Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them. Blah, blah...
Spoilers for ‘Children of The Gods’, ‘Emancipation’, ‘Thor’s Hammer’, ‘There But For The Grace of God’, ‘Point of View’, ‘Nemesis’ and ‘Divide and Conquer’.
I’ve made some serious assumptions about an event we’ve only heard about second hand. Set in season four, before Divide and Conquer.
She should have seen it coming.
He’d come into her lab about ten minutes before the briefing was due to begin. Apparently having some time to kill before meeting up with Hammond and the rest of his team, the Colonel headed for her lab.
Of course, she now knew that ‘killing some time’ wasn’t the reason he came to see her.
Back then, she’d had no clue. She’d assumed that – as normal – he’d been bored and had sought her out. Had it been anyone else who had strolled in she would have sighed internally, rolled her eyes, and spoken through gritted teeth. With him she barely bothered anymore. She’d come to discover over the past three and a bit years that if there was any one moment when he’d stride into her lab, it would be in the middle of a delicate experiment.
So pausing the experiment for now, she idly kept up with his small talk, and tactfully moved the more expensive pieces of equipment away from his wandering hands. Sam wondered sometimes if all that fiddling said something about his personality.
Maybe she’d ask MacKenzie.
It was only when she really paid attention to him that she began to gain the sense that something was amiss. It wasn’t any one word, or look, or anything specific he did, he was just...happy. God knew that man had some mood swings, but it wasn’t often that she saw him this pleased, this damned amused with something.
He claimed it was nothing; just that he’d had a good nights sleep, a good morning, and had discovered that ‘he too had been selected to enter a competition for $100,000’.
He was particularly thrilled at the prospect of a complimentary toaster.
Sam, in all her great wisdom, had let it drop.
That was probably the big mistake.
So after tidying up her lab – and insisting that he didn’t help – they went to the briefing room.
Teal’c and Daniel were already there and not long after the newcomers joined them, Hammond appeared from his office.
According to the General, this one was a diplomatic mission. The inhabitants of a planet they’d signed a treaty with during their first year as SG-1 wanted to renegotiate parts of the treaty. Nothing major, just a few adjustments that were enough to cause them concern. SG-1 were scheduled to go through, do what they could, then return with hopefully a happy ending to the tale.
“Uh, yes.” Daniel raised his arm, hopefully about to ask the question Sam was pondering.
“Yes Dr Jackson?”
“What planet is it we’re actually going to? There are a few we formed treaties with in our first year.”
Exactly what Sam had been thinking. In fact, it did seem a little odd that Hammond hadn’t mentioned the name of the planet or the people so far. That was usually a vital piece of information. Frowning, she glanced and the Colonel and-
He was smiling.
He was still smiling.
That was it. There went the blush. There went everyone’s eyes – to her face, the Colonel’s grin, and the blush that continued to spread across her neck.
Daniel responded with an articulate “Oh.”
There wasn’t much to the briefing after that. A few instructions, a few recommendations, and then Hammond retreated to his office, at least giving Sam a compassionate look before he vanished.
How quickly Teal’c and Daniel moved she’d never know, but suddenly it was just her and the Colonel left in the briefing room, sitting on opposite sides of the table. She tried to glare at him. It wasn’t hard. “You knew.”
O’Neill shrugged, waving his hands about. “I had an inkling.”
“And you didn’t think to share this inkling?”
“Well I didn’t want to say anything just in case I was wrong. Wouldn’t want to make you panic for nothing.”
She held his gaze and lied blatantly. “I am not panicking.”
“Okay. If you say so,” Grinning again, he pushed his chair back and stood up. “Anyway, we should probably get-”
She had to ask. “Why us? Why do we have to go? I mean we do have a diplomatic team who deals with this kind of thing.”
Sighing, he sat down again. “Because we’re who they dealt with the first time round.” Finally showing a smidgen of compassion, he smiled with humour that wasn’t aimed at her. “It’ll be fine, Carter. So what’s a little embarrassment? God knows I’ve suffered enough of it.”
“Yes, but that’s the point of your entire life. It’s not the point of mine.”
His eyebrows had gone up. “Well...I’ll take that as a compliment, but only because I understand this is a trying time for you.” Now he didn’t sound the least bit sincere. “I know you’re not comfortable with it, but you’re a great 2IC and a nice person to boot. Besides, we have to go...”
And here it came.
“...she asked for you by name.”
“What? Why? How?”
That malicious grin was back. “She finds you ‘entertaining’.”
Oh this was *not* a good day. “Entertaining. Wonderful.”
“Come on,” He said, standing up and heading out of the briefing room.
Bracing herself for the inevitable, she followed as he made his way to the locker room. “So this inkling you had...”
“Seems to have contained a lot of information. Must have been a pretty big inkling.”
“Oh it was. Huge. Honkin’. Gargantuan.”
“The General told you before you came to my lab, didn’t he?”
Sam had long become accustomed to the roller-coaster ride the Stargate provided – which basically meant she’d long since stopped feeling nauseous. Still, whenever she exited from the Stargate's wormhole, there was always a brief moment of “Wow!”
There wasn’t this time.
As she’d feared, there was a large group of people clustered around the base of the steps that led to the Stargate. Thankfully *she* didn’t appear to be among them, so it wasn’t all bad news.
Stepping down in the crowd, Daniel renewed their greetings. There were a few faces Sam recognised from the last time they’d been here, but they were mostly strangers, obviously eager to get a look at the ‘travellers’. A couple of them obviously eager just to see her, whispering. ‘The Blonde Woman.’
Great, she’d gone down in local legend now.
Murmuring hellos to the people she knew who were at least too polite to say anything there, and then greeting everyone in general, she frowned when Daniel had finished conversing with their main representative.
He turned to the rest of SG-1, but was obviously speaking to Sam. “They’re taking us to see her.”
Great. Right. Okay. And if the Colonel would just wipe that grin off his face...
Wedrena Loreti, Most Highest Governess of Vallera and the Valleran people, Speaker of The Revered One’s Words, Ruler of the Thirteen Universes...hadn’t changed much.
In fact, her surroundings seemed to have changed more than she had. It wasn’t a huge change, but thanks to the initial treaty with Earth they’d learned different methods of construction, and that was evident in the Noble Room (although as the Colonel had asked on their first visit, how the hell could a room be noble?) Though of course the original structure had been left untainted – it would be unholy to change it – additions had been made for the sake of convenience.
Acknowledging that focusing on the room was an attempt to ignore the situation, Sam decided to face it head on and turned her attention to the woman who obviously wanted it.
She wasn’t hard to miss.
Precisely in the middle of the Noble Room – according to legend, it was measured to the Valleran equivalent of a millimetre – was a lowered rectangular hole, roughly two feet deep. Sam remembered her surprise upon seeing it originally; even though they hadn’t encountered many races prior to their first contact with the Vallerans, she’d assumed that leaders would prefer to sit on higher ground, either for tactical advantage or simply to look over their subjects.
Daniel, naturally, had been fascinated, and soon discovered that the reason was so that the Most Highest Governess did not forget the importance of her subjects by letting them look down at her, rather than the other way round.
The Vallerans had a happy way of life, and were well treated. Not as technologically advanced as Earth, they had nonetheless created a healthy balance between ‘their ancestors ways’ and the new technologies they were discovering.
Happy, healthy, and fond of a particular drink at parties.
Inside the triangle, amongst the masses of cushion-like things, stroking the same dog-like animal she’d had almost three years ago, sat Wedrena Loreti, Most Highest Governess of Vallera. She didn’t look like she’d aged a single day.
Knowing full well that Wedrena Loreti didn’t care for too much ceremony despite her wealth of titles, Daniel got right down to business. Raising his right palm in the traditional Valleran greeting, he spoke. “Most Highest Governess, we are honoured and pleased to see you again.”
“As I am honoured and pleased to see you again, my friends.” Smiling kindly, she stood up, but did not leave the triangle. “Colonel O’Neill, Daniel Jackson, Teal’c...and Captain Carter.”
Sam raised her palm. “Most Highest Governess, I am now known as Major Carter.”
Frowning, the Governess looked at Daniel for confirmation and explanation.
He was pleased to oblige. “Uh...Major is a higher rank than Captain. Colonel O’Neill and Major Carter’s other superiors felt she had become too important to remain a Captain. She is now of higher status.”
Understanding, the Governess nodded and looked at Sam. “I am pleased to discover this, Major Carter. And are *you* pleased to be here?”
Umm... “Of course, Most Highest Governess.”
She shook her head. “You lie poorly, my friend.”
“Only because she hasn’t practiced,” O’Neill piped up, apparently giving her a break by drawing Wedrena’s attention. “Give her a few more years and she’ll be perfect. Never takes her long to pick up anything.”
Amused, Wedrena faced him. “And you, O’Neill. Are you still a Colonel?”
“Oh yeah. This old guy won’t be going anywhere up the career ladder.”
“This does not concern you?”
“Nope. Quite happy where I am.”
Sam was pleased to hear that. So was Wedrena, apparently.
Nodding, she smiled. “We will be provided with refreshments shortly, and then we will discuss the amendments to the treaty. Please, Teal’c, tell me of the health of your symbiote.”
