Downtime Adventures Chapter 11. Storm Fever
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).
Jack, Daniel and Teal'c stood waiting impatiently at the end of the ramp while George Hammond, Siler and Sgt. Harriman watched from above. Siler and Harriman were busy with their normal duties in the control room but Hammond had been simply standing and glaring at Colonel O'Neill for the last ten minutes. Finally he leaned into the microphone and spoke while keeping his eyes on his second-in-command.
"Colonel O'Neill, where is Major Carter?"
The usually soft voice of the general was now pitted with irritation as he addressed the team leader. Jack looked up hesitantly to meet the general's eyes and then smiled broadly attempting to placate the soon-to-be-fuming Hammond.
"There was a problem with some of her equipment, Sir. I'm sure she's on her way. Maybe I should go check on her?"
"A problem with her equipment?"
"All right, Colonel. I'll give her two more minutes and then you're leaving without her. I won't tolerate any more of this irresponsible behavior from your team, Colonel. Understood?"
Three pairs of eyebrows lifted towards the control window as Hammond's voice boomed across the gateroom effectively reprimanding Jack for all to witness. Jack's lips pressed together in repressed anger. He was ready to kick Carter's butt himself but instead of adding his normal sarcastic comment he responded sharply to his commander.
Hammond glanced at the gateroom door and then at his watch as he waited impatiently. When one minute had passed he instructed Harriman to dial the coordinates and the rings of the gate began to move.
"Chevron one encoded."
Jack turned toward the gate and adjusted his hat as a matter of pure habit then he turned questioning eyes towards Daniel.
"Where the hell is she, Daniel? Hammond is soooo not happy. What is she doing?"
"She said something about . . .something special she was doing . . . working on."
"What? Is she even in the mountain?"
"You know, I'm not really sure."
Daniel responded absent-mindedly, obviously not overly concerned with Sam's whereabouts. Jack turned and took a step towards the door just as it opened and Carter came bursting through still pulling on her vest. There was an SF following close behind with her weapons.
"Well, nice of you to join us, Carter!" Obvious sarcasm was spilling easily from his lips as he spoke.
"I'm sorry, Sir! Sorry, General!"
"Chevron two encoded!"
"I just need a second, Sir to finish this call!"
"What? Have you lost your mind, Carter? We're on a mission here! When that gate opens you damned well better step through!"
"Yes, Sir! Right behind you, Sir."
Teal'c and Daniel had already turned their backs to the control room and the rest of their team when Carter turned away from Jack and lifting the phone back to her ear, began whispering desperately into the speaker. There was a marked urgency in her voice that made her teammates try to tune in on her conversation.
"Make sure you stay there until I get back! I'll meet you as soon as we're done!"
There was a long pause as Daniel, Jack and Teal'c turned toward their fourth with curious faces.
"What? No! You can't give up my place to come to work! I've been holding that for almost an entire day!"
Jack cocked his head strongly to one side as he watched and listened to the one-sided conversation. The urgency in Carter's voice had his curiosity peaked and as he listened the familiar icon of a mad scientist suddenly popped into his mind.
"Well, you'll have to get someone to stand in until I get back then! I can not stress how critical this is - do not lose that spot!"
Daniel looked at Jack and mouthed the word "spot?" Jack just shrugged his shoulders and tugged on his cap.
"Chevron four encoded."
Carter seemed to be oblivious to the happenings around her as she spoke into the phone and gestured wildly with her hands. Jack was still listening and half-assumed that this was some weird science project that she was involved in. He was well aware of her passion for her work but that did not excuse being late for a mission. And cute or not, he was already going over the reprimand in his head as he listened to her become more agitated with each pause in the conversation.
"If things start moving just tell them you want the newest one, they'll know what you want! I know it seems a little extreme but humor me, ok? Just stay put and don't take any chances!" There was another short pause before she continued, the previous whispering having increased remarkably in volume. "Well, so what? I have a P-90! Now stay put until I get there! Just call in sick or something!"
"Chevron six encoded."
She pulled the phone away as she answered in a loud voice and then quickly moved it to her mouth again when he looked away, her voice returning to a whisper as she hurriedly finished the conversation.
"Chevron seven locked."
"Stay put, Janet! I mean it!"
