Category: Future Story, Sam/Jack UST

Season/spoiler: end of season 7 or later

Status: complete

Archive: Heliopolis, Gateworld, Fanfiction.net and whoever who wants it.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended.

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====== Come Fly With Me ======

Jink right....
then drop sharp and spin right...
GUN IT NO!,
BRAKE!
Sweep down, spiral counterclockwise
and then...up, up....
AAAAAAA.......
that rock was waaaaaaay toooo close....
Pull back! Hard!
Hard down and left,
around... that rock....

GONE!
How could it be gone?
Where the #%!!##%!!# could it have gone??

He spent a few minutes looking around... swooping around more of the rocks...keeping an eye on his six... but, no joy... the target was gone. Crap. He didn't want to admit that he'd lost it!

This would ruin his record.
Admit it, this !had! ruined his record.

"Control, this is Viper 4, I have lost the target. Repeat, I have lost the target. Request assistance for reacquisition." Captain Marbors clipped out.

"Understood, Viper 4. Reacquisition of target not an option at this time. RTB and fill out your report, airman," came back over his radio.

"Understood, Control, this is Viper 4, RTB as ordered," Marbors ground out resentfully.

-----------------------

"Well, Sergeant, How many does that make?" Colonel Dearbourne inquired as he entered the simulator control room.

"Seven out of seven so far today, sir," Sgt. Roberts could not conceal his smile or internal satisfaction.

"Hmmm....." Col. Dearbourne considered his simulator expert with suspicion. "And, you are running actual flights?" the Colonel asked for confirmation.

"Yes, sir," the simulator's computer expert responded respectfully... but Dearbourne could tell.... that something was 'fishy.'... that there was something that Roberts was not owning up to... something that the Sergeant was presently very, very proud of...

Dearbourne ran the stats through his head. Over the past several days, Sgt. Roberts had tortured 34 of his best pilots with his latest simulator program. So far, none of them had taken the target out. All of them had lost the target and/or cracked their ship up on one of the rocks in the asteroid belt that the sim was set in.

Historically, there was a running competition between the pilots and the simulator programmers. The programmers tried to throw everything at the pilots and the pilots tried to triumph over whatever was thrown at them.

It was a battle of extreme skills.
And extreme egos.

The simulator programmers hated to be shown up by a pilot who easily bested their latest simulation.

Pilots hated to lose their targets... or crash their ships against rocks... even when they were only simulated targets and simulated rocks.

When the programmers were bested, they made the sims more difficult.

When the pilots were bested, they complained that the sims did not represent reality... that the programs were artificial worlds where too many unlikely snafus and problems were allowed to occur simultaneously or in chain reaction. Therefore, the pilots argued that they were not bested... because the programmers were effectively cheating by playing 'god' unrealistically.

Dearbourne had been listening to these same old arguments for years. He'd even voiced his opinion on the pilots' side... when he'd been a young pilot himself.

But he wasn't a front line pilot anymore.
He was the airwing commander.
And he needed to train his pilots to continuously excel and improve.
They needed challenging simulations to achieve that.

But, they also needed to be realistic.

So, he'd instructed Sgt. Roberts to create a sim from actual flight data from previous flights and training missions. Roberts had assured the Colonel that the current sim target was using the flight data from just one previous flight.

So, why were all of his best pilots failing this sim?
It didn't make sense.
And Roberts was entirely too smug.
Like he'd found a loophole in the Colonel's directions.
Sighing, he realized that he was going to have to ask the brilliant, young computer whiz just what he'd done to ensure that the pilots would fail so effectively.

"Dearbourne! How is it going?" he attention was pulled from his musings and he turned to see General Jack O'Neill entering the simulation room.

"Same old, same old, General," Dearbourne responded with a grin for his old comrade. "You know the drill, young pilots coming in here to get their attitudes taken down a few pegs."

"Yeah, well, I hear that your latest sim is just about to create a rebellion," O'Neill responded with a grin of his own and then he turned to Roberts, "What happened, son, did they thump your last sim, so you made a new one that cracked them between the eyes for their insolence?"

"Well, actually, sir," Roberts spoke up defensively, "Colonel Dearbourne ordered that the latest sim be based on actual recorded flight data...and I just pulled some from a flight recorded through the asteroid field. I actually didn't have to do anything to tweak the flight. I just turned the recorded ship into a target for the sim pilots to hunt and destroy.... not my fault sir, that they all seem to either lose the target or crack their ships against the rocks," the young man kept his tone polite and respectful.

O'Neill's eyebrows had climbed up his forehead in disbelief and he looked at Dearbourne for confirmation. Dearbourne smiled ruefully, "I did order him to use recorded flight data... I was hoping to stem a bit of the never- ending complaining about the sims being unrealistic...., but I don't seem to have achieved the results I was aiming for..."

"You can say that again, Mark," O'Neill addressed the Colonel with a sparkle in his eyes. "So, where did you get this recorded flight data, Sergeant?" the General followed up with the question that Dearbourne had been poised to ask earlier, before O'Neill had walked in.

"From a solo pilot's test run through the asteroid field awhile back, sir," Roberts answered, but both of the other men immediately noticed what the Sergeant had deliberately left out.

"Son, who was the pilot of that test flight?" O'Neill zeroed in relentlessly.

Roberts paused and looked down and then looked back up and answered, "Major Carter, sir," and the young computer programmer kept his expression neutral and watched the General closely.

"Major Carter.....," O'Neill's voice trailed off thoughtfully, she was a Colonel now... so this flight was a while ago... and then a slow grin appeared on the General's face. "Any chance that I could take a spin in that simulation, Colonel Dearbourne, or is the simulator booked for the rest of the day?"

Dearbourne turned to Sergeant Rivers, "When is the next break in the schedule, Roberts?"

"1600, sir," the Sergeant replied.

"How about 1600?" Dearbourne asked O'Neill, knowing full well what the response would be. Dearbourne had known what O'Neill wanted when the General had entered the room and asked about the latest sim. Jack O'Neill wanted to pit himself against what all the young bucks were failing. And, for the sim to be based on a test flight by Carter, O'Neill's SG-1 2IC.... O'Neill would have taken the 2200 sim slot if that was the only one available.

---------------------

16:10

"Control, this is Viper Two, target acquired, entering asteroid field," O'Neill reported as he followed Carter's ship into the three-dimensional minefield of rocks. His current mission was to shadow her ship. That was all he knew for now. If Control determined that the conditions were warranted, he would be given the clearance to go 'weapons hot' and take her out.

Following her into the asteroid field, he mimicked her easy curves and loops around a few of the larger rocks. He wondered what she'd been testing on this flight. What she'd been thinking as she swooped amongst the stars... and the rocks.

After a few minutes of easy flight, she increased speed and he had to increase his focus to ensure that he stayed away from the minefield of geologic flotsam.

Then, she increased speed again and...
HARD down and left....
UP, UP and right, now,
then left, and more left,
spiraling up and falling over,
he inverted his ship
where was she?

