He had done it, he had finally escaped them and now all he had to do was meet up at the rendezvous with HER!
He settled back a bit, losing himself as one amongst many, relaxed as if he was supposed to be there.
He felt the craft accelerating, the engine noise increasing, and then decreasing, he tensed a bit, but then his training kicked back in and he deliberately relaxed his body he put on a puzzled look, the same as almost everyone else.
"Ladies and Gentlemen" came the voice over the intercom system, "we apologise for this delay, but have been told to return to the terminal for the moment"
They had found him! CRAP!
He sat back in his seat, allowing others to get annoyed with the young lady who was trying to placate them, "I'm sure it's nothing at all to be worried about, it will probably be only a few minutes delay" He could see she was as puzzled by this as everyone else, but she was doing a fair job of calming the ones who were getting riled. He wasn't going to make this easy for them, if it WAS because of him, they were going to have to come get him, all the trouble he had gone to, even to flying economy, which he hated, being 6'2" he needed more leg room than the standard seats provided, booking under another name, which he could get away with as it was a domestic flight, and not even carrying a weapon, even though he had a permit, nothing he had done should have lead them to him.
Sure enough, as soon as they reached the terminal, the sky walk was fitted and the door opened and in trooped three very smart uniforms, they had a few words with the young lady, who was looking through the passenger manifest, she was shaking her head at them.
One of them pulled a photo out of a folder, and the game was up, he KNEW he shouldn't have smiled at her earlier, she recognised him straight away, and pointed to him… the uniforms marched up the aisle, straightened, saluted and the colonel in charge spoke,
"General, the president asked me to remind you that you had a meeting this afternoon sir"
"Oh, was that today?" he asked and gave one of his smirks, "I could have sworn I called him and cancelled"
"Of course you did sir, that's why you are flying economy, under the name of Starsky, we have a car waiting for you, you wouldn't want to keep the President waiting would you?"
Now a lot of people through his life had underestimated the intelligence of Jack O'Neill, but no matter how dumb he was pretending to be, he was not going to fall for a stupid question like that, especially as everyone in that section of the 737 was looking at him in awe… after all the young man with the eagles on his shoulder had said the word President TWICE!
He got up and grabbed his carry-on bag, "After you, Colonel" he said, the young man walked off a couple of paces, but the other two airmen stayed put, waiting for him to fall in, between them, he gave them another of his grins and followed the Colonel off the plane, now he had to get in touch with Sam and let her know he was going to be late, and after all his promises that this time he could do it too!
They didn't just have a car, it was embarrassing, they had a damn motorcade for him!
Thirty minutes later he was back in his office at the Pentagon, with a pissed off Air Force Chief of Staff and the POTUS already waiting for him, it would have looked odd to anyone able to see the meeting as the uniform and the suit didn't seem to go with the loose fit cargo pants and overlarge shirt, of course, if anyone WAS looking, Jack would have to shoot them, it was, after all, classified.
"Jack… so nice of you to join us" Said Henry Hayes, beaming his world famous smile at the reluctant General. General Vidrine didn't look quite so happy, in fact he looked as if he was going to explode, Jack was starting to wonder about the mans blood pressure.
"Sir, General" Jack said "I seem to have mixed up some dates in my diary, sorry about that" He may as well stick with his original thought, no one was going to believe him no matter what he said, so may as well go with a big one.
Vidrine looked as if his pressure was still rising, he had no sense of humour at all, as far as Jack could tell, whereas the President was grinning fit to bust at his outright cheek. The mood turned sombre quickly though, and Hayes next sentence was nothing to smile about.
"We were thinking," the President said, "that now we have been lucky enough to find a cure for the Prior Plague what will they do next? I mean, is there is anything else they can throw at us, or do they even know we have a cure? What can we expect their next move to be? Do we have any strategy in place for dealing with whatever it will be?"
"I don't think, sir, that we can predict what they will do, and because of this we just can't be ready for it, or no more than we are already" Jack shook his head, WHY did they call him back for this? They knew everything he knew, he didn't have anything up his… sleeve… for them. In fact, if they had allowed him to escape he would have been in a better position to help if anything did go wrong as he would be with the smartest person in the world. He looked at his watch, he REALLY had to get hold of her, otherwise she would be waiting for him, and she would not be pleased if he had her standing around the airport for nothing, she may as well go on without him and he would try to catch a later flight.
"Are we keeping you from something more important General O'Neill?" Sneered Vidrine, having noticed his glance at his watch.
"As a matter of fact…"
"Jaaack" Hayes warned, he knew exactly where Jack had been headed both in his answer and on the plane, George Hammond had told him when he rang him to say that he had gone missing, but by now Jack was beyond caring about Vidrines blood pressure, and was a hairs breadth from caring about the job altogether.
