TITLE: The End and the Beginning (Ship in a Ship)

AUTHOR: Feli

EMAIL: feli.ca@web.de

CATEGORY: Action/Adventure, Romance

SEASON: End of season 6

SPOILERS: Almost all of season 5, plus There But for The Grace Of God (season 1), Upgrades, Divide and Conquer (both season 4), and possibly some more which I can't remember right now

RATING: PG-13

SUMMARY: The last episode of Stargate SG-1's final season: how I would like it to play out…

STATUS: Complete

ARCHIVE: Heliopolis and Fanfiction.net

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The situations and original story are the property of the author. Not to be archived without permission of the author.

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Huge thanks go to my beta extraordinaire Kat

and to all the ship-in-a-ship shippers (you know who you are..!) who gave me the idea for this story

Hope you all enjoy my take on this!





February 2003

~~~~~~~~~~~

"No, it's true. Really" protested Jack. "That creature scared the hell out of me!"

Sam laughed, along with the other two people gathered around her infirmary bed.

"Oh, come on, sir, it was just a timid little mouse."

"It wanted to eat me!" insisted the colonel.

"What's there to eat?" asked Janet, casting a reproachful look towards him. "You've lost weight again, haven't you? When's the last time you had a decent meal?"

"But I have to .."

"No, you don't," the petite doctor interrupted. "Major Carter here is only sporting a sprained ankle and some bruised ribs. You do *not* have to spend all your time here in the infirmary, colonel."

"Doctor Frasier, we only wish to entertain Major Carter while she is ill." Teal'c came to the defense of his CO.

Their bantering was interrupted by a knock on the door. A young airman stuck his head around it and looked at Jack.

"Colonel O'Neill, General Hammond wants to see you in his office a.s.a.p."

Jack nodded. "Okay, I'm coming." With a small smile at Sam he added: "Be right back."

"Not unless you've had something to eat first" Janet called after him.

-----------------

Jack entered the general's office to find him behind his desk, a concerned expression on his face.

"Take a seat, colonel."

Jack sat down and frowned. "Something wrong sir?"

General Hammond nodded and handed Jack a crumpled note. He unfolded it and read.

*Anubis is attacking Earth

Please help!

Colonel Jack O'Neill*

Jack looked up. "I did not write this."

The general nodded again. "I know. We received it this morning, through the quantum mirror from P3R-233. It's from a Colonel O'Neill in an alternate universe."

"But sir," interrupted Jack "you ordered that mirror destroyed, didn't you?"

"I did" replied the general grimly. "They even sent me a tape of the supposed destruction process. I've already contacted the Pentagon to find out what is going on .. !" Pausing, he added: "Now, however, we have this note."

Jack looked at the piece of paper in his hand. *Colonel Jack O'Neill*

So he was an Air Force Colonel in that universe, too. Was there also a Major Carter? Or a Dr. Carter as they'd encountered before?

Ruthlessly he quashed that train of thought and forced himself to return to the matter at hand. "So…if Anubis is attacking Earth .. it probably means our other selves have not met the Asgard and their big, honking space ships."

"Which would mean, that if you go in you could help the SGC there to contact them" concluded the general.

"If we go, sir?"

General Hammond sighed. "I don't want to *order* you to go. SG1 has been through a lot lately, Major Carter is still in the infirmary and frankly, colonel, you look like you haven't slept in ages."

With another sigh the general went on: "On the other hand we're talking about .. well, about ourselves here, aren't we?"

Then, raising his head to look the colonel in the eye, he added: "And we don't know for sure what the reasons behind Anubis' attack are."

Jack nodded, understanding. "I'll discuss the situation with my team, sir. I want their opinion on this."

"Very well," General Hammond agreed.

-----------------

On his way back to the infirmary Jack thought about the mirror. Memories of another alternate universe flashed through his mind.

Sam as his wife. Kissing him. That Sam had been a civilian, working for the SGC or SGA as they had called their base. She'd been a civilian and they'd been free to love each other. To get married and maybe some day even have children.

Of course, in that reality he had already died.

And then there was the reality Daniel had been to after they'd first discovered the mirror. Jack had never mentioned to anyone that Daniel had told him a lot about that Sam and Jack there.

Although Daniel could only spend a few hours in that reality before Earth was destroyed, he'd had enough time to experience how close the bond between Jack's and Sam's other selves had been. How much they were in love. And how naturally their love had been accepted by their superiors and colleagues.

Of course, in that reality he had already died, too.

-----------------

"Sir, we really have no way of knowing why and how Anubis will attack in the alternate universe. But whatever it is, I think we have to check it out."

"I agree with you, Major Carter," said Teal'c. The proceedings in this alternate reality could prove to be valuable information for our survival."

Jack nodded and got to his feet. "Okay then, Teal'c and I will check it out. I'll talk to General Hammond." He started towards the door.

"But, sir...!"

"Yes, major?" Jack turned back towards the bed, an unyielding expression on his face.

"I...uh.." Sam swallowed and sank back into the pillows. With a resigned wave of her hand she said: "Nothing, sir."

-----------------

An hour later Jack and Teal'c were geared up and ready to go. The mirror had been brought to the mountain and now stood, heavily guarded, in the gateroom. One of the technicians handed Jack the remote control, that had been sent through the mirror with the note.

"We've checked it a dozen times, sir. You can dial only one reality with it, they must have found a way to sort of freeze the mirror to our reality."

"Okay, so when we want to return here, it'll only dial up our reality, right?" Jack looked at the man questioningly.

"Uhm...yes..I suppose," came the hesitant answer.

"You suppose?" exclaimed Jack incredulously. Teal'c raised an eyebrow.

-----------------

"So, can I finally get out of here?" demanded Sam while Janet carefully finished her examination of Sam's ribs.

The doctor shook her head and smiled. "You know, you're starting to sound a lot like Colonel O'Neill... ."

Sam blushed. "Well, what do you expect me to say after I've been stuck in here for days? That I wanna stay a bit longer?"

"I couldn't even accompany him on the mission" she muttered under her breath.

Janet sat down on the corner of the bed. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"About what?" Sam stalled.

"About the colonel and you."

"There is no the colonel and me. He's my commanding officer, that's it." Sam accompanied her statement with a forceful nod of her head.

Janet simply looked at her. "Aha. Then what's got you so riled up?"

Her patient sighed. "I don't know. It just feels like...don't know...I should be with them on that mission."

"But you can't walk, " Janet pointed out "and you know it."

"Of course, I know that. But still.. . What if he needs my help? Who knows what they're up against there?" Sam asked agitatedly.

Janet put her hand on her friend's shoulder and turned Sam around to face her. "Sam, Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c are the best. They'll be fine!"

Sam let her head hang dejectedly. With a barely audible voice she whispered: "Yeah. So what if he doesn't need me anymore?"

"Sam! What in the world are you talking about? You're a brilliant scientist and an exceptional officer; this entire program wouldn't even exist without you.."

"That's not what I mean" interrupted Sam.

She raised her head and Janet saw tears glistening in her eyes. "What if he doesn't need *me* anymore? If he doesn't want me in his life for anything but a scientist and an officer?"

