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The Knitty Gritty Truth

by Christi and Katrina

Post-The Light

Day One

Jack grunted, picking up a tub of supplies from in front of the Stargate. Hammond had sent more than enough through to last them for the first week - food, extra clothes, bedding, hygiene supplies, and a few boxes filled with recreational items to pass the time. They were set to get one more shipment that evening before the four of them would be on their own until the next check in.

He and Daniel worked smoothly, designating different corners of the room for different types of supplies.

"So what's the plan as far as sleeping arrangements go?" Daniel asked, picking up a storage tub off of the gate ramp.

Jack adjusted his own tub and followed Daniel to the temporary food storage corner. "Well, I figure we can hunker down here or where Loren has been staying for the time being."

"You realize, as you earlier mentioned, that this is a palace. I'm sure we could find actual sleeping quarters."

"I know," Jack said as he set his tub down, "but we probably should stick close to the crazy light room for a few days before we venture out and about. Carter and I didn't get too far down the beach before withdrawal kicked in."

Daniel set his tub down and headed back to continue clearing room for the next supply transport. "But after a few days we can break up the slumber party? I mean, short of the 'gate, doesn't seem like anyone is around to bother us."

Before Jack could answer Sam and Loren walked around the corner, "We just did another sweep of the areas closest to the light room. I didn't find anything that looked like a bedroom, Daniel. And no signs of any inhabitation either, sir. However, I did find a close substitute for a kitchen. And a bathroom."

Daniel sighed, wiping his brow. "Running water?"

Sam grinned, "Shower and everything seems to be in working order."

"Oh, thank God."

"You know, you two take the fun out of everything," Jack lightly growled. "Who needs a shower when you've got the ocean?"

Sam and Daniel exchanged looks.

"Technically, we don't even know if the water on this planet is safe, sir." Sam offered.

"And we camp on a regular basis, Jack." Daniel reminded Jack. "Well, given that we're not taken prisoner or captured or run off or…" Daniel stopped, and looked up at his two friends eyeing him. "What?"

"Are you trying to jinx us?" Jack scolded, his eyes widening as he tilted his head towards Loren, "He's kidding."

Daniel merely waved Jack away and moved to grab more supplies.

"Three weeks in an alien palace. You must be excited to check out the sights, huh?" Sam asked, falling into place behind Daniel.

"Well, the good news is I have three weeks to explore and collect as much as I possibly can." Daniel grunted, lifting a rather large tub. "However, the bad news is I only have three weeks to explore and collect--"

"—as much as you possibly can," Sam finished for him. Daniel flashed her a grin.

"I'll let you know if I find anything that looks technical and complicated."

"What about you, sir, any plans yet?"

"It's an impromptu vacation, Carter," Jack scowled. "I'm not ruining this by making plans. I figure I'll just go where the wind takes me."

"The walls are actually quite sturdy," Loren jumped in. "Not too much wind gets in here."

Jack opened his mouth and then shut it while Sam tried to stop the smile that itched at the corner of her mouth.

"Huh, good point," Jack recovered, heading to an area full of boxes. He pushed a few aside before leaning over a particular box, and then opening it to reveal a collection of sporting equipment. Picking up a ball, he walked towards the boy. "You know how to play catch, Loren?"

Day Two

Now that the basics were covered – power, plumbing, and the like – Sam felt more free to spend some time on fun things. And what could be more fun than studying the intricacies of wiring and technology that made up the Light machine?

…Yes, it was possible that she enjoyed her work a little too much sometimes. Someday, she might feel the need to work on that. For now, though, she was perfectly content being elbow-deep in alien tech.

“Well, that didn’t take long,” said an amused voice from behind her.

She should’ve known he would show up sooner or later. While this palace by the sea came equipped with many niceties, a lab wherein he could bug her when he was bored was sadly lacking. But apparently, he had decided that the actual setting was not a necessity.

Somewhere deep down, she suspected that she should probably be a lot more annoyed by his behavior.

Instead, she just grinned. “It was fairly predictable, wasn’t it?”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” he assured her. “Just be careful with that thing. Going off the deep end and drowning myself in that ocean out there? Not on my list of things to do today.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, sir,” she assured him.

“You do that,” he affirmed, leaning against the wall and allowing the conversation to lapse. She turned back to her work, but was interrupted a short time later when he began pounding out a rhythmic beat against the walls.

Now it was her turn to be amused. “Sir?”


“Something on your mind?”

“Not really, no,” he replied, watching her and then looking at the mess of exposed wires she had been examining. “Is it really so fascinating?”

“Not really, no,” she parroted back at him, giggling at the surprised look he shot her. “Sometimes, alien tech is a wealth of information that can be applied to all sorts of useful things. Other times…”

“It’s just alien drugs?”

She grinned. “Pretty much, sir.”

He waved at the mess. “Well then, why bother?”

“There’s nothing else to do, now is there?” she pointed out.

Jack groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

“Bored, huh?”

“Well, Daniel has Loren with him, which means playing catch is out for now. I’m starting to think I might need Hammond to ship a tv through next contact.”

She tried to imagine how that request would go over and had to laugh. “Oh, I’m sure he’ll love that.”

“Don’t think he’ll go for it?”

“Somehow, I think your myriad of reasons why life is meaningless without The Simpsons will fall on deaf ears when it comes to General Hammond.” At his disappointed look, she tried to think of something comforting. “You could always ask for a book.”

He eyed her with a slightly wrinkled nose. “I’m more of a magazine guy.”

“Sir, I’ve been to your house. You have shelves of books.”

“Never opened one, I swear.”

She rolled her eyes. “Right,” she allowed, letting the subject go. “Come on, I’m done here. Let’s go save Loren from Daniel’s geeked out bliss.”

“You are a great humanitarian, Carter,” the Colonel proclaimed with a smile.

“Or I just have a really good sense of self-preservation.”

“Or that.”

Day Three

Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t that Jack lacked an attention span. He could deal with the occasional mind-numbing monotony as well as the next Armed Forces grunt.

No, what got to him is know that the monotony wouldn’t end for at least another eighteen days. That was what had him crawling out of his skin. Three days and he was already running out of things to do. While Daniel was off exploring the lower levels of the palace to his heart's content, Jack had run out of interest after the second and third hallways that looked just like every other hallway. And he'd already taught Loren how to play catch with a football. And a baseball. And a Frisbee.

He sighed and moved to grab his pack. He hadn't wanted to give in so quickly, but with Loren busy showing Daniel around and Carter off doing...something, Jack didn’t see much alternative. Besides, he had a sweater he was working on for Cassie just waiting for attention. And given the situation, it looked like there was going to be a lot of down time while under this alien head-juice device. He looked around warily and then froze as his last thought hit him. A smile crossed his features as he now eagerly opened his pack and settled into a comfortable position.

"So, tomorrow you'll show me some of the rest of this place?" Jack could hear Daniel ask who he assumed was Loren.

"Oh sure," Loren eagerly responded.

As they neared Jack simply continued to loop his yarn.

"I had fun today." Daniel offered to the boy who rightly seemed overly starved for attention.

"It was good," Loren agreed.

The two entered into Jack's line of sight.

"Hey!" Loren's face lit up, "Oh, what's that?" He enquired, rushing over to examine the purple yarn and Jack's working hands.

"We call it knitting," Daniel answered, moving to set his pack down on his bedding.

"Now, Daniel," Jack admonished, a satisfied grin across his face as his hands continued to work, "we all know that you see things when you're high on alien drugs."

Day Four

Carter firmly believed that Daniel was going to get shot. By the Colonel. And that it would probably be sooner rather than later. She sighed as she followed the two bickering men to the kitchen-like room she’d discovered their first day here. In her arms was a crate full of every cooking and baking ingredient she could imagine and some she’d never heard of. An identical crate rested in the Colonel and Daniel’s arms as they made their way down a hallway.

Sometimes, she wondered if Daniel drove Jack crazy on purpose. It hadn’t even been four days and yet, the Colonel was already developing that twitchy sort of energy – part “I’ve been stuck in one place too long” and part “I’ve been in Daniel’s company consistently for too long.”

They had come a long way in four years, but no amount of brotherly affection could remedy the occasional basic personality clash.

“I’m just saying,” Daniel was waving his hands now that his crate was resting on a counter, “It’s been four days, can’t we start exploring farther out?”

“Daniel, Daniel, Daniel,” Jack set his crate down and began removing items, “I’ve explored as much as I want to at this point. If you think you can handle it, go nuts.”

