This is the unabridged version of chapter 39. If you’d rather read a PG rated version, please head over to fanfiction.net.
Big thanks to Channach for plot-editing this chapter and to Raven Clark for style-editing this chapter with me line by line.
Happy New Year everybody! Have a great 2015! ;)
Cold crept through the tent walls. Sam buried herself deeper in the sleeping bag, that was suddenly way too big for her. Three days without a word. What if Jack had been captured? What if her dad was already dead when Jack found him?
She took a deep breath. Stop over-thinking. Everything will be fine. If something had gone wrong, they’d already have received word. Or would they? If Jack had been captured, would anybody ever know?
Voices drifted from outside. She lifted her head and looked at the dark tent entrance, then at the clock on the wooden box next to the sleeping bag. 1.00 am. Did the recruits have another night drill scheduled? The voices grew louder.
“Dr. Fraiser. We need your help.”
Sheppard. Sam sat up. Something had to have happened if he called for the doctor at this hour. She peeled out of the sleeping bag and hurriedly pulled on her pants and boots.
By the time she ran up the hill towards the medical tent, people had already gathered in front of it. Sheppard and Siler carried an unconscious man inside. She staggered, then sped up. Could it be…?
“What’s going on?” She touched Daniel’s shoulder.
The archeologist turned and raised his eyebrows. “It’s Jacob.”
“Dad?” Blood drained from her face. An unconscious man… Sheppard yelling for help… Oh, God. “Excuse me.” She pushed through the people in front of the entrance and almost stumbled into the tent.
Janet whirled around and gathered medical instruments from the shelves. On the big table towards the end of the tent lay the tall figure of a man. Sam stepped closer. Even in the dim light of the petroleum lamps, she recognized his face.
“Dad.” Her breath caught. His face was severely bruised, his arm hanging down at an odd angle. Bruises covered the exposed skin on his hands and arms. She covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh God, is he…”
Jennifer straightened and hurried toward her. “You shouldn’t be in here.”
“Is he dead?” The tent swam in front of her eyes. What had the Aschen done to him?
“No, he’s alive. But we’ll have to treat him right away. Please.” Jennifer squeezed her arm. “You need to leave.”
Mind going numb, Sam nodded and turned. Her thoughts swirled. What had the Aschen done to her father?
Outside, she dropped onto one of the boxes and buried her face in her hands. If only they hadn’t gone to meet him that day. Maybe his cover wouldn’t have been blown. How had he gotten back here anyway? Had Jack returned?
A warm arm wrapped around her and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. Hope made her stomach flutter. She lifted her head and looked into Sheppard’s hazel eyes. He gave her a reassuring smile. “He’s gonna be fine.”
She swallowed hard and nodded, then wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. “I didn’t even know you’d left camp, sir. Where did you find him? Is Jack back?”
“I had a meeting scheduled with him. He had to stay in Powhatan to tie up some loose ends. He’ll return in a few days.”
A few more days? Sam’s heart sank. “Is he all right?”
Sheppard nodded. “He’s fine. He’s got a few bruises but that’s to be expected on this kind of mission. Everything went well.”
“Bruises?” Her heart pounded loud and fast in her ears. Hurt. Jack was hurt.
“Don’t worry. Nothing major.” Sheppard stretched and took a deep breath. “If you need a day off, I can clear your duty roster for tomorrow. You know… deal with McKay and all.”
She shook her head and forced a smile. “Thank you. Sir. But that’s not necessary. Work helps me keep my mind off things.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled. “Jack predicted you’d say that. You should get some sleep.”
“I will.” She looked toward the entrance of the medical tent. “As soon as I know dad’s fine.”
“All right.” Sheppard gave her back a gentle pat and got up. “Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thank you, sir.” This time, she didn’t have to force the smile.
He winked at her before he turned and strolled towards the food tent. Sam looked after him, then closed her eyes. Jack had managed to free her father from Aschen custody. Surely the Aschen weren’t happy about that. What if he was on their wanted list? Was it safe for him to remain in Powhatan?
She rubbed her fingers across her forehead. Stop overthinking. She really had to take Jack’s advice to heart. If only she could.
Hours passed. By the time the sky turned pink with the dawning sunlight, Jennifer finally peaked out of the medical tent. Sam sat up.
Dark rings lined the young doctor’s eyes, but she smiled when she spotted Sam. “You can come in now. He’s still unconscious, but out of danger.”
“Oh, thank God.” Sam jumped up.
Jennifer opened the tent flap and let her inside. In the corner, Janet placed her surgical instruments in a little basin for cleaning. A standard procedure Sam had witnessed countless times. Still, it was always different when the patient was someone close to her.
Her father lay in one of the field beds. Pale. Eyes closed. When she placed her palm on his forehead, his skin felt hot.
Janet stepped closer while she dried her hands with a towel.
Jennifer pulled a second woolen blanket over his body. “He’ll make it. But…” She swallowed visibly, and held Sam’s gaze.
“But what?” Sam straightened, brows raised. When Jennifer looked at Janet as if searching for help, Sam held her breath. “Janet? What’s going on?”
Janet’s face gentled. “Sam, we couldn’t undo all of the damage done to him during the torture. His spinal cord was fractured. Even when his broken leg is healed… he’ll never be able to walk again.”
Cold poured into every cell of her body. Paralyzed. Her dad was paralyzed. “Oh, God.”
“I’m sorry, Sam.”
“But he will survive?” Her throat constricted as she lowered her eyes. Her father, once so strong and confident, lay weak and broken in the bed, eyes closed.
“Physically, he should make a full recovery.” Janet placed a hand on her shoulder. “But it’ll be hard for him to accept his condition.”
