Things were definitely not going Jack's way lately.
Sam would call it the second law of thermodynamics. Daniel would recite Murphy's
Law. Teal'c might just raise an eyebrow and shrug, silently acknowledging the vagaries of fate. But Jack, well, Jack just called it plain old bad luck.
Sure, he seemed to escape death with the frequency of a charmed one. And yeah, he had great friends, a job he enjoyed from time to time and at least one good knee left. Everything was looking up. He should have known things were going far too well.
One moment, he was sitting on his dock swapping one-liners with Sam, still reeling from the defeat of RepliCarter and her little minions, the disappearance of Anubis and the death of Jacob. Oh, and the new and interesting fact that Sam had broken off her engagement with Pete. There was always that.
Jack's head was fairly spinning, but everything just seemed right. They would mourn Jacob, no doubt. But they would also have the chance to finally make things right. At least, that's what Jack thought.
The shrill ring of a cell phone shattered the newly established peace, but this time, Jack had no one to blame but himself. Unfortunately, the commander of the SGC didn't have the luxury of cutting himself completely off from his responsibilities, not even during a long deserved vacation.
Jack sighed heavily and fished out his cell. "O'Neill," he barked unpleasantly. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sam smile at his surliness.
"Uh, sir, sorry to bother you…" The sergeant's voice was unusually flustered.
"Spit it out, Walter."
"It's General Hammond, sir."
There was something in Walter's voice that made Jack's blood run cold. He sat up in his chair, all of his attention suddenly riveted on the conversation. "Is he okay?"
That caught Sam's notice, because she also leaned forward, looking at Jack with concern.
"We're not sure, sir. It's his heart." Walter's voice betrayed his concern. He had always admired Hammond, even to the point of hero worship. Jack knew the feeling, Hammond was a great man.
On the other end, Walter cleared his throat and continued with a stronger voice. "They're sending a car for you, sir."
Before Jack could even process who 'they' could be and why they would be sending for him, he could hear the crunch of tires on gravel. He glanced behind him to see two dark SUVs with tinted windows pull up to the cabin.
"Thanks, Walter," Jack managed to say, rising from his chair. He was about to hang up, but something made him say, "He'll be fine. He's a fighter."
"Yes, sir," Walter replied, his voice determined.
Jack flipped the phone shut and turned to his new guests that were now piling out of the cars.
"What's going on, sir?" Sam asked uncertainly. Daniel and Teal'c were also rising from their chairs, watching the newcomers with interest.
A young man in dress blues approached Jack. He snapped a salute and said, "General O'Neill, sir, you're needed in Washington ASAP. I am here to take you to the airstrip."
Jack absently returned the salute. "Any word on Hammond?" he asked brusquely, already moving towards the cabin.
"Last we heard, sir, he was still in surgery."
"Jack," said Daniel, who was watching the conversation with wide eyes, "what's going on?"
"Hammond's had a heart attack or something."
Jack heard Sam gasp. Hammond was like a second father to her. This was so the last thing any of them needed at this point.
"General Hammond is indeed a valiant warrior. He will recover," Teal'c offered confidently from beside Sam.
"I'm sure you're right, Teal'c," Jack agreed.
Sam followed Jack into the cabin, who was now haphazardly throwing stuff into his suitcase.
She sat on the edge of his bed, her brow creased in confusion. "Why do you think you are needed in Washington, sir?"
Jack paused in his packing. It was a valid question. Sure, he used to be Hammond's 2IC and they remained good friends, but that didn't necessitate the urgency the Air Force seemed to be projecting. Jack looked out the window at the waiting entourage. Something else was clearly going on.
Jack looked back at Sam. "Guess I'll find out when I get there," he said with a shrug.
Once back outside, one of the airmen relieved Jack of his luggage. Jack sighed and glanced out at the dock. Two empty chairs sat side by side, fishing poles abandoned carelessly next to them.
"Typical," Jack grumbled.
"Sir?" Sam asked.
Jack smiled briefly at her. "I finally get you to come fishing and less than a day later a big emergency pops up."
"I'll come up some other time," Sam offered, her eyes similarly caught by the view of the empty pier.
"Promise?" Jack said, bringing her attention back to him.
She smiled. "I promise. Now go, and let us know how Hammond is."
Jack nodded once and headed for the cars, tossing the cabin keys to Daniel as he passed by. "I'll be in touch," he said before ducking into the car, black windows blotting him from view.
Jack never liked hospitals. Blinding white walls and the piercing smell of antiseptic did nothing but remind him of another time he paced such halls, his son's blood still drying on his clothes. But luckily hardly any time passed in the waiting room before Jack was ushered back to Hammond's room.
Jack felt a huge surge of relief upon seeing Hammond awake and talking quietly to one of his daughters.
"Sir," Jack said.
"Jack," Hammond said with a smile. "Glad you could make it."
He watched Hammond ask his daughter to give them a moment and that tingling sensation that had saved Jack's life more times than he could count told him that something Not Good was about to happen.
