The words 'mission' and 'worst' sprang to mind as Colonel Jack O'Neill made his way to the Gateroom of the SGC. For starters, General Hammond had decided to send SG-1 to the planet no one wanted to go to - mainly because the information they'd gathered from sending the MALP through the Stargate and leaving it there for a while revealed that there were non-stop downpours eight days out of ten.
Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, the Tok'ra had arrived and all but demanded Major Samantha Carter's help in deciphering an ancient piece of technology they'd found on their travels. Relations between Earth and the Tok'ra were tenuous at best - and not particularly helped by a certain Colonel - so the General decided to pander to their wishes and grant their request.
That was the Colonel was in a bad mood when he finally made it to the Gateroom, finding the other two members of his team already waiting. Jonas Quinn and Teal'c stood at the base of the ramp, involved in conversation with General George Hammond and former General Jacob Carter, host to the Tok'ra Selmac.
" Ready to go, Colonel?" General Hammond greeted him with a small smile. He wasn't surprised to see the telltale remainder of a frown on Jack's face and knew the reasons behind it: the Tok'ra's presence and the Major's absence.
Jack nodded politely at the General. " Ready and waiting, Sir." He jammed his cap on his head and looked to the already active Stargate with a sigh.
General Hammond opened his mouth to give them the order to leave at the same time as the doors to the Gateroom opened. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a flushed Major Carter making her way over. She stopped beside her father and smiled at her teammates.
" Come to sneak through the 'Gate with us, Carter?" Jack grinned slyly, his mood improving just a little at her being there.
" And miss the chance to work with the Tok'ra?" She gave him a small smile, shooting at look at her father to see his reaction. Fortunately he appeared to be engrossed in conversation with General Hammond once more. " No, Sir. I thought I'd come see you off and wish you good luck. Did you all remember your waterproofs?"
The Colonel groaned but Jonas smiled and nodded. " Yep; according to the latest readings, there'll be another storm in three hours."
" Wonderful," groused Jack. He turned to General Hammond with a half-pleading, half-hopeful look. " General, is there anything I - we - can do to convince you this mission really would be better assigned to another team? SG-2? I heard Ferretti gloating in the locker room, maybe it would teach him to respect his superiors..?"
" Nice try, Jack." The General smiled tolerantly but gazed purposely towards the Stargate. " SG-1, you have a go."
Sighing in an overtly dramatic way, Jack motioned with his arm. " You heard the General, let's move out." Teal'c started up the ramp with Jonas not far behind. The Colonel lingered and faced Sam once more. " You sure you can't be convinced..?"
" Positive. Have fun, Sir." Outwardly, she gave the impression of a prim and proper officer, bidding her CO goodbye. Those who really knew her, however, couldn't miss the mischievous sparkle in her blue eyes. " I'll see you when you get back."
" Right. Warn Doc and co that we're gonna need a lot of TLC when we get back. Hot cocoa, with cream and those little marshmallows," Jack started up the ramp, calling out his list over his shoulder. " And make sure there's some warm towels. Not the starchy kind, the nice, big fluffy ones.."
Sam chuckled as his voice trailed off. She turned away from the Stargate with her father at her side, missing the fleeting flash of white that engulfed it, and headed towards the blast doors. " So, Dad, do you and Selmac have any idea what this machine is supposed to do..?"
" Sorry, Sam. You know as much as we do." Jacob let his hand rest on the small of her back. " Is Jack always like that?"
" Yes. Pretty much." General Hammond answered the question, sharing a small, knowing smile with the Major. " In his defence, no one wanted to go to P5X211. It isn't exactly a tropical paradise.."
The three had just made it out of the doors when they heard the technician's voice over the microphone from the Control room.
" Ah. General? Major Carter? We have a problem here."
Without needing to be asked, Sam and her father escorted the General to the control room. Jacob stood back and watched as George asked questions and Sam slid into her regular seat in front of the dialling computers. He saw her fingers fly over the keyboard as the Stargate disengaged, wondering why there was a frown marring the smooth skin of her brow. Eventually, she turned around in her chair so she could address General Hammond.
" What happened, Major? Where are they?"
Her face pale, Sam's confusion was evident in her expression. " I don't know, Sir. They got half way to the planet and then we lost track of them."
" They were diverted somewhere else?"
" Possibly, Sir. At the moment all I can tell you is that they didn't make it to P5X211." She valiantly managed to keep herself composed, refusing to let the panic she felt overwhelm her. " I can run a system diagnostic but there were no problems this morning when SG-6 left on their mission."
General Hammond gave a curt nod. " Do what you have to do, Major. I want to know where our people are."
" Yes, Sir." Turning back to the keyboard, Sam typed a series of commands into the computer and waited for several excruciating moments for a response. When it came, she swallowed hard. " General, you should take a look at this."
Moving closer, both General Hammond and Jacob peered at the computer. Two patterns appeared on screen, both spiking in exactly the same place at exactly the same time. A message came up on screen and began to flash: 'Energy pattern found. 100% match.'
" Major? What are we looking at?"
" The computers recorded a surge in energy around the time SG-1 disappeared, Sir, so I got the computer to compare it to all the other recordings it's taken over the years." Letting her breath out slowly, Sam looked at him with trouble eyes. " It matches the reading the computer recorded when SG-1 were sent back to 1969."
" You're sure?" Rocking back on his heels, the General looked back at her in surprise. " They haven't been redirected to another planet?"
She shook her head and chewed anxiously on her bottom lip. " No, Sir. They've been redirected to another time." Swallowing again, Sam fixed her eyes on the wall behind him. " Permission to stay and analyse this further, Sir?"
" Permission granted." The General, looking just as troubled as the Major, turned to face Jacob, a grim expression in place. " Can you explain to Malek and the other Tok'ra that Major Carter will be unable to help them at this time?"
" Of course, I'm sure they'll understand." Jacob put a reassuring hand on his daughter's shoulder, letting it linger supportively for a few moments. " Don't worry, Sam. I'm sure they're okay."
A weak smile was all she could manage. " Thanks, Dad."
