REASSESMENTS

 

DISCLAIMERS: I am (not) proud to own my mistakes.

A/N: Un-betaed this time. Any similarity with whatever subject was discussed in the Sam and Jack list is purely accidental: this work was started a while before it all erupted.

*IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written WAY before the first spoilers on some episodes of the end of season 8 were first posted. Any similarity to them is purely accidental.*

Thanks: Stéphane for helping my inspiration when I was stuck.

Copyright © Anakin David 2004

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Jack O'Neill closed the folder in front of him with a heavy sigh, his insides churning.

He hated being right sometimes.

He looked tiredly at his watch and the digital numbers confirmed his suspicions about the hour being absolutely decadent: 0312… God! He had been working on that damn case for about four hours and a half!

He rubbed his eyes, sighed once more and stared at the closed folder in front on him. He stood up tiredly, snatching the folder under his arm. He switched the small lamp on his desk and exited his office, locking the door behind him.

He reached his personal quarters on base and collapsed on his bed, not even bothering taking his clothes off. A good night sleep and he would then be able to see things clearer – he hoped.

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Dawn brought Jack O'Neill a headache the size of Alaska, and he had yet to think about how he was going to deal with the contents of the disturbing folder.

He decided to go take a shower and change clothes. As the water ran cascading down his back, it also seemed to help organize his thoughts.

He would go personally. SG-1 was on downtime for eight days, it was Sunday, and he would have to leave the base anyway; his house had not been opened since before SG-1’s latest mission.

He dressed in civilian clothes, notified his secretary that he was leaving, snatched the folder underneath his arm and headed for the elevator.

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Half an hour later, he parked his truck in front of the small house.

He remained motionless inside the cab for a few seconds, eyeing the folder dreadfully, then sighed, took the folder, and exited the vehicle.

He climbed the few steps leading to the entrance door and rang.

After a few seconds, Lt. Colonel Carter came to open the door.

She was wearing worn faded jeans and a simple white shirt. Her hair was damp, testifying of her recent shower.

She smiled.

“General!”

“May I come in?” he asked, his face serious.

She frowned, stepping back to allow him entrance and closed the door behind him.

“I need to talk to you.” He simply said.

“Something the matter, sir?” she asked, leading the way to the living room.

He flopped on her couch and she sat on a chair opposite.

His head was bowed. He rubbed his face tiredly, then took the folder in his hands.

“Carter, so for you to know, I’m not the bearer of good news.” He started by means of introduction.

She frowned in response, and he took that as a means to say ‘go on’.

“It has to do with Pete Shanahan.” He resumed.

“What’s with Pete?! He’s not dead or injured, is he?!” she asked, standing up a look of deep concern on her face.

“Calm down, Carter. As far as I know his health or well being is not in danger.” He said as calmly as possible.

She resumed her position on the chair.

“What is it?”

“For some time already the NID – the official NID – has been bugging me about something they discovered a while before our own services confirmed it. I didn’t want to believe it was true, since it came from the NID, but it turns out they were right.”

Sam nodded frowning, encouraging him to continue.

He decided to take the plunge.

“I never quite understood how Mr. Pete Shanahan miraculously appeared when we captured Osiris, and General Hammond at the time had expressed his concerns to me about that very fact, although he granted you permission to reveal a few things to Mr. Shanahan. Of course, the events that followed distracted us from enquiring further and by the time I was nominated as the new commander of the SGC, I was so engrossed in all the novelties I had to deal with, that I let the case rest even more.” He took a deep breath. “Yesterday before you came back from P7B-445, Major Davis brought me this.” He said, waving the folder in front of him. “Needless to say the contents did not please me. That’s why I am here. The Pentagon let me be the judge of what type of action I should take, but I thought I would let YOU be the judge of it. I don’t want to deny my responsibilities, Carter, but it’s about you, and in that particular case, I don’t feel I have any right to start anything without informing you first, and above all, letting you decide what has to be done.”

Sam’s worried look grew tenfold.

“Sir, I don’t understand…”

His raised hand interrupted her.

“Peter Shanahan did a background check on you just before we captured Osiris. He probably followed us – although I still have to figure how he managed to identify you were in that van, but then again, he’s a cop – and that’s why he was there when the whole mess erupted, and got himself injured. Why he did that, I don’t know. How; through one of his FBI contacts. No valuable information was given to him though, all the locks on your and our files held. I don’t know how long you had been involved with him then, but even if you had been for ten years, it still looked suspicious enough for the Pentagon to be alerted, not to mention the NID.”

Sam sat disbelieving.

“What are you trying to do, Sir?” she asked coldly, her anger bubbling deep inside.

“Unfortunately nothing, Carter. What I told you is the absolute truth. I assumed you would say something like that though, so I’m gonna leave now. You can check the folder for yourself.” He stood up and dropped the folder on her couch.

“I’ll be at home if you need me.”

He exited the room and her house, driving straight to his place.

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Sam felt her ears burn and she had trouble concentrating.

She stood up suddenly and went to drink a glass of cold water to try and calm her raging thoughts.

Deep inside, she knew the General must be serious or else he would not have come himself. At once, she had thought he was trying to push her away from Pete in a fit of jealousy, but that was childish from her part. She knew the General respected her way too much for that. He might be hurt by the fact she had moved on, but he would never do such a thing.

She put the glass in the sink and came back to her living room.

The folder teased her from its place, where he had dropped it before leaving.

She took a deep breath and went to sit next to it. She reached for it, caressed the cover before opening it, and started to read.

An hour later, barely contained tears were running down her cheeks.

She was not crying over Pete Shanahan.

She was crying over the fact that she had let another man make her feel guilty enough for her to go to such lengths as to reveal what her top secret job was really about. When she thought about his rather hurtful rant the morning after they made love for the first time, it finally made sense and went perfectly with the General’s recent revelations.

Because she had been too preoccupied in finding happiness in their fresh relationship to be firm enough about her job’s secrecy, Pete Shanahan had made her compromise the security of the Stargate Program.

That was unacceptable.

Pete was due to arrive in the afternoon. He had taken a few days off since she was on leave too. Initially, she had planned on talking to him about her conversation regarding her commitment to him, with General O'Neill before the mission. She had wanted to show Pete she was thinking about a possible future with him, but now… All lay within the pages of the blue folder.

She made a decision.

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She was about to hang up when he picked his phone.

“This better be good!” his harsh voice came out.

“General.”

“Oh! Carter.”

“Am I interrupting something?”

“What? Oh! No, I was just napping on my couch. Didn’t sleep well last night. Everything all right?”

“No. As you might guess.”

“Yeah, well. Look if I can do anything…”

“It’s okay, sir. I’ll deal with it myself. I need to talk to you though.”

“Sure, I’ll be there in ten--”

“No!” she interrupted. “Wait. I mean, I’d like to come over and talk to you at your place, if it’s no inconvenience.”

“No problem, Carter. Whenever you want.”

“I’ll come by the end of the afternoon then, I just need to… Do something first.”

“Sure.”

A heavy silence settled.

“Okay, sir. See you then.”

“Carter?”

“Yes, sir?”

“You’re sure you’re gonna be okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Just… call, okay?”

A faint smile caressed her lips at the softness in his voice. She was going to miss the quiet intimacy they had reached lately.

“Yes, sir. Bye.”

“Bye, Carter.”

She hung up and tried to think at her next step. She went to her study, booted her computer and launched the word processor.

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By the time Pete Shanahan’s cab left him in front of her door step, she was ready.

She let him in, he dropped his carry-on in the entrance hall and tried to kiss her, but she stopped him.

“We need to talk.” Was the only explanation he got.

She led the way to her living room, stopping briefly in her kitchen filling two mugs of coffee, before sitting in front of him much as she had sat in front of the General earlier.

Pete was starting to be worried.

“Sam? Is everything okay?” he asked, trying to reach for her.

She backed from his touch and took a deep breath.

“You remember at the beginning of our relationship, you talked about trust, and sharing each other’s life to have a future together?”

“Yes?”

“I’ve thought a lot about it lately, a future together I mean.”

“Yes?”

She once again took a deep breath.

“You know that trust goes both ways, right?”

“Of course!”

“Then tell me why you ran a background check on me the next day?”

Pete looked at her suddenly.

“I--”

“No tales, Pete. You should know that I know absolutely everything!” she stood up, anger rising.

Pete looked crestfallen. He winced at her words.

