Title: "Forced to Choose"

Author: Jackie W.

Email: jackiesfic@aol.com

Rating: PG-13

Classification: Angst/SJ UST/Romance

Season: Season 7 (Because Daniel's back)

Spoilers: General knowledge of the show and characters through season 6

The instant the wormhole shut behind them on P2S-127 they were surrounded by a blinding white light. When it receded and they regained their sight, SG1 found themselves in a cell with no door, their weapons gone.


"Nice security system," Jack quipped looking around.

Sam was already examining the walls of their prison when one of ones opposite to her mysteriously morphed and a door appeared. Through the opening walked four men in white robes. They looked human except for their unusual skin tone, which had a definite orange tint.

Daniel immediately tried to communicate. "We mean you no harm. We are explorers from Earth. You may know us as Tauri," he began.

The men concentrated their attention on Daniel, but any hopes that SG1 had that he was actually getting through to them were dashed when two of the men grabbed the archeologist and led him out of the cell. The other two held the rest of SG1 at bay by simply holding out their hands. The three were totally immobilized until several seconds after all of the men and Daniel had disappeared out into the corridor and the door had closed morphing back into a solid wall.

The next hour was tense. Jack paced, Sam alternated between examining the cell and sitting curled up in one of the corners. Teal'c stood a silent sentry near the spot where the door had previously appeared waiting for a chance to strike if the opportunity should present itself. A few theories were thrown around, but they hadn't seen enough of the planet or their captors to do much more than speculate. The tension was getting unbearable when the wall once more morphed into a door. Teal'c was about to tackle whomever came through when they were once again frozen into immobility. Daniel stumbled into the cell ahead of the four aliens, and then they unfroze Teal'c and led him away.

"I wasn't hurt," Daniel told his teammates when they could move again. "They used some sort of scanning device that made me very drowsy. It might have been reading my thoughts, but I was too out of it to do more than guess. As soon as they turned it off I felt fine, great even, and they brought me back here," he explained.

The scene was repeated an hour later when Teal'c was returned and the Colonel was taken away, Teal'c also reported that he had been scanned but not hurt. When O'Neill was returned an hour after that and Carter taken her teammates were not unduly alarmed. When she hadn't returned over an hour later they began to pace. At the two-hour mark they were starting to panic. By the time she was brought back three hours after having been taken they were pounding on the walls trying to find a weakness in them out of desperation. Even Teal'c had left his normally calm exterior behind and had been swearing in Goa'uld under his breath as he tried to make a hole where the door had once appeared.

The same four men escorted Sam into the cell. She seemed a bit pale, but quickly reassured her teammates that she was fine. Before she could explain anything further to them, they were once again surrounded by the bright light that had transported them to the cell. When they blinked away the temporary blindness this time, they found themselves back in front of the Stargate.

"I guess that is our cue to leave," O'Neill quipped. "Dial us out Daniel before they change their minds," he ordered.

The instant they hit the ramp back at the SGC the four were assaulted by confusing memories. Only Sam understood that they were remembering two separate time lines, and even she was overwhelmed by the recalled events.

"What the hell is going on?" O'Neill demanded in confusion.

"Is something wrong, Colonel?" Hammond asked as he reached the bottom of the ramp.

Jack O'Neill paused and looked at his teammates. Maybe he was going crazy, but he saw the same confused looks on Teal'c and Daniel's faces, so he figured he was not alone on this one. He was surprised when Sam was the one to speak up.

"Sir, I recommend an immediate debriefing. I'm sure the Colonel, Daniel and Tealc' are very confused and concerned by what they are remembering," she stated.

"Briefing room," Hammond agreed with a nod of his head, and preceded them out of the gate room.

Once they arrived upstairs and sat down, Jack broke the silence. "Sir, I just have one question. Is my son Charlie dead or alive?"

Hammond looked at his 2IC like he had grown a second head, and frankly, Jack didn't blame him. It was Teal'c who finally attempted an explanation.

"I too have memories of Charlie O'Neill being alive, although I am sure that he shot and killed himself many months before I met any of you," he clarified.

"Exactly!" Jack exclaimed, slapping the table with the palm of his hand.

"It's like we remember two different realities," Daniel suggested.

"Well I don't know about the other memories but your son did shoot himself when he was nine years old, Colonel. He was in a coma for 4 months, and not expected to live. You went on the first mission to Abydos during that time. But he came out of the coma and he's very much alive," Hammond reassured the four.

Sam needed to verify the part that had been a shock to her. "He's in a wheelchair though, right?" she inquired looking down at her clenched hands.

