By next month, things had gotten back to normal.
Not COMPLETELY normal, of course; that was impossible. But normal enough that I could forget - for short periods of time - how much had changed. Because a lot was the same. Daniel and Teal'c were most certainly the same, and Carter was still on SG-1 - still CARTER - and I... well, I didn't want to change. So I didn't.
We still went on missions: some went boon, others bust, but we all came back in one piece, more or less. Sam surprised me by hardly cutting back her hours on base, in the field or in her lab. She said that Rick had known when he married her how dedicated she was to her job. And he was a busy man, too.
Of course, he noticed when she came back from P7T-432 with a sprained ankle, and a burn on her arm after P1J-266 - normal injures we'd that we all accumulated on missions, always had, but that now seemed glaringly obvious. Eventually, we'd have to come up with a better cover story than "deep space radar analysis". In any case, Sam had to lie to Rick about the cause of the injuries... classified, unofficial government operation and all that.
But none of it came up a head until one night in mid-January. Well, it was nighttime on P6Q-441, and judging by the temperature it was summer there... but that isn't important. It was a world covered by something that was more orchard than forest - somewhat tame trees and fruit-bearing bushes, and soft, rich soil. It was evening when we came through - great planning by our boys at the SGC - and rather than wander around in the dark, bumping into trees and perhaps becoming lost, we decided to stop there, just a few dozen meters from the Stargate.
We set up camp in a spot relatively clear of foliage. Teal and I construct the tent - fruit means bugs, nasty bugs - while Sam clears a place for a fire. Daniel stands around, looking bored, until Sam sends him to find twigs for our little hearth. We have firestarters in our bags, of course, but they don't work half the time and smell awful anyway. And it gives Daniel something to do... provided he doesn't wander off too far.
That in mind, I send Teal'c off to keep an eye on the Doctor. Sam helps me finish with the tent, and then we crawl inside to spread out the bedrolls.
She'd never mentioned that night on my roof again, and I didn't think it was my place to bring it up. Oddly enough, I didn't feel any guilt over what had transpired; if I felt anything about it, it was reluctance that it had come to such an abrupt end. But that's my little secret.
Now, Sam pauses in her unpacking and looks back over her should at me. The light inside the tent is dim; I haven't turned on the lanterns yet so the only illumination is what the two large moons, hanging over the orchard like ornaments on an interstellar Christmas tree, provide. Likewise, I can't see much more of Sam than the brim of her hat, the curve of her cheek and the moisture of her eyes. "Jack..." she starts, then trails off, turning her back on me once more.
I'm glad she can't see my face. 'Jack' again. It's been 'Jack' ever since the night on the rooftop. I know it makes sense; it's what RICK calls me, after all, and we did make some sort of promise at the wedding to me more informal. I wish we hadn't. I wished for so long that she would stop with the whole 'Colonel' and 'sir' stuff, and now she has, but it's all for naught. I suppose every time she utters my first name, I'm reminded of what I've lost, or rather, what I could have had but never will. Stupid, but then again feelings like this rarely make any sense whatsoever.
And the best thing I can do at this point, I tell myself, is to confront those feelings head on. It's what I did with Sara, after all: I had to go back to her, talk to her, spill my heart out to her before I was finally at peace, and we could finally agree that nothing was going to reverse itself, and that a divorce made the most sense.
"What is it, Sam?" I ask. The compassion in my tone is forced, and uncertain; I feel like I'm trying it out, like a new pair of shoes. But it works. Sam turns around, and sits on the bedroll across from me.
"How would you feel if I left SG-1?"
How did I know that that was coming? I hang my head momentarily, fighting for composure, trying to keep myself from screaming out "I'd hate it! We need you! I need you! I love you!"
Instead, I mutter. "Wouldn't be the same without you."
She ducks her head. "I know, I know. And I'm not sure why I'm even bringing this up now, but..."
She's apprehensive. "Rick wants a family."
I swallow, fighting back bile. "What do you want?"
"Well, I don't want to leave the program. And I wouldn't have to... not exactly. I could still work in the labs."
"Not a great place to bring up a kid."
She flushes. It's dark, but I can still tell she's blushing. The air in the tent gets a few degrees warmer. "I don't know," she says vehemently, and then sags a bit. "You don't know how Rick and I met, do you?"
"Yeah. You went to him after the alternate reality... thing." The words are hard to say. I want to add 'because you couldn't talk to me'.
