Living The Cliché
by Suz

Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.

Spoilers for 'Fire and Water', 'Solitudes', 'Tin Man', 'The Gamekeeper', 'Legacy', 'Point of View', 'Divide and Conquer', 'Window of Opportunity', 'Beneath The Surface', 'Entity', 'Threshold', and 'Abyss'.

This is very, very silly, and rated R for sexual situations. Set anytime you want after Jonas comes along, post-'Abyss'.


It was the wake-up call to end all wake-up calls. It wasn't an irritatingly high pitched alarm, it wasn't the incessant ring of the telephone, it wasn't someone pounding angrily on his front door, prompting Jack to think of everything he'd done to piss someone off was none of that.

It was Carter's rear pressing against his groin.

He practically jack-knifed out of the bed. Fortunately they hadn't actually been holding on to each other, or she would have gone flying. As it was she murmured in her sleep and moved onto her back, completely missing the fact that his leg had whacked against the bedside table and sent everything resting on top of it - alarm clock, lamp, phone, glass of water - thudding to the floor.

Simply snoring ignorantly.

With his back braced against the bedroom wall, Jack stared at the woman sleeping in his bed. What the hell was she *doing* there? She certainly hadn't come over to his place for any reason at all the previous night. There'd been no team gathering, no video night.

In fact, the last thing he remembered with any kind of specific recollection was being on base-


Cursing lightly, he clutched at his head. Deciding that movement was definitely in order and that getting away from her could well cure his headache, he silently replaced the contents of his bedside table (figuring he'd let the spilt water dry naturally) and crept away.

Once he'd cleared the room he clicked the door shut, rested his back against it, and exhaled heavily. Realising he was dressed only in his boxer shorts, he padded into the bathroom and searched through the laundry basket he kept there.

Yes - pyjamas. He didn't care if they'd already been worn. There was no way in hell he was going back into the bedroom while she was still there.

When he was dressed he washed up and began brushing his teeth (whatever was going on, he really didn't want to greet her with dog breath), when he saw something that made him pause, mid-brush.

He hadn't really noticed before, too busy thinking about possible explanations and excuses if for some bizarre reason Hammond suddenly turned up, but he saw it now. With one hand still clamping his toothbrush to his teeth, his free hand reached forward to pick up...another toothbrush.

Blue. White bristles. Ergo-something-ly designed.

Definitely not his. His was still clamped to his mouth. His was now moving away from his mouth so he could spit the contents into the washbasin.

Throwing his toothbrush to one side - it could end up in the toilet for all he cared - he quickly rinsed out his mouth, still clutching the toothbrush.

Something else niggled at his brain. Frowning, he peered back into the laundry basket. There! A thin strap...the index finger of his free hand hooked beneath it and pulled it up...a thin strap attached to something pink, lacy, and *so* not his style.


More things started to add up, the collection in his arms building with each new thing that he saw. Shampoo that would, apparently, add 'shine' to his hair. Deodorant that was 'like a breath of fresh alpine air'. Tampax, to ensure he'd have 'complete, secure protection'.


Stunned, Jack stumbled out of the bathroom, careened through the hallway into his living room, and flopped onto the sofa. He stared at everything he was holding in his arms. He stared at the picture on his coffee table.

The picture of them. Him and her. Him and Carter. Hugging. He leant forward to pick it up, careful not to lose anything. They were both wearing jeans, though his top was a plain white shirt, and hers was a form fitting dark red thing. That she was smiling went without saying, but he was...grinning. Full out grinning. At her. It was obvious the picture had been taken when neither of them had been expecting it.

Jack's mind searched for answers, even as he kept staring at the photograph. Alternate reality? Maybe, but he was pretty damn sure he'd been nowhere near a quantum mirror - and hadn't Hammond ordered that thing destroyed anyway?

In any case, the previous times alternate realities had been encountered; there'd always been an alternate him, dead or otherwise. This was more like he'd suddenly swapped lives with another Jack O'Neill, which made even less sense.

Where the hell was Carter when he needed an explanation?

No. He couldn't think about Carter. Or that *other* Sam Carter, the one that was currently lying in what may or may not have been his bed.

The Gamekeeper and those gizmos of his again? Though their initial experience of those damn machines had been based on memories, he did recall the Gamekeeper saying they could experience anything they could imagine.

And yeah, he may have imagined this on occasion.

Amnesia? He didn't think he had any kind of head injury, although there had been that headache...

But if that was the case, that'd mean that at some point he and Carter really *had* got together, a thought that was both reassuring and terrifying.

A dream? Jack pressed his feet into the carpet, lifted the awkward weight of his supplies, and grasped the photo in his hand. It felt pretty real to him.

Okay. Fine. He was just going to have to insist that they go to the SGC and try and figure out what'd happened, because whatever it was, he wasn't where he was supposed to be. As nice as it-


Carter, not far from the front door. Carter, hovering on the edge of the living room. Carter, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Carter, wearing not much more than just a shirt that reached her thighs.

He attempted to clear his throat, failed, and coughed. "Hello."

Frowning, she nodded towards his collection. "What're you doing?"

"Oh," He glanced down at his bathroom paraphernalia; desperately searching for an answer and hoping the Tampax would provide him with one. "I, uh, um," He spat out the very next thing that came to mind. "Spring cleaning."

"'Spring cleaning?'" she repeated dubiously, but with a grin. "I notice it's only *my* things you're spring cleaning," Frowning, she obviously began to realise exactly what he was holding. "And mostly toiletries."

"Ah!" He argued, waving the picture around as well as he could before plonking it back on the table. "That's not entirely true."

His attempt to distract her didn't work.

The frown remained. If anything, it actually deepened as she spoke. "Are you all right, Jack?"

Oh. That was his name. She'd just said his name. "Fine." Not that he was. Frankly, it was too much to take in, though he was very aware that although a large part of him was freaked out, another was extremely happy with the situation.

"I know moving in is kind of a big step, but-"

"No," He interrupted immediately. "It's not that." Whether he was suddenly living another Jack O'Neill's life or not, that much had to be true. "I'm just..." Best way to explain the situation without the whole 'just woke up next to and appear to be living with you, when as far as I know that's *so* not allowed' thing? " a weird mood, Carter."

The use of her surname definitely amused her, smoothing out the frown as she advanced towards him. "In that case, *Colonel*,"

Trapped like a deer in headlights, he could only watch as she approached.

"I think I know something," She continued, plucking the objects out of his arms one by one, placing them all on the table. "That will definitely put you in a better mood."

His arms were empty; though he had a feeling they wouldn't stay that way for long. "You do?" When did his voice get that squeaky?

"Uh huh." Finished with the plucking and the placing, she turned to face him. "I consider it my duty," She slowly climbed onto the sofa, and then him, straddling his lap. "To keep your morale up."

Oh God: she really was wearing absolutely *nothing* except for the shirt.

He tried concentrating on something else, tried thinking; anything rather than focusing on the fact that she was lifting her shirt up, that she cast it aside, that her chest was right *there*.

This was more evidence about their 'relationship' here, right? This had obviously been going on for a while. To do what she was doing now, she really had to be very comfortable and very assured around him...sitting on his lap, shamelessly naked.

Jack's hands dug into the sofa and stayed there. He was not going to touch her. He was not.

She noticed, of course. "What's the matter, Colonel? Is it because it's," Her mouth was next to his ear, her breath making him shiver. "wrong?"

Though he couldn't remember it, it was obvious they'd played this 'game' before. And what else could he say? "Ohhhh yeah." It was the truth.

"We could get into trouble for this."

Swallowing heavily, Jack closed his eyes. Maybe if he didn't look at her, that'd help. "We could."

"The Air Force would be *terribly* upset with us."

Who knew Carter had this side to her? Who knew Carter had such spectacular-? "Yes they woooould..." Oh, oh, her hand was journeying down his body, heading towards-

Excuse. Needed. Now.

"Woah, ho, okay!" He finally touched her, but only to grab her shoulders and roll (okay, push) her off of him, before he leapt off the couch and backed away from her as far as possible.

By the time he backed into the wall separating the living room from the kitchen, she was standing up, frowning.

Still completely naked. "Jack?"

"You, you..." Naked Carter standing in his living room. Naked Carter standing in his living room. Naked Carter-

He slapped his own face, and in so doing, noticed something on the table. "You haven’t brushed your teeth!" He pointed pathetically at the toothbrush. *Finally*, an excuse. Okay, so it was incredibly lame, but it’d do.

Carter moved her hands on to her hips, only serving to emphasise certain areas of her that jiggled. "I’m standing here, naked as the day I was born, and you’re worried about my teeth?"

