|Open Window 2 : Two As One
Author: Aussie73 PM
Sequel to Open Window 1 : Consequences. Takes place several months after the last events of Book 1. Jack and Other. Need to read Book 1 to understand Book 2.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - J. O'Neill - Chapters: 5 - Words: 20,886 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 5 - Published: 04-09-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3485821
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
BOOK 2 – TWO AS ONE
Six months. Six months since Jack O'Neill had disappeared without trace. Six months since the last time she'd been held in his strong arms, felt his warm lips against hers, rolled her eyes at one of his sarcastic quips.
No more. She'd played his final message over and over until she thought even the computer was sick of hearing it. She knew he'd been more upset about Abydos than he'd let on – she should have made the stubborn man talk.
Malia knocked on her commanding officer's door. "Come in," he grumbled – since Jack's desertion, he'd gone through four replacement leaders for GT23 and this had put him in a worse mood than usual. The team just hadn't gelled the way it was beginning to under Jack's command, and they all felt his absence.
Malia strolled in. "You wanted to see me, sir?" she inquired, sinking into the chair in front of his desk.
"Yes – have a …". He shook his head with a wry smile. "Malia; would you like the chance to live on Earth for a time?"
She tilted her head. "Pardon?"
"Our government and that of the SGC have proposed that we exchange a team each to help cement the new alliance. If you agree, you'll live on Earth for at least a year, working with the SGC, whilst their team will take your place here."
"What about Tiressa? I'm not leaving her behind," Malia objected. "The Tauri Stargate's still a secret for much of the planet – it's not like there's a school for alien kids I can enroll her at." She blinked – that remark sounded remarkably like something Jack would say. Jack … Damn him.
"I wouldn't ask you to leave her behind, Malia," Tirol replied. He smiled slightly. "She wouldn't be the first alien child to live there – one of the SGC's doctors adopted a little girl from a planet called Hanka. And Tiressa's a clever girl – she'll understand not to say anything about being from another planet."
"I'll need to talk to her about this," Malia said. "She was very upset when Jack …" – she blinked away the moisture in her eyes – "when Jack left. I don't want to unsettle her again."
"Malia; I'm not just your commanding officer," Tirol said. "I'm your friend, too. How are you doing without him?"
"I miss him," she admitted, "but it hurts less each day." She clenched her fists. "I just hope whatever he's doing is worth it, because I'll beat ten kinds of griss out of him if I ever see him again."
Tirol gave a short laugh. "Good for you," he said approvingly. He opened a file. "Can you give me your decision by the end of the week?"
"Can do," Malia replied casually.
"Good. Now get out of here," Tirol said.
"Connection to Stargate Command established, Sub-Commandant," Altern Remia said. She grinned at her new commanding officer. "I'm looking forward to seeing this world," she added.
"I am too," Malia admitted, returning the grin. The younger woman had been one of the first to volunteer for the exchange – citing her curiosity about the Tauri. Tauri in general, or its soldiers?, Malia wondered. Whilst Remia was an intelligent young woman and a good officer, she seemed unusually preoccupied with men.
She activated the comdev. "This is Sub-Commandant Malia of Belrina calling Stargate Command. Come in, please."
There was a harsh burst of static, then a man with a peculiar accent – General Hammond, she presumed – replied, "This is the SGC; we're ready when you are. Please transmit your IDC."
Malia nodded to Remia then grasped her daughter's hand. "You ready, kiddo?" she said.
Tiressa put a finger in her mouth and nodded. "Yeah," she said, looking with wide eyes at the shimmering event horizon. "It's pretty, Mom," she added. "Will it hurt?"
"No, baby, but you might feel cold when we get to the other side. Don't be frightened. Have you got Jack?"
"Uh-huh." Tiressa clutched the big stuffed animal Jack had given her – he'd called it a 'dog' and had told her to name it something cool, not girlie. "Can we go, Mommy?"
