his full height. “I should go back and finish painting my room; I’m tired of the sofa!” he winked. “I should be done in about half an hour. The days are shorter now, and I’d rather use natural light than electric. There’s a wine shop not far from the airport in Rutland; I’ll check it out and get a bottle or two. Knowing Oma, she won’t let us help out that much, and I don’t like going to a dinner empty handed…”

“I’ll bring the cake! You said it yourself!” she said.

“Oh, I don’t doubt your baking abilities, Carter, but that’s *your* gift, not mine!” he chuckled.

She looked at him intensely as his chuckle died by itself in his throat. “It could have been *our* gift… Not yours, nor mine… just ours…” she said softly before turning her back on him.

Jack sighed and approached her from behind, laying a hand on her shoulder. “I didn’t mean….”

“I know what you meant, Sir,” she said, not looking at him and putting emphasis on the last word in response to his ‘Carter’.

Jack said nothing. His hand lingered on her shoulder briefly, then he retraced his steps up the stairs.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

‘The pain squeezed him from inside, leaving him breathless and in a cold sweat. He tried to call out to her, but she did not reply, baking cakes in the kitchen, oblivious to his pain and his silent screams…’

Jack woke up with a start, clutching at his stomach. He took a few deep breaths. A dream, it was just a dream… But how vivid! He lay back down on his bed and attempted to recover his elusive sleep. At 0500, tired of tossing over and over, he got up and went down to the kitchen to start making coffee. He could see Jim coming from the main house, heading to the stables. Maybe he should lend him a hand… A sudden nausea prevented him from doing anything but run to the bathroom and retch acrid bile.

He went back to the kitchen and tried to calm his upset stomach. ‘Something I must have eaten…’ he thought. Deciding against coffee, he opened a cabinet and took a teabag from Sam’s reserve.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Thanksgiving was finally upon them. Jack had been busier than usual this week, having to replace the second pilot who was on sick leave, but that meant more money, and Sam was happy that their goal of reimbursing every cent of their initial “loan” from the Studio would be met sooner than expected.

She was getting ready when he came back from Rutland. She wore only her bathrobe, and had worked to make her short hair a bit puffy. She had also put on a little make up: mascara to emphasize her deep blue eyes, blush on her cheeks, and a discreet touch of lipstick.

Jack had entered the house silently as she came out of the bathroom, oblivious to his presence. Only when she heard the noise he was making did she notice he was back.
“ Oh!” she said, smiling, “the bathroom is all yours; I’ll just go and put my dress on…”

Jack knew he was staring but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the vision standing before him.

She frowned. “What?” she asked.

“Is ‘wow!’ eloquent enough?” he blurted out, swallowing audibly.

She chuckled. “Well, thanks! We’re expected by 1930… Hurry up!” she shook her head at him, as she headed for the stairs.

Jack remained transfixed in the same spot for a while after she had gone before finally heading for the bathroom.
He shed his clothes and stepped into the shower, letting the warm water massage his shoulders. Today had been a long day, but thankfully he was off the rotation for more than three days this time. He had to admit he was unusually tired, but considering the feverish atmosphere leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, he supposed it was to be expected. Stepping out of the shower, he dried himself and draped the towel around his hips. He looked at his image in the mirror and fingered the dark, thick growth barring his face.

He came out of the bathroom carrying his bundle of clothes and went up the stairs in his towel. Sam’s door was closed as he passed, headed to his own room.

His current activities here didn’t call for fancy dressing, but he had bought something a bit more classy than his usual jeans and flannel shirts for this occasion. He had even bought a tie but decided against it in the end. The white button-front shirt, open at the collar, with the dark blue blazer was enough, in his opinion. Dark grey slacks, added the final touch of elegance to his tall frame.

He exited his room and went downstairs. Sam was already there, waiting for him. He stopped in his tracks and their eyes locked.

She was wearing a long black dress with thin straps and a necklace he didn’t know she possessed. A dark shawl covered her shoulders, and her silhouette was raised a couple of inches by the elegant heels gracing her feet.

“Pardon me for saying this, but you look stunning!” he said in a breath.

His blunt statement diffused the tension a bit.

“You’re not so bad yourself!” she said appreciatively. “I must say I didn’t like the mustache that much!” she said, acknowledging his shaving of the atypical facial feature.

“It itched…” he said shrugging by means of an explanation. “Where’s the necklace from?”

“Oh!” she blushed, fingering the pearls. “Oma lent it to me for the occasion. She thought it looked gorgeous with the dress.”

“Oma helped you pick the dress?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

“You know, just because she’s over 60 and a farmer’s wife doesn’t mean that she hasn’t got taste!” she said, smiling.

“Oh, I know that she has; I’m just surprised that she went shopping with you, that’s all,” he said, shrugging. “Well?” he resumed, smiling broadly and stepping forward, offering her his arm. “Shall we?”

“Yes. Let me get my coat and the cake, and don’t forget the wine; I put the bottles under the shed to cool down a bit before we go.”

“Nice thought, thanks,” he said as he opened the front door and waited for her to join him.

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Oma and Jim’s house was warm, thanks to the big fire burning in the fireplace. They were quickly introduced to George and Amy, his wife, who already knew everything about the inhabitants of the small house.

Jack noticed Amy staring unabashedly at him while they were having drinks before dinner, and he found it a bit disquieting. At some point before they finally took their seats around the big oak table, she even murmured to her husband, eyeing him while doing so.

As they sat down to dinner, Jack was seated across from Amy and next to Sam, who was oblivious to the attention her companion was drawing.
Once the turkey was brought and served, Jack had finally had enough. He summoned every ounce of self-control and diplomacy he still possessed and spoke. “Excuse me, Amy, I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve been staring at me ever since the beginning of the evening,” he remarked with a forced smile.

George chuckled.

Jack turned his attention to the man. “Well?” he asked, slightly annoyed.

“Well, Amy thinks you’re Richard Dean Anderson in disguise…” George smiled good-naturedly.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack muttered, rolling his eyes.

Poor Amy had turned crimson, earning the hilarity and amusement of all the people seated around the table save Jack.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” she muttered, mortified. “It’s just… You look so much like him, it’s unbelievable!”

“Well, I had a mustache that I shaved just this evening…” Jack said, deciding not to be angry at the woman’s obvious infatuation with his alter-ego.