"Sam?!"

"No, Janet, think about it. It's been two years since he admitted his feelings. Two years! And he hasn't given me any indication that he still feels that way."

"But you haven't given him any more clues as to what you're feeling either, did you?" Janet asked gently.

Sam shook her head. "The regulations forbid.."

Janet interrupted her. "Yeah, yeah, the regulations forbid, I know. And so does he!" She waited till her words sank in. Then she continued.

"Come on, get yourself together. The only reason you're not on this mission is because you're injured; you know that as well as I do. And as far as the colonel's feelings for you are concerned...you should have seen his face when he carried you through the gate last week. And he spent the last three days in the infirmary, even when I threatened to do some extra blood tests on him," Janet ended, giggling.

Sam's face brightened up a bit with that memory. "I guess you're right," she said. "But still, something's gotta happen. I don't wanna go on like this."

Janet patted her on the shoulder encouragingly. "I'm sure you're going to find a solution. For now I'm officially releasing you out of the infirmary." She handed Sam a pair of crutches.

"Here. Off you go but I want to see you tonight to check on you!"

"Okay, ma'm." Sam took the crutches and hobbled towards the door. Before she left she turned around once more.

"Thanks, Janet. For everything."

Janet smiled. "You're welcome. After all, that's what doctors are for."

-----------------

Jack and Teal'c crept silently down the hallway of the alternate SGC. So far everything looked exactly like it did in their reality. Except for the various signs of destruction.

Pieces of the ceiling lay in smoking piles on the ground, doors had been ripped out of their frames by explosions and staff weapon burns were drawn along the walls like the workings of an expressionistic artist.

And there were no sounds, no signs of life anywhere.

When they reached the end of the hallway they stopped. The smell of burned human flesh attacked Jack's nostrils. He turned the corner, already knowing what he would find.

Six SGC guards lay there in front of the doors leading to the control room.

Teal'c knelt down beside one of them and turned him on his back.

"They were all killed by staff weapon blasts, O'Neill."

Jack nodded grimly. Quickly he searched another guard for the security pass to the control room. He opened the doors and entered.

"Damn."

With the blast doors of the gateroom window closed, the only illumination came from the various fires, burning in the now empty hulls of the computers and monitors in the room. The fires cast an eerie flickering light on the dead bodies of the technicians and two more guards.

Jack's gaze was drawn to the blinking green symbols, on what was apparently the only functioning screen left. He felt a cold vise clamp around his chest when he took in the shiny gold hair of the female form that was slumped lifelessly over the keyboard, of the SGC's main computer. An agonized moan escaped his lips.

Teal'c stepped closer to take a look at the screen. "I recognize these symbols, O'Neill. It seems as if they were trying to contact the Tok'ra but were unable to complete the dialing sequence."

Jack only listened with half an ear as he carefully lifted Sam's shoulders off the keyboard. He noted that she was wearing an Air Force uniform. Raising her body into a sitting position he was able to make out the name tag: *Major Carter*. He swallowed.

Teal'c bent down to pick up a sheet of paper, that had sailed to the floor unnoticed, when Jack had moved Sam's body. He perused it, then handed it to Jack.

"O'Neill, I believe this is the information they were trying to relay to the Tok'ra."

After reading it Jack nodded. "They found out the coordinates to Anubis' home planet. No wonder that damn snake made sure that everybody here got killed twice over." He folded the paper and stowed it in his breast pocket.

"What about General Hammond and...O'Neill, O'Neill?" asked Teal'c. "They have not yet been accounted for."

"Yeah, you're right, Teal'c. C'mon, let's check the briefing room and the gateroom."

For an eternally long moment Jack stood, unmoving, looking down at Sam's face. He raised his hand as if to touch, then let it fall to his side again. Wordlessly he turned and headed towards the stairs.

They found them in the gateroom: bodies buried under piles of debris or lying on the ramp to the gate. General Hammond lay face-down on the floor, still gripping a zat gun in his outstretched hand. It was a scene right out of Jack's worst nightmare.

He was about to go over to the general when a hoarse groan made him stop. He turned to look at Teal'c, who indicated a pile of stones in one corner, where an explosion had obviously ripped out a part of the wall.

"The sound seems to have come from there, O'Neill."

Guns at the ready Jack and Teal'c made their way over to the collapsed structure. Recognizing the SGC insignia on the arm, the only visible part of the prone form, Jack put his gun aside and started digging.

It was Colonel O'Neill.

When they had him almost freed the colonel moaned again and opened his eyes. He focused on Jack and whispered: "You came."

Jack could hardly find his voice as he replied. "I'm sorry."

The colonel shook his head. "Don't be sor.." A spasm seized him and he doubled over in pain, coughing up blood.

"He seems to be very severely injured, O'Neill" observed Teal'c with a frown. "We should get him back to our SGC as soon as possible." Jack nodded in agreement.

The spasms and coughing subsided. The colonel looked at them.

"No, don't take me with you. I'm as good as dead anyway. But take care of Sam...Major Carter...for me. Please."

Jack hissed in agony, drawing his hand through his hair in a helpless gesture that told his alternate self, better than words, about Sam's fate.

All life seemed to flow out of the colonel. He closed his eyes, despair washing over his features like a tidal wave. In a barely audible voice he whispered: "I never even told her.. ."

-----------------

Sam cursed. She'd wanted to be in the gateroom when Jack and Teal'c returned, but with the crutches she hadn't been fast enough when the alarm sounded. Rounding a corner she found herself face to face with her commanding officer.

At the sight of her a fire flared to life in Jack's eyes. A fierce longing, so intense in its heat, it made Sam's breath catch in her throat. But as quickly as it had come the fire disappeared, to be replaced by the colonel's usual friendly and cynical expression. The one with which he kept the world at a distance and his feelings to himself.

"Hey Carter, back on your feet again. That's great!"

Sam smiled. "Good to have you back, too, sir. How'd the mission go?"

"Aw, piece o' cake, Carter," Jack groused.

Then he sobered, the joy over her apparent recovery overridden by the memory of what he and Teal'c had been through in the alternate universe. Jack looked at Sam seriously and shook his head.

"We couldn't save them."

Sam swallowed. "So Anubis..?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. Come on, I was just on my way to get you. General Hammond's waiting in the briefing room."

-----------------

Half an hour later Jack and Teal'c had finished their report.

"I think that's about it," concluded Jack. "We have the coordinates to Anubis' home planet and we know that he's probably preparing his fleet to attack us. Now we only need a plan to stop him."

Sam leaned forward. "I think we should contact the Tok'ra. I know that they have several operatives in Anubis' outer circle. With the coordinates to his base, they could get closer to him and find out if his plan is the same as in the reality you've just come back from."

General Hammond nodded in agreement. "We'll contact the Tok'ra immediately. Dismissed."



1.1.1.1.1.1 Two weeks later

~~~~~~~~~~~~

*I never even told her.. .*

Those words were haunting him. Of all the realities they'd seen or heard of, the one he and Teal'c had just been to, seemed to be the one most similar to their own.

