All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Monk is the property of USA Networks and Mandeville Films.

Category: Action/adventure, Romance

Rating: PG-13

Pairings: Sam/Jack, Adrian/Sharona

Slight Spoilers for seasons 7 and 8 of Stargate SG-1. No spoilers for Monk.

Warnings: minor language.

Feedback to ted.sadler@ntlworld.com please.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

A Case of Nerves

By Ted Sadler

Copyright © 2003

"Yes, what is it, Doctor?" said General Pearson as Dr. Warner entered his office. The doctor, although he had been at the SGC for only a few months, still regarded it as General Hammond's den even though the former incumbent had been reassigned to a new position by the president a while ago.

"Sir, I have the report you were waiting for." replied Warner. He closed the door and waited for the invitation to be seated, which was granted immediately by the wave of a hand. "On General O'Neill."

"Ah." sighed Pearson, regretting that this subject had come to the top of the pile so soon after his start as General Hammond's replacement. "Jack O'Neill."

He could not fault O'Neill's handling of the re-establishment of the Alpha Site and his self-evident leadership qualities, but saw, as did others who chose to look closely enough, that Jack was a man running on empty. His resilience and determination to succeed, to 'get the job done' was still there, but like the candle that burns brightest just before the end, he was a thin shell of the man he had been when he and Pearson had been Captains and then Majors together, both in peacetime placements around the world and during the several short but bloody conflicts of the last thirty years. "What do you have for me, then, Doctor?"

"Sir, General O'Neill is the only human known to have had the contents of a vast alien library of knowledge downloaded into his mind, not once, but twice. It shows how little we know of ourselves that we cannot understand how this was possible without destroying his ability to function as a person. However he will probably never be able to fully return to 'normal' from the effects of having his brain carry this much information for a brief period. Even though we were able to extract the majority of this data, I am convinced that he is in need of a period of extended rest and recuperation. And need I say, Sir, continued observation and further psychiatric analysis both before and after his leave of absence from front- line duty."

"The Jack O'Neill I know won't take kindly to that." said the General. "He'd rather keep on working himself back to fitness."

"During my last few visits to the Alpha Site on routine medical inspections," continued Warner, "I've observed him doing just that. Don't get me wrong, the base is in the best of hands with him at the helm. It's just that I don't know how long he can keep it up without some major trauma popping up just when he or we least need it to happen. Let's just say that he's on a fuse of unknown length, and it's already burning."

"Recommendations?" enquired Pearson, knowing that arguing was pointless and in this instance downright wrong.

"Three months R&R back here on Earth." replied the doctor. "I understand that he has a fishing cabin in a remote part of Minnesota, and that he often spends his leave alone there. However this time it would not be a good idea for him to brood on his own. We need to find him something to occupy his time and his mind. Something preferably non-military but challenging. As to what, exactly - I've no idea right now. You've known him for a long time, Sir. Can you help?"

"Maybe." mused Pearson.

After more questions he dismissed the doctor and punched a number on the telephone keypad. After waiting for a few moments, he spoke in clipped tones "Major Carter? Would you report to my office at 0915? I have an assignment for you." He waited for her confirmation and replaced the telephone. Then he took a small black notebook from his desk drawer and thumbed through it before dialling a San Francisco number. "Leland? Is that you? Monty Pearson. Yeah, fine thanks. Listen, you know that screwball friend of yours who needs help to get back on the force? I think I got some temporary help for you."

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Major Samantha Carter was the next occupant of General Pearson's visitor's chair. Her long USAF career had told her to expect the unexpected, and yet she was more than a little taken aback by his question.

"No, Sir, SG-1 has no overriding commitments that would prevent me from undertaking a prolonged mission off-world." she stated. "May I ask where?"

"The Alpha Site." replied Pearson. Sam immediately experienced a hot flush which she hoped the General did not notice. "For the next three months. You will be Acting CO and Liaison Officer to Teal'c, who is to be given authority over the rebel Jaffa, although what his title will be, I'm uncertain at present."

"But Sir, that's General O'Neill's job!" she uttered in astonishment. A sudden unwelcome thought entered her head. "Is he OK, Sir? Or is he being re-assigned as well?"