THERE!
He goosed his ship around and screamed around a large rock,
ACK! almost right into another rock!
Hard up and left,
then immediately down
and then jig right again...

this went on for a frantic few more minutes....

he was still behind her,
and then she was gone again...

WHAT?

How could she disappear like that?

"Viper Two, you have to clearance to go 'weapons hot.' You may take out the target at your first opportunity. Acknowledge."

O'Neill cursed. Where was she?

"Viper Two, Acknowledge 'weapons hot', take out the target. Repeat take out the target. Acknowledge." Sergeant Roberts' voice mocked him politely, yet insistently.

Ah!
What was that?
He shot up and over...
and there she was!
HAH!

"Control, this is Viper Two, I have the target in sight, acknowledging 'weapons hot' and clearance to take out the target." O'Neill clipped back in satisfaction.

Whoops, there she went again... and he swung hard and goosed his ship to close the distance while following her as she zigzagged in three-dimensions among the rocks.

Ohhhkkayyy... he was closing, almost in range...
she dropped and he followed,
and she was gone...
and there was a rock...
a huge honking, ship-smashing rock, right in his nose...
he jerked left and pulled down as hard as he could....
and he barely scraped by the rock...
he could almost feel the paint scrape off the simulator....

and then had to jag right and pull down again
and he finally found a clearing...
he slowed and looked for her in all directions
a full 360 degrees and up and below...

couldn't see her anywhere...

Ack! He ground out his frustration.

He'd lost her.

"Control, this is Viper Two, I have lost the target. Repeat, I have lost the target." But his mind was not on those words. He was already replaying the flight in his head. Roberts had said that this was Carter's actual flight path on a previous test flight. O'Neill was stunned... not at how well she'd flown... but how...dangerously... he was following her in a simulator... if he cracked up on a rock, he was still alive... but she'd flown this.... for what?

And he wondered when she'd flown the flight.
And what was she testing?

-----------------------

Dearbourne greeted O'Neill with a questioning eyebrow when the General entered, still in his flight gear. O'Neill ignored the Colonel's implied question and immediately began grilling the Sergeant for details about Carter's flight.

"What was Major Carter testing on that test flight, Sergeant?" O'Neill asked first.

"Well, nothing special that I know of, sir," Roberts replied and then continued, "I believe that she was just testing the entire ship, sir." The ship in question was the X-302.

"The entire ship... through an asteroid field....?" O'Neill muttered speculatively. "Do you have her test flight information handy?" he requested.

"Umm... yes, sir, it's here somewhere, sir...," the Sergeant seemed uncomfortable and that made O'Neill suspicious.

"OK, son, why don't you dig out the flight plan sheet for that test flight and the Colonel and I will just chat while we wait?" O'Neill ordered firmly.

"Yes, sir," the Sergeant replied and quickly moved off to his desk.

"Mark?" O'Neill asked the Colonel and Dearbourne just shrugged.

"Your guess is as good as mine, Jack," Dearbourne responded.

A few minutes later, the Sergeant returned with a single sheet of paper and handed it to the General. "This is it?" O'Neill asked in disbelief.

"Yes, sir," the Sergeant replied.

O'Neill quickly scanned the single sheet which indicated that one Major Samantha Carter had signed out one X-302 for a general test flight of the ship's overall capabilities. Her projected flight plan was not detailed, but did include the asteroid field. There was no mention of testing of special equipment or special features. Nothing to explain the flight path that O'Neill had followed her on.

If... he didn't know better....

If... this 'test flight' didn't have her name on it... he'd have said that this pilot had taken one very expensive X-302 ship out... for a joy ride.... an almost suicidal joy ride....

But this was Colonel Samantha Carter, PhD in astrophysics.
His Sam Carter.
His reliable 2IC.

He'd never seen her... go off on a lark.... at least not quite like this...

But did that mean... that she never did?

When he asked her to go fishing... she said that she 'enjoyed' spending her downtime working in her laboratory... or on her computer.

Of course, maybe that was the problem.
He'd been asking her to go fishing....
And he should have been asking her to play high-speed kamikaze dodge-'em out in the stars. No wonder the fish didn't stand a chance.

He wondered how she would have fared if she'd stayed in the astronaut track for the Space Shuttle program. They would never let her take the Space Shuttle anywhere near the kind of flight she'd done with the X-302.

He realized that he was grinning and that both Dearbourne and Roberts were staring at him. O'Neill also realized, that there was a distinct difference in the faces of the two men. Dearbourne still looked puzzled and expectant. Waiting for O'Neill to explain. Roberts, on the other hand... appeared to know something more... and was either waiting for O'Neill to demand more details... or he was expecting O'Neill to put the pieces together himself.

O'Neill met the young programmer's eyes and held them for a moment.
Assessing.
What other information was there?

O'Neill was getting the vibes that there was, actually, more going on than a simple test flight.

O'Neill turned to Dearbourne, "How often does Carter... fly test flights like this, Mark?"

O'Neill caught Roberts stop himself from speaking up as Dearboure answered, "Well, Jack, I didn't know that she had done any test flights quite like this...." he admitted with a bit of embarrassment... it was -his- airwing....

O'Neill raised one of his eyebrows in askance. "You didn't know? Can people just waltz in here and....." and he waved Carter's flight plan in the air.

Dearbourne winced and then replied, "Jack, Carter helped design and build the X-302. Without her input and assistance, we would still be on the drawing boards- instead of flying airwings of the ships. So..., when she's on the base, she usually requests a flight or two. Keeps her flight status current and keeps her in-tune with the actual capabilities of the ship. That's invaluable to the pilots. They usually don't get engineers who are competent, qualified pilots. We usually get engineers who are great with theory and paper blueprints... and we have to fight to get them to hear what the plane -actually- does. But, Carter, she's different. She can actually test-fly the ship herself. Not only has she turned groundbreaking technological leaps into reality, but she is fantastic at serving as a bridge between the eggheads and the pilots."

Dearbourne looked at O'Neill, to see the General nodding... Jack knew all of this. "So, Jack, when she asks to take a ship up, I have left standing orders that a ship be made available to her whenever possible. Sometimes, she is testing aspects of the ship.... other times, I think that she just wants to get out and enjoy the flight. Enjoy the ship."

O'Neill nodded again. "So... do you think she was testing something on this flight?" and he held the flight plans up again, "... or do you think that she was... enjoying the ship?" he asked with a grin.

Dearbourne shook his head, "Can't tell you the answer to that, Jack... I've never scrutinized her flights. She's earned the right to fly the ship however and wherever she wants...!" The Colonel said that with pride and sincerity. "You know that I've tried to get her to accept a transfer to over here... offered her promotions and all, but she just keeps turning me down. Guess it will take a Stargate to get her over here... and we don't have an extra one lying around... so I just dangle my 302's out there and let her come and play with them whenever she wants to," he finished unapologetically.

"Well, first time that 'Gate goes missing, I'll know where to come and look for it!" Jack replied shaking his head.

O'Neill turned his attention back to Carter's flight plan... What had she been doing?... and then he remembered Sergeant Roberts...