“And if I find a bedroom?”

“You’ll have found a bedroom.”

“And if I decided to sleep in said bedroom?”

“You want to sleep in a dead guy’s bed?”

Daniel tensed. “It’s a palace. With potential palatial beds!”

“You know,” O’Neill leaned Carter’s direction, “I’ve never heard him complain about camping before now. You give a guy a vacation in a palace and suddenly, all he wants is a five star room.”

“You’ve been hovering over us for the past three days! We’re fine. I’m fine.” Daniel looked at Sam imploringly. “We’re fine right?”

Carter’s mouth opened and closed as the two men stared at her intently, “You know,” she began, setting her own crate down, “I never did finish looking at the cooling unit over here. I think I’m going to go grab some tools….”

Daniel gave a tight smile in Jack’s direction. “See, we’re fine.”

“Oh yeah, you’re running off the only person who can fix up this alien-tech-kitchen. A bed, oh, a bed you’re worried about. But food, non perishable food?” He turned to the ingredients.

“Oh, I’m running her off, am I?” Daniel practically stomped his foot, “If you’d just say yes, I’d be out of your hair and you two could happily mix and mingle.”

Naturally, at that moment an out of breath Loren stumbled into the kitchen. “I heard yelling. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Jack answered tersely, glancing at Daniel.

Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, “I’ll give you one more day of being paranoid,” he growled before vacating the tension-filled room.

Sam smiled at Loren from the corner she had retreated to and shrugged, “We call it cabin fever. Don’t worry about it, it’ll pass.”

“It’s Daniel, of course it’ll pass,” Jack agreed as he turned to grab a can out of his crate. He held out the can to Loren, “Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. You’ll love this stuff.”

Sam sighed. Daniel was definitely going to get shot.

Instead of dwelling on the men and their juvenile spats, she turned her attention to the technology in the room – always a welcome distraction. What appeared to be an alien oven had been a surprisingly quick fix so she’d moved onto the refrigerator unit. It wasn’t nearly as complicated as she’d worried it would be. With a few more pokes, prods, twists, and turns she’d hopefully have a place to safely store anything the Colonel might make. Which kind of boggled her. The colonel cooking. She’d been all set to eat MRE’s the entirety of their stay. But suddenly he was asking her if she thought she might be able to get the units in the kitchen working. When she’d offered to take a look at it, he was quickly barking orders for Daniel to help him grab crates and move food items.

She turned one last thing before scooting away and replacing the panel she’d removed, “I think we’re set, sir.”

“Really?” He came over to examine the now humming unit.

“Yeah, from what I can gather it didn’t have a cooling core, it was just a matter of redirecting the energy from the…”

“Yeah, yeah,” he interrupted, “you made it work. That’s all I need to know.”

“Yes, sir.”

“We are so having lasagna!”


“And meatloaf.”

She cocked her head to the side, amused. “Okay.”

“Maybe some steak and eggs…” he continued before turning towards her, “You cook, Carter?”

“Not often. Or well.”

He smiled. “No matter. You know what’s best of all?” She couldn’t help smiling back at him as his eyebrows jumped, “Beer.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You really think Hammond is going to let you have beer?” she paused before adding a belated, “sir.”

“Hammond, no. But I have my ways.” He didn’t even try to look sheepish.

She took a deep breath, studying him. He was in a considerably better mood now. “Sir,” she began, grabbing his full attention with her tone, “he's not entirely off base, you know." Her declaration caused his brows to furrow, but she continued on. “Daniel…he’s right.”

His eyes narrowed, “Is he?”

“A few hundred yards in each direction is going to drive him nuts. And if this morning is any indication, you won’t be far behind him.”

“Well, what do you suppose I do about it, Major?”

Her jaw tightened, but she refused to back down. “Test it yourself. Set a perimeter for him each day until you don’t need to.”

He eyed her, scratching aimlessly on his arm, “I’ll think about it.”

“Thank you, sir.” She let out a puff of air and turned to put her tools away. That had gone much better than she’d anticipated.

“So Carter, you wanna go for a walk or something?” he asked with a familiar, crooked grin.

She spun to look at him incredulously. “You didn’t mull that over long.”

He shrugged. “Well, you’re right – better me than Daniel. And company might keep me from, y’know, throwing myself into the ocean or something.”

How do you turn down an offer like that? “Sounds good.”


Well, it had sounded good. In theory.

Like most things involving Jack O’Neill, the reality was quite a different thing. Because as Sam was starting to realize, walking alone with her CO on an alien beach had been a fatally flawed plan to start with.

Beaches were places for friends and family and…well, dates. Not bosses. Keeping the Colonel strictly regulated to the CO portion of her brain required enough effort without placing him against the enticing backdrop of soothing ocean waves and salty wind tossing his hair about in the breeze.

Not to mention the lack of conversation. Because really, what was there to say?

“At least the weather’s not so bad here,” he finally offered in place of the silence.

“Yeah,” she agreed with false enthusiasm.

Interesting – Sam now knew for certain that weather made a lousy conversation topic no matter what planet you were on.

As it turned out, there really were some things she’d rather not know.

Day Five

Gazing at the gargantuan bed before him, piled high with entirely too many pillows, Jack just shook his head.

“Annoyed that Daniel was right?” Carter asked from the doorway, an amused undercurrent lacing her tone.

“Well, does it have to happen so damn often?” Jack retorted, spinning to look at her. “Between the two of you, it’s enough to give a guy a complex.”

She just smiled rather than needling him further, which of course forced him to smile back. “If you hurry up and strip the bedding, I’ll wash it with mine,” she offered.

“You’re washing the bedding?”

The look she shot him this time was distinctly less pleasant than her previous expression. “You’re not? It’s been sitting in this abandoned castle for God only knows how long, gathering…whatever.”

He turned back to the bed and eyed the pile of pillows with that new and disturbing thought front in his mind. “That hadn’t occurred to me.” Now, he wasn’t sure he’d ever forget it. “Hey Carter?”


“Maybe we should check all the mattresses, too.”

“Oh, definitely,” she agreed fervently.

Because working with Carter was easy and familiar, they breezed through the work together. Efficient hands stripped beds and flipped mattresses and he even refrained from throwing one of the extraneous pillows at her – though curbing the impulse actually required a lot of effort.

By the time they had dumped all of the linens in the giant pot she had found somewhere and filled with boiling water, he was feeling a distinct need to get out for awhile – to separate himself from all things that were Carter and bed in the same sentence.

That sentence never ended well.

“Walk?” he suggested hopefully.

Sure, yesterday had been weird and awkward. But in his mind, Carter with a side of weird and awkward was yards better than no Carter at all. And just because he needed to not gaze at her over an armful of bed sheets, didn’t mean he couldn’t spend time with her.

“Sure,” she agreed after a moment’s hesitation.


Jack wasn’t sure which was worse, talking about weather or not talking at all. Normally, he was a man comfortable with silence – he even preferred it most of the time. But with Carter, he didn’t want silence. He wanted…well, a score of things he wasn’t supposed to. Seeing as he couldn’t have those, he didn’t think it was too much to ask for a short conversation. They managed all right inside – not great, but all right. Why was a walk on the beach so much harder?

“It’s windier today,” Carter said abruptly, apparently unable to stand the awkward silence any longer.

And now, they were back to the weather. Why had he thought it was a good topic yesterday? “Yeah. Not bad, though.”

“No,” she agreed. “There are definitely worse places to be stranded for a few weeks.”

“Like the planet with the tar pits,” he offered.

“Or the one with the giant bugs.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Which one?”

She laughed, “Good point.”

Studying her face out of the corner of his eye, Jack knew that he was right about this – there had to be a way to talk to her, really talk, without bringing in work to grease the wheels. And he would figure it out. If nothing else, the law of averages had to be on his side by now.

Day Six

“Hey Sam, can I show you something?”

Sam looked up from her breakfast. The colonel had made omelets and her fork was half way to her mouth when Daniel, a plate of his own balanced on his knees, had spoken up.

She nodded, chewing quickly before answering, “After we finish up here I’m all yours.”

Daniel took a bite and glanced at Loren who sat across from them intently staring at his own untouched plate, “You might want to try it before Jack comes in here.”

“It’s yellow.”

Sam frowned. “You’ve never had eggs?”

“I don’t remember eating anything yellow. Brown and gray, mostly.”

Daniel and Sam exchanged a glance.