Jacob stared at her back in concern for a few moments before finally listening to the voice in his head and leaving her alone. He hoped, for her sake, that she'd be able to find a solution to the latest problem to come her way.
The flash of light was the first sign that something was wrong. The second was finding themselves back in the Gateroom. General Hammond stood alone at the bottom of the ramp but Jacob and Carter were nowhere in sight. There was something different about the way the General was standing, too. Something odd about his posture but Jack couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Walking casually down the ramp, he easily overtook Teal'c and Jonas, both who were looking a little confused. " So.. Alternate reality?"
General Hammond only grinned at him, lifting one shoulder in a noncommittal shrug. " Possibly."
" Sir?" Jonas followed the Colonel's lead and took a few steps towards the General.
" Colonel Carter can explain it much better than I can. After all, I don't work here anymore. Just doing a favour for a friend." Still smiling, his eyes sparkling, General Hammond motioned to an Airman standing just a few feet away. " Son, escort our guests to Colonel Carter's lab. She's expecting you."
Bewildered by the sight of a constantly smiling General, Jack glanced quizzically over his shoulder at his teammates. Neither Teal'c nor Jonas could offer any reassurance so they had no choice but to follow the nervous Airman out of the Gateroom.
In the hallways, everyone they passed seemed to know who they were and why they were there. Smiles and knowing looks were sent in their direction, leaving the Colonel feeling a little like they were an out of place circus act. " Gotta be an alternate reality," he muttered to himself as they took the familiar route to Sam's lab. " It's gotta be."
Her lab was exactly where they remembered it being but once they stepped inside, they knew they had to be in another reality. Bits of paper, machine parts and half-constructed devices were scattered haphazardly on workbenches. Very little of the surface beneath was visible. Major - Colonel - Carter was sat in her usual place, head bent over some gadget she was playing with, their arrival having gone unnoticed as usual.
'Something's never change,' Jack smirked as the Airman who'd brought them cleared his throat. Sam glanced up and an eyebrow rose. 'And something's obviously do.'
Her hair was a little longer, like he remembered it being only a few years ago before she'd decided it was too long and had it cut. There were a few more laughter lines on her face but he doubted they would be noticeable to many. He didn't want to dwell on why he noticed them immediately; that would be admitting he spent more time studying her than he did their mission briefings.
" Thank you, Airman. You can go now." The warm smile was one he remembered but there was something different about her eyes. They were.. softer? Kinder? Different somehow, anyway. When the young man had left, she motioned to them to pull up a vacant seat. " Pull up a chair, I'm sure you all have some questions." She made no attempt at moving from behind her workbench, her only concession being to put down the small tool she held in her hand. " You took your time in getting here. We were expecting you yesterday."
Yesterday. Jack frowned when silence fell over them and looked to his teammates only to find they were looking back at him. 'Oh, right.' He was the CO; he was the one who was supposed to do the talking. " The Tok'ra came.. How did you know our mission was delayed..?"
" Because I've been waiting for you for six years and had the date pretty much memorised." Smiling a little, Sam crossed her arms over her chest and shifted a little in her chair, seemingly uncomfortable with something. " So, have you got any questions?"
Jonas cleared his throat but started speaking only when the Colonel gave him a nod. He was as taken back at seeing a different version of their teammate as the others. " Sam," he hesitated, wondering if he could still call her that. Relief filled him when she gave a small nod as if to say he could. " General Hammond said this could possibly be an alternate reality. What did he mean by that? Surely it either is or it isn't?"
" Not necessarily. If something changes as a result of your being here, this will become an alternate reality to what you know." She shrugged and smiled again, her eyes sparkling as she waited for one of them to catch on to what she was saying. " This is just one possible outcome of many."
" Outcome of what?" Jack frowned, waiting for her to expand on the subject some more. 'Oh yeah, something's *never* change.'
It wasn't Sam, however, that answered the question. " The future, O'Neill." Teal'c tilted his head to one side, his gaze on Sam's face as he voiced his theory. " If we return to our time without changing anything, this will be what awaits us."
" Exactly Teal'c." Giving him a warm smile, Sam looked to the other two members of SG-1. " Colonel, Jonas. Welcome to what could possibly be your future."
After five minutes of sitting in stunned silence, Jack decided he couldn't wait anymore. He got to his feet and started pacing the length of the floor, occasionally having to change direction to avoid a pile of what he would call 'organized clutter' if it was his office. Since it was Carter's lab, he was willing to call them signs that he was going mad.
The future? Their future?
They'd had notes sent back from the future before, visited it briefly and spoken to a Cassandra that would probably rival him in age and definitely in white hair..
They'd never quite experienced the future like this before. Alternate realities, sure. He'd heard of two Carter's from other realities - well, heard of a Carter and met an O'Neill but that was something else to think about.
It would be so much easier to believe they were in another reality instead of in the future. Then they could start searching for a quantum mirror and go home. If they were in the future.. Would it be as easy to get back to where they'd come from?
" How did this happen? That-that white-flash-thing." He spun on his heel, narrowly missing a stack of boxes, and stared almost accusingly at the blond woman still sitting calmly behind the bench. " What caused that? Is that why we're here?"
" It is, but we don't know what caused it." Still as calm as ever, reminding him way too much of his Carter, Sam gave him an understanding smile. " Believe me, I've been trying to figure it out since this happened in my timeline. We thought at first it was caused by a solar flare.."
Jonas' eyes lit up with recognition as something came to him. " Like the one that sent SG-1 back to 1969?"
" Yes, like that one." She graced him with a tolerant smile and carried on. " But we ruled it out because of the 'white-flash-thingy.' That didn't happen when we went back to the past."
" Perhaps it is because we are in the future that there was a difference in events?" Teal'c couldn't stop staring at her curiously. His instincts were telling him there was still something he didn't know but at the same time, they were telling him she was the same woman he knew and cared about, the one who wouldn't purposely keep anything from them and certainly not if it was something they needed to know.
" That's the best idea we've had but I'm still not one hundred per cent convinced that's what caused it." Sighing a little and shifting once more in her chair, Sam shrugged her shoulders helplessly. " It's all we've got to work with, though. All we've had to work with for years.."