And in walked the crazy pilot in question.... and O'Neill remembered belatedly that he was to have met her at the commissary for an early dinner...and he checked his watch... a half-hour ago...

"Sir," she approached with a knowing grin, "I kind of figured that you'd still be over here. Sergeant Roberts, did you torture the General with one of your latest sims?" she asked with amusement.

Roberts looked appropriately embarrassed, "Umm... yes, ma'am," and the young man's voice seemed to fail him at that point. O'Neill noticed that the young Sergeant was trying to maintain a death-stare on his keyboard.

The grin on Carter's face morphed into a look of puzzlement and she looked at O'Neill and shrugged. "Are you about ready to go to dinner, sir, or do you have more to do here?"

Questions raced through O'Neill's mind and he didn't answer her immediately. The puzzled look on her face deepened and she glanced at Colonel Dearbourne for elucidation.... Only to find that Dearbourne was looking at them all with a funny, expectant look on his face. OK, now she was at a loss. She felt like she had walked into the middle of something....

"Sir...?" she wasn't sure what to ask.

"Yeah, Carter?" O'Neill asked in a distracted tone.

"Ummm... well, sir, it looks like you are busy here...so I'll catch up with you sometime tomorrow?" she offered.

And he was now staring at her. She looked back at Roberts...who was still staring intently at his keyboard as if it might escape if he looked away from it. "Sure, Carter, tomorrow...," O'Neill finally got something out.

"Yes, sir. General, Colonel," she said respectfully as she escaped the weirdness that had taken over the room.

What was !that! all about? She thought to herself and mentally threw up her hands as she walked back to the commissary.

O'Neill watched her shaking her head to herself as she exited the room. He and Carter were scheduled to be here at the base for 4 days. She was meeting with the engineers and assisting with modifications and some trouble-shooting. He was here to discuss logistics and planning with Dearbourne and other top base personnel. O'Neill had been hoping to get a chance to take one of the X-302's for a spin himself... although he had figured that the simulator might be as close as he would get after he'd seen how crowded his 4-day schedule was.

"Sirs?" a young Corporal entered the room.

"Yes, Corporal?" Dearbourne answered.

"Sergeant Roberts' presence is required in Simulator 2, sir," the Corporal answered.

The Sergeant's look of relief did not go unnoticed by O'Neill.

"Sir?" Roberts asked Dearbourne for permission to leave the room.

"On your way, son," Dearbourne instructed and the computer operator hurried to escape the continued questioning from the General and the Colonel.

-----------------

In the commissary, a little while later with Dearbourne, O'Neill scanned the room for Carter, but could not find her. Shrugging with frustration, he turned his attention back to his old friend and their conversation.

------------------

The next day, O'Neill kept a sharp lookout for Carter, but their paths did not cross... not that he was too surprised as he finished his 6th hour of meetings for the day.

Ack! What was next on the schedule? Corporal Rivers hurried up to him as they exited the last briefing room. "Sir, that last meeting ran a bit long, and you are a little late for the X-302 briefing."

O'Neill looked at his overly enthusiastic young assistant. The young man actually seemed to enjoy his life of schedules and timelines. Of course, the young man did not have to sit through any of the meetings that he so happily scheduled O'Neill's life full of. O'Neill sighed.... and didn't let his own lack of excitement show too much, "Where am I supposed to be... and when?" he asked in resignation.

Rivers smiled brightly, "In the hangar bay... and 15 minutes ago, sir?" and he shrugged a little apologetically.

O'Neill rolled his eyes as he steered his path towards the hangars. Oh, great, another briefing by engineers and scientists who want him to ooooh and aaahhhh over their ingenuity, sigh. At least Carter never seemed to expect that of him.

Five minutes later and he and Rivers strode into the hangar bay. Looking around, he was surprised to -not- see a group of engineers and scientists impatiently waiting for his overdue arrival.

"General!" Carter was striding over to him... in full flight gear.

"Carter! Where are you off to?" he asked, even though it was obvious – and he was jealous.

She grinned back at him knowingly. "Just thought I'd take one up for a spin, sir."

"Lucky dog," he sent back with a petulant tone that made her grin wider. "I get to go from meeting to meeting, and you get to go out and have fun? How about if I assign the rest of my meetings to you, Colonel, and then I can take your ship out for the afternoon?" he threatened teasingly.

"Well, sir, then I might not let you in on a little secret...," she teased him right back... and his eyebrows climbed in curiosity.

"What...?" he asked.

"Well.... you see, sir... when we planned this trip to the base a few months ago, I called ahead... and I actually reserved two ships.... and I asked Corporal Rivers to see what he could do about clearing a little time in your schedule..... but... if you really, really have to go to another meeting... I guess I could take my ship up by myself... might be kind of relaxing...." she ended with a sparkle in her eyes.

O'Neill wasn't sure that he'd heard her correctly. He looked at Rivers and saw the young man almost bursting with pride at having helped orchestrated the surprise. "Rivers," he said gruffly and the young man suddenly looked apprehensive, "you went along with Colonel Carter's plan to deceive me?"

"Umm... well, sir... I ... uhh...," the young man floundered.

"Well, son, anytime Colonel Carter has an idea like this, you have my full permission to go along with it. In fact, you are hereby ordered to go along with it!" and he gave the Corporal a rewarding smile and watched the young man's face flush with relief and then pride.

Turning back to Carter, he saw her patiently watching the two of them. "Sir, your ship is preflighted and awaiting your inspection after you change. I thought I'd head on out and wait for you, 'upstairs'," and she pointed up at the sky.

"OK, you go ahead, Carter, I'll meet you out there. I'll be there in a few," he agreed and she turned to head over to her waiting plane. "Oh, and Carter?"

"Yes, sir?" she stopped and turned back.

"Thanks." and he locked eyes with her.

"Anytime, sir," she said with a grin over her shoulder as she turned back to her plane.

----------------------

After gearing up and completing his walk-around, he taxied out and then headed down the runway and took off into the afternoon sky. The weather was almost perfect flying weather. Seventy degrees on the ground, light winds and a few puffy cumulus clouds for depth and interest. Almost postcard perfect, he mused as he banked off of his takeoff vector and angled up to meet Carter above the atmosphere.

"Rambler Two, this is Rambler One, I'm approaching 30 miles at heading oh- niner-five." he radioed.

"I have you, sir, am approaching from your five-o'clock and will be alongside you momentarily," she came back promptly. She had been watching his takeoff and she slipped in neatly alongside his right wing and gave him a visual thumbs-up through their cockpit windows.

"So, Carter, this is your party... and I am ohhhhhh.... soooooo greatful to have been invited... Did I tell you that already? Because, if I didn't, let me repeat myself, now... I am ohhhhhh.... sooooo... greatful...," he sent over to her as they headed out and away from the earth. She kept her plane neatly tucked in his wing.

"Yes, sir, I believe that you did...," she replied and he knew that she was laughing. She'd scored. Big. And both of them knew it.

