Consequences

Pt 7

Late that afternoon when Carter returned she found O'Neill staring at a tuna sandwich as if he could just make it go away. He didn't even notice her come up to the bedside.

"Is this the 'tuna torture' I've heard about?"

He glanced up at her then back at the offending fish.

"If you eat maybe Janet will let you out of here."

"She already said I could go."

Carter was shocked. Normally he'd be out like a flash before Frasier even got his discharge on the chart. She picked up one of the pieces and took a small bite. "Not bad considering."

"Commissary fare?"

"Don't like tuna."

One corner of his mouth turned up. "So why'd you try it?"

"To see why you weren't."

The frown returned.

She let him sit and stare for another full minute then pushed the tray away from in front of him and gestured to the pile of clothing on the chair. "Get dressed."

What about the sandwich?"

"I'll wrap it up. Get dressed, please." She pulled the curtain around him and waited. It was several seconds before she heard the bed creak and his bare feet slap on the floor. There was a rustle of fabric and a few grunts and groans from the other side to indicate he was doing what she asked. When she felt she'd waited long enough she peeked around the curtain to see O'Neill seated in the chair lacing up his boots. Despite himself it felt good to be back in normal clothes and he knew it would be an improvement to be anywhere but the infirmary even if it was only for a few hours.

"So, where are we going?" He knew Frasier would assign him a 'sitter' and apparently Sam won the draw- or lost it.

"Outside."

"I think the Doc's words were 'you can walk around a little and stretch your legs, but no leaving the base'."

"Okay, we won't *go* off the base."

"Fine." He gave the laces a final tug and stood up.

She gave a little gesture toward the table and the sandwich to which he responded by rolling his eyes and walking out of the room.

There were few places they could go outside that would still be considered within the confines of the base and he followed her lead. He walked slowly along, hands in his pockets, and only responded to the 'hello's' and salutes of the people along the way when he had to.

Their trek ended at the rear emergency exit from the mountain. As usual two SF's were posted at the door and once outside Carter walked a little way further where they would have some privacy. Someone had set up a few benches here to be used for the occasional lunch or smoke break they were able to take.

Carter dusted one off with her hand and sat on one end then looked expectantly up at O'Neill.

He shrugged and took a seat. "I suppose you want to talk, or more precisely you want *me* to talk."

"Actually I thought *we* could talk. You know we have a really big something in common now."

He leaned forward to put his elbows on his knees. "Jolinar."

Carter mimicked his pose and replied. "Khalil."

"Kinda the same, granted, but a lot of differences."

"Okay, we'll start there." She knew she'd never completely opened up herself to him or anyone else where Jolinar was concerned. She was a Tok'ra after all and they were *not* his favorite people. Somehow it wasn't so hard to talk about it now.

"Being 'blended' with her wasn't anything like I expected it to be. I saw what Ferretti went through and from the instant she was in me that's what I thought was going to happen. He endured so much pain, but Jolinar never did that to me. She held me in check and wouldn't let me speak but she never really caused me pain like that."

O'Neill stared at the ground. "Yeah. Lou got the real deal. God, that was a mess, wasn't it? We were so naïve back then."

Carter couldn't suppress a grin. If there was one thing she could not equate with O'Neill it was naivety. "What was it like with Kanan?"

He raised an eyebrow in her direction; he assumed she would ask about Khalil. Kanan was another matter entirely. "Typical Tok'ra. Secretive. Scheming. He kept me *way* out of the loop."

"What he did was partially because of you. The blending made him face something about himself and he didn't like what he saw."

He rose up slightly and glared at her. "Yeah. Well, my heart bleeds." He turned back and dropped his chin onto his fists with a huff.

There was a long silence between them before Carter spoke again. "Khalil didn't seem very 'typical'."

"No." O'Neill's voice became almost a whisper. "He wasn't."

"Tell me about him."

"You've dealt with him as a part of the team; you know what he was like."

"No, I know how he related to all of us and from that I believe he was a good person, er, symbiote." She frowned at her own choice of words. "But I don't know how he treated you when you were alone or what motivated him."

"Motivation. What motivates any of us? Making a better world for us and our kids I guess. And...he treated me well. Better than I treated him on more than one occasion." His eyes fell and he looked as though he'd been struck by something sharp.