"Sorry to drag you away from your vacation, Jack."
Jack waved away his concern. "Happy to be here, sir."
Hammond was tap-dancing now and Jack had no idea why. "Yes. Comfortable. Wonderful. But the entourage was a bit much, don't you think?"
"Let's just say I didn't want to give you a chance to say no."
The crawling sensation at the back of Jack's neck was getting worse, but he had to ask the question. "Say no to what, sir?"
Hammond flashed his maddeningly all-knowing smile. "How does Major General Jack O'Neill, Head of Homeworld Security sound?"
Like a complete nightmare, quite frankly, but Jack decided that probably wasn't the answer Hammond was looking for.
"Look, Jack," Hammond said when he didn't answer. "I should have retired ten years ago, but I stuck it out because this wasn't a fight I could walk away from. But everything is different now. We actually achieved the impossible, won the war. I think my heart is trying to remind me that there are other things that need my attention now, like being a grandfather."
That was logic Jack couldn't argue with. He didn't have a problem with Hammond retiring. The man deserved that and a hell of a lot more in his book. What he had a problem with was being the one to replace him.
This wasn't a fight I could walk away from.
For Jack, it still wasn't. Sure there was no big bad in the galaxy at the moment, but human curiosity ensured that this reprieve wouldn't last forever. If he retired now, who might step in to make the big decisions? Who would protect the SGC from the blood-sucking, budget-cutting politicians?
"I can't believe you are retiring and leaving this gig to me," Jack finally said, collapsing onto a chair in defeat. "Are you out of your mind?"
Hammond chuckled. "I can't think of anyone better for the job, Jack."
"Well, think harder."
When Hammond did little more than steeple his fingers and smile benevolently, Jack knew he was out of luck.
And that was how Jack became Head of Homeworld Security and all his shiny new plans flew right out the window.
Three months later…
The White House attaché looked mildly indignant and Jack had to quickly run back over the last few things he said. Nothing stood out as particularly bad, but then again, Jack was always total crap at this polite, political BS. Which was precisely why he'd always been the one with the gun. Threat assessments. Escape routes. Plan B. Those had been his specialty. Daniel was the one to talk them out of sticky situations. Jack talking was usually the thing that got them into the sticky situation in the first place.
Jack glanced around, hoping for the miraculous appearance of someone, anyone, to get him out of this uncomfortable meeting. Where was an alien invasion when you really needed one?
Jack tried smiling gamely at the man, but he didn't look appeased.
Luckily just then his secretary, Mrs. Gibbs, God bless her, stuck her head into the office after a polite, unobtrusive knock.
"The Chinese Ambassador is on the phone for you, sir. It sounds urgent."
Talk about a rock and a hard place. This was where his endless experience with threat assessments came in handy. Continue sitting in a room with a clearly annoyed politician or talk on the phone with a clearly annoying diplomat who was undoubtedly still nosing around for access to the latest X-304 schematics? Luckily for the Chinese Ambassador, talking on the phone trumped sitting with an actual person every time.
"I'm sorry," Jack said, pushing to his feet and holding out his hand. "I really need to take this call. We can finish this some other time, I hope." Like when hell freezes over, he silently added.
Quick handshake and hasty retreat. Jack was becoming far too adept at strategic escape since he took this position. Though outright intimidation tended to work in a pinch. But the attaché didn't quite seem the type.
Jack barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief before he was on the phone, pretending to listen to the Chinese Ambassador. Another secret to this job was that most people could be satisfied merely by allowing them to talk and rant at length. At the end of the day, the answer was still usually no, but having let them speak their piece, they were usually more willing to accept defeat.
Sure enough, after 20 minutes of the man pleading his case, Jack was able to delicately extricate himself ('delicate' being rather subjective). He had barely managed to get the phone back in the cradle before Mrs. Gibbs descended on him once more, a dangerously large pile of files in her hands.
Jack tuned out most of what she said, trusting that she would make sure he didn't miss anything too important. God forbid a triplicate form made it off his desk without a signature.
But just as she was leaving, she quietly tacked on, "…and a young lady was here to see you."
Jack's head snapped up and he followed her out of the office. "What was that last part, Mrs. Gibbs?"
"About the report from Landry?" she asked.
"No," Jack said, waving his hand. "The bit after that."
"I said a young lady was here to see you, sir."
Jack dearly wanted to ask Mrs. Gibbs if she could possibly be more vague, but he had already learned the hard way not to mess with her. (And yes, he was highly aware of how inappropriate it was for the Head of Homeworld Security to be scared of his secretary.) He was too tired to play guessing games though, not to mention trying to puzzle out what qualified as 'young' to a woman reputed to be pushing triple digits.
"Did she happen to leave a name?" Jack asked sweetly.
Maybe too sweetly, though, because Mrs. Gibbs raised her left eyebrow in a gesture he learned meant she thought he was being a little too impertinent. He dearly hoped she never learned how to read minds, or he might just have to apply to Thor for asylum.
"Samantha Carter, sir. I told her you had a very full schedule today, but she insisted she could wait."
