LOST CITY, FOUND SOULS

Disclaimers: I don’t own anything

A/N: Although definitely not my first attempt at writing, this is my first at writing Stargate fiction. I hope I managed to sufficiently capture the show’s spirit and the essence of the characters. Not beta read, forgive my mistakes.

Copyright © Anakin David 2003

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They had found the Lost city and managed to defeat Anubis with the help of the data Colonel O’Neill had downloaded to his brain, and the overwhelming defeat of the hybrid Goa’uld seemed to have settled down the other system Lords for a while. Of course, the Tok’ra and the Asgard were still on the watch out there and alert with some other mysterious powerful threat, but as long as they were gathering information, there seemed to be no immediate danger for Earth.

The Stargate program was no more a military one, although the Air Force still controlled Cheyenne Mountain base and ensured its security. Dr. Weir was still in command so far, but every one knew she would soon be transferred to another post. General Hammond was now working close to the president. A planet-wide security program had been promptly decided amongst the 5 members of the Security Council first, before being voted at the UNO assembly. A huge international satellite program was to be launched as surveillance net around Earth and at the farthest limits of the Solar system. Enhanced by the latest discoveries the different SG teams had brought back along the previous 7 years, the satellites were to be sent to the far limits of the solar system and stay on watch for any alien intrusion. How the intrusion was to be treated in case it was unfriendly, was an entirely different matter that had yet to be debated amongst the countries, but at least, this constituted a first step toward some kind of international program to defend Earth from possible alien threats.

Two months had passed. After working over the top of their physical and intellectual capabilities for about a month, the remainder of SG-1 had been sent of forced leave, and Colonel Jack O’Neill was still frozen in his chamber back in Antarctica. Despite the many discoveries that had been made at the Ancient’s outpost, no progress has been made in trying to undo the freezing process and return the Colonel to life.

He received yet another medal as well as Major Samantha Carter. One of those pompous things held at the base, with Dress-Blues and a straight face… As a matter of fact, Teal’c and Daniel Jackson also received honorary decorations from the hands of the president himself, and with the exceptional attendance of General Hammond.

Right after that, the Asgard had finally put in an appearance and had retrieved O'Neill’s frozen chamber. Since then, no news had come from the little grey aliens. The only certainty they had was that O'Neill was in the most capable hands they knew.

But it all had a bitter taste… A terribly bitter taste.

One month. One month spent on forced downtime, for what? Mourn a friend, a C.O., a man? Bullshit! It was rather leaving the new rulers of the SGC time and freedom to rearrange things as they saw fit!

Jack O’Neill had given each member of his team, a specifically labeled manila envelope: ‘These are things I want you to have, personally’ He had explained when they were all gathered while he was putting some order into his personal things in case he did not return.

Bastard! He KNEW he wouldn’t return! He KNEW what kind of experience he was putting himself into! And he knew damn well what kind of hurricane he was putting his whole team into, too!

None of them had opened the envelopes yet. None could.

They tried to recapture the team’s spirit one night, gathering at Sam’s and watching videos eating take outs, but it hadn’t worked. In the end, they had all fell silent, each engrossed in their own thoughts and memories of Jack O’Neill. So they had decided it might be good if they went away for this short while. Teal’C returned to see Bra’Tac and his son, while Sam went to visit her brother, and Daniel went to Washington D.C. to attend an Archeologists’ seminar.

The morning that settled the end of their downtime, Sam arrived at the base first. Nothing really important seemed to have changed, except there were now two entire floors reserved to civilian personnel. Understanding the importance of military in the program, it had been decided that the civilians would only go to friendly planets, already visited and ‘secured’. Their missions mostly consisted in establishing various kinds of treaties, and developing the commercial relationships between the different worlds. Sometimes, when the situation required it, they were even allowed to set up colonies. But the changes in the program were still too fresh and no colony had been set yet.

The military kept doing what they were best at: exploring and signing strategic alliance treaties, but to Sam’s utmost dismay when she learned about it, every time some kind of mining or trading interest was uncovered by the first explorations, at least one civilian member was part of the next mission. As for the scientific research, it was now to be conducted both by the military and the civilian scientists.

She had read the new rules over and over, sometimes not believing what her eyes discovered, but she’d had a month to get used to them off base, and she had to admit: to civilian eyes, some of them made sense. All in all, Dr. Weir and her team had done a rather good job in trying to mingle civilian and military. The only question that remained was who would be commanding the military, since General Hammond wasn’t on base anymore. A temporary command had been set for now, with Col. David Martin who was, after Col. O’Neill, the highest ranked officer, and the most capable.

She took the elevator down to the military quarters, and made a bee line to the women’s locker room. Opening the door of her locker, her heart flinched severely: there was a picture of her team Cassie had taken just before her mother died. They were all gathered topside, in their military attire (Cassie had insisted), with General Hammond standing on the left, and Janet Fraiser standing on the right, next to her. When the prints had been processed, Cassie had given them all one. She knew Teal’C had had it framed and put on the wall in front of his bed, Daniel had put it in his lab, and Colonel O’Neill had it also framed and she’d seen it on the mantelpiece in his house just before…

She shut the door brusquely, leaning her forehead against the cool metal. Then she re-opened it, and watched her Commanding Officer closely. He was smiling. Something she had come to realize he had been doing less and less, at least the way he smiled on that picture. It was a happy smile that softened the lines burrowing his brow, a smile he used to give her at some point… Her eyes were beginning to sting. She sighed and closed the door, exiting the locker room to try and find her other teammates.

Teal’c was just exiting his quarters when she strolled down the corridor, and in a mute agreement, they went to Daniel’s lab.

At least, the military quarters had not been rearranged, and everything seemed to be in place, even her lab, she realized as she made a quick survey on her way to Daniel’s.

They met Daniel and decided to recap shortly the latest month’s events in their respective lives around a cup of coffee in the commissary. They were all asked to report to Dr. Weir and Col. Martin at 0900, but they still had time.

They entered the briefing room to find Col. Martin and Dr. Weir already seated. After the appropriate salutes, they each took a seat and waited.

Dr. Weir stood up and began pacing the room.

“Colonel Martin and I have several points we would like to clarify with you, and the first one is that SG1 is still the flag team of this base. As you may have read in the new rules we’ve established, there has been several changes in the organization of the base. The President remains the supreme power, but I am next, and my Second in Command, as you military would put it, is Colonel Martin.”

“If I may interrupt Madam…” Sam said “Dr. Jackson here is not military and Teal’c belongs to another world. I believe I am the only military representative here… We’ve been working alongside civilians from the beginning, we know how to deal with them. The only thing that’s really changed is the structural organization of the base…”

“Major, I wish you would let Dr. Weir finish before you make your opinion be known.” Colonel Martin interrupted sharply.

“It’s okay, colonel… Major Carter has been put through a lot of stress lately, and her position is not one to be taken lightly… About that, Major. As much as it pains me to say some part of this, since Col. O’Neill is still frozen at the Ancient’s outpost in Antarctica, you are now officially the commanding officer of SG1. I’ll leave you decide who, among the military personnel, you would want as your second in command. As you are also a highly efficient scientist, I will mostly entrust SG1 with scientific explorations, so maybe it would be wise to recruit the new member of SG1 within the military scientific community. Any question so far?”

“No, Ma’am…” Sam said a bit dully.

“Good… You will report both to me and Colonel Martin. When you’re not on a mission off world, you will continue your scientific research, and since you are the most prominent specialist of this base, it has already been decided that you will be in charge of the whole scientific research conducted in this facility. I will set up a meeting with the chief of the civilian scientific department so that you can decide how you would want to organize this with him. Dr. Anderson is in charge with the civilian scientific team, maybe you know him?”

“The name rings a bell indeed…”

“He used to be military… Major James Anderson, he worked in area 51 before…”

“Oh yes, now I remember him… In fact, he’s been involved in the Stargate program since the beginning from Area 51, right?”

“That’s why we chose him, and the fact that he was used to working with the military.”

“Good choice…”

“Thanks… Now I’ll let Colonel Martin explain more the military implications of your work…”

“First of all, Major, I have the honor and pleasure to announce you that you are to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. This will be effective tomorrow. General Hammond will hold the ceremony here.” He said with a smile. “While deciding to give you your first command, it has been put under our attention that despite saving the world several times and the tremendous work you’ve accomplished along the past 7 years, you hadn’t been promoted in a long time.”

Sam’s eyes grew wide, and a smile slowly crept upon her lips.

“Congratulations Sam!” an excited Daniel came to give her a hug, while Teal’c, discreet as ever, nodded respectfully towards her with a faint smile.

