Author: Ted Sadler
Summary: Jack's reaction to the worst possible news.
Spoilers: Season 7 "Chimera" (well, just a bit anyway)
Author's notes: The prospect of the BWC episode is driving me away from the whole show. This is my final word on the subject.
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2003 Ted Sadler
What Just Happened There?
"Enter!" cried the Colonel, after a hesitant knock on his office door. He looked up from his laptop and saw his favourite Major approaching somewhat hesitantly. "Hello, Carter. What can I do for you this bright and sunny day? Not that we actually see.. But you know what I mean."
"Sir!" replied Sam, her formal stance covering the inner nervousness she hoped she could prevent from showing. "I, er, have some news for you and the team."
"Yes, what would that be?" replied Jack, smiling up at her, his fingers still poised above the keyboard. "I don't want to hurry you, but you know that we're starting the mission planning meeting in," he glanced at his watch "twenty two minutes."
Sam briefly closed her eyes, recognising that he really had no clue what was coming, and that she had no way to avoid inflicting the hurt that she knew he would feel. She took a deep breath, and started the fateful, well- rehearsed sentence somewhat more hurriedly than she'd ever intended. "I'm resigning from the SGC, sir. I've. Well, I've met someone and I've realised that I want a life outside the service and to settle down and have children and pursue other interests outside the military and maybe get a university teaching job and do stuff like that and I'm sorry I'm letting the team down and especially your, sir, and I hope one day you'll forgive me and you know it's been impossible between us and I do hope you'll see my side of it, sir and I know I'm letting down my friends."
She had to pause for breath at this point, but ceasing to gush was the right thing to do now. The unexpected followed.
"Very well, Major. I'm pleased for you. Congratulations!" said Jack, standing up smiling and offering her a handshake across the desk, which she unthinkingly responded to. "Well, this certainly changes things. No doubt you'll let everyone know when your celebration party will be. Now, if you'll forgive me, this means I'll have to reorganise a few things straight away. Congratulations again, Major! I'm sure it's the right thing for you and... whoever. I'll miss working with you. Dismissed!"
As she stood there in shock, he picked up the telephone and punched in General Hammond's number. And as she slowly turned and started to leave the room, her shock turned to disbelief at his next words. "General? O'Neill here, sir. Major Carter has resigned and I'll need a replacement on SG-1 straight away. Someone who can handle themselves and do the science stuff. Yes, sir. I was thinking Lieutenant Hailey too, and having Teal'c officially as my 2IC. Be a good career move for her, and she looks like she can put up with the rest of us quite well. She definitely likes Daniel. Yes, sir, I'll talk to her straight away and if she's up for it, she can join this morning's planning session. Thank you, sir. Yes, I appreciate that you'll inform her current commander. I'll square it away with him later."
As Sam stood in the corridor outside his door, she had expected to feel relieved that the big moment had passed. Instead, she was confused and slowly becoming angry, whether with herself or *him*, she was not sure. How *dare* he not be upset or even just annoyed with her? Had she not meant anything more to him? O'Neill's voice punctuated her thoughts as she tried to decide what to do next. "Oh, Major, if you're still there, don't forget to schedule a session with Lieutenant Hailey to bring her up to speed with the experiments you're currently running in your lab. Safety first, now!"
As she slowly walked away along the corridor, he leaned out of his office doorway and added, "Oh, you should still attend this morning's meeting, Carter. Make sure Hailey's getting off on the right foot."
'Speechless' was the term covering her reply.
The normality of the planning meeting contrasted so much with her new situation that Sam was having difficulty paying attention to Daniel's presentation. Opportunities like the one on the planet currently designated P1S-5ED were indeed rare: a chance to forge an alliance, however uneasy, with a Goa'uld who was by all accounts a total outcast from others of his kind. She kept looking at O'Neill, who for once was the consummate professional - attentive, alert, making constructive points and helping to put the new team member at ease by gentle humour. His immediate misinterpretation and deliberate lewd misuse of the planet's designation had made even her smile herself.
"I have not heard of this particular Goa'uld myself." said Teal'c. "But that is no surprise. I am more familiar with those of Egyptian origin, and know relatively little of the others. Why is he a 'Sholva' to the other system Lords?"
"How can I best explain?" replied Daniel. "To put it delicately, he is what you might term one of the 'Gay Goa'ulds'. That puts him at odds with the macho / hetero / sadistic philosophy of the rest. Information given to us by the Tok'ra." He paused briefly as the Colonel snorted in derision. "... suggests that he was ostracised for wanting to make tea for his conquests rather than exterminate them. Clearly not on a career path for world domination. The only thing he appears to have in common with them is his penchant for cross-dressing."
