N.B. Before reading the final part of this story I just wanted to thank my beta, Nell, who has been so incredibly supportive and monumental in not only making this story what it is but also getting Starting Over entered with Fanfic. If it weren't for you, Nell, this wouldn't be happening. I'd also like to thank all of you readers who have stayed the course and given such unwavering encouragement - cheers!

Starting Over Part 9 (Conclusion)

She was pacing. It seemed like forever that she had been moving backwards and forwards at the foot of the stairs, but finally she heard the door opening and closing and saw the CMO begin to descend.

"You've no need to look like that," Janet spoke crisply, "he's going to survive, no thanks to his mule-headed obstinacy!"

But seeing Sam's panic stricken face, Janet's severe expression melted away and she merely shook her head in consternation.

"He will be the cause of an early grave for me unless I make it abundantly clear I'm unwilling to go down that road!" And taking pity on the wide, anguished blue eyes watching her every move, she smiled. "Steri-strips have done the trick combined with a rather abrasive pep talk on what will happen to one particular Air Force colonel if he insists on ignoring my orders."

Janet moved to the kitchen and started to make some coffee.

"I've left him contemplating his navel and the strong possibility of a very painful procedure in his nether regions if I so much as get a hint that he isn't resting."

Janet grinned at the major's startled expression.

"The softly, softly approach doesn't work on our irascible colonel, I've found from bitter experience, so I've given him a taste of the short, sharp shock treatment and if his expression, when I left, is anything to go by, I'm of the opinion it will be a smooth ride from here on in."

Swirling the sugar round with a teaspoon, she handed a mug over, cradling the remaining one in two hands, her eyes alight with mischief as she continued to observe Sam over the rim of the mug.

"Well, I have to say you're looking a darn sight happier than I've seen you in a long time."

Blue eyes practically danced in response and Janet's senses went on high alert as she grabbed her friend's arm and eagerly led her to the comfort of the sofa.

"Come on – spill it, Sam."

Janet watched her friend closely.

"There's nothing to tell," and then seeing Janet's look she grinned widely, her eyebrows rising high in obvious amusement.

"Well?"

Unable to sustain the suspense any longer and unwilling to prolong the CMO's agony (she was known to have a long memory and even longer needles!) Sam stared joyously at her friend. "I'm really back – I'm back with SG-1."

Janet's eyes blazed with elation as she returned her mug to the coffee table.

"And did I ever doubt this outcome?" she scoffed, rolling her eyes expressively.

"You have got to be kidding!" Sam cried dryly, "Not with my colonel."

"Your colonel, eh?" Janet's eyebrows rose high

Dropping her gaze, bright colour suffusing her cheeks, Sam concentrated hard on her half mug of coffee.

"You know what I mean," she said offhandedly, working hard at appearing relaxed.

Janet wasn't fooled for a second and as her eyes narrowed she pierced the major with a laser glare.

"Nooooooo, don't think I do, Sam. Tell me – all of it!"

Ready to depart in a well-satisfied frame of mind, the doctor was making a last check on her patient before making for home.

Entering the colonel's bedroom, she settled a stern look on her features – wouldn't do to let him know just how good a time she'd been having.

Having done the usual blood pressure and temperature checks she looked down on Jack with a severe scowl.

"Remember what I said, Colonel – you are grounded to that bed for the next 24 hours, your only reason for getting up being the bathroom – and you will call for assistance at such times."

Seeing that look of 'No way in hell' reflected in dark brown eyes, Janet paused, her own eyes narrowing determinedly.

Jack had been working to keep his face impassive under the litany of instructions but when Janet had thrown in that last impossible demand, he had baulked, his angry eyes revealing his disgust.

Crossing her arms, Janet fixed him with a steely glare.

"Any problems with that, Colonel?" she demanded dryly.

Silence in which Jack looked anywhere but at the CMO.

Reaching out, Janet took a firm hold of Jack's chin.

"I'd like an answer to that question, sir," she demanded, turning his face to her, demanding and getting through sheer will power that he look at her.

She saw it all – irritation, anger, obstinacy. But among all those negatives which drove her and her staff to the limits of their patience and back, she caught the vulnerability which he hated along with his loss of independence. She steeled herself, now was not the time to give in – lord though she wanted to, when seeing the pain he tried so hard to conceal.

Releasing her hold on him, she came and sat on the bed.

"I don't think you need to worry about Major Carter's sensibilities here, sir."

