Author's Note: This fic is written for the Day of Indulgence in honor of Jennghis Kahn's birthday and is therefore indulgent. Beware melodrama and cliches! lol.
Tiny Little Fractures
The stairs descending from the gate were in more disrepair than the MALP had led them to believe and Jack barely caught himself from falling down them as he exited the wormhole. Carter, a few steps behind and to the side of him, wasn't as lucky, materializing right in front of gaping hole, her momentum carrying her straight towards it. Jack made a grab for her, tugging her out of the way.
Thanks to his intervention she missed the crumbled steps, but she did end up careening into him with a small squeak of surprise, almost sending them both over the far edge of the platform. After a few very nimble hops, they managed to regain equilibrium, Carter still clutched tightly against his chest.
They stood there a moment longer than was probably necessary, his hands on her shoulders and Carter's fingers griping at the fabric of his vest. She was staring at some point in the vicinity of his neck before she finally looked up.
"Thank you, sir."
"Sure," he said with a nod.
Their whole Three Stooges routine had only taken moments. The faint sound of Teal'c and Daniel appearing behind them made Jack finally step back away from her, turning in time to see Teal'c grab the back of Daniel's vest before he too fell into the gaping hole.
Probably not their most graceful entrance ever, all things told.
By the time they all finally made it to terra firma, Carter had already busied herself with returning the MALP, her attention perhaps a bit overly intent.
Feeling an inexplicable beat of annoyance, Jack tugged at his hat and caught up with Daniel who was already at the edge of the clearing where a paved road curved off into the distance, the horizon obscured by thick forest.
"There's a city called Timgad one league to the east from here," Daniel said.
Jack craned his neck down the admittedly well-maintained road, but didn't see any signs of civilization. "How do you know that?"
Daniel gestured upwards towards a small billboard. "Because that's what the sign says."
Jack sighed. He'd walked right into that one. "Right. Shall we go see if they're friendly?"
Three miles later when they caught their first sight of Timgad, friendly wasn't the first word that came to Jack's mind. Fortified was more accurate. Graceful brick walls encircled the outer edge of the city, but hardly seemed placed just for aesthetics if the roadside checkpoint of armed guards was any indication.
While not overtly hostile, the soldiers at the city gate were well armed with their own version of guns, requesting that SG-1 wait until the local magistrate could be summoned to meet them.
"They seem surprisingly advanced," Carter observed while they waited. "Electricity, weaponry, transportation."
"Well, we've seen this before," Daniel pointed out. "The Pangarans were pretty much at the same level of technology."
"The Goa'uld must not be aware of this culture or they never would have been allowed to survive," Teal'c noted.
"Or they have a way to defend themselves," Jack said. "Something they might be willing to share?"
"We will soon find out," Teal'c said as a richly dressed man appeared.
He approached them with arms held wide in what might have been a greeting. "Travelers, welcome. You have come through the Great Circle?"
"Yes," Daniel said, stepping forward with a smile. "We are peaceful explorers from the planet Earth."
The man's eyes darted to their weapons as if weighing Daniel's claim, but didn't lose his pleasant expression. "It has been nearly a generation since we have been visited by travelers. It is an honor. I am Cyrus, magistrate of Timgad."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Daniel said.
"Space guns, Daniel," Jack stage whispered, nudging him from behind. "Don't forget to ask about the space guns."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "We are interested to learn about your culture and also perhaps trade between our two people."
Cyrus' eyes, if possible, brightened even further. "Then you have come to the right place. We are a city of trade and commerce and have much to offer."
"Wonderful," Jack said, clapping his hands together.
"But first, I will give you a tour of our wonderful city." He gestured for the to follow him through the checkpoint, eying their weapons again. "There is no need for you to be armed, the city is quite safe."
The guards held their hands out to take their gear.
Jack rested his hands on the butt of his P-90, shaking his head. "We would prefer to hang on to our weapons."
"If that is all right," Daniel tacked on.
"As you wish," Cyrus answered as if it were of no significance to him.
Jack wasn't ready to find his nonchalance comforting, suspecting that it came from the magistrate's belief in their military superiority rather than his trust in his alien visitors. Jack glanced over at Teal'c, but just received the Jaffa version of a shrug in answer to the unspoken question.