“That was stupid, I know,” he started as ways of an apology.

“Oh that it was. For crying out loud, Pete! We had known each other for what? Two weeks and you ran a background check on me? How’s that for a testimony of trust! You contacted the FBI for crying out loud! Like I was a criminal or something!” she accused.

He stood up too, his face apologetic.

“Sam, I know I shouldn’t have and--”

“You almost got yourself killed!”

“I know, I--”

“And I went to great lengths and asked for a few personal favors in order to let you in on what’s probably the most secret thing on this planet!”

Pete did not respond.

“That was a great proof of your burgeoning love and your trust in me, Pete!”

“I know! I felt sick about that after the hospital and you told me everything. I had planned on telling you, but things were going well between us and I didn’t want to spoil that!”

“My God, Pete, are you really that naive to think nobody from the SGC would ever find out?”

He remained silent, his mouth slightly open.

Only her eyes were the testimony of the inner battle she was having, and the fury that had invaded her. Then a sudden calm washed over her. She dropped her head and took a deep breath.

“My commanding officer, General O'Neill, came to bring me evidences that someone had tried to find information about me from the FBI. The Pentagon went back to the source… I don’t think I need to elaborate. I’m lucky I haven’t been court-martialled for my lack of sensible judgment regarding who I trust. Nevertheless, because of that, I have decided to resign my commission. You are the first to know, General O'Neill will be the next.”

“You can’t do that, Sam!”

“Yes I can, and I must, thanks to you, Pete Shanahan!” she exploded.

An uncomfortable silence settled.

“Look, Sam, I know it was lame and I’m sorry for it, but you mustn’t stop doing what you love most. If I can do anything--”

“I think it’s best you leave, Pete,” she interrupted.

“What?”

“You heard well,” she said coldly.

“Sam, you can’t just throw away what we’ve had for 6 months!” he asked, panicked.

“Pete, what we’ve had has been a lie for 6 months!” she snapped, her eyes ablaze.

Pete was about to reply, but he shut his mouth. He hesitated one second, then exited the room, picking his carry-on on his way out.

“You know where to find me,” he mumbled as he passed her.

Hearing her front door slam shut, Sam collapsed on her chair trembling. She brought her hands to her face, her shoulders shaking.

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Jack checked his watch for the umpteenth time. He had tried to relax on a lounge chair on his deck, a cold beer as his companion, but now it had warmed, not appealing anymore, and the slight alcohol he had already drank did nothing to calm his nerves.

He knew Sam had enough conscience to do the right thing, but technically, the fault was not hers, it had been Hammond’s in the first place, and he hated to think his old friend might have been compromised in any way.

Finally a car pulled up by his house. He rounded it from outside to go greet his guest.

“Jack.” He said, shaking his hand.

“General.”

“Jack.” He said with a half smile, stepping inside.

“Sorry to steal your time with your family, George, I know now you’re in D.C. you don’t see them often enough.” Jack said appologetically.

George Hammond chuckled.

“What is it, Jack?”

He beckoned the general to come with him around the house to the deck. Resuming his place on the deck chair, he pointed the other one to the older man, and offered him a beer from the cooler.

“George, Carter’s in trouble.”

“Shanahan?”

“How’d you guess?”

“I figured you would ask why he was given clearance one day or another.” George Hammond shrugged.

“Then why?”

“There were rumors the Stargate program would become public.” He started.

“That was more than one month before you got kicked out, with all due respect, George,” Jack cut him.

“I didn’t want to alarm you at the time, we had enough on our minds with Anubis, but the current president feared that with the election and the new president, the Stargate would become public. Not to mention Kinsey and the NID’s antics. Shanahan was a test. He was clear, and the president and the joint chiefs figured it was okay to give him minimum clearance.”

“Did you know he did a background check on Carter?”

Hammond’s face went blank.

“That’s why he was there at the stake out?” he asked.

Jack simply nodded.

Hammond kept silent, trying to control his emotions.

“Does she know?”

“I went to see her this morning; she said she would sort it out herself.”

“Typical Sam.”

O'Neill snorted. “Yeah.”

“She’s not responsible.”

“I know, but she’s gonna take the blame on herself anyway,” Jack sighed.

“You think she’ll resign?”

“I know she will, but I won’t accept it.”

“Look, Jack, I don’t want to interfere or anything, but I suggest you talk with her, and maybe President Hayes could help too.”

“Oh, sure, President Hayes can do anything, he’s the president, right?” he smirked. “But I don’t think he’s the help she needs.”

“I was not talking about her, Jack.” Hammond said gently.

Jack looked up sharply.

“George…”

“Jack, about Sam, ultimately I think some of the best help she can get is from her own father.” He quickly changed the subject.

“George, you know as well as I do that he’s not more available than when you left,” Jack shrugged. “I don’t even know where their darn headquarters are now. When Jacob came to visit us last, it was right after we put Baal forever in a not-so-restful place, and it was just to give us a message that he and Selmak were working on diplomacy…”

Both men lapsed in silence, quietly drinking their beer. Then Hammond stood up, putting his empty bottle on the table behind him.

“Jack, whatever the crisis is, I know you’ll find a way through it.”

Jack snorted.

“We always do, right?” he said, looking the older man in the eyes.

George Hammond smiled sympathetically, then patted Jack on the shoulder before leaving.

Jack looked at his now empty bottle, gathered George’s, and went inside to dispose of them.

When Sam Carter arrived, he was flopped on his couch, watching the weather channel.

“You miss Jonas?” she asked playfully, entering the house from the deck and startling him.

“Oh! Carter!” he said, fumbling with the remote and switching the TV off. He stood up and headed to the kitchen while she left her handbag and car keys on the coffee table, sitting on one of the big armchairs facing the couch.

“Want something to drink?” he asked from his kitchen.

“Orange juice?”

He popped his head through the opening on his dining room.

“Lemonade?” he suggested.

“That’s fine,” she replied.

After a minute, he came back with a tall glass of lemonade and a bottle of spring water.

He gave her the drink and sat opposite her.

He noticed she was slightly nervous, a sealed envelope resting in her hands.

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the envelope.

She took a deep breath.

“Sir, I put the SGC at high risk when I told Pete Shanahan about the Stargate program, not knowing him as I thought I did. I should have been far more careful--”

“Colonel,” he started.

“Not anymore, sir,” she interrupted giving him the envelope. “This is my letter of resignation. As of now I am not a member of the Air Force anymore.” She said in a blow.

Jack sat forward, toying with the envelope with his fingers.

“What makes you think I’ll accept?” he asked softly.

“I can send it to higher places, sir, with all due respect,” she replied.

“But you won’t,” he said calmly.

She looked up sharply.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s not the Carter I know.”

She stood up suddenly, in rage.

“Would the Carter you know ever do such a foolish thing as to ask for her sneaky boyfriend to know about the SGC and what it does?”

“He got clearance. Our own people did not do a very thorough job on purpose,” he cut her before she had time to say more.

“They did what?” she asked disbelieving and sitting down.

Jack sighed.

“George was here a few hours ago. Let’s say that Pete Shanahan was a test in case the Stargate Program was to become public.”

“A test?”

“That does not excuse his behavior, mind you. I’m just saying that George received clearance to tell him because the former president wanted to see what impact that would have on Mr. Everybody. Turns out Mr. Everybody was not ‘everybody’, and that we should have been more careful, perhaps. So basically what I’m saying is that in the eyes of the USAF, you have done nothing wrong.”

He pushed the envelope back towards her.

“You’re still on active duty, Lieutenant Colonel.” He said softly.

Sam kept silent, trying to understand.

“I threw him out.” She eventually said in a soft voice.

“Call him?”

“No, you don’t understand.”

“Obviously not,” he said frowning.

“He talked about trust and all, and he couldn’t wait for our relationship to settle in on its own course. Maybe I would have told him, at least what I could, but he had to check by himself--” she left the last words hanging.

He looked at her, his elbows propped on his knees, his glass of water in one hand.

“Ending a relationship is always difficult, Carter.” He said gently.

“That’s not it, sir. Why can’t I get a normal relationship?” she asked, looking straight in his eyes. “Why do men need to control my life?”

“It’s not control--”

“Yes, it is!” she shouted. “What did he want to achieve by that? That’s what I’m trying to figure! He knew my brother, he knew what kind of person I am, and he knew I am military! He’s a cop, for crying out loud! I never asked him details about the cases he was investigating! I accepted him for who he was! He didn’t! He couldn’t bear the fact that I *had* to hold things about my life from him!”

