Three weeks later
Jack stretched his arms over his head, deeply inhaling the fresh beach air. It felt good to be able move freely. The first two weeks after his injury had been murder. Every time he'd bent he'd felt a burning pain in his side. Now, though not completely healed, it felt much better. Dr. Frasier had cleared him for active duty two days ago, although she did advise Hammond to make the next mission for SG-1 an easy one just to be sure. Good old General Hammond had given them the task of being one of the two military teams present on P3R-407, a research colony of about fifteen scientists and home to a native population of about five hundred.
This population of five hundred people were the rescued underground slaves from the icy planet whose leaders had kidnapped SG-1 and stamped them new personalities. Jonah, while still regaining his memories as Jack, had promised Administrator Calder he was going to find a lovely little planet where the beaches went on for miles for the hidden slaves to inhabit, and this planet was it.
The Tok'ra had helped them find this island paradise. They had hauled a stargate to the center of the island, which was actually a huge land mass that encircled the entire planet's equator. There were no poisonous plants or animals. The clear blue, fresh water sea was only fifty feet deep at its deepest point around the entire globe. No sharks or whales inhabited the water, and the coral reefs offered beautiful destinations for snorkeling. The yearlong plant life cycle and abundant fresh water gave the researchers the chance to experiment with different growing methods.
The civilians on the planet had named it Jonera Torlin in honor of Jonah, Thera, Tor, and Carlin who had rescued them. Jack simply called the planet JT, while the rest of the SGC called it Jonera and its people Jonerians.
Brenna had been appointed as leader of the new planet. The people were provided with materials to start their new lives. With the knowledge they had gained from their previous employment, they soon had houses built with plumping, electrical, and telephone systems.
Hammond suggested a trade network. The new citizens of the planet could help the research scientists plant and harvest the fields of food, and in turn could keep all but the minimal amount needed for scientific research. The SGC would provide all the seeds and tools necessary. Whatever food the Jonerians didn't want to keep could be offered back to the SGC in return for items they might want or need. Daniel, with Brenna's help, had developed a sort of mail order catalogue. They included clothes, furniture, equipment, books, and much more, with trading equivalencies. This helped to ensure that all trades were fair and equal.
The Jonerians enjoyed being outdoors in the sunshine and warmth. Some didn't want to work in the fields and instead spent their time wondering along the beaches and through the jungle. Others were hired as research assistants to the scientists. And all loved SG-1. They had even built a cabin on the beach for the team after overhearing Jack talk about his home in Minnesota.
Jack was looking forward to this mission. Hammond reserved Jonera for teams that needed rest. While the threat of a Goa'uld invasion was still present, it was less likely than other planets. With over twenty-two teams running through the SGC, Hammond usually placed at least one team on Jonera at all times, just like the alpha site colony. During this mission, SG-1 was going to spend three weeks on the planet along with SG-18. Hammond tried to limit each team to a three-week max to avoid hostility amongst the teams. Three weeks on Jonera was like getting a paid in full vacation to Hawaii.
They had flipped a coin for night watch and SG-18 lost. That meant from 6a-6p SG-1 was on guard, and from 6p-6a SG18 was on duty. Jack smiled and plopped into his beach chair, the time was 6:05pm and he was officially off duty. Daniel had scampered off around noon with Kegan to investigate some rocks deeper inland, Teal'c had been summoned to assist another Jonerian in learning how to fight a Jaffa, and Carter had said something about going swimming.
Jack decided the only thing he was missing was a nice cold beer. Perhaps he'd better teach these Jonerians a thing or two about brewing. He felt a shadow fall across his form. He cracked an eye open and nearly lost his breath.
Carter stood next to his chair holding out a stack of papers. But that wasn't what surprised him. His 2IC was scantily clad string bikini.
Jack's mind wasn't processing the scene before him very well. Maybe this was a dream. He shook his head and sat up straighter. "I thought you were going swimming?" Jack asked his voice a litter higher than usual.
"I was, but then I remembered these forms. They really need signed today, sir." She all but thrust them into his hands. "I need you're initials here, here, and here," the captain indicated each line.
Jack grabbed the pen and quickly signed them, JON, standing for Jack O'Neill. He slid the papers back into Carters waiting hands.
"Thank you, sir," she said walking back to the cabin.
Jack shook his head again. Was it just him or did Carter's voice have a bit of suggestive undertone to it? He leaned back into his chair and tried to not imagine her in the bikini unsuccessfully. It was definitely not standard issue!
A few moments later, the shadow fell across him again. What now? He wondered, opening an eye. Carter stood above him again, only this time she had a bottle of sun block.
She smiled innocently, but her voice was pure evil. "Would you mind?" she asked smiling, handing him the bottle.