"General O'Neill will be taking a three-month downtime before - hopefully - resuming his duties at the Alpha Site." said Pearson. "Your mission is to maintain the build-up of the site to full operational status and to complete the early warning and defence systems to fight off any new Goa'uld attack."

"Of course, Sir." replied Sam. "But if you'll pardon me, General, three months' downtime is well, exceptional. Is there a problem I should know about?" But she was beginning to feel distinctly uneasy about what was going on, and knew without doubt that she and Jack were more apart than ever as the result of her actions over the last six months.

"I'm telling you this only because I need you to report back on another aspect of the job, Major." the General said. "This information is confidential, understood?" She nodded in reply and he continued, "Jack O'Neill is exhausted, both mentally and physically. Since you were with him at the time, you know that his well-being and maybe his thinking processes were in doubt for a while when we recovered the Ancients' knowledge from his mind. However, being the man he is, his determination to get back to being a serving officer was so great that he convinced us that he'd overcome the difficulties and was indeed getting back to whatever you can define as 'normal' for him! He'd done it once before and so we went with him. And frankly, we needed his talent to get the Alpha Site up and running quickly. But lately we've reason to believe that even he needs to take it easy for a while."

Sam waited for the General to elucidate, her impassive face hiding the inner turmoil. Eight years of practice had made her good at that. He paused only briefly to collect his thoughts.

"The stresses of command are high enough here on Earth, as you are well aware. I have the greatest respect for General Hammond and frankly, I don't know how he avoided getting ulcers just from his job here in the mountain. I want you to report to me any observations or feelings you have about commanding an off-world base for a prolonged period. Are there any particular problems or situations that make life different? Don't be embarrassed to report back to me anything unusual, or anything that just doesn't seem right, or could cause problems. I'll be listening, you can bet on that!"

"Yes, Sir." she said quietly. "SG-1's reconnaissance missions can be diverted to other units, and I'm sure that Doctor Jackson will welcome a three-month period to catch up on his research here."

"Very well. You and Teal'c will accompany me to the Alpha Site tomorrow and I will inform the General of the new orders."

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Within two weeks, Sam was only too well aware that Jack's job was no sinecure. The typical twelve to eighteen hour working days consisted of a stream of endless requests from technicians and unit commanders, briefings, reports back to Earth, inspections and resolving the occasional disciplinary problem. Unlike her work on SG-1 where she could focus on one mission, one planet or one challenge at a time, most of this diverse supervisory work was mind-blowingly boring. Paper or electronic reports ran the system, and their absence caused hold-ups. The thing she found most surprising was her impatience with those scientists who gave time- consuming, over-detailed explanations or background to their requests. She had only used the phrases 'Get to the point!' a couple of times, followed by one 'For crying out loud!' before she recognised the style her own previous conversations with Jack, when the boot had been on the other foot.

It was a struggle to keep everyone focussed on the priority objective of building and maintaining a defendable outpost, and the occasional emergency drill was needed to remind them of that fact. Because of the SGC's stretched resources and perennial budget crisis, she had no permanent adjutant to assist her. But she was used to hard work and was not deterred.

Her daily one-hour meetings with Teal'c made her realise that his life was equally filled, not with paperwork, but with the constant need to be everywhere to shape an ill-disciplined but loyal and enthusiastic band of rebels into a credible fighting machine. And with the volunteers' enthusiasm came impatience, because that's the way it has always been. Teal'c's biggest challenge was to develop a trustworthy cadre of officers and junior leaders who could maintain order by themselves, and he was a long way from achieving that. There was never enough time during these meetings for them to exchange more than a few pleasantries, not that Teal'c had ever been the witty conversationalist.

For the first ten days she was too tired to do anything other than flop into bed after dinner, and she had little enough time or energy to think about anything other than the events of today and tomorrow. But by end of the second week, she had developed a new sense of routine and was beginning to get on top of the more regular items, and had begun to delegate some of the tasks. This left her time to contemplate recent events, especially the sight of Jack's shocked expression when General Pearson had marched into his office and effectively relieved him of command.