She had to admit, things hadn’t gone too badly so far. Okay, so there had been a few snickers from the Helpers when they’d brought in the drinks – the same Helpers who’d served them drinks at the party – but that was it. Wedrena had made no mention of it at all, except to fervently assure Sam that the refreshments were not ‘those’ kind of drinks.
Maybe she’d been worked up over nothing. In any case, it was ridiculous to be embarrassed. How often was she going to see these people? It’d been three years since the last visit. And it wasn’t as if the incident was her own fault. The Governess had presumed she’d already been informed that it was a ‘special’ drink. So if anything, it was *her* fault.
Not that she was about to say that.
Yep, things were going quite well. Basic discussion of the treaty had begun, and if she could just get through this mission without seeing-
“Treya, there you are!”
“Come and join us.”
Following his Most Highest Governesses bidding, Treya Furell, Watcher of the Twelfth Universe, hurried towards them.
Terrific. Absolutely terrific.
SG-1 were clustered around one point on the outside of the triangle, but Treya was permitted to sit inside the triangle, with Wedrena. Wedrena herself did not leave the triangle during daylight, except for important occasions or dire emergencies. This, of course, had caused the Colonel to comment three years ago that she must have really good bladder control.
As Treya positioned himself next to the Governess, Sam couldn’t help but compare them – it didn’t seem possible that two such completely different looking people could be sitting next to each other. Wedrena was tall, elegant, dark skinned and dark haired. She was clothed in much the same outfit she’d been wearing all those years ago; a long red skirt covered with sewed on Valleran symbols, and what was basically a tank top covering her chest. There were no jewels, no crowns.
Treya on the other hand, had hair so blonde it was almost white. His skin was so pale he always looked deathly ill, and he was no taller than 5’5”. His outfit, however, was just as revealing as it had always been. What amounted to little more than scraps of cloth covered the essentials, but that was all.
He was the only one they’d ever seen dressed that way.
One was enough.
Wedrena spoke. “Treya, I am sure you remember SG-1. Colonel O’Neill, Dr Jackson, Teal’c, and Major Carter.”
Lifting his right palm, Treya nodded. “It is ‘nice’ to see you again,” He greeted, employing one of the words they’d introduced him to first time round. Pausing, he pointed at Daniel. “You hair has changed since I saw you last.”
“Yes,” Daniel agreed. “I had it cut.”
“It looks much better.”
Treya really hadn’t changed, had he? Still, as he was focusing on other members of the team, maybe she’d get lucky.
“I, uh...thank you.”
“And Colonel O’Neill,”
“Yeah?” His voice was strained already.
“Your hair is a different colour.”
Sam bit back a smile.
O’Neill faked one of his own. “Well, this is what happens when you get old, you know.”
“You are not old,” Treya stated.
“No. You are middle-aged.”
Oh she wasn’t going to laugh, she-
-*really* wasn’t going to laugh. “Yes, Treya?” She dreaded the words that were about to come out of his mouth.
“Your name has changed since we last met.”
“You’re right, Treya. I’m now of higher status,” She added, repeating Daniel’s words and feeling just a little bit proud.
Treya nodded in comprehension, then continued. “Your clothes are also different since the last time we met.”
The nice, comfortable, proud feeling vanished. “They are?” Oh no...
“Yes. There are more of them.”
A snicker came from somewhere. It wasn’t Daniel or Teal’c.
Holding Treya’s gaze, she was determined to press on. “You’re absolutely correct, Treya. I am wearing more clothes. I find it warmer that way.”
The snicker became a chuckle, but at least it wasn’t aimed at her this time.
She knew, of course, that Treya wasn’t being rude. It was simply the way he was: something to do with being Watcher of the Twelfth Universe. Because of this title he was encouraged to be as open as possible about everything; his body, his observations, his opinions.
Daniel had been intrigued by the whole ‘thirteen universes’ thing, but had yet to get a straight answer out of anyone. The universes apparently represented ‘all of life, in different ways’.
Whatever that meant.
Apparently having had his say, Treya thankfully fell silent.
Wedrena spoke. “Treya has been my most helpful adviser in discussing possible adjustments for the treaty; I know I can always count on him for a honest opinion. Now that we are all here, let us begin the discussion.”
“You know, there are some things I really wish ol’ Treya wouldn’t share with us,” O’Neill commented as he sat next to Sam.
The discussions had concluded a few minutes ago after only a few hours. The adjustments had been easily made with a few concessions on each side, after they discovered the adjustments had been necessary due to the changing conditions on Vallera, as they became more technologically advanced. Not every sentence of the original treaty was appropriate anymore.
After being led out of the Noble Room by a Helper, they’d been taken to a smaller room where a meal was waiting for them. Left by themselves – and feeling distinctly hungry – they’d eagerly begun eating.
Shifting in her chair, Sam grinned. “I take it you’re referring to his ‘need to urinate’.”
He studied what looked like a piece of melon dubiously. “That would be what I’m referring to, yeah. Does this look safe to you?”
“We ate here last time.”
“Yeah, and look what happened,” He mock-leered at her.
Rolling her eyes, she swallowed something distinctly chicken-like. “That was the drink. Not the food.”
“In any case,” Daniel interrupted as he took a seat on the opposite side of the table, next to Teal’c. “I’m sure all this stuff is safe. The Governess wouldn’t let it happen again.”
“Can you be certain of that, Daniel Jackson?”
“Well...no. Not a hundred per cent certain. But I am certain she wouldn’t do it on purpose, or with malicious intent.”
Sam had to agree with that. Wedrena didn’t have a malicious cell in her body.
“I guess,” O’Neill muttered, still studying his melon slice gingerly.
They lapsed into a happy silence for a few moments, before footsteps could be heard approaching. All turned towards the doorway, where a Helper shortly appeared.
“Major Carter,” She greeted, surprising Sam and ignoring everyone else. “When you are finished here, Her Most Highest Governess wishes to see you. Privately.”
Still shocked, Carter managed a nod. “Thank you. I will be there shortly.” Waiting until the Helper had gone, Sam turned back to face the rest of her team. She shrugged.
“Popular gal,” O’Neill commented. “Say, if she offers you any more of that drink-”
Here was that familiar warning tone from their archaeologist. “Jack...”
“-get some for Daniel, will ya? He seriously needs to loosen up.”
Unsurprisingly, Wedrena was still inside the triangle when Sam walked into the Noble Room. Moving towards the middle of the room, Sam lifted her palm. “Most Highest Governess,”
“Major Carter,” She shifted between the vast expanse of cushions. “Thank you for visiting me so quickly.”
Coming to within a few feet of the triangle, Sam paused. “I am pleased to do so. For what reason did you want to see me?”
Wedrena picked up her small poodle-like dog and idly stroked its back. “Are you happy to be here?”
To say that Sam was surprised at the question was something of an understatement. She couldn’t quite believe she’d heard it at first. It was not what she’d been expecting. “Excuse me?”
“Are you happy to be here?”
Well, that definitely *was* the question she’d asked then. “I, uh, well-”
“Let me put this another way,” Wedrena scrubbed intently behind her little dogs ears. The dog seemed to enjoy it. “You are not happy to be here, and I am curious as to why. Is it because of your behaviour the last time you were here?”
All right, this was getting a little awkward, but it was probably best not to lie to the Most Highest Governess of an alien planet. “Yes. It is.”
“I’m...” Okay, this was as personal as she was getting. “I’m not comfortable with that level of...openness. It’s, uh, quite substantially more open than I’m used to showing. It’s quite substantially more open than *anyone* on Earth is used to showing.”
“We are different,” Wedrena concurred. “I understand this. But surely you do not think we would mock you for expressing genuine emotions?”
Sam couldn’t entirely agree with that. “You must have seen or heard yourself of your peoples fascination with me. There’s been enough murmuring going around when I walk by to create an entirely new language.”
“Yes, they are intrigued by you,” the Governess admitted. “But this is only because your reaction was much greater than normal due to our differences in body chemistry. It is not out of amusement that they study you; merely interest.”
“I see, I just...don’t like being the centre of all that attention.”
A thought occurred to Wedrena. “And what of your team mates?”
“What of my team mates?”
“If that kind of behaviour is not openly displayed on Earth, are you worried they will mock you?”
Sam’s response was immediate, and telling. “Daniel and Teal’c would never do that.”
“And what of your Colonel O’Neill?” Wedrena let go of her dog, a smile forming on her face.
Grinning, Carter shook her head. “Noticed that about his personality, huh?”
“It is hard to miss.”
“True,” Sam agreed. “Yet it’s not so bad.”
“And it does not bother you that he does this?”
When Sam took the time to think about it, she realised that it really didn’t. “No. Not the way he does it.”
Remaining silent for some time, Wedrena studied her closely. “Do you fully comprehend what happened to you when you were last here?”
Here were the events as Sam recollected them: she drank the drink, she went ‘happy’, and her team dragged her home in disgrace. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand.”
She spoke her next words carefully. “You experienced the Twelfth Universe.”
“Oh.” What? “The Twelfth Universe is a drink?”
“No,” the Governess responded, amused. “The Twelfth Universe is a way of life.”
Sam’s brain was starting to connect things together. “Wait a minute...drinking that drink makes your behaviour change, so you experience a different way of life?”
