by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: March 2004
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
CATEGORY: Angst, humor, S/J romance. AU.
WARNING: Language, previous violence
SPOILERS: Grace, Fallout, Chimera
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season Seven. Gates of War series, follows A Bundle of Arrows
SUMMARY: Chaos ensues when Sam's brother introduces her to a friend of his.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc.This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
Sam Carter sat on a chair in Janet Fraiser's little office, leaning her aching head back against the cool wall. "So what's the verdict?"
"You're going to be fine. Go home, take a couple of days off, and I'm going to tell the Colonel to hold off on the welcome home celebration until the weekend. By then, you should be rid of the headache and you'll be more able to enjoy the party. What you need now is rest, so don't take work home with you, and don't squint at the monitor on your computer at home if you start getting eye strain."
"Janet, while I was stuck on Prometheus I had some strange...dreams? I'm not sure if I should describe them as dreams or hallucinations. But it was really upsetting." She shot a significant glance at the camera in the corner, knowing that Janet's office was wired for sound as well, as she commonly transcribed patient conferences for their charts.
Janet didn't miss a beat. "Sam Carter, you brained yourself with a bulkhead. What have I been telling you? I know you lunatics collect war wounds like baseball cards, but this time you came close to doing yourself a truly serious injury. Head wounds are not a joke! Of course you hallucinated. The miracle is that you were able to sort out the delusions from reality well enough to get yourself out of that fix. Have you had any more since you got back to earth?"
"Well, one of the hallucinations was a little girl. When I first got back I heard her laughing. But it was only for a moment and it hasn't come back again."
"That's textbook. If they start to recur now, that would be a cause for concern. Now about the hallucinations themselves--interpreting them would be more up Dr. MacKenzie's alley than mine, but I could use a cup of coffee if you just want to sound them out with a friend."
"Thanks, I could really use that right now."
Janet stood and put her uniform jacket on. They got coffee from the commissary and found a secluded table in the back. Sam took a chair against the wall where she could see anyone getting within earshot. Janet stirred creamer in her coffee.
"What has you so upset, hon?"
"Most of the time, I hallucinated the team. Teal'c kept me awake. I was telling myself through him not to go to sleep."
"What really has me upset--the people in my hallucinations were really manifestations of my subconscious. Dad showed up telling me I deserved to have love in my life. And the colonel--this is hard. Janet, he was telling me that I've only been focusing on him all these years because he's safe."
"HA!" Janet reddened and lowered her voice. "I'm sorry, Sam, but I wouldn't exactly use the words "safe" and "Jack O'Neill" in the same sentence!"
"I mean safe in the sense of out of reach. I don't have to take a chance on getting hurt with someone else."
Janet sipped her coffee. "You know that's silly. Jack would retire in a New York minute and marry you tomorrow if you asked him to, President Bartlet or no President Bartlet. It's your choice to be out of one another's reach right now."
"I know. And I never had any doubts before. But now this--what if there's something subconsciously--what if I'm not really committed?"
"Sam, you got hit on the head," Janet said, with exaggerated patience. "The truth is a whole lot simpler. You two love each other. I'd have to be an idiot not to have seen that, as often as you've watched over each other in my infirmary. We've all made tremendous sacrifices in this war, you and Colonel O'Neill are no different. Putting your lives on hold can't have been easy. But if you'll notice, he hasn't made any effort to move on either. Sometimes the easy way is dead wrong. I guess what you have to ask yourself is, are you waiting for something real? Is spending the rest of your life with him what you want to do when this war ends and you're both free to follow your own path?"
Sam said, "Yes." No hesitation. She looked up. "That's my answer, isn't it?"
Janet grinned. "I'd say so. Now go home and get some rest, your head has got to be pounding like a bass drum."
Fraiser watched her friend work her way out of the commissary and couldn't keep a wide grin off her face. A safe relationship with Jack O'Neill? Not in this lifetime!
Carter sniffed the BDUs the base laundry had returned after their trip to Kelowna. They still smelled like rotten eggs. She made a face and stuffed them directly into the dirty laundry bin, and got in her locker for her other set. Just as she was getting ready to head for the commissary for her morning coffee, her phone rang. "Carter."
