"I'll see your five, and I'll raise you ten." Sam Carter kept her poker face as she stared down Jack O'Neill.
Jack was sure she was bluffing. "Call. And I'll raise you another five." He pushed his bet forward to the center of the table.
"I'll call your five." Sam spread her cards in front of her. "Read 'em and weep Colonel." She had a royal flush. Sam reached out to rake the pile of pennies into her plastic cup.
Jack threw down his cards in disgust. "How do you keep doing that?" He couldn't believe she'd already won five hands that night.
"I had a good teacher. My dad always said he should've been a dealer in Vegas." Sam smiled sweetly at the Colonel. She stood and looked around at the men sitting at the table. "I want another beer. Can I get anybody anything?"
"Nothing for me, Sam," Daniel answered.
"I do not require anything, either," Teal'c said.
"Bring me another beer, Carter," Jack ordered. Sam raised her eyebrows. They were off duty after all. He amended it with "Please," and a grin.
"Glad to. Be right back." Sam went into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator and removed two bottles of beer. Spying a can of bean dip sitting on the counter, she decided she wanted some with her chips. Grasping the can, she pulled the tab to open the can, cutting her finger in the process. "Ow!" she exclaimed.
Jack was in the kitchen in about two seconds. "What happened, Carter?"
"Oh, I cut my finger on that stupid can." She pointed to the offending can.
Jack took Sam's hand and looked at the cut. "It's not too bad." He pulled her to the sink and, turning on the water, washed off the blood. He wrapped a paper towel around it. "Come on, let's put a bandage on it." He led her out of the kitchen.
"What happened, Sam?" Daniel asked.
"I cut my finger," she said as they passed through the living room on the way to Jack's bathroom. In the bathroom, Jack reached down under the sink, retrieving his first aid kit. "You ought to keep one of those in the kitchen."
"I did have one in the kitchen. I used it up on Daniel the day he came over to help me clean the gutters." Sam started to giggle. "The kid had so many bandages on him he could've been mistaken for a mummy." Sam burst out laughing. Jack grinned at her.
"Poor Daniel," Sam murmured.
"Poor Daniel, nothing. Poor me. I'm the one who had to tape him back together." Jack pulled out anti-bacterial ointment and bandages. "A couple of the pieces didn't want to go back in place." Sam giggled again.
"All right, now, no more giggling. Dr. Jack needs to take care of his patient." He applied the ointment to the cut, then the bandage. "There, your boo-boo is all better." He smiled down into her face.
As they stared at each other, the atmosphere shifted. The laughter ceased, breathing became difficult, and they started leaning toward each other.
"Guys, you coming back?" Daniel's voice interrupted them. They snapped out of the trance they had been in.
"Uh, thanks for the first aid, Sir." Sam looked down at her now bandaged finger.
Jack cleared his throat. "You're welcome, Major." He indicated that she should precede him out of the bathroom. They returned to the living room and their friends.
The incident in the bathroom wasn't the first time this had happened between them. It seemed that whenever they were alone together away from the base, things became intense. It had started when Sam had come back from the alternate universe she'd been sent to when she and her alternate self had touched a quantum mirror at the same time. They'd changed places, and Sam and Jack had discovered that they were married in the alternate universe and had a child. The alternate Sam had even given Jack a picture of the little girl she and his alternate self had had.
Jack knew that he should make sure that he and Sam weren't alone together unless absolutely necessary, but for some reason he just couldn't do it. He wanted to be alone with her, hell, he wanted to be with her all the time. It was probably very wrong, but he couldn't help it. That was one reason that the monthly poker games had been increased to once a week. It gave him an excuse to be with her more often, as if working with her everyday wasn't enough.
Later that night, after Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c had gone home, Jack lay back in bed and looked at the photograph of the alternate Sam's and Jack's little girl. He touched a forefinger to the little face. He might be prejudiced, but he thought she was the most beautiful child he had ever seen. Looking at the picture made him wish for things that might have been, but never were and never could be. Sighing, he placed the photo on his night stand, shut off the light, and turned over to sleep.
Jack arrived at the SGC early and headed for the lab level. He knew it was probably foolish and dangerous, but he wanted to see Sam. He had stopped by her favorite coffee shop on the way in and picked up her favorite vanilla cappuccino, and a cup of strong black coffee for himself. This had become something of a ritual every day that they were on duty. When he came in with their coffee, she stopped the work she was doing and they sat there for half an hour, drinking and talking. It was the best part of the day, and he knew that she looked forward to it as much as he did.
Jack arrived at Sam's lab and knocked on the door. At her "Come in," he opened the door.
"Good morning, Major," he said, smiling at her.
She smiled back at him. "Good morning, Colonel."
"How's the finger?" he inquired, indicating her bandaged finger.
"Well, it was touch and go for a while, but I think I'm out of the woods," Sam said with a straight face.
Jack laughed at this. Every once in a while the mostly serious Sam broke down and made a joke. It was beginning to happen more often, and Jack loved to see it.
"Seriously, though, does it feel okay?" he asked.
"Yes, it's fine." She held it up and waggled it. "Soon be as good as new."
He handed her the coffee he'd brought for her. He opened his own and sat down in her extra chair to drink it. Sam opened her own and inhaled the aroma.
"Oh, this is just heavenly. You know, you really don't have to do this you know." She said the same thing every day.
"Hey, I go by there anyway, only takes five minutes to run in and grab a couple of cups of coffee." Which was true.
"So what doohickey are you working on today?" He asked the same question everyday. Then, while she explained what she was doing, he tuned everything else out except the sound of her voice and the sparkle of her beautiful blue eyes. It didn't matter that after the first few words he was totally lost.
". . .and determine what power source to use." She finished explaining her experiment.
"Sounds interesting," he said when he realized she had finished speaking. By the twinkle in her eyes, he knew that she realized he hadn't understood more than a few words of what she said. He finished his coffee, and stood.
"I need to get to that paperwork General Hammond wants. Want to meet for lunch?" Jack said this nonchalantly, acting as he didn't care one or the other. He asked the same question every day.
"Sure. Why don't you come by here about noon?" Sam was just as nonchalant as he was. She gave the same answer every day.
"Okay, sounds good. See ya later."
At noon, Jack poked his head around Sam's door. She was down on her hands and knees trying to crawl under some device. She really got into her work.
