The Chaos Theory
by nanda (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are some things you can predict, and there are others you can't. You know this, as a scientist. The decay rate of naquadah is predictable; the trajectory of a subatomic particle isn't. There are fractals, the butterfly effect, strange attractors, phase transition states. And then ... and then there's this:
The call will come on a Wednesday, and will be completely unexpected. You only ever talk a few times a year, and lately it's been more like annually, so you never could have guessed that he'd pick that one day. And seeing him -- god, has it been three whole years?
But it will be Vijay, and Vijay will always be Vijay, so you will smile to hear his voice crackling over his cell phone. "What are you doing this weekend, Sam?" he'll ask in his Delhi lilt. "I thought I might come out to Colorado for a visit."
You'll smile even more as you hang up: it's been a *very* long time. And while you may have learned to be very good at celibacy, you'll never really learn to like it.
On Friday afternoon you'll find an excuse to leave the base early, so you can pick him up at the airport. Then you'll spend the night getting drunk, reminiscing about your quals and Vijay's certifiable dissertation adviser, and hurrying back to your place to get naked. All absolutely as predicted, by previous empirical evidence.
On Saturday you'll lie in bed until late afternoon, throwing popcorn at each other and watching terrible sci-fi movies. Finally you'll drag him to the shower, out to dinner, and, yes, into bed again.
On Sunday you'll be making more coffee while Vijay checks his email in your study, and you'll hear him call out, "Hey, Sam? There are three very tall men coming to your door."
Which will be about as unpredictable as the lifespan of Schroedinger's cat.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit. You'll wonder if the house really reeks of sex, or if you're just imagining it. You'll think of your rumpled hair and skimpy pajamas, of Vijay drinking cold coffee in nothing but boxer shorts, and realise that they'll have no problem figuring out what you've been up to anyway. Then you'll grab a sweatshirt (shit, it's Vijay's) from the kitchen and explain as calmly as you can while you run to the door, "Oh, those are just the guys I work with."
"They're *tall*." And that? Predictable. Completely.
"Yeah, thanks for that, Vijay," you'll say. Shit, shit, shit. This is not the way you wanted them to find out. You didn't want them to find out at all.
Still, you'll pull the door open before they've even rung the bell. Colonel O'Neill will have his back to you, staring at your car -- he loves your car. Daniel will look half-comatose and desperately in need of more coffee despite the travel mug in his hand. And Teal'c will just look like Teal'c, though (thank god) he'll be wearing a simple black knit cap and not one of his more outlandish fashion statements.
You'll pretend to be surprised to see them, which won't be difficult. "Oh, hi guys."
The Colonel will spin to face you, hands slung in the pockets of his worn khakis. "Carter! Lazy Sunday? Not like you. Get dressed already. We're going out to brunch."
Just like him to pick up the chaperones first, you'll think, less than charitably.
But Daniel will already be shoving his way past you, mumbling something about the facilities. You'll hold your breath as he glances into the study, because you'll know exactly what will happen next.
"Uh. Hello." He'll hold up one hand weakly, much like the way he makes first contact on worlds where he isn't yet sure which language the natives speak.
You'll back into the room, your three teammates sort of squeezing in the archway as if afraid to come any further.
"Guys, this is Vijay. He's an old friend from grad school -- teaches at Virginia Tech." You won't miss the Colonel's eyes dropping from your face to the school logo on your sweatshirt, but you'll pretend to. "Uh, Daniel, Colonel O'Neill, and -- "
"Murray," Teal'c will supply helpfully, with that proud semi-grin.
"Murray," you'll finish.
The Colonel will recover quickly, and you'll be impressed. "Jack," he'll say, stepping into the room and holding out his right hand. "Another physicist?"
Vijay will stand. "I'm afraid so." And as you watch them shake hands, you'll try not to compare Vijay's skinny geekiness with the Colonel's ... Colonelness.
"Well, hey, any friend of Carter's ... Come on out with us." Which will make you stare at him, because it might just be the sweetest thing you have ever heard him say. Though it's really very him and therefore, strictly speaking, not entirely unpredictable.
Vijay will look at you for guidance. "Uh, we already ate, actually," you'll say limply. "And we have to leave for the airport in a couple hours, anyway."
"Yeah, of course," Daniel will say, belatedly trying to rescue you. "We really should have called first."
"No, no, it's fine," you'll lie. "I don't mind. I wish we could go."
"You will be missed, Major Carter." And you'll smile at that, remembering that you really don't hug Teal'c enough.
