Title: Status Quo

Author: Karen T

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 does not belong to me, and neither do its characters. Poop.

Classification: Angst, Drama, Humor, Post-Ep, Sam/Jack.

Spoilers: "A Hundred Days" (317)

Archive: SJD, sure. Anyone else, please ask first.

Feedback: Always appreciated. Please send to poohmusings@yahoo.com.

Notes: I'd said I wasn't going to write an SG1 fic because I couldn't handle another fandom. Yeah, I'm just a great, big liar. :) Super-duper thanks to Jojo for the handholding and betaing. *slobbery smooches* Additional notes at end.

The wormhole disintegrated behind Jack as he regained his balance and adjusted his grip on his P-90. With the exception of the particularly blue sky, everything around them was very ... green. Green, rolling hills as far as the eye could see, and tall, green trees with lots of green leaves. Oh, but wait. These weren't your regular, run-of-the-mill trees; no, these were flowering trees.

And Daniel was already yanking Kleenex out of a pocket with great speed.

Jack grinned and clapped a half-sympathetic, half-amused hand on Daniel's back. "All right, campers, it's time for another fun-filled episode of 'How many tissues will Daniel need before the day is over?'" The wattage of his smile remained steady despite the glare Daniel shot him. "Carter, take Teal'c and canvas the perimeter around the gate to make sure we don't have any Goa'uld-y, Jaffa-ish friends hiding in wait for us." Nodding towards the wisp of smoke that was climbing up past the treetops approximately 100 yards away, he continued, "Daniel and I will head into town, and he can work his charms on the folks there. Assuming, of course, that he doesn't sneeze on them first." A second Daniel glare only succeeded in deepening his grin.

"With respect, sir," Carter countered, the bill of her cap hiding her face from view, "wouldn't it be better if we stuck together? We could quickly secure the gate and then make our way to the village as a united group. This might be more ... advantageous, sir, if the people we meet aren't that friendly."

"Nah," Jack dismissed with a wave of his hand. "Nothing suspicious showed up on the MALP, and things seem pretty calm here. Calm and ... green. There's no point in shoving all four of us at them at once. Let's just let Daniel do his 'I'm a peaceful explorer' thing, and I'll stand behind him and smile a lot so they don't think we're insane."

"Yes, sir. Of course, sir." Jack's eyebrows inched upward with each 'sir' that Carter uttered. "Let's go, Teal'c."

As Teal'c trailed after Carter, Jack joined Daniel's side and the two began making their way towards the small village they knew lay on the other side of the dense forest that stood before them.

"Hey, Daniel?" Jack asked after a moment's silence, trying to force himself to sound as casual as ever.

"Mmm?" It was obvious that Daniel was distracted, as his eyes were busy watching his hands rummage through one of his vest pockets for something. Probably more Kleenex.

"Have you noticed Carter behaving kind of ... snippy towards people lately?"

"People?"

"Yeah, y'know, you, Teal'c, m--"

"Sam hasn't been acting any differently towards me or Teal'c."

"Oh, all right, fine," Jack snapped with a roll of his eyes. "Have you noticed Carter behaving snippy towards me lately? Happy now?"

Daniel stopped dead in his tracks as his eyes grew large. "Yeah," he drawled, turning the simple word into one containing multiple syllables. "I ... wouldn't pay too much attention to that, if I were you."

"Wait, I shouldn't-- So you have noticed it, haven't you?"

"Jack," Daniel began, a pained expression already taking over his face.

"No, don't 'Jack' me! I knew Carter was being pissy! It's just not normal for someone to enjoy saying 'sir' and 'Colonel' so much. But why the hell is she mad? I mean, I can't have done something to her. I haven't even been on Earth for the past three months!"

"Uh, yeah, about that ..."

"She's mad that I got stuck on Edora for three months because a bunch of meteors decided to bury the gate?" Jack asked in disbelief. "Oh, for cryin' out--"

"Jack, it was a hard three months for her."

"Well, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park for me, either," Jack groused, frown lines creasing his forehead.

"Yeah, well ..." Pausing mid-sentence to remove his glasses so he could rub his watery eyes, Daniel sneaked a sidelong peek at Jack. "It was different for Sam, and you know it."

Jack's only response was to press his lips more tightly together.