"Hi, Sam, it's Mark. How are you doing?"
"Great, how are things in Sandy Eggo?"
He laughed. "Fine! Listen, Sis, can I ask you for a favor?"
She juggled the phone to her other hand so she could brush her hair, and laughed, "You can ask."
"A friend of mine in Denver, Pete Shanahan--you remember him?"
She thought furiously. Mark had a tribe of liberal yuppie college pals that she had never really paid much attention to. "Oh, gosh, Mark...he's the cop, right?"
Mark said, "He's going to be in Colorado Springs for a while. Could you sort of--you know, show him around, be a friendly face?"
"Mark, are you trying to set me up with one of your buddies?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that. You see, his marriage broke up a few months ago, and since then he's been really down. He needs to get out there and live again. Just be a friend, you know?"
"OK, Mark, but the operative word is "friend" here. You do understand that, right?"
"Sam, you're living the way Dad did for all those years, married to your job...."
"Red light! I'm not having that conversation with you over the telephone. If we're going to fight, I want to be in the same room so I can bean you with my coffee cup."
He laughed. "OK, OK, uncle! Just on a friendly basis, that's crystal clear."
"OK, then, give him this number and tell him to give me a call when he gets into town. We can do lunch or something."
She promptly forgot the conversation as soon as she started writing her mission report from Kelowna.
Daniel said, "Screw the whole Osiris thing for now. We're talking about you and Sam."
O'Neill said, "Daniel, there is no me and Sam. The regulations--"
"--Could land me in Fort Leavenworth and she'd finish her career in the Aleutian Islands. I hope you know that we have better damn sense than that!"
Daniel threw a pencil across the room. "I'm not talking about what you're not acting on! Look up the word honor in the dictionary, and there are your and Sam's pictures right next to it. I'm saying this Pete character has his eye on her, and he's going to try to take her away from you. Are you going to just stand there like a knot on a log and let that happen?"
Jack said, "I'm going to let Sam do whatever she thinks is right for her, and you're going to stay out of it. All I want is for Sam to be happy, and if that's with Pete, neither of us is going to say anything to hurt her feelings. Have you got that?"
"Jack, you're making the mistake of your life!" Daniel yelled.
"If I am it's my life!" O'Neill yelled back. "Butt out!" He slammed out of the office.
Daniel swore in several languages, and finally settled on "Damn fool stubborn Irishman!"
Sha're materialized tentatively, ready to disappear again if the fur was still flying. "What was all that about?"
"Sam's new boyfriend."
"Sam does not have a boyfriend. That Peter person is just a friend of her brother's. Unless I have missed something--?"
"Not on Sam's part, but Pete thinks of her as more than just his friend's sister, or I miss my guess! And the worst part is, Jack knows that, but he's playing the noble martyr and staying out of it--"
"Daniel, Jack is right about one thing. This is none of our business. Prying into other people's private lives rarely leads to anything good."
"Ordinarily I'd agree with you. But there's something about Pete that just isn't right. Sha're, can you haunt him?"
"HAUNT him? What would you have me do, follow him around and rattle chains at him like Marley in that movie we watched before Christmas?"
"Just following him around would be plenty. If there's nothing to see, then I'll relax knowing I'm wrong about Pete. I'll hold my tongue and let Jack and Sam screw up their lives if that's really what they want to do."
Sha're nodded. "I think they're making a terrible mistake as well, my Dan'yel. But in matters of the heart it rarely does any good to say so. People will never listen. Besides, I was going to be in your apartment tonight in case something goes wrong with Osiris."
"What were you going to do if something did go wrong?" He asked reasonably.
"Well--at the very least I could serve as a distraction."
"That would be a great idea if we'd trained for it, but right now you'd distract us as much as Osiris if you just suddenly popped up and yelled boo," he said. "Besides, Osiris might not even see you."
"Very well," she sighed. "I hadn't thought of that....I will rest now and follow Sam when she leaves the mountain tonight. She will lead me to Peter, and I will follow him from there."
Daniel said, "I think he goes by Pete."