“I concur, Major Carter.”

“The ceremony will take place in the gate room tomorrow at 10.00.”

“Thank you, Sir…”

“Oh I think you highly deserve it, Major…” He concluded with a Smile.

“Now Dr. Jackson,” Dr Weir resumed, “there are several memos waiting for you in your Lab. Although the SG teams haven’t been very active lately, some of them brought back several artifacts that I think you will be interested in. When you are ready, I would like you to come to my office so that we can discuss the reinforcement of your department. I have someone in mind for your assistant, and I would like to have your opinion on that matter.”

“Department? Assistant?” Daniel asked incredulously, raising his eyebrows.

“Yes, that’s another important change in the organization of the base. Too often were you forced to abandon your research all too soon, and General Hammond himself told us that given more time and more means in that area, it would have been worth making more thorough researches. So we are currently recruiting a civilian team of expert archaeologists which you will supervise, as well as Major Carter will supervise the scientific research.”

“Wow!”

“You see, going public doesn’t only have drawbacks…” Dr. Weir smiled faintly. “We’ve had a lot of financial support from private investors, which the Army couldn’t have…”

“Now Teal’c…” Colonel Martin started.

Teal’c raised his eyebrows, thus showing his attention.

“I know this is a difficult task I’m asking you to do, because I know Jack O'Neill should have been in charge of that mission, but… well… Circumstances are different now, and I also know would he have been faced with the choice, he wouldn’t have hesitated. I want you to take charge of the settling of the Beta site. Fortunately, we managed to transfer most of what had been done on the Alpha site to the Beta site, but there are still many things that need to be decided, and you have both the trust of the rebel Jaffa and the Tok’ra. Jacob Carter will help you as well as he helped Jack.”

“I feel most honored, Colonel Martin, and I will do my utmost to complete this mission.”

“Your SG1 exploring schedule will be a bit reduced, due to the new responsibilities you all have, but once again bear in mind that SG1 is the model team we want to keep for this base, and in case your experience is needed, all the rest will become secondary.” Dr Weir resumed. “You all might as well start searching for a trusty assistant, or second, as you’d like to put it, to replace you in case. Now if there isn’t any further question, this meeting is adjourned.”

They all stood up and went about their different businesses.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Sam went over the list Colonel Martin had given her about possible 2IC for her. She was a bit anxious and was debating internally the options she had between choosing a female officer, or a male. Daniel and Teal'C were no problem and would not question her authority, but maybe a male officer would take confidence in a male environment, and would be more likely to do so.

She checked her watch for the umpteenth time… Something was amiss and she knew perfectly what: the Colonel’s interruptions… Colonel O'Neill’s interruptions… She sighed and went over the list once more. She hesitated between three names:

- Captain Siobhan Lewis, recently included in the Stargate program, Masters Degree in quantum physics, excellent military record, but rather inexperienced when it came to field, more so regarding Stargate travel.

- Major Denis Kobb, recently promoted, a short two year experience on SG12, had illustrated himself when rescuing his entire team from a huge unknown bugs’ attack on P6A 695, Masters Degree in Biochemistry, he was known for his sharp military instincts and so far his career was spotless of any inadequate military behavior.

- Captain Henry Dobson, on the Stargate program since the beginning, good field experience, praised by his former superiors, despite some tendency of disobeying orders (most of the time it had been of no serious consequences though).

These were her candidates. She took the files of the people she had selected, and asked for an interview with Colonel Martin.

“What can I do for you, Major?”

“Colonel, I’ve gone over the list of possible 2IC you gave me, and I came up with three names. I’d like you to review them, and tell me your opinion on them.”

“Okay, let me see…” he said extending his arm to take the three folders.

He looked at them for a few minutes and looked at Sam again.

“What is your best choice, Major?”

“Well they all are interesting to some degree, but I think Major Kobb is the best shot…”

“That’s what I was going to say. Good choice, Major. I will signify Major Kobb to report to you as soon as he’s back with SG3. That will be all, thank you…”

“Colonel?”

“Yes, Major?”

“Permission to speak freely, Sir?”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you have any information on who is going to take over?”

“Dr. Weir?”

“Well her and you, Sir.”

“Frankly Major, I have absolutely no clue whatsoever. I’d rather like the position myself, regarding the military command of course, but I suppose it would more likely be the place of a general, although I still report to General Hammond in D.C. Before the president, he’s my ultimate contact. Now regarding Dr. Weir, I know the same general also has his saying in that, but it’s the president who will decide in the end. From the grapevine rumor, I heard he has some names too, and if the rumor is correct, not bad ones for the survival of this facility. Dr Weir should be transferred to the New Project soon, so it shouldn’t be long before we know.”

“Thank you, Colonel. I appreciate the honesty.”

“Since we’re talking off the record here, Major, I happen to have a great deal of respect for what you’ve done over the years, and most of all, for what SG1 has accomplished under the supervision of Jack O’Neill. I know of the close relationships he maintained with his team. I am sorry it had to end up like that…”

Sam was a bit taken aback.

“Well thank you Sir… It might be foolish of me to even consider that, but I have the feeling that Colonel O'Neill will return to us soon. Although we have made no progress on our research in Antarctica,.”

“I sincerely hope you’re right, Major.” He smiled, standing up and beckoning her to the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the ceremony, right?”

“Yes, Sir. Thank you for listening, Sir.”

“You’re welcome.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They had decided to gather at Sam’s for a team night, and she was running really late. She exited her bathroom, rubbing a towel against her wet hair, and wearing a blue bathrobe, when the doorbell rang.

“Coming!” she yelled, stepping down her corridor to the entrance door.

She peeked at the peephole, checking it was indeed Daniel and Teal'C, and opened the door, letting her friends come in.

Daniel had his arms full of bags from a Chinese takeout they regularly took things from and walked to the kitchen, Teal'C being entrusted with the cake.

“Put all that on the counter, I had a long chat with Colonel Martin, I was only back 15 minutes ago. Maybe you should put the wine in the freezer so it cools down faster, it’s the Chardonnay that’s inside the door.” She said to him from the corridor. “Teal'C, maybe this cake should be better off in the fridge too… Give me ten minutes and I’ll be ready.”

“’K Sam! Take your time!” Daniel said from the kitchen.

After a while, they were all seated in Sam’s lounge, silently finishing their meals.

Daniel broke the silence first.

“So? What do you think of the changes?”

“Not as bad as I expected actually… Dr Weir has indeed tried to make the military and the civilians equal in the management of the facility, although it’s not a military command anymore…” Sam responded. “What do you think, Teal'C?”

“Although my understanding of the Tau’ri ways regarding military and civilian interaction is limited, I believe the situation has been handled in the best possible way. I hope the arrival of new people will not sabotage the work Dr. Weir accomplished with the help of General Hammond and Colonel Martin.”

“Now that’s another problem… I talked to Colonel Martin about that, and he seems to have no clue about whom it might be, either civilian or military. I wish he could stay, from the little experience I have with him, and the fact that he’s been given this transitory mission, I believe he would be the right man to replace General Hammond.”

There was a moment of silence while everybody acknowledged Sam’s words, then Daniel resumed:

“Who did you pick as your second in command, Sam?”

“Major Denis Kobb. He seems to be right for the team. I had set my selection on two other people, but one was a bit too independent, and the other one too inexperienced regarding Stargate travel.”

“Do we know him?”

“He was on SG12. I went on a mission with them once, we got on well. He’s a good soldier, intelligent and with a high sense of duty just like…” She left the name hanging, suddenly realizing she was going to say ‘Jack’.

“I see… I might as well prepare myself then.” Daniel joked.

“I don’t think you would have such a hard time with him, Daniel. His life has been far less of a roller-coaster than Colonel O'Neill’s was, and for one thing, he was never a member of the Special Forces. He was always solely with the air force.” She took a deep breath. “And to narrow the close-up even more, he’s married with three kids.”

“Wow… Definitely not a clone of Jack, then…” Daniel said.

“I miss him.” Teal'c suddenly said, surprising both his friends.

“Me too…” Daniel echoed after a short pause.

“I guess we all do…” Sam said very quietly.

“I just can’t believe…” Daniel started. “Was it like that when I ascended?”

“No, Daniel, because we knew the essence of you was still ‘alive’ somehow, somewhere, on another plane of existence, we saw it…”

“O'Neill is not dead.” Teal'c stated.

“He’s frozen, that doesn’t make him dead, but we don’t know if we’ll be able to revive him.”