"Carter, let's go to lunch," he said.
"Yes, sir, just a minute." Sam was tugging on a wire that was hanging off of the thing. She gave one last jerk and the wire popped off. "Damn. It wasn't supposed to do that!"
"Then you shouldn't've yanked it off." Jack was having a hard time containing his laughter.
Sam sat down on the floor and looked at Jack as if realizing that he was there. "Hi." She looked at the machine. "You're right, I shouldn't have yanked it off." She looked at her watch. "It's noon already?" As if in answer her stomach growled.
"I think that just about says it all," Jack said, openly chuckling. He walked over to her and reached down his hand. She placed hers in it. "Come on, let's put something in that stomach." He pulled her to her feet. They stood there together for a few moments, hands clasped, then they both let go. They walked down to the mess hall.
Sam selected a chef salad and iced tea, while Jack took a tuna sandwich and coffee. They found a seat in the corner of the mess hall. As they ate they talked about the device she was working on, his paperwork, some new artifact ("rock," as Jack called it) that Daniel was excited about, Cassie's school play, and anything else that happened to come up. Jack was surprised that he and Sam had so much to talk about. He never would have guessed that they would have anything to talk about, but there never seemed to be a lack of conversation.
When they finished their lunch, Jack walked Sam back to the lab where she resumed her work on the device. Jack went back to his office to finish his paperwork. About two hours later, he was putting the finishing touches on his report to General Hammond when he heard a knock on his door.
"Come," he called.
"Sir, I'm not interrupting anything am I?" It was Sam.
"No, Carter, you're not. I'm just about finished. What can I do for you?" Jack inquired.
"Well, sir, I was wondering, if you have any plans for tonight?" Sam smiled a little hesitantly.
"Tonight?" he asked. "No, not at this moment, Carter. Why?"
"I was wondering if you would like to come over tonight for dinner." She hastened to add, "It'll just be pasta and a little wine, nothing fancy."
'She's asking me over for tonight,' he thought. The sensible side of him said, 'Say no.' The totally illogical and foolish side of him said aloud, "Sure, sounds great. What time?" He managed to remain coolly nonchalant, even while inside he was jumping up and down, and cheering.
"About 6:30. Is that all right?" Sam was a little shocked by the speed with which he agreed to come.
"Yeah, fine," he answered. "Can I bring anything?"
"Just yourself," she said, smiling.
"Okay, I'll be there. Thanks, Carter."
"Thank you, sir." Sam turned and left.
A little voice in his head went on a rampage: Jack, you idiot, you're gonna be alone with her all night. That's too damn dangerous a situation to be in. Call her back and tell her you've changed your mind. Go and tell her that you can't come. Shut up, he told himself.
He sat there and smiled. He had a date with Sam tonight.
Sam was nervous. When she'd invited Colonel O'Neill over for dinner tonight, it had seemed like a good idea. They had become good friends recently, and she wanted to spend some time alone with him. Just as friends, that was all. He was her CO, and she was realistic about the possibility (or lack thereof) of there ever being anything more than friendship between them. It was against the regulations, and that was that.
It didn't stop her from dreaming or fantasizing, but dreams and fantasies weren't real, and it wasn't against the regs to do that. So she would cherish the relationship they had, and try not to long for what couldn't be.
She put the finishing touches on the dining room table, adding a bouquet of fresh cut flowers she'd picked up on the way home this afternoon. Okay, the table was set, the dinner was almost ready, and her guest should be here any minute. Just then the doorbell rang.
He's here, she thought. Calm down, calm down, be cool.
She walked to the door and opened it. There he was. Oh, God, did he have to look so good? He was just dressed in a brown shirt and khakis topped by his leather jacket, but he looked so gorgeous. She took a deep breath and smiled.
"Hi, sir, come on in." She closed the door after he walked in.
"Nice place, Carter," he said.
"Thank you, sir." She gestured to the sofa. "Dinner will soon be ready. Can I get you a glass of wine?"
"Sure, thanks." He sat down on the sofa. Comfortable, he thought, not too much frou-frou. Nice and comfortable and uncluttered, kind of like Carter herself.
"Here you are." She handed him his glass and sat down next to him. She looked nice too, he thought, she was wearing a skirt and one of those sweater set thingys. Nice. Fills out the sweater pretty good. Gives himself a mental slap. Stop it.
They made light conversation for the next few minutes until the timer went off. Sam announced that dinner was ready and she brought it in from the kitchen. The pasta was perfect, thank goodness. She had a tendency to either over cook it or under cook it, but tonight it had decided to cooperate.
They ate and talked and drank the wine. When dinner was over, Jack insisted on helping her clear up the dishes, he rinsed while she put them in the dishwasher. Afterward, they sat on the sofa and drank a little more wine, listening to music. They talked about books, television, movies, music, anything and everything under the sun. At midnight Jack decided that he'd better go on home. She walked him to the door.
"I've really enjoyed myself tonight, Carter," he said. "Thanks for asking me."
"I've had a nice time too, sir," she answered. "I'm glad you came." She smiled a little shyly at him.
When he saw that sweet, shy little smile, he couldn't help himself. He leaned over and gently kissed her on the lips.
"Good night, Sam," he said. "See you in the morning."
"Good night," she whispered. He stroked a finger down her cheek, then he turned and left.
Sam closed the door, pressing her hand against her lips. They tingled from the contact with his. Come on, she said to herself. It was just a little peck, it didn't mean anything. But it sure felt wonderful.
"I'll see him tomorrow." She wrapped her arms around herself and smiled.
Jack O'Neill poked his head around the door of Sam's lab. "Good morning, Major."
She looked up from her work and smiled. "Good morning, Colonel."
"And what are we working on this fine morning?" he asked as he handed her her cup of coffee.
"I'm running simulations on increasing the energy output of the naquadah reactor," she answered, then took a sip of her vanilla cappuccino.
"Oh ...sounds interesting." He had that glazed look on his face.
"Actually, it's not very interesting at all. The computer is doing all the work." Sam thought he looked cute glazed over. "I'm just waiting for it to spit out its findings."
"I enjoyed last night. Thanks for inviting me," Jack said.
"Thank you for coming. It's been a long time since I've entertained." She waved her hand around the lab. "I'm either on missions or here in the lab, except for the occasional poker night."