“Are you sure it’ll be permanent?” Sam turned her head to the doctor. “Maybe if we got him to an Aschen hospital, or had more advanced Aschen medical instruments—”
“The damage is done.” Janet shook her head. “Not even more advanced Aschen instruments will make a difference. There’ve been cases where the swelling that caused a paralysis slowly healed and enabled the patient to walk again. But those were rare cases. And with your father’s injuries…”
Sam closed her eyes and lowered herself to her knees next to the bed. Her fingers curled into the blanket while she studied his face. Jaw clenched, she tried to suppress the rage flooding her with a vengeance. What kind of monster would do something like this to a man? Torture him, break his spine, beat him…
The Aschen were monsters. All of them. How foolish of her to feel a sting of sympathy for Larek when he’d died. He’d ratted them out, and if they hadn’t managed to escape in time, she, Jennifer and Jack might be in the same position as her dad now.
A gentle squeeze on her shoulder pulled Sam back to reality. She lifted her head.
Janet gave her a sad smile. “He’ll be alive and safe, Sam. That’s all that matters. One more day, and it might have been too late. Thank God, O’Neill and Sheppard got him here in time.”
“Yeah.” Sam leaned forward and placed a kiss on her dad’s forehead. A hot tear trailed down her cheek.
Jack… Warmth flooded her. He’d risked everything to go after her father. What if the Aschen captured him while he tied up some loose ends—whatever that meant. Would they do the same to him? Or worse? Her stomach clenched and she swallowed hard against the lump in her throat.
The rustling of the tent flap made her turn her head. McKay stepped inside, then stopped when he spotted Sam and Janet. He straightened. “I didn’t know you were…” He cleared his throat.
“Rodney.” Janet turned. “How can I help you?”
“I wasn’t… I wanted… I need a band aid.”
Janet raised her eyebrows. Sam looked up and found her own confusion reflected on Janet’s face. What was up with McKay? Not that odd behavior was unusual for him, but this was pushing it.
“Are you okay?” Janet folded her arms.
“Yeah. Sure. Fine. Why?” Brows scrunched, his gaze raced around the tent. When Jennifer stepped out behind the room divider with a file in her hand, his face lit up.
She smiled at him, visibly confused. “Dr. McKay.”
With a certain amount of bafflement, Sam watched as McKay straightened. “Rodney.”
“Rodney,” Jennifer repeated, the hint of a smile playing around her lips. “Did you need anything?”
“Oh, just, a band aid. It’s nothing really…”
“Let me see.” She dropped the file and examined the finger he held up. After a moment, she lifted her head. “That’s a paper cut.”
McKay shifted. “Really? You sure it’s not too deep? I don’t wanna get an infection or something.”
“I’m sure. Here…” She turned and took a band aid from the shelf.
“Thanks.” He fumbled and wrapped the small band aid around his finger.
Sam lowered her head, failing to stifle a grin. Not that McKay’s sensitivity to minor injuries was new—but his awkwardness about them definitely was.
“So…” The scientist fidgeted. “The sun’s risen already. I thought I’d go have breakfast.”
Jennifer nodded. “Okay.”
“Have you eaten anything yet? ‘Cause if you haven’t, you know… You could join me. For breakfast. At the food tent.”
The young doctor stared at him for a few moments, looked down at the file in her hand, then back up at him. “Yeah. Sure, I’d love to. Just give me a few minutes to finish up here.”
“Great. I’ll meet you there then?”
Rodney glanced at Sam and Janet, then turned and left the tent. When he was outside, Janet shook her head. Eyes wide with incredulity, she stared at Jennifer. “What on Earth was that?”
Jennifer cleared her throat. “What? He was just being nice.”
“Oh, that wasn’t being nice. If I didn’t know better I’d say McKay was trying to flirt with you. He was almost charming—for McKay’s standards.” Janet nudged Sam, who straightened with a smile.
Jennifer stared at her. “Really? You think?”
Janet folded her arms. “Definitely.” She studied Jennifer for a long moment. “You like him, don’t you?”
“I think he’s sweet.” Jennifer’s face turned a deeper shade of red. “Not that I’m interested. I mean, he’s a good-looking man. And very charming.”
“Charming?” Sam and Janet repeated at the same time and stared at each other.
“Yeah. On my second day here, he gave me a tour of the entire camp. You know, showed me around.”
“McKay?” Sam raised her brows at the young doctor.
“Yeah… Why?” Jennifer placed her file on the table.
Sam shook her head. “No reason. It’s just, he usually doesn’t give tours. And most people wouldn’t attribute the word charming to McKay.”
Janet chuckled. “Most people wouldn’t call him sweet, either.”
“I admit he can be a little condescending sometimes. But he’s a good guy once you get to know him,” Jennifer said.
Grinning, Janet walked towards the desk and picked up the file. “Well, why don’t I finish up here then and you go and have breakfast with him?”
Jennifer’s face lit up. “Thank you.” Arms wrapped around herself, she hurried out of the tent.
Janet raised her brows at Sam. “Looks like McKay has a thing for our new doctor.”
“I think the feeling’s mutual. Just… Janet. Stay out of it this time.” Sam narrowed her eyes at her friend. She knew that look on her face all too well.
“Oh, don’t worry. It doesn’t look like those two need a push in the right direction like some people did.” She winked at Sam.
Shaking her head, Sam turned and looked down at her father. A painful sting in her heart replaced the short-lived amusement McKay and Jennifer had provided. “When do you think he’ll come to?”
“It might take some time. He’s been through a lot and he’ll need lots of rest. Why don’t you go and sleep for a few hours. I’ll call you as soon as he’s awake.”
Sam suppressed a yawn. Exhaustion began to catch up with her. She nodded. “Thank you, Janet. For saving his life.”
“Don’t thank me, sweetie. If Jack hadn’t rescued him in time there’s nothing I could’ve done. You should thank him.”
She would. Definitely. And very thoroughly. As soon as he was back.
Sam squinted her eyes against the light, then lifted the tweezers. If she managed to reconnect these two circuits… The tiny screen on the device flickered. “Yes.”
Familiar symbols flashed across the screen. Ancient. She wouldn’t be able to read this without Daniel’s help.
She looked up. Daniel. As if he’d sensed he was needed. “Just the person I need. I got the artifact from PY4-MX2 to work, but I can’t read the—”
“Sam, what are you doing here?” Daniel pushed his glasses further up on his nose.
Sam stared at him. “I work here.”
