Big thanks to Channach for plot-editing this chapter and to Raven Clark for style-editing this chapter with me line by line.
Sam glanced up from the sandy ground as they walked towards the Stargate. Of all the people to go with them, they had to choose the Jaffa. His tall, strong body with his broad shoulders intimidated her a little, though he had a certain calmness to him.
The glaring sun made his dark skin look golden-brown. For a moment, she wondered how he walked around with his metal armor in this blazing heat without looking the least bit affected.
“So you got one of snakes in you?” Jack waved at Teal’c’s stomach. Once more, Sam admired how he hid his concerns behind a facade of calm.
“No. The Tok’ra do not use Jaffa. My symbiont is a Goa’uld.”
“Doesn’t that bug you? You’re raising one of your enemies.” Jack stuck his hands into his pockets.
“Without a symbiont I would die, O’Neill.” Teal’c turned his head back toward the gate. “I have little choice.” He fell silent again, his face stoic.
Sam brushed Jack’s arm. “Sir, we can’t take him back to camp, can we?” With all the new recruits there, the gate still had to stay a secret. Which would be hard to do with an alien walking around.
“Yeah.” Jack glanced at her. “You’re gonna have to go back and tell Sheppard and Mitchell to meet us at the gate.” He signaled her to fall behind with him.
Sam slowed her step with raised eyebrows. “Sir?”
“What do you think of this whole alliance thing?” When she shrugged awkwardly, Jack cleared his throat. He gave her a gentle nudge with his shoulder. “I’m looking for an honest opinion. Off the record, Sam.”
Thoughtful, she glanced at him. “The intel and technology we’d gain from such an alliance would be invaluable. They might be able to help with a lot of the Goa’uld artifacts in our storage we couldn’t make sense of until now. But there’s a risk. And it would complicate things with the recruits.”
Jack nodded. “My thoughts exactly. And to be honest, the whole Goa’uld being different from the Tok’ra thing gives me a headache. Not convinced we can trust them yet.”
“Well, the files we brought back prove the Tok’ra are enemies of the Goa’uld.”
“Yeah, but those files come from a different universe. Who says these Tok’ra are the same? Or that they aren’t working with the Aschen? We got a lot to lose here.”
She leaned in and smiled at him. “No hunches?”
He smirked. “If it was just me, I’d take the risk. But it’s about the lives of everyone at camp, and one of those moments where my gut might be wrong.”
Sam took a deep breath and looked ahead at the gate. She wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. A lot of issues might arise from the alliance. Would the Tok’ra be able to coexist? Would the rest of the camp members be willing to share rations and accommodations?
As they reached the Stargate, Jack dialed Earth with a sidelong glance at the Jaffa. He stood straight and almost wooden next to him. The desert sand around them glimmered in the soft blue light of the event horizon as it opened. Sam took a deep break as she stepped through.
Everything might be different from now on.
Sam gasped and spun, the towel around her neck dropping to the floor. “You scared me.”
Jack entered the tent, smirking. “Sorry.”
“Done already?” She raised her eyebrows at him. She’d counted on him, Sheppard and Mitchell to talk for at least an hour.
“Yeah. We decided the benefits of the alliance outweigh the potential risks.”
Her heart pounded in her ears. They would make an alliance with the Tok’ra. “When will we leave? During the next window?”
“Yes. Sheppard and I will. You’re not coming with.” Jack scratched his hand through his hair.
“What?” She turned, hands on her hips. “Why?”
“Cause, Carter. It’s enough, Daniel’s still on that planet. Sheppard and I are gonna go and negotiate the details with them.”
“Ah. No buts. That’s an order. You can chat about their technology with them once they’re at camp.”
Damn, didn’t he know when to play that command card. “Yes, sir.”
“It shouldn’t take long. We hope to wrap up the negotiations in one six-hour window. And we got a few suggestions for their new base. Some of our old beta-sites aren’t Goa’uld planets. We’re gonna offer them one. Maybe they can use it, at least temporarily.” He stretched with a yawn and glanced at his watch. “Four hours ‘til we gotta get ready.”
“Where’s the Jaffa?” Sam combed her hair in front of the mirror before she dropped down on their bed. She’d gone almost twenty-four hours without sleep.
“At the gate. Sheppard and McKay are keeping him company.” He grabbed a fresh set of clothes. “I’m gonna take a quick shower.”
“Okay.” Yawning, she pulled the covers over herself. Damn, she was exhausted. Her eyes fell closed. Was it selfish to take a nap when Daniel was still stuck on the Tok’ra planet? Then again, there was nothing they could do about it until the next Stargate window.
