Pairings: oh, the girlie couple in question will be quickly apparent…
Category: yet another mirror universe for the SGC.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and all their characters belong to MGM, Showtime and Gekko Productions. But I think we all knew that, hmm? Art and Cooper are mine.
Spoilers: References aplenty to the majority of the third season here, consider yourselves warned…
Summary: The K9 unit get to see what being part of the SGC is really all about! Art bonds more closely with the people around her and will discover that 'Gating can sometimes be a nightmare…
Hand on door.
Alert, I raise my head to sense if there is danger. It is my duty to always guard. The Beta's voice is light, amused. No alarm. The Alpha's hand is on my ears in reassurance and praise. Their scent warm, relaxed, the sweet-smelling mouth touching me in that favorite spot just above my eyes. Always my Alpha is sweet and strong, and the Beta smells of rainy days and the acrid Human toys. She speaks to me almost as much as the Alpha, her light pelt as contrasting to the Alpha as her scent.
From the open door come the invisible signals of my rabbit-warren world. Busy, calm, no alarm, but my attention never wavers. Even in sleep I must guard. First is the Alpha, she will forever be first, then the safety of pack and domain. There is a touch on my collar, a click, and the physical lifeline to the Alpha is secure. We go, their heavy Human feet behind me. Everywhere there are signs only I can sense and I pay the strictest attention. Very little of it is important to the Alpha, she has always been very careful to show me what it is that she requires knowledge of, but I take note of all of it.
There is food and water along with the reassuring company of the other pack males. Sometimes I am confused when the Alpha must obey others, but only she commands me, except for the simplest things where I obey my packmates. I am simply to be friendly and respectful of Humans unless instructed otherwise by the Alpha. Strangers touch me; there is no threat unless she tells me so, I watch her eyes, her hands, pay endless heed to her ever-shifting scent and tone. None are as expressive as she, none as important.
After we eat, she takes me to the moving box that leads to the sunshine and shows her teeth in that friendly Human way at my puppy wiggling. When she was hurt, her body and smell broken and changed, I was without hope. Useless and broken, unable to function without her, I barely functioned without her by my side. Now I am wildly ecstatic to play with her again, the rough-gentle games I love so. The ball on its sturdy rope that bounces and thumps that I must find by my own scent where it hides in the long grass. She is always so proud of my efforts, even when I think that I have failed. She is proud of my grace and strength and obedience, always praising me, making me adore her ever more. For her I will do anything. Tired, but alert, we return to the warren where we spend the day with our Human pack. My entertainment is the sounds and smells that fill the air around me.
In time, we change locations again and I am eager to be near the Alpha's Mate. She is small and smells of warm earth and the bright sun. My need to protect her is almost as powerful as the need to protect the Alpha. A kind word, a loving touch on my head and I lick her strong hands, earning a smile. From my own kind, the gesture is a threat or a way to dominate another. From the Humans it is friendly, but not always. The Alphas speak while I sit beside them and guard. Their smell and sound is pleasurable, a faint echo of what they are like alone at the den. For here at the warren they are always busy on their strange Human hunts, there is no time for play and pleasure while hunting.
The Alphas and I return to the moving box that takes us to the car. Back at the den, the Elder Pup greets me lovingly. Soon she will be a pup no longer. The other dog respectfully sniffs me and we follow the Humans into the den. Together, the other dog and I exercise the Elder Pup before there is food once more. I wish that the Alphas felt safe enough to breed, to ensure the pack survival through many cubs. I will do all I can to ensure their safety. There is pleasant lounging with my family-pack before I take my place where the Alpha and her Mate sleep.
++ Art ++
It was time.
Weeks of training and two safe Stargate jumps had prepared us for this. The MALP had revealed a spacious clearing in a dense, foggy rainforest. My two hours to prepare for the jump were rapidly drawing to a close.
I was scared silly.
Unfortunately, Cooper did not seem to be faring much better. He sat beside our bags, silent and anxious. When the last piece of gear had been shoved into the pack, the last strap tightened around my body, I knelt down and opened my arms. “C'mere.”
Whining softly, Cooper slunk over with his tail low and huddled against me. This amazing animal had been there for me more times than I could count and brought richness to my life that could never be duplicated. I had no way of thanking him except to love him unconditionally. For an irrational moment, I despised the duty that forced me to step into such a dangerous unknown with this innocent dog by my side. But I also knew that we would only be strong enough to do this as a team. When I looked into his dark eyes, somehow I knew he understood and in somber quiet I stood to don my pack before gathering up my MP5. After putting on the helmet, I felt Cooper nose against my hand and we shared one last look.
