"General Mansfield, it's good to see you." Allison shook the offered hand and smiled. "Dr Stark is already at GD and will be joining us there."
The general nodded and glanced around the cafe. "Good. General O'Neill should be here any minute. Have you two met before?"
Allison shook her head. Of course she knew who he was in regards to GD's contracts but she'd never heard his name before. This had made getting more information on him more or less impossible. "I understand he's with the part of the Air Force we have several contracts with?"
"That is correct." He waited till she was seated before sitting down himself. "Although I have to warn you, he was reluctant to come to Eureka. I've been trying for quite some time to get him here."
"Then we'll just have to make sure he'll enjoy his trip," Allison said, her tone pleasant while she was already coming up with some idea on how to do just that.
"And there he is." General Mansfield's head snapped up and looked towards the door. He sighed. "Right behind Sheriff Carter."
Allison stood up and turned around towards the door. Her mouth dropped open and she openly stared at the two newcomers. They were standing side by side, grinning and waving in her direction. "Jack!"
"Morning, Allison," they said in unison and Allison shook her head in an effort to clear the cobwebs.
Mansfield watched them, eyebrows drawn together in a frown. "I thought you haven't met before?"
"Last night." O'Neill said with a smile, "I had the pleasure to dine in the presence of Dr Blake." Next to him, Jack Carter coughed. "And others," O'Neill added. "Vincent is the master of all pies."
"And as master of all pies I've made you a snack-box with a variety of them for later," Vincent said, having stepped up to the table in just the right moment. He put down Jack's coffee to go and the small box. "Enjoy, General."
"Call me Jack please," he replied with a smile. "General makes me sound so official."
Vincent stood up taller and nodded before he turned and left. Well, stepped back far enough to be out of the way but close enough to hear every word.
Allison smiled softly. "You've just made his day."
O'Neill shrugged his shoulders. "He brought me pie."
General Mansfield sighed inwardly. He was missing something and, knowing Jack O'Neill, it was something big. He scanned the room again and almost spit out the coffee he'd just taken a sip of. He turned to O'Neill, knowing he wouldn't have missed his reaction, and raised his eyebrows. The man, he had to give it to him, didn't react at all. He kept on smiling and listening to Dr Blake scolding him for not introducing himself properly last night.
From the moment Cassie pointed out the two generals, Sam hid behind her book, only sneaking the occasional look in their direction. She smiled when her Jack made eye-contact, if only briefly, the moment he entered the cafe. And she almost laughed out loud at Allison's surprise at seeing Jack all dressed up.
Now she could almost see the wheels turning as Allison made the connections. Sure enough, a few moments later she was faced with a raised eyebrow from her and Sam grinned back, shrugging her right shoulder in innocence.
She was still grinning when she suddenly found herself looking directly into the face of General Mansfield. Sam winced, not from pain but from embarrassment. She'd just let herself get caught. Jack would probably never let her forget about it either.
"What's wrong?" Cassie asked, her brows furrowed.
"Nothing. And everything." Sam sighed and put the book down. "General Mansfield just recognised me."
"No more incognito Sam, huh?"
"Nope." Sam slowly got up and picked up her crutch. "Though it's not like there were many people left not knowing who I was."
Cassie giggled. "Yeah, but the one person left will probably be the most shocked by the truth."
"Yup." Sam winked at her. "That's why I think today's the perfect day to check out GD myself. I wouldn't want to miss his face after learning that little titbit after all."
Allison, though keeping most of her attention on the two generals, also kept an eye on Sam. She still didn't know if she was miffed or amused at her for not introducing General O'Neill properly the night before. As she was still watching her, she noticed her getting up first. She sent her a questioning look but Sam pretended to not have seen it.
As Sam was getting closer, slowly manoeuvring herself around with the help of her crutch, Allison could see her biting her lower lip. Sam gave her a tiny wave before stopping and saluting the two generals.
"At ease," O'Neill said automatically, getting up and offering her his chair. When she started to protest, he said, "Sit."
"Yes, sir." She avoided Allison's eyes and said, "General Mansfield, how are you?"
"Shouldn't I be the one asking this question, colonel? I'm not the one who was recently shot."
Sam waved her hand dismissively. "I'm fine, sir. GD makes good protective gear."
Allison swallowed hard. After all, she'd seen Sam's injuries and knew just how strong their protective gear was. At the same time she'd never seen any gunshot wounds looking like Sam's, protective gear or not. Whatever she'd been shot with was deadly. Very deadly. Sure, Sam had told her at the time she was working for the Air Force but assuming she was shot and hearing it were still two pretty different things.
General Mansfield nodded. "That's good to hear. Now, what do you think of Global Dynamics' operation here?"
"I've never been there, sir," Sam answered. "Although Dr Blake offered me a tour once I've told her who I was."
"Colonel Carter is still on medical leave," O'Neill said, giving Mansfield a pointed look.
"Yes, but ... just how many of your projects have found their way here?" Mansfield asked in astonishment.
Sam shrugged her shoulders. "A few, sir. I simply never had the time to come here before. Even my current stay started off by accident."
Jack Carter, who'd until now watched the conversation with a huge grin on his face, put an arm around Sam's shoulder and gave her a gently squeeze. "What can I say, General. The women are the smart ones in my family."
General Mansfield's eyebrows raced up to have an emergency meeting with his hairline. "Wait, family?"
Jack O'Neill gave him a companionable pat on the shoulder before waving his hand from one Carter to the other. "It explains a lot though, doesn't it?"
Mansfield sighed. "You're really related to the sheriff?"
"Yes sir. We're distant cousins. Though we didn't know or haven't met until a few weeks ago."