She snapped awake when Jack slid into the sleeping bag next to her. He smelled like him. No shower soap, so he’d probably used the unscented product. She released a contented sigh as she snuggled up close up to him and nuzzled his neck. This was great. His warmth, his closeness… his embrace. Even if they’d have to spend the rest of their lives in this tent at Antarctica, as long as she could spend it by his side…
Wait, what? Since when was she thinking long-term? Only a few months ago she’d resisted the mere idea of being married to him.
He shifted and pulled the covers higher. Delightful warmth surrounded her.
“Should we be sleeping when Daniel’s still stuck out there?” Sam mumbled and forced her eyes to open.
Jack raised his eyebrows and brushed her nose with his. “Nothing we can do about it anyway. And with another six hour mission ahead, I wanna catch at least a coupla hours sleep.” He tickled her neck with his nose, and she giggled. “Besides, we’ve both been up for twenty-four hours.”
“Yeah.” She wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes again. “Good point.”
“Sleep. That’s an order.”
Ordering her around in bed? Somehow her brain wouldn’t comply to give him a proper comeback anymore.
Sam paced up and down in front of the dialing device and glanced at her watch. Two more minutes until their window. If they didn’t come through now…
Jack had left twelve hours ago. He’d said they’d return with their last window, but they hadn’t. Something had to have gone wrong. She knew it. There was no other explanation.
What if the Tok’ra had turned both him and Daniel into hosts against their will? What if they hadn’t liked the terms of the arrangement? God, maybe she shouldn’t have been so premature in trusting them.
“Sam.” She glanced up. Rodney gave her an annoyed look. “Would you stop the pacing? I can’t think straight.”
“What if something went wrong? What if they need help?” She stopped and took a deep breath.
Rodney sat up straight. “I’m sure they’ll be fine. We wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway.”
“If they don’t return this window, I’ll organize a rescue team.”
“And then what?” Rodney got up from the tree stump. “If they’re in trouble and can’t dial the gate to come back, chances are the rescue team will be stuck too.”
She ignored his snippiness. “We can’t leave them on that planet.”
“Well, we can’t follow them either. You know protocol.”
Damn protocol. Yes, he had a point. They couldn’t afford to lose members on a rescue mission. Every team had to make it back on their own. Frustrated, she dropped down on a rock and buried her face in her hands.
She hated the helplessness. Being stuck here, with no idea what was going on. With no clue how to help.
The first chevron lit up on the Stargate and locked with a click. Sam jumped up and placed her palms on the dialing device. Finally.
It seemed to take forever until the event horizon opened in a blue splash. Sheppard stepped through, then a few Tok’ra, followed by Daniel.
Four. Five. None of them faces she’d seen before. Sheppard came towards her. He looked exhausted.
“We ran into a bit of trouble. Ba’al’s ships showed up, so we had to evacuate everybody to our beta-site.” He looked at the Tok’ra. “There were a few casualties.”
Her heart stopped. Someone had died. “Colonel O’Neill?” She wasn’t sure if her whisper even carried sound.
Sheppard’s head jerked around to her. “He’s fine. But one of the Tok’ra council members died protecting Dr. Jackson.”
Sam’s gaze shifted to Daniel, who sank down next to Rodney on a tree stump. If Sheppard looked exhausted, Daniel appeared positively miserable. He pressed a white cloth against his upper arm. Red lined the edges.
Oh God. “Daniel.” She rushed to him.
“I’m fine.” Daniel flinched. “Just a flesh wound. I really want to lie down.”
She pulled the cloth away and winced as she inspected his wound. Flesh-wound, my ass. A Jaffa staff blast had hit his arm, and the skin was burned away down to the muscle.
“Janet needs to treat this.” She placed her hands on her thighs. “You think you can walk back to camp?”
“Yeah. No problem. Give me a minute.”
More Tok’ra stepped out of the gate. Three men, three women. Then, finally…
“Jack.” Sam got up and crossed the distance to the gate. The event horizon closed behind him. A stinging smell reached her nostrils as she stepped closer, but she didn’t care. He was home. She reached out and brushed her hand along his.
Jack held her gaze, the ghost of a smile playing around his lips. “You really don’t wanna get too close until I’ve taken a shower.”
Now that he mentioned it… The smell grew stronger. As though he carried a dead animal around. Her stomach turned. Cringing, she covered her mouth and nose with her hand. “What is that?”