"Well, I say again, this is your party, so... what's the flight plan? I'm up for just about anything that doesn't include flying a desk... or a briefing room... or a computer screen... or a budget proposal....," he sent back.

"Sir, the flight plan is open. You can lead and I'll follow. Or, if you want some time alone, I'll head off and meet back with up you later – just tell me where and when and I'll see you there." she replied accommodatingly.

An open flight plan.
This was what she did.
She came up here... and she had !fun!.

And she was sharing it with him.

He wanted to ask her about -that- flight that Roberts had used for the sim. But she was sharing this special freedom with him... and he didn't want to spoil it. He'd occasionally taken the X-302 up for a spin... but he'd never had the chance to do it very often. Most of the time that he'd spent in the ship had been on missions. And when he'd gone up for his rare non- mission flights, there'd usually been specific equipment to test, or specific flight plans to maintain his flight status.

She was giving him a real treat.
And she was sharing her secret with him.
And, she had to know that now that he knew...
....that he'd wanted to come along more often.
And, she was still sharing this with him.

OK, so... he'd ask his questions later.
And just sit back and enjoy this for now.

"Carter, I'd be honored if you'd join me," he radioed back to her. "How about if I lead for awhile and then you can take it from there?"

"Roger that, sir," she responded respectfully.

He led them around the moon and they circled it a few times enjoying the view. He thought about the Space Shuttle and wondered what she thought now about not going through NASA. "Hey Carter, how does this stack up against that NASA career you were originally aiming for?" he broke the silence.

"Not much comparison, sir," She responded promptly. "I would never have had the chance to do this...."

"You might have gotten to walk on the moon, though," he replied.

"Probably not, sir," she responded, "there haven't been any lunar missions since the '70s... and besides... with the SGC, we've walked...and camped... on alien planets and moons... so I don't feel cheated that I didn't get to walk on ours. And besides, how could I feel cheated of anything when I get the chance to take in a view like this?" she finished.

He let a few seconds of silence pass in respect to the awesome beauty before them. "I hear you, Carter," he responded quietly back through the radio.

After a few more spins around the moon, "Ready to head further out, Carter?" he asked.

"Ready when you are, sir," she responded. "I'll be right behind you."

He grinned and headed up and out of the Earth-sun ecliptic.

With a slow, lazy roll he relaxed and just decided to enjoy the feeling of flying. He looped and twisted and inverted and spiraled clockwise and further out and then twisted and spiraled counterclockwise and back down towards the ecliptic.

She flew loosely in a wide wingman formation.
Allowing him his freedom and space.
She said nothing. Did not interrupt his reverie or his expression.
He found himself losing himself in the freedom and simplicity of the clean lines.

He flew lazily around invisible slaloms and slowly porpoised the plane up and down. His quiet wingman faithfully followed his every move.

"Your Lead, Colonel," and he waggled his wings at her.

"Taking Point, sir," and she goosed her ship ahead of his as he slid in behind her left wing.

She led them in a long swooping curve over and down to join Mars in its orbit.

She led them in a longitudinal polar progressive orbit that allowed them to view the planet in an overlapping looping spiral.

Then she dipped down and he followed her as they swooped down into the thin Martian atmosphere and curved around the 17-mile high Olympus Mons... Mount Olympus. The largest known volcano in the Tauri Sol System. Massive enough that this single volcano would stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles if dropped on top of California. She led them along an upward spiral that tightened as they approached the summit craters.

Then she peeled off and then dropped down again and skimmed along just above the surface and they screamed across the red planet.

Red dunes and red rocks flew below them.

He grinned in exuberance as he flew behind her.

Then she dropped out of sight.

And, the wide gaping rift of Valles Marineris opened beneath him.

"Hey, Colonel, you could warn a guy when you intend to go subterranean," he admonished her as he dropped down to fly behind her.

"And where would the fun in that be, sir?" she responded cheerily.

She led them through the spectacular rift-canyon. More than three-thousand miles long and more than two-miles deep. Valles Marineris was as long as the United States was wide and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Even though she had reduced speed, they approached the end of the canyon quickly and she brought them out by heading straight up and away from the planet's surface.

With an inverted barrel role, she dropped them back to the surface and they traced the paths of some ancient flood channels and then over a landscape pockmarked with meteor craters.

He followed her and admired the economy and beauty of the lines and routes she chose. She was a skilled pilot and he'd never seen the 'artistic' side of her flying skills before.

Then she led them out and away from the red planet.

"Handing the lead back to you, sir," she radioed as she throttled back and then slipped behind his right wing again.

"That was a spectacular tour, Colonel, Thanks for sharing it with me," he sent sincerely.

"The pleasure was mine sir, glad that you enjoyed it," she sent back.

He was leading them up and away from the Sol System ecliptic again. He liked the empty space and the freedom to maneuver in any direction without restraint.

"That... felt like... you know your way around that planet pretty well...," he let the question hang there.

"Yes, sir," she admitted, "Sometimes, I come up here and just enjoy the freedom of exploring.... like we were saying earlier, sir, I don't think I would have had the chance to do !this! if I'd stayed with NASA..."

He was curving them around and above the asteroid belt.
He led them lower, but not too close.

"Ever check out the rocks below?" he asked and tried to keep his voice casual.

"Yes, sir," she replied and without any hint of denial, "but I wouldn't recommend it for a relaxing flight."

He considered that and what he should say next and silence passed as they swooped along following the curve of the asteroid belt beyond Mars' orbit.

"There are a few sections of the asteroid belt where the density of rocks is not as high as in other places. Actually, pretty safe for flying through, as long as you maintain constant vigilance, sir," she continued, "and the surfaces of many of the asteroids are extremely interesting and intriguing. I'd like to set up some sampling surveys."

He grinned to himself. He had no doubt that she actually -would- like to sample the rocks. But, he also knew that rock-sampling was nowhere near the objective of her flight path that Roberts had used for that sim program. "Isn't Daniel the one who's supposed to get all excited about rocks and such," he teased her (and Daniel in-abstentia, he scored for himself mentally).

"Sir," and her heard her sigh over her intentionally kept-open-mike, "I guess that I will just have to defend Daniel since he can not do it for himself right now. So... for the record, these are asteroids, sir, not rocks, and Daniel studies artifacts, sir, and not rocks," she played along.

"I consider myself properly chastised, Colonel," he chuckled and he increased speed to take them over to catch up to Jupiter in its large orbit.

He led them around the gas giant, keeping them in orbits roughly parallel to the planet's equator so that they flew along the colorful atmospheric bands. He allowed the ship's computer to keep track of and avoid the planet's rocky rings and 60 moons.

The giant Red Spot, the equivalent of an amazingly large hurricane in the gas giant's upper atmosphere, earned a few extra turns and overflight loops.

"Sir?" Carter broke in respectfully.

"Go ahead," he replied.

"The X-302 can enter the upper atmosphere, if you wish, sir," Carter informed him of an option that he hadn't considered. "The ship's computer will warn you when the atmosphere becomes too thick for safe flight or other conditions."