He coughed. “I mean, why aren’t you with Jack?”
She straightened. Jack… Was he… “Where is he?”
“He didn’t come here? He got back from Powhatan over two hours ago.”
Anger welled up inside her. He’d returned from Powhatan. Here she was trying to drown herself in work to distract herself from the thought he might never return, and he hadn’t even had the decency to tell her he was back? “Is he all right?”
“Yeah. He’s fine. He just finished lunch and a briefing with Sheppard and Mitchell, and wanted to… Sam, where are you going?”
Fists clenched, Sam stormed out of the tent. Idiot. For days, she’d only slept a few hours at night, worrying about when he’d return. If he’d return. Whether he’d be healthy.
Countless nightmares had tormented her. Nightmares of him being captured and tortured by Aschen Justice. Being killed. And now he was back and she had to hear about it from Daniel? Two hours after he’d returned?
She systematically went from tent to tent. Command tent. Briefing tent. Food tent. Nothing. Then she glared at his personal tent. She almost ran the last five meters and threw the tent flap aside.
There he was. Standing next to the sleeping bag in the middle of their tent. He hadn’t even tried to look for her, had he?
Daniel’d been right. He looked well. Relief flooded her, before anger took over again. He’d been back for two hours. “Do you have any idea what it’s like, worrying every day about whether you’d come back? If I’d see you again?”
Jack spun, eyebrows raised. “Excuse me?”
She folded her arms and managed a glare. “Did it even occur to you to come by and let me know you’re okay?”
“I haven’t had time yet.” His eyes darkened.
“You haven’t had time yet?” Definitely not the apology she’d counted on. She scoffed. “Two hours, during which you had time for lunch and briefings, but not even one minute to drop by and give me a short hello?”
His eyes blazed. “Resistance matters trump personal needs, Carter.”
Personal needs? She stared at him, fuming. Giving her a brief notice was personal needs? This was ridiculous. His gaze held hers, unrelenting. And what was with that tone? As though he didn’t care at all.
“You know, Daniel’s right. You can be a real ass,” she said, surprised at how calm she sounded even to herself. Had she overestimated her importance in his life? Pain stabbed at her chest.
Swallowing hard, she spun. Before she could walk straight back outside, his fingers closed around her wrist in a steel-like grip, locking her in place.
She glared at him. “Let go.”
Fire sparkled in his eyes. He was mad? Her rage mounted.
“Jack, let go. You didn’t wanna tell me you’re back. Now I’m not in the mood to talk to you.”
He pulled her close, forcing her to face him. She smacked his chest, but he caught her other wrist too and pinned her arms on her back. She twisted in his grip, tried to wriggle free. What the hell did he think he was doing?
Before she had a chance to voice a protest, she was in his arms, pressed against the hard planes of his chest. His face buried in her neck, his hot breath fanning her ear, cheek and jawline. Breath hitching, she relaxed against him. He released her hands to hold her close, and she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pulling him closer. His scent reached her nostrils. His heat burned through the clothing.
He was home. Safe. Anger forgotten, she threaded her fingers through his hair. His breath washed hot and fast against the side of her neck. After a long moment, she leaned back. Hands cupping his face, she studied him.
A wound near his eyebrow had needed stitches. He had a few scratches. Some bruises. Other than that, he seemed fine. She opened her mouth, wanting to ask him how the mission had been, tell him about the past days at camp. Tell him how much she’d missed him.
His lips crashed down on hers, taking with a fervency that staggered her. Thoughts of talk vanished into oblivion. His tongue darted out, brushed against hers, then pushed into her mouth. A jolt of heat almost knocked her off her feet. She whimpered into the kiss.
The sound seemed to change something inside him. His hands flew down to her pants and tore them open.
“Off.” His gruff command sent pleasure tingling down her spine.
Maybe it sounded a bit too much like an order; maybe he was a bit too much in command mode. And maybe his rough, dark side shouldn’t turn her on so much. Who cared? Without giving it a second thought, she kicked off her boots and dropped her pants and panties.
His eyes flared with something dark, dangerous, and her stomach tightened for a brief moment when he pushed her towards their sleeping bag. She stumbled and nearly fell backwards on it. A yelp escaped her.
Before she had a chance to catch her breath, he pinned her hands down and reclaimed her mouth in a hard kiss, his heavy body covering hers.
Oh God. So fast. So strong. So good. Heat raced through her core. She whimpered and pulled her knees up to his waist, cradling his hips between her legs.
He released her hands only to pull her shirt over her head, then threw it to the corner of the tent.
Damn. Sam quivered under him. She should be in her science tent doing the experiment on…
Her thoughts went up in flames when his lips reconnected with hers, demanding she open, taking all she could give.
She didn’t want to make a sound. She never did, as tent walls were way too thin and rumors at camp spread much too fast. Still, when he entered her in an unexpectedly forceful, relentless thrust, she couldn’t muffle the yelp that escaped her.
Her body arched and she chewed her lower lip in ecstasy while her body adjusted to him. God, what had gotten into him? Usually he was so controlled and aware of the limited privacy the tent offered.
He pulled out, and then thrust into her again. Hard, almost borderline unpleasant, and yet it sent fire straight to her core. She whimpered again.
Jack placed his finger against her mouth. Damn, she was beautiful. He’d missed her. So much. Her nose wrinkled as she struggled to remain quiet. Oh no, not this time.
Chest heaving, he couldn’t help a smirk. He’d pushed her to the brink of losing control. Something that rarely happened. Satisfaction coursed through him. He nipped her chin, then pushed her knee up higher. He needed her to lose control, needed her to join him in the dark place.
Maybe she’d bring the light back.
Her fingers clawed at his shoulders, when he thrust into her again, then again. Each time harder than the previous one.
She gritted her teeth against a soft scream. He didn’t give in. Fisting her hair, he pulled her head back and exposed her neck. Freckled skin. So sweet. He bit her skin in time with his next thrust, strangely satisfied when she gave a distressed whimper. He pounded into her harder, faster, keeping his thrusts unpredictable.
