Learning to Live With It Part 7
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Title: Learning to Live With It Part 7
Author: Su Freund
Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure, Romance
Content Level: Age 13+
Content Warnings: Minor use of mild language
Pairings: Jack & Sam
Spoilers: Smoke and Mirrors, General S9 spoilers
Summary: Sam reveals all and the plot thickens when the friends find some disturbing connections between a number of employees at Area 51
Sequel/Series Info: Sequel to Learning to Live With It Part 6
Copyright (c) 2006 Su Freund
Art credit: Thanks to fulinn28 for making the book cover that illustrates this troy on my site, from the great cap of a thoughtful and cute looking Jack. If you want to see it, go to: https://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto7.html
Author's Note: Thanks to Bonnie for beta reading this fic and particularly for picking up my use of UK English!
Learning to Live With It Part 7
A knock on the door startled all of them and, when Jack looked out of the window and saw it was the police, again, he heaved a huge sigh and shot through to the living room quickly.
"It's the cops, Sam. Unless you want to be found right this minute I suggest you hide in one of the bedrooms."
"Right!" She scampered quickly into the spare room she'd slept in, closing the door, and Jack opened the front door with a broad smile on his face.
"Jeez, guys, there's no getting rid of you, is there?" he said by way of greeting, "I guess you'd better come in."
"We have some good news for you General O'Neill," one of them said as they followed him through to the living room. Jack couldn't remember whether he was Tweedledum, or Tweedledumber. "Your friends will also be interested, I'm sure," he continued as he spotted Daniel, Teal'c and Jon.
"Good news? Well, we could use some. You got Colonel Carter's killer?"
"No sir, I'm afraid not. We got the autopsy results and it seems it wasn't Colonel Carter in the car."
"What?" All four men exclaimed in unison, followed by a lot of faked surprise, joy, and confused talking over each other excitedly.
The police tried to calm the situation and eventually silence reigned.
"So Carter's alive out there somewhere." Jack said, "Daniel, Teal'c we need to find her and find out what the hell is going on."
"Well, sir, perhaps you ought to leave the police work to us. We have got a few questions."
Part of the questioning revolved around the real deceased, Pam Mathers. They produced a photograph and none of the men knew or recognised her, speculating on whether she was a friend of Sam's or an unfortunate car thief. The cops pointed out the likelihood of the latter being zero, given that she had turned up at a rendezvous that Sam had arranged with the General.
"Must be a case of mistaken identity," Jack theorised. "The bomb must have been meant for Carter and they got the wrong woman. Good for us, unlucky for this Pam whatsername."
"Or it was planned by Colonel Carter herself?" one of the cops threw in to see the reaction.
"If you think that, you are definitely barking up the wrong tree," Jack countered, and the rest of the men jumped to defend Sam's honor.
"We must admit that we think that is a little far fetched, but in this job you have to keep an open mind."
They didn't stay for long after that and, when they'd left, the men breathed a synchronous sigh of relief and Sam came and rejoined them.
"I hope they believed that we didn't know you were still alive, Sam, or who knows what they'll be thinking right now?" Jack said.
"Well, the answer is to solve the mystery before they jump to the wrong conclusions," Jon added.
"Yeah, so it's time you tell us what's going on Sam," Jack hinted.
"I guess so," she agreed and sat trying to formulate her words.
In a nutshell, Sam believed she had discovered some unauthorised and illegal experimentation with alien technologies at Area 51. Still uncertain as to the nature of the experiments, she suspected the type of thing that would make your hair curl, although the likes of the old NID or Trust, and even some people inside the US Government, might feel happier about it than she did. She had some ideas but was unwilling to theorise without more evidence. All she knew for sure was that there was something bad going on.
It was after she had reported her initial fears to the base commander, General Doyle, that she felt her life might be under threat. The situation escalated so quickly that she had gone on the run to escape. Initially, they had tried to run her off the road, and then they had shot at her. Luckily, neither of these attempts worked so, clearly, they had taken more drastic measures, presumably in expectation of her making it back to the Springs and using her car.
Doyle had been sceptical of her fears, assuring her that nothing happened on his base without him knowing about it. She didn't know if he was in on it or not, or had just mentioned it to the wrong person.
"Sometimes Doyle can be a real jerk," Jack said, "but I find it hard to believe he would do this. I guess we should keep an open mind, just like the cops say they do. There is no way in hell that the cops are ever going to get to the bottom of this, not with Groom Lake or the program involved, although the internal investigation might. That could make things a little harder for us. The bad guys will be careful right now and are probably covering their tracks. Did you have any evidence, Sam?"