“You never thought of using this to make money?” she blurted out.

“Well, actually I did, once… but it wouldn’t have been fair to the guy, would it?” he smirked.

“I was so in love with MacGyver!” Amy resumed, obviously relieved her attitude hadn’t offended him too much.

“Who?” Jack asked.

“MacGyver, the character he portrayed back in the 80’s…” she supplied. “He made amazing things from scratch, you know!”

“I’m sorry; I probably wasn’t watching TV back then,” Jack smiled.

“Oh, but he was a real phenomenon! How could you miss him?!” Amy continued, excited.

“Amy, drop it… you’re embarrassing Jack,” George said gently upon seeing the pained look of their guest.

“I’m sorry…” Amy blushed again. “You look great… Er…” she turned crimson.

Jack smiled cockily, raising his eyebrows suggestively. “Yeah, I get that a lot!”

“Oh for crying out loud!” Sam said aloud, rolling her eyes and diffusing the rest of the tension for the evening.

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2006-part 7

Dessert had come and gone. They were all enjoying coffee, seated in the few armchairs facing the fireplace.

Oma and Jim started sharing how they met, earning a “not again, Mom!” from an amused George. Oma was actually from the city, from the nearby state of New Jersey. She had met Jim at a county fair. She proceeded to tell how the shy handsome farmer had stolen her heart by clumsily offering her a bunch of wild flowers — with the root ball still hanging from their stems. They had enjoyed each other’s company at the dance party closing the fair and hadn’t left each other ever since. Oma had learned to tend the animals and work in the fields as well as sew, quilt, and knit, even selling some of her creations when money was tight. George had been born a little over a year after their marriage, and despite liking large families, they had decided not to have any more children.

Jack and Sam were enjoying their evening immensely. They were seated in two armchairs within reaching distance, and without them even realizing it, their hands — moved by a will of their own — had crept toward one another. Jack’s thumb was absently rubbing Sam’s palm as they were both engrossed in Oma’s story.

“And so here we are…” Oma smiled, concluding her narrative. “What about you two?” she asked, looking intently at Sam and Jack. “How did you meet?”

They looked at each other, momentarily embarrassed, and their hands separated.

“We met at work…” Jack mumbled.

“At work?” Jim inquired. “You were taking a plane, Sam?”

She chuckled. “No, not really… It’s a bit complicated, but let’s say at some point we were sharing the same kind of job, and that’s how we met. Jack was my superior, and… well, at the time, there were regulations preventing us from pursuing anything unprofessional…”

“Oh? Aside from the military, I don’t know any job where you’d have to abide by such regulations!” George exclaimed, not noticing Sam’s discreet cringing.

“Well, in our job we had to,” Jack supplied gently.

“So, one day you had enough and you left?” Amy asked.

“Not really…” Sam resumed. “We had admitted to our feelings at some point, but had decided not to pursue them since it could have endangered both our positions.”

“Musta been some job!” Oma frowned.

“It was a very important job to us, yes,” Sam said.

“Not anymore, I take it,” Jim stated.

A shadow passed across Jack’s features, and he reached again for her hand, locking his eyes with hers for a brief instant. “Oh, it’s still very important, but we got kinda sidetracked,” he said softly.

“There was sort of an accident, and we were forced to leave that job,” Sam supplied.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” George said sympathetically. “But on the other hand, it drew you closer!” he concluded with a wink.

“Yeah,” Jack smiled in embarrassment. “On that note,” he continued as he stood up, re-buttoning his jacket in the process and holding his hand for Sam to take. “We’re gonna leave you guys. Thanks for the enjoyable evening!” he said warmly.

“No problem, Jack. With all you’ve done to the guesthouse, you deserved it!” Jim said, standing up as well and patting Jack’s shoulder.

They bid their goodnights to their hosts and left the warmth of the farm for the bite of the November night air.

Sam shivered slightly as she stepped outside. Jack draped his arm around her waist, drawing her body close to his. “Come on, hurry up, I don’t want you catching a cold!” he said, his breath coming out in small clouds in the moonlight.

They trotted back to the guesthouse, Jack still holding her close. When they reached the guesthouse, Jack fumbled a little with the keys before unlocking the door, then moved aside to let Sam enter. The warmth of the small living room assaulted his cheeks. Sam had shed her heels and was unbuttoning her coat, her back to him.

Jack stepped forward and gently laid his hands on her shoulders, halting her attempts to remove her coat. She stopped moving for a moment, reveling in the warmth of his touch, as he gently grasped the heavy woolen garment, lifting it from her shoulders before delicately placing it on a hanger in the hall closet. Turning back to her, it was his turn to be surprised at her proximity. She had moved into his personal space, and was staring at him intensely, the passion in her eyes nearly overwhelming him.

“Sa…” he started.

“Shh…” she cut him off, placing her finger softly on his lips in a shushing manner, taking the final step into his embrace, her front molding against his chest.

His arms reached around her automatically, and he held her in a tight yet tender embrace, his cheek coming to rest on the top of her head. He felt her move and detached himself a little from her. There she was, still staring at him with that same intensity.

She raised her hand and wrapped it around his neck, gently pulling his head down, her look not wavering. Her lips softly parted, and he put up no resistance as she drew his lips to hers in a soft kiss. His tongue lost no time in seeking hers, both meeting in a gentle, almost hesitant dance at first but soon gaining confidence and engaging in a fervent pas-de-deux. Their heavy breathing was the only obvious testimony to their increasing passion, that and the small moans and kissing noises they made.

Jack’s hand caressed down the side of her body, slipping under the hem of her dress and lifting it as he teased his fingers up her thigh and across her hip to her back, causing goose bumps in their wake. She wore no bra, his mind processed at the speed of light as his fingers encountered no barrier along the expanse of her back.

Responding to the urges that his fingers were creating throughout her body, Sam finally forced herself away from his tantalizing hips. “Bedroom!” she murmured between two kisses, the urgency of her tone a sure indication of her level of arousal, and his grew tenfold.

“Which one?” he replied with a hoarse voice.

“Yours… bed’s bigger,” she ordered, attacking the buttons of his shirt.