" Okay." Cutting her off mid-conversation, Jack started pacing again. " That's all very interesting but I have one not-so-small problem with this." He paused deliberately, waiting until they were all staring expectantly in his direction. " How are we going to get home?"
" I'm working on it. I'm trying to build a computerised system that detects solar flares in advance. I know we're not sure what caused you to be here yet but even so, a solar flare should be able to send you back." Sam met his gaze unflinchingly, just like his Carter did when she was voicing a theory she expected to be shot down. " I've been working on it for six years ever since this happened to my teammates and they told me where they'd been. I've had some help from our allies, of course. It should be finished in a few days, then all we have to do is wait."
" If this happened before, you or a version of you obviously made it work before so.. It'll work this time, won't it?" Jonas' words were hopeful, as was his expression.
Half-smiling and half-grimacing as she shuffled yet again in her chair, Sam inhaled deeply before speaking. " I hope so, Jonas, but there have been some noticeable changes in this timeline that didn't exist in the one my guys visited."
" Such as..?" Jack drawled impatiently, tapping his foot on the floor as his arms crossed over his chest.
She didn't answer straight away. She bent her head and inhaled again, slowly and deeply, seemingly concentrating on something else.
" Colonel Carter." Teal'c, sensing something was wrong, took a step closer to her. " Are you in pain?"
Exhaling again, Sam waited for it to pass before raising her head and smiling thankfully at his display of concern. " No, Teal'c, thank you." She slowly pushed her chair back and got to her feet, smoothing her clothes over her extended stomach, secretly enjoying the looks that spread across their faces. " It's just one of the 'noticeable changes' I mentioned reminding me of its presence."
" That's good," came an amused voice from the doorway, breaking through the silence that had fallen over the three men inside. " It saves me from having to remind you Emily's here for your check-up. She's waiting in the infirmary." Doctor Janet Fraiser smiled at the sour expression on Sam's face as she stepped further into the lab. " It's not that bad so don't give me that look."
" *You're* not the one who has to lie there and have cold jelly rubbed into your stomach," Sam grumbled, narrowing her eyes at her friend in mild annoyance.
Grinning unsympathetically, having heard all the complaints before and having experienced it first hand for herself a few years ago, Janet stood with her hands on her hips, all but ignoring the rooms other occupants. " You know the routine, Sam. She just wants to check the baby's in the right position. You're lucky she agreed to come here instead of making you travel to her."
Still scowling, Sam rubbed her stomach and flinched as the child inside kicked her sharply again. " Janet, if I ever tell you I want another baby, stop me. Yell, scream, hit me if you have to - just make sure I change my mind." With all the grace a nearly nine-month pregnant woman could muster, Sam started towards the door, doing her best to ignore the still-stunned looks being directed at her.
" You don't mean that, Sam. It's just the hormones and the disturbed nights talking.." Janet sidestepped her friend, grinning widely at the glare she received for her troubles.
Reaching the door and walking out of it, Sam's grumbles could still be heard as she left. " No, it's the kid throwing a party inside me.."
Her departure somehow broke the silence that had enveloped the three men from the past. Jonas blinked, twice, and then looked to Janet in puzzlement. " Did Sam not want a baby?"
To his surprise, the doctor laughed at the question, her eyes dancing with obvious mirth. " She wants it, Jonas. You guys just caught her on an off-day." She gave them a knowing smile and winked. " And it doesn't help that her husband can't be here. He's usually the only one who can improve her mood when she's like this."
Husband? Carter was pregnant *and* married? Jack clenched his fists momentarily.
" Why *isn't* he here?" Trying not to let his curiosity show, the Colonel stared stonily at the doctor. " Why aren't *we* here?"
" The General sent SG-1 on a mission two days ago," Janet answered smoothly, seemingly amused at his agitation. " And Sam's husband's gone away to decrease the chance of you being here changing the timeline. It's complicated, gives us all headaches, but it's what has to be done. Unfortunately, there are something's we can't keep from you. Like Sam's condition and her rank. With those things, we can only hope they don't adversely affect what you do when you go home." Helping herself to Sam's vacant chair, she crossed her hands in her lap and smiled at them. " Have you any idea what you're going to do while you're here? Sam's not going to have time to keep you company all day, not if you want to go home anytime soon, and you can't have access to the base computers but other than that, you have free reign over the base. Everyone knows who you are and where you're from and they're under strict orders not to tell you anything so don't bother asking."
Was it his imagination or did her gaze linger for a few moments on him? Jack shook his head, deciding he was being paranoid. " So what are we supposed to do? Build a mountain of chairs in the commissary?"
" You can do, if you want." Her smile grew even wider as she looked at him. " You have quite a hard record to beat, though. The last tower made was four tables and two chairs tall before it collapsed."
" You've actually done that?" Jack exchanged glances with Teal'c as Jonas stared on in amazement, waiting eagerly for an answer to his question.
Laughing again, Janet smiled brightly. " Yes, and so will you guys one day. Do me a favour, though, and warn your Doctor Fraiser in advance. You'd be surprised at the amount of injuries it'll cause." Her laughter faded and her voice took on a serious tone. " I'd appreciate it if at least one of you stayed with Colonel Carter when she's working. She should be at home resting but for obvious reasons has to be here working so.. Keep an eye on her for me and let me know if you think there's anything you're concerned about."
" We will, Doctor Fraiser." Teal'c gave her a slight nod and folded his arms across his chest. He felt better now he knew what was causing him to be suspicious of Colonel Carter earlier.
" Good." Getting to her feet, Janet glanced at the clock and smiled. " Sam shouldn't be much longer.."
No sooner were the words out of her mouth, Colonel Carter reappeared, her features twisted in a strange expression. She smiled falteringly when she saw Janet was still there, her hands clasped over her stomach.
Scrutinising her, her eyes asking what she couldn't with their present company, Janet moved towards her friend. " Everything okay?"
" Yep." One of her hands moved to rub the small of her back. " Baby's in the right position and everything looks good. It could be any day now."
