Can I take this opportunity to thank all of you who have read and reviewed this story. particularly those (and you know who you are) who have faithfully given their support throughout. It is so very much appreciated; I'm totally over the moon with all the attention this story has received!
I just thought I'd also attempt, with the aid of my incredible beta, Nell, to clarify one of the points of contention early on in this story as it is again raised in this chapter. A number of you queried the 'order' from Jack that Sam shouldn't go off world and his subsequent 'unfair' punishment. I may not have made Jack's order a direct one, but when in chapter one he summarily dismissed her from the coming mission stating she would have downtime, that was meant at least as an indirect order. If you're still not convinced, I'm sorry; I'll try harder next time.
Suppression Chapter 12
He was sulking; there was no other way to describe it. And as Sam efficiently set up camp at a safe distance from the edge of the drop, Jack prowled back and forth, every now and again toggling his radio and speaking to Daniel and Teal'c who by now were well out of sight, lost among the trees and vegetation which grew in abundance, but which, for some obscure reason did not spread to the plain they were on.
His stony features and stiff back were testimony enough to his bad temper, but when Sam held out a couple of Advil for him to take he growled angrily,
"I don't need your damned pills, Carter!"
"They aren't mine, sir. And I for one would be willing to take anything which might minimize the effects of an illness before Janet got involved."
She continued to hold out her upturned palm with the requisite medication. He continued to glare until, with a muffled curse, he snatched them from her hand and dry swallowed them.
"Satisfied?" he snapped crankily, but turned away dismissively before she could offer a reply.
In the end, tiredness won out and he'd settled himself out on the ground, using his pack as back support, his eyes constantly scanning the route the other half of SG-1 had taken even knowing it was a futile undertaking.
The gentle shaking alerted him to the fact that he'd been sleeping, and he wiped a hand over his face in an attempt to shake away his lethargy, but in reality checking that there was no drool on his chin. He found Sam crouched next to him, a cup of coffee extended. Reaching for it gratefully, he nodded his thanks, sipping on the strong brew while noting the addition of extra sugar. He raised an eyebrow.
"Extra energy, Sir."
He grunted, yet despite his lack of enthusiasm Sam was relieved to see that he continued to drink the liquid.
She was still crouched down next to him, sipping on her own drink. She turned her head, the blues of her eyes sapphire-like in the afternoon sun. He was glad she wasn't wearing her headgear so that he had access to her expressions. For the same reason, he was more than happy to be wearing his own peaked cap.
At the moment she was looking at him with a quizzical expression, waiting patiently.
'Get on with it, O'Neill.' he ordered himself. He coughed hoping to ease the tension both in his chest and in the air.
"I'm not one for apologies, you know me," he mumbled, "but I...I...well I didn't want to-."
Thinking she was easing the difficulty somewhat, Sam interrupted Jack's inarticulate ramblings. "It's okay, Sir. I know you were upset when I went off world and got taken prisoner."
For a nano-second, Jack wondered what Sam was saying, but the instant his brain got round her words his whole body jerked up and his dark eyes flashed fire.
"If you think for one minute I'm apologizing for reaming you out for disobeying my order to be on downtime until our next mission, then think again, Carter," he ground out savagely. "You're damned well lucky I didn't break you down to-!"
"Jack, this is Daniel. Come in."
Closing her eyes in silent prayer, Sam breathed a sigh of relief as the Colonel toggled the radio at his collar, reminding herself never to assume she knew what he was going to say.
There was an all too obvious pause on the other end of the radio, ensuring that Jack knew Daniel had picked up on his current mood.
"Er...nothing much to report actually. Um, what about you?"
"Dammit, Daniel, what's your status!"
Uh oh. This was, Daniel understood all too well, one very badly pissed-off head of SG-1 and he couldn't help but grimace in sympathy for Sam who was the only one there to bear the brunt of Jack's temper.
He decided that playing obtuse, no matter how tempting, wouldn't help Sam so he relayed the information, little that there was, about the temple and that they would be retracing their steps very shortly once he'd finished videoing the outer walls of the temple's courtyard.
"Whoever built this place is long gone, Jack. There's no sign of any form of recent habitation so it's hard to tell when this place was in fact in use. Once I get back to the SGC I may be able to decipher the markings I've found here but at the moment I'm in the dark."
