"Are you sure that you didn't hear anything?" Jack asked Sam, his voice barely a whisper.
Sam turned her head slightly to look at him. "I heard the bushes rustle if that's what you mean. Like I said, it's probably just a squirrel. Why are we whispering?"
Jack turned around slowly, cautiously. His heart thudded in his chest. "Because there's someone behind us."
Sam's eyes widened and she leapt to her feet. The man stood roughly seven feet behind them. He had no discernible weapons in his hands but the look on his face said it all.
"Stay where you are!" he commanded, reaching for his pocket. "I have a gun."
Jack cocked his head to the right. "Who are you?"
Sam looked at the man. He was dressed in a black suit and looked absurdly out of place in the middle of a forest. "I know who he is." she said. "You're one of the men who has been visiting Stan."
"Listen to the lady." the stranger said. "She knows what she's talking about."
"Okay then. So, why do you want to kill us?"
"You must be taken care of. You know too much, it will jeopardize the entire project."
Sam lifted an arm to scratch her face and the man's hand inched closer to his pocket. "Look Mister whoever you are." Sam said quietly. "If we're so much of a problem, isn't Stan one too? Wasn't he sent here to destroy the project as you call it?"
"It's too complicated to answer that now. Stan, as you call him, cannot be killed by us. We needed you do it for us, but you have failed. You found something that you shouldn't have."
"We found a dog, that looked as if it had been implanted with a Goa'uld." Jack said, moving his feet as much he dared.
"You are on the right track." the stranger said. "But I'm afraid that I cannot allow you to continue your investigation."
"Who are you really?" Sam asked, narrowing her eyes. "NID? Rebel Goa'uld?"
"You ask far too many questions." the man said, putting his hand fully into his pocket and wrapping his fingers around the gun. His hand slowly remerged and he lifted the gun. It was pointed directly at Sam's stomach.
"I've been told." the man said, clicking off the safety. "That shooting a human in the stomach is one of the most painful ways for them to die. Let's test that theory, shall we?"
Jack could only look on in horror as the stranger raised the gun and pointed it at Sam. Sam, to her credit, stood still, no trace of fear was visible on her face. Jack heard another rustle in the bushes and then watched silently as a burly man threw a rock towards their stranger.
The man went down hard, landing on his arms. The gun in his hand fired and a pool of crimson blood began spreading out from him. Sam let out her breath and relaxed her shoulders. Jack stepped towards her and put an arm around her shoulders.
The other man crashed through the bushes and entered the clearing. He smiled at them. "Saw that you guys were having a little trouble, just thought that I'd lend a hand."
"Thank you." Jack said sincerely.
"My name's Brian. I was down by the lake doing some fishing, not many biting this time of year though. Was on my way back to my truck when I passed this clearing and saw you and the pretty lady having a face off with that man in the black suit. He didn't look happy."
"You may have very well saved our lives Brian." Sam said. "Thank you."
"No a problem, but say, who are you folks anyway? You part of some group, like that Mafia that I seen on TV?"
Jack laughed a bit and shook his hand. "Nope, I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill and this is Major Samantha Carter, we're with the Air Force."
Sam looked Jack questioningly as he revealed their true identities. Brian smiled even wider. "Then it was my pleasure to help you folks out. That man?" he asked, gesturing towards the body on the ground. "Is he one of them MIB's that were in that movie with that giant bug alien?"
Sam nodded. "Something like that."
Brian looked rather pleased with himself and hitched his fishing rod up higher on his back. "Well, I'd best be going. I promised my wife that I'd be home before dinner time."
"Thanks again for all your help." Jack said. "The United States Air Force commends you for your bravery."
Brian's face nearly cracked from the huge grin on it. He stepped over the body and headed back towards the path that would take him back to his truck. Sam waited until he was a fair distance away before speaking again.
"Well, whoever this man was." she said, "He had red blood. What do you want to do with him?"
"Ideally I'd like to take him with us and have Janet do an exam on him, but I don't think that's going to be possible. I guess we should cover him up and move along."
Sam had moved away from Jack and was rooting through her pack. "What are you looking for?" Jack asked.
Sam held up a pocket knife. "This." she said. "I want to know if he's Goa'uld."
Jack winced as he watched Sam slice into the back of the man's neck. "You sure you really want to be doing that? I mean, doesn't the symbiont stay alive for a while after the host is dead?"
"Usually the symbiont will escape the dying host's body and search for a suitable replacement."
Sam grimaced as she peeled back the skin of the man's neck. Her search turned up nothing. "He's not a Goa'uld." she said, placing the flap of skin back down.