“So okay, that was immature, but that doesn’t make him a control freak!” Jack said, raising his voice.

“You’re defending him?” she asked disbelieving.

“I sure as hell don’t!” he said defensively. Then he calmed down. “Look, Sam. I’m just trying to insert some male logic in there. And experience. Believe me, I’ve had time to think about my own failures.” He chuckled derisively. “What Pete did is condemnable. But he was more being childish in acting that way, than trying to control your life. It is my opinion and probably not yours, but trust a male point of you there. The guy cares about you despite what you think, maybe you should call him.”

As Sam remained silent, he stood up and beckoned her to the entrance door.

“Try to not over think things, Colonel, and I hope to be seeing you on Monday.”

“Actually, we do have a 7 day leave, sir.” She replied automatically.

“Yeah, I know, I’ll drop by your lab on Monday.” He said, a gentle smile tugging at his lips.

She looked at him as she exited the house, shook her head slightly, then went to her car.

Jack closed the door behind her and leant his back to it.

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Jack strolled down the corridors of the SGC, Sam’s lab being his destination.

He had guessed right, she was dismantling some alien device underneath a magnifier and seemed rather concentrated on the task.

He coughed discreetly to announce his presence.

Not taking her eyes off her work, Sam acknowledged his presence.

“Good morning, sir.”

“Morning, Carter.” He said casually.

He leaned against the door frame and observed her silently.

After a minute or two, Sam finally put her pliers down and looked at him questioningly.

“Something I can do for you, sir?” she asked.

“Actually I was wondering if you would have a coffee?” he said innocently.

“Sounds good, let me finish taking this apart, and we’ll go,” she smiled.

About ten minutes later they were sitting opposite each other in the rather deserted commissary.

“How’re you doing?” Jack asked.

She smiled to herself.

“Going straight to the point, sir?” she looked at him, her eyes twinkling.

He smiled briefly, casting his eyes down.

“I just want to know how my friend’s doing, what’s wrong with that?” he asked defensively.

She put her hand on top of his reassuringly. She didn’t think much of her gesture until she noticed he jumped slightly at her contact. She retrieved her hand slowly.

“Nothing, sir. I appreciate.” She said gently. “I am fine, I followed your advice, I talked to Pete.”

At that, he looked her straight in the eyes.

“And?” he asked.

“He was concerned I was going to resign, so he was kind of relieved when I told him I wasn’t going to.”

Jack smiled briefly, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“So you’re okay, then?”

“Yes, I’m okay,” she replied. “Thanks to you.”

“No sweat, Carter,” he dismissed her, drinking another sip of his coffee.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Carter?”

“I was wondering…”

He looked at her questioningly.

“Would it be too forward or inappropriate for me to ask if you would want to have a beer or something this evening?”

If he was surprised, he didn’t let it show.

“You know the Commissary doesn’t have beers--”

“I didn’t mean here, sir,” she said shyly.

“Oh.” He said, raising his eyebrows. “I thought Pete was supposed to be visiting while you were on leave--”

“We talked, sir, but it didn’t mend things between us,” she interrupted. “And tonight, I need to talk to a friend who understands me, who doesn’t need to run a background check on me to trust me, and who can make me laugh.” She said gently.

This time his surprise could be read on his face; never in all the time he had known her, had she been so opened with him.

He shook his head slightly, raising his eyebrows.

“Then I’m your man,” he shrugged. “Just say when and where?”

“O’Malley’s, 1930?”

“Sounds good to me. Unless there’s an emergency at the SGC,” he joked.

She smiled brightly.

“Back to my lab, sir,” she said, standing up.

Jack remained alone frowning. He didn’t really know what happened, and he was not entirely sure on how to take it, but he decided he would live by the moment.

Of course, the latest months had somehow increased the level of intimacy they shared. His new position at the head of the SGC allowed him to have more private conversations with her than he had ever had, also the fact that everybody knew she had a boyfriend made that his frequent little friendly gestures could not be misinterpreted either, and they had quietly settled in a routine of smiles, private jokes, and looks that said more than words. He hoped to God the fact that she had broken up with Pete was not going to shatter all that.

He raised his mug to sip the last drops of coffee it contained, grimaced as the cold tasteless liquid slid down his throat, and stood up to go to his office.

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O’Malley was packed. He checked his watch: 1927… If he knew Carter well, she should already be here or would be in the next three minutes.

He scanned briefly the room until he saw her waving at him.

She was seated in a relatively secluded booth that overlooked the entrance.

He smiled and stepped towards her, slipping then in the booth on the bench opposite her.

“You already ordered?” he asked, taking his jacket off and laying it on the bench next to him.

“I was waiting for you.” She replied smiling.

“Bud’?”

“You know me well.”

He signaled for the waitress and they waited for their order to arrive in comfortable silence.

“So, Carter, what did you want to talk about?” he said once he had taken a few swigs.

She looked thoughtful for an instant, then looked him straight in the eyes.

“Sir, all in all Pete was a nice guy.”

Jack winced.

“Ah, Carter, I’m not sure I’m the right person to discuss this with you…”

“Just, hear me out. I’m not going to cry over your shoulder,” she chuckled. “But I wanted to have a private conversation with you.”

“Carter,” he sighed.

“Sir, no masks, no military ranks, no nothing. I just want to know where we stand. Is that against regulations? You know and I know that they exist, and we’ve abided by them so far, there’s no reason we are going to just throw them through the window. Right now, I don’t need any reminder of who my professional self is, I just want to talk to my best friend.”

“Is that what we are? Best friends?”

A sad look briefly shadowed her eyes.

“I decided it was better than nothing, and since Janet’s death…” she let the sentence hanging.

Jack finally relaxed.

“Okay,” he simply said.

“Pete entered the picture a short while after my experience on the Prometheus. I guess I needed to know I was still a woman,” she chuckled. “I liked Pete, I really did, and frankly, I could have settled in with him.”

“I told you it’s still possible, Carter. You just need to put your pride aside for once.” He said gently.

“I don’t want to.” She said softly, then she looked at him sharply. “Sir, tell me honestly you don’t feel anything for me.”

He looked her in the eyes for a minute before replying.

“I can’t,” he said honestly.

She took a deep breath.

“Then I want to give us a chance--”

“There’s no such thing as an *us*, Carter!” Jack said sharply.

“Not now, that’s right,” she responded, her eyes ablaze. “But we’re not going to be at the SGC all our lives,” she said more calmly.

O'Neill chuckled derisively.

“Carter, look at you, you’re young, brilliant, and beautiful, don’t go wasting your life with a guy twelve years older than you are. We could be there for I don’t know how many years unless I go wacko before the end of my assignment, and then there won’t be anything left that’d be worth it, right?” he made to stand up, but she put her hand on his forearm.

“Jack O'Neill, you sit down and listen to me!” she said, her rage barely contained. “Five months ago in Antarctica, I thought I had lost you forever, that you wouldn’t’ fight for me, I won’t tolerate another lame escape!”

“Whoa! Calm down, Carter! Don’t you forget who you’re talking to!” Jack was getting annoyed.

“Don’t you remind me of our ranks either, I said I didn’t want ranks or any other military bullshit between us tonight, I just want Sam and Jack! For once!”

“Carter, whatever it is you want it IS inappropriate. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but that’s the way it is. More so now that I’m the leader of the SGC. I was the one to promote you, Carter. Haven’t you heard what’s being said within the SGC and even in higher places? When he was vice president, Kinsey suggested we had far more than a working relationship going on! When I heard that, I thought we shoulda been jumping each other’s bones since that Za’tarc testing, at least we woulda had some compensation!” he said in a frustrated voice.

She was staring at him disbelieving.

“Kinsey thought what?” she asked.

He sighed.

“It’s not important what he thought. It’s reached places it shouldn’t have, and even though we both know we are innocent, faced with some evidences, I don’t know how we could possibly explain them and make it look like we’re just comrades in arms.”

A short silence ensued.

“I understand.”

“While you were dating Pete, it was safe being with you, Sam. People knew you had a regular, and our little friendly gestures could not be misinterpreted,” he resumed.

“So that’s why you pushed me to reconcile with him?”

“No.”

“Then dammit, why?” she slapped the table in front on her, making a few customers at the counter looking briefly their direction.