*I never even told her.. .*

Jack shivered and huddled deeper into his jacket. The night was clear, and pleasantly warm for early March, but he felt cold. Usually sitting out here on his roof deck, with his telescope and only the stars for company, had a calming effect on him. Tonight it didn't work though, hadn't worked for the past two weeks. He felt unsettled, out of balance, and he didn't even know why.

"Yeah, right." Jack laughed at himself sarcastically. "Like hell I don't." He stood up and gazed out over the trees and roof tops of the neighboring houses.

Sam had made her wishes plain after Anise had nearly killed him with her zatarc detector. Sam didn't want his admission – or hers for that matter – to leave the room. Which was fine with him. More than fine.

He'd been scared. After screwing up his marriage with Sara he hadn't expected to... . To what? Jack gripped the railing tighter, fighting with himself to form the words, to at least admit to himself what he was feeling.

"I'm in love with her." He whispered the words. "I'm in love with Sam Carter."

Alright, he'd said it. Now what? Jack turned and sat back down behind the telescope.

He'd said the words but nothing had changed. Carter was still his 2IC and she had made it clear that nothing could ever happen between them as long as that was the case. And as much as it frustrated him he agreed.

But could he...should he...go on like that?

Tomorrow they were going to take out Anubis and it could well be their last battle ever. Should he go on this mission without talking to Sam? And if he didn't talk to her, would *his* last words be the same ones that had died on the other colonel's lips?

Jack shook himself. "Boy, what am I thinking here? We're so gonna kick that snakehead's butt. And then...!"

Jack straightened and rose. He'd made a decision and he'd do everything he could to make it work.

-----------------

Entering the briefing room the next morning SG1 found General Hammond and Jacob Carter already there. After a short round of greetings and a hug for Sam from her father everybody settled around the table to listen to Jacob's report.

"Anubis' home base is on a remote planet called Dalgun. It's an uninhabited piece of rock with a couple of trees."

At the mention of trees Jack looked up and found Sam grinning at him mischievously. Teal'c raised an eyebrow.

Jacob, who had wordlessly watched the interlude between his daughter and her CO, continued. "Anubis has built up a sizeable fleet, which includes five new motherships of a kind we haven't encountered before. They apparently outmatch Asgard ships in every aspect: speed, weapons power, defense technology... ."

Jack put down the pen he'd been toying with. "So there goes our plan to have the Asgard blow that snakehead out of the sky once and for all."

Sam leaned forward. "What can we do then? Is there another option to destroy the ships?"

Jacob nodded. "There is, Sam."

A click on the remote control activated the rear screen projector. Jacob pointed to the three-dimensional model of one of Anubis' new motherships

"The ship's central power core is located here, on this deck. It's protected by a new generation of force fields and the only way to get in is through this door here, on the left."

"What do you mean, new generation of force fields?" interrupted Sam.

"They're enclosed by erratic laser beams that make it impossible to even get in the vicinity of the control panel that deactivates the force fields." Jacob paused for a moment. "Of course, first you have to get past the guards outside of the room."

"How many guards are there, Jacob Carter?" asked Teal'c.

"There are two here, at the beginning of this corridor." Jacob indicated the corridor that led to the control room. "And two more directly in front of the door."

"Swell" remarked Jack sarcastically. "So, just for the sake of the argument: let's say we get past the guards, around the laser beams and through the force fields. What then?"

Sam was quick with an answer: "The power core probably contains naquadah," she shot a questioning look at her father, who confirmed her assumption with a nod. "So, if we manage to blow up the power core the ship will explode."

Jack grimaced. "Sounds awfully familiar."

Sam agreed. "Yes, sir, it's very similar to what we did to Apophis' ship when we had the Atoniek's armbands."

For a moment they both sat and looked at each other; frozen in place with the memories of what had passed between them when they thought that Sam was trapped behind the force field.

Jack swallowed hard. He felt dizzy and couldn't tear his gaze away from the longing look in Sam's eyes. He remembered how she had looked at him on Apophis' ship: with despair but also with the same yearning for him he could see now. Why hadn't he noticed it before?

The sound of General Hammond clearing his throat audibly brought both of them back to the present. Teal'c returned to the problem at hand.

"This plan will only work if we destroy all five ships simultaneously, General Hammond."

"You're absolutely right, Teal'c" the general agreed. "Therefore SG-teams 3, 5 and 6 will accompany you on the mission."

"Alright, then." Jacob stood up. "We must leave."

"Ah, ah! No!" Jack wagged his finger resolutely. "We're not going anywhere until you've told us *everything* we need to know." He glared at Jacob.

"Colonel…." General Hammond tried to intercede.

"General!" countered Jack, getting to his feet. "If the Tok'ra have a plan that we are supposed to carry out, then I want to know exactly what we're getting into…" another glare at Jacob "..*before* we get into it!"

Jack braced his legs and planted his hands firmly on the conference table, fully prepared to enter a staring-down contest with Jacob. Jacob crossed his arms over his chest and glared back unperturbed, not willing to back down either.

The humor in the situation was not lost on Sam. A – totally unprofessional – giggle escaped her lips at the sight of the two men. Four pairs of eyes turned to her in astonishment, which only provoked Sam to burst into uncontrollable laughter.

"Major Carter, are you alright?" asked Teal'c, after some time.

Sam made an effort to get herself together again. "Uhm..yes, Teal'c. Thank you."

Slowly she raised her eyes to meet Jack's but she couldn't detect what he was thinking. "Sorry, sir. Please go on with…uhm…" she waved her hand in a helpless gesture, "with…this."

Jack turned his attention back to Jacob. The older man looked at him with a small smile and said, "We have a two day trip in a cargo ship ahead of us. I promise I'll explain everything to you then, but now we really have to get going."



1.1.1.1.1.2 Two days later

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob searched the ship for his daughter. They only had an hour left before they were to arrive at their designated location and he wanted to talk to her. He finally found her in the sleeping quarters of the ship, getting geared up.