Her skin began to glisten with her exertion. She tried so stifle another groan and failed. She actually had to put effort into it. Damn right. She was his, and if he wanted her to scream, she would. He grunted against her neck in satisfaction.
“God… oh! Jack…” A desperate plea.
He leaned up on his arms, studied her face. Her blue eyes darkened. She reached one hand up, touched his cheek. When he gave a particularly hard thrust, her lips parted in a breathless scream. He gripped her hand, slammed it back down to the bed and pinned it there.
Five days of not seeing her. Days filled with violence and death. Too reminiscent of his solo mission days. She was the only one who could make it right again.
His body took over, and he started pounding into her hard. Damn, he’d wanted to make it last, but it didn’t work… Not this time. If he was crashing hard already, he’d make sure she’d spin out of control with him. He’d draw every possible sound out of her.
Every move of hers, every touch, every kiss intensified. Her nails dug into his back. Pain that turned into exquisite pleasure. So hot. He drove into her even harder.
Sam arched her neck, her mind blanking. Dark. Dangerous. Out of control. The moment she’d entered the tent she’d sensed something was off about him. She fisted her hand in his grip, struggled, but he didn’t give. Heat stabbed at her core. Helpless. Forced to take whatever he did to her. Oh, God.
“Please.” She gritted her teeth. They were too loud. People would hear.
“Stop thinking.” A growl in her ear. A command she couldn’t refuse.
He lifted his head and trapped her gaze with his. Dark, deep diamonds. She leaned up, tempting him, and he locked their lips in a surprisingly tender kiss. He changed the angle of his thrusts, started hitting just the right spot inside her. Over, and over, and over again.
She wanted to move, catch a break from the onslaught of pleasure he inflicted on her, but he kept her pinned. Her head thrashed. Her body protested and welcomed his hard thrusts at the same time. Ecstasy washed over her. Too much. Too intense. Oh, God, she was gonna…
Pleasure exploded through her like a violent supernova, starting in her core and spreading through every cell of her body. She buried her face at his shoulder, tried to muffle her screams. Her nails raked over his back, his shoulders, but that only seemed to spur him on.
Yelps of pleasure turned into helpless sobs, until at last Jack lost himself in her, his warmth spilling into her. Panting, he collapsed on top of her, his breath hard and fast against her damp skin. He released her wrist, tangled his hand in her hair, absently stroking through the short strands.
She quivered under him in the aftershocks of pleasure. His lips found her neck, his tongue darting out. Salty… God, he loved her.
He lifted his head. His stomach tightened when his thumb brushed over a wet streak on her cheek. Intense fear took his breath away.
“God, Sam, did I hurt you?”
She shook her head, breathless. “No. Just intense. God.” She covered her eyes with her hand and her chest shook on a giggle. “I think I might’ve scratched your back.”
Hell, yeah, she had. He grinned. “That was hot. I like you going wild.”
Her cheeks flushed. Good, so he could still make her blush.
“Oh, damn.” Her whisper was shaky. “What if somebody heard us?”
He dropped his face to her neck, smirking. “Doubt it.” And even if, at least he’d reaffirmed his claim on her. Better not tell her that, though. She’d give him hell. He nuzzled her neck. “I missed you.”
She wrapped her arms around him, tangled her fingers in his hair. “I’m really glad you’re okay.”
“Even though I’m an ass?”
She laughed under him and hid her face against his neck.
Jack smirked and relaxed into her embrace. So warm. Home. He was home.
When Jack rolled off her, Sam snuggled up to him, her head resting on his shoulder while she played with the soft hair on his chest. Finally, she lifted her head.
“You wanna tell me what happened?”
He raised his brows at her.
She cleared her throat. “Well, you’re not usually this aggressive in bed. Not that I’m complaining either way. You wanna talk about it?”
Sighing, he brushed his hand through her hair. “Not really. Lots of violence during the past days. I had to do a coupla things I’m not proud of.” He sighed and pulled her close to drop a tender kiss against her forehead.
She brushed her lips against his. “Let me know if I can do anything.”
His hand caressed her nape. “You already did. More than you know. God…” His head dropped back on the pillow. “I’m exhausted.”
She smiled. “Well, satisfying sex releases endorphins. Those make you wind down and counter-effect stress and adrenalin in the body. It’s common to feel the need for sleep after sex, especially for men. Scientifically, what happens is—”
Oh boy. “Sorry. It just happens.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, no doubt about that. I don’t care how or why it works. Just happy with the effect.” He pulled her close and captured her hand in his. Sam studied the difference in their skin color when he entwined their fingers. “It’s good to be back.”
She snuggled closer to him. “It’s good to have you back.” She relaxed against his warm hand stroking up and down her spine. “The thought that I might never see you again… It terrified me.”
He pulled her closer, but remained quiet.
“Thank you. You brought my dad back, and…” Sam closed her eyes. “You went through a lot for that.”
“Ah.” Jack waved her statement off. “Jacob and I save each other’s lives all the time. At least now we’re even, and he can’t blackmail me into another wedding contract.”
Sam snapped her head up. “He didn’t.”
His eyes sparkled with humor. “Oh yeah. Guilted me right into it.”
“Oh God.” She gave him a sad smile. Dad. He’d been so strong once, and now… If he ever recovered, he’d be a cripple. Someday, she’d pay the Aschen back for what they’d done to him.
Jack nuzzled her neck. “He’ll be fine. He can stay here with us in Antarctica.”
“I know. I just wish they hadn’t…” She swallowed against a lump in her throat. “I really hate the Aschen.”
“They know we have operatives in their government. That’s why they interrogated him so harshly. We’ve become a real threat to them. We’re gonna have to be more careful.”
Thoughtfully, Sam enlaced her fingers with his larger, longer ones. After a long moment of silence, she leaned up on her elbow. “I moved all my things here. Into your tent.” She indicated a box in one of the corners. Okay, maybe all my stuff had been a bit of an exaggeration.
His hand in her hair halted as he stared at her, then glanced around.
Her stomach tightened. Had she been too bold doing that? “Janet and I rearranged the tent to make space for Jennifer. And since I sleep here all the time anyway… It seemed so impractical to have to walk to another tent every morning, and I thought… I can move it back if you want.”