Jack glanced once at the stack of memos waiting for his attention. The decision wasn't hard to make. "Where is she waiting?"
"Outside," Mrs. Gibbs replied, eyes widening when he made a beeline for the exit. "But, sir! You have four more appointments and a meeting with the Secretary of Defense!"
If that was a bid to get him to come back, she was way off the mark. He just waved at her over his shoulder and quickened his step.
He found Sam sitting on a bench outside, sandals and light summery blouse thing seeming to scream vacation. But it was really her complete lack of momentum that was sort of jarring. For eight years she had been a thing of motion, and here she was, lounging on a bench as if seriously contemplating spending the rest of her day there.
"Carter, please tell me you are here to mount a rescue operation."
She looked up from the newspaper she was reading. "Sorry. I'm off the clock."
He took a moment to look over her outfit again. "That's not just a disguise to throw the government off our trail?"
"No," she said with a laugh. "I know you may find it hard to grasp, but I'm enjoying a little thing called vacation."
"And here I thought you didn't know what that was." The banter fell easily between them and all Jack could think was how much he had missed this.
"Remind me again," she countered sweetly, "when exactly was the last time you took a day off?"
Jack sighed. "Just one of the many perils of being The Man, I'm afraid."
"I'm sure," Sam said, pursing her lips in what Jack imagined was an attempt to look unimpressed. He knew better.
"Bit of a strange choice for a vacation spot," Jack observed, motioning around the Pentagon grounds. Though maybe not completely surprising from a woman infamous for spending her downtime with her head stuck in some gadget or another.
But she gave him the 'you-can't-really-be-that-stupid-sir' look she reserved for special occasions and Jack automatically felt like an ass, though he wasn't quite sure what he'd done this particular time.
"I thought you might like some help finding a place to live," she said, folding the newspaper with quick, economical motions. "Unless, of course, you like living it up in that hotel."
He didn't. God, he so didn't like being in that shiny hotel with its nosey staff. He didn't care how helpful they were trying to be; he didn't need his damn bath towels ironed twice a day. Hell, the only reason he was still there was because an apartment seemed so damn permanent, like he was actually going to stay here. It meant accepting he would spend the rest of his career mediating budgets and mollifying politicians. But he wasn't going to lie, the thought of running around town with Sam had more than enough appeal to override any residual issues.
"What can I say, Carter. You always have the best ideas."
She looked slightly mollified by that and said, "Well, I know you're busy, so just let me know when you have time."
Jack glanced back at the building, imaging Mrs. Gibbs and her disapproving glare of doom. "How about now?"
Sam looked genuinely surprised for a moment before she smiled. "Throw in some lunch and you've got a deal."
"Done," Jack said. "Now I just need you to call Mrs. Gibbs and tell her I've been abducted by aliens. Giant aliens."
Sam laughed and started down the sidewalk. "Sorry. You'll have to find someone else to do your dirty work."
"You know, Carter, sometimes you're no fun at all."
"Don't I know it," she said, the sun glinting off her hair.
A bright, autumn day playing hooky with Sam, what could possibly go wrong?
After a quick stop over at his hotel for a change of clothes ("Property managers see those shiny stars and I guarantee your price will mysteriously increase."), Jack and Sam sat at table together looking through newspapers.
"So do you have any idea of what kind of place you're looking for?" Sam asked for the second or third time since their food came.
Jack automatically shrugged again and pretended to be actually looking at the newspaper sitting next to his plate. It was less than a minute before his attention wandered once again though. He glared at Sam's outfit, convinced that if she were wearing BDUs, this whole thing would be easier. He was definitely laying blame for his sudden indecision on her sandals. Seeing her toes was distracting.
Jabbing at his plate of pasta with a fork, Jack thought longingly of his spacious yard and deck back in Colorado. He still hadn't brought himself to sell the place, even though there were little logical reasons to hold on to it anymore.
Jack pushed his plate away. "I don't suppose you could find me something with a couple of wooded acres."
Sam circled something on her page before looking up. "Not unless you'd like to commute."
The idea had appeal, but he knew his new position didn't afford him the luxury of trying to hide out in the mountains. Galactic crises rarely waited for traffic. "Probably something a little more central," Jack conceded.
"Well, Penn Quarter is pretty nice," Sam said, reminding him once again that she used to live in this city.
Jack's not sure what makes him ask, but for now he's sticking to blaming her toes. "Where did you live when you were stationed at the Pentagon?"
The question wasn't completely out of character. They talked, after all. But usually about absolutely nothing. For as much as he knew Colonel Carter like the back of his hand, Samantha Carter, civilian woman, was a bit of an enigma.
So when she looked surprised but not upset to be asked a fairly benign personal question, it was pretty much as expected. She took her time thinking out the answer, carefully wiping her mouth with her napkin first. "I lived in an area further north. Quaint little area with lots of diversity. There was this great little Ethiopian restaurant…"
Sam looked a little sheepish, inwardly smiling as if amused by an old memory. "Yeah, well, that was before gastronomical adventures became a weekly requirement of my job."
