Chapter 10: 'Decision and Responsibility'
" ... Major Wagner's parents were divorced when he was ten. He went with his mother, while his twin sister, Catherine, stayed with his father. His mother got married again, and that's why his name was changed from Mills to Wagner." General Hammond flicks some papers on his desk.
"How come we didn't get this information the first time we checked on him, General?" If I had known this, there's no way that I would of let him near my team.
"I don't know."
Hammond and I are having a private briefing over the whole fiasco with Wagner. I don't like this at all, someone definitely covered up some important details about Wagner. Who could it be? Kinsley is on top of my list, but then again, my list is quite long.
"Jack, we're not new in this ... politic game. But we have to move on, there are other matters more pressing than finding out who really was responsible for this."
"I know, Sir. But there is no guarantee that they won't try again. And I'm afraid we wouldn't be so lucky the next time."
Hammond sighs, "Believe me, I know."
We just stay silent for a while, drowning in our disappointment that there's nothing else that we can do about this.
"If there's nothing else, I would like to be excused, Sir." I want to see Carter, I need to see her. To reassure myself that she's still here, to touch her to make sure that it's not a dream, to smell her scent so that I know that it's really her, to have a banter with her like we always do, to flirt with her inside the boundary that binds us together.
Hammond looks concerned, "There is something else that I need to discuss with you, Jack."
"What is it?"
"It's about your relationship ... with Major Carter."
I quickly assure him, "General, I promise you that we haven't and won't do anything to betray your trust in us. We owe you that much."
We both know what I'm talking about, I won't put Hammond in a difficult position. I respect him, he's a good CO and a father figure to me. He smiles, "Thank you. That's all, you're dismissed Colonel."
I salute him, "Yes, Sir."
I found her in her lab, totally engrossed with the naquada reactor that almost cost me her life.
She looks up to me and smiles, "Colonel."
"What ya doin'?"
I move closer to her and let myself sit on the chair right in front of her. The generator on the table is between us.
"I want to take a look at the bomb, Sir. It's quite interesting how it was fused to the core, generating more power to the blast even though it's just a small amount of claymore." She looks quite excited with her new 'toy', doesn't she remember what this nasty thing almost did to her?
"It's called the 'Catalytic Effect'."
"Yes, it's acting like a catalyst, just a tiny amount of this can increase the rate of reaction by thousands of times and ...", she stops talking, as if she had just realised something, and shoots me a look that's a mixture of horror and disbelief, "How ... how did you know about that Sir?"
I couldn't resist a grin, "You know your stuff and I know my stuff."
"Ahhh, guns and bombs, your stuff." She mocks me, but her smile's still there.
"You know me well."
She diverts her attention back to the generator, "Daniel told me about Catherine Mills."
Damn Daniel, you just can't shut your mouth, huh? But I guess she'll know about this sooner or later. I mean the whole base basically heard me and Wagner bickering in the control room earlier.
She still concentrates on the generator, avoiding my gaze effectively. I wait for her to say anything, but she stays silent.
"Do you want to know about her?" I offer.
Finally her eyes meet mine, there's hesitation in there.
"You don't have to. I know it must be hard for you," she says softly.
"It is hard ... but you deserve to know it. Didn't I say that I don't want to have a relationship based on lies? I also don't want a relationship based on secrets. Because sometimes ... a secret is more cruel than lie."
She puts down the gadget that she's holding.
"Okay, but I don't think that talking about it here in the base is wise." She's right, we need to go somewhere more private.
"Do you want to go somewhere else?"
She nods, "There's a coffee shop just near my house, it's quite nice. Do you want to go there? Or do you prefer another place?"
"Actually, I prefer O'Malley, but I don't think they'll let us in after what happened last time." She shakes her head and lets out a small playful smile.
"We could always go undercover, Sir. You wear a wig and I put on my sunglasses and hat. How's that?"
"Isn't it supposed to be you who wears the wig? I'll wear the sunglasses and I'll even borrow one of Teal'c's hats."
She's giggling now, "No way, I'm not wearing a wig. What if we both wear sunglasses and hat, Sir?"
"Do you honestly think that they'll let us in?"
"Well, no. But it'll be fun." She sure knows how to have a good time.
"You know what, you're right. Let's do it."
"I'll have the biggest steak you have, with everything, rare and a baked potato."
"You got it."
Carter is having a hard time holding her laughter back. We were lucky, the waitress that is in charge tonight is a new one, so we managed to get in. To avoid any loathing glares from the O'Malley's other staff, we chose a dark corner, still with our sunglasses and my silly cowboy hat (one of Teal'c's favorites, mind you).
"And you, Ma'am?" The waitress politely asks, if only she knew what we've done.
Carter still hasn't managed to pull herself together, she hides her face behind the menu.