"Yes. Unfortunately there was irreparable brain damage that left him partially paralyzed on his left side.

Sam took a deep breath. "I can explain how this happened," she offered.

"I sure wish you would, Carter. Because I could swear that my son was dead when we left on this last mission," Jack insisted.

"He was, Sir. The Dominion, that's what the people of P2S-127 are called, changed the events of that day to allow Charlie to live," she told them.

There was stunned silence broken by Daniel. "Why would they do that?"

"As an insurance policy to prevent us from ever returning to their planet," Sam explained. When she was met by more confused looks she continued. "It will be easier if I start at the beginning."

When Hammond nodded that she should proceed, she took a deep breath and started in on what was sure to be a long explanation. "The Dominion don't encourage visitors. They actually buried their Stargate for a while, but that just encouraged some Goa'uld to come by ship and they were forced to kill thousands of Jaffa. They opened their gate back up because it's easier to defend, as we saw. Anyone who comes through the gate is immediately transported to a cell. They usually just kill the intruders. They were curious about us though because Daniel mentioned the word 'Tauri' and they have a legend that they descended from a race known as the 'Taura'. So they took Daniel and scanned his memories to see what he might know of them. They were fascinated to learn that we are indeed of the same race as their ancestors, so they decided not to kill us," she disclosed.

"That was nice of them. Good job, Daniel. But it doesn't explain about Charlie," O'Neill stated tensely.

"I'm getting to that, Sir. They were still concerned about Teal'c, so they took him and scanned him to make sure he wasn't working for the Goa'uld. When they were sure that he wasn't, they decided that they needed another way to ensure we would leave and not come back. The Dominion have great powers, a lot like Oma and the other ascended, and could easily have killed anyone on Earth as a warning for us to stay away, but they don't like to take life unless they are threatened. Besides, they thought we might come back for retribution. They seemed to have tapped into that whole Jaffa revenge thing scanning Teal'c. Since they already had Teal'c and Daniel's memories they decided to scan the Colonel and I to find something they could use. They brought Charlie back to life so we would understand their power, and not be tempted to come back," she revealed.

"I don't understand that Major. Wouldn't understanding that they have incredible technology and powers make us want to go back again to study them? And why do only you four remember that he was dead?" Hammond asked.

"As I said, General, they really don't usually interfere in events outside their planet, so they only allowed the four of us to retain the memories of both time lines to ensure we never returned," Sam explained.

"And if we return?" O'Neill asked, just knowing that he wasn't going to like the answer.

"Then they will kill Charlie, Sir," Sam stated bluntly.

"Do you mean we will go back to the other time line where Charlie died?" Daniel thought to ask, as he was the only one of the group currently able to grasp all of the ramifications of what Sam was telling them.

"I'm not sure. They weren't very clear on that part. I think I was starting to annoy them with all of my questions. I thought they meant they would kill the Charlie of today, but I could be wrong," Sam apologized.

"Pretty important point, Major. That and the fact that my son might be alive but they put him in a wheelchair," Jack snapped.

Sam paled at his words but continued on calmly. "I'm sorry, Sir. They weren't very forthcoming with information. The only way I got as much information as I did was by asking questions. Basically they were content to just tell us to leave and never come back or Charlie would die," Sam informed him, her energy starting to wear a bit thin.

"Sam it's not your fault," Daniel sympathized. "I'm sure you did the best you could. You were with the Dominion for three hours. You must be exhausted."

Hammond and the rest of the team looked at her in concern. She did indeed look totally wiped out, in contrast to the rest of her team who had come back relatively unaffected by their time with the Dominion.

"Major, they didn't do anything else to you besides scanning you, did they?" Hammond demanded.

"No, Sir, but I think I was scanned a lot longer than you three. They said something about my memories being confusing," Sam said with a shrug.

"Jolinar," Daniel hypothesized.

"Probably," Sam agreed.

Hammond immediately ordered them to the infirmary to make sure that they hadn't suffered any ill effects from the scanning device.

"Sir, I recommend that we lock P2S-127 out of the dialing computer and have all of SG1's codes changed," the Colonel stated as the meeting broke up.

"Of course, Colonel. I'll have it done immediately," Hammond replied.

The Colonel jogged out of the room to get to the infirmary. He wanted to get checked out and go home. To his son. The thought filled him with such joy that he barely noticed that by the time the rest of his team made it to the infirmary Sam was basically being held upright by Teal'c. When O'Neill started to leave, Daniel made a move to stop him, but Sam called out to him and he turned.

