Jackfic Archive Story

 

Learning to Live With It Part 11

by Su Freund

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).


Title: Learning to Live With It Part 11

Author: Su Freund

Email: su_freund@ficwithfins.com

Website: http://www.ficwithfins.com/

Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure, Romance

Content Level: Age 13+

Content Warnings: Minor use of mild language

Pairings: Jack & Sam

Season: Future

Spoilers: Abyss, Ex-Deus Machina and general S9 spoilers

Summary: Apparently alone, Sam arrives in Vegas for her rendezvous with Ed James but, unbeknown to him, she is far from being unaided.

Sequel/Series Info: Sequel to Learning to Live With It Part 10

Status: Series

Copyright (c) 2006 Su Freund

Art Credit: Thanks to Fulinn28 for making the great book cover that illustrates this fic on my site from a cap of Jack and Sam. You can see it here: http://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto11.html

Author's Note: Bonnie did a wonderful job of beta reading this fic, as ever, and picking up some of my dumb mistakes, particularly the use of UK, rather than US, English expressions. Thanks Bonnie! Of course, any remaining mistakes are entirely my own.

Learning to Live With It Part 11

"Beam me up Scotty," Jack said into the communication device, chortling happily to himself and thinking it was a pity no one was around to share the joke. Teal'c would have loved it.

Almost simultaneously, Jack, Sam, Daniel, Teal'c and Jon appeared aboard Thor's ship in a bright beam of light, each from their own separate locations.

"Hey, kids, long time no see," joked Jack as he saw his friends.

"Scotty, O'Neill?" Thor asked and, guessing what Jack had given as a signal, three of Jack's friends laughed and Teal'c grinned.

"It's from a TV show, Thor," Jack clarified, leaving Thor as puzzled as before, although he thought he heard the Asgard mutter something unintelligible. "Bang on time, buddy. Hey, maybe Teal'c will lend you his Star Trek DVDs," he quipped with a smile "You okay Sam?" he asked, turning towards her.

Sam nodded with a weak grin. She wasn't necessarily looking forward to her encounter with Ed James but it was necessary and she hoped she could pull it off without screwing up. It was Jack who did covert; that was his area of expertise, not hers.

Jack glanced at Teal'c wondering whether or not to tell the group about their antics the previous night. At around the same time that Sam was meeting Ed James, a larger group were going to descend on the facilities in Area 51 and tear it all apart.

Having contacted Landry on a secure line, they'd arranged for it to happen and also made plans to ensure there were no leaks leading up to the fateful hour. Quickly deciding to delay telling them until after Sam's rendezvous, he got straight down to business. Teal'c, as usual, would say nothing and Thor had promised not to mention it unless O'Neill did. Jack didn't want to distract the others from the main game. He wasn't taking any chances.

His unofficial actions the previous night had left Jack feeling exhilarated. It had been good to be out doing something again instead of paper pushing. Admittedly, the job was more than simply paperwork, but Jack missed the action: the excitement, the adrenalin rush and the satisfaction.

Thus he was looking forward to their little adventure. Although he didn't think it would be up to his usual high standards of terrifyingly invigorating danger, it was still going to be a lot of fun. Assuming that everything went right, of course, and there was always the risk that it wouldn't. This was the threat that nagged him, and made it so potentially perilous. The biggest risk was to Sam and he had to admit that he didn't like that much.

"Okay, we've got about fifteen minutes. Any questions about the plan?" Jack asked, searching their faces. The friends remained mute. "Fine, let's test out the equipment, huh, Thor?"

"I assure you, O'Neill, that such a thing is not required," asserted Thor. "The equipment is, as you might say, peachy."

The non-Asgard contingent struggled to keep their faces straight and Jack nodded towards Jon who opened the bags Jack and Teal'c had brought away from Cheyenne Mountain, little realising that some of their contents had been used the previous night.

He handed a zat to everyone but Sam. She would be the most exposed of all of them and would take a gun but Jack didn't think that was going to do her any good. Once they got her alone, the first thing they would do was disarm her and check for a wire. It bothered Jack a lot, despite that he had improved considerably upon her plan. If anything happened to her... he wouldn't allow himself to contemplate that.

"Okay, you ready to go?" he looked at Sam.

"As I'll ever be," she responded.

"You'll do fine, Sam. We're right behind you watching your six. Be careful down there."

