Something has changed between Jack and I. It's difficult to say when exactly it happened. I would like to lay the blame firmly on the alternative versions of ourselves, but it wasn't that...not entirely. The change started there...but has been gathering momentum. Sure Jack was a little unnerved by seeing his son again...who wouldn't be? Yet his desire for more children has only manifested itself recently.
I don't want children, not yet. Jack seems to think that volunteering to retire and raise any kids makes it all right. He doesn't seem to understand that I'm the one who has to give up my career for nine months. I talked to Janet about it. No one knows what effect 'gate travel would have on an unborn child, so I'd be effectively grounded. Not something that would do my career any good. Hell, I've only just made Lieutenant Colonel, I don't want to stop now.
Jack spends more and more time at the park, watching the kids as they play. The local school children love him...call him Colonel Jack. But he hasn't really spoken about it....not until the other night. He suggested we get married, but I know that's not really what he wants. If it were just a matter of a ring on my finger I think he would have proposed months ago. So I mentioned the kid thing and he admitted it right there and then. I was so freaked out, I went home early, needing the solitude of my own bed.
The thing is, I can't replace Sara. I can't play the nice little housewife....at least I don't think I can.
Those thoughts are with me now. We're sitting on a cliff overlooking a body of water and the sky is full of shooting stars. Jack's just told me to stop sucking the fun out of this....and the Edoran woman smiled at him. Laughing at Jack's jokes is what I do.... He asked me to come here to check out the Naquedah readings, the least he could do is be a little grateful. I was hoping that we'd get to spend a little private time together, but everywhere he goes Laira trails behind. She likes him, I know she does. A woman can tell. I don't know if he's told her about me and he hasn't given any indication that our relationship is more that friendship. I guess having your girlfriend along when your exploring new worlds cramps your style. Captain Kirk would never approve. I'm not saying that Jack would do anything but, part of me certainly wonders.
Jack's exclamation interrupts my musings as we watch a trail of fire arc it's way across the sky. That was close...that was very close. Laira said that the fire rain becomes more brilliant every year....
"I'll make some more observations tonight," I hear myself offer.
"Good, thanks, Carter," Jack replies.
Carter? Carter? What happened to Sam?
He scrambles to his feet, preparing to make his way back to the village. I fight back another wave of disappointment. I'd been hoping that he'd hang around and we'd do some 'observing' together. As he reaches out a hand to help Laira to her feet, I turn my head away. What are you doing, Jack?
They all wish me goodnight, leaving me alone on the cliff with my lap top. I dig in my pack for chocolate. It's the only thing a woman can turn to at a time like this. I do my job....I always will. By midnight I've seen enough for the computer to come up with a workable prediction. I should really get back to the village and find a place to crash for the night.....or maybe I should just cut my losses and go back to Earth. In the end I just stay where I am. Maybe Jack will come looking for me...or maybe he won't.
It's a warm night, but by the feel of the air it must be the end of spring. It's funny how much this planet can seem like Earth. We could be just around the corner from a major city....if it weren't for the clarity of the night sky. No sign of light pollution here. The fire rain continues, several more meteors coming a little too close for my liking. I don't really need the computer, I can tell what's going to happen here. I think Danny's going up to the caves tomorrow to check the geological record. Good luck to him, but I get the feeling that it's only going to confirm my suspicions. This planet is in trouble.
"Sam? You still out here?"
Jack came back for me! Am I really that pathetic?
He slumps down beside me, turning off his torch. An arm snakes around my shoulders and he pulls me close.
"Sorry, I've been so long. Laira wanted to talk about stuff," he explains.
"The mining treaty."
"The mining treaty?"
"What's wrong with that?"
Occasionally, I wonder if Jack acts dumb on purpose, but this isn't one of those times. He really doesn't have any idea.....which is why I love him so much. Laira's going to have to do alot more before he notices her in that way. A thought that gives me no end of pleasure. I cuddle up closer to Jack, letting him know that I'm pleased he came back. His fingers gently caress the nape of my neck, twining themselves in my hair.
"Sam?" he begins.
"About the kids thing?"
"It isn't the only reason I want to marry you."
