STARGATE SG-1: Operation Checkmate

Summary: When General O'Neill is incapacitated, Carter finds herself in over her head as a helpless puppet to a mad man…

Season: 8

Pairing: Jack/Sam (suggested)

Spoilers: New Order, Lockdown

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters in Stargate SG-1. Please don't sue me!

Author's Note: Everything that has a beginning has an ending, and all that. So here it is folks! The last chapter. Hope I haven't caused too many sleepless nights (or heart attacks!) with this one. And hope y'all like the ending. Please R&R as always. Thanx. Enjoy!

WARNING: Strong Language!

Operation Checkmate: Chapter 9 – Checkmate

"Each game of Chess means there's one less variation left to be played."

– From 'Chess, The Musical'

Sam waited for the kick of adrenaline to subside as pain seeped into her perception. She felt her lungs restricting as she sank to the floor. Opening her eyes as much as her dwindling strength would allow her, she saw Simon's dead body slumped before her, his gun lay harmless by his side.

As her eyes began to cloud, she was just about able to distinguish a figure moving about the room.

"General," she said quietly. "You need to help him."

Her world began to swim as she was lifted off the ground and carried outside. As the mid-morning sunlight hit her face, she gave up consciousness and escaped the pain at last.

The next day…

To his immense relief, her eyes fluttered open at last. She gazed around the room, trying to find something familiar to focus on. Soon, she lited on him.

"Barrett?" she said hoarsely, still groggy from pain killers and sleep.

"Hey, Carter. You OK?" Barrett said with a smile.

Sam echoed his smile and nodded her head gently.

"Simon?" she queried.

Barrett hesitated. "He'd dead."

He watched her reaction carefully. Initially, she looked relieved then past experience took hold.

"You know," she said; a hint of bitterness in her voice. "You're the second person who's told me that."

Barrett smiled thinly. "I'm not lying to you, though."

Sam closed her eyes – out of relief, out of exhaustion, Barrett wasn't sure – and sighed. "What happened?" she asked quietly.

"I tapped into your e-mail," he said, slightly guilty for invading her privacy. "When I realised you were meeting Simon, I went along. Got there just before you did. I saw everything, Sam."

Sam looked away. Everything? Including her attempt to kill Jack herself?

"When pulled the gun on you, I managed to take him down before he did anything."

Sam looked confused for a moment. "Then how did I –"

"His finger was on the trigger. As he went down, he got one shot off. Hit you in the chest. You were lucky, actually. Any further left it would have hit your heart."

She nodded gravely.

"What about the General?" she asked, once more avoiding his eyes.

"I deactivated the Particles," he said. "He should be waking up some time soon."

Sam nodded. "Can I see him?"

Barrett shrugged. "I don't see why not."

Sam tried to sit up in her bed and winced at the sharp pain the effort sent to her chest. But she was determined. She had to be there when he woke up. It was the only way she was going to know that he was really alright.

"Sam," Barrett said cautiously as he watched her sit up. "I have to file a report about this."

Sam froze where she was – half way between sat up and lying down.

She nodded. "You gonna bring me up on charges?… Not to mention the murder and conspiracy charges the civilian authorities could pull me up on." She slumped back down, letting her head drop heavily onto the pillow. It was all hitting home, the amount of trouble she had managed to get herself into just by picking up the phone.

"Don't worry about any of it," Barrett said reassuringly. "I've got it all figured. We just say Simon threatened you into stealing the files. Then, after killing Gibson, he kidnapped you to keep you quiet and tried to kill you."

"You're gonna lie to your superiors?" Sam said in surprise. "What about the rest of it?"

"What rest of it?"

"The nano-particles? His vendetta because of the Gulf Op? Mine and the General's involvement in Checkmate? The –"

"Like I said," Barrett interrupted. "What rest of it?" He fixed her with a hard stare.

Sam shifted uncomfortably. It was bad enough having to live with what had gone on. But lying to everyone else too? It didn't sit right with her at all. But it was the best thing to do. She knew that.

"The report's going through in the morning. I can let you see it if you like?" he added.

"No," Sam replied quickly. She didn't want to hear anything about it ever again.

About half an hour later, the nurses deemed her fit enough to be wheeled around in a wheelchair, rather than confined to her bed. As soon as she was set, Sam made a beeline for the General's room.