“Turned out our beta-site has some pretty nasty skunk-like squirrels.” He grimaced and dropped his P90 and the backpack.
She pressed her lips together in a futile attempt not to laugh. When she failed, she lowered her head.
“Sorry, sir.” When she looked up again, his eyes twinkled. “I just hope the shower’s gonna take care of that, otherwise I’ll make camp in the science tent.”
Grinning, he leaned in to her ear. “Traitor.” His warm breath caressed her ear. He walked over to Daniel, who still sat on the tree stump. “You gonna be okay? I can get some of the guys to carry you on a—”
“Jack, I told you, I’m fine.” Daniel got up and staggered. Sam rushed to his side to steady him while Jack took his other side.
“He’s insisted on being fine ever since he got hit.” Jack sighed.
“Yeah, well, in the light of what happened, I am pretty fine, don’t you think?” Daniel snapped. He closed his eyes. “Sorry.”
“What happened?” Sam raised her eyebrows at Jack.
“Selmak got killed trying to protect Daniel as we were evacuating people through the gate.”
Daniel closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, then gave Jack an annoyed stare. “Kenut got killed. They managed to save the symbiont. Who now needs a new host to survive.”
“Again, no, Daniel.” Jack frowned at him.
“Jack, she died trying to save me. The least I can do is repay the favor.”
“Daniel, I won’t let you become host for one of those Goa’uld. You’re our leading archeologist for crying out loud.”
Sam coughed. “You want to become a host?”
“Well, no… but she saved my life. Selmak won’t survive long without a host,” Daniel said.
“She knew the stakes.” Jack stared ahead darkly. “She threw herself in front of you, knowing what would happen. They can’t expect you to—”
“Jack, she only did it because she’d vouched for my well being.”
“Why don’t we get you to the doc for now and let her fix your arm. And after we’ve all slept and rested for a while—”
“Then it’ll be too late.” Daniel glared at him.
Jack stopped. “Daniel, let me make something very clear. You will not become a Goa’uld host. End of discussion. I don’t care if she saved you. This is a matter of security. Besides. I can’t spare you to run off fighting the Goa’uld somewhere.”
Daniel slumped with a sigh. Sam wasn’t sure whether Jack had convinced him, or he was just too exhausted to continue arguing.
Daniel, becoming a Tok’ra. Her stomach knotted at the thought. And yet, if the Tok’ra were who they claimed to be—and if one of them had sacrificed her life for Daniel, it appeared that way—gaining their knowledge would be invaluable.
Not to mention that it might strengthen their new alliance. She studied Daniel and exchanged a glance with Jack. There had to be another way.
Sam looked up from the artifact on her desk when the tent flap rustled. Jack entered, his hair tousled and wet looking, undoubtedly from the shower he’d taken.
She straightened. Her stomach flip-flopped when he smiled. “Sir?” Still on duty after all.
“Thank God those little buggers weren’t like our skunks here. One shower and I’m as good as new.” He sat against the edge of her desk and looked at the device on her desk. “Whatcha doing?”
She raised her eyebrows. “I’m taking apart the Goa’uld hand-device we found on P41-X42.”
“Ah.” He reached out a hand and drew her toward him. God, it was good to have him back. If she’d lost him… She closed her eyes and buried her face at his shoulder.
The fresh scent of body wash and laundry detergent reached her nostrils. No more skunk smell. With a relieved sigh, she flicked her tongue over his jugular. His grip on her tightened, and he pressed her flush against him.
“I’m glad you’re okay.” She studied the fine lines around his eyes, his grey-flecked hair. In the light of the lamp on her desk, his eyes shimmered almost black. “When you didn’t return as scheduled, I was concerned.”
“You were?” He brushed her nose with is.
“Of course.” She trailed her lips over his, teasing, before she drew him into a deep kiss. When they broke apart, her heart thudded loud and fast in her ears.
“Here’s a thought.” He glanced at her desk. “How valuable are these.”
Laughing she grabbed his arm. “Don’t you dare, Jack. Besides, McKay could come back any moment.”
He sighed. “Shame. I’ve had this fantasy of making you scream in the middle of your doohickeys.”
Such a man. She rolled her eyes with a giggle. He knew as well as she did he’d never do that, given the limited privacy at camp. As hot the idea sounded.
“So how are the Tok’ra?”
“Settling in.” Jack sighed. “They’ve apparently created an underground base close to the ancient structure we found in the forest.”
“That was fast.” Sam stared at him. “They’ve been here for only two hours.”
“Some kinda crystal they use.”