He sighed once more.

“I already told you, back at my house.”

“Jack.”

Her mention of his name made him look at her.

“If I resign, there will be no more obstacles between us.”

“No, Carter. You’re one damn fine officer and you have a promising career ahead of you, I won’t let you jeopardize that,” he said more calmly.

“What gives you the right to decide the important issues of my life?”

He frowned.

“You said it yourself, I’m your best friend.”

“Oh so when it suits you you’re my friend, and when it doesn’t you’re not.”

“This is a privilege my star grants me?” he smirked, then resumed more seriously. “After the Asgard took all the crap out of my head, I wanted to retire, really. I wanted to go to my cabin, buy a dog, and settle for my old days, but Hammond wouldn’t hear any of it. He and President Hayes asked me to lead the SGC. After thinking about it, I realized it was a good compromise. I knew my time as a field officer was coming to an end and the kind of challenge leading the SGC presented was a good opportunity for me to go in a blaze. Plus… It would allow me to still watch your six from a distance,” he concluded with a wink.

“I hope you enjoy the view,” she said as seriously as she could muster.

He smiled briefly.

“Believe me I do!” he winked again, eliciting a small shy smile from her.

He looked at her, his eyes burning, then sighed and resumed, “Carter. Sam,” he reached for her fingers on the table. “You wanted honesty, here comes honesty,” he took a deep breath. “Know that I have two interests in my life at the moment. The first one is the SGC, and the second is sitting right in front of me. Right now, the first has precedence over the second, but it won’t last forever. I don’t see myself hanging in the ranks of the military for another ten years, but it might be some time. So if in the meantime you meet someone--”

“Not going to happen.” She interrupted.

He raised his pointer finger. “Ah!” he said warningly. “If you meet someone,” he resumed. “I really want you to move on, go ahead and be happy, for however long it lasts, and I mean however long.”

“I don’t--”

“Promise,” he insisted.

She sighed.

“Okay, I promise, but it’s unlikely to happen.”

“You never know.”

A short silence ensued.

He resumed, “Sam, I’m the safest bet you could ever have, so when I eventually retire, if you’re still in the same mood as you are now, know that I’ll be more than ready to try that path on with you, but right now, anything more than a working relationship, albeit a close one, is impossible.”

She looked him in the eyes intensely, her azure gaze bearing into his brown.

“Is that your final word on this?” she asked.

“It is.”

“Then I hold you onto this promise.”

With that, she raised her hand, trapping his fingertips within hers, and laid a soft kiss on them, earning an intense look from him.

He retrieved his hand, bowed his head, then resumed.

“Sam, I’m flattered that you want to wait for *us* to be given an opportunity, but you had something nice with that cop, why don’t you try and mend fences?” he said in a gentle voice.

“You can be stubborn sometimes, you know that?! I won’t use him.”

“You won’t be using him, unless you think you do.”

“It’s over, Jack. He understood, we’re friends and that’s that, end of story.”

“You wanna bet all your savings on one old horse?”

She chuckled. “An old horse with the mind of a kid, yes.”

He winced, then resumed playfully, toying with his keys.

“You don’t know what I’m like in private.”

“I know enough.”

“I can be a real ass,” he raised his eyebrows.

“I know, so can I.”

He rolled his eyes. “I have bad habits in bed.”

“Most men that I’ve known have too, no big deal.”

“I snore.”

She laughed wholeheartedly. “After almost height years with you as a tent mate, I know, that’s why ear plugs exist, thank God!”

“Ackh!” he said, putting his hands against his temples “Carter?”

“Sir?”

“You are impossible.”

“So are you, sir.” She said innocently, raising her beer before taking a swig.

Jack smiled amused, and finished his long neck, both staring in each other’s eyes.

“So now, what?” he asked.

“Can we go out like this? I mean, friends?”

“Without Teal'c and Daniel to chaperone, I doubt it will appear innocent,” he stated.

“I don’t mind Teal'c and Daniel, so long as we can talk and be ourselves, without all those barriers we had so carefully erected,” she concluded firmly.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The ringing of her telephone roused her from a deep sleep. She picked up the receiver and called with a sleepy voice.

“Carter?”

“Miss Samantha Carter?” asked the male voice at the other end of the line.

“Yeah.”

“Would you happen to know mister Peter Shanahan?”

“Yeah, what’s up?” she asked, sitting up straight and switching her bedside lamp on.

“I’m Captain Mike Foster, Pete Shanahan’s superior, he-ah. He was in a stake out and well-- it didn’t turn out good he-ah. He was injured and he’s in a coma. His partner mentioned you as next of kin, I--”

“He what?!” she asked, panicked, as she started taking her pajamas off in order to get dressed.

“The doctors prefer not to say anything at the moment, he has a fractured skull, but an encouraging sign is that some important brain waves are normal - you’ll have to forgive me, I’m not much into medical stuff.”

“All right, I’m coming to see him. I need to notify my CO and I’ll be flying with the next available plane,” she said in a shaking voice.

“All right, Miss. Sorry for the bad news. But you know, he’s in Craig Hospital, it’s the best hospital for those kinds of injuries. He’ll make it through, I’m sure of that” the man on the other end said.

“Craig Hospital you say? Thanks for the information, Captain, I’ll meet you there,” she hung up, threw the covers back and hurriedly went to her bathroom. Ten minutes later, she was showered and dressed. She opened her dresser, picked a travel bag under her bed, and started throwing things inside, then she checked her watch: 04:30. A bit early maybe, but then again, it was an emergency. She picked her telephone and punched a number on speed dial.

“O’Neill?” she heard in a slurred voice.

“Sir, I need permission to take at least a two day leave beginning right now!” she said.

“Carter? Is there a problem?”

“Pete got severely injured, his superior officer just called me, apparently I’m still first on the list of who might you call in case of emergency. He’s in a coma, I cannot--”

“Go, Carter, you can take however long you need, just-- keep me informed okay?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” she hung up and called a cab next.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

When Sam arrived at the hospital, Captain Foster was there to fill her in on the latest details about Pete. He was in a light coma resulting from pressure due to the rupture of a small blood vessel in between the meninxes. The prognosis was very good, but Pete Shanahan would be in need of a familiar face when he came out of it, and that could be a while…

Sam had given her keys to Pete’s apartment back to him, so she settled at a Motel 6 on the outskirts of Denver, and would go see him everyday.

After a week, Pete’s state had not improved nor decreased. Sam was wondering whether or not going back to Colorado Springs. No crisis had erupted at the SGC, but inaction was getting on her nerves, and she felt a bit lonely. Captain Foster called her every once in a while to get an update on Pete’s Status, but he was not helpful and when she exited the hospital in the evening, after reading the news and talking to Pete as long as the medical staff allowed her to, she came back to an empty and impersonal Motel room.

She grabbed her cell phone.

“O’Neill?”

“Am I interrupting, sir?” she asked, picking up on the little annoyance his voice carried.

“Oh, Carter! Interrupting? No… I was just playing housekeeper.”

“Housekeeper?”

“Yeah, the cleaning lady has told me she refused to do the cleaning of my kitchen and living room, no matter how high I paid her, until I retrieved all the beer caps and the rotten food. I guess I have been a bit on the lazy side lately.” He smirked.

Sam chuckled. “It was time someone told you that.”

“Carter, I am offended, no one understands my creative mind! I’ll have you know that the caps lie scattered in my living room following a very elaborate pattern, and that I wanted to have my own stack of penicillin in case the bad guys came and we were in need of antibiotics!” he joked.

Sam rolled her eyes smiling.

“Sure, sir, you’re an artist, and Flemming’s a novice!” she smirked.

“What’s up?” he asked, returning to the matter of her call.

“I think I’ll head home.”

“Pete’s awake?”

“Not yet, the doctors don’t know when he will be. He’s in a light coma though, so ‘could be anytime soon.”

“You can stay I told you it’s no problem. Daniel’s taken a vacation too. He’s trying to mend the fences with Sara Gardner. Teal'c, well he’s keeping an eye on Cassie. Said, he would help her with her exams, although how, I have absolutely no idea. I have a feeling that he’s more interested in the swimming pool in Janet’s garden than in actually helping her with her arithmetic, and me? Well the usual, tons of paperwork to catch up with, but that gives me the opportunity to torment my secretary,” he added with a smirk. “So to summarize a little, life’s boring here at the moment,” he concluded.