He hissed as he felt her lips on his collarbone, throwing his head back and closing his eyes. Then, without further ado, he swiftly picked her up and proceeded to climb the stairs.
He dumped her unceremoniously on the bed covers, frantically dropping his blazer and pulling the shirt over his head, not even bothering to undo more buttons, while she was fumbling with the back zipper of her dress, watching him undress with envy in the pale light of the night sky coming through the naked window.

Before she had time to realize it, he was kneeling on the bed in all his glory and helping her with the rebellious zipper. She took the opportunity to kiss his chest, her nose slightly tickled by the sparse hair between his nipples. She was interrupted as he finally pulled the dress over her head, but the lack of contact didn’t last long.

Jack’s talented hands were on her sides as his lips drew a fiery path from her navel to her breasts before latching onto a darker bud.

“Jack!” she moaned.

His only response was to take care of her other breast. Her fingers dug in his hair and caressed the thick, soft locks, inviting him to raise his head and meet her lips. His tongue plunged into the sweet recesses of her willing mouth, tasting her once more and learning to know her.

She could feel his arousal nesting at the apex of her thighs, powerful and ready, and it gave her a sense of elation she had seldom experienced. She was the one responsible for this, and in some ways the accomplishment was more fulfilling than anything because it was *him*, Jack O’Neill, the man she had denied herself for so long.
The flow of pent up desire and feelings she had been trying to contain during all these years had finally found an exit, and there was no stopping it. She loved this man like no one else, as cliché as that sounded, and if anything, the reverence with which he was paying his respects to her body was proof enough that the feelings were mutual.

While Sam was lost in her thoughts and sensations, Jack hadn’t lost his focus, which was to pleasure this woman to the best of his ability, and he intended to do just that. His hands reached her thighs, lightly caressing them on the outside and then the inside. Jack reveled in the tiny shivers Sam’s body was experiencing, no doubt a result of the chill from being on top of the bed as well as — he hoped — his ministrations.

He lowered his head and inhaled her musky scent, imprinting it on his sensory receptors, just like he had when he had kissed her, then he plunged, wanting to taste the fragrant nectar that was waiting for him to discover.

Sam gasped his name, already convulsing under the onslaught of physical sensations his touch was generating. He smiled smugly, earning a snort from a barely recovering Sam, before giving her another kind of kiss, eliciting yet another deep moan. His talented fingers joined his lips and tongue, expertly massaging her from inside and helping her climb the path leading to physical completion again.

“Jack,” she pleaded.

“Sam?” he replied in a low voice.

“I want you, now,” she urged, trying to pull him up.

He chuckled sexily. “All good things…” he started.

“Jack! NOW!” she ordered.

“Yes, Ma’am…” he complied, aligning his body on top of hers, and acceding to her plea.

Jack kissed Sam as she urged him forward, deepening his penetration.

“Sam,” he croaked, trying to maintain a tight control over the raging emotions elicited by the wild desires coursing his body and the impulses that dictated he let go of his restraint.

“I’m so close, Jack!” she said in a breath.

Her statement forced him to close his eyes, and he could no longer restrain the natural reflexes of his body as his hips started moving in earnest. And indeed, she must have been close because he felt her convulsing around him in a matter of seconds. And then the sweet pain he felt as her fingernails dug into his shoulders triggered his own surrender. He crashed down on her, emptying his very essence into her and hugging her forcefully, his breath coming out in short, fully sated pants.

Jack was on top of her, but she didn’t mind. If anything, he kept her warm, and she needed the contact fiercely. He made to move once his breathing was close to normal again, but she held him in place.

“Sam?” he asked.

“You keep me warm, Jack…” was all she said.

He was briefly tempted to chuckle, then he realized what she meant and it filled him with pride and joy, and he hugged her tightly yet again. “You keep me warm, too, Sam,” he murmured gently in her ear. “You have… for a very long time,” he confessed.

Tears stung her eyelids at his admission. There were no words to describe what she felt for this man, and no words were needed between them, but she said them nevertheless. “I love you…”

Jack rolled them over and kissed her hard, giving her the best reply: action.

The cool air of the room soon reminded them of their position as Sam started shivering, this time because of the temperature. Jack rolled onto his side and kissed her softly on the lips. “Now, Dr. Carter, it’s time for a shower and then… to bed!” he said playfully.

She chuckled. “Yes, Daddy!” she replied, getting off the bed and heading to her own room to fetch her bathrobe.

“So not a mental image I needed!” she heard him say. “Thanks, Sam!”

She chuckled and reappeared at the entrance of his room. He was still sprawled on top of the bed covers.

“You coming?” she asked winking.

“I said shower! Not sex! Two syllables!” he smirked, using his elbow to support him.

“Whatever,” she shrugged before going downstairs to the bathroom.

Jack frowned, raised an eyebrow, then quickly followed her.


They slept late Friday morning, not needing to go into work, and enjoyed their newfound company in more ways than one, taking their time in getting acquainted with each other’s bodies.

In the aftermath, they talked a lot — about the whys, the hows, and the wherefores that finally brought them to this blissful point in their relationship.

As the talking had continued, a question began nagging at Sam’s mind, and she finally built up the nerve to ask him.

“Jack?” she started, toying with the hairs of his chest.

“Mmm?”

“What happens when we go back?”

She felt him stiffen. “We don’t know if we’re going back, Sam, much less when…” he replied a little gruffly.

“Jack, this is putting our heads in the sand and you know it,” she admonished.

He sighed. “I know…I just…. Can we talk about it later?”

“No, I need to know now,” she said firmly.

“Need to know what?” he feigned ignorance.

“That this is not a one night stand; if it is, then, God help me, I’m out of here in the next five minutes!” she said, aggravated.

He tightened his hold on her shoulder, preventing further movement. “Not if I have anything to do with it,” he smirked, then added in a serious tone, looking her in the eyes, “We’ve been in this together since the beginning, Sam, and I intend on finishing what we’ve started.”

He felt her relax and saw a smile creeping onto her face.

“If… *When* we get back, I don’t think I can go back to the way it was. Whatever it takes. From the moment we realized we were stuck here, I knew things were gonna change anyway, and that’s often the case with our job, but this time… Even if I’d been stuck with — say Feretti — our personal relationship would have changed, too. Well, I… I probably wouldn’t have ended up in his bed nor him in mine, of that I can reassure you!” he winked, adding a bit of levity to their talk.

Her quirky smile at his comment assured her he had succeeded.