"Be aware that Timgad is ruled by the King of Justice and any hostile intentions will not be tolerated." Cyrus still had a smile on his face, but Jack didn't miss the aura of command underneath it.
"We have no such intentions," Daniel promised, matching Cyrus' smile.
"Then let us proceed."
They were led to an electric streetcar that carried them into the center of the city. Their host happily pointed out major sites as they went. It was an impressive city, certainly the most advanced they'd seen in a long time. Order seemed to be the pervading characteristic: wide, clean streets lined with tidy shops and finely dressed citizens out and about seemingly at their leisure.
The streetcar came to a stop at a large open square, lined by tall stone buildings on three sides, the fourth open to a riverfront lined with a wood planked walkway and carefully manicured trees.
"This square was once home to the great mills our people supported themselves with. We are known far and wide for our fine cloth, but now we have harnessed the power of electricity and were able to move our factories outside the city."
Jack really hoped cloth wasn't the only thing they had to trade.
"Wow, look at that," Daniel exclaimed, pointing at a large black stone standing at the center of the plaza. "It looks like an exact replica of the Hammurabi stele! These people must be related to the Neo-Babylonians."
With that, Daniel walked swiftly ahead, his mind already engaged in his newest discovery.
Next to him, Jack could feel Teal'c move to take after Daniel, but Sam stepped forward first. "I'll keep an eye on him, sir," she said, not waiting for an answer before beating a hasty retreat.
There was no reason to think she was trying to get away from him. Jack shook off the bizarre thought and turned back to Cyrus. He was staring after Sam, something of shock on his face.
"You have a woman with you," he observed.
It seemed a casual enough remark, but spoken with a tone Jack had heard far too many times not to take notice of it.
Jack followed the magistrate's gaze, watching Sam and Daniel speak to a group of older men by the large stone slab. The elders seemed to be explaining something to them that Daniel found fascinating. Then, as he watched, Daniel frowned and Sam's posture shifted from relaxed to alarmed.
Unobtrusively, Jack flicked off the safety on his P-90.
"Yes. Is that a problem?" Jack asked, his voice equally mild, but he was already calculating the best exit strategy, very glad he'd insisted on keeping their weapons. Next to him, Teal'c shifted, a subtle move to communicate his readiness for action.
"Of course not," Cyrus replied, his shock once again hidden behind a pleasant smile. "As long as she travels with her husband."
Jack looked up in alarm just in time to see Daniel throw an arm around Carter's shoulders, a broad grin on his face as he nodded emphatically. Carter looked less than thrilled, but had on her best 'please the aliens' smile as she lowered her head to Daniel's shoulder.
Carter's easy acceptance of the pretense told Jack that Daniel must have uncovered some dire consequence for women traveling alone among men. He really wished this planet wasn't the most technologically advanced society they'd come across in a long time or he'd have gladly pulled them all back to the gate right now. These 'marriage' planets tended to be a pain.
By Jack's count, this was the third time Carter had 'married' Daniel off world. Add to that the time she married Teal'c and the time all four of them were 'bonded' and it was pretty much a run of the mill charade they'd had far too much practice with. At this point it was just a general source of amusement. Jack would promise to buy the happy couple a toaster when they got back Earth-side. Teal'c would wish them blessed with many fine children. Then they'd make the deal, bring home the goods, and forget all about it as fast as possible.
Daniel sent Jack a glance and he nodded his understanding of the situation. Nothing they haven't dealt with before. Next to him, Jack could feel Teal'c relax as Cyrus changed the subject, launching into a description of the wonders of the city.
Jack mostly tuned out the words, his attention still on Daniel and Carter. There was absolutely nothing new or strange about them holding hands while they spoke to what turned out to be the local religious leaders. Jack knew that, but it didn't stop it from grating across his skin. He watched their ease with each other; the way Carter touched Daniel without hesitation, her smile open and sincere.
Her laughter drifted across the plaza and Jack's hands tensed around his P-90.
"Is something amiss, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.
"No. Nothing," Jack replied automatically.
He could tell Teal'c didn't believe him this time any more than the last umpteen times he'd asked that question, but Jack remained convinced they would all believe it eventually if he said it often enough.