"This lady here will have the same, but with French-fries." I take the liberty to order for her.
"Is that all? Any drinks?"
"Beer for me and ..." I look at her, she lowers the menu, I could almost see her eyes peeking behind the sunglasses, "diet soda for her. She likes the taste better." I smile at the waitress and hand her back my menu. Carter doesn't say anything, just smiles and gives her menu back to the waitress.
After the waitress is far enough, Carter is grinning like mad, "We've made it. I can't believe we've made it."
I take off my sunglasses and hat, "Carter, as much as I like to see you smile, you need to tone it down a little. Or else, people will get suspicious."
She also takes off hers, "Can you blame me, Sir?"
I have to smile at that. "No." This place brings back a lot of memories, and unconsciously, I look at the pool table. She follows my gaze and spots the table as well. Her giggling attack is making a reappearance, it's kinda infectious, I find myself laughing with her as well. The waitress comes by and gives us our drinks while we're still laughing, and gives us an odd look. After a while, we calm down and stare at each other.
"So ..." she sighs.
"You know, you don't have to tell me now. I'll wait until you're ready."
Here comes the hard part.
"How much did Daniel tell you?"
"Not much, Daniel said that she was on your team. And then she had feelings for you, so you tried to transfer her, she didn't take it well, so she ... "
Our eyes are still locked together, "That's about right. She was a good soldier and a good woman as well. She was our explosive expert, like Wagner. I guess it ran in the family. I always treat my team members like my family, but I think she took it the wrong way. She ... fell in love with me ... I overheard her talking to one of her friends. As her CO ... I couldn't let that happen, so I requested for her to be transferred. Besides, I was with Sara and Charlie, I was happy. She found out somehow."
Somewhere during my story, she put her hand over mine. I found comfort there, so I turned my hand over, linking my fingers with hers.
"When she died on that mission, I ..."
"You blamed yourself ... " She understands me, more than anybody else could.
"Yes, she shouldn't have gone through that mission. General Miller wanted her out of that mission ... but she was the best expert that we had. I told him that I just needed her for that one last time, if only ... if only ..." I close my eyes, the memory of her last moment is coming back and it's not a pretty one. I'm so grateful that Carter is here, with me, when I relive that dark episode. Her grip tightens.
"It wasn't your fault ... she made her own decision ... she was responsible for her own actions. So don't hold yourself accountable for that."
"I shouldn't of asked her to come on that mission."
"You needed her skills, for the sake of the mission. It was the right call."
"No, it was not. Look at the results."
"If she didn't know about her transfer, she would of made it alive. You couldn't have known."
"I should have. I'm her CO, remember. I should have known."
"Being a CO doesn't mean that you have to know about everything. You're only human, there are certain ... limitations that you have. That's what make us human ... you're not Superman, you know." She smiles.
"Hey, I know that." I let out a small smile. She knows how to make me feel better, what would I do without her?
I look at her and am mesmerised by the moment, she looks back at me and her eyes are a picture of a deep ocean, one that can calm your soul whenever you see it.
"Thank you." I say.
"For just being here with me."
We only managed to finish half of our dinner before one of the waitresses recognised us and threw us out from the restaurant. So, we decided to take a walk in the park near O'Malley.
"Oh ... that was classic."
"I wish Daniel was there."
"Are you joking, he was supposed to be there. I bet he'll be gutted to find out that he missed all the fun."
"It was fun, wasn't it."
Then, the giggling comes back. Boy, do I have a great time with her.
"Hey, I've been meaning to ask this, what happened to your right hand?" She noticed that Janet had put a bandage on my fist.
"Oh, this?" I wave my hand in front of her.
"Nothing really, just someone pissed me off so bad that the wall turned into a punching bag back then." I try to shrug it off.
She looks thoughtful for a moment, "It was after the gate disengaged, wasn't it?"
There's no hiding from her, "Yes."
She takes my bandaged hand and kisses it so gently, I can't take my eyes off her, "If the bomb did go off, you would blame yourself right now."
She turns her gaze on me, "Don't."
"Wagner hates me, he did the whole thing just to get to me. I couldn't not blame myself."
"I know the risks of loving you, you have lots of enemies, on and off-world. I know that. So don't blame yourself, it's my decision and mine alone." She rests her head on my shoulder and whispers, "You're worth the risks, so please ... don't."
I'm overwhelmed by her words, I'm worth the risks? No one ever told me that before.
"I'm not sure that I could do that." I answer her honestly.
She takes a deep breath and then raises her head so that we see each other eye to eye, "Do you want to know why I chose the blue wire?"
Oh yeah, I was going to ask her that, but we were having such a good time that I completely forgot about it. "Tell me."