"Then you need to get out more often." Jack took a sip of his coffee. "What are you doing Saturday?" There he had said it.
"I ...don't have any plans for Saturday, sir," she answered.
"You do now," he said.
"Oh, what are they?" she asked.
"It's a surprise," he answered.
She smiled. "A surprise?"
"Um, hm, a surprise."
Jack arrived at Sam's at 9:00 am on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day, clear, sunny, and warm. A perfect day for what he had planned, he thought as he rang her doorbell.
Sam answered the door still dressed in her robe. "I'm sorry, sir, I'm running a little late. I'll be dressed in just a few minutes." She was apologetic.
"'S okay, Sam, take your time, we're not in a big hurry." He smiled at her.
"I'll be right back." She hurried to her room to finish dressing. While he waited Jack walked around her living room and looked at the photographs scattered around the room. He stopped in front of a grouping of photos. There was Sam with a young girl and boy. Must be her niece and nephew, he thought. There was another of Sam with her father, she was wearing lieutenant's bars. Then there was one of the two of them from the medal ceremony in Washington. It had been taken at the reception. They were looking at each other in the photo. Wonder how she'd gotten that one, he didn't remember his photo being taken.
Sam walked into the living room fully dressed, wearing khakis and a light blue sweater, and carrying a leather jacket. "I'm ready, sir."
"That was quick, Sam. By the way, call me Jack. We're not on base anymore." Jack indicated the photo he'd been looking at. "Where did you get that one? I don't remember being photographed."
"A friend of mine from the Pentagon was at the reception and she snapped it. She sent it to me a few days later." Sam didn't mention the little note that her friend had sent along with the photo saying that the two of them looked like they were meant for each other.
"Well, then, shall we go?" he asked.
"Yes, let's go," she answered.
Jack had planned this little excursion carefully, from the setting to the picnic basket he had stashed in the back of his jeep. The trip to his special spot would take about two hours. All during the drive Sam had questioned him as to their destination, but he wouldn't tell her where they were going. She was very persistent. It was something that made her a good officer and a good scientist. After awhile she finally gave up trying to wheedle their destination out of him, and just enjoyed the ride. She even dozed a little. Then, when they turned off the main road onto a dirt road, she sat up and took notice.
They had been going up higher into the mountains since they had left Colorado Springs. The scenery had become more rugged and more beautiful. Finally Jack pulled over and stopped.
"We're here." There was a breathtaking view of the mountains on one side of the road and a stand of trees on the other.
"It's beautiful," Sam said. "Is this the surprise?"
"Actually, no." Jack took her hand. "Just come with me." They walked into the woods a few hundred feet. Gradually the trees thinned out, and Sam heard the sound of rushing water.
"Water?" she asked.
"You'll see." They walked on a little further, then Sam saw it. It was the most beautiful little waterfall she'd ever seen. It looked like something out of a fairytale. There were green trees and plants growing lushly around the waterfall. The whole effect was one of peace and beauty. He let go of her hand and she walked toward it.
As she stood there absorbed in its beauty, Jack came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. He leaned toward her and said next to her ear, "Was it worth it?"
"Oh, yes," she breathed. He squeezed her shoulders, then turned away to return to the jeep to retrieve the picnic. When he came back carrying the picnic basket and cooler, she was still standing where he had left her. He spread the blanket he had brought and began to unpack their lunch. Once he had everything set up, he called to her.
"Sam." She turned at the sound of her name. "Come have some lunch." He held out his hand to her.
"Oh, s- Jack, this is wonderful. Such a wonderful, beautiful surprise." She walked over to where he had their picnic spread out. She took his hand and he helped her sit on the blanket. He handed her a glass of wine. "How did you find this place?"
"Oh, I was out driving one day -after the first Abydos mission. I just happened to take the turnoff and ended up here." He shrugged his shoulders, but she could tell that there was more to it than that.
"Doesn't the owner mind you trespassing on his property?" She took a sip of her wine.
"Nah, he doesn't care. He told me to treat the place like it was mine." He drank a little of his own wine.
"You're the owner." Sam didn't know how she knew, she just did.
"Yep, sure am. I thought about building a cabin here, but I decided I didn't want to spoil it. Come camping here sometimes, though." He offered her a sandwich from the plate sitting on the blanket.
"You're so lucky to have found this place before some developer." Sam took a sandwich.
"I've had offers. But it's not worth it. I'm gonna keep this place just as like this for as long as possible." Jack bit into his own sandwich.
They sat there and talked quietly, enjoying their surroundings and each other's company. The time passed quickly, and before either of them realized it, it was starting to get dark. So, they packed up the picnic basket and cooler, and loaded them into the jeep. On the way back, they stopped at a small wayside diner for a cup of coffee. They sat there talking for a couple of hours, then they resumed their trip back to Colorado Springs. Much too soon it seemed, they arrived back at Sam's apartment. Jack walked Sam to her door and waited while she unlocked it and went inside.
"Would you like to come in for a drink?" she asked.
Jack almost said yes. He didn't want the day to end, but he knew that if he went in tonight, he might not come out until tomorrow sometime. "No," he said regretfully. "I'd better not."
"I had a wonderful time today. Thank you for taking me to the waterfall. I know it's a special place for you, and I appreciate your sharing it with me." She wished he had said he would come in, but she understood why he had refused.
"You're welcome. I had a feeling you would appreciate it." He cleared his throat. "Well, um, good night." He turned to leave.
"Good night, Jack," Sam said.
At the sound of his name on her lips, something in him said, 'What the hell.' He turned back to face her. Reaching out he took her into his arms and kissed her. After a moment when she seemed shocked, she relaxed and kissed him back. When they parted, they were both breathless. A little shocked, too.
"Night, Sam." Jack said.
"Night, Jack." Sam stepped into her apartment and closed the door. Jack walked to his car, started it and drove home.
Sam didn't sleep very well that night. She kept reliving the kiss over and over again. After a moment of surprise, she had responded wholeheartedly. She couldn't help it. It felt so good to kiss him. All day Sunday, she thought about their day together and the kiss. She almost called him, to talk about it, but fear held her back. What if he regretted it? What if he hadn't liked it as much as she had? She didn't think she could bear it if he said it was a mistake and that he was sorry it had happened. But, she knew they would have to talk about sooner or later. She decided that tomorrow morning, when he came to the lab for their morning coffee, if he came, she would talk to him about what had happened.