He raised his brows. “Do you wanna move it back?”
“Do you want me to move it back?”
He smirked. “I asked first.”
“No, technically I did. The question was implied.”
“Sam.” He drawled her name and gave her hand a squeeze. “I don’t want you to move anything back. I like having you around.”
“I don’t want to seem clingy.”
“Fer crying out loud.” Jack stared at her, bewilderment in his eyes. “Carter, there are many words I’d attribute to you. Clingy is definitely not among of them.” She cocked her head, doubtful. Jack ruffled his hand through her hair. “As you said, it’s impractical for you to have to walk somewhere else to get your stuff all the time. There’s more than enough space here.”
“Definitely. Unless you’re planning on following Daniel’s example. I draw the line at you stacking this tent full of doohickeys and physics books.”
She laughed, then swallowed hard. “That means we’re officially living together now?”
“Guess so.” He nodded and looked at her hesitantly. “Scared?”
“No.” Her stomach fluttered. “Maybe a little nervous. I like the thought, though.”
“Good.” Jack kissed her wrist. “It’s not gonna be much different. You’ve spent every night here for what, over a month now?”
“Yeah.” He was right. Technically, they’d already lived together. She’d only gone to her own tent to get her shower products and fresh clothing in the morning. Only now, she didn’t have a backup anymore. “I’ll just have to make a plan for when you decide to behave like a jerk.”
“Hey.” He gave her a blank look. “We dealt with that situation pretty well just now, didn’t we?”
She burst out laughing and hid her face against his shoulder.
He became serious. “I should’ve told you I’m back. I’m sorry.” His warm lips grazed her cheek.
She lifted her head and met his gaze. “Why didn’t you?”
He swallowed visibly. “I wanted to blow off steam first. I didn’t want you to see…” He sighed and dropped his head back on the pillow.
“I can get pretty dark. And back when we did the weapons deal with Reddington, and he shot one of his gangsters, you got scared. I didn’t want you to see that side of me. Not again.”
“I saw it in Powhatan when you killed the Aschen agents.” She lifted her hand to his cheek, her heart swelling with affection. “It doesn’t scare me. We do what needs to be done. I know you don’t enjoy it. And you’d never hurt me.”
He held her gaze for a long time without a word.
She brushed her nose against his. “I don’t want you to hide from me. Or pretend to be someone you’re not. We have each other’s backs, remember?”
“Come here.” He wrapped his arms around her and rolled them both over, then buried his face in her neck. When he tickled her skin with his nose, Sam giggled and held him close. “I was wrong. I still owe Jacob.”
Confused, she stared at the top of his head. “Why?”
“For meeting you.”
10 days later
Sam gritted her teeth against an outcry when her body slammed to the ground. Damn it. Again?
Jack leaned over to look at her, a self-confident smirk playing around his mouth. He was so enjoying this. Maybe she shouldn’t have insisted on the training session. He was way out of her league, and she didn’t seem to grasp his advance attack techniques at all.
“You did it again.”
Tell me something new. “I know.” Growling, she struggled to stand. Her back hurt. So did her behind. Flinching, she leaned her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath.
“Yeah.” She straightened. She’d be damned if she’d give up like that. The thrill of a challenge flared up inside her. “I’m fine.”
“You told me not to go easy on you.” Jack tossed a bottle of water at her. Sam caught it and opened it.
“So I did,” she said, before she swallowed some of the water, the liquid cooling her throat. As she handed it back, she grinned. “Ready for another round?”
“I’m not even breaking a sweat yet.” His eyes sparkled. He just enjoyed teasing her, didn’t he?
“Show-off.” No chance she’d win against him. But maybe experiencing the attack patterns would teach her some of the more basic techniques. It wasn’t about winning. Yet, maybe someday, she’d close to his skill level.
Just that, at this very moment, learning proved to be a very painful experience. She winced and pressed her hand against the stinging in her side. “Let me try again.”
Jack raised his eyebrows and studied her. At last, he straightened with a shake of his head.
“Come here.” He pointed at the ground in front of him. Sam dropped her arms and approached him. “Turn around.”
He stood behind her.
“Take stance.” His voice rasped low and deep in her ear.
Sam turned her head and suppressed a pleasant shiver. Definitely the wrong moment to have her legs turn to jelly. Focus!
His warm palm seared through her shirt at her waist, the other resting on her abdomen. She jerked. Seriously? Was he trying to drive her crazy?
He chuckled and his warm breath fanned her neck. Oh yeah, this was definitely on purpose.
“This is your center.” He pressed against her back, forcing her to tilt her hips gently forward. “You aren’t grounded. Your body needs stability. That’ll make it harder for your opponent to knock you off your feet. Feel that?” He moved her hips, tilting them back and forth, each time pushing against her body lightly. “The way you stand, it’s pretty easy to knock you off your feet. It’s good enough for defense, but if you go into offense, you need a lot more stability.”
“You’re right.” She ignored the burning in her stomach muscles as she adjusted her stance. The new position made his pushes seem a lot weaker, even though they weren’t.
“Good. Now.” Jack came to stand in front of her. “If you’re attacked, you don’t wanna launch into it.”
“But how can I defend myself if I don’t prepare for it?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I didn’t say not to prepare. Wait for it. Let your opponent come to you. Use his momentum against him. It’s all about physics.” He took her arm. “In order to punch, or even pounce on me, you need incredible momentum. So what I do is, I divert your force back to you. Like this.” He grabbed her arm in a firm grip and turned it down.
“That’s all?” Sam looked at him doubtfully.
“Do the math if you don’t believe me.”
Her wheels turned. He was right. According to laws of motion and gravity… Her advantage should even increase proportionally with her opponent’s mass.
Jack tipped her head up and smirked. “Try it. Attack me. But pay attention to what I do.”
Sam took a few steps back, then pounced on him. Before she’d lifted her arm, she turned over and landed on her back in the grass. Jack had softened her fall, but she still flinched at the pain that raced through her back.