"No....Children can wait. Sam, would you do this old man the honour of becoming his wife...for better for worse....richer for poorer?"
"This life we lead is too fragile to waste and I want to marry you."
"Does it matter?"
"To me it does. I love you....I love you so much."
It's too dark for me to see into his eyes, but the tone of his voice leaves my heart beating wildly. I'm not immune to the romance of the situation. Another planet....alien stars, it's the perfect place for Jack to propose.
Without even realising it, my mouth forms a reply.
"Yes," I breathe.
He must have been pretty confident, because he has a ring with him. He fishes it out of his pocket and slips it onto my finger. I wish I could see it better, but it glitters in the light of the stars. Another fireball flashes through the sky and I see Jack's features bathed in the glow. I reach out towards him letting our lips meld as we tumble into our lover's embrace.
"So, you're gonna tell Dad?" Jack asks me.
"Yes, as soon as I've finished these calculations."
He rolls his eyes in mock exasperation. If it were up to Jack, he'd shout it from the tallest mountain, but I want to keep quiet....just long enough to savour the moment. No doubt we'll argue happily about that for a few weeks when he gates back from Edora. SG1 have to stay long enough to get the mining treaty signed and after that....well...I think Jack and I are going to put in for a little downtime.
"Keep the light on," he tells me as the Stargate whooshes into life.
With a last wave I step across the event horizon and back into the SGC. At first I didn't know whether to keep the ring on, but I decided what the hell....It's going to be fun to see how many people notice. Now I can see, it really is beautiful. Jack bought me sapphires, no diamonds for this girl...just Airforce blue stones. I think he must have had it designed especially for me. If that's the case....well, Jack has exquisite taste.
Looking at the ring, it makes me think of that other Samantha Carter. If I had been under Jack's command would I have been able to stop myself falling in love with him? I like to think that I wouldn't have slept with him, but I can't be certain. Even if I didn't, what would be the consequences of any feelings we might have had for each other. I don't like to admit it, but sometimes those thoughts bother me more than I'd like. Take last night, for example, General Hammond would go nuts if he ever found out what we'd been doing. Jack and I both knew that, but it didn't stop us. We were just lucky that no one came looking for us until after we'd.....er...finished. Even then if it had been any of SG1 it wouldn't have been a problem. The fact that it was Laira.....
That woman is far too interested in Jack. He doesn't seem to see it....which will probably make her try all the harder. It's not that I don't trust him...but I have to wonder. I tell myself that he'll be back home in a couple of days and he won't let anything happen in that time. Jack's on a promise and he knows it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if these mining negotiations aren't completed in record time. I feel a grin form as I think about our reunion.
But fantasising isn't going to get these calculations done. I plug my laptop into a nearby terminal and start to download the data I gathered last night, when I wasn't doing....other things. It takes a couple of minutes and during that time I find my mind wandering back to Laira. For some reason I feel threatened by her.....not that I'd admit that to anyone. There's something about her.....Something that Jack might find attractive. She wouldn't refuse to bear his children, she'd be happy waiting at home for him. She said something to me....this morning while I was showing her the simulation....
"When my husband died I mourned for 100 days..."
A hundred days....that number holds some significance for her, and it sends a prescient chill down my spine. In a hundred days I hope to be married to the man I love. I know it's fast, but there doesn't seem to be any point in waiting too long. Neither of us need an elaborate ceremony. We just want to be married in front of those we love best. Our team members, General Hammond, Janet, my Dad....I'll invite my brother but I don't think he'll come. What family Jack does have, he's no longer on speaking terms with. The people at the SGC are far closer to us than any blood relatives.
We didn't talk much about the wedding, but Jack has forbidden me from getting married in my uniform. He's the only one that's allowed to do that. So, I'll have to go out and find a wedding dress....I guess white would be out of the question.
The computer beeps at me, signalling that it's finished the calculations. Dragging my mind away from Jack I study the figures it presents me.
These are bad.
These are very bad. Jack you have to get out of there!
I look up a the General, who has been hovering behind me.
"Sir....we have to evacuate the settlement," I tell him.
"Are you sure, Colonel?"
"Yes, sir. If I'm right, this fire rain could destroy the whole village."
