Right Maneuvers by 7 League Boots

Featured Character(s): Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, Teal'c, Cassandra Fraser
Summary: Cassie is being stalked! Sam enlists the aid of Daniel and Teal'c, but a long-missing Jack shows up to help as well. And well, stuff happens. Fluff Alert!

Author Notes: Mild swearing. My bit of fluff to deal with Jack's absence in S9. Kudos, hugs, kisses and all nice things to Admiral Q O for invaluable, above and beyond beta-ing. Comments welcomed!

SjSjSj

"Where are you going like THAT?"

Sam froze. Cassie's voice was full of horror at...Sam looked at herself. Jeans, navy turtleneck, black leather jacket. Holster, gun.

"I'm going to get that nut job who's been stalking you! I'd take my zat but I don't figure it'll fit discreetly anywhere." Sam answered. She completed checking the gun's safety and ammo. "And if I took it I'd be tempted to dust him. Literally."

Cassie regarded her aunt-by-adoption. Jeans and black leather made Sam appear taller, leaner and with that serious weapon in her small hands, meaner. Military-cropped blonde hair oddly imparted a feminine air, but most of the air around Lt. Col. Samantha Carter was hot with anger.

"But Sam, the note said he's at the...the..." Cassie stammered, trying to recall a name.

"Hotel Regale." Sam finished. Lord knew the damn letters were burnt into her brain along with the audacious commands.

"I know all about you, alien. and when the time is right..."

That first note had been slipped into Cassie's backpack while she was at the mall. On black note paper and written in dark red gel ink, it had struck Sam as somewhat junior high-ish, but Daniel had thought it clever, sort of.

Cassie was laying clothing on Sam's bed. Sam gawked: her black dress?

"What do you think you're doing? This is a stake-out, not a date!"

"Oh, come on, Aunt Sam!" Cassie said before turning. "You can't just storm trooper in!"

"Now hold on..."

"Daniel! Tell Sam she has to do this undercover!" Cassie called out as she went to the living room. Sam followed her; she hadn't heard them arrive!

"Um...Do I have to tell Sam that?" Came Daniel's voice a few seconds later. Then Sam was standing in her bedroom doorway in action civvies. "Sam, you're not ready? We'll be late, and that can't be good." Daniel stood up. He wore a dark gray suit and tie, light blue shirt.

A flattering outfit, Sam thought. But...

"I am ready! We've discussed this, remember? The note said - "

" 'The man following the girl will be at his place of employment, the Hotel Regale, 8:30 pm on Saturday. He is a waiter.' Is that how you recall the note, Colonel Carter?" Teal'c put in. In his dark blue buttoned down jacket over matching slacks, the embroidered kofi hugging his head added a nice exotic touch to his appearance as he came up beside Daniel. His dark eyes assessed her. "Samantha appears ready to apprehend a possibly dangerous suspect," he said, then as Sam felt vindicated he added, "But perhaps we would all do best to blend into the surroundings in this case."

"Yeah, Sam; it's kind of upscale," Daniel added tentatively.

Sam bristled. Casting a last searing glance at all of them, she stomped back into her room and shut the door on them.

"Fine. Get doodadded up for a fight, or even a shoot out. For cryin' out..." Sam cut off her muttering. No, she would not quote him. But once the thought breached her mind's wall...

Janet's death. Cassie's resultant trauma and need. And then he pulled away from her.

Sam dressed in a furious flurry. Slip. Pantyhose. Very light makeup and accessories. Sam stopped, sighed, and replaced her dog tags with simple jewelry. Damned black dress. But not that bad-girl spaghetti strapped number Cassie unearthed (little snoop must have x-ray vision to find that). Nope. Buttons down the back, scoop neck and three quarter sleeved silk. She liked silk. And a kick pleat in case she had to do just that, or need to move faster than a mannequin on a runway. She double-checked the beaded shoulder bag now containing her weapon.