“That seems to be the point, Daniel Jackson, we don’t know…”

“And this is what makes it tougher than when you ascended, Daniel. Of course we missed you, and even though neither Teal'c nor the Colonel said he had ‘seen’ you, due to past experiences, we knew there could be interaction between us…”

“I see…”

“We don’t know if the Colonel is dead or alive, or any of his whereabouts, we… We don’t know anything.” She said, almost in desperation, her eyes beginning to sting with unshed tears.

Daniel was next to her in an instant and pulled her in a comforting embrace.

“Hey, hey, hey… Shhh… He’s going to come back, you’ll see… Jack O’Neill wouldn’t leave us just like that without at least throwing one of his bad jokes, right?” he said in a soothing voice.

Sam chuckled bitterly and wiped her nose.

“Besides, I do no believe O’Neill would let you start on your first command without saying anything to you, Major Carter.” Teal'c added jokingly -- for a Jaffa.

“All right guys, there’s no need to get all sentimental here.” She sniffed. “I’ve got to put on a pretty face for tomorrow…”

“Yeah… Lieutenant-Colonel-huh?”

“Yeah… My dad would be so proud… HE would be so proud…”

“Then do him a favor and be the Sam Carter we all know… The Sam Carter he estimates and… likes very much…”

Sam smiled sadly before they stood up and both men headed back to the base.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Samantha Carter checked herself in the mirror one more time before getting her car keys and driving to the base.

After going over the latest things in her lab, she smoothed her dress uniform and slowly descended towards the gate room. When she arrived, Daniel and Teal'C were already there, talking with General Hammond.

She smiled brightly and went to salute formally the superior officer.

“Sam! Oh, loose the military salute, would you? We’re still 15 minutes away from the official ceremony!” he said enthusiastically before kissing her on both cheeks and starting a casual chat with her and the rest of SG1.

He approved of her choice regarding Major Kopp, and encouraged her to take the plunge at her first command immediately.

“I know you have the capacities, Sam.” He said as way of encouragement, patting her on the shoulder.

But all too soon, their private conversation was interrupted with the arrival of several airmen, Dr. Weir, Colonel Martin, and a few civilians she didn’t even know, and the ceremony began.

“Please all military personnel, come to attention…”

As a single man, all the SF’s, Sam, and Colonel Martin stood at attention.

“From the President of the United States, and in recognition of her work and achievements regarding the Stargate Program and all that gravitates around, it is my pleasure and honor to promote Major Samantha Carter to the well deserved rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Major please, step forward.”

Less surprised but nonetheless at least as thrilled as the last time she heard almost the same exact words, Sam did as ordered and went to stand in front of the general.

“The United States Air Force recognizes that you have taken responsibilities, accomplished works and duties with a spirit of self sacrifice that goes beyond the rank of Major. Therefore, I hereby bestow upon you the respect, the responsibilities, and the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force.”

“Thank you, Sir…” she started, but couldn’t finish her salute.

A blinding flash of light suddenly invaded the room, making everyone protect their eyes, and sending a wave of panic among the SF, then suddenly stopped. Before anyone could realize what was happening, she heard a familiar voice say:

“Well done, Colonel…”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Confusion reigned in the control room as everybody’s eyesight slowly returned to normal. A look of utter surprise drew itself on most of the audience’s faces, and General George Hammond was shaking his head slightly, a smile slowly twisting the corners of his mouth.

Samantha Carter didn’t know what noise was the most deafening: the pumping of her blood through her veins that resonated in her skull, or the smirk she had just heard, playing over and over in her brain. She dared not look up, afraid that she was having one of those post-traumatic hallucinations. She felt the hand of Daniel on her shoulder, and raised her wide opened eyes.

Colonel Jack O'Neill was standing in front of her in the same attire she he had when entering the stasis pod, his eyebrows raised, and a mischievous smile on his lips.

Not letting her realize the full significance of his sudden appearance, he went to stand at attention in front of her and saluted her, before turning to General Hammond and do the same.

“General, it’s good to be back!” he simply said stepping down the ramp to go shake hands with Teal'C and Daniel.

Not stopping a second, he resumed:

“I’d kill for a hot shower, where’s the doc so I can get cleared and cleaned?”

As he passed before Dr. Weir and Colonel Martin, he bowed his head.

“Dr. Weir, Martin…”

“Ahem Jack…?”

He was about to reach the blast doors, and turned toward General Hammond, stopping for a second.

“I’ll be staying for a while, there’s a small gathering to celebrate Colonel Carter’s promotion, I’d like you to meet me there, and I guess we’ll have a few things to discuss… You might also have to come to Washington with me.”

“Ah crap! And there I thought I could take a week’s downtime on a cool beach somewhere in the Bermudas…” he turned and resumed walking towards the corridor “… the Asgard don’t know anything about central heating, I tell ya. They claim to be advanced and so on, but they have no idea how chilly their ships can be to human bodies!” He continued his rambling in the corridor on his way to the infirmary, making General Hammond and Daniel shake their heads in amusement.

“Well… Same old, same old!” Daniel muttered.

“I must admit this side of O'Neill was not what I missed the most.” Teal'c added as playfully as he could muster.

General Hammond looked at the newly promoted colonel and patted her shoulder.

“Well Colonel Carter, it seems like we’re back on tracks!”

“Yes Sir.” She said very calmly, surprising the superior officer.

“I guess you know the way to the meeting room? Rumor says the civilian caterers are far more creative than the military ones!”

Sam smiled to him.

“Yes Sir. But before, I’d like to check on…”

“Of course, Sam.” He said with a gentle eye and a slight nod, before joining Dr Weir and Colonel Martin.

“Now that was unexpected…” Dr Weir started.

“Actually not as much as you think, but it’s a long story…” Hammond replied.

“You don’t seem to be effected…”

“I am, in a good way… I am happy that he’s back. The president had great projects for him in case he returned, and I sincerely hope he will grab the opportunity, but that’s something they will discuss in private in the Oval Office, no less.”

She hesitated before entering the Infirmary. They had to discuss and she was there to tell him she was ready whenever he was.

She stepped cautiously inside the infirmary and spotted him with a nurse taking blood samples.

“Just a minute, Colonel O'Neill, and we’re done…” she said while loosening the tourniquet. She retrieved the needle and applied some gauze, bending his arm to compress the vein. She arranged the blood samples on the tray, labeling them in the process, then turned back to him, checked the puncture, and put a Band-Aid on.

The Colonel came down the bed he was sitting on the edge of, and spotted Sam at the far side of the infirmary. He smiled warmly and stepped towards her.

“Colonel Carter…?” he said, stressing ‘Colonel’. “I’m proud of you, congratulations…!”

She smiled briefly.

“I guess we have to talk…” she said.

“Indeed we do…” he paused. “Look, I have to grab my Dress Uniform in my quarters before taking my shower; we can have a few words there if you like…

“Sure…”

They took the direction of his quarters walking silently, their arms brushing slightly from time to time.

When they reached his door, he slipped his card in the electronic lock and opened the door for her. Once inside, he beckoned her to the blank spot the security camera could not survey. Her arms reached around his body and she buried her face in his shoulder, letting her tears flow freely.

He let her cry, hugging her and softly stroking the hair at the back of her head, murmuring comforting words in a gentle voice. When her tears subsided, she sniffed loudly. He reached for a tissue in a box on his desk and let her blow her nose silently before embracing her again. She took a few seconds to calm the emotional waves that threatened to crush her insides before speaking.

“I knew we’d get you back…”

“Yeah, one doesn’t get so easily rid of Jack O'Neill!” he said smiling.

She chuckled, sniffing a little.

He looked at her face, stroking her cheek softly and tugging a lock of her blonde mane behind her ear, before bending to kiss her mouth softly, like she had on the Tel’Tac eons ago or so it seemed. She kissed him back, intensifying their exchange a little, but then stepped back looking him in the eyes.

“What are we going to do?” she asked him.

“I don’t know, Sam. To make a long story short, I have been in contact with the President and General Hammond for some days now, aboard Thor’s ship. They have projects for me, but wouldn’t discuss them before my official return, and there were still things the Asgard wanted to know about me and the Ancient’s data. That’s why it took so long. In the meantime, I have tried to analyze our personal situation, and there’s only one way we can get around the regulations, and it means resignation for at least one of us…”

“Jack I…”

“Shhh…” He interrupted her, putting one finger on her mouth. “I don’t know if I want to go on, Sam. I’m beginning to feel old and tired. You don’t need me on SG1, you’re in command now…”

“I’ll give it back to you, I don’t care…”

“Yes you do, and I want you to have it. Sam, your career is more important to me than my own. I’ve pretty much achieved all I’d have ever dreamed about regarding military accomplishments in the past seven years, and my body is beginning to show signs I should really take seriously. Sure, the Asgard and their technology put me back into shape, but I’m 52 and retirement for good is an option I do consider. And if it means we can start something together, then I have no hesitation whatsoever.” He kissed her brow then looked her in the eyes smiling. “Now go to your party, Colonel. I’ll take a shower, put in an appearance at my favorite officer’s promotion party, then go with Hammond to D.C. and we’ll talk more when I get back, OK?”