"Hey, dental hygiene is very important! And..." He gestured towards her chest without actually looking at it. "Can you just...put *those* away please?"

Any other woman would have been mortally offended. Would probably have stomped into the bedroom. Would have refused to speak to him for a week. Would have withheld sex for much longer. Would have forced him to go *shopping* (the horror).

Carter/Sam/Mad Naked Woman, didn’t. Turning away she retrieved her shirt (Jack tried not to look as she bent over, but hell – he was only human), calmly pulled it back on, then faced him again.

And she asked the question; the question that he had no idea how to answer.

He was kinda wishing she’d take the shirt off again.

"Are you backing out of this?"

Backing out of what? The ‘moving in’ thing? The relationship? The living room?

This was nuts – he shouldn’t have to back out of anything. He didn’t even belong here! The obvious thing would be to just explain what was happening. He’d hesitated before simply because he wanted to make sure that it really was Carter.

He still wasn’t entirely sure, but anything was better than her trying to seduce him again.

Man, he couldn’t believe he’d just thought that.

"Look, Carter," He winced as she stuck her chin out. "Sam." That was weird. How long had it been since he’d last said her name? "Something freaky is *definitely* going on."

Her expression agreed with him, though it seemed to indicate that she thought he was the freaky thing that was going on. Not that she said it. "What is it?"

Okay, the truth. This was a new one where she was concerned. "You..." His arm began to wave around. "Shouldn’t be here." He continued as soon as she was beginning to look hurt – he *hated* that look. "I’m not saying I want you to move out or..." Nah, he was just digging himself in deeper there. "Look, as far as I know, you’re my subordinate. I’m your superior officer – I’m your *commanding* officer, and this thing," He gestured between them. "Is so not allowed it’s not even funny."

Her eyes grew wider and wider the longer he spoke, and she slowly walked towards him.

Trapped, with nowhere else to go, Jack suspected the shape of his body was beginning to imprint on the wall. "I’m not making this up, Carter." Surely she, of all people, would know that he’d never lie about something this ridiculous just to get out of living with her.

Barely a few inches away, studying him closely, she nodded. "I can see that."

Ah, thank God. Carter was still Carter even when she was mostly naked. "Great! So, I say we get to the SGC and have Fraiser check me over." Wow – he was actually volunteering for that.

The frown had returned. "The SGC?"

Oh, *that* didn’t bode well. "Please tell me you have a SGC."

"Of course; I work there. But you haven’t worked there for over a year."

Ah. "Because of..." He was going to gesture between them again, but she was so close he figured he’d better not.

She understood. "Yeah."

Ah. "I retired,"


Ah. She was making a scary amount of sense. "Well." Ahem. "Shall we go?"

Regarding him carefully (and she was really taking this quite well, even for her), she turned away and left the room, presumably to get dressed. Jack was so relieved he began to peel himself from the wall.


He was right; she had been getting dressed, but it couldn’t be just an old pair of jeans and an oversized shirt, could it? Nooo, it had to be a deliberately tormenting pair of jeans that highlighted just how very long her legs were, and *that* top. The top from the photograph.


They drove to the base in complete silence. Jack was tempted to ask questions; how long they’d been together, how the hell she was dealing with this so well, just where the heck was that mole, as he’d seen pretty much everything and still hadn’t noticed it; but upon consideration he decided it’d be better to wait until someone else was there.

Until they weren’t alone.

Especially as, every time he looked at her he saw...oh, there it was again. When he got back to his Carter (unless this *was* his Carter) he didn’t know how he was ever going to look her in the face again. Not when he knew exactly what was beneath that face-


He muttered internally all the way to the SGC.


Getting in was a breeze. Well, a sign in nightmare, actually. He’d forgotten how many times he’d had to sign his name the first time he’d gone to Cheyenne Mountain, before he’d been given his own pass.

Still, as Carter had phoned ahead with a brief explanation of what was going on (no doubt leaving the nudity part out – he hoped), Hammond was expecting them, and as soon as they arrived in the infirmary he was already there, waiting with Fraiser.

At least neither of them looked any different. And they both had their clothes on, which was a definite plus.

"Jack," Hammond welcomed warmly, shaking his hand. "It’s good to see you – although I wish it wasn’t under such strange circumstances."

"Likewise, General." This was weird. They were treating him like they hadn’t seen him in a while. Which was probably true, *here*. If he really had retired, they wouldn’t be seeing him everyday anymore. "Doc,"

"Colonel," She greeted with a half-smile, no doubt eager to get down to business and solve this little puzzle. She and Carter were a lot alike.

Although...Carter was staying surprisingly quiet...

Fraiser continued speaking. "So what happened, exactly?"

Jack relayed a G rated version of his story. Waking up in bed with Carter, freaking out, finding the various pieces of evidence that pointed to the fact that he didn’t live alone, telling Carter that he was her CO, driving to base...

"And that’s it?"

Apart from the nudity? "Pretty much."

She began doing that stuff Carter was so fond of – long, complicated, coma-inducing words spewed from her mouth, which roughly translated as he was going to undergo a lot of tests, and then they’d start comparing life histories.

Woo hoo.



"So, uh, what’s the date?" The question had been bugging him for a while now, even though part of him wasn’t sure it wanted to know.

Carter frowned, resting against the end of the bed Fraiser was making him sit in. "February 10th, 2004."

Woah, wow, huh. "Huh. Last I remember, it was near the end of 2002."

Those eyes widened again. He knew what she was thinking – what they were all thinking. It was sounding more and more like some kind of amnesia. Why else would he have suddenly forgot over a year of his life?

If this actually was his life. He had to keep reminding himself that it might not *be* his life.

He was finding it surprisingly hard.

But they had no way of knowing if it actually was amnesia, yet. Fraiser was off discovering things from the numerous tests she’d subjected him to; Hammond had been called off to some emergency Jack couldn’t be told about (no clearance anymore), so it was just him and Carter. Sitting on his bed.


Wasn’t this what he’d been trying to avoid?

They’d already done a lot of contrasting and comparing, although they’d only got as far as their forth year working together.

That’d been awkward; the forth year was when a lot of...stuff, had happened. Stuff that he wasn’t used to talking about, even if she apparently was.

"So, uh, you know a gal named Anise?"

Carter’s lips had quirked. "I always know women who have a thing for you."

He’d really liked that tone in her voice, but as nice as it was... "That’s not what I meant."

"I know," She’d glanced down at her hands, resting on her lap. "If you’re talking about the za’tarc testing, then yes, that was when we were forced to admit what we mean to each other."

That’d confirmed it. So far, everything they’d discussed – initial meeting, missions, kisses (hey – *she’d* brought those up) – had matched details exactly. There wasn’t a single action that didn’t marry up.

Which meant...what did it mean, exactly?

Either more comparing was forthcoming, or...he had to know. "How did we, you know, get together?" Given what she’d said about how long they’d been seeing each other, it couldn’t have happened that long after the time he remembered.

Again with the reassuring and terrifying.

"We were on a mission. I was...lost." She didn’t look up from her hands.


"I still don’t know where I was, even today, or how I ended up there. It was It felt like I was there forever. In the end, it turned out to be three and a half weeks. I should have died, you know. There was no food, no water..."

"Weird seems to be part of the job."

She agreed with that, nodding. "When I suddenly appeared from God knows where, you were leading a search party on the planet. General Hammond was close to calling off the search altogether – there’d been no sign of me whatsoever. Apparently you were...less than pleased at the prospect."

He could imagine.

"Anyway, I was stumbling about on the planet, trying to find a bearing, when I saw you. I just started running – you have no idea how terrifying it was living in that blackness. After we...reunioned..."

Like that was a real word. "So that’s what they’re calling it now, huh?"

A faint blush rose on her cheeks. "You told me you’d had enough, that you were retiring ASAP. I tried to convince you otherwise, but you wouldn’t listen."

"I’m glad I didn’t."

Her head lifted as she smiled towards him, shyly. "So am I."

Okay, okay, he had to hold his horses. He still didn’t know that this was actually *his* Carter, as much as she looked like her, smelt like her, smiled like her, made his heart squeeze *exactly* like her...

Great. Now he was getting all mushy. "So, uh," If she kept staring at him like that, he was gonna do something really bad. "You have a Jonas here?"

Damn. Apparently they did.


It was both what he did and didn’t want to hear.

"All of the results so far point to the fact that this is our Colonel O’Neill. Dental records, x-rays, identifying marks," Jack’s hand automatically went up to the scar on his eyebrow as Fraiser kept talking. "The DNA tests of course will take longer, but as far as I can tell this is *our* Colonel O’Neill." They were all well aware of the possibilities presented by alternate realities – not to mention the various brushes they’d had with doubles of SG-1 over the years.