Malia chuckled at her daughter's impatience then looked over to Tirol. He gave her a nod. "Stargate Command; we're coming through," she said. Then she took a deep breath and stepped through …
… onto a metal ramp surrounded by dozens of heavily armed soldiers. She looked down at Tiressa. "Okay there?" she asked.
"That was fun!" Tiressa giggled, dancing down the ramp and heading over to a portly man with little hair. "Hi!" she bubbled.
A tender smile appeared on the man's face. "Hello, young lady," he said in the peculiar accent Malia had heard earlier. "And you would be Sub-Altern …"
Tiressa laughed. "I'm just a kid," she said. "And I bet you're George."
He shook her hand gently. "That's right," he said. "You're very smart."
"Uh-huh," the little girl replied with a distinct lack of humility. "George … ya got any kids my age?"
"That's General Hammond, remember?" Malia said quickly. She stepped down the ramp and saluted him. "Sub-Commandant Malia. This is my daughter Tiressa."
"It's a pleasure to meet you at last, Sub-Commandant," the General replied, holding his hand out to her. "I've heard good things about you from SG-1 and your own CO."
"Thank you, sir," Malia said, deciding that she liked this man. "May I introduce the rest of my team?"
Then her mouth dropped open. "Malia?" she said, gaping at the woman who'd become her friend during the short time she'd been on Belrina. They'd seen each other a number of times since, but it had been six weeks since their last meeting. "It's your team that's swapped with SG-8?"
Malia smiled. "Surprise!" She tugged at the child hiding behind her. "Tiressa; this is Sam."
"Hi," the little girl said. "You're the one from Uncle Jack's picture."
Cute kid. "I am," she said, noting the pain that leapt into Malia's eyes at the mention of the Colonel. He'd left Belrina nearly seven months ago, after the destruction of Abydos, and no-one knew where he was now.
She sighed slightly. She'd made the conscious decision a while ago to let him go after seeing him with Malia, but that didn't mean she couldn't worry about him. She didn't love him – knew that they'd be a disaster together – but she cared for him. "Tiressa; you want to come to the commissary and get some food while your mom has her meeting?" she said.
"Do you got pilora?" the child asked, tucking a chubby hand into hers, much to her surprise. She'd not had much to do with kids, had never thought of herself as particularly maternal, but this chubby bundle was sure cute.
"Uh … I don't know," Sam said. "What is it?"
Malia chuckled. "You have it," she said. "Jack calls it Jell-O."
Ah. "We've got lots of it, kiddo," Sam said. "You ever tried blue … pilora?"
"Blue?" Tiressa crossed her eyes and made a disgusted face. "Sounds yucky."
"Trust me on this, kid; it's the greatest."
"Okay." The child beamed at her and tugged at her hand. "Can I go, Mom? Huh?"
"Of course," Malia said. "Have a good time, baby."
He and his Tok'ra allies – who'd'a thought, huh? – had 'gated to this dustbowl of a planet a couple days earlier and had set up camp in a dense forest to await the arrival of the snake-heads. "Know who these guys are, Jake?" he added.
Jacob Carter dipped his head then his eyes flashed, indicating that his snake … uh Selmak … was in control. Even after six months with these guys and everything they'd gone through together, that still freaked him out. "By their markings, I would surmise Cronus sect," Selmak replied. "They are far outside their usual territory, however."
"Probably taking advantage of the fact that we whupped Bastet's ass," Jack said, earning himself a grin from Malek and the rest. After six months of Jack's irreverent comments, the Tok'ra had loosened up considerably – probably given it up as a bad job.
"I agree with Jack," Arislet chimed in. She rarely joined in the banter that characterized this particular group, but her years of experience with the Tok'ra – she was even older than Selmak – made her invaluable. "By taking Bastet out of the picture, we have caused serious rifts to develop within the System Lords."
"Cool," Jack said. "Divide and conquer, guys; divide and conquer."