"I'm sorry sir, but this is ridiculous, and you know it. You dragged me off a flight, drove me all the way here, just to tell you what you already knew. I haven't had a day off in over 3 months, and I want to spend some time away now the crisis is over"
"I can understand your feelings Jack, really, but until we find out what the knee jerk reaction of the Priors or Ori to us curing the plague is, we really don't think you should be out of touch, especially somewhere without a land line phone and 'intermittent' cell phone coverage" (the cell phone cover was fine, he just kept turning the thing off and pretending it wasn't)
"You are on active duty until you are told otherwise Major General, and don't you forget it!" Vidrine was really working himself up into a temper tantrum now, and Jack decided to go all out, if they suspended him at least he would catch up on his damn sleep, not that sleep was what he was hoping for over the next couple of days!
"If you don't mind me asking SIR," and no one could mistake that SIR as a polite address "when was the last time you saw your family? I bet it wasn't over 14 weeks ago! In fact I bet you have seen your wife in the last week, what right have you to tell me I can't have a damn day off or two when I am not on the front lines and am flying a bloody desk!"
"It would be different if you were married… but you don't have a…"
"That's not quite accurate" Hayes stepped in. Vidrine looked at him, puzzled.
"Sir? I was reviewing O'Neills file on the way over, he has been divorced for 11 years now"
"Not EVERYTHING is in the file, some things are deliberately kept out to minimise risks, if someone, like Ba'al were to gain access to personnel files then he would have a target to aim for who is slightly easier to get to than Jack is, and we decided that it was safer if it wasn't 'known'"
"You are MARRIED?" He looked at Jack, unbelievingly, as if to say 'who the hell would put up with YOU?'
"Yes, sir, I am, have been for almost 6 months, and may I say that I have not seen my wife for just over 14 weeks and I am getting tired of it"
"Why that long? She isn't living with you here in DC?"
"No sir, my wife lives in my old house in the Springs, to be closer to her job" He was NOT going to tell Vidrine his wife's name if he could possibly help it, not only did he not like the man much, he didn't trust him to keep it to himself, and just a hint into the wrong ears could lead to her being in danger
There was a pause, while the CoS sorted his thoughts out. He knew he had been responsible for Jack being dragged back, the President had been happy to wait until he had got it out of his system and came back on his own, he knew that it would only be a couple of days, after all Jack did have a very well defined sense of duty, more than most people, even most in the armed services.
"I suppose that we could get you another flight out to St. Paul International tonight" he said, and then playing a hunch added "We can call in Lt. Col. Carter to brief us on what she thinks the reaction of the priors will be, and have her on hand while you are gone"
He noticed the look exchanged between Jack and his boss, and smiled to himself, he didn't need to ask who Mrs. O'Neill was, he had just been told. Jack took a deep breath and looked straight at him, and realised he had been played, he gave a sheepish grin.
"Yeah, she may be out of touch for a couple of days as well, but we promise to leave our phones on this time!"
"With your permission, sir" Vidrine gestured to his phone and raised his eyebrows at the President, at his nod he pressed his speed dial to his aide "Get me the Prometheus and see if they can transport General O'Neill to Minnesota this afternoon"
All the time this had been going on, Sam had actually already left home, having a lot further to go than Jack did. She worried slightly about leaving things so soon after the whole world had been on edge, but she HAD to get away for a bit and she really felt the need to touch Jack and make sure he was OK. She knew he had not caught the plague, but it did not stop her worrying about him, especially as he was in a city, the ideal place for this type of thing to spread.
She was exhausted, again, as she had once again not only worked through the night, but through several nights in a row. She had only slept when she had been caught by Daniel drooling on her keyboard, and that in itself told how tired she was as the machine was beeping at her and she couldn't hear it!
She managed to get a hop from Peterson to St. Paul, rather than take the commercial flight that she had intended, she didn't want to spend time in the public side of the airport if she could help it, apart from the crowds and noise, she would have to almost literally fight off all the chancers who thought she was alone, she loved Jack enormously, but was a bit sceptical about him managing to get away as early as he said he could. He was always the optimist, never admitting that Plan A couldn't work until Plan B was well under way. Plan B was her grabbing a cot until he turned up to drive for her, she really didn't want to have to drive herself, not with this level of fatigue.
She knew that he was supposed to be having a meeting with the President some time today, she also knew that as he was one of the few people who attended the wedding, she could count on Hayes to give Jack some slack unless it was urgent, however she didn't know who else would be involved in the meeting, and any one, or more of several people that Jack had rubbed the wrong way over the years could be involved and if they got a hint he wanted to be away they could drag it out well past the normal working day, just to be awkward.
She managed to charm her way into a cot that was set aside for pilots who had done their hours, put her bag on the floor by the side of her and nodded off to the sound of plane engines.
Several hours later she woke up and the first thing she noticed was the silence! A busy international airport like St. Pauls was never quiet; she also could feel that the narrow cot she had gone to sleep in had somehow turned into a double bed, or maybe even bigger, with satin bedclothes. Trying not to give away the fact that she was conscious, she slowly stretched out trying to get to a position that would be easy to spring out of bed, and heard a low chuckle.
