Title: Karma
PG, mild language
Daniel discovers a binding consequence of SG-1's time with the Shavadai
S/J, Drama, POV
Season: Season 1, Emancipation Post-ep
Yes, SJD and Heliopolis
The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

Author's Note: Here is my response to Jaka's challenge on the SamandJack list to write a Post-ep fic that deals with Jack and Sam being forced into marriage.

Feedback: Always appreciated!

I should have known there would be karmic retribution for enjoying seeing Carter in that get-up so much. I could tell that dressing up for the Shavadai offended every aspect of her mega-feminist ideals. Any yet, I couldn't stop myself from smirking and genuinely taking pleasure in watching the gung-ho Captain covered head to foot in sky blue cloth. I guess I have that to answer for, as well as the fact that I also noticed, for almost the first time, just how blue her eyes were. Sick, I know, after all, I am her commanding officer. It is wrong for me to think of her in any way other than competent soldier and brilliant scientist. Well, in my defense, at least I did stop myself from noticing the way the neckline emphasized…okay, stopping there now.

No matter how much I enjoyed that dress, when it came down to the misogynistic practices of that tribe and its less-than-friendly neighbor, I was just as offended as Carter that they could think of women as nothing more than property, something to be traded for. After the whole situation was resolved, there were just two things I was thankful for. One, that we managed to get Carter back safe and sound without killing anyone and two, that Carter didn't know that I traded my Beretta for her. Even if I only did it to minimize loss of life, I could still imagine the look on her face if she ever knew that little tidbit. Heck, I saw the way she took down Turghan, you think I'm crazy enough to get into a hand to hand fight with her? Life, however, often has different ideas, and boy did karma have it in for me.

We arrived happily back through the stargate, Carter still beaming that she had convinced the Shavadai to stop hiding their women behind walls and veils. Hammond welcomed us back and sent us off to the infirmary to be checked over. Daniel finished first and rushed off to his lab, no doubt to triple check notes so that he could bore us for as long as possible during the debrief. I somehow managed to be last to the briefing room; I swear I don't do it on purpose. I charged into the room, my charming smile already in place to offset my tardiness. Before I could even say anything to Hammond, however, I stopped short having come face to face with a tall man in long white robes (how cliché is that?). I managed to not barrel into the man and looked at Hammond in askance.

Hammond merely gestured for me to sit as he calmly said, "Nice of you to join us, Colonel." I grimaced slightly at the reprimand, but quickly took my seat. "This is Tyrus, a representative of the Pygaran people. SG-2 made first contact with them on P3X-980. They are interested in setting up trade agreements between our planets, but requested an observation period of us and our ways. He will be sitting in on our briefings for the next two days."

Though undoubtedly not obvious to the casual observer, I clearly picked up on Hammond's silent warning for me to keep my typical shenanigans to a minimum. To allow the Pygaran representative to sit in on top-secret briefings must mean that Earth really needed this alliance. I nodded solemnly at Tyrus, acknowledging both his presence and my acquiescence to Hammond's demand.

We started the briefing, trying to ignore the presence of the silent observer. I ran quickly through the basics of the mission and Carter offered the details of her kidnapping. I could tell she edited it somewhat, choosing not to mention details surrounding her 'punishment' for disobeying Turghan and trying to escape. I had seen first hand evidence of what she had suffered in the infirmary. What? Is it my fault that the screen separating our beds wasn't completely closed? It's not like I was looking or anything. But I digress. Teal'c offered some personal observations once and while, but mostly stayed silent. So did Daniel, which seemed pretty weird to me. He just sat there, half-listening, half reading intently in a small volume.

When we are basically done, Hammond asked a few questions of clarification. That man sure can hone in on information purposely left out, like a bloodhound, I swear. "Colonel, you said that you managed to arrange for Captain Carter's release. How exactly did you do that?"

I cleared my throat and snuck a quick glance at Carter. "Well, sir, we had to trade for her, just as the boy did in the first place." Carter's eyebrow shot up at that.

Hammond pressed on, as he is wont to do. "And what exactly does a USAF Captain go for these days?"

"Well…um…sir, they wanted two women in exchange, which, of course we were never gonna do. But I convinced him to take something else instead."

"Is this something perhaps the reason why you have included a requisition form for a new sidearm in your report, Colonel?"