"Uh, yeah. Never the same without you, Carter. The French toast should thank its lucky stars. So, just us guys, huh?"
"Just us guys," Daniel will say, not-so-subtly pushing them towards the door. "Bye, Sam. Nice to meet you, Vijay."
When they've gone, you'll collapse onto the floor, covering your eyes with one sweatshirted arm.
"Well, that was awkward," Vijay will announce.
"*Thank* you for pointing that out."
He'll nudge your side with one bare foot. "You know your boss has a thing for you, right?"
You'll move your arm, just so you can stare at him properly, and recognise the amused expression on his face.
"What? Guys aren't as dumb as you think. Well ... not all the time, anyway."
You'll keep staring, and finally he'll shrug. "It's the way he looked at you. And at me. You always were oblivious when you were being checked out, Sam."
You'll groan and he'll settle back to his email ... leaving you to think that oblivion sounds like a pretty great alternative.
You'll pull out your phone on the way back from the airport, and it will take you three tries to finish dialing his number.
"O'Neill," he'll say, just like he always does.
"Hi." You'll wince even though you've been rehearsing the words since they left your house. "I was wondering if ... if you wanted to meet somewhere for a drink."
There'll be a long pause before he says, predictably, "Yeah. Sure. I'll call the guys and -- "
"I meant you, sir." You won't like the silence that follows, so you'll add quickly, "How about Pike's, by your house? I can be there in half an hour."
"Great," he'll say, with false cheer. "See ya, Carter."
Traffic will be light, so you'll get there early. But he will be earlier still, already nursing a shot of whiskey at the bar. You'll sit next to him and order the same, trying not to notice his odd sideways look at you.
"How was brunch?" you'll ask as the bartender pours.
"Good, good. Teal'c really bonded with the cheese blintzes." He'll watch as you take a sip; the liquor will be cheap, and bitter. "Your friend make it to the airport okay?"
"I just dropped him off. His plane leaves at four. All the new security, you know."
"Ah." He'll tap his fingers against the shot glass while you try to figure out where to start. But he'll beat you to that, too. "Look, we shouldn't have just shown up like that -- I'm sorry we interrupted -- "
"No, I don't mind you coming over. Any of you. I just -- I don't want you to get the -- " Damn. You'll stop as you realise you were about to say *the wrong idea*. Because it wouldn't be the wrong idea at all. Only ... at the same time, it would.
His eyes will go soft, just enough for you to notice. "You don't owe me anything, Carter."
But that won't be true, and you'll know it. "It's just -- we're old friends, we're both single workaholics, we just -- help each other out sometimes."
"That what they're calling it these days?"
You'll smile despite yourself. "You're not helping, sir."
His gaze will fall to the bar, then drag itself back up to your eyes. "Yeah," he'll say, "can we drop the 'sir' for this conversation?"
Which will feel simultaneously like a very sensible and a very dangerous thing for him to ask, so you'll have to look away.
"I should have told you guys he was coming," you'll say finally. "I don't know why I didn't."
He'll be silent for a minute, watching you. You'll know without looking at him. "Is that what you'd want?" he'll ask. "If the situation were -- uh -- reversed? Not that it's going to be reversed anytime soon ... "
The attempt at humor will fall flat, but only, you'll suspect, because of the ache in your gut. "I honestly don't know," you'll admit, meeting his eyes again.
"Yeah. I don't know, either."
You'll nod, though you still haven't said the one thing you're there to say. "It doesn't mean anything, you know. With Vijay."
He won't react with the relief you might (somewhat ridiculously) have expected, but you'll swear you can see the second he decides to slip back into buddy mode. "Fun, though?" he'll ask, and you'll be absurdly grateful. "Good weekend?"
"Pretty good, yeah."
"Well, you deserve it, Major. You don't relax enough."
"So you keep telling me. I'm sorry I missed the cheese blintzes, though." And you'll mean it.
"They were pretty tasty."
"Daniel had three. He's a champagne slut."
"Oh, I know."
Then you'll stare at each other, sipping your drinks, while you think about how hard it is to talk without speaking.
"You know, Carter," he'll drawl finally. "You ever do meet Mr. Right ... "
You'll bite your lip and order your brain not to think the obvious response.
"I'll hate his guts. But I'll be happy for you."
Which will definitely be the sweetest thing you've ever heard him say, not to mention the last thing you could have predicted.
"Likewise," you'll agree, grinning. And you'll buy him another drink.