She had planned on following the colonel through the gate in the hope of avoiding what she knew would be an ominous glare but he had other ideas. When she looked up, he was standing at the top of the ramp waiting for her and stepped in beside her as she slipped the phone into her pocket.
"Enough time to finish your phone call, Carter?"
His voice was like ice water running down her skin and his eyes seemed the exact opposite as she turned to face him. Yep, he was pissed.
"Yes, Sir, thank you, Sir."
He glared at her silently for a moment, almost daring her to look away, then he pushed hard against her shoulder turning her back towards the Stargate.
"We'll discuss this later, Major. Move!"
Several hours later, having found no new source of naquadah and nothing much of interest on the planet they were on their way back to the Stargate.
"Teal'c take point! Daniel behind him and Carter, you're with me."
Sam fell in step beside him silently and kept her eyes moving along the surrounding area as they walked. She knew what was coming.
"Now, Carter, I know this must not have been your favorite mission but I don't really enjoy being reprimanded by Hammond in the middle of the gateroom or anywhere else for that matter! So care to explain to me how you're half an hour late for a mission?"
"I'm really sorry, Sir. It won't happen again. This was just so important and it wasn't really my fault!"
"No? Then whose fault was it, Major?"
They were still walking and both kept their eyes on the area around them, carefully avoiding making eye contact, talking as they walked towards the Stargate and home.
"Um . . . Matt's?"
Suddenly a staff blast landed in front of them and both immediately fell to the ground looking ahead to make sure that Daniel and Teal'c had done the same. They, however, were closer to the tree line and had taken cover behind the largest trees. Teal'c signaled that he could see at least three Jaffa and indicated their direction. All was quiet for a few minutes and then they were again pummeled by staff blasts.
"Yeah, "rats" is the very least I'd say!"
"What?" There was a short silence and then she almost yelled out the next word, barking out her frustration as dirt splattered across her face and into her eyes. "Dammit!"
"Easy, Carter. There're only three of them. We'll just take our time and get out of this clean and safe."
"Stay put, Major! That's an order."
Sam looked at her watch and sighed loudly.
"Sir, couldn't we just make a run for the gate? If we wait we might get cut off and be pinned down here while they call for reinforcements."
"We're already pinned down, Carter! We're in an open field! Teal'c and Daniel can fire but we're too exposed."
Staff blasts continued to flare into the area around them and Carter was growing more and more agitated. Jack was surprised at her impatience and couldn't remember her acting in quite this manner before. She was certainly anxious to get out of here.
"Got a hot date, Carter?"
"Then sit tight!"
She didn't respond. She was watching the staff blasts and trying to determine the exact location of the Jaffa that were threatening them. She really didn't have time for this and she had no intention of getting trapped here. She'd waited years for this and she wasn't going to blow it over a few Jaffa. She lay still for a few minutes glancing at her watch nervously and watching Teal'c as he signaled.
Suddenly she glanced at Jack and an evil smile spread across her face.
"No guts, no glory. Right, Sir?"
She was already checking the clip in her P-90 and before he could say a word she was up and running, laying down a wall of bullets as she ran.
Jack looked at Carter then turned towards Daniel. Daniel looked at Jack for a moment before turning quickly towards Teal'c. Teal'c was staring back at Jack, all of them with disbelief written clearly on their faces. Then as if by command, all eyes locked on Carter as she continued to run towards the gate.
Jack screamed her name again but she didn't stop or even change her pace. She was on the move and had no intention of turning back.
Suddenly, her voice rang out above the din of the weapons fire.
"Daniel! Bring the damned rocks and dial the gate! I have to get back in line!"
"What'd she say, 'out of time'?"
"I do not know, Daniel Jackson, but we should hurry!"
Daniel nodded his head and obediently moved from his hiding as a few staff blasts landed close to his feet and Teal'c stepped out to cover him. Jack was still flat on the ground in the open field cursing loudly and calling out uselessly to his second-in-command soldier/scientist gone suddenly psycho.
Staff blasts were tearing up the ground around Carter but began to decrease as she moved quickly across the open space and continued to fire. She ducked behind the nearest rock and waited for Daniel to reach the DHD then she was up and firing again. Jack was still cursing softly under his breath as he watched her then he, too stood and fired. Teal'c's weapon snapped loudly behind them and just as Daniel finished dialing the coordinates an eerie silence surrounded them, the echo of P-90's fire lingering in the stillness.