"Let him go Daniel. He needs to get home to Charlie," Sam wisely told him.

"He should have at least waited to see if you were ok, Sam," Daniel complained.

"I am. I'm just exhausted. Nothing a hot bath and twelve hours of sleep won't cure," Sam assured him.

She truly was as tired as she could ever remember being. The adrenaline that had kept her going was quickly wearing off and shock was beginning to take over. Shock over what had really occurred during her conversation with the Dominion. She prayed that no one would ever find out that it wasn't the powerful aliens that had picked Charlie to bring back to life. They had given her options, and told her to choose. If she hadn't they would have killed her and her teammates.

She chose Charlie O'Neill, and now she would have to live with that choice.

Over the next few weeks Sam buried herself in work, and tried to forget the part she had played in bringing Charlie O'Neill back to life. For the most part she was successful, but mainly because she only saw her teammates during the three brief missions they went on in that timeframe. Missions were easy. If she was quieter than normal, no one really noticed, and she simply dealt with what needed to be done out in the field. At home she avoided her friends as much as possible. She buried herself in the lab during the day, and escaped home at night alone. The fact that the Colonel was spending every free moment with Charlie worked to her advantage, as there were no team nights planned.

Then a string of events reinforced the guilt she felt. First Teal'c headed off for a couple of days to be with his son for the anniversary of Drey'auc's death, and Sam was forced to remember that Drey'auc was one of the people she could have brought back to life. She couldn't look Teal'c in the eyes for days after his return. She had just managed to get over that incident when Charlie O'Neill turned sixteen. Since in this altered timeline he was quite friendly with his father's teammates, they were all expected to attend. Sam concentrated hard on the memories she now had of Charlie over the last seven years and was able to act fairly normal towards him, but it had definitely been a strain. Seeing him for the first time since the mission and watching him in the wheelchair made her feel like she had failed him in some way.

She'd been puzzled at first when she'd realized that Jack and Sara were still divorced, but then the Dominion had assured her nothing else would change. Jack had still gone into a guilt inspired tailspin after Charlie shot himself, had still been recruited to go on that mission to Abydos, and had come back to find that Sara had left him. There were a few minor discrepancies. Most surprising to Sam was the fact that she and Sara had developed a friendship.

The thing that finally sent Sam into a deep depression was such an innocent event on the surface. She'd walked into Daniel's lab early one morning to find him asleep at his desk, which was not such an unusual occurrence. At first she shook her head and smiled until she saw that one hand was resting on a picture of Sha're. She paled at the sight, and quietly retreated. The reminder of how much her friend missed his wife made the knowledge that she could have chosen the beautiful Abydonian woman to bring back to life all the more painful. Sam ended up heading home and calling in sick, something she never did.

She spent the next two weeks actively avoiding her teammates when not on a mission. She claimed she was doing some work on her house, and so it wouldn't be a lie, she had dutifully repainted all of her ceilings. Cassie eventually let the cat out of the bag that Sam had finished, so when the Colonel suggested a team night, she was left without an alibi. Without thinking about it, she opened her mouth and claimed that she was busy.

"Hot date, Carter?" The Colonel teased.

"Actually, yes, Sir," she lied. It wasn't until she saw the disappointment flit across his face briefly before the mask was back in place that she realized that she hadn't thought through the implications of the lie. She sighed internally, thinking maybe it was better this way, to squash any feelings the Colonel had for her now. With her logic being overruled by her guilt she was sure that if he ever found out she'd been the one to choose who lived he would view her with disdain anyway.

It was Charlie and Cassie who finally brought to everyone's attention just how sad Sam had become. They were worried about the profound change in her that only they seemed to notice. They discussed it a couple of times, comparing notes, and finally decided to talk to their parents separately. Within days both Jack O'Neill and Janet Fraiser were confronted by their concerned children wanting to know what had happened to Sam that had made her so unhappy. Cassie, having the advantage of actually knowing about the SGC and their real jobs asked outright if something had happened on a mission. Charlie merely asked if someone had died or was sick, or if Sam had broken up with some guy.

Neither parent could give an answer, but now that Sam's melancholy had been brought to their attention they were ashamed to admit they hadn't noticed, but that it was obvious. Jack tried in vain to remember the last time Carter had laughed at one of his jokes, or he'd seen her really smile. Once he realized it had been almost six weeks, he was kicking himself. He remembered her *hot date* and couldn't help but wonder if maybe she hadn't had her heart broken by someone. But surely the Doc would know about any man trouble. Just in case he got Daniel to sound her out. Sam told him it had simply been a blind date that had been a total dud. Her three male teammates were stumped.