"Because I didn't want to cut the red one." I raise my eyebrows in Teal'c's fashion, and she continues, "Being on that planet reminded me of that legend. Remember that? The one that said that if the red thread was cut, the lovers connected by it would lose their memories about each other. So ... I didn't want to cut it ... I didn't want you to forget about me."
"I would never be able to do that."
She shakes her head and smiles, "Daniel told me once ... you can't forgive yourself, but sometimes you can forget." She squeezes my hand, "I don't want to be like that to you. I want you to be able to forgive yourself ... but never forget about me, not even for a second. Maybe ... maybe I'm being selfish here, it would be easier for you to forget about me ... but I don't want you to. I just don't want that to happen. The guy in the legend sacrificed himself so that his girl forgot about him, but I'm sure ... deep inside his heart ... he wanted to cherish their memories ... Our memories ... good and bad ... I don't want you to throw it away. Ever."
"I don't know if I could forgive myself. Not if I lost you."
"Yes you can. All you have to do is try." She hugs me, "I'll be there for you, you'll never loose me ... just remember that."
I put my arms around her and bury my face into her hair, "You're wonderful, you know that?"
"You think so?"
"Yeah, of course, why not?"
"I thought after my outburst just now, you'd think that I'm sappy."
I have to laugh at that, "You? Sappy? Oh ... this is new."
"You don't have to laugh so hard, you know. That kinda hurt my feelings." She pulls out from our embrace and flashes me an indignant look.
"Ups, sorry. I don't think you're sappy at all ... Romantic, yeah, that's the word. You're romantic, not sappy."
"Yeah, of course. Wonder what the others'll think when they know about this."
There's horror on her face, "Don't you dare tell anyone about that."
"No? Why not?"
"Just don't. And don't ask me why."
"Come on, there's nothing wrong with being romantic. Or ... do you prefer sappy? Oh yeah, let's tell them that you're sappy."
She snorts, "That's better, at least no one will believe you when you tell them that I'm sappy."
"You got a point there."
"So, don't tell anyone, okay?"
This is fun, I couldn't resist myself to tease her.
"Well, well, well, you have to pay for my silence there."
"Why?" she asks wearily.
"Because you're asking me for the favor."
I use the exact words that she used during the whole mess with Daniel and Teal'c just to make her ticked.
"Payback is a bitch, huh?"
"Sure is." I show her my biggest grin.
She steps back from me, "Okay, what do you want me to do then?"
I open my mouth to say something but she beats me to it, "If you want to bail out from the picture, forget about it. I want that more that anything, and I must remind you that the deadline is in ..." she looks at her watch, " 21 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes and 21 seconds time."
"Well, you can't blame a guy for trying."
"So ... what do you want me to do?"
Mmm, I have the power to make her do anything that I want. Let me savor this opportunity for a sec. I give her my best innocent smile.
"I want you to give me ... a kiss on my cheek ... now ... here."
I think I hit the Jackpot, she blushes furiously.
"That's ... that's ..." She is simply stunned.
"That's what? Are you telling me that you can't do a simple task, MAJOR?" I use her rank to bait her, my eyes mock her in a challenging way. This is a win-win situation. If she can't do it, she'd cancel the whole picture thing, if she does it, then ... do I have to say it? It's so obvious.
She grits her teeth, and gained this determinant look.
"Okay ... I'll do it."
Like I said, win-win situation.
She takes a deep breath, composes herself and then moves towards me.
"For the record, SIR, I think you're impossible."
"Well, thank you." Still with my big smile.
She closes our distance, her face is right in front of me. She closes her eyes and leans forwards, automatically, I hold my breath and close my eyes as well. I wait for a sensation on my cheek, it never comes, and instead I feel her lips on mine. I know it's hers, I know what it tastes like, sweet and soft, it stays there for a while. When I want to deepen the kiss, she retreats.
"There, I've done it."
Wow, oh ... wow.
She kissed me.
Willingly (with a little 'encouragement' from me.)
This is much better than any other kisses we've shared.
Waaaay much better.
She looks at me in anticipation, waiting for me to say something.
My brain is still in switch-off mode, so don't blame me when my tongue slips.
"You know ... technically speaking, you haven't given me what I requested."
- Finish -
AN: Yay, I finally finished this. Anyway, I was thinking about writing a sequel but that is for another time. So, did anyone have the right guess on why Carter chose the blue wire? Thanks for all who have been very patient with me, thanks for all who has given me the review and feedback. I hope this ending isn't too sappy and the thanks for JayBee-Bug who help me with her beta-reading skill. I'm in the middle of writing a new fic now, with Anise/Freya making a guess appearance (so, watch for the space, there'll be a lot of fun there). So, as always, please do send review and feedback. I hope I haven't left anything unexplained. If I do, please notice me. Once again, thanks.