"Yes sir," she said, raising a small salute, which Jack returned, and then he nodded at Thor and Sam was gone. She was in Vegas.

Thor activated a viewer and the friends watched her on screen. The whole thing was now being recorded for posterity, and Thor could have the others down there right next to her in seconds. Jack hoped it was quick enough. Conveniently, their diminutive grey friend has also recorded Jack and Teal'c's little night time excursion, which might come in useful for evidence, or to exert pressure on the conspirators. People could give up a great deal information when they believed you had a lot on them already.

Stepping out of the quiet and empty alleyway to which Thor had sent her, Sam walked the couple of blocks towards the bar where she was due to meet Ed James. When she got there, he was already waiting.

"Sam!" he exclaimed when he saw her, getting up and giving her a peck on the cheek, all smiles.

"Ed, thanks for agreeing to meet me," she said, thinking, 'hypocrite.'

"Drink?" Ed asked.

"Just coffee for me thanks. I'm tired enough already." Sam replied and Ed ordered coffee for both of them, eyeing Sam.

"You're looking pretty good for a dead woman," Sam grimaced in response, "What's going on Sam?"

"Ed, I found some evidence that there are unauthorised experiments taking place at Groom Lake."

"What?" Ed looked the picture of innocent shock, "what kind of experiments?"

"Think super soldier."

"Super soldier? Isn't that CIA / conspiracy theory territory?" he laughed.

"I'm serious, Ed."

"Sam, it sounds kind of crazy."

"Why so?"

"Good question. I guess with your experience you know more about this kind of stuff than me. Any idea who's involved?"

"Ellis and Peters."

"Rick? I play golf with him!"

"And Connelly."

"Connelly? Sam..."

"I think they're setting you up as a patsy, Ed."

"Me? Whoa! Give me a minute for it to sink in." he paused, looking thoughtfully at Sam. "it's kind of hard to get your head around. What's the evidence?"

"I have some, but not here."

"Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I do. Why else would I be here? I need you to take the evidence to Doyle, or maybe somewhere outside the facility."

"You think Doyle's clean?"

"I don't know for sure."

"Then who the hell do we trust? Why haven't you been to someone with it?"

"I've been running scared and didn't know what to do. Christ, Ed, they killed my best friend thinking it was me!" Sam sobbed.

"I'm sorry baby." He moved closer to Sam, putting his arm around her in a gesture of comfort. Jack cringed inwardly as he watched, wondering once again exactly how close these two had got and mentally kicking himself to concentrate on the job. Now was so not the time to lose it.

"What about your beloved General O'Neill? Why haven't you been to see him? You never stopped talking about the guy when we were together." It was Sam's turn to cringe, knowing that Jack was listening in. Jon looked over at Jack, noting the impassivity of his expression and wondering what he was thinking.

Jon's own mind was still slightly befuddled by what had happened the previous night. Sam's kiss had been real hot, but had broken his heart. He understood only too well that there was nothing there for him; the moment had been an aberration, borne from unusual circumstances.

Sam's heart was elsewhere, as had been very clear from their conversation. And Jon had resigned himself to that a long time ago, or so he'd thought. Recent events had muddied the waters. It's easy to believe you've moved on and accepted things until they are staring you in the face, and when they are eating that face it just made it all the harder. Sheesh!

Despite his own still powerful feelings for Samantha Carter, Jon genuinely wished for both Jack and Sam to be happy - together. He probably should be envious of Sam's feelings for the older version of him, and he was, and he probably should resent Jack for being within reach of something he could never have, and he did - kind of. His mixed feelings about it weren't very helpful.

Alone together in Jack's house that morning, things had been more than a little awkward between them. Sam's kiss the previous night had disturbed both of them and she'd been contrite, and mortified that she'd done something so stupidly hurtful. Jon had made light of it, belying the still tumultuous feelings that lurked deep within. He understood what had happened although that didn't make it right or feel any better. Jon knew that her actions had not been deliberate and they had to get over it and move on, so he acted like he had so that she could.

Secretly, he was pleased that Sam had confided in him. She had revealed what lay in her heart. While he found that hard to take, deep down he'd already known, and felt privileged that she'd chosen to tell him. That meant a great deal to Jon and, in the absence of her love, it meant more than anything.