I lie in my bed staring at the wall. Janet told me I should get some sleep, but I can't.....I haven't slept in a week.
Why the hell did Jack have to go with Laira? He could have sent Kowalski....but no. Jack O'Neill always has to be the hero. No doubt Laira played the damsel in distress to perfection. Didn't he know that I'd be here waiting for him?
My alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed. After a quick shower, I head straight for my lab, intending to study the data all over again. There has to be something I can do. Daniel is trying to contact our allies, but I know that the chances of any of them having a ship close to Edora is slim. By close I mean within a weeks travel, if not....well it could take months...years even. That's assuming he even survived the meteor strike. He could be dead for all I know.
I slipped the ring off my finger the moment we found out he wasn't coming back. I'm glad now that we didn't tell anyone. It would make my situation even harder. As it is most of the base personnel look at e with undisguised sympathy. Jack and I were the base romance....I never realised how many people were interested. We're going to get him back, there has to be a way.
All the reports on Edora are scattered over my lab. bench....exactly where I left them last night....make that two hours ago. Finding time to sleep is a little difficult right now. I really have to force myself to take a break. If I didn't I'd be too tired to be any good to anyone....never mind Jack. I'm sure this working through the night thing used to be easier. There hasn't been a time when I've felt so exhausted, not even when I was studying for my finals. I should really go and get something to eat, but the very thought of food makes me feel sick.
Coffee, that's what I really need.
No sooner has the craving crossed my mind than I see a steaming mug sitting on the bench. Ferretti, it has to be. Sure enough the next thing I see is my 2IC coming around the corner with a blueberry muffin....he knows they're my favourite. Suddenly, my appetite returns in a rush and I find myself wolfing down the muffin, washing it down with large gulps of coffee.
"So Colonel," Ferretti begins, "made sense of any of this stuff yet?"
He doesn't mean that like it sounds. Ferretti isn't trying to put pressure on me.
"I don't know. The 'gate engaged so it hasn't been destroyed," I say.
"Want more coffee?"
He has the pot with him and refills my mug. I turn back to my papers. There has to be something here, something I'm missing. I don't notice when Ferretti leaves, but, around lunchtime, I find a plate of salad on the table by the door. Not that I really notice what I'm eating. That 'gate has to be there, it must just be buried somehow.
Another night's work and I finally think I have the answer. It's three AM but I find the General in the conference room. I blurt out my idea to him and, although he initially sounds sceptical, he give me the go ahead. I get the feeling he's just humouring me. He wants to stop me from falling apart and he knows that working is the only way to distract myself. Jack O'Neill is, after all only one man and the base can't afford to put all their resources into getting him back. One person, one person working alone....but since that person is me I think I have a pretty good chance. I have to believe in myself...it's more important now than ever before. If I lose faith, Jack could be stuck on that planet for years......and that just isn't acceptable.
"Working through the night again?"
I look up to see Janet approaching with another coffee. By the expression on her face, I can tell that I've been sitting here for a several hours. I think they must have a let's look after Sam rota. Whenever it's time for a meal or a break I can be certain that one of them will turn up. I take a sip of the hot drink, and wait for the caffeine to hit my system.
"Yeah," I reply , " Alot of work to do.....thank you.."
"Look, Sam there is no doubt that you're going to solve this, but you have to accept the fact that it's going to take time."
"Yeah, well, if I think like that it could take months."
"Daniel says that the Tollan could have a ship somewhere in the vicinity of Edora early next year."
"He shouldn't have to wait that long."
"I know you miss him."
"Sam... is there something you're not telling me?"
"Of course not."
Not something....several somethings. I pull my lab coat around myself, trying to hide the inevitable.
"What is it?" she presses.
Well let's see? Jack proposed to me the night before the meteor struck, but I didn't tell anyone and hid the ring. He's no stuck on a planet hundreds of light years away and I don't know if I'll ever see him again. On said planet there's some woman who seems intent on seducing him, it can only be a matter of time before he gives in....especially if he thinks he's never getting home again. And...oh yes...the really good one.....
"I think I'm pregant," I blurt out.
To her credit Janet doesn't even blink an eye. Her only response is,
"Is this a problem?"
"No," I lie to her, "of course not."
