The Colour of Pain Chapter 13

A/N: This is the final chapter, campers, though I'm not averse to the possibility of writing a sequel should I be given the impetus. wink wink, nudge nudge You all know what the review button is for and how it works…

There's a fair amount of nerves and angst-y type decision making going on here and, consequently, the thoughts and feelings of the characters are slightly muddled and not necessarily following a logical order. Most of you won't need that explanation I'm sure, but this is the internet and you know how some people are!

Enjoy.

**

Major Samantha Carter, United States Air Force, waited nervously outside General Hammond's office. He had the results of her psychological and physical assessments from the week before but she was a few minutes early for her appointment and she felt incredibly nervous and not a little nauseous. Her entire future would be based on those reports. On the one hand, passing them would mean a return to normal life - or at least what had passed for normal life for Sam, in the years before her injuries, since joining the SGC. But then, failure of one, other, or both evaluations would mean automatic discharge from the Air Force on medical grounds. She wouldn't have to leave the Stargate Program but she'd never be allowed to rejoin SG-1, or any other SG unit for that matter. In fact, she'd probably never go offworld again unless there was an emergency and she was evacuated to either the Alpha or Beta sites. And what about Colonel O'Neill? As a civilian she'd be allowed to fraternise with him all she liked.

Sam realised she had her head in her hands and quickly straightened up. It wouldn't do to be seen, in the corridor, looking like she thought her head would explode, even if it was how she felt.

Where did she do most good? While she'd been a part of SG-1, her lab time had been limited by their missions, briefings, training and reports. But trapped in her lab, she didn't get to see the alien technology she was working with, in situ. However, pure lab work meant she could concentrate, solely, on that. No running off mid-experiment or having to plan them around missions, sometimes delaying them for a week, or even longer, to accommodate mission schedules. And no missions meant no danger. No gunfights, capture or torture.

Again, her mind flitted back to the subject of Colonel Jonathan J "Jack" O'Neill. As if he could be called a "subject". And now that she was thinking about him, full name and all, she'd have to find out what that middle initial stood for, one of these days.

I wonder how he feels about being called JJ?

It would probably get right up his nose, she decided. She'd have to remember that, if he ever called her "Sammie" again.

It was 2 o'clock on the dot. Sam knocked on the door.

"Come in."

Sam knew that General Hammond, as an old friend of her father's, had bounced her on his knee as a baby, but she didn't remember him from her childhood. Though perhaps he was the reason she'd always liked Texan accents and always found his voice, in particular, soothing. Except when he shouted. Times like that didn't count, of course.

"Major Carter, please, sit down. I won't beat around the bush. I have both good news and bad news. The good news is that you passed your physical fitness evaluation with flying colours. Apparently letting you beat up on Colonel O'Neill for all those weeks was worth it after all."

The way he was smiling at her, a combination of amusement and fatherly affection, suggested he did know how the Colonel got that shiner, but was proud of her all the same. His face became more serious, however, as he opened his mouth to speak again.

"The… bad… news is that the psychologists' report was not so glowing. It would appear that the doctors are completely divided on the state of your mental health and your ability, in that respect, to carry out your duties. And of course, other than Dr Mackenzie, they have no idea about the true nature of your duties here, which presents me with an additional problem in weighting their report."

"Weighting, Sir?"

"Yes, Major. "Weighting". With this report carrying no definitive conclusions, it falls to me to decide whether or not you're fit to return to active duty. The question is: Do you think you're fit?"

Sam took a moment to think before answering.

"Honestly, Sir? I'm not sure, myself. I've been thinking about it a lot. What I want to do and where I'm most valuable and… I just don't know, Sir."

"Thank you for your honesty, Major, I appreciate it. Frankly, I was considering automatically discharging you if you'd answered "yes" straight away and without hesitation. However, your answer tells me that you're not just thinking about yourself but also how this decision will affect others and the work we do here."

The General sighed as he closed the file.

"Major Carter, I want you to spend a few days thinking about what you'd do if it were up to you and what you'd do if you were in my place. I want you to give careful thought to what you can do, what you'd like to do and to the differences and similarities between the two. What you'd be gaining and giving up, either way. The fact is, I can't order you through that Gate again if we don't both think you're a hundred per cent. What I can do, however, is allow you to visit with your father for a few days, if you want to. I've already checked with the Tok'ra and he's working on their base at the moment, though I hasten to add, he doesn't know about the communiqué, so, no pressure. I just thought you might appreciate the option. Regardless of where you go, I'm putting you on leave for the next week. I want to see you, 0800 hours next Monday with your decision. I have faith you'll make the right one for you."

