Mistrust

By Scully

Email Author: scully30.miller@virgin.net

Status: Complete

Summary: Sam wants to resign

Category: Angst, Dark

Warning:  Domestic Violence, Sexual situations.

Season: 7

Spoilers: Chimera

Rating: R

Disclaimer: Stargate is and never will be mine, but a girl can dream.

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Part 1 - Consequences!

Sitting in her car, Sam pondered about what had happened that morning, it had been totally unexpected. The bruises around her abdomen were tender to the touch, but she didn’t think anything was broken.  Her main problem at the moment was to ensure her friends never found out; she didn’t know if she could live with the hassle or embarrassment of having them lecture her.

Lost in thought, she couldn’t believe that this had been the second time in her life that she’d been conned into believing that she could be happy and in a normal relationship. She was beginning to wonder who she ticked off in a previous life.

Getting out of the car gingerly, she cradled her ribs with her arm. Knowing that she couldn’t pull another sick day she walked carefully towards the mountain, preparing herself for endless questions from her team mates, when all she wanted to do was lock herself in her lab and wish the day away. Looking at her watch, she knew she was already two hours late…this was not good.

For the past several weeks, she’d been late almost constantly and she knew that her behaviour of late was not conducive to a good working relationship; particularly with Jack. Distraction seemed to be her middle name lately, and nothing the Colonel had said to her previously; about her “strange” behaviour, seemed to be making any difference.

Sighing, she headed for the elevator and to the Colonel’s office; he was not going to be a happy camper. *But*, at this moment in time, she couldn’t care less.  There were just too many other things to worry about.

Knocking on his door, she waited a few seconds before he called out. Pulling herself together, she felt the adrenaline coarse through her veins. Her heart rate increased from nervous and she had to take a few steadying breaths before walking in.

“Carter! Nice of you to show up.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I promise it won’t happen again.” Sam replied apologetically.

“What’s this, the fifth time in as many weeks that you’ve been late?  What’s the excuse this time, Carter?” Jack replied heatedly.  “You know what?  For the last seven years, I’ve counted on you to be there for the team and to watch our six.  *And* never once in those 7 years did you show up late, but now… What the hell is going on with you these days? You get yourself a boyfriend and all of a sudden the SGC means nothing to you? Is that what it is?” Jack continued, his aggravation increasing.  Hell, he wasn’t exactly Mr Punctuality himself, but never did he disrespect his teammates as much as she’d been doing these last few weeks. Missing briefings, arriving late, leaving early, was something that he’d never have associated with her, but these days…he didn’t have a clue what was going on in that head of hers, but he knew it wasn’t work related. Ever since she’d started dating *him* there’d been something different about her. They’d barely talked these last few weeks, and it hurt him.  Their relationship had always been based on trust and friendship, but now… It seemed as if she was changing, distancing herself away from him, and he didn’t why.

Sam winced at his tone, she’d rarely seen him get this upset, but deep down she’d known it was going to come sooner or later. Lowering her head in shame, she whispered, “I’m sorry, Sir. I know my behaviour of late hasn’t exactly been forthcoming, but I promise you, it won’t happen again.”

“Carter, I’ve heard it all before. You said the same thing a few days ago, you promised then that things would change, but have they? No.” Jack got up from his seat and walked over to her. “Sam…I know something’s not right with you, but I’m warning you here and now. You had better snap out of it, otherwise I won’t have any other alternative, but to file a formal warning.”

“Yes, sir.” Sam replied submissively, she didn’t know what else to say.  Everything in her life seemed to be going wrong at the moment, and the last thing she needed was to lose her job. This was her life, and she was going to make damned sure that no one took it away from her. “If there’s nothing else, sir, I have some things to do in my lab.”

Jack shook his head, he hated chewing her out, but nothing else seemed to be working with her. As she went to walk out of the office he called out to her. “Sam.”

Sam’s hand hovered on the handle, but she couldn’t look at him, she had to hold it together.

“Sam, please talk to me, I’m not just your CO, I’m your friend, and if something’s not right, professional or…personal, then tell me. I can’t help you if don’t tell me what’s going on.” It was a heartfelt plea, he didn’t know what else to say to her, his eyes reflected pain and sadness that she wouldn’t confide in him.

“Everything fine, sir. I…um… just had some personal issues to sort out…that’s all.” Sam replied half turning back to him.

“You’re sure?” Jack asked with uncertainty.

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, if you say so.” He commented, unconvinced that everything was okay. “Before you go, don’t forget that we’re due to go off world this afternoon. The briefing starts in 2 hours. Don’t be late!”

“I won’t, sir.”

With her head as heavy as her heart, she walked slowly towards her lab. Getting into the elevator, she was so lost in thought that she didn’t see the hand grab the sides to stop it from closing. Jumping slightly, she tried to calm her breathing.  Thankfully it was only Daniel.

“Hey, Sam.  Feeling better?” Daniel enquired, but not quite sure that she was all right.

“Never better. How’s the translation coming?” Sam asked trying to steer the conversation away from her.

“Fine.” He answered hesitantly. “You sure you’re okay? You still look… a little pale.”

“I’m fine, really.” She responded, suddenly finding the floor very interesting.

“You spoken to Jack yet?”

“Yes thanks.” Sam replied briefly not wanting to get into their conversation

“And?”

“And what?”

“What did he say?” Daniel questioned in silent exasperation. Noting that this was harder than having a conversation with Teal’c on a bad day.

“Daniel. No offence, but I don’t want to talk about it.” Sam replied coldly.

“Oh…okay. If you want to talk…”

“Thanks for the offer Daniel, but I won’t.”

 Not knowing where to look or what to say, they continued in silence until Sam got out of the elevator, leaving a stunned Daniel to carry on alone. He didn’t know what was going on with the two of them, but he sure as hell was going to find out.

***

Part 2 - Regrets and Resignations*

With her arms laidened with the open telephone book, Sam reached for the phone and dialed the operator. “Locksmiths, please.”

“Yes, we can do that Miss Carter, would 4pm be convenient?”

“Yes that would be great.” Sam replied before remembering they were due to go off world. “Oh, no sorry, it’s not good for me.  Can you do tomorrow morning?”

“I’m sorry, but we’re booked all day tomorrow. It’s only because we’ve had a cancellation today that we could do it this afternoon…I’m sorry. The only day I can do it now, would be… Saturday.” He replied checking his schedule.

Damn! That was two days away, but she had no alternative, she’d called everyone else and he had been her last hope. Pondering on what to do, she decided that she could stay on the base for a few days.  She was sure the General wouldn’t mind.  All she had to do was say she had a burst pipe and he would be none the wiser.

“Fine, Saturday it is then. Thanks.” Sam replied before hanging up. Crap, that would mean she’d have to go home and get her stuff.  Something she didn’t relish.

***

This had to be the worst day of her life! Sam thought as she dropped down in the dirt for the umpteenth time. The seemingly peaceful planet hadn’t been so ‘peaceful’ and they had been met by some very angry natives, who were intent on trying to kill them at each and every opportunity.

“I thought you said this planet was friendly, Daniel!” Sam hissed.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Daniel replied returning fire as the bullets ricochet off the rocks besides them.

“Will you two stop yapping and get your asses back to the gate!” Jack shouted above the noise. “We can all blame Daniel later.  Now get moving.  Teal’c and I will cover your six.” 

Nodding an affirmative, Sam and Daniel, got up slowly crouching behind anything that would give them some protection. Sam winced as her ribs began to protest. This didn’t go un-notice by Daniel.

“Sam, are you hurt?”

“Daniel! Now is not the time.”

“Sam.”

“You heard the Colonel, we need to get the gate active.”

Shaking his head, he knew he should’ve had that talk with Jack.  Mentally kicking himself he knew that there was nothing he could do about it now, but when they got back he was going to make damn sure that he heard about *this*.

***

Emerging from the other side, they barely reached the gate in time, and were thankful when the iris closed behind them.

“Well, that was fun!” Jack replied to no one in particular.

“What in Gods name happened? You couldn’t have been gone for more than a couple of hours.”

“Thank Daniel for that one, General. It’s seems the ‘friendlies’ weren’t so… ‘Friendly’.” Jack advised wiping the mud from his face.

“Everyone, okay?” General Hammond enquired.

“Yes, sir.  Once again, we’ve defied death, foiled our foes, eluded our enemies…” Jack answered on behalf of SG-1 and gathering momentum after each word in typical O’Neill style.

“Actually General, Sam’s hurt.” Daniel replied.

“Daniel.” Jack replied with complete surprise. Then looking directly at Sam, he wondered why he hadn’t noticed or why she hadn’t said anything the minute they got back.  She certainly didn’t appear to be injured.

“Jack.” Daniel replied indicating that he should ask, Sam.

“Carter?”

“I’m fine, sir.  I simply pulled a muscle. That’s all. Daniel is being a mother hen. It’s nothing, honest.” Sam replied through clenched teeth, she couldn’t believe he’d snitched on her.

“What is this, pick on Daniel day or something?” Daniel retorted with a touch of bitterness.  Sam was never like this and to hear her being so off hand with his feelings, hurt him slightly.

“Maybe you should go to the infirmary, Major.”

Rolling her eyes, she certainly didn’t want to go to the infirmary.  That was the last place she wanted to be. “Really General, I don’t need to go.”

“Carter.” Jack admonished, making her realise that this was not open for debate.

“I’m on my way, sir.”

“I’ll come by to check on you in a few minutes.” He shouted after her as she began walking away with General Hammond, Daniel and Teal’c just behind her.

Stopping dead in her tracks, she let the others go ahead of her before turning back on her heels “Really sir, there’s no need.  I’m fine.”  Sam replied. The last thing she wanted was to have her CO there when they found out her secret.

“I’m sure you are Carter, but *I* want to make certain.”

“Don’t you trust me?” Sam asked bordering on the lines of subordination.

Standing face to face, their bodies only inches apart, he looked intently into her eyes. “I don’t know these days, Carter.  I really don’t.” Jack replied honestly. Standing in total silence neither of them said a word; each trying to sense what the other was thinking.  The gate room was now deserted, leaving them alone. Momentarily betraying his feelings for her he continued. “You’re not the same person that I… I’ve worked with for the last 7 years.”

Sam looked at the intensity of his expression and the emotions that filled his eyes. She knew he’d been about to say something else, but given their current standing she watched as he stumbled - covering his tracks. *And* Sam felt guilty for not confiding in him earlier. Ever since Pete had come on the scene, she always hesitated about telling him what Pete was really like. She didn’t want him to see her as ‘some helpless female’ who needed a man to fight her battles.  It was something she had to do on her own. Closing her eyes briefly, she tried to collect her thoughts. Trouble was, she didn’t know where to start.

“I know I’ve not been myself these last few weeks, and I’m sorry. But, I would hope that with everything we’ve been through together, you’d have more faith in me… I guess I was wrong.” Sam finished sadly. As far as she was concerned the day just couldn’t get any worse. Glancing up at him one last time, tears burned in her eyes, at the thought that she had lost his respect and friendship.  This was her life, and she couldn’t imagine not being able to work beside him everyday, but now that he didn’t trust her anymore… there didn’t seem to be any point in her staying in the SGC. Struggling inwardly at the decision she was about to make, she didn’t want things to end like this, but she wasn’t prepared to stay in a place where they didn’t trust her. She knew it was of her own making, but… it didn’t make it any easier.  “I’ll have my resignation letter on your desk first thing in the morning, Sir.” She advised him solemnly, her head hung low with sadness. Her chest felt heavy with emotion at her decision. Unable to cope with anything else at the moment she tore a look at him.

Jack couldn’t believe it. She was resigning? Her statement knocked him sideways, and for the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to say. Watching silently as she backed away from him, the only thing he could do was watch as she turned on her heels and walked quickly towards the doorway. “Sam! Sam wait!”

***

Part 3 - Difficult Decisions

 

Sam quickened her pace towards the showers, she couldn’t believe what she’d done, but there really hadn’t been any alternative. The Colonel had made his opinions perfectly clear…he didn’t trust her; it was as simple as that. Her heart slammed against her chest at the thought of what she was giving up. The SGC had been her life for the last seven years.  She didn’t know how she was going to handle not coming to work everyday, exploring new worlds, laughing and joking with her friends… it was hard to believe that it had come down to *this*. It was her own fault really; no one else was to blame. She’d brought it on herself - all because she wanted a ‘normal’ life. Then a little voice popped in her head, admonishing her. No, that wasn’t true, someone else was to blame for this and she was going to make damn sure he paid for it. No one had the right to make her feel insecure in her own home. She had the right to feel loved and wanted, and just because someone had violated her in that way didn’t mean that she couldn’t re-build her life…even if it meant leaving everything that she’d worked hard for and everyone she loved. *But*, if that was true, then why did she feel like she was making the biggest mistake in the world.

 

Finally arriving at her destination she ensured that there was no one else in the locker room before switching the sign to “Female Personnel Only” and walked in. The advantage of being one of only a handful of women on base ensured that the locker room was nearly always empty. Stripping off she headed towards the showers. Increasing the thermometer slightly, it wasn’t long till the mirrors steamed. The water cascaded over her sore aching muscles and down her back, the mist from the heat entered her nostrils, and she inhaled deeply. As the water trickled down her face, she allowed herself to cry. The tears fell silently down her cheek. Surreptitiously she wiped them away, but they kept on falling. Her sobs echoed in the emptiness of the room; sliding down the tiled walls she placed her head on her knees unable to keep the emotions at bay any longer. // Dam it Sam, it’s your choice, you made your bed, you have to lie in it. //

 

***

 

Jack was stunned, for the first time in his life; he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t believe that she was resigning. This was all so wrong, but then again, there didn’t seem to be anything familiar about her these days. It was like she’d had a personality transplant and nothing he’d said to her over these last few weeks had made any difference.

 

Picking up his pace he headed towards the infirmary, where he expected to find her, but entering into the infirmary he found it empty. A deep frown settled between his eyes, thoughts tumbling to the forefront of his mind, //Where the hell is she now? // Walking into Janet’s office, he found her deep in thought with some medical literature.  Tapping her lightly on the shoulder, he watched as Janet jumped unexpectedly.

 

“Colonel, what are you doing here? Normally we have to drag you kicking and screaming before you step foot in here. What can I do for you?”

 

“Has Carter been to see you?”

 

“Sam, no, not recently. Why?”

 

“I asked her to report here about 15 minutes ago. Do me a favour Doc; can you give her a thorough check up? Something’s not quite right with her.”

 

“I know she’s not been herself lately, but…” Janet looked at him more closely, there was more than concern behind his eyes, something had happened. “Colonel, what’s happened?”

 

“Sam’s resigned.” Jack advised her sadly, his head bowed in deep contemplation.

 

“What! I don’t understand? What…what happened? Why?”

 

“Your guess is as good as mine. We had words, she got upset and handed in her resignation.”

 

“That’s not like her, Colonel.  The Air Force is her life. This job means everything to her, she wouldn’t leave just because you had an argument.”

 

“Yeah, I thought that too.” Jack replied; his head bowed in defeat.

 

“When she comes in, I’ll have a chat with her. It’s probably just some misunderstanding.” Janet answered with more optimism than she felt, this wasn’t like Sam, to just resign on a whim, there had to be more to it, than a simple argument. The Colonel was right in one respect; she was different. Over the last few weeks, she’d noticed a subtle change in her behaviour, making excuses to avoid coming over. Avoiding her questions regarding ‘Pete’, it wasn’t like her. Normally they shared everything, but not anymore.

 

“I hope you’re right.” Jack answered truthfully walking out of the infirmary, his voice flat with the feeling that Sam’s mind was made up.

 

Turning the corner sharply, he failed to see her coming and the two of them almost collided into a heap.

 

“Carter, sorry. I was just looking for you.”

 

Sam shook her head slowly in disbelief, hurt etched in her eyes “You really don’t trust me anymore, do you…Sir?” Sam added more as an afterthought as opposed to her previously respectful “Sirs” that she’d answered with him previously.

 

“I was worried.”

 

“I’m sure you were.” Sam replied off handed, not wanting to get into a discussion with him.  All she wanted to do was get this physical over and done with and head home.

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jack asked slightly hurt at her accusation.

 

“You’ve made your feelings about me and my performance perfectly clear, Sir.” Sam replied too harshly for her own ears.

 

Jack couldn’t believe her attitude, here he was worried about her, and all the words coming out of her mouth were laced with an attitude.

 

“What’s with the attitude?”

 

“I apologise if I was out of line...sir. After tomorrow this whole matter will be resolved.” Sam told him flatly, tiredness began filling her whole body, all she wanted to do was get out of the SGC as soon as possible.

 

They stared at each other; deathly silence filled the air between them. Neither one of them was sure who would speak next. Mixed emotions fell between them, sadness, pain, and regret.  Gathering what little strength she had left, Sam was first to speak. “If there’s nothing else you wanted, Sir, I have an appointment with Doctor Fraser.”

 

Jack wanted nothing more than to be there when Fraser carried out the medical exam, but he didn’t think it would be conducive to her good mood. He hated this, he couldn’t remember a time when she had behaved so abruptly or treated him with such disdain. All the feelings he’d been storing up for her over the last few years came tumbling to the forefront of his mind, and he wondered if this was the end of their… friendship.

 

***

 

“Janet.” Sam said briefly.

 

“Hey, Sam.  The Colonel said you’d be stopping by…”

 

“I know, he ordered me to come.”

 

“Everything okay, between you two?” Janet broached carefully, not wanting to cause an argument. She could tell that Sam was angry over something, but there seemed more to it than that, something that went deeper.

 

“Not really.”

 

“Want to tell me about it?”

 

“No, it’s something I need to sort out on my own.”

 

“You sure, I’m a good…”

 

“No offence, Janet, but I’m not really in the mood for talking.”

 

“Okay, if that’s what you want. Sit yourself down and I’ll take a quick look at you.”

 

Without so much as a word, Sam pulled herself onto the nearest gurney. With her hands tightly clasped in front of her, she wondered if she was making the right decision in not telling her friends about Pete. Part of her felt like she was being unreasonable, but the other half of her was ashamed that she’d let it get to this stage. She was a soldier and a damn good one, one of her skills was to spot signs that ‘things’ were not quite right, but she’d missed them and paid the ultimate price. Closing her eyes briefly she allowed Janet to take her vitals.

 

“Blood pressures up a bit, Sam. Have you noticed any symptoms? Headaches?”

 

“It’s been a hard day.” Sam told her briefly.

 

Wondering whether to bring up the conversation she’d had earlier with him, Janet didn’t know at the moment how her friend would react to them discussing her behind her back. She knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, but she had to get to the bottom of things. Sam wasn’t acting like herself and it was up to her, not only as her doctor, but also as her friend to find out why she was behaving so out-of-character.

 

“The Colonel told me that you’d resigned.”

 

“The Colonel has a big mouth.”

 

“Sam!” Janet admonished standing back to look clearly at her.

 

“I’m sorry, Janet, but he had no right.” Sam replied annoyed. “This is hard enough as it is without him telling everyone, I’m sure he’ll be happy when I’ve left, that way he won’t have to write up anymore negative reports on me.”

 

“Sam, you’re being irrational. The Colonel told me because he doesn’t want you to make such a huge mistake. *And*, I hardly think he’s happy that you’re resigning. Why would you think that?”

 

Sam’s eyes filled with unshed tears, she felt miserable, her whole world was tumbling down around her like a deck of cards falling in on itself, and she didn’t know if she could cope with much more.

 

Embracing her friend into a hug, Janet was completely taken aback by this usually unseen display of emotion. Sam was not the sort of person who’d cry on a whim.

 

“Oh, Sam, honey. Talk to me, please. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.” Janet advised her softly, her arms fully embracing around her friends back.

 

Sam’s tears fell precariously onto her friends shoulder; soft sobs escaping from her lips racked her body as she felt herself fall to pieces for the first time since this whole mess had started.

 

“Sam, look at me.” Janet commanded gently after several minutes. “I’m your friend, and I’m worried about you. Does this have something to do with what happened on the planet?”

 

“No, its nothing like that.” Sam sniffled, wiping the tears from her eyes.

 

“Then what?”

 

“It’s nothing, Janet. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to snap at you before.  I’m just hormonal… that’s all.” Sam answered trying to hide her problems with small attempts at humour. “Look, I know that the Colonel’s asked you to do the medical exam today, but would you mind if I left it for now. I promise to come back in the morning and see you first thing, but I really don’t know if I could face the prodding and poking.” Sam continued jesting lightly, her eyes pleading slightly with her friend.

 

Technically she should’ve examined her there and then, particularly in light of her changing moods, which could have been as a result of something medical. *But*, feeling that, that was unlikely, she didn’t push it and subsequently relented. “Okay, Sam, it can wait till the morning.” Pausing slightly, she hesitated before asking. “You feel like coming over to mine? Cassie’s away on some school trip, so it would be just you and me?” Janet finished hopefully.

 

“Thanks, but no thanks. It’s been a long day and I’m tired.” Sam answered truthfully, feeling as if she had run the gauntlet with her emotions today. Sighing deeply, she knew though that tomorrow was going to be worse.

 

“Alright, if that’s what you want; just one thing though before you go. Please think about what you’re going to do. This isn’t just your career we’re talking about here. The people here care about you, and they’re worried.” Sam was about to protest once more, before Janet raised her hands in a 'surrendering' gesture; the last thing she wanted to do was alienate her further. “All I’m saying, Sam, is, don’t rush into anything. You and the Colonel have had disagreements before, and I’m sure that whatever he said wasn’t meant to hurt you...”

 

“But, it did, Janet.  And… I don’t know if I can just forget about it. He made his feelings perfectly clear, and I wish things could be different, but… it’s too late.  I don’t have any other choice, Janet.” Sam told her sadly slipping off the gurney. Her eyes held a vacant look, Jack had hurt her with his words and it was something that he could just…take back. If you didn’t trust the person that you were with, then it was pointless working together, and that was why she wouldn’t go back on her decision.

 

Janet watched as her friend walked slowly out of the infirmary, her head hung low, as if the weight of the world had been placed on her shoulders. //Stubborn as a mule Samantha Carter// Janet said inwardly. Once her friends mind was made up, it wasn’t likely that she would change it in a hurry. An idea popped into the forefront of her mind. After her shift, she would drive over and see her, armed with a bottle of nicely chilled wine, and some Belgium chocolates in the hopes that she’d open up. With that said though, Janet wasn’t going to hold her breath.

 

***

 

Part 4 - What Becomes of the Broken-hearted

 

Rubbing her eyes tiredly Sam stepped out of her car and headed towards her front door.  All she wanted to do was sleep. Her eyes felt sore and puffy and she could feel the beginning of a tension headache forming at the top of spine. The pounding feeling in her skull didn’t seem to want to leave and she craved ‘something’ to take it away.

 

Walking up the steps she noticed that the door seemed slightly ajar. Cocking her head slightly, thoughts from the morning filtered through confusing her. //I was sure I locked it this morning. // She thought to herself, remembering locking it as she left in a hurry.  A sudden panic-stricken thought struck her and her chest tightened in response. Pete!

 

Her breathing became shallow as she placed her shaking hand on the doorknob. It was one thing to prepare yourself going into battle, but another to have someone invade your home.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins, heightening her senses in preparation for what lay ahead. She knew better than to just walk in to an unknown situation, but her instincts began kicking in forcing her forward into the unknown.

 

Grabbing the nearest thing to her, she held the baseball bat firmly in her grasp; eyeing her surroundings. The house had been ransacked. Drawers were hanging off their hinges; its contents scattered across the room as if her home had been invaded by a tornado.  Turning towards the sofa, nothing could have prepared her for what lay in front of her; her brand new sofa was slashed to pieces; fabric peeled off the cushions like banana peel. Her hand flew to her mouth in shock, and her body trembled at the thought that someone could’ve done something like this; she felt violated.

 

Her footsteps echoed on the wooden flooring as she wondered round the house checking for signs that someone was still in the house. Going from room to room, the only thing she found was more destruction, her wardrobe had been completely emptied and splayed out on the floor. Something didn’t seem right though; all her valuables were still there. Whoever had ransacked her home, they weren’t typical burglars. This attack wasn’t random; it was pre-meditated.  Someone had deliberately entered her home for the intention of warning her that they could get to her at any time.

 

Sitting down on her bed she picked up the telephone. Instead of dialling the police like she should’ve done Sam held the receiver in her hand with uncertainty. This wasn’t a simple case of robbery; this was revenge. *And* Pete was a cop, admittedly a cop from out of town, but nevertheless she wasn’t sure how the police would handle things. Questions plagued her. Would they take notice of her, or would they unintentionally shy away from capturing the person responsible because of the person’s job? Placing the receiver back down for the moment, Sam curled herself on the bed pulling the pillow towards her in an attempt to seek some comfort. Silently the tears fell once more. She didn’t know how long she’d been lying there on the bed before she heard the floorboards creak in the direction of the living room. Startled, she grabbed the nearest to her, the baseball bat. Her heart rate accelerated with nervous energy. Cautiously she headed towards the noise, armed and ready to take on the person that entered without her permission.

 

Creeping silently, her hand gripped tightly around the weapon. Venturing stealthily into the living room she heard the gentle sound of footsteps heading towards her. Her heart pounded in her ears as she raised the bat towards her assailant.

 

“Son of a…” Sam cried in defiance, jumping out at her would-be-attacker.

 

“Sam…it’s me, Janet.” Janet shouted quickly before Sam had the opportunity to swing the bat at her.

 

“Janet, my God, you frightened me, I thought that you were… What…wh… what are you doing here?” Sam gasped in surprise.

 

“I was worried. I saw your door open, and saw the mess on the floor and the sofa, and I thought that something had happened to you.  I was just about to call the police.” Janet told her friend worriedly.

 

“No, don’t.” Sam shouted quickly.

 

“Sam, what the hell is going on? Don’t give me any BS either.”

 

Throwing the bat onto the wooden flooring, Sam sat down on the nearest chair indicating to Janet that she should do the same. Silence filled the room for a few moments while Sam tried to think of a way to explain everything. For weeks she’d been pushing everything to one side in the hope that it would all go away by itself.  As far as she was concerned, Pete was out of her life, never to return. Obviously Pete had other plans for her.

 

“It’s complicated.” Sam replied cryptically.

 

“I’ve got all the time in the world.” Janet answered promptly, adamant in the fact that no matter what happened here, she was going to get to the bottom of it. “First of all, why haven’t you called the police?”

 

“I can’t, Janet.  Like I said, it’s complicated.”

 

“I don’t care, Sam. You can’t let this go, without reporting it.” Janet argued strongly, turning her body towards her friend. Janet knew something was amiss, it wasn’t like Sam to *not* report an incident. Taking her hand, she squeezed it firmly, letting her know that she wasn’t going anywhere. “Sam.” She pressured, watching her friend struggle internally.

 

Sam sighed; she knew that someone would find out eventually, and that it was only a matter of time. *But*, she didn’t know where to start, or how to put it into words. “I know who did this.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Pete.”

 

“Pete? As in your boyfriend, Pete?”

 

“*Ex-boyfriend* as of several days ago.”

 

“I don’t understand…if you know who it is, why haven’t you called the police?”

 

“Because he’s a cop, that’s why.  What makes you think they’re going to believe that ‘one of their own’ would be capable of doing something like this.”

 

“Sam, I’m sure this wouldn’t be the first crime that’s been committed by a cop. I don’t understand your reluctance to call them.”

 

“Can you imagine what would happen if I reported it? The press would get hold of the story; it would be all over the evening news.”  Sam shouted angrily, standing up to walk away.  “I’m not prepared to sit back and watch my private life be made public because of *him*, Janet. Can you imagine what the Colonel, Daniel and Teal’c would do if they found out?”

 

A light bulb clicked in her head, and Janet finally realised what had been going on for the last few weeks, and why her behaviour had been so erratic. *But*, that was something that they’d discuss later, *after* the police had been called. She didn’t care who or what the reasons were behind this attack, she wasn’t prepared to let her friend let this go.

 

“Sam, I understand your reasons, but, you don’t have a choice in the matter.  If you let this go, there’s a chance he could come back.”

 

“Don’t you think I know that Janet that, that thought hasn’t crossed my mind?  *If* he comes back, I’ll be ready for him. *And* believe me, he won’t get a second chance.”

 

Janet heard her words, and became more certain that this wasn’t the first incident between her and Pete, and if that was the case, then she figured out that if it’s happened more than once, it was more than likely that he would come back again. “That’s not the point, Sam, and you know it. If you won’t call them…I will.” Janet argued, now completely facing her with hands on hips.

 

The Colonel would have described it as ‘Napoleonic power monger’ mode, with little chance of resistance. Sam knew the ‘look’ and realised that her friend was not going to let this drop, without a heated argument; and Sam was too tired and emotional to cope with that right now.

 

“Okay, you win. I don’t want anyone else hearing about this though.”

 

“Sam, they’re your friends. Don’t you think…?”

 

“No, Janet. I’ve agreed to the police coming, but I don’t want anyone else to know…”

 

Not wanting to push her to far, Janet agreed for the time being, but made her perfectly aware that this matter wasn’t closed; not by a long shot.  Calling the police in though was her first priority.

 

Wandering through room to room in a daze, waiting for the police to arrive, she tried to catalogue the damage, and to ascertain if anything had been taken.  As far as she could tell nothing had been taken; everything could be replaced quite easily, which Sam was relieved about to, some extent.

 

Janet handed her a large cup of coffee, before taking stock of everything around her.

 

“He really has done a number on you, Sam.  Are you sure it was Pete? I mean I know I didn’t know him that well, but he didn’t seem to be the sort of man who’d do something like this.”

 

“That’s what I thought at first.” Sam answered sadly.

 

Suddenly, Sam jumped up from the sofa and ran into the bedroom, quickly followed by a worried Janet. She didn’t know what had caused this sudden outburst, but she was damned sure it must’ve been important.

 

“Sam, what is it?”

 

Unable to speak, she had to see it was still there. A panic stricken look befell her face as she rummaged through her wardrobe. She knew though that he’d done it, just to hurt her more. A sinking feeling emerged in the pit of her stomach when she pulled out her jewellery box.  Opening it up she didn’t need to check through; it was gone.