"What would we see down there?" he asked curiously. What -had- she been doing up here? And what had he been missing? he thought to himself.

"Actually, not much to see, sir," she replied, "At least, not in terms of a view or some such that you might be thinking of... it's actually kind of claustrophobic as the atmosphere is pretty thick and gets thicker the deeper you go... kind of like flying in colorful fog... instrument flying, sir. I've only done it when testing the specs and limits of the ship, sir."

"Right, I think we can skip it this time out, then," he sent back and then worked with the computer map showing the fantastic array of Jupiter's 60 moons. Some of them hardly seemed large enough to qualify as moons to him, but, then he wasn't an astronomer. But, the larger ones were big enough to be planets of their own. He charted a flight path that would take them on a sweeping survey.

He led them over to Europa and they skimmed over the moon's cracked icy surface.

Then they inspected the volcanically active, sulfurous surface of Io.
He'd always thought that a quirky name... one that made him grin.

He led them on a whimsical path that suited his mood right now.
He was light-hearted. On a wing and a prayer.
Skimming through the heavens with her by his side.
He wanted to savor these moments and he let the computer plot the safest path inside what was actually Jupiter's own asteroid belt. They weren't dipping and diving and dodging as she had been on that earlier flight. They were flying slower and in larger and larger arcs that were bringing them back out and away from the planet.

He thought about Saturn and its rings and moons.
And what about Neptune?
And... And then, he realized, that he shouldn't get greedy.
He should save something for another day.
He wanted to do this again.
With her.

"So, Carter, do you think that they need these ships back anytime soon? Think they will be sending out search parties for us?" he inquired.

"No, sir, we have no specified return time," she returned. "You don't have any more meetings for the rest of the day.... and Corporal Rivers made sure that your early morning is clear so that you can sleep in a bit, if you want, sir... so, you can stay out as long as you want."

"Guess I'm going to have to give that young man a special liberty pass when we get back, what do you think, Colonel?" O'Neill sent back.

"Sounds like a good idea to me, sir," she replied. "You're lucky to have him, sir, he knows that you hate the meetings... and he really does try to keep the 'burgeoning tides of requests for your time' filtered and organized for you, sir."

"Yeah, yeah, I know.... he really is good at what he does too... and I -do- appreciate it... it's just weird to me that he -likes- playing with his computer timetable spreadsheets and playing phone-tag all day to get all the meetings scheduled between all the VIPs." he told her what she already knew, but she listened politely.

"I'll get him a P90 to keep on his desk, sir," she sent over to him as she followed his lazy arcs under the ecliptic this time as he led them back towards Earth's orbit.

"NOT a good idea, Carter," he retorted, "I don't know when he was last vetted on any armament such as the P90. That's the last thing I need... is for him to shoot his foot off... or mine...! For myself, however, I might consider a P90 in my office... might use it when people come in complaining about this and that...."

She didn't reply, but he figured that she was grinning or even allowing herself to laugh out-loud in the privacy of her cockpit.

As they neared Earth, they fell silent.
Enjoying the view as the Earth and her moon grew larger.
He led them in one more swooping pass of the moon and then looped in towards the Earth.

"Control, this is Rambler, flight of two, returning to base," Carter called in for them.

"Rambler, this is Control. We have you on our instruments. Follow Approach Beta-Six and we'll link to your onboard computers at three, two, one, mark. Link established. Landing data uploading."

"Roger that, Control, we have data uploading," O'Neill responded. "Two," Carter acknowledged briefly.

"Rambler Flight, we show data uploaded successfully. Welcome back and we'll see you on the ground shortly." Control radioed to them.

"Rambler Flight acknowledges, data upload complete. See you in a few, Control." O'Neill responded again and looked over at Carter and she gave him a thumbs-up.

"And, Colonel?" he asked.

"Yes, sir?" she replied.

"Thanks." he sent and he wished he could say so much more with his tone of voice. What she had shared with him today was special to him on a level beyond flying.

"It was my pleasure, sir," she replied warmly.

----------------------------

As soon as his cockpit popped up, he pushed it hard out of his way and scrambled quickly up and... he had to wait for them to get the stairs over to his plane. "Bring that over here, double-time" he ordered the crewmen assisting with the post-flight maintenance of the planes. The men hastened their efforts and he dropped quickly down the stair-ladder as soon as it was near enough.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," he sent over his shoulder to the plane's crew as he walked quickly over to Carter's ship just as they were bring a ladder up alongside her plane. She was just finishing releasing the buckles while double-checking the status of her instruments when his head popped up alongside her open cockpit.

"Hey!" he greeted her with a face-splitting grin.

"Sir," she gave him an amused grin in return as she continued her postflight equipment check.

"Carter...?" he paused and she stopped what she was doing and turned back to face him.... he had her full attention now... as he had wanted, "Carter, I really want to thank you for.... everything... for the flight... for sharing that with me... I just want to say, thanks."

She smiled warmly back at him. "Thanks, sir... It's special... out there... and... and, it's what I wanted to do my whole life.... and I actually wouldn't have gotten the chance to do anything like it if I'd stayed with NASA and the Space Shuttle program....," she paused and then continued. "And, sir, I'm glad that you enjoyed it... I don't get many chances to say thanks for all the times that you've saved my butt on some alien planet... I mean, I get to say 'thanks,' but the words somehow always seem inadequate.... This seemed, more... special... and more appropriate," she took a breath, "and I just wanted to say, thanks for everything and for all of the times we've had on SG-1."

"You going somewhere, Carter?" he asked with sudden apprehension.

"No, no plans like that for the immediate future, sir," she gave him a small, shy smile, "But, I didn't want to wait any longer... with what we do... I'm always worried that I'll wait too long and then I'll miss the chance.... so, we're both still in the SGC, we both still have clearance and flight status... no current flight-preventing injuries... guess I just thought I'd better take the opportunity while it was here."

"Well, I'm glad that you didn't wait," he said with feeling, "And... I'd like to go up again... we left out a few planets this time."

"Well, sir, Colonel Dearbourne will undoubtedly accommodate any of your future requests as long as he has enough notice to schedule things appropriately," she assured him.

"Given a choice, Carter, I'd much prefer to tag along with you again, if I'm not cramping your style or anything....," he said it seriously and watched her face carefully as she replied.

Her face lit up with another shy smile. "Anytime, sir, anytime," she said softly.

"Well, after we run through the postflights, can I treat you to dinner at Les Commissarie?" he asked gallantly.

"Sure, I'd like to drop by the BQ and grab a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes, so how about if we meet over there?" she proposed and he nodded and turned to step back down.

"Carter, thanks again," and he dropped out of her sight.

-----------------------

The next day, he didn't sleep in, but went for a light jog as the dawn was breaking. He let his mind slip back into the images and feelings of that wonderful special flight the day before. Breathing in the crisp morning air, he felt more alive than he had in years.

Sometimes, life !was! good.

-----------------------

07:00 and he was having breakfast with Mark Dearbourne when he saw Carter walk in and grab a cup of coffee. Waving her over, "Carter, come and join us," O'Neill offered.