By this point Daniel was deep in conversation and despite herself, Jack could tell Carter's attention was wandering. She looked back in his direction, a flash of electric connection between them before she quickly dropped his gaze as if unnerved to find him watching her.
"Nothing is wrong," Jack repeated, forcing his eyes away from her and back on the city officials he was here to make a deal with.
The sooner they got off this rock, the better.
The barracks for unmarried men were nice enough, clean single rooms with private baths and comfortable looking beds; Jack just didn't feel like sleeping. He was uneasy, but couldn't be sure of the source. Teal'c seemed content enough that they were safe on this planet and usually that was more than enough for him. But he still stared at his bed and felt no impulse to get into it.
He thought maybe a walk would clear his head and reassure him that everything was as it seemed. It wasn't until he found himself outside the tall, white marble building at the center of town that served as married housing that Jack realized what the hell he was doing.
He wanted to claim he was just checking on the other half of his team, but they'd already checked in by radio and were doubtlessly asleep by now. He was left with very few reasons for loitering in the gardens outside their window, including one large one that couldn't be overlooked no matter how hard he tried.
It had been one of those mistakes where, looking back a month later, there were a dozen tiny decisions that, made differently, could have avoided the situation entirely.
He should have listened to his admittedly over-protective gut and not let Carter head out on the Prometheus on her own. He should have stuck Teal'c or Daniel on there with her, or heck, even gone himself. Having one of them there probably wouldn't have changed what happened, but at least Jack wouldn't have been stuck back on Earth for four days with no chance in hell of finding her, worrying that she might need one of them.
And maybe if one of them had gone, she wouldn't have woken from her nasty head wound by whispering his name. Not his rank, not his honorific. His name. And where he should have said something, anything to break the moment, the unnervingly honest way she looked at him, he had remained silent, letting her see far too clearly how crazed he'd been while she was missing. He wouldn't have held her hand if she hadn't looked at him that way.
Of course, the greatest glaring sin was the faulty logic that convinced him that going over to her house the night after she was released from the infirmary was a good idea. He couldn't have known she would invite him in, or that he would accept, that they wouldn't even make it out of the foyer before he kissed her.
There were a lot of things he hadn't been prepared for that day when he kissed her. He'd done it before, his only reminder one overburdened memory of something that technically never took place, but this kiss wasn't one that could be taken back and it changed the experience entirely. He expected her shock, the long moment she was rendered motionless by surprise, the tempting sensation that despite all of it, they seemed to fit each other.
What he wasn't prepared for was when her shock wore off and her hands slid around his neck, pulling him even closer.
He'd leaned back just for a moment to ask, "Are you sure?"
He didn't expect her to respond by pushing him down the hallway to her bedroom, never letting the kiss end again until every last barrier between them was finally breached.
It was only later that he realized she'd never really answered his question.
It was a bad idea from the start; he knew that even before he'd driven over to her house. There were easily a dozen solid reasons why showing up at her house at three in the morning was probably the single stupidest thing he'd ever done.
He'd always wondered what might happen if they were both weak at the exact same moment.
Now he knew.
All this time later, he was still curious about what happened to her out there in space, drifting in a gas cloud with nothing but a concussion for companionship. He only knew that the experience slipped something free in her and he'd already been hanging without a net for far longer than that.
Years of repression and control gone in an instant.
It wasn't until after when she'd curled up against him, her head on his shoulder while her fingers continued to move, unable to relinquish their drive to explore his skin that the cold hard enormity of their actions began to reassert itself.
"I can't do this," she said, her head still buried against his chest. He felt her say it as much as heard it, her breath and lips brushing over his skin.
"I know," he said, because there had always been a reason they hadn't done this before, even if they had let themselves forget that for a short while. She wouldn't skulk around with this; honored her oaths far too much. Jack knew it would only be a matter of time before the lie grew bigger than their attachment.
Her hands weren't stilled by the enormity of that immutable truth and she lifted up on her elbows, not looking at him, but pressing her lips against his, warm and insistent. He pulled her closer, wanting to feel the weight of her against him, the softness of her skin, knowing this was not an invitation but a goodbye.