A crystal? Which was apparently able to form underground tunnels? “I’d love to take a look at those.”
He chuckled. “Not now though. I need you to make lists of the technologies we acquired from the Goa’uld, so we can work on them with the Tok’ra. Daniel’s doing the same for the artifacts.”
“How’s he doing? His wound looked pretty bad.”
“The doc said he’ll be fine.” He picked up one of the smaller stones from her desk and examined it. “He’s gotta spend a coupla days in the medical tent, but Vala and your dad are keeping him company.”
She took a deep breath. Now or never. He probably wouldn’t like her idea. “How’s Selmak?”
“The snake? Don’t know, don’t care.” Jack put the stone down.
Yeah, this was gonna be hard. “I meant to talk to you about something.”
His eyebrows climbed as he looked up and studied her.
Sam swallowed hard. “Selmak needs a new host.”
“Carter, I won’t—”
“Please.” She closed her eyes. “Sir. Let me finish.”
Sighing, he sat down on one of the boxes and folded his arms. Well, he was apparently willing to listen, at least.
Sam held his gaze. “My dad’s miserable. I know he’s trying to put on the facade of the tough guy. But knowing he’ll never be able to walk again…” She closed her eyes. “What if he became Selmak’s new host?”
Jack sat up straight, jaw clenched. “Over my dead body.”
“Carter.” He frowned at her. “You can’t honestly suggest handing your own dad over to a Goa’uld.”
“A Tok’ra.” Anger welled up inside her. Surely by now the Tok’ra had proven even to him they weren’t at all like the Goa’uld. They had the alternate universe files. One of them had risked her own life to protect Daniel. “Why did you even agree to let them stay on Earth if you hate them so much?”
“Well, I’m not entirely convinced that it was a good idea yet. I’m not gonna start trusting them. Yes, they seem to be nicer and more civilized. But they still take hosts. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s not a damn difference between—”
“It’s not really your decision to make.”
He got up. “Excuse me?”
Damn. She swallowed hard. “With all due respect. Sir. But this isn’t a matter that concerns camp. My father is not under your command.”
His eyes blazed. “You’re a little outta line.”
She folded her arms. “So are you.” All or nothing. What did she have to lose now?
“Oh, am I?” His expression darkened. “I respect your concern for your dad’s well-being. But you’re biased here, don’tcha think?”
“Maybe I am.” She fisted her hands at her sides. “But you fought with these people, side by side. One of them saved Daniel. Yet you’re still fixated on not trusting them. I wonder who’s biased here.”
“Carter, I’ve had a lot more run-ins with the Goa’uld than you in your—what, barely one year of service?”
Ouch. He had a point. Still. “I’m not saying I know more about them than you.” Sighing, she dropped her arms. “And maybe I’m biased out of concern for my dad. Or maybe my lack of experience with the Goa’uld makes me a bit less prejudiced. I know, biologically the Tok’ra are the same as the Goa’uld. But biologically the Aschen are the same as us. Yet our values, goals and attitudes are entirely different.”
Their gazes remained locked for a few long moments. He didn’t say anything, but his face softened ever so slightly. She took a step towards him and touched his hand.
“Jack. I was with Ba’al and his Jaffa for, well, long enough to tell the difference. All I’m saying is, these Tok’ra are the opposite of Ba’al. Their attitude, their manners, their goals. It’s like day and night. When I look at them I don’t see an enemy.” She pressed his hand. “Please. I’m not asking you to make the choice. I’m asking you to give my dad the option. He has a right to choose for himself.” She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “I won’t go over your head.”
He sighed before he drew her closer and let his mouth linger at her temple. Was he mad at her? His behavior didn’t indicate anger though.
“Has anybody ever told you, you’re pretty smart?” His breath warmed her hairline.
She chuckled, relieved. So he wasn’t angry. “It has come up. Occasionally.”
“Give me a bit of time to think about it. Coupla hours?”
Jack played with his pen while he stared at a few boxes lining the wall of his command tent. For the past hour, he’d been torn between arguments for and against Carter’s suggestion. He still wasn’t entirely sure. Could one ever be?
The tent flap opened and Carter peeked inside with a cautious smile. Immediately his spirits lifted. Something about her smile…
“You wanted to see me, sir?”
“Yeah, come in.” He leaned back in his chair.
She let the canvas fall closed behind her and came to stand in front of his desk, arms behind her back. Her gaze held his as he took a deep breath.
“About what you said…” He couldn’t believe he was actually gonna do this. “All right. We’ll give Jacob the choice.”