Like his older clone, he would always be there for her if she needed him, no matter what. When Jack had called, Jon had gone running, believing Sam dead and wanting to avenge her. But she wasn't dead, and seeing her again so unexpectedly had stirred feelings in him that he believed he'd relinquished. Some hope of that! On the other hand, one of these days he'd meet someone else and get another shot. He was confident of that.

Meanwhile, he'd do his bit towards helping the "real" Jack be happy, and he'd remain Jon, with everything that entailed: good, bad and indifferent. That was life and he had to both live it, and learn to live with it.

Jon gave himself a mental shake, trying to turn his thoughts away from all of that to concentrate on the mission, just like he knew Jack would be doing. Plenty of time to stew over all of it after they'd caught the bad guys.

"'I'm not sure I can trust him anymore, Ed," Sam said in response to James's question about Jack. "He took our break up kind of personally."

'Damned right!' thought Jack.

"Okay, so I think you ought to show me this evidence, don't you?" Ed continued, "before I go screaming to Doyle, or anyone else for that matter."

"I will, Ed, I will."

"I need a little more than just your word, Sam."

"You don't trust me?"

"Rick Peters is a good friend of mine, and you're asking me to believe he's some kind of traitor. As for Ellis, he's a jerk."

"Well it's either him, or it's you... and he's a patsy. Oh crap!" swore Sam as if that thought had only just occurred to her.

"Such a trusting soul, huh, Sam? I got a gun pointed at you under this table, so I suggest you don't make any sudden moves."

Sam was thinking that was such a clich, although it was pretty amusing. She was enjoying herself tremendously, relieved to be doing something positive after all the traumas of the past few days. Taking action was a real boost to her previously flagging spirits.

"You? Oh, Ed... Jeez, Ed, why the heck are you doing it?"

Jack smirked. Sam was doing a fine job of playacting and he was pretty sure that she was enjoying herself. He hoped it stayed that way.

"Money, Sam. Lots of it," Ed continued, "or there will be. Use alien technology, biology and chemistry to create something that any government worth its salt would pay dearly for. Maybe even our own."

"God am I glad I was never serious about you."

"Didn't stop you sleeping with me, though, did it? Admit it, the sex was pretty damned great."

Sam could feel her face flush. She was so busted! Jack had to find out like that? She so hadn't wanted him to know and now it was out in the open where she knew it would get buried into his psyche and nag at him. Ed James had just made things a whole lot worse and her hopes for a reconciliation with Jack diminished.

Meanwhile, Jack was hoping that his reaction didn't show to the others because he was pretty sure they'd all glanced at him when Sam had uttered those words. Unmoving, he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the screen until he felt their glances fall away, all except for one pair, which he was betting belonged to Jon. Then he felt them slip away too and managed to relax a little.

She had slept with this Ed James guy yet they had never made it that far when they'd been together. That was a severe blow to Jack's already beleaguered ego. He'd believed that he had meant more to her than that, despite everything. She had never been serious about Ed James, but had still slept with him. What did that say for the relationship between Sam and him?

Jack's thoughts did nothing to help mend his shattered self-esteem, especially as Sam's ex was much younger than him and probably way better looking and more intelligent too, with everything that those facts implied.

Removing his gaze from Jack's face because he knew how uncomfortable the man must feel at that moment, Jon looked back towards the screen considering this situation. He felt bad enough about what Ed James had just said and Jon realised that those feelings must have been amplified tenfold within Jack. Jon's feelings might be different, and he may never have suffered the humiliation of being dumped by Sam, but he still understood what Jack must be going through.

He'd advised Sam to go for it with Jack and never give up but now realised that she was probably going to have to be even more tenacious that he'd implied. Jack could be reasoned with, sure, but that didn't mean that he would be reasonable. Jon was unaware of the full details of Jack and Sam's situation and, if he had been, his doubts might have deepened.

Jack would understand perfectly that Sam had been free to do as she wished and go out or sleep with whomever she wanted to. He knew he didn't own her, that she was her own person, and Jack respected that, Jon was sure of it, but jealousy and self doubt could be a lethal combination and weave a dreadful spell that was hard to break.

Jon felt a twinge of jealousy as well. Bad enough that he envied his older self because he had hope, no matter that he didn't know that yet, but both on paper and in person Ed James appeared to be Sam's perfect match in age and looks, as well as all the science and intellectual stuff they shared in common. That was hard to take and he knew it would be a bitter pill for Jack to swallow too. The upside was that Ed James was an ex, and he was one of the bad guys. That kind of changed things.