"Sam?" She turned around at the sound of his voice and smiled. "Hi, Dad. Are we there already?"

Jacob shook his head. "No, it'll be at least an hour till we arrive. But I want to talk to you."

Sam smiled again and sat down on her sleeping bag. Patting the space next to her invitingly she inquired, "About what?"

Jacob lowered himself to the floor beside her. "About Jack. You and Jack, to be precise."

Sam sighed. "Why does everybody think they need to ask me that?" she muttered under her breath. Louder she then stated: "Jack O'Neill is my commanding officer. That's the only me and Jack there is!"

Her father looked at her steadily. Then his features softened and with a tender voice he asked her: "And that's *all* you want?"

Sam was about to affirm his question but when she saw the look in her father's eyes – so full of love and compassion for her – she knew she couldn't lie to him. Instead she buried her face in her hands, shivering.

"Dad, what am I supposed to do?"

Jacob put a comforting arm around her slender shoulders and pulled her close. "Do you love him?"

"Yes" she whispered.

"Does he love you?"

Sam looked up again, sadness in her eyes. "I'm not sure. I mean...he once told me...sort of...that he cares, and at that time I thought he loved me."

Jacob nodded; he'd heard the rumors about what had supposedly happened on Apophis' ship.

"But now?" Sam went on. "Maybe it's my fault. I told him that there couldn't be anything between us. Maybe he thinks I don't care as much. I just don't know."

Jacob pondered her words. He turned sideways and, framing his daughter's face in his hands, said, "I want you to be happy. I know I've raised you to be strong and responsible, to weigh the possible consequences of your actions carefully, and you've grown into the most wonderful, the most special daughter a father could have."

Sam gazed up at him speechlessly, the joy that his unexpected praise brought, slowly spreading across her face. Jacob let go of her head to take her hands in his.

"But most of all I want you to be happy! And if it is Jack who can make you happy...," he shot her an incredulous look, "...however unbelievable that may sound to me..., then go to him. Don't waste any more time."

Sam swallowed, totally bereft of words. With tears in her eyes she leaned forward and hugged her father tightly. Jacob held her close for a long moment.

After a while he untangled himself from her and got to his feet. Smiling, he admonished, "And tell that colonel of yours that if he fails, for even one second, to make you the happiest woman in this galaxy or any other I'll shoot him

-----------------

"We have arrived at the coordinates" announced Teal'c. "The ship with Anubis' new Jaffa will be here soon."

Jack shouldered his P90. "Okay, Teal'c. Remember, only a couple of shots to make them stop. We'll need their ship."

Teal'c nodded, not taking his eyes of the control screen.

Jack then called out to the others. "Jacob, Major Carter, and SG-5, get ready for the transportation rings. We'll go first. SG-3 and 6, you follow a.s.a.p."

It all happened very quickly. When the Jaffa ship was close enough, Teal'c decloaked and fired. He apparently managed to hit the engines because the ship stopped, according to plan. Teal'c signaled Major Griff to activate the transportation rings and the first group disappeared. SG-3 and 6 immediately gathered in the circle on the floor, to be sent off after the others by Teal'c.

Soon thereafter Teal'c's radio buzzed to life with the sound of Jacob Carter's voice.

"Teal'c, we have the ship under our control. You can report to General Hammond and tell him that we will proceed according to the plan."

He was interrupted by a sniggering Jack. "Yeah, and Teal'c, tell the general that the Barbie doll make-up set is coming in very handy! The guys are having a blast... ."

Teal'c didn't respond to that, although his eyebrow did arch up higher than ever before. Then he heard Jacob admonish Jack that he would have to use the make-up set as well. Jack's indignant 'whahat..me?' even made Teal'c's lips twitch in a telltale smile. He switched off the connection to report to General Hammond.

-----------------

The general stood discussing the medical files of SG-8 with Janet Frasier when an SF neared.

"Sir, SG-1 has just reported in. They have the Jaffa ship under control and will be reaching Dalgun soon."

General Hammond smiled at the SF and nodded a thank you, but the airman wasn't finished. Nervously stepping from one foot to the other he said: "Ahem, sir...? Colonel O'Neill also sent the message for you that Major Griff claimed all of Barbie's fluffy pink eye shadow for himself..., sir."

The general couldn't hide his grin at receiving this message from his 2IC. Poor Major Griff would never be able to live this down. With another nod he dismissed the SF.

Janet looked at the SGC commander questioningly. "Barbie? What kind of a plan is that?"

The general hurried to explain: "Anubis has recently defeated some minor Goa'uld. He gave the Jaffa the option to either die or serve him. The ship SG-1 and the others have captured was to transport Anubis' new Jaffa to his home planet."

Janet brightened. "So they're pretending to be those Jaffa in order to gain access to Anubis. And they're disguising themselves with Barbie make-up?"

General Hammond blushed slightly. "It was rather late when we remembered that they'd need something to fake the Jaffa marks on their foreheads. Luckily I still had my granddaughter's Barbie make-up set in the car."

Janet laughed. "Ah, I see. Good thinking, sir." Then she sobered. "But what about Major Carter and Teal'c, sir? They can't pose as Jaffa, can they?"

The general rested a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Teal'c is going to stay on our cargo ship as backup and Jacob will stay on the Jaffa ship. As for Major Carter...the only real asset this Goa'uld apparently had was a scientific specialist of some kind. The woman seems to be of great interest to Anubis, therefore we've decided that Major Carter is going to take on her role. We need someone in the heart of Anubis' base because it houses the only control room from where all force field protectors can be deactivated simultaneously.

-----------------

Back on the ship Jack paced agitatedly in front of the curtain where Sam was putting on the scientist's clothes. He felt like an idiot in his 'dress'. Yes, dress was the only word to correctly describe the hideous costume he was currently wearing. Why couldn't he pose as one of the Jaffa, too? And why did men from this whatever-it-was-called world not wear *normal* clothes? Like pants, for crying out loud!

He turned and nearly tripped over the hem of his caftan-style robe. His cursing became louder and more inventive, until Sam's voice from behind the curtain silenced him.

"Colonel? I'm coming out. But you have to promise me not to laugh."

Jack grimaced. "Believe me, Carter, nothing could look more ridiculous than what I'm wearing here."

Drawing back the curtain Sam stepped into the room.

The words got stuck in Jack's throat as he took in the vision that stood before him. Sam's body was encased in a long, shimmering sheath of silk that flowed gently around her, while still managing to hug her every curve like a smooth caress.

After a stunned second Jack even remembered to draw in a much needed breath. Of course he knew that Sam was beautiful, had known it from the beginning, but this was...this was... .

"Carter!?"