“My parents left rooms full of packaged food. Just add water.”

Sam waved her fork at Loren’s plate, “It may be yellow, but it tastes worlds better than ready-made meals.” She took another bite and chewed carefully before swallowing, “You should at least try it.”

“Try what?” O’Neill came into the room, a plate in one hand, and pulled up a crate next to Loren. “Something wrong with breakfast?” He asked, eyeing Loren’s full plate.

Loren’s posture straightened, “No, it’s good. I’m sure it’s good anyway. Major Carter and Daniel were just telling me that it’s good…” He trailed off nervously and picked up his fork, “I was just waiting for you.”

“You shouldn’t have. Now yours is gonna be cold.” Sam watched the colonel carefully as he switched Loren’s plate for his own. “It’s better hot,” he offered at Loren’s surprised look.

Loren brows knit together as he moved to taste the omelet before him.

“Sam, that thing?” Sam blinked and jerked her head ever so slightly at Daniel’s interruption.

“Right.” She stood, watching as Loren chewed carefully before he smiled up at Jack. She turned, barely shaking her head. This was a whole can of worms and she could see it slowly begin expanding from the inside out.

“It is good,” she heard the boy affirm as she dropped her paper plate into the makeshift garbage can and followed Daniel out of the room.

“What’s up?”

Daniel looked over his shoulder. “Oh, I found something yesterday I wanted to show you.”

“How much did you explore yesterday, Daniel?”

“Well, I showed you the bedrooms, and the luxury bathroom. But I wanted to save this.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Be careful Daniel. As much as you had a legitimate point in not wanting to remain cooped up, Colonel O’Neill has valid concern, too.”

Daniel let out a long breath before admitting, “I know. But I was to the point where I preferred the possible suicidal ideation to any more time stuck in such a small area.”

“It’s just his way.”

“Yeah, well, that’s no excuse.”

“No, it’s not,” she sighed. “But it’s still his way. And you, better than anyone, know why.”

“Well, it’s not an issue anymore, is it? We came to an agreement and are fine.”

She shot him a disapproving look. “I don’t mind the end result, Daniel. Just…next time, maybe go about getting what you want a little better. Give him some slack.”

Daniel eyed her suspiciously for a moment before asking, “Okay, what’s going on?”

She met his stare, point blank. “I’m worried about him and Loren.”

Daniel sobered instantly, confirming her fears weren’t unfounded. “Yeah. Me too.”

“But he’ll be fine,” she tried to assure herself, stopping at a doorway with Daniel. “This the place?”

Daniel watched her carefully before nodding and offering a smile, “I’d tell you to close your eyes first, but that’s a bit cliché.”

Sam smiled back at him and followed him into the room.


Sam sat surrounded by stacks of books, papers, and journals of various sizes. Daniel’s room had turned out to be a study full of page after page of scientific, historic, and cultural research and information the previous dwellers had left there. While Daniel had grabbed a stack of books and taken them to his claimed quarters, she’d been so overwhelmed she’d simply grabbed a stool and a table and began discovering what she could.


She jerked her head up from the book she had been absorbed in to see Jack poking his head around the doorway of the room. “Huh?”

He smiled, apparently amused at her reaction. “Hey, Carter. Take a breath.”

“But-” she hesitated, glancing down at the tomes surrounding her.

“Come on, Carter. Let’s get some fresh air.”

“Yes, sir. I just need to finish up this last section,” she said, flipping forward a few pages.

“Finish up later. You’ve been cooped up in here for hours. Time for a walk.”

She frowned at him before standing, stretching her shoulders and back before she nodded. “After you, sir.”

He grinned as he led the way to the beach.

“So…” he drawled out agonizingly slowly after they’d walked in awkward silence.

“So,” she agreed.

Well, that had been pointless. Or so she thought until quite out of the blue, Jack exclaimed, “Alien drugs!”

“What?” Maybe she hadn’t heard him right.

“We’re on alien drugs!”

“Well, I wouldn’t really put it like that, sir. It’s not like we’re voluntarily shooting up.”

“Even better!” he insisted.

She was officially lost. “Okay….”

“I mean, we’re trapped on this alien pleasure planet while our minds are being pumped full of these happy, mind-altering drugs, through absolutely no fault of our own!”

“Right…” Sam wasn’t used to feeling like she was missing something. It was a disconcerting sensation and she didn’t much care for it.

“And if those same mind-altering alien drugs cause us to do…” at this, Sam raised an eyebrow. His grin was immediate and unrepentant. “Okay, or say things that we might not normally do or say, well, who could blame us?”

The full implication of this actually made Sam stop in her tracks, staring at in him in growing bewilderment. This was…well, it was probably very wrong and incredibly stupid. But it was also irresistible. This was a man that she had spent four years tip-toeing around, afraid of doing or saying too much. The idea that she could talk to him, just talk, without worrying about crossing some invisible line was…it was all she could have asked for.

“No one. No one could blame us,” she agreed slowly. “After all, it’s the drugs.”

Their eyes met and the gaze held as they shuffled down the walk, basking in this new idea of freedom. “So, Carter…” he drawled finally.

“Yes, sir?”

“…What’s your middle name?”

Day Seven

“Good morning, Daniel!”

Jack’s downright cheery greeting obviously flustered the archeologist as the younger man rubbed sleep out of his eyes and blinked at Jack. “You’re…chipper.”

Unwilling to let Daniel’s observation dampen his mood, Jack just shrugged. “It’s another beautiful day here on P4X-347 and I’m making pancakes.”

This idea seemed to cheer Daniel up as well. “In that case, I withdraw my complaint.”

“Duly noted,” Jack replied as he slid a few hot pancakes straight onto a plate. “Now eat up.”

Happily, Daniel seemed more than eager to comply, and the next few minutes were spent in blissful silence. Seeing as he was with Daniel, however, it didn’t last long.

“So listen…” Daniel started around a mouth full of syrup and cake, “I’m sorry about the last few days.”


“Yeah. I just…this whole situation is a bit…and we’re finding so much to look at and learn…plus it’s just…well, anyway, I’m sorry.”

“Okay,” Jack replied, wanting this conversation to end. At first, it seemed like it was going to, but then once again, Daniel couldn’t let it go.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“Like what?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know…maybe that you’re sorry, too?”

“But I wasn’t wrong,” Jack pointed out. At Daniel’s glare, he just shrugged. “Protecting you and Carter…that’s my job, Daniel. It may not be fun, but sometimes, you just have to sit back and let me do it.”

“I thought we were a team, Jack.”

“We are. But we all have parts to play. Teal’c is on his jaffa quest. You do…research-y things. Carter gets our asses out of trouble. And I try to stop us from ever getting there in the first place.”

“You can be…overcautious, though,” Daniel pointed out.

Jack washed off the pan he had been using, careful to avoid eye contact. “I’m not sure that there is such a thing.”

The silence that followed this observation was more serious than Jack wanted to deal with so he merely shrugged. “Just eat your breakfast, Daniel, and we’ll forget all about it.”

After all, he had more important things to do today. Like planning dinner. And playing with Loren.

And, of course, taking a walk with Carter.


“We’re really playing the favorites game?” he asked skeptically.

“Hey, I know it sounds silly, but…I just don’t think we actually know that much about each other outside of work.”

“Carter, that’s ridiculous.”

“It’s really not. Now. Favorite color.”

“Peridot.” She shot him a surprised look.

“What, you thought it’d be Air Force Blue?”

She shrugged and he smirked. “Favorite movie?” he asked.

“Mmm, I’m not sure. Not Star Wars?”

He thought about how many times they’d been forced to watch it with Teal’c and smiled. “Fair enough.”

“Favorite food? No, wait, let me guess – Guinness.”

“And you say we don’t know anything about one another.”

“No, I said not enough. Not really.”

“Carter…” he stalled, looking at her. “I know you. You drink your coffee black. You hum under your breath when you work even though you can’t carry a tune to save your life. You’re happiest when you’re elbow deep in a machine – I’m not even sure it matters what kind of machine, really.”

“Those are all work things,” she maintained stubbornly.

“Okay…” he drawled, thinking. “You still have nightmares about Jolinar and it freaks you out that you can sense Teal’c coming before you see him. You secretly want long hair, but think it would be too inconvenient in the field. You…” his eyes dropped to her neck and he smiled slyly, “have a very sensitive spot on your neck.”