“In a dire situation, you can only expect so much from human beings. We’re not priests or nuns; we’re soldiers, and regulations be damned,” he concluded softly.

“I’m not sure I like that…” she said calmly.

“Hey, I’m not saying that we oughta lie when we get back or anything. I take full responsibility for my actions, and if I am to be court-martialed for loving you, then so be it. I wasn’t gonna stay at the SGC another year, anyway. Hammond talked about retiring, and he offered me the position in DC. I had told him I’d think about it…”

“Washington?”

“Just a thought Sam, don’t panic…” he started.

“I’m not; I just don’t see you behind a desk, that’s all…”

“I already am, behind a desk,” he remarked. He sighed. “I suppose we still have that option…”

Sam kissed his chest softly. “You’re right; we’ll deal with the situation when it happens. We always have,” she smiled before giving him a sweet peck on the lips. “Sleep?”

“You bet!” he said, burying his nose in the crook of her neck.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

‘An incredibly strong vice squeezed his insides. His organs were quickly crushed, dissolving themselves into a slimy substance as he felt his muscles burn and his bones turn to dust. He needed to breathe, but he had no lungs anymore; he wanted to scream but only silence met his decaying ears…’

Jack sat up in the bed, his body covered by cold sweat.

“Jack?” Sam mumbled.

“Yeah…” he replied in a hoarse voice.

Sam rose on her elbow. “What’s up?”

“I… I had a bad dream,” he panted. “Ow!” he screamed in pain, doubling over.

“Jack!” Sam, now fully awake, reached for him.

“God it hurts!” he croaked.

The pain subsided and he started to take deep breaths, lying on his back.

“What is it? Where do you hurt?” Sam asked, searching his tummy for signs of heat or tumor.

“I don’t know, everywhere… At first it was only in the stomach and I thought it was something I ate, but now… It’s like I’ve run a marathon and eaten rotten food…” he let out a long breath and seemed to relax a bit. “It’s… it’s gone,” he said.

“Jack, I want you to see a doctor,” she said in a worried tone.

“I don’t know, Sam. Maybe I’m just a little stressed out and tired. First, there was Thanksgiving, now the Holiday Season… I have a lot of work, and…”

“Don’t bullshit me, Jack, you’ve done worse than that back at the SGC and never experienced such crap. Your skin is on fire.” She put her hand on his forehead. “You have a fever.”

She got up and went down to the bathroom to retrieve some aspirin. She gave the two tablets to him, along with a glass of water, and he took them gratefully.

“This will help to keep the fever at bay. How long has this been going on?” she asked.

“Coupla months… maybe less… It wasn’t that painful at first, just the occasional pang in the stomach; then I’ve been having nightmares for about three weeks, almost the same ones…” he confessed.

She sighed thoughtfully. “Promise me you’ll go and see a doctor.”

“Hey,” he said, drawing her upon his chest. “I’m okay…”

“No, Jack, you’re not. You’re burning, and you hurt; you’re not ‘okay’!” she exclaimed, looking him in the eyes.

“Okay, I’ll go. I’m off the rotation in two days; I’ll go then,” he conceded.

“I’ll go with you,” she affirmed.

“As you wish, Mom…” he smirked, earning a playful slap from his companion.

“Sleep, wise ass!”

“Yup, that would be me!” he murmured, laying a kiss upon her head.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Oma had recommended him for his discretion and efficiency. Doctor Gilmore examined Jack from head to toe. He took his temperature, checked his blood pressure and heart beat, and performed a series of other tests which were starting to aggravate Jack, never one very fond of doctors and their patronizing looks.

“You can put your clothes back on, thank you.” He had concluded his examination.

Jack hopped down the examining table and grabbed his shirt. A while later, he joined Sam and the doctor in the office.

“Mr. O'Neill, I’d like you to take an MRI. Your body temperature is currently significant of a slight infection. Nothing too serious, but still it’s a bit more than average, and from what you described, I want to rule out a parasite.”

Jack internally cringed at that.

“You said besides your stomach pains, you haven’t had any digestive problem?” Dr. Gilmore asked.

“No, and the pain ceased entirely every time the attack subsided.”

“Your blood samples came back clear for infection; that’s what I don’t get. There are slight abnormalities, but nothing that could explain those intense symptoms. Dr. Carter here tells me she works at Burlington College. You could take the opportunity to schedule an MRI as soon as possible. In the meantime, I am sorry, but I’m putting you on sick leave.”

“What?” Jack exclaimed standing up.

“Considering the fact you pilot a plane, Mr. O'Neill, think of what might if you have an attack during landing or take off?” Dr. Gilmore asked him pointedly.

Jack sat back down.

“I knew you’d see my point,” Dr. Gilmore smiled.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Sam was hunched over test sheets she wasn’t even paying attention to in the small alcove that passed for her office at the university. Jack had come with her today and was to spend the entire morning at the hospital, where she had dropped him for his MRI and several other tests Dr. Gilmore had prescribed. She had her doubts. She feared the MRI would confirm them, and in that case, not only he but she was in big trouble, for she had been experiencing some diffuse muscle and stomach cramps recently.

“Dr. Carter, the spectrometer analysis of the sample shows no trace of radioactive element…” Steven Basic, one of her students, said, coming from the lab, holding the results of the aforementioned analysis.

“Huh?” she asked, not really knowing what Steven was talking about.

“The results on the sample of soil we received last week,” he clarified. “I haven’t completed the analysis, but neither the Geigermeter nor the spectrometer shows any trace of Uranium.

“Oh! Well, that’s good, Steven, thank you! When you are done, don’t forget to write down all the results and print the report. I want it as a proof our prototype decontamination sprinkler works.”

“Yes, of course!” Steven beamed.

Sam smiled back. She knew the guy had a crush on her, and he was always eager to please her, but she had noticed the sad look upon his face when Jack had come and surprised her once, taking her out to dinner on a whim and planting a big kiss on her lips before leaving the lab.

Her musings were once again interrupted, this time by the phone ringing.

“Carter?” she said in the receiver.

“Dr. Carter, Jack O'Neill would like to speak to you,” came the voice of the secretary of the University.

“Put him through, thanks,” she replied. When she heard him take the phone, she spoke, “Hey…”

“Hey,” came his soft voice.

