Previous Chapter                    Chapter List

Rating: PG-13

Mild sexual references, UST.

Revision Notes
Changes made in the revision:

– POV Change/Adjustment
– put old chapters 18 and 19 together into one
– general style refinement

Thank you so much, Raven Clark, for editing this chapter with me line by line.



Shaking, Sam turned over in her sleeping bag and pulled her knees up to her chin. That shower she’d taken before bed probably hadn’t be a wise idea. The water was so cold she was surprised it didn’t drizzle down on her in little flakes of ice.

That morning, their last working generator had failed. It would be two more days until they’d receive a replacement. Polar night positively sucked. She was sick of the cold, sick of the snow and ice, and most importantly sick of the darkness.

She lifted her head and looked around the large tent. Everybody appeared to be sleeping. Dividing camp into two larger tents to sleep hadn’t been a bad idea. Their combined body heat would warm the tent up. That had been the plan. In practice it wasn’t working so well. Not for her, at least.

Her teeth chattered against the cold and she rubbed her arms. Why couldn’t she warm up? Her sleeping bag provided little barrier against the icy breeze of the night.

Quietly, she peeled herself out of her sleeping bag, then climbed over two people to reach the petroleum lamp standing on a box in the corner. Her hands shook and she held them close against the glass. Barely enough heat to warm her up.

Her feet stung with the cold. She shuddered and sneaked over to a box stuffed with blankets and jackets.

One of the sleeping bags rustled behind her. Sam turned her head. O’Neill sat upright, looking at her, wide-awake. She flinched.

“S-s-sorry, sir. Didn’t mean to wake you.” If only she could keep her teeth from chattering.

“You didn’t.” His voice was a whisper. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Cold, though.”

“No kidding.” He studied her. “You need to warm up.”

“Tell me something I don’t know, sir.” Slurred speech? Had she just imagined that? Her tongue felt oddly numb. She turned and took one to the blankets, wrapping it around her with trembling fingers.

“Oh, for crying out loud.”

Sam’s head snapped up to look at her superior. McKay stirred in his sleeping bag with a moan.

“Carter. Come here.” O’Neill waved her closer.

“Sir?” Sam stepped shakily over some of the sleeping forms. Her eyebrows rose when he zipped open his sleeping bag.

“Get your ass in here.”

Oh no. No, no. Not a good idea. “I’m fine, sir. Really. I just need—”

“That wasn’t a request, Carter. You’re pale and shivering. Come here, before you go hypothermic.”

“You can’t order me to get in your sleeping bag, sir.”

He smirked. In a dark, unsettling way that sent pleasant shivers down her spine. Then his face became serious again. “Body heat, Carter. Your idea during your survival training mission, remember?”

Right. It was a recognized method of survival. And he looked so warm… “You sure, sir?”

His hand moved to the hem of his shirt. In a swift move, he pulled it over his head. His undershirt followed, leaving him gorgeously bare-chested.

Sam swallowed hard. “What are you doing?”

“Shirt off. And lose the pants. You can keep the tank top and the shorts. You need to warm up fast, and skin-on-skin is the only way to achieve that.”

“No way.”

McKay moaned again and then mumbled something indefinably.

“Shhhh.” O’Neill grabbed her hand and pulled her down to her knees, then started fumbling at her shirt. “I’m really not in the mood to freeze to death while discussing this with you.”

“Sir.” Sam wrapped her fingers around his wrist. So warm.

“God, you’re cold as ice.” His face gentled with concern. “I swear, Carter, this is just for body heat.”

She released him. “Fine. But take your hands off of me, I’ll do it.”

She pulled the thick fleece shirt over her head, then opened her pants and kicked them off. O’Neill lifted one side of his sleeping bag, and she climbed in with her back to him. Not that she didn’t trust him. Herself on the other hand…

His skin felt almost too hot against hers and he waited a moment before he increased their contact, easing her into his warmth.

He’d been right, she hadn’t even realized just how cold she’d become. She released a breath when he pressed up against her, his naked chest against her back, his arms wrapping around her waist. So warm and comfortable.