To his surprise, she didn’t drop his gaze at the oblique reference, holding her ground despite the faint blush on her cheeks. “And you figured that out halfway through our first year on SG-1 and have used it to your advantage ever since,” she said coolly. “But did you know that until I was seven, I wanted to be a ballerina? Or that when I cook, I crank up music and dance around like an idiot in my kitchen? Or that sometimes, I still write my mom letters, even though she’ll never read them?”

He studied her in silence for a minute before turning away and continuing their walk. “No, I didn’t.”

“You know Major Carter, maybe better than anyone, and that’s fine. But this…haven’t you ever wondered if you’d like Sam as much as you do Major Carter?”

“Not even once,” he assured her. “Troubling third person usage aside. Look, I realize that our situation is…unique. And I have no problem answering as many of these random questions as you want to ask. But Carter…I just like you. All of you. No compartmentalization needed.”

Next to him, she stopped walking abruptly, and when he looked back, she was gazing at him with a brilliant smile. “How do you always say things like that without even meaning to?”

“The truth will usually do it,” he pointed out with a smile before they began walking once again. “And Carter?”


“The kitchen thing? Very, very hot.”

Her laugh was bright and happy. “I can’t imagine why.”

“Um, there’s food and there’s you dancing in your underwear. How could anything about that be more perfect?”

“But I don’t do it in my…”

“Shhh, Carter,” he hushed her. “Don’t ruin it.”

Day Eight

“All right, campers!” Jack called from the hallway, “Put the books away and get your butts to the gate pronto.”

Sam rubbed her eyes and stood quickly. She’d taken a page from Daniel’s book and had been reading one of the journals from the study in a more comfortable location. She marked her place and headed toward their boisterous leader.

On her way, she met Daniel in a hallway. “What’s going on?”

“Was about to ask you the same thing.”

Instinctually, they both moved a bit quicker until they came to find Loren sitting on a crate and Jack standing in the middle of the room.



He met their curious stares with amusement. “So, it’s been a week now,” the colonel began, “and we’ve got power, running water, food, and a working way to cook food. The two of you,” he glared at Daniel and Sam, “have been ignoring the rest of the world with those damn books for long enough.”

“Jack,” Daniel interrupted sharply.

“No, Daniel. Let me finish. Today,” Jack proclaimed, “is to be a day off. No studying, no solo-exploring, no translating, or repairing anything. Hammond shipped us some steaks and Teal’c snuck me a cooler full of foamy refreshments this morning. I intend for all of us to spend a day wasting our brain cells.”

Sam let out a silent prayer of thanks. It might be a weird way to go about it, but she could respect his brilliant idea to cure boredom and loneliness. Daniel looked a little miffed though.

“And I have a couple other things for you, too,” the colonel added proudly, motioning for them to come closer.

Two boxes rested side by side, one with “Major Carter” written in black marker and one marked “Daniel Jackson.”

“What’s this?” Sam asked as she crouched down in front of the box with her name on it.

“Oh, just a little something from Teal’c.”


What Jack had neglected to mention was that along with Hammond’s weekly shipment, Teal’c had managed to ship them everything you needed for an impromptu beach party, down to bathing suits and a grill. Currently, Sam and Daniel lounged in lawn chairs while Jack and Loren were played catch.

Daniel took a sip of beer and gave a slight giggle. “I can’t believe he got this stuff through the gate.”

Sam snuggled into the Air Force Sweatshirt that had been one of the items in her box. “I know,” she agreed, clinking her beer with Daniel’s before taking a long gulp. “Can’t say I’m about to complain, though.”

Daniel nodded and adjusted his sunglasses. “Didn’t realize it was sunny out today.”

Sam grinned, “Me neither.”

“Hey, you two!” Jack called. “Get over here so I can teach Loren about touchdowns.”

Sam and Daniel shared a look. “This out to be fun,” Daniel mock-enthused.

“Let Daniel finish his beer and then ask again, sir,” Carter called back.

Jack cocked his head to the side before nodding and turning back to Loren, motioning for him to go deep.

“Sam…” Daniel whined.

“Oh, come on, Daniel,” she nudged him and raised her bottle once again. “Drink up and you won’t care. Besides, it’s for Loren.”

“Which means it’s also for Jack.”

Sam choked on her beer. “What?”

Daniel adjusted his sunglasses again. “Jack wants to show Loren how to score a touchdown. He wants to show off for him.”

Sam emptied her bottle and stood. “Oh. Right.”

Daniel scrunched up his face. “You’re really going to play along with this macho-jock thing Jack’s got going on?”

Carter grinned down at him. “You afraid you’re going to lose?”

“Oh, I know I’ll lose.”

“Come on, Daniel,” she encouraged, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet. “You can be on my team. We’ll knock ‘em dead. The colonel won’t know what hit him.”

Daniel’s look of disdain made her laugh. “Finish your beer and lighten up,” she called, heading down towards O’Neill and the grinning boy.

Day Nine

Jack ambled along the beach, his hand occasionally brushing Sam’s as their strides effortlessly matched up. It was strange how their agreement to talk about anything made even the silences easier. They were pretty far down the beach already, and yet they had been fine walking quietly - simply – together.

“Yesterday was great, you know.”

He glanced at her with a crooked grin. “Glad you enjoyed it. A little surprised, but glad.”

“Why surprised?”

“Oh, you just don’t really seem like the day off type is all,” Jack said off-handedly. “It’s like pulling teeth to get you to take a whole weekend off at home.”

Her steps were slower now next to him as she absorbed his words. “That’s really what you think of me? That I’m some kind of…boring, workaholic, egghead?”

“Uh…well…” he stammered, trying to figure out how they had stumbled onto this mess of a topic.

“For your information, sir, things at work are different. Usually, there’s some piece of technology that the Department of Defense just HAS to have figured out or there’s some ‘gate emergency that ONLY I can fix or, God forbid, some little alien planet that NEEDS to be saved…I don’t work all the time because I want to. It’s because I HAVE to.”

Honestly, he wasn’t sure he had realized any of that. In fact, Jack was pretty sure it had never fully occurred to him. “Well, I….”

“And even if I DID want to stay, what’s so wrong with that? I like my job. My interests are there, my life is there, my friends are there….”

“You know, we could be your friends outside of work, too,” he pointed out.

“No,” she said flatly. “You really can’t, can you?”

Jack knew that she was right, and yet, it didn’t seem to matter. He had experienced his fill of being reamed out over a simple misconception and a situation that couldn’t be helped. “That’s not my fault! Stop blaming me for this whole mess we’re in!”

Carter's eyes widened at his outburst, shock evident as she slickly turned on her heel and began backtracking.

“Don't you walk away from me, Major,” Jack roared. “I’m talking to you!”

Carter’s footsteps visibly faltered. “Sir, no sir,” she answered dutifully, “we walked too far. We need to turn around.” At that, she turned to face him. “Now. Sir.”

“Maybe you went too far. I’m fine!”

“Sir...” her voice pleaded with him.

He let out a huff of air, blood racing and blazing through is veins. He knew she was right – he could recognize that this whole thing wasn’t rational, that it had sprung up out of nowhere. But the headache and the anger made it hard to focus. “You go. I’ll catch up.”

She stared at him for a moment, taking in his rigid stance and his rapid breathing. Reluctantly she nodded and turned away again, beginning the walk back to safety.

He watched her for a long time before following, trying to blame that all on withdrawal and yet knowing that somewhere in those angry words, there was a tiny bit of truth.

Day Ten

All morning she had been dogged by a nasty headache – a leftover from the withdrawal incident yesterday. Or maybe just a reaction to what had been said during it. Either way, it was safe to say that Sam was having a rough time getting going.

She joined everyone for breakfast, but didn’t say much and escaped back to her room as soon as possible.

There was something different about the room, that much she knew as soon as she walked in. But it took her a moment to see the hat laying on the bed, knit in a soft blue and perfect for a Colorado winter.

She fingered it for a moment, knowing he meant it as a peace offering. And normally, she might have let it slide.

But they were on alien drugs. Surely, just once, they could resolve things without the aid of knitwear.

At least, she hoped so.


Where yesterday, their silence had been easy and sweet, today it felt stifled and filled with tension. It was amazing how a few words said in anger could set you back so much.

"Uh, Sir, about yesterday..." she began tentatively.

“Do you see that rock over there, Carter?"

"Well, I was-what?" The abrupt question took a minute to digest.

"That rock. Don't you think it looks like an elephant?"

Well, no one had ever claimed he was great with confrontation. "...yeah. I guess it does, sir."