Jack moved quickly towards Carter and the open gate, waving Teal'c and Daniel through as he moved.
"Carter, just what the hell do you think you're doing?"
He was yelling as he ran, eating up the distant in long, powerful strides
"Nothing, Sir. I just need to get home and I knew I could take them out!"
"Well, you could have gotten us all killed, Major!"
"Not a chance, Sir!"
He stopped short and she walked in front of him, smiling and holding her hot weapon away from her body with one hand while running the other teasingly along his cheek as he watched her in utter surprise.
"No? Well, I didn't think you'd be late for a mission or disobey a direct order either, much less take on three Jaffa single handedly in an open field!"
Carter just smiled as she continued to move away from him.
"Coming, Sir?" She asked as she stopped just short of stepping through the event horizon.
"Yeah, I'm coming. But I want an explanation of your behavior and the reason you were late, Carter!"
She grinned a suspiciously evil grin and stepped into the gate without further hesitation, confident that he was following only a few steps behind. She was already almost completely immersed in the event horizon when she turned her head and responded.
"I told you, Sir, it was the little colonel!"
Jack stopped momentarily trying to let her garbled words settle in his confused mind.
"What? Did she say 'journal'? What the hell is she talking about?"
He stood for a moment staring after her, watching as the puddle danced around her shape then smoothed out again. He was still wondering about her foolhardy actions when he stepped onto the ramp at the SGC.
Daniel and Teal'c were waiting at the foot of the ramp but Carter was nowhere in site. Jack lifted his arms and dropped them quickly in frustration as he stared at his team.
"Now where is she?"
"Um, she yelled 'dibbs on the showers' and took off."
"What is with her? Is she seeing someone, Daniel?"
"Not that I know of, um, she hasn't mentioned anything."
"Well, something is definitely going on! And I intend to find out what it is!"
Jack lifted his hand in salute as Hammond's voice boomed out their welcome and ordered them to the infirmary. The three men passed off their weapons and moved on.
An hour or so later they were sitting at the conference table waiting for the debriefing but Carter had not yet arrived. She had hurried in for her post mission exam and was still there when her male teammates headed to the locker room but they hadn't seen or talked to her since.
Jack stood up and began pacing between the stairs and table, his anger turning into real concern at Carter's erratic behavior.
"Shall we begin?"
"Yes, Sir ... but Carter isn't ..."
"Major Carter stopped by my office and said she had an important meeting. I gave her permission to skip this debrief since there appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary this mission."
Jack lifted his eyebrows in surprise as he stared back at Hammond. Carter seemed to be batting a thousand at surprising him today.
"Ah! Yes, Sir."
Jack took his seat and dutifully reported the mission findings or rather non-findings, touching only briefly on Carter's strange behavior. Daniel and Teal'c listened carefully and followed his lead, assuming that Jack wanted to talk to her before discussing her actions with the general. The meeting was over quickly and Hammond gave them the weekend off. In less than an hour the three men were on their way out of Cheyenne Mountain.
Daniel and Teal'c were bound for Daniel's apartment and Jack headed to Carter's house. He was determined to talk to her and find out what was going on but after waiting several hours, he finally gave up and turned his truck towards home.
Two hours later Carter still wasn't answering her phone and Jack was beginning to worry. He was pacing the floor as he sipped at a beer and wondered what was going on. Finally, he won the battle against himself and settled down to watch a hockey match on television, hoping to take his mind off Carter. It was working, too, right up until he got the munchies and reached for the candy dish. He dragged his fingers through the confection without even looking but as his hand closed on the prize so did his eyes. Visions of Sam and the recent blizzard flooded his memory as he stared down at the candies in his hand. Carter and her damned jellybeans!
He dropped the candy back into the dish, clicked off the television and headed down the hall for a shower. The water was refreshing and relaxing as he let his mind wander over the day's events finally arriving at the conclusion that he had no holds on her. If she wanted him to know where she was she'd tell him, until then he'd try and get a good night's sleep.
"Janet, I'm on my way. I'll be there in twenty minutes. Is there anything you need?"
"Just to be relieved of this "duty from hell"! I can't believe I'm doing this! You owe me big time, Samantha Carter."
"I know, Janet and I'll make it up to you, I promise! I'll bring you Danish and coffee for now, ok?"
Janet chuckled softly.