Luckily Janet was pretty devious.

It started out like any other girl's night in. They ordered their favorite Thai food, and argued over which movie to watch. After the movie they started chatting about Cassie's college choices and Charlie's new girlfriend and segued onto the topic of their dismal love lives. Sam failed to notice through it all that her wineglass was never far from full. Finally Janet decided that Sam had consumed enough wine to loosen her tongue and she brought up the real topic of conversation for the evening.

"So what's up with you lately? You've been depressed, and don't even try to pretend otherwise," Janet warned.

"Honest Jan, it's nothing. I'm just going through a slump. Nothing seems to be happening in my life, and I haven't made any breakthroughs in the lab for awhile. Feeling a bit dull is all," Sam lied.

"It's more than that Sam. Even Cassie has noticed you seem downright sad lately. Like your best friend died. Oh, lord! There wasn't anyone else that the Dominion played God with that the rest of us don't remember, was there?" Janet suddenly thought out loud.

"No, just Charlie. Wasn't that enough?" Sam replied.

"Hey, I know you're upset that they didn't bring him back in one piece as it were, but he's alive. That's a miracle. It's a good thing," Janet assured her.

"It *is*. I guess I'm just having trouble dealing with the idea of playing God," Sam explained.

"It's not an easy concept to accept but you said that they didn't normally do anything like this so I don't think we need to worry about them doing it again. It was a better option than them killing you all that's for sure," Janet insisted. "You just need to accept their choice and move on."

Janet had expected her words to be comforting so when Sam suddenly choked back a sob and leapt to her feet she was shocked. It took a second for her to follow her friend to where she had stepped out onto the back porch. She watched as her friends took in deep breaths of the cool air, and waited for her to continue. Finally Sam turned to her and once again shocked the petite doctor.

"The Dominion didn't make the choice, I did. They gave me four names and told me to choose or they would start killing us. So I chose Charlie. But now I have to live with having played God, and it's so hard," Sam confessed.

"You chose?" Janet whispered. Suddenly seeing things clearly, she knew what the real problem was. "What were your four options, Sam?"

"Drey'ac, Sha're, Charlie," Sam began, and then she trailed off.

"And the forth?" Janet asked, already knowing the answer.

"My Mom," Sam whispered.

Janet wordlessly gathered her friend into her arms. What could she possible say to take away the pain Sam must be feeling? And damn her stubbornness. How did she ever think she could cope with this by herself? The doctor's mind was reeling. How best to help Sam? She needed to talk about this with someone, but she knew that all of SG1 distrusted McKenzie. What Sam really needed was to confess this to her teammates, and most importantly to Jacob. But she could understand her reluctance to do so. How do you explain that you had the chance to bring your own mother back to life and chose not to? And why didn't she? As for her teammates, this could tear SG1 apart. Daniel especially would be devastated. Janet slowed her whirling thoughts as Sam pulled out of her arms, wiping away the few tears that she had shed. One step at a time, Janet thought, and the first step is obvious.

"Sam, I can't believe you've kept this to yourself all these weeks. I understand why you didn't want the rest of SG1 to know, but I think that eventually you will need to tell them. In the meantime you know that you need to report this to Hammond. He'll understand and help us figure out what's best," Janet coaxed.

Sam nodded reluctantly. She hadn't said anything in the debriefing in front of SG1, but she had planned on going to speak to Hammond in private later. Somewhere along the line she had lost her nerve.

"I'll go with you first thing Monday," Janet insisted.

"Ok, thanks Jan," Sam replied, then gave her friend a small smile. "I feel better just having told you. You're right. It was stupid of me to have tried to ignore this," Sam admitted.

"Not stupid, just stubborn," Janet said with a smile and a shake of her head.

Monday morning found Janet and a nervous Sam meeting with Hammond.

"What can I do for you, Doctor, Major?" Hammond inquired. He was slightly shocked by the dark circles under Carter's eyes that he was noticing for the first time.

"I'm here to report that I left something out of my report on our encounter with the Dominion, Sir," Sam responded straightening her shoulders.

Hammond's eyes flashed from Carter to Fraiser in concern. "You said they didn't harm you. Was that not true Major?"

Realizing what he was thinking, Sam quickly put his mind at ease. "They didn't harm me, Sir," she assured him.

"That's a matter of opinion, Sam," Janet interrupted. "Physically they didn't touch you but I think what they asked of you amounted to psychological torture," she insisted.

