A/N: Thank you so much for your patience while I wrestled with the Chapter That Refused To End. I was beginning to believe I was the ill-fated heroine of a B horror flick.




"Stop what?" He flicked a few more droplets of water at her cleavage.

The cleavage heaved as Sam sighed and adjusted her bikini top.

"Need help with that?"

She glared at him over the rim of her sunglasses before returning to her science journal. Jack gathered a few more drops of condensation from his warming beer bottle onto his fingertips and propelled them towards her. Even after landing accurately on the freckled skin between her (barely) covered breasts (yet again!), she refused to react. He frowned.

And scooted out of his beach chair, grabbed the metal posts and whisked them around until the chair's foot was exactly perpendicular to her upper body. He settled in, smiling, and counted to ten before she looked at him again, her eyes questioning him.

"Enjoying the view," he explained and took a sip of his beer. "Ya know, if you hold that book about two inches lower--"



Shaking her head, she began reading her journal (again), but didn't answer his question.

Which obviously gave him permission to keep enjoying said view.

Which kept him occupied for about two minutes before the urge to play with the view became overwhelming.

"Who brings work to Cabo?"

She shook her head, but kept her eyes trained on the page in front of her. "It's not work."

"It's an inch thick."

"Inch and a quarter."


She turned the page.

He sighed (loudly) and shifted in his seat.

"You could go for a run," she suggested. "Gorgeous day for it."

He drained the last of his beer while considering her suggestion. "I could," he said at last and rose to stretch his back. Making a show of surveying the gorgeous day, he stood and circled their chairs, his neck craned upwards to look at the nearby palms. His back popped twice and he let out a relieved breath. "I like my idea better," he told her.

"Oh?" she asked, only half-listening to him, and flipped yet another page. "What's that?"

He grinned. "This." He plucked the journal from her hands and threw it aside, his grin widening at her startled gasp. With a low grunt, he hefted her into his arms and over his shoulder before running towards the water as fast as he could manage. Had she known that her shrieks of protest and vehement wriggling only fed his speed, she probably would've quieted.

Or not. He could never tell with her.

He managed to get waist deep before his body gave out and they went under in a squealing tangle of limbs. Jack managed to beat her to the surface, his grin entirely too wide for the good of his continued health.

After finding her footing and regaining her breath, Sam glared and lunged at him.

And abruptly realized he had liberated her breasts from their black spandex and lycra prison.

He smiled and held up the scrap of fabric on a hooked finger. "Oops?"

"You are such a bastard."

"Yup," he agreed and then grinned as she tried to preserve her modesty while moving towards him and, in turn, into ever shallowing water. She stopped moving, her head tilted, her eyebrow impressively arched, her delicious lips a pencil thin line and if her eyes were laser beams of death, he would've been many, many tiny pieces of tropical fish food.


By her tone, he calculated he was about ten seconds away from sleeping on the beach for the three remaining days of their vacation. "Yeah?"


"Stop being twelve and give me my top back."


His forehead scrunched and he gripped her top in his hand. "Lemme think."


"Like hell!" A short stream of froth trailed her as she propelled herself at him. He caught her around the waist, one of her arms pinned to her side while the other reached vainly for the article now held high above his head.


"It's only fair!" He narrowly missed her head slamming (accidentally?) back towards his nose and gripped her body tighter to his chest.


"Jack O'Neill, I swear to god--" A well-placed (well-deserved) elbow jabbed him in the ribs, some of its heft (thankfully) stolen by the water's resistance.


"Whole seconds of strategic planning--"


"Strategic planning, my ass!"


"Okay." He goosed her, grinning as she shrieked and spun in place, her hands momentarily distracted by protecting her posterior.


"Jack!" Catching her back in his arms, he drew her towards him, his touch decidedly gentler, and kissed her, thoroughly and passionately. They parted with a soft 'pop,' and he smiled down at her, her eyes hooded, her lips slowly quirking. He brushed an errant strand of hair from her face.


"Marry me."


She blinked and looked at him, her dazedness quickly usurped by incredulity. "Wh...what?"

"Marry me."

"That's what I thought you said."

He frowned and thought the water strangely quiet. "So...that wasn't on my list of possible answers."

A laugh escaped her. She bit her lip to cover it, but her eyes still sparked at him, amused. "You made a list of my possible answers."