She brushed her hand lightly against his thigh. "I miss him."

"Yeah. Me, too."





O'Neill checked back in with Frasier and was given leave to stay in his base quarters that night instead of the infirmary.

Early the next morning Frasier heard footsteps and looked up from her work, expecting to see O'Neill there for his promised early check in. Instead she saw Sam. She rose and walked into the main room. "Have you seen Colonel O'Neill yet this morning?"

Carter shook her head. "He wasn't in his quarters; I thought he'd be here."

"Well, he should be. Maybe he's just taking a shower."

"Uh, uh. Major Pierce just came from there, I noticed his hair was wet. He hasn't seen the Colonel either."

"Dammit. I should have known."

After a quick search of the facility and a call to base security they found him in the control room, head cradled in his folded arms on the desk, asleep. The night technician was just going off duty and quietly told them his 'guest' had been present all night making small talk and fiddling with things. He'd just passed out a few minutes before they walked in.

Frasier shook her head but walked over to him and gently touched his shoulder, waking him instantly. He blinked up at her trying to clear his brain.

Her voice turned rigid. "Infirmary. Ten minutes. No arguments."

He passed the physical without a problem but she wasn't about to let him off for not taking her advice to rest. She didn't for one minute buy his explanation of 'a little insomnia' and promised he would regret it if he didn't listen to her.

She still wasn't pleased but decided it wasn't doing him any good to remain on base at this point so she released him to go home. He was to call her for any problems and check in later that evening before he sacked out for the night.

He skipped seeing his team or even stopping by Hammond's office and went straight home. It was comforting to be in the familiar surroundings but O'Neill very quickly became restless. It was just too quiet for one thing. He'd never been big on making lots of noise but now the silence was making him feel creepy. Even the usual television shows he watched didn't hold his interest. He finally gave up, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

There was a small park within walking distance of his home and he was there in minutes. It was still early and the park was alive with the sounds of children playing and pets enjoying their frequent but too-short outings. Strangely just being near others made him feel better. He stayed and watched the people and animals until most everyone was gone and the quiet began to encroach on him again.

He walked home but once there did not go inside. After fumbling a minute for his keys he went straight to his truck and got in. He ended up going to a restaurant that had a bar and a full parking lot denoting there would be plenty of people inside. He knew he really didn't want to drink but ordered a beer and sipped on it. Still feeling isolated, he tried to strike up a conversation with one of the waitresses but after getting a sour look from the bartender decided it would be better if he just listened to other's chatting and pretend to show some interest in the program on the TV. He'd do anything to avoid going home. He ordered a shot of whiskey and another beer intending to nurse it for as long as he could.

He barely noticed when someone sat down beside him. "You didn't check in."

His head jerked up at the sound of the familiar voice. As he shifted his eyes to verify the presence of his 2IC he immediately shut back down again. "Guess not." He took a sip of the now warm beer.

"We've been looking all over for you."

When he didn't answer she continued. "They're closing soon. Where are you going next?"

He lowered his head, apparently someone had spotted him at the park and now she'd figured it out; he was avoiding going home. "It's too quiet."

"Here?" She frowned at him and glanced around the room. The television was on with a replay of some sporting event, the bartender was clinking glasses as he washed them, and there were still a few people around talking and laughing.

"Everywhere."

She thought about his answer for a moment. While he'd always been someone who enjoyed the stimulation of other people he also had a very private side and never seemed to have a problem being alone. In many ways he was alone all the time. Then it struck her; he hadn't been truly 'alone' since he blended with Khalil, and now something that had become a huge part of his life was snatched away from him.

She recalled when she was first fully awake after Jolinar died. Even though their time together had not been very pleasant there was a vacuous silence when the Tok'ra was gone. She could only guess what it must be like for Khalil's considerably more amiable presence to be gone from O'Neill's mind. She placed a hand tentatively on his forearm and spoke to him. "Let's go."

He lowered his eyes and nodded almost imperceptibly. He laid enough money on the bar to pay his tab and then some and then stood and put on his jacket. They walked silently out to the parking lot. His truck was parked off to one side and her car was near the entrance.

She glanced from her car to his truck and then to him, and continued to walk beside him toward his truck.