It was weird to think of her that way, a young Captain running around this city, fighting for the Stargate program before he even knew it, or she, existed.
He teased out a few more stories of her days at the Pentagon while they finished up lunch, pleased by how easily she shared them with him. It was when she once touched his arm in an unconscious gesture of amusement that Jack finally registered that she hadn't called him 'sir' once since she showed up lounging on a bench claiming to be on vacation.
It wasn't long after that strange revelation that Sam dragged him out of the restaurant, deciding it was time to start looking at apartments.
Oh, right. The entire point of this little excursion, Jack reminded himself. Unfortunately, finding an apartment was easier said than done.
The first apartment was too small. The second had more in common with a windowless tomb than an apartment. The third just…smelled wrong. The fourth was so fancy that Jack was scared to actually touch anything. The fifth was on Gould Avenue and there was no way he was going to live on a street with that name. The sixth had the craziest linoleum this side of the 70s.
By the tenth place everything began to blur together because Sam now had her smile-through-the-pain-so-you-don't-accidentally-deck-a-superior-officer look plastered on her face and actually snorted a little too derisively for his taste when a manager accidentally referred to her as Mrs. O'Neill.
Jack knew he was being really obnoxious and that some of his reasons for not liking various apartments were a bit picky, but this was his apartment. The one place he was supposed to be able to escape work and memos and ringing phones. It needed to be a sanctuary, not just a bunch of rooms with scary furnishing.
Sam steered him towards the eleventh and final place that was just over the Potamac from the Pentagon. Clearly the building had seen better days, but Jack belatedly decided that he would refrain from any more negative comments, particularly since she seemed to have chosen this place purely as punishment for him. Complaining would be playing into her hands.
That being said, the place was clearly a dump.
Instead of a nicely dressed manager, here they were greeted by a guy in his mid-twenties named Fred. Apparently he got reduced rent for filing the empty apartments and listening to the tenants' complaints. From the look of his worn shorts and torn flannel shirt, he needed it.
They had to walk up the three flights of stairs, Fred launching into an amusing story about the elevator and how it didn't quite pass its last government inspection. Jack dared a glance at Sam, but quickly looked away when he recognized the I-will-mow-down-anyone-in-my-path-including-you-sir expression. Sure, she probably wasn't armed, but at this point he wasn't taking any chances.
All things considered, the apartment wasn't that bad. Sure the walls were all covered with dark wood paneling and stained green wallpaper that smelled faintly of cigars and mothballs. A little elbow grease and a complete gutting and it could be home. That is, if the staining on the ceiling proved not to be toxic mold.
Sam made a sound of annoyance at the back of her throat and Jack decided that if they didn't get some chocolate in her soon she might explode. He gingerly put a hand on her shoulder and guided her toward the hall.
As they were leaving, though, Sam abruptly turned back around with her eyes narrowed in a way that had Jack's hand flying for his non-existent P-90. She glared at Fred and canted her head to the side just so, one hand rubbing over her forearm as if fighting off goosebumps.
"You've got to be kidding me," Jack mumbled, even as he crossed the room to grab the kid's collar. Suddenly the guy didn't look quite as congenial anymore, a suspicious black knit cap pulled low over his forehead.
Sam approached slowly, pushing the guy's hat back, revealing nothing more than an unmarked forehead and questionable hygiene. "I could have sworn," she said lowly, her attention passing to the wall behind.
Cautiously spreading her hands across the dark, wood-paneled walls, Sam nodded her head. "There is definitely naquadah here somewhere."
Jack briefly toyed with the idea that she was just imagining this in a warped attempt to get out of helping him find a place, but he knew that stance. She was certain and that was good enough for him.
"What's behind this wall?" Jack asked, shaking the now pale-faced kid a bit.
"It's…it's just another apartment!"
"And who lives there?"
"Some guy. Quiet. Keeps to himself mostly. Though Mrs. Keating in 204 swears he's the one who broke the elevator." He laughed to himself before glancing up at Jack's expression and sobering immediately. "I have the key," he offered, holding it up.
Jack pushed Fred out into the hall ahead of him. Leaning over to retrieve a weapon from his ankle holster, Jack glanced at Sam's summery outfit and tiny purse. He guessed that one gun would have to do, seeing as he couldn't begin to imagine where she might have stashed one.
You think he would have learned long ago not to underestimate her. With one smooth motion, she lifted the hem of her skirt, one hand disappearing under the fabric only to pull free with a gun.
Inner thigh holster.
Jack suddenly found it very hard to swallow. Sam just raised an eyebrow at him in askance when he continued to stare, eventually gesturing toward the door. Oh yeah, Jack thought, forcing his mind back on the situation at hand.
By now young Fred looked beyond freaked, eying their guns.
"You just stay out here, kid, okay?" Jack said gently.
Fred handed him the key and nodded, backing slowly down the hall.