"A gun?" Carter asked, just as indignant as I knew she would be. I couldn't help but flinch at the tone in her voice. I mean, come on! I had gotten her out of there, hadn't I? Her steely gaze was then on me as she ground out, "You traded your gun for me?"

Daniel chose that moment to jump in, for which I was immensely grateful at first, but little did I know where it would lead. "That's not the best part, Captain. According to my research on the Shavadai, when a man trades his weapon, a tool at the center of their raiding society, the woman becomes his 'chosen.' Which I guess would roughly translate to wife."

We all stared at him for a long time. I am sure that my jaw was hanging open like an idiot, but at least Carter's ire was now being sent Daniel's way and not mine. "Married?" she finally asked in a shrill voice that I hadn't known Carter was capable of making.

The whole situation just seemed beyond bizarre to me and I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Of course, my outburst made me the unwilling center of attention again. Daniel was staring at me in interest, Carter continued to glare and Teal'c looked genuinely confused. How could I have not laughed at this? It was Hammond's look and gentle head nod towards our observer that finally helped me get my mirth under control once again. "Sorry, sir," I shrugged. "It's just…married?"

Daniel was now the one who struggled not to laugh. I took a moment to do my own glaring at Daniel. "Watch it, Danny. You forget that I remember the way you met your wife." I was immediately sorry that I had mentioned Sha're when the brightness left Daniel's eyes. "Daniel," I started apologetically, "I didn't mean-"

Daniel cut me off before I could finish. "Forget it. Plus, I chose to stay with my wife. It's not like it matters what you guys' marital status is with the Shavadai."

"Not to mention that it is totally against Air Force regulations," Carter offered with a slight blush. Now that caught my attention. Why was she blushing and why did she sound like she was well aware of the implications of non-frat regulations?

I was woken from my private musings by the voice of the long forgotten observer. "You do not intend to respect the traditions of this other culture?"

There was something in Tyrus' tone that made my stomach drop. It was as if he was accusing us of being insensitive to the values of others. If we didn't respect the Shavadai, then why would we deal any differently with the Pygarans? A quick, shared glance with Hammond told me that he had picked up on it as well. I wondered, not for this first time since being introduced to our visitor, exactly what we stood to gain from an alliance with these people.

"Of course we intend to respect the traditions and beliefs of the Shavadai culture," intervened Hammond smoothly. "We will simply try to find a solution that will adhere to our laws and follow the rules of the Shavadai culture." For my part, I think I deserve a medal for not even twitching as Hammond said this. Was he actually saying that we would accept the farce that was a marriage based on trade? I knew without looking that Carter was probably ready to explode. She was never one to go for the whole woman as object thing. I didn't need to worry that she would say something foolish though, she is sharp as they come and had probably picked up on the silent communication between Hammond and myself.

I hitched a smile on my face and looked at Tyrus. "Of course we will," I supplied, offering my support to Hammond even as I swore to get the General alone as soon as possible to get this all worked out. I really couldn't let myself look at Carter, who was undoubtedly disgusted at the thought of being tied to an old guy like me, even for a short while. I don't know why that thought made me feel slightly sick.

Tyrus nodded solemnly at me, seemingly appeased for the moment. Have I ever mentioned that I just don't trust people with no sense of humor? We finished the briefing eventually and Teal'c escorted Tyrus to the commissary. I immediately followed Hammond into his office, aware that Daniel and Carter were right on my heels.

"With all due respect, General," I began, but his raised hand quickly stopped me.

"I'm sorry, Colonel, but there is too much to lose here to protect your personal sensibilities."

I stared agape at him. "Excuse me? My 'sensibilities'? Is this a nightmare or am I just in some crazy alternative reality where the laws of common sense no longer apply!"

Hammond, thankfully, decided to ignore my insubordinate tone and put what I assumed he thought was a placating hand on my shoulder. "Jack, the Pygarans are able to offer us a planet-wide defense shield in trade for help with an agricultural blight they have been unable to combat. It is an ideal trade. The Pygarans are just, well, very particular about who they deal with."

"So, you want us to stay married just because that Tyrus guy says so? That's insane!"

"I'm just saying that we need to find a way to work this out so that everyone is happy."