Scrutinizing the waves just over her shoulder, he said, "I wasn't entirely joking about the strategic planning."

Her arms tightened around his neck and her hips relaxed against his thighs. "What was on your list?"

A breath flowed from his lips—and, really, the waves just over her shoulder were fascinating. "Ah, you laughing at me, slapping me--"

"That almost happened."

He shook his head. "Doesn't count," he told her, meeting her eyes (which were still laughing at him). "That was before I asked." But then his eyes narrowed. "...right?"

His sigh of relief when she nodded only increased her amusement. "What else?"

Groaning softly, he loosened his grip on her waist and went back to studying the waves. "Saying no and crying, saying yes and crying--"


"Women cry in these situations!"

She considered it and 'hmm'd softly in consent. "Any others?"

Goddamn, those waves were really...really boring. He sighed, but refused to cringe. "...'bout five pages," he muttered.

And she laughed. Full bellied, right from the lungs, through the throat and straight across the water. Danced—her laughter danced across the water, its substantial blue paling in comparison to her joyful, glowing eyes that were radiating her happiness straight at him. At that, he couldn't help but smile.

"So," he began when her laughter had subsided. "It'd be kinda nice to know which of my--"

"Bet it's not on your list."

"I dunno," he said slowly. "I was pretty thorough."

She smiled and nudged his thigh. "Ask me again."

He'd ask a million times if she wanted him to. "Marry me."

"On one condition."

His eyebrows arched. "Oh?"

"Give me my top back."

Oh. Right. Lips pursed, he considered it for a long moment before regarding her out of the corner of his eye. "Do I get to take it off again?"

She grinned. "Yes."

"Soon?" he asked hopefully, bracing himself as she playfully punched his shoulder.


"All right, fine." He handed her the article he had all but forgotten, and even helped her adjust and retie it, his fingers suddenly feeling like sausages as he tried to manipulate the thin strings. After she was appropriately covered again, he cleared his throat and would've stared at his feet if he could've seen them through all the sand she had disturbed. "So, uh, that's a yes...right?"

She chuckled and wrapped her arms around his neck, her body pressing fully against his. "Yes."



He grinned. "Sweet."

Then she was kissing him again, and he was happily drowning in her, relishing the hint of margarita on her tongue, the salt on her skin, the breeze prickling her hair through his fingers, and, dear god, was this caliber of happiness even possible?

He hadn't thought so, but the woman currently ravishing his mouth with her tongue had blown up a sun. Accomplishing the impossible was her job description.

But the tongue tangled with his stilled and her hands slowed their mad dance across his back, and before he could remember that this wasn't how it had actually unfolded, the life flowed from her body and she began floating away from him, his arms now open and cold and uselessly hanging from his shoulders.

He tried to call to her, but his lips and tongue forgot how to function, and he couldn't see his reflection in her eyes.

He saw cities crumbling, engulfed in flames; children screaming, coughing through dark streams of smoke; people laying slaughtered in streets slick with blood; a little girl clinging to the lifeless body of her mother.

Was there really so much pain in the universe?

He heard the shot that killed his son and had his answer.

She floated from him though there was no current.

Her lips were blue. Her eyes rolled white in her head.

The sand wrapped around his ankles and he couldn't move.

She was so far from him.

Come back.

Dear god, come back.

Jack awoke abruptly, his own heartbeat deafening. Automatically, his left hand jetted to the matress beside him and he nearly panicked when he found it empty.

But she was in the infirmary, he remembered.

And he was at Stargate Command, though he could still smell the sea.

The sheets adhered to his body like a second skin, and he grimaced as he peeled himself out of bed. He glanced at the clock.


He'd managed to sleep for five hours. It'd have to be enough. No way he was even entertaining the idea of sleep, not with his subconscious playing Russian roulette with his happiest memories.

The image of her floating from him burned his eyes.

It hadn't happened, he reminded himself as he paced her quarters. Not like that. They kissed and abandoned the beach in favor of their villa where they made love, slept and ordered pizza. (Not the most romantic meal, but the combination of mind-blowing sex and sleep had reduced Sam's vocabulary to "mushrmmfs, zauzage, no ununs." Thankfully, it hadn't been his first time ordering their post-coital pizza and he had been able to translate.)

