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Puzzles 

 

Chapter 4

"SG-12, Doctor Jackson, you have a go. Godspeed," General Hammond said from the control room, giving his usual ‘send-off’.

The sun was shining overhead when SG-12, plus Daniel and Casey, and Cam Balinsky, stepped through the ‘gate. Daniel glanced around, noted that Major Anderson was waiting for him to decide exactly what he wanted to do. "Should we set up camp first?" he asked. He’d never been comfortable ‘giving orders’ to the military personnel of the SGC. Even with the knowledge that his position as a civilian consultant...which afforded him the ‘honorary rank’ of a Lieutenant Colonel, according to the paperwork in his file...gave him a modicum of ‘authority’ over the majority of people he worked with. So his requests were always made in the form of a question, or a suggestion. It was one of the many reasons that he was so well-liked among his military colleagues.

"Whatever you want, Doc," Anderson replied easily. "Childers, take point. Let’s make sure there aren’t any surprises around here. Dobson, Baker, take our flanks, do a sweep of about a half klick. Circle back to that meadow."

The men nodded their understanding, and moved away.

Casey glanced over her shoulder. Why did it feel as if she were being watched? There wasn’t anything negative...or dangerous...connected with the feeling. She closed her eyes. No…this was more a feeling of…expectancy.

"Casey?" Daniel asked softly, aware of her hesitation.

"Nothing there," she said. It was technically true, there wasn’t anything, or anyone, nearby. At least, not on the same plane of existence. She had no idea who was watching them, or why. And, unless the feeling changed, or that silent observation became a threat, there was no reason to mention it. She’d learned that too many of the people working in the mountain were more than a little spooked by the thought of Beings from other levels of existence ‘peeking in’ at them. Should I be more afraid than I am? Or has this become so routine for me that I don’t even think about it? And should that alone worry me? She had no answers to her questions. Nor did she have the time to look for those answers.

When she slipped her fingers between his, Daniel couldn’t help but smile. Here, right now, he could push away his nagging doubts. For the next twenty-four hours, forty-eight if he were very lucky, he had his Wife to himself. No annoying pilots to contend with. Or compete with, the darkness that hid his deepest fears pointed out. He lifted her fingers to his lips. Felt his heart flutter in his chest at the look of love that filled her eyes, the warm smile that curved her pink lips.

She had no idea that her thoughts were similar in vein to her Husband’s. Until they stepped back into the SGC, she was not going to think about anything...she would focus on the work to be done, and on being with Daniel. Whatever her friends and dad were doing...nope, not going to think about it. At all. She unconsciously tightened her fingers around Daniel’s. As long as she was with him, nothing could bother her. Absolutely nothing.

He glanced sideways at her when her grip tightened. Noted that she had actually stepped closer to him. He didn’t care what reason she might have for doing so. He was too thrilled...too relieved...to do more than savor the feeling of her soft hand in his, to relish the way her shoulder bumped into his as they walked. Maybe, he thought, time away from the SGC, and Mitchell especially, would dull her interest in the pilot, and anything she might have wanted to do with him. He grabbed onto that hope and held tightly to it.

 

 

 

Camp was set up with a minimum of fuss. Several large boulders protruded above the lush grass of the small valley, and it was near these that the tents had been pitched, and a fire pit hastily dug.

Daniel, Cam, and Jonas were examining the stelai as soon as their tents had been erected. The men of SG-12, all present and reporting no signs of life other than a few insects and birds, laughed out loud as Casey grumped about being left to ‘set things up’ while her husband studied one particular stele.

One of the F.R.E.D. units had been dispatched with the team, carrying a table that would provide a work space for the scientists, along with two folding chairs. They were placed near the circle of stone pillars, and Casey was tasked with sorting through notes, and arranging the photos and accompanying translations according to the arrangement of the stele themselves.

By the time the sun began to set, Daniel was convinced that they were on the right track with their theories. And was equally certain that the following day would provide the answers they’d been searching for.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jonas took a deep breath, blew it out slowly. So far, there had been no surprises, no need to correct any of the translations that had been made from photographs of the stelai that surrounded them.

"Tired, Jonas?" Cam Balinsky asked, a slight grin on his face. It was always boring to have to re-examine artifacts that had already been carefully documented.

"No...well, maybe a little bit," the young Kelownan admitted.

Cam squinted up at the sky. The sun was just beginning its slow arc to the horizon. "Let's take a break. We've been working since sun-up."

Jonas glanced at Daniel, who had been sitting in exactly the same spot for the past several hours.