Carter finally spoke up at that point. "Excuse me, sir. I don't mean to sound insubordinate," something told me she didn't really meant it, "but does the poor female chattel have any say at all in what is going on? Or is earth just going to throw away thirty years of women's lib in trade for a defense system?" Wow, she was really pissed. I couldn't help but be impressed.

"Captain, I don't think I need to remind you that the survival of this planet against the growing threat of the Goa'uld is more important than the pride of any one or two people." Man, Hammond could lay it down when he had to. He even almost made me feel ashamed as well.

"Fine," Cater snapped, "then we simply find a way to make the Shavadai laws happy and keep us from being drummed out of the Air Force."

"Right," I said, turning to Daniel. "Okay, Danny-boy. What does it say in your books about divorce?"

Daniel looked torn between amusement and horror at the unexpected path his observation had taken us down. He shook his head gently. "Sorry, but divorce is unheard of. They seem to adhere to the 'til death do we part' philosophy, literally. A marriage can be dissolved in the case of infidelity on the part of the woman, but that ends in stoning to death. Not exactly the path we would want to take, I imagine."

Carter snorted. "I don't suppose there is any punishment for the infidelity of men?" Daniel shook his head and Carter mumbled something under her breath. I thought it sounded like something about pigs. I didn't bother to inquire.

Hammond ignored Carter's feminist outbursts, most likely because he privately agreed with her. He simply nodded to Daniel and said, "Keep looking, Dr. Jackson and let me know if you come across anything useful." Daniel nodded absently, his mind already deeply in the task of fixing this problem he undoubtedly felt like he had caused. "Meanwhile," Hammond continued, "I will contact the President and get things moving forward."

"Moving forward on what?" I asked, already sure that I didn't want to hear it.

"On getting special dispensation for two of my officers to engage in a personal relationship." He seemed unable to look at either of us while he said that. His head was down and he was already looking intently at his red phone. I couldn't look at the blue eyes that I felt burning into me either, there was just no way.

This really must be what it feels like to be insane. Not even two days ago, my world moved like clockwork. Everything was normal, well as normal as it can be when you work for a top-secret branch of the military that travels to other worlds and fights glowing-eyed bad guys with really bad fashion sense. The point is, I knew the rules and I gladly (well, mostly) followed them. My whole adult life, after all, has been in the service of the Air Force, no matter how much I seem to like doing things my own way. But here I am now, sitting in my house with letter from the president in my hand telling me I can canoodle a woman under my direct command if I want to, all for the good of the planet. Even more surreal, if possible, is that the canoodlable woman in question is now sitting in my living room, looking both resigned and quite nice in civvies. No! I didn't just notice the long legs that are usually hidden from my gaze. Damn this letter, it's got me thinking things I never would have before. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Damn Daniel, too, come to think of it. This is really all his fault. He had to bring up that fun anthropological fact in the briefing. And then to add insult to injury, he had the gall to not be able to find any loopholes for us. So now, here I am, on two weeks of downtime with the new Mrs. O'Neill. I really have to wonder what I did to deserve this.

On our first day together, I hear the sound of swearing coming out of the guestroom that I had graciously offered to Carter. I wander over to inquire, "Captain, you okay?"

The swearing instantly stops. "Yes. Everything is fine, sir." She sounds awfully surly to my ears and before I can move away again, I hear another impressive expletive. I never knew she had such a remarkable vocabulary. I guess I'm learning all sorts of new things about my Captain everyday. Did I just think 'my' Captain? Dammit.

"Actually, sir," comes the quietly resigned voice once again, "I could use some help."

I slowly push open the door to find Carter sitting on the edge of the bed, a towel clutched tightly to her chest. She seems as wary as I feel, both of us certain that we are crossing some sort of line. I pull my eyes away from exposed flesh with some effort and force myself to calmly look at her. I shove my hands in my pockets. "What can I do?"

It may be my imagination, but she seems to be blushing slightly. "The doctor gave me a salve for my back. I am just having a hard time reaching." I could tell that she hates asking for help and that she is more than mildly embarrassed to have to ask me.

"Sure," I answer in my most business-like voice, "no problem." She seems relieved by my attitude, though no doubt she would not like what I was really thinking.