“A particular aspect of life,” Wedrena corrected.
“What aspect did I experience?”
“Yes. Cast free of the barriers we build – inside and out – you embraced your life and your friends fully. Everyone should experience that.”
Yeah – embracing her friends was where all the trouble had started. “What are the other Universes?”
The smile turned into an enigmatic one. “You do not need to know. Normally I would not even share this much with you.”
“Then why have you?”
“To apologise,” Wedrena responded, picking up her dog again. She seemed to use that for comfort as often as the Colonel did by fiddling with things.
“There’s no need-”
She would not be interrupted. “Though it was caused accidentally by our differences, and with no evil intent, I was still the means of causing you embarrassment. Though I do not regret allowing you to experience the Twelfth Universe, I do regret the outcome. Now,” She lowered the dog again. “We will have a celebration tonight, in honour of the refined treaty and to say goodbye to SG-1. I would appreciate it if you would inform your team mates.”
“Of course. We would be honoured to attend.” Just so long as too many people didn’t stare at her.
“I am delighted to hear that. Now if you would be kind enough to excuse me, I must have a meeting with two of my Watchers.”
Making her goodbyes, Sam nodded and walked away. As she left the Noble Room a Helper rushed in, and she caught the beginning of Wedrena’s instructions to her:
“Bring me twelve and one. I have urgent...”
If the Governess hadn't changed much, neither had her style of celebrating. Strangely enough - or perhaps, when Sam thought about it, it wasn't so strange at all - it seemed much the same as any celebration they'd encountered on any other planet. Earth included.
Lots of people, lots of food, lots of drink, and lots of noise.
They were mostly in the Noble Room, but as often happened with parties large groups of people were beginning to spill out of the room. Now that it was night time, Wedrena had left the triangle and was mingling with her fellow Vallerans.
There were no security guards.
There was no need for any.
Daniel had reunited with a friend he'd met first time round, a young man by the name of Groum, who was fascinated by the fact that one person could speak so many different languages. The last time Sam had stopped to talk to them, Daniel had been teaching Groum to say "Please can you direct me to the facilities," in Goa'uld.
Teal'c was surrounded by children. They'd been fascinated by him before - the man who was so big and silent. Since their last visit several of them had hit puberty, and Sam suspected that more than one of them had developed a crush.
In any case, every one of them hung onto his every word as he described SG-1's exploits through the gate. And occasionally, one of the girls would make a request that would display his physical prowess to the best of its advantage.
He knew very well why they were doing so.
He didn't object.
As for herself, Treya had kept Sam company for a while. Though she was still a little fazed by such a small loincloth on such a white body, she was growing to respect the man. He may have been more comfortable with his nudity than anyone else was, but there was something to be said for that sense of freedom.
That was how it had been before. When she looked back now at her behaviour she couldn't help but feel that twinge of mortification, but when it had happened...God, it'd been indescribable.
She'd never felt that happy in her entire life. Never. There was no fear, no doubt, just the knowledge that life was a wonderful experience to be enjoyed. Even the bad things that had happened were another part of the rare gift of life. Every moment - good or bad - should be fully embraced. Every second lived as if it were the last. Every emotion to be acted on as soon as it occurred.
Hence the embracing of her team, and the removal of...
Maybe she'd been too hard on Treya. After all, it wasn't his fault that his ways embarrassed her. She was the one with the issues: not him. Why should he have to change to please her?
Besides, she remembered what being that free felt like. If nothing else, she should respect his decision to act that way. Laying yourself open to that much potential pain and embarrassment without the 'aid' of the Twelfth Universe...it was a remarkable thing.
"I have noticed you stare at Colonel O'Neill more than you used to."
Or not. "Excuse me Treya, Ireallyshouldbegoing." She leapt up from her seat, grasping her drink, and looked for escape as her mind went into overdrive.
This was ridiculous; she didn't look at the Colonel more than she was supposed to. She hadn't even been looking at him when Treya had commented on it, for crying out loud.
For crying out loud? She was thinking 'for crying out loud' now?
This couldn't be good.
Well, it didn't actually mean anything. It just wouldn't look good if what Treya had said spread to other people. Of course she looked at the Colonel more than she used to; they really were friends now, rather than acquaintances who were just getting used to each other. She was sure she looked at Daniel and Teal'c more than she used to too.
Finding an empty seat surrounded by a few more empty seats, she gratefully sat down and sipped at her drink - definitely just water. She needed to think; her reaction to Treya's statement was disturbing.
Thinking about it logically, if those alternate universes had proved anything, it was that everywhere except here they were married or about to be married. Obviously, her reaction was caused by the fact that she was projecting her thoughts about those other O'Neill's and Carter's onto herself and the Colonel. It didn't actually mean that the same thing was happening between *them*.
Alternate realities were alternate for very good reasons.
Wedrena stopped to talk briefly, but Sam urged her to continue on her way. There were other people for her to visit with, and Sam really wanted to be left alone.
Naturally, that wasn't about to happen.
Not long after the Governess had continued on, she heard a soft "Hey," close to her right ear, and then the empty chair on that same side was filled with the body of her superior officer.
"Colonel," She greeted, mentally screaming. Thinking about him while he was right *there* was more than a little off-putting.
However, as she studied him out of the corner of her eye something did seem to be amiss. He seemed a little tense, a little anxious about something. He was clutching his own drink and was even rocking back and forth slightly. Just for one wild, brief second, she wondered if he'd been given a 'special' drink, but she just as quickly eliminated the idea. This was not at all how she'd acted after her exposure to it.
No, this was probably just the result of the Colonel not enjoying himself. He'd never been fond of entertaining alien diplomats - or anything diplomatic, actually. Especially not in big crowds. His training meant that he was always on the look out for potential badness, and in a space the size of this, there was plenty of room for it.
So shrugging off that thought, her ridiculous over-reaction to Treya's statement, and her even more ridiculous over-reaction to her over-reaction, she sighed and decided to enjoy herself.
She'd only been worried about appearances. That was all.
"Quite a crowd," O'Neill commented.
Agreeing, Sam nodded. "Yes sir. I think Teal'c's entertaining most of them." Smiling, she watched as the Jaffa lifted up a boy who couldn't have been more than seven years old.
The Colonel sighed loudly, fiddling with his cup. "You know what I think?"
She was tempted to say 'not much', even if she didn't really mean it. Had he been in a better mood she probably would have. "What?"
That was an odd statement. Confused, she continued absently watching Teal'c as she asked "Why?" and brought her cup up to her lips.
"Because I'm in love with you."
The Colonel waited patiently for her coughing fit to subside.
"*What*?!" Still gasping for breath, her mind went zooming off again. Clearly this was unusual behaviour, and he obviously didn't mean it. Maybe this was the effect of the Twelfth Universe after all.
"I'm in love with you."
He sounded absolutely sincere. His eyes were...
Eyes. That was all they were. Eyes. Nothing special about them at all. "But what you mean is that you love me as a friend, right?" Sam grasped desperately onto another explanation, hoping that he just hadn’t meant quite what he’d said, ignoring the fact that even if he hadn’t quite meant what he’d said it would still be wildly out of character behaviour.
"No," He refuted, probably not knowing how thrilled and horrified she was just hearing that one word. "That's how I feel about Daniel and Teal'c. I love them, but not the way I love you."
Her head felt like it was about explode, every regulation she'd ever heard, seen or read whizzed through her mind, the pros and cons were being alternately weighed up and ignored...and there, in the middle of it all, was Wedrena.
It was almost as if the crowd parted on purpose, but suddenly she could see the Governess some twenty feet away, looking at them.
She was smiling.
Suddenly comprehending and not thinking for the first time in years, Sam launched herself towards Wedrena, shouting. "You-!"
For the first time in her life, Wedrena Loreti, Most Highest Governess of Vallera and the Valleran people, Speaker of The Revered One’s Words, Ruler of the Thirteen Universes...needed security guards.
"You feel like telling me what's going on?"
Deliberately avoiding the gaze of one of her best friends, Sam fidgeted in the chair. "Nothing. I just...over-reacted." She seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
Daniel sat opposite her, using that 'I know you're hiding something and although I wont force it out of you, I will try to guilt it out of you' gaze.
Since the celebrations had come to a resounding halt, she'd been forcibly moved out of the Noble Room and into the place where they'd eaten lunch earlier. Now, however, there were no Vallerans in the room. Frankly, Sam suspected they wanted nothing more to do with her.
"'Over-reacted'," Daniel quoted, disbelieving. Not the fact that she'd over-reacted, just that it wasn't the whole truth.
"Yes," Sam confirmed defiantly. "And believe me Daniel, I really didn't mean to scare anyone like that."
"I know that, Sam. I'm sure on some level even the Governess knows that. But..." He leant forward. "...you learnt a long time ago - just as we all did - that raising your left hand like that is tantamount to declaring a death sentence on the receiver."
"I *know*," She really had. She'd seen the proof of it, too. She'd barely raised her hand when every Valleran in range - and even some that shouldn't have been physically possible of being in range - had surrounded the Governess, creating a wall between her and 'The Blonde Woman'.
Only that wasn't what she was called anymore. She heard them whispering as she'd been herded out of the Noble Room, trying to apologise.
'The Violent Blonde Woman'.
