He kissed her.
It would have been easier to accept if she had forced him into it, if she had reached up and pulled his face to hers.
But she hadn't.
He knew I was there, too, watching. How could I not watch? She was.. *is* essentially me. I couldn't have walked away any more than Daniel could walk away from an Ancient Egyptian archaeological site. Any more than the Colonel could walk away from a hockey final. She was living proof of one of the most fundamental laws of Physics ever. My scientific mind can be a real curse sometimes. I felt sorry for her, to come from a world totally overrun by the Go'auld, even having to return to it.. nothing like I could ever imagine. Yeah, a part of me was sad to see her go, but I was more anxious to see the Colonel got back safely.
But I never expected him to kiss her.
Hug, maybe. She *did* lose him in her reality, and to see him again would have been... difficult to say the least. Her heart would want her to believe that the Colonel and her Jack could be the same, but her mind, her science would know otherwise. Seems like her mind can be a curse, too. Doesn't suprise me, our minds are the same, after all. Still, saying goodbye for a second time would have been hard for her. I couldn't begin to imagine what she would have to go through. But the Colonel, he knew who he was. There *was* only one of him. He had no reason to be unobjective about his feelings. He definitely knew what he was doing.
Which meant he had *wanted* to kiss her.
But she *is* me. We are one and the same, the only difference being I'm part of the military and she... well she isn't. No rules, no regulations.. is that *honestly* the only thing different? I studied her. I looked for personality differences, quirks which separated her from me, which could make either one of us unique. But there weren't any.
He *could* have been kissing me.
I think *that* is what did it, the reason I left that room as quickly as I did. Daniel noticed, but for some reason, and most probably for the best, he hadn't followed. I don't know how I would have reacted if he had followed me. I'm sure he would question me, why I'm here, sitting on this bed, with this photo. He'd call me crazy. I don't know why.. Samantha.. didn't take it back with her. Something tells me she wouldn't leave it behind accidentally, I know her too well for that.
They both look so happy, her and her Jack.
People sometimes take for granted my happiness I think. They assume I walk around smiling at everyone, everything, every event. But I haven't always. My life has had its fair share of ups and downs, just like anyone's. In fact, up until my assignment to SG-1 my career life had been pretty crap - always fighting for respect, simply because I had the wrong set of reproductive organs. I certainly didn't have much to smile about then. Reaching out, I trace her features with the tips of my fingers. Yeah, I know that smile. I know that feeling. I get it at debriefings, after the Colonel's made another cynical comment. I get it at camp, when he tries telling us scary stories around a 'campfire' - something he always insists on making. I get it at our pizza and movie nights, when he tries to make us watch the latest hockey play-offs. I even get it when we play poker, and he wins.
Yeah, the Colonel always has a way of making me happy.
My eyes and fingers move to Samantha's Jack and I smile. His smile is bright, refreshing. I don't think I've ever seen a smile like that from the Colonel. It lights up his entire face when he holds her. I know they're laughing. I can see it in their eyes. I wonder if he had Charlie in that reality. Given the similarity I expect he would have, and more than likely suffered the same fate. But in this photo, on her Jack's face there is the absence of a shadow I see on the Colonel's from time to time. She must make.. have made.. him very happy. Dr. Samantha Carter, PhD Astrophysics. Long, silky blonde hair, bright red lipstick, open, uninhibited personality.. much more extensive wardrobe range than simple fatigues.. I realise at this point, there is no way I can make him that happy.
But I think I want to.
I've been thinking about it for a long time. Ever since our encounter with that alien virus I was forced to think about it. I obviously didn't jump him for nothing. There was a reason why I did what I did. A primal, instinctual reason. How much more down-to-nature can one get? It made me at least look at my feelings, search for them, analyse them.. as a true scientist would.. but I never *truly* considered them until our little side-trip to Antarctica. Feeling so helpless, so guilty for not being able to help him, his faith in me.. trusting.. caring for my welfare even as he bled to death on the ice. It brings tears to my eyes even now. And I knew then that something was amiss with my feelings when he called out Sara's name.. and I had been jealous. But she was still someone else, another presence in his life who had different thoughts and feelings, a different history and a different future. It's *easy* to be jealous of someone like that.
You can never be jealous of yourself.
It's clarity, more than anything. A cruel, harsh, final clarity that I know I just have to deal with and move along. Seeing Samantha with the Colonel... I realised a lot of things. He chose *her*. He kissed *her*. He wants *her*. Not Major Samantha Carter, member of the US Airforce, short, scruffy hair, wary personality.. restricted by regulations and rules and ambition. It was a big fat 'Well I *would* be with you if you were more like this'.. knowing 'this' is me, without an irreversable choice in our past, knowing I won't.. *can't* ever be.. 'this'. And yeah.. I care, although I know I shouldn't. I wasn't jealous of her.. just.. hurt.
I laugh bitterly to myself. It really sucks to know that one simple decision in your life can be the difference between this photo.. and sitting on this bed looking at it..
Detatched, Major.. Detatched.
Even as I force myself to try I feel a familiar painful constriction at the back of my throat, and I know there's no point. Major Samantha Carter, US Airforce, crying over 'what-might-have-been's with her Commanding Officer.
I hear the doorknob turn from the outside and the door creep open. The lack of an immediate greeting or otherwise suggest to me it's Daniel.
"Daniel could you tell the Colonel I'll be up in a few moments? I just have some stuff to do here." I say without turning around.