“I could keep you company?”

“Nah… I really do think you’d better stay until he wakes up. I know what it’s like coming out of a coma and seeing a well known face,” he said gently.

“Then why don’t you come?” she asked.

“Carter,” he sighed.

“Sorry, sir. Obviously I was not thinking,” she said, her ears burning.

“Look, if you want to call me, then by all means, do. I know it might be a bit awkward, but for friendship sake, stay over there until he wakes up.”

“Then what? Hold his hand while he recovers? I’m sorry sir, but despite the fact we’re on better terms now than when we broke up, it’s not how I envision the evolution of our relationship,” she paused and sighed. “I guess I’ll have to make a decision when we come to that,” she paused, then added: “Thanks for the pep talk, sir.”

“Anytime, Carter, you know that.”

“Yes.”

“Keep me posted?”

“Of course, but I hope it won’t last another week because it’s nerve wracking.”

“I know, Carter. Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt,” he said gently.

“Mind to tell me?”

“One day, Carter, maybe.”

“Good bye then,” she said.

“Good bye, Carter.”

Sam clicked her phone off and lay on her back on the bed. ‘Awkward’? Yes, the situation WAS awkward. Deep inside of her she knew she couldn’t leave him like that, because that’s not what Sam Carter was, but part of her wanted to just leave it to his captain. Pete seemed to have no friends in the immediate vicinity of Denver. She had called Mark, but work and family kept him in San Diego.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

It was beginning to be a bad habit: her cell rang in the middle of the night.

“Carter?” she asked drowsily.

“He’s awake,” was all the nurse told her.

‘I’ll be right in,” she replied in the same tone and ended the call.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Almost as soon as he had awakened, Pete had been moved to a single room.

He felt a bit disorientated, but was otherwise fine. Alternating between sleep and awareness, he was a bit taken aback when one moment he was alone, and the next, Samantha Carter was sitting in the armchair that was in the corner of his room.

“Sam?” he said in a raspy voice.

She smiled and stood up.

“Thirsty?” she asked gently.

“A bit.” He replied.

She went to his night stand and reached for the cup next to a bottle of spring water. She filled it and gave him the straw.

He drank slowly.

“Why are you here, Sam?” he asked rather abruptly.

“Captain Foster called me, and here I am.” She replied gently.

“I don’t need your pity, Sam,” he said dryly.

She sighed.

“Pete, it’s not pity. As far as I know, you’re my friend, and I care about you.”

He gave a snort.

“Yeah, right…”

She tried to keep down the rush of anger that suddenly rose inside of her.

“Look Pete, I’ve spent the last 8 days in a lousy Motel 6 room, talking to you in ICU everyday to try and stimulate you, I think I deserve a little bit more than bitter words and snorts!” she stood up. “When you’re in a better mood, call me.”

She took her bag and exited the room. Once in the corridor she leant her back on the cool wall and closed her eyes. She took a few minutes to compose herself, then took a deep breath and retraced her steps.

She closed the door behind her and he opened his eyes at the noise.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled loud enough for her to hear.

“Don’t be. I guess in a way I deserved it,” she said smiling slightly and resuming her position next to his bed.

They were silent for a few minutes.

“I’m still wondering why Captain Foster called you,” he said in a sleepy voice.

“I was still the first on the list,” she said gently. “But I didn’t come because of that,” she added quickly as she saw his face contort into a bitter smile. “You’re not up to any sensible discussion right now Pete, and the doctors have been adamant that I let you rest, so I’ll head back to the hotel, try to catch a few hours of sleep, make a few phone calls and I’ll be back. And if you feel able to talk then, we’ll talk.”

He nodded, then chuckled bitterly.

“’Seems like we’re used to talking a lot when I’m lying on a hospital bed. I remember last time--”

“Don’t, Pete,” she said, putting a gentle hand on his forearm. “I feel like we do have some unfinished business and I don't want to part with you like that, but this is not the time, and you really do need to rest,” she softly kissed his brow. “And that’s exactly what you’re gonna do, okay?”

A ghost of a smile turned his mouth up.

“Yes Ma’am,” he said in a tired voice.

“I promise I’ll come back in a few hours.”

She exited the room and called a cab to her motel.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack came into the mountain at a too early time for his own good, but since Sam’s departure, he was not getting much sleep, if not any.

He buried himself in paperwork, but quickly found himself scribbling aimlessly on his notepad. He sighed, put his pen down and left his office for the commissary: maybe a caffeine boost would motivate him to do the much dreaded but necessary paperwork.

Nothing seemed to get his spirits high these days. Since the fall of Anubis, Baal had momentarily tried to take over, but the threat had been eliminated rather quickly.

The Tauri still tried to reconcile with the Tok’ra but to little avail. The ‘acceptable snakeheads’ as Jack called them, were far too proud to admit their faults and seemed to have been even more wary with their former ally since Jack had operated the Ancient weapon, whatever Jacob/Selmak did to help things get smoother. He was the only Tok’ra they saw ‘regularly’ at the SGC, and the ‘regularly’ had been downed to almost zero since the ‘break-up’, much to Jack’s dismay. He had to admit he would have been grateful the older Carter was here to advise him on a certain situation.

On the Jaffa front, the combined efforts of Teal'c, Bra’tac, and Ry’ac had mellowed the Jaffa and canalized their energy into fighting what remained of the once powerful Goa’ulds. They had been a great asset against Baal, and many of the rebellious warriors had died in that ‘song of the swan’, but the remaining took pride in the sacrifice of their comrades, and the more battles they were victorious upon, the more Jaffa would join their ranks.

So this left Jack with a lot of paperwork: reports on diplomatic progress, reports on mining treaties or interesting explorations, debriefings,… President Hayes wanted to know everything about everything and according to Hammond, whom Jack had on the phone at least once a day, he was even more picky and curious than his predecessor.

Jack finished his coffee in the almost empty commissary, checked his watch: 9:07. Normally, Daniel would be here drinking his fourth coffee of the morning himself, but he was off world with Sara, studying the ruins of an Ancient city with SG-4 on P2R-117, while Teal'c had gone visiting Ry’ac and his new wife. Jack stood up and went to his office dejectedly: he was utterly bored. Just when he reached his door, he heard his phone ring. Entering the room, he determined it was the black one: it wasn’t The Powers That Be. Relatively relieved he picked the receiver.

“O'Neill?”

“Hi, they said I should call you general, it’s Pete Shanahan,” he said in a tired voice.

Jack frowned.

“How the heck did you get--”

“’guess my clearance is not over yet,” Pete interrupted.

“Oh!” Jack simply said.

“Yeah, well, that’s not the reason I’m calling.”

“What’s the reason?” Jack asked, sitting down on his comfortable leather armchair.

“Sam.”

O’Neill sat up straight.

“What is it with her?”

“I want you to recall her.”

Jack relaxed, but started getting annoyed.

“Look, pal, I’m not dictating her life. If she wanna come back, she will.”

“Make it an order if you like, I--” he hesitated. “Look, I know that conversation must sound weird but-- I need more time to see her as ‘just a friend’, she’s-- I know she feels it’s her duty to be here but--”

“Hold on a second, pal!” Jack interrupted. “Carter’s there with you because she cares, period. Yes she’s a dedicated person, but her sense of duty doesn’t go that far!”

“I know,” he heard Pete say in defeat. “It’s just-- Look, I don’t think I can handle it. It may sound crazy to your ears, blame it on the coma, the drugs, and he damn headache,” he chuckled bitterly. “I had hoped Sam and I would-- Get more serious. We had started talking commitment and-- Well I know it was a stupid move, but well--”

“Look, Shannon,” Jack interrupted. “If you feel like confiding your love sorrows to someone, just call a damn shrink, I’m a general in the USAF, I don’t have time to listen to that crap!”

“O'Neill, just-- hear me out, okay?” Pete calmed down.

“I’ve got a phone meeting with the president of the United States in about five minutes, that’s all the time you have.”

“I don’t want to be harsh towards Sam, and right now, I’m not in the shape not to be. I’m asking you a service. You’re her superior officer, can you please call her back?”

Jack sighed.

“This is wrong on so many levels, you know that?” he said irritably.

“Thank you.”

Jack shook his head.

“You owe me.”

“Oh I think I’ve already paid you back,” Pete said quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“Sam isn't seeing anyone anymore, right?”

Jack couldn’t’ stop the words.