They were reluctant to break that last kiss, but eventually they pulled apart, both reaching the junction where one more moment might make it impossible to ever let go. She slipped out of the bed, crossing the room to her bathroom. Pausing, she leaned her head against the edge of the door, her hands clinging to the knobs on either side as if hesitant to cross the threshold.
It was understood that he would be gone by the time she came back out.
"We'll be okay, right?" she finally asked, looking over at him.
He let his eyes travel over her body, unabashedly soaking her in.
"Of course," he said.
He didn't realize he was lying until much too late.
Monday, back at work, repression was easier to slip back into than he would have thought possible, their working relationship solidly built on respect, trust, and a healthy dose of delusion. Four weeks of pretending and he had almost let himself believe they hadn't shattered anything.
Only now was he finally seeing the fault lines, the ones that had been there plain to see all along if he had just looked. Tiny little fractures only growing larger as more time passed, finally illuminated by something as asinine and unthreatening as a fake off world marriage. That fact alone told him the revelation was inevitable.
Neither Daniel nor Teal'c were oblivious enough not to have noticed some fundamental shift. He didn't know if either had even spoken to Sam about it, just felt Daniel watching both of them far too closely. Maybe he'd noticed how much energy they'd put into never being alone, never getting within five feet of each other.
Since Carter's latest 'marriage,' Teal'c hadn't strayed from Jack's side for even a moment as if unsure how he might react in any given situation. And thinking back, he knew it wasn't the first time Teal'c had acted that way in the last four weeks. How could he help but finally see that things weren't as unchanged as they had hoped?
She was in there right now with Daniel in their marital bed, and it wasn't the bed he envied, but the easy companionship he knew they'd be sharing. Jack was the one who knew what it felt like to be inside her, but she wouldn't even look at him anymore.
If Carter thought the pristine professionalism and back-bending courtesy that characterized their new working relationship could make him forget the feel of her, they were both fools, twice over.
What was worse was that he shouldn't even being thinking about this. He was on a mission, on a foreign world with subordinates depending on him and he wasn't sleeping or doing the million other things his hard-earned command demanded. He was sitting on a garden bench outside the immaculate guest quarters driving himself crazy thinking about what might be going on inside.
This was the moment.
This moment was exactly why they'd never crossed that line, why they spent so much energy for so many years shoring it up, making it airtight and completely impenetrable. Because there was no going back from this. There was no fixing what they'd broken.
Her voice was soft, but unmistakable in the night air and Jack fought the urge to curse. He couldn't have her here right now, not with these images still fresh in his mind making a mockery of his control. She hadn't voluntarily been alone with him for even a single moment before this, but there she was like some cruel joke.
"Go back inside, Carter."
There was enough bark to the order to make her take one step back before she thought better of it, moving even closer to him.
"What are you doing out here, sir?" she asked, her eyes scanning their surroundings.
He considered lying, coming up with any excuse for being out here other than the truth, but frankly, he was fresh out. Four weeks of pretense had left him completely exhausted.
"I'm sitting here trying not to be jealous of Daniel."
He stared at his feet, not quite able to look at her as he said it, but he heard her soft breath of surprise. He was breaking all their carefully constructed rules. He couldn't bring himself to care.
Apparently unable to come up with any other response, she simply said, "Sir." That single syllable she'd managed to turn into a complex language of all its own over the years. Tonight, there wasn't the warning he expected, just an uncomfortably large dose of regret that in no way helped the situation.
He grimaced, forcing himself to look up at her. "Not exactly my most shining moment, I know."
Glancing back over her shoulder, Carter seemed to consider the wisdom of just fleeing this conversation all together. For some reason he couldn't fathom, she stayed, actually taking a step closer to him like she had come to some internal decision.
"I've been watching you from the window since you got here," she admitted, tossing her head towards the balcony on the third floor.
Jack looked at her in surprise, knowing he'd been out here for at least an hour already. Her face betrayed obvious embarrassment, but she refused to drop his gaze. He wasn't quite sure what that meant.
"Couldn't sleep?" he asked.
She didn't answer the question, instead staring out over the garden, her arms wrapped tightly across her chest as if warding off a chill.