"I told the General I would go back to him with some. I found some stuff, sure, but nothing that would prove it, and not much to tell me who might be involved."
"Have you got copies of whatever you did have?"
"No. Dumb, huh? It was all on the system. Little signs and clues. If they hadn't tried to kill me, I might have began to doubt myself. I should have printed out what I had." She shook her head as if berating herself for her stupidity. "But I could log into the system."
"Maybe, but that would alert them you were looking. I need to think about this. More coffee while I get my brain around this, folks?" Jack asked.
Jon followed him out, looking a little confused and disconsolate.
"What's up Jon?" Jack asked when he saw his expression.
"I'm thinking I should probably leave. You don't need me anymore. You've got super brain now," Jon replied.
"Super brain? You mean Sam?" Jack laughed. "Yeah, it's kind of good to have her back, isn't it? But, no Jon, don't go. I asked for your help and I'm pretty sure that now you're in on it you'll want to see it through to the end, right?"
"Sure, I just feel like the outsider here."
"And seeing Sam alive and well after all this time is freaking you out?"
Jack felt both sympathetic and empathetic of how Jon must be feeling and wanted to extend a hand of friendship. This was pretty strange for him too. He had never intended to maintain contact with his younger clone and it was just too peculiar on so many levels.
Even Jack, who could be very insensitive on occasion, recognised that the whole experience must be even more strange for his clone. These people had been his best friends once. Jon had experienced that as intensely as Jack had: all the pain, trails and tribulations, as well as the highs of SG-1. He too had loved Sam, and possibly still did. His emotions must be running riot. To abandon or reject him at that moment was just plain wrong.
"If you want to go, Jon, I'll understand that, but I'm asking you to stay, if you will. And if you think you can handle the reunion with Sam."
"Reading my thoughts, Jack?"
"It isn't easy for me either."
"No, I guess not after what you told me. Jack, don't you even notice the way she looks at you?"
"What, like I'm a total moron?"
"Jeez, sometimes you can be so dumb, you know that?"
"You should know."
"Yeah, funny. No, I mean she looks at you l-like... like she regrets what happened, like she has f-feelings for you."
"I'm not kidding around here, Jack. I see it because I'm looking at it. You aren't looking because you're scared of what you'll see."
"That's a crock..."
"No it isn't. I know you better than anyone, remember?"
"I don't want to talk about this, Jon."
"No, of course not! Just put your fingers in your ears and hum like always, Jack. Avoid it, hide from it, lock it away."
"Think I will, thanks for the suggestion."
"Christ, I give up! If she looks at you like a moron then maybe it's because you are one!"
With those words, he walked out leaving Jack to his own thoughts, which were dark and bleak. Jack tried to shove it all into the back of his mind and concentrate on the problem at hand; making coffee, and formulating a plan. He could hear the low babble of conversation next door and found it strangely comforting and, by the time he joined his friends again, he had regained his balance.
As it would be foolish for Sam to tip their hand and log into Area 51, Jon hacked in again, way quicker than the first time. Sam sat by his side watching and marvelling at his creativity. Even if they detected the breech, it seemed unlikely that they would trace it back to them. Jon had Jack's devious mind, plus the knowledge to make it work for them in this situation.
Jon was flattered by Sam's comments about his work, particularly when she told him she could never do it as efficiently, effectively and secretly. He could feel the inane smile appearing on his features and quickly suppressed it, opting instead for a cockily delivered "gee, thanks."
Sam wasn't taken in by his reaction. She knew how Jack would think in that situation, so therefore knew Jon. She had to confess that, until today, she had almost forgotten that Jon existed. She didn't like to think about someone else wandering the planet with Jack's thoughts, feelings and experiences. Just the idea freaked her out.
It gave her pause to wonder what he might be thinking and feeling right now, about this whole mess, about her, about Jack and the other guys, and she figured it must be very strange for him too. He seemed to be coping pretty well with it, on the surface, but who knew what lurked in the depths of either Jack or Jon O'Neill? They didn't like letting anyone in to take a look.
Jack had chosen well when he chose Jon to help them and that did not surprise Sam at all. However much he tried to play dumb, Sam knew very well that it was very far from the truth where Jack was concerned. He was the best CO she'd ever had and all others would suffer in comparison with him.
He could be impatient, stubborn, taciturn and sometimes downright rude, but the plusses in his character far outweighed the flaws. Jack was a master at what he did best and liked to cut to the chase, not hang around. The latter trait was only natural in a man like Jack, but was one of the ways in which he could lead you to believe in his dumb front.
