TITLE: Breathless
AUTHOR: Matt 2005-2006
SUMMARY: Set shortly after the events of Divide and Conquer but before Window of Opportunity, another mission goes wrong for SG-1. Sam/Jack UST
RATING: PG
DISCLAIMER: Characters are property of MGM et al.
NOTE: An unpolished version of this was posted at under a different penname. So, if it sounds a bit familiar that may be why.
THANKS: As always, to Allie. Her suggestions are what make my fics better.


"Carter, come in."

Silence.

"Carter, Daniel?"

Jack thumbed the radio and waited for a response from one of his team-members. The silence was worrying him. He already had one problem on his hands; he didn't really want another.

"Carter? Daniel? Respond, damn it!"

The radio crackled, but Jack's sigh of relief was abruptly halted. "Sorry, Sir. We've got a bit of a problem up here."

Just as he had feared. "Yeah? Well, I've a problem down here as well."

"Sir?"

"Ring me back up, will ya? Can't do anything more down here."

"Er, yes, Sir."

Was it his imagination or did Carter seem hesitant? Jack shook his head as though to clear it and waited for the familiar sound of the ring transporter. When no rings were forthcoming he clicked his radio again.

"Carter? Rings?"

"Er, Jack?" Daniel responded this time. "You're going to have to wait a moment. We've got some problems up here and Sam's trying to resolve them." There was a pause. "Is Teal'c with you?"

"No."

That was Jack's big problem. The mission was a complete and utter bust. The so-called Tok'ra operative SG-1 had been asked to retrieve had turned out to be a Goa'uld spy. Worse still, he'd been one of Apophis' spies and he'd had accomplices. Jack and Teal'c had ringed down to an apparently disabled outpost, only to come face to face with zat-wielding Jaffa. Seconds later, both of them were down, and Jack was still recovering when he'd heard the rings activate. An unconscious Teal'c had been taken by their attackers, while he'd been left alone for some unfathomable reason. He'd promptly called on Carter and Daniel to get him back, in hopes of pursuing the aggressors. When they'd not immediately responded he'd been concerned that they too had been captured.

There was a flash of light, a swooshing of rings and barely a moment for Jack to hope this was retrieval and not capture. Then he found himself face to face with a harried looking Carter and a roughed-up Daniel.

"Trouble, kids?" he enquired sarcastically.

"Only a couple of Jaffa with zats and staff weapons," Daniel replied, in a similar tone of voice, while rubbing his arm.

"Injuries?"

"Nothing major."

Carter grimaced. "I'm afraid the ship is another matter, Sir."

"Ah, hence the delay with the rings," he surmised. "Engines? Hyperdrive."

"Non-functioning."

"No lightspeed?" Crap! What had happened here? "They got Teal'c too. They had this planned." He wasn't happy. "I knew we shouldn't have taken this mission. Damn Tok'ra."

He saw her tense up, probably because he'd managed to inadvertently insult her father - again. "Sir, I had to borrow crystals from the communications console to power the rings. I'd like to work on putting them back."

"Yeah, go." Jack dismissed her with a wave of his hand. He didn't want to say anything further, and she definitely had a job to do. It was best they keep apart for a bit. He headed forward to join Daniel at the front of their borrowed ship.

Daniel barely looked up from his notebook when Jack sat down. "Sam working on getting us moving?"

"Oh yeah." He sighed. "Just what we didn't need, on top of everything else. I knew I shouldn't have got out of bed."

The archaeologist closed the book and looked over. "What happened down there?"

Jack shook his head. "We ringed down, we got zatted by a bunch of Apophis's goons and Teal'c got captured."

"Just the usual then?" Daniel asked wryly.

"Just another happy day," Jack replied scathingly. "You'd think the Tok'ra would have a better idea of who's in their ranks, wouldn't you. And I thought they were only supposed to be feeding this Tanith guy false intel."

Daniel shrugged. "It's possible he may have overheard the distress call come in. The Tok'ra know they're taking a chance with him."

"Well, they're taking a chance with our lives as a consequence, and I don't appreciate it."