"Look, Daniel is one of those rare types who seems to be able to work non-stop," Cam said gently. "For the rest of us mere mortals, a break now and then is a requirement."

A smile tugged at the Kelownan's lips. He had heard Casey say that it wasn't so much determination that allowed Daniel Jackson to remain immobile for long periods of time, as he worked on whatever puzzle happened to be in the forefront, but sheer dogged stubbornness.

"It's him against the rock," the young seer had huffed, "and I think Daniel is just stubborn enough to sit until the damned thing crumbles."

With a nod, Jonas rose to his feet, stretched his lanky frame until two vertebrae popped audibly. With another sigh, he followed Cam back to camp. Noted that Casey was sitting at the folding camp table, folders and their contents strewn around her, typing away on her laptop. Curious, he walked toward her, peeked over her shoulder.

Casey glanced up. "Hi, Jonas."

"Hi, Casey. What are you working on?"

"Daniel has me searching out names for every constellation we know about, " Casey replied.

"Why?"

Slender shoulders moved up and back down in a shrug. "No idea. He mumbled something, but I don't think it was English he was mumbling in. Wasn't Goa'uld, or I'd have understood that," Casey said. She cast a glance in the direction where her husband had parked himself for four and a half hours. "He was studying star charts a couple of days ago, but I don’t know what he was looking for. A clue would be nice, but he hasn't responded to any questions for two hours. If it wasn't for the audience, I'd strip down and stand between him and that damned rock to get his attention."

Cam, who had followed Jonas, snorted softly. "Yeah, that would do it."

With a shake of her blonde head, Casey sighed. "I doubt it. He's onto something. He's found something. Until he gets it worked out, the rest of us might as well not even exist."

"I heard that," a familiar voice called.

"He speaks!" Casey said, feigning shock.

"Ha ha. Do you have that list for me?"

"I have the names, but not all of the meanings."

Daniel stood up, brushed off the back of his BDU pants, and walked into the camp. He tossed his notepad onto the table beside his Wife. "The Ancients literally scattered the weapon throughout space. That part we knew. From what I can determine...the text is a bit ambiguous...there were several...er...'priests'...who were tasked with disposing of the weapon. Each one was given a piece of it, and instructed to hide it from 'the eyes of the gods'. I’m not sure they were priests in the religious sense. If I’ve translated correctly, they were part of the group who created the weapon."

"So how in the hell are we going to find it all?" Cam asked.

"I think I have the first clue," Daniel replied. "I'm assuming that we'll find another clue when we check this out."

"And if we don't?"

"Then we're going to be searching every Ancient ruin we've found, and can find, for any hints."

"And hoping that the Goa'uld aren't doing the same thing," Casey said, rolling her eyes. "I agree with Jack. For all of their intelligence, the Ancients were certainly irresponsible, and damned dumb when it came to common sense."

"That's not fair, Case," Daniel said immediately. "They did what they thought was best, what they believed would protect everyone...or anyone...who might discover the existence of the weapon."

"Why didn't they just destroy the pieces?" Jonas asked.

"Yeah, seems to me that would have been the smartest thing to do," Casey added.

"I have no idea," Daniel murmured. If his suspicions were correct, and god, he hoped he was wrong, the Ancients hadn't been able to destroy the parts. Or at least not all of the parts. He wasn't convinced that they'd find all of the individual pieces of the weapon. His fear at this point was that what hadn't been destroyed…possibly couldn't be destroyed…was still out there, simply waiting for someone to put it all back together again. That fear, which he had shared with General Hammond, was what drove him. What had held him motionless until he'd translated the entire stele he had chosen to work on. The hints it did hold were worrisome.

"So, now what?" Cam asked.

"We finish our work here, and then we start looking. Hopefully we can find another clue or two," Daniel replied.

"Shouldn't take long," Cam mused.

"We should be done by tomorrow afternoon," Daniel said, for the benefit of Major Anderson, who had joined the group standing around Casey.

The major nodded. "I'll let the general know when we do check-in."

Daniel nodded his own sandy-blonde head in understanding. "I'm going to work on the second stele that's in this particular dialect. Cam, if you and Jonas get finished, start comparing your translations, see if there are any sections that are the same...or even close."

Cam's head moved up and down. "Let's grab some lunch, shall we?"

Casey's nose wrinkled slightly. "I don't suppose we could open the 'gate and order a pizza."

Major Anderson guffawed. "Doubt it."