“Yes…”

They hugged again before Sam stepped back, checking her mascara in the mirror on his wall and dabbing at the black smears she had underneath her eyes with the tissue he had given her, before smiling to him one last time “It’s good to have you back, Sir…” Then she exited his office.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

In the plane taking both Hammond and O'Neill to Washington D.C., the latter slept soundly, as if relieved at last of the utterly important tasks he’d been given, he could allow his body to take a much deserved rest.

Both officers arrived in D.C., their uniforms making several heads turn back. An official car was waiting for them outside the airport, and drove them straight to the White House. They were immediately led through the corridors up to the Oval Office were the President greeted them cheerfully.

“General Hammond!” he exclaimed before shaking his hand. “… Colonel O'Neill…” he nodded respectfully before shaking his hand too. “Please gentlemen, take a seat…”

Both men sat in the comfortable armchairs in front of the desk of the president.

“Colonel O'Neill, on behalf of all the nations, let me thank you for the sacrifice you made to save Earth from a deadly attack, once more I might add…”

Jack smiled faintly, acknowledging the president’s words. “My duty, Sir…”

“Nevertheless… A duty you committed yourself to quite selflessly and that should be rewarded properly. Therefore, I have the tremendous pleasure of promoting such a fine officer to the rank of Brigadier General.”

Jack’s eyes grew wide briefly.

“There shall be an official ceremony tomorrow, where you shall receive your medal from my hands, and General Hammond here will give you your stars…”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“You’ll thank me after I finish telling you all I have to.” He smiled. “As you know, the Stargate Program has undergone severe changes while you were… Err… Out there…” he made an evasive gesture. “… And the management of this program is now both civilian and military. Now as I am certain Colonel David Martin has fully accomplished his duty, I would like you to take over command of the military side of the facility, at the same time being a very important asset and council to the Civilian Manager. You are undoubtedly the most experienced officer and I believe you’re growing a little tired with the field, but you are our privileged contact to the Asgard and several other allied races, and far too important for us to lose you. I know you’re not much friendly with ‘desk job’ but I think it’s a good compromise…” He stopped speaking and observed Jack whose face didn’t let anything transpire from his emotions.

He bowed his head thoughtfully, then sighed and looked at the President.

“Mr. President, as I fully appreciate the honors you’ve bestowed upon me, I can’t accept your offer…”

Hammond almost jumped from his chair.

“Jack! You can’t…”

Jack raised a finger towards him.

“If I may, general… Mr. President, this may appear selfish but I have given most of my adult life to the service of my country, even coming out of retirement for the Stargate Program. The latest experience has been rather tough on me, and in the few years that I still have, I would like to take care of my personal life… I guess even Thor and his buddies will understand that… Besides, I doubt my retirement would prevent him from whisking me off to his ship and ask me whatever he wants…”

“I see… Look Colonel, just don’t take hasty decisions, please? We can get to a compromise so that you accept, right?”

“With all due respect, Mr. President, the only compromise I can think of would be bending certain military regulations, and even I can’t accept that…”

“Well, what about 3 years?... 3 years and you retire?”

“It’s still a long time…”

“2 years… I think in 2 years you can very well set a nice course for the new program, and find a suitable replacement, what do you think?”

“I…”

“You’ll give me your answer tomorrow, Colonel. Please, think about it.”

Jack sighed uncomfortably.

“I will, Sir…”

“Thank you.”

Both officers stood and saluted the president, before exiting the Oval Office.

In the corridors of the White House as they walked towards the exit, Hammond put his hand amicably on Jack’s shoulder.

“Jack, I know the stakes, believe me, and I also know that you’re a man of duty. Maybe you should call her, discuss the topic with her… I’m sure she’ll understand. She’s a fine and intelligent officer, what’s 2 year’s in a man’s life?”

Jack looked him in the eyes briefly, not responding, and immersed himself in his thoughts.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

General Jack O'Neill walked heavily along the corridors of Cheyenne Mountain.

After a long discussion with Colonel Samantha Carter over the phone, he had finally accepted the post the President offered him, but he had a very heavy heart about it. They had already waited 7 years, 2 more years seemed an impossible task for him to achieve. Sam was much younger than him and the previous year’s events tended to prove that despite her acknowledged feelings towards him, she could move on. But she had been adamant about him accepting, feeling honored that he had sought her advice, and telling him they still had options they could consider regarding their relationship.

He reached the former office of General Hammond, where the sticker had been replaced and now bore his own rank and name. He put his hand on the handle, sighed, and stepped in to be welcomed by Colonel Martin.

“Sir!” he said, standing at attention and saluting him.

“At ease, David…” he said smiling faintly with no real enthusiasm. He toured the desk and went to sit on the armchair, taking in a scenery he well knew, but which was still unfamiliar from this point of view.

“Sir, all the current files are sorted by order of importance on your laptop, you have a meeting with Dr. Weir at 11.00, and a meeting with the military SG leaders is scheduled this afternoon before they go on their respective missions. I’m at your disposal if you need any further information.”

“Thank you, David, now sit down and let’s talk off the record…”

David Martin did as asked and crossed his legs casually.

“What do you want to know, Jack?”

“As I understand, you are my new second in command and sort of secretary for a while?”

“Yes.”

“So I’m gonna establish a few rules…”

“Sure.”

“First of all, I have seen the work you’ve done during the past month, and I must say I am impressed. So despite all the crap the President told me, I believe you deserved that post at least as much as me.”

“Don’t worry about it, Jack. I’m glad it’s you and not some dumb ass from the Pentagon or whoever else…”

“Thanks…” he smirked. “Anyway… If you have anything to say to me, do not hesitate. I want a real partnership here, David. Since you’re going to go in the field at the same time, you’ll be my practical conscience. Plus you have a far more diplomatic spirit than I do, and it might come in handy when dealing with the civilians, which I’ll have to do constantly.”

Colonel Martin chuckled.

“They can be tough sometimes I must admit. But if Dr. Weir’s replacement is as intelligent as she is, the task will be a hell of a lot easier than you expect, believe me.”

“All right, now that we’ve set the rules, you’re free to go and I’m free to…” he made an evasive gesture towards the computer. “Well I guess I’ll have to get used to it… Dismissed…”

Just as he was about to stand up to show the Colonel to the door, his internal line rang. He picked the receiver as his subordinate left the room.

“O'Neill?”

“Sir, it’s Lieutenant Colonel Carter, may I see you in your office?”

“Right now?”

“If it’s not too much of an imposition…”

“No, not at all… I’ll be expecting you…”

“Thank you, Sir”

A few minutes later she stepped inside his office and closed the door.

He smiled sadly at her and beckoned her to sit.

“Sorry I didn’t have time to come by and say Hello…” he said softly.

She straightened on her seat.

“Permission to speak freely, Sir…”

“Granted.”

“Jack, I have thought about this over and over… I can’t wait two more years…”

His internal world collapsed.

“That’s why I have decided that after evaluating Major Kopp’s commanding abilities, I will resign from the military and only pursue a scientific career here, in this facility…”

“Sam, I refuse to let you jeopardize your military career because of me.”

She snorted.

“My career?... What’s the point, Jack?... I’ve already achieved so much regarding this military career, I’ve just been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, for crying out loud, then what? Full bird Colonel? Brigadier General?...”

“I know the ranks, Sam… That’s not the point…”

“Yes that IS the point, Jack… At some point in my life, my career was the most important thing I had in mind, but I’m older now, I have lived thousands of things and I have met the man I want to spend as much time as I can with, only right now I can’t because of some stupid paperwork. Military wise, I’ve reached an honorable rank, and I want to fulfill other more personal desires, such as leading a normal private life.”

“I’m not sure resigning is going to be the solution, what if it didn’t work out between us? What if…”

“It’s worked out for 7 years, Jack.” She interrupted. “Sure we’ve never been intimate, and we’ve had good times and bad times along the years while working together, but what you’ve gone through, what I’ve gone through made me realize it’s time to stop walking on that path and try another. After your phone call the other day, I went to see Dr. Weir to tell her about my idea. She said she would approve my project and give her personal recommendation to her replacement. You know, basically it would only be a simple change in my status: I will no longer be military, period. But I’ll still continue working at the SGC, I’ll still go on missions with SG1, and I’ll still be the head of the scientific department, so no big change all in all… the only big change in my life will be that I’ll be free to pursue any relationship with you. Even as a member of SG1 I won’t be reporting to you, so there’s absolutely no risk of breaking any civilian/military regulation either.”