"Sam, are you done yet? Do you need..." Cassie stopped as the bedroom door swung open and Sam stood there. "Oh. I guess not." Cassie grinned, delighted.

"Glad you finally approve. Can we go over the plan again or do I need a manicure, too?"

Daniel and Teal'c studied her.

"No, no. You're fine. You look fine, Sam." Daniel managed to say.

"You look exceptionally well. You will fit quite well into the surroundings," Teal'c added. Sam felt herself about to smile, when...

"Kinda fancy. But nice."

Sam's breathing stopped for a beat. Or two, or ...She turned and he stood there. She stared at the familiar lean and tall figure, silver hair setting off his black suit and tie, leaning casually against her kitchen divider. In her house.

"What are you doing here?" Sam snapped out the first words that came to her tongue. "In Colorado, I mean?" In my space!

"Well, funny thing. I was out driving, and saw Teal'c's car parked out front..." Major General Jack O'Neill said lightly. But Sam was looking in his eyes. He was furious. What nerve: one fishing trip then nada, and now he pops up, angry? That made her temper flare.

"Funny! And did you happen to have your party suit in the back seat as you were 'out driving?'"

"As a matter of fact, I did! Thanks to Teal'c, I knew Cassie was in trouble." Jack came upright as he glared at Sam. Sam glared back.

"It's being handled, thank you!"

"You could have called me! You should have!"

"What? Interrupt your precious paper pushing? And bend your precious boneheaded regs? Now, that's funny!"

"Precious? Let me tell you how prec... Uh, boneheaded YOU are, Samantha Carter!"

"Oh, finally you have something to tell me, Jack O'Neill!"

"Um, hello?" Daniel interjected.

"WHAT!" Sam and Jack shouted at him. Daniel backed up, hands raised.

"We were about to apprehend Cassandra Fraser's stalker, O'Neill. Do you intend to join us?" Teal'c said; his reasonable bass voice cut through the spiraling quarrel.

Sam looked at Cassie, Daniel and Teal'c. Their expressions of awe (not to mention that eyebrow on Teal'c!) doused her temper. She looked at Jack. He was as shocked at their flare up as she.

Ok, just let it go, Sam decided.

"Yeah, sure. Uh, Cassie, are you ready?" Jack spoke into the brief silence. Cassie came over to give him a quick hug before going for their coats. Sam watched as Jack ran a hand through his hair, hardly disturbing the parts that stubbornly remained sticking up. He glanced her way just then, then looked away.

Sam concentrated on tonight's goal. She'd put him out of her daily (daytime) routine before; she could do it now. Except now, damn it, he was in her house, her space; imprinting his presence even his scent for her nights to pry up and review. Over and over.

"Let's get the plan down once more. For the latecomer." Sam said, not looking at Jack. They reviewed what would happen at the hotel.

Minutes later they were ready to leave. Sam looked around for her coat, only to see it in Jack's hands. Cassie must be more nervous than she seemed, Sam thought.

"That's mine. I'll take it," she said, walking over. On impulse, she turned her back, inviting him to put it on. After a moment, the soft fabric (and a warm hand?) brushed her neck, prompting her to work her arms into the sleeves. Doing up the buttons, Sam noted that his large hands smoothed the coat over her shoulders and rested there a second. Her eyes closed on their own as her senses drank in the unexpected contact. Then he stepped back, reached around her and held the door open. "Thanks."

"Uh, Carter," Jack said, catching up as she headed down to the cars. She looked up. "Why are we taking Cassie with us, again?"

"It's safer. Our tip was anonymous. If it's a set up we'd be better off having her nearby. General Landry has a contact in the local law enforcement here, but we'll try to get to this man first," Sam explained, matching Jack's long stride.

"Oh, yeah - a security risk," Jack said. He stopped when she did.

"Where's Teal'c's SUV?" Sam asked, scanning the quiet streets. Only the unmarked base van was there. Jack moved around the back, peered through the dark tinted glass, hand on the weapon under his coat. Sam kept her weapon in her purse, but ready. Then Jack emerged on the driver's side, signaled all was ok. He opened the doors. The envelope on the seat had Daniel's familiar script.