She laughed. "I know but he just seems more like a Peter to me." She sang, "Mary had a little lamb, she tied it to the heater. Every time it turned around it burned its little--"
Daniel burst out laughing. He'd known Sha're had a positively wicked sense of humor sometimes, he just hadn't known how much of a command of English slang she'd learned. "OK, Sha're!"
Her laughter remained after she disappeared.
Sam put her hand on the middle of Pete's chest to stop him from following her into the house and gave him a peck on the cheek. "No, you can't come in. It's late and I have to go to work in the morning."
"What's the matter, Samantha, don't you trust me?"
"It's myself I don't trust, I'm dangerous when I've been drinking. Go home and sleep off the champaign, and we'll get together again before you go back to Denver."
He laughed and said, "OK, you win." But when the door closed, he said, "This time," and walked on back to his car. He sat there long enough to make Sha're very very nervous before he finally started the engine and drove back to his hotel.
Sha're stopped right in front of Teal'c, where he would have to walk right through her if he didn't decide to recognize her presence. "Damn and blast it, Teal'c, I'm right here, and I'm trying as hard as I can, and I NEED YOUR HELP! Please, Teal'c. Please hear me."
He blinked a couple of times, looked down, then looked back up. "Sha'reJackson?"
She reached for his hands. Her fingers passed right through his, but he felt a very real chill. He could no longer deny the reality that was right in front of him. "I truly am here."
"I took your life."
"Amaunet took my life. You set me free, and you took a great evil out of the universe. Most importantly to me, Teal'c, you saved my Dan'yel from her. I am so sorry that it cost you so much, but what you did was right. Never doubt that." Sha're wiped away tears.
Teal'c vowed fiercely, "I will never fail you again, Sha're of Nagada."
"I know that."
"What do you need of me?"
"Dan'yel has had me following Pete Shanahan the last few days. At first I thought his suspicions were only because Sam and Jack belong with each other, but to put his mind at ease, I agreed to do some...snooping around. He has been investigating her with a friend at the FBI. And while I was following him--he has been following Sam. That was how he found the trouble with Osiris today and came to be injured. Now I am definitely a pot calling a kettle black, as they say here....but I have come to share Dan'yel's suspicions about this man. There is just something about him that I do not like. I think he does not wish to love and adore Sam, but to be loved and adored. Not...for her sake, but his. He must have things his way. Does this make sense to you?"
"Many men want to rule in their own houses. I admit I once thought as much myself. Ishta has disabused me of that notion, and now I see that a relationship can be so much more if it is a true partnership. Nevertheless, PeteShanahan may simply be as many other men. I do not doubt MajorCarter's ability to hold her own should he attempt to rule over her."
"True. But he was married before. What I want you to do is find his former wife and speak to her."
Teal'c said, "It will be done."
The Jaffa chose a hat from his collection and went up to General Hammond's office.
Hammond looked up from his work. "Teal'c! Come in. What's up?"
"I wish to do a background check on PeteShanahan."
Hammond thumbed through a stack of file jackets. "Way ahead of you, my friend. I checked him out before I let Major Carter tell him anything about the project. But I'll tell you ahead of time, there's nothing here. He's clean as a whistle."
"I see. That is a good thing. The identity of his ex-wife is here, is it not?"
"As a matter of fact, yes, her last known address is here in the Springs. Why?"
"I do not wish to create trouble where none exists. I will speak when I have something to say. I wish to leave the base this afternoon."
"Certainly." Technically aliens weren't supposed to leave the base unescorted, but now that Teal'c no longer had Junior, Hammond often bent that rule.
Teal'c took the folder and memorized the address inside.
It turned out to be an apartment. A very large dog barked when he knocked at the door. An eye appeared at the peephole, then the door opened. There were two chains preventing it from opening more than a crack, and the dog crowded between his mistress and the door, growling very convincingly. A pretty young woman called the dog to heel and said, "Sorry, he's very protective. What do you want?"
"Are you Annette Ditraglia?"
"Who wants to know?"
"I am Murray. I understand that you were once married to Peter Shanahan." He pronounced the names carefully as two words.
"Look here, if that son of a bitch sent you here to check up on me, Devil here hasn't had his afternoon snack yet, and you'll do just fine!"
"I assure you that PeterShanahan did not send me here. In fact I am checking up on him. I mean you no harm and I truly would not wish to become your dog's afternoon snack."