“You’re done?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“And?”

“I don’t want to talk about it over the phone. Complicated words, ya know…” he said lightly.

A sense of dread crept up her spine. “I’ll come and get you,” she said in a voice more confident than she thought it would be.

“Okay, I’ll wait for you outside the entrance.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack hopped in Sam’s car and kissed her on the cheek.

“Where to?” she asked.

“Someplace quiet… restaurant? It’s time for lunch anyway…” Jack replied.

“Dino’s Pizza?” she suggested.

He nodded. “Sounds great, secluded booths…”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack opened the door for Sam, then proceeded to seek out a secluded table. Once they had ordered, Jack took Sam’s hand and looked her in the eyes.

“Nothing’s apparently wrong with me,” he started.

“But?” she supplied.

“But the MRI showed strange patches of cells throughout my body. It’s not cancer… It’s just as if these patches were abnormal,” he said, making quotation marks with his fingers, “and then not. One second there was nothing, the next there were dots all over my body, and then nothing again. I had a seizure while I was in the machine, a small one, but strong enough for them to see the phenomenon on a larger scale, before everything went back to normal again, like nothing had happened.”

Sam closed her eyes and sighed. “Entropic cascade failure…”

Jack nodded. “They don’t know what it was, but I suspected, yeah.” He paused. “Now, if I’m experiencing that…” he left the question hanging, raising his eyebrows.

“I have been feeling muscle and stomach cramps for some time, too. Only milder than what you seem to be experiencing.” She confirmed.

“Maybe that’s because I’m older?” he suggested.

“I don’t know; if I had the proper equipment, I’d run some tests, but…” she shook her head, powerless to do anything but acknowledge the facts.

He nodded, then asked, “Why now?”

“We must have been experiencing them at the cellular level from the beginning, but they were too diffuse for us to feel anything.”

“So let me get this straight,” he started. “At first we thought we were safe because the exact matches, Jack O'Neill and Sam Carter were actually just TV characters?”

She nodded.

“But it occurs that we’re experiencing entropic cascade failure anyway because there are in fact far more similarities between this Richard Dean Anderson guy and Jack O'Neill — me — and Amanda Tapping and Sam Carter — you — than we thought?” he asked her.

“Most probably, yeah. Exact matches would have induced a stronger reaction. The fact that we’re geographically distant from them might play some part, too…”

Jack’s hand squeezed hers. “I don’t want to go through any more tests, Sam,” he said, his eyes fixated on hers.

“Pointless,” she agreed.

“My job insurance covers my sick leave for another month and a half,; I checked with them while I was waiting for you…”

Sam shook her head. “Jack…”

“Sam, I know what this means,” he cut her off.

She looked at him sharply, pinching her lips together.

“It’s been more than six months, Sam…” he started, referring to the amount of time they had spent in this universe. “Either *they* cannot help us, or *they*’re close to finding a solution, or...”

“But we don’t have time, Jack!” she said, her voice constricted. “Not anymore!”

“Sam.”

She refused to meet his eyes.

“Sam, look at me,” he said gently, putting his index finger underneath her chin and making her look him in the eyes. “Sam, let’s go home. I’ll work with Jim as long as I can and enjoy the life we have there, with you, if you’ll let me. And we’re gonna hope for the best, okay?”

“This is so damn unfair!” she said, frustrated.

“You’re the scientist there, Sam. When has life ever been fair for us?” he smiled gently, leaning forward to lay a soft kiss on her lips.

They finished their meal, making small talk and trying to relax as much as they could, given their current situation, then Sam called the University to say she was taking the rest of the day off for personal reasons.

In the car on their way back home, they decided that she would continue her work as long as she didn’t experience strong seizures, while Jack remained at the farm. He had already called the airport, asking for a meeting with the chairman of CommuteAir.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Sam stepped into the foyer and turned to Jack as he closed the door. Their eyes locked, and he opened his arms for her. She stepped forward, crushing her face against his chest and hugging him fiercely.

“I can’t believe this is happening to us,” she murmured against his sweater. Right before Christmas to top it all…”

“It’s gonna be okay, Sam. We have come out of more serious situations; we’ll come out of this one, too, and when we do, I’ll marry you,” he said softly, kissing the top of her head.

She looked at him sharply. He was smiling that terribly sexy grin of his. “You will?” she asked, not quite trusting what her ears had just heard.

“You betcha!” he said before kissing her ravenously.

When they came up for air, Sam took his hand and caressed his knuckles. Jack did the same with her cheek, then she locked her eyes with his. “Make love to me, Jack.”

He smiled tenderly and let her pull his hand as they went up the stairs and to their room…

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

“I hate to lose you, Jack,” Ronny Norton, Chairman of CommuteAir told him with a sad face, “and I hate more the reason you are leaving. This should not be happening to someone like you,” he said. Over the course of the few months Jack O'Neill had been a member of his staff, he had developed a strong respect for the man who, besides showing an excellent mastering of the planes with which he was entrusted, was the epitome of professionalism.

“Yeah, well… lymphoma was not something I had planned, either,” Jack replied with a bitter smile.

“How much time do you have?” Ronny asked.

“They don’t really know, but for now, I’m okay. I told the farmer, our landlord, that I’d help him in the fields and with the animals as long as I could. The plus will be that I can enjoy my…” he hesitated for a slight second as to how to qualify Sam, “… er… Samantha. I can enjoy my time with Samantha,” he corrected, smiling.

“The missus?” Ronny smiled.

“Yeah,” Jack replied with a smile of his own.

Both men locked eyes, then Ronny extended his hand for Jack to shake.

“All the best, Jack,” he said softly as they both stood.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Before he even screamed, Sam knew Jack was having a seizure: she was having an attack herself at the same moment, but it was nothing compared to what Jack was experiencing, given the fetal position and the expression on his face. She could tell he was having trouble even breathing.

She tried soothing his pain, but her own pain was too much, and she remembered what Dr. Carter had told her many years ago. It was like being torn apart in a cosmic vise.

The pain subsided and Jack started relaxing, slowly stretching out his long frame atop the bed. She made a mental note that they would have to change the sheets which were now drenched with cold sweat.

“Sam…” she heard him moan.

She turned with a little effort and met his brown eyes. “What?” she asked softly.