" Any day now?" Arching an eyebrow, Janet put a supportive hand on her friend's arm. " But you're not due until.."
Shrugging, Sam cleared her throat and tried to keep her battling emotions under control. " Apparently there's nothing to say it couldn't happen tomorrow. You know the drill, Janet. There's no way of knowing if I'll be early or late. At least if I am early, we know the baby won't suffer. It's fully developed, just waiting for the right time to put in its first appearance."
" That's scary." The doctor gave her friend a sympathetic smile. " So are you going to call..?" Remembering they weren't alone, she let her voice trail off meaningfully.
" Yeah, he knew what time my appointment was so he's probably waiting by the phone." Smiling faintly, she reluctantly moved away from her friend's comforting presence and eased herself into her chair.
Her expression stern, Janet brought a hand to rest on her hip as she surveyed the occupants of the room. " Okay, but after you call him, you go to the commissary with our visitors and get something to eat. That's an order, Sam, so don't even try to argue."
" Yes, Ma'am." Sam watched curiously as Janet gave the three silent men a look before leaving the room. She felt their gazes move to her and forced a small smile. " I just have to make a quick phone call and then we can go to the commissary. I'm sure you could probably do with a coffee if nothing else."
" That'd be great." Jonas grinned warmly and went back to patiently waiting. Teal'c inclined his head slightly and Jack shrugged, scuffing the floor with his shoe as he tried to appear as though he wasn't about to eavesdrop on her conversation.
She dialled a number she obviously knew by heart and only had to wait a few moments before the person she was calling picked up. Feeling self-conscious, she turned away from them in her chair, keeping her voice as quiet as possible.
" Hey, it's me."
" Sam! It's about time! Where've you been..?"
" I only just got back from the infirmary.. And before you ask, everything's fine. Emily said I'm ready, and so is the baby. It could happen any day now."
" Are you okay with that?"
" I don't have a choice, do I?" She sighed into the receiver, closing her eyes briefly. " I don't regret deciding to have the baby so don't think that for a moment.. I'm just a little.. nervous."
Her husband sighed heavily and when he spoke, his voice was huskier than normal. " I wish I was there with you, Sweetheart."
" Me, too." She smiled slightly and opened her eyes. " Something else you should know is that they're here so you being there isn't for no reason."
" They finally made it, huh?"
" Yep. So hopefully you can come home in a few days time. I just need to make a few more adjustments and put everything back together and then.." Her husband cut her off, making her smile again.
" Don't work too hard, Samantha. It's not good for you.."
".. And it's not good for the baby, I know. I have no intention of working till the early hours and to be honest, I doubt I'd be able to get away with it anyway." Twirling the phone cable around her fingers, Sam could easily picture the expression on her husband's face in her mind. " You wouldn't have anything to do with the barrage of people I've had coming to check up on me the last few days would you?"
" Yeah, you." Her eyes straying around the room, Sam noticed the way Jack was standing, his shoulders hunched and his fists clenched, and decided it was time to end her conversation with her husband. " I have to go now, I'll call you later tonight so we can talk more, okay?"
" Okay. Kieran sends his love."
" Send mine back and say I'll call back later."
" Love you, Sweetheart. And don't worry, okay? I'm gonna be there when the baby's born. I promise."
" I know. Love you, too. Bye." Reluctantly, Sam hung up the phone and sighed to herself. She pushed her chair back and stood, stretching her aching back slightly. " You guys ready to go?"
Jack made a sweeping gesture with his arm, remaining glued to the same spot he'd stood in through her phone call. " After you."
She gave him a small smile and started out of the door, with Jonas at her side. Teal'c gave the Colonel a funny look as he passed but Jack didn't notice. He took a deep breath, glared momentarily at the innocent telephone and slowly started following the others out of the room.
Walking behind them, Jack was aware of the need to keep his distance. It wasn't that he didn't like her - far from it - or didn't believe what she'd told him. The plain, simple truth was that being around her made him uncomfortable. *Seeing* her made him uncomfortable and although her condition contributed to the reason why, it wasn't the only thing making him wish he was home.
Being in the future, living and breathing in the same space of time - he hoped - as his future self was unnerving, not to mention thought-provoking. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he still a member of SG-1 or had he retired? Did he still see his team? Were they still what he'd call friends? What about Carter? What was his relationship with her- were they still friends or maybe more? Or had military regulations destroyed what was once between them? Did he know her husband? Did he like him? Did he know she was pregnant? Was he happy for her?
Frustratingly, so many of his questions were unanswered and would probably stay that way for some time. He'd listened while trying to look as though he wasn't to her conversation with her husband but nothing had been given away on her end. There was no clue, no little hint.. Only more questions and the knowledge that she was happy and in love.. and possibly not with him.
It stung to see her radiance at being pregnant. It hurt to see her smile and touch her stomach when her child moved or kicked because he couldn't feel it, too. It confused him because he didn't know whether she had the right to care the way he still did.
Maybe things were different between them in the future. Well, obviously they were different. They were either together as more than friends or else one or both of them had moved on with their lives. Maybe their feelings were different now, or maybe something had happened. Maybe he was dead, like so many others they used to know.
Lifting his hand, Jack rubbed his temples. It would've been so much easier if he had been allowed to believe they were in an alternate reality. Then he could separate everything he knew about this *Colonel* Carter from what he knew and hoped he knew about *his* Carter. The one back in his time probably trying to find a way to get them home. The one with shorter hair, no husband and no extended stomach.
" Colonel?" Jonas was talking to him, smile in place, and it was then Jack realised they'd already reached the commissary. " Teal'c and I are going to get something to eat. Would you like anything?"
Startled, Jack was under the impression it wasn't the first time he'd asked. " No. Thanks. Just a coffee. Please." He watched them walk over to the counter and sat down in the chair nearest him, the one opposite her. " Could do with something stronger, though."
" There's a bottle of whisky in the General's bottom drawer if you're desperate." Sam smiled at him when he looked up in surprise at having been overheard. " Janet has a bottle of white wine hidden behind her filing cabinet, too."