But apparently, this wasn’t that. He really *was* him.

Carter didn’t look happy, standing a few feet from the end of the bed, her arms folded across her chest. "Then why doesn’t he remember?"

Shaking her head, Fraiser glanced down at her clipboard. "PET scans show no sign of any kind of head trauma or injury. There’s nothing physically wrong with his brain."

Ooo, that caught his attention. And Jonas’ too, because he spoke up first.


Teal’c and Jonas had meandered in a while ago. He’d done some story swapping with them, too, and everything still matched up.

Sighing, Fraiser looked at Jack and almost smiled. "I think we have to face the possibility sir, that there is some kind of psychological trauma that could be responsible for this apparent memory loss."

Psychological... "You mean something emotional may have caused this? Something that isn’t physical?"

"Yes sir."

"Is that even possible?" What he knew about amnesia came from a handful of movies that usually involved some character whacking their head against something hard.

"It is," She nodded, glancing between the people in the room – him, three members of SG-1 (and hey, where was the forth? *Who* was the forth?), and Hammond, lurking silently near the door. "Severe emotional shock can sometimes result in retrograde amnesia."

"Uh, ‘retrograde’...?"

"It means you forget events before the amnesiac episode took place, and especially what caused it."

That didn’t sound good. "Yeah, but according to Carter the only thing that’s happened lately is..." His voice trailed off as he looked at her, and shrugged. "Come on, you’re not gonna tell me that my brain was so freaked by the idea of living with Carter that it tucked its tail between its legs and hid?"

"No sir," Her lips pursed together, withholding a smile. "I don’t think even your brain is capable of that, however..."

"Obviously O’Neill, something has happened."

"If it *is* amnesia," Fraiser pointed out.

"Well what else could it be?" Carter argued. "Why else would he suddenly forget?"

Jack was starting to feel like he might as well not be there.

"I don’t know," Fraiser responded. "Okay, I did some reading up on this while I was waiting for the results. This kind of amnesia – if it is that – is usually a form of repression, which mean his memories will likely be restored either through psychotherapy, or once the amnesiac state has ended."

He wished she’d stop saying ‘amnesiac state’. He felt like he should get his own star on the US flag. But psychotherapy...? No, no, no. "I’m not seeing McKenzie. That is, if he’s still around here."

Carter’s gaze slammed towards him. "Jack..."

She wasn’t going to wear down his defences by using his name. She wasn’t. "He was useless when Teal’c started working for his old boss."

"That’s hardly Dr McKenzie’s fault; that was a very unique situation."

"Well okay – what about when he had Daniel committed?"

"Again..." Her argument was starting to waver.

Hammond finally voiced an opinion. "Perhaps he doesn’t need to see Dr McKenzie. Or at least, not quite yet."

The fact that it was Hammond of all people who suggested that maybe he didn’t need to see a therapist brought the entire room to a standstill.

Jack could almost hear crickets chirping. "I don’t?"

"I’m not claiming it’s the same situation, but..." He held his former subordinate’s gaze. "This isn’t the first time you’ve ‘forgotten’ something, Jack." And then, deliberately, he focused on Carter. "Is it?"

Frowning, Jack mimicked Hammond’s movements until he was looking at Carter – and she was looking back at him. Not exactly embarrassed, not exactly ashamed, just...something.

And then he realised.

Oh. *That*.

Jonas asked the question. Jonas was the only one who needed to.

"Forgotten what?"


Apparently the war against the Goa’uld was going well. It hadn’t been won yet and it would be a while before it was, but for the first time (that Jack could remember, anyway), everyone seemed confident that the good guys had the upper hand.

This meant, of course, that their visitors would be arriving as soon as tomorrow.

Until then...until then, he had the night to contend with. And he didn’t know why, but he wasn’t looking forward to it.

The rest of the day had been spent with more talking, and remembering, and awkwardly trying to ignore anything ‘personal’ that’d happened while they were still working together. There was scant mention of Jonah and Thera. And the less said about the Entity, the better.

He just couldn’t talk about those things. Not the way she could.

Fraiser had dictated that he should be around familiar places and things, but had also insisted that he spend the first night on base, just so she could keep a paranoid doctor’s eye on him.

That was fine by Jack. He’d spent enough time on the base that he knew it better than his own house, and frankly he’d prefer not to go back to his own house, still freaked by the pink air freshener thing in the bathroom.

Quarters, at least, had been assigned to him. Familiar was good, but the infirmary was just a little too disturbingly familiar.

Time-wise, it hadn’t been a long day. Psychologically (there was that word again), he was exhausted.

Teal’c sat with him for a while, discussing past missions – not to ensure that they remembered everything correctly, but Jack was under the impression that his buddy had missed him.

Not that he said that. Not that either one of them had said that.

He left to kel’no’reem, so Jack hid under the covers, waiting for Jonas to inevitably stick his head round the door.

When it didn’t happen he was surprised, and – astoundingly – even a little disappointed.

Okay, he really *couldn’t* be him if he was actually upset that Jonas hadn’t come to visit.

But when the door opened a while later and she appeared, he forgot all about Jonas.

"Hey," She said, closing the door but not moving away from it.

Jack fought the urge to bolt for the exit. In any case, she was blocking it. Sitting up in the bed – dressed in that oh so flattering medical garb that had only ever looked good on her – he attempted to seem normal. Like he hadn’t been lying on the bed, wide awake. Like he hadn’t been trying to wrap his head around his absolutely nuts concept. "Hey."

"How are you doing?"

"About how you’d expect."

"Can’t sleep?"

Was she psychic now? "Believe it or not, I’ve actually been doing a lot of thinking. And..." Hey, what the heck was he doing?

"And?" She queried, taking a step towards the bed, hands shoved into her pockets.

He said it anyway. "I don’t want to go to sleep. I’m not sure why, but I’m really not looking forward to it." Okay – first he wanted Jonas to turn up, and now he was expressing a vulnerability?

Something freaky *definitely* going on.

"Me neither," She admitted, coming to stop next to the bed. "I, uh," She suddenly found the covers fascinating. "I want to sleep with you tonight, Jack."

Woah, red alert!

"Not *that* way," She quickly amended. "But we’ve slept together almost every night since we got together, so it is one of the familiar things Janet said you should do. And...I’m worried about you. I miss you. I do understand if you don’t want to..."

How could he possibly say no to a down-turned, blonde head of hair? "Okay," He agreed quietly. "But no funny stuff."

Chuckling, she lifted her head – and he’d never seen her move so fast. Her boots and jacket came flying off (though thankfully, she kept everything else on), and before his brain had a chance to compose anything she was climbing in beside him.

Jack shifted over instinctively, and just as instinctively rolled away from her. "‘Night," He said after she’d settled down, his eyes wide open, staring at the wall.

Ten minutes later, when she spoke, he was nowhere near closer to sleeping.


If she kept doing that... "Yeah?"

"You’re allowed to touch me."

God oh God oh God. The hand resting near his head dug into the pillow. "That’s the point," He murmured thickly. "I *can’t*."

"Turn over," She instructed. "Turn over, Jack."

Against his better judgement, he did. And he was lying next to her, staring at her, holding her gaze. Carter. His Carter. But not. "My Carter would never do this."

"She would," She argued. "If she’d been allowed to love you."

And there was the L word. He wasn’t good with the L word – never had been and never would be. So he avoided it completely. "Are we good together? You and me?"

A smile; small, warm, heart squeezing. "We just moved in together. What does that tell you?"

"That you have really bad taste in men?"

The smile deepened. "I think we established *that* fact a long time ago."

He had nothing else he could say or felt comfortable saying, and apparently neither did she. She did, however, grab his wrist beneath the covers, and place his hand firmly on her hip.

"Leave it there," She whispered, closing her eyes.

He did, staring at where her hip was as if he could see it through the covers. And somehow, he wasn’t quite so worried about the encroaching blackness anymore.


Darkness fled.

He moved, twitched, shifted, and the first sensation was skin beneath his hand.

Skin? Beneath his hand?

His eyelids flickered open.

Yeah. There she was. Lying next to him, forehead smooth as she slept peacefully. It didn’t seem possible, but they’d barely moved. Weren’t people supposed to jerk around a lot when they were sleeping?

Not them. They were lying almost exactly as they had been when he fell asleep. The only obvious difference was the fact that his hand had moved up, pushing her top up a little so it could rest against her side.

Her skin.

He shouldn’t have, but he grinned. Was it really her? Was she really the woman who’d done a spectacular job of turning him upside down and inside out? Of grabbing his brain in her hands and tugging it out through his ears? Of completely ruining any chance he might have had for a nice, quiet, stress free life?

