Disclaimer: Not mine. Spoilers: Season 6, up through 'Cure.
Set: after 'Cure.
Notes: This is an indirect sequel to 'Conversations Over a Campfire in Spain'. The title is a reference to the Simple Minds song 'Belfast Child.
Rating: G. Vague Sam/Jack.

Conversations Around a Campfire in Belfast by ALC Punk!

Melancholy tinges the night air. The words make Major Sam Carter feel stupidly poetic, but she can't sleep. And her commanding officer is out there in the night, pretending that it's all ok. She knows it isn't. In fact, she's fairly certain that Colonel Jack O'Neill is out there staring into the darkness of his own soul, and not liking it one bit.

The day had been long, and the night will be longer - for him, at least. Unless she talks to him.

A part of her doesn't want to.

She could make Teal'c do it, or Jonas. Or simply let him sit there and think dark things. This would have been Daniel's job, but he was dead, if not buried. And so it falls to her.

But she can't just let him stay out there. It isn't fair, especially since it isn't his fault. Sam wants to rail at the universe as a whole for a moment, but it would be pointless. Besides, it isn't like there was a guiding hand out there painting raw stripes of pain on the canvas of SG-1.

A choice, then.

Or no choice at all.

She remembers the roles were reversed, last time. But Sam Carter already knows she is not going to leave him sitting there by the fire, thoughts desolate. Not without at least trying to get his attention, first.

"Hey." Settling on the log next to him, she considers her options.

There's no response from the colonel.

For a while, she simply sits there, listening to him breathe, listening to her own heart beat. Breathe in. Breathe out. It's not cold enough to puff out in a mist, and she considers what the dew point is on this planet that is like and unlike Earth.

"You can't forget." She startles herself, and almost doesn't continue. And she's not really sure what she's saying. "Or you can. But you have to... you have..." Her voice trails off, because he still hasn't acknowledged her presence.

And she wants him to. She wants irrational, angry words from him. Condemnation and anger and acceptance. Or none of those.

"Go to bed, Major." His tone is clipped.

No, she thinks, reaching blindly, her hand wrapping around his wrist. Her fingers are cold, his wrist is warm. She's gripping it too tightly, but she doesn't care. "It wasn't your fault."

He flinches, but he doesn't break away.

Grabbing hold of more courage, she pushes. "It wouldn't have been any better if you hadn't agreed. He would have died then, probably in worse pain."

A harsh laugh cracks across the air.

She tightens her fingers, sure he'll have bruises. And her fingers are going to cramp soon, but she refuses to let go.

He's let go, forgotten too much, too often. She remembers him telling her that, once. He can forget, but he never forgives. And for once, she doesn't want him to forget, she wants him to forgive. She wants to nail through his brain that this is not his fault. Damnit. That this is no one's fault except the goa'uld, and this is simply one more reason to raze them to the ground and salt the earth.

Which is a stupid superstition, but she's seen Apophis come back to life once too often.

Incongruously, she wonders how old Charlie O'Neill would have been today. It takes less than a second to remember his birth date and make the appropriate calculations.

"I meant to tell you, sir." She paused, gathering the last shreds of her courage. He will either order her to bed or they will have a spectacular fight. She is almost hoping for the latter. It will hurt less.

Knowing and saying are two different things, and she suddenly has to change what she's going to say.

"Before she died, Egeria apologized. For Jolinar."

The only reaction is a tension in his muscles.

She wonders how long he can go without talking to her. Probably forever. Grimly, she plows on. "I told her not to bother. Jolinar wasn't a child of hers, and so she couldn't apologize. I think I pissed Malek off."

Ah. There was a reaction. A soft snort. "Not hard."

"It's different, of course." She continues before she can stop herself. "I never had a choice. Charlie did."

She is sitting right next to him, she thinks. And he is so far away she can't even touch him. Her words have pushed him further away instead of closer, and she bows her head. "It's always for nothing, isn't it."

His tone is flat as he replies. "What, you don't enjoy saving the world, Carter?"

"Gosh, no." Okay, so it's apparently sarcasm time. She still doesn't let his wrist go, and it HAS to be hurting. But her fingers are slowly going numb and so she can't be certain of anything.

"Yeah." His head ducks down. "Me either."

"It's not your fault." Okay, so she'd said that before. It bore repeating.

"Oh, of course not." But he sounds tired instead of sarcastic.

She shifts slightly, finally giving in to the urge and leaning her head on his shoulder. "Daniel would have something vastly emotionally brilliant to say, sir."

"Yeah."

"I just..." Her voice trails off and she remains silent as they both breathe in and out.

She can smell him, now. Wood smoke and sweat and dirt and... Jack O'Neill. It isn't any one thing, her tired mind decides. It is a bunch of different things. Gun oil and leather and canvas and the day-old socks they are both wearing and deodorant that's given out after 27 hours on a different planet.

It isn't like she smells any better.

At least he isn't complaining.

She isn't going anywhere. Even if he orders her to. They will just sit here, together, and share the watch. Even if she is so tired she wants to curl up and snore the night away. Not that she snores.

He can blame himself all he wants, she decides drowsily. Just because he let the boy named Charlie go off and become a Tok'ra doesn't mean it's his fault. But he'll probably never let himself off the hook. Just like it isn't his fault that Charlie died in the attack on the Tok'ra base. All of SG-1 will carry that guilt, but she doesn't think he'll understand that.

So she simply leans against him, and tries to offer comfort.

-

Her neck hurts from the angle it's at. It takes her a moment to realize where it is, where shes is, and then she almost scrambles away.

At some point during the long night, their hands and arms shifted until their fingers became entwined.

Hell. She is holding her commanding officer's hand.

Yeah, that will certainly look great on a report.

It's a good thing Teal'c and Jonas-a sound from across the campfire draws her eyes open and she blinks blearily.

Teal'c sits there, hands on his knees as he simply watches. Apparently noticing her open eyes, he inclines his head then gestures towards the bubbling percolator.

Before she can make a decision, the shoulder under her head stiffens and the hand wrapped around hers twitches. Irrationally, she doesn't want to let them both wake up. They'll have to go back to being commander and second in command and vague friends, except when they're in danger. And she doesn't want that. But it won't look good if it comes out that Major Carter needs someone.

Of course, if it comes out that Colonel O'Neill needs someone, there will also be amused snickers.

So she doesn't. And he doesn't. She just has to remember that.

"Carter."

"Morning, sir."

The hand holding hers squeezes slightly, then lets go. She lets out a soft sigh and sits up again, ignoring the ache in her neck.

"So, T, what's for breakfast?"

"Skillet surprise."

"Yes, but is it a Bistro Skillet?"

Sam eyes him, then looks at Teal'c and shrugs.

"Okay, okay. So, not funny. Coffee?"

The Colonel is better. He'll never be completely fine, but she likes to think he's better.

He glances at her, and for just a second, she can see the pain in them that he holds so closely. Then it's gone as he shifts back into himself. "So, Carter, how long will it take you to get your samples?"

And they're back to normality.

-f-