"Well ahh.. I don't know where Daniel is but I'd be happy to relay your message to him."
The voice is soft, hesitant and gentle. The pain in the back of my throat increases tenfold and I unconsciously grip the photo tighter.
It's the Colonel.
I hear his footsteps make their way to my side of the bed, and he stops a few feet from me, watching. I'm still facing forwards, so I can't see his expression. My eyes burn. God help me get through this without falling apart.
"Mind if I sit down?" He asks.
I shake my head carefully, hoping the movement doesn't dislodge any tears from my overloaded eyes. Get a grip. Get. A. Grip.
"I ahh.. didn't see you when I came back through the mirror."
"I left sir. I had.. to clean up the lab."
Okay, so I lied. Big time. In fact, he would have more than likely checked past the labs if he was looking for me. Good one, Carter, try *thinking* over what you're going to lie about before you do it next time. But out of the corner of my eye, I see him nod. So he's playing along. Which means he knows something's wrong. I wish he'd leave. It would make things so much easier. A pillow, a few tissues.. done. I don't talk, in the hope of forcing the silence into an exit. Preferably his. We sit that way for a few minutes, him looking around, me looking.. well, straight ahead. He's not going anywhere.
The bed has shifted slightly. There has been a redistribution of weight. These are the thoughts that run through my mind before I realise he's leaning across to see what I'm holding - probably a little too tightly to be innocent - in my hand. He sighs so close to my ear that I have to supress a shudder. *Major* Carter, I repeat to myself. *Major* Carter. Military. Short hair. All that does is force a little more salt water into my eyes. Great.
"Cute couple." He states casually.
I want to scream. Either that, or run. He doesn't realise what he does to me, what he's *done* to me. I am so tense I feel like almost every muscle could snap at every moment. He must sense this because he returns to his end of the bed, studying his hands. He takes a short breath and shifts on the bed, for a moment making me think he's about to leave. Instead, he turns back to me, then back to his hands, then back to me again.
"Carter.. about before.." He starts, awkwardly.
I silence him with a raised hand.
"Sir you don't need to explain anything." I say, trying as hard as I can to generate an incredulous tone. "What happened, happened.. and we.. Dr. Carter and myself *are*.. in many ways.. different people. It's just like.. it's not.. it isn't.. "
Well I'm certainly not going to bother finishing *that* sentance. Towards the end I'm too busy trying to utter each word with any amount of stability in my voice. I am so, so very close to breaking not even my willpower can keep stray tears in their place. They track down my face, slowly, one after the other. Angry at myself I turn away from him, blinking hard to remove as much moisture as possible in the shortest amount of time.
I feel a finger under my chin, there with the intent of pulling my face to him. For what? So I can just cry my heart out for something I will never.. *can* never have? I jerk my face away from his touch and turn further away from him. I am his *Major*, he is my *Colonel*. Major Carter and Colonel O'Neil. We are nothing more than that. We are -
Oh damn him, damn him to hell. His voice is so gentle, so soothing.. I turn towards him without even realising I've done it, and he frowns. Great, just to make me feel heaps better. He is making a show of intense study. I can't help feeling irritation - I imagine all the many thoughts running through his mind.. mm.. she'll have to do for now.. she really looks better when she's not military.. Well fuck you, Colonel. You can have her. I'll just go get that mirror and send you right back through it.
"I was just thinking.." His voice trailed off, as if his 'thought' was one of the most revolutionary breakthroughs of all time.
What sir? I scream at him inwardly, I'm not all that bad with long hair? It's a pity I'm in the airforce? Why don't i wear more make-up? What!? I know I'm glaring at him. Glaring through a million tears.. is still a glare. Why hasn't he *said* anything about that anyway? No Colonel, I *haven't* just thrown a bucket of water over my head.. it's totally unsettling, just *another* catalyst to my anger.. he would *always* ask if something was wrong. I would hate it, but he would still ask.. so *why not now*!?
"I never was a fan of long hair.."
My mouth, which had originally opened to snap something at him has frozen in a semi-open stasis. Oh God.. he had known.
"Sir..?" I stammer, not entirely sure I heard correctly.
He wrinkles his nose in protest. "Y'know, I was kinda getting used to hearing 'Jack' with that voice so ah.. if you don't mind.. my old brain needs consistency here."
I am laughing. Or sobbing, one or the other.. or perhaps both, but my grin is so wide I'm sure my mouth will split. His warm, brown eyes sparkle and smile at me and his expression does the same. Yes, this is the man I think I'm in love with. He moves one hand to entwine with my own and his smile fades to be replaced by two raised, questioning eyebrows.
I nod. "Jack.."
And the smile is back again, bathing me in it's glow. My eyes flick to the photo still in my hand, hope resting on my face. I grin. Yeah.. that's the smile. Wow. His hand is on my face again, turning it away from the picture. He pulls away and inspects me with boyish bemusement.
"Yup, and make-up is *definitely* overrated, Major."
"It is sir?"
He nods, stroking my face in random patterns, wiping tears away as they fall. His hand stops at my lips and he smiles. My heart.. well 'singing' probably wouldn't *begin* to describe it. Leaning towards his fingers he snatches them away in time to capture my lips with his own. The kiss is soft, soothing, gentle.. not lustful.. just.. loving. It takes me totally by surprise and I squeeze my eyes shut. All anxiety, all grief, all anger has totally disappeared. I feel free.
I feel happy.
He pulls back with a small grin. "Oh yeah.." He nods "Very.. overrated."