That was exactly how she wanted to be referred to in the official report.
"I just forgot," Sam continued. "Just for that brief second, and I *really* needed to get my point across."
Yeah, right. Like she was going to explain that one. "I, uh...forget."
Now Daniel was wearing his 'I know you're lying through your teeth' expression. "Would this have anything to do with Jack's behaviour lately?"
At least it wasn't just her... "The Colonel's been acting strangely?"
"He hugged me earlier. Voluntarily. When I hadn't just come back from the brink of death. He wasn't as happy as you were when you...but I took this as being uncharacteristic behaviour, and deduced he'd had some exposure to the drink. After he left me I tried to find you, but then-"
"I flipped out."
Covering her face with her hands, Sam sighed. "God..."
Her friend spoke again, softly. "Is whatever he said really that bad?"
Peeking through the gaps between her fingers, she frowned. "Daniel..."
"Sam, do you really think I hadn't noticed-"
Her hands pulled away from her face. "Daniel, whatever you're about to say I beg you not to say it."
It wasn't Daniel's voice she heard next. From a few feet away, obviously just outside the doorway, came Colonel O'Neill's.
"Teal'c, let me go in there, will ya?"
"I do not believe that would be wise, O'Neill." Great. Teal'c was there too.
"Do you not see that your behaviour has been unusual?"
"What are you talking about?"
Teal'c hesitated. Teal'c *never* hesitated. "I have been aware for some time of your feelings for Major Carter. However, it has never been your practice to openly admit them."
Feelings for Major Carter? He had *real* feelings for *her*? This wasn't the result of the drink?
No. She refused to believe it. It was unacceptable.
Daniel was lifting his eyebrows and looking at her, very much amused.
She glared at him.
Unknowing of the silent staring match in the room, O'Neill responded. "You have always been wise, my friend."
"If you are about to ask for another hug-"
"All I want is to speak to the woman I love. What could possibly be wrong with that?"
Apart from the fact that it was against regulations? Apart from the fact that it was wrong? Apart from the fact that this wasn't him? Apart from the fact that his behaviour was completely freaking her out?
Apart from the fact that she really, really, didn't want to be left alone with him?
"Very well, O'Neill."
Daniel stood up.
Sam's eyes widened. "What are you doing?"
"Giving you two some privacy."
"Daniel!" This was *not* a good time for his sense of humour.
"Oh not in the way you're thinking," He insisted. "But whatever is said in here...do you really think it's a good idea to have witnesses?"
Not a bad point, but... "It's a little late for that."
It was a little late for anything. The Colonel had walked into the room.
How quickly Teal’c and Daniel moved she’d never know, but suddenly it was just her and the Colonel staring at each other.
Oh. Right. Remember to speak. "Hey. Colonel. Sir." This was not good.
He smiled. "Carter, there's no need to be nervous."
Carter? He'd announced several times that he was in love with her and he was still calling her Carter? "There isn't?" Ha!
Daniel should really come back. Why wasn't Daniel coming back?
He took a few steps forward. "I'm not going to throw myself at you."
She took a few steps backward. "You're not?"
Sam hadn't thought that was a shame. She really hadn't.
"Will you please stop moving away from me?"
"I'm not moving."
She kept moving.
Sighing, he stopped walking. "Carter...I know this is nuts, okay? I know I shouldn't be saying these things but I am anyway. And despite that, I'm also *very* well aware that I can't do anything about the way I feel."
"You are?" This was...better. She was still officially freaked, but there was some measure of relief to be taken from his statement.
"Yes. Trust me on this Carter; I respect you too much to risk doing anything that might hurt your career."
She couldn't help but notice that he didn't mention his own.
"Now," He indicated towards the chairs. "You wanna sit down?"
In any case, Sam had reached the wall. There was nowhere else to back up to. Moving quickly she almost leapt into the nearest chair. "Sure."
Still moving slowly, he grabbed the chair closest to him and dragged it towards her chair, its feet scraping loudly on the floor. Once it was in position, he sat down facing her. "Are you okay?"
"*Okay*?" He was seriously asking that?
"I mean...you weren't hurt, earlier? When they dragged you away?"
Oh he had to bring *that* up. "Oh. No. I'm fine."
"Good. I'm glad. I don't like it when you're injured."
Okay, this really *was* freaking her out. Dealing with a Jack O'Neill who was emotionally articulate and unafraid to voice his feelings was not part of her normal duties. She was definitely due for a raise. Or promotion. Either would do. "Sir...you realise these feelings you're having for me aren't real, don't you?"
He leant towards her, seeming genuinely confused. "What do you mean?"
"It's the effects of the drink." It had to be. "While your behaviour isn't quite the same as mine was when I was exposed to it," Thank God! "There's nothing else I can think of that would explain it. Maybe you drank one of the other Universes. Maybe there's a 'love drink'."
"Or maybe I'm just saying what I really feel for once."
"Maybe..." Not that she believed it for a second. "And we'll find out. But would you mind doing something for me?"
"Will you *please* stop playing with my hand?"
“Governess!” Sam exclaimed as the woman in question swept into the room. Clamping both of her hands firmly to her side, she tried to ignore the man who had recently been holding one of them. “I am *so* sorry – you must allow me to apologise-”
“I have informed my fellow Vallerans,” Wedrena interrupted, “That you are suffering from a temporary neurological condition. It is the only explanation they would accept.”
Oh. It wasn’t quite what she’d been expecting, but it could have been far worse. “Thank you for your understanding. My behaviour was completely-”
“But I do *not* understand,” The Governess corrected. “To be honest, I find your behaviour quite perplexing.” Apparently unconcerned that ‘The Violent Blonde Woman’ – who had earlier made an attempt on her life without knowing it – was standing so close to her, she continued. “Would you explain it to me?”
Explain it. Without going into a detailed explanation of the past three years? Was that even impossible?
But...Sam couldn’t help but feel that she owed the Governess. Though she had little doubt that Wedrena was responsible for the Colonel’s current...inebriation, she probably had no idea how difficult it made things. And Sam had threatened her in front of her subjects, which would never look good no matter what kind of spin you tried to put on it.
“Please,” Sam pointed towards another empty chair, then sat in her own and couldn’t help but meet *his* gaze as she did so. He was smiling, just a little, the way he did that made his eyes- “Governess,” Sam dragged her gaze away from him, not caring that Wedrena hadn’t actually sat down yet. “Am I right in thinking that you are responsible for Colonel O’Neill’s current behaviour?” Yes, she was quite proud of herself. Now that she had a project, something to work on, she’d be okay.
That was blunt. “In that case, do you mind if I ask why?”
Tipping her head to one side, Wedrena appeared genuinely puzzled. “He was mocking you. He made fun of you simply for expressing how you felt. That is wrong.”
Sam didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or thank her profusely. “So...what? You thought you’d teach him a lesson?”
“I have not heard that term before, but...yes. It seems an appropriate description. I like you, Major Carter. I do not like the idea of anyone mocking you.”
She was doing this to be nice? “And again, I appreciate your help but...you really didn’t need to – I like that he does that!”
Wedrena smiled. “You do?”
Jac-O’Neill-the Colonel – dammit – smiled. “You do?”
What had happened to being in control?
“It’s just the way our relation-friendship works; it’s a very comfortable friendship that’s built up over the past three years.”
Why did he keep repeating everything? “Yes, but Governess...you don’t understand how what you’ve done complicates things.”
“I do not understand.”
No, of course she didn’t. She hadn’t spent the past double figured number of years working for the Air Force. She hadn’t had to put her life under threat every day for the last three years. She hadn’t had to work with a man who- “Where we come from,” Sam announced. “There are regulations.”
“More like obstacles,” He murmured.
Wedrena was intrigued “Obstacles?”
“Yeah,” O’Neill sighed. “If it wasn’t for those, I probably would have asked her out for a drink at least...oh, a year ago.”
This was most definitely news to Sam. At least a year ago? Had this really been going on that long?
No, she had to remember she’d disavowed the theory that these were his true feelings. It was just the drink. “In the organisation we work for,” She stated clearly, trying not to look at him. “We are not permitted to have anything more than friendship.”
“But that is terrible-”
“Some see it that way, however-”
“-when it is clear that you have so much more than that.”
“-it helps to-excuse me?”
“It is quite clear that you have more than friendship already.”
This was not happening. “You haven’t by any chance been drinking the Twelfth Universe yourself, have you?”
Wedrena grinned. “No, my friend. I have simply been observing.”
“The way Colonel O’Neill has been acting since his entrance to a new place. The way you have been acting in response to his behaviour.”
“How have I been acting?”
“You gotta admit Carter,” He said. “You did over-react.”
*That* again. “I was just surprised! Why does everyone think this is a big deal? Are you all in on it? I realised someone had done something to my superior officer and my friend, and I felt I had to intervene.”
“By proclaiming death on the person who had done so,” the Colonel stated casually.
“No,” She gritted her teeth. “I already explained this to Daniel; I forgot. I stopped thinking just for a second and that was when-”
“You lost it?”
Sam had long since become annoyed. “If that’s the term you have to use, then yes. I didn’t think, and I lost it.”
“Then it would seem,” the Governess pondered. “That you never needed to experience the Twelfth Universe in the first place when you visited us three years ago.”