Mansfield shook his head, willing the starting headache away. "Of course you are," he muttered. And just like that the position of Sheriff Carter became more secure. Not that there were any current thoughts of removing him from his office, he was good at it after all, but sometimes, sometimes when he became especially annoying, Mansfield dreamt of firing him.
"Problems?" O'Neill asked, amusement showing in his eyes. He'd spent more than enough time with General Mansfield and heard enough about Sam's cousin to have a pretty good idea of what was going through the General's mind.
Jo pulled out her cell phone and chuckled. She'd just received a text from the sheriff.
GD rotunda, 20 minutes. Bring a camera.
Oh she would. And not only that, she'd bring someone else. Opening her contacts list, she pressed the correct number and waited for the connection to establish.
In the end Sam didn't put up much of a fight about coming to GD with them. Not only was General Mansfield too excited about her being here, but, as she'd pointed out earlier to Cassie, her cover was blown. Truly and completely blown. So she figured she might just as well be there when one Dr Nathan Stark learned the truth. And, after Allison had assured everyone that it should be okay as long as Sam stayed put and wasn't going on the grand tour with them, O'Neill had finally agreed too.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Jack asked, glancing in her direction. "I could always turn around and drive you back to Café Diem."
She smiled at him. "I'm fine, sir. Really."
"We're alone. You're on medical leave so we're just Sam and Jack. Okay?"
In answer Sam put her hand on his knee and he could practically feel her relax into the seat of the car. He gave her hand a quick squeeze before concentrating back on driving. "Nice place."
"You'll have to ask Vincent if you want to know if there're any good fishing spots around. In fact, you'll have to ask Vincent no matter what you want to know."
"Ah." Jack gave her a quick smile. "Café Diem isn't the place for secret conversations then."
"Nope." Sam chuckled. "Which makes me wonder why Vincent hasn't already figured out who I am."
They spent the rest of the drive in companionable silence, following Allison's car. Once they reached GD Jack shut off the engine and turned towards her. "Ready to kick some ass?"
"I just hope Stark's face will be worth it."
Jack tilted his head. "How good is he really?"
"Very. He doesn't know about us but we briefly considered him for the Atlantis mission. Believe it or not but we figured McKay had the better suited personality for it. And after spending time with both I know that we've made the right decision."
He gave her a sceptical look. "Really?"
She nodded. "Their ego is equally big but Rodney always thinks of himself first. If something is too dangerous to do he'll tell everyone about it. Loudly. At the same time he'd do anything to ensure his own survival."
Jack nodded in understanding. "And if he survives the others will too."
"Yes." Sam grinned at him, then pointed out the window. "They're waiting for us, sir."
Jack sighed but opened his door and, after Sam had joined him, made his way over to General Mansfield, Allison and Sheriff Carter.
Nathan sighed. Once again Fargo was nowhere to be found. Sure, everything was prepared for their guests but it would have been nice to have him on standby should anything else be needed. He'd even briefly considered calling for Larry Haberman but that would have meant to admit that he couldn't keep track of his own people. And that simply wouldn't do.
So he stood in the rotunda, waiting for Allison, General Mansfield and their surprise guest.
Of course, the first person to enter was none other than the Sheriff.
"If I wouldn't know any better I would say you look a little bit lost," Carter said in way of greeting. "Where's Fargo?"
Stark barely moved a muscle. "He's running an errand."
"Uh huh." Jack stopped next to Stark, even going as far as mimicking his position. Arms crossed in front of his chest, feet shoulder width apart. "That's not what I have heard."
Stark immediately narrowed his eyes. Was it possible Carter knew what was going on with Fargo? And if so, how was he going to get the information out of him? Preferably without him noticing?
Jack chuckled and shook his head. "Oh, I'm soo not going to tell you."
Stark was so busy glaring at him that he didn't notice their new guest until she was standing next to the sheriff, a wide grin on her face. "Morning, Stark. Nice little hut you've got here." The others had been held up at the security gate but the General had told her to go ahead.
"Sam! How?" He stared at her open-mouthed, shaking his head as he tried to figure out how she'd managed to enter one of the most secure compounds of the country. "Carter," he growled, "did you-?"
"Oh no," Jack held up his hands in a defensive motion. "I've nothing to do with Sam getting into your little fortress. She did that all on her own."
Grabbing the sheriff's arm, he whispered urgently, "Accompany her out, make sure she doesn't touch anything. I'll deal with security later. We've got important visitors coming in today that I have to concentrate on now."
"Ooh! Like VIPs?" Sam asked, batting her eyelashes at Stark. The fresh scar above her brow making it look rather comical. "Think I could stay for an autograph?"
"What!" Stark all but spluttered. She wasn't serious, was she?
"Problems?" General Mansfield asked, having come to a stop in front of Stark.
Nathan jumped a little, having been too focused on Sam to, for the second time this morning, notice someone else enter. Like General Mansfield and Allison who was standing right next to him. "No. Sheriff Carter was just going to leave."
Jack Carter wasn't even thinking about moving. And the only effect Stark's glare had was on the corners of his mouth - they twitched suspiciously before moving upwards.
"Carter!" Stark hissed.
"Yes?" Sam and Jack answered in unison.
"What!" Stark's eyes went unnaturally white as he looked from one to the other. "Carter?"
"Yes?" they answered once again. Then, as if noticing the confusion on his face for the first time, Sam gave a little chuckle before shuffling closer to the sheriff and leaning into him. "What can I say; we've hit it off right from the start. Sometimes it's all you need."
Stark's voice went up several notches. "You are ... married? What about Jack, the other Jack?"
A/N: Thanks for the lovely reviews! I'm glad you enjoyed the last chapter. And I'm truly sorry about this ending, but after I wrote it the next chapter title magically appeared and I had to stop right here and then. Though you have to admit, it's a pretty perfect ending, right?