Summary: It had all started out as a routine mission, a fairly easy one even. And yet, in hindsight, Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter found it had turned their whole lives upside down… as well as their relationship.
Genre: Adventure/Romance/Drama and a decent bit of whump. Because I was in the mood for it.
Pairing: Sam/Jack. What else?
Setting: Somewhere in the middle/at the end of season 5, so contains various spoilers for this season. Also I'm seriously going to temper with the episodes order and the timeline. You've been warned.
Feedback: Yes, please! Still working on my English and writing skills, so I appreciate all constructive feedback. I may not be able to answer all reviews because I lack the time, but I am sincerely grateful for them and will answer all direct questions and PMs.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, places and settings belong to their rightful owners: Stargate Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM, Double Secret Productions and Gekko Productions. Any resemblances to people, events, stories or locations are purely coincidental. This work is simply for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended. Also, no money is made out of this. However, this story, any original characters, the settings and situations are property of the author and not to be copied or distributed!
Chapter One – Beginning
Daniel actually held up for a moment, inhaling deeply, while his eyes lost focus for a moment, gazing unsteadily at some point somewhere over General Hammond's shoulder. Jack tried to suppress it, but he couldn't help the small hint of hope that spread through him. Knowing Daniel, this gesture could only mean two things: either he was – finally! – finished, or he was preparing for another long, drawn-out launch into whatever he also deemed necessary to know about… Jack had to consult the thick folder in front of him on that. P3T-643. Oh, that rhymed! Guess, that could become a planet he would remember. Maybe.
General Hammond at the front of the briefing table shifted and Daniel snapped out of his stupor. Quickly the archaeologist gazed around the table, ensured himself of General Hammond's and Carter's still concentrated attention and then opened his mouth…
"The weather on P3T-643 is, from the telemetry we received from the UAV, very mild. Sun radiation's low and the temperature's constantly varying around 70°F. Astonishingly, there is little difference in between the day and the night, but this could also be an effect of the current season we have on this planet. To rule this out, there would have to be a long-term exploratory–"
Jack tuned the man out. Once again. For the love of him, he just couldn't understand, what was so damn important about all those little details. Daniel had successfully rambled on for about – Jack glanced at his watch – two hours about the planet they were going to visit next-mission, and so far they hadn't even reached the important parts! He swore the archaeologist's briefings (didn't that come from brief, meaning short?!) tended to grow longer each time.
So far they had discussed the flora. And no, Daniel could not just say 'covered mostly by huge trees and thick underbrush', no he just had to describe the respective plants. Each and every one. Who the hell cared if the planet was stuck under a bunch of oak-trees, pine-trees or palms?! And who exactly was interested in the fact which kind of fern grew in between the afore-mentioned trees? Didn't they have some botanists or something along those lines Daniel could annoy with that? Why did it have to be him?
Then came the fauna, of which – much to Jack's not-so-silent pleasure – the UAV hadn't brought back any data yet, so Daniel was unaware of. Yet. Had he ever mentioned, how nice of a word 'unaware' was? But if Jack interpreted the angry glance the archaeologist had shot him during his rather obvious display of gratitude for the factor 'unaware' in the right way, then his friend intended to research that topic thoroughly and Jack would have to read a probably huuuuge report on this sometime in the future. Yay.
Then Daniel had flung himself into an overwhelming speech of which cultures he suspected could have lived on this planet, because he wasn't sure of it. So 'could' being a key word here. The UAV had made out some ruins in the closer vicinity of the Stargate, but the huge trees, no matter which ones, had blocked the view on them, so it could probably be anything. And Jack could practically feel Daniel's impatience to go and examine those ruins all across the briefing room. But was that any reason for him to have to sit through 50 minutes of Daniel musing out loud, which culture he would have liked best to have settled on this planet?
