Part 1; Remembrance.
I'd dressed carefully, though I was trying to convince myself I was just grabbing the first thing that came to hand. The jeans took a while to dig out though, I hadn't worn anything but those severe Aschen suits Joe liked for years. I'd remembered though, that he..The Colonel.. had hated those.
It seemed, odd, choosing what to wear to see him. Unconsciously, I'd reached for my old BDU's, before remembering I no longer had them. I wasn't military any more. My soldiering skills were no longer needed. I was just a scientist now. The fight had gone, and left us behind.
I was just time-wasting really. I was trying to ignore the fact that I was nervous. Why was I nervous? I couldn't understand it. I mean, I know we argued last time we met, but surely, SURELY, that was all in the past, had just dissipated, like the war we'd fought so hard. Surely he wouldn't still be angry.
Surely I didn't still CARE.
There wasn't a transporter near the cabin. He'd got as far away from civilisation as he could. I got as close as possible, and managed to find an old-fashioned car to take me the rest of the way. I followed Teal'c's carefully drawn map, through the woods, and the heat and the dust, an organic, natural, disordered, riotous peace that the Aschen were doing their best to hygienically tame into order. And before I was ready, I was there.
I regretted it as soon as I saw the tiny cabin. Why had I come? Why hadn't Daniel or Teal'c or Janet or anybody offered to come instead? Did they still suffer under the delusion that the Colonel and I had a 'special connection'?
Well, all that was gone. I was married. I loved my husband. He was everything I needed, calm, gentle, understanding. And whatever the Colonel felt for me had burnt away in those last argumentative angry days 10 years ago.
I get out the car slowly and make my way to his door. And, unwillingly, with every step my exhilaration grew. My muscles tensed, not in fear but in anticipation. My mind raced, my eyes looked eagerly onward, waiting to see what was round the next corner and I remembered. This was what I had felt before missions, the excitement, the eager expectancy, the burning curiosity, even the edge of fear. What was out there, what we experience, survive, fight this time? How could I have forgotten this joy, this strength, this indescribable, aching, burning, warming, thrill? How could I have lived without it for so long?
I reach the door, and knock, but there's no answer. I walk round the side, eager to find him, to begin, to pick up where we left off.
And then, all of a sudden, he's there. Unconscious of me, for a second, and I remember something else I'd forgotten in my safe, comfortable, dull existence.
I love him. I always loved him. How could I have been so stupid as to forget that?
part 2; Hate
I hate her. I really hate her. I hate the way she just appears, just standing there, heartbreakingly shyly, incandescently lovely, as young and alive as always, facing me, an old man, pottering around, retired, alone, hidden, old and creaking.
I used to dream about this. In the first hours, days, weeks, months after I came here, when the pain was still fresh, when even breathing was an effort, I'd get through the day by imagining she had walked round the corner. I'd make up all kinds of situations that would bring her here, to this battered little cabin in the middle of nowhere, to the fishless lake, to me. But really, it didn't matter what brought her here, as long as she came. I'd make up all kinds of conversations. Sometimes I'd be angry, sometimes I'd forgive, but always ALWAYS we'd end up together, maybe in each other's arms, maybe in bed, but most importantly of all, we'd be together, me and her, against the universe, again. And that daydream would get me through the next few hours.
But the years passed and she didn't come. I stopped jumping at every sound, thinking it was her. And when Daniel came back, I stayed in my cabin, and didn't rush to the reunion.
But Daniel came, and he wrote, faithfully, throughout the years, devastated that the team he'd left behind, so sure they would stay tighter always, had broken up.
"I wouldn't have gone if I'd known you were going to mess things up so badly, Jack" he told me.
His letters were scruffy, covered with the dust of whatever particular country he was in at the time, his handwriting terrible, his spelling atrocious, but I appreciated them. Then, one day, it came. A letter that was so neatly and cautiously written, that Daniel must have thought carefully about every word before he committed them to paper. And I knew, before I even opened it. I knew as I stood there, the letter shaking in my hand, I knew it was the end of the daydreams, that we would never have that talk, she would never walk round the corner of my cabin.
"Jack, I'm sorry, but Sam's married."
I stopped dreaming. I forced myself never to imagine her, her eyes, her laugh, her voice. And eventually, I succeeded. The pain didn't get any better, but it didn't get any worse. My shattered, broken feelings began to mend. I began to take pleasure again, in music, in books, in the world around me. And bit by bit, I learnt to live without her again.