"I think I can get across the parking lot myself."

"No doubt in my mind." She looked up at him as they walked, "You think anyone will mess with my car if I leave it here?"

He nearly stopped but kept on after giving her a sideways glance. So, fine, Carter was back in her 'babysitting ' mode. "Doubt it, they leave the lights on all night and it's too close to the main drag."

Though he knew she might have an agenda thanks to old Doc Frasier, he let the thought go as unimportant. Despite spending this whole day around people, he still did not relish going home to an empty house. He fell right into the routine of having a female presence to consider, unlocking her door first and opening it for her. He stood by as she got in to lend a hand if it was needed. With her height it rarely was no matter what kind of vehicle she was climbing into but she nodded her appreciation of the offer.

They did not speak for the short drive to his home, or once they were inside. He'd held the door for her then tossed his keys on a table and hung up his jacket then flopped into a chair; suddenly very tired and aware he'd pretty much wasted an entire day. Carter realized she had forgotten to call Frasier and moved into the kitchen to place the call without disturbing him.

Once back in the den she saw he had not moved from his position and was sitting with his eyes closed. She walked over to the couch and turned to look at him wondering if he was asleep.

"You have something to say?"

His comment startled her. "No, well, yes actually. This thing that's happened to you, it's eating you up from the inside. It would help if you'd talk about it."

His eyes suddenly flew open and he abruptly stood. "You want some coffee?"

She took an involuntary step back and nodded at the unexpected question. "Have a seat, and uh, turn on a few more lights, okay?"

He sounded so normal, so in control of his faculties she was shocked to hear the crash of breaking glass from the kitchen. When she rushed to investigate she found O'Neill glaring at a broken plate on the floor. The cabinet door was open where she assumed he'd been reaching for coffee mugs but somehow a plate had managed to slip and fall. He was holding a coffee mug in each hand and suddenly, forcefully threw one of the mugs down on the floor to join the plate in pieces.

She jumped as the mug exploded on impact sending little bits of glass all over the floor. A moment later the second mug joined its mate.

O'Neill turned away from the mess and leaned his hands heavily on the counter, obviously trying to force down his raw emotions.

"Let me rephrase what I said; it wouldn't just *help* to talk, you *need* to talk."

"No." He replied sternly. He wondered if this had been a good idea after all. Companionship was one thing but he was in no mood to be grilled.

Carter waited a moment then slowly picked her way through the rubble, crunching the hard pieces underfoot. She stepped up to the counter and removed two mugs from the cabinet then set them in front of the coffee maker.

He heard the cabinet door close softly and then her voice. "You know there *is* such a thing as anger management."

He spun around to confront her and stopped cold. She stood before him with a solid; half puckered frown on her face and a whole stack of plates in her hands, holding one out to him.

He angrily snatched the plate from her but stopped himself from throwing it down, instead letting his arm drop to his side and dangle with the dish firmly in his grip. He stared at the floor for a minute and the rubble he'd created and kicked one of the larger pieces with his foot. He turned to her and gestured with the plate in his hand as if it were a pen or some other much smaller object.

"God-dammit, Carter. It just makes no sense, Khalil dying like that. A simple lucky shot by some overzealous kid who thought he was doing me a favor. If we'd only had the chance to explain it to them." His voice was strained and broken as he said the words. "They snuffed out his life with all the care they'd take stomping a fucking cockroach!"

He moved to toss the plate less than gently on the counter and she grabbed for it just as he swung his arm. For a moment they both held the plate and their eyes met, his still burning with anger and hers with a resolve to deal with it.

His eyes closed and brows knit as he released the plate and brought his hand up to scrub over his face. "It was a waste; a horrible, detestable waste. And you know the worst part? I doubt he even held it against them. He knew what he was, he even called *himself* a parasite. If they just hadn't seen him, if I'd stayed in control..." He pressed the heels of both hands into his eyes.

She looked at him sadly. "I'm sorry all this has happened to you, but it's good to let it out. It was hard for me to do that after Jolinar too. It all comes down to dealing with the control issue. I guess they can't help themselves."

"What are you talking about?"

"The Tok'ra, even though they're the 'good guys' they still force themselves on their hosts sometimes."

"What?"