“Promise me… promise me that if it gets too much, you’ll shoot me…”

“I can’t, Jack; I…” she started, anguished.

“Promise me…” he cut her off. “You’ll want to be dead yourself when you start experiencing the seizures,” he said in a constricted voice.

She sat upright on the bed, facing him with fury in her eyes. “And what happens if I shoot you and the next day our rescue comes?!”

“They’d be here by now. They’re never gonna come, Sam,” he said, defeated.

“Jack O'Neill, don’t talk like that!” she exclaimed vehemently. “We’ve got to hang on! They will come! Just like we came to rescue you from Edora!” The last words almost got caught in her throat, but they came out, and she was actually immensely relieved they did. For one, it was out of her chest; for two, it seemed to have caught his attention.

He looked at her sadly. Was it regret? Remorse for having had so little faith back then? He shook his head slightly, his eyes still fixated on hers, and put his hand behind her neck, pulling her on his chest. “C’mere,” he said in a strangled voice.

She hugged him fiercely, refusing to cry. If he thought she was going to let him do that to them, he was wrong.

“I’m a bastard, Sam, but I can’t help it…” he apologized. “I love you, baby,” he said, kissing her temple.

She chuckled, or was it a laugh smothered by a sob? He pushed her slightly and gently brushed the corners of her eyes.

“I got something in my eyes,” she joked sadly.

He smiled then pulled her face to his in a searing kiss. “If I ever say such bullshit again, you have my permission to kick me in the ass…”

“Oh, you can count on that twice over, Jack O’Neill; it’ll be the most liberating thing I’ve ever done! Come on,” she said, getting off the bed. “We’ve gotta change the sheets.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

“I think I know how to find them!” he exclaimed, entering the briefing room with an air of triumph.

“How can you be so sure?” General Landry asked.

Rodney McKay looked at him as if he had grown two heads. “And who’s the scientist here? If I said I know how to find them, that means I know!”

“Actually you said — and I quote — I *think* I know how to find them…” Daniel replied matter of factly.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “Okay, never try and argue with uneducated people,” he mumbled. “For one thing, we have managed to finally extrapolate the gate data from the day they disappeared, and as you are well aware, we determined that they didn’t go backwards in time, nor to another planet, but that they most likely ended up in an alternate universe.”

“Lucky guess, I’d say,” Cameron Mitchell quipped, earning a deadly glare from both McKay and Daniel.

“Well, as it happens, it’s the best hypothesis we have, and it has helped in determining how to proceed to recover your precious General O'Neill and Colonel Carter!” Rodney resumed, aggravated.

“Okay, so let’s say you’re right; how do we get to them?” General Landry asked, cutting off further squabbling. “The Quantum Mirror was effectively destroyed several years ago.”

“That’s one thing,” Daniel said. “But how do we even locate the exact reality?”

Rodney’s face fell in disgust. “Well, if you’d let me finish, you might learn something interesting!”

“Doctor McKay, if my memory serves me right, you have announced such discoveries many times in the past, and they have turned out to not draw” results,” Teal'c stated calmly.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “That was before we discovered the possibilities of the jumper!”

“What possibilities?” Landry said calmly.

“She can travel to alternate realities,” he finally blurted out.

It was as if a heavy cloud of silence had fallen upon the occupants of the room.

General Landry cleared his throat. “How do you know?”

“We discovered a library in Atlantis, with the blueprints and the technical descriptions of the jumpers. All of them are identical but one,” Rodney explained.

General Landry raised his eyebrows questioningly. “All but one?”

“Yes,” Rodney resumed. “The one you recovered from Harry Maybourne’s planet.”

“I thought it only traveled through time,” Daniel said.

“Well, the blueprints of this particular jumper say otherwise… It does travel through time but also through realities,” Rodney affirmed.

“May I ask how you expect to find that reality into which O'Neill and Colonel Carter have transported?” Teal'c inquired, raising an eyebrow.

McKay sighed and took a seat. “In each universe there is a certain vibration to the molecules pertaining to that particular universe. When Dr. Carter came into this reality, she experienced Entropic Cascade Failure because her molecules vibrated differently than the way they were supposed to vibrate in our universe, as well as entering into direct conflict with our — at the time —Major Carter’s molecules…”

“Wait!” Cameron interrupted. “If I remember correctly the reports written in that instance, the Entropic Cascade Failure was some sort of ‘out of body’ experience, and it was terribly painful, right?”

Rodney looked down.

“So what you’re saying is that if Sam and Jack encountered their alternate doubles in that reality…” Daniel continued.

“They have undoubtedly experienced such attacks and, given the time they have been there, they might be dead even as we speak,” Teal'c concluded.

A heavy silence settled.

“That’s a possibility, yes,” McKay acknowledged in a low voice.

“Let’s not think the worst,” Landry said. “What do you suggest, Doctor McKay?”

McKay sat up straighter and resumed his lecture. “Well, with the data stored in the gate’s computer, we can put the jumper in phase with the reality into which they gated. Once we get there, we can use the jumper to track down any abnormal vibration. When we find some, then it will be easy to locate and retrieve them.

“SG-1?” Landry asked, looking at the — now — three members of his flagship team. He needn’t have worried; Daniel and Teal'c had already stood and were ready to get geared up. Cameron was still sitting on his chair, though, pensive.

“Something the matter, Colonel Mitchell?” Landry asked.

“Oh, well… I was wondering: if we get Colonel Carter and General O'Neill back, the command structure will go back to what it was, and the organization of the SGC will change.

Landry smiled condescendingly. “Get your ass moving, Colonel. We have two of our people out there, and no one gets left behind. We’ll deal with the reorganization of the SGC when we’re all seated around this table, General O'Neill and Colonel Carter included.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Sam was awakened by a soft humming outside the house. She listened to it for a while. It circled the house, and she determined it was now hovering over the area of the shed.
Her heart beat rapidly and she dared not hope. Then she heard the faint voices, among which she heard the deep baritone of Teal'c and his calm way of speaking.

She stood up, wavering, and put on her bathrobe quickly. A seizure had hit them both hard not ten minutes ago, and Jack was still out because of it. She did not feel really steady on her legs, but she went downstairs nevertheless, hoping against all hope that she had not dreamt the sounds.

She switched on the light in the lounge and almost collapsed in happy sobs.