Until I walk round the corner, and there she is, just like in my dreams, all in white, smiling softly, unsure, but so real, and for one glorious second, every dream I ever had rushes back into my head, and I think 'its all true, she's come back to me'.
But then reality kicks in, only now I have the pain back again, and I hate her for that. Love can really make you hate. And we argue, and I drive her away, sure that is what I want. Better the dull emptiness I had before than the sharp ache of being with her and knowing she doesn't love me.
But As soon as she's gone, I get ready to leave. Because, in the end, it doesn't matter what she said, or why she was here. It doesn't matter what went on in the last ten years, or what we said to each other. All that matters is that I still love her, and if she needs me, I'll help her.
Part 3; Fate
NOT her favourite SG team? Well, why would we be, after we'd saved the world so many times, after most of us had been possessed by alien beings at some time or another, after some of us had died and come back to life at least once, after all the great new allies we'd made like the Nox and the Tollan and the Aschen. oh, right. The Aschen. Well, maybe she has a point.
God, we all look so young in that picture. Even Hammond has that hopeful, proud, slightly na´ve look we all share, unaware of the future, of what's going to happen to us all. I still have that dazed, intense look I had in the days after I lost Sha're, but I also look as innocent as a child. Teal'c looks stern, but hopeful ,and proud to be with us, and Sam looks bright and brilliant and eager, and Jack looks...
That's odd. I've never noticed that before. But then I suppose I've never really looked at the picture before. Jack looks as though he knows. He's got this look in his eyes, a dark, unfathomable look of certain, bitter knowledge. And it suddenly hits me that he knew, back then. He knew what was going to happen to us all. Maybe not the specifics, but he'd knew we'd all lose our innocence, our faith, our lovers, our friends.
And in that terrible bleakness in his eyes, he knows about himself too. He's already found himself drawn to her, to her joy in living, her brightness, her brilliance, everything the woman in the picture and the woman I'm beside right now share. Maybe he's already seen the start of a reciprocal feeling in her. But he already knows the end. He already knows he'll lose her before they come even close to happy ending.
I sent Sam to ask Jack to come and help. I knew if I asked he'd find some way to say no. But if she asked for help, he'd come. I know he'll be there. I can see it in the eyes of that Jack in the twelve year old picture.
Part 4; Anger.
I used to like Jack O'Neill, but that was before he broke my best friend's heart. Oh, she can deny that she never cared that much all she likes, and Daniel can go on about how there was fault on both sides (a year or two of being a god has made him a bit of a know-all) but I was THERE. I know that she suffered, even if she made damn sure no-one else knew, and I know Jack O'Neill needs to bear a whole load of blame for that. So, no, no matter how many times he gives me that insecure, unsure, little boy look I used to find so damn cute, I will not laugh at his jokes. I will not even look at him if I can help it. I know it's his way, to use humour to cover up heroism, or sorrow, or loss, or nerves, but I don't want him to cover up. I want him to say 'I was an idiot, I behaved badly, I'm sorry' to Sam's face, then maybe, maybe, I'll consider him a friend again.
Daniel says my anger is a little extreme. He could be right. But Sam's my best friend. She understands and forgives far too easily in my opinion, and she won't get angry for herself, so I see it as my job to get angry for her. And after seeing the life fade out of her in the past ten years, I'm very angry.
But then he stops joking.
"I think we should all write a note of our own. In case I don't make it through the gate you can keep trying."
An expression crosses his face when he says that, one that looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. It was only later, as Daniel drove me home, I realised where I'd seen it before.
"Oh my God." I breathed.
"What?" Daniel asked.
"Do you remember when Jack said we should all write a note, in case he didn't make it? The look on his face was the same."
"The same as when he walked down that corridor to get tested by Anise to save Sam." Daniel finished for me. We both remembered that moment so clearly, Jack walking away from her, Sam screaming 'No!' after him, all those guards between him and her, and that single, heartbreaking glance back at the woman he loved.
"He knows it's a suicide mission." Daniel said.
"And he's going to make sure she isn't the one that dies." I added.
I wasn't angry with him any more.
Part 5; Love
The first time I met Samantha Carter, I asked her a question (I don't even remember what it was!) and behind me, Colonel O'Neill said something like 'Never ask why unless you really want to know' and she and him shared a glowing glorious secret lovers smile, and I realised I'd do anything to get her to smile at me like that.