They held their collective breaths as the Jaffa troops tramped past them, then settled down when they realized that they hadn't been detected. "So … what now?" Jack asked as they broke out ration packs. Interesting galactic phenomenon – all MREs sucked.
"Vacation," Arislet said.
Everyone looked at her. "Say what?" Jacob asked.
"We have been fighting for six months," she replied. "We deserve a vacation, and I'm sure you would like to see Samantha again."
"It has been a while," Jacob said. "What about you, Jack? Want to come back to Earth for a bit?"
Jack mulled it over. He was desperate to see Malia and Tiressa again, but it had been so long – where had the time gone? She was a young beautiful woman – she didn't deserve for him to come back and toy with her emotions. Also, he'd be arrested and court martialed before he got two feet out of the Belrina Stargate. "Yeah," he decided. "Might be fun."
"Receiving Tok'ra IDC, sir," Sergeant Walter Harriman said.
Major General George S. Hammond frowned. It had been over six months since they'd heard from their allies, but news of their sudden aggressive stance against the Goa'uld had filtered to the SGC via other allies. In that short time, several Goa'ulds had lost their territory, including Apophis, Bastet, Yu and Camulus. Minor Goa'ulds were now seeking to take over this territory, splintering the System Lords even further.
Then a week ago, Jacob had contacted him, asking if he and a friend could come visit Earth for a short time – for R and R. Hammond had approved it immediately – besides Jacob being one of his friends, he was also Sam Carter's father.
"Open the iris, Sergeant," he said.
The iris slid open and two figures stepped out of the event horizon onto the metal ramp. "Stand down!" Hammond ordered the SFs. He headed out of the control room and into the embarkation room to greet his old friend. "Jacob," he said, putting out a hand to the retired General.
"George," Jacob returned, his smile showing more than a hint of mischief. "I believe you know my companion," he added.
The tall man accompanying Jacob pushed back the hood of his weave robe and smirked. "Hey, General," he said.
Jesus H. Christ! Catching at his dignity before it completely deserted him, Hammond nodded at his former 2IC. "It's been a long time, son," he said. Whilst there wasn't that big of an age gap between them, not enough for him to literally be his father, Hammond had always felt that way toward the younger man.
"Sure has, sir," Jack replied. "Well … me for my cabin. Ya coming, Jake?" That was abrupt, even for this particular hyperactive man.
"We'd like Doctor Fraiser to check you both out before we release you into the general population," Hammond said with a poorly hidden wince. Even when he'd still been bound by USAF regs, Jack had had less than a fondness for the infirmary. But now …
"Ah, for cryin' out loud, General – I'm fine!" Jack protested, almost on cue. "Ya think the Tok'ra haven't looked after me?"
"Humor me, Jack," Hammond replied. "You know the rules as well as I do."
"Ah, crap," Jack muttered.
Despite his loud and grating objections to visiting the doctor, Jack usually knew that it was in his best interests, even if he wouldn't admit it. Hammond felt alarmed – what was he hiding? "Jacob?" he queried, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The door opened and Major Carter shot in, her blonde hair askew. "Dad!" she said, throwing her arms around her father's neck for a hug, then gaping at her former CO. "S-sir?" she stuttered.
He stepped backward, giving her and Jacob space to hug properly, and gave her a grin. "Hey, Carter," he said. "How ya doin'?"
"Jack … you'd better tell him," Jacob said wearily. "He'll find out soon enough."
"Find out what?" Hammond's fists clenched. If someone didn't tell him what was going on, and damn soon, they were going to find out just how pissed off one good-natured Major General could get.
"Sir … General … I'm detecting two symbiotes," Major Samantha Carter said in a quiet tone.
Thump – there went the other shoe.
"You're a Tok'ra, son?" General Hammond sounded shocked.
Jack couldn't blame him really. If anyone had told him three months ago that he'd willingly become a host, he'd have told that moron exactly where to stick it. "It's a long story, sir," he said evenly, then winced as he heard his inner Yiddish mama pressing him. She was very good at the guilt and at getting him to take better care of himself. Yeah, yeah, he directed toward her. You're on.