Jack unlocked the door with a soft click and pushed the door open. They both peered cautiously around the doorframe, but the apartment remained empty and silent. Stepping inside, they saw that the place was little more than a single room. The wallpaper was peeling in several spot and various bits of trash were piled up in the corners.
"Charming," Jack said.
Sam made no comment, but pulled one of her nifty handheld computer thingies out her purse.
"It's not big enough," Sam observed, pointing to the side of the room that shared a wall with the other apartment. "That wall should be at least four meters further back."
Jack moved over to the wall she indicated and tentatively tapped it with the tip of his gun. It rang hollow, a bit of dust drifting down from the ceiling.
Sam frowned and walked around the room, her scanner held out in front of her. "There is definitely a power source here somewhere." She eventually stopped in front of a rusty breaker box and wrenched it open.
Jack didn't know much about alien technology, but he knew blinky, non-terrestrial controls when he saw them.
Sam poked purposively at the panel, completely catching Jack off guard when the whole room suddenly seemed to change, the dank walls replaced with gleaming display cases, comfortable couches, and a sparklingly clean hardwood floor.
"It was only a hologram," Sam breathed, her voice teeming with awe.
"No kidding," Jack said, moving around the now much larger room. "What is all this?"
"It looks sort of like a museum," Sam observed, looking closely at a display case with a large silver object that could only be described as a ray gun. Another held what Jack recognized as a goa'uld hand device.
"Or a showroom," Jack said. "They're all weapons."
There was now a hallway leading back to a bathroom and a bedroom. Jack motioned for Sam to follow him in. The bedroom was far less impressive than the main room. It housed a ratty looking cot, a small pile of variously shaped boxes and what looked like a closet.
Sam gestured toward the closet. "There is definitely something in there."
"Can you be a bit more specific?"
"Not really. I'm just detecting another power source." Sam walked up to the partly ajar door and stepped inside. Jack peered in after her.
It was a walk in closet, but still not that large. Sam was running her hands down the walls, undoubtedly looking for another access panel. Something red and shiny caught Jack's attention and he stepped inside, his hand brushing against it.
There was a loud click and the door slammed shut, knocking Jack into the small space. "What the-!" But Jack didn't get to finish his sentence because in the next moment they were both enveloped in bright white light, the sound of chimes ringing somewhere in the distance.
When the light retreated, Sam and Jack were left standing motionlessly in the dark.
"What exactly just happened?" Jack asked.
Sam's face appeared out of the darkness, the light from her little machine glowing softly. "I have no idea."
"Can you find the door?"
A few minutes groping finally located the door handle, both of them spilling back out of the closet. Only, they were no longer in the bedroom they had just left moments before. Instead they were in an office of some sort. There was a desk piled high with paper and a large safe in the far corner.
"Any idea where we are, Carter?"
She poked at her little machine. "I think we've been transported somehow, but I have no way of knowing where it might have sent us."
The small office opened up into an enormous warehouse-sized structure. The grey space was completely filled with crates, boxes, and what looked suspiciously like a vast junkyard of tel'tacs.
Jack glanced into a nearby box, finding it full of various colored control crystals. "Only you, Carter, could find a secret alien bunker while you're supposed to be on vacation."
Sam flashed him a grin.
A door somewhere opened with a slam, shattering the complete silence of the place and sending both Sam and Jack ducking down behind a crate. Glancing down at her scanner, Sam held up three fingers, letting him know how many people had just entered the building.
Jack nodded and decided it was probably way past time to call for backup. That was assuming they were still on Earth and not the Moon or something. He flicked open his cell phone, saw that he had a signal and pressed the appropriate numbers. He left it sitting open on the floor. It shouldn't take too long for the techies to trace the call. Hypothetically.
They could hear voices now, if one could call them that. There was a strange high-pitched squeaking sound interspersed with the deep, symphonic voice of a goa'uld.
"Just when I thought we were done with these bozos," Jack complained in an undertone.
Sam gestured towards the edge of the crate and Jack nodded, slowly moving across the room to get a clearer view of what they were dealing with.
Their goa'uld was talking with two aliens unlike anything Jack had ever seen. The smaller of the aliens was at least eight feet tall, which only made the three pairs of arms all that more freaky. They wore no clothing and were covered in what looked like green scales.
"So much for little green men," Jack mumbled. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sam bite down on her lower lip. God, he missed this.
There was a crate sitting on the table between the two parties that Jack assumed was the object of discussion. Or trade, judging by the look of this place.
"There is no need to worry," the goa'uld was saying. "Our security is top notch."
The taller alien squeaked something, seemingly unconvinced.
"Oh, please. Do you know how many people on Earth are capable of sensing naquadah? Four. On the entire planet! And the chances of one of them showing up here are astronomical."
Jack decided that was as good a moment as any to stand up and loudly clear his throat.
The goa'uld turned just in time to see Sam wave at him. "Son of a bitch," he swore in a very human voice.
"Hands up, if you please," Jack said, gesturing his gun at them as Sam moved around to cover them from the side.