“Really? And why’s that?” She’d had enough. She really had.
“Because when you do not think, your actions are far more revealing than any drink could ever display.”
Okay. That was it. She had officially passed ‘that’ point. “Tell you what,” She stood up, surprising everyone – herself included. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. So, let’s stop me thinking for a moment and everything will turn out right, won’t it?”
“No, sir. Clearly everyone knows better than I do on this subject; we’re obviously meant to be together and who gives a damn about regulations, morals, or *respect*, right?”
She was well beyond reason. Just as she’d said, she’d stopped thinking. “Governess, you have met me *twice*. You don’t know me at all! Nothing about my hopes and fears. He’s known me for over three years and he barely knows me, so how the hell are you supposed to-”
“Carter!” Having apparently passed his point too he finally stood up, grabbing her by the arms. “Are you trying to get me to kiss you? ‘Cause that’s all I can think of at the moment to shut you up!”
Of all the typical, sexist...in that instant, she regressed three years. “Oh I get it! The *woman* is being run by her emotions, so obviously she needs to be seen to by a ma-”
“Hey!” His attitude had most definitely not softened. “I am *not* one of the many jerks you must have encountered before the Stargate project; I *am* the jerk who’s in love with you now, and despite what the Governess thinks and – as I said earlier – I would *never* do *anything* to hurt you career!”
It shouldn’t have come out.
It should never, ever have come out.
It did anyway.
“But I want you to.”
“Governess!” Daniel exclaimed, stepping away from Teal’c as she stampeded by. He didn’t know why he was surprised; he’d seen her go in the room originally. Frankly, he’d been somewhat astounded that she’d gone in there alone. Not that he thought either Sam or Jack would do anything to her, but given Jack’s ‘different’ behaviour, and Sam’s apparent development of a ‘neurological condition’... “Are you-?”
“I am well Dr Jackson, thank you for your concern.”
Actually, when he thought about it she looked quite amused by something – but he had other things to worry about. Turning towards the room his friends were in, he planned to walk in and-
Recognising her voice, he immediately turned back. “Governess?”
“I do not think it would be ‘safe’ for you to go in there at this moment.”
Frowning, he attempted a smile and shot a quick look to Teal’c. “Probably not. But...although I couldn’t hear everything going on in there earlier, I did hear a lot of shouting. I’m just a little worried I’ll have to pull Sam and Jack off of each other.”
“Yes,” Her lips twitched and her eyes narrowed with a humour he didn’t understand. “I believe you may be right.”
This was one of those very rare moments where she literally wanted to curl up and die of embarrassment. She wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole, wanted to bury her head in the sand – any one of numerous clichés that would suit this situation.
Nope, scratch that.
She didn’t want one of those clichés to happen; she wanted all of them.
Fate being the malign mistress that she was wasn’t about to let that happen. So, Sam had to take the situation into her own hands. She had to take him...
There was no power on Earth, Vallera, or any planet she’d ever been to that would compel her to finish that thought.
Something had to be done.
It may not have been what Wedrena *thought* was going to be done (she’d seen the knowing smirk), but that was probably the point.
Sam had started doing it again.
The 'thing she never should have said' (forever after referred to as such) had been followed by a long, uncomfortable, and too silent moment.
Well, silent apart from the obvious noise of Wedrena trying - and failing - to creep quietly out of the room...and that was what seemed to do it. All those years of playing by the rules, keeping things contained, confining emotions to a box marked 'unimportant'...had been shoved out the figurative window by one act of mindless speaking.
And it was the sound of Wedrena's sandals on the cement floor that brought Sam resoundingly back to reality.
That was why, now, they were sitting at opposite ends of a very long table.
The very same table they'd eaten lunch off of.
She really needed to do something to take control of the situation.
It was the Colonel who had spoken. The something she’d really needed to do turned out to be memorising the grain of the wood in the table.
Oh. Look at that knothole. Quite impressive.
"Interesting?" If he'd picked any other word, she probably wouldn't have been quite so reactive. "No, it's really not. Obviously I've been under a lot of stress, which - given recent circumstances - is not unexpected. In fact, I think it's quite clear that the combination of dealing with your current condition and being tag teamed by you and Wedrena prompted me to say something I didn't really mean just to shut you up. Not unlike your own reaction to the Twelfth Universe."
"There's been no proof that the drink forces you to say things you don't mean."
"There's also been no conclusive proof that it is forcing you to express how you really feel openly."
That most definitely amused him. "You wouldn't call your own experience with the drink conclusive?"
She was not going to blush. "No, I wouldn't. I was the test subject and obviously cannot be counted on for an honest and impartial account. To do a conclusive test it would take weeks of study. I would need to set up the proper controls, do a full chemical study of the substance in question, test its reaction on many different subjects after a complete examination of their normal behaviour. Take-"
“Wow,” He drawled slowly. “All that...just to try and prove that I’m not in love with you.”
“Has it even occurred to you that these people have been using this stuff for *centuries*, and that even without the scientific proof they *might* just know what they’re talking about?”
“Haven’t you ever had a feeling that you just knew was right?”
Sam felt like she’d been sucker-punched. Daniel had said those very words – or words very similar, at least – to her three years ago. At the time she hadn’t paid that much attention to them, classifying them as yet another of Daniel’s attempts to make her *understand*. The words had meant nothing to her then; at least, she hadn’t fully comprehended what it was he’d been trying to say until this very moment.
This moment where they were eight feet apart, separated by a table, on an alien planet where he was being so damned patronising she wanted to scream, and she’d just tried to kill the reigning monarch/leader/Governess.
This, of all moments, was when she realised she was in love with him.
It all made sense now, of course – her completely unprofessional over-reaction to...well, just about everything since he’d announced how he felt about her.
Blinking for over a minute, she cleared her throat, tried to speak, and cleared her throat again. “Look, um, we...should ah, just try and wait this out.” She couldn’t take him home like this; how would it look? Even giving Hammond the Twelfth Universe as a defence, it would still look decidedly questionable. Nope, she was hoping that not a word of this would reach the General’s eyes or ears. “From what I experienced before, the...uh, reaction you’re having shouldn’t last that much longer.” She hoped. She really, really hoped. She still wasn’t buying that they were his real feelings, despite her own. “So...we should just...wait it out.”
Yes! Why hadn’t she thought of this before? This didn’t need to be dealt with; if they just ignored it for the next few hours then he’d soon be free of the drinks effects and there’d be no need to discuss the situation at all. “Perfect,” Standing up and shoving her chair back, she promptly walked towards the exit. “I really should go and apologise to the Vallerans in person.”
In love with him? How the hell had that happened? *When* the hell had that happened? Wasn’t he just the type of arrogant ‘guy’ she’d always told herself she couldn’t become seriously involved with?
In a healthy state of denial, pretending not to see as he half-reached out for her, she sped out the door.
Only to bump into Teal’c.
What was he still doing here? Where had Daniel gone? “Is this your hobby now; hanging around outside doorways?”
“It seemed prudent.”
“Despite the Governess’ objections, I decided to wait and see if I really would be required to pull you and Colonel O’Neill apart.”
What the-? “Excuse me?”
That was when Groum made his appearance, breathlessly running down the corridor and barely pausing next to them. “Kree! Lashok retur wegan karash?”
Teal’c nodded once. “I believe they are at the end of this corridor, on the right hand side.”
Sam stared blankly as Groum tore off to wherever it was he was going. Turning back to Teal’c, she frowned, completely lost.
Teal’c watched until Groum disappeared before turning his attention back to her. “You were in the middle of saying something, Major Carter?”
In love with.
In love with Colonel Jack O'Neill.
Her brain didn't need to compute this. Now that she'd realised, her brain fully understood that she was in love with him. The problem was that her brain couldn't compute *why*.
Really, could anyone else have been a worse choice? Did he have to be the most inconvenient person possible?
Did he have to have that cute a-?
This was the entire reason she'd escaped from the building in the first place: to avoid people. In fact, to avoid everyone in general. After making what formal apologies she could she'd left the Noble Room, then the building, and had escaped into the still dark night.
A few stragglers were hanging around from the end of the party, but most were on their way home. Certainly, none of them wanted to be anywhere near The Violent Blonde Woman who was leaning against the side of the building and wishing that she smoked just for something to do.
Except for this man, apparently. There was something vaguely familiar about him. She was sure they'd been introduced at some point but had never really spoken and for the life of her, she couldn’t remember his name. "Yes?"
"You probably do not remember, but I am Relan, one of the Governess' Keepers."
That was it - they definitely had been introduced, but it was over three years ago. He'd seemed quiet then and hadn't changed much now. Still, at least his outfit was much less scary than Treya's. "Of course! But I don't believe we've ever had a real conversation."
"There is little time for a 'real' conversation where politics are concerned."
She couldn't help but smile, feeling her spirits life somewhat. Now having something to focus on she tried to give Relan her full attention, determined to forget about *him* for at least ten seconds. "True enough. What can I do for you?"
"In all honesty, I wanted to see how you are. Are you well?"
Well? Was everyone on this planet concerned with her health? Still, he was probably referring to her recent alleged 'mental break', and it really was very nice of him to ask. “Very well, thank you. I’ve overcome my...brief lapse.”