Daniel was the first to rush and hug her, and judging by the discrete smile Teal’c sported, he was happy to see her, too. Rodney McKay was there, awkwardly rocking from one foot to the other. She wasn’t sure who the fourth member of the group was.
After a bear hug from Teal’c, Sam kissed an embarrassed McKay on the cheek then extended her hand to shake that of the cocky-looking man in an SGC uniform.

“Sam, this is Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell,” Daniel introduced. “Cameron, Lt. Colonel Sam Carter…”

“Nice to see you again, Colonel,” he said with an arrogant smile.

“Likewise,” she replied, too elated to mind his manners or his words.

“Where’s Jack?” Daniel asked, concerned at the lack of his friend’s presence.

“Upstairs. We both had a seizure about fifteen minutes ago; he was still out when I came down,” she supplied. “I’m going to go check on him. There’s water in a pitcher in the fridge; help yourself.”

She went upstairs and entered the room where Jack was still recuperating from his last attack. She knelt next to him and kissed his brow. As usual after a seizure, it was hot and sweaty. “Jack?” she murmured.

He didn’t budge.

“Jack, we’re going home,” she said with a lump in her throat.

After seconds that seemed minutes to Sam, Jack finally stirred. “What?” he mumbled.

“Jack, Daniel and Teal'c are here. We’re going home!”

That totally woke Jack. “You mean...?”

“Yes,” she nodded, smiling as tears formed in her eyes. “We’re going home!”

“Help me!” he said as he battled with the tangled sheets.

Sam sat on the bed next to him and let him put his arm around her shoulders to help him stand. She gave him a worn sweater, and they both descended the stairs.

“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed upon seeing his friend.

“Daniel, Teal'c, McKay… Mitchell…” he said, acknowledging all four men.

“You know him?!” Sam asked as Jack sat down on a chair.

“Who? Mitchell? He was the one who saved our butts in Antarctica. You even visited him at the hospital, remember?

Sam frowned. “Oh… Yes, I remember now…” she smiled apologetically. “Sorry…”

Mitchell nodded.

“So nice to see you guys. Have a seat… What brings you here?” Jack smirked, earning an aggravated glare from Daniel.

“We’ve come to take you home, and we must do so quickly so that I can depart on the next flight of the Daedalus!” McKay said.

“Oh, hush, hush, little fella…” Jack quipped. “It’s the middle of the night, and before we leave, we have some important loose ends to tie up… We can leave tomorrow evening. Fair enough?” he asked, raising an eyebrow, once again in command mode.

“Er…” McKay started.

“We’ll do as you wish, General,” Mitchell cut him off, ending any protest the scientist might have had.

“Good… There’s an unoccupied bed for those of you who don’t want to rough it, and there’s also the convertible sofa…” Jack said, standing up with the help of Sam.

“There are three rooms in such a small house?” McKay asked innocently.

“Only two, but we share body heat…” Jack smirked, earning a slap from Sam as they went up the stairs.

“But, but… what about the Entropic Cascade Failure?!” Rodney asked in a frantic voice, following them up the stairs.

“Sleep, Rodney,” Sam said gently. “We’ll explain everything tomorrow…”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

No more seizures or rescue parties interrupted their night, and they all shared a copious breakfast the next morning, answering questions and asking their own.
Finally, Daniel asked the question that had been nagging at him since he had learned about the sleeping arrangements.

“So when’s the wedding?” he asked, looking pointedly at Sam, who turned a nice shade of crimson.

Jack took hold of her hand and squeezed it gently. “The answer to your underlying question, Daniel, is yes. The answer to your apparent question is that it will depend on a great many things. Any other questions will be answered privately in front of our superiors when we get back to the SGC,” he said, raising his eyebrows to emphasize his point. “Now, you guys pack up what you have and we’ll clean the house before going to say goodbye.” he said, standing up and drawing Sam with him.

“We shall endeavor to help you, O'Neill.” Teal'c said, rising from his chair and carrying the various dishes to the kitchen.

After a couple of hours, the house was clean and the cupboards emptied of the belongings they had accumulated in the months they had spent here. They had put some in a box, and they took it with them when they exited to go to the main farm.

Sam knocked on the back door and opened it, stepping into the kitchen, followed by Jack and Daniel.

“Oma?” she asked.

Daniel’s eyebrows shot up and he turned to Jack. “Oma?” he mouthed.

Jack nodded, half smiling, and shrugged.

Soon, the gentle woman made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen.

“Sam, Jack! How are you doing?! Oh, my god, Jack! You look terrible! Sam, how are you feeling, honey? Here, take a seat, you…” she then noticed Daniel standing awkwardly behind Jack.

“You have a friend?” she asked Jack, who moved forward to let Daniel pass.

“Yes, Oma, that’s why we came…” Jack said, taking a seat.

“Okay, just you wait; I’ll make coffee…” she said, starting the percolator and extracting the grounds from a cupboard above the sink.

“Oma, remember when we told you that Sam and I worked together at some point, but that an accident had forced us to leave that job?” Jack asked gently.

Oma nodded.

“Well, this is Daniel, and he’s a friend from that former job…” he introduced his companion. “Oma…”

“Oh, I’m not going to like it this!” she interrupted.

“I’m afraid not,” Sam said, laying a hand on the woman’s arm. “We’re leaving tonight, Oma. Daniel knows how to help us through our lymphoma, so we’ve got to go.”

A shadow passed over Oma’s plain features, and she looked down. “I knew this day would come,” she said softly, “but it doesn’t make it any easier,” she said, looking up again.

“We want you to have these things from us that we put in this box. Keep what you want, give what you don’t to people who might enjoy them,” Jack resumed. “We also want you to have the cars…”

“What?! No! You’ll need them; it’s…” she started.

“Oma, Daniel’s got his own transportation, and we won’t need them where we’re going, at least for now,” Sam said gently.

“You can sell them for a good price, and the money will certainly do you good,” Jack added, smiling.

“This is wrong!” Oma exclaimed.

“This is what we want, Oma,” Jack said calmly. “If we don’t make it, we know that it’s not lost. We have no real family beside you and Jim, and we want you to have those,” he concluded.

By this time, Oma’s face was covered in tears. “Jack, you are an adorable man, and I hope Sam treats you well, because you deserve it!” she said, standing up as her guests did, too, and coming to hug them. “You’ll go tell Jim?”

