Chapter Two: SAM'S WORDS

Jack breathed a sigh of relief as Richard Woolsey left his office. Woolsey wasn't a bad man. Jack disliked the idea of a pencil pusher looking over Sam's shoulder, but, all-in-all, he supposed it could have been worse. Sam could have been saddled with an old NID sort, like Kinsey and his minions. As it was, Jack was certain Woolsey would never do anything to out and out sabotage Sam. That was something.

Another something was the personal delivery he'd just received from the man. Granted, he couldn't understand why Sam would send anything with Woolsey; all the more reason to open it immediately. After all, it could be important and it was from Sam.

As he tore into the envelope, he found a disc with a small piece of note paper wrapped around it. Excitedly, he placed the disc on his desk and proceeded to read the short note written in Sam's hand.

"General O'Neill," it began, all too formally. "You must be wondering why I chose to send this with Mr. Woolsey. Actually, it's something like a test. If it makes it to you in one piece, I'll know I can trust him a bit more. If not, or if he opens it, well, both he and I will be the wiser for the experience. Anyway, just in case, the good stuff's on the DVD and it's coded."

Jack chuckled at Sam's thoughts of testing Woolsey. Well, at least the man had passed that one. Still he hoped there would be a more personal message on the DVD. He missed his wife and the idea of hearing from her, even by video, was exciting.

Without further delay, he popped the disc into his player. Sure enough, it was specially encoded. It was a code Sam had devised for just these circumstances, personal, confidential communication between husband and wife. As such, only Jack and Sam had access to machines that could break the code and allow playback of anything but gibberish.

As he settled into one of the more comfortable armchairs in his office, Jack saw Sam's face flash on the screen, the decoder did its thing and her voice began to flow freely from the lips he loved so much. Who was he kidding, just watching Sam right now would have been enough. The words were an extra gift.

"Hello, Jack. You can't imagine how much I miss you," Sam began. Then as if she could hear his voice in her head, she blushed slightly and added. "Or maybe you can… Anyway, I knew Woolsey would find his way to you shortly after his return. Since you saved his sorry butt last year, he seems to think you and he are good buddies. So I thought I'd take advantage of the messenger service."

Sam's image went silent for a moment, and her face, well her face went all solemn on him. It was that look she got when she was very serious and wanted him to understand exactly what she was talking about. He only hoped there was nothing wrong.

"I love you, Jack," she said finally. His heart soared and broke at the same time. That declaration should be something happy, not something that brought tears to her eyes. And Sam certainly looked to be on the verge of tears.

"Being so far away from you is the hardest thing I've ever had to do," she continued, clearly holding back unwanted tears. "I swear, harder that blowing up that damned sun, harder than what we've just been through here on Atlantis, and lots harder than listening to Mr. Woolsey." With that last piece Sam smiled slightly.

"By the way, Jack," she said. "Don't be too hard on Richard Woolsey. Like it or not, he's just doing his job. Unfortunately, it's his job to look over my shoulder. Good thing, I've been well trained in how to deal with bureaucrats. Right?"

Jack winced slightly. Glad as he was she'd found it in her to tell off Woolsey when the moment came, he knew some of the sarcastic comebacks she'd learned from him could also get her into trouble. He hoped she had better sense about it than he did. He assumed that was the case. As far as he was concerned, Carter had more sense than him in most every endeavor.

"I want to thank you. Hopefully I've said all this before, but it bears repeating even if I have," Sam said, her distant eyes unerringly searching for and finding his across the galaxies. "I've learned so much from the years I spent traipsing around the galaxy with you. They might have been the hardest years in the world, what with keeping my hands off of you, but I learned about command from watching you. The way you handled people and impossible situations, your humor, the way you read situations, I watched and I remembered it all for now." Sam paused, gauging her next words as she seemed to stare right at him, reaching straight for his heart. Jack swallowed hard, his own eyes filling with tears.

"It's scary, really," Sam said finally. "Here I am light years away from you and I find your words coming out of my mouth. Sometimes, I think I've been infected by your sarcasm and your odd sense of humor. Still I love it; it reminds of you … and of how much I miss you."

As he listened and watched the face of his wife, Jack's heart swelled with pride. She was incredible. As much as he hated having her so far away, Atlantis was lucky to have her in charge. She was smart, wise and brave, a good combination in his book. In the three months she'd been on the job, she proved herself more than once. He had no doubt she'd be called on to do it again. He could only hope and pray she'd be safe and come back to him. And he would do everything in his considerable power to head off any and all foolish challenges to her authority. More than that, he'd do his level best to make his way to Atlantis for a visit as soon as possible. If Woolsey could get there, so could he.

And now, Sam was ending her short message.

"Please don't worry about me, Jack. I have a great team. They pull together, like we did on SG1. They're talented, dedicated and selfless. What's more, they're making room for me. They're making my job easy. I'm in good hands. I know you'd like and respect all of them.

"Did I say I miss you? I do," she said. "I love you, Jack.

"Goodbye for now."

"Goodbye, Sam," Jack answered silently. "For now."

The End.