The two green aliens each lifted six claws into the air, squeaking agitatedly at the goa'uld, but apparently not harboring any intent of resisting arrest. By the time Sam had relieved the goa'uld of his zat, the only visible weapon among the three of them, sirens could be heard in the distance.
"Remind me, Carter," Jack said, really getting into this now that mortal peril didn't seem to be part of the equation. "Is it legal to sell alien weapons and technology on Earth?"
"No," she said with a smirk. "I don't think it is."
"I don't suppose you'd be willing to look the other way just this once?" the goa'uld interjected hopefully. "I'm sure I could make it worth your while."
Jack kicked off the top of the crate nearest to him and peered in. It was completely full of Twinkies. He held one up for Sam to see in disbelief. "Sorry, we don't recognize Twinkies as valid currency."
"You wouldn't believe how much those go for in the Thayer Quadrant," the goa'uld said, looking eager and strangely human all at the same time.
"Well," Jack said, still staring at the guy in blatant disbelief, "now all your merchandise, including the Twinkies, are the property of the United States Government."
That took a bit of the wind out of his sails. "You're such an idiot," he complained.
Jack was about to take offense to that when the guy spoke again, this time his voice symphonic. "You dare speak to me that way?!"
"I told you not to trust the Duranian traders! Seamless security, my ass."
He continued to argue with himself in this manner for another few minutes while the green aliens shook their heads and rolled their eyes. It seemed some things really were universal.
"Tok'ra?" Sam guessed, looking a bit like she'd stumbled upon a freak show.
"As if," the host snorted, turning his attention to Sam. "He's just a goa'uld too pathetic to control his own host."
"I am your god, human," the snake interjected.
"Yeah, yeah. We know," the host said tiredly.
Jack saw the first SWAT team creeping into the room and was more than happy to leave the prisoners in their capable hands.
"Jeez, you Earthlings," the host loudly complained as he was led away, the two gangly aliens right behind. "Can't a guy make a buck without you Tau'ri interfering? I hate this planet."
Sam and Jack stood in stunned silence for a long time, before he turned to her and said, "Shouldn't he say, 'And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you crazy kids'?"
Predictably, Sam's lips curved in obvious amusement, looking away only when a soldier strode up to Jack and snapped a fancy salute.
"General O'Neill, sir! The area has been secured."
"Nice work," Jack said, waving away the salute. "I just have one question."
"Where the hell are we?"
The soldier smiled. "Kansas, sir."
"Of course we are," Jack said.
"Do you need me to arrange transportation back to Washington for you, sir?"
Surprisingly, Sam bumped Jack gently with her elbow and infinitesimally shook her head.
"I guess not," Jack said.
"There is a small closet in the back," Sam said to the airman, pointing over her shoulder. "I need the entire unit disassembled and sent to my lab at the SGC as soon as possible. It's very important." She pulled a card out of her purse and passed it to the soldier.
"I'll see to it, Colonel," he said, snapping another salute to both of them before dashing off.
Jack raised an eyebrow but didn't comment as the soldier resumed his duties, leaving Jack and Sam to their own devices.
"So what do you say, Dorothy, have we had enough fun for today?"
"Almost," Sam said mysteriously, leading him back to the strange closet that had brought them here in the first place. Hitting the red button, they were once again engulfed in chiming white light and found themselves deposited back in the miniscule closet of the apartment in Washington that smelled a bit like rotten cabbage.
Outside, Fred was still anxiously pacing the hallway. He looked up at them expectantly when they appeared in the doorway.
"Fred," Jack said, "I'm sorry to report you're down another tenant."
Fred looked completely aghast for a moment, and Jack realized he'd made it sound like he'd offed the guy or something.
"Illegal alien," Jack explained.
The kid looked relieved only to comically widen his eyes with panic the next moment. "I didn't know, I swear! He spoke perfect English!"
Jack just made a nondescript sound at the back of his throat, getting a kick out of watching Fred squirm.
"So," Sam said, taking pity on the kid. "How much are you asking for this place?"
"You want to rent it?" he asked with a squeak. For a moment, Jack thought the guy might kiss Sam's feet in gratitude. "I'll make you a really great deal."
"I bet you will, Fred," Sam replied, leveling her brightest smile on him.
The kid wandered off, slightly dazed, mumbling something about getting the paperwork.
Jack followed Sam back into the apartment, closing the door behind them. "You can't honestly mean for me to live here."
"Why not?" Her head canted slightly towards the transporter closet.
Jack stared at her for a full minute before her meaning finally penetrated his brain. Why not, indeed, Jack thought. "Have I mentioned lately that you always have the best ideas?"
She turned her mega-watt smile on him and Jack could totally identify with Fred's earlier befuddled expression. "Give me a week," she said, "and I can have the other unit from Kansas rigged wherever you'd like."
He in no way doubted that.
They spent the next hour exploring the various objects left behind in the goa'uld's apartment. There were a few zats in addition to the giant shiny silver space gun that was mounted on the wall. Jack was pretty disappointed to find out that it was little more than a sculpture.