Annette laughed and relaxed. "You know--you're weird, but I think you're on the up and up. Come on in. Don't worry about Devil. He won't attack unless you threaten me, or I tell him to get you." She unchained the door and offered him a seat. "I was just about to get a coke. Would you like one?"
From the kitchen she asked, "What's Pete done now?"
"To the best of my knowledge he has not done anything. But he has been seeing a friend of mine recently."
"Well, tell her to run, not walk!" Annette said forcefully. She returned with two ice-filled glasses of soda.
"What causes you to advise that?"
"When Pete and I first started seeing each other, things were fine," Annette said. "I'd never had a boyfriend who treated me so nice. He was always bringing me flowers or candy. My parents and my friends all loved him. He became part of the family. I was over the moon. But after we were married, things changed, a little at a time. Before I even realized what was happening, Pete had taken that job with the Denver PD and moved us up there. My mom and I still can't figure out exactly how he did it but it wasn't long until he had us squabbling. I hardly ever called home. One by one I lost contact with my friends and I never even connected it to Pete until later. He talked me into cutting back my hours at work and agreeing to have a baby."
Teal'c looked up, alert. There had been nothing about a child in the background check.
"I miscarried at four months," she said. "Pete blamed it on too much stress from my job. I resigned and we tried again, but I couldn't conceive again. That's when things started to go bad. Peter started to blame me, saying that I wasn't really committed to our relationship and that I didn't truly want to conceive. He had me doubting myself so badly, and by then, I realized I didn't have anyone around me to turn to. I was idiot enough to tell him I wanted a separation to think things through. That was when he hit me and knocked me flat on my ass." She looked down, then continued.
"I can't believe I was dumb enough to believe him when he apologized all over himself and swore that was never going to happen again. He had me believing he'd only hit me because I shocked him so badly by suggesting the separation. But then he got the idea in his head that I was interested in our neighbor at the time and he hit me again. That time I had the sense to keep my mouth shut. The next morning when he left for work, I cleaned out the checking account and lit out for my mom and dad's place."
"How did he react to your departure?"
"Fortunately for him, he got drunk with a buddy of his on the force who convinced him not to do anything stupid. My dad would have shot him if he'd tried. His friend convinced me not to get an order of protection, because he'd lose his job and it was all he had left. Now if he's back up to his old tricks with somebody else, that was a mistake."
"To the best of my knowledge, he has done nothing. But I shall certainly make my friend aware of his history with you. I thank you for taking the time to speak to me."
"Well, Murray my friend, I thank you for letting me know Pete's here in the Springs. I think me and Devil are gonna surprise my parents and go visit them for a week or two."
"That sounds a wise course of action. Will you be all right alone here?"
"Oh, I'm not alone. I've got Devil, and my friends Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson right here with me." She patted the pocket of her oversized jacket, revealing a healthy sized bulge in it.
Teal'c bowed his head and stood. "It appears that you have things well in hand here."
Back at Cheyenne Mountain, Carter and O'Neill were laughing at something Fraiser had said when they walked into Pete's room. They had both already changed into civilian clothes to go home.
Carter said, "Hey, Pete, I heard Janet cut you loose. Do you need a ride back to your hotel?"
"Sure, it'd save cab fare," Pete grinned.
O'Neill joked, "I hope you brought your motorcycle helmet."
"Uh, helmet? What--?"
"Didn't you know you were dating a biker chick?"
Sam glared at Jack and squawked, "Biker chick!?"
He grinned. "Oh, yeah."
Pete couldn't miss the fondness underlying Jack's teasing and a hot flood of jealousy shadowed his face for a moment. "You didn't tell me you have a motorcycle, Sam."
"I sure do, a restored Indian. That bike is my pride and joy." She grinned. "Don't worry, the colonel's just giving you a hard time. I've got the Volvo today. I may be a biker chick--" She gave Jack a mock glare of death-- "But I prefer my nice, heated car when it's twenty degrees!"
A nurse brought Pete a scrub shirt along with his own pants and other belongings. He pulled the curtain to get dressed.
Jack was still teasing Sam. Eventually he got around to giving her a hard time about getting her boyfriend into trouble and having to rescue him.
