"Carter. How are you going with this... twin thing?"
"Do you have a couple of hours?"
"That was the answer Sir"
The scene kept replaying in Jack's head. He had been serious but Sam had brushed him off with a joke. Why? Did she feel he wasn't being serious? Or did she just not feel comfortable talking to him. No, it couldn't be that. They'd talked many times about Jolinar. So she must have thought he was making a joke. He admitted he could have phrased it a bit better but he had thought he'd sounded sincere.
He made a decision, getting up from his chair and leaving his office. He first stopped by the cafeteria, grabbing a couple of sandwiches and sodas, before heading to Sam's lab. He found it empty, the lights turned off. After trying the control room, infirmary and her quarters Jack was starting to think she was hiding out. Then he remembered a place she said she liked to go to feel close to her father. Jack jumped in the elevator and headed to the surface.
Jack saluted the guard as he exited the elevator. "Evening Sergeant. Have you seen Major Carter up here tonight?"
"Yes Sir. She headed outside about an hour ago."
"Thankyou Sergeant. As you were."
Walking out in the cool night air he was glad he had grabbed his jacket before heading up. He headed straight up the side of the mountain to the clearing where he knew Sam would be. Reaching the spot, he saw her sitting, leaning against a rock and looking up at the sky. "Hey Carter" Jack said quietly as he walked up to her.
She jumped slightly. "Colonel. You surprised me. What can I do for you?" She eyed the food in his hand suspiciously.
"Well... I've got two sandwiches, two sodas, two ears and a couple of hours. How 'bout some dinner and that talk?"
"Sir. I'm okay, really" she protested.
"Sam. You told me that you came out here to be close to your Dad and to think. What were you thinking about?"
Sam looked over to him, surprised by his sincerity. "You really wanna hear this?"
He smiled, handing her a soda and sandwich. "I really want to hear it."
Sam took the sandwich, staring intently at it. "I was actually thinking that maybe I should leave the SGC" she said quietly.
"What?" He gasped. "Why?"
She shrugged. "It's easier for me to leave than her."
"Sam you're not making any sense. Why would either of you have to leave?"
Sam shook her head. "This woman. She's me, I mean there are a few small differences, but..." She sighed. "I just feel like I've lost my identity."
"Sam, I spent an hour talking to this woman and one thing's for sure... you two are different. Different things have happened in your lives that have shaped you both. I mean she's not even military. Things that have happened to you while in the Airforce have made you tougher, she's never had to deal with bombing runs or chauvinistic CO's. At the same time you haven't had to deal with watching your husband die."
Sam looked up quickly. "What?"
Jack gave her a small smile. "Apparently she and... well the other me got married just over a year ago. I... I mean *he* was killed a few days ago when the Goa'uld attacked. She saw the whole thing."
Tears sprung up in Sam's eyes. "Oh god. How awful."
Jack nodded. "Yeah, and there's other things. Like your experience with Jolinar. She was never blended."
Sam snorted. "I knew there had to be a good reason. If I left then you'd lose Jolinar's memories."
"No Sam. If you left I'd lose *you*. Major Samantha Carter, one of my best friends... the woman I'm falling in love with." He smiled at Sam's shocked expression. "She could never replace you Sam. Not at the SGC and not with me."
Sam smiled as tears cascaded down her cheeks. "You really mean all that?"
"Yeah, I do." He leaned over and wiped the tears from her face. "I really mean that." He pulled her towards him and they sat there for several minutes, looking at the stars. He felt Sam shiver and pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her to keep her warm. "You know I could sit like this forever. Just you, me and the stars."
He felt Sam nod. A sleepy 'yeah' escaping her lips.
Jack chuckled as he looked at her face, seeing her eyes closed. "This probably isn't the best place to sleep Sam. Come on let's go back inside."
Sam nodded and reluctantly got up. She allowed Jack to lead her back down the hill and then they stepped apart as they reached the clearing. They walked back inside in silence and neither spoke until they reached Sam's quarters. "Do you want to come in for a while?" Sam asked as she opened the door.
Jack looked up and down the corridor, making sure they were alone. "You sure?"
A small smile crossed her lips. "Yeah, I'm sure." She gestured for him to join her and shut the door behind him, turning the lock.
Much later, just before they both fell asleep exhausted and sated, Sam lifted her head and gave Jack the sweetest kiss. "Thankyou" she whispered.
"What for?" Jack asked.
"For being there for me. For making me realise that I'm needed... for giving me my identity back."
Jack smiled, kissing her one more time before cuddling her back against his chest. Sam fell asleep to the rhythmic beat of Jack's heart, the sound reassuring her that everything would be okay.