"Figures," he grumbled.
But that was before he found a box with something else very familiar looking nestled inside. He held it up for Sam to see.
"Is that…a light saber?" she asked incredulously, reaching over to take it from him.
"Think we could give it to Teal'c?" He'd finally found the solution of what to give the Jaffa who had everything.
"This has been a very strange day," Sam mused, placing the saber gently on the table and kneeling down to dig through another box.
"No kidding," Jack said, dropping down on the surprisingly comfy couch. "I kinda hate to admit it, but that was the most fun I've had in ages."
"Yeah," Sam agreed, smiling up at him. "Me, too."
"Well, maybe I don't feel so bad then."
"As a first date, though, you might find it a little hard to top."
Sam was leaning over at the time, picking something up out of a box, so Jack had no clue as to her expression. But then she looked up and added something to the growing pile on the table. She was still leaning slightly over, both hands on the sides of the box in front of her just enough to offer an insanely tempting view. It took all his endless years of practice to keep his eyes solidly latched on her eyes. Not that he didn't have excellent peripheral vision.
"Second," Jack countered, refusing to be thrown by the rather abrupt turn this conversation was taking. Especially because he really liked where it seemed to be going.
Sam rolled her eyes, but didn't turn her attention back to the box, or, more importantly, straighten up. "Any activity with either Daniel or Teal'c in attendance, let alone both of them, cannot be considered a date."
"But there was fishing," Jack said, waggling his eyebrows.
"Yes," she conceded, doing her best not to look amused and not remotely succeeding. "There was fishing. But there was also three months of absolutely nothing after the fishing."
That wasn't completely true. There had been a few phone calls. Or maybe slightly less than few. But it was probably best not to mention that right now, his instincts told him. Jack shifted uncomfortably in on the couch.
"The nothing wasn't really part of the plan," he admitted.
"There was a plan?" Did she have to sound so incredulous when she said that?
"Yes! A very definite plan…of sorts. But you know how those tend to work out for me." He gestured vaguely at the apartment. Even something as seemingly simple as finding him a place to live had managed to turn into a debacle of galactic size. "I wasn't supposed to become Head of Homeworld Security. And I definitely wasn't supposed to leave Colorado."
Sam seemed to accept that explanation, sitting back on her heels with a contemplative look on her face. "You also aren't supposed to have a transporter closet."
Jack grinned. "That's where Plan B comes in."
"What's Plan B?"
"You rig this thing up to send me to my house in Colorado."
To be honest, connecting the transporter was the full extent of Plan B at the moment. He didn't know what happened after that. Well, he had a pretty good idea of what he'd like to happen after that, but he'd probably screw up if he tried to explain it. Words had never been his forte. It was always much wiser to stop explaining and take action. Threat assessments, remember? And right now he decided that the risk of Sam punching his lights out was overridden by his need to erase that uncertain look she was trying so damn hard to hide.
Jack leaned forward, reached out one hand, and gently pressed his fingers to Sam's waist. The summery material that had been his nemesis all day was as thin and delicate as it looked. He could feel the softness of her skin through the fabric and took a moment to just marvel at the feel of it. He'd touched her a million times before, but never quite like this.
Intent was everything.
He pulled slightly and she willingly followed his lead. He watched her shuffle closer until she leaned slightly against his shin, the slight contact warming his skin through the fabric, setting his nerves abuzz. He shouldn't be surprised by the strength of the reaction, but somehow he never quite imagined it like this.
He watched her lay her hand on his arm with concentration. The way she stared at her fingers moving against the fabric told him that maybe she was as much in awe of being able to do something so long denied as he was.
When she finally looked up at him, she had on an expression he had never seen before. He lifted his free hand to her face, sliding up over the curve of her jaw to tease the curl of hair just above her ear. He couldn't help but smile at the feel of her hair twined between his fingers.
Jack couldn't be sure what exactly Sam saw in his expression at that moment, but she returned his smile and pushed up on her knees, bringing her lips an easy distance from his own, her stomach pressing warmly against his knee.
"You know, you seem awfully sure of yourself for a man without a plan," Sam teased, her lips hovering just barely out of reach.
"Plans are overrated," Jack rasped.
He wasted no time closing the last bit of distance between them, thoughts about anything other than the feel of her lips quickly melting away. The kiss began slow, exploratory, as they almost methodically discovered the taste of each other, but quickly escalated to something much more primal as if an overloaded damn had finally buckled.
Sam pushed up against him and he gladly lifted her up against his body, feeling the weight of her settle warmly between his knees, her chest pressing against his. Her knee somehow found purchase on the edge of the couch, and suddenly she was above him, using the new angle to her advantage.
Jack had absolutely no problem with that.
He was just beginning to work his hands under the edge of Sam's shirt when an annoying sound rudely penetrated the haze.
Bang, bang, bang.
Deciding that nothing could be important enough to interrupt this particular moment, Jack ignored the racket and continued to trace the curve of Sam's ribs. He could feel the gentle hum of her approval vibrating under his palm.