"Shit." She reached for her backpack, setting on the ground beside her chair, wrinkling her nose again at the MREs the others were pulling from their own packs. "I'll just eat an orange."

"You'll eat a full meal," Daniel said, his hand on her shoulder.

"You're mean."

"You're still trying to reach the weight Janet says you should be at," he countered.

With another sigh, Casey rose to her feet. Was immediately enveloped by her Husband's arms. Her arms went automatically around his broad shoulders. "I put on another pound last week," she mumbled into his shirt.

"And lost it during those three days we were dealing with Mini-Jack," he replied softly. Because, he sighed mentally, she'd been blaming herself for what had happened, and had nearly stopped eating completely. Not that she'd slowed down a bit during that time. His heart still clenched within his chest when he thought about the fact that she had dashed through the Mirror, without a word to him...to anyone. Had he not wandered into the storage room, looking for her... He cut the thought off. It had all worked out, eventually.

When his arms tightened around her, Casey looked up at him. Whatever he was thinking about, it had brought a slight frown to his face. "I'll eat an MRE," she said softly.

"Thank you," he said, smiling down at her.

"You so owe me a decent meal when we get back home," she teased.

"Olive Garden?"

"Sounds good to me."

"It's a date. For now-"

"For now we'll eat MREs. Maybe we can figure out just what they're supposed to be."

Daniel chuckled. "My optimistic Angel."

"Hey, optimism and a bit of sheer daring are required when eating government pre-packaged food," Casey retorted.

Arm in arm, the two walked toward the group who had gathered around the exposed boulders that offered ample places to sit. She hadn’t said a word about Mitchell, Daniel mused, and he certainly hadn’t mentioned what he had witnessed. So far, he thought, savoring the warmth of her arm around his waist, she was still as loving, as caring…as flirtatious with him…as she had always been. She'd been as eager to make love in the privacy of their tent the night before as he had been, giving everything to him, just as she always did. He pushed aside the feelings of jealousy that stirred in his breast. No time to deal with them now.

A fire burned cheerfully in the middle of the area, providing hot coffee for the archaeologists who labored, and seemed to live on the caffeinated beverage. Sergeant Dawson held a mug full of the steaming brew toward Casey. "Here, ma'am. Seems t'me it's been nigh on a full hour or so since your last cup."

Chuckles filled the air as the men around her, all well aware of her 'addiction', reacted to the sergeant's good-natured teasing. Casey grinned. "Thanks, Buford."

The younger man returned the grin, the tops of his ears turning slightly red. "Yer shure 'nuff welcome."

The sealed silver plastic bags with black writing stamped on each side, identifying the contents, were passed around. Casey was offered the tamales, everyone aware that they were her favorite, and she immediately pushed the still foil wrapped food into the coals of the fire to warm it. She nibbled on the peanut butter and crackers that came with the meal, offering the cookie to Daniel, who was more than willing to take it.

In return, he gave up his peanut butter and crackers, believing that there was more nutritional value in the peanut butter than in the cookie. Even though there were probably more calories in the dessert.

 

 

 

They were cleaning up after their meal when a soft whisper caught her off guard. "Did you hear that?" she asked, cocking her head sideways.

The men of SG-12 were immediately on alert, each of them reaching for the P90's at their sides. Daniel and Cam had reacted as well, the 9 millimeter Beretta's that had been holstered on their thighs now in hand. Jonas was only a bit slower than his teammates to arm himself. "Hear what?" Daniel asked.

"That voice...it was whispering."

Nervous glances were exchanged among the men, a fact that Casey didn't miss. "I'm taking all of the surprised expressions as a 'no'," she said.

"Sorry, Case," Daniel replied. He watched her for a moment. "Still hearing it?"

She nodded, somewhat distractedly. "It's beneath it."

Daniel frowned. "What's beneath...what?"

"Not a clue," she said. "That's all I hear. 'Look beneath'."

Scanning the area carefully, Daniel's heart began to pound with excitement. He'd suspected there might be a temple of some sort buried nearby, a result of time and elements.

"Fastest way to find out if there's something down there is to have the Prometheus do a scan," Major Anderson said.

"I'll ask the general," Daniel said, nodding his agreement. Given that the 'hint' had been given to Casey, he figured that General Hammond would be more willing to allow the only ship that protected Earth space…as the Daedalus was still undergoing last minute inspections…to leave orbit for a short period of time.

"I need to check-in," Anderson continued.

"I'll come with you." Daniel rose, dropped a kiss on top of Casey's blonde head.