Sam looked up at him with an embarrassed expression. "I know, sir, I'm sorry. But all the clothes in there are like this. This is actually the only dress I could find in which I can move around somewhat close to normal. Although I definitely can't hide my Beretta anywhere... . "

Jack took a step closer and hesitantly touched the silky material on her shoulder. She was so beautiful and he had to tell her. All. Tell her what he felt, what she meant to him. Tell her how much he wanted to be with her, not only as CO and team member but so much more. Tell her how much he needed her.

Tell her about his letter of resignation that would be on the general's desk as soon as this mission was over.

Jack took another deep breath and opened his mouth when Jacob's voice sounded over the speaker system.

"We're entering the atmosphere now. Everyone take their positions."

Jack let his hand drop off Sam's shoulder as if he had burned himself. Fighting to get himself back under control he smiled wistfully at her.

"After you, major."

-----------------

They were already expected by Anubis' first prime and a group of Jaffa.

The SG-Jaffa stepped out of the ship in rows of two and were immediately ordered to accompany their new 'colleagues' into the temple-like structure that was obviously Anubis' home. After them Sam exited the ship, with Jack half a step behind her.

Sam straightened her shoulders and walked up to the first prime. "I am Marl'an, the scientist."

The head Jaffa looked her over dispassionately, then motioned for them to follow with a curt nod.

"Your new lord Anubis requests your immediate attendance."

Through a maze of corridors and hallways Sam and Jack were taken into the heart of the temple. Anubis' first prime left them in an ornately decorated ante-chamber and disappeared behind a door on the other side of the room. Sam glimpsed a row of blinking crystals and switches on a control board before the door fell shut.

"Sir, this might be the control room we need to get into in order to deactivate the force field protectors."

Jack's reply was prevented by the entrance of the tall, black-cloaked figure of Anubis.

"Bow to your lord!" one of the Jaffa with him ordered.

Jack inwardly cursed. 'God, this was getting so old' .

Nevertheless he lowered his head slightly, in a gesture that was *just* this side of not being insulting. Sam did the same.

Anubis' voice was raspy behind the mask when he addressed Sam.

"You are the torture specialist that will help me extract all the information I need from the Tau'ri…without letting them die too soon?"

Jack froze. Torture? Jacob had said that Anubis was expecting a scientist of some sort and they had assumed that Sam was perfect for the role. But torture?

Sam was stunned as well. She hadn't anticipated this turn of events. But it didn't really matter what kind of 'scientist' Anubis thought her to be, as long as she didn't have to prove her 'skills' to him. Therefore she nodded in reply.

Anubis turned to Jack. Although his eyes were hidden behind the mask Jack was sure he detected disdain in those expressionless features. Which was good because it was exactly how Jack felt, too.

"Who are you?"

Sam forestalled Jack's answer as arranged. "He is my assistant."

Jack had to admit that his excuse for accompanying Sam didn't sound so convincing any longer, given that they now knew what kind of 'scientist' Sam supposedly was.

Anubis seemed to think so, too, because his voice had a suspicious undertone when he asked "What do you need an assistant for?"

Sam swallowed nervously. "He…ah… I sometimes…test new methods on him."

Anubis wasn't impressed. "Then he is expendable. You will have more than enough *test material* soon."

Turning to his Jaffa he barked: "Take him away!"

"No!" exclaimed Sam anxiously. "I need him!"

The black mask focused on her again. In a deceptively soft tone Anubis inquired: "Is there something else you need your *assistant* for besides testing new torture methods?"

Jack didn't like the direction the discussion was going, didn't like it at all. He wasn't overly concerned for his own safety; hell, he'd been imprisoned more times that he cared to count. But with the way Sam was looking in that dress… . If Anubis had designs to make Sam his new queen then he had another thought coming!

Sam seemed rooted to the spot, as the implications of Anubis' question sank in. But then she gathered herself.

Raising her hand to sensuously draw her thumb across Jack's lips, she murmured in a husky voice: "One does not always have to exclude the other… ."

Jack shivered involuntarily at Sam's unexpected assault on his senses, but his momentary lapse of control seemed to convince Anubis of the truth in Sam's words.

"Take them to their quarters!" With that order Anubis turned and left.

-----------------

The second they were left alone in their quarters Jack whirled around to Sam. "Did I just hear you tell that snake that you like to use me as your sex slave?!"

Sam tried hard not to laugh at the look of indignant incredulity and hurt male pride in his eyes. "I'm sorry, sir" she managed with a straight face. Then her composure crumbled. Giggling she pointed at his robe. "But you have to admit that it sounds quite believable considering what you're wearing."

Jack slumped down to the floor. Here he was, all riled up with worry about her safety and she was making fun of him. Like he'd wanted to put that thing on… .

Sam knelt down next to him and put her hand lightly on his arm. "I'm sorry, sir" she apologized again. "It was the only thing I could think of quickly enough."

Jack gave her a wry grin. "It's okay, you did the right thing, Carter. Just…don't tell anybody when we get back, okay!?"

"Okay." Sam smiled back. "Now, about this getting back: I'm pretty sure that we already know where the control center is. It's far enough from the entrance, not easily accessible, and did you notice the guards that were patrolling there?"

Jack nodded. "Yes, I did. Two at the entrance to the control room, two at the chamber where we were, and several more in the room itself. Although I suppose that those go with Anubis when he leaves."

Standing up, he reached down and started pulling the robe up. As a striptease goes, it wasn't the sexiest one Sam had ever seen, but the sight of her CO wearing his customary BDUs and t-shirt underneath, complete with his P90 and a zat fastened to his belt, more than made up for it.

"We've got two hours to deactivate the force fields," Jack's voice was muffled by the robe he was pulling over his head, "so we should come up with a plan fast."

Finally he was done. Flinging the unwanted piece of clothing aside he looked at Sam. "Any ideas?"

-----------------

Sam opened the door to their quarters resolutely and motioned to the guard outside.

"Come here and take at look at this. How am I supposed to sleep in here? It is outrageous."

She kept complaining as she drew the hapless guard into the room and quickly shut the door.

"Sweet dreams!" wished Jack as the metallic blue fire of the zat arced across the man.

The guard crashed to the floor with a thud. "Okay, let's go!" Jack motioned to Sam.

They made it undetected to the entrance of the corridor, leading to the ante-chamber. Jack spied around the corner carefully, then held up two fingers to indicate the number of Jaffa guarding the door to the chamber. Sam nodded and stepped out into the open, while Jack hid behind one of the tapestries that lined both sides of the corridor.

Sam walked up to the guards and demanded: "I want to see our lord Anubis!"

The guard nodded and opened the door for her. Back in his hiding place a little of the tension left Jack. Maybe they would make it through this after all.