He lowered to his knees next to her as she leaned up on her elbow. “See? That’s why I’m not even breaking a sweat. You’re doing all the work for me.”
Sneaky bastard. She got to her feet. “How do you use this line of combat for effective attacks?”
“You don’t.” Jack chuckled and brushed a few strands of grass off her back. “You need a sound defense first, before we can start you on advanced attacks.”
She beamed at him. “Can I try?”
“Sure.” He took a few steps back. “Ready?”
“Yeah. Bring it.” She lifted her chin and straightened. He smirked. A moment later, he started toward her.
Sam blocked his arm and grabbed it the way he’d done before with hers. And then something went wrong. She lost balance, stumbled against him, then nearly dropped to the ground.
Jack’s arms wrapped around her, steadying her. He chuckled into the side of her neck and gave her a little nip that sent a jolt of heat through her. “You did it again. You sacrificed your balance and you started into the attack.”
Damn. She had. She leaned her head back against his shoulder when he dropped a teasing kiss on her neck. “Frankly, sir, it’s a bit hard to concentrate if my superior officer keeps rasping instructions into my ear.”
“Carter.” He grinned. “You telling me you have that little self-control?”
She turned her head and glared at him in a playful challenge. “Okay, try again.” She turned in his arms, and tipped herself up until her lips brushed his. Satisfied she noticed the hitch in his breath. “But this time go slow. Really, really slow. So I can lean the move?”
He cleared his throat. “Sure. Slow’s good. And you know I love teaching you moves. Slowly.”
She giggled, then took a step back and adjusted her stance. Bending her knees. Tilting her hips. “Okay, I think I’m ready this time.”
“Looking good.” Jack nodded with a teasing glint in his eyes. Sam looked up and found his gaze resting on her behind.
She cocked her head. “You gonna show me some action, sir?”
He grinned, then started toward her again. Sam kept her gaze on him, saw how his arm and hand moved to hit her. Evading attacks had become second nature for her, but not reacting at all was unfamiliar. She had to force herself to stay put. Everything inside her screamed to either launch into the attack before he could complete his, or evade all together. If she did, she’d end up on her back on the ground again.
He reached her. She gripped his arm and then tilted it down.
She could feel his momentum pass through her and stumbled slightly. Balance… Stay grounded. She staggered, but stayed on her feet as Jack landed on his back in the grass.
He groaned and winced. “Yeah. Now you’re on to it.”
Sam reached a hand out, eyebrows raised. “You all right?”
“Peachy.” He held his back as he got up. “I think we should invest in a coupla training mats. What do you think?”
She stifled a smile. “Sounds like a reasonable investment, sir. Shall we try another fight?”
Jack smirked and leaned in to her ear. “Alright, but let’s make it interesting. Winner gets to choose tonight’s experiment.”
She laughed. “You know I have no chance against you.”
“Does that mean you give up?”
“No way. Besides, I’m curious to see your experiment. I might learn a new move.”
His eyes sparkled when he took his stance opposite her.
Yeah, she’d been right. To say she stood no chance against him was putting it mildly. She could swear he gave her a few minor victories on purpose. Then again, she hadn’t expected anything else. Jack was by far the most advanced close combat fighter at camp, outdoing Mitchell and even Sheppard by far.
It wasn’t really a fight. The image of a cat playing with its prey came to her mind. When she finally managed to throw Jack to the ground, she had no doubt he’d let her get him there on purpose. Laughing, she pinned his hands as she straddled his chest.
“Good grief. What you two are doing isn’t fighting. It’s foreplay.” Sheppard’s voice drifted over.
They both turned their heads. The second-in-command grinned at them, his hands buried in his pockets, a file stacked under his arm.
Sam released Jack and dropped backwards down on the grass, while Sheppard tossed Jack a bottle of water. Jack drank as he got up, then gave the bottle to Sam and took the file Sheppard handed him.
“Done with the recruits today.”
“Care to take over then as I look at these? Carter needs some more exercise.” Eyes twinkling, Jack grinned at Sam.
She looked up, panting.
Sheppard strolled towards her. “I’d love a bit of exercise after watching the rookies all day. Carter? You up to it?”
“Absolutely, sir.” She straightened and lifted her chin. At least Sheppard was a bit closer to her skill level.
“Getting cocky, isn’t she?” Sheppard glanced at Jack.
“Sure is. You better watch out, Sheppard. She’s getting good, too.”
“I’m sure I can handle her.”
Well, who was cocky now. Sam tilted her head and glared at him.
Jack grinned. As he passed by Sam, he leaned in to her ear. “Remember your new move.” He gave her back a gentle smack, then walked off the training ground.
Sam focused her eyes on Sheppard. Boy, was he in for a surprise…
“O’Neill.” Sheppard’s pained groan drifted over.
Jack turned his head. Sheppard lay on the ground with Carter standing above him. You go, girl. Hadn’t expected she’d know one of the solo mission attacks now, had he? Smirking, Jack continued his walk up the hill.
His gaze fell on the benches near the food tent. Jacob sat on one of them, his broken leg perched up on a wooden box, gaze fixed on the training ground. Jack raised his brows. He hadn’t expected the older man to be out of the medical tent today. Janet’s last report indicated he wasn’t willing to leave the bed yet.
Jack changed direction and sat down next to him. “Jake. It’s good to see you up again.”
“I didn’t want anybody to have to go through the trouble of carrying me around.” Jacob grimaced as he tried to shift. “Your Doctor Fraiser practically threw me out of the medical tent. Said I needed sunlight and fresh air.”
“She’s one of the best doctors in the resistance.” Jack flinched. “She can also turn into a dragon, though. So you better do as she says.”
“Yeah, I got that feeling.” Jacob smiled.
The sunlight seemed to lift his spirits a little. Sam would be glad to see her father out of the medical tent. His situation wasn’t easy, but he needed to embrace life again.
Jack imagined for a moment what he’d do if one day he woke up crippled, paralyzed from the waist down. Unable to continue his fight against the Aschen, after what they did to him. Unable to complete the easiest tasks without help.