Sam replied, "Sir, Pete is not my boyfriend, he's a friend of my brother's. Pete, will you tell him?"
Pete was furious, but he didn't let that show. "Whatever you say, Sam. I'm Mark's friend."
That whatever-you-say thing pushed Jack's buttons. "Don't worry about it, Pete. A lot of guys have decided they're not man enough for Carter."
She made an outraged noise, and then Pete heard another noise that sounded suspiciously like somebody snapping a superior officer with a wet washcloth. But none of that stopped Sam from laughing at Jack's jokes. From laughing at Pete. That flyboy had the brass to say he wasn't man enough for Sam and she thought that was funny?
Pete could see he was never going to make any more headway with Sam--not as long as Jack was in the picture.
He finished dressing. They rode the elevator to the surface together and went opposite ways after they got to the parking lot.
Sam drove him to his hotel and made sure he got up to his room all right. She was going to leave him at the door, but he asked, "Have you got any plans for dinner?"
"Just me and Lean Cuisine."
"Well, I'm starving after all that hospital food. The hotel restaurant is pretty good. Let me buy you dinner. It's the least I can do after all the trouble I caused you."
"Pete, as long as you know you can't follow me around any more? Mark's probably going to strangle me for letting you get hurt in the first place."
He held up his hands in surrender. "Lesson learned, Sam. You have a crazy job and I wouldn't touch it again with a ten foot pole. I don't see how anyone can do that day in day out."
"Beats the alternative," she said pointedly.
"You know you don't have to take care of everyone else all the time. You could let someone take care of you now and then."
She grinned. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Are you in love with that guy?"
"He's my CO," she replied. "You have to understand, Pete, SG-1 has been together for a long time--a lot longer than most Air Force units stay together. We're a bunch of peas in a pod. Those guys would do anything for me and vice versa."
"Love you, love your crew, is that how it goes?"
"Something like that."
Pete defused the situation with a very honest reply. "Yeah, that's how it is with cops, too. I'd do anything for my partner--any of the people I work with, for that matter. Let me get something besides this scrub shirt and then we can get something to eat."
Teal'c saw O'Neill and Carter's vehicles leaving the mountain. He had to continue up Norad Drive another few hundred yards before he found a place to turn the SUV around. Soon after O'Neill turned off towards his house, Teal'c pulled up behind him and tapped the horn.
O'Neill looked up at the rear-view, annoyed at someone tailgating him and honking the horn. His first reaction was to take his foot off the gas and crawl ahead about ten miles an hour. But then he recognized Teal'c driving one of the base's SUVs, and pulled over in a gas station parking lot.
Teal'c locked the SUV and climbed in the shotgun seat. "O'Neill, I have been doing some 'snooping' and I have discovered something very troubling about PeteShanahan."
"This better be good, or Carter's gonna kill you," Jack replied. "What's our boy done now?"
"I visited his ex-wife and spoke to her." He repeated the salient points of the interview, including the bits about the guard dog and the gun in her pocket. "I believe this man to be another Jonas Hansen."
"Damn it, Daniel was right all along. As freakin' usual." He threw the truck in gear.
"Where are we going?"
"Carter was taking him back to his hotel. I was really giving her a hard time while he was getting ready to leave the infirmary. But thinking back, he heard everything I said. And if he's the kind of guy you're describing, he took it all wrong. I could have set something off that could blow up in Carter's face, and she doesn't have a clue."
"Our arrival at the hotel is equally likely to precipitate something."
"Could be, but at least she'll have some back-up. The next time I see Mark Carter, I'm gonna kick his ass for introducing Sam to some kind of nut job."
"I am certain that he does not know. It is highly likely that few people do suspect him. Such people are experts at ingratiating themselves with the friends of their potential victims."
"Yeah, too bad for him Danny's such a good judge of character. Boy, did I drop the ball."
"You wanted what you thought was best for MajorCarter," Teal'c said, but O'Neill didn't miss the emphasis on the pronoun.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"O'Neill, I am not blind. You have practically pushed her into the arms of that hashak. This must stop. You speak of staying out of MajorCarter's life and allowing her to make her own decisions, but when are you going to begin to take your own advice? Has it not ever occurred to you that you are what is best for her?"