"What's it say?" Jack asked as he strapped in and gunned the engine.

"He said they decided to go ahead, to make sure all was as it should be. And there are two tickets..." Sam frowned at the elegantly scripted cards. Jack turned to her, inquiring. "For admission to the Hotel Regale's Anniversary," she answered. "Oh, great. Now they'll have to go in and search this nut out among merry revelers." They began to move.

"Think this is legit? Seems a little weird, doing it this way," Jack offered after driving in silence some minutes.

"We didn't have much luck before. As soon as Cassie told me a man was following her for nearly two weeks, he suddenly disappeared. All she could tell us was that he was about six feet or so, long darkish hair and a mustache, and a big nose."

"A big red nose," Jack added. After a moment, he said softly, "You could have called me, Sam."

"Oh, I have called you, Jack. Didn't think I'd get any more response than before."

"Uh, yeah. Lots of stuff going on these days, you know.."

"Oh, busy. I got that. Eventually."

"Come on, Sam. I would have responded..."

"To a call about Cassie, as opposed to just a call from me? Gee, I wish I had known."

The ride ended without further conversation. They drove up to the stately, well-lit hotel, parking in the rear of the lot just across the street. Sam studied the layout, finding it just as Teal'c had described. Front entrance with concierge, one side door right, a fire exit, and another left and rear for deliveries. The right door seemed to lead to the ballroom, as that seemed to be where most of the illumination was.

Jack walked beside her. "Packing?"

Sam bounced her purse. He nodded and let her precede him into the hotel lobby where they went straight to the ballroom. The hostess smiled warmly as she led them through to the elegant white covered tables and clear dance space. Sam ignored that expanse; it reminded her of someone she knew who wouldn't recall her with kindness. Jack held out her chair and they sat rigidly in their own silence. But Sam noted he searched the room for signs of the perpetrator, too.

"Where are Teal'c, Daniel and Cassie? I thought we were supposed to meet them here," Jack asked a little later as the live band completed their warm up. The place was starting to fill; many were couples but a number arrived in groups of either gender.

"I was thinking the same. This wasn't part of our plan." Sam answered.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!" A genial man in formal eveningwear addressed them from the stage. "Thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate Hotel Regale's 75th Anniversary!"

Sam sighed, and applauded lightly with the others. Jack tapped the table with his long fingers, keeping an eye on the crowd. A waitress appeared at their table with glasses of champagne, leaving two on their table before moving on. Sam studied the rising bubbles in the pale golden liquid. Bubbles: now there was a memory.

"Now, join us in toasting to our glorious past and to the continued attendance of distinguished guests like you!" the toastmaster was saying, raising his glass. The guests around them raised their glasses and sipped.

"We're not on duty, really," Jack said, holding his glass out to her. Sam regarded him. There was no reason to believe the mischievous, come-hither glint in his eyes, but she did like champagne. She raised her glass and touched it to his. Then on it's own, her glass tipped toward him, inviting him to sip. A blink, and Jack touched his lips to her glass and sipped. She sipped from his glass. Then they each sipped from their own glasses. Oh, my God, was she losing it! Sam quickly faced the dance floor, but she could still see him study her a bit longer.

A movement near the stage caught her attention. Sam sat straighter in her seat. It was Cassie! Was that where Daniel and Teal'c hid her, in the stage rooms? Cassie looked up, and beamed. She signed an OK with her hand and ducked behind the curtain.

"Now we come to the traditional part of the evening. All couples must, I repeat MUST take the floor for the first dance of the evening. Just our way of promoting the course of true love. Gentlemen, lead your lovely ladies to the dance floor!"

"Oh, for crying out…" Sam and Jack groaned at the same time.

Sam swung around as Jack swung to her. Oh, no way in hell...Seeing the trepidation on Jack's face made her realize she must look the same to him. She saw hostesses and hosts prompting slow risers to take to the floor. Hmm... She glanced at the remaining champagne. A bubble.