He heard himself mutter the words "bad guy" aloud and felt Jack look at him so returned that glance, and they locked eyes for a while, each almost perfectly attuned to what the other was probably thinking, and then they pulled their eyes away, turning back to the screen, and concentrating on the mission.

"Yes," Sam agreed with a heavy sigh and making Jack's heart beat ever faster, "it was good, Ed, but that doesn't mean I can't regret it."

"Is it not enough, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.

At first Jack wondered what he was referring to and then realised what he meant and turned back to the business at hand, trying to calm his turbulent thoughts and berating himself for caring so much about what she'd done after their break up. The mission was all and, until it was over and Sam was safe, he didn't want to lose concentration.

"Too soon Teal'c," he said evenly, "I'm still hoping we can bag Connelly and Peters, and anyone else they thought to bring along."

"Can we not 'bag' them later on?"

"More would be good, T."

Teal'c was puzzled, and not for the first time, about the strange way in which his Tauri allies dealt with justice, but nodded at O'Neill.

Jack was hoping that they might get some clues to whoever was running this thing. The more he'd considered the symbiotes they'd uncovered, the more he wondered who the main man was. He'd started thinking Goa'uld, and Goa'uld who had access to Earth, so naturally his mind turned to Ba'al.

Not only had Ba'al been hiding on Earth right under their noses but it would be typical of his warped sense of humor to take delight in running an illicit operation right in front of their eyes at Area 51. Ba'al would so love that, and enjoy rubbing O'Neill's nose in it at the first opportunity. O'Neill's command, O'Neill's embarrassment.

Then, of course, there were his clones to consider. Maybe one or two of them were hanging around smelling up Planet Earth and Jack didn't like that idea in any way, shape or form. One was bad enough but... sheesh! The notion of Ba'al clones slightly unnerved him and he tried to avoid thinking about them. It was hard. Jack had suffered badly at Ba'al's hands and he might not talk about it but the memories were bitter and still haunted him at times.

"Right, Sam, I want you to get up from your chair looking normal, okay?" James said.

Sam knew she could have taken him, but that was not the point. He would take her to Connelly and Peters. So she nodded assent and he took her out to a car, telling her to drive where he directed.

"God, I'm so disappointed in you, Ed," Sam said.

"Not half as disappointed as I was in you, sweetheart, except in the sex department, of course."

"Yeah? Well I'm glad I disappointed you, Ed. And maybe the good sex will give you something to dwell on and yearn for when you're rotting in hell!"

"Just shut up and drive. Take the next left."

They pulled up outside a warehouse and got out. Connelly was waiting for them, and Rick Peters stepped out of the shadows. Sam nearly smiled. At least those three were there, although she realised that more people must be involved. The couple of extra men Connelly had laid on were unknown quantities, and that made her slightly nervous. One was bald-headed, stocky and muscular, not someone it looked like you should cross, while the other was lean and wiry with a slightly manic stare.

"Thor, can you check the immediate area for life signs other than those we can see?" Jack asked.

"I can, O'Neill. There are none."

"No surprises. That's good," he breathed a sigh of relief, "five of them, five of us. I'd say the odds were in our favor,"

"Well, technically speaking Jack..." Daniel started.

"Yes, Daniel, I know. But we're SG-1! And we have the element of surprise." He smiled briefly at his old friend but quickly turned back to the screen, not wanting to miss an appropriate cue.

"Connelly," Sam said. "And I see you brought some friends."

"So good to see you again Colonel Carter. Frisk her and check for a wire. Then tie her to the chair."

The wiry man did exactly that, quickly finding her gun, but no signs of surveillance equipment.

"So you really are alone, huh, Carter?" Connelly said. "I never took you for a dumb blonde. I know there's no General O'Neill or SG-1 to help you. O'Neill's back in Washington, the others are nowhere near Nevada. We've got you all to ourselves," he smiled cruelly. Sam thought he was way too cocky, but that had signalled the downfall of many a man. Jack smiled, feeling pretty cocky himself because their ruse had worked.

"It was you who arranged the car bomb, wasn't it?" she accused.