She lays down on the bed and I am suddenly faced with a wide expanse of soft skin. Whatever inappropriate feelings I might have had, however, are quickly squashed by the site of her ravaged back. She must have suffered at least 25 lashes. Knowing Carter, she probably didn't give Turghan the satisfaction of hearing her scream, not even once. The lashes had laid open her skin in many places and I could see careful stitches in several areas. I am filled with both the desire to tear the man to pieces with my bare hands and the need to hug the woman who suffered so bravely. I am proud of Carter. I have been impressed with her from the first moment I met her, even though I am aware that she thinks she still needs to prove herself to me.

I choose not to comment on the sight of her back, knowing that Carter was slightly embarrassed. Instead, I take the salve from the nightstand and begin applying it carefully to her wounds. She slowly relaxes under my touch. I hit a particularly bad patch and I can hear her quick intake of breath.

"Sorry," I mumble, angry that my wandering attention has caused her pain. I feel the need to let her know that I am proud of how she handled herself on Simarka. "You know, Carter, I'm glad you kicked that guy's butt so bad. It saves me a trip back there to teach him a lesson."

My words seem to have the opposite effect of what I intended and I can feel her tense under my fingers. "I don't need someone to fight my battles for me, or to try and protect me because of some misguided ideas about my abilities or my sex." Her voice is angry and I sense that she is not so much mad at me as much as the man who did this to her and probably countless women before her.

"I know that, Sam," I say, her name falling unexpectedly from my lips. Hell, technically she's my wife, right? "But what he did was not about your gender or your strength, it was torture. And people who resort to torture deserve no mercy." My voice hardens on its own accord as my own memories flash through my mind.

I think she hears the hardness in my voice and recognizes it for what it is. I am someone who can understand what it means to have someone hurt you, to be completely under the control of another human being who bears no respect for you as an individual. To be treated as nothing better than an animal.

"How long?" she finally asks quietly. "How long until I can forget?"

I know better than to lie to her. "You never forget, Sam. You just have to learn to live with it."

She rolls over so she can look me in the eye, the towel still clutched tightly to her chest. She's searching my eyes and I think that maybe she can see the pain and panic that I have always hidden so well. How can she see through my defenses? It's like having someone look straight into your soul. "Have you?" she asks, never losing eye contact. "Have you learned to live with it?"

I am devastated by her perceptive question and the way her gaze so easily penetrates my carefully built walls. "I…" my voice falters and I shake my head. "I try to, every single day." My voice is full of emotion that I have long learned to suppress and maybe it is my acknowledgement of similar feelings that finally lets Sam open up to me without feeling that she would lose anything in my eyes. She looks away for a moment, and when she looks back at me, her eyes are full of tears.

"I wish I could just forget," she brokenly confesses before the tears start to fall. I do what seems to be the most natural thing in the world; I pull her close into my chest and hold her as she cries out her anger and fear. She eventually falls asleep in my arms. I steal a moment to look at her beautiful face, now relaxed in slumber. She really is an amazing woman. Strong, smart, capable and compassionate. I know I should be alarmed to be thinking of her in this way, presidential dispensation or not. But somehow, holding her in the early dusk light, I don't really care.

We never speak of Turghan and his torture again, but I dutifully show up at her door each evening to carefully apply the salve to her back. We speak of inconsequential things, almost as if avoiding heavier topics by tacit agreement. By the end of the first week of our 'marriage,' Sam's back is healing nicely. She has the last of the stitches removed, though the doctor recommends that she continue with the treatment to help minimize scarring. I try to ignore the relief I feel at hearing that our one time of real intimacy would not be taken from me.

As for the rest of our lives, we still exist as ships passing in the night. I give her as much space as she needs and so it is that we barely interact. I could be paranoid, but I think she might even be avoiding me. I am uncertain if we are simply taking time to adjust to the curveball fate has thrown us or if we are actually refusing to accept things. I enjoy denial as much as the next person, but as the last of our days off work trickle away, I thought that maybe we should at least talk about things.

I knock on her door to find her tapping madly away at her laptop. She calls out for me to enter and I stand uncertainly on the threshold. I smile at her, stubbornly doing work even on her enforced days off. "I was wondering…um…if…" I break off and grimace. Dammit, I sound like a twelve year old with a crush! I continue on with a stronger, more manly voice (at least I hope). "I was going to make dinner tonight. You know, if you, say, wanted to eat. Together." I nearly roll my eyes at myself. Nice Jack, very suave.

Sam is giving me a strange, inscrutable look as if pondering something. She finally smiles after a while. "I didn't know you could cook."