"Well, what are you waiting for now? We can keep an eye out as we dance, or would you prefer I get Cassie to dance with you?" Sam challenged. She looked him in his eyes and saw his indignation. He pushed himself up and held out his hand for her. Sam waited, then took his hand just as a hostess approached to coax them. The woman smiled and went by. Jack walked her to the dance floor where they waited with the others, many giddy and already embracing. Then a singer stepped to the microphone and began the ballad.

Once, I had a secret love that lived within the heart of me,

Sam blinked. Good God, how could a song be so apropos? The couples began to move around them. Jack watched her, waiting. Again, the waiting, Sam sighed. She stepped in, and he quickly put a hand on her waist and the other took her hand. They began to step together in perfect timing. Sam lifted her chin; Jack was looking at her and dancing like a champ. She smiled with pleasure.

All too soon my secret love, became impatient to be free.

"What?" Jack asked, moving her smoothly into a turn. She laughed. "What?"

"You're a good dancer! I never would have guessed!"

"Thank you very much. I guessed as much about you."

"Really?"

"Sam, you're graceful in everything you do. 'Course you'd dance like a dream." Jack said casually, his eyes on the scene around them. Then they snapped back to her. Sam stared. "Whoa! I mean..."

"Hush," Sam said, stepping closer but still barely touching him as they moved. She smiled at his chagrin, and returned to checking the waiters moving around the room. And back to dancing on air.

So I told the friendly stars the way that dreamers often do,
Just how wonderful you are and why I'm so in love with you

Then Sam had a strange thought. Not so strange, being prompted by the sight of Daniel and Cassie peeping from behind the stage curtain, grinning like monkeys. They quickly ducked out of sight. Did they... what if...she looked up at Jack. He pointed his chin and Sam followed to see Teal'c. He was standing inside the entrance to the ballroom, and shook his head. The waiter was not around, apparently.

Oh, that clinched it. That sweet little busybody...

Sam ducked her head and smiled. Of course Teal'c wouldn't be in on this. But Daniel! Jack felt her tremble.

"Are you cold?" Jack asked, concerned. His next words were cut off as someone bumped them sharply into each other. Stunned, he ignored the couple's apology and tried to step back. Only Sam wouldn't release him. She slipped her arm under his and held him flush against her. "Uh...Carter?"

"Hmm? Something wrong, JACK?" Sam replied. She chuckled into his jacket. "Dance, Jack. Wouldn't want to alert our hosts."

"Oh, right," Jack murmured, and holding her close to him, stepped back into the music. Sam noted the exact moment he gave in; when his cheek moved against her forehead until his lips just touched her. She turned her face against his chest, and his lips traveled to the tip of her nose. She chuckled again and his arms tightened for just a moment. "Carter..."

"I'm Samantha, Jack. We're undercover, remember?"

"If only. But, Samantha, what about Cassie? 'Course this is nice, but well, shouldn't we, uh...you know...?"

"Everything's fine, Jack. Really. And it is nice, isn't it? Should have done this sooner," Sam replied.

"Oh, like when I used to ask you to go fishing with me...just the two of us?"

"Well, ask me again."

Now I shout it from the highest hills. I even told the golden daffodils-

Jack eased her closer until she had to look up. "Listen, Samantha, I never meant to ignore you. God knows I couldn't anyway, and, well, I just never know how to say...You know, feelings…" Jack slowly halted, his attention arrested by something to his right. Sam knew where he was looking; her moment was fading. He looked back at her. "Daniel and Cassie are behind the stage, and they don't look too worried anymore. Sam?" he asked when she only buried her face in his shirt and laughed. "What's going on?"

Sam told him her suspicions. How Daniel defended the gel ink note, the stalker who disappeared the moment they started planning to go after him, then the unsigned note telling them that he would be here. Here where they had to dance.

At first Jack looked as confused as he did at her pre-mission briefings. Then his face reddened before he burst into full out laughter. The singer smiled at them, the host beamed benevolently as though a proud parent.