"Tell me exactly what happened, Major," Hammond ordered.

"Everything was exactly as I reported, Sir. Except that once the Dominion explained that they would only let us go if they had something to blackmail us with to ensure we didn't return, they told me they didn't like the idea of playing God. They told me they had pulled one memory from each of us of a person we had lost and that any one of those four would suit their needs. They told me to pick. They said I was in a better position to decide who most deserved to live. I was the one who chose Charlie, Sir," Sam reported, then sat silently and waited for the General's reaction.

A kaleidoscope of emotions swirled through Hammond's mind. Shock that the Major had not been truthful was quickly replaced by disgust that she had been put into such a position, and horror as he realized why she had kept this to herself. A great sadness filled his heart as he finally replied.

"I probably don't need to ask what the choices were, but for the record, Major, who were you asked to choose between?" Hammond queried.

"Charlie, Sha're, Drey'ac, and my mother, Sir," Sam informed him quietly.

Hammond closed his eyes to gather his thoughts before he continued. "How did you decide on Charlie O'Neill, Major?" he inquired.

Sam actually smiled at that. "I over-thought it to death, Sir. I wasn't kidding when I said that the Dominion were tired of my questions. I must have asked a hundred. At first I was going to go with Drey'ac, because I figured changing her death would cause the least amount of disruption to our timeline. But then the Dominion must have finally understood my concerns because they assured me that no matter who I picked the events of our timeline would remain undisturbed. If I picked my mother, I would still join the Air Force and end up at the SGC and the same with Charlie and the Colonel. But I still foresaw problems with bringing back either Sha're or my mother. For example, if Sha're lived, wouldn't that mean that Amounet would still be alive too? The Dominion were vague on that one. And if my mother was still alive would that mean that my dad would have to leave her when he went off with the Tok'Ra? Even with Drey'ac, I was unsure about how bringing her back to life would work. Her symbiote had matured, would she get a new one? By this point the Dominion were getting agitated, and told me to pick, so I did," Sam concluded with a sigh. "In retrospect I wish I'd asked a few more questions."

Hammond sat through her narrative in amazement. She had been put in an impossible situation and yet her main concern had been how her decision would affect Earth. He looked at the Major with pride. He knew he should expect nothing less from her. Now the question was how to help her handle the aftermath of her decision without causing further trauma to her or her teammates.

"Major, I think you did an admirable job. It sounds like none of the four would have been a perfect choice. If it makes you feel any better, I think you chose wisely, even given the fact that Charlie is partially paralyzed," Hammond commended her.

"Thank you, Sir," Sam replied, truly grateful for his approval. "Sir, I don't think that this information needs to go any farther than this room," she suggested.

"I'm not sure about that, Major, but I understand your concern. For now I'll agree to keep this between us, but only if you agree to counseling," Hammond decreed.

"Sir!" Sam protested.

"Major, I know you are not fond of Dr. McKenzie, but you really need to talk this through with a professional," Hammond insisted.

"I have an alternative that might be a better choice," Janet announced. Having had the weekend to think about the problem she had come up with a possible solution.

"What do you suggest, Doctor?" Hammond asked.

"I could arrange for Sandra Lunardi to come talk to Sam," Janet suggested.

"The rape counselor?" Sam exclaimed.

"She does counseling for victims and families affected by any sort of violent crime, including grief counseling," Janet corrected. "And Sam, whether you want to admit it or not what you are going through right now is grief. By only being able to choose one person to bring back to life, you were forced to face the other's deaths again and you are grieving for them, especially your mother," Janet gently explained.

"Well, she does have the security clearance," Hammond acknowledged. Unfortunately, there had been a couple of cases over the years when a rape counselor had been needed to talk to an assaulted female SG team member. And Sandra had also counseled the sole survivor of an SG team that had been shot down by the Goa'uld last year when McKenzie had been on leave. "What do you think Major?" Hammond inquired.

Sam thought it over for a minute. Sandra wasn't Air Force, and she had a feeling that it would be easier to discuss some of the feelings involved in her choice with someone who wouldn't automatically haul her into a board of review. "It sounds like a good idea to me," Sam agreed.

So it was that two weeks later, Jack O'Neill would spot his 2IC leaving an office near the infirmary along with an older woman he vaguely recognized. When he finally remembered who the woman was, he barged into Hammond's office unannounced.

"So would you mind telling me why my 2IC is seeing a rape counselor and I don't know about it?" he demanded.

Hammond studied Jack O'Neill carefully. The man looked desperate, and Hammond wasn't foolish enough to not understand why. At least he could refute the worse case scenario he was sure was running through the Colonel's mind.