No one had ever said she was either. Unless it involved a gun, anyway. So they continued along awkwardly for a moment before Sam managed to screw up her courage. “I don’t blame you.”

He heaved a sigh and ran a hand through his hair. “You probably should.”

“Bullshit. I’m a big girl. This is just as much my mess as it is yours. And besides, what could we really have done about it?”

He didn’t answer because there was no answer to give – if there had been an easy solution to their problem, they would have already taken it. Instead, he changed the subject. “I don’t think you’re nothing but a workaholic. I know I give you a hard time about it, I just…” he shrugged, seemingly out of words. “I worry is all.”

A smile formed on her face before she could consciously stop it. “I know. It’s just…you can’t routinely ask me to save the planet and then complain when I spend time doing the prep work.”

“You need to prep for that?” he sounded honestly surprised.

“I’m not sure if I find your surprise touching or worrisome,” she replied frankly.

He shrugged, as though his absolute faith in her was nothing. “It’s what you do.”

“No pressure or anything,” she only half-joked.

“Hey,” he said, tone serious. “I didn’t mean it that way. We’re a team.”

She let out a long sigh. “I know.” And she did.

“So…we’re good?”

It was an imperfect resolution to an imperfect situation. But it was likely the best they were going to get. And when all was said and done, she wasn’t sure it mattered anyway. “Always.”

Day Eleven

“Do you date?”

He winced as soon as the blurted words left his mouth. “You know, I meant to…lead up to that.”

A quick glance at her expression revealed amusement instead of anger, which eased his conscious a bit. “I bet,” she replied dryly.

However, she didn’t answer the question, which only left him imagining things. “Seriously. Do you?”

“Date? As in…?”

“As in dressing up and going to dinner and building a relationship and…” he swallowed, not wanting to finish that thought, “and other stuff.”

Her silence seemed interminably long. “You really want to know?”

No. “Yes.”

“I…” he screwed up his face despite himself, prepared to visualize lots of Carter getting naked with men who were not him. “…don’t.”

The unexpected answer took a moment to register, and then once it did, he gawked at her in surprise. “Really?”

She just shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. “When would I have the time?” she pointed out. “I guess from your surprise…you do?”

“Do what, date?”

Her glare was a clear enough answer and he just grinned. “God, no, Carter. This may have escaped your notice, but I don’t really like people. They tend to bug me more than anything. Give me a Guinness and a team night and I’m overloaded on a social life for a solid month at least. More, if Daniel’s being particularly irritating.”

“Besides, you always have the occasional alien dalliance to liven things up,” she teased him.

“Hey! Those situations were…so very not funny,” he protested.

“Oh, I beg to differ. One, at least, was rather hysterical. You know, seeing wedding cake still sends Daniel into uncontrollable fits of giggles?”

“It figures. He has an evil side,” Jack acknowledged. “So…one is funny. The other?”

At the mention of Edora and his not-to-secret affair with Laira, she sobered. “Not funny. Understandable. But…not funny.”

He could relate. “Kind of how I think about Martouf.”

They walked in silence for a bit, digesting all of this new information. Strangely, something about the fact that their only romantic entanglements in the last four years had been unmitigated alien related disasters was distinctly…depressing, and he mumbled something to that affect.

“You know, there’s a bright side,” she pointed out after a moment.

“And that would be…?” he asked wryly.

Her grin had a devious edge to it. “At least Daniel’s got us both beat.”

Day Twelve

Sam couldn’t believe what she was looking at. Before her were three obviously exhausted, yet giddy boys, huddled in some sort of sand castle-esque fort. A fort that was surrounded by holes. The structure, if it could be called that, was enormous, with three walls extending almost five feet into the air. The fourth space for a wall was open and faced the beach, with drift wood extending almost to the lapping waves as a makeshift draw bridge.

As she approached, she watched the three guys slowly moving around, packing sand between the driftwood.

Loren was crouched next to Colonel O’Neill. Every few seconds his head would turn and he’d nod. The looks that accompanied nods to whatever the colonel was saying were pure hero worship.

She grinned as she approached, laughing slightly. “The fort I can understand…but the holes?”

O’Neill glanced up from Loren, shading his eyes from the sun as he look at her. “It’s a guy thing, Carter. Sometimes, you just have to dig a hole.”

She shook her head. “Or twenty.” He grinned at her.

“Permission to enter?” she asked after one more moment of laughter.

Jack nudged Loren, who grinned. “Permission granted, Major Carter,” the boy proudly declared.

“Okay,” Daniel suddenly announced, sprawling onto his back with a groan. “I’m officially spent.”

O’Neill grinned, watching as Carter grabbed a handful of sand and packed it where Loren was directing her. “Wimp.”


Later, when they were alone, she darted between the holes lightly, making a strange little game of balancing on the uneven sand. He watched her with silent amusement, seeming entirely too satisfied with himself. “How long did it take the three of you to do all this?”

“Ridiculously long. But what else have we got to do?” Jack pointed out. “Besides, Daniel needs to get out more. That boy is creepy pale.”

She just shook her head, finally coming to stand next to him and stare at the fort. “You know it’ll all just wash away, right?”

Strangely, this didn’t seem to bother him. “We’ll still have done it. That’s really all that matters.”

Day Thirteen

“You do that a lot,” Loren noted from the door.

Jack looked up from his knitting to smile at the kid, gesturing that he could come in. “It’s sort of addicting,” he explained. “Not in the creepy alien light kind of way, though. Just in a I really like it way.”

Loren fingered the material gently. “What do you do with all of the stuff you make?”

“Give it away, mostly.”

“And people like it?”

Jack shrugged. “I’ve never got any complaints. Besides, I guess they know…they know that I’m thinking of them when I do it.”

“That is nice,” Loren remarked before moving a little closer, then halting. “Can I watch for awhile?”

His need for simple human contact was so raw and basic that Jack couldn’t imagine ever turning him away. “Sure, kid.”

Needing no further prompting, Loren climbed onto the couch next to Jack, happily ensconced in the cushions as though watching him knit was the best kind of entertainment.


“Is it weird that I’ve started to debate how weird it would be to cover my entire front yard back home with sand?” he asked.

She laughed, kicking a little of the gritty substance at him. “Just a bit.”

He shrugged, fine with that. “Yes, well, I’m not exactly known for my mental stability.”

Her only response at first was a rather indelicate snort that amused him. “Please. I know unstable and you don’t even come close.”

Thinking about her past rather…interesting choices in men, Jack was relieved that she thought so. “Yeah, someday you’re going to have to explain that to me.”

She shot a glance and a shrug his way. “How do you explain who you’re attracted to and why? A psychologist could probably give you all sorts of fascinating reasons why I pick the men I do, but I’m not entirely sure I’d want to know them.”

Considering the likely Freudian suspects and how they might apply to him, Jack wasn’t at all sure he’d want to know either. “Besides,” she continued, “At least they never lasted long. Not like….”

The sentence was left unfinished, but Jack recognized a reference to his ex-wife when he heard one. “Ah. That. Are we…talking about that?”

A bit of sand was kicked first right, then left as she shuffled along. It seemed like he wasn’t the only one with a sand preoccupation today. “It wouldn’t be the worst idea.”

Actually, he was pretty sure it was at least one of the top five, but… “What’s there to say? I was married. I loved my wife. But….”

He let the silence between them stretch out until she finally broke it. “But..?”

“Nothing. I just…I don’t imagine it’s easy, being married to a man who never really lets you in.”

“No,” she replied so quietly that the waves almost drowned out her response. “I imagine not.”

Jack glanced at the gray sky and just wanted this conversation to be over with as quickly as possible. “Trust is…not something I do easily. And having a functional marriage without trust…well, no matter how great the relationship can be in the good times, it doesn’t have a base to it. Whenever something bad happened – a long separation, a mission gone bad, Iraq, and then…”

“You had nothing to fall back on,” she agreed, staring into the distance. “You trust us, though.” You trust me, was the unspoken implication.

“With everything,” he agreed immediately.

“And that makes it different?” she asked, sounding honestly confused.

He didn’t really know how to explain, because he wasn’t sure he understood it himself. “I suppose you knowing what it’s like – you having been there for most of it. Trusting you as a teammate is a no-brainer. So, in a weird way, our crappy situation with work has made trusting you as a woman I…well, it made it easier.”

When she spoke, her voice had a breathless quality to it. “Gone too far?”