"So a wasted journey."
"I wouldn't go that far."
"Wouldn't you?" Jack was in no mood for playing the part of appeaser. "Very well. Maintain contact every half hour. I'll expect you back by... 15.30. Over."
"Roger that, Jack. Over and out."
Wasting no time, Sam was taking this opportunity to take samples of the soil and carry out some basic tests with the equipment at hand, but it didn't stop her from taking surreptitious looks at her CO who was all too obviously unable to relax as he lay on the ground drinking his coffee. It was the third time he'd checked his watch and she could almost hear his brain turning and just as one hand was reaching to toggle his radio, Daniel's breathless voice broke in quieter than usual.
"Daniel? Is everything okay?"
"Yes, everything's fine."
"Then why are you late reporting in?"
Sam could imagine Daniel's eyes rolling to the sky seeking wisdom for his reply to Jack's interruption. The intermission was certainly long enough to warrant this idea.
Sam cringed. It was Daniel at his most exasperated.
"...my one minute lapse in keeping to Air Force time might just possibly be due to the fact that Teal'c and I are hiking up an almost vertical face of a mountain getting back to you! It's hot, with almost one hundred percent humidity and oh, yes, did I mention it's hot?"
If it hadn't been for a coughing fit, Sam was pretty sure Daniel might very well have been on the receiving end of one of her CO's most acerbic retorts, but as it was, he waved her to end the transmission.
"Is he okay?" This time the archaeologist sounded concerned.
Aware that she was being watched, Sam simply answered. "He'll be fine. Out."
She could still feel herself under his scrutiny as she returned to her samples, aware that her mind wasn't on what she was doing anymore. And what was worse, she could feel a definite blush creeping up her neck.
'Please God, don't let him see that.'
"You okay, Carter?"
She closed her eyes and muttered a word her father wouldn't have approved of, then plastering a fake smile on her features, she stood up and faced the reclining figure.
"It's just that you were looking kind of..." he paused, realizing the word he was about to use was again inappropriate.
"I'm good...And you?" If anything were to take his mind off her blush it would be asking him about his own health. He hated mothering of any kind.
Yes. There was the frown. Mission accomplished. She gave herself a figurative pat on the back turning away, knowing he had no intention of answering her.
"I never meant to push you away."
She froze. Had she heard correctly?
As if in slow motion she turned back, her eyes wide.
He was sitting up now, toying with the tin mug in his hands, every so often throwing her a look which was almost impossible to decipher, except he seemed to be...No. No way. Sam's eyes had grown even larger as she observed her CO.
Jack O'Neill, Colonel, United States Air Force, accomplished black ops agent, master tactician and notable evader of anything to do with paperwork as well as equally impressive pain-in-the-ass to his superior officers and here he was, looking like he was facing - for want of a better analogy - a Goa'uld snake for blending. She gave herself a mental shake and adopting her most amenable expression of candidness, she drew nearer to him.
Dark eyes flickered to meet hers and then just as quickly skittered away. A withdrawn smile touched his lips and just as quickly disappeared.
He raised his free hand as if to wave her away, returning to lie back against his pack, closing his eyes to back up his dismissal of her, but for once Sam decided her intuition deserved attention.
"I think maybe we both did a little pushing."
It was Jack's turn to feel the uncomfortable flush color his face and right now he would have done a lot to not be in this position, but at the same time he knew it was now or never for dealing with this issue. Hammond was expecting something from him.
Wiping a hand over his tired face, he grimaced in discomfort. "If I ...er...in anyway indicated any kind of ...well...inappropriate conduct..." It was too much and he fell silent.
Unable to comprehend just what he was attempting to articulate yet desperate to hear what he had to say, Sam pushed even knowing it wouldn't be well received.
"Colonel, what sort of inappropriate conduct are we talking about here?"
The look he gave her would have singed the hide off a bull elephant; she blinked, feeling the heat.
"Well, you tell me, Carter," he demanded testily, "because you sure as hell made a strong case against me."
Hackles raised, he was no longer capable of offering an explanation for something he hadn't done. He was smarting from the injustice and was not pleased to be facing this unpleasant situation and no doubt his fever ensured his patience was at zero tolerance level.