She huffed out an impatient breath. "When Jolinar took me she controlled me completely, used me in whatever way she wanted to. I know Khalil was a lot more pleasant to be around but when push came to shove he still took over control. There was nothing you could have done."

"Not following..." He could feel his anger increasing.

"The bottom line is that if he hadn't shown himself to those people the outcome might have been totally different. You just said it yourself."

"You're *nuts*, you know that? You think that because Jolinar forced you that Khalil took advantage of me too. It wasn't like that with Khalil. It *never* was like that." His eyes bore into hers defiantly.

She backed off slightly. "I'm glad it wasn't, because when Jolinar-"

He barked at her cutting her off. "Would you just *stop* it! Stop comparing them. They were nothing alike. You can't understand."

"Can't understand?" she was irate. "So why do I have this Naquadah in my blood? Colonel, the circumstances may have been different but I've been there. I think I deserve some credit for that."

"For what? Being taken against your will? Face it, you never wanted it, you never made your peace with it like I did. I *chose* to take Khalil."

"On your death bed! Some choice! You were as shocked as any of us when you woke up with a symbiote in your head!" They were standing only a few feet apart and speaking much more loudly than was required.

"Khalil. His name was Khalil. I'd appreciate it if you remembered that for more than a minute."

"So now my memory is faulty too? You know something?" She poked a finger in his direction. "You whined about it being too quiet around here. Well it wouldn't *be* so quiet and lonely if you didn't insult people who are only trying to help you." With that she snatched up her jacket and headed for the door.

"It's a long walk back to the bar."

"I don't think so." She retorted and with that snatched up his keys from the table.

"Hey!"

She was out the door in a second and already in his truck by the time he hit the front walkway. He went to the driver's side door and tried to pull it open but she'd already locked it. He pounded on the glass with his fists, too late, the engine roared and without another look at him she backed out into the road and drove away.

He stood for a few minutes yelling curses at her and then realized he was getting wet. It was starting to rain.

He went back in the house and paced around like a caged animal, cursing all the while. There was as much a storm going on inside his house as was brewing outside. She thought he insulted her? Where did she get off thinking that? He had an idea of the pain she endured with Jolinar and was incensed she'd dare compare her experience with his and Khalil. And now, she'd taken his truck!

He paced around a while longer then glanced at the clock on the mantle. It had been more than twenty minutes. She probably went to the restaurant to get her car and left his truck sitting there. He wondered if she would have had sense enough to leave the keys and lock it. Who knew? Even under the parking lot lights it would be an easy mark if it were left unlocked.

He took off on foot and still in a huff toward the restaurant to retrieve his truck, swearing he'd make her pay for any damages. It was still raining when he left but he didn't care, he went anyway.

The walking took longer than he'd anticipated not made any easier by the increasing strength of the rain. As he walked the curses turned to muttering and then to nothing; the only sounds were his own splashing footfalls and the soft pelting of the rain. He realized he'd run out of the house without his jacket or even his ball cap and was getting thoroughly drenched to the bone.

Instead of becoming angrier for getting wet, the rain seemed to settle him somewhat. He began to think about what Carter had said to him in those few minutes before he'd virtually forced her to run out on him. It *was* perhaps a little about control. Or more specifically losing control. He grimaced and hunched his shoulders. Maybe there was a grain of truth in there. Though Khalil had only once forced him, and that only half-heartedly, in truth there was no question of the symbiotes ability to prevail. Khalil had stopped exactly when he wanted to and not a moment before.

O'Neill found that although the very idea was more than unpleasant to him, he did have to put it in the same category with the other attributes he credited to Khalil. The only thing that made it bearable was that he never had to face it on a constant basis like Carter did when she was blended with Jolinar.

The aftermath had nearly killed Carter; not one of the SGC 'family' could bring her out of it. Thank God for Cassie, it took the gentle, unwavering trust of a child to bring Sam back to herself. For a long time afterward she seemed to second-guess herself, always wondering if her decisions were being influenced by Jolinar even after her death.

By the time he made it to the parking lot he was walking much more slowly than when he'd started out. It wasn't that he was that tired; the weight of his thoughts was bearing down on him. Carter was right, he was shoving away someone who only wanted to help him and whether he wanted to admit it or not, she was likely the only one who could.