"I need to do a blood test and then you're going to get some sleep."
"No....I told you I have work to do."
I pull away from her and turn my attention back to the computer screen.
"Sam," Janet says, quietly. "You have a responsibility to this baby....."
"And I have a responsibility to Jack!" I snap back.
For some reason being pregnant doesn't seem real to me. The fact that Jack is stuck on Edora does. It's ironic really. Jack got what he wanted, but isn't around to enjoy it. In my minds eye I can see him fussing around me, putting my feet up, making sure that I'm eating the right things. I picture his face....he'd be so happy. Maybe Janet's right.....This is part of Jack and I owe it to him to keep us both safe until he comes back.
Unwillingly, I let her lead me away from my precious calculations.
My world is falling apart. I don't know what I've done wrong, I really don't. I stopped working through the night, ate all the right things, gave up alcohol. And still everything was taken away from me. They tell me it's not unusual, they tell me it happens more often than people think, even so....why did it have to happen to me?
It's funny how people can't even say the word in front of me. If people would talk about it, maybe this would be easier for me to deal with. Stupid thing is....when I got back from the hospital, there was the appointment card for my next scan in my post box. I almost lost it then. If I'd have had a blunt instrument handy I would have smashed the damn thing. But I guess Janet would have stopped me. She came with me....which I was grateful for. We spent the evening with a bottle of wine, Chinese takeout and Star Wars. It helped.
So now I'm back with my particle accelerator. It's easier to deal with that than the other base personnel. Not that many of them actually knew. Janet, of course, General Hammond, my team......all those who had reason to know why I was suddenly banned from 'gate travel. I wonder now if I didn't have some sort of premonition that something wasn't quite right. The hospital wants me to go for counselling, but I'm better off staying right here. What I need right now is Jack, and this is the only way I can get him back....though quite what I'm going to say to him....I thought about not telling him, but that wouldn't be fair.
I bet Laira could give him a dozen screaming brats...she looks the type. Over the past weeks I've tried my best not to think about them together, but for some reason the picture won't leave my mind. I try to tell myself that Jack wouldn't give up on me, but for some reason I'm not so sure. If he thinks that he's never going to be able to go home again, can I really expect him to live out his life in celibacy?
One hundred days. For some reason that number sticks out in my mind. Laira won't make her move before then. She'll give him that long. Well, I'll just have to get there first. That's all there is to it.
I don't think anyone expected me to go back to work quite so soon. Least of all Janet. She pushed me to take a few more days, but I'd already been away a week. I'm not ill...not physically anyway, I'm not going to break. Besides working takes my mind off....It's time I make finding Jack my top priority again.
It worked better than I ever thought it would. Teal'c went through the 'gate and managed to dig himself out. I think it was close. By my calculations he must have almost been out of air. There was quite a fight as to who was going to have the privilege of trying to dig their way out onto the surface of Edora. Naturally Kowalski though that he should do it because he was Jack's 2IC....then Daniel said that he had the most experience at digging up things.....not to mention, Ferretti and General Hammond himself were among the contenders. In the end Janet pointed out that Teal'c could slow down his respiration and reduce his need for oxygen....which kind of gave him the leading edge.
Apparently the DHD was still usable and he managed to dial up Earth and get a message through to us. The 'gate, however, was partially buried and horizontal. We would need the help to set it upright again. I went through next. General Hammond tried to persuade me to wait until morning, but I refused.
Teal'c and I are walking now, taking the familiar path towards the village. On our last visit it had been late spring, but now.....It's the end of summer. The fields have been harvested and there's a slight chill in the night air. We see no one as we walk. It's almost as if the village is deserted. We move through the dwelling....surprisingly intact given what happened here. If the buildings survived maybe Jack did too. Both Teal'c and myself tried contacting him by radio but failed to get any reply. I'm hoping it's just because he hasn't switched it on.
There's something going on in the main hall. It's the only place that has any lights on....or should that be fires lit. From all appearances it looks like the villagers are having some kind of party. I feel a little awkward about intruding but that doesn't stop me sliding through the door and hovering on the edge of the crowd. No one takes any notice of my presence. They all seem to be more interested in what is taking place in the centre of the hall. In the open space, surrounded by benches, A young man I recognise as Laira's son is being blindfolded. I look on as he is spun round several times and then pushed in the direction of a young woman.....I guess she must be his girlfriend. A great cheer goes up as the couple make contact.