 

Placing the box back into the wardrobe, Sam’s anger threatened to bubble over.  Picking up the coffee mug she threw it against the wall in a fit of rage, before sliding down the wardrobe doors, clenching her fists in anger.

 

“Sam, talk to me.”

 

“My mother’s jewellery…he’s taken it.” Sam replied bursting into tears.  Out of all the things he could’ve taken, he chose the one thing that meant the most to me; my mom’s wedding ring.” All her emotions came tumbling forward and she pulled her knees up to her chest and wept; her body heaved with the effort of trying to contain all her emotions.

 

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” Janet empathised kneeling down next to her and scooping her up into her arms.

 

No words were required, the simple fact that her friend was there holding her was all that was needed.

 

***

 

Sitting in front of General Hammond, Jack shook his head, “…and then she told me she was resigning…just like that.”

 

“And she didn’t give any reasons for it?” General Hammond enquired stoically, clasping his hands in front of him.

 

“None.”  Jack replied simply still reeling at her decision to leave the SGC. He knew that deep down this wasn’t what she wanted, but, then again this seemed par for the course these days. “Her behaviour has been erratic these last few weeks, which could be attributed to what’s going on in her personal life. *But* I never thought that she’d give everything up without a valid reason, and from what I’ve heard…she hasn’t got one.”

 

“Maybe she has, Jack, but one that she’s not willing to share with us at the moment. Like it or not though, it’s something that has to be done before her resignation can be accepted.” Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly. “Talk to her, Jack, try and get her to open up to you.”

 

“With all due respect, Sir. I’m the last person she wants to speak to at the moment.”


“I understand that, but you are in her direct chain of command, Colonel. Major Carter and yourself obviously have some issues to work out, and I want everything sorted before she comes and sees me. Is that understood?”

 

“Sir…”

 

“Colonel, this isn’t a request. Do whatever you must, but, I do not want to see her resignation letter on my desk without her having discussed this fully with you first.”

 

“Yes, Sir.”  Jack knew that once the General had made up his mind that there was no turning back, he had no alternative *but* to speak to her.  For the first time in his life, this was one order he wasn’t looking forward to undertaking.

 

Walking out of Hammond’s office, his mind filled itself with how he would confront her. Debating on whether he should go to her house or not, he failed to hear Daniel shout his name.

 

“ Jack, I just heard about Sam.”

 

Turning around, Jack noticed that Daniel’s face showed signs of distress at the recent news, //Gotta love that old rumour mill//! Jack thought checking his watch. It had only been a few hours since she’d told him and already news had gotten around the base. Sam would’ve been impressed.

 

“News travels fast.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve thought that after working together for the last 7 years, you’d have the common courtesy to at least…”

 

Jack listened absently while Daniel went off in frenzy; anger bubbling to the surface, like a pressure cooker waiting to boil over. He didn’t know how it had started, but it certainly hadn’t been his intention to keep this from them. It had obviously taken place when he’d been discussing it with the General. He understood Daniel’s anger, but he didn’t need to hear it right know, he had more things to worry about other than Daniel’s feelings.

 

“Daniel. Look I’m sorry that you had to hear it this way.”

 

“Your sorry.” Daniel continued indignantly.

 

“Yes, *I’m sorry*.  What do you want me to do? Get down on my hands and knees and beg for forgiveness?”

 

“That would be a start.” Daniel replied crossing his arms over his chest defiantly.

 

“Look, I don’t know what happened myself. So I sure as hell haven’t got a clue what to tell you.” Jack started getting annoyed.

 

“Didn’t she give you a reason?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Did you ask her why?”

 

“I never got the chance, Daniel. We…exchanged words…and then she left.” Jack replied cagily walking to his office, with Daniel following closely behind.

 

Noting Jack’s posture and elusiveness in giving him details, it was obvious that they’d had a disagreement. In fact he wasn’t surprised by it. Over the last few weeks their behaviour towards each other had become decidedly bizarre. Between awkward silences and arguments over trivial matters while they were out in the field, Daniel had been surprised that they’d lasted this long without something ‘giving’.

 

“What were you arguing about?”

 

“It wasn’t like that Daniel.”

 

“No? Then what was it like, Jack?”

 

“Don’t start with me, Daniel. I’m not in the mood.”

 

Relentless and un-yielding, Daniel was determined to get to the bottom of things, or at least get Jack to confess what was going on in his mind…if nothing else. “It must’ve been bad for Sam to just hand in her resignation. You must’ve really upset her.”

 

Stopping in his tracks, Jack had just about had enough, and finally let rip off all the pent up frustrations that he’d been feeling for the last few hours. “It wasn’t intentional f’crying out loud.  You know how she’s been acting for the last few weeks. I think I’ve shown great restraint in not hauling her ass over the coals a long time ago.”

 

“You know, Jack, there’s this wonderful device humans have been using for years. It’s called ‘Talking’! Something you and Sam have done little of over these last few weeks. Instead of shouting at each other, why don’t you…”

 

“I’ll tell you what Daniel, if you think you’re such an expert why don’t you talk to her?” Jack said finally before storming off down the murky grey corridors of the SGC.

 

Bowing his head in reflective silence, softly he whispered, “Because it’s not me she needs.”

 

***

 

Part 5 – Confrontation

 

 

Sam wandered back to the living room, feeling as if the weight of the world had been placed on her shoulders. The police had yet to arrive, and Sam’s patience had just about reached the end of its tether. She couldn’t wait any longer. All she wanted was to get back to normal, but she couldn’t, not as things stood.

 

Walking back into the living room Janet asked, “How are you feeling?”

 

“Like a lost-soul.”

 

“It’ll get better.  I’m sure they’ll catch whoever’s responsible, Sam.”

 

“You mean, Pete.”

 

“Sam, it might not have been him. It could have been just your run of the mill burglars.”

 

“Janet, just take a look around. Does this look like a typical burglary? Everything apart from my mother’s ring is still here. Only Pete knew where I kept my valuables, and he knew what the ring meant to me. I’m telling you, it *was* Pete.”

 

“Okay, okay, I’m just saying.”

 

“Yes, well don’t.”

 

Janet rolled her eyes, trying to bite back her tongue; there really was nothing she could say to make things easier for her friend. Pulling the curtain back, she waited patiently for the police to arrive and at least it gave her something positive to do.  At the moment she felt like a spare part, nothing she said to Sam seemed to be helping.

 

Bending down to pick up the bat, Sam felt a twinge in the side of her chest, and sucked in a breath to ease the discomfort. The pain wasn’t giving her a break though. Wrapping her arms around her stomach she tried to protect herself from waves of pain that hit her like a tidal wave. The nausea erupted, hitting her with full force. Unable to keep the bile that rose in the back of her throat, she rushed to the bathroom to rid her stomach of its contents.

 

Turning round, Janet watched as her friend darted quickly out of the room.  A worried look passed over the young doctor. Calling out to her friend she got no response. “Sam?”

 

She couldn’t understand what had made her disappear so quickly; confused she wandered in the direction Sam was headed. Hearing noises from the bathroom, she knocked lightly on the door.

 

“Sam, you in there?” Getting no response, she tried again. “Sam, honey let me in.”

 

Sitting on the wooden floor with her head hovering over the toilet bowel, Sam didn’t want Janet seeing her like this.  Doctor or not, she wasn’t ready to tell her the whole story just yet. Taking a deep breath, she waited for the queasiness to subside before she answered her; she hated being sick.

 

“Sam! I swear if you don’t let me in right now, I’m going to kick this door down.”

 

Despite the situation, Sam smiled at her friend’s desperate plea. At 5 ft 1, she couldn’t imagine Janet Fraser kicking anything down let alone the door.

 

The pain in her side seemed to have eased slightly and she levied herself to a standing position, leaning on the bathroom sink for support. “I’ll be out in a second.” She called softly before rinsing her mouth out.

 

Taking a good look at her reflection, she noticed the dark ringed circled under her eyes. Her usually peachy complexion now seemed pale and lifeless, and her normal crystal blue eyes seemed to have lost their vibrancy and looked as washed out as she felt. Losing track of time, lost in her own thoughts, she completely forgot about the waiting Janet outside the bathroom door.

 

“That’s it! I’m coming in.” Janet shouted.

 

Snapping herself back to reality, she went and opened the door. “You’re so impatient.” Sam admonished walking away from her friend.

 

“You look like crap, Sam.” Janet advised her in no uncertain terms.

 

“Is that what you say to your patients? It’s no wonder they want to leave the infirmary as quickly as they do.”

 

“Don’t think you can talk your way out of this Samantha Carter. I’ve dealt with Colonel O’Neill for the last seven years, and I’ve heard *all* the excuses going. Now, park your heinie on the sofa and don’t move.”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“To get my bag.”

 

“Janet, I don’t *need* for you to be my doctor. I need you to… just be my friend.” Sam told her. The last thing she wanted was for her to see her bruised ribs, but she knew that once Janet had set her mind to something, there was no point in arguing her.

 

“What is it that you don’t want me to know?” Janet asked shrewdly, noting her continued avoidance at being examined.

 

“I don’t know what you mean.” Sam replied evasively, crossing her arms across her chest defensively.

 

“Well let me put it simply for you. This is the second time you’ve avoided me having a look at you. So, I want to know what it is you’re hiding?”

 

“I’m not *hiding* anything, can we just leave it please. It’s been a long day, I’m tired and I don’t feel like being poked and prodded.”

 

“No Sam!” Janet told her finally. “Either we do it here and now, or I’ll call General Hammond *and* the Colonel and they can order you back to the base and we can do it there. Your choice.” Janet told her firmly, complete with hands on hips.

 

“You wouldn’t?” Sam questioned with uncertainty. The thought of being ordered back to the base by the Colonel was not something she wanted to face this time of night.  It was bad enough that she had to see him tomorrow; she didn’t think she could handle his questions right now.

 

“Oh no? Try me.”

 

Their eyes locked for a few seconds, both ladies trying to ascertain who would break first. Neither one was prepared to back down, but ultimately someone had to give.

 

“You’re serious aren’t you, you’d call the Colonel on me?”

 

“In a heartbeat. Like I said before, I have heard every excuse in the book, Sam. Nothing you say will convince me that everything’s okay, so we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

 

“Fine, but not until the police have finished.”

 

“Okay, but for the time being you sit on the sofa, and do nothing.”

 

Opening her mouth to protest, more out of habit than anything else, Janet placed her hand on her shoulder stating simply, “Just humour me.”

 

***

 

Brooding in his office, Jack didn’t feel like going home tonight.  Absently pushing his paperwork from one side of his desk to the other, he knew staying here was a futile gesture; particularly when his mind was on other things.

 

He felt as if the whole world was turning against him, first Sam, then Daniel, and while General Hammond didn’t openly state that it was his fault she was leaving, he knew better. The worst thing was, he didn’t understand *why* she was leaving. Sure they’d had their differences before, but it wasn’t like they’d had a big bust up or anything. It made him so annoyed to think she could just walk out on him like that…how dare she.  Pent up frustrations of the day crept towards the surface and he felt like a volcano preparing to erupt.  Grabbing the nearest thing to him, he threw it venomously towards the other side of the room, narrowly missing the person walking into his office.

 

“Teal’c I’m so sorry, that wasn’t meant for you.” Jack jumped up apologetically, walking around towards the shards of glass that now littered his office floor.

 

Teal’c completely un-phased by what had transpired; lifted his eyebrow replying, “ *And* for whom was it intended?”

 

Silence filled the room while Jack waited to come up with a good answer. Truth was he didn’t know who he was angrier with…Sam or himself. In the end he replied, “No one, really. I just felt the urge to break something.” Jack lied unconvincingly. “Don’t you ever just get the urge?”

 

“Indeed O’Neill, only my urges have nothing to do with breaking inanimate objects.”

 

A quizzical look passed over his face wondering what he was referring to, then once it hit him, all he could say was. “Ooookay, way too much information.” Expecting another comment from his friend, but nothing came. Instead Jack watched his friend wait quietly and calmly as he’d done so many times in the past for him to make the first move, but this was one night he wasn’t giving in.  “I’m done here for the night, fancy going for a beer?”

 

“Do you wish to… drown your sorrows O’Neill?”

 

“Well that was subtle. And, who taught you that phrase? Or do I really need to ask?”

 

“Daniel Jackson is most upset at the loss of Major Carter, and advised me that he was going to drown his sorrows.”

 

“She’s not dead Teal’c. She’s just leaving to…pursue other interests.” Jack answered casually.  “Besides, you can’t really drown your sorrows with Daniel, it only takes one beer from him and he’s passed out on the floor speaking incoherently.”

 

Realising that his friend was avoiding answering the question, Teal’c attempted to return the conversation to what weighed heavily on his mind. “Major Carter would not leave the SGC voluntarily.”

 

Grabbing his jacket from the rack, he paused for a moment. With his hand resting lightly on the peg he replied softly. “Yes, well…she did.”

 

“You must advise her that this is not a wise course of action, O’Neill.”

 

“It’s her decision, Teal’c.”  Jack advised him solemnly, preparing to walk out of the room.

 

Flexing his arm, Teal’c grabbed on to his friend’s triceps, stopping him in his tracks. His face was stoic, as he told him firmly, “It is the wrong decision.”

 

“Tell me about it.” Jack sighed finally; walking out of his office - the discussion was over.

 

***

 

Peter Shanahan skulked behind the bushes, as if waiting for his prey. Watching the police cars pull up outside her house caused his blood to boil. One thing he was counting on would be the fact that she wouldn’t call the cops, how wrong he was. *But*, one thing was certain, she would pay. He wasn’t prepared to lose his whole career over her, not if he could help it. *And* the only way he could preserve his job was to silence her once and for all. Patience and timing was all that was required. He had to have her, and if he couldn’t…then no one else would either.

 

As far as he was concerned she still belonged to him, he’d earned that right.  They’d been good together, until a certain person had gotten in the way. Although she hadn’t come out and directly said she wanted to be with him…he knew. 

 

Watching her invite them in, a small smile played on his lips. He knew exactly what he was going to do with her; calculating the plan in his mind, he would bring her to the edge of sanity before making his final move; making her suffer more and more each day. He’d already left her a message, just to let her know that there was nothing she could do to stop him.

 

***

 

“See that wasn’t too bad, was it?”

 

“Did you see the look that the policeman gave me, when I told him that Pete was a cop.”

 

“Sam, you’re getting paranoid.” Janet replied casually. “Well now that they’re gone, let’s get down to business shall we?”

 

Biting her lip with nervous energy she knew she’d have to tell her.  Time had run out, there were no more excuses that she could’ve come up with. *But*, there was one thing she had to do first…tell her the truth.

 

“On one condition.” Sam advised nervously.

 

“Sam…”

 

“Janet, I need you to promise me that this won’t go any further. I don’t want anyone else to know about this.”

 

Eyeing her suspiciously, Janet realised that she was dead serious. It wasn’t just that though, there was something more lurking behind her eyes, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Nodding in agreement, Sam stood up lifting her sweatshirt to reveal a bruise going right across her ribs. Closing her eyes she waited for her friend’s reaction.

 

Janet was completely taken aback, not with the injury, she’d seen worse, but with the complete devastation on her friend’s face. Everything fell into place, Sam’s behaviour of late, her reluctance to be examined… There really was nothing she could say to make her friend feel any better. All this time she’d kept this dark secret to herself, and it pained her. Part of her felt hurt that Sam hadn’t confided in her, she couldn’t understand why she’d let it get this bad without telling anyone.  Right now though that didn’t matter.

 

“Pete?”

 

Sam nodded pulling her sweater back down, silent tears began falling from her eyes… the secret was out. She felt so ashamed, partly because she was used to being the smart one, the one who could solve anything complex, everything that is apart from her own life. She hadn’t even seen it coming.  With Jonas it had been different, she’d known he was off the wall, but she liked that in a man. It was only when he’d become controlling that she’d started to get uncomfortable within the relationship. Strange though how she’d seen the signs in him, but she hadn’t with Pete and she felt like such a fool because of it. All those little arguments she’d have with him in the morning about her not sharing her life with him.  Sure she’d told him some things, but just like always there were certain aspects of her life that had to remain private. And when he wasn’t able to cope with that, that’s when things had turned nasty.

 

“When did it start?”

 

“Not long ago. Initially he’d start arguing when I’d be getting ready to go to work, he was annoyed because he wasn’t part of that aspect of my life, then more recently it intensified. He became more and more controlling until everything came to a head… and that’s when I told him to leave.”

 

“When did the beatings start?”

 

“It was only once, Janet.”

 

“That’s once too many, Sam.”

 

“Don’t you think I know that? I honestly thought he would change, that I could reason with him, but it’s not as easy as you think.” Sam shouted in frustration at getting her friend to understand.

 

“Sam, believe it or not, I do understand.  You’d be surprised how many women stay in abusive relationships, either out of fear, or loneliness. It’s a hard decision leaving that part of your life behind, and for most women it’s impossible; either because they don’t think they deserve any better or they can’t find a way out. And what makes it worse for them is the fact that they keep it a secret from their friends and families because they’re too ashamed or embarrassed to let anyone know. I just wished you’d confided in us, Sam.”

 

“It’s not exactly the easiest thing to drop in the middle of conversation, Janet. Nice weather we’re having, oh and by the way my boyfriend’s hitting me. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”

 

“I know, but we’d have helped you.”

 

“I didn’t want anyone to know, Janet. I’m a Major in the US Air Force; I fight for my life and my friend’s lives everyday. What would they have thought of me, if I told them I couldn’t handle this?”

 

“So is this why you decided to leave, because you couldn’t face the thought of telling them?”

 

“Partly.”

 

“Then what’s the other reason? I don’t understand what else would make you just throw away your career?”

 

“Janet, like I said before, I don’t want to discuss it.” Sam advised her firmly. “Look, Janet, I don’t mean to be a bad host or anything, but I’m tired and need to get this place sorted. Can we call it a night please?”

 

“I’d prefer you’d stay at mine tonight.  I don’t want you to be here on your own.”

 

“I’ll be fine, Janet.”

 

“I’m sure you will be, but…”

 

“Janet! I *need* to do this on my own. I appreciate what you’re saying and everything you’ve done for me today, but I need to start putting my life back together.”

 

“Sam, about tomorrow…”

 

“I know what you’re going to say, Janet, but my mind’s made up.”

 

“There’s nothing I can say to change it?” Janet asked sadly.

 

“No.” There was no hesitation in her voice, she was resolute that tomorrow would be her final day.

 

Standing up, they gave each other one last longing look, knowing that this was an end of an era. Janet’s fear was that they’d grow apart. It would start off that they’d call each other every day, then every day would turn into once a week. The visits and phone calls would become less frequent as they became used to their new lives, and soon enough they’d end up being just a familiar face they’d meet on the street. Life was like that. But, she didn’t want all the years they’d shared to be nothing more than a chapter in her life. She wanted things to remain as they were now, but ultimately she knew that time moved forward… as did friendships.

 

Pulling her into a hug, Sam allowed herself to be comforted by her friend.  Resting her head gently on her friends shoulder, she drew strength from her friends support.  She didn’t have many close friends, and the thought that she’d lose the one person that felt more like a sister hurt her deeply. Janet knew her inside and out and she knew she’d never find another friend quite like her. “I’m going to miss you.”

 

“Me too.” Janet replied softly moving away from her. “Come see me tomorrow, okay?” Janet finished wiping her eyes.

 

Nodding, Sam walked her out.

 

Unable to face anything else at the moment, Sam headed towards the shower. Stepping in she felt the hot water ease her aching body, the sweet smell of the shower gel filled her nostrils as the torrent of water cascaded down her spine. Closing her eyes in silent contemplation, she thought about how she was going to word her resignation letter and how she would face the Colonel in the morning, and where her new life would take her. Only one thing was a certainty now…she was alone.

 

Oblivious at the time that had passed she had gotten in the shower, she knew she couldn’t stay there for much longer, she stole a look at her shrivelled fingers and knew then that she’d been in way too long.

 

Stepping out of the shower, she grabbed the towel; the bathroom was clouded in mist from the hot steam. Wiping off the moisture from her face, she walked towards the mirror and was unprepared for what lay waiting for her.

 

Dropping the towel in surprise, she clasped her hand to her mouth, adrenaline rushing through her veins. Her body trembled at the message that had appeared on the mirror.

 

I’m watching you!

 

Fear and dread tore through her as she stood; frozen like a statue. As the steamy mist began clearing from the room, the rush of cooler air circulated around the bathroom causing the message to erase from the mirror. She didn’t know how or when he’d had the opportunity to leave the message for her.  Thoughts clouded her mind. Maybe he’d crept in as she showered? Or maybe he’d left it earlier when the house had been ransacked. Worse still - what if he was still here? The thought that he was in her house brought an icy chill down her spine, her hands shook with nervous energy as she picked up the nearest towel to cover herself before walking towards the bathroom door.

 

With her hands shaking, she felt her heart catch in her throat. Preparing herself for what lay in wait, she took a deep breath and opened it. Scanning the room she couldn’t hear a sound. Listening intently for any kind of movements, she cautiously headed for the living room to pick up the wooden baseball bat, that she’d casually tossed aside earlier.

 

Poised and ready to strike at anything that moved she wandered carefully from room to room waiting for *him* to jump out at her at any moment.  As she neared the last room, she placed her hand on the door handle; pulling the lever down she went to push it open, but was suddenly startled by the telephone.

 

Panic set it at who might be ringing her at this hour.

 

Flinging the last door open, she looked inside.

 

Alone

 

Cold

 

Frightened

 

Persistent ringing filled the house; she couldn’t ignore it, in case there’d been an accident or an emergency at work. Tentatively she picked up the receiver, “Hello?”

 

A voice cold and calculating on the end whispered, “Did you get my message?”

 

She recognised *him* immediately. “Why are you doing this?” She countered vehemently.

 

“Because I can.” The voice stated menacingly, feeding on her fear.

 

“It’s over Pete. The sooner you get that into your thick skull, the better.”

 

“It’s over when *I* say it is.”

 

“Don’t threaten me, Pete.  The police know all about you, and for your sake you’d better hope they catch you before I do. If you come within 2 feet of me or my property, I swear to God you’ll regret it.”

 

Hearing the laughter on the end of the receiver infuriated her. This was her home and she was damned if he was going to scare her away.

 

“I love it when you get feisty, Sam. I look forward to seeing more of that. By the way, did I tell you how sexy you look in that towel? It brings out the blue in your eyes.”

 

Slamming the phone down, Sam ran to the window searching for him. Scanning the front porch the dim light of the street lamps filtered through the pathways casting shadows on everything that moved, but she couldn’t see him. Closing the blinds, she ran towards the front door, anger boiling over, but if he’d been there before, he certainly wasn’t now. She decided then and there that there was safety in numbers and she knew there’d be no one at the base this time of night.  While the last thing she wanted was for him to frighten her away from her home, she wasn’t stupid.  Until the locks were changed, she’d be safer at the base.

 

***

 

Sitting in front of her computer, Sam finished off her letter. It was done. There was no going back now. Looking at the clock, the time showed 5.00am, she’d been at this all night. She couldn’t believe that this was going to be her last day. The words on paper could never compare to how she was feeling, the formality of it all had taken away how much she had enjoyed her job and her time here on the base. Seven years of working here had built up a lot of happy and painful memories for her, but there comes a time in everyone’s life where things have to come to an end…and it was her time. As much as she regretted the decision there was no other choice.  Jack and herself would continue to argue over trivial matters, and she’d end up hating him. He’d already lost his respect and trust for her, and to her, there really was nothing else he could’ve said that would’ve hurt her more. She felt as if she’d failed him, he’d put all his trust in her and she’d let him down. If only she’d told him everything when this whole thing had started, things might have been different. Now though, things had gone too far for her to back away now, and like it or not she had to face the consequences of her actions. Handing in her resignation was the only way she could salvage this sorry state of affairs.

 

Thinking back to a couple of months ago, she remembered discussing her resignation with him, or rather his imaginary persona. She’d had no qualms about giving up her career for him then, if she knew how he felt about her.  Fate though obviously had different plans for her now. Hell, she didn’t even know if he harboured those same feelings for her as he did that day when they were tested by the Zatarc device. Or most recently when he’d held her in his arms; bloodied and battered from her lucky escape from the super soldier. She’d felt so safe and secure then as if everything was just meant to be. It seemed like a lifetime ago…nothing, but a distant memory. How she longed for him to hold her like that once more, to tell her that everything would be okay and that he still trusted her and needed her. Then…maybe everything could be as it once was.

 

***

 

Holding the letter in her shaking hands, she gathered her thoughts,  //Well Sam, this is it. //

 

Why then did she hesitate? If this was the right decision, why not just do it? Because it was *him* she had to face, that was why. She couldn’t bear his questioning eyes, his wonderings of where things had gone so wrong between them. She knew, because those were her thoughts and feelings. Their relationship had gone beyond friendship and camaraderie; he was the one she’d give her life for.

 

Pain

 

Anger

 

Regrets

 

Jack heard the subtle knocking on his door, and knew it was goodbye. Hammond had asked that he talk to her, but he knew her inside and out - stubborn as a mule when she had set her mind on something. They were the same, but different.  Born of the same instincts to protect and serve no matter what the personal cost.

 

“Come in.”

 

“Sir.”

 

Jack watched her for signs of anything to indicate that she’d changed her mind; but there was none.

 

“Sit down, Carter.” Carter? Why did he have to be so formal? She was leaving f’crying out loud, and he was acting like she was just here on detached duty, not someone that he cared about. But, it was easier than actually facing up to his feelings…wasn’t it? He didn’t know anymore.  All he knew was, she was handing in her resignation and he’d never see her again. His heart felt as if it were being ripped from his chest.

 

“I’d rather stand, Sir.  I’d like to get this over and done with as soon as possible if you don’t mind.” Stay calm. Focus on anything but him.

 

“Actually, there are a few things we need to talk about.”

 

“I have some leave owing, 6 weeks I believe. I’d appreciate it if you’d release me as soon as possible. I’d like to use that in lieu of my notice.” Sam answered formally, wanting and needing to end this as quickly as possible.

 

“Sam…”

 

She hated it when he used her name like that, it just made everything that much harder. Trying to maintain her composure was difficult enough as it is without *this*.

 

“Don’t.” It was a simple word that conveyed so much more, she held the tears at bay. It was a plea for him to just let her go.

 

Jack stared silently into her eyes, unsure of what to say. “Hammond wanted me to speak with you about your…resignation.” That word was bittersweet in his mouth, so much so that he had to take a drink to wash away the aftertaste. “He wants to be sure you’re making the right decision, and frankly so do I. What happened to you, Sam? Did you know that you were only one of a handful of people that I’d trusted to watch my six?”

 

Were?  There it was again, the doubt in his voice. What could she say to that?

 

So, this is what it had come down to…silence. Their once familiar and open relationship was now stagnant and uncommunicative, and he hated it.  Never in his life did he feel so uncomfortable.

 

“So… are you going to tell me what this is all about?”

 

“It’s personal.”

 

“As in ‘Pete’ personal.” Even speaking his name held a bitter taste in his mouth. As far as he was concerned, Pete was a piece of slime that he could happily stomp on. He didn’t know what it was about that guy, but something didn’t settle right with him. He was like a bad smell that kept on coming back.

 

“With all due respect, Sir. It’s my business.”

 

“Maybe, but when it affects your career, then it becomes *my* business. And lets face it, since *he’s* been on the scene your work performance has not exactly been up to your normal standard.”

 

Anger and pain filtered through her. Bitterly she replied, “Well then, you should be thankful that I’m leaving… Sir.”

 

Shaking his head, he knew this would be a fruitless exercise. “So you’re not going to tell me.”

 

“No.” There was no hesitation. In one word she conveyed to him her refusal in discussing the issue further. Looking at him directly, she noted that his feelings were hidden so deeply behind the mask that he’d put up that for the first time since she joined the SGC, she couldn’t ‘read’ him. Pulling an envelope from her pocket, she handed it to him before snapping back to attention. “It’s my formal resignation, Sir.  You’ll find it’s all in order. If you’ll grant my request for my leave to begin immediately, I’ll go and clear out my things.”

 

“I’ll have to clear it with General Hammond first, but I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t allow it.” Jack replied sadly, trying to maintain control of his emotions that threatened to overwhelm him was becoming more and more difficult.

 

“I understand, Sir. Now if there’s nothing else I have some things to do before I leave.”

 

Jack nodded simply not knowing what else to say. What could he say? Her mind was made up, and he was letting her go…just like that. Watching her walk out the door as she did was difficult to say the least, but what right did he have to stop her? After all it was her decision, and while he knew she was making the wrong decision it wasn’t his place to interfere, if she wanted to give up her whole career for the sake of being with Pete, then what right did he have to stop her? It wasn’t as if he could just tell her to stop seeing that slimy no good cop…could he? And if he did, how would she react? Knowing Carter like he did, she was as stubborn as a mule and there was no way in hell she’d listen…would she? Mulling things over in his mind, he felt as if he was being held in a cage.  The office was becoming decidedly claustrophobic and he had to get out of there before he went nuts, he picked up her letter of resignation and held tightly against his chest; hoping against all odds that this was just one long bad dream and that he’d wake up at any time. Unfortunately that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Closing his eyes in quiet contemplation he tried to think of someway he could get her to change her mind, but ultimately it was her decision.

 

***

 

She couldn’t believe it; the last of her boxes had been packed away. General Hammond had authorised her leave and her resignation with some persuading that it was her choice, and nothing he could’ve said would have made any difference.

 

The morning had only begun, and she knew it wouldn’t be long until Janet, Daniel and Teal’c would come and see her, she’d already spoken to them earlier that morning and they had tried to change her mind, but she was resolute in her actions and nothing they said could or would change her mind. As for the Colonel…she just didn’t know. One thing she didn’t want was a long goodbye, it would just make things harder, not just on her, but on all of them. Gathering the remaining boxes she headed out to the hallway, but not before taking one last look around her lab. A lot of things had happened there, some good, some bad.  Ultimately though, this place would always hold a special place for her.  Turning off the lights one last time, she surreptitiously wiped away a tear from the corner of her eye.