The right eyebrows of both Teal'c and Jack rose together: synchronised swimmers could not have bettered the co-ordination. "So, what do we get for befriending...? What's his name? Apart from a cup of Lapsang Souchong?" asked Jack.
"Access to Goa'uld weapons and shield technology." replied Daniel. "With the possibility of borrowing a Mothership for inspection and the occasional joy-ride."
Despite herself, Sam sat up as the irresistible lure of the technology she had spent years pursuing seemed to be within reach. "Wow! That's the biggest step forward we could make this century! I can finally get to work on a Goa'uld hyperdrive and..." Her words petered out as she recognised the context of her new situation.
"I'm sure the Lieutenant is capable of maintaining the momentum of your work, Major." said Jack calmly. He looked to Hailey for a response.
"Yes, sir." she replied. "It'll take me a few weeks to come up to speed, though, as Major Carter has been looking at areas of technology that I've only been minimally involved in. But I'm sure I'll get hold of it pretty quickly."
"Sir!" interjected Carter. "I'm fully aware of the Lieutenant's skills and ability, but realistically, even with her talent, it'll take her a year or two to get to where we need to be in retro-engineering our own systems based on what we find. I should come on this mission."
"Well, if you insist, Major, I'm sure that General Hammond will authorise it." said Jack. "But we don't want to keep you away from the white picket fence now, do we? Just this one mission, then. Your main responsibility will be to assist the Lieutenant in taking over your former role. Agreed?"
Sam's immediate desire was to argue further, but she suddenly knew that this was not the time. "Yes, sir."
In a rather more heightened state of alert than usual, the five members of SG-1 arrived through the wormhole in an ornate entrance hall, the walls and ceiling simply dripping with pink and gold décor and embellishments. The single figure before them was, at least for the women of the team, a stunning example of manhood - bare-chested, bronzed, rippling muscles, and dressed only in a leather loincloth. His pink sneakers were however, at odds with the rest of his image. They approached cautiously, the Colonel leading. He came to a halt two metres in front of the man and waited, matching the stare he was getting.
"Ooh, hallo! I'm Julian." said the man. "You must be Jack. I've heard so much about you, you know. All of it an underestimate, I'm sure." Looking round, he continued, "Oh! Teal'c. You're every bit as handsome as your 'Wanted' posters. And you must be Daniel. So good to see you're back in the flesh." He glanced peremptorily at the rest of the team. "Hello girls." he said, merely nodding at them, before turning alongside the Colonel and hooking his arm through Jack's, ushering him forward. Carter and Hailey exchanged expressions of mild annoyance but remained silent.
"I'm so pleased you could come. My Lord Obadiah has just gone to slip into something more comfortable and will welcome you in the Hall of Libations. You know, make you feel at home. Help you cement our new relationship."
"Er, thanks, I think." said Jack uncertainly, still looking round cautiously as they walked through the palatial corridors.
"One thing I think I should warn you about." explained Julian as they moved along. "My Lord only respects those who can reply equally well to the meaningful quotations that he sprinkles most conversations with. I'm sure you have the talent, though." he continued, rolling his eyes at Jack.
"That would be Daniel's department." replied Jack quickly, unable to detach Julian's arm from his.
"Gee, thanks Jack!" sighed Daniel, trying and failing to think of a single example. Had he looked round at that moment, he wouldn't have failed to notice the smirks on the faces of the other three.
They entered a large circular chamber, in the centre of which was a gilded throne covered in what seemed like white ostrich feathers. A small, exquisitely groomed man with blond curly hair sat staring at them, and waved graciously as Julian bowed low in front of him. O'Neill was content just to take his cap off and nod in the direction of the emperor / god / supreme ruler / despot.
"Oh great one," said Julian, rising to stand again. "I present you the famous Tau'ri warriors, O'Neill and Jackson, the Jaffa Teal'c and their maidens-at-arms."
Knowing the expressions of pent-up resentment that would be on the women's faces, Jack interrupted. "Actually, being a 'maiden-at-arms' is a revered position back on Earth. Although I must correct you on one point, Julian. Major Carter is a senior and well-respected member of that profession, and her title is more significant than that." He looked across and smiled at Sam, who gave a polite, fleeting mini-smile in return. "She is in fact a 'Matron-at-Arms'." The mini-smile was immediately replaced with a maxi- glare. Jack knew that at some time in the near future he was going to be dead meat, but he couldn't have resisted anyway.