“Together,” I whispered. And together we went to meet our destiny.
++ Jack ++
When they walked in, I was immediately worried about the haunted look in Art's eyes. Soldiers died foolishly because of distractions like the thoughts that ran rampant behind the dark woman's gaze. That is where duty saves those of us in uniform, the ritual and repetition of military responsibility that is a source of such great strength and pain. “Sergeant, come here.”
Faint surprise drifted across her gaze as she did as ordered. Brusquely, I did a quick visual check of her gear before holding out an imperious hand for the MP5. All of it checked out letter perfect, not that I was surprised. Curiosity had lightened her clouded gaze, but I still worried about her mental state. So I thrust the weapon roughly back into Art's hands and fixed her with my best serious stare.
“You're with Carter. If she wanders off, shoot her.” And with that I turned and stomped up the ramp, but not before I caught the glimmer of astonished humor color her blue eyes their normal tone. Carter's snort of indulgent annoyance was merely icing on the cake. Daniel grumbled as I grabbed his collar and hauled him after me. “And you Doctor Jackson, are with me. C'mon Teal'c.” I could picture the rest of them trading amused glances as I went to the event horizon and stepped through.
The first thing I noticed about this place was the thick, pacific-northwest damp of the cold rainforest around us. Daniel's ungraceful exit jerked against my grip on his collar and Sam nearly tripped over Art where the younger woman had knelt beside Cooper. Teal'c covered all of us from the mossy steps of the Stargate platform.
“Everyone okay?” There was a chorus of affirmatives as the rest of my team pulled themselves together. Then Cooper made a quizzical noise, his head cocked to listen intently to some distant sound.
“What is it boy?” Art breathed out quietly, every sense alert. We all paused to listen and the faint sounds of distant battle began to filter through the sullen forest around us. I was proud when each of them went into battle mode without a moment's hesitation.
“Goldston, take point. Carter, guard her back. Teal'c, guard the rear. C'mon Daniel.”
Like green-suited ghosts, we slunk through the mossy trees, following our ears and Cooper's fine nose. What we found was an entire squad of SGC personnel in pitched battle with enemy Jaffa. There was no response to my quiet request for acknowledgement into the radio. So we crawled on our bellies down the slope to take offensive positions near the strange SGC personnel. Cooper had stuck close to me, Carter and Goldston on my right and the others on my left. Assured of their proximity, I took the chance of shouting at the other SGC personnel. “Pull back! Cover your six!”
Rather than being relieved, the unknown Captain in command seemed irritated at my shout. He hollered back, “identify yourself!”
“Colonel O'Neill! SG1!”
What the hell was this guy's problem?
Now I was truly confused and must have murmured as much to Daniel, who was sprawled beside me. Then the Jaffa forces began to move in and my confusion was instantly replaced by concern.
“Get out of there!”
The unknown Captain looked at us with perplexed menace before turning on us with a shout. “Take 'em out!”
Okay, enough of this… but I was never given the chance to defend my team. It was like an expensive movie effect as snipers popped out of trapdoors in the green surroundings. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as Carter grunted from a bright red flare slamming into her chest. Cooper heaved himself to his feet to throw his great bulk half across Goldston. He yelped in pain as more of the red death arrowed into his thick hide. More glowing shots found their mark on Daniel and Teal'c, to fast for me to even roar at the injustice of it all. I couldn't let this happen… couldn't lose the family I adored… couldn't…
Blackness closed in around the ache of my failure to them.
++ Art ++
It had been a terrifying, humorous and educational day and a half. How the hell the veteran members of SG1 did this on a regular basis was beyond me. These ordinary-looking young men in uniform were brainwashed into thinking they were serving their dead God, Apophis. The humor of the stun weapons, Entars, rapidly wore off as we were forced to go looking for our missing weapons. The boys were playing war games and didn't know that they had weapons designed for death among them. A shot from Teal'c's Staff Weapon tore a hole in the fellow known as Captain Rodgers. I hoped I'd never see the thing used on another living being again. It was brutal.