With her arms cradled around the last box she walked slowly towards the elevator, waiting patiently for her in the corridor were her friends, all of them except the Colonel. Her heart sunk at the thought that he wouldn’t…or couldn’t say goodbye, she had to bite the side of her mouth to stop the tears from falling freely.

 

Daniel looked so sorrowful, that she just wanted to drop the box she was carrying an envelope him into a sisterly hug. She couldn’t though, she had to remain calm and in control, to show them all that this was what she really wanted when all along her inner voice was screaming at her to tell the General that it was a mistake. 

 

Walking over towards her, he waited while she lay the box down before taking her into his arms. Resting her head lightly on his shoulders, she felt the tears finally fall, and this time she didn’t wipe them away. Lost in silent comfort, for a moment she wished someone else were holding her. Pulling slightly away from him, Daniel brushed away her tears.

 

“Please, Sam, don’t leave like this.”

 

“I have to, Daniel.” Sam told him softly. The last few days were starting to take it’s toll on her and without even realising what she was saying, she let slip her true feelings.  “I wish I had another choice, but I don’t. Things have gone too far now. I just wished I knew why he didn’t trust me anymore.”

 

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked looking at her quizzically.

 

As realisation hit her with full force, she grasped his arm retracting her previous statement, “Just ignore me Daniel…it’s been a long day.”

 

Pulling her to one side away from the others he asked, “You’re leaving because of Jack aren’t you? What’s he said to you?”

 

“Daniel, drop it, please.”

 

Raising his voice slightly he continued, “No I won’t Sam.”

 

“Daniel, I’m asking you as my friend, please just let it go.”

 

Not wanting their last day to end on a bad note, he reluctantly agreed. One thing was certain though as soon as he saw Jack he’d give him a piece of his mind.

 

Giving him one final hug she told him, “Thank you for everything, Daniel.  I want you to know that you’ve been like a brother to me and it’s something I’ll always remember.”

 

“I’ll miss you.”

 

Struggling to find the right words, she simply nodded before turning to face her Jaffa friend. “Teal’c, what can I say, you and I have been friends for so long, and you’ve saved my six many times. I want you to know that I’ll never forget what you’ve taught me about loyalty and friendship.  You’ve always been there for me when I’ve needed a shoulder to cry on, and well, I just wanted you to know that it meant a lot to me.”

 

Although Teal’c revealed very little about his feelings, he could count on one hand those he classed as true friends, and she was one of them. Bowing his head in his typical manner he held his arms out to her. She embraced him completely basking in his strength.

 

“I wish you well Samantha Carter.”

 

“Thank you Teal’c.” Sam answered simply before turning finally to her best friend. “Janet, you know how I hate goodbyes, so I’ll see you tomorrow?”

 

“You can count on it. I’ll be round first thing in the morning, I promise.  Just remember your not alone, okay?”

 

Sam nodded before taking one last look around she’d already said her goodbyes to the General, so all that was left was for the Colonel, but he was nowhere in sight, and she didn’t think she had any strength left in her to go and find him.  He’d obviously made his mind up that he was better off without her. And if that was his reasons for not being here, then she was right to hand in her resignation.

 

Jack watched from the corner of the hallway as she stepped into the elevator, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t say goodbye.

 

Lost in his silent reverie he walked slowly back to his office. Each step he took was painful, she was gone and she wouldn’t be coming back.  He hated himself for just letting her go. But, he was too obstinate to do anything about it. Worst of all, she’d never know how much she meant to him.  He heard heavy footsteps running up behind him, but he couldn’t be bothered to face anyone at the moment.

 

“Jack!”

 

There it was, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he sought him out.

 

“Daniel.” He answered simply noting the steady reddening of the young archaeologists face as anger bubbled towards the surface.

 

“You know, Jack, you can be such an ass sometimes.”

 

“I’m not going to stand here and listen to this.” Jack replied angrily storming off.

 

Daniel though wasn’t in the mood to play silly games with him and went ahead of him, placing his hands on his to chest to stop him moving forward.

 

“Remove your hand, Daniel. Or I’ll remove it for you.”

 

“NO! You are going to stand there and listen to what I have to say.”

 

“If it’s about Sam, I don’t want to discuss it.”

“I can’t believe you’re just going to let her go…just like that. Does she mean so little to you?”

 

“Hey! It was Carter’s decision to leave. I didn’t force her out the door.” Jack shouted angrily poking his finger in his chest.

 

“Oh no? You sure about that?”

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” Jack retorted his blood pressure rising.

 

“She’s leaving because of *YOU*. You hurt her Jack, and you’re the only one that can get her back.” Daniel told him honestly.

 

“Don’t you think I’ve tried to talk her out of it?”

 

“Yes well, you obviously haven't tried hard enough, have you? Otherwise she’d still be here.  You owe her a big apology and I suggest you do it now, before it is too late.”

 

“I don’t need for you to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing, Daniel. I’ll handle things in my own way and in my own time.” Jack finished finally walking away.

 

Calling after him, he shouted. “Don’t let your stupid pride stand in the way of losing her, Jack.”

 

Jack stormed off down the corridor muttering to himself, fury threatened to overwhelm him. It’s my fault? How the hell could it be my fault? If she hadn’t gone off and set up with ‘whatsisface’ none of this would’ve happened. She was in the wrong…not him.  She let her personal life interfere with her career, and put him before the team, something that could’ve had disastrous consequences if he hadn’t stepped in.

 

Without even realising it, he’d got in the elevator and headed for the surface. He didn’t know what she’d said to Daniel to piss him off so much, but she sure as hell was going to explain it to him.

 

***

 

Loading the last boxes into the car, she went to put her key in the door, before feeling a hand grab her shoulder. It was Jack.

 

“What did you say to Daniel?”

 

Yanking free from his grasp, she finally lost it. Shock and annoyance hit her like an energy blast.  Just what the hell was he accusing her of. It was as if his whole demeanour had changed. It was a side of him that she rarely saw and felt so angered by his attitude that she completely lost control.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Ranks and Regulations be damned, this wasn’t professional anymore…this was personal.  And both of them knew it.

 

“Well according to Daniel, you’re leaving because of me.”

 

“Don’t flatter yourself.” Sam retorted snidely

 

“You know what Carter, I can’t believe that I wasted seven years believing that we had something special. You and Pete are welcome to each other.”

 

“So this is what it’s about is it? Pete!”

 

“Hey, I’m not the one who’s giving up her career for someone I hardly know. I thought you were different. Obviously I was wrong.”

 

“Is that what you really think?” She asked, waiting for some kind of reaction. “Then you don’t know me at all.” Sam finished unlocking the door.

 

“Hey don’t turn your back on me. I haven’t finished talking.” Jack retorted grabbing her arm once more, and forcing her to face him.

 

“Oh I think we’ve said enough.” Her eyes were steely cold with rage. She couldn’t believe he was acting this way. She yanked her arm away from him, and glared at him.

 

Everything was spiralling out of control, this wasn’t what he wanted to say to her, but he felt like he was on a tidal wave that was out of control. He didn’t know why he was acting like this, but he knew this wasn’t the way to win her back. He tried to calm himself down, but Daniel was right, he realised that, his words were personal and he’d hurt her. He didn’t know why he’d said those things, but it was too late to take them back.

 

Taking a deep breath he pushed his anger and jealousy to one side.  There he’d finally admitted it to himself. He was jealous. That green-eyed monster which threatened to consume him, he hadn’t even realised until now. He hated the fact that she was leaving him and SG1 to be with someone else.

 

“Sam…” Jack replied reaching out to her.

 

Tears welled in her eyes, gone was the anger that was there before. His face showed signs of regret, but it was too late, she couldn’t forgive him.  Too many words had tarnished their relationship…hadn’t it? The feeling of mistrust was still there, that hadn’t changed, and until then, they couldn’t go forward.  It didn’t mean that she could just switch off her feelings that she’d harboured for the last seven years for him. Ultimately she still loved him…but maybe it was too late.

 

“Don’t!” Putting her arms up defensively, she couldn’t take any more.

 

The shooter watched the two of them closely through his eyepiece, noting that he was touching her, holding her arm.  How dare he lay one finger on her.  No one had the right to touch her, but him. Lining up his prey he took aim, he wanted to see her reaction as he took the Colonel down; he wanted to see her suffer as much as him.

 

A single shot flew threw the air at an incalculable speed heading towards it’s target.

 

Before Jack had the chance to answer her, he felt a searing pain in his shoulder before crying out in pain. He stumbled forward.

 

Sam didn’t know what was happening, one minute they were arguing the next minute he was falling into her arms.

 

Shock

 

Fear

 

Panic

 

Blood

 

Jack lay collapsed in her arms, for a minute she was paralysed. Everything was happening so fast. He was losing blood.  His t-shirt began turning crimson. His face paled considerably.

 

Everything was becoming blurry, he tried to keep his eyes from closing, but he couldn’t.  His body felt like a dead weight as his life force began fading.  There was so much he wanted to say to her, but he knew he was on borrowed time.

 

Sam screamed for help.

 

They were alone.

 

“SOMEONE HELP ME!”

 

She watched as the SF forces came running towards her their weapons raised for action.

 

“Sam…” Jack whispered, blood pouring from his mouth.  “I’m sorry…”

 

“Don’t you dare do this to me.  You hear me?” Sam pleaded, teardrops falling onto her hands below that attempted to stop the blood flow. But it was no use…he couldn’t hear her.

 

 

Chapter 6 – Honesty

  

Fear set in as she watched his eyes closing. Anger and panic began building up inside her, as she wondered why the SF’s were taking so long.

 

“You can’t leave me Jack O’Neill, you hear me. I won’t let you.” Sam pleaded, feeling the beat of his heart slowing down; it was if he was giving up. Blood continued to seep through his clothing. Checking his pulse, she felt a searing pain in her right arm, but she didn’t have the time or inclination to see what was wrong. Adrenaline was acting as a natural painkiller for the moment.  All she was interested in was keeping him alive. She refused to let him go.

 

Keeping her hand firmly against his wound, trickles of blood from her own injury mingled in with his. And before long, she couldn’t tell whose blood was whose.

 

The SF’s arrived within a few minutes and began rushing around them like bees gathering honey; everything seemed to be happening so fast. Anger was now replaced with shock. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t focus. He was dying here in her arms and there was nothing she could do.

 

She didn’t know how long it had been between Jack getting shot and Janet’s arrival, but she knew it was long enough for him to have lost more blood. As they lifted him on to the gurney, she could see the pool of blood where he had lay in. Sam felt sick as she watched his head loll to one side.

 

Janet began checking his vitals, before glancing over towards her friend, noticing her crimson red shirt. “Sam! Are you hurt?”

 

“It’s not my blood.” Sam answered flatly her eyes never leaving the Colonel’s limp form.

 

“You’re sure?” Janet queried not quite convinced. Something wasn’t quite right with her and it wasn’t just shock. Watching her friend careful she knew there was more here than met the eye, something darker lurking behind her friend’s eyes. But, at the moment her immediate attention was required assessing and dealing with the Colonel’s injuries.

 

Turning back towards her patient, she knew she had to hurry. From the amount of blood that covered both their clothing, it was apparent that there wasn’t much time.

Once he was settled on the gurney Janet checked his vitals once more. His heart rate was erratic and his breathing was slow and shallow, she knew then he was going into hypervolemic shock. Without immediate intervention she knew he wouldn’t survive the journey. Suddenly Janet barked, “We’re loosing him, get the paddles!”

 

The flurry of activity seemed to be going in slow motion, particularly when she heard those fateful words. Her heart slammed against her chest. She tried to breath, but found her chest ached at the effort…it was if her heart was breaking in two.

 

Time was running out.

 

“Come on Colonel.” Janet encouraged him, placing the paddles on his chest. “Clear!”

 

Sam watched as the heart monitor beeped incessantly. He was clinically dead. She watched as Janet administered the first electrical charge to his body. Jack’s prone figure raised slightly off the gurney as the current passed through him. Her heart rate quickened each time the paddles were activated.

 

She was completely numb.

 

Out of all the near death experiences that they’d gone through together, for some reason this one would stay forever in her mind. Their last words had been spoken in anger, and she really believed that if he died now…she’d never be able to forgive herself.

 

Then she heard it…irregular at first, but within seconds the monitor began picking up the beats until it had become as steady as it was going to get.

 

“Okay, he’s stable for now, let’s get him to the infirmary STAT.”

 

Watching him rushed through the base, Sam felt herself being led away by one of the medical staff down the long hallways. Janet and the others had tried to talk to her, but she’d said nothing. What could she say? He was laying on the gurney his body pale and lifeless and she was responsible…maybe not directly, but ultimately that was how she felt. The medical team had wanted to take her by gurney to, but she’d refused, she couldn’t bear the fact that they were helping her like this, especially when she felt as if she didn’t deserve it.

 

Feelings of guilt encumbered her soul. Irrational thoughts plagued her conscious mind. Somewhere deep inside she knew it wasn’t her fault, but the more she tried to convince herself of it, the darker her thoughts became.

 

Each step she took was now becoming harder and harder, her vision was becoming blurry, but she refused to give in to her body’s need for help. She wanted them to concentrate on *him* not her, and until she knew he was out of danger she wouldn’t seek out their help.

 

Waiting for them at the infirmary, was General Hammond, Daniel and Teal’c their faces reflecting concern and shock at Jack being wheeled into the operating room. She noticed the General opening his mouth to speak, but Janet hadn’t had time to discuss the situation with him. Uncertainty of how this could have happened filled their eyes as they turned towards her. Sam felt that familiar knot forming in the pit of her stomach as their questioning eyes bore into her soul. Torn with guilt she turned away from their penetrating gaze.

 

Daniel was the first to reach her, concern etched in his delicate features. Reaching out to her, all he wanted to do was provide some comfort, but she couldn’t bear it. She didn’t want their sympathy…she didn’t deserve it.

 

“Leave me be, Daniel.” Sam replied backing off.

 

“Sam?” He didn’t understand.

 

“Easy, son. She just needs a bit of space.  Let the medical staff deal with her for now. We can wait a few minutes.”

 

“General I just want to know what happened.  First Sam’s resignation, now, just as she’s leaving Jack gets shot. I just don’t get it. Something else is going on here.”

 

“I know you’re anxious… as am I. But, our first priority is to make sure that they are both okay.”

 

Daniel nodded simply; he knew the General was right. Trouble was he needed answers.

 

***

 

Sam had gotten past the point of caring now. A black cloud embraced her, dragging her downwards. Uncertainty mixed with hate, guilt and anger filled her soul. Jack was in the operating room, fighting for his life and the med technicians were only concerned with her welfare, and she detested herself for it. In her mind she wasn’t worth the effort, as far as she was concerned all their concentration should have been on the Colonel, but instead they were wasting their time with her.

 

“I wish everyone would stop fussing! You should be concentrating on the Colonel, *that’s* your priority.” Sam shouted to the technicians as they tried to remove her bloodied jacket.

 

“Major, there are enough people taking care of him. My responsibility is to take care of you.”

 

“I *don’t* want your help. I want to make sure the Colonel’s okay first.”

 

“Major, please sit down, and at least let me look at your arm.”

 

“No.” Sam continued, her voice slightly hysterical.  It was as if her emotions were on a roller coaster, and she couldn’t get off. “I don’t want you to help me. I want to know what’s happening with Colonel O’Neill. Please, I just want to know that he’s okay.”

 

“If I find out how he is, will you let me look at you?”

 

Sam nodded.  If this was the only way she’d find out, then that’s what she’d do.

 

Turning on her heels the nurse walked out the infirmary, leaving an agitated Major Carter alone in the infirmary. Checking her watch, it had been nearly 20 minutes since she had spoken with the nurse. Her patience was wearing thin, and she wondered what was taking so long. Frustrated by lack of action, the pressure of being confined began building up inside her like a pressure cooker. Pacing the infirmary floor, she waited for someone…anyone to tell her what was happening. Fear and shock compounded with lack of sleep made her feel agitated and paranoid. She felt as if the nurses were deliberately holding back information from her.  It had been nearly 35 minutes since he’d been wheeled into the operating theatre, and they still hadn’t told her how he was. Why would they refuse to tell her? She didn’t understand. Didn’t they know how important it was for her to know that he was okay? Unless…

 

The thought stopped her in her tracks - fear paralysed her momentarily.  That couldn’t be it.  They would’ve said something…wouldn’t they? Maybe it was more than that; maybe they blamed her for the shooting? Maybe that was the reason for Daniel, Teal’c and General Hammond had for staying away all this time?

 

Irrational thoughts assaulted her fragile mind. Days of living on pure adrenaline began catching up with her, and she couldn’t think clearly anymore.  Only one thing was a certainty. She couldn’t stay here anymore she had to find out for herself.

 

Before she had the opportunity though, she watched Daniel and Teal’c come through the doorway.

 

Something was wrong.

 

Apprehension filled the infirmary.

 

“Sam.” His voice was soft and non-threatening, his heart ached and seeing her like this.

 

Backing away from she shook her head vigorously. “No.”

 

“Sam, please.  We just want to talk to you.” Daniel pleaded walking closer. Concern fell over his young face, he’d never seen her like this, and it scared him. He couldn’t bear the thought that he may lose both his friends in one day. It seemed incomprehensible. “Sam, we know you’re upset, and tired, but we need you to listen.”

 

Instead of retreating further, Sam stopped and listened to him, for the first time. With her voice barely above a whisper, she whimpered. “He’s dead isn’t he?”

 

“No, no, no, Sam.  The nurse was worried about you and asked us to come and speak to you. He’s okay Sam. Janet will be out shortly and you can ask her for yourself.”

 

“Really?” Sam asked with uncertainty.

 

“Have I ever lied to you?” Daniel replied softly pulling her into him.

 

Hesitating for a brief moment, she gradually allowed him to hold her. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she let her head rest gently against his shoulder. She felt his hand move to her back where he made soft circling motions in an effort to provide comfort. It had been a long time since she’d felt so safe. “I was so worried, Daniel. One minute we were arguing the next minute he was lying in my arms, bleeding.  I thought he was going to die.” Sam choked.

 

“I know, I know.” Daniel crooned in her ear. “Everything’s going to be okay, Sam. I promise.”

 

“I’m so tired Daniel. Everything’s spiralling out of control, and I can’t stop it. I just want everything to be as it was.” Sam answered softly, pouring her heart out to him. Between her injury and the days’ events, her head felt as if it were wrapped in cotton wool, she had no energy left in her to fight anymore.

 

Unknown to Sam, the nurse crept round the side of her and injected her with a light sedative. Daniel half carrying her led her to the nearest bed and laid her down.

 

“What was that?” Sam asked slightly dazed, the medication appearing to have taken effect.

 

“It’s just to help you rest.”

 

“No, I need to stay awake…the Colonel…I need to tell him…” Her eyes began closing.  The effects of the sedative were working its way through her veins and her vision clouded. She tried to protest, but her strength was fading.

 

“You’re exhausted, Sam. You need to rest. Jack’s going to be okay, it’s you we need to take care of now.” Daniel advised brushing her hair back off her forehead.

 

“Teal’c.” Her eyes searched for him through blurred vision.

 

“I am here.”  He advised gently nearing her side.

 

“Make sure that Pete…wants to…the Colonel…hurt him. Don’t let me…sleep. Stop him…”

 

Daniel and Teal’c looked at each other quizzically they could barely hear her, let alone comprehend what she was saying. Hearing only snippets of what she was saying, Teal’c advised. “You must rest.” Watching her eyes close once more he finished. “I will not leave you, my friend.”

 

With Sam finally asleep, this allowed the nursing staff to assess her injuries. Teal’c and Daniel stepped out into the hall out of earshot to an awaiting General Hammond.

 

“How is she?”

 

“Calmer. They’ve given her something to help her sleep. She’s exhausted.”

 

“Did you find out anything?”

 

“Not really, just a lot of jumbled words as she was drifting off.  She mentioned something about Pete Shanahan, and someone getting hurt. Nothing made sense though. It was if she seemed frightened to go to sleep.”

 

Hammond nodded in understanding; he knew something was wrong when she’d tendered her resignation. He didn’t believe for one minute that this was primarily due to the Colonel’s dealing with her.  They’d weathered stormier times before and had gotten through, but this time it had been different. For one reason or another they had lost the ability to communicate with each other, and as far as he was concerned, this was far more serious than anything else.  Once you lost the respect for the person that you worked with, it was very difficult to get it back, and ultimately he believed that this is what had happened.  Somewhere along the line they had both lost their way.  Now though a common goal had been placed in their paths… to see each other through this.  They now had no alternative, *but* to talk to each other. He was saddened at the thought that it had taken something like this to make them realise.

 

“I’ll go check in on her first, and then speak to Doctor Frasier as soon as she comes out of surgery. Hopefully when the Colonel wakes we’ll have some more answers, but until then gentlemen… I’m afraid it’s a waiting game.”

 

***

 

Sitting by her side, they waited patiently for Jack to return to the infirmary. Sam’s injuries had been attended to and she was sleeping peacefully for now. Neither Daniel nor Teal’c expected it to last though. When Sam was determined to do something, there was usually very little that could be done to stop her.

 

Brushing back her hair, Daniel sighed softly, whispering, “Oh Sam, what are we going to do with you? You think you have to do everything on your own don’t you?” He knew it was a futile gesture asking her questions, but maybe somewhere in her subconscious she could hear him.

 

Hearing the small pitter-pattering of steps nearby, Daniel and Teal’c looked up simultaneously to see the diminutive Doctor watching by the doorway.

 

Leaving Sam alone momentarily they walked casually up to her.

 

“How is he?”

 

“He’s going to be fine, the bullet passed through his shoulder.  Thankfully though it didn’t hit any vital organs, so with any look he’ll be up and about within a few days rest. He lost a lot of blood though, so we’re keeping a careful eye on him for now. Barring any complications he should be back to normal very shortly. How’s Sam been doing? I heard from the nursing staff that there were a few problems.”

 

Daniel brushed his fingers through his hair, stealing a peek at his friend. “Yeah, there were. She’s been sleeping for a while now. I’ve never seen her like this before Janet.”

 

“I have.” The doctor advised sadly

 

Pulling one of his quizzical faces, Daniel asked, “When?”

 

“When it was believed you had died, and SG-1 had returned from the planet without you.” It was a difficult memory for her. At the time neither of them knew that he was still alive. But Sam…she was a mess. She could count on one hand the number of times she had seen her friend fall to pieces in the seven years that they had been working together, but nevermore so than when the Colonel was injured or missing.  Those memories would stay forever in the forefront of her mind. While she had no intention of sharing them with anyone, she knew that when it came to the Colonel, Sam’s feelings tended to get the better of her.  A special bond between them would never be broken, no matter how many bad words had been spoken between them.

 

“Oh.”

 

Teal’c also recalled memories of his friend, particularly when it was believed that they’d never see Colonel Jack O’Neill again. But it was rare that she would share her thoughts and feelings with her friends. He knew, because he understood their dilemmas.  Borne of the military, they would serve God and country before they would let their relationship interfere, even if it meant sacrificing their happiness.

 

When he’d cradled her that time in the locker room, she had initially chased him away, but they were friends, and he could not leave her alone. He understood loss more than others, and was glad that he could at least provide some comfort in her time of need.

 

“It’s not a side that Sam likes to portray.” Janet answered on her friends’ behalf.

 

“Don’t I know it.” Daniel answered flatly. “What is it with military people and hiding their feelings all the time?”

 

“Because Daniel Jackson, you cannot allow your enemies to see that side of your psyche. It shows weakness, something that would not be conducive to a formidable warrior.” Teal’c interjected, knowing how hard it was for his fallen comrades.

 

“But that’s just it Teal’c we’re not their enemies. We’re their friends, and Jack’s just as bad as Sam for hiding things. I’ve never understood it.”

 

“Daniel Jackson, you look upon the universe with the innocence of a child. It is a very rare gift and something that should be cherished. You are open and honest and your trust is un-yielding, something which is a remarkable trait for a human. But, for a warrior to portray these attributes, it could result in disastrous consequences.”

 

“Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier though…does it.” Janet remarked

 

“Indeed. Yet it has to be this way.”

 

Daniel shook his head; he’d never understand it, never in a million years. He knew his friends were hurting and the only way he knew to resolve the situation was for them to talk openly about how they felt. Changing the subject he asked, “When are they bringing Jack down here?”

 

“Soon.  He needs to stay in recovery for a little while, but I’ll make sure that he’s here before she wakes up.”

 

“Why Doctor Frasier, do you have something planned for them?” Daniel asked slightly surprised that Janet had cottoned on to the situation.

 

“I don’t know what you mean Doctor Jackson.” Janet answered smiling contentedly. She had not betrayed her confidence to her friend; she was just giving her a nudge in the right direction.

 

Walking towards her she checked over her vitals. Everything seemed to be stable, and Sam looked at peace for the first time in a long while. She couldn’t resist brushing her hair back against her forehead. It was a mother thing that she did with Cassie when she was ill. And while she knew Sam wouldn’t be aware of that simple gesture, it brought comfort to her, reminding her that she was going to be okay, particularly if she had her way.

 

***

 

“Owwwww!”

 

“He’s awake.” Daniel declared softly sitting in-between his friends. Turning his head he asked with concern. “How do you feel?”

 

“Like I’ve been shot.” Jack grimaced trying to move his shoulder. His head still felt as if someone was standing over his brain with a sledgehammer. Struggling to remember where he was and how he’d gotten here, he asked, “What the hell happened?”

 

“Someone took a shot at you.”

 

“Really, I never would have guessed.” Jack answered slightly annoyed. Gradually his clouded brain started slipping back into focus, snippets of memory began coming back to him. There had been a lot of shouting…and anger…Sam! It all came flooding back like a Tsunami. “Where’s Sam?”  Panic stricken he tried sitting up to see where she was. Struggling to disentangle the electrodes from chest, his shoulder felt as if it was on fire, but he had to know that she was all right.

 

 “Jack, relax, she’s okay. Look.” Daniel advised pointing to the prone figure in the next bed.

 

“Is she hurt?” Jack asked trying to ignore the incessant pain.

 

“The bullet went through you and caught her slightly, but she’s okay. The Doc gave her something to help her sleep, that’s all.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why? Well, because she’s the doc, and that’s what she does.  She…um… puts people to sleep.”

 

“Daniel, she’s not a veterinarian f’cryin out loud. Now stop stalling and tell me what’s going on.”

 

“Jack.” It was more of a plea that he shouldn’t ask any more questions than anything else.  It wasn’t his place to tell him.  It would be like breaking a confidence.  And if he did that, he’d never forgive himself… or worse, Sam would never forgive him.

 

“Daniel. I’m hurt and I’m at the tender mercies of the doc, and you know how I get. So either tell me now, or so help me, I’ll make sure that Sam and I are not the only ones who will need the doc’s attention.”

 

Looking at him sceptically, Daniel didn’t believe he could swat a fly at the moment let alone take a swing at him. “I’ll go get the Doc.  Teal’c you might need to baby-sit him till I get back.” Daniel said without giving it a second thought then went to find Janet.

 

“Indeed.” Teal’c replied stoically.

 

“Thanks.” Jack responded dryly, he was in no mood to be baby-sat. “And there was I thinking you were my friend.”

 

“I am O’Neill, which is why I am here with you both.”

 

Jack mumbled an incoherent response, he knew his friend was looking out for their welfare, but he just wished someone would tell him ‘something’.  He couldn’t understand what all the cloak and dagger stuff was all about.  All he remembered was that they’d had an argument…feeling a sharp pain, then lying in her arms.  Now, to wake up and find her lying in the cot next to him had his stomach doing flip-flops.

 

Before he had the opportunity to ask Teal’c anything else, Janet walked in with clipboard in hand. “How are you feeling?”

 

“What’s wrong with Carter?” Jack asked first off, he could care less about his own condition.

 

Daniel sighed inwardly noting that jack was now calling her ‘Carter’ and not Sam as he’d done previously. Shaking his head he wondered if he’d even realised that the only times he ever called her by her first name was when he was worried for her, or when she was hurt. Now though surrounded by people, he’d obviously decided to bury his feelings once more. 

 

“She’ll be fine Colonel. Sam got hurt as the bullet passed through you, but we’ve cleaned and dressed the wound, and she should be up and about shortly.”

 

Mulling what she said around in his head, sure he knew that was plausible. But, there was something else she wasn’t telling him, and he was going to call her on it.

 

“Well, why is she sleeping now? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

 

“I wanted her to get some rest. SO I gave her something to help her sleep, that’s all. You have a suspicious mind, Colonel.” Janet tiptoed around his implications. “Now, Colonel, I want *you* to get some rest to, so I’m going to give *you* a sedative as well.”

 

“No thanks Doc. I’d rather stay awake if you don’t mind.” He wanted to be awake when she woke up; he needed to explain to her that he didn’t mean what he said.

 

“Unless you’ve obtained your doctorate recently, then I believe that I am more than qualified to judge what my patients require. And, in medical matters Colonel, I outrank you.” Janet finished smugly, injecting the sedative into his IV.

 

Within a few seconds, Jack felt everything around him bend in the middle. Their voices sounded decidedly far away, and before he had the chance to protest further he drifted off to sleep.

 

“He should sleep for a few hours at least.”

 

“That was sneaky, Janet.”

 

“Thank you. I learned everything I know from Colonel O’Neill.” Janet advised. Checking over her friend once more, she was content that Sam was okay before returning to her office. Hopefully keeping them in the same room would result in some communicating… if nothing else. They needed to talk, and all she was doing, was giving them the opportunity.

 

***

 

Confused and disoriented, she opened her eyes. I’m in the infirmary! Apart from feeling slightly sore and groggy from the after effects of the sedative, she felt calmer and more in control of her feelings. Sitting up she turned to see him lying beside her in the next bed. Dangling her feet over the edge of the bed she looked longingly at him. He looked so peaceful when he slept. There were no traces of anger or strain on his face, something that had been apparent over the last few weeks.  He looked at ease for the first time in a long while. Steadying herself first, she then slipped herself off the bed.