She had waited in the ante-room but the thin walls had not dimmed Jack's near-insubordinate words of surprise, outrage and disappointment. Her discomfort increased during his subsequent meeting with her to hand over codes and keys and explain the essentials of the job. Not once had he been anything other than the cold, consummate professional, even down to his farewell words of "Good luck, Major. See you in three months. Maybe." before he strode out without looking back. He had totally ignored the pleading expression in her eyes that she knew he would have responded to in the past, when they were team-mates, comrades, would-be lovers, call it what you will.

She cursed herself for taking until now to realise that Jack was the prime candidate for being the loneliest person in the SGC. Lonely because there was no-one on base for the CO to talk to off-duty. Lonely because there were no longer any family members nor available friends to visit back home through the Stargate, nor on any other goddamned planet, come to that. She at least had Teal'c and Daniel to confide in if she felt the need. Or if she chose, she could contact her recent ex-boyfriend Peter back in Denver. He'd glimpsed her life-style and was smitten enough to still want to be with her, to listen, to pretend that life was nearly normal. But she knew that Peter had been a mistake, the shelter in a storm of uncertainty, the person to lean on when she had felt low enough to believe that life outside her SGC role was possible. He was the man whom she had used to demolish her bond with one other person she really, really wanted.

Jack had never crossed that line of professional behaviour towards her when she was his subordinate. But they had developed a close, warm working relationship that had simply disappeared when she started dating Peter. No more personal jokes, brushes of the hand against each other, or knowing looks. Jack tried so hard to conceal his disappointment, and to the outside world and her team-mates, nothing had changed, except that maybe Teal'c knew, but predictably said nothing.

And then, the day that she wanted to re-live, to change, to forget. The afternoon she had visited Jack's house to tell him that she would after all like to go fishing with him, that it was all right now that he was no longer her CO, that she wanted so much more. That same afternoon that Peter rang his doorbell, having found out from Daniel where she was, to plead with her to give him another chance, killing the warm and welcome tension that was returning between Jack and herself. The moment that she saw Jack's heart turn to stone, his eyes those of a dead man, while she in her embarrassment tried to usher Peter out of the door.

She had told Jack that she would be back in a couple of hours while she 'sorted things out' with Peter, but ex's who believe that it can't be over take more persuading than that. It had been six hours before she returned, to be greeted by the darkened house and the empty drive. The note in the envelope pinned to the front door was brief, and so typically him. 'I can't compete with him, Sam. He's right for you, and you deserve more than I can give. I wish it were me, but I knew it was over when you met him. O'Neill.' Crumpling the note in her fist, she sank to the ground, unable to cry but unable to move either.

'Why can't the stupid man believe in himself?' she wondered. And she saw in crystal clarity that Jack's low self-esteem would never be overcome unless she took the lead. Did he really believe she would be better off with Peter, who was nice, considerate and wanted her? Who could give her the semblance of a normal life? Jack was a mass of contradictions, sometimes short-tempered and withdrawn, driven by the will to succeed in everything except personal satisfaction. The man who'd given his life - so literally - to their cause, who never gave up the fight for others and his friends, but asked so little for himself. The man who'd frequently drive her crazy and keep her life unpredictable.

No contest.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Four days after returning to Earth and being subject to seemingly endless medical and psychiatric examinations, Jack stepped out of the taxi cab at the address he had been given, and took in the magnificent view of San Francisco Bay down the street. He paid the driver and picking up his hold- all, climbed the steps to the address he had been given.

The door was opened by a man of similar age to himself, athletic-looking but with that same world-weary look he saw every day in the mirror. "Er, Leland Stottlemeyer?" asked Jack politely.

"Yes!" came the reply, the man's moustache twitching with his sudden smile. "You must be Jack O'Neill. Come in. Come in."

Jack took in the pleasant, well-lived in but neat house and was introduced to Mrs. S and shortly shown to the room upstairs where he would be lodging for the next few weeks. After cleaning up he entered the lounge and relaxed with a beer in the comfortable armchair opposite his host. "Mary's gone out for a while." explained Leland. "Gives us the chance to talk, anyhow. How much did Monty Pearson explain about this set-up? I know you're not exactly thrilled about this - 'more than moderately pissed', I think his words were, but I trust Monty's judgement."