"A moment on the lips? Just the coffee's fine, Sam, you know how I like it. Just don't take too long, ok?"
"Any problems with the colonel?"
"Well, he wasn't too happy that I was late and I don't think he liked my excuse much either."
"No, I'd say Colonel O'Neill is accustomed to you being on time. What'd you tell him?"
Janet heard a small, evil laugh trickle through the receiver.
"Sam? What did you do?"
"I told him it was the little colonel's fault."
"Oh, my God! I can't believe you did that! You are either very sure of yourself and your CO or you have a subconscious death wish!"
"Relax, Janet. I don't think he even heard me and I was out of the mountain before he had a chance to ask! Just hold the fort a little longer!"
At 0400 a very sleepy Jack O'Neill was reaching blindly for a ringing phone. Finally grasping the offending instrument he spoke his name into the receiver.
"Jack? Jack, is Sam with you?"
"Yes, Jack! Is Sam with you?"
"With me? No, Jacob, why would she be with me?"
Totally surprised at Jacob's question, Jack was wide-awake now as he listened to Jacob release a long sigh.
"Do you know where she is?"
"At home, I'd guess. What's going on?"
"No, Jack. I'm at her house and she isn't here. I thought maybe you'd know where she is. Did she mention anyone, a man's name maybe?"
"A man's name?"
"Jack, will you stop repeating everything I say and wake up!"
Jack sat up immediately at the irritated tone in the general's voice.
"Sorry, Jacob. I don't know where she is. I haven't seen her since we got back from our mission. She skipped the debriefing - told Hammond she had some important meeting."
"I'm sure she's fine, Jacob."
"I thought she'd given up this obsession with Storm but I guess I was wrong."
Jack heard the slight disappointment in Jacob's voice as he rubbed a massive hand across his sleepy face and tried to focus on the clock beside the bed.
"Obsession? Storm? Who the hell was Storm?"
"It's hard for me to imagine Carter obsessed with anything other than her work, Jacob."
"I hope you're right, Jack. I'll talk to you later."
The phone went dead in his ear and Jack stared at it for only a moment before dialing Janet's number.
"Doc, is Carter with you?"
"What? Um, no. She's not here."
Her words were slurred as she struggled to throw off the holds of the deep sleep from which she'd been awakened.
"Doc, Jacob just called looking for Carter. If you know where she is . . ."
There was a long silence as Janet hesitated.
"She's fine, Sir. Just take my word for that, ok?"
"Doc, Carter's been acting strange lately and her father, who's a general in case you've forgotten, just called me looking for her. Now, give it up, Doc, I need to know what's going on. I need to find her."
"Oh, she's going to kill me . . . "
Twenty minutes later Jack was in his truck driving across town to, of all things, a comic book store. He shook his head and let the smile cover his face as he recalled Janet's words. He still didn't understand exactly what was going on but evidently Sam was standing in line at some small specialty shop across town waiting for a collectible to be released. Apparently, she'd been standing in that line, with the help of her friends, for several days!
Jack slowed and turned into the parking lot of the strip shopping center and stared in amazement at the scene in front of him. There was a line of chairs, cots and tents spread across the parking lot in a makeshift line. A frown inadvertently tinted his features as he pulled to a stop and climbed out letting his eyes flow along the crowd of people, searching for Carter.
It was still early and the "occupants" of the "line" were sleeping. He moved quietly along the line glancing down at the individuals who populated it and wondered again what the hell was so desirable that all these people were camped out and waiting.
He started at what he supposed was the end of the line, suspecting that if Carter really was here, she'd be near the end. After all he knew she'd been on the mission and it would take a very special friend to sit in this parking lot while she went off to work. He was beginning to think that Janet had sent him on a wild goose chase as he neared the beginning of the line but then a shock of blond hair stopped him cold. Definitely Carter. She was curled up in a small tent and sleeping like a baby.
Jack shook his head and smiled broadly.
"Well, I'll be damned!"
He glanced to the end of the line and back again wondering how long she'd been here, there were only a dozen or so people ahead of her but a hundred or more stretched out behind her. He carefully squatted down beside her and reached out one hand to grasp her shoulder as he spoke softly.
She was immediately awake and moving beneath his gentle touch.
"Sir? What are you doing here? Oh, shit! What are you doing here?"
