Samantha's stay at the DC hospital had been brief. She flew out to her mother's place in Arizona two days after she fought her way out of B'aal's dungeon.
As her nurse escort arranged her in the wheelchair which the doctor insisted she use, Jack had bounced on the balls of his feet. He hadn't been this nervous since well, he couldn't say. A twisting ball of fear had taken residence in his gut. What if this was the last time I saw her?
She seemed to take pity on him, smiling at him she had reached out, a slip of paper in her hand.
"This is my mom's number."
Taking it from her hand, his fingers grazed over hers.
"You can call...if you want. Not that I'm expecting you to. I know you have a lot to do. You're probably going back to Cheyenne. I don't-"
"Aack!" Jack held his hand up. This reminded her of his interruption of her work in the gate technician's lab, which made her smile again. Leaning down, he settled his hand on her arm and brought his lips close to her ear.
"You're babbling Doctor." Drawing back slightly, he kissed her cheek. "I'll call."
He did call. In fact the first thing her mother asked her when she arrived was, "Who is this Jack?" He had left two messages for her, even before her plane landed.
"He was one of the guys who found me after the car accident, Mom." was her reply.
It was a simple enough cover story. She had driven from Boston to Virginia for a few days vacation after the disastrous presentation. On an unfamiliar road she lost control of her car. A plausible explanation for the bruised ribs, cuts and scrapes. The investigation into Ned Karlanski's death at her apartment had been quietly closed after a few well placed phone calls. A burglary interrupted by a colleague checking on her cat. Schrödinger was left in the care of her downstairs neighbor.
Jack called later that day and again the next. And nearly every day for six weeks. There were a few days he did not call. She never asked, but knew these were likely days he was off world. Restricted from talking about those two days in Colorado and Virginia, they found everything else to discuss. For a man who was everything she distrusted, she found herself at complete ease with him. His daily call became the best part of her day. It was during one of these calls that she surprised herself by inviting him to visit her.
"So you're feeling better? Ribs okay?
"Yes, they still feel a little tender, but my doctor says I can start running again. I've missed exercising."
"So you're cleared for activity?" There was a shy quirk in his voice.
"Yes." She drew the word out, her inflection almost making it a question.
"That's great!" He paused. "So I hear there is some nice hiking out there?"
"Yes, there is. I've mostly hiked around Sedona. Mom and Carl have a condo there."
"Really? That's great, great." Sam couldn't help herself. She tried to muffle her giggle.
"Are you giggling at me Samantha?"
This time she couldn't suppress the snort of laughter that escaped.
"No, Jack, of course not." She could hear his disbelieving huff on the other end.
"You know, I love to go out on the trails around my place in Minnesota but I've never really seen the desert. Well no, yes I've seen deserts, just ones not so local or... friendly. I've been meaning to take some time off. I usually like to just fish on my vacations, but I've never seen- "
"Jack," she stopped him. "You're babbling."
"Yeah, sorry. Uhm..."
"Jack, would you like to...go hiking?"
Two weeks later...
"We're scheduled to report our findings to the IOA in Washington next week."
"I know Jack. I'm sending Daniel. I'm glad you're finally taking some leave. Although, I thought you'd be heading to your cabin?"
"Yeah, well Samantha is in Arizona at her mother's. We've been talking..."
General Hammond smiled slightly. He had noticed a change in his second in command these past months, a calmness had come over him. He was still an excellent soldier, but his demeanor had become settled and... happier.
"I hear Sedona is nice this time of year. Here."
General Hammond pushed a thick file in front of Jack.
Glaring red letters stamped across the front spelled CLASSIFIED. Poking a finger at it he spun it around to read the file name, Clementine.
"I've seen this General." He had. For weeks he had gone over the contents of the file. Preparing himself for the day he could discuss it with its subject.
"I know. I want you to take it to her."
Surprise was apparent on Jack's face.
"The program needs her Jack. I don't expect you to be the one to bring her in, but at least we can start by telling her the truth."
Grasping the file, Jack stood up from his chair, turning to the doorway. As he was about to leave he halted.
"General, there's just one thing. The command order to open this file, it's the only item redacted. There is nothing in this to tell her who ordered the surveillance."
Sighing heavily, Hammond stood also and walked to Jack.
"That is the one piece of information that cannot be disclosed. At least not yet."
Nodding his acceptance, Jack saluted his commanding officer and departed the office.
Agent Kerry Johnson stepped up to her desk hooking a cane on the back of her chair. It was her first day back since the events in Virginia. She was assured that with physical therapy she would reach a full recovery and walk without a limp. Checking over her schedule of upcoming meetings for the week she focused one in particular.