"Yeah, well," I reply without thinking, "there are a lot of things you don't know about me." I was trying to tease her, but her face got all serious again.

"I'm sure that's true," she says slowly. Then she visibly brightens, almost as if she has come to a decision about something. "I'm full of surprises too, you know. I make a mean cheesecake. Can I supply dessert?"

I sort of gape for a moment at this question, my mind already traveling in really, really wrong directions. Almost as if she reads my mind, she blushes. I recover quickly and smile at her. "That's fine. Just let me know what ingredients you need before I go to the store."

She has a hard time meeting my eyes and just mumbles, "Will do." I am glad to notice that even though she seems embarrassed, she didn't call me 'sir' once during that whole conversation. You've got to be happy for whatever you can get, right? Man, I really am becoming a sick old man.

We managed to work quite well together in the kitchen, only occasionally bumping into each other. We talk a bit over the meal, Sam claiming to be impressed by my culinary skills. I am still not sure if it is my imagination, but Sam seems flustered and uncomfortable. I decide that it is time to bite to bullet and figure out what she's been thinking about this whole situation. Even if she tells me that the thought of being here with me sickens her (god, she won't say that will she?), it is still better than this awkward dance we've been doing the last two weeks.

"Sam, can I ask you something?"

She looks wary, but nods.

"I may just be crazy, but have you been avoiding me?"

"No, of course not," she lies, having the good grace to look away from me. Her guilt at lying and at avoiding me is pretty clear on her face.

"Look," I say gently, "I know this is a beyond weird situation and that you would probably rather be anywhere else in the universe than here-"

"No! That's not true," she interrupts quickly, her voice somewhat breathless. Her hand is then covering her mouth, as if that had been the last thing she had ever wanted to say. She looks quite embarrassed and my heart begins to thump. Am I reading too much into this to think that she might actually like being here?

"So what's up with the avoidance tactics then?"

Sam shifts to get up from the table, clearly not wanting to answer my question. I move around the table without even thinking and my hand is now on her arm, stilling her flight. "Sam, you just seem so unhappy, I just want to know if there is anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable."

She shakes my hand off her arm and mutters, "Why do you have to be so nice? You're just making this more difficult!"

It was nearly the last response I expected. I reach for her again and get a strong grip on both her arms, somewhat determined to finish this conversation. "Making what more difficult?" I ask, and am startled to hear how husky my voice sounds. Suddenly all I want to do is kiss her, damn the consequences. It might even be worth it to suffer her contempt after. Her imagined contempt brings me back to reality, though. I step back quickly, running a frustrated hand through my hair. "I'm sorry, Sam. I would never-"

"No, you never would, would you?" accuses Sam. Suddenly she has all of my attention again.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I can't do this," she says, gesturing between us. "I can't live here everyday with you, pretending."

It is everything I have feared since this whole crazy thing began. She hates being here with me. Time for a tactical retreat before I make a bigger ass of myself. "I understand, Captain." She flinches at my use of her rank, as if I have slapped her, but I continue on. "I know it can't be pleasant pretending to be married to an old soldier like me."

Now she is staring at me like I am insane, which I am beginning to believe I might be. "You really don't understand, do you?" I just shake my head at her, still trying to figure out the quickest path to retreat. She considers me for a moment, the way that I usually find cute, but at this moment grates. I hate feeling like I am some science experiment she is trying valiantly to figure out.

Her expression quickly changes from that of a scientist to that of a soldier as if she is facing something that is dangerous, but must be done. Before I can even imagine what she is thinking, she steps right up close to me, takes my face in her hands and kisses me quite thoroughly. I am stunned only for a millisecond before I grab her even closer and give in to the fantasy that I have been having, if I am honest with myself, since the first moment she challenged me to arm-wrestle. We are both lost for long moments. Having Sam in my arms is better than I could have ever imagined.

Eventually we pull away, both breathless and more than slightly shocked by the power of that kiss. Sam is staring at me, fingers gently touching her lips, her gaze slightly unfocused. I am breathing heavily, trying to master the impulse to just grab her again. I have learned one thing, though, in those moments. What I have been trying to ignore, my feelings for Sam, go far beyond what I had imagined. That was both frightening and exhilarating.

I grab her arms again and the motion brings Sam back to reality. "Sam," I say, my voice low. "This is something I have wanted for a long time. If you don't want this, I need to know right now, before this goes any further."