"She wasn't assaulted, Colonel. She's seeing Susan Lunardi on another matter," Hammond assured him.

Truth be told, he felt it was time for Sam to confess at least to her CO what was going on, and he had every intention of suggesting it to the Major later that day. He'd been waiting for her to have her third appointment with the counselor to see what she had to say first.

"She's been really depressed," Jack reported in concern.

"I know, Colonel. She has some serious issues to deal with, and Dr. Fraiser thought that she would do better talking to someone other than Dr. McKenzie. I agreed," Hammond told him.

"This has something to do with the Dominion, doesn't it?" Jack asked.

"I'm not at liberty to say, Colonel. But I will say that the Major gave me a full reporting of events and I supported her actions," Hammond commented. Then as Jack turned to leave he called him back. "Jack – when she's ready to talk, be there for her, and keep an open mind," he recommended.

Hammond saw a look of surprise pass over his 2IC's face before his normal mask fell back into place. To be honest, Hammond had surprised himself. He had just basically given Jack O'Neill permission to comfort the Major, but he knew that he had no choice. One way or another he figured he was going to loose a member of SG1. She may not have admitted to anyone why she had picked Charlie O'Neill's life to save, but that didn't mean that both he and Dr. Fraiser hadn't figured it out. He wondered if Sam had.

Actually, Hammond was wrong about Sam not admitting to anyone the real reasoning behind her choice. Susan Lunardi had gotten it out of her during their second session. Sam had indeed known exactly what had motivated her. She had just needed an impartial, non-military person to bare her soul to. She would never have been able to tell Dr. McKenzie that she loved Jack O'Neill or that from the instant that the Dominion had assured her that the timeline wasn't going to be changed by Charlie living, she had known who she was going to choose. She would do anything to erase that pain from Jack's soul, including giving up a chance to bring her own mother back. Despite the guilt she knew she had made the right choice.

Susan had made an interesting suggestion during today's session, and Sam had decided to pursue it. She was going to ask Hammond for a few days leave. She needed to go visit her mother's grave and make her peace. She only wished she had someone to go with her to lend some moral support. She'd thought about asking Janet, but she and Cassie were due to visit several colleges that weekend, and she hated the thought of making them postpone the trip. Cassie was so looking forward to it. Maybe she would just wait until her friend could go with. Susan Lunardi on the other hand thought there was a more appropriate person to accompany the Major, and she took her plea to General Hammond. Without disclosing anything that Major Carter had told her in confidence, she simply asked if there was someone else that could go with Sam. Perhaps her CO?

"Ms. Lunardi, let me tell you something. I didn't make it to where I am today on my looks. I know exactly what the Major needs, and why. I'll send for her in a bit and tell her I've decided it's time to tell her teammates the facts pertaining to the Dominion's *choice*. Colonel O'Neill is making noises about retiring and if he's going to, I need her to step up and take command of SG1. Hopefully if everything is out in the open they can all move beyond this. At the very least maybe she and the Colonel can finally stop dancing around," Hammond acknowledged.

Susan Lunardi's opinion of the General had always been favorable, but now she looked at him with new respect. Dr. Fraiser had told her the General was a widower. She wondered if when this was all over he would like to go for a drink. It had been a long time since she had met a man she admired this much.

"I totally agree, Sir. I can free myself up this afternoon if you want to get this over with. I think the less time Major Carter has to anticipate the conversation the better," Susan advised

A scant two hours later Hammond called SG1 into an emergency briefing that was also attended by Dr. Frasier and Susan Lunardi. Hammond had told Sam of his decision in the interim, and although she had blanched at the thought, she had taken a deep breath and nodded her agreement.

Once they were all seated, Hammond turned the floor over to Sam, who stood looking at her teammates sadly. These men were her best friends, her family, and she was about to test the strength of that friendship. She prayed they would understand.

"Six weeks ago, the Dominion asked me to play God. They told me to choose between four people we held dear and had lost, and decide which was the one most worthy of a second chance. I won't make any excuses or long winded explanations of my reasoning. I chose Charlie," Sam confessed.

She watched as the realization of what she meant sunk in. She knew the exact moment when each of her teammates got it. Teal'c expression did not change, but he bowed his head and closed his eyes in grief. Daniel paled, then turned hurt and dismayed eyes to Sam, who tried to meet them bravely. Daniel looked away, took off his glasses and buried his face in his hands. The Colonel simply looked at her, opened his mouth to say something them shook his head in disbelief.