She continued to frown. The whisper was gone now. Whether due to the fact that a search would be made for anything 'beneath' them, or whether it had been just a short message, she had no idea. Whoever was sending the information was certainly being vague, she thought grumpily. Maybe her smart-aleck comment to Arlinda had been taken literally. Figures. Damned higher level Beings are just a pain in my ass.

 

 

 

Daniel relayed what Casey had heard, and his request, to the general. Waited impatiently for Hammond's decision.

"Doctor Jackson, do you believe that whatever could be below you is worth the risk of leaving Earth unprotected for the time it would take the Prometheus to reach you, conduct a scan, and return to Earth orbit?" Hammond asked.

"Sir, at this point, I think any clues to the Ancient weapon are very important. If the Ancients weren't able to simply destroy the weapon, then it's far too powerful to risk allowing it to fall into the hands of the Goa'uld," Daniel replied.

"Very well. The Prometheus will be in orbit above you as soon as possible," the general said.

"Thank you, sir."

Major Anderson glanced at the man beside him. "What if the scans don't find anything? We scouted around for days and didn't find a single thing to indicate there's anything more than just those columns."

"It's possible the Ancients had an underground bunker of some sort," Daniel said. "If so, there wouldn't be any visible sign of it."

"True enough." Anderson slid the strap of his P90 over his shoulder. "It'd be nice if the whole damned weapon was hidden down there."

Daniel smiled. "It would be. But I highly doubt that it is, given what we've been able to find so far."

"Damned inconsiderate of 'em."

"I don't suppose they intended for anyone to actually search for it."

"Possibly. Of course, if they didn't want anyone looking for it, they shouldn't have said anything about it, shouldn't have left clues behind."

"I agree. Humans are a particularly curious species. We'll search until we find the answer, simply because of that need to know," Daniel said.

"This is one time we sure as hell need to know."

"It certainly is." And it was one thing that he could only pray that the Goa'uld would never know about. Daniel continued to cling to the hope that they could find the weapon first, and either assemble it, to use against the Goa'uld, or destroy it, to prevent it from ever falling into the hands of any of the Systems Lords that polluted the universe with their evil presence.

When the two men returned to camp, it was to find Casey standing in front of a stele; the one, Daniel noted, which had held a reference to the ‘cradle of stars’. A bit of text that had been the reason for his search…or rather, Casey’s search…into the names and descriptions of every known constellation. Somewhere, out there, he thought, glancing upward at the azure blue sky, was the next clue.

Daniel approached slowly. If she was ‘seeing’ something, or receiving a ‘download’, any abrupt movement nearby could distract her, make the process take longer, and usually spooked her as well. He carefully touched her arm, slid his hand up to her shoulder, gently down her back.

She looked up at him. "Look beneath," she whispered.

"I just talked to General Hammond. He’s sending the Prometheus to scan the area below these stelai," he replied softly.

"No, Daniel," she insisted, wrapping her hands around his arm, "look beneath. This pillar…this stele. Look beneath."

With a frown, he motioned for Anderson to approach, that man having paused as well.

"What’s up?" the major asked.

"Casey seems to think we need to look beneath this particular stele," Daniel said.

"Okay. How?"

Daniel shrugged. "I guess we need to tip it over. But gently. I don’t want to damage it."

Of course not, the major thought with a bit of amusement. It didn’t matter that the Doc knew exactly what the damned thing said, had enough photos of it to rebuild and sculpt it exactly as it stood. It was an artifact, and in the archaeologist’s mind, that made it priceless. He glanced over his shoulder. His team was watching curiously. "Okay, boys. Doc needs this thing moved. Let’s get to it."

Jonas marveled at the fact that there wasn’t one word of disagreement. No argument that the task might be a waste of time. Casey Jackson insisted that they ‘look beneath’. And Daniel wanted the stele moved immediately, in order to do so. He stepped forward, Cam beside him, as Childers, Baker and Dobson hurried toward the waiting major.

"Okay, let’s do this," Anderson said. He positioned himself beside the stone monument. Cam stood beside him. Childers and Baker went to the opposite side. Dobson nodded at Jonas, and those two stood behind the stele, their intent to help guide the stone to the ground.

"Easy…I’d prefer it remain in one piece," Daniel said. He put his hands on the front of the stele, and began to push. He couldn’t hold back his gasp of surprise when it seemed to move with much less difficulty than he had imagined. While heavy, it was soon obvious to him that the stele wasn’t a solid pillar of stone. That thought had his heart pounding with excitement.