He stood at the edge of the pavement and slumped his shoulders. His truck was nowhere to be seen; the only vehicle in the lot was a silver sports car, Carter's, of course.

His anger flared for a moment though not really at his 2IC, he was angry with himself for letting this go so far. He strode over to the car and pounded a fist on the doorframe to release a little of his pent up frustration. The rain was stinging his eyes and he turned and sat against the front fender of the car leaning forward to wipe some of the water from his face. One hand grasped the edge of the wheel opening and his fingertips bumped into something. It caught his attention immediately. On his truck he'd hidden a spare key in a small magnetic box up under one of the fenders; would Carter have done the same thing?

He quickly reached further and grasped the small metal box. It came away from the hiding place easily and opened to reveal a key just as he'd hoped.

He unlocked the door and nearly had to fold himself in half to get his tall frame into the squashed quarters. Luckily the seat could be moved back several inches and soon he was much more comfortable. As he started the engine he realized where it was he should go, and it was not home.

It wasn't a long drive to Carter's house but he was glad to not have to walk it, especially in the rain. As it was he was still drenched to the point of dripping everywhere and most certainly he'd leave a huge water spot on the leather seat; it felt like he was sticking to it already.

His truck was in her drive as expected but he barely gave it a glance as he walked up to her door and knocked. First the outside light flicked on and the door opened to reveal a slightly disheveled looking Carter with her eyes open wide. She'd already changed for bed and was wrapping a robe around herself as she came to the door.

"Sir, what are you doing here?" She looked around then back at him as if he were a drowned rat, which was not that far off.

He dove right in. "Carter, I was an ass. You were right about everything you said, I'm the one who wasn't facing it. I'm sorry."

Her shoulders relaxed and her head tilted just a little. "Me, too. You weren't ready. I shouldn't have pushed." Her eyes lowered to the ground and she noticed the expanding puddle at O'Neill's feet. He was on her porch and was therefore not standing out in the rain but he was so wet it didn't make any difference.

She caught his arm by the wrist and dragged him forward into the house. "Look at you! What did you do? Walk all the way here?"

"No, actually I-" He turned to gesture to her car parked just behind his truck but she wasn't listening.

Her fingers picked at the T-shirt that was sticking to him like glue. She pulled it away from his skin and let it loose immediately. "You're freezing!"

He hadn't even noticed it until now but he was shivering, not quite to the point of chattering teeth but he was really, really cold. He hunched his shoulders as a fresh chill and another rivulet ran down his back.

"Dammit, Colonel. You're just asking for a case of pneumonia!" She grabbed his wrist again and headed off down the hall with him in tow.

"Carter!"

She spun around and held up one finger sternly at his face. "Shower. Now."

The tugging resumed and he gave in though under protest. "I'm already a prune! Come on!"

She didn't turn around. "Fine. Make it a short one, but make it *hot*. Janet will have my hide if I bring you back to her infirmary sick." With that she shoved him into the bathroom and pulled the door toward her but not completely closed. She reached a hand in the narrow opening. "Give me your clothes. All of them."

He balked a moment but it suddenly struck him as funny. All he could see was her forearm and hand but she was wiggling her fingers as if antsy to receive the requested items.

She growled through the door. "Faster. You're dripping on my rug."

He looked down and she was right. The soft fluffy carpet was matted down flat in several large places where he'd stepped with his wet boots. He quickly sat on the edge of the tub and stripped out of his clothes. It was disconcerting to be naked in an unfamiliar place but made much worse when he glanced at the still partially open door and Carter's hand still there. He got up and gingerly handed over his clothes, even the boxers, which were as soaked as everything else.

He moved to shut the door but she blocked it. "Boots."

"Oh." He picked them up but had to open the door wider to get them through and crouched back behind it.

She snatched them away angrily. "My God, Colonel! I have a *brother* you know. You think we never walked in on each other?"

He was about to respond to that but he could already hear her footsteps moving away and down the hall. He shivered again and remembered he actually *did* have a purpose for being in here and unclothed, and stepped into the shower.