 

Janet heard the gentle patter of footsteps against the cold stone floor and went out to check if everything was all right.  Seeing her friend at the end of the Colonel’s bed, she slipped her head around the door whispering to her, “You okay?”

 

Sam nodded softly, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip before she took a deep breath. “Just give me a few minutes, okay?”

 

“Shout if you need me.”

 

“I will.”

 

Acknowledging her friends need for privacy, she closed the door behind her. It was early in the morning, and it was unlikely there’d be any interruptions. She’d already briefed the General on what had taken place, minus one or two things that would remain confidential. Daniel and Teal’c would no doubt be around later, and she had a tonne of paperwork to catch up on before she could get some well-deserved rest.  It had been a long day for all of them, but unfortunately the day wasn’t over yet…and the shooter was still at large.

 

Pulling up a chair beside him, she sat down quietly so not to disturb him.

 

Sitting beside him like this, she found herself lost for words. For the first time in her life, she couldn’t think of what to say or even if she should say it. For the last seven years they had worked together side by side, being there for each other, relying on one another. Over time their relationship had become so much more than camaraderie, moving beyond the bounds of friendship. She’d harboured feelings for him for a long time; it was if their souls were meant to be together. But that was then.

 

Lost

 

Alone

 

Frightened

 

She couldn’t believe that such a simple mistake would have such far-reaching consequences. All she’d wanted was a ‘normal’ relationship. Was that so awful? Instinctively she knew that it was, particularly when she was in love with someone else. Fate had obviously decreed that she couldn’t have both. Why did life have to be so cruel?

 

Watching him sleep, she noticed how serene he looked. There were times over the last few weeks when she had wanted to tell him what was going on, but her fear of looking like some damsel in distress, had ensured that silence had to be maintained. She didn’t want him to think that he couldn’t trust her with his life as he’d done in the past. But, by a cruel twist of fate, that’s exactly what happened. Instead of sharing her life with her friends, she’d shut them out. With everything that was going on with her personal life she had let things slide at work, and all because her efforts were put in pretending that everything was okay, when it wasn’t. And now it was too late to turn back the hands of time.

 

His hand lay listlessly by his side. Unconsciously he could feel the presence of someone near by, but his conscious mind was struggling to find a way out of this drug filled haze. Somewhere between dream state and reality, he felt someone holding his hand.

 

Slipping her hand into his, she caressed the side of his thumb. Feeling the soft flow of tears fall down her cheek, she realised that if she stayed, and he could end up getting hurt again… or worse. And she wasn’t prepared to take the risk.

 

It was time to say goodbye.

 

Droplets of tears connected with his skin and he felt himself rushing back towards reality.

 

He could hear a women’s voice, whispering softly to him…Sam! All his sense returned at once, and he could feel her hand slipping out of his.

 

“Goodbye…Jack.”

 

He couldn’t let her go.

 

Opening his eyes, he saw her leaning over him whispering ‘Goodbye’. He had to stop her before it was too late.

 

“Sam.” He croaked, tightening his hand on hers. “Don’t leave.”

 

Bringing her hand to her forehead, she closed her eyes in desperation. The tears fell precariously down her cheeks. Sadness filled her soul. Why did he have to wake up now?

 

“I have to.” Sam replied sadly

 

“Why?” He didn’t understand. “Please Sam, you can’t go like this.”

 

“It’s better this way…for all of us.”

 

“Stop shutting me out.” Jack argued, his strength returning.

 

Raising her voice slightly she replied, “I’m not…” That wasn’t true, she was, but it was only to protect them *and* her from getting hurt further. “What’s the point? We just end up arguing.”

 

“What do you expect, Sam?” Jack answered trying to sit up without losing the grip on her hand. “You think you can just hand in your resignation, and we wouldn’t give a damn? Is that what you think? Don’t you think I have a right to be angry when you don’t tell me what’s going on?”

 

“You don’t understand!”

 

“F’crying out loud, Carter, I’m not a mind reader.”

 

Janet heard the raised voices, and went to the Perspex window to make sure that they were okay. She didn’t want to interrupt unless she absolutely had to. Seeing that neither one of them was in any danger, she decided she would just hold out for a little while longer.

 

“You hurt me. And nothing you say can change that, so what’s the point?”

 

“Whoa whoa whoa.” Jack answered his thoughts coming to a complete stop. Daniel had said the same thing to him. Trouble was he didn’t know what he’d said that would upset her this much. “I don’t understand? What could I have possible said that would make you want to leave?”

 

Pent up anger and hurt threatened to bubble over. “You don’t trust me anymore!”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“ In the gate room a few days ago, when you ordered me to the infirmary.” She couldn’t believe that he didn’t remember.

 

“Oh.” The conversation with her came flooding back.

 

“What’s the point of me staying if you can’t trust me?”

 

“Sam…I didn’t mean… I didn’t trust you. I was angry and worried. You weren’t telling us what was going on in that head of yours. It was like you could care less about your job…or us, you were argumentative all the time. I needed to rely on you, and you weren’t there. Trust is a two way street, Sam.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“I mean you talk about me not trusting you, but you’re doing the exact same thing.”

 

“That’s different.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because it is.” Sam replied pulling away from him. “I need to sort this out myself.”

 

“But that’s just it, Sam. You’re not.  You’re running away.”

 

“I’m not running away.”

 

“Oh no? Then what would you call it?”

 

Silence filled the room.

 

He was right.

 

She wasn’t solving her problems by leaving the SGC  she*was* running away from them. She had thought that he’d lost his trust in her, but what she hadn’t realised was she was doing the exact same thing…not trusting her friends.

 

Taking a leap of faith he asked tiredly. “Does this have something to do with Pete?”

 

Nodding she sat back down on the chair, her energy depleted.

 

“Does he want you to leave the SGC?”

 

“He did.”

 

“Why? I mean it wasn’t as if it was a secret?”

 

“Because of you…”

 

“Me?”

 

“He was jealous of what we had. I told him everything about Daniel, Teal’c and us…”

 

“Everything?”

 

“Well…not everything.” Sam answered shyly unable to look at him. “We have something special, you, me, Daniel and Teal’c. We’re like family. He was jealous that he couldn’t be a part of that aspect of my life.”

 

Jack felt a sense of foreboding in the pit of his stomach as he began realising where this was headed. But, he also knew that she had to tell him in her own time, without him interrupting every few minutes. So, he waited until she was ready to continue.

 

“Anyway, it wasn’t too bad in the beginning, but then…” She felt her hands tremble in her lap, and her voice was shaking with having to relive the memory.

 

Reaching out to her, he grabbed her hand ignoring the pain in his shoulder, giving her the strength to carry on.

 

A thankful smile played on her lips, and she took a deep breath before continuing. “Things became steadily worse after the attack on the Alpha base. Pete couldn’t understand why I needed to spend so much time here.  And because I wasn’t allowed to tell him, he thought there was something else going on.”

 

“With…us?” Jack asked hesitantly

 

Sam nodded nervously, and tried to make things sound casual even though her stomach was doing flip-flops. “I told him that there could never be anything between us…not while we were in the same chain of command.”

 

Jack shifted uncomfortably in his bed; he didn’t know why he was nervous when she spoke about this…maybe it was a guilty conscience. “So what did he say?”

 

“He said, just because we couldn’t… do anything, it didn’t mean that the…um… feelings weren’t there.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“He didn’t believe me, and we had a big argument about it. That’s when I told him it was over.”

 

“I gather he didn’t take it very well.”

 

“No.” Sam answered shaking her head.

 

An uncomfortable silence settled in between them, Sam didn’t seem to want to offer up any more information, but Jack knew that she had to.

 

Trying to contain his rage, he had to know for certain. “And he hit you.”

 

Sam’s eyes flew up to meet his. She could see the anger burning deep in his eyes. His face was trying to remain calm on the surface, but his eyes said it all. “Yes.”

 

The heart monitor betrayed his inner emotions, and began steadily increasing. Sam wondered if she should carry on.

 

In her office Janet checked the monitors and noted a rise in pulse and blood pressure in the Colonel, and decided she needed to check that he was okay. Whatever they were discussing, and she had a good idea what, it was obviously causing him some distress…not conducive to a healing patient.

 

Janet’s light footsteps echoed in the quietness of the room, and on hearing them, Sam turned round to see who it was. Her normally clear blue eyes were now tired and bloodshot as her eyes met the doctors.

 

“Everything okay?” Janet queried, manually checking his pulse, before checking the monitors.

 

“It will be.” Jack answered quietly.

 

After seeing that everything was okay, Janet finished, “Well, you know where I am if you need me.”

 

“Thanks Janet.” Sam replied on their behalf.

 

Giving her friend a quick rub on the shoulder, she returned to her office.

 

Lapsing back into silence he tried to gauge her reaction, he wanted her to know that she could trust him. “Is this why you didn’t want me to know?”

 

“Partly. I didn’t want you to think that I couldn’t cope.  I thought that you wouldn’t be able to trust me in watching your six. That every time we went off world, you’d hesitate in trusting the decisions I made…which is what happened.”

 

“Because he beat you up, you thought I wouldn’t trust you?”

 

“Honestly?” Sam waited for him to give the nod to carry one. “I thought that you would think less of me for allowing myself to be treated that way.”

 

“Why would you think that?”

 

“I don’t know.” Hesitating for a minute, she knew inwardly that, that was what she believed… because that was how she felt. But, she couldn’t bring herself to say that to him.  Right now she couldn’t even meet his eyes…she felt so ashamed.

 

“Sam. Look at me.” Jack coaxed her, he could see she was torturing herself, but he didn’t understand why. How could he think less of her when they’d gone through so much together? “You didn’t *allow* him to do anything. He was in the wrong…not you. Your only mistake was letting things go on for so long without telling anyone.” Jack barked, his temper getting the better of him.

 

“But that’s just it. I had to stand up to him…not you, Teal’c, Daniel or Janet. Me! I had to prove to myself that I could do this on my own…and I did. But then things got out of control.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“After he… knocked me down…” Sam started cautiously waiting for his reaction.  Thankfully he had reined his temper, and the only outward sign he was manifesting was gripping the bed spread. “I made sure he’d never hurt me again.”

 

“What did you do?”

 

“I kicked his ass.” Sam answered confidently, for the first time in a long while.

 

“You did?” Jack questioned.

 

“Did you think I wouldn’t?”

 

“Honestly? I didn’t know. It’s one thing fighting off Goa’uld, but another defending yourself against an abusive boyfriend. It’s not the same, Sam. Don’t forget I’ve known you for a long time.  I know how your mind works…for most of the time. Sometimes…and don’t take this the wrong way, you back off. I don’t mean when you’re off world, that Sam Carter is a mean lean fighting machine. But, when you’re faced with adversary here…you do sometimes back down.”

 

Initially Sam was hurt by his statement, but recalling various times she had had to stand up for herself here, she had to concede…he was right.

 

“It’s a confidence thing I think.  You just have to be more assertive and have more confidence in your own abilities…as much as we do. Stand up for yourself a bit more.” Jack continued hesitantly.

 

“Which is what I tried to do, and look where it got me. We fall out and you end up getting shot.”

 

“That’s not your fault, Sam.  Unless *you* shot me?” Jack retorted pretending to back away in an effort to at least get her to smile.

 

Despite of the seriousness of the situation, she smiled lightly. “No, but I have a good idea who it was.”

 

“Pit?”

 

“Pit? Is that your name for him? How come I’ve never heard you use that name before?” Sam laughed softly, it felt good to talk to him like this, it was as if things were getting back to normal.

 

“Well, I didn’t want *you* to hear me say it. You were dating him f’crying out loud.”

 

“You never liked him, did you?”

 

“No I didn’t, not after what he did.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“I thought you knew?”

 

“Knew what?”

 

“He did a background check on you...”

 

“That scheming little…” Sam remarked sternly. Instead of letting it out, she held back.

 

“Let it out, Carter.” Jack advised her. It was nice to see the old Carter back… he’d missed her.

 

“…Shit!”

 

“Feel better?”

 

“When I get my hands on him I will…” Not wanting to cause another argument, she wanted to know why he hadn’t told her. “How…when…why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Lets just say I have contacts to. As for why…I didn’t want to sound like I was…” He wanted to say jealous, but instead he finished. “…Interfering. I’m sorry, I should’ve told you, maybe I could’ve stopped this whole thing from happening.”

 

“I doubt it. I have a knack for choosing the wrong men.” Sam replied sadly.

 

What could he say to that? He didn’t want to sound as if he was happy she had split up with Pete, but ultimately he was glad in a way. He wanted her to be happy, and if that meant finding Mr Right, then he would support her. He just wished that they could give it a go.

 

“So what now?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“You can’t go home, Sam.  Stay here on the base.”

 

“Jack.” She surprised herself by the way his name fell so easily from his lips, but ultimately she thought, why not? It wasn’t as if he was in her chain of command anymore.

 

“You know I think that’s only the second time I’ve heard you say that since we’ve worked together.”

 

“Somehow I don’t think the first one counts, do you?” Sam joked remembering when she’d returned from the Prometheus after sustaining a severe concussion. “I appreciate the offer, but… I’ve resigned. My place isn’t here anymore.”

 

“I thought that maybe because we worked some things out, you’d take back your resignation.”

 

“It’s not that simple…”

 

“I don’t think the General has forwarded your resignation yet, you could…”

 

“No. There’s too much that’s happened recently. I’m not sure I want to *be* in the Air Force anymore…its too hard. Don’t get me wrong I love the job, and I’ll be sorry to leave all this behind, but…” She didn’t know where her strength was coming from. It was as if the weight had been lifted from her shoulders since she’d confided in him.  How wrong she’d been in not telling him earlier. But, she didn’t want to go back to being just his 2IC, she wanted…needed more, but while they were both in the same chain of command, she’d be forever wondering what it would be like. No, this was the right decision, she was certain.

 

Confused and tired, he couldn’t think anymore. His shoulder hurt, and he could feel his eyes closing. “What about Pete? What if he’s waiting for you?”

 

“Then I’ll be ready.” Sam answered with complete determination. “I misread him once. I won’t make the same mistake again.”

 

“I don’t want you to face this on your own, Sam. Go to the police, tell them…or take Teal’c and Daniel with you. I don’t want you placing yourself in danger. ”

 

“I won’t, but I won’t run from him either. I’ve done more than enough of that lately, and… it’s time to take back control of my life.”

 

“Sam…”

 

“I’ll be okay, but you need to get some rest. Janet is going to have my hide for keeping you awake this long.”

 

“I’m not tired.”

 

Sam smiled at his attempts to keep him awake, but she knew their emotions had run the gauntlet.  He was tired and injured, and needed to regain some of his strength back.  And now that she’d had told him everything, and realised that he was going to be okay and out of harms way for a little while, she felt much calmer in herself. The thought of nearly losing him had brought her to the edge and back. It was only now she was realising how much he meant to her.

 

As for Pete, he had no idea who he was dealing with. She’d needed a kick up the butt to bring a few things into perspective, and she’d certainly got that. Now though, she was going to make sure he got what was coming to him, and nothing was going to stand in her way.

 

“Sleep today, worry tomorrow.” Sam told him softly.

 

“At least take Teal’c with you.”

 

“No, Jack. I’m a big girl…remember, kick ass Carter? Well she’s back. Now go to sleep.”

 

“Yes Ma’am.” He saluted, then regretted it as soon as he’d done it, when his shoulder protested at the effort being exerted on it. He was more than worried for her, and like it or not, a shoulder wound wasn’t going to stand in the way of helping her…not if he had his way. Watching her walk away, he had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. If Pete was capable of *this*, then he was capable of much more…and that worried him.

 

 

Chapter 7 – CARPE DIEM

 

 

Warning: There is a lil bit in here, which some people might find offensive, and I apologise in advance. Jumping to my defence though I researched this quite a bit and it does happen, but I’m sorry if anyone finds it a bit yucky. One more thing………..Go PEE! ;o)

 

Driving back home, Sam felt relieved that she’d finally talked to him. It had been long overdue. The early morning sunrise was just peeking over the mountains and for the first time in a long while, Sam was hopeful that she had made the right decision in leaving. Her decision wasn’t based on the fact that she hated her job…far from it; she would miss her friends and duties immensely. But, for too long she’d been pushing aside her feelings for him hoping that one-day they could eventually give things a go between them.  In the mean time though, it had to be this way.  The only thing left standing in her way now, was Pete.

 

After visiting Jack in the infirmary, she went to see Daniel and Teal’c; firstly to apologise to Daniel for crying on his shoulder, and secondly to thank him for being there and standing up for her with Jack.  It wasn’t a huge gesture, but it had meant the world to her…she just felt guilty that she’d given him a bit of a hard time of the last few weeks. Luckily Daniel never held grudges, nor did Teal’c. That was the reason why she was going to miss them.  They were her family, and after this, she knew she could trust them with anything.

 

Then there was General Hammond; she couldn’t have asked for more support from him, he’d been a great source of strength to her. She’d decided it was best that the General heard what was going on, before Jack volunteered the information for her. It was a courtesy thing, he’d always been there for her and it was nice to know that even after her resignation was tendered, she could still count on his support. Obviously he’d tried to talk her out of it, but she was adamant that this was the way things had to be.  It was only when they were talking did she get an inclination that he knew about her feelings for her superior officer, but just as she’d suspected…he’d never called her on it.

 

Pulling into her street, she kept glancing in her mirror as a precaution, the shooter was still out there and it was clear from recent events that he wasn’t done playing games with her. It was one thing to risk her life, but another to take a chance that her friends may be hurt. As soon as she was confident that no-one had followed her, she stepped out and walked quickly towards her door; cautiously checking over her shoulder as she fiddled with her keys.

 

In her haste she dropped the keys on the floor. “Damn it!” She voiced aloud.

 

Lost in thought, she failed to hear the approaching footsteps behind her.

 

“Sam.” The person stated, putting a hand on her shoulder.

 

Instinctively she turned around and kicked the person in the stomach sending them flying onto the grass.

 

“UGH!”

 

“Shit. Daniel. You scared the life out of me. What…what are you doing here?” Sam shouted, helping him off the ground.

 

“Everyone was worried about you, they wanted me to make sure you got home okay.  So, is this the way you treat all your visitors?” He queried rubbing his stomach before reminding himself to keep his distance whenever she got into a foul mood.

 

“You’re lucky I didn’t hurt you more.”

 

“Is this the new Sam Carter then? Kick ass first, ask questions later?”

 

“Funny. Well, now that you’re here you may as well come in for coffee.”

 

“Thought you’d never ask.” Daniel smiled happily.

 

Walking into the living room, for the first time since he’d been told about what Pete had done, Daniel took a good look around. At first he was in shock. Sam obviously hadn’t had time to sort the mess out, but it was clear from the devastation in the living room, that this was a revenge attack.

 

“Maids week off then?”

 

“No, not really. I’m going for the ‘living in a squat’ kind of look.  I really think it’s me, don’t you?” Sam jested lightly. It was nice to see he wasn’t freaking out on her to, it was hard enough having to cope with her own emotions at the moment without having to worry about how he’d react.

 

It was nice to see her smile, even if it was only for a brief moment.  The last few weeks had placed a strain on the team’s relationship. Hopefully, this was now a new beginning for all of them. Checking in on her was only part of his reason for coming. His main plan was to try and get her to change her mind, with of course a little help from his friends.

 

“So, the Colonel told you did he?” Sam asked shaking her head…so much for privacy.

 

“Well as much as he could before he fell asleep.” Daniel replied shyly unsure of how she’d react.

 

“Well?” Sam questioned, waiting for the long lecture on friendship and about how he wished she had trusted them.

 

“Well what?” Daniel asked coyly, knowing what she was expecting him to say.

 

“I’m waiting for the lecture.”

 

“Why? Do you want one?” Daniel smiled lightening the moment.

 

“No thanks.” Sam retorted activating the percolator.

 

“Look, Sam. What’s happened has happened. I can’t change it, and neither can you. Besides, knowing you as well as I do, you’re probably being harder on yourself than we would.”

 

“Thanks Daniel.”

 

“You’re welcome. So, any chance of you changing your mind about leaving the SGC?”

 

As the coffee began to brew, they sat in silence for a minute, while Sam tried to think of a way to tell him. The aroma of coffee filtered through her kitchen filling her nostrils. Pouring the coffee into their mugs, she sat down at the breakfast bar nestling the coffee in her hand.

 

“I don’t think so, Daniel.” Sam advised shaking her head. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to leave, but *this* has given me a wake up call.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, aren’t there times when you look back on your life and think about all the missed opportunities?”

 

“Sure, who doesn’t? I think about what would have happened if Sarah and I hadn’t broken up initially, or if I hadn’t spoken out about my research paper on the link between Pyramids and Aliens. Everyone thinks about the ‘forks in the road’ stuff now and again. But, we took this path for a reason Sam.  Think about it, if you hadn’t joined the Stargate program, you’d never have had the opportunity to see what you have, or experienced the pleasure of…”

 

“…Blending with Jolinar, dying countless times, watching my friends getting hurt…”

 

Ignoring her melancholy mood he continued, “…Experiencing something unique, meeting untold civilisations…working with us? Do you really regret all those things?”

 

“No, not all of them.” Sam told him sadly. “Don’t get me wrong, Daniel. I knew what I was getting into when I joined the Air Force. I knew that there was always the possibility that I would have to sacrifice certain aspects of my life. I just didn’t realise how hard that would actually be.”

 

“He’s going to be okay, Sam.”

 

“I know he will, but if I stay as his 2IC, I don’t know if *I* will be... Does that make sense?” Sam asked cryptically. She didn’t want to actually come out and say how she felt, but she worked with Daniel long enough to know that he was intuitive enough to realise what she meant.

 

“What are we going to do without you, though? Who’s going to protect me from Jack and back me up when I want to go off exploring some alien architecture.”

 

“Daniel, you are more than capable of looking after yourself. You don’t need me to hold your hand, besides, you have Teal’c.”

 

“Have you felt the calluses on that man’s hands?”

 

Sam laughed unexpectedly at his attempt at humour, “So are you going to sit here all day and drink my coffee, or are you going to give me a hand to clear up this mess?”

 

“Slave driver.”

 

“Watch it you, or I’ll have to get my whip out.”

 

“Really? Does Jack know?”

 

“DANIEL!” Sam didn’t know what to say to that. He stared at her acting all-innocent, and she shook her head at his audacity.

 

***

 

Crouched low in the bushes by her house, he stalked his victim with an intense voyeuristic obsession. His mind filled with dark images at what he would do with her once his fun was finished. A sly smile played on his lips at the thought of how he would bring her to the edge of sanity.  Peering through his binoculars he watched as Sam and her ‘male caller’ laughed at some joke he’d obviously made. He’d seen her pat his arm lightly and it tore at his stomach.  Obviously the previous days lesson hadn’t warned her enough…but given time, she would beg him to end the suffering.

 

Moving stealthily, he waited until the entrance to her doorway was clear before leaving the package on her doorstep. He’d been savouring this for the last few days, and he couldn’t wait to see her reaction. Ensuring that her neighbours didn’t see him, he rang the doorbell before running to a secure area, and then he waited.

 

“You expecting someone?” Daniel asked.

 

“No, I don’t think so. The locksmith isn’t due to arrive until tomorrow, hmm wonder who it could be?”

 

“You want me to go?”  Daniel asked casually.

 

“Hey, don’t think you can get away with finishing the dishes Doctor Jackson.”

 

“Sam…” He didn’t want to sound like the overprotective brother, but he couldn’t help himself. Jack had asked that he look out for her, and he was going to keep his promise.

 

“I got it Daniel.” Sam advised lightly, inside though her stomach was churning, but she was determined to let him see that she could handle this.

 

Taking a deep breath, she swung the door open. No one was there. Glancing around the corner she couldn’t see anyone or anything…except for a package laid out on her lawn.

 

Daniel waited for a few moments; he couldn’t hear her talking to anyone…so why was she taking so long? Calling out to her, he got no response. Paranoia hit him hard in his stomach. “Sam?” He couldn’t wait any longer for her to respond.

 

Picking up the package, she tried to belay the rising fear…something wasn’t right.  She could feel it a deep chill wash over her body causing shivers to travel down her spine. A repugnant smell emanated from inside the box forcing the contents of her stomach to rise as bile in the back of her throat.

 

Standing there with the unopened box, she heard the familiar voice of someone calling her name.  It was Daniel. Not wanting to take any risks, she lay the box down on the ground for a moment before turning to face him.

 

“Daniel, go back inside.”

 

“Sam, what’s…”

 

“Just do it, Daniel.” Sam shouted with such ferocity that he took a step back, but he refused to go back inside and leave her to this…whatever *this* was.

 

Her hand wavered over the opening. Instinctively she knew whom it was from. She didn’t believe for one minute that it was a bomb… it wasn’t his style. It was something else, something that was rotting inside; she could smell it before she’d even taken the lid off. She could feel herself gagging from the stench. Knowing that she had the choice of either opening it or leaving it for the police, she struggled internally for a short time in making her decision.  It wasn’t something she wanted to do, but curiosity always got the better of her. Bracing herself for what was inside, she inhaled deeply before flipping the lid over.

 

She felt physically sick, but she refused to let Daniel see her like this. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t seen a dead animal or body for that matter, but this was different. Kneeling down on the grass, she placed the open box to the side, she didn’t know what else to expect.  If he had planned this to hurt her and her friends, then it was becoming a frightening reality that he would be capable of much worse atrocities and it seemed as if he was targeting those she loved one by one.

 

During her time with USAF and on the Stargate project she knew people were capable of inflicting pain and misery on another, but she never realised that she would experience such malice so close to home. This had gone far beyond revenge tactics, she’d realised that the moment Jack was shot. He was obsessed with her. She’d met types like him before, in the shape of Jonas Hanson. It was a shame she hadn’t learned her lesson then, maybe if she had, things wouldn’t have turned out this way and she wouldn’t have to keep checking over her shoulder. But, it seemed that she was destined never to have a normal life…or that’s how it seemed at the moment. 

 

“Sam! Sam! What is it?” Daniel shouted running towards her. “Sam, are you okay? What was in the…” Stealing a look at the contents of the box, he understood completely why she felt sick. The animal was obviously dead, and had been for a while. Its eyes were staring back at him…lifeless.  Decaying flesh was wasting away from its skeletal frame, blue bottles and maggots had infested its emaciated body. It was clear that someone had planned this in advance judging from the state of the animal. “Jesus, Is that…?”

 

“Schroedinger.” She answered quietly. The person that her killed her beloved cat knew that this would hurt her deeply. He meant so much to her, not only for the company he gave, but also the memories she had of Narim. She was fortunate that Narim had returned him before he died, it meant a lot to her.

 

“Who would do something like this?” He asked her kneeling down on the grass beside her.

 

“I don’t get it, Daniel.” Sam replied softly, tears glistening in her eyes at the loss of her beloved cat. “Did I piss someone off in a previous life? Am I Marie Antoinette reincarnated? Is that why I have such lousy luck with men, because someone’s punishing me for something I did in a previous life? Do I have a neon sign flashing on my forehead that says, ‘Desperate and single, only psycho’s need apply’?” She knew that wasn’t true, but she couldn’t rationalise why she had such a bad track record.

 

“I don’t know what to say, Sam. I wish I could tell you something that would change the situation, but I can’t. I don’t think it’s something you’ve done, maybe the people that you’ve dated realise that…you’re too nice to let go.” Daniel didn’t know what to say, he wasn’t exactly good at this sort of thing.

 

“You’re not exactly helping.” Sam answered dejectedly before getting to a standing position.

 

“Sorry. I just don’t have the answers for you. Look instead of analysing this to death...” Seeing the look on her face as he mentioned the word ‘death’ he realised his faux pas. “Bad choice of words, sorry. Look lets get inside and call the police.”

 

“What and listen to them go on about how this is a rare occurrence, and without evidence there’s not a lot they can do?”

 

“You can’t *not* report it, Sam.”

 

“That’s a double negative.”

 

“I know, I wanted to add the extra negation for emphasis. It’s too important to do nothing.”

 

“Don’t get me wrong, Daniel, I know I have to report it, but the last time I spoke with them, they said they can’t do anything unless he does something.”

 

“He did do something, he shot Jack.”

 

“Yes, I know that, and so do you, but where’s the proof that Pete was actually involved?  Without any evidence they can’t question him. Plus, they have to find him first.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, after the burglary, I told them what happened between us, and they went to check up on him. Apparently he’s skipped town.  He hasn’t shown up for work in the last week and no one has seen him.”

 

“Isn’t that enough?”

 

“No. Don’t forget, it’s my word against his? Who would you believe?”

 

“That’s ridiculous. What about the anti-stalking law? Isn’t it classed as a felony?”

 

“Yes, but to file a complaint that will trigger an arrest and prosecution, it must be accompanied with sufficient evidence to establish "probable cause". It’s only then that Pete’s behaviour would be deemed illegal under the state's stalking statute. At the moment he is committing an offence, but it’s up to me to provide them with the evidence necessary to establish probable cause. They’ve asked me to keep a log of the incidents and to report them. That way if anything comes of it, they can make a case for a restraining order.” Pausing to let the information sink in, she continued with increased frustration, “See what I’m up against…It’s not one for trying, Daniel.”

 

“I never said you weren’t Sam.”

 

“I know, but you don’t realise how annoying this is. I don’t mean to snap at you Daniel, I’m just sick to death of reporting this, and nothing comes of it. I just wish that he would come after me, at least that way I can face him head on.”

 

“Sam, this is not the sort of person you want to mess with.”

 

“What other alternative do I have, Daniel? I just want this to end. I refuse to let him ruin my life like this. You’ve seen what he’s capable of. This is just the beginning. I won’t risk my friends’ lives. It’s time I started getting pro-active and stop running. If the police won’t do anything, then its up to me to stop him.”

 

“Not on your own you won’t.”