"Planted it myself, actually. Not my best work. What a mess. You should be dead. Not only did I get the wrong woman but the bomb didn't go off as planned. Must have screwed the wiring. Out of practice, I guess. But what the hell, you're here now. I'm sure we can arrange an appropriate accident."

"Money mean so much to you that no one gets in your way, huh?"

"You should have stayed in Colorado Springs, Carter, and kept your nose out of our business. Don't know how you found out what we were doing though, and that I really wanna know. We've gone too far to back away now. This project will be worth a lot of money to us when it's completed, and we're getting there, aren't we boys? We are this close," he indicated with his finger and thumb. Jack glanced at Teal'c and both men clearly thought otherwise. "So where's the evidence, Carter? What is it and what have you done with it?"

"It's in a safe place."

"And you are going to tell me where that safe place is."

"I don't think so."

"Then you're going to live your last hours in a lot of pain."

"Aren't you going to tell me more about your plans for global domination? They do that in all the best movies."

Sam wanted more than they already had on tape and thought it was worth a try. These global domination types liked to show off, at least they did in movies. Jack found himself chuckling. It was a form of tension release. Sam as James Bond and Connelly as Ernst Blofeld. It really wasn't very funny.

"Well, we're all friends here. I've got time on my hands." Connelly smiled and Sam wondered if he was really going to fall for it. "Rick and Ed are really quite clever, you know. We used to go to college together. Strange that we should all end up in the same place at the right time, don't you think?"

Sam was taken aback. He really had fallen for it? This was too easy. When was the other shoe going to fall?

"I'm guessing you arranged that," Sam prompted.

"Of course. I knew they'd go for the idea, and I got an offer I couldn't refuse from an interested party." Sam's ears pricked up at that. So Connelly wasn't the big cheese after all. She wondered who was. The Trust? "And we had access to the resources to achieve something wonderful; something that a lot of countries would pay top dollar for, although we already have a buyer in mind. An army of mercenaries who are fitter, stronger, faster and more deadly accurate than anyone else's. Who wouldn't like to achieve that goal?"

"You really think you'll be able to control these super humans once you have created them? Are you out of your mind, Connelly? Don't you ever watch sci-fi on TV?"

"We're working on that too," Connelly continued, "Imagine it, Carter, a whole bunch of enhanced humans to do your bidding. We're managing to do what the Goa'uld never achieved. Their super soldiers were not far from being mindless automatons, but ours...? They'll be thinking, ultra intelligent beings, much stronger and faster than normal people. They will kick ass."

"And you're close to achieving that goal?"

"Close, yes, but we have a way to go yet. Tests have been, shall we say, unpredictable."

"Tests? You've tested this on people?" she was horrified at that thought even while she had guessed it was happening.

"What else would you propose? We are talking about human DNA here. DNA, drugs and, well, lets just say other things - a cocktail of changes to a human body, and mind. The Nevada Desert makes a great place to bury our failed experiments."

Connelly seemed very matter of fact about the notion that they had killed people with their experimentation and Sam suddenly felt sick. She already had a good idea who their test subjects were and how they covered up any deaths, which was one of the clues that had tipped her to their little game in the first place, but she'd hoped she was wrong about that.

"People have died? How the hell have you kept it all secret?" she asked.

"It's all in the paperwork, and the inbuilt secrecy surrounding projects at Area 51. I'm in the perfect position to keep it secret," he grinned, "but I must have made some mistakes. I need to know what they were, Carter, so I can correct them, and you are going to tell me."

"As I said, I don't think so. Who you working for Connelly? The Trust? You haven't got the brains to have thought this one up by yourself."

"The Trust? Pah!" he exclaimed dismissively. "You think I'd tell you?

"Worried I might escape and tell tales?" she jeered, hoping to goad him into revealing more but it didn't work. Connelly merely smiled.

"I'm going to enjoy watching you suffer. You like pain, Samantha Carter?" he said after a lengthy pause.

"Not really."

"Then choose to die quickly."

She looked defiant and Connelly nodded to the stocky man, who hit Sam hard round the face.

"Right, that's it. That's enough," Jack declared.

"Jack we don't know who Connelly is working for, who else is involved..." Jon said.

"I don't give a damn, Jon, do you? We can get to all of that later. That's Sam down there." Jon nodded and Jack signalled to Thor.

"If that's your best shot, you're going to have to try harder," Sam said.