“She’s really good.” Jacob’s voice drew him out of his thoughts. Jack raised his brows. Jacob nodded towards the training ground where Sam and Sheppard were training.
“She is.” Jack smiled. Quite a way from the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed recruit who’d admired his training session, gotten into fights, disobeyed orders. Who’d have thought she’d turn out to be one of his most loyal subordinates? And the woman he’d fall for with every fiber of his being. He felt Jacob’s eyes studying him intensely. “What?”
“You two’ve grown quite close.”
He swallowed hard. Damn, Carter still hadn’t told him about their relationship. She’d wanted to do it herself. He shifted. “Jacob, I can’t—”
“Come on, Jack.” Jacob smirked. “I’m not blind. Besides, it’s no secret at camp you two sleep in the same tent.”
Damn rumors. This was definitely Janet’s doing seeing that Jacob hadn’t left the medical tent since he arrived. He’d have to have a talk with her. “We are.”
“Hey, it’s fine. I’m happy you two worked out your differences. And that Sam accepted you as her husband.”
“Actually, we—” Jack flinched. If Sam wanted her father to know about the finer aspects of their relationship, she’d do it herself. “Maybe you should discuss the details with Sam rather than with me.”
Jacob straightened, curiosity flashing across his face. “I probably should.”
Silence. After a couple of minutes, Jack’s face became serious. “Have you told her?”
“No.” Jacob shook his head. “I haven’t had a chance yet.”
“No chance? She’s been visiting you in the medical tent every day.” Jack frowned at him. “Jake, she deserves to know why you got compromised.”
“I’ll tell her. Eventually. She’s been through a lot recently. I don’t want her to have to deal with more pain.”
Good point. And still… “She’s stronger than you think, you know. You don’t have to protect her. And she’ll wanna know.”
“This’ll come as a shock to her.”
“Maybe. But this concerns her as much as you. Besides, sooner or later she’ll bring up the question herself. Talk to her, or I’ll tell her.”
Jacob studied him, then his mouth pulled into a smile. “You really love her, don’t you?”
Jack stared at him, his mind blanking for a moment. Then he turned his head and observed Sam on the training area. She landed on the ground, but jumped right back to her feet. Sheppard actually had to put effort into getting through her defense. A hint of pride surged through him. His wife. Smart. Beautiful. Strong-willed. A fighter. “I do.”
“Does she love you?”
“You’d have to ask her.” When Jacob raised his brows at him, Jack shrugged. “We’re taking it slow. Haven’t talked about feelings or anything.”
“I see.” Jacob’s statement sounded more like a question. “Well, the kiddo is old enough to make her own choices. She’s definitely able to defend herself. I didn’t know she was this good.”
In the training area, Sam managed another successful defense and sent Sheppard to the ground.
Jacob sighed then looked at Jack. “I guess now I have to reassess my own position in the resistance, huh?”
“Look, Jacob. You can stay here indefinitely, you know that. Or, if you’d prefer, we can find you an apartment down in McMurdow.”
“And then what? Work as a store clerk or in a factory for the rest of my life?” Jacob’s shoulders slumped. “That’s not a life for me, Jack. I’ve contributed to the fight against the Aschen for most of my life. Especially now, I need to continue.”
“You will. We’ll find a way.” Jack patted his shoulder gently. “Just take it easy for now. Sam’s happy to have you around. She was worried sick about you, you know.”
“I worried about her. The work you do down here? Walking through the gate.”
“It’s less dangerous than most on-world missions.” Jack sighed. “I won’t get into another discussion with you about pulling her from the front lines. It’s her choice. I can’t afford to lose her in the field, nor do I want to. She has my full support.”
“I know.” Jacob nodded. “I shouldn’t even have asked you to last time. Finding her here shocked me. She’s so different from the girl I knew. Good different. I guess it’s just hard for me to accept she isn’t the little girl that needs my protection anymore.”
“I’m keeping her as safe as I can. Just as I do with anybody else in this camp.” Speaking of which… He looked down at the file Sheppard’d handed him. The new recruits. Chaotic and a mess. Just like every batch of recruits was in the beginning. He opened the folder and studied the papers.
Thomson. Young, headstrong, excelled when he was working on his own. He’d be an ideal candidate for solo missions.
Jennifer Keller. A bit hesitant and shy. Not a good fighter, either. But according to Janet, she made an excellent assistant doctor. Besides, she was only scheduled for basic field and survival training, so he was willing to cut her some slack.
Piper. Only a few years younger than Sheppard. Severe problems adjusting to the command structure. No sense of loyalty. He liked to go around orders the sneaky way. Always pinned his mistakes on others. Jack narrowed his eyes. He didn’t want someone like that under his command.
Connor. Good at close combat. Average at best in field training, survival and strategy. Definitely not suited for Stargate missions, but he’d make a good addition to a cell engaged in on-world activities.
He looked up when voices drifted over, became louder. Sheppard and Carter trudged towards them.
Upon seeing her dad, Sam’s face lit up. “Dad. You’re up.” She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.
“Hey, kiddo. Who won?”
“Colonel Sheppard did.” She sounded remorseful. Jack smirked. Yep, definitely strong-willed.
“Yeah, but she made me work for it.” Sheppard sat down next to Jack and grabbed his towel lying on the table.
“I’m glad you’re out of bed.” Sam took Jacob’s hand. “How are you feeling, dad?”
“Good, actually.” He gave her a forced smile. “Doctor Fraiser said I’m as good as I’ll get. Physically.”
Pain flashed across Sam’s face. Her eyes locked with Jack’s briefly, then she stroked her father’s arm. “You’re alive, dad. That’s all that matters. The Aschen nearly killed you.”
“I think they did a few times.” The older man closed his eyes.
“Dad.” Sam swallowed visibly, her face pained. Jacob hadn’t told anybody what he’d been through, but Jack could only imagine. The hints he gave were enough. And besides, he’d seen the dark cell Jacob had been locked in. And he’d been in an Aschen torture chamber before.
Jacob sighed. “I’ll be fine, kid. So, when’s your next mission scheduled?”
“Um.” Sam looked at Jack.