When he began shouting and threatening the personnel at the SGC, I wanted to strangle him. Only the video of Apophis earlier death at the SGC finally convinced him we spoke the truth. And only that footage would stop the deadly Final Challenge gearing up on that distant world…
It fell to me to guard Sam's back as she desperately tried to get the video to play through the alien hologram device. Gunfire and mortars rained down on the deserted camp as the boys did their damnest to kill us all with a cache of real weapons. It was like being back in the hell of Bosnia, leading the troops through the chaos with Cooper's fine senses. I could almost see the soil in front of me exploding, the tearing pain shredding through my body… Terror and duty left me rooted to the spot until at last Sam crowing in success shooed off my paralysis. By then O'Neill was shouting and cursing for to her to hurry the hell up. Ducking gunfire, Sam trotted into the middle of the camp and knelt to set up the Volcuum. A bullet exploded through the canvas wall only a meter from where she was so horribly exposed to the fighting. Even as the Volcuum began its holographic sound and lightshow, I did the first thing that came to me.
I shot her.
Sam sagged at the bright red shot from my Entar plowing into her back and the fighting began to wane. The boys came at the bidding of their God and stared in horror at the recording of his death. I ignored it all, far more concerned with my unconscious pal. There were new scratches on her face from the fall and I winced. Only when the boys began to disperse did O'Neill kneel beside me where I dabbed at Sam's small wounds.
I flashed him a humorless smile. “You did say sir, if she wanders off, shoot her.”
The look on his face was priceless. With a grunt, I pulled Sam's weight across my shoulders and headed for the Stargate with a puzzled and nervous Cooper at my heels. I had tolerated more of this foolish war and these brainwashed boys than I could handle. Guilt at knocking Sam unconscious was eating away at me, despite doing it so that she was no longer a target for snipers. She was going to be so pissed at me…
++ Nurse Betty Garibaldi ++
There was a ruckus outside and I looked up to see Goldston stomp into the Infirmary. Still in full battle gear with her face painted up for guerilla warfare, she was scowling like an old veteran. But what really got my attention was the limp body sprawled boneless across her shoulders. “Incoming,” I barked and the Sergeant waved the orderlies off.
“She's just stunned. Is there somewhere I can set her down until she wakes up?”
“Over here Sergeant.”
I didn't care what the new kid said, I needed to check Major Carter over, or Fraiser would kill me. With a grunt, Goldston heaved Carter's limp frame onto the gurney. In all honesty, I was impressed by how gracefully she manipulated the tall woman's mass. I caught a glimpse of a small scorch mark on the back of Carter's fatigues and was immediately concerned. None of the men of SG1 seemed more than mildly concerned as they trooped in, but I did a thorough check anyway.
Two hours later, SG1, sans Carter, had scrubbed up, been checked off medically and been debriefed by Hammond. They had returned to check up on Carter and I remembered the task Fraiser had left me.
“Hey Goldston,” I called out and she glanced over. “The boss left this for you.”
And I handed over the note.
++ Art ++
Despite my worry over the still-unconscious Sam, I unfolded the little piece of paper and read. *Give me a call before you head home, I need to ask you something. –Janet.*
A thrill raced up my spine, despite the benign nature of the note. A quick grin at Betty Garibaldi earned a small smile from the stoic blonde woman. “She's probably out of milk or something,” I improvised and her smile deepened.
“Is she okay to live with?”
“Oh yeah, she's great. I got a big backyard, my own comfy room and a great kid who likes to keep my partner busy. I'll stick around for as long as she'll have me,” I gushed and quickly shut up before I sounded like a lovesick idiot. Cooper moved away as a soft moan caught my ear. It sounded like my pal was finally coming around. When I flopped down heavily onto the gurney beside Sam, the glazed blue eyes fluttered open. “He-ey, wassup, sleeping beauty?”
“Uhhnn… what happened?”
One hand had rose up to lightly touch the bandages on her face and Sam flashed me a piercing look. “Yes,” I drawled gently. “I shot you for your own good. Didn't mean to ruin your good looks.”
“You suck,” Sam pouted and I chuckled. Without thinking about where we were, I reached out and fondly brushed her rumpled bangs away from her eyes.
“I just didn't want you to get shot for real. I'm sorry.”
“'S okay,” Sam yawned and patted my knee. “Say hi to Janet and Cassie for me?”
“Oh, and the keys are in my footlocker.”
That made me grin fondly and wish that a kiss on the forehead wouldn't be misconstrued. “You're the best Sam, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”
“Flatterer,” she mumbled as healing sleep began to get the best of her. For a long moment I let my hand linger in the tangle of her soft hair before nurse Garibaldi's warm glower shooed me out.