“Maybe, Sam… But the sacrifice…”

“What sacrifice, Jack?” she interrupted once more. “It really seems insignificant compared to what I can gain.”

He looked her in the eyes for the first time since she had entered his office. He observed her for a few seconds, and from the looks on her beautiful face, he knew she would not change her mind. He sighed, leaning back on his armchair toying with a pen.

“You’re sure that’s what you want?”

A smile softened her features.

“You bet!”

He smiled at last.

“I always thought I would be the one taking one step backwards when it would come to it…”

“Circumstances have changed, Jack. As a member of the military, I was able to participate in the most interesting space program ever. That was almost ten years ago, and I stuck with the military because, a- I wanted a career to impress upon my dad (still the same Oedipus complex thing…), and b- it allowed me to work on the program as thoroughly as I wanted. Today I don’t have to impress my father any further, and I can still pursue my work on the Stargate program, even as a civilian, what more could I ask?”

He let her finish with a growing admiration, his feelings of pride and affection almost making his insides burst. When had he become such a tender heart anyway? His features softened and he looked at her tenderly.

“Then who am I to deny you what you’re asking for?” he waggled his eyebrows, stressing the double meaning in his words. Suddenly a heavy weight had left his heart and he felt a new stream of energy course his body. “I still believe the Air Force will lose one of its finest officers, Colonel…”

“Oh they’ll get over it faster than you believe…” she said, standing up before giving him a formal salute. “Sir!”

“Oh, cut the crap with the salute, Sam…”

“It’s ‘Colonel Carter’, Sir and you’re stuck with my military behavior for a few months until I can ‘cut the crap’ as you put it!... Consider that to be payback for all the worries you’ve put me through along those past 7 years!” She winked.

He chuckled.

“Beware of payback’s payback, Colonel...”

“Oooh… I can’t wait!” and she was out of his office, leaving him staring into space with a dreamy look on his face.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Routine quickly took over. His task was not as boring -- for a field man -- as he had first thought it might be. He worked close to Dr. Weir to prepare the arrival of her replacement, as well as her new mission. He had to admit she had done a very good job, and he respected her a lot. He enjoyed briefing and de-briefing the SG teams, and had a close working relationship with Colonel Martin, who although a still active field man, had a propensity to write excellent reports. He delegated most of what he called the boring sides of his work to him but his subordinate seemed not to mind and most of all, never discussed any of his orders.

Dr Weir was finally replaced, and he had to get accustomed to the new civilian manager, but as well as Dr. Weir, Dr. Franklin Green was a good partner to work with. He was an astrophysicist who had based his research on wormholes theories, ignoring until recently that they were pretty accurate. For all the time Jack had been with the Asgard, he had been briefed by General Hammond about the program and what the military had achieved so far, and had worked as closely as possible with Dr. Weir too.

When he knew about it, he was very supportive of Sam’s project, happy to gain such a brilliant mind to the civilian side.

Sam was thrilled with the new organization of her department, and the first experiences at her first command. She was also involving Major Kopp a lot with the team, and Teal'C and Daniel appreciated his practical sense a lot. But Sam was worried: Major Kopp’s experience was a bit too short in her opinion, to make him the next CO of SG1. Her plan suddenly felt less brilliant and she started wondering if she would get to the end of it before the end of the two year period the president had asked Jack for.

Oblivious of her worries, Jack was slowly accustoming his mind to a possible actual relationship with Sam. It had been eight years since his separation with Sarah had been effective, and he had lived a rather celibate life ever since. He was a bit worried at the simple fact that he would have to share his life with a woman again. Would Sam want to have kids? Would HE want to have kids?... Would they start living together right away? Where would they live? His house, hers? Would they settle in a new one? So many questions that threatened to overflow his mind when he was alone and had nothing else to do…

He rubbed his tired eyes and checked his watch: 23:22. He doubted he could be any more efficient at this hour, so he saved what he had been doing to the hard drive, checked his emails one more time, and exited his office, taking a stroll down the corridors to his personal quarters, not feeling the courage to take the 20 minutes drive back to his house. He passed Sam’s lab on his way and saw that she was still there, working probably on some reports on her laptop. He observed her from the opened door smiling, and stepped inside, knocking slightly to announce his presence.

She turned toward him and smiled.

“Sir!”

“Sam, it’s past 23:00, I know there are these damn security cameras, but I’ll take the blame personally if you get to be in trouble by calling me Jack…”

She smiled warmly.

“Okay then, Jack… On your way to going to sleep?”

“Oh I guess I’m going to crash on base tonight. I don’t feel up to driving home now. You should get some rest too, you look tired.”

She sighed, taking a moment before speaking again.

“Actually ‘preoccupied’ would be a better word for it…”

“Oh?” He stepped further inside her lab and sat across a chair, resting his elbows on the back.

She sighed again.

“I’m not sure Major Kopp is up to the task of commanding a unit yet… He’s a fine officer, but his experience is not large enough in my opinion to take command of SG1…”

A shadow passed over his face.

“I see… Do you have any other military personnel in mind for that task?”

She shook her head negatively.

 “Hammond owes me big on this, maybe he can help me find someone?...”

“It would look a bit suspect…”

“What, after all I’ve done for this country, and the entire world? I’m entitled to ask for a little favor!” he said playfully.

“I don’t want you to do this. It’s wrong, it would only serve our personal interests.”

“I hate this…”

“Not as much as I do, believe me…”

“So I guess we’re in for those damn two years, then?”

“There must be another way… I promise I’ll think about it. I told you, I don’t want to wait two years. Besides, who knows you won’t be asked for two more years then?”

“Hey, they don’t own me either!”

“I know” she chuckled. “But there has to be a simple way…

“All right… If you’re optimistic about this, then I am too…” He stood up. “Now go to bed and don’t force me to make it an order.” He admonished her playfully.

She gave him one of those mischievous smiles she reserved for him before replying: “Yes, Sir!”

“I’ve never met a more stubborn woman in my entire life, I swear!” he half cried as he walked out of her lab to his quarters.

She giggled softly then switched off her laptop, and exited her lab to go to bed.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Daniel, Teal'c, and Sam were in the commissary having breakfast.

“I really don’t see where your problem is, Sam… No-one’s going to bug you for resigning for personal reasons, and then they’ll have to consider finding a suitable replacement for SG1.”

“What do you mean?”

“How long have you served the Air Force?”

“15 years.”

“I’m not familiar with military regulations there, but you could very well go on with the part of your plan where you become attached to SG1 as a civilian scientist. I mean who’s going to blame you for resigning to pursue personal matters when you’ve given 15 years of your life to the country?”

“And how do you think I could do that without having trained my replacement before?” She said unbelievingly.

“Well, how many times did Jack resign? Was there a specific schedule he had to respect before doing so? Did he have to train his replacement? You’re not irreplaceable, Sam and frankly, Teal'c and I are sick of seeing the two of you play another take at Romeo and Juliet there.”

She started at him, in disbelief.

“I believe what Daniel Jackson wants to say is that only your conscience prevents you and O'Neill from going on with what you so cleverly thought as a move of career, Colonel Carter.”

“Due to the special flag team status of SG1, the military would have to find a suitable military replacement for you on their own, Sam. You don’t need to save the base after saving the world, you know?”

“Are you saying what I think you are saying?”

“I’m saying you can be selfish for once, Sam”

“I don’t think it would be suspicious of General O'Neill to accept your resignation.”

“Oh? And what about the rumor mill?”

“Oh about that, remind me which one? That you and Jack have been fucking your brains out in every corner of the base ever since his return? Or that me and Jack have been an established couple since the first Abydos mission?”

“What?!” she said, her eyes wide as saucers.

“Believe me Sam, I’ve heard it…” he smirked. “And every time I think about it I just want to throw up. I was married and so was he for God sake, we’re flaming heterosexuals! Anyway, that’s not the point. Rumors live, and then rumors die. In such a facility, one’s bound to hear the strangest ones. But the important thing is that so far, there has never been any evidence whatsoever of you and Jack acting unprofessionally around each other. In taking your resignation and finding a replacement for you, he would act as the military commander of this base, end of story.”

“And I am sure General O'Neill is very capable of affecting whomever he thinks is worthy enough to command SG1, even without your recommendation, Colonel Carter.” Teal'C added.