"This isn't going to work, is it?" It wasn't an accusation, more like a long obvious observation she was finally letting herself realize.
Ah, was all Jack could think. They were really going to have this conversation.
"No, it's not," he said--honesty four weeks too late. He already knew this was the last mission before she'd even come out here. He wished he was better than that, but he'd proven ten times over already that he wasn't.
"What do we do?" she asked.
"I do what I should have done a month ago."
She opened her mouth as if to argue, only to think better of it, reaching out to tug at a nearby branch in agitation. "I never wanted it to come down to this, one of us leaving."
"I know," Jack said, restlessly pushing to his feet. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head, turning back to look at him. "I shouldn't have been naive enough to think it wouldn't change anything."
"Well," he said gamely. "I guess there was always the outside chance once would be enough to get it out of our systems."
She gave him a wry smile. "How's that working for you?"
He raised an eyebrow to remind her who was stalking whom in this situation. "Considering what I've been doing out here for the last few hours, I'd have to say not so great."
Her expression serious once more, she moved to stand next to him, looking like she was having a hard time putting something into words. "It's Daniel," she finally said as if that could rationalize away his obsessive thoughts, her hand reaching for his arm.
It was the simple touch more than anything that convinced him. He stared down at that point of contact, his own fingers sliding across the back of her hand.
"You're making the dangerous assumption that I'm still capable of thinking rationally," he said with a crooked grin.
She laughed softly, her head dropping towards his shoulder and he felt a buzz of awareness crawl over his skin at her nearness. Of its own accord, Jack's mind leaped to the heady reminder of what exactly it was he was finding so hard to forget. It took every ounce of control not to drag her up against him, his hand twitching at his side against the impulse.
Carter didn't miss the movement, catching his eye with painful clarity that she hadn't forgotten any more than he had. It only took that one glance for everything to shift dangerously.
"I probably shouldn't have come down here," she said, her fingers clenching around his arm.
"No," Jack said, ignoring the rational part of his brain that was telling him to back away. "Probably not."
"We used to be smarter than this," she observed as she leaned into him.
"I'm pretty sure we passed stupid a long time ago, Carter," he said as he reached for her waist, narrowing the last bit of distance between them.
"Oh yeah," she agreed.
She kissed him.
As far as kisses went, it was restrained and chaste, but even that brief contact was enough to bottom out his stomach and snap any last bit of hesitation. He pressed forward, pulling her flush against him, and was rewarded with her lips sliding open under his, four weeks of careful distance finally yielding.
His fingers ached for the feel of her skin, but no matter how far gone Jack was, he couldn't quite ignore the annoying reminder at the back of his mind that a public garden on an alien planet was not exactly the best place for this, no matter how tempting.
"Definitely time for you to go back inside now," he forced himself to say, his voice not entirely steady.
"Definitely," she agreed.
Neither of them moved.
Jack smiled, far too tempted to kiss her again, his hand reaching for her face, his fingers sliding into her hair.
"Of course," she said, leaning into the touch, "in order for that to happen, one of us should probably leave at some point."
Jack brushed his lips along the exposed line of her neck, feeling her fingers dig into his arms in response. "Can't argue with that logic," he said against her jaw.
With obvious reluctance, they finally stepped apart, Jack shoving his hand in his pockets. He didn't quite trust himself not to reach for her again.
"Okay," Sam said, her hands clenched together. "I'm going back inside."
Jack nodded. He watched her walk away, beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed. "Carter?" he called out.
She paused, looking back over at him. "Yeah?"
He wasn't exactly sure how to put it into words, he just couldn't forget the way he'd felt that night when she'd soundly shut the door between them again.
"Are you sure?" he finally asked, deciding he needed an actual answer this time.
She took a few steps back towards him, her expression unreadable and Jack braced himself for his worst suspicions.
"Yes," she finally said, giving him a slow smile that did crazy things to his insides. "I'm sure."
"Okay," he said with a nod.
He watched her slip back into the building before seeking out his own bed.
Jack was awake before the first person even made it inside his room, but no amount of training and diligence could help him fend off an armed squadron of soldiers all by himself.
"I don't believe I requested a wake up call," Jack said, holding his arms out to show his surrender.