" Hammond and Doc have secret supplies? Never would've guessed." He tried to smile back, surprised to find it wasn't such a hard thing to do.
Lowering her gaze to the top of the table, Sam cleared her throat awkwardly. " Actually, General Hammond is retired. He's only here as a favour to the new General so you guys wouldn't know who's in charge in six years time. Although I wouldn't be surprised if he did keep a bottle or two in his office. God knows we gave him reason to need it more than once."
Sensing his opportunity to get a few questions answered, Jack brought his hands to rest on the table. " Do SG-1 give the new General as many headaches? Are we still all on the team or do you have your own command now..?"
" SG-1 still cause a lot of the General's headaches, some members more than others." A secret, all-knowing smile appeared on her face. She liked knowing something he didn't. Not that it wasn't something that happened regularly; she just usually didn't have as much fun with it as she could now. " As for the team.. We had five members for a while and then someone chose to leave. I'm still on the team, as it Jonas. That's all I'm telling you."
" Okay." Feeling as confused as ever, Jack shook his head in defeat. " So what about your husband? What can you say about him?"
A full smile broke out across her face and she laughed. " Not as much as you want to know, I'm sure. He's a great guy, he makes me happy. He.. gets on well with the rest of SG-1, Janet and even Dad eventually.. All of you were at our wedding and played a part in the ceremony."
" Jacob didn't like him?" Jack tried not to let his disappointment show. Jacob sort of liked him so that put him even further out of the picture than he had been before. Sure, they clashed where the Tok'ra were concerned but they otherwise got along fine so.. " So where'd you meet him? Does he work here..?"
" Dad likes him now but he wasn't too sure when we started dating. He can be way over-protective when he wants to be." She deliberately avoided giving too much away. " As for whether my husband works or worked here.." Her smile became mysterious and sly. " That's a matter of opinion."
He could only look at her quizzically as he tried to piece together her answers to get a clue to her husband's identity. Teal'c and Jonas rejoined them, both carrying heavily loaded trays. Jack raised an eyebrow as Sam reached for the bowl of red jello before anyone else could take it.
" I can't eat blue jello at the moment. Just the smell makes me feel sick," she explained, skilfully scooping a spoonful loaded with red jello. " Plus I've been craving this stuff for months now."
" Ha!" Jack grinned triumphantly and helped himself to a cup of coffee, adding liberal amounts of cream and sugar to sweeten the flavour. " Always told ya red jello is the best."
" Blue jello is still far superior to the red." Sam met his gaze defiantly, challenging him to disagree. " And if you know what's good for you, you won't argue with a pregnant woman. Trust me, you'll never win."
" Fine, I'll wait till I get home and argue with you when you're not pregnant. Then I'll win." Taking a sip of his coffee, Jack hid his grin when she rolled her eyes at him.
Digging into her bowl of jello with renewed vigour, Sam winked at Jonas and Teal'c. " Don't bet on it."
Retiring to the lab after their snack, Sam was unsurprised to find all three of her guests from the past accompanied her. She suspected with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that the good Doctor had said a little too much in their presence.
" You don't have to stick around, you know," she told them suddenly, breaking the silence that had descended over them an hour ago when she'd started work. " You could go and practise your boxing in the gym or raid the commissary for more food or go sleep in the guest quarters.. I'm quite capable of doing this without an audience."
Confirming what she expected, Jack, Jonas and Teal'c exchanged looks but resolutely remained seated. " What could be more fun than bugging you?" Jack gave her a cheeky grin and went back to teaching Jonas how to juggle. Teal'c smiled slightly and went back to observing, occasionally offering tips and advice to the baffled Kelownan.
Sam allowed a small sigh to escape her lips and went back to looking over the schematics for the machine she was building. She was so close to getting it to work, so close to figuring out the last calculation.. If it wasn't for the three men distracting her with their circus training, she might be able to concentrate enough and get it finished.
Three hours later, Doctor Fraiser re-entered, her eyes narrowed as they landed on the hunched up figure of Colonel Carter. Clearing her throat loudly, she stared sharply at the guilty expression that crossed her friend's face.
" Hi Janet.. I'm almost done for the day, I promise." Attempting what she hoped was a genuine smile, Sam put the pen she'd been using to one side. " Something you wanted?"
" I want you to go home and get some rest. Now, Colonel." Her tone left no room for arguments. " I also came to tell you that you need to find someone else to go home with you tonight. SG-4 came back in a bit of a state so I need to stay on base tonight."
Rolling her eyes, Sam crossed her arms the best she could over the bump of her stretched abdomen. " I don't need to find anyone else, it's just one night."
" You need someone there, Sam." The Doctor's voice was firm but also somehow gentle. She moved closer to the workbench and leaned against it. " Just in case something does happen.."
" It's *one* night, Janet. I'll be fine." Exasperated, Sam pushed her chair away from the bench and leaned back so she could meet Janet's stare evenly. " He wasn't being serious when he said not to let me out of your sight!"
Unable to help herself, Janet grinned, remembering the strict instructions she'd been given just days before. " He was concerned about leaving you on your own and I agree with him - but don't tell him I said that or I'll never live it down."
Sharing a brief smile with the petite Doctor, Sam let it slip from her face when she realised there was no way she was getting out of it. " Fine. Who do you suggest comes with me?"
Janet didn't reply in words. Instead, he gaze strayed pointedly in the direction of SG-1, who were doing their best to look as though they hadn't been listening to every second of the conversation. Turning her attention back to Sam, she held up a hand to silence the protests she knew was forthcoming. " It makes sense, Sam. Your neighbours are used to these guys going in and out of your house. There's plenty of room for them all to stay over and there's nothing for them to do here on base anyway," Janet finished counting the reasons off on her fingers and smiled winningly. " Besides, I can't think of anyone else your husband would chose to keep an eye on you other than him or me. They're still SG-1, Sam. Maybe they're not our guys but they're as good as."
Sighing deeply, Sam shook her head, trying to ignore the truth in her words. " What about the timeline? There are things at home that give certain facts about the future away.. I'm not prepared to risk losing what I have.."