He felt the strange silver tingle as she took control, then heard: "General Hammond, Major Carter; I am Arislet of the Tok'ra."
Sam's eyes widened. "Arislet?" she said. "It's been a long time."
Jack could feel Arislet's bemusement, but she recovered quickly. "Ah, yes; you were host to Jolinar of Malkshur. Jack told me much about you."
"Uh … yeah," Carter mumbled, her blue eyes like saucers. "Can I talk to the Colonel?"
The Colonel, Arislet said. She still refers to you that way.
Don't tease her, Jack warned. Whilst quiet, Arislet had a wicked sense of humor to match his own, and they tended to spend much of their free time sharpening their wits on each other.
As if!, Arislet replied mockingly. Well, back over to you, Colonel.
Jack sighed and felt his mouth moving under his control once more. "It's me," he said. "Long story short; Cronus's goons captured us, kicked the crap out of me and left me for dead – as a warning to the upstart Tauri," he said mockingly. "Jake managed to get me back to Vorash, I met Arislet, and … true love!"
He felt Arislet sigh. "Okay, okay; not true love, but she'd lost her previous host, and I would've died, so we … blended." He couldn't resist. "For a snake, she's okay."
General Hammond rolled his eyes. "Only you could argue with someone you're blended with, son," he commented, a smile pulling at his lips.
"Actually, it's pretty common," Jack replied. "So, when do we get to the part where ol' Doc Fraiser sticks a needle in my butt?"
He was not eager to face the medical, but he was eager to end this conversation. He was grateful that Arislet had enabled him to continue his mission to wipe out the Goa'uld, but was still finding it difficult to adjust to having another being inside of him.
It was an adjustment for me, also, Jack, Arislet confided suddenly. I have always had female hosts until you. The male of your species has always been a mystery to me, but you are strange even for your kind, she added snidely – payback for the snake comment, no doubt.
"Actually, no," Jack said. "That was the Belrina doctors. My knee hasn't felt so good in years." He braced himself then looked over at Daniel, who was propped up against the wall. "I … uh … I don't suppose you've heard anything from Belrina, have ya?"
Daniel chuckled. "You mean have I seen Malia, don't you?" he teased.
"Remind me why I like you again," Jack grumbled. "Yeah; I mean Malia."
"Last time I saw her, she was well," Daniel said. "She misses you, though."
Shit. In the message he'd left, he'd told her to be happy. "Yeah?" he said in a would-be casual tone. "So … what's she been up to lately?"
"She's off world at the moment," Daniel said, his blue eyes dancing behind his glasses. "Bet you'd like to know just where she is, wouldn't you?"
Memo to self; maim Daniel later. He settled for a deadpan stare. "I'm curious."
The klaxon sounded then a voice blared over the PA: "Off world activation!
"Very good, Sub-Commandant," Hammond said. "We'll debrief in an hour. Report to the Infirmary."
"Peachy," Malia mumbled, then wilted under Hammond's glare. Despite the physical dissimilarity, he reminded her of Tirol. He had quite a high tolerance for smart-mouthed subordinates – likely due to three years of putting up with Jack – but there was a limit. "I'm going, sir," she said.
She left the embarkation room and strolled along the concrete corridors to the Infirmary, mulling over the last ten days. She and Tiressa had settled well into the small apartment the Air Force had provided for her, and Tiressa was enjoying her new school.
Although children didn't begin school until they were six in this land, the assessments had shown Tiressa to have the language skills and reading comprehension of a nine year old, and she had therefore been placed in the 'fourth grade'. Malia had been uneasy at this initially, as Tiressa had been resented in her old school for her youth. But the children in her new school had practically adopted her, making sure that other children didn't bully her.
During her limited free time, Malia had taken the opportunity to explore her new home with Samantha and Daniel. He was not nearly as irritable as he'd appeared at their first meeting, although he could be cynical and defensive, and she'd grown fond of him.