Dimly, his external senses began to tell him something else. A slight movement, a change in room temperature, *something* different.

They weren’t alone.

Slightly raising his head to peer over Carter’s shoulder, he froze when he saw who else was in the room.


Leaning against the closed door, arms folded across his chest.


Watching them.

Jack’s immediate instinct was to rip his hand away from her body, but he was able to contain it – he didn’t want to wake her up. Moving slowly, he extracted his hand from beneath her top and the covers (just as well Jacob couldn’t see that), propped his body up on his elbow and spoke quietly. "Didn’t hear the alarms."

He nodded. "George *may* have turned them off in this section." His gaze flicked briefly to his daughter’s back. "How are you doing?"

Worried about getting his ass kicked, but apart from that... "Confused."

"Doesn’t seem that way," He looked at Carter again, his gaze lingering in the general area of where Jack’s hand had been.

Ah. Maybe he *had* noticed. "She, uh, told me to."

"And you did?"

"She’s scary otherwise." Hell, she was scary all the time. And speaking of scary, she moved suddenly, murmuring unintelligibly and rolling her face closer to the pillow.

He froze again, and it was as he was staring at her that he realised something: any ass kicking on Jacob’s part would have happened a long time ago. Hmm...maybe there were *some* advantages to this amnesia thing. "So you, uh, know about, uh, us?"

Grinning, Jacob shook his head in amusement. "Yes, uh, I, uh, do."

Jack rolled his eyes, though his was silently relieved. "Oh make fun of me, why don’t ya? It’s not like this is easy for me. As far as I know, she’s still..."

His grin had faded. "So I’ve heard. Come on. Get up. We’ll have breakfast."


Jacob already had his clothes waiting for him, so after Jack got changed they both headed to the commissary. There wasn’t much small talk – neither of them were small talk guys.

Almost everyone Jack saw greeted him enthusiastically, and frankly he was getting sick of it until Selmak reared his head – well, Jacob’s head – and freaked everyone out by flashing his eyes.

Much as he disliked snakes, he could come in handy.

The silence stretched on, and on, and on, until Jack’s patience wore out. Giving up, he let his spoon fall back into his bowl of cereal, splattering himself and most of the table with milk. "How did you find out?"

Seemingly unsurprised, Jacob chewed slowly on a slice of toast. "You really don’t remember?" When Jack shook his head, he continued. "Sam told me."

Huh. "That’s it? She just...told you?"

"What did you expect? Me catching the two of you making out, or worse? Grabbing a shotgun and chasing you all the way up to that cabin of yours?"

Nice imagery. "Well...not *exactly*..."

"She’s a grown woman, Jack, and she’s not under your command anymore. Even if I’m not particularly delighted with anyone she’s having sex with," He had to pause while Jack coughed up the cereal he’d just swallowed. "You do seem to make each other happy."

That he could imagine. That he *had* imagined. That was totally freaking him out. It was as if the very thing he’d always wondered about had suddenly come true, only without the angst that prompted the change in their relationship. "That’s nice."

"Doesn’t look like you think it’s nice."

"It’s just weird, Jake. On one hand I’m kinda glad I didn’t have to go through all that turmoil, but on the other I wanna know what I’ve *missed* for the last year."

His potential father in law paused. "So you think it is amnesia?"

Oh...he had kinda gone with that conclusion, hadn’t he? That she was his, and he was hers, and...ah, crap. "Geez, I don’t know. My head hurts." He would have thumped his head on the table, but the bowl was in the way. And milk really wasn’t his colour.

"It’s good to know some things never change," Jacob replied, biting into another slice of toast. "Even though you can’t remember the last year, she still manages to confuse the hell out of you."

Yeah. That wasn’t exactly a surprise.


He was in that damn chair again, even if he wasn’t strapped down.

He was staring at that damn machine again, even if Anise wasn’t standing on the other side.

Teal’c, Jonas, Fraiser and Hammond were all watching from the observation area, while Carter and Jacob were behind the machine, asking questions.

Talk about déjà vu.

"What’s the last thing you remember before waking up yesterday?"


"Before you were asleep."

He was on base. He was walking towards the gate room. He was wearing a cap. He was carrying his pack-

That was it. That was as much as he remembered.

"What was the last thing you heard?"

The sound of the gate locking. Davis doing his thing. The whoosh of the wormhole forming (yes, he did know *some* of the technical terms).

"What was the last thing you saw?"


Uh, Carter’s face.

"Last thoughts?"

He really wasn’t looking forward to the mission – he just knew it was gonna be boring as hell.

More questions. More answers. More confusion.

Eventually, nothing new emerging.

"I don’t think this is the same as before," Jacob announced, surprising no one – and Jack suddenly realised that he must have been aware of the original za’tarc testing. "According to the readings he’s not concealing anything. I really think he just...doesn’t know."

Well that was helpful. "Do you mean like the information’s gone?"

"No, it’s there," Jacob shook his head. "But you’re not hiding it consciously or otherwise. You simply can’t access it."

"How is that possible?" Fraiser’s voice broke in, echoing from the observation area via the microphone. "There is *no* trauma to the head. No hint of anything that might stop him accessing areas of his brain."

"I don’t know," He turned around to look up at her. "And not that I doubt your expertise Doctor, but I suggest you go over your results again."

People began to leave. Jacob met up with Hammond in the corridor. Fraiser, Teal’c and Jonas walked off, discussing theories.

Apparently forgetting about him, still in the chair. Although...Carter was still there, standing behind the machine.

Maybe they hadn’t forgotten about him. Maybe they’d known exactly what they were doing.

Was everyone who worked at the SGC sneaky?

"How ya doing?" He asked.

"Frustrated," She complained. "I want you back."

He still couldn’t deal with a Carter who actually told him how she felt. "You know I am, actually, right here."

Almost grinning, she turned away. "I know you are, but I also know you, Jack. You’re...freaked."

True enough.

Turning back to face him, she sighed, then...paused. Looked at the machine. Looked at him. And paused.

Uh oh.

Even a year ahead of where he remembered, Carter was still Carter and – apparently – still evil.

"As long as I have you here..." She settled just behind where the display was.


"Exactly what did you do in the time loop?"



The day passed. They spent most of it together (after Jack had decided that, when he got his memory back, he was going to kick his own ass for not telling her about the kiss).

She told him, in the commissary, how she told Dad (her version was strangely different from Jacob’s).

She told him, over jello, how Cassie screamed when she found out.

She told him how, when he handed in his resignation, Hammond had known all about the three previous attempts he’d made – even though he’d never said a word to anyone.

She told him, as they were getting ready for bed (Fraiser had insisted on a second night on base, and Jack was really trying not to look as Carter got changed), about how he asked her to move in with him. As she phrased it, in typical Jack O’Neill fashion, he hadn’t let her leave the bed until she agreed.

Apparently she didn’t need much persuading.

She didn’t tell him about their first time together. She didn’t tell him if either of them had ever used *that* word.

Which was probably just as well.

She didn’t ask this time, simply climbing in beside him, dressed in nightwear (thankfully, nothing too revealing) Jacob had been thoughtful enough to pick up from her house.

The conversation stopped.

He didn’t move as she lightly touched the side of his face, as her fingers brushed over his hair, as she once again guided his hand. This time, however, she snuggled closer towards him, and wrapped his arm around her as she did the same with hers.

She sighed against his chest.

He didn’t move.

* Jack stared at the door with something akin to horror, memorising every letter of every word he could see there.

Well, it was only two words so there wasn't a lot of memorising to be done, but it didn't stop him.

He read it again.

'Dr McKenzie'.


Carter, at least, was waiting with him, and was insisting on touching his arm. And if she needed that support, who was he to deny it? Though he didn't doubt her capability to deal with absolutely anything that came flying, running or crawling her way, this seemed to be a trying time for her.

And he...he really wasn't looking forward to McKenzie.

After the za'tarc machine had failed to produce much of any use (though Teal'c had claimed that the lack of something useful was actually very useful indeed - Jaffa logic) the next step had been the one he'd been trying to avoid.


Ick. Just the word gave him the shivers.

After a few more minutes the door opened and McKenzie appeared. He apologised for running late, and invited them both into his office.

"It's good to see you again, Colonel."

"Retired," Jack pointed out, reluctant to share pleasantries with anyone at the best of times - and especially not this guy.

"Of course," McKenzie agreed, and offered them both seats.

The questions began. A few general ones about how he was doing (questions that, Jack was sure, were to lull him into a false sense of security); then into the specifics. Last things he remembered, how he felt when he first woke up, how he handled the fact that he and Carter were in a relationship now.

What the hell did that have to do with anything?

He was beginning to regret dragging her along, but he hadn't wanted to face the Demon Doc alone.