 

“I won’t be on my own. I have SG-1 on my side, and between us, I’m sure that together we can do *something*.”

 

“Sam, it’s not that I don’t want to help, because I do. It’s just I think you’re putting yourself at risk. Let the police handle things.”

 

“I’ve done that Daniel, and look where it’s got me. Jack’s in hospital, and my cats dead, and that’s just for starters. Who knows what else he has planned. If you think I’m going to sit on my ass for the next…however long it is, and wait, then you’ve got another thing coming. I’m not stupid, Daniel, but I refuse to play the victim in all of this.”

 

Realising it was a futile gesture arguing with her anymore, he sighed heavily. The last thing he wanted was for her to place herself in danger. Trouble was, she wasn’t prepared to listen to either what he said or think rationally about this. He understood her anger and frustration…really he did. But, he didn’t want anything to happen to her, and no matter how ‘gung-ho’ she got, there was a very real risk that she would end up getting hurt in all of this.

 

Walking with purpose in her stride he followed her back inside, neither of them speaking.

 

***

 

“Doc, how much longer do I have to stay in here? I feel fine.”

 

“You can go when I say you are fit to leave, Colonel and not before.”

 

“You do realise that Sam might need my help, and you keeping me here like this could put her in danger.” Jack advised her working on the ‘guilt tactics’. It seemed as if nothing else was working, so why shouldn’t he?

 

“Don’t even try that with me. You know as well as I do that Daniel is with her.”

 

“Yeah, but Doc that’s exactly my point, this is ‘Daniel’ we’re talking about. And you know what he’s like.”

 

“No, but I’m sure you’ll enlighten me.” Janet continued deadpan. She knew very well what he was playing at, but she refused to let him risk his health.  It just wasn’t an option. Daniel was more than capable of looking out for her, and if worse came to the worse, he would do whatever it took to look out for her.

 

“Have you ever known Daniel *not* to get into trouble?”

 

“That’s the whole basis of your argument is it, Colonel?”

 

“Well…” He knew it was just an excuse. Trouble was she wasn’t buying it, and he’d used all his tricks to try and get out of the infirmary. This time though was proving trickier than before. She was getting to know all his excuses, damn it. It was time to go to Plan B. Escape! He’d been in special OPS before, and as such covert missions were his speciality.

 

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then, Colonel. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things to attend to in my office. Teal’c, if he moves more than an inch, you have my permission to sit on him.”

 

“Indeed.” Teal’c responded stoically. Sitting quietly at the side of his friend’s bed.

 

“Traitor!” Jack replied annoyed watching Teal’c’s eyebrow move northwards. It was obvious he wasn’t going to get any help from Teal’c sometime soon, so he had to do this on his own. His plan of escape was foiled…for now. But, there would be a time, when neither of them would be around, he just had to bide his time. “I thought you were on my side?”

 

“I am O’Neill. However, Doctor Frasier does not believe that you are well enough to leave, and I agree with her assessment.”

 

“This place is driving me nuts…and you’re not helping ‘T’.”

 

“Major Carter will be all right, Daniel Jackson will be there to assist her for the time being.”

 

“Yeah I know that, but who’s going to help Daniel?” Jack retorted solemnly. He was worried. People like Pete were unpredictable; he’d already proven that. And while he knew he couldn’t do very much with his shoulder the way it was, at least he could be there for her.

***

 

Sam sighed heavily, the police had been and gone and she was alone once more. She’d told Daniel to go home not more than a few hours ago, and was now left to pick up the pieces. It wasn’t that she didn’t want him to stay, but she couldn’t expect him to remain with her indefinitely it wasn’t fair on him.

 

The phone rang.

 

As she answered it the line went dead.  Looking at it as if it had grown two heads, she sat down cautiously on the sofa. Trying to rationalise it in her head, she thought that maybe it was a wrong number? The phone rang again. Stubbornly she forced herself to answer it.

 

“Hello?” As soon as the words came out of her mouth the phone went dead once more. Instinctively, she knew it was *him*. Who else would keep ringing like this? After several minutes of incessant ringing the caller hung up. But, it started up again after only a short break. She couldn’t cope with it anymore and to gain some respite pulled the telephone wire out of its socket. It was the only thing she could do. She knew she’d have to put it back in eventually, but for the moment she grabbed the bat and walked swiftly around the house, checking that every door was shut and every lock was activated.

 

After ensuring everything was secure, she sat by the kitchen wearily; jumping with every creak and groan the house made. Feeling the effects of paranoia creeping in, she tightened her grasp on the weapon. There was no way she could live like this for much longer, she felt like a prisoner in her own home. Hot stinging tears burned her corneas, but she refused to let them fall.

 

After a few hours, she reconnected the telephone…and waited.

 

Silence

 

After 30 minutes, she thought that she’d gotten through the worst of it. She was wrong.

 

“Hello?”

 

Silence

 

“Hello?”

 

Heavy breathing.

 

Sam slammed the phone down. Her heart raced in fear. The phone rang again. She watched it from a distance, ringing incessantly. She knew she had to answer it. It could be the base trying to get to her, or it could be the police trying to get hold of her. More than likely though she knew it would be *him*, but she had no other choice, there was no way she could avoid answering the phone again…it wasn’t practical. This time she would try a different approach.

 

Hesitantly she picked it up…and waited for a voice to speak on the other end.

 

“What’s the matter, Sam? Don’t you want to speak with me? I’m crushed.” The voice oozed with malice.

 

 It sent shivers down her spine, but she refused to hang up, it would be a sign that she was frightened, and she ultimately believed that if he sensed her fear he would continue harassing her.

 

Standing her ground she asked with such ferociousness, she surprised herself. “What do you want Pete?”

 

“Haven’t I made that obvious? Or is it just that you don’t want to see that we’re made for each other. I want you Sam, and like I told you before if I can’t have you, then no one can.”

 

“So you think that sending me dead animals in the post and hurting my friends is going to win me back do you? Think again. This relationship is over. ”

 

“It’s over when *I* say it is. What you don’t realise Sam, is that you and I are destined to be together.”

 

“The only thing you’re destined for is a jail cell.”

 

“Ah, but they have to catch me first. You forget that I’m a cop Sam and a damn good one if I do say so myself. I know how their minds work. They’ll never catch me you know.”

 

“If its me you want, then why wait?” Sam told him heatedly, she was through playing these games. “If you want me, come and get me.”

 

“All in good time Sam…all in good time. I’m just waiting for the right moment. And besides…it’s so much more fun this way.”

 

“Don’t think you can frighten me, Pete. I’ve dealt with people like you before, and believe me, you don’t want to play this game…because you will lose EVERY time.” With that final flurry of anger, Sam slammed the phone down. Her hands were left trembling with the excess adrenaline that filled her body. She had to do something. Waiting around for him to make his next move was something she wasn’t prepared to do. She had to come up with a plan to stop him…and soon.

 

***

 

Lying awake in the infirmary Jack listened intently for signs of movement from the nursing staff.  It was in the twilight hours that staffing levels were at their lowest. It was an ideal time to escape Janet’s clutches. It had now been nearly 3 days since he had been kept under the watchful eye of Doc Frasier. The nursing staff had thwarted every effort he’d made to escape, and he was sure someone had been spying on him. How else would they know what he was up to? He couldn’t believe it had been a coincidence that they’d caught him, and he had a fair idea who it was.

 

Tonight though, the infirmary was remarkably quiet, but as yet he’d never made it past the door without being ordered back to bed. Even the General seemed to be involved with the Doc’s scheming plan to keep him cooped up. Not tonight though. He knew Daniel and Teal’c were off world with another SG team, so no baby-sitting from Teal’c or Daniel for that matter, much to his delight… he was too old to be baby-sat. Initially they had been hesitant leaving Sam, but unfortunately they had no choice. Unfortunately as a result of the General’s decision to send them off world, it meant that Sam was alone and vulnerable. He’d heard about Schroedinger and the subsequent telephone calls that followed. Each one from what he’d heard seemed to be growing more intense, and he didn’t like it one bit. Trouble was being kept here meant that Pete would have easy access to her, and as the police seemed intent on not doing much to help her, it was up to them.

 

Creeping out of bed, he slid off quietly to avoid the bedsprings from making too much noise. Everything was going well so far, he acknowledged getting himself dressed. He’d forgotten how difficult it was to get changed when you had a shoulder that just wouldn’t co-operate. Each movement had to be small, so he wouldn’t jostle his injury, but unfortunately it was taking him longer than he anticipated. It wouldn’t be long before the nursing staff were due to come in and check on him, so he had to hurry.

 

As he pulled on his pants, he felt a searing pain move down his arm, and he clenched his teeth in response, a slow hiss escaped from his lips as he tried to force back the pain from his shoulder. Finally dressed, he crept towards the entrance, surveying the corridor. All clear. A smile escaped from his lips.  He was going to make it this time and he knew it. He only needed ten minutes to get to the surface.

 

Yes! He’d done it. He was a free man once more, and he couldn’t help but smile at his accomplishment. No one outsmarted him in matters that related to special ops. Fiddling around for the keys of his pocket, he opened the door and set off for her house. A slight flutter of his stomach reminded him of their last conversation face to face, and initially he had some reservations about turning up on spec, but he had to weigh up the pros and cons of the situation. He knew he was doing the right thing…he just hoped that Sam could see it to.

 

 

***

 

Pulling up outside her house, he hesitated…albeit only briefly. Looking at his watch he noted it was only 7.00 am. The journey had taken longer than expected, but nevertheless he wasn’t sure if she’d be very impressed with him waking her up at this hour. On the flip side of the coin, he knew that she was an early riser, and hoped his instincts were correct. Taking a deep breath he headed towards her front door, and knocked lightly.

 

 

“Sam, someone’s at the door.” Janet advised nervously. “Want me to come with you?”

 

“It’s okay Janet, I’ve got my ever faithful baseball bat by the door. Not that there’ll be anyone there.” Sam answered annoyed.  This had been happening on and off for the last couple of days, but each time she’d ventured out to see who it was, the caller had disappeared and she’d assumed it was Pete trying to drive her crazy.

 

“Why don’t you ignore it?”

 

“I can’t.”

 

Janet eyed her strangely.

 

“I know I know, I’m a glutton for punishment. I can’t help myself; curiosity gets the better of me.” Sam sighed dejectedly. Apart from the police increasing their patrols around her neighbourhood, there really hadn’t been anything they could do. They’d advised her to change her number and her locks, but apart from that they still hadn’t been any trace of him anywhere.

 

Luckily though she had come up with a plan, she hadn’t had the chance to tell anyone yet, but it was more than likely they would hate it. But, she was going to do it with or without their help.

 

With her hand placed firmly on the bat, she moved the curtain back slightly to get a better view and was more than surprised by her early morning caller. Hurrying to get the chain off the door, she felt her stomach flutter slightly at the sight of him. What the hell was he doing here… and at this time of the morning? Something must’ve happened otherwise why would they release him from the infirmary. Trembling from nervous energy she finally unhitched all the bolts before flinging the door open.

 

“Sir. Come in. Are you okay? Are Daniel and Teal’c all right?”

 

“Calm down, Carter, everyone’s fine. I was just worried…that’s all.”

 

“What are you doing out of the infirmary? You should still be in bed?”

 

“I escaped from the Doc’s evil clutches.” Jack grinned happily. It felt nice to get some fresh air, but what was even nicer was seeing that she was okay.

 

Sam tried hard to keep the smile from her face. What he didn’t know was that Janet had been staying with her for the last 24 hours while Daniel and Teal’c were off world. Initially she’d tried to argue with her friend, but Janet refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, so had kindly been keeping a watchful eye out for her. This was certainly going to be interesting, and she was looking forward to the light relief. The last few days had been very stressful and she couldn’t wait to see his face when he saw her. But, for now, she was going to play along.

 

Janet listening intently by the kitchen couldn’t believe his audacity. He had to be the worse patient she’d ever had the misfortune to look after. She only managed to hear snippets of the conversation as she was too far away, but she definitely heard the phrase ‘ol’ doc Frasier’ and to say she was displeased was an understatement.

 

“So, ummm, Janet doesn’t know that you’re here then I take it?” Sam asked casually inviting him into the hall towards the kitchen.

 

“Hell no.  You think I’d risk the wrath of Ol’ Doc Frasier if I could help it? I may be many things, Carter, but I’m not stupid.”

 

“What are you going to do when she finds out? Don’t you think she’ll be a little ticked off that you’ve left?”

 

“She doesn’t scare me.” Jack remarked flippantly, trying to sound as carefree as possible.

 

“Really?”

 

“Ahem!”

 

Jack felt his blood turn cold as he recognized her voice immediately.

 

“DOH! She’s here isn’t she?” Jack whispered, leaning into her.

 

Sam couldn’t hold her smile back any longer.

 

“*SHE* certainly is Colonel.” Janet admonished folding her arms around her chest in an attempt to look as imposing as possible. “AND, *she* is not impressed.”

 

“You’re in trouble now.” Sam returned the whisper.

 

“You’re not helping, Carter.” Jack rebuked, trying to think up a reasonable explanation as to why he was he was here and not in the infirmary. “Well, Doc, you see I had this…premonition…and well…I had to come and check that Sam was okay.”

 

“A premonition? Is that the best that you can come up with?”

 

“Give me ten minutes and I might have a better excuse, but for now I’m sticking with the premonition thing.” Jack told her sheepishly, shuffling his feet.

 

Janet sighed, it didn’t matter what she said, it was a fruitless exercise. Anything that concerned Sam’s welfare was paramount to him, and he would do anything to ensure her safety even at risk to his own health…although she’d never tell him that she knew, it was endearing to see it first hand.

 

Waiting for her to continue the rant, he was surprised it didn’t come, and whether she wanted to make him feel guilty or not…he did. He felt as if he were a young man again, waiting for his parents to dish out the punishment for his disobedience.

 

After a few seconds of silence between them, Sam decided to change the subject slightly.

 

“Umm, Sir, not that I’m not glad to see you or anything, but why are you here?”

 

“I’m…um… here to make sure you’re okay.” Jack said lamely

Sam laughed out loud, not that she didn’t think he was adorable at this very moment; it was just the absurdity of his statement.  Looking at the state of him, she didn’t think he could protect much of anything at the moment, let alone her well-being. “So, you’re my knight in shining armour are you?” She asked coyly enjoying the moment.

 

“Would you rather have Daniel?”

 

“I’m not answering that.”

 

“I rest my case.” Jack replied smugly.

 

“Oh no you don’t.”

 

“What, what did I say.”

 

“I know that look.”

 

“What look?” Jack asked with all innocence.

 

“The look that says, ‘As soon as Daniel turns up I’m going to tell him.’”

 

“I never said a thing.”

 

“You didn’t have to.”

 

Janet watched the interaction between the two of them, their usual familiar banter fell into place so easily, and it had been a long time since she’d seen them so comfortable with each other, and it suited them.

 

“Anyway, now that you here you may as well join us for breakfast. Besides I have something I want to run past you.” Sam told him cagily walking towards the kitchen.

 

“I’m intrigued.” Janet told her.

 

“I’m worried.” Jack said almost simultaneously, he knew that look and he didn’t like it one bit.

 

Sam ignored his comment, she was going through with this, but she needed their help to make it work.

 

Pouring the coffee into their respective mugs, she opened the cereal packet and emptied its contents. A heavy silence fell over the table as they waited for her to speak.

 

Honesty was always the best policy; well that was what her dad used to say whenever she got herself into trouble. Neither of them had any idea of what she’d been planning, and she wasn’t quite sure how they would take it. She doubted whether they would agree to it, but she was running out of options. As things stood now, she felt like a prisoner trapped in the confines of her four walls.  Each time she went out, she was continuously peering over her shoulder to see if she was being followed and she’d had enough. It was time to end things once and for all…or so she hoped.  She didn’t know if this was going to work, or even if Pete would take the bait, but she had to try something, she wasn’t prepared to live the rest of her life like this.

 

“I think I’ve come up with a plan to stop Pete once and for all.” Sam told them confidently.

 

“I’m not going to like this idea am I?”

 

“Probably not. But, promise me one thing.”

 

“What.”

 

“Just hear me out first.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

“What does Pete want most?” Sam asked the pairs of enquiring eyes.

 

“You.” They both replied in unison.

 

“Correct. Now I’ve given this a lot of thought, but there are a still a few things that I haven’t worked out, so you’ll have to bear with me, while I work through them.”

 

Jack tried to hold her gaze, but she wouldn’t look at him.

 

“So, I’ve been thinking. I need to coax him out a bit.”

 

“NO!” Jack told her emphatically.

 

“You don’t know what I’m going to say.”

 

“Yes I do.”

 

“No you don’t.”

 

“Well as much as I love hearing this verbal spurring you two have got going on.  I don’t have the mind reading capabilities that apparently you two have, so would someone please enlighten me?” Janet remarked, while trying to get a word in edge ways.

 

“Sam’s going to use herself as bait.” Jack pronounced to her, before turning to face his 2IC. “Am I right?”

 

“Yes.” Sam told them softly. She knew he wouldn’t be happy about this, but this was the only thing she could think of.

 

“No, no way. You’re not doing it.”

 

“Can you think of anything else? Because I sure as hell can’t.” Sam shouted, her anger increasing with every sentence.

 

“I’m not having you putting your life on the line, Sam.”

 

“For the first time in a long while, I feel that I actually have a life worth fighting for.  Can’t you see that? I’m tired of being scared of my own shadow. And I’m sick of being the one that everyone feels they have to protect.”

 

Jack and Janet stole at look at each other, neither one of them realised how desperate things had become for her. It hurt them deeply to hear how she really felt.

 

“Sam, look I understand how frustrating and scary this is for you, but…”

 

“Janet, I don’t mean any disrespect, but how could you? You don’t know how hard it is trying to keep your sanity. Every time the phone rings, I hesitate to pick it up, because it might be *him*. Each time someone knocks at the door, I’m going to wonder what else he’s killed to get my attention. Or each time I’m in the car, I wonder if I’m being followed or when I’m with my friends, I wonder if he’s out there waiting to…” Sam’s eyes filled with tears. She didn’t know how to get them to understand how important it was for her to take back her life.  Frustration threatened to overwhelm her in making them see that she had become a prisoner in her own home. She waited for one of them to speak; the silence was awkward as they tried to comprehend just how much she’d had to go through.

 

“If we do this…we do this *together*, Sam. No heroics, okay.” Jack said softly, grabbing her hand.

 

A simple nod of her head was the only sign he needed. They were going to get through this.

 

*Chapter 8 – Vengeance*

 

 

It was mid-morning when they began preparations. Huddled in the living room, they had gone through the plans with a fine toothcomb and it appeared that everything was in order. With Daniel and Teal’c returned from P2S-869, SG-1 they were able to finalise their covert mission: “Operation Kick Ass”. Their plan to coax him out of the open was now set into motion.

 

Preparing themselves in the safety of Sam’s house, both O’Neill and Carter put on her bulletproof jacket…just in case. Daniel and Teal’c had already made their way to the rendezvous site earlier that morning to give them an advantage point, which left Sam and Jack alone.

 

“You still sure about this? We can find another way, Sam. It’s not too late to back out.”

 

“Not having second thoughts are you?”

 

“Second…third…fourth.”

 

Sam smiled lightly even in the seriousness of the situation. Drifting off into her own world for a minute, she realised that he wasn’t the only one with doubts. This had been plaguing her all night. Since yesterday when they had arranged for a caller ID to be attached to the phone, the incessant ringing seemed to have abated and she wondered if he was aware of the measures to curb the malicious phone calls.  Either way, it still made her uneasy.

 

“Earth to Carter?” Jack questioned, a small flicker of worry flittered in his chocolate brown eyes.

 

“What? Sorry.”

 

“Talk to me.” Jack said softly, “We need to go out there without hesitations and if you’re…”

 

“I’m not. It’s just that…I have a bad feeling?”

 

“We’ve covered all the bases. Teal’c and Daniel will be our lookouts. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Jack reassured her.

 

“It’s not me I’m worried about. It’s all of you. He’s so unpredictable and he always seems to be one step in front of us. It’s like he’s reading my mind. Does that make any sense?”

 

“Think of it as just another stroll in the park.” Jack grinned openly.

 

“Just be careful Jack, please. You talk about me not taking any chances, well, now I’m telling you. That shoulder isn’t healed yet and if you get hurt, Janet will have my hide.”

 

“I will.” Jack said with all seriousness. Taking hold of her hand he continued with total sincerity.  “Trust me.”

 

It felt as if a jolt of electricity had tore through her body as soon as his hand made contact with hers. As she looked into his eyes, she felt at peace for the first time in a long while. After this was all said and done, she wondered if things would change between them. It was a gamble, but one she had to take. They had spent the last few years hiding, repressing, and ignoring their feelings, so much so that she wasn’t sure if they would ever open up to each other. Not only that, she wasn’t even sure how he felt. She knew he cared about her, but did he care about her in *that* way? Only time would tell. If they were going to take the chance, then they’d have to get to know each other on a different level. He knew her as his 2IC, and she knew him as her CO. But, they would have to get to know each other as Jack and Sam; something that was easier said than done.

 

Giving his hand one quick last squeeze she nodded her head, indicating she trusted him implicitly. “Lets go.”

 

***

 

“Okay kids, keep your ears and eyes open.” Jack requested speaking into his radio.

 

They had just arrived in the park, it was a beautiful summers day and thankfully there didn’t seem to be many people walking around.  The sun was shining brightly over the mountains, and the birds could be heard chirping in the distance. If the situation wasn’t so dire, he might’ve enjoyed the stroll in the park with her more. As things stood, their main objective was catching Pete, so unfortunately there was little time to enjoy his surroundings.

 

“Relax, Carter.” He told her as they walked around the winding path.

 

“I’m trying.” Sam told him annoyed with herself. They had now been walking for twenty minutes…and still nothing. “Maybe he’s not here?”

 

“Oh he’s here all right.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“Instinct.” Jack told her. Years of covert operations had more than prepared him for this day. Just because he couldn’t see him, didn’t mean that he wasn’t watching…somewhere.

 

Nearly an hour and a half had passed since their arrival and they still weren’t any nearer to catching him. Not only that, but they were running out of places to go. What they didn’t want is for it to look suspicious, going round in circles all the time, made them look as if they were up to something. They needed to make Pete think that this was natural, but their stance and faces said otherwise.

 

“This is ridiculous!” Sam told him dejectedly, walking away from. “It was a stupid idea in the first place.”

 

Grabbing her by the hand, he pulled her back. “Wait a minute, maybe we just need to spice things up a bit?” Jack advised, coming up with a new idea.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, here I am in a beautiful park, with a beautiful woman and it’s like we’re strangers. We’re here to coax him out; force his hand. But, as realistic as we try and make things…it’s like there’s a barrier between us. Neither one of us are used to being like this, you know…just you and me.”

 

“When did things start getting so…awkward between us?” Sam asked with uncertainty.

 

“I don’t know. I think for me it was after Daniel ascended.” Jack answered honestly, lowering his head slightly.

 

Sam recalled the memory with absolute clarity. It had been a difficult time for both of them, they’d lost their friend and each was grieving in their own way. She had wanted to talk to him about it, but he’d shut her out…and it had hurt her deeply.

 

“Why were you so angry with me?”

 

“Is that what you thought?”

 

“Yes. I wanted…needed to talk to you about how I was feeling, and you dismissed me as if I was…nothing.” Sam remembered sadly.

 

Jack stopped in mid pace and turned to face her, placing his hands on her shoulder before slowly caressing them. It was time for a bit of honesty. Their eyes locked instantly, their bodies’ only inches apart.  “I’m sorry. I wasn’t angry with you, I was just… afraid that I’d tell you something I shouldn’t. You are the only person who makes me feel…vulnerable. When Daniel died, I didn’t know how to cope. So, I shut everyone out, because it was easier to do than face up to how I was really feeling. I knew if I let you in, I’d be crossing the boundaries…and I didn’t want to put you in that position. You had your whole career in front of you, and I didn’t want to jeopardise it.”

 

“It’s funny isn’t it? I thought you had stopped caring for me…” Sam advised nervously.  This was the first time that they’d actually spoken out loud about their feelings, and initially she felt very self-conscious. She knew that he was a very private man, and appreciated how difficult it was for him to open up to her.

 

“Sam. I know that this is probably not the right place or time for that matter, but I just want you to know that…”

 

“Jack.” Daniel called from his radio.

 

Both of them stopped short. Sam held her breath. Did that mean that Daniel had spotted something? Her heart raced at the anticipation that something was going to happen.

 

Stealing a look at her, he noticed fear in her eyes and put an arm round her shoulder in an effort to comfort her. It wasn’t an overt gesture, but it helped, he hoped. He felt her lean into him and everything felt right. He felt as if he was ‘coming home’ and he didn’t want to let go of her. Leaning closer into her to avoid any suspicion, he missed the flush that rose in her cheeks. “Go ahead.”

 

“I got nothing. Do you see anything your end?”

 

“Daniel. If you don’t see him, then why radio?”

 

“I’m being vigilant.”

 

Jack rolled his eyes at his friends’ sudden interruption and whispered through gritted teeth. “I have so got to have a talk to him about his timing.  It’s impeccable.” Shaking his head, he continued. “Of course you are, Daniel. Now can you please be vigilant, quietly, talking into a radio is not conducive to a good stakeout.”

 

“Sorry.” Daniel replied, feeling as if just got his hand slapped.

 

“Just keep your eyes open. If there’s no sign of him within the next half an hour, we’ll call it a day. Teal’c did you copy that?”

 

“Indeed, O’Neill. The park is remarkably quiet. I have not been able to see anything untoward, but I shall continue to observe.”

 

“Thanks, O’Neill out.”

 

***

 

Profanities spewed out of his mouth like volcano overflowing with lava. A bitter taste settled in the back of his throat as he watched Colonel Jack O’Neill put his arm around *his* girlfriend. His eyes turned steely cold as he watched them from a distance. He wondered if they thought him stupid? Did they really think that having people watch out for him would make any difference? Their pathetic attempts at trying to catch him were almost humorous. He’d watched her friends leave early that morning, acting nonchalant…but he knew *something* was going on. He hadn’t spent the last ten years on stakeouts for nothing. How much they underestimated him! Watching her place her arm around him, holding him close, touching him tentatively like that… she would regret it. Her time was coming…soon; he would make her beg for mercy.

 

***

 

“So…” The moment was ruined. They’d had a rare opportunity to share a bit of honesty with each other, but that one simple interruption had ensured that their timing…as always was off.

 

“So…want to head back?” Jack asked, moving his arm from over her shoulders to sit lightly around her waist.

 

“Give it a little while longer. I know it doesn’t look like he’s going to show, but… Maybe he’s finally gotten the message?”

 

“Maybe.” Jack answered unconvinced that someone who had gone to as much trouble in harassing her as he had done, would simply let her go. It didn’t make sense.

 

“You don’t think so?” She asked reading the undertone in his voice.

 

“I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to me like a man who’d just stop, not after what he’s done, but then again, what do I know?”

 

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.” Sam said softly.

 

“Do what?” Jack asked perplexed.

 

“Act like you don’t know anything. I know for a fact that you’re a lot smarter than you let on.”

 

“I don’t know what you mean.” Jack replied feigning ignorance.

 

Watching her shake her head in disbelief, he noted a subtle wind catching her hair moving it subtly across her eyes.  As she brushed it away, the sun caught the strands of her hair, and it glistened like gold; she looked so beautiful that he had to stop himself from reaching out to her. Inwardly chastising himself for his lapse in judgement, this wasn’t the time or place to be having these feelings. She was still his 2IC, at least for the time being, and right now he didn’t want to put her in an awkward position…it just wasn’t appropriate.

 

Suddenly he felt awkward, he had all these feelings for her, but yet again fate had placed a stumbling block in their path.  Until such a time when things were calmer, he’d give her that time to work out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, and while he’d waited patiently for seven long years to tell her how he felt, he knew that these next few weeks…months were going to be the hardest.  Even then he didn’t know if they could make it work.

 

As they reached the edge of the pathway that led to the parking lot, Jack heard the radio crackle once more.

 

“Jack.”

 

“Daniel.”

 

“Where are you?”

 

“We’re just coming up to the parking lot, why? Everything okay?”

 

“No, you…um…might want to get back here as quick as you can.”

 

“We’re on our way.”

 

From the tone in his voice, something had obviously gone wrong. Neither one of them could even speculate about Daniel’s cryptic message, but one thing was sure…it wasn’t good. A furtive glance passed between them, both of their minds seemed to be in sync as they wondered, “What now?”

 

Walking swiftly through the park towards the exit, they came to a standstill not far from Jack’s truck. A crowd had started to form around the vehicle, which wasn’t a huge surprise to them, considering what had happened to it.

 

From a distance, all he could do was stare at his beautiful truck in disbelief. The only thing he could see was the car spray painted pink, it looked like writing from a distance, but he couldn’t make out the words. As angry as he was, the only thing that came to mind was, “Well, I didn’t think pink was my colour…but then again this *is* the new millennium!”

 

Sam’s hand flew to Jack’s arm, a touch that didn’t go un-noticed by the others. “Oh, Jack! Your poor car! I’m so sorry for getting you involved…this wasn’t your fight, and now look…look what’s happened to your truck.” Her eyes filled with unshed tears. She didn’t know what to say to him.

 

“Major Carter, it is better if you do not go near the vehicle.” Teal’c stated simply stepping in front of her path.

 

“Let me through, Teal’c, please.”

 

Glancing over at Daniel for support, he noted that he was conversing with the Colonel. He knew it was a futile gesture in not letting her past, but she was his friend and did not want to hurt her further.

 

“It is not pleasant.”

 

“Teal’c, no offence, but I am not some little thing that you have to look after. Just because I’m not at the SGC anymore, doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of fighting my own battles.”

 

Teal’c looked offended, it was not his intention to belittle her. “I am sorry. It was not my intention to make you feel that way. I was simply trying to spare you added discomfort.”

 

“I appreciate it, Teal’c really, but I’m a big girl.” Sam answered looking across at Daniel and Jack, wondering what they were whispering about.

