10

They were woken early next morning by sounds of laughter coming from the living room, when they got there they could see John watching a Simpsons DVD and he was mimicking everything the characters said, causing his sister to roll with laughter on the floor.

After hugging them both Julie went to set out the breakfast cereal as Mark decided to address the subject of the roof. He looked straight at his son, who for once looked back and did not avoid his gaze, and told them they had to stay away from the ladder and platform. He emphasised how dangerous it was and both children solemnly nodded their heads.

There was a banging noise coming from outside shortly after and Mark went out to see Jack fixing a gate across the bottom of the stairs, a huge bolt and padlock on the floor ready to be fixed.

"I'm sorry for all the trouble we have caused you" Mark said to the tall man. Jack just grunted and kept on working. "I think it's better if we leave today" he continued

"Don't be stupid" Jack told him "Carter still needs you, it's only 2 days since you buried dad"

"Are you actually seeing anyone? Or did you tell her that so she wouldn't feel guilty about Pete?"

"I WAS seeing someone, the first time she saw Carter and I together she dumped me"

"Together…?"

"Not like that" he rushed to clarify "Carter came around to talk, Kerry saw the way we looked at each other, and decided she didn't like the competition, not that there was any competition" Jack said "I assure you, I would never do anything to harm Sam, not personally nor professionally"

Mark understood that he was 100 percent sincere but thought maybe a push was in order.

"You can't say that, you have to choose" Jack raised an eyebrow at him, asking for clarification "Either you are not going to hurt her professionally, or you are not going to hurt her personally, you can't avoid one if you do the other. Hurting her career may not seem like an option, but by protecting it you are causing her pain ever day"

Jack opened his mouth, then closed it again. "Thor… last night, I heard every word, Thor piped it to the corridor so I couldn't miss it, up 'til then I would have argued that she had moved on, that it had only been infatuation on her part. That she had outgrown it… but Mark, I'm 15 years her senior! And she is… she deserves better than I, no matter how much I love her" he closed his eyes as if realising he had said it out loud at last.

"Did you know Thor had talked to her before about…" he left the sentence open

"NO! God I wouldn't have been able to look at her for the last few months if I had heard that!"

"So when did he talk to her?" Mark asked

"Must have been after fifth dumped her on Orilla after they defrosted me" Mark nodded, not understanding a bloody word of it "Actually Thor mentioned a satellite, so that would be when replicarter… about 3 months ago" he said

"Just after she got engaged to Pete" Mark said

"Yeah… look don't mention anything to Carter… Ok?"

"Would it hurt you to call her Sam?" he asked the older man as he fitted the huge bolt to the gate frame

"Best not to get into bad habits" Jack replied "If I start thinking of her as Sam…"

"She stops being a team mate and becomes a woman?" he guessed

"Oh I NEVER forget she's a woman," he grinned "anyway, I am the only one she lets call her Carter" he said. Picking up his tools and shoving them into a bag on the floor.

"Coffee?" Mark offered and Jack dumped the tool bag in the back of an AF jeep that was on the drive and walked into the house.

As Jack went to wash up in the guest bathroom Mark quickly told Julie what the two men had talked about, and told her, pointedly, that he had been told not to tell Sam, Julie smiled, she had got the message.

Sam turned up less than 15 minutes later and Jack told everyone that they had better go up to the mountain to have the discussion interrupted the evening before. Sam drove the truck and Jack drove the jeep, Mark electing to travel with the older man, and both kids coming along, enjoying the open top vehicle and the wind as they took the twisted path to the top secret AF base.

When they pulled up to the gate they were waved through without a problem, and Julie gave him a smile and nod as she and Sam met them in the car park. On their way down the elevators Sam took out the stone she had confiscated from her boss the night before and she handed it to both children in turn, both times it glowed, as brightly as t did for their mother, but nowhere near as bright as it did when Jack took it. Jack amused the kids by using the stone, the communicator and a yoyo and juggling, until Daniel turned up in the room they had ended up in and offered the kids a snack, both parents gave consent and Daniel left with a child on each hand.

Teal'c sat at one side of the table, Sam next to him, Jack at the head, at Jacks gesture the Carter couple sat opposite the two team-mates.

"What I'm about to tell you is classified under section 11C9 of the National Security Act." Sam said solemnly and she proceeded to tell them the story that Pete had sketched to Mark the day before, however he got a lot more details than Pete had, he assumed, as they talked for over an hour. He heard all about his fathers cure, and the fact that the old man had been living on another world for six years, or many other worlds, if Mark understood what he was hearing.

Jack stood and gestured them to what looked like a window that was covered on the other side by steel, and he pressed a button, the huge shutter lowered and they could see the artefact that they had been discussing.

THIS was the Stargate!

Jack was about to say something when they grey haired little man from the funeral came up a staircase in the corner of the room.

"President on the red phone General" it STILL surprised Mark to be reminded that this man had such a high rank, he seemed so, normal.

"Will…"

"Yes sir, soon as I get back to my station" Jack nodded

"And…"

"Yes sir, here" he held out two credit card sized pieces of plastic, one each to Mark and Julie

"Oh and…"

"No problem Sir" the little man turned and went back down the stairs.

"Maybe we should have Walter hold that stone, just to see" Jack said as he headed for his office "back in a minute"

"Hmm" Sam said, picking the stone up from the desk and looking at the stairs, she turned and repeated what her CO had just said "back in a minute" and started down the steps.

Jack got back first and noticing the stone was no longer on the table he headed to the top of the stairs "Carter" he shouted down

"Sir?" cam the answer back up

"Stop passing that stone around and get back here" he shouted, he paced up and down the table a couple of times before she arrived back in the room. "the president has just informed me that General Hammond has decided to retire"

"Yes he mentioned it at dads funeral" Mark said without thinking that he may be interrupting something

"I've been offered head of Homeworld Security" he said looking straight at Sam

"You're leaving the SGC?" she went pale and fell back, luckily into a chair.

"Not a lot of choice" he said

"You could refu…" she shook her head, stood up to attention and saluted him "Congratulations, sir! I'm sure you are the right man for the job!" Mark watched as her heart broke.

"Indeed" came the rumble from the huge black man

"Glad one of us is" Jack answered at the same time "seems our little grey buddy decided to take things into his own hands. He woke the president up at 0200 this morning, scared the first lady to death!"

If it was possible Sam had gone even paler, at that moment Daniel came back with the kids and saw Sams face, he immediately turned to the older man

"Jack?"

"Daniel" came the reply.

"Jack?"

"Daniel!"

"What's going on?"

"Promoted" was all he said

"General Hammond?"

"Yeah"

"Well congratulations then!"

"Hmm"

"Who is going to be running this place?" Daniel asked and everyone looked at Jack

"Whoever I decide, it seems" he answered.

"Area '51 wants Carter for a few months too"

"So she won't be under your direct command any more?" to say that Daniel had not been present during the discussions with Thor the evening before, he seemed to grasp something quicker than Sam had.

Jack put both his hands in his pockets and bounced on the balls of his feet as he said…

"So Carter… Want to go fishin'?"

The end