It had taken me longer to get off base than I had expected. After waiting for Sam to wake briefly so that I could apologize, then finding her AWOL keys, it was now well after midnight. There had been something… thrillingly odd in Janet's voice when I had spoken to her briefly on the phone earlier. Claiming she was unused to having someone new in the house, a perfectly reasonable excuse, she had calmly inquired into my ETA. That had been nearly an hour ago and the subtle undercurrent of her voice still had me buzzing.
The house was dark as I pulled the battered Jeep into the driveway and reached back to let Cooper loose. “Now stay quiet,” I whispered to myself as much as him and headed for the door. A fumble with the lock and we were inside. After a quick potty stop for my partner in the backyard, we headed upstairs. It was hard to believe that I had been with the SGC for almost two months. It was harder to believe that less than a month ago, I had become Janet Fraiser's lover.
I was tingling in anticipation of seeing Janet as Cooper and I crept down the hall. He made a beeline for Cassandra's door and curled up on the floor there. “Goodnight Cooper,” I breathed almost silently and his tail shifted briefly in a wag. At the end of the hall was the master bedroom and my stomach was in knots as I approached. There was a faint glow under the door I noticed as I opened it… and froze.
Candlelight bathed the room in a warm glow. It flickered over the woman sprawled loosely in the center of the big bed, her body draped in fine lingerie. My tongue thickened, my heart stalled and I stared in absolute abandonment. Then she stirred lazily, making the gauzy robe dance over her curvy body, and I found myself moving again. Somehow the door was securely closed and I was crouched over her on hands and knees. Again she stirred and made a low, vulnerable sound that melted my heart. Those dark eyes fluttered open as I crawled over her, shaking with the intensity of my feelings. “You're home,” she breathed and her smile was the most beautiful thing…
Slender arms coiled around my neck, coaxing me to rest my weight on her relaxed body. Until she had actually touched me, I wasn't certain I had been dreaming or not. Relief and love so strong I thought it would strangle me welled up and I wormed arms under her to grip tight. “I missed you.”
“Mmm… me too.”
Janet kissed my ear, her voice thick and warm. As we cuddled, all of my stress and exhaustion melted away. Eventually, her hands stoking my hair and back reminded me of what her touch was capable of. She giggled and squirmed in delight when I began suckling lightly at her throat.
“Oh Art… that feels wonderful,” Janet groaned softly and her caresses became more focused. That was all it took to coax me into a kiss and I was lost in her. I've been told I'm a good kisser. If that's true, then credit goes to those women who have inspired me. The intimate gesture was loving and affirming. It took patience and trust and concentration to really kiss someone. To not give my lover every part of my focus and need wasn't fair to them. Janet moaned and clung tightly to my curls as had quickly become her custom. I loved it, for her strong grip made me feel anchored and wanted. Beneath my greater mass, her curvy frame began squirming in earnest, pressing the buttons and seams of my uniform between us. Since the pressure wiggled her up against my scars, I was far from complaining. Never in a million years would I have ever believed that anything good could have come from that damned grenade until Janet Fraiser had trailed first fingers, then kisses over the ragged lines. Hypersensitive to the point of replacing many of my former hotspots, the scars nearly put me into orbit under her gentle touch. Abruptly, Janet wrapped both legs around my waist and clamped down hard enough to almost induce pain. That and a growling little bite at my lower lip made my eyes snap open.
“So,” I whispered seductively when she allowed me up for air. “You missed me?”
“Oh yes. This bed felt so empty and I desperately missed your touch and the way you make me laugh…”
While Janet confessed her feelings, I smiled in unabashed delight. “Oh ahgahpee mou, it was so hard to be away from you.”
“I think I remember you saying that before. What does it mean?” She queried and traced my features with a fingertip.
“It means; 'my love',” I whispered with my heart in my eyes and she smiled in tremulous wonderment.
After a quick kiss, I disentangled myself only enough to shift onto my side and run a lazy hand over her curves. Purring like a cat, Janet stretched luxuriously and I marveled at the subtle muscles that danced under her soft skin. Flushed from her stretch, she cuddled into me and again coaxed me into losing myself in her warmth.
“So,” she breathed against my mouth what seemed like an eternity later. “Will you teach me some of those beautiful phrases? They sound so sexy coming out of you.”