To be honest, Jack was surprised General Hammond had let the archaeologist prevail as far as he had. The only explanation Jack could think of was that the General had dropped out earlier as well and only kept a straight face to a charade. He couldn't really be interested in all that… details, could he? Actually, the only one still attentively listening had to be Carter, Jack mused. Teal'c was sitting patiently with a stoic face, but his eyes were averted. A slight smile graced the Jaffa's lips that had Jack pondering what the other man could be thinking about. It certainly hadn't been the amount of water on P3T-643 Daniel had lectured about or the assumed natural and mineral resources he'd talked about. Couldn't be.
Sighing, the Colonel leaned back in his seat, fiddling with his fingers in boredom. Idly, he wondered how many topics exactly Daniel could come up with that could be discussed about a planet which, until now, appeared utterly deserted. From what the Colonel had caught in between the lines neither the initial MALP nor the subsequent UAV had even stirred a mouse on that planet. Or whatever the alien equivalent of a mouse would be.
Again a pointed break in which Jack perked up, hoping against better knowledge that his friend would finally come to an end, but again, Daniel just droned on unimpressed. This time, Jack barely managed to stifle an exhausted groan. Really, the Goa'uld could learn a thing or two from Daniel about torture…!
Jack began to swing his chair from left to right, trying about anything to keep himself occupied or he would so crash Daniel's little party here. And it would be nasty.
Jack caught Teal'c's gaze over the briefing table and held it for a moment. Both men smiled at each other secretly and once more, Jack was left to consider how useful such a Jaffa poker face could be. Really, if Teal'c didn't want it, then nobody could decipher anything from his facial expressions alone. And physical reactions he showed just as seldom. How very practical. It assured that Teal'c never got scolded when getting bored during a briefing, something Jack achieved on an almost weekly basis.
Suddenly, his chair bumped against something and his leg came into contact with something warm. Astonished, Jack looked to his side. His chair got stuck with the one standing next to him and the warmth spreading through his leg was actually the body heat of the person occupying the other chair, because his leg was pressed against another thigh. Startled he looked up, only to gaze directly into light blue eyes. Carter.
She looked at him, smiling hesitantly. The slightest hint of hope shone from her open gaze. Hope that he'd done it deliberately, he knew immediately.
Jack was careful to not even let a slip of emotion pass onto his face. He shifted his legs aside so his right knee wasn't in close proximity to her thigh anymore and then pushed his chair away, bringing more distance between them than before, so if he would feel the need to move again, he would have no possibility to bump into her accidentally.
Jack looked back towards Daniel, his face impassive and emotionless, but from the corner of his eyes, he could see Carter's face fall. For a tiny moment she lowered her head and he could tell she was gnawing on her lower lip from the way her jaw moved. A sting raced through him at the sight of her. He could almost feel her hurt, caused by him, because he was ignoring her. And it actually hurt him to see her hurting.
Jack balled a hand into a tight fist under the briefing table, the only visible outlet for the anger he felt that he allowed himself. He didn't want to do it. He didn't want to force that distance between him and Carter. Hell, the only thing he wanted to do so badly was to return his leg to where it had rested a moment ago to be able to feel her body against his. Jack actually liked having Carter close. He liked seeing her, liked watching her, when she was looking somewhere else, liked having her inflict agonizing technobabble on him and liked 'accidentally' touching her. He enjoyed her being around him, but for some time now he denied it himself. He avoided her as much as possible. His life felt strangely deprived without her constant presence and the reassuring closeness they had with each other and yet he forced himself to bring distance between them. He just couldn't allow this closeness any longer. He had to put a stop to it. Because he and Carter had crossed the line, somewhere. Jack had known for quite some time that there were certain feelings between them, but they had never been of much concern to him. He had accepted them, knowing that given their situation, there was nothing he could do about them anyways, and continued on, mostly acting as if those feelings were nonexistent. He knew these feelings could pose a certain risk, but he'd always thought he'd been careful, hadn't let anything slip. Yet, apparently, he had. He had been too obvious in his feelings for her and by that he'd endangered her. He'd offered her up, made her vulnerable, practically painted a target on her back.