Jack didn't sleep well that night either. All he could think of was holding Sam in his arms. She had felt so good there, so right. At first, when he had kissed her, he thought she was going to push him away, but then she had responded fully. Walking away from her had been one of the hardest things he had ever done, but there was too much at stake to risk ruining their relationship for the sake of sex. Maybe that type of relationship would come later, but for now learning more about each other, building a more personal relationship was more important.
All day Sunday he debated whether he should call her. More then once he found his hand on the phone, his fingers dialing her number, but he always stopped himself. He didn't want to hear her say that it shouldn't have happened. They would have to talk about it though. He dreaded that. He feared that she would say that he had taken advantage of her, or that she would never want to see him outside of work again. He decided that they would talk when he brought her her morning coffee. He would carry on as normally as possible until he found out how she really felt about what had happened.
Satisfied that that was the best way to handle this, he decided to wait until tomorrow.
Daniel saw Jack pass by his door carrying coffee for himself and Sam. He glanced at his watch.
'Right on time,' he thought. He and Teal'c had noticed that Jack and Sam were spending more and more time by themselves. Oh, he was sure that nothing was happening, at least not yet. Both of them were basically very shy people. Jack put on this front of being loud and sarcastic, but he was one of the shyest people he'd ever known, and very uncertain of himself, especially when his emotions were involved. Sam dealt with her shyness in a different way, by burying herself in her work. They'd both been hurt by life and those that they had loved before, and they were hesitant to take a risk, especially one that could affect their careers. Daniel thought that they were foolish to hesitate. He had learned the hard way that when life offers you love, you grab it with both hands and hold it for as long as you can, because you never know when you could lose it. At least he had had that year with Sha're. He'd never trade that for anything, except maybe to have her back again.
"Oh, Jack, Sam," he sighed. "You two really need to get a clue." Shaking his head, he went back to work on his translation of an artifact.
Jack knocked on the door of the lab. At Sam's "Come in," he opened the door.
"Good morning, Major," he said, smiling.
She turned at the sound of his voice. "Good morning, Colonel." She gave him a shy smile. He handed her the coffee he'd brought for her. "Thank you. I'm glad you came."
He pulled up a chair and sat down beside her. "Sam, we really need to talk."
Sam looked down at the cup she held in her hands. "Yes, Jack, we do."
A little of the tension lessened inside him. She'd called him Jack. Taking the cup from her and setting it to the side, he took her hands in his. "Sam," he started to say. Suddenly, the klaxons sounded, indicating that there was an offworld activation of the Stargate.
"I didn't know there were any teams offworld," Sam said.
"There aren't." Jumping up, Jack took off for the control room, Sam following closely behind him.
Just as they entered the control room, they heard the gate technician say, "It's the Tok'ra signal, sir."
"Open the iris," General Hammond ordered. The iris opened and Jacob Carter stepped through carrying a blanket wrapped bundle.
"Dad," both Jack and Sam spoke at the same time. Glancing at each other, they both quickly went to the gate room.
"Dad," Sam said, "what are you doing here? Is there a problem?"
"Samantha Carter, is that any way to greet your father? I'm here to see you, and to deliver a package that was left for you." The blanket wrapped bundle began to wiggle. Jacob walked up to Jack and placed the wriggling bundle into his arms. Tugging the blanket away, he exposed the "package." Jack and Sam both gasped.
It was Katie, the daughter of their alternate selves.
Sam looked at her father, shocked beyond all belief. "Dad, how did you get this child?"
Jacob looked around the room at all the people gathered there. "I think it might be better if we went somewhere else for this discussion."
"I would agree, Jacob," General Hammond concurred. "Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter, would you join Jacob and me in my office?"
Little Katie came fully awake just then and saw Sam. "Mommy," she wailed, reaching for Sam.
"Sh, Katie, sh," said Jack. He patted her little back through the blanket.
"No, Daddy, want Mommy," she said loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear. There were gasps and murmurings. Sam reached out and took the little girl in her arms. She settled right down and put her arms around Sam's neck. "Mommy," she sighed.
After this little scene, General Hammond hustled everyone into his office. Sam sat down in a chair with Katie in her lap. The little girl put her thumb in her mouth and went back to sleep in Sam's arms. Jack stood behind Sam's chair, looking down at both her and Katie. If things had played out a little differently 3 years ago, this would be their child.
"Now, Colonel, Major, there seems to be a little explaining to do." General Hammond was not very happy at this turn of events.
"Dad, I'd really like an explanation, too," Sam said. "How did you get Katie? What happened to her parents?"
Jacob took an envelope out of a pocket in his robe. "I think this might explain some of what you want to know. I can tell you the part I know." Then he began his story. "Last night Daniel Jackson showed up at the Tok'ra base. He brought us this child and told us that we should make sure she was brought to Sam and Jack. Then he gave me this letter to give to you." Jacob handed the letter to Jack. Written on the front of the envelope were the names "Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter."
"It had to have been the alternate Daniel I met," Sam said.
Jack tore the envelope open. There were two sheets of paper inside. He opened the first one and read it aloud.
"Dear Sam and Jack,
When you receive this both my Jack and I will be gone. Jack was killed in a goa'uld attack on P5J-224 and I have been badly wounded. I know I will not survive. I know that you don't owe me anything, but I am hoping that you and Major Carter will honor this last request. Jack and I discussed what we wanted if anything were to ever happen to us, and we both agreed that we wanted you two to raise Katie. She's been the most important thing in our lives since she was born, and she deserves two parents who will love her for herself. And I know that both of you will love her very much. You two are the most like Jack and I of any of our alternate counterparts, and there is no risk of the entropic cascade effect if Katie goes there to be with you. Please take care of her. Love her like Jack and I would. Take of our baby.
Jack folded the letter and handed it to Sam. She wiped tears from her eyes. Then he opened the second letter. It was from the alternate Janet Fraiser.