"What do you want?" asked Anubis irritably. "I do not wish to be disturbed!"

Sam fought to keep up the cool façade she'd been presenting. Plastering what she hoped was a sensuous smile on her face, she replied: "I would like to demonstrate one of my latest *inventions* to you. It is very effective in providing a slow and painful death while the victim stays conscious till the very end."

Anubis regarded her silently for a long time. Then he nodded.

"Very well. Where is your assistant?"

Sam gave a small spurt of laughter. "He is…*exhausted* after my latest experiment and is currently of no use to me. But I'm sure you can spare one or two of your Jaffa!"

Her cold-hearted disregard for the lives of others seemed to impress Anubis. At Sam's insistence, that the demonstration would have to take place outside of the temple, they left, Anubis ordering the two guards at the chamber door to follow them.

As soon as they were gone Jack left his hiding place and sprinted towards the door. He rushed inside and zatted the Jaffa at the entrance to the control room before they could sound an alarm. Quickly he tied them up and dragged their unconscious forms behind a large chest.

Jack went over to the control room entrance and pressed his ear against the door. He swore softly when he heard voices inside. Sam hadn't managed to draw all of the Jaffa away. He could only hope that there weren't too many.

Carefully Jack inched the door open. He saw one man with his back to him, apparently talking to someone who was out of Jack's sight.

Jack drew in a deep breath. He had to risk it. Throwing the door open he burst into the room and fired. The Jaffa dropped to the floor and Jack immediately fired at the spot where he expected the other guard to be. But the only thing he hit was the communication orb the Jaffa had obviously been using. Jack caught a glimpse of a startled face in the orb before the device went dead.

Jack cursed but there was nothing he could do about it now. Pulling the radio out of his pocket he switched it on.

"Jacob, come in!"

"Jack, is that you?" sounded Jacob's voice after a short while. "Where are you?"

"I'm in the control room" Jack answered. "Sam has lured Anubis outside with the promise to demonstrate something to him. Dammit, Jacob, why didn't your valuable spies tell us that the *scientist* Anubis expected was a torture specialist?!"

"A torture specialist? Oh my god, believe me Jack, we did not know this" came Jacob's shocked reply. "What is Sam demonstrating to Anubis then?"

"I have no idea. Better yet, the only torture I can imagine Sam exerting in that damned dress she's wearing is something I do *not* want to imagine!" Jack hissed into the radio. "So let's hurry up here. What do I have to do?"

"Somewhere there should be a panel with crystals inserted in it. You have to place the C4.. ."

Jack interrupted him tensely. "For crying out loud, there are crystals all over the place. Crystals in panels and crystals without panels. Which ones are you talking about?"

Jacob sighed. He didn't know how long he could stay on the ship undetected and, having never seen the control room himself, it was very difficult for him to tell Jack exactly what to do.

"Jack, do you remember what the hyperdrive on Chrono's ship looked like?"

Jack closed his eyes, concentrating on bringing the correct picture to his mind. "Yeah, I do. Sort of… ."

Jacob described: "It's a rather long, small panel with crystals in at least five different colors. Do you see a panel like that?"

Jack hurriedly pulled out all the panels, ignoring all other crystals. He cursed. "Jacob? There are *three* panels that look like that! Now what?"

"Do you see any other panels there as well?"

"Just one."

"Good." Relief flooded through Jacob. "*That's* the right one."

"*That's* the right one? Jacob, I swear, if I get my hands on you..! Are you sure it's the right one? What's it supposed to look like?" Jack asked, not totally convinced by Jacob's method of figuring out the right panel.

"I don't know what it's supposed to look like, Jack. I only know that it does not look like a hyperdrive control! So just put the C4 in there and set the timer."

Jack was already at the task. He placed the little squares of C4 liberally between the crystals and connected the timer. Then he looked at his watch. One hour to go till the SG-Jaffa were to deactivate the force fields and detonate the ships' power cores. Jack set the timer accordingly and closed the panel.

-----------------

At the same time Captain Johnston watched the last two members of SG-6 vanish with the transportation rings. Taking a look around to see if he could be overheard he lowered his voice to a whisper.

"I can't believe how lucky we've been so far. They're actually sending all of us onto the motherships. If I was Anubis I wouldn't let the new guys get close to my prize ships, much less let them guard them."

Major Griff chuckled. "But that's the point. Anubis probably doesn't trust us enough to keep us in *his* vicinity. And besides, what harm could we do to his ships anyway…?"

Captain Johnston had to suppress a grin. Yeah, what harm could they do to those ships? Together, with his CO, he stepped into the circle on the floor to be transported up to the mothership.

-----------------

Turning to leave the room Jack took up the radio again.

"Jacob? The timer is set to go off in 58 minutes. I have to go and get Sam before…uff."

The radio fell out of Jack's hand and skidded across the tiles with a noise, as his unconscious body hit the floor.

"Jack? Jack?! Jack, answer me, what happened?!"

Deafening silence was the only response Jacob got.

-----------------

Sam was getting nervous. No, that wasn't right. She was downright scared. The colonel should have been here ages ago, throwing a tantrum in his stylish robe and persuading her and Anubis that she didn't need Jaffa to demonstrate her skills.

This way, they'd planned to stall for enough time. But the colonel wasn't coming and she was fast running out of ideas as to how to keep the Jaffa busy with building her fake torture machine.

Another Jaffa came running towards them from the temple. He started talking to Anubis in a low voice and kept throwing suspicious glances in her direction. After hearing his tale Anubis turned towards Sam.

"Your assistant has been captured trying to enter the control room in the temple. What did he want there, I ask you?"

All blood drained from Sam's face. The colonel had been captured, apparently before he was able to rig the force field protectors. She had to find a way to do it then.

Straightening her shoulders she gave an indignant reply: "I do not know about any control room. My assistant was probably just looking for me. I demand that you let him go immediately!"

"He killed three of my Jaffa!" hissed Anubis. "And you want to tell me that he's an innocent?"

He gave an order to his guards and they grabbed Sam, shoving her arms painfully high behind her back. She tried to protest but a staff weapon was held threateningly at the ready in front of her.

"Take her back to the temple! I will deal with them later."

-----------------

After Jack didn't answer, Jacob switched channels to contact Teal'c, who was still orbiting the planet in their cloaked cargo ship.

"Teal'c, this is Jacob. Colonel O'Neill managed to install the C4 but I've lost radio contact. I assume he was detected before he could get out."

"That is most unsettling, Jacob Carter. Do you require my assistance in a rescue mission?"

"Not yet, Teal'c. I have to find out where Sam is first, before we try to get Jack out. Have you heard from Major Griff?"