"And the man with the mustache and red nose, for cryin' out loud!" Jack chuckled, swinging Sam in a full circle before rejoining the dance. He sobered. "All this for us?"

"I'm sure Cassie was the instigator. She needs to see a little happiness, I guess. I had no idea Daniel thought of us this way," Sam replied. She tossed the last of her reticence aside and slid her arms around his neck. "Hmmm. Whatever they were thinking, I'm glad I'll have this."

"Samantha, this can't be wise. I can't let you endanger your career, your work. Hell, your work has saved the collective asses of at least three races!" Jack said into her hair. He dropped whatever caution he'd maintained and gathered her closer. "I can help you do that, but only if I'm in the right place, too."

"I know, Jack. I've thought about it a lot. I just wanted to hear from you. Anything. If you cared, didn't care; if it was only me, imagining something - " Sam felt herself losing it, until his lips pressed against her forehead, gently. "It's the not knowing, Jack. I NEED to know."

"And knowing that about you, I was wrong, on all counts. I care, Samantha. I always have," Jack said, very gently squeezing her to him. "And I'm glad I'll have this, too. Ooh, did you just purr?" he murmured, and Sam giggled. They danced on, closer than in all the years before.

At last my love's an open door and my secret love's no secret anymore.

The music winded to its final chords. Sam held Jack as he held her, as they both held onto the last of this interlude. Fortunately they weren't the only couple reluctant to release each other, swaying in the softened lights. The singer moved into a melodic hum of the song as the music continued softly behind her.

Sam opened her eyes; Jack opened his. He smiled at her smile.

"A kiss would be appropriately undercover, right?" he whispered close to her lips.

"And appropriately above cover, too," Sam replied, moving to meet him. Their lips touched, clung. Sam felt a sweet, unfamiliar conflagration building up. Jack pulled her closer. Their lips opened.

"O'Neill!" Teal'c's voice was pitched to instantly pierce their concentration. They broke apart immediately, and spotted him, pointing to the location of the fire exit. Sam and Jack saw a male in a white waiter's jacket tousling, sort of, with Cassie. He was mustached and had a large, very red nose. Sam looked at Jack. They grinned as the music finally ended, holding hands as they quickly left the floor toward Cassie and "the stalker." Just as they reached the edge of the floor he pushed Cassie away and fled out the door.

"Cassie, are you all right?" Sam asked, concern in her voice. Cassie clung to her, effectively barring her from pursuit. Jack stopped to comfort her but went out the doors. "You're safe, sweetheart. But for now," Sam said, looking directly into Cassie's wide eyes, guilty eyes, "thank you." She kissed her cheek and held her. Cassie relaxed and hugged her back.

"I love you, Aunt Sam. You and Jack, you're always here for me. Just like Mom," Cassie said, tears in her voice.

"Thanks for that, but come on, we can't let Dan... uh, the stalker get away."

"Oh, yeah, about that..." Cassie mumbled. Sam swept up her coat as they passed her table.

Sam hustled Cassie through the doors, and turned to the delivery entrance. Sputtering something, Cassie ran to keep up with Sam's stride. Sam pretended she was too occupied to hear the girl's attempted confession. They rounded the corner just before Jack hurtled out the side door.

"Where did he go? Did you see him, Teal'c?" Jack asked, completely convincing as he looked around the short alleyway. Sam noted that Daniel was uncommonly clumsy, requiring Teal'c's aid. She forced herself not to grin. "I don't believe it! He got away!" Jack said, bending to pick up a bunched white waiter's jacket and a straggly dark wig. "Yech."

"Daniel, did you see which way he went? Did he turn left or right when he went down this street?" Sam asked and sneaked a look at Jack, who was acting quite perplexed, except for the tiniest twitch of his lips.

"Uh, right, no, left. He went right," Daniel replied. His cheeks were bright; he glanced quickly at Cassie and then tried to restore himself. His hand adjusted his glasses as he furtively wiped a gummy splotch on his nose. "Sorry, Teal'c. I almost had him!"