Her face lit up, and she gave him a beaming smile. “Thank you. I meant to say something, too. When we had the argument, I said some things I had no right to say, and—”
“Sam.” He looked up at her. “You were right. I am biased.”
“Oh.” Her eyebrows climbed as she strolled around the desk to his chair.
He took her hand and drew her closer. “I try to be as unbiased as possible, but sometimes I don’t quite manage not to—“
“—be an ass?” Her eyes twinkled.
He cleared his throat. “—let my personal feelings get in the way.”
She raked her fingers through his hair. “So you’ll be fine if my dad chose to become a Tok’ra host?”
“It’ll be odd. And if the choice was up to me, I’d still be against it.” He released a breath. “But you had some pretty convincing arguments. I’ll accept whatever decision he makes.”
Her face softened as she leaned down to hover her mouth close over his. “I know, I’m probably out of line since we’re on duty and all…”
His breath caught when she brushed her lips over his and drew him into a lingering kiss that sent tingles down his spine. “You’re right. That will call for some disciplinary action. Later. When we’re alone in our tent.” His voice came out throaty.
Damn, he was tired. He’d been on a twelve hour mission with only four hours sleep before. Nothing like a kiss from Carter to reawaken his body.
She chuckled and brushed her thumb along his lower lip. “Yes, sir.” Her face grew serious. “Have you told my dad yet?”
“No. I figured you’d wanna do it yourself. Besides, you’re better when it comes to the differences between the snak—“ He cleared his throat. Maybe he should stop referring to them as snakes. “Tok’ra and the Goa’uld.”
Her eyes gleamed. “Why don’t we do it together?”
“I’m not gonna be very positive about this.”
“Good. At least that way he’ll hear both sides and can make an informed decision.” She took a step back.
Jack lifted from his chair and followed her to the tent entrance. Before they left the tent, she turned around once more and studied him. Concern reflected on her face as she chewed her lower lip. “Are we okay?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, why wouldn’t we be?”
“Because of our argument… and I was pretty insubordinate.”
“So you were.” He chuckled. She’d come a long way from the hot-tempered recruit who’d beat up Mitchell. “But we were amongst ourselves. Why don’t we file it away as a friendly debate? An exchange of opinions if you wish.”
She smiled at him. “Yes, sir.”
When she wanted to turn again, he reached out and grabbed her arm. “Sam.”
She stopped and gave him a quizzical look. “Yes?”
“Don’t ever stop sharing your opinions with me. When we’re alone.”
Her face gentled as she reached up to touch his cheek. Her eyes sparkled. “Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure I could.”
He grinned as she turned and left the tent. True words.
Sighing, Sam sat down on the box in front of the medical tent. God, it had been over two hours. Why were they taking so long? She brushed her hand through her hair and leaned her elbows on her thighs.
What if something had gone wrong? What if her dad’s body had rejected the symbiont? Then again, wouldn’t somebody be out here already to tell her?
Two Tok’ra were inside to supervise the procedure. They had all kinds of medical equipment with them, and the male one, Martouf, had assured her they’d do everything to make the blending successful.
She’d taken the Tok’ra’s side, and her father had been convinced by her arguments. Or maybe the prospect of being able to walk again. But what if the Tok’ra and the Goa’uld were more alike than she’d thought?
The rustling of the canvas covering the entrance pulled Sam out of her thoughts.
The Tok’ra woman stepped outside and gave her a cautious smile as she sat down on another box next to hers. “He’ll be fine. The blending was successful, but Selmak needs a while to heal his body. Your father might still be a little disoriented, but he’s strong.”
Sam released a relieved breath. “Oh thank God… um…” What was the woman’s name? She wasn’t sure if they’d introduced her.
The Tok’ra seemed to read her mind. “I’m Rosha. Host to Jolinar of Malkshur. My companion Martouf and I are liaisons to the Tok’ra council.”
Sam sat up straight and smiled. “Sam.”
“I heard you were the one who convinced your father to do the procedure. In the name of all Tok’ra, I wanted to thank you. Without you, Selmak would have died.”
“It wasn’t me.” Sam shook her head. “I just presented the arguments, and to be honest, I began having doubts myself. You have to understand, up to now, we’ve only run into Goa’uld. And my experiences with them were… Well, let’s say they weren’t pleasant.”
Rosha smiled. “We are aware of the Goa’uld’s aggressive strategies towards humans. We hope that, over time, through our alliance, you will begin to trust the Tok’ra. And that we can become friends.”