“Definitely,” he muttered.

Their walk back to the castle was silent.

Day Fourteen

“So what is there to do back on your planet?”

Sam looked up from the hole she and Loren had just dug. She’d recruited him to help build a barbeque pit in the sandcastle the guys had all created. It was starting to fall apart, but she wanted to give them one last evening of being kings before it completely disintegrated. “Tons of things. Hasn’t the colonel talked to you about it?”

“Well, I mean things to do that don’t involve throwing something.”

“Ah,” she said with a wry smile. “Well, it’ll be different, that’s for sure. But there’s a lot of entertainment. Not to mention people, and school….”

He perked up, handing her a piece of thick wire mesh. “School?”

“Most of the kids on Earth go to school for at least 13 years.”

“What do they learn?”

She placed another piece of metal carefully over the pit, “A little bit of everything, really. Math. Writing. Science.”

Loren sighed, a supremely tragic expression on his face that only a teenager could manage. “I’ll be behind.”

“Well, I’m sure that you will get a tutor before you’re put into an actual school. There’s another little girl – Cassandra – who’s like you, adopted from another planet. We got her a special tutor for a year or so before she was put into school.”

“And are there a lot of people?”

“Uh, definitely.” She looked up at him, trying to figure out how to explain a world of billions to a child who was constantly bewildered by the novelty of a world of four. “Might be a bit of a shock at first. But I promise that you will be able to move at your own pace.”

“Yeah,” He looked down, his features clouded.

“Nervous, huh?”

“Just a bit.”

“Don’t worry, I think that’s probably normal,” she tried to reassure him.

“You think?”

An ironic smile spread across her face. “Honestly, Loren, I don’t have a ton of experience with normal.”


“You like it?” Sam asked a few hours later as Jack gazed at their homemade creation in the sand.

“Like is not a strong enough word. This is sweet.” He stepped back, eyeing the pit from several different angles and fingering the wire mesh she had woven with admiration. “Damn, food is going to taste good while this thing lasts. What made you think of it?”

She shrugged, trying not to show how pleased she was. “Boredom, mostly. Not all of us have easily transportable hobbies, you know.”

His smirk should have pissed her off. Predictably, it didn’t. “Yeah, that must suck for you guys.”

“It’s tough, but we manage,” she intoned with a roll of her eyes.

Finally tearing himself away from his new toy, he walked over to join her a little further down the beach. After a few steps, he gently bumped his shoulder with hers. “Seriously, Carter. Thanks.”

Huh. She blinked, digesting the word slowly. They must be coming a long way – she couldn’t remember the last time he had actually thanked her verbally. Usually, it was just a positive note on the mission report and a new pair of socks a week later.

She honestly wasn’t sure which method she preferred.

“Hey, Carter, you coming?”

Pulling herself out of her thoughts, she looked up at the colonel and smiled, falling into step beside him.

Day Fifteen

“Where’s Loren?”

Jack looked up from the crude fire pit that he was cooking steaks on. “Went to grab some barbeque sauce from the cooler.”

“Ah.” Daniel lowered himself next to Jack and gazed out at the rolling waves. “You two sure have taken to each other.”

Jack said nothing.

“That going to be a problem?” Daniel pushed.

Jack squinted and flipped one of the steaks, carefully maintaining a completely neutral expression. “Nope.”

“All right,” Daniel picked up a handful of sand and let it slip through his fingers before continuing. “And you and Sam?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You two have been disappearing for hours at time these days.”

“Your point?”

“You sure you know what you’re doing?

“Of course I know what I’m doing,” Jack frowned. “I’m barbequing.”

“On a home-made pit she made you.”

“You were getting to a point?”

“Just don’t do anything stupid because you have this alien influence thing on your side.”

Jack poked at one of the steaks before replying, trying to put aside his resentment over being questioned at all. “Daniel, I swear on George Burn’s bald head that Carter and I aren’t doing anything.” Daniel let his stare remain until Jack squirmed in spite of himself. “Really.”

“You know,” Daniel said as he picked up another handful of sand, “I don’t so much care if you’re doing anything or not. But I do care if you get yourselves in trouble once we get back because of what’s going on with you two. And that’s going to happen in less than a week, Jack.”

“Daniel, I appreciate your concern. But first of all, there’s nothing to be concerned about.”

“Sure there’s not.”

Jack continued, his voice straining a bit. “And second of all, it would be none of your business even if there was something going on. Which there’s not.”

“Just be careful.”

“I’m always careful,” Jack answered, catching sight of Loren and Carter headed his way. “Always.” Even when he desperately didn’t want to be.

Daniel looked at the two approaching figures and sighed in defeat. “And Jack?”

“What, Daniel?”

“Don’t burn my steak this time.”


"You're very good with him," she offered.

"Well, after a while, you get the hang of how to best handle Daniel."

Sam nudged his shoulder with hers. "Loren."

"Oh, right," Jack feigned.

Sam let his pretense hold for a few seconds before gently pressing forward. "For someone who would have every right not to like kids, you have a history of being great with them."

Jack stared at his hands for a moment, the rhythm of their footfalls matching the rolling waves. She had a knack for bringing up those top five topics he hated, didn't she? "Every moment I get with a new child is like a second chance." He glanced over at her. "Hard to like something with such a harsh reminder attached to it."

She nodded in pained understanding, "You hide it so well." His response was a furrowed brow. "That is," Carter fumbled over the tender area, "I imagine some people might not open themselves up. They might harden themselves, push any reminders away. But you don't. You face it every time, don't you?"

"Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment?"

Sam stopped walking and shook her head, "Does your punishment ever get to end?" Jack froze. "I know it must sound awful, coming from someone who doesn't know how it feels for you. From someone who can distance herself from it because it's not her problem--" she winced. "Wait, that didn't come out right."



It was Jack's turn to wince. "What are you looking for here?"

Sam looked away and swallowed, "Well it's kind of like a band-aid, isn't it? The quicker it gets out there, the easier it will be to stop it from hindering other…things."

"Like it did with Sara?"

"At the risk of being too honest," her gaze shifted, "I just need to know what, if anything, I need to be prepared for."

Because he had never known how to talk about this without spiraling into a very dark place, Jack was silent for awhile. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he said finally. “It’s been six years and I still…” he trailed off, at a loss. “It’ll never be better. Not ever. So you learn to function around it. Or you shoot yourself in the head.”

There it was, the raw and hopeless truth. He walked beside her, waiting for condemnation – expecting it.

Instead, he was surprised to feel her hand slip inside his. “Okay,” she said softly.

“Okay?” he parroted unbelievingly.

The eyes that met his were wide and unflinching. “Okay,” she repeated, and with one word, she was tacitly accepting this horrible part of him – a part he tried to never show anyone.

Quite involuntarily, his hand rose, brushing away stray hair the wind had scattered over cheek. “God, Carter, I….”

But even alien drugs couldn’t excuse the end of that sentence, so he just squeezed her hand tightly before stepping back.

Day Sixteen

“Okay,” she heard Jack’s voice softly guide, “you remember how all the pieces can move?”

“I remember,” Loren confirmed confidently.

Sam smiled and leaned against the smooth wall to her left.

“So, I made my move,” she heard the colonel continue. “Now take your time and study the board.”

Although she couldn’t see the two, she could imagine their posture, hunched over the small chessboard O’Neill had requested. She continued toward where the two were seated, rounding the hallway entrance to find Jack studying the boy’s determined face. Loren held a captured pawn in his hands, twisting it slowly as he carefully focused on the game.

Jack glanced up and saw her in doorway, giving her a soft smile. She met his gaze, offering one in return as she neared them. “Who’s winning?”

The boy’s body shifted, his posture relaxing slightly. “I think I am.” He glanced quickly in the colonel’s direction. “I have more of his pieces,” he added meekly, holding up the pawn and a knight that had been resting in his lap.

“A worthy opponent then, huh?”

Loren shrugged. “I’m getting better. And he’s still letting me win sometimes, I think.”

Now it was Jack’s turn to shrug. “Sometimes being the key word.”

Loren grinned. “It’s very interesting. I hardly remember any games from before I got here. And here, well, there was never any time…” he trailed off, letting those memories go before finishing his thought. “But this is very interesting.”

Looking down at him, Sam couldn’t help but marvel at this boy’s inner strength. “Mind if I watch?”

“Oh, please,” Loren gestured to an empty crate next to him, “stay.” The boy glanced at Jack, “Right, Jack?”