She swung rapidly around the corner, her long legs eating up the distance, and crashed into a hard wall of muscle. "Oh, gods, sorry!" she muttered then looked up into a pair of shocked brown eyes.
Shocked, delicious, brown eyes she'd thought she would never see again. "Jack?" she whispered.
"Malia," he said softly. "Small galaxy, huh?"
He looked marvelous. He'd lost a little weight during his long absence, but was lean and hard. Several new lines were etched into his forehead and his eyes were tired and strained-looking, but he was still beautiful to her. "Yes," she said.
She wrapped her arms tightly around herself, trying to resist the urge to kiss him senseless … or beat the griss out of him. It could go either way.
"What are you doing on Earth?" Jack asked.
She shrugged. "We're here on exchange with SG-8," she said. "I could ask the same of you."
He returned the shrug. "Vacation," he said. "Six months of Goa'uld whuppin' takes its toll." He put a hand out to touch her shoulder then seemed to think better of it. "How have you been, Malia?"
"Good," she replied, cursing at the banality of this conversation. "Why did you do it, Jack?" she asked. "Why did you leave us?"
He flinched, then regarded her seriously – no sarcastic expression there. "It was necessary," he said. "The snake-heads have to be stopped – and your people won't get involved."
"Oh, for crying out loud! What do you think this exchange program is for?" she said, exasperated with him. "If you'd only waited a few months instead of going off like some meat-head commando, you'd have been there when we signed the official treaty with this world to fight the Goa'uld!"
"Ah." A shamed look appeared in his brown eyes and he shifted awkwardly. "So … feel free to beat the shit out of me," he said. "I told you you deserved better than me – I hope you find that somebody."
Gods, those eyes … Although she'd grown up surrounded by dark-eyed people, Jack's eyes really melted her butter as Samantha put it. "I'm an adult, Jack – I get to decide what's best for me," she said. She put her hand to his tanned cheek. "I missed you," she added. "And if you don't kiss me soon, I really will beat the 'shit' out of you."
He chuckled – the sound rusty, as if he hadn't laughed for a long time. "Well, I wouldn't want that," he said, and put his hands to her face, covering her lips gently with his.
She sighed at the tender kiss then opened her lips to deepen the kiss. Seven months since she'd been held by him, for gods' sakes! She pressed eagerly into him, sliding her hands down his back to cup his rear, as she lost herself in his embrace.
Only the raucous whistle of a passing SF brought her mind to where they were. "Get a room!" the SF yelled.
"Airman?" Jack queried, and Malia watched gleefully as the SF turned pale.
"Colonel O'Neill, sir!" he stuttered, saluting quickly, and ignoring the fact that Jack had left the Air Force nearly three years ago.
"Better," Jack said, an evil glint in his eyes.
Malia reluctantly disentangled herself from his warm body. "Uh … I'd better go; post-mission physical," she said. "But I'd like to see you tonight; will you come to my apartment?"
"Ya sure?" Jack asked. "What about Tiressa?"
Malia shook her head. "Not tonight," she said. "She's round at a friend's house – I'd rather wait until …". Until I know whether or not you plan on staying around this time, she thought but didn't say.
Guilt swept over his features once more. "Crap," he muttered. "I'm such a thoughtless bastard at times; you really should beat the hell out of me."
"Maybe later, Jack, maybe later," she teased. She passed him a small card with her address on it. "Seven o'clock?"
He nodded. "I'll be there," he promised. "You'd better get to the Infirmary – Doc Fraiser'll be sending the SFs after you."
She grimaced. "Great." She brushed her lips gently across his. "I'll see you tonight," she added.
He jerked his head up, evidently lost in his thoughts. "Guess not," he agreed feebly. "There's something I need to tell you – we can't move on till I do."