Nervously, Jack accepted. What was she trying to do? What had gotten into her? This wasn't the way Carter usually acted. In fact, recently she had been avoiding personal contact with him, distancing herself. It was the reason he'd gotten the tattoo in the first place. In an unrealistic spur of the minute idea, he thought that just by some chance if he got the tattoo somehow he'd be able to keep Samantha Grace Carter his forever. But she wasn't his, and probably never would be. She was too good for an old broken down man like him. He could feel her slipping further and further away and it was killing him. Which was why at this moment he was completely baffled. What was going on?
Jack opened the bottle and slowly poured on the cool white liquid. He gently started rubbing it in a circular motion over Sam's back, fully expecting her to recoil at his touch. Instead, she seemed eager for each caress and unconsciously he molded his hands to fit the contour of her back. She let out a sigh of pleasure.
This is so wrong, Jack told himself. But his hands continued to explore Carter's back, the application of sun block turning more into a massage with each passing moment.
"A little lower, if you will sir," Carter's voice directed. "I want to make sure I'm covered."
Jack chuckled. She should have thought about making sure she was covered when she bought the revealing bikini. He moved his hands further down her back. Jack was almost at the top of her bikini bottoms when he froze.
"Sir? What's wrong do I need to turn a bit?" Sam maneuvered her hips so that her right hip was more easily accessible.
Jack gulped. "Yeah, that'll do," he muttered. What was she trying to do, kill him for cry'n out loud!? At least Carter's little stunt with her hips had allowed him a better vantage point for what had caught his attention.
It had looked like a small bruise, very light in color, and almost invisible. But now, up closer Jack instantly knew that wasn't the case. There on her right hip was a small half inch by half-inch tattoo, with three letters: JON.
Jack couldn't breathe and he didn't dare hope. There were a million reasons why she could have those letters on her side. Maybe they were some sort of chemical on the periodic table, or the key to some unknown code. It could be a password she didn't want to forget. Her ex-fiancé's name was Jonas, perhaps she'd started to his name engraved but stopped before the last two letters could be finished. Yeah that was it.
Jack's hands were shaking. None of his thoughts were actually plausible reasons for Carter to have that tattoo on her side. Another thought entered his mind. No that couldn't be it. He'd already lost her. She would be his friend, but nothing more. Hadn't she made that clear over the past few months?
By now, Sam had turned over and was sitting upright in the beach chair. She could see the wheels in Jack's mind spinning, trying to process his rapidly firing thoughts.
She placed a gentle hand her CO's shoulder. "Colonel?" No response. Maybe this whole idea had been wrong. Sam tried again, "Jack?"
This time he answered her, his eyes dark and his voice husky with emotion.
"You saw the tattoo." It wasn't a question, more like an accusation.
She nodded in confirmation.
"And you understood what it meant?" he asked in awe.
"Not at first, it was that last day I spent at your house. I went looking for something to read," Sam said guiltily.
Jack's eyes lit up as he guessed what had happened. "You saw the book."
"I kinda signed it," she admitted, "that's when I realized what it meant."
"You signed my book?!" Jack acted as though she had stolen his most valued possession.
Sam was hurt. "I can give you a new one if you didn't want it signed."
"Aww, no that's okay, makes it worth more money." He joked and that's when she realized he had been teasing her all along. She reached up and head slapped him.
"Hey! That's battering your commanding officer!" he yelped taking a step back.
"It was done in self defense." She retorted defiantly, sitting back down on the chair.
Jack sat down on her right, rubbing the back of his head. The colonel went back to their previous conversation. "But why would you…you?" he pointed down at her hip.
"To remind me," she said as if that answered the whole question.
"Of what?" he asked at a loss.
"That you love me. No matter what separates us, we will always be with each other. We may not be together now, but eventually. These tattoos are our promise to each other that one day there will be no regulations for us."
"So it's sort of like a promise ring?" Jack asked a smile on his lips.
"Exactly," Sam answered.
Jack stood up. "Don't go anywhere," he commanded.
Sam watched as he ran into the cabin and emerged again moments later wearing swim trunks.
"It's a great day for snorkeling, don't you think?" He asked with a wink.
"Yeah sure you bet ya," she replied with a grin, joining him at the water's edge.
"You know you got that tattoo on the wrong side. Mine's on the left," he commented as they walked out into the ocean.
"I figured mine would be better situated on the right." Carter replied her face turning a bit red.
Jack stared. "OH!" he exclaimed as her meaning sank in. "That way they could be together when…" he choked as Carter's hand pushed him under the water.
"Oh you are so going to pay for that one!" he called at her retreating form as she ran further out to sea.
"That's what I was hoping for!" Sam called over her shoulder as she dove under the waves.
Jack was grinning like an idiot. Retirement for him might not be as far off as Carter thought it was, because from where he was standing right now life was pretty sweet.