TITLE: Anniversary

AUTHOR: A. M. Richardson

CLASSIFICATION: Short

SPOILERS: Set S8, spoilers for Chimera and Heroes 2, speculation regarding O'Neill's and Carter's ranks in S8

RATING: G Ship/UST

PAIRINGS: Sam/Jack

SUMMARY: One year on...

DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp. and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended.

E-MAIL: audrich08

AUTHOR'S NOTES: For the SJFic Yahoo Group Anniversary Challenge.

My first attempt in utilizing the second person point of view, which I think lent itself to this story.

Feedback is much appreciated.

My thanks to those who read this after it was posted and suggested improvements.

Lyta, Jara and Heidi, thank you.

You sit there listening to the drumming of rain on the General's SUV roof and try to look interested in the raindrops chasing each other down the steamed up window glass. You can hear Daniel fidgeting on the other side of you; the last time you looked around at him, he was fiddling with the buttons on his woollen overcoat. You'd never seen that coat before; he must have bought it especially for today. Of course, they would all have been better with raincoats on, but who was to know this was to be the worst July weather for thirty years?

In contrast, the General, who sat directly in front of you, is still, completely still. His head didn't even seem to move – it's unnerving to see him so motionless, for a change.

"I do believe the precipitation is lessening, O'Neill," observed Teal'c quietly from the front passenger seat.

The window wipers cut a graceful arc through the moisture and General O'Neill peered out into the gloom. "Yeah. Just give it a minute," he muttered before lapsing into silence again.

You sigh very lightly and close your eyes. Leaning your forehead against the window, it feels cool and wet to your skin, clean and hard.

"Carter, you okay?" he asks, breaking through your darkness, making you jerk up slightly, which hurts like hell. Damn, he was watching you in the rear view mirror. You notice Daniel and Teal'c turn to look.

You nod confidently. "Yes, sir, my apologies. The painkillers are rather potent."

His voice is so soft, yet you can hear every word, clear as a bell. "There's no need to apologize, Colonel."

He left out: you didn't have to come, Carter; you can stay in the car, Carter; we're worried about you, Carter. Nevertheless, he still said it in your head.

He picked you up this morning, arriving at your front door only to find you still in your dressing gown. Okay, you admit it was hard to dress with a badly fractured clavicle and bruised ribs, but putting on a bra was near-nigh impossible. You shouldn't have let your self-control slip. You were supposed to hold it together whatever. But the thought of visiting Janet's grave to pay your one-year-on respects was nearly your undoing.

He didn't say a word about the house in disarray, merely loitered in the kitchen area with his hands deep in his AF coat pockets. He only came to find you when he heard you swearing, and knocking tentatively on the almost closed bedroom door, he walked in to view your naked top half, your bra dangling from your good left arm. Maybe you should have closed the bedroom door completely. Maybe you left it slightly ajar on purpose. Either way, you didn't even flinch, let alone trying to cover yourself up. Saying nothing, he picked up your bathrobe and passed it to you to clutch to your chest, then lifted his hand and with one, long, lean finger, he pointed and twirled it in the air.

Turn around, Carter.

You did as you were bid. Good little AF officer. Obedient little AF officer. Before you could breathe, he had your bra over your head, your left arm inserted under the strap, then your virtually useless right arm eased under the soft cotton, him all the while standing behind you. His touch on your back was warm as he fastened the hooks. And when his hand was removed from your skin, the heat stayed there, radiating out from the center of your spine.

You're still warm now.

You were able to slip your blouse on then, but he stayed to button it up and ease your sling back over your arm, and drape your jacket over your shoulders. You knew he was checking out your room for signs, as any self-respecting black-ops officer would. However, he wouldn't find any; Pete hadn't been here in weeks. Months, even. And dammit to hell – you were sad that it was over. The sex had been great, not brilliant, but great, and a welcome hiatus in your professional virgin status. One too many 'Sorry, hon, but I can't get away' or injuries that couldn't be explained were enough to let you drift apart. Nice while it lasted.

This latest injury was one in a long line. They couldn't have foreseen the little contretemps three days ago on PX-not-ever-going-back-there that resulted in Danny-boy (you even sounded like him now) being hit on by the local native princess, and her boyfriend getting consequently pissed in the extreme. Okay, so a hot retreat didn't mean you were to trip and fall down into a ravine, but still, you were alive, and Janet wasn't.

"Colonel Carter?" Teal'c was speaking.

You nod and swallow the newly formed tears down the back of your throat, salty and welcome. "Yes?"

He indicates the outside. "It appears the rain has abated."

Turning your stiff neck, you realise that the others are staring again, Daniel off to your right side, and the General in the mirror. Had Teal'c spoken before? Were they waiting for you?

You grasp the door handle, and then he's opening his door, out of his seat and opening your door before you can say Jumping Jack Flash. You struggle out, feeling awkward and the rain drops on your forehead before you position your cap.