“Of course,” the colonel nodded as Loren hesitantly picked up one of his bishops and slid it forward. “Pull up a crate, Carter.”

She nodded and lowered herself. “Good move,” she offered, leaning toward Loren.

“Hey, now,” Jack warned, shaking his hand in her direction, “No helping him kick my butt. That would just be mean.”

Carter purposefully straightened, eyes wide in feigned innocence. “Never, sir.”

Jack paused and studied her for a moment with narrowed eyes before grumbling and counteracting Loren’s move with a knight.

“Can I play the winner?”

“You play?” Loren’s eyebrows rose.

Sam smiled. “It’s been years, but I did when I was just a little older than you. My father taught me.”

“Are you as good as Jack?”

She simply shrugged, grinning in the colonel’s direction. “We’ve never played, so I guess we’ll have to find out.”

“If I win,” Jack clarified. “Your move, Loren.”

Loren nodded and returned to the board.


“Daniel thinks we’re doing it.”

Sam stopped suddenly, frozen in her tracks by the abrupt subject change. “What?”

“That’s what I said!” Jack insisted.

“Why does Daniel think that we’re…?”

Jack shrugged, “Dunno. But he cornered me while I was making steaks. Warned me to be careful. As well as Daniel can anyway.”

She cocked her head to the side, trying to reason out the implications of that statement. “Use protection careful or don’t do something stupid careful?”

“Major Carter,” he exclaimed, mock-surprise coloring his face. “I’m surprised at you.”

“Please,” she huffed, raising an insolent eyebrow. “You walked right into that one.” Jack gave a pleased laugh before she could continue. “So what’d you tell him?”

“Meh, I told him that there was nothing to be careful about. That we weren’t doing anything.” At this, she couldn’t help but send him a doubtful look, to which he shrugged again. “And that if we were, it was none of his business.”

“He’s just concerned for us.”

“Yeah, well, it isn’t any of his business.”

Sam sighed. “He cares about us. We’re teammates. And what’s more, he’s not wrong. So it is his business.”

“Watch it, Carter. You’re being way too serious for being on vacation.”

She smiled and nudged him with a short laugh. “So Daniel really thinks we’re doing it?”

“Oh, yeah.”

She grinned, knowing there was more than a hint of mischief in the expression. “Oh, this could be fun.”


“Well, come on. When the time is right, you have to admit that you would totally take the chance to mess with his head.”

“You mean, let him think what he wants?”

“Why not?”

His silence was both stunned and absurdly pleased. “You are a dangerous woman, Carter.”

“It’s about time you noticed.”

Day Seventeen

It had to be admitted that Jack got a sort of fiendish delight in tormenting Daniel. Not with the Carter thing – as far as Jack was concerned, that would always be off limits. No, Jack loved using knitting to mess with Daniel.

It was a long standing tradition that had started early and never really faded – not even when Daniel finally found out about the knitting. If anything, that had sort of added to the fun.

This was why when he heard a yell from Daniel down the hall, followed by the slamming open of his bedroom door, Jack just smiled. "Did you need something, Daniel?" he asked innocently.

"How do you do it? WHEN do you do it?" Daniel demanded, flailing a bit.

"I'm not following. Do what, exactly?"

"THIS!" Daniel yelled, thrusting a pair of hand knit socks in Jack's face. "I have watched you these last three weeks Jack, and seen you knitting maybe twice. But in that time, Sam has gotten a pair of socks and a pair of gloves, you finished a sweater for Cassie, made socks for Loren, and now THESE. How are you doing it?!"

Delighted by Daniel's spectacular overreaction, Jack grinned. "Daniel, I-"

Obviously knowing what was coming next, Daniel said it with him, "…have no idea what you're talking about. I know."


“Sir, can I ask you something?”

Jack shrugged. “Floor’s all yours.”

“Do you…I mean, would you ever…” she sighed. “Never mind.”

He nudged her gently. “Hey, now. None of that. Alien drugs, remember?”

Her smile was small and a little sad. “Some things are a bit too big for even alien drugs to handle.”

“Not true. Alien drugs conquer all. What is it?

“It’s just…you’re never going to want more kids, are you?”

The question was so unexpected that he actually stumbled a little in the sand. “I…”

When he didn’t finish his thought right away, she shrugged. “That’s what I thought.”

“Hey, that’s not fair! This is a big thing you’re asking, and it’s only fair that I get a minute to process. I mean…do you even want kids, Carter?”

“I didn’t used to.”

“What changed?”


“Ah,” he said in agreement, studying the sand intensely. “Look, seeing as we’ve broken every other rule during these conversations, let’s be blunt. The truth is…I would give anything to have a second chance as a father. Does it scare the shit out of me? Undoubtedly. But…a baby? With you? Worth it.”

He shifted again, uncomfortable having all of that information just lying heavily between them. “Problem is, you really don’t want a kid with a guy like me.”

She watched as his gaze harden, his jaw muscles flexing beneath his skin. “With all due respect, si…” She stopped, and looked away for a moment before taking in a breath, “No, I can do blunt too.” She paused again, “That is a pitiful excuse. You think your track record scares me?” she brushed a hand through her hair, “Did you forget what I do for a living in the last five minutes or something? Or are you just getting worried that all of this ‘alien influence’ stuff has been just that?”

He didn’t say anything.

“This isn’t P3R-118. These alien drugs haven’t wiped our memories or who we are. I know who you are.” She continued, “I know who I am. We get to keep these conversations. We get to keep these…these feelings. These three weeks happened.”

His fingers rested on the shield of his watch, gently flipping it open and then closed “Isn’t that the problem though? We're supposed to what?” He faltered, “I’m supposed to what? Keep going as the unbiased leader after these three weeks? It was hard to let Thera go, but I never knew her like I’ve gotten to know you.”

Her face flushed for a moment, “But we…”

“Not us,” he interrupted with soft authority. “They.”

Her eyes searched his for a moment. "That easy?"

He had never said it was easy. But it was damn well the only way he could stay sane. Seeing as that was probably too much information, he simply didn't reply. After a moment she nodded. "Fine. But my point is...I guess we knew what we were getting into. Alien drugs are all fine and good, but we both knew what the situation was three weeks ago and didn't stop this."

A completely fair point, he had to admit. But this conversation had passed fair a long time ago. "And that leaves us..?"

She shrugged. "Where we are. Until something changes, anyway. Even if it seems like it never will."

He squeezed her hand, trying to comfort her without getting too close. “You weren’t kidding about being able to do blunt were you?”

An uneasy smile crossed her face, “I do okay.”

Samantha Carter was anything but merely okay, and that was part of what made it so damn hard. “This is probably going to seem stupid, but, would it be okay if, what I mean is, I think I need some…time, er…or space,” he ventured.

“Take all you need,” she gently let go of his hand and turned down the beach. “I promised Loren I’d play another game of chess with him when I got back, anyway.”

Day Eighteen

“We should talk about what’s going to happen with Loren.”

“We should, sir?”

Jack’s eyes shifted to the left and then back right, obviously deeply uncomfortable with this conversation. “Yes.”

“Okay...” she drawled slowly, confused.

“I’d take him if I thought it wouldn’t kill me.”

Sam’s breath caught at the bare honestly in his words, some of his discomfort making sense. This whole conversation was a little too close to yesterday's to be easy, and she swallowed nervously, taking her time to respond. “Any word from Hammond as to what might happen to him once we’re Earth-side?”

“Not yet,” he confirmed, “they want to keep him on base until a foster home pops up. He did say that he’d asked around the base, but so far no eager Fraiser’s have volunteered to take the kid and give him the best home possible.”

“Sure,” she allowed, letting a moment pass before she couldn’t help but ask, “You really think you could give him that?”

“The best home possible?”


He blew out a long breath, hands fidgeting by balling up and releasing almost spasmodically. “I’d like to think I could…or can. But with our work, my schedule, I know better than to really believe something like that.”

“So I’m out of the running too, then.”

The expression that lingered in his eyes as Jack looked at her was a tender one – the sort of expression that she couldn’t look at too long. “Carter with an insta-kid. I think I’d like to see that.”

“We’ll find someone,” she ventured, trying to brush off not only his statement but the warmth in her stomach.

But the wistful tone in Jack’s voice was still tugging at her. “Loren asked me about what would happen to him when we got back.”

“What’d you tell him?”

“Oh, that he’d be safe. That we’d find him the best home.” He stared across the water, obviously unhappy with the situation. “Default vagueness.”