"Nice, Carter but good morning would do." He was smiling down at her as she struggled to sit up. "Dad called, he's worried about you."
"Dad called you?"
"So . . . what are you doing here? What are you waiting for?"
"Come on, Carter, give. It's 0500 and I'm not in the mood for games, not to mention the fact that Dad called wanting to know if you were with me!"
Eyebrows raised and blue eyes flashed as she stared up at him.
"Oh, yeah. So give."
Sam moved clumsily into a sitting position and looked into Jack's eyes.
"I'm just waiting, Sir. I have to stay here to hold my place in line."
"So you said. For what?"
"Sir, that's not really important, is it? Could you just tell Dad that I'm ok and I'll see him later today? Please?"
Jack started to drown in those dreamy blue eyes and quickly caught himself before he lost all control and agreed to do whatever she wanted.
"So not fair, Carter. Now stop that and tell me what's going on!"
He had instinctively fallen into his military persona and the authority in his voice had aroused several nearby sleepers. A chorus of complaints and jeers rose around them.
He lowered his voice but the authority remained.
"Don't shssh me, Carter!"
"All right! Just try and keep it down then. The stores open at 1000 hours. I'm not leaving until then. I'm waiting for Storm!"
"Storm? That's what you dad said. Who the hell is Storm?" Jack's smile dimmed visibly in the early morning light as he stared at her.
"Damn! Oh, all right, I'll tell you!"
Frustration skittered across her features as he watched. She seemed to suck in a deep breath and he felt her nervousness rushing over him as he steeled his features against whatever she was about to tell him. It had only been a week since the blizzard and although they hadn't been together again, he had hoped it was the first step to a long-term relationship. Jack consciously set his face into a blank mask and his blood ran cold as he waited.
Finally, after taking a long deep breath she spoke quietly into the dark.
"Storm is an action figure."
Total, stunning silence.
His second in command, his reliable, brilliant, theoretical astrophysicist was camped out in a parking lot waiting for an action figure? No way. Inside his clenched chest, Jack felt his heart start to beat again.
"An action figure. You know the seven inch figures of action heroes?"
She was blushing as she looked up at him with the innocence of a child, totally trusting him, willing him to understand.
"Only seven inches, Carter?"
There was a long pause before Jack spoke again and the simple absurdity of it all filled him with a mixture of confusion and relief.
"Very funny, . . . now tell me the truth, Carter."
"I am. I did, Sir! The first release of the Storm action figure is tomorrow! There's a limited number and if I don't get one now . . . well, I just have to get one that's all!"
Her voice had changed, along with her general appearance, to a childlike quality and he looked back at her in near amazement, amused at the unfamiliar, slightly pouting personality. Then he started laughing.
Almost without thinking she lifted the small pillow she'd been sleeping on and began pummeling him as his laughter rose in the quiet of morning.
"Stop it, Jack!"
He reached out and grabbed her, effectively restraining her with minimal effort.
"So, it's "Jack" now, is it? Stop that, Carter!"
"This is important to me!"
"Sam, I find it hard to believe that you're camped out here waiting for a . . . doll!"
"It's not a doll! It's a collectible action figure with accessories! He has a jet pack, weapons and a helmet! There's even a miniature shuttle that will be released later! It's a collector's item, Jack!" She paused for a moment and then added, "There's nothing wrong with being a collector!"
A smirk was building as he watched her defending this previously unknown side of her personality. She lifted her chin in defiance, almost daring him to dispute her and he ducked his head and chuckled. Then he released his hold on her, sank to the pavement and pointed one finger at her as he spoke.
"All right, Carter, no more hitting. So, how long have you been "collecting"?"
She dropped her eyes and bit down on her bottom lip as she squirmed slightly. It was a bit childish, she knew that but she really, really wanted this figure. At the same time, she didn't want Jack to think she'd gone completely crazy.
"It doesn't matter, Sir. I just have to have it, that's all! And I'm not giving up my place in line!"
The tone of her voice was chilling and he suddenly felt as if he'd hurt her somehow.
"Sam, I didn't mean . . ."
"It's all right, Sir, I don't expect . . .thank you for letting me know Dad's home. I'll call and let him know that I'm ok."
Her voice was politely dismissive and made Jack feel that he was intruding on something very personal. He studied her pouting expression and squelched his amusement before speaking again.
"Sam, it's just a doll!"