"Maybe he's Jaffa?" Jack suggested. "Just doing the bidding of his master."
Sam put the knife down beside her and then rolled the man over. She pulled his shirt up but found no tell-tale pouch. "He's not Jaffa either."
"He must be human." Jack said. "NID."
"But when he was going to shoot me, he said that he'd heard that shooting a human in the stomach was one of the most painful ways to die. Would he have said that if he was human? It just sounds strange."
"It does, but we'd better this guy out of sight before someone comes along."
Sam and Jack prepared a shallow grave behind a fallen tree. They put him in the slight hole and covered him with bushes and fallen leaves. Sam tossed fresh dirt over the blood soiled dirt and then they stood back and examined the clearing.
"You'd never know that someone died here." Jack said with a note of pride.
"Come on." Sam said picking up her pack. "Let's go home. I need a shower. A really long shower."
"You did what?!?"
Jack could hear Janet's exclamation over the phone, and he wasn't even in the same room as Sam.
"Keep your voice down!" he heard Sam say. "We don't want anyone else to know."
Janet went back to a normal speaking volume, so Jack could only hear one side of the conversation again. Sam explained what she had found, or rather what she had not found in the man and Janet, presumably, had offered a few suggestions of her own.
"Anyway, I'd better let you go." Sam said. "I'm sure you have work to do."
Jack reached for the remote control and turned the TV on. Sam said her goodbyes to Janet and then sat down on the couch beside Jack.
"Janet's disappointed that we didn't get her a sample of blood."
"I always thought that woman was a vampire."
"To test Jack, not to drink. I told her that we didn't have any suitable containers for it. You know, she suggested that the man might have been some other race of alien."
"Another race of aliens? Great, just what we need."
"It's possible. We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what's out there."
Jack flipped channels on the TV. "So, this means that these other aliens are in line with the Goa'ulds? They're allies of the Goa'uld?"
"This isn't good." Sam said, leaning back into the couch cushions. "The last thing we need is another alien race out to get us."
"You wanna get some Chinese food?"
Sam tilted her head to look at Jack. "There might be another potentially dangerous alien race out there and you're thinking about Chinese food?"
"I'm hungry. All that tramping through the woods did wonders for my appetite."
"Fine, I just have to use the bathroom and then we'll go."
Several days passed with no sign of any more MIB's. Stan had been unusually quiet and was rarely seen outside of his house. Jack was almost beginning to worry about him, almost.
The two were sitting on their deck, enjoying a beer and the cool night air. "So I called the house painters today." Sam said, uncrossing her legs.
"Oh yeah, and what did they say?"
"I booked an appointment for an estimate tomorrow. The guy said that someone would by around noon."
"Won't the government just love getting that bill." Jack said with a laugh.
"You going out job hunting again tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I think so. It's starting to look kind of strange that neither of us are working, yet we can afford to buy groceries still."
"Maybe we won the lottery."
"I don't think the people will buy that. They might be smarter than they look."
Jack blew the ash off the end of the mosquito coil and adjusted it a bit. "We're going to need more of these coils."
"They seem to work well, don't they. Much better than those citronella candles."
"Sure beats spraying repellent all over us too."
Jack stood up from his chair and went over to the edge of the deck. He could hear a few crickets chirping and every once in a while, a mosquito whined in his ear. "This is nice." he said.
Sam nodded, even though Jack couldn't see her. "The weather's lovely."
"That's not exactly what I meant."
"Oh? What did you mean?"
"This. The whole thing." Jack turned around, leaning his back on the deck rail.
"The whole 'being chased by Goa'uld dogs and nameless aliens, while we live across the street from one Stanley La Grupa, who may or may not be Tok'ra' thing?"
"I was talking more about being here with you."
"Oh." was all Sam could think to say. She shifted in her seat and took another mouthful of beer.
"I mean, it sure beats being here with Teal'c." Jack said quickly, sensing that he'd made Sam uncomfortable.
"Yeah, I can't imagine you and Teal'c trying to pass yourselves off as a couple!"
"Let's not even go there Sam." Jack said, chuckling a bit.
Jack sat back down and propped his feet up on a small plastic table. He picked up his beer from beside his chair and held it out to Sam. "To Lisa and Charles." he said. Sam lifted her beer up and they clinked their bottles together. "To Lisa and Charles." she echoed.
On Thursday night Jack headed across the street to Stan's place. He was a little concerned because Stan hadn't dropped by with an invite to baseball night. Jack walked up the steps and pushed the doorbell. He could hear it ring.