“We will.”

Jack shrugged, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets. “I think he’s going to be disappointed when he doesn’t get to stay with me.”

“Just him?”

Jack’s silence said more than enough, and Sam couldn’t help but think it was time to try to distract him a little.

“You think Cassie will like him?” was what she finally came up with.

“He’s a great kid. I’m sure she’ll love having a fellow-non-earthling around.”

“What if she thinks he’s cute?”


“What?” she asked, laughing at his look of horror. “You just said it yourself, he’ll be the only other teenage alien around. They’re about the same age. It could be an instant connection. Loren could be her first heartbreak.”

“We are quickly crossing into territory Jack does not want to think about. Cassie is still twelve years old as far as I’m concerned. Boys don’t exist for her yet.”

“Of course not, sir,” she retorted, obviously and blatantly mocking him.

“And Loren definitely doesn’t know what girls are yet,” the colonel insisted.

“Ah, left all the girls back on base this mission, huh?” she asked with more than a trace of sarcasm.

“That’s not what I meant! He knows girls as a sex exist, just not in that cute, young, bouncy way. And you're definitely not a girl. I're a woman! But you’re in the older, motherly category.” Carter snorted at that, thoroughly amused. “To him, I mean!” Jack insisted, his eyes darting in her direction. “But not to…other people. Because --because you are younger and, okay, sometimes bouncy when you get excited. But you are way more than cute. Hot, really..." he trailed off, eyes slowly perusing up and down her body as their walk stuttered to a halt.

Her grin faded, and that irritating warmth in her stomach that she had been unsuccessfully trying to banish all afternoon turned up more than a few notches. "Enjoying yourself?" she mused dryly.

His eyes snapped back to hers, guilt written across his face. "Entirely too much."

"Yeah,” she said slowly, biting her bottom lip as she met his gaze. “Me too."

He swallowed, the movement entrancing, and his eyes flickered to her mouth. "This is bad."

Quite without meaning to, she found herself leaning in closer. "Very bad."

And then his hands were her on her elbows, warm and firm. "Definitely bad."

Without realizing it, they were there, a perfect brush of lips against lips with one thrill of heat...before the panic set in. One second he was there, and the next they had both lunged away, inhaling sharply.

"Shit," Jack said.

She blew out a long breath before risking a glance at him. "Yeah."

Day Nineteen

He had known better than to get attached.

Attachment never led anyplace good, not when Jack O’Neill was concerned. Attachment just left him here, huddled on against a wall, watching a young boy sleep and wishing desperately for things that could never be.

But God, how he wished.

A soft hand on his shoulder made him jump. He had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he hadn’t heard Sam coming. “Hey,” she whispered.

“Hey,” he whispered back, not moving his eyes from Loren’s bed.

“Why are you up?” she asked. A perfectly valid question, seeing as it had to be about 0200.

He sighed. “Last check in Hammond let me know that he found a home for Loren.”

Carter nodded, watching him carefully.

“In Washington.”

“Oh,” she breathed out, slowly sliding down the wall until she was crouched next to him.

He swallowed, trying not to look at her. “You know, I told myself to be prepared for this. We even talked about how I know I can’t really give him anything just this afternoon. But…save for him being an alien…” he looked away, “Charlie would be just about his age.”

Her hand tightened around his, her body unconsciously leaning closer. “I know,” she breathed. “I know.”

They watched the young boy breathe in and out together, the reassuring rhythm oddly soothing.

They stayed like that for a long while before he realized that he was keeping her awake. “Carter…”

“Shhh…” she said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

The quiet assurance made his hand tighten around hers in a grip that had to hurt, but it was a long, long time before he could manage to let go.

Day Twenty

There was a loud hum for a moment, and then the room fell into darkness and Sam stepped away from the Light controls. “Well,” she said with a weight to her voice, “I guess that’s it.”

They all stood in a circle for awhile, contemplating the rather plain room. “How long do we have to stay?” Daniel asked finally.

“Oh, probably one more day,” she guessed with a shrug. “Just as a precaution.”

There was no need – not really. In fact, they probably could have been weaned off the alien drug faster. It was just….

She didn’t know where that thought led, but Sam doubted it was any place good, so she cut it off before it finished.

“One more day in paradise,” Jack mused from her other side. “You know what this means, don’t you?”

When no one replied right away, he bounced on the balls of his feet in a way that made Loren laugh. “It means that this is our last free day. In honor of this, we should play games. And have a picnic. And BBQ.”

Beside him, Loren’s voice sighed. “Can I just ask for one thing?”

“Sure, buddy.”

“No catch? Please?”


Instead of catch, it was settled that they would play Sardines. Sam had hid first, and when Loren had been the last to find her in the pantry, it had been his turn. It had then taken them a solid half hour to find him – there were definite advantages to having a couple years of familiarity with the palace on them.

Jack had stumbled into the hidey hole last, so it was now his turn to hide and everyone expected him to have something even more ridiculous up his sleeve. Which is why when Sam swung open the door of the wardrobe in his room as a lark and found him leaning nonchalantly against the overdone goa’uld outfits there, she was surprised.

She turned, checking that no one had followed her before stepping into the wardrobe. “This really isn’t that original, you know.”

“True, but with all the rooms in this place, I figured no one would peg me for an original hiding spot kind of guy.”

“You figured wrong, then.”

“Well, give me some credit. It’s not like I’m under the bed.”

“You were waiting for your next turn to try that one out?”

“More like, on the off chance that Daniel found me first, would I really want to be stuck there for that long?”

“You are an interesting man, sir.”

He grinned proudly before tilting his head and putting a finger to his mouth. “Shhh. Someone’s coming.”

She nodded, amused at his antics as someone walked into the room.

A deep sigh followed the shuffling of feet. It was Daniel, she was sure of it. On a whim, she turned and pressed herself tightly against the colonel – maybe a little more tightly than was quite wise, she acknowledged ruefully as her breath caught a bit.

“Carter!” he whispered harshly, “What are you doing?”

“The right time and place, remember?” she hissed, a dangerous glint in her eyes. This would serve Daniel right for putting his nose where it didn’t belong.

Seconds later the doors opened to reveal a blank faced Daniel.

Sam cleared her throat and moved back from the colonel, allowing space for Daniel.

Jack stood frozen for a second before also clearing his throat and brushing a hand over his uniform in feigned nonchalance. “Daniel, great timing. As ever.”

“How, uh, flattering,” Daniel muttered, looking suspicious of what exactly he had just walked in on. “You guys been in here long?”

Sam smiled sweetly – a dangerous sort of smile if you really knew her. “About seven minutes.”

“Quite a heavenly seven minutes,” Jack added, picking up on the rouse and grinning widely.

“Yeah,” Daniel groaned before stepping back and walking out of the room.

Jack frowned with a huff, “Well, he’s no fun.”

Day Twenty-One

As the last flat was loaded and sent through the ‘Gate, Jack looked around, strangely loathe to leave this place. “Is that everything?”

“I think so,” Daniel confirmed. “We’ve turned off the device, double and triple checked every room, packed up…hey. Where’s Sam?”

Jack had a few ideas about that. “Probably off doing something highly scientific and last minute. I’ll go find her.”

Daniel, in his own world by now, just nodded absently. “There’s so much to catalogue…” he muttered under his breath as he stepped through to Earth.

With a smile and a shake of his head, Jack headed through the palace, taking one last minute to study every room. “Carter?” he called, even though he had his suspicions about where she was.

Sure enough, he found her leaning against the outside wall, digging her feet into the sand and staring out at the gray ocean. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she replied. “I just wanted to…” her voice trailed off into a helpless shrug.

“Ah,” he said, leaning against the wall beside her.

After a moment, her head found its way to his shoulder and his arm drifted around her waist, drawing her nearer as they stared out onto their beach.

Her right hand drifted up and tangled in the front of his shirt, gripping it tightly. “I’m going to miss you,” she whispered.

Jack brushed a kiss on her forehead before he could stop himself. “Me too.”

Other than that, there was nothing left to say.

Seriously, WHY isn’t there more Light fic? I mean, it’s basically a fic writer’s cliché dream: they are trapped on distant planet together for a significant period of time. With a mood-altering alien influence. COME ON, people!

Also, I would like to say that before we started writing this, we had no idea that it was really the heart of Stitches. But as it turns out, it kind of is. Which would be why we go from an average of maybe four pages a fic to this insanely long opus.

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