“I know the excuse given was not the real reason for your behaviour.”
Huh. “You do?”
“It is quite tragic that the rules on your planet prevent yourself and Colonel O’Neill from acting on your feelings.”
Now here was something her brain really *couldn’t* compute. Had there been a memo or something that had been sent around the entire planet that she’d missed? A detailed essay chronicling the growth of their relationship? What would it even be called? ‘Thesis on the Establishment of Romantic Feelings Between Colonel Jack O’Neill and the Violent Blonde Woman.’?
Why was she fixating on this?
“I am looking.”
Right. Slight differences in understanding. Kind of like Teal’c used to be. “I mean...I’d really prefer not to talk about this. It’s personal and-”
“You cannot hide from the truth. Sad as it is.” He sounded absolutely truthful, she could see no deception in his face, and he also looked *very* depressed. Like this was his own personal problem.
Okay. She’d reached ‘that’ point again. “Are you in this with Treya? Are you another Keeper of the Twelfth Universe?”
“No,” Relan answered, apparently not in the least bit amused. Still depressed then. “I am Keeper of the First Universe.”
That struck a memory. Something she’d overheard Wedrena say... “And what aspect of life does the First Universe represent?”
It was official; Daniel Jackson had *the* worst timing. Ever.
Clenching her fists together, she faked a smile and turned to the friend who had just come pelting out of the building. “Yes? *Daniel*?”
Nodding at Relan in a half-hearted greeting, he then nodded to one side. “Can I have a word? Privately?”
Dammit. For some reason Sam wasn’t sure of, she’d been feeling like she was getting somewhere. “Relan, if you’ll excuse me-”
“Of course, Major Carter. I should be leaving myself now; I have work to do.”
“No! Oh-if you must,” She quickly amended, receiving a look from him that indicated that he thought maybe after all she *was* a bit nuts.
After he left, she spun back to Daniel. “What?”
“We need your help.”
“Jack – he’s driving us nuts!”
There’s a surprise. “How?”
It was only then that he started to look uncomfortable. “It’s uh, well...”
“Daniel, just say it.” There was nothing else she could think of that would embarrass her more than she already had been.
Daniel just said it. “He won’t stop talking about you. How much he loves you, how attractive you are, how beautiful your hair is, such perfect legs-”
Obviously, she’d been wrong. “Okay, okay!” Compliments about the way she looked had never sat well with her. “What do you want?”
“Keep him company. Tell him to shut up. In his current condition, you’re the only one he’s going to listen to. Please?”
She was definitely in line for a promotion. This was way, *way* beyond the rank of Major. This was...three star General stuff.
This was Colonel Jack O’Neill playing with her hair.
Unable to resist Daniel’s puppy dog eyes (though she was now reassessing that description to ‘devious swine’), she’d relented. Following Daniel back to the building again, she’d been led into the room where she’d spent so much time lately.
The room where Teal’c and the Colonel were currently sitting. The room where the Colonel was leaning towards Teal’c, waving his hands about as he described something passionately.
Described her passionately.
The room where the Colonel – when he noticed her entrance – jumped out of his seat, considered sitting back down again, and in the end just shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. “Hey,”
What was it about him and that word? “Colonel. Teal’c.”
“Major Carter,” The former First Prime greeted. “I am extremely pleased to see you.”
Apparently even Teal’c had reached his limit. The man whose patience was infinite had discovered that wasn’t true. “Really?”
“Indeed. If you will excuse me I have duties to-”
Oh no he didn’t. “Stay Teal’c, please. I have spoken with Wedrena and she doesn’t require you for anything at the moment, and there’s certainly no duties for you to perform as a member of SG-1 other than keeping your friends company.” It was an utter fabrication of course. She had no idea if Wedrena wanted him to help with anything, but there was no way she letting anyone leave her alone with the Colonel.
Not after last time.
“So Daniel,” She began, pointing to a chair for him to sit in as O’Neill conspicuously pulled his own seat next to where she was standing. “What have you been doing since the party ended?”
Realising there was going to be no escape; Daniel reluctantly sat down and began to speak.
It was some forty-five minutes into their small talk that the Colonel started playing with her hair.
By this point they were sitting next to each other; in separate chairs, but somehow he’d been moving his chair closer to hers so slowly, that had she not been paying special attention to everything he did she probably wouldn’t have noticed.
She was pretty damn sure he hadn’t realised he was doing it, either. Earlier he said he’d never do anything to risk her career and even in the middle of this Twelfth Universe inspired madness, she had believed that much about him if nothing else.
So when he’d leant his left arm across the back of her chair five minutes ago, her body may have tensed so hard and so suddenly that she’d sprained something, but she hadn’t panicked.
No, that happened when she became aware of the gentle movement of hair on the back of her head, not far above her neck.
He was...playing with her hair.
He was playing with her hair!
It was so subtle, she doubted Daniel and Teal’c had realised that he was doing it. Yes, they could see where his arm was resting, but if she showed no obvious reaction they probably wouldn’t guess what he was up to.
He was playing with her hair. And he was occasionally brushing her...neck. The back of her neck had always been...but how could he possibly...no, it was just luck.
Really, really bad luck that felt really, really good.
Struggling to pay attention to whatever it was that Daniel was talking about, she actually sighed when the Colonel’s fingertips fluttered over *that* spot. In any case, it was still the middle of the night and her lapse in judgement could easily be explained by exhaustion.
Coming to her senses – or at least becoming aware that she was paying far too much attention to her senses – she faked a yawn and deftly batted his hand away.
But not for long.
Within a few minutes he was doing it again. And despite a few more fake yawns and a few more batted hands, he kept doing it.
There was only one course of action to take.
She moved her chair away from his.
“Sorry,” She explained as everyone looked at her. “Just a little warm in here. Need my personal space.”
No one argued that, but the look of absolute sadness on his face...
She didn’t get that. When she’d been exposed to it, she’d known nothing but joy. She hadn’t had a care in the world and wouldn’t have been bothered even if she had. But mostly he was depressed...
And he definitely had the look of a man who was determined to discuss this at some point. Probably when they got back home. When he was back to normal and she had nowhere to hide.
No. Better to face it now. Better to face it now while he was inebriated and...
Of course! How stupid! All this time she’d been avoiding him and ‘the talk’, when what she really needed to do – if she never wanted it mentioned again – was just the opposite.
The answer was right in front of her.
She knew what she had to do.
Startling the rest of her team, she stood up. “I’ll be right back. Just need to find the bathroom.”
O’Neill half looked like he wanted to go with her, but even in his current state realised that was a step too far.
Clearing her throat, she went for the exit. “See you guys in a few minutes.”
Swinging back around, her heart pounded. “Yes Teal’c?”
“I believe they are at the end of the corridor, on the right hand side.”
“Right. Thanks.” Resisting the urge to give him a thumbs up – that would definitely give the game away – she left the room and went where she needed to go.
Some fifteen minutes later, she made her return.
Daniel’s relief was palpable. “Sam! There you are! We were wondering what was taking you so long.” Judging by the expression on his face, it was O’Neill who’d been doing most of the wondering. Loudly.
She didn’t move from the doorway, locking her gaze onto the Colonel. “Can we have a moment alone please?”
Frowning, Daniel looked at Teal’c, then at her, then at the Colonel. “Uh...”
“Wedrena tricked me.” Sam announced, still staring at him. “I was thirsty. She offered me a drink. The same drink that she gave to you.”
His eyes widened.
Teal’c and Daniel moved out of there like puppies on MSG’s.
She didn’t smile.
“You really piss me off sometimes.”
The raised eyebrows indicated that was *not* what he’d been expecting to hear.
But if this whole thing really was about explaining what you felt, she couldn’t stop now.
So she kept going, moving further into the room as she spoke. “Not just because you’re arrogant, condescending, stubborn...and then suddenly you’ll be nice.”
“*Nice*?” He sounded downright insulted.
She ignored it. “But because of what finding out how you feel did to me. I *hate* what it did to me.”
O’Neill was still sitting in his chair. “What did it do?”
“It made me confused. It made me worried. It gave me a migraine the size of the Eiffel Tower. It made my stomach feel like it had just been ripped out of my body. It made me-”
Had she been closer, she probably would have slapped him. “I am not that woman. I am not weak, I am not jealous, I am not that emotional, I-”
“Yes, God forbid you should ever be a normal human being who suffers inappropriate feelings from time to time.”
Oh that -“And I am not the cold bitch I sound like at the moment. I am simply trying to do what is *right*. In the middle of all this, I’m the only one that seems to be bothered!”
“Okay,” Leaning forward slightly in his chair, he raised his right index finger. “I understand your point, and I understand why you’re concerned. It’s a concern I share.”
She wasn’t so sure. She knew that he’d said he wouldn’t risk her career, but...“It is?”
“Yes. Look, in the middle of all of this...did I propose to you? Did I suggest we shack up together? Did I try and jump your bones? Did I suggest we say screw the regs and have wild monkey sex on this very table?”
Now there was an image. “No.”
“In fact, the only thing I did tell you was that I was in love with you. Despite your own stubbornness, the denial you seem to revel in-”
“Oh! That’s rich coming from the teenager I have for a commanding officer!”
