See Chapter One for full disclaimer and author's notes.
Sam watched the clock hanging on the wall opposite her bed forlornly. It felt as though time had become stuck in some sort of demented black hole from which it could not escape. Doctor Brightman had agreed to release her on convalescent leave for the next seven days, provided she spend the rest of the day in the infirmary and barring any complications from her latest adventure, she could head home at 1730 hours. Sam was already dressed in some casual jeans and a soft flannel shirt, ready for the trip up to the surface and freedom.
She'd spent the last three days hooked up to more monitors and equipment than she really felt was necessary, all to monitor for something that seemed as elusive as time itself. Sam knew that her exposure to Ba'al's new weapon was something with which they had no experience and that the precautions were warranted, but that did little to ease her dower mood.
The infirmary staff had allowed her a laptop, up until they found her awake at 0230 working on a project for Area 51. At that point the laptop had been confiscated and Sam had spent the last day and a half staring at the four walls, bored out of her mind, her only distractions the all too infrequent visits from Jack and SG-1.
Dear God! I'm never gonna get out of here… The doors nearest her bed eased open a fraction. Thank God… Daniel's here to keep me company for a while. Sam sat up straighter, crossing her legs to sit atop the woolen OD blankets, anticipating a cup of coffee or maybe some sweet treasure spirited past the nurses by the intrepid archaeologist. The figure that entered the room was nearly the last person she expected to see.
Gunnery Sergeant Walker stood just inside the infirmary doors, looking decidedly uncomfortable with his surroundings. Marines were notorious about steering well clear of the infirmary unless absolutely necessary; and that necessity usually involved a post mission physical or briefly visiting an injured teammate. The Marines could be counted on to spend no more time than required, as if the unfortunate luck that landed someone in the infirmary was something that could be caught by casual contact. He made eye contact with Sam and walked directly toward her bedside.
"What brings you down here? Doc Brightman looking to turn you into a pin cushion again?"
The Gunny blanched slightly at the suggestion and cleared his throat. "I hope not, ma'am. Actually, I was looking for you."
"Yeah well, I'm working on an escape. Maybe you can get the rest of SG-3 together and break me outta here."
"Now that sounds like a worthwhile mission, ma'am. I just might have to see what we can pull off."
Sam smiled. "I'd appreciate anything you can do, Gunny."
Walker shifted his feet slightly, unsure how to proceed. He'd come in here with a specific goal in mind, and after a great deal of contemplation, still wasn't sure how to put what he was feeling into words. After a moment, he opted for a direct path.
"I wanted to let you know that what you did back on -035 was one of the most courageous things I've ever seen."
Sam was thunderstruck. "Gunny… I just did my job. What I've been trained to do."
"With all due respect, ma'am, you did a helluva lot more than just your job. You didn't have to go back there. Not after what happened. I don't know everything, but if even a little bit of the scuttlebutt is true, no one would'a blamed you for never going back to that place again. But you went back and faced something that would've had some good men running the other way."
"Gunny…I'm not sure what to say…" Sam trailed off. Overt complements like this were things that had always made her uncomfortable. So rarely could she see the need for them.
"I know you don't ma'am, that's what makes you such an outstanding officer. Just wanted you to know. And that I'd follow you to hell and back, any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Ma'am." Gunnery Sergeant Walker came to rigid attention, executed a picture perfect about face, and strode from the room, leaving a stunned Air Force officer to ponder what he had said.
Jack sat on Sam's couch, his feet propped up on her coffee table, listening with half an ear to Daniel and Teal'c debate the pros and cons of spending a late fall afternoon watching football. Daniel didn't seem to quite grasp the primal pleasure that Jack and Teal'c enjoyed when watching grown men bash each other up and down the playing field. Jack had been pleasantly surprised to discover Teal'c's hidden love of the game, and could frequently be found watching Bears' games with him over the last few Sundays, when their respective schedules allowed.
Jack could hear Sam open and close the refrigerator door and was surprised when after several moments she hadn't yet re-entered the family room. Sitting up a bit straighter, he craned his neck looking to see where she may have gone. The whisper of the sliding glass door drew his attention and he saw Sam slip out the door and onto her deck. She'd been more pensive over the last few days, but Jack had considered it a fair trade off for her freedom from the nightmares that had plagued her before that last mission. He even grudgingly admitted that the extra few days in the infirmary were well worth it if the return trip to -035 had given Sam the peace she had so desperately sought.
Jack watched her for several minutes before rising to join her. Easing the door open, he stepped out into the mild fall air, unusual for Colorado, but certainly welcome. The setting sun sent bolts of fire across the horizon, painting Sam in bold strokes that brought out auburn highlights in her hair. The sight took his breath away and he wondered if he would ever grow tired of looking at her like this. His Golden Warrior.
"You just gonna stand there staring?"
Jack was caught flat footed and for once didn't have a witty response. "Yeah, guess I am."
Sam turned to regard him, a wry smile pulling at her lips. "Well, if that's the case, why don't you come stand over here?"
Jack chuckled, then complied, coming to stand directly in front of her, his hands resting easily on her waist. Sam sank into the embrace, her head leaning against his chest, his heartbeat a melody to soothe her. She sighed deeply and closed her eyes, winding her arms around Jack's back and squeezing lightly.
