Learning to Live With It Part 8
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 8
Author: Su Freund
Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure, Romance
Content Level: Age 13+
Content Warnings: Minor use of mild language
Pairings: Jack & Sam
Spoilers: General S9 spoilers
Summary: Jack makes plans to expose the conspirators
Sequel/Series Info: Sequel to Learning to Live With It Part 7
Copyright (c) 2006 Su Freund
Art Credit: A lovely cap of Sam illustrates this fic on my site, made into a book cover by Fulinn28. I am very thankful to her for making it. If you want to see it, here's the URL: http://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto8.html
Author's Note: Many thanks to Bonnie for beta reading this fic, for which I am always grateful.
Learning to Live With It Part 8
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."
The story continues:
There was a stunned silence until Jack asked her to explain, knowing he would regret it because her explanation would be full of technical jargon that he didn't understand and, frankly, didn't want to. He was right. Sam launched into full gobbledegook mode and Jack turned his brain off, just listening to the sound of her voice. He trusted she had drawn the right conclusion without needing to know the whys and wherefores of genetic this and chemical that. Listening to her voice, however, was pure pleasure. He didn't speak again until the hubbub around the subject had died down.
"Okay, so what do we do about it? T, you and I should pay a little visit to Langham in the morning. From what I heard, it was you who got him to talk before, although he sounded like a total wimp so I'm surprised he held out at all. If he's an example of what these guys are like, then this should be a piece of cake, but I'm not holding my breath. He might know something useful, though.
"I also have to go into the SGC tomorrow because the internal investigation guys want a word with me. It seems they might be pulling the rug from under the noses of the cops, or they're thinking of it. I wanna know what they know, so hopefully I'll learn more from them than they learn from me.
"Now, I for one am fed up with being cooped up in here all day and am going for a run, and some much needed fresh air. Sam, you need to think about whether you should go see the cops. You have to face the music sometime. You are all more than welcome to carry on talking about all of this, yadda, yadda, yadda and if any of you come up with a brilliant plan we'll talk about it later. I'll be back in an hour or so."
With those words, he went to the bedroom and changed into running gear, grabbed some water, and was out of the door within five minutes. As the air hit him he felt slightly giddy. It seemed forever since he'd last left the house. It was good to get away and think for a while, alone. The breeze in his face was refreshing.
He ran quite a long way, way too far, taking perverse pleasure from the pain. In fact he welcomed it. Physical pain helped to ease his mental anguish about Sam, which was steadily worsening the longer he spent in her company. Jack couldn't wait to get this thing over with so he could hide himself away from her and his friends again and pretend things were normal. He hoped he was doing a better job of covering up his feelings for the outside world than he was of suppressing them.
By the time he got back, which was way after the hour he'd promised, Jack was sweaty, out of breath and in need of a shower so, instead of popping his head round into the living room to say anything, he headed straight to his room. They could live without him for another 10 minutes.
Having washed every inch, and changed into clean clothes, he felt much better, more relaxed and in possession of a mainly clear head. When he sauntered back into the living room, the tableaux before him didn't seem to have changed one little bit, with the exception of the absence of one General George Hammond who'd had to leave, but with a promise from all to keep him posted, and vice versa.
"T, you Jaffa have got this kel'nor'reem thing all wrong. All you need is to go out for a long run," he quipped. "Any of you come up with anything?"
"Not much. A few half baked ideas," Daniel replied.
"Okay, so maybe we take a break until tomorrow. The bad guys aren't going to disappear."
"We hope," Sam said.
"Good point, but how productive are we going to be tonight?"
"You're right. We're all suffering from information overload," Sam agreed. "I'm tired."
"Stress will do that to a person. I'm guessing you don't want to go home. Want the spare bed, Carter?" Jack asked, easily reverting back to the well-worn epithet and kicking himself mentally after his internal promise to keep this more personal.
He wanted to protect her and maybe he could if she stayed in his house. Jack might have mixed feelings about Sam's proximity, but he still wanted to keep her safe. That was very important to him. For Sam's part, she felt safe with Jack around, so she gladly accepted.
This prompted the others to go home and leave Jack and Sam alone and in peace. Daniel was hopeful that they'd get together like they'd always wanted and, this time, it would not be the abysmal failure it was before. He wasn't sure why he held out such hope after that initial failure, but he was confident they loved each other and that surely had to count for something. You couldn't just afford to throw such a fundamental thing away. He wondered about trying that line on Jack, who could be so stubborn and prideful at times.