He shifted and pulled the blanket she’d brought over them for additional heat, then zipped up the sleeping bag. Okay, there was no way she was gonna be able to sleep like this. The sleeping bag provided hardly enough space for two people.

“This is uncomfortable.”

He chuckled against her neck. “Only because you refuse to turn around.”

His hand brushed her abdomen and she jerked against him as heat shot through her. Way to warm up. She swallowed. “Sir, can you not… you know… touch so much?”

“There’s really not much space in here.” She could swear he was smirking. “It’s just for warming you up. We can exchange body heat and both get some sleep.”

Bad idea. Really bad. But he felt good against her. And God, she was getting sleepy. Fighting with the sleeping bag, she turned around to face him. Immediately he pulled her flat against him and her body melted perfectly into his.

“There, that’s better.” O’Neill smiled, their faces so close she could feel their breaths mingle. Her shivers stopped and her arm wrapped around his waist.

She relaxed as she buried her face against his neck. He smelled so good. Heat surged through her as images from that night at O’Malley’s flashed across her mind. The taste of his lips, his strong, hot body pressing against hers. Painful need jolted through her abdomen.

Oh boy, this wasn’t good. She still wanted him. How could she still want him after what had happened? Why couldn’t she just see him as a friend? Like Jason had been… She’d never had these kinds of thoughts about Jason. What was it about O’Neill?

She suppressed a soft moan, and squeezed her legs against the pressure building between them. Bad timing. She had to think of something else. Her eyes closed when he nuzzled her neck. He sure didn’t make it easier for her.

On the plus side, her shivers had stopped. She shifted against him. His soft chest hair ticked the skin of her cleavage, and Sam stilled. His scent filled her nostrils and she closed her eyes. She’d warm up and then return to her own sleeping bag. Just a few more minutes…

The instant she opened her eyes again, she knew it had been more than a few minutes. She felt way too rested.

Her head and upper body lay draped over O’Neill’s naked chest, the rest of her body curled into him. One of her legs was hooked between his. Way too close.

She didn’t dare move. Even if she’d wanted to, she wouldn’t have known how to slide out of his embrace.  The sleeping bag didn’t allow for movement. His left hand increased the pressure on her back. His fingers grazed her upper arm, and she quivered against him.

“I know you’re awake.” His voice was a deep rasp against her ear.

Sam lifted her head to give him a pitiful attempt at a frown. His eyes twinkled. “How long have you been awake?”

“For a while.” His fingers brushed along her arm once more.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” She tried to alter her position, but the sleeping bag restrained her movements. She ended up with her hips pressed even firmer against his. How had they managed to end up in this position in the first place?


Sam lifted her eyes to his, eyebrows raised. “Sir?”

“I’m only human. You might wanna stop wriggling against me like that, unless you want us to end up in a very awkward situation.”

She studied him, confused for a moment. Then the realization dawned on her, and her cheeks started burning. “Oh. Well… Could you… I mean… open the zipper and let me out?”

“Alright. Just stop squirming.” His hands moved around the sleeping bag, grazing along her buttocks and her waist in the process.


He chuckled. “Relax, Carter, I’m just trying to find the damn zipper.”

“I thought you were feeling me up there for a moment.”

“As tempting as that idea is.” Another glint in his eyes. “I wouldn’t dare do that.” Finally he dropped his head back. “I think it’s next to my shoulder. I can’t reach it. You’re gonna have to do it.”

“Okay, but that means I’ll have to move again.” She struggled to free her hands so she could reach the zipper. His resulting chuckle made her scrunch her eyebrows.

“Something funny, colonel?”

“Nah. I was just thinking we might have to yell for one of the guys to get us outta here.”

“Not funny, sir. They’ll think we…” She cut herself off, and her cheeks warmed again. He raised his eyebrows with a smirk.

“We what, Carter?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“What’s going on, guys?”

Their heads jerked around to where the sleepy voice had come from. Daniel looked at them from about a meter away, hair tousled as he peeked out from his sleeping bag. He blinked, then fumbled for his glasses. As he put them on his eyes widened.

“Daniel, it’s really not what it looks like,” Sam hurried to say. She hit O’Neill’s chest when he gave a deep chuckle.