"Yeah, he's been a good friend." replied Jack. "The shrinks seem to think I need a period of R&R away from the Air Force. More than that, I have no idea."

"I'm a captain in the SFPD." explained Stottlemeyer. "I got this guy - more of a friend than a colleague - who's trying to work his way back into the force. His wife was killed four years ago and he kind of lost his way. Nothing dangerous, mind you, but let's say he's developed a few.. obsessions. Drives people nuts with 'em. I won't beat about the bush. He was, and still is, one of the best goddamned detectives there's ever been. Observation and deductive skills like you wouldn't believe. Be kinda good to have him back on board, but only in a way that doesn't drive the rest of us into the laughing academy in the process. He could learn a lot about coming back to life from a guy like you."

"Did Pearson explain that I'm not exactly renowned for my infinite patience and gentility?" said Jack, frowning. "A nurse I ain't!"

"And a nurse you won't be, either! He has a woman looks after him - Sharona Fleming. Nice lady, good mother - and the only person in the world who can put up with him 24 / 7. Well, 22 / 6 anyway."

"Are they an item?" asked Jack. "I wouldn't want to.."

"Nope. They're kinda close, but nothing earthy as far as I'm aware. Sharona puts up with a load of crap from people who think they're better than her - including some of my guys! - but she's a diamond."

"OK. What's his name, why now and why me?"

"Yeah." sighed the Captain of Detectives. "You see, we got an open homicide case, and Monk - that's Adrian Monk - got called in when we couldn't determine an MO. He spends a couple of days going through the place and then announces that the guy was killed by an alien weapon! And here's me willing him to get back to normal and yadda yadda yadda. I happened to mention it to Monty Pearson and he phones me a couple of weeks later saying he knows someone who needs a time out - that's you, I guess - who just might help give Monk a hand in the right direction to normality again! That you'd crawled out of the pit yourself in the past, and he also said you'd worked on handing off UFO nuts on occasion, right? So here you are."

In spite of everything he'd heard from Stottlemeyer that convinced him he was going to deck this Monk guy within the first twenty minutes of being with him, Jack was beginning to get interested.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

The following week, having taken a few days to get to know the strange detective and his erstwhile assistant, Jack had come close to strangling Monk only twice, and thanked his lucky stars for Sharona's moderating influence. She had obviously got a lot of talent for spotting when people in Monk's presence were reaching boiling point as a result of his obsessions with symmetry and neatness, and his overt repulsion to dirt and real or imagined diseases. Not to mention him being the world's worst back- seat driver.

Sharona treated Jack like an unwelcome but inevitable intrusion into Monk's life for the first few days. "He doesn't need this!" she had told him on more than one occasion, out of Monk's earshot, of course. But she couldn't help noticing that Jack himself had a sad, resigned expression in the moments when he relaxed and thought that no-one was watching, only to resume the impersonal mask the moment he knew she was looking at him. The ice began to thaw, and she found herself wanting to get to know more about him, and was surprised and delighted when he asked about her son Benjy - not just a polite question, but genuine interest. And when he met her son and they hit it off almost instantly, the tide began to turn. She asked the inevitable question, and felt the shock of sympathy run through her when she learned that his son had died at an age not much different from her own boy now.

Monk observed the changes in Jack and Sharona's interactions when they all sat together at meals, and felt pleased that she and this charismatic stranger were hitting it off at last. Pleased, but uncharacteristically jealous as well. He had been noncommittal about Jack's arrival at first, but knew that Stottlemeyer was trying to help him get back on the force. His initial observations of O'Neill soon revealed a war-weary, run down private man fighting his own demons, and it had not taken long for Monk himself to start to open up to Jack about his own life. He even invited him along to visit his wife's grave, where Jack stood back patiently for an hour whilst Adrian paid his respects, lost in memories.

The day arrived when Monk was allowed back onto the crime scene by the SFPD, and Stottlemeyer had cleared Jack to accompany him.

"So, again, why d'ya think the perp used an alien weapon?" said Jack, congratulating himself that he was beginning to master this detective language.

