Tangled Web 1. The Party

Sam fidgeted nervously as she watched Daniel talking to Pete. Teal'c stood silently beside her choosing not to join in the conversation. She turned her head to look into his face and smiled. His eyes twinkled slightly but his features remained fixed.

"So, Teal'c! You're looking sharp tonight!"

"Thank you, Colonel Carter. O'Neill insisted on this apparel. I am unsure as to his reasoning."

"The General picked out your tux? Nice. He obviously wanted you to fit in, Teal'c. You look great!" Carter had not seen him in a tux before and it seemed to transform him – if not for the tattoo on his forehead – he would have been just another extremely handsome man.

"Did O'Neill also choose your apparel, Colonel Carter?"

Sam tried to avoid choking on her drink as she suppressed a giggle at his innocence. "Un, no, Teal'c, I'll take the credit or blame for this myself."

"It is very flattering but I am surprised that you are able to maneuver in such footwear."

Sam looked down at the three-inch heels she was wearing and smiled. "Yeah, me too, Teal'c and thanks, I think."

The Jaffa dipped his head in his normal response and then continued, "These shoes are most unsuitable for battle."

"They're for a different kind of battle, Teal'c." Daniel chimed in smiling broadly. "And I agree, Sam, you look terrific." He kissed her lightly on the cheek and continued. "Pete must be the envy of every man in the room!"

"Yeah? Thanks. Including you, Daniel?" Sam's eyes were dancing with a teasing smile.

"Well…I actually prefer that Shavadai dress you wore on Simarka with the veil and head-dress. It was just, so you! Don't you agree, Teal'c?"

"It was indeed attractive and of almost the same color..."

"Don't go there, guys!" She smiled at them with a slight warning tone in her voice and then reached down to lightly touch the blue fabric that draped softly over her body. She had spotted it on her last trip to California and bought it on a whim, thinking she'd never wear it. It was so far removed from her normal attire that she had loved it instantly. A spray of rhinestones cascaded over one shoulder in scattered streams and splayed across her midriff to the opposite hip, drawing the eye to the slip of skin revealed by the side slit. A few even spilled over onto her back becoming fewer and fewer as they fell gracefully towards her hips. The other side of the dress skimmed across her body barely covering her breast and leaving her shoulder and her side bare almost to the waist revealing as much of her alabaster skin as she had ever dared. The fabric felt rich against her bare skin and became looser as it neared the floor. The slits, which stretched to mid-thigh, allowed for ease of movement and also allowed the fabric to swish slightly as she walked. It was a killer dress and she remembered having wondered what General O'Neill's reaction would be if he saw her in it. The heels were the crowning touch, raising her already statuesque form another three inches and slenderizing her into a tantalizing vision. Her blonde hair crowned her face in soft, curly tendrils and was the perfect complement to the vibrant red lipstick accenting her lips.

She had winced slightly when Pete arrived tonight realizing for the first time that she towered over him in the heels. She had considered changing but only for a moment; it was too late for second choices – the shoes went with the dress and she was so wearing the dress.

Snips of conversation slowly penetrated her mind and she re-focused her attention on the friends surrounding her as Teal'c began to speak.

"I do not believe Colonel Carter would have defeated Turghan in those shoes. We would all be enslaved on Simarka had she been so attired then."

Daniel's hand came up to cover his mouth as he tried to hide his smirk from Sam and then tilted his head and looked directly at her. "What can I say? He's right."

"Ok! Ok, I get it, Teal'c you don't like the shoes! I would like to point out, however that women AND especially men on this planet do like them."

"Colonel Carter, I simply meant…."

"I know. Can we just drop it? It's ok, Teal'c, really."

"Hey beautiful! What's this? Who or what is Turghan?"

"It's a long story, Pete. I'll explain later."

Pete looked at Daniel and Teal'c. "Story of my life!" He smiled at Sam, snaking his arm possessively around her waist and then looked back at them. "Is this a military thing or is this something all women do."

Daniel still smirking looked at Pete. "All women! It's a universal trait unlimited by language or location!"