"I have. He reported in a short while ago. SGs 3, 5 and 6 have been sent to do duty on the motherships. They are proceeding as planned."

Jacob let out a relieved sigh. "That's good. I'm going out there now to try and find Sam and Colonel O'Neill."

-----------------

Sam was taken to a cell-like room in the back of the temple. Jack was there, just struggling to get back on his feet after obviously having been beaten to the ground by two of the guards he'd zatted earlier. His hands were tied behind his back, blood was trickling down the side of his face and the way he was crouching forward spoke volumes about the blows he'd received to his stomach.

Sam's hands were tied behind her back as well and she was shoved hard against her CO. She stumbled and crashed into him, making Jack lose his balance. Both of them fell to the ground, Sam inadvertently landing on top of him.

An agonized moan escaped Jack when his head hit the floor.

The Jaffa around them laughed spitefully. One of them grabbed Sam and dragged her across the floor.

"Stay there!" he ordered.

Before she could make a move he pressed a knob in the wall and beams of pulsating black light shot out from the floor, surrounding her and Jack individually, effectively separating them from each other. The guards left.

Jack struggled to get up into a sitting position. Eyeing the light suspiciously he asked: "Carter? Any idea what this is?"

Sam shook her head. "No, sir. Looks like a variation of a force field. Or maybe an electrical cage. Whatever it is, sir, we probably shouldn't touch it."

Jack groaned. "Yeah, that's what I thought, too."

They sat there silently for a few minutes.

Then Sam asked: "Sir? What happened?"

Jack frowned. "You know, I'm not sure. I'd just placed the C4 and closed the panel.."

"You placed the C4?" Sam interrupted him astonished. "But Anubis said that you'd just tried to enter the control room..? I assumed that his Jaffa surprised you."

Jack shook his head. "No, I was already done in there and coming to get you. Then everything went black."

He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to sort through his memories. "That's strange. When the Jaffa found me, I'd already regained consciousness. Someone else must have taken me out."

"Or something, sir. How did you get in?"

"Just as we'd planned. I zatted the Jaffa outside of the room, then the one in the control center and the comm. ball he was talking to.. ."

"Wait a minute, sir," Sam interrupted him again, "you zatted a communication orb?"

Jack nodded. "I heard the Jaffa talking to someone but couldn't see anybody because he was blocking my view. So I zatted him and then fired on where I thought the other guard would be. Why?"

"My Dad's told me about that kind of communication orb. It's connected to an alarm system. When you fire on the orb, the alarm gets triggered and shoots an electrical charge, much like a zat gun."

Jack gazed at her thoughtfully. "I saw a face before the orb went dead but I figured that if I destroyed it, the guy on the other end couldn't warn Anubis. And I didn't have time to worry about it anyway."

Sam nodded. "The other guy probably assumed that the alarm system would go off and kill you. And that's also why Anubis thinks that you didn't have the chance to do anything in the control room. There was probably a malfunction in the system after you'd zatted it."

Jack grinned. "Lucky me!"

Sam grinned back at him, the realization that their plan could still work slowly taking away some of her tension. But then another thought hit her.

"What about the others? Has Anubis had them captured as well?"

Jack grimaced. "I don't know. I didn't have a chance to tell our cover story since nobody's asked me about them."

He took a look at his watch. "Guess we'll know in about half an hour."

When he looked back up to give Sam an encouraging smile, it struck him again. He had to tell her. Now. It wasn't so much fear of what would happen to him and Sam if their comrades succeeded. It was the sudden certainty that Sam deserved to know, had a right to be told what he was feeling.

Jack started to speak, hesitantly at first. "Uhm..Sam?"

Sam looked up at the unexpected use of her first name. "Yes, sir?"

Jack shook his head. "No, wait. There's something I need to tell you, and I'm…you know, not very good at this. So just let me get it off my chest first, okay?" He didn't wait for her reply but went on: "I've…had to do some pretty nasty things in my life. Things I'm not proud of. Many things I could have done better. But that's all in the past now."

Seeing the confused look in Sam's eyes Jack inwardly cursed himself. God, he was babbling. He really was not good at this.

Drawing a steadying breath he continued. "There are also things I regret…uhm, regret not doing. Like talking. I remember Sara always said that I didn't talk to her. I always thought that my actions spoke for themselves but apparently it wasn't enough. I know that now."

The words were rushing from him now, like a dam had broken, and Sam could only sit there and listen, too confused and not daring to break the spell.

"I know that now." Jack repeated it more to himself than to her.

He combed a hand through his hair, wiping away some of the now dried blood on the side of his face. "I heard what you said to Daniel when he…when you said goodbye to him. You said that we never tell people how we feel about them until it's too late."

Sam had to swallow the pain that still rose inside her whenever someone mentioned Daniel's name. But then the implications of Jack's words struck her.

*'We never tell people until it's too late.'* Too late? Was he giving up? That couldn't be, the Jack O'Neill she knew would never give up.

Sam cried out. "No, sir, don't! Stop! Don't say it!"

The confession got stuck in Jack's throat. 'Don't say it'? Had he been wrong? Did she not care about him the way he cared about her? He looked at her, the pain of misunderstanding clearly written in his eyes.

"Sam?!"

Sam raised her hand to stop him. "Sir, my father and Teal'c will get us out of here. We are not going to die here!"

Somewhere in his brain Jack registered that this was *his* line but he didn't have time to dwell on that thought. "That's not what I'm talking about here. Of course we'll get out of here."

Confusion and relief warred within Sam. Confusion won.

"What *are* you talking about, sir?"

Jack shuffled a little closer to the light beams that served as his jail bars. "A wiser version of myself told me the same thing. Don't wait till it's too late."

Leaning forward he plunged in: "I love you, Sam. I've been in love with you for some time now." He paused. "I know this is probably not the best of moments to tell you this but you deserve to know."

Sam stared at him, not trusting that she'd heard him right. "You…love me, sir?"

Jack scrunched his face into a half-grimace, half-smile. "The way you say it sounds more like a disease. Look, if you don't feel the same..that's okay..I.. ."

Sam shivered. She gazed into his eyes and whispered: "When we were on the cargo ship my Dad told me that I shouldn't waste any more time in letting you know that I love you, too."

Jack felt his heart sore. "Your Dad is a very wise man." Then he grinned. "But don't tell him I said that, I'd never hear the end of it!"

He straightened so that he was kneeling directly in front of the beams, as close to Sam as he could manage. Sam mirrored his movements in her cell. They stayed this way for a long time, gazing into each other's eyes. And for a moment everything was just right.

Sam spoke first: "What now?"

"Now we wait till Jacob or Teal'c gets us out of here!" Jack said confidently.