He stayed in longer than he planned it felt so good to be warm again. He turned off the water and slid the door aside to find a large fluffy towel had been placed just within his reach on the counter. He also noticed it was too far from the door to have been placed there without someone coming in. 'Shit.' He groused under his breath. He must be going for a new record of 'stupid things O'Neill could do' in a single day.

He dried off then wrapped the towel around his hips and cautiously opened the door. "Carter?"

She came too quickly from around the corner and he pushed the door forward in response.

"Sorry, Sir. Your things are in the dryer. It's gonna be awhile; and I can't find anything around the house you might be able to wear."

"So much for getting warm."

She looked back at him peeking around the door. "There is an option. My guest bedroom is that way." She pointed to an open doorway. I'll go back downstairs for a few minutes; you go in there and get under the covers. Leave the wet towel in the bathroom."

Before she could move he leaned out a little further and growled at her. "Carter! I will *not* streak in your house!"

She bit back a sudden grin and turned away. "Fine! But that towel better *not* end up in my bed!" She marched on down the hall, giggling.

'Dammit.' He leaned out and watched her leave.

When she returned the bathroom had been vacated and the door to the bedroom closed. She rapped on it lightly. "Sir? Can I come in?"

"Okay."

She smiled again when she entered. The towel was hanging off the back of a chair dutifully away from the bed and her CO was in the bed, nearly completely under the covers. He'd pulled them all the way up to his chin and was peering at her over his knuckles.

"You know we've both been in the infirmary wearing just about what you are now."

He didn't move. "I guess."

She walked closer and noticed his hair was still wet. "Why did you decide to come here? I mean now, in the pouring rain?"

"Brought your car back. Came to get my truck."

She looked at him sternly just now making the connection. "Just how wet *is* the inside of my car?"

"Could be a little damp."

She rolled her eyes and dropped to the edge of the bed with a bounce. "Did you *have* to take my car?"

"You took my truck."

He said it so matter-of-factly it made her feel silly. He was right. She had been staring at him but she suddenly looked away.

He lowered the covers a little and raised his head up to look at her. "What, no comeback?" He smiled at her discomfort.

She responded grumpily. "First time for everything."

There was a short pause and he said, "I really didn't come for my truck."

She looked at him and tried to decipher his expression; his eyes seemed darker and exhibited a more solemn quality than was usually there. He blinked one time and the tension eased slightly.

"Tell me about Jolinar."

Her eyebrows rose in surprise. "What do you want to know?"

He scooted himself up in the bed so he could sit up and rest his back against the pillows. As he did the covers slid down to reveal most of his chest but he didn't try to cover himself having dismissed the excessive modesty caused by his current circumstances. She was right after all, he couldn't count the number of times he'd been visited by his team while in the infirmary and was covered by layers of cloth *much* thinner than this. Still, the sense of sterility from the infirmary wasn't present here either. This definitely wasn't a hospital bed or that kind of situation. He leaned back and set his hands in his lap with his fingers interwoven as a kind of additional barrier.

He shrugged off any lingering discomfort and remembered why it was he'd come in the first place. The interest alone in what his 2IC might say was enough to put him at ease. "Just tell me about her. What was she like when she wasn't scared to death and running for her life?"

She repositioned herself to sit more fully on the bed aware of their proximity. It was more than a little distracting to know her CO was utterly naked beneath the sheets and right in front of her but she didn't want to discourage him if he was willing to open up and talk with her.

She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on answering the question. "She was brave, and fearless, at least out on the field and in a firefight. She was running from that damn Ashrak for a long time. Once he'd gotten on her trail he was relentless. Her move into a male host was a last-ditch effort."

"What about before that?"

"She went on a lot of missions for the Tok'ra. She was so pretty she could weasel her way into a lot of places no one else could."

For several minutes Carter related bits and pieces of the memories she'd recovered from Jolinar while O'Neill listened intently. Some things were sad, some were joyous, but they all spoke of a truly dedicated and remarkable individual.

At one point the story she told caught his attention to a greater degree. "They were pinned down on three sides by the Horus guards and were sure they'd never make it out alive. The explosives were set on a timer-"

His voice broke in. "Set to go off in three minutes. If they weren't able to get out of the building by that time they'd be blown up with the storage crates and the Jaffa."