Sam nodded and studied Rosha. Her features were gentle, but there was a fire in her eyes that spoke of a strong and resilient character. Maybe not unlike her. “I would like that.”
Sam turned her head. Jack peaked around the corner of the tent. He looked exhausted. She couldn’t really blame him. Though he had laid down for a short nap after they’d talked to her dad, he’d probably need a good night’s sleep. “Sir.”
“How is he?” He took a sip of the coffee he carried and sat down next to the tent entrance.
Rosha smiled. “He will be fine. We will be able to talk to him in a few minutes.”
Jack leaned back. “So, will he still be, you know, himself?”
Rosha closed her eyes and looked down. When she lifted her head again, her face was tenser, more serious. “I assure you, colonel, he will be as much himself as he was before the procedure.” The deep, resonant voice told Sam it must be Jolinar talking now.
“But he will share his body with Selmak.”
“Yes.” Jolinar turned to her. “Selmak is the oldest Tok’ra among us, and one of the wisest in our council.”
Jack groaned. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud.”
Both Sam and Jolinar raised their brows at him.
He waved towards the tent entrance. “Now he’s gonna be even more convinced he’s right with whatever he says than before.”
Sam looked at Jolinar and pressed her lips together to stifle a smile. The Tok’ra woman looked equally amused by his reaction.
Martouf peeked out of the tent with a toothy grin. “He’s awake. You can talk to him now.”
Finally. Sam jumped up and rubbed her palms against her legs. Her initial nervousness returned. How much had the blending changed her father? Would he really still be himself? Would he be able to walk again?
Jack stepped up beside her and squeezed her shoulder. “He’s gonna be fine. You’ll see.”
“I hope.” She grazed his arm, took a deep breath and stepped inside the tent. Her eyes took a moment to get used to the dim light.
Her father sat on one of the beds, eyes closed. Janet finished taking his blood pressure, then gave Sam a reassuring smile and a nod.
Her heart jumped. He was fine. “Dad?”
Her father opened his eyes, and his face lit up when he saw her. “Kiddo.”
That sounded as though he was still the same. She approached the bed. “How are you feeling?”
“A little dizzy still. It feels like my brain is about to burst with information.”
Next to Sam, Martouf folded his arms behind his back. “The feeling will pass. It is all very new. You have to give your body a few hours to adjust.”
Sam walked up to his bed and touched his hand. “And Selmak? Is he… she…” What gender was the symbiont anyway? She swallowed hard. Selmak had been a female before. But was she still one?
Martouf chuckled, apparently reading the question on her face. “Symbionts have no biological gender in the sense that humanoids do. Though many of them develop a preference for either male or female hosts.”
“I see.” No gender. Fascinating. They hadn’t known that about Goa’uld. “Is Selmak all right?”
“I am fine, Ensign Carter.”
Sam almost jumped back when she heard the unfamiliar, resonant voice that came out of her father’s mouth. She stared at him.
“I am sorry. I did not mean to startle you.”
“No. I…” She pressed his hand again. “I didn’t mean to be startled. It was just unexpected.”
“Your father and I are fine. I promise, I will take good care of him.”
Sam studied him. Selmak. She couldn’t believe this was the same Selmak they’d been in negotiations with on the planet. The woman with the long chestnut hair. Suddenly, she felt sorry for him. What was it like to lose a host like this? If they were connected so deeply…
“I’m sorry for the loss of Kenut.”
“So am I.” Pain flashed across Selmak’s face. “Over the past five years she and I became dear friends. I wish I could have done more to save her.”
From the back of the tent, Jack cleared his throat and came strolling towards them, hands in his pockets. “So you and Jacob equally share this body? If you don’t mind, can we talk to him? I got a coupla questions.”
Selmak looked down, then back up. His features changed, then Jacob blinked twice and shook his head. “Now that’s weird. It’s like I can feel myself talking, but it’s not me.”
“You will get used to that,” Martouf said. “In the next couple of days your brain will adjust to the changes the symbiont made.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “How’re you? Any evil, snaky desires?”
Jacob rolled his eyes. “Jack, I know you were against this. I don’t feel different. No, that’s not true, I do. I can move my legs again, and I feel stronger.”
“Just checking.” Jack buried his hands in his pockets. “So how’s this gonna work? You gonna be with the Tok’ra from now on?”
“The Tok’ra think it’d be best I stay here at camp, at least for a while. The relations between both groups are still tense. So for now, I’ll be your liaison with the Tok’ra. Apparently, Selmak is a member of the council, so it’s an ideal position for me.” Flinching, Jacob got up from the bed. Then he bounced slightly. “This is incredible. It’s as though I’m thirty again.”