"Dear Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter,
Sam died soon after she dictated the enclosed letter. She was a dear, good person, very much like you, Major Carter. It was a hard thing for her to send her child away, but she did it for Katie's own good. She will be raised by people she knows as her parents, even though she was not born to you. She's never known anything but love, so I hope you don't let Sam and Jack down by not loving and taking care of their child. If you are as much like them as they said, I know this will not be an issue. Please take care of her.
Major Janet Fraiser, M.D. USAF"
There was silence in the room broken only by the sound of Sam's quiet weeping as she held the child close. Jack reached over her shoulder and stroked the baby's head. He looked at General Hammond and Jacob Carter with pain in his eyes.
"General, with all due respect, Major Carter and I really don't have much of a choice. We're responsible for this child now. I can't ignore Dr. Carter's deathbed request just because she was from an alternate reality. This little girl is here and now, and she's not going to go away."
"I agree with Jack, George," Jacob said. "This child, though she's not their child born from them, is their child for all intents and purposes. You heard her when she saw them. To her they are her 'mommy' and 'daddy'. She doesn't know any differently, and she shouldn't have to."
"You're right, as usual, Jacob." General Hammond was resigned. "I'll call the President and get his clearance on this, but I think he'll agree with us." He looked at Sam and Jack. "As of right now you two are on family leave for six weeks. You have a child to look after and get settled into a new home, although, it's probably not new to her. You're dismissed."
Jack reached down and took Katie from Sam's arms. She was so small, she felt as light as a feather. Sam gently wrapped the blanket back around her and together they left the General's office.
Janet Fraiser examined Katie and pronounced her to be a perfectly normal and healthy two year old. She told Sam and Jack that they could take her home.
After a brief debate as to where they should take Katie, it was decided that Jack's house was the best place. It was larger, for one thing, having three bedrooms, and all three of them could stay there, at least for the time being. The next point of discussion was getting a bed for Katie. Since she was over two years old, they decided that she could sleep in a regular bed, but it needed side rails. Luckily, Jack still had the guard rails he and Sara had used for Charlie's bed, so he hunted them up. So while Sam fed the little girl in the kitchen, Jack made up her bed. Although it was the middle of the day, Katie was exhausted from the ordeal she had been through, and Sam decided that she needed a nap. While the baby slept, her erstwhile parents made up a list of supplies that they would need for her.
"So let me see, we need diapers, clothing, shoes, baby cups, baby food, a car seat, and a stroller." Sam read through the list they had made up. "I can't think of anything else, what about you, Jack?"
He noticed that his first name was starting to slip more easily off her tongue. "No, I can't, although when we go shopping we'll probably think of more."
"Yes, I guess so." Sam looked pensive.
Jack walked over to the sofa, sat down beside her, and took her hand. "Sam, just a few hours ago we were two people who were starting to become good friends. Now, suddenly, literally from one breath to the next, we became parents. This is going to be hard on us."
Sam clasped Jack's hand in her own. "I know, but there's really nothing we can do. She's a sweet, precious little girl. I've thought so since the first time I saw her picture." Sam smiled. "She looks like both of us, but she has your impatience."
"Well, I think she's got your brains. She was reading the road signs as we were driving here." Jack sounded proud of that fact.
"I think she was just babbling, Jack." Sam dismissed his claim.
"No, no, she was reading the signs. I could tell. She was saying them as we went by." He was insistent.
"Well, maybe she was, I learned to read soon after my second birthday, so maybe Katie can read, too." Sam said this to humor him, more than anything else.
Jack could tell that Sam was feeling a little overwhelmed by all that had happened. He was, too. In the space of twenty-four hours they had gone from two people getting to know each other on a personal level, to having a child to raise. It was going to be rough. He drew her close and put his arm around her.
"Things will work out, Sam. I'm feeling like I'm in over my head, too, but if we stick together, we'll make it through." He kissed the top of her head.
She sighed, and relaxed against him. All of this was starting to catch up with her. "At least you have some idea of what you're doing, I've never been a parent before. What if I do something wrong?"
"All new parents have that feeling, Sam. Goes with the territory. You'll be fine." Jack knew that she would be a good mother.
"Mommy! Daddy!" came the cry from the bedroom.
"Well, now it starts," Jack said.
Jack felt eyes watching him as he slept. Slowly opening one eye, he scoped out the person watching him. Blonde curly hair, brown eyes, perpetually curious expression. 'Geez, wonder she gets that from,' he thought sarcastically.
"Daddy, you still sleepy," she said.
"Not now," he said, turning over on his back. A little body leaped and landed on his belly. A little nose pressed against his nose.
"Play game, Daddy," Katie demanded. "Play game."
Play game. The first morning Katie had been there, she had said that. He'd had a flashback of Charlie saying pretty much the same thing when he was two years old. The other Jack must have played the same game with Katie. Almost automatically Jack's hands came up and lifted Katie's little body up. Then he tilted her so that her nose touched his. Up and down, he lifted her and tilted her, while she giggled. Then he turned her over on her back for a tickle session. The giggles got even louder, until she finally said, "Daddy, stop." It had been the same with Charlie, the game, then tickles, then time to stop. It made sense that his alternate self would play the same games with his daughter. So they had played the game every morning that week since Katie had been there.
"Where Mommy?" Katie asked.
"Probably in bed, still asleep." Jack answered her.
Katie looked at the other side of his bed. "No, she not. Where Mommy?"
Uh, oh, Jack thought. "Um, Katie, Mommy wasn't feeling well, so she slept in the other bedroom." Jack mentally crossed his fingers in hopes that she would accept his explanation. So far that had managed to both be up when Katie had gotten up before.
"Oh," she said thoughtfully. Then she asked, "Mommy mad at Daddy?"
Sam's voice came from the doorway. "No, Katie, Mommy's not mad at Daddy." She smiled at the little girl. "Can I have a hug?" Katie all but leapt off the bed to give Sam a hug. Over Katie's head Sam eyed Jack sitting up in the bed, shirtless, with the covers pulled up to his waist. Wonder if he's wearing anything, she thought idly, then she gave herself a mental shake, and directed her attention to Katie. "Let's go get some breakfast, Katie." Sam looked at Jack again. "Want some breakfast, Jack?"
