Sam giggled and pulled at the covers.
"Hey!" Jack protested.
"I said if you didn't get up I'd get you up," she said.
"Yeah, I thought you meant something else entirely," he grumbled.
"Behave," she said. "We're going to be late."
"No, I'm going to be late," he mumbled, turning over.
"At this rate I'm going to say no."
Jack sat upright very quickly. "You already said no."
"No, I said I'd think about it."
"You also said it would be difficult."
"You know me and difficult situations," she said.
"I'll think about it," she said. "Now hurry up or we'll be late."
"I'll be late," he said, grabbing the covers back.
He loved this part. Watching her get all excited over a new challenge, a new planet.
"What's it doing?" Hammond asked.
"Flying, sir," Sam replied.
That got Jack's interest. "MALPs can't fly," he stated.
"Apparently they can," Daniel quipped.
And there she went. Sam Carter and another difficult situation. He'd never really appreciated just how much she came alive when she was working to solve a problem.
Here we go again, he thought. Just another day at the office.
We are explorers. We are sodding explorers. Explorers find out new stuff. Explorers... explore. They don't get their brains hijacked by an overgrown, jumped up computer program.
"I should have cut the cable sooner," Jack said.
"What?" Daniel asked.
"I should have known, and I should have cut the cable sooner."
"You think you should have known?"
Because I love her, was the silent reply. Because I know her. Because I also know that things tend to go wrong whenever they're going great. And this morning things were definitely going great.
They walked into the MALP room to find Siler already there, probing about in the mechanics. Part of Jack wanted Siler to turn around and say that he'd found Sam in there. That she was OK. That his wife was not a prisoner in her own body. He wanted to make some quip about getting an anti virus program installed but for some reason he wasn't in a joking mood.
"It was a trap," he said.
"Trap?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah. It was watching us the whole time." And I should have known.
"Er, so you're saying it knew Sam and I wanted to make contact with it?" Daniel asked.
"And this device was created as a delivery system in order to invade the body of Major Carter," Teal'c added.
Invade, Jack thought. Bad choice of words. "Yes."
Daniel looked deep in thought, and Jack braced himself for what was coming next.
"So basically you're saying if we had just listened to you in the first place and blown it up." Yeah. Thoughtful Daniel. "No seriously, I'm asking, is that what you're saying?"
Yes, it's what I'm saying. I'm saying that this thing has hurt the one person I care most about in this world and any other.
"If we had destroyed the entity Daniel Jackson, Major Carter would not have been adversely affected," Teal'c said.
Go, Teal'c, Jack thought.
"OK, I know your first instinct is to protect, both of you, that's your job, that's what you do but no matter what happens, no matter how this turns out, Sam wasn't wrong to try to communicate with it."
Daniel was right. Jack knew he was. Sam loved to explore, loved to discover...
No. She loves to explore, loves to discover.
He was not losing her. Not now, not ever.
"That's right," Jack said He was relieved that she... it had called him O'Neill and not Jack. That would have taken some explaining. "Go get the Doc," he said to the SF. "And you are?" he asked.
"I am within. You are O'Neill."
No, you're my wife. "Yeah, we've established that."
"This one has memory of you."
She has quite a few. "The one you're talking about is a person. Her name is Major Samantha Carter."
"Then I am Major..."
"No. No you're not." He resisted the urge to lunge out and see if he could rip this thing out of her with his bare hands.
Suddenly he was aware that there were other people in the room. He'd been too busy looking at her.
"We understand you have taken control of Major Carter," Janet said, "but you're not her."
"There was no other choice. No other place to go. You wish to terminate."
"Still do," Jack said.
"But you will not. Not now. I have observed. You value the life of one."
This one? You bet. "Yes we do."
"This one is important."
"She is." He knew it knew. They'd said Sam was still in there, buried underneath it. So it knew what she was to him.
"For this reason, this one was chosen. You will not terminate this one in order to destroy me."
Jack felt like his whole body was disintegrating. It had done this, chosen someone so important, so valued, and it had done it on bloody purpose.
"It went into Sam out of self preservation," Janet said.
"I cannot be removed from this mind without terminating. You will not terminate this one. None of you will. Therefore I will survive."
Jack left the briefing, Hammond's words spinning in his head. I know that Major Carter means a great deal to you. At first he'd stalled, thinking that the General knew more than he was letting on. Then he realised that he did, but not everything. Of course he knew how he felt about Sam.
"I care about her, a lot more than I'm supposed to."
As he walked through the corridors towards the elevator he went through everything in his head.
This wasn't right. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She was his wife. She was the woman he loved. She knew him better than he would ever admit. She knew how he liked his eggs cooked. She washed his bed sheets whenever she got the chance. He wasn't a domestic slouch, he knew how to keep everything neat and tidy.
But she did it. There was someone else doing it. There was someone else in his life, in his bed. And he wasn't losing her. He'd never thought that he'd get a second chance at love and he sure as hell never thought it would have been with someone like Sam. She was smart, funny, damn sexy... and she was his friend. She got his sense of humour - she'd have laughed at the anti virus quip for a start - and she was comfortable to be around. There was no trying, nothing was forced.