"Because I'm not, Teal'c. She could have her pick of guys her age, who can give her the kind of life she deserves. You and I both know I probably won't make it through this war. She's never going to have anything with me besides a promise I won't be around to keep!"
"Do you truly see yourself as so much wiser than MajorCarter, that you are right and she is necessarily wrong about the path her own life should take? Do you think she is truly such a fool as to believe that we are all immortal? I doubt that either of us will live to see the end of this conflict. That only makes whatever time we do have all the more precious."
"Is that really what you think I'm doing, trying to live her life for her?"
"I do not know your intent, but I do see the results right in front of me," Teal'c replied quietly. "Consider this, O'Neill, if she should lose you, is it not better to live each day as it comes so that neither of you has regrets? Is that not the best legacy you could leave her?"
O'Neill braked for a red light and answered only by shaking his head. Once again, he'd been an ass, apparently.
The hotel restaurant was crowded with business travelers. Sam enjoyed her chicken alfredo and promised herself some extra time on the treadmill tomorrow to make up for the sinfully rich sauce. "So you're going back to Denver soon?"
"Yeah, the LT's putting his foot down. Hey, Les Miz is in town. Why don't you come up for the weekend and I'll show you around Denver?"
"I don't know if I could get away. This weekend is kind of short notice."
"Well, what about next weekend?"
"Maybe, I'll have to see."
"I hope you're going to let me reciprocate for keeping me from getting lost down here."
"Oh, I think you're a big boy. You could have found your way around without any help from me. As a matter of fact, you did perfectly well tailing me."
"Oh, God, I knew you were mad at me about that," Pete replied.
"Pete, I'm mad because you almost got killed. Our jobs are both dangerous enough without giving Murphy extra chances. If we're going to be friends, then you have to start believing me when I tell you not to stick your nose in things you aren't trained to handle."
"Sam, honestly, you have to admit I had no idea what kind of things those things were, and I had no reason to believe that I wasn't prepared to handle something that might happen on a routine stakeout," he said. "I understand now what you meant about classified, but at the time--you could have warned me somehow that it was so dangerous."
"I'm sorry you got mixed up in this, and I'm sorry you got hurt, but there is just no way you can twist this around to make it my fault," Sam told him firmly.
"Whoa, I wasn't trying to put you on the defensive here!"
"I don't understand, Pete, I'm not on the defensive. I told you what I did was classified, you know I'm an officer in the Air Force, and you took it upon yourself to follow me and involve yourself in a matter of national security. Do you realize that if you hadn't been my brother's friend and a police officer with a squeaky clean record that you could very well have gotten yourself arrested? In a way, you're lucky you did get shot because the General decided you'd suffered enough. But, Pete, so help me if you ever poke your nose into my business again--"
Whatever Pete had been expecting, it wasn't getting dressed down like a new recruit who'd just screwed up his first arrest. It was the first time he'd seen Carter all business, and she was more than a little scary. "Yes, ma'am, Major Carter, ma'am, it won't happen again!"
She took that at face value. "All right, then, it's water under the bridge."
"I'm getting a little tired, Sam, would you mind if we had after-dinner drinks in my room instead of here?"
"I guess that would be OK. You probably will be tired for the next few days."
"Yes, that was what the doctor said." Pete signalled for the check and soon they were in the elevator going up to his room.
O'Neill saw Carter's Volvo still parked in the hotel lot. Teal'c had Shanahan's room number in the file jacket that General Hammond had given him. The hotel layout was a little confusing and they had to look around a while to find the room.
O'Neill raised his hand to knock on the door, when he heard Carter say firmly, "Pete, I asked you once to take your hands off me and now I'm telling you."
There was a quick scuffle, a blow and a thud. Jack kicked the door, ready to charge to Sam's rescue. Instead he found her standing there furious and Pete sitting on the floor with his hand on his jaw.
"Lose my phone number, asshole!" Then Sam realized that Jack and Teal'c were standing there and had probably seen the whole embarrassing thing. She turned red as a boiled lobster.