"Well, Jack," said Monk, walking over to the place where the chalk outline of the deceased was etched onto the apartment floor, "when they found the body, there were no knife or gunshot wounds, and no visible injuries. But he was as dead as they come, and not a mark on him. But do you see anything odd about the body in these photos? Especially the close-ups."

Jack studied them for some while. "No." he admitted.

"Look at the hairs on his neck and on the fibres on his sweater." said Monk. "They're all standing on end, like he was zapped with a powerful electric current. But there's no burn marks and no signs in the apartment of any loose, long cables having been used. It's as though some kind of powerful electric shock gun, much more powerful than a Tazer, was used on him. I heard of a case like this before, at some small town in Oregon."

The hairs on Jack's own neck began to stand on end. "Maybe." he said in a non-committed way. "Did the coroner confirm electrocution?"

"He didn't rule it out." replied Monk. "And of itself, it's not enough to build a case on."

"So where do you go from here?" asked Jack, handing back the photos.

"See that cell phone in his hand in the photo?" said Monk. "If he was electrocuted, chances are it wouldn't be working any more. But this one was - here, I got it back this morning from the forensic lab and brought it with me. There were only his prints on it. I thought it was strange, so I went through every menu, message and number stored on the phone. I got his call log from the phone company. I need your help in tracing all the contacts."

"To work, Holmes!" replied Jack, trying to hide his growing concern.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Major Carter was warned by the Marine Captain of an unexpected Gate activation at the Alpha Site. She was soon in radio conversation with General Pearson.

"Sam, Major Ferretti is coming through the Gate in the next few minutes. I'll explain later, but something's come up here on Earth that needs your immediate attention. You will transfer command to him and report to me in the SGC at the earliest opportunity."

"Yes, Sir." replied Sam, wondering what was going on but recognising the urgent tone. It was only her third week on the job, but she was glad of the change. She had no idea how Jack could stand month after month of this assignment, despite its importance to Earth's defences. She felt so cut off from being personally involved in the things that she was organising and overseeing, and had come to realise that her future career steps upward must inevitably lead to more of this.

A mere eight hours later she was met by a San Francisco detective at the airport.

"Major Carter? I'm Lieutenant Randall Disher." said the young man. "I'm to direct you to meet Captain Stottlemeyer, who will brief you on what they've found. He'll be back this afternoon, and if you wish, we have time to get some lunch first."

"Thank you, Lieutenant, that would be good timing." replied Sam, glad at being met so quickly but already bristling at the way this young detective was so obviously checking her out. She had changed into civilian clothes to be as inconspicuous as possible, and didn't think that jeans and leather jacket would encourage this kid of attention. It had been a long Earth day already for her, even though she'd slept briefly on the plane. She slung her bag over her shoulder, ignoring his attempt to carry it for her as they made their way to the car park.

In the car, she divided her attention between noticing the changes to the city, which she hadn't seen for several years, and thinking about the cryptic briefing that General Pearson had given her. 'Information is sketchy.. General O'Neill reports a possible alien object found.. If it turns out to be a serious potential hazard, call for as much back-up as you think you need..." The Lieutenant's comments were met with polite grunts and gestures but she wasn't really listening to him until one question penetrated her musings.

"So, would you like see the town this evening, work permitting, of course?"

She snapped out of her reverie and looked at him. "Lieutenant, I appreciate the courtesy of you meeting me, but do you make a habit of pestering all the people you meet at the airport? Or just the women? I'm an Air Force Officer, here to do a job, and I'd be grateful if you'd confine your interests to assisting me in doing just that. Understood?"

She regretted the guy's hurt and flustered look for a moment, but no more than that. She wondered whether her brief spell as CO on the Alpha Site was already changing her behaviour, or whether she was trying to avoid detectives generally. Or, curse the thought, whether she was hurting from losing Jack's adoration.

As they walked into a small lunch diner, Disher recognised two people already sitting in the far corner, and led her over to them. "May we join you?" he asked as they looked up at him. "This is Major Carter USAF. Meet Adrian Monk and Doctor Watson."