By now she was only a few feet away. “Jack ‘humour’ O’Neill. Don’t admit anything you can make a joke of instead, right?”
Pushing himself up from his chair, his gave as good as he was getting. “A joke? Well what about this? I’m not joking now.”
“*This* isn’t you. This isn’t even me.”
He stayed well within her personal space. “And thank God for that! I’m not sure I even like this you.”
“But you love me, right? What kind of twisted logic is that?”
“The kind I seem to have abided by since you walked through that briefing room door three years ago!” He pointed towards the entrance of the room they were in now, as if it were the very door in question. “The kind that makes me so angry with you when all I want is to work by your side, day after day, even knowing the regulations! Even knowing we can never do what we want to do, that’s *enough*.”
Somehow his proximity and the twisted logic in his own words, had reached something. She finally acknowledged it. “It was me,”
“It was you what?”
Why did she always do this to herself? Why did she always have to make things complicated? “Earlier. When I wasn’t thinking. I was the one who said...” Sighing, rubbing a hand over her temples, she leant against the table. “Maybe Wedrena was right. I never needed the Twelfth Universe in the first place.”
Shifting until he too was against the table, he sat next to her. “You’re not using it now either, are you?”
Caught. She’d done too much running; she forced herself to look at him. “I needed to have this out here. Where you’re not yourself and I can pretend I’m not either. Where nothing is quite real. I don’t do well with this kind of stuff. You may have noticed the asshole I was engaged to a few years ago.”
“Now *there* was a prime example of future husband material.”
Shaking her head, she grinned even as she rubbed at her eyes. It was almost a relief to actually face up to it. “We can’t bring this back with us, you know. It can’t leave Vallera.”
“I can do better than that,” He told her. “It won’t leave this room.”
“I guarantee it,” He promised. “I know as much about myself as I do about you at the moment. I know that when this stuff wears off, I’ll be the same old Jack O’Neill I was before. Chest deep in denial, and trying to ignore the illicit thrill I get whenever you send that grin of yours my way.”
She chuckled, playing with her hands as they rested in her lap. “I really wish you hadn’t said that.”
He tried to look at her face, but she kept her head lowered. “I could apologise, but I’m afraid use of the Twelfth Universe precludes any kind of lie.”
Which was the long version of saying he wasn’t sorry. But there was something else about his words...
Her hands were still fascinating. “I’m not really sure how I feel about you,” Might as well go the whole hog while they were here. It wasn’t as if they were ever going to face it again. Lifting her head, she turned it towards his, just a few inches to her left.
And she made the mistake of looking into his eyes as she continued speaking. “But there is...something...”
This wasn’t risking her career, was it? This was just leading to one kiss, on an alien planet, with no one around to see. This was...the goodbye kiss. This was the ‘what we could never have’ kiss.
Was that his voice? Were his eyes really that dark? Was he-
She stopped thinking.
Her hands had found something new to play with.
“You know...what I said earlier? About working with you being enough?”
“I may have been wrong.”
His breathing became shallow; his body relaxing even as inside, he began to tense.
He was well aware of the evil inside him, of its own repulsion that it was forced to do this with him. But neither one could live without the other for any length of time. For them, it was most aptly a necessary evil.
Slowly, moment-by-moment, it began to lose its hatred. Knowing that for this to succeed it had to, and that when it was over its true feelings would return. It let go.
Teal'c's mind began to delve deeper, to that silent place where-
-he was interrupted. He didn't open his eyes. "Daniel Jackson."
"Are you busy?"
"I am attempting to kel'no'reem."
Silence resumed. Teal'c renewed his efforts, exhaling gently and-
"I'm worried about Jack and Sam."
Teal'c held back a sigh. This was most definitely Colonel O'Neill's influence. Over the passing years of their friendship, he had become aware that each member of his team had somehow been affected by O'Neill's personality. Even - he realised with some regret - himself.
Daniel Jackson's current behaviour was an excellent example. Inappropriate conversation had not often been something he'd indulged in when they had first met - despite the strength of his own beliefs. Though he could often be steadfast in his views and would argue them passionately, he usually - as O'Neill would put it - knew when to shut up.
"You should sleep, Daniel Jackson. It is late. You must sleep, and I must kel'no'reem."
After leaving Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter, Daniel Jackson had expressed a desire to sleep. Teal'c was thankful. It had been some time since his last meditation, and he feared he would lose his ability to react swiftly, and decisively.
At the Governess' command, they had been led to a small space which amounted to a bedroom; a single mattress for Daniel Jackson to lie on, and a comfortable place for himself to kel'no'reem.
Daniel Jackson had been curious as to why there were only arrangements for himself and Teal'c.
The Helper had pointed out that Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter had different sleeping arrangements.
The statement had caused Daniel Jackson to frown.
That had been almost half an hour ago. There had been some conversation of little regard as they'd prepared to rest, and several minutes ago his friend had literally fallen into his bed and tugged his glasses off.
Content that their discussions had now ceased; Teal'c had sat down, closed his eyes, and began to kel'no'reem.
Only now it seemed Daniel Jackson couldn't sleep.
"I'm just worried."
Resigning himself to the fact that this conversation was going to take place, Teal'c opened his eyes and studied the archaeologist. He was spread out; front side down on his mattress, and still had his glasses off.
"What is it that you are concerned about?"
"Well aren't you kind of worried that it'll...change things?"
"No." There was no need to think about his answer. "The feelings have been there for a long time, whether they realised it or not. Voicing them now makes no difference."
Daniel Jackson looked surprised. "You really believe that? Even knowing that they've both drunk that drink-"
"Major Carter is not under the influence of a 'Universe'."
Daniel Jackson looked even more surprised. "You mean she's faking?"
"Yes." Teal'c wasn't sure how he knew; just that he did. Perhaps there should have been a change in her biochemistry that his symbiote was susceptible too; maybe he just knew her so well by now that he was well aware of why she would lie.
There was no point speculating about her relationship with Colonel O'Neill; it was something he had no interest in. What was, *was*, and he saw no need to understand why or what it would do.
The Tauri, he understood, were different. While no more or no less emotional than the Jaffa, they were less sure of those same emotions. There had to be an acceptable reason for something being the way it was; they often believed situations were much more complicated than they actually were. Sometimes they even made them that way unintentionally.
For the Tauri, there were rarely absolutes.
Daniel Jackson's expression had not altered.
"I have great faith in my team mates Daniel Jackson - *all* of my team mates. They will do whatever they must, but I have confidence enough in them to know that they will not let it affect SG-1 as a whole. By the time we leave this place, Colonel O'Neill will be back to normal. He would not risk the fate of SG-1 for anyone."
Resting his chin on the palm of his right hand, his friend sighed. "Not even her."
The smell of morning, food, and something else distinctly...
Her eyes shot open.
He was watching her.
He didn't say anything, merely smiling a greeting as she took in their situation. They were side by side, facing each other, on a single mattress. She vaguely remembered being led to the 'bedroom' by a Helper (who had been giggling like a fool, incidentally) and seeing that there were two mattresses, but she honestly couldn't remember if they'd actually gone to sleep on the same mattress or not.
In any case, his scrunched up position on the side of the mattress that wasn't next to the wall could *not* be comfortable, but he wasn't complaining.
Then she realised why he was scrunched up.
They were holding hands. It was sickly sweet, it was a romantic cliché, it was every stupid girly movie she'd ever seen...but they were holding hands.
And it made her smile.
Oh yeah – and they had kissed last night. Which made her smile even more.
She looked at his face again, and wondered if he really understood how devastatingly attractive he was. Certainly, he knew he was no ape, but she'd never seriously heard him voice an opinion on his looks one way or the other. Actually, she’d rarely heard him speak seriously about anything at all.
Well...apart from last night.
She grinned again.
She had to say something, but feared that whatever came out would be worryingly regulation free, or a quotation from the 'How To Be An Ice Queen' handbook. So, she elected for what she knew he would have said had he been speaking.
"Isn't this the point when General Hammond turns up, having decided at the last minute to come through the Stargate and pay an official visit to the Governess?"
The smile widened, but he still didn't speak.
She knew what he was trying not to say. "You're back to normal."
And there was that delicate feeling of sadness. A little regret that proved she was going to miss the new Jack O'Neill - if only slightly.
At least she had discovered one thing last night; this wouldn't affect the team. Knowing that neither one of them wanted to change the way things were - for now - had eased her mind considerably. Still, now that he was back to normal and she had stopped faking, lying in bed together would look dubious. If someone saw-
"You're thinking again," He half-teased, half-chastised.
She wondered if he really was free of the Twelfth Universe. "I'm not going to change," She warned him. "Not even for you."
Nodding, he barely moved. "I can live with that." Still smiling, he squeezed her hand. "I recommend we get up, eat some of that fantastic smelling food, then say our farewells and hightail it back to the gate."
"Sounds good," She agreed. She had a question she wanted to ask Wedrena anyway.
"Great," He nodded again, clearly indicating that one of them should move.
"Why is it you guys always get the fantastic smelling food, and I get the weird melon-like stuff?"
Things were back to normal then.
Sam wisely said nothing, Daniel recognised it for the rhetorical question it was, and Teal'c clearly had no opinion to give.
Same as always. For the most part.