She walked over towards them, but did not take a seat. "Good morning, sirs," she smiled politely at the two officers, "I'm afraid that I have to get over to the labs, they are running a few early morning tests," and she nodded and then turned to head out.

"Carter...," he stopped her with a threatening tone and Dearbourne was intrigued to see the Colonel turn while trying to squash an expectant, guilty look.

O'Neill just skewered her with a knowing look of his own, "THAT is -not- all you having for breakfast....!"

"Well, I...really need to get to the labs, sir....," and her voice trailed off in resignation. Dearbourne realized with amusement that this must be a conversation that these two had had many times.

"Don't move," O'Neill ordered, and she stood there with obvious reluctance. Her eyes caught Dearbourne's and she shrugged as if to apologize for the scene playing out before him. He struggled to keep his amusement off of his face.

O'Neill returned a moment later with an apple and a muffin and he stuffed them into her hands and she juggled them with the coffee. "I'll find out if you don't eat those," he told her firmly and she rolled her eyes.

She looked like she reeeeaallly wanted to say something, but the public openness of the commissary apparently stopped her. "Yes, siirrr...,... I'll be off to the labs, now...?" she replied and he nodded as she escaped before anything else popped into his head.

"So, Jack, do you have to force all of your officers to eat?" he poked at his old friend.

O'Neill rolled his own eyes, "Scientists... she gets caught up in some puzzle and she forgets to eat or sleep!"

"So... do you have to force all of your 'scientists' at the SGC to eat?" he pursued and O'Neill looked at him in exasperation.

"No, if it's any of your business, Carter is the worst offender that I am aware of... and we need her on SG-1, we can't just have her languishing away in some lab," O'Neill explained in a tone that told more than his words.

Dearbourne let a few seconds of silence pass, and then, "Jack, if I didn't know you two better, I'd think you were....," and he let it trail off.

"No," was all that O'Neill replied, but Mark Dearbourne could hear the regret buried in his friend's voice.

"Your loss," Dearbourne tried to shrug non-committally.

"Regs, you know, etc., etc.," O'Neill muttered.

Dearbourne just looked at him. "Sometimes the regs just don't cover every situation, and you know that, Jack. Hell, you were always the one rewriting the regs... or at least 'reinterpreting' them when you deemed necessary..."

O'Neill considered him for a moment and then, "Some things are simply more important than....."

"And Carter is one of them?" Dearbourne was relentless.

Jack just looked back at him and tried his own non-committal shrug... but he couldn't keep the small smile off of his face.

"Well, the two of you are welcome to come and take a couple of ships out every now and then...," Dearbourne continued.

O'Neill smiled, "Careful, Mark, if you dangle more flights like yesterday in front of me, I just may not leave and then you'd be stuck with me in your hair all the time."

"Well, let's see, if you stay... then she'd probably stay... or at least be around a whoooole lot more... and then I'd have what I really wanted all along!" and Dearbourne gloated.

O'Neill put on a mock expression of shock, "Is that all I am to you now, Mark? After all of those years fighting side-by-side? Now, I'm nothing more than a lure to keep Carter around for you?"

Dearbourne just looked smug, "Still don't have a 'Gate around here, so you'll just have to do..."

O'Neill sighed and shook his head at his friend's teasing.

-----------------------

He spent the majority of that day shuffling between meetings and briefings and problem-solving sessions. He was expansive and good-natured with Corporal Rivers as the young man shepherded the General from location to location. He didn't cross paths again with Carter all day.... she was probably in the labs working with the engineers. Probably hadn't even taken a break for lunch. He'd see if he could track her down for dinner this evening.

As the day drew to a close, and he had finally escaped from the last scheduled event of the day, he found his path passing the level that contained the simulator rooms and he detoured over towards Sergeant Roberts' room.

"Corporal," he spoke to his young assistant, "You can take the rest of the evening off. I can find my way from here."

"Yes, sir," the Corporal replied and then departed in his own direction.

A few seconds later and O'Neill stepped into Roberts' simulation room and spied the young man typing furiously away at his keyboard.

"Sergeant?" O'Neill announced his presence and the young man turned around in surprise.

"Yes, sir?" the Sgt. replied and O'Neill could see the wariness in his eyes. Yes, there was still something that Roberts was hoping that O'Neill would not find out...

"Sergeant, what's the story behind Colonel Carter's flight path and your latest sim program?" he asked and hoped that he'd worded his question in such a way that the Sergeant would not think his way out of admitting whatever he was hiding. Like... why Carter had flown the crazy, dangerous way that she had.

He saw emotions flicker across the young man's face, and he settled on an expression of guilt and resignation at the end. "Sir, Colonel Carter does not know that I used her flight data for the simulation...." he began by making sure that O'Neill knew that Carter was an innocent tool in his sim- war against the cocky pilots.

O'Neill nodded, "I've already figured that much out," he assured the programmer.

Taking a deep breath, Roberts steeled himself, "Well, sir... I was present at the X-302 briefing last year... the one where Major Carter started the briefing because you were not available... and then this kid came in claiming to be you....," and he continued relating the story of the time when O'Neill's young clone had been loose while O'Neill was incapacitated thanks to an Asgard equivalent of a mad-scientist. O'Neill had read the reports of what had happened in his absence.

"Well, Sir, I felt that the pilots treated Major Carter very poorly... and so did the young kid who said that he was you... everyone was pretty rude to her... and she handled it all so professionally, sir," and Roberts paused and tried to gauge O'Neill's reaction. O'Neill didn't remember Carter's report mentioning anything about rudeness... but then, she wouldn't put something like that in her report....

"Go on...," he prompted the programmer, and then inspiration hit him and he said, "um... wait... let me see that flight sheet again," he ordered.

Roberts looked derailed for a second, but then he nodded and fished the paper from the flotsam on his cluttered desk. O'Neill read the date and thought back... her flight was about two weeks after they'd resolved the issue with his clone and the Asgard. O'Neill raised his eyebrows as he realized... that there must have been something more to it than just rudeness. She'd been insulted... and she'd come out here and danced around a few asteroids to burn off some steam.

He looked over at Roberts and saw understanding in the young man's eyes. How was it that this young computer programmer was the only one who seemed to know how she'd felt or what she'd done? Dearbourne hadn't known, nor had any of the rest of them. Not a clue.

He knew that Roberts, like many male officers, was 'taken' with Carter... but, still the programmer didn't see Carter often enough to explain this...

"So, sir, when Colonel Dearbourne ordered me to base the latest sim on real flight data, I checked out the flights of all of the top pilots over the past year. When I found this flight of the Major's.... it was not only the most challenging and best-suited for my purposes.... but... I thought it was... very... fitting.... ?" the Sergeant finished and watched apprehensively for the General's reaction.

O'Neill did not reply immediately, but stared at the young man in silence. Then, he broke the silence with, "Sergeant, you've done another excellent job. You made a -most- appropriate choice in this latest program," and he let his grin spread across his face and he could see the relief on Roberts' face. "Furthermore, if you ever want to transfer to the SGC, you send your request directly to me and I'll take care of it."

"Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!" the young man puffed up a bit with pride.

----------------------------

"Ready to head back underground, Colonel?" O'Neill asked Carter as they walked to the final briefing on their four-day schedule.

"Just about, sir. I do miss the 'Gate, sir, but I could easily spend a few more days working with the engineers here... they are making amazing advances in the technology!" she replied with enthusiasm.

"And, with a few more days here... then there'd be a few more chances to zip around the solar system?" he teased knowingly.

"Yes, that too, sir," she replied with a shy smile.

"I want to thank you again, Carter. I think that you made my year...," he said seriously. "Maybe last year and the year before too...."

"Your welcome, sir," she replied while maintaining that smile for him.

And then they'd reached their destination. "After you, Colonel," and he followed her into the special briefing room. She chose a seat near the back of the room while he moved to the front line of chairs assembled for the presenters and speakers. The room was full of restless airmen.

Colonel Dearbourne addressed the group, "Ladies and gentlemen, this final briefing of the day should not take long. I would like to point out that we have General O'Neill observing us today, so we will try and move things along quickly," and he signaled to the technicians and the lights dimmed and the room went dark as the entire front wall became a screen showing the view out of an X-302 cockpit.

"Today's briefing concerns the latest simulation mission that... YOU ALL FAILED!" and he paused as the room erupted in low grumbles and complaints about the veracity of this latest sim. "Now, I've been listening to all you self-assured flyboys complaining about the 'fairness' of the simulation programs. Well, I hate to break it to you, but life ain't fair... and war is downright unfair! Get used to it!" His words were answered with silence.

"Now, in spite of my own personal feelings, I asked the programmers to construct a new sim based on the real flight paths and data recorded by one or more of our own ships and pilots. This latest sim, THAT YOU ALL FAILED, was based on honest-to-god true records. All flown by one pilot, on one excursion....," the room was even more silent than before as the familiar images of the flight through the asteroid field played out before them.

"You were all out-flown by a fellow X-302 pilot," and Colonel Dearbourne let his gaze wander over the eyes of the pilots arrayed before him. The image on the viewscreen dipped and wove around the rocks, skimming ohhh... so close, here and there....

Dearbourne let the flight images play through to the end and then signaled and the room lights were brought back up. Dearbourne was looking around and when he couldn't find who he was looking for, he turned aside to O'Neill and asked, "Where's ....?"

O'Neill was looking as well and wasn't having any success locating his 2IC. The airmen were starting to speak lowly to each other as they waited for their superiors to get back on track. O'Neill stepped over near the empty chair where she'd been sitting. "Captain?" he quietly addressed the pilot sitting next to the now-empty chair, "Did you see where Colonel Carter went?"

"No, sir, she left shortly after the flight recordings into the asteroids began," the pilot responded.

"She probably had to leave to go and woof her cookies," O'Neill heard another pilot mutter to someone nearby. And a few pilots who'd heard the remark chuckled and smirked. "Yeah, this probably makes 'Gate travel look like a walk in the park," another remarked.

O'Neill straightened and barked, "On your feet!" and then "Atten-hut!" and they all snapped to attention in front of their chairs. "Colonel Dearbourne, if you would please continue, I think that you have their attention now" O'Neill handed it back to the airwing commander.

Dearbourne let them stand there in silence for a few long seconds.

"The pilot of that flight flew the wings off of every single one of you," he stated quietly. "If any of you have an ounce of brains left between your ears, you will study this flight data and you will learn just what the X- 302 can really do. And, if you are really, really lucky, maybe one day, you just might beg at the right time and get lucky enough to fly with this pilot."

"Because, you see, this pilot is not around here very often, and most of you will never get the chance to fly alongside this pilot," O'Neill picked it up here, "I've been lucky, I've had the chance to fly the X-302 alongside Colonel Carter. Ladies and gentlemen, learn from your mistakes. Keep striving to become better pilots," and with that, he saluted them all and exited the room.

---------------------------

He tracked her down back at the temporary base quarters. She was packing the few things that she'd brought for the few days of their stay.

He knocked politely on the partially open door. "Carter?"

"Come in, sir," she answered politely and he stepped in leaving the door open. "That was some pretty fancy flying you did there in the asteroids, airman," he opened with.

She glanced at him, but then simply replied with "It wasn't much, sir. Just avoiding some rocks."

"Carter....," and the questioning and concern in his voice made her pause. "Sergeant Roberts' sim based on your flight beat every pilot in this airwing...," and he saw a small smile start to escape onto her face and then she looked down at the floor and just shrugged.

"You are one hell of a pilot, Carter... I know that I've told you many times that you are a genius, and that you are a great soldier.... but I think that I've forgotten to point out that you are a superb pilot," and he could see that her cheeks were reddening in embarrassment, "One certified -CRAZY- pilot, I need to point as well..." and that earned him an embarrassed grin.

"Well, sir, I don't usually fly like that," she admitted with a bit of a grimace... "I was just feeling a bit... edgy... and I guess that I took it out on the X-302 and the asteroids..."

"So, Carter, just what are the ROE regarding close quarters combat with asteroids?" he joked with her. "Isn't there anything in there about -not- leaving paint scrapings on the rocks?" and she winced a bit at that.

"Ummm... I guess that I missed that section of the ROE, sir," she returned.

"MmmmHmmm...., well, for future reference, Dearbourne and I would like to point out to you that we could care less what shape you bring the plane back in... you'd just better make sure that -you- come back breathing, walking, talking and with no injuries more serious than a hangnail. Got that?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," and she winced again.

"Allright, then, are you all packed and ready to head back to the land of shimmering blue vertical waters?" he asked.

"Yes, sir..., and she picked up her bags and he ushered her out of the room ahead of him.

"So, Carter, do you ride that motorcycle the same way that you fly a plane?" he asked her as he closed the door behind him.

==== EPILOGUE ====

Seven months later.

20:00. It was late, and she was just preflighting her ship.
She was only on the base this time for a short 56 hours.
But, she'd been lucky and she was getting to take a ship up for a few hours.

She hadn't had a chance for another flight with the General – their schedules had not allowed them to be at the airwing base at the same time over the past seven months. They'd been on SG-1 missions and had seen each other at briefings and other SGC meetings, but they hadn't been at the airwing base at the same time.

This was her fourth visit to the base since she'd taken that flight with the General. One visit had been a short 6-hour check-in with the engineers of the X-302's hyperdrive development. On two of her other visits, she'd assisted with running some test flights of new equipment and updates. On each of those visits to the airwing, she'd also been able to squeeze in one flight just for herself. One flight amongst the stars.

She'd toured the red planet again. The ice caps. Olympus Mons. Valles Marineris. The flood channels and the impact craters and the expanses of sand. And... she'd found herself missing his company. She'd found herself remembering that special, shared flight so many months ago.