" You moved the obvious.. ah.. evidence, didn't you?"
" Most of the photos, yeah. The only ones left don't give anything away." Unfolding and refolding her arms, Sam knew she sounded sulky but couldn't help it. She didn't want to go home, not when her husband wasn't able to be there with her. " I was thinking more about certain *rooms*.."
There was a small pause as Janet picked up on the hint, her eyes growing large for a split second. Spinning on her heel, she caught the others in the process of listening in and had to fight to keep the smile off her face. " You guys promise not to go snooping if I get you clearance to go off-base with Sam?"
" I will personally ensure it, Doctor Fraiser." Teal'c spoke solemnly and gave a short nod.
" Thank you, Teal'c." Giving him a quick smile, Janet turned back to Sam triumphantly. " I'll go tell the General everything's sorted."
Less than ten minutes later, at Janet's insistence, the four of them were bundled into Sam's car. Doctor Fraiser insisted someone other than Sam do the driving, convinced the Colonel had overworked herself during the day. Teal'c gladly slipped into the drivers seat, taking directions from the weary woman sitting behind him. Jonas and Jack sat silently in the back of the car, both staring out at the passing scenery.
Twenty minutes after leaving the SGC, Sam had Teal'c take a left turn off a busy street up what seemed to be a driveway. A few minutes later, a reasonably sized, semi-secluded house came into view.
" You can pull over anywhere in front of the house, Teal'c," Sam murmured, barely managing to stifle a yawn with the back of her hand.
" This is your house?" Jonas asked as they got out of the car and looked up at the wooden balcony surrounding the house. " It's different to the one our Sam has.."
Sam gave them a small smile and led them up the steps to the door, fumbling in her purse for her keys. " That's because your Sam isn't living with her husband yet. This is our home, not just mine."
Finally locating her keys, Sam wasted no time in opening the door and stepping inside. After looking around once more, Jonas and Teal'c followed her in, leaving Jack alone in the porch, surveying the area around the house and the actual building itself.
He would never have imagined Sam living there if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes. The house just didn't look like something she'd choose. Then again, what did he know?
All he could think as he went inside and closed the door behind him was that it seemed more like a place he'd want to live than one the Sam he knew would choose.
Teal'c and Jonas insisted on cooking their evening meal, despite Sam's reassurances that she'd learned how to cook over the course of the last six years. They had, it seemed, taken Janet's words to heart and both insisted that she had to rest - for the baby's sake if not her own. Teal'c looked as though he'd use force if necessary.
Sinking down into her favourite chair in the living room, Sam felt her thoughts drift in a melancholy direction. Their consideration and protectiveness only served to remind her of their counterparts in her time, and she found herself missing the company of her teammates, the ones who'd spent the last six years growing and developing by her side.
She missed her husband, too. Usually, when the others were invited for dinner and after they'd thrown both of them out of the kitchen, her husband would curl up with her in the chair, rubbing her stomach or back, speaking to her in soothing tones.
" Cart-Sam?" Jack stood awkwardly beside her chair, looking down on her in concern. Opening one eye, she smiled to herself on seeing he had his hands shoved deep into his pockets, shuffling from one foot to the other just as she'd been expecting. " You okay?"
" I'm fine, thank you." Leaning her head back against the chair, she gazed up at him drowsily. " Just tired. Lugging this extra weight around kinda takes it out of you."
" You could take a nap if you're tired? I'll wake you when Teal'c and Jonas are done wrecking your kitchen." Grinning at the sleepy expression on her face, Jack helped himself to a place on the couch, listening to the clangs and bangs coming from the kitchen.
Snuggling further into the chair, Sam closed her eyes again and let herself imagine her husband was there, and everything was back to normal. In no time at all, she'd slipped into a deep sleep, a soft smile curving her lips.
Glancing over at her, Jack's grin widened when he saw she was sound asleep. As quietly as he could, he got up, taking the blanket draped over the back of the couch with him. Careful not to wake her, he spread the thin material over her slumbering form and headed into the kitchen to tell the others to keep the noise down.
On his way back to the living room, he decided to explore the house a little, although he decided he wouldn't go into any rooms that had the doors closed - partly because he respected her privacy, partly because he wasn't sure he'd like what he could find.
Apart from the kitchen, living room and dinning room, Jack found a study and what looked like a playroom downstairs. There was also a door that led to a staircase into the basement. Heading upstairs, he was disappointed to find most of the doors were shut. The bathroom door was open and so was a door leading into a half-finished room he guessed would be the baby's nursery.
There were no extra clues as to the identity of her husband. Only a few photographs decorated the small table in the hallway: one of Sam, rolling her eyes; one of a young boy sticking his tongue out at the camera - possibly her nephew; there was one of Sam, Janet and Cassandra at what looked like Cassandra's graduation and finally, there was one of all of them - SG-1 plus General Hammond, Janet and Cassandra again at the graduation.
Sighing to himself, he went back downstairs, quietly moving into the living room. There were a few more photographs there. A few of them he recognised from his Sam's house: one of her and her father when she was a child, one of her and her bother, Mark, and one of her mother.
The photo that caught his eye, however, was proudly displayed on the mantelpiece for all to see. From the clothes they were wearing, he didn't have to be a genius to see it had obviously been taken at Sam's wedding. Again, all of them in it: SG-1, Janet, Hammond, Jacob, Cassandra and even Daniel..?
" That's probably one of my favourite pictures," her voice, coming from so close, almost made him drop the photo. He glanced over at her, startled that she'd not only woken up without him noticing but that she'd also managed to creep up on him. Pulling the blanket around her shoulders, Sam smiled affectionately at the photograph in his hand. " It was taken at the wedding, as you've no doubt already guessed."
Jack found he had to clear his throat twice before managing to speak. " Daniel's in it.. Did he..?"
Shaking her head, she gave him a soft smile. " You know I can't tell you, Jack."