“Yeah, listen.” Jack put his hand on his shoulder. “That’s great. I’m happy for ya. But there are a few security matters we’ll need to talk about.”
“Jack. I’m still me. I know what’s at risk, and I know the procedures at camp. Besides, what I know, Selmak knows.”
“Right.” Jack still didn’t look as though he entirely believed him. “Why don’t we still go over them again in a briefing? Humor me.”
“You’re the commander of this camp.” Jacob wrapped his arm around Sam. “Why don’t you show me around, now that I can walk on my own again?”
Sam gave him a beaming smile. “I’d love that.”
“Jack? Are you gonna join us?”
Later that evening, Sam closed her eyes with a sigh as she snuggled under the blankets of her sleeping bag. After the endless day, her muscles ached with the sudden relief.
When Jack entered, she lifted her head. He looked around the tent with raised eyebrows.
“I traded a few of our blankets to the Tok’ra in exchange for these drapes.” She looked at the dark drapes she’d fastened at the ceiling of the tent so they created a partition around their sleeping bag. “I figured those give us a little more privacy. So we don’t have to worry about, you know, putting on a shadow-show when we…” She cleared her throat. “Sleep here.”
His mouth tugged into a slow smirk. “Intriguing.”
“I hope you don’t mind.” She sat up.
He pulled his shirt over his head and opened his pants. “Not at all.”
She laughed when he dropped a ticklish kiss on the base of her neck. Bare-chested, he slid under the covers next to her and laid back, only to release a groan of pleasure.
With a smile, Sam pulled the last drape closed, which enveloped their sleeping area in a dim light. “See? Privacy.”
His eyes sparkled in the soft light and pleasant shivers ran down her spine as he trailed his hand along her back. “Does that mean we can actually get a bit more creative now?”
“Mmhmm.” She snuggled up close to him. “But the drapes aren’t soundproof, so we’re gonna have to be quiet.”
“There’s a challenge.” He leaned down and began trailing a hot path of kisses down her neck. “Let’s see just what it takes to make you abandon that thought.”
“Jack.” She laughed and pushed against his chest when he nipped at her neck.
“I still get to have my way with you, remember?”
She froze. Heat shot through every part of her body at his words. Right. Their debate from earlier. She studied him. What was he up to?
He chuckled. “Turn around.”
Trembling, she turned on her side so she lay with her back against the hard planes of his chest. “Jack?”
He chuckled and his warm breath caressed the back of her ear. “Relax.”
She let out a breathless laugh. “Then stop tickling me.” When his touch on her waist gentled, excitement coiled in her stomach.
His palm traced a warm path down and the along her abdomen. Goosebumps followed wherever he touched. She leaned her head back against his shoulder and nuzzled his chin.
“Lose the clothes.” His thumb gave her panties a playful tug.
She fumbled under the covers. Hands trembling with growing need, she first slipped off her panties, then pulled her top over her head. When Jack pulled her back against him, his chest hair tickled her shoulder blades. He shifted to drop a searing kiss on her shoulder.
“I’m gonna go gentle on you tonight.” He rolled her head back against his shoulder, his hand running across her exposed neck and lingering for a moment.
She stilled against him, her breath quickening. Slow did sound good, especially considering the way he used his hands on her.
He nipped her earlobe and tangled his hand in her hair. When she turned her head, he took her lips in a long, tender kiss.
God, she’d almost forgotten what just kissing him was like, how he tasted, lips so soft and gentle on hers. She could keep doing this forever, and it would never grow boring. All the tension fled her body. When he leaned up, she smiled at him through half closed eyes.
His warm palm trailed down to her breasts. She took a deep breath when he ran his thumb over the peaks, making them bunch. Tension coiled deep inside her, but her muscles refused to move. She wanted him, but she wasn’t up for a lot of physical exertion after a day like this. Neither was he, apparently.
She giggled when he grazed the skin between her breasts with his fingers in a tickling caress. He grazed his hand down along her stomach to rest his palm on her abdomen, right over her mound. She turned her head and raised her eyebrows when he pressed against her abdomen gently, urging her to tilt her hips back towards him.
He held her gaze, and slipped his fingers between her legs, gentle, teasing.
“God, Jack.” She reached back to bury her fingers in his hair and hold him close. His finger slid over her clit, sending delicious jolts of arousal through her.
When he finally slipped his warm length into her, her hand fisted in his hair. So good, so deep. So strong as he leaned on his arm for leverage to push deeper.