"I have a few instruments of torture my friends might want to try out. Mason is great with his fists," he referred to the stocky man "but Smith here is a master craftsman."

He indicated the wiry man. No wonder his stare seemed so malevolent and crazy; the man was a torturer. Sam shuddered, thankful that Jack and the others were listening in and watching. Connelly smiled again. He seemed to like smiling when he was delivering bad news. He nodded to Mason, who pulled back his bunched fist to provide maximum thrust.

"I so wouldn't do that if I were you," Jack said, appearing like an apparition.

"O'Neill?" Connelly cried in surprise, hastily pulling out a gun and shooting him. The bullet sailed right on through because Jack wasn't really there. Not yet. He was a holographic projection.

"If you lay another finger on Colonel Carter, I will break it off," Teal'c said, appearing in front of Mason, who had paused his attack from surprise. He swung his punch at Teal'c, and his fist hit nothing because nothing was there. The force behind his blow made him lose his balance and topple over.

"O'Neill, you can't be here. You're in Washington!" Connelly fired another bullet.

"Wouldn't waste your ammo, Connelly. You're right, I'm not really here." The apparition disappeared, "on the other hand," his voice said from behind Connelly, "now I am."

Jack struck Connelly a blow and the man staggered but turned to meet his tormentor. Meanwhile, the other three men had appeared for real. Teal'c dealt quickly with Mason by zatting him and then turning to seek another foe. Jon took Smith with a nasty blow to the solar plexus, and then zatted him for good measure. Daniel dealt with Rick Peters, who didn't even try to put up a fight, raising his hands in terrified surrender.

Striking at Connelly's stomach with his foot, Jack watched as the Colonel doubled over, but he still had the gun in his hand and Sam saw him raise it towards Jack. Still tied to the chair, she was helpless to act.

"Jack, gun!" she cried and instead of zatting his opponent, Jack quickly punched him hard in the face, knocking him off his feet and out of the game.

"I'm afraid your plans for global domination will have to wait a few years, Connelly. Ouch!" Jack complained, shaking his hand, "that hurt, dammit."

"Stop, all of you!" cried the voice of Ed James.

The men turned towards the voice. James had taken advantage of the commotion and was holding Sam around the throat with one arm, a gun raised to her temple with the other.

"Now you are going to find me a way out of this, or she dies," he said.

"I don't think you're getting out of this one, you treacherous weasel," Jack responded, wishing he could thump the man very hard indeed.

"I think I've got the upper hand, O'Neill."

"Ya think?"

Jack might have been more worried if good old Thor hadn't been watching their backs. James was a little disoriented and astonished by the beam of bright light and sudden change of surroundings, slightly loosening his grip on Sam who was unable to defend herself, tightly bound to the chair as she was. Then a familiar voice spoke up.

"I am Supreme Commander Thor of the Asgard Fleet. Please release Colonel Carter or I will be forced to kill you, and that would be most unfortunate because I have just had my ship cleaned."

The rest of the room burst out laughing, amused by Thor's very human and humorous demand, and Jack was particularly tickled when a frightened Ed James let go of Sam and he realised that Thor was standing behind the guy with his hand stuck in his back. Teal'c grabbed James and bundled him with the other conspirators.

"Way to go, Thor!" Jack declared with a hearty chuckle thinking the little grey guy had been hanging around humans too long, particularly those with a strange type of humor, like him. "Good joke."

"I am pleased that you enjoyed it, O'Neill. I, too, have watched your television. I have often wondered how that particular technique worked and this was an opportunity to try it. You humans can be a very peculiar people and your culture is most illuminating."

"Some of what you see on TV isn't real you know, old buddy."

"Indeed O'Neill? We must discuss this topic further at a more appropriate time."

"Sure, Thor. Drop round to my place for coffee or a beer sometime and we'll have a little chat," offered Jack with a quirky grin and then he turned to Sam who was smirking, "You okay? Better get those bindings off you, I guess. See? Piece of cake. SG-1 saves the world, again. That just never gets old, does it?"

She smiled brightly and nodded agreement while Jack cut her bindings with his knife. His thoughts strayed as he wondered if this was as close as he would ever get to her again. He had to forget her but couldn't imagine how.

"So, what do we do with these guys, Jack?" Daniel asked, indicating their captives.

"Well we could deliver them back to Groom Lake. Hammond should be there right now with some of the SGC cleaning up after these creeps."