"It's confusing," Jack admitted, eyes focusing on something far, far away that only he could see.

"Confusing?" What was it with shrinks repeating everything you said?

"Well, yeah. One minute I'm her commanding officer, and then bam! Suddenly we're living together."

"Living together," McKenzie repeated to himself, causing Jack to roll his eyes.

"That's not what made me lose my memory, if that's what you're thinking," He argued.

"How do you know that?"

Damn stupid question. That thing only he could see lost its interest and he focused back on McKenzie. "Because it's ri-*dic*-ulous. I'm not so emotionally inept that I can't deal with living with someone. I was married, you know. That tends to involve sharing the same place of residence."

"Yes," the doc agreed. "But your wife wasn't someone you weren't allowed to care about for a long time. The reality of actually doing what you'd want to do," Did *everyone* know about that? "May have proved such a shock to the system that-"

"What?" Jack interrupted, really getting annoyed now. "I blocked it out? Do you know how stupid that sounds?" He began counting out his points with the fingers of his left hand. One. "I've been killed, attacked, and repeatedly tortured to death, and I didn't block any of *that* out - you think I would with this?" Two. "The one time I did try to 'deliberately forget' something was to protect our jobs and the team - this time there was no reason to do that." Three. "According to all reports I was happy, and as you said yourself, I was doing what I'd wanted to do for a long time. Why would I want to forget that?"

Silence reigned in McKenzie's office.

Jack's fingers - well, thumb and first two fingers - clenched together with the rest of his hand into a fist. Daaammmnnn... "That was part of the psychoanalysis thing, wasn't it?"

Behind his desk, McKenzie was scribbling something onto a notepad (surely that had to be just for show. It was *such* a cliché). "Yes Colonel."

Uh huh. "And I fell for it, didn't I?"

Scribble scribble. "Yes Colonel."

Finally glancing towards Carter on the chair to the right of his, who he'd specifically been avoiding looking at all along, he saw that although her head was aiming towards her lap, she was definitely grinning. "And you can stop looking so damn pleased with yourself."

"Me?" She asked innocently, raising her head to shrug at him. "I'm only here because you asked me to be."

And who would have thought that? Him, going into a room where he was supposed to discuss his thoughts and feelings, actually asking her to come with him - even if he did have to face McKenzie.

He didn't see how it was his fault, or a sign of weakness. They'd woken up that morning, and did the staring thing for a while. Him, trying to understand why she'd ever want to lay there with him; her, probably trying to understand why she was laying there with him.

She'd spoken eventually, quiet. "You'll probably have to see McKenzie today."

"I know." And he hadn't been looking forward to it. He really, really hadn't. And she was right there; just a few inches away, making him "Come with me?"

See? All her fault.

"Colonel," McKenzie announced, dragging him out of reminiscing. "It seems clear that the last memory you have before waking up isn't very specific. From your description it seems rather disjointed."

Disjointed. Good word. Carter word. "I guess."

"Then if you're willing, I'd like to try a procedure that's been successful before in restoring memories."

"What is it?"


He stared at it, glared at it, but the bulb wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't on either, but that wasn't the point. Why did these things always involve him staring at some kind of light source? It couldn't possibly be good for his eyes. "Isn't this the same as using the recall device?" He remembered the Tok'ra woman (though he hadn't known she was a Tok'ra at the time) saying using the recall device was some kind of hypnosis.

"There's no way to know for sure," McKenzie argued, adjusting something while Carter sat a few feet away from the both of them, obviously not wanting to intrude. "And although the basic idea is the same, it's a completely alien technology."

"Okay, okay, I get the point." He could put up with this. He'd suffered through the za'tarc thing again; this should be easy. It wasn't like he was leaving his fate in the hands of some snakehead.

Just McKenzie.

He didn't feel particularly reassured.

Still, Carter was there. And Jack vividly remembered what happened to her the last time this'd been attempted... "Listen, if I start crying the way you did..."


"I know for a fact that a hug will make it *all* better."

She laughed.


He was in the corridor, wearing a cap, carrying a pack, walking towards the gate room. The familiar hum of the internal ring of the gate moving echoed around him, Davis' voice telling him it wouldn't be long until chevron seven.

Reaching his destination he stepped inside, to see his team already there. They nodded, each in turn (one of them *way* too enthusiastically).

"Chevron seven, locked!"

The opening of the wormhole whooshed into existence, as ever causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end. That was all the excitement he was going to get out of this mission. It was the kind of thing that, had he still been around, Daniel would have loved.

Movement to his left grabbed his attention, and he turned his head to see Carter. Smiling. At him.

Maybe it wouldn't be *so* bad.

"Well campers, I-"


Her voice; concerned, confused, freaked; making him look where she was now looking.

The gate. With the puddle.

Only it wasn't the puddle anymore; the blue was gone, replaced by...


Jack took an instinctive step back, watching the dark liquid fold upon itself. This wasn't the calm of a regular wormhole; it was turbulent, violent.


And he was moving towards it.


He wasn't walking, but he was moving towards it, being *sucked* towards it, past his friends and colleagues, past *her* as she tried to grab onto him until he had to force her to let go. Wherever he was going, she wasn't coming too.

He reached the ramp, grasping onto the railing at the side, nearly horizontal now, his feet aiming towards the gate as he couldn't quite comprehend that this was happening.

They were reaching, stretching, apparently unaffected by whatever it was that had him in its invisible grip, but none of them could hold onto him for long, only able to watch helplessly as he was dragged, with a strange calmness that belied his internal agony, into the dark.

It even made a slurping noise.


He only stopped screaming when they shook him out of it, when she appeared next to his chair, when she pulled him into her arms, rested his head against her chest, and told him it was okay, everything was going to be okay, trying to ignore the fact that he really had been crying.


Well, that was embarrassing. The thing about him was, he didn't cry. About anything. Ever. As far as he was concerned, he just wasn't capable of that kind of emotional release. It wasn't how he worked.

So he had absolutely no explanation for his wince-inducing display back in McKenzie's office. His only saving grace was that there'd only been two witnesses, but that was bad enough - McKenzie no doubt found the whole thing fascinating, and Carter was...Carter.

And according to Carter, nothing like what he 'remembered' had ever happened.

McKenzie hadn't seemed surprised. According to him the human brain was notoriously unreliable, which made Jack wonder why they'd even bothered with the hypnosis in the first place.

There'd been a great deal of debate over whether releasing him from the SGC was a good idea or not. With the new 'revelations' brought out through hypnosis, there were concerns that he shouldn't even be out of the infirmary, let alone the base.

And, of course, he was a ‘fascinating case study’. Oy...

Eventually, Carter had won her case. Taking him back to his own house and his own surroundings might stir something in his brain.

As far as Jack was concerned his brain was stirred enough, but he wasn't about to argue with her. Initially he'd been happy to get away from his house simply because of the freak factor of Carter living there, but now he wanted to get as far away from the gate as possible.

He still had to come back to the SGC every day, of course, but at least he wouldn't have to sleep there.

Carter drove him home, though Teal'c and Jonas came along too, in an obvious attempt to treat him as if he were 'normal'. They talked about their lives in general, although that turned out to be a short conversation - there wasn't much about either of their lives that didn't relate directly to recent events connected with the Stargate, and he just didn't have that level of clearance anymore.

He wondered how he and Carter had dealt with that, when he first retired.

The Simpsons tapes were produced; a whole year's worth of episodes that he'd recorded. His writing was on the labels, his scrawl had scribbled down episode titles, but he didn't remember any of them.

Carter spent most of the time pottering around the house. Doing what, he didn't know, but he was glad she was because he was doing his best to ignore her.

Nobody saw him like that. Nobody.

Jonas smiled and Teal'c talked, and Jack retreated further and further into the sofa, hating the weakness, and the defences, but all the while knowing that was who he was.

Even with her.

Surely she had to know that much. Surely he must have warned her that he wasn't going to be easy.

Dusk arrived soon after Teal'c and Jonas left, and Jack immediately got up and turned all the lights on. Overheads, lamps; he even got as far as pulling a handful of candles out of the kitchen cupboard when suddenly she was next to him, touching his hand.

"What are you doing?"

He stared at her fingers. "I need these."

"No you don't." She didn't understand. "You've already sent the electricity bill haywire."

"I need these," He repeated, holding onto them harder. She couldn't know. She *wouldn't* understand.

And then she did something that surprised him.

He'd been expecting to retreat back to the sofa, watch television until the tapes ran out, and then fall asleep; no doubt to wake in the morning with aching muscles that objected to the lack of an actual bed.

Instead, she helped him.