“What’s that supposed to mean?! You son of a--“

“It doesn’t mean anything wrong!” Pete interrupted. “Look, I’m tired and drugged, but I know when I’ve lost a battle. Sam was never mine, even when things went well between us. I hoped she would see me as more, but she didn’t. It took me some time to realize why, at first I thought it was her job but-- Well somehow it was her hob, not in the way I thought though. Don’t worry, general, I know nothing improper has ever happened between you and Sam, and I would testify if required. Despite what you might think of me, I respect you and admire what you’ve done for this world, and I know you treat Sam well, that’s all I need.”

Jack sighed once more.

“I know you’re a good guy, Shanning, I’m sorry it had to end up like this between you and Sam.”

“No you’re not,” Pete said with a trace of sad humor in his voice. “So, will you do that for me?”

“Yeah, take care of yourself, Shanahan.”

“Yeah, you take care of Sam.”

“I will.”

He hung up

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Sam woke up in a daze. She looked at the digits of the clock and rubbed her face: 10:42. Her sleeping patterns were totally screwed up!

She had promised to go back to Pete’s side. She threw the bed covers and headed to the bathroom.

She spent several minutes under the hot stream of the shower to try and relax her sore shoulder muscles. She tried to think about what she was going to say to Pete, but before that, she needed to contact the SGC and say she would need another few days to settle things up and see how Pete was going to do.

She exited the shower, dried herself, then flopped onto the bed and grabbed her cell phone.

“O’Neill?” she heard him answer.

“Sir!”

“Carter! How’s Pete doing?”

“He’s awaken yesterday, and that’s why I was calling you,” she took a deep breath. “I’ll need a few more days, sir,” she concluded.

There was a short moment of silence.

“Sir?”

“Yeah. Look, Carter, I understand why you would want to stay a while, but… I need you to get back at the SGC ASAP,” he said. "I was about to call you when you did."

“Something urgent, sir?”

“I’ll say, " he really didn’t want to elaborate further.

He felt Sam straightening at the other end of the line.

“Very well then, sir, I’ll pack my things, say bye to Pete, and I’ll catch the first plane back to Colorado Springs,” she said in her most professional voice.

“I’m sorry, Carter, I’ll explain when you get here.”

“A situation’s occurred, sir?” she asked in a softer voice.

“Kinda… Look, I cannot talk to you over the phone. I’m sorry it had to be that way.” He said.

“Yes, sir,” I’ll call you when I get home.

“’kay, have a good flight,” he said.

He hung up his phone sighing.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The next day, Sam knocked at his door and entered at his command.

“Lt. Colonel Carter reporting, sir!” she said, saluting formally.

“What’s with the formality, Carter? Sit down,” Jack said in a tired tone. “I’m gonna have to go to Washington, Carter. Reynolds is off-world so you’re in charge.” He said as a means of introduction.

“How long?”

“Dunno, coupla days I suppose. President Hayes wanted to get a precise update on the program, he’s still on to putting the base under civilian command. I think he believes private investors would be a good thing. The Stargate Program is beginning to become huge in terms of budget, and thus more and more difficult to conceal, even with the participation of France, China, Russia, and Great Britain. What kind of Top Secret operations could NORAD run in Deep Space Radar Telemetry that would cost so much, huh? Difficult to conceal to the budgetary commission. So there are once again talks about the Stargate becoming public. I’m not thrilled about it, but I guess the involvement of the USAF can only go so far, right?”

“So that’s why you called me back?”

“Yes and no… No and yes in the correct order.”

“Sir?” she looked at him quizzically.

He sighed.

“Shanahan called me.”

“Pete called you?” she asked bewildered.

“Yeah. He asked me to call you back, didn’t feel in the mood to talk to you.”

“What?!” she said, standing up in a sudden access of rage.

“Sit down, colonel,” he resumed in a gentle voice. “I guess he was more than bitter about your presence beside him, and--"

“That doesn’t give him the right to decide upon my life!”

“Calm down, Carter!” he raised his voice. “Give the guy a break! Apparently he was quite smitten with you, at least that’s what he admitted, and he needed time to recoup before being able to seeing you again, even on friendship terms. He’ll be okay, Carter. Give him some time. He’s also well aware of… other… things… if you see what I mean,” he finished in a low voice.

Sam blushed a little. “He was?”

“He’s a cop, Carter, and a damn good one if I believe my sources. What can I say? He’s observant.”

“Yeah, I guess he is…”

“Leave him alone for a while, Carter. Let him lick his wounds, I know how I would react,” he said with a sad smile.

She sighed. “When are you leaving, sir?”

“ASAP, I was waiting for you to arrive, Pete called just before I had a phone conference with the president and the joint chiefs, so I was damn glad I needed no fallacious pretext to recall you,” he smirked. “There’s a special plane waiting for me at Petersen AFB. My secretary will fill you in on who’s off world and what you’ll need to be careful for. It is rather boring at the moment, Daniel’s due to come back tomorrow, so he’ll keep you company, and Reynolds’s been paged that I had to leave, he’s on his way but the gate was a day from his location. Hopefully I’ll be back the day after tomorrow anyway, and nothing will go wrong while I’m gone.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Three long days later, Sam was eagerly expecting the return of her Commanding Officer. Frankly, she wondered how Jack O’Neill (well known for his - lack of! - patience) could put up with being in charge of the SGC.

Colonel Reynolds had been delayed one more day since a member of his team had sprained his ankle while getting back to the Stargate. This left her with no other option than to effectively take the lead, sort through briefings, complaints from Siler about a new eager Captain that had wanted to launch a mini revolution in a storage area, and other various SGC personnel.

To top it all, Daniel had to come back without Sara to file their discoveries into the SGC’s database, while she remained on the planet to conduct further researches. So in between his working sessions, he went to Sam’s lab and poured his sorrows over her.

She swore things had gotten worse and worse since she had come back from Denver. She had tried to reach Pete, but the only time she managed to get him on the phone, he told her - rather dryly - that he was now in rehab and didn’t need to be disturbed by her numerous phone calls. That had ended it right there for her: if the man didn’t want to accept things without being bitter about them, then so be it.

She just wished Jack were here.

She was just about to head home when the phone rang.

“SGC - Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter?”

“Miss me?” she heard his low voice say.

“Oh thank God, general!” she almost shouted, collapsing in his chair.

“Wow! I’ll take that as a yes!” he chuckled at the other end of the line.

“How do you manage it?”

“Manage what?”

“Leading the SGC! Knowing you, I can’t believe you have the patience to do that!”

“Oh most of it I let it go, then that’s why my secretary is here for, and I take care of the really tough things, ya know? The ones that really count,” he said in an amused voice.

“That’s so not funny, sir!” she said exasperated.

“Maybe, but it’s true,” he said. “I’ll be there tomorrow afternoon.”

“Great, just when Reynolds arrives,” she sighed.

“Reynolds’ not there yet?” he asked.

“No, Simmons sprained his ankle and they had to put him on a makeshift stretcher to get him back…”

He chuckled softly.

“The gods are against you-huh?”

“Yeah… Whatever…”

“I’m sorry it’s taken longer than I planned. We had more things to discuss than I first thought. There are going to be a lot of changes.”

“You mean ‘again’?” she asked amused.

“Yeah… But we’ll talk about it tomorrow. It’s kinda late and I suppose you were heading home?”

She smiled.

“I’m always there for you, sir.”

“Yeah… Anyway, I have a last meeting with the President and George tomorrow morning then I’ll head down to CS.”

“Have a good night, sir,” she said.

“You too, Carter.”

She hung up and smiled. She wasn’t going to admit it but she had missed him for more than just the reason of leading momentarily the SGC.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

She was on her way to her lab from lunch with Daniel by her side, he was excited over returning to P2R-117 the next day, with a new lap-top that would prevent him from coming back to the SGC without Sara.

“You know, Sam, maybe I shouldn’t say that to you so soon but… It’s getting really serious between us, we’re… we’re getting engaged,” he concluded shyly.

Sam stopped dead in her tracks.

“Daniel I’m so happy for you!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly.

“Thanks!” Daniel said, smiling. “It’s kind of a full circle for me…” he trailed off.

“I know, it’s great, really! Sara has been through so many ugly things it’s… And she knows what you’re doing, she goes with you through the gate, no big secrets, no nothing… I wish you all the best, Daniel,” she said, sincerely.