Daniel opened his mouth, but was interrupted by the sound of something exploding in the back of the ship. It was followed up by a few short sparks.

"Sam?"

"Carter?" Jack stood up and quickly began walking back.

"Sir?" He was relieved when Sam's head appeared around the bulkhead. "We have another problem."

"No kidding. Everything alright back here?"

She shook her head. "Not exactly, Colonel. The environmental control crystal is fried."

Jack thought he knew the answer to this one. "So, we're going to freeze, right?"

"Under normal circumstances, yes Sir."

"I take it these aren't normal circumstances?"

She began to quickly explain. "There are controls to regulate the interior temperature. It's a bit like a house central heating system. You can set the interior temperature to whatever you want, and set it to go on and off accordingly."

"Okay, I understand that. The ship has it's own central heating system."

Carter smiled. "Exactly. Unfortunately, that little explosion? That was the environmental control crystal. When it exploded, shards of it got stuck inside the control panel. We no longer have a way to control the thermostat."

"Shouldn't it just click on and off when it reaches the desired temperature?"

"Normally. But the part that sets the maximum temperature was destroyed."

"So, we're not going to freeze?"

"No, Sir. We're going to get warmer. Actually, it's going to get hot in here. Very, very hot."

Oh. That wasn't good. That meant losing clothes in order to stay comfortable. And that would be uncomfortable for him – especially if Carter had on one those tank top things under her standard issue black t-shirt. "Okay, Carter," he said with an effort. "Anything else we should know about?"

"We're also running low on air." She looked a little embarrassed. "Seems the Jaffa removed the air regulation crystal as well."

What she didn't say, but Jack knew, was that death was probably imminent. So, if she was wearing that, he'd at least die a happy man. An uncomfortable man, maybe, but still a happy one. And what man didn't want to die with a smile on his face - and his boots on?

"Any idea how long we have?"

She shook her head. "No, Sir. I'd just discovered that when the crystal blew."

"Keep me posted, and thanks for the update," he replied. His arm extended as though to give her a friendly pat on the shoulder. Just before it reached its destination, he paused and thought better of it. He smiled instead and watched her disappear behind the control panel. Then, Jack sighed and went to give Daniel the glad tidings.

Two hours later, Jack was bored. Thanks to Carter, the communications console was functioning again and a distress call had been sent out. Now she was attempting to fix other parts of the ship. It was, Jack suspected, a futile exercise but it was keeping her mind occupied.

In the meantime, although Jack wasn't sure how he'd done it, Daniel had managed to fall asleep. He hadn't even removed his jacket, and Jack wondered if that had been such a wise thing to do. His own jacket had been removed some time ago. But this was Daniel. Goa'uld and Tok'ra vessels were not built for comfort unless you were a System Lord but, somehow, Daniel managed to fall asleep in the strangest and most uncomfortable of places. Jack put it down to the lack of sleep the archaeologist usually got when they were on base. It always seemed there was some new piece of history obtained on a planet somewhere purely for Daniel to examine. It was like giving a kid a new toy. Daniel would get all excited by it and, as a result, usually forgot the world existed until he was pointed reminded by Jack a few days later. "I really need to check on him earlier," Jack muttered as he watched his friend snooze.

But Daniel sleeping meant Jack had nothing to do. His Gameboy was in his pack, but that meant heading back to where Carter was working. He wasn't sure she'd relish the interruption, but it was either that or he was going to start contemplating how and when they were all going to die. With a quiet sigh, he pushed himself up from the seat.

As soon as he entered the back room Jack knew he'd made a mistake. Carter had not only removed her jacket but, just as he'd feared, the black t-shirt was also gone. Bare feet also peeked out from under the bottom of her pants. It was an amazing sight.

"Out of uniform, Carter?" His voice sounded more frog than man. Crap. Was the air that thin already?

"Sir?" She jumped up quickly from her kneeling position, saw where his eyes were focused, and blushed. "Sorry, Sir. It was getting a bit warm back here."

"At ease, Carter," he said as he slid down the wall to sit at her feet. "No joy, huh?"

She shook her head despondently. "Sorry, Sir. Those Jaffa really knew what systems to hit and there aren't any spare crystals."