“S'ahgapoh, I love you,” I whispered in a low, sensual voice, utterly lost in her. “M'ahgapahs? Do you love me?” That earned another kiss and her hands began to peel away my clothes as I continued to murmur softly. “Mahtia mou, my eyes. Dheekoh mou gleekiah gahtahheetsa, my sweet kitten. Thelo na kahnoomeh ehrota, I want to make love to you.”
Janet whimpered, whether from my tone or the actual words, I couldn't tell. I felt a definite triumph that warmed me thoroughly as her shaking hands grew urgent. Erotic, open-mouthed kisses silenced me, drew my hands into exploring her again. The fatigue shirt was gone and my undershirt yanked over my head.
“You are so sexy,” Janet suddenly commented and I flushed in self-conscious pleasure. “You are,” she affirmed and pushed me onto my back to straddle me. How she loved to be on top… Dark eyes dancing with lust and amusement, Janet leaned down to map me again with that exquisite mouth. I watched in absolute concentration as she pressed slow, hot kisses to my skin.
++ Janet ++
It was still a miracle. The way she made me feel was unlike anything that had ever crossed my heart. She was unique to me, a rare diamond tinted blue and brown and smoky. She smelled of warmth and health and sunshine, her taste like the humid air after the rain. She had worked hard for the patterns of muscles that were quickly reawakening under her skin and they played harmonies with my wandering tongue.
“Mia keketta,” Art muttered in a slightly aggrieved tone and I smiled. My guess was that I had just been teasingly insulted and I nipped lightly at her through the soft sports bra. Both nipples were erect and I tormented them through the soft cloth. “Jaaannet,” Art moaned softly and stroked my head and neck. So I slid my fingers underneath to trace her sultry flesh. When her breathing grew ragged, I took those hard nipples into my mouth to suckle and worry at them unmercifully. While I drove her towards madness, I shifted my body lightly against her to rasp the texture of the lace lingerie against her scars. The brutally efficient surgery that the Army doctors had performed to save her life had furthered certain damages that the grenade had begun. Much of Art's sexual sensitivity in her groin was gone, lost to scar tissue and severed nerves. Thankfully, her body had adapted to give me other ways to drive her mad with pleasure. My favorite was the thick central scar that ran from sternum to groin, where the surgeons had sliced open her body cavity. Now that jagged line was a hot spot that would make her writhe in abandonment if stroked with gentle pressure. As my tongue trailed lightly over the scar, Art's begging grew more desperate. Lower and lower I traced the proof of her survival, wandering off to caress the smaller scars where the shrapnel had torn into her. Perhaps it was the fact that I was a doctor and fascinated by the human body, but her scars did not bother me. Quite the contrary. The muscles of her abdomen were still somewhat soft under my touch, but I could feel that they were rapidly growing strong again with Art's adherence to exercise. What would she be like, tight and smooth with muscles? My hormones spiraled higher with the thought and I increased my caresses. Art spread her legs as I settled in to learn her taste again. Whatever sensitivity she was missing here, my caressing fingers over scars and nipples alike assured her continuing pleasure. I had learned that there was really no such thing as a quickie with Art, for she required intense, gentle stimulation that her redirected nerves could handle. But as her soft cries grew more abandoned, I knew that it was worth it. Some of the noises were vaguely coherent, sounding like broken Greek phrases. Her hips rocked against me, her warm taste growing thicker and more intense.
When the orgasm did sweep across her, I drank in her changing tastes and felt my heart swell. How I adored bringing her to this place of abandonment. I crawled up her body, dropping random kisses on her damp skin. She purred under my kiss, her hands heavy and lazy on my back and neck.
“That was a wonderful welcome home, love.”
“I did say I missed you,” I chuckled and we laughed quietly together. While I was aflame with my own need, I so adored this decadent cuddling. No one I had ever taken as a lover was so openly tactile as this dark woman I had so quickly grown to love. There was no holding back when she sprawled loosely against me, whether we slept or talked or made love. She quietly told me about the mission's ending while she recovered. Quite suddenly I was flipped onto my back and she loomed over me.
“Enough about that. Let me love you, ahgahpee mou…”
And with that growl, Art proceeded to map me again with mouth and hands.