He was still out of it, but the colour in his face was much stronger than it had been the day before. As was his breathing, Sam noted as she watched his chest gently rise and fall.

She pulled right up to the side of his bed, barely acknowledging the fact that Barrett and the nurses had left the room. It was just her and the General now.

Sam sighed. Partly from relief. Partly from guilt. She felt responsible for his state. That, and the fact that she had been so quick to let him die back in the factory weighed heavy on her mind.

Gently, she cradled his hand in hers, weaving her fingers into his. To her surprise, he responded.

Just a twitch at first. His little finger and thumb gripping slightly to her hand. Then it was more pronounced.

Instantly, Sam's gaze flicked to his face as his eyes blinked open.

"Sir?" she said in excitement and relief.

Jack slowly turned his head towards her and smiled. His smile faded slightly on seeing her in a wheel chair.

"I miss something?" he asked plainly.

Sam swallowed dry, hoping he didn't pick up on her awkward reaction to his question.

"Oh, nothing much. Barrett'll explain when you're up and around," she said, her voice wavering only a fraction. But he picked up on it all the same.

"Sam?" he said, his eyes looking deeply into hers. "Are you OK?"

Sam smiled – albeit weakly from his use of her first name. "I'm fine… It's just been a long couple of weeks."

Jack held her gaze a while longer. He couldn't shake the feeling that she was hiding something. Something big. Something that would effect more than just peace of mind. But he couldn't place what it was.

Finally, Sam broke away, letting go of his hand as well.

"I should get the nurses," she said hurriedly.

She pushed herself towards the door. As her hand closed over the door, his voice called her back.

"Carter," he said. "…Sorry if I gave you a scare back there."

Sam smiled. "It's OK, sir. I'm just glad you're back now."

With that, she left to find the nurse, her chest aching from more than just Simon's bullet wound. She couldn't bring herself to tell him anything. And that included not being able to share his pain for that disaster of a mission in Iraq all those years ago.

One week later…

Jack had been let out of hospital at last! It had taken him five days of grumbling and complaining to finally gain his freedom. Usually, they gave up after two, but not this time.

He pulled up in his drive way, surprised at just how relieved he was to be home again. As he walked up the path and unlocked his front door, he couldn't help but whistle the Simpson's theme tune. After all, he had nearly three weeks worth of viewing to catch up on. Luckily, Siler had taped them all for him.

In his kitchen, he quickly found his way to the beer (despite the doctors' insistence that he lay off the alcohol for a while). He was fine, for crying out loud! What did they know anyway?!

Taking a swig, he hit the play button on his answer machine and settled on the sofa.

"You have no new messages," the machine informed him.

Typical! You're not around for three weeks and no-one calls to find out why!

'Oh well, more time for TV, I suppose,' he thought, picking up the remote.

Before he could hit the power button, his phone rang. With a sigh, Jack picked up the cordless phone on the coffee table.

"O'Neill?" he said, masking his irritation well.

"Hey there, Jack. How's it going?!" came a familiar voice on the other end.

Jack froze where he sat. It couldn't have been! Barrett had killed him! That's what the NID report said. One bullet right between the shoulders.

"Surprised?" the man said.

"A little," Jack replied. "You know, for an old friend, you sure as hell know how to scare the living shit out of me second in command."

Simon laughed at the comment.

"Didn't I warn you against a stunt like that?!" Jack spat.

"Yeah," Simon said lazily. "You did. Couldn't resist it. Man! You should have seen her face! Quite a picture, I can tell you."

Jack snapped. "Listen! You arrogant little worm! –"

"Hey! Time and place, mate. This is neither!" Simon cut him short.

"Really? Beg to differ. Mate… How the hell did Barrett not kill your sorry little ass?!"

Simon sighed in a mocking tone.

"My, my, Jack. Have you not learned anything? I have a tendency of keeping ahead of the game. Really, you should play me at Chess sometime… Would you honestly threaten Samantha and then go into a meeting with her without some sort of back up plan?"

Jack mulled over what he was saying, all the time trying to think of various ways of decapitating his opponent.

"I figured she'd try and pull something to take me down. So, naturally, a bullet proof vest came in very handy. You can tell Agent Barrett it was a nice shot, though. Would have got me otherwise."