Jack resisted the urge to scrub his hands over his face agitatedly, when the familiar thoughts crossed his mind again. It hadn't been that long ago. The mission gone completely wrong, before it had even started. The mission which had left Carter controlled by an alien entity. The mission in which they had ended up as foes and he had needed to shoot her down. It marked one of the worst moments in his career. But essentially, he had no one to blame but himself. He was the reason why the entity had taken her over. He was the reason why she'd died. And he was the reason why she'd almost remained dead. Because he had been the one who wanted to destroy the entity's nest, which would have destroyed her. Jack was honest enough with himself to acknowledge he'd been led by his feelings, his instinctive hatred, mistrust and anger, and thus he had lost his objectivity. It was only thanks to Daniel and Janet that he'd still gotten Carter back.
Jack had had weeks to think the events through and by now he wanted nothing more than for his head to finally shut the hell up. He despised the conclusions it came up with, but at the same time, he knew it was the damn truth. He had done nothing but bringing Carter in danger. And he'd never wanted to see her in it again, thanks to him. He couldn't really prevent her from being in danger, not with the job they did, but he still intended to do anything possible to keep her safe. Because he didn't want to lose her. She was still a vital part of his team and she still belonged to the little family they had created from SG-1. And Jack still needed her. Needed her more than he actually let himself admit, even to himself. But he couldn't allow any closeness between them that went over their strictly professional relationship. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to her and he was to hold responsible for that.
So Jack did the only thing he could. He pushed her away. He tried to nip whatever intimacy occurred between them in the bud. No lingering gazes, no hidden touches, no standing too close to her anymore.
He was aware that it hurt her. She didn't know the reason for his sudden change of heart and Jack wasn't about to explain himself. Until now she had only started little attempts at getting him to talk and he had all but smashed them immediately. Jack was well aware that the moment he'd let her in again, history would only repeat itself. And the moment he allowed the closeness to return to them full-force, he would get them both in danger. Because their enemies weren't only to be found on alien planets. They were at the front lines and they had to fight battles on all sides. Politics and bureaucracy had a close eye on them, waiting for them to screw up to finally have an excuse to take the Stargate Program down or over. And Jack really didn't want to give them any leverage to come after him or Carter. He wouldn't allow them to get anywhere near his family.
And despite knowing all this and trying his hardest, Jack could watch himself mess up time after time. He was all aware that he had just toed a fine line when the incident with Adrian Conrad had happened. Carter going missing had nearly been enough to send him over the edge. He'd held on as best as he could, while he had been searching for her, but the knowledge that he'd almost come too late, that there might have been nothing he could have done any more for her had he been only a second later, when he had finally found her, had made him almost storm General Hammond's office to demand some downtime to go hunt those bastards down. He knew he would have succeeded. He was Special Forces after all. But he also knew that it would tell a few people more about his relationship with Carter than he was comfortable to admit. And, if anything, the encounter with the entity had made it grossly clear to Jack that Carter was his weakness. Nothing got to him as anything getting to her. So whoever wanted him to suffer only had to make her suffer. And Jack vastly preferred this knowledge to remain unknown.
So as far as he was concerned, Jack preferred her angry at him but alive, than her at peace with him but in constant danger.
Jack chanced a side-glance at her. Her eyes were firmly glued to Daniel, her face giving no indication on something even bothering her. It was carefully schooled. Too carefully. Years upon years being her CO made him see the little details nevertheless. She tried too careful to not glance his way, tried too much to overlook his presence beside her. Jack was prepared for the painful jolt that shot through his body and he wasn't let down. Ignoring Carter hurt her, which in turn hurt him. It was almost like a physical injury that wouldn't stop bleeding. There was a constant, burning ache somewhere in his chest that Jack didn't dare place any further. And whenever she threw him one of those pained, uncomprehending gazes that spoke volumes of her confusion it was like a clean cut right somewhere through his middle. Yeah, those Goa'uld could also learn a thing or two from Carter where torture was concerned.