++ Colonel Robert Makepeace ++
I had spent many years as a Marine, honing that sixth sense that keeps me constantly aware of my surroundings. It informed me that someone was headed my way and I shifted my attention. There were few things better than a fit, curvy woman in snug denim and this one did not disappoint. That is, until I looked up and recognized the face. My grin faded as I realized that it was SG1's new kid, with that bear she called a dog on her heels. For a long moment she paused a few feet away and gave me a look of head-cocked curiosity. An electric blue sweater brought out her sunset sky eyes and a bottle of amber liquid dangled from her right hand.
“May I join you?”
No 'sir' this time, for we were both out of uniform. I was half-startled and half-expecting her boldness. Something about her body language had tipped me off. After a moment, my own curiosity got the best of me and I waved her into the seat across the table. “Sure. What can I do for you?”
Gracefully, she settled into the chair and set the bottle in the exact center of the small table. Two shot glasses appeared beside them and she leaned back to pin me with an intense look. “I'd like to ask a favor of you.” A mischievous expression flitted across her face for a moment before she continued. “But since it's a somewhat personal favor, I feel I need to earn it first.”
I was astonished to find myself grinning in sync with her. There was something very likable about her, I could understood why SG1 had grown so fond of her. So I grabbed the bottle to take a closer look at it. It was a fine bottle of tequila. So I eyed it for a moment before firing her an amused and dubious look.
“Sergeant, are you challenging me to a drinking contest?”
Now she smiled in earnest. “I'm not up to arm wrestling Colonel, so this will have to do.”
I laughed and eyed her slender frame. She wasn't built as willowy as Carter, nor as sturdy as Taylor, but still… “You're kidding, right? What do you weigh, maybe one thirty?”
“Then you have nothing to worry about do you? Call me a cab later and you can brag to your buddies that you got me drunk.”
For some reason I didn't take offense, probably because of her teasing tone. Goldston had sprawled back in her chair and was eying me in amusement. There was more than a little challenge in her eyes. “And the Doc's not gonna kick my ass?”
“Nope, stomach's all in one piece again, thanks to Sam.”
I had heard the stories, of course, of how Carter had used the Healing Device to fix the grenade scars. There was little that did not get disseminated around that base very quickly. So I shrugged and twisted the bottle open with the crackle of breaking plastic. “Must be some favor,” I mused and she chuckled.
Some interminable time later, my vision was fuzzy and a second bottle had been emptied. Art had been fine company as we chatted about random subjects. At some point we'd gotten to a first name basis as the night wore on. Not only had the woman kept up with me shot for shot, I was beginning to dimly suspect that I was far drunker than she.
“It runs in the family. I'm Greek, didn't I mention that?”
Had I said that out loud? A scowl made her laugh again. It was surprising how often she did that. Art was certainly like no other MP I'd ever known. Abruptly a coherent thought flashed through my head and I tried to sit up straighter. “So… now that you've succeeded in humiliating me, you had a favor to ask?”
Art snorted in amusement and eyed me closely. Damn her, she was barely unsteady as she gestured the waitress over to request a cab. “Bob, I do believe you're drunk.” A quick glare for that comment tamped her hilarity down slightly. But not much. “I promise not to tell.”
“Damn well better not. God… the others would never… let me live it down…” Carefully, she stood up and I was perversely pleased to realize that she was getting shaky as well. With a strength I wouldn't have expected, she ducked under my right arm and helped me to my feet. “You've done this… before.”
“I was an MP for eight years, I've done this more times than I can count. Drunk and sober.”
The sharp cold outside smacked some sense into me. “I can't believe you're still upright.”
“If you'd known my grandmother, you wouldn't be as impressed.”
We chuckled and I let go of my mild irritation at being out-drunk by an Army woman half my mass. “So ask already.”
“You promise you won't kick my ass?”
She sounded like she really expected me to do it. “Jeez, Art, it can't be that bad. I'm a reasonable man.”
This drunk, I was downright friendly. A pensive expression flashed across her face before she blurted it out all in a wild rush. “I've noticed that there's some chemistry and I was hoping I could get you to ask Sam out…” Her voice trailed away at my look of shock and she added meekly, “sir.” I was floored. I thought no one knew about my attraction to the lanky Air Force Major. Art ran a nervous hand through her curls and pressed on. “I know I shouldn't have gotten involved, but you two seem to like each other and…” Finally she looked up at me with a truly miserable expression. “I'm sorry Bob, I'm out of line. Just don't tell Sam I did this, her friendship means too much to me.”