Now she felt safe and secure with Jack around, Sam gave herself the luxury of thinking about her feelings for him again. They hadn't changed. Actually, that wasn't entirely true, they had deepened and matured but, essentially, she still loved him and she had to find a way to win him back, make him forgive her and confess his feelings for her. She knew that Jack wouldn't make that easy, but she was willing to be patient and keep trying.
Jon was so like Jack. He had the same mannerisms and expressions, as well as the same brain. Seeing it in action today was awe inspiring and signalled what Jack was capable of if he wanted to be. It wasn't what Jack wanted to be, however. He was good at what he was good at and, if he needed other expertise, he called the experts and expected them to get on with it. That is why they had been such a good team together. He allowed his people to play to their strengths while he concentrated on his.
Once Jon broke into the Area 51 system again, Sam directed them to where they needed to be. In no time at all they had printed copies of everything she had found to date, and Sam and Jon sat looking for anything more, while the other three poured over the printouts.
While they worked, Sam and Jon bantered comfortably and Jack could feel a small spark of jealousy. Jon could behave as he had before because he had never been through what Jack had with Sam over the last few months and years. He had never known her disturbingly close decision to marry Pete, or what she'd been through after her father died, or had his heart broken from being dumped by her. He had never been so close to hope only to have it shattered.
Once again, a knock at Jack's door made them start. Jack looked out of the window and saw Hammond, and Sam nodded to let him in. She trusted George Hammond. The old General was delighted when his eyes alighted on Sam. He had come over to deliver the autopsy results and the results of investigations so far, as promised.
When he had read it wasn't Sam who'd been killed he'd whooped for joy. He felt a fatherly love for Sam, and this had been enhanced by her father's death. He and Jacob had been close friends and George Hammond was the closest thing to a replacement now Jacob was gone. George took that responsibility seriously.
There were tears in his eyes when he hugged Sam. She was apologetic that she hadn't told him earlier, feeling she had let him down in that respect.
They invited him to join them in their search for the truth, and he was delighted to oblige, trying to suppress the uneasy feelings provoked by the fact that Jon O'Neill had hacked into the Groom Lake facility. Sometimes the things that they did made his blood run cold, but you did what you had to do and he was willing to do almost anything to protect his old comrades.
So, it seemed, was Jack O'Neill and his young clone and Hammond wouldn't have expected anything less. Nevertheless, it didn't sit well with him that they were hacking into a top secret military installation and he briefly wondered how Jack felt about that, given that it was his domain these days.
"This Doctor James' name crops up quite a lot, don't you think?" Daniel asked.
"It can't be Ed," Sam said over her shoulder, "I just don't see it. He must be a patsy."
"How well do you know him, Sam?" Daniel asked.
"Pretty well. W-we dated for a while..." She was embarrassed by that confession and realised she probably needn't have made it, but too late.
Both Jack and Jon almost stopped in their tracks but managed to carry on as if nothing had been said - just. Jack didn't dare look up because he was pretty certain he would be caught blushing. His cheeks felt hot and his heart was racing. He hadn't figured on Sam dating someone; what a fool! Sam could probably have any man she wanted and had been free to do as she chose. That thought did nothing to calm Jack's disquiet and upset at the notion.
"We should all keep an open mind, Sam" Jack managed to say evenly and emotionlessly.
"You're right, of course, Jack," she agreed.
Jack was wondering what this Doctor James guy looked like and how old he was, when Sam had been out with him and whether it was continuing, and whether she had slept with him. His mind raced with questions, none of which he was sure he wanted answering.
"Shall I call up his personnel file?" Jon asked, equally evenly and emotionless.
"Good idea Jon," Jack said. "Print it. I want to read it." Man, did he want to read it, and see the photo!
"While you're at it, get the files for Doctors Ellis and Peters too, as well as General Doyle," Daniel suggested. "And what was the name of the guy who replaced you as head of R&D, Sam? Could something be going on without him knowing it?"
"I don't know. Worth checking," Sam replied, "Patrick MacDonald. Don't really see him fitting into this picture, but who knows?"
"Who's in Doyle immediate circle, Sam?" Jack asked, "Any of them, and also his immediate staff. If he mentioned your suspicions to someone who was it most likely to be?"
"Got it," Sam responded and started to write a list of names that Jon should get the files for, while he was in that part of the system. "I never was very keen on Rick Peters. He's a jerk. But I guess my personal prejudices shouldn't get in the way of this."