" Okay." Grudgingly letting the subject drop, he studied the picture with intent eyes. The image of himself kept drawing his attention back to it. He was grinning like an idiot, there was no other way of putting it. Shaking his head, Jack decided he was probably drunk. " So.. Where's the groom?"
Hiding a smile, her eyes sparkling teasingly, Sam carefully took the picture from him and put it back in its place. " Someone had to take the picture.."
" O'Neill, Colonel Carter." Teal'c stood in the doorway, preventing Jack from asking anything else. " Jonas Quinn and I have prepared our evening meal."
" Thanks, Teal'c." Flashing him a brilliant smile, Sam pulled the blanket from around her shoulders and quickly refolded it. Turning to the other Colonel in the room, her smile never faltered. " Shall we go and eat, Colonel?"
Without waiting for a response, she started walking towards the dinning room, allowing herself a small chuckle at the expression on his face. He really had no idea.
None at all.
After dinner, Sam excused herself and went to bed, claiming to be exhausted. After helping Teal'c and Jonas clean up, Jack decided they should all do the same and headed upstairs.
Just as she'd said, she'd left the doors to the rooms they could have open, and the three men went their separate ways. Settling himself in bed, Jack could hear her voice coming from the room beside his, sighing to himself when he realised she was talking to her husband again.
Pulling the pillow over his head, Jack closed his eyes and waited for unconsciousness to come.
Three hours later, he was sound asleep. He didn't hear the door to the room next to his open, nor did he hear the soft footsteps as Sam went downstairs. Teal'c, however, heard from his room across the hall and decided to go and investigate.
He found her standing at a bench in the kitchen, two slices of bread and an open jar beside her. " Colonel Carter, are you well?"
Startled by his voice, Sam jumped before turning around to face him. " Oh, hi Teal'c." Giving him a small smile, she turned back to making her sandwich. " I'm fine, thanks. The baby likes doing somersaults at night and never fails to help me work up a little bit of an appetite."
" Is there nothing you can do to calm it?" He sounded concerned, no doubt worrying about the lack of sleep she was getting.
" It usually takes my husband's voice to do that." The chuckle she gave faded into a forlorn expression as her hand found its way to her stomach. " He'll be home soon. I can cope for a few more days."
To Teal'c, it sounded as though she were trying to convince herself that was indeed the case. " You miss him."
" Yeah, I do." Sheepish, Sam nodded as she put the second piece of bread atop the first. " You want something to eat?"
" I am fine, thank you." He paused and sat at the small kitchen table, studying her with dark eyes. " May I ask you a question?"
Joining him at the table, Sam shrugged as she sat down. She played with the plate in front of her, making no move to actually pick up the sandwich she'd made. " Sure. I might not be able to answer it, though."
Deciding to get straight to the point, Teal'c watched her as she played with her food, much in the way the Major Carter he knew did when she was anxious or distracted. " Is there a particular reason why Doctor Fraiser is so concerned for your well being?"
Sam looked up at him, the question taking her by surprise. She appeared troubled for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip as she held an internal debate with herself. It would be so nice to be able to talk to someone other than her husband and Janet.. And she could trust Teal'c, couldn't she? After all, he was still the man she knew. Just a little younger.. " Before I say anything," she said eventually, staring at him seriously, " you have to swear not to repeat a word of what I tell you. You can't even tell the me of your time in case it affects decisions she makes in the future."
" You have my word." The vow was accompanied by a solemn nod.
Breathing out slowly, Sam continued to fidget with the plate before her. She wouldn't meet his eyes and her voice, when she spoke, was soft and quiet. " This isn't my first pregnancy. I have a son; he's three years old. My husband's taking care of him while you're here. There were complications I won't go into and it looked like one or both of us wouldn't make it in the end. Fortunately, we both lived but it was touch and go for a while. That's why everyone's determined to make sure I have a chaperone at all times." She looked up then and gave him a small smile. " It's sweet but it can be a little smothering."
For a few moments, Teal'c said nothing. He could easily - too easily - imagine what the complications she'd mentioned could be and hated the thoughts that invaded his mind. Major - Colonel - Carter had been through enough. It distressed him to know she would have to experience more heartache before she was truly happy. " Have there been any complications with this pregnancy?"
" No, thank God." Sighing again, Sam shook her head. " But it doesn't stop them from worrying. It doesn't stop me from worrying," she added softly.
Reaching out impulsively, Teal'c covered her unsteady hand with his own. " It must not be easy to be without your husband and child at this time."
" It isn't." Her eyes shone brightly in the dim light of the kitchen. " But we figured out the timing and knew he'd most likely have to go away near the end so you guys wouldn't know too much." Raising a hand, she wiped her face irritably. " I really hate hormones."
Deciding there was nothing else he could say, Teal'c wisely chose to say nothing. He kept his hand over hers, offering her his support and company. He couldn't make up for the lack of her husband but he could at least supply her with the knowledge that she wasn't alone.
The following morning, she seemed to have recovered from her brief lapse. Sam was the last down to breakfast but managed to greet them all with a bright smile and a chirpy "Good morning."
Jack gulped down the orange juice Teal'c had poured for him and avoided looking at her. His dreams had been invaded with images of her the previous night and he wasn't in the best of moods. He kept seeing her and her husband, a faceless man who held her and made her laugh while he had no choice but to watch. He'd come to a startling revelation when he'd woken up that morning, one he was having trouble accepting.
He had thought that he'd possibly never be ready to have another child after going through the pain and agony of losing his son. He knew that had changed at some point over the years he'd been working at the SGC; he did want another child but with a pang he realised he could only see himself having a child with one person and he'd all but convinced himself that person was now permanently out of his reach.
" Do you want some breakfast, Sam?" Jonas was the one to ask her, speaking around a mouthful of buttered toast. " There's plenty of bread left."
" Thanks but no. I can't stomach food first thing in the morning." The smile was still present on her face. A snide voice from the back of Jack's head muttered that her late night phone call to her husband must have meant she had a decent nights sleep. " Are you almost ready to go back to the SGC?"
Teal'c surveyed her from where he stood stacking the dishwasher. " Are you in a hurry, Colonel Carter?"