Jack wanted badly to right things between them. But he didn't know how without repeating the same mistakes all over again. Because there was no way he could just be a little close to Carter. With her it had always been all or nothing. He didn't want anything less with her. Either they were only the friends, the comrades their working relationship condemned them to be or they would be the whole package. Jack wouldn't settle for less. Not when he'd seen what this less would mean for her. Half-assed attempts didn't gain her anything. Obviously it only managed to endanger her. And that was something he couldn't stand. Wouldn't stand for. So, as long as they couldn't have this something they still tried to lock away in some infamous room, he was determined to be her friend. And nothing but her friend. Hoping against all odds that she wouldn't just get annoyed beyond words with his attitude and told him to shove his determination someplace the sun didn't shine.
"Alright SG-1, you have a go.", General Hammond suddenly announced.
Jack blinked. Huh, he hadn't even noticed Daniel had finally managed to wrap up his presentation (you really couldn't call that a briefing anymore).
"Get to those ruins and examine them. Try to find out if there is life in any form on that planet, but do not chance any interaction if you're unsure where their loyalties lie.", the General ordered, standing up.
Immediately Jack and Sam copied his movement with routine. Daniel and Teal'c followed at a more sedate pace.
"Yes, sir.", Jack acknowledged the command in behalf of his team.
"I'll give you four days for an initial assessment. Report back to the SGC all 24 hours.", the General continued.
"Yes, sir.", Jack repeated, completely professional although the order didn't really sit well with him.
General Hammond smiled at him, a genuine, indulgent smile, but still Jack had the uncomfortable feeling that the General saw right through him. Suddenly Jack had the distinct thought that the General would be the wrong person to play poker with. Because despite what the man appeared to feel, he always managed to look as professional as possible.
"Get geared up.", the General advised. "You'll be embarking at 1400. Dismissed."
Jack hurried from the room first. Somewhere in the background he could hear Carter and Daniel discuss something or another about their next mission, but for once he didn't stop to wait for his team. No, for once Jack couldn't get away from them fast enough. After all he had less than two hours to prepare himself mentally that he would be stuck four days with his 2IC on a deserted planet, while they weren't exactly on speaking terms. Talk about a fun mission…
"So, Sam. How's the program coming along?", Daniel asked innocently, trudging down the hallway next to her.
Sam sighed imperceptibly. He really didn't want to talk about that, did he? Still, being able to assess Sam's mood accurately after years of being best friends, Daniel knew it was the only thing she would be willing to talk with him about right now.
Sam halted at the elevator and pressed the button for it, wishing it to travel slower than usually. She wanted to give the Colonel a head start, so she wouldn't have to be in the cramped locker room together with him. The atmosphere between them was awkward at best nowadays and whenever she was within his close proximity the tense stiffness taking over his body was threatening to suffocate her. Let alone that he had stopped smiling at her in any way, he didn't seem able to even look at her and Sam was at a total loss what could have caused this change in behavior in him. There had been no identifiable reason for her, so the only thing she could think of was herself. There had to be something she had done horribly wrong. But she couldn't think of anything and whenever she tried to ask him, he effectively shut her off. There had been a time they had understood each other blindly and while Sam still could read him accurately, she now failed to see the reasons behind his behavior. Never had she felt so left out, so shut out from him. As if he was deliberately cutting her off from him. As if he didn't want her to come near him anymore.
The elevator opening his doors in front of her jolted her back into her conversation with Daniel. He was looking at her expectantly.
"Good.", she finally managed to answer. "It's already working, but I want to improve the user's interface, before I'll give it to you."
"Nice.", he commented, an excited smile crossing his face.
Sam managed to grin back, even though she lacked the proper excitement. She knew she should feel as giddy about it as Daniel, but, yeah, her nowadays always present sadness and uncertainty prevented that. Sam had successfully finished writing a computer program Daniel could use to translate unknown languages. He could fill the program with whatever he had already translated and use it to figure out other words or the grammar of the language by comparing the pieces of language he had already deciphered with all other languages known to them. Sam was rather proud of that program – or had been, until recently. Now she still felt a bit of the satisfaction of having finished a project successfully, but it was dulled by the fact that nobody would care for her achievement. Well, given, Daniel would, tremendously even, and she was grateful for it, but he wasn't the one she wanted to see the stunned, appreciative grin from…
Exhaling frustrated, Sam entered the elevator and hit the button for the floor where the locker rooms were located with decidedly more force than necessary.