Although she was tired, Sam didn't immediately go to bed, staying up to talk with Jack. They had a beer and tried to feel at ease with each other, but all the while they were both wondering what the other one was thinking and feeling.
"Why did you come back to The Springs, Sam, and arrange to meet me here? It must have been an obvious place for you to come to. We could have met anywhere in the country."
"I had to get away from Nevada, and this place is still home. And Daniel and Teal'c are close-by. And the SGC is still my place of work; you know that. It's funny but, once I left for Area 51 I thought I'd never be back, never travel through the gate again. Now look how it's turned out."
"You regret coming back to the SGC?"
"Sometimes, but in the end I thought I could make more of a difference at the SGC than at Area 51. Anyone can run R&D. And, truth be told, I didn't get as much lab time as I'd hoped. Too much paperwork."
"Now that is something I can relate to," he chuckled, "although you didn't want to give it up altogether. You wanted to keep going back to Area 51."
"There's some interesting stuff going on there."
"And not all of it sanctioned, it seems."
"It's the kind of project that could easily be unofficially sanctioned."
"I hope it isn't or we might find the world crashing down on us."
"Yeah, that's a scary thought. I've got an idea, Jack. We could set them up using me as bait."
"No way, Sam. It's too risky."
"Isn't that up to me?"
Jack considered those words carefully before replying with a sigh.
"Yes, of course it is. What did you have in mind?"
"Arranging to see Ed."
Jack tried to breath normally; this idea was getting worse.
"Are you two still an item?" he asked.
"No! But I could call him asking for help. He might swallow that I trust him. Then I can lay it all out and get his reaction. Wear a wire."
"I should imagine they'd think of that one."
"I suppose. There must be another way without a wire. It could work."
"I don't like it. It exposes you to too much danger."
"You and the guys can listen in from nearby and come running if there's trouble. I'll be alright with you there Jack."
"I'm glad you still have some faith in me."
"That's why I came to you. Who else can I trust to get it right?"
He was considering Sam's plan and beginning think that it might be a good one; with some Jack O'Neill style modifications. Mulling it over, he hit upon an idea that, if he could pull it off, might keep Sam safe, and they wouldn't need a wire. When he called into the SGC next day he would try to make some arrangements.
Then he started wondering if he and Teal'c could sneak into Area 51 and take a look around, see if they could peek in person at the unofficial experiments being undertaken by the conspirators. That could be useful. Jack didn't like the idea of relying on the paper trail. Paper was paper but action was action. You could drown in the former while the latter had always kept Jack afloat. He didn't like sitting on his ass doing nothing and recently he'd done way too much ass sitting.
Of course, Groom Lake wasn't an easy place to break into. Not only was it a top secret facility but there were way too many conspiracy theory nuts trying to get in there all the time. Security was pretty tight. With a little help from friends however, there might be a way. He decided to dwell on that a bit further.
"Sam... I-we don't want to lose you now we've just found you again. That was bad enough. Just how close are you and this Ed James guy?"
Jack realised he was probably exposing too much of himself, yet again. How could he help himself? God, he had to learn to shut up occasionally! Sam eyed him curiously, trying to read his face, but it was stony, despite his words.
"I'm not sure that's any of your business, Jack," Sam said in answer to his question. That sure told him, and she was right. He had no right to even ask; nevertheless he pressed the point, finding a reason to be asking her.
"I'm just trying to figure the level of risk if you arrange to meet him, is all."
She appraised him silently for a few seconds before replying, not fully believing that excuse, but deciding she could live with it.
"Okay. Not sure I can help you there, Jack. I'm the woman who didn't believe he would be involved in something like this in the first place, remember? Dammit, how could I be such a poor judge of character? I liked him."
"Well think about it. Is he dangerous?"
"I'm not sure I ever got to know him well enough to make that assessment. We dated a few times, then I blew him off."
"Yeah, you have that habit," he said before he thought about it.
"That's not fair, Jack."
She saw the pain at the memory flicker over Jack's face and then disappear into his carefully schooled neutralism. He would never forgive her, never. That thought disturbed her more than she wanted to admit even to herself.
'I love you Jack!' she screamed inside her head, 'I wish I could tell you. I wish you would understand. I wish I could find a way to make you listen. I will, after this is over, I will.'
"As you said, it's none of my business but, if you did hurt him, that could make him a threat to you. That and greed for whatever money he hopes to be making from this thing. You are too valuable an asset to be risking, Carter." This time, his reversion to the use of her surname was wholly deliberate.