Jack shut his eyes. He couldn't believe this was all kicking off again. He was sure Carnall had been warned off six months ago when he called with his crazy ideas of going after Gibson and Frakes. Jack had been horrified at the idea, and even more so when he brought Sam into the equation. It was bad enough finding out she had been involved in that God awful operation. But he wanted to drag her into this?! It was sick!

'You won't help me?' Simon had said. 'Maybe she will.'

'You but breathe too close to her and I swear I'll kill you!' Jack promised.

He was wishing he'd done it anyway, now.

"You bastard!" Jack said on a breath.

Simon laughed. God! He hated that sound.

"I told you I'd get her to help me!" he said between laughs. "After all, I had the perfect bargaining chip. How is the old ticker, by the way?"

"That was you?!" jack fumed.

"Come on? You think you're in bad enough shape to drop like that?! You're one of the fittest men in Colorado Springs, for fuck sake!"

"What did you do to her?!" Jack's voice almost cracked as he thought of what Sam could have gone through because of this asshole.

"Nothing much," Simon replied, smooth as silk. "She knows, though." He said it quietly.

Jack's heart sank. Now he knew what had bugged him back at the hospital, just after he woke up. Her behaviour. She was breaking under the weight of knowledge that he'd been carrying alone for so long.

"Hey, Jack?" Simon said through the brief silence. "I got a job for you."

"No way! Fuck you. I'm not gonna kill for you!"

"Sam did."

Jack's heart all but jumped into his throat.

"Well, technically, she killed for you. Probably holds good to return the favour, don't you think?"

"FUCK YOU!" He tried hard to block out his voice. It wasn't true, he told himself. She'd never lower herself to that. Not even for him.

"You not read the papers? Or that cock and bullshit story of an NID report? Gibson's dead, Jack. You think I'd be dumb enough to pull the trigger myself after everything?"

"She wouldn't," Jack said quietly. "She couldn't!"

"Could and did, I'm afraid. She's entered the dark side, my friend –"

"I'm not your friend, asshole!" Jack snapped.

"Whatever… Doesn't change things, though." He paused, making sure every word he was about to utter would ring perfectly clear in Jack's ears.

"See, I've learned a few lessons these last three weeks. One being how far she's willing to go for you. And vice versa, I'd wager. The second that being dead to people has its uses."

Jack gritted his teeth hard.

"So, here's the thing. Gibson's gone. Frakes is not. Sam's done her bit for you. You can do a bit for her… Turn on the TV."

Jack's eyebrows furrowed at the command, but he complied. He hit the power button on the remote.

The screen sprang into life. Jack nearly fell off his sofa what an image of Sam's living room filled the screen before him. She was sat in her favourite armchair reading some Physics book. On the table was a half drunk mug of coffee and an open packet of Oreos.

"Looks peaceful, doesn't she?" Simon said, tormenting Jack further. "Want to save her life?"

"Excuse me?" Jack questioned, confused at Simon's odd leap in logic.

"I asked if you wanted to save her life. You see, she thinks I'm dead. Again. Her guards completely down. That means no gun stashed under her pillow. No thousand-locks-on-the-door. No Barrett. It would be all too easy for me to waltz in there, scare the living shit out of her and then blow her brains out… or worse…"

He trailed off to let Jack fill in what the 'worse' would be.

"Now, is my little wager of how far you'd go for her gonna pay off, or is Sam's house gonna be redecorated a delicate shade of red sometime soon?"

Jack's eyes were glued to the TV screen as Sam obliviously reached for her coffee, her attention still on her book. She looked so beautiful. So at ease. Something he didn't often see in her with their line of work.

"Simple conundrum, Jack. Her or Frakes," Simon nudged further.

"If it were simple, it wouldn't be a conundrum, would it?" Jack said through gritted teeth.

Simon laughed, making Jack's skin crawl. He hated being helpless. He hated that Simon was getting a kick out of it as well.

"Going once…" Simon announced with glee. "Going twice…"

Jack screwed his eyes shut.

"Alright," he said, defeated. "What do I do?"

Author's Note: That's all folks! Now, I will say this only once… THERE IS NO WAY ANYONE CAN PERSUADE ME TO DO MORE!!! I'll let you all fill in the blanks for how that ends. Thanx for all reading it and for all the reviews you've given me. Don't forget to review this one and I'll get back to the other series I've got on the go! Have a nice day now!