"So…", Daniel drawled, eyeing the innocent button warily. "I take it things haven't improved…?"
Sam clenched her teeth. She had just known they would land on this topic sooner or later. Daniel couldn't just not interfere with other people's lives.
"I don't want to talk about it!", she thwarted him immediately.
Daniel made some indefinite sound to it that Sam chose to see as an agreement. For a second there was silence, in which Sam watched the levels fly by on the elevator's operating panel's display they were leaving behind.
"Did you talk with him about it?", Daniel suddenly picked up their conversation.
By now Sam was seriously tempted to tell her friend to mind his own business. Why did he have to drill into an open wound?
"I tried.", she admitted briskly. Several times even.
"He didn't tell you?", Daniel guessed.
"He's the Colonel.", was all Sam answered, but it was a definite yes.
"Huh.", Daniel grunted, mulling it over in his head.
There was another minute of blessed silence, until the elevator arrived at their destination and they got off, wandering down the hallway.
"Did you–?", Daniel tried, but Sam interrupted him immediately, being at her patience's end with him.
"Daniel, he doesn't want to tell me!", she snapped.
And she was sure of it. Whatever the Colonel's problem was with her, he didn't seem inclined at all to explain it to her. And, honestly, right now Sam felt she had better chances at getting the Goa'uld to sign a peace treaty with Earth than she had at making Colonel O'Neill talk about feelings when he wasn't willing to cooperate. At all.
So as much as Daniel (and Sam herself) wished for the former relationship between her and the Colonel to return, Sam didn't see what she could do anymore to get him to spill whatever the problem was.
Sam stopped at their locker room. Entangling her hands nervously, she waited for Daniel to swipe his key card through the slot, so the door would open, taking the second to steel herself for the possibility that he could still be in there.
The door opened and Sam exhaled relieved. Only Teal'c was present. Thank you.
Sam marched over to her locker to change for the upcoming mission. Again, she felt sadness wipe over her. Sadness that he wasn't here and that she wished him to be, only to remind herself that if he was, they would only remain silent with each other, probably not even looking at the other. Sam was honest enough with herself to see that it was the unexpected, unexplained distance between them that hurt her so thoroughly and she hated that it got to her this much. But whatever she tried, she couldn't undo that fact. The most she managed was achieving to look professional to mask her hurt. And that she would do. She would be the professional he needed. SG-1 was still her family and as much as he annoyed her right now, she still loved the Colonel with her whole heart, so she would do whatever he needed from her.
Buttoning up her BDU jacket and then throwing her protection vest over it, strapping it to her chest, Sam tried to distract herself by listening to Daniel telling Teal'c of the translation program Sam had written. She could hear the archaeologist's pride and excitement out of his voice without needing to look at him and it helped soothing the empty hole that had settled in her chest, refusing to leave her nowadays.
"Good luck, SG-1, and Godspeed!", General Hammond stated over the intercom, looking down on his flagship team from the control room.
From beneath his cap, Jack looked back at him and gave him a sloppy salute. "Thank you, sir!", he answered and although General Hammond couldn't hear the exact words over the sounds of the blaring alarms and the engaged wormhole waiting patiently to transport SG-1 to their next goal, the General knew the man well enough to decipher his words from the way his lips moved.
He nodded at the Colonel and then watched Daniel Jackson and Teal'c make their way up the ramp. Without hesitating both stepped through the steady event horizon and blinked out of their universe. Major Carter waited for the motionless Colonel, but when he made no move to go, she turned and headed for the wormhole herself, her movements edgy. The General knew his long-time friend's daughter well enough to see immediately that she was pissed. Whatever the problem was Colonel O'Neill and his 2IC seemed to have with each other for some time now, the General was sure they were both in for some quality time with each other on this planet. The Colonel waited another moment, but when Sam was about to go through the event horizon, he followed her. Shortly after her, he stepped into the wormhole. Another second later the wormhole disengaged and the alarms shut off automatically. Almost deafening, familiar silence settled over the control room.
