AUTHOR'S NOTES: My genfic 'Hostage Situation' is a prequel to this story. It is not necessary to have read 'HS', however it will help with some minor references. In timeline, we went AU before the Season 8 episode 'New Order' and everything that has happened since then is not included in these pages.
Please note, this story contains very strong Sam/Jack UST; if that is not your cup of tea, then pleased don't read the story and then whinge about it containing S/J.
Secrets and Shadows: The Thin Blue Line
The line between her future as she imagined it and her future as it lay before her was thin and blue. Blue like the sky she'd longed to fly in as a child. Blue like the event horizon of a wormhole. Blue like her eyes, like the eyes of the child she carried, even now, in her womb.
Beneath her thighs, the porcelain rim of the bath was cold as her insides, chattering with the ice, shattering with the fear and terror of the unknown and the unsought. This wasn't happening to her. This couldn't be happening to her.
The thin blue line said otherwise.
Major Samantha Carter took one slow deep breath and exhaled, shuddering.
Two months ago, she might have been overjoyed by the news. Two months ago, she would have raced to get her cellphone and call him, certain in the knowledge that all the possibilities of the universe had just been dropped in her lap with a smile and a laugh.
That was then, this was now.
Two months ago, she'd still been dating Pete Shanahan.
The cylinder was dropped into the sink, and she wandered out of the bathroom, not even washing her hands. Such small things were beyond her at this moment, the nadir of so many hopes and dreams, the uncertainties laid out before her in immeasurable number.
It had to be a mistake.
She remembered the cold swabbing of the sterilisation pad, the prick and ache of the needle in her arm, the momentary pressure as the plunger sank and delivered its measure of sterility to her body. It had been recent. Recent enough for her to recall it. No. It was a mistake. It had to be a mistake.
Something in her screamed that it wasn't. Something in her screamed that it was.
Around her, the world was hazy, indistinct. Was that the shock of what had happened, or the tears that were welling in her eyes?
Sam didn't know until she drifted out to the main area where she'd dumped her bag and coat, and the gleam of silver foil beneath a brown and silver wrapper caught her eye. Then they were tears.
"I got something for you. Just to keep you going for the next few hours." He'd seemed so tentative, so uncertain that she wouldn't snap back at him, push him away, reject his gift.
She'd smiled at him because she couldn't help it - she never could. And the response she'd gotten had been something like relief at her response, a slow easing of his expression into a smile. "You'll do great, I just know it." His confidence had sparkled within her, like crystal shot through with light, refracting into a thousand beautiful glints that twinkled and spun miniature rainbows. Moments like those, Sam felt she could do anything on the confidence he gave her.
Sam dropped heavily into one of the dining room tables and listened to the pulse of her terrified heart and the tick-tick-ticking of the clock on the wall.
Her fingers pressed lightly down on the surface of the Hershey Bar, feeling the division of the chocolate squares beneath paper and foil wrapping.
This changed everything.
The call surprised him.
"Sir? I...I need you to come around. Now."
He blinked at that. She never invited him around without stating the concrete and necessary reason; it just wasn't the done thing between them. And he could hear the strain in her voice, even over the phone. "Okay." He paused, wondering if he should ask. Oh, what the hell. "You want I should bring anything?"
"N...no. Sir." There was a definite hesitation between the two words. "Just...soon."
"I'll be right there."
He switched off his cellphone and grabbed for his jacket, wallet, and keys. He knew Carter, and right now, she was at the end of her tether. A little voice unkindly pointed out that she'd have to be at the end of her tether to call him up and ask him to come around. Something had to be very wrong.
As Jack climbed into his truck, he supposed that whatever this something was, it had been wrong for a while.
He'd noticed Carter's distraction of the last few days. He'd almost brought it up before he decided it was none of his business. It was fairly clear that it was personal stuff, and her personal life was not his business. She'd taken it out of the realm of ever being his business when she'd started dating Shanahan, and although she'd left the guy since, there was still an element of distance between her and the man who was her commanding officer. Which was the way it was supposed to be.
Maybe that was why he'd given her the chocolate.
The chocolate tradition hailed back to the earliest days of SG-1. Barely two months into their stint as SG-1, Daniel had noted Carter's monthly terseness and taken steps to alleviate any discomfort through the judicious application of chocolate. It began there and Carter accepted it with a thankyou, but had otherwise never referred to her team-mates' gifts. Not until she started dating Shanahan. Then, she'd asked Daniel if the presents could stop since they made Shanahan uncomfortable.
Daniel hadn't understood that. "Isn't that his problem rather than Sam's?" He'd demanded of Jack. "We've been doing this for years. It doesn't mean anything the way he thinks it does..."
Jack drove along the streets of Colorado Springs, mapping the way to Carter's house in his mind, trying to remember which road he should take. It had been long enough between visits for him to forget the way. Slowly, it came back to him, but only as he needed it. He paused at a four-way stop and tried to remember whether he went left or right at this street. He guessed right; in more ways than one.