“So basically what you’re saying is that we’ve been worrying our heads off for nothing for the past three months?”

“That’s a good short cut, yes…”

“Daniel, it cannot be that simple, there’s got to be something I haven’t seen!”

“Oh there is, you and Jack have both been so concerned of behaving professionally around each other, even when you kissed on the ship –- don’t even think we didn’t know! –- that you’ve totally lost focus!”

Sam was speechless.

“I can’t believe it… !”

“Well you’d better start believing it and do something about it.”

“You know what?” she said, standing up and looking at her friends. “I think you’re right…”

And she walked out of the commissary in the general direction of her lab.


:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

O'Neill was in his office, studying M.A.L.P. reports and trying to decide which SG teams under his supervision would be assigned to the different planets that were displayed. He went to the blackboard behind his desk and created five different missions, one of which involved SG1. A planet rich in ruins of all kinds: Daniel would be thrilled… he thought with a smile.

He was just about to pour himself a cup of coffee when a soft knock resonated on his door.

“Come in?”

Sam stepped inside, closing the door behind her.

“Carter?” he gestured toward the coffee pot. “’Want some coffee?”

“No thanks, Sir…” she was a tad fidgety, he noticed.

“What can I do for you?”

“Sir, I’ve just realized I’ve given 15 years of my life to the Air Force, and I believe it’s time for me to move on. Here’s my letter of resignation, Sir, taking effect as soon as you see fit within the next week…”

He looked at her with wide eyes, almost spitting out his coffee in the process.

“Carter?”

She stood still, hands crossed behind her back.

“As I told you earlier, Sir, I’d still like to continue working on the program, but out of the military. Until you find a suitable replacement for me though, I will remain the CO of SG1. I talked to Dr. Green, he wants me to stay as the head of the scientific department, and I asked him, as well as I am asking you now, to remain on SG1 for the off-world exploratory missions, but I guess that’s something you will have to discuss with him.”

He sat down, still trying to comprehend what she had just done.

“I must say this is a bit sudden, Colonel…”

“Well it just occurred to me that I had been missing the most evident solution to my problem, Sir.”

“So you simply decided to resign now?”

“That seemed the most convenient thing to do, Sir. I hope you’ll see it’s for the best.”

“If you’re sure this is the only solution…”

“I am, Sir.”

“Very well then, dismissed.”

She exited his office leaving a very confused and thoughtful Jack behind. He sat back on his chair, picking his phone.

“General O'Neill here, tell Colonel Martin to come to my office as soon as he reports back from P5L-874, thank you.”

Jack leant his elbows on his desk, burying his face in his hands, not sure of which attitude he should have: being deeply annoyed at the fact that Sam had not let him in on that sudden decision of hers before, although he had known of her intentions since she had confessed them to him, thrilled at the fact that they would therefore soon be actually free to pursue any relationship, and worried about the replacement he would have to find quickly for *his* team...

“Ahh crap!” he mumbled, sensing the first signs of a tremendous headache pump the veins of his temple. He picked his phone again, and dialed a number.

“Dr. Green?... I’d like to discuss something rather urgent with you… No, not on the phone… All right, I’ll see you in your office in 5…”

He hung up and exited his office, walking towards the civilian direction.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Several hours later, David Martin came into his office, saluting formally.

“Sir!”

“Sit down, Martin…”

The latter did as requested. O'Neill noticed he hadn’t even changed yet.

“Have you gone through the infirmary already?”

“Well your orders were to report to you as soon as I arrived, I figured…”

Jack dismissed him with the hand and began toying with a pen, his eyes riveted on his desk. He showed him a printed sheet of paper.

“David, this is a letter of resignation…”

“You’re resigning, sir?!” the Colonel exclaimed, standing up brusquely sending his chair tumbling back.

“Calm down, David. I am not the one to resign…”

“Then who?” he asked, picking up his chair and sitting back on it.

“Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter.”

A small smile crept on David Martin’s lips.

“Isn’t that a bit soon after her promotion, Sir?”

Jack sighed, leaning on the back of his armchair and looking straight into the man’s eyes.

“She said it’s for personal reasons. She wants to stay on SG1 as a civilian scientist, and with her experience and past, both Franklin Green and I think it’s not inappropriate. But a problem remains: she thinks major Kopp’s not experienced enough to take over military command of the unit, I was wondering if you had anyone in mind…”

“Major Sullivan, my 2IC…”

“How long have you known him?”

“Her… She’s been on SG5 for 3 years, but was on SG8 before. She’s a fine officer, and she’s ready to take command.”

“Of SG1?”

David Martin winced a little.

“Frankly I don’t know… It’s the flag team, and it’s gone a long way…”

Both men fell silent.

“I’ve got an idea…” Colonel Martin said after a while.

“I’m opened to all suggestions…” Jack said dismissively.

“Why don’t you give SG5 to Major Sullivan, and transfer me to SG1?”

Jack looked at his subordinate, raising an eyebrow.

“You?”

“Well I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m the oldest and most experienced field officer after you in this base. I know your team, I know how they work and how you worked together. I must admit that you’ve been a great inspiration for me in my own team, Sir.”

“Well thanks.” Jack grimaced, obviously embarrassed.

“So what do you think?”

“It could work… When did you get so bright?!” he joked.

David Martin chuckled.

“Sometimes the evidence is right under your nose and you don’t see it…”

“I’ve never been known for my sharp mind…” he mumbled. “I guess I’ll have to watch my six when you’re around in case you’d want to steal my position…” he smirked, making the Colonel smile slightly. “If you’re okay with this then I assume I should let you get away with it. We’ll have to find another replacement for SG5 but that shouldn’t be difficult, we need fresh military blood anyway, and there are several young lieutenants or captains that are a bit too eager to my taste in the offices. A field experience would do them good.”

“SG1 would be a five-man team, then…”

“There’s no established rule that SG teams must invariably be 4-man teams. On SG1, you have one Jaffa, and now not one, but two civilians, and although both are trained to military behavior, probably more than any Academy cadet, I need 2 military personnel for an exploration team such as this one, or neither Green nor even Hammond will let them go. You might as well resign too since you’d be the only military there… We’ve got to keep a semblance of military etiquette…” he said in a fake pompous tone.

“You’ve got a point…”

“See? I can be bright too! That’s why they gave me those stars…” he smirked, waggling his eyebrows.

The Colonel chuckled.

“Well if you don’t request my assistance any further, maybe I should take my turn in the infirmary and then take a shower.”

“Meet me at 10.00 tomorrow in the briefing room with SG1.”

“Yes, Sir!”

He saluted once more, and exited the office.

Jack picked his phone.

Scientific department?

“Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter please…”

She’s just gone home, Sir… Shall I pick a message?

“No… Err yes… Tell her there’s a meeting in the briefing room tomorrow 10.00, thank you.”

Very well, Sir.

“Gone home?” he questioned aloud. “What time is it?!” he checked his watch… 22:41… No wonder his stomach was growling like an enraged tiger… He shook his head.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Daniel was the first to enter the briefing room, making Jack turn swiftly from the small table at the back of the room where he was pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“Hey Danny Boy! Coffee?”

“That would be nice, thanks…”

Jack smiled and gave him the cup he’d just prepared before pouring another one.

“I hope Sam’s not in trouble…?” Daniel asked cautiously.

“Why would she be in trouble? And why would you be worried? She told you she was going to resign?”

“Actually Jack it’s… err… To be honest… It’s me and Teal'c who’ve suggested she should do it without waiting…”

Although he didn’t let anything show, he stopped briefly what he was doing before turning toward Daniel.

“I repeat Danny Boy, why should she be in trouble for that? Resigning is not a court-martialable offense as far as I know…”

What Daniel was about to say was interrupted as Colonel Martin and Sam entered, closely followed by Teal'c and Major Kopp, who closed the door.

“Sit down please.” Jack said, doing so himself.

He leant his forearms on the big table and crossed his hands, looking pensive.

After a moment of silence where nobody dared utter a single word, General Jack O'Neill stood up and started pacing in the small space behind his presidential armchair.

“As you all now know, Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter has officially resigned from the Air Force, and I have accepted it. It will be effective as soon as she leaves this facility tonight. Her new status as the head of the scientific department of this facility allows her to remain on SG1, which would bear then two civilians, one alien, and Major Kopp of the USAF. This architecture unfortunately doesn’t fit the requirements for exploratory SG teams, and I doubt Teal'c would want to be re-assigned to another SG unit. Furthermore, Major Kopp doesn’t feel up to commanding SG1. All these considered, I have decided to give SG1 a new commanding officer: Colonel David Martin. As he himself pointed out, he’s the most experienced field officer, and I believe if there’s anyone capable of catching SG1’s working spirit, then it’s him.”