She stood to her full height and started to stomp away in frustration, wanting to escape his proximity, someone in the line calling out as she moved away.
"Hey, Carter, you giving up your spot?"
She spun on her heels realizing what she'd done but before she could speak, Jack spoke for her.
"No, she isn't. I'm holding her spot for her!"
She turned and moved back beside him.
"Thank you, Sir, but that isn't necessary."
"Call your dad, Carter. I'll stay here."
She nodded her head and reached into the small tent securing her cell phone. The phone rang only a few times before Jacob answered.
"Sam! Where the hell are you?"
"Hi, Dad! I didn't realize you were coming home."
"Sam, I didn't tell Jack but this is that crazy action figure thing, isn't it?"
Sam turned to look at Jack who was watching her closely as she talked to Jacob.
"Well, thanks for that, I guess but it's not crazy, Dad."
"Not as long as you get what you want but what happens if you don't?"
"Nothing happens. I'm here, I'll get it."
The little girl pout was back and Jacob could hear it clearly through the phone. Jacob sighed loudly and smiled only slightly as he listened to his only daughter trying to feign confidence through the phone. He knew all about this side of Sam but he'd never understood it.
Sam looked across the parking lot to see Jack shifting nervously. He looked as if he was about to abandon his post and run towards her in some instinctively protective action. She couldn't lose her place in line, not without a very good reason and so she took a few steps back towards him, her raised hand keeping him firmly in place.
"Sam, are you ever going to give up this obsession?"
"It's not an obsession."
"No? What else would you call a grown woman camped out on a sidewalk for a week waiting for a toy to be released?"
"It hasn't been a week and it's not a toy, Dad! Please, just get some sleep and I'll be home as soon as I can!"
"Sam, don't you have enough of those ugly, little men hidden away somewhere? Why do you need this one?"
"Dad, it's Storm! And it's new, I don't have this one!"
Jacob sighed loudly but smiled silently as he heard the intensity in her voice.
"Ok, let me talk to Jack."
"He's there isn't he?"
"He can't talk right now, Dad."
Sam squeezed her eyes shut and pursed her lips together in a brief grimace before answering. Then she spit the words out in rapid fire manner hoping that her dad wouldn't ask too many questions.
"Because he's holding my place in line so that I could call you without disturbing the others!"
"He's what? Well, this I have to see! Jack O'Neill standing in line so that my daughter can have her Matthew Storm doll!"
"Please, Dad! Don't! Just go to sleep! Pleeease!"
There was a burst of warm laughter from the other end of the phone and Sam relaxed as she listened and then added her own smile.
"All right, sweetheart, you win. I'll stay here and you get your doll."
"Action figure, Dad!"
Another brief chuckle bounced against her ear and her smile broadened.
"Yes, of course, action figure!"
When Sam turned to walk back she sucked in a startled breath. Jack was nowhere in sight.
"Oh, no, he wouldn't! He didn't!"
She was running almost full out as she crossed the short expanse of asphalt and came to a quick stop beside her tent. Hidden inside, his head cushioned on her pillow, was Jack. He was already sleeping and as she smiled down at his relaxed form she pulled an extra blanket from her pack and slid in beside him. She jostled him slightly and felt his hand touch her back lightly.
She pulled the blanket over both of them and used the extra one as a pillow, smiling as a strong, warm arm slipped around her.
It was almost noon when Sam pushed open the door of her house and called out to Jacob.
"Sam? What is it, honey?"
Jacob couldn't even see her yet but he could tell by her voice that she'd been crying.
She ran into his open arms and buried her face in his shoulder, sniffling against him just the way she had when she was seven years old.
Jacob pulled her into a close hug and rubbed large comforting circles on her back. When he looked up Jack was standing just in front of them, hands in his pockets and a slightly puzzled look on his face. As Jacob's cold stare met his he shrugged innocently.
Then Jacob mouthed the words "no doll?" and Jack shook his head in answer.
"Um, I think she's just really tired, Jacob. I don't think she's slept much since we got back from the mission. I'm sure she'll be ok after she gets some rest."
"She is still in the room, Sir."
"Oh, right. Sorry, Carter. Well, I'll just . . .go and let you two . . . visit."
A still tearful Major sniffled against her dad's shoulder and spoke in muffled words.
"Thank you, Sir."