"Maybe your gut is telling you something, Sam," Jack said, "worth considering."
"Are personnel records likely to be helpful, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, "Would they not have seen a vet before being employed there?" The whole room burst out laughing and Teal'c looked puzzled.
"You mean they all must have been vetted Teal'c, not that they went to the vets," Daniel chuckled.
"Is that not what I said?"
"No, Teal'c... forget it!"
"You never know what you'll find in personnel records, T," Jack said, "always worth a look."
When Jon handed him some of the printouts, Ed James was on top. A look passed between the two men as if they each knew what the other was thinking, and they probably did. Jack looked at James' record. Damn, he was thinking as he read, the guy seemed young and good looking even in his mug shot type photo, and those things were never flattering. It seemed he had brains too, according to his list of qualifications and experience. He poured over it carefully, looking for clues.
Jack was cursing himself for his jealousy. Sam was nothing to him anymore, and she never would be. Apart from that, she wasn't interested, so even if he wanted... but he didn't want. Then he cursed himself for lying even in his own mind. Of course he wanted, but he wasn't going to get, or make any effort to. It was way too late for all of that and he had to learn to live with it.
"See, now here's something interesting. Lover boy worked closely with Doctor Langham on a couple of projects." Sam cringed at Jack's use of the phrase lover boy, knowing he was pissed. Things had just got a lot worse and it was her fault for slipping up. Jack need never have known, or not yet. He continued, "They were friends. Remember Langham, guys?" Jack looked up towards his friends, inwardly flinching at the memory of being incarcerated for something he hadn't done.
"Indeed, O'Neill," Teal'c said, "I remember him well. He worked for the NID."
"Oh yeah, all that Kinsey assassination stuff," Daniel said, "I wasn't around because I was off somewhere being glowy, but I read all about that."
Sam decided it would be indiscreet to rush to Ed's defence again. Besides, what if he was involved? The thought made her shudder, and wonder about her people judgement skills. Had she been taken in so easily by good looks and charm? Yeah, of course she had. She was a sucker. Jack wasn't the only one who noticed her silence.
"He's a biological scientist, genetics and stuff. If he's our man I really do not like the sound of it at all. What the hell could these illegal experiments be?" Jack commented.
"Ed and Rick Peters play golf together," Sam piped up, still keeping her suspicions about the experiments quiet but thinking that Ed fit into her theory all too well.
"It looks like they might have been at college together too," Jack added after a cursory scan of Peters' bio. "Crap, this guy is a chemist. It's getting interesting."
"Here's the military personnel, Jack," Jon handed him more print outs.
"Colonel Connelly is Doyle's second in command, right?" Jack looked to Sam for confirmation and she nodded. "Is he here?" Jon nodded. "If it isn't Doyle, then Connelly is a likely suspect for the guy he spoke to about you, Sam."
Jack rifled through the papers to find Connelly's information.
"Well, wouldn't you know it? Connelly went to the same college as Peters and James before he took a commission."
"All at the same time?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, contemporaries, although they probably wouldn't have been in the same classes."
"Same fraternity perhaps?" Jon suggested.
"That's entirely possible." Jack concurred. "or something similar, maybe; same sports club, chess club, anything."
"It doesn't prove anything, son." Hammond said.
"No, but it might bring us closer. Is Langham still on there?"
Jon searched for Langham.
"Same college again?"
"A little weird don't you think?" Jack said, "Langham did it for money. No reason to suppose these others guys aren't greedy too. Trying to get a slice of cake for themselves. But they can't all be working for the Trust or whatever, can they? Isn't that a stretch?"
"They could have brought each other in one by one, maybe?" Daniel suggested.
"Or they might be working totally independently from the outside. An internal conspiracy," Jon added.
"Okay, folks, keep looking. Isn't it time to eat? How about Chinese?" said Jack, and they were all heartily in favor of that suggestion, each with their own idea for what dishes they should order.
They took a break to eat and Jack tried to steer everyone away from the immediate subject to give them all a proper time out. Everyone but Daniel took the hint and, when Jack threw him a black look, even Daniel couldn't miss the implication and changed the subject.
Once they went back to work it didn't take long for Sam to come up with a possible answer. All clues led back to her original suspicions. Jack had known his ploy would work. Take a break, give people time for some quiet reflection and come back refreshed, then see a different angle to the problem.
"I hate to say this but it's been going over and over in my head for a while and now I think I know for certain what they are up to," she declared and all eyes turned to face her, "I think they are experimenting with ways to create some sort of human super soldier."
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