The General smiled to himself, while listening absentmindedly to Chief Master Sergeant Harriman reporting that SG-1 had reached their destination. He'd given them as much time as he could on this mission in the hopes that Jack and Sam got their shit together and made up. And, to be honest, General Hammond still hoped Doctor Jackson would stumble upon something worth excavating and analyzing thoroughly, just so he had an excuse to ban his 2IC with his lead astrophysicist on that planet a bit longer. Because knowing the stubbornness both officers were legendary for they would probably need more than four days…
So General Hammond was more than confused, when the sirens blared out only a day later, accompanied by Sergeant Harriman's voice announcing "Unscheduled off-world activation!".
Rushing from his office, the General took two steps at a time, before he strode up to the Chief Master Sergeant, demanding to know what was wrong. None of his teams off-world were scheduled to return today!
"Receiving identification code, sir.", Harriman reported dutifully, his eyes glued to the monitors in front of him. "It's… SG-1, sir…?"
General Hammond almost rolled his eyes. What could be the problem now?
"Open the iris!", he ordered habitually, before heading for the 'Gate room.
The moment the heavy material of the iris slid back from the shimmering event horizon and the General arrived in the 'Gate room, two familiar figures almost shot out of the wormhole. Rushing down the ramp, Daniel Jackson and Teal'c stopped in front of General Hammond, the archaeologist leaning forwards to stem his palms against his knees, panting heavily. Even Teal'c seemed as out of breath as the General had ever seen the large Jaffa.
"Gentlemen. I thought I said to report, not to return all 24 hours…?", General Hammond drawled in his Texan accent.
Daniel Jackson straightened up. "General, we have a problem!", he stated breathless, trying at once to speak and breathe.
The General raised an eyebrow inquisitively, but the linguist seemed unable to continue. He waved at Teal'c to take over and the silent man complied.
"Six hours ago we lost contact with O'Neill and Major Carter.", Teal'c reported.
The General looked up surprised. They… what?!
"O'Neill and Major Carter have been scouting the perimeters, when they vanished. We tried to radio them several times, but I fear we have been unsuccessful in it. We tried to search for them, but their traces ended in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately I was unable to track them down. So we decided our best course of action would be to return to the SGC and get reinforcements.", the Jaffa explained calmly.
Daniel Jackson continued, holding his side with a pained expression: "We hurried back as fast as we could, running almost all the way back to the Stargate…!"
The General nodded grimly, catching the gist of what happened. "Doctor Jackson, get yourself checked out in the infirmary. I'll put a team together to return to P3T-643 to search for the Colonel and the Major."
"General…!", Teal'c and Daniel immediately interjected simultaneously.
The General made them halt with a gesture. "Yes, I know.", he said. "You'll both be included."
Both men nodded relieved and then they left for the infirmary, Teal'c accompanying the exhausted Daniel. Sighing, the General returned to his office, going through his teams in his head to decide which one to send. Obviously, Teal'c and Daniel had to go, because, aside from the fact that they were the only ones with firsthand experience of this planet, nothing would hold them here if their friends were in possible dangers, least of all his orders, but who would be best to send with them?
Picking up his phone, the General pressed a few buttons and listened to the ringtone in line, before…
"Colonel Reynolds? Yeah, I have a mission for SG-3. Come to my office immediately.", the General ordered, his gaze absentmindedly sweeping over his office, until his eyes finally stopped on the Stargate map adorning the window of his office that went out to the briefing room. And while the General listened to Reynolds' voice answer something on the other end of the line, his thoughts wandered to the two officers gone missing: Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter. Suppressing a sigh, the General wondered, what could have happened to the two of them. And if they were okay. He sincerely hoped it.
A/N: So, a little introduction to the story. Hope you liked it. Updates will be around once a week.