He nodded. “He has clearance.”
“Tomorrow.” Her eyes sparkled.
“Searching for technology again? I really wanna see that ancient structure at some point.”
Sam’s face brightened. “I’m sure we can arrange that. Tomorrow we’re scheduled for another one of the planets that held a Tok’ra base in the alternate universe we visited.”
“Ah.” Jacob nodded. “Giving it another try?”
Jack sighed. “The geeks won’t let it go.”
“Well, sir, just because twelve planets turned out to be a dead end so far doesn’t mean all of them will be. Most of them are gate addresses we didn’t know anything about before. Every inscription we find helps Daniel translate more of the Ancient or Goa’uld languages.”
He gave her a blank look. “My bet is it’ll be another boring day.”
Sam cocked her head. “There is a chance we’ll find the Tok’ra on one of the planets.”
“Assuming they exist at all in our universe.” He looked at her. “I’ll stick with a boring day. And by that, I mean nothing to do except counting bugs. Or sand. And watching Daniel and Sam run around and get all excited over some kind of rocks.”
“We could run into an inhabited planet again. Remember the mission to P85-3X1?” Her eyes gleamed.
Jack chuckled. “Alright, that was a fun one, I’ll give you that.”
Jacob looked from him to Sam. “I don’t think I’ve read that report.”
“We decided we’d better not keep record of that, for the sake of Carter’s reputation. It didn’t hold any value for the resistance.” Jack chuckled.
Sam folded her arms and frowned at him. “My reputation? It wasn’t my idea, sir.”
“Fine, Daniel and Carter,” Jack conceded, still grinning.
When Jacob raised his eyebrows, Sam sighed. “The inhabitants didn’t speak our language, so Daniel suggested we communicate through body language. To show them we’re friendly. So we, um, participated in their cultural habits.”
“That ya did.” Jack cleared his throat when she glared at him. Uh oh. Yeah, she probably still held it against him that he hadn’t stopped the fun at an appropriate time. “They got drunk. Very drunk.”
“Well, they offered us drinks. We thought it was a friendly gesture.” Sam shrugged. “It tasted like water, but apparently it contained a very strong hallucinogenic substance. As Daniel found out later, the inhabitants of the planet used it for religious vision quests. They thought we were sent by the Gods to accompany them on their quest.”
“And that’s why I told you to be careful about touching it,” Jack deadpanned. “What? I did.”
“Daniel thought it would help build their trust.”
“Yeah.” Jack gave a wry laugh, then looked at Jacob. “I put a stop to it when Daniel, completely drunk, came up with the idea to dress like them. For the record, they were naked.”
Sam swallowed visibly. “But we did learn a lot of interesting things about their culture. We brought back that plant to help Janet synthesize the sleeping aid. And it was a fun mission—until things went South.”
“I’m not debating you on this. It was very entertaining.” Jack smirked. “Still, I’d prefer we finally find those Tok’ra.”
“Maybe tomorrow we’ll get lucky.” She tangled her hand in her tousled hair. “I think I’ll hit the shower and then get on preparing the experiment I got scheduled with Felger.”
Jack straightened. “I think Jacob wanted to talk to you about something first. Right?”
Jacob cleared his throat and took his daughter’s hand. “Um yeah. Sweetheart, sit down for a moment?”
“What’s going on, dad?”
Jack got up from the bench. “Come on, Sheppard. Let’s talk over the recruit performance reports in my command tent.”
Sam held her breath. “That has to be a mistake, dad. She’d never…” A cold fist wrapped around her heart and turned her insides to ice.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m afraid so. Jack brought back proof, and he questioned her. She admitted it.” Jacob squeezed her hands.
“But… Minny? She raised me after mom died, dad. She’s been with us for over twelve years. How could she do that?” Her mind spun. Minny had given Aschen justice the information about her dad’s involvement in the resistance. Because of her, Aschen Justice had arrested and tortured him. How could she do that? Sweet old Minny.
“It wasn’t her fault, kiddo. She and her husband were about to lose their farm. She traded the information in for five more years on the farm.” Jacob released a sigh.
“But why didn’t she talk to you? We always helped them when they got into trouble.” Sam fisted her hands. “Look at you. The Aschen could’ve killed you. She knew that. She traded your life in for a farm?”
“It’s not that simple.” Jacob shook his head. “The Aschen Farming Department has threatened to take their farm away and relocate them to a senior home for quite a while. She was desperate. Besides, I was a fool to confide in her. It was a rookie mistake. I just…” Another sigh. “At the time, I figured it would be easiest to tell her the truth. After all you’d disappeared for over a year, and she knew I was searching for you. Simply telling her you got married didn’t cover it.”
“You told her about the resistance?” Sam closed her eyes. The first and foremost rule drilled into every recruit: don’t tell anybody about your involvement with the organization. He’d acted against it. “Is that why they didn’t go after my brothers?”
Jacob raised his brows at her.
Sam leaned back. “I asked Jack a few days ago if there was any way we could get Mark, David and John to safety. He told me they weren’t in danger, but didn’t tell me how he knew.”
“Yeah. I told her, you were the only one involved. She seemed so happy to get to see you again. I’d have never thought she’d…” He closed his eyes. “She didn’t have another choice.”
No choice? Sam shook her head. Sweet, kind Minny. She’d become a traitor, a collaborator. “There’s always a choice, dad.”
Jacob sighed. “What’s done is done.”
“No.” She jumped up. “Everybody has a choice. You, me, Jack, Rodney, Sheppard, all the others here. We all were faced with the choice of which side we wanted to fight on. She chose wrong. Worse, she sacrificed you in the process. She chose the Aschen over her own kind.”
Jaw clenched, she started pacing. Minny had ratted them out. How could she do that? Sure, even when she’d still lived with her father, Minny had always been somewhat sensitive to talk that didn’t propagate the Aschen. But that she’d turn into a collaborator…
Rage flooded her. At the Aschen. At Minny, who’d so coldly betrayed her father. They’d get revenge. She fisted her hands. Someday they’d drive them off Earth one by one. Someday.