"You will come with us," one of them demanded as two others moved to grab his arms.
"Where, exactly?" Jack asked, very grateful he'd slept in his BDUs. They were kind enough to give him a moment to slip his shoes on.
"To the tribunal," the tall, broad one answered again. "You are charged with crimes against the King of Justice."
That did not sound promising. Not having much of a choice, Jack went willingly.
They lead him outside and down the street to the main square they had been welcomed in just the day before. This morning there was quite the crowd as if the whole city had turned out for this tribunal thing.
The only good news what that Daniel stood at the front with some of the city elders and didn't seem to be under arrest, but the way this day was going who could really tell?
"What the hell is going on, Daniel?" Jack said when his escort brought him to a halt near him.
"I don't know," Daniel said, taking a moment to eye Jack's new friends. "They have Teal'c locked up in a cell, saying it is for the good of public order whatever that's supposed to mean."
Apparently Teal'c had not gone as quietly as Jack had. "And Carter?"
"They took her out of our room this morning and they weren't fooling around, a dozen armed guards. Something about crimes against the King of Justice. They didn't seem interested in me, though."
"They said the same thing to me." Jack sighed. "I knew this damn place was too good to be true." He should have followed his gut and gated them back out of here the moment their stringent love of law had reared its ugly head.
"Something's happening," Daniel said.
Sure enough, there was a rustle of movement in the crowd. A man Jack recalled was the magistrate walked out of the crowd bearing a large staff and a strange turban type thing on his head. A chair was carried out and set in front of the large stone stele at the center of the square.
Stepping up to the stele, the magistrate, Cyrus, read aloud from it. "Behold the words of the King of Justice. Let the citizen go before my statue and have read out to him the writing on my stele. Let him hear my precious words, and let my monument make clear his rights to him, let him see the law which applies to him, let his heart be set at ease."
Cyrus sat down in the chair. "So says the law," he intoned.
With a flick of his wrist another group of people appeared through an opening in the crowd. It was Carter with six soldiers around her, two of them pushing her forward.
Carter had obviously put up a fight somewhere along the line, a bruise already forming on her cheek and her arms tied behind her back. Most of her guards moved off to stand by the magistrate while only two lead her to the wooden platform lining the riverfront, turning her so her back was to the water.
Jack's own pair of soldiers pushed him forward into the plaza, forcing him down onto his knees. When he protested, trying to push back up to his feet, he felt the press of a weapon to the back of his head.
"Point taken," he mumbled, letting his hands drop back down to his sides.
Daniel stepped forward next to Jack, both of them surprised when no one stopped him. "What is going on?" he demanded.
Cyrus raised a hand, the shuffling of the crowd dying down almost instantly. "This is the tribunal, a sacred gathering used to enforce our laws."
Daniel's brow furrowed. "Are you accusing us of a crime?"
He pointed at Carter. "That woman, your wife, was seen in carnal embrace with one not her husband."
Jack's eyes darted over to Carter. She didn't seem particularly surprised by the charges, giving him a look he translated as 'can you believe this bullshit?'
"Excuse me?" Daniel said, echoing Carter's sentiments.
"With that man," he continued, pointing at Jack.
Daniel looked over at Jack, a question on his face, but all Jack could do was stare back. This had to be a nightmare.
"This must be a mistake," Daniel said.
"We have witnesses who have already provided sworn testimony. The validity of the accusation is not under trial here."
"I can assure you," Daniel continued, still trying to be as diplomatic as possible, "they had no intention of breaking any of your laws, even if they did."
The magistrate ignored Daniel's continued doubt of the so-called charges. "Yet they are broken and punishment must be meted out as our Lord demands."
"We are visitors here," Daniel argued. "We have not yet learned all your laws. Surely it isn't logical to punish them when there was no knowledge of wrong doing."
"The law is here for all to see," the magistrate said, gesturing to the tall black stele. "Here it says: 'If a woman is untrue to her marriage vows, she will be bound and set upon the waters'."
Both Jack and Daniel turned to look at the waters in question. The turbulent river was frothy with icy glacier run off and at least ten feet below the lip of the deck Sam now stood on.