She was still floating in front of him.

He scrubbed his palms over his eyes, willing the image out of mind.

He had to see her, just to be certain she was still physically with him even if her mind was elsewhere. But when he leaned over to pluck his shirt from the floor, his head swam and he grudgingly acknowledged the ache in his stomach.

Perhaps food wasn't entirely overrated.


As soon as he had set the laptop in front of her, Sam had started working. In the five hour interim, Daniel had grown accustomed to her fingers blurring over the keys—she used her left hand infrequently—and the random words that hushed through her lips.

The English phrases confused the hell out of him (blue ravens speak at midnight?), but the Ancient derivation was fascinating. He had three pages of notes and a running audio record, and the scientist in him could not wait to completely translate the shit out of them.

But the brother in him was silently wailing at his sister's continued lack of awareness. He considered himself a non-violent person, but had the Ori still been a threat, he would've taken them on single-handedly and seriously bruised their megalomaniac, non-corporeal asses.

Of course, he would've had a slew of help, regardless of his mental bravado.

"Do you believe the answers we seek lie in this text?"

Daniel heaved a sigh, which immediately morphed into a yawn, and shrugged. "It's gotta tell us more than we know now. Anything would be helpful."

Teal'c's jaw flexed. "Indeed." He fell silent and regarded Sam as she alternately squinted and stared wide-eyed at the computer screen.

"Planta mihi univera," Sam whispered, her fingers tripping over the keys and then stilling. "Repario via."

Daniel scribbled the words into his notes, his forehead creased. "Make me complete," he said. "Find a way." He shared a heady glance with Teal'c before noting his translation.

Daniel could've sworn he heard Teal'c growl before he began to speak. "If Colonel Carter's potential captors realize we have possession of this information and the ability to decipher it--"

"Which they will," Daniel said. "Just to complicate matters."

Teal'c silently agreed. "I fear we may not have much time."

Daniel frowned. "To do what?"

"Secure Colonel Carter," Teal'c replied, his eyebrow arched to the middle of his forehead. "By whatever means necessary."

His mouth falling open as he absorbed the implication of Teal'c statement, Daniel regarded his friend through slanted eyes. "You think we should move her."

Teal'c nodded. "To a more secure location."

"We're thirty stories underground in the most top secret facility in the history of the world," Daniel told him. "Plus, General Landry has half the SF's on base assigned to protecting Sam."

"But it is a military facility," Teal'c reminded him. "And it is the military who wish Colonel Carter harm."

"We don't know that," Daniel said, but even he noticed the lack of confidence in his voice.

Teal'c noticed it, as well. "We have ample evidence to support it."

Daniel sighed and clicked the butt of his pen several times. "Well, yeah," he said. "There's that. But until we know for sure--"

"No," Sam whispered, and Daniel started at the terror in her voice. The tips of her fingers were trailing along the screen in front of her.

"Sam?" Daniel hopped down from his stool to look over her shoulder at the text. As far as he could tell, the data she was reading was still encrypted. "What is it?"

"We have to go," she breathed and pushed the laptop to the foot of her bed. Yanking the I.V. from her arm and wresting the diodes from her body, she propelled herself to the ground, her bare feet slapping against the concrete floor as she ran from the infirmary. He heard the SF's at the door call out to her, followed by the scuttle of heavy footsteps as they followed in pursuit. Teal'c had already grabbed the computer and fled the infirmary by the time he had gathered his notes. A vice-like grip stilled him as he reached the doorway.

"What the hell is going on?" Doctor Lam asked, her eyes laced with ire.

Daniel shook his arm from her grasp and resumed his frantic pace. "Don't know," he called over his shoulder. "Tell Landry!"

"Tell him what?" Lam called after him, but he had already turned the corner.


Jack stared at his half-eaten club sandwich, exhaustion and circumstance still muddling his mind, and stabbed repeatedly at the trail of French fries and ketchup encircling his meal. A few months ago, he had rolled his eyes at the green ketchup he saw at the supermarket. After nearly drowning in his fiancee's blood, green ketchup didn't sound like such a terrible idea.

Then he remembered that Unas bled green and thought purple ketchup the better alternative. He wasn't aware of any alien species with purple blood. Yet.

"Mind if I join you, sir?"