Moving her hand away, she picked up her own selection of candles, and began distributing them throughout the house. Naturally, being her, she placed them where they'd be least likely to cause a fire hazard, but the fact remained that they worked together, lighting up the house.

He was being an ass, and she was helping him.

He watched her work, for a while. Lighting candles, making dinner with him, washing the dishes. She knew where everything went or where everything was - even his bottle opener, and he was forever losing track of that thing.

She teased and taunted and smiled, knowing exactly what to do to make him relax, how to transform his mood. She lobbed a roll of paper towels at him when he critiqued her cooking skills (she really *hadn't* been over-exaggerating); when she passed a dish for him to dry she deliberately let her hand linger longer than necessarily (okay, so that wasn't necessarily helping him to relax, but it was definitely helping him to forget); when she watched a couple of episodes of The Simpsons with him, she didn't ruin it by telling him the good bits.

She lured him into the bedroom.

It didn't take much; he was tired, it'd been a crappy day up until two hours earlier, and maybe - just maybe - he was a little drunk.

He changed easily, not much caring that she was there to see anything, but it was as she climbed into bed that he froze.

Bed. Sleep.


His internal word association game told him sleep was not a good idea, but body told him sleep was a very good idea indeed.

And she was in the bed, smiling at him.

Well, there was nothing that said that just because he was in bed that he actually had to sleep.

So he settled in beside her, quite liking the way the way he'd become accustomed to her snuggling up to him, quite liking the way she automatically knew to keep the lights on.

"You'll have to sleep eventually," She told his chest.

That was something he'd rather not think about, staring at the ceiling, watching the occasional flicker of candlelight. There wasn't much of that to see - the normal lights tended to overpower everything else.

He needed something else to say or do. He couldn't quite apologise, he couldn't quite explain what he was feeling, so instead he climbed out of the bed and switched off the light.

He panicked, almost flicking it back on again, but the decision had been made. He was sticking with it.

And there was still candlelight. Lots and lots of candlelight.

And she was in the bed, smiling at him.

She coaxed him back in, snuggled up to him, and Jack - still with no intention of sleeping - wondered how he was going to apologise. He didn't really use words, and he didn't feel particularly good with the actions, either.

Apparently noticing his lack of sleep, she spoke. "I know what'll make *you* sleepy."

Her left hand rubbed over his hip in what he was pretty sure was supposed to be a reassuring move, but he was finding it anything but. ""

"We have known each other for seven years," She replied lightly, her hand slowly moving away from his hip and closer to the centre of his body. Not really touching anything, just...closer.

"I...suppose." She really had to stop, because as much as he wanted to there was still that doubt that something wasn't quite right.

He needn't have worried.

Pulling then turning away with a grin, she opened the drawer of her bedside table and delved inside for what turned out to be...a book.

'Wormhole Theory and Physics'.


Sitting up until her back was resting against the headboard, and pulling the cover up to her waist, she opened the book and began reading aloud.

There was sufficient light from the numerous candles around the room so he simply watched her; licking a finger to turn the page, comprehending everything, sometimes brushing a strand of hair aside, the elegance of her wrist...

The *elegance* of her *wrist*?

Jack was fighting a losing battle with his eyelids, and as he struggled to keep them open against the relaxing tone of her voice telling him things he didn't understand, he decided he really must have it bad to use that kind of purple prose.

Despite the confusion, the memory loss, and the nightmare-inducing hypnosis, at that particular moment he hadn't felt that content for a *long* time.

Maybe this really was where he was supposed to be...


It occurred to him as he was surveying the contents of his fridge, that he didn't even know what her favourite breakfast was. Sure, he knew what she'd eat - they'd all shared breakfast in the commissary enough times for him to know that - but not what she'd actually *love*.

Still, there was some evidence in the fridge itself. There were several items that he rarely or never bought, so they looked like the safest bet.

As he reached for the bacon, he paused.

It didn't even look out of place.

Shaking off the 'revelation', he set about making her breakfast. It was his clumsy attempt at apologising for his less than charming behaviour the previous night. He knew that she was being understanding about his situation, but he also knew that even understanding had its limits.

So he fried, and scrambled, and toasted and buttered, before spending five minutes searching for a tray. He knew he had one some damn where...

Eventually locating it, he loaded the plate and a glass of orange juice onto the tray, and carefully carried it into the bedroom.

She wasn't there.


That kind of ruined the effect.

Realising where she was when he heard the toilet flush he quickly changed the plan, zooming towards the bed. Shoving the alarm clock back, he rested the tray on his bedside table and slipped into bed. Leaning across to pick up the tray, he placed it on his lap and - still holding on to it with one hand - he carefully pulled the covers up, trying not to let anything come into contact with the food.

She appeared some ten seconds later, still looking a little bleary eyed, still dressed in pale blue pyjama bottoms and a matching strappy top. Her mouth opened, probably to emit a greeting, when she noticed the way he was sitting. "Either your hips have got a *lot* bigger or-"

He lifted the cover.

She grinned, surprised, delighted, walking towards - and eventually - crawling up the bed to sit next to him. "What's this?" She asked.

Jack was both trying to ignore and very much enjoying her proximity.


"For me?"

It just came out. "No, for Tor."

The smile returned: huge, almost overwhelming, and he was suddenly finding it very hard to breathe.

"This is just like you," She murmured, slowly looking away and picking up the glass of juice, leaving the tray where it was.

"I do this kind of thing a lot?"

"Well," There it was again. "No. But every now and then you do something that surprises me. Last Valentines Day you arranged to have flowers delivered to my lab."

For anyone else it wouldn't have sounded like much, but she worked at the most secret facility on the face of the planet. You couldn't just get something 'delivered'. He'd probably phoned Hammond, asked for a favour...

And he couldn't help but notice the way she'd spoken. Last Valentines Day...

His brain finally did the calculations from what she'd told him the date was a few days ago: tomorrow was Valentines Day. Oh. "Where we anything?"

"Do anything?" She repeated, pausing just as she'd been about to take a sip of the juice.

"For Valentines Day."

The glass lowered, and she shrugged. "Yeah, but it's not important. I know you're not exactly comfortable with 'us'."

"That's not true," He immediately argued, continuing when she gave him a 'uh huh' look. "Okay, it *is* true - but only because you were under my command."

Lifting her eyebrows, she cocked her head to one side. "'Were'?"

Ah. Was that classified as a Freudian Slip? "Yeah," Her bacon was really, really interesting. "You're not anymore, are you?"

"No," She responded, finally bringing the glass up to her mouth. "I'm not."

And then - she winced, as if she'd just tasted something disgusting.

"What is it?" He hoped it wasn't anything he'd done.

Quickly putting the glass back down, still mostly full, she shook her head as if to get rid of the taste. "I brushed my teeth while I was in the bathroom."

Yum. Toothpaste and orange juice. Nice. "You don't have to eat it. Isn't it the sentiment that's supposed to matter?"

"True," She acknowledged. "But you've never been one for sentiment, Jack. Or at least you'd rather not admit that you were."

Psychic Sam had struck again, far too close to home. "So what were you gonna do? Tomorrow?"

"Don't know. You told me it was a surprise."

Man, that was gonna drive him nuts. What the heck had he been planning? She, however, seemed very philosophical about the whole thing - which made Jack wonder. "Were *you* planning anything?"

A grin quite unlike any he'd seen before graced her features. "I may have been."

He wasn't going to ask. He wasn't. He didn't need to.

He did anyway.

"May have?"

Her face drifted towards his and gently, ever so gently, she placed a kiss on his lips.

He held on tighter to the tray.

"Something occurs to me," She murmured.

It didn't seem quite so weird anymore. "It does?"

She spoke again, her breath passing across his skin. "We were told that you should go to familiar places, do familiar things, right?"

Oh he *so* knew where this was heading. "We were,"

"And there's something *very* familiar that we haven't done yet. I understand if you don't want to, Jack, if it's too confusing. But it *is* something familiar, and," She paused, not enticing, not trying to be sexy: vulnerable. She whispered it. "I miss you inside of me."


His brain just about exploded - and he had to face it, it wasn't the only thing.

Throughout this, he'd known she was upset but hadn't really imagined what it must have been like. What would he be going through in her position? If they were together and suddenly, she had no memory of their relationship?

He doubted he'd be handling it as well as she was.

And he believed her, now. All along it just hadn't felt quite right and he suddenly understood why - he didn't deserve her. He'd done so many questionable things, so many things he was ashamed of, so many things that were *his* fault...but she still wanted him.

She loved him.

And it blew him away.

So when she kissed him again, he didn't pull away. He didn't *want* to pull away, reciprocating in kind for what was, for him at least, their first real kiss.

It was very nice, very gentle, very tender...but it wasn't what either of them wanted.