She looked at him with narrowed eyes and continued more slowly. "But they didn't know a small contingent had doubled back-"

"And out-flanked the Jaffa. The guards were routed and the Tok'ra contingent was rescued."

After he'd finished her thought for the second time they sat just staring at each other. It was a long minute before she could respond. When she did it was in a hushed tone. "Khalil was there?"

"Apparently so." He nodded, taken just as much by surprise as she had been.

Carter thought for another minute and remembered more. Suddenly the man before her wasn't Colonel O'Neill, wasn't her CO or any way connected with the SGC, and she wasn't Major Samantha Carter.

"You *were* there! You saved my life when you-" She stopped to breathe as the memories caught up with her. Tears welled in her eyes. "You took a staff blast in the chest. You lost your host." She choked on the last word.

She had been looking down unable to face him for a moment and when she looked up she saw his eyes were closed and his face was wet. He'd remembered. From a different point of view, of course, but the same battle and the same events. It struck her with awe that they would be connected in this unusual way. The idea of shared memories never crossed her mind.

Without a thought she clambered up to the head of the bed and sat beside him, curling herself onto his shoulder and hugging his upper arm tightly. "A lot of people were saved that day."

His voice was rough and strained. "A lot of good people died saving them."

She squeezed his arm. "I know."

They were silent for a few minutes then he felt the wetness and warmth of her tears on his arm and reached up with one hand to touch her cheek. "Come here."

He slid back down in the bed until he was lying down again and pulled her down beside him, cradling her against his side with her head on his chest.

She complied with some hesitation but once nestled beside him placed one arm across his bare chest taking the chance it could incite something decidedly non-platonic. She needed the contact, needed to feel him there and real, it was worth the risk.

He noticed her stiffen a little and knew, too, they were standing on a very fine edge here, but right now it didn't matter. She was Jolinar and he was Khalil, and though he wasn't her father, he did often think of her as a daughter. He did have deep feelings of affection for her, even love; but it was not passion.

He put a warm hand over hers then turned his face into her hair and kissed the top of her head. "It's all right. You know Lantesh was so proud of what you did that day."

The fact that he was able to retain some of the persona of Khalil encouraged her and she relaxed into his embrace with a smile. Lantesh. They'd only just become lovers back then. Her heart warmed with the memories. They lay still for a while then she shivered slightly.

"You're cold."

She raised her head to look at him, and studied his eyes. It took only seconds to reach a decision and she pulled free of his arm. He began to protest but she stopped it with only a look and a quick raise of her hand.

She stood and shrugged off the thin robe she'd been wearing to reveal the spaghetti-strapped camisole and lightweight sweatpants she was wearing. Her hand reached for the switch on the small bedside lamp that was the only light in the room and stopped. "Do you trust me?"

He looked at her and balked at the question. "Do I...? Isn't that supposed to be the other way around?"

She smiled and flicked off the light and turned back to the bed. Only a little light came through the window but he could plainly see her reach for the covers and lift them so she could slide in next to him. He *just* managed to tuck some of the sheet down between them as she sidled up next to him and whispered "As a matter of fact I do."

Soon she was settled in almost the exact same position as before but with the covers pulled up snug around her shoulders. They lay in a comfortable silence for several minutes just listening and feeling each other breathe.

Eventually she inclined her head upward on his chest and spoke. "Why did you do it?"

"Hmm?" He answered sleepily.

"Why did you offer yourself to Khalil? I know you were dying but you had such strong opinions of the Tok'ra. What was it that changed your mind?"

He sighed heavily. "It's hard to say. I only talked to him for a few minutes. I guess it struck me that he wasn't trying to get to me; he didn't even seem to care about finding a new host and saving himself at the time. All he wanted to do was talk about his host and how he'd let him down. It was strange; even after I told him there might be someone available for him, he didn't push to know who it was. I think he was shocked when I told him it would be me."

She was silent for so long he wondered if she'd fallen asleep. "I don't think I would have done the same for Jolinar."

A smile flicked over his lips, "Yes, you would." Then a frown. "On 827, what happened- it wasn't a question of being forced."

She moved her head to look at him.

"When that guy grabbed your arm all I could think of was how much I wanted to stop him. Khalil didn't 'force' his way out, I pulled him out."

"I don't understand."