At her house, things seemed much the same as ever. Neat yard, neat lawn, blinds down, gate closed. A pretty house, functional but unwelcoming; Carter at her professional best.
Jack felt ashamed of the instinctive comparison. Carter at her professional best was brilliant, not merely functional. Although, the unkind voice retorted, she was always unwelcoming to him - at least in her personal life.
She opened the door, and he was struck by how tired she looked out in the clear light of day. Within the mountain, the artificial light failed to illuminate delicate lines of weariness from her face. The sunlight had no such qualms.
"Carter?" Jack regarded her with concern. "You okay?"
Her smile was wan, without its customary brilliance. "Please come in, sir." He noticed she didn't answer the question.
The place was mostly neat. Mostly. The dining table looked cluttered with...was that a medical record? Jack leaned over a little as she asked, "Did you want something to drink?"
"Uh, soda would be good - as long as it's not diet." The medical record was for Major Samantha Carter, and when he glanced at her for permission to flip it open, he found her watching him with open eyes but a closed expression. The silence stretched long, like soft taffy between small, sticky hands. "Carter?"
Her eyes dropped to the table, and his eyes followed and came to rest on a small cylinder of plastic and chemicals, marked by a thin blue line in a window. The bottom dropped out of his stomach, and yet he had this sudden urge to run for the bathroom and expel the hotdog he'd had for lunch.
Paper rustled as he flipped open the report, and laid his finger down on the top sheet. It was a gynacology report for Major Samantha Carter, performed by the base Doctor a few days ago. It confirmed what the pregnancy test said, although with long words rather than a short coloured line.
Carter was pregnant.
He flipped the report closed, and let his hands rest very lightly on the table, because if he didn't let them rest lightly on the table, he might clench them into fists.
Carter was pregnant.
It shouldn't have happened. A part of him knew that. Carter - like every other woman employed on the base - was given contraceptive shots on a regular basis. The shots were part of the regular medical check-ups and couldn't be escaped. And while Jack knew quite well that contraception was never 100 foolproof, the margin of error was so minor...
Carter was pregnant.
Jack caught hold of the jealousy that surged up into him, forcing it under his control and knowing that his face betrayed nothing more than a sudden stiffness. He had no right to be jealous, only the right to be concerned as the friend she thought him to be. But the pain inside was worse than that moment of realisation that Carter had moved on from the possibilities that might have been between them. Logically, her actions had made perfect sense; emotionally, all Jack could feel was that the woman he cared about was finding love somewhere else and it hurt.
When a man was cornered, his instincts always overrode his reason.
"So," he said, quietly, lifting his face to meet her gaze. "When's it due?" He didn't ask whose it was, because the answer was obvious. He didn't ask whether she was happy, because that answer was obvious, too. Instead, he worked on controlling his reaction to the thought of her carrying another man's child and doing what she'd obviously asked him here to do; give counsel on her options.
"Late January," she said. Her usually clear voice was husky with the tears she'd cried before he'd arrived. "I'm...I want to keep it."
Then why are you talking to me about this? The little voice growled in his head, but the words didn't pass his lips. It wasn't much of a surprise to find that Carter wanted to keep it. She was a far cry from old, but she wasn't young either. Both conception and pregnancy became harder on a woman the older she got. Jack remembered fretting about Sara's health during her pregnancy with Charlie, and she'd almost been thirty at the time.
Then he remembered Sara telling him about her pregnancy and how she'd confessed she almost hadn't. His hands twitched slightly Even now, years later, anger rose at the thought that something so precious might have been denied him simply because Sara had been having second thoughts about their relationship at the time.
He glanced up. Carter was still waiting for his response. When the moments passed and she received nothing, he watched as she braced her hands on the bench. "Sir, this will change things on SG-1..."
"Yeah," he murmured. She wouldn't want to go through the Stargate as long as she was pregnant - not unless it was absolutely necessary. And that was just for starters.
Equal opportunity meant Carter could take maternity leave and come back to her position at the end of it. Considering her role within the SGC, retraining would probably be minimal, and she could always take up a lab job like so many other officers within the program.
He kept watching her, unabashedly cataloguing every line of her face, every curve of her body. She looked pale, even for her. Jack knew he should ask her to sit down, take the strain off her feet. He should offer to help, take the burden from her spirit. But as he looked at her, Jack felt his heart twist in his chest and it wasn't because he was her commanding officer.
There were times when being a man who stood by his honour sucked. This was one of them. And he had to know what she was going to do, in both a personal and professional capacity.
So he asked the question that wrung him dry with a jealousy for what he would never have.
"What are you going to tell Shanahan?"
CHARACTER NOTES: For the character of Pete Shanahan, I extrapolated on the base of what the writers of the show gave us in the Season 7 episode 'Chimera' (obsessive, paranoid, manipulative, and inept) and simply haven't smoothed everything over with a 'no harm, no foul' at the end.