Without looking up, Jack shook his head, his fork clattering onto his plate as he released it and leaned back in his chair. "What's up?"

"Nothin', sir," Mitchell answered as he placed his tray on the table, his plate laden with the noodles and unidentifiable grayish sauce Jack had foregone in favor of the sandwich. (Which still ended up tasting like cardboard, but he was willing to blame situational taste bud distress for that one.)

"You sure?"

"Yes, sir," Mitchell stuffed a forkful of food in his mouth.

Jack's eyes narrowed as he studied the Colonel. "You're a terrible liar."

Mitchell's jaw paused momentarily. After he had swallowed, he sighed. "So I've been told."

Jack said nothing, but eyed Mitchell's pie with growing gastrointestinal interest as his companion absently pushed his food around his plate.

"I'd like to apologize, sir," Mitchell said at last. "For allowing Colonel Carter to be abducted on P3A-294. If I had ordered her to go with back-up, none of this would've happened."

Jack frowned. "Or," he drawled. "You, Daniel or Teal'c would be dead and Carter still would've had her mind futzed with."

"Sir--" Mitchell began, his tone laced with protest, but Jack waved him down.

"Colonel, during my time leading SG-1 nothing went according to plan. Ever." He considered those seven years a moment, his eyebrows arching. "Most of the time we didn't even have a plan. We just made it up as we went along and, somehow, it all turned out okay. Most of the time."

Mitchell's pie was still taunting him, so he readied his fork and hacked a large piece off of the tip. "Thanks for the pie," he said around a mouthful of pastry and apples.

"I've read those mission reports, sir--"

"I know."

"And I know that you never left anyone unescorted. Not once."

Jack sighed. "From what I understand, SG-1 is more of a cooperative unit these days."

"Yes, sir."

"And all of you—including Carter—agreed that that planet was nonhostile."

"Well, yes, sir, but--"

"Carter is one of the best officers the Air Force has ever had the privilege to have," Jack told him quietly, his eyes darkly serious. Mitchell's protesting gaze faltered and fell to his plate of food. "She can more than handle herself in any conceivable situation, combat or otherwise." Jack paused, mulling over his companion's silence, watched his eyes shift, heard the frantic bounce of his foot against the floor. "But you know that." Leaning forward in his chair, Jack asked, "What's this really about?"

After a long moment, Mitchell looked up, his eyes fluttering between Jack's and various places over Jack's shoulders. Finally, he said, "I guess I need to apologize to you specifically, sir." He cleared his throat and didn't quite look at Jack. "As her fiance."

Oh. His lips pursed, Jack retrieved his fork and returned to torturing his French fries. Jack O'Neill, Major General, knew Mitchell was not to blame for Sam's condition; Jack O'Neill, Sam's fiance, wasn't quite to that point yet. Still, his voice soft, he said, "Wasn't your fault, Mitchell."

"No offense, sir, but you're a terrible liar."

Jack smirked mirthlessly. "Not usually." He drew in a purposeful breath, held it for a five count and then slowly allowed his lungs to deflate. "If you hadn't let her go," he said, his eyes on his plate of mostly disemboweled fries, "We'd either be dead or at prostration right now." He fell silent a moment and remembered her lips pressed frantically, desperately, passionately to his, her hands clutching his shoulders, her nails pressing lightly into his skin through his uniform. "Every war has its fallout," he said at last. "This time, it just hits a little closer to home." It wasn't an absolution, but Jack didn't think Mitchell had been expecting one despite the apology he had tendered.

The pair lapsed into silence, the tink of silverware and the rustle of napkins a lulling underscore in the background. The commissary was mostly empty—it was 0012—and most of the occupants were involved with either a cup of coffee or a plate of dessert.

Dessert. Jack hacked off another bite of Mitchell's pie.

"It's gotten better," he said, chewing four times before swallowing. "Better crust."

Mitchell nodded his agreement. "They started using Granny Smith instead of Golden Delicious."


"Yup. And using a vegetable peeler instead of a knife to get the slices really thin." The corner of Mitchell's mouth quirked in a half-smile. "My grandma's secret."

"Not so secret anymore."

"Well," Mitchell began, fully smiling now. "My grandma's definition of a secret was anything her neighbor, Mrs. Peters, didn't find out about."