"Uh, yeah, I'll be there in a few minutes." Jack watched as Sam turned and, carrying Katie, left the bedroom. He lay there, willing his body to calm down. This was the first time since they'd been living together that he'd seen her less than fully dressed. She'd looked gorgeous standing there in his old tee shirt, her long legs and feet bare. His traitorous mind imagined them wrapped around his waist, her arms clutching him tightly, her hands grasping at him. He groaned and rolled over and out of the bed. Cold shower, he thought, and he all but ran for the bathroom. Ten minutes later, dressed in sweatpants and a tee shirt, he entered the kitchen where Sam was helping Katie eat a bowl of cereal. She was seated on a chair beside Katie's high chair, her foot propped up on the rung of the chair beside her, the tee shirt hiked up as high as it could possibly be and still cover her. Fat lot of good that shower did, Jack thought. Any benefit he had gotten from it immediately flew out the window.
"Oh, Jack, the general called while you were in the shower. He's sending over some papers we have to sign concerning Katie's custody." The general and the Air Force had been taking care of all the legalities concerning Katie. Sam spooned oatmeal into Katie's mouth while the little girl drew designs on the high chair tray with some of the oatmeal, then picked up a handful and put it in her mouth.
"Oh, good," he said, for lack of anything better. Great, O'Neill, such a brilliant conversationalist you are, especially when part of your anatomy is preoccupied. "Uh, Sam, why don't you go ahead and get dressed. I'll finish feeding Katie."
"You don't mind?" she asked. "She's almost finished anyway."
"Nah, I don't mind." Just get out of here and put some clothes on so that I can concentrate on what you're saying, not on what you're not wearing.
"Okay, thanks." Sam stood and handed him the spoon. Then she stretched, the tee shirt hiking up even shorter than before, giving him a glimpse of pink satin panties. Oh, God, he thought, all his blood rushing below his waist. He quickly sat down in the chair she had just vacated.
"I'll need to go over to my apartment later to get more of my things," she said. "I'll go after the papers arrive."
"Okay, go ahead and get dressed." This came out a little more curtly than he had intended.
"I'm going," she said, a little hurt. Turning, she left the kitchen. Jack felt bad about hurting her feelings, but it was either that, or expose Katie to a scene it was better a two-and-a-half-year-old child didn't see.
Jack helped Katie finish her breakfast, then he cleaned her up and had his own breakfast while she watched Barney the dinosaur on television. Obviously, he was a favorite, because she was singing along with the songs. Barney he could live without, but Katie was adorable. Sam came in during Katie's rendition of "I Love You, You Love Me." She met Jack's eye, and it was all they could do to keep from bursting out laughing.
The courier from General Hammond arrived not long after that. They signed the papers and sent them back by the courier. Then Sam left to go to her apartment to get her things. When she arrived, she packed two suitcases, not sure when she would get another chance to get over there again to pick up more of her things. She would really have to make a decision about whether to keep the apartment or not, and soon. Then she called Janet, hoping that she would be home. She knew that Janet was supposed to be off today, and she really needed to talk to her. She was home and told Sam to come on over.
Janet answered the door when Sam rang the bell. As soon as Sam sat down, Janet said, "Okay, Sam, spill it."
"Janet, I don't know if I can do this, living with Jack," Sam explained.
Oh, so it's Jack now, is it, Janet thought. Aloud she said, "Is it because of your attraction to him?"
"Yes, it is." Sam stood and started pacing. "It's not just physical attraction, though, lord knows, there's that. But, he's really a good person, and a good father. The last week has been torture. He looks so cute when he's playing with Katie that I can hardly keep my hands off him."
"I wish I could tell you what you should do Sam, but I've never been in your situation. I guess you could try to remember that he's your CO," Janet said.
"I've tried that. It doesn't work." Sam sighed. "I've been thinking about asking for a transfer to the lab full time."
"Oh, Sam, you love being in the field, and you're good at it too."
"I know, but it would solve one problem. He won't be my commanding officer any more."
"There is that." Janet decided to change the subject. "How's Katie doing anyway? Has she had any trouble adapting?"
"You know, I don't think she's really aware that things are not as she always knew them to be," Sam answered. "We did have one awkward moment this morning, when she got up. Jack and I have managed to be up before she was this week, except for today. She wanted to know why Mommy and Daddy were in separate beds."
"Ouch. How did you handle that one?" Janet asked.
"We lied." Sam felt really guilty about that, lying to a two year old.
"Well, you'll have to work that one out yourself. On another note, I noticed that you're still using diapers."
"Yes," Sam wasn't sure what Janet was leading up to.
"Sam, it's time that she was potty-trained." Janet dropped the bomb.
"Potty-trained? You mean ..." Sam had the most appalled look on her face.
"Oh, yes, she's old enough, and she's certainly smart enough to understand what she's supposed to do," Janet answered.
"Janet, I don't have a clue as to how to do that." Sam was aghast at the thought.
"Jack can help. He is the experienced parent here," Janet suggested.
"Well, we'll have to talk about it. I need to get back," Sam said.
"Call me if you have any questions, okay?" Janet offered.
"Thanks, Janet, you've been really great through this."
"Well, I've been an instant parent too, only my girl wasn't a toddler."
Sam said goodbye and headed on back home.
When Sam arrived back at Jack's, she found both him and Katie on the floor playing with Katie's stuffed bunnies. It was the cutest thing she'd ever seen, the big tough Air Force colonel on the floor playing with the tiny little girl.
"Hi," she said.
Jack and Katie looked up, with identical looks on their faces. "Mommy," Katie squealed, jumping up and running to her, and throwing her arms around Sam's legs. Sam reached down and swept her up into her arms.
"Hi, sweetheart, can I have a kiss?" Katie obliged her by giving her a smacking kiss, then she struggled to get down. Running over to Jack, who had stood up when he saw Sam, she grabbed his hand and pulled him over to Sam.
"Daddy kiss Mommy, too," Katie demanded.
"Sam?" he questioned softly. She nodded her head, and he leaned forward and touched his lips to hers. It was meant to be just a peck, but the moment their lips touched that thought flew right out their heads. Before they even realized it, they were wrapped in each other's arms kissing like it was the last time they'd have the chance. When they finally drew apart, they noticed that Katie had moved back to her bunnies and was playing quietly with them. "We need to talk later," he said.
"Yes, we do." Sam indicated her suitcase. "I have another in the car."
"I'll go get it." Jack dashed out the door and got her other suitcase.