“Of course. You have been an anchor at a time when we were doubting a great many things, Oma. Thank you,” Sam said, hugging her friend.

They went to the barn and explained everything to Jim, who hugged them the same way his wife had previously done. Then the three of them returned to the house to prepare for their departure.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They had been back for four days now and had spent the entire time recuperating in the infirmary. Despite the frequent visits from Daniel and Teal'c and the formal visits of his once-commander-now-friend Hank Landry to bring him up to speed on current SGC business, Jack was bored. The entire time he had been in observation, he had seen Sam very little. She was in another room of the medical level, and he was not allowed to stand on his feet except when he had to go to the restroom.

Dr. Brightman wanted to play it safe, so after the initial MRI upon their return, she had scheduled two more to see if the “vibrating” patches subsided.
In fact, when she had compared Jack’s test brought with them from the alternate reality with the initial test taken after his return, the results were astoundingly different. Where the first showed multiple intermittent dots throughout Jack’s body, the second showed several large ones, but what was even more surprising was that they had almost disappeared on the second MRI taken two days after the first. Now he was awaiting the results of the third and was getting royally pissed off. He had called Hammond several times to schedule a meeting at the SGC with Hank Landry and maybe another general, as George saw fit.

“Jack?” Daniel came next to his bed. “Has the doctor cleared you? Sam’s gone to the locker room to change; she’ll be leaving in a moment…”

“Oh?” Jack asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Well, she…” he hesitated. “She received a call from Pete when she was in observation; it probably has something to do with him…”

“Oh,” was Jack’s somber reply.

At that moment, Dr. Brightman came in with a smile, telling Jack he was free to go. He lost no time and went straight for the locker rooms. He met Sam just as she was coming out.

“Jack!” she smiled. “They cleared you?”

“Yes… Going somewhere?” he asked, raising an eyebrow somberly.

Sam looked at him a little surprised. “Yes, I was just on my way to tell you I had to run an errand. Meet me at home?”

“You’re going to see Pete?” he blurted out, jealousy taking control of his mouth.

She looked surprised for an instant, then held his inquisitive eyes. “I didn’t want to alarm you…” she started.

“So we’re back to square one?” he interrupted angrily.

“No!” she replied vehemently. “Not at all! I just need to set things straight with him! What did you expect?!” she exclaimed.

“I have a meeting with Hammond and Landry to discuss my new assignment and a possible promotion in about an hour,” he announced in a low voice, anger still lacing his tone.

“An hour? But how…”

“Videoconference,” he explained. “I have to know where I stand, Sam,” he said softly, defeat already seeping through his words.

She put her finger underneath his chin and raised his head so he could look into her eyes. “Don’t you know that by now?” she said in a gentle voice. “I need to tell Pete it’s over, and I need to do it right. You wouldn’t expect anything less from me, Jack.”

Relief spread across his face like a tidal wave, and he finally smiled. “I’ll be moving to DC,” he said, almost apologetically.

“I know, Jack. We’ll work it out; we always do…” and then she gave him a ravenous kiss, right in front of the security cameras, right in front of the two SFs who happened to be in the area and were standing, agape at the public display before them, until the wisest of the two quickly ushered the second down the corridor, leaving the scene.

When Jack recovered, he smiled cockily at her. “You know you’re evil, Carter,” he murmured huskily into her ear.

She smiled broadly and pressed herself intimately to him, causing him to hiss. “I’d suggest you take a cold shower, General. You wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in that meeting now, would you?” she raised her eyebrows suggestively.

He chuckled. “Payback’s a bitch, Carter, payback’s a bitch.” He said, opening the door to the locker room as she started down the corridor to the elevator.

“I’ll hold you to your word, General!” she said over her shoulder.

As he disrobed to get that precious shower he craved, Jack mused over the events that had driven them to this point. Sure, things would not be perfect as long as he was in D.C., but at least they’d be allowed to pursue what they had started, and he intended on making Sam an honest woman as soon as his transfer was approved. Right now though, he had a difficult meeting to think about…

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Sam was waiting for him channel surfing with a half eaten pizza on the sofa next to her.

He had called a while ago to say he’d check his house and grab a few things before he came, but that was an hour and a half ago, and she wondered where he had gone.
Her musings were interrupted by the knock on her front door.

Jack was on the other side, a grin plastered on his face and a carry-on slung over his shoulder.

“Everything good?” she asked, letting him in.

“Pretty much, yes… Although I’ll get a formal reprimand for my misconduct toward a junior officer…”

“What?!” she exclaimed.

He smiled cockily. “Kidding…” he slurred.

“Well don’t! This is serious, Jack, for crying out loud!” she said indignantly.

“I could ask you the same question,” he said, putting his jacket on a hook in her foyer.

“Pete was not happy, but then he’d thought I was dead… He’d started wandering the dating scene again; nothing serious, just to keep his mind off of me…” she shrugged.

“So he didn’t take it too badly?”

“Does that really matter, Jack?” she asked tiredly.

“It does to you…” Jack said, encircling her waist with his arms. “I don’t want you to feel guilty.”

“I don’t,” she assured him. “As a matter of fact, Pete was not surprised. He was probably bitter about it, understandably… He left after about twenty minutes and asked me to send him an invitation…” she said sadly.

Jack kissed her. “Dinner?” he asked when they came up for air.

“There’s a pizza on the sofa; I can put it in the microwave if you want…”

“Don’t tell me you’ve gone back to your old patterns already, Carter!” he joked.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Your loss! Luigi’s is delicious!”

“Well, as long as I can eat! I’m hungry!”


Later, they were sitting on the sofa, cuddling in front of a TV they were not really listening to, each lost in their thoughts and content to be back into their so new yet already comfortable domestic patterns.

“Jack?” Sam asked softly.

“Mm?” he replied.

“I couldn’t help myself…” she started.

“What?” he asked, softly kissing her brow.

“I checked on the Internet… The farm…. The farm is there… But the owners are said to be a Patrick and Kathryn Stockwell… Oma and Jim Tanner don’t exist in this world…” she said sadly.

Jack held her closer. “Maybe they do…” he started softly, “just not on this plane of existence… Did you know that Daniel died again?...” he said before capturing her mouth, his hands sliding underneath her sweater.

THE END

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