Jack couldn't help but remember the night, now almost four months ago, when he'd sat next to her on this very deck and listened as she told him of her broken engagement. That night's revelations opened him to possibilities he'd thought were long since lost, and he blew out an amazed breath at just how much things had changed in such a short time.
Sam could feel the tension radiating through Jack's chest as he exhaled. "What was that for?"
"You sighed. Just now. What was that all about?"
"Ah. Just thinking about the last time I was out on this deck with you."
Sam pulled back to look at him, a quizzical expression on her face. "And that makes you sigh?"
"Well, not the sitting on the deck exactly, no. Just thinking about how much has happened since then."
"Oh…. yeah I guess a lot has happened, hasn't it? So, any regrets?" Sam asked hesitantly. Jack was right, a great deal had happened, to the both of them. The consequences of which they would most likely feel for the rest of their lives. She couldn't help but wonder if the changes were ones Jack felt as though he couldn't live with.
Jack's answer was immediate. "Hell no."
"You don't regret anything?"
Jack met Sam's gaze and softened his expression before he reached up and ran a feather light touch through her hair. Sam leaned into the contact, eyes half lidded.
"Sam, anything that ends with the two of us standing together, no matter how we get there, is more than good enough for me."
"Okay," Sam said softly. She hated the doubt that clouded her emotions, but she couldn't seem to help how she felt.
"What about you?"
Sam hesitated. Was there anything she regretted? Certainly there were things that had happened that would mark her forever, but regret wasn't something that she equated with the experiences. She was alive. Yes, she had been wounded by what had happened, physically and emotionally; but those wounds had already begun to heal. SG-1 was intact after two rather harrowing missions. She was standing on her deck in the arms of the man she thought she'd never be able to get this close to, considering everything that stood in their way. The bad and the good, the dark and the light. It all had combined to become who she was today. She wouldn't give up any of it.
"No. No regrets."
Jack's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really?"
"Really. I don't regret anything. Wish I'd brought SG-3 along for the ride the first time to -035, but no. No regrets. It's changed me. I'm not quite sure yet all the ways I've changed. But I think I'm stronger than I was before that night. And I know I'm happier, right now, than I've ever been."
Jack's arms closed around Sam's shoulders and drew her closer again. "Good enough for me," he said softly. "So….happy huh?"
"Without a doubt."
"Oh yeah? How happy?" Jack queried, humor in his tone.
Sam laughed lightly. "Deliriously. Exceedingly. Exceptionally. Fantastically. Incredibly. Ridiculously. Do I need to go on?"
Jack laughed aloud. "No. No need. But I have to tell ya, I'm more than a little bit worried that all of those came out in alphabetical order."
"Yeah well, no more worried than I am that you noticed that little detail." Sam pulled back, pouring every ounce of her love and respect for the man in her arms into her expression. "I love you, Jack."
He leaned closer, kissed her lightly on the forehead. Then each cheek, before allowing their lips to touch in an explosion of emotion that left them both reeling.
"I love you. Always." Jack had said the words before, countless times, but never soul to soul. Never on a level that left him exhilarated and quaking all at the same time. Never before had he bought into the notion of 'soul mates', until now.
"I think we should probably go back inside soon."
"Well, it's either that, or I get you the bottle of cleaner and some towels. I think Daniel's gonna leave a permanent impression on my living room windows."
"Oh for cryin' out loud."
Concluding author's notes:
A story this size seemed to deserve some sort of closure from me – please feel free to bail out now. )
Firstly, thanks to my husband and live-in beta reader, Robert, who knows way more than I do about pretty much everything. And to my son, Jack, who put up with Mommy's moods when she was writing and was ready with a hug when I most needed it.
Secondly, thanks to everyone who read and gave me feedback along the way. You're all very kind to take the time out to write and I very much appreciate it.
Some trivia about the story and the Air Force in general:
I am a United States Air Force veteran – 1991 to 1995 stationed at Dover AFB Delaware, where I served as a C-5 Galaxy Crew Chief during my time in service. The tail number of the air craft I was assigned was 870035, usually shortened to 7035 when talking over the radio – so the designation of the planet where Sam was captured: P7X-035.
Female officers in the Air Force are never refered to as "Sir", always "Ma'am". I know on screen we've seen characters refer to Sam as "Sir", but that's technically wrong. Only the Navy calls its women "Sir". Just a little pet peeve of mine. :-)
The Code of Conduct was a document that I was required to memorize and was expected tobe able to recite whenever askedduring Basic Training. The article that always stuck in my mind, and that I tried to carry with me throughout my years in service, is the first: I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard our contry and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I'd like to think that I still would, even though my time on active duty is now nearly a full 10 years behind me.
When I set out to write "Code of Honor", I began by writing a story that I really wanted to read. But strangely enough, I didn't even start to write at the beginning but rather the first thing that came to me was the scene where Sam orders Daniel and Teal'c to return to the SGC while she remains behind to cover their escape. In fact, the very first line that I wrote was a snippet Sam's dialogue from that scene – "Daniel, for once in your life, just follow orders!" The rest of this novel sprung from that one little line. I never could have guessed when I first put that quote down on paper almost 1 year ago to the day, where it would lead.
Thanks for taking the ride with me! I hope you had as much fun as I did.