She closed her eyes and tilted her hips back even further in an attempt to push against him. At this rate she was gonna lose her mind before long.
Jack smirked into her hair and leaned down to let his lips linger at her neck. She smelled soft, feminine, like vanilla shampoo and pure Sam. He’d never get enough of that. He flicked his tongue across one of the cute freckles that covered her neck and shoulders, barely visible in the dim light now. But he knew they were there.
Her inner muscles clenched around him and he groaned against her neck. “Sam…”
Her smirk told him she’d done that on purpose. Teasing, was she? He grinned and gave her a gentle thrust. She gasped. He did it again and dropped a kiss on her shoulder.
Her fingers clutched his arm as he slipped his hand back between her legs to tease her.
Odd. He’d never been fond of this particular position. Until now. Then again, his sexual experiences had always been rather shallow. But with Sam…
He groaned and closed his eyes when she clenched around him again. Trailing his tongue along her ear, he began rocking his hips in a slow steady rhythm.
She buried her face in the pillow to muffle a yelp of pleasure. Sweet. He grinned. Great position to hit that one spot inside her. “Gotcha.”
Panting, she turned her head. “What?”
“Told you, I’d make you to forget about being quiet.”
“You’re an ass.” He heard the smile in her voice. He trailed his finger over her clit. Jaw clenched against a moan, she leaned her head back against his chin.
“That might be convincing if you didn’t sound so desperate.” He grazed his lips along her cheek and repeated the movement. Her fingers dug into his arm. Time to stop playing.
He increased his pace and leaned his forehead against her temple when she tensed around him. She started panting, clenching and unclenching his arm.
Nothing like losing himself in the warmth of the woman he loved after an exhausting day. He watched her writhe, bite her lower lip against the soft moans that escaped. So intoxicating. Her breath hitched, then she stilled against him.
Her muscles fluttered around him, tensing in waves. He didn’t stop his caresses on her clit. One of the most beautiful sights in the galaxy had to be Carter when she came in his arms, completely oblivious to anything but him.
He buried his face in her neck and allowed himself to focus on his own thrusts, on what her body did to him. God, she felt good. Pressure built to the point of no return, and he gave himself over to the explosion of ecstasy that rocked through him.
It took seemingly forever until he felt strong enough to move a muscle. Any muscle. Sam stirred under him. Sighing, she let go of his arm. “Oh, God.”
“Yeah.” He muffled his groan against her neck, then, after a second, lifted his head. “I think I just died.”
She raised her eyebrows and half turned her head to him. “Is that a good thing?”
“Oh yeah.” Smirking, he pulled himself out of her and rolled onto his back. Hand over his eyes, he drew her close against him and pulled her leg over his hips. Nothing like having part of her weight on him as she cuddled up to him. He released a contented sigh.
She placed her head on his shoulder and her fingers tickled his chest as she ran them through his chest hair. “I’m gonna sleep for nine hours straight now.”
“Right there with you.” He brushed his hand through her hair, the caress lazy. “How about we spend all day in bed tomorrow.” What a thought.
“If only.” She sighed and leaned her chin on his shoulder.
Damn Aschen. If it weren’t for them, they could do that. “Oh for cryin’ out loud, let’s take over Powhatan and bury their damn gate. Problem solved if they can’t get here anymore.”
Her breath caressed his cheek as she released a warm laugh. “We’d have to bury ours, too. And stop gate travel for the foreseeable future. Besides, their ships would be here within a year.”
“Bummer.” He closed his eyes. “Would solve a lot of problems.”
“So it would.” She lay her head down on his shoulder again. Then suddenly she tensed. “Unless.” She sat up.
Jack opened his eyes and raised his eyebrows at her.
She stared at the tent wall, then at him. “Oh my God, Jack. You’re a genius.”
“I am?” What the hell had just happened?
She scrambled out of their sleeping bag and opened the drape to collect her clothes from the floor.
“Carter?” Reluctantly, he sat up.
“I have an idea.”
“Now?” He slapped his palms across his face. Damn. Next time, double orgasm. Triple. Enough to make her fall asleep right afterwards from exhaustion. “Can’t this wait until morning?”
“It’s the one thing the Aschen need to uphold their confederation of planets.”
He stared at her.
She shook her head. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of that before.”
“Think of what?”
But she’d already stormed out of the tent. Sighing, Jack reached for his shirt. So, no sleep yet after all. Hopefully, her idea—no, his idea, apparently—was worth it.