"She worked insane hours for those three months," Daniel persisted, his voice shooting up an octave as he attempted to stress his point. "I mean, for anyone else, the hours would have been undoable. For her, they were just insane. I think she even went a couple weeks without any sleep as she tried to figure out whether the particle accelerator would work, and then how she could get it to work. Just hour after hour after--"

"All right! I get the idea. You don't have to paint me the whole damn picture." Jack opened his mouth to shoot off another reprimand only to be stymied by Daniel abruptly stopping, panic filling his face, seconds before erupting with a lung-rattling sneeze.

"Oh, god," Daniel moaned, his hands over his mouth and nose. "That hurt."

"So, Carter's pissed at me," Jack reconfirmed, handing over his own travel pack of Kleenex.

"Not pissed. Just ... Have you told her how much you appreciate what she did to get you back?"

"Well, sure. I mean, right after I dug Teal'c out, and the Edorans helped us right the gate, and you and Carter came through, I definitely said 'thank you'."

"Would that have been before or after you shoved her aside to hug Laira good-bye?"

"I didn't," Jack growled as he suppressed the desire to snatch back his Kleenex, "shove Carter aside. I just ... brushed by her in a ... not very nice way." Realizing what he'd done, Jack dropped his head and groaned. "I screwed up, didn't I?"

"Just talk to her."

"But she's not gonna make it--"

"Jack!" Daniel glared at him, all bloodshot eyes and Rudolph-nose, and insisted, "Just talk to her. And please do it today because she's driving me crazy."

"Yeah, yeah." Looking around at their surroundings, Jack dragged the soles of his boots across the gravelly path. "Damn trees ..."

***

"Major Carter?"

"Yeah, Teal'c?"

"Has Colonel O'Neill upset you in some way?"

"What?" Lowering her weapon, Sam stopped walking and stared in confusion at the Jaffa beside her. "What are you--"

"O'Neill appears to have angered you. I have noticed that you two have not been 'the same', as the Tau'ri would say, since his return from P5C-968."

If it'd been anyone aside from Teal'c, she would have assumed that the question was a joke and that the appropriate response was to laugh it off. But, well, the person next to her was Teal'c, and his expression appeared to be a very serious one. "Well, we-- I-- Everything's fine," she declared, praying that she sounded more convincing to Teal'c's ears than she did to her own.

"Perhaps if you were to speak--"

"Everything's. Fine. Teal'c." This time she knew the words were convincing as they barely made it out from between her clenched teeth.

He raised an eyebrow at the sharpness that entered her tone. "Daniel Jackson says that 'talking out' one's problem with another is the civilized way in which humans should resolve conflict."

And Daniel Jackson should learn to keep his big mouth shut, Sam griped to herself. "Yes, well, thank you for ... that."

"If you are angry, Major Carter, I could possibly approach O'Neill on your behalf and request that he--"

"For the love of god, Teal'c, I'm not angry!" she wanted to scream. But instead she inhaled a deep breath, took a second (which she hoped wasn't too noticeable to Teal'c) to calm herself, and announced, in the hopes of changing the subject, "The perimeter around the gate looks pretty clear."

"Indeed it does, Major Carter."

"Then shall we go join Colonel O'Neill and Daniel?"

"As you wish."

Breathing a quiet sigh of relief, Sam was glad to be moving again as she and Teal'c cut across a border of waist-high shrubbery. "O'Neill appears to have angered you." She rolled her eyes at Teal'c's comment, which was still running through her head. Both he and Daniel had no idea what they were talking about. Things between her and her CO were fine. Just fine. He'd returned to Earth from Edora a bit thinner than when he'd left, but things were fine. Especially between them. Everything was fine, fine, fi--

"Major Carter?"

"Yeah, Teal'c?"

"Do you sense something fearful that I do not?"

When she glanced at him with her brows furrowed, he gestured towards her hands with his head.

Looking down, she found that her knuckles were almost as white as snow from clenching onto her P-90 too tightly. Oh.

Okay, maybe things weren't actually that fine after all.

***

So, Samantha Carter, his second-in-command and the only person in the SGC -- and quite possibly the entire world -- who could save all their asses if something really fluky happened to the Stargate, was pissed at him, and he had to say 'I'm sorry'. God, wasn't there a schizophrenic snakehead he could kill instead to make amends?