"I can tell when you're awake you know" she heard her husband say.
Her eyes snapped open, to see the ceiling of the master bedroom in the cabin. "What…? Er…how?" she shook her head, trying to get the thoughts in some sort of order so she could make a proper sentence "I'm sure I went to sleep somewhere else, and alone" she said
"You were transported by the Prometheus, never even twitched from one end to the other" he explained
"Jack! You never used the matter transporter just for personal use! Do you realise how much energy those beams use?" She started to work it out in her head, how to put it in terms he would understand.
"Relax, I didn't do it, Vidrine did, as an apology for making me work for months without a conjugal visit" he noticed her sceptical look at the name of the CoS that arranged it "yeah I was shocked too, looks like the man may not have a sense of humour, but he may just have a heart"
He got up and stretched, showing off the long lean body that she had been lusting after for years, he was only wearing a pair of shorts and sandals, his usual attire for the cabin in summer, unless they had visitors, where he would add a loose shirt. "Want something to eat?" he asked
"That depends what is on the menu" she said, slowly looking him up and down and licking her lips, he groaned, and immediately she could see where his thoughts had headed as the shorts became tighter.
"NO! Food I mean, I bet with everything that has been happening you haven't had a proper meal in ages, never mind a full nights sleep" he walked to the bedroom door, and turned "I'm not ruling out dessert though so long as you eat all the main course" he adjusted himself to a more comfortable position as he stepped through into the hallway "You have time for a bath if you want one, or you can lie on the sofa with a book if not, it'll be about 40 mins"
She seriously considered going back to sleep if she couldn't 'eat' Jack straight away, but knew if she did she would have trouble waking up again to eat the dinner he was making, and even though he had probably put in as many hours as she had, he always treated her as if she had the harder job. She had her usual 3 minute shower and went into the kitchen to help him prepare the meal. There was no sign of anything cooking, or even anything being got ready to cook, and even more puzzling, no sign of Jack.
She slipped her sandals on and stepped out the back to see if he was at the grill, but he wasn't there either, she heard a reel spinning and went around to the dock, to see him casting into the pond as if there was nothing else to do.
"Jack? I thought we were going to make dinner?"
"Nope. Part of the whole "I'm sorry" package from Vidrine includes them sending us meals and everything we need, just for the 48 hours that they are in orbit, if we can manage to stay longer than that we have to cope by ourselves."
He leaned back to kiss her as she sat down, just then his phone rang, "Crap!" he looked at the display and with a grimace flipped it open "O'Neill!" His eyes narrowed "Who? …Yes…trace? …send someone r… OK…thanks… out" He put the phone back in his pocket with a frown, but made no other move.
"You have to go back?" she whispered "how soon?"
"No, nothing that serious, just a slight breech in security, they are dealing with it but thought I should be kept in the loop" His mind was racing, but he knew that Sam knew him well enough to almost read his mind, and he didn't want her to this time.
"You going to get that bath? Need help scrubbing your back?" He leered at her suggestively raising his eyebrows.
Sam wasn't sure if she should let it go, she knew he had changed the subject deliberately, especially as he had turned her suggestion down earlier, but she also knew that there could be several reasons why he couldn't tell her what the call was actually about, and several why he wouldn't. She just didn't know which category it fell into, and having been parted for so very long she didn't want to spoil what time they had by trying to get him to tell. "Sure, I could definitely do with some help with those hard-to-reach places." She smoothed her hand down his arm until she got to his, and entwined their fingers while giving him a pull to his feet.
Half an hour later they sat down to a candle lit meal that could have come from a top DC restaurant. Everything had been done to perfection and was exactly the correct temperature when it arrived. The wine was rich and full bodied and with the fire burning in the hearth not five feet away the whole place seemed designed for seduction. The only thing that marred the whole evening was the couple of times she had glanced up and caught a blank expression on his face, the one put on when he needed to hide emotions and thoughts from her, each time it was fleeting, but the fact that it happened more than once made her think that whatever the call was about, it was more serious than he made out.
Jack stood and went into the corner to the music centre and put on a CD of love songs, walked back and offered her his hand "Dance with me?" she nodded and stood, melting into his embrace, it wasn't often that he danced, though she loved to, and she knew it was part of the effort to make her forget earlier, of course, it made her even more curious.
"Jack… what is it?"
"If you don't know by now what that is…" he started
She punched him lightly on the arm "Stop it! You know what I'm talking about, and it isn't THAT!" she rubbed her hip into his groin, smirking when he groaned and put his head on her shoulder.
"Let's forget it for tonight love, please, it isn't that important, let's just make love and forget the rest of the world exists, just for tonight"
She couldn't for the life of her think of any objection to that, not that she really tried…