“Um… okay.” Daniel nodded with narrowed eyes. “I’m just gonna take your word for that.” His gaze rested on them for a moment as he watched Sam struggle. “Do you need help?”

“No.” She panted, her fingers finally feeling the zipper. She opened the sleeping bag, and crawled out into the icy air. Her first instinct told her to get back under the warm covers with her camp commander.

Shivering, she reached down to gather her clothes. Then she caught Jack’s gaze. Right. Damn, she was only wearing her tank top and panties. She attempted a glare and pulled the sweater over her head.

Her clothes clung icy cold and damp to her skin. She didn’t care. The way his gaze rested on her sent tingles over her skin. She had to get away.

In her hurry to reach her own makeshift bed, she tripped over one of the sleeping bags and landed with a soft yelp on a body. Sheppard.

“Sorry, colonel.” Sam winced and jumped up.

“Carter, watch where you step.” Sheppard’s mumble sounded sleepy and he dropped his head back down under the covers.

Sam looked across the room at O’Neill, whose eyes still sparkled with amusement. He really was a smug bastard sometimes. She pulled on her pants, then grabbed her shoes to leave the tent.

He knew exactly what effect he had on her. And if she didn’t know better, she’d swear he’d used it deliberately to throw her off. It seemed to be so easy for him to counteract her efforts to stay away from him.

Two days later the replacement generators arrived and provided camp with basic electricity again. It barely lifted the spirits.

In the next couple of weeks, the darkness became a burden that rested heavily on Sam’s mood. Judging from the general snippiness and impatience at camp, she wasn’t the only one. Finally, Janet started handing out high-dosage vitamin D pills to compensate for the lack of sunlight.

At least the pills restored some of Sam’s much needed concentration. She leaned down to look through her magnifying glass and study the circuit of an alien device.

She glanced up when a cold breeze from the entrance hit her neck.

O’Neill smirked at her. “Carter… whatcha doing?”

She smiled and looked back down, trying carefully to remove a transparent layer of micro-circuits from the artifact.

“I’m taking apart one the devices SG-3 brought back. This is really interesting, sir. I’ve never seen a data storage technology this complex. The pathways are nothing more—”


She looked up and raised his eyebrows.

O’Neill sighed. “I’m not really interested in that. It was just a conversation opener.” He gave an awkward shrug.

Sam leaned back. “Sorry, sir. What’s up?”

His eyes sparkled. “The sun’s back. Wanna go watch it?”

“Really?” Her heart pounded and enthusiasm raced through her veins. Sunlight. Finally. After weeks of darkness.

“We’re having a little gathering down at the food tent. You wanna come?” O’Neill stuck his hands in his pockets. If she didn’t know any better, she’d say there was more to his question then just a gathering at the food tent.

He’d been a lot more attentive to her during the past few weeks. Ever since they’d shared a sleeping bag…

She turned to look at the circuit she was examining. She really wanted to finish with it and write the report, so she could scratch it off her to-do list. Then again, they’d waited for the sunlight to return for weeks…

In a way, the past weeks had been more stressful and exhausting than when they were operating the Stargate. She longed for downtime.

“There’ll be cake.” O’Neill grinned at her. Undoubtedly another attempt to lure her away from her work.

“Cake, huh? Where did you get that?”

“Town. It’s kind of a ritual. Every year, when the sunlight’s back, we have a little party. Works wonders for people’s moods.” He held her gaze in that long, intense way that sent tingles over her skin.

“Well, who can say no to that?”

“Great.” His face lit up and he opened the tent flap for her when she pulled on her fleece jacket.

Outside, Sam inhaled the crisp winter air. Snow crunched under their feet as they walked down towards the food tent. The sun still sat low at the horizon, and would probably set again in an hour or two. It would take a couple of weeks for them to enjoy a fully lit day again. But it was a start and soon mild weather would return with a vengeance.

That meant they’d begin up Stargate operations again. Life at camp would return to normal.

They were still twenty meters away from the visibly crowded food tent when Daniel strolled towards them with an impish smile on his face.


