Title: Infinitesimal Moments

Author: Annerb

Email: R (strong language)

Archive: Yes, SJD and Heliopolis

Summary: What if She finally took the hint?

Disclaimer:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

Spoilers: Heroes

Status: Complete

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here it goes, my salute to shippers everywhere. Sorry if it gets a little too philosophical, but hey, it is what it is. :)

Infinitesimal Moments

This wasn't the way she expected it to happen. She should have, but she didn't. Sam Carter was a smart woman, after all. The mysteries of the vast universe moved in explicable patterns in her mind. She could see the intricacies of patterns, equations and mechanics with dizzying mastery, but she still was in no way smart enough to see this particular ending. To be honest, the world around her may have been graspable for her, but the mysteries of her own psyche were something that she had always been too stubborn and too naive to really understand. And so it was that at the moment of revelation, she was completely unprepared and her internal universe easily succumbed to the introduction of unexpected torque.

If it could be traced to a specific moment in time, it would have to be when she sat, sprawled against a rock on some planet whose designation didn't really matter. Her arm burned from a deflected staff blast, but her mind was focused on the Goa'uld weapon now trained relentlessly on her and the P-90 that sat mere inches from her useless arm. This is a moment familiar to Sam, as well as to all the former and current members of SG-1. It is the split second before certain death.

The most interesting thing about this infinitesimal moment, the mere seconds before the detonation of a bomb, the crashing of a plane or the discharge of a weapon, is that it is in no way infinitesimal. In some weird trick of physiology or fate, the moment stretches long as time itself seems to pause, to let you appreciate the capricious nature of life. And as you quietly bemoan that this would be your end, images and thoughts flow through your mind. Ironically enough, however, it is not like the familiar cliché, your whole life passing before your eyes. It is much worse, it is your whole unlived life; the things you avoided, put off and never thought about. Life, being both cruel and undeniably exquisite, offers you a glimpse of truth that would probably be better served if offered at birth and not at death, but that is just perhaps part of the price.

The average person only experiences such moments once, and thus have no chance to apply the new knowledge and understanding provided to them. They simply grasp new truths in that moment and clutch them to their chest as they pass over to whatever awaits them in the beyond. Occasionally, people survive the experience, what is now often flippishly described as a near-death experience. This term is often accompanied by carefully rolled eyes and an exasperated sigh; demonstrating modern society's discomfort with anything not easily explained. But there is a reason that these people come back transformed and often restructure their lives in seemingly bizarre ways. They are the lucky ones, the ones offered truth who are brave enough to actually make use of that new knowledge. They are much more likely to die without regrets, the sort of thing that weigh souls down.

It is the rare purview of members of the SGC, primarily those who travel through the gate, to have multiple encounters with this profound moment. Though each person undoubtedly had their own reasons, the majority of these men and women never act on their individual revelations. Whether or not this is simply due to the frequency of these events or if military training in some way insulates them is unclear. Now Sam, existing within her own moment, was experiencing the same truths that she had seen the last ten or so times she had almost died as well as the two times she actually did die. Regrets flood through her mind, even as the active part of her mind calculates the probability of reaching her weapon before the Jaffa could fire on her. The regrets were always the same, unfinished projects, unfinished duty and unfulfilled, unspoken promises. Duty and honor and sacrifice. And quietly in the back, almost as if scared to be heard, the part of Sam that never got a chance to live chanted, brutally and dangerously, "Fuck duty and honor and sacrifice!"

Unsurprisingly to all, Sam manages another miracle escape, the kind that makes you think that there really must be someone or something out there watching over SG-1. Sam barely notices and does not dwell on the experience, ignoring regrets and quietly desperate voices. Instead, she picks up her P-90, dusts herself off and offers Teal'c a smile of thanks for saving her ass again before turning back to the duties of her command, the forgotten voice softly swearing as it is buried once again. They rush back through the gate, leaving the ambush of unexpected Jaffa behind. They step back into the familiar gray space deep under the mountain, full of secrets huddled deep within the earth.

General Jack O'Neill stands at the bottom of the ramp, wanting to know what happened to make them miss their scheduled check-in. Relief at seeing his former team intact is poorly disguised beneath his cool exterior. His eyes roam quickly over the team, slightly pausing at the blood evident on Sam's arm that she has carefully cradled into her body. Their eyes meet briefly and he is somehow aware that there has been another moment, that he had once again been a fool's chance away from welcoming a corpse through the gate instead. He gruffly orders them to the infirmary and ensconces himself back in his office, to deal with his own truths.

It is a script they have both played many times in the eight years they have known each other. Whoever is in charge of those moments-before-death for the people of the SGC, they must be screaming and pulling hair in frustration somewhere that they would all so callously throw away such precious gifts. A day or maybe two of slight unease would quickly be forgotten or suppressed and the status quo would be reinstated, no great truths uncovered, not even the slightest detail changed. All promises at the moment of death are forgotten, only to be resurrected in the next, never to have a hold in the world of the living.