She looks shocked and I can sense her need to analyze, collect data and run equations. But what we feel cannot be measured in any such manner and I know I am asking her to take a leap of faith. I can see now that she has been running scared, just as much as I have. Neither of us wanted to face the feelings that had unwillingly been exposed because of some misogynistic practice and a morally superior race's hold on earth. But none of that has anything to do with what was happening now in my kitchen. This is the one decision in this whole debacle that is our own. Was this a marriage of appearances or were there real feelings here?

"I didn't think you…I thought I was the only one who felt anything," she confesses eventually. I make the connection that this is why she had been avoiding me. She was embarrassed to have unreciprocated feelings for her superior officer.

I pull her into my arms and smile gently at her. "I thought you were supposed to be the smart one, Sam." She smiles at me even as she playfully digs me in the ribs for my comment. I grin at her for a moment before turning serious again. "Are you sure you really want this, Sam?"

Her answer was really, really quite amazing. I swear I saw some actual fireworks.

Three days later, we are forced back to work. Those days had been magical for both of us, spending every moment together. We shared our pasts. Sam telling me what it is like to be a woman in the Air Force with a General for a father. ("General Carter is your Dad!" I had asked, panic-stricken.) I eventually told her about Iraq and Charlie. I hate to admit it, even to myself, but telling her really helped. One night we even just sat, looking through my telescope together. Taking simple pleasure in just being with each other. I never thought that I could find something like this and I am still sure that I don't deserve her. I am scared sometimes that she will wake up one day and realize that she doesn't really want to be with me. I hate wondering if the only reason she is still here is because of a stupid custom on another stupid world. Luckily, however, I am not dense enough to waste the gift I have been given. I will enjoy every day with her and selfishly hope that nothing will come that can take her from me.

Unfortunately for insecure little me, that opportunity appears not even a week later. SG-1 is called in to an early briefing. Daniel scrambles into the briefing ten minutes late, completely ignoring any of the exasperated looks thrown his way. He is smiling widely and looks excitedly from Sam to me. "I got it, guys!"

When we all continue to stare at him like he is insane, he plows on. "I found a loophole to get you out of the Shavadai marriage!" Sam quickly looks down at the table, but not before I could see some of the color leave her face and a flash of disappointment that inexplicably warms me.

"That's great news, Dr. Jackson. What exactly do we need to do?" asks Hammond, relief clear in his voice.

Daniel is really in his element now; talking a million miles a minute about obscure rituals and old but still valid laws from the days before women were hidden in the Shavadai culture. He even has diagrams and copies of ancient texts. I largely ignore him and continue to watch Sam.

"What is the bottom line here, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond finally asks after a while.

"Basically, a marriage can be dissolved after one month through the mutual consent of both parties and their guardians, if the relationship remains…um… unconsummated." Daniel looks slightly abashed as he glances between Sam and me again.

My eyes never leave Sam. This was it, her chance to jump ship if she wanted. No one ever needed to know what had or hadn't happened between us. She slowly looks up at me, her face now colored with a slight blush. I know she can read my offer. I will let her go if it is what she wants, but I am sure that my need for her is visible as well. We have always been able to communicate well, from the very beginning. After a while, she smiles and without taking her eyes from me, she asks Hammond, "That special dispensation is still valid, no matter what, right, sir?"

"Umm…of course, Captain," Hammond says uncertainly, clearly confused and slightly unnerved by the silent conversation going on between two of his best officers.

"Good," Sam answers, "because we are going to need it." Sam then smiles broadly at me and her face takes up a heavy blush, leaving nothing to the imagination of those sitting around the table. I grin widely back at her and I know I have never loved her more than I do at this moment.

"Thanks, Daniel," I finally say, "but I don't think your loophole applies."

Daniel sputters for a moment, "But, Jack…" He looks almost comical as he once again glances between us, realization finally dawning on his face. This may have started as a farce of a marriage, but it finished as a real marriage.

I lean back in my chair, my hands behind my head. I am hard pressed to hide the self-satisfied look on my face. "Have I ever mentioned how much I love those Shavadai?"

Sam laughs and the warm sound flows over me. I shake my head in disbelief. To think, all of this happened because of a blue dress, a handgun and my wandering eye. Karmic retribution can really be a wonderful thing.