Sam's heart broke. She stumbled to her feet, whispered a heartfelt, "I'm so sorry," and left the room. Janet followed her to make sure she was alright.

Susan Lunardi stepped in to help the men of SG1 try to make some sense of what they had just been told.

"I know you are all in shock. What you are experiencing now is what Major Carter had been going through for the last six weeks. That is why she finally agreed to counseling. It would probably be a good idea for you to each consider it too," she recommended.

"Sam needed counseling?? Why the hell did she need counseling? It's Teal'c and my wives she condemned to stay dead!" Daniel raged.

To Susan's surprise it was Jack O'Neill who answered. "She said there were four choices Daniel. You don't need to have a PHD to figure out who the other person was."

"Indeed, Daniel Jackson. Major Carter did not condemn our beloved wives to any fate that she did not choose for her own mother," Teal'c agreed.

Daniel froze in horror and then cursed himself for his selfishness in a long dead language.

"Let's go find Sam," he finally suggested to Hammond's and Susan's delight.

They found her sitting on a large rock topside looking out over the mountain. Janet sat by her side whispering words of comfort. As they approached, Sam pulled herself into a protective ball and closing her eyes put her head down onto her drawn up knees. Janet gave them a warning look, but relaxed when she saw that they were obviously concerned not angry. She left quietly and Daniel and Teal'c replaced her at Sam's side, taking a protective stance. Jack stood a couple of paces away, hands in his pockets.

Sam tensed up when the two men sat down on either side of her and it took a moment to realize that Daniel's words echoed what Janet had just been saying. It was ok, it wasn't her fault. She had done what she had to, and they didn't blame her. She felt Daniel wrap an arm around her, and then one of Teal'c's wrap around her from the other side. She dared to look up then and meet their eyes. She saw only concern, and leaned into their embrace. There was soft murmured conversation, and after a few minutes the two men got up to leave. Jack made no move to follow them.

"Why Charlie?" he finally asked quietly.

Sam slowly got to her feet and wrapped her arms around herself. Jack realized she was avoiding looking at him, so he stepped over to her and gently reached out to raise her chin so that he could see her eyes. "Why?" he repeated.

The answer was there, staring back at him out of those deep blue pools, and it blew him away. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a hug. "Thank you," he whispered into her hair, then he loosened his grip so that he could bend down and capture her lips with his. The kiss began softly, a loving caress that said everything they had kept hidden for so many years. Within moments it began to escalate as with a groan Jack eagerly sought entrance into her mouth with his tongue, and Sam willingly complied.

When they parted, they were both in need of air and something solid to hold onto. They shuffled over to where two trees stood side by side, and parted as they each leaned against a tree.

"Wow," Sam uttered, putting a hand to her swollen lips.

"Wow indeed. We probably shouldn't wait so long before we do that again. Holding all of that in has got to be bad for you," Jack quipped with a twinkle in his eye and a sexy grin.

Sam knew she should tell him that there would be no repeating that kiss, that they needed to think of SG1 and their careers, and the battle that they needed to keep fighting. And she *would* say all of those things later. For now she just wanted to savor the sight and feel of him in case she never got the chance to again. Jack could see the wheels turning, and decided to put an end to that line of thinking.

"Oh, we *are* doing that again, Carter. Soon. I tried to resign last week, but Hammond asked me to wait a bit. Now I understand why. But as soon as you are emotionally back on your feet, I am handing over the reigns of SG1 to you, Major," Jack informed her.

"You can't!" she protested, even as a tiny spark of hope was lit inside her heart.

"Sure I can. You didn't think I was going to be able to do this forever did you?" Jack asked in amusement as he watched her do battle with the two warring emotions he could see flitting across her face.

"Why now?" Sam wanted to know.

"Because now I understand just how precious each minute with my son is. I have two years before he goes off to college. I know what it's like to loose him, and what it's like to have him in my life. I want to enjoy every minute of the next few years. I want to live to see him graduate, and maybe get married and have his own family. And after what just happened here, I want to have time to explore a relationship with this really sexy blond Major that I know. You're ready for command Sam. It's the right time. Besides, Hammond isn't letting me go entirely. I will be a civilian consultant helping train new recruits. That way I'll be available if Thor pops in and needs anything," Jack explained.

"Oh," Sam replied, her eyes wide as the implications of what he was saying began to sink in. Her smile started to grow until Jack thought he would be blinded by it.

"Oh, indeed," he agreed.