She shakes her head. "Not exactly. Rae Anders - Airmen Anders - referred me to him. I made an appointment... I got as far as his office door before leaving. I couldn't do it."
"Why not?" Now the concern is genuine.
"He wasn't the person I wanted to talk to."
My heart does a spectacular triple-axle. And the crowd goes wild... "Then what?"
"Well, I guess Rae heard from Rick that I hadn't gone to the appointment... they're cousins and he just mentioned it to her because he was concerned. Maybe he shouldn't have done it, but anyway... She asked me about it later and I just told her that I wasn't comfortable with spilling out my problems to a complete stranger, which I wasn't, especially since it involved the Stargate which I'd have to dance around... She set up kind of a... casual meeting for us, not as patient and doctor, just as friends. We went out to dinner, didn't talk about my problems, talked about everything else. And he asked me out. He said he could still help me out as a doctor but he wanted to be something else to me, too." She shrugs. It's been some time since I've heard her ramble like this. "I DO love him. But he wasn't the one I wanted." She pauses, and swallows. "To talk to."
There's total silence in the tent, and total silence outside, as well. I wonder where Danny and Teal'c are, and if I should be worried that they haven't returned, but I can't keep my mind off Sam for long. I'm not sure what to make of her pronouncement. "I'm sorry," I say finally. "That you couldn't talk to me."
She rubs her face with her hands. "Why'd you kiss me?"
I'm not surprised by this question, either. Maybe I've become telepathic. "Because I wanted to."
"You wanted to that night, too."
I don't have to ask what night she means. I know she's talking about the night of our aborted discussion of Dr. Samantha Carter, and Sam's bad dreams. "Yeah, I guess I did."
"You should have."
The declaration startles me. "I should?"
She appears embarrassed. "Yeah."
Neither of us are Shakespeare. But we HAVE gotten our point across, and I do feel better. Lighter, somehow.
"Or," continues Sam, and her voice is strange, strained. "Maybe I should have kissed you."
Her words send a buzzing up and down my spine, like a faint electrical charge, and I don't know what to make of the feelings she's conjured in me. I just sit in stunned silence as she runs and hand over her face to her forehead, brushing off the cap. I gape in disbelief as she reaches over and plucks my own hat from my head, and fingers it thoughtfully. Once again, I know what's coming. I know...
Our eyes meet tentatively, so close to shying away...
We move, reaching, at the same instant - at least this time around I have nothing to apologize for. Our arms go around each other with a minimum of awkwardness, though our noses and chins bump once before having the good sense to get out of the way. Our lips meet and merge, and this time there's no coaxing, no hesitating. I want her and I know she wants me and she knows I know. It's fierce and demanding, like we're giving each other very agreeable orders, and it involves tongues and roaming hands and a soft moan here and there.
God, I know it's wrong but knowing that just makes it better, as does the knowledge that Teal'c and Daniel probably aren't far away.
We're still in that strange grappling sitting position, only suddenly Sam rises up on her knees, breaking mouth-to-mouth contact. I settle for the underside of her jaw while she hastily unzips her jacket and shrugs it off, leaving the black tee shirt. She leans forward, and I fall on my back, and she falls on top of me, a slight and welcome weight. The horizontal sensation pushes my arousal to new and interesting heights, and I capture her mouth again while she attempts to relieve me of my jacket by feel alone. Feel is good; feel I can do. God, she feels wonderful. I always knew that she was a physically strong woman - she has to be - but I don't think I fully appreciated the extent of that strength until it was directed at me.
And then, like a trumpet of doom, I hear a voice from outside, not far off. Daniel, Godammit. "Well, I didn't get LOST, exactly."
And Teal'c. "You were lost."
Their voices and footsteps approach... Sam must hear them but she doesn't let me go and I'm sure not going to be the one to push her away. I kiss her, hard.
"I never said I had great sense of direction." They're right on top of us now. Shit.
Sam tears her mouth away from mine and looks down on me. I search fearfully for some form of regret, but damn if all I can see is desire.
She climbs off of me reluctantly, leaving our bottom halves in contact a second longer than necessary... ooh, she's going to get it for that. I grin at the thought.
"Hey, Sam, Jack?" Daniel calls from the hearth. "You guys done in there?"
Sam's eyes are bright as she pulls her jacket back on. "Not quite," she answers.