"I can't imagine him killing me, if that's what you mean, but I'm sure he has friends that would. That much is already clear, isn't it? If I arrange to meet him he'll probably tell someone else. I think Connelly could be a very dangerous man. But then, so can you, Jack, probably more so and you're on my side. You'll figure it out. I wish we had enough evidence to prove what is happening but, as we haven't, we don't have many other options. You're the master strategist. Figure it out. I want in on this, Jack, whatever we decide. They tried to kill me and they succeeded in killing a friend. I need to be there to bring them all tumbling down."
Jack considered those words carefully and well understood her need for action and revenge.
"It's probably the easiest way," he answered, "bait a trap. That doesn't mean I have to like it. But I can think of some things that might make it more foolproof. I have some thoughts."
"I knew you would. Care to share?"
"Not yet. Let me look into it." She nodded acquiescence, knowing Jack would share when he was ready, or not at all. "What are you going to do about the cops?"
"I can sort that out when this is over. It will probably become a wholly military matter, won't it?"
"Probably. That'll piss Tweedledum and Tweeledumber off." He smiled at the thought. "You look tired, Sam."
She wondered if that was a hint to get rid of her so he could be alone with his thoughts.
"Yeah, I guess I ought to go sleep," she responded, deciding to take the hint, "Thanks for letting me stay. I feel safe here."
"I won't let anything happen to you, not if I have a say in it, you know that."
"Yes, I know. Thank you for being my friend."
She got up and kissed the top of his head, hurt by his immediate rebuff, but understanding his reasons. After she went to bed, Jack sat alone for a long time, thinking: about Sam, about their plan, and about Sam again. How was he meant to get her out of his head when she was sleeping in his spare room, for crying out loud? So near and yet so far. That was cruel. It felt like someone had twisted a knife in his gut.
Nevertheless, on his way to bed, he could not stop himself from looking in on her. She was asleep, looking peaceful and beautiful, and he approached the bed, unable to resist her lure. Squatting down next to her, he reached a hand over to softly stroke her cheek and brush her hair away from her face. His heart was hammering; he didn't want to get caught. Then he stood and leaned over her, kissing her hair gently, and watched her for a while.
'I still love you, Sam. I wish I didn't, but I do. Crap!' he thought as he turned away and went to his own bed and another restless night's sleep.
Next morning, Sam thought Jack looked haggard and worn. It worried her. They were all potentially in danger and they needed Jack at his sharpest. She didn't want any harm to come to him while he was looking out for her. That was unthinkable.
They muttered a few pleasantries at each other, but didn't talk much, and then Teal'c arrived, ready to go on the planned visit to Langham. Jack made a call to arrange it and put on a uniform for the purpose. After Daniel arrived with Jon, they left them babysitting Sam and Jack drove to their destination.
"O'Neill, I am troubled," Teal'c said during their journey, breaking a long silence.
"What's up, T?"
"You are, my friend."
"Oh." Jack had a feeling he didn't want to talk about what was coming.
"You look unwell; tired. Are you not sleeping well, O'Neill?"
"I'm fine Teal'c."
"You most certainly are not fine. You are disturbed, upset and confused by the presence of Colonel Carter, are you not?"
"T, I don't want to go there."
"I am not asking that you go anywhere."
"You want me to tell you how I'm feeling about Sam."
"I believe that I know that already, O'Neill. You still have deep feelings for her."
"Would it get you off my back if I admitted it?"
"You should tell her."
"T, we've been there and done that already. She isn't interested in me, not like that."
"So you believe. I do not. And I seriously doubt that you ever informed her of your feelings."
"Yeah, well..." he shrugged, "not ever likely to either. Not after everything that happened."
"That might be unwise."
"Being wise was never my forte."
"In affairs of the heart, perhaps not."
Jack avoided his friend's eyes, keeping them firmly fixed on the road ahead, but felt his face reddening at the topic of conversation.
"Can we not talk about this please, T? Now is so not the right time."
"I fear that you will never make it the right time, O'Neill."
"How well you know me, old buddy. Just drop it!"
Out of the corner if his eye, Jack saw Teal'c bow his head slightly and was satisfied that the conversation was closed. Teal'c continued to ruminate on the subject at hand, saying nothing, but wondering if there was anything that he or Daniel Jackson could do about the situation between their two friends.
Teal'c saw a lot and was not blind to the fact that the pair clearly still had feelings for each other. O'Neill was a stubborn and prideful man and had been hurt. Teal'c could understand his reticence to pursue a relationship with Colonel Carter, given that she had hurt him before, nevertheless it bothered him.