Bang, bang, bang.
Seriously, Jack didn't care if this was the damn Apocalypse. At least he would die happy. Sam's finger trailed along the collar of his shirt, pulling the fabric away enough for her to press hot open-mouthed kisses along his collarbone. Oh, yes, he would die very happy.
Bang, bang, bang, BANG!
Sam's mouth lost suction with a wet pop as she leaned back, her head craning towards the noise.
"Ignore it," Jack said, pulling her back against him.
"Mr. O'Neill?" called out a voice that sounded suspiciously like young Fred's. It was followed by another round of knocking on the door.
"It will only take me five minutes to kill him and find somewhere to dump the body," Jack grumbled against Sam's jaw. He could feel her skin move against his lips as she smiled, her hand making small, soothing circles on his back.
"I've got those contracts for you!" Fred called out, apparently having heard Jack's voice, but sill remaining completely ignorant that he was in imminent danger of losing a limb.
Jack pulled back from Sam just long enough to curse. "Just leave them!" he yelled. "Or shove them under the door for all I care!"
"Sure thing, Mr. O'Neill! Just let me know if you need anything else!"
Jack let out a sound suspiciously close to a growl and Sam shifted, lowering her head into his chest, muffling what sounded like giggles against his neck. Sprawled as she now was across his lap, he could feel her laughter travel the length of her body. He tried to hold on to lingering indignation at being interrupted, but with her toes sitting there, curled up against what was now his couch in all their carefully polished pink glory, he found he could not stay annoyed.
Jack could only be thankful that Sam probably didn't understand the inexplicable power her toes held over him.
He was still grinning stupidly at her toes when she finally surfaced for air, her hair an endearing mess. They smiled at each other, Jack's hand still skimming up and down the curve of Sam's thigh. His finger hit a hard bump and his smile slipped, looking down at her leg in confusion.
It was only then that he remembered, almost groaning at the tantalizing memory.
"Can I please get a look at that thigh holster?" he asked, pulling at the edge of her skirt.
Sam swatted away his hand with an evil, evil laugh. "We should leave something for you to look forward to on the second date, don't you think?"
"This is the second date," Jack corrected stubbornly, forestalling her comeback with another kiss. Strategic distraction. This tactic had a lot of potential.
He had her skirt successfully hiked halfway up her thigh when he was yet again interrupted. It was definitely a conspiracy of some sort. And when he found out who was behind it…
Somewhere in the apartment a phone continued to ring shrilly.
Sam looked expectantly up at Jack, already shifting her weight off him.
"I've had this apartment for less than two hours," he complained. "There is no way that is for me."
But the phone continued to ring, hitting just the right resonance to reverberate unpleasantly in his skull. "Oh for…," Jack grumbled, pushing reluctantly to his feet.
He found the phone in the back bedroom and nearly wrenched the whole thing from the wall as he answered it.
"What?" he barked into the phone.
There was a blast of noise from the receiver that took Jack a good thirty seconds to recognize as the dulcet tones of his secretary.
"Mrs. Gibbs?" he asked incredulously, staring at the phone with something akin to horror.
Mrs. Gibbs didn't miss a beat at the sound of her boss' voice and continued ranting, reaching a fevered pitch with the words 'defense' and 'appointments.'
Somehow Jack wasn't even slightly surprised that his almost preternatural secretary had mysteriously gotten a hold of his new number already. He knew he should be, but there was just something about that woman. She was like a ninja or something. Either that, or she really had implanted him with a homing beacon like she'd always threatened.
Most days he was just supremely glad that the woman was on their side, no matter how much it didn't seem like it at the moment.
Still holding the phone a few feet from his ear, Jack rejoined Sam on the couch. She seemed dangerously close to surrendering to laughter again and looked nothing close to contrite when he sent a special glare in her direction.
After another brief moment of listening to the distant warble of Mrs. Gibbs' voice, Sam stood up and gestured toward the back room. "I'm going to take a look at the transporter circuitry."
Jack opened his mouth in protest. He couldn't believe he was being displaced by alien technology already. But Sam swooped down and kissed him, chasing away any thoughts of indignation with a particularly crafty twist of her tongue.
"The sooner I get it figured out, the better, right?" she said, wiggling her toes so that they sparkled up at him from the hardwood floor. Damn she learned fast.
He watched her disappear into the back room, consoling himself that thanks to his nifty new apartment full of alien gizmos, he would be spending many (if not all) upcoming nights in Colorado Springs. He briefly wondered if it would be a little too presumptuous to ask her to connect the transporter to her house instead of his. After all, why should he waste those precious extra minutes driving across town?
Jack leaned back smugly, listened to the sound of Sam happily pulling alien devices to pieces, and thought about the tantalizing promise of thigh holsters.
Yup, things were definitely going Jack's way lately.
It took him a while to register the silence that meant Mrs. Gibbs had finally run out of steam. He lifted the phone back up to his ear. "What can I say, Mrs. Gibbs? There were aliens. Giant aliens."
And he wasn't even lying.