Jack waited a couple minutes with no response. He pushed the bell again and knocked on the door. A few minutes later Stan appeared at the door, wearing a bathrobe.
"Hey Stan." Jack said. "You not feeling well?"
Stan blew his nose into a tissue. "I think I have a cold."
"Guess that means that you're not up for baseball tonight then huh?"
Stan shook his head and winced at the pain of moving it. "I don't think so Charles, but feel free to go ahead without me."
"Nah, it just wouldn't be the same without you!" Jack exclaimed. "We need our star pitcher. Maybe next week?"
"Hopefully I'll be feeling better by then."
"You want me to have Lisa make up a batch of chicken soup for you?"
"I'll be alright, thank you. I just need some rest."
"Sorry to bother you then." Jack said with a sympathetic smile. "Hope you feel better soon!"
Stan shut the door and Jack stood there contemplating that for a moment. He'd never seen a sick Goa'uld before, Tok'ra or not. Their symbionts were supposed to protect them from annoyances like that. He shrugged and went back to his house.
"Sam!" Jack called as he entered the house. Sam, who was cleaning the bathroom, yelled, "What?"
"He can't be sick! Goa'ulds don't get sick!"
Jack stood in the doorway to the bathroom and watched Sam bend over the tub and scrub at it. "I know that Goa'ulds don't get sick."
"You think he's faking it?" Sam asked.
"Could be, but he sounded pretty sick to me. Is it possible for a virus to get past his symbiont?"
"I think that it would have be specially engineered to do that. You might want to ask Janet, she'd know more about that than I would."
Sam stood up and put a hand on her back. "Ugh." she said. "Cleaning a tub has got to be one of the most strenuous activities around."
"Want a massage?"
"Are you serious?"
"Sure. I've been told that I give a pretty mean massage."
"Just let me finish up in here, then you can massage me, okay?"
"I'll be in your bedroom, waiting." Jack said in a suggestive tone.
Sam blushed and bent down over the tub again to hide it. Jack left the doorway and went to Sam's room, as he promised. He sat down on her bed and waited. And waited. And waited.
"Sam? You almost done in there?"
"Just about!" she called back.
"You know, you don't have to be able to see your face everywhere in there!"
"I'm almost done, hold your horses."
Jack picked up Sam's nightgown that was laying on her pillow. He fingered the satiny material then put it down again. He heard the toilet flush then Sam appeared a few moments later.
"Okay, what do you want me to do?"
"Take off your shirt."
"Take off your shirt. I can't give you a proper massage if you have a shirt on. If you want, I'll turn my head while you take off your shirt. You can lay down on the bed."
"Fine, turn your head." Sam said and Jack obediently turned his head away.
Sam flopped down on the bed and scootched her way up towards Jack. Jack took a look a the expanse of bare back and drew in a breath. "Okay." he said under his breath. "We can do this."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, uh, nothing. Do you mind if I undo your bra? It would make this easier." Jack felt his face flush as he said the word bra.
"Uh no, go ahead."
Jack fiddled around with the clasp for a few seconds before he got it to release. He pushed the straps off her and gingerly laid a hand on her warm back. So soft. He moved his fingers a bit, watching her skin rise up with goosebumps.
"Is this your idea of a massage?" Sam asked, her voice slightly muffled.
"No, no, of course not. I'm just trying to remember if I have any massage oil."
Jack got off the bed. "I'll be right back."
Sam sighed and waited for him to return. She half wondered why he would have packed massage oil in the first place but decided not to pursue that train of thought. Jack returned a few minutes later with a small bottle in his hands.
"Found some." he said triumphantly. "With peppermint oil."
He settled himself back down on the bed and poured a small amount onto his hands. He touched her back again. "Uh Jack, I don't mean to sound presumptuous, but wouldn't it be easier to do this if you were straddling me?"
"Straddling you?" Jack croaked.
"Yes, straddling me rather than sitting beside me."
"Oh, of course." Jack put one knee on either side of Sam and put both of his hands on her back. He rubbed her shoulder blades and Sam moaned softly. Jack could have sworn that all the blood in his body rushed south. He continued to massage Sam, trying to ignore her small sounds of pleasure and how nice her back felt.
"Wow." Sam breathed when he was done. "You weren't kidding."
Jack made a strangled noise that may have been a cough and sat back down beside her, keeping his hands folded over his lap.
Sam turned over, keeping her bra clasped to her chest and sat up. Jack tried to ignore this as well. "Thanks." she said softly. "My back feels much better."
Jack nodded. "Any time." he managed to say and got up off the bed and practically ran out of the room. Sam watched him go and laughed to herself.