"Anytime, Carter." Then he looked at Jacob and smiled as he opened the door and stepped through.
"Come on, Sam, you knew this could happen."
"No, Dad it isn't fair! They swore they'd have plenty of the figures and there were only ten!"
"So you'll get one in the next release. It's just a bit of a wait, that's all."
"No! They lied to us. To me!"
"You didn't pull a weapon on them, did you sweetheart?"
He chuckled softly as she pulled away from his shoulder for the first time since returning home.
"Only because I didn't have one! I can't believe the nerve of those jerks! They let us sit out there all this time knowing they only had ten of the figures!"
"Maybe they didn't know."
"Oh, please! They knew, they sooo knew! They lied to us!"
"Want me to kick their ass?"
Sam turned surprised eyes on her dad's smiling face and couldn't help but chuckle.
"Think it would help?"
"Isn't that why you called me home?"
Sam grinned innocently as she looked up at him.
"I thought I might need backup."
"Hey, you just point them out and I'll be happy to give them hell. After all, they hurt my little girl, it might make me feel better!"
She smiled and hugged him again.
"Anytime, sweetheart. So, has Jack been with you all this time?"
"Yeah, I guess he called Janet and she caved." She chuckled. "He probably threatened her after you called! Then he made me call you and stayed with me until the store opened. He even tried intimidating the clerks but it didn't help. I guess he was a bit grumpy after sleeping in the parking lot!"
Jacob's eyebrows rose slightly at that statement.
"Sleeping? He was sleeping with you?"
"Take it easy, Dad, I'm a big girl."
"That still plays with dolls!"
"Dad, he fell asleep in the parking lot. There were a hundred people there and besides we sleep beside each other off world all the time!"
"Is that supposed to make me feel better, Sam?"
"Dad! I really needed that figure!"
Sam turned on the tears again and Jacob melted.
"I'm sorry, baby, I know. I'm really sorry."
For two long weeks Carter sulked. She went about her duties and did her work but she was still sulking and her team knew it. They just didn't know why, well, except for Jack. He had helped to control the unruly crowd when the store that had advertised the figures could only produce ten of them. And then he'd comforted Carter when she realized she was twelfth in line and stayed with her until she'd calmed down enough to go home.
It was still amusing to him that she could be so upset over something so trivial but there was no denying it, he'd seen it for himself. Only his rank had kept her under control when the crowd had grown almost violent. The military discipline had overpowered the little girl and she had followed his orders, despite her own disappointment, helping to calm the crowd right alongside him.
He remembered sitting in his den that evening intently watching the newsreels on television, his eyes scanning the video for any sign of Carter or himself. He'd breathed a sigh of relief when it was over and he hadn't seen either of them. Oh, it was pleasant waking up with Carter snuggled against him but it was also way too public given their current situation and he'd been admonishing himself about it ever since he'd dropped her off. He could only imagine what Jacob would say, not to mention Hammond. Then he'd watched the stories of the little figures that sparked all the excitement, smiling all the while as he remembered the sparkle in Carter's eyes. He loved that sparkle and was more than a little relieved that the man who had caused it was only a few ounces of colored plastic. He could handle that but he still wished he could cheer her up somehow.
Another three weeks passed and Carter was almost back to normal. A time or two, Jack had caught her in her lab checking specialty stores for the figures. She'd never admit that's what she was doing but he knew it to be true and now that he knew, he remembered other times when she'd visited those same sites. He remembered the slight blush on her cheeks as he approached and the way she'd quickly shut down the site to avoid his questions.
Jack was on his way home that Friday night when Carter stepped into the elevator beside him.
"Carter, the boys and I are going to dinner, care to join us?"
"Um, sure, that sounds good, Sir."
"Ok, then, O'Malley's around 1930."
They had finished their meals and were enjoying teasing conversation and friendly informality before Jack noticed Sam drifting away from them. Daniel pulled her back a couple of times but then he became distracted by a pretty brunette that was flirting shamelessly with him. He finally invited her to join them and Sam's interest peaked a bit as she watched the cat and mouse game they were playing. She was from Australia and Daniel was obviously smitten with everything about her, including the accent.