Then I see Jack. He's sitting on one of the benches, Laira by his side. He looks happy, there's a huge grin spread across his face as he watches the scene. Next thing I know, he's been dragged to his feet and the blindfold wrapped around his eyes. They spin him around, just like they did the younger man, and push him towards Laira. Jack takes two steps and stops. I find myself holding my breath as his head snaps up and his covered eyes move towards mine. The room falls silent and I feel everyone turn to stare at me. Shaking his head, Jack takes another step towards Laira. I hold my breath as he stops again and turns back towards me.
I open my mouth to speak, but one of the villagers raises a hand to stop me. It's apparent that Jack has to make his own choice.
"Jack?" Laira breaks the silence, causing his covered eyes to swing back in her direction. He seems to study her for a second before walking unerringly towards me. I push my way through the crowd so I can meet him halfway.
He rips the blindfold from his eyes as our bodies make contact. Despite their initial antagonism, I hear the cheers as we share our first kiss in three months.
"Oh God, Sam," he whispers in my ear, "I knew you'd find a way.....I just knew it."
I'm actually crying as he wraps his arms about me and leads me to one of the tables.
"What is it?" he asks me.
"I'll tell you when we get home, " I reply.
There's some things he doesn't need to know about....not yet. I don't want to spoil his homecoming.
We agree we can't finish digging out the 'gate until daybreak, which is OK by me. It means I get to spend an uninterrupted night with Jack before the rabble get here. He leads me to the place where he's been sleeping, a small room in Laira's house. I look around and I see his uniform, his MP5, the memories of home. Nice to see he has his own room, although it looks like it's been converted from storage.
"Cosy," I grin at him.
"All the comforts of home," he replies.
Now we're alone it's almost as if we don't know where to start. We sit on the bed, just drinking in the sight of each other. It doesn't look as if he's been suffering much anyway. He's relaxed and tanned, I guess he's been working outside alot. I hate to think what I must look like.
"Hey, you look tired," he says. "I bet you haven't slept for the past week, have you?"
"No....not alot. Had to get the particle beam finished."
"The what?.....Never mind you can tell me in the morning."
"It is a rather long explanation."
"My favourite kind. Now why don't you just relax, I'll be back in a second."
He gives me a tender kiss and disappears through the curtain of rough material that serves as the door to his room. I do as he asks, stripping off my boots and jacket, lying back on the rough blankets. I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes because the next thing I hear is Laira's voice, followed by Jack's deeper tones. I creep out of bed and move to the door.
"You must be happy to be going home?" she says.
"Yes...yes I am."
"You could stay."
"I could see it in your eyes, you'd finally accepted your place here."
"Part of me would never have forgotten Sam, you must know that."
"That wasn't the part I wanted."
God, I was right. She did want him. Seems I got here just in time.
"I wanted you to give me a child," Laira finishes.
That hurts. I stumble backwards finding myself curled up on the bed, hugging my knees. Jack wants children so badly, if he knows what happened......
"You wanted....excuse me!" Jack says. "I can't believe we're having this conversation."
"It's all right Jack, I know now that you would never want me."
I can hear her crying. Maybe it's to get sympathy, or maybe she really does love him. I wouldn't blame her. Once you get past that veneer of sarcasm he really is an easy man to care about.
"Laira....you're a very attractive woman. And maybe if I wasn't going home, if I wasn't with Sam....you get the idea."
"Yes, I understand."
"Now I really need to get some sleep.......alot of digging to do tomorrow. Goodnight."
Jack comes back to his bed, and I can see the thoughtful expression in his eyes. He looks down at me, I'm pretending to be asleep. I think it's easier that way. His fingers brush the hair from my forehead and his lips caress mine. He moves around in the small space, divesting himself of his clothes, blowing out the candle.
It feels good to curl up next to him again, have him hold me through the night. The space is cramped but I don't mind a bit. Especially, as the last words from his lips before sleep claims him are,
"Love you, Sam."