This time it was Sam's turn to correct him. "That's not what I'm talking about…Jack."

She hesitated a little at the unaccustomed use of his first name. "What happens with us once we're back? There are still regulations that apply and.."

"No, there aren't!" Jack interrupted, then softened the interruption with a tender smile. "I'm going to resign from the SGC as soon as we're back."

Sam opened her mouth to protest but he forestalled her. "I'm not doing this only because of us, although *us* is certainly worth much more than that! It's the right time for me, Sam. I want to move on, to build a life with you." With longing in his voice he added: "Try to make you happy..!"

Sam felt the emotions in his words, like a fire spreading its warmth through her. It was a feeling unlike any she'd ever experienced before and it made tears of happiness spring to her eyes.

"Oh Jack, I don't know what to say. I never believed.."

The sound of explosions jolted both of them back to reality with a vengeance. The earth seemed to shake with the power of the blows and outside of their room all hell broke lose. Shouts and screams sounded from everywhere and the thumping of heavy footsteps could be heard retreating from the door to their cells.

Jack jumped to his feet, craning his neck in an attempt to see through the small window that was set high up in the wall. Then he turned to Sam with a triumphant grin.

"They did it! They destroyed the ships!"

Sam gave him a worried smile back. "I hope they all made it to the gliders in time. And we don't know if Teal'c was out there to meet them. He might have been somewhere here on this planet trying to find us."

Jack caught her gaze and held it with his eyes. "They made it and so will we! We've got too much to look forward to now. Don't give up on us, Sam!"

Sam nodded, calmed by his confidence. But long minutes passed and nothing happened. The screams and shouts were slowly subsiding outside, as the remaining Jaffa assessed the extent of the damage.

Jack grew restless. The longer it took to free them, the greater the danger was that Anubis would remember them and draw the connection between the destruction of his fleet and the prisoners in his temple.

Finally shots rang out outside of their room. A blow against the lock had the door vibrating on its hinges, a second shot blew the lock away. Then the door crashed to the floor and Jacob entered the room. His clothing was torn in several places, a gash on his left arm was bleeding profusely but he grinned at them.

"What's wrong with you, don't you want to get out of here?"

Jack jumped. "It's about time that you got here! What took you so long?"

Jacob held up his bleeding arm. "Hey, it's not like they just let me waltz in here and gave me directions to your cozy chamber..!"

He turned to Sam. "Sam, are you alright?"

Sam smiled back happily. "I'm fine, Dad. How's your arm?"

Jacob shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, nothing. Sel'mak will take care of it."

"Hey, Jacob, would you mind..?" Impatiently Jack gestured at the light beams. "I've had enough of the hospitality of this place."

Jacob pressed the knob and the beams vanished. "Okay, let's get out of here!"

-----------------

They left the temple through a side door Jacob had discovered earlier and ran for the ship. Fortunately, the few remaining Jaffa were in too much chaos to notice their escape. They hurled themselves inside the ship and Sam closed the doors while Jacob hastened to the flight console. Within seconds the ship took off.

Jack looked through the window at the burning hulls of Anubis' destroyed motherships. He turned to Jacob.

"How long do you think it will take Anubis to rebuild his fleet?"

Jacob threw a glance out the window, then smiled at Jack.

"Anubis was on one of the ships when it exploded. I saw him go up with the transportation rings when I was hiding, trying to find out where you were held." Jacob's grin split wider. "Apparently Anubis was going to check out his new Jaffa who arrived with you… ."

Jack laughed triumphantly. They'd done it, they'd really done it! Life couldn't get any better than this.

Some minutes later Teal'c's voice sounded over the radio.

"Jacob Carter, I have all members of SG-3, 5 and 6 aboard. What is your status?"

Jack grabbed the comm. unit. "Hey, buddy, we're here. Everything alright with you guys?"

"O'Neill! It is good to hear your voice. Everything is in order here, we are in preparation to fly back to Earth if our assistance is not needed."

Jack threw a look at Sam who smiled at him. He smiled back and spoke into the radio.

"We're fine, Teal'c. See you back home!"

-----------------

Sam was still smiling happily at him when Jack handed the radio back to Jacob.

Jack cleared his throat and with a sideways glance at Jacob said. "Ahem, Carter, would you mind taking a look at this gash here on my temple? I think it's started bleeding again."

Sam bit her lips at his unusual fussing about such a minor injury, but managed to keep a straight face when she agreed.

"Yes, of course…sir. I'll get the first aid kit right away."

"Jacob, you don't need us here right now, do you?" asked Jack innocently.

Jacob turned around, first looking at Sam, then at Jack and then back at Sam. He gave his daughter a tender smile before he focused worried eyes on Jack's forehead.

"God, Jack, that looks serious. You really should do something before you bleed to death…!" With that he turned back to the controls.

Jack contrived to put a hurt look on his face. "If I didn't know you, I'd say you're not taking my pain seriously, Jacob."

A sarcastic snort was his only answer.

Jack laughed and started to follow Sam out of the room. Before he left he caught the other man's expression in the reflection of the windows. Jacob looked at him steadily, then smiled and nodded. Jack thanked him with a likewise nod of his head. Words were not necessary between them.

-----------------

Jack found Sam in the sleeping quarters, pacing nervously back and forth. She looked up when he entered the room.

"Jack, I've been thinking. Maybe we should wait till we're back on Earth. I mean, an hour ago we didn't even know if we'd make it out of there alive. It was a very emotional situation. What if you.."

With two long strides Jack stood in front of her. Placing a finger on her lips to silence her he whispered. "Sam, I love you. Nothing's going to change that. I made up my mind long before we went on this mission and I'll be damned if I wait another second!"

Jack took her face in his hands, drawing his thumbs in a loving caress across her mouth.

Sam trembled but then stilled when she saw the truth of his words blazing in his eyes. With a sigh she leaned forward and put her arms around him.

"I love you, too. I just thought that I should give you more time."

Jack shook his head. "No, not more time. In fact I think it is vitally important that our first kiss takes place right here and now on this ship."

Sam raised questioning eyes to his. "Why?"

Jack pulled Sam closer into his embrace. Laughing softly he admitted: "I don't know, it just…feels right."

Then he finally lowered his lips to hers in searing kiss that stole their breath away. It was a kiss that promised everything they'd ever dreamed of: love, passion, trust, desire…a new beginning.

Somewhere in Jack's brain a thought registered. *Life couldn't get any better than this!



HAPPY END!



Feedback? Comments? Criticism? Praise?



Author's Notes II: Why did I not include SG-1's new addition Jonas Quinn into this story?

The reason is simple: I don't know enough about the character and the way he will be included into the team therefore I decided to leave him out entirely. No other hidden, devious thoughts are behind this.