“Daniel.” O’Neill stopped in his tracks and lifted his hands. “Don’t even think about it.”

Sam raised her eyebrows. Why did he look so defensive all of a sudden?

“About what?” The archeologist wore an innocent expression. “Hey, Sam.”

“Hey, Daniel. What’s going on?”

“Jack didn’t tell you about our ritual, huh?” Daniel grinned and his gaze shifted back to O’Neill.

Sam pulled her jacket close to shield herself from the cold winter breeze. “The cake? Yes, he did but—”

“No, the other one.”

“Daniel. It’s not a ritual, it’s stupid, and don’t even think about it.” O’Neill’s voice took on a warning edge.

Daniel’s eyes gleamed. “Sam, you might wanna step away.”

The next moment, a large snowball flew towards them, hit O’Neill’s chest and burst into dozens of pieces. Some of the ricocheting snow hit her face. She froze and stared at Daniel. Then she turned to her camp commander.

O’Neill cleared his throat as he shook some of the snow off his jacket. “Carter, you might wanna step aside, this will get ugly.”

Oh no, he wouldn’t. Sam watched in awe as O’Neill bent down and gathered snow in his hands, a boyish expression on his face. So he did have a playful side.

With a wide grin, Daniel threw another snowball. It hit Sam’s arm and she stared at him. “Daniel, I thought we were friends.” She brushed the cold, fluffy material off her arm.

“Carter.” O’Neill leaned in to her. “What do you say we team up? Let’s teach him a lesson about attacking his teammates.”

“Absolutely, sir.” Sam mock-frowned at Daniel and bent to gather some snow in her hands. When she threw it, Daniel ducked away. The snowball hit one of the soldiers standing a few meters behind Daniel, talking.

She winced when the guy turned and raised his eyebrows at her. “Whoops… sorry.” Yeah, if only he’d accepted her apology that easily. Instead, he grinned and turned to the rest of the camp members in the food tent.

“Snowball fight!”

Within seconds, the small field in front of the tent turned into a warzone, snowballs flying everywhere. Others joined her and O’Neill in their attempts to hit Daniel.

Before long, teams didn’t matter, and everybody was fair game.

Sam was just forming another snowball, when one hit her from behind. Laughing she turned, and shook her head at O’Neill, who brushed some snow out of his hair.

“I thought we’re on the same team?”

“Friendly fire.” He winked at her.

The hell it was. Sam inhaled and clenched her jaw in determination. That demanded for revenge.

She aimed her snowball at him. O’Neill tried to dodge her attack. Just as she’d expected… Thank God she’d aimed lower. The white, puffy ball hit his chest and crumbled into thousands of little snow crystals.  He lifted his head and the corners of his mouth twitched into a dangerous smirk.

“I think this counts as insubordination.” He stalked towards her. Sam chuckled and walked backwards.

“I was thinking more along the lines of mutiny, sir.” She gave him a cheeky grin. His eyes blazed. Oh, she was getting herself in trouble wasn’t she? “You started it, sir.”

He raised his eyebrows, then bent down to gather snow in his hands.

“Wait… Sir!” Sam laughed and looked around. Damn, no cover anywhere. That meant she had to put up a defense. She gathered some snow and formed another snowball.

O’Neill cocked his head with a warning frown. “Carter.”

She dodged his snowball and threw her own. A second hit. A laugh escaped her.

O’Neill growled. “Alright, that’s it.”

Oh boy. Sam caught her breath when he started toward her, and spun around to run into the middle of the field. Before she could make five steps, he caught up with her. His arms came around her waist and he held her against him.

“First mistake.” His words washed warm down her neck and she tensed. A pleasant shiver ran through her. “You didn’t take a good defensive position before declaring war. Second mistake, never turn your back on your opponent.”

She chuckled and turned around in his arms, her face an inch from his. “First mistake.” She leaned in and the tip of her nose brushed his. His breath audibly caught and his eyes widened, his pupils dilating. Wow… So she wasn’t the only one affected by his closeness. “Don’t underestimate the creativity of the person you’re attacking.”