I've just realised she never did. Oh, she's smiled at me, and it's was tender and sweet and loving, but the secret joy bubbling over in her, that spark of intense life that was there when she smiled at him was missing.
I realise this because I can see it now. She's not smiling at either of us, but the life and spirit is back in her eyes. I love her so much. I thought she loved me. I think even she thought she loved me, but standing here, facing him, feeling the electric intensity in the air between them, I know he's the only man she's ever loved.
He snapped at me, but I don't think he's really angry with me. I don't think he ever has been. The day I told him I was falling in love with Sam, he simply said 'Can't say I blame you' and walked away. I think he was waiting for the day she'd leave me and go back to him, but she never did. I don't know why.
No, I think he's angry at her. Perhaps because he was happy with his dreams and memories, and she's dragged him back to reality, and he's not enjoying it. But I'm not sure. The air is thick with undercurrents and implications and memories and knowledge that the four of them share and that I'm excluded from. I feel like I'm feeling my way in the dark, and everyone speaks a different language to me.
But I can at least ask - or rather force - Sam to do the one thing he would never order her to do. I can make her stay behind, to survive whatever catastrophe they're cooking up between them. I know she'll hate me for it, and I know things will never be the same between us again, but I don't care. As long as she's alive, my world is complete, and that is the one thing Jack and I share.
"Whatever it is, you'll have to do it without Sam." I told him, and I could hear my voice shaking. I don't normally go against Sam's wishes, and I try to avoid confrontations, but I had no choice now.
"I will not let you risk Sam's life." I told him - ordered him, and he looked me over, shared a glance with her, and agreed. Agreed to save her. Agreed to let her go.
And I understood why. He was never going to let her die doing this. I just gave him a way to keep him safe. He had her love, but I had her life, and he trusted me with it.
Part 6; Death
I have waited to die many times in my life. I have been aware of its approach, of the shadow it casts over me, of the heavy beat of its wings, and prepared for it. Daniel Jackson accuses me of being fatalistic. Jack O'Neill says I give up too easily. Samantha Carter does not say anything. She merely smiles at their jokes, does not judge me, and does her best to ensure I do not die. I like her attitude best of all.
But that was a long tome ago, when we lived and laughed and fought together. Now we are scattered far and wide, rift by the division in our midst. Daniel Jackson berates O'Neill for staying away from us. Samantha Carter does not say anything. She insists that Jack O'Neill's behaviour does not affect her. Yet, unlike my human friends, I do not listen to what is said, I observe what is felt. A part of her has died since he has gone. Or rather, not dead, only sleeping.
It is odd, but fitting that I should spend what will undoubtedly be my last hours thinking of the two of them, or rather, of her. I have always been fond of Samantha Carter. The women of my race are not warriors, and at first I was surprised to find a woman who fought beside the men of her planet. Then I was impressed. And while Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill argued with and prompted and challenged me, she expected nothing from me. She only gave freely of her unconditional friendship and support, and that indeed is a rare gift.
Only a few moments left now. It is an strange mission this. If I fail, I will die of course, but if I succeed, this will never have happened. And that is the way it should be. Things have gone wrong ever since Samantha Carter and O'Neill argued and parted. Not that is the cause of all that is wrong, although the two of them together - brawn and brains, as Janet once described them - formed a unique and indomitable team. If he was not there to identify a problem no-one else could see, and shout, as he so often did 'Carter, solve it!', then she will not come up with the solution.
It has been barely an hour since the message came through 'Here's Jack!' a cryptic reference to an old movie meaning Jack O'Neill was back. I knew he would be. I knew when Samantha went to him that although he would refuse at first, he would return. I knew because he belongs by her side no matter how long he stays away. I knew because I have always watched the two of them, since the beginning. I watched them grow from friendship to love to soulmates, and I knew what the end will be. It will be this, the two of them, the heart of our team, saving the world.
Janet steps through the gate, pale and anxious. I dial the co-ordinates, then turn to her, one last time. For the first, and only time in my life, I cup her cheek gently with my hand.
"It will be alright." I tell her, gently.
"How do you know?" she asked, and my brave friend's eyes are full of tears.
"Because I see more than any of you will ever know and the world today is not the way the world is meant to be'.
I kiss her, gently, as I have long wanted to do, and step through, to carry out the final daring plan of O'Neill and Carter.