Sharona looked daggers at him briefly, and then immediately exchanged a look of sympathy and understanding with Sam. After brief hellos and ordering snacks, Disher left for the men's room.

"Er, is he always..?" said Sam.

"Pretty much." Sharona replied. "I'd like to say you get used to it, but you don't. I'm Sharona Fleming, by the way. Adrian is Sherlock." Sam laughed as Monk smiled shyly.

When the Lieutenant came back, his banter continued. "So, Sharona, how's your old man of mystery doing? Any better than the usual amateur wrestlers you hang out with? Have you forced him into a date yet, even though he could be your father?"

The atmosphere became frosty for a moment, but Sharona was up to it. "Yes, if you must know. We've been out twice, and he's something else. When he asked the first time, I told him that I couldn't get someone to stay with my son that night, so he took both of us to dinner. And Benjy gets on really well with him, too. And the second time I chose a really classy restaurant and we went dancing afterwards. He was the perfect gentleman."

Sam couldn't help noticing that Adrian's eyes had narrowed while she was saying this, just like O'Neill's had done when Peter was there. 'Oh, my God!' she thought. 'That's what I did to Jack.'

"Yeah, until he expects 'payment', I suppose." Disher interjected, nodding resignedly.

"No, numb nuts! Not everyone's a moron like you. He's a cool guy, and he didn't say a lot about himself at first. But when I saw how well he gets on with Benjy, I got talking to him and he told me that his own son had died a few years ago, and how he missed him." Sam looked sharply at her, wondering how this woman had managed to get more out of Jack than she ever had, but Sharona hadn't finished.

"When we were by ourselves, he wouldn't say anything about himself that you could get a hold of. I get the impression he's a loner, and he's that way because at least one person has really, really hurt him. I'd sure like to get closer to him, but he ain't letting anyone crack that shell of his. Pity.. He's mentioned that he's got a cabin somewhere up north, Minnesota I think, and that Benjy and I would be welcome to use it for a vacation before he sells it."

Now it was Adrian's turn to observe Sam's reaction - the blush, her stare, the hard swallow and then her gaze downwards at her plate. He knew. He felt pity for an instant, and then relief - selfish relief, he realised - that 'his' Sharona wouldn't be disappearing from his life just yet. If only he could engineer two stubborn people into the realisation that there was only one way forward..

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Disher's cell phone rang mid-meal. "Yeah, talk to me!" he called in a way that reminded Sam of Rod Steiger's words on film, which was the impression he'd been trying to give anyway. The effect was soon lost, however. "Sorry, Sir! Yes, it's me, Disher. Yes, Sir. We're in the usual diner on Haight Street. Yes, five minutes then. Thank you, Sir!" He closed the phone and announced "The Captain and O'Neill will be here in five."

"That would be *General* O'Neill to you." said Sam, trying to conceal her discomfort. Jack had requested Lieutenant Hailey for this mission and didn't know that she would be there instead.

Jack covered his surprise well as he and Stottlemeyer approached the table. "Carter." he said in a curt manner, nodding briefly in her direction, motioning her not to stand as military protocol normally demanded. Sharona, on the other hand, smiled amicably at him.

"Hey, Jack! How's it going?"

"Er, fine, thanks." he mumbled, looking distinctly uncomfortable. They sat down in the last two empty chairs at the table and ordered the chef's special without looking at the menu.

After some small talk, the Captain looked round as he finished his meal to make sure that they were not being overheard. "OK, people. It goes down like this." Disher leaned forward conspiratorially, but sat upright again at Stottlemeyer's raised eyebrow.

"Jack and Monk have spent the last week tracking down and following individuals either listed on the deceased's cell phone memory, or who sent or received calls to or from that phone." the Captain continued. "It's been kept low-profile and we quickly eliminated all the fixed phone recipients. We followed the cell phone users until we could eliminate them from involvement. Good work, both of you." Adrian nodded briefly and smiled, but Jack was motionless. "However, we've got two suspects left, one of whom led us to a warehouse in the Bay area. We staked it out until he'd gone away again and then conducted a search. Jack?"

"We found a sizeable *doohickey* under wraps." said Jack, meeting Sam eye- to-eye, looking for and receiving her quiet acknowledgement of the word's implications.