A strong grip on Art's neck shut her up. A warm feeling swirled in my gut that had nothing to do with the alcohol I had consumed. “You're telling me… Carter might like me?”
I sounded like a nervous teenager even to my own ears. Carter couldn't possibly be interested in me… could she? My stupid grin brought out an answering one in my new pal and she nodded. “That's exactly what I'm telling you.”
The arm around Art's neck squeezed hard enough to make her squeak in protest. “Thanks. Now go home… and I promise not to tell any…body about this if you don't.”
“Yes sir,” she agreed empathetically and her grin kept me warm the whole cab ride back to my place.
++ Art ++
I suppose the ringing slap across the back of my head shouldn't have surprised me. But it did anyway and my spoon clattered into my soup and Daniel jerked away in shock. There was no need to look back to see who had done it.
“Mornin' Sam,” I murmured sheepishly and she leaned over to glower into the corner of my eye.
“You are a manipulative, pushy, pain in my ass,” she growled, but her eyes danced in embarrassed amusement. When her voice dropped to a whisper, I quirked a brief grin. “Thank you.”
And with that, she walked away and left me the center of attention with a stinging scalp and no easy way to explain her behavior. Crap…
++ Sam ++
When Makepeace, Bob my delighted brain reminded me, had pulled me aside in the parking lot to nervously ask me out, I had nearly fallen over. He had been so jittery that I was amused until I realized what he was saying. My shock had nearly chased him off, but some part of me that had secretly wanted this stammered out an affirmative. The warm grin pulled a like expression from me and I knew that this was going to be fun.
Now I was at my cozy little house, wondering what the hell I was doing. There had been no plans for where we would go out, what we would do. There was only the fact that he would be here in less than twenty minutes and I had no idea what to do. While I worked myself up into a nervous wreck, those minutes bled away. The ring of my doorbell brought my heart up into my throat and I yanked on a white shirt. The last buttons slid home as I yanked open the front door. Well this was a pleasant change, some calm part of my brain commented. Bob was hardly the stoic Marine in jeans and baseball cap over his cropped hair. The goldenrod of his shirt brought out the pale hazel of his sharp eyes. And the riotous bunch buttercups in his hand made me grin idiotically.
“Hi,” he said quietly and reached up as though to self-consciously pull off the hat. I stopped his hand and instead curled my own fingers around the bill to tug his head down and read the front.
“Mercedes-Benz?” I asked in a flirtatious tone and he smiled shyly. “You have expensive tastes.”
“No. I just like the best,” he relied somberly and I flushed at the blatantly implied compliment. There was a long moment where neither of us knew what to say or do. Then one big hand reached out to wrap around mine, draw my unresisting limb up to wrap both our fingers around the bright yellow flowers. “For you. I liked the color.”
Two compliments? Wow. This whole thing was looking better and better.
“So,” Bob said in an almost normal tone. “Is there someplace that you'd like to go, or shall I impress you with my cooking skills?”
That earned a wry, almost pained look, followed up by a sheepish grin. “I'm not just a military lout. I'm a good cook. I'll prove it to you.”
“Okay, Bob, you're on.”
It was shaping up to be a wonderful evening indeed.
++ Bob ++
Breakfast had been quiet and civil, my teammates crowded around me as we ate in a comfortable quiet. When Mac raised her head, I looked over as well. Despite the rest of us being the well-trained and experienced Marines, our small Navy medic was twice as observant as the rest of us put together. We relied on her talent heavily. Mac grinned as Art grabbed the chair between her and Green, who leaned away with a grumble.
“So,” her mockingly cheerful voice broke into my thoughts and I winced. Grinning like a madwoman, Art settled into the chair opposite me and cocked her head in curiosity. “How was your night?”
A nervous glance showed that, yes, she had the attention of my entire damn team and a half dozen other personal as well. “Damn you,” I muttered crankily under my breath and she grinned wolfishly.
“Yeah, that insomnia seems to be goin' around,” Art said in a voice tight with repressed hilarity. I guessed from her behavior that Sam looked about as well rested as I did today. The much-vaunted Marine glare was ineffectual, as she was very nearly sneering in my face. The fact that Mac and Chris were grinning in amusement while Mark patted Cooper was making me sweat. My 2IC, Eric, just leaned back and watched sardonically.
“I must need a vacation,” I finally managed to mutter.
“You and Carter both,” she snorted and I nearly choked on my eggs. “Everyone here is a bunch of workaholics.”
