Story Notes: AUTHOR'S NOTES: A very short ditty written on the spur of the moment, working with the assumption that either '2001' ended differently and both Sam and Joe made it back, or that at some point in the future, Joe was rescued.

Thanks and hugs to Ruthie for the comments.

He didn't know why she'd agreed to meet him. It had been so long since they'd come face to face, he'd been certain she'd say no. He recalled the distinctive pause when he eventually plucked up the courage to make the phone call and ask her. He vividly remembered the muffled voices in the background as they had a quick discussion about it, her and him. Her husband. He remembered the familiar stab of pain when he thought about her, with *him*.

Whatever the reasons, he had been surprised when she'd said yes. A perverse inkling of pleasure had gone through him at the thought of her *wanting* to see him. At the thought of the putout look on her husband's face as she made the decision.

On the actual day, however, his confidence began to waver. He sat at a table at the outside cafe, waiting, fidgeting with his knife, his folk, his glass of water.. Anything that would take his mind off the woman he was there to see.

"This seat taken?" The sound of her voice startled him.

His breath caught in his throat as he looked up and saw her standing in front of him, framed by the sun behind, an almost ethereal glow surrounding her. And that smile.. He'd missed that smile. "Feel free." Somehow, he managed to croak a response, reaching for his glass of water as she gracefully took her seat.

"I'm sorry I'm late." She smiled again, warmly, her eyes as blue as he remembered them being. "I got carried away with something.."

No doubt her husband had 'something' to do with it.

"No problem." He took the opportunity to stare at her as the waitress came over and took her order – a mineral water, the same as him. Her hair was longer, her face slightly older with more lines.. He supposed that was only natural, though. The years had passed them by, although they had treated her kindly. She was still as beautiful as he remembered.

Noticing he was staring, feeling uncomfortable because of it, she cleared her throat and crossed her hands on the table in front of her, the gold of her wedding band glinting in the sun, a constant reminder. "So how've you been? I haven't seen you since the Aschen.."

"Yeah." He cut her off abruptly, his eyes haunted. He didn't need to be reminded of *them*. Not after everything they'd done, and tried to do. "I'm fine. I'm doin' good. You?"A smile flittered briefly over her lips, turning the corners of her mouth upwards for a few flitting seconds. "Fine. Everything with me is fine."

"So.. " An awkward pause fell over them. He should have known, should have expected.. "Any kids?"

He'd heard rumours, heard things said by old friends and past colleagues. People who knew her, and *him*. People who didn't have to keep their distance.

The smile came back, only it stayed, twisting his insides as he saw the fondness and love in her eyes. "One who's walking, one on the way."

"That's.. That's good." He meant it, he really did.. So why were the words choking him? "Congratulations."

She was making small talk, he knew. Saying no more than was necessary, a way of keeping her distance, keeping it cool. Keeping it safe. She seemed happy enough, though, and he wanted to be happy for her. It was good that she was happy, real good. So why was he struggling so much to return her smile?

"I hear you left the SGC?"

The smile, he noted, faded a little. Sadness crept into her eyes. "Yes, I did.. When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't imagine staying on.." She looked up from her contemplation of the glass in front of her. "At least not full-time.."

"And he..?" He motioned with his hand, letting the action fill in the silence where *his* name should have been.

"He has very little to do with the SGC these days." She answered quickly. Too quickly? But her eyes met his and she didn't seem to regret what she was saying. If anything, she was starting to smile again. "Occasionally, we both still get called back but.." She broke off with a shrug and looked away, a distant expression appearing in her eyes. 'But we have other things to do now. Like be with each other and our children.'

She didn't need to say the words. He knew what she meant.

The 'we' caught his attention. A none-too-subtle reminder that she was part of a 'we'. There was no 'I' in 'we'. Just like there'd never been an 'I' in 'team'. Just like he remembered. The team had always been close, always been more like one entity than four separate people. He remembered only too well what it was like trying to become part of that whole, trying to be accepted by everyone.

He couldn't stop himself from asking, though. Looking at her, watching her dreamily gaze into the distance, her water, their conversation, him, all apparently forgotten.. He couldn't stop himself from asking. He *needed* to know.

One way or another.

"Are you happy?" His brown eyes implored her to say no or to at least give him something to hope for. He wanted her to answer too quickly so he could assume she was covering up, or he wanted her to take too long and hesitate.

But she did neither, despite knowing how much it would hurt him. Despite not wanting to cause him anymore pain. Bringing her gaze to rest on his face, she smiled a genuine smile, one that reached the eyes he'd spent so much time thinking and dreaming about. "I'm very happy. He makes me happy."

Swallowing hard, he stood, nodding. Clearing his throat, looking everywhere but at her face, everywhere but into her eyes where he knew he would see she was telling the truth, he forced himself to speak. "I'm glad.. I'm.. I'm happy for you." A quick, fake smile and he started backing away, still unable to look at her. "I gotta go.. Things to do, people to see. Maybe I'll see you around somewhere."

"Maybe." She spoke quietly, her eyes locked onto him as he moved away from her. "Take care of yourself."

"You too." A small pause as he turned his back on her, his shoulders tense, mentally scolding himself for feeling the way he did, knowing he should have expected it. "Goodbye, Samantha."

'C'est la vie,' he thought to himself, walking away from her. It wasn't easy but then that was life.


She watched him get up and walk away, smiling softly when he glanced back at her, throwing a causal wave over his shoulder before carrying on, walking from her line of sight for the last time, she was sure.

Staying at the table, she crossed her hands in front of her again, mindlessly twisting the wedding ring on her finger, wondering why she didn't feel any different. Wondering why she felt no remorse for the choices she'd chosen or the sacrifices she'd made. Wondering why she felt
nothing for him. Nothing anything like what he obviously still felt for her.

The hands on her shoulders would have made her jump if they'd belonged to someone – anyone - else. But instead, they made her smile. Lifting her hand up to cover his, she tilted her head back, welcoming his kiss.

"It went well?"

"Fine." She smiled lovingly as he took the seat opposite, grasping her hand lightly in his.

"No regrets?" Her husband studied her warily, although he tried not to be obvious about it. It was something she knew he still thought of occasionally; in the dark hours, filled with self-doubt, he still questioned whether he was good enough for her. Whether he could compete..

"No regrets, Jack." Lifting their hands, pressing her palm flat against his, their fingers entwining, Sam gave him a look of utter contentment. "There will never be any regrets."

Matching her smile with a grin of his own, Jack leaned across the table so he could brush a gentle kiss against her lips. Settling back in his chair, their hands still joint, he couldn't remember why he'd been so worried. Joe Faxton had had his chance, a long time ago.

Sam had chosen him then, and had chosen him now. Just as she always would.

The End.

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