Dress blues. Only the best for Janet.

The grass is sodden and slippery and hard to walk on with your heeled pumps and your center of balance off a little. Your coat slips from your bad shoulder, but just as quickly, you find it replaced with care. You can feel his hand coming to rest on the small of your back as he guides you, and steadies you, and supports you. No change there, even after eight years.

Daniel and Teal'c go on ahead, meeting up with General Hammond (ret'd) and Cassie. You can hear polite small talk about the bad weather before Cassie's composure slips and she hangs back to take your one available hand and cling on tightly.

Janet's grave is over in the corner, sheltered from the wind, and marked by a small headstone as per her request.

Janet Elizabeth Fraiser

1962-2004

I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.

{Dear Janet, I miss you. I miss the girly chats in the infirmary, the bitching over a nice merlot at your house, the nights out at the movies, the fretting about Cassie and her future.}

It was all gone, and whomever it was that said that time is a healer, sucked. Big time.

You listen as Hammond says a few words, but he breaks down in the middle of it all, and that sets Cassie off. You cuddle her into your chest with your good arm and watch while Daniel strokes her back and soothes until the tears break into hesitant breaths. So much for the worldly-wise sophomore. The men stand around the small plot, their downcast eyes invisible under their hat brims. Even Daniel is wearing some sort of odd fedora: hell, Janet would have pissed herself laughing at the sight of him. The thought makes hysteria bubble up and you gasp as you try to control it. The others are drifting away, and don't notice, thank goodness.

Except him.

He's back at your side, not watching you like a hawk, but you know he is. He's waiting for you to say something, but he's wrong because you won't. The sun suddenly peeks out from behind a cloud and the air becomes warm.

"We need to see the mason about the polish coming off the back," you remark and appreciate that you did, in fact, speak.

He nods and sniffs, looking away.

Gravestones. Not the most pleasant of subjects for him. For anyone.

"Sorry," you stammer and make to beat a hasty exit, when his arm comes out and his hand enfolds your elbow.

"Carter, please, don't bear this by yourself."

You shake your head a little too forcefully and try to pull out of his grip, but oddly, you find yourself closer to him. As you lean against his chest, you can smell Aramis, soap and damp fabric. He smells like your Dad used to and you find this perversely comforting. You can hear his heartbeat, strong and steady; he is your metronome, measured and constant.

"Cassie needs me to be strong," you hear yourself lamely say into his lapels, but you don't move because his arm is stopping you and you like being there. You like the smell of a man – this man – and you like the mutual support and admiration society. Sitting across from him in the briefing room, Colonel to General, you accept his guidance, enjoy the banter, and feel ever-so-slightly superior that you have a special relationship with him that the other SG team leaders don't have. You accept that's all it will be for now. You both have jobs to do, inextricably woven with duty, honor and integrity, but one head-lean against his coat in the middle of a graveyard is hardly breaking any regulations, is it?

His voice rumbles through his chest, and you can almost feel your tympanic membrane vibrating. "Cassie just needs us to be there when she feels like she needs us. And we are. She's a strong kid," he leans his head down and you can feel his mouth on your hair, "she survives, you know."

You can feel them coming, and as much as you try to stop them, they dribble down your cheeks anyway. Your crying is silent, a skill practised after many years of not showing your feelings, but he knows, because you find a freshly laundered handkerchief thrust into your hand.

Straightening up and wiping away the moisture, you hear yourself say; "I don't know how much more I can take," and you instantly wish you hadn't have allowed yourself such self-indulgence. It wasn't fair; not to him.

But he nods and understands. "It won't be for ever. We will win in the end."

And you know he's talking about the Goa'uld, but for a split-second, you know he means him and you, and you smile a watery smile and swallow the rest of the emotions down. His eyes meet yours and you hear everything you ever wanted to hear from him, and you are content.

He's at your left side then, his arm stuck out like a comical chicken-wing and you take it gratefully to make your way back to the others, your anniversary duty over for a year.

He glances back, so you tighten your arm through his. The sun has come out completely now and you can see Daniel and Teal'c shedding their coats in preparation for the drive back to Hammond's house.

Just as they come within earshot of their company, he says under his breath; "Just remember Sam, some things are not for ever, but others most certainly are."

You glance sideways and you see hooded eyes full of resolve and patience, and nearing the cars, you see Cassie smile her pretty smile and you realize that everything he has ever told you is absolutely true.

The End

Copyright © Audrey Menzies Richardson, 2004

The quote on Janet's headstone was said by Edith Cavell, a dedicated nurse who worked on the front line during the World War before we all knew better to start numbering them. She was captured and shot by firing squad, but her faith and devotion to duty were unshaken, and Nurse Cavell's last words are testament to this:

"Standing as I do in the face of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone."

I fancy she was Janet Fraiser's childhood heroine.

And Janet's many friends, both imaginary and real, will miss her very much.