She hooked her leg behind his and brought him down in a playful close-combat move. He looked up at her, visibly confused. She grinned. That would never have worked had he not been distracted. He was the best close-combat fighter at camp, and she was still only at a lower level.

“I am very disappointed, colonel. A man of your skills should not be this easy to overpower.”

Oh, bad idea to poke the bear. O’Neill leaned over to pounce on her. With a yelp, Sam turned to run away, but a stray snowball hit her chest and she slipped, landing on the soft ground.

Covering her face with her hands, she let her upper body fall back into the snow and started laughing. Epic fail on her part.

When she dropped her hands, O’Neill leaned over her, smirking. “That was pathetic.”

“I know.” She panted. “I didn’t expect that.”

Grinning, he picked up some of the snow and drizzled it down on her face.

Sam grabbed his wrist. “Sir, wait… I’m calling a truce.”

“Truce, my ass. You had the advantage and you blew it.”

“You attacked me from behind.” She tightened her grip on his wrist. “I had every right to take revenge. And I did it front on.” She let go of his hand and rested her fingers on the wet spot over his chest where her snowball had hit him. The melting snow soaked the material, his skin underneath hot against her palm.

Her gaze shot up to his. Every part of her tingled with awareness of him. They were so close, his body half-leaning over hers, pinning her to the ground. Warmth radiated from him, and her head swam with his scent.

Her breath hitched when the expression in his eyes changed. They darkened, his gaze dropping down to her lips. He relaxed his hand, and she let go of his wrist only to find him tracing some snow along the skin of her neck.

He inched closer, and she parted her lips. Oh God, he was going to kiss her. Heat jolted through her and sent goose bumps along her arms. His mouth was so close. Kissing him had felt so good last time.

Of course, then she’d been drunk. And it had ended in an embarrassing disaster. Her heart beat faster. What the hell was she doing? She really didn’t want to go down the same road as they had after their encounter at O’Malley’s.

“S-sir…” She grabbed his wrist with trembling fingers. When had their playful snow fight turned into something so erotic? She scooted out from under him, her smile shaking. “I give up, you win.”

His gaze rested on her for a moment, then his mouth twitched into a lopsided smirk. “Aww, Carter, now I’m disappointed. You give up that easy?”

Laughing, she threw some snow at him. “You don’t play fair.”

“Playing unfair is half the fun.” Was she imagining the heated undertone in his voice? Her cheeks flamed.

Sam looked down to brush the snow off her shirt. What was he doing? Why was he flirting with her? Was he just looking for a quick adventure? Testing her? She couldn’t make heads or tails of this man.

“So, you still up for the cake?” O’Neill rolled over on his back and sat up.

Sam gave him a cautious smile. “Absolutely.” She leaned in. “We should hurry while the others are still distracted with the snow fight.”

“That’s the spirit.” Grinning, he got to his feet, then reached out his hand to help Sam up. She shivered when her shirt clung to her chest.

“You should change into something dry.”

Sam pulled her jacket close and nodded. “I will.”

“I’ll save you a piece of cake.”

His statement drew a little laugh from her. She liked this new, playful side of him. His innocent enthusiasm for something as simple as cake warmed her heart. Someone like him she could imagine spending the rest of her life with. Someone who could enjoy simple things.

She gave him a soft smile, and moved backwards in the direction of her tent, unable to take her eyes off him. The snow melted in his hair and on his skin, leaving behind little drops of water.

Maybe she should just go for it. So what if he only wanted a quick adventure? Maybe her attraction would fade as soon as she’d give in to her needs. If she spent one night with him, maybe the urge to be close to him would cease.

No. There were other, more pressing concerns she’d have to take care of first. Such as telling him the truth about who she was before another mission went wrong because of her. If only she knew how to bring that subject up without ruining their friendship. He deserved to know the truth, and besides, she didn’t want to risk her position on his team and as a member of the resistance.

But what if she lost his respect as soon as he knew? What if he would consider her a traitor since her father worked in the Aschen Ministry?

She had to talk to him. Sometime soon. When the time was right. He knew what being in a forced marriage was like. He might also understand why she’d been careful about revealing her identity. And maybe he’d forgive her.


Next Chapter