He doubted that O'Neill even realised that Colonel Carter still had feelings for him. How to make him see it? Maybe only she could do so. He mentally filed the subject for future discussion with Daniel Jackson.
The meeting with Langham was a fruitless waste of time. He knew nothing. The man was very clearly scared of Teal'c's presence and both men were pretty convinced that he would have coughed up if he had known. It was disappointing, but at least it was another avenue they had pursued.
After that pointless waste of time, Jack took them to the Mountain, explaining his plan to Teal'c. Jack had a long chat with the internal investigation team and it seemed they knew nothing useful. He didn't correct their erroneous assumptions. They might get there eventually but their own investigation was way more advanced, it seemed.
After that Jack had a lengthy, private and confidential conversation with Hank Landry. Hank was someone Jack trusted and his old friend was more than happy to help. Jack and Teal'c left the complex with exactly what they needed to carry out the rest of Jack's plan. No one would dare question General Jack O'Neill and what might be contained within the duffle bags that he and Teal'c carried with them as they left.
Jack pulled into the Motel, booked a room and they waited. The answer to Jack's prayer arrived surprising quickly, in a blinding flash of light.
"O'Neill. It is good to see you again after such a long absence. How may I be of assistance?"
"Thor, old buddy, thanks for comin'. Let me explain..."
Landry had come through for him, having communicated a coded message to the Asgard. This was a plan that Jack had devised with Thor long ago, and Thor had promised to be there, wherever Jack was, if he should require him, assuming he was not in the middle of something way more important than contacting his friend and ally justified.
Jack knew he was asking a lot. This message was only supposed to be used at a time of great trouble for Earth, but Thor was very sympathetic, it seemed, if you could transfer human emotion to the Asgard, which Jack doubted. It did appear, however, that Thor was happy to help in the way Jack suggested, despite the fact that Earth was not in any imminent danger.
"It would be an honor to be of assistance to Colonel Carter in her time of trouble, O'Neill," he said. "I will do as you ask."
"Thanks, Thor. I'm in your debt," Jack said.
"Just as I am in yours O'Neill, and hers. Contact me using this when you are ready." He handed Jack an Asgard communication device, "I will wait, unseen as usual, in Earth's orbit."
Jack could have kissed the little grey alien but settled for a broad smile instead. Without further ado, Thor disappeared in another bright flash and Jack and Teal'c checked out of the Motel and returned to Jack's.
By the time they got back to Jack's most of the day had disappeared. They found their friends looking over the papers they had printed looking for more clues. They hadn't known what else they could do and were eager for news. Jack reported back on the visit to Langham, and his little chat with Thor, explaining his plan very carefully.
Sam smiled to herself, knowing that Jack had concocted yet another good plan and much more confident that his idea would work than she had been about her own. He had taken her plan and built on it and now that he had she felt secure in the knowledge that it would work. It was up to her to take forward the initial part of the plan. She called Ed James.
"Sam?" Ed exclaimed, shocked to hear from her. "Where the hell are you? I couldn't believe you were dead, and then we found out you weren't. And now... what's going on?" He managed to sound pretty convincing, but then so did she.
"Ed, I need to see you. I need to talk to someone I can trust at Groom Lake."
"Has all this got something to do with this place?"
"Yes, Ed. There's something nasty going on at Area 51 and I need your help to expose it."
"Me? Sam, anything, you know that. I'd do anything for you,"
Miming sticking her fingers down her throat to make herself throw up, and rolling her eyes, the four men in the room with her smiled.
"I so hoped you'd say that. I'm in Vegas," she lied, as it was part of the plan that they think so. If they believed she had never made it back to the Springs they might feel more secure. "Meet me tomorrow at 15:00. Remember that bar we went to on our first date? Can you make it?"
"Sure I remember, Sam, and I'll make it."
"Thanks Ed. Thanks so much. See you then." She rang off. "That should get them thinking."
"Yep," agreed Jack, "now for stage two."
This required most of the conspirators to go their separate ways. Jack returned to Washington, having arranged to be recalled and lead the conspirators astray, while Daniel went back to his home and Teal'c apparently returned to the SGC. This left Sam and Jon alone in Jack's house, Jon staying so that Sam could. That way no one got suspicious about activity around the house.
To anyone watching Jack's or the old team's actions, it would appear they were going about their normal business. This was part of the plan. No one must suspect that, when Sam met Ed James, she was anything but alone.
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