Epilogue – six months later

Sam pulled up into the driveway and parked her bike removing her helmet. Before she'd even taken two steps towards the front door, the garage door opened, and Charlie was wheeling himself towards her with a huge grin on his face that was heart-stoppingly familiar. Sara came out of the front door at that moment and Sam looked towards her with a small wave. She saw Sara's eyes twinkle at the sight of the bike. Jack had called and asked her permission for this outing last night, but she hadn't really imagined that Sam could pull it off. Charlie too had noticed that Sam's Volvo had been substituted for the Indian and he was looking at her with a question in his eyes.

"Ready to go for a ride?" she asked.

Charlie's eyes went wide. Ever since he'd turned sixteen he'd been in a bit of a funk as one by one his friends had gotten their driver's licenses. Sam had suggested to Jack that as soon as she had time she could outfit her bike to accommodate a passenger with special needs. She'd finished her upgrades last weekend, and was ready to take the teen for a spin.

Charlie turned to his mother as she came to stand beside him. "Can I?" he asked in disbelief.

"Sure," Sara agreed and was rewarded with a huge whoop and grin from her son. She locked and steadied his chair then gave him an arm so he could stand up.

Sam took over at that point. She rolled the bike over and positioned him on the right side, and helped him swing his left leg over as he stood on his good right leg. Getting him settled onto the back, she reached down and slid his left foot securely into the foot rest she had added for him. Then she slapped the spare helmet on him and settled herself in front of him. Since his left arm wasn't strong enough to hold onto her around her waist, she slid in the attachment she'd designed that have him a bar with a wrist guard attached to it for him to hold onto. She velcroed the guard closed around his wrist so that his arm was held in place, then told him to wrap his right arm around her.

"How does it feel, Charlie? Are you balanced and secure?" she inquired.

Sara inspected the devices in awe. Sam had really done an amazing job. There was little chance of one of Charlie's weak limbs getting loose, and yet he was relatively free of restraint.

"This is awesome Sam," he grinned.

"Well, let's give it a try. We'll just go around the neighborhood first so you can get the hang of the balance. Anybody you want to drive past and impress?" she teased.

A half and hour later they were back, and Jack was waiting for them, leaning up against his truck talking to Sara.

"Dad! Sam's going to take me out for a longer ride!" Charlie exclaimed.

"Great. I'll be right behind you with your bags. What exactly are you bringing Charlie? You are only staying with us for a week!" Jack asked shaking his head.

Sara laughed. As Charlie and Sam pulled away, she thanked Jack. She hadn't had a proper vacation in years, and was really looking forward to a week at the ocean with her husband Scott.

"Not a problem Sara. We are looking forward to having him," Jack admitted.

"Sam looks happy. I was worried about her for awhile," Sara confessed.

"Yeah, she was going through a rough time but things eventually worked out," Jack told her.

"So when are you two going to get married?" Sara teased.

Jack grinned. "Very soon I hope," he confided.

Confessing to her teammates hadn't been an instant fix to Sam's depression, but it had been a big first step. Over the next month she had made her peace with each of the women that she felt she had betrayed. Teal'c had offered to share with her an ancient ceremony of remembrance, and the two of them had spent several days holed up at Sam's house surrounded by burning candles and incense. She's spent hours with Daniel pouring over Ancient Egyptian poems that could be recited to safeguard the departed as they journeyed through the afterlife. And she had made a long overdue trip to visit her mother's grave with a newly retired Jack O'Neill at her side. It hadn't been until Jacob came through the gate for an unexpected visit and he and Sam had gone off for a weekend bonding trip that she had finally seemed totally at peace. Of course Jack's nerves had been shot worrying about the private chat Jacob had insisted they would need to have when he returned from the weekend. Having made O'Neill sweat for two days, Jacob was pretty easy on him during 'the talk', and actually gave Jack his blessing.

Now, Sam was happily settling into her new life both as CO of SG1 (with a promotion to Lt. Colonel) and as part of a couple. She had moved in with Jack three months ago, and now that Anubis and Ba'al had both been defeated and the System Lords were in disarray they were discussing getting married and possibly starting a family. This week Jack hoped to get Charlie's blessing.

Meanwhile Sam was flying down a back road she often used when she wanted to open up the throttle a bit on her bike with a laughing Charlie O'Neill behind her. Life always seemed more in perspective when she was zipping along like this and today was no different. She saw clearly now that she had concerned herself with not changing her past when forced to play God by the Dominion. She had forgotten to worry about what the choice would mean for her future.

With the sun shining down on her as she winged towards the home she shared with Jack, she could only think she must have chosen wisely.

The End.