She watched as Jack frowned, and a hint of amusement touched her lips.

"Simply walking you to the bathroom is nothing compared to what she did for you when you were first brought back to the SGC."

Alarmed, dark eyes shot up to hers.

"What in hell does that mean?" he snapped.

Janet slowly rose to her tired feet. It had been a long day, made all the longer by this stubborn, bad-tempered officer. She decided a further lesson was definitely due.

"Colonel O'Neill, when it comes to sponge baths and ice tubs there is very little left to the imagination."

She was ready for his protest, though the deep blush rising up his neck did make her blink. She held both hands up, palms out.

"My staff and I are well aware of maintaining the dignity of the patient, Colonel, but you were the one kicking up a fuss when we tried to get Sam to leave – I have Lt. Kelly with a swollen cheek and Lt. Storm with a wrenched shoulder – they tried maintaining your dignity, Sir! In the end it was easier to make Sam an honorary nurse."

"Aw, crap." Jack groaned in dismay allowing his head to fall into his hands. "Don't tell me, I don't want to hear this."

Janet's grin was sweetly innocent though the gleam in her eye belied her smile.

"You're lucky, Colonel. Sam's a fast learner. And should I ever be short handed when it comes to dealing with your injuries – and I do seem to have a shortfall of nurses when you have an extended stay in my infirmary – I know I can always rely on Major Carter to help out."

Janet could barely contain her laughter as she walked to his door.

"She's certainly a dab hand with a Foley."

The roar of indignation followed her all the way down the stairs and she was chortling to herself when she picked up her medical bag and grabbed her keys.

Noticing her smug look, Sam slanted blue eyes up at her quizzically.

"You look like the cat who's got the cream."

"You could be right there, Sam…Well, that's me for the day – call if you have any other problems, though I don't expect you to have any more crises. The most you should expect is a call to help the patient make the walk to the bathroom."

Sam's eyebrows shot up almost to her hairline.

"Oh, he'll love that," she said sarcastically.

"Funnily enough, I really don't think he'll have any problems with it, but if he does start forgetting that he's the patient and you're in control – just whisper 'catheter' in his ear."

"Wha—at?" Sam sounded horrified.

"Trust me," chortled Janet coyly, elaborating no further as she mumbled words to the effect that Cassie would be giving her what for if she didn't get a move on.

One week later Jack had just been cleared for light duties and was punching the air with a triumphant fist following the ordeal of one of Dr. Fraiser's more thorough physicals. With a self-satisfied grin plastered across his face, he was just reaching for his BDUs when Janet stepped behind the screen once more.

"Whoa, Doc!" Jack twisted nimbly to hide his rear view in the hated medical smock. "Give a guy a warning, won't you?"

"That's exactly what I am doing, Colonel," she returned dryly.

Jack frowned. "I don't follow your drift."

The small CMO smiled a little too brightly sending a slight tremor of apprehension down his bare spine.

"Doc?"

"It appears that General Hammond is awaiting your presence, Colonel, and he isn't expecting you in those," she said eyeing his standard uniform.

Jack's eyes widened, first in disbelief and then in alarm.

"Oh crap."

"He told me to tell you 0900 hours would be fine."

Jack's eyes shot to his wristwatch and he spluttered incredulously, "Ten minutes?"

Nonchalantly, Janet looked at her own watch. "Actually, sir, I make it nine."

Groaning in frustration, Jack grabbed his BDUs in one hand whilst attempting to retain his dignity in holding the edges of the gown at the rear with his other and limped hurriedly away to his quarters, with Janet smiling and shaking her head all the while.

Parade ground attention wasn't one of Jack's usual choice of stances, but he stood before General Hammond unmoving, and if the senior officer had chosen to raise his head from the sheaf of papers he was so carefully perusing, he would have been impressed with his 2IC's military demeanour. It smacked of precision and discipline.

Jack was kept waiting intentionally for a good ten minutes until General Hammond felt he had made a point with his recalcitrant officer. Then raising eyes which lacked the usual twinkle of warmth, Hammond stared hard at his most favourite officer.

"At ease, Airman."

Jack knew, all too well, this wasn't a by your leave to relax and take a seat. He adopted the strict regulation 'at ease' position, his eyes on a point just over his C.O.'s right shoulder.

"Why are you here, Colonel?"

Jack blinked at the softly spoken question.

'Sir, you-."

The general held up his hand and Jack's words werehalted full flow.

Hammond's light blue eyes travelled his 2IC's stern features, well aware of the gaunt angles in the still too pale face.