"Foothold?" she enquired, raising one eyebrow.

"Negative. Possibly an isolated incursion. Unknown hostile intent." He looked around at the others. "It's the kind of *doohickey* that Major Carter's used to handling in our work on high-powered electrical equipment." He had every ounce of their attention now. "Carter, you and I are going with the Captain this afternoon to get kitted out by the SWAT team - full gear. Then we'll familiarise ourselves with their comms routines and equipment, rehearse entry procedures and then hopefully get some rest. It's going to be a long night ahead. What time zone were you in last night?"

"Plus six, Sir." replied Sam. "I slept a little on the plane from Colorado. I'll be fine. P90's?"

"Heckler & Koch SMG's with laser sights, nine millimetres and combat knives, I believe. Captain?" said Jack, eyeing Stottlemeyer, who nodded in return.

"Good enough." said Sam. "Entry in force or stealth?"

"Stealth. This has to be kept out of the public eye at this stage." replied Jack. "The mission objective is to investigate and if necessary disable the device if it's active in any way. Full support response is available from back-up team entry to commencement of full City evac procedure. Your basic tool kit is arriving from Cheyenne this afternoon. The suspects are being shadowed full-time and will be apprehended or taken down if they make a move in our direction."

Only Stottlemeyer was not dumbfounded by the rapid and totally unexpected conversation that was taking place between Sam and Jack. She kept firing short questions, to be met by answers that were both brief and brutally to the point. Adrian and Sharona both suddenly realised that this side of Jack was rarely to be seen in public, and that he and Sam were like two sides of the same coin, in their own closed and exclusive world. Disher's head moved between them as though he were watching a tennis match, his mouth slightly agape.

The meeting broke up and they headed out of the restaurant, with Adrian and Sharona bringing up the rear. She put her hand on his arm to hold him back a little.

"Adrian, I'm frightened." she whispered. "An hour ago, I thought I was getting to know him, and she seems so, well... nice."

He patted her hand in response. "I hate to break it to you, but you realise it's her that he's so cut up about, don't you? And she isn't over the moon about you getting on with him like you do."

"Yeah, I know." she said in a small voice. "You'd have to be blind to miss it."

XXXXXXXXXXXX

"OK, Blue Leader, we're in." said Sam into her radio microphone. "Proceeding to the store room." She could clearly see Jack's back through the night-vision glasses in the otherwise totally dark room. They reached the inner door, which had been locked since Jack had last been there. He motioned Sam forward and she made short work of it with her lock picks. He closed the door when they were inside and taking off the glasses, motioning Sam to do the same, he pressed the light switch. He strode across the room to a where a blue tarpaulin covered a large cylindrical shape and carefully pulled it off.

They stared at the grey metallic object mounted on six stubby legs, covered in fine lines and protruding what looked like cooling fins at the top. As Jack moved towards it, Sam called. "Stop, Sir! Switch the light off again for a moment." He moved back and complied. After a few moments, they could see a faint shimmering light over the surface of the object. "OK, on again." said Sam. "It's surrounded by a force field, or maybe just a detection layer."

"Goa'uld?" he enquired.

"Don't think so, Sir. Wrong shade of blue. It's electromagnetic, anyhow. I've no idea of how to switch it off."

"Ah." sighed Jack. "Looks like a call for BF&I. My area of expertise."

"Sir?" said Sam quizzically.

"Brute force and ignorance, Carter. Watch this." He walked to the side of the room and returned with a metal pole about two metres long. Sticking one end gingerly into the edge of the field, he moved the other end close to a metal roof support column. Before he made contact with it, he looked at Sam and nodded. She opened her microphone.

"Blue Leader, we are about to de-activate a detection device." she reported. Please inform the observation team to look out for any response from the suspects." On hearing the brief acknowledgement, she continued. "OK, Sir, go ahead. But let go before it actually makes con..."

"Holy shit!" cried Jack, shaking his arm violently as he stepped back. Bright sparks were dancing along the pole and up the beam. They both looked anxiously at the device, but nothing apparent was happening. Sam slid a bullet out of a spare ammunition clip and threw it gently at the cylinder, and was rewarded with a metallic sound. Jack kicked the pole away and they approached slowly.