Confused before, Sam was now utterly perplexed. "Me?" she repeated indignantly.
The show of innocence was too much for Jack to take.
"Heard with my own two ears, Major. You know what; I never took you for a liar, Carter?"
"What? What?" Now Sam was beginning to get annoyed.
"You heard me with your own two ears? Sir, I think maybe your fever is having more of an effect on your faculties than you-."
Eyes flashing volcanic anger, Jack pushed himself up as he parroted,
"Quote... I know he has these strong feelings for me but it's no good, I just don't feel the same...unquote. Does memory serve you well now, Carter? 'Cos I sure as hell heard you saying those very words about me in your office."
It was like a switch had been turned and the thick fog that had been occupying a large part of her brain disappeared in a meteoric explosion to be replaced by a flash of memory and with it came cold comprehension.
All the jigsaw pieces which had been swirling around for so long were, with the waving of a colonel's magic wand, instantly in place - the puzzle solved.
"You overheard me saying that to Janet?" she demanded quietly, ominously so.
Jack didn't respond, but that answered one of his own questions.
By now Sam had adopted her own annoyed persona and the fact that she was facing down her own CO didn't even enter into the equation.
Coldly, she stated baldly, "If you must know, Sir, you overheard me talking to Janet about Major Wilkinson."
Jack's stone-faced demeanour began to waver.
"Wilkinson? Steve Wilkinson?"
The mug's contents in his hands suddenly took on some interesting delineations in his mind and he gave a lot of attention to them.
"So...you were discussing Wilkinson. Major Wilkinson." It wasn't a question.
Sam remained icily silent; her hands fisting open and closed as she felt the build-up of an anger that threatened to explode with spectacular results.
Closing her eyes against the spiking headache that lanced through her temples, she tried to work through the tide of events which had followed that moment when she had opened up to her friend and explained that attempting any sort of relationship with another man was absolutely hopeless when she had feelings for...
Her eyes shot open. She'd always thought that the Colonel had overheard her saying she had feelings for him but now it seemed he had misinterpreted what she'd said about Steve, putting himself in the other officer's place. Of all the stupid, senseless, idiotic...
Brushing a hand through her hair, she glared at her CO with unmitigated irritation.
"Carter?" All his bluster had evaporated into thin air and he was left, feeling about as sure of himself as a fox facing a pack of snarling bloodhounds.
She had endured the ignominy of being reprimanded not only by her CO, but by her father to boot; she had suffered doing work which was both mind-boringly numb but which also prevented her from doing any work which she loved; and to add insult to injury she had put in for a transfer that would take her away from everything she loved in life. And why was this?
Her nostrils flared as she tried to prevent herself from hyperventilating as she faced down the man at her feet who was struggling to keep his dignity when it had all but smashed into smithereens.
"Permission to speak freely, Sir!" she rasped, ice-blue eyes boring into him.
"Hi guys, we're back...Phew, never thought we'd make it. Did you Teal'c?"
Blissfully unaware for the moment of the violent atmosphere he had invaded, Daniel hauled himself over the last step of the incline bending over to take in some well-needed gulps of oxygen. Swiping off his cap, he continued to breathe in while Teal'c stood next to him, watching the scene before him. No one spoke.
Aware now that something wasn't quite right, Daniel raised his head and squinted through his glasses.
"I repeat, hi guys, we're back if you haven't noticed."
No one moved. It was as if time was standing still.
"Er...Jack, Sam. Hello, anyone at home? We are back, having been force marched all the way through steaming, snake-infested jungle just knowing that we would receive a hero's welcome. Isn't that right, Teal'c?"
A distinct frown now marred the archaeologist's forehead as his eyes moved round the frozen scene.
"I for one enjoyed the walk, Daniel Jackson."
"Are we interrupting anything here?"
It was Sam who broke eye contact first. Spinning on her heel, she marched back to her equipment, stooped down and instantly got caught up in her work. Daniel followed her, his frown growing larger.
"You get what you wanted, Daniel?"
The young linguist swung back to the head of SG-1.
"Er, yes. Yes, we did...Um...is everything alright here?" he asked innocently, aware that the opposite was in fact the case.
"Couldn't be better."
(Chapter 13 to follow)