Heaving a gigantic sigh, Jack glanced one more time over his shoulder to make sure Daniel was okay with the townspeople they'd just met. With his arms flapping around, Daniel was either trying to fly or emphasize a point he'd made, but he seemed quite safe regardless of which situation it was, so Jack returned to his thoughts on Carter.

Truthfully, he'd known since his return from Edora that he and Carter weren't on the best of terms. While everything appeared normal between them on the surface, her 'sir's had become too hard-edged and her posture too uptight whenever he'd approach her for him not to notice. But he'd ignored all that for as long as he could stand to because he really hadn't wanted to have The Conversation. He hated that thing. Playing dumb had always gotten him out of having to have it with Sara, but somehow he just knew that wouldn't work with Carter.

Really, there had to be a Goa'uld somewhere for him to kill, right?

A burst of laughter sounded behind him, and he looked back to see one of the townspeople patting Daniel's shoulder in appreciation. Well, what do you know? Daniel was apparently quite the comedian off-world. Maybe his jokes only worked after they'd been translated into a different language. What had Daniel said the local language was again? Some sort of Latin mix, that much he remembered.

But he'd left all the communicating to Daniel because he'd had a feeling that the only "Latin" he knew wouldn't be particularly useful. Ihay erethay. Iway amway Ackjay. Jack chuckled in amusement and began drumming his fingers against his P-90. Ymay iendfray erehay, ithway ethay orkyday assesglay, isway away igbay eekgay. A huge grin spread across his face. Ehay ometimessay itsspay enwhay excitedway, utbay e'shay eallyray itequay armlesshay. It was nice to know all that goofing off he'd done during his Academy days hadn't been a complete waste of time.

Hmm, maybe The Conversation wouldn't be so bad if said in a different language ... Artercay, Iway amway eryvay, eryvay orrysay. Ankthay ouyay orfay everythingway ouyay idday otay etgay emay ackbay omehay. Ownay, ouldcay ouyay opstay alkingway aroundway ikelay ouyay avehay omethingsay uckstay upway ouryay-- Whoa, he'd better work some more on his apology. Artercay, Iway amway eryvay, eryvay--

"Colonel! Sir!"

Jack looked up to see Carter running towards him, a smile -- a genuine one, he noted -- lighting up her face. Huh! Perhaps The Conversation wouldn't be necessary after all.

"Good hunting, Carter?" Jack greeted jovially as she came to a stop before him, her chest heaving as she attempted to catch her breath.

"What? Oh." The smile grew even bigger as she figured out he was kidding around. "You'll never guess what Teal'c and I found on our way over here."

He motioned for her to continue, which she did by holding up a tiny -- it couldn't have been any larger than three millimeters in width and two millimeters in height -- black rock. "A ... pebble, Major?" Jack asked, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion. "That's what you're so excited about?"

"It's not just any pebble, sir. It's a pebble of naquadah, a very dense, very high-grade naquadah. We've never come across anything like this before, sir. It almost scored off the charts when I scanned its properties with my instruments. I ran over here as quickly as I could to see if Daniel could find out where this pebble came from. If we can negotiate with this planet's inhabitants to allow us to mine a decent amount of this high quality naquadah, then we might not have to worry about finding any more of it for quite some time."

Carter's enthusiasm bubbled over onto Jack as he rolled up onto the balls of his feet and beamed. "Damn, that's great news, Carter. And hopefully our negotiations here will turn out better than they did on Edora, huh?"

He'd been kidding around again, but this time she didn't indulge his sense of humor. No, this time her smile vanished and she broke the gaze they'd been sharing. "Uh, yeah," she said stiltedly, her body language practically screaming that she now wanted to get as far away from him as possible. "I should go talk to Daniel, sir."

"Yeah, okay," he relented, internally kicking himself. And as she rushed to Daniel's side, he mumbled under his breath, "Ackjay O'Neillway, ouyay areway anway idiotway."

***

Kicking her car's backdoor shut behind her, Sam juggled the brown paper bag in her arms and began shuffling through the mail she'd just collected from the post office. There were bills (of course), several circulars advertising the weekly specials at her local stores, a magazine (Computers in Science and Engineering; ooh, the cover promised an article on "Visualization of Atomistic and Spin Simulations"), and a card from Mark with what felt like enclosed photos (how sweet). As she shifted the bag once more so she could slip a finger under the flap to the card's envelope, the sound of someone clearing his throat almost made her toss the bag into the air.