"I am sure you would have, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c replied, genuinely feeling the oddness of the situation. "Yet, this leaves Cassandra Fraser still at risk."

"Oh, no!" Daniel and Cassie said together. The other adults turned to them

"I don't think he'll bother me again," Cassie said. "I mean...you really scared him, Aunt Sam and Uncle Jack and Uncle Teal'c."

"Y-Yes, we're on to him and he's obviously not sticking around anymore. I think we did it. Scared him off," Daniel added. The two grinned before rushing off to Teal'c's car. Teal'c watched them a moment.

"I will bring Cassandra Fraser back to your residence," he informed Sam, but she stopped him and placed a quick kiss on his cheek.

"Thanks, Teal'c. I appreciate your support tonight." She smiled at his startled but pleased expression. She couldn't remain irritated by his call to Jack, not anymore! He inclined his head to them and walked away.

Sam finally looked over at Jack, standing with hands in pockets watching her. She didn't have to wonder if the evening's events meant anything to him. At the moment, he seemed more inclined to continue them. Oh, so did she!

"So. Did you...purr?"

"Nope, that was you."

"I don't think so, Sam. Too soft."

"It was deep and low, Jack."

They stopped at Jack's motor pool van. Sam knew that if she reached out, he would meet her, give her whatever she wanted; accept whatever she gave. He watched, expectant.

"Cassie will be waiting," Sam said, moving around him to stand at the vehicle door. Jack let out a breath, his shoulders drooped ever so slightly.

"Right," he sighed, smiling like a good sported loser. He opened the door then froze. Sam climbed into the back seat.

"But first, I just want to prove...that it's you who purrs," Sam said, slipping her coat off her shoulders. When Jack stood there gaping, she said, "This is a timed experiment, Jack. It's now or forget about it later..."

"Right!" Jack grinned, climbing in and shutting the door.

sJsJsJ

"Don't. Cassie's here." Sam stopped Jack from leaving the van when they pulled up to her house a little later. She looked over at him, feeling the same impulses of the evening still humming through her. He took her hand and brought it to his lips, its slight tremor evidence of his own feelings. She let her fingers comb through his soft hair one last time. How she didn't want him to leave!

"Sam. I was wrong."

"I know," Sam said, unlocking the door. "It's you who..." He stopped her from getting out.

"I mean, about being a bonehead, about...you. Us," Jack said, his uncertainty finally clear to her. Sam squeezed his hand. "I want us to work something out. I...I thought I was protecting you, not calling, not visiting. If it ever came to..." He paused but this time Sam waited, expectant. "Guess I'm trying to say, I really need you, Samantha. I want us to be an 'us.'" He said, then frowned at his own words.

"Then you have some things to work out." Sam smiled happily, mischievously. "Daniel's for Christmas," she said as she climbed down and shut the door. He rolled the passenger window down.

"Hey, don't you run experiments more than once? I still say it's you," Jack called playfully, watching her as she walked to her door. Sam turned and walked backward, continuing on to the door.

"Call me," Sam said, and with a jaunty wave then slipped inside. She heard him honk his horn once before he drove away. As she hung up her coat she smiled as she recalled their tentative lovemaking. There would be a time and place for the real deal but that would be well planned.

For now, she'd clue her little manipulator about this behavior; figure out how to make Daniel pay for his part; and explain something to Landry.

Oh, yes. Sam ran her bath with all these thoughts, and then some about Earth's newest enemies, and how to defeat them, and what to wear to Daniel's for Christmas dinner, and how life with Jack in it would be spicier, and Cassie's return to school, and how nice it felt to be in Jack's arms…

THE END

This was my first ever Stargate story, published on Gateworld's Fanfiction archive as Traveler Enroute1. Just tweaked it here to put it on here. And maybe coax my reluctant muse back to work! Love to know that you think, please talk back. And thanks for reading.