He stopped speaking and observed the five people sitting in front of him. He went to sit back down in his armchair, and raised his eyebrows in a questioning look.

“Anybody has anything to say?”

“If I may, Sir” Major Kopp started. “I am proud to be serving under Colonel Martin’s orders. But as I am not he oldest member of this prestigious team, maybe my opinion is not the most relevant.”

“Daniel?”

“Well Jack I’ve been putting up with you for an eternity, I don’t think Colonel Martin will be any problem.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Daniel…” He smirked. “Teal'c?”

“Considering what I know of Colonel Martin’s record I am honored, General O'Neill.”

He barely looked at Sam before asking.

“Colonel Carter?”

“My new civilian status on the team does not give me the right to contest your decision, Sir, but since I am still technically with the Air Force and you’re asking for my opinion, I am eager to start working with Colonel Martin.”

“Just beware of working too close to him, Sam…” he mumbled not so silently, drawing a chuckle from everybody, and a mischievous wink from said lady.

He stood up, calling the meeting off by signing the assignment sheet.

“All right people, I will therefore officially publish SG1’s new status into the facility’s records. You are free to go, thank you.”

He didn’t miss Daniel’s half knowing smile and frowned playfully, at him as a means of answer, making the archaeologist slightly shake his head in amusement.

“I believe no team night is in order for right now, then.” Teal'c asked Jack as he walked them to the door.

“If that’s an attempt at a Joke, T’, then let me say it’s lame!” Jack slapped playfully the big man’s shoulder who bowed his head with what could be considered as a Jaffa’s mischievous look.”

Sam was the last to exit the room. She waited a few minutes for the corridor to be clear, and turned to Jack.

“It is up to you now, Jack…” she smiled.

“Up it is…” he replied, waggling his eyebrows.

Sam rolled her eyes at the obvious double meaning of his words and stepped toward the corridor, but he caught her arm before she went farther.

“I guess we should talk?” he asked tentatively.

“That’s a good start, General… My place 20:00? Bring the wine, red.” She said, flashing one of her beautiful smiles to him. “You don’t need to dress formal!” she said above her shoulder as she strolled down to her lab, leaving a goofily smiling Jack behind.

The day was going to be very long…

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

His big truck had an odd look behind her tiny Volvo parked in her street. He took the small bunch of flowers he had bought when selecting the wine. He was not a big connoisseur, but a trip to the vineyards of Bordeaux in France with Sara during their first year of marriage had educated him enough to be able to appreciate certain subtleties, and he was fairly certain the vintage he had chosen was a good one.

He had no precise idea on how the evening would turn out, and to be entirely honest, he was a bit nervous, feeling like a teenage boy on his first date, and that was rather unsettling. He looked at her softly illuminated windows and took a deep breath before walking to her door.

Sam heard the door bell ring as she was putting the final touch at the table. She smiled, knowing perfectly who was waiting outside, and went to open to him.

God she’s gorgeous!’ he thought, his saliva almost choking him as he tried to swallow. He couldn’t describe exactly what she was wearing, aside from the fact that it was dark pants and a tight creamy top. But what caught his eyes was the gleam in her deep blue ones, enhanced by the soft mascara he was so used to seeing on her, but which stripped from all the military regulations, held a suddenly totally different appeal to him. Her devastating smile should be forbidden, he thought. Her face was truly radiant, framed by the short strands of blonde hair, and he couldn’t remember having seen that particular glow in the entire time he had known her.

He hadn’t realized how long he had been staring at her, until she interrupted his gazing.

“Do I have a big ugly spot on my nose?” she asked, playfully.

Pulled out from his reverie, he replied softly.

“No, just stargazing…”

“Well I don’t know about you but I’m hungry and it’s getting a bit chilly out there…”

He smiled and stepped inside, giving her the flowers and the wine.

She inhaled the soft fragrance of the flowers as she walked into her kitchen to fetch a vase and put them in.

“Hung your jacket on the coat-rack, Jack!” She called from the kitchen. “And I’m afraid you’ll have to uncork the bottle if you don’t want tiny pieces of cork in your glass…”

He came into the kitchen and took the bottle from the counter while she went to put the vase at the center of the dining table.

“’Got a cork-screw?” he asked.

“Left drawer next to the stove…” she replied, putting on soft music in the stereo before returning to the kitchen.

Jack was busy uncorking the bottle until the satisfactory “plop” resonated in their ears. He smelt the opening to check it was not corked, then gave it to her so she could put it on the table.

“Maybe we should let it breathe a little…” he said following her.

“Breathe? I didn’t know wine had lungs…” she said jokingly.

“Well to reveal its most intimate qualities, a wine should be oxygenated before being served.” He replied playfully, stressing the word ‘intimate’.

She smiled brightly, a twinkle in her beautiful eyes.

“Shall I see a double meaning in that, Sir?” she asked, enjoying the sudden turn their conversation had taken.

He cast his eyes downward a brief moment. ‘Carter: 1, O'Neill: 0’ she thought as she realized she had managed to embarrass the mighty General O'Neill.

“Sam…” he eventually said, reaching out to caress her forearm.

“Why don’t you sit down on the couch while I fetch the beers? That would leave enough time for the wine to breathe…” she winked.

Jack rolled his eyes as she headed to the kitchen giggling.

“Since you’re pulling out ranks, not giggling, Colonel!” He shouted.

“Ex-!” she shouted back.

She came back a while later with the drinks and a bowl of peanuts. She put them all on the coffee table, and sat opposite him.

“So?” she asked looking straight into his eyes.

“So, what?”

“It does feel a bit weird, don’t you think?”

“Oh that it does… But when you think of it, it’s difficult to fully realize that we can do everything after not having been able to do anything for 7 years and more…” he said.

She took a swallow of her beer then looked at him again.

“I want to know where we stand, Jack…”

“Well ‘seems to me that we’re standing on the same road, at last… Unless that’s not what you think?”

“That is what I think… I just wanted to be sure you felt the same.”

They fell silent.

“Jack, neither you nor I are getting any younger…”

“So?”

“So if you want to have kids…”

“Hey, hey…” he said, standing up to join her, putting his beer next to hers.

“Sam, as much as I love kids, like you said, I am not getting any younger. If there were to be kids in my life, Hell I should be their grand-father!... But if YOU want to have kids with me, then we’ll have kids…”

She smiled affectionately at him and took his hand in her own.

“Sam, we’ve waited a very long time to simply be able to confess our feelings to each other freely. I don’t want to sound egotistical, but kids are definitely not the first concern that comes to my mind right now… I… I’m an old solitary guy, Sam… I can be a real ass sometimes, and the last thing I want to do is hurt you in any way…”

“You won’t, I’ll keep you grounded, don’t worry.”

He chuckled.

“It may appear a bit silly, but I also want to take things slow. I don’t want to mess anything up with you. My life is such a long succession of failures and I don’t want to fail you…”

“Jack, your life is also full of great accomplishments…”

“I know, but one tends to memorize the failures more easily than the successes. Experience is a harsh teacher, Sam.”

“You know what?”

“Tell me…”

“Although it’s something you would rather say to me: you’re thinking too much…”

He looked at her smiling playfully at first, then his expression changed to serious. He raised a hand to caress her cheek softly, drowning himself in her blue depths, then slowly drew her head to his.

She complied not resisting.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Their lips met. Softly at first, then encouraged by her leaning into him, he brushed his tongue against her mouth, slipping an arm around her shoulders.

Sam opened up to him, accepting him tenderly, and showing him that what they were doing was the right thing, her fingers coming to tangle with the short grey hair on the back of his neck.

He sighed in her mouth, tightening his embrace and increasing the intensity of their kiss. Sam was a great kisser, he noticed, and he hoped she derived as much pleasure from his kiss as he from hers.

She ended up their deep exchange, softly kissing his mouth several times, before drawing her head back and looking him in the eyes.

“I should check on dinner…” she said as a matter of apology. “If that’s a hint of what you brought for dessert, I’d be tempted to go for it at once though!” she winked at him before standing up swiftly and heading for her kitchen.

Jack followed her, a dreamy look on his face.

She opened her oven, took a spoon, and started basting the beef loaf and the potatoes cooking in there.

He arrived behind her and waited for her to rise back before encircling her waist and nuzzling her neck.

“So I take it Sam Carter not knowing her way around a kitchen is another legend?” He said softly, laying tender kisses on the nape of her neck.