"Easy," Anderson called out, as the stele began to move. When it tipped off its base, the men grabbed at it, lowered it to the ground with as much care as possible.

Daniel looked at the bottom of the pillar. Traced a thin line that ran the perimeter of the base, about an inch from the outer edge, with his finger. He slipped his hand into the pocket on the thigh of his BDU, withdrew his pocketknife. Flipped it open and slid the blade between the two pieces of stone. "Holy shit," he muttered. Carefully working the blade around the base, he loosened the bottom of the pillar, eased it away.

"Wow, hollow," Casey said, squatting beside him, looking up into the center of the stele.

Cam had his flashlight ready, and shined it into the black center of the pillar. "Oh, that’s just incredible!" he breathed.

While it was indeed hollow, the stele was far from empty. Miniature data crystals were arranged precisely on what looked like modern circuit cards. "Well, I think we found part of the weapon," Daniel said quietly.

"Good thing the Prometheus is coming," Casey said. "They can just ring this up, and then ring it into the SGC."

It wouldn’t have been impossible, but trying to carry the heavy stone monument two miles to the Stargate would have been an ordeal for them. Even with seven men, the weight would have been cumbersome. The danger of dropping the stele, and thus damaging or even destroying what appeared to be delicate circuitry, wasn’t something that they could risk.

"I guess so," Daniel grinned.

"Well, this should make the general happy," Anderson said.

"I’m sure it will," Daniel replied. "I think we can definitely say that we’ve found all there is to find here."

"Good," the major grinned. "Getting tired of seeing the same scenery on every other mission."

Chuckles filled the air.

With nothing left to do but wait for the Prometheus, Anderson ordered that camp be broken down. Daniel and Casey continued to search through what they could find on local constellations, as much as the disc held, that was. A more thorough search would be conducted as soon as they returned to the SGC.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Ba’al listened with half an ear as his scribe read the report from his scientists. It seemed that the writing on the scepter was Ancient. He knew the rudimentary alphabets of the many dialects of Ancient, of course. However, he wasn’t well versed in all of those dialects. And it seemed that this particular text was in such an obscure dialect that his best linguist was struggling to translate it.

It had been just over two weeks, and still the image of Casey, the bloodied clothes telling of the wounds on her chest, filled his dreams…his nightmares. Had he ever loved as deeply as he loved the Tau’ri seer? No other name, no other woman, came to mind as he searched his memory. He steadfastly refused to believe that his love had been in any way connected to the concoction that Hathor had used. That sweet scent that always seemed to surround Casey. He’d yet to learn where she’d found that perfume. The fleeting thought that all Tau’ri women possessed the knowledge of Hathor’s secret to controlling men failed to find purchase among his troubled thoughts. Nor did the idea that what Hathor had so carefully mixed could have been natural in some women ever occur to him.

A plan had begun to form. It had taken him years, but he’d reached a point in his research that made him certain he’d eliminated the problems that had plagued his experiments before. So far, his latest tests had been completely successful. Leading him to believe that he was ready for the next step. All he needed was a bit of blood, and Casey would be with him again. This time, he promised himself, there would be no lingering love for that damned Jackson to blight their affair. Her heart would belong solely to him.

He waved the scribe away. Any riddle posed by the ancient scepter could be dealt with later. For the moment, he had a far more important task to complete. He would need to remain cloaked, it wouldn’t do for anyone to suspect his ultimate destination.

Aided by the information his spy had been able to send him, he knew two things: blood samples of all the personnel of the SGC were kept in a freezer on the medical level of the facility. And there was a way into the Tau’ri fortress, if one had the patience to attend to each small detail. He had the time, and the patience. He'd already selected the Jaffa who would perform this most crucial mission. The survival of the warrior was secondary to his plans. As soon as the blood sample had been obtained, it would be ringed up to his hidden, waiting ship. If the Jaffa could escape, so be it. If not, then the sacrifice would be noted. The only thing that mattered was that sample!

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"Colonel Mitchell, I have good news," General Hammond said to the man standing at attention in front of his desk. "The Daedalus is ready to launch. Doctor Jackson just requested that the Prometheus scan P59 611. Seems that Casey was just told to ‘look beneath’. We’re assuming that means to look beneath this circle of stone pillars."

His heart began to pound his excitement against his chest. Not even going through the Stargate on that training mission yesterday, which had been mind-blowing in and of itself, had created such a feeling. He was going to command an honest-to-god space ship! "Yes, sir," he replied, hoping that his voice didn’t betray that excitement. Too much, anyway.