Daniel beamed, which gave him the boyish look she had first known him with. She smiled back and hugged him one more time before they resumed their stroll to their respective labs.

“When’s Jack due?” he asked to change the subject.

“Sometime this afternoon… Big changes in perspective, but he didn’t say more.”

“You’re still on that friendship recovery trip?” he asked smiling.

She chuckled.

“Yeah… He’s far more supportive of a certain situation than I thought he would. There are really some sides of him that I didn’t know existed… At least not that way.”

“Makes things more interesting after 8 years!” he teased.

She chuckled again.

“Yeah.”

“Speaking of the man…” Daniel said, pointing to the end of the corridor where a rather informal Jack O'Neill was standing in jeans, black sweater and leather jacket.

They reached him and Sam greeted him with one of her most dazzling smiles.

“Sir!”

“Carter, Daniel…”

“Jack.”

“Daniel? Would you come to my office in say an hour, I’ve got a few things to discuss with you.”

“Okay, Jack but… I was…”

“You were?”

“I was supposed to pack for the mission but I guess it can be postponed.”

Jack smiled briefly.

“Yeah, good… Carter?”

“Sir?”

“In my office, right now," he said in a rather dry tone.

Sam looked at Daniel dumbfounded, then followed Jack as he headed to his office.

He carefully closed the door, then picked the phone to call his secretary.

“No one is to disturb me until I say so, all right?”

“Yes, sir,” came the voice of the other man.

He looked at Sam, then smiled briefly before sitting down and motioning for her to do the same.

He took a deep breath.

“The Stargate is going public.”

She took the news calmly, he looked at her briefly, then resumed.

“Since Doctor Weir, the president has been trying to put a civilian lead at the SGC. Up until now, he hadn’t found the right person.”

“And now he has,” she said calmly.

“Yeah. It’s a compromise but George thinks he’s perfect for the job. I hope he is.”

“And what about the military?”

“Oh the base is still under military jurisdiction, but in matters concerning the Stargate, it’ll be a civilian taking the big decisions. There are lots of civilians in our ranks already, so basically that will not change much.”

“He’s going to organize the missions and all that stuff for us too?”

“Much as Elizabeth Weir shortly did, yes.”

“And what about you?”

A corner of his mouth raised.

“As of midnight, I am officially and very eventually retired, Carter,” he said smugly.

She was speechless for an instant.

“Retired?”

“Ya sure ya betcha!” he said grinning cockily.

“Does this mean?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what it means,” he said in a low voice, leaning over his desk to stare at her.

“Wow. This is going to have some getting used to.”

“Sam,” he started in a gentle voice, reaching across his desk to take her hand. “I’m not expecting anything, remember what I told you once, it’s still there, and I still mean it, so it’s your call.”

“No, that’s not what I meant I kind of…” she trailed, then took a deep breath. “I kind of thought I was going to see you here to, I… What are you going to do now?” she suddenly changed the subject.

He chuckled.

“Oh don’t worry, Carter, I’ve got tons of plans for my retirement, one of which includes a certain Air Force Lieutenant Colonel,” he teased.

“That’s not what I meant--”

“I know what you meant, Carter,” he interrupted her gently. “Look, I have a thousand things to do before the deadline, so why don’t we wait for all this to settle in? Then we’ll do whatever you want.”

She smiled briefly.

“Sure, sir…”

“Not for long, Carter. Now go, I have to talk to Reynolds and Daniel about their new assignments. There are a few changes for you too, since you’ll now be reporting to the new guy, but basically you’ll have responsibility of the egg heads department.

She shook her head smiling at his slip of the tongue, remembering.

“Hey, told you that you’re not one!” he said winking.

She chuckled.

“Yeah, see you in a moment, sir?”

“I don’t know, Carter, I’m gonna have a very busy few hours,” he said apologetically.

“Of course, Sir. I won’t see you tomorrow, then?”

“I’ll call you.”

“Okay… Planning a retirement party?”

“Probably, I don’t know exactly how or when yet, but who knows? I have a lot of things to straighten up before thinking about that,” he smiled briefly.

She stood up gracefully and did a very formal salute.

He looked at her quizzically.

She beamed back. “It’s probably the last time I can do that!” she explained.

He shook his head.

“You’re gonna be my death, Carter…” he said smiling to himself.

“I was kind of hoping I would be your life instead, sir,” she said very softly before leaving his office and a very dumbfounded Jack O’Neill inside.

Slowly a grin appeared and broadened on his face. He picked his phone and called his secretary.

“Is Colonel Reynolds done with his post-mission medical?”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

EPILOGUE

Sam stepped out of the elevator and started towards her lab. She was a bit antsy. She had not seen the general before he finally left the mountain, and she had not managed to reach him on the phone either. So she was somewhat a bit wary about confronting the new leader of the SGC by herself. Daniel had gone back to P2R-117 in the wee hours of the morning, and Teal’c had yet to come back from Chulak. So here she was, the leader of the flag team, alone to meet their new commander. He might be a civilian, he was still the commander of the base...

At the very least, Daniel could have stayed a little more! She thought annoyed. Her mind was still trying to calm the roller-coaster of emotions Jack’s announcements had induced… Jack… She could call him Jack now… She smiled to herself and reached her lab.

She opened her laptop and read her mails. One caught her attention. It was from General O’Neill’s former secretary and it informed her that her meeting with the new civilian master of the SGC was at 0815, which was… Two minutes ago! Damn traffic!

She rushed back to the elevators then decided to use the stairs instead since the car was busy. She ran down the stairs and reached her former superior officer’s office, briefly knocking on the door and entering the room without waiting for an answer.

“Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter reporting, sir! Sorry I…” she then realized she was talking to an empty room.

“You used that line on me far too many times, Carter,” she heard behind her in a very well known, albeit unusually nasal voice.

She spun slowly, her eyes getting bigger by the nanosecond, and came face to face with Jack O'Neill, dressed in BDU’s and rubbing furiously at his nose.

“Sir?” she said, not believing her eyes.

“Sit down Carter, I was going to tell my secretary to call you when you slammed the door into my face…”

“Oh! Sorry, sir!”

“Carter, stop with the military crap, would you?”

She had finally sat down. Jack blew his nose and sat down on the other side of the desk.

“Sir, what happened to the new guy?” she asked disbelieving.

“He’s still on the program, Carter,” he said.

“Then…”

“Oh for crying out loud, Carter!” he exclaimed, standing up again and circling his desk to come standing before her. “Stop thinking so much, you miss the logical conclusions!”

“I don’t understand…”

He leaned towards her, cupped her cheek with his hand, stroking her skin with his thumb delicately.

“*I* am the new guy…” he said before drawing back.

She was so stunned that she didn’t even register he had gone back to sitting in his chair.

“You mean…” she started.

“Yeah. I forgot to mention that the new civilian leader of the SGC is Jack O'Neill.”

“Then nothing’s changed!” she said in anguish.

He chuckled shaking his head.

“Oh yes, everything’s changed. I’m not Air Force, Carter, I’m a civilian,” he said smugly, sitting back down in his armchair. “Who knew that Jack O'Neill would one day accept an almost purely desk job!”

“But you’re still the commander of the base!” she exclaimed in a frustrated tone.

“So?” he replied casually.

“So I can’t… We can’t… How long?”

“At least five years, then I’ll retire for good… In the meantime I’ll have to train one or several other possible leaders.”

She was crestfallen.

“Five years! Jack I can’t wait that long! I’ll--” she started in anguish.

“Carter, sometimes you’re the most brilliant human being I have ever encountered, but sometimes you are more than dense!” he shook his head, interrupting her.

“I beg your pardon, sir?!” she exclaimed outraged.

“Carter,” he leant over his desk in front of her. “The Air Force is not running the base anymore, I am not Air Force anymore, General Jack is retired, I am a civilian, the regulations flew outta the window the second after midnight this morning!” he smirked. “When I went to Washington, I knew the discussions would partly be about the duration of my commitment to the program.”

//

President Hayes sipped his coffee grimacing: the damn beverage was lukewarm, he hated lukewarm coffee. He put it on the table in front of him and resumed.

“General, General Hammond here agrees with me that we need someone strong and well aware of the Stargate program to run the SGC when we decide to go public.”

Jack nodded with a knowing smile.

“We want you to be that man,” the president resumed.

“Aren’t I already?” Jack smirked.