So this is it?" He began picking at his bootlaces - might as well join her in the bare feet department. And it sure beat looking at her pretty pink toes. That was just too dangerous.

"Not unless someone answers our distress call."

"Huh." Jack didn't fancy his chances on that one. "Guess my will's useless then."

"Sir?"

He looked up at her. "I had left everything to you, Daniel and Teal'c. Waste of paper now." Idly, he wondered if it would even be read. Would they be declared dead or simply MIA? Would anyone even find their bodies?

"Oh. Thank you, Sir, I guess."

"No need to thank me, Carter. It's all a moot point now." His neck was beginning to ache from looking up. "Sit down and keep a dying man company."

Carter giggled as she sat down next to him. To Jack, the sound was as refreshing as water – even though he could have down with some of that right now as well. He'd miss her once she was gone. Or maybe he'd die first. Would she miss him?

"So," he drawled. "How much air do we have?"

"I'm not sure. I couldn't get an accurate reading."

There was no doubt that the air was noticeably dwindling. Time was running out for them.

"Have any regrets?" He wasn't sure why he asked. Maybe it was the morbidity of his thoughts. Maybe it was the increasing lack of oxygen to his brain.

Sam smiled. "A few, I guess."

"Like joining SG-1?"

"Never!" She paused before continuing quietly, "SG-1 is the best thing to have happened to me."

"But there are… other… things?" His eyes had met hers and he couldn't break the contact. It appeared she couldn't either.

"Yes." It came out as a mere whisper.

He knew instantly what regrets she had and was relieved to find she felt the same as he. Just weeks ago, they'd been forced to confess personal feelings for each other in front of an audience. They'd agreed to take no action on those feelings, and Jack knew they were damn lucky not to receive some form of disciplinary action for the revelation, especially when it was due to those undisclosed feelings that the President's life had been placed in danger. Had those feelings not been there, they wouldn't have been falsely accused of being assassins which meant that Martouf and Lantesh might have been tested in time to perhaps save their lives.

But now with time running out, Jack desperately wanted to change things. He wanted to address those feelings, have at least some positive moments before the air disappeared on them completely and they both died of asphyxia. It would be so easy right now just to lean forward and reassure her physically of how he felt…

And it looked as though she had the same idea, unless the air was now so thin that even her super brain was being affected. After a lifetime of moments just staring at each other, both heads began to gravitate towards each other, leaning in for a kiss. What a way to die, Jack thought.

A proximity alert sounded, swiftly followed by the activation of the ship's speakers. "This is Selmak of the Tok'ra," a gravely voice stated. "We have received your distress signal."

Even through the haze surrounding him, Jack still found there was nothing to quite put a damper on things than the sound of a girl's father. He and Sam both pulled away at the same time, but they found themselves unable to look away from each other. Finally, Sam blushed and looked away.

"Oh, thank goodness!" they heard Daniel exclaim, albeit slightly groggily. Jack realized the screaming alarm must have woken him up.

The voice changed abruptly to that of the host. "Daniel? Where's the rest of SG-1?"

"Um, I'm not sure," Daniel answered. "In the back I think."

Even as he was attempting to stand up, it occurred to Jack that might not have been the best thing to say to Carter's father. But Daniel couldn't have known what was happening, and all of them were acting on the oxygen-deprived side. At least, when he looked back, that was the only excuse he could give for the first words out of his mouth when he arrived at Daniel's side. "Hey, Dad."

Jacob glared at him. "Problems?"

His daughter took over, briefly explaining the situation. It didn't seem to be a problem that the rings weren't functioning. The ones on Jacob's vessel would be able to handle the transport easily. Father and daughter conferred for a few moments while Daniel and Jack proceeded to make their way to the back of the ship.

Jack's last thought as the rings beamed them off the stricken vessel was that he'd left his boots behind. Goodbye frying pan. Hello fire. When Jacob saw how little both he and Carter were wearing, he was going to go ballistic. Yep, Jacob was going to kill him.

Thankfully, Jacob had other things on his mind. "Where's Teal'c?"