" Not really." Shrugging, Sam leaned against the bench just a few feet away from him. " But the sooner I get you home, the sooner I get my life back." A mischievous grin crossed over her face as a memory came back to her " And the sooner the me from your time stops panicking and threatening to break things."
Snorting, Jack downed the remnants of his orange juice. " You sure we're not in another reality? Carter would never break one of her precious doohickeys."
To his surprise, she didn't seem to notice the tone he used. Instead, she winked at him. " I was talking about bones."
" Bones?" Raising an eyebrow in alarm, Jack shuddered to think about what trouble his Carter could be getting into. " Anything we should be worried about?"
" Not really." Sam shrugged and smiled wickedly. " I think you'll get home to find McKay has been his usual helpful self," she predicted, laughing at the looks on their faces. " One thing you should know if you haven't already picked up on it: when I'm worried, I either work myself to the ground or break things. Like noses belonging to self-centred scientists who can never accept no for an answer." Another noise escaped her, one that sounded suspiciously like a giggle. " Well? Shall we go?"
Deciding she'd work better without their company, Sam sent them off to the commissary with orders not to disturb her before lunch. She was determined to get her machine to work before the end of the day, having decided late the night before that she had to do whatever necessary to make sure her husband didn't miss the birth of their second child.
At midday, Doctor Fraiser stopped by to make sure everything was okay and was pleased to see her friend in much better spirits than she had been for several days previously.
" Hey Sam. How's Junior this morning?"
Her choice of words gained her a glare from the hard working Colonel. " Please refrain from calling my baby 'Junior.' I no longer associate that word with children."
Snickering, Janet sat on one of the empty stools and watched as Sam typed commands rapidly into the computer. " How's it going? Did everything go okay last night?"
" I think I'm almost finished here," Sam announced with no shortage of triumph in her voice. " Just a few more minutes.." Chewing on her bottom lip as she concentrated, she still somehow managed to keep the conversation going as she typed away. " Last night was okay. You were right; they might not be *our* guys but they're still really sweet." Glancing at the Doctor out of the corner of her eye, Sam gave her a lopsided grin. " I could've done with your help this morning, though."
" Why?" Making herself more comfortable, Janet peered at the computer screen before shaking her head. Nothing on it made sense to her. " What happened?"
" Let's just put it this way. I can create machines that defy the laws of physics; I can save the world and the universe when I have to. No problem. But can I see my feel let alone touch them? Not a chance." Grimacing, Sam shook her head. " I was the last one down to breakfast this morning because it took me twenty minutes to get one shoe on."
Chuckling, Janet could easily picture the scene her friend depicted. " But you managed eventually."
" Eventually." Sitting back from the computer, Sam stared at the screen intently for a few seconds, waiting until a new box appeared in the centre. A slow grin spread across her face and her eyes lit up. " Janet, can you go get the guys and tell them to meet me and the General here in a few minutes?"
" Sure." Frowning, Janet tried to decipher the message on screen but gave up after a few seconds. " Something wrong?"
" Nothing's wrong, no." The smile she wore was positively smug. " I finished connecting the satellite on the top of the mountain to this new system, and aligned it with the ones we were told we could use at NASA. The first result just came in." Her eyes were shining when she looked away from the screen. " According to these readings, there'll be a solar flare within an hour."
The time for saying goodbye had come. Jack, Jonas and Teal'c were heading back to their own time and the call to Sam's husband telling him he could come home had already been made.
Standing in the Gateroom with the three men she used to know, Sam couldn't keep the smile from her face as the Stargate engaged. She was a little envious that they would be going through it, having been forbidden from going off world for seven months. Still, they would hopefully be going back to where they belonged and all would be right with her world.
" Well, it was nice seeing you." Impulsively, blaming her hormones, Sam decided to hug them all goodbye. She stood on her tiptoes to hug Teal'c, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek. " Thank you," she whispered before drawing back and taking Jonas in her arms. She smiled when the Kelownan blushed after she kissed him on the cheek and watched as he walked up the ramp to stand with Teal'c. Turning to the Colonel, she didn't give him time to be uncomfortable, hugging him the best she could with her stomach being as large as it was. Unable to resist it, she lingered for a few additional moments, whispering in his ear. " The groom was standing next to me, Colonel."
Giving him no time to reply, she stepped out of his embrace and waved as he slowly made his way up the ramp to join his teammates.
Deep in thought, Jack stepped through the active event horizon, his mind too preoccupied with what she'd said to worry about possibly ending up in the wrong place again. He conjured a mental image of the photograph in his mind: Daniel, Janet, Jonas and Cassandra were in the front row sitting down. Teal'c was next to Jacob, who was standing proudly on one side of Sam. General Hammond was on the other end and standing between Hammond and Sam was..
A man grinning like an idiot.
His grin matched that of the man in the picture as the Gateroom materialised on the other side of the wormhole. It spread to encompass his whole face when he noticed who was waiting anxiously at the bottom of the ramp, the relief in her eyes telling him that they'd made it back to right place in time.
Slowly following Jonas and Teal'c, he stopped beside her, the grin still present on his face. " Hey, Carter. You missed quite a mission." With a wink at Teal'c and Jonas, the four started towards General Hammond and Jacob.
" I'm sure I'll hear all about it, Sir." Too relieved to worry about the glint in his eyes, Sam smiled to herself and looked back over her shoulder at the Stargate as it shut down. Turning back to her team, she was a little unnerved to find the Colonel staring at her with an unreadable look on his face. " Sir? Everything okay?"
" Never been better, *Major*." Grinning at the confusion he saw in her eyes, Jack pulled his gaze from her and forced himself to tune into the conversation taking place between his teammates and superior in time to add his thoughts to the fray. " It'll be an interesting debriefing, General. Mark my words."
Glancing at the blond beside him out of the corner of his eye, he couldn't resist adding another thought to himself. 'Not to mention an interesting six years..'
So it was obvious who she was married to.. I'm on this list, right?! ;) Thoughts, opinions, like it/loathe it: Jo@ram32.freeserve.co.uk
Back into lurkerland I go..