She turned knowing eyes to Jack and smiled, shaking her head slightly as Daniel continued the game. Then she stared down at the table and ran mindless fingers along her beer mug. A small pout covered her lips and she felt a sudden, slight thud against her chest. Looking down into her lap, she spied the innocent projectile and gingerly lifted it between her thumb and forefinger. For a moment, she held it there, studying it for what seemed an eternity before looking up into Jack's smiling eyes and popping the jellybean quickly into her mouth.
His gentle assault continued throughout the evening. Whenever the others were distracted, she would be surprised with another airborne confection until at least a dozen had been exchanged.
When the evening was over Carter drove herself home while Daniel left with the brunette and Jack chauffeured Teal'c back to the mountain. An hour later Jack was knocking softly on Carter's door. It took only a few moments for her to answer.
When the door opened he extended one hand inside, cradling a bag of jellybeans in his palm.
Sam took the bag and smiled up at him warmly.
"Haven't you had enough of these already?"
"Enough? Never enough, Carter."
Jack pushed the door closed and Sam stepped into his open arms.
Sunlight was streaming through the windows when Sam opened her eyes. She stretched her long frame slowly and knew without seeing that the space beside her was empty. She rolled onto her back and stretched her slender neck throwing off the final shards of sleep as the sweet aroma of coffee drifted across her senses.
With eyes still closed she reached for the pillow beside hers and pulled it towards her intending to cradle it against her face but instead of the soft down comfort that was expected her face was met with hard, defined edges. She pulled herself up on her elbows rubbing her nose and cursing softly while she opened her eyes. The offending object was a neatly wrapped package adorned with a huge, pink, fluffy bow from which a small card dangled.
Her fingers caressed the paper gently as a slow smile spread across her features then she grasped it and sat up against the headboard. A gentle sliding of fingers along the seam and across the loops of the bow preceded the fevered ripping of paper as she dug into the surprise.
As the paper fell away and she turned the package in her hand a piercing squeal escaped her lips and in the kitchen Jack jumped then cursed softly as spilled coffee burned his bare feet. Then he just shook his head, smiled and re-filled the cups before he started down the hallway.
Pausing in the doorway, he leaned against the frame, cups in hand as he watched her admire the gift.
"Oh, my God, Jack! How did you . . . where did you? Oh, God!"
"So, that's a yes, then?"
A massive smile spread across his face and lit the fire in his dark eyes as she crawled across the bed towards him. Both her hands grasp his face and she pressed her lips against his forcefully.
"Yes! Yes! Absolutely, yes!"
Jack chuckled softly as he sat down beside her and offered her one of the cups but she was fixed on the gift and ignored his offer. Setting it aside on the nightstand he turned back towards her.
"So, does this earn me the privilege of seeing the entire collection?"
She was staring at the package with a goofy grin on her face and Jack couldn't help but smile at her excitement.
He sipped his coffee as he watched her examine the small figure of Matthew Storm, shaking his head slightly as he remembered her reaction when she'd missed out on it the first time. And an evil twinkle suddenly appeared in his eyes as he watched her.
"So, Carter, what do you think it will take for me not to tell the guys that one tough, kick-ass major collects dolls?"
"Daniel has a beautiful heart and he'd never tease me."
Jack almost choked on his coffee and chuckled through the few words he could get out.
"Not as long as he's playing "rebel without a cause" with that new brunette but watch out when it's over!"
"What do you say we strike a deal, Sir?"
She grinned up at him as she emphasized the "Sir."
"Um huh. You don't tell the guys and I won't tell Dad what we did last night."
She placed a soft gentle kiss on his lips but her eyes were filled with a mischievous sparkle.
"What? You mean the calypso music? I thought Dad liked it." There was a short pause as he calmly sipped his coffee and smiled into her eyes. "Besides, he'd kick your ass too, you know."
"No, he wouldn't, I'm his baby. Now, why don't you be a good boy and go get the newspaper?"
"You want to read? Now?"
More than a little disappointment was showing in his voice as he stared back at her.
"There's suppose to be another figure released soon, I just want to check the date!"
"Sam, it's Sunday and we don't get that much downtime!"
He was complaining loudly but he was also slipping on a shirt and shoes to do her bidding.
"Cut it out, Carter! I think Jacob was right! You are obsessed with those dolls!"
"Don't worry, Sir. You're still my favorite action figure!"
Jack leaned in for a quick kiss then started down the hall, a definite swagger in his step as Sam hugged the figure to her chest and let out one last squeal of delight.
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