But this time, for some reason the moment actually took hold in Sam. It is difficult to explain why this was the moment that actually finally did it, it wasn't a particularly harrowing near-death. In fact, it was rather unremarkable. It wasn't an exploding ship, an asteroid or even implantation by a Goa'uld. It was mundane, and, in all honesty, the most probable way for any of them to meet their end, on a random, insignificant planet at the end of a staff weapon. Countless others had already fallen that way, even Janet, someone who was supposed to be safe, buried under the mountain. What had Janet discovered in that final moment as death caught her unexpectedly?

For Sam, this time the little voice woken in the moment of death would not be silenced. Was it the fact that she had almost died? Was it the look on the General's face? Was it simply the last straw on an overloaded wagon that finally broke the axle of Sam's resolve? She had managed to hide it, the change in her, through the execution of her normal routine, until she found herself alone, in the dark of the infirmary in the middle of the night. As she sat, staring at the familiar ceiling, all she could think was "Fuck duty and honor and sacrifice," and was startled, realizing that she actually meant it.

Sam easily slipped away from the base for a few days of rest, only a slight glance of suspicion from the General at her ready acceptance of time off. Her mind worked on overload, for once not contemplating quarks and event horizons, but her life, her feelings and the sacrifices she has made. Nothing was left untouched. The calm pool of water that was her life, with the drop of one small stone, was transformed into a sea of movement. The ripples moved ever outward, leaving no truth untested, no feeling unexplored. Her internal universe was succumbing to the entropy of her near death experience. This was the sort of transformation that the death-moment is meant to impart, to prepare one for the realities of death, or, for the lucky few, to rebuild their lives in a way that would be worthy of a second chance. To abandon regret.

It is certainly not a comfortable experience to have your life torn down to the bare bones of your existence. It takes strength, courage and resolve to reassemble the pieces. Sam may have been naive before, but she was certainly strong and was not the sort of person to back down from a challenge. This was the biggest challenge of all, having to courage to actually live your life, rather than simply exist, only to die with regrets. She spent her days off work to evaluate every aspect, abandoning what needed to be discarded, changing what needed modification and adopting what needed to be accepted.

"Fuck duty and honor and sacrifice." She finally, after days of examination, realized the truths behind this simple, belligerent statement. It was not a truth that told her that her military career was a waste of time. It did not mean that duty and honor and sacrifice were not meant to be valued. The new Sam, she would still do her duty to the planet and to the Air Force. She would still live her life with honor, acting in a manner that she thought correct, treating others with respect. She would even still offer sacrifice for the better good, she would certainly face the sacrifice of friends, and, eventually, she knew she would offer the ultimate sacrifice, her life.

What that harsh statement really meant, was that duty and honor and sacrifice would no longer be her life, but simply values to guide her. They would no longer mindlessly dictate every action, and most importantly, she would no longer hide behind them, an excuse to never have to really live her life. And somewhere deep inside, the long silent, ignored Sam blazed into life, grateful to be given a chance to live. It was time for Sam to add herself and her happiness to the top of list, leave behind the guilt and fear that had chained them so tightly.

It is now Saturday night, five days since she last almost died. She stands bundled in a thick coat and scarf on the front stoop of a small house. The new Sam closes her eyes and breathes in the sent of snow and wood smoke, relishing the feel of cool air biting at her cheeks. Had she been wise enough even a week ago to take pleasure in such simple things? No, she hadn't, just something else to be grateful for. If she listens carefully, she can hear the soft sound of water lapping at the base of a wooden dock that she knew must be out in the darkness beyond the light of the front porch. She raises her hand and knocks on the door, part of her pleasantly surprised at the calmness that steals over her body and mind. There are no nerves, just relief at a decision finally made.

After a few moments, Jack opens the door, his hair slightly mussed and his expression one of disbelief. Before he could say anything, Sam smiles at him and moves one step closer to the door. "Hey," she says softly with a casual familiarity that is foreign to them both.

Jack barely manages to say "Hey" back while taking in the surprising visitor on his front stoop. He already notices many important differences in this woman, the most prevalent being their rather close proximity to each other. The old Sam would have stepped quickly away, not wanting to risk being too close to him. Of course, the old Sam would never had even ended up on the front porch of his cabin at all, so the observation was somewhat moot.

Sam seems to be watching his thoughts as they crossed his face. She smiles and asks, "So…I was wondering if that invitation was still open?"

A million and one reservations flow through Jack's head at that simple question. Regs, Pete, careers; the list went on. But seeing her standing there on his porch by the lake with no pesky fish, he realizes that none of those reservations really meant a thing. Jack quickly recovers from his private musings and mirrors Sam's smile as he opens the door wider to admit her. "For you, always."

Sam steps into the warmth of the cabin and the door closes softly behind them, shutting out the cold. And somewhere, the little fairies of fate and truth laugh and roll around the ground in mirth, amazed that their most stubborn clients had finally got it right.