Jack smiled and stole another bite of pie. He opened his mouth to speak when the commissary doors slammed open. Both he and Mitchell immediately sprang to their feet when they saw Sam streaking towards them, her frantic terror trailing her like smoke. Before he could even think to ask her what the hell she was doing out of the infirmary, he heard those damn words tremble from her tongue.

"Vires haec, vires procula ianus."

And he couldn't help sighing to himself because they'd been through this entirely too many times in the past few months.

Automatically, his hands grasped her shoulders—gently, firmly—but before he could beseech her to look at him (like he always did), she was.

"Vires haec, vires proula ianus," she repeated, her fingers clenching the fabric of his sleeves, and his gut twisted.

Teal'c burst through the door, followed by two SF's, and he was positive his heart was beating more rapidly than was healthy for a man his age.

He looked to Teal'c. "What the hell happened?"

"Colonel Carter became most distressed after decoding a section of the disc."

"What's it say?"

Teal'c's head wavered back and forth. "I do not know. The information is still encrypted."

Jack's eyebrows shot up his forehead. "She decoded the unbreakable code in her head?"

"I believe so."

Sam shook his arms, a soft moan winding from her throat. "Nos postula dimitaeta iam!"

He felt his mouth fall open and his head shake, his gaze drawn deeply into her eyes—they were fluxed with fear she wasn't even attempting to hide. He cupped her jaw in one hand. "I'm sorry. I can't understand--"

With a frustrated grunt, she twisted from his arms and propelled herself towards the doors, heedless of the chairs she upended on the way.

"Sam!" Jack called as she skillfully evaded one of the SF's and incapacitated the other with a swift backhand to the bridge of his nose. As he began to chase after her, he found his arms weighted with a laptop and watched as Teal'c hurdled a table and took two quick strides before catching Sam around the waist and holding her securely to his chest. She struggled against him, her fists and heels flailing ineffectively at his bulk, streams of words washing from her lips. Jack was at their side in an instant and Mitchell grabbed Sam's wrists to still her assault.

The door opened again and Daniel swept into the commissary, his pace falling short as he surveyed the scene. "What the hell--" he began, but Jack immediately truncated his question.

"Daniel," he barked, "Wee-rays hake."

Daniel's eyes glazed for a second. "They're here," he said at last.

Jack felt all the blood drain from his face. He didn't have to ask who "they" were.


Colonel Mathers handed General Landry the manilla envelope, not even bothering to keep his smug smile at bay. "As you requested, General," he said. "A presidential order for the removal of Colonel Carter."

Landry simply gazed at the envelope for a moment before taking the proffered document. He slid the pages from their holder, scrutinizing them carefully, reading every word, every sentence twice, three times. He was all too aware of time passing.

So was Mathers. "General," he said after several minutes had elapsed. "The order is quite clear." Turning to the SF's flanking him, he said, "Go to the infirmary and secure Colonel Carter."

"Stand down," Landry said, still perusing the document.

Mathers frowned. "General?"

"I thought that was quite clear, Colonel," he said. "Kindly take a seat."

"General, I--"

Landry looked up quickly and Mathers was struck by the full force of the General's anger. "Sit. Down. Colonel."

He sat.

Landry nodded and picked up the red handset. "I have a call to make."

"It's just past midnight, sir."

Landry smirked. "Good thing I have his direct line, then, isn't it?"


Quickly pushing Mitchell out of the way and handing the laptop off to him, Jack took Sam's face in his hands. When her eyes fell into his gaze, she stopped struggling against Teal'c, though her body still shivered beyond her control. "They're here," he said softly, and her eyes widened as she nodded.

"Etiam," she said and Jack nodded for Teal'c to release her.

His teeth worked the inside of his lip. "Will we be able to--"

"Non, no," she interrupted. "Nos postula dimitaeta iam." She grabbed his wrist and began tugging him towards the door as he glanced at Daniel for clarification.

"Uh, we need to leave immediately," Daniel supplied and rummaged through the pages in his hand. "She said something similar when she was--" He broke off as Jack strode purposefully past him, his hand securely linked with Sam's as he made for the exit. "Wait," Daniel said. "Where are you going?"

"We're leaving."


Jack turned exasperated eyes to him. "Yes, Daniel, now," he said. "Preferably before the bad guys find us."