“Temporarily, that’s what you said?”

“Yes, sir,” Jack said, wondering where this conversation was going.

“We’re asking you for five more years.”

Jack almost jumped out of his skin, but eventually managed to calm himself enough to reply to the president.

“Sir, with all due respect, there’s not a snowball chance in Hell that I’m going to remain that much longer in the Air Force. I have personal projects that require a long overdue attention, and they absolutely exclude any Air Force involvement of myself!”

Hammond chuckled and the president looked at him raising his eyebrows.

“Then why don’t you go ahead and resign?” the president asked as if he it was the most logical thing in the world.

Always a man of action, and despite a moment of stunned silence, Jack stood up, went to the president’s desk, grabbed a sheet of paper and started writing furiously.

He signed and gave the sheet to the president wordlessly.

“With all due respect, sir,” he simply said.

The president grabbed the sheet, glanced at George Hammond who looked very amused and then back at Jack.

“Sit down, son,” Hammond’s low Texan growl asked him.

He resumed his position on the sofa opposite George Hammond.

“I acknowledge you resigning your commission from the USAF, but I hereby immediately re-employ you to run the SGC as a government official,” the president said, once more casually. “The pay is much better, you’ll see…” he added, signing a sheet of paper he had obviously prepared some time before the meeting.

//

“I can’t believe it’s that simple,” Sam said in a blow.

Jack came around his desk and reached for her cheek.

“Believe it, Sam,” he said softly.

She stood up to reach eye level and put her hands flat on his chest. He automatically wrapped his arms loosely around her waist.

“So, is it okay to do this?” she asked before softly laying a kiss on his lips.

He smiled as she drew back.

“More than okay,” he said, kissing her in his turn, much more deeply.

Her arms snaked up around his neck and she tightened the embrace.

“Good, because I’m going to want to do that very often,” she said smiling.

“Then we agree at least on one point!” he said chuckling. “Now… Your place or mine?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Yours, I’ll rent mine.”

“I was talking about tonight,” he said raising his eyebrows.

“I know,” she giggled, “me too, but I was also projecting on the long run.”

He became serious again.

“You’re serious?”

“Have been ever since the moment I stepped in the briefing room eight years ago,” she nodded.

He smiled and hugged her deeply.

“We could ask Daniel and Teal'c to help us move your stuff?”

She giggled again.

“You’re planning on adding rooms to your house?”

“What, not big enough for you? We’ll buy another one!”

“No! I like your house in fact, I love your house… I’m simply saying that I have a lot of stuff…”

“And I have a large basement,” he simply said before gently kissing her once more. “While we’re at it, Pizza or Chinese?”

“Thai.”

“Of course,” he snorted. “Tell me, if I mentioned Thai instead of Chinese?”

“I would have asked for Chinese…” she winked.

He rolled his eyes.

“Note to self: I am so not asking Carter to choose again!”

“No but you can definitely kiss me again,” she said in a low voice, rotating her pelvis against his to make him feel what to expect for the evening.

He closed his eyes frowning.

“Carter! We’re on base! Kissing is already something we shouldn’t be doing!” he said in a strangled voice.

“Only one last for the road,” she said before kissing him deeply.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack arrived at his house from the mountain much too late for his own taste. He was more than an hour late and his temper did not improve as he realized Sam’s car was no-where to be seen.

He exited his truck and went to the entrance.

The house was dim. He hung his jacket on the coat-rack by the door, and went to check his messages: none. He picked his phone and dialed her number but only got her answering machine.

He sighed and sat on his sofa, running a hand through his unruly hair. ‘Was she having second thoughts?’

He decided a shower would help him clear his mind. He tiredly climbed the three stairs from his living room to the corridor.

Entering his bedroom, he froze.

There, lying on his bed was Samantha Carter in an obvious deep sleep.

His heart jumped in his chest.

He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her before reaching for her face and gently caressing it with the tip of his fingers.

She stirred and finally opened her eyes.

“Hey,” he said softly.

She smiled drowsily. “Hey.”

“Whatcha doing here?” he asked in a soft voice.

She stretched a little, making the loose shirt she was wearing run up to reveal her navel, which didn’t go unnoticed by Jack.

“When I arrived and didn’t see your truck, I used my spare key, put the car in the garage and flopped onto your couch. I almost fell asleep there, so I decided it was better to be lying in a bed and came here…”

He smiled and leant down to lay a soft kiss on her lips.

She moaned and tried to deepen the kiss but he drew back teasingly.

“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked smiling.

“I definitely am, but not for food,” she said, reaching for his neck and pulling him down.

He lost his balance and fell in a heap on the bed, barely avoiding crushing her under his weight.

He tried to regain a semblance of control over his betraying limbs, but found himself encased in a strong hold by a giggling woman.

“Carter!”

She kissed him hard and started unbuttoning his shirt.

Jack started answering to her kisses at last and began fumbling with her own shirt.

In short, they were both topless and in a frenzy of disrobing each other, then reality bit Jack hard.

“Carter!” he said, trying to steady her.

She continued her frenzied assault on his clothes, but he managed to grab both her wrists in a firm grasp and held her still.

“Carter,” he said panting. “Just-- go slow-- It’s-- It’s been a long time for me and age doesn’t help,” he concluded laying a gentle kiss on her lips.

“Jack, I’ve waited eight years, I think this was slow enough,” she said, trying to free herself from his grasp.

He added his weight to the vice his hands were exerting on her wrists.

“I know, me too, but it’s all going to end too quickly if you don’t let me cool off. Let me-- Let me make love to you as I’ve always dreamt, Sam.

The humility in his voice touched Sam deep in her core, and the honesty she saw in his brown eyes made her heart beat faster.

She relaxed and he loosened his hold on her wrists, then lightly traced random patterns on her stomach.

His fingers reached the top button of her jeans and he deftly loosened it, making the garment slide down to her ankles.

He took it off and threw it casually over to the chair next to his chest of drawers, which it missed by a few inches. Not bothering with it any further, he drew his attention back to the silky long legs that were now displayed before his eyes, and softly touched the skin with his fingertips, leaving a trail of goose bumps behind them. He went up all the way to her belly and gently laid a kiss in the hollow of her navel.

She shivered.

“Jack…” she said moaning.

He smiled sexily and reached her mouth with his, making hers opening under his, his tongue dangling with her own in an erotic dance.

While kissing her, he reached behind her back and unfastened her bra, ridding her of the lacy lingerie and replacing it by his very talented hands.

She tried reaching for the waistband of his khakis, but he denied her access, resuming his sensuous assaults on her body.

His hands left her upper body to concentrate on the last piece of garment covering her, and suddenly she was naked, for his sole eyes to see.

He sat up on his heels and took the time to admire her.

“You’re beautiful, Sam. You know that?”

She smiled shyly.

“You’re not bad yourself, but I’d like to see you all…” she said.

He smiled, stood up and took both his jeans and underwear out in one fluid movement, he quickly joined her on the bed, not letting her admire his toned hard body for long, and resumed his previous actions.

Jack slowly but steadily brought her up to a level of arousal she had seldom reached and she was surprised when a first orgasm ripped through her body. He had only touched her! He was an expert, no doubt, but now she had an answer to the many hours wondering what his elegant hands and fingers could do!

He smiled smugly, satisfied of his effect on her. She smiled back then suddenly took his body in the vice of her slender legs and rolled them so she could take control.

He mildly protested until he felt her lips on his chest, and then he relaxed in his turn and let her discover his erogenous sensitivity.

His arousal was such he couldn’t wait to experience the joining of their bodies and souls, so he used one short moment of pause to gently roll her on her back kissing her sensually.

“Sam, I love you,” he said as he completed the last stage of their sensuous journey.

They moved together in harmony, Jack bringing them slowly but steadily to completion, and when it occurred, although it was not simultaneously, it was as if they had always been meant to be.

Sam realized at this moment that whatever life would throw at them, they would overcome it as they had, all these years, because as soon as she had stepped inside that briefing room eight years ago, their two souls had merged. No matter the years they had spent apart, they had always been two halves of the same soul and their new life together was only one more stage in their merging.

As he rolled on his side to face her, she caressed his cheek lovingly and smiled.

“I love you, Jack,” she murmured before laying a gentle kiss on his lips.

He smiled, tightened his embrace around her shoulders, and they both drifted off to sleep, content in the knowledge that nothing would now separate them.

The End.

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