He was Jack O'Neill, she was Sam Carter.
And now she wasn't. Getting off the elevator on level 21, he picked up his pace. That thing had practically killed her, and in his mind it was definitely an eye for an eye.
He knew what he had to do.
He listened as Daniel tried his final line of approach. He wanted to hurt something, someone, but if there was a chance...
"So you came here to, to what?" Daniel asked.
"Preserve your world?"
"By destroying you."
"Well that's not going to happen," Jack snapped.
"Transmission was interrupted. If I had been able to complete transmission, you would have been destroyed. My world would have been preserved."
"Well in a way, you succeeded. We won't go back there. You can repair the damage we did and we won't send any more probes through."
Ah, Daniel. Ever the diplomat. Not this time. "Yes we will."
"Jack?" Daniel asked.
"We'll send dozens of them, one after another. I don't care what it does." Jack was not putting up with this make-believe Carter anymore. It had said it couldn't leave her so he had to accept that she was gone.
It was scared. Good. Now it knew what he was feeling. "Leave her now."
"You've read my file, think again." More than that, you know her. Think again.
"I must preserve."
"Fine stick to your guns then!" God, how was it possible that this thing was more stubborn than Sam?
"Jack?" Daniel asked.
"Daniel, we're gonna do this my way," he snapped.
"You're damned right we can," Hammond said.
Was it scared? How dare it be scared? Afraid? "Leave her," he ordered.
"I must preserve."
"If you wanna preserve your world, leave Major Carter right now."
They told him he'd shot her. They told him he'd shot her twice. He couldn't remember it, not at first. He remembered her... it tearing out of the isolation bay. He remembered giving chase. He remembered that he had in his hand the Zat that Teal'c had given him.
Sitting in his office, hiding away from everyone, the pieces were coming back to him.
The first shot had been easy. One shot stuns.
In his mind he'd ran the same thing over and over. Sam was gone. Sam was gone.
There was something else.
"I want a living will."
"No life support."
"I don't want to just be... hanging on. If I've gone, then let me go."
"So you'll want me to pull the plug? Kill you?"
"Jack, it'll just be my body."
"I like your body."
"Jack, it doesn't have to be you that... but I want it done. If I'm gone, if there's no chance, then please."
"I'll get it started tomorrow. Janet'll sign off on it."
"She won't like it. I don't like it."
"But she'll do it."
"Will you?" she asked.
"I won't kill you," he said.
"I won't kill you," he said out loud to the empty room. But he had. And now he wanted to hurt someone. Something.
"Alright, let's blow it," he said.
The mainframe was a symbol of everything he'd lost. She was really gone. There was a shell lying in that bed. And before too long that shell would be gone too. Janet wanted to pull the plug. No, that was wrong. She didn't want to. But she was going to. Because she was a good doctor and a great friend.
I am here.
"I was shouting... for you to hear."
Jack sat in the lounge as Sam packed her bag.
"How do you feel about a break?" he'd asked.
"Yeah. You've got some leave..."
"A break, as in, you and me?"
"We can go up the cabin. I'll show you what you've been missing out on."
"You see, I don't see it as missing out," she laughed.
"So, what do you think?"
"It'll be difficult. It's not like we can just up and leave, walk out hand in hand, is it?"
Jack sighed. "It's late," he said. "Let's talk about this in the morning."
"Any excuse to get me into bed, Jack O'Neill," she giggled.
Jack took a swig out of his beer and sank back into the couch. She was back, alive and well, and in his bedroom packing.
Or she had been.
"That's it, I think," she said.
"What?" he snapped.
"This isn't easy. For me."
"But it's a walk in the park for me?" he asked, getting to his feet. "I thought I'd lost you."
"I know," she said quietly. "Do you know what it was like for me? I was in there, Jack. I was in there, looking out, and screaming as loud as I could. But none of you could hear me. And I knew everything. I could hear everything, feel everything... I saw everything. I saw you shoot me, Jack."
"I had to."
"I know why you did it, Jack. I know that if it came down to it you would kill me to save the base, save Earth. It doesn't matter how you feel about me, if you had to... But that's not the point."
"So what is the point?" he snapped.
"The point is... if you'd done that, I wouldn't be here. This isn't about you, or us."
"It's about the fact that I died, or damn well nearly did. I was in the computer! Do you know what that feels like?"
"No. So let's talk about it."
"I can't... because I don't know what it feels like. I need some time to figure that out."
"So take time. Take that break."
"Us going away together isn't going to help."
"So you go. Alone. Go up to the cabin..."
"To your cabin?"
"Go somewhere, go anywhere, just... don't leave."
"I'm not leaving you."
"You've packed up your things. Even I know what that means."
"I'll... I'll see you later then."
"Sam," he called after her. "You are going to be OK. I just know it."
"Thank you," she smiled. Then she lowered her eyes and added, "sir."