"Simple. I needed an edge and I took advantage of Khalil to get one. It cost him his life."

His words trailed off and she was silent for a moment comprehending his feelings of guilt; her head lowered back to his chest. "I don't think you could have made him come out if he didn't want to. He knew what was at stake."

He stared at the ceiling. "Maybe."

After a long silence she shifted her position slightly and gave him a little squeeze. She shifted her position slightly. "Tell me about him. Some of his history."

O'Neill shook his head. "I don't know what I can remember, that, what happened before, was a fluke."

"I'll help you, just try."

She wasn't looking at him but she could feel him nodding. "Okay, where do I start?"

She gave him a little squeeze with the arm that was draped across his chest. "At the beginning, of course."



Epilogue

Carter looked up at the sound of a soft rapping to see O'Neill standing in the doorway. "Got a minute?"

"Sure." She smiled and gestured to a second stool at the lab table where she was sitting.

He moved the stool back so they would be a little further apart then sat on it. "It occurred to me there was something Khalil and I wanted to talk to you about. We never got the chance so I guess it falls to me. It's about that night at my place."

She lowered her eyes for a moment then nodded for him to continue.

"We, I wanted you to know, I mean you deserve to know..."

"It wasn't you."

"You knew?" He was surprised.

"Of course. You think I don't know you?"

He frowned and looked at the floor. "Dammit, here I am talking to you about this and you have more memory of it than I do. I don't even really know what you did."

Her eyebrows rose. "You can't remember?"

"Khalil was pretty secretive about it. Believe me, I've tried. I can't recall anything from that night but extremely vague images and eating, I think, eggplant." He made a face.

She smiled at him. "The memories are there."

When he shook his head she got up and scooted her stool closer to him. She sat on it again close enough their knees brushed against each other. "Close your eyes."

His initial response was to frown and narrow his eyes at her.

"Trust me."

He paused for another half-second then complied, sitting perfectly still with his hands resting in his lap.

She slid right up to the edge of her seat and had to separate her knees to accommodate his.

"Just relax and breathe. Let your mind go back to that night. We did this." She placed her left hand on the edge of the bench and moved his right so it rested on top of hers.

"And this." She took his other hand and brought it up to her chin and held it there as she raised her head to face him.

"And this." She leaned forward until their noses barely touched and he automatically tilted his head to one side.

That little motion sparked a flood within him. Suddenly like the flare of a match being lit it all came back to him, every movement, every sensation, even the taste of the beer she'd been drinking. He relived it, every second seemingly stretched out in slow motion. He shivered and inhaled a quick breath as the vision overwhelmed him.

When it was over he opened his eyes and looked down, somewhat embarrassed, after all in the here and now nothing happened, it was all in his mind. He wondered how much outward sign was evident while he was in the memory; if the ache in his lower section was any indication, there'd been plenty. The thought made him shift uneasily in his seat.

When he looked up again he saw that Carter had moved her stool back to where she'd been before and though she was smiling the sadness showed on her face. As their eyes met she nodded answering his unspoken question. Yes, the memory was accurate.

"Do you want to know when I realized it was Khalil?"

He nodded.

"It was about ten minutes after we arrived. You don't usually sit around in your den spouting technology."

"Ah. You knew *that* long before?" He paused and shook his head. "Why did you-"

"Not stop him?"

"Yeah."

"Because it *wasn't* you... and it *was* you."

He lowered his eyes and nodded his understanding. He got up a little stiffly and moved to the doorway, stopping just inside the opening when she called out to him.

"Sir?" She paused and swallowed. "There's one more thing, and it doesn't have to do with Khalil."

He began to turn but stopped halfway, unsure of what she might say.

"The day after, that's when I broke up with Tony."

He smiled but didn't turn any further and spoke to her. "New moon tonight; if the weather holds it should be a great night for stargazing."

A long pause settled between them and just when he thought there would be no answer she spoke. "Foreign or domestic?"

He lowered his head and grinned as wide as his face would allow. "Domestic. You know I can't stand the European stuff."

He turned back to the hallway and exited the lab.

Carter turned to her computer and resumed typing, she only stopped a moment when she heard what she thought was an ecstatic 'Yes!' coming form the hallway.

Grinning, it seemed, was contagious.

~fin.