Jack glared at him. "Thanks to your damned intel, Apophis was ready and waiting for us. Your operative was a spy, Jacob. Makes me wonder how many more you got within your ranks."

Jacob's head dipped briefly. "Colonel O'Neill," Selmak greeted him. "I assure you, we were not aware of this infiltration. It saddens us greatly to hear that this was a trap. Am I to understand that Teal'c has been taken?"

"They had zats," Jack stated. "We ringed down, and they were waiting for us. With zats. When I woke up, Teal'c was unconscious and being ringed up."

"They left you?" Jacob asked with a smirk.

Jack just gave him a filthy look. "Don't push it, Jacob," he warned.

Jacob headed back to the navigation console. "Is this where I remind you that I'm a General, Colonel, and that you and my daughter both appear to be out of uniform?"

Oh yeah, the old man always had something. "Your daughter managed to blow up the central heating," Jack replied, following.

"I did not."

"Did too." He took the seat next to Jacob. "Any chance of us being able to track Teal'c?"

The Tok'ra ran his hands over a few controls. "Hard to say, Jack. They got a couple of hours on you. Might be a trace of a ionization trail. I'm going to contact the Tok'ra and let them know the situation. Maybe one of our operatives will spot him."

Jack snorted. "Operative or spy?"

"Jack." Jacob glanced over at him. "Sim'bek had been with us for a number of years. He was well-known and well-trusted. For all we know, Apophis could have got to him the same way he got to Lantesh."

"Speaking of that… are all your little Tok'ra buddies going to be tested now?"

"It's hard to tell. Anise's proposal still hasn't gained a lot of support among the Tok'ra. And given what happened to you and Sam…"

Crap! "You know about that?"

"Anise documented everything."

Jack winced. "Look, Jacob…"

The older man held up a hand to stop him. "I don't want to discuss it, Jack. Yes, I know. Let's leave it at that." His hands slid back over the controls. "I'm actually in the middle of a mission, right now. So I'm going to take you to a friendly planet with a Stargate and drop you off."

"And what about Teal'c?"

Jacob looked at him, a wry expression on his face. "It'll probably be better if you're fully dressed for the rescue mission. At the very least, you can pick up a new pair of boots."

"Yeah, thank you, Jacob." Jack knew when someone was poking fun at him.

"My pleasure. Do you still have your GDO?"

"I think Daniel has it. Hey, Daniel!" he called back to where the remainder of SG-1 were seated.

"Yeah?"

"You got the GDO?"

"Yep."

"Cool."

Fifteen minutes later, Jack was entering the Stargate with Jacob's last words echoing through his brain.

"Oh, and Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Do anything… and Selmak and I will kill you."

"Yes, Sir."

Sam Carter no longer had just one father; she had two. And one of them probably knew far more torture techniques than Jack would ever want to know.

General Hammond was waiting for them at the bottom of the Gateroom ramp, but he wasn't alone.

"Teal'c!"

The Jaffa nodded. "It is good to see you, O'Neill."

"What happened?"

"The Jaffa Apophis sent greatly underestimated me. Had I still been First Prime, I would have had them executed for failing to complete their mission. They were most inept."

Jack grinned. It was typical Teal'c, and apparently the man was no worse for wear despite his brief capture.

"Colonel O'Neill."

Jack acknowledged his Commanding Officer. "Yes, Sir?"

"I don't know why it is that you and Major Carter are partly undressed, while Doctor Jackson remains fully clothed. I'm not sure I even want to know. Instead, I'd like you both to clean up and return, fully dressed, in one hour for SG-1's debriefing. Understood?"

"Loud and clear, Sir."

"Yes, Sir."

So, maybe this was the fire, Jack reflected as he headed to his quarters. The cold cement under his feet brought home reality with every step. He'd gotten off relatively lightly with Jacob. But the austere gray of the base walls served only to remind him that while he was alive, he wasn't free.

He'd come close to dying - again - and this time he'd had Sam Carter by his side. And if he wasn't mistaken, they'd taken the forbidden subject of 'them' out of the room - albeit briefly. It was going to be hell putting it back, but that's what they would have to do.

And maybe, one day, he'd get to experience her kiss.

FINIS