AN: Finally... the end. Please let me know if you've enjoyed this story. It was a fun one to write. Thank you for all your reviews so far.
"The armory?" Daniel and I spoke in unison, having had the same thought for once in all the years we'd known each other. There were just too many things that could go horribly wrong there.
I started for the armory immediately, fear quickening my steps. Hammond walked beside me. "Did they give you an estimate how long before the effects wore off, Jack?"
"No, sir." I paced as we waited for the elevator. I was afraid Carter was going to hurt herself before I could get there to stop her. "Hopefully before she accidentally shoots herself."
I knocked on the door of the armory lightly, hoping I wouldn't scare her into dropping a grenade or something. "Sam? You in there?" I knocked a little harder the second time. "Sam? I hear you want to go to the zoo. If you open the door, I think we can arrange something." Again, I got no response. I knocked harder, feeling the pain in my knuckles from hitting the steel door. "Sam, open the door and I swear I'll take you to the zoo tomorrow and then we can sit on the roof all night and look at the stars. How's that sound?"
I don't know what it was, but I heard the sound of something fairly heavy scraping along the floor. Then there was the clang as the lock was opened. But Carter didn't emerge. I waited a moment before I slowly opened the door. "Sam?" I looked back at the general and Daniel and Teal'c and the rest of the audience that had gathered. I was surprised more of them hadn't run for the surface when they caught wind of the fact that Carter had access to some serious firepower. I motioned for everyone to stay back. "If she's mad, I'll probably have better luck getting her out alone."
I pushed open the door gently and walked in. Guns and ammo and grenades and all sorts of explosives littered the floor. I was truly amazed Carter hadn't blown herself, and the rest of the base for that matter, up. "Sam?" I peered down the first aisle and saw more of the same, but no Carter. "If you want to play hide and seek, we're not going to the zoo." I peered down the second aisle and saw nothing different.
"I don't want to play hide and seek or go to the zoo. I'm trying to disappear." Her voice came from the third aisle back.
I rounded the corner, expecting a blond whirlwind ready to pounce.
There was a blond whirlwind there, all right, but she was considerably taller than I'd last seen her. And very, very leggy. It took a long time for my eyes to work their way up over the vast expanse of bare flesh. The hem of the t-shirt fell just shy of what might be considered decent. Her arms were folded across her chest in some pretense of modesty. The shirt still hung off one shoulder, but the incredibly long, delicate skin it revealed was very different than a day earlier. When my eyes finally reached her face, I could see the half angry, half triumphant gleam.
"Wow." I couldn't help it. I just couldn't. Finally - one of my fantasies that was still recognizable. Samantha Carter. Very nearly completely undressed. Wearing only my t-shirt. I could have died happy at that moment. I cleared my throat in an attempt to speak, but when I did, my words didn't help much. "Good God."
Carter's face burned red as she looked down. I saw her wince when she realized how very short my shirt was on her. She pulled futilely at the hem. "Looking at the stars sounds kind of nice, actually, but I'm not going to the zoo until someone brings me some clothes."
It took me a minute to realize that she was expecting me to play a part in getting them for her. "Ah, just a minute." I went back to the door and beckoned Daniel, giving him strict instructions to get Dr. Frasier to bring Carter some clothes. I knew Carter would feel better if Janet was the one to get them. I went back to where Carter was hiding.
She had her arms over her head, working to remove the strips of tape. I glanced down, promptly realized that wasn't helping, and cleared my throat again. "Uh, Carter?"
She continued working on her hair. "Sir?"
I nodded at the additional skin that raising her arms revealed. "You might want to wait on that." I didn't think I needed to mention that if she didn't, things between us were going to get very unprofessional. She blushed a deeper red and lowered her hands.
The silence that descended was thick enough to choke us. I couldn't seem to stop myself from staring. Eventually Carter suggested that I wait outside until after Janet brought her some clothes. I agreed with her because my brain had turned entirely to mush and I'd found that it was generally a good idea to agree with Carter. Unfortunately, while my voice agreed, my body didn't move and I continued to stare.
"Uh, sir? You were waiting outside?"
Then it was my turn to blush. I nodded and turned away, more flustered than she was. I hated how she could do that to me. I reemerged to face the curious crowd of people. I looked at General Hammond. "Well, sir, it wore off."
"Oh, thank God!" He looked positively overjoyed. "Is she suffering any ill effects?"
"Uh-" I probably should have asked, but it hadn't occurred to me. Nothing beyond extremely primitive behavior had occurred to me. Seeing her in my shirt unleashed something feral in my head. "I - um - Janet!"
Dr. Frasier had arrived with a pile of neatly folded clothes. "Sir?"
I pointed at Dr. Frasier. "Good old doc here is probably better qualified to answer that."