"But we don't even know--"

"Daniel," he said sharply, his brown eyes black with ire as he jabbed a finger at Sam. "Look at her."

Daniel did and, for the first time, realized the extent of her distress. She trembled in place, and it looked almost as if her skin was quaking of its own accord. And her eyes—god, her eyes—they scanned the room, scraped away the layers of brick and concrete, searched for any hint of danger. He had never seen her so terrified.

"I'm coming with you," Daniel said, taking a step towards them.

Jack shook his head. "The fewer, the--"

"You need me to translate," he argued.

Teal'c stepped forward then. "And you will undoubtedly require backup."

Jack considered them a moment and grudgingly acknowledged the accuracy of their assessments. Swearing softly under his breath, he nodded. "T, zats. Four of them. Meet us at the surface access point down the hall."

Teal'c nodded his understanding and began to sweep from the room when one of the few officers in the commissary stood.

"Teal'c, sir!" he said, stumbling over his chair as he approached them. "The cameras. They'll take the surveillance footage."

Jack's eyebrow arched as he recognized the young man. He had spoken to him in the commissary earlier and identified himself as one of Sam's lab assistants.

"I can take the cameras the offline," he continued, trotting to Jack's side. "But it'll take about two minutes."

Without asking, Jack knew this young man was well aware of the ramifications of his proposed actions. He also knew by the earnest gleam in the the officer's face that he was more than willing to face them. Jack nodded. "Go."

As the man ran from the room, Jack turned to face the rest of the commissary's occupants. After a moment of simply staring them down, he said, "I will personally shoot anyone who says anything to those shrubs." A soft murmur of understanding passed through the small group and Jack was heartened by the few, "So will I"'s that followed. "SG-1, stay here," Jack said. "The rest of you, get the hell out. Keep 'em out of the corridor if you can."


Lam slowed her stride when she saw the group of SF's standing at attention outside her father's door. Swallowing her apprehension, she strode past them and into the room only to stop short when saw Colonel Mathers occupying one of chairs.

"I understand that, sir," her father was saying. "But Colonel Carter's continued presence at the SGC has to be of top priority." Landry frowned. "No, sir, I'm afraid I don't see your point. Colonel Carter is nothing short of a global hero and to even think about treating her in this manner is--"

Lam unconsciously took a step back as she watched her father's brow flex and his eyes flame. She had become accustomed to that expression during her teens and knew it presaged the coming of her father's wrath. She really didn't envy either the president or Colonel Mathers.

"Yes, sir, I do have the order," Landry continued. "But I--" He paused and then sighed in disgust, the phone hanging limply from his fingers. Slowly, he replaced the handset on the cradle and stared straight through it.

Colonel Mathers leaned forward in his chair, his lips twisted in a smile. "I take it the president stood behind his order, sir?"

Instead of answering, Landry looked to Doctor Lam. "What can I do for you, Doctor?"

Lam glanced to Mathers, quickly looking back the General when the Colonel began to turn. "I wanted to remind you about the requisitions I turned in yesterday, General."

Landry nodded, his eyes narrowing slightly. "I'm a bit on the busy side right now, but I'll look over them as soon as I get a minute."

"Sooner is better, sir," Lam told him, her expression mirroring her father's. "One of the requisitions is of particular importance. If we...take our time in acquiring it, it may just..." She trailed off purposely and nailed the general with a heady stare. "Escape." Landry straightened. "There are several other organizations vying for priority. We do need to act quickly."

"Sounds pretty important, sir," Mathers said, rising from his chair. "But now that Colonel Carter is no longer your concern, it should free up plenty of your time."

"Excuse me?" Lam said, turning to the Colonel, and Landry smiled to himself as he watched his daughter's feigned ignorance. "Why is Colonel Carter no longer of concern to the general?"

Landry smiled to himself as he absorbed his daughter's spectacular display of feigned ignorance. Mathers, on the other hand, remained oblivious to her charade and smiled.

"We're assuming custody of Colonel Carter and moving her to a facility better equipped to handle her needs."

Lam's eyebrows arched. "Better equipped than the SGC? Not possible."