“Well you’ll tell me when you eat it, General…”

She felt him stiffen at the mention of his rank, and turned into his embrace.

“Jack…” She said, putting a finger under his chin so that she could look him in the eyes. “Look at me…”

He did.

“It’s okay, I can call you General and you can call me Carter, or Sam, or whatever other NON-RIDICULOUS pet name you’d want to call me… And please avoid ‘Sammy’ that would make me feel like I’m 15 again…!” she concluded playfully.

He smiled and gave her a peck on the lips.

“What about Marge?”

She poked his shoulders as he tightened his embrace around her waist, laughing softly.

“Only if I get to call you Homer…” she replied.

And once again they were lost in each other’s eyes.

Jack brought a finger to her face, tracing the outlines of her lips.

“You’re so beautiful, Sam…”

She smiled and kissed him softly.

“Dinner will be ready in five, why don’t you go sit down, I’ll bring the meal, and we can eat?”

“I love you.” He blurted out, as surprised as she was that he’d said it.

She quickly regained her composure, and smiled to him before giving him a peck on the lips.

“And I love you…” she said in her turn, caressing his temple around his ear. “Now go sit down, flyboy…” She said, pushing him slightly. “… or at this rate, we’re never going to eat solid food, and I for one, am hungry for food!”

They ate dinner calmly in a joyous atmosphere, slowly relaxing and getting accustomed to being together without any pesky regulations coming in between them.

He helped her clean the table, and once the dishwasher was loaded, she offered to take coffees on the sofa.

They sat next to each other, Jack encircling her waist and drawing her body close. Sam snuggled up in his embrace, dropping her shoes and curling her legs underneath herself.

They drank their coffee in silence, enjoying their proximity and the almost instant familiarity they had found with each other, then Sam took his mug from his hand, set them both on the coffee table, and straddled his thighs, facing him.

Smiling cockily, he put his hands on her thighs as she encircled his neck loosely.

“Would you happen to have something in mind, Miss Carter?”

“You know I was in the Air Force?”

“So?”

“I was always flying back seat… I’d like to fly front seat and play with the JOYstick for a change, would you happen to know a pilot who’d do that for me?” she said, her eyes twinkling with mischief.

Jack almost chocked at the innuendo, but his thoughts were soon distracted as he felt one of her hands reaching for the top button of his shirt. Not wanting to be left behind, her sneaked his hands from her thighs to her bottom and underneath her top where his palms only encountered soft skin.

He pulled her to him and took possession of her mouth in a hungry kiss while she finished unbuttoning his shirt.

Things were threatening to get out of control soon. Panting, he steadied her.

“Sam, much as I want to make love to you now, take pity on a old man’s knees… Bedroom?”

Sam stood up and dragged him by his open shirt through the corridor to her bedroom.

Once in the darkness of her bedroom, softly illuminated by the moonlight streaming through the window, she started tugging at his shirt impatiently, but once again, he steadied her.

“Sam, let me… I’ve dreamt of this moment since the day I met you, I don’t want to rush it. I don’t want our first time to be a quick one.”

She acquiesced silently. He got rid of his shirt and went back to taking care of her top, sensuously caressing her back while pulling it above her head. When the garment lay discarded on the floor, his eyes now accustomed to the pale light bathing the room, he took one step back to admire the pale skin of her torso, reveling in the curves that made her a terribly attractive woman, like it were an exquisite sculpture in a museum. He smiled in admiration: “so perfect, so beautiful, Sam…”

She started to move towards him, but he stopped her with his raised hand.

“I told you, Sam, you’ve got to trust me on this…”

He stepped forwards again and finally touched her, his fingers tracing light paths on her front that made her skin go all goose-pimply. Without her realizing it, he had sneaked his hands on her back and unclasped her bra. Leaving her top half bared.

He bent his head to kiss her collarbones, his hands not idle a second as they stroked and softly kneaded her breasts, before going downward to the waistband of her pants.

In an instant, he had rid her of her pants and pulled her to him, skin against skin as his bared chest encountered hers, and he kissed her deep. There was nothing urgent in his kiss, nothing wanton, he kissed as sensuously as possible in a way she had never been kissed. She retaliated by slipping her hands to the waistband of his own pants, but once again he stopped her hand, lifting her up in his arms and laying her on the covers gently.

He stepped back a little, getting rid of his jeans in a swift motion, and joined her on the bed. Although his underwear was beginning to feel awfully tight, he didn’t want to spoil her pleasure by introducing his arousal to more stimulation than he was capable of controlling now, so he kept it on.

His hands once again slid along her body, now closely followed by his lips as he deposited small kisses on her soft skin. He softly kissed the body of her right breast, sending shivers down her spine. His touch was voluptuous and sensuous, not like any other experience she may have had, and she truly felt like a fragile treasure in his hands. She had never felt so respected and so loved in her entire life.
Suddenly, she felt her panties slide down her thighs, and he started taking care of her in a definitely more intimate way.

Jack inhaled her scent deeply, intoxicating his brain with her fragrance. He kissed her abdomen underneath her navel as his fingers softly explored what would soon be his very private territory. He was very attentive to her body signs as he gently massaged her, bringing her where he wanted her to be, and his tender ministrations had the desired effect, as she suddenly arched, breathing erratically, and moaning his name.

When her tremors subsided, he rose to kiss her mouth in another tender kiss, caressing her cheek with the back of his index finger.

“I’m glad you liked it…” he murmured playfully.

She looked at him lovingly.

“Jack, nobody’s made love to me like that…”

“Thank you…”

“No, thank you… Now come to me, I want to feel you, I want to blend with you…”

“Oh, such a nice choice of words, Miss Carter…” he joked.

“You are the one who messed up with my logical sense, mister.” She retorted before attracting his mouth to hers in yet another kiss.

Her hands slipped under his underwear, and understanding her message, he finally got rid of it. His ears were burning with restrain and desire of being molded to her body. Her hand brushed him softly, but he really didn’t need any further stimulation, having driven all he needed from her earlier pleasure. He wanted to please her before him; there would be other times for her to explore his body.

Her eyes pleaded him and he needed no more encouragement to slip into the soft nest he had so carefully prepared for himself.

Once again, Sam thought she had never experienced such a level of tenderness and restraint from a man, as Jack set a slow pace, and within moments, she was again on the verge of that sweet abyss where she so eagerly wanted to plunge with him this time. She encouraged him, murmuring soft words into his ears, and soon her heightened senses felt him tense and she let go of her own restraints, his soft moan the testimony of his surrender.

For a few moments, they simply lay together, their bodies tightly spooned one into the other, then Jack shifted slowly and pulled her into a tight embrace.

She started toying with the hairs on his chest.

“God, Jack, if you plan on doing that to me every time, you’re going to make me a sex addict!” she murmured playfully.

He chuckled softly before laying a tender kiss on her forehead.

“I so hope you will still say that when you discover that ‘mister’ down there has its little failures from time to time…”

“Yeah, but ‘mister’ up there…” she said, poking at his forehead “… seems to know of ways to compensate that…”

He looked at her in the darkness and caressed her cheek before kissing her softly.

“So you’re not disappointed in me?” he asked.

She was suddenly confronted to his self-deprecating opinion of himself and she felt deeply moved by it: it was not often that he let his guard down like that.

“Don’t tell me Mighty General O'Neill doubts his capacities of satisfying a woman? Jack… cut the self deprecation there… I know you, I’ve known you for years…”

“Not in this way, Sam…”

“Well if you believe the rumor Daniel told me about, that we’ve been going at it in every corner of the base since your return, then I have some experience in that area too…!” she joked.

“Ah crap, and there I wanted to take you on my desk next time you’d drop by… I guess it’s history now…” he replied playfully.

She smiled against his chest.

“Jack, I love you, and that’s all that matters… Of course the fact that we are now free to have a relationship is the best thing that’s ever happened to us, but we’ve gone a long way together, and I guess I’ve seen most of your bad sides, and you’ve seen most of mine.”

He sighed.

“You know embarking on this adventure with you frightens me more than any Stargate mission we’ve ever gone on…”

“You don’t need to worry, Jack, it’s really going to be fine…”

He tilted her head with his finger so that he could look her in the eyes.

“… But I have so much to lose…”

“We’re in this together, Jack O'Neill, and to quote a certain Colonel I used to work with: ‘no one gets left behind’”.

He smiled and softly kissed her.

“I’m sure I’d like him…”

“He’s mine…” she said, pinching his skin.

“Ouch!”

They kissed one last time before giving themselves to the sweet abandon sleep provided, trusting their future together, and eager to discover what promises it held for them…

The END

to index