 

“Daniel?” Jack queried turning his back away from her.

 

“Um…It’s not very nice.” Daniel replied softly, not wanting Sam to hear.

 

“Well I gathered that much. We can’t stop her, she’s going to see it sooner or later.”

 

“Yeah, I know, but couldn’t we show her *after* the re-spray?”

 

“That bad?”

 

“Yes, I would say so.” He remarked nodding his head lightly.

 

“Okay, lets get this over and done with.” Turning back round, he walked towards his Jaffa friend asking simply, “Let her through Teal’c.”

 

“Thank you.” Sam replied tersely. She could never understand them, off world, she was a mean lean fighting machine, but back home in civilian clothing they did tend to become slightly overprotective.  While she did appreciate it, it was becoming grating.

 

Shock

 

Anger

 

Disgust

 

Walking round the truck, she paid attention, to every little mark on there.  The hood was painted with the words, ‘SLUT’ on one side and ‘WHORE’ inscribed with neon pink spray paint.  The tyres were slashed to ribbons, the door panels seemed to have been beaten with some kind of blunt hammer and the windows were smashed; shards of glass littered the pavement. Thoughts assaulted her mind…how? When? All along he had been there, watching her, stalking her. They had obviously missed their opportunity, but…how did he know what they were planning? She didn’t understand.  All that work, the preparation…hell they’d done everything by the book, even to the point of advising the local law enforcement…just in case.  Was it possible that he had someone in on the inside? No. That couldn’t be it…could it?

 

“Daniel, have the police been called?” Sam stated calmly, pulling herself together.

 

“No, not yet, we’ve been waiting for you and Jack.”

 

“Call them, now. He can’t have gotten too far away, and if we’re lucky we might nail the son of a...”

 

“Sam.”

 

Consumed by a slow burning hatred, she was startled by the sudden mention of her name. The fury didn’t lesson at the softness of his voice; instead it increased exponentially. She couldn’t see how he was staying so calm about all of this, when she was seething. Her eyes had taken on a focused steely glaze; this was now becoming a game of cat and mouse. He had tipped her over the edge. It was now pay back time.

 

Jack was worried. He was used to seeing her get angry, but usually when she did so, it was a ‘flash in the pan’ kind of anger, which would flare up quickly, but dissipate almost immediately.  He wasn’t used to this, he’d seen it before…and it wasn’t a healthy kind of rage. He knew, because that was his way…but it wasn’t hers. Not hearing him the first time, he walked over turning her to face him. “Sam.”

 

“I’m fine.” She replied coldly, her eyes heavy-set with pure determination. “I’m going for a walk.”

 

“Sam, don’t wander off on your own.” Daniel called after her.

 

“Leave her be, Daniel.” Jack requested placing a restraining hand on the young man’s shoulder.

 

“Jack.”

 

“Daniel, trust me. She’ll be okay, but she has to do this…for herself. We have to let her go. She’s wound up so tightly she’s likely to blow.”

 

“What about Pete? What if he’s out there waiting for her?”

 

“Daniel, we can’t wrap her up in cotton wool every time she leaves our sight or when something happens.  We’re going to end up smothering her.”

 

“I’m just worried.”

 

“Me too.” Jack advised him, remembering the conversation they’d had the previous morning with her and Janet.

 

“As am I.” Teal’c looking on stoically at the fading form in the distance, completed the similar phrase that had eased their troubles in the past, but this time he was un-certain.

 

***

 

Returning from whence she came, Sam found herself walking briskly through the undergrowth, her stride was purposeful and filled with determination. She didn’t know where she was going or why she needed to do this…only that she had to.

 

Broken thoughts and images flashed through her mind. She was running out of ideas…she hope this would bring him out into the open by making him jealous.  Sure, it worked, but not in the way she’d planned.  The only thing she was grateful for was that the object of his destruction, was mechanical and not living…that was her only saving grace.

 

She didn’t know how far she’d walked or in what direction her rage had taken her, but before long she found a serene spot down by the lake. A park bench stood vacant as if inviting her for some respite. The mid-day sun was slowly setting casting a soft reflection on the water’s edge. The soft sound of ripples lapped against the edge of the fauna. Brightly coloured flowers cradled the lakeside, and as she sat on the bench listening to its soft caress against the pebbles, she felt her breathing slow down. She felt as if she were alone in the world, that nature had realised her need for solitude and provided it in the way of this idyllic setting.

 

Rubbing her hands through her hair, she heard the gentle sound of ducks, quacking softly somewhere down stream.  The gentle sound of birds searching for their nests could be heard high in the thick oak trees, providing her with complete serenity…even if it was just for a little while.

 

If she’d have stayed, there was no doubt in her mind that she would’ve lost her temper completely. It didn’t matter that it was Pete she was angry with, he wasn’t there to vent her anger on, but they were. And as hard as she tried to reign in her temper, she was finding it more and more difficult. SG-1 were her family, and no matter how close family members were, they were easy targets to vent frustration on, and she didn’t want to do that, they’d been through enough.  As for Pete, she was going to hunt him down and hurt him…just as much as he’d hurt her.

 

***

 

“How much longer are we going to wait for her before we go looking?”

 

“We wait until she’s ready.”

 

“It’s been over an hour, Jack.”

 

“I know. Just be patient, she’ll be back soon.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“Because you know her as well as I do, she’s not about to go off and do something stupid.  She’s smarter than that.”

 

So, they continued to sit patiently, waiting for their friend. The car had already been towed and was now thankfully on it’s way for a spray job.  The police once more had little evidence to suggest it was anything other than mindless vandalism.  No-one had seen the perpetrator carry out there act and without that, it was more than a likely hood that it would proceed through normal channels until such a time when evidence became available.

 

Not more than 10 minutes after their conversation, a lone figure strolled casually up the winding path towards them.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hey.”

 

“You ready to head off?”

 

“Yeah, lets go.” Relieved that she wasn’t going to receive a lecture from them, made her feel more secure in herself. She was tired; it had been a long day and the last thing she wanted was a lecture on how irresponsible she had been on wandering off on her own.

 

 

The ride back in Daniel’s car was uneventful. Silence settled in the air, tinged with a slight awkwardness.  They had no words to comfort her. Each one of them doubted that they could make any difference to what she was feeling.

 

As they neared the side of her house, Daniel deliberately checked his rear-view mirror for signs of being followed; thankfully they appeared to be alone.

 

“You want to come in for a coffee?” Sam asked her team.

 

“Have you ever known me to say ‘no’ to coffee?” Daniel asked casually, thankful that she seemed calmer.

 

“What is it with you and coffee anyway, Daniel? Have you got some kind of fetish?”

 

“How can you *not* like it? It’s the most sensual, delectable liquid that I’ve ever tasted. It’s so smooth it glides down your throat, and don’t get me started on the aroma. It’s…”

 

“You need therapy.” Jack replied lightly, shaking his head.

 

Sam let off a little snort; she was going to miss their familiar banter. As she neared the entrance to her front door, she felt a knot form in the pit of her stomach. Not wanting them to know how nervous she was, she carried on chatting exuberantly about anything and everything in an effort to try and belay her fear. Trouble was, once she started talking, she found herself unable to stop and continued to babble like a brook.

Even if they realised what she was doing, they didn’t call her on it…maybe they were learning to let her handle things in her own way?

 

***

 

Eyeing them all from his rear-view mirror, he couldn’t get over how relaxed she seemed with them, laughing and joking as if nothing had happened. His tactics obviously weren’t having any effect on her whatsoever? It seemed as if she needed to be reminded on how dangerous he could really be if he didn’t get his own way. And tonight was the night. Working out how he would corner her and make her pay for leaving him, he smiled sinisterly at what he would do with her. Pulling the knife from it’s sheath, he ran his thumb along its spine from base to tip, caressing it gently. The sun danced over the sharp silver blade, and he grinned with delight at its splendour. 

 

***

 

Their conversation had been light and casual as they each talked of their recent mission, and how they were going to spend their respective weekends.  Each of them tried in their own way to avoid the topics of concern.

 

Checking her watch, Sam didn’t realise how late it had gotten, if she didn’t get to bed soon she’d never be ready for the morning briefing and… Then she remembered. Sadness flickered across her face only briefly. No one noticed…except for Jack.

 

Mouthing the words, “You okay?” Jack didn’t know what the fleeting look was about, but seeing Sam nod her head affirmatively he didn’t press it.

 

 A small yawn escaped her, hurriedly she tried to hide it from the others, but it was too late.

 

“Sorry. It’s been a long day.”

 

“Don’t worry about it. Listen, would you mind if I borrowed your car tonight? I promise to return it first thing in the morning, only it’s late and Daniel and Teal’c are heading back to the base and I just need to check on a few things.”

 

“Sure, it’s the least I can do after today. Look, keep it as long as you need, I’m not going anywhere.”

 

“I’ll bring it back tomorrow. First thing. You need anything before we go? Unless…” Jack finished hesitantly.

 

“No, I’m fine, really. I’ll probably just jump in the shower and have an early night.”

 

“Sure?”

 

“Positive. Thanks for the offer.”

 

“Anytime. We’ll drop by tomorrow if that’s okay?”

 

“You don’t have to.”

 

“We want to.” Daniel butted in firmly.

 

“Thanks guys. Goodnight Teal’c.” Sam said firstly walking up to her Jaffa friend and engulfing him in a bear hug. Then turning to Daniel, she kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Night Daniel.”

 

As she faced Jack, the first thing she thought of was how to say goodbye. Did she embrace him as she did Teal’c or kiss him lightly on the cheek as she had done with Daniel? It was all so confusing. She felt as if she was on a first date, wondering who was going to make the first move? Hell she hadn’t felt like that since she was a teenager and looking at him, he was obviously feeling the same way.

 

“Um…take care, Carter. You know where we are if you need us.” Jack replied finally, patting her lightly on the shoulder. For some reason he felt awkward in front of the others. I mean it wasn’t like he had a guilty conscience, so there was no reason why he should feel like this, but he did.

 

Standing on the front porch, she waved them goodbye, before returning to her fortress. Closing the door firmly behind her, she activated the dead bolt ensuring her entrance was secure. Picking up the dirty dishes, she loaded the washing machine first before checking the rest of her doors and windows, which seemed secure enough. Yawning once more, she tried to shake of the heaviness of sleep. She knew she was tired, it had been a long time since she’d had a decent nights sleep. 

 

These days the bags under her eyes seemed to be more like suitcases. Ever since the night her home had been broken into, sleep had eluded her. Recently she’d only been managing approximately 3 hours sleep a night, even then it was usually sleeping with a blanket wrapped round her as she lay on the sofa with the TV on. She didn’t know why it gave her comfort…only that it did. She hated the fact that he had made her afraid of living in her own home, and no matter how many times she had rationalised to herself that she was as safe as she could make it, but, it made no difference. And she doubted if things were ever going to change. As one last fleeting thought crossed her mind she wondered if she’d ever feel secure here again. Only time would tell.

 

She needed to start getting back into the habit of sleeping in her own bed, staying out here in the living room only meant that he’d won. He’d harassed her enough to make her fearful…even in her own home, and she couldn’t let him have that satisfaction. Instead she decided that she would go and have a nice relaxing bath, full of bubbles. She’d fill the room with aromatic candles and put on some soft relaxing music to prepare her for bed. It had been a long time since she’d bathed…usually she never had time for that luxury, it was always a quick 15 minutes in the shower every morning, but tonight, she would pamper herself.

 

***

 

Contemplating in solitude, Jack didn’t want to leave her; he knew he had no other choice, but the thought of her being alone in that house scared the crap out of him. It wasn’t that he didn’t think she was capable of looking after herself, far from it. But, Pete was a sly conniving fox, who seemed intent on playing mind games. Those sorts of people couldn’t be reasoned with. Pete was out to destroy her life and take down anyone who stood in his way of attaining his goal. And the frustrating part of this whole charade was, that there was very little he could do to stop it.

 

Driving home he had debated on remaining there outside her house; keeping a watchful eye on her from a distance, but if she caught him there, it would be like he didn’t have faith in her. And there had already been too many miscommunications between them and he wasn’t prepared to forfeit their already fragile relationship. He was sure that if she needed him, she’d call.

 

***

 

A dark shadow fell over Samantha Carter’s lawn, the slow squeaking of her metal gate was the only sound that good be heard in the quietness of the night as he crept slowly forward growing nearer to her house. The soft hue of the street lamp cast a shadow against her wall as he neared the steamed up bathroom window. A malicious grin spread over his face and his eyes turned cold. Pulling out the blade from his sheath he moved stealthily around the other side of the house and waited until he caught a glimpse of her from under the blinds that were only ¾ turned down. He could just make her out in a slinky blue robe as she shut the door to the bathroom. He had found his opportunity. The timing was perfect.

 

He would wait a few more minutes, then he would make his move. Be it in this life or the next, she would be his forever. He would ensure that no one else could lay claim on her again.  After he was done with her, no one would want her.

 

***

 

An aromatic smell drifted around the bathroom, hints of lavender and eucalyptus smothered her senses as she lowered herself into the hot steamy bath. A mixture of steam and natural oils intermingled in her bathroom creating a relaxing atmosphere. Sounds of classical music filled the echoes of the room, candles scattered around her bath completed the tranquil atmosphere and felt herself drifting off.  The soft squelching bubbles lapped leisurely over her, massaging her tired aching muscles with every movement she made, she could feel herself falling into a light slumber.

 

***

 

Going from window to window, he attempted to find his entry point, every window and door seemed to be locked securely. Pondering briefly he thought about cutting the wires attached to the alarm, it wasn’t a difficult task, but it was more time consuming. In the end he didn’t believe he had a choice, then he spotted it…an open window leading to the basement. It was only slightly ajar…all it needed was a bit of coaxing. Jimmying the window ledge open, the wooden frame splintered at his exertion. Pulling the window upwards he slid himself into the basement carefully avoiding the fractured pieces of wood that now lined the edges of the windowsill.

 

The old dusty wooden floorboards groaned and creaked slightly at the weight of pressure being placed upon them. Plumes of dust rose up from the basement floor as his footsteps disturbed what had lain there dormant for some time. Making his way cautiously towards the basement steps, he tested every wooden board before placing his full body weight on them…everything had to be just right, he couldn’t make her aware of his presence until *he* was ready.

 

Slowly opening the door, he tiptoed quietly through the pantry, listening intently for any sign of movement from her. From the sounds of classical music coming from the bathroom, he knew she wouldn’t be moving for a while yet. Her time was coming. Pulling a small box from his trouser pocket, placing it in clear site on top of the kitchen’s breakfast bar. Grinning wildly at his cunning, he crept towards a recess in the house that would conceal him until it was time.

 

***

 

Opening her eyes lazily, she knew it was time to get out the bath; her wrinkled fingers and toes were a testament to that. The water had become decidedly tepid and she was starting to get cold. Sighing, she realised that, that was probably the best sleep she’d had in a long while, but she knew she couldn’t stay in there forever…besides it would cost her a fortune in hot water. Stretching her body to get some of the blood pumping in her veins, she came to the conclusion that the bath had obviously done her the world of good, but just like everything, all good things had to come to an end.

 

Blowing out the candles, she pulled herself out of the bath placing her dripping feet on the mat below. Walking over to the handrail, she grabbed the nearest towel and began delicately drying herself.  Rubbing the towel through a hair, she glimpsed herself in the mirror, she still looked like crap, but a few more of these baths, would help in that area. And at least for half an hour she’d managed to avoid thinking about him.

 

Changing into her nightwear, she begrudgingly turned off the music and sauntered into the living room to check her answering machine. Trouble was, having the music on loud meant that she couldn’t here her phone, thankfully though no one had rang.  Things were obviously looking up. Smiling to herself, she headed leisurely towards the kitchen for a nice mug of hot milk before bed.

 

Nearing the kitchen, she saw something glistening on the side. Her heart slammed against her chest. The rush of adrenaline flowed profusely through her veins at the site of the object that lay in front of her. Whipping her head round to check behind her, she felt a cold shiver run down her spine. Walking slowly towards it, she picked it up with shaking hands…it was her mother’s ring!

 

“Oh God no.” She whispered, fear paralysing her momentarily. 

 

What if he was still here? She needed to protect herself, but the baseball bat was by the front door and she didn’t know if she could make it there in time. Glancing over at the set of cutlery sitting beside the toaster, she spotted her kitchen knives; if need be, she would use them.

 

Suddenly she felt her blood turn icy cold, she could feel his presence behind her. Before she had time to turn around, she felt a hand clasp her mouth. She tried to scream, but he exerted more pressure on her face, suffocating her. Gasping, she tried to fight him off. Jerking her head back and kneeing him in the groin was the first thing they taught at self-defence classes, but he knew the score, and avoided her jabs.

 

 Each time she tried to escape his advances his grip became more intense. The one thing she believed would work was manoeuvring her hand behind her; she grabbed his genitals, squeezing them as hard as she could. It worked for a second, but it only angered him further.

 

His voice was deep and low, malice oozed out of his mouth as he whispered in her ear. “Sam, if you stop struggling, it will make this whole thing so much easier.”

 

The only thing Sam could think of to gain the upper hand was to throw him off balance. Trying desperately to shake him off, she rocked her body back and forth trying to gain some momentum. Firmly planting her feet on the floor, she pushed her back against his body and the force of her efforts caused him to stumble, taking him along with her, hitting hard against the stony floor.

 

***

 

Waiting at the traffic lights, Jack slammed his fist against the steering wheel, “CRAP!” He couldn’t believe what he’d done. “Could this day *get* any better!”

 

Pulling over he grabbed his cell phone and began dialling the base.

 

“Daniel? It’s me.”

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Did I leave my keys in your car?”

 

“Um…no, I don’t think so. Let me ask Teal’c if he saw them, hang on a sec.”

 

Hearing muffled voices in the background, Jack assumed Daniel was still talking with Teal’c. Jack impatiently tapped his fingers on the side. He was tired, cranky and in no mood to wait. “Anytime soon would be good.”

 

“Hey, I’m back. Teal’c says ‘no’.”

 

“Great, just great. How the hell am I going to get into my house now?”

 

“Maybe you left them at Sam’s or… Hey, didn’t you give your keys to the mechanic?”

 

“DOH!”

 

“I take that as a ‘yes’?” Daniel replied hesitantly. “Haven’t you got a spare set lying around?”

 

“No, I gave them to Carter.”

 

“Want me to ring her?”

 

“No, don’t worry I’ll do it. Speak to you later.” Hanging up, he punched in speed-dial #1 and waited…after letting the phone ring for a good few minutes, he started to get a bad feeling.  Why wasn’t she answering her phone? It wasn’t like her. Maybe she was in the bath or in bed? Checking his watch it was nearly midnight.  Too late for all those things. Frowning, he tried once. Okay, this was not good. Doing a complete U-Turn in the middle of the road, he narrowly missed a truck passing in the opposite direction.

 

Between trying to call Daniel back and traversing the bends in the road, Jack only just managed to avoid a collision. Cursing out loud, Daniel answered the phone at the same time.

 

“Well that’s a new way to say ‘hello’.”

 

“Daniel, Carter’s in trouble.”

 

“Whoa whoa, slow down, what’s happened?”

 

“I tried to call her, and she didn’t answer.”

 

“Jack, she might be in the bathroom...or asleep?”

 

“Daniel, I’ve tried a few times, something’s wrong. Call the police and have them meet me there. I’m heading back to hers.”

 

“What if you’re wrong?”

 

“Then you can have the pleasure of saying ‘I told you so’.”

 

“I’ll do it now, then we’ll meet you there.” Slamming the phone down he shouted to Teal’c. “Sam’s in trouble. We’re meeting Jack at hers.” Dialling the police en-route to the surface, they made their way to the surface. They had to get there in time.

 

***

 

Collapsed on the floor, Sam felt the wind get knocked out of her, but she was determined to get the upper hand. Tearing herself from his grasp she clawed at him, her fingernails ripped his hands and she heard him cry out in pain. Getting to her feet, she managed to elude him for a split second.  Running into the living room, she heard the phone ringing, but she had to concentrate on getting the bat, that was her priority.  Pete unfortunately recovered quickly and pounced on her as she made her way across the living room, bringing her crashing down to the floor once more. Sam felt herself falling and tried to bring her hand out to stop herself, but collided with her bookcase; its contents fell precariously over her head. As she collided with it, the shelf unit toppled over, and she narrowly escaped severely injuring herself.  Flipping over she banged her head on the coffee table. Blood poured from the open wound, and she found herself disorientated. Trying to clear her head, she felt her vision glaze over, but she had to get up. With her vision blurred, she just made out the shape of a man coming closer. There was no time to escape him.

 

“BITCH!” Pete shouted, clutching his hand. Fumbling after her, he watched her struggle on the ground. Unfocussed and confused, he seized his opportunity and pounce on her. Sitting on her pelvis, he whipped out the knife. Holding it firmly in his grasp, he held it up against her throat and she ceased her struggling.

 

Sam felt the blade pressing into her neck. Her heart pounded against her chest when he gyrated his crotch against her pelvis. Initially her thoughts were that he would kill her then and there, but as his body pressed against hers, she feared he would rape her first…then kill her. With her breaths coming in short pants, she tried to calm herself down. Fear had a way of paralysing a person, and she couldn’t afford that luxury, not when she was all alone.

 

 “You’re a little tease aren’t you, sleeping with me and your beloved Colonel? I hope he was worth it.”

 

She didn’t have a clue what he was talking about; she’d never slept with the Colonel. Why would he think that she had? Remembering Jack’s words…it clicked, like a light bulb switching on.  It was all so clear now. It didn’t matter what he thought, or even if it was true or not, he was passed that.  Filled with rage and unbridled hatred for her and the life she led.  It wouldn’t have made any difference if she had lain here and professed her innocence…it wouldn’t matter, not to him. “There’s only one thing I regret, Pete. *And* that was sleeping with you!”

 

He silenced her first by striking her across the face. Straddling her hips, he clamped his hand over her mouth to silence her further, he ran the blade down her body; scraping her skin in the process.

 

Sam felt every movement, she didn’t think the cut down her chest was deep, but it was certainly enough to seep through her clothing. He wanted to hurt her, but from his chilling penetrating gaze, he wanted to enjoy the sensation first.  And that meant taking his time. Her body felt as it had been thrown off a cliff, there wasn’t a part of her that wasn’t bruised or bloodied.

 

Barely managing to control her heart rate, she tried to prepare herself. If she was going to risk everything, she had to do it now. She didn’t know how much more time she had.

 

His hand groped her body, and Sam felt physically sick at his touch. He was getting closer to attaining his goal, and for the moment she lay there; restrained by the blade to her stomach. It didn’t matter what she did, she was going to get cut, and that was one of things they taught her. If you’re trying to evade a weapon, prepare yourself for the likelihood of it being used on you. As his hand moved away from her body he pinned her down by the shoulder. His other hand still held the blade, but she watched him like a hawk, his eyes, hands… anything that would provide her with a window of opportunity.  And then it came. He moved the knife away from her body, it was only for a split second, but it was all she needed. She brought her hand round and punched him with her free hand. He didn’t see it coming. The weapon flew out of his hand and she used that advantage against him.

 

Scampering out of his way, she lunged for the knife. With every ounce of stamina that she had within her, she grabbed it firmly. If he now wanted to take the knife away from her, he was going to have to kill her first.

 

Recovering from the blow to his head, Pete staggered to his feet.

 

“Think you can take me on do you?” Pete sneered, wiping his bloodied lip. “Well come on then, Sam.  Lets see what you’re made of.”

 

“You have no idea what I’m capable of, Pete.” Sam stated with pure venom. “I’m warning you, take one more step towards me and it will be the last thing you ever do.”

 

Ignoring her completely, he stepped casually towards her. His hands beckoned for her to take him on. Retreating slightly, she tried to position herself nearer to the phone so she could call the emergency services. As her eyes went to search for the phone, which had been strewn across the room, he used it as leverage and rushed towards her. She was prepared this time. She swiped at him, and caught his arm.  Grabbing her by the wrist he tried to make her relinquish the weapon. Pushing her against the wall, he head connected with the concrete, but she managed to stay conscious.  High on adrenaline and need to survive, she brought her knee up to him and kneed him in the groin. He lost his grip on her, and she kicked him in the knee, making him scream in pain.

 

He stumbled slightly, before taking another swing at her. Evading his punch, she brought her leg up and kicked him in the stomach. This time he went down; winded by her ferocious back kick.

 

***

 

Turning the corner into her road, he could believe how much time it had taken to get here, but then again considering how long it normally took, he was surprised the traffic police hadn’t caught up with him.

 

His tyres screeched as he rounded the corner, his palms were cold and sweaty as he gripped the steering wheel. He didn’t know what it was that gave him a bad feeling; maybe it had been too many years in special ops.  Whatever it was, he was thankful for it. It had saved his and the team’s asses on many occasions in the past. His only hope was, that it had kicked in, in time.

 

***

 

Common sense at this point was not something that was at the forefront of her mind at the moment. All her concentrated efforts were directed at him…to silence him once and for all, as he had planned with her. Weeks of anger, fear and frustration clouded her rational mind, and she felt like someone else had taken control. There was no longer any rational thoughts left in her mind, this was pure hatred as she began kicking at his ribs. Each time he would move, she’d kick him again. It was at a point now, that he was barely conscious. She wanted to put the fear of god in him, make him beg for his life. Her fingers tightened against the knife as she straddled him.

 

***

 

With his face flushed with concern, he jumped out of his car, irritating his wounded shoulder. Racing towards her front door, he swung open the gate before knocking loudly on the door, shouting out her name.

 

“SAM! SAM!”

 

The lights were already on, but no one came. Shit! He knew he should never have left. He had no other alternative, but to break down the door. Unfortunately his previous injuries hampered his efforts and he couldn’t get enough weight behind it using his good shoulder. Instead, the only thing he could think of was breaking the downstairs window.

 

***

 

Oblivious to everything surrounding her except for him, she pressed the blade against his throat in exactly the same fashion as he’d done with her. “The boots on the other foot now, isn’t it Pete?” Sam told him darkly, pressing the blade against his jugular vein. A trickle of blood where she exerted pressure was now trickling slowly down his neck “I know all about the human body. I just need to press a little harder, and your sorry existence will be over. It’s pay back time, Pete.”

 

 ***

 

Jack heard her voice, but strangely it didn’t sound like her. It was low and controlled, almost in a monotone voice. His fear piqued as he made his way slowly towards the living room. Careful to avoid detection, he saw her straddled on top of him. Looking round the room, he could see there had been a struggle. He didn’t know what had happened here tonight, but she had obviously gotten the upper hand.

 

Moving stealthily towards them, he crept silently so not to startle her, instead he positioned himself clearly so that she could see him, and he could see her. The sirens could be heard blaring in the distance, and he knew that time was short.

 

“Sam. Can you hear me?” Jack asked softly, unsure of her state of mind. “Sam, help is on the way. Put the knife down…he’s not going anywhere.”

 

“NO!” 

 

There was no room for arguing; she was dead set that he would pay for everything that he’d done.

 

“Sam.” It was more a plea than anything else. “You *don’t* want to do this. Let the police handle it.”

 

“He nearly killed you Jack, and me. He killed my cat, terrorised me in my own home. I tried it their way and look where it got me. *This* is the only way.”

 

Tension filled the room. His gaze flickered from Sam to Pete, trying to gauge the situation. He’d been here before. There came a point in any person’s life, where they reached their limit, and Sam had met hers. He had to reach her. If she did this, there would be no turning back. It wouldn’t be self-defence…it would be murder.

 

“Sam. Listen to me, the police are going to be here any second. I understand what you’re going through, but this is not the way. If you do this, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Don’t throw your life away for someone like him.”

 

Jack could hear footsteps on the front porch.  Loud voices echoed in the stillness of the night; it was the police. They were coming in.

 

“POLICE! No body move!” With one fell swoop they surrounded them; their weapons rose defensively. Shouting at Sam in particular they called out, “DROP THE KNIFE! DO IT, NOW.”

 

Stepping in, Jack tried to reason with them, but as far as they were concerned, she was the one who had the weapon held to his throat.

 

“Sam!” His voice was firm and commanding as he knelt beside her. “Look at me? Put the knife down. If you don’t, they will force you to do it.  Do you understand? Killing him is too easy, Sam. It won’t be him who pays…it’ll be you. Now give me the knife.”

 

“Not until he admits what he’s done.”

 

Jack looked down at the prone figure lying on the ground, before directing his gaze back towards is friend. “Sam, whether he admits it or not. It can’t be admissible, you know that as well as I do.”

 

Pete grinned maliciously; he didn’t need to say anything. As far as he was concerned, he was the injured party. She was the one who had the knife to his throat and he had witnesses to prove that. Again it was her word against his.

 

“You ruined my life Pete Shanahan. You nearly killed the man I love. For the last few weeks you’ve made my life a living hell. Now I want you to tell them what you did.”

 

Jack didn’t know what to think...his head was spinning. This was the first time she’d actually come out and admitted her feelings for him. But, if he didn’t stop her, they wouldn’t be able to build a life together, and he’d never get the opportunity to tell her.

 

Pete heard the words. She loved him; she’d finally admitted it.  “You little slut.” He spat at her.

 

“Shut your mouth Shanahan.” Jack shouted. His eyes revealing exactly how he was feeling. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see the police moving in closer, and he had no alternative, but to pull her away from him. Kneeling down besides her, he cautiously lowered his hand to hers. “Hand it over, Sam.”

 

Her fingers relaxed lightly. Her head ached, she knew he was right, but damn it, so was she.  Didn’t she have rights any more? What about her rights to feel safe and secure in her own home? To build a life for herself, without fear of being terrorised? When was it all going to end? The pounding in her head increased, and she felt herself losing strength. Without realising what she was saying, she whispered softly, “When will it end?”

 

“It ends now.” Jack stated with a note of finality. Taking the knife out of her hand he surreptitiously passed it over to the waiting officers.

 

Helping her up, she looked at him with an intensity that he’d never seen in her before. And he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. The police surrounded them in seconds.  As soon as Sam was far enough away from Pete, the police swooped down and grabbed him. His face was stony set.