"Sir!" she gasped as she looked around the side of the bag to see her CO sitting on the top step leading to her front door, his right hand held up in greeting. "I didn't see you-- I didn't know you were-- Hello, sir."

"Hey, Carter," he said, wincing ever so slightly as he rose to his feet. "Sorry for the intrusion. I just ... Need a hand?"

"What? No, I..." She repositioned the bag so that its weight would rest against her left hip and scrutinized the Colonel. "With all due respect, sir ... what are you doing here? I mean, I thought General Hammond gave us two days' leave. Did something happen to Daniel? Or Teal'c? Or the SGC?" Panic filled her voice with each question she asked.

"No, no, Daniel's fine, Teal'c's fine, and the SGC is fine. I came here because I was kinda hoping we could ... you know."

When Sam's eyes widened in her patented you're-making-absolutely-no-sense look, he was forced to add, "Talk."

"Oh." A beat passed as she digested what he'd said and then, "Oh! Well, I really don't think there's anything we need to--"

And then his hand was on her shoulder, gently propelling her towards her front door. "What do you say to moving this inside? I think I've already aroused enough of your neighbors' suspicions by hanging out on your stoop for almost an hour."

She opened her mouth to protest -- after all, she'd been looking forward to a quiet night alone that involved feasting on take-out from her favorite Chinese restaurant, and at no point in that scenario was her CO supposed to make an appearance -- but military decorum prompted her to nod. She unlocked the door and motioned for him to enter first, only to have him mimic the motion back at her.

It was going to be a long night.

She made a beeline for her kitchen and dumped the mail and bag full of take-out onto the center counter island, all the while dreading what she knew was coming: The Conversation. God, she detested that thing almost as much as she detested Hathor.

After taking a second to collect herself, she turned around to find the Colonel standing next to the refrigerator, his eyes wandering around the kitchen as if this was the first time he'd ever seen it. Since he was the one who'd initiated it, she waited for him to begin The Conversation.

And she waited. And waited some more.

"Sir?" she finally couldn't stop herself from prompting.

He refocused his attention on her and smiled, seemingly oblivious to how they'd been sharing a room in silence for almost five full minutes. "Nice kitchen, Carter."

"Thank you, sir." She tried not to look too irritated, but he wasn't making it easy for her. "You said you needed to talk to me?''

"Oh. Yeah. Right. I ..." He began covering the distance between them in what had to be the most circuitous path he could take. "It's come to my attention that ... What I mean is that, as your Commanding Officer, I feel that it's my ... Well ..." He was drawing near to her now, stopping three feet away. "You're mad at me, Carter," he stated in one breath. "And I'd kinda like for you to ... not be. Please."

"I'm not mad at you, sir," she replied without missing a beat, but the blush that crept up her cheekbones told a different story.

"Yeah, you are, Carter."

"I'm really not."

"Are too."

"Sir."

"Sorry." Now it was his turn to blush. "I've been hanging around Daniel too much lately."

That comment almost made her smile. But just almost. Forcing her lips to remain in a stern, straight line, she reiterated, "I'm honestly not mad at you, sir."

"And that's complete bull, Major." He caught her eyes with his own, and held her in a non-blinking stare. "I've been ... preoccupied since returning from Edora and, because of that, I haven't thanked you properly for everything you did to get me back home. So ... thank you. And sorry for having taken so long to say that."

She broke the gaze and looked down at her feet. "You don't have to thank me, sir, and you have nothing to be sorry for."

"Carter," he began in exasperation.

"No, I'm serious. I was merely doing what you would have done if it'd been me or Daniel or Teal'c who'd gotten stuck on Edora."

"Well, yes. But I don't think I could have done it as well as you did."

This time she couldn't stop from smiling. "Thank you, sir."

He returned the smile, practically oozing with relief. "So ... we're okay now?"

"Of course."

"Oh thank god. 'Cause I have to tell you, after listening to Daniel go on and on today about how I might have offended you by hanging out with Laira when I was stuck on ..." His sentence trailed off unfinished when he saw her noticeably stiffen before him. "Carter?"

"It's getting late. Sir. Maybe it'd be best if we just waited to finish this some other--"

"You're still pissed!" he exclaimed incredulously.