General Hammond stood up and began to walk around the desk. Sam followed suit and stood up too. He pulled her into a quick embrace.

"Good luck, Sam."

**

Jack O'Neill was almost jumping up and down on the spot with barely concealed impatience. It was 0748 by his watch and Carter hadn't logged in yet. He was standing near the main lift, on the ground floor, waiting for her. Sure, he could wait for the "official" version from the General but that probably wouldn't be till at least 0830 and he couldn't wait that long. If she hadn't gone to the Tok'ra base for a few days, if he hadn't been sent on a three day mission and if the Fates hadn't conspired to cause these events to take place at over-lapping times, thereby preventing him from speaking to her for the last week… It had taken Daniel the entire three days of the mission to talk him out of going straight round to see her the moment he got back.

"She doesn't need that sort of pressure Jack!"

He'd been right of course, but it wasn't like Jack would actually tell him so.

It occurred to him that she might just have taken her final, ever, trip through the Stargate and of course, that thought had to have crossed her mind too. Would that have affected her decision? How would seeing her father affect it? Especially considering what he now did "for a living", as it were. What he was, even.

Jack sighed and tried to stop bouncing up and down like a moron on too much caffeine. Were those footsteps he could hear? A moment later, he saw her round the corner, walking towards him.

"Hey, Carter. How ya doin'?" he called out to her, trying to keep his voice neutral.

"Just peachy, Sir," she replied.

She was smiling. What did that mean? Was she just being friendly? Was she actually pleased to see him? Did it mean something more? Wait a minute, there was something else different about her, other than the smile.

"Carter, I don't want to sound like an insensitive jerk here but your face… looks a little… different…"

The smile didn't falter as they stepped into the lift. As she moved around him, he saw the scar was completely gone. No, not gone, that wasn't possible. But it wasn't there either. She must have covered it up. Janet had told him that was possible, while Sam had still been unconscious after the operation. It had taken him every ounce of self-control he'd possessed that night not to cry, or worse, start screaming at Janet for what she'd done. It had been necessary. And the scar would fade with time and could be camouflaged with make-up. Up until now though, Sam had shown no interest in covering it. What did this mean?

"I'm trying a new look, Colonel. Like it?"

"Well, Major… I may be a little biased and also a little out of line but… Ahem… Actually, I'd be a whole lot out of line if I told you how good I think you look at any time."

Jack knew he was grinning like an idiot but when he saw the amused look in her eyes, he felt like his heart was melting, all over the floor of the lift.

**

Did the Colonel need the toilet or something? He was hopping up and down in one place like a child and Sam couldn't help but find it rather endearing. She rather suspected the true cause though, woman's intuition and all that. They made it past level 21 before he exploded.

"SO?!"

"So what, Sir?" she replied innocently.

"Don't you "so what?" me, Sammie! Put me out my Godamn misery, one way or the other!"

"Sorry, JJ, I have a meeting with General Hammond I'm almost late for. I have to go, I'll see you later."

The lift doors "pinged" open and she left with a grin.

**

The lift doors "pinged" closed with Jack still inside, open mouthed.

"JJ?"

**

Sam's meeting with General Hammond had gone well and he had completely backed her decision. Knowing she had his full support made her feel better, more confident about it but talking to a certain Colonel was going to be very difficult. But then, whatever decision she made, talking to him would be difficult. If she chose to retain her commission, she'd be effectively ending any relationship between them before it even began. If she chose to leave, on the other hand, that would precipitate an even scarier conversation with him. As she opened the door to her lab, she knew he'd be waiting.

**

Jack looked, and felt, perfectly calm as Sam walked into the lab and he asked the question.

"So, are you still "Major" Carter or will they be replacing the sign on your door?"

**

The End.

A/N You can kill me if you like but then you'll NEVER get a sequel. Hit that little button there in the bottom left-hand corner and tell me what you think. It'll only take you a minute and I have a big bag of marshmallows here, just waiting to be toasted on any flames over my evil ending!

Thanks to everyone who's reviewed thus far, it's been much appreciated and warmed the cockles of my heart. Whatever and wherever they are, they're warm. Special thanks to NG, urdreamkeeper and Lynn who have pretty much been reviewing me from the beginning and have stuck with the story, saying nice things! Thanks guys!