"Enough!" cried Obadiah, waving his hand in a leisurely circular motion. "The man who may gaze upon a deity is doubly blessed."
Jack looked nonplussed until Julian whispered "Respond!" to him.
"A cat may look at a king." he replied, voicing the first and only saying that came to mind.
"The true voice of stillness is beneath the clouds of happenstance." said Obadiah, who then paused expectantly. Julian silently motioned for Jack to reply.
"How many roads must a man walk down?" Jack retorted, much to the amusement of his own party, except for Teal'c. However, it seemed to please their host.
"The wind from the summer quarter is silent only to those who listen."
Jack looked at Daniel in desperation, only to find an innocent expression on his friend's unresponsive face. He stumbled on. "The, er, hockey puck of destiny flies fastest across smooth ice." A benign smile lit up Obadiah's face.
"There's none so blind as those who will not see."
"Hey, I was going to say that!" cried Jack.
"Had you going for a while, though, didn't I?" said Obadiah with a chuckle. "There's not many that can play this game. Would you like a cup of tea?"
Ten days and two brief trips back to the SGC later, Carter and Hailey approached a very, very bored Colonel in the exotic palace gardens. They were chattering together excitedly as they approached, and he caught phrases like "hyperspace containment yoke" and "Lorentzian field contractor" as they got nearer. Their overalls, hands and faces were smeared with whatever passed for engine grease in Goa'uld machinery rooms.
"Yes, my warrior maidens?" asked Jack. "Please tell me you've got to a point where we can go home! No? Yes?"
"Nearly, sir." replied Sam. "Hailey's made a real breakthrough in understanding how we can apply their faster-than-light drive technology to our own X-303 engines. It's cut years of development off our program."
"Well done, Lieutenant." said Jack. "I'm glad we got the Major along to help you get a quick start in SG-1."
Sam's good mood evaporated instantly. Sensing that she and the Colonel needed to be alone, Hailey made an excuse about needing to get back to the job and departed hurriedly.
After an uncomfortable silence, Sam ventured, "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Always, Major, always."
"Well, it certainly hasn't felt that way since I told you about my future plans. You act like you never gave a damn about our relationship, and frankly I'm more upset about that than anything."
"You were the one who wanted to keep it in the room, Carter. And now you want to have your cake and eat it too! Well, I'm not blind. I knew you were getting in deep with the new boyfriend. If I'd meant something to you, you'd have broken the news to me some time ago, not leave it until it's all done and dusted. Well, I've moved on too."
"That's not fair! This act you've been putting on since my announcement is just that - an act. I'm sorry if I hurt you, but you're getting your own back by putting me through hell since then."
Jack's cold stare silenced her immediately. "Not an act, Carter - survival. Yes, you hurt me, and I knew something like this was coming. But I've had enough downsides in my life to know it goes one of two ways from here. Either I start again or I do what I didn't have the guts to do last time and put a bullet in my head. There's no third way this time. And if you think at my time of life I want to hang on for ever in the expectation that something nice might possibly happen one day, then think again. Anyway, I don't know why we're bothering with this conversation. You're out the door when we get back anyway. Have a nice life, Carter." He got up and started to walk away, but her next words stopped him.
"I asked General Hammond to take back my resignation. I'm not leaving."
"Ah! I knew the technology bug would get you. But it's going to be hard on Mr. Wonderful and your kids if you're never home. Good luck, Carter!" He turned on his heel again.
"Damn you, Jack!" she shouted. "I broke up with him three days ago when we were back home! And now I can't even stay on SG-1, thanks to you!"
He halted again. "Yes you can, Sam. I cleared it with Hammond on our last trip home as well. You're the new CO starting next mission. I'm out."
"What?" she cried. "What do you mean, 'out'?"
"Out, as in retired. Fishing. Hiking. Training a few SGC recruits. Talking to the Asgard. Proposing to the new woman in my life."
"Who?... When?" she stuttered, her ears ringing from the shock.
"Just someone I used to work with. This coming weekend, actually."
The sound of Sam's front doorbell raised her worst fears and most cherished hopes at the same time. She took a deep breath, smoothed down the dress she was wearing and opened the door.
Jack O'Neill stood smiling at her, offering a single red rose. As she took it from his hand, they simultaneously fell into each others arms and kissed passionately.
"You bastard, Jack." she mumbled into his mouth.
"I'll take that as a 'yes' then, shall I?"