Sam carried the suitcase into the bedroom. A couple of minutes later, Jack brought in the other one.
"I, uh, haven't asked, but are you comfortable in here?" he asked.
"Yes, it's fine," she answered.
"If you want to, we can switch bedrooms. Mine is bigger, and it has the bathroom ..." his voice faded out.
She smiled. "It's all right. I'm fine here."
"Okay." Jack looked a little uncomfortable. "Sam, about before..."
"It's all right, Jack, it does take two you know." Sam looked down. He reached out his hand and lifted her chin.
"I just wanted to say, that I enjoyed it and I hope it happens again." Jack looked into her eyes.
"Me, too," she whispered. He let go of her chin.
"I'd better get back to Katie," he said. "They can get into a lot of trouble really fast, you know."
"Yes," she cleared her throat. "I'll be out in a few minutes. I just want to put this stuff away."
Jack went back into the living room where Katie was still sitting on the floor playing with her bunnies.
Yeah, Sam, we do need to talk, he thought.
They fed Katie lunch, then settled her down for a nap. She quickly fell asleep for once, and they settled down on the sofa for a talk.
First of all, Sam mentioned what Janet had told her about potty-training. Jack grimaced when he heard that.
"Geez, Sam, I hadn't even thought about that. I remember potty-training Charlie ..." his voice faded away. Sam reached out and touched his hand. He turned it over and gripped hers. "It's okay, I'm all right. I was just remembering what a holy terror he was when we tried to potty-train him. He flatly refused to have anything to do with it. It seemed like it took forever, though it was probably only a week or so before he was trained. I don't look forward to that again."
"Well, it has to be done, so we might as well start. I'm not sure what we need." Sam knew absolutely nothing about how to even begin to potty-train. Luckily, after his experience with Charlie, Jack was something of an expert, especially if the child was recalcitrant. He outlined what they needed to get, and Sam took notes. They decided that they would go shopping after Katie woke up from her nap and include her in the choices. After all, she was the one affected.
After taking care of that piece of business, Jack decided that it was time he and Sam talked about their personal relationship.
"Sam, before all this happened, I felt like we were getting closer. I don't want to rush anything here. It's a little awkward for me, I'm not used to living with a woman anymore." Jack tried to explain his feelings.
"I know, Jack, it's been awkward for me, too." Sam wanted to talk about this, but she knew her face was red with embarrassment.
"About the kiss...I'm sorry that it got a little out of hand," he strove to explain himself. "I don't want to push you-"
"You haven't pushed, and you haven't tried to take advantage of the situation. And after thinking about it, I shouldn't have been walking around in my nightclothes this morning. I'm sorry." She apologized. "I didn't realize that the tee shirt was so short."
"You looked pretty cute in it. Feel free to walk around in it any time you want," he said, giving her a comical leer. She laughed, and they both felt much better.
They had crossed one hurdle, but there were many more to go.
Life continued on. The weeks passed, and they lived in an insular little world. Katie was easily potty-trained, much to Jack's surprise. He and Sam had found a middle ground with regards to their relationship, and they were continuing to learn more about each other. Things were really going well. Then at breakfast, about a month after Katie had come to live with them, she asked a question that they had no answer for.
"When Mackie coming home?" she asked.
Sam and Jack looked at each other. They had no clue as to who Mackie was.
"Well, sweetheart, Mackie might not be coming back," Sam said.
"Why?" Katie wanted to know.
"Mackie might be busy somewhere else." Jack looked at Sam and gave her one of his patented 'save me I'm sinking here' looks.
"Let's finish breakfast, then we'll go to the park." Sam decided the best thing to do was to distract her.
This motivated Katie like nothing else would. She finished her breakfast, and they all got dressed and went to the park. She loved the park, and she especially loved the ducks in the park. Whenever they went, they always made sure that they brought plenty of food for the ducks. Jack would take her down near the lake to feed the ducks and Sam would sit on a bench watching. Katie would feed the ducks and talk to them. Later, they would walk along the paths, pushing Katie in her stroller, then they would take turns pushing her on the swings.
"We only have a couple of weeks of leave left," Sam stated as she watched Jack pushing Katie.
"Yeah, we do." Jack pushed Katie gently.
"We're going to have to get a housekeeper."
"Housekeeper? Why?" he asked.
"With both of us working, who's going to take care of Katie?" Sam answered his question with another one.
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that." He thought for a moment. "I'll call an employment agency when we get home. Hopefully, we can find someone in the next two weeks."
"We'll need someone who can live in, and who doesn't mind our odd hours." Sam had obviously already thought about this.
"Live in? But, Sam, we only have the three bedrooms," Jack said.
"I know." She went to Katie in the swing. "Sweetie, are you ready for lunch? Let's go to McDonald's, okay?" Sam lifted Katie from the swing.
"Sam, are you planning to move out?" Jack asked. He couldn't imagine what he would do if she did.
"No, I'm not moving out." She rubbed noses with Katie. "Tell daddy to take us to lunch."
Katie grinned an O'Neill grin and obliged. "Daddy, lunch!" Sam and Katie headed to the car, leaving Jack to catch up.
"She's not moving out, only three bedrooms, that means..." Jack's grin almost split his face in two. He hurried after his two girls. Let's get this lunch thing over, he thought, I have to hire a housekeeper. Quick. The sooner the better.
The agency Jack called was very helpful. In fact, they'd just had someone in that afternoon who might be what they were looking for, so Jack told them to send her right over.
The woman they had sent was a motherly-looking woman in her late fifties. Her name was Marian McLemore, she was a widow, and she had no children. She'd been taking care of her niece's children, but they were older now and didn't need her any more. In Jack's view she was perfect for the job. Sam agreed. Her references were great, but the real test would be if Katie liked her. Sam went in to check and see if she was awake from her nap. Katie sat up as soon as Sam walked into the room, and held her hands up to be picked up. Sam carried her back into the living room to introduce her to Mrs. McLemore.
"Mackie," Katie squealed. She struggled to get down, and when Sam put her on her feet, she flew to the older woman and threw her arms around her. So that's who Mackie was. What were the odds that they would happen to find the counterpart of the woman who had taken care of Katie before?
"Mrs. McLemore, we just need to check your references, but if they check out, would you take the job?" Jack asked.