"I assure you it is," Mathers chuckled and Lam fought the urge to club him with her clipboard. "The SGC is equipped to handle many medical abnormalities, but appallingly lacks the means to adequately care for Colonel Carter, as her recent suicidal behavior illustrates."

Lam surveyed Mathers for a moment before drawing a deep breath and making a show of flipping through the notes on her clipboard. "Perhaps you have a point, Colonel," she said. "She might fare better at a different facility." She paused and made a quick note before looking back up at him. "I will need to see her medical release, of course."

Mathers' perma-smirk faltered. "Excuse me?"

"Her medical release," Lam repeated. "A condition as severe as Colonel Carter's requires one." She paused and puzzled at his gaping expression. "They didn't tell you?"

"Doctor," Mathers began smoothly. "I have an order from the president himself--"

"Who is not a medical professional and, therefore, will not be in charge of Colonel Carter's physical well-being."

Landry chuckled to himself, his features carefully schooled, and looked expectantly at Mathers when the Colonel turned towards him. "Permission to use your phone, sir," he clipped out.

Landry nodded. "By all means."


"Where exactly are we planning to go?" Daniel leaned against a near table settling his notes and pens next to the laptop in a canvas bag donated by an exiting officer.

Jack scowled, his fingers pausing their idle trek through Sam's hair. "Away."

"But away to where?" Daniel asked, slinging the bag over his chest. "They're gonna find us."

"Eventually," Jack agreed. "But hopefully we can get enough of a head start to make sure that doesn't happen for awhile."

"And when it does?"

"We'll think of something."

Daniel readjusted the bag, thinking. "If we could get to the Stargate--"

"No." The vehemence Sam injected into that single word took Daniel aback.

"Why not?" he asked. "If they just got here, we could have a shot."

Struggling for words, her lips floated against each other and she managed a soft breath before she looked to Jack to aid.

"Anyone caught helping us is heading for a court marshal―if they're lucky." He paused, absently running his fingers down the slope of Sam's shoulder. "I won't to that to my people." Jack turned to Mitchell. "Which is why you have to stay here."

Mitchell's brow furrowed in protest. "General, I--"

"I need you here," Jack interrupted. "There's gonna be a search once they find us gone. I want you in on it." Jack watched as Mitchell's eyes shifted as he contemplated the ramifications of the General's request. "It's not an order, Colonel," Jack said softly.

Nodding, Mitchell said, "Oh, I know, sir. Just tryin' to think of who to assign to my team."

"Meyers, Ashland, Karkoff and Russell," Sam said quietly, her eyes narrowed and focused past the far wall. "You take them."

"See, you're still doin' all my work for me," Mitchell told her, the corner of his mouth upturned. "They're gonna get wise to my good for nothin' ass sooner or later." He gripped her shoulder and, stooping to kneel beside her, asked, "Anything else I should know?"

Without altering her gaze, she nodded. "Don't go north."

He waited a moment, perhaps waiting for further clarification. When none came, he stood, his body still stooped as his mind careened through possible strategies―all of which excluded going north. "All righty then," he said, and began to walk towards the exit when Teal'c stopped him.

"The cameras are still functioning."

Jack sighed. "Yeah, and it just hit two minutes. We'd better--" He jumped when his pocket began vibrating and whisked his cell phone from his pocket, doing his best to ignore the amused glances passing between Daniel, Teal'c and Mitchell. "I really hate these things," he mumbled.

But his lips slowly curved when he read the caller ID. He aimed a quick glance at Sam before flipping his phone open.

"Hey Cass," he said. "You at the house?"

"What the fuck happened?! There's blood everywhere!"

Jack winced and swore softly when he heard Cassie draw a deep. shuddering breath. "Yeah, I know," he said.

"Is Sam okay?" God, she sounded twelve again. Jack could see her eyes peeking out from behind Sam's leg, Cassie's fragile fingers clinging to Sam's in a desperate attempt to prove to herself she wasn't dead.

"Yeah, she's fine," he assured her. "Everything's fine now."

"But it wasn't before?" The dull thump of a fist against wood filtered through the line. "Jack, why the hell didn't you call me?"

"I'm sorry," he told her, his voice aching for her understanding. "I promise I'll tell you everything later." He paused, wetting his lips and casting one last look at Sam. After she nodded, her eyes growing increasingly vacant, he continued. "Cass," he sighed. "We need your help."