 

The police officer took a hold of her as soon as she turned around, effectively placing her under arrest. Jack was distraught. This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out. Watching as they placed her in handcuffs, Jack felt as if he was going to lose it completely.

 

“Wait a minute. He comes in here, attacking Sam in her own home I might add, and your arresting *her*?” Looking across at her, she seemed as if she didn’t care, and he didn’t understand why.

 

Talking directly to Jack, the officer replied apologetically, “I’m sorry it’s just standard procedure. You have to understand that your friend was holding a knife to this man’s throat...”

 

“In Self-Defence! If you lot had done your job properly...”

 

“Sir, You’re not helping matters. Please let us handle this.” They cautioned him.

 

“She’s a Major in the United States Air Force. Isn’t there any way you can release her into my custody? I’m her commanding officer. I can assure you, she won’t be going anywhere, plus she needs medical treatment.”

 

“It’s not my call, sir. I can talk to my supervisor and see what we can do.”

 

“Thank you. I appreciate it.”

 

With the police officers leading her away, Jack followed closely behind. He had to make certain she didn’t leave his sight. As they passed the man responsible for this whole predicament, Pete leant into Sam and whispered coldly. “I told you, you didn’t have the balls, Sam. You needed your beloved Jack to come to the rescue, didn’t you?”

 

Outraged at the mans audacity to exacerbate the situation, Jack felt rage bubbling under the surface. Clenching his fist he walked towards him with pure determination. His whole body language displayed defiance and hatred. At the moment, he would’ve liked nothing more than to punch him in the face, and then beat the crap out of him. But, he had to restrain himself. Hitting him wouldn’t do either of them any good; his first concern was for Sam. She needed him to be there for her…not locked in some jail cell.

 

Trying desperately to contain his rising temper, he leaned towards him. No words were spoken, it seemed as if it was a battle of wills between them. Jack wanted Pete to see just what he was capable of without uttering a sound. Years of Black Ops had allowed him to convey more emotions with his eyes, then any spoken word could. His cold steely eyes reflected pure hatred for this man, and he wanted him to know it.

 

“You take on one us Shanahan, you deal with all of us. You get my meaning? If you come within fifty feet of Sam, then I swear to God, I won’t stop her next time.”

 

“I should’ve killed you when I had the chance instead of just wounding you.” Pete spat with pure venom, looking between Sam and Jack.

 

Sam whipped her head round, had she heard him correctly? Had he admitted that he tried to kill Jack? Was this the only proof she needed?

 

Her emotions were in turmoil; she felt her eyes closing at the thought that it was finally over. Everything she’d gone through over the last few weeks was now coming to an end. He wouldn’t hurt her again.

 

Jack smiled; he’d got what he wanted. Now all that was left was making sure Sam was okay. She’d been through something no one should have to deal with. But, he knew that she was a survivor.  No matter what life had to throw at her, she’d pick herself up, dust herself off and start all over again. That was one of the things he loved about her. He could count on his hands the number of times he’d nearly lost her. And the worst part was…she’d never know just how much she meant to him. For too long he’d locked away his feelings for her, but now…she had the key to his heart and it was time to let her in.

 

***

 

Pulling up outside her house the remaining members of SG-1 jumped out of the car and headed towards the house.

 

Thwarted from entering the house, Daniel pleaded with the officer to let them pass, but even with his persuasive powers, the police refused to let them in.

 

“She’s our friend, we have to make sure she’s okay.”

 

“Sir, as soon as the situation is under control, you can go in, but not before.”

 

Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long. Trying to see what was happening, Daniel spotted a flurry of activity at the entrance to Sam’s door. She was being led out…in handcuffs. He didn’t understand. Where was Jack? Did she kill someone? Questions ran through his mind. The street lamp illuminated her face as she was led down the path. Her face was pale, bloodied and bruised. Anxious and fearful for his friend’s well being, he turned to Teal’c and noted that he held the same questioning, worried expression on his face.

 

As she approached her friends, she took in their concern and spoke softly, “It’s over.”

 

“Sam, what?”

 

“They’re just taking precautions, Daniel. I’m okay, really. The Colonel is trying to get me released into his custody.”

 

“I don’t understand? What did you do?”

 

“I did what I had to.” Sam answered tiredly walking towards the squad car.

 

***

 

Cleaned and bandaged, her wounds were extensive. She couldn’t believe that she’d been able to carry on with that many injuries…but she had.  The will to survive was her strongest asset and no matter what happened in her life from this point forward, she knew she would no longer be afraid of the demons in the night.

 

The police had been and gone, releasing her on her own reconnaissance. They were satisfied that her actions had been due to pure desperation and self-defence. They had no reason to contest it, since Pete’s outburst. Lying back in the hospital bed, she felt as if the last few weeks had been a nightmare. They were keeping her in for a few days to make sure that there were no delayed reactions from the concussion, but once she was released she was a free women once more. Then she would have to deal with the aftermath. Uncertainty flickered in her eyes. She didn’t know if she could live there anymore. With everything that had gone on tonight and events of the past, there were just too many bad memories. And maybe with her leaving the SGC it was time for a fresh start.

 

A gentle tapping on the door alerted her to visitors. Calling out for them to come in, she watched as they walked nervously towards her. She wasn’t sure if it was the fact that she had actually defended herself that made them seem uneasy, or the fact that she was actually prepared to kill him if necessary to preserve her survival. Either way, she wasn’t sure how they’d react.

 

Silence filled the room as each of them waited for the other to speak.

 

Clearing his throat, Daniel spoke up, “I’m glad you’re okay, Sam. We were worried.”

 

“I’m fine Daniel, apart from a few bumps and bruises, and a headache that won’t quit.”

 

“Yeah, that nail in the head thing, sure packs a punch.” Jack told her softly, bringing a smile to his eyes.

 

As soon as he said the words, she knew they were going to be al right. She smiled lightly at his humour, and replied tiredly. “It sure does.”

 

“I am pleased to see you are well Major Carter. We were concerned that we would have to visit you in the…clink, I believe is the correct terminology is it not Daniel Jackson?” he asked with all innocence.

 

“Remind me to teach you all about tact and diplomacy, Teal’c.” Daniel replied, slightly mortified that he’d actually said that. It wasn’t something she needed to hear now.

 

Unexpectedly, Sam laughed at his straightforwardness “Thank you Teal’c. I’m also glad.”

 

“Great, now that the awkwardness is out the way…how about we celebrate?” Jack replied optimistically.

 

“I have brought the donuts, O’Neill.” Teal’c replied.

 

“Excellent.”

 

“Here? You bought donuts, here? And you’re going to have a party…here?”

 

“Yes, Daniel, *here*. You expect Sam to go out in public wearing one of those backless hospital gowns…” Turning to her he asked, “It is backless isn’t it?”

 

Sam nodded trying to keep a straight face.

 

“We’re in a hospital, Jack. Sick people remember?”

 

“It’s only going to be a little party, besides… I ordered pizza.”

 

“You didn’t?” Daniel questioned hesitantly.

 

“Indeed he did.” Teal’s smiled before offering up the various donuts he’d brought with him.

 

Before he had the opportunity to give him the answer, someone knocked on her door.

 

Going to answer it, Daniel heard those fatal words. “That’s the one without anchovies.”

 

Smiling to herself at the whole situation, she realised that she’d never have *this* again. True friends. And for the first time since this whole thing started, she regretted the fact that she’d given up her commission.

 

 

CHAPTER 9 – A NEW BEGINNING

  

Changing into her jeans and T-shirt, Sam was busy placing all her toiletries into her bag along with a few other items that Janet had kindly brought on her first night. She couldn’t believe that she’d been kept in the hospital so long. Four long days later, she found herself looking back at events that were now only bad memories. Not only had it placed a strain on her own health and sanity, but also her relationship with the team had changed. At the moment she didn’t know if that was a good thing or not…only time would tell.  Truth be told, she hadn’t really had that much time to reflect on the situation because of all the visitors. And this time she didn’t mind that they were keeping her mind occupied.

 

Thankfully, the nightmares seemed to have abated, and she no longer woke up screaming in the night. Janet had told her it was a natural reaction, but she’d asked her to keep that private; the last thing she wanted was for the others to know how much her actions had weighed heavily on her mind. She knew they would understand, but after all her talk about how much she had to do things herself and how much she valued her independence, there were still times when she needed someone to confide in; without having to put on some kind of mask - someone who understood the demands that being a soldier and a woman created. She didn’t know how she would have gotten through the last few days without her friend’s support. It was a rare friendship and something she valued immensely. She hoped that even after her departure from the SGC they would remain as close as they were now.

 

Looking back over the last few years, she felt privileged that she’d been involved in something unique. A wonderful team, the chance to explore different civilisations and cultures was something that would always stay in the forefront of her mind. It was doubtful that she would ever experience anything that amazing ever again. Nostalgia had a way of creeping up into a person’s heart when they least expected it. No matter how much she tried to rationalise to herself that there was no turning back, she knew that she would always feel a sense of loss at leaving that part of her life behind.

 

Did she regret her decision? She honestly couldn’t answer that. Her mind and heart were pulling in two different directions. Daniel was right about the old forks in the road adage. Certain paths are chosen for a reason. If she hadn’t joined the Stargate programme when she did, she wondered how her life would have differed. Would she be settled with a family? Or would she have remained in the military? In all honesty she couldn’t answer that. What happened, happened for a reason…and that could never be changed. She had two choices now, to rescind her resignation or carry on the path that she had chosen to take or prepare herself for a life outside the military. Each one was as difficult as the first. There was only one obstacle standing in her way…but it was a big one. Did she risk everything for the sake of something that may never come about? Or did she continue on the same path that she had trodden for the last seven years, and lock her feelings away once more?

 

 If she was honest with herself, she didn’t have the answers, and she wouldn’t until she talked to him. Unfortunately that was easier said than done. Since her outburst at the house, when she’d openly admitted she loved him, he’d been strangely distant. Uncertainty filled her mind at the thought that maybe he just didn’t see her in *that* way anymore. Maybe too much time had elapsed between them? Surely though if that were the case, then he would say something to her…wouldn’t he? Trouble was she didn’t know. He was such a private man that for most of the time they served together - unless it was military related, she didnn’t have a clue at what he was thinking or feeling for that matter. He kept everything so close to his chest…about Charlie, Sarah his feelings for her. But that was him. That was one of the things she loved about him, the fact that when he gave his heart he gave everything of himself - lock, stock and barrel. To get to that point though she knew he’d have to open up to her. And that was something she wasn’t sure he could do.

 

Could she see herself with him for the rest of her life if she wasn’t working side by side with him? Would they still have the same feelings for each other if they weren’t saving each other’s assess? The problem with risking your life everyday for your friends…your family meant that it placed a whole different perspective on things, particularly when it came to relationships. You trust the person that you work with implicitly. Mistrust could never play apart of that aspect of her working life, but that’s what had happened. Somewhere along the line he had lost his respect for her. While there were mitigating circumstances surrounding it, the fact was it had changed them, changed their relationship. Sure they had worked it out after a while, but the fact remained that it happened. And she couldn’t change that, neither could he. If she did return to work, would there still be a part of him that hesitated if she had to make a decision? Did he now trust her completely, or would the doubt always be there? She didn’t know. And until that was resolved, the choice would remain the same; her resignation would stand.

 

A knock on the door brought her slamming back to the present. Turning round she smiled openly at her friend.

 

“Hey hon, you all set?” Janet asked lightly walking towards her friend.

 

“I’m just waiting for my discharge papers, then I’m free.” Sam replied hopping back on the bed.

 

“Has the Colonel been to see you today?”

 

“No, why?”

 

“I just wondered, that’s all.” Janet replied evasively, pulling up a chair.

 

“Janet. What’s going on?”

 

“Nothing.” She answered hesitantly. Then seeing Sam’s questioning eyes, she realised that she owed her friend an explanation. “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you. But, you can’t tell anyone I said anything.”

 

Shuffling herself towards the edge of the bed, she allowed her legs to dangle listlessly over the side. Janet was never usually one to spread gossip, so whatever she had to say about him, piqued her interest. Leaning forward she asked, “So, what’s going on?”

 

“He’s wandering around like a bear with a sore head.”

 

“That’s it?” Hardly newsworthy, Jack always had a penchant for being in a bad mood every now and again.  This wasn’t anything she hadn’t seen or heard before. Hell she could count the number of times she had seen him in a foul mood.

 

“I haven’t finished yet. The reason he’s in a bad mood is because he knows he has to find someone to replace you. And he’s not a happy camper.  Remember what he was like when he had to find someone to fill Daniel’s shoes?”

 

Oh yes, she remembered it well. He was a nightmare to work for at the time. Granted they were still trying to find their feet after Daniel’s ascension, but what the new person didn’t realise was, the Colonel had a way of working. And when he had to integrate a new member into his team, and they didn’t act how Daniel would’ve done things or they disagreed with certain aspects he usually lost his temper and ended up replacing them - even when Jonas was part of the team there’d been a period of readjustment. Sam remembered having to placate him, make him realise that it would take time to adjust. So this didn’t come as too much of a surprise to her.

 

“Well, picture that, but ten times worst, he’s driving everyone nuts.” Janet finished with dramatic flare.

 

She couldn’t help herself, the image brought a smile to her face and her eyes twinkled lightly.

 

“It’s not funny, Sam.”

 

“Sorry.” She stated, considering herself thoroughly chastised. But, she did think it was sweet that he missed her. “So, what’s the General doing?”

 

“Well, off the record, he’s giving the Colonel a week to sort himself out, otherwise he’s going to chose someone for him.”

 

“And I gather the Colonel’s no further forward then?”

 

“Nope. He has 4 days to come up with a replacement. And lets just say you’re impossible to replace…and he’s only just realising that.”

 

Although she found it flattering that he felt her irreplaceable, she did feel sorry for him, and whoever it was that had been asked to take her place. A part of her was saddened though at the fact that she *was* being replaced, and that was the end of it. The decision had been taken out of her hands. A sad smile played on her lips at the thought that she was never going back.

 

“So, how many people has the Colonel tried out?” She asked purely out of curiosity, she couldn’t help herself.

 

“Um...the last time I checked it was ten.”

 

“Ten? Is he going for the record?” Sam laughed at the absurdity. “If he’s not careful he’s going to run out of staff.”

 

“I know, I think that’s why General Hammond said he’d only give him a week.”

 

“Unbelievable. You’d think he’d learned his lesson the last time wouldn’t you. So I gather he’s tried telling the General that a three manned SG-1 is the best alternative?”

 

“You name it, he’s said it. But, the General won’t cave on this.” Pausing for a moment she debated on whether to ask her about coming back to work. Things had changed and at the moment she didn’t know where her friend stood. “So…any second thoughts?”

 

Shrugging her shoulders, she didn’t know how to answer her, was she sorry about leaving? Absolutely. Could she go back to how everything was…as his 2IC? That was the million-dollar question. If truth be told, she didn’t want to go back to that point in her life where she had to hide her feelings for him, too much had changed; she’d changed.

 

 “Yes and no.”

 

“Well that’s comprehensive.”

 

“Maybe I just need a bit of time to think things through.”

 

“Time is a luxury you can’t afford, Sam. Like it or not you have to make a choice. You can either risk everything and follow your heart. Or…go back to how things were.”

 

“How can I though, he knows how I feel about him now.”

 

“Sam he’s always known, it’s just that this is the first time you’ve actually had the courage to tell him aloud an in no uncertain terms that you love him.”

 

“But that’s exactly my point, how can we go back?”

 

“You can’t. You have to face it head on and deal with it.”

 

“Easier said than done.” Sam advised deflated.

 

“I know, but I have every confidence in you.”

 

“What no words of wisdom?”

 

“Sam, I’m a divorcee, single mom who hasn’t been on a date in nearly 7 years and you’re asking for my opinion on being in love?”

 

“Good point. Lets drop this subject shall we?”

 

Picking up her friend’s bags, the two women walked casually down towards reception to sign Sam’s discharge papers. Janet was certain that no matter what decision her friend made it would be the right one. She knew it wasn’t going to be easier. Ultimately there would be regrets no matter which path she chose to take, but there really was no alternative.

 

***

 

It had been several days since Sam had been released  from the hospital and apart from that fateful night, he had only seen her while in the presence of someone else. Her revelation that night had shaken him, more than even he cared to admit himself. Who would’ve thought that those three little words could have evoked so many feelings in him? He’d never spoken to her about it afterwards, not because he didn’t care for her, but because he didn’t know how to tell her. His feelings for her were unique, unlike anything he had experienced…even with Sarah. His love for her had been borne out of friendship and trust, he relied on her everyday to stand beside him and she had. They had been through so much together and had grown closer each day. Trouble was maybe he’d relied on her too much? It had gotten to the stage now, where he found fault with everyone that had been brought in to take her place. He had no doubts that they were all very good in their own field of expertise, but they weren’t Carter. It was getting to the stage that even the General was becoming involved, something that had never happened in the past. Flicking through the various personnel files, he still couldn’t find anyone that was suitable, and it was doubtful in his eyes that anyone was. He couldn’t imagine carrying on without her…and that was the problem.

 

The telephone’s incessant ringing interrupted his thoughts, which was just as well really. After spending the last 4 hours ploughing through his paperwork, he wasn’t any further forward.

 

“O’Neill.”

 

“Hey…it’s me.”

 

“Sam!”

 

“Yeah it’s me. Listen, can we meet for lunch by any chance?”

 

“Lunch? Um…sure. Anywhere particular?” Jack asked nervously. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably. Was he actually going on a date with Carter? Uncertainty flickered through his eyes at the thought. Maybe this would be the perfect time to tell her, or maybe he should wait and see what she had to say. Then his mind decided to play devils advocate, making him think that she might not have meant what she said that night at the house. He honestly wasn’t sure, so maybe meeting her like this would give him the opportunity to ask her; either way it made his stomach flip nervously.

 

“The café over the road about 1 o’clock?” Sam asked with slight hesitation.

 

“You okay? You seem a bit…distant.”

 

“No, I’m fine. See you then?”

 

“I might be a bit late, I’ve got a meeting with General Hammond, but, I’ll be there.”

 

“Good…um…well I’ll see you in a little while then. Bye.”

 

“Bye.”

 

Hanging up the phone, Jack leaned back in his chair, slowly rocking backward and forward. Okay, well that was definitely the weirdest conversation he’d had with her for a while. He honestly thought she seemed hesitant…or shy, certainly not like her normal self. Was she having second thoughts about her confession? Maybe she needed time to herself and this was going to be her way of telling him that? Or worse, what if she decided to move away? Maybe he could handle her saying that she needed some space, but now, his thoughts and feelings were all in turmoil. Looking at the mountain of paperwork still left on his desk, he realised that he wasn’t going to get anything finished today…not while his mind was on other things.

 

Checking his watch, he realised if he didn’t get his butt into gear pretty quickly he was going to be late for his meeting with General Hammond.

 

***

 

“Jack.”

 

“Sir.”

 

“Take a seat, Colonel.”

 

For a few minutes, General Hammond and Colonel O’Neill sat in total silence while General Hammond access personnel records on his laptop. A curious expression crept on the elderly man’s face. It was a side of him, which Jack rarely saw…and it made him uncomfortable.  

 

Reaching for his phone, he contacted his personal secretary advising that no calls were to be placed through until after the meeting had been concluded. Watching the Colonel sitting opposite him, he noticed a distinct nervousness in the young man’s demeanour. It was almost laughable. Never in the seven years since his first fateful meeting with him, had he seen the Colonel rattled. He wasn’t sure what Jack was expecting, but from the look on his face, he appeared to act as if he had been called into the headmaster’s office to await a reprimand. In all his years serving as his commanding officer, he’d never mentioned to Jack that he knew of his feelings for his 2IC. Certainly he’d hinted to some degree that he was aware of the tentative relationship between them, but as their feelings had never compromised any command decisions Jack had had to make, he never believed it was an issue…until now.

 

Seeing the young man struggling to cope with her decision to leave the SGC, he honestly thought that it would have been the other way around, in that it would be the Colonel who would leave first. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect this turn of events. He’d given him a week to find a replacement for Major Carter, but it was clear from early enquiries and recent mission reports, that things were not boding well in that area. But, just like all commanding officers he knew when his officers were in trouble and this was no exception. There had been nothing overt in the Colonel’s behaviour that would warrant a reprimand, his reaction to her leaving had been subtle and a less well-informed officer would probably not have noticed, but he did.

 

To him, SG-1 was more than just a team; they had become his family. For someone in his position, it was important that he remain objective, look at all the evidence *before* coming to a conclusion. He’d heard all the rumours over the last few years, but nothing they had said or done could be construed as compromising the integrity of the team and as such he had no reason to intervene. He knew both of them well enough to know that neither of them would put their feelings before their duty, that’s the way it was and that’s the way he ultimately believed it would remain. Now though it was different. Whatever had happened between them both had changed the dynamics of their relationship and as there was obviously no turning back, the only way he would be able to tackle it, was head on, and this was that time.

 

“So, how are things coming with finding a new replacement?”

 

“Things could be better.”

 

“I gather that. According to your recent mission logs, you claim that Major Jameson failed in his duties to disconnect one of the alien devices on P47 869? Is that a correct assessment?”

 

“Sir, with all due respect, the man’s a klutz. Do you know he nearly blew us all to hell. It was a simple enough job, but it ended up with us running for cover, because he triggered a safety protocol.”

 

“Colonel, I appreciate your concern, but just like everything. We all have to learn as we go along. You have to remember that we’re dealing with technology we’ve never encountered before. There will be occasions whereby you will encounter these kinds of problems. I assume Major Jameson has learned from this experience?”

 

“Yes, but…”

 

“But what?”

 

“What about the next time? I can’t have my team put at risk like that, sir. It’s not acceptable.” Jack advised covering his real reasons for not telling his commanding officer.

 

“Then find me an alternative, Jack. This is the twelfth person you’ve chosen to replace Major Carter with, without success. We’re running out of options here. It’s up to you to find someone you can work with. I’ve read their personnel files, and can assure you, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t up to scratch. Are you sure there isn’t something else holding you back?”

 

“I don’t know what you mean, sir.”

 

“Do I need to spell it out for you, Colonel?” General Hammond enquired with authority. Looking at the younger man in front of him, he knew exactly what he was thinking, but years of military training and covert ops had ensured that he maintain protocol at all times. And like it or not, the Air Force had made him this way, but had they intended this sort of sacrifice from its officers? Possibly, but was it morally right to keep two people apart, two people who obviously cared a great deal for each other to such a degree that they were willing to give up their careers? He knew that they’d never find anyone more qualified than Major Carter to work alongside SG-1.

 

 The regulations were clear for all to see, however this facility was unique in so many ways, there really hadn’t been any thought put into the regulations regarding how difficult it would be to form relationships outside the facility. Maybe, just maybe it was time to make some changes. What he didn’t want, was to put the idea into his head, it wasn’t fair to build up a persons dreams only to have them dashed again. However, he did need to get a feel on how he felt about her, even if it was just an inkling.

 

Jack squirmed slightly under the General’s penetrating gaze; did he really know about his feelings for her? The answer was simple, he knew, and if his memory served him correctly he’d known for a long time, how could he not? By all accounts he would’ve read the reports from the Zatarc incident, not just his confession, but Sam’s as well. That coupled with his talk with him after Sam was infected by that ‘Entity’ was more than enough proof to show him, that there was more between them than they let on.

 

“Sam.” Jack said softly, feeling as if he’d just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

 

“Son, if it makes you feel better, this doesn’t have to go any further. But I do need to know if Major Carter’s leaving will have an adverse affect on the team…on you.”

 

“I don’t know, General, and that’s the honest truth. She’s a perfect balance for the team; she works well with all of us, because she encompasses the traits that the team possesses. She’s a brilliant engineer/astrophysicist as well as a good scientist and soldier, she brings out the best of the team, and without her there, the team feels…off. We miss her. And if I’m being honest…I miss her. She keeps me sane, sir, particularly during very boring missions when excavations are top of the agenda. Do you know how long Daniel takes to study something like that? A very long time, I can assure you.” He continued, rambling slightly.

 

“Jack, the Air Force, is your mother and father rolled in to one. Sometimes like all good parents it puts undue pressure on their children to achieve the unachievable, to be the best that they can be - without always thinking of the consequences of their actions. I have no doubt in my mind that both you and Major Carter have put your career ahead of…personal feelings.” Hammond watched his reaction carefully and out of reflex and years of hiding his feeling opened his mouth to protest. George though had other ideas and placed his hands up to silence him for the moment. “Jack. I know circumstances have changed somewhat, but your feelings for her obviously haven’t. I appreciate the difficulties you’re going through at the moment, but you have to realise that she’s made her decision to leave, and we have to respect that.”

 

“But its not what she wants.”

 

“Maybe not, but that’s how it is for now. Have you talked to her about it? Asked her what she wants?”

 

“Well, no, but I know her.”

 

“That’s not enough. Unless she tells me otherwise, a replacement will be found for her. Jack, I appreciate your dedication to this facility, but in less than two days the decision will be firmly taken out of you hands. You need to sit down and talk to each other about where your future lies, be it with the Air Force or…with Major Carter.”

 

Silence ensued that major revelation. General Hammond knew very well about his feelings for her, and his uncertainty about where his life was headed. The General had obviously realised how unhappy he was without her, and made it simple for him…he had to make a choice, just like Sam. And, like it or not he had to talk to her about how he was feeling; something that was easier said than done.

 

Walking out of the General’s office, Jack spent a few moments with his back against the wall, trying to make sense of everything. He couldn’t believe that he’d just had that conversation with him. He knew the regulations, and was more than aware of the consequences if he decided to break them. But, like the faithful soldier that he was, he’d never crossed that line. But in doing so, he honestly believed that he might have lost his chance with her.

 

General Hammond watched the young man close the door behind him. Today was the first time they’d spoken honestly, and it was important to know where they stood on things particularly in these kinds of circumstances. Seeing the younger man today, made him realise how close he was to loosing him as well. He’d seen it happen before…it was like looking at himself in the mirror. A long time ago, he had to make that same choice, but in that instant his head over ruled his heart and he was never the same again. Sure he had a good family and grandchildren to watch over now, but there was still a part of him, that regretted letting her go, and it nearly ruined his career.

 

Pondering on the path not taken, he tried to assess the situation rationally, to try and find a way to make things work between them. Jack was right; she was too valuable to let go. The SGC needed her just as much as she needed them, and if Jack’s inclinations were correct, then he didn’t want her to waste her life doing something she’d later regret.   There had to be a way, but to find an alternate solution he’d have to pull in a few favours, his only hope was that he could make it work in time. This was something that would need a bit of creative thinking and with Kinsey in the way, he wasn’t sure if they would allow it.

 

***

 

Sitting in the darkened booth, Sam checked her watch knowing that he would be here any moment. She couldn’t believe how nervous she was. Why was she acting like this? It was only the Colonel after all, but she knew very well why, she was here to tell him she was leaving. It wasn’t going to be the easiest conversations, she realised that. But, she wanted him to be the first to know. She’d been thinking about nothing else for the last few days, and each time she came up with a solution, the same problem kept cropping up time and time again. How could she hide her feelings for him anymore? The truth was she couldn’t. Fiddling with the salt and pepper shakes on the table, she felt a rush of adrenaline surge through her. With her hands shaking nervously, she dropped the salt container on the table spilling its contents. “Crap.” In typical superstitious style she poured some salt into her hand and threw it over her shoulder. Unbeknown to her, the grain of salts flew in the direct path of her former CO.

 

“Ow, Carter, what d’ya do that for?”

 

“Sorry sir.” She started out of habit, then continued nervously, “It was just that, well, I was playing with the salt and my hand slipped. Then it went over the table and I…”

 

“I get the picture, Carter.” Jack replied wiping his tear stained eyes. “You been here long?”

 

“No, not really. How did you’re meeting go with General Hammond?”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Just okay?”

 

“We…um…had a little chat.” Jack advised her casually.

 

“About?” Sam asked frowning, he was hiding something and she knew it.

 

“Things.”

 

“Jack, don’t play hard to get its not your style.” Sam countered boldly.

 

He hated when she did that, snuck under his defences, she was getting very good at it to. “He asked if I’d chosen a new team member.”

 

“Oh.” This wasn’t what she was expected. If truth were told, she wasn’t quite sure what he was hiding, but she had a feeling it had something to do with her. “And have you?”

 

“What?”

 

“Chosen someone.” Sighing inwardly this was going to be like getting blood out of a stone. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but this was downright ridiculous.

 

“No, not yet. There have been a few…complications.” Jack informed her evasively. “So, how are things with you? Are you feeling better?”

 

“Getting there, slowly.” Sam started, she knew she had to bring the subject up sometime, and since things were awkward enough as it was, she didn’t think she had anything to loose. “Listen, about what happened when…you know. I just want to say that…”

 

“I know.”

 

“I hate it when you do that.” Sam retorted, shaking her head in frustration.

 

“Do what?” Jack asked with all innocence, he really didn’t know why she was getting upset with him

 

“That phrase, ‘I know’. Why do you do that?”

 

Jack looked at her; the full realisation of her words hit him like a bolt of lightening. It had become a habit for him, to stop people getting closer. He wasn’t good with feelings, never had been. So when it came to talking about his own feelings and how they affected someone else, he used to coin that phrase.

 

“That night at your house, I didn’t know what to think. I thought that maybe you said it to piss Pete off.”

 

“Did you really think I could be that callous? I meant what I said. Maybe it *was* said in the heat of anger, but… it doesn’t make the words any less poignant.”

 

Leaning forward, he didn’t know what to say. He did love her…more than anything. It wasn’t infatuation or because it was forbidden love. He loved everything about her, her smile, her sense of humour…her honesty. He’d tried to deny it, push it back to the furthest corners of his mind, but he couldn’t. After Charlie had died, it was easier to hold everything back, to not let anyone in because of his fear that he might lose them. But in doing so, unconsciously he’d done exactly what he feared he would; lose her…not to death, but to someone else. And that was just as bad. He couldn’t expect her to wait forever, but he never realised how much it would hurt him seeing her with someone else. After she had started dating Pete, he thought her feelings for him had changed, so he’d shut her out. “I’m sorry for not coming to see you these last few days. I just never knew what to say. I’m not good at this sort of thing, and its scaring the crap out of me.”