"You have got to be kidding me," Jack said, trying to get back up on his feet again. There was no way he would sit here and let them try to throw Carter off a cliff. This time the soldiers didn't hold back though, shoving him down until his face was pressed against the ground.
One kiss. One tiny damn kiss off world and they ended up smack in the middle of The Scarlet Letter. Let that be a lesson to you, Jack O'Neill. He'd laugh if it wasn't so goddamned serious.
"What if I don't care?" Daniel asked, beginning to sound a little panicked. "She'smy wife, I don't want her punished."
The magistrate looked kindly at Daniel, pity clear on his face for the poor cuckolded husband. "The law is impartial and immutable for this very reason. Your affection blinds you to her sins. But the law does not completely ignore your rights. As husband, the punishment of her partner is in your hands."
"Great," Jack said, hoping Daniel wasn't considering tossing him in the river too. "A little help here?"
Daniel didn't even spare Jack a glance, just waved his hand in a 'let him up' gesture, which luckily the soldiers honored, backing away from him slightly.
"Our ways are different," Daniel said, taking a few steps toward Carter. "If their actions have offended you, we will leave and never return. Just let us go back through the gate."
"It would be an insult to our gods. The woman's punishment stands."
It was clear they wouldn't talk their way out of this. It was time for some serious damage control.
"What if…she didn't consent to what happened?" Jack asked.
Daniel sent him a sharp look, though whether to warn him not to 'help' or because of what his words implied, he didn't know.
"Are you claiming you coerced her?"
"If I did?"
"You would take her place and she would return to her husband if he will have her."
Jack didn't have to think about that choice. "I did. I forced her."
"No." It was the first Carter had spoken since this cluster fuck of a trial had begun.
"Carter," Jack barked, still staring at the magistrate. "So help me, if you don't keep your mouth shut…."
She laughed, a slightly hysterical sound that made his gut burn. "Is that an order, sir?"
Only then did he let himself look at her, their eyes connecting. She looked horrified and guilty and pissed off all at once, refusing to back down even an inch.
"Yes, dammit," he said even though he already knew there was zero chance of her following it.
She shook her head, still staring directly at Jack, a small smile on her lips though personally he couldn't see a single thing here to find amusing. "He never forced me to do anything. It was always my choice."
He was torn between wanting to throttle her and wanting to kiss her again, and he knew she could see it in his face. This was in no way another not so subtle example of why serving together no longer worked. Really.
"So be it," the magistrate said, seemingly glad to have the matter settled.
Carter's guards grabbed her arms, moving her toward the edge. Daniel started forward after her, but the Magistrate's bodyguards stepped in front of him, holding him back.
"Fear not, if the gods so choose, she will survive," Cyrus said.
That was not particularly comforting.
"You do this and it is as good as declaring war against our people!" Daniel warned, tugging against the holds on him. "She is very important on our planet!"
"That is unfortunate, but of no consequence."
With most of the soldiers intent on Daniel, Jack shoved to his feet, catching his own detail unaware and by some miracle managed to make it all the way to Carter. Seeing him coming, she brought one of her guards down by slamming her foot into the back of his knee, kicking her leg into his face as he fell. Jack took care of the other one, happy to finally get the chance to hit someone. With both of the guards laid out, Jack grabbed one of their weapons and scanned around for any plausible exits out of this nightmare.
"You will cease!" the magistrate bellowed.
Jack grabbed Carter's arm, stepping in front of her to look back at the magistrate while she continued to work against her restraints. Soldiers appeared on either side of him, eight in all, each unwaveringly aiming their weapons at Jack. Daniel was on the ground with no less than four guys holding him down.
So much for an exit.
"Move aside," the magistrate said, gesturing at Jack.
"Not a chance in hell," he bit back.
"If you wish to die with her, that is your right." He nodded to the soldiers by his side. "This is your final warning."
Jack shook his head. There was no way he was backing down. The sound of the cocking of weapons was loud in the dead silence of the square and Jack's mind ground furiously for a way out. He didn't see any. This was so not the way he planned to go out.
"I'm sorry, Jack."
Carter said it so quietly that he thought he imagined the words until her arm wrenched out of his grasp.
He spun around in time to see her perched just on the edge.
"Carter," he rasped, lunging forward.
She stepped off.