"Colonel O’Neill, Major Carter, and Teal’c returned from the Jaffa camps this morning. I’m sending them along. You have a green crew, and none of the pilots for the F302’s have actually scene battle. Should something happen, I’d prefer that you have experienced help available, given this is your first time out."

"I think I’d prefer that as well, sir," Mitchell answered truthfully.

"Good. I’ll contact SG-1, and have them meet you in the ring transport room."

"Sir?"

"It will be much quicker to have you ring to the Prometheus, and then back down to the Daedalus," Hammond explained.

"Yes, sir."

"Whatever Doctor Jackson has found, it seems important. Right now, finding that weapon, or the pieces of that Ancient weapon, is top priority. We don’t dare allow the Goa’uld to learn of its existence, or find it before we do."

"No, sir."

"Good luck, colonel."

"Thank you, sir."

Hammond smiled. "You’ll do fine, Mitchell. I wouldn’t have suggested you for the position if I didn’t believe that."

He was humbled to learn that this man had been responsible for offering him the most incredible opportunity of his life. "Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best."

"I know you will, son," the general said quietly. "You’ll probably want to pack, take a few personal things with you. You’ll be living on the Daedalus for at least the next six months."

"Yes, sir."

"I’ll let you get to that. Dismissed."

"Thank you, sir." With a sharp salute, Mitchell turned on his heel. Barely resisted the urge to run and jump like a ten year old kid down the corridor. After three days of waiting, he was finally going to see the ship he’d been assigned to command.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack opened one eye. He was certain he’d only been asleep a few minutes. He needed more sleep. Much more sleep. A few hours of sleep would be good. It had been damned near impossible to sleep at the Jaffa camp, what with all of the whooping and hollering and posturing. Lots of big talk about wiping out the Goa’uld, now that they…those Jaffa who had followed Teal’c’s example and had left the ranks of the loyal Jaffa, shol’va all, bless ‘em…were armed with those impressive Tau’ri weapons. He just couldn’t seem to convince Bra’tac that a few P90’s, a couple of grenade launchers, and a few boxes of ammo weren’t going to be the key to their success. The pounding came again. It wasn’t, as he’d first believed, in his head. "What?" he asked, his voice muffled by the fact that his face was pressed into his pillow.

"Sir, General Hammond is sending us with the Daedalus," Sam said, sticking her head into the room.

"Right."

"We leave in ten minutes."

"Can I sleep on the flight?" he asked wearily. He pushed himself into a mostly sitting position.

Sam grinned. "I dunno. We’re ringing to the Prometheus, which will then ring us to the Daedalus. Apparently Daniel found something, and he wants the ship to run a scan of the planet’s surface."

"I should have known Danny and his rocks were behind this interruption," Jack grumped. He stared bleary-eyed at his second-in-command - who just also happened to be his lover. Which meant he knew her not just intimately, but well. She looked too damned chipper. "Carter, don’t tell me you were able to sleep last night!"

"Like a rock," she replied jauntily. "Ear plugs. I suggest you invest in a pair."

He couldn’t help but smile. "You could have told me about this last night."

"I didn’t have a second pair, and no way was I going to let you take mine," she replied.

"Now that’s not fair! I wouldn’t have taken your ear plugs."

"Yes, you would have."

"No, you’d have given them to me," he insisted.

"Not even if you’d have ordered me to," she countered.

"Insubordination, major."

"Bite me, colonel."

"Come over here," he said suggestively, wiggling his eyebrows.

"Nope. You are now down to eight minutes. Sir."

"You’re enjoying this too much, Carter."

"Absolutely."

"I will make you pay."

Her smile widened. "Oh, I’m counting on it."

He shivered slightly. "I’m on my way," he said, opting to change the subject of their conversation before he wound up in an uncomfortable situation...on top of being so damned tired. Was it possible to be aroused and tired at the same time? A quick mental check of his body...Yep. Seemed it was very possible. He certainly wouldn’t be able to find any satisfaction, not with Sam at any rate…not here on the base; and certainly not in...he checked his watch...seven minutes. And lately his hand just didn’t offer the relief it had before she had become his regular sleeping partner.

"Right."

"Go, Carter. I’ll be there in five minutes." Jack leaned over to find his boots, began to pull them onto his feet.

Convinced that he was truly awake and responding to the general’s order, Sam backed out of the room and closed the door. Giving the painted wood expanse a careful look, she opened the door again, and left it that way. Just to make certain he didn’t take it into his head to stretch back out again.


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