"Colonel O'Neill, I want you to think very carefully before you speak because," and here his eyes turned a frozen grey, "if you choose to give me one of your flippant answers, I assure you that the time you spend in your Class A's will be doubled."

'Crap.' Jack could feel a trickle of sweat beginning to make its way down his right temple, whilst his injured stomach muscles were making themselves felt in an unpleasant way. His brain was in scramble mode as it sought ways to extricate itself from the dilemma of one extremely irate general. He took a deep breath.

"I'm here to receive my punishment, Sir."

The two-star general was still glaring.

'Ugh oh – he wants more.' Jack frantically tried to think of something which would change his CO's look.

"And I'm here foremost to apologise." 'No change. Hell!' "Apologise big time!... I had no right…" And seeing Hammond's eyes burning hotly, "and especially, no reason, to say what I did. Whatever you decide to throw at me, I'll take without complaint, General." 'Agh, thank goodness, I think I detect a slight twitch to the general's shoulders… wish I could say the same for mine.'

Jack attempted to ease his position without moving – it didn't work. And still he waited and still the general chose to pierce him with his glare, though Jack was now positive there was a thawing of the icy barbs coming his way.

"Tell me, Colonel. How would you describe your actions when you addressed me prior to gateing to PX325530?"

Jack grimaced – this was so not a place he wanted to be right now.

"Inappropriate?..Asinine?...Blatantly juvenile?"

Hammond's eyes flashed.

'Bingo!' Jack patted himself figuratively on the back. 'Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad.'

It was at that point he saw his CO's eyes looking distinctly predatory.

'Or not!'

"Notwithstanding my keen inclination to march you to the nearest wood shed and find the supplest switch available…"

Jack felt his neck and face flushing violently, unable to meet the general's stare.

"…that is not an option open to me!"

Jack was aghast.

"However, it is well within my powers to confine you to base for the next two weeks, effective immediately."

The junior officer's eyes dropped to hide his distress.

Hammond ploughed on. "You will continue to wear your Class A's for that period and will report to my office every hour on the hour that I'm on base. Between times, you will deal with every requisition form conceived of in this man's Air Force and at the end of each week prepare a run down of all such requests."

Jack's already pale features were turning a distinct grey and at last the head of the SGC allowed himself the hint of a smile to touch his lips.

"Would you say the punishment is appropriate to the crime, Colonel O'Neill?"

What could he say? He forced his dull eyes to meet the general's clear blue ones.

"Most appropriate, sir."

The general, like everyone else on Cheyenne Mountain, knew how much Jack loathed paperwork of every type and description, but requisition forms had to be the worst of all.

He stifled a groan. 'Two weeks, two whole weeks of purgatory!' He shuddered, unable to hide his discomfort. Yet, as his disquiet grew the general's mood seemed to lighten considerably. In fact, the general's expression looked more than satisfied as he stared at his recalcitrant 2IC.

"Dismissed, Colonel."

Jack blinked, for a moment unmoving, and then slowly hewalked to the door. Hesitating, he turned his head to find his CO still watching him, his expression no longer icy.

"I…I really am sorry, Sir." And then he'd gone, leaving the general shaking his head in perplexity.

Two months later and all four members of SG1 had just exited the event horizon to another new planet.

Daniel was already gazing fixedly on a large edifice half a kilometre away whilst the remaining three surveyed their surroundings carefully.

"You're drooling, Daniel – close your mouth," Jack ordered, the laughter in his eyes hidden behind his shades.

Sam shook her head, giving her CO a patented 'behave yourself' look and set off in the lead to ensure their enthusiastic archaeologist didn't fall into any hidden trap awaiting an unsuspecting and overly eager explorer.

Jack was just about to follow when he felt Teal'c's gaze on him and he turned to the large dark warrior.

"What's on your mind, Teal'c?"

The Jaffa dropped his head to the side, still keeping Jack in his vision.

"It is a good day, is it not, O'Neill?"

The silver-haired officer observed the tall warrior with his gold emblem forever a reminder of his bitter past. Jack had plenty of his own visible and invisible emblems to remind him of his past but, just like Teal'c, he now had something to look forward to, something tangible, something that happened to look over her shoulder at that very moment, giving him one of those brilliant smiles which he knew was just for him.

Stepping off the dais, he clapped a hand on Teal'c's shoulder, following his colleagues.

"Damned right, Teal'c, damned right."

FIN