 

“I know.” Sam replied absently. “I just wanted you to know that I meant it…every word, before I… leave for Washington.” There, she’d said it, she’d told him, but she couldn’t look at him. It hurt too much.

 

She was leaving? Did he hear her right? After everything they’d been through, she was just going to pack her bags and walk away…just like that?

 

“You’re leaving?”

 

“There’s nothing left here for me…is there?” Sam asked hesitantly. She hoped this would give him the opportunity to tell her, honestly, that they might have a future together.

 

“But what about the Air Force…about coming back to the SGC?”

 

“What would I be coming back to? You’d still be my CO… nothing will have changed. I can’t go on like that, Jack; I don’t want to put my life on hold again.”

 

“Sam, please we need you. It’s not the same without you.”

 

“Maybe not now…”

 

“Not ever.”

 

“So what are you saying?” Sam asked, wanting and needing to know the answer. It wasn’t enough to know that he cared for her; she had to know if they could have any kind of future together if they did try and make a go of things. She knew there’d be risks that it might not work out between them, but surely after all this time they had to at least try.

 

“I’m asking you to stay.”

 

“As what? Your 2IC?”

 

“Would that be so bad?”

 

Sam was exasperated, he just didn’t seem to be able to say it…maybe he never could. If that was the case then it was pointless her staying. Standing up she walked over to him, her eyes saddened at the thought that maybe she’d wasted all her time on something that could never be. “When you know the answer to that, call me. I’ll be leaving in a few days.”

 

“Sam!” He called after her.

 

“Goodbye Jack.”

 

Anger.

 

Frustration

 

Pride.

 

Why couldn’t he have just told her? She opened the door… all he had to do was walk in. Instead he stood hovering by the doorframe, torn by a decision that he already knew the answer to. Holding his head in his hands, he thought about going after her, but until he got over his fear, his words would be meaningless.

 

***

 

A satisfied smile appeared over the General’s face. After nearly 2 days of pulling favours and getting nowhere, he finally received the answer that he was hoping for. He only hoped that it wasn’t too late to stop her. He knew she’d be leaving tomorrow morning, but he hoped he could get her to change her mind. If not for Jack’s sake then her own. He didn’t know everything about what happened the other day between them, but he’d heard enough. And he didn’t get where he was without reading between the lines. Both were equally stubborn in their resolve, he knew from first hand experience that Jack kept his feelings very close to his chest, and maybe that was due to years of having to. An expert on covert ops who laid their heart on their sleeve was no use to the military, and when they trained their men, they trained them well…maybe too well. He doubted very much that after all these years that the Colonel would change, but maybe he could get Major Carter to realise that what was hidden beneath the surface was something to take a risk on. Her resignation had come through and she was due to leave in the morning, barely enough time to convince her to come back to the SGC.

 

***

 

Taking stock of all the boxes around her, it was hard to imagine that in just a few years she had accumulated all this ‘stuff’. Just the sight of seeing all the boxes around her took her back to the time when her father was given new orders to ship out. It was a strange sensation; she’d always loved the challenge of moving somewhere new and exciting, meeting new people, making new friends. Her only regret was that she was giving up her old ones. There were always one or two people that tried to stay in contact, but it wasn’t always possible, and she wondered sometimes what it was like to have a normal life, somewhere she could put down roots and settle down. Here at the SGC she felt as if she had that to some degree, but just as in everything she did, she had to sacrifice something in her life and this time it was no different.

 

A knock on her door woke her from her silent reverie. For a moment she thought it might be him, but discounted it pretty quickly. She’d not seen or heard from him since that afternoon in the coffee shop. It saddened her to think that after all these years she actually meant so very little to him, that he couldn’t even say goodbye to her. Better to find out now, than a few years down the line. Taking a deep breath she headed towards the door to find out who her mystery caller was, with any luck it would be Janet arriving early to pick her up for her goodbye dinner.

 

“Sir! Come in, please.”

 

“Hello Major.”

 

“How are you, sir?” Looking at the man before her, she didn’t know why he was here; standing in her hallway, but it certainly piqued her interest. In all the years she’d been living there, she could only think of one occasion that he’d been to see her at her home, and that was moving day. How ironic that he would come back now.

 

“I’m well thank you, Major. I see you’re very busy with the move. How are things coming along?”

 

“Actually, sir. I think today has been more to do with reminiscing than packing.” Sam replied with a twinge of regret.

 

“I see.”

 

“Is everything okay, sir?”

 

“Actually, Major there are some things I’d like to discuss with you about your leaving the SGC, if you’ll allow me.”

 

Sam felt a hot glow rise in her cheeks; this wasn’t happening. Why was he coming to see her now of all times when he’d had the chance to discuss with her? Why did he have to choose today, the day of her leaving?

 

“Sir, I appreciate your coming over, but things have gotten a bit more…complicated since I tendered my resignation.” Sam told him sadly pouring him a cup of coffee.

 

“I’m aware of that, Major…Sam. That’s part of my reason for my coming over.”

 

Out of all the things that could’ve thrown her for a loop *that* had to be the one thing she’d never expected to hear him say. He knew? How could he have known? Suddenly she felt very uncomfortable. Thousands of questions filtered through her mind. The point was did she really want to know the answers?

 

“I guess you finally listened to that old rumour mill?” Sam questioned taking a sip of coffee.

 

“Actually, it was Jack. We had a talk and in a round-a-bout way he made his feelings known.”

 

Nearly choking on her coffee, she couldn’t believe she’d heard right. Jack had told him? No. It couldn’t be possible, this was the same Jack they were talking about, wasn’t it? The same Jack O’Neill who couldn’t even tell her why she should stay?

 

“Are you okay?” He asked with concern in his eyes. He knew this was a shock, but he didn’t realise how much of a one until he’d told her.

 

“I…um…think so.” She answered trying to control her emotions.

 

“I understand your reasons for not wanting to return to the SGC.”

 

“If you really understand, sir, then please don’t ask me to come back.”

 

“What if I can offer you a viable working solution?”

 

“I don’t understand?”

 

“Your reasons for not coming back to the SGC are based on the fact that your feelings for Colonel O’Neill would jeopardise both your military careers. Is that a correct assessment?”

 

The look of embarrassment on her face must have been as clear as day. She didn’t know how to respond to such a direct question. Everyone had skirted around the issue up to this point, and she didn’t know what to tell him. She couldn’t lie to him; it would be like lying to her father.

 

“Sir, I don’t want to put you in this position, it’s not fair.”

 

“I don’t know if I ever told you about the time I served in Vietnam, did I?”

 

“You mentioned about your friend getting killed.” Sam stated slightly confused. She wasn’t quite sure how that was relevant to her circumstances, but General Hammond had a way of looking at things at a whole new perspective and she owed him the courtesy of listening.

 

“Just before I was shipped out, I worked in a small unit, not dissimilar to SG-1, we were like family. We lived and breathed each other’s company. Working side by side with someone day and night creates a certain bond with your unit…something I’m sure you’re familiar with?”

 

Sam nodded in response, it was a side of the General that she rarely got to see, and she felt privileged that he’d decided to share this with her.

 

“There was a young women in our unit…Mia, she was *my* 2IC, and she meant a great deal to me, both on a professional level and on a personal one.”

 

“I didn’t know.” Sam said softly, realising why he was telling her this.

 

“No one did. If word ever got out that we had feelings for each other, then you can bet your boots we would have been court martialled. Don’t get me wrong; nothing happened between us…nothing could given our positions. But, it didn’t mean that the feelings weren’t there. We kept up the pretence between us for so long that towards the end we ended up hurting each other. Neither one of us could openly admit that we loved each other, after all we had our careers to think of. The Air Force was our life; we were dedicated soldiers, that’s what they trained us to be. I would never have asked her to give up her career for me, nor would she ask the same of me.”

 

“What happened to her?”

 

“She was sent to gather intelligence…and something went wrong. I didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye.”

 

“She never knew how you felt?”

 

“She knew in her heart, but it’s not the same thing.”

 

“I’m sorry.” Sam whispered taking stock of what he was saying.

 

“Regret is a terrible thing, Sam.”

 

“Do you think about her?”

 

“Every day.”

 

“I wish he’d tell me.” Sam told him, her voice barely audible.

 

“Sam, you have to understand something about the Colonel, he’s an intensely private man. You see only a fraction of what he is, but I do know that he loves you. I’ve known for a long time.”

 

It was almost incomprehensible to her; she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was like a fragmented dream everything was coming at her in all directions, and she didn’t know what to say to him. “He’s never told me.”

 

“Give him time. It just takes him a little while longer to say it, but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel it.”

 

“I don’t know what to do. I tried talking to him, but…”

 

“Let me put this question to you. Do you want to leave the SGC?”

 

“No, of course not. I love my job, the people I work with. And if I do say so myself, I’m damn good at what I do.”

 

“The President agrees with you…as do I.”

 

“What?” Did the whole world know about it, but her?

 

“Believe it or not Major, we don’t want to lose you either. Your expertise is invaluable to the work that we do at the SGC, and if you left, I don’t think it would be too long before the Colonel left either.”

 

“The Colonel’s thinking about leaving? Why? I’m not there to complicate matters for him.”

 

“It’s not a matter of complications, it has to do with loving the job that you’re doing. His hearts not in it, because its thinking of other things.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“The President has authorised a new post at the SGC, which I think you’ll be interested in.”

 

“What sort of post?”

 

“Well, it’s a Technical post, working with SG-1 in a scientific capacity. The person would report everything to me, and I would be their supervising officer. The reason the post has not been offered to a military officer is because of the specialised requirements the jobholder has to have. And believe me it is extensive, which is why we have only been able to find one person that has the right qualifications. The President decided that a Civilian advisor would be the most objective. What do you think? Is it something you’re interested in?”

 

“And the Colonel?”

 

“Only you can answer that. From my point of view you would be working directly for me, therefore, there would be no conflict of interest. As long as dynamics of the team don’t change and you don’t bring issues into work then I don’t have a problem. Whatever happens out of work is none of my business.”

 

 

Sam was shell shocked, this is what she wanted, to stay here with her friends…her family. To continue with the work that she lived was more than she ever expected. The question was, could she cope with knowing that the tentative relationship she’d had with Jack was over? He’d made his feelings perfectly clear, hadn’t he? By not calling her it was his way of letting her go…and as painful as it was, maybe it was the right thing for both of them - to move on with their lives. But, if that were the case, why then did it hurt so much?

 

Clearing her throat, she answered him softly. “How long do I have to make the decision?”

 

“I need an answer by tomorrow morning, Major.”

 

Nodding in compliance, she smiled softly. “Sir, thank you for giving me this opportunity. I appreciate all the effort you’ve gone to over this. I know it couldn’t have been easy.”

 

“Major, my job is to ensure the smooth running of the SGC, and if this is the only way I can preserve something unique, then that’s what I’ll do. Just like in any command structure you help those people who work with you achieve their potential. This is just an extension of that. I’ve learned some valuable lessons throughout my career; some of them have been painful. I just hope that I can at least try and spare my people the pain of going through it…the only way I can.”

 

Surprising herself she enveloped him in a hug. It was hard sometimes not having her father here to talk to…not that she could talk to him about this, but it made her feel secure that he was there to stand beside her when things went pear shaped.

 

“I appreciate it, Sir. I’ll let you know by this tomorrow.”

 

“Then I’ll leave you alone. If you have any questions, you know where to reach me.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

After showing him out, Sam didn’t know what to think, this had just come out of the blue. And she found herself torn once more about which direction her life should take. On one hand, she could start her life afresh in a new city, new adventures, and new friends. Or, she could stay here to a life that had brought her nothing but unhappiness these last few weeks.  Did she give up her dreams of a nice normal life or continue with a life where she didn’t know where it would take her?

 

***

 

The darkened sky was littered with stars shining brightly in the heavens; the neighbourhood was decidedly quiet, with only the occasional sound coming from his neighbours yard. He liked it up here, it was peaceful, a place of solitude where he could drown his sorrows without having to worry about being disturbed. Only a handful of people new where he came when he needed time to think to ponder on the mysteries of life.

 

Swigging down his fourth beer, he felt his emotions receding to the back of his mind, taking away the pain that he’d almost certainly lost her. And all this was due to what? Pride? Honour? Uncertainty? Fear of the unknown? It didn’t matter what he was feeling now, very soon it would be cast into oblivion.

 

It was nearly 7pm, Sam would be getting ready for her farewell meal with the others, and where was he going to be? Passed out on his roof because he was too stupid to tell her how he felt. He could see them now; laughing about the times they’d gotten into trouble, tears of sadness at her leaving. Saying goodbye was something that he’d never been able to do…not after Charlie, maybe not ever. He doubted she’d want him there anyway, not after what he’d said to her. Come back as my 2IC? What the hell was that all about? He knew what she was asking him, and more than anything he wanted to tell her that he couldn’t go on without her. He loved his job, because she was there with him, sharing his journey side by side. Hell, the only reason he’d stayed so long was because of her. Never did he think he’d fall in love again, but he had. He didn’t know when he’d fallen for her, but he remembered the feelings well. When he thought he’d lost her for good that time when she was taken over by the entity, he had to make the choice to let her go. It was a hurt so painful that he didn’t think he could ever feel that way again…until now.

 

Drowning his sorrows, he failed to hear the approaching footsteps climbing up the side of the house.

 

“Ahem!”

 

“Go away, Daniel.”

 

Ignoring his irritating tone, Daniel climbed the rest of the steps, and sat down on the deck, watching him pour down what seemed to be the fourth bottle of beer down his throat.

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

“Leave me alone Daniel, I’m not in the mood.” Jack replied picking up another bottle and flicking the top open.

 

“Don’t do this to her, Jack.”

 

“Do what Daniel? Sit at some table, saying how great the last seven years have been and then say goodbye? Thanks, but no thanks.”

 

“So instead you’re going to sit up here and get drunk?”

 

“Works for me.”

 

“You know what Jack, I wonder why I bother?”

 

“You got me.”

 

“Jack! By tomorrow she’s going to be gone, and you are going to be insufferable to work with.”

 

“What and you’re not?”

 

“This isn’t about me, Jack and you know it. You know what your problem is?”

 

“No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

 

“You love her. And for the last… God knows how many years; you’ve been able to hide behind all the rules and regulations because it’s been a nice safety net for you. But, now that you don’t have that any more, you don’t know what to do. For the first time in your life you have a situation that you can’t control and its scaring the crap out of you.”

 

“She’s leaving Daniel. Don’t you get it?”

 

“She’s only leaving because you never told her how you feel. She risked everything for you, she gave up her career…her life here with her friends in the hope that you might tell her the truth.”

 

“It’s too late, Daniel.”

 

“It’s only too late, if you don’t get off you ass and do something. Stop wallowing in self-pity and go tell her the truth...you owe her that at the very least.”

 

“Are you done?”

 

Shaking his head, he wondered why he’d bothered to come out all this way. He’d never change, he should’ve realised that.

 

“Yeah I’m done.” Daniel replied walking away.

 

Left alone once more to his own thoughts, Jack knew that everything Daniel said was right, he did love her, but his thoughts always betrayed. He couldn’t see how someone as smart and beautiful as she was could love someone like him. When she turned up at the meeting that first day, he knew there was something about her that made him want to get to know her more; it wasn’t just her spirit or enthusiasm, there was something in her eyes that caught his attention. Over the years, his feelings for her had changed. She wasn’t just his 2IC whom he cared for; she was someone he loved, someone he dreamed he would spend the rest of his life with. But as time went on he came to realise that his hopes of ever being with her were fading fast. Then when she started dating Pete, he realised that he’d lost his chance. But then fate decreed that he deserved a second chance with her, and what did he do? He blew it *again*.

 

Time had flitted by and before he knew it, he’d been drinking for over four hours; chances were that her going away dinner would be coming to a close, and he hated himself for not going, for not having the courage to tell her that he loved her. His chest tightened at the thought that he was never going to see her again; his biggest fear would become a reality. Panic flickered through his mind. He had to tell her, before it was too late.

 

Stumbling up from the deck, he kicked over the 12 bottles of beer that littered the walkway and slid as quickly as he could down the ladder.  In his haste he missed a wrung and ended up falling the last few steps. The pain was excruciating, but he was determined to do something. Driving was definitely out, the next logical thing was to grab a cab to her house. Limping into his house, he tried about 5 cab companies, but by some cruel twist of fate they wouldn’t be able to get there for at least a few hours. Swearing in temper he slammed the phone down. Damn it, he’d just have to hedge his bets and wait by the side of the road in the hope that he could flag down a cab.

 

Twenty minutes later he was still waiting. Typical! It was the only time in his life when he regretted living in a quiet neighbourhood. Call her! He had her number, he’d just tell her over the phone. Why didn’t he think of it earlier? Groaning with frustration, he couldn’t believe her phone wasn’t turned on. Out of all the times for her to switch her phone off…she chose now! There wasn’t any alternative; he’d have to walk. Uncertain if his continuously swelling ankle would hold out for the 10-mile journey to her house, he had to give it a go.

 

***

 

“Thanks for letting me stay at yours tonight, Janet. I really didn’t fancy spending the night alone. Not tonight anyway.”

 

“Cassie will be glad to see you, she’s going to really miss you. We all will. Promise me one thing though.”

 

“What?”

 

“Stay in touch?”

 

“Oh Janet, you’re my best friend of course I’m going to stay in touch. You think that after all we’ve been through I’d just forget you? Ha! I’m not that lucky.”

 

“I’ll remember that.”

 

The two women laughed at their own silliness. It had been a difficult night for all of them. Particularly when Daniel had shown up and told them that he wasn’t going to be there.  Initially she was angry, before long anger changed into sadness, then finally denial. What did it matter that the last few years had been for nothing? His words meant nothing to her; he was now just a part of one of life’s lessons. Just like all the other disappointing times in her life, she’d managed to pick herself on, dust herself off and start all over again…this time would be no different.   And that’s what she’d been saying to herself for the last few hours.

 

***

After two hours of walking, Jack finally managed to grab a cab - his ankle was throbbing. It was nearly 2am when he finally got to hers. From the outside it looked as if no one was home? Surely the party hadn’t gone on that long? After asking for the cab to wait while he checked the place out, he walked slowly around the house; a creepy feeling fell over him as he remembered the last time he’d had to do this. This time though the house was deserted. Looking through the living room window he saw all her boxes lined up by the walls, one on top of the other. All the things she cared about were locked away; her whole life was here in Colorado, her hopes and dreams her friends and he was responsible for taking all that away from her. Without even thinking about it, he’d forced her into a corner…just like Pete had. His only choice now, was to make her see that he loved her, and was prepared to do anything to not let her go…even if that meant giving up the Air Force for her.

 

The taxi honked its horn with impatience. Jack tired and sore walked over to tell him that he needed a few more minutes. The cab driver looked at him incredulously, wondering why anyone would want to look at a house in the dark. He didn’t understand, but as long as Jack paid him enough, he’d more or less wait all night.

 

“Have you got a pen and paper?” Jack asked impatiently.

 

Huffing and puffing with exasperation, the taxi driver rummaged through his glove box and finally pulled out a scrap of paper.

 

“Is that all you have?”

 

“Hey I’m a cab driver, not a stationer.”

 

“Fine, that will have to do. I’ll be 5 minutes.”

 

“Take your time, you’re paying for it.”

 

“Yeah, tell me about it.” Jack retorted hobbling up to her steps.

 

Lowering himself onto the concrete steps, he ankle felt like it was going to explode, but he had to focus on what he was going to say to her. Putting pen to paper, he began writing, pouring his heart and soul into the letter. He needed her to know that he was willing to do anything for her, that without her, he was nothing. Once he started writing, he found it easier to put down in words what he’d been feeling all along. He didn’t know how long it had taken him to write, but by the end he didn’t feel as if he could say anything else that would make her realise that he loved her.

 

Dear Sam

 

It’s nearly 3am and I’m sitting outside your front door wondering how I can tell you how much you mean to me.

 

I’m not good with words, which is why every time I try and tell you face to face, I end up hurting you more. That afternoon at the café, you’ll never know how much it hurt to see you walk away like that, because I didn’t have the guts to tell you that I love you. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I love you Samantha Carter and without you I’m lost. Your soul is like a shining light guiding me home and I can’t imagine my life without you.

 

I’ll understand if you don’t want to see me anymore, or if you decide to move on with your life. I won’t like it, but I’ll respect your decision. I’ve behaved like an ass, and I’m sorry. I hope if nothing else you’ll forgive me.

 

Love Always

 

Jack

 

Folding the letter, he took a deep shaky breath. With trembling hands he pushed the note through the letterbox. It was up to her now.

 

***

 

The taxi picked her up early the following morning, there was so much to do that she’d hardly had time to spend with Janet and Cassie that morning. Her boxes were being picked up later that afternoon, and she still had some packing to finish off. Not to mention the phone call to General Hammond. She’d put it off long enough in the hopes that he’d come round, but it was clear now that, that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Shaking hands opened the front door; she couldn’t believe that by the end of the day she’d be leaving for good. Lost in the thought, she almost missed the small bit of paper that had been strewn across her hall. Initially she thought it might be a flyer, and was about to throw it away before something caught her eye. The note was handwritten. Her initial thought was that somehow Pete had been released from detention, but looking at the writing she realised it was Jack’s.

 

She didn’t know what to think, why would Jack be sending her a note? It didn’t make sense. Walking into the living room, she sat down wearily; her body trembled at the thought of what he might say. But she knew the only way to find out was to read it.

Her eyes slowly read the words on the page, each one made her stomach flip. Brushing away the tears that fell precariously down the cheeks she couldn’t believe it, the words he wrote was beautiful. He loved her, there was no misinterpretation, he wanted her to stay, not because she was his 2IC, but because he loved her. It was something that she’d been waiting to hear for a long time.

 

Then it hit home, she was moving, in less than 7 hours. Trying to calm herself down, she reached for the phone; dialling the number he’d left for her.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Sir, it’s Major Carter. About the offer…”

 

***

 

The following days had passed by so quickly that she didn’t know how she managed to cope. Never in her life had she felt so nervous about starting a new job. She hoped that they were expecting her; she’d hate to get this worked up for nothing. She was sure she’d got the right date. Checking her letter of confirmation once more, she clutched it like a lifeline, this was a new beginning and she was going to make every moment of it count.

 

***

 

He couldn’t believe she hadn’t contacted him; it had been days since he’d left the note at her house. He didn’t know what to expect from her, or even if she’d acknowledge the letter, either way he knew in his heart that maybe he’d left it too late, just like Daniel had said. His foul mood had not improved over time, if anything it had increased. The deadline had passed and he still hadn’t found anyone to replace her. The General had called him at home and asked that he come in to his office first thing Monday morning. It was the first time that he hated coming into work. His resignation letter was in his shirt pocket…just in case. Knocking tentatively at the door, he waited patiently while the General concluded whatever business he was conducting on the phone. Taking a seat, he waited with baited breath on whom the General had chosen as his new 2IC.

 

“Colonel.”

 

“General.”

 

“Thank you for your recommendations that SG-1 should remain a three person team. I hope you’ll appreciate that I’ve taken all your comments and recommendations on board before I finalised my decision.”

 

Jack knew that look on the General’s face and heard his tone; he’d already chosen a new team member. If he hadn’t he wouldn’t have given him the spiel on appreciating his recommendations. His heart sank, and he wondered if now would be the most opportune time to tell him about his decision on retiring.

 

“Sir…”

 

Holding his hand up to allow him to finish, the general interrupted him, saying with authority, “Jack, I know these last few weeks have been difficult for you, what with Major Carter’s resignation from the Air Force and the new team members that were placed with SG-1, but I believe I have found a suitable replacement for you.”

 

“With all due respect, sir. No one could replace Major Carter.” Jack replied defeated.

 

“I believe the person I’ve chosen has all the necessary qualifications to assist SG-1. There will be a subtle change in the command structure, Colonel in the fact that they will be reporting their findings directly to me.”

 

“I don’t understand, sir. Are you questioning my command abilities?” Jack argued lightly, his tone reflecting his mood.

 

“I believe it is best for all concerned. Besides I think for the next few weeks while your ankle heels, will be the perfect time to get to know one another.”

 

Great. Just great. Not only had he lost the person he loved, it seemed as if the General now doubted his ability to effectively command his new 2IC. After all he’d said about his feelings for his 2IC being kept off the record, he wondered if he had  betrayed him. Doubt flickered through his mind at the thought that the one whom he looked up to could allow this.

 

General Hammond resisted the urge to tell him the truth, but he had made a promise that he refused to break. Picking up the phone, he called his secretary, “Please show the Doctor in.”

 

Doctor? He was bringing in *another* scientist to take her place? He tried to hold his tongue in place, after all it wasn’t their fault that they were given this assignment, but his mind was definitely made up. He didn’t think he could cope with babysitting another scientist, it was too hard, and brought back too many memories. Hearing the door open, he knew he’d have to turn around and greet them. Trouble was he didn’t feel as if his heart was in it.

 

“Colonel, I’d like to introduce you to your newest team member.”

 

Taking a deep breath, he shifted his chair from under him before promptly turning around, to see her.

 

“Sam!” His legs felt like jelly. He couldn’t believe it; she was standing there grinning like a Cheshire cat at his nervousness. “You’re my…but how? Who? What?”

 

He was beyond confused. Was Sam his new team member? How could she be? His thoughts were jumbled and nothing that came out of his mouth made sense.

 

“General Hammond made it happen.” Sam said softly, her face glowing with excitement.

 

“You did?” Jack asked hesitantly, unsure if this was a dream or just a bad reaction he was having from his pain medication.

 

“I did.” General Hammond advised with authority.

 

“He did.” Sam answered confirming it for the third time. From the looks on his face, she didn’t really think he believed them.

 

“Now if you two will excuse me, I have some duties to attend to.” General Hammond advised smiling at Jack’s expression. “Jack, I’ll leave you to get to know your newest team member.”

 

Scratching his head in confusion, he had to sit down. No, he had to pinch himself to make sure this was real, because his brain couldn’t quite comprehend what had taken place just now.

 

“Pinch me.” He asked her.

 

“What?” Sam laughed. She’d played out this conversation in her mind ever since she’s agreed to take up the General’s offer, but *this* was definitely not what she expected him say.

 

“I said, ‘Pinch me’.” He had to make sure that she wasn’t some warped delusion that his brain had made up, and the only way to test his theory was to have her hurt him.

 

Shrugging her shoulders, she grabbed his arm with her finger and thumb and squeezed it hard.

 

“Ow.”

 

“Feel better for that do you?” Sam said lightly, his grin now beamed from ear to ear causing her eyes to twinkle at the absurdity of their conversation.

 

“Not a delusion?”

 

“Did you hit your head when you fell?” giggling, she found the whole situation very funny. That morning after she’d contacted Janet and told her about the letter. There really wasn’t any doubt about her decision after that. She loved him and he loved her. Long distance love affairs rarely worked out, but she knew then that they could make it work. It was going to take some time, and they were going to have to get to know each other as people rather than soldiers. But, if they could survive this, then there was no doubt that between the two of them, they could cope with anything life had to throw at them.

 

“How did you know about that?”

 

“Janet told me when you went to see her this morning.” She’d almost fallen off her kitchen chair, at the thought that he’d walked all that way to her house with a busted ankle.

 

“The Doc knew you were staying?”

 

“She’s my best friend.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me? Do you know what you put me through?” Jack started, building up momentum.

 

“Serves you right.”

 

“I can’t believe you just said that. I thought you loved me?”

 

“Well, you know what they say; love means, never having to say you’re sorry.” Sam smiled triumphantly.

 

“Does Daniel know you’re back?”

 

“No, why?”

 

“Lets not tell him. He’s already insufferable, can you imagine what he’s going to be like knowing he was right about us.”

 

“I think he’d notice, don’t you?”

 

“What about if we stick an artefact under his nose, that’ll keep him occupied for hours.”

 

She didn’t think she could ever feel this happy, being here with him right now made her heart do cartwheels, and she couldn’t stop grinning. If anything was going to change, it was going to be in the right direction, and all her doubts and fears melted away as he took her hand.

 

“Thank you, Sam.”

 

“For what?”

 

“For giving me a second chance.” Jack told her with honesty. “I had a glimpse of what my life could have been like, and I hated it.”

 

“Just promise me one thing.” Sam told him with a straight face.

 

“What’s that?” Jack asked with all seriousness.

 

“You put the toilet seat down when you’re done.” Sam laughed, then moved out of the way, so he couldn’t swat her playfully.

 

“It’s a deal.” He grinned before taking her in his arms. His touch was soft and sensual as he caressed her back. He couldn’t believe how right this felt, it reminded him of when he’d looped, and how she’d reciprocated at his touch. Moving his arms to surround her, he felt her move closer into him, and his hands wandered listlessly through her hair, before ‘dipping’ her. As before he felt her arms embrace the nape of his neck as he kissed her tenderly.

 

“General.” Daniel called out knocking on the door. Getting no response, he walked in and saw two people otherwise engaged. Clearly though it wasn’t General Hammond. It was… Jack?  “Jack?”

 

He felt her giggle beneath him; the moment was over.

 

“Daniel. Your timing as always is perfect.” Jack replied through gritted teeth.

 

“Sam!”

 

“Hey Daniel.” Sam replied her cheeks flushed at being caught.

 

“Welcome back…I assume you’re back?”

 

“Yes she is. Now if you’ll excuse us, General Hammond has asked that I get to know my newest team member. And I don’t want to disappoint him.” Jack replied, pushing the young archaeologist out of the door.

 

“Speak to you later then?”

 

“Much later, Daniel.” Jack advised closing the door to allow them some privacy.

 

Putting his back against the door, Daniel smiled knowingly to himself before saying aloud. “I knew I was right!”

 

The End!