"Hammond?"

"Yeah, brought out of retirement especially to lead the, um how shall I put it, raiding party." Jack felt the hairs of his neck stand on end as all of the others, except Teal'c, turned to glare at him.

"What are you talking about Jack?" Jon asked before the others got a word in.

Jack felt a little uncomfortable because he hadn't told them earlier about their little visit the previous night, or the subsequent plans he'd made with Landry. Hammond was chosen to lead because they knew he would be very discreet, and the old war horse was thrilled to be tasked with an assignment that meant getting off his glorified butt and taking some action. Strictly speaking he shouldn't be doing that but then again Jack shouldn't be either.

Jack looked around helplessly, his eyes alighting on Teal'c.

"Um, T, help me out here will ya, big guy?"

The Jaffa warrior arched an eyebrow at O'Neill in slight disbelief but remained silent, amused that his friend, who had withstood many tortures, and even death, appeared to be fearful of informing his team that he'd been keeping them out of the loop.

"Jack, what's going on?" Sam asked this time.

"Well... it might take a bit of explaining. Tell you what, I've changed my mind. I think we'll deliver these guys to the SGC and then we can interrogate them there when they've had some time to dwell on their predicament," he said hurriedly, trying to avoid the subject.

Daniel and the others all started talking at once, demanding to know what was happening, and Jack threw his hands in the air despairingly. This was giving him a headache. Oy!

"Hey! Keep the noise down. We're guests on this tub!" he shouted and there was silence at last. "Thor, old buddy, wanna drop us off at my place in Colorado Springs? Join us if you like." Turning back to the others he said, "Tell you what kids, we'll be home in Colorado Springs in time for dinner. I'll buy pizzas and beer to celebrate and explain," Jack suggested hopefully, not wishing for this moment with his friends to end quite yet. Having spent way too long stuck behind a desk, he was feeling exuberant after his exploits and wanted to celebrate the taste of victory with his friends. There was time enough to crawl back under his rock later.

"Pizza, O'Neill?" Thor asked, "It looks most interesting on your television."

"If you haven't eaten pizza you haven't lived, Thor. As I said, you can come if you like. My treat. We could even watch some old Star Trek episodes. Bound to be some on TV somewhere. What do you think?"

"To where do you wish me to deliver the prisoners, O'Neill?" Thor replied without answering his question and Jack wondered if he really was going to have an Asgard round for dinner. As for the others, they all needed to unwind before they faced whatever music they had to face next day.

"Patch me through to Landry," Jack decided.

Jack explained to Hank that he was sending him the bad guys for safekeeping. You probably couldn't hope to find a more secure location than underneath Cheyenne Mountain. The two men bantered for a brief time with Landry promising to leave them stewing so Jack could have a crack at the interrogation. Jack liked that notion and couldn't wait to get into Connelly's face. After the prisoners were dispatched, Thor spoke up.

"I shall deliver you all to your house O'Neill."

"You coming, Thor?"

"Unfortunately, I must return to my own galaxy for a council meeting, but another time, O'Neill," he declined, which Jack had to admit was a little disappointing because he kind of liked the idea of having an Asgard drop in for pizza.

"Thanks for the help, Thor," he said.

"You are welcome, O'Neill. It has been a most interesting experience and not unlike some of your television shows. We most certainly must discuss this communication medium when I am next available."

"As I said, anytime. Sweet ride, by the way. The only way to travel. Think you could let me have one of those beam up things for my personal use?" Jack kidded and Thor simply stared at him without speaking. "I'm just sayin'."

"Although enjoyable," Thor said, pointedly ignoring Jack's question, "and I am gratified to have been able to assist Colonel Carter, I suggest that our agreed emergency message is..."

"Kept for emergencies?"

"Quite."

"Point taken," Jack replied, thinking that it had been an emergency. It seemed that he and Thor's interpretation of emergency was a little out of synch was all. You betchya. On the other hand, there was that story about the boy who cried wolf. He should bear that in mind. "Okay, well, until the next time, Supreme Commander," he added with a huge grin spread across his face and his hand raised in a small salute. "Meanwhile, next stop, my living room. Thor, old buddy, five to beam down."

O'Neill's companions smiled in amusement and then were enveloped in bright light. Jack was back, if only for a while, and it was good to have him home again.

TBC


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