Story Notes: Death Knell" tag

Many thanks to Michelle and Jojo.


The Better Man

Jack: "Teal'c and Daniel say hi. They're planning a little bit of a shindig for when you're up and around. There's talk of cake."
Sam: "Cake?"
Jack: "My idea."
Sam: "Can't wait."

It hadn't turned out to be such a bad idea after all.

Sam had wondered, just for a second, when Jack opened the front door and looked Pete up and down. But Pete stood tall and stuck out his hand and said, "Colonel O'Neill. Thanks for the invitation, sir."

And she had wondered again, when Jack hesitated just long enough to make Pete go a little pale before grasping his hand. "It's Jack. I get enough of that from Carter."

But Jack's hand had been warm on her shoulder as he helped her maneuver into the house with her crutches, while Pete picked up the case of expensive imported beer he had insisted on bringing. "A peace offering," he said, as Jack showed them into the kitchen, where Daniel and Siler stopped arguing about reality television and the downfall of human civilization long enough to say hello and, in Daniel's case, kiss her cheek. And Teal'c, who had been opening a package of hot dogs, eyed her with concern and then washed his hands and gently grasped her elbow.

"Major Carter, you should not be on your feet."

Pete, who was still holding the case of beer, just smiled and shrugged and so she left him standing there and let Teal'c escort her out the sliding glass door as Daniel's voice rose in counterpoint to Siler and Jack's laughter.

Now she was settled in one of Jack's big Adirondack chairs, her bad leg propped up and a plate of cake (marble, with chocolate frosting and the corner of what had been a cartoonish rendition of the Stargate iced on top) balanced on her lap. Pete and Jack stood up on the deck talking, almost animatedly, over the grill.

"Hey." Daniel slumped into the chair next to hers, a mostly-empty bottle of the imported beer dangling from one hand. His smile was a little off – missing something of the Daniel before – but Sam thought that maybe hers looked like that too these days.

"Hey," she answered, feinting at his hand with her fork when he reached over and scooped a finger-full of chocolate frosting from her cake.

"That's unexpected," he said, and sucked the frosting off his finger before pointing at Jack and Pete.

Sam shrugged. She had to admit it was a little unexpected, too. "They found a common interest."


"Shooting things."

Daniel snorted into his beer.

"He almost didn't come," she continued, pressing the back of her fork into the furrow Daniel had left in the frosting, smoothing it out. "You guys scare the hell out of him."


"He thought Teal'c was going to break his arms." She'd reassured him that Teal'c would never do such a thing, but it had been hard not to laugh. "But he really wants get to know all of you. Make amends."

"Brave guy." Daniel held up the beer bottle, examining the label. "So it sounds serious then. You know, between you two."

And then he was examining her, with the same intensity she so often saw when he was puzzling out the intricacies of kinship organization or the subtle layers of meaning in social hierarchies.

"It's not," she said, a little surprised that the rebuttal came as quickly and firmly as it did, and she wondered what that meant. "I mean, I don't know. Maybe it could be. It's just... he just got divorced, and I'm... not sure I'm in a good place for something serious. Not really."


He could still speak volumes with a single syllable - that hadn't changed. She scraped another bite of cake off the plate. "It's just... nice."

Daniel's gaze shifted back to Jack and Pete. "Yeah." He gripped her free hand, wrapping his fingers around hers, and she rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb. "Still, you can do better, you know."

Sam watched them too, and thought he might be right in either case.

"I can do a lot of things, Daniel. Except get up." She tugged at his hand, ignoring his bright laughter. "Help me. I really need to pee."

Jack was in the kitchen, slicing tomatoes, when she made her way back through the house toward the deck. He stopped when she hobbled into the kitchen, knife poised dangerously close to his fingers. "How's the leg?"

"Still attached." Sam eased onto the edge of one of the stools around the island counter, leaning on her crutches. "I start physiotherapy Tuesday. Janet says I'll probably be back on active duty in a couple of weeks."

"Good." Jack slid the tomatoes from the cutting board onto a plate, tossing the knife in the sink and wiping his hands on his pants. "Hey, can you have a beer? Pete has good taste."

"Sure." He disappeared from view as he reached in the fridge, and she said, "I'm glad you two are getting along."

"Yeah, well, you know." His voice was muffled and she heard the clink of glass. "He apologized. A lot."

She understood that. Pete had apologized to her too, after her white-knuckled panic and anger in the infirmary, before Janet pronounced him stable. He'd apologized when she'd sent him back to Denver, silent and subdued by her harsh condemnation, after General Hammond told her about the background check, and again when he had showed up on her doorstep three days later, hands in his pockets, staring studiously at the chip in the doorframe she never found time to fix.

And then Jack was standing in front of her with two bottles, twisting the cap off one before handing it to her. "He really is kind of an ass, Carter."

Something over-rode the automatic deferral to rank and discipline as his fingers brushed hers. "You are, too."

His grin was wide, teeth bright against sun-worn skin, and she wanted to drop the crutches and lean against him again like she had just a week ago, too empty to fight protocol and pride.

Instead she said, "Daniel thinks I can do better."

Jack opened his beer and took a long drink. "You can do a lot of things, Carter."

Sam laughed, and then laughed harder at the confusion that furrowed his brow, and he smiled and shrugged like he did when he really didn't understand a word she was saying.

"So." Jack leaned against the sink, set the half-empty bottle on the counter and shoved his hands in his pockets. "You're okay with everything then."

"I am." And she was, even though nothing was like she once might have hoped. She set her untouched bottle of beer on the counter and let Jack help her off the stool. "Thanks for the cake."

"I drew the Gate on it all by myself, you know."

Jack grinned as he steadied her, and she couldn't help pressing her cheek against his shoulder, just for a moment, with his breath warm in her hair.

Then Sam pulled away and hobbled out onto the deck, where Daniel asked her if she minded her burger a little crispy, and Pete caught her as she stumbled a little on the threshold.

And she didn't care about what might be better.


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