No slouch at threat assessment, Jack read the situation that all three of them were likely to be dead in the next five seconds. He stepped out into the hall and gave Sam plenty of room to sail past him, and for once in his life he had the God-given good sense to keep his mouth closed.
Teal'c effortlessly lifted Shanahan off the floor and set him on his feet. "I know about your ex-wife. You will stay away from MajorCarter. Is this understood?"
Shanahan rubbed his jaw some more and gulped a couple of times, his glance flickering from Teal'c to a very dangerously silent O'Neill. "No problem, if I never see Colorado Springs again it'll be too soon."
"Excellent." Teal'c and O'Neill left without another word. Shanahan cursed and kicked his suitcase. Sneaking behind his back with his lying bitch ex-wife and turning Sam against him--those two were going to pay. Not right now--he had to get back to Denver and square things with work. But this wasn't the end of it by a long shot.
Sam was still furious when she got home. She called Mark and gave him a piece of her mind about Pete, then went for a long run in the cold to work off the adrenaline that still had her nerves twanging like a guitar string. At that point in time she was ready to consign the entire male gender to the depths of Netu. She found herself on Janet's doorstep.
Cassie answered the door and let her in. As soon as she saw the look on Sam's face, she reached for her coat and car keys.
Janet asked, "Sam, what's the matter? Cassie, where are you going?"
"Ice cream run, I finished off the last carton and this definitely looks like a double chocolate with chocolate chips night!" The door closed behind her.
"Sam, what's happened?"
Janet sat her down and said, "Tell me all about it."
Sam took a deep breath. "I took Pete back to his hotel, right? Well, when we got there, we had dinner, and I let him have it for getting himself into such a stupid situation in the first place."
"I think I'd have done that first thing, but that's me. Then what happened?"
"He apologized and swore he'd never do it again. Then after we finished eating, he said he was tired and wanted to have drinks in his room instead of the restaurant. But when I got up there, he was all over me like a damn octopus. I told him to stop--twice--then I knocked him on his ass."
Janet grinned. "Good for you! I take it he's on his way back to Denver?"
"I don't know and I don't give a damn. The worst part of it is--right when I hit him, the door busted open, and there were Teal'c and the Colonel big as life."
"What were they doing there?"
"Checking up on me, obviously. I can see if the Colonel did, but where the hell did Teal'c get off--?!"
"I'm sure I don't know. You said it--men! He was just looking out for you, probably."
"Janet, if one more man starts "looking out for me" I'm going to do something that will land me in prison for the rest of my life, I swear to God!"
"I know the feeling, that was one of the reasons I got a divorce. Well, that and finding out he was a two-timing rat bastard. Men suck, but they're just so much better than anything else out there."
"I guess. I think I'm going to leave the Air Force and become a nun!"
"That idea sure has its merits sometimes," Janet agreed. "Should I start coffee or open a bottle of wine?"
"Better make it coffee. I had a couple drinks with dinner and I think I'd better call that my limit for tonight, as mad as I am. I already assaulted an officer."
"Well, it sounds like he did it first. You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, just bruised my knuckles."
"What did you do, sock him in the jaw?"
Janet licked her finger and chalked up a "one" in mid-air. She went in the kitchen and started the coffee maker. Over her shoulder she asked, "What did Jack and Teal'c do?"
A slow grin spread across Sam's face in spite of herself. "They just kind of...stood there. The colonel let me past him, and I went straight to the elevator. Nobody said anything."
Janet roared with laughter. "They thought they were coming to the rescue like...like Hoss and Little Joe...and there was Pete on his keister in the middle of the hotel room floor! I'll bet they wanted to dig a hole and pull it in after them!"
When Cassie came in they were both still laughing hysterically. She dropped off the ice cream, and went in the kitchen for bowls and spoons. The coffee was ready so she fixed three cups and brought that in too. The three of them sat around laughing at the whole stupid situation for fifteen or twenty minutes, then Cassie loaned Sam a coat and Janet drove her home.
Janet said, "That's Jack's truck in front of your house!"
Sam shrugged out of the borrowed coat. "Let me off at the corner."
Sam had time to hit her stride and be slowing down when she came up the walk, to find Jack sitting on her front stoop with his hands jammed in his pockets and a dejected look on his face.