She knew that he'd been out to the base at least two times during the past seven months. At different times than her, and for different reasons. She knew that he'd managed to squeeze in a flight on one of the trips. She wondered where he'd flown.... What he'd checked out. How he'd cut loose.

And, back on the airwing base, there'd been a change that she wasn't comfortable with. The cocky, self-confident pilots had taken to calling her Crazy Carter.... Being a pilot herself... and a jet pilot at that... she knew that having such a moniker assigned to her by -this- group... well, it was one of the highest compliments... But she'd have been more than happy to have just stuck with her old handle, Wizard... That handle had been awarded to her by one of her closest fellow pilots during her early flying days (ref '1991' by Starbuck92).

Of course, some of the more creative of the X-302 pilots had taken to calling her the Crazy Wizard, but that spoiled the alliteration of Crazy Carter.... Which meant that the second, and more recent, moniker was used more often and with more enthusiasm.

Even the engineers and scientists couldn't help but tease her with it when she was working in the labs with them. She went along with it all good- naturedly, but she was relishing the upcoming quiet time in the X-302. Her few times on base had been much... noisier... as the X-302 pilots took every opportunity to josh her about her crazy asteroid flight... -and- to continuously ask for every opportunity to join her on her flights. But, so far, she just hadn't had the time to fly with any of them. When she was on base, she was either in the labs, or test flying for specific equipment or modifications... or she was taking that one, special flight. And she wasn't sharing that time with any of the rest of them.

Colonel Dearbourne had considerately ensured that when she could squeeze in a flight like this, that she was left alone to enjoy it. But... he had also made sure that she knew that cracking her ship against an asteroid was -not- acceptable. She smiled ruefully at the recollection of Dearbourne's obvious enjoyment at reading her the riot act regarding any such future behavior. In spite of his words, she'd seen the twinkle in his eyes and she could tell that he was fighting to keep a smile off of his face during the length of his diatribe. She didn't let on that she saw anything or that she could tell that he was enjoying her dressing-down. He was going to let her continue these flights whenever possible. Then she'd let him have his fun, too.

"Hey, whacha doin'?" a deep voice spoke suddenly above the lip of the cockpit.

Startled, she turned to see General O'Neill grinning at her from the ladder alongside her ship. "Sir?"

"You wouldn't be heading out for some fun without me, now would you, Carter?" he teased.

She grinned back at him, "I'll have the crewchief ask if there is another plane available, sir."

And at that he put on a sad, dejected look, "Already checked. No other planes available at this time.... And I only have a few hours here on base... it's a real shame...," and his eyes scanned the instrument panel in front of her.

"Well, sir, you could have this ship... its OK, with me, I really should get some sleep, anyway...," she offered and he looked up at her sharply.

"Don't you dare offer me your ship, Carter," he said firmly, "I -know- what you were going to do out there... and I know what this means to you. You showed me," he finished softly and he saw a shy smile play on her lips as her cheeks colored a bit.

"Besides... there is another option...," and his gaze wandered clearly to the open backseat behind her, and he raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"Well, sure, sir, you're more than welcome to join me," she piped up quickly and a smile broke across his face.

"Just give me a few minutes to get changed and I'll be right with you," and his face disappeared as he dropped quickly out of sight.

------------------------

He walked quickly across the hangar floor to get changed. She hadn't seemed disappointed at losing her solitude, and he allowed a small smile of satisfaction to play on his face. There actually were several other planes available this evening, but none with one Colonel 'Crazy' Carter in the front seat....

-------------------------

Fifteen minutes later, he was fully kitted out and walking back across the hangar bay... and she wasn't in the front seat anymore... she'd moved to the back seat. He stopped for a second and stood there watching her. She saw him and waved him on. "Come on, sir, we're losing air time."

He picked up his pace again and bounced up the ladder. "Carter, get out of there. This is your ship. I'm in the backseat," he ordered firmly.

"Sorry, sir, I just finished getting this seat all setup the way that I like it," she said shaking her head while he glared at her. "We're losing airtime, sir," she gave him a soft smile and she waved in the direction of the empty front seat.

Narrowing her eyes at her, "This is not over, Carter," he let her know, and then dropped into the front seat and quickly went through the preflight checklist as he settled into the cockpit.

"Yes, sir," he heard the amusement in her tone.

------------------------

Twenty minutes later, and they were screaming at incredible speeds through a long, lazy arc above the ecliptic. He'd tried to give her the controls, but she'd refused, claiming that she just wanted to sit back and enjoy the ride.

So, he was letting loose and simply allowing his muse to guide the ship through graceful arcs and spirals in the freedom of relatively clear space above the solar system. She relaxed and let her mind drift and take in the beauty of this place and time.

The magic of the universe still touched her soul. Even after all that they'd seen in their years on SG-1. Even after all that, she was still awed by the simple beauty of the universe. By the elegance of the physics and mathematics that governed each particle... and by the sheer spectacle of the results.

Jack brought himself out of his own reverie and realized how silent it was. She was there and he could feel her presence, but they didn't need to jabber away at each other. He let himself feel how special she was and how lucky they were to be together, here and now. Doing this. Together. Sharing this with each other.

It was time to let her fly the ship. "Carter, the ship is yours," he broke the silence.

"I have the ship," she replied as she sat up and took the controls.

"Anywhere that you'd like to go, General? Anything that you'd like to see?" she asked.

"Nope, up to you... pilot's choice, Colonel," he replied, "Was there anything that you had planned for this flight, Carter?"

"Well... sir, if you're up for it, there are an unusual pair of comets that I was thinking of visiting...," she shared with him.

"Lead the way, Carter," he grinned, "Lead the way," and he settled back as she turned the ship and they banked over while she increased their speed to join the two eccentric sublimating travelers as they journeyed around the Sun together.

"Hey, Carter...,"

"Yes, sir?"

"Do you hear that?"

"What, sir?"

"I can hear your heart singing."

-------------------

Later that night, or earlier that morning... it was now oh-dark-thirty.... They'd returned a few hours ago, but Jack didn't even try to sleep. The sun would be up soon, and he had to be back at the SGC ASAP. He had scheduled a quick breakfast meeting with Dearboure, but then O'Neill had to depart.

He looked up and into the stars and remembered.
He could still feel it.
He could still hear it.

He definitely owed Corporal Rivers for this one. The young corporal had worked his magic under O'Neill's direction this time.

He'd rearranged the General's schedule so that Jack could pop over here...
and spend a little quality time...
out there...
with someone special....
...where he heard her heart singing...

Standing there...looking up at the stars... ... he could still hear it.

He could still hear her heart singing.

.

======= The End =======

.

.

Again, all of my thanks to all of the other Stargate fanfic writers out there. I hope that you enjoyed my short story. Thanks again to Heliopolis for hosting this fanfic website for all of us.

If you like Carter fic or Sam/Jack fanfic, you might like

'Dancing With An Angel'
or
'Nine'
or
'A Beautiful Mind'

I also highly recommend 'Night Sky' by Joolz

Thanks again to all who enjoy Stargate fanfic.