In fact, Sam was beginning to reassess her internal description of Daniel and Teal'c. She was starting to think they hadn't heard the Colonel's statement at all, and instead for the last forty minutes - since breakfast had begun - they had spent most of their time silently observing her and the Colonel.
Okay, so Teal'c 'silently observing' something wasn't so unusual. In any case, she was more certain than ever that something was up, as SG-1 were now being led to the Noble Room and they still hadn't said a word.
Wedrena was - unsurprisingly - in her usual place when they walked into the Room. How she looked so fantastic with so little sleep was beyond any human comprehension. Or Jaffa, for that matter.
"Friends!" She exclaimed, apparently even more overjoyed than usual to greet them. "I hope breakfast was enjoyable," Her gaze moved with utter curiosity from one face to another as they paused a few feet away from her.
"Very much so. Thank you Governess," Daniel replied. "It smelled and tasted..."
The Governess half-frowned. "I am not familiar with that word."
"Well," The Colonel shrugged. "I have a language all my own." He completely avoided, of course, the subject of what Wedrena had tricked him into drinking the previous evening. No, like the good Air Force officer he was - and as he'd said himself - he was chest deep in denial.
After they'd reluctantly pulled themselves from the bed, he’d done some serious back peddling; the shutters had gone up and the windows had come down.
Naturally, it was Wedrena herself who brought the subject up, albeit with some form of subtlety for once. "I am sorry you must leave so soon, but I do hope this visit has been fruitful."
"Absolutely," Daniel assured her. "The amendments to the treaty will prove beneficial for both-"
"I was not referring to the treaty, Dr Jackson."
Of course she wasn't. No doubt she'd been informed that they'd taken advantage of last nights sleeping arrangements - although not perhaps in the way she was thinking.
Sam found herself speaking. "This visit has been most...informative. Though nothing has actually changed as a result of the visit, at least this new information has been heard."
Wedrena's lips twitched in humour. "Well put, Major." Addressing the other members of SG-1, she continued. "I wish you well on your journey home, but I would like a moment alone with Major Carter."
O'Neill looked distinctly worried but relented, leaving the room. As she watched them leave, she was left with the definite impression that Daniel was relieved about something.
She could probably guess what.
When they were alone, Sam turned back to Wedrena. "You wanted something?"
"No," The Governess corrected. "I believe *you* wanted to ask *me* a question...correct?"
How did she do that? "Actually I do."
The Governess' puppy wriggled out from beneath a stack of cushions. "Very well. What do you wish to ask?"
"The drink you gave Colonel O'Neill last night...it wasn't the Twelfth Universe, was it?" She quickly continued, pre-empting the question Wedrena was no doubt about to ask. "I vividly remember how I felt and how I acted when I was here three years ago. The Colonel's behaviour last night was quite obviously different."
Deliberately pausing, almost as if she were playing with Sam, Wedrena stroked her dogs' back. "I did give him the Twelfth Universe, however..."
"However...?" Sam urged.
Wedrena practically batted her eyelashes. "It was not the only Universe I gave him."
Oh. Oh! "You can do that? Mixing them together isn't dangerous?"
"Of course not!" The Governess laughed, rubbing a hand over the dog's head. "I would never do anything to SG-1 that is dangerous!"
Sam had to admit her ignorance of this was partly her own fault. Though no one had specifically stated so, she'd just assumed the Colonel had been exposed to the same Universe that she had. She hadn't even considered the possibility that it could have been more than one.
She'd broken the first rule of being a scientist: assume nothing.
A memory came back to her. Something she'd overheard, and then Relan's behaviour later... "It was the First Universe, wasn't it?"
Wedrena was practically giddy by now. "Yes!"
"And what 'aspect of life' does that make you experience?"
Saying nothing, the Governess reclined until she was almost lying down, placing the puppy on her stomach. "You do not need to know."
Sam begged to differ. She'd gone through this entire situation thanks to her and there was no *way* she wasn't finding out. "Governess-"
"You will not like what I tell you," Wedrena murmured, inspecting the puppy's paws with a faked amazed fascination. "You will find it too revealing, too complicated. You said it yourself Major - nothing has changed. Least of all you."
Sam had stopped listening to the words. She stopped listening to what was being said, and concentrated instead on the way it was being said. Wedrena was almost gleeful.
And it wasn't right.
"Why did do this? It wasn't because you like me."
"But I do like you," The Governess insisted.
"But that wasn't why you did it, was it?" She was absolutely certain about this.
Sitting up and drawing her knees to her chest, Wedrena hid most of her face behind the dog. "No."
Dammit. The Colonel had said it himself, hadn't he? Wedrena had found her 'entertaining'.
So...this. All of this... "None of this was a misunderstanding, was it? Three years ago...that wasn't an accident. You made me drink it on purpose."
She just smiled.
"And last night...it wasn't to teach him a lesson, either."
"You have to understand," Wedrena offered in a half-hearted attempt at an explanation, beginning to see that Sam wasn't pleased. "There is so little for me to do here. Everything is done for me; there are rarely major decisions to be made because everyone is happy." She shrugged, as if the following statement would resolve everything: "I was bored."
Sam couldn't believe it. She could not believe it. "How-"
"I must admit," Giggling, Wedrena placed her puppy on one of the cushions. "I didn't expect it to be as revealing as it was, but that made it all the more fun!"
"What *had* you expected? Maybe a little embarrassment? Maybe a little humiliation? What did it matter as long as it didn't affect you, right?" Sam's tirade barely paused - she was *not* letting Wedrena butt in on this one. "In some ways, I'm almost thankful for what you did, but understand that Colonel O'Neill and myself take the greatest offence at being used as your 'entertainment'. That is not what we are here for."
Having said exactly what she'd needed to say, Sam spun away, every word Wedrena had ever said to her thumping through her mind. Everything that had sounded 'nice' or 'confused'...had that all been an act? Had she genuinely been confused as to how things worked on Earth, or had that been her playing along just so the pay off would be all the more satisfying?
The flagrant cheek of it-
"Would you send Dr Jackson in on your way out, please?"
In the greatest act of her military career, Sam said nothing.
Thumping out of the room and into the corridor, she found her team waiting for her. "Daniel, she wants a word. Make it a quick one."
Anxious to keep moving but knowing there was nowhere to move for now, Sam kept pacing as Daniel walked back into the Noble Room for whatever reason Her Most Highest Governess - ha! - wanted him.
She kept pacing. "Sir?"
She kept pacing. "Not really."
He placed a hand on her arm.
She stopped pacing. "What?"
"What happened in there?" His face was an interesting view of ambiguity. While he certainly wanted to know exactly what Wedrena had said that had caused such a reaction, he was also still hovering around that 'denial' area, not really wanting to admit everything that had happened last night.
What was the point in telling him? Really? He'd only be as annoyed as she was now, and there was nothing they could do about it. "Nothing," She shook her head, trying to force the word into her head. Trying to make it real. "Nothing. Just didn't like what she had to say."
Huh. That, at least, was the one thing Wedrena had been right about.
"Welcome back, SG-1. How was the visit?"
Sam had rarely been so pleased to arrive back at the SGC and leave her new nickname behind. Stepping off the ramp, she smiled at General Hammond as she heard the Stargate shut down behind her.
"Oh it was great General," O'Neill told him, pulling off his own cap. "Treaties, parties, puppies...weird, melon-like stuff. Daniel didn't get drunk. It was great." It had already been silently agreed that no mention of what really happened needed to be made.
Amused, Hammond nodded. "Report to the infirmary. Debriefing will be at 1300 hours." No doubt relieved that no one required medical attention, he left the gate room.
SG-1 began to follow suit when Daniel cleared his throat. "Sam?"
Pausing, a little annoyed that she couldn't immediately go and rant to Janet, she wore a smile anyway. "Yeah?"
Opening one of the pockets on his left pant leg, he pulled something out. A piece of paper. "The Governess asked me to write something down, and give it to you."
Confused, Sam took the paper but didn't open it.
"She said..." He shrugged. "She said it was her way of apologising." Having passed on the message, he brushed by her and left the room.
An apology? Sam doubted it. That was the original reason she'd given for exposing the Colonel to the drink, and using the same explanation now just didn't ring true.
Maybe she'd reached something. Maybe Wedrena had understood how little she appreciated being made a fool of.
She was well aware that he was still there. That he'd turned back from the door when Daniel first said her name. That now, it was just the two of them. Just the two of them...and Siler, working on a MALP. Just the two of them and Sergeant Wood, checking the capacitors on the Stargate. Just the two of them and Sergeant Davis, looking in from the Control Room.
Even in a room full of people, just the two of them.
She knew very well what was written on the paper, but she gradually began to realise that she didn't need to read it. The Truth of it had been staring her in the face all along; she'd just been too stubborn and concerned to pay attention to it.
Turning until she faced him, she smiled and started walking. Pausing as she passed, Sam pressed the paper into his uncertain hand, and then kept walking.
Wedrena had been wrong about something, just as she had. Certainly, there were aspects of her that were never going to change, but there were other things...things she didn't need to worry about. Things that she would always be secure in the knowledge of no matter what happened.
Things that had changed.
She didn't need Wedrena's miracle drinks to understand anything.
She had her own Universe, and it was fantastic.
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