The tray was cast carelessly aside, crashing onto the floor as he rolled her onto her back, mouths meeting, opening, exploring.

She tasted of toothpaste.

He didn't care.

She was impatient, her hands tugging at his top, and he soon discovered they really *had* been together that long, because she knew exactly where to touch and taste and drive him wild.

He had some catching up to do, kissing her neck as she groaned, speaking against her skin. "Show me what you like."

Willingly she obliged, guiding his hand down her body and beneath her clothes, leaving her hand wrapped around his wrist as his fingers moved against and within her, learning.

Sighing heavily, she closed her eyes, grasping firmer when she wanted him to push harder, her knees beginning to bend instinctively.

Jack was suffering a unique form of torture. The fact that, after all this time, in the middle of a mad situation, he was actually doing *this* to *her*...

She moaned, loudly, and he nearly came undone.

How long had it been since he'd done this? With anyone?

She pulled his hand away suddenly, and before he had time to think (which wasn't real high on his list of priorities just then) she'd pushed him on to his back, and had shed the layers of clothing covering the bottom half of her body.

Coming back to him, she helped him finally take his top off, and then she started pulling at his pyjama bottoms and boxer shorts. She leant over him as she did so; placing random kisses on his chest, then kissing lower and lower the further down his legs the clothing went.

She stopped just short of kissing him *there*, either through blind luck or knowing that what little control he had left was dangerously close to snapping.

Soon the clothes were gone completely and she slid her body along his legs until she was straddling him.

The pressure was really...quite something.

She rocked their groins together, giving Jack a few more grey hairs in the process, before leaning down to bring their mouths together as she finally, finally, lowered herself onto him.

The moment stilled, frozen, adjusting, astounding, and somewhere, through the mush that was his brain, he managed to say something.


And then she started to move.


Jack woke, gasping, knowing immediately where he was.



It was the first time he'd managed to stop moving before hitting his head on the ceiling when waking up. Well, ceiling was probably the wrong word. For a start he couldn't even see it, and it was so low that it might as well have been the floor.

He fought back the wave of claustrophobia that was growing stronger and stronger each time he came back to consciousness and, deliberately ignoring the fact that he was effectively blind, began the ritual.

The ritual consisted of exploring as much of his surroundings as possible with his hands. Exploring, touching, when he got frustrated - hitting. Not that there was much around him.

It was just the stone.

At least he presumed it was stone. It certainly felt like it. Except for when he slept. When he slept it was soft, comfortable...and she was there.

Doing what exactly he couldn't remember, but she'd be there, making him forget the darkness.

He liked it when he slept.

Based solely on his sleeping patterns, he'd been there for a little over three days now, and he had no idea who, what or why anyone had taken him. He'd been on P7E 216 with his team, studying minerals (joy). He'd turned away from them just for a moment-

And then he was here. Inside a coffin made of stone.

In the dark.

There was no light, no light whatsoever, not even from his watch. His pack, his shades, his cap, his dog tags - everything but his shirt and pants was gone.

He'd shouted for hours. Maybe days.

There were a lot of things that didn't make sense. If this place really was as impenetrable as it seemed, he should have run out of air a long time ago. He'd had no food or drink since his arrival, and he should have been dehydrated. He didn't even feel thirsty, or hungry.

Likewise, normal bodily functions seemed to be on hold. He'd had no urge to pee - although given the fact that he wasn't drinking anything, he guessed that wasn't as unexpected.

And the biggest thing of all, how had he ended up here? That was the question he pondered most out of all of them. It seemed obvious that it had to be some kind of alien influence, if only because he had no other explanation. For some reason they'd decided to 'transport' him into this damn place, and just leave him there.

With no contact. No noise. No sight. No hot. No cold. Everything was regulated perfectly, as if there was some kind of automatic system in place, ensuring nothing ever changed.

Torture was a likely option, and it certainly wasn't his first experience of it - not by a long shot. And this wasn't as bad as Ba'al. It wasn't, as Daniel had rightly said, soul destroying.

But he was starting to worry about his mind.

The blackness would creep in sometimes. It wasn't as if he could escape it - it was always there - but most of the time he could ignore it, resist it. Yet sometimes...

When he paused, when he stopped thinking even for a second, the dark would begin to move; pouring into his mouth, his nose, his eyes, and it was all in his head, he *knew* it was all in his head, but that didn't stop the fear or the panicking...

Until he lost consciousness. And she was there.

Doing something he couldn't remember, making him forget.

He had to keep thinking, or it'd happen again.

His voice, still hoarse, started screaming for help again. He had no way of knowing if he was even still on the planet, but he wasn't going to give up. Not yet. He might reach that point eventually - and damn it, he had done previously - but not here.

Not yet. Hopefully, not ever.

He remembered another time when he'd been dark, lost, sure to be forever alone. She'd come to him when he asked for his wife, but it wasn't until after that he realised it.

And he could see her now, searching an alien planet, cursing as she stumbled, angry, so angry that she couldn't find him.

It wasn't Sara he was calling for anymore.


White. Burning, searing, blinding; Jack hid his eyes behind his hands and fell to his knees.

Fell to his knees.

Fell to his knees?

And that was...heat. Sunlight. On his skin.

Stones, gravel, even through his pants digging into his knees - and it hit him: he was free.

No stone coffin; no invading, insinuating, disgusting blackness.

Just the light.

Jack moved his hands and opened his eyes for barely a second before being forced to shut them again. The darkness had been so profound that he was beginning to wonder if his eyes would ever adjust.

Not that it mattered. Sight was insignificant: something taken for granted. It didn't even compare to being *free*.

The laughter started; weak, growing stronger until he was bent over, his head pushing into the ground, his hands clasping together around the back of his skull. Laugh. Laugh. He had to laugh.

Until something made him stop.

He sat up; small pieces of gravel imbedded in his forehead. Risking opening his eyes again he managed, this time, to get a brief glimpse of a dark blob against the whiteness before the pain forced him to shut them again.

It was only brief. It was only a blob. But he knew.


Planting a hand on the ground, he used it to help lever his body up, his joints in better condition than they should have been given his lack of activity recently, though his feet were unsure on the unfamiliar and rocky ground.


Lifting a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun, he glimpsed again as his feet carried him towards her. She was still a blob, but he thought he saw some green this time.

He had no idea where he’d been or how he got back, but it didn’t matter anymore.


He was closer, his pace increasing, hearing her curse as she stumbled, angry, so angry that she couldn't find him.


The blob turned towards him, pausing.

"Colonel!" And then she was running, something being discarded - presumably her pack - as she hurtled towards him.

He almost went over a couple of times, the ground still one big beige blur, but then he was there and she was there and they-


There. Blonde. And if he squinted carefully, blue. "You're on your own, Major."

Her breath sounded short, much like his. And it had nothing to do with the distance she'd just run. "Yes sir."

"Procedure clearly dictates that following the disappearance of an officer off-world, search parties should consist of no less than two people."

"You really want to quibble over procedure with me right now?"

Wow. Carter: not amused. But ever the diligent soldier; she would have stayed just where she was if he didn't do something. So he did something. "No," He stepped forward, and he was in her arms.

The tension broke, one of them collapsing and dragging the other with them, kneeling on the ground: hugging, grasping, touching.

"Are you real?" He murmured into her neck, a hand on the back of her head, the weakness being forced out of him. "Please tell me you're real." This couldn't be part of the blackness. It couldn't.

"I'm here, I'm here," She shifted, the hold around his waist tightening, her voice faltering. "They were going to tell me to stop looking for you."

"Not you," He worked the words around the rock that seemed to be residing in his throat. "Nothing could ever stop you." All he wanted to do was hold her, but he pulled away a few inches now that he could see her face: sight may have been taken for granted, but he was gonna use it. Red-rimmed eyes and a sniffly nose greeted him. "Hey,"

"Hey." She didn't ask him where he was, where he'd been, what happened. "I missed you, in case you couldn't tell."

Even *he* wasn't that dumb, stroking her hair. "How long was I gone?"

"Three and a half weeks."

It really hadn't felt like it - he'd only slept three times. But how long had he slept for...? "Guess I've missed a few things."

She smiled, pulled away a little further, and wiped her nose on the back of her hand in a most unladylike manner. Still holding onto him with the thankfully nose-free hand, she pushed the button in her radio with the other one. "This is Carter,"

Teal'c responded. "Proceed, Major Carter."

"I've found him." Her hand tightened on his. "I've found him, Teal'c!"

Teal'c expressed his concern for Jack's well being, but Jack assured him himself that he was just fine. After she gave their location and released the radio, he suddenly grabbed her other hand. "Sam, before they get here I've gotta ask you something."