The accusation -- albeit one fueled entirely by frustration -- enraged Sam past her breaking point. "Of course I am!" She marveled at how she was able to hold back from adding, "You dumb ass."

"I was stranded on Edora, Carter. Stranded! By a bunch of meteors that you know I wanted to avoid like the plague! It. Wasn't. My. Fault!"

"I never said--" she attempted to backpedal because she knew she should, because she knew she had to.

"Dammit, Carter! I wanted to get back." His hands curled into fists that he shook in front of his face as if he was a five-year-old in the middle of a temper tantrum. "I tried to get back on my own! But I didn't even know where the Stargate was. I could've been digging until the cows came home and pigs started flying and any other clich├ęs you can think of, but I--"

"You gave up!" The moment the words left her mouth, the room fell quiet and she closed her eyes. That had been one of the last things she'd wanted to admit.

With his mouth gaping half-open, he stared at her in stunned silence. "I gave up?"

Sam nodded as she fixed her attention on a chipped floor tile that was next to her right foot. "You're always telling us not to, sir. Always," she murmured, still not trusting herself to look at him. "Even when we were stuck on Antarctica and you were dying and I couldn't figure out how to get us home, you still wouldn't let me give up. But you gave up on Edora. You joined the Edorans. You embraced their culture. You embraced their rules. You embraced--" 'Laira' was the word on the tip of her tongue, but she wouldn't -- couldn't -- say it out loud. "You embraced them. And when you did that, you gave up on those of us who were here, trying to get you home."

He didn't respond immediately, or even eventually. When she didn't hear him say a word for at least five minutes, she took a peek at his face and saw him looking every bit like the proverbial deer caught in a pair of headlights. "Sir, this is clearly my issue and I swear that--"

"I-- I'm sorry." And she could tell he truly was. For everything.

"It's not a big deal, sir."

He scoffed and grinned at her. "Oh, I'd beg to differ, Major. And I'm pretty sure Daniel and Teal'c would, too."

She snorted at his dig and covered her reddening face with a hand. "I haven't been that bad, have I?"

"Eh, someone's gotta keep things interesting between the four of us."

She shot him a wobbly smile, and they just sort of stared at each other for a while, neither seeming to know what to do next. They both knew that they'd more or less mended the rift between them, but then what? She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, once again growing fascinated with that chipped tile, and he scratched his head as he found something on the ceiling worthy of his attention.

"Hungry ... sir?" she asked a bit awkwardly to break the silence.

"Hmm?"

"Would you like to stay for dinner? I couldn't decide what to order, so I bought one of everything I was in the mood for. That means there's plenty to go around if you'd like to stay."

As if on cue, the Colonel's stomach rumbled in response, which sent them laughing. "I was honestly going to be more subtle," he said between chuckles.

"Oh, of course, sir," she replied with mock sincerity, not even attempting to hide her smirk. 'Would you mind grabbing some plates? They're up on the shelf right above the dishwasher."

As he moved over towards the correct shelf and began unloading one plate after another, he rattled off a rather amusing anecdote of how he'd realized he had to get back to Earth when he learned that cow dung throwing was quite a popular pastime on Edora. She laughed at all the appropriate places and didn't even cringe when Laira's name was mentioned. Perhaps Daniel hadn't been that off base when he'd told Teal'c that 'talking out one's problem with another' was the way to go.

But then what happened next was something that no one -- not even Daniel -- could have predicted. It was something that would only have occurred if everything fell into place, which they did.

At the exact moment that she stopped rifling through the paper bag containing the take-out and he finished setting out the plates and the refrigerator ended its cooling cycle, the room became just quiet enough for her to hear him mumble, almost to himself, "I always knew I'd get back to Earth because I hadn't given up on you, Carter. I'd never do that."

That was when she knew for certain that everything between them was fine.

-the end-

Notes, part 2: The "English" translation of Jack's Pig Latin thoughts is:

Hi there. My name is Jack. My friend here, with the dorky glasses, is a big geek. He sometimes spits when excited, but he's really quite harmless.

Carter, I am very, very sorry. Thank you for everything you did to get me back home. Now, could you stop walking around like you have something stuck up your--

Jack O'Neill, you are an idiot.

The magazine Computers in Science and Engineering does exist, as does the article "Visualization of Atomistic and Spin Simulations." It can be found in the latest issue of CSE, for those of you who might like to read it. ;)