“Nobody is a bad a workaholic as Carter,” Mac laughed as I coughed up my breakfast from the wrong pipe.
“True. But she'll actually listen to me motherhenning her on occasion. Are you gonna do the same?”
“Yes ma'am,” I sighed and several soldiers repressed snickers at my sarcasm. My team made no such attempt and laughed at my expense. Thankfully, Art decided that she had provoked me enough and started in on her own breakfast. “So you're jumping today,” I started in with cautious nonchalance. I didn't want to set off her teasing again.
“Yeah. MALP came back clean, but there may have been activity recently. If were lucky, it'll be a cakewalk.”
My teammates all squealed in horror before dissolving into hysterics over the running SG3 gag that she had accidentally referenced to. “Never call a jump a cakewalk. It's bad news. You realize that you've now jinxed yourself,” I couldn't help but taunt. It was a rare opportunity. Art snorted mockingly.
We laughed off the silly superstition.
++ Daniel ++
It wouldn't stop, the cycle like a nightmare I couldn't wake from. Over and over she returned to me, only to be torn away yet again in the twisted mindscape I was being subjected to. As the looping illusion began to break down and I found myself being tortured in a tent on an alien world… I couldn't do it. The gun fell from nerveless fingers as I stared into the glowing eyes of my dearest love. She meant so much to me that even my own life paled in comparison. Then I heard it, saw it, had the image burned into my memory for all eternity. I heard a familiar voice, but couldn't make out the words through my own agony. How I hurt! Not only my tortured flesh, but to once again witness the evil glow of the Goa'uld Amonet….
There was the distant clatter of bullets and Sha're suddenly jerked to the left, her expression an odd combination of shock and relief. Blood sprayed everywhere, each droplet arching with poetic slow motion.
And we crashed to the unforgiving ground. There was no sight behind the eyes, the alien glow fading in death. No one needed to tell me she was gone, my beloved Sha're was gone…
++ Sam ++
“I didn't know,” Art said hollowly as she stared at the tabletop. We could barely stand to look at one another, any of us. General Hammond came over to stand beside her and rested one hand on a bowed shoulder.
“Would you have done anything different if you had known?”
The gentle, almost fatherly tone brought a lump to my throat and tears gathered in Art's cloudy eyes. A long moment passed before she shook her head, resigned to the truth. “No sir,” she whispered. “I would have still pulled the trigger to try and save Daniel.”
Slowly, she raised her eyes to meet Hammond's and saw something there that gave her the strength to raise her head and take a steadying breath. “You did what you had to do Sergeant,” he said softly and squeezed down on her shoulder for a long moment. When he spoke again, the tone was harsh and tightly controlled. “You all need some recovery time from this. That's an order. Your mission to EPF-984 will be postponed until further notice.”
There was a long pause as his gaze rested on each of us.
++ Daniel ++
“I'm sorry seems so trite.”
The low, harsh voice was unexpected. And yet I was not the slightest bit surprised that she was here.
“When I saw her hurting you,” the voice broke off for a moment, breathing choked and pained. “I just reacted.” Some small part of my brain that was not frozen with the numbness inside me listened intently to her words, her tone. “Right now I'm hating those reflexes, hating…”
That's what she was thinking, I realized with a start. The realization shocked me enough to break through my own numbing agony. When I turned my head, she was almost out the door, head low, fists clenched, muscles tight with strain. She looked so defeated that I had to reach out and try to make some good of this.
“I don't hate you Art.”
The moment the words left my lips, I knew they were true.
Slowly, agonizingly slowly, Art half-turned and our gazes met. Somehow, our shared torment, mingled there in our eyes, made it all easier to bear. I wasn't alone in this pain.
Weak, tentative, child-soft, the words came past my ears.
“No,” I breathed just as quietly, felt the first stirrings of hope in my shattered heart. Like a skittish wolf, Art sidled over to stand beside the bed. It was an unconscious thought that made me take her right hand in mine. Those strong, calloused fingers had taken another life… to save mine. It was the kind of sobering realization that was enough to drive a sane person mad.
Or a madman sane.
Carefully, I traced each finger, following the slide of our skins with my eyes. A tug sat her on the edge of the hospital bed and I met her eyes again.
“We'll be okay?”
It was a question, not a statement, my plea for us to find a middle ground in this tragedy. Eyes thick and bright with unshed tears, Art managed to nod shakily and grip my fingers with bruising intensity.