Oh, gods, he's found someone else … She should have expected this. It had been over half a year, and he was a very attractive man. But then … why did he kiss her that way at the SGC? She clamped down on her meandering then took their plates into the kitchen – she'd break them later; maybe over his head.
She came back into the living room and sat on the settee, curling her legs up underneath her. "I'm listening," she said.
He scrubbed a hand over his face and sat down next to her. "There's no gentle way to do this," he said, "so I'll give you it straight up."
She smiled slightly – that's what she liked about him; his unbridled honesty. "All right."
"About ten weeks ago, I was captured by Cronus' forces," he said. "They … interrogated me for days, but I wouldn't tell them anything. Jacob managed to get me back to Vorash, but I was badly injured. Beyond their ability to heal. Then I met Arislet, a Tok'ra who'd lost her host."
Malia gasped. "You … you became a Tok'ra?" She knew very little about the Goa'uld offshoot, though she'd met Jacob Carter briefly and found him very charming in an old-fashioned way.
"Yeah," he said with a grimace. "Never would've figured on that happening."
Malia's mind was spinning. She'd been fascinated by the idea of the Tok'ra – two sentients sharing one body – since learning of them from Samantha, and now she had the chance to talk to one. She tucked her hand into his. "Can I … can I meet her?" she said.
His eyes widened – presumably at how well she was taking this news. "Uh, yeah," he replied. He dipped his head then lifted it with a curious flash to the eyes.
"I am Arislet," he … she … said. "It's nice to finally meet you, Malia; you have been much in Jack's thoughts. I understand you have a little girl – is she not here tonight?"
Malia smiled. "She's sleeping at a friend's house tonight; I didn't want to give her false hope."
Arislet grimaced. "Understandable," she replied. "Jack is a good man at heart, but he does stupid things." She squeezed Malia's hand. "You're very beautiful, and I know he loves you both, even if he doesn't say it often enough."
"Then why did he leave? He gave me a reason, but something happened on Abydos that he isn't telling me."
Arislet shook her head. "I can't break a confidence, Malia, but it was the only thing that could have made him leave you and Tiressa – he was very happy on your world."
Malia smiled again. "Thanks – that actually helps," she said, surprised at how … personable this Goa'uld was. Not Goa'uld; Tok'ra, she corrected herself.
"Well, I should let Jack take back control now," Arislet said with a small chuckle. "He's beginning to recite rude limericks." She clasped Malia's hand again. "But it was nice to talk to you – I look forward to doing it again."
Malia turned and faced him. "She seems nice," she agreed cautiously, "but you were so anti … uh … snake-head. Sorry, Arislet. I never would have pictured you agreeing to a blending!"
"A year ago; hell, six months ago, I'd've said the same," he agreed. "I've been shot up by Jaffa before, been left for dead before … but things are different now. I've got a reason to stick around, and I need to be fully fit." He playfully flexed one of his biceps, wanting to lighten the conversation. "See that; not bad for a guy pushing 50, huh?"
She wrapped her hand around said bicep and squeezed it. "Very nice," she agreed, stroking the underside of his arm with her thumb. "So … what other improvements has Arislet made?"
Jack blinked at the decidedly sexy tone that had appeared in Malia's voice, but forced his mind out of the gutter. "Oh, agility, stamina, strength … you name it."
"Hmmmm." She cocked her head slightly to one side, then tapped a forefinger to her lips. "You know; seven months is a very long time; I may have forgotten some things." She molded her lips against his, her tongue flicking out delicately to taste him. "Yes; just as I remembered," she breathed.
Then her long strong fingers slid up inside his shirt, feeling his rib cage. "You've lost a little weight – it suits you," she said as the fingers found a ticklish spot and he jerked away.
"Uhh … Malia." His mind was back in the gutter and he gave in, catching her mouth in a hot passionate kiss. They could talk later. Right now, he had a warm sexy woman running wicked hands up and down his torso. Jack O'Neill was a lot of things but – contrary to the image he projected – he wasn't stupid.