Hammond sent the rest of the staff back to work and ordered Janet to bring Carter to the infirmary as soon as she was ready. Daniel, Teal'c and I followed the general to the infirmary to wait.
Carter and Janet appeared a few minutes later. Carter was still picking at the tape. Janet was helping her, but stopped as soon as she saw us. "I'll have to do a more thorough exam, but Major Carter seems to be completely fine."
Carter let Janet prod her onto a bed, but she fixed her eyes on me. "Is this really necessary?"
I took it as a good sign that she was trying to avoid medical treatment. "Absolutely. Anyone who ages thirty years in the course of a day must undergo a physical exam."
Carter opened her mouth to dispute it, but then she remembered how much poking and prodding I'd had to undergo when I'd aged fifty years and then regressed back to my proper age. Her shoulders slumped. "I guess we're not going to the zoo, then."
Daniel stepped forward, poking Carter's shoulder. Carter pulled away and glared at him. He shrugged. "Just making sure." He smiled at her as she started to scratch at the patches of dried mud on her arms. "Do you remember the last few days, Sam?"
She shrugged. "We were on 738." She grimaced. "Loh'ran was a little too touchy-feely for my taste." She looked at me for a moment and I knew she remembered the conversation we'd had in the hallway between our rooms. She shrugged again. "That's about it. What happened?"
I grinned. "Loh'ran tried to make you truly happy. He snuck some magic potion into your food."
Jacob's voice sounded from the hallway. "He turned you into a three-year-old."
Carter's eyes widened slightly. "That must have been an interesting experience."
Teal'c nodded. "You were what I believe is called a holy living terror."
Carter started to laugh, as did Jacob. She nodded at Teal'c. "Yeah, that sounds about right." She looked around, as though searching for any damage she might have caused. "I didn't burn anything down, did I?"
I grinned harder. "No fires, per se, at least not the literal kind."
General Hammond was grinning too. "You did crash an Asgard ship. Thor will be most pleased to see that you're all grown up again."
"So, Carter, I have to know - what was the deal with being carried? You wouldn't walk anywhere by yourself, unless you were climbing on the roof in the middle of the night."
Jacob's head snapped towards me. "You let her on the roof?"
I threw my hands up in surrender and backed away. "I was asleep! She did it on her own!" I saw how amused everyone else, particularly Carter, was at how scared I was. I crossed my arms over my chest. "Besides, you're the one who insisted I take her."
Carter looked surprised. "Dad! Why didn't you watch me? You would have known what to look out for!"
Jacob grinned devilishly. "You didn't want anything to do with me. You only wanted Jack."
Carter's red face silenced the group momentarily. Carter stopped picking at the dried mud and resumed her attack on her hair. It only took one brief moment before her hand landed on the spot I'd cut the lollipop out of. Her eyes met mine. "Sir?"
So it was a bit of a long shot to hope she wouldn't notice the spot of hair cut several inches shorter than the rest. I shrugged. "You wanted your lollipop."
She squeezed her eyes closed and I could tell she was working on that disappearing thing again. Janet stepped in. "All right, guys, I'm going to have to interrupt the reunion. Let me take a look at Major Carter and then you can finish telling her stories." As she finished speaking, a nurse popped in to tell Janet she had a phone call. She nodded at Carter. "I'll be right back."
I hung back as everyone else left. I smiled at Carter, genuinely happy that she was back. I knew I was going to have to find a way to mention how much I'd realized in those few days.
She smiled at me. "As for being carried, sir, I think I was nine before I walked anywhere without being forced to. My mom always said I was just being affectionate to make up for all the trouble I caused.
I nodded. "It worked." And how. "I'll wait outside for you, Carter." I started to walk away.
"Don't go far, sir."
I spun around to face her, wondering about her uncharacteristic remark. "Carter?"
She met my eyes and grinned, demonstrating the full power of her dimples once again. "I believe you owe me a Slinky."
I stared back at her, realizing the full impact of her words. She remembered my promise about buying her a new Slinky. That meant she remembered everything - when I said I loved her, when I agreed to marry her. "Yes, ma'am." I winked. "But that Slinky comes with dinner."
Her eyes were dancing as she nodded. "The weatherman was calling for storms later. You might need me to protect you."
"D'oh!" I turned away and went to wait for her, shaking my head. I was in trouble. I was so looking forward to it.
It was as I stood outside the door, leaning against the wall that I realized something important. Despite Loh'ran's claims, Carter hadn't been happy when she was a child. She'd always been looking for something else, trying to satisfy her curiosity. When she grew up, she finally had the Stargate to amuse her. But even that wasn't enough.
I was the only one with the power to make her truly happy. And I fully intended to.