"I would love to," Mrs. McLemore answered. "You have a precious little girl, Colonel O'Neill. So loving."
"Yes, she is." He exchanged a look with Sam. They saw Mrs. McLemore out. Jack made some phone calls about Mrs. McLemore's references, which checked out. Then he called the agency and told them that Mrs. McLemore would do.
Later that night, they discussed the day's events.
"What were the odds that we'd find out that 'Mackie' and Mrs. McLemore were the same person?" Jack asked, as they sat relaxing in the living room, his arm around her, her head snuggled into his shoulder.
"Well, calculating the odds by the number of possible candidates-" a hand clamped over her mouth.
"ACK! I didn't mean for you to answer that." He removed his hand from her mouth, and using his forefinger, tilted her face up to his. "Now, about where you're going to sleep-"
"I think you know the answer to that, sir." She smiled as his lips came down on hers.
The hand stroking her stomach and the teeth tugging at her earlobe woke her up. She snuggled back into the warm body at her back, and pulled his arms around her more tightly.
"Good morning," a husky male voice breathed into her ear.
"Good morning," she whispered. She turned over on her back and looked at the man lying beside her. She reached over and ran her hand through his short hair. He was so gorgeous.
He leaned over and kissed her. "You look beautiful this morning, but then you look beautiful every morning." He kissed her again.
"Mommy, Daddy," a little voice called. Jack buried his face in Sam's neck.
"I'd forgotten that they're psychic," Jack said. "They know exactly the wrong time to interrupt."
Sam giggled. "This is not a laughing matter, Samantha," he admonished lifting his head and looking down at her.
"Well, one good thing is, she'll take a nap later," Sam said, "and then we can take a nap."
"I like the way you think, Major Carter," Jack said.
"Why thank you, Colonel O'Neill." She pulled his head down and kissed him. Then she pushed him away, reaching for his tee shirt that was lying on the floor, which she slipped on. "I'll go see what the problem is with our daughter." Sam blew him a kiss as she walked out of the bedroom.
He listened as she talked to Katie, their voices muffled, Katie's high pitched, and Sam's pitched lower. Then, about two minutes later, a small missile raced into the bedroom and climbed onto the bed.
"Hi, Daddy." Katie threw herself into his arms. "Mommy making b'kfast."
"She is? Well, what do you want to do until it's ready?" As if he didn't already know.
"Play game! Play game!" Katie jumped up and down on his stomach. So they played the game until Sam came to the door to tell them that their breakfast was ready.
After breakfast, Jack cleaned up the kitchen while Sam dressed herself and Katie. Then he took himself off for his shower. When he came back into the living room, lo and behold, there seated on the sofa was Daniel Jackson. Perched on Daniel's lap was Katie who was giving him an explanation of something, the gist of which he didn't quite understand, but it seemed that Daniel did.
"Danny-boy, what brings you here?" Jack asked.
"Oh, Jack, I just dropped by to see how you guys were doing," Daniel answered. "You've been kind of out of touch." Katie took Daniel's glasses off his face and put them on herself.
"Daddy, see me!" Katie laughed.
"I see you," Jack said, walking over and lifting her off Daniel's lap. "Let's give Uncle Daniel back his glasses." He removed the glasses that were perched on her little nose and handed them back to Daniel. He sat down on the armchair, Katie perched on his knee.
"So, been on any missions?" Jack asked.
"Couple," Daniel answered.
"Who with?" Jack asked.
"SG-2," Daniel answered.
"Oh," Jack said.
Sam entered the living room carrying a coffee cup, obviously for Daniel. "Oh, Sam, thanks," Daniel said. "I've missed your coffee." Daniel noticed that Sam sat on the arm of Jack's chair leaning against him. Their body language screamed that things had definitely changed between them. About time, too, he thought.
"It'll be good to have SG-1 back together," Daniel said.
"Yeah, I've missed it," Jack said.
"Me, too." Sam sighed. "I've loved spending time with Katie, but I'm ready to go back to work."
Daniel stayed a little while longer, then he left, claiming that he had some translations to finish. Jack and Sam decided to take Katie to the park again in order to tire her out. When they got back, Katie barely made it through lunch before she fell asleep. After putting her to bed, Jack and Sam retired to their room to finish what they'd started that morning. Afterward, as they lay cuddled together, Sam brought up the subject that she'd been dreading.
"Jack, I think it might be best if I transfer from SG-1." Sam held her breath waiting for the explosion. None came, just a softly spoken, one word answer.
"Jack, with our relationship the way it is now, it would be for the best."
"What about it's for the best? I don't want to have to replace you on the team. I couldn't get another officer of your caliber, not in a million years. Besides, no one else could possibly save my sorry ass as well as you." Jack looked into her eyes. "If it weren't for you, I'd have bitten the dust a long time ago."
"That's not true-" she began, but he interrupted.
"It is true. I like working with you, the team works well together, and I don't want it changed. Period." He had that stubborn look she had come to recognize. It was funny, Katie could get the same look on her face, too. "We'll work everything out." He brushed the hair back from her face and leaned down to kiss her.
"But, Jack-" she tried to say.
"No 'buts,' you're staying on SG-1, and that's final." He kissed her, and they didn't mention the subject again.
Mrs. McLemore, or 'Mackie' as Katie called her, moved in on Monday morning. By the time Jack and Sam had to return to the SGC to report for duty, it was as if she'd always been there. She accepted the fact that there might be occasions when Sam and Jack would be gone for days at a time. The fact that they were both military made that acceptable to her, so that was that. Katie was obviously in good hands, and that was all they cared about.
When they did return to duty, no one who saw them together would know that they were anything but co-workers or friends. Jack had had a long talk with General Hammond about the changes their relationship had undergone. The general wasn't surprised, they were after all two single, attractive people who had been brought together by an unforeseen circumstance. As long as their behavior on the base and on missions was professional, he had no problem with them being on the same team. SG-1 was his best team, and unless things became strained within its ranks, it wouldn't be changed.
On Katie's third birthday, Jack and Sam got married. They had decided that they wanted to get married, not for Katie's sake, but for their own. All their friends were there, Daniel, Teal'c, Janet, General Hammond, and Jacob Carter. So they took their vows, then Katie blew out the candles on her birthday cake.
They were happy, and when it all comes down to it, that's the most important thing to be.