The use of her first name was something she probably hadn't even noticed earlier, but she noticed it now, lifting her eyebrows. "What is it?"

If there was one good think about the darkness, it was the fact that he’d made the decision there.

Okay. Here it went. "Is there any reason you can think of - apart from fighting the Goa'uld - why I shouldn't retire?"

There went the eyes: huge, luminous, surprised. "What?"

He loved it when she was surprised. It was so rare that it happened. "You heard me. I'm just one guy - lots of other guys can do what I do out here, but..." He had to try and sell himself here. "Would you be...happy...if I retired?"

The silence got so bad that he almost considered being back in the coffin again. But she spoke, eventually, carefully.

"I think...I'd miss working with you. But..." Her head was lowered but her eyes lifted up to look at him, a smile strangely like one he'd never seen before but was pretty sure he'd dreamt about appearing on her face. "Yeah. I think I'd be *damned* happy."

And there went his own smile. The urge to kiss her was really, really, *really* strong...but he'd got this far more or less without breaking the regs, and he'd get to the end that way. He respected Hammond too much.


"Colonel O'Neill!"

Teal'c and Jonas bounded into view, apparently thinking nothing of the way he and Sam were still wrapped around each other. "Hey guys!" He had one, last, hold of her body against his, and then he moved away. "Ya miss me?"


"What was it like?"

She was lying a few inches away, facing him, a position that shouldn't have been but was resoundingly familiar. They'd been there for a while, having pushed two beds together in the infirmary despite Fraiser's objections, softly murmuring, occasionally touching.

She'd heard his report to Hammond, his vague, impersonal description, but that was all. Now that *she* finally asked *him*, he had only one answer for her:


It seemed slight, inappropriate; one word to explain so much; but then he realised it *was* appropriate because no other word, no other collection of words could adequately explain just what it had been like.


Her hand rubbed his arm.

She'd been doing that a lot since his return, mostly, he suspected, because she knew he'd already had words with Hammond.

Hammond himself - after hearing from Fraiser that Jack was going to be okay - hadn't been particularly surprised, though he had been cautious. "Are you sure this is what you want, Jack? Are you sure it's not just because of your experience on the planet?"

Experience. A word used to describe so many crappy things. "I won't say it didn't play its part in prompting the decision...but it's not *why* I made the decision, sir."

Nothing more had needed to be said. Hammond, standing beside Jack's bed, had glanced over his shoulder to where Sam and Fraiser were standing on the other side of the infirmary, trying to act as if they hadn't been eavesdropping.

When the General had eventually left (after Jack had told him he'd find a letter of resignation in the second drawer of the table in his office – it’d been there for a long time, undated), Sam's and Fraiser's grins were so large he was almost blinded.

And then he'd asked her to keep him company - Teal'c and Jonas knew better than to visit him for a while, apparently - and she'd shyly pushed another bed towards his, completely ignoring the fit Janet was having.

Eventually despairing, she'd thrown her hands up in the air and turned away. Apparently, as long as her patient was going to be okay (even if every medical textbook said he shouldn't have been), she'd let them get away with it.

So now they were here, watching each other. Her head was on the pillow, her left hand moving away from him to lie near her head. "There's so much that doesn't make sense."

"Like you, most of the time."

"Very funny," She grinned softly. "I mean...who took you? Why? Where did you go? How did you stay alive without anything to eat or drink?"


"Will they take you again? Were they observing you? Learning from you?"


"Did they even do it on purpose? Were you chosen specifically, or just at random? Were you being held on the planet, or somewhere else? Did they-?"

He kissed her. Not with the intent of anything more, not more than the briefest of brushes against her lips. The purpose was simply to shut her up.

It worked. He'd have to remember that. Pulling his head back, the fingers of his right hand barely touched the edge of her face as he stared at it, memorising. "Not everything has an explanation." He knew it was hard for her to accept. She was always questioning, challenging, wanting answers, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

But him? He was simply happy that it was over.

"I thought," Pausing, her eyes definitely moved to his lips. "I thought we weren't going to...until your resignation came through officially."

"We haven't," He objected, pleased at her startled reaction. "That wasn't breaking regs. That was a 'friend' kiss. Ya notice? Not very long, no tongues; almost chaste in fact."

That smile blossomed across her face and she closed her eyes. "Friend kiss, huh?"

"Oh yeah. Goes down real well with Teal'c."

The smile transformed into a rare chuckle. "Now *there's* something I'd pay to see..." Her words drifted off as she opened her eyes, her expression turning serious. "I was...when General Hammond said we'd have to give up looking for you soon I was...not amused."

The words triggered something.

Suddenly he remembered it. All of it. Rolling onto his back he stared at the ceiling though didn't see it, his mind deluged with memories and images and sounds, whispers, moans, and tastes...


"Sir! I mean Jack! I mean-dammit!" She was leaning over him, having climbed mostly onto his bed, shaking him by the shoulders.

Blinking, suddenly aware that his eyes were dry, he looked at her. "I remember."

Calming, but still confused, she frowned. "Remember what?"

"When I was were there. We were together; had been together for over a year, but I didn't remember any of it." Woah, had *they* been together.

The frown deepened, as a hand drifted up to touch his head. "Together in here?"

"I guess so," He would have shrugged, but didn't want to risk her deciding to move away. "It was the only thing I had to look forward to."

Smiling softly, her gaze went to his lips again. "We really shouldn't..."

"I know." Though he had a whole new set of ‘memories’ to deal with, they both respected Hammond too much to do anything under his command. "It's not so long, right?" They could wait. She was leaning across him, almost straddling him. They could wait. Besides, he didn't want their first 'real' time to be in an infirmary bed of all places...


They both sighed, though she spoke - even if she didn't look away. "What, Janet?"

"It's my medical opinion that *former* Colonel O'Neill is fit for any and all physical activities. Though don't even ask me how it's possible."

Wait, wait... "Former?"

"You'd have to ask General Hammond for further details sir, but he pulled in some favours. You were retired out of the Air Force so fast there should be skid marks across the infirmary floor."

Wow. That had to be a record. He was too surprised to even smile, staring up at the woman staring down at him with equal shock. "Is that possible?"

She shook her head, unknowing. "I guess if you've got the right connections..."

"He *does* have the red phone."

"Yeah, but do you really think he'd use it? It's not like our relationship is vital to national-"

That was enough. "You really want to quibble over procedure with me right now?"

Pausing, the grin he'd only seen twice before formed. "Nooo. I'd much rather hear more about these 'friend' kisses."

Fraiser not so discreetly moved Sam’s bed away and pulled the curtain around them, making herself scarce.

He was actually allowed to touch her. He was actually allowed to kiss her. The enormity of it suddenly struck him, and for a few seconds he couldn't breathe. And then... "You bet! Now there are all different kinds of friend kisses."

"There are?" She began lying down, half sprawled across him.

"Yep. There's the one we're already acquainted with," He repeated the movement from earlier. "And there's this one," Her cheek. "And this one," Forehead. "And-"

"Don't forget this one," She murmured, bending her head down to kiss his neck.

Ah, he liked that one. "Or this one." Her head moved up and he kissed one eyelid. "Or this one." The other.

"Can't leave *this* out," She mock moaned, kissing the end of his nose.

"Don't want anything getting offended," He agreed, pressing his lips against an earlobe.

"My mouth is offended," She gasped as he nuzzled her neck.

"It is?" Oh, she definitely liked it when he did that.

"It thinks you've been giving far too much...ohhhhh...preferential treatment to-"

Their mouths met, stopping all complaining. It was everything yet nothing he remembered. It was familiar, but different, mouths sliding and opening, hands grasping and pushing...

She pulled away, and he was grateful for her restraint. He had to keep reminding himself: not in a bed in the infirmary, not in a bed in the infirmary... "It's funny," He said, breathing heavily, partly to try and distract his body, partly because it was true.

"What is?" She asked, finding his chest fascinating.

Ohhhhhh. "When I was gone. When you were there. I was living the biggest cliché of all, and it doesn't even bother me."

"What cliché's that?" Now her hand had slid down and was under his infirmary issue top. "God, I can't believe we can do this."

Oh, neither could he. What was he...? Oh yeah. Cliché. *The* cliché. Grabbing her hand to stop it moving, just for a moment, he watched her as she looked down at him in a way she both had and hadn't done before.

There may have been no explanation, no solution, no perfect answer for what really happened, but he was starting to realise that maybe – just maybe – he owed the people who had taken him.

This was real. He was sure of it.

Releasing her hand, his moved up into her hair, threading through its short strands easily as his tugged her head down. "It was all a dream," He whispered, as he closed his eyes and found himself in her.


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