They talked casually for a while longer and then the men walked over to the bar to refresh their drinks. Sam stood alone in the massive room and let her eyes wander over all the military personnel and their spouses/dates gathered there. Suddenly the hair on the back of her neck tingled and she turned slowly, searching the room for the eyes she knew would be staring back at her.

Her gaze was drawn to the long elegant staircase that rose to the entry level above and she gasped quietly as their eyes locked. General O'Neill stood alone at the top of the staircase his eyes studying her with an intensity she had rarely seen, even at this distance creating a physical reaction deep within her. She suddenly felt very vulnerable. He had the look of a very dangerous predator with herself playing the part of the prey.

Unable to look away, she caught a bit of movement just on the edge of her vision and an attractive brunette walked up to stand beside O'Neill. She touched his arm softly and as he felt the sensation he broke the connection with Sam and turned to his companion. Sam thought she saw a glow appear around them as O'Neill turned on a brilliant smile and leaned in slightly toward the woman at his side. She felt a sudden pang of jealously trying to invade her calm exterior as she watched O'Neill offer his arm and gracefully descend the staircase.

Sam felt her face flush as she attempted to control the rising primal rage she had thought long buried. He was her CO. That was all. She repeated it silently over and over in her head, but she was unable to pull her eyes away from him as the pair slowly descended the staircase and she attempted to push the smoldering fire within her to the pit of her stomach. Suddenly, he again caught her eye and after a brief moment she turned away, instinctively reaching for her 'military mask' she set it firmly in place to hide any stray emotions.

She searched the crowd in front of her for her friends, her allies. 'Where the hell were Daniel and Teal'c anyway? How long did it take to refresh a drink?' A small smile crossed her lips as she saw Daniel surrounded by several of the single nurses from the SGC and Teal'c towering protectively over him. 'Always the ladies man', she thought to herself and as her smile broadened she saw Pete making his way back to her, two glasses in hand. She was just starting to relax again when she heard a voice from behind her.


She lowered her head and closed her eyes, mentally adjusting the 'mask' and then opened them quickly to find herself looking into Pete's intense eyes. Fixing a fake smile on her face she turned to meet the General. "Sir. Good to see you!"

"You, too, Carter. You look terrific! Where are the rest of the kids?"

She looked down again and biting her bottom lip looked up into his smiling eyes. "Thank you, Sir, yourself as well. They're just over there, Sir. Daniel is attending to his admirers."

"Ah! Yes! Where else? Teal'c with him?"

"Yes, Sir. He's the bodyguard." Sam smirked and tried to keep from staring at the woman draped on Jack's arm, but her eyes kept returning to study her.

"Paul! How are you?"

"Uh, it's Pete and I'm fine, General. Nice to see you again."

"Right! Sorry. Excuse my manners this is Carol Blackstone. Carol, Colonel Carter and her fiancé…" Pausing he looked to Carter to supply the name.

"Pete Shanahan."

"Right! Pete."

"Nice to meet all of you." She smiled a very gracious smile and Sam tried her level best to reciprocate, all the while totally aware of Jack's piercing stare watching her.

"Well, duty calls. We have to "mingle" but we'll see you later."

"Yes, Sir. Enjoy yourself, Sir."

"Oh, absolutely, Carter. You, too! You know how I love these things." With sarcasm practically dripping from his lips, he smiled and led Carol away to mingle with the other personnel and their families gathered around the room. As she continued to watch she noticed a slight change in the set of his shoulders, a slight twisting of his neck and then a warm, charming smile appeared on his face as he made his way through the room, greeting his troops.

She watched woman after woman smile into his eyes and then avert his gaze after a few moments of contact, in…embarrassment? Not quite that, she thought. They were avoiding the intensity of those smoky, captivating eyes as the General turned on the charm, his smile growing as they blushed and looked away. A devious smile crept across her eyes as she tried to imagine the thoughts racing through the minds of the women he was greeting as they compared the description of the "hard-assed General" supplied by their husbands with the charmingly handsome man in front of them.

"Sam? Everything ok?"

"Fine. Let's get Daniel and Teal'c and find our table."