Sam got down on her back and slid underneath, shining a small torch at the underside. She opened her microphone again. "Blue Leader, we are about to open a door on the underside of the device. Keep watching for a response." She clicked the mike off again. "Sir, can you get down here with the tools? This is going to take the two of us."

He laid down and shuffled back so that they were head-to-head, laying at right angles. At her commands he passed different implements, from simple screwdrivers and wrenches to what looked like a beefed-up dentist's drill, which she used to bore out some stubborn fixings. As the last one gave way they lowered the heavy metal plate to the side and Jack pushed it out of the way. Inside was a mass of wires and translucent crystals.

Suddenly they both heard the voice in their ear-pieces. "Red Team! This is Blue Leader. Observation Team reports suspect one suddenly alerted to something and is making a call on his cell phone. They are going in."

"Roger that." replied Jack. "Keep us advised." He clicked the rather stiff switch, but was not aware that the microphone had stayed open.

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Captain Stottlemeyer was listening to all the net radio traffic in the command van, with Monk and Sharona standing behind him. They heard shouts, crashes and shots being fired as the Observation Team closed down the suspects. Suddenly the break-in team's radios came alive.

"Blue Leader, device has activated. I repeat, device has activated." they heard Sam's voice report in clinical tones.

"This is Blue Leader. Acknowledged. Do you require assistance, Red Team?"

"Negative. Suggest you move back a couple of blocks." replied Sam. "Just in case."

"Roger. All Blue Sections pull back to backstop position one."

Sharona reached for Adrian's hand without looking round and they stayed in contact, hearts thumping. Jack's voice cut in sharply, and they heard the rustle of his clothes on the floor. "Sam, I can see a red crystal at the back that's going a yellow colour at one end. The yellow is slowly moving down. I don't think it'd be a good idea if it got to the other end."

"OK, I see it. We'll try cutting these wires on the left first."

"It's your ass, Sam."

"It's your ass too, Jack. Cutting one now. OK, that was tough. Here, you take two, you're stronger than me. Got it? Good. Now that one over there. Yes, that's right."

"Two more crystals are glowing. Should they be doing that, Sam?"

"How the fuck should I know? Why are you selling your cabin? Cut that last wire over there after I warn the others to pull back some more. I don't like the way this is going. Blue Leader, recommend backstop position two. Be ready for full alert."

"Roger that. Blue Team, pull back to backstop position two."

"See if you can pull that crystal over there out of its socket. That's it. Come on, Jack! Why are you selling up?"

"You know goddamned well why, Sam. I've nothing left back here now. It won't move. Here, get your arm alongside mine and pull as well. That's it; it's starting to come now."

"Agh! Sir.. Jack, I'm so sorry. I couldn't get away from Peter and you were gone when I did get back. I found your note. That's it. Now the one on the left. Together now.."

"I got it. It's coming a bit easier than the other one. You came back? You mean...?"

"Yes, Jack, I do mean. Careful! Got my elbow trapped. That's better. OK it's coming. Anyway, how come Sharona gets your life story when I never have?"

"She's a good listener, Sam , and a really nice person. I never thought I'd be your first choice when the time came. What next? Jesus! The yellow colour's moving faster! What do we do now?"

In the command van, Sharona was turning a bright red.

"I don't know, Jack." they heard Sam reply. "I thought it was a cross between Goa'uld and Asgard technology, but clearly it's not. There's one more crystal to pull, and after that it's Goodnight Vienna. Let's do it! And Jack, don't you ever presume again to know what I think of you. In case I have to spell it out, I love you!"

"Jesus, what a time to find out! OK, it's out, but I got bad news. The yellow colour is fairly galloping down the red crystal now. OK, more BF&I. Pass me your nine millimetre. That's it. I'm going to blow that crystal away. Sam, if this works out, will you...?"

"Yes!"

"But I haven't..."

"Go fishing, live with you, marry you, have your kids? Yes!"

"That's OK, then. Here goes."

The crystal splintered into a thousand pieces as the bullet tore into it.

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ted.sadler@ntlworld.com