SGC Interdepartmental Program Update, Representative: Dr Daniel Jackson
Typically, General Hammond would make the presentations, if he were unavailable, then Jack. Puzzled by Dr. Jackson's substitution she opened the database of SGC active personnel roster. Scrolling down the list she found the entry she needed, O'Neill, Jonathan, Colonel, USAF: Authorized temporary leave
Closing the file, she next opened her active operation data files folder. Doubling clicking on a file name, a security window opened: Access Denied. Attempting to access the file again she was surprised to find her supervisor standing by her desk.
"Sir, I was attempting to access one of my active operation files, I'm being denied access."
"That file has been closed Agent Johnson. All activity on Clementine is discontinued."
She met him at the airport in Phoenix. Spotting her at the baggage claim he held back and watched her as she scanned the arrivals. She looked good, blond hair loose and curly, her face glowing from a tan. She wore a peasant blouse and a colorful, full skirt. So different from the starched scientist he met in Boston weeks ago.
But not so different, just another side of the woman. Eight weeks of phone conversations may not seem like much of relationship to some people, for Jack it was the best eight weeks of his life. Their conversation would drag on for hours, when time permitted. He admitted his love of classical music. She played the cello. She went on about some research on how two chords notes were found to resemble a Möbius strip, a fundamental mathematical form discovered in the 19th century. He listened patiently, loving the excitement in her voice. He liked motorcycles. Her brother had bought an old Indian when she was 17. When he gave up on it, she spent a summer restoring it.
Despite the ease they spoke over the phone to each other, Jack wondered, what would it be like face to face? Jack adjusted the strap of his carry-on and headed into the arrival area. Catching her eye, he felt the anxious knot in his chest ease as she greeted him with a bright smile. Quickly weaving around the other travels between them, she met him more than half way.
Dropping his carry-on he hesitated. A second passed, and then she launched herself into his arms. Wrapping his around her, he inhaled her scent until he heard an uncomfortable squeak from her. Almost dropping her, he panicked. Smiling up at him, she spoke first.
"Still a little tender."
Unconsciously rubbing her side softly, he replied, "I'll be gentle from now on."
That spark and flare he saw in her eyes weeks ago when she figured out the fix for the gate was back. "Just for now." She answered.
They had departed for Sedona directly from the airport. Samantha figured she would leave the meet the parents awkwardness for another time. She convinced herself that waiting to introduce Jack to her mom and Carl was for his benefit. But deep down it was because she didn't know how her mother would take her being involved with a Colonel in the Air Force.
She hated that everything she told her mother about her "accident" was a lie. Secrets and lies. But they were necessary, Samantha understood this now. She may not admit to it, but her distain for her father's past had softened. Knowing the secret was so much harder than not knowing.
Jack reclined into a mound of pillows at the head of a bed in a Sedona resort condo. Samantha was curled into his side with her head resting on his chest and leg draped over his thighs. His eyes were lightly closed as his fingers traced a feather light pattern over her freckled shoulder.
"What is it Jack?"
"Something's on your mind."
"Of course there is." He retorted as he grabbed a firm hold of her ass cheek.
"Not that Jack."
"No." He watched as she raised her head, settling her chin on his chest so she could look at him. His crass grab of her ass softened and he slid his hand up her back. His other hand gently swept away the unruly strands around her face. She sees right into you. He thought, before continuing, "You're right."
Kissing her lightly on the lips, Jack rose from the bed and walked to his bag, pulling out the file.
"Hammond authorized me to give you this."
Samantha sat up, uncaring of how the bed sheet pooled at her waist, her naked torso illuminated by the warm desert afternoon sunlight.
"My file. Do you... Have you read it?"
Silent for a moment Samantha played with the corner of the manila file. Her fingers tracing over the label.
"Will you tell me?"
"Sure, anything. What do want to know?"
"Everything. I want to know everything Jack."
"Then I'm your man."
A solitary man worked quietly over the crystal engine drive of a teltak.
"Must I what?"
"In our head you are."
"I thought you liked my humming."
"I do, but I would prefer if you change the tune once in awhile."
"I like that song."
"I know. You hum it when you think of her."
Without replying the man placed the last crystal into its slot.
"You've been thinking about her a lot. Since the last report from the T'auri on B'aal's activities.
"She was in trouble."
"I know, but Hammond reported that she survived without major injury."
"I had hoped to keep her out of this."
The symbiote fell silent.
Jacob Carter seated himself at the controls of the teltak and started its engines.
To the lonely cabin he quietly sang.
Oh my darling,
Oh my darling,
Oh my darling Clementine,
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry Clementine.