"Sir! This is a surprise."
"Ah, well, Carter, I can explain--"
She opened the door. "Well, do it inside, sir, it's cold out here."
"What were you doing out running in this weather?"
She gave him a what-the-hell-do-you-think look. "You mentioned an explanation, Colonel?"
"Well, you see, Teal'c talked to Pete's ex-wife and--we found out he's a stalker with a history of violence."
"Oh, that's just the icing on the friggin' cake," she said, starting to get mad all over again. "And you and Teal'c thought I needed the two of you to get rid of him because....?"
"Because we were idiots? Daniel was in on it too, he was the one who put Teal'c up to checking on him in the first place! Well, actually Sha're did, but--"
Sam's eyes flashed ice blue. "SHA'RE!" She exploded. "Is there anyone on the base who wasn't involved in keeping an eye on poor helpless little Carter?"
Jack actually winced and it didn't even occur to him to mention the word "insubordination." For which he was very, very grateful when he thought of it later. "Uh--Siler? Obviously you didn't need any help, and we were interfering, and--I'm sorry?"
She nodded. "Apology accepted. And I'm sorry I yelled at you, sir."
"Well, I had it coming. But, Carter, I swear, we were just looking out for you, that's all, the same as you would have done for any of us. Danny had a bad feeling about Pete from the beginning. But I wouldn't listen to him, and things just kept getting more and more complicated."
"Only because you were complicating them. Pete's nobody."
"Sit down. I think we're long overdue for a straight talk about a few things."
"OK, but I'm just going to apologize ahead of time because I suck at this kind of stuff. I know I'm gonna say the wrong thing and make you mad."
She laughed a little. "All right. I'm not too great at it myself, so the same thing goes for me. I'm just going to say it. Do you want me to find somebody else, is that what all this is about?"
"No! I mean, it isn't what I want. But the thing is--I hate it that you're alone so much and...I thought Pete was a good guy. If things took off between the two of you, I didn't want to be in your way. When you really get down to it, what I want--all I want--is for you to be happy. I don't think things are going to work out that I can ever be there for you and it's just wrong to ask you to wait for me."
Sam saw an honesty in his eyes far deeper than the awkward sentences he got out. "It's Edora all over again."
"What's Edora got to do with--"
"You're giving up again. You've got it into your head that I won't find a way, that you don't have a choice other than accept the way things are. Well, maybe we don't have a choice right now. But I'd rather have whatever I can have with you, and hope for the future, than kiss a bunch of frogs like Pete Shanahan trying to find a fairy tale prince who doesn't exist! Why can't you see that you're the best thing that ever happened to me?"
"Sam, we're breaking the regs just breathing the same air."
"I don't give a damn. We haven't let our feelings affect the job, and we won't," she said firmly. "Other than that, how we feel and what we might or might not want to do in the future, when the regs aren't in the way, is nobody's business but ours. Seven years of my life I've given my country to fight this war, and seventy more if that's what it takes to win this thing, but I want this for myself! Stop trying to live my life for me and live it with me! Because I won't make it if you don't."
"Sam, do you know how unlikely it is that there'll ever be an after-the-war for me?"
"We could both get killed tomorrow," she said steadily. "Does that mean we shouldn't have what we can in good conscience give each other now? God forbid I should lose you, but if I do, all I'll have are the memories we make right now. Maybe that can't be what we both want to do, but...it can be the time we spend with Jamie, or laughing over something silly, or even, heaven help us, hip-deep in a mud hole with staff fire flying overhead. For Christ's sake, I'm not a sixteen-year-old virgin. I've had boyfriends. I know how far that goes and it isn't enough. I want what I have with you. I want more than that, but only when the time comes that I can have it with you. I'll wait, and if fate decides it isn't going to happen, that's a chance I'm willing to take."
Jack was afraid his voice was going to crack, but then he realized he didn't give a damn. This was too important to worry about it. "If you can put up with me looking out for you, you have me, as long as the Good Lord gives us."
"I guess I can put up with it," she smiled, and Jack knew they were